Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fortunate Summer

Our watery street in Ghent on a brilliant summer's day
"We were fortunate this summer. The weather was unusual." I keep hearing that a Belgian summer can be more like, well, more like this final weekend at Folk Festival de Marsinne, gray, drippy and sometimes pouring. Perhaps this is an appropriate send off for my reentering another world after dreaming my way through this summer's diatonic cruise. I was fortunate this summer. The weather is only a small part of that, though the weather has been lovely.

I heard no complaints about this session
Ghent was a fortunate base from which to explore the diatonic and balfolk scene. Chris Ryall among others first recommended it when I mentioned that I was thinking of Antwerp. Today a friend from Antwerp said that he thought Ghent was becoming the Belgian focus for balfolk music. Coming from an Antwerpen this is quite an accolade. Our Ballenstraat apartment became a mini-hub for sessions and dancing, which I do hope contributed a tiny smidgen to Ghent's ascendency. We had the luxury of sturdy stone floors and few neighbors. At least I believe so. Well, no one complained to me the next morning.

Anja and Charlotte by Tine Vercruysse
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Even before I arrived, Anja, a Ghent resident, generously shared her knowledge and introduced us around. Without her help the summer would have been a tourist experience rather than an ever enlarging circle of new friends. Meeting Anja through was more than fortunate. She is a musician and dancer who seems to know just about everyone. Like a catalyst, her social glue allowed us to bond to others, who in turn linked us to many. This morning I was chatting up a fellow over breakfast. As soon as he heard my accent he said, "You must be Doc, the American Tine knows". Tine was the second person we met in Ghent. Tine, of course, knows Anja. Fortunately I know Anja too.

Not on the side lines
Before we arrived Anita and I watched boombal on YouTube and were struck by how young they all seemed. I had imagined I might be consigned to the porch of the old folks home, well at least the sidelines, watching the youngsters. I doubt that I was the oldest participant, but I may have had the most fun. I have a new circle of semi-granddaughters who nabbed me and took me across the dance floor. Lawsey, Miss Charlotte, thanks for persisting with so much talent on that mazurka.

A goal was to hear Naragonia in concert. That I did. I have had the luxury of spending hours leaning against the stage and watching Toon and Pascale play for dancers. When I see Pascale play, I believe that every part of her creates the music, which then flows through her arms and out of her instrument. A seashell is said to produce the roar of the ocean. This may be so. But I am certain that if Pascale put her hands over my ears and I listened, I would hear a mazurka. At my level of musician every little bit helps, so perhaps I should have asked for that favor.

I came hoping that learning to dance would improve my hearing. I recall being at Boombal Stage on learn-to-mazurka day. We spent the morning walking and then dancing the rhythm. During lunch I put some Naragonia mazurkas on my mp3 and practiced the steps. As if by magic I could suddenly hear the musical suggestion to ma, zur, ka. It was as if Toon or Pascale lifted a cue card. Before it was only a phrase I played. I do believe a little dancing really does help one hear the music. I can only imagine that a lot of dancing, enough to move beyond having to count out the rhythm and struggle to remember the steps, would truly cue the musical expression.

Crossing the pond.
This summer has changed my thinking about how I might eventually become a musician. At the start I thought it was about the buttons. I am beginning to realize that it happens well upstream. A new friend pointed out that in my final Le Lac de St-Croix -- the one with Guus -- I was beginning to smile and dance a bit, whereas my previous videos strictly featured a staunch melodeon face and stiff body. That was a revelation. Perhaps more lessons in the dance are next, along with lots more time doing buttons and bellows.

This was a fortunate summer. As I look back over the diato cruise I realize that my greatest fortune is in having a best friend named Anita who said yes to my crazy idea and then helped make it happen.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Stage of the Aging Learner

Herman Cole, a new friend I met on the bus to Gooik.
Photo courtesy of Herman Cole.
"Are you frustrated with the stage?" Greet Garriau, asked. She was leading Trekharmonica beginners during Stage voor traditionele Volksmuziek in Gooik, Belgium. Greet is an excellent trainer and had sensed that I was having a difficult time in her class (called a stage in Dutch and a workshop in English).

Yes, I was frustrated. During the preceding seven days I had experienced disappointment, annoyance and failure. At times I had been angry and at times sad.

