With-holding truth

How many single parent families are there in your country? Perhaps the number depends how liberal and permissive your country is. In places where single parent families are commonplace, perhaps couples that experience breakdowns in their relationships are nonplussed about splitting up even if they have children. In countries where this is more of a social stigma, such couples would perhaps think twice about breaking up, choosing instead to stay unhappily married for their children. After all, it cannot be easy for the children. Children who grow up in single parent families experience many problems, such as each adult criticising the other in the other’s absence, being shuffled around to different surroundings because of adults having to work out access arrangements. It is also awkward having to spend time around twice as many adults if both parents have partners.

In Japan, a mother whose child had been in a single parent family (ie only with her) noted how much the emotional impact was taking on her. The father had left when the child was little and had made no form of contact ever since. The girl became more and more withdrawn as she got older and also suffered anxiety when she was in the company of her peers, not just because culturally single-parent families are frowned upon, but also because her peers knowingly and unknowingly made remarks that made her feel small. Eventually the mother took matters into her own hands in an unusual way. She approached an escort agency and hired an actor to play the part of a father for an extended period of time. Most actors are hired on a one-off basis, but this “father” continued the role to the point where the daughter actually believed that he is her father!

Is it ethical to tell such a white lie? You may debate this forever but there will always be two sides to this. In another case-study, one involving the classical musician Ludwig van Beethoven, it was believed that one of his famous works, Fur Elise, was written for a girl called Elise – yet Beethoven was also involved with another lady called Therese, who ended up with the score Fur Elise. (You can read more about this from the Piano Lessons N8 website.) One of Beethoven’s biographers blamed it on his dyslexia and bad handwriting, while you may point to it being a case of distorting the evidence to suit a belief.

Is it ever ethical to manipulate the truth? There’s a thought to ponder.

Resolutions and new perspectives

A New Year is something that is celebrated in many countries. In these places the stroke of midnight brings about a large display of rainbow colours in the skies in the form of fireworks, preceded by performances of singers and other celebrities on stages in public events. Actually, if one were to be cynical, every two acts of so there is a countdown to remind us of how close we are to midnight, and the whole build up of new year’s eve seems to point to this moment where it erupts on the first second of new year’s day. Some may question the whole purpose of it all. After all, you don’t go to bed in the evening counting down the hours and minutes before you have to wake up, do you? Does the voice in your head tell you, “Only four hours and seventeen minutes before the alarm rings,” and does your body tremble with a mixture of anxiety and excitation at the thought of the period that the alarm is going to go off expectantly? Thought not.

One of the things people like to do in the new year is to make resolutions. And just why exactly do they do that? It is because the new year is a chance to ring in new changes, to introduce positive moments in one’s life. A new year resolution may be something physical, such as to drink less, or exercise more. In fact, gyms often report that memberships and attendance increase in the period of December and January, because month-long memberships are given away as Christmas presents, and in the new year many also decide that the new change is a good motivation to do something positive for the body!

A new year may be a good time to re-examine things and look at them from different perspectives. And who knows, maybe a different viewpoint may lead to a creative solution to an existing problem, or new ideas altogether! For example, in classical music, the Alberti bass and the piano evolved, as classical music evolved when composers tried new ways of writing and instrument production improved. (You can learn more about this from the Piano Teachers Crouch End.) Our popular music of today may have still consisted of polyphonic music of the Renaissance had composers not sought to introduce fresh perspectives. Maybe the new year was a good reason to do so for some of them!


Imagine that you have decided to go on a holiday. For many people, this is two weeks of the year, the only chance that they will get to go away. The leave, of course, is meant to be distributed over the course of the year, but if you want to have a chance of taking a week’s break and going away for an extended period, then your only option lies in accumulating it for a huge spend at a period where your workplace can afford to release you. The lull period may usually be over the summer – unless of course you work in the tourism industry, which means that is peak season. Then, having worked yourself to death over the course of the year in order to be able to accrue the leave, you are off to your sun lounger, sitting by the pool, reading your magazine and generally doing the things that you don’t normally have the time for.

Holidays are meant to be different times; changes from routine. They may not necessarily be quiet times. For example, if your job is naturally quiet in any case, such as being the stereotypical librarian, you may prefer to have some excitement in your life by going clubbing at as Ibiza. You may fancy something a bit livelier. But if you have a hectic lifestyle, doing nothing at a holiday is not wrong. Why would you cram more activity during a period of down time? It is a time of change, and if that change involves rest, then do something different, or else you will be burnt out when you return to work. After your holiday! The irony!

