Tag Archives: piano

wise words.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2022 )

Are you a radiator or drain?

My dad always told me that we make our own luck in life by keeping an open mind and a positive attitude. His notion that people could roughly be divided into ‘radiators’ and ‘drains’ still makes me laugh. There are people who always see the best in everything and everyone, and those who see the worst. Dad would then remind me that these ‘drains’ were in fact sad, unfortunate souls who had perhaps never received a kind word or a hug as a child, or never witnessed a beautiful rainbow. Their lot was to be pitied, not vilified.

“Kid, you’re like your old man…,” I knew where this was going…”you see the glass half-full, not half-empty.”  He would tell me that often. I used to think Dad was funny but as I get older, I realise he had a point.

Take the person walking their dog with their eyes downcast (no – not looking for dog mess), hunched shoulders and never a cheery ‘hello’ for their fellow human beings. I had such an encounter recently as I was walking my pooch up the steps from the beach and met a gentleman walking his dog down the steps. He grunted at me, which I presumed meant ‘move over’.

I quipped, “shall we dance?” with a light laugh, only to be met with another grunt. No eye contact. Refusing to step to one side so that we could pass each other,  I wanted to say, “I’ll move then, shall I?” but remembering my dad’s words, I acquiesced  politely and went back down the steps to wait; allowing the chap and his dog to continue to the beach. Without as much as a by-your-leave, he swept past me. I could hear Dad saying, “Now Andrea, remember: this poor guy may have received some bad news, or woken up on the wrong side of bed. He can’t help it.”

Some people have the ability to put on a smile whatever the weather, while some wear their heart on their sleeve – or their big chip on their shoulder.


I believe it is true to say that the British, on the whole, are a self-deprecating bunch; apologising for everything from the weather to queueing in a shop.

“Sorry about the rain lass; maybe it’ll fair up by dinner, ”as if the weather is their fault. “Ooh, sorry but I was in the queue first.”

Americans, on the whole, take life in their stride and meet it head on; not apologising for it.

“Say son, you’ll need your umbrella today; we’re going to get that much needed rain, yes-siree, Bob.” Or, “Excuse me Ma’am, the line for the check-out starts back there.

”More direct but always polite.

My husband’s grandmother – a true Yorkshire woman – always looked down as she was walking; not to be downcast but rather in the hope of finding something useful. When she passed away and the family were clearing her house, they found dozens and dozens of odd, ladies’ leather gloves, which she had collected over her lifetime in the hope of finding a matching pair. (She never did). Ever optimistic: one of life’s ‘radiators’.

Single gloves collection.

When it came to winning and losing, my Dad was equally sage:

“Kid – life is full of setbacks, but it’s how ya deal with them that counts. Keep your eye on the horizon, look trouble straight in the eye, learn from your mistakes and move on. No point cryin’ over spilt milk.” A can-do attitude.

Andrea aged 14 – school photo.

When I was about fourteen or so, I was asked by my music teacher, Mr. Carter, to play a piano solo in an ‘Evening of Music’ at school. I had been taking piano lessons for a couple of years but still couldn’t sight-read musical notation. Having a ‘good ear’ like my dad, who was a very fine musician and pianist, I had learnt the piece of classical music by heart with a lot of practice.

Andrea’s father at his piano.

The ‘Evening of Music’ arrived in due course and there, in the school hall in the front row, sat my dad – my proud dad – alongside Mr Carter, the head teacher and chair of governors. Behind them sat rows of parents and students. My name was announced, I took my seat at the piano and waited for the rustle of programmes to cease. The lights dimmed and a spotlight hit the stage. Someone coughed at the back of the hall before the final hush.

I started the piece well, confident that I would perform Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major like a virtuoso. I got about half-way through the music and realised – to my horror – that I had forgotten what comes next. I looked at the sheet music: the music notes were a jumble of crotchets and quavers and my hands began to sweat. I felt sick. As I tried again to pick-up where I had left off, my hands slid across the keys and – as if in an out-of-body experience – I heard myself playing random notes. Sweat trickled down my neck and prickly heat erupted at my chest. The spotlight seemed to shine on my ineptitude. I could feel Dad and the school dignitaries boring a hole in the back of my head.

That was it! Standing to face the stunned audience, I took a bow and screwed the sheet music up into a tight ball.

“I’m sorry folks – I can’t do this any more.”