I answered that I hadn't known what to expect and any frustration was in the past. Since then I have pondered the implications of her question, my own feelings about this, my very first music stage and how I might have arrived better prepared.

A musical workshop often requires the ability to hear and then play a tune at increasing speed, while quickly recalling details about the fingering and articulation. For younger learners this can be challenging but is feasible. For aging learners, it can be a hill too steep to climb.

The aging process increasingly disables the very abilities that support learning new musical skills. The stage of the aging learner features a fading short-term memory, loss of acute hearing particularly at higher pitch, reduced agility, dimming vision, increasing confusion and other assorted physical challenges. I suppose that is why you can't teach an old Doc new tricks, not easily at least.

I learned a nifty new way to wash dishes
Even so, the workshop experience can be seductively rewarding. I thought the opportunity to be part of a group of musicians simply invaluable. It helped keep me young at heart. Well, it along with these daily statin pills, one can hope. New tunes, new techniques, new friendships, and new musical growth were well within my reach. I made lots of new friends. However, grasping those desirable musical outcomes will require my making changes to accommodate my handicaps.

Charlotte is a young stage veteran
A typical approach in a diatonic accordion workshop is to learn a melody phrase by phrase, memorizing the sound, the fingering, and whether to push or pull each note. The teacher slowly plays the example followed by the students in unison. This repeats at increasing speed and then proceeds to the next section of the tune, sometimes from the beginning, sometimes not. The left hand is added after the melody is in place.

At times the class started playing part way through the melody, requiring that I remember where a passage fits in the entire tune and to accurately recall which button to press, with which finger, and whether it is on the push or pull. This must occur without having the prompt of the preceding notes or the left hand. (The basses and chords tend to dictate whether one should push or pull, like those stepsisters ordering Cinderella around.) Having a score is like having a treasure map with a big X marking where to find the right button and bellows direction.

Throughout the class the teacher works with individuals who are having difficulty, while the rest observe. So, in an hour of class I might play one-third of the time and listen the rest of the time. In the seven days I recall approximately two hours being devoted to solo practice. I could have used two weeks and might still be working on learning the tunes.

First rule is never skip lunch with Ilse and Hilde
For me the biggest challenges were the impact of a tattered short-term memory, diminished finger agility and increasing difficulty hearing and interpreting what I hear. With so few effective repetitions I could not reproduce the melody, fingering, bellows direction and finally bass and chord patterns even if I stopped and thought about it, which by the way, just slays your rhythm. As we proceeded I increasingly fell behind. At first I desperately stole from my breaks and meals to practice, nearly becoming a social nonentity.

When we played in unison, the din masked the sound of my own instrument and made it difficult to determine what I was playing and remember what I should be playing. I found myself cocking my head to put one ear against my accordion and desperately wishing to plug the other so I could hear myself think. Sticking a finger in your ear while pumping the bellows might be possible but not for me.

I often inadvertently provided a strange harmony by being a third too high or too low or on the wrong row and only realizing my mistake during a quiet passage. Chris Ryall says that some musical intervals add more color than others. My wandering around the keyboard undoubtedly produced music so splashed with color it was like Jackson Pollock at his most enthusiastic.

Greet Garriau did her best to keep us limber
In the classroom, I found myself skipping the difficult sections and shedding the left hand, sometimes hitting only a few correct passages while repeatedly pushing the wrong buttons. I tiptoed along at the lowest possible volume to avoid disrupting the others.

Actually that is not true. I played quietly to avoid standing out as the guy who couldn't learn a lousy eight measures in an entire week. I was already known as the guy in the hat. How embarrassing to be the stupid guy in the hat. This, in turn, markedly diminished the value of the repetition for learning a tune and totally confused my fingers and brain as to the correct action for playing the tune. They were raw recruits marching to a drill sergeant with hiccups, hopping around totally bewildered.

In the classroom we might finger a passage between 15 and 30 times. As an experiment I measured my own repetition requirement. It was often a stunning ten times larger. To recall the melody and reproduce the same passage at speed with chords, I required between 150 and 200 correct repetitions, without any distractions. Ouch.

To add injury to insult, I became lame from trying to cope with a seat that was too high. For long periods I foolishly raised my leg by flexing my ankle even though I knew better. The resulting muscle tear, though small, was quite painful and had me hobbling along the cobblestones feeling increasingly frail.

