T is for… Tom. Tom Waits.

I simply adore Tom Waits. All of his beautiful, crazy work.

I love his experimental stuff, his jazzy stuff, his heart-wrenching ballads, the fact that he was the voice of Tommy the Cat for Primus and the fact that he said in a book I once read (Innocent When You Dream: Tom Waits: The Collected Interviews, by Mac Motandon) that he likes to listen to music when it’s being played in another room, because of the different sounds it creates.

Listen to this and see what you think:

It makes me cry every time I hear it.

Advertisements

S is for… Singing in SUPERCHOIR!

For today’s A to Z challenge, I was torn between SUPERCHOIR and my cat, Spike. Spike’s somewhat of a legend and her escapades simply must be documented at some point, but I really want to share the magic of SUPERCHOIR today, so that half-feral, Aussie moggie will have to wait a bit longer for her moment of blog fame.

945553_158187534359122_1746092131_n

I am a proud member of SUPERCHOIR and have been since the day it formed, just over two years ago. SUPERCHOIR started out as a Cardiff-based initiative (there’s also a Swansea version) run by Sing and Inspire, who are a wonderful, infectiously happy bunch of musical geniuses. Their vision is to inspire people to make a positive difference. They do what it says on the tin and then some, all through the medium of song!

988331_205881316256410_1859168478_n

“Feel amazing, sing fantastic music and network with other, like-minded individuals in a fun, relaxed atmosphere” is how SUPERCHOIR is advertised. While this is indeed an accurate description, it means so much more to me. I wrote an open email last year to Andrea, Director of Sing and Inspire, explaining exactly how I feel about SUPERCHOIR, which you can read on her blog if you have two minutes. If you just want the short version, being part of SUPERCHOIR has changed my life for the better.

Singing makes me passionate, energised and joyful, which can only ever be a good thing and when this is done in a fun environment with a crowd of amazing people the results are magical. We gig quite a lot and have recruited lots of new members over the last two years, people who happened to see us perform and wanted to become part of the magic. People often think that we’re a professional, paid choir when this is actually something we do for fun after work on Wednesdays…

Superchoir, Sing and Inspire

We sang at a wedding on Saturday and I was so excited to be gospel-clapping in a church – it was straight out of Sister Act. We’ve got some flashmobs coming up in the next few weeks which are top secret…

Fancy a sing-along? Here’s a wobbly video of us singing Adele’s Skyfall, at a fundraiser in Porter’s Cardiff last summer:

And our signature song, Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher:

R is for… Ruth

I discovered a wonderful lady called Ruth Steggles last November, when I saw her talk at Ignite Cardiff. Ruth is ‘The Fresh Air Coach’; she coaches people in the open air, whatever the weather, which is a concept I absolutely love.

I always feel better after going for a walk so I completely buy into the idea that being out in the fresh air can create the perfect environment for coaching and facilitating change. Ruth always insists, ” I don’t believe there is any such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing” which has completely changed my attitude towards going out for a walk in the pouring rain!

Ruth has just launched ‘Fresh Air for Happiness’, which is a 12 week course designed to help the listener achieve happiness, through listening to podcast sessions whilst walking outdoors. The podcast emulates an outdoors coaching session with Ruth – the idea is that you listen to each topic several times whilst going for a walk, whatever the weather.

I’ve subscribed to Fresh Air for Happiness and I’m reviewing it for Ruth as I go along, to provide feedback and also to document how the course is making me feel. Here’s the review I wrote of the first session:

Week 1

The topic for week 1 is ‘Being Present’ and I first listened to this podcast whilst walking through Bute Park during my work lunch break,  which was actually the first time I’d ever listened to a podcast so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was the school half-term holidays and there were lots of families around me, so I felt quite self-conscious but during the introduction Ruth’s warm manner put me at ease and I was able to focus on what she was saying.

There are some lovely exercises throughout the session to encourage mindfulness and provide tools to keep the listener present and appreciative of  their surroundings; I genuinely felt joyful doing them. The podcast finishes with a relaxation exercise which literally melts stress away – immediately afterwards I felt as if I’d had a massage or been to a relaxing yoga class and this feeling lasted for hours. The session took around 30 minutes but it can be longer or shorter because there are instances where you pause the podcast to continue walking and following Ruth’s instructions – the listener can determine the length of these pauses.

I listened to the session three more times over the following fortnight and the changes I’ve noticed are that I’m gradually appreciating my surroundings more when I’m outdoors,  and that I’m able to bring myself to the present more easily.  I feel ready to move onto week 2.  I feel grateful that I’ve made this decision to invest time in myself and gain the benefits of being outdoors more.

I’m currently listening to week five and I’m enjoying the course immensely. I’ve mainly been listening to it in and around Cefn Onn on weekends, or Bute Park if it’s during the week on my lunch break. I feel blessed to have these beautiful places in Cardiff to explore as I listen.

I’m dying to write more about this and the changes I’ve experienced as I’ve progressed through each week – maybe I’ll blog about it again after I’ve finished the A to Z Challenge. If you’re in a place where you’d like to make some changes and you like the idea of outdoor coaching, I strongly recommend that you visit Ruth’s website and check out the Fresh Air for Happiness course yourself.

P is for… Poetry

I like poems. I read English Literature at university, so I’ve studied a fair amount of poetry.

During my ‘A’ levels, I studied the work of a Caribbean poet called Grace Nichols; her poems fused English and Creole and were so different to anything I’d ever read before. They were so vivid. To demonstrate, here’s the opening stanza of her poem Caribbean Woman Prayer:

Wake up Lord

brush de sunflakes from yuh eye

back de sky a while Lord

and hear dis Mother-woman

on behalf of her pressure-down people.

Her work seemed so much more exotic and exciting than traditional British poetry; it spoke to me more. Pretty cool, isn’t it.

O is for… Ogmore-by-Sea

When I was ten, I went on an adventure to Ogmore-by-Sea’s residential school camp with most of the kids in my class, to become a Young Investigator. The coastal village was only about thirty miles away but it was so different from Caerphilly, the valleys town in which I lived at the time, that it seemed like a trip to a foreign country.

I have distant but fond memories of newly-found detective skills, sheep roaming the streets, learning that I was terrified of caving, sharing chores in the dining hall, spending all my pocket money in the local shop on midnight feast supplies and sleeping bag races. It was all very Famous Five. My favourite recollection is of crossing the stepping stones near Ogmore Castle then running down the huge sand-dunes at Merthyr Mawr with around twenty of my classmates, shouting out Eddy Grant’s song Give Me Hope Joanna as we ran (God knows why!) and screaming with glee. I’ve still got my Young Investigator’s badge.

A year later, I revisited the camp with my violin in tow on an orchestra trip, which was a completely different experience. The Enid Blyton-style fun of midnight feasts and sleeping bag races was still there but with the added excitement of learning some orchestral arrangements, to perform in a concert at the end of the week for our parents. I can’t remember all the pieces of music we learnt but Beethoven’s Ode to Joy was one. Another was Brass on Parade; we rebels in the string section all crossed out enough letters on our music sheets so that it read ‘Ass Rade’, which was of course hilarious to a bunch of eleven-year-olds. We were so proud as we performed our concert, though.

The camp closed several years ago and although the buildings are still there, I’ve read that the land is going to be developed into residential houses, which is a shame. It was a wonderful place.

Do any Welsh readers have memories of staying at Ogmore-by-Sea residential school camp?