Monthly Archives: October 2016

“I need more Patience!”

As I sat down at my Piano a few minutes ago,partly out of curiosity,and also out of want,I found myself rather annoyed that I could have gone back so much in my playing.You see,it’s been around threes weeks,two of which were spent in hospital getter nag over surgery,and a further week recovery at home.Granted,I had so much morphine in hospital that ,at times,I couldn’t tell you what day it was,or even,fr that matter,what part of the day it was either.If ever I needed a lesson in modesty,then this surely has been the time.As my time building up to my elective bowel surgery was quite productive,I rather hoped that my fingers would respond to the messages from my brain though the central nervous system.However,as much as I tried,I struggled to execute a successful C major scale ,hands together with 4octaves.Dont get me wrong,I know that proficiency will return in time,it was just my lack of patience that surprised me.

We all would like to think that we have a measure of control over our emotions,desires and thoughts,as it underpins our own concept of ourselves as rational,intelligent human beings.When we try to act in certain ways that we might get have taken fr granted in the past,it brings us up sharp when our perception of our abilities falls far too short of our expectations.This,truly,was the case this morning.Having stepped away from the instrument for an hour,I realised that I hadn’t truly factored the importance of muscle memory in playing the piano.Just to think that I could undergo a 7 hour operation,followed an almost 2 week stay in hospital,only to think that I could take up from where I left off with my music,was ,when I ruminated on it,totally crass.

As I sat in my chair and thought again,I began to see things in a more realistic way.Although it was a setback this morning,it doesn’t mean that I can’t ever regain my piano technique,but it took quite a bit of thought to talk myself around.This got me thinking in a very real way that we humans are apt to expect far too much of ourselves.Yes,the world around us tends to elevate superlatives,it backs winners,and denigrates those who dntmeasure up.However,isn’t it a good thing when someone tries to do something.Isnt it a positive that there are people who are trying to be good mums,good dads,good citizens.What I mean is this,just because the most successful in any discipline are often lauded and courted,that doesn’t mean that we can’t all have a go at something.

Yesterday,I was reminded of this fact as I walked at a local beauty spot not far from where I live here in Dorset.Why,there were many out walking ,cycling and also running.As I observed the active,and the super fit among them,I spied an elderly lady jogging along the cliff edge where we were walking,From her countenance,I could see that this was a great effort for her,with many rushing past her as if she were stationary.However,I was in awe of her as she doggedly refused to stop her very slow jog,and it reminding me that we should always show kindness to people because we don’t know the battles that they face.We just don’t know what is going on in someone’s life do we?

So,I’ve sat down to write this post as a cautionary tale in many ways.Ive learnt this morning that I’m not as modest as I might think,and my temporary Pianistic blunders will just have to stay as they are,and I will have to be patient.Also,from my walk yesterday,I learnt that we should encourage those who face a battle with losing weight,trying to adopt a more healthy lifestyle,or just trying to get by in life.As I don’t truly know what battles they are fighting,it’s better to gently encourage people with their life,cutting them some slack as we would hope that they would cut us some too.
Thank you for your attention to my blog post today.


“This Autumn Sunday,my funday”!

Sunday says,”Its good to be alive”,it’s just good,good,good,

With Autumn colours guiding our wat,we stroll to beach and bay.

Now Sunday isn’t all “sackcloth and Ashes”,as the traditionalists would have it,

Sunday is for fun,freedom,reflection,recollection,emotional migration.

As the Autumn sun almost defies the month,we soak up the residue of Summer’s heat,

Could this be the last Sunday sun?Is this the last until Spring?

We feel we needed it,wanted it,we feel replenished in its healing rays,

Why yes,this Sunday,this “Carpe Deum” treat really keeps those dark nights at bay.

So as the clocks went back,and we felt that winter dread,let’s savour this Sunday instead,

When the darkness looms over us in a canopy of black,love yourself today,and cut yourselves some slack.

