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Too many numbers

I ventured into a different supermarket today as they had a special on bottles of water which I need for my new BLF Singing group this week. I thought, as I was choosing, of all the potential needs of my prospective clients such as easy access to the venue, a need to take breaks and music that is not too challenging. I have a habit of picking adventurous pieces for my singing groups! Most of the group will be in their retired years and indeed I have worked with the older generation a fair bit over the years, which has been rewarding in so many ways.

As I waited at the checkout, I noticed that an elderly gentleman at the front of the queue was experiencing some difficulties. He handed over a card to the cashier who said, without much sympathy, that’s a nectar card (we were not in Sainsbury’s). There was then some kind of pause and another employee needed to be summoned. The man did not seem to say anything but looked so confused and lost. My heart went out to him. The second employee kindly invited the man to take a seat whilst she packed up his shopping. I went up to her and offered to pay for the man’s shopping as it seemed he could not. She said that he should be fine, he was a regular customer and had forgotten his pin number for his card. She hoped it would come to him as he sat down to rest.

Now I really did have sympathy for him as I have been there myself! Goodness only knows how I will cope in my later years- I already attempt to put the iron in the fridge and where I put the car keys is anyone’s guess!

It is a gloomy, sleepy Monday morning and my whole family struggled to get going this morning so how this poor chap must be feeling I can’t quite imagine.

I will get to the point now of this blog; too many codes! I have been locked out of my internet banking as I can’t get my password to work and I have no idea what my Apple password is so good luck to me purchasing any iTunes! There are so many codes and passwords that we have to remember these days and I struggle with them all so how can we expect the older generation who have had years to accumulate more information in their heads to remember them day-to-day?

For us busy people, it’s a case of info. overload and no time to do the meditation but for those in later years, it must be like trying to build a computer in their heads which is for ever needing updates.

We have this new device where you can tag a card reader and you don’t need a pin ( great for card thieves by the way) . This would be ideal for this gentleman but then he needs to be made aware, it’s a new system with a new card and more change for him.

We are generally bombarded with numbers, tweets and other social media updates these days and so when do we fit in our mindfulness practice? When do we find the time to switch off and simply be so our poor bodies can catch up with our busy minds? If we switch off our devices, we miss out and our clients etc expect us to be on call these days outside of normal working hours, it’s a hamster wheel.

Now for memorising, I have often used song (what a surprise!). I learnt my chemistry symbols for my Aromatherapy training by writing a song about them. It worked to get me through my exam. I also use song to get the younger generation to use their ‘listening ears’. We tend to respond to a heightened tune that has direction rather than a monotonous drone of “I’ve told you 3 times already, put your shoes on!”

I still remember the Sesame Street song where we count to 12 with a lovely tune. Music calms the mind, I’m sure of it and calm must mean added focus. Singing involves muscle memory too so really lets have lots of singing, and on prescription please, to help our overloaded heads to cope with all these codes!

This little light of mine

Last night I watched a film called Duets which I bought as a DVD mainly because it was about singing (something I kind of like!) and had the music of Huey Lewis in it.

Actually it turned out that Huey Lewis was acting in the film, now he really does send me “back in time” in a good way. I remember sweeter, easier days when the ‘Back to the Future’ film came out – the first one – and we all danced in the car to my cassette tape playing, ‘Hip to be Square’ by Huey Lewis and the News.

So I thought I would give this film a go and I was not disappointed. It was thought provoking and moving. Now, there has been a run of feel- good , uplifting singing films these past few years such as ‘Quartet’, ‘Pitch Perfect’ and ‘Song for Marion’ where we see how music brings people together in union, giving courage and a sense of real satisfaction . Singing together changes the lives of the characters for the better and we get that aahh factor.

duets-2Well, ‘Duets’ is different in that it is fairly gritty in its content with characters that we don’t easily warm to – they’re not cuddley – and it is sad, it doesn’t leave us feeling any kind of exhilaration like other ‘singing’ films can. What Duets does is portray a selection of lost souls who all find comfort in singing Karaoke in tacky American bars. For some they are only true to themselves when they are on stage, for others it is a rush to perform to an audience of strangers , like a drug, and for some it’s a release from their troubles, a time to switch off.

I found the change in the characters fascinating after they had taken the courage to get up on stage to perform. It wasn’t the audience appreciation itself that gave them the buzz, it was the process of singing, being dramatic on stage and being told that that was okay, to be free with your expression. On stage, they felt wanted , that’s what the audience gave to them which is different from non performance singing, but it was the singing itself that I saw giving the real positive change for all the characters. So titled ‘Duets’, it is the Duets that are sung which give the heart -warming moments and the times we see smiles on faces including our own.

