Justgiving: Matilda Mae Violin Marathon!

So, in just over one month, on 2nd July, I will be embarking on my VIOLIN MARATHON for Matilda Mae, to raise money for The Lullaby Trust and so the time has come to start fundraising and training (i.e. practising in increasing amounts every day) in earnest and write an update on how it’s all going to work.

My donations are at £156 now (thanks in part to a very generous donation from my sister… Thank You Jen!) so I have exactly five weeks to raise another £844 to reach my target of £1k!!! I’m confident I can do it but only if I start plugging, so apologies if you get sick of the sight of me on facebook, twitter and the bloggosphere in the next month or so… The best way to get rid of me is to donate! ;)

The Violin Marathon day is 2nd July which is the day after my birthday so friends and family, please instead of presents and cards this year, consider sending me a donation to help me get £1,000 to The Lullaby Trust: http://www.justgiving.com/cocoazoitei

What I’ll Play:

My plan is to get up early and start around 8am with a scales warm up, when no one’s around. This won’t sound very nice but will set me up for the marathon and is really good for me. Fellow string players will understand if I say I want to play my way through the Carl Flesch book (which will kill a few hours straight off) which will be hell on earth but if I can get through that I’ll feel like I can nail anything you throw at me. Later in the day, I hope that a kind of relay-team of pianist and other musician friends will come over and accompany me in a load of sonatas, concertos and smaller pieces which will make the time pass quicker for me and be more of a concert atmosphere for anyone watching and listening. If I manage to keep going into the night I’m guessing I’ll be alone! but any night-owls are welcome to pull an all-night-chamber-music-fest with me… I’ll keep the wine flowing! ;)

Open House:

The Violin Marathon will be an Open House event, meaning anyone can drop by for a drink and a listen. If you haven’t already donated though I will be asking for a donation at the door and/or you can donate to get me to play your choice of music (no amount too small, so you want to torture me with Paganini at the bargain price of £1? Go right ahead! It all counts.. ;-) ) I will lay on plenty of drinks and nibbles for any audience members.

Live Streaming

I need to live stream the marathon on the internet so that people can check that I really am playing for as long as I say I am and timing my breaks and everything. I’m hoping my sister Jen will be able to help me figure out livestreaming.com or Ustream or one of the other platforms, but if anyone else has knowledge or expertise in this area, please, please give me a buzz on 07966 446152 or contact me on Facebook. I really need some help with this!

Guinness World Record:

The only arrangement which is not working out too well is my hope to turn my marathon into a Guiness World Record attempt. I hoped to make it the first ‘Longest Violin Practice’ but apparently there is already a longest violin-playing record of 32 hours!! I can make an attempt at beating it but their stipulations and terms and conditions are really complicated and would make it quite a different event to the one I’m planning… for a start you can only play things through, not practice, which means not stopping and not repeating anything. That works when you’re playing easy stuff but if I want to work my way through substantial works like Sibelius Concerto and Paganini Caprices. This is not stuff you can play without stopping to work on it, or to rehearse or repeat bars. I suspect the holder of the 32 hour title was not a professional violinist playing the kind of stuff I’m planning, but I need to look into it. I couldn’t do 32 hours I don’t think, following their rules, playing full-on repertoire like I have lined up, I would injure myself. I think they took sleeping breaks, whereas I’m going to stay awake and just play straight though but I plan on allowing longer breaks than the five minutes for each hour completed that Guinness allow for the record.

So now, I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure if I should keep an open mind and line up the official timers and witnesses, rotating every four hours throughout which they stipulate, in case I do manage to keep going that long, if I should try to apply for a different category altogether, like longest house concert or something, or if I should just go ahead with my Violin Marathon my way, the way I want to do it and focus on making it a great event and raising the money. Let’s face it, it’s all about the money! Although attempting a Guinness Record brings attention and is great for raising awareness. I don’t know, I will call them tomorrow and discuss my options.

In the meantime, while I work out all of these details, I have started my practice “training”. Today I rehearsed, played a Classical Babies concert and then practiced for another 90 minutes, totalling about 3 and a half hours of fairly intense playing. I ached a little becuase I haven’t practised in a while, but I could have done much more if I’d had the time (and the boys weren’t climbing all over me!) … so today was my first day of building up muscle and strength and stamina, both physical and mental. Tomorrow I need to play more.