My Lightbulb Moment!

When lights are switched on and you’ve had a broken nights sleep,it can disarm you.Now,I’ve been out of hospital for almost 5 days,and this level of control that we all seek is far more important than I had realised.You see,when your in your own environment,you decide the very basics,don’t you?You decide when you are going to wake up,when you have your shower,when you have your breakfast.However,when that control is taken away,it can render us all quite at sea so to speak.

Levels of control that others exert in the lives of others can affect the wellbeing of us all.Even though,in my case,the control was only to aid my physical recovery,it was,nonetheless,a form of control.When that level of control is exerted in other aspects of society it can have detrimental affects on so many others.

My motto,which might appear to be idealistic is this,”Never ever pressure anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do “.We use the term undue influence quite a bit today and for good reason.Many folk feel pressurised to please others at the expense of their own emotional wellbeing,and ,to me at least,that is a gross infringement on their human rights.

Sometimes,people feel that they should follow the crowd because that is the accepted norm.Although it might be harmless in many ways,it’s not good to put so much pressure on others when they might not feel comfortable in doing that.

In my years of teaching,I have always endeavoured to encourage children to develop their characters,and to eventually develop to personal maturity,reaching adulthood with their personalities intact.In other words,not clones of a certain type,but their person,their wishes,their dreams.To many,that might seem a utopia,but I feel very strongly about that and we are better human beings if we accept each other for what we are ,and we accept others for what they are,and not constantly try to get them to fit a mild that we might think is acceptable.

Undue influence can,and has,been a factor in many people’s lives and has blighted their lives too.Its so much better to mutually respect each other,listen to their views,accept that they are different,not better or worse,just different.

Sometimes I feel,when we are truly secure in our skin,we don’t  have a need to control others,yes,we might inspire them,compliment them,love them,but never control them.

So,from a observation about my hospital stay,my mind has taken me to the subject of undue influence,but it’s a subject that I feel is extremely important to make young people aware of.Its so easy,under the banner of what we might term “I’ve got your best interests at heart”,to exert too much control over our young people,and this I have seen with what are termed”tiger parents”In their often sincere efforts to provide a solid upbringing for their children,they have often starved them of the freedom to grow themselves .Yes,that freedom is in little things when they are younger,but as they grow,the boundaries of love are there too.Its when young ones are micro managed to such a point that their weekends are spent at various academic hot housing institutions where the motive appears to be to produce exams machines,not cuirious young people who are fascinated by the world in which they live.

By way of a personal example I would like to say this.When my son received his PhD in medical computer science,his professor took me to one side and remarked that my son was one of the most curious researchers she had even known and she wondered just how he had been parented.In her country in China,their system is a viborous one of early academic rigour.When I told her that my son had been encouraged to pursue a fascination for the branch of education that he loved,it surprised her,but that is what happened.At 3,my son was interested in how things worked,so I facilitated that interest.Yes,I would have loved for him to have continued with his violin playing,but he didn’t,and pursued science and has done so ever since.

Now,I’m not a paracetamol human,not a perfect dad either,but I do know that in the case of my own children,they have followed their own paths,and I wouldn’t have ever wanted it to be different.You see,we all have dreams,we all have designs,passions,wants and needs,and that is fine,it’s when we unduly influence to pursue something which really isn’t what they want to do,that’s when the problems start.

So,today,I switched on my bedside lamp when I wanted,eat breakfast when I wanted,and I feel good about those simple things.
Thank you for indulging me in my blog today.


“When routines are broken”!

They don’t tell you this,you know when you come out of hospital.They don’t tell you that after nearly two weeks,you start to struggle with the night silence at home,and that seems to contribute to your irrational sleep patterns.Maybe it’s common sense and I just haven’t thought about it enough.

You see,you get so used to having your blood pressure taken,the noise from the people in the beds either side,the constant comings and goings of the hospital staff that it becomes a bizarre routine all of its own.Maybe routines are like that,they might appear odd to others,but to us they become our normal.

