Hairy House

Hairy House

Monday, 16 October 2017

What price Instrumental lessons in Schools?

So, the science is out. Music education has been proven, time and time again to benefit academic progress – something of which the vast majority of educationalists must be aware.

Yet, time and time again, music, along with all the arts, is the first thing to be cut, when budgeting becomes an issue. In a sensible world, this of course, would cause a huge outcry, there would be protesting on the streets, blah de blah de blah. But as we know, apart from a few disgruntled music teachers turning to drink, not a lot changes, here in the UK, at least. And I think I know why.

This was the situation at one of the schools I taught at last term – and I would like to point out here, that this was a nice primary school in a beautiful town in Buckinghamshire, where most of the pupils I talked to were planning trips to the Maldives/Florida/Australia, over their summer break.

My brief was to teach violin to several groups of children, in twenty minute blocks, over the course of three hours - the majority of the groups being two to three children.
Once I started, I realised that the groups I was teaching had been selected for their academic years, not for their ability and that, within each group, there was a huge range, from complete beginners, to children who had been playing for three years. (and I was asked NOT to interfere with said groups.) Only two children EVER turned up for their lesson on time, which meant that I had to spend at least five minutes of the allotted twenty, tracking my pupils from various parts of the school. When once I had got them back to the room, (which incidentally, was so cramped that they couldn't do an up bow without hitting the wall) fixed and tuned the violins (because yes, there is nearly always at least someone whose bridge has fallen down, or whose chin rest has come off, string broken etc etc) we had a maximum of ten minutes before I had to go in search of the next few children. When I asked the children why they didn't come to their lessons on time, it turned out that may of them couldn't tell the time, so had no way of telling when their lesson was, the others were so deeply engrossed in their Maths, that they had forgotten the time, or the timetable (which changed every week) had been placed too high on the wall for them to read. Though I asked several times, it was apparently impossible for the class teachers to remind the children to go to their lessons.
I hasten to add that there is a lot of truly wonderful teaching that goes on in schools, but sadly, the above experience of teaching is not uncommon. I have often had teachers roll their eyes at me when I come to collect children for their lessons, or children who have been told off for interrupting their teachers when they try to come for their lessons themselves.In another school I had to teach six children in 20 minutes, in a room which doubled as Special Needs teaching room/library/photocopier room, which meant that I had a constant stream of people walking in and out to choose books, uses said photocopier, and kids with special needs having lessons at the same time. The best class I ever gave was one where all the children were ten minutes late, two children had broken their violins and one child weed on the floor.

And of course the result of this sort of teaching is that the children do not progress as fast as they can and I shouldn't think it does much at all for their academic progress. Parents who have paid for years for lessons, will read articles about the benefits of music education and might nod their heads or even go so far as to share them on Facebook, but at the back of their minds will the thought that they never saw those benefits themselves. The children will grow up, look back on their childhood lessons and wonder why they never felt the benefit. And so the cycle continues....


Monday, 9 October 2017

Part 1 of...


Last week, I wrote about some of my experiences as a musician, in an attempt to explain why I have had a rather love hate relationship with music and, to some extent, why I am the weird person that I am. Over the years, music has meant so many things to me, as a profession and as something I love doing. Is is something which has led to many beautiful friendships, something which has led to a lot of fun, laughter, tears and something which has led to a huge amount of FRUSTRATION.

And one of the many frustrations I would like to write about now, is that of music education.
So this is Part 1 of 10,000, dealing with my FRUSTRATION with MUSIC EDUCATION.
Garghh!!!!!

It seems that there are a myriad reasons why parents wish their children to learn a musical instrument. Here, I believe, are the ones you hear most often.
  • they themselves never had the opportunity as children and so would like their own children to have the chance
  • they learned as children, felt they gained hugely as a result and want the same for their offspring
  • they have heard/read that learning an instrument can benefit their child's wider education
  • their child has asked to learn (!)
  • they believe that their child will have more chance of getting into the school/university of their choice if they have certificates of achievement in musical performance.

