My first digital painting!

galbraith sketchI’ve done it!!! I’ve finally created a digital painting that I’m pleased with.

I’ve been wanting to have a go at digital painting for years but was too intimidated to try. Although my drawing can be quite reasonable, I’m not too confident with colour. I have also been intimidated by using a graphics tablet and stylus.

A few weeks ago, I plucked up the courage to read the book that I bought (years ago)on the subject, took some reference shots and gave it a go. It was an unmitigated disaster, I couldn’t control the stylus and my colours were all over the place. I gave it all up as a bad job. Then, last night, something persuaded me to have another try. I checked out a tutorial by a chap called Daarken, his technique was to first create an amorphous blob in the vague shape of what he wanted and refine from there. His work tends to have a sketchy feel, which I quite like and have always wanted to create. I have a tendency to get too fussy with my drawing and want to put in every detail, which then stifles the work.

I chose Terry’s Empire character, Galbraith, as a subject. I got a bunch of reference photos of him as well as googled references for his sword and armour.

I really liked the technique of the amorphous blob. It was a very low-pressure way to get going and feel as though I was getting somewhere  at an early stage. I found that I was able to find the lines that I wanted and build the shape in a very organic way. It was also a good way to get my basic shadows in and I found it much easier to stick to a limited colour palette (always a problem for me)

I stepped out of my comfort zone by only choosing to refine certain parts of the image, and leaving the rest quite sketchy. I felt that this added mystery and allows the viewer to fill in the blanks, as it were, from their own imagination. I feel that I have finally hit on the concept of “less is more”

I’m pleased that it looks a bit like Terry without being a slavish likeness. I was aiming to draw the character, rather than the player dressed as the character, and I think it works. I’d really like to do some more, getting a bit quicker each time and gain some more confidence with colour. The nice thing about digital painting is that you can experiment without worrying about ruining the whole thing as you can always undo a mistake. I’m also looking forward to getting more control over the stylus, but I guess that’s a practice thing.And a couple of life drawing classes wouldn’t go amiss either, my skills there are somewhat rusty.

I’m looking forward to doing more 🙂

Psychology volunteering!

At long last, I’ve finally started volunteering in a psychological capacity! Today, I helped to facilitate a Stress and Mood Management course run by an IAPT in Bristol. The participants were a lovely lot and there were some really fun moments. No where near as nerve-wracking as I was expecting, but then again, I’m used to standing in front of groups of people. Some nice feedback too.

It was very reassuring to see that many of the skills that I have developed as a musician are transferable to this sort of work. Team work on the fly is one, the other facilitator and I were able to pick up each other’s points and add to them, running the session without any prior rehearsal together. Confident presentation skills are another. After this many years of cowering on a stage with expectant eyes on me, presenting the course to complete strangers was like second nature.

There are things that I would like to improve on next time, I’d like to have the time to digest all of the material, rather than just the bits that I was presenting, so that I can get a feel for how the course hangs together as a whole. And as I get more familiar with the material, I hope to be able to make it flow a little more naturally.

But, on the whole, I’m pleased, and looking forward to next time!

Viva, viva glam!

Viva Glam 1….the colour of defiance.

If I hadn’t left my phone’s SD card adapter in my dead computer, I would upload a picture of my new lipstick, Viva Glam 1. Instead, this will have to do

For those of you that don’t know, viva glam 1 is a lovely warm red lippy by MAC. It was the first proper grown up lipstick that I bought, at the age of 35.

I had this idea that in my 30’s, I would be one of those women who always wore awesome lingerie, silk camisoles, nighties and matching underwear every day. I still have the silk sitting in my project box (I somehow never get round to making camisoles what with tents, doublets and the like), I seem to always end up wearing one of the Terry’s old T shirts in bed, and while it’s true that I have a few matching sets of underwear, they never seem to be in the clean-and-washed drawer at the same time. I have come to the conclusion that women who always wear matching underwear buy 50 pairs of identical bras and pants, and when they have all worn out, replace the whole lot with another 50 pairs, probably in the same colour.