As the days since I came out of hospital become more,the memories appear to present themselves almost in a collage of electronic sounds.Yes,it’s true now that we are surrounded by electronic bleeps from out mobile devices,tablets or PCs.Sometimes ,I wonder if we can all become slaves to them quite innocently.These sounds inhabit a part of our Brain that alerts us,that”Who wants me now,or ,I’d better get that”,and that can be a strain on any human being.Getting back to the sounds of hospital,the bleeps are often part of a system of instruments used to monitor people’s vital signs.Being someone who concentrates a lot about sound,I think that I paid more than a healthy interest on these bleeps during my stay.As I don’t love ear pugs in my ears,my inability to compromise meant that I attuned too much to their rather peculiar sonic vibrations.

So,now I’m back home in my Dorset town,I find the silence ,at the moment,at least,almost monastic.It goes back to what I remarked upon earlier that routines can quickly become apparent in our life.They happen before you realise,then they cement in our consciousness.Its like people,we get used to them in our lives,just seeing the guy in the paper shop to chat about the world,or our own views and the exchange of simple stuff really about the weather and such,and when that is gone,we miss it.

So,this early morning blog has been about routines,just how we probably all have them,need them,and want them.Those routines can involve sounds,images,things to a degree,and,in my case,they involve people.As I get older,I feel my fellow humans deserve my attention ever more.You see,I don’t really do the great themes in life anymore.My sons do very much,and their interests astound me in their scale.Im more concerned about the fact that the lady’s cat opposite is getting older and I worry about the speed of those cars as they race past my driveway.It sounds very provincial,and probably it is,but I honestly feel that the little things matter.If that poor lady lost her cat,she would be beside herself,and life would just be that much worse for her.

So,I’m thinking that we often say “I like my little routines”,or even if we don’t verbalise it ,we saying it under our breathe.So,I’m looking forward to my little routines being reinstalled as it were.When I was a young boy,the Atlantic would smash the Cornish coast where I lived,causing regular damage,and in particular if it happened in the spring high tide season,you would get damage.However,you would rebuild ,repair,and get back to your routines.To me,I’ve been in a bit of a personal storm,and I have to rebuild ,restore,get back into my routines,all beit little ones again.However,I am fighting the temptation to be insular,that default or Pianists and organist who,by the very nature of the trade,have to devote thousands of hours to practise but can ,and do,become quite self orientated.

It’s a balance this rebuilding of routine,its delicate.Maybe I will get a lot right in the coming months,and maybe I will make mistakes,but truthfully,I hope that I’m good enough.Good enough for everyone that knows me ,and for the animals in my care.

Yes,my routine is “to do the little things,devotedly”!
Thank you.



Today,I want to smell the air,observe the leaves as they fall from the tress,

Today,I want to forget the bad stuff that we deal with,grapple with,wrestle with.

Today,on this day,I want to make the most of the gift of my new found health,


Today,I want to reach out to others,smile,listen to music,share my love it melody,beat and harmony,

Today I want to be there for others,but in a small way,doing my little things devotedly.

Thank you ,and may your day be a day.

“Never tolerate a Bully!”

This strange scene that greeted me as I entered a class over 15 years ago still haunts me as if it were yesterday.For in that snapshot moment,on that grey Autumn day,Thommy (Placid,gentle giant ) Hawken was to surprise and scare the life out of me.

By way of context,it’s important to set the scene about Thommy,aka ,the gentle giant first.Back then,children were still quite dimunitive in size ,and very regular for their age as it were.So this class of ten year olds largely weighed in with similar measurements.Similar,that is,until you factor in Thommy.Now Thommy was anything but similar in weight,height,or stature,in fact,the term giant was apt for him.However,Thommy was ,until this day,placid,gentle,almost serene in the way he deported himself in class,and in everything he did.His disposition ,however,belied an underlining steal that I was to witness firsthand on that fateful day in October 2001.You see,looking back on the whole incident,I can see that I missed it,I didn’t see that underneath that huge bulk of a human being,there was a very sensitive soul crying out for respect.

