Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blogging, When A Thing Is Worth Doing Badly

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allCat Sleeping Badly - photo Ken Allan"If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly!"
G K Chesterton - What's Wrong with the World

Manny Charlton, once asked if he could come over to my place and watch colour TV. He wanted to see the launch of The Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles’ first TV film. Colour TV was new technology then, and Charlton’s black and white TV couldn't do justice to the production.

A few days after watching the film, I met up with Charlton. He was still dazed. He idolised The Beatles, along with Jimmy Hendrix and other pop icons who were around then.

“I’ve put my guitar in the cupboard,” he said when I asked him what he’d been up to. “There's no way I can follow that!” was his explanation.


Of course, he got over the trauma of seeing his idols in action. Charlton may be a humble Spaniard, but he is no mean guitarist. Even at that time, he enjoyed local fame as a member of the local pop band. Charlton had quite a following in his hometown, Dunfermline, and in the surrounding Fife district.


I coached road running while teaching at Rongotai College in the 70s. The head gym teacher, Sid Turnbull, organised sponsored hundred miler team events, to raise funds for the school’s new gym extension.

Every boy in the school participated. The teams had 10 members who each ran a 10-mile course round Miramar Peninsula. Points were awarded to the teams according to a scale for times taken to complete the circuit.

One of the team runners, Peter, had congenital deformity in both feet. His doctor recommended walking and running to assist normal growth development following corrective surgery.

Peter did not find running easy, but he trained for the event with the others in his team. He clocked a slower circuit time in training for the hundred miler than anyone else in the school. But his coach supported him, and so did his team mates, despite the obvious points disadvantage that would have to be sustained by his team.

Little did Peter’s team know that Sid had already made adjustments to the rules for awarding points to physically disabled runners! Peter’s team went on to win an honourable place in the competition.

The Soldier’s Joy:

In the 70’s, I was introduced to a sheep-shearer, Davey. Davey was interested in folk music and he admired my fiddle playing when he’d hear me playing at festivals. He was well known for his enthusiasm and his hopeless musicianship.

Davey had two passions: going to music clubs, and playing music. At that time he was learning to play the guitar. He approached me at a folk music festival and told me he’d just bought himself a fiddle.

He asked me if I could help him with a tune he was learning to play on his new fiddle and I offered to assist. When he played the tune, I told him that I’d never heard it before. He smiled and said, “You play that tune. It’s the Soldier’s Joy.”

I was so taken aback, it was hard to keep face, for his fiddle playing was so terrible that I honestly could not recognise the tune he had played. I asked him to play it again and I was no further towards identifying the tune.

I liked Davey. His enthusiasm was something I really admired, and me being a teacher, I appreciated his dogged persistence. Fifteen years later I was elected the Performers Officer for the Wellington Folk Centre. A year or so on, I held that responsibility, at the same time accepting the office of President.

It was then that a friend told me about how Davey was very active in the country music scene in Wellington. The suggestion was that I should listen to what he was doing with his music.


I went along to a concert where Davey had been asked to play as a warm-up artist and I was astonished at his ability to play and sing with feeling. He played several different instruments, including the fiddle, very well. In particular, he had a way of gathering together other musicians who played good music with him.

I approached him after the concert and asked if he’d like to do a gig at the Folk Centre sometime. He was visibly humbled, but he accepted the invitation to give a concert.

Of course, I had to publish the program in the newsletter. When some of the committee members learnt that I’d booked Davey to do a concert, they were quite shocked that I’d been so stupid as to ask someone who they said had obviously no talent for music. In fact, they said that I’d spoil the reputation the Folk Centre had established in providing good quality entertainment.

I ignored their harsh words and suggested that maybe they should come along and hear for themselves. None of Davey’s critics turned up for his concert, needless to say.

But on the night of the concert, the auditorium was packed. Most of the audience was from the country clubs, but there was some from the membership of the Folk Centre too.

Davey’s concert was splendid. He sang and played no less than five different instruments that evening, including his fiddle. As well, he embellished what he offered by inviting several of his musician friends, on separate spots, to accompany him on the stage. I thoroughly enjoyed Davey’s concert and so did the packed audience.

What’s this got to do with blogging?

When I’m plodding my way through blogging, I sometimes wonder if I should bother. I feel this particularly at times when I read through some of the fabulous posts of other bloggers. I came across a great post today that was posted only two days ago - 49 comments - several links to the post from other blogs – wham! I start thinking:

“Why am I blogging?”

