Tuesday, 27 September 2011

There's life out there, and it's exhausting

  • I have discovered that if you take up the piano, start night classes at music school, and move your computer up to your bedroom all in the same week, you end up going online roughly once every two weeks.  Also, you will lose "followers," because people don't like it when you don't pay attention to them. Which I get, because I, too, am an attention whore. (Love me, please!)
  • Marie, to Jack's friend: Look at this cup! It's full of my pee!
  • It turns out that commercial house concerts are rather good fun, as long as you have a few drinks beforehand.
  • I may need to move my computer back downstairs. I have been folding laundry and practising the piano during nap time, which cannot really be healthy. I can play a pretty little waltz now, though. And everyone has clean clothes.
  • With my new night class/social schedule, I am at home only on Saturday nights. I'm not sure I can keep this pace going. I must now go and collapse into my bed.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Why the hell not? (x3)

  1. Yesterday, I was driving through the center of Antwerp, on my way to have lunch with An. When I had to slow down to turn a sharp corner, this old lady just got into my car. I barely managed to snatch the child seat out from under her bum. She said she was late getting to the other end of the street, and I wouldn't mind dropping her off of course. It wasn't a question, really. More of a statement. She was all tanned, manicured, high heeled, expensively dressed and coiffed. She left a big cloud of perfume in my car. It made me laugh for the rest of the day. It was just so unexpected.
  2. Going out last week, I had nothing to wear. I did have this beautiful pair of jeans in my wardrobe, but I never wore them because I bought them too long. I always intended to shorten them, but seeing as I never ever complete a sewing task, they now had holes in the bottom of the trouser legs from where I wore them a couple of times and stepped on them with my heels. So I got a big pair of scissors and just cut them off. I now have gorgeous new (slightly frayed) jeans which make my legs look endless. Ever since I did this, I have noticed lots more people with cut off trouser legs. I never even considered it before! It felt most liberating, I must say.
  3. Then finally, I must blush a little. You know my little priorities speech? I can tell you there's been some progress. I now have a space to write (it's in the bedroom, but that's better than in the kitchen) and I have sat there and written a bit. I now have 10,000 words of complete crap. Which is better than no crap at all, but still not exactly what I was aiming for.
    However, I have to eat my book club hat because a lovely friend dropped round and asked me to come back, which made me walk around on little clouds for a day. Who could say no? I have decided I will only read the books I like the sound of, and the other times I will just go along and enjoy the company of thinking women. It's only once a month, and frankly I crave intelligent conversation these days. So - why the hell not?

Friday, 9 September 2011


I gave this big speech to Jack about priorities. He wants to do it all: handball, swimming, music school twice a week, choir, and now... ropeskipping. And it's just too much. For me, for poor Marie and Charlie who have to sit in the car too much, and for him, because he's exhausted already in his second week of school. So I told him he had to drop something. And thank fuck, mercy, and all your combined deities, because he dropped choir, which is a very sad thing, but at the same time I don't have to do the Friday night ride of hell any more in which I take him several towns away through peak time traffic to be in choir from six till eight. Did I mention this was on bloody Friday night, when everyone else is collapsed in their sofas, resting after a hard week's work?

Anyway - back to the theme of the day: priorities. I'm starting my piano lessons next week, and I accidentally booked them for a Tuesday night, which clashes with my once-monthly book club. The double booking was an accident, but when I realised my mistake, it dawned on me that I could use the same speech I just gave to Jack. So, however much it pains me, I have decided that there will be no more book club this year. If I want to finally write something substantial for myself - and what does the world need more than another unpublished "author" who takes herself seriously - I don't need to also read ten books other people picked. I will miss it, but I can only do so much. (Also blogs - this one and others - have to come after the other writing for which I apologise dear reader.) 

The world makes more sense to me now. I was only running Jack to that choir every week because I loved it so much when I was a kid anyway. He needs to find his own amazing experiences, and he will. Hopefully much closer to home. And I am finally sitting down to write a bit more. In between snotty noses, school runs, and ropeskipping drop offs. All I need now is a place to sit down on my own in the evenings. The couple of hours I can find here and there during the day just won't cut it, and sitting on my bed at night with my laptop on my knees may still seem romantic just now, but I'm sure it won't be when my back gives out. A room of my own won't be possible, but perhaps I can find a small corner table.

So, "priorities" is my theme of the week.

Igor will be proud of me. And more importantly, I will, too.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

What you don't see doesn't exist

Don't let the clean toilet and the hoovered carpet fool you. Sitting in the living room, I look like I have my shit together, don't I?

