Shopping, fuel and upfront payments

Shopping is one of life’s rituals. For some, it counts as one of life’s escapes from reality. But it would certainly be a rare occasion if grocery shopping is considered one of life’s treats – many would consider it to be one of the things you have to do but don’t necessarily enjoy. What is it about it that makes it so menial? Perhaps it is the drudgery of buying common every day as opposed to buying treats or once every so often purchases. We would most certainly approach grocery shopping as one of the things we dislike.

The advent of technology has made it easier to do our shopping online and have it brought to our homes, but despite this, there will still be the odd occasion when we have to pop into the supermarket. So imagine this – what if the supermarket, to an already disagreeable process for most, started adding another layer of complexity by asking you for a debit payment first, then refunding you the difference if you went below this debit? You may think that this is a weird situation to be in. How could you be expected to estimate the cost of your purchases before you had even walked in the store?

This is what some service stations are proposing – that customers pay up front for their fuel purchases, then get refunded for what they did not use.

The reason why this is being considered is because of fuel theft. Drivers have been driving into fuel services stations, filling their cars up with petrol, and then driving off the forecourt without paying. The theft not only costs lost revenues, but also wastes police time because policemen now have to record, investigate (albeit perfunctorily) and close the case, and there is little chance of conviction; and all these detract from the real serious issues of policing, such as violence on the streets.

ASDA’s trial of upfront fuel payments did not go well and they recalled the scheme. But it is not as far-fetched as it seems. Many people charge upfront payments – according to the Piano Teacher Finsbury Park website, some music schools charge termly fees for lessons in advance, so that they are not messed around by clients. Perhaps the next time you go into a coffee shop, you might pay twenty pounds for a coffee card, beep it for your purchases, and then top it up occasionally? These would mean your coffee purchases are actually faster!

Food for thought and thoughts to fuel your day – sorry about the puns!

Fuelling up for performance

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is well known for what he calls a pressing style. Opponents of the football team know what they are up against in theory. The Liverpool defenders will play what is known as a high line, so as to limit the progress of the opposing team’s strikers. But the high line does not merely do that. It means there are more players within a remaining space, the playing area is more compressed, which is where the action happens. The team continues to pressure the opposing players into giving up possession of the ball through making a mistake, and then then suddenly their opponents half is crammed with loads of players.

The pressing style requires a lot of sprints from the players to put the ball player under pressure, and certainly in order to do that you would have to expect they fill up and have the right amount of nutrition. What kind of food is the right kind?
Traditionally food high in carbohydrates such as pasta have been favourites. Like distance runners from Somali also swear by ughali, a kind of food that is high carb. But high carb must be balanced. Carbohydrates take a long time to break down, and the resources required by the body to do so can cause its performance to be impaired. Ever experienced the post lunch slump? What is happening is that your body is hungry because it needs calories. You feed your body by eating, but the problem is that in order to break down the food you have just eaten, your body needs calories – so for a spell it is running on empty, which is why you experience the slump. And what can you do about it? Quite simply, don’t eat when you’re really hungry, eat before you get to that stage.

If you were ever in a music band, you know that concerts can last for over two or three hours and before you get on stage you have to fuel up, and then during the break also fuel up as well in order to finish the concert on a high. But don’t be like one of the members of the band The Drifters (Rudy Lewis), who ended up binge-eating to his death! (You can read more about The Dfiters from the Piano Lessons N8 website.)

So here’s a lesson to take away – stay fuelled up for the activities in your life, but don’t binge! Just eat enough for what you need to do. And the timing is important!

Extroversion as a musician’s cover for anxiety

When you have to visit a new place, or have a meeting with someone you’ve never met before, do your hands start to get sweaty, or can you feel your heart rate increasing as the moment draws closer? Or perhaps you become more withdrawn, almost closing in on yourself as if it would help to suppress the reactions your body is giving out on order to control it – never mind that the more you tighten, the tighter and more nervous you get?

It may have happened to you before. The more nervous you get, the more you talk. In fact, there’s even a term for it called excitable verbal diarrhoea, where someone who is unable to control their nerves starts randomly spewing out words. Has that happened to you before?

