Category Archives: Life

Why The ‘You’re Too Young To Understand’ Argument Just Doesn’t Stand Up

I have recently encountered, in various different areas of my life, an argument being thrown around by the older generation towards my own age group, that says we are ‘too young’ to be getting  involved in serious political or social issues.  Perhaps it has been one of those things where, once you notice it happening once or twice, you start to see it all over the place.  Regardless, I find so much at fault with this mentality, so many important messages to be taken from it, that it sparked a blog post within me, so here we go!

To give some context, I thought I would talk about a couple of examples of when I have directly faced an argument like this.  The first happened a couple of weeks ago.  I have been planning a concert in London for a while now, with my newly formed, diverse and ‘cutting edge’ ensemble, Hauptstimmen.  The goal of this group of classical chamber musicians is to bring our music to a wider audience, to break down boundaries that we have experienced in our world of classical music and make it an all-inclusive art form, something that everyone can share in and take something away from.  We have organised a concert ourselves in London next week (see all the details here, please come!!), and the theme of our programme is ‘war, time and death’.  I know it sounds a little dark and depressing, but actually it is really fascinating; we are going to be performing unique music that is very rarely heard, including Gideon Klein’s string trio, which was the last piece he ever wrote, just two weeks before being deported to Auschwitz.  It isn’t just going to be a concert – it is going to be a real experience, with cool lighting, sound effects and stage design, where the audience will be encouraged to feel completely at ease with drinks and snacks and also totally engaged with our performance.  In short, this is an event that we have put a lot of thought and work into and one which we think will really create huge impact.

Now, in organising this concert, finding the right venue has obviously been extremely important – the space is paramount to the whole experience, and so it was something we knew we had to get right.  We were overjoyed to find The Red Hedgehog, a cool and intimate venue with easy access in London.  When our group leader met with the venue director, she seemed totally on board and supportive of all of our ideas, so everything looked bright for us.  Two weeks ago, we received an email from this same director and let’s just say that it completely contradicted everything that had been agreed on previously and everything we are striving to achieve.  Her overarching message to us was that we were far too young to be presenting a concert that placed war as its central theme.

My initial response to the email was anger, of course, followed by a real sense of sadness.  I felt so sad because, here is a group of young musicians who are trying to do something different and creative and combine their art with important world issues, only to be shot down by someone older and with more ‘power’.  Today, after having dwelled on it for a while, I feel so strongly the error in her way of thinking!  The fact is that war and death are very much part of our world, and unfortunately this is something that is becoming  more of a scary reality everyday.  To think that only people of a certain age should be talking about it is naive; I am in my twenties and part of a generation that will have to deal with the remnants of what is left post-Trump, or with whatever the future holds for North Korea, Syria, ISIS etc.  We are exactly the ones who need to be talking about it and understanding what is happening and why – we are the ones who can help the future.  As musicians, we have such a special way of sharing these ideas.  Through music, we can reach out to people and bring people together, we can talk about fears of war and death through our playing and use music to make it relevant to everyone, no matter their age.

The second example I wanted to mention was something that I saw on a social platform a few days ago.  A friend of mine had posted an article about veganism – a topic sure to fire anyone up, I know, and of course it did.  But the most offensive response to the article, in my opinion, was from someone from a slightly older generation who advised my friend that she was too young and shouldn’t be concerned with issues like veganism, rather she should just live her life and spend her time ‘dreaming’.  I am just so confused how anyone could suggest that talking about veganism is only for people of a certain age!  What is this age, exactly? Because I am definitely not looking forward to turning this mysterious age when suddenly the weight of the world will be on my shoulders.  And, as my friend pointed out in her reply, isn’t bringing up issues such as veganism on social media exactly what ‘dreaming’ is? Dreaming of a better world, dreaming of what the future could be.  I am not purporting to be an advocate of veganism or not – that is not the point here – only that I certainly think that anyone who wants to talk about veganism, or war, or death or any other huge political or social issue absolutely can and even that we, as young people, should!

And this ‘young’ thing… I mean, I’m 26! I am not exactly a spring chicken.  I have been old enough to vote for a long time, and I have definitely held strong political views for pretty much my whole life.  I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can freely express my views, so who is to tell me, or anyone else in my generation, that I shouldn’t because I am too young?!  In fact, in recent elections, basically all the ones where shit really started to go down, it has been shown that young people really do have a voice and really do know what they are voting for and the consequences of what they are voting for – it’s the older generations that have really screwed things up for us all.

