Messy Play for Matilda Mae!

I was so pleased when Jennie announced her new Saturday linky:


It just fits so beautifully with what I feel the biggest impact of Matilda Mae’s little life has been for me. I wrote in Waltzes and Lullabies about how little Matilda’s love of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ had brought lullabies and singing back into my and my son’s life within the first days after she passed but that really was the least of her little gifts to me and my family in terms of her legacy. The following Saturday, really struggling with a confusing but undeniable grieving stage for someone I never met and unable to even think about working, feeling that the only things which matter in life at all are my boys, I shut the laptop and took Gabs (3) and Luci (1) in the double buggy to Regents Park. We looked at the ducks, enjoyed the sunshine and each other’s company, played in the playground and had treats in the café and returned home feeling like a brand new perspective had been born and all my previous priorities were turned on their head. My instincts that this was not a passing phase are gradually proving true, as every Saturday since, come rain or shine has been My Boys’ Day. For those of you who have more traditional job roles and working hours, that one weekend day might not sound much, but for a freelance musician and small business owner, used to working random hours, most weekends and grabbing any chance to catch up on emails whenever the boys are occupied with anything else for more than two minutes together, it goes against all my instincts and habits.

And yet, it’s made me so much happier.

In fact, I’d say it’s given me a taste of what I’m missing all the other times when I stick them in front of a DVD to get work done or leave them with a babysitter to run or play a concert, or when they’re at nursery. It’s made me keener to spend even more time focusing only on them and to use my time with them more creatively.

So no working, no laptop, no cruising facebook on my phone, unless it’s to post a couple of photos of what we’re up to…

Of course I have Tilda and Jennie to thank for that! So since February our Saturdays already consisted of playgrounds, parks, soft-play, bubbles, painting and café-treats. Now, it will sometimes consist of some more creative, imaginative, messy stuff too… something a little outside the box!

[Haha… I just took a break from writing this to bath the boys and while I was putting his pjs on, Gabs said to me, “We should get some water balloons.” Sounds like someone else has plenty of messy play ideas of their own. Next week: water balloons it is!]

Now I must admit that this week we weren’t particularly creative or even that messy in our play. I’d been cleaning up vomit for the past two days as the boys had a sick-bug and wasn’t much in the mood for more cleaning and Lucian was still a bit poorly and not up for much playing. But I was thinking of Matilda Mae all day long and had selected some starry stickers and glittery paint with her in mind and some Peppa Pig stickers for Lucian who is currently obsessed. So I thought I would post about the not very messy, low-key art work we did in the afternoon. We chose Mozart’s original ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ Variations on piano followed by the Gigglebellies for our soundtrack, and of course Mummy had her glass of wine 🙂 Here’s how we got on:

Next week, water balloons!!!


Waltzes and Lullabies

lullaby-trust-badge-150x150 Today, the FSID (Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths) changed its name to The Lullaby Trust, a move of which, as a musician and provider of music for babies, I can’t help but approve. The newly named Trust does vital work raising money for research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and provides bereavement support for those affected by infant death. This is a cause very dear to my heart as my wonderful, brave, inspirational blogger friend Jennie found her beautiful baby daughter Tilda dead (of SIDS) in her cot on 2nd February, the day she had turned 9 months old. Since that day this amazing lady, while grieving has thrown herself into organising blogs to raise awareness and events to raise money in Matilda Mae’s memory, trying to make sure this devastating thing happens to as few parents in the future as possible. It was her inspired idea for us all to blog on a Lullaby theme to raise awareness of this wonderful organisation and their new branding. Here is mine, written with love:

You would think, being the owner of a small business running concerts for babies (Classical Babies) and mum to two small boys, that lullabies would be prevalent in my day to day life. But the truth is, until recently I had rarely sung lullabies, or played them at my concerts, for a couple of reasons:

One is the sad truth that my life, personal and professional is already just so full-to-bursting with other types of musical form – from television theme tunes to the Sibelius violin concerto I hear my husband practising every day, to my mobile ring tone or whatever I’ve been rehearsing or recording with whichever orchestra I’m working with that day – that I just forget! Another reason is that I have babies and toddlers of varying ages at my concerts and while we’re all trained to associate music for little ones with lullabies and nursery rhymes, my experience has been that the music that best draws their attention and delights all ages the most, is something a little livelier, something with a regular, rhythmic beat which they can really feel with their little bodies and dance, move or twirl to! Something more like this:

Or this:

The closest thing I really got to a lullaby in my house was this, gorgeous slow movement of Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos. I used to put it on repeat when both my boys were tiny babies and napping on a soft blanket on the floor while I put my feet up with a mug of tea. If you’re not sure you’ll like it, listen from 7:00 mins in to the end.

