Judgement vs Concern….

May 23rd, 2011

Hello! I realise it’s been 8 months since I last wrote, I have missed this place so much but there have been so many things going on, too close to my heart to share so I shall leave the past 8 months where it belongs (for now that is!) and look ahead, to the future…

The above photo I took at my brother-in-law’s wedding, I was told they are Chinese prayers that should be said when praying for family members or a loved one. There is something so beautiful about Chinese scripture, looking at it takes me back to a memory I saw in Beijing in 2000. My sister won 2 Club Class BA tickets to anywhere in the world of her choice! She took me and off we went to China (AMAAAAZING!!) Anyway, one morning, very early we ventured out to Tiantan Park in the center of Beijing where we were to behold the most incredible display of hundreds of early morning risers doing Tai-Chi. Watching them I remember feeling so incredibly calm, it was as if they had encased a soft warm bubble of energy around themselves and were just happily moving about inside it, totally in sync with each other, breathing with the earths natural rhythm. Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked! There were people dancing with fans, stretching and limbering going on all over the place and prayer writing being painted with large brushes and water on the stone paths. There was one particular man who caught my eye who had gotten to the end of writing his prayer, I noticed the beginning had completely disappeared and evaporated in the warm morning sun. I remember thinking how sad it was that he couldn’t stand back and look at his prayer and also that others couldn’t read it. It was later explained to me that the prayers were for his family, to keep them safe.

I recently had a really difficult choice to make, do I stand back and watch as someone I really care about make terrible life choices or wade in and insist they see the error of their ways? Is this an easy question or a really difficult position to be in, perhaps both. The consequences of begging someone, perhaps getting cross with them, shouting even as you see them approach their downfall is far more upsetting than standing back and doing nothing. At first that is, until you watch them plummet inevitably and then the real pain begins as you wish you’d done something more to help them. Difficult conversations are so hard to have that’s why they’re called ‘difficult’! We can’t help being judgmental when it’s genuinely coming from a good place, it’s our only way of showing concern and honestly wanting to help someone. When we are really young we rely on our parents to help show us the difference between what’s right and wrong and as we get older we begin to choose our own path and make our own beds. We end up having our own opinions about what we believe to be the difference between good and bad. I don’t believe I have all the answers to life’s quandaries and I am the first to hold my hand up and say that I too need help once in a while. It’s not a pleasant feeling to admit that someone else might know you better than you know yourself, that someone else might know what’s best for you. As difficult as it is to hear, perhaps we all need to be judged a little to keep us on the straight and narrow. Like the Chinese scripture and the man writing his prayers every day to keep his family safe, I too have to be able to actively embrace my morals and do what I believe is right. I used to think that being supportive meant saying what others wanted and needed to hear but now I realise life is too precious and the heart can only take so much. There has to be difficult conversations to remind us what’s important, we must not shy away from what we believe and try to help others choose the right path for them, one that will make them happier and wiser, even if’s a tough road to take. Surely we can all do with getting by with a little help from our friends even if it’s sometimes so very hard to hear.

And then there was no light!

September 21st, 2010

The lights in the theatre go down, a hush in the auditorium and a tantalizing anticipation fills the air as the audience wait for the music to begin…. The conductor springs to the podium, his eagerness and energy beaming down on us in the orchestra. We’re off with force and gusto for the overture of Madame Butterfly, a sound of oohs and aaahs and the beautiful eruption of singing fills every corner of this damp, cold, old and decrepit place. It has become alive with the sound of music!

About half an hour in, Japanese Madame Butterfly has proclaimed her love for Pinkerton who is later to become her American husband and they are admiring their house on a little hill overlooking the harbour. A tender moment between the two before the arrival of Suzuki (Butterfly’s faithful maid) and her ladies….. The music is soft and the sound of the strings tremolo, trembling as she realises how completely and utterly in love she is with Pinkerton then……….


Never in my life have I ever experienced anything like it! Every light went out! A very smartly dressed audience begin to mumble disapprovingly, the orchestra desperately tries to continue for an extra bar or two, Butterfly diminuendos to nothing. Silence. Nervous giggles from the pit as someone tries to do something, anything!

