Plans, plans, exciting plans…

I have so many creative things going round and round in my brain at the moment, I thought I’d write them all down, lest I forget to do one of them and in case it helps with planning…

First up, a Classical Babies ‘Winnie the Pooh’ Quartet Picnic!

I had such a good time planning Lucian’s 2nd Birthday Pooh-themed party and have so many props and things left over, it occurred to me on the day that I should transfer it all over to a Classical Babies concert! I want to have all the songs from the Winnie-the-Pooh DVD arranged for string quartet (I know someone who could do this amazingly, but it will be expensive so I may try to do some of them myself) and book my usual musician friends to play in the quartet with me. Then everyone can bring picnic blankets and I have some honey pots filled with treats and a picnic basket with bees buzzing out of it! I just can’t decide when to do it. Maybe the last concert of the Summer Season, in July. My themed special party concerts always have a great turn out but we’re a bit short on festivals, birthdays and special occasions this term so I need an excuse to roll out the prosecco again…

 

Next up, some more fundraising for The Lullaby Trust in memory of little Matilda Mae. Someone is running the Brighton marathon in her memory for her lovely mum Jennie (she of the Edspire blog) and Jennie asked if anyone would like to run too? I thought,

“Errrrm, noooooo!! I would not!”

But it got me thinking about a different kind of marathon that I could do, since my fingers are a darn sight fitter than my legs:

A Violin Marathon for Matilda Mae

Basically, I would get people to sponsor me to see how long I can play/practise the violin for continuously! I think, feasibly something like eight or nine hours might be the max without damaging my neck or wrist or muscles in my arms but I really I’m aiming for more than that if I can find a way to protect myself by having massage breaks, my physio mum on hand to deal with any aches and pains and regular loo breaks of five or ten minutes built into the rules! If, in my wildest dreams I managed to keep going for twelve hours or more I’m wondering what to do about noise through the night, whether it would be allowed to stop to sleep, or if I should lose a night and keep on going! But physically I’m not likely to last that long. Violin-playing pretty much does to your arms what running does to your legs and so you can imagine the effects after several hours. I’m also not working as much as a freelance violinist as I was pre-kids so I’m not in the same kind of shape as before where I could play six hours a day no problem. I will have to practise myself-in for a couple of weeks before, an hour, two hours adding more time every day – but this is great! It’s about time I got myself back into proper shape as a violinist and maybe did some auditions for other London orchestras (I work regularly with BBC Concert Orchestra – with whom I used to have a full time job – and the City of London Sinfonia who offered me my first regular paid work out of college several years ago, but never approached the others and I really should!) So, as well as raising money for a great cause I stand to gain from this too… It’s a win, win idea!!

The other question is, where should I do it? I need someone to look after my boys for the day or more it will take, so ideally my parents’ place in Cornwall where I will be this summer, since I need my mum on hand for physio anyway. But you need a LOT of sheet music to fill several hours and the big, full music cupboard I need access to is in our flat in London, which my husband also needs for his teaching, so I can’t even transport the lot of it down with me. I could play through the night in Cornwall without upsetting people, but in London possibly not, unless I persuade the neighbours and then I would keep the boys up… Though I could play with a practise mute to dampen the sound.

Then the question of who will verify that I keep playing… Will it be done on trust? Should I operate an open house system where people can come and listen whenever they like to see how I’m doing and grab a glass of wine and watch for a while, or maybe live-stream it on the internet (I have no idea how to do that by the way, but maybe someone can help me?) so people can log on to see if I’m still playing and time my breaks and anyone who’s curious as to what I’m playing for all those hours can have a listen! Questions, questions…. I’m really excited by the idea anyway, and any offers of help with setting up a sponsorship page, or a live-stream would be much appreciated!

Practising in front of the tennis at Wimbledon-time last year!

Practising in front of the tennis at Wimbledon-time last year!

 

I’m also planning Gabriel’s fourth birthday on the 4th July and a Planets Party for my astronomy-obsessed boy! I won’t waffle on about it here, but let my pinterest board do the talking. We promised to get him his first real bicycle with stabilisers, but now I’m wondering how smart that was as we just got Lucian a micro scooter so he can scoot with his brother and there’s really nowhere much he can safely ride around here. However, a promise is a promise, I just hope the scooter doesn’t get forgotten about. Too many vehicles in this house!

