When I was 11, a friar came to take a service at our school and he had a glove puppet and a ukulele. He was very charismatic and I was hooked. I asked for a ukulele for Christmas and worked hard on it. A couple of years later my great grandmother died and left me £25. I spent 21 guineas (yes it was a long time ago - and for those who don't remember them 21 guineas is £22.05). A friend taught me Romance finger by finger and I learned a lot of chords. In the sixth form at school, I had my first classical guitar lessons from Mike Watson who ran the Bristol Spanish Guitar Centre. I passed grade 5 just after I finished my 'A' levels.
I then meandered around with the guitar for years, sometimes having lessons but mostly not. I lived in The Gambia for nearly six years and for most of those years I think I was justified in saying I was the best classical guitarist in the country - as far as I could ascertain I was the only one! Then a better player arrived... Playing there in the heat was not easy. Sweat dripping off your nose onto the strings isn't great! About a year before I came back to Britain the glue underneath the bridge melted and I opened my guitar case one day to find the strings draped elegantly along the guitar! I moved to Southampton and got it repaired by Adrian Neville. Then family commitments got in the way so I didn't really return properly to the guitar till the early 2000s and worked my way through grades 6 to 8 where I then stopped. I have no intention of going further. I have lessons with Fiona Harrison who lives in Dorking. The pandemic having forced the lessons online means that I save a lot of time not driving to her and back.
Duet playing is something I love - I'm not a keen soloist - and through SCGS I met Gill Robinson and we have had many happy sessions playing duets and have continued to meet up online when not allowed to meet face-to-face. Both of us have small guitars made by Winchester luthier Christopher Martyn (https://finelystrung.com/). My guitar has a string length of only 600mm (50mm shorter than the usual length). This has helped my playing - and my enjoyment of playing - no end, and large stretches that I physically couldn't manage have become possibl. I'm a keen advocate of smaller guitars for women. My hands aren't particularly small but they are definitely smaller than most men's hands, and the modern classical guitar was developed for men, making life difficult for us women.
Retirement from work will happen soon and I hope to play more guitar then. But no more exams!