Basically, I want to make it clear that, yes, I am young and yes, that absolutely means I will continue to use my voice and my art to share ideas and fears and issues that I believe in or that I believe are important.  I hope that if young people like me are also facing this ridiculous argument from our elders – that we are too young to be concerned with these important topics – that we can feel inspired to rise above and speak even more loudly.  Age doesn’t equal power, and with our youth comes a responsibility for the future, so let’s engage with each other NOW and make the world a better place.

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September: Freya Chooses…

It’s been a little while since I have written a post in this series, so I thought it was about time that I updated my current Freya Chooses… list.  This is a blog post series that I write from time to time, when the mood strikes, which is dedicated to the various things/places/media/people who have given my life some special value over the last month, given me happiness in whatever small and yet important way or that have improved my life so much that I would recommend them to my readers to try out too.  I personally love taking inspiration from the things that my friends recommend to me or tell me they have been enjoying, so I hope this blog post gives you some ideas too!

Coursera

This month I discovered the world of online courses through Coursera.  With participating universities from all over the world, there are online courses available in a huge variety of different subjects, including philosophy, music, creative writing, business management, science, data science etc. etc.  There are so many to choose from, aaaaaaand it’s all totally free!  From browsing through the website, I found that most courses were about 10 weeks long, with a time commitment of about 5-8 hours per week.  I decided to enroll in a course called Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, hosted by the University of Philadelphia, and I am absolutely loving it!  Each week we study new and different poems, reading them ourselves, listening to recording clips of the poets reciting them, watching video discussions about the poems between teachers and students and taking part in live webcasts, which I find particularly interesting because you get to interact live and meet (virtually) people from all over the world, all interested in the same things as you!  You may have noticed that my last blog post was a close reading on a poem by Emily Dickinson – read it here – and this was actually my first writing assignment as part of my course.  If there is something that you are interested in but never had the time or the chance to study, I really recommend checking Coursera out and seeing what they have to offer.

Check Coursera out here.

 

Moleskine Planner

All my friends know that I LOVE my planner.  For whatever reason, I have not been able to transition to Google Calendars or any form of online planner… it just doesn’t work for me.  There’s something about the physical act of writing things down, deciding where to place them, organising my weeks, months and years that helps to clear my head and put order into my brain.  In my planner I don’t just write down my commitments; I make to do lists, I take note of personal daily and weekly goals, I organise upcoming trips and things to remember and I plan exactly when I am going to get nasty jobs done.  Once it’s in my planner, it’s out of my mind and I can let it go and relax.  This month I got a new, beautiful, golden yellow Moleskine and I think it is absolutely perfect.  I recommend it because it’s big enough to write everything comfortably, but small enough to carry everywhere with you.  And because it is so gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t fill you with dread when you see it.  My Moleskine has definitely given my life value so I really had to include it in this post!

 

Shit Town

There have been so many podcasts that I have been enjoying this month – I will be doing a blog post soon about my favourite ones so keep an eye out for that if podcasts are something that you are interested in.  But Shit Town is definitely the one that has most stuck with me.  Produced by the same people as Serial and This American Life, Shit Town is basically a story about a town and its inhabitants in rural Alabama.  As we listen, the podcasts twists and turns, and the original story set out at the beginning, which focuses on a mysterious murder and possible police cover-up, ends up uncovering a different, much deeper story of one man in particular and his identity within this town.  It’s totally gripping and haunting, but at its core are issues that are extremely relevant today and people who are truly fascinating.

 

Autumnal Walks

In connection with my interest in podcasts, walking has become a real feature in my life!  I walk absolutely everywhere, everyday, and I can get totally lost in the story that I am listening to as I walk around in different parts of the city.  I wanted to include this hobby in this Freya Chooses… episode because with the approaching autumn season, walks are incredibly beautiful just now.  I know that everyone is busy and tired and we all have places that we just want to get to as fast as possible, but perhaps try to find one journey that you can make in your week where you can substitute a walk in and I am sure you will feel the benefits almost instantly.

One Extra Addition…

Slippers

Just had to slip (no pun intended) this extra item in here because… I love my slippers!! They bring me happiness and comfort and are especially nice to put on after a long walk.

 

Read my last Freya Chooses… post here!

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My Podule Hotel Experience

Podule hotels seem to have taken the commuter and international travel world by storm. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, a podule hotel is a hotel, often located inside an airport terminal, with tiny podules or cabins instead of big, fancy hotel rooms. The idea is that travellers who might have a few hours to kill between connecting flights, or even an overnight stay in an airport, can rent pods by the hour so that they can catch a few zzz’s or have some quiet and private relax time before their onward travel.  The pods are simple, just what you would need for a few hours kip (i.e. a bed) and are much more hassle-free than a hotel.

