Tuesday, 27 September 2011

My Beautiful Hands

   A few days ago I did a stupid thing and whilst using a portable metal grinder the molegrips slackened, the metal moved and the rotating cutter went quick walkabouts over my hand ripping through a layer of flesh around the base of my thumb. Fortunately no nerves or tendons were severed as this is my right hand used for guitar playing and my thumb is very important. The last time I damaged a hand was also whilst working on a car project in 1989 and I drilled through the bodywork with a half inch drillbit, forgetting I was supporting the material with my fingers the other side. In fact it was the same thumb! Complete stupidity and a reminder how valuable my hands are. 
   I often lie awake at night silhouetting my hands against the moon shining through a skylight above my bed. I still have beautiful hands, strong working man's hands but also well proportioned hands with guitar player's fingers. I don't think its vanity but a sheer appreciation of the wonder of how the hands interpret what the brain commands. I exercise my hands whilst doing my full moon ritual, making the fingers move in every possible way. Learning guitar chords (or any instrument probably) is an excellent workout for hand and brain.
Some guitar chord shapes take tens of hours to master from the initial careful placing of each finger on each string, often awkward to hold the position, then months later the chord shape is executed at speed. I'm lucky, although I used to be able to site read, I play totally by ear and once the muscle memory kicks in the chord sequences are automatic and I can then concentrate on expression. I am amazed at how many jazz players read off the manuscript. I thought jazz was supposed to be free and improvised. I am an improvisor and my wonderful hands are the greatest gift I could ever ask for, linked to a brain that fires on four cylinders most of the time. I am very fortunate, at this moment in time I have no aches and pains in my limbs and in particular my hands and it is surprising I have not worn my hands out. 
   I have made a living from my hands, renovated three houses and made countless pieces of furniture. On my rocking chairs alone I have drilled nearly forty thousand holes through which eight miles of sailing cord has passed to create the upholstery (although many of the chairs were woven by others) but I drilled every hole. 
   Over five decades of using my hands since building my first guitar at school, I reckon this represents between 30,000 and 50,000 hours of creative hand work and still they are almost as agile as when I was 17 years old. This takes into account a fair percentage of my life immobilised by depression. Perhaps the price I pay for such wonderful hands.

  My beautiful hands that survived a stupid accident

The High Backed Rocker has found homes around the world since 1973
Over eight miles of sailing chord and 40,000 holes drilled    

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