That’s my review, worth a view.

Well that was a bit of a gap between posts… not sure who’s counting though so I think I have got away with it!

cheese-2So Cheese, well I do advise my singers to lay off this wonderfully tasting fermented delight as it is not great for the voice. This also applies to those of us who suffer with constant sinus issues, colds and catarrh and have problems with spoken delivery . Cheese, and other dairy products are mucous forming so they swell up the mucous membranes giving us a nasal sound in our voice, coating the vocal folds and forming damp in our breathing apparatus.

Now there are some, only a few, who think this is twoddle ( word from the Beth Ford dictionary) and cheese and other dairy products have no effect on our voice or breathing. I personally notice the difference when I dairy up ( at Christmas and Easter mostly ) and since I switched from dairy overload to just occasional treats, I suffer less colds and have a clearer vocal delivery. Many of my students comment on the same experience and suffer less headaches and fatigue too when they cut out or cut down on dairy. In our Western lifestyle, it can be challenging to avoid dairy as it makes an appearance in most convenience products.

Oh cheese, why do you have to taste so good?

There is another type of cheese that I often like to refer to – a metaphorical cheese – and that is the cheese of life!

If someone asks me how I am feeling then they usually regret it as I don’t tend to give the usual platitude , “Fine thanks”. Rather I tell them about my bits of cheese and how many are in that day.

I’ll explain; I see life like a trivial pursuit board, even though I refuse to play the game due to my lack of general knowledge. My studies are in creative fields and facts on prime ministers and tennis players of the 1990’s are for those with more logical fact recalling minds quite honestly! Anyway, on the board you use a circular counter which you fill with different coloured wedges ( like cheese) and you fill them up to get the centre, your goal. I think that our life is filled with these wedges of cheese, rather like this board and when all our cheeses are out, we feel like lost lambs. It looks a little like a pie chart.

You can say that one piece is your home life, a second your wedge of health, another your finances, the relationship chunk, your family cheese, work life Edam and so on…

cheese pie

On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs it is said that warmth, food, shelter is the basic need, the foundation . However, we have come to expect much more from our lives and these things alone are not enough to fulfil and sustain us, or so we tell ourselves.


Now a person can still be happy with all their bits of cheese out if they are mindfully playing out their life but then if we were all being mindful with every new day, then maybe our bits of cheese would all be in place and stay that way? Hmm…

Musicians and other artists – let us unite against all those who claim we don’t have a “proper job”!

Well, I had to visit the doctor’s today- again! I met a chatty nurse who became a little too chatty! She was trying to make friends with my daughter and asking the usual questions regarding age, school etc. My daughter announced that she would like to become a doctor so that she could make her mummy and daddy better.

Now, this is a beautiful notion and should not be ignored, but I responded with how I knew my daughter to be more musically inclined.  I said to the nurse that she would likely follow in her mother’s profession as a musician and performer.

Before I could add that I would , however, want her to become whatever she chose for herself, the nurse burst in with this line “Oh, you don’t want her to do that, you want her to get a proper job!”

Oh my, talk about prodding the chip on my shoulder just as much as she was prodding my arm with a needle! My cheeks turned very rosy at this point and I responded with how that statement makes me  “quite cross” and  how I wish my parents had been more supportive of my musical and acting ambitions.

This only seemed to encourage her further and I got her  life story… one of her daughter’s wanted to be a doctor and became a doctor and the other wanted to be a musician but she told her to be realistic as there was no way she would ever be a soloist and there is no money in that. This daughter now teaches violin. I recall my own mother saying something similar to me years ago.  She went on to say how a musician’s hours of performing were antisocial as they were night time (yes, because doctor’s and nurses are strictly nine to five).  Note to self: quickly grab daughter, get arm away from needle and vacate surgery, never have a blood test again!  

At this point I needed to vent and my sounding board noted that this nurse’s house no doubt had music in it in the way of CDs, instruments, and perhaps she should discard this collection if she was not respectful enough of the process. I might also add that musicians have the potential to earn more than doctors IF they choose to.

My dear friend also pointed out that I am doing good with my music abilities in choosing to help people therapeutically through the medium of music as well as through my songs which people say have a stress reducing effect on them. I needed to hear that today.

So I have a choice here, I can listen to this advice, which so many have tried to push on me over the years, just give up on my dream and get a “ proper job” or I can continue to follow this musical, unconventional  and holistic path and hope that one day society will encourage our children to look at the arts as much more than a “hobby” ( nurse’s word, not mine).

