I was a campanologist once

The title reminded me how much we undertake during our lives but also what we leave behind. This happens on a superficial level but I guess also on more fundamental issues. I think I will start with the superficial. I became a campanologist when a young teenager. With my Dad and brother we joined a new group of church bell ringers in Kedington, West Suffolk. It was challenging but once the basic skills were achieved quite enjoyable and having a chance to chat to a young female in the group via the cover of the spiral staircase was an added pleasure. We rang ‘Plain Bob’ and tried ‘Cambridge Surprise’ though I don’t think we ever managed the later tune very well. The bells were heavy at times and in my early 20s I did have back pain which may have been connected. I had left the bell ringing world as I began to feast on the pleasures of youth clubs and pints of beer and never returned. Around the same time I stopped having piano lessons even though I had got to Grade 6 (out of 8) and also stopped singing in the church choir. 
Clearly around age 18 my combined musical talents, such as they were, peaked and I left the building. When I arrived at university, sitting around in college rooms and the guitars came out my only regret was that I could not get my church bells out of my cupboard nor a piano. I had learnt the wrong instruments for my lifestyle. Too late then and too late now. I did command a somewhat drunken audience in the Bootham Pub, York on Friday nights when I would be persuaded to play on the piano and sing the Tommy Steele inspired ‘little white bull’ – you had to be there!
Sometimes we take these decisions because when we balance up against a clear criteria – ability, time, interest or the interest of others the calculation shows a deficit and it is best to move on. Or also circumstances can simply conspire against us. I started playing the piano a couple of years too late, I was 12 and though had reached a good standard other things competed and I made choices. Had I reached a better standard when 16 maybe there might have been more will to continue. Maybe we just crowd too much into our lives and only a few things come to the surface and stay there. It has always frustrated me when I see people with talent, junior cricket is my best example, who love playing but disappear to university and/or work, marriage and family and never play again. It feels a tragic waste of talent but reflects the choices we make in life. And of course for some sport is a energising outlet when young but other choices crowd in and win the day. 
I find the end of the year a time of reflection and next week’s blog will set out my aspirations for next year. I think I am very fortunate that I regret so little of my life choices, big or small. I am something of a romantic when it comes to aspirational thinking and action. I always dreamt of reaching the best level I could to whatever I applied my mind to, be it work, family, friends, sport or leisure. That I fell short in many ways on many things just spurred me on to try harder. I guess a stubborn character combined with utopian ideals drove my actions. I would always have a go……………
* So let’s do a four day conference for the ‘Century of Probation’. ‘No it will never work’ but it did and we made a small surplus. 

* I’ll write a book on the history of Tickhill CC, ‘too big a task’ but I did. 

* I’ll continue working and bring two kids up on my own…..no you will have to go part time….but I didn’t and I did

* Let’s organise a tour for ex university cricketing mates for 1978 – and we did for 19 years and still meet to watch cricket now 38 years later

* I was given two years but still here after five!
So maybe a positive (and stubborn) attitude makes a difference to levels of engagement. I regard myself as a glass half full person and a sense of striving to achieve the impossible has always been an aspiration. This attitude also helps orientation to issues – do you see yourself as a sick/healthy person; do you see yourself as successful or a failure; will your team win the competition? It can drive not only your thinking but your actions. I am convinced that being positive has brought better rewards. 

Christmas Dinner

One aspiration this year was to have Christmas with my two children and my daughter’s partner and so we enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing time at Center Parcs, in itself a nostalgic return from many trips when they were young. It was much the same but the quiet of the forest was a perfect place to renew and restore. Not long to 2017! Also Center Parcs was a delight for birds so a special treat below. 

5 thoughts on “I was a campanologist once

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