Tuesday, 24 July 2012

2 months to go!

Tonight I realised that in 2 months, I will have finished my first day at music college in Glasgow.

I found out last Thursday that my appeal re. the tuition fee loan was successful, meaning I can accept my place. In fact, I just did - I had forgotten in all of the excitement over the last few days, that the closing date was August 1st.

I've handed my notice in at work, and currently everything feels very strange. I will be stopping full time work as I know it in 7 weeks, and even if I get a normal 9-5er after I finish college, that will be a minimum of 4 years away.

It has been a huge decision, and has taken a long time to make (even before the complications of finance made it even harder!). I've accepted that while life hasn't quite worked out as I'd wanted, that's no bad thing.

The strangest feeling of all, though, has been that I will be moving on, and at last I feel ready for that.

I haven't told my little harp pupils yet, or my Brownies, and this will be very hard indeed.

My racing friends are used to this statement as it was frequently uttered/typed, but I really am so excited I could go pop. I'm looking forward to starting a completely new life, a long way away geographically, musically and emotionally.

To quote a phrase much-used in recent weeks - Allez!!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bruce Lee - harpist?

I came across this via the BBC News site this morning, in an article citing Bruce Lee as the father of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting. This was all very interesting, however.....

I was rather struck by Bruce Lee's hand position - perfect thumbs up and fingers down, with the exception of the little finger which isn't used on the harp.

I shall be digging out my copy of Enter the Dragon and studying it in great detail.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pausing for breath

Things are quiet on the harp front at the moment. I'm about to go into my second weekend of no weddings - a treat at this time of year. It's a BIG birthday for a very dear friend, so I have been keeping it free. We are off to one of my favourite ever cities. I took refuge there after the wedding that wasn't, and enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon for one at The Royal Crescent Hotel. I can't stretch to staying there for a while, but I remember the time very fondly.

I'm enjoying having a little time to myself, and have used it to literally get my house in order, hopefully ready for the impending move north. This is currently on hold, waiting on a form to be filled in for an appeal - my tuition fee loan application has been rejected due to dropping out of previous studies, and I am waiting on a letter from my doctor to explain the circumstances. I am not a patient person so this is a tricky exercise in hoping and trusting that things meant for me won't pass me by.

I read lots of blogs over the course of a week, and a popular feature on many of them is a weekly round up of lovely links to internet joy. I have wanted to do this for a long time, but am not sure I can commit to a specific day each week. Tuesday is always a tricky day in the week (from my time in a previous job, it was everyone's most hated day - no weekend in immediate memory, not even the middle of the week yet) so maybe I'll adopt that as an attempt to spread some cheerfulness.

I discovered this recently Play Me I'm Yours - Stunning Pianos in Toronto - these are dotted around Toronto, open for all to play as they wish until the end of July. Each one has been painted by an artist from each country taking part in the PanAm Games in 2015. I saw one such piano in Colchester once, and loved the concept. Pianos are many people's first instruments, and a feature in many homes up and down the country. The piano was my first love, the first instrument I learned, and unfortunately once I progressed on the harp, my time at the piano became very limited. I'm not sure Play Me I'm Yours would work in our current UK climate, but how incredible would it be if some way of bringing music to the masses could have been incorporated into the up and coming Olympics!

I also found Pianists from the Inside - this was an utter gem, given my previous post on struggling to find much in the way of discussion of creativity in the context of music. I discovered it via Twitter, and particularly enjoyed the article exploring the impact of a bad teacher early in one's musical career.

Completely unrelated to music, or pianos - one of my favourite websites ever, the fabulous Cake Wrecks is devoted to cake disasters. Some are hilarious, some are incredibly rude, some are just plain bizarre. Also featured are episodes of genius - a recent favourite was Swoon-worthy Steampunk Sweets. The Steampunk thing has gone mostly over my head, I love the clothes but don't really 'get' it. But in terms of sheer beauty, these cakes have it. Stunning.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

An Anatomy of Inspiration

I read this wonderful article on Brain Pickings recently An Anatomy of Inspiration

Over the last few months I've really started to explore my own creativity, and also what creativity is and  what makes a creative type. There is a lot out there about artists (as in the painting/drawing/sculptor sense), about writers and photographers. As I mentioned the other day, I'm struggling to find much about musicians and the creative process involved in performing and composing music.

