Post archive

November 2017

Regarding the progress my double bass, violin and piano student, Stuart's made on violin, his mum congratulated me (it's very rewarding to hear the music he's been studying begin to 'come alive' under his fingertips), and I was touched by the gift my piano student, Raima, brought me back from India. 


I'm enjoying composing material for Stuart and I to play together: 'Blues for Stuart' for piano and double bass; a reworking of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' for two violins, and for myself I wrote 'Winter Solstice' for cello (a delicious instrument which I now practise seriously).

On the menu this month (made with produce from my allotment): Pumpkin pie, 'Spanish' roasted pumpkin seeds with smoked paprika, pear and pumpkin soup, and fig and sultana 'Golden Glow' wine.

At the Docklands Maritime Festival in London, I performed on fiddle with duo, Mikanora, the great folk songs, 'Green Grow the Rashes', 'Windy Ol' Weather', 'Drunken Sailor' and 'Freight Train'. I also completed a Community Journalism course with Cardiff University and FutureLearn.

I was telling the American actress, Barbara Niven on Facebook how I write candidly about my battle with OCD and PTSD in a blog and that only one person every comments. My hope is that someone who feels as desperate as I've often felt will stumble across it and see that there is hope. It also helps me to read it back and see how far I've come. She got back to me with a very encouraging and profound reply, some of which I shall share with you here: "Thank you, Gemma for putting your heart and truth out there! What a beautiful spirit and soul you have, and I know you are reaching many people. Perhaps right now only one person is commenting on your blog, but it doesn't mean that others are not seeing it. I bet someone who is struggling the most is getting the most out of what you are writing - but perhaps they are not at a point in their lives when they can actually put words to what they are feeling. It's a great gift you have that allows you to do it. You will probably never know the lives you are touching. Please keep trying, because the world needs beautiful, giving people like you and the lessons you can teach. If we never go through tough times, we can never learn lessons. And if we never learn lessons, we can never teach them to someone else... You touched my heart today..."

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and 2018!

October 2017

On the menu this month (made with produce from my allotments): Roast beetroot with cumin seeds, aubergine and courgette pasta, green tomato jam with ginger and vanilla, vegan courgette and chocolate cake, courgette meatballs, lime and courgette cake, courgette and parsnip chutney, raspberry and vanilla tea, courgette wine, purple basil pesto with tomato and aubergine pasta, turmeric zucchini soup, 10 minute Thai peanut butter and pumpkin soup, and pumpkin latte.


The 2017 film, 'Gerald's Game' (story by Stephen King), was excellent in how it dealt with the issue of childhood sexual abuse.

It thrilled me to finally be able to play 'Autumn Leaves' on piano with chord inversions, and I enjoyed performing my feature night at Romford Folk Club: I sang and played all my instruments and read my poetry in a celebration of my musical life and all the places I've lived. People appreciated the amount of variety and humour in my performance, and folk singer, Garry Walker, called it a "magical night." I was pleased given that I'd had to really fight to keep my demons firmly locked up in a cupboard in order to do this.

My partner, Jan's brother, David, very kindly bought me an iPad Pro and an iPencil for my birthday, which I've loved using to do more experimental digital art, and my double bass, piano and violin student, Stuart, told me that my teachings contribute to a "circle of love" he experiences with all of the approximately 20 instruments he plays (lovely)! In his honour, I composed a round for two violins called 'Singing Cave'.

I also achieved a FutureLearn Certificate of Achievement from the University of Sheffield for their course, Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X, and got The Fox Project to change their messaging service on Facebook that they'd misrepresented.

September 2017

The drama series, Top of the Lake (Jane Campion, Garth Davis and Gerard Lee) and its sequel, Top of the Lake: China Girl (Jane Campion and Gerard Lee) were pieces of art I found to be truly original, courageous, thought-provoking, exquisite, inspiring and exciting in every sense.


The University Libraries at Cambridge, Oxford and Trinity College in Dublin and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, all have copies, now, of my debut collection of poetry, Vivarium

On the menu this month (made with produce from my allotment): Yellow damson and banana smoothie, green tomato cake, white potatoes with mint, roasted courgettes and beetroot, moist rhubarb cake and red wine.

Jan and I enjoyed the Best of the Music Fest by Redbridge Music Lounge and the Green Fair Music Club at Valentines Mansion and Gardens, Ilford. We also celebrated 10 years of being together.

At Romford Folk Club I sang English folk songs a cappella for the first time and was complimented on the quality of my voice, which was encouraging.

I'm beginning to trust in my own methods as a double bass, violin and piano teacher: It takes time and patience!

August 2017

My partner, Jan, bought me a cello, bless her! I'd always wanted one, and it sounds and feels sublime!


This month was taken up mainly with completing 250 illustrations by hand to go in five copies of my poetry book, Vivarium, for the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries, teaching music, and doing more creative coding sketches using Processing 3.

The very helpful shop assistant in Shepherds, London, where I purchased bookbinding materials for the making of Vivarium, told me about the art of coptic binding, which I enjoyed mastering: It's taken me two years to publish this book exactly the way I want it, but I'm glad I persisted with it.

I made the following with produce from my allotments: Yellow damson chutney, kale smoothie, savoy cabbage curry, blackberry chutney, rhubarb gin, yellow damson vodka, green tomato chutney and rhubarb hummus.

It was lovely see that many of my followers on social media connected deeply with my poetry.

July 2017

A musician I much admire; Barry Harris' jazz workshop at the Vortex Jazz Club in London, was, as always, a special experience. I couldn't get a look in given that the great jazz sage was immediately surrounded at the piano by a crush of young, male student-types who refused to budge. Merely being in Harris' presence for a short time was enough to inspire me, though - before I demanded a refund for my ticket.


This is an amazing poem by my friend, Naomi Foyle, about the Grenfell Tower tragedy:

Going on Crutches to Grenfell Tower
after Ben Okri

*If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.*

A Nigerian summons me to London from the sea.
A Palestinian gives me directions from the south bank of the 
river.
As I hesitate at the head of a plummeting escalator
two sharp-suited businessmen turn to help me
descend into the Underground.
It’s rush hour and the carriages are crammed. 
Boarding the train, I shrug off my back pack, 
tuck it with the crutches close to my body,
and grab the overhead rail, realising too late 
all this is difficult, strains my weak arm;

as the force of the train rocks through me,
an Irishman asks if I need help. 
‘I’m okay’, I say, and lurch against the door.
Quietly, in a gesture that reminds me 
of the formal way South Koreans offer money,
he grips my elbow, holds my arm
between Waterloo and Westminster —
to keep him upright, he laughs
before he hops off 
and I take his place by the plexiglass partition
with its yellow vertical grab-rail. 
‘Will someone give this lady a seat?’ 
a man asks. Not a single person looks up. 
Only one of my fellow passengers is asleep.
‘Charming,’ I murmur. The man repeats his question 
and a woman stands, without a word or a glance.
I sit. I have taken her seat, 
her prized rush hour seat,
but I needed to sit. 
I felt unsafe on my feet.

If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.

At Baker St Station it strikes me
that heeding the call of the poet 
wasn’t, perhaps, such a great idea.
As I teeter down a flight of stairs
a train arrives at the platform below me, 
and disgorges a sea of people,
a flood of people rising toward me,
filling the stairwell, shoulder to shoulder.
one solid mass, an interminable force 
I can’t thread my way through or bypass. 
Neither can I turn around and go back.
I have to wait on the step
as people push past me, 
and though my mind knows 
that this muscular wave will soon pass,
I feel guilty for waiting.
For taking up space. For taking up time. 
I feel stupid for thinking I could cross London on crutches.
I feel I shouldn’t have come. 
I am no Biblical cripple.
I am not journeying to meet Christ.
I don’t need to be another Grenfell gawker.
I need step-free access
to a train home to Brighton. 
But just as I realise 
how foolish I’ve been, I see
that a small miracle is occurring:
people have noticed me,
are pressing closer together,
and a path has appeared
a narrow, shining hemline 
along the edge of the stairs:
an invitation to continue.
Hugging the wall, I step
on down to the platform
as the physiotherapist taught me:
‘Good foot to heaven,
bad foot to hell.’

*

On the Circle line, a petite Black woman 
smiles, jumps up, insists I sit, 
and tells me about her corrected fourth toe.
She disembarks at Royal Oak, 
and a couple from Colorado get on, 
the woman curious about how long I have to go . . . 
and before I know it, the train isn’t underground anymore,
we are rushing over grey streets and grey parks 
and council estates, beneath a dull white sky,
and then we are there, at Latimer Road,
and before the train has even pulled into the station
it is there too. Right there, 
through the window, watching us
with its hundreds of burned-out eyes. 
Watching us go on with our lives.
Watching us speed through its shadow,
or stop and alight and enter its radius . . .
to go to work in a crime scene,
to come home to a war zone
or to make an unsteady pilgrimage 
to a place we would normally zoom past.

If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.

They greet me at the turnstiles. 
Their faces are everywhere. 
From walls, church railings, shop windows, telephone kiosks,
above the stiff queues of flowers,
the perfume of stargazers and rot,
their beauty radiates; an intolerable heat.
The honey-skinned mother and her five year-old daughter.
The Muslim couple and their baby.
The two young Italians.
A curly-haired girl, on the cusp of her womanhood,
Women in bright sweaters, bold prints, smiles and hijabs,
older men clad in dignified solitude.
Steven, also known as Steve. 
Mohammed from Syria . . . please sign the petition.
Poster after poster, please call . . .
If you see . . . 
And behind the telephone kiosk,
that plastered pillar of love,
with its poems and prayer calls
and white paper butterflies,
behind the viaduct
with its incessant trains,
behind the vinyl banner
on the brick-clad new build –
‘Considerate Constructors
Secure Everyone’s Safety’:
It rises. 
The blackness.
The blackness 
I have hobbled here 
to stare at
as if nothing else exists.
The blackness
I will never forget.
For there is nothing blacker
than the windows
of Grenfell Tower
Not the niqab of the young woman
at the traffic lights
whose dark darting eyes 
are the essence of light,
not the black plastic boot
that protects my shattered ankle,
not the black shell of my laptop
on which I’m writing this poem,
or the fascia of my BlackBerry phone
with which I took grainy photos
of the burned out windows 
of Grenfell Tower,
photos that fail
to show those windows
as they are:
blackness as void. 
Cosmic blackness.
The unfathomable blackness 
we come from and return to. 
Absolute blackness.
Cordoned off by red and white ribbons
Guarded from gawpers
by police in florescent jackets,
but impossible to cover up,
impossible to hide,
yet impossible to approach,
until a man strides by me,
stops up ahead on the pavement
and raises his arms.
Pale, grey-haired, in a grey shirt,
his arms lifted to the Tower
in an open-palmed V
for veneration
he appears to be praying.
mourning, giving healing,
sending love to Grenfell Tower,
communing with the spirits,
he tells me,
of his neighbours 
who went to school with his children,
who didn’t want to leave this way
whose agony lodges in his throat,
whose vanished beauty shines from his eyes.

*

If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower

Yes, Grenfell Tower is a mass grave,
a mausoleum, a crematorium. 
It commands our silence.
But go and see it.
Go and see Britain’s black omphalos,
the navel of our failure
to take care of each other.
Go and see London’s real Olympic Torch
our charred trophy of arrogance, greed and contempt,
a monument to everything this country’s leaders do best:
scoffing at basic safety procedures, 
ignoring experts’ advice,
flouting regulations, cutting corners
for the sake of padding bank accounts,
promising improvements, delivering death traps,
telling critics to ‘get stuffed’,
never consulting, never respecting
the people they are paid to represent:
people deemed a nuisance and an eyesore,
a blight on property values,
a threat to ‘social order’,
whose lives are not worth the paper
their missing posters are printed on,
whose inevitable incineration 
has been planned, approved and fully costed,
whose grief and rage and anguish
must be micromanaged
with a drip feed of numbers,
a narrowing of remits,
a stealthy adjournment of truth.
But the truth cannot be hidden,
the truth is there for all to see.
Yes, go see Grenfell Tower.
Go by tube, bus, car, taxi, bicycle, 
wheelchair, skateboard, roller blades,
tap the pavement with white canes, with crutches.
Go and see it. Take flowers, food and clothes. 
Leave a message at St Clements.
Go and see Kensington’s anti-Kaaba,
its site of sacred devastation
rising in every direction we face.
And if you cannot go,
wherever you may be, however frail or far,
let us all, in our hearts,
stand with the disappeared, 
and stand with the survivors,
let us stand with the uncounted, the discounted,
at the top of the stairs
on the twenty-fourth floor,
let us demand those responsible
for this preventable inferno
stop their frantic climbing
over Grenfell’s broken bodies,
through Grenfell’s tower of ashes,
over stacks of contracts, legal documents,
to a safety and freedom
they do not deserve.
And as the faces of the missing fade
into the black flames of memory,
by the candles of our witness 
let us light
a clear broad path 
to justice on the street.
With its hundreds of burnt out eyes,
from its unfathomable void,
Grenfell Tower is watching us.
We cannot fail again.

Naomi Foyle


My Polish concert pianist and artist friend, Nuna, thought that my 'Buddy' sketch of the black cat that visits me at my allotments, was "awesome," which meant a lot, and I had some positive feedback from a couple of artists' agencies I sent the studies I've done of my allotments out to.

I also began hand-illustrating the poems in my debut collection of poetry, Vivarium - some of which can be seen here on my Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/gemmaboyd407/, and wrote another composition - for two double basses called 'Featbeat', which can be heard under 'Music & Poetry: Listen' on this website.

It was fun being a 'session musician' on double bass for various musical acts performed by members of Romford Jazz Club.

At the end of the month I acquired a new piano student - an eight-year-old girl called Raima. She's a delight, and I welcomed the challenge of teaching a child for the first time.

June 2017

This blog is dedicated to my friend, a talented photographer and animal lover, Ralph King, who died suddenly late this month.


"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." - Gertrude Jekyll

I continue to believe in working hard at what you love - especially in the darkest of times of personal struggle, terrorism and corporate greed. It will pay off in unexpected ways: I've discovered I really enjoy teaching musical instruments to adult learners, and have submitted my CV to Redbridge Music Service in the hope of doing more of the same near to where I live.

Via my friend, Patricia Ann Zabran: "If a person doesn't want to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, they may try to blame others. Don't accept blame or try to fix things for them when you've done nothing wrong. They need to learn that if they want different outcomes, they will have to make different choices." - Doe Zantamata

Some encouragement from my jazz guitarist and singer friend, Nils Solberg, lifted my spirits this very challenging month, and another friend - Polish concert pianist and artist, Nuna, adored the study I did of my fox friend which she said contained "poetry."

"Shine your light." - Survivors' Network

Clifford Luty (a fellow music enthusiast) introduced me to the wonderful music of American blues guitarist and singer, Buddy Guy.

"Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most." - Buddha

I achieved my 'gardening' goal this year of growing an aubergine, plus neared completion of the mixed media art studies inspired by my allotments I'm hoping to publish and sell.

Out of the blue I was called up by the fixer of Woodford Symphony Orchestra who desperately needed a double bassist. I excitedly obliged, and very much enjoyed playing in their classical concert for the British Red Cross at Roding Valley High School in Loughton. It was an especially amazing experience playing the piece, 'Sheep May Safely Graze' by Johann Sebastian Bach. 

"Don't wait until you've reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal." - Daily Yoga Posts on Instagram

On the menu this month: Fig and strawberry crumble with produce from my allotments.

May 2017

I really loved playing fiddle with the fabulous Mikanora at Romford Folk Club, and was pleased that I solved the armed robbery crime that was a part of my 'Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation' course with FutureLearn, accurately. I also attended a challenging and exciting Bookbinding course at Create Space in Bethnal Green.


"Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action." - Walter Anderson

The 'black dog' paid me a long visit this month for devastating reasons, but watching everything I'd grown from seed flourishing on my allotments, kept my head above water. Having spotted two fox cubs there, also cheered me up.

On the wall at the The Golden Lion pub, Romford: "Try. There are no mistakes, only lessons."

I enjoyed talking 'jazz' with my new friend, Cliff Luty on Twitter and think that I can safely say that OCD is no longer the boss of me.

Via my friend, Alison Gardener: "You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience... Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre... must benefit from the great privilege which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith." - Anaïs Nin

Despite feeling like death, I still managed to teach double bass, violin and piano to my student: My music always has my back - if I work hard.

"Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Every time I say "no" both in a professional and personal sense, I grow a little stronger.

With regards to my attempted self-directed recovery from OCD, my staunch supported, Manya Zuba commented: "You're working steadily towards your goal - keep going!"

April 2017

"Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door." - Kyle Chandler


I composed and performed at Romford Folk Club some more pieces: 'Deep Heart' and 'Monge Market' for piano accordion; 'Beeswax' for piano, and 'The Boatman's Mumbles' for fiddle. My double bass also got its first outing for a couple of years when I played it at the club. It felt great.

"L'encre, cette noirceur d'où sort une lumière." - Victor Hugo

Given that I feel it's time to move on from my job as a busker on the London Underground, I've been considering other ways - as well as teaching, of earning money local to where I live as a musician / artist / writer.

"How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?" - Leonard Cohen (from his novel, Beautiful Losers)
 
Double bassist, yogi and Certified Music Practitioner, Lloyd Goldstein kindly answered the questions I had about music for healing and transition.

"Creativity takes courage." - Henri Matisse (I'm sure I've shared this quote before on this blog, but right now I need to remind myself of it so's to keep myself motivated and inspired).

My yoga practice together with journaling, meditation and writing down daily positive affirmations are helping me navigate the changes I'm trying to make in both my personal and professional lives.

"Gemma; You're strengths are tangible, your instincts reliable, and your abilities are undeniable." - Phil Ericson. I still doubt myself enormously.

I'm now teaching folk violin as well as jazz piano and jazz double bass to my student, Stuart, and studying Shan Verma's online 'Jazz Skills!' piano course has been both fun and a challenge. I'm proud of the fact that I taught Stuart how to read music when he was very resistant to doing so in the beginning.

"Consistent action creates consistent results." - Christine Kane (via my friend, Patricia Ann Zabran)

The British Library now have a copy of my debut collection of poetry, Vivarium, and I've been requested by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries to send copies of it to five of the other main libraries around the UK.

"I have found that if you love life, life will love you back." - Arthur Rubinstein (Polish American classical pianist)

By following the link, 'Freelance Writing' on this website, you'll see the review I wrote of Phil Ericson's feature night at Romford Folk Club that took place last month. He's mentioned me often in live reviews he's written of sessions I've appeared in here.

A black cat that roams the North Hainault Allotments that I named Buddy, helped me plant out and pot on seedlings I'd mostly grown from seed on my two allotments.

I took the lead in playing some of the Irish fiddle tunes I know at the Irish folk session at The Nightingale pub, Wanstead, and found what I was learning on the FutureLearn course, 'Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation' fascinating, if not a little scary!

PARIS - MARCH 2017

On 6th March 2017, the online magazine, Street I Am, published my 'Paris 2016' busking blog entries, which can be read at: https://buskingmystory.blogspot.co.uk/


"Stand back into your strength." - Alison Gardener

During my three-week-long stay in Paris this month, I enjoyed taking photos of this beautiful city in which every experience is tinged with magic and mystery. Also, in keeping with how Parisians were celebrating the 19th 'Printemps des Poètes', I re-drafted some old poems. You can see my work here: https://www.instagram.com/gemmaboyd407/

My friend, Thane Tierney commented with regards to my poem, 'She who', "Gemma's lovely bit of magic realism to fill you with wonder."

North Hainault Allotment Holder's Association and Protection Society published my 2nd Prize 2016 photograph, 'Cat and Scarecrow', in their February 2017 newsletter.

My friend, Sarah Ronning about my photography: "Anyone can click a camera but only an artist's eye can capture moments like this."

I discovered the amazingly profound and talented American singer, songwriter and spoken word artist, Mary Lambert.

"We're all dancing to an invisible musician." - Afif Mohammad 

February 2017

I was headhunted for a job transcribing song lyrics with Moravia, but surprise-surprise, it turned out they were just after making a quick buck. I wasted a lot of time applying for this, but along the way I learnt that I can transcribe song lyrics, so that's another skill I can add to my CV. Also, my freelance writer friend, Hina, made me realize that actually, YES; My services are definitely worth charging decent money for.


"An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself." - Charles Dickens

On a more positive note, I am now teaching piano as well as double bass to my student, plus when I get back from Paris, I shall be teaching him music theory.

Hina reminded me: "You learnt coding from scratch; there is nothing you can't do:) Believe in yourself. You're brave enough to go to Paris for three weeks! Amazing!"

Romford Folk Club have invited me to be a featured guest on 18th July, and I've set myself the goal of penning some of my own songs for it. I also sold another copy of my debut collection of poetry, Vivarium, to my songwriter and live gig reviewer friend, Phil.

"New ideas pass through three periods: 1. It can't be done; 2. It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing; 3. I knew it was a good idea all along!" - Arthur C. Clarke

The ITV drama, Unforgotten - Series 2 by Chris Lang, did a stunning job of addressing and raising awareness of the complex issue of child sexual abuse and the lifelong pain and damage it can cause.

Indian activist and editor, Satish Kumar's 'Soil, Soul and Society' philosophy really resonated with me.

I finished another brilliant FutureLearn course: The Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen, throughout which time I developed my idea of facilitating music workshops for female survivors of incest.

From Hina: "It's gonna happen when you least expect it, from where you least expect it, and how you least expect it. So forget about it. Except, of course, to remember that it's gonna happen." - The Universe @tut.com

The Mobile Video Kick-starter course run by the Federation of Entertainment Unions was excellent: Now I shall hopefully be able to create more professional-looking promo videos.

January 2017

Happy 2017, all!


"Let us all work together in this new year for a world with hope, dignity and respect for all." - Yo-Yo Ma

My 'busking' blog is still interesting people, so I shall start work on it again soon. I've been too busy 'pitching to the void' again. A lovely testimonial from my double bass student, Stuart, cheered me up, though.

I know if I keep putting myself out there something will 'stick' and new opportunities will present themselves, but I mustn't allow my lack of self-belief get in the way!

"Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order." - Samuel Beckett

My artwork moved my friends, Nuna and Lorna: Job done!

"The secret to finding your true purpose? Follow your Goosebumps!" - Barbara Niven

I was grateful to my friend, Roger J. Foregard, for promoting the little videos of myself performing my poetry and music I'd made on Instagram.

"The end is the beginning and yet you go on." - Samuel Beckett

After attending Romford Folk Club for the second time, I won joint first prize (a haggis) for my fiddle playing at 'Scottish Night', which was judged by a great Scottish singer, Amanda MacLean. It felt wonderful to be playing with other musicians on a regular basis again, after having spent four years as mainly a soloist.

"If your dreams don't scare you... they're not big enough." - Barbara Niven

"Take your broken heart; make it into art." - Carrie Fisher

I bought an ISBN number for my debut book of poetry, Vivarium, which the British Library now have a copy of, and registered to audition to busk on the Paris Métro when I return to Paris in March.

My friend, Thane Tierney was inspired to begin writing a children's book about Jan and I's tortoise, Trevor. He wrote to me: "You and Trevor unlocked a side of me that had been dormant." 

"We can never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken." - John Green

December 2016

This blog is dedicated to the memory of the actress, Carrie Fisher, who was a woman after my own heart.

For half of this month I was laid up with a flu bug, but I got 98% for my Introduction to Forensic Science FutureLearn course with the University of Strathclyde, which I was proud of.

"As a fellow musician and licensed LU busker, it was lovely to read your [busking] blog." - Nigel Thomas

On the menu this month: Banana cake and spicy lentil and carrot soup.

Regarding my made-over website, my friend Manya Zuba commented, "Looks really good! And the video is magical!" Me: "Thanks, Manya. Just got to work on my sense of self-worth now!"

I raised £105.10 for Marie Curie cancer care at the Tesco, Barkingside collection, plus I enjoyed fiddling Christmas carols on the London Underground and teaching jazz double bass.

Two brilliant films came into my life at just the right time: The War Zone and Audrey and Daisy. The Netflix documentaries, Kids for Cash, Newtown and Amanda Knox, were also eye-opening and interesting.

You can see my new Processing sketches on this website under the link, 'Gallery & Artwork'.

I hate how whatever shit goes down in the world (Trump, Brexit, Syria, terrorism, the rise of disrespect), 'Happy Christmas' is a given: I have less and less to say nowadays, but still find pleasure and meaning in my gardening, yoga, pets and art.

To the terror victims of Berlin: I will play my music in public without fear for you.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing." - Edmund Burke

November 2016

On the menu this month: Monty and Sarah Don's beetroot soup and Jamie Oliver's Epic Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.


My tortoise, Trevor, brought me to life again!

I began teaching a new double bass student who lives not far from me in Chigwell which I was excited about: In teaching Stuart, I shall be getting back into playing (and re-learning) the double bass after a long period away from it.

"Go for the moonshots. Continuously look for opportunities where you can make a difference in a big way." - Anu Gali, Director of Engineering, Groupon

As I'd predicted weeks ago, a racist, sexist, prejudiced, misogynistic TV reality star (Trump) is now the most powerful man in the world. This terrifying news coupled with the Brexit vote, senseless terrorist attacks and the loss of many of my favourite cultural icons this year, have made me wonder, "What on earth is the point of getting out of bed?"

Novelist Toni Morrison's words made sense to me, however: "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence. No room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal."

I won second prize for my 'Cat and Scarecrow' photo in the North Hainault Allotment Holders Association photography competition, 2016 - which paid for the new allotment I've taken on. You can see this photograph and more of my latest work on my Instagram profile here under 'Social Media & Commended Links'.

"Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings." W. H. Auden

Regarding my journey to recovering from OCD, my friend Manya Zuba commented, "Seems to me you've got substantial breakthroughs here! Congratulations! Keep playing and working on music! And breathing, of course. Onward!" Her encouragement meant so much.

OCTOBER 2016

This summer I noticed a marked change in peoples' attitude to me as a busker on the London Underground: I got the lovely reactions and good tips, still, but they were few and far between. Mostly I got literally kicked out of the way; quizzical looks; sarcastic comments - and felt I was wasting my time, my energy and talent. I'd come home feeling miserable, devalued, depressed and alone on this planet increasingly populated by disconnected automatons. I was beginning to hate being a musician but could see no way out because an artist is what I am. This, combined with the fact I was addressing trauma from my past in counselling, put me in a very dark place.


I tried to hold on to my friend, Anne Macaulay's words, "Look at all the beauty you have created at your allotment and your photos, your painting, your poetry, your music. And we all gain from seeing and hearing your work. You are a person of great worth contributing greatly to others' well-being through your art and of course as yourself. Breathe slowly and deeply. Unpick the dark clouds to a list of manageable things. Take care. xx" Recognizing that I was going through a period of transition in my career as an artist, I remained committed to the things I could do; my yoga practice, my Creative Coding online course, counselling, working on my allotment, but couldn't shake the notion that everything I love doing in terms of being an artist, is no longer of any value to society (I sold just one copy of my debut book of poetry, Vivarium).

My depression continued, but then one afternoon I was cooking Gary Rhodes's Green Tomato Tarte Tatin (using the last of this year's bounteous crop of tomatoes from my allotment), while watching two wonderful TV documentaries; about the writer and humorist Sue Townsend, and dramatist, Willy Russell - both narrated by Julie Walters; an outstanding actress I had the pleasure of working with when I was a dresser at the National Theatre. I felt so inspired by the life's work of all three and realized that even in the depths of despair, I've never fallen out of love with or stopped believing in being an artist - and my creative mojo began to reignite.  

On 21st October, Jan and I welcomed into our family Trevor the Hermann's tortoise. We rescued him from one of his previous owners who'd dumped him in a pet shop where he was placed on a top shelf at the back of the shop for a month, then put in a 'sanctuary' when the pet shop owner couldn't sell him. It was obvious he was suffering from neglect and his vivarium was beyond filthy. He now lives in a tortoise 'penthouse', is eating well, and bringing us much joy. He also made me want to pick up my musical instruments again and to share little videos of my performances on Instagram!

Finally, I passed my Creative Coding course with Monash University in Australia! It was a satisfying to know that I could outrun the 'black dog' / OCD, and persist with a subject I found really challenging. It also gave me a lot of ideas about how I could develop my work as an artist. I thanked writer and journalist, Hina Pandya, who told me about this FutureLearn course. She advised me to join the organization, 'Women Who Code' and to attend Tech Day, London for free, which I did, and found the connections I made could lead to some writing projects in the future.

My massive thanks and gratitude go out to my partner, Jan, my counsellor, and my friends, without whom, I don't know where I'd be.

SEPTEMBER 2016

I finally published the handmade version of my debut collection of poetry, Vivarium. For more details, visit this website's online shop. It felt good to finally be able to hold in my hands something I'd invested a lot of time, effort and love in.


"What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" - Barbara Niven

On the menu this month (using fresh ingredients from my allotment): Courgette and orange cake with cream cheese icing; vegan basil and cucumber salad; dampfnudeln; spicy fresh bean bhaji; tomato soup (with plain flour), and marrow soup.

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mahatma Gandhi

I joined Brett Larkin's online yoga challenge, Ignite the Power of your Seven Chackras: Exploring the Root Chakra really helped me ground myself and to remain in the present more in relation to the marked progress I made this month in my journey towards recovery from PTSD / OCD.

Massage therapist for people who sing, play an instrument or just do too much, Manya Zuba, commented about my 'OCD' and 'busking' blogs, "I find them really interesting. Other folks need to see things like that - thoughtful and fun." My friend, Josh Langley also wrote, "You're an inspiration, Gemma. It's inspiring to read about how you choose to work through the trauma and OCD and not fight it. Keep writing and sharing." Their words really lifted my spirits, especially since the mobile phone-obsessed public showed less and less interest in my busking performances over the summer. 

The beauty and wonder of synchronicity when you want something enough...

The excellent, #PTSDchat on Twitter invited me to join in their conversation about PTSD topics on a Wednesday night (I can highly recommend their podcasts of the radio show discussions they broadcast), and Josh Langley said that because he'd been inspired by my passionate desire to express myself no matter what's affecting me, he wanted to include a little segment about me in his upcoming pocket guide book, Finding Your Creative Mojo. I agreed, but confessed that I'd lost sight of what makes me tick creatively, and that I needed to re-find it.

August 2016

I began studying Creative Coding with FutureLearn and produced some interesting sketches using Processing: It felt good to be stretching myself artistically. You can see these sketches on this website under 'Gallery & Artwork'. I also enjoyed taking photos of my allotment which can be viewed on my Instagram profile under 'Social Media & Commended Links'.


On the menu this month (using produce from my allotment): Caramelized tomato, pepper, red onion, garlic and red wine vinegar sauce with runner beans; greek yogurt, honey, vanilla and blackberry smoothie; Rooster potatoes with sage and orange and thyme, paprika and garlic; curried white sauce and vegetables; Monty Don's pesto; fig and yellow damson rolls; runner beans with shallot butter; tomato and basil spaghetti, and blackberry and raspberry upside down cake.

I made enquiries about getting my poetry collection, Vivarium, printed by a company I found online - who turned out to be cowboys, but I learnt a bit more about how to print a book.

Bob, one of the guys who manages the allotment site in Hainault where I run a plot, agreed to write me a reference for 'agency' gardening work I'm thinking of applying for.

July 2016

Fantastic news: I can now play my double bass as well as my other instruments for longer periods without muscle pain in my forearms and fingers, and in the autumn I plan to audition my solo 'double bass and vocals' set for performance on the London Underground.

You can read about my recent musical adventures at: www.buskingmystory.com.

Via Brett Larkin on Facebook: "When in doubt, keep giving."

On the menu this month: Vinaigrette for quinoa and vegetables using garlic from my allotment and Rooster potatoes and chives - also from my allotment.

Spotted written on the front of a woman's t-shirt on New North Road, Hainault: "Paris is a state of mind."

I enjoyed the amazing compositions of American composer, Philip Glass, and the French poetry of Malcolm de Chazal (1902 - 1981). Here is his poem, 'Plastic Sense':

The idiot bleats with his gaze.

Spices set the tongue fox-trotting and the palate waltzing.

...

Grey is the ashtray of the sun.

Flashing are the hips of the sun; and gleaming are its breasts.

...

The rain is a pin of water, and a needle of light, in the dice of the wind

Rose-color, the milk teeth of the sun.

The human voice is the noon of sounds.

 - Translated from the French by Mary Ann Caws

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius

From Janet of the blog, ocdtalk with regards to my self-directed journey to recovery from OCD: "You are doing so much to help yourself and seem to have a great handle on how to keep moving forward... Good for you and I know things will keep getting better and better!"