Thommy excelled at Rugby ,and,in fact,all sports where sheer presence carried the day.He had been picked for the county team,and he was our school captain.All these achievements marked him out in our school as a future head boy.So,maybe I could be forgiven for not seeing any of the signs that later became evident about Thommy.Thommy played lock tight in the Rugby team,and even at the tender age of ten,he had a muscular frame that wouldn’t have been out of place in an under 15team.As I write this,I feel that I’m trying to justify my inertia with regard to Thommy,and his sensitivities.You see,we,or should I say,I made assumptions about him.Because he was good at sport,and because of his frame,I thought that the teasing went over his head.So,what many of us might call classroom banter was,at that time,allowed to continue because it was construed as just that,banter.Now,of course,with the benefit of hindsight,remedial action would have been taken before things got out of hand ,and steps would have been taken to nip this in the bud as it were.

So,back to that fateful day,and the day that would later have profound affects on Thommies life,and of those who witnessed events in the classroom at that time.It was the day when the year 5 pupils were to bring in ,for show and tell as we used to call it then,a favourite object that they had each their made,or something that belonged to them that had a very special meaning.

As the children brought up their objects one by one to show their classmates,there were the usual array of treasured brick a brace in all sorts of variations that the pupils wanted to talk about.Now Thommy was the last to show his object ,and,at first he was tentative to reveal its identity,but,after a good deal of coaxing,he finally came to the front of the class to show it.His object was in a small square box,wrapped in tissue paper.As Thommy took the object out of the box,I noticed just how gentle he was with it,just how careful so to speak.As he revealed the contents of the box and told us all about it,I noticed that his voice began to weaken,and his speech became incoherent.But the object spoked for itself,it was a Victoria cross and it had been awarded to his great ,great,great grandfather.Thommies affection for this medal,and his short speech about it,touched me profoundly,to the point that I was almost in tears.

As the bell for mid morning break sounded,the class dispersed to the playground for their usual activities.As break finished  ,and the children went back to class,I was diverted to another matter with a child who had developed a nose bleed,so I would be detained a little from the class room,but thought that the TA would look after the class for 5minutes.Well,those 5 minutes would haunt me in so many ways:as I walked back to my class along the corridor,I could here the sound of the word s”stop Thommy,stop Thommy,stop Thommy”,for in those brief moments all hell had been let loose.As I entered the room,I was greeted by my TA Mrs Giles,struggling with all her strength to try to remove him,to contain him,to subdue him,but to no avail.For in those moments all I could witness was a full blown assault by Thommy,aka,placid,gentle giant ,Thommy,reining down heavy ,uncontrolled blows onto to Phill Brewer.In all my over 20 years of teaching,I had never witnessed such violence upon another pupil by the other.In what seemed an age I grappled to get Tommy off of Brewer,but he was too strong for me,so in a moment I told Brian Booth to sound the fire bell in a desperate effort to get Thommy off of Brewer.

When finally,and with the grateful help of three other members of staff,we finally managed to release Brewer.He was in a terrible state,and was semi conscious.This scene was more like a pub brawl than a classroom.In the immediately aftermath,I felt extremely sorry for Brewer ,who would receive hospital care for his wounds.The atmosphere at that point was one of total shock as the actions of Thommy were so totally out of character to us all.My initial response was of total confusion,as I hadn’t got the previous weeks of banter and the build up in Thommys mind ,and the affect on him of what I would now call bullying in the classroom.

