Me and my piano…………..

This month’s post, adapted from a piece of homework from my writing course, is all about my regular piano practice and how it helps me to stay calm and focused in times of stress and challenge.

Me and my piano

Heart rate slows, breath steadies and time stills as my fingers touch the keys and I start to play.

Every practice starts with the same three pieces:

  • Melody in C, by Felix Le Couppey, the first piece I learnt to play properly with both hands.
  • German Dance in A, by Franz Schubert, my only solo performance piece, played at the Springboard music festival, some three years ago, now.
  • Jest in D Major, by Bela Bartok, the last piece taught to me, by my piano teacher.

Each played through quickly and efficiently to warm up my fingers and my brain.

These are my comfort pieces, the ones I can play straight through from memory. I need this regular reminder, the reassurance that I can still play a tune, that I haven’t yet started to lose memory and focus. Satisfying some vague fear, that I’m not losing my faculties.

Pittabread May 1 2018

And all this after pressing the on button, to my Yamaha P90, electronic piano. It takes only a second or two for the green light to appear and I can settle in my chair, plant my feet on the floor and then….

It seems I need to run through a few more checks😉

Where’s my cushion? The one that supports the small of my back and stops it from moaning and groaning throughout.

Are my glasses clean and firmly in place? These days, the notes on the sheet are just a blur without them.

What time does it say on the mantelpiece, clock? I’ve usually got thirty minutes or so before I need to check on dinner.

Am I warm enough or am I too hot? In the winter months, my hands rasp and catch as I rub them together for warmth. In the summer, I need to feel a breeze.

Where are my elbows? Oh yes, they are here resting comfortably on the cool metal handles of my chair.

Is that dust? I should have bought a cover for the keyboard, when I had the chance.

In any case once I finally get down to play, I run through my comfort pieces, add in a few major and minor scales, throw in one or two arpeggios and then, and only then do I get to the new piece:

The Policemen’s Song, from the Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan.

This will be a wonderful addition to my somewhat limited repertoire and once I have fully mastered it I plan to move onto; Mozart’s, Romanze from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, second movement.

So, as I play, I listen carefully to the music I am making, at times confident smooth and without error or hesitation. At others bumpy with small pauses.  If I find I’m starting to stumble too much, it helps to close my eyes and allow the muscle memory in my fingers to take over. Let them dance across the keys with no direction or guidance from me.  Though there are times, when I have no option but to go back to the music on the sheet and focus on a single problematic bar.

However, the real reason for sharing this, is that I find I cannot play and be stressed at the same time. It really doesn’t take long for even my playing to still the chatter in my head, slow my heart rate and drain the cortisol from my body as everything slows and comes into focus.

Even the occasional gurgling of the radiator behind me, seems a fitting accompaniment when I’m playing.

So, until next time

Janice Taylor

Word count: 622


Learning to earn as a teenager……………….

It all started with a paper round when I was twelve years old and I really wasn’t that interested in doing it. However, mum had heard a whisper about an opening and she was determined that I was not going to miss out on this opportunity, despite my lack of enthusiasm.  Luckily, for me this was a job share position, one week on and one week off and this is how I ended up sharing a paper round with Paul my co-worker for almost four years.

Pittabread April 5 2018

I wasn’t thrilled, but I did enjoy having a wage, which in those days was around £3.00 per week, excluding tips. My most vivid memories from this time are of tramping around with a heavy bag of papers in the cold evenings.  It used to take me just over an hour to complete the two/three mile circuit and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the actual paper I delivered. But I do remember the cold winter evenings and the struggle to retrieve pennies from my money bag with numb fingers and the very few people who would stand waiting for their change as I did this.

Though to be fair Christmas time was good for tips and in time I grew used to earning my own money and deciding how it was going to be spent. So much so, that as I was about to start studying for my A ‘Levels I decided to get myself a Saturday job, after four years both Paul and I had grown tired of the paper round.

As I initially wanted to avoid the hour-long bus trip into town, I decided to try my luck at the  local holiday camp, Allhallows-on-Sea, to see if they had any openings there. Things didn’t sound too promising to begin with and as I had already given up my paper round I reluctantly decided to try for something in town.

Armed with my one-page CV, I caught the bus into town and visited Boots, British Home Stores and a few others to see if they needed any Saturday staff. Some stores were potentially interested, and others had no current openings, so after a few hours I decided to call it a day and get the bus home. It was whilst walking to the bus stop that I noticed John Farmer Ltd, the Clark’s shoe shop and on a whim decided to pop in and ask. The manager wasn’t available at the time, so I left my CV and just managed to catch my bus.