Via Brett Larkin: "Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured."

I began performing on my new instrument, the melodica, in public and loved using my breath to add expression and depth to my music.

June 2016

Eczema ravaged my neck, shoulders and chest for the remainder of my stay in Paris, but I was fixed on doing what I'd planned despite being in so much discomfort.


"Music is the only good thing." - Piotr Urbanik

There was a masterly accordionist playing next to the platform at Opéra Métro station who glanced at me as I was sat waiting to depart on a Paris-bound train. He waved and blew kisses at me and I did the same back.

"Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life - bringing peace, abolishing strife." - Kahlil Gibran

I visited the José Luis Cuevas (Mexican artist) 'œuvre graphique / 1962 - 2000 - Collection Mariana Cuevas de Chaunac-Lanzac' exhibition; a mounting of naïve artist, Jacqueline Vernay-Millot's work influenced by the jungles of the Douanier Rousseau, and loved the magical realism of Eric Roux-Fontaine's dreamlike paintings.

On the same street (rue du Cherche Midi in the 6ème) as the 'Maia Flore, À La Belle Juliette' exhibition at Hôtel La Belle Juliette, I walked through the most surreal shopping centre: Not many of the very quirky clothes and jewellery shops were open, and it was completely deserted.

To read about my adventures music-wise this month, please visit my 'busking' blog: www.buskingmystory.com

My dear Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna and I spent a wonderful time together at her studio in Versailles where we looked through photographs, listened to her late partner (and my violinist friend), Peter's recordings of Irish folk fiddlers and the bell-like clarity of Glenn Gould's baroque piano playing. 

She showed me her collection of antique china and books from the 17th century, and I gave her a study I'd just completed of my allotment (Allotment #9 that you can view on this website under the link 'Gallery & Artwork), then played folk fiddle for her during which I think Peter appeared to me in the guise of a pigeon on her window ledge.

I felt honoured when she handed me Peter's CD, Don't Kiss the Fiddler, photocopies of some of his drawings, and his Jazz Violin Studies book, plus as a gift of two antique 'Egyptian' items: a dragon pot containing sand from the Sahara desert and a paperweight. She told me that I'm "rich" in so much as I have my violin and my art.

When I'm with Nuna I don't feel so alone as an artist: Our meeting left me feeling very happy and in love with my music again (I'd rediscovered my passion for performing music outside among the people and decided that I no longer want to spend as much of my precious time on the Internet). 

I visited Peter's grave in Montmartre Cemetery where a grey cat with fleas on top of a gravestone nearby looked me directly in the eye - as cats have done here before: I've always felt as if cats and Peter are spiritually connected somehow.

On the menu this month (using ingredients from my allotment): Rhubarb, strawberry and ginger tart.

The Brexit win of the EU Referendum was my worst nightmare come true: I'd come back to England to vote 'IN' and really wish I hadn't bothered because now I must potentially wave goodbye to my hopes and dreams of living and working in Paris on a more permanent basis. My friend, Sarah Johnsrud Ronning's comment helped me galvanize myself again, though: "Your artist flare is incredible. I know your photos brighten my day. Plus your music. You reach and connect to so many people in such a positive way." I also signed all the relevant petitions in an effort to reverse this mess.

Paris - May 2016

At the beginning of this month I felt passionless, directionless, bored, and as if I didn't have the energy to do anything about it - so despite my fears about security following last year's terror attacks, I booked three weeks in my beloved Paris and hoped that during that time I'd rediscover what makes me tick.

"Don't keep calm. Go out and make changes. The earth is being destroyed by psychopaths." - anonews

To see what transpired for me music-wise this month, please visit my 'busking' blog: www.buskingmystory.com.

"You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming." - Pablo Neruda

I felt so happy to be back in Paris; the place I love, and my need to gee myself up by making daily 'good news' posts on Facebook, disappeared. 

With my violin case squeezed securely between my legs, I danced to Boulevard du Jazz avec les Swing Ladies, who were playing traditional jazz from New Orleans, blues and Charleston dance music outside Les Deux Magots as part of this year's Festival à Saint-Germain-des-Près. The crowd followed them as they walked the streets of Saint-Germain singing and playing, but the four ladies moved on from a planned stationary performance spot when they saw a mother and child in sleeping bags beneath a cash machine.

From Brocante des Abbesses, I bought an ancient book of poetry from approximately the 1700s, entitled ŒUVRES DE ROUSSEAU, which the Frenchman who sold it to me described as being "beautiful" size-wise, and told me it'd been a pleasure talking to a musician who plays on the terraces of Montmartre.

Weaving their way through an increased police presence were swarms of skateboarders at Place de la République, at the centre of which was the monument covered in dying floral tributes to the victims of the 13th November 2015 terrorist attacks.

Life seemed to be going on so normally at Le Carillon bar in the 10ème, that I couldn't believe that this had been the scene of one of the massacres of six months ago; a good thing in that it meant that people weren't cowering under the threat of terrorism, and tell-tale signs of peoples' grief remained in the powerful artwork etched on the walls. I also visited the Bataclan theatre to pay my respects. It looked like a building site and I found it hard to have hope in the face of such unbelievable tragedy.

There was nothing much to see where I was staying in the suburbs of Paris at Chevilly-Larue, apart from some interesting graffiti and a German shepherd sleeping (with one eye open) under the fruit and vegetable rack outside a general store.

We had in excess of four consecutive days of non-stop torrential rain which inevitably lead the the worst flooding Paris had seen in decades, though a raft of duckings atop a pallet in the middle of a lake at Parc de Bercy didn't seem to mind much! A few times I took shelter and treated myself to a delicious meal of ratatouille, mash, goat's cheese on toast and baguette from my favourite bar in Montmartre my violinist friend, Peter introduced me to; Le Rendez-vous des Amis.

My friend, Nicki Heywood, introduced me to Brett Larkin's yoga routines on YouTube, which I did daily while I was in Paris and have continued on my arrival home. Yoga practice is really helping to centre and relax me both emotionally and professionally: I can't recommend it highly enough.

On a Métro train into Paris was a guy with half of his hair in a ponytail busking brilliantly on melodica along to backing tracks. Thinking that the melodica would be a more portable alternative to the accordion to take busking on the London Underground, I treated myself to a Hohner melodion and melodica from Star's Music, Paris on boulevard de Clichy.

As always, the free exhibitions and events I went to were eye-opening and interesting: 'Design for Peace: 2 expositions de la collection TRANSHUMANCE'; the Paris Folk Festival at Place des Abbessess; 'Rooftops Exposition Photographies' at the Centre d' Animation Maurice Ravel in the 12ème, and the 'Breath of Aegean' - Sofia Argyropoulou exhibition.

April 2016

"My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are; to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness." - Maya Angelou

I submitted some poems to the excellent Ambit magazine and asked Epping Forest District Council about the possibility of my facilitating writing and or/ music workshops at my local community centre.

"In a life properly lived you're a river. You touch things lightly or deeply; you move along because life herself moves, and you can't stop it; you can't figure out a banal game plan applicable to all situations; you just have to go with the "beingness" of life, as Rilke would have it."" - Jim Harrison

After years of living in virtual silence with OCD, it's been great chatting (via my 'OCD' blog) to fellow OCD sufferers and bloggers who totally get how I feel and actively support me in my self-directed journey (doing Exposure Response Prevention therapy) to get my OCD under control: Ree Becca from the online OCD support group I belong to commented about my blog, "Thank you for being so vulnerable with your experience. Much appreciated."

My Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna, told me that what's extraordinary about my artwork is that all my pieces 'speak' to her; that behind every one, there's a secret, a mystery, and that they're very expressive and beautiful. 

I set up an Instagram account to display my artwork and photography on: It feels good to have all my work in one place at a decent resolution, and my friend, Ted Michael Morgan commented, "Gosh, I love your work. Such a flow of beautiful work causes celebration."

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." - Cicero

To read about what I got up to music-wise this month, please visit my blog: www.buskingmystory.com: Niume.com featured my post, 'The Brussels bombings and dog poo - 16th -27th March 2016' on their site, which cheered me up.

For the first time I attended the little group, 'Poetry Please' at Hainault Library. It was most enjoyable being sat around with other poetry lovers again, and I read out some of my most recent poems.

Following up on the research I've 'pinned' on Pinterest about working as a freelance writer, is leading to further 'pinning' of relevant links. This process could be a never-ending and fruitless one if I'm not careful.

'Buying' social media followers makes a mockery of the whole thing: Everything seems to be about tricking people out of money, information... It's all a load of bollocks, making it harder for true, authentic voices to be heard.

The strength of the connection I feel to my fellow artist friends enabled me to not lose hope when I discovered Lower Marsh in London had changed irrevocably: Waterloo Library is closing next month; Grammex Classical and Jazz record store has been forced into the basement of a discount book shop, and an art gallery I used to like to go in was closed (I'm hoping just because it was a Monday).

On a more positive note, OCD and it's terrible intrusive thoughts slowly lost its power over my ability to enjoy time at home with my beloved cat, Tigger, at last.

March 2016

To read what I got up to music-wise this month, please visit: www.buskingmystory.com


Some welcome encouragement from my friend, Roger J. Foregard: "Follow your passion, which will win out in the end."

On Facebook: "Not everyone will understand your journey. That's okay. You're here to live your life, not to make everyone understand."

Through my participation in the 'Poetry Chain Collective Exchange' via email, I received from Gail Walker this poem, which in the face of trying to recover from OCD, I found very calming:

The Silken Tent

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one's going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

by Robert Frost

Even though I kept hitting dead ends, I persevered with tackling items on my business action plan.

"People buy from people." - Janet Awe

Tendinitis in the back of my left forearm blighted my getting back into playing double bass yet again.

"Try to remember that OCD plants thoughts, but the thoughts have no power unless we give in and give it power... You are stronger than your OCD." - Sarah Johnsrud Ronning

I started an online 'Community Journalism' course with Cardiff University and FutureLearn, which I'm finding both exciting and inspiring, and an MA in Paris Studies peaked my interest.

Via my friend, Maroca Segatto: "The greatest act of courage is to be and own all that you are. Without apology. Without excuses and without any mask to cover the truth of who you are." - Alter Ego

Using Exposure and Response Prevention to self-treat my OCD, I now no longer check page numbers when turning pages, and Kay Ska of thisiswhatapersonwithmentalillnesslookslike.wordpress.com, published a feature about me which contains a link to my 'OCD' blog. Peoples' belief in me that I'll eventually beat OCD spurred me on, for example, Leanne Marie's comment: "Your music is a good idea... Resist it [the compulsion to perform rituals to lessen 'contamination' anxiety] this time and it will be easier the next time, until you wonder what all the fuss was about... Taking your life back one scary and uncomfortable moment at a time... You are so brave right now. I don't know if I could do it. You can."

From my friend, David R. Aldridge: "Keep pushing, I'm always very proud of how hard you push past your obstacles and challenges, and I admire you for it. So very inspiring!... You'll sort it out. Take small steps. Really small, breathable steps. Steady ones. You'll get there :)"

I attended a Digital Journalism Skills Workshop run by the NUJ, which delivered what it said on the tin. I came away thinking that producing writing ideas purely for their purchasing potential is not for me, however, and the journalist, Christian Payne's mantra that "All media is digital; all digital is mobile," turned me off, too: The more I explore working in the digital realm, the more I long to be outside in nature and enjoying face-to-face interaction with others.

Through using Google AdSense on one of my blogs, I earned my first 4p as a freelance writer - but I later decided that I didn't want to run adverts alongside my writing.

The decision I made to prioritize my health over my career this year was a good - and a necessary one.

February 2016

"Competitions are for horses, not artists." - Béla Bartók

In a bid to earn more money with my writing, I decided to write about what I love and believe in.

Via Survivors' Network on Facebook: "Hold your friends and colleagues accountable. Challenge rape jokes, don't let sexism slide. We deserve better than a world that sees sexual violence as a joke."

I bought Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2016: a gem of a resource that I can highly recommend.

To read what I got up to busking-wise this month, please visit: www.buskingmystory.com

The 'Google News Lab' training workshop at Google HQ in London, run by the National Union of Journalists, opened my eyes to creating online material that's quirky, novel, stand out, shareable, emotional, topical, and which has a broad appeal.

Via Survivors' Network on Facebook: "Look after yourself. You deserve to be listened to, to be loved, to express yourself. Follow the advice we so often give others and so rarely do for ourselves, and take time for yourself."

My Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna, admired the "poetic" aspect of my 'Allotment' studies (the latest of which you can view under 'Gallery' on this website).

wabi-sabi = (n.) a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay

"It's 29 years since Andy Warhol died. If he were alive today he'd look around and say, "Wow. This is even more fucked up than I predicted." - Bette Midler

The Heart Is a Foreign Country

Ours is a partial language part pantomime,
part grimy guesswork: adulterated speculation
as to meaning & motivation.

Translated, heart suggests a familiar, universal
device but internal chemistries vary -
though components be the same & not uncommon.

The world owes us nothing. It promises less.
Call it: freedom. Free will. Or Wednesday.

by Rangi McNeil

A number of mental health sites shared my 'OCD' blog: Hopefully I will help some fellow OCD sufferers along the way and go some towards challenging the shame, denial, embarrassment and ignorance that still surrounds mental illness and childhood sexual abuse.

I raised £73.18 for Marie Curie cancer care at Tesco, Barkingside, north east London; the most I'd ever collected in my bucket.


January 2016

Firstly, I'd like to wish all of you a very happy and healthy 2016! Having closed the book that was 2015 in the knowledge that I survived and grew some, my wish for the coming year is for global and personal peace.


"Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings." - W. H. Auden

Daffodils,
With the green world
They live in.

- KEATS

I took the whole of January off work so I could try to figure out what I want out of my life and career, and in an attempt to pull myself out of depression and fear about the general state of the world, I decided to do a personal / universal 'Good News' post on Facebook for every day of 2016, which a couple of friends have found inspiring.

Arms folded
To the moon,
Among the cows.

- KEROUAC

My debut poetry collection, Vivarium, is finally ready to be sent out into the world and I played double bass for five minutes most days without pain in my hands: One of my goals for this year is to get back fully into double bass playing.

"Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." - David Lloyd George

From Thane Tierney on Facebook: ""Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Ares comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man." - Sappho. Loveliest thing in the post today; a collection of poems by my pal, Gemma, one of which was dedicated to me. It wasn't this one, but this is brill:

It's impossible

to remedy unrequited love,
to take words back,
to inhabit a dream,
to imagine being dead,
to know an angel,
to teach a sense of rhythm.""

FOR BERKELEY

City of buds and flowers
Where are your fruits?
Where are your roots?

- SNYDER

I attended a 'skills' conference run by the National Union of Journalists and got lots of questions answered (regarding trying to break into paid freelance writing), and exciting stuff to get my teeth into.

Patches of snow
mirrored in the floating stream;
a long wedge of geese.

- SPIESS

On the menu this month: Onion and red wine gravy; no butter sponge cake; allotment-grown Brussels sprouts soup; Jamie Oliver's leek and potato soup; three-pepper and onion spaghetti; hearty vegan vegetable pot pie, and broccoli soup.

"Music is a labyrinth with no beginning and no end, full of new paths to discover, where mystery remains eternal." - Pierre Boulez

I continued with my 'allotment' artwork studies, which you can see on this website under the heading, 'Gallery', and resumed the battle with my demon OCD (starting a new blog in the process about my self-directed journey to recovery that you can visit here: breakingfreefromchronicocd.blogspot.uk).

"Le succès c'est tomber sept fois, se relever huit." - Proverbe Japonais

Josh Langley wrote to me on Facebook: "It's the love, Gemma :) Your bravery always inspires me."

"The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one's own intimate sensitivity." - Anne Truitt

By the end of the month I felt slightly more focused, having slowly worked through items on my business plan.

December 2015

I celebrated 10 year of busking and gigging on 9th December 2015; an achievement I'm immensely proud of.

If I hear the phrases, "Going forward," "It is the way it is," "I'm not gonna lie," "Just to be clear" and "To be fair" one more time, I'm going to... GRRRRR!! Why???

"Remember success is a journey, not a destination. Have faith in your ability. You will do just fine!" - Bruce Lee

O.C.D. Action and Victim Support got back to me with suggestions about where I could get further help both privately and on the N.H.S. for recent traumas suffered (to do with vandalism and theft at my allotment) and my out-of-control O.C.D.. The support of my friends gave me hope, though: David R. Aldridge: "Your efforts certainly have inspired me over the past few years. I do so admire your traveling to Paris to busk, being a true artist. You and a few other dedicated artists in my world are the real inspirations."; Nicki Heywood (with regards to my allotment): "... Like you say, though, don't give up. You have created a place of beauty and growth - transfer that within yourself and don't give them the satisfaction of losing your peace." and Thane Tierney: "I have a massive amount of confidence in your ability and your talent and the road that lies ahead for you. Carpe omnium."

"The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow." - Step Up

I never thought I'd be contemplating writing a poem entitled, 'Daffodils in December', which is when my daffodils started shooting on my allotment this year!?

On the menu this month: Vegan and gluten-free cream of broccoli soup with cashew cream; Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Traybake; Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Potatoes (using Jan and I's allotment-grown potatoes) with thyme and bay leaves and sage and orange zest; lentil vegetarian shepherd's pie; fresh 'allotment' Brussels sprouts and sage with red onion and cumin seeds; a Raymond Blanc lemon tart, and Moist Chocolate Cake.

"Spend more time in the company of snails, as they seem to know the best pace at which to live life. (Have you seen a stressed-out snail?)" - Frog and the Well

Lucy Daldy, of the charity Step Up, expressed an interest in me writing an article to help raise awareness of sexual abuse and of their services.

My dear Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna, who was there for me throughout a mental breakdown I had in the middle of this month, texted me, "Pendant quand je t'écris a la télé, il y a le film about Modigliani et les autres artistes. C'est magnifique et toi tu en es une!..." <3

To read about what I got up to music-wise this month on the London Underground with the threat of a terror attack hanging in the air, please visit: www.buskingmystory.com

This year I handmade a series of 'Christmas' postcards called 'Cape daisies in snow' out of to-be-shredded-papers and glitter. Under 'Gallery' on this website, you can also see my new pictures, 'Allotment #2' and 'Allotment #3' (based on a frog I'd photographed on my allotment for my partner, Jan's birthday). Both are very colourful and in creating them, I managed to quel a little my fear for our unsafe world in which for some, morals, care, respect, self-awareness and intelligence are no longer considered to be of any real importance.

During my collection for Marie Curie cancer care at Tesco, Barkingside, I met a number of fascinating characters worthy of inclusion in my future writings, and as the year drew to a close (almost four dress sizes thinner than I was last year at this time), I made a wish for both personal and global peace.

November 2015

<< Le créateur est un archer qui tire dans le noir.>> - Gustav Mahler

On the menu this month (made with vegetables from my allotment): Cabbage soup; marrow in butter; smoked cabbage and cannellini bean with tofu stew; an Ethiopian cabbage dish, and orange and marrow cake.

"There will come a time when only those who know how to plant will be eating." - Chief Oren Lyons

H.M.R.C. called for a thorough review of my self-employment as a musician and writer. Gathering all the information for this proved to be a stressful but helpful exercise because it made me focus honestly on what I've achieved and where I want to be going. I realized in doing this, that my harshest judge is myself, but various snippets of inspiration, indirect encouragement and heartfelt support came my way to bolster my belief in what I'm doing as an artist: My friend, Nicki Heywood sent me this link: https://youtu.be/oxcftjJ39BU about a cave-digging artist who for 25 years isolated himself from society in the desert, and produced some amazing, life-affirming work; "I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good." - Roald Dahl; I began using the 'black velvet lion' notebook I recently bought in Bagneux, Paris (I mean business); "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." - Dr. Benjamin Spock; "You can have anything you want, if you are willing to give up the belief that you can't have it." - Dr. Robert Anthony; "Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do." - Brené Brown; My friend, Maroca Segatto, urged me to "Keep believing and doing what you want, dear... Life is too short"; Christian Van Der Zyn regarding my painting, '65 Daisy Bank Crescent, Walsall, West Midlands': "If music was part of your essence, then your life is an interesting one :) (musician speaking)"; While I was cooking dinner one evening, I heard businesswoman Deborah Meaden on The Chase describe her job as being what she "loves" to do. This gave me the impetus to answer, "...because I love it," to a question on the review form about why I choose to remain a self-employed musician and writer. Eventually I learned that I'd successfully passed H.M.R.C.'s checks. 

"I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung

To see what I got up to music-wise this month, in light of the heartbreaking attacks in Paris, please visit my busking blog: www.buskingmystory.com

"The most common way people give up their power, is by thinking they don't have any." - Alice Walker

This month, I had a break-in at my allotment, more attempts to steal my identity, a local flea-ridden and deaf elderly cat I was trying to protect with the R.S.P.C.A.'s help, and H.M.R.C. losing all of Jan and I's 'self-employment review' information to contend with. I got some Victim Support and spoke to O.C.D. Action because my O.C.D. had became chronic due to all the stress - but the help I needed wasn't forthcoming immediately (aside from some valuable contacts advice from Leanne Marie of an O.C.D. support group I belong to on Facebook), and I concluded that the only thing for it was to carry on with playing music, writing, doing artwork and gardening in the hope that through them I might feel better and be able to move on.

I did the sketch, 'Allotment #1' for my friend, Rosanna's 40th birthday, that can be viewed under the 'Gallery' section of this website, and my artwork in general continued to increase in popularity on niume.com.

Ness View Cottage in Low Valleyfield, Fife - October 2015

"One good thing about music; when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley

At the beginning of this month, Jan and I had a wonderful holiday at Ness View Cottage in Low Valleyfield, Fife, Scotland, where deer roam in the back garden. The cottage was built in 1870 on the shores of the Firth of Forth, spent much of its life as a flour and baker's shop, and is situated very near the village of Culross. To read about the highlights of out time there and what I got up to music-wise, please check out this link: http://www.buskingmystory.com/dunfermline-folk-club-7th-18th-october-2015. Every morning I enjoyed a soak in the old cream bath, made myself some Scottish porridge and tea, and worked on poems in the peaceful calm of the dining room: Recycling old poem notes in such a beautiful place, made me feel lighter and more satisfied somehow.

"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." - Cherokee Indian proverb

I received a lovely comment on LinkedIn from a man I vaguely remembered meeting - that came at just the right time given the hell I was still going through with Barclays regarding the hundreds of pounds I had stolen from my debit card: "Thanks for connecting. Saw you busking in the street years ago - thought you were brilliant. Great to have you in the network. Hope things are going well for you." - James Sinclair

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food." - George Bernard Shaw

On the menu this month (made with produce from my allotment): 'BBCGoodFood.com' tomato soup; cabbage and potato soup; runner bean soup; Nigella Lawson's tomato soup cake; roast cabbage with olive oil and salt; courgette, tomato, potato and marjoram gratin and beetroot soup.

"People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things." - Sir Edmund Hillary

I worked through another excellent F.E.U. course: 'Overcoming Freelance Challenges' e-course, which lifted and helped me to re-focus on my creative goals; namely getting more paid work in Paris - but in the face of music and the arts set to be cut out of school curriculums in the U.K. 

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

Now that there isn't quite so much work to do there, I began a series of coloured pencil, paint, pencil and glue studies of different aspects of life on my allotment that you can view under the 'Gallery' section of this website.

I concluded that it's hard to be honest with myself - and even harder to act on it, but life isn't a rehearsal...

40-years-old and back to Paris - September 2015

"Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change." - Dr Wayne Dyer


The abundance of flowers, fruit and vegetables I harvested from my allotment was the best 40th birthday present I could have wished for.

"Just trust yourself and you will learn the art of living." - Johann Goethe

I submitted my CV and list of publications to Jazz Magazine and Jazz News in Paris, to see if I could get some paid work writing live reviews for them. Neither of them replied - after I'd spent a lot of time and effort emailing everything over to them in French: They could have at least said "Thanks, but no thanks." This disrespectful, dismissive attitude of potential employers makes me want to give up. What's the point of trying? 

"You can't escape the past in Paris, and yet what's so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn't seem a burden." - Allen Ginsberg

On the menu this month (made with produce from my allotment): Roast potatoes; strawberry spinach fried in olive oil with garlic and salt; roast vegetables with sage and marjoram; courgette pasta with olive oil, garlic, red chilli and black pepper; Nigel Slater's courgette cake; French and runner beans in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper dressing, and Nigel Slater's marrow with peas and basil.

"The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant." - T.S. Eliot

A couple of days after my birthday, I had over £500 fraudulently stolen from my current account. The bank are investigating this and I called the police: Neither party seemed to care. As my partner, Jan, said, "Nowadays you can't be left alone even if you want to be." Despite feeling very close to breaking point, I managed to make it to work. To read what I got up to music-wise this month both on the London Underground and in Paris, please visit my busking blog: www.buskingmystory.com

[Regarding Paris]: "There is an atmosphere of spiritual effort here. No other city is quite like it. I wake early, often at 5 o'clock, and start writing at once." - James Joyce

My artwork and busking blog continue to get a good reception on niume.com, which is encouraging.

When I arrived in Bagneux, Paris, there were shiny conkers on the ground and a freakishly strong wind whipping up and swirling autumn leaves outside the doors of the local supermarket. 

"Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done your mind will find the ways to do it." - David J. Schwartz

During my six nights in Paris I visited some impressive free events and exhibitions: 'Le Jardins Intimes - Autour des Zzz' and 'Nid Végétal de Sensomoto' which are a part of the Berges de Seine project situated near Pont de l'Alma: The nest plant, inspired by the framework of the neighbouring structure, the Eiffel Tower, offers a new approach to vertical greening in the city. I sheltered from a thunderstorm within a disused greenhouse amid dense vegetation in the floating garden of Niki de Saint Phalle and watched and listened to what looked like sparrows swooping down and hitting their intended destinations as directly as arrows. A Parisian lady was also taking shelter there. She told me about the museums surrounding us and offered me her umberella. Just as I was leaving, the rain having eased, a rainbow spanning the Seine appeared.

"Pursue change, by starting to think differently. Achieve change, by doing things differently." - Norbert Harms

I visited a 'Faces of the World' exhibition at Le Patronage Laïque Jules Vallès, 72 avenue Félix Faure, and a line-up of 'Space Girls and Space Women' photographs exhibited on the railings outside Musée des Arts et Métiers, 60 rue Réaumur (cosmonauts and scientists start their careers in their early teens).

One of the highlights of my stay was a guided tour given by Pierre André Hélène of Maxim's de Paris Art Nouveau Collection, on 3 rue Royale: Nothing like the Art Nouveau period has existed before or since. Women, curves, and flowers (that artists of the Art Nouveau knew the meaning of), dominated this period. Some of the items were chipped but fashion designer and owner of the collection, Pierre Cardin, bought them in this state because he respected "the life of the object."

In the marketplace at Versailles, I met my Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna. She treated me to a coffee and a dainty strawberry tart. We had a conversation sat outside the café, which was creatively energizing for us both. She said that she wasn't "wearing a mask" with me, that my skin isn't "transparent" like the skins of most vegetarians, and the way we communicate is "comic" because of the language barrier (we speak to each other mainly in French because I know no Polish and she doesn't speak much English). I gave her a copy of my debut poetry collection, Vivarium, I published myself and she was moved that I'd specially thanked her and her late partner (and my friend) -  violinist, Peter, in the 'Acknowledgements' section. In a plastic bag she had for me another of Peter's books - Jazz Violin by Matt Glaser and Stephane Grappelli I felt honoured to keep, and she talked of a chapel carved out of rock salt in Kraków, Poland before we parted.

The artist, Edouard Wolton's Agartha exhibition at Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire was challenging and very original: I particularly loved his paintings which combined precious stones and minerals, the sea, the moon, and geometric lines. The flowers and plants at 'Expo Paris Fleurs Sauvages au Chai de Bercy - Parc de Bercy' were stunning - and I even managed to photograph a Red Admiral butterfly. At Orangerie du Sénat in the Luxembourg gardens, 19 bis rue Vaugirard, I went around a photography exhibition of French rural landscapes and enjoyed a glass of rosé wine at the South-West Floating Markets on quai Montebello.

At the 'Pirates' exhibition at 59 Rivoli, 59 rue de Rivoli, I emptied my cents into a section with other cents at the front door where the doormat had been, and was wowed by Passage du Grand Cerf, 145 rue Saint-Denis (one of the largest covered arcades in Paris that opened in 1825).

Feeling at home in Brighton again - August 2015

Lesson learnt: I should take the time to get a book completely the way I want it before submitting it to a publisher. 


"Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible." - Doris Lessing

Bob at the allotment said regarding my plot which I've had since February 2015, "You should be very proud of that... Brilliant!" I am. It was also rewarding to be able to give my friend, Tessa, a couple of bags full of runner beans, French beans and courgettes that I'd grown from seed.

"To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer." - Louise Bourgeois

Note to self: If you're going to be brave, BE BRAVE!! I finally managed to write the blurb for my poetry book, Vivarium, which I'd agonized over for weeks: It's so hard to write objectively about one's own work, but after having read the blurb (and seeing my cover design), people have said that they want to read the book. I also decided to send the collection out to poetry imprints instead of self-publishing. My friend, Ted Michael Morgan told me, "Your work deserves publication by major houses. It is that good." This meant a lot, given that I do lack confidence in myself. 

"It was the only way to progress; to stop." - Samuel Beckett

Of / about; is / was; the past and the present tenses; singular and plural: Why, nowadays, do people mix these up? It's so half-arsed and irritating.

Clifford Hughes (an aspiring poet I met online) said the following about my busking blog, which I found motivating: "You write so well and your observations of people  are so spot on I can visualize the scene vividly. So good to know that there's a multi-instrumentalist who plays traditional folk music. I don't often go into London (apart from the Southbank Centre where I sort of live sometimes), but I might detour occasionally via Oxford Circus and listen for the strains of jigs and reels (I love Eliza Carthy, by the way)... Writing of this quality deserves a novel-length outing. Have you ever thought about that?"

To read about what I got up to busking-wise this month, please check out my busking blog at: www.buskingmystory.com

The battle with my demons is constant, and I felt so tired this month.

On Facebook: "Sometimes you need to burn bridges to stop yourself crossing them again."

Dusty Springfield's voice always reminds me why I decided to pursue music as a career.

On the menu this month - made using herbs, fruit and vegetables from the allotment: Blackberry and rhubarb crumble; mint tea; chocolate courgette cake; penne with courgette, garlic and basil; cabbage curry; courgette Indian bread with beans, carrots and tomato sauce; blackberry and lemon curd cheesecake, and spicy courgettes with saffron risotto.

I discovered the fantastic website, niume.com, on which I've been posting my artwork that's been getting lots of hits and compliments.

One rainy day in Brighton (where I used to live for 12 years), I caught up with my artist and writer friend, Audrey from university and visited the art shops under the revamped arches on Hove seafront. I then had some delicious vegan food at Loving Hut in the North Laines where the woman serving said, "Tea is the answer to every question." 

Hard work on 'Vivarium' - July 2015

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Harold - Jan and I's horned frog who died on 3rd July 2015.


"Poems are ongoing improvisations towards goals we identify when we arrive at them." - Donald Hall

My priority for July was to get my first poetry collection, Vivarium, into a publishable state: The editing process was never-ending and doing the artwork for the cover, fun. I enlisted the self-publishing services of publishnation.co.uk, but in the end wasn't very impressed with what they had to offer and so ended proceedings with them. I then discovered that it's amazing what I can achieve when I really apply myself and have a bit of self-belief: Without the aid of a self-publishing agent (and more importantly, without having to spend hundreds of pounds), I learnt loads on Word and managed to make Vivarium book-shaped!

"Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway." - Emory Austin

On the menu this month: Beetroot roasted in cumin and French beans with peas and lettuce; King Edward potatoes and mint; honey-roasted beetroot; salt 'n' pepper courgette chips; carrots; damsons; sticky onion and cheddar quiche and limp lettuce soup (all the vegetables of which I grew from seed on my allotment).

Fellow allotmenteer, Bob, said that gardening is "about having a good heart."

While doing the exercises in The OCD Workbook, I realized that I don't directly avoid anything that scares me (which is a lot) as a result of my OCD. This would explain why I feel so frazzled most of the time.

"The true paradises are the paradises that we have lost." - Marcel Proust

I felt as if I'd lost my spark this month, and so stressed with various things that I felt as if my head was going to explode: All I was interested in was keeping my allotment alive. My friend, Roger Foregard, gave me some sage advice, though: "One day at a time and all will come good." Also, another of my good friends, Thane Tierney, gave me a gift of £50 to tide me over.

