Thursday, 29 December 2011

In betweeny

It's that bizarre time of the year, where Christmas has been and gone in a flash, but the New Year is not quite here.

I always go a little doolally (sp?) around the New Year - thinking back over the previous year and plotting and looking forward to a whole new fresh start.

People may think I am a hermit, but since a very difficult Christmas period in 2006 (which actually ended up being one of my favourites), my favourite way to spend New Year's Eve is tucked up in my pyjamas and dressing gown, with a liberal supply of gin and Baileys (not together), and not forgetting Jools Holland. I absolutely love the eclectic mix of music that the Hootenanay always provides, and for me it is now a real tradition.

This year, I may be working - a possible harp gig in a restaurant (yet to find out, but hoping not, although the money would be very much appreciated). But I should be back in time to watch the chap with the clock for a face dancing round the studio and Jools and his guests getting more and more tipsy.

The dogs are settling in well. I had my first rehearsal in ages with my wonderful Matchbox friends - things were less rusty than I had feared, and I am looking forward to our gig in January.

I have been in the office today, and it was very quiet - again that strange time when all your work gets done at 3 times the normal speed because there are no interruptions. Inevitably it becomes time to tidy up all the loose ends you've been ignoring (and me being me, there are many of those!) but a great time to clear the decks for all those promises we make to ourselves each January.

I have just 2 New Year's resolutions this year

  • If I am lied to or misled, I will be angry at the person bending the truth, not myself for believing what they said to me
  • I will NOT let my friends down at the last minute if we have made plans just because I have cold feet
My year has been very mixed. Emotionally disastrous. Musically possibly the most successful year I have ever had. 

I said goodbye to a much loved Granny and tried to support my parents through this as best I could (some very deep-seated emotional issues involved for them). I said goodbye to a much loved pet - and with him went the last thing I shared with my ex husband. I realised my ex fiance would never, ever change and I would never get to wear the wedding dress (and FABULOUS shoes!) I had bought for the wedding we had planned and cancelled, but which I had hoped would still happen when we had worked things out.

Many many wonderful things happened though, and I look forward to many many MANY more in 2012.

In the mean time here is a picture of one of my new dogs, in the midst of chaos. I love it because there is a shiny black greyhound and a shiny black harp just hiding in the background.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Wowee it has been a long time since my last post! (I feel a bit Father Ted now, forgive me, it has been X days since my last confession!)

Lots of exciting news and many changes on the emotional/home/life front.

  • 2 new dogs arriving on Thursday
  • Downstairs of house has been turned inside out/upside down
  • Said downstairs has been re-plastered and mostly repainted
  • Working with a Feng Shui guide book has helped enormously and the simple addition of an outside light has changed how I feel about my house
  • Harp has been put to bed so as not to get damaged amongst the dust/general craziness
  • A change of attitude in the day job has really paid off
  • Some interesting blogs read and food for thought provided as a result
  • Beloved Bike that belonged to my dad, then to me, then stolen by ex fiance, then back to me, then back to dad, has now been bought by my uncle 
Life for me will re-start anew and afresh on Thursday 22nd - almost half of my immediate family has their birthday on this date, and it's the first date after the winter solstice, so seems as good a time as any, and I'm not sure I can wait until the 'new year' to start again!

See you Thursday!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The return of some musical mojo....

I switched my work laptop off at 5.15 today which is unheard of. I have been distracted by a horrendous lurgy for most of the day so have really been battling to concentrate on all my number crunching activities. So I gave in, having decided I wasn't kidding anyone.

I normally leave for Brownies at 5.45 so I had half an hour with nothing to do. 5 til 6pm is one of my most productive times of the day, so I often do some housework if I am free at this time. Today I looked at all the piles of paperwork to sort and decided to do something else.

Instead, I sat at my harp and began to play. I didn't warm up, just began gently and eased into it. I had a fantastic time - wobbled my way through a lightly jazzy arrangement of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (My 2nd favourite Christmas song to play), then through a beautiful arrangement of a traditional Irish piece that makes my heart fold in on itself - the Limerick Lamentation.

Next I started on some chords for a song I am working on with my wonderful singer friend Frankie - Liza Minnelli's version of Use Me. Oh my, it was FUN. I adored the song when Frankie played it to me the other week, and I can hear in my head how I want it to be on the harp.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy my harp at times - sometimes it really is a soul-destroying battle of Have To vs. Want To.