Then I remember Davey, and how his enthusiasm for his hopeless musicianship served him well to become an appreciated artist. I recall how young Peter ran his way to victory, and won a position for his team mates by his dogged persistence, and competing the way he did.

I think of my friend, Manny Charlton, who wanted to put his guitar in the cupboard after he’d heard The Beatles play on TV. I recall how he went on to become a rock star, as lead guitarist in the group, Nazareth.

The names Davey and Peter, used in this post, are aliases.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Anonymous said...

Ken, you've brought together some great stories in this post and reminded me that it's ok to blog, even if I don't crack the top of Technorati ;-) Thanks!

Mr Wood said...

Thanks Ken, I often feel this way and try remind myself that I am doing it for my own development. If we never try and persevere, we would never do anything.

Paul C said...

Telling the story is a potent device in the blogger's tool box. And you do it so well, unlike the title of the post leads one to believe.

V Yonkers said...

I have been so excited this year because I have a following of at least 15 readers a day of my blog! (yes, I've been looking at analytics).

I have this running debate with my husband who insists that you shouldn't do something unless you do it "right". I say, how else can you get better than if you make mistakes and keep trying. He's a perfectionist, and I'm not.

I think everyone should blog for themselves and because they have something to say. While each blog won't be a blockbuster, you certainly have a royal following.

Britt Watwood said...

You and me, brother!

Ken Stewart said...

Ken, as I am making my rounds through GReader, I always make sure to stop by and take a read of your blog.

In all honesty, I really appreciate your efforts. While my comments do not pay to put food on your table or petrol in the auto, I do hope it is a small token of payment for the services you render.

I feel this way a lot, and then I stumble across that one comment or reply to something I did and it reminds me all over again why I do what I do...

Thank you for the wonderful stories of Manny, Peter, and Davey to remind us why we need to keep on. Not for others so much as something we find deep within ourselves - a calling to keep the conversation going and share what we learn and what we feel with those equally interested in reciprocating.

Warmest Regards,
Ken Stewart

Laurie said...

Hi Ken,
Your stories remind me of kids I've known for whom school was difficult. Your stories remind me of Sir Ken Robinson's recent book, the Element. No matter how tough the going, a little encouragement can make a huge difference to discovering and pursuing one's interests or passion.

As for why I blog, I started Neurons Firing as a way to help along my own learning. At the beginning I wasn't interested in readership; in fact, I didn't want readership. Rather, I just wanted to focus on writing and understanding. Eventually, as my confidence grew that I actually was learning something and beginning to "know" what I was writing about, the idea of having others find my blog and read it was an exciting prospect – a way to expand my learning.

As V Yonkers wrote, "how else can you get getter than if you make mistakes and keep trying." Ben Zander ( says "If you a mistake, how fascinating!" Ken Robinson ( says "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything orignial." Mistakes are part of the learning process.

But after all that verbiage, what I most want to say is how much I enjoy your writing. Your words often provide food for thought, and you shape those words with care and artistry. Visiting here is always my pleasure.

Thanks, and cheers,

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tenei to mihi ki a koutou!

Kia ora Claire!
Thanks for that! What's Technorati? Joke :-)

Tēnā koe Shaun!
You are so right. There are many skills that one can develop through blogging - puts writing essays to shame.

Tēnā koe Paul!
And kia ora. You're right about story telling as a tool in blogging. Hey, it's one of the best tools for teaching too.

Kia ora Virginia!
And you know what I feel about making mistakes :-).

Blogging for oneself . . . There's a Scottish toast, "Here's tae us, wha is like us . . .". The sentiment is similar - if you can't please others, please yourself.

Tēnā koe Britt!
Do what you can,
Being what you are,
Shine like a glow-worm,
If you can't be a star.

Tēnā koe Ken!
I always appreciate your support Ken.

Y'know, it's funny, but though I often can remember the first time I visit a blog, I can never remember how I got there. There must be some significance in that :-)

Kia ora Laurie!
I just love listening to Bejamin Zander - his energy and enthusiasm. I watch him getting onto the stage to give a talk. He has so much drive, his message is implicit, and straight to the heart.

Ken Robinson similarly has a direct way of communicating. For me it is unequivocal.

Haere rā