"Do not neglect your music, it will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you." - Thomas Jefferson

I decided to set up as a self-employed gardener to earn a few extra pennies, but eventually thought better of it: I made a decision at the age of 30 to become a professional musician: Sticking to this path no matter what has served me well up until now and has brought much happiness and fulfillment my way. I love gardening, too, but don't think I'd find working on someone else's garden as rewarding as seeing my own allotment change and grow. My friend, Josh Langley's words inspired me: "You're very brave and refreshingly honest. You need to be true to yourself. You'll be fine. We'll be with you every step of the way."

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in it and it will eventually come naturally." - David Frost

To see what I got up to busking-wise this month, please see my busking blog: www.buskingmystory.com

Poet, Kathryn Maris wrote to me: "Hope to see you in one of my classes one of these days - I always really liked your work."

"Writing is rewriting. Even after you've gotten an agent and an editor, you'll have to rewrite. If you fall in love with the vision you want for your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier." - Nora DeLoach

"The thrust of continuous action is the firewood which fuels motivation." - Steve Backley

"To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist." - Robert Schumann

"You're on earth. There's no cure for that." - Samuel Beckett

"I love the handful of earth you are." - Pablo Neruda

Paris and my first allotment harvest - June 2015

"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment." - Oprah Winfrey

I felt full of happiness and contentment sitting working on my live gig review of 'Grand Bal Swing' that I'd seen the day before (see the 'Freelance Writing' section on this website to read the finished article published by Jazzwise magazine) at Pont Ephémére, 200 quai de Valmy overlooking Canal Saint-Martin in Paris. Here, I also viewed the pencil drawings of a car crash and a street brawl that were part of Dorian Jude's exhibition, 'The Will of Desire - Part 1: Anomalia'.

"The weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking about how it is soaking in around your green beans." - Marcelene Cox

To read up on what I got up to musically in Paris and Brighton this month, please visit my busking blog: www.buskingmystory.com

"Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success." - Swami Sivananda

My friend, Ian Brooker, regarding the almost £2000 I had stolen off my credit card: "Although very unpleasant the credit card fraud will get sorted. You are lovely and very talented. Please concentrate on the positive if you can. It can be difficult I know. We all care about you. x"

"The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again." - Charles Dickens

Via LinkedIn, it was a pleasure to reconnect with my theatre set designer friend, Roger Ness, who I worked with at Chichester Festival Theatre back in the good old days.

Me: "Just wish I could win lots of money!" Anne Macaulay: "Yes, but you're being true to yourself. Keep going. xx"

"I can't go on, I'll go on." - Samuel Beckett

"Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act." - Leonard Cohen

Lara Gaze (about the work I've done on my allotment): "You're an inspiration, Gemma."

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult." - Seneca

theguardian.com/australia wrote an article about the busking version video of Sheppherd's 'Geronimo' that I participated in.

"Music, of course, is what I hear and something that I more or less live by. It's not an occupation or profession, it's a compulsion." - Duke Ellington

On the menu this month: Spinach I grew from seed fried in extra virgin olive oil, sliced garlic and salt; lettuce (grown from seed) with butter beans, hummus and black pepper; strawberries, peas, French beans, and beetroot also from my allotment, and a delicious raw sauce made with tinned tomatoes, home-grown basil and red onion.

Jean-Pierre Solvès, the leader of The Espirit Jazz Big Band about which I wrote the above 'Grand Bal Swing' live gig review: "Merci infiniment! Cet élogieux article me va droit au coeur..."

"It's not a choice. You don't choose to have anxiety. It chooses you." - Patricia Lynn

My friend Roger Foregard recommended the online company, PublishNation help me self-publish my first collection of poetry, 'Vivarium', and after dithering for a while, I decided to go with this great suggestion.

"My poetry begins for me where certainty ends." - Eavan Boland

"... Generally folks feel good when they hear music and that soothes all the savage beasts. Seriously, if we all played instruments, we'd never need guns." - Bing Futch

"You are always free in your heart, so let that guide you." - Frog and the Well on Facebook

"Une journée sans rire est une journée perdue." - Charlie Chaplin

On 28th June, Tom Bland published my poem, 'The Lord Within My Words' on blueofnoonpoetry.tumblr.com. It got more 'likes' than I anticipated it would, and I worked on the cover design for my book, 'Vivarium' at my allotment, where the quality of the light was excellent and the view very inspiring.

"Go as far as you can see and you will see further." - Zig Ziglar

Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival in Paris - May 2015

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy." - Guillaume Apollinaire 


I am always learning on my allotment; being challenged all the time by the weather and wildlife. Since the Tories got back into power again (and the forces of greed, fear and selfishness triumphed), I've been spending even more time up there so I don't completely despair about the future for the UK and myself as an artist.

On Facebook: "To keep a soft heart in a hard world, that's the thing."

The very interesting online magazine, StreetIAm published two articles about my work and my busking blog, which made for a nice surprise.

"Be in love with your life. Every minute of it." - Jack Kerouac

On the menu this month: Cress soup made from cress I'd grown myself and 'Jamie Oliver' chocolate biscuits to say thanks to Bob and Brian for all their help with my allotment.

"Music harmonizes the soul with everything else." - Oscar Wilde

It was tough (because I have so many), but I finally completed the 'Ritual Logging' part of the OCD Challenge. This quote was sent to me by Leanne Marie of the online OCD support group I'm a member of: "A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is the journey where she will become strong." - Kat '03  I know now that the key to combating anxiety is to sit with it...

"Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little." - Holley Gerth

The Paris branch of the National Union of Journalists were no help whatsoever when I emailed them for advice on how to best proceed in my quest to get paid work as a freelance writer in Paris: I wasn't impressed. I did, however, for the first time in Paris, write a live review for Jazzwise of the terrific 'Grand Bal Swing with the Esprit Jazz Big Band' at the Irish Cultural Centre (part of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival), and found out the names of a couple of Parisian jazz magazines I could send my work and CV to.

"What you do today can improve all your tomorrows." - Ralph Marston

I had a bit more of a handle on my OCD this time in Paris, where I stayed at Hotel Jade in Bagneux for the fourth time: My friend, Josh Langley's words about my not being able to afford a better hotel being the price I pay for creating from the heart, fortified me.

"When you are up to your neck in shit, all you can do is sing." - Samuel Beckett

At Petit Palais - Musée de Beaux - Arts de la Ville de Paris, I loved the vases of Emile Gallé, the sculptures of musicians at Musée Zadkine and the 'forest' photographs by Rose Deren at Bibliothèque Chaptal; The Jardins Rosa-Luxemborg on rue Riquet in the 18th arrondissement are a clever mélange of urban buildings and nature, and I moseyed through stunning rose gardens and arches at Parc de Belleville and square René Viviani. I saw choirs perform on the Saturday at the new médiathèque Françoise Sagan in the 10th, and did a lot of violin playing (please see my busking blog for details).

Decca are about to release a music video myself and other London-based buskers made of Shaun Buswell's version on the Australian hit song, 'Geronimo' by Sheppard: Watch this space...

Poem-a-Day for April 2015

"Respirer Paris, cela conserve l'âme." - Victor Hugo

For this month I wrote a poem every day as part of a Poem-a-Day Challenge that a group of fellow poets and I did via email. I initiated it and my friend from Morley College in Lambeth, Diana Pooley, organized it. We did the same thing last September and I ended up getting some good poems out of it, as was the case this time. I found myself writing a lot about my childhood and growing up in Walsall - maybe something to do with the fact that I'm fast approaching 40.

"It takes life to love life." - Mary Jo Bang

"Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before." - Sigmund Freud

Following my friend, Josh Langley's recommendation, I bought the excellent album of beautiful songs, Mutineers by David Gray.

"They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds." - Mexican proverb

Tom Bland published my poem, 'Thinking Out Loud' in his online magazine, Blue of Noon, about which Sara Davis commented, "That is awesome writing." This was good to know.

"I'm convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter. As long as you're breathing, it's never too late to do some good." - Maya Angelou

Much time was spent working on my allotment - where the really important stuff happens. I enjoyed the springtime display of daffodils, blue grape hyacinths and tulips that I'd nurtured, plus my King Edward potatoes poked their heads through.

"Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life." - Maya Angelou

I felt very much inspired by the poetry of Seattle-based poet, Michelle Peñaloza. 

"Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power." - Clint Eastwood

On the menu this month (via Thane Tierney), was Jamie Oliver's rhubarb and sticky ginger pudding - made from the humongous sticks of rhubarb Jan grew on her allotment.

"Find out who you are and do it on purpose." - Dolly Parton

"The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on the thread of the universe which runs through himself and all things." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anna Collin - a poet / artist I was friendly with when I lived in Brighton made brief contact after discovering some allotments around the back of where she now lives. It reminded her of the time we spent on our friend, Jackie's allotment and of our poetry writing. I now have my own allotment because I, too, have fond memories of those times, and we're both still writing poetry: As Anna said, it's funny how things come full circle.

"Poetry starts building when love starts dying; it erects its structures durably on emptiness." - Dan Chiasson on the work of James Merrill

"I don't know what London is coming to - the higher the buildings, the lower the morals." - Noel Coward

TFL (unofficially) threatened its buskers with the loss of their jobs. For a moment, I let anger, despair, self-destruction and OCD take over, but my friend, Maroca's words (and the support of my other friends), helped me to regain a sense of control: She wisely reminded me that "Music is your passion, is part of you, your soul. I wouldn't give up! Screw London, there is a whole world to explore!" I booked another week in Paris with my violin for the end of next month, and for the first time, succeeded in turning my OCD back on itself.

"A self-disciplined approach to life enables your autopilot to take over on those occasions when the going gets tough." - Bev James

March 2015

"If after I read a poem the world looks like that poem for 24 hours or so, I'm sure it's a good one - and the same goes for paintings." - Elizabeth Bishop

I got through to the second round of interviews for a reality TV programme that BBC 3 are making called The Orchestra. It was good to know that I was worth considering. Following this, however, I received an email to say that the project wouldn't be going into production at this time, but that they'd like to keep my details on file for the future.

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option." - Maya Angelou

One freezing cold mid-March morning, I did my first street collection for Marie Curie on Barkingside High Road. I enjoyed meeting all the various characters and received £66.02 in generous donations - including one from a cabbie who stopped driving, leant out of his cab, and handed me a £5 note.

"I realized that cutting people from my life doesn't mean I hate them, it simply means, I respect me." - Simple Reminders

Vivarium - the second version of my first poetry collection is now complete - save a couple of words that are niggling me. I sent it out to Live Canon to see if they'd be interested in publishing it, and Gale Burns of The Shuffle based at the Poetry Café in London showed an interest in it, too. I'm erring towards crowd funding for self-publication, though, because I fear that by enlarge the collection is far too dark for public consumption.

"I never let a rhinestone go unturned!" - Dolly Parton

In the most recent copy of the NUJ's The Journalist magazine, it said that jobs as freelance writers in Paris are relatively easy to come by; great news, being as I'd like to work as a writer for somebody out there.

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do." - Georgia O'Keeffe

To see what I got up to busking-wise this month, please visit: www.buskingmystory.com

As fellow allotmenteer, John called it, the "summer garden palace" of my allotment it coming on bloomingly. Running it is a full-time job in itself!

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." - Audrey Hepburn

The favourite thing I made this month was an avocado, banana, black pepper, Ribena and cocoa smoothie (using my Nutriblast).

On Facebook: "Be still and listen. The Earth is singing."

I signed a petition to save libraries in Lambeth, London (including my beloved Waterloo Library on Lower Marsh),  which Lambeth Council propose to close in favour of storing books in local pubs for people to read?! As my friend, Louis, said, "The world is going insane!"

A major victory: After nearly three months of hard work doing the OCD Challenge, I've managed to reduce my ratings regarding how I believe my OCDs are helping me to below 50%. Now the really hard work begins in that I'm going to have to start trying to modify my behaviour. I'm grateful to have the support of those that understand around me right now.

The below poem was gratefully received via my friend, Thane Tierney, and I looked forward to the commencement of writing, via email, a poem a day for April with Diana Pooley and the rest of our writing group.

Dog
BY LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI
The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn’t hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit’s Tower
and past Congressman Doyle
He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog’s life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
              barking
                         democratic dog
engaged in real
                      free enterprise
with something to say
                             about ontology
something to say
                        about reality
                                        and how to see it
                                                               and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
                                       at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
                                       his picture taken
                                                             for Victor Records
                                  listening for
                                                   His Master’s Voice
                      and looking
                                       like a living questionmark
                                                                 into the
                                                              great gramaphone
                                                           of puzzling existence
                 with its wondrous hollow horn
                         which always seems
                     just about to spout forth
                                                      some Victorious answer
                                                              to everything

Bagneux, Paris - February 2015

This blog is dedicated to my partner, Jan, for her unrelenting support and encouragement.

Before setting off to Paris once again, I felt slightly lacking in the courage of my convictions, what with the Charlie Hebdo shootings having just happened, but a larger part of me felt as if I didn't want fear to ruin the sense of personal freedom and joy I've always experienced there. Also, my instinct at the time was to be quiet and to work with the earth on my new allotment, and so I wasn't really in the right frame of mind to take on the wackiness that is Paris. 

There was snow on the tracks as I left Kings Cross St Pancras on the Eurostar and it was unsettling seeing armed police and soldiers everywhere, but Paris and its people hadn't changed much (on the surface, at least), and a couple of guys dancing vigorously to a backing track on the Métro made me smile.

During my stay I visited some excellent free exhibitions and concerts: A photography exhibition at Centre d'animation Montgallet, 75012, of street scenes captured on camera by chance, where I was particularly taken with a shot of an old man sitting on a kerb playing violin to an enthralled young girl; ' Exposition - De Kroning: Espace - Couleurs' at an amazing artistic space displaying "Ici, ensemble, nous sommes Charlie" solidarity, Le Centquatre, 75019, during which I noticed how shadows play an important part in the construction and perception of home-like structures containing doors and windows; 'Châteaux de Cartes' exhibition at Galerie Florence Loewy, 75003, which featured contemporary postcards in foil packets; 'Street Art, L'innovation au coeur d'un mouvement' at Espace Fondation EDF, 75007, where I dipped a paintbrush in water and drew it across a black wall causing it to ignite small lights and make a pattern as part of an installation called 'Water Light Graffiti'; I fell in love with the sound of Irish Aiveen Gallagher's viola at a 'Session avec Gary Hoffman' classical concert at Auditorium de la Cité internationale des Arts, 75004; attended 'l'Inde Nuit et Jour' photography exhibition at Centre Musical Barbara Fleury Goutte d'Or, and a 'Tant Baroque Concert' by a chamber choir accompanied by an organist and a viol player at Église des Billettes, 75004. 

To check out what I did playing my violin-wise in Paris, please check out my busking blog at: www.buskingmystory.com

"A good life is one hero's journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then, if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfilment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

I was elected to membership of the National Union of Journalists, who will hopefully be able to steer me in the direction of getting some paid freelance writing work.

"Always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think." - Christopher Robin

On Valentine's Day, I received a letter from South Poetry Magazine to say that my poem, 'Double Bass Sonnet' had been chosen by their selectors to represent the magazine in The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem competition. The Forward Prize is one of the major annual awards for poetry held in this country, and so I was both astounded and delighted!!

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out, it's the pebble in your shoe." - Muhammad Ali

I can highly recommend home-made spicy roasted parsnip soup, vegetarian shepherd's pie with chickpeas in it to 'meat it out', my main staple whilst staying at Hôtel Jade in Bagneux - noodles (made with boiling water from the kettle) and Hot Sauce Piquante de Louisiane - Salsalito U.S.A., and the delicious vegetarian food at Rose Bakery, 46 rue des Martyrs in Paris.

"I try to decorate my imagination as much as I can." - Franz Schubert

My friend from school, Sarah Ward, crocheted Jan a very sweet frog. She is very talented. You can see more of her work under 'Swwonderful Crafts by Sarah Ward' under 'Links to Recommended Websites' on this website.

"I am not fearless. I get scared plenty. But I have also learned how to channel that emotion to sharpen me." - Bear Grylls

It's a strange thing, writing: You rarely know the affect you have on your readers: I was touched to find out that Iranian-born British poet, Mimi Khalvati, founder member of the Poetry School, had read some of my poetry and spoken very highly of it. I've selected about 50 poems for my first book of poetry that I intend to self-publish, entitled Vivarium.

"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it." - Robert Swann

Running an allotment is helping me to reduce my stress levels and to care LESS, which is good in terms of my OCD. I'm also loving it and feel excited every day about what I'll hopefully be able to grow there...

January 2015

This blog is dedicated to Anne Kirkbride (Deirdre in Coronation Street), who died this month. I grew up watching her on my favourite soap and have always been a fan.

Wishing all of you a very happy and healthy 2015!

"When you visualize a  perfect day you create a blueprint for your mind to follow." - Bev James

I celebrated 15 years as a musician and writer this month.

"Don't wait in the wings; get on stage and do your thing." - Bev James

My New Year resolutions: Read for pleasure more; visit friends in Brighton more regularly; secure paid freelance writing work; get help and support with my OCD; self-publish and illustrate a book of my poems before my 40th birthday; keep earning my living as a musician, and to continue to keep my self-destructive side in check.

"Don't wait for flowers to bloom when you didn't sow any seeds." - Bev James

The year opened with a heartening message from my drummer and pilot friend, David R. Aldridge: "I hope you have a very Happy New Year, and I really do wish you the very best in 2015 for all your art, poetry and music pursuits. Your posts have inspired me more than I have probably told you, and I am ever more inspired to play as a result. I have fear issues that have finally become manageable, owing much to you for giving me things (good things) to think about. I'm so grateful to have met you, in person no less, across the many miles... My grandfather once told me, "You have the heart and soul of an artist." He would have been speaking about you as well. Go kick 2015 in the ass, and busk away! My very best, David.""

J'ai de la chance.

On Facebook: "You never need to apologize for how you chose to survive."

This month I made carrot, lentil and orange soup, kidney beans and rice, spiced root vegetable soup with crispy onions, Hawaiian-style sweet and sour roasted pineapple and bell peppers, spicy carrot and lentil soup with plantain, and Jan and I enjoyed discovering the world of the Nutribullet (check it out)!

"Too many people have a story about why they can't have what they want. Ditch the story and make things happen." - Bev James

I made 'Mountains'; 3D handmade postcards for my friends, Annemarie Nichols and Helen Dunwoodie to say thank you for their Christmas presents to me.

"A shroud doesn't come with pockets." - Mick from Redbridge Nature Conservation

For my busking news for this month, please visit my busking blog at: http://www.buskingmystory.com

I signed up to the online site, ocdchallenge.com. It is a great site, and after having had the severity of my OCD not taken seriously by the NHS doctor I visited in despair last month, this challenge (even though it is entirely self-help based), will hopefully provide me with some more much-needed understanding and encouragement: I've spent 10 years of my life living with OCD, determined not to let it ruin my career, but now I'm older I don't have the energy to keep fighting it. It's hard trying to be realistic about an illness which undermines my sense of reality 24 / 7, but I had some very mini breakthroughs this month, however, which were down to the fact I've been challenging the long-held beliefs I have about my OCDs.

"Sometimes to begin anew we have to seek a different path and change direction." - Bev James

Many people enjoyed my poem, 'Double Bass Sonnet' which I uploaded myself reciting onto SoundCloud.

"Never think that what you have to offer is insignificant. There will always be someone out there that needs what you have to give." - Digital Romance

I visited my poetry friend, Jenny Hobson for the first time in her beautiful hat shop, Shy, in Hatfields, London. We talked about the Charlie Hebdo massacre that had just taken place in Paris, and she reflected that a civil war in Europe is possibly on the cards.

"Shapes are evocative. Notice them." - Pat Pattison from the book, Songwriting Without Boundaries.

Having compiled my 'complete' list of published work in both English and French, I felt better equipped to ply potential employers with what I have to offer as a writer, which I started to put into effect on Twitter.

"Play the notes you love." - Aaron Parks (pianist)

During my first cycle ride for ages through an extremely muddy Claybury Park, Ilford, I came across Redbridge Garden Centre and Roding Lane South allotments. Maybe I was meant to see these today and sign up for an allotment (I've always wanted one since my early days in Brighton when I used to work at my poet friend, Jackie Seaman's allotment on Elm Grove). On 31st January I became the proud and intensely excited owner of a plot that needs enormous work at North Hainault allotments. Hopefully it will keep me fit, sane, and provide me with lots of fruit and vegetables, which will save me money.

"The graveyards are full of indispensable men. " - Charles de Gaulle

A namesake of mine - Gemma Boyd, who I found on Twitter, and dedicated my poem, 'Indigo' to sent me this reply when I shared this poem with her: "... It's really unique... This is great! You are very talented! Thanks for sharing this with me; I know it can be scary to put your work out there. Thank you, very appreciated."

"When you think you can't move forward, take a look back and see just how far you have already come." - Bev James

My friend Louis Royer, of the Montréal, Canada-based band, Cortezia, that I'm substitute double bassist for, sent me the band's latest three albums: Béart Chanté Par..., Chansons Anonymes and Chansons d'Époque, which was a lovely surprise.

"Sometimes it's okay if the only thing you did today was breathe." - Unknown

On 30th January I shot my first professional music video (playing double bass; my first 'double bass' gig in over two years) on a street in East London: Musician, comedian, radio presenter, charity challenger and motivational speaker, Shaun Buswell gathered 11 or so London-based buskers to record his arrangement of 'Geronimo' by Sheppard for Decca. This project marked the second anniversary of the Underground Orchestra's performance (which I was a part of on double bass) at Shepherd's Bush Empire, made up of musicians that Shaun had met as strangers while travelling on the London Underground. I used my fee for this recording to pay for my new allotment.

"Leave something good in every day." - Dolly Parton

'No bread' diet - December 2014

Wishing all of you out there a very happy and healthy 2015!!


"There are two choices - make excuses or make things happen." - Bev James

I've connected with a lot of interesting and potentially useful French / Parisian websites related to employment opportunities, found within the pages of the magazines I collected in Paris Bagneux last November. Now I must make myself known to these people.

Finding new chords on the accordion is like learning giant Braille; very exciting!

Hommage to Emily Dickinson by George Szirtes

The soul invests itself in things,
in places with a curious buzz,
becoming what it calls a home.
The soul becomes what the soul does.

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." - Bertrand Russell

I wrote my first avant-garde poem entitled, 'The Scene Is Set'; a translation of '30' from Collected Petrach by Tim Atkins.

"Music is what life sounds like." - Eric Olson

Attending my friend, Kostas's poetry group, Dragonfly Poets at his studio in Brockley with my other poet friends from Roddy Lumsden's 'contemporary American and English poets' class at the Poetry School last year, was a joyous occasion, accompanied by the eating of various Christmas treats; my last act of indulgence before commencing my 'no bread' diet (I would like to lose a stone).

"I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday." - Bev James

As an OCD sufferer, sometimes it's like everything takes double the effort because I'm carting around two different people inside my head; the hurting, scared child and the confident, capable adult. 2015 is going to be about getting more support with my OCD so that I will hopefully be better able to trust myself to do the simplest of everyday things more again. 

"Music is an outburst of the soul." - Frederick Delius

For the first year ever, I had no spare money for Christmas presents, but instead I cooked Jan a meal she'd never had before on most days over our Christmas break and made her a 'Christmas star' mobile. I made Courgette Sauté, Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Apple and Hazelnuts, Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast with Tomato and Red Wine Sauce, Lemon Tart, Winter Vegetable Pie and Cheat's Clafoutis.

"Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there." - Josh Billings

On 14 December I live reviewed the Curtis Stigers gig at Ronnie Scott's, London, for Jazzwise Magazine: It was a fabulous gig but I got very stressed writing the review because my words for it wouldn't gel right up until two hours before I had to submit it. I did a good job of it in the end, though, thankfully, and Curtis Stigers wrote to me to express his gratitude: "Such a nice review of my @official ronnie's gig it made me blush. Aw shucks @Jazzwise I never knew. Thank you."

"Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language." - Lucille Clifton

Amy Schreibman Walter asked me to submit another poem to here-there-poetry.co.uk on the theme, 'Transatlantic'. 

"There's a way to do it better - find it." - Thomas A. Edison

Finding additional paid employment (with my freelance writing) feels like more of a realistic possibility than it did at this time last year... Now I must concentrate hard on securing some.

Paris in Autumn - November 2014

Within a day of being back in Paris Bagneux for the second time this year, I realized / remembered that there is no point in giving any energy to my OCD fears in Paris because I can't avoid being bumped into all the time, and so soon stopped reaching for my notebook to scribble down reassurances to myself. It's strange, but even though Paris is a very intense city, I never feel stressed there and when I got back home I felt proud of myself that I'd 'done' Paris again in the face of this bullying pig of a disorder - and stronger for it.


From the moment I arrived, a thought kept springing into my head: "Go to Les Halles!" On the penultimate day of my trip I looked around Les Halles shopping mall into which was being piped soft jazz piano music and quite by chance I came across the médiathèque musicale de Paris (a relatively new music library containing old Lester Young records) where the librarian gave me some advice about finding work as a professional musician in Paris and showed me the noticeboard onto which I pinned my business card.

"If you don't like the way things are do something about it." - Bev James

Munching a flan with glacé cherry in it, I walked along Rue St-Merri to my jazz pianist friend, Bernard Trillat's place. The view from his living space window is part modern (Centre Pompidou) and part old (traditional Parisian housing). He prepared vegetarian fried rice balls and we played a blues in C, 'Autumn Leaves' and 'Wave' with Nicky on electric 'stick' bass and Isabelle on percussion. I gave Bernard copies of my CV that has been translated into French just in case he comes across somebody relevant who may be interested in giving me a job.

"There is  nothing to writing: all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway

I was saddened to see that Pont des Arts (where I busked my 'solo double bass' set in 2011) is now so weighed down with padlocks attached onto its sides by lovers, that graffitied boards have been put up to prevent people doing this. 

"In discovering a small world we discover the whole world." - Bill Humber

Near Pont de la Concorde there was a massive blackboard on which I wrote, "My heart flies in Paris" and drew the outline of a heart around it, but as I was walking along I felt that unless some miracle happens, I'm condemned to live out my life being poor in 'grey' London.... By the end of my six nights here, though, I felt more positive and had worked out how I can be in Paris more often.

"All great artists draw from the same source: the human heart." - Maya Angelou

To read about what I got up to music-wise while I was in Paris this time, please visit 'Gemma Boyd: Busking - My Story' at www.buskingmystory.com and read the blog, 'Busking Scottish and Irish fiddle in Paris - 1st - 5th November 2014'.

"Really I don't like human nature unless all candied over with art." - Virginia Woolf

Walking down Avenue Jean Jaurès, Bagneux, I found a long 'bus' poster; destination - Chilly-Mazarin - Place de la Libération and took it as a sign that I'm on my way to 'freeing' myself in some way... My concert pianist friend, Nuna Kurek suggested that I self-publish a book of my poems which I could also illustrate.

"If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within." - Maya Angelou: I resolved to apply for freelance writing work to top up what I earn as a musician.

I made no plans before I came to Paris, but went with my instincts and everything slotted into place nicely, aided by the support of my friends via Facebook: My poet friend, Anne Macaulay's advice last month regarding just dealing with the day in hand and not looking too far ahead into what the future may hold, helped to snap me out of the deep depression I'd sunken into and noticing all of the characterful people with ageing faces in Paris has helped me to come to terms with the ageing of my own body.

"It is essential that you follow your own idea of passion, even if to others it looks like suffering." - Bryant McGill

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." - Henry James

"The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have." - Henry James

I found it hard to get motivated this month: It was as if the dark autumn evenings were drawing me into hibernation. 

"Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself." - Maya Angelou

Cooking unusual recipes continued to bring me joy and relaxation this month: I made apple skillet cake, homemade tomato soup, spicy and smoky aubergine, chickpea and tomato stew, tagliatelle with vegetable ragu and blueberry yogurt cake.

"Everything you need is here and now." - Panache Desai

It's felt good being able to continue with my double bass practise and not be in pain afterwards.

The thrill of creating a piece of artwork for me is the fear / excitement of not knowing exactly how it's going to turn out. Also, nothing I make is absolutely perfect and as a tireless perfectionist, it's been healthy for me to embrace that.

As a thank you for helping me translate my CV into French, I made my friend, Louis Royer a 'poetry / music' postcard of a treble clef surrounded by words from my poem, 'The angel on the Underground' and sent and dedicated my poem, 'Double Bass Sonnet' to him. Eventually these items got to him in Montreal, Canada and he responded with the message: "I was so moved by both objects. There's nothing more valuable than a handmade gift! And the poem is fabulous. I shall cherish this precious gift all my life: In fact, I've never received such a personal gift from anybody. Thank you so much." I also replicated my 'Soundholes' postcard with my poem, 'She who' written on the back of it for Richelle Leah, made a 'Congratulations!' card made out of hole punched papers for Yeu-Ing Mo, and made my old school friend, Rosanna, a 'birthday' postcard out of autumn leaves from Claybury Park, Ilford, for which she thanked me and commented, "My favourite colours from one of my favourite things!" 

I started attending avant-garde poet, S. J. Fowler's 'Vanguard' course at the Poetry School, London and found the concept of 'psychogeographical rambling' interesting. Guy Debord from his Critique of Separation stated: "And only a few encounters were like signals emanating from a more intense life, a life that has not really been found." I also recorded myself reciting more of my poetry and uploaded it to my SoundCloud profile which can be found under the 'Links to Recommended Websites' section of this website. Quite a few people liked these poems, which is encouraging.

October 2014

Henry James: "It's time to start living the life you've imagined."

Since my 39th birthday last month, I've decided that now I've fleshed out my CV with more of my published poetry and freelance writing work, it's time to start sending it out to relevant people in the hope that I'll get more paid work. This will enable me to have the financial freedom to go over to Paris more often etc., and to basically enjoy a fuller life.

Patricia Ann Zabran: "Turn your MESS into a MESSAGE and your TEST into a TESTIMONY."

Feeling tired of having to be mother, therapist and friend to myself; of having to be so damn strong, I was grateful that my music and writing are places in which I can let go a little. Cooking has also re-become a favourite relaxing pastime: Courgette and cheese pizza, courgette fritters, Indian stew, courgette and chocolate cake, fruit snow, hollandaise soup, vegetable curry and cauliflower cheese were all on the menu for this month.

Billy Collins: "With poetry, you don't have to go through a windshield to realize that life is precious."

Pat Pattison's 14-day challenges in his book, Song-writing Without Boundaries have provided the stimulus for some intense writing about my growing up in Walsall in the West Midlands.

Bruce Lee: "To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities."

Encouraging words from within an email from my 'poetry' friend, Jenny Hobson: "...I do hope our paths cross again, your work is great, our connection gave me a spurt of energy during September..." I was very happy to receive a copy of South Poetry Magazine 50 with my poem, 'Double Bass Sonnet' inside it; bride, Tayo Adegbite, gave me a glowing testimonial regarding her wedding I played at, at Brentwood Cathedral last month, and amazon.co.uk published my book review of Janet Horvath's fabulous book, Playing (Less) Hurt - An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians. Also, Ian Maud of sandybrownjazz.co.uk  said that he "loved" my Busking - My Story blog and shared it on his Facebook page. 

I returned with a happy heart to practising my double bass for 10 minutes most days, and so far I've had no tendinitis pain interfere with my violin playing, and it's made a much-needed change getting to grips with playing piano accordion on the London Underground.

Lao Tzu: "At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want."

Anais Nin: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."

On Facebook I set up Gemma's Poetry, Art and Music Discussion Group, which has proved more popular than I imagined it would and it's been great being able to bring together good friends of mine who are like-minded, to share creative thoughts and ideas.

I descended into a deep depression for a while - unaided by the nights drawing in, but managed to give some support and understanding to a woman who wrote to me after she saw the video I made about my experience of OCD for OCD-UK. It was good to know that somebody could relate to what I go through and that I am helping others.

With the help of my dear French-Canadian musician friend, Louis Royer, I managed to translate my CV into French (for distribution in Paris): At Halloween, I set off for Bagneux, Paris, once again. On the afternoon of my arrival I crunched through giant autumn leaves to Maison des Arts, where I saw the Chaix étiquette et protocole exhibition of eye-widening collages made out of fruit label stickers.

Stephen Richards: "If you do what you fear most, then you can do anything."

September 2014

My Music

I am a lone lion determined to
live the harsh vividity of my dream;
to stick to the unpredictable path.
This attractor of amazing people
that's taken me to Paris
through musical genres,
that's forced me to learn new skills
and to revisit old ones.
Assholes sprinkled along the way
teach me to trust my instincts and the flow
and so long as I cherish and repair my kit,
I can live no matter what, and
appreciate home, food, Tigger,
because I've worked hell to pay for them;
to ensure that my dream doesn't
dissipate on awakening.