My podule bed…

I have always thought that the idea of podule hotels was so futuristic – like staying in tiny space cabin that looks like something out of star trek! But it wasn’t until I recently got the chance to finally stay in one myself that I realised how great they are and what a genius idea it really is. I wanted to write a blog post about my really positive experience staying at a podule hotel in case, like me, you have considered it but weren’t sure about it or preferred to choose a normal hotel option because it was the one that you know.  This is just my personal experience, I’m sure there are some that would disagree with me, but I always find real, personal recommendations written by real people to be the most helpful!

So how small are we talking? Well, of course pods come in different sizes according to the number of people in your party.  I stayed at ‘Yotel’, in London Gatwick’s South Terminal and I rented a single ‘standard cabin’, intended for 1 person comfortably or 2 at a tight squeeze, that was 7 sqm. But this particular hotel also offers a ‘premium cabin’, for two people sharing a bed (10sqm), or a ‘premium twin cabin’, for 2 bunk beds (10 sqm).  All cabins come with an ensuite shower/toilet.

My singe podule was just able to fit my violin width-ways!

The really great thing about podule hotels is that there are no check in/check out times.  When you make your reservation, you simply book the number of hours you need, and this is so perfect for matching the needs and requirements of each individual guest.  You don’t have to worry about meeting standard hotel times – you just book your pod and go!  I also wanted to mention, in case you were worried that you wouldn’t know exactly what time you would be arriving, as I was, that when I arrived half an hour early (and very late at night) to my podule reservation, it was absolutely no problem – there is someone on reception 24 hours a day and they were extremely friendly, helpful and kind.

The cabin itself really is tiny – hopefully you can get a feel for it’s size from my little video below! It was just wide enough for my violin case and once I had opened up my suitcase there wasn’t much floor room to be seen!  But, the bed was really comfortable, and it was nice to have a private toilet and shower too. If you choose to share a cabin with another person, it might be helpful to know that there really isn’t room for any privacy in the pod, and there is only a glass divider between the toilet and the bed space, so make sure it’s someone you know well!  There is, however, a blind on the door window, so you can feel very private from the outside corridor and other hotel guests.  On that note, it may also help to know that, although I slept very well, at about 5am it became very busy outside with people getting up to catch their early flights.  If you are a light sleeper, definitely wear some earplugs!

 

Some other useful things to know about Yotel:

  • Towels are provided.
  • Free tea/coffee and bottled water from reception 24/7.
  • Free WiFi.
  • Yotel has an interesting blog,  featuring tips for travellers, interviews and recommended apps for meditation amongst other things.
  • Food menu including breakfast, sandwiches, hot meals and snack options, all very affordably priced (around €5).
  • TV in cabin.
  • There are Yotel hotels in London Heathrow, Amsterdam and New York airports.

A podule hotel is really the perfect solution for weary travellers and anyone who just needs to sleep. I will definitely be staying in them again in the future and really recommend you check them out of you need a few hours of down time while en route.

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June: Freya Chooses…

Over past the few weeks I have made many wonderful discoveries that have given me real joy and added value to my life.  I know that these ‘Freya Chooses…’ posts are largely personal to me, but I so enjoy reading similar kinds of blog posts, where bloggers write about what they have been loving recently, or about small ways in which they have been able to improve the quality of their lives; I love taking inspiration from other people and am just a bit nosy about the kinds of things that make others happy!  So, here are just a few of the things that I have LOVED throughout the past month!

Bonjour Tristesse & A Certain Smile, by Françoise Sagan

I actually had this book of two short novellas by Sagan sitting on my bookshelf for a few years without realising it!  A moment came about recently when I had finished my current book and was waiting for the new one to arrive.  At a loss, with nothing to read, I turned to my bookshelf and found this absolute gem!  I really didn’t know anything about Sagan and her writing, but I fell in love with these stories, which were published when she was only nineteen!!

The first, Bonjour Tristesse, is probably her most famous work.  It is about the relationship between a daughter and her father, who live a carefree and somewhat hedonistic lifestyle, full of love, sexuality, passion, and contemporary political attitudes. This all gets sharply interrupted when the girl’s father suddenly decides to remarry, creating huge conflicts that result in some shocking consequences for both characters.  Although I adored this novel, it was the second one in the book, A Certain Smile, which I totally devoured.  In many ways it is a quieter, slower, more intense story and for me, this is what drew me in and got me immediately hooked.  It is about a young French girl, living and studying in Paris, full of her own ideas about life and love, although a little bored with her own lover and situation.  An older, married man comes into her life and shows her emotions and feelings which dramatically change the direction of her life, in many complicated ways.

These stories are simply beautiful, witty in that charming French way and very, very emotional.  They are so sweet, yet they have a way of tugging on your heart.  I’m so glad I found this book on my shelf, and I definitely recommend getting a copy!

