Sunday, November 23, 2008

In A Lonely Shack By A Railroad Track ...

Laroque d'Olmes Railway Station - and Disco
You will recognise that as the first line from the song "The Wayward Wind".
It goes on .. "I spent my younger days", but it is one of my older days I spent there, in fact one of my days in my 69th year, in fact today.
First, a confession. I have walked only 3 days this week, because on the other days it has been lashing down, and at the moment I have a choice. All three walks were substantial - 30 kms from Mirepoix on Monday, 16 kms from Quillan on Wednesday, and 21/22 kms from Lavelanet on Friday. It is the last of the three with which we are concerned today.
After about 5 kms of the walk, I passed the building pictured above. Having done the walk several times, I had barely noticed the building. It is one of many ex-railway stations on this route. I had not even spotted that fact, because the sign saying "Laroque d'Olmes" is whitewashed or faded.
I took a good look at it on Friday because two days before I had discovered that it was to be the scene, today, of several firsts in my life. I have mentioned before my excellent guitar tutor, Santiago Cozar. Three or four times a year he organises a concert in Lavelanet, starring 20 or more of his students. He is obviously proud of the skill he has imparted to all these people, and likes nothing better than to front up various combinations of them, usually with him playing one of the lead guitars and also acting as lead vocalist. We have attended several of these concerts and have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the musicians, many of whom are teenagers or even younger.
Now I was over 60 when I started to learn guitar and, due to the rurality of my location, could not find a tutor and was largely self-taught for most of that time. Three years ago I discovered Santiago and have been having lessons with him weekly during the time I spend at home. Being a bit of a Wayward Wind and a restless world traveller, this means I have probably had 3 lots of 6 months of weekly lessons. Nevertheless, for some time Santiago has been trying gently to persuade me to get up on stage in one of his concerts. It was never part of my plan to play in public - I just wanted to be able to quietly play a few tunes to myself. Also, each time I was asked, I genuinely felt that I was not good enough, and was puzzled that he was prepared to exhibit me amongst his youngsters.
This year he seems to have snared me and I will be playing five tunes at a line-dancing concert in a very few weeks time. I have already missed some of the rehearsals because of my absence in America and felt honour-bound to go along to today's practice.
On Wednesday Santiago told me that the concert is now a week earlier than I was previously informed, due to non-availability of the market hall because of a Christmas Fair. He also told me that some of the tunes I had been learning would not now be used and I had to learn two new ones. In addition he told me that the rehearsal would be at the disco at Laroque. I had no idea where this is. The French frequently and sensibly place their discos outside residential areas and his explanation made it clear that this disco is in the very same building I walk past once a week - the disco signs are on the other face of the building.
So today's rehearsal was the first time I have ever played guitar with any other musicians. It was also the first time I have been inside a disco. What a sheltered life I have led. There were twenty or more guitarists involved, with different combinations of five or so playing each tune.
As I drove away after the session, I thought the car sounded different. Then I realised that I had been temporarily deafened by my first visit to a disco. A sheltered life indeed.

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