Amusing Airline Anecdotes

Half term is nearly upon us, and for those of us seeking to go on a trip away somewhere which involves a short-haul flight, beware of the squirrels.


Have you read about the squirrel that got banned from a flight? Or how the horse got on in the first place? You may think this sort of weird remarks as coming from the Guinness Book of Strange Records, but they are absolutely true.

They are not the kind of anecdotes people come up with to break the ice during silent and perhaps awkward dinner conversations, or perhaps sprout to look smart, aware or knowledgeable in the company of others.

Animals are allowed on aeroplanes in certain cases. Why is this so and how is this possible?

Well, airlines recently introduced that policy in order to help passengers with a fear of flying to cope. Some passengers have anxieties about travelling up and down in a flying metal tin can along with hundreds of fellow passengers sardined together and driven around with no control – having an animal comfort companion is a way of establishing some control and taking your mind off an otherwise stressful situation.

In the past, a turkey has travelled on a plane. There are also pictures of a horse. Cats and dogs are more common. The carriage of animals has to be booked in advance of course, but even so, a woman who booked in her pet squirrel as a travelling companion had to be removed from a flight. But not first before standing her ground and having the whole planeload of passengers disembarking.

What a nuisance caused by a squirrel!

This tale may be recounted to you by the passenger in the seat next to you as a welcome distraction from in flight demonstrations. And if you are feeling in a bit of a gregarious mood, why not tell your fellow passenger about the music composer with two skulls? You can read more about Joseph Haydn (yes, there really are two skulls in his tomb!) from the Piano Teachers N4 website.

Happy holidays!

Feeling undervalued or anonymous?

Do you sometimes feel underappreciated at work or in the home? Perhaps the boss or children don’t notice because you don’t make a big deal of things – like you do many things that allow for a smooth running, but hardly get the credit because nothing goes wrong and people don’t notice? You may want to consider the case of the composer Cesar Franck, a classical Mr Unknown.

There are many classical music pieces that will be considered iconic for their genre. Think “piano” and one of the names that will come up is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fur Elise. Think “orchestra”, and perhaps the net widens to include the same composer’s Ode to Joy, although it is decidedly harder to narrow the list. Think “vocal”, and one of the pieces you might get is the Belgian composer Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus.

The popularity of this piece may be partly down to its frequent appearance in talent shows. Its popularity perhaps even outstrips the composer’s himself. Franck was born in the town of Liège in 1822, was his country’s most significant composer of the Romantic period.

Unlike some musical households, where the father preferred his children not to follow a career in music, Franck came from a very ambitious family and his father believed him to be destined for a career as a concert pianist. However, despite the considerable pressure that was placed on the young boy’s shoulders, he never quite achieved the heights that his father envisioned. And so when Franck first applied to study at the Paris Conservatoire, he had to do so not as a performer but instead as a composer.

Yet one might say that there was a certain level of irony in the fact that after graduating, Franck made his living as a teacher and organist in Paris, before eventually becoming Organ Professor at the very same conservatoire he had been overlooked as a performer at.

Being overlooked was perhaps a recurring theme – in nineteeth century Paris, opera was in favour at the moment. Composers of instrumental and choral music were less in the headlights, and Franck wasn’t seen as being particularly relevant by the masses.

Despite being known (or overlooked!) as the composer of Panis Angelicus, in recent times, a number of other works by Franck have attained popularity, such as the Symphony in D minor, Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra, and a Violin Sonata. (Panis Angelicus, by the way, is not a standalone piece – it is incorporated within a mass setting from 1861.) Franck may have remained anonymous within the general public despite the popularity of his piece. The same goes for the composer Joaquin Rodrigo, who was pretty much unknown bar his Concierto Aranjuez (you can find out more about Rodrigo from the N4 piano teacher website). Their works have endured for decades and centuries, but not many know who they are!

The significance of numbers

Numbers can be significant markers along the journey of life. Think about it; we celebrate birthdays such as the sixteenth because it means the progression into adulthood. But why sixteen? It could be that it is the legal voting age and so reaching that milestone is worthy of celebration. Another number that is often used as a marker is eighteen. But it pales in comparison to twenty one. Perhaps part of the fascination with that particular number is that it holds a particular association with luck. In the game blackjack, one of the ways you win is if your cards total up to twenty one. Twenty one is the age associated with maturity and adulthood, with growing responsibilities. Reaching that age implies reaching a particular stage in life.

