Stuff I want to tell someone or the world (everyone and therefore no-one) about, but I don’t have the will to work any of these items up into the sort of post I normally write.
Busking at Charing Cross yesterday had a frustrating start. You have to present yourself to the station manager, usually show ID, and get issued with a security pass before you can set up. The manager had a backlog of other people working on the station being signed on and off and kept me waiting outside the office for 10 minutes as it was too crowded. Then he requested a letter of introduction, which buskers don’t need (it’s presumably something the employer provides for employees working in stations); when I told him I don’t need one, he told me off in truly stereotypical schoolmaster fashion for telling him what to do ‘on my station’. Then he managed to misread my passport so as to be searching the database for James Martin, rather than Martin (James) Ash.
On the other hand, I have lots of positive feelings towards the South Asian-descended bloke who came up and asked if I could play something he was playing off his phone; when I didn’t know it, he managed to google sheet music for it and stood being a human music stand (and stopping the phone going to sleep) while I sight-read a Bollywood song in very small display and odd transcription and his (presumably) wife filmed. They seemed to feel it was £10 well spent. More requests with written music please! And maybe I should memorise some Bollywood melodies …
The Musicians’ Union are running a campaign for universal free music lessons for children, after research showed a similar proportion of children are interested in learning an instrument across socioeconomic position, but twice as many of the wealthiest kids are actually learning as the poorest. Now it is obviously to the good of music that it draw its talent from as wide a pool as possible; and I fully support the right of everyone to engage with music if they want to. But there is a slightly different problem tied up with this one. As far as I can see, the only way performing music can continue to be a sustainable profession for anyone is if the number of people seeking to enter it declines significantly; the supply of actual and would-be professional musicians already heavily outweighs the demand for their services, with obvious consequences for underemployment, low wages and undercutting, and qualification inflation (as everyone in classical music has a conservatoire undergrad degree so orchestras reduce their enormous piles of applications by only accepting applicants with masters’ degrees; which makes them normal, adding 2 years’ full-time education and thousands of pounds of student debt to the typical career-start burdens). So yes, we must try and ensure unfettered access to learning, appreciating, making and participating in music; but equally it seems little short of a necessity to contain the number of people performing professionally. A conundrum.
Back in my mid-twenties, I remember a friend talking about a list of indicators of being ‘a proper grown-up’ another friend of hers had proposed (the notion of extended adolescence, with genuine adulthood deferred until well after leaving university, is one often applied, almost always pejoratively, to my generation). As I remember they included:
- have a ‘proper job’ (this is, I think, intuitively comprehensible for most people)
- own a car
- own a house
- be married
- have children
This probably returned to my mind with the realisations that at 32 I am self-employed – deliberately and with no current intention of returning to being employed, let alone working a full-time ‘career job’; have given up on my repeated, fruitless and not improving attempts to pass the driving test; am single; live in a rented houseshare; and will quite likely only ever be able to afford a mortgage (assuming no housing crash and that music work continues to keep me in London) jointly with someone else. This may explain why I’m a little touchy when people assume (usually when I’m playing low-paid orchestral concerts) that I am a conservatoire student. I left university over 11 years ago.
This afternoon I was biking up the slight rise to my home, and probably making slightly heavy weather of it due to some weight on my back and my blood sugar having dropped lower than it should be allowed to. A middle-aged woman, wearing a hi-vis vest over a woollen cardigan, helping a primary school trip cross a side road, called out with a hint of a laugh as I passed ‘Come on! You can do it!’ I suppose I am touchy, but I certainly felt mocked. Harassed by an older woman in the street for riding a bike.
Here’s the thing with asking if everything is OK, or how I’m doing: I have type 1 diabetes and chronic clinical depression. Plus, at present, insecure employment, vitamin deficiencies and various factors contributing to significant loneliness. But the diabetes and depression alone mean everything is never OK, and an even vaguely honest answer to ‘how’s it going?’ is far too complex (and personal) for oiling-the-social-wheels small talk. So I have to either make a mouth noise that literally conveys nothing about my actual state (and is quite likely actively misleading) to keep up social equilibrium, or go into friends-and-family levels of talking about emotion and illness and so on.