Ride That White Swan by Jackie Ladbury

When I was young my Nan suggested that I should be a singer when I grew up. ‘You have a good voice,’ she said, ‘you could be one of those pop stars on the telly,’ as if it was as easy as sending a ten year old down the corner shop to buy ten Woodbine and a bottle of stout.

What a great idea, I thought. I could just picture it, little Jimmy Osmond and me duetting to Long Haired Lover from Liverpool as the crowd cheered and Tony Blackburn hailed me as the next Lena Zavaroni.

Shouldn’t really have taken her as literally as I did, I know; this was the Nan who wrote to the Evening Sentinel in Stoke-on-Trent suggesting that all the foreigners be housed on a boggy piece of unused land near Rugely bypass. But I took her advice to heart and somehow wangled a second-hand guitar and set about playing it, so I could sing along to a tune.

Cue me, hunched over the three bar electric fire in the kitchen strumming the first line of  ‘Ride a white Swan’ over and over, until everyone’s ears bled.

Mum bought me a book of ‘Easy Tunes for the Beginner’ (cheek!) as I got stuck after, ‘Swan,’(he knew some tricky chords, did that Marc Bolan) but ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘Flies in the Buttermilk’ were never going to get me on the stage in blue velvet flares and Gary Glitter sized platform shoes.

So even though my fingertips had toughened up so much I could carry plates straight from the oven on to the dinner table, and could change to B7 without looking, I just stopped playing.

I had realised how long it would take to become proficient and I didn’t want to give that much time to improve my meagre talent – I wanted it all immediately.

I wish I’d stuck at it. I’d be pretty good by now.

This has nothing much to do with being a writer, you might have noticed, but getting published is my new dream and don’t intend to give it up as easily.

This writing game is harder in a way as there are no rules to guarantee success. And it doesn’t just take a few hours out of your week; it eats up great swathes of your life, you swat your children out of the way of your computer screen, you develop writer’s arse, and wine becomes your best friend. (Okay, it was pretty close ally to start with) It’s a real uphill battle and it’s hard work, but I know I can’t stop until I’m done.

Never did get the blue velvet flares and I walked like a duck in the platforms, but my Nan was mighty proud of my guitar playing and I think if she’s still looking down on me, although I’m not yet published, she’ll be mightily proud now.



11 thoughts on “Ride That White Swan by Jackie Ladbury

  1. Fab post Jackie and as always you’ve made me smile 🙂 I’m absolutely certain that your Nan is mighty proud of you!

  2. Aww, thanks Alex. Nan was a real ‘pinny and curlers’ lady with luscious, thick, red hair- but don’t recall her having the temper to go with it. Smoked fags till the day she died at over eighty!

  3. Ha ha Jaxx, very funny, as always. Can’t wait to read one of your novels as your posts are so well written and humorous. Your post struck a chord with me (see what I did there?!) because I learned piano when I was little but, like you, I really didn’t have the patience to see it through. I didn’t seem to improve very quickly once I got beyond grade 2 and I just didn’t love it enough to put the hours and hours of practice in. Yet I’ve invested more hours than I care to contemplate on writing … without any guarantee of a return. Yet the return I get is that I just love writing and couldn’t not do it. Can’t say the same about the piano!
    Julie xx

  4. Aw Jaxx that’s lovely, a really good picture of a devoted nan, she must have been lovely to have on your side. I don’t tell many people this, but I was made to go to elocution lessons and ballet lessons, neither of which I was any good at so I gave up as soon as I could!!
    Lynne xx

  5. Oh Jaxx, as ever that made me laugh! I definitely have writer’s arse and borderline alcoholism – just hoping that they aren’t the only things that this pesky passion for writing are going to give me 😉 If your posts are anything to go by, you’ll get that call soon and, when you do, we can all get up of our writers’ arses and toast you with another glass of wine – or maybe even champers this time! x

  6. Thanks Jackie for a wonderful post this week. It’s funny how despite the long, hard slog of writing with no guarantees at the end of it, here we all are still going. My critique from the NWS last year actually pointed out that writing is very much like playing a musical instrument in that it takes hours and hours of practice to get better. When I think of how I played the flute and loved it so much, this really resonates with me. And I love writing too, I think that we just have to remember not to get too bogged down with the publishing part and keep going.
    Helen R x

  7. Really entertaining post Jackie. I wish I could have met your Nan! I dabbled with the piano, but didn’t have the staying power for that. So looking forward to seeing your work in print one day, as the others have said, your posts are brilliant! Good luck and keep going and I’m certain your Nan is proud of you!

  8. Thank you all for your kind comments. Was talking to mum about Nan and she reminded me that when she died and they took up the carpet, underneath it was full of flattened pound notes. Apparently it was a common way of saving your money in days gone by!

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