Gemma Boyd

My Polish concert pianist friend and partner of my musical soul mate, Peter, who died, phoned me from Poland and said that she liked my poem, 'Away From Home' about Peter and myself playing music together at Chez Adel, Paris: People who matter to me connecting with my words is where the pleasure of writing poetry lies for me.

I'd been wanting to have a go at writing a poem a day since I was in Paris in July, and this month (what with meeting up again after 14 years with my Morley College friend, Diana Pooley), it's as if the universe conspired to make this happen: Along with Diana and a group of other poets, I wrote 30 poems for each day of September and in doing this I've learnt that it doesn't have to take me an age to write anything: I've just been being lazy. This exercise also forced me to relinquish my perfectionism so that I could simply write and it was great seeing other peoples' imaginations in action. Gale Burns invited me to read at The Shuffle at the Poetry Café, Covent Garden, and I've set myself the goal of publishing a book of my poems by the time I'm 40 (in just under a year's time).

For the first time in about 20 years, I met up with my oldest friend, Vanessa Merry in London, where she treated me to an extortionately expensive Eton mess from The Pudding Bar in Greek Street, Soho, and later, in a nostalgic mood, I hunted out some records from the soundtrack to our Barr Beacon Comprehensive School days, for example, Suede's Suede album (1993) and 'Ghost at Number One' by Jellyfish.

I was delighted with Claudio Zaretti's new album, Deux Diamants, he sent me for my birthday. Claudio and I have played jazz, popular songs and his own compositions together a number of times at Chez Adel, Paris, and I am a big fan of his music.

"I will always find a way and a way will always find me." - Charles Glassman

"To really get ahead you have to get out of your own way." - Bev James

"You can resist an invading army, but not an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

Happily, (and with much relief), I collected my renewed London Underground busking license, and enjoyed busking on piano accordion down there for the first time. Please check out my busking blog at: www.buskingmystory.com for details.

"The essence of all art is sensuality." - Kate Bush

At the end of the month I played Scottish and Irish folk violin music at two weddings - one at Brentwood Cathedral (where I also played 'Kissing You' by Des'ree for the bride to walk down the isle to), and the other at the Tithe Barn in Petersfield. It was nerve-racking doing these as a soloist, but I got positive feedback about both performances, which was encouraging.

"The greatest danger to our future is apathy." - Jane Goodall

Regarding my busking endeavours, my friend, Ray Everitt commented, "Keep at it; keeps us young!!!!" 

"Freedom to me is the luxury of being able to follow the path of the heart, to keep the magic in your life. Freedom is necessary for me in order to create, and if I cannot create I don't feel alive." - Joni Mitchell

"An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why." - William Faulkner

"Every person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. On that day we need to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us." - Maya Angelou

"Don't read your reviews, weigh them." - Andy Warhol

I really enjoyed experimenting for hours in the kitchen with recipes that incorporated one of the overgrown courgettes Jan brought home. I made Cheesy Baked Courgettes and Frosted Courgette and Lemon Cake: most unusual and delicious.

AUGUST 2014

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Robin Williams; an actor with deep feelings and insight, whose work truly moved me. May he rest in peace.

here-there-poetry.co.uk published my poem, 'Pound Shop Dreams' in the inaugural addition of their online poetry magazine on 1st August and I was also delighted to be informed by South Poetry Magazine that they're going to publish my poem, 'Double Bass Sonnet' in their 50th edition out in October.

The brilliant and inspirational poet, Anthony Anaxagorou was brimming with wise pointers throughout his 'Ideas Tap / Spa: Responding to Photojournalism with Language and Poetry Masterclass': I should aim to use my understanding of people to influence my performance poetry; Poetry and photojournalism both rely on sub-textual meaning and are intrinsically linked; Get inside a poem when performing; Emotional response drives art and if a poem is overly-mastered, its performance can become impenetrable. 

'A Guide To Healthy Practice for Musicians and Performers' at Musicians' Union HQ in London, taught by Jennie Morton - an osteopath at the British Association for Performance Arts Medicine was an angel-send of a course: Jennie talked about performing music from the body 
and delivering it through the fingers and when I play my instruments, to imagine that the sound is coming out of my back, to improve my posture and tone.

I felt connected on a 'soul' level to busker/ Big Issue seller, James Bowen, just from reading his delightful and moving book, A Street Cat Named Bob and Jose Angel Araguz's poetry collection, Corpus Chrisi Octaves really resonated with me too.

Peter Maguire: "Keep following the dream." 

"I hate writing, I love having written." - Dorothy Parker

"Night - when words fade and things come alive." - Steve McCurry

For helping me out financially in a time of need, I dedicated my poem, 'Claybury Park, Ilford' to my American writer and excellent cook friend, Thane Tierney, and sent him a copy. His reply lifted my spirits: "... I am daily grateful for many things, two of which being your acquaintance and artistry. Keep being brilliant."

"Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you've got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it." - Maya Angelou

My good trombonist friend from Brussels, Belgium, very kindly created my new busking blog, located at: http://www.buskingmystory.com A few people have said that they find it interesting, which is good news. Please visit and feel free to leave a comment.

"Walking is how the body measures itself against the earth." - Rebecca Solnit

I auditioned to play piano accordion on London Underground (as well as violin) and passed. I look forward to giving my fingers a rest from violin playing so that slowly I can ease myself back onto the double bass. Here is the link to the video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/gDWBcfszC64?list=UUv-1guZ36ZHE3pFtsUBaU5A

"Whether or not you write well, write bravely." - Bill Stout

Jazzwise magazine published two more of my live gig reviews under the 'Live Reviews' section of their website. Check them out on the 'Freelance Writing' link of this website.

"Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy." F. Scott Fitzgerald

At Roddy Lumsden's launch of his latest book, Not All Honey, I met up with my poet friend, Diana Pooley (we were in Maurice Riordan's class at Morley College, London, together about 15 years ago). We lost touch when I moved to Brighton, but now I'm back in London we're rekindling our friendship by attempting to write a poem a day with a group of other poets via email.

July 2014 in Paris Bagneux

"Wine is bottled poetry." - Robert Louis Stevenson

I feel trapped in a lot of 'catch 22' situations at the moment, and need to be earning more money so that I might escape. I'm determined to keep making money as a self-employed artist, though, as I've fought so hard to follow my dream over the years...

Kit Packham of Kit Packham's One Jump Ahead who I live gig reviewed at the Hideaway, London for Jazzwise magazine last month, has invited me to dep. on double bass with him and the band when an opportunity arises. This would be cool, as their music triggers great memories of playing Louis Jordan stuff with Mike the Mic and the Fridge Magnets back in the day around Brighton & Hove. I was delighted to see that Jazzwise published the above review in the main 'Live Reviews' section of their website, and Packham was pleased to have been able to reproduce it on the band's website for promotional purposes.

"I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things." - Tom Waits

On my arrival in Paris once again, I had my usual flan at Gare Du Nord, where a little old lady wearing a head-shawl straightaway begged me for loose change. In spite of having printed off a Google map, I got very lost on the way to Hôtel Jade, 123 / 125 Avenue Henri Ravera, 92220, Bagneux, but fortunately a group of locals smoking on the terrace of Bar Le Relax Restaurant at the end of the seemingly endless (on foot) Avenue Jean Jaurès (with its tenacious tiny poppies growing through cracks in walls), pointed me in the right direction. The hotel was brand-new and the room very modern and clean, which was a relief after having stayed in a couple of really grim hotels in the Parisian suburbs before. I liked Bagneux with its cobbled streets, church in the town square and hanging baskets of flowers everywhere. That evening I wrote this poem in a local bar:

Paradis

Long-needled rain out there in Bagneux. 
Inside here a criss-cross-backed cream/green seat;
its leather a cracked crème brûlée atop thin threads.

A break in Le Brazza's industrious clatter:
"Allez! Allez! Allez! a customer shouts at TV horses.
The waiter unhooks a 'Suggestions' board from the wall.

Torrential rain most days marred my ability to play folk / jazz violin outside, but I enjoyed a couple of illegal busking sessions on the Paris Métro at Pigalle and briefly under the tree in Place des Abbesses after telling my latest news to my friend, Peter, at his grave of birds, violins, angels and flowers in Montmartre cemetery.
At Chez Adel, owner, Adel was pleased to see me and gave me spicy lentil soup with his special sauce and orange juice. It was a pleasure to play my folk / jazz violin set for him afterwards and didn't do badly when I passed the bread basket around for money. Then my Polish concert pianist friend (and Peter's partner), Nuna, met me and we smoked a cigarette under the bridge over Canal Saint Martin where Peter drowned just over two years ago. Not long after we got there, a large white feather mysteriously blew down off this bridge and landed on the water: I took this a sign that Peter is alright wherever his is and wishing us well. A few days later my jazz pianist friend, Bernard Trillat and I played famous Parisian songs with Solenna and her friend (who had no sense of musical timing) at Chez Adel, plus 'Lullaby Of Birdland' I'd just learnt on violin. Over pizza on Quai de Jemmapes, Bernard and I talked of how one's outlook on life can change drastically after the loss of a parent. At 3am the following morning, fireworks / what sounded like bombs were going off outside my hotel window, presumably in celebration of Bastille Day, then suddenly two fire engines had blocked the road and policemen with protective shields marched down the road towards them?! That's crazy Paris for you! 

"Find out who you are and do it on purpose." - Dolly Parton

"Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind." - John Milton, Comus

I felt honoured, excited and scared all at once when Scottish poet Roddy Lumsden asked me to read a short set of my poems as part of a section called 'Born in the 1970s' alongside Amy Key and Camellia Stafford at The Betsey Trotwood All-Dayer in Farringdon, London. He'd already asked me to read a poem I was to write about a namesake of mine, and so the pressure was on. I practised hard, though, and managed to pull it off really well. This has given me the confidence to start performing my poetry again on more of a regular basis...

June 2014

June was a good month. I felt as if my hard work is paying off: 

Ego can eclipse excellence when it comes to performing music, as I discovered when live reviewing a gig.

Life begins to unravel for me pretty quickly when tendinitis strikes and I can't play my instruments: It's an uphill struggle to be creative when my mind is full of crap and my OCD makes me feel 'skinless'.

"Both the journalist and the psychoanalyst are the connoisseurs of the small, unregarded notions of life." - Janet Malcolm

"I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work." - Pearl S. Buck

"Opportunities multiply as they are seized." - Lao Tzu

"Jeremy Paxman doesn't see that poetry is felt, not fathomed." - George Szirtes

"If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!" - Dolly Parton

"Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art." - Charlie Parker

I was pleased with my violin and accordion playing at Russell Newlove's wedding (my first as a soloist) at Saint Dunstan in the East garden, Monument, London on 7th June (after the threat of rain, my trousers splitting and being told just as I was about to start playing, that musicians aren't licensed to play at the venue - no pressure there, then)! Russell was pleased with the outcome, though (see testimonial).

"Ugliness is superior to beauty because it lasts longer." - Serge Gainsbourg

"Real beauty knocks you a little off kilter." - David Byrne

"A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity." - Franz Kafka

Jazzwise magazine published more of my live reviews and photos under 'The Write Stuff' on their website, www.jazzwisemagazine.com. Each time I write one of these I learn a ton, and have now reached double figures regarding the ones that I've had published. 

"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. " - Franz Kafka

"Music is spiritual. The music business is not." - Van Morrison

On fellow London Underground busker, Syd's recommendation, I went to Islington Folk Club for the first time and heard some very entertaining and noteworthy musicians: Nigel of Bermondsey and winner of the 2013 Trad2Mad competition, Gemma Khawaja.

"An artist needs to be in a constant state of becoming." - Bob Dylan

Even though money is tight, I've booked myself five nights at a hotel just outside Paris next month to catch up with friends and do some playing in Montmartre.

Beth Turner: "Criminalizing criminals would wipe out a huge number of politicians and international corporate executives."

"Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row." - Ray Bradbury

I got mega excited when I had two poems published: 'Russian civilian gas mask GP7 & hose' on Naill O'Sullivan's Fake Poems blog on Tumblr, and 'Pound Shop Dreams' in the inaugural edition of online magazine, here / there: poetry, due out in August 2014. Roddy Lumsden also invited me to write and perform a poem about a namesake of mine next month at the Betsey Trotwood in central London.

At Westminster tube station I was interviewed and played folk violin for a programme that is going out on Radio 4's World Service about buskers.

Via Mark Donovan: "Every day may not be a good day, but there will be some good in every day."

Eric Gregory Award winner, Chloe Stopa-Hunt, shone at the Eric Gregory Award Winner's Reading 2014 at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, London.

MAY 2014

This blog is dedicated to my poetic heroine, Dr Maya Angelou and to the mega-talented, courageous and talented saxophonist and composer, Simon D'souza, who I had the privilege of playing with in Sussex Jazz Orchestra and Straight No Chaser, in Brighton.

The lovely actor, Bill Nighy (who I dressed at the National Theatre over 14 year ago, now), gave me money a couple of times when I was busking folk violin at Green Park tube station.

I seem to write some of my best work while travelling on the London Underground: There is a poem in there somewhere!

My Polish friend and concert pianist, Nuna Kurek said that one of my poems I'd dedicated to her, 'Some Days', had touched her heart; the biggest compliment anyone could give me with regards to my art.

"You can't think and play at the same time." - Sonny Rollins

It was good to be back in Scottish poet, Roddy Lumsden's 'Here, There & Now' class the Poetry School, London.

"One must have the courage of one's vocation and the courage to make a living from one's vocation. The 'second career' is an illusion! I was often broke, too, and I always resisted any temptation to live any other way than from my painting... In the beginning, I did not sell at a high price, but I sold. My drawings, my canvases went. That's what counts." - Pablo Picasso

"You have to be stronger than your gifts to protect them." - Matisse

"...But where is it written that success must always go to those who cater to the public's taste? For myself, I wanted to prove that you can have success in spite of everyone, without compromise." - Pablo Picasso

Once again, I started practising my double bass properly again - and ended up with tendinitis which put me out of work for two weeks. I wonder if I will ever be able to play properly again...

"Love said to me, there is nothing that is not me. Be silent." - Rumi

Via David R. Aldridge: "You are a ghost driving a meat-covered skeleton made from stardust riding a rock floating through space. Fear nothing."

Just when I felt as if I was lacking focus, I got booked to play my first wedding gig next month as a solo folk / jazz violinist and accordionist, which I had to transcribe and arrange the theme tune to the film, Jurassic Park and 'The Rainbow Connection' from The Muppet Movie, for.

"Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor." - Jackson Brown

"Don't trade your future goal for what you think you want right now." - Bev James

Writing poetry, for me, is an attempt to halt time.

On Facebook: "The biggest atrocity of all is to indoctrinate our children into a system that does not value their creative expression, nor encourage their unique abilities."

"I don't see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore. I'd rather measure life in terms of making a difference." - Stephen Sutton

Writing in iambic pentameter for the first time, unleashed my stunted muse.

"Good music can act as a guide to good living." - John Cage

"Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide." - D. W. Winnicott

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style." - Maya Angelou

APRIL 2014

This month I had  to confront so many of my OCD fears in order to do the internship at Jazzwise, but I managed to face them, complete it and get a credit in the May 2014 issue: FEAR IS A LIAR! This blog is dedicated to my partner, Jan, and all of my friends who supported and encouraged me throughout.


I enjoyed the spectacular bluebell displays in Claybury Park, Ilford and the raspberry-red blossom trees on Tudor Crescent.

Wouldn't I rather be 'doing' creativity, rather than writing about it? Writing about jazz is an art in itself, however, and my writing informs what I do as a musician, and vica versa. 

"The whole world steps aside for the person who knows where they are going." - Bev James

The Poetry School: "Is 'eyebite culture' affecting our ability to read and comprehend poetry?"

I'm now attempting to play folk music in the same way that I talk.

"The day you decide that you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves - that is the day you find your way out." - Michael A. Singer

Look out for this very interesting and pioneering book: Tourette Syndrome and Music: Discovering Peace Through Rhythm And Tone by my good friend, David R. Aldridge.

"There is seven-eighths of writing underwater for every part that shows." - Ernest Hemingway

The day I get on the bland wagon is the day I die.

On Facebook: "Let your fear of failure be your motivation to succeed."

For the first time I planted thyme, fennel, sage and wild flowers to attract the bees to the garden, and took great pleasure in seeing them germinate.

"It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, / April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers." - Millay

"Peace is not something you wish for. It is something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away." - R. Fulghum

At the moment I feel as if I have too many strings to my bow, meaning that I'm not significantly achieving anything in any field.

"Live music enhances the atmosphere in our towns and cities and adds to the quality of life of our citizens. Busking is an integral part of the live music scene and should be supported wherever possible." - Dave Webster, Musicians' Union

On Facebook: "On particularly rough days when I'm sure I can't possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%... and that's pretty good." - Author unknown

I want to write about stuff that I believe in, which will in turn make a positive difference to peoples' lives.

MARCH 2014: JAZZWISE MAGAZINE INTERNSHIP

This blog is dedicated to a childhood idol of mine - the actress Kate O'Mara, who died this month.


David R. Aldridge: "Being an artist in this culture is patently brutal. And as I was recently reminded, artists must be bravely fearful and take huge steps. Every one of those is the new normal."

Via Shan Verma on Facebook: "There are no traffic jams along the extra mile." - Roger Staubach

On one of those days when I just wanted to press the 'pause' button on life, I learned how to make roasted garlic soup with white wine and heavy cream in it.

My jazz pianist friend, Shan Verma was pleased with the 'Jazz Piano' handmade postcard I made for him as a surprise 'Facebook' gift.

I got very excited when editor Jon Newey accepted me onto an internship at Jazzwise magazine, based in Brixton (the UK's biggest selling jazz magazine) for five weeks starting at the end of this month. It's rewarding to know that I got this on the strength of my CV, which I struggled to put together. This will hopefully put me one step further on the road to becoming a paid international music writer.

"So you didn't get the outcome you wanted, so what - if you're alive to tell the tale, it's time to move on." - Bev James

"You don't have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step." - Martin Luther King

The FEU's ( the Federation of Entertainment Unions) 'Tools For Goal Setting' workshop at Equity with Muriel McClymont was excellent - as FEU workshops always are. From this I took the notion that goals are about setting a compass, with the ultimate vision of doing what one loves; that changing a goal is never a defeat; to enjoy the journey and that if one is able to articulate a goal, it can happen. I thanked Muriel for her moral support regarding my recent battle with tendinitis, and she said that my new passion for being mindful of injury as a musician, could provide me with a new outlet. The next day I participated in another brilliant FEU workshop: 'Get Noticed' CV writing with Muriel McClymont and Sue Walker, which enabled me to improve my CV even more: A CV is about credibility and bringing out nuggets of experience. Employers are looking for a reason not to read CVs, so go for immediate understanding. A CV is a story about one's professional life. Muriel McClymont commented, after I told the group what I consider to be my biggest achievement (professionally surviving losing my home, my dog and my musical soul-mate, Peter back in 2012), that "you can't keep [me] down," and Iwas reminded that have inspired others with my courage, passion for music and my self-belief. A fellow writer at the 'Write That Book And Get It Published' FEU course with Sue Walker, advised, "Never rub out a line until you've drawn the next one"; wise words. The workshop also highlighted to me that the reader must be nailed to the page with regards to whatever one writes; that publishing is a commercial business; that I must be clear on what I want to say; that I need to be able to prove that I have the credibility to write on my chosen subject; to find a gap in the market, and to ask myself what I can bring that's new to the party.

The following is an update from Jonny Walker, founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign: "... Our barrister David Wolfe QC from Matrix has convincingly put forward the case that Camden's [busking] scheme is unlawful. He argued that the policy is too wide. It covers the whole of Camden (22 square kms) when most busking issues related to Camden Town and even criminalises unamplified and unaccompanied singing in the street for fun, which is ludicrous. It interferes with Article 10 rights (freedom of expression) in a manner and to an extent that is in no way justified by any pressing social need.

Camden's barrister was reduced to repeating the Orwellian proposition that this scheme was 'light touch regulation' and would actually ENCOURAGE and PROMOTE busking. In arguing that the human voice box is a form of amplification and therefore needs to be licensed, he defied modern understandings of physics and physiology.

Camden say the protections afforded to buskers under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act are very low indeed. To argue this they used the case of Belfast City Council who banned a sex shop from setting up in Belfast: Singing in the streets and playing music to people in public space is somehow imagined to be comparable to selling pornography in terms of entitlement to protection under the Human Rights Act.

I am appalled that a Labour led Council could spend tens of thousands of pounds of public money trampling upon freedom of expression and cultural diversity with such tenacity. Cultural freedom and political freedoms are closely intertwined. Under Camden's scheme it would be illegal to sing a protest song as part of a static protest: This is state censorship. The Metropolitan Police in Camden lobbied hard for this policy, saying it would 'bring clarity' for busking issues. That, in itself, is very worrying. We should all be suspicious when the police or security services attempt to gather more powers to themselves than they already have. Instead they should use the powers they already have more wisely..."

On 11th March 2014, Johnny Walker reported, "Today a High Court judge ruled that Camden's absurd busking policy was lawful. They would do well not to celebrate this verdict because it means that Labour led Camden have sent a message to the world, 'no spontaneity, music or joy here please.'... On 13th March Walker continued, "...Quite how criminal records, £1000 fines, instrument confiscations and fire-sales serve to 'foster dynamic busking activity' I leave to your imagination. The mention of 'promoting economic growth' I also found confusing as if street music was an impediment to the transnational flow of capital..." Walker's protest continues...

"'It's impossible,' said pride. 'It's risky,' said experience. 'It's pointless,' said reason. 'Give it a try,' whispered the heart.'" - Unknown

I bought 'The Elements of Rhythm Volume 2' by David R. Aldridge (I was his editorial consultant for this book), and on the 'Acknowledgements' page he'd written, "Gemma Boyd, a fine jazz bassist, offered notes of good will and cheer from London and Paris, reminding me that a little obsessive-compulsive behavior can actually be a good thing."

"Keep going. Remember sometimes it's the last key that opens the door." - Bev James

In a bid to start publishing my poetry again, I sent six of my most recent poems up to South Bank Poetry magazine.

Megan Hockley: "Tony Benn is dead. The last recognisable trade unionist is dead. The NHS is being dismantled under our noses and will soon be... dead. The words, 'hell' and 'handcart' spring to mind. End of days, people, the bell is tolling for society."

"If we can find money to kill people, we can find money to help people." - Tony Benn

One Friday I felt like an open wound trying to be a closed box; stuffing chocolate on a dark sofa; not being able to get my head around life and death.

"Whether you're thinking you can or you can't, you're right." - Henry Ford

"I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people, and secondly, demoralise them." - Tony Benn

"All cats love fish but fear to wet their paws." - Chinese proverb

Thanks to Wheatbread Johnson's advice, I managed to convert audio files to mp3 on iTunes, and upload sound bites of myself playing Irish and Scottish folk tunes on violin and accordion, onto this website: Have a listen!

RAIN, WIND & EARLY BLOSSOM - FEBRUARY 2014

"Decide what job you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work." - Bev James


It was good to be back in Brighton on 4th February again, even though, sadly, it was for Renee Ansell's - the Queen of Jazz's wake. Nothing had really changed in over the year or so since I'd last visited: To my delight, there were still buskers on my beloved George Street; the twisted black skeleton of the West Pier had taken a battering in the storms, but was still standing, the amusement arcade on Brighton Pier appeared spotless and sparkling; rhythm guitarist, Piers, looked unsurprisingly dapper in his 1940s-style woollen checked suit at The Seven Stars, and he told me that I could keep the guitar book he lent me because it may come in useful one day, and it was good to see old friend, trombonist, Dan Rehahn. I then wasn't happy to be back in London with its bland commuters, though.

"The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding." - Leonardo da Vinci

I will burn all of my diaries before I die, so that all that will remain will be my poems, chronicling my life.

"Indifference is reputedly the opposite to love." - Daniel Rehahn

Self-protection / self-destruction: Sometimes I don't know what the difference is, and how to achieve a healthy balance between the two.

"Action is the foundational key to all success. What action will you take today to move you closer to your goal?" - Bev James

"Out beyond ideas of wrong doing
and right doing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about. " - Rumi

My friend, Louis Royer's latest Cortezia album, 'Le Son de la Radio' arrived on my doormat all the way from French America. I have always felt very honoured to be substitute double bassist for this band.

This quote from musician, Elizabeth Geyer, fortified me as I ploughed with on the mammoth task of updating my CV: "I am guilty of procrastinating and taking too long to do something. But I keep finding out there are also certain things (usually the big things that mean the most to us) that exist and we can be as dedicated as we like, they unfold in their own stubborn good time and cannot be rushed anymore than you can force a flower to bloom before it's ready."

(As if it was meant to be,) I decided to shelter from the rain and kill some time in Waterloo Library, 114-118 Lower Marsh. In all my years of walking down this street, I'd never noticed this place before. I asked the librarian about getting help with my CV and he took me to the excellent, 'The CV Book' by James Innes (a CV expert.) This excellent book, in combination with my attempt to see myself and my career through positive eyes (with the help of my friend, Gavin Knight,) was instrumental in the successful completion of my own CV.

My OCD was acutely bad this month due to a flare up of family issues that I can't begin to get my head around (I was suffering from panic attacks that came out of nowhere while I was performing on the Underground,) but by taking a little time out of my strict, self-imposed work schedule, I was able to get help in the form of the 'EverythingOCD' community: It's both uncanny and reassuring how similar the group's OCD symptoms are.

I made Jan a Valentine's 'red heart with sparkly black background' postcard out of the wrapping paper that my Christmas present from her came in last year, while listening to The Poetry Foundation's 'Love Poems for Valentine's Day.'

"Prepare, get nervous, deliver." - Dame Kelly Holmes

Jan and I have been spending more time together by going for walks and exercising at the outdoor gym at Claybury Park, Ilford, for the first time since our beloved dog, Ruby died in November 2012. We take the same route that we used to take with Ruby, and can both imagine her running about. Jan agreed that maybe she still is. I think that Ruby would have wanted us to keep enjoying the forest - the place where she was happiest.

"If you're true to yourself, you're bulletproof." - Ricky Gervais

"What you seek is seeking you." - Rumi: I really believe this.

On Facebook: "Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go."

"Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride." - Eddy Merckx

"Writing is like giving yourself homework, really hard homework, everyday, for the rest of your life. You want glamorous? Throw glitter at the computer screen." - Katrina Monroe

I finally paid off the over £1,500 I borrowed off Jan to help finance my traumatic stay for three months in Paris in the spring of 2012, with the money I've earned performing 'folk' violin on the London Underground (at the same time as battling tendinitis.) I feel proud of this.

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does!" - William James

On Facebook: "Government should protect people and regulate corporations, not protect corporations and regulate people."

"Acceptance doesn't mean resignation. It means understanding that something is what it is and there's got to be a way through it." - Michael J. Fox

"Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

"You just have to trust in your own madness." - Clive Barker

Via Natural Voices: "Singing daily for at least ten minutes reduces stress, clears sinuses, improves posture and can even help you live longer."

"Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything." - Ray Bradbury

"Onward, through the fog." - Oat Willie

From Peretu Ebi to me: "I wish you all the best as you follow your passion." This inspired me in a dark moment.

Every time I come into contact with half-baked time-wasters who I have to do their jobs for, I'm reminded why I'm self-employed!

"Decide what you want, then have the discipline to see it through." - Bev James

Jan's kind brother, David, gave me one of his violin bows from the workshop of W. Doerfier: Octagonal stick of an orange-brown colour: Nickel mounted ebony frog with Parisian eye. Three-part nickel adjuster inlaid with pearl eye. Stamped W. Doerfier on the shaft. Worth £243 - according to  Bridgewood & Neitzert in Stoke Newington. My violin sounded louder, and the tone smoother as a result.

At last, after weeks of hard graft and a severe testing of my proofreading and editing skills, I have my CV. Hopefully now I am better equipped to secure more exciting writing / art / music projects.

JANUARY 2014

This blog is dedicated to Brighton's undisputed Queen of Jazz, Renee Ansell, who died this month at the age of ninety.


Happy 2014 to all!

"Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating." - John Cleese

"For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice." - T. S. Eliot

Patricia Ann Cozzitarto: "Random thought: I think I fall in love a little bit with anyone that shows me their soul; the world is so guarded and fearful. I appreciate the rawness so much." Me, too!

Re-designing this website was a job I wished I'd never started at first, as the more I fiddled with it, the more of a mess it seemed to become. I persisted, though, and am pleased with the more readable end result.

"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell

"Go for it now. The future is promised to no one!" - Wayne Dyer

This month I took a break from practising my musical instruments (but not from performing my violin on the London Underground,) as I was suffering from a playing-related bad back, and studying and putting into practice advice from the excellent book I think should be essential reading for every musician, music teacher and parent of a music student; Janet Horvath's 'Playing (Less) Hurt - An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians.' Watch out for the book review I'm going to write about this. I've learnt that I must be much more mindful of my posture when I'm playing at all times: Janet Horvath advises, "Your body should feel fluid."

I made it a priority to re-write my CV this month. It's been taking me absolutely ages, and it's been difficult not to get bogged down in too much conflicting information regarding the best way to execute this. I should just get it done and put it out there!!

"If you are going through hell, keep going." - Sir Winston Churchill

The T. S. Eliot Prize Readings at the Royal Festival Hall, London, were both inspired and inspiring. These readings were preceded by T. S. Eliot Prize Preview with The Poetry School, lead by the poet, Vicki Feaver who taught me poetry at the University College, Chichester. It was amazing to see her again after almost twenty years! My favourite contender was Dannie Abse, who is ninety-one years old! From attending this, I learnt about The Poetry School, London, and was accepted onto Roddy Lumsden's Advanced Poetry course and offered the final place. So far it's been eye-opening and is stretching me.

"Courage is being scarred to death but saddling up anyway." - John Wayne

"Too often... we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy

I told my friend, Mark Donovan, when I visited him during his shift on the stage door of the Queen's Theatre in the West End, that it's hit me hard being the age of 38, and noticing the signs of ageing. He reminded me that comparing oneself to others and their achievements, isn't the way to go; that we tend to compartmentalize time, but in reality we could die tomorrow or start a fresh career in our sixties, like the 'Only Fools and Horses' actor, Buster Merryfield, who'd previously worked for NatWest bank for forty years.

"I wouldn't know how to handle serenity if somebody handed it to me on a plate." - Dusty Springfield

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I received a random act of kindness from my friend, Shan Verma; a month free on his membership website, 'Jazz Skills - Learn to Play Jazz Authentically.' :)

On Facebook: "Economic policies should prioritize people, not corporate profit."

The creation of my first ever music-themed 'Happy Birthday' postcard (made with violin strings) was loved by my friend Zoe, who lives in New Zealand.

"The whole idea of music, from the beginning of time, was for people to be happy." - Robert Plant










DECEMBER 2013

From La Boutiques des Anges in Montmartre, Paris, I bought a postcard which said on it, <<Ecoute! Dans la vie, on marche sur un pont très étroit, ce qui est le plus important, c'est de ne pas céder à la peur.>> - R. Nachman de Breslev 


"Paris is always a good idea." - Audrey Hepburn

"If all you can do is crawl, start crawling." - Rumi

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill

I have started dreaming in French! Hopefully this means that I'm getting to grips with the language...

I enjoyed playing Christmas carols on my violin on London Underground. I love Christmas carols as they evoke some of the best memories of my childhood. I also got my first £20 note tip for busking, and managed to pay off a huge chunk of debt.

"What art seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine." - Oscar Wilde

"The people who get the furthest in business are those who allow themselves no room for excuses." - Bev James

I made Christmas cards for the first time, and had great fun doing this.

"If you don't have confidence, you'll always find a way not to win." - Bev James

"Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating." - John Cleese



CHRISTMAS TIME IN PARIS - NOVEMBER 2013

A supervisor at Knightsbridge Underground station, who I met before doing a 'folk' violin busking session there, told me that he used to play the double bass at school, but now in his 40's, he can't fit a double bass in his studio flat. He used to love his 'school' double bass, but it dried out and became unstuck around the edges. Years ago, near the public school near Lichfield cathedral (he's from Staffodshire,) he said that he once played with 101 other double basses behind a strolling elephant! I gave him my 'An Ode To My Double Bass' handmade postcard because it was nice to meet a fellow Brummie who loves the double bass. He then told me at a later date, that he had pinned this postcard next to his computer, which made me smile.


