Thou shall be a fishy on a little dishy…

February 17th, 2010

When I was about 5 or 6 years old I had a really nasty experience with fish! Every Christmas my Dad used to bring home smoked salmon from wherever he’d been traveling, also that green gooey dill sauce. I remember my brother getting so excited at the prospect of allowing his taste buds to explode with the stuff, I on the other hand wasn’t too fussed but thought I’d give it a try that year. It was Christmas eve and the anticipation of Father Christmas arriving soon filled the house with magic and exhilaration!

You can imagine my disappointment when I had to spend the whole of Christmas day in bed having been ill all night long. It turned out that I was the unlucky one and had managed to have the one ‘off’ piece of fish. I ended up being this limp little no good to anyone, barely able to unwrap my presents. So, that was it for me and fish! I decided there and then that I would never, NEVER allow it to pass my lips again. I decided that I must be allergic, how dare this horrible food take away my Christmas day!

Anyway, things have changed dramatically and I am proud to say that over the last 2 months I have had Salmon, Seabass, Haddock, Cod and even the dreaded old Smoked Salmon on Christmas day 2009!

It has been 25 years since I’ve had fish and I can’t help but wonder if my body has been crying out for it all this time. I was told by both my UC consultants that there is very little I can do to help cure my illness, that unfortunately this is something ‘You’re just going to have to live with!’ Over the last few months I have been digging around on the internet and am horrified to see how ignorant I have been! I trust my doctors completely but now understand that they are like scientists who see an illness and fix it with medicine. However, there is so much more we can do as UC sufferers to put this illness to sleep, not let it control us and live our lives the way we want. I am pleased to report that I have been steroid free for 3 months and life is good! There have been small little hiccups with occasional bad moments and I am still on 12 Asacol pills every day but with my new wheat/gluten free and practically dairy free diet life couldn’t be better. Who knows, perhaps I will one day come off the Asacol too.

I never used to really care about what food I put in my body, I have always pushed myself quite hard but now I understand the saying ‘You are what you eat’ more than ever. It is so important for me to look after my tummy and treat it with respect, after all what goes around comes around right?

The Haunted Violin…

February 5th, 2010

I realise that this post may sound completely bonkers but I would like to ask you a question… Do instruments have souls?

Of course the obvious answer would be no, a violin for example is made of wood, metal and a few other bits and bobs. How can anyone be so romantic to think that somehow a violin acquires a soul over the years, silly, ridiculous!

You can probably guess where I’m going with this one, but first, I would  like to share a story with you….

I believe that my Grandmother never told a lie in her life, of course little ‘white lies’ to her children about Father Christmas etc but when it really mattered she never exaggerated or bent the truth, she was the most honest person I have ever known. I spent a lot of time growing up in my Grandparents amazing Old Vicarage, it was the kind of house you read about in an Enid Blyton novel. Right next to an old church and a spooky graveyard, you can probably imagine the adventures we all had, just like the Famous Five and the Secret Seven! She was known by all as Granny Tea Cups, not only because of the obvious but because of the delicious choc-chip biccies that she’d make and we’d steal from the larder still hot from the oven! My cousins and I all used to sit around and listen to our Grandmothers wonderful stories which is when she told us this very tale I’m about to tell you.

One evening on a cold winters night, my Grandmother, then a young girl starting her musical career, sat at the organ in the church practising for a wedding the following day. She had been there for some time and as the church warden left he asked her if she would kindly lock up after herself. My Grandmother wary of being left alone decided to lock the church from the inside after she bid the warden goodnight. She sat down at the organ and began playing Ave Maria by Bach and suddenly out of nowhere the most beautiful voice began to sing with her playing. Of course, completely shocked and startled she stopped and whipped around to see who the angelic voice belonged to. She saw no one. She called out for the person to show themselves. Nothing. After a walk around the church, checking that the door was still locked she managed to calm and convince herself that she must have imagined it. So, carefully she sat down again and cautiously placed her fingers over the ivory keys. She began again, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up and again this beautiful voice came from no-where. She immediately stopped and the voice also stopped. She felt weak at the knees for fear but somehow willed the strength to play again. The voice began, so beautiful, it soared around the church like nothing she’d ever heard. Brought to tears by the beauty, depth and passion of this voice she was moved to carry on playing. She closed her eyes, listening and even though she was so frightened she had to let this voice sing.

The story finishes with a rather bizarre ending as she was interrupted by a big fat black cat that jumped onto her lap and I think by then her poor heart had had enough for one evening so went home!

My Granny and I had all kinds of similarities, we are both smiley, giggly, curly red-heads, lovers of music and neither of us are partial to onions! Random but true that we have both experienced strange ghostly scenes which have been left unexplained. She used to say that only some have the gift of ‘seeing’. She would then look at me and smile kindly, a secret understanding between us that somehow connected us completely.

I have recently acquired a beautiful 1982 Belgian violin on loan from a recent trip to Brussels. I was wandering around the little back streets and stumbled across an old shop with some violins in the window. I was intrigued and asked the shop owner if he would allow me to try one. After suspiciously eyeing me up and down he grunted and allowed me to try an old Italian he had in the back. It wasn’t much of a good sounding fiddle but I thanked him for letting me try it anyway. He looked at me, his head slightly to one side, his eyes searching as though he was mentally asking someone a question. He told me to wait and disappeared into a back room. Moments later he returned with this beautiful, incredible looking violin, slightly rough around the edges, it had definitely been really played. As soon as I placed it on my shoulder and began to play the shop owner stood back and almost seemed to grow in height as he watched me play. His expression opened, his eyes widened and he didn’t even need to tell me that it could very well be a perfect match!

