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The Layman's guide to buying a new accordion online

M

maugein96

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Firstly, I do not want to insult anybody's intelligence by posting this, but felt that it may be of use to anybody who is unsure of how to proceed with an online purchase. I would stress that I have no inside knowledge of the accordion industry, as the post header serves to indicate, and the information provided is based on my own experience, and reading about the experiences of others over the years. I am based in the UK, and have no knowledge of how retailers operate elsewhere. I would also stress that the majority of online transactions are problem free.

The safest way to buy a new instrument online would be to find a ready made model and buy it off the shelf from a UK dealer. OK, you've checked with all the UK retail outlets and the instrument you want is not available. So what are your options?

We'd probably best cover the situation which applies when you commission a "custom made" accordion to be built. This is quite a grey area, but in some circumstances where you place such an order, you will automatically waive your rights under the Consumer Protection Act, Section 75. The common sense reason behind this is that somebody is going to be stuck with an item that was specially made for you, and may have difficulty moving it on if they were obliged to compensate you. The UK Financial Ombudsman is the only organisation who is deemed competent in this country to make decisions on such matters, and it may be as well to contact them and ask for advice. Precisely what constitutes "custom made" is something else that is open to question, and it would be dangerous for me to offer anything concrete. Some examples may include a special paint job, or non standard components in the instrument. In such cases part of the instrument may be standard whilst another element of it was customised. Again, the Financial Ombudsman makes the final decision if no resolution is possible between the buyer and seller.

Most manufacturers prefer to deal with a professional retailer for international transactions, as both parties will be familiar with all the red tape and etiquette involved with regard to import duty, courier rates, and other relevant taxes. There is also less likelihood of the item going missing, not to mention the customer ending up with insufficient funds to complete the deal. On top of that the makers are keen to advertise their instruments, and by appointing distributors they are effectively working to keep themselves in business. There was a time when your local accordion shop could order a one-off instrument from any manufacturer, but the chances were that the manufacturer would only supply on a trade basis, and the poor dealer would be obliged to order a consignment of demo models from them, or lose your business. Most of them understandably took the latter option.

In my very limited experience of such matters, using a dealer will be the route that most of us will be obliged to take, as if you contact the manufacturer directly, aside from any language difficulties encountered, they will tend to refer you to one of their distributors for the reasons I have described. You will then be obliged to place your order with the dealer and sign some form of contract.

Most of us in the UK will have heard of the Consumer Protection Act I previously mentioned, so we'll dig out the credit card to make either the deposit or the full amount, depending on the terms of the deal, in the belief that the credit card operator will refund us our money if the deal is unsatisfactory. In circumstances where you pay the dealer directly using the card, that is the case, so you're covered, subject to the custom made caveat. However, if the transaction involves the use of a third party "intermediary", such as Paypal, you will have automatically given up your rights under the Consumer Protection Act, and the credit card operator is absolved of any responsibility to reimburse you if you are not satisfied. In those circumstances you are bound by the terms and conditions of the intermediary. With Paypal, their customer compensation conditions would tend to indicate that if you commission an accordion to be built, that could be referred to as a "custom made item", and as such they will definitely not entertain a claim. It may be the case that you would be covered if you were buying an instrument which had already been constructed to the manufacturer's standard specification, but it would be as well to get clear written confirmation from Paypal before you commit to signing a contract. In the absence of any such confirmation, then it is a very clear case of "caveat emptor".

During the process of the accordion being constructed, please bear in mind that the dealer is at the mercy of the manufacturer with regard to deadlines, and the more "extras" you have specified, the longer it's all going to take. The dealer wants the accordion made as quickly as you do so that the deal can be concluded with minimum inconvenience to the dealer and customer. I would imagine there are as many cases where dealers are dissatisfied with the manufacturer (or vice versa) as there are customer complaints.

