hot cold

Are you a person that prefers hot weather or cold weather? It may be the case that many among us would prefer warmer climates. After all it would mean that we would not have to suffer in the winter cold, in the damp and wet of winter, and can happily go out without having to wear many layers. When you ask people about their holidays, they usually tell you that they are going to warmer climates, and are going for the experience of sun, sand and sea. Rarely is it the case that people fancy going to the colder climates – unless they are going to see penguins or polar bears!

Why is it that someone would want to go to a colder place though, especially if they are on holidays? Apart from the reasons that we have mentioned already, it may simply be that they like the wintry look of the landscape. The bleak, leaf-less trees may not be your kind of thing, but for others, it offers a kind of escape from their usual surroundings. For example, if you were from the Middle East, where temperatures can rise to forty or more degrees in the shade, in the height of summer you may be quite fed up of being baked to death and having no respite from the heat of the sun, so a trip to the colder climate may actually be a welome change!

Going on a holiday offers you a welcome change from the usual routine of work and life’s routines. When you go on a holiday, it would be a good idea not to check your emails and social media too often, as these are triggers for your daily life and if you were away, and did not take a break from them, it may feel like you have never been away at all. So when you take a break – take a real break!

And if you are not able to afford the time and expense of going on holiday, perhaps take up a new skill, such as woodcraft, DIY, or learning the piano. The Piano Teachers Crouch End website claims that learning an instrument while break up the monotony and tedium of your daily life, and being at a different pace to your routine, will make you feel less jaded and more positive. So why not give it a try?

New Year resolutions, and evolution

This is the first post for the new year, so let’s just say a belated happy new year! How did you spend new year’s eve? For some people, the period between Christmas and New Year is one continuous stretch of partying and drinking and eating. New Year’s eve might have been nothing different, merely a repeat of the day after Boxing Day. For others, new year’s eve is more of a special event, spent with family members in the living room, reminiscing about the past, playing board games such as Monopoly, Cluedo, or other board games that might have been consigned to the loft for the remainder of the year. Others might prefer poker or other card games, while others might take to the streets and public events to see the new year countdown. Normally there are events where people sing, dance, perhaps do a bit of magic, or some other variety performance, while the hours, minutes and seconds tick closer to closer towards the new year.

A popular thing to do in the new year is to make resolutions. For some it may be something such as to lose weight or to improve one’s health by doing some exercise. It is no wonder that gyms sometimes report that the period between December and January are the peak signing up seasons, as memberships get given for Christmas or people start thinking about starting afresh and doing something new in the new year. A resolution need not be something physical, it may involve something altruistic such as being kinder to others, or involve learning a new skill.

What is true about the new year though, is that in making changes in order to better ourselves, we realise that we have to evolve and cannot simply remain the way we are. Life is a process – unfortunately for those who hope to simply stay on top of things by doing them the same old way. Even things such as pop music or classical music have to evolve in order to remain relevant. (You can find out more about the latter from the Piano Lessons N4 website.)

Why not let that be one of your new year resolutions – to evolve and better yourself? You may find that this one choice covers a whole multitude of resolutions.

control

Human beings like control. Whether we care to admit or not, we all exert control over various areas of our life. We decorate our homes in the style we like. We buy things that we like, even if we don’t need them. But control does not necessarily mean we indulge in the things that are good for us. We may force ourselves to go out to exercise, either by running or perhaps by heading off to the gym to do weights, in a bid to exert control over the functions of our bodies. The end result is not necessary satisfactory. We may not like running when it is cold and rainy but at least there is some satisfaction of mental control.

But what if we are in situations we have no control over? For example, we may not be able to choose who we work with at the workplace. It may be down to the big boss who pairs people up by skill sets. In this type of situation, you could still maintain some level of control. Try to have some say over how things are done and the process of doing so. At least it would give you some sanity!

A good skill to develop control is in learning a musical instrument. Obviously, the demands of learning instruments vary, depending on which instrument you are learning. If you are learning drums, you need good overall coordination, but won’t necessarily need to have an acute idea of notation like, say for example, you would if you were learning the piano. As the Finsbury Park Piano Teachers website tells us, learning the piano involves six or seven different skills all at the same time. You have to read two different lines of music, understand what the notes and rhythmic symbols mean for each line (that’s four skills already), and then co-ordinate the hands (five) while simultaneously reading the music (six) and having a rough idea of where the keys under your fingers are (seven). The eyes have to scan and take in information while monitoring all these at the same time. So perhaps there’s your key to developing control and confidence to set yourself up for life. Learn the piano!