I uploaded myself reading more of my poems onto SoundCloud (click on my SoundCloud profile link on 'Links to recommended websites' on this website.) 

"Do or Ditch but never make do." - Bev James

I used a brilliant free app. on my iPhone (MTSR four-track recorder,) and recorded myself playing violin and piano accordion simultaneously. This exercise is good for increasing my confidence where 'recording' is concerned, and generates ideas for composition. It's also exciting to be able to instantly share my musical ideas with friends.

After four days of painstaking work, I completed a commissioned 3-D pen sketch of Al Fresco restaurant on Brighton seafront: It's rewarding that I'm starting to earn good money from my artwork to subsidize the money I make from my music, plus I really enjoy it.

"I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning." - Plato

"Nietzsche, in 'Beyond Good and Evil,' refers to the artist's need for spiritual discipline, for what he calls "protracted OBEDIENCE in ONE direction; from out of that there always emerges and has always emerged in the long run something for the sake of which is worthwhile to live on earth, for example virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality - something transfiguring, refined, mad and divine."" - from 'Music and the Mind' by Anthony Storr

Now, at long last, I have my full license to perform as a musician on London Underground, I have something to fall back on as I continue in my quest to find paid work in Paris.

I signed, and eventually got others to sign the e-petition, 'Camden Borough Council: Don't Bannish the Buskers! Keep Streets Live in Camden.'

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." - Robert Frost

At Green Park, I was approached by a woman signed to a record label who wanted me to play violin on about four of her tracks for the launch of her EP. I was expected to attend rehearsals, learn music from scratch, and be photographed for NO PAY. Travel expenses were offered, but I had to ask for actual payment. I shouldn't have to ask; it should be a given. Unfortunately, this is a common expectation for professional artists from all disciplines nowadays, and it shouldn't be so. My actor friend, Mark Donovan, has come up with an excellent retort: "When they offer expenses only, my stock reply is "Well, my expense is the use of my time and experience, and this is my daily rate." If they say they have no budget for the talent, I suggest they go back and learn how to budget a project properly.""

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

"Knowing when to stop is what makes a good piece of writing." - Anne Carson

"You were wild once. Don't let them tame you."- Isadora Duncan

I took it as a sign, that a link that my musician friend, Peter Maguire sent me on Skype, contained an advert for the hotel, Libertel Canal Saint Martin in Paris, where I've stayed and liked, before: Even though I was emotionally and financially undecided, I booked this hotel for 5 nights from 27th November 2013.

"Never confuse motion with action." - Benjamin Franklin

"Music exalts life, enhances life, and gives it meaning. Great music outlives the individual who created it. It is both personal and beyond the personal. For those who love it, it remains a fixed point of reference in an unpredictable world. Music is a source of reconciliation, exhilaration, and hope which never fails." - from 'Music and the Mind' by Anthony Storr

"You already possess everything necessary to become great." - Bev James

At Centre Musicale Barbara Fleury Goutte d'Or, Paris, I attended a lecture: Rencontre Ressource sur << le cadre de rémunération des artistes de la musique (scène-disque) >> This, along with a fruitful trip to Cité International University, provided me with information about my rights as a musician working in France.

I experienced the beautifully presented and tasteful dried fruits, chocolates and jewellery etc. at the Champs Elysées Christmas Village, enjoyed the sculptures at Maison de Balzac, and visiting the Maison de Victor Hugo.

I played my piano accordion set (for the first time in Paris) on my usual spot in Abbesses, Montmartre; underneath the tree in a little square opposite Le Saint Jean, and at my favourite bar, Chez Adel by myself and with jazz pianist, Bernard Trillat. My heart was bursting with joy at being back here. Lalalice at L'Abracadabar, 75019 Paris were an intriguing band (a mixture of children's entertainment and comedy chanson.)

"Have the end in mind and every day make sure you're working towards it." - Bev James

"Look past your thoughts so that you may drink the pure nectar of this moment." - Rumi

SMALL STEPS FORWARD WITH MY WRITING & ARTWORK - OCTOBER 2013

This blog is dedicated to my ever-supportive partner, Jan and good friends, Annemarie Nichols, Clare Davis, David R. Aldridge, Mark Donovan, and my beautiful cat, Tigger.

Roger Foregard: "You will find a way round any obsacle. Use your talents to their advantage, within which the answer will manifest itself." This was just the encouragement I needed in the face of yet more of the bureaucratic, controlling, inhuman managerial style I keep coming up against in my work; absolving such people of any responsibility for losing information, lying and ignoring me. 

To add to my depression, I read an article in Musicians' Union Magazine, Autumn 2013, entitled: "Do the arts have to be economically viable in order for the coalition government to consider them valid?" I'm so glad that I had the foresight to try and build a musical life for myself in Paris, where musicians and music are generally, I believe, more valued and respected as being an integral part of our lives. I needed to read some music-affirming books in this age of austerity, and 'Music and the Mind' by Athony Storr, and 'How Music Works' by David Byrne, just about cover it.

"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. " - Eleanor Roosevelt

"The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body." - Dr. Bruce H. Lipton

Keith Challen of Worthing, who I played at, and organised the music for, his son's wedding last October at Al Fresco, Brighton, bought one of my handmade postcards (please see my 'Online Shop' on this website.) He then commissioned me to make a 'Happy Anniversary' double bass-themed postcard for his son's wedding anniversary, and has commissioned me to do a pen sketch as a Christmas present. Keith came up with some useful suggestions, for example, stating on my website etc. that I am able to make postcards for all occasions. I'm excited that I'm beginning to make real money out of my artwork. Making postcards is for me, like improvisation in music: I never know what the art materials are going to do in my hands.

In order to hear how my poems flow when read out load, I have uploaded onto SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/gemma-boyd,) myself reading poems from my first collection, 'Vivarium.' 

"The soft bonds of love are indifferent to life and death." - Issac Asimov

I've got my hands that can break taps without even noticing, back, thanks to Ray Brown's 'Bass Method.'

<<Errer est humain, flâner est parisien.>> - Victor Hugo

"We must become the change we want to see." - Mahatma Gandhi

One thing that is worse than people who expect musicians to work for nothing, are MUSICIANS who expect musicians to work for nothing.

At last, I have been granted my full London Underground musician's license to perform, up until the end of September 2014. It's good that I shall have some financial security until then.

"Fall down seven times, get up eight." - Japanese proverb

Beth Turner wrote of me: "You're a brave one and a survivor. Courage isn't only a brand of beer, but a personal quality, and YOU have got it, my girlie." This was good to hear, especially since I have been feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, and as if I've aged dramatically, recently.

"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I've felt it." Igor Stravinsky

I was asked to interview and write an article about jazz harpist, Park Stickney, who will be appearing in this year's London Jazz Festival. As soon as I mentioned that as a professional, I will expect to be paid for this, I was dropped. I'm fed up with time-wasting idiots like these people, who expect something for nothing, but it's positive that I'm being offered freelance writing work on the strength of the live reviews etc. that I've written in the past.

"Music is a cedar,
An evergreen tree of fragrant, durable wood." - Duke Ellington

Virginia Woolf, October 25th, 1920: "...Why is life so tragic: so like a little strip of pavement over an abyss. I look down; I feel giddy; I wonder how I am ever going to walk to the end. But why do I feel this: Now that I say it I don't feel it... Melancholy diminishes as I write."

"Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out." - Bev James

Paul and Miki of Pinky Miki Flowers, London, are going to recommend my services as a musician for weddings they do the flower arrangements for, after hearing me play my folk violin set at Charing Cross Underground station.

There is a lot of trial and error involved in becoming a fully-fledged professional freelance artist, and I have made some mistakes this month. What I have learnt as a result, though, will stand me in good stead for whatever the future holds.

SEPTEMBER 2013

My drummer / freelance writer / author / pilot friend from Los Angeles, USA, David R. Aldridge: "... I want to thank you again, so very sincerely, for your encouragement over the last couple of years. I have been and remain very inspired by your dedication to playing, and it has in no small part fueled my confidence for this leap across the Pond. As we say on my side of the Atlantic, YOU ROCK!!!" This message meant such a lot, and it feels rewarding to know that I have inspired someone to this extent. It was fantastic to actually meet David in person, for the first time, in London, this month.


My Nan died on my birthday on the 2nd September; I am grateful to good friends, my partner, Jan, and my music, for helping me through this.

I began practising my double bass regularly again for the first time since I got Tendonitis in my left hand, fingers and arm back in February. I feel blessed to be able to play again, as I sincerely thought I'd never be able to.

"The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart assunder." - Virginia Woolf

My very kind friend, David Lee, bought me a 'Jacob Stainer' violin made in Germany, which is over one hundred years old: This warmed my heart.

"Whatever strengthens and purifies the affections, enlarges the imagination, and adds spirit  to sense, is useful." - Percy Bysshe Shelley

"Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument." - Carl Jung

"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness." - Maya Angelou

I was pleased that OCD-UK have uploaded the 'OCD and Me' video I made, to their YouTube channel. In the lead up to OCD Awareness Week in October, they are going to show it to OCD Foundation, OCD Ireland and to other mental health charities like Time to Change, Mind and Rethink. Hopefully it will make a positive difference somewhere.

Subrata Ray: "... a true artist within is a divine personality. Gemma Boyd, in the truest sense, is the outcome of the reflection of primary artist through her earthly secondary artist." This comment came at just the right time, and spurred me on.

"Let me tell so much truth. I want to tell the truth in my work. The truth will lead me to all." - Maya Angelou

Libby Pentreath: "You will carry on making music because music is a language that needs no words." I had never really thought of music in this way, before. It makes sense.

At the end of the month, Jan and I had a well-deserved break on the beautiful and peaceful Isle of Wight.

PARIS IN AUGUST 2013

My friend, Stephen Batty, described Paris as being "a special oasis of the soul," and for me it is; especially since right now in England, music and musicians are being viewed more and more as 'add-ons' rather than an integral part of our culture.


On arrival in Paris, I was straight away thrust into the craziness of Paris that I'd forgotten about, when, running late because I'd been enjoying indulging in flan and Earl Grey tea at Gare du Nord, I had to queue for 20 minutes with swarms of tourists for Métro tickets. Next, there were engineering works taking place at Barbès Rochechouart, meaning that I had to find an alternative route to Pigalle (which ended up being the wrong Métro station for me to get out at for where I wanted to go.) As if it was meant to be, though, I then met my beloved Adel (owner of my favourite bar, Chez Adel, 10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris,) and two of his young children on a train at Marcadet Poissonniers. We were both very pleased to see each other. Later on, I walked from my beautiful accommodation (my jazz pianist friend, Bernard Trillat's home - which used to be the French artist, Edgar Degas's studio, on rue Pierre Fontaine in the 9th Arrondissement,) to Chez Adel, where I played my 'folk' violin set for Adel in exchange for free orange juice, hot chocolate, putting the hat around, and his new vegetable fajita-type offering. I noticed my late violinist friend, Peter Conua's sketch of people stood at the bar in here (his favourite bar), as I ate: It felt as if Peter is now an angel sitting encouragingly on my shoulder.

Many times, I busked my 'folk' violin set in the August sunshine under the shade of a big leafy tree in Abbesses opposite Le Saint Jean, and earned enough money each day to pay for food and household items. After playing on the London Underground for 3 months, it was great to be playing in the open air again, where my music was appreciated and welcomed by the locals.

At home at Bernard's, I had the pleasure of playing jazz standards on his resonant, smooth-sounding Steinway piano (I could hear that it had been well loved,) while my delightful companion throughout my stay, Happy the cat, chased shadows on the floor I made with my hands from the piano stool. I found these surroundings artistically inspiring, and made my first 'Paris' postcards at the kitchen table making the most of the light here, which Degas must have drawn, painted and sculpted by, all those years ago. 

Everything OCD on Facebook: "DON'T LET YOUR FEARS BULLY YOUR DREAMS." As it usually does when I'm outside of my comfort zone, my OCD threatened daily to ruin my experience, but I won out in the end - just!

I played my violin on most of the terraces of Montmartre that I used to play on with my friend, Peter. It's hard to keep one's nerve doing this by oneself, however, and the reality hit home that I'll never be able to recapture those times I spent here playing music with Peter and Eirik: Montmartre has changed (with dreaded Starbucks rearing its ugly head here and trendy young patrons of some of the bars having techno music blaring out, making it impossible to play live music outside them.) Life and people change all of the time, I suppose, but as my friend, Mark Donovan says, "Nothing is forgotten."

"It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela

I want to be surrounded by beautiful things at the moment, and to create them in my artwork.

At musée des lettres et manuscrits on bd. Saint Germain, I enjoyed seeing the original letters etc., of writers, artists and musicians such as Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and Salvador Dali.

"One of the best things you can master in life is to master how to remain calm." - Catherine Pulsifer

A soul-warming thing happened: I treated myself to a whiskery cat (handmade in Sao Paulo, Brazil) that I'd had my eye on in a shop window (a few doors down from Bernard's home,) since I arrived in Paris. The shopkeeper had reserved it for me until I could afford to pay for it, and when eventually I bought it, he gave me a ring as a gift because he admired me for playing my violin in Montmartre for money every day. This made me feel special and that the 'art' that I give out is reciprocated.

Paris, and everything that happens to me there, holds a magical quality for me. If I lived in Paris all of the time, would it still have that?

In person for the first time, my Facebook friend, Jeffrey Tayler and I met for rosé wine on the terrace of Au Père Tranquille, 16 rue Pierre Lescot. He is a freelance writer / journalist who lives in Moscow, and at the time was interviewing people to do with the Femen movement. We spoke of our love for crazy Paris (where characterful people still talk to each other, instead of being obsessively attached to their mobile electronic devices,) questioned why the exploited poor in England aren't taking to the streets, more, in protest against the Tory government, mused that a high percentage of Americans are completely alone, and dreamed of going  trekking in the Alps like English Romantic poets did. He commented that my Tendonitis has healed in Paris because here I can "breathe." True.

As an end-of-experience treat, I took my violin to Pierre Jaffré Luthier, 65, rue de Rome, Paris, to have its fractured neck repaired, and new strings, a new bridge and a new tailpiece fitted. Consequently it is now a lot louder.

My good friend, Iwona Borcuch, bought my handmade 'double bass / dance partner' postcard and I gave her my 'double bass / clown' postcard. In exchange, she gave me one of her beautiful, square-shaped, 'evening wear' mosaic rings. It's inspiring to me that Iwona and our other friend, Nuna Kurek, share similar creative passions. Bernard was very pleased with my selection of 'double bass' and 'Paris' - inspired photos that I put in a frame for him as a 'thank you' present for letting me stay in his home. I like that a little part of me has permanently stayed behind in Paris with my friends, via my artwork.

SUNRISES AND SETBACKS - JULY 2013

My review of Josh Langley's 'Follow Your Heart - Everyday Wisdom for an Extraordinary Life' can be read by clicking on the link, 'FREELANCE WRITING' on this website, and on the www.frogandthewell.com website. Josh wrote of me: "I was very fortunate to have a review of 'Follow Your Heart' written by fellow writer and creative type, Gemma Boyd. She is... one of those inspirational people who is living proof you can live the artist's way and be happy."


I began practising my double bass again, following the problems I've had for six months with Tendonitis. I'm glad that I kept the comprehensive notes that I made for my double bass students, as I had to re-teach myself some of what I've taught them! 

"The only thing better than singing is more singing." - Ella Fitzgerald

"Beware of the person who can't be bothered by details." - William Feather

Via Stephen Batty: "Nature never hurries, yet everything is accomplished." - Lao Tsu

Being creative is not a hobby, it's a way of life.

I'm shaving my debts slowly but surely; it's great to be finally feeling in more control of my life again.

It's funny how being a performer connects one to people and protects one from them at the same time.

I made a loss of £557.79 last financial year, following my year from hell, but I'm proud of myself that I stuck with my music through thick and thin, as now, hopefully, things are looking up.

On Facebook: "If you stumble, make it part of the dance."

Josh Langley: "Just found out that frog friend, Gemma, busks on the London Underground. Makes me smile for so many reasons. Bravery, creativity, sharing the love of music etc.."

Je ne suis pas une vertu.

I was delighted to receive the new Cortezia album from my 'brother,' Louis Royer, all the way from Montréal, Québec, called 'D'Amour et De Lumière': I'm featured on the back cover of the album booklet: "Gemma Boyd: contrebassiste substitut (Londres et Paris)."

"If someone lets you down badly be annoyed with them, if they keep letting you down be annoyed with yourself." - Bev James

'Friends' from my past and their subtle little put-downs... They can stay in the past, because that's where they belong.

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, "I'm possible."" - Audrey Hepburn

I made a video: 'OCD and Me by Gemma Boyd,' that can be viewed on YouTube, for OCD-UK and their OCD awareness week in October 2013. 

Even though I'm far from out of the woods with my Tendonitis, I went back and did light duties on a session at Ray Park, Woodford, with the Redbridge nature conservationists. I helped them to construct a habitat raft (to be placed in park lakes to provide refuge and a nesting place for waterfowl.) It was good to be around other people again, having spent a lot of time alone in my work, recently.

My jazz pianist friend, Bernard Trillat, very kindly offered to let me stay at his beautiful flat near the Moulin Rouge in Paris, for nearly three weeks next month, while he is away with his family on holiday. I can't wait to return to Montmartre and Chez Adel...

"Notes are like people. You have to go up the steps and great every one of them." - Wayne Shorter

JUNE 2013: 'VIVARIUM' by Gemma Boyd

A big thank you to all my friends and Jan, for all of the positive vibes you sent me regarding my recovery from Tendonitis, so that I could play my violin again. It worked! I began my job as a busker of my 'folk' violin set on London Underground, and have been earning good money (the most I've ever earned alone.) It feels as if this gig was meant to be; especially since I have joined the scheme on its 10th anniversary, and London Underground is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. Peter's death is how come I started playing folk violin. Through my music, he still lives...


I attended a Troubadour Poetry event on Old Brompton Road, London, featuring one of my favourite poets, Simon Armitage (whose poems made us all belly laugh,) and Frieda Hughes. Hughes's deep, purring, voice, sounds just like her mother's (Sylvia Plath,) but with an English accent.

For anyone interested in, or wanting to write poetry but thinks that they can't, may I recommend Stephen Fry's accessibly brilliant book, 'The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking The Poet Within.'

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it." - Henry David Thoreau

"You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you." - Maya Angelou

Nature and cats are cheaper than therapy!

"Even at your best, someone will have something negative to say. Pursue greatness anyway." - Tony Gaskins

"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." - William Feather

"Do your own thing on your own terms and get what you came here for." - Oliver James

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Gandhi

"Never be ashamed to write a melody that people remember." - Burt Bacharach

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Me: "On the brink of self-sabotage because good things are happening." David R. Aldridge: "Nope. Take small steps, small breaths, keep the good coming. :)"

As I was making the final amendments to my first collection of poetry, 'Vivarium,' I pulled this angel card out of the pack: <<Cultivez vos atouts plutôt que de lutter contre vos faiblesses.>> Baring this in mind did help. 

With the help of mentor and poet, Simon Barraclough, I completed my first collection of poetry, entitled 'Vivarium,' and entered it into the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2013; all those years lived from about 1996, condensed and typed onto neat pages.

"Love is not a state, a feeling, a disposition, but an exchange, uneven, fraught with history, with ghosts, with longings that are more or less legible to those who try to see one another with their own faulty vision." - Judith Butler

MAY 2013: THE ADVERSITY OF OFFICIALDOM

"Adversity is like a strong wind. I don't mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be." - Arthur Golden, 'Memoirs of a Geisha'

Stephen Batty: "There's no shortage of rotten bastards; they're just part of nature's bell curve distribution. Being damaged and destructive, they seek to stop creativity and creatives, having had the principle knocked out of them. Pity them, help them if you can, but mostly you have to go round them and drag them behind you. (They don't like letting go.) Me too."


Many thanks to Gail's Bakery, St Anne's Court, Soho, for the complimentary iced coffee, and brownies you gave me in appreciation of my piano accordion playing! 

I went to my first rock gig; my friend, CJ Berry's band, Banned In China, at The Rattlesnake of Angel in Islington; fantastic stuff!

It was the anniversary of my violinist friend, Peter's death on 13th May. Looking back, I can't believe how I got through that day; so horrendous, such a waste, and I'm so angry that the police didn't try harder to find out what happened, but Peter is alive in my music. I sometimes wonder what life's all about. To this, David R. Aldridge replied, "It's about living, even though it often truly sucks. For musicians, it's about playing and keeping the music alive. Every note you play honours those who no longer can." On the day of his anniversary, I 'took Peter with me in the form of his scarf' to Roman Road, London, and busked Irish tunes on my accordion from one of Peter's books that his partner gave me. I'd never been to Roman Road before, and only heard about it from watching 'Mary Queen of the High Street' on Channel 4. I loved it, and so did the local people; they were curious about my accordion, danced and sang, and nobody in fluorescent yellow jackets (telling me that begging is an offence) bullied me. I then bought a book of poetry and a postcard with a angel-like image on it, which reminded me of Peter. It was a beautiful day, which I needed, to counteract the memory of the day that Peter died.

Via Heidi Berry: "When you buy from an independent artist, you are buying more than just a painting or a novel or a song. You are buying hundreds of hours of experimentation and thousands of failures. You are buying days, weeks, months, years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You are buying nights of worry about paying the rent, having enough money to eat, having enough money to feed the children, the birds, the dog. You aren't just buying a thing, you are buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a private moment in someone's life. Most importantly, you are buying that artist more time to do something they are truly passionate about; something that makes all of the above worth the fear and the doubt; something that puts the life into the living."

Stephen Batty: "The Spanish word 'buscar' in turn evolved from the Indo-European word 'bhudhisko' (to win, conquer) via the Celtic word 'boudi' (victory)."

I wrote a live review for Serious of 'The Mavericks + Declan O'Rourke' at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 19th May 2013. This can be read under the 'Freelance Writing' link on this website.

Johnny Walker: "The Association of Street Artists and Performers has been set up because across the country, local authorities are getting heavy-handed with people who want nothing more than to perform their art on the streets. Public space belongs to all of us, and the high street, under pressure from Internet shopping, out of town developments, high rents and the dire economic situation, need to be full of life and music to keep peoples' spirits up. Street performance gives a place a sense of community and well-being, and is one of the many reasons people still have for actually physically going to a place."

I got my London Underground busking license through, for performing my 'folk' violin set - Tendonitis-inflicted fingers permitting, and poet, Simon Barraclough (one of my tutors at Morley College), agreed to mentor me through the compilation of my first collection of poems.

CJ Berry: "Land of the fee; home of the slave."

Bob Dylan on Roy Orbision: "...With him, it was all about fat and blood."

"It's a very funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it." - W. Somerset Maugham

Via Eirik Zahl: "I give private information on corporations to you for free, and I'm a villian." / "I give your private information to corporations for money, and I'm Man of the Year."

Stephen Batty: "A certain egotistic, suicidal mentality abroad in our species has evolved. Oppression is the subtlety of its saccharine sweeteners doled out to us peasants. We have to passively watch as the infrastructure our socially minded forebears gave their everything for, is turned into an opencast mine of all that is worst in the human condition."

David Lee gave me the most beautiful gift; a 'Royal Standard' 40-bass piano accordion. This was such a kind and thoughtful gesture, really cheered me up, and made me feel excited about being a musician again.

APRIL 2013: NEW PIANO ACCORDION SET, POETRY AT MORLEY & LIVE REVIEWING FOR SERIOUS

This blog is dedicated to my friend and fellow poet, Alan Gilbert: R.I.P.

"If your success is defined as being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference, then we don't want successful leaders. We want great leaders - who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unbought, unbound, unafraid, and unintimidated to tell the truth." - Dr Cornel West

Via Jeffrey Tayler: "... art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." - Walter

In spite of the tendinitis pain in my fingers lurking, I managed to start earning money again, this month, with a solo piano accordion set of Irish folk music from my late violinist friend, Peter Conua's books, jazz standards and popular songs: My good friend, Stephen Batty's Johnny Cash quote fortified me throughout this period: "I found out there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way." My spirit and whole physical being seemed to lift as soon as I started to practice my music again, and Jan's unrelenting support has meant the world to me.

It is important to step back from time to time and let the fruit of your efforts just be, and hopefully some good will come back to you.

As I walked out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." - Nelson Mandela

"To make oneself unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try..." - Roger Ebert

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am." - Sylvia Plath, 'The Bell Jar'

"A girl doesn't need anyone who doesn't need her." - Marilyn Monroe

Regarding my tendonitis, Muriel McClymont of FEU Training: "...Never is a long time. This may be an unwelcome blip, but think laterally, it may turn up some unexpected consolations. Hang in there..."

It was a confidence boost that I passed my audition to be licensed to busk on the London Underground; especially since I thought it was the worst audition that I'd ever done. My friends' belief in me helps me big time.

I started attending the Advanced Poetry Course at Morley College, London, that I so enjoyed when I did it twelve years ago for two years with Matthew Sweeney and Maurice Riordan. This time, the tutors are Simon Barraclough and Kathryn Maris, and I'm producing work coming from left field, and infused with dark humour. Imposing writing deadlines on myself is helping me to relinquish my perfectionism in order to actually get something written. I'm also sorting out poems to go in my first pamphlet which I'm hoping to get published.

My inspirational friend, David R. Aldridge's words always spur me on: "I was glad to see the post about you putting your poetry together. It's very honest and heartfelt writing... Every small step helps keep art alive, and your posts remind me of this constantly. Keep the tap flowing!... You light more fires than you may know..."

Glenda Jackson's (Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn) speech during 'Tribute To Baroness Thatcher': "Under Thatcher, everything I had been raised to believe was a vice, became a virtue." Scarily, I believe that the same could be said about David Cameron today: What we all need to get back to / remind ourselves of is our HUMANITY.

"... as long as we insist on maintaining artistic vitality, we are able to hope in man." - Leonard Bernstein

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray." – Rumi

Via Heidi Berry with regard to the Boston bombings: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. " - Leonard Bernstein

For the first time in twenty years, I met up with Clare Davis, at The Royal George in Soho. She was my best friend in sixth form at Barr Beacon, Walsall, and I remember sitting next to her in English with Mrs Knight, studying Chaucer's 'The Wife Of Bath.'

"Be not simply good; be good for something." - Henry David Thoreau

Via Stephen Batty: "If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come." - Chinese proverb

"Some people expect more of others than they expect of themselves." - Bev James

Via Ann Odell; written on a Facebook cartoon: "All it takes to get famous these days is a webcam, boredom, and an ugly cat."

I'm trying to use all of my creative talents (the subjects that I was good at when I was at school; French, Art, Music, English), to get as much interesting, paid creative work as possible, but I realised that I still haven't conquered a deep-rooted urge within myself to sabotage things for myself...

"You can't use up creativity: The more you use, the more you have." - Maya Angelou

Streetslive.org: "It's time for the tyranny of officialdom to end. Treat buskers with respect and we will work with you, but we will no longer be brushed aside."

It was great to meet up with my Parisian friends, Bernard and Anita Trillat in London.

On 28th April '13, I live reviewed the phenomenal concert, 'Charles Lloyd Quartet with special guest, Maria Farantouri' at the Barbican, London, for Serious. You can read my review under the 'Freelance Writing' link on this website, and on 'The Write Stuff' Facebook page.

"Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence, neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish it in an imponderably valuable gift." - Maya AngelouThis blog is dedicated to my friend and fellow poet, Alan Gilbert: R.I.P.

MARCH 2013

On my return from Paris, I realized that I'd left my heart there, and that I must make every effort to return as soon as possible.  
I enjoyed painting the inside of a makeshift bird hide inside the children's 'nature' area at Ray Park, Woodford, with the Redbridge Nature Conservationists at the beginning of the month.
'The Association Of Street Artists and Performers': Musicians in England are facing 'busking scrutiny' from authorities. I got some of my friends to sign a petition protesting against, this, but will there be any significant shift in the councils' sensibilities?
Annie Lennox, re. her 'Make It Happen: End Violence Against Women And Girls' campaign: "Start making people accountable."
I'm now selling my own handmade double bass - themed postcards. They are on sale here on my website, under 'ONLINE SHOP.' 
It's seven years since I decided to go for my music as a career: Every seven years is said to be a time of change, and so I thought that it was about time that I sat down and thought in detail about how I can improve my CV, and the direction I want to be going in with my freelance writing, poetry and music. This has proved to be a laborious, but most productive and enlightening exercise (I've uncovered skills and qualities and potential opportunities that I never knew I had). The excellent Federation of Entertainment Unions' Muriel McClymont, has been especially encouraging and supportive of me during this exercise.
I will never take my fingers for granted again: I was diagnosed with Tendonitis in the little finger of my left hand three weeks ago; a potential disaster as a musician, and I feel as if my passion and my livelihood have been taken away in one fell swoop. I've been hoping that with rest, things will improve. There's been no great change as yet, but I'm trying to be patient. I can't play my double bass or violin, but am practicing my piano accordion, and am hoping to take it onto the streets, soon: Heidi Berry: "Believe that you can recover and somehow - you will."
There was nobody around; just birdsong and diamond dust, resultant of the Arctic conditions (bliss) as I enjoyed walks in Claybury Park in the London Borough of Redbridge: At these times, I could just be myself 'unedited.'
My friend, Laurent Carrier, is prepared to pay for me to share my skills and experience of being a double bassist with children and their parents at a music camp in the French countryside for a week in August; exciting stuff...
Nuna (the partner of my beloved violinist friend, Peter), told me that the hyacinth bulb / cyclamen that I placed on Peter's grave in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris, is always blooming and looks very beautiful when she visits, which she sees as a "sign" from Peter - maybe that all will be well with my fingers and that I will play again...

MY RETURN TO MONTMARTRE, PARIS (FEBRUARY 2013)

Positive change can sometimes feel like everything's breaking down, but you're actually breaking through...


Libby Pentreath: "Still seize the day though, Gemma..."

Gwendolyn Brooks: "Poetry is life distilled."

Unknown author: "Within you I lose myself; without you I find myself wanting to be lost again."

I participated in the excellent FEU 'Diversifying Your Portfolio' workshop in London, during which I managed to realize / identify my core skills; many of them hidden in everyday domestic tasks, and Muriel McClymont (one of the tutors) made the excellent suggestion that I try to recreate in London, what I love about Paris. I learnt that there is usually a core theme to a portfolio (mine is music), but the services and skills offered need to be quite distinct. My new offerings could be:  nature / music / poetry writing and performing, songwriting, offering a creative package to language schools, selling my artwork while I'm busking, making and selling handmade postcards made by Nuna, Iwona and I, and setting up a music, art and cookery café with them in Paris...

Facebooking requires a thick skin.

Annemarie Nichols re. my OCD being excrutiating in anticipation of my return to Paris and staying with a family I barely knew, and not knowing how I'd feel being there for the first time since my violinist friend, Peter Conua's death: "Please be more gentle with yourself. Take some time to reflect on what you've already achieved and allow yourself to slow down..." Good advice.

'Everything OCD' on Facebook: "It wouldn't feel so wonderful on the other side if it didn't feel so scary going over the edge."

Hilary Devey: "There's got to be winners on both sides of every business transaction."

Peter's partner, Nuna, gave me two books of Peter's immaculately kept Irish and American folk fiddle music, which I will treasure, learn and play: Apparently, Peter "always went back to his music." Nuna and I listened to Peter's CD of American jazz violinist, Stuff Smith, who we could hear that Peter's style was heavily influenced by.

Chris Hodgkins (the chairman on the National Jazz Archive), launched an investigation into my totally unfair sacking by NJA as a volunteer - simply because I refused to be fobbed off about when and if the nearly four years worth of work I'd done on the 'Johnny Simmen' letters collection was actually going to be used online. Chris told me that he is looking into ways that I can publish these letters in my own name...

I was so happy to be back feeling at home in Paris, and excited to be playing my solo 'folk and jazz standards' violin set (consisting of the kind of tunes that Peter used to play), on the (freezing cold and often snowy) terraces of Montmartre and at Peter and I's favourite bar, Chez Adel. It was hard and emotional for me to be doing this alone, but I did it in Peter's memory and to keep the essence of him alive. I felt that he was nearby, and that he would have approved of how I also gigged with some of the musicians he enjoyed playing with (jazz pianist, Bernard Trillat, classical pianist, Iwona Borcuch, guitarist and songwriter, Claudio Zaretti, and Peter's partner; concert pianist, Nuna Kurek).

Bev James: "Small failures won't bother you if you have a crystal clear vision of your long-term goal."