Well, having failed on the lingerie front, I decided, at the grand old age of 35 to actually buy some decent makeup. I don’t wear it a lot, so I thought that I might as well. The nice thing about decent makeup (I class decent makeup as something Debenhams or Selfridges might sell, rather than my previous Superdrug special offer efforts) is that a nice lady applies it for you so you can see if it actually looks any good before you fork out for it. I find that I save a lot of money this way. In an attempt to find the perfect red lipstick, I once ended up with 10 rubbish lipsticks that looked great in the tube, but turned dark pink when actually on me. It was a revelation to find that foundation and concealer actually came in colours that blended into my skin, rather than made me look like a geisha.

The first MAC lipstick that I bought was my final attempt to buy that perfect red. The nice lady tried it on me, even showed me how to apply it so that I didn’t look like Frankenfurter from Rocky Horror. I went home with a spring in my step and a red lippy in my bad. The end of my quest.

More makeup from the same brand followed, I found that I only needed a few key colours, and could finally ditch all the crazy stuff that languished in the bottom of my massive makeup bag. I bought a small, stylish makeup bag to keep my posh makeup in. It had a little mirror on the inside. I even bought a matching washbag. I felt grown up.

And then some scrote nicked the lot along with my luggage while I was on a train.

I probably don’t need to tell you how furious I was. For weeks. I was so angry, even more so because I knew no one would be interested in second hand makeup that probably only suits someone with the same skin tone as me, and that it had probably ended up being chucked in a bin somewhere. Although I don’t wear makeup usually, I was angry that my choice to wear it or not had been taken away. I do wear it for performances, and was lucky that I could replace at least the foundation and one of the lipsticks in time for the gig.

There wasn’t much in my luggage, just my makeup, washbag, spare socks & pants, a top that I had had for ages and loved and a novel that I had nearly finished. Nothing that would be of any value to anyone else. But when I worked out the replacement cost of everything, it came to about ÂŁ250. Which was gutting. I mean, just think about even some of the contents of a washbag; toothpaste, ÂŁ2.50; deoderant, ÂŁ3.00; tweezers, ÂŁ1.50; moisturiser, ÂŁ3.00; you’re up to a tenner for just four commonplace items. And then you have shower gel, afro comb, scrubby spongy thing, hairpins, etc etc…

Over the last few months I have managed to replace most of it bit by bit (I didn’t bother with the socks and pants). I still need a new wheely suitcase and the washbag/makeup bag is cheap but serviceable rather than pretty. Most of the makeup is back, except for the lipstick that I got in the States, but the one thing I was finding hard to replace was my Viva Glam lipstick. For some reason, Debenhams in Bristol never had it in stock whenever I went in, and that is the only place to get MAC cosmetics round here. In the end, thanks to a gift card birthday present, I ordered it online and picked it up in store today on the way home from work.

I have Viva Glam 1, the circle is complete. And luggage-theiving scrote, you may take my luggage, but you will never rob me of my favourite lipstick.

Bimbling and ranting about poverty, and a possible essay

I feel like writing an essay. A proper one. With citations. Not something I have felt like doing for several years. Maybe this is a sign that I’m growing up, that I finally want to write one. There is only one other time that I have been so interested in writing an essay and that was when I was doing my undergraduate degree.

We had to write one for the behavioural psychology module which seemed to be mostly about animals rather than people. I was at a loss for what to write about, when I remembered a documentary I’d seen about the matriarchal social structure of the spotted hyaena. Our recommended textbooks and the library had very little to offer in the way of spotted hyaenas, but, undeterred, I emailed the BBC, who gave me the name of the producer, who gave me the name of the husband and wife research team, based in Germany. They must have been a little mystified by the random British psychology student, but were extremely helpful, emailing me copies of their studies.

For the next few weeks, I lived and breathed the spotted hyaena (ADHD hyperfocus is a wonderful thing and enables me to do such things as learn to make medieval tents on a whim). I can’t remember what sort of grade I got for the essay but I had a fantastic time writing it, which is, in my opinion, at least as important as the grade itself. Bear in mind that I was the type of student who, in order to entertain myself, spent as much time illustrating my essay on perceptions in virtual reality with pictures of the X-men, done in coloured pencils, as I spent on the essay itself. How I ever got my degree at all is beyond me, given that I barely knew which day of the week it was, much less what I was supposed to be writing or when it had to be handed in by.