Throughout music history composers have often toured and gone away, not just for breaks, but also to promote their music. The time away gave them inspiration and prevented stagnant work. So the next time you consider a holiday, remember its benefits and try to disassociate from your daily life, so that you go back refreshed!

Human Emotions

What do you feel when circumstances go against you in life? Do you huff and puff and rail against the unfairness of the situation? If you do, then you are definitely not alone. Many of us experience this sort of initial reaction, which is a combination of fear and anger. Both fear and anger are heightened emotions translated into different forms. Our emotions are heightened because we lack control over our new set of circumstances. They are ones we have not prepared for and hence have no plan to refer to when things have happened. (If we have experienced them before, then our emotions are less fear and more a mixture of anger and exasperation.) Our minds go into overdrive and we end up thinking of hundreds of possible courses of action, of which only one or two are appropriate, and waste mental energy not only thinking of scenarios, but also wasting time hating ourselves.

Eventually anger settles more into acceptance and often this stage depends on time as an influential factor. When sufficient time has moved on, the anger and fear is muted and things become clearer. We become less stressed because our options are fewer, and this in a way is more helpful because we spend less time aggravating ourselves.

What can we learn from all this? The first is when you are stressed, try to ride it out. Realise that clarity comes with time. Look after yourself and rest, so you are not wasting precious energy going around in mental circles!

The range of human emotions is encapsulated by the canon of songs by George Gershwin. Some of his songs deal with love, others with sadness, some with anger, some with joy – in fact, it would be possible to find a group of songs that show the various stages one goes through! Gershwin treaded between the jazz and classical genres, establishing himself in both (you can read more about him from the Piano Lessons N19 website) and the number of piano rolls and sheet music he published is testament to the fact of how he was aware and keenly made a fortune about writing about the range of human emotion. You might even say he monetised feeling!

Daily inconvenience

Katherine Hough suffered from poor health right from in her teens. She had stomach pains, and while these might have been dismissed as part of growing up, the ill-health symptoms developed into more serious ones such as frequent fatigue, loss of hair, joint pain and other ailments which affected her during her university days.

Can you imagine having to get up and that your whole life is a bit of a struggle before you make it to the “hard” part of the day? For many disabled individuals this would not have been an uncommon scenario. Wheelchair users, for example, have to deal with mobility issues, not only within their own homes, but within the larger context of society as well.

It may be easier to equip your home to function for your needs, but what happens when you get outside? Wheelchair users may find it difficult, for example, to travel from place to place in that same way that able-bodied users do. While most of us simply get on the underground or trams and alight at our stop, wheelchair users have to plan their journey by step-free access stations, making further stops or more frequent changes simply to get to a destination via a wheelchair friendly route. And if you were a wheelchair user you would be familiar with having to look for lifts in obscure parts of buildings and other unfriendly parts of commute – like having bus passengers huff at you for delaying the journey while the ramp engages, or parents with young children being annoyed with having to give up space for you.

The pianist Robert Schumann suffered from poor health but managed to carry on with the daily inconveniences of his illness. Even when an arm injury put an end to his performing career, he managed to become a composer instead. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt – inconvenience only becomes a problem if you let it and perceive it to be. If you have managed it and live well with it, good for you!

Considering Teaching

When you were in school, you might have been a good student. You might have eagerly soaked up the knowledge that your teachers dispensed to you. You might have been a model student like Fanny Hensel (whom you can read about from the Piano Teacher N8 website). But you might have found that while you respected teachers for their academic knowledge, perhaps they were more inspiring on a different level. The same goes for if you were classed as what is a problem student, or a bit of a creative rebel (like the composer Igor Stravinsky). You might have had difficulty with trying, turning in homework on time, and focus in class lessons. You might have found lessons and the acquisition of knowledge boring. But in both cases you might have found teachers inspiring outside the classroom, not for what they thought but for who they were. It might have been the Maths teacher who did marathons and raised money for charities such as Children’s Relief. It might have been the PE teacher who volunteered time to help students with homework. Or it may even have been the office staff, or someone that did not teach your class, who was inspiring for the fact that they showed that they cared. Maybe you witnessed them helping a student who had got hurt, or taking time to chat with someone who had problems. Maybe it was the way they carried themselves and got on with things despite have their own known problems in their family, like a parent with cancer or a child with a disability, and never got disheartened. Your teachers inspired you.