Seattle

I recently got the chance to visit Seattle for the first time, and I just loved the city!  I wanted to write about it here as, for me, I never really considered Seattle as serious contender for one of the cities at the top of my list of places to travel in the U.S. – those spots are always filled by cities like New York or San Francisco.  But I have to say that this is SUCH a fantastic city, and if you have the opportunity to visit the States, definitely consider taking a trip there!

Seattle is a very vibrant city that has a drive; it’s busy, it has a hustle and bustle, everybody is out there, doing their own stuff.  There is a lot going on, in its business as well as culturally, but it doesn’t have the chaotic, stressed feeling of New York!  Seattle has all the ‘busy-ness’ but still with that wonderful, relaxed, west-coast vibe, and it’s just great.  There are so many cool little corners in the city too; great markets, coffee shops, bookstores, cool little international shops, and many, many, fantastic micro-breweries (if you are a beer fan, this city will be your heaven).  And all of this is set in an incredibly beautiful part of the world; the mountainous backdrop and ocean views follow you all around the city.

Dvořák Cypresses, Performed by Miró Quartet

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear a performance given by some of my current FAVOURITE musicians, the Miró Quartet, of a piece I had never heard of: a set of songs called ‘Cypresses’, arranged for string quartet, by czech composer, Antonin Dvořák.  This was originally a song cycle for voice and piano, set to poems by Czech poet, Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky,  that Dvořák composed when he was just 24 years old and later transcribed for string quartet.  At this time in Dvořák’s life, he had fallen deeply in love with one of his students – a love which, unfortunately, was not returned.  Although I have not heard entire work in its original form, I found the string quartet arrangement to be incredibly beautiful and totally capturing of Dvořák’s sad and passionate feelings of unrequited love.  There were so many truly special moments in the music, moments of darkness and light, intimate melodies, sounds coming from within the heart of the quartet – this was truly spellbinding.  It seems weird to me that this is a work that is not performed more often… but I am so glad that I got the chance to hear it and I really recommend looking it up if you don’t know it!  My particular favourite was song/poem number 9:

‘Thou Only, Dear One’

Oh, you my soul’s only dear one,

Who will live in my heart forever:

My thoughts circle around you,

Even though cruel fate separates us.

Oh, If I were a singing swan,

I would fly to you, and with my last breath,

Sing my heart out to you,

Ah, with my last breath.

What beautiful words, and music!  On that note, I have to also say that the Miró Quartet are absolutely wonderful, as people and as musicians.  They live and breathe the music in a way that make it come alive and I found this very inspiring.  This is a quartet of big personalities which shine through in their playing; their audiences love them and it’s easy to see why.  I can’t wait to work with them again in a couple of weeks time!

Catch my last Freya Chooses… post here!

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What I’ve Read So Far 2017

For me, the summer season is always a very active time in my reading life.  Whether it’s because reading is, in my opinion, the BEST accompaniment to travel, or something enjoyable that you can do outside whilst enjoying the beautiful weather, or just because you might have some free time on your hands to simply be able to read – I always find that I reach for my book much more during the summer months.

In lieu of this, over the past couple of weeks I have been endlessly browsing the internet for some potential reads to fill my summer days and I have discovered that personal recommendations written by real people with real opinions make a book much more irresistible (or not) to me.  In case any of you feel the same way, I thought I would put a selection of the books that I have read and enjoyed so far this year into a blog post, so that you might be able to take your own reading inspiration from it!  Enjoy!

 

The Secret History

-Donna Tartt

This book is categorised as a psychological thriller, but I found that it also contained so many Romantic elements!  It tells the story of a group of young, eccentric students, living and studying in New England and wishing to break free from all social norms.  Together, and under the guidance of their mysterious yet devoted professor, they explore the boundaries and limitations of humanity and what is right and wrong.

I was totally hooked on this book.  I found the way that Tartt uses her narrative to create such suspence to be really clever and very addictive; the way the book evolves from beginning to end is staggering, and somehow reminds me of a kind of decent into hell.  It is a dark story, beautifully written and totally compelling.

 

 

The Neapolitan Novels

  1. My Brilliant Friend
  2. The Story of a New Name
  3. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
  4. The Story of the Lost Child

-Elena Ferrante

I have spoken about my experience of reading these four novels on my blog before, and all I can say is that these are some of my most favourite pieces of writing ever.  I have never felt so touched, high as a cloud, depressed, questioning of my own life and choices or simply in awe of any book before.

