Please excuse the plagiarism. For me, the above heading is one of the greatest, and one for which I cannot take any credit. It was in fact an old album title by folk singer and comedy artist Stanley Accrington; if I remember correctly, on the cover he’s captured pointing to a road sign that reads: Forfar 5.
And why? I can hear myself imagining you asking. Because I’m back in Scotland. My God, for years I never came near the place, now if my arithmetic is correct it’s been four visits in just nine months.
This time it’s purely for pleasure. It’s a - take advantage of the time you have before you haven’t got any - kind of trip.
Carol and I found a sort of ‘3 nights for the price of 4’ deal at a hotel / restaurant called the Tigh Na Mara in Sandhead near Stranraer, Dumfriesshire.
We set out late morning on Thursday 02 April. On our journey north along the M6 we stopped of at the Fylde Guitar workshop in Penrith; I was pretty exited about this - not because I had to drop my Signature guitar off for a service, but because I was, at the same time, to collect a brand new one.
It has to be a year ago now when Roger (Bucknall) told me of a guitar he wanted me to try. When I did try it I thought it was fantastic, and so he said he would make one for me. Over these last twelve months I lost count of the number of times he was going to start this new guitar, until eventually, I’m very happy to say, he offered me the original one.
These next three days are an opportunity to familiarise myself with the instrument, as well as just relax and clear my head.
Played golf at Stranraer Golf Club on Friday; it’s a beautiful course. This was the first time I’ve picked up my clubs in over six months, and I learnt something, though I’m not completely clear what it was that I learnt. But it was about practising.
I played as well as I had played six months ago, perhaps a little better in fact, yet last year I worked hard, and practised hard on my game without any significant improvement. I took one or two lessons even; much of what I was told to work on, although interesting and logical to a point, served, more than anything, to confuse my game.
I know that teaching, and those doing the teaching can be dangerous things. How can it / they be dangerous? I’ll tell you why; because so, so much of this is based on the ‘right’ way, the ‘only’ way, the ‘new’ way. And it’s more than just about putting yourself in the hands of someone who you think knows something you don’t, they might well know something you don’t, but the problem really is all about the promise. Not the promise that is made to us by anyone else, but the one that we seek when there's the absence of self-belief.
It’s the same with guitar playing. Although I’ve had many students over the years, I can’t think of one person that I’ve come across who I would have wanted to have teach me. I see it like I see religion to some extent, in some ways. There’s a human propensity towards belonging to societies, sects, schools of thought. We want to be able to identify with the like-minded.
So what you get in guitar teaching is: ‘the instrument must be held in this way’, ‘one must learn to play scales’, ‘the thumb must be placed in this position behind the neck’, and so on.
Same with golf; whether it’s a technical ‘old school’ approach, or the instinctive ‘new school’ approach, what you are told by one pro is very often contradicted by another. And yet we can choose to look at these people as messengers of truth.
I always tried to teach my students to trust their own ear; if it sounds right to you, it is right. All we need is the confidence to be able to admit to ourselves that we know more than we think we know - in golf, as it is in music. Amen.
In the end, as the saying goes - it’s more about the notes you leave out; only your heart can tell you which ones they are.