As one progresses further along the journey of life, we tend to mark our progression by decades. We reach our thirties and then our forties. Perhaps the most significant marker after that is our fifties. After all, it is at that particular stage in life that we can move on part of the way to the next rung.


The age of fifty is not so much thought of as five decades, but as reaching the midpoint of a venerable century. A person turning fifty is seen as having attained a wealth of experience and has attained some stature, so his our her opinion on matters holds more weight than someone who has turned twenty one.

We can extend the attachments to number significance beyond humans to objects too. A company that has been in existence for forty years is more reputable – or viewed that way anyway – as one that is recent.

The London Underground’s Victoria Line turns fifty this month and its achievement in ferrying millions of passengers in that time is commendable. At the same time, it has opened up employment opportunities to millions. You can live in Brixton while working in Walthamstow. You can enjoy different work and recreational opportunities.

One of the recreational opportunities you can enjoy around Finsbury Park is the gift of music. If you are ever looking to learn a musical instrument like the piano, a good starting point is the pianoworks website, where you can find out about piano lessons in N8 and N4. It’s only a short hop away from the Victoria Line, but you needn’t worry about travel – the piano teacher comes to you! Now that is a 100% winner!

What do you want for your children to attain by the particular milestones?

Don’t work out what to do; just work!

When you are sat down at a lunch or dinner with someone that you don’t see very often, what do you talk about? You may find that invariably conversations stray to the subject of work, the kind of issues people face, relationships with colleagues, and in this day and age, probably funding cuts and how they affect jobs. And why should people not talk about work? After all it is the thing that most people spend their waking hours on. When you wake up in the morning you are primed for work, the travel in, the journey on crowded train rides et cetera. Some people even commute two hours to work from the outskirts of the capital, taking advantage of cheaper housing in suburbs and the higher salaries in the city. And that is two hours each way. Take a eight or nine hour job, tack on four hours of commute, eight hours of sleep (or less) and you can see how much of a percentage work takes up in our daily lives.

But what if you are out of work? Even those who are unemployed – not in education or employment or training, known as NEETS to the government, social conversations can be about work. The only difference is that conversations centre around the lack of work rather than the quality of work. And conversations are likely to take place in the virtual world rather than in the real world.

But what can you do if you find yourself in the latter situation? The thing to do is to make yourself go out and still meet people. Find opportunities to volunteer at charity shops. Because it is important to still keep maintaining that drive to get yourself out of bed, to keep up the routine of getting prepared for employment, even if volunteering is not paid, so that when a paid opportunity develops – maybe you get offered a job somehow – that you don’t get lulled into being “not bovvered” about it because the thought of getting out of bed and ready in the morning is too much.

As a Harringay Ladder piano teacher tells us, practice and getting into a routine makes a difference. Don’t think about doing something; just do it! That is a good skill to impart to children; to spend less time considering job decisions before applying for work, and to actually do the pondering after you are in the job!

Managing Content: A Skill for Life

Shubnum Khan is the face that welcomes immigrants to various countries such as Canada and Uruguay. But she is busy balancing a career as a writer and artist, in addition to a business in New York that sells carpets. When she is also not leading treks to Cambodia, she has involvement with McDonalds group in China, dentistry in Virginia and oh – by the way – she has links with a French dating website.

Does this sound too good to be true? If it does, it probably is. (By the way, it is.)

It turns out that the South African author’s image was used without her knowledge as part of a stock photo image group – that is to say, companies and website owners can use her image if they remunerate the photographer that took the photo, if he happens to own the image rights.

The photographer does.

But how is it that she gave away her image rights, and allowed her image to be associated with causes that she does not even promote? It turns out that many years earlier she had participated in what was called a 100 Faces Shoot, where a photographer promised professional portraits in exchange for being snapped.