If you look just a little further, a little deeper:
  • That pan on the stove? Full of old pasta, cereal and lunchbox leftovers.
  • Round the corner in the kitchen? Baskets of laundry, piles of books and random paperwork.
  • Upstairs? A tip.
It makes me wonder: what is everyone else hiding? What are you?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Thursday, 1 September 2011

It had been a while since I cried in class

I had this brilliant plan: in order to get cheap piano lessons, I would join the local music school and put up with the "general musical education" lessons. In the process, I would finally get my official diploma and have cheap piano/singing/violin tuition for evermore and evermore; the end. Straightforward plan, yes?

I have, in the past, had six years of "unofficial" music education, 10 years of violin lessons, and roughly 25 years' worth of choir singing, so I wasn't really expecting any problems. So this evening, I went for an admission test, which also established that, yes, I was fine and good to go. No problems at all, in fact, and I could decide for myself if I wanted to go into the second or third (and final) year.

As is my annoying habit, I was all insecure and thought I wouldn't manage, etc., so before the break I tried the second year class. It was fine. Easy, but fine. Lovely neurotic, reed thin, stiff upper lip teacher (I liked her). Very easy rhythm exercises, easy singing exercises, just-fine theory. Basically, I was not challenged at all. And me being the overachieving teacher's pet that I am, of course I had to go on to the third year class after the break, just to see if that would force me to study more and then shine with my new found knowledge when I put my finger up during the next lesson, shouting "Me, me! Pick me, you lovely teacher, because I studied hard and will now show off to you and my class mates." You get the picture. (Another motivation for moving classes, and to be honest a rather pressing one, was the fact that the teacher had announced recorder practice after the break. Now I have a recorder, but it was lying at home, so the teacher promised to get me a school recorder. To put in my mouth. A recorder that had been touched and blown on by all the smelly school children in the neighbourhood. This was not going to happen. My two options were: change classes or fake my own death.)

So after the break, I stepped into the other class. There I was, expecting some medium difficulty rhythm exercises, or maybe some mildly complicated songs, when the teacher (colourful, buxom, loud) told us to stand up, belted out an African song and told us to repeat it and then improvise variations on the theme. Eh, come again? All the students in fact did stand up and repeat the song, after which they all improvised away for about a hundred repetitions of the original tune. I just stared at them. After a while, I hummed a little half hearted approximation of the tune, but stopped because it just felt so very very alien and scary.

Anyway, after that ordeal we reviewed the song the class had practised before the break - it was fine. Nice and traditional; mildly challenging. Just fine. Then the teacher goes "Everyone take a djembe." - - - I was ready to make a fucking run for it. What did this woman think she was doing? I thought I was in a quiet suburban Belgian town, learning quiet suburban Belgian music, not in some African music workshop. Oh, I was not happy. I was still shaking from the earlier improvisation debacle. No, this was not good.

We started with some very traditional rhythm exercises. Pretty easy and stardard ones, were it not for the fact that we were beating these weird drums instead of clapping our hands. Then we had to make up our own rhythms and play them to the class. My hands were trembling so hard it was pretty hard to stay in time. I did it, but kept apologising for getting it wrong. First time on a djembe, heart palpitation, FEAR!

Then we sang another little song. Hungarian, two voices, some tricky rhythms, but comfortably doable. Only this time I knew - I just knew - that she was lulling me into a false feeling of peace. And sure enough, she pounced with one more repetition of the African song she'd sung at the start, and lots and lots and lots more repetitions and improvisations. Which she accompanied on her djembe, of course. How else? No piano for this woman. When people started to clap along, she told them they were being "too Western" and to clap only on the second and fourth beats. She also told us to "Loosen up! Have fun! Look like like you have fun!" Eh - no. It was not fun. It was torture. I tried to sing along now, quietly, making up some of my own variations, but somehow they all ended up sounding like what the teacher had just sung.

Then the lesson was finished and everyone left the room. I was packing up, in a daze, when the teacher asked me what I thought. I teared up and while I wiped my eyes, I told her
I think I'm "too Western." I don't like improvising while people listen. I felt self-conscious. I didn't come here to play djembe. I came here to learn music theory and to read music better. I don't feel comfortable playing this strange instrument in front of the class. I like my lessons traditional, and calm, and a lot less intrusive. I'm overwhelmed. It made me cry. I couldn't breathe. I was trembling and shaking. I hated it. I can't imagine I'll ever like it.
Also, I think this is exactly what I need and I will come back next week if you don't mind.
Whereas the second year class was slap bang in the middle of my comfort zone, the class I ended up with was so far from my comfort zone, it was "over the hill and far far away" (Babes' words). I can't imagine I'll ever like it. I was told by the teacher to "just stop thinking and let go." I'll try, I will.

Don't you just hate it when you go looking for what you think you want, and then you get ambushed by what you hoped you didn't need, but you really totally do? I hate that.

Thursday nights, I will be improvising African songs and beating a djembe, all the while trying desperately to let go and stop thinking. And I will hate it. Until I don't. (I hope.)