Then there’s my Reiki-attunement plans in the Summer, down in Cornwall and my plan to do a Classical Babies concert there in Gorran Haven, and new venues to find in Harpenden and elsewhere and my acting class I haven’t told you all about yet (I’m working on a Blanche Dubois monologue from A Streetcar Named Desire at the moment and have to do it in costume at Monday night’s class… I’ll keep you all posted another time!) So many plans and ideas in my brain and I didn’t tell you the half of them, but how useful this blog suddenly seems, to pin them all down and firm up my ideas. Feedback on all is welcome! Thank you… Coco xx

Auction in Memory of Matilda Mae

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If you didn’t bid on my Classical Babies tickets, too late! They’ve gone! But there are still lots of really gorgeous things to snap up at a bargain price and all for a fabulous cause, raising money for The Lullaby Trust in memory of a very special little baby girl, gone too soon, Matilda Mae. Jennie has inspired a lot of admiration and love in the wake of her loss over the last few months, and the quality of items in the auction is testament to this! I’m a softie, and prone to purchasing things in the name of a good cause that I later think, “Errr, what…?” about after, but this auction is different. Mini micro-scooters, incredibly beautifully-handmade mobile hangings, family photography shoots worth £100’s are all here to buy. Some things are now at full-price (that’s how much people want them and how much we love where our money’s going!) and some things are going for less than they go at retail, thanks to someone’s generosity in donating something extremely valuable which we normally mightn’t afford…. but every penny goes to an amazing charity in memory of a superb, luminous, very-much-missed little girl, Tilda. This might be the best auction ever!! It’s the last few days now, but there are still some fabulous things to be found HERE. Bid, bid, bid!!!

Mile in Memory of Matilda Mae Walk

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If you read my previous post you’ll know that I managed to overcome my fear of driving in time to make it down to Kent for a very special event, the Mile in Memory of Matilda Mae walk. What a beautiful, beautiful day lay before us, in memory of the best of little girls, Matilda Mae who was found in her cot, lost to SIDS on her nine-month birthday, 2nd February this year. We were there to walk for Matilda Mae, for her amazing blogger mummy Jennie (Edspire – read her heartbreaking but beautiful and inspirational blog here), for her twin big-siblings Esther and William, for her Daddy David, and all of this organised in perfect detail by Jennie, to raise money for the fantastic Lullaby Trust (formerly FSID) to help continue their vital work.

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Beautiful Matilda Mae

(Thank you to Helen from Schryver Photography for letting me download her fantastic photos of the day to use here and on facebook. They do so much better justice to the day than mine, although I’ll post a few of mine at the end just for posterity!)

Of all the things I might have been nervous about that day (driving, playing, controlling two tear-away boys with a violin on my back!) the one thing I wasn’t nervous about was meeting Jennie. I was going to meet a woman I tweeted for the very first time the night she lost her baby, after three months of tweets, emails and blog posts… face to face. I suppose I should have been nervous. But I wasn’t. I was excited. Emotional, but excited. And I worried that that was inappropriate, to be so excited to meet someone I know for such a sad reason…

But then I saw her. In bright purple with a floating silver star balloon above her head, a smile on her face and deep brown, deeply sad eyes. Shockingly brown! So that’s where Tilda got them from, I thought as I gave her a squeezy hug, and I knew I was right to be excited, because the longer I know her the more convinced I am we were meant to meet somehow. Anyway, my detours and extra goes around the roundabouts meant I missed the breakfast where I had been meant to first meet Jennie, so a quick hug was all we had time for but I grabbed a quick bacon buttie and the much appreciated free coffee and headed off to the big marquee. I marvelled at the beautiful set up, with hay-bales, balloons, flowers and starting ribbon. Nothing seemed to have been forgotten and the whole thing was perfectly organised from start to finish, with Jennie’s trademark stamp on it. I was disappointed that Gabs flatly refused to enter into the tent as I’d hoped Lucian could join in with the Funtrain class that was going on inside, with puppets, singing and bubbles. But Gabs, despite being a full-on active, slightly bolshy character can be surprisingly wary of new places and groups of large people so instead we ran around outside and went to see the pigs. (23 mth old Lucian mastered a very convincing new snorting noise.)

Bang on 11am we all gathered at the starting post and Jennie cut the ribbon, with David and the twins looking on and we were off, walking for Matilda Mae and The Lullaby Trust.