It seems that nearly every day, the results of another study into the benefits of music education are published. Music education has been shown, time and time again, to enhance children's listening skills, their co-ordination, problem solving, social skills. Students who study music have been shown in numerous studies, in numerous countries, from kindergarten through to University, to have higher grade point averages than their non music learning peers. Of course it can be argued that the people who fund the studies have an agenda; that families who can afford to pay for instrumental lessons are more likely to come from academically focussed backgrounds or are more likely to pay for extra tuition in other areas too. However, very few people ever argue that music education is NOT important, or that they are glad that they never learnt to play an instrument or that their children have never wanted to learn to play.

And yet, here are some of the things I and most instrumental teachers hear on a regular basis: 

“We didn't have time to practise this week, she had too much homework/ballet/drama/swimming/guides/tennis/football.”

 “He didn't want to practise and I didn't want to push him.”

And, the most dreaded: “There's not much point if he's not enjoying it, is there?”

So let's think about that last point. Yes indeed, music can be a wonderful world, filled with unicorns and fairy wings, where one can soar ever higher on clouds of rosy self expression, whilst one's intellect sharpens into diamond points of Einsteinism. 
But it can also be a hard slog and when you've just had a long day's schooling and it's cold and you're tired and hungry, even taking your instrument out of the case, fitting a reed or tightening a bow, can seem a herculean task, however keen one might be. Playing an instrument is a physical task, make no mistake.

HOWEVER.

How many parents go to their child's teacher and say: “My child isn't going to learn Maths/English Science any longer, because they no longer enjoy it?” 

And here's the Thing; children know that their parents are not going to say that. And so here's the Question: Do they also know that, deep down, their parents are not convinced that, actually, music is that important after all?





http://mabryonline.org/blogs/doemel/archives/2005/08/music_education.html

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Contradictions of it all.


This is something that I wrote two years ago - in recent times I have had some happier experiences as a performer and as a teacher, but this was relevant at the time, and so I am publishing it anyway.