So, that’s where I’m at! PLEASE SPONSOR ME for Matilda Mae, for Jennie and for The Lullaby Trust.. Thank You!!

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Coco xx

Beethoven in Bucharest

I’m in Romania!

Remus played a really wonderful performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto last night with the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra at the Athenaeum Roman in Bucharest. This has to be one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. I love going there and I know Remus loves to play there, it’s also kind of his spiritual home as he performs there every year and it is his home town.


By Roza Zah


I always get so nervous when he plays and have developed this superstitious tic of holding my fingers crossed for the entire performance. I’ve done this since the very first time I saw him play, years ago and since it always goes well I’m just kind of afraid not to do it now in case I wreck his performance! I am not generally a superstitious person, in fact I’m completely scathing of most superstitions (and the Romanians have a lot!) but somehow it feels really wrong to uncross them now so I still do it.

With Remus' parents in the audience

With Remus’ parents in the audience

I don’t know why I get nervous, because I know he can play. He’s pretty much solid as a rock. It’s just that this time I was on the edge of my seat because the Beethoven Concerto is one of those pieces. Every note has to be perfect, if you fall off one the whole thing can come unravelled and it’s also not a piece he’s lived with for long, this was his first big performance of it with orchestra. Also, being a great artist musically-speaking means taking great risks, and while he always seems to pull it off, being a violinist and orchestral player and knowing his playing inside out, I can always notice those moments when he’s about to make a brave decision and really go for something and my heart’s in my mouth waiting to see if it works! It always does so somehow you’d think I’d uncross my fingers and chill, but I just care too much, I can’t! I burn a lot of energy at his concerts just sitting in the audience, sometimes I would rather be on stage. Anyway, he flew me all the way to Romania just to have me there and I guess it’s my job to get sweaty palms and channel lucky vibes at him across the auditorium, so that’s what I did.

And he was wonderful. I was very proud.


Thank you to Roza Zah for the wonderful photos of the concert.

It’s not just a great hall and a great concert but a great orchestra too. I’ve got to know them quite well over the years and they are genuinely one of my favourite orchestras in the world. They have a very particular sound which I think I would recognise anywhere. Their string section has a solid, full and warm, warm sound to it and pretty much describes them as people too… warm and wonderful. I wish they would play in London one day so my colleagues and friends could hear them. In general, I have to say that the standard of orchestral playing in Romania is not up to the levels of other places in Europe, although they have their beautiful traits (and I have my favourites here – including the Brasov Filarmonic and the National Radio Orchestra of Romania who are wonderful). But the Enescu Phil is an exception and I love them with my heart! I have to admit that I’ve only seen them play symphonies, and concertos with Remus so I don’t know if it is that they know him so well or if they are always this way, but they seem so responsive to him and no matter who is wielding the baton or what Remus does, they’re always with him and always making a gorgeous sound. I get prouder of them every time I go to a concert.

Today he performs the concerto again at 19:00 in the same hall and I’ll be more relaxed this time, then we’re going out for some beers with some friends.

But until then, I have no kids here with me (Thank you Nana Pip and Grandad!) and time to sleep, blog, chill and go to my favourite place in Bucharest, the Grande Café Galleron  for a pre-concert drink. So if you need me, I’ll be here:

Lucky me!!!

A link to my MusicPlay posts on Edspire

Last month I was lucky enough to be asked to write two guest posts on my friend Jennie’s blog ‘Edspire’ as part of her #MusicPlay theme. Jennie has a huge readership and has won many awards for her amazing blog so it was a huge honour for me and nerve-wracking to write for a blog where you know people are actually going to see it…!

