I think I may go back to reading fiction again, as well as the reference and historical facsimiles which have been my sole reading matter for about 15 or more years now. The trouble is that - unlike H.I. - I cannot read in bed. When ever I try, I get about three lines in, then the next thing I know, it is 4.00 a.m. in the morning and my face is pressed between the covers of the saliva-soaked book like a wild meadow flower picked by a Victorian poet, so I push the book over the edge, turn out the light and return to sleep.
I stopped reading fiction because I was halfway through writing a dark, comic (so I thought) novel based in Waverley Abbey (don't ask, it's a long story) when a friend of mine in the writing industry read through the first draft and said he liked it. He then said it reminded him of Tom Sharpe, and that scared me so much that I put down all fiction until I could be sure that I was not subconsciously plagiarising any part of it - even the style. They say that you subliminally assimilate words very easily just before you go to sleep (a technique used by students swatting for exams) but since I cannot read in bed for the above reasons, I don't think this could be a danger for me, apart from the all important opening hook-line. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." etc.
A similar thing happened to me with music. I used to (badly) play a lot of woodwind instruments ('Oh no', I hear you groan, 'is there anything he hasn't tried?' Well there is actually, but it would be inappropriate - and dangerous - to list them here), mainly the clarinet. Someone asked me years ago if I had always played music, and I said "Oh yes. I don't think I could live without it."
Then I thought what a bloody stupid thing to say that was, so I put down the instruments and never picked them up again. No great loss to the world of music.
I think if I were to be cast away on a desert island, I would take a bass oboe with me as my luxury item. If you have ever been transported by Mozart's Oboe Concertos, then you will understand why, but if you have ever tried to play an oboe, then you might not. Apparently it has the most difficult and complicated fingering of all the wind instruments, but I might have time to get to grips with it just so long as they cast me away sooner rather than later. At least I would not annoy the neighbors by practicing all day and night.
The other great thing about wind instruments is the high you get from the great effort of breath-control. After half an hour playing the clarinet, it seems to have the same effect as about 2 hours yoga of the Kundalini variety.
When you first pick up a reed clarinet and try to get a note out of it, your cheeks expand to bursting point, your eyes almost pop out of their sockets and your face goes a bright red, fading to a pale blue around the edges - just to produce a squeak which sounds like the rear end of a ferret which has been run over by a 10 ton truck.
After about two weeks of this torture, you learn how damp the reed must be before also learning which area of the reed is best suited to your lips to produce the mellow, woody note you are looking for - then you can concentrate on the fingering by going up and down the scales until you can hit three octaves. With a bit of luck, you can attempt a melody along the lines of 'Three Blind Mice' within about a month afterwards, and before you know it, your breath-control is such that you can - with the minimum of effort - sustain a note for longer than you could hold your breath underwater. That's when you start getting high by playing the clarinet. Unfortunately, that is usually when the neighbors finally crack and come round to tell you to shut the fuck up.
Maybe I'll start by reading some fiction again.