Being anxious is all part of our genetic makeup. It is a reflex given to us by our ancestry. These warning signs form part of the fight or flight reflex that occurs within thinking beings. Whenever you assess a new situation, your body gives off signals that alert you to danger. These signals may have made the difference between life and death, as prehistoric man learnt to distinguish between situations to engage in, and those to run away from. Get them wrong, or misread them and it would then have meant an early grave.

Of course, those evolutionary responses have stayed with us, but they may not be so applicable now to us – there are no woolly mammoths around the corner that we have to be afraid of. Nevertheless, what can you do if you get nervous? Different people deal with it differently. The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has always been viewed in history as an extrovert, but his outward nature perhaps belied the introspection he felt privately. (Indeed, reading through his letters. you might be forgiven for thinking he had some sort of a split personality.) But maybe that was just his way of dealing with anxiety, by being extrovert. You can read more about this from the Piano Teachers N4 website.

If you class yourself as a worrier because you get anxious, just relax! Realise that the more you encounter new situations, the more you get dulled by them and eventually they will not make you anxious because they are not new.

Balancing, as told by a classical music composer

If you see someone on the street that requires help – perhaps that person displays some sort of behaviour that draws your attention, or is homeless – would you stop to help? There are some people who think this: why would you stop though? Why would you set aside all your evening downtime after a long day at work simply to take on more responsibilities by getting involved in a situation that doesn’t directly concern you? These are not even work responsibilities that would benefit you financially or help you career wise, these are areas where someone might think it is a matter for social services to deal with.

Fair enough – you can imagine why they would consider that thought, wouldn’t you? After all, you pay taxes to the government to cover these sort of social responsibilities that, if accounted for individually, would be to cumbersome to manage. If all that you were liable for was divided up and individually tabulated – for example, the amount to pay to binmen for clearing away your rubbish, the amount due to police for policing – the whole process would be too overwhelming, both for you and for the person due. The bin man would have to have separate invoices and accounts for all the houses on the street!

There are many that feel that because they pay taxes, and under these taxes there is the provision for social services, then whenever there is a social situation that needs addressing it is the job of the council or local authority to deal with it. For example, when you see homeless people sitting under railway bridges, you may offer them some loose change from time to time, but feel that, long-term, it is the job of the local authority to find housing, short-term accommodation or some other form of alleviation for those in need.

The problem we have is that our inner being, the compassionate one, feels we need to offer assistance, yet our head tells us we have to steel ourselves from helping, because otherwise we would have to keep offering financial assistance, get too involved, take responsibility on behalf of the local council – and all other reasons. In this way we breed a sort of social disconnect, which can cause mental problems in the long term.

How can we bridge these two parts? We can take a leaf out of the book of the classical composer George Gershwin. He successfully bridged the two and in this modern day is seen as introducing jazz influences into classical music, blending the elements of one into the other, until the mix was a bit of both. And so it is with our society – every one has to find a level of equilibrium that allows you to balance social obligations with practicality. Your level may not be the same as someone else’s, but you have to find one that gives you some form of inner peace, so that when we are older and flashbacks to the past, we can live with our own history.

The role of Music in life

What role does music play in your life? Is it just commute fodder? In bygone times it was used for more than just that.

Music had many functions and purposes. In times gone by it was used to accompany religious rites or religious worship. Think of tribes drumming or singing while dancing to an unknown god in a trance, or religious blessings within dignified ceremonies (such as temple blessings). In the Western world, the majority of music was written and used for religious purposes. The Catholic church’s preference was for sung texts whose words glorified God, instead of the instrumental music played by the heathen, for whom music was used for social, non-religious entertainment. The texts of the latter songs spoke of courtship, chivalry, and other themes of love, sometimes in rather vulgar terms, or were used as political satire.

This practice of music for religious worship, social entertainment or political commentary has continued over the centuries, even though styles may have diverged or overlapped and new genres may have sprouted.

In the 1960s, folk rock – a lighter sort of rock – was a vehicle for social protest. Songs such as “Blowin’ In the Wind”, “I Ain’t Marching Any More”, and “A Change is Gonna Come” gained popularity in America because they voiced sentiments to the issues of the time such as America’s participation in the Vietnam War, and the lack of civil rights of African Americans. Closer to England, punk rock songs such as “God Save the Queen” demonstrated opposition to the monarchy.