On a rainy day in Paris, as if it was meant to be, I walked straight into the Jeanne Socquet art exhibition at Espace Belleville: This was the most intelligent, powerful, moving, brilliant exhibition that I'd ever seen. She gives a voice to the voiceless, for example, massacred women, those in mental asylums, the elderly with dementia.

Jour D' Amour - and it was.

I developed a taste for Iwona's husband, Alex's Polish soup with a boiled egg in it, and the 'Polish' way of taking tea; with raspberry juice, a slice of lemon, and brown sugar in it.

Increasingly, we live in a computer game, but I prefer the 'real' world of looking into peoples' faces.

I was shortlisted for an audition to busk on the London Underground.

SUPPORT INDEPENDENT, SELF-FUNDED BUSINESSES, MUSICIANS, BANDS, INSTRUCTORS, WRITERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, DESIGNERS, RECORDING STUDIOS, ARTISTS: ATTEND SHOWS, BUY ALBUMS, BUY MERCHANDISE, SCHEDULE RECORDING TIME, TAKE MUSIC LESSONS, BUY HOMEMADE ART, PURCHASE PHOTOS, READ UNPUBLISHED WRITING, TELL FRIENDS, SPREAD THE WORD...

Salvador Dalí: "Nothing is more stimulating than the idea of an angel!"

On Facebook: "There is nothing so erotic as a good conversation."

I had the best wake-up call ever a couple of Mondays ago, when Peter's partner, concert pianist, Nuna Kurek, sat down at Iwona's piano in her fingerless brown and white spotty gloves, and gave a recital of Polish composer, Chopin's pieces. I was very moved and inspired by her talent, and with the emotion with which she played (in the same way that I was inspired by Peter's music), and we hope to play together again some day...


My whole experience this time in Paris was surreal; a strong feeling that everything was connected; Peter, angels, cats, violins, Peter's friends, and I... profound, inspiring and wonderful.

JANUARY 2013: SNOW AND SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and successful 2013, everyone!


The flu bug that started on Boxing Day I suffered, hung around for the first two weeks of January, but within this time, I managed to do small, constructive activities. This illness took its toll mentally, too, as I started feeling as if I've been kidding myself that I'm a successful musician, but I then reminded myself the I've managed to succeed and do new things with my music in the hardest of times...

Heidi Berry: "Fight the good fight."

My depression started to lift when something to aim for came up: Shaun Buswell invited me to become involved in 'The 12.12.12. Underground Orchestra Challenge' to be performed at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire on 26th January 2013: Within a year, Shaun had challenged himself to form an orchestra of strangers that he met on the London Underground, and the actual performance at Shepherd's Bush Empire in aid of children's charity, Daytrippers, was a great success, and will continue to inspire me never to give up on the challenges that I set myself.

I began writing in earnest for the 'double bass' calendar that I'm creating in order to raise awareness of, and money for, Survivors' Network, Brighton: This calendar will consist of twelve poems on the theme of 'double bass,' with accompanying illustrations.

Patricia Ann Imbordino: "Expect bullshit, but never accept it!"

After nearly four years of hard work, the National Jazz Archive dismissed me as a volunteer, because I continued to stick up for my rights as a volunteer; not to have to work in freezing conditions, and to not be ignored and fobbed off regarding when (after over three years), the work I'd done on the 'Johnny Simmen letters collection' would actually be used and be able to be viewed online. Basically, they were unable to say if or when this would be possible, and so I was understandably furious, that I'd wasted my time and effort on a project that it turns out they weren't sure they could utilize in the first place. Their treatment of me has been appalling, and I'm in the process of taking my complaint about this further. The National Jazz Archive's message: If you don't blithely tow the line, get out! The staff there seem to be so focused on the cold task of meeting targets, that they're treading on the hearts and hard work of the volunteers who have a genuine love for jazz, and who have been instrumental in them getting funding.

I visited Barkingside police station to ask them about the license I was told by another rude, disrespectful police officer, that I must obtain in order to busk on Barkingside High Street. As I'd predicted, such a thing doesn't exist, and I was directed back to the Redbridge Council website; another non-starter. All I'm trying to do is to earn an honest living as a musician, and the general public enjoy the music that I play. I remain undefeated on this score, though, and even busked and got money here in the freezing cold and high winds, proving that Barkingside isn't a cultural desert.

Our beloved cat, Tigger's spirit triumphed over his biology this month, when he responded well to steroids to aid his breathing. He is a complete joy.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE WHAT YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH... NEVER GIVE UP...

Maya Angelou: "I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." - Maya Angelou

I uploaded my CV onto Jobsite. There is no category for anything to do with music, freelance writing, creative writing, the arts... Soooooo depressing, but this makes me more determined to succeed as an artist.

Via Heidi Berry on Facebook: "ARTWORK IS WORK: SUPPORTING THE ARTS MEANS PAYING THE ARTISTS."

I enjoyed making Jan Egyptian lentil soup as I watched the snow falling thickly outside the kitchen window.

Whatever you think / feel, your body will follow: "The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts." - Marcus Aurelius (via Charles Edward De Greeff on Facebook)

I need to be selling my skills more effectively on my CV.

My aim this year, is to survive as a musician without the aid of tax credits to top up my low income, so that I don't have to justify to HMRC the worth of what I do for a living in this so-called (totally ignorantly and wrongly by Prime Minister David Cameron) society of 'scroungers and strivers.'

F. Scott Fitzgerald on the secret of great writing: "Nothing any good isn't hard."

Victor Hugo: "To inhale Paris preserves the soul."

For every shitty, unfair thing that happens to you, replace it with a positive action (even if it's just smiling at someone in the street). This will lift your spirits and will keep you on a happier path.

Iwona Borcuch; a Polish friend of my violinist friend, Peter Conua, who died last May, and who has become a good friend of mine as we've supported each other through our grief at Peter's loss, invited me to stay at her house in Paris as her guest from 11th -28th February '13. I'm apprehensively excited about this as I will be able to play with the French musicians I've formed musical bonds with over time, and I'll feel closer to Peter in this city I have such an affinity with. I will be taking my violin this time, and performing mainly the kind of Irish / Scottish folk tunes that Peter liked to play.

Miles Davis (via Paul Stuart Briggs on the lyrics to my song, 'Dear Ghost,' about Peter Conua): "Our music exists, hanging in the air. We put it there." Tracy Savage also commented on 'Dear Ghost': "What a perfect homage. I hope it was cathartic for you... That's exactly where the beauty lies; in such heartfelt honesty. I can see him in your words though I never met him. There is an eternity in la poésie, n'est pas?"

Fears and worries will always be there whatever we do, so we may as well go for what we love RIGHT NOW, and once this step is taken, know that we'll be stronger than we think in being able to deal with whatever comes our way. 

Alphonse Karr: "Le vrai parisien n'aime pas Paris, mais il ne peut vivre ailleurs."

David R. Aldridge: "Keep your musical chin up and press on. Jazz needs you, Gemma. Yes it does..."

Maya Angelou: "If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die."

Bev James: "Real power often comes from harnessing your fears, not banishing them."

CjBerryguitarist regarding music: "PLAY it 24/7 and STUDY it 24/7... in WHATEVER job or financial situation you find yourself."

Frederick Delius: "Music is an outburst of the soul."

Bob Marley: "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively." 

I got sunburn in January! I worked on a windswept island in Fairlop Waters with the volunteer Redbridge nature conservationists; clearing the weeds which threaten the ground nesting habitat for many of Fairlop's birds.

I enjoyed jamming free jazz with Latvian guitarist, Nora Bite, at her bedsit in Wood Green, and she very kindly sent me many Fake Books to my Dropbox.

DECEMBER 2012

Following the heartbreak of Jan and I losing our beloved dog, Ruby, last month, I didn't think that I'd be able to pick up my musical instruments, but I resolved to go busking as much as possible this month in Ruby's memory, and managed it; playing at new places in Southend and Barkingside and making people smile (especially with my new piano accordion 'Christmas songs' set). 


Flavia Bannister: "Be in peace... not easy, but you more than anyone I know will feel better when the time is right... Dogs are amazing angels who are always happy with whatever happens... Ruby was never disappointed in you... she saw you for who you truly are. We are lucky to know this kind of love... we suffer more but we love more too..."

Dolly Parton: "I just love people who are bold enough to get out there and do what they do and do it without fear."

Angel card: "Le travail est le tremplin de l'épanouissement conscient."

David R. Aldridge: "You have a wonderful artist spirit that grows when you feed it more art... keep playing the musical truth!"

Via 'Living With Me And My OCD' on Facebook: "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." - Emerson

A new addition to the household; tabby cat, Tigger, has managed to lift Jan and I's spirits hugely. I bought him for Jan from Chestnut Cat Sanctuary in Epping, where he'd been for seven months: Tigger suffers from feline herpes (cat flu), which we speculate that he contracted as a kitten. This means that he will always have problems with his eyes and his respiratory system, but he doesn't let these things get him down, and is VERY adventurous, special and playful.

My very expressive accordion smells of cricket pavilion as it breathes in and out.

I have become a bit of a musical loner since the passing of my violinist friend, Peter, in Paris; but this feels ok for now...

Libby Pentreath: "Enjoy everything you do..."

Maybe I will do a busking 'tour' of Great Britain with my solo double bass, violin and piano accordion sets...

I helped to secure a willow 'fedge' and planted some small tree whips in Ray Park, Woodford, with the Redbridge nature conservation team. We did this in the pouring rain and it was difficult for me because this was Ruby's favourite park. I think that she would have liked to know that I am helping to look after it for her, though.

Paul Stuart Briggs (a tenor saxophonist I met at Brighton Jazz Co-op, and who I played with as a member of Sussex Jazz Orchestra years ago), Jan and I met up for a Christmas drink at J. D. Fairlop. It was great to catch up in person.

I take heart from the fact that however bad things have got this year, I've still been able to succeed with my music.

WISHING YOU A VERY HAPPY, HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL 2013!!!





NOVEMBER 2012: PUSHED TO THE BRINK

DEDICATED TO THE MEMORIES OF JAN & I'S BELOVED DOG, RUBY, AND OUR CAT, TIDS.


David R. Aldridge: "The process of hearing music in your head is called Audiation. Fascinating study material when you have some free moments."

I shook and nearly cried as I read in Heidi Berry's songwriting class in Brighton, the song, 'Dear Ghost' that I wrote about the death of my violinist friend, Peter Conua: I'd found this enormously difficult to write and share, but I'm really glad that I did it. This song was likened to Joni Mitchell's 1969 album, 'Clouds,' and Terry said that the melody sounded Scottish (Peter had LONGED to be Scottish, but was Polish in reality). Bryony said that my lyrics made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and Heidi said that it "felt real" and liked the dark humour and awkward phrasing within it. Heidi told me that it was brave of me to share it, and said something like great art often comes out of tragedy.

"There is no glass ceiling." - Hilary Devey 

It was lovely to see my actor friend, Mark Donovan for a coffee opposite where he works on stage door at the Queen's Theatre, Soho, after about sixteen years. We met when we worked together on 'Lock Up Your Daughters' starring George Cole and Sheila Hancock at Chichester Festival Theatre.

"Sometimes it's worse to win a fight than to lose." - Billie Holiday

"You've got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body's sermon on how to behave." - Billie Holiday

Wetland Management Day 1: I helped the nature conservationists of Redbridge to manage the pond in Roding Valley Park. This involved getting in the pond in a (leaking) chest wader and pulling bull rush and other vegetation out of the pond to make space for clear water. The last walk I ever took Ruby on was to this pond, which she loved diving straight into with her ball, and getting covered in her favourite - mud.

I completed 'The Write Stuff' 2012; a weeklong intensive workshop run by Jazzwise and Serious geared towards the art of writing about jazz. This took place during the London Jazz Festival, and the gig reviews I wrote have been published on www.jazzwisemagazine.com under 'Write Stuff': What I wrote wasn't perfect, but I was pleased that I managed to meet the tight deadlines and word limits, and I learnt heaps about how to improve my own copy; namely, to make everything as precise and as bold as it can be.

"The song is like a person; it keeps growing." - Wayne Shorter

I was really pleased and relieved to have won my six-month battle against HMRC, who misinformed me countless times about my entitlement to tax credits whilst I was working as a self-employed musician abroad, and then told me that I owed them hundreds of pounds: The complaints team did their best to ignore me, twist my words, and pass the buck, but after two painstaking letters of complaint to them, I've managed to prove that they were grossly incompetent (to the point that they're having to change their guidelines as a result of my case), and they've conceded that I don't owe them a penny. I was also told that I am due a compensation pay-out for all of the stress and inconvenience caused - a measly insult of £70, which I'm going to have to waste more of my life contesting...

"If all you have is a life in music, then you haven't got music." - Wayne Shorter

Musicians aren't machines.

"Great style is not seen; it's felt." - Stanley Kubrick

"Jazz is a calling, but it's a gift that keeps on giving." - Jon Newey (editor and publisher of Jazzwise)

Print is under threat, but it will never die.

On Facebook: "Stop the glorification of busy."

Whiz-bang technology is a smoke screen for lack of substance.

I'm sick of bullshitters that are so full of themselves, don't listen or care about anyone else, and never stay true to their word; the world's bloody full of them.

Tragedy struck again at the end of this month; Jan and I's elderly cat, Tids, died overnight at the vets of suspected kidney failure, and then, a week afterwards, we had to have the centre of our lives - our dog, Ruby, put to sleep as her epileptic seizures combined with the high dosage of medication she was on, basically fizzled her brain. We are both heartbroken and feeling totally lost without them, but the support of friends, exercise, music and immersing ourselves in nature conservation has made our days more tolerable.

From Barry Hunt: "In life, there are some things we may never really "get over." Sometimes the best we can do is just "get through." But that's okay - There's still a lot of beauty to find on the other side!""

"You can play a shoestring if you're sincere." + "All a musician can do is get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws." - John Coltrane (via SovereignSamThatIAm on Facebook) 

A random beer-drinking stranger in J.D. Fairlop, who had overheard Jan and I's conversation regarding our devastation over losing Ruby: "If all else fails, smile." This was another chance 'guardian angel' encounter, similar to the profound ones I experienced shortly after Peter Conua died in May.

Throughout all of the above, my OCD has continued to add another layer of difficulty that I must overcome to be able to participate in life, but in many ways I am grateful to my OCD because it's brought some amazing, strong, caring people into my life; without it I wouldn't have decided to become a full-time musician, and my attention to detail has won me many battles...

OCTOBER 2012

October kicked off with some good news: The 'Live Music Act' became law, meaning that smaller venues can now stage live shows without a license.


With the nature conservationists of Redbridge, I helped to cut and clear Roding Valley Park Meadow for the winter, to make way for next year's wild flowers. It was bliss being on a piece of land that had no litter / people on it, but instead, lots of frogs, toads and toadlets jumping out of the grass. We also made a pond at Hainault Lodge.

One day, as I was busking my 'folk' violin set on Golden Jubilee Bridge in London, I realised that in my heart I simply want to perform music, and not to teach it.

North London based songwriter and electric jazz guitarist, Stephano D' Silva wants me to play in a band with him, so fingers-crossed, it leads to some paid gigs...

"I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion." - Jack Kerouac

"Follow your inner moonlight, don't hide the madness." - Allen Ginsberg

On Facebook: "... when it's uncomfortable, when it's unpopular, even when it's dangerous to speak the truth, is the precise time that the truth should be spoken."

"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." - Art Blakey

"The shell must break before the bird can fly." - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I attended a 'Marketing Yourself Workshop' run by the Federation of Entertainment Unions Training, at Equity H.Q. in London, where I discovered that I lack focus with regards to my 'brand' and what I can offer.

I struggled with my grief over my violinist friend, Peter Conua's death:  A complex mix of emotions such as anger, confusion and sadness, were triggered as I tried to write a song about my relationship with Peter for the songwriting course I did this month with American singer-songwriter, Heidi Berry. I felt as if I was bursting with creativity, but that I couldn't create without accessing emotions which made me fall apart. The main thing I learnt on this course was that imposing a deadline on oneself with regards to songwriting projects, can be conducive to creativity.

The public, I believe, enjoy hearing good music (played at a reasonable volume), from musicians who have the guts to go out and perform it in the street: I enjoyed being back playing my 'folk' violin set on my beloved George Street, Hove, and in Ilford.

"Love is like a faucet, it turns off and on." - Billie Holiday

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." - Oscar Wilde

To mark my enduring sense of belonging in Brighton & Hove, in spite of the fact that I no longer live there, I treated myself to a 'Tanglewood' ukulele from musicroom, Brighton.

Looking into friends' faces is much better than clinical Facebook encounters, and so I'm going to continue seeing my friends in person as much as I can.

Via Peretu Ebi: "WE  ARE DROWNING IN INFORMATION, BUT STARVED OF KNOWLEDGE."

"Life is one fool thing after another wheras love is two fool things after each other." - Oscar Wilde

Being in love; out of it; somewhere in between; giving it; receiving it, does my head in, but it's what keeps me going in life...

Chris James: "True love is 'unconditional.' Sometimes it hurts. But you can't control others."

The violin is a voice.

"The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world." - Dr Paul Farmer

Subrata Ray: "True happiness is love. True love is peace. True peace - beauty. And true beauty is truth."

I had the pleasure of meeting Claudia Vau, who works for 'Voices Of Women Worldwide,' and jazz guitarist, Nora Bite, from Latvia, in Finsbury Park, London.

Frog and the Well's photo on Facebook: "Trust and let go."

I saw one of my main poetic inspirations, Sharon Olds, read from her T. S. Eliot prize - nominated collection, 'Stag's Leap,' at the Purcell Room on the South Bank. She's such a (surprisingly) funny, intelligent, courageous woman who knows no other way than, and is not afraid, to write from her deeply personal life; sorts out her thoughts in a diary, like I do; and believes that human beings like to 'sing' their experiencing.

"Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain." - Billie Holiday

<< Avoir envie de réaliser un rêve, c'est le talent. Le reste, c'est de la sueur.>> - Jacques Brel

"I think it is a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is. " Vladimir Nabokov

"... I cringe at the monstrous industry of generic "celebrity" culture... Vapid, arrogant and bloated human nonsense at the lowest rung of the ladder of stupidity." - Annie Lennox

Peter Maguire: "Music is the one thread that generally keeps its promise."

"Money can't buy life." - Bob Marley

At Stephano D' Silva's recommendation, I started using musescore.com, and got really excited by being able to listen to my piano / double bass composition, 'The Dance Of The Rain Frogs' for the first time.

OPENING DOORS - SEPTEMBER 2012

"Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing." - Sylvia Plath


I was over the moon and excited to learn that I was one of eight people chosen to participate in The Write Stuff 2012; an intensive jazz journalism initiative for new writers, which Serious in partnership with Jazzwise magazine run. It offers fantastic opportunities for people interested in writing to get professional guidance in music journalism from some of the industry's leading names. I will be reviewing gigs in the London Jazz Festival as part of this course and can foresee that being in the position of young(ish) female jazz critic is going to be a contentious place to be in some ways, given that the genre of jazz is still predominantly male-dominated.

"Take your victories, whatever they may be, cherish them, use them, but don't settle for them." - Mia Hamm

"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay seige to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art. Our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe... The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they're selling - their ideas, their vision of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. " - Arundhati Roy

It was a disorientating, mind-blowing day, visiting old friends, Janet Aldridge and Annemarie Nichols in Chichester, rewinding and fast-forwarding in my mind, through my life since I was nineteen; at university and working at Chichester Festival Theatre in Chichester. 

My musical soul-mate, Peter Conua's death, has made me more determined to succeed with my music.

"We should tackle reality in a slightly jokey way, otherwise we miss the point." - Lawrence Durrell

"We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other." - Ernest Hemingway from 'A Moveable Feast.'

For most of September, I'd been wishing that I could press the 'pause' button: I felt overwhelmed with emotion; caught in a catch-22 of cycling and going to the gym, my OCD turning my successes into shit, working, exhaustion, the anxiety and elation of being with loved ones... there never being enough time...

David R. Aldridge: "Impose discipline on the weakest part of yourself at your weakest moment, and you'll find the truest source of your will."

I joined Natural Voices Choir based at Redbridge Drama Centre in South Woodford (I'd missed being part of a women's community group, and I'm hoping that attending this will improve my ability to sing harmonies). I also started rehearsing with Goan jazz guitarist and songwriter, Stephano D' Silva at Storm Studios and the Islington Arts Factory off the Holloway Road in London: I believe that we're on the same wavelength musically, and so am looking forward to seeing how our collaboration develops...

The Musicians' Union ran a workshop entitled 'An Introduction To Working In The Community Music Sector,' where I learnt about and participated in John Stevens's 'Search and Reflect' vocal / improvisation / rhythm group exercises, and gleaned a lot of useful information from Community Music's Dave O' Donnell: I am hopeful that my idea of setting up community-based music / creative writing workshops at a local community centre could bear fruit...

At the Claybury Park Path Improvement Day, I helped the rangers to improve access into the woodland from the park.

Jazz pianist, Shan Verma, kindly sent me his instructional video material of his musical father and internationally celebrated jazz pianist, educator and exponent of be-bop, Barry Harris's system, and at last, I feel that I am able to play jazz piano with more fluency.

I attended the very moving 'BBC Worldwide Presents Planet Earth In Concert' at the Royal Festival Hall (British composer George Fenton conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra with special guest soloist Haley Glennie-Smith).

Singing whilst cycling is a great combination!

"Hone your skills, sharpen your wits, write those songs, and learn to play." - Dolly Parton

Jan and I had been together for five years on 23rd September 2012: It's not always been easy, but we've been through a lot, and when the chips are down, she's my rock.

Myself and friends of mine signed the petition, 'Keep Spontaneous Street Performance Alive', and as a direct result of this petition, Liverpool City Council have formally scrapped their new busking law. This is great news, and I hope that the rest of the country follows suit...

Why is it unacceptable for the general public to disrespect the police, but acceptable for the police to disrespect the general public??

Students at music schools should be taught that at some point in their careers, they should expect more from themselves and their employers than to believe that they should feel grateful to be playing in a pub 'jam' for nothing; bringing more custom and free music to the pub, which in turn makes it harder for more established musicians.

I'm longing for escape back into the innocent, honest, simple truth of childrens' books / programmes / films more and more nowadays...

"True leaders don't create followers... they create more leaders!" - J. Sakiya Sandifer

"If you feed a stray cat, you've got a cat." - an American saying that I heard on Radio 4.

Ann Chaplin of Leonard Cheshire Disability, who helped me to set up my business on the Ready To Start scheme back in 2008, gave me some tips with regards to sustaining my self-employment.

Heidi Berry: "What is a hug?"

Daniel Rehahn: "£183.7 m of the council's budget goes on housing and council tax benefit. This goes mostly to landlords. It's so obvious, but the media is stitched up. Cap rents, not welfare."

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." - Maya Angelou

AUGUST 2012

Edwin Arthur Masters: "... Busking is a good way to practice / perform, 'cause no stage tricks, and direct manifestation of, 'is this good or not?' Also direct connect with peeps, and that always gives the heart warmth, flowing through all...."


Michael Bishop: "... music can keep one relatively sane when all else fails... but it can drive you nuts too!..."

I managed to get people to sign the on-line petition, 'Keep Spontaneous Street Performance Alive'; in protest against the Business Improvement District in Liverpool forming policy which will take away the rights of buskers and street performers; the privatisation of our shared public spaces; and the 'Simon Cowell Clause,' which empowers civic officials to stop performances solely on the grounds of personal taste. These policies are set to come into effect across the whole of the country...

The emotive, heartfelt, simple guitar - accompanied, singing of Costa Rican - born Mexican singer, Chavela Vargas, who passed away this month, inspired me while I was performing my solo 'double bass and singing' set.

David R. Aldridge: "... please remember how inspiring your Paris travels are to someone like me who is migrating back towards the performing arts. I love that you have the guts to press on in the face of fear; I respect that no end. You keep cranking, small steps, and rewarding yourself accordingly."

Angel Papo Rivera: "I love your friendship and the love that you have for the Arts."

Fiona Cormack at the National Jazz Archive: "Thanks for all your positivity and hard graft!"

People enjoyed listening to Daniel Rehahn on trombone and myself on double bass (Bass & Bone), playing swing jazz and blues from the 1930s and '40s, in a sun-drenched Russell Square, London.

"Adversity causes some people to break and others to break records." - William Arthur Ward

I've been seeking some support and guidance regarding my self-employment, but at almost every turn, I've been pushed back onto the Internet, where there is no proper information...

"I am building a fire, every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match." - Mia Hamm

"There is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory." - Bev James

SovereignSam ThatIAm: "You practice contentment."

"When somebody shows their true colours, believe them." - Dolly Parton

I learnt how to write, and wrote my first jazz concert review. Here it is:

Barry Harris Trio – Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London – 16th August 2012 – Review

By Gemma Boyd

“One of the most truest people to his art that I’ve ever met in my life,” was how American jazz drummer, Eddie Locke, paid tribute to internationally celebrated jazz pianist, teacher and exponent of bebop, Barry Harris, in the 1985 film, ‘Barry Harris: Passing On,’ by David Chan and Ken Freundlich: The Barry Harris Trio at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho (Barry Harris – piano, Dave Green – double bass and Steve Brown – drums), ultimately succeeded in taking a near-capacity audience of a mixture of ages, with them, full steam ahead on a pleasurable cruise through a variety of mainly ballads and more up-tempo 1930s and ‘40s jazz standards.

The sound balance between the instruments was perfect, but the presence of world-class, rather cocky double bassist, Dave Green’s lone music stand holding jazz charts, and his inability to synchronise with the piano during an opening number, ‘I’ll Keep Loving You’ by Bud Powell, slightly spoilt things. By contrast, Harris played this tune, written by one of his bebop influences, in a considered manner, from the heart.

Green relaxed and the band gelled during the next spine-tingling up-tempo standard, ‘I Want To Be Happy’: His walking bass lines effortlessly didn’t miss a beat, and Harris began the tender story of a couple with fifteen children, which he used to link the songs, and captivate the audience throughout.

Ever the passionate educator, Harris, involved us all in clapping, and singing a melody before the interval.

The humorous phrasing of the unison passages during the head of Charlie Parker’s ‘Barbados’ were underpinned by the non-intrusive, swinging drumming of Steve Brown, who utilized the endless range of his kit’s noises.

Overall, this gig confirmed that the wise, lady-loving, smooth Barry Harris, is best placed to keep aflame, and pass the jazz torch on, to future generations.

Mrs Brown's Boys: "We live in the era of Smart Phones and feckin stupid people."

Peretu Ebi: "... you have a beautiful heart, so keep making people smile with your music."

Me: "I'll make a deal with you, Elizabeth: You don't chuck your sax off a cliff, and I won't smash my double bass... They don't deserve it, and I'm a firm believer in, 'FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD.'"

I attended America jazz 'bebop' pianist and educator, Barry Harris's harmony, improvisation and vocal workshops (based on his 'scale of chords' theory), at St Andrew's United Reformed Church in Hampstead, London, and came away knowing that I'd found the mentor that I need at the moment. Here, Barry Harris came out with some great pearls of wisdom: "People nowadays, can't even remember their best friend's number."... "Mode, my butt. I never knew a mode."There is no end to math... there's no end to that bass fiddle... everything is endless... real pretty... [Re. jazz double bassist, Wilbur Ware]: "He could lead you around."... "Listen to the right people... they play simple stuff."... "Play something that gets you in trouble... then get yourself out of trouble."... "Everything we do is phrases."... "Feel the slow underneath." 

openmicvoices.com is a website that I would highly recommend to any of you who write, or are fans of poetry.

Jan bought me a guitar bag with shoulder straps, for my violin, from East Coast Wind Musical Instruments shop in Hornchurch, Essex: Mr Wind (as I call him), kindly gave me his old violin case with one more catch on it than my violin case had, so that my violin would fit more snugly into this new guitar bag.

Angel Papo Rivera re. Sammy Davis, Jr: "My mum loved this man and she admired him so much. Mum would say, Sammy suffered so much and went through so much in his life. Specially as a young boy his mother abandoned him, to being mistreated in the military. Then he lost his eye in an auto accident. I believed all the anger he had inside made him become the best entertainer in the world. He wrote a book called 'Yes I Can.'" Me: "The anger I have inside me fuels my creativity, too."

I busked my 'violin' solo set of French Canadian reels, Shetland reels, and traditional Scots and Irish Hornpipe music on Shoreham footbridge, for the first time, and did surprisingly well: I felt I was able to carry this off, due to my years of experience as a performer, and I felt that my friend, violinist, Peter Conua, was living on through this music, as he used to play all of these types of reels. Learning lots of blues material on the piano is challenging, also, and informs my double bass playing.

"The world's most sensible person and the biggest idiot both stay within us. The worst part is, you can't even tell who is who." - Chetan Bhagat

Stephano D' Silva: "... What stands out looking at your pages is that you seem versatile and performance oriented, getting out there as much as possible. Nice one."

"My mind hums hither and thither with its veil of words." - Virginia Woolf, 'The Waves'

Modern-day 'bullshit' phrases, such as 'soft power', 'tactical communication' and 'quick fire' questions, fill me with horror and despair, which is why I immerse myself in the language of music and poetry.

I don't take my friend, violinist, Peter Conua's scarf with me every time I go busking, now, as I feel that he's always with me in my happy memories.

Heard whilst I was listening to fiddle music in the Internet: "The violin is like a voice."

"TO SUCCEED IN LIFE; YOU NEED THREE THINGS: A WISHBONE, A BACKBONE AND A FUNNY BONE."

"The healthiest response to life is joy." - Deepak Chopra

I started a new voluntary job: Woodland Management in Redbridge, which involved practical conservation work at Hurstleigh Gardens Open Space: I'm doing this in spite of my 'OCD' fears of contamination, and am therefore proud of myself.

 





"STORMS MAKE TREES TAKE DEEPER ROOTS." - DOLLY PARTON (JULY 2012)

Following my musical soul-mate, Peter's autopsy results, Clara Moreau wrote, "Oh Gemma, life is sometimes so hard. I wish you the best inspirations, and some good details that could remember you that it can also be marvelous. Je t' embrasse chaleureusement." Maroca Segatto: "I know the feeling too, Gemma... It will pass, believe me. Do what you do best: Be an artist now!"


July 2012 was spent trying to re-find my positive mental attitude.

Clara Moreau: "Je te souhaite de trouver plein de consolation pour ton coeur, chaque jour, et joue, joue, Gemma!"

I've been stretching myself musically, by memorizing jazz piano tunes and Scottish / Irish / Canadian fiddle music.

Je suis en train de construire un projet (musical) Parisien pour le mois de novembre avec ma violon.

Daniel Rehahn: "The thing is... there is always a new direction... a new dawn... a new happenstance... Never sell your musical instruments... then you can always live... There's sometimes no point in trying to be positive... It's very hard to fight things when you're tired... Bed and DVDs are good options, or telly... or cats... It's always temporary, in that it will reveal itself again (the beauty).... Oh by the way, you're in Martin's book on p. 81... the man with the hat who makes all the sketches of jazzers... all artists seem to wear hats... I really look forward to playing with you on Saturday. xxx"

Having been stitched up by HMRC regarding my complaint against call takers on the Tax Credit Helpline repeatedly giving me wrong information concerning my entitlement to tax credits while working as a self-employed musician in Paris, it's been very difficult and angst-provoking to unravel the web of confusion, strategic omissions, manipulation, lies and inconsistencies they've weaved to protect their own backs, in order to get my complaint upheld: These HMRC staff come across as being uncaring automatons who have penalized me just because I was attempting to be honest about a change of circumstance, so that I can become more successful in my career. I'm so angry...

"The question isn't who is going to let me; it is who is going to stop me." - Ayan Rand

"Never tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon." - Bev James

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

"A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her." - Unknown

Simon Armitage: "If everyone was writing poetry, I don't think I would be."

Simon Armitage: "There is no rational reason to write a poem. Every time you put pen to paper it's a form of indulgence, but a necessary one: if we're not exploring how we think and feel, there's not much point in being alive." Ala Proulx: "Neva thot of it dat way... Ma frnds consider me a geek 4 writin poems n al... It was hard u knw, i alway feel deep bout normal stufs, gudnt grasp tings li8tly as ma pals. M jst aceptin maslf nw. Wel Gemma, havin met u is n inspiratn love ya :)"

Iwona Borcuch (a friend of my soul-mate violininst, Peter Conua): "It is super that you are practicing your violin and, I think, even now you can come back to the piano. I hope you solve all your problems, I know you are a strong person and will not give up."

Peter Maguire: "Use the music to ride out the dark times. It will happen."

