A whole new world

By | 13 October, 2011

I’ve decided to learn to play a musical instrument. My family will quickly tell you that this is well outside my current skillset. I’m not renowned for my sense of rhythm or pitch. However, the husband plays the tenor horn in a wind orchestra and in a pub after a recent concert I was bullied/coerced/persuaded/pressured into learning. Lots of enthusiastic cries of “the husband can teach you and then you can practice with us” and a little bit of beer lead to me agreeing to learn to play the baritone.


The instrument through which ears are being tortured

I don’t remember my diagnosis with diabetes, but learning a musical instrument has given me some sense of the complete bewilderment that happens when you are dragged into a world you didn’t really know existed. While the new diabetic grapples with basal rates, carb ratios, hypos and hypers I am being told to tighten my embouchure, control my diaphragm (which I’m yet to locate) and to believe that one day I will be able to translate the dots on the page into some form of enjoyable music.  This is like being told at diagnosis that one day you will be able to carb count a whole meal without the aid of a calculator and several reference books. It’s very hard to believe at the time.

There are lots of new things to do. Those who aren’t pancreatically challenged consider it abnormal for someone to stab themselves in the finger to illicit blood or to inject random areas of fat throughout the day. Those of us who aren’t musical are perplexed by the revelation that some people are able to beat a rhythm with their feet, whilst their fingers press down the valves and their mouth blows in the air to create the notes. Changing my first infusion set was not this confusing, I’m sure of it.

The sense of bafflement isn’t helped by the fact that people keep moving the goalposts. Like when you learn to carb count and you learn what insulin you need for 10g of carbs. You start to get confident, this isn’t so hard after all. And then they tell you that actually 10g of carbs from an apple will be absorbed at a different rate to 10g from a pizza, so really it’s a lot harder than it first appears. The same happens in music. You think you’ve got the hang of the counting thing and then they change the rhythm you’ve got to count in. It’s a cruel world.

One of the marvellous things about diabetes is that you get to start again every day. Just because you were a 15 all day yesterday doesn’t mean the same has to happen today. Music appears to be similar. Last night’s rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was quite frankly an embarrassment to nursery rhymes. Today’s however was a shining example of wonderment, assuming you like your nursery rhymes belted out from a lower brass instrument. Things change quickly in the worlds of diabetes and music.

So, as I blunder into this new musical world it does make me realise how much I take my diabetes knowledge for granted because I have no memory of having to learn all this stuff. I’m quite grateful for that. If I’m not very good at the baritone I can always hide it under the table and forget all about it, sadly the same doesn’t apply to the diabetes.

14 thoughts on “A whole new world

  1. Tim

    Next on the list of things for Shoot Up to do:

    – Form Bavarian oompah band
    – Purchase lederhosen
    – Profit!

    Just how much bullying / beer was involved???!

  2. Alison Post author

    Sadly not that much, I was very easily led!

    Hmnn, lederhosen? Where are we going to hide a pump in them?

  3. Tim

    Lederhosen have pockets, so pump-hiding shouldn’t be an issue. 🙂

    As an aside I was looking up lederhosen on Wikipedia and apparently “Turkish oil wrestlers wear a kind of lederhosen called a kisbet, which is embroidered but does not have suspenders.” The mind truly boggles!

  4. Alison Post author

    Damn, must think of another excuse! Do you think its wise to admit in public that you’ve looked up lederhosen on Wikipedia? I have indeed seen said trousers in Turkey, but for some reason wasn’t tempted to purchase any. I can’t think why.

  5. Tim

    When I say “wikipedia.org” I actually mean “red-hot-lederhosen-inferno.xxx” – that’s where I do all my research…

  6. Megs

    Ahh, happy days playing a wind instrument. Enjoy learning.

    My flute playing days were brought to an abrupt end following endless laser surgery on my eyes. The eye surgeon neglected to mention that my choice was so stark. Use the oxygen you have to supply your severely depleted retina cells or play the flute and black out.

    The haunting melody of ‘Annies Song’ is no longer heard in my house. Enjoy belting out Twinkle Twinkle for all the diabetics out there who can’t spare the oxygen to both see and blow. ( that sounds a bit red-hot-lederhosenish!)

  7. Paul

    Good luck!

    The learning part is easy, now doing a blood test, finding your fruit pastels in your lederhosen to deal with a hypo, all without losing the beat …

    That’s hard. ;-D

  8. Alison Post author

    @megs I’d never even thought of that. Any chance you could swap to the drums or a violin?

    @furrypaul I don’t think I can claim to have found the beat yet, but I shall add losing it while hypo to my list of potential disasters!

    1. Spike Jones

      @alison drumming’s not good pre or post test. You get blood all over the skin of the drum & get one especially sore finger. On the plus side, if you lose the beat while hypo, you’re being creative 😀

  9. Anna

    Not sure this will ever stop following me round after posting here, but I will be sporting some very entertaining faux-leder Lederhosen to a ‘Come as a country’ party next weekend. I will be sure to update you on any pump-hiding issues!

    Great post – I too love the fact we can wipe the slate clean and start again the next day too. In fact it is one of those things I find quite constant about the condition; that I could be 25mmol the night before and will wake up on an even keel again, ready to cock it all up again the next day. 🙂

    Thanks Alison xx

    1. Tim

      You’re *choosing* to wear Lederhosen?!

      And very good point about the wiping the slate clean thing – that’s a very positive way of looking at it 🙂

      1. Alison Post author

        @Tim Don’t mock Anna, you’re the one googling lederhosen and suggesting them as the official uniform of ShootUp! At least she’s only wearing them as a one off.

        1. Tim

          Yay! We do need an official Shoot Up uniform; maybe we could have them designed by Hugo Boss – like the black SS uniforms, which – while sinister -certainly were natty.


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