I'll be ordering the book, partly because it is written by a music historian, and partly because it considers musicians as well as artists and writers.

I'm in the process of (hopefully) leaving my day job as an accountant, with a regular salary, regular hours and fairly clearly defined responsibilities. So I'm really looking forward to reading about the daily routines and habits of other artists - and by artist, I mean in the general sense.

Hopefully in September I will be at music college, and while there will be a structure that comes with registering on a fairly intensive course, I have no idea what my days will look like, and how I will fill them apart from with practising and walking my dogs. I am looking forward to having time and space to explore my own creativity and hopefully work on writing some of my own music.

I know I am a morning person these days. My ex husband was almost incapable of sleeping in, and when we got our first dog Bubble, he was very much on race kennel time and was an early riser. He also didn't understand the concept of a weekend. He slept in until 10am one Sunday when we were particularly hungover, and we woke up with a fright because we thought the dog was dead - so unusual was it to not be awoken by a gentle whine from down the stairs.

Having had a fairly long commute over the last 6 years, and being in charge of the early morning dog walk when I was still married, I was often at my desk at 8am to beat traffic and because I was up early anyway. I find it very hard to stay late at my day job, and one of my old bosses was very understanding of my distinct productivity slide after 6pm - she would pack me off, knowing better than I did that a good night's sleep would solve whatever budget/spreadsheet/other techy issue I had been unable to fix that day.

As a musician, late nights are going to come with the territory, which will take some getting used to.

I am ready for the change, it's very exciting being on the verge of stepping into a new existence.

I'll let you know what I think of the book....

Sunday, 8 July 2012

All You Need is Love?

I played at a wonderful wedding yesterday. The bride was a colleague of one of my friends, and works in the same office that I used to work in. I met the bride and groom last year when they came round for a consultation before booking me to play for their wedding. They both love music, in particular the Beatles, and this was therefore a great opportunity to add some fantastic songs to my growing repertoire list.

They walked down the aisle after their ceremony to All You Need is Love by the Beatles.  A wonderful song, but tricky on many levels. Firstly the rhythm is not standard 4/4 - it's either in 7/4 or 4/4 then 3/4 depending on your point of view and the score you are using.... Secondly, the bit that makes the song is incredibly chromatic, which involves a lot of frantic footwork moving the pedals. In the chorus, where you sing "All You Need is Love (dah dah dah dah dahhhh)" the dah dah... bit is the part I mean. It was challenging but sounded great on the day, and I was trying not to be too choked when playing it.

Add to that a lovely venue with very helpful staff, and I was a very happy harpist when I got home yesterday.

Today has been a very slow day as I had a bit of a hangover this morning, having been out with one of my closest friends last night. I didn't have many plans apart from watching the MotoGP and the tennis, both of which were very entertaining. The tennis in particular was gripping, and very emotional at the end.

Today, my gorgeous greyhound girl Wendy has made bold steps and joined me on the sofa. In fact, she pushed Ronnie (boy hound) off so she could stay on with me.

Six months ago, I adopted two retired racers from my local Retired Greyhound Trust branch http://clarksfarmgreyhounds.org.uk/

It was love at first sight with Ronnie, who bounded into the RGT office and promptly went and hid under the desk. My heart leapt out of my chest. He then couldn't get out so waited patiently to be rescued, then went on the hunt for treats in the cupboards. I reserved him straight away. I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could take him home, so went to visit him a couple of times to make friends properly. The second time, after a nice long walk together, he refused to leave the office to go back to his kennel. I like to think we had bonded.