David R. Aldridge: "You'll be fine in London, even though it's rough... You hang in there... You are an artist who wants to stay true to her art. This is what the world needs, even if it doesn't know it. I admire your devotion to all of your art, and I will be your cheerleader if you need one..."

Angel card: "Sachez reconnaître le rythme de votre vie et suivez-le."

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

The £23 billion London Olympics: too poor to pay its musicians.

"Whereverso you go, go with all your heart." - Confucius

Trombonist, Daniel Rehahn and I busked our set of swing jazz and blues songs from the 1930s and '40s on the South Bank, London.  A bullying busker and 'security' from Southwark Council, who had no legal grounds to try to intimidate us of take our contact details, disrespectfully interrupted our session: We were loved by passers-by, earned good money, and stood our up for ourselves.

"The smallest criticism can derail a big idea. Don't take advice from people less successful than you." - Anonymous

Via The Tetley Tea Folk on Facebook: "You can't buy happiness, but you can buy tea and that's kind of the same thing."

"Never accept unacceptable behaviour." - Bev James

I had a lovely afternoon walking in Hainault Forest with my old university friend, Karen and her children, and Audrey (another friend from university), bought me lunch at The Station, Hove... It's good to be living my life again after all of the darkness...

At the beginning of August, I am going to take a week to try and find more paid work as a freelancer: I'm going to gear my CV towards getting work as an archivist, complete my new peopleperhour.com profile, find a business mentor, actively advertise for musicians for the band I'm going to lead, and look into running creative workshops in local community halls.

While I was busking my solo double bass set in Ilford, an old Indian man with a grey plaited beard, came up to me and said that in Hindu terms, I have "the gift... of the purity of music" of the goddess who sits in the middle of a white flower: He said that I have the tell-tale "line" down the centre of my forehead of this goddess's soul reincarnated. 

JUNE 2012 - SURVIVING

"Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea." - Henry Fielding


I began to incorporate a visit to Ray Park outdoor gym into my almost daily bike ride, which I am becoming quite addicted to.

My beloved musical soul-mate, Peter's violin playing has revolutionized my own: I am playing Aly Bain's French Canadian Reels, Scots Reels, and the like (tunes that Peter used to enjoy playing), and not worrying about getting the 'up' and 'down' bows in exactly the correct place; I am playing with 'feeling,' and therefore more freedom. I'm overjoyed that Peter's partner, Nouna, is going to give me the music (Irish tunes) that Peter collected, which I will look after with my life, and perform. I feel closest to Peter when I play my violin.

'Continental Shift'; part of Poetry Parnassus at the Southbank Centre, London, featured Jude Kelly, Simon Armitage (his memorable poem, 'Mist'), Kim Hyesoon, Seamus Heaney, Bill Manhire, Kay Ryan (her poem, 'Relief'), Jo Shapcott and her 'Six Bee Poems', and Wole Soyinka. This was a fantastic, inspiring evening, which made me even more certain that I want to continue publishing and supporting poetry.

It's not fair that society seems to be full of the type of salespeople / politicians who basically lie and steal others' money for a living, without conscience, while musicians like myself, who just want to earn an honest living, are discriminated against by the the council and the police. I'm very focused on trying to establish myself on the London music scene: I've been playing my solo double bass set in different parts of London, which requires great bravery, confidence and determination. It's rewarding that I'm still doing what I do, and making people smile.

Frog and the Well on Facebook: "If there's one important lesson about life that we should be teaching our kids... what do you feel it should be?" I replied, "To LISTEN to others."

Louis Royer sent me the press release and the booklet cover for French Canadian band, Cortezia's 'Le Triptyque 2012' album that I am mentioned on, as I am their substitute double bassist.

On an interview for Radio 4, Canadian singer-songwriter, Neil Young said, with regards to songwriting / music etc., "Listen to what your soul says you should do." Also, like me, Young isn't into over-using good things.

A quote I heard on Radio 4: "Bring back blame," with regards to this "It's not my fault!" culture.

Via Clara Moreau on Facebook: "La situation était désespérée tout est maintenant possible." - John Cage

On 13th June 2012 (one month after Peter died), I asked Peter to let me know if he is still around, and sitting on the toilet that day, I read this poem by a Polish poet (Peter was Polish):

Gift

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

CZESLAW MILOSZ
translated from the Polish by the author

Angel card: "La créativité vous permet d' obtenir beaucoup en partant de peu."

I saw my friend, Flavia Bannister for the first time in over ten years. We spent hours in the National Gallery, London, where we admired Titian's first masterpiece, 'The Flight Into Egypt.' Trombonist, Daniel Rehahn and I enjoyed playing jazz standards from the 1930s and '40s at Borough Market, London. I played double bass at Jeanie Barton's fortnightly jazz jam at The Enterprise, 38 Red Lion Street, Holborn, and at Melange Collective's world music jam at The Green Note, Parkway, Camden. The Women's Library, London Metropolitan University, 25 Old Castle Street, Aldgate, London. E1 7NT is under threat of closure. This valuable resource is really worth supporting if you can, and I can highly recommend the exhibition that they currently have on there: 'All Work and Low Pay: The Story of Women and Work.'

"I say play your own way. Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing, even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years." - Thelonius Monk

"Keep going... Remember sometimes it's the last key that opens the door." - Bev James

Beth Ida Turner: "When musicians 'play' they are really 'working'. This is not widely understood. PLAY = PAY."

"Creativity takes courage." - Henri Matisse

Angel card: "La vie passe comme un nuage."

"LIFE IS LIKE A RIDING A BICYCLE. TO KEEP YOUR BALANCE, YOU MUST KEEP MOVING." - Albert Einstein

Dan Whitehouse (Midlands singer-songwriter), regarding his advice to other musicians: "Seek out weird and wonderful places to find an audience. Most of all, keep playing."

Right now, I prefer playing on the street to doing over-amplified gigs indoors...

I got a complimentary ticket to see Sir Michael Parkinson being interviewed by Digby Fairweather at the National Jazz Archive, Loughton's summer event. I asked Parky what his opinion of Dame Helen Mirren was, given that he'd interviewed her twice. He replied, "She's a tough lady... I have a go at her, and she has a go at me... I interviewed her in the '70s [Parkinson came across as being extremely sexist in this interview]... She came on wearing next to nothing... with a feather. She's a great actress, though... Are you an actress?" Interesting...

TRAGEDY & TOUGH TIMES - MAY 2012

This blog entry is dedicated to my musical soul-mate, Peter Conua.


Gavin Knight: "...keep plugging away and hauling that double bass for the greater good and for the love of the art."

Paul Stuart Briggs: "People mistake kindness for weakness."

For almost three months (from March 2012), I had the pleasure of playing my double bass on the terraces of Montmatre, and at Place des Vosges, Paris, with violinist, Peter Conua. Peter appreciated my playing; saying that my style is "original", and that we had "amazing contact". On one of the days we met, I was feeling very down after being ripped off: Peter urged me not to dwell on depressing things, and said that the Paris métro and the touristic parts of Paris are full of "gangsters," but "...it is life..." He told me to remember that my talent is a gift from above, and that when we're dead, we will be able to play music all of the time (up there), and that "...life is beautiful." On this day I learnt that music is what makes my life worth living, and played more strongly as a result.

"Confidence isn't knowing that everything will be okay, it's an inner feeling that you will be okay no matter what."

I played my solo double bass set at La Grande Arche de la Défense (a monument and building located in the business district of La Défense, to the west of Paris), which was a surreal experience (some children gave me their chocolate eggs).

"Books are a uniquely portable magic." - Stephen King

David R. Aldridge: "...Consider London a deep suck of air before you dive back into Paris in search of musical black pearls."

I felt scared, angry and panicky while in Paris, to learn that HMRC had stopped my Working Tax Credit completely, without any warning or word of explanation, after I had been assured on numerous occasions that I could work as a self-employed musician in France for up to fifty-two weeks and still receive my Working Tax Credit... Feeling fed up with having to suffer yet again at the hands of the incompetence of people who can't do their jobs properly, I defiantly decided to stay in Paris regardless of all of this: I have good musicians to play with in Paris, and I can earn money without having to throw it away on travelling on the London Underground... Violinist Peter Conua hated bureaucracy and said that "...the street is democratic; it's for everyone," and gave me his scarf (that ever since he lent it to me, I hardly ever took off), as a present.

peopleperhour.com: "GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT (crossed out). GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WORK THEIR ASSES OFF AND NEVER GIVE UP."

On the morning of Sunday 13th May 2012, I got a phone call from the French police to tell me that my beloved musical soul-mate, Peter Conua, had been found dead in canal Saint-Martin, Paris: My business card had been found in Peter's violin case (which had gone into the canal with him), and so I was the police's first point of contact. Myself and my pianist friend, Bernard Trillat, had to identify Peter's body and his belongings at the police station, and then I had to tell Peter's partner and his friends the news... I feel completely devastated by this, and tormented by questions regarding how and why Peter died... the answers to which (even after the autopsy results), we will never truly know.... It broke my heart that I couldn't look after Peter's violin for him (which I saw was drying out at the police station), but I was pleased that I managed to ensure its future safety.

Michael Bishop: "Thinking of you Gem...stay strong...you are strong."

I had felt so happy on the days that Peter and I were playing together in Montmartre; as if I was the luckiest person alive: I had my double bass and Peter had his violin, and neither of us wanted for anything else in these moments.

Patricia Ann Cozzitarto: "As for Dearest Peter, I know it's painful, it's going to be tough, you have wonderful memories with this fantastic man whom was inspired by you, and you by him... a memory no one shares but the two of you... keep that ALIVE, play for Peter..:)"

Daniel Rehahn re. the death of Peter: "Then there's the positive side, that he lived a beautiful life and gave / received joy for it...."

Bev James: "Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out": I organised a little concert to be performed (at my partner, Jan's suggestion), near Chez Prune on canal Saint-Martin for Peter on Saturday 19th May 2012. It rained, unfortunately, and so pianist, Bernard Trillat and I were unable to play here as planned. In the end, we played at Chez Adel (Peter loved, and spent the majority of his evenings at this bar), our version of 'In A Sentimental Mood' (which Peter had said that he found blissful), and a few other tunes.

"WE MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT WE GET,  BUT WE MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT WE GIVE." - Winston Churchill

Peter Conua was passionate all of the time.

I have had a number of things happen that would suggest to me that wherever he is, Peter is ok, and that he is willing me to carry on with my musical journey and my life... even though at the moment I feel very cheated by life.

Peter has been buried in Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, where lots of other artists have been buried. 

Bernard Trillat: "A cloud of milk."

Maya Angelou: "Love liberates!"

"Under the light of unconditional love even the frailest tree grows strong.": Jan's constant love is giving me strength.

Peter Maguire: "I am not quite sure where I read the quote - maybe Dryden: "Life is a cheat, and the biggest cheat of all is that we continue to be optimistic."

Annie Lennox: "Believe it... do it!"

Yo-Yo Ma (cellist) re. performing a musical instrument in public: "You've got one shot at doing something fabulous. Let's invite all of that in... The most important thing about performing is to make magic... to make a special moment in time... The whole process to me, is never about proving something, but it's about sharing something."

I'm happy that I've achieved my goal of being able to play my double bass and sing simultaneously in public this summer.

Shirley Smart (who I met recently whilst I was playing my solo double bass set on Neal Street, London), invited me to do some double bass / cello busking of Middle Eastern tunes with her in London, in June...

Via Michelle Little: "H = Have, O = Only, P = Positive, E = Expectations."

Heidi Berry: "You are a wise woman - time, music and friends are surely the best healers."

Via Isabelle Denis: "Quand vous devenez pessimiste, regardez une rose." - Albert Semain

"Mediocrity is the general state of humanity as it is. It is a retardness of intelligence." (Osho)

Daniel Rehahn: "...keep it up with being philosophical. I think you have great strength."

I met Bimal Samader; an old Indian man at the 167 bus stop in Ilford as I was waiting to go home. He was fascinated by my double bass, and told me that he sings and plays the Japanese (?) piano; that music is his "companion"; that "...when misfortune comes, it comes on all four sides"; his sister had just died of breast cancer, and he had just been pick-pocketed. I told him about Peter dying, and he told me that Shakespeare said that you can kill a man if you don't like his music. Bimal reminded me very much of Peter, in that he was very passionate about music and life... I sat next to him on the bus and he accompanied me to my stop just so that he could talk to me... He then came out with exactly the same words, more or less, that Peter said to me ("...life is so beautiful..."). He then sang me old songs in his language from Bollywood movies and then translated the words into English for me ("We may never meet again in this life... but I shall never forget you as long as I live.") He described me as being "very sweet" and "glittering like gold"... As we parted, we told each other how happy we felt as a result of meeting each other today... This was a most strange, poignant encounter, which I will never forget...


APRIL 2012

I am pleased to say that following my persistent complaining to Bruce Matthews (Chief Inspector CM371 of Neighbourhood Policing, Brighton & Hove Division), about the uncaring, unempathic way Hove Police handled my case against David Webb (my neighbour who harassed, attacked and stalked me for as long as my nerves could take it), Inspector Jason Hazzard and a call taker have both had formal tellings-off for their incompetence; not enough compensation for the 'mental rape' I, and other victims of stalking and harassment experience, and meanwhile, my ex-neighbour has completely got away with it. I was staggered to read that my case wasn't deemed worthy of a Victim Support case worker... I also wrote to the Home Secretary, Theresa May about this and got a reply from the Direct Communications Unit, who told me to check out the below website (please click the invisible link) re. what the Government is doing to tackle the culture of victims not being believed and taken seriously re. stalking. I basically had to fight, in an extremely traumatized state, to get a harassment order taken out against my neighbour, and to be listened to... appalling... Not all women are as lucky as me to have a loving and supportive partner and great friends... what happens to those women / girls?



After a bout of feeling particularly defeated by life, I realized that I hadn't fallen out of love with music when I went to see the excellent Patrick Laroche Quartet at Cave du 38 Riv on rue de Rivoli, Paris: I participated in the jam session and played my usual at these jam sessions; 'Take The 'A' Train' plus a 'rhythm changes' in Bb. As I played, I was thinking that it all sounded very fast and furious, and the loud clashing and banging of the drums got on my nerves in the end. I wasn't keen on going through the P.A., either, as I couldn't hear myself (I vowed to stick to playing acoustically as much as possible). 

Found on Facebook: "SAVE THE PIT BULLS
                                NEUTER THE THUGS."

I spent the best 10 euros I've ever spent on the most outstanding classical concert I've ever been to; playing of the highest quality by mostly Chinese / Korean (?) musicians at 'Concert de Musique de Chambre parles élèves et les professeurs des concervatoires' at Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre in the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. The concert featured the compositions of Diego Borrello and Osamu Kawakami. I then, from the bookseller outside the gates of the university, bought a copy of Ernest Hemingway's 'A Moveable Feast'; perfect reading for me at the moment, about Hemingway's times as a poor young man working as a writer in Paris in the 1920s.

From Subrata Ray's poem, 'Happiness': 
"Happiness is overcoming 
 The bio-psycho of every day's things..."

By Harun Yahya: "I always wonder why
                            birds stay
                            in the same place
                            when they can fly
                            anywhere on the earth.
                            Then I ask myself
                            the same question."

I went to CAMPLIF, 2 rue Violet, 75015 Paris, and with my French, managed to say that I'm a self-employed musician wanting information regarding what financial assistance I'd be entitled to, doing this job in Paris, and a really encouraging woman (who fortunately spoke English), gave me further information. She said that if I'm courageous and want this badly enough, it will happen, and that the French social security system is extremely difficult to get to grips with: I was proud of myself for getting this far with it...

24-7, I battle the awful feeling I have of being 'skinless' with my OCD, which is tough when unavoidably in Paris, one is bumped and jostled along by a fascinating, smelly, though in general, patient and respectful mélange of people...

This Philip Larkin poem keeps coming into my head as I consider all of the homes I've had in Brighton & Hove, Woodford Green, Hainault, Paris:

Poetry Of Departures by Philip Larkin

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,  As epitaph:  He chucked up everything  And just cleared off,  And always the voice will sound  Certain you approve  This audacious, purifying,  Elemental move.    And they are right, I think.  We all hate home  And having to be there:  I detect my room,  It's specially-chosen junk,  The good books, the good bed,  And my life, in perfect order:  So to hear it said    He walked out on the whole crowd  Leaves me flushed and stirred,  Like Then she undid her dress  Or Take that you bastard;  Surely I can, if he did?  And that helps me to stay  Sober and industrious.  But I'd go today,    Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,  Crouch in the fo'c'sle  Stubbly with goodness, if   It weren't so artificial,  Such a deliberate step backwards  To create an object:  Books; china; a life  Reprehensibly perfect.
It's vitally important that whatever happens, I must remain professional when it comes to my job as a musician so that I can cope with everyday life...

"The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just." - Abraham Lincoln

There's only so much convincing of potential landlords that I'm prepared to do here in Paris that I'm a worthy tenant even though I'm a musician, in my attempt to get a ridiculously over-priced, broom cupboard-sized studio to live in... 

Mateo told me that if my chest feels restricted when I'm singing, to visualize my heart pushing outwards as I sing and then I will feel the whole of my chest / rib cage / back opening up: This, together with relaxing as much as possible, works very well.

Found on Facebook: "If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs."

I booked Hôtel Le Pasteur, 30 boulevard Pasteur, La Courneuve, 93120 France for an extra three weeks in Paris, even though money's very tight, and resolved to work harder to earn more money: My friend, David R. Aldridge commented: "You can do this. You can. Picture the a**hole neighbor back in London, double up your fist, and knock his lights out. The take a DEEEEP breath, look out the window, and embrace the city you love. Now go kick its ass." My reply: "Thanks, David! Feels kinda crazy what I'm doing, but in my bones, I know that now's the time...?!" David R. Aldridge: "Los Angeles has crushed me to the bone many times over the past four years, but there was always about an inch between me and the pavement. Savour that inch."

Gavin Knight with regards to me staying put in Paris: "Paris kind of envelopes you in this feeling of hard, fought and won, tough love. She wants you near her, but she'll make you work damned hard for it!"

Sarah Ward Was Henderson: "Life's too short not to take every opportunity and run with it. If it makes your soul warm and tummy flutter keep running with it as long as you can. xxx"

Gavin Knight: "I think there is a tendency these days, for us media types to be poorly paid or not at all. One day, when there are no professionals and creatives about and we are all being subjected to mediocrity all the time, the World will be a far worse place! People deserve to be paid for their input."

I'm determined to stay here in Paris for as long as possible, but everything feels so damn hard!

I think that I'm right to be fostering the musical relationships I've made in Paris which are working, and not to be flitting from new project to new project...

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Theresa



BACK WITH MY DOUBLE BASS IN PARIS - MARCH 2012

Happy Easter to you all!


I'll start with an encouraging endorsement I received off project archivist, Fiona Cormack at the National Jazz Archive, Loughton, where I work as a volunteer:

"Since beginning my post as Project Archivist at the National Jazz Archive, I have supervised the work of the Archive’s volunteers. One such volunteer, Gemma, has been exceptionally dedicated to her project which involves indexing the Johnny Simmen’s correspondence – an extensive collection. Through Gemma’s self-imposed high standards and thoroughly detailed work, the once hidden content of these letters will be available to researchers, particularly those with an interest in Jazz. I have been impressed by Gemma’s attention to detail throughout the project and this is evident in the Excel database she has created and maintained over several years. She has taken a systematic approach and the database contains fields such as condition of material, keywords, a brief overview of content and has provided all items with an identifying number. As the National Jazz Archive is about to start cataloguing its holdings, the results of Gemma’s project will be hugely beneficial and will feature on the Archive’s online catalogue. During my time at the Archive, Gemma has been keen to receive feedback on her work. I have to say that I have been most impressed so far and therefore have had no need to offer much, if any, guidance on the instinctive approach she has taken. Her literacy skills are excellent, evident in her summation of each letter. Based on the voluntary work Gemma has undertaken at the National Jazz Archive and her personable nature, I have no hesitation in recommending her for employment relating to these areas." Fiona Cormack 

On my first full day in Paris, a journalist from The Argus newspaper, Brighton & Hove, phoned to say that they wanted to do a full article on, and to interview me re. my complaint about how I was treated by the incompetent and uncaring Hove police where my neighbour, David Webb's harassment and stalking of me recently, was concerned. The journalist never called me back the next day, though, as promised, and I was left with the feeling that the press had bullshitted me and left me wondering what the hell was going on, just like the police had; that nobody cares that the police and my neighbour are going to get away with their appalling treatment of me, and that I'm powerless to do anything about it...

I was delighted to be back in Paris, though, and determined to de-stress and focus on my music: I pushed myself with my singing and playing simultaneously while doing my solo double bass set, and felt that the act of singing opens me up more (physically and emotionally) to people, which in turn attracts more attention to what I'm playing. Busking on the street in Paris has been harder this time around, because now a lot of tourists have cameras with massive paparazzi-type lenses which they rudely and intrusively stick in my face, and then they walk away without any sign of acknowledgement or appreciation.

Happy Page on Facebook: "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

I was struck and inspired by the notion that French singer-songwriter, Mateo, has chosen a life of 'peace' in his head.

Via Michelle Little on Facebook: "Your ability to relax is in direct proportion to your ability to trust in life."

The one major lesson I learnt this month: AS A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN, I SHOULD BE SEEKING ONLY PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS (who play from the heart) TO PLAY WITH, WITH A VIEW TO GETTING BETTER PAID WORK.

I started to think about putting a small album together of my solo double bass and singing work, and poetry: Now is the time for my creativity to flourish. It's hard to retain this level of confidence and belief in myself, to navigate a wise course as an artist, and to once again push myself out of my comfort zone...

One of the musical highlights of this month for me, was getting to play at the infamous jazz club, Caveau de la Huchette in Paris, with the George Washingmachine Quartet, where lots of people were dancing to our music.

The book, 'Stories Of Courage' by Clare Swain, that I found on one of my last cycle rides in Brighton, inspired me to feel that I DO have the courage to do this 'Paris' thing...

"A wild patience has taken me this far." - Adrienne Rich (1929 - 2012)

I've been on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster (without such handy distractions as a TV or radio), and have concluded that my heart right now is in three places: Brighton & Hove and the friends that I have there, with Jan in Essex, and in France re. my work... 

A quote that appeared on Facebook: "When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you." 

MOVING ON...

I dedicate this blog to my amazingly loving and supportive partner, Janet Rose Lee.

My ‘angel card’ for February 2012, said, “… Let go of stress and anger.” This really was the name of the game for me this month…

In Hainault, Essex, we were graced  with white sky and snow at night (I wish that there could be a sprinkling of snow on the ground all year round in order to give the illusion of cleanliness everywhere).

As usual, I shall begin with some quotes which have inspired me recently:

Lily on Deal Or No Deal said that her late husband was of the belief that "Every day is a holiday if you’re happy."

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.” – Nolan Bushnell

Heidi Berry: “The songs of my own that I like best are the ones I wrote when I wasn’t meaning to write anything. If that makes sense?”

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” – Mario Andretti

Due to the stress of moving house and then to France, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder came back with a vengeance: My understanding friend, David R. Aldridge advised, “Just let it run around the room like a puppy. It’ll slow down eventually and take a nap. Don’t chase it J

Veteran war reporter, Marie Colvin, who was killed in shelling in Syria in February 2012:  “Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice… We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?... Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price.”

I had some great recommendations from fellow musicians and writers re. my aim of finding more work as a freelance writer:

Louis Royer: “Gemma Boyd is definitely a true artist with a real passion for her work.”

Debbie Burke’s recommendation of me re. the review I did for her of her debut book, ‘The Poconos In B Flat: The Incredible Jazz Legacy Of The Pocono Mountains Of Pennsylvania’: “A very in depth and detailed review. Gemma obviously took the time to think about different aspects of the book and gave an honest, well-written and well thought out opinion.”

David R. Aldridge’s recommendation re. the proofreading of a section of his book on drumming patterns that I did for him: “I’d hire Gemma Boyd to do any future proofreading. Her attention to detail is EXACTLY what I needed and more. I worked in the freelance magazine world for a decade and Gemma Boyd has pro skills, no question.”

In order to feel as if I’d done all that I could to get some kind of justice on the matter, I wrote letters exposing and complaining about the incompetent and uncaring treatment of me by Hove police that I received in relation to my neighbour, David Webb’s harassment and stalking of me: I await replies from Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Martin Richards (Chief Constable of Sussex Police) again, Kirk Ward of The Argus, Brighton & Hove, and Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor of The Guardian: On Tuesday 7th February 2012, Alan Travis wrote an article in The Guardian entitled, ‘Law fails to protect victims of stalking, MP’s inquiry finds’; “Only complaints from rich and famous are acted on.” This has all come too little too late for me, but I’m going to support any new laws that are introduced to protect victims of stalking and harassment (One woman described her ordeal at the hands of her stalker, “mental rape”; a feeling that I can fully relate to). I had to fight to get access to Victim Support, only to be told by them that they had no volunteer to assign to me!

Helene Riviere’s invite for me to rent her flat in Paris from her once again, came at creatively and financially perfect time: I resolved in November 2011 to be back in Paris by February 2012, and thanks to the leap year, I was!

I felt excited and nervous about my decision to leave Brighton & Hove after almost twelve years; I knew in my heart that I’d made the right decision, and as usual, the encouragement of my friends was invaluable: Mateo said, “Remember you can fly J”; my mum commented that Paris is very ‘me’; Janet Aldridge wrote, “May France continue to be the place where your music is special”; and finally, David R. Aldridge urged me to, “Keep pushing, small steps, and know that with every single one of them, you are leaving the word “artist” as your footprint.”

Now that I’ve simply moved away / on from all of the major things that were making me ill and unhappy (after having done my best to deal with and comprehend them), I feel much more at peace…

JANUARY 2012

The Guest House

This being human is a guesthouse.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

RUMI
translated from the Persian by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

January was another near-unbearable, tough month, with regards to having to cope with the complete lack of support (I had to fight for an harassment warning to be put in place back in September), care and consistency I've received from the police (who I managed to PROVE have been incompetent), and Victim Support in relation to the continued, unprovoked abuse I've been receiving from my neighbour: Making the decision, after nearly two years of fighting this, to leave Brighton & Hove in order to follow my dream of living and working as a musician in Paris, has been an emotional and scary one, but I feel ready, and the presence of my angels helping me this month, together with my wonderfully supportive partner, Jan, and my friends, have fortified me:

I took this as a definite sign that I should be moving on to new things with my life: As I was moving stuff out of my flat in Hove, I came across a book of love poems that Yvonne Luna gave me, and inside it was written, 
"We can't go back.
There is only forwards.
There are only four words. 
We can't go back."

"THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IS TO LIVE IT, TO TASTE EXPERIENCE TO THE UTMOST, TO REACH OUT EAGERLY AND WITHOUT FEAR FOR NEWER AND RICHER EXPERIENCE." - posted by Alan Gilbert

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." - Albert Camus

'January 2012 Direct Line for Business' calendar card: "Have a clear number 1 goal: Work out your top goal, you will then be able to identify the key actions you need to take to achieve it."

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't ever lose it." - Robin Williams

Ariadne Artud: "... Don't let unhappy and frustrated people get in your way. It always shocks me how some peoples' life can be so small... if only they know the possibilities in life, they would try to be happy themselves and spread it around!!"

"IF YOU THINK YOU'RE TOO SMALL TO HAVE AN IMPACT, TRY GOING TO BED WITH A MOSQUITO IN THE ROOM."

"TO BUILD A BETTER BUSINESS, IDENTIFY YOUR DISTINCTIVENESS, AND STICK TO YOUR KNITTING."

Via Alan Gilbert: "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward." - Amelia Earhart

"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone." - Coco Chanel, Entrepreneur

Maybe I was supposed to find a drenched copy of  the book, 'Stories Of Courage' by Clare Swain, on a garden wall during one of my last 'Brighton' cycle rides?

While I was busking alone in Ilford town centre one day, I was asked to perform my solo double bass set for the older people at Oakfield Lodge, Ilford (my first gig in Ilford), which I was both excited and apprehensive about. My friend, Roger Foregard, urged me to "Spread a bit of joy" (which is what playing music is all about for me), and I think that I accomplished this: With my singing and playing of jazz standards from the 1930s and '40s, I managed to get the majority of the audience singing.

Georgio Courcetti (who I met as I busked on the footbridge in Shoreham over Christmas), asked me to be in his band, who he envisions as playing the music of the Romany Gypsies...

Performing at Borough Market, London, with Bass & Bone (myself on double bass and Daniel Rehahn on trombone), and being really popular both with the market traders and the public alike, was another highlight of my month.

I wrote my first book review for Debbie Burke's debut book, 'The Poconos In B Flat: The Incredible Jazz Legacy Of The Pocono Mountains Of Pennsylvania', from which Lydia Liebman's words resonated massively with me: "Don't go into music looking for a career in music, go looking for a life in music." Here is my review, which can also be read on Amazon.co.uk:

Debbie Burke 
The Poconos In B Flat - The Incredible Jazz Legacy of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania 
United States of America: Xlibris, Corp., 2011 
Paperback: 122 pages 
ISBN - 10: 1469134598 
ISBN - 13: 987 - 1469134598 
Reviewed by: Gemma Boyd

Debbie Burke is at the heart of today's jazz scene in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania: She lives in the Poconos, co-founded ArtSmash of the Poconos, created the Pocono Jazz and Poetry website and plays in three community bands. Therefore, she was brilliantly placed to be able to write 'The Poconos In B Flat - The Incredible Jazz Legacy of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania': In Burke's words, her debut book comprises of "a series of observational narratives on the very unique and wonderful Pocono Mountains jazz scene derived from personal interviews with musicians, historians, educators and hospitality professionals." Burke writes with an enormous love for her subject matter, which is contagious.

Initially, in flicking through the book, I wasn't enthused when I saw what I thought was biography upon biography of musicians that I hadn't heard of and didn't care about, but then I was drawn in by the intriguing definitions of jazz in the 'Introduction': This, coupled with Burke's passionate, proud and friendly tone, help to make this book instantly accessible to 'jazzers' and 'non-jazzers' alike.

The content is readable, focused, informative, varied and interesting:

Burke vividly brings the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania (previously unknown to me), to life, and manages to capture charmingly detailed descriptions of 'jazz characters' during her in-depth interviews with musicians: Ralph Harrison recalls, "I remember John Dangler, one of the last wooden frame renters, on the third floor at the Deer Head... John was drinking from a beer stein and lecturing about Dixieland jazz while throwing chicken livers to his cat. John said 'nobody sleeps when I'm lecturing about jazz.'"

As a jazz musician myself, it's been great to be able to read 'straight from the horse's mouth' accounts from musicians about their backgrounds, musical influences and careers, which ultimately inform and give meaning to the music.

The spirit of community in the Poconos is emphasized, with regards to the annual Celebration of the Arts festival, and anecdotes of the paradisiacal, magnetic hub of the jazz community, the Deer Head Inn, remind me of my favourite bar; Chez Adel in Paris, which owner, Adel, calls, "a house for musicians."

I found the surprise of the 'Cool And Pithy' section of quotes, profound and inspirational, for example, Lydia Liebman's, "Don't go into music looking for a career in music, go looking for a life in music." Quotes like these help me to feel less alone in my craft.

The photographs towards the centre of the book, which showcase the talents of a range of different photographers, are of an excellent quality.

Nuggets of insightful advice for fellow musicians abound: Multi-instrumentalist Jay Rattman explains, "I value spontaneity over anything else. If I feel myself about to play something I've played before, I'll deliberately change course. Since you are surprising yourself, it will engage the other musicians and inspire different contributions."

This book is inclusive and mindful of the futures of young and up-and-coming jazz musicians, which is so important with regard to the continuation of jazz in a climate where live music, in general, is under threat.

The publication of this book was well-timed: In England right now, drastic funding cuts to the arts are being made, and it's encouraging to read this book which is in essence for me, a celebration of the very much alive and kicking jazz culture of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania: Rick Chamberlain (co-founder of the Celebration of the Arts festival) says, "It's a shame the powers that be don't want to realize the arts drive culture, which defines a society."

A diverse group of people with connections to the jazz of the Pocono Mountains have been represented here, and I will continue to refer back to the book, and listen to the music of the musicians from the Poconos, that Burke has introduced me to.


I exceeded the earnings I made last January, this month, by busking my solo double bass set on Neal Street, outside South Kensington underground station in London, and in Romford and Ilford town centres. Most importantly, therefore, I don't feel that I've been beaten by the situation with my neighbour and the police: I'm going to be living my dream, while everybody that's been bullying me, messing with my head and not taking me seriously, will remain shallow, useless, idiots who can't even muster up the courage to say sorry.




