Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Good and bad

The cartoon on the right is great.

In almost every choir of which I've been a member, every one of the characters depicted has been a member. I'm sure I've probably been some of them at various times too! And in fact, I proudly admit to being The Traditionalist.

Thanks to Sir Monocle, from whose Blog I shamelessly stole it!

Two things mark today out as different from the norm.

One year ago today, I became divorced. This was not a good thing. Not at all a good thing.

And this evening I went back to the IAM Glasgow North Group for the first time in almost exactly two months, and was asked, given the long break I'd had, whether I wanted to sit the Qualified Observer Practical Test which they'd been waiting to offer me. Which I did want. And did do. And passed. This was a good thing. A very good thing.

So, the divorce. Amicable, yet these things are never ever painless. In retrospect, and with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, it was the right thing to do to separate. Yet one never truly gets completely over such a thing, and by that I don't want to suggest that I wish we were together again. We have both moved on and, I think and hope I'm right in saying, we are both happy. I know I am. Every now and then though, in the privacy of my own head .......... well, you know, it hurts.

The motorcycling then. I haven't been back to the IAM for a while. There have been reasons for this, which I haven't Blogged about, but I will now. In fact I can copy and paste part of a posting I placed on the IAM Scottish Motorcycle Forum a while back. The rest of the post is of no relevance here, but the following bit might be:

"........ As an aside, right now I'm not sure whether I'll continue along the route to being a qualified observer, but that's because on one of my last runs I had a bad time of it over the Duke's Pass, and now, if the truth be told, I have a confidence crisis as far as my riding is concerned. I know the object isn't to go as fast as you can, I've never been of that opinion (I ride an R1100RT for God's sake!) but my associate on that run left me standing and I really didn't enjoy that evening, ending up feeling like I'd no right to be observing. The senior observer helped that evening, pointing out that in his opinion the associate had been riding too fast, and being of the opinion that I shouldn't have tried to keep up with him (that's where I went wrong), but the mental damage was done by then! I'll hopefully get over it at some point, but I don't feel like going back for the moment.


The Duke's Pass, for those outwith these shores, is a VERY twisty country road north of Glasgow, and during that run I was so far outside my comfort (and probably safety) zone that I felt sick. I have never previously ridden, and will never ride again, any motorcycle let alone a 44 stone tourer at that sort of speed over that sort of public road. And for the avoidance of doubt, at no time did we come close to breaking the speed limit.

So what prompted me to return? Frankly, it was the list of names of others who had recently passed as Qualified Observers which was in the quarterly newsletter I received a few days ago. I thought, if they can do it, then so can I. One of them in fact started out on the observer training the same evening I did.

I still, in the dark recesses of my warped mind, think I am pretty new to biking, since I didn't take it up until I was well into adulthood, so I tend to think that every other biker I meet has more experience than me. But then I consider the facts.
  • I passed my motorcycle test in 1996, 12 years ago. Almost all the IAM associates to whom I've spoken, and a hell of a lot of the full members, have been riding for less time than that.

  • Most motorcyclists ride maybe up to about 5000 miles a year. I worked as a bike courier for a year, riding about 1000 miles a week in all weathers. That was a steep learning curve. Last year I rode about 8500 miles.

  • Until my present bike, all previous ones have been my only form of personal transport so I rode them all year round. If I could dig it out the snow I'd ride it. No fair weather biker, me.

  • I passed my advanced riding test after only 4 observed runs. In other words, I was already pretty much at the advanced standard and just needed polishing up on some points.
And suddenly my confidence crisis disappears. And the weight lifts.

It's a bit like singing. Years ago, a LOT of years ago, I was occasionally asked to sing a solo in the cathedral choir. I would manage it OK, but would tremble and shake so hard while performing it that I could hardly focus on the music in my hands! For no good reason, out the blue, I had an internal conversation with myself, which went along the lines of "Fuck it! If anyone listening to this could do it better than me, then they'd be up here singing it, so I have nothing to fear." The shaking then stopped. I'm not for a moment suggesting that I am a brilliant singer, that's not the point, it's just that one needs self confidence to do certain things, even if that self confidence doesn't necessarily stand up to close scrutiny!

But that's enough Blogging for tonight I think. I am halfway through a large glass of whisky, partly to drown my sorrows on this anniversary, partly to celebrate having passed another milestone in my journey towards being the best rider I can be, and partly because I am happy having spoken to RE earlier, who always cheers me up, makes me laugh, and makes me feel wanted. Thank you.


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  2. Chin up, old bean! I 'share your pain' as they say in these touchy-feely days. (Mrs Can Bass and I parted company many years ago; I'm still rather bitter.) As far as solos are concerned, the more the better - it's Can verse week next week, and Stanford in G!

  3. I have exactly the same thing with my conducting - I used to conduct a lot, for about 10 years I was conducting every day but I stopped about 7 years ago - retrained in a new career.

    I have got a choir again and it is going quite well all things considered but I find it hard to make eye contact with the singers - it is confidence but I can't break through.

    It's good that you have managed to break through yours - note to self - get on with it man!!

    Lovely blog!

  4. I'm an alto Choral Clerk in a Cathedral Choir, and I too am divorced, though the anniversary is not until next year. My divorce was fairly amicable, despite the fact that I was left for another woman, but the pain and loneliness is something I can empathise with. I hope the whisky helped!

  5. Can Bass 1, thanks for the touchy feeliness, in a manly way, naturally!

    MDB, well done and keep it up mate!

    Musicmiss, thanks for your kind thoughts, but it's important to note that I'm generally not lonely, thankfully, and as I say, I think I've moved on. I sincerely hope you manage to move on too in due course. It must make a difference that it was fairly amicable, but I don't envy the circumstances you must have had to endure. And yes, whisky helps sometimes. As does gin, beer, pastis, wine etc etc. But all in relative moderation, usually!

  6. Hi,

    Just read your post about loss (and regain!) of confidence.

    See it as a 'good thing', for a number of reasons:

    1. You recognised that there's always going to be someone better
    2. You recognised your limit, and didn't get 'sucked in' to riding beyond it
    3. You sorted your head - where the 'problem' was, and didn't decide to be macho/gung-ho and dig yourself deeper

    What can happen - like your singing comparison - is that the tension which comes with the loss of confidence will cause all the 'wrong' reactions in your riding: you'll not want to relax and counter-steer, you'll be reluctant to drive the bike through turns, you'll look at the things that worry you rather than keep your head and eyes up.

    So a bit like 'skid' training for cars, identify and remove the cause. And go 'back to basics' for machine control.

    Good Luck!

    Oh, by the way, I was going to write a blog post based on the parallels between singing teaching and bike training, based on conversations with a friend who's an opera singer and teacher - I may not bother now :)