Monday, October 24, 2016

Back to Hospital!

I've kept quiet about this for ages - years in fact. I just didn't want to embark on yet another tale of woe, and thought maybe it'd just go away ... fat chance!! But ... well, let me tell the story and there is a good ending after all, although a big hiccup on the way!

So, some years ago I was changing specialists for the bronchiectasis (don't even go there!!), and the new specialist wanted to do lots of CT scans, not just of my lungs but why not my sinuses too. And then he discovered a "benign brain tumour"!! A meningioma!! Well, this was just too too much! A brain tumour. When my biggest fear (pre-cancer anyway) was that if I had a headache for 3 days I probably had a brain tumour!!! Aarghhhhhhhh ....

But eventually, with the help of a neurosurgeon, Dr David Walker, I accepted it and ultimately came to annual MRIs and reviews for a few years.

But ... all good things come to an end! This year when I had my MRI and review, he told me that it was in fact growing slowly, and I should really get it taken out within the next year. More tears! That was in April I think, and again I ultimately accepted it. But I decided to delay it till this month as a) an overseas friend was visiting in September, and b) I wouldn't be able to drive for 3 months!!

So, cut to the hospital! Oh, wait. When Dr Walker told me about the operation he also listed the risks ... which because of the bronchiectasis, included having a coughing fit, leading to a stroke.

So anyway, the op took place on the 13th October. It went fine and I was recovering well when sometime in the afternoon / evening I started coughing. And then I started having strokes! I was rushed into CT scan and there was some bleeding / bruising on the brain. Several subsequent scans didn't show any progression, but I definitely had some aphasia (speech problems) ... Over the weekend in ICU I made a bit of progress, but it wasn't till I eventually got to the ward (bit of a logjam!) and had some much needed rest that I really started to improve a lot.

Now it's the following Monday and I'm hoping to be leaving hospital today or tomorrow! I know there's still work to do on my speech but I'm confident I can make a full recovery ...

Phew! Well, that wasn't quite so bad ... Always a relief to get it all out there, eventually!

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Yoga 'movement'

Don't know that it's right to look at my yoga practice in terms of progress, (or lack of!) But I'm not going to beat myself up too much for being quietly pleased at visible signs of - shall we say 'movement'!! A few months ago I posted on Facebook about my delight when Christian crossed my ankles in supta kurmasana - a cross-legged turtle you could say! And lately I've been thinking I should try and do this myself - but it seemed quite impossible to actually lift one leg up and do that. Then last week I was shown how to do it - and of course it's so much easier than I'd imagined! I still can't actually bind my hands behind my back - can't even reach them yet! But I do believe that will come!

Then the other pose I get assisted in a lot - Marichyasana C ... Just this week I am suddenly able to bind myself on the second side! The first side is months, years away yet, but ... It is quite a thrill !!

Onto other things ...Winter (such as it was!) is turning to spring now. I've been planting some shrubs in the front where some of the palm trees once were .. And the veggie garden is just flourishing - an oversupply of broccoli at the moment! The tyranny of the garden as a friend's father used to say (happily!)

Rehearsals for the performance of The Messiah in December are going well. I do know it quite well having sung it 4-5 times in Brisbane with the Bach Choir, but am finding out how much I leant on the other choir members there who had sung it every year for many years. Now there is pretty much no one to 'lean on' and others are wanting support from me! So I am seeing all the bits where I need to do extra work!! But it will be wonderful I'm absolutely sure!

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Musical loong weekend!

Bangalow Music Festival

What an amazing music-filled few days I've just had at the Bangalow Music Festival! Didn't make it to all 9 concerts - but I think I made it to 7! Plus the pre-opening one that our choir sang at (Va Pensiero and the Hallelujah Chorus). Which was especially memorable because Teddy Tahu Rhodes, the well-known bass baritone singer who was performing at the festival, just strolled in when we were rehearsing in the hall, and joined in with the basses! (He also sang with them during the actual performance!)

Another highlight was during the morning concert yesterday, which had a presenter, and a theme based on the Olympics motto - Faster, Higher, Stronger. The presenter told the story of how the Russian composer of one of the pieces, Ysaye (I'd never heard of him) owned a Stradivarius. But one time (in the early 1900s) he left it unattended in a dressing room and of course it vanished. It resurfaced in a shop in Paris many years later, and was ultimately bought by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to be used by their principal violinist. Who is currently one Ilya Konovalov, who was performing at the Festival. And he performed a piece by the same person who once owned that same particular Stradivarius!

Hard to pick favourites! Would have to include Teddy Tahu Rhodes singing the Vaughn Williams Songs of Travel song cycle, and a Celtic song selection that we all joined in with on the choruses - eg the Skye Boat Song and Loch Lomond (my Scottish roots showing!). And a truly wonderful performance of a Schubert String Quartet (Death and the Maiden) by the Orava Quartet, that had everyone on their feet applauding ... And yes, the concert I went to this morning which comprised Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, Barber's Adagio for Strings and a Mozart Piano Concerto (no 21 in C Major) ... More standing ovations at the end of that!!

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Carnival is Over

I'd been playing around with a half-written blog post for a few days - my thoughts about things like the UK Brexit vote and the election situation here in Australia. Throw in some superior comments about how people should really be turning inside for what they're looking for (although true!) - and well, you get the picture!

And then, today. Today I went to a little school hall up in the hills behind Mullumbimby - Wilsons Creek. To a memorial service for a wonderful 84-year old woman who had been in our choir - we sat next to each other for months during rehearsals for the Faure Requiem last year.