Here is a link to the first which was about how I started Classical Babies and about music for children in general: Music Play: A must read guest post from Classical Babies

And here is the second which was walking you through what happens at a Classical Babies concert, and talking about why I believe it’s so important to give children access to music and instruments: Music Play: Classical Babies Concerts


Thank you Jennie for the opportunity. I love writing about music for children but usually need a push to do it! ;)

My FB Post about Gabi & Aspergers

Wednesday 2nd April was World Autism Awareness Day and in fact the whole of April is Autism Awareness month. I happened to post something on Facebook that morning about my Gabs and his aspergers and was completely staggered when it went completely nuts, getting over 400 likes on my own page, some 300 on a mum group I shared it on and was shared by nearly 100 people so I have lost count now of how many likes it has on all those pages combined but it must be over a thousand! I was also inundated by private messages all day thanking me for writing it and also contact from other mums of aspies or suspected aspies basically reaching out for some company in this crazy journey that is parenting an aspergers child! or just some advice or pointers to other support resources. 

I was a little bit scared at first, that I had brought so much attention to my Gabi when I just meant to bring attention and awareness to his condition, but then after such an overwhelmingly positive response and so many people saying that it has helped and moved them I realised me and my Gabs were just meant to do this and I’m so happy we’ve helped people by sharing openly who we are. (Anyone who knows me well knows that openness is one of my defining characteristics, admittedly usually manifesting as “chronic over-sharing on facebook”!) and creating greater transparency in the world my driving force. 

Actually, it was weird that day. I am really, really NOT a morning person! I rarely acheive anything productive before 10am and only then if I’ve had my cappuccino. But that day I woke up with a really strong urge to share a certain photo of Gabs and the words I wanted to post were already in my head. So I can’t take the credit, really… I was definitely “guided” to do it one way or the other. Someone up there obviously knew it was needed. But I didn’t know that at the time and was fairly blown away by the response!

So here is my original post from the 2nd April in full so that anyone who is interested can find it easily and come back to it if needed. I realise now that Aspergers is so much more common than we realise and so little talked about and shared that there is a whole community of mums and dads struggling out there who at the very beginning of their journey of suspicions that their child may be somewhere on the autism spectrum, need a gentle way into finding information at their own pace without being overwhelmed. So to that end I will try to use my blog a little more in future for posting stories, links and tidbits of information I’ve found useful with Gabs. Really hope it helps and if anyone wants to get in touch here or on my facebook page then please do! 

My Original Post on Facebook


Today is Autism Awareness Day. This is my boy, Gabriel. He’s four and is quite a long way down the long path of being diagnosed with Aspergers (now officially ASD) or High-functioning autism. He is INCREDIBLY bright. He taught himself to read before he was two years old. He is absolutely obsessed with astronomy, space, planets, stars, chemistry, physics. If you ask him a question he will often reply with a fact about space. He understands the basics of nuclear fusion and likes to tell me what molecules comprise certain chemicals [?!]. He, like other aspies has very linear thinking. He is not able to diverge from one path of thought until it reaches it’s conclusion. This is very frustrating when we are in a rush for school and I want to know what he wants for breakfast but he can’t interrupt listing all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy from smallest to biggest. He needs order and disrupting his order of things causes him to become extremely distressed. He lacks certain motor skills other children his age have. He can’t dress himself or undress very well and gets frustrated to the point of a meltdown, he struggles with riding a bike. His sensory motor issues mean I have to hold his hand in the street when all his friends are allowed to run ahead because he can’t control his movements as well and constantly bumps into people or runs away. Little things upset him that people can’t see or understand, from the noise of a hand drier in a public toilet, to a sudden loud noise or somebody “hurting” him by brushing his arm or hand (aspies can be extremely physically sensitive). He is very literal and can’t understand sayings like “It’s raining cats and dogs”. He gets so cross because clearly cats and dogs are not falling from the sky! He can’t understand body language very well and struggles with empathy although he is the most big hearted, kind boy I know. His face doesn’t accurately reflect his emotions which can be confusing and his voice is quite monotone and clipped, hiding the fact he is acutely vulnerable and sensitive. His brain just is not wired the same way as other people’s and the world is a frustrating and difficult place to live in for him because of this. Aspies are prone to high levels of anxiety and this manifests in lots of ways that might seem strange to you or I but are just their way of coping in a society not designed to be easy for people on the autism spectrum. Fitting in at school has been the biggest challenge of his life. He can’t sit still, he finds being around a lot of people at once overwhelming. Life isn’t easy for him. It hasn’t been easy for me either, to be his mummy. But he’s talented and amazing and I have a deep sense of knowing in my bones that he is going to really BE someone, that his aspergers brain will enable him to contribute some incredible gifts to the world. He is my heart beating outside of my body, my whole world and I will do everything in my power to make his life wonderful. I would die for him. #aspiesareawesome So that’s my Gabi.  April is Autism Awareness Month.
If anyone would like to follow my Pinterest board on Gabs where I have some links to posters and articles and things. It’s just a board about my Gabi though and as they say, “If you’ve met one aspie.. you’ve met one aspie” so it’s not meant as some kind of ‘Guide to Aspergers’. It’s just a personal tale of our experiences and likes! 
Thank You for reading, if you’ve got this far….. April is Autism Awareness month. Please share!

