Short fingers and a beautiful poet

I have short fingers, which is bad for a number of reasons. If you’ve met me, you may not have noticed, and so I’m taking a risk in pointing it out, because longer fingers are quite attractive, and I don’t want to put you off.

The real problem with short fingers – apart from the aesthetic element – is that you can’t reach as much as people with longer fingers. The same goes for arms, but that’s another issue. I’ve noticed that weather presenters quite often have long fingers, possibly so that they can reach more parts of the country, although that doesn’t seem to improve the weather. Still, you can’t have everything.

My particular problem with having shorter fingers (or should I say length-challenged fingers?) is that it’s more difficult to play the guitar. I was always sort of aware of this, because the guitarists I admired (like Albert Lee) have noticeably long fingers.

So I struggle with bar chords. It’s not the only thing I struggle with, but it does make a big difference. Which is why, a few years ago, when the question arose of making a little music together during a historical project, a friend of mine asked me the astute question: “Can you play bar chords?”

Reader, I couldn’t. So the idea of my playing guitar with her was abandoned. This doesn’t mean I can’t play the guitar – indeed I do, regularly. But not in a professional sort of way. Obviously.

The astute friend in question was none other than prize-winning poet and singer Caroline Gilfillan, who I have collaborated with on a number of poetic, largely guitarless projects, and all that stuff about fingers is really an excuse to mention her here, because she died recently of cancer.

She wrote beautiful poetry and had the knack of winning prizes in many competitions, not because she had long fingers but because her use of words was magical. She was amazingly creative – splitting her time most recently between Norfolk and the Lake District, though she was born in Sussex and sang in women’s bands in London. She also wrote detective fiction.

Others who know her better will be able to say more, but it was a pleasure to be her friend for a while and to enjoy her company. These words she wrote in one of her poems fit her quite well, and they are words that I love and often repeat; so I am going to leave you with them, with love:

Under her cloak of skin she, too, pulses like intercepted light.
She too is rock and rolling out of sight.