But today it was good. I think it was inspired by a fantastic night out with some really wonderful friends last night (which probably brought on the lurgy a bit earlier than it would have come otherwise) - lots of chat and catching up, and some good music at an open mic night in town.

It was alcohol free for a variety of reasons (mainly because I was driving and utterly skint!), and this provoked some lively discussion as Frankie is currently on a mission to spend a year with no alcohol. Her adventures can be found here...

Best of all it looks like we have a gig coming up in January - nothing makes me work like a deadline so this has come at the perfect time!

Friday, 4 November 2011

What makes a house a Home?

I work from 'home' 2 days a week. I'm about to start a whole lot of renovation on my house and the place is a bit of a disaster area at the moment - reflective of other aspects of my life, where everything has been thrown up in the air, has landed and now needs some careful sorting and re-assembling.

I have moved 14 times in my life - 5 of those before my 12th birthday. I went to 3 different primary schools, 2 different secondary schools. I can settle quickly and make friends on the surface, but making deeper long lasting friendships is harder.

I bought my current house with my ex husband in 2005. We bought it as the house we would hopefully raise our family in over the long term, but it was first and foremost for our beautiful greyhound to stretch his legs in. Previously we had lived in a little Victorian end of terrace, and the garden was smaller than our kitchen. He loved sunbathing there in the yard but race track options were limited.

We separated shortly before Christmas 2006, and I bought him out of the house in August 2008. Since then I have lived here on my own, sharing the dog with my ex. In June this year, aged 12, our beloved Bubble had to go to sleep for the last time. It was an awful day but it had to be done as Bubble's body had had enough (even if his spirit was still going strong - stubborn boy!).

My house is huge! I am small and tend to rattle round it.... but I am very emotionally tied here and feel it's Home. Or rather, I did. Lately I am considering whether it is really my Home. The renovation needs doing regardless, it's an old house and needs caring for as a result.

How I decorate and plan the layout of the house rather depends on my long term plans. Do I set it out and decorate to suit me, or do I do it with a view to selling up? It's a lot of money to spend and make the wrong decision, but I can't put it off any longer.

Why is it that I am willing to commit to a person, to a relationship, but not to a place?

I love where I live. My bedroom faces east, and overlooks fields for some distance. Some weeks ago, this was what I opened my curtains to. I took photos on my phone and on my camera, only the phone really captured anything like the colours I saw.

When I look out of my bedroom window, I wonder why I would want to live anywhere else. (Mind you, parallel to this on the other side of the house is a reasonably busy road, otherwise I would never have been able to afford the house!)

But really, I am trying to pin down what means it's home. Things? People? Animals? A sense of peace? I'm really not sure but I hope to find out.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Moving On

I woke up in an awful mood - mornings are really hard at the moment which isn't like me.

My car was in for a service and I had to be in the office today so got my bike out. It started raining just as I pushed him out of the garage. I thought I was OK for fuel but his light was on. While putting on my jacket, in my pocket I found some directions to meet a lovely guy from a few weeks ago who things ended up not working out with (does that make sense!). Realised I still haven't replaced my beaten up clear visor. To round things off nicely I almost dropped my bike at the traffic lights (thinking of said guy...grrr!).

I decided I'd better concentrate on the job in hand and made it to the petrol station in one piece. Things improved from there and I had a great ride in to work despite a few gulps and a couple of tears sneaking their way out.

Marco Simoncelli's funeral was this afternoon, I found it hard to concentrate at work but kept my head down and got through the day.

Two lovely work colleagues are leaving tomorrow and I am sad about this - although one is temporary as she is off on maternity leave which is exciting for us all. I will miss them both. Today I have been out for a leaving lunch for one and stayed for leaving drinks for the other.

I had a lovely ride home in the dark. I haven't had a pitch black run up the A12 in a very long time, and it brought back some very strong feelings and memories - happy stuff from better times, and less so. I'm in exactly the same kit, same helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, trousers etc. The bike is almost the same. So much has happened but I feel like so little has really moved on.

Those who know me well know that I hang onto things for a long time, and struggle to let go. I am a great one for dates and anniversaries however minor. But sometimes I think this holds me back. I tried to 'celebrate' what would have been my first wedding anniversary, but it was the wrong thing to do. I tried to make a big deal of my birthday to convince myself how marvellous things were and how well I'd done surviving the last year, but this was also the wrong thing to do and I was just kidding myself.

So time for another line in the sand. I left a lot of things behind in Spain and felt better for it. 