Ending with a flourish
Even though I was at times very frustrated, I heartily encourage mature learners to fully participate in the stage. I certainly intend to at the very next chance.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to be in the workshop with such a passionate and talented teacher. That Greet is a marvel. When she plays a Scottish I couldn't help bouncing in my chair. Her pulsing waltz and mazurka? To die for.

I learned a lot. For one thing, I no longer fear playing in a group. When 20 accordions slam into gear and pop the clutch, it really doesn't matter which buttons you push, so what's to lose? Plus I'm much better at surfing only the easy parts and finishing on that last note -- almost always an A in my experience -- with a grand flourish, making quite an impression.The trick is to start hunting for that last button about midway through the tune.

When I look back I realize that Greet provided everything that I needed. She slipped me a score for that first tune as soon as I asked. By the next day I had the score for every tune. Greet played slow and normal speed versions of each tune and encouraged us to record them. We started each day with stretching exercises and often had breaks to work out kinks in our fingers and body. She considered asking whether I needed solo practice but was not sure how I might feel about being singled out. She even carried my accordion as I leaned on her shoulder. Now that's above and beyond duty.

I, not Greet, was the broken training link. I did not understand how to use what she offered and I didn't tell her what else might have helped. Here are some suggestions to myself. I hope to try them in my next stage. Now let's see, where did I leave my blog? I already looked under the bed, not there. Anita?
  • Bring a music stand. Ask that the trainer provide a partition (sheet music) and tablature for each tune or exercise. Ideally this would be transmitted via email or Internet download ahead of time to allow an early start at memorizing. During the workshop the printed score helps substitute for short-term memory and the music stand optimally positions the score for reading without strain. Consider printing the downloaded score in large format to make it easier to see those tiny dots and faint lines.
  • Bring a computer, microphone and ear phones. Use GoldWave (an audio editor) to monitor my own playing via the ear phones. This would allow me to hear myself play while somewhat diminishing the din of the class.
  • Request additional solo practice time. Work with the teacher to create individual breakout sessions, perhaps during the time the class is first learning the melody. Agree on what I should practice and when I should rejoin the class. Use the time to create muscle memory and long term memory by repeatedly rehearsing the assignment.
  • Bring a quality video recording device and a tripod. Record the teacher's playing each tune through in slow, medium, and fast versions, zooming in on the fingering of right and left hand. Ideally this would occur at the start of the class, providing visual and audio examples to use in solo practice. If the video is available for download prior to the workshop, even better. The tripod lets me video a closeup without blocking the view of others. It also serves as an adjustable music stand with the addition of a paper clamp or two, so I must remember to pack those clips.
  • Bring an audio player. Use GoldWave to convert the video to an audio file and to create short segments for practice and for listening during off times. During solo practice, play along with the audio from the video example, looping short sections. Pause the audio to focus on my own play without the distraction of other sounds.
  • Record myself playing each segment of the tune during solo practice. Listen to the teacher then to myself to help to provide feedback that I would have received along the way in the classroom. 
  • Bring a folding chair or stool that fits me. Use it in the classroom and for solo practice to avoid the stress of a seat that is too high, two low or too hard.
  • Bring a sense of humor and an appreciation for being included. Realize that it will be frustrating, Get over being angry or sad about my abilities. Know that I will also feel happiness and joy at the wonder of even being in the workshop. The experience and the memories count. Learning the tunes and techniques is a by product.
If I could answer Greet Garriau's, "Are you frustrated with the stage?" after having a week to think about it, I would say, "I was very frustrated with myself, disappointed and even angry that I was unprepared to be a good student and participate fully. I hope next year will be different". I do hope that my journey will include many more stages. I simply need to learn how to be that better student by using technology as my crutch and by working with my teacher to overcome my handicaps.