“Music education is so important for children,” I say, putting as much conviction into my voice as I can. “It helps in so many ways - to develop the brain, to develop self expression, it can even help children with their maths!”
Ben's mother nods and smiles, her eyes tired and rather desperate as she looks at her son, who is attacking the music stand with his violin bow, à la Jack Sparrow. I must sound convincing, because I can tell that she's beginning to think that yes, maybe it is worth plodding on then - maybe it is worth the fights to get him to stand his testosterone-fizzing body still, for ten minutes three times a week with a violin clamped under his chin - maybe it is worth the money she pays to bring him for his lessons every week, worth the trauma of listening to him whine and squirm the notes out of his small, factory made instrument.
I feel a worm of guilt wriggle in my stomach. Should I have my fingers crossed behind my back, when I spout this “music teacher” talk?
Should I tell her about my performance on Saturday evening? Does she really need to know? Does she need to know how I, a grown woman with three teenage children, the product of so many music lessons, spent all Saturday in a cold sweat, my fingers shaking, the vomit churning at the bottom of my throat - just because I had to perform a Bach solo that I love? Would it help her to know how I washed down my beta-blockers with a glass of wine before the performance – and how all I wanted to do, in the hours leading up to it, was to leave my children and husband of twenty years and run away to Peru? Does she need to know about the humiliation, the great feeling of worthlessness that drained me, the next day, because, even after the wine and the beta-blockers, my hands shook so much that the bow felt as though it had shrunk to the size of a pencil and spent the entire piece bouncing up and down like a rubber ball on the strings?
No, of course she doesn't need to know about those things. Instead, I tell her about those times when I was a child and fell in love with music – the times I will never forget. The Wednesday evenings in Saudi Arabia, when my father would load four of his six daughters into our rusting Chevrolet and we would ride through the dusking city, through the blare and snort and fart of Riyadh traffic, past the flashing neon signs and the feathery palm trees, the high rises and the mud houses. We would drive right to the edge of the city, where concrete melted into sand and rock and you could look out for miles across flat and empty desert, to where the sun was sinking in a welter of dusty pink glory. And there would be our friends, Ruth and Erasmus, middle aged doctors with grown up children, who would welcome us into their house with beaming smiles, would ply us with tea and orange juice and sticky cakes from French Corner, filled with custard and fruit. Malcolm would be there as well - fierce, eagle eyed Malcolm who, in his youth, had played with the great recorder players of Europe and Knew His Stuff. We would sit in a circle, in the orange light of the lamps and put up our music stands, take out our recorders and open up the boxes of music that stood in the centre of the room.
We never knew what was going to come out of those boxes – whether it would be music by Telemann, or Purcell, or Bach, or Schickhardt or Loeillet. Sometimes it would be music we had played before, but more often than not, it wasn't. Ruth would hand out our parts and we would open them up, see the squiggles on the page – flat instructions, printed black on white. And then we would begin to play, Erasmus on the guitar – pretending it was a lute - his eyebrows disappearing into his hair as he peered at the music over the top of his glasses; Ruth with her fat, sausage fingers sticking out high over the holes of her recorder, so that she was always a quaver behind the rest of us, her soft grey hair, loosening from its bun and waving around her round, sparkling eyes; Malcolm, his breath rasping from his nostrils into his beard, stamping with a desperate foot and wagging his recorder up and down in an attempt to keep us all together; my sisters and I, our cheeks flushed, all bright eyed with eagerness.
Sometimes the music was pretty, sometimes, it was lovely, but sometimes, it would spark and catch and lift off the page and it was as though a time warp had opened up between this concrete house in Saudi Arabia and the Europe of past centuries, the music redolent of old stone churches, organs and choirs. Sometimes it was music that was rich with the extravagance of marble floored dance halls, gold trimmed cherubs singing from pink-cloud ceilings – or sometimes it was music which smelled of beer and roared with the life of Bruegel-busy taverns. Our hearts would race, any evening fatigue would vanish and when we had finished it was: “Let's play that again – please can we play it again!” till late in the evening.
This is what I tell Ben's mother. About the times when music turns into a magic gift of creation across time and centuries and people of different ages.
“You're so lucky!” Ben's mother exclaims. “You must have had the most amazing experiences.”
And I nod and smile again, “Yes,” I say. “I am very lucky.”
I don't tell tell her about the years at music college where I learnt that my worth as a human being was in direct proportion to my worth as a musician. I do not tell her about the years of practising in practise rooms with the light switched off, or up in the towers behind the organs where no one could see me, terrified that someone would discover that I had only just started learning my Tchaikovsky, or that I had not yet perfected my Bach, or that my scales were not as well in tune as they ought to be.
I tell her, instead, about sitting on stage with tiger cubs, acrobats swinging overhead, the most famous stars in the land singing and dancing beside me. I tell her of the camaraderie of the orchestra pit, the crosswords and knitting, the book clubs and jokes that form over a season. I don't tell her how quickly that camaraderie can fade, once the season is over. How colleagues that have shared a desk with me, every night over the course of six weeks, can come to return a greeting with glassy eyed indifference, mere weeks later. I don't tell her how, when working with other musicians, you come to expect the jealousy, the bitchy rumours, the snide comments.
“I wish I could have been talented enough to be a professional musician,” Ben's mother says and her eyes are wistful as she watches her son fold his music into an aeroplane and send it shooting at the neighbour’s cat. “It must be so wonderful to do something you love. When I came to your last concert and heard you play, I could just see how much you love it!”
Again, I nod and smile and think back to the week before that concert - how I had been counting down the days: “a week and it'll all be over...three more days and it'll all be over...two more hours and it'll all be over...two more pages....three more lines....two more bars....” how I had looked out over the happy, applauding audience and wondered why, at the age of forty-one, I was still putting myself through all this.
I tell her instead, about playing sonatas with my pianist, the excitement of trying different interpretations; trying this passage a tad slower, or maybe that one much faster – the process of searching for the door into the music – the magic of discovering that you're there! This is it - this is how it's meant to go!
I tell her about playing Elgar - those moments when I feel as though I can see right into his soul and my own heart breaks with the music, but is filled, at the same time, with the rushing thrill of it.
“Well, we'll persevere,” Ben's Mum says, eyeing her son as he throws his violin into its case and slams the lid on it, as though trapping a wild animal. “I'm sure it will be worth it in the end.”
And I bite my lip and smile and the worms of guilt dance a jig in my stomach.
After Ben's Mum has gone, I sit for a while and wonder: why didn't I tell her all those things?
Was it just because I need the income from Ben's lessons? Is the income from Ben's lessons, come to that, really worth the hours I have spent, listening to his squalling attempts to ring a tune out of the violin, trying to persuade him that he really does have to take his violin out of its case and at least look at it, between lessons?
No, it is nothing to do with income. It is because, in spite of everything – in spite of the fact that I probably have a stomach ulcer the size of Japan, in spite of all the tears I have shed over the years, the fact that I know I will always feel like a failure, always feel as though I have missed something, never feel as though I am worth anything as a musician; in spite of the fact that I know it will not get any better – in spite of all this, I know that Ben's mother is right.
I am lucky. I love what I do and I do not regret a single moment of my life as a musician.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Kindle Book

