I was thinking about what I do with my life and realised that it goes in phases, phases of enthusiasm for one thing and another.
At the moment it’s e-books. I love reading (a continuing enthusiasm which has never left me) and when I discovered e-readers it was like the answer to a prayer. Instead of carting around a book, usually in a coat pocket or a shoulder bag, I could take all the books I needed, or thought I needed, in a nice, neat little package, always ready to open at the page I was on. I won’t tell you how many e-books I have (it’s a lot!) and my enthusiasm at the moment is having all the ones I want to read on my Kobo Aura (love it!) and have them sorted into categories – fiction, non-fiction, science, sf, fantasy, music, films, literature etc. I use Calibre, a free ebook catalogue programme where I can sort them, categorise, download covers and lots of other nifty things. It’s my favourite computer programme (not an app, apps are for mobile phones) and an example to a lot of commercial software companies of how to write a programme that is elegant, useful and, all in all, a pleasure to use.
Anyway, back to enthusiasms. If you’ve been reading my blog – what! You think people actually read this stuff? – then you’ll know that it’s been quite a while since my last post. “Why?” you might ask; then again, you might not. In a word, enthusiasm. My enthusiasm moved on to other things. Don’t get me wrong, I had been keen; keen as anything. I did all the things I tend to do when I have a new passion; I went online and read all I could about setting up and running a blog (that led me to WordPress, which I love). I bought the book, WordPress in Depth, which cost me £1.79 on Amazon, signed up to the extras (uploading audio, no adverts, access to all the templates etc.) and made lists of all the things I intended to blog about. Alright, I’m calling it enthusiasm, but you could make a case for using the work obsession. I suppose that’s the thing about my enthusiasms, they tend to become obsessions, until they start ebbing and I move on to the next one. It’s no doubt something to do with being an addict. If you look at the International Classification of Diseases (ICD10) diagnostic guidelines for addiction (or dependence as they call it, a more politically correct term for what seems to me to be the same thing), two of the features are:
- a strong desire or compulsion to take the substance (in my case, do the thing)
- difficulties in controlling substance taking (the thing I’m obsessed with) in terms of its onset, termination or levels of use
My enthusiasms come, stay for a while, then go. I don’t seem to have control over them or over what it is I’m going to become obsessed with next. I’m aware that a number of them circle around (vultures waiting to feast on my mind – alright, that’s going a bit far but you know what I mean), then swoop down at various times to carry me off again.
This year started with improv. I joined an improv group which was running a course at the Steiner school. Denise had been going for a few weeks and, from what she said, it sounded like fun. So I did the usual thing – bought the books, read all I could online etc. Eventually I stopped going, mainly through pressure of things to do at home etc. and, as with all my obsessions, it ran its course. Until it circles round again.
So here’s a list of my recent enthusiasms:
- cooking – particularly Indian cooking. I’ve got all the books, and the spices. I can now make a pretty mean curry. Dormant at the moment. I’ve enough to do keeping up with the day-to-day cooking
- the kitchen – finding ways to keep salads and vegetables fresh (Lakeland salad bags), knives sharp (still working on this but I’ve got the whetstone etc.), having the right pans (a new steamer from Sainsbury’s), sink strainers, freezer bags and so on and so on. Has a habit of flaring up in minor ways – new knives, a pan I saw in a charity shop and had to have.
- Cataloguing books read – a reading journal from Amazon which I will start with huge enthusiasm then put aside. This one is simmering while I wait for the book to arrive
- the bathroom – we’ve just had this done; it looks fantastic so, of course, I need to research things like soap dishes, bath trays etc. Mostly satisfied, for the moment.
- computer games – a brief obsession with RPGs, in particular Baldur’s Gate on the computer and Final Fantasy on my phone (downloaded maps, cheats, walkthroughs). Dissipated a couple of months ago. I don’t really want this one back as it consumes too much time.
- guitar tunings – this grew out of a period where Denise and I were having a go at singing some of the songs we loved. We did some McGarrigles (Heart Like a Wheel, Kiss and Say Goodbye, The Swimming Song), Donovan (Catch the Wind) and Dylan, in particular Buckets of Rain off Blood on the Tracks. It was this one that got me into alternate tunings as the song, and most of the album, is in D tuning. So I did the usual thing, bought a book on alternate tunings and played around with them for a while until ………. I’m sure this one will be back. When I’m into playing the guitar I’m heavily into it but then I can go weeks, or even months, without picking a guitar up.
- Bob Dylan – grew out of the singing Denise and I were doing and listening to Blood on the Tracks. So we started listening to Dylan’s albums, starting from his first. It was because of this that I discovered that I had access to more or less all of Dylan’s output on Amazon Prime. I’ve been signed up to Prime for ages but had never looked at what music was available (this, by the way, is typical. I have a tendency to leap into things without reading the instructions. I’m so impatient to get on with whatever that I often miss aspects or features that are useful or important. Comes of being an enthusiast…. and an addict. It’s the instant gratification, the (to quote Sir Henry at Rawlinson’s End, “I don’t know what I want but I want it NOW! NOW!”) I also read a few books about Dylan (Susie Rotolo’s memoir, biographies by Greil Marcus and Clinton Heylin and Heylin’s books about Dylan’s songs) and bought a copy of ‘No Direction Home’ on Amazon (74p!). Does this start to suggest a pattern? Anyway, one song I discovered through this reading was Blind Willie McTell, which was recorded for the album Infidels but, despite plea’s from Mark Knofler to include it on the album, remained unreleased until the early 90s. It’s a wonderful song and, as with other songs recorded for other albums and then not included, it’s hard to see why he left it out. Ah well, such is genius. I still love Dylan but the obsession has faded, again for the moment.
- And, of course, this blog. Looking at my stats, it’s been 10 months since my last post, but the vulture has me in its talons and I’m not struggling, in fact I’m enjoying the trip; though they can’t be very strong talons as I’m sure they’ll let go of me again before too long.
- Here’s an enthusiasm from the past. It’s a Roland Guitar Synth.
I was so excited about getting this, couldn’t wait for it to arrive. And it was great; I could play bass, sitar, piano, strings, all kinds of instruments. I thought it would be great for recording. Did I use it? Yes. A lot? No. And where is it now? No idea, sold it on Ebay and never thought about it since.
So that’s me and enthusiasm. I know when I started this blog I said it would be about music, the songs and albums that had meant something at various times in my life. Well, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll still right about music but as other topics come up I’ll write about those.
Hope you don’t mind (still this weird fantasy that somebody may read this). Ah well, such is delusion.