Ultimately, this is one recounted telling, from start to end, of the lives of two heroines, Lila and Elena, from the beginning of their childhood friendship, right up until the present day.  Their stories take us through their lives, with all of the difficulties and challenges that they face in different situations; what it means to be a woman, suppression, political angst, breaking free from their roots, marriage and children, love, friendship… The books are so packed full of emotion, passion, intelligence, and I don’t think I have ever gone from loving to hating one character so much and so often as I did with Lila.

Some people have said that it is a good idea to read other books in-between these novels, which I might concur with, just to feel part of the real world again, although in reality I absolutely could not take a break from book two to book four!  Reading these books was one of those life events that I won’t forget.

 

The Animators

-Kayla Rae Whitaker

I really enjoyed this artistic and powerful novel.  The story is about two female animators who meet in art school in New York, one of them being the reckless, outgoing and exceptionally talented one, the other being more inwardly troubled, quiet and introverted.  They develop a strong connection to each other, out of respect for the other’s work and also through each feeling like a somewhat of a ‘misfit’ or an ‘outsider’ in this world, and decide to make a long-lasting business partnership.  Together, they create stunning and hugely successful animated movies based on their own lives and experiences, which bring up all sorts of personal issues for each of them, and for me, this is really what gave the book such depth.  The story ended up being about so much more than art, but about relationships and sexuality, told through the wonderful subtleties of this incredible art form.

I found the story to have a rich and capturing narrative, and the book gave me a huge appreciation for animation and the work that animators do, which I really had no idea about before reading this.  It is such an intimate and sad novel, but also totally heart-rendering.

 

All The Light We Cannot See

-Anthony Doerr

This poignant and heartfelt war novel is told from a slightly different perspective than what you normally get from this genre.  Set around World War Two, we follow two different stories, told inter-connectedly alongside each other, from two different sides of the war.  The first is about a young, blind, French girl and her father, who is the keeper of keys at a museum in Paris.  We fall in love with this pair immediately and become very emotionally drawn into their experience of the war in France.  The second story is about a young German orphan boy and his sister, who live in an orphanage in Germany.  The boy ends up in a special, elite, Nazi school, and here Doerr portrays some hideous and revolting events that went on from this side of the war through the eyes of this boy, somehow making it feel even worse.

Although, of course, the life of each child is completely different, and they each experience incredibly different versions of war life, they are also somehow connected and, on reading the book, you feel very much the bond between the two.  Doerr cleverly draws on the innocence and confusing emotions of children from both sides of the battle, making it an exceptionally touching and refreshing read.  I would definitely recommend this book.

 

All Grown Up

-Jami Attenberg

I was really interested to read this book, as I had not seen or heard of anything like it before.  The story focuses on a woman in her middle age, who has chosen not to marry or have children and her struggle to find her own identity in our society that doesn’t yet know how to categorise or view women who choose this direction in their lives.  I found it really brilliant how the story unfolded right within the inner workings of the mind of this woman – it felt like we got a real window into her thoughts and struggles and this made it even more captivating and revealing.

I think a book like this is highly relevant right now, whether you are a woman or a man, a feminist or not – this book makes a point which is something we can all think about.  The ‘old spinster’ view of single women in their 50s and 60s, who don’t have children, just doesn’t apply; it’s old-fashioned and out-dated and reading this book really made an impact on me and how I thought about this issue.

 

Swing Time

-Zadie Smith

This book tackles issues of race, class division, politics and gender stereotypes.  It’s about two girls, growing up on council estates in ‘rough’ London.  They each struggle with the challenges of their social contexts, but find a connection and a ‘place’ for themselves within dance.  For one girl, dance is a way to achieve a form of success, a chance for her to express herself and to be good at something.  For the other, it’s more of an exploration of her ethnicity, all about body shapes and rhythm which intrigue her.

Although I went through several different phases of being really engrossed in the book and not loving it so much, overall I found to be quite a powerful read and I would definitely be interested to check out more work from this author.  I found Smith’s writing style to be very vibrant and colourful, it’s almost effortless reading.

Reading this book has also made me very aware of social issues, particularly focusing on minority groups, which, for some reason, were escaping my reading choices.  I would really like to expand my reading to explore and discover much more in this category, especially any books written by authors from social minority backgrounds, so if you have any recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

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On Turning 26

Not to sound Romantic,

or anything,

But 26 IS a strange age.

One step closer to something

that feels more real each year,

yet much further from those bygone flirtations with worriless, happy days .

 

Is this when I am supposed to start really living?

Things never happen quickly enough!

I can’t find the right words in time,

nor soak up enough knowledge like a sponge.

When I am not moving I feel completely stuck,

but really it’s just that I am standing still.

 

Perhaps, then, I should now start to slow down instead,

I have been told this before;

take your time!

don’t overthink!

don’t care so much!