With that, I held my head up high and flounced off the stage, through the doors of the school hall and out into the foyer, where I collapsed into tears. Dad followed, hot on my heels. He put his arm around my shoulders and hugged me warmly.

“Honey, I’m proud of you. If you’re going to fail – really fail.” I suddenly didn’t feel like a failure any more.

Dad shook hands with Mr. Carter, the head teacher and chair of governors during the interval in his direct, American way.

“My girl’s got some gumption! Boy, I tell ya – she really took the bull by the horns back in there, didn’t she!” 

He was met with bemused looks.

“Yes, by gosh– she just walked right off the stage! That takes guts.”

I have never forgotten my proud dad that evening, nor the lesson he taught me. It’s how you deal with life’s setbacks that counts. My father had grown up in the 1920s and ’30s in America during the Great Depression and served his country in WW2 with the US Navy. He knew about life’s hard knocks and about hard work but most of all he knew about resilience, perseverance and human nature.

After a long, tiring day at school, where Dad endeavoured to share his passion for History with his pupils, he would often settle back in his rocking chair by the fire and play his favourite Frank Sinatra record, That’s Life. I can see him there now with his pipe and slippers and hear him singing along to ‘Old Blue Eyes’.

When the going gets tough, I still listen to it. The message in the lyrics has, and continues, to inspire me and serve me well.

My dad was a wonderful father and teacher. He taught me well.

Andrea and her dad – Christmas 2006.

( Copyright: Andrea Burn – 21st February 2022)


‘tapestry’ (lp by carole king) – hall of fame induction.

(Post by John Allan, Bridgetown Western Australia – October 2021)

It was 1971 and I had just become an adult. I had turned 13 after all. My parents didn’t seem to agree and used words like ‘adolescent’,’teenager’ and phrases like ‘while your living under our roof’ and ‘these are the rules’.

Oh well, there was always the world of popular music to explore. School chums were opening up my mind with their various recent purchases. LPs were in and singles or 45s now a bit passé. Jethro Tull, Yes and Genesis were on my sonic radar but until I had enough spondulix, rifling through my brothers’ record collection would have to do.

What have we here then ? Blues, blues, more blues. A cover with a blue lady on it called ‘Blue’ by Joni MitchellI might come back to that one. This is a new one. A comely young lady sitting in the light of a window with a cat (called Telemachus incidentally) at her feet.

Tapestry” by Carole King.

This album is so much more than an anthem of love and lovers, lost, ended, distanced and discarded. Not simple piano ballads but a complex mix of rock, blues and gospel styles.

It opens with the tumbling bar blues of  “I Feel The Earth Move” which AllMusic critic Stewart Mason describes as “the ultimate in hippie-chick eroticism” and “sounds like the unleashing of an entire generation of soft-spoken college girls’ collective libido”. I’ll have what he’s having !

So Far Away” introduces Laurel Canyon alumni James Taylor on acoustic guitar.

Lyricist Toni Stern wrote the words for “It’s Too Late” in one afternoon after breaking up with the aforementioned Mr Taylor. I probably would have gone with ‘ you’re a pig James and I hate you. PS. I faked my orgasms !’ But then I’m not a lyricist or been dumped by James Taylor. (or faked an orgasm !!)

“Way Over Yonder” would not be out of place among the congregation of a deep south Gospel church (praise be).

Who hasn’t, after the shittiest of days, sat themselves down in a darkened room and dripped a tear into their tumbler of malt whisky/can of special brew/advocaat and babycham/mug of chamomile tea (select appropriate beverage) listening to “You’ve Got a Friend” whether King’s or JT’s version.

The Shirelles had a pop hit in 1961 with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”. Composer Carole slows it down to an achingly soulful ballad with backing vocals from James Taylor and Joni Mitchell (where have I seen that name before ?)

And who can forget Aretha’s 1967 empowering rendition of  “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” tastefully performed here by it’s creator.

I’ve skipped over a few tracks but there are no dull moments to be found on “Tapestry” every song a gem of an anthem.

So everybody, get your child or grandchild, male, female or non-binary, rip out their earbuds, nail their feet to the floor, put the record on the turntable (Yep, I’m talking vinyl, baby) crank it up and say ‘THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT !!’

Sorry, might of got a wee bit carried away there !

My life has been a tapestry
Of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision
Of the ever-changing view

You’ve got that right CK. 50 years on and you’ve got that right.