As you may have noticed (!) I've not had much time for writing this blog recently. Though I asked Father Christmas for a few more hours in the day, there has been no sign of them as yet and I have so many projects on the go, I don't know which way to turn most of the time. 
However, one of the projects I've just finished is something I've been meaning to do for a while - putting up another collection of short stories on amazon Kindle. I am happier with the quality of these stories than I was with the last; many of them have won or been placed in competitions, or published in literary magazines though some of them are just there because I have a particular fondness for them myself! The first story in the collection is very imaginatively based on a true family story and many of the others deal with the treatment of women in some parts of the world. So if anyone wants a read, please look this book up, and by all means let me know what you think of it.
Enjoy!


www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MV2C5ER/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486563495&sr=1-7&keywords=The+Song+Maker

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween!!



This is one from the archives that I just dug out and anglicised. Hope it gets you into the spirit!


Roadsend

I was really pissed off at first. The guy didn't even have a credit card on him, just a bit of cash - all of 70 quid - and his iPhone, of course. Spent most of an evening, patiently watching this table of blokes from the other side of the pub, as they got drunker and drunker, biding my time, because they were all the stockbroker/lawyer types, I thought it'd be worth it. Even when they started calling out to the girl behind the bar, I didn't say a thing and I don't like it when people talk to a Lady like that, I really don't. But I didn't want a fight. I'd been down on my luck for a while, needed more cash. Wasn't sure I was going to score this time, but, as I said, I was a bit desperate, and so I hung around, waiting and watching and then, at last, they decided to call it a day, most of them went off in a cab, quick like, out the pub and into the waiting car, so there wasn't much I could do, but then I realised that this one guy was still waiting for his, leaning up against the wall of the pub, smoking. I'd thought I was scoring a credit card at least, he looked the type. The only guy in the whole pub who didn't have a credit card and I picked him. Said he'd lost it that day.
Still, I had his iPhone and I hadn't got one of my own. I don't have a clue when it comes to modern technology. I can just about manage email and google, but I'm not even that great with Facebook, don't really get it, though I knew enough about stuff to know that the police would try and track it, so I switched it off and put it in the back of a drawer for a while.
Got it out for the first time this morning. It's been six months so I reckon that's enough time. They'll have given up on it by now, won't they? It was quite interesting, it had his Facebook stuff on there for anyone – or me, anyway! - to see. Made me feel a bit weird at first; there were all these pictures of him with his kids and his wife, or out with his mates. I didn't know he had kids - not that it would have made much difference anyway. It's not as if I didn't ask him nicely at first - I'm not an ogre, I always ask nicely to begin with, and if he'd just handed it all over, I'd probably have left it at that. But he didn't, so it got messy, and it was his fault.
And when I looked a bit more at the pictures I stopped feeling weird about it anyway. This guy had it coming to him really. He'd got all these photos of himself up, to show everybody what a rich git he was. Pictures of him on holiday in Thailand, sitting on an elephant with a a bunch of flowers round his neck, on holiday in New York with the statue of Liberty, standing in front of the Eiffel tower in Paris, the Leaning Tower in Spain, skiing in the snow, water skiing at some fancypants resort. Loads of pictures of him sitting in posh restaurants, eating posh nosh and drinking champagne; pictures of him in what must have been his house – this huge, pretentious place out in the country somewhere. And in all the pictures he looks like he's stepped straight out of a car ad - all ironed T shirts and levis and thick blonde hair, arms bulging with gym muscles. Huh. Those muscles might have looked good, but they didn't do much for him when he found himself up against me, did they! Well, that'll teach him. It did teach him, in fact. Life's not meant to be perfect, not like that.
But looking at those pictures of his house made me think. They were just pictures of his family at Christmas, but you know, there were all these iPods, and laptops and stuff just lying around. There'd be rich pickings in a place like that. You get some people who have their houses booby trapped to the gills, but then, out in the country, people often think they don't need to worry about stuff like that. I looked at his profile and saw that the stupid git had actually put the name of his village on Facebook as well, so I thought I might as well check it out, it wasn't that far away. I was still short of cash and didn't have much to do, so thought I'd come out tonight.
