Years later I failed an audition for the university orchestra, my priorities changed, and I didn't play for a long time. In my twenties I moved to this city, and fell in with a crowd of folk musicians and dancers. I met my partner at a ceilidh just over nine years ago and have been surrounded by music ever since.
The world of traditional music is a friendly one. Anyone can join in, you don't need to be able to read music, or even be particularly good at playing your instrument. There are no exams, no grades, no certificates. Anyone can form a band and play wherever they like.
But that didn't make me play again. Quite the opposite.
My new friends played by ear. They picked up tunes by listening and playing along, not reading from a score. There were no exams, no conductor. This was a whole different world, and I was out of my depth.
'It's easy!' they'd say. 'Just listen and you'll soon pick it up'. But when I listened all I heard was a voice in my head.
What if I do it wrong? I don't know where to start. I thought I could play, but it turns out I know nothing at all.
Occasionally I would try again. Take my flute to a pub session, or a party - but then leave it under a table and spend the whole evening cursing myself. Eventually a wise friend asked 'why don't you start playing again with something you're comfortable with?'
So I turned away from folk music (having never really turned properly towards it), and found a new teacher. We played for fun at first, and then later I realised my love of structure and exams and certificates and did Grade 8 at the ripe old age of 33. I bought a new flute, which cost twice as much as our car. I did workshops and orchestra days, and joined the local flute choir. Flute choir is fun, and I'm slowly regaining that love of playing with others and performing that I had as a teenager.
I still don't feel like a musician. Reading music is a skill, and one I'm grateful to have learned as a child - I just wish I'd learned to play by ear and improvise at the same time. One day I'll let go of my fears enough to try again.
For now, let me leave you after all this rambling with a jolly thing to listen to. I love this piece. I can't remember how I found it, but I listened over and over again, and then ran to buy the sheet music. It's fiendishly difficult to play, and I've never made it to the end myself, but it's ever such fun to listen to. It swirls and changes as it goes along, always becoming something new, and it makes me think of spring and feel like dancing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.