"I can see you have a lot of dental experience," the dentist remarked as he slammed the metre-long needle into my jaw and punched it home. I was having my fourth mouth operation as punishment for procrastination. Yes, as it turns out, you should visit the dentist every six months, not every six years. The consequence of my arrogant laziness (and, to be honest, not a little fear, but how was I to know that dentists no longer use a drill powered by a foot pedal and stick you in the arm with an awl to distract you from the pain?) was that I had developed gum-something-itis and had to have my tooth-roots scraped off with a sharp instrument, right down to the jaw. I can't say I wasn't bitter about paying thousands of dollars to be in pain and unable to eat, but at least I learnt that procrastination never, ever works. I had just started the extensive mouth work last Christmas when my friend A and I went on a dignified rampage around Hainan Island. Every time A (a renowned shopping procrastinator) saw something he wanted but couldn't be bothered to actually purchase, saying, "We can get it on the way back or tomorrow," I shouted back, "No! Get it NOW! There may not be a tomorrow!" In charming Sanya, on the southern coast, we headed straight for the beach, where under the palm trees we found dozens of musicians playing the erhu and other traditional Chinese instruments, belting out the revolutionary songs of their youth. One group interested me in particular; a band of old men and women playing saxophones and clarinets. Their saxophone teacher, Mr Wang, is 85 years old and as nimble-fingered as a saxophone-playing mountain goat. The 86-year-old Mr Li, playing a mean Moscow Nights himself, had only been learning the instrument for two years, and it was he who made my newfound non-procrastination rule kick in. "This is it!" I declared to A. "As you are my witness, I am finally going to start playing the banjo, a dream for 30 years!" If an 86-year-old can practise for only two years and produce such great tunes I'll be damned if I can't learn the banjo. And as soon as I got back to Hong Kong I bought a banjo and began. I also printed out all my photos of Mr Wang et al and sent them to him with a letter thanking him for a great day and inspiration. Carpe diem ! Two days later, that letter came back to me. It was marked "unclaimed".