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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Decline and fall

The nice thing about writing a blog rather than the history of the Roman Empire, is the social media feedback you get. Edward Gibbon would have been a lot more readable if he'd had a poke once in a while.

So at first I was delighted with Marion's comment on yesterday's post, when she reminded me that some women are more tolerant than others of drums in the houseTwo of her sons are drummers and their kit, she said, would often oust her "artfully arranged cushions". 

"It's a small price to pay for fostering your kids' musical ability," I tell her over a cappuccino in the iCafe on Woodlands Road. "Cushions serve no useful purpose, either inside a house or out."

"Just like men then," she says, getting our chat off on the wrong foot right away. "Cushions are art, which is just as fundamental to human culture as music and maybe more so."

"Cushions are not art," I say, spooning the sweet cinnamon froth from my drink. "They are soft, girly, fluffy, pointless, intrusive, often excessive and always annoying. They take up space that would be far better occupied by almost anything else you can imagine."

"Such as what?" she says.

"Books, people, spanners, a small cocktail bar, a Lithuanian lifejacket, a plastic model of Cliff Richard playing strip poker in his socks." 

"Don't be ridiculous," she says, daintily sipping her toffee caramel latte. "What's so difficult about drumming anyway that you guys have to practise endlessly? You're just whacking a skin with a stick. It's not hard and it's barely music."

I look at her in horror. This is the mother of two dedicated drummers, for god's sake. "You have to get the sticking into your muscle memory," I tell her. "It takes time. With the drums in my living-room I've been practising 10 minutes an hour for three months. Do the sums that's a total of ..." 

I start multiplying in my head and realise my arithmetic's too slow. "Forty gazillion billion drumbeats," I say, reckoning there's no way an artist will question a physicist about figures.

"There is no such number," she tells me scornfully. 

"What do you know about numbers?" I say.

"Plenty," she says. "I have a doctorate in education."

"Really?" I say.

"I did an empirical study of learning and teaching in Scotland's colleges using phenomenology," she says.

"Is that supposed to impress me?" I say. 

"It should," she says. "You couldn't spell phenomenology. I'd be surprised if you could even say it."

"Of course I can say it," I tell her. 

"Go on then," she says.

Phenomenonol ...," I say then stop and try again. "Phenomenomenology."

"Ha!" she says. "I rest my case. What you need pal is more practice with the muscle memory of your brain."

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