But it is not necessarily the words to music that can serve as a form of protest. Protest need not manifest itself in the lyrics. The performance of music in itself can serve as a form of opposition. Think the words of Verdi’s Requiem Mass. The Latin text to the Mass setting has nothing that screams “protest”. But in 1942, the score was smuggled into a Nazi concentration camp in the Czech Republic and the prisoners of war, learning the music under the guidance of the former composer and conductor Rafael Shachter, continually came together to perform the music in an act of spiritual resistance, immersing themselves in the art and forgetting temporarily the harsh realities of ghetto life and deportations. For the 150 or so prisoners of war, coming together to learn the music and perform it allowed them to find the strength to cope with the loss of freedom. And even as the numbers dwindled with deportations to Auschwitz, the Requiem was performed sixteen times. “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say,” one prisoner-of-war remarked. (One wonders if they tried the revolutionary arias of Verdi or Rossini operas.)

In war-torn Yugoslavia, the ethnic struggles in Sarajevo in 1992 and the innocent killing of 22 civilians by a mortar round as they waited in a food queue prompted cellist Vedran Smailovic to play Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor for twenty-two days, one day for each member of the dead, as a silent mark of respect, in the vicinity of ruined buildings and in full defiance of the snipers with their crosshairs fixed on him. The Sarajevo String Quartet, would likewise present the city with 206 concert during the siege which lasted four years, continually uplifting the inhabitants of the city, even though the two original violinists lost their lives. It was a statement of defiance, not just to the oppresors, but a resolute stand to continue to live with dignity despite the circumstances.

The French composer Olivier Messiaen, who died in 1992, was thirty-one and a prisoner of war when he wrote his Quatuor pour la fin du temps – Quartet for the End of Time. When France fell to the Germans in 1940 he had been rounded up and deported to a German camp located some seventy miles east of Dresden, where his fellow prisoners in Stalag VIII-A included a clarinettist, Henri Akoka; a violinist, Jean le Boulaire; and a cellist, Étienne Pasquier.

Messiaen somehow managed to procure some paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic German guard and put together a work that features an unusual quartet – clarinet, violin, piano, cello – which presents challenges in blending sounds and balance. But those were the instruments at Messiaen’s disposal in the camp. Playing battered, makeshift and out-of-tune instruments outdoors in the falling rain and the snow on the ground, the musicians premiered the work on the evening of 15 January 1941 for fellow prisoners of war, which included French, German, Polish and Czech men from all strata of society, huddled together in their threadbare uniforms, on which was stitched ‘K. G.’ or ‘Kriegsgefangene’ (meaning prisoner of war) in a silent demonstration of hope against their current circumstances.

Does looking at music this context give it more life than mere mindless entertainment while on your commute?

Perhaps you can give more meaning to music in your life through learning a music instrument and making it more relevant. For piano lessons in N4, get in touch with the pianoWorks website and give your life a fresh direction.

Would you rent office wear?

What do you do when you need an outfit for a special occasion? It may be an event such as a graduation party, or a wedding, or another social event such as a birthday party, or maybe something as posh as heading off to Ascot’s? Chances are that if you haven’t already got an outfit for these sort of occasions, you may perceive the cost of obtaining a one-off outfit, one that you are unlikely to use frequently, as too expensive. You would probably head down to a clothing rental shop, and pick something that you could rent just for the event itself, and then return it when you have no further use for the garment. Depending on what you are renting, and the duration you require it for, you may find that you end up paying perhaps a tenth of the cost of what it would be if you were to purchase a completely new outfit.

Now if you do the maths you may question then – would it be worth it then, if you were to buy an item that you might get ten wears out of? An item that you might use on a number of occasions, such that after the tenth occasion you would have broken even?

The economics of cost that one has to factor in is that you are not actually paying a tenth of the cost when you rent a garment instead of buy one; you are paying for the cost of the maintenance of the garment itself. Because after you have rented some formal wear, the company has to clean the outfit using special chemicals and procedures. Conversely, if you were picking an outfit to rent, you would expect that the outfit would be new, clean, and not bearing the sweaty hallmarks and smells of the hen night when it was last out?