I knew so little of her life, and listening to family and friends talk it was obvious that she had truly lived life to the fullest. Followed in her father's footsteps and graduated as a dentist in the early 1950s - probably one of the earliest women dentists. Music had played an enormous part in her life. Her son said she had - I don't know, was it 5 pianos in one house alone?! Anywhere she lived she looked for and joined choirs and music societies. Brought her children up on a farm in beautiful countyside  - 10 minutes from the school hall where her memorial was held, and where her children went to school. After she retired as a dentist, she volunteered at an Aboriginal dental service in a county town that was at that time infamous for bad treatment of aboriginal people. Found love again in her 80s(!) ...

I could go on and on - but for me this was a(nother!) wake-up call - to take advantage of this wonderful gift of life. Don't waste it. Stop putting things off till later.

So we - two choirs, (yes she had been in two local choirs) and everyone there, sang songs that she had loved, and songs of farewell. Ending up with one I hadn't heard for ages - The Carnival is Over:

Say goodbye my own true lover

As we sing a lover's song

How it breaks my heart to leave you

Now the carnival is gone

High above the dawn is waking

And my tears are falling rain

For the carnival is over

We may never meet again

Like a drum my heart was beating

And your kiss was sweet as wine

But the joys of love are fleeting

For Pierrot and Columbine

Now the harbour light is calling

This will be our last goodbye

Though the carnival is over

I will love you till I die

Not a dry eye in the hall! Thank you Rozzie ...

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Thoughts on Dena's Intensive

Well the 4-week intensive with Dena finished yesterday. Unfortunately I actually missed most of the 2nd week after coming down with the worst cold I've had in years! (Apparently it is/was going round the district). And of course, despite my silly fears I really enjoyed the whole experience. Oh, there were many mornings getting up in the dark when I really didn't want to, but once I got to the shala I knew I was in the right place!

Not that there were any great dramatic 'leaps forward' in my yoga practice ... More a gradual building of strength (still sadly lacking after all these years!) which I hope/intend to take advantage of over the coming months. Dena had got me to do a 2nd series pose (shalabasana) before upward dog in the seated vinyasas, and said she could see that things were 'moving' or bending (if only infinitesimally!) in my thoracic spine ... Finally! She has been on at me for years about that!!

I'm going to try and do one of these twice a year ... Much cheaper than going to one of her Bali workshops, and they're only one week! Plus there is only so much hanging around in Ubud one can do, and I've done a lot of that!! And now Dena is having a much needed break before heading to Europe to do workshops there. At the end of the practice yesterday we sat in a circle and shared something of our feelings. And she said she had left her children every morning for the last 4 months to come and teach because of her love for the practice and to carry on Guruji's legacy. But she was so looking forward to some family time !!

So now I'm sitting with a coffee (from Yum Yum cafe!) on my back verandah, writing this while listening to ABC Classic FM's Top 100 Classic Music (Voice) as voted by listeners, including me! I can't remember what my top 3 picks were - I think it was the Faure Requiem, the Allegheri Misereri ... Yes, and Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus ... Perhaps not very adventurous but still really beautiful music!!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Intensive with Dena

One week down of the 4-week intensive with Dena! I did it - actually made it to all 6 days' classes - some didn't!! Wasn't sure I would be able to cope with the intensity - I think it's actually the first time I've been to 6 days' worth of classes in a week. Except for workshops of course ... But they are just a week - will have to see how I go over a 4 week period! I was, however, very glad to hear that Sunday was a moon day, so 2 days off this time!

Dena said to me that she was glad to have a month to 'work on' me!! Ha ha - she'll need it I think! Jokes aside, I'm really glad to have this chance to deepen my yoga practice. I know I've been doing more / putting more effort in since I've moved, but this is definitely another step!

We've been doing various breathing / pranayama 'exercises' at the start of each day ... That and the things Dena has been saying to me (which all yoga teachers say to me, and even my mother ... !!!) about sitting up, straightening my back ("think of it as a big push-up bra"!!) - well, they all apply to singing too - singing teacher is another person saying the same things! ! Interesting how different parts of my life have such strong links!! Hopefully it'll all go in properly at some point!!!

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Monday, May 09, 2016

Part of the music family

Went to a really lovely lunch in Tweed Heads with various friends on the weekend. We were all told to bring our singing voice/instruments, so I knew it was going to be a musical afternoon! A couple of the people invited were professional musicians who I've seen perform in front of 5,000+ people, the rest of us were (just) people who like to sing!

And after a yummy curry lunch people started singing and playing different songs - mostly that they'd written themselves. Some were a bit shy, but it was lovely to see them blossom when they took the plunge and started singing/playing. I sang a couple of the songs that I'm singing at my music teacher's soiree on Thursday night ... One of them is a duet I'm singing with someone else so I sang that one to a recording I had on my phone of the two of us rehearsing it - otherwise it'd have been missing half the song! We finished up by all singing (and dancing!) along with some Aretha Franklin videos on YouTube ... Such a fun day, although my voice is still feeling the effects of that high Aretha Franklin singing 2 days later! (No photos being shared because some there specifically didn't want photos on the interwebs!)

And I'm so pleased that I seem to be able to sing in public now without too much embarrassment ... At least with friends anyway! How I'll feel at the soiree is another question - but I have certainly moved a long way from the initial panicked response when I was 'told' I'd be singing a couple of songs, solo! My friend K who's the professional singer told me her strategy for getting over stage fright (which I was astonished to hear she did experience!) was to think of herself as a warrior going into battle. And of course once she starts singing it's all okay - just the going out and starting being the problem sometimes! So I will definitely bear that in mind!!

That night when I was in bed I realised that I could think of myself as being part of the 'music' world now ... It certainly consumes a lot of my every day ... Felt really nice! Mind you, don't anyone think I'm imagining I am or ever will be a professional in this field. But an extremely enthusiastic amateur, yes!!

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