Some individuals were inspired by their teachers to become teachers. And according to a BBC report, there are certain countries in the world where being a teacher ranks as being one of the best jobs in life. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the country of China, where teachers are heavily respected by students. Why is this so? One might speculate that in a country of over one billion people, competition for jobs is strong and education is a key towards higher paying jobs, and a way away from the labour jobs which pay little and are often under exploitative conditions. In China and the Far East, there is a bit more respect for teachers and this also stems partly from the fact the way Asian society is.

A teacher can also exert a great degree of influence in shaping your direction and knowledge. If you are in one-to-one situations, a teacher can explain the subject matter more clearly, and if you encounter difficulty, he or she can provide the skills you need to navigate difficulty, as well as share your experiences and how you are feeling. For example, if you are starting piano lessons, you may find it difficult at the start, but the teacher can tell you it is pretty normal and how you are feeling is not new to anyone. This will inspire you to work through your difficulty – one of the aims of a teacher – and become a self-directed learner.

Mental health and relaxation

If you want a reason for why perhaps mental health problems among individuals in society are on the rise you could probably look towards how things are in your daily life. We are told how things seem to be improving and bombarded with illusions such as the work-life balance, pursuing your passions and other generalisations, yet many young working adults will report a disconnect between what they expect and what the reality is – which is the source of mental deterioration.

If you are told and expect to work hard so you can afford to buy your own home, for example, but then realise your income in no ways allows you to buy a place to live in, what can you do? It is a source of frustration, and played over in your head many times, the unreason will tip you over the edge.

Is there any reason why men seem to be suicidal in their thirties and forties? The illusion society gives us is of happy two-children families, yet very young children are difficult to look after, because they require a lot of our energy but do not give back much yet. Men have to work harder then they have in order to feed a growing family, work longer hours, and when they get home, tired after a long shift, they realise that their time at (hard) work was actually their time of relaxation, because the family demands their energy. No way will they be able to slouch on the settee and watch Match of the Day drinking a beer when two children are climbing around them. And when they have gone to bed, the missus complains that he spends only a short period of time of the day around with them, much of it is spent playing with them, that is his now his time to do the housework or give her some adult conversation.

One can only surmise that this mental disconnect causes us to mentally deteriorate. Exacerbated over time, this can result in mental health problems. It has been suggested that musicians who spend a lot of time espousing aesthetic ideals while having their music accepted by the mainstream go slightly bonkers – there is a list of musicians with great ideas but slightly batty, such as Stravinsky who displayed rather erratic behaviour. Read it and see what you think!

And what might be a cure for such a disconnect? Simply reconnect. Get away from it all, away from the hustle and daily routine and take time to reconnect with nature, your spirit and your life. There is no other place to do this than St Ives, where you can enjoy the calm of the sea, experience good weather overall and meet great people.

Work and self-fulfilment

At many social occasions one of the often talked-about questions is the idea of work. When you are at a dinner or lunch with someone, or perhaps even at an event like a meeting, strangers often end up straying into the conversation of work. And why not? After all, work occupies a large proportion of our daily lives.

In fact, nowadays, you may even argue that when you are not asleep, you spend most of your waking hours thinking about work. Some people may refute that, pointing that even when they are preparing to go to bed, work is the last thought they have before they drift off, and then when they wake up in the middle of the night (not “If”, but “When”, because it is a given that they will definitely wake up from all the stress), they think about their work and it keeps them awake.

There are two lines of thought at this point. Some people say that since you are awake, you might as well think about the work until your body drifts and lulls you back to sleep. Others think that thinking about work does not necessarily keep you awake, but thinking about it might send you back to sleep, especially if you perceive your job to be repetitive and boring. If you were a librarian, for example, thinking of the stock check you may have to do in the morning may bore you to sleep, or induce you to save your energy by going to sleep. But I have digressed – we talk about work a fair bit.

Does work keep one awake at night? Or does it send you to sleep? I suppose the fair answer would be how fulfilling your job is to you. Fulfillment – or a sense of it anyway – may be one of the most important things in a job, alongside money – so finding one that allows you to blend both to a degree is a useful important skill to learn.