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It seemed to me that the mood was lighthearted but poignant. People were having fun and enjoying the beautiful route but there was a quiet air, so I knew we were all thinking of Tilda and wondering if she was around us, in the air, in the bluebells, in the sunlight streaking through the gaps in the trees. Her presence was palpable and at times I felt out of place having to yell at Gabs to stop escaping and ploughing ahead through the crowd. (He’s a fully-fledged Houdini and I really struggle to control him at times. Strong-willed doesn’t cover it!) But the walk was really a happy one. Gabs, a really advanced reader for his age (3 and 3/4) loved reading out the questions stuck to the trees and answering them before I could. I felt a bit sorry for Luci stuck in the buggy but he seemed happy enough gazing at all the nature around him. We don’t have too many bluebells or trees for that matter on the Finchley Road. Every twig, every leaf, every breath of fresh air is a novelty for my kids! I resolved to get out into the country with them more often and hope a few more trips down to Jennie are on the cards. In any case, I was really impressed with all the details of how both the Rarebreeds Centre and the Walk were laid out. I will definitely be back with my boys, despite the long drive. The sweetest surprises of the day were the little packets of ‘forget-me-not’ seeds to plant for Matilda Mae, hidden in the trees and sticking out the tree-stumps and Gabs loved to grab them as we passed. I’ve bought little pots to plant them in.

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I thought one mile would seem like a long way but before I was ready for it to be over we were arriving back at the marquee and were greeted with smiles and bubbles to blow for Matilda Mae. Next year I would like to walk 10 miles for Matilda! It was too short and over too soon, but short little legs probably couldn’t have made it any further. 😉

The marquee was filled with soft play when we arrived back and my boys were only too delighted, especially Lucian who leapt out of the buggy. It was my turn to contribute to the day with a bit of violin playing and I was a bit nervous about taking my eyes off the boys as they’re both prone to making a run for it. But the play area was so absorbing and the lady from Jumping Beans was absolutely fantastic at keeping tabs on the boys while I played and encouraging them on the equipment. And she hadn’t even known they were mine and that I couldn’t watch them while I was playing, she just did it! I was really impressed, and sorry to hear they don’t have classes in London. Lucian was particularly obsessed with the slide.

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I was meant to be performing there representing my Classical Babies concerts (I know Jennie through my @classicalbabyco twitter account, not my personal one, which I hardly use, and I follow lots of mum bloggers on it). But standing next to Jennie with her twins staring up at me, alone with no pianist to accompany me, felt intensely personal and and so, so private. Not a business thing. Not even really a professional music thing. Me, a mum and a friend, whose heart is broken by her heartbreak, needing to do something helpful, anything: the only thing I know how to do, really which is play the violin. It’s quite hard to find pieces that work with just violin alone with no other instruments so I felt a little silly at the beginning but was so proud to be able to do something even if it was small. I wasn’t sure how it would go down though and I was so chuffed to see William hovering nearby gawping at me with a look of fascination on his face! Jennie was worried her voice wouldn’t hold out  from the emotion so she made me announce the bubbles to ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ and ‘In the Night Garden’. I took this so seriously it makes me smile in hindsight to see the serious look on my face while I was playing one of the simplest tunes you can play, but it meant so much to me to make it beautiful and I knew from the look on Jennie’s face it was an emotional moment. So happy everyone sang!

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Afterwards, I got my little 1/16th and 1/10th size violins out and let any takers have a go. A gorgeous down’s syndrome girl amazed me by being pretty darn keen and coordinated, having watched me quietly and closely for ages. I wish I could have had longer with her. William had a quick go before several older children dove in, some of them more adept than others. Then teeny, quiet Esther popped up for a go and while I was trying to put her hand in the “baby” easy-hold on the shoulders of the violin, she pulled away from me and quite instinctively, naturally put herself in a perfect left-hand hold on the neck! I was taken by surprise because 2 is really a bit young to play properly. I teach 3 year olds and up and that is younger than most teachers will take on but I’d love to see what I could do with her! I think her grandmother was pretty horrified (“Of all the instruments!” 😉 ) but I’m afraid she might have violinist written all over her… Sorreeeeee!