I didn't meet Wendy until the third time. I had wanted a second dog to keep Ronnie company. She had been returned to the kennels by another family who had changed their minds. They had given the kennels a load of pithy excuses about her behaviour, none of which stacked up, so the kennel suggested she should be returned to save any toing and froing and to give her the best chance of finding a good home.

She is smaller than Ronnie, and as soft as silk to touch. She has a slightly curly tail, which we think was broken and then didn't quite heal straight. She had the biggest ears for a little dog, almost like an Alsatian. Wendy is on the left below, Ronnie is snoozing on the right.

Ronnie had never been in a home before, but settled very quickly apart from a slight nervousness around strangers in the house. He was very affectionate from the very start, and quickly learnt his name and the word No. 

Wendy did well too, but has kept herself to herself pretty much since Day 1. She has always been happiest in her bed, on her own. Or sunning herself in the garden, again on her own. I have never tried to force this, feeling that she would come round when she was ready. She has always operated on her own timescale, particularly going out into the garden for a last visit before bedtime. She responds to her name with a little wag of her tail, and then ignores you and carries on with whatever she was sniffing.

Ronnie discovered the sofa within a couple of hours of moving in, and has rarely moved since, and he loves nothing better than wriggling up for a good cuddle with his head tucked in the crook of my elbow and resting on my lap.

I'm delighted that Wendy has recently started to wander through into the living room regularly, and likes to lie by my feet. She loves a fuss around the ears, and is very content to stand and have a stroke.  Even better, just the last couple of days, she has been found on the sofa, but until today, as soon as I sat down with her, she would spook and run off.

Today she has hopped up to sit with me, and to my great surprise, chased Ronnie off when he tried to join in. He took the hint, and chose the other sofa instead. Wise boy.

So I have had a very enjoyable afternoon, with one dog on one sofa, and one dog on another. Greyhounds are known to snooze a lot, and I'm afraid their slumber was frequently interrupted today, as the tennis was quite tense and I got rather into the spirit of the game.

Poor Wendy is covered in bumps, dings and scars on the outside, hallmarks of a tough life as a racer. Ronnie has lots too, but Wendy has more. Gradually though, she is coming out of her shell and growing in confidence all the time. She barks less at other dogs on our walks. I feel very proud that this beautiful little dog (well, little as greyhounds go at least) is starting to enjoy life and settle in. She's very camera shy but I managed to sneak this little picture of her recently.

Monday, 2 July 2012


I love the internet. I love blogs, and reading, and finding little gems that make me go "a-ha" or "I so agree" or "Wow I never thought of it like that!"

One of the things I use the internet for the most is inspiration for life in general - seeking enlightenment, seeking others into the same things as me, you get the picture.

I read several blogs/websites regularly, and one that I return to often is that of Nubby Twiglet - Graphic Designer and Blogger . I found her website via that of Rock n Roll Bride , the only wedding-related addiction I have not been able to give up since planning the wedding-that-wasn't in 2010.

As well as reading about what she's been up to, what she's been working on and which shoes/outfits she's been wearing, I love reading her weekly Link Love posts, as she covers such a great range of topics. Many of these are related to living the creative lifestyle, developing yourself as an artist/designer and making your skills work for you so you are fulfilled creatively, and these are the ones I find the most inspiring.

It's only in the last year or so that I have begun to scratch my creative itch, as to be honest it never really occurred to me that being a musician counted as a creative industry. I can't quite believe I just wrote that. I haven't managed to find very much in the way of living the life of a musician (beyond being a classical musician) but am fairly sure I am looking in the wrong places!

Through Nubby, I found the fantastic Brain Pickings - I'm not sure how I would describe this site other than, well, it makes me think. A LOT. I get a weekly newsletter on a Sunday that gives me great food for thought ahead of my working week.

This piece, from February, is a particular favourite at the moment.

How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love

I'm not sure the answer to this really exists, certainly not in the way I am looking for, an easy answer to just go "A-ha" and everything will be magically fixed. But I am enjoying the journey of exploration.

Hopefully I'll gradually find more and more musical inspiration too.