As the Piano Teacher Stroud Green website mentions, learning is a balance of several factors. And self-fulfilment may just be the most important factor. How fulfilled are you at work? If you are feeling excited, and your work gives you a buzz, then good for you! But if you are feeling drained, and work is getting you down, a holiday break – even a short one at the seaside – may do you good, recharge your batteries. And if you ever need a place to stay, visit the Blue Mist accommodations. There are plenty to cater for couples, small families and groups!

Social Media Possibilities

Is there any truth to the following hypothesis? The theory goes that if you are a social media user, you would be stuck using a platform that was predominant at the time. For example, if you subscribed to Facebook and use it extensively, you are likely to be in your thirties and forties. And there may be some basis in this argument. For example, once you have taken the bother to sign up, and interact with individuals with a similar inkling to you, you may form a little clique of followers who hang on your every word. And as each interaction cements the links between you, and other followers join your followers, the web of interconnectivity deepens. Through this process you become hooked. And when perhaps you decide to leave the platform, it becomes difficult. After all, you have spent all that time typing and reading teach others posts. You have formed connections with people you might have even never met in real life. You might have talked or chatted online while never having may met. Leaving the platform becomes difficult because it is like removing a part of yourself that is so entwined and engaged in the fabric of the social network.

Whatever conclusion the discussions about age groups arrive at, there is no denying that social media opens up possibilities. If you were a creator of some sort, such as a writer, jewellery maker or web designer, you could flog your wares to your followers. But even if you did not have a product to sell, you could earn some income selling other people’s products. This is known as affiliate marketing, which takes the fuss of managing the most part of the product out of your hands – you merely sell to your followers. A less overt form of marketing that has developed over the years is social influencer, where there is no direct selling, but where a seemingly successful person impresses upon others the brands they use, so that other followers that aspire to the same level of success may be influenced to use the same brands.

Building a group of followers requires a lot of time and effort and self-determination. But you must be patient with it, and not rush. If you intend to go down the “sell my product route”, make sure you also retain the rights to your creation though, so that royalties can grow to a significant income. The singer Michael Jackson made a fair bit of money by holding the rights to the Beatles back catalogue – you can read about this more in the Piano Teacher Crouch End blog- and the small percentage of an income may seem insignificant at first, but it is a minor thing that might transition to a significant sum!
St Ives is famed for its crafts and being an art hub – why else would we have the Tate here? If you are a crafts person, social media can help you enhance your business.

If it doubt, clarify – don’t ignore!

If there are any lessons to take away from Shubnum Khan’s experience, one to be mindful of is that one should never expect anything for free. Another could be perhaps to be speak up whenever you feel uncomfortable about something, and not to simply brush it away simply because you are afraid of speaking up.

The aspiring author signed up many years ago for what she believed to be a free photo shoot. The photography had been organised as part of a project called the 100 Faces Shoot, where a photographer promised a hundred individuals a free professional portrait shot in exchange for the right to use the images as part of a project. The author signed a disclaimer and agreed to the terms, in exchange for a professional shot which might have been useful for future promotional purposes. What she had not counted on was that her picture would have been used for many purposes without her consent. Khan found that her image had been used in a Canadian newspaper for an advertisement on immigration, as the ‘after’ picture for dermatological advertisements, and even more alarmingly, as a testimonial image in various websites for purposes such as child minding, as if to suggest she were endorsing the product.

It turns out that the photography promised was not simply for the purposes for an art project, but to build a collection of stock images. Khan had signed up and allowed her images to be part of a stock image collection, which meant that any one could have bought her image and then used it for whatever purpose they desired.

One might argue that the writer has a cause for litigation, but as it turns out the contract that had been signed prior to the shoot listed out these terms. In her rush, excitement or perhaps naivety, she had not felt confident to clarify any terms that might have raised alarm bells, and brushed them aside. Or perhaps she believed it unimportant, or was too naive about the repercussions. The moral of the story could be – if in doubt, don’t be afraid to speak up, or raise an issue. Sweeping it under the carpet is not going to work!

There are things we may not understand – we may not understand why the world economies function as they are, or in the field of music, why musicians would claim to be aliens (you can read about the Mysterians in the Piano Teacher N15 blog, but when you face something strange – clarify!