But really, lullabies had been notably absent from my home, which is strange for a musician and stranger for a mother.

Then, in the days after Tilda’s death, remembering something Jennie had tweeted about how Matilda had loved ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ (incidentally, always my favourite as a child too) I suddenly had an impulse to sing it to my little 20 month old Lucian after his bath. His face broke into a HUGE beaming smile, and I realised with a pang of shock and guilt that I didn’t remember ever singing it to him, at least not in the last year, and he loved it. How was this possible?! I had sung it to Gabs, my three year old many times but somehow, with a second child and so much other music in my head, I had failed to pass on that most basic of mothering legacies to my gorgeous, dimpled boy! Now, of course, I sing it all the time and he knows most of the actions and points up to the sky when I sing “way up hiiiigh!” and giggles. That day after the bath, the first day, after beaming at me for singing it to him and with so much love in his little eyes, he opened his mouth and said his first string of three words: “Dinkle, Dinkle Daaar!” and looked proud as punch with himself.

All because of Matilda Mae.

By the way, Matilda, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle” is Lucian’s clear favourite, just like it was yours and is mine. Thank you for that.

And I love it all the more because it was originally written by the composer closest to my heart, Mozart and later set to 19th century English lyrics. Here is Mozart’s original version:

Mozart ‘Ah je vous dirais maman’

So from that day, and now even more so from researching this post, I’ve rediscovered lullabies and remembered that there’s something so powerful and transformative about them in all their forms, whether in the original classical forms or played by a music box, with their original lyrics or one -off, silly ones, improvised by a mother bending over a changing mat to make her baby smile, lullabies have such an important place in a baby’s life and I’m so happy I brought them back into mine.

This non-classical version of Brahms’ Lullaby (written originally in German) is really simple and sweet. Something about the woman’s natural, untrained voice and the English lyrics makes me think of my Mum and sweeps me off into memories of my very early childhood. It’s like a balm to my soul. I love it!

For my last choice of music, and to tie all the threads of this post together, this piece by Brahms is really a Waltz but feels just like a Lullaby. It’s so peaceful, restful, innocent and pure.

Baby Tilda, this is for you. Sleep peacefully, darling.



Coffee Art in Cornwall

One of my favourite things about holidays at my parents’ in Cornwall is the ritual of one my Dad’s coffees. Nobody makes a cappuccino like my Dad. He has his own coffee grinder, experiments with different beans etc. and really takes his time over each one. He’d never be able to run a coffee shop at that pace, but that’s what makes each cup special! He’s totally Zen about it.

The best thing about his coffees, apart from the taste – and the fact I get to drink each one after a lie-in, with my feet up on the sun-trap balcony looking out to the hills and the sea – is wondering what coffee art I’m going to get. Sometimes it’s a picture, sometimes my name, a nickname or an in-joke. Here are a few below:

Gorran Haven, Cornwall

I’ve come down to Cornwall for the week while my husband Remus is on tour in Romania (playing Lalo ‘Symphonie Espagnole’ with the George Enescu Philharmonic in Bucharest, if anyone’s interested!). My parents live down here, in the house my late grandparents moved into when I was just 4 years old.

This is a retreat for me. I’m not sure I cared for it that much as a child, other than to play on the beach once a year, but now I find myself coming down more and more often, for longer and longer. I love it and now my grandparents are no longer here I love it even more because it’s not only beautiful but a part of my history. My parents moved a few times, from Netley where I grew up, to Rhu in Scotland where I finished school and so I always felt I didn’t have somewhere to go “home” to in the holidays – every time I visited they were in a different house or flat. So this place is the only one with links to my childhood and now they have taken on the house and are gradually working on it and making it an even nicer place to be, I feel really lucky to have it to come and get away from the noise and traffic of the Finchley Road.

The boys love it too. We are a five minute walk from a beautiful beach with soft, yellow sand and shallow water (albeit down a very steep hill with cobbled fisherman’s cottages on either side, which you have to heff back up again on the way home). There’s something very special about the first time you see your children playing on the same spot of the same beach you first did aged five. There’s a comforting endurance about it that anchors you in a fast-paced, ever-changing modern life. It’s calm, peaceful, everything my normal life isn’t and a few lungfuls of the powerfully clean air knocks me out for a great night’s sleep. Cornwall also has something really special about its light. I don’t know what it is, but I can spot in one split second a photo taken down here from the way it’s lit and I’m always taking thousands of photos (even more than usual) in an attempt to catch every shade of the ever changing skies. So it seems I have a growing love affair with this place! I hope we’ll be coming here for many, many years.