Let’s pause for a moment here – if someone offers you a free professional shoot, would you take up the offer? The more sceptical among us might say that a free shoot, when photographers normally charge upwards of hundreds of pounds, might be enough of a signal that something is amiss. There must be a catch right? The younger ones among us might leap into the chance to get free professional photos which might help in launching their careers, with good pictures to go on CVs and websites. But there must be something in it for the photographer, right?

It turns out the photographer said it was all part of an art project, but that’s a vague term that didn’t turn out well for Khan.

Sometimes a level of shrewdness in business dealings can work to your advantage. For example, Michael Jackson did not sing the Beatles songs, of course(!), but he owned the rights to them, giving himself a large sum from royalties. (You can read more about this from the Finsbury Park piano teacher blog.)

We live in a technological world where content is abundant. Our children need to grow to learn the skill of managing information and content – not to plagiarise it from the internet, to be careful of how their images are used, and most of all, it would be a good skill to know how to speak up if in doubt, and not to roll along and accept things blindly on trust!


We’ve all possible encountered situations like this before. If you work in the childcare sector, you might find that sometimes when a child is caught out by a lie they have told, they will try to engineer the situation and construct a whole world of belief to alter the evidence to fit their view.

For example, if a boy John is said to have pushed another boy Tom, and Tom mentions it to someone else, when questioned John might be likely to have said things like, “But Tom started it”, “Tom pushed me first”, or something else to the same extent where he tries to impress on the interlocutor that it was not his fault. But even when the evidence points to the contrary – assuming we investigate further – John may or may not then contort the evidence to suggest that even if he did strike Tom, he might have been baited, or taunted in some form and that his actions might have been a reaction to that stimulus.

If it is a young child, we tend to impress on them the fact that lying only causes more problems. You end up digging a big hole for yourself and then the web of lies unravels.

John, in that case, might collapse under questioning and then burst into tears as a last resort if the weight of truth becomes too heavy!

However, what the misrepresenting of truth does is that it colours your dealings with others. If people realise you are not to be trusted, and it has happened before, they will be a bit more cautious about the things you say in the future. If John is found to have repeated that same sort of behaviour later, it might be that eventually he gets trusted less, and unfortunately in life, as he grows up, he may develop that reputation that tars him.

Of course, this is what child education has to involve. We have to teach children to grow out of that behaviour. But perhaps one of the ways to do that is by responsible parenting, to demonstrate to them ourselves that this sort of behaviour is not condoned. In the field of music, it has been demonstrated that if something is internalised, it has a better chance of being applied. (You can read more about this in the Piano Teacher N19 blog.) If we can consistently apply and model to our children the behaviour we want from them, we have a better chance of making them demonstrate it.

World Cup lessons

How did a country with four million people beat a country with over sixty million people to get into the finals of the World Cup? That is the question posed by everyone, and let’s faced it, if you haven’t faced one person talking about it, or come across such conversation while on public transport, that it is conceivable that you have spent the last month in hibernation, missed the scenes of jubilant England celebrations in pubs all across England, and have instead been living in a basement. You can’t have really missed it, and avoided all the back pages of tabloids and broadsheets chronicling the highs and lows of the Lions.

Everyone has been struggling to deal with the loss of the Lions to Croatia. But coming back to the question, how did a country with few people beat a country with an established football team and league, which is arguably the best in the world?

In answering the question, the assumption is that ratio-wise, a country with more people should produce a country with more quality players. In this case you would be right to assume England should have won. But it is not really the players that decide victory. Victory is done to a variety of factors. More of these factors can be found in Croatia. The most important of these is desire.

Footballers in Croatia have to ply their trade overseas to succeed. Of the world cup team representing Croatia, the majority play outside of their country. For those who hope to make it overseas, by being the best in the country, competition is fierce. The most important quality to succeed is hunger. There are many young people training in poorly constructed areas. Prospective footballers have to raise money even sometimes to take part in tournaments. When you have invested a stake in your own success, then there is more drive to succeed.

So it is desire and heart that gives an individual the edge. Taking a reference from a different field, in the realm of classical music, when the strings of the piano, which were suspended on the wooden frame, were switched to a tougher, metal-backed frame, this expanded the potential of piano music by allowing more notes and chordal music to be played. (You can read more about this in the Piano Lessons N4 website.) And without the electric guitar, which toughened up the sound of the acoustic guitar, we would not have the various kinds of music that we have nowadays. It was metal that gave the music mettle!

