Aim high and hit the right COVID note

By John Lewis

This COVID thing means a lot more sitting around and staring out of the window, which is absolutely fine for a potato head dreamer with no particular place to go.

But lately, things have been getting wild out there. The arrival of big onyx-feathered bruisers from the mountains with yellow eyes, a wild cat from under the house, and the usual black and white hoolies with no idea of social distancing means feeding disputes over dog food are reaching desperate Trumpian tweet levels.

Exclamation marks are thrown around like stick bombs, wings flap, chests are puffed and strangers are stalked.

Cancel culture has arrived on the verandah.

As fascinating as it is, studying avian brawls must be the last resort when it comes to occupying time during these days of limited movement. When you throw your last lolly wrapper at the TV during Bachelor in Paradise, when you fall asleep during Dan Andrews’ COVID-19 updates and when you finish your 800-page dystopian novel on interplanetary plagues — you watch birds fight over dog food on the verandah.

Live concerts, interstate and overseas travel, crowded wine bars and restaurants, sports events and packed theatres are things of the past. The world has shrunk to a verandah, so we have to create other goals, other tasks, and other things to look forward to.

The older and more bored I get, the more I realise that filling time productively and looking forward to life is good for the mind and the body. Unfortunately, most ways of encouraging mind and body to work together in a synergy of movement involve walking fast, kicking, running, stretching or jumping.

However, I have discovered a way to exercise the neural pathways and create muscle tone without leaving my couch.

I am learning arpeggios, pentatonic scales, triads, major 7 scales and the circle of fifths on my guitar.

I have amused myself and undoubtedly tortured others by playing a guitar for more than 50 years. Because there was no internet I learned from looking over my mates’ shoulders or travelling on a bus to learn A minor from someone in another town.

I never went to a guitar teacher because there were no guitar teachers in my home town — just a 70-year-old piano teacher who wore a hairnet and smacked your hand with a ruler every time you played a black note instead of a white one.

Consequently my guitar-playing stalled at Blowin’ In the Wind and If I Was a Carpenter.

While my neural pathways were howling for the finger dexterity of Eric Clapton's version of Crossroads or Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child, they could manage only Yellow Submarine.

But now I've discovered a universe of YouTube guitar teachers and man, I'm freakin’ out.

My fingers can bend iron and my neural pathways are fizzing like the national grid on a 45°C day.

My goal is to go head-to-head with Brian May playing Bohemian Rhapsody on the top of Buckingham Palace.

In this COVID life, you've got to have an achievable goal.

Otherwise it's back to watching bird brawls over dog food on the verandah.