As the dust settled,with parents being called in,interviews taking place,we finally arrived at what had happened ,and it made grim reading for us all.It transpired that Thommy had been the victim of a systematic tirade of verbal bullying in the playground for weeks on end,but his parents had told him to snap out of it,and toughen up,but Thommy had always been placid,and never retaliated.However,on the day when he brought his prize object into school,Brewer had decided to up the anti of teaspoon nag to the point of hiding Thommys medal while I was dealing with the nose bleed.In just a blink of an eye,Thommy saw red,he retaliated,he went for Brewer and caused the poor TA profound distress into the bargain.

To conclude,although violence can’t ever be condoned on any account in any environment,I have regrets about this tragic incident and the fall out of it to this day.Now,15 years later,bullying,although a real ever present problem,is dealt with so much sooner.What we used to call teasing,or banter,is dealt with before it is rears its ugly head.However,it was a salutary lesson for me to learn ,and one that I never,ever forgot.

Unfortunately,the rules of the school were upheld,and Thommy was expelled for this serious assault.He would later join a school where he had no history ,and to which he would have to make new friends.

Thank you for your attention to my account of a past events.All names have been changed.


Looking back in order to move forward!

As the first cars and heavy transport are heard outside,my mind alerts me from a lot mg slumber.From indolent pastures,I implore myself to mental activity.My thoughts turn to my day ahead,quite selfish really,but there you are.Today is the staples my surgery staples get taken out.Will they hurt?Can I expect a soreness?Will the scare heal?

All these questions,although valid don’t,in themselves,affect my life.They don’t stop my brain from functioning,or my heart from beating.So why ask them?To me,they are important,and so I write about them,and so I write to quote Zadie Smith “to stop myself from sleepwalking through life”.

Over the last two weeks,things have hurt ,they have been sore.Yes,as a man,it might appear that I protest too much,but I’ve had my fair share of pain and discomfort.Of course,the trade off for have these staples out will be greater mobility,greater control as it were.So,from enduring ten years of bowel disease,wth a consultant who thought that doesn’t nag nothng was the option,I find myself in this place now,a place where there could be forward movement for my health.

Of course,in the last ten years,life has taught me much,trained me in its own capsule of context as it were.When you can’t change something’s no,when your at the mercy of others,there can be a sickening resolution ,an emotional numbness to your fate that can produce a cycle where your the only loser as such.Having lived through that,and having control taken away ,I can say that it’s a tough gig,a real stress.But,without having gone through it ourselves,it is a purely academic thing and no one should expect any other.

This year,I said goodbye to over 22 years of working in one school.That has been a tough time.Almost a bereavement.Many cope with that in different ways.As teaching is now a completely profession since when I entered it in 1980,I realise that old dinosaurs like me might,in many ways,have had their day.Yes,I tried to be a dancing dinosaur with my pupil centred approach in school,but the allure of the pupil premium,the obsession with science and maths,at the total expense of the humanities and arts ,have taken their toll on many a good teacher.

In my final year of school,I saw the head of music retire early because of these frustrations,I then realised that the textiles and craft teacher would also take early retirement,and the writing was on the wall.This might be the state of my teaching life,but it’s not just an isolated incident.

Up and down this country,teachers are leaving,from newly qualified to highly talented and experienced.As the light of this day sheds its white embers on this new day,I wonder how they are doing.Teaching isn’t easy,it takes much out of you,and it demands much in return.Havng done other things in my life,sometimes manual work,other times work that can only be described as “work in a man’s environment”,I can honestly say that nothing is ,on the one hand as rewarding as teacher no,and nothing is as challenging.

So,its early I suppose,its way before the pulse of the working day clicks into drive,but my mind is ready to write.For decades,these times of the morning saw me already up and about in a bid to give my children a better life,and a chance from the poverty that I grew up in.Those were testing days,those were hard times in many ways,working three jobs for six days a week.It sort of takes it out of you.So,I know what it’s like to be a parent ,I really get that,and I know what it’s like to teach children who have had a bad start in life,and it was for those children that I went to work for,because many moons ago,teachers did that for me,they saw something in me,they saw beyond the poverty and deprivation and saw my essence.