So that's where I'm heading now. I'm not planning on working exactly, I'll probably just cruise round the area and see what it looks like. It's a good idea to get to know a place before I start working in it anyway. It's handy you know, just in case I have to make a quick getaway. I wouldn't want to get lost with the cops behind me - drive up a dead end and find I couldn't get out again.
So it turns out he lived in this small village, all Ye Olde this and Ye Olde that, Holly Bush Lane, Ivy Corner. Cor blimey, it's really the sort of place that screams Bank Managers, or Rich Scurvy Lawyers at you. Some little cottages but a load of big houses as well, too posh for numbers, all with names, you know. It's hard to see in the dark, though there's a bright, full moon shining so I can just make out the name of this one yeah, this one's called Daisy Cottage, then there's, let's see, Ivy House next door and The Rectory next door to that. Ah, here's Copse Lodge – that looks like his place, though of course it's hard to see much with the moon behind the house and there's no lights on. Wonder if the wife and kids moved, or if they're in bed already, watching their big screen TVs or playing on their iPods or whatever it is that kids play on nowadays. Big front lawn, an old bird table, looks like some late flowers still blooming. Big, square, up and down Tudor sort of place, with the white walls and black wood bits all slanted across it, though I'd bet a fiver it's all fake. Probably quite a bit of it is fake around here.
Some of the houses have thatched roofs, with flowers and big hedges and it's all meant to look really countrified, but then they've got a bloody great jaguar sitting out the front. It's the sort of place where you know all the kids are probably off at private schools, all smarmy in their little smarmy uniforms, their iPods in their ears.
There's a pub and I can see lights, but there's not much noise. Not like the Red Lion back where I kip, which is all Nirvana thudding out, and puddles of beer and piss out the front, hookers and their guys hanging around, the hookers all eyes and tits, their guys all shadowed faces. This is all Ye Olde Flickering Fire and Candlelight and more food than drink, bet they don't even have a fruit machine.
Nah, I have a feeling that these places are probably all wired straight to the Police station, not sure it's worth me hanging around, it's too quiet for me.
I wind the windows down and all I can hear are the engine of my car and the wheels whispering along the road, the wind in the trees. There goes some bird, an owl or something maybe. It doesn't half pong though. There's a really strong whiff of manure in the air and something else – an old mossy, stoney smell, maybe it's the smell of rotting money. This place is beginning to give me the creeps actually. In one sense, you think you could mug someone out here and they could scream blue murder and nobody would hear, or come even if they did, because they wouldn't want to get caught up in anything that might get their clothes dirty. On the other hand, it's the sort of place where the head guy at Scotland Yard probably hangs out, probably sitting there in the pub with his wife and daughters, having a nice meal of Pasta-something-or-other and talking about Opera or their latest Hockey game or something. No, there's not much point in hanging around. Think I'll just go back, find a MacDonald's, if you get them in these parts. If I go now, I might catch that new show on telly.
That's the good thing about this iPhone of his. It's got a sat nav on it, so I can just follow that, don't need to go reading any maps or anything like that.
I put the address in and that little whirly thing goes round and round for a bit and then the Google Lady finds my house and starts talking to me, all robotic lah-de-dah.Drive down Main Street, turn left onto the Ablah-de-blah.” 
It's great, this sat nav, thing. Never had one before, but it means I can just drive along and think my own thoughts, look around a bit - not that I can see much now I'm out of the village, as it's pretty dark, in spite of the moon. There are no street lights round here, it's just little narrow roads and high hedges so I have to use my full beamers. Funny, I didn't think I came this way, but maybe this is a better route.
Bloody hell, the petrol light's just gone on. That probably gives me another twenty odd minutes before I run out. Took an hour to drive out here, I'll have to fill up before I get home, but I should be hitting Aylesbury soon, I reckon, or I think there were another couple of little towns that should have a petrol station.