Classical Babies 4th Birthday!

I don’t normally write work-related posts on my personal blog but this seems to be a month of anniversaries and I’m excited about this one! Tomorrow will be four years since the very first Classical Babies concert at the O2 Centre, Finchley Road NW3, so naturally I am celebrating with another concert in similar style at the same location.


There’s this fab group called The Lydian String who often play downstairs at the O2 Centre. If you’re in the area you might have seen them with their green banner and CDs out raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. They are friends of mine from my freelancing days and put on a really great show. There are always crowds of people stopping to watch them and buy a CD or just donate some money. I am really proud to be joining them on the violin to play for our birthday concert. I think what they do is fantastic. If you take a look at their website  you not only get to hear a preview of what they sound like you can also read about their incredible fundraising work: 10% of every gig fee they receive goes straight to the Macmillan charity, as part of a commitment contract to pay them a minimum of £10,000 every year and 66% of the proceeds of their CDs sold also gets donated. They will have CDs for sale tomorrow, if you are coming please bring cash with you! This is a fantastic thing to play around the house to surround your child with music.

It says on their website (which needs updating!) that they have raised in excess of £90,000 for the charity since 2001 but I happen to know that this figure is wildly out of date and they have now raised well over £200,000!!

As well as the wonderful music, we will have the usual coffee, squash for the older children and a big birthday cake and plenty of balloons, plus some further treats. I’ll give every person through the door a number to be entered into the free prize draw which will take place in the middle of the programme, giving away a bottle of bubbly, some concert tickets and smaller prizes! After all, it’s only our birthday once a year! If you’d like to attend, full details are on the website.

I’m very excited with where Classical Babies is heading in it’s fifth year… With a sell-out first concert in Harpenden, our first Hertfordshire venue, plans for a Cambridge series and our first Manchester venue in the works I feel like expansion is the name of the game in ’14-’15! I can’t wait! I also have a re-brand planned with a new logo design coming from the wonderful Ellie Illustrates. I can’t wait for my website and blog to sport this lovely badge!

If you know anyone with small children who would like live concerts in a fun, relaxed setting please show them this page and if you would like to know how Classical Babies started and how I got to this point, read my page on this blog about it! It’s something I’m immensely proud of and passionate about so if it’s something you like the sound of please like me on facebook, follow me on twitter @classicalbabyco and tell all your friends – Thank You! – Coco x


Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

Yesterday was my one year anniversary of starting this blog. I didn’t have time to write anything for it but I marked it in my head. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, for one thing  because I’m not much of a prolific blogger and for one, more important reason:

This blog was born from a tragedy. I started it inspired by a blossoming friendship with a wonderful woman Jennie Edspire after the tragic loss of her beautiful 9 month old baby Matilda Mae to SIDS.


So the fact this blog is one year old means it is also just over one year that Matilda Mae has been gone, and that is something to honour and commemorate, yes, but not to celebrate.

However, I love my blog. It’s only just beginning and I’m sure I’ll use it more and more over the coming years, but it has enriched my life and makes me happy, so honour it I will! It’s also just one of many new blogs to be inspired by Baby Tilda and her Mummy and one tiny speck in the amazing legacy she’s left. So to honour my one year blogging birthday, I would ask you all to do just one small thing:

Think of Tilda
Donate £1
Just text
MMAE92£1 to 70070

Doing this will raise money for the Lullaby Trust in her memory.