Finally a torch comes darting across the stage and the house manager stands awkwardly in front of everyone, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry for the disruption to this evenings performance, we appear to have had a power failure of some sort (uh-huh, no s**t sherlock!) and we are just waiting for the generator to kick in so we can get started again. Please stay in your seats and we’ll be ready to start the performance again shortly.’ What felt like a very long 10 minutes we were up and running and Madame Butterfly was able to resume her tragic love story with the dreadful Pinkerton who in the end decides that Butterfly was just for a bit of fun. He marries someone else, takes away their child and she kills herself! You’ve got to love these tragic Opera stories! It was an extremely exciting performance and the audience certainly got what they came for, wonderful colourful costumes, a fabulous set complete with snow flakes, the most incredible talent, music, singing, dancing and the best lighting effects I’ve ever seen!

Brave Face

September 1st, 2010

Bad times… Over the last 7 days I have spent 3 of those on the sofa and the rest feeling like I have needed to run to the loo every 5 minutes. An elephant is weighing me down plus a very large hippo, oh, and my heavy heavy heart. I’m trying so hard to be brave, to get on and accept that I’m really ill and just try and cope with the only movement being back and forth from the bathroom or just really REALLY needing it. It is 9:23am and already I have visited my good old friend the loo 8 times this morning, hmm, maybe too much information for you. I’m sure that this is how an elderly person must feel when their bowels start becoming uncontrollable. I am a bag of ailments! My back aches, my eyes are sore, my joints are practically creaking, my whole body feels completely old and broken!
However, at the same time that this horrible illness inhabits me some very exciting things have been happening to go with my whole Ying and Yang theory. A few days ago I had my first full rehearsal with the BBC Concert Orchestra! Some near accidents before the rehearsal began but once I had located the lovely private disabled toilet and made excellent friends with it all was good :) Playing with this orchestra is incredible and even better I’m working for the concert of a lifetime… A Prom in the Royal Albert Hall! I think it’s safe to say that I have wanted to play in the Proms for as long as I can remember! It’s an amazing opportunity for me and I’m loving it.

Only problem is my sodding tummy, dear God I hope it holds out on the night! I remember when I was little and I’d put my hand up at school  in class and ask to go to the loo, imagine it now, if a stern unsympathetic face were to look back at me and say no, I think I’d probably just rather die! There is a part of me that wants to stop time, say enough, and crawl into a hole (preferably one that has a soft, warm bed and a luxury loo) and just cancel all my work, ignore everyone and everything and just sleep! I sometimes find when something I’m doing is completely absorbing it can manage to help me forget a problem, but not this, urgh! The constant reminder when my stomach is in knots and and that overwhelming urge hits me. My legs go numb, beads of sweat prickle my brow, my lips go dry and I’m sure I must look a shade of green.
I look around the orchestra on day 3 of rehearsals, feeling so low, so tired and I look into people faces and realise that so many of us wear a brave face to hide whats really going on. No one knows how poorly I am today, I smile, I laugh, I try, I try so hard. I suppose it is comforting to remind myself that everyone has a cross to bear and that I’m not alone even when it really REALLY feels like it.

Early Warning Signs….

August 3rd, 2010

It is so easy for me to forget that I have chronic illness when I’m well. Over the last six months I have managed to keep my Ulcerative Colitis at bay with a mixture of a healthy diet which includes masses of fish, low carbohydrate, no wheat and very little dairy. The reasons for most of these things are through careful monitoring of my diet, trial and error and also research into Omega 3 fish oils. It seems that a high intake of carbohydrate just doesn’t do me any favours at all. My stomach is fine but after the food has passed through my large intestine it then gets to my colon where the problem is. Because of the ulcers and inflammation when I’m poorly there seems to be little and sometimes no absorption of the nutrients and whats leftover is liquid, hence the need to go to the loo 30 odd times a day :( Sorry if you don’t like bowel talk, I just need to write all this down to try and help it make sense.
You see, over the last 5 days I’ve gone from being the very proud, triumphant and healthy producer of some fine looking plops to well, let’s just say not anymore! There are certain things that are happening that make me think that perhaps my luck is fading and my broken colon is preparing to battle yet again…
1. Bubbles rippling around my lower gut, very odd feeling, like air trapped in a hose-pipe
2. Fatigue and a bizarre tiredness which doesn’t co-inside with the massive amount of sleep I’ve been having. So tried I sometimes want to literally crawl into a ball right in the middle of the street.
3. Grumpiness, I’m snappy and feel like I’m just not the bright cheery soul I usually am. I suppose having a sore tummy ALL the time is bound to get anyone down.
4. I’ve stopped farting! I know this sounds funny but when you don’t have proper absorption in your gut the normal waste that should be there includes gas, mine doesn’t because it’s just liquid, sorry, yuk! As a result I feel constantly swollen like a balloon that has too much air in it.
5. Sore eyes and sore lower back….