Pittabread April 6 2018

I was really pleasantly surprised and relieved when I received a call from the manager at John Farmer asking me to come along for an interview. I have no memory of the interview itself, but whatever was asked my answers must have impressed as a week later I had a Saturday job.

And then very quickly a Sunday job as the owner, Terry from Allhallows-on-Sea had after some thought decided to give me a trial run. I ended up working at the camp on Sundays and during school holidays, sometimes in the restaurant and other times in the grocery shop next door. Which incidentally was where I discovered a young lad attempting to leave the shop without paying for a bottle of coke.

I can still picture Terry, dealing with this situation. He was calm, firm and measured giving the young man a severe telling off and then sending him on his way.

So, within the space of a month I went from no weekend job to two, alongside studying for three A-Levels. I managed both jobs for the time it took to complete my studies and I am still truly grateful to both Mr Hyner from John Farmer Ltd and Terry and his wonderful family, at Allhallows-on-Sea holiday camp.

Isobel on beach 2016

Both jobs gave me much needed work and life experience, enough to get me started. Now as I observe our fifteen-year-old daughter starting to show some interest in earning her own money, I’m looking forward to seeing how she manages it.

So, there you have it until next time


My daring adventure, part two………

The clocks have sprung forward, and we are now officially at the start of Spring, what’s happening for you right now? What are you looking forward to as the new season beckons?

Well I’m looking forward to completing the first year of my two-year creative writing course, which I started in October of last year. It has been and continues to be a bit of a of a roller coaster. It has been a real eye opener, having to submit work on a regular basis for both critical and constructive feedback from people sitting across the same table as you. Feedback that has overall been, robust, honest and carefully thought through, but it’s still not always a comfortable experience when you are on the receiving end.

So, I have needed to remind myself of the quote, by Brene Brown:

Pittabread March 2018

I have lost count of the number of pieces I have submitted for feedback and with the help of in class writing prompts, have written stories, extracts from my life and even attempted a bit of poetry.  It must be said though; the poetry hasn’t yet been shared and may never see the light of day 😉.

Surprisingly, what I initially wanted to write about when I started the course has completely changed. I’m certainly clearer now about what I don’t want to write about, though I do find myself more drawn to stories, based on magical realism and history.

Certainly, the one thing that has changed as a direct result of the course is my commitment to journaling every day. Interesting as I have never in the past managed to keep up with a diary or journal, they always fell by the wayside after a few short weeks. However, with the creative writing course I have been making the time to write at least 500 words each day and have been doing so since 9th December last year.

Especially since I’ve discovered a great range of unlined A4 books (I don’t do lines, 😉) so I can scribble away, doodle and draw to my heart’s content, without feeling limited by a load of lines. This has been a great discipline for me as prior to that I tended to write only when I had a deadline to meet, or on a bit of an ad-hoc basis. I certainly didn’t write with the determination and focus I have now.

It’s been emotional and not what I was expecting, and it’s opened my eyes to a new world of writing. I’m amazed at the opportunities to enter competitions, join groups, participate in workshops, hear writers read their work. There are a lot of us out there, scribbling away, ‘doing our thing’.

The course is also helping me to uncover a new, quite unexpected story that will take some time to unravel and reveal itself. This new story will allow me to review past choices in a completely new light and with a fresh perspective.

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

PS If you are interested check out part one of my daring adventure, via this link:


A journey home………………….

Today’s story is from my days as an engineering student in the early 80s, long before social media, email or mobile phones. Our channels of communication were limited to talking face to face, writing letters or making calls from a public call box or using the phone at home, the one with a dial 😉.

As I write this I’m reminded that all the parenting in the world won’t necessarily shield you from your own ill-thought out and potentially dangerous impulses. And I was at the time considered by my mum to be a sensible and level-headed teen, it just goes to show.

Pittabread 2 Feb 2018

Anyway, to my tale, it was the end of my first term at Poly and as an 18-year-old undergraduate I was packed and ready to travel home and had already rung mum at one o’clock to say I was on my way. She would have reasonably expected me home at around four o’clock the same afternoon. Well, I did eventually roll in at 11pm, though today as the mother of a fifteen-year old I cannot quite believe that I put my mum through this as I was effectively missing for six/seven hours.