But HOW, when there is just SO much to do and I am already so far behind?!

 

Forgive me, I am not a poet.

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The Absolute Joy Of Fantastic Colleagues

A few years ago, I attended a talk given by cellist/composer Philip Sheppard, which was titled ‘Advice for Young Musicians’.  He has since condensed this talk into a written article, which I will have linked down at the end of the post if you want to check it out.  In his talk, Sheppard shared many interesting and inspiring thoughts on all things related to being a musician and making yourself a success in this world; he gave tidbits of advice on how to manage your life as a musician and a business, what issues you just don’t need to stress over and what deserves a little more time and care and practical ways to achieve your goals.

As a young student, I was always a little wary of lectures that were obligatory (actually I am still wary of ANYTHING obligatory…!).  But I was totally surprised to discover how refreshing Sheppard was, how relevant and futuristic his advice was to me and my fellow classmates and I am continually surprised at how often I have since referred back to some of the things he said.

There was one point on his list, however, that really stuck out to me: I have never forgotten it and have thought of it on a regular basis.  He said that, as musicians, we should always work with people who are better than we are.  At first I immediately thought, but won’t that give me a never-ending feeling of insecurity, a fear of being constantly inferior to my colleagues and never quite feeling good enough? Actually, though, I think that this piece of advice is genius!

When we work with people that we know are not really as good as we are, we get comfy: there is no need to stretch ourselves, we are already in the top position and we can relax!  Maybe this sounds kind of nice at first, but when you really think about it, how fulfilling can this work ever be?  What is there left to achieve or strive for?  It seems to me that a job working with colleagues that we can’t learn anything from is extremely limited; there will never be room to grow or go anywhere.  And I can definitely say, having been in this position, that life like this gets miserable very quickly!

I have just returned from two weeks of working intensively with my new quartet and I am beyond excited!  If I wasn’t so jet-lagged I think I would have trouble staying still in my seat! I can say, without any doubts whatsoever, that my new colleagues are all definitely very much better than me and I am so inspired!  I have found that I am fast becoming better too, as working with colleagues that are so great at what they do means I have to constantly reach for more within myself, show my best side of myself, be on top of my own game all the time to meet what they offer me and continually try to throw the ball back at them too.  And the result of all this? I feel incredibly happy and content, I feel exhausted after working so hard, I am artistically fulfilled and am inspired to keep going, searching for more.

I have finally understood Sheppard’s point.  Working with colleagues that are better than we are, whatever your field of work, is SO important; for our own work, for our lives, for our emotional souls!  The circle of inspiration breathes very much more deeply when we are looking upwards instead of down.

Exhausted, sweaty but INSPIRED and HAPPY and CONTENT after the first concert with my new quartet!

See Philip Sheppard’s article here!

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Update!

I am really excited to share with you that I have finally moved my blog over to wordpress!  There’s nothing quite like a good old spring clean, and this feels like the mother of all (metaphorical) clean slates.  My life as a musician and blogger finally feels beautifully connected and I can’t wait to get back into my full blogging routine!

On this site, you will find all my usual blog posts in their normal categories, and you will also be able to catch a glimpse of what I’m up to in my musical life; what projects I’ve got going on, concerts coming up, travel plans etc.  Everything else will all stay the same, but do make sure to subscribe and follow me on my social media so you don’t miss out on anything!

For now though, must get back to packing; I’m travelling to Seattle tomorrow for two weeks of Beethoven Quartets and I CAN’T WAIT.

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March: Freya Chooses…

This month has been a very busy and fulfiling one; I have tried lots of new things and experienced many impulses from different areas in my life that I want to include in this month’s Freya Chooses post.  There are, as usual, a few items in the media category, as well as a couple of musical and cultural experiences that touched me, and even some other more personal highlights of the month.  I hope that the things I write about in this series here on my blog can give you a few ideas for things that you might also enjoy, or inspiration for some small ways to improve your daily life.

The Animators
Starting off with a fabulous book that I read this month, The Animators, by Kayla Rae Whitaker, took me on a whirlwind through the lives of two young women in America, finding their paths and their identities in the world.  Both artists, the characters meet in art school, through which they become business partners, and together they create incredible animation movies.  This is a book about art and what it is to be an artist, especially for women in what is a pre-dominantly male field, it’s about family and relationships, sexuality, life in very different parts of the USA and, ultimately, death.  This is a really wonderful read and I totally recommend it for something to help you escape from the real world.