But I digress( I do this a lot)

My essay has been inspired by the complaint from some members of the white working class that they are the ones who are discriminated against, rather than people from ethnic minorities. (oooh, just found this interesting report, will read it for the essay Who Cares about the White Working Class?” ) Now the evidence shows that they are wrong, all things being equal, people from ethnic minorites tend to have a rather harder time of it, however, I have felt for some time that being on a low income should be viewed as belonging to a discrimated-against group. I sit on the equalities committee of my trade union, and that is the issue that is never discussed, that of socio-economic inequality.

It’s my personal view that the lack of participation in the field of classical music by BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) musicians is, in some ways, the visible effect of SES. (Socio-Economic Status) and the class divide, as if you are BME in this country, you are more likely to be poor. I’m willing to hazard a guess that you don’t get many working-class white musicians in classical music either. Same goes for the lack of black faces in the media, certainly behind the scenes. (see Lenny Henry for details) The creative industries are notorious for being a middle class preserve, if we want more diversity, we need to address this.

That is what my essay will be about. I hope that I get the time to write it. It’s not so much the time to write it though, it’s the time that it will take me to read, or reread the studies and articles that I will be referring to. Because, I am currently spending all my time trying to scrape a living. Mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends. I spend my whole life either juggling bits of work, or trying to drum up more bits of work, a process which is more exhausting and less rewarding than doing the actual work itself (my varied work is awesome)

I’m not saying this to elicit sympathy. It will go towards informing the essay, that I have first hand experience of what it is like to be trapped in a seemingly never ending cycle of low pay/no pay. At least I have some autonomy as someone who is self employed. I have many strings to my bow, when one goes through a fallow period, I have others. I would dearly love one job, that I don’t have to chase constantly, that pays me enough to live on (I don’t need that much to live on). This would free up my headspace to get serious about getting back into psychology, as well as the cash to do it. Yes cash.

You see, it’s not enough that I volunteer my time and skills, the IAPT that have offered me voluntary work do not offer to pay travel expenses. I will have to find these out of my already stretched budget. Of course, if I take on a full-time job that might pay more (not that these are offered to ex -community musicians, as, after all, all we do is float around woodlands being creative whilst wearing fairy wings), I cannot afford the time to do voluntary work, or attend events, or network. And I have an ever-growing wishlist of textbooks that I’d like to read, which for some reason, cost twice as much as any other book.

I’ll figure out a way to do it, I’m sure. I always do. But again, it highlights to me the barriers faced by those on a low income when we try and get ourselves out of said low income. Any attempt at self-improvement comes at a cost, which although, in the great scheme of things isn’t a great deal of money, it is when ÂŁ15 can make the difference between you eating properly in a week, and not.

It would seem that we live in a society that offers very little in the way of support to those that are trying to claw their way out of the misery that is a low-income existence, and then tells them that, if they are poor, it’s their own fault. Of course, there are those that point to the examples of people in impoverished circumstances who managed to get out and make successes of themselves, good luck to them, but I wonder how many more fall by the wayside into despair and destitution.  As my partner says, “there is no such thing as a self-made man”. He’s right. Somewhere along the line in a successful person’s life, there is/was at least one other person that helped them. Whether it was supportive parents, an inspirational teacher or a boss that took a chance on them. Some people never get that leg-up, just criticism and a society that tells them that they are worthless.

Why does society demand so much more resilience and superhuman effort from the people who have the least resources than it does from those who have so much more? There should still be a place in society for those that do not have such enormous levels of intelligence, talent, confidence, drive and resourcefulness, no matter what social class they are from.

I’m gonna stop bimbling now. I wrote the beginnings of an essay plan (well a pretty spider-diagram, which is how all my essays start life). Maybe one day, I’ll write the whole thing. And I’ll enjoy it. Almost as much as my essay on the spotted hyaena.

Dude, I learned something today…

There’s nothing like a bit of pressure to really focus the mind.

It’s safe to say that I have been a little down in the dumps of late. Feeling like a helpless leaf blown in the wind, at the mercy of the malevolent powers that be. That most unhelpful ADHD assessment was the icing on the cake.

