Bach to the future – and a nasty experience with Fedex

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having the strange desire to start playing the violin. It was my birthday at the beginning of March and some very kind people sent me one.

It took a while to arrive – mainly thanks to the incompetence of Fedex. Note to sellers sending things to Galicia – UPS seem to be able to actually find people’s houses and make the extra effort to ask the way – for goodness sake, even the Amazon guys call first!
They know where I live, but I know that I could save them ten minutes by permitting them to leave packages at the Repsol garage. I’m happy to do this and they always ask it this is okay.

Fedex’s first excuse was that that the address was incorrect – yet on the box, it was the correct address. Then they told me that they didn’t have my phone number, so they made a note of it and promised delivery within 48 hours.
Some 60 hours later, I called Fedex again and spoke to a nice man who told me that they hadn’t delivered the package as they didn’t know the phone number – at which point, I curbed my impulse to sob and told him that Fedex had read the number back to me on the previous call. Their ‘new’ excuse was that they had the correct number – but that the courier/driver didn’t!
So, Fedex promised to deliver the package by the next day. I waited for a phone call, but none came and so I put in the tracking number to discover that the violin had been delivered – and felt a massive wave of panic.
Then I remembered that it could have been left at the petrol station – which I had told Fedex that they could do if they couldn’t find the house – but that they had to call and wait as it was a violin and not a book being delivered and I needed to check that it was okay as it was THREE WEEKS late. They didn’t call – which I am quite angry about.
It had been sent to Madrid, then on to Galicia and then they hadn’t been able to find our house, so it was sent back to Madrid. I told Fedex that if UPS could find our house then, so could they.
In the last phone call, I was informed that it was on its way from Paris, which was a bit of a nasty shock – and then it was sent back to Galicia (Vigo airport) and onto the petrol station (Gasolineira). We went there and discovered the box – in good condition, thankfully.

Fedex – I’m not a happy client.

Back to the violin. I had learned to play as a child and was about Grade VI or more at by the time I was 12. I’d stopped having lessons as there was no music at my high school and it was a long way to travel to have a violin lesson.
I studied flute and then did a degree in music. As part of the course, all first years had to learn the recorder and a stringed instrument and the piano. I could play the piano and the recorder, but was quite keen to revisit the instrument.
I was incredibly fortunate that my teacher was the leader of the Medici String Quartet, Paul Robertson – and he taught me a lot in the months that I studied with him.
I’ve had my lovely violin for a week now. I bought some exercises and a ‘how to’ book – the excellent ‘Violin for Dummies’. I rocketed through that – it’s a great book, but the technical stuff came back quickly and now I’m playing around with 3rd position. My left hand and lower arm ligaments don’t like this much, but tough.
Not bad for one week’s study. I can play in tune, with a touch of vibrato now. The hand positions are difficult – but I’m determined to conquer correct technique.

My ambition is to learn to play all the Bach Violin Sonatas and Concerti – and to specialise in Baroque music. It’s been an obsession ever since I played my first flute sonata – 32 years of a love affair with the music of JS Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, et al.
It’s so nice to find that I can play again – for a person with Multiple Sclerosis – music is difficult as people with MS suffer from fatigue – both physical and cognitive and also from muscle spasms and stiffness.
I think the muscle memory has kicked in – it’s not new, so I have less of a chance of being injured. I once suffered a very painful muscle injury from knitting!
Each morning now is spent playing. I start with the piano, then move onto vocal exercises and some arias and then spend an hour and a half on the violin.

It’s a bittersweet situation though. Other ‘mature’ violin students attend summer schools, and can buy proper Baroque violins – there’s a wonderful world of music out there – but only if you are wealthy. Baroque violins are beautiful things, but they cost around £800. Ouch!
I must start buying lottery tickets…

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