So, as I was about to leave campus, I happened to meet one of the older male students on my course. He was a year or so ahead of me, so when he asked, ‘where are going?’ I simply replied, ‘home.’ When he suggested that we travel to London together, which was where I needed to go for the first leg of my journey, I wasn’t too fazed. I knew him slightly and was quite flattered. This would have been around one-thirty in the afternoon.

The journey to London was uneventful and when, let’s call him Tony, suggested going for a drink, I was not perturbed it was still early. Making a call to mum passed fleetingly through my head, but that’s all it did, somehow it seemed too much trouble to find a call box and dial some numbers.

Pittabread 3 Feb 2018

We ended up in a wine bar, had a few glasses of wine, a nice chat, a nice time. We also spent some time walking around taking in the sights. As it was getting dark, I realised I was no longer in a part of London that I was as familiar with and beginning to think it was time to make a move for home. Sharing my concern with Tony, he suggested we take a taxi to the station I needed for the next part of my journey.

So, now we are both in the back of a black cab on the way to Victoria, when Tony stretches out an arm and leans in. In an instant, my happy haze clears completely, and I ask to get out of the cab. Realising that I am not interested in his overtures, Tony immediately backs off and insists on taking me to Victoria station where I can get my train home.

Which is what I did, still not thinking to call mum.

Pittabread 4 Feb 2018

Looking back, I was naive and a bit too trusting, but fortunate, that Tony understood and respected my ‘no.’ It could have been a whole different story with somebody else.

As I remember it, mum was remarkably, or at least appeared remarkably calm and composed when I breezed in around 11pm and brushed off her questions with ‘Oh, out with friends.’

I didn’t feel it necessary to fill in the details. Sorry, mum.

I could have been, at the very least stuck in London late at night with no money and no clue as to where I was and had placed myself in a vulnerable position.

The lesson was well learned.

So, there you have it, until next time

Janice Taylor

Our GCSE Manifesto………………….

I’m sure like many thousands of other parents, my husband and I are counting down the days until the end of June 2018, when our teenage daughter will have completed her GCSE examinations.

Have been astounded by how stressful we’ve both found this two-year period and can’t wait for it to be over.  Back in the late 70s, I genuinely do not remember my parents or me for that matter being this involved or anxious about my O’ Levels. At that time, they were just a set of exams to take before moving onto either work or some form of further study.

So, what’s changed? Quite a lot I should imagine, but this months’ post isn’t going to be an in-depth treatise on the pros and cons of the current education system. Life is too short. 😉

But what I would like to do, so me and my husband can support our daughter through the next six months and retain our sanity is to lay out our GCSE Manifesto.

Isobel on beach 2016

So, to our daughter we’d like to say:

We don’t need you to finish with nine, 9***********, or however the hell the top marks are described these days. A smattering of reasonable grades is absolutely fine with us, thank you very much.

Get yourself through this but look after yourself too, your physical and mental health is our top priority. We want you to be resilient and that might mean sacrificing a few marks, here and there.

We do need you, to put in the ‘effort’, this is probably the biggest and most important predictor of success in these exams. So, if you can look us both in the eye and tell us, you have tried your hardest and your best. We will be proud.

These exams are a gateway, a set of stepping stones to a future we cannot fully predict or control. They may lead you to where you want to go, but they may also lead to unexpected or unanticipated opportunities. So, as such they don’t have to determine the rest of your life, that is for you to do.

Real learning is a joy and is for life, so don’t allow this small part of your education to put you off. If you can keep your mind open to learning and your heart open to friendship, compassion and kindness, your dad and I will have done our job.

And remember, whatever happens on the 23rd August when the results come out, there is always, always a plan B and we will be with you, come what may.

Life will go on, all you need to do is make the best choices from wherever you happen to be.


Mum and Dad

Janice Taylor

This year I’m disrupting my own Christmas….

By which I mean, the changes I will be making to our usual Christmas routines and preparations.

It’s going to be all about rest and relaxation this year, that is our theme for Christmas 2017.

It doesn’t have to be the same every year…

For 2017, the manic, rushing about for presents, food and general Christmas ‘tat’ is out. I am refusing to engage with the madness of the last-minute, supermarket dash and paid my last visit to our newly refurbished Sainsburys on Wednesday 20th December.

Pittabread Dec 2017 1

I will not be back until after Christmas.

So, what else am I changing?

For a start not, a single sprout will grace our table this Christmas, life is too short. We don’t eat them at any other time of the year, why bother now?