I finally finished reading “Irrelevant Experience” The main character didn’t endear herself to me any more than she had done at the start (Spoiler alert). I have picked up some helpful information about getting into clinical psychology, so it was useful, but the main character, grr!

She went on to steal another girl’s boyfriend (who of course turned out to be a lying, cheating ratbag. The latter part of the book was filled with the other aspiring psychologists falling by the wayside and giving up their dreams due to the difficulties they faced while little-miss-perfect got a place on a clinical training course. That depressed me somewhat.

As my best friend pointed out recently, I have a habit of picking the hardest path, refusing to compromise and then complaining that it’s not fair. She’s right, of course, and I needed that insight.

However, in the words of Kyle from South Park, I learned something today.

For the last few months I have been planning to make a medieval bellwedge tent so that Terry and I can camp on the IC (In Character) field at LARP events. It’s a pain having to traipse from one field to the other every time you want to get something, especially if it rains. Besides, when you are trying to get into costume, having a tent that you cannot stand up in is a nightmare.

These tents cost the best part of a grand, which we just don’t have at the moment. I do sew, though, and managed to source all the materials that we needed to make one. We ordered tent poles, pegs, rope, and fabric and eyelets, which came from a supplier in the Netherlands. The tent poles, pegs and rope arrived without a hitch, but the fabric was delayed. A look at the confirmation email revealed that the delivery address was wrong. Not to worry, I contacted the company and gave them the correct address. They said that they could contact the delivery company and get it send to the right place.

I have to say that I think the problem lay with the delivery company rather than the supplier.  The package seems to have gone back and forth, there were no notes left to say that they had tried to deliver it. The business downstairs, that said that they would receive it if we were out, hadn’t seen it, and any attempts to contact the supplier were met with “we’ll keep you updated”. I asked to be put in contact with the delivery company to no avail.

We didn’t get our tent for the first event of the year. We borrowed one instead, and the experience made me more determined than ever to get our own as the experience of sleeping IC  was lovely. I thought to myself, at least I’ll be able to take my time over making it.

Weeks and weeks went by and still no fabric, I sent email after email. This week, I tried to resign myself to the fact that we wouldn’t be getting it in time for the next event in May either. I tried to accept it and think about what I could use the time for instead. There were some items of costume that I wanted and a couple of commissions to complete. We had managed to source some cut price canvas that could be used for an awning, and I was thinking about damage limitation in terms of traipsing back and forth between fields.

But something was wrong. I was feeling angry, resentful and helpless. I was also feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of making that I was planning to do. I couldn’t get any of it started. A frustrated facebook post had resulted in a raft of comments recommending a UK supplier of fabric, but I figured that it was all too late.

Then something snapped in me yesterday, I had had enough. I called the UK supplier, explained the situation, and asked how soon they could get the fabric to me. Friday was the answer. I found a source of eyelets. Again, they could deliver by Friday, or Monday at the latest.

I called a sailmaker pal of mine, who had agreed to let me use part of his workshop for making the tent. I could use the workshop in the early part of next week.

I called the Dutch supplier and said that unless they could get my goods to me by Friday, I would be ordering my fabric elsewhere. He said that he’d keep me updated. I said that I’d need to order my fabric in the next twenty minutes. He got on the phone to the delivery company and emailed me in ten, offering to send out a new order, but he didn’t know when I’d receive it.

Sorry pal, but no cigar. He could have done that weeks ago when I made it clear that I needed to make my tent this month. I appreciate that the problem wasn’t his fault, but to keep me waiting for 6 weeks when he knew my deadlines was too much. I asked for a refund, and called the UK supplier.

So. I have a medieval tent to make in three days next week. Plus commissions, plus the stuff that I need for the event. I should be feeling overwhelmed and scared. But I don’t. I feel great. More focused than I have in months. I feel as though I have taken control. I feel as though I’m in my element. The pile of work that I have to do, now that I take a proper look at it, is actually doable if I get my head down. I find myself excited, unable to sleep, hence me drafting this post at 6.30 am.