I had to make a run for it out of the tent a couple of times when I lost the boys, and at one point Gabs got miles away from me down the mile-track and fell and cut his lip quite badly. He had a big cry and I caved in and said, “I told you so!” but it didn’t dent his enthusiasm for long. They ran around the field while people picnicked and David and some of the children blew the biggest bubble-kisses I have ever seen to Tilda in the sky. There is no way she could have missed them! The sky was blue in between the clouds and the light hit the bubbles amazingly as they floated up to their recipient, absent guest-of-honour, the one we were all thinking of all day, little miss Matilda Mae. xx

I have to admit, we didn’t stay to see all the animals after, as I was just absolutely shattered and keen to get back through London before rush-hour hit, but we grabbed the ice-creams Gabs had been begging for since breakfast! I felt a pang of guilt as we climbed into the car when Gabs said, “You forgot to take me to the playground!” We had to walk past the most fun looking climbing/swinging/abseiling equipment on the mile and I’d promised to take him back. But really, I think we were all a bit pooped and sure enough two minutes after setting off both boys were snoring like miniature versions of their Daddy, in the back. What a wonderful day we had for a wonderful family and the most worthwhile cause. I drove home (somewhat badly!) feeling contented that I had finally met someone I feel such a promising bond with and that we had honoured Matilda Mae well and she would be smiling her cheeky, beautiful smile down on us from her place in the Universe. At 4:30pm I parallel parked like a pro’ outside my flat and smiled back at my sleeping boys, feeling a little emotionally and physically exhausted… and so, so lucky.

Driving Phobia & Walking for Tilda

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On Saturday 11th May, I got up at 6:30 and got two sleepy but acquiescent boys dressed and into the car. (Thank you Remus, for getting up to load the double buggy, several bags of spare clothes, snacks and lots of violins while I grabbed a cappuccino!). This sounds simple enough but for me, it was no mean feat: I have suffered for a long time from being massively driving-phobic. Despite having passed my test over two years ago and having some sporadic driving success for one year of that, even short journeys for me can involve delaying tactics, finding excuses to use public transport, and should I get in the car, usually some shaking and crying. Nevertheless, I had put this date in the diary a long time ago and it, being pretty inaccessible without a car, seemed the perfect goal to aim for to overcome my fears. I’ve driven on and off for two years but when even a successful 160 mile stint to Cornwall didn’t cure me I lost all hope of ever being a “real” driver. But finally, I had something to drive to, where the destination was key, where getting there, and showing up on time and in one piece meant more to me than clinging on to my fear. And it seemed to work! My phobia came to a head a few weeks before when I found myself on my sofa, twenty minutes before nursery pick-up time, sobbing into my hands like a baby, unable to get in the car and drive the three minutes down the road to pick up my boys in the pouring rain. My lovely, safe, responsive Audi A4 S line sat right outside my flat. It was dark, windy and thrashing rain and I cried and cried and beat myself up mentally for even considering walking 15 minutes with the buggy out of fear of driving two blocks in a straight line down the road. I couldn’t believe it had come to this! And I knew that in a few short weeks I WAS going to drive to Ashford and be there for Jennie and Matilda Mae. I just didn’t know how. So I sobbed with my face in my hands for maybe twenty minutes, hating myself out-loud. I looked at this for a long time on my pinterest board:

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And then, at 5 minutes to 6pm, I got up, took out my keys and drove to nursery. My knees shook, my heart raced, I fucked up my parking. But I did it. I had got the most afraid I could be and I overrode it. And the next week I drove to Knightsbridge and picked my husband up from Heathrow (I shook a bit, but I didn’t cry 😉 ). And the week after I drove to Watford for work and drove my colleague to Cheltenham for a gig and home again. So I knew I could do it. But the night before the walk, my husband still asked me, “Are you sure you’re OK to do this?” And even I was surprised how confidently I answered, “YES”.

Because I’ve never been more committed to being somewhere I had promised to be, my phobia didn’t stand a chance! I planned my route on google maps. I zoomed in on street-view and obsessed over which lane to take when. I worried about my first toll-booth experience on the Dartford Bridge. But nothing was going to stop me getting in that car and getting me and my kids to The Rare Breeds Centre in Kent for the Mile in Memory of Matilda Mae Walk!

In the end I drove like crap. I went twice round a couple of roundabouts. I got lost once and had to stop and heard a lot of “re-calculating, re-calculating…” from the sat-nav stern-voice lady. But who cares, I made it! And it was so worth it! My next post recounts the day in full, read on….

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.

xxxxx

xxxxx