December 30, 2010

Just in time

Nothing but a trollope.More than any other time of year, the New Year reminds me of time. I’m not one to mourn each of my birthdays (far preferable to the alternative, I always say), but whenever January 1 rolls around I become more conscious of time.

I’d much rather reflect on the past than dwell on the future. This time of year, when time slows down for most because we spend less time working and more time choosing what to do with our time, I finally get some time to look back. Looking ahead makes me anxious; looking back gives me comfort. Maybe it’s because I find it harder to remember the details of things negative, but the past to me is always positive. The future can be full of great plans, and “planning” is inevitably packed with deadlines and unrealistic expectations. I tend to take the future as it comes, using common sense as my guide towards a sunny, broad horizon.

Piping things are always dependent on time. There are plenty of things that I’d like to do, but whether I have the time generally dictates whether I’ll actually commit to doing them. More and more, as time marches on, pipers and drummers have to pick-and-choose. Solo competition gives way to bands, bands give way to family, teaching gets squeezed in around work . . .

The Victorian novelist (and inventor of the pillar mail box) Anthony Trollope wrote most of his 45 500-plus-pages novels during his 15-minute coach commute to and from work at the post office. He chose to use that time for his own pleasure, which happened also to be to the pleasure of many others.

“Where do you find the time?” is by far the question I’m asked the most regarding pipes|drums. Time is everywhere; you just need to know how to find it, and choose to use it in certain ways.

Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline, they say. I guess it’s a paradox: I’m far less productive when I’m not busy. I like sitting around doing nothing as much as the next person, but generally I’ll resist doing nothing unless I plan to do nothing, like on vacation or that wretched necessity called sleeping. When I have the time I tend to waste much more of it. If you want something done, give it to a busy person.

For 2011, here’s to good use of time – and, while we’re at it, a damned good time.


  1. good food for thought here Andrew and Happy New year to you. I find Im busy, but don’t seem to make my deadlines, always saying yes to myself that I can do this one other thing but upon getting stuck in, find other projects slipping behind. That leads to this years resolution, something I am not a big fan of really, but this year it is to seek out more help when available and learn to organize tasks better.
    Bruce Gandy

  2. It’s funny though how elastic it can be, and yet so scientifically finite——-time I mean. I was struck by this yesterday when I was faced with a list of piping-related ‘to-do’ things, and the holiday fast reaching its end and the return to work imminent. There were four scores of a ‘metronome exercise’ thing to re-format and send to various people in USA and Canada. There was the Bulgarian National Anthem to arrange for pipes (and it’s not very pipe-friendly with its augmented seconds), and there was a harmony to write for a very beautiful slow air by Israeli composer David Siegel. Oh and a Facebook invite to click for a piper in the Czech Republic. The sending of the scores took time, and sat awkwardly in time. The wav files were too big to attach etc. The reward was that one of the recipients, who was in Yukon, Canada, had relatives who lived a few streets away from me here in Ayrshire. We only found that out and enjoyed the connection because of the time it took the files to load. The Bulgarian anthem was done in a jiffy, because it was so impossible and hence provided a great challenge and time flew by. The slow air was so magnetically beautiful that time stood still while entwining the melody and the harmony together to make a whole. And the Facebook thing was helped by the fact there there was only one of my Czech Republic piper friend. All that done and I looked at my watch and it was not even 8am. Plenty of time to get on with the on-going stuff and other chores. What I’m saying is that time is time. And yet it seems to be able to be used in different ways and you can make it go faster, slower, or even stand still depending on what you do with it. Here’s to every second, minute and hour of 2011.



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