I am starting to learn that managing ADHD is all about being true to yourself. This, of course goes for people without ADHD too, but for us, it’s even more important. I truly admire people who can accept things and move on, who let go, and take things in their stride. But that’s not me. If there is something that I want, I am of the mentality that I will get it, or die trying. Perhaps that way lies frustration and madness. I certainly wouldn’t advocate that approach to anyone else. But it’s what I have to do in order to feel like myself.

There is a neurobiological explanation for all this. The mundane, the boring, the path of sensibility, simplicity and acceptance simply isn’t stimulating enough to kick my prefrontal cortex/executive functioning into action, leaving me sluggish and fed up.  I need the pressure in order to stay focused. As I say, not the healthiest plan long-term, but as long as I understand what is going on, I can work with it. Maybe by balancing intense activity with adequate rest, rather than feeling as though I have to be on fire all the time.

There will always be obstacles. I will try to find a way under, round or over them. But sometimes, I have to go through them.  It wasn’t the circumstances that were getting me down, it was me and my lack of faith in myself. Letting myself be messed about, feeling like a victim.

This tent will get made if I have to stay up til midnight each night hand sewing after the workshop has shut. And every time I stay in that tent, it will remind me never to take anything lying down. For my own sanity, if nothing else.

 

 

 

 

 

Where do I start…the non-ADHD assessment

I don’t even know where to start.

I had the “ADHD assessment” that I have been trying to get for over a year. I may as well have spoken to a little old lady at a bus stop.

Don’t get me wrong, the psychiatrist was lovely, a positive, upbeat individual.  It was clear that she was a wonderful human being with a strong desire to help people. Had we met at a party, we’d have been putting the world to rights over a warm chardonnay until 3am. It was also as if the last 20 years of research into ADHD had never happened. As Terry said, when I told him, it was barely one step removed from drilling a hole in my head to let the evil spirits out.

No assessment tools, not even the self report scale (ASRS-V1.1) that is readily available on the internet. No reference to the DSM-V or ICD-10 diagnostic criteria. A brief skim over why I think I may have ADHD (it’s lucky that I have a psychology degree then) and a discussion in which I tried to impart that not everyone with ADHD presents in the same stereotypical way, and that yes, it’s possible for a person to have ADHD even when they were not the “naughty kid” at school and managed to get a degree. She happily admitted that she wasn’t an ADHD specialist, as there aren’t any in Monmouthshire. Really, if I’m going to be assessed for something, I’d quite like it if the assessor knows a bit more about the issue than I do.

The non-assessment ended with some friendly, positive and utterly unhelpful advice about finding a stable part time job. I have a part time job thanks, in fact, I have four (another ADHD flag if ever I saw one). I’d like one job, I’d like it to be full time, and have some sort of career prospects. Trouble is, I have problems getting done what I need to do to make it happen. And have done for nigh on the last 13 years. Progress is sporadic and inconsistent.

I’d like some support, please. I’d like to see if meds will help me concentrate for long enough to implement new strategies and finally get my life together. They may, they may not, but I’d like the option to try. Not be scared off with unfounded claims that they might affect my fertility or that I might get addicted to them. I do know a bit about these meds, and I know people who know a lot about them. Like most people of a psychological bent, I’m not a fan of psychiatric interventions for which there is very little or very shaky evidence. ADHD medication, however, is one of the most successful psychiatric medicines that we have. I’d also like some kind of psychotherapy to address the psychological damage that struggling with ADHD has done, namely lack of confidence and constant feelings of inadequacy which are holding me back. I would like to progress to a stage where I am in a position to help others.

I despair for all the other people who find their lives complicated by ADHD who do not have psychology degrees or a wonderful, supportive partner who understands ADHD. Who cannot argue the toss, or spend a year pushing for an assessment. Who go to their GP, at the end of their tether, only to be told a year later by a lovely non-specialist that they have nice lives, and would need to be on the verge of a prison sentence before they would qualify for any help. I don’t blame the psychiatrist, she was only doing her job as best she could, with the resources and training she had. Maybe the Aneurin Bevan health board could enter into a public-private partnership with Homebase next and buy a few drills?

I despair. I really do.

