Top Stuff I Always Wanted to be Able to Do

The X Factor is currently on British TV again. If by some chance, you don’t know what that is, then it is like ‘Pop Idol’ (or ‘American Idol’) – a talent show for singers, with the potential reward of some recording contract or other for the winner.

Now, a lot of the fun with these shows are the dorks who think they can sing. Sometimes it seems that it is not entirely their fault, as their families and friends seem to tell them how brilliant they are to such an extent that they really do appear to think that they are the next big thing. Unfortunately, all too often, they are just plain wrong. And hey, we love to watch because, well, it’s good to know that there is someone more wrong than us in this world.

Hey, I know I can’t sing.

But the converse of this is that when we see the really talented people, don’t many or all of us secretly wish we could do that? I’m sure that different people will have different favourites, based perhaps on the choice of song, or the general image of the contestant… but don’t you really wish you could do that?

I do.

And temporarily, I fantasise about that raw talent that lays dormant within me. Perhaps, if only I practiced, got a teacher… did a course… I could take over the world with my melodies and certainly, my new-found song-writing ability. Undoubtedly, I’d also rapidly become an accomplished guitar player, keyboards, and maybe something funky like a harmonica for the funky blues stylee songs I’d have in my repertoire. Perhaps the theramin too – wooooo!

There are only two problems with this:

  1. I can’t sing;
  2. I don’t wish to be famous for being able to – or perhaps more accurately, I have no wish to lose my staid life through fame and fortune.

Somehow, these programs send me on a flight of fancy that is not likely, practical, and probably not something I even want. Strange.

So this brings me to today’s topic. The top things I always wanted to do but will never, in all likelihood, get round to:


  • Play the guitar, beautifully. The ability to play acoustic guitar ‘Spanish style’, and the electric guitar – well, just all manner of music;
  • Play the piano, and any keyboard. Again it would be ideal if I could conjure up some classical numbers for my cultured friends, and quickly turn a Korg or Roland into a master dance machine would be preferable. Of course, with the innate raw talent I would find myself with, plugging out any old pop tune would be no trouble – hear it once, I’ll play it for you with bells and whistles. Yeah!;
  • Sing, as noted previously. I’d be happy to be able to sing like Harry Connick Junior – but again I’m certain that once I could sing ‘Heavenly’ without my voice losing key or rhythm or lets face it just cracking… well, any style of music wouldn’t be a problem.

General Skills

  • A blast from the past: Solve the Rubik’s Cube in 60 seconds. I never figured this out myself, nor did I read the books. In fact, I’m not even sure that I ever had a Rubik’s Cube – certainly when I tried friends’ I made little progress. So, solving it would be good, in 60 seconds would be much better;
  • Plastering. In general I’m pretty good with Do It Yourself, home maintenance etc etc. I tend to get pretty grumpy when I do it, but the job will get done eventually if it’s painting, electric related, and I have even done some very nice copper pipework in my new kitchen (though it took ages – hey I wasn’t gonna use that poncey push-sit plastic stuff ok?!). But plastering, and the somewhat-related task of tiling I just suck at so badly. I am not sure if plastering is an art, or simply a learnable skill… but so far my efforts suggest I would need to do a lot of learning to get it right;
  • To fly a helicopter or plane;
  • To understand posh menus and to be able to appreciate a fine wine. Being able to afford fine wines would be good too.


  • Get me some Psi-power (Extra Sensory Perception). Realising the risks, courtesy of a Hawklords (most of Hawkwind, I understand) song (“It’s like a radio you can’t switch off, there’s no way to get piece of mind”) I’d naturally want controllable Psi-power. It’d be quite disturbing if you couldn’t switch it off (Think of ‘What Women Want’, a film where Mel Gibson suddenly gains the power to hear women thinking, or the Daredevil‘s super-hearing, requiring him to sleep in a vault). Not so bothered about seeing into the future, Stephen King’s the Dead Zone (TV series) is quite watchable, but not my bag;
  • Realising that the above is somewhat unrealistic – I suspect that there is more than we know in this world, but doubt the ‘supernatural’ as it is often peddled, but it would be good to be able to read someone’s body language very, very well. I mean, I am competent enough to notice (sometimes) the way a person is holding their body, or pointing their feet… but it would be pretty cool to be able to notice a hundred other little things about their unspoken language that ‘give them away’. Imagine Sherlock Holmes meeting someone for the first time, and telling them where they come from, why they are there… etc. Unfortunately, I think that Sherlock relies on some pretty arcane (and possibly fictional) knowledge, so I’d settle for not knowing where particular types of tobacco or mud come from;
  • Possibly subsumed into the above point, the ability to spot those micro-responses that tell if someone is lying. I don’t believe that people feel the need to lie to me often – but I feel certain it would be a handy skill for dealing with salespeople for something that you actually want!

The weird thing is, that about half of those skills, ones that are in all likelihood not possible, and certainly not practical for me, are skills that I would want not just because of my own desire, but to wow friends and acquaintances should I ever – walk into a room with a guitar, for example. In other words, the fantasy is a ‘no cost’ fantasy because, of course, I do not fantasise about practicing!

The reality, though, is that many of these skills could be learned, at least to some degree, but I know that I am unlikely to do that. What I am consistent about it that I like to learn how to make computers do stuff. Sometimes, it is through laziness (if I could get the computer to do that, it’d save me loads of time), and sometimes, it is to test my understanding of something (if I can program a computer to solve this Sudoku puzzle, I must understand the concepts behind solving Sudoku puzzles!) and so on. I have lots to learn, especially about Windows-type development, because my history has mostly been back-end processing, but I do get a kick out of learning this stuff.

Everything else will probably just remain in that little fantasy world.

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