There are some market players who are considering making the move towards targeting people to rent daily office wear. The reason they give is that it is more environmentally friendly to provide one garment for many people (cleaning it between individuals, of course) then for many people to buy one of the same outfit each and then wear it sparingly.

The classical composer Joseph Haydn worked in the courts of Esterhazy in his adult life, but for much of his childhood he was always teased and bullied for being scruffy. (You can read more about Haydn in the Piano Teacher Muswell Hill website, and learn other trivia – including why his tomb contains two skulls.) It is unlikely that someone like him would have benefitted from renting his workplace outfits, as he would probably wear one until it was threadbare, but maybe in future times will change? Perhaps later generations will find it amazing we even owned our own clothes, and the rental market for clothing might take off!

How generalisations become beliefs, and hamper

We often hear people decry their own inability at Mathematics with statements such as “I’m not good with numbers.” It is almost fashionable to have a handicap at something – like how teenagers from time to time may claim they have a physical injury that affects their ability. The problem with using generalisations such as “not good with numbers”, or “I’m more artistic than scientific” is that we use them as knee-jerk explanations whenever we encounter the first sign of difficulty at learning a new skill. The result is that if this kind of thinking is left unchecked, you could develop a huge tangential swerve around an area of knowledge to avoid it, which sometimes even requires more time than the actual need to address the information head on and develop the skills to manage it.

Imagine this stereotypical scenario. A child’s room is not in the condition we expect it to be. But when asked to tidy up the mess, a child may resort to statements such as “I’ve had a long day” to explain off the lack of willingness to attempt a clean-up. If we indulge this slightly, by giving the child a short rest before repeating the request, we might end up with a succession of reasons of why the effort to tidy up the room can not be mustered. The cumulative effort of thought and creativity to come up with reasons to avoid the work can eventually outweigh the energy needed to do it in the first place.

We procrastinate, and the reasons we give to justify these are generalisations we hear every day, as if these lend credence.
Over the past decades there have been various studies into belief systems and event career paths of adolescents and young adults. A common theme was how, at critical junctures of their lives, students made career choices based on generalisations they had come to accept over time as true. For example, students avoided engineering professions because they had believed themselves not to be good at Mathematics, and had built up a whole belief system around this.

Extra-curricular activities and participation in other clubs might help. The non-result oriented clubs, particularly ones where the cultivation and development of a skill such as art or music teach patience and the value of hard work. But we must be aware that the participation in such activities does not in itself become an area where false generalisations become beliefs. When playing the piano, the teacher has to address false assumptions influencing abilty such as “I’m right-handed” (and therefore am bad with my left), “I play by ear” (and hence cannot read music) or “I have bad coordination” (and therefore cannot play with both hands, but am able to simultaneous talk to you while checking my email as we walk down the street together.)

And if you are considering piano lessons, and live in Muswell Hill N10, why not get in touch with a Muswell Hill piano teacher? You learn from the music you like and learn how to learn – life skills which are transferable to other sectors of life.

The Blue Line turns 50!

Can you believe that the London Underground Victoria line is going to be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year? That’s right, the celebrated blue line will have been running for five decades since construction was undertaken between the first section from Walthamstow Central to Highbury and Islington. (The later stations to Brixton were gradually added as the station line was extended.) So what are the treasures you can see if you decide to take the line southwards?

One of the treasures you can see at Walthamstow Central is Vestry House Museum. Just a short walk away from the station itself, you can have a look inside the museum itself, which used to be a workhouse. The building, which was built in the eighteenth century, is a rich display of local history. There is a costume gallery and you can have a taste of what Victorian life was like. The best thing of all is that it’s free! This is a wonderful place to take the kids.

For those of us that are older – well, young adults really – Tottenham Hale might be your place to be. If you are into the nightlife, you might want to head up to Styx. Up sticks to Styx as they say! It has a good music scene, and has been described as an edgy music venue. Certainly not boring! You are guaranteed a good night out there. They run different club nights and also has alternative theatre shows. And just what exactly is an alternative theatre show? Not spoiling it, you’ll just have to head down to see it. And while you’re there, get down and munch on their tasty pizzas. The entry price depends on the night, so check it out before you head there.