The Psychologist on Austerity, medieval tents, and Irrelevant Experience

I’m going to start blogging again. I’m doing interesting things, reading interesting stuff and would like to get some of my interesting thoughts down before I forget them. I could write a diary, but this is the age of social networking, and, who knows, maybe other people might find my ramblings vaguely amusing.

I’m recovering from a weekend spent at an Empire event, ie, camping for a long weekend in a medieval tent in an immersive film-set style environment, pretending to be someone else while everyone around me does the same. I’ll write more about that some other time, but believe me, it’s fun.

Due to the hellish back pain from four nights of sleeping on the ground and then a 10 hour life modelling stint the day after I got back, I woke up at 7am and made a cuppa without looking at the clock. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, I read bits of the latest copy of the Psychologist magazine. To my surprise, I actually like reading the Psychologist. I didn’t when I was a recent graduate, flicking through my housemate’s copy because I didn’t have the money  to join the BPS, and anyway, was planning on becoming a pro musician (which I eventually did)

The Psychologist seems to be refreshingly socially aware. There seems to be lots of articles and letters on how the psychological profession can influence society and how it could be doing a better job of it. This month, there is a austerity special feature, where the Midlands Psychology Group rip into our present governement’s policies, and explain, with citations, how they are declaring war on the most vulnerable in society. The feature goes on to highlight how, in some ways, well-meaning psychologists have been complicit in this, by going along with the idea that an individual is entirely responsible for their own circumstances, regardless of the society in which they find themselves, and expecting to reverse the effect of 30 years of government policy with a few CBT sessions to help them find jobs that do not exist.

This morning I have also started reading “Irrelevant Experience: The Secret Diary of an Assistant Psychologist” given to me as a birthday present. It describes the trials and tribulations of an aspiring clinical psychologist (like me). Getting into clinical psychology is so difficult, apparently, that people have written both fictional and non fictional books about it.  I am about a sixth of the way through it so far. It seems to have some useful information in, like when application forms for the ClinPsy Doctorate forms are out.

I do not like the narrator very much though. She seems like a very conventional and boring individual that despises anyone who isn’t just like her. I much prefer her housemate, who seems based on the stereotypical art student, who has a nice line in getting rid of cold-callers and points out that psychologists are supposed to accepting and tolerant. Needless to say, the protagonist despises her housemate as well.

Two hours have now been killed, and I have just realised that I have left my car in the car park by the castle, from when T and I, unwilling to return to 2014, had a picnic in the castle grounds, complete with ic (in character) drinking vessels, and there is half an hour left on the ticket. The car park only charges until 5 pm which means that if your allotted time runs over, you get to use the time the next day. I shouldn’t really divulge that, if anyone from Monmouthshire council reads this, I’m sure that they will put a stop to it sharpish. I need to finish the second cuppa, get some clothes on and move the LARP-mobile.

I love Autumn

I love this time of year. Although it is still sunny for the most part, as soon as August turned into September, something in the air changed. Maybe it was the light, or maybe the wind dropped just a couple of degrees, but there was a definite shift. I wore a jumper yesterday for the first time in ages. And a scarf. And walked around Chepstow with a big smile on my face.

I have been trying to work out what it is about early autumn that I love so much. Maybe it’s the clothing? Summer always seems to me to be very high maintenance, having to shave my legs every other day and wondering if I really suit that little skirt any more. And when it’s hot, it gets to a stage when you can’t take any more off and have to sit about feeling hot and sticky. When autumn hits, I can then get out the layers! I love hats and scarves. I love big snuggly jumpers and the feel of a cold wind on my face when the rest of me is toasty. I love long skirts and warm trousers. Dramatic makeup. The list goes on an on. Somehow, trying to do that in summer feels like overkill, even when it’s not very warm outside.

Maybe it’s the activity? Autumn for me is associated with returning to school after the holidays. While I liked being on holiday, I missed the stimulation of learning and being around lots of other people all the time. Returning to school meant new projects to take on and seeing my friends every day. As an adult, the start of autumn means that other people are also turning their minds towards the months ahead, and that is when they contact me with a view to employing me. Summer is frustrating for the self-employed. Contacts are often away on holiday at different times and it is difficult to move anything forward. Once September arrives, however, replies to emails arrive and plans start to take shape.

