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Having a go at it

(Page 2 of 2)

While languages have been, in the vile jargon of today, an "on-going station" this has not been the case with my Classical Guitar Lessons and the Judo Course. Both were embarked upon under a misapprehension.From the ages of seven to fifteen I had failed miserably to learn the violin. (However, I would like to put it on record that Menuhin and I both gave on performance in the same month of the same year in my home town of Hastings, Sussex, England. I played "In a Persian Market" by Ketelbey. I don't know what Menuhin did, and I bet he wasn't standing on a table in order that he could be seen by the music teacher's audience). It will be observed that my violin experience bit deep. Yet to this day, I do not understand how I came to believe that the guitar would be an easier instrument to learn. It is obvious to all that violinists merely grab a piece of wood in their right hand while guitarists grow their fingernails long and keep them moving all the time. Combining this with the Juco Course (a birthday present from my wife, if you will!) was as incompatible as trying to swim and write a letter at the same time. Besides, if I had done my research properly, I would have discovered that few classical guitarists do judo as well. Trying to serve these two masters put me in the good graces of neither. My 200 -pound judo instructor took a dim view of the length of my right hand fingernails (kept long for plucking the guitar strings), while the guitar teacher, a somewhat moody White Russian emigre, appeared to feel that a hand wrapped in lint after being trodden on by fellow pupils at the judo academy, was not good preparation for Carnegie Hall. Still, I did learn to pick out "Greensleeves" and at the end, he would sigh and note "Ah yes! Greensleeves, vun off your English peasant zongs . . . ver' sad." I always presumed he was referring to the melody and not my performance but I have since had some doubts.

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In subsequent years the judo instructor became a very important man in the International Judo Federation, while the guitar instructor gave up teaching and went into acting and has since become a familiar face in British and European movies playing recalcitrant Russian commissars for the most part. And I did once see him play the piano teacher and, so help me, he sighed and said "ver' sad." I expect it was one of those movies in which the actors make up the lines as they go along.

So I have come to think that I am really one of life's basic trainers of men. When they have tried to teach me their skill, they know that nothing is going to be quite so difficult ever again and move on to conquer the commanding heights.

Next week, with winter upon us, I am starting a short "Electrocis for the Household" in yes, you've guessed it, thirteen easy lessons at the night school. When I've finished with him, I expect the instructor will go on to do something great. Like discovering the electric light bulb, I shouldn't wonder.