There’s nothing like playing a bit of fiddle out on the porch at dusk, except maybe playing the fiddle on the porch at dawn, but Steve said I probably shouldn’t do that anymore – apparently we live in some kind of natural amphitheatre and the sound bounces around the valley like crazy. If you ask me, that’s hardly a problem, but apparently it is for some people at 6 o’clock in the morning.

Sometimes old Mary from over the hill will come round and play the banjo. She told me she’s 93 this year, yet she walks the whole way at an impressively brisk stride, and with no shoes on at that. I’m guessing that, at her age, nothing is going to stand in the way of whatever she feels like doing – not even out-of-control ingrown toe nails. Near Cheltenham, where I used to live, you’d hardly see elders displaying such obstinate vitality. It must be the hale and hearty country air.

To be fair, the ‘burbs do have some things going for them. For example, in the Cheltenham area, podiatry was easier to come by, and I guess Mary could have gotten those nail sorted out before they got to this point. Not that it seems to bother her, mind you, but she does have a habit of putting her feet up on my patio table while trying out new bluegrass techniques. She plays a mean banjo and I’d never want to ask her to take her feet down, but I can’t help but feel her life would be just a little bit enhanced if her toenails weren’t spiralling off in all directions.

Then again, maybe that’s the secret: the secret to a long and vital life, and to banjo mastery. Maybe there’s some sort of arcane wisdom stored in those gnarly nails. If that’s the price I have to pay for the maddest fiddle skills, I’m half tempted to sign up. I might put it off for a while yet though.