Occasionally, you may come across a manufacturer who is happy to deal with a private purchaser directly, via their on-line facility, and it's simply a case of telling them what you want, and having them make it for you, if they do not have any ready made models in stock ready for sale. In those circumstances you have to be absolutely certain that the manufacturer has understood precisely what you want, and it may well justify the cost of using an interpreter if you require anything other than a standard production model. You come to some sort of payment agreement with the manufacturer, always bearing in mind the caveats referred to above with regard to credit cards. You then have to pay any import duty, courier handling charges, and VAT when your instrument finally arrives on any of these godforsaken islands referred to as the "UK". These amounts can be found on the relevant government websites, although courier charges can vary considerably, and you may be obliged to accept the maker's choice of courier.

I'd better mention eBay, and admit that I have used that facility to buy a new instrument "off the shelf" from a dealer in the USA. I made considerable savings by doing so, compared to the UK list price, but UK customs are on a campaign to stop residents buying outwith the EU (while we're still in it), and you often get all sorts of hassle and delays after the instrument arrives. If they decide to open up the package you are liable for the cost of resealing it to the courier! Again, you are in a similar situation to the one above, although eBay's terms and conditions also apply, provided you use Paypal. It really is a bit of a minefield, and thankfully most transactions end satisfactorily. At least you get a chance to see independent feedback relative to the seller, although you are still liable for all the taxes and VAT the same as if you order directly from a manufacturer.

It would be a rare occasion indeed if you were able to buy a brand new and unused accordion from a private seller, and I wouldn't recommend it, pure and simple.

What is difficult to comprehend is that most people would never even think of buying something like a new car without at least trying one out first, yet there are ever more of us queuing up to buy new accordions because they sound great on You Tube and/or look great in the catalogues.

I'm glad my accordion buying days are over.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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Hello John,

Thank you for a very useful article about a subject on which many are in the dark.

You may recall a post from last year in which (I think) one of our Canadian members had purchased a bespoke instrument from a European manufacturer. The instrument in question suffered a catastrophic failure during a concert, so he packed it up and returned it directly to the maker for remedial work to be carried out.

It then appears that the manufacturer went apex over posterior, leaving our member frantically trying to sort matters out. As liquidators had taken control over this firm's stock and assets, and appeared to view our member's instrument as an asset, he was set to lose his instrument and his investment.

I don't know how, or even if, this story ended, but it gave me pause for thought. My advice at the time was that only established dealers, who were subject to local consumer laws, could be relied upon to deliver the standard of service I demand.

I'm sure it is possible to save a few £'s or $'s by trading on line, and that it is relatively safe to do so, but I would much rather trade with a company which is bound by stringent customer protection legislation. I would also feel happier if I could walk through their front door and confront them directly with any issues I needed resolving.

All The Best,

Stephen.
 
M

maugein96

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Stephen,

I don't recall the post, but I'm sure if the member had paperwork to prove he had bought the accordion at a date before the company folded, then he would have been entitled to get his knackered accordion back from the liquidators. What he did with it after that may have been difficult in these days where there are only a handful of competent repairers in most countries worldwide. The words "out of pocket" would appear to be the inevitable result in such circumstances.

Having gone through what appears to be all of the stages of "AAS" (Accordion Acquisition Syndrome), as an amateur player there is absolutely nothing out there that I would now consider ordering from anybody. Professional players who know exactly what they require, and who are earning money from what to most of us is just a hobby, can afford to approach a dealer and have accordions made to their own specifications. Their high profile status almost guarantees that they will get what they require, although the situation can be very different for the rest of us.

My philosophy on this is simple. If you cannot find it within reasonable travelling distance from where you live, and you are not a professional player, then why bother to take a financial risk of any kind? If you live in Europe and want a French, Italian, or any other make of accordion so badly, then in these days of cheap air travel, why not just go to the country of manufacture, where you're likely to find a selection of instruments in the music shops and take your choice? Any hassle involved with all the import duties and taxes, as well as the likelihood that you'll have to buy a seat for your accordion on the return journey, are well and truly offset by the knowledge that you went, took your choice, and never had to wait for months for something you had paid a lot of money for. With regard to "custom built instruments" these are just a licence for people to make money at the customer's expense, and the UK Financial Ombudsman will substantiate that in the event of any claim if things go wrong. Order an instrument with any form of non standard specification, and it's yours for keeps, regardless of which payment method you may have used.

