Archive for the ‘music’ Category

According to a government report workers who retire early risk “boredom, loneliness and poverty“.

Well, that’s something to look forward to, huh? Strange report – probably part of a fear campaign to try and keep people in employment for longer. What are they suggesting, actually? It’s better to retire later? Or that if you are working, even on a minimum wage, zero hours contract in your 60s and 70s you will avoid “boredom, loneliness and poverty”?

I suspect this kind of thinking says more about how we live than it does about the respective benefits of employment and retirement.

Funnily enough, I just stumbled over this quote from Goethe –

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’ll be continuing to do that once I start my early retirement next month! And much else besides. I’m anticipating that the post-employment years will include lots of discovery, creativity, personal development and fun.

Meantime, here’s a little music

and a little poetry

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– from Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day


Here’s a fine picture

glorious seedhead


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Wonder is one of my most favourite verbs.

I like the French word émerveillement which captures the essence of wonder for me. I think this is a great way to approach Life.

There are two aspects of the verb wonder which really appeal to me.

The first is to wonder in the sense of curiosity…….as in “I wonder what this is?” Here’s an example – “Is this a rock, or a tree? I wonder how these markings formed on this rock?”


rock weathering

The second is to wonder with a sense of amazement……as in “Wow! look at the patterns of the rock and the patterns on the stream, and how similar they are!”

rock waves

sparkling water


I would like to propose that an attitude of wonder increases the quality of your life, whereas, an attitude of scepticism, or nihilism…..hmm….well you tell me if you find those attitudes life enhancing.

Just as a wee bonus today, here is a great song about wondering…..


And, another bonus (well, it is my birthday!)


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Spotted these tadpoles in a pond up near Aberfeldy yesterday. This shot of them captured only a small portion of the hundreds swimming around the edge of the pond.

What do you think about when you think of tadpoles?

I bet you don’t think what I do.

Here’s what happens when I see tadpoles. I hear a song in my head. “Share it” by Hatfield and the North.

Do you know that song? Do you know why I hear it when I see tadpoles? Well, when I was a teenager, my friends and I were great fans of bands like Soft Machine, Caravan, Camel, and Hatfield and the North. So when Hatfield and the North played the Student Union at Edinburgh University we went along. My friend Ian seemed to know all the words of their songs and sang along. At the end of the concert, Ian made for the front and asked Richard Sinclair, the singer a question. The question?

“I can make out all the words of ‘Share it’ apart from the first one. It’s “something is screaming in my ear” but what’s the something? Richard Sinclair leaned down from the stage and whispered one word into Ian’s ear. What was the word?


If you don’t know the song, here it is


Listen carefully to the very first word. You’ll see he wasn’t kidding! 

But do you know what amazes me most about tadpoles? Metamorphosis.

During metamorphosis, a tadpole loses it tail, grow legs, loses its gills and grows lungs, rewiring it’s nervous system and on and on…..the number of changes are astonishing. How does it do that? We know a little bit about some of what’s involved (hormonal changes and different responses in different tissues to the same hormones) but we absolutely don’t know how these these massive changes are co-ordinated. 

Amazing. Completely amazing

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When you’re looking for something to photograph, just looking out of your window, or looking up to the sky, gives you enough inspiration.
I just love the multi-layered effects here….looks like range after range of mountains disappearing into the distance.
What you can’t see here is that the clouds were all moving very fast. This particular view changed before my very eyes…..as the Japanese culture emphasises – transience increases the beauty

Actually, when I look at clouds, I often hear Joni Mitchell singing in my head! If you’ve got a few minutes watch these two videos.

Firstly, this is Joni singing Both Sides Now in 1970

The, here she is singing the same song in 2000

What a difference! I know Heraclitus said you can’t step in the same river twice, so maybe it’s obvious that you can’t sing the same song twice

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Sometimes you just come across something on the web which is SO good, SO creative, SO original, SO inspiring…..you’ve just got to share it.

Isn’t that amazing?

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Hmmm…..haven’t come across this acronym before but its an exciting one!

It stands for Music Evoked Autobiographical Memories.

This interesting study used “No. 1 songs” to stimulate autobiographical memories in patients with brain injuries. They compared this method to the standard psychological “AMI” – Autobiographical Memory Interview. It’s a very small study of 5 patients and a very specific type of problem so the conclusion that music was more efficient than verbal prompts at eliciting autobiographical memory needs further study.

However, this whole idea has pricked my imagination. How often does a particular song or piece of music take you right back to a particular place, time or person in your life? How often do we share music with old friends or family to recreate our shared autobiographical memories?

One element of the study which is especially interesting is that most of the MEAMs were associated with positive emotions. When you think of our brain’s bias to negativity (Rick Hansen says our brains have velcro for negativity and teflon for positivity), and the common claim that we need a ratio of 3 – 5:1 positive to negative thoughts a day to experience flourishing, then surely music must be a GREAT tool for embedding positive, accessible experiences into our memories.

I know, there are lots of other reasons why music plays an important part in our lives, but, hey, MEAMs just sound such fun!


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Emeli Sandé sang a beautiful version of Read All About It, Part III at the closing of the London Olympics, and the line “we’re all wonderful, wonderful people so when did we all get so fearful?” has been running through my brain ever since.

(I’ve embedded the video link here, but you’ll see the Olympic Committee insist you go watch it on youtube….go on, click the link…it’s worth it!! The lyric in question comes in at the 2 minute mark….)

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