Love
I had to mention this great show which is a Netflix original.  The second season just came out, which is why it is fresh in my mind, but I have enjoyed it all from the beginning.  In my opinion, this show absolutely nails the portrait of a real relationship – and not in the usual ‘fake’ way that you see in TV shows and the movies.  In Love, the characters each have their own worries and issues, it’s often hard to say which one is right and which one is wrong, they make you feel slightly uncomfortable yourself as you watch them fight and they make decisions which reflect real life.  A show like this is so refreshing and different, episodes are a perfect length and you are guaranteed a giggle or two!



Robert Frank Exhibition
Although I had never previously heard of the photographer/film maker Robert Frank, on a recent trip to Salzburg I decided to check out this exhibition at the Rupertinum Museum.  Frank was a native of Switzerland but spent much of his life in the States and Canada.  One of his most famous pieces of work was a book of photos called The Americans, which portrayed real people in their real lives all across America.  I learnt that Frank was a contemporary of Jack Kerouac (definitely enough to get me to the exhibition) and Kerouac actually wrote the introduction to The Americans, in typical Kerouac style.  After reading it and then looking through the book, I was struck by how much the writing matched the photos; it moved and flowed, it revealed secrets and was altogether incredibly inspiring.  I definitely recommend checking out Franks work, especially if you like Kerouac – his photos are amazing and his short films are really interesting too.

Brighton
This month, I got to spend a weekend with my aunt, her partner and my two cousins in Brighton, and I was reminded of how much I love this place.  I don’t know if it was that I was having such a good time with my family, with great food, walks on the beach and the best Bloody Mary I have ever had, or whether the bohemian vibe of the city just got to me as it always does, but I felt so happy and content there.  I also took a visit back to my old school to teach a day of masterclasses to some young violin students, and it felt so good to teach again!  It really reminded me how fulfilling it can be to see the look in a young student’s face, as they begin to realise, through the things that you say, just how many possibilities they have in music-making.  


Beyond Retro
On the subject of Brighton, I had to mention my favourite vintage shop, which I managed to get a chance to pop into on my way to the airport!  I discovered this store a couple of years ago and immediately fell in love with it.  It is a warehouse full of recycled, upcycled, reclaimed vintage clothes and bits and pieces.  I have talked a lot on my blog about how much I love to shop second hand, so Beyond Retro is kind of a dream for me!  Every single piece is unique, there is so much colour, so many styles from every decade, so many prints and fabrics, I could honestly spend hours browsing here.  I picked up a couple of things which I absolutely LOVE and will be featuring in a Vintage Finds #2 blog post coming up soon!  (Check out the first one here.)

Living Room Concert
This month I held the first concert in a new concert series that I have called ‘Living Room Concerts’.  My idea was to take the musicians out of the formal, sometimes inaccessible, concert hall into a place much friendlier and more intimate – i.e. my living room!  I will dedicate a whole blog post to this event as there is much more to say, but the concert was definitely a success and I am already planning the next one!  There was a great atmosphere, great music, beer and conversation and altogether it was a very special evening.  I know that concerts like this are going on everywhere, so I suggest checking if there is something similar near you, as it really is a fun event!



Lindener Berg
I want to talk about a new discovery for me, near to where I live, which is a gorgeous walk around the Lindener Berg, or Linden mountain (Linden is the name of the area of Hannover in which I live).  Just now the bloom is starting to emerge and the spring daffodils and bluebells are absolutely beautiful.  It is so worth taking a walk around this area, and there’s also, in true German style, a cute beer garden too, serving beer, coffees, ice cream, wurst and pommes.  I definitely recommend a visit here if you ever find yourself in Hannover!



Raging Bitch and Maple Smoked Weizenbock
Finally,  I have been introduced to two craft beers this month which are so delicious!  The Raging Bitch is a Belgian IPA and has a hint of orange in the after taste.  The Maple Smoked beer, which comes from Steam Works brewery, has more of a smokey flavour, but is not harsh or too strong.  Both beers are really smooth, tasty and if you like craft beers then definitely check them out.  Watch out though because they have a pretty high alcohol percentage!   



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Neighbours

Throughout the last few years of living in various different apartment buildings, student housing accommodation and flat shares, I have collected quite a few stories about all the different neighbours I have had! When you share buildings with lots of other people, you do come across some very, how shall I put it, individual characters with some unique habits.  In general, I love living in an apartment; I feel safe, I feel a sense of community, I feel like I am someone’s neighbour and I enjoy being part of that.  However, living altogether in the same building does mean that you are forced to be much closer to your neighbours than you would be if you each lived in your own house.  You really get to know people personally, you get a window (sometimes literally) into their intimate lives and I have to say that sometimes this can drive you mad!  In another way, though, it can be very eye-opening; these are people that you would never have met otherwise, they wouldn’t necessarily be your friends or people that you would normally socialise with and so it can be really amazing to get to know these other kinds of lives.  I wanted to share some of my neighbour stories here in a blog post to give an example of just how interesting the world of neighbours can be and I would absolutely love to hear some of your stories in return!