Oh come on! Still, more little dark lanes, winding between higher and higher hedges, now there are are trees both sides, the trunks looming, gleaming like silver zombie bodies in the lights of the headlights – oh God, what am I doing, getting all poetic? And now the wind is picking up, sending leaves scuttling across the paths, slapping onto the windscreen, and it's getting darker, where's that bloody moon when you need it? Shit, I'm going to have to pull over, check the Sat Nav, see if it can take me to a petrol station instead.
For ****'s sake! I must have got it wrong, it wasn't even taking me home! Somewhere called Roadsend instead. Probably driven miles out of my way now. Okay, search for petrol stations, Thank god there's one just ten minutes drive away, should just about make it.
Staring down at the map, seeing the little blue ball that is me, is reassuring, though heaven knows why. I guess it's just good to know that someone knows where I am, even if it is just a bloody satellite somewhere up there, past the trees and the clouds, out in the blackness of the night. There's another little ball thing now, a grey one, showing up on the same road where my blue one sits. Unlike mine, it's moving though, coming closer up behind – what the bloody hell is it?
Better get going. Back onto the road, moving fast, put my foot down, come on little Sat nav Lady, get me to a petrol station, okay?
Continue on Dread Road for half a mile, then take a left at Sinking Street.”
God these roads have weird names. Still, I don't care just so long as I get to civilisation and a petrol station soon. Don't like the way it's getting darker. Really don't want to be stranded out here for the night. The moon's gone now, covered by thick clouds. It's getting much colder as well, hands feeling stiff on the windscreen. Times like this I wish I had the RAC or something, but I can't risk calling anyone like that. Should have paid my bloody road tax.
Take the next right onto Revenge Lane.”
Really don't like the names of these places, what happened to all those Holly Bush Lanes and Ivy Corners? That little grey dot on the sat nav is catching up with me, almost level, which is really weird as there are no lights behind me, can't see a bloomin' thing.
Ah, at least I can see something ahead now, great big stone gateposts rising up in front, looks more like the entrance to a grand property or a park or something. Can't be right, can it?
Continue straight ahead onto Roadsend.”
Oh for bloody bloody. The Sat nav's bloody reverted again.
A great gust of wind shakes the car, sending the leaves blustering through the air, and then, when they clear, the clouds have blown away and so I can see, all around me, the silver silhouettes of headstones, shining like iced teeth in the light of the moon.
It's a graveyard. I'm in a graveyard.
I hate graveyards at the best of times, but I really don't like this now on this cold, black night, with a moaning wind whipping dead leaves across the windscreen, and bollocks only knows where I am. The car's really struggling as well. I need to turn round get out of here, but the petrol light's winking on and off on and off, and, Bloody Hell, now the engine's groaning and now it's dying and that's it. Turn off the engine, turn it back on again but there's no sound.
I'm sweating now, in spite of the cold. Do I spend the night here, wait till it gets light?
There's a knocking on the window and my heart slams in my ribs, but it just looks like some bloke and I've got my knife. The window's jammed so I have to open the door.
"Good Evening. You look like you could do with some help.” It sounds like he's laughing, but I can't see his face, he's got a hoodie on. Who on earth would be out on a night like this – and in a graveyard?
"Too bloody right I could do with some help. Who the Bloody Hell, are you?” I can hear my voice shaking, though I'm trying my best to keep it still, so I get to my feet. My height is usually enough to intimidate people, but turns out he's just about as tall as me when he stands up straight. The wind is blowing sharp and I can feel ice in the air. It's started to rain and the air smells of damp earth, deep earth, rotting vegetation.
"Don't you recognise me, Kevin? We met a few months ago."
Kevin? Who the bloody hell is it? Where did I meet him? How does he know my name?
What with all the darkness and the rain, I can't make him out at all. And then the rain slows and the moon's back, shining down, right on the figure so that I can see it – so I can see the billowing cloak, the gleam of bone where its face should be and the grinning teeth of the jaw. And I see its eyes - eyes that are oddly familiar – eyes that I have seen recently on the internet, smiling up at me from various photographs; eyes that I saw in reality a few months before, begging for mercy from a bloody face. But now those eyes are cold and merciless as the wind that comes shrieking around me.
Then I see the bone of the figure's arms as it raises something in the air; and I see the glint of moonlight on a curving metal blade as it comes slicing down towards me and the gaping, hungry mouth of the fresh dug grave lying at my feet.

