I am not feeling great today which is a surprise, I guess. I would say I was doing well at the moment considering the stress but today I feel a bit down (plus I am getting annoyed with Word’s grammar checker which isn’t a good sign). Perhaps I wasn’t looking forward to this morning now I think about it. I didn’t get to bed until the early hours of the morning and I was shattered because I hadn’t had a good nap during the day. Being me I still woke up before I think I should and knew that tidying would be requested.

As it was, my wife and I talked about the stresses we are under instead, and I took on the tidying to do later in the day (which as of writing still hasn’t been done). I thought about how much time I could spend in bed and I put my mobile’s countdown timer on. The time went far too quickly so the timer went on again, but on the second reminder, I decided to obey the call and get up and get dressed. I meet for recorder playing today so my mind focussed on what was essential to get there to which I added in feeding the dog.

I knew that there was going to be five of us at recorders so I made sure I had some quintet music and took my great bass. I walked ten minutes or so to get there finding a delicious blackberry on the way and two policeman speed checking cars on the main road past the secondary schools. We start by having tea or coffee and biscuits and catching up on each other’s lives. As so often happens, people mention some things which somebody is curious about and so I use my mobile phone to answer the questions. Today’s ponderings was about the song “Fever”, Peggy Lee did probably the most famous version, and what FEC chemotherapy stood for (Fluorourcil,  Epirubicin, Cyclophosphamide).  One of the crew asked about the lyrics to “Fever” and then somebody suggested I sing them, and so I did – this was probably a surprise to everyone since normally I would be reluctant to sing but I guess it was a testimony to our friendship that today I sang without hesitation.

Eventually we get around to playing and I decided to get my great bass out but instead of playing the tenor line as per usual, I decided to have a go at the bass line (I think there may have been a great bass line) because I need to make this transition from treble to bass clef on my latest instrument. The first time I played it through I realised I was reading the music as though I was playing a “F” instrument so back to the beginning. I wasn’t sure which C to focus on for the middle of the instrument’s range but eventually came to a conclusion which though it initially felt low on the stave, seemed to fit well. It is not unusual for recorder players to play both C and F instruments on both treble and bass clefs, but in my experience it does take a lot of perseverance for the automatic translation matrix to form. I need to get to the point where I am not thinking about which note I am playing and what fingering that takes, that translation needs to go into muscle and visual memories so that a higher level monitoring can take place.

I struggled to recognise the note and get the right fingering and keep in time to the music. I am pretty good at following where I should be in a piece and often intuitively know because I can “hear” it fit in with the music from the other instruments. This also means I am acutely aware of when I am not fitting it. It is hard work processing all this and although I was making good progress, the stress was beginning to tell. I persevered because I need to make the effort for orchestra this Sunday. I think it was when we played a madrigal that I started to fall apart. This free flowing music is harder to play because unless I know it well, the way the different parts interweave and flow makes it very difficult to use intuition to relocate a lost place. We repeated various sections to try to find the coherence of the piece but in the end I was struggling too much. We made it to the end and decided to move onto something else.

The treble player commented on how fast my left leg had been jumping up and down and wondered whether it was in time to the music. I knew then that I needed a break, I wasn’t aware that I had been stimming and suddenly I knew I was on my way to another mental overload. I know that this has happened before when I have played music, but this was the first time that I recognised this as an autistic reaction and could do something about it. When placing my instrument down I saw my cold cup of tea I had left earlier and immediately thought about getting a biscuit; comfort food then. The ones on the side weren’t up to scratch so I asked where the chocolate ones were, opened the tin and choose a couple (I was nearly stumped by the selection but chose two I had eaten earlier). I walked out into the garden and found a corner and stared at a trampoline in the neighbours back garden and sipped cold tea. The seagulls were being too noisy I thought, but decided it was churlish to complain; I munched my biscuits, finished the tea and went back inside. I played one more piece on the great bass before we all left.

In hindsight it would have been better if I had not looked at the text messages I was receiving whilst I was playing. Normally I wouldn’t, but when I did look I saw that a friend I was supporting was having another bizarre (to my mind) time in hospital. I felt I should text back and a conversation ensured whilst I was trying to play but getting lost. My wife also texted me about booking a hire car for Spain next month and I had to respond to that too because I had forgotten some important information. Perhaps it was these additional complications which tipped me over the edge? I think I was heading for the precipice anyway, but I suspect these additional communications did add a bit of speed to the process.

Walking home I found another blackberry to eat; at least now I have something to write about I thought, and as it so often the case, three other ideas quickly coalesced in my mind and I was left with wondering where I should start.

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