My sister lives in Greece, and I dabble in bouzouki. I am a member of a Greek bouzouki forum and the names (and addresses) of all the respectable makers/dealers are listed on that forum. The strengths and weaknesses of their respective instruments are openly discussed, and prospective buyers are left in no doubt as to what to expect for their money. The only dealers who exist are chiefly concerned in the export of instruments to locations outside of Greece, and it all works rather well. Of course there are disputes, but it is generally accepted that nobody other than a professional player would commit themselves to buying an instrument they couldn't obtain locally. FWIW my sister lives on Crete, where the bouzouki is not really popular. I am friendly with a guy in Rethymno on Crete who makes bouzoukis of an acceptable standard, and who is not recognised on the forum concerned as being one of the better makers. However he is a world class maker of the Cretan lyra, and his efforts at making bouzoukia more than meet my needs as a rank amateur player.

I do believe some of us need to take a rain check on what we require from an accordion. Try to buy cheap and take the time to decide whether you want to upgrade. Your friendly dealer will try and persuade you to spend more money than you would like, on the basis that if you buy an expensive instrument you are more likely to persevere. If you believe that I'll be coming to your house on Xmas Eve with all your presents. Please let me know if your chimney has been swept, or whether I can just leave the parcels at your front door.

Amen
 

Soulsaver

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Sorry to argue, Maugein, but a point of clarification:
AFAI can see, eBays guarantee does cover digital equipment.
However, and this is where the misunderstanding may have occurred, it doesnt cover digitally delivered content: so If you order a CD youre covered, if you order an MP3 delivered by email youre not.

From their guaranteed refund policy: Not covered:
Vehicles, Real Estate, Business & Websites for Sale, Digital Content, Intangible Goods, Classified Ads, Services, and some Business Equipment categories.

http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/money-back-guarantee.html


The rationale, they say, is they/you cannot get proof of delivery on digitally delivered content.

Now for reasons too long & boring to go into, Id not bet several of my hard earned thousands of pounds that their resolution team wouldnt try to wriggle out of it, so beware. For big ticket items Id recommend a method to be certain youre getting what you ordered, in an as described condition - so, me, Id collect & test.
 

Soulsaver

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PS the other eBay foible to watch out for is they plaster their so called buyer protection guarantee logo on listings that is clearly digital delivered content, which, unless you already know this exception, is misleading & personally I think ought to be reported to trading standards.
 
M

maugein96

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Hi SS,

I do believe you are right in your observations, and I probably failed to make the distinction between the words "equipment" and "content", as you have pointed out. I was born to get things wrong and then having to make apologies, although the older I get the more inclined I am to do the former, but not the latter.

I concur that collect and test would be the only true indicator of whether to part with hard earned cash. I live in Scotland so that doesn't amount to as many thousands of pounds as you lucky devils south of the border.

Thanks for pointing out my error. Truth is I just don't like digital accordions, and was trying to discourage people from buying them, LOL!

I've removed the reference to digital equipment on eBay from the original post.
 

Soulsaver

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In between I've (eventually) found the pretty well buried policy exceptions and edited my post for clarification.
 

WaldoW

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While most of this thread has related to Ebay or not, here are some other considerations.
I dont live anywhere close to a shop that has a selection of accordions I could test drive. Fact is, we are talking 1000 miles (1600Km) for me. Whats left is Craigs list (limited choices), ebay or another online service. Complicate the matter with the desire to play CBA in the USA and.......
My advice is to first do your research, and lots of it. That is, determine which system you think you prefer[CBA-B, CBA-C, PA, Diatonic, etc.]. Eliminate any features you dont want in an instrument [weight, bulk, etc]. List stuff that is important to you [color, tone, # of pitches available, cost, etc]. Then, start looking for a box that meet those criteria. Anywhere. When found, weigh the circumstances surrounding said deal and then make a decision. For beginners [unless youre wealthy], find something that fits the bill and is inexpensive. Most here will tell you that your first accordion purchase will probably not be your last. And that is good advice. It applied to me. My first box was a full size CBA, 120 bass, weighing 23 lbs (10.45Kg). I figured Id grow (learn) into it. With some experience and knowledge, I realized the future I desired would be better served with a more compact box. End result, sell box for second purchase [and now Im done (NOT!)]. Im already considering a second unit, but for the stable, not a replacement.
Bottom line, start cheap as youll probably want a change somewhere along the learning curve. You can always move up.