Thank you x


Messy Play for Matilda Mae: Paper-maché Planets

We did this activity back in January but I never got round to blogging it and this week being such an important one where I attended the Matilda Mae Remembers Service, and we marked the one year anniversary of her funeral it seems like a nice time to do it.

This whole thing was Gabs’ idea. Producing tens of thousands of 2D pictures of planets was no longer satisfying him and he really, really wanted to make a 3D version somehow. Now I am incredibly lazy and tend not to plan ahead so we didn’t really do this quite as perfectly as we might have, with little balloons inside to make them perfectly rounded, but it was still a major undertaking (it took us two days!) and Gabs was really able to do everything himself so it was a good option for us. I’m sure we will improve on it and make another Solar System as we hone our technique!

Day 1: Inner Solar System

So basically, we picked up a mountain of Metro newspapers from the tube station and ripped them into roughly two-inch wide strips (Gabs wasn’t interested in this bit, or coordinated enough, so I did it and piled them in a bowl for him to take) and then mixed flour and water in a bowl to make a sticky paste. I followed some online recipe, I can’t remember the quantities and anyway I found it too runny and added a lot more flour so it’s irrelevant… :)

We started with the Sun, and scrunched up a load of newspaper in a ball (which is why our spheres didn’t come out too round! But it was easier for Gabs and he loved it) and then started laying the paste-soaked strips across it in layers.

Once we’d added some smaller inner planets, we put them in the oven on a low heat to speed up the drying process (we don’t have an airing cupboard and were impatient to start painting!) I should point out at this point that even though we used non-toxic paints it still makes the oven stink so you need to allow time to clean and burn off the smell before cooking in it after.

Then once the Sun was fully dried Gabs mixed the right paint colour (a mix of gold, yellow, orange and red paints) – something he took fastidious pride in! It took several coats of thick paint and we had to partially dry each one and then paint the bottom and put it back in the oven upside down to cover the whole of the sphere. It worked better with some of them to roll the whole planet around inside the bowl of paint to get it really well covered.

Gabs painted green land-masses onto the already dry blue oceans of Earth and once they were all dried we called it a night as we were exhausted! This worked out pretty well because Gabs was delighted by the results of his Sun and Inner Planets and it gave him something to look forward to the next day.

Day 2: Outer Solar System

The next day was more challenging because we had the planets with rings to deal with and more complex colours. We started the same way as before with the newspaper balls and paste. Our scale wasn’t very accurate, that’s something we’d like to improve on next time but it would have meant having an absolutely enormous Sun or teeny tiny inner planets to leave ourselves room for the right comparitive sizes of the bigger planets so we just approximated as best we could this time.

We had a lot more paint mixing to do for the more unusual shades of the gas giants and lots of layering to do for the cloud formations on Jupiter. First we painted it brown, then dried it and painted the rings of circling orange clouds, dried that.. then a splodge of red for the Great Red Spot and silver (we didn’t have white) on the top and bottom for the polar clouds.

We made the rings by cutting them out of purple cardboard and colouring with felt-tip pens. Saturn’s are much wider than Uranus’ and go round the middle rather than top to bottom which was much easier to fix on but somehow we made them just the right size to stick around the middle.

Did you know there is a storm on the North Pole of Saturn which is naturally shaped like a perfect hexagon?! Gabi told me this and I didn’t believe him at first until I checked it out myself but it’s true. One of the great wonders of the Universe!

Gabs tried very hard to paint it on but it went a bit splodgy. Another thing to aim for in our next one. So here they are, our finished planets, the whole Solar System including a little moon to go around Earth. The big gap Gabs left between Mars and Jupiter is for the asteroid belt… I have no idea how we’re going to make that!

As you can see our round paper-maché dried a lot less round and then the paint coagulated in clumps making some of them reeeally bumpy. Let’s be honest they are the funniest looking planets you’ve ever seen, right?! But Gabs LOVED them… he felt so proud because he considers that he made them almost all by himself, and they have been played and played with for weeks… They are great for playing at making the planets orbit around the Sun and the moon orbiting the Earth and they’re so hard and durable they are hard to break, although we keep losing the little ones around the house.

