It’s never too late, part two

I have always hated Christmas. Let me assure you that hate is not too strong a word. Try as I might, I cannot recall why this time of year which is so special to so many, fills me with anxiety, horror, dread and fear.

This year, the weeks leading up to the big event were not as depression-fuelled as usual. Maybe it was my succes in ignoring the forthcoming festivities until just two days before the dreaded date that carried me through December largely unscathed. No Baubles, wreathes, trees, cards, TV ads, jingle bells, overheated shopping malls, exhausted shop assistants, Christmas films, concerts or drinks parties for me, just the bliss of my airpods drowning out the noise of hysteric frenzy.

On XXIII/XII I was forced to conceed that I had no option but to perform a few tasks, to step out of my denial reluctantly shake hands with the season to acknowledge that ‘it’ really was happening.

On the morning of 25th, I woke with a sense of relief, knowing that the season was at last drawing to a close. Only a few more days until I could get back to normal. But in the meantime, I had an important job to do.

The decade is drawing to close, so it was time to take stock then reaffirm that it is never too late.

The decade started badly, so badly infact that I really do not care to recall it.

Over the past ten years I have experienced triumphs, anxiety, failures, love and loss. I have learnt that I cannot live my life in the grip of those insecurities and anxities which have been (until now) my constant companions. I have learnt that a solitary life is not necessarily a bad, unfufilled life as there is empowerment in standing firm on one’s own two feet owing nothing to any human being but oneself.

I have learnt that love is not a magic feeling that arrives unannounced and makes everything it touches blissful. I have come to understand that the true magic of love is not the intial rush of chemicals to the head, that promise of perfection, but something less tangible, that lacks the excitment bearing a greater ressemblance to heavy toil and the satisfaction of a job well done. I have learnt that love is not the promise of completness offered by another human being, but the wholeness one finds in oneself.

I have learnt the we hold the power of pain in our own hands, that we have the ability to choose whether to swim in the sea pain visited upon us by external forces or that which we inflict on ourselves, or to find a spot on a nearby shore where we can sit, breathe in the bracing air and bask in the warmth of the sunlight. Yes, we can chose.

I have learnt that we can either ignore and run from the darkness that resides within us or we can embrace it, shine a light upon it, intergrate it and use its force for good and self completion. We can make that darkness serve us instead fearing it and becoming its slave.

I have learnt that fear paralyses and prevents the fufillment of potential. But by sitting with it, exposing it, we rob fear of its power to enslave us.

I have learnt that music has the power to make a broken person whole, to embue the soul with strength and to heal all wounds.

This week, I started to learn to play the ‘Moonlight Sonata’. I will never have the skill of the great maestro Daniel Barrenboim, whose playing capivated entranced and motivated me in my very early years, but in four years, I have gained the knowledge and the skill to stroke those black and white keys and make them sing. My playing is not perfect, nothing ever is, but it is OK because I know that I will never lose touch with music again, which fills me with optimism and joy.

My life, ten years on bears no ressemblance to the life I led a decade ago, the life I fought hard to preserve. Circumstamce and happenstance have changed the direction of my path, and in so doing have brought me closer to the person I was born to be rather than the person that my culture, class and gender had encouraged me to aspire to be.

So, as the clock strikes 12 on the night of 31st January, I will look back and toast an imperfect decade, but one in which I started to live my best life, then, I might conceed that possibly this season of ‘tidings and joy’ is not so bad after all.


It’s never too late

’’Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.’’ Winnie the Pooh.
I was born singing and dancing.

The taller I grew, the more I danced.

Singing got me through the day.

My first Ah-ha moment came when I was taken on a trip to one of the swankiest cinemas in London to see the ‘Sound of Music.’ I was four. I was hooked.

I pestered my mother to buy me the LP. I played it non-stop. I memorised the words. I was Maria, the Reverend Mother and all of the Von Trapp Children. I learnt all of the harmonies, and each time I listened, I sang a different part.

My mother soon got the message and bought me some more magical LP’s: My Fair Lady, West Side Story and the like. As she did not want me to grow up an ignoramus, she also acquired some classical albums. My mother introduced me to the greats: Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner.

I will never forget the first time I heard ‘Moonlight Sonata’ played by Daniel Barenboim. I knew that my life would not be complete until I could play that piece with a love, style and finesse that equalled his.