Relative to the thread so far: First purchase went fine, honest seller with a u-tube posted demo sos I could hear it first. Look for 99-100% sellers. If you have any hesitations, e-mail seller with very specific detail questions. This creates a communication trail with the seller that can be used against the seller if a dispute arrises. I once bought a 1932 Cadillac engine on e-bay that was described as Rebuilt & pristine. When I received it I discovered a repaired block crack. I requested a partial refund [shipping was $400 one way]. Seller refused. The dispute outcome [I won] was determined by that one word pristine. I have made 100s of purchases on e-bay for my other hobby, Hot Rods. I have only been cheated once by Carl Hagen of Oklahoma City, OK, USA. He listed a $250.00 value machine tool with a misspelling, so got no bids but mine ($11.00). He ended up sending me 4 lbs of dry ice! Clever ruse, the dry ice sublimated without wetting the box, it arrived unopened, and he had a receipt for a 4 pound shipment [equivelent to the tool weight]. Ill get even next time I go thru there.
My second box was purchased from Liberty Bellows in Philly, PA, USA. The purchase was a Beltuna Studio II, New off the shelf. I wasnt planning on buying a new box, but was captured by the tone and look (boo) of the Beltuna, plus their reputation for quality. So, I called and inquired as to the price and was told it was $2999.00.... more than I had available. Several days later I called back to find out if that was a sale price, and how long it was good for. Imagine my surprise when I was transferred to the owner, Mike, and was told the price I was quoted was incorrect, it was the price for a PA on sale, not a CBA. The CBA was $3999.00! BUMMER! Totally beyond my budget. Then the surprise, he would honor the quote, because, it had been given to me! There goes the profit on that sale. Im now faced with the delima of a $1000.00 discount Ill never find again, or not. I jumped on it, sold my first box for a $400.00 profit, rolled over a Conn Bassoon for a $1000.00 profit and got a NEW accordion, yeah! It arrived 6 months [seemed like] later and.......disappointment!!!!
One high reed was lazy [starts slower than the others, needs more pressure], and one low reed warbles on the pull. Needless to say, I was bummed out. I called LB about the problem [NOT THEIR FAULT! NO BLAME CAST!] and was told to return it for a repair [3 year warrantee]. It was hard enough waiting the week it took to receive it the first time, let alone a week to return it, a week to repair it and a week to it send back. But, they assured me I had 3 years to get it fixed, so, Im seeking a Hohner Piccolo in the interim [as my take to Mexico box] in order to not be boxless for a month. I expected more from Beltuna, and am disappointed they didnt detect the problem at the factory. In their favor, the problem only shows up under light bellows pressure while holding the note, so could be missed, but still. The Beltuna guy will get an earfull if we ever cross paths. BTW, Im considering another Beltuna purchase [different model].
Bottom line: Even a transaction with a quality seller, peddling high quality Marques, can go awry. At least they dont send you dry ice!
Waldo
 
M

maugein96

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Hi Waldo,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. It seems that the same frustrations are prevalent worldwide when it comes to accordions.

I do appreciate that the situation is very different where you live, and a short hop to Europe is not an option. In days gone by most of the larger towns and cities here in the UK had a store where you could simply walk in and buy off the shelf, or wait a week or two for an order. Specialist accordion retailers were not that common during my lifetime (64 years) and you had to know where to find them, although the distances involved were not so great as where you are. Even then, if you bought from one of those specialists, and they had no in-house repair facilities, you had to accept that any return to fix defects was going to leave you without an instrument for a considerable period of time.

I was lucky that I was able to walk in and buy my first few instruments off the shelf. I had no real problems with any of them, other than the fact that I bought one or two rather rough examples, before I finally committed to buying new. That new accordion was the worst instrument I've ever owned, and I had the rare opportunity to compare it with two other identical models the dealer actually had in stock. It wasn't the dealer's fault, it was just that the French maker had some quality issues with some of the materials being used at that time. These days they are the foremost French manufacturer, but anybody who knows anything about them knows that they went through a bad patch where quantity was prioritised over quality.