Yes, we need to be practical in our life choices to a certain extent but, moreover, we have one shot at this particular life, why would we waste it on anything less than our passion?

Connecting the Dots

therapy symbol green2I made the mistake of turning on the radio yesterday whilst travelling to the hospital. (I REALLY don’t like hospitals- too much illness and not enough music going on in these places, honestly!) I needed cheering up  but instead I ended up listening to how mental health institutions have changed since the Victorian age. Well thank goodness they have, as the idea of trying to shake madness out of someone through these torturous methods seems like madness itself to me! I won’t go into the details, too upsetting. My mind wandered to  James Taylor  and his ‘Fire and Rain’ song. Is this the fire and rain that he experienced in his time in an institution? His shock therapy? Your thoughts…?

Whilst we are making strides in presenting mental health issues as nothing to be ashamed of, we are still, I believe, separating the physical from the mental and holistic approaches in medicine are still too rare. Now the doctor I saw yesterday was very nice, and he did listen whilst I did my whole holistic rant about the possible underlying causes and connection between one physical symptom and another, but then he smiled and handed me a prescription for just one symptom. That is all the NHS have time for unfortunately, so then we have to return again in a few months time with a similar or even returning symptom, and so the pattern continues.

Whilst we can say that Arthritis, or a weird skin thing in my case, are not mental health issues like bipolar or schizophrenia, are we not all inter related? So that, what is going on upstairs can have an effect on our bones, muscles, skin etc. We separate our minds from our bodies so much so that I think our bodies feel left out sometimes and quite misunderstood. That’s what I think, anyway!

I often talk in my workshops about reaching homeostasis. Deepak Chopra, a doctor I really do like to listen to, puts the whole holistic approach to reaching homeostasis so eloquently  here


summer-sunflowersAnother children’s story caught my attention today. It was one which I had never seen before and it moved me with its simplicity and layers. It caused me to wonder how we can bring peace about in the world. There was a dragon, a dove, a boy and a sunflower. I really like sunflowers as they are so bold and sunny! In the story, the sunflower took the place of a sword which his clever mum gave to him, and the boy and the dragon shared a love for this flower, stopped their fighting and became friends. Ah, now I have ruined the ending for you! The dove simply appeared on every picture as a symbol – one for the grown ups.  

Where there is natural beauty so can there be peace. We are more inclined to smile and say hello to someone whilst taking a country stroll than we are on our way to work in the smoggy and hectic city.  There is a country walk etiquette that does not apply elsewhere it seems.  If we can find a common ground, a love of beauty then we can consider being allies, I suppose. Which brings me to music, as usual. Here is a common ground, from all walks of life we can come together and make and enjoy music. It is universal and humbling. Except if you are at a Slip Knot gig and then I should imagine it’s complete chaos!


 I am sitting in my study, glancing out of my window for inspiration. I have views that I would like to share and the world wide web seems to offer a wonderful soapbox for us. But who wants to hear my rant? Well, you never know until you give it a go!

So this is me, Beth Ford; Singer, songwriter, healer, voice coach and music leader (make up your mind, woman!) signing in to my first blog (nearly wrote blob then) on this foggy Thursday 3rd April at 16.02pm. Hello world!

I would like to share a book with you and a thought: the book is Quentin Blake’s ‘Patrick’. I think that it opens up so much on the topic of how music can lift us, heal us, transport us and even take the place of conventional medication at times. Now I am not suggesting that if you break a limb you should skip the cast and try singing it better (I think that I would get into trouble for that anyway) but we are learning more and more about the healing powers of music on the body and mind so if we are feeling a little low then the sound of a perfectly composed aria or playing air guitar to our favourite rock number can be just what we need to release the endorphins which lift us out of the slump.

Patrick buys himself a violin, plays it around his town and cheers everyone up along his way, adding colour and zest to his new friends and surroundings. It’s a sweet story for kids and big kids.

Patrick - by Quentin Blake

I have witnessed so much healing in the singing workshops which I run where individuals walk in with physical and emotional ailments and leave with a new outlook. They sing away and even dance as they are doing so and they forget their pains. The deep breathing and activity of the singing warms up the joints and eases muscular tension and even when a song makes us cry we feel better for the release .

So I would invite you to go and find a copy of Patrick to read (you can’t borrow mine as it’s busy being read on a regular basis!). That’s my thought for today… who knows the next one might be more gritty and political, but then it’s me so I doubt it!