Friday, 24 June 2016

What Price Democracy?


Democracy is a beautiful word, liquid and crunchy at the same time, a river of fairness flowing over a pebbled creek bed of justice. It resonates with echoes of history, of age and wisdom; it is a word which conjures up beautiful old Greek men and women in their marble togas, debating in a temple of peace and prosperity.

An archaic view perhaps, but maybe one that is more fitting than the idea of millions of British people lining up at polling booths? For surely the concept of Democracy was born out of the idea of people having facts, time to debate them, to turn them over and look at them from every point of view?

In any other part of my life, I tend to ask for expert opinion. If I am ill, I take the advice of a qualified doctor over a group of friends who have no experience in the medical field, I would go to a solicitor on matters of law, to a plumber for trouble with our never ending sewage issues (though maybe the latter is something I need to rethink!) Sometimes, there may be things I could fix myself, but because I run a family and work etc etc, I do not have the time to do the necessary research, or gain the expertise, and I don't think I am unusual. And yet, I, along with 64 million others, have been asked to make a decision on an issue with massive legal, economic and environmental implications. 

I have done my best to research as best as I can, dipping into the quagmire of lies and arguments, counterarguments and vitriol, that the media of this country have drummed up, whilst the people who I believe should be the experts, the people who have the details and facts at their fingertips, have spent their time mud slinging and whining, pointing fingers and making wild claims that they are already, less than twenty four hours later, rejecting.

