Single Parenting and Music Lessons

How far would you go to live a lie? For one woman in Japan, she has constructed what you might call a web of lies – but all in the hope of a greater good, for her daughter. The woman split from her husband when the girl was born – actually, the husband left and made no attempt at reconciliation or child-support. In some ways single parenting has its advantages if both parents have realised they cannot see eye to eye. The child grows up in an environment that is devoid of arguing, and possibly violence, and one parent can provide some degree of stability that prevents the child becoming anxiety and withdrawn. But on the other hand the lack of a parental figure can cause problems too. There is a lack of parental influence, but also the social awkwardness that comes from meeting peers and their parents and realising you are different.

The afore-mentioned woman hired an actor to play the part of a long-last father seeking a reconciliation. At first the daughter was angry, seeking explanations, and going through the whole gamut of emotions that one would expect her to feel. Then gradually she accepted the man into her life. There have been positives, the mother noted – she is now less anxious, more confident, and less withdrawn not just within herself, but also within the company of her peers. You may conclude that while this seems rather radical an approach, it has been worth it.

But this approach has brought in some other complications too. The man playing the role of her father has doubts about what he is doing, whether he is only complicating the issue – what would happen when the daughter has children? Will they call him Grandpa? How is he going to write himself out of the script without some form of tragedy? And there is an added complication that by virtue of his frequent appearances in the life of the woman and child, even the mother is starting to fall in love with him!

One of the problems single parents face is in giving their children attention. After all, there is one less adult to help bear the load. It may be a good idea for children to take up more leisure pursuits that are good for them, such as team sports, or learning a skill like an instrument. The latter in particular helps to develop practical knowledge in application – that is, it is not just content knowledge, but applied – and it also teaches skills and traits such as perseverance, patience, and drive, all of which help them in future life.

The Piano Teachers Finsbury Park blog has a good article on how children find practice difficult and how to manage their learning. And if you are a single parent, considering giving your children some outlets of expression – asking them to practice each day would give you a break too! It has good tips about making practice attainable and enjoyable!

Teaching as a career

Being involved in education seems a worthy thought. It gives you a chance to be involved with the future generation. It allows you to shape the minds and the thoughts of those who will come after you. And that in itself is a very scary thought. There is also a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. If the children in the school leave without any worthy qualifications that will enable them to find proper careers beyond riding motorbikes and doing deliveries, it’s down to you – or at least, there must be some responsibility borne by you for the children under your care. But of course, it is not entirely your responsibility. After you deduct the hours of sleeping, eating and other matters of daily routine you may find that school roughly takes up half the time of a child’s daily life. The other is at home with the family, and of course if not much education is going on there, then the family has to share the responsibility of the overall culpability!

If you were ever thinking of a career in teaching or education then don’t be seduced by the advertising. Just like the Navy would love you to believe you enjoy the warm seas, sand, while lounging on the beach being watched by beautiful ladies in bikinis, nothing could be further from the truth. No one tells you about the mosquitoes, freezing oceans, having to ration your eating, always feeling cold and tired, and life on a ship and its boredom, and having to submit to the will of the captain, who is God on a boat. It’s the same with teaching. Depending on where you pursue it, you could be put on a pedestal. Or you could be treated like the scum of the earth!

Teaching does not involve just standing in a classroom. You could be a tutor, teach a class, or be some form of an instructor. You could be a music teacher by day, and a piano teacher by night like this Hornsey piano teacher here. It is about packaging your skills in a different way. And after you have become involved in music as a piano teacher, a good career move would be to branch out into other aspects like piano removals, publishing, home moving, event-organising. Leverage your skills and branch out!

How creativity in the music world relates to increasing global population

How many people are there on the planet? If you were asked this question without having fully known the answer, would you have come up with a reasonable figure? What sort of figure would you have come up with? Seven billion? Nearly eight billion? Or splitting the difference – seven and a half?

The latter answer is actually correct. Seven and half billion inhabit the planet. But what if someone assesses you on the rate of population growth? Would you know how long it would be for the world’s population to reach eight billion? What would your best guess be?

Astonishingly, if populations continue to rise we might be speaking of eight billion by the year 2024. Considering it took twelve years to reach the figure of seven billion from six billion in 1999, it may surprise you to know that the population of the world increases by a billion every fifteen years or less. We may be looking at a world population of nine billion by 2040!

These of course are only estimates. And why is it so hard to assess the world population accurately and the rate of growth? One major reason is that the rate of deaths is hard to measure. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons cause loss of life, and these affect future projections. Then there are also human disasters such as war and famine that affect population count. Lastly it may also be that in some countries – especially ones with rural populations – births and populations may not have been recorded properly. What would have to do to get a correct count, and do we need it at all? Would we have to all stand outside of our houses while drones fly over to take pictures of us, and then someone counts the number of heads in the photos? (Or if they have too much time, count the number of hands and divide by two?)

An increasing global population means more competition for jobs. Those in the younger generation have to be even more creative to distinguish themselves from their peers. Of course, those in current professions that are fairly competitive are already doing it. Musicians have much competition for the spending power of fans, and also compete for the airplay. It is no surprise that the Piano Teacher Finsbury Park website tells us how they have migrated simply from the job of playing music to actually other activities such as building a social fanbase, running courses, and doing all sorts of other things loosely connected with music in order to remain in the minds of those that matter – fans and industry professionals.

Teaching these skills to the young – how to be creative – may soon become a feature in the curriculum of tomorrow. Perhaps those of us already in the know – by virtue of experience – can impart some pointers to those after us!

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.