Inventions and music

Do you want to make a great fortune? Nowadays the world is teemed with people trying to make it big with the next big thing. Everyone wants to make a product that will be consumed and will have great purchases. You may argue that it is an evolutionary trait in humans to invent things. Our forefathers invented things to improve the quality of their lives, or also to improve the yield of their crops and farming. Can you imagine life without items such as the light bulb? Can you imagine what people would have lived like had they had no sanitation? (In many parts of the world, some still don’t.)

One of the inventions that changed the modern world greatly was the invention of barbed wire. The simple principle of intertwining wires together and then laying out these wires across posts to enclose land was so revolutionary, that at one factory, production of wire ballooned from 36 miles of wire to over 250,000 miles of wire just six years later. Barbed wire has made its inventor, one John Gates, a very rich man. Gates used to wager that his wire, however flimsy looking, could keep wild animals penned in, and often took bets on the strength of his wire. But uncannily, it wasn’t the strength of the wire, that helped popularise the invention. It was the advertising and attention brought about by these bets that brought the wire to the eyes of Americans, who were alerted to a cheap material to help them command land.

So barbed wire was an invention that had a modern impact. But inventions do not need to be physical items. They can be ideas, musical structures, and things which exist only in the aesthetic. The composer Gustav Holst wrote a tone poem, a symphonic work – rather than a symphony which composers of the past had written. But tone poems helped break down traditional structures and gave rise to a musical landscape. We would still be writing symphonies if other formal structures had not been invented.

The human spirit involves creativity. Get thinking about ideas, find solutions, and be creative while going about them!

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!

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!

Jack of all trades?

Suppose you had a guy ring you and say one thing like “Let’s meet for dinner tonight. There’s a great place downtown and the food is great and the music they play is really cool,” and when you meet for dinner there everything is as described. At the end of the evening the guy leans over to you and says, “I really had a nice evening” and when he walks you back to you house, he sings your praises and tells you what a lovely person you are and what a great time he had too. And when you probe, “Would you want to go there again?” and he says “I would”, your hopes are high, not because of the place itself, but because it is a way of perhaps saying he is attracted to you and wants to go out again.

Then the next day on Facebook (or some other form of social media, depending on your age – unfortunately my demographic preference is Facebook) you find out that he actually has a string of girlfriends and flings, and has actually a bit of a reputation as a womaniser. Of course, you might have done your research prior to going out with him. But hear me out – let’s suggest he has actually a girlfriend, or someone he is linked to. And when she asks him if he would go out with you again, and she says she actually heard him say “I would” – perhaps an undercover investigator was tailing you – and his response to her is to say, “Actually, I had meant to say ‘I wouldn’t’,” meaning that his message to you was an unfortunate slip of the tongue, then you might think, “This guy is either mentally unstable in some way, or he is a two-timing turncoat who says anything if he thinks he can get away with it.”

The problem with politics is that to appeal to a large voter base you need to be different things to different people. But perhaps here’s where a lesson can be learnt. The classical music composer Muzio Clementi was a composer, performer, piano manufacturer, mentor, publisher – but crucially, never all at the same time. You can read more about this in the Piano Teacher N4 blog.

So when the President of the United States says Russia did not collude to influence the US presidential elections, and then turns around the next day to say he meant to say the contrary, you know what to make of Donald Trump.

How many days until the next vote?

Risk; and thinking out of the box

It is hard not to be affected by World Cup fever at the moment. Every where you look, people are fascinated by the football going on. Even non-football fans are affected. Perhaps it is because everyone is, and it is hard not to feel anti-social about it if you diss it in front of people who are genuinely affected. So everyday I hear about what has been going on, even though I may not necessarily like football very much myself – or not to the extent that others do.

One of the surprises of the tournament may be the fact that champions Germany are out already. Now, as some of my more worldly football friends may tell me, this is not a surprise, and this could have been anticipated already because the signs were there. Germany are in a transitional stage and many of those who were young and experienced in winning the last World Cup have matured and slowed down. Manuel Neuer is not the first choice goalie of his team, and it so proved in the vital game when he was dispossessed and lost the ball way outside his own half. While many question what he was doing there as an outfield player anyway, there was nothing wrong in it; ice-hockey goalies routinely venture out of their goal, and Neuer, rather than making a mistake like many assumed he was, was merely leveraging his skills to pass long balls (he has a strong leg, remember?) into the penalty area. He was using his peripheral skills as a goalie to get an advantage, a football virtuoso, not a music virtuoso looking to create more opportunities for his team. At least he didn’t make the same mistake as music composer and pianist Frederic Chopin did, which was to head for Majorca thinking it would be nice in winter, except that it rained heavily and lodging was hard to fine, leading him to seek refuge in an old abandoned monastery, exacerbating his health symptoms. The football equivalent would have been Neuer injuring himself trying a cross into the penalty area!

