The magic we can create if we just learn how (+ invitation to my free online novel-writing course)

"That could have been me."

That's what I just thought as I watched, listened and positively breathed in the gorgeousness of this piece on Classic FM.

It wasn't my first thought, which was 'Wowwwww' accompanied by heart emojis. But it was the thought that rang out towards the end as I leapt to my feet in rapturous applause. Yes, on my own, in the lounge.

This (or more likely, the xylophone) would have been my instrument of choice, if I'd ever bothered to learn it properly. As I didn't learn it properly, I've just had to Google the difference between a marimba and a xylophone to understand that what I played were definitely xylophones, plus glockenspiels of various sizes.

I had a strong infinity with percussion instruments in my childhood. Because that was spotted by my primary school music teacher, Miss Foot, I did not play the role of Second Munchkin in the producion of The Wizard of Oz, but instead played Equal First Percussionist with my excellent co-player, Helen from the Fourth Year. (I was Third Year, or Year 5 in today's parlance, and very honoured to be playing alongside someone from the top year in school.)

I loved it, did it pretty well, introduced a new double-speed accompaniment to 'The Merry Old Land of Oz', was asked by Miss Foot to play solo for one of her visitors, and then eventually discovered that this was not a random sequence of events. I was invited to learn how to play percussion properly, in a Saturday morning music school. I accepted gratefully, and set off to my first couple of lessons with a 'Ha ha haaaa, ho ho hoooo, and a couple of la di daaaas' in my heart.

When I got to the lessons, however, I was perturbed and not a little confused to find that I was not learning zylophone or glockenspiel, but drums. I didn't want to play drums - not back then, anyway. I didn't know why I was playing drums. And unfortunately nobody explained to my ten-year-old self that the way to master percussion starts with playing drums.

So I just stopped. Completely on my own and without discussing it with anyone who might have been able to persuade me otherwise, I gave up on those lessons.

I've regretted it many times since - like in my teens when the kind and lovely girl I'd gone to lessons with (in her family's car) got a place in the local marching band, and I didn't get in. And when I finally started having drum lessons in my late thirties and figured out how much easier it would have been if I'd stuck with it and mastered the basics back then. Or when I discovered that Helen from the Fourth Year had completed many, many lessons and become a brilliant professional percussionist for a real Philharmonic orchestra.

And now I look back on that as a different kind of lesson: a lesson in life rather than in Evelyn Glennie-ish expertise.

It tells me a few things about myself and the way I like to learn. If a teacher or musician had explained the 'drums-first' thing to me as a route to percussion excellence, I might have continued. If it had been easier to get there without bumming lifts off other people, I might have carried on.

I know now that if I'd understood how it was leading somewhere (an exam, a role in the marching band, a possible profession doing something I loved), I might have carried on. I grew up in working class Manchester. The stuff you did was meant to lead somewhere, preferably somewhere practical and hopefully reasonably paid.

Mostly, though, I wish I'd known - even at that tender age - that it was okay to invest in learning something just because I loved it. Just because it brought me joy, and the better I did it the more joy it brought me, because I could share the experience more.

But I know that now.

One of the other things I gave up a few years after that, because it wasn't really leading anywhere, was writing stories. I wrote (and still write) plenty of other things, but not stories, just because. In my early thirties, that all changed. I went back to school - Writing School - and I learned and practiced and experienced my way into my old passion for storytelling.

It has brought me so much joy. Some heartache and pain too, but mostly joy. And the more I write, the more joy it brings me, because I can share the experience more.

And in the dramatically dark days representing the start to 2021, I want to share that joy with more people. The absolute satisfaction of storytelling, delivering on a promise you once gave to yourself, and writing a book.

So I'm doing a course. Probably eight sessions. It's going to be free. It's going to be fun and fully explained by a teacher and subject-matter-expert (me). And it's going to be easy to get to because it will all be online.

I'll be doing a Facebook Live to tell you more about it all. No catch, just sharing. Join me this Sunday evening (17/1/21) at 7pm UK time, or Sunday afternoon US time, or Monday morning 8am NZT on this link.

Let's have some fun and re-spark a few childhood dreams - accompanied, of course, by some beautiful marimba.

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