Planning is not something i’m particularly good at – you’re much more likely to find me acting on impulse, at the drop of a hat. At times, this approach to life has served me well and resulted in some pretty memorable and exceptional moments, on other occasions it’s been disastrous.
It can often be the case, for example, that getting into something on a whim is usually far easier than getting out of it, once you realise you’ve made an horrendous mistake – sometimes there’s a lot to be said for taking a considered and measured approach.
Frequently, such spur of the moment decisions can spawn a whole host of related impulsive choices further down the line, in a sort of unintentional, yet entirely predictable domino effect… such things rarely turn out as expected, if indeed i have any sensible expectations in the first place.
Take this weekend: i bought a ukulele!
Did i need a ukulele? No. Can i play the ukulele? Nope. Is there any pressing need for a ukulele in my life? Absolutely not. So, why the heck did i buy a ukulele? Well, it’s complicated.
It all started with the salsa classes, which in itself, probably needs some explanation.
It just so happened that a couple of months back i happened to mention to some of my work colleagues that i really needed to start getting out a bit more and making something of my life and, almost before the words were out of my mouth, a flyer dropped onto my desk extolling the joys of learning salsa, which if you’ve been keeping up to date with my recent posts, you’ll know is possibly the last thing in the world i’d ever be likely to consider pursuing. To be blunt, the only sort of salsa i’d ever consider entertaining would have to be liberally applied, with sour cream and guacamole, to a plateful of fajitas.
It must have been some latent guilt over my dismissiveness towards the dance class that caused me to pretty much leap at the unexpected opportunity to discover the joys of African drumming! Needless to say, i’ve never felt any compulsion to drum – let alone, African style – ever in my life, a rather sensible position considering the need for at least the basics of rhythm: something i don’t possess by any stretch of the imagination. i have vivid memories of wandering around Camden Market some years ago and being drawn into its depths by the hypnotic sound of drumming, back in the days before the fire and the awful ‘Stables’ renovation. When i arrived at the source, surrounded by incense and the sound of a multiplicity of drums filling the air, i watched the participants – rapt looks upon their faces – caught up in some sort of tribal ecstasy and realised just how discordant my own contribution would be. On that occasion, sanity prevailed – sadly, it has not on this occasion, which is why, come the new year, i’ll be doing my best to wreak percussive havoc with a lump of wood and cowhide between my knees… if it’s as bad as i imagine, i’ll just start kicking the things over, (well, it worked for Keith Moon!).
Fast forward to this weekend, when i spotted a set of bongos in a charity shop: ‘Perfect!’, i thought, just what i need to get some practice in at home before making a complete fool of myself in public. Once again the impulsive side of my nature came to the fore, but thankfully for both my neighbours and my bank balance, sanity prevailed and i managed to walk of the shop with empty hands. About the only thing that stopped me there and then was the knowledge that – in the cold light of day – there is really no way on earth i’m going to be capable of learning how to drum and, for that reason alone, my life should remain bongo-less.
You know how it is though – or maybe you don’t: once the fever grabs you, it won’t let you go until you’ve sated its grasping demands. Hence the ukulele, which i’ll grant you is a long way from bongos but, by virtue of the fact that it’s something that, a) i can’t play, and b) is capable of making an ungodly and awful noise in the wrong, (ie. my), hands, there is indeed some sort of a link – it’s tenuous, but it’s there. Now, the fact is, on numerous occasions over the years i’ve tried, and failed horribly, to learn to play the guitar – it’s currently hiding under my sofa, trembling in fear that one day i might retrieve it and try, once again, to massacre ‘Streets of London’ – but the way i figure it, four strings have to be a lot easier to master than six and if, (correction: ‘when’), i completely fail to survive more than the first lesson of drumming, at least i have something far less energetic, noisy and anti-social to fall back on.
The truth of the matter, of course – as is the case with almost everything i do on impulse – is that it will quietly crawl away to a ukulele-shaped sanctuary, somewhere in a cupboard, or under the bed, where it will gather dust, unloved, unwanted and unplayed for the rest of my natural life.
Coming to think of it, about the only thing i’ve ever done on impulse and stuck with, come what may, is sl!
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
And through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
The Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain – Life On Mars