Offering advice to a teacher about how to teach is a delicate matter. I presume to do so based on being a certified trainer and an aging learner. To improve my type of learner's experience and to deliver a workshop that does not discriminate against the aging learner consider these approaches.
  • Open a conversation about the impact of age on learning. Youngsters, adults and elderly students learn in different ways and require different approaches. Help your aging learners understand that they may feel frustration and encourage them to communicate honestly with you about their emotional response and what might make them more effective learners.
  • Provide video, audio and printed memory aids as part of the class. Ideally these would be available for download ahead of time. The aging learner often has the time and dedication to start early in hopes of avoiding the struggle to keep up with the other participants. Scores in computer format allow printing in larger fonts, making it much easier to read on screen or on paper.
  • Create time for solo practice for those who need it with clear assignments about what to accomplish and when to return. Introduce the concept of solo practice at the beginning of the class before anyone falls behind to avoid any negative connotation. Managing two schedule tracks can be challenging. The reward is in allowing the aging learner to fully benefit from the playing time you have already built into the class schedule. As a result you may spend less time correcting individual incomprehension in the classroom and can devote that time to shaping the learning experience for the group. 
  • Look critically at the seating to be sure it fits the learner's body. Sitting in an inappropriate chair for hours at a time can do damage, especially to those with less robust circulation and those who take daily aspirin or the like.
  • Appreciate that these learners have decided to join the class despite knowing that it may be difficult and fearing that they will be unable to participate. They often bring an abundance of experience and determination. Helping them achieve their goals provides a special reward for them and for you.

Phil Jones, PhD

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tying the Mazurka Knot

Boombal Stage where beginners danced with experts
I have a bad case of festival fever, having been in the thick of dance and accordion workshops for the last eight days. It leaves one dizzy from an excess of good times and rife with new friendships. What a treat.

Boombal Stage in Lovendegem was delightful. Nastasia Stein led the beginner dance class with flair and panache. Her best art was her ability to single out someone for extra advice, often it was me with my two left feet, and make that person feel special and successful rather than slow and stupid. Well that and being an extraordinary dancer. One night on the dance floor I saw her cut loose with a dazzling grace and beauty that left me breathless. And I was only watching. Her partner must have been gasping.

Nastasia and Gwen slipped learning the mazurka into our busy days, only slightly ahead of schedule to accommodate my leaving early to attend the Stage voor traditionele Volksmuziek. We stalked this admittedly challenging dance in slow stages. First we paced out the curious halting rhythm with the right foot, circling our dance-tent classroom. Then the same thing with the left foot. Then side by side and finally facing. For me it was a giant leap to learn to walk three steps followed by one, two, hesitate.

Dancing the cow pie two-step
In theory, it sounds so simple. In practice, not so simple. I had never before asked my feet to do anything more complicated than moving me forward step by step, so this methodical approach to a new skill was entirely necessary.

After class, I found myself heading off to the food tent in mazurka rhythm, while avoiding the plentiful cow pies in that grassy meadow. This added a bit of diversity to my lurching along. Along the way I got a thumbs up from Nastasia, perhaps for keeping my shoes clean, but I prefer to think for my graceful mazurka like moves as I tacked between manure shores.

Beginners met Greet Garriau (and her mirror image)
At Gooik, I was put in Trekharmonica beginners met Greet Garriau, which proved to be quite challenging, despite Greet's giving a second set of instructions in English for Duck, as I came to be called.

Usually her explanations were detailed and easily understood. Sometimes though, in the press of teaching, she would spend several minutes explaining something in Flemish followed by an aside to me like, "Melody" or "Pull". Then I watched the others and started punching buttons when I figured out what they were doing. I must say that I improved my ability to join the class play along late, in grand slacker style. In contrast, now and then I found myself soloing while everyone stared in polite disbelief and Greet waited patiently for me to catch that we were to listen rather than play.

Between classes I practiced like crazy, trying to hammer the melody and fingering into my memory. During one break I was sitting by the food tent bumbling along when I saw Pascale Rubens of Naragonia fame. On a whim, I played her mazurka, Le lac de St-Croix, which happens to be's Tune of the Month for August. She approached, smiling graciously, and we chatted for a moment. Then she brought over two of her boys and introduced them, explaining that I had flown in an airplane to get there. They were suitably impressed about the plane, if not the tune.

That same evening I was leaning against the stage watching Pascale play for the ball when Toon van Merlo announced a mazurka. Charlotte grabbed me and off we went. As we danced we encountered Leen Devyver, who had given Anita and me our first dance lesson at Ballenstraat. She generously said I had made progress. Well, yes.

Tine Vercruysse attracted a crowd.
Later Tine and I were sitting around playing tunes. A small crowd gathered and I soloed my three best mazurkas. People actually started dancing.  I played, they danced, and at the end they applauded. It was a warm feeling to realize that during this summer I have learned to play a recognizable mazurka and dance one too.