Ok, this is starting to sound like a long list of reasons I want you to feel sorry for me! This blog was always intended for me to be able to write about my music, which I’ve done lots of and my tummy, which I haven’t needed to because I’ve been well mostly. It’s really hard thinking about the fact that I’m a little bit broken and living with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

If I back track a little I should probably admit that I have been a little sloppy on my in-take of carbohydrate recently, lots of rice, masses of potatoes and I have also recently lowered my dosage of Asacol (an anti-inflammatory drug that only dissolves once it reaches my colon). I am now on 8 pills a day instead of 12 which was perhaps a mistake given by my 5 minute consultation with the specialist last Tuesday who seemed to think I was so well he would bring my dosage down. Why did he do this?? My view of medication has always been that I don’t like it! I have a dream to live healthy and happy, totally pill free but perhaps this has to change. I need to start looking at these little brown pills as miracle workers not nasty chemicals I’m putting into my body. The pills are making me well, keeping me well and unfortunately for someone who’s not too good at relying on anyone or anything (except my husband oh and caffeine, but that’s just a god given right!!) it’s just really hard to change my way of thinking.

I think it’s time I take heed of these early warning signs and use them as a gentle reminder that I need to take care of myself, listen to my body and remember that I have Ulcerative Colitis. It’s not a curable disease but I do believe it’s manageable with a combination of careful medication and a little love for poorly colon.

Religion – Music

July 29th, 2010

I often see on Facebook next to the question of Religion people often write what is most important to them rather than an actual religious sect. There have been ‘Having fun!’ and ‘Being Blonde!’ but my favorite of all that I saw recently was ‘Music’. Religion to many, is a way of life, a reason for being and living the way we choose. It has become increasingly apparent recently that my line between music and religion has become a little blurry. Many people believe that having God in your life, Buddha, Allah, whatever, is understanding that there is greatness around us and that there is something to aspire to. With every up there is a down, with Ying comes Yang and just like Religion there are always two sides to every coin.

The reason I’m writing about this is because with the busy schedule I have at the moment I have had to adopt a different way of living, a new religion… A Music-igion! Every day I wake early and get playing as though I had been called to Mosque for Prayer. I try and practise with total focus and dedication like a meditative Monk trying to reach total fulfillment. Not always am I successful in being the best I can be which leads to questioning and soul searching. I often have to stand back and take a long hard look at myself and ask the age old question ‘Why?’ So much about being a musician involves constantly asking how can I play better, how can I perform to the best of my ability, how can I make sure that I play perfectly? The answers to these questions are in fact so simple, we just have to believe in ourselves with our whole hearts and know that we can acheive anything we put our minds to.

As I stood backstage earlier today mentally preparing myself to perform at a lunchtime recital, the eagerness creeping up within me, the anticipation of not knowing how I would play, I took some deep breaths and closed my eyes to feel a sudden calmness surge through my body. I asked myself a simple question, do I believe I can do this and instantly I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be, right there!

It takes time to work out that all the hard work, the ups and downs, the sweat and tears, the frustration, the hours and hours of practising, the relationship that you must have with the music is all worth it. The hardship melts at the end of a good concert like today and you are left with the rewards, the jubilation and complete rush of utter joy and exhilaration! The feeling of knowing your place in this world, like you’ve been found and saved! By God? By self-belief? By the music? Who knows. Like I said the line is a little blurry but one things for sure, I have faith and I believe in something great, in lives deep down within me, around me and with me I believe that it will help me achieve my ultimate goal of becoming the best musician I can be.