Our panto tickets are ordered, we are going to see Cinderella and the Beanstalk, at The Old Market, Hove. Something with a bit of a twist, and I’m looking forward to seeing how a relatively small cast, will play a whole host of different fairy tale characters.

We might just spend the whole day in our pyjamas, if we need to go out we can simply pull our clothes over the top. It’s Christmas 😉

Enjoyed my first ever Christmas meal of the year, on Friday 15th December, with ‘Off the Fence’, a local charity supporting the homeless and vulnerably housed. It was a real privilege to be there and I hope this becomes a regular event.

On a similar note, I also spent a bit of time on outreach for the same charity, delivering hot drinks and sandwiches to the people we found on the streets. Nothing like it for putting Christmas into perspective.

We’ll be heading out to catch a couple of films at the cinema, based on our choices as a family, Star Wars, The Last Jedi for me and Wonder for our daughter. We’re still not quite sure about my husband’s choice.

Not everyone is going to get a card this year, (this is probably not too different from previous years), but either way I’d like to speak to people on the phone 😉. Enough of the Facebook likes and shares.

Pittabread Dec 2017 22

We will be tucking into our Aldi’s hamper full of Christmas treats, enough for us and whoever pitches up during the holiday, ordered almost a month ago now.

All our presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree ready to be delivered as required. Well that was the plan, not quite there yet.

Our bathroom needs a fresh coat of paint, not necessarily on Christmas Day but at some point, and as it’s over the holiday season I’m hoping to get some help from my daughter and husband.  A different kind of ‘family activity’ 😉.

So, there you have it, wishing you all a happy, restful and peaceful Christmas.

Janice Taylor


John’s garden shed…….

Have been meaning to share this story for some time now, it still makes me laugh and I like to celebrate and remember colleagues from my past working life, particularly from my days in Engineering and this happened almost thirty years ago, now.

John, was the senior Estimator at the company we both worked for in East London, when I a recent engineering graduate was assigned to work with him as a trainee.

As I remember him, John was a cheerful individual who laughed easily and had an optimistic view on life and he taught me, his rather serious and reserved graduate trainee the art and craft of Estimating.

That is, he taught me how to work from a photograph, a sketch or a model of a shop display unit and turn it into a list of materials, manufacturing processes and packaging that could be priced up and presented to the sales team – with a flourish:

This is how much we think it will cost to produce this item.

Pittabread Nov 2017 1

If we were lucky our ‘estimate’ would fall within the price range offered to the customer, by our sales team.

So, this was how John and I spent our working day and if you had asked us, we could have given you the price of a tonne of steel, a bag of screws and a kilo of acrylic moulding powder almost of the top of our heads.

Anyhow, one morning I arrived at work to find John, already seated at his desk with what looked to me like a small house made from Greyboard modelling card and the first thing he asked me was:

 “What do you think Janice?”

As he removed the small house’s roof and turned it this way and that on top of its four walls.

“What’s it for John?” I asked, as he continued re-orienting the small roof.

“My shed, can’t quite decide which way to place the roof.”

“Okay, John is there anything else we need to work on today?”

“Yeah, probably.” he replied, “but I want to get the cement and sand for the concrete sorted. And it would be good to order the felting for the roof.”

Pittabread Nov 1 2017

At which point, he drew what looked to be a rectangular box on a piece of paper, which I assumed to be the base of his shed and quickly worked out the overall volume. Then he turned towards me and asked;

“Can you check this, need to make sure I order the correct amount of sand and cement for the concrete?”

“Of course.”  I replied

I knew from experience what could happen, if you muddled your dimensions or simply put a decimal point in the wrong place. John didn’t need or want 30 tonnes of concrete for a small garden shed.

So, while I checked his figures, John reached across for the phone dialled a number and placed his order for the felting.

Finishing up with,

“That’s great, so delivery on Saturday? Thank you.”

He finished the call with a sigh and said:

“Well that’s one less thing to worry about.”

Having checked, that all was well with John’s calculations for the concrete mix, I turned to him and laughed.

“After all this John, I want to see this bloody shed, when it’s finished.”

“Yep, I’ll take a picture, Janice. Now let me place a couple, more orders, do me a favour and just keep an eye out.”

I did indeed keep an eye out, it would have been a bit tricky if one of the senior managers had happened by, whilst their crack Estimating team, ‘Johnice’ as we were known then, were hot on the trail of some non-work related, concrete and felt.

I can’t remember if I ever saw the picture, but I know I never saw the shed.

So, there you have it, until next time

Janice Taylor