June 06, 2013 GMT
Piano Rag

Did anyone see this back in February?


Learn To Play Day, every March.
I had never heard of it.

But there was an advert for it shining out of the local free paper, like a beacon.
A message.
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
Probably the 3rd or 4th time I've used those words in this blog.
It'll appear again I'm sure.

Since the early 80s I've had an electric piano.
And an electric piano designed in the late 70s, appearing in Practical Electronics as a kit of parts, is a very crude device indeed by today's standards.
(As an aside, for a year or more before that, I had an ordinary upright piano, which by dint of incredible age (1800s) and worse condition, was even cruder. Hence I swapped it for an electric version, with the added advantage of headphones and undisturbed neighbours).

I'm sure any competent and accomplished pianist could have produced magnificent renditions on both instruments - but I couldn't. And doubt I ever will...... but you never know.....

For the last 10 years or so I've fancied an upgrade. Something 'digital' as they say now.
Up in Manchester last year I wandered into the big Yamaha showroom - pianos not motorbikes - (something's gone a bit awry with the topic of this blog). I was amazed at the quality and specifications of modern digital pianos, and the prices in comparison with what I paid back in 1982.
I used to glance in the window of the local piano shop now and again whilst walking from the bakers to the hardware shop. "Just looking."

Then in February that same local shop placed this advert.

A personal message aimed directly at me!

So it had to be done. Straightaway. I booked my first ever piano lesson, 15 minutes for free.

On the evening before 'Learn to Play Day' my head was full of anticipation, but it relented for a moment just enough to allow a much more useful thought to come rushing in like a steam train.
It's in the next town, where I bought a beginner's guitar for my son Richard about 25 years ago.
It never took off, but I still have that guitar.
I phoned first thing the next morning. Did they have any guitar lessons left?
"What about violin?" I asked.
I'd never even touched a violin let alone put bow to string.
But the student was ready, the advert had appeared, and the answer down the phone line was, "How about 3pm, or 3:30?"
So I nipped over there after the piano lesson at Vivace.

Within a week I had a magnificent digital piano installed in my front room,


incorporating all the latest mechanical as well as electronic technology.
Being an octave-and-a-half wider than my old one, a well-worn armchair had to go to make room.

And I now have to own up to having chucked two pianos, over the years, in the skip.
That's one more than the score for motorbikes.

Here's an old photo of the old one, with the guitar purchased from Potters all those years ago.


And a peek at the 1970s circuitry and crude mechanical key mechanism. Just for those interested, you understand.


A close-up of the out-in-the-open-air switch system. An early attempt at some sort of touch-sensitivity, with silver contact springs that tarnished black instantly (vertical in centre of pic), ruining any effect that the designer may have attempted to create.


Now, somehow, weekly lessons and daily practice have been stuffed into life's rich tapestry.
So that old adage that I heard many times at work in the 1990s, is truer now than ever.
"When you retire, you'll never ever know how on earth you ever had the time to go to work. Ever."

And don't even mention the violin....
In 15 minutes from absolute scratch, the excellent teacher at Potter's had me playing a 4-note scale and able to hear if a note was out, although not yet the ability to correct it - probably lots of years to do that.

This time of year Caterham is a real buzzing place. You don't have to go up to town for the best entertainment (even though, down here in Whyteleafe, we allow people from up the hill to use our three railway stations).
No, we have our own 'Street Pianos' right here, on the street.

Here's one Vivace put out earlier, right opposite the library.

I hope neither piano nor Aprilia end up in the skip.....

And I take my hat off to Vivace (as you can see in the pic) for this great community spirit.
Just after the photo was taken, a mum and two small daughters had an impromptu open-air piano practice. In fact, it was the mum who took the photo.

So now I'm planning next year's Learn To Play Day.
"Up in London," the proprietor of Vivace told me, "they take it really seriously. People plan and phone around as soon as the date is announced, squeezing in as many bookings for 15-minute lessons as they can."
That's me! Violin, saxophone, guitar, banjo, xylophone, bass, accordion, bandoneón, flute....

Can we get more days in the week please?

Posted by Ken Thomas at June 06, 2013 07:30 PM GMT

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.

Scottoiler automatic chain oilers. The most important accessory for your next motorcycle adventure!

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!