I wish to thank the many new friends who have pitched in to help make my diatonic cruise so delightful.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Melodeon Acquisition Disease

Taking home a Van der Aa
This was a fun weekend. I had a leisurely cuddle with a ménage à trois of Gaillard and Van der Aa accordions. Usually I only manage a quick clutch at a festival vendor's tent, surrounded by the din of other instruments. Instead I was able to hold each in turn, comparing and contrasting their finer points. True pleasure.

Last winter Chris Ryall, a contact, had suggested that Ghent would be an excellent port from which to base a summer's diato cruise. Then, recently having been at a festival in France, he found himself calling on Ghent on his way back to the ferry across the channel. We met up at Mazurka Clandestina and he crashed at Ballenstraat for a couple of nights. Fortunately, he arrived in a car loaded with accordions and generously invited two of them to party with my Gaillard.

In Ghent at sessions I often trade boxes but mostly end up simply holding the stranger. I have found the triple whammy of Dutch reversal, standard basses at the chin and different accidentals stop me cold. My fingers gawp in astonishment when they press the right button and out comes the wrong note. It is like stroking a cat and hearing it bark rather than purr. Trying to play a tune involves plotting all the differences and adjusting on the fly. If I were a better musician, perhaps.

In much the same way, I found that playing Chris' boxes with their accidentals on the outer rather than inner row was like trying to tell a joke in a newly-learned foreign language. There were long hesitations as I groped for notes and my effort often trailed off before the punch line. But given the entire weekend to practice, I got to know those strangers a bit. Their differences could certainly pay off with more familiarity.

Fast and responsive with silky action.
I found myself drawn to the Van der Aa. It had such a silky action and drove like a sports car. A twitch of the bellows and it would accelerate through a curve with amazing responsiveness.

My own last-century Gaillard is a two reed instrument and sings only soprano. In contrast, Chris' more modern Gaillard is a bandonèon voiced LM instrument. It has a satisfyingly deep growl when the lowest of the right hand reeds are engaged. It was like hearing an opera star, all tricked out in a gold grill-tierra, suddenly switch to singing bass. Quite intriguing.

Both boxes had Chris' custom air button arrangement that effortlessly gulped in huge breaths, making my box seem somewhat asthmatic. That's an air passage to envy.

So, it was a satisfying weekend, but may prove expensive. I am left thinking that I simply must acquire more accordions, having caught a virulent disease common among melodeon players. Gee thanks, Chris. Thanks a lot.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Duck, Duck, Mazurka

Duck's dance floor
Mazurka Clandestina, held in Park Sint Baafsabdij, was simply entrancing. The 7th century abbey is mostly a ruins that has been repeatedly torn down and patched up over centuries. Various parts are somewhat intact, creating a maize of cloisters and stone windows that surround a brilliantly green grassy garden. It is only rarely open to visitors. I felt privileged to have been included in the clandestina part of this mazurka occasion.

I brought a bottle of wine and shared with Tine, Anja and Charlotte as the twilight deepened and dancers trickled into the sheltered space.  It was tragically romantic and I missed Anita terribly.

Guus Herremans and Jeroen Laureyssens played in the garden under the stars to about 50 dancers. This was Cavan's first public appearance -- well, other than playing for Anita's goodbye party -- and we were all cheering them on as did the dancers when they sampled Cavan's selection.

Charlotte sets up Cavan
Midway through, I was called up front with the announcement, "A mazurka for Doc," charmingly pronounced duck, as they do. Charlotte proceeded to give me another lesson while Cavan played Music Mazurka, the mazurka Guus has me working on.

So, I danced in public. Not very well I'll admit, but still, I did leave the sidelines. Charlotte, bless her heart, made it easy by subtly leading, all the while acting as if I were in that role. What a trooper. At the end, everyone applauded. I was quite chuffed. Actually, they all applaud at the end of every dance, so perhaps all eyes weren't on me.

Everyone was very kind and I ended up dancing with Anja a bit, who turns out to be a very accomplished dancer. When she had in the past demonstrated the dances at our sessions she always disclaimed any expertise. This is entirely too modest. I watched in awe as she whirled around the grass, doing an impressive scottish.

Then Anja paired me with a guy and we switched off being the lady, which initially resulted in a tangle of arms as we negotiated who would go first. Guys dancing together is not unusual at boombals and the only comments were about my moves, or lack thereof. Based on my very short dance career, I can only observe that men feel more solid than women. It was a little like hugging a brick wall. After awhile his best advice was that I should try to listen to the music. Ah, another thing I have to do in addition to counting, one, two, three. I simply must start multitasking.