This was a great project for us, we had great fun and Gabs was in absolute heaven. He really felt special that Mummy had gone to all the trouble of this two day project to make him happy, making me feel like the best Mummy in the World. :) It’s messy and time consuming but also pretty easy… I highly recommend it! If you have any tips on making an even more accurate one, maybe with balloons and any ideas for the asteroid belt, please write below! And look out for our next 3D Universe project…


Alcohol Free ’till February – Update!

If you read my previous post, Alcohol-free Until February you’ll know that on 1st January I stopped drinking alcohol completely, for a variety of reasons, and committed to being alcohol-free for two months.

Well, I sort of did it, and I sort of didn’t…

I did 48 days straight (excepting that bit of champagne at Jen’s 40th as planned on 4th Jan – but even counting that, 44 days straight!) and I have to say it had gone really, really well. The first two days I really felt deprived but the beginning is easy enough, then every few days I’d get a huge craving and feel grumpy knowing I couldn’t have any but also completely proud to ignore that feeling and plough through. Right from the start I felt better, slept better, looked better. So far so good! Around the end of the month, when all the Dry January folks were looking forward to their first drink and celebrating their successes I was struggling. It felt like I’d done such a long time and still had as long to go again. Part of me wished I hadn’t set myself two months instead of one… But then the better part of me realised that the fact I felt that way meant this thing hadn’t done it’s job yet – this body-mind reset hadn’t been completed and I knew that the second month was there for a reason. Psychologists say it takes 28 days (or is it 21? – I can’t remember, and anyway it’s probably a myth!) to break a habit or set a new one as your new default. But I really felt that, for as many days as I’d found it easy not to drink there were as many again where, without my commitment, I’d have definitely poured myself a drink not out of choice but need, and as long as that programming was still there I was going to carry on… so I ploughed on into February!

A couple of weeks in, a noticeable shift happened. I found myself looking forward to my non-alcoholic sparkly wine and imagined choosing it over a bottle of red once the time was up. Most days I just didn’t think about it at all. I often considered whether I would have a drink if I was free to and gradually, more and more often simply didn’t feel like it! I really, really felt – and feel – that the reset has happened. I really, really like not drinking! I feel better, healthier, and un-beholdened to it.

So with that in mind, when Gabs started getting really tired towards half-term, struggling with school and asking, sometimes in a desperate tone of voice, could we please, please go to Nana Pip and Grandad’s house in Cornwall, I started to feel like I needed a new plan. We were all exhausted and Gabs and I especially really needed a good holiday! But even with my Driving Phobia a little more under control from the daily school-run, driving 270 miles with two kids in the back all by myself wasn’t really my first choice… until the flooding and storms in Cornwall washed the trainline into the sea:


My Gabs needed this trip so badly, there was nothing for it but to grab myself by the metaphorical balls and get behind the wheel, so off we went. It wasn’t too bad at all, took us five and a half hours with one stop and the boys were unbelievably angelic. I felt so flippin’ proud of myself you’ve got no idea!! This was a big deal for me, coming from a place of having panic attacks before driving a few metres down the road in a straight line, to driving myself and my children all the way to Cornwall, calmly and well.. even enjoying the ride! So I’ll be damned, I was gonna enjoy my half-term to the full once I got there! I also don’t think we’ll get down there for another break until the Summer, something I hadn’t forseen back in December. So I wanted to relax and have the nicest time I could… including a glass of red wine with my chilli-con-carne!

So, I had a glass of wine with dinner each day I was there. Well, actually the first day I could only have two sips and got a headache so my Dad drank it. The next day, half a glass of white. The next, a proper glass of red which I drank, and the last day a pint of guinness with my fish and chips :) The trade off is, I went back on my fast when I got home to London and I’m now doing an extra week into March, finishing on the 8th.