   

2011 DRAWS TO A CRACKING MUSICAL END...

I'll open this blog by sharing with you excerpts from conversations and quotes from friends, which have fortified and inspired me throughout the past couple of months:


Ecaterina Verbitchi: "Whatever your struggles may be, be positive... there are better days coming! One step at a time...".

Marianne Windham quoted from 'Women Who Run With The Wolves' by Clarissa Pinkola Estes: "It is said that all you are seeking is also seeking you, that if you lie still, sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time. Once it is here, don't move away. Rest. See what happens next".

Paul Busby: "Music is not valued in this country."... Me: "There ARE people who still value music out there... Us musicians just have to be positive and keep putting it out there, otherwise it will die in generations to come".

Paul Busby: "...funny thing with the music business. You often don't see people you know for ages, sometimes even years, but when something happens to anyone, you feel it like a brother or sister".

'Early Autumn' by Ella Fitzgerald (recommended to me as being a lovely jazz standard, by Bernard Trillat).

Mateo Sixstrings to me: "I trust in you... U R courageous and focused".

Groucho Marx: "The price of self-destiny is never cheap".

Charles Baudelaire: "A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counsellor, a multitude of counsellors".

Etta James singing her songs, mysteriously started playing on my laptop - as if I was meant to hear her?!...

Charles Dickens: "A loving heart is the truest wisdom".

Simon Armitage on the nature of poetry: "...oppositional... a form of dissent... obstinate".

The film title (?) 'Drag Me To Hell' kept on going through my head as I returned to a dismal-looking England, following my latest adventure with double bass in Paris, back in October / November '11: I was depressed at being back to wasting hours of my life watching stupid people on stupid TV, and vowed that from now on, I would be doing more exercise and going out more to musical and literary events which, due to the awful government cuts to the arts, I feel I should be giving more active support to...

Jan and I visited 'The House Of Annie Lennox' exhibition at the V & A in London. My favourite bit was seeing all of the scraps of paper that Lennox had written lyrics, notation, acceptance speeches, lists, etc., on, and I was struck by what she said; that every moment, for a creative person, has creative potential.

Whenever I turn down a gig (even when what's on offer is an unfair deal), I worry that I'll be missing out on a good opportunity, but I must remember that my instincts have served me very well throughout 2011...

Concerned that my life had come to a full stop; with every aspect of my life feeling unsafe and insecure, I went to The Great British Business Show at Earls Court, London, and bought the book, 'Do It! Or Ditch It' by Bev James, published in 2011. This inspirational book has helped me to make some big (and hopefully money-generating) business and life decisions... I also read somewhere that in business, "Always fall forward and move on quickly". Through attending this show, I met relatively "fresh" sole trader, Danny Miles, of Ability Gateway, who has offered his services and helped me to clarify my three business ideas that I'm keen to bring to fruition in 2012...

I felt honoured to be asked to play as a member of the house band, at Brighton & Hove based guitarist and friend, Frank Taylor's wake at The Albion pub, Hove, in early December, and the highlight for me, of the University Of Sussex Symphony Orchestra's Christmas concert, was the wonderful feeling of being able to play 'Nimrod' from Elgar's 'Enigma Variations' well.

The icing on the cake for me has been that this December, I earned more money that I have done in the past two years at this time of the year, by busking my solo double bass set on my beloved George Street, Hove, on the footbridge in Shoreham-by-Sea, and in Romford, Essex.

On my down days, I have felt that I can't face another year of struggle, poverty, time-wasters and arseholes, but feel better now that I've taken the risk of leaving Brighton & Hove, in order to go for my dream of living and working as a musician and poet in Paris: I will be living in Hainault, Essex, with Jan (my partner, and the wind beneath my wings), until I've saved enough money to embark on this adventure. I've decided, too, that I am going to start pitching my poetry, poetry reviews and articles to editors... 

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2012...




PARIS WITH MY DOUBLE BASS (13TH OCTOBER - 7TH NOVEMBER 2011)

I went back to Paris for the second time in 2011 in the autumn, where I gigged at Chez Adel with Mateo, Claudio Zaretti, jazz pianist Bernard Trillat and pop and French song singer, Chloe and band. Whilst busking my bowed solo double bass set at Place des Abbesses, I met tenor saxophonist, Laurent Carrier, who I played with for great pleasure and good money in Montmartre. 


At Chez Adel one rainy night, I watched poet / artist / songwriter Marie-Claire Calmus perform with such assurity and belief in what she was doing: She connected to individuals in the audience and really involved them in her show. I found it captivating and something to aspire to in my own performance.

I valued Mateo's tips on how to project my voice 'outwards' as I'm singing: He advised me that it is most important for singers and instrumentalists to be completely relaxed (from the hair on my head down to my toenails), and at a scene-ouverte at Tropicalia where I read out some of my poems, he told me to savour the words that I was saying; as if they were delicious food, to learn my poems by heart before I can share them - with feeling (which negates language barriers) with others, and to slow down. This experience really brought home to me how exposing I find performing my own material (I'm so bound up by self-consciousness, that it's nigh on impossible for me to perform without the protection of my double bass)...

On Pont des Arts, my 'bowed solo double bass' set list blew into the Seine, but maybe this was meant to happen in order to further free-up my playing... and I managed fine without it.

Out of the blue, I was welcomed by Louis Royer, as one of les membres de Cortezia (contrebassiste substitut), which I'm very excited about...

During this time, I relied heavily on my instincts, and took peoples' suggestions as meaningful pointers as to where I should be headed creatively. This was also a very difficult time for me emotionally, and most days, I was furnished with thought-provoking an inspiring quotes from friends of mine on the Internet, some of which, I would like to share with you here:

Joy Mover (singer / songwriter): "To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping". - Chinese proverb

Peretu Ebi: "... never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about".

Ecaterina Verbitchi: "... Heartbreak makes you wiser".

Dolly Parton: "You can't just will your dreams to come true. You have to work hard. You have to give 'em wings, arms and legs... whatever it takes to make your dreams come true".

Bob Dylan from his 'Chronicles - Volume 1': "The national psyche would change, and in a lot of ways, it would resemble the Night of the Living Dead. The road out would be treacherous, and I didn't know where it would lead but I followed it anyway. It was a strange world ahead that would unfold, a thunderhead of a world with jagged lightening edges. Many got it wrong and never did get in right. I went straight into it. It was wide open. One thing for sure, not only was it not run by God, but it wasn't run by the devil either".

From 'Mrs Woolf And The Servants' by Alison Light: "She [Woolf] hoped to transform what separated her from others into forms of connection through art".

Duke Ellington: "Music is my mistress".

Daniel Rehahn: "I guess that things will work out as they are meant to... I feel that a lot".

Marina Sanguinetti: "Something good always pops round it's just a question of when".

David R. Aldridge: "If you try your best, you wait for something to come back. If you DO your best, you just put it out there and keep going :) The latter will recharge your batteries; the former will drain them".

"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything". - Plato

Tiggery Pokery: "Take a break and come back shining!"

On a gravestone at Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise: 
"THERE ARE DAYS THAT MIGHT OUTMEASURE YEARS.
DAYS THAT OBLITERATE THE PAST,
AND MAKE THE FUTURE, OF THE COLOUR WHICH THEY CAST".

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain". - Anonymous ('Dancing in the rain' was what I felt like I was doing when I went busking my solo double bass set one morning on Pont des Arts in the cold, drizzle and mist, with raging P.M.T)...

When I first arrive in Paris, I always feel slightly trapped in it's crazy maze of shops containing exquisite, expensive, stylish treasures (something to please everyone), and overwhelmed by it's stunning, over-sized buildings; as if the only way out is via the sky. Gradually, though, I settle into this 'rough and ready', 'piss and vinegar' French existence with its little curiosities, and feel more at home / happier than I do in England: Dolly Parton's song, 'Change It' keeps coming into my mind, but am I too scared to move on??



SEPTEMBER 2011

September 2011 has been one of the toughest months of my life: I've felt as if I've been on the verge of losing everything after having to take an 'harassment warning' out on my neighbour, following a completely unprovoked attack on myself and my partner, Jan. I've had to really fight to be listened to, and taken seriously by the police, my landlord, letting agents etc., at the same time as being deeply traumatized. In spite of this, though, Jan and I managed to go on holiday to Blackpool, to see some traditional jazz, and enjoy the Blackpool Illuminations. The best band that we saw by far, were Gentleman Jim McIntosh & The Jazzaholics. Good friends, Jan, and (as ever) my writing and music sustained me, and eventually I found the strength to return to my flat in Hove and not let my neighbour force me out of my own home... The musical highlights for me of this month were busking my bowed solo set on the high street in Ilford, Essex, and playing over a whole weekend at Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival on Hove Lawns with Bass & Bone (featuring myself and Daniel Rehahn on trombone). I gave a nerve-wracked performance of some of my new performance poetry based on the theme, 'Reality / Virtuality', which involved singing and playing the double bass, at 'Wells, Pugh & Hammond' at Walthamstow Central Library as part of the East London Libraries Festival; a big learning curve. Last week I rehearsed some blues numbers with Brighton-based pianist and guitarist, Ben Taylor and sensitive drummer, Al, which will hopefully lead to some interesting gigs in the future... Finally, (thanks to the help and kindness of my friend, Eirik Zahl), I will be going back to Paris, France with my double bass to do some more playing there from 13th October - 7th November 2011...


36 TODAY...

Today I turned 36... Just after I turned 35, I said that I wanted to do something "ground-breaking": I guess I ended up 'breaking ground' re. my 5 weeks playing in Paris, and in taking the risk of leaving The Priory Street Stardusters, who I earned good money and did some fab. gigs with - but a conflict of interests within the band became obvious, and I needed to move on and push myself on to a more positive, motivated, fresh, footing, which so far, with hard work, I'm achieving... Daniel Rehahn (trombone) and I, have done very well playing at Pavilion Gardens Cafe, Brighton, this summer as a duo, and at last, I'm managing to combine my poetry writing and music, in performing at such events as 'Poetry In The Park', organised by Paul McGrane of the Poetry Society, London. Next I should be planning what I want to do this coming year.... get a book of my poems published... put my own band together... do some more playing in Paris...just keep going and keep trusting in my instincts and worth as a musician and poet...

'IT'S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT'S HOW GOOD YOU WANT TO BE - THE WORLD'S BEST-SELLING BOOK' BY PAUL ARDEN

A sales assistant at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery on 7th July '11, prompted me to buy a enticingly (cleverly) entitled book called 'It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - The World's Best-Selling Book' by Paul Arden: I took this as a sign (thought that it might help me decide where and how to go from here career-wise). It has certainly given me some food for thought, and here are some of the quotes from the book that stood out has being worth noting:


"' I want to be as famous as Persil Automatic.'"" (Victoria Beckham)

"Find out what's right about your product or service and then dramatize it, like a cartoonist exaggerates an action."

"AVOID knocking the competition. It usually serves to publicize them rather than you."

"It's All My Fault."

"If you can't solve a problem, it's because you're playing by the rules."

"Experience is the opposite of being creative."

"Instead of giving people the benefit of your wit and wisdom (words), try painting them a picture.
The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you."

"Awards are merely badges of mediocrity." (Charles Ives)

"Begin thinking and behaving like a winner.
It will stop the rot. It will temporarily halt negative thinking and a defeatist attitude."

"If everything seems under control you're not going fast enough." (Mario Andretti)

After I'd finished this book, I left it downstairs at the Southbank Centre, London, as a gift for the right person to pick up....

POETRY LIBRARY ON LONDON'S SOUTH BANK

I'm so happy and relieved that my beloved Poetry Library on London's South Bank seems to have escaped the criminal government cuts to the Arts, and is going from strength to strength: Please check out their website on my 'LINKS' page...



HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS...

On Thursday 23rd June 2011, I played double bass with the University Of Sussex Symphony Orchestra for the first time, and something that exuberant conductor, Ian McCrae said, has stuck in my mind: You can't play Mahler if you're scared of the music... Last Tuesday, outstanding double bassist, Bill Coleman (one of Kenny Ball's Jazzmen), let me sit in on a gig with the tenor saxophonist, Art Themen, at the 27th Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival. I was very excited about this, and got a big cheer. Having a regular double bass student has prodded me into looking at my improvisation skills, which can't be a bad thing... I'm looking forward to playing in Paris again in September...

THE PRIORY STREET STARDUSTERS AT OVINGDEAN VILLAGE HALL JAZZ CLUB

Myself and the rest of The Priory Street Stardusters had a great time playing for the first time at Ovingdean Village Hall Jazz Club last night: The eighty-plus audience were so appreciative, and we even managed to turn non jazz fans on to the furious rhythms of the swing jazz and blues of the 1930s and '40s. I hope they invite us back...

VERDI'S 'IL TROVATORE'

It was an exciting privilege to be in the presence of fabulous opera singers, Italian soprano, Irene Cerbonicini and mezzo soprano, Jill Pert, as I played in the orchestra for the 'Music Theatre 2000' concert performance (conducted by Simon Gray), of Verdi's opera, 'Il Trovatore' as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival 2011, on Saturday. Hopefully this concert raised lots of money for the Martlets Hospice based in Hove. It's great to be a part of these types of events which benefit the community as a whole...

A BIG THANK YOU & RECOMMENDATIONS

I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has messaged me with regard to the article about OCD I had published on CNN.com last week: I've had a massive response and all of your words of support, love, hope and encouragement have been much appreciated: I feel that I've achieved my goal of bringing OCD out of the shadows of shame, fear and ignorance a bit more, enabling the subject to be discussed openly. In time, I shall reply to you all...

Last Wednesday, my partner Jan and I attended the National Jazz Archive's exhibition, 'A Century Of British Jazz' at the Barbican Music Library, London. I work as a volunteer at the archive, and it was a privilege to see Kenny Ball receive a 'recognition of his services to jazz' award. The exhibition itself is very interesting, and runs up until 30th June 2011. Admission is free. For more details, please visit: http://www.nationaljazzarchive.org.uk


If you run a business and would like to network and socialise with other local business owners, I can recommend attending the Brighton Business Curry Club which takes place once a month at the Lansdowne Place Hotel, Hove. The atmosphere is informal and friendly and the curry is delicious! For more details, please visit: brightonbusinesscurryclub.co.uk


CNN.COM 'POETRY, FILM GIVE VOICE FOR OCD SUFFERERS' ARTICLE

A very proud day: Elizabeth Landau of CNN.com interviewed me about my poem, 'Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder' and my struggle to live with, overcome and give voice to this illness. I hope that in reading this article, which was published online today, people will be able to gain a deeper understanding of what OCD is all about. Please check out the interview at the link below:

 

PARIS TRIP WITH DOUBLE BASS (MARCH 17TH - APRIL 14TH 2011)

Happy Easter, everyone! It's now over a week since my return from my months trip to Paris with my double bass, which you can read about here under 'DOUBLE BASS': It was an exhausting and emotional experience, but it gave me the musical boost I'd been searching for... I'll hopefully be returning to Paris in the late summer, for the hotel residency Peter, Eirik and I got at Les Etangs de Corot. For now, though, it's back to the lovely green open spaces of England (which I missed in tourist-infested Paris), and hopefully some well-paid gigs with the musicians I play with here, who it's a privilege to work with.

MACHINE MAN THE MOVIE

Here we are, already in March 2011! Only just under two weeks until I go back to Paris, France, for my next adventure with double bass: I'm excited at getting my first gig in Paris with my singer-songwriter friend, Richard Lewis and In Extenso (En Groupe) in the Bastille area of Paris. Also, I've just had my poem, 'Obsessive Compulsive Disorder', published on The Machine Man Forum at: www.machinemanthemovie.com  Please check out this excellent website, which highlights and explores the issues and challenges faced by those suffering from O.C.D.. Thankfully, I've almost financially survived another winter as a musician, and have hopefully got lots more exciting projects on the horizon...

MY POETRY ON FACEBOOK...

This month I have been typing my poems into my computer, so that if my flat burns down or I leave my poems on a train etc., I will have back-up copies, and years of work won't be annihilated. Simultaneously, I have been publishing and copyrighting a selection of my poems on Facebook (I'd rather have them being read, instead of them simply festering away in their file). I'd like to thank everyone; in particular, Rehan Qayoom, Rosanna Robinson, Alan Gilbert, Sharon Downey, Shirleyann Swift, Mark Redmond, Peggy James Vidrine and Steve Biddle, who have left insightful and encouraging comments: I keep thinking of a saying that my dad would always trot out: "Fine words butter no parsnips".... Ok, my words don't butter no parsnips, but at least some of them move people and give them something to ponder on... I'm enjoying getting back into poetry writing, as it's making me feel more 'connected' to others, in a society that is becoming increasingly bland and dehumanized - especially with the demise of lots of public libraries...

QUOTE...AND HAPPY 2011!

Happy 2011 everyone! I just thought I'd share a quote with you: My friend, Peter Maguire and I, feel that the following is very relevant to what jazz - at its very best, should be about: "A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song." - Chinese Proverb

OFF TO PARIS AGAIN...

Well, I've gone and done it now... I've booked myself and my double bass into a studio flat in Montmartre, Paris (Abbesses - where everything 'happened' for me back in September) for a month from 17th March 2011: I'm hoping that this time will give me ample opportunity to find out if Paris is really somewhere I'd like to reside more permanently, and whether there are any openings for me musically...Even though I risk the weather being rotten, for many reasons, March 2011 feels like the right time to be going?!...

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

We're mid-November and we're getting to that time of year when I worry that I won't be able to sustain enough income throughout the winter to continue working as a musician. My guitarist friend, Diego, told me the other day to "trust in life", which is what I will try to do: For so long as I can remember, I've firmly believed that if I work hard things will happen for me...Last month was about establishing a new work and practice schedule revolving primarily around doing something 'different' ie/ songwriting, composing, and getting back into my poetry writing again. I've managed to make a productive start on all of these things and now that the weather is mostly too rough for busking, I will continue concentrating on my own work with a view to developing it when I go over to Paris in March next year (hopefully this will be a good way of getting together a new crop of musicians to work with)...

A DECISION MADE...

I really enjoyed busking my bowed double bass solo set on George Street, Hove, yesterday morning, which was where it all started for me in terms of getting my career in music off the ground: People were so kind and genuinely interested, and I saw Joy (who I used to see around these parts). I didn't spot the the brown pigeon who used to be there practically every time Mike and I busked outside 'Jag', though... The fact that I made money doing this was very encouraging: I decided today that I want to move to Paris for at least a year by 1st March 2011, where I will be relying heavily on my solo set to pay for essentials until hopefully I will meet some more musicians...

IT ALL COMES TO TRY US...

At the first rehearsal for 'Titanic' with conducter Simon Gray for Southwick Opera, my double bass case finally gave up the ghost. I suppose I must be grateful that this didn't happen while I was on the Eurostar to Paris the other week, but it's an expense I can ill afford, and I must have one in two days time...Aside from this, I'm enjoying getting back into poetry writing, songwriting and composing, although at the moment it feels a bit like pulling teeth...Surely it must get easier, though, the more I do it? Anyway, my plan is to reward myself with a fancy recording device if I successfully produce some work...Also hoping things pick up on the busking / gig front...

THE STORY OF MY TRIP TO PARIS WITH JAN & MY DOUBLE BASS - SEPTEMBER 2010

I, my double bass and my wonderfully supportive partner, Jan, were in Paris between 13th and 20th September 2010: I had been organising this busking / jamming trip for 3 months and trying to brush up on my French. I was afraid of so many things while preparing for this, and needed lots of reassurance that I wouldn't get arrested for busking (the illusive Mairie De Paris was where I was supposed to be able to get specific clearance to perform in the street), and we chained my double bass to a table in our room at Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera, 152 avenue Ledru-Rollin, in a bid to prevent it from getting stolen. The whole experience for me, though, turned out to be a great lesson in learning to trust my instincts, and once I'd set my mind to this project, I found that a series of chance encounters (mostly imbued with strange, vague connections with my past), paved the way for a smooth, hope-filled journey: Armed with my belief that 'FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD', and having wood-glued the flaking sides of my double bass, we set off at 4.30am to get the first tube from Hainault. Already I was knackered from carrying the contrebasse ("our cross we must bear", reflected my friend and Chet Baker's double bassist, Riccardo Del Fra), and my heart sank further when on boarding Eurostar, a woman made one of the many mindless, stupid, irritating comments I get all the time when carrying my double bass in England, about betting I wished I'd taken up the flute...The first thing I'd writtten in my diary was that Place Des Abbesses in Montmartre is a good busking spot. This turned out to be true, as Abbesses was where good, heart-warming things happened for me all week: Had we not wanted to visit the stunning Sacre-Coeur on the Tuesday, I'd never have run into guitarist and songwriter, Denis, at Bar-Restaurant 'Au Rendez-vous de Montmartre', and on Wednesday we met up with Richard Lewis (an English musician and songwriter who moved to Paris 5 years ago). I met Richard on MySpace, and he gave me a wealth of information regarding living and working as a musician in Paris. My trombonist friend from Hove, Daniel Rehahn and I ended up busking on the terrace of the cafe where Jan and I had had (extortionately expensive) coffee with Richard ('Le Nouveau Carillon'), along with another cafe in Abbesses - 'Le Saint Jean'. A flock of Chinese tourists grabbed Dan and I for photos as we played on a bridge over the Seine near Notre Dame (I'd come a long way since my first attempt at busking my bowed solo set outside the Pompidou Centre, where I was drowned out by a didgeridoo and my set list blew away)! This special day with Dan was capped off with a visit to the graffiti-covered house of Serge Gainsbourg on the rue de Verneuil at Saint Germain. I told Jan that I'd had a good feeling about a jazz 'cave' I'd been told about by 'jeremuliguane' on Twitter near the Moulin Rouge, called 'Autour De Midi...Et Minuit', where we ended up seeing the fantastic Laurent Epstein Trio, and I participated in a jam session, which was such a buzz. Riccardo Del Fra showed my around the typically 'underground', dark jazz department at the Paris Conservatoire where he teaches, and one of the highlights of my week was playing 'Autumn Leaves' with Riccardo (I rarely get the chance to play with another double bass). It would seem that jazz is played in a lot of black market venues in Paris and that musicians are respected and valued highly: Refreshingly, I wasn't made to feel like a 'walking joke with a double bass' in Paris, although I'm sure that I got money a few times for being a tourist attraction (I even got offered a year's contract to work as a musician in Shanghai)! One thing's for sure, I had thighs of steel by the end of the week!

NOW I'M 35...

I've just turned 35, it's 2010, and I feel that now I want to do something ground-breaking...It was nice playing 'moon songs' ('How High The Moon' and 'Moonglow') outdoors by candles hanging from trees at Kate Hastings's garden party in Kingston, with 'Bass, Bone & Blue' last night.

TIME FOR A CHANGE?

I'm feeling in my waters that a big change is afoot for me: a new life in Paris, maybe? I'm desperate for a new challenge musically, and bored of England, and feel as if I've explored many of the 'jazz avenues' in Brighton...???

RE-FOCUSING IS HARD TO DO...

After the week from hell of having to get the police to deal with my nuisance neighbour and trying to work out difficult things within my relationship and finding out that I can afford to let my guard down with family and friends occasionally, I'm trying to get back into my work in preparation for my week in Paris next month with the double bass and Jan: Music, as ever, has been my life-line throughout all of this, and I've enjoyed 'stretching' busking sessions at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe, Brighton, with excellent guitarist, Sam Arts this week...

'PROMS IN THE PADDOCK'

Yesterday I played to a 300+ audience for the first time with 'The Priory Street Stardusters' at 'Proms In The Paddock' in Lewes, hosted by the Commercial Square Bonfire Society For Independence: It was such a buzz, and we managed to finish our set as a beautiful rainbow appeared just before the rain.

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT...

I enjoyed my gig with brilliant clarinetist / saxophonist George Levy at 'The Jolly Boatman Pub' in Newhaven last night where we weren't just 'wallpaper': The locals were singing along and dancing - just what this 'Basie/Ellington' jazz was meant for...

COMPETITION

Why do some buskers in Brighton find it necessary to use full amplification when they're busking, thereby blasting out quieter bands busking nearby who have an equal right to be there too? Sometimes it feels as if musicians are competing to be the loudest, fastest, most showy...and the general public seem to love it?! This isn't for me, I'm afraid: I'd rather play with musicians who listen to other members of their bands and actually 'feel' the music...

FOCUS GROUP FOR THE JAZZ SERVICES 'CAMPAIGN FOR MORE JAZZ ON THE BBC'

On Tuesday 27th July 2010, I attended a focus group lead by Chris Hodgkins (the director of Jazz Services), for the Jazz Services 'Campaign For More Jazz On The BBC' in Bloomsbury, London: Supporters of the campaign are proposing that a  portal for all BBC jazz programmes (just radio to begin with), be put on the Internet in order to make the broad church of jazz more accessible to listeners, who will hopefully, in turn, be more encouraged to go out and buy the music. We came to the conclusion that the way that jazz content on the BBC is presented is important (for example, the inclusion of local radio representation of UK-based bands from venues like jazz clubs), and that more emphasis should be put on educating the young about jazz and what it is and has been, in order to keep the music alive...Please sign up to the campaign by visiting www.jazzservices.org.uk (or go to the 'LINKS' page on this website). Thank you!

SPACES TO FILL...

I need to go out busking as much as possible in order to keep the gigs coming in, but I also need space to have fun, see friends, spend quality time with my partner...so important...

BASS, BONE & BLUE

Bass, Bone & Blue (jazz trio playing standards from the 1930s and '40s, featuring Gemma Boyd on double bass, Piers Clark on guitar and Daniel Rehahn on trombone) is taking off: We played at a wedding at Broyle House, Ringmer and at a birthday party in Brighton yesterday, and people were vry impressed and took our card, so hopefully we will get some new bookings soon...

NEW HORIZONS...

I'm hoping that something will come of my getting a busking pitch at Portobello Market, London, and being asked to be involved with the new CompARTment project at the old market on London Road, Brighton...I'm hungry for new, exciting projects: I want to get away from it all to figure out what exactly it is I want...

EARLY-BIRD SPECIAL

We were encouraged by how customers at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe in Brighton and some builders in The Lanes enjoyed Early-Bird Special (western swing and cowboy jazz): The sensitive and gentle sounds of Piers Clark's steel guitar seemed to compliment the hot, sunny day perfectly...

BUSKING AT PAVILION GARDENS CAFE, BRIGHTON

It felt good to be back busking at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe, Brighton, with The Priory Street Street Stardusters again yesterday, with the green flies, cheeky seagulls and people enjoying a cup of tea and good food applauding us...Please come down and listen (you're likely to catch us on some Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays).

I DID IT!

I'm proud of myself and walking tall because I braved my anxiety of going to Steyning, West Sussex; a place which is haunted by the ghosts of my painful past, to play at the monthy farmers' market in the High Street car park for the first time with The Priory Street Stardusters. We're hoping that this will become a regular occurance...This experience for me highlighted profoundly the transformative, healing effects on both the body and mind of playing music...Thank you to my angels, my friends, fellow musicians and partner, Jan :-)

DEPRESSION

I think I'm going to stop busking in shopping precincts: People often just sit around on the benches and get a free concert (they like to listen, but won't contribute)...Also, I'm sick of the 'half-baked' attitude that a lot of people seem to have in society nowadays: Where's the passion, pride, respect and committment?????!!!

EXCITING BUSKING SESSION IN LEWES

I really enjoyed my first busk with Nils Solberg (fantastic vocals and guitar) and Piers Clark today on the shopping precinct in Lewes: I really felt some of the old standards I've been playing for years, come to life again. Also, I'm hoping to have the time to be a part of 'Bad Uncle Jimi and the Jazzy, Bluesy, Country Rockers'...

PARIS

I'VE NOW BOOKED MY BUSKING TRIP TO PARIS ON 13TH SEPTEMBER 2010 FOR A WEEK, AND NOW I'VE GOT LOTS OF PLANNING TO DO! IT'S A STAB IN THE DARK, BUT I HOPE THAT I'M GOING TO HOOK UP WITH SOME GOOD MUSICIANS THERE!

DEPS

The Priory Street Stardusters have got George Levy (clarinet) and Roy Leith (tenor saxophone) depping for us at out monthly gig at The Albion pub, Hove today: I like it when we have deps in, because it refreshes the music, and brings back some sparkle into the playing. I hope I'm not getting a cold, though...

SHOULDER PROBLEMS

The pain in my shoulder is easing - thank goodness! I don't know how people who are in pain 27 / 7 cope. I just hope that it's not R. S. I. from playing too much double bass... I'm going to kick myself up the butt to get my busking trip to Paris in September paid for and organised...

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

I felt very privileged and excited to be a part of Brighton Theatre Group's stunning production of 'Beauty And The Beast' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton last week....I hope I get asked back to do another production at this beautiful old-fashioned theatre next year....

ORIGINALITY - THANK GOD!

Vic at 'The Runaway' cafe on Lewes station called my double bass a "rhinoceros" today; a welcome original comment given that I get fed up to the back teeth with people saying, "That's a big guitar / violin!"..."I bet you wish you took up the flute / piccolo!" NOT FUNNY, PEOPLE!!!!!

THEATRE ROYAL, BRIGHTON

I enjoyed my first rehearsal for 'Beauty & The Beast' today: Apparently the pit at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, where Brighton Theatre Group will be performing it from 1st - 5th June, is like something out of a Dickens novel...Please come along!

TIREDNESS

I'm annoyed because I'm tired: I've got so much practice to do, so many gigs to secure, a busking trip to Paris to organize, friends to catch up with, sorting-out to do...Where do I start? All I want to do is sleep, though (sometimes lugging my double bass places really takes its toll)...I can't have a coffee, though, because it gives me a migraine...

A CHEERY THOUGHT

"One door closes, and another one slams shut in your face!" - Colin Collins (a late jazz pianist from Portsmouth)

THE GOOD PEOPLE OF LEWES

Myself and the other jazz musicians I play swing jazz and blues from the 1930s and '40s with, on an around Cliffe bridge in Lewes, are grateful to the appreciative people of Lewes who have asked us to play at their parties and weddings this summer. Thank you!

NATIONAL JAZZ ARCHIVE'S 2010 SUMMER JAZZ EVENT

I'm studying the letters of trombonist Clyde Bernhardt at the National Jazz Archive this morning (a very generous musician who didn't judge or discriminate against other musicians because of the colour of their skin or their looks; he just cared that they could play well). Please come along to the National Jazz Archive's Summer Jazz Event featuring John Altman in celebrity conversation with Digby Fairweather, followed by live music from John, Digby and friends, on Saturday 10th July 2010 from 1.30pm - 4.30pm at Loughton Methodist Church, 260 High Road, Loughton, Essex. Tickets are £10 (contact David Nathan at the Archive in Loughton Library - Tel. 0208 502 0181). For more details please click on the 'National Jazz Archive' link on my 'Links' page...

Piers, Annie and I (The Priory Street Stardusters) had a really good busking session in Lewes on the bridge today: It's often when I'm not feeling enthusiastic about going busking because the weather's dicey, that we have a really good session, with lots of potential gigs coming our way...

I really enjoyed playing for the first time with Spanish guitarist, Diego Parada today, at Hove Farmer's market (which is sadly having to close due to a poor turn-out). I enjoy playing with 'new' musicians: It keeps things fresh...For some reason, I'm getting the urge to paint / do art again?! Hopefully I'll get out for a bike ride this evening before it rains again...

GETTING BACK TO NORMAL...

Now that my website is more or less complete, I'm looking forward to getting back to making music, practicing and cycling. I'm rehearsing for 'The Magic Flute' tonight at a school in Shoreham...Have a great weekend, everyone! Gemma :-)

Rain and more rain...

I'm fed up because I completely misjudged the weather today: It hasn't rained once, and I could have done a day's busking and maybe picked up some gigs. Never mind, I got a wedding gig for 19th June with Dan Rehahn on trombone and Piers Clark on guitar, though, and managed to prepare all of the 'Easter food' for my partner Jan's arrival tomorrow. I'm about to rehearse with guitarist Matt Wall for our gig at The Pelham Arms in Lewes on Thursday (hot swing jazz) - I hope! Have a great Easter everyone...!

 

MY FIRST EVER BLOG ENTRY ON MY NEW WEBSITE!

Today I'm full of cold, and doing my best to get on with my work and double bass practice: I'm making getting this new website of mine up and running a priority (I've had the package for nearly a year, and must renew it in 50 days)! I'm hoping that the weather will improve this week so that I can go out busking more in order to (hopefully) get more gigs...http://www.myspace.com/gemmabrandyboyd

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