Germany’s decline was already in doubt, my football muse tells me. If you look at Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, he has been struggling all season long and now that he has gained a five year contract, Arsenal manager Unai Emery should just try to extricate him from it, otherwise he will drag the team down like a lead balloon. But that is Arsenal’s problem. Mine is just waiting for the football to be over so life can return to normal, instead of the football circus!

Being two-faced (or more)

Do you have many faces? You might need more makeup.

Seriously though, when I say we have many faces, what I mean is that we have different sides to us. The face we show at home is different to the face we show at work. The face we show at home in front of our kids is different to the face that we show when they are not around. No one person is the same in different situations.

Take for example, this fellow Tom. In the office he is mild-mannered and agreeable, but on Saturdays when he goes to the football stadium he turns into a different person, disagreeing with refereeing decisions against his team, chanting taunts at opposing players, vociferously slagging them off. Tom goes home, kisses his wife and kids hello, reads the little ones the bedtime stories, and after that he goes out with his mates where they take turns badmouthing their other halves and complaining about women.

Stella works as a PA and is pretty much her boss’s runner, meekly taking orders, but after work she goes home and decides to go out with her friends, whereupon she tears up the dance floor.

When the people in various parts of their lives come together, they are surprised that the Tom or Stella they know is different from the other ones people know.

Is it good to have many sides to you? Yes. Your work may require you to be forceful, strong and opinionated, but maybe your children don’t need to see that side of you. Your children may think of you as generally sweet and cuddly, but they should know you can be capable of being forceful if they cross the line. Some sides of us may be less appealing than others, and we may try to suppress them, but there is no advantage in maintaining only one side to ourselves. If we refuse to acknowledge the darker side of us, we may find ourselves taken advantage of by people who bully us for trying to be to nice.

According to a Finsbury Park piano teacher, the composer and pianist Mozart had many sides to him. While he is recognised for being somewhat of an outlandish extrovert, no one saw the depressed side to him, the one he reverted to in private. Did he come under pressure to maintain the happy extrovert face at all times? Perhaps when he was down in the dumps the expectation by others that he should be positive and not feel sad might have even been a bit oppressive.

We all have different sides to ourselves, and the glimpses of others we come across may not represent them as a whole. That’s just how it is.

Get rid of disposable cups? Or the idea?

Is it a case of more being seen to be doing the right thing, than actually doing the right thing?

I’m talking about the ban in coffee cups.

I admit, I’m biased – I love my caffeine fix in the morning, in the mid-morning and in the afternoon. In fact, I have it as a nightcap.

The coffee industry accounts for billions of paper cups being disposed of each year, most of which ends up in landfill.

Currently there are only 5 centres in the whole of the UK where disposable plastic cups can be recycled.

The problem with disposable plastic cups is that they are single-use only, and the plastic coating that lines each cup to stop the liquid leaking through is what causes the cup – despite being made of paper – to end up in landfill instead of in recycling facilities.

The ban on disposable plastic cups is great, despite its inconvenience. Various coffee chains are already incentivising schemes where customers bring their own mugs, by giving them reductions, but this is usually paid for by charging over the odds for products.

The corner cafe where I live charges a pound for a cup of tea. Starbucks tea costs nearly twice that. You have to be amazed at the profits and the difference in price.

But coffee chains have to be seen to be encouraging recycling, because being sustainable is a perceived plus point. So when chains purport to be environmentally-friendly, and have a social conscience either by being Fairtrade or building schools in deprived areas, don’t be hoodwinked into thinking they care, they have to be seen as caring so as to attract customers.

Part of me wonders, shouldn’t we be trying to tackle wastage elsewhere in products where plastic plays a major role? I’m thinking, instead of tackling the coffee cup, tackle the plastic water bottle first. You get a few uses out of it, true, but certainly the amount of plastic in a water bottle is greater than the number of uses you get out of it.

Maybe we should spend more into researching thinly glass-lined cups that are more recycleable? Or design flasks that are more sleek and more easily washable?

The problem with carry-flasks and mugs is they have a hole in the lid – plastic, I may add – to allow the hot air to escape, which means they are not leakproof. Flasks are hard to clean, which is why people don’t use them. Maybe a plastic, folding cup like campers use are better for the environment?

In short, I can’t think that the spotlight on coffee cups is misdirected.

In the early days of film music, people merely used to sit with their food and drinks in the movie theatre to watch a silent movie. What cups did they use then? Everyone merely brought a mug or flask with them in their picnic basket.

If you want to help environment, target the behaviour, not the symptoms. We have to focus on the disposable culture of society, instead of the cups itself.

In other words, if you have poor skin conditions like acne because you eat too much oily food, getting pimple cream is a waste of time; you need to address the consumption of oily food first.

What are they going to do at music festivals? When you are bopping to the dance music or rocking to punk rock music, will you have a mug in your hand instead of paper cups?

The whole strategy seems rather confused.