What can we teach our children then? We can highlight to them that size does not entirely matter, but quality does. It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog!

For information that sticks, look for meaning

School trips. Love them or hate them? I suspect that it depends on which side of the equation you are on. The children that go on them would likely be excited at the chance of doing something different, away from the classroom, and not having the “boring” learning, of information thrown at them that they would be forced to absorb in order to pass a test.

For the adults, it might mean anxiety at being out of the classroom, in an environment where you have little control, and have to establish control, in the face of excited students who are seizing upon the opportunity at freedom.

It is funny how adults and children have two different perspectives.

Trips are important though. They are difficult to co-ordinate, involving shepherding children on public transport to places, doing headcounts, making sure children are safe, and generally cause high levels and anxiety for the organising adults. For the children though, it is a meaningful experience and a chance to attain information and internalise it in a meaningful way.

Imagine the students reading about historical events in the classroom. They may have read about the battles in France in Ypres, or Flanders, and learnt how many people died in these battles. But to them, the numbers are just that; statistical information that needs to be recalled for the purpose of writing an essay or passing an exam. But take them on a school trip to Flanders, where you can see the poppy weaths laid out over the fields, and they get a meaningful sense of scale of the wars. Look at the scenery around and visualise what life might have been like, with bombs raining from the sky, and history comes to life and is made more meaningful. And long lasting.

We can take the same approach to anything we encounter in life. By trying to look deeper, and going beyond the obvious factual information, we can create a deeper sense of relevance and meaning. Playing music on the piano? According to Piano Teacher in Finsbury Park, rather than looking at the music as a list of information and instructions on which keys to depress, try and understand the motivation of the person writing it. Why is the music alternately loud and soft? What is the composer trying to depict? What are the circumstances behind the composer’s life? These questions spin off more thought and discussion beyond “Play these sections loud and soft”.

Meaning is everywhere in life. Meaning gives us relevance. But to find it, look beyond the obvious, first-layer of information. And when you find meaning, the information becomes more internalised, relevant, and sticks for longer.

World Cup lessons for children

The World Cup is in full swing and is commandeering the attention of both adults and children alike. Each day the group stages feature two or three matches that take up the whole afternoon and engage everyone’s attention. Children, in particular, sit enraptured with their favourite superstars. You don’t need to be a fan of a particular team to appreciate football, even though it helps – you can watch it just for the game, the love of it, or perhaps to see how matches unfold, like a sports drama. How your team – or the team you support – does, is not necessarily affected by your wins, even though it helps. If you win a few and lose a few, then your fate is dependent on the other teams in your group – which is why you will probably watch them too.

With the football game having such an impact on a short space of time, it is no wonder that kids have an emotional connection with what they see on screen, and may be affected with what they have viewed, whether consciously or subconsciously. If they viewed the Champions League game last month where Sergio Ramos tackled Mo Salah in order to take him out of the game, and escaped unpunished, they may have assimilated the message that is okay to play physical, and to win at all costs. Is this the message that we want to imbibe our kids with? It is finding a balance between teaching them to be tough, and teaching them to dish out physical play, and everyone draws the line in different places.

One of the most inspiring games was the Germany vs South Korea game. On paper, the defending champions were stronger, but the South Koreans displayed that tenacity, confidence and the will never to give up fighting that they ground out a 2-0 shock win. The Germans, who had triumphed previously, were perhaps a little too reliant on past reputations and might have thought that alone would have been enough. Some may question whether Neuer’s actions sabotaged his team’s chances, like the conductor, pianist and music composer Antonio Salieri sabotaged Mozart’s, but nevertheless it was an inspiring game because it can teach our children you should never take anything for granted, your past reputation counts for nothing, and if you keep trying and working hard, you can achieve a good result.

New ideas can arise from the old. Germany is in a transitional stage, bridging the old with the new, and maybe from the ashes of this team a new improved one will arise.

Enjoy the rest of the World Cup everyone!