I’m back!

July 23rd, 2010

It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago I was standing on this beach just off the coast of the Western Sahara with nothing but time at my finger tips. The feel of the sun on my face, warm and comforting, it was absolutely totally and utterly delicious! It feels like so long ago now and how quickly time has flown since I last wrote on here. Apologies to those who have missed me, I feel like I dropped off the edge of the planet for a while there but I can safely say I’m back now and all is well. A brief summary so I’ll make sense….

I watched a very good friend get married and as I wept while she spun her first dance I realised that the tears I wept were tears of loss.

I spent an awesome 10 days at Prussia Cove International Musicians Seminar and rode a life changing roller coaster ride which has opened up my ears and eyes forever.

I did a recital with the flu (I don’t recommend it!) and the bird that flew around the church as we played seemed very much like a hallucination!!

I have done enough Gilbert and Sullivan to last a lifetime, so much so that I’ve decided that enough is enough and I never want to hear another word about animals or minerals ever again!

6 recitals with my amazing husband, Aylesbury, Kingston, Notting Hill, Bexleyheath, Oxford and Waterloo.

I have bought a new violin! Perhaps my most exciting news, it is incredible and every day it gets better and better. I honestly believe that the big man upstairs is watching out for me and somehow lead me to it. I am extremely lucky.

My mother has returned home from her epic 2 and a half year expedition around the entire continent of Africa. She is home safe and sound and I’m incredibly relieved and grateful to have her home in one piece!

My tummy has had it’s ups and downs but I am pleased to report that all is well down under. I seem to have made a remarkable break through with diet and even if my consultant thinks I’m mad, no wheat, no dairy seems to have really helped. I am still steroid free, 6 and a half months and counting….

Things are going to be pretty crazy around here for a while, my busy schedule seems to have exploded suddenly and I really enjoy having this place to come and rant. So, I hope you don’t mind if I whittle away but I just wanted to say, its good to be back.

Star Struck!

March 30th, 2010

I went to a concert last night at the venue where my husband and I have recently been doing a series of recitals. It’s a gorgeous intimate little place that only seats 40 and so it was lovely to sit back, relax and listen to another violin and piano duo rather than doing the concert ourselves! The violinist is a superb international soloist and his playing had real balls, the kind of confidence and gusto I totally aspire to. Watching him, I felt completely safe that his shear force and will would carry me through his perfomance and never let me go.
As an added bonus I got the opportunity to talk to the violinist over a drink after the concert. It turned out that he met his wife at the same amazing chamber music course that we’re going on next week! After talking for a while I told him that I was on a quest to find the perfect violin. I was interested to know what the difference would be between what he had and my brand new violin. Before I knew it I was standing in his dressing room with a Stradivarius under my chin playing away to him! He told my husband how lovely it was to hear his violin being played! Talk about making my day/week/year! I got to play a Strad! It was of course absolutely beautiful, a soft yet strong silky sound and each note seemed to perfectly blend into the next. It was a wonderful experience and all for only a mere $2million!
It’s such a confusing journey and who knows if this new violin I have will be the right one. Tomorrow I have to take Lola back to Belgium which I’m really sad about but know it’s the right decision as I had been told by too many people that I might as well throw my money in the bin rather than invest in ‘that piece of junk!’ I’m worried I’m going to get my heart broken again by this new violin, fall in love with it then realise that it’s not ‘the one’. Only time will tell I suppose, I just have to learn to be patient and accept that I may well be picking up pieces of my heart for quite a long time….

Hard slog!