Here's to moving on, and making the most of my life. Ciao Marco.

(more cheerful stuff to come soon honest!)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

bye bye no. 58 :(

One of my favourite MotoGP riders - Marco Simoncelli - was killed in the Malaysia race on Sunday.

I have hardly watched any races all year as I have hardly been at home at the weekends - unfortunately I did watch this one, and saw the awful crash. Everyone knew straight away that it was really bad, and I hoped against hope that somehow the outcome would be better than it looked.

He was a rider who has had a very controversial year - some very hard passes on some other racers, and some big names at that! - but also some brilliant, gutsy riding that has had many people shrieking with sheer joy at some of the moves he has pulled off. Some have ended in a crash shortly afterwards, but some have stuck and he had some fantastic results beating the full factory riders on many an occasion.

At the age of 24, it feels so cruel that we won't get to watch him race again. In a world full of riders who have been drilled for international sports stardom since a very young age, and who seem to have lost all ability to share the joy they surely must feel when they race bikes on the international stage, Marco was someone who stood out as a bit mad, a bit crazy (not least because of his huge hair!), extremely talented, and completely in love with racing.

I have been lucky enough to do some racing, and OK it's never been anywhere near that level. But the thrill of defying gravity as you tip into a bend, and chasing and/or being chased by someone else, and the sensation of not quite knowing if your next move is going to be rewarded with a higher finishing position or a trip to the gravel (possibly even to A&E!). Well I can relate to those.

Many ask the question, is it worth it? Seeing that crash, I have to say I did wonder. But then I reminded myself of how I feel when I'm on my bike in a race, and I know that it is absolutely worth it. It's like concentrating everything down into just a few minutes, but those few minutes are so gloriously intense. They may be intensely bad, or intensely good, but there's no halfway between.

I don't have any children or other dependents. I am lucky that my family support me in what I do, and are happy as long as I am happy. We have had our own tragedies in my family (as all families do) and we know the importance of seizing every moment and not taking the future for granted.

This sometimes means I am unable to plan for the future - for me it just may never come - and this makes me overly hedonistic at times. I would love to find a way to balance a little bit of planning so I am not left short, and can do the things I want to do, without feeling that I am missing out on the present and not living my life to the full.

Marco, I loved watching you race. I loved hearing you stand up for yourself and challenging those you didn't agree with. I will take your passing as a reminder that I definitely need that thrill of racing, and I can't live without it for too much longer.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Project M

Well. At least I started my blog - but sadly I have not kept it very up-to-date!

I am back from a wonderful holiday in Spain, full of ideas, plans, goals and dreams at last. This is a lovely feeling after an extremely difficult year where I am sad to say I lost all of the above and submerged myself in work.... everything came to a head a couple of weeks ago and I am really glad the holiday was already booked as it was all that was keeping me going at times.

So. Lots of old rubbish has been left behind. I will be on a mission for a couple of weeks while the energy levels are still high - hopefully they will last longer than that, but today it has felt very wintry and I am looking forward to the change in seasons.

Project M is something I dreamt up just before I went away - well, really I have been dreaming of it for a lot longer. The M stands for a few different things - but there are a couple of things it definitely does NOT stand for! Like all the best dreams, it's big, it's slightly out of reach but not impossible, I may discover I don't want it as much as I thought I did, but for now, it will do!

In the mean time, here is a holiday photo. I took a very brave step and treated myself to a wonderful Sunday lunch. Alone. I went out with curly hair, a dress that finished above my knees, I had wine in the middle of the day, and I sat in a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon and just had a starter and pudding. I sang along to some of the music, and wrote lots of silly stuff in bright colours. Nothing bad happened (and this is a worry when I go out with curly hair and a frock that shows my legs - I hate both!). Lesson learned!

The food was wonderful, the (2 glasses of) wine was fantastic and wasn't too strong so I could walk back rather than roll/sway.

Definitely one of those defining moments and one I shall frequently cherish, especially in answer to when that question comes up - "think of a time when you were really happy"

More soon....

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Another busy weekend on the harp front.... prompting some serious thoughts on how long this is really sustainable, and whether I am just tired out because it has been a busy year (harp wise as well as on other fronts), or whether there is a bit more to it.

Saturday - I went harp shopping at Clive Morley Harps. I was there to try the Aoyama Princess Sakura and the Aoyama Vega Special. I took mine to try with them so that I had something I knew to compare them to.