This dancing still feels like trying to thread a needle in the dark, while wearing mittens. But I'm feeling more cheerful about next week's Boombal dance workshop.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Mazurka by Any Other Name

The verdict is in. Valse des Jouets, a lovely waltz by Michel Faubert, is misnamed. At least it is when I play it. Anja danced and declared it definitely a mazurka.  Tine and Lydie agreed and thought it was possibly my best mazurka to date. This surprises me, but I will take a gift mazurka when I can find it. Sorry, Michel, you may have written a waltz but alas, in my hands, not so waltzy after all.

Lydie (left) and Tine (right) attempt to teach me to waltz
Anja, Lydie, and Tine have been Wim Claeys' pupils for several years. Their workshop is out for the summer, which is why they have time to hang around doing tunes with the likes of me. What they have learned certainly shows. For one thing they can play an astounding variety of tunes together, switching off melody and accompaniment seamlessly.

I, on the other hand, completely fall apart when someone else is playing and nearly drop my box on the floor in total confusion. I suspect that this is an artifact of teaching myself accordion by the numbers. Way too much book learning and not nearly enough workshop.

In Atlanta, I found that playing along with my virtual tutors to be virtually impossible and sadly didn't persist. Finally, and only in the last several months, have I begun to be able to play along with a video. Sometimes when I am with people I know, it isn't too bad. But, playing in front of strangers leaves my fingers totally stricken with the jitters.

I apparently don't mind playing for an invisible audience, having received this comment on a previous post:

"Hi Philip,
My wife and I happened to be walking down Ballenstraat in Gent, Belgium when I heard the sound of a button accordion playing Josephin's Vals . . . I made a Google search for "Ballenstraat accordeon" and your blog showed up."

So, I think I'll sit on my balcony to give an unannounced concert. Any audience should sneak down Ballenstraat without making a sound. And, even if you should happen to enjoy Michael Flaubert's waltz as a mazurka, strictly no applause, lest I drop my box.

My upcoming workshop in Gooik with Wim Claeys himself should be interesting. I hear that he and others will actually be in the room. Let's see. Blindfold? Check. Ear plugs? Check. Yep, I think I'm prepared to play along. Wait a minute. We will have learn to play a tune by ear? Oh dear.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Not Just-In-Time

Whiling away time at the station
They say that older couples come together over time, adopting each other's habits and outlooks. I do know that geezers come to resemble their dogs, but their wives? I've always thought that unlikely.

My Anita starts packing days before a trip and considers an hour early barely optimal for airports and trains. If it weren't for her, my just-in-time slacker scheduling would have me racing through the trip in a healthy panic. When I am alone I engage in aerobic traveling at its finest, which must be quite a popular sport, based on so many sprinting though stations.

Yet, this morning found me in the Ghent station more than an hour before the Puurs train. This Anitaism makes me wonder if we might be converging after all. Perhaps because we have no dog I have imprinted on her instead.

I am cruising Belgium solo these days. So that train station pause was not her doing. I had glanced at the clock and rushed out of the flat, thinking I had only moments to spare. I seem to be unlearning how to tell analog time or Anita nudged that clock way fast for her own flight home. Either way it made for a leisurely pace at the station. I enjoyed an excellent apple cake and a cappuccino as I watched the parade of travelers.

A tiny blue sign marks the Mechelen rabbit hole
In Mechelen I reversed the situation and missed my connection by seconds. My arrival train blocked the view of the other seven platforms and I spent a few moments wandering around Platform 1, puzzling out the various schedules. Instead I should have been quick down the stairs and under the tracks to pop up like a rabbit. When I finally found someone to ask, the same dash had me arriving just-too-late as the train slid away.

Three minutes might be a long time to hold one's breath but not nearly enough to stumble around asking questions and make a connection. I could have easily taken an earlier train from Ghent and allowed more than three minutes. But my just-in-time slacker scheduling had me lingering over that leisurely breakfast. This un-Anitaism makes me think that that converging stuff is unlikely.

What fun to play these beauties
No harm done. I have another hour for train spotting before I head off for Viseur Accordions. Anita has a good laugh along with, "I told you so".

We need a dog.