Am I excited about finishing and going back to total freedom to drink what I like? No, not really. I found, predictably, that first glass of wine a massive anti-climax and am actually so glad I didn’t wait it out until the 1st March so, so looking forward to it and then being disappointed. Wine is still my choice of treat over cake, chocolate or whatever… really I couldn’t care less about sweets, although I’ve tried to enjoy them this last two months as they’re pretty much all I’ve had left! But even with alcohol now, I can take it or leave it, and I’m pleased to note that coming off my week of drinking back into the so-called fast (which doesn’t feel like a fast anymore, but just normal) was beyond easy… no, a pleasure. It’s actually nicer not to drink. So why did I drink over half-term at all? I almost didn’t. It nearly went the other way, I spent an hour thinking about it feeling that it made sense to but I felt too irritated to let myself, since I’d said I’d do it! At which point, I realised it’s bloody stupid to do something out of pig-headedness when it no longer holds true for you and you’re only worrying about what other people will think.

Because I wanted to! Because I can. Because I’m an adult who should have the self-control to choose and not have anything hold power over me either in the love or the resistance of it.

So as 8th March approaches and I look back at what I’ve achieved so far this year, I can happily say I kicked two things in the nuts: My driving phobia, and my need to reward myself with a nice drink. Both lost their power over me. So welcome, properly welcome now, to 2014 which can really truly start for me afresh and the new, more Balanced Me :)

2013 Review

I remember the 1st January 2013 very well because I spent a lovely, happy day with my boys watching DVDs at home and out in the park in the mild sunshine and I thought at the time it bode well for a good year ahead… which for the most part it was, despite tiredness, some sadness and plenty of challenges. Here’s a quick look back at the highlights of life at Casa Azoitei through my eyes…


Gabs had been given planets and planet decals and a globe for Christmas and from the moment they went up in his room, his Space/Astronomy obsession ramped up a notch and hasn’t come down since. The boys played a lot of violin and we had a lot of snow:

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On 2nd February, my heart stopped when I read that a fellow blogger’s baby had died of SIDS. The blogging community rallied around her and somehow Matilda Mae’s brave mummy Jennie and I became friends and supporting The Lullaby Trust in Matilda’s memory became a new passion. My obsession with work, and indeed anything else fell away and all I cared for the whole month was spending quality time with my two beautiful boys and counting my very many blessings every day. We spent most of the month in the park, on the swings and painting…

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My March started super-well with two nights in Paris with Remus where we got snowed in and did zero sightseeing but had a wonderful time. I worked as a violinist a bit mostly with BBCCO, did a concert in memory of Matilda Mae for Mother’s Day and raised £200 for her Bliss Charity Precious Star Fund and Classical Babies turned 3 years old. Remus found out he was to be decorated Officer of the Order of the Royal Crown (a kind of Romanian MBE) by King Mihai of Romania! But mostly my theme of amazing time with my boys continued, the firsts signs of Spring appeared and Lucian’s terrible twos kicked in.

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I spent a week in Cornwall at my parents’ with the boys having fresh air, R&R and some amazing Reiki sessions which put paid to my cluster migraines. April continued trickily for us, with a major errm, I shall call it ‘misunderstanding’ (!) with a family member in Romania whose privacy I’ll respect because it’s not necessary to name them and anyway, said relationship looks to be going forward positively in 2014. But it happened to occur just before we left for a family trip to Bucharest and caused stress and sadness for all of us, not just at the time but subtley in the background for the rest of the year. However, we did have incredible weather over there, the boys had a brilliant time bonding with their cousins and Remus played some great concerts. In the end a trip I had to literally force myself to take ended up being pretty great! This was also the month Remus played an amazing Lalo ‘Symphonie Espagnole’ with the George Enescu Philharmonic and was decorated by the King.

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On 2nd May I drove down to Kent to meet Jennie, Matilda Mae’s mummy for the first time at the Matilda Mae Mile in Memory Walk and I played and took little violins. Lucian and I reached an emotional end to our breastfeeding journey when he had his last ever feed the day he turned two years old, 18th May. He also had a wonderful Winnie the Pooh party and got a scooter. Generally the combination of his terrible twos and Gabs’ above average naughtiness just about gave me a nervous breakdown for most of the month, yet somehow we still had a wonderful month.