I loved them both in different ways - so now need to give this some serious thought too! I'm not sure I am ready to let go of my current harp :( but really he is just a little bit too big.

Sunday - I did a wedding at Woodhall Manor, just outside Ipswich. I met the bride and groom at a wedding fair earlier in the year, and had lots of email contact with them regarding their music choices so I felt really involved on the day. The bank holiday weather needs no further comment, but they were absurdly lucky and were able to hold their ceremony outside in the Dovecote. I was slightly distracted while they signed the register, as a very noisy dove was cooing right by the microphone being used by the registrars. I was sat under the mic and it was a very strange noise. The whole front row was quietly giggling and I could see them and hear the dove! I must have been more distracted than I thought, as apparently a wasp almost landed on my nose and I didn't even flinch!!

Here are some pictures....

Tucked in the doorway out of the wind (and slightly dubious skies!)

The front of the manor house...

Looking rather smart I feel!....

Yesterday I had some rehearsal time with my mum, preparing for my up and coming recital on September 18th.

We are working on Girl with the Flaxen Hair and the First Arabesque, both by Debussy. I have done the first one on the piano - Debussy is one of my favourite composers. Last time we played together it was all a bit thrown together, but this time we are both determined to put a lot more effort in. We are hoping to put some more music together and do more concerts in the future (and hopefully some weddings/background stuff too).

Tomorrow night I have a rehearsal with my friends Frankie (singer) and John (jazz guitarist) - they are also joining me for a couple of numbers in the concert. The theme is Harp and Friends, so while a lot of it will be solo, I am also hoping to show a bit of how versatile the harp can be, and it will be nice to have some company in front of all those faces, however friendly they are!

In between all this I am fitting in a full time job.... my next weekend off is October 8th-9th so it will be a long slog until then. My heart is being pulled in both directions at the moment, both musical and day job. Lots of decisions to make but there is no immediate rush.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hedingham Castle

just a quick one, slightly out of order, but had to add this as on ITV last night there was a trailer for the new Jonathan Ross series coming up.

I played at the very same castle in the trailer on 6th August - Hedingham Castle in Suffolk.

Probably my favourite venue so far - fantastic acoustics, incredible atmosphere....the only bad thing from a harpist's point of view, and it was a pretty big one, was the stairs situation. Fortunately I had been forewarned by my harp teacher (yes, even at the grand old age of 32 I still have a teacher!), and took my star of a Dad with me. Dad was a complete hero and helped me all the way up the wobbly steps.

 and then up the spiral staircase....

then up some more nice shiny wooden steps....

to about half way up the keep, where the double windows are.

The photo in my profile picture was taken in the Banqueting Hall. It was worth all the effort, and my dad, who was listening out of sight in the basement, said the acoustics were such that he could hear every note. Congratulations to the bride and groom!

The Jonathan Ross trailer is here:

Saturday 20th August

Saturday's wedding was absolutely stunning - the church was in an incredible setting, on a private estate in north Suffolk. As I drove up the incredibly long drive, I felt like I was in Pride and Prejudice! And was it not for the fact that I was in a car, and had a double action pedal harp** in the back of said car, I could have been!

Just as I was pulling past the main house on the Sotterley estate, I was greeted by a beautiful little Patterdale terrier called (as I was later to find out) Beetle. She barked to say hello and then followed me all the way round...and into the church. The church wardens knew her very well and sent her off, so she made herself comfy in the boot of my car!! Sadly no photos of her, but here are some of my harp :)

The church is the wonderful St Margarets at Sotterley. Chatting to the vicar afterwards, I found I was in good musical company as the Opera Babes had performed at the church a couple of years before me. One of them lives in the parish.. but bizarrely, the other one lived 2 doors down from my lovely ex-parents-in-law and her dad was my ex husband's scout leader, and came to my first wedding! Six degrees etc.... what a small world.

Anyway. A beautiful and very personal service, and congratulations to the bride and groom, who were set up on a blind date by the mother of the bride. Cue lots of "Mother knows best" comments from the vicar :)

** NB harpists and other harp enthusiasts will of course know that the double action pedal harp arrived much later than the P&P era!

Friday, 19 August 2011

First post!

So. After weeks of mulling and contemplating, at last I have set up my blog.

Strings - I'm a harpist
Wings - see above. Plus my race bike is a Honda and therefore has wings
Things - life in general

I'm running away to hide from the world for a couple of days but will start properly when I have resurfaced!