I often find that autumn is a far more creative time of the year for me than any other. Summer makes me hot and listless, winter has me sitting indoors bemoaning the loss of natural light. Spring is ok, but is gearing up towards the inertia of summer too much for my liking. In autumn, the leaves change and everything is somehow more colourful, the light is clearer and so is my head. Autumn to me means celebration, halloween, bonfire night, preparation for Christmas and all the creative pursuits that can go along with that, especially when I was at school.

Or maybe, just maybe, I like blackberry crumble? Blackberries are one of those things that I would never even consider buying in a shop. You’d have to spend a fortune to get enough to make anything half-decent, and they always taste so bland. I love the annual adventure of seeking out great blackberry spots and getting there before anyone else picks them all, then storing my gains in the freezer for when I next fancy comfort-dessert. Speaking of which, I have a crumble in the fridge…must be time for breakfast!

Planning on going busking…with my pal the Yellow Book

I have pretty much accepted that work is gonna slow down, or indeed grind to a halt over August…so here’s an idea….

I’m getting back into singing…I need practice…I also need cash. I have an battery powered amp and a mic Being the world’s worst pianist,  I have backing tracks for several popular arias that I have learned over the years. I also have a phone that I can load them on to. What better way to bring all this together than to do a spot of busking?

If anyone knows any classical singers, chances are that they will own a copy of “24 Italian songs and arias”, otherwise known as “the yellow book”. We all get it when we first start classical singing, and we almost always learn “caro mio ben” first too. (I learned Amarilli, mia bella, because Cecilia Bartoli did it on one of her albums)

I never had much time for the yellow book, I wanted to get on with the more dramatic well-known arias, but it occurred to me that busking might be the perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with the songs in it as too many big arias may well prove taxing in one busking session. And I also have backing tracks on a CD for every single one, thus saving me money on MP3s.

And, so far, I’m having a lovely time listening to them and trying to get a feel for which I want to do first. When I’ve got the hang of them, all I then need to do grow a thick skin, put on a nice dress, and hit the streets…that will be the hardest part…

Time to get back to singing…

Yesterday I was honoured to be asked by a friend to sing at her father’s funeral. It was a very last minute gig, and I was somewhat apprehensive as I have been hacking and coughing for over a week, and lost my voice over the weekend.

Determined to be able to do it, I did a load of gentle sirening exercises and managed to rehab my voice enough to be able to sing Panis Angelicus during the service. Although it was more of a struggle than it would usually have been, I was pleased with how it went.

Us singers go through all kinds to be able to do the job. We stress and we worry, we go without regular meals in order to pay for singling lessons, scores and courses, and frequently wonder why we put ourselves through it and dream of a nice stable job.

Yesterday, I was reminded of why I sing. In my younger days, it was all about me, about the buzz that I got from standing on stage and being the centre of attention. But yesterday, several people came up to me, thanked me for my performance and told me how it made them feel. Some said that it really felt as though something special was being added, that it was part of giving the deceased a good send-off. Some said that it allowed them to be able to drift away and take their minds off the stress and worry of the funeral arrangements, or even just that it took them to a place where they could just think and remember.

I don’t pretend to be the most fantastic or highly trained singer in the world, and I think that the comments could apply to any live vocal performance. However, I think that there is something really special about listening to a live singer, I find that there is something really primal, uplifting and “human” about it all. And I feel privileged to be able to give that experience to other people.

I think that I would really like to sing at more funerals. Having lost both parents in my early twenties and being able to remember the sadness and the vulnerability of that particular time, it would give me great satisfaction to be able to bring comfort to other people in that situation. There is never a right time to lose someone close to you, and no matter how old you are, nothing really prepares you for it. I will always be grateful for the fantastic funeral directors that we used, and being able to do my part to help other people with whatever skills I have would make me feel as though I’m part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

So yes, time to get back on the horse and get cracking. I have ordered some new business cards advertising my services as a singer, and once my voice returns, I’ll get learning some new repertoire. I think I’m going to start with this beautiful setting of Ave Maria by Schubert