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Nothing much happened in June. We took a lot of sunny walks around my favourite streets in our lovely neighbourhood and enjoyed what we didn’t yet know would be our last month there. We all stayed up late to watch the Super Moon. Gabs enjoyed his last month at the nursery he loved. June was sun, playgrounds, ice creams, lollies and Regent’s Park. The boys ran, and ran. It was just perfect.

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July was just NUTSO. The 1st was my birthday. Remus was away but hid my new violin case in the wardrobe, I had my last acting class before  a 6 month break and did this scene from ‘The Graduate’. The 3rd was Gabi’s last ever day at nursery and the day we found out we had to move. The 4th was our Gabi’s 4th birthday, his first morning at primary school and the day we found our new house! We threw Gabi a kick-ass Space Party, went for a holiday in Cornwall with my parents – got detoured to N. Ireland when my Grannie died, then back to Cornwall. Remus and I spent our 5th wedding anniversary apart while he packed up our entire flat in London and I holidayed with the boys on a Cornish beach. I was attuned to Reiki Level I, by an old family friend in the village before travelling home. I took the boys and the violins down to Jennie’s for the twins’ Gruffalo Party and also played at the BBC Proms in the Concert Orchestra. Crazy, crazy month.

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August. Moving month. Emotional upheaval. Endings. Gabi’s nursery ‘graduation’ on the day we moved. We explored our new home and garden, Childs Hill and Golders Hill Parks and Gabs and I had a series of “Mummy & Gabi Days” before him starting Holy Trinity Primary in September. I pretty much “love-bombed” him (as I later found out it’s called!) and loved every minute of it. I also played a second Prom with the BBCCO.

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There’s only one event that stands out for me in September and that’s Gabriel starting school. He was so, SO excited and really loved it. Because of his Aspergers traits we started to have more and more trouble with him as more and more children joined the class until it was full (they stagger the start dates with the youngest first) and he got overwhelmed. It took him a long time to settle but the school were fantastic and proactive about getting him assessed and on the special needs register. The month was full of meetings, form-filling and ‘incidents’ but somehow his enthusiasm hasn’t waned. We threw Remus a 42nd birthday party with the biggest violin-cake you’ve ever seen! and I played solo in the Vivaldi A minor double concerto at St. Martin-in-the-Fields with Remus in the audience watching me for a change!

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With Gabs at school I started enjoying some time alone with Lucian which I hadn’t really had… ever! He’s a cheeky little monkey when he’s out of Gabi’s shadow. I was out a lot playing with the BBCCO and working incredibly hard for Classical Babies. The excitement of the month was two days in Reykjavik with Remus seeing his recital and one of my bestest old friends Silla, who I miss so much. I love Iceland, we will go back soon. We celebrated Halloween.. some of us enjoying it more than others. ;)

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The 1st was the end of half-term and I took Gabs to Tower Bridge. It was a wet but wonderful day. We got soaked but he absolutely loved it. 2nd November was a special day. I went with the boys and some wonderful friends who agreed to play in a quartet with me at the Matilda Mae Welly Walk at Beale Park in Reading, to honour 9 months since Tilda died and to raise money for The Lullaby Trust. It was a truly fantastic day. We filled most other weekends with trips to our local park and messy play like Leaf Rubbing, painting and playing in the garden. On 28th Nadine and I went, as Classical Babies to the Theo Paphitis #SBS Winners’ Event in Birmingham and met the man himself!

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My first school nativity! Gabriel was an angel – “double irony” as Mrs Pillay and I both said … Oh how we laughed!! Despite his struggles to blend in to the class this term, he sat nicely, did all the actions and sang all the songs. I was most proud. I bravely took both boys to the school Christmas Disco and started to really feel part of the school community and felt truly at home and settled in our house for the first time all year. We got a kick-ass Christmas tree and posted a stupid number of photos of it on facebook and ate a hell of a lot of sweets. The Classical Babies Christmas Concert and Party 2013 was a great success with 56 people turning up with kids attached (that’s over a hundred bodies in the room!) … coincidentally the same number of times we watched ‘The Snowman and Snowdog’ on repeat. We had an amazingly quiet and happy Christmas at home just the four of us and I nailed Christmas Dinner. Yeaaahhh! What a fabulous end to the year.

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Happy New Year 2014!