So,as 6 o clock beckons,I write this in bed with my dogs around me and I smile.My smile isn’t a sarcastic one,or one tinged with irony,it’s that knowing no smile that says I’ve done what I set out to do.As I never knew my real father,I made parenthood up as I went along,I didn’t have a manual.Last night,as I sat in my lounge in a bit of pain,both of my sons took time out to ring me from different parts of the globe,and they said that they loved me.Both my sons make a positive contribution to the world,both make a difference in the world of research science and professional opera.For that,I have to be proud of.

I’m not sure in my later years wether I really wanted to be a dancing dinosaur teacher.Im not sure wether I truly bought the onset of the marketisation of education in my country.But I am who I am,and I have always been prepared to stand up and be counted,it’s my background,character call it what you will.

So,today,the stitches come out,and some of the feelings of my life have come out too.

Whatever stage you find yourself in,if your prepared to dance and keep your integrity then I wish you every success.If your not,then maybe prepare yourself for a bumpy ride,but you will be stronger for it.

Thank you for your attention to my blog today.


This Autumn Night!

As the last throws of this Autumn Night  draw to a close,I reflect,

With what I did,I did my best,with what I omitted,it wasn’t to be a pest.

Now that this day closes its doors,to scores of voices,melodies,and drums,

My quest for closure ,my yearning for peace incased inside this Yoke of dreams.

Why if I ever thought I might do this,of achieve that,boy I should have factored in this one imperative,

When made of dust,when puny as I am,the only recourse is humility,is acceptance of my mortality.

So on this Autumn night,so soon before the “Witching hour”,my pulse starts to slow,and my energy dissipates,

Why I,like the tired soul that I am,hopes that it was enough,it was sufficient,it is “my humanity”
Nite nite,you Autumn night!

The joy in humanity!

There is a Joy you know in not knowing everything,in the acceptance that we all need others,for in that acceptance,we capture the essence of our shared humanity.As we all rubs shoulders with one another,as our mutual respect fosters kinship,we open up a dialogue that is a gift to us all.

When bigotry,sexism,and hatred threaten to rob humanity of its grace,we the ones who love,who show kindness and compassion,we are the ones that must step up to the plate.When those who through predudice would have us rip each other apart hold sway,then we are the feral,the gutter,the trash,No,we rise above the mediocre,we excel in love,in kindness,in empathy to our fellow man,fore anything less is an insurgent to out biology.

So,now ,there remains in all of us the potential for good,that quality of fortitude that isn’t easily put of by adversity.In this way,we grow into our human skin,we develop ,we learn by curiosity,by education,we cultivate our shared humanity ,and always promote and support the young,the vulnerable,and the dispossessed.

My Tomorrow!

So,tomorrow I get a new piece of plumbing in my bowel that I hope will give me a whole new lease of life.When I come to think of it,I have filled my boots with food stuffs that aren’t exactly the stuff of Michelin star restaurants.Dont get me wrong,I’ve enjoyed  my food these past 58 years,it’s just that my gut hasn’t,and has now alerted me to a potential general strike if I did not address this issue.

So that is what will happen tomorrow at just after 7 in the morning as I arrive at the hospital for my operation.So,I tell myself that its routine me,that they have done this same operation countless times before.With this knowledge,I arm myself with a positive attitude and the hope he of a life without pain and discomfort.

As I sit here to write my blog post for this evening,I know that this might be the start of something so much better for me.With about six days in the hospital,I hope to draw on my reserves  of emotional strength and show myself a resolve to get better.As the recovery time might well affect me ,I am determined to use the time in positive pursuits,and in utilising my experiences in life to move forward in life.

At times,I have been in great pain over the last ten years,and this has affected me ,but now,I have the hope of a better outlook,and this encourages me and builds me up.

In relationship to my blog posts,it might be the case that I won’t be posting for a few days,but I will be back with my own tale on my life,my music,my experiences,my likes and muses.

Thank you.