March 30th, 2010

Very deflating weekend consisting of two choral society gigs. Saturday was St Matthew Passion in a freezing cold church and when I arrived I was told that the conductor had left all the orchestral parts in his car, in Suffolk! We had to play from print outs, no bowings, cuts or anything marked in which meant I spent the entire rehearsal writing, not playing. On the up side there were lots of really lovely people there and my desk partner has twin toddlers so always there’s entertaining stories to be heard from her!
Sundays concert, Haydn creation was also a total flop! After a long three and a half hour rehearsal, a five minute break and still half an hours worth of music left to play due to a disorganised and far too chatty conductor, the leader called time as the orchestra were tired, grumpy and hungry, not a good combination! I quietly stayed behind at the end of the rehearsal to mark in a few extra bowings. As I sat there, to my horror, the conductor began to talk about the orchestra to one of the soloists. He descibed us as ‘ridiculous’, ‘crap’ and ‘complete idiots’ because we wouldn’t allow him to rehearse all night. The singer he was talking to suddenly saw me still sitting in my seat and told him to perhaps stop talking at which point he spun around and grinned a wide smile (I wanted to punch it) and came over and then proceeded to try and pat me on the head!! At this point my blood was about ready to boil! So I collected my thoughts and said very calmly ‘Let me give you some advice…’ I think I talked at him for about 10 minutes. ‘Respect’, ‘Disorganised’, ‘Professionalism’ he stood and listened and even thanked me for my honesty! However, I don’t think I’ll be asked back to play with that orchestra again but to be quite honest, I would rather be totally broke!

High as a Kite!

March 18th, 2010

I always think that life has a funny way of working itself out. My brother went through a phase of being obsessed with a book called ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. It’s written almost like a childs book about a young boy who follows his heart and travels in search for his treasure. It’s a fable that introduces the reader to the idea that if you work as hard as you can then the soul of the universe will conspire with your dreams to make them a reality. It’s all a bit cosmic but I definitely think there’s something in it. The book ends with the boy becoming a man and finding his dreams and treasure in a way that he never expected. The world tests him to his very limits, sometimes he even wanted to give up on his quest but in the end it’s all worth it. My sister has a beautiful piece of silk with Chinese inscription on it that we bought together in Beijing that reads ‘Life is a journey and not a destination.’ The older I get the more I totally understand that.

My husband and I recently had some amazing news that a CD we recorded of our playing was chosen out of hundreds to participate in a very well known chamber music course. We’ll be having coaching from some of the best musicians in the world! We’re soooooo chuffed to have been invited to play there as it seems that so many incredible musicians began their careers at this very place.

When one door closes another is opened. It’s not what I expected as I was always so sure that the orchestral path was the one I was meant to be on. I just want to play my violin, create something new, tell a story, and even though I’m not getting to do that right now the way I thought I would, it’s safe to say that I’m over the moon, jumping for joy and on top of the world because at last it seems that my hard work is finally paying off.

Fear and Disappointment.

March 18th, 2010

I am the first to hold my hand up and admit that I am scared of so many things in my life. I don’t mean that I’m so afraid I can’t live the way I want to but I am definitely fearful that something might go wrong that will change the course of my future forever.

I had a really difficult time 3 weeks ago as it turned out that doing 7-8 hours of violin practise every day wasn’t really doing me any favours! I pulled a muscle in my left shoulder, which, 2 days before the biggest audition of my life so far wasn’t exactly on my agenda! I had to completely take the day off and after a serious seeing to by a fantastic physio I’m pleased to report that I’m back in business again. It did seriously get me thinking though, a whole day not being able to play meant I had a lot of time to twiddle my thumbs. A massive wave of pure fear came over me at the prospect of having such a serious injury that would prevent me from ever playing again. I felt sick at the very idea. I have friends and colleagues who have suffered with playing injuries, their rugs are completely pulled out from underneath them and it is just too awful for words.

The audition in the end went really well, serious nerves involving a dry mouth, sweaty palms, heart beating at a million mph, 4 runs to the loo before 11am! It’s all good! I put in such an enormous amount of work and unfortunately I didn’t even get a look in. It really is such a horrible environment doing auditions, you’re expected to be a performing monkey and present yourself as best you can in the given time. The warm up room had sounds of other violinists all scraping around coming at me from every angle. A huge pressure to play exactly perfectly and aim for perfection! Of course that’s pretty damn near impossible but I think I did myself proud and that’s all that should really matter in the end, isn’t it?

Honestly, I’m totally gutted, deeply disappointed and terrified that I have no control over anything.