The first story that comes to mind was an experience that I had when I lived in a student accommodation building in Salzburg.  The building, which was absolutely huge with probably around 200 people living there, was full of students of all kinds and of all ages, from young music students to older history students.  In the basenment of the building was the laundry room, where the entire building shared two washing machines and a dryer, each costing about 2 Euros per use.  To save a little bit of money, I never used the dryer – instead, like a lot of other people in the building, I hung up all of my wet clothes on the washing lines, provided in the same room, and went back to collect them a day later when they had dried.  Now, I lived in this building for three years and I never had an issue except for ONE TIME, when I went back to collect my dry clothes from the washing line, only to find that someone had stolen all of my pyjamas!!!  They had left all of my clothes, had only taken my, rather old, red pyjamas covered with dogs!  To this day I am still confused by this – why did they want my old pyjamas so much?!

My next bewildering neighbour experience was when I moved into my own flat in a small building in Germany.  I quickly found out that I had a rather noisy upstairs neighbour, but not in the ways you might think.  I don’t know what it was, but I heard a continuous sound of stomping feet, at all times of the day and night, going around in circles on my ceiling.  I came up with so many theories as to what it could be; first I thought it was a noisy washing machine that moved when it was on, then I thought he must have lots of guests over all the time and that it was several different people walking around.  Then I noticed one day when I bumped into him that he wore these HUGE Dr. Martin style biker boots.  I also never saw anyone else going in or coming out of his flat, so I knew then it must be just him stomping around – and when I mean stomping, I mean heavy, loud bangs all over my ceiling that sometimes even shook my bed!  And this would continue long into the night.  My Dad came to visit me and came up with, what I think, is probably the closest solution – this this neighbour must have had an mental health issue, such as OCD, which forced him to continually walk around his flat, back and fourth, back and fourth.   However, the truth of matter remains a mystery.

The following story only occured quite recently and I have found it incredibly interesting!  I have lived in the flat that I am currently in, with my boyfriend, for the past year and we both started to notice a strange sounding noise, always at the exact same time every morning, at about 8 o’clock.  Now, we live above a little market and a cafe, and we share the backyard of our building with both establishments so there is generally quite a bit of noise, especially in the morning when both places are opening up; there are people using the bins or taking rubbish out, unloading stock and emptying boxes, retrieving things from the store cupboard.  So I always put this strange sound down to that general noise.  However, it became clear that this noise was coming from above, not below, and it was unlike anything else we had heard.  Also, because it started and stopped at a very particular time every single day, we struggled to find out what it was.  It was my boyfriend who finally discovered the answer.  He realised that the noise was a human voice and that the sound was actually an Islamic prayer!  I had never heard this before and, now I know what the sound is, I really do find it amazing!  Now we hear it each morning and it has become a symbol of our day too, like a call to wake up and get out of bed and start our day!  This is definitely one of those times when I love having neighbours and getting to know a lifestyle that I have not come across before.

My final neighbour story (for now, at least) is also about a current upstairs neighbour and this one is quite emotional.  Over the past year, we gathered that a young couple live above us, and it also became clear that they have quite a turbulent relationship.  We have been awoken several times in the middle of the night by screaming and fighting and, on a few occassions, it has got so bad that my boyfriend has been on the point of getting involved.  Then, one day a few months ago, there was a knock on our door and it was the yound girl.  It surprised me to see that she was quite heavily pregnant – I had not ever actually seen her before.  She was extremely nice and wanted to ask me if I could organise my violin practice to be at specific times during the day so that she could plan her rest around it.  She explained that she was has having a difficult pregnancy, that it had been unexpected and that there was going to be a problem with the baby, but they didn’t know exactly what yet.  On top of that, she was only 24, still a student at university and working in a perfume shop in town.  Of course, I felt huge empathy towards her and wanted to help her if I could, and she must have felt that she could trust me because she also started to tell me about her relationship with her boyfriend.  He works in a pizza shop and so she never sees him, and when they do see each other at home they don’t speak – communication completly broke down between them.  Well, I have no real end to this story except that I have not seen her since and, for the first time last week, we heard a baby crying.  

I guess, these stories show that there are just so many different lives going on all around us – everybody has their own shit to deal with, personal battles are being fought all the time  and sometimes it can be a really good thing to step back from our own lives and take a closer look at those around us.   There really is a wealth of variety in how people live and this is such a good thing.   The question is, who really are your neighbours?

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