Saturday, 25 September 2010


I just thought I'd write a few lines (sounds like school, doesn't it?) on progress.

A few people's blogs have mentioned the concept this month. It appears to be related to children going or going back to school and it can be a bit of a tin of worms. Home educators panic a bit when they see coevals of their own children 'progressing' in school. They question what they are doing. They think about exams and measurement of what cannot be measured which is knowledge and wisdom.

Anyway, what is it? What is progress?

What does it mean?

Does it lead anywhere?

In my teens I decided I would take up the guitar. Not a modern screeching impressive electric one. I bought a cheap cheerful ordinary-looking guitar and was sold a plectrum to go with it which I never actually used. The local music shop offered lessons with a pleasant enough young man called J.

For two years I went on the bus, accompanied by my guitar in a large black case, to the middle of our local town to see if I'd 'cracked' the guitar. I suppose, on one level, I progressed because I went through the simple starting-to-learn book and graduated to the next-to-simple-starting-to-learn book.

But I never felt right. The guitar did not sing under my fingers. My hands did not itch to play the guitar. I confessed my feelings to J and he advised me to practice more. I did.

However much I strummed away, I grew increasingly aware that the guitar and I were not destined for a career or even a heavenly time of hobbying together.

I - I suppose you might say - progressed through whatever set me off on this hunt to become a guitar player to the realisation that I would never be a 'real' guitar player (whatever that might be). Meanwhile my friend - another J - told me that, at the age of 30, his big brother had picked up a guitar and began to play and play well.

After gnashing my teeth I had a moment of truth and I gave the guitar away to an eager friend who was desperate to learn.

I have not since regretted my time struggling to progress with the guitar. Maybe I needed that space with a musical instrument to inform me that my interest in music will probably remain that of a close admirer.

Outsiders would think I failed at guitar. I think I learned a lot from guitar. I learned that I have to really adore something to dedicate the time to it to become competent if not good at it. I learned that I cannot magically be good at something that I have little or no aptitude for.

I have made progress.


  1. Lana has decided to go 'back' to school ! for her it's an autonomous choice, I've got to let her go and do it , it's what she wants , can't say I like it though!!
    I learn a lot for still trying to, and not managing to' play the guitar too, you're in good company lol xx

  2. If everyone knew how to play guitar orchestra's would be extremely bland.
    And if we all only ever had a go at something we could be sure to be good at, I wonder what kind of progress what would be.
    I had a go at guitar - terrible; clarinet- couldn't blow the darned thing; 'Cello - ah now that was my instrament...