The violin was owned by soloist Lola Bobescu who recently died and it turned out that violin had actually been made by the shop owner at the tender age of 17! Lola’s family decided it would be right to give it back to the shop owner so that he would choose the next rightful owner. He was so overjoyed to hear it played by me that he insisted I take it for the next month for my recitals and competition I’m doing soon. I of course agreed, and after he took my name and passport number, I gave him my word I would look after it. I left the shop with the violin on my back and joined my friends in a nearby cafe. They all laughed that the one weekend I travel without my violin I still end up managing to take one home with me!

Since I have been home I decided to google Lola Bobescu and came across a clip of her playing the very same violin. From the moment I saw her I knew that blood, sweat and tears that had gone into that violin. Such a discipline and fire in her playing meant that she had given that violin her everything. I understand that the life of Lola maybe over but I’m sure that part of her must still be within the resonance of it’s sound. The violin was made for her and as they grew together, as naff as it sounds, I honestly believe that they almost became one.

I have named the violin Lola and now when I play I can almost imagine her standing right beside me, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up straight. Did I find the violin or did it find me? A bit Harry Potter-esc with Olivanders Wands but finding the right violin is definitely allowing it to posses you and delving into the history of where and who it has been. Who knows if this is the right violin for me but I am glad to have been a little part of it’s history and I too shall give it my all, my emotion and sweat. Lola will let me know if it really is the perfect match…


January 26th, 2010

You know what I find amazing, is how someone you’ve never spoken to and never even known can touch your life in such a thought provoking way…

A woman called Stella was killed right outside my home a few weeks ago. She was on her bicycle riding past a lorry that didn’t see her, she was crushed into the railings and went right under the lorry’s front wheels.

The reason I know her name was Stella is because of all the flowers, cards and balloons that now adorn the railings where she died. As I watch out of the window, I see people stop and read the grief stricken notes, their own two minute silence for the dead. She had a son called Matt and a sister who now believes that Stella is flying high with heavens angels. As I stood there myself a few days ago, I thought about my own sister and how quickly life could be snatched away from us.

Sorry, very depressing stuff I know but there is purpose in my ramblings, I have to try and make heads or tails of such a tragedy.

Life is so precious, a gift not to be wasted…

Jewish people believe that it is a sin against God not to fulfill our life’s talents, and pursue our places on earth. Somehow I completely understand that. We must strive to be the best we can be and try not to be afraid of it.

A group of schoolchildren, teenagers walk by the flowers and begin reading the cards. These are the same kids that walk by my house every day, loud bad language, cigarettes in their hands, rebellious. Today they are different, they are quiet while they read. Perhaps they too will take something from this tragedy and understand, if only for a moment how precious life is.

A couple with a young child stop to smell the flowers. The mother holds her daughters hand tightly, perhaps more so right now than she normally would.

Even though I never met her, this woman Stella speaks to me in ways I thank her for. Perhaps she had fulfilled her life’s work, some would say that perhaps it was just her time. She was obviously a good time girl, loved by many, ‘Simply the Best’. Who knows why it happened. One thing is for sure, her life, now shown by all the flowers and cards is thought about by me and the strangers who pass by and read. We are moved to think about our own lives and even if that’s only for a moment, surely that can only be a good thing and right now that’s thanks to Stella.

Yummy yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy!

January 25th, 2010

Hello world!

Well, this definitely feels a bit scary knowing that the words I write, the mumbo-jumbo-ness of my busy brain  is now being read by you! I’m giving you a little window into my crazy wonderful life and even though that makes me feel quite vulnerable there’s also a peculiar feeling of anticipation and excitement…

I want to make this first post quite brief or else I’ll be working at it for hours before I actually press the ‘go’ button! Just a few things you really need to know about me to begin with…. I am 30 years old and so much more comfortable in my own skin than I was when I was 20. Someone close to me told me that if I was worried about getting older then I should remind myself how much wiser I am now than I used to be. Every year you learn a little more about life and get to know yourself a little better, definitely a good way of looking it. I live in London with my wonderful husband who I adore more than life itself! He is the air that I breath and he quite literally inspires me every single day. There’s not a day that goes past that I don’t thank God for helping us find each other in this crazy world! How we did meet…well that’s another story!

I am a freelance violinist and have been playing since I was 4 years old. I still have my first violin, it’s teeny-tiny and absolutely beautiful. Nothing special in terms of make but to me it is the most precious gift I was ever given. The ‘gift of music’ my Grandmother told me, was something that came from God.  She knew I had been chosen to be one of the lucky ones to have it. Music and playing my violin has become my all, my everything. It is my best friend and my worst enemy, cliche I know, but when your career and your favorite hobby become one then it is quite literally your entire existence. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it! I feel incredibly lucky that my Mother and teachers all persevered with me because I know that I could not do anything else with my life.

Another thing I want to tell you about myself is that 6 years ago I was diagnosed with having Ulcerative Colitis (UC). If you are even remotely squeemish I suggest you skip this paragraph! Without being too graphic, I have a chronic bowel disease which unfortunately isn’t curable and it is not known why 1 in 400 of us get it. When I am well, happy and healthy I often forget I even have this illness, however, when I am poorly I can hardly get out of bed and my husband will have to scoop me up and help me to the loo which can sometimes be up to 30 times a day. In short, my large intestine becomes inflamed and small ulcers form, when food passes through they cause the ulcers to burst and bleed. Not pretty I know but I have learned that I am one of the lucky ones… People often have to have surgery and parts of their intestines or colons removed but for me, through careful medication and a sensible diet I am pleased to report that it is under control….. for now that is.

I wanted to start this blog, to have somewhere to go and vent about music, my tummy and write about the highs and lows of being a musician and living with UC. So much goes on in my head, I’d like to share it with you if you’d like to hear my story…..