I once tried to place an order for an Italian instrument through a UK dealer and got ripped off. A full year after I had placed the order I was told that it still wasn't ready. I believe the dealer ordered the wrong specification for the instrument from the manufacturer, but wouldn't admit he had done so. In any case I'll never know now, as it was a long time ago.

I've only ordered one instrument online, from a dealer in the USA, and if I'd had a chance to try the instrument out before I bought it, then it would still be lying on his shelf. I was looking for a smaller lighter instrument, and I certainly got one. It was a brand new little Chinese Hohner CBA. A very acceptable instrument with a reasonable sound, but some of the reeds are dodgy in it, and the cost of it doesn't justify spending the sort of money that a tuner would take to put it right. I'm told this is a common problem with new instruments, even those described as "top of the range". There was a recent horror story on here concerning one of these where a box had covered more miles than I did in 12 years of driving buses, and it still wasn't right. So, mail order would be very much a last option, for me at any rate.

I also realise that I am in a rather different situation to younger players with regard to potential future purchases. The normal advice given to aspiring players of any instrument is to acquire the best they can possibly afford, and I was once the same as anybody else in that respect. However, I now have a total of four instruments, one of which has been ready for the scrap man for some years, but I haven't so far had the heart to take a 10lb hammer to it, as it cost me a lot of money many years ago when I still thought I was going to make the grade as a player. Don't get me wrong, I still get a lot of enjoyment out of playing the instruments I have, one of which is a "top of the range" accordion, and I suppose once you have one of those and you're still not making money from playing it, then you start to examine your thought processes more closely. Q:- "Do I really need another accordion?" A:- "No!"

Please note, I have absolutely no intention of dampening anybody's enthusiasm. It's just that an accordion is a fairly major purchase, and most of us now unfortunately live remotely from the nearest retail outlet. With the advent of digital models, some UK music stores are beginning to stock these, where they wouldn't be bothered with acoustic instruments and all the associated ills with them which require time and money to sort out.

It might be sacrilege to suggest it, but perhaps the digital accordion will eventually oust its older relatives, for the sake of convenience and sheer availability if nothing else.

I would also like to point out that I once had the rare opportunity of trying out three supposedly "identical" and brand new models. No two of the accordions sounded the same, particularly with regard to the three voice musette tuning, and one of them had a slightly faster treble keyboard action than the other two. That being the case if you are one of those very privileged few who are actually able to find an instrument you like at a friendly dealership, but don't like the colour, if you place an order for another model, then don't be surprised if what you get is not just a different colour. Also, anything you hear and see on You Tube and suchlike is best regarded as an approximation of what you are likely to receive by mail order. No consolation to those who have no other option, but perhaps worth bearing in mind.

Finally, don't let anybody tell you that you "need" a certain feature or tuning on your instrument, if the music you want to play does not require it. It's great to be sitting behind a 5 voice monster with 15 different treble couplers, which is supposedly capable of playing anything. However, one day you might just decide you like Cajun music and discover that you haven't enough money to buy a Cajun box, as your redundant "top of the range model" that you mortgaged your house for may only be worth a few hundred units of whatever currency your country uses.
 

Stephen Hawkins

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John,

It is just as you say ........... Horses for courses. I don't need, nor do I want, an accordion with all the whistles & bells. It seems that I am five years older than you, and also understand the limitations of coming to this instrument late in life.

This works out well for me, as I know the kind of tunes I like to play. I own two instruments (one German, one Chinese) and they both like the same tunes that I do. It is very doubtful that I will buy another accordion in the near future but, if I do, it is likely to be another Chinese one.

I suppose I am fortunate in having an accordion shop around thirty miles from my home, and even more fortunate that they offer free delivery. They are very nice, polite and helpful, and I have been more than satisfied with their service.

Kind Regards,

Stephen.
 
M

maugein96

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Stephen,

Don't know what age you were when you started. I think I was about 30 and genuinely thought I had what it takes to be at least semi-pro.

I've finally grown to accept that the word "musician" only applies to other people, and consequently am content to put up with the motley collection of various musical instruments which now take up space in the house.

