It’s fast approaching, folks, and with this weekend seeing us tip into December, the countdown surely starts now. Yes, I mean Christmas, so, like it or not, our thoughts are inevitably turning in that direction. I confess I love the festive period and all it entails, although not the relentless juggernaut of consumer pressure accompanying it.
I was recently asked some questions by the paper for the Christmas Festive Supplement and one in particular – What is my Christmas wish? – got me thinking more about this. My answer included hopes that we, in light of our planet’s environmental emergency, think carefully about how and what we’re buying.
Reflecting for instance on the use, need, provenance, recyclability and longevity of our gifts can make a big difference to the amount of stuff that might end up in landfill. Buying locally, if possible, not only saves air miles but helps our shops, businesses, traders, restaurants, craftspeople and artisans, while contributing to local communities by keeping our town centres vibrant and local suppliers thriving.
Instead of exchanging lots of things we don’t need, how about supporting the arts with a lovely voucher for the theatre, cinema, gallery or bookshop? Being a musician, I must of course proclaim here that there’s one great gift that will definitely last a lifetime: music!
Many of today’s popular artistes tell of how their musical journey started with that Christmas guitar or keyboard at the age of nine, so if you’re searching for a child’s present that will be fun but also educational and enable skills for the future, look no further.
A recent browse in Inverness’s long-established Music Shop and the newer but impressive Ness Music - had me drooling at the displays of gorgeous instruments and thrilled at their accessibility. Beautiful and colourful little ukuleles – perfect for small hands – starting at just £25, tiny cute fiddles and guitars (acoustic and electric), superb ranges of whistles big and small, inexpensive keyboards and so much more.
When a child learns an instrument, they have it for life. It’s like riding a bike; once you’ve learned, you might get rusty if you neglect it, but you don’t forget how to do it. Invariably it brings improved confidence and self-esteem, great pleasure and satisfaction, and lots of sociable opportunities. Science now reveals that learning music also fires brain neurons in a highly unique way, resulting in improved cognitive function and aiding learning in other subjects. It’s a win-win hobby! Bear in mind too it’s not just for the little ’uns. I maintain you’re never too old to learn music, and how better to launch 2020 than by taxing the grey matter and learning a new skill? I promise it’s a lot of fun!
The range of fabulous music-related gifts in our music shops is superb too - from jewellery, clothing and clocks, to mugs, chocolates, stationery and song books - so you’re bound to find something useful for your young (or old) rocker, the jazzer, folkie, pianist or budding composer in the family.
We’re fortunate in the Highland capital to also have a specialist piping shop - Cabar Feidh Bagpipe Supplies - on our doorstep in the Victorian Market. A wee treasure trove, it stocks lots of accessories, tune books and cds to delight the piper in your life but can also help new learners get started on chanter or pipes. With parts of the Victorian Market due to temporarily close in January, get down there quick!
Cold, damp and misty days may well be tightening their grip but with our streets, civic buildings and riverside resplendent in beautiful multi-coloured lights, there’s also undoubtably something appealing about approaching winter.
It’s the perfect time to coorie in, keep cosy and spend some of those long dark evenings getting to grips with the instrument you’ve always longed to learn, encouraging the young ‘uns, and who knows, it might lead to a family sing-song or ceilidh? Believe me, there’s nothing nicer!
(First published by Scottish Provincial Press 24th November 2019)