Friday, 26 September 2008

Eclectic Dreams

I get off the bus in town and head into the bus station, pushing my way through the crowds of kids hanging about in the doorway, smoking cigarettes and happy just to be bored rather than take the effort to find something to do. My connection home isn’t in the station yet: so I stand at the overcrowded stop and watch as the previous bus loads up and rolls out. The time-table on the wall is telling me the time in bizzaro world - which bears no relation to life as we know it on Planet Earth

My bus pulls in: as its rush hour they have, of course, put on a single-decker – which means I have to put my bag on my lap and sit there hunched up for twenty minutes whilst a never ending array of strangers catch my shoulder as they brush past.

The bus pulls out of the station and up the street, passing the usual array of two-bit public houses, employment agencies, mini-supermarkets and Luxury Apartments (for luxury apartments read “Luxury Rabbit Hutches”)

Then, just before we pass the next bus stop, I see it. Sitting in the window of the local Cash Converters is a battered looking Banjo. I can’t read the price from here, but I know from looking the other day that it is £79

This is the third or fourth time the shop has had a Banjo for sale and the price has ranged from £50 to £100 on each occasion. I shoot it a wistful look; thinking that if I just had some money spare…

I already play the guitar. Well, perhaps play is a strong word to use. I know my chords and can produce a song, but put me in a room with anyone else who plays and I suddenly look like a toddler bashing away at a Xylophone.

But the reality is that it’s too late now. I don’t have the training to be a banjo player. You probably need three years and a BSc in Banjo before they’ll even let you change a string. Even if I bought the banjo and took classes I would be up against younger, more agile-fingered players. Besides, with bills to pay and cats to feed I can’t afford to give up my job and dedicate my life to Banjo study for a year or two in the hope of one day finding that dream Banjo-spot in the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra.

There are so many demands on my money and time. Though I dream of a Christmas No 1 of Banjo-related-songs CD the truth is that I have already taken two jobs I didn’t particularly want just to keep a roof over my head and will probably have to do the same again and again in the years to come just to pay the bills. At the end of each month, when all the bills have been paid there is little spare for dreams of musicality. Sometimes I feel that I am sleepwalking. Sometimes I feel that dreaming is a luxury I can no longer afford. Sometimes I feel that everything I have just said is a load of cobblers and that actually, all things considered, it's not so bad. After all…while there’s life…and besides, i'd probably get bored with the banjo and want to learn the Saxaphone instead

I slump into my seat and turn away, my hope fading as another passenger bumps into my arm. I try not to listen to the argument between the teenage mum and her prison-proud boyfriend.

My thoughts turn briefly to a lad I knew, some years ago. I’d guess we first met at Junior school when I was about 8 years old – and that I last saw him when I was 17 or 18. We were never particularly close – but he was always friendly and full of talk of joining the army when he left school. He never did: all of it was talk – same as the rest of us, just dreaming of becoming something more.

He died: right about the time I was 25. A friend of a friend told me he’d been living rough, taking Heroin.

Such a shame: all that potential in life – coming to so little.


The Clandestine Samurai said...

"Was" 25? For some reason I figured you were 25 right now.

Anyway, no matter what's going on in your life, if you want the dream to be reality you must make time. Even if it's 10 minutes in the morning, or a half-hour on your lunch break. Or a little bit of time before you go to sleep. Replace one of the T.V. shows you watch with practice.

On top of using the guitar for heavy metal, I wanted to learn the piano for some industrial and hip-hop stuff, but am plagued with laziness and tons of other things I want to pursue. But they must be pursued, otherwise, I am nothing!

Lydia said...

Whew, a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I relate in this way: don't read music, love violin. Summer '07 I saw in our local paper an ad for a one-week fiddle class taught by a classical violin teacher in the schools and a professional crazy fiddlin' Louisiana native. Violins provided. I loved it and had so much fun. Two months later bought my own violin online from source recommended by the classical teacher. She agreed to teach me either in group or privately. Then her mother became ill, deferred lessons a year. Same workshop was held this last Aug. and she sent me an email saying "come." We had a heatwave, 105 degrees and I couldn't imagine playing fiddle in the art center with no AC, so didn't go. Ever since I've been thinking about the cost and embarrassment of taking lessons.
The big difference I see between us is that you haven't bought your banjo yet and I bought a violin that hasn't been played since I bought it. I think we should take up our instruments if only for the joy of doing it. Even if only a few lessons, that's better than never any at all. We really should follow our dreams...

The Disturbed One said...

Sometimes, the dream is better. It gives you something to hope for.. to look forward to, even if it is a lie you tell yourself.

We all do it. Imagine ourselves living differently. Something to give us a reason to smile and be able to continue with our lives.

Our mind has a 10 minute vacation from reality.

Michael said...

Do you see how doubt chokes out the dream. The banjo in the window is gone before you even try.

Fantastic little story, this. I love the progression, the solid sense of your internal world, and the wrap up of theme in the end that shows the fear that stifles your flame.

Or does it kindle it?

In any case, there's sparks to be had from Clandestine Samurai and Lydia.

Disturbed one: why does it have to be a lie? If you don't believe it, it doesn't stand a chance.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

samurai - thanks for taking a couple of years off me! You should definately keep up with the guitar. Sometimes laziness is just a tiny voice in our heads saying "I can't do it - so lets put it off"

Lydia -thanks for your story. Strangely i had a similar experience: i saw an advert for Barbershop Quartets - but for various reasons i didn't go. Lessons are very expensive- which is what stops so many people from improving themselves. There should be more funding!

Disturbed one - been a while, thanks for sharing. I agree, we all need a vacation from reality sometimes, but you have to remember the way back...

michael - thanks. A very thoughtful response that hits more at my underlying theme. Its funny that fear can have that double impact on everyone

pohanginapete said...

Geoff Dyer, in Out of Sheer Rage (about D.H. Lawrence), argued that, "people like to think they have been thwarted by circumstances from living the life which, had they led it, they would not have wanted." It's typical Dyer cynicism (one of the reasons I like so much of his work), but I have to admit there's an element of truth to it — certainly enough to make me think carefully about what I wish for in case I'm cursed by its coming true.

Maybe the difference between a lie and a dream is belief that even if what one dreams about is not possible, it might once have been so? Maybe you could have been a banjo player — maybe even better than Charlie Parr. That's a dream, and could only be a lie if you'd tried, failed, and still dreamed you might be an ace on the banjo. But if you'd become that ace, it's possible you wouldn't have been writing Don't Feed the Pixies, and that's a sad thought for readers like me.

Thanks for a great blog. You're doing good.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

pohanginapete - thanks for an interesting response. We do tend to look back at what could have been instead of doing something to change where we are...the road less travelled always looks more attractive.

But what always hurts the most is when you can see the opportunity in front of you but know it will never be achievable. I don't know - i'm always at my most blue on the bus!

Glad you enjoy the blog.

Jenny Bah said...

Hmm well we all have dreams, and we need to have them. They are really important to get ourselves forward, even though we might not achieve them.

You should at least keep playing on your guitar, and maybe you could buy that banjo one day. ;)