A few stops down the line from Tottenham Hale is Finsbury Park. Finsbury Park was formerly known as Brownswood Park and is a great place to bring the kids when the sun is out. Thee are many playgrounds for them to enjoy playing at and when they get tired, you can take them to the cafe for a tasty snack. But what if the weather is not so good? There are many things to do around the area too. You can visit the theatre around the station, or Seven Sisters Road contains a wide array of shops guaranteed to tickle your fancy.

You are indeed blessed if you live around the Finsbury Park area – it is one of the established places with good transport links. There are places for artistic and health development. Gyms, theatre classes and music classes abound.. And if you are looking to start music lessons like learning the piano, why not get in touch with pianoWorks? A tutor visits your house and you get to play music suitably adapted, and music you like. Get in touch via the above link and learn a skill for life!

Are you an early riser?

How quickly do you wake up in the morning? Are you the kind of person that springs out of bed before your phone alarm has had the opportunity to vibrate three times? Do you ever need a backup alarm that you never use? (By backup alarm, I mean setting an additional one, say a proper, real, alarm clock that you have in case your phone runs out of charge or something like that?) Do you never give the backup alarm the opportunity to get tested because you are out before the first alarm has run its course?

Some of us are like that and will know people like that. Others may confess to be perpetual snoozers, hitting the snooze button so many times each morning that after a few months there may be a noticeable dent on the snooze button. One of the inventions built to counter this love for snoozing was the running alarm clock, sort of like an alarm on wheels which would just move away and induce you to get out of bed in order to turn it off, although I have to say, if you were the snoozing type, you probably would not have had the self discipline to stick to using this alarm clock.

Your will and drive to get up in the morning may pretty much depend on what you are getting up for. If it is something worthwhile, you will want to be up for it. But if it is seen to be something routine and mundane, then maybe not. Case in point – look at teenagers. On most mornings they will have problems or difficulties getting up for school, because they will complain it is too early. Yet in the holidays, when they have all the time in the world to do what they want, and time is at their disposal, they may get up early and have no difficulty arising to continue playing computer games even if they may have gone to bed late that previous night.

So what does this demonstrate? The importance of finding a career you are passionate about.

The composer Igor Stravinsky had strong ideas about the direction of music which sustained his creative drive over many decades of work. While he started out writing “nice” tunes in the previous existant style, his music style took a new direction with The Rite of Spring, a work which was not quite well-received initially but has since been recognised for its impact of Western music (learn more about this from the Crouch End Piano Teacher website. Surely his drive and thoughts about music, despite the opposition around him, would have kept him going. And you know what? He was notoriously an early riser, getting up before down to compose music!

Using Social to your advantage

Some people will attest to this fact: Your choice of social media reflects the generation you were born in, and hence your age group. Is there any truth in that? Well, perhaps. But this only works on the assumption that you stick with one brand for life. It assumes you are likely to go with the predominant brands of your time, then build up your followers and your profile as you go along, and then before you know it, you will have established connections with like minded individuals as yourself, enjoying the clique of a core group, and leaving the social media platform means abandoning the friends you have amassed and essentially cutting a big part of your life.

Depending on how much you have time you have spent – this could be anything from a few hours to a few months – it could be hard to break away. Even when you are straining to make a new start, you could feel really feel the pull increasing. Or as they say, the more you pull against the strain, the more you strain against the pull.

Social media is captivating and once you are entrenched in it, it is difficult to get out of its seductive pull. Some people use it as an opportunity to promote their work to an audience that has similar interests. After all, you have already connected with people with similar interests to yourself. It is then easy to promote products you might create yourself, such as if you were an author and wanted to promote books to your followers. You might even earn money from affiliate marketing, pushing other people’s products. Or you could be a social media influencer, purporting to use certain products and claiming to have a level of success, inspiring others to jealously follow you to emulate the success in your life. Social media influencing is really advertising by stealth.

Social media might enable someone to have a chance encounter with whatever business product you are offering. And that chance encounter may develop into a lifelong passion. Did you know that the composer Leonard Bernstein would not have gone down the classical music route had it not been a chance encounter with a piano in his younger years? From then on he was hooked. You can read more about this in the Muswell Hill Piano Teacher blog. Someone might encounter you on social media via a follower you already have, and likewise you might meet someone who may enhance your business, or offer you a service that will reduce your costs, so remember to devote your time and manage your social media to your advantage!