I get a lot of pleasure out of listening to music, and playing for my own enjoyment, and I couldn't care less whether an instrument was made in Europe, Asia, or Mars.

The bias against Asian made instruments may be relevant to pro players, or those with the big wallets who can afford to be choosy, but the beggars among us need to adapt.

The believe the cost of replacing my Maugein would be about £8000 new, and a full refurb would probably be less than £1000. I might be able to pick up a well used one in France for about £2000. If I ever deem it necessary then it will be the second option without a doubt, and it will be going to France for any work it needs done. UK repairers tend to shun French boxes like our mechanics shun French cars, and I have had one or two horror stories in that respect, when they have carried out work on them. .
 

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Maugein96,
Your post reminded me of a lingering question, When, exactly, does/can one call oneself a "musician"? I have had people comment, when I tell them I play accordion, "Oh, you're a musician". Well, I disagree with that assessment at this point, but, It got me wondering when that moniker applies.
Waldo
 

hais1273

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There is of course no quick or easy answer as to what a "musician" or "accordionist" or "violinist" is. At a recent event, someone very kindly told me I played the box very well and was a good musician. " What me?" says I. "Yes". Well, I thought about that comment. On one level, I'm sure she must have been listening to something else, or gossiping and mistaken my playing for someone else. On the other hand why would she lie? I was really, really pleased with myself.

I've come to the conclusion that if you are making the effort, interpreting tunes, no matter how simple or how complex, or how ham fist you are, you can call yourself a "musician". After all people who don't play or sing can never be an average piper or a bad singer! It's just occurred to me, if you worked as a carpenter, would you only say "I'm a carpenter" when you were a great carpenter, 'course not. " I'm a carpenter" but under your breath you might mutter, " but I'm rubbish at hanging doors"
 

JerryPH

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From the Oxford dictionary for the word "musician":
"A person who plays a musical instrument, especially as a profession, or is musically talented..."

There is no mention of WHAT level of talent, so as far as I am concerned, if you can squeeze out "Mary had a little lamb", you are a musician.

Welcome to the club. :)
 
M

maugein96

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Thanks Gerry,

I'll see if I can get better car insurance rates as a musician, and hope they don't get it confused with "magician" on the phone. My west of Scotland terminology and dark humour can be difficult to interpret, even by fellow Scots from other areas. We are often a bit defeatist in our outlook, which is consistent with us being brought up in a decidedly non-picturesque part of Scotland that God forgot. I gave up my first job as a plumber because bricklayers got to lay bricks, but they never let us lay plums!

SJ and Big Mike brought out a tune years ago called "If you want it, you've got it". Our version was "If you want it, you've had it!" "Mary had a little lamb, but a dosser stole it and sold it to buy a bottle of cheap wine". Am I convincing you how we think yet?

As one musician to another we should be able to get there. The best talent I ever had was to get out of the area as quickly as I could, as I wanted to live longer than the 54 years the statisticians gave us. So far I've done them out of 10 years so I'm definitely not going back! ;)
 

WaldoW

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"Hey! Diogenes, Where are you going?"

"I'm looking for an honest man!"

"Well, come back with my lamp!!!

Will that get me in the club?
WW
 
M

maugein96

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Reckon you've got me worked out Waldo!

Had I paid attention to Diogenes' philosophy that "We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less" I may have got on better in this world. Mind you he was born in Turkey and died in Greece, so he perhaps should have seen the danger that moving from that particular country to the other may have brought upon him.

North Lanarkshire in Scotland is full of philosophers, although their topics usually revolve around horse racing and alcohol!
 

Stephen Hawkins

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John,

I was 67 when I first picked up an accordion, though it wasn't the first instrument I ever played.

As a former Soldier, I knew guys from all over the UK. The percentage breakdown of my unit was (very roughly) 60% English, 25% Jocks and 15% Taffs. I can confirm that Glaswegian Jocks had their very own sense of humour, and were generally quite dour in nature. (with some exceptions)

Despite what seems to be happening now, I found the vast majority of my Scottish comrades-in-arms to be great guys.

Stephen.

P.S. You are dead right about the alcohol.
 

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