Issue #210 / October 2022

I’m 62 years old and decided to learn how to play guitar. Rock guitar. Is such an endeavour a fool’s errand for someone of my age?


Dear Chris,

Yes, it is almost certainly a fool’s errand to learn the guitar at 62. However, personally, I have a lot of time for fool’s errands. Many things of genuine artistic value seem to start as such – needless and profitless ideas that find, in time and to our complete surprise, their value.

About two years ago, at the age of 63, I decided I would become a ceramicist. It was by any measure a fool’s errand. I had made some ceramic pieces when I was a teenager and they were not bad, but there was nothing to suggest that I had any particular talent with clay. Still, my mother liked them, so I thought it might be fun to make some more. The first thing I made was a figurine of a saint boiling in oil that doubled as a spill vase. It was a complete failure. The second was another spill vase, this time of a witch burning at a stake. That was also a failure. The third was a red devil and a sailor sitting side by side on a stone wall which was haemorrhaging blood. This was a great success and was so beautiful it broke my heart. I went on to make seventeen figurines that together told the life story of the devil. They are now sitting in a museum in Finland. It took a considerable amount of time and effort – and a very good and patient teacher – to work out how to make them. It also required some encouragement from my friends – and encouragement, Chris, is what I am giving you now. Get practising, dude – every day – pick up that guitar and learn that fucking E chord. It’s ‘the secret chord that pleased the Lord’ and it served me very well in Grinderman. Get your act together and if you do, and Warren, Marty, Jim and I ever get around to making a new Grinderman record, you can come and play on it. Grinderman, as a matter of policy, only work with the very old, the out of shape, and the extremely foolish. We are the obscene and joyous embodiment of a fool’s errand. And we are waiting. There is no time to waste!

Love, Nick


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