Now that the results are in, I feel heartbroken, devastated, terrified for the future of my children. I would love to shout and scream and blame all the people who have voted against my own beliefs, but at the same time, I know that they too will have been fighting their way through life, many of them too busy to do anything other than glance at the headlines of the Daily Mail. How many of us have the time, the energy or the wherewithal, to sift through the lies and hate? How many of us have the experience, the knowledge, to make decisions such as this, on the very little knowledge available to us?

I believe that Great Britain, and maybe even the world is a much darker place this morning and all for the sake of "Democracy"?

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Remembering Music

According to Facebook, my followers would like to hear from me...not sure that's true, or if I even have any followers.
Be that as it may, I have been thinking of a series of Rants that I intend to write, regarding music education,have just been trying to pluck up the courage/ find a minute in the day to write them. In the meantime, thought I might just witter on a bit about some thoughts I had last night, which could, possibly, be connected in some way.

So, last night I was Morris Dancing with Owlswick Morris in a pub in Whitchurch, a lovely old building called, rather originally for a Buckinghamshire pub, The Swan. Whitchurch is a gorgeous village only slightly marred by being carved in two by the A413. As in so much of England, the architecture ranges from lopsided cottages with pudding basin hair cuts, cuddled up to little houses made of flapjack coloured Cotswold stone, or medieval black and white timbered buildings with diamond pane windows. Church towers, turf covered graveyards, pubs with swinging signs, stags, swans, you get the picture. Last night was the last of May and a cold wind was blowing, slanting rain etc so there was no one but us dancers in the pub, dancing to ourselves. The musicians started up a tune - Beaux of London City, which is a tune I have danced to countless times, occasionally with Owlswick and, for a couple of years, with Windsor Morris, in Ales all over the south of England. And yet, as soon as I heard the music, blowing out into the wet, grey English evening, I was transported to a place and time where the air was hot and dry and smelled of dust and wide open spaces, eucalyptus trees. Behind the notes, I could hear echoes of the call to prayer, the hum of the pool pump, the confused chatter of parrots, laughter, the clink of tea mugs and cns of 7Up, I could feel the thump of teenage adrenalin in my veins, see the inky darkness beyond the floodlights in my parent's garden. Because, in spite of the fact that I have heard this tune played so often, in so many places, the first time I danced this dance, heard the music, was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when I was about fifteen.

It is the same with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March. I have played it numerous times, most often in Best of British concerts, for instance, in Australia with the Queensland Pops Orchestra; I have sung along to it at the Albert Hall, standing squashed into the Arena with hundreds of other promenaders at The Last Night of the Proms. And yet, whenever I hear the opening flurry of notes, I am filled with the atmosphere of a gymanisum in Riyadh, heaving with drunken, homesick expats, all singing their little hearts out, to the backing of an out-of-tune concert band, in the nerve wracking days leading up to the first Gulf War. 
When I hear the first notes to How Great Thou Art, I see the dim flickering of candles on the altar of St Theresa's Church in Harper, Liberia, hear the deep, rich harmonies of many African voices, the crash and thunder of tropical storms and the swelling of the red earth as it is pounded by the rain. When I hear the Skye Boat Song, it is not a Scottish Loch that comes to mind, but the magical smell  of petrol, hot sand and wind and fish, salt water and sea weed that was the smell of Lake Shepherd, the Lagoon that lay in front of St Theresa's and the place where we had many a barricuda filled adventure in our days in Harper. 

I have heard it said that the sense of smell is that that is most closely linked with memory, but I wonder. If, after all these years, the very first notes of music can bring back such strong memories of every other sense, does that mean that music is a sense of its own? And, I know that in the past, music has often been used as a memory aid, in story telling, for eductional purposes - and I don't just mean music education here. But I feel that, in Western society, more and more, music is just used as a means of "entertainment" with a definitely small e. I know music is used wonderfully by many therapists, but is it not time to see how we may use music more effectively again, in every day education and life?
Anyway, just some preceding thoughts. Would love to hear of others experiences re music and memory, if anyone ever reads this blog after my long absence of writing...?