Sunday 26 April 2015

Five Facts - Music Makes you Happy

Regular visitors to my blog know that I love music, but not everyone is as fanatical about music as I am, so this is my attempt to convert any non-music loving people with a few facts about the benefits:

1.  Music can help reduce your blood pressure and heart rate. (So much for the GP telling me I had to do lots of exercise to reduce my blood pressure! I joke. I'm still swimming.)

2.  Even if you listen to sad music, it will still lift your mood and reduce your stress levels. (I love sad songs. I have playlists full of them.)

3.  Making music, either singing or with instruments, is a recognised method of improving people's cognitive functions. (I play piano and guitar - badly - but I still get great satisfaction from it.)

4.  Music therapy has been shown to help stroke patients, especially with emotions and social interaction.

5.  Both playing and listening to music can help patients with dementia and amnesia.

The arguments in favour of music as therapeutic seem to be pretty decisive. In which case, why isn't music therapy offered by GPs instead, or alongside, anti-depressants?

My favourite way of listening to music right now is on Spotify. Below is a section of one of my favourite playlists. I can spend hours scrolling through all the songs on Spotify. It's my idea of musical bliss.

What is your idea of musical bliss?

Monday 20 April 2015

Leicester Writes

"Leicester is a spicy cauldron of creativity!" This is what fellow Leicester writer, Siobhan Logan, said on Twitter this morning. I love it! And she's spot on!

As a writer living in Leicester UK, I consider myself to be very lucky. I have a fantastic support network around me because Leicester has proved itself to be a real hotspot of writing talent. Not only that, local writers are keen to support others, to share contacts and to pass on skills. There are writers’ workshops, writers’ clubs and spoken word events. There are University Courses catering for new and prospective writers as well as MA courses in Creative Writing. 

If you are a new writer and you live in the East Midlands then I expect you will be going along to the Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing on the last weekend of June 2015. It will be covering all areas of writing from poetry to writing novels, from short stories to screen writing. It even includes blogging.

One of the speakers is Jacob Ross. He will be giving a masterclass in the art of writing short stories on Friday 26th June. It all sounds very exciting and it's excellent value for money.

If you want to find out more then visit Leicester Writes Website.

Did I mention that I will be on a panel of writers for a discussion called ‘New Technologies, New Directions’ on Sunday 28th June at 3 pm? It will be taking place at the LCB Depot Courtyard Room which is just round the corner from Curve Theatre. Well, I've mentioned it now and I may well be mentioning it again! 

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

It's only a teddy bear!

(For those who view my blog through non-formatting readers, the following is a poem - OK, son?!)

It’s ok to chat with a cat, so I’ve heard,
Cause you know that a cat can hear every word
But you don’t want to talk with inanimate things,
Like your teddy, whose stuffing is held in with string.

Just a minute! A cat doesn’t care about words.
He would much rather chase after dormice or birds.
The teddy, however, absorbs all you say.
He collects up your words in his kapok each day.

So your teddy bear holds all your wishes and thoughts.
He knows all of your hopes, all those demons you’ve fought.
Please ignore those who say he’s a toy. It’s not true.
He’s the one true custodian of all that is you.

Don’t you just love your teddy bears? 

Here are a few of mine:

Thursday 2 April 2015

Retelling the Passover Story

This Friday evening marks the beginning of the eight days of Passover. We start the Passover (Pesach) with a special meal on the first two evenings called the Seder meal.

Photo curtesy of Bridget Blair from Thinking of the Days
During the Seder meal we retell the story from Exodus of the escape from slavery in Egypt. To hear Leicester's Rabbi Pink talk about this then please visit Radio Leicester. His interview is 1:45 mins into the programme.

I talked about it on my blog last year. I just reread that post and I’ve decided that, if we can retell the same story every year at the Seder table and it still has an effect on us, then my blog post from last year can stand a second telling because it’s still… no, sadly, it’s even more relevant today than it was last year.

This is a section from my last year’s post with only minor alterations:
We have to tell the story every year to help us remember. We eat bitter herbs so that we never forget the bitter times of slavery. We dip parsley into salt water so that we never forget the tears. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but thousands of years ago?
Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Belsen in 1945. (This was correct last year. The Passover is determined by the Hebrew calendar. The actual date is 15th April.) When the soldiers arrived they were horrified to see piles of dead and rotting corpses and thousands of sick and starving prisoners. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but 69 years ago? (70 years ago now.) 
Today in 1994 Rwandans were being massacred, not by the thousands but by the hundred-thousands. The massacres continued until mid-July. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but over 20 years ago?
When I wrote that post there was headline news about the liberation of sex slaves locked in rooms in the UK. It doesn’t get any closer to home or contemporary than that and sadly the atrocities continue. There have been too many incidents to list, but I feel I have to mention the horrific Charlie Hebdo shootings. 

And yet we continue to retell the story of the Exodus in the hope that by remembering, it might mean that it is not repeated. Are we remembering in vain?

Do you think that it is important to remember the past, or should we only look to the future?

Update: While I was writing the above blog post the news was breaking that Islamist gunmen had shot dead 147 people at a college in Kenya. Tragic news. There is no end to it.