In nineteen sixties England, most homes only had one ‘gramophone’ in pride of place in the sitting room. To ensure sole and undisputed access to that wooden box of delights, I took over the cleaning and tidying of our lounge, knowing my labour would buy me the peace to pursue my self-directed musical education.

Then, a miracle happened. It was early one Monday morning. Our class teacher herded us up the stairs towards the school hall. As we climbed, I heard the tinkling of the piano keys growing louder and louder. As we entered the hall, I saw that the music was not coming from a record; a real live man playing the piano that usually sat unloved and abandoned in the corner of the hall.

News soon spread that this was not a one-off occasion; the school had engaged a music teacher. I was in heaven.

Those weekly 45-minute music lessons, when Mr Chesire introduced us to classic pieces, then invited us to bang on drums, shake tambourines and zing xylophones, where bliss. He formed a recorder group which my friend Barbara and I attended religiously. Within months we were playing recorders of every shape and size. He was an enthusiastic young man, and in the 1960’s music was well funded in London schools. He took us around the capital to play in recorder consorts. We even played at the Royal Albert Hall. I was in paradise.

Eventually, he told my mother that I should have piano lessons, gave her the name of a teacher and arranged the rental of a piano.

The next 3 years were the best in my life.

Twice a week, I visited Miss Percival, my piano teacher. She was blind. She taught by first playing the tune and then standing behind me, placing her fingers over mine and pressing them on the correct keys until I got the right idea. As I became more competent, she moved to sit in a large winged armchair wedged between a pile of music and her grand piano. She followed every note on a score written in braille.

I knew that I was doing OK on the day when she invited me to play on the grand in preparation for my first piano exam. I knew I was doing better when she insisted that I stay and listen to the pupils who were preparing to go to music school.

At home, I spent every waking hour at my piano. I started composing little songs, I performed at every opportunity that I was given. Occasionally, I was asked to sing, but my nerves always got the better of me: I found it hard to remember the words.

I had only one desire: to take a degree in at the Royal Academy of Music, a place that I visited every few months to take the graded exams.

Then everything changed. My father was posted aboard and the piano could not come with us. I was Eleven.

The end.

The sad part of this story is that once I returned to the UK, I was focussed first on building my career, then on raising my family. I married a music biographer who sang semi-professionally, so my life was full of music made by other people. I did suggest that I take lessons, but there was always a reason for that not being possible. I came to the conclusion that he thought that I was not good enough. I never asked myself the pivotal question: ‘good enough for what?’.

The silver lining was that I amassed the most incredible body of knowledge about music and musicians. So much so, that I was always triumphant in that stupid game ‘name that composer’ that was a popular after dinner entertainment in the more pompous musical circles of the time. I could not stand and perform with the rest of them, but I could beat them with my knowledge of some pretty obscure musical trivia.

Years passed, my son grew, my marriage ended and any thoughts of making music became a very distant dream. I plunged into a depression so deep that at times it was hard to get out of my bed.

One evening, I was messing about on facebook, when a friend posted that he’d had ‘a brilliant night at choir’. I pinged him back asking where the choir was based and could anyone join. His reply was to invite me to go along the following week.

It was 2013. I was 53.

It’s hard to describe what happened next.
I fell in love. At first, some odd noises came out of my mouth, but they blended with the other 99 voices. After a few weeks, I realised that it wasn’t just my spirit soaring, I could feel my voice floating upwards, it sounded pure and clear. I decided to learn how to sing. I found a teacher. After 4 lessons she started preparing me to take my first singing exam.

It’s now 2017. This year I will take and pass grade 8 singing and grade 5 piano. I am a member of two very respected chamber choirs and I ‘fix’ two amateur orchestras.

Do I regret not doing this earlier? maybe it just wasn’t my time. Maybe I did not have a real understanding of what my place in music is supposed to be. Maybe I wasn’t mature enough not to be wracked with disappointment that I would never have a career as a soloist.

Music has opened up a whole new world to me: new challenges, new friends, new self-respect, self-confidence and new ambitions.

The point is that it is never too late; you just have to adjust your expectations and value your talent enough to work as hard as you would have as a young person starting out. You have to have the maturity to understand that your talent, whatever it may be, has been gifted to you. It is your gift and you have to learn how to use it in a way that will give you the most satisfaction.

All too often, as we get older, we impose false limitations on ourselves. Increasingly, I find that friends who are approaching their 60th birthdays are only really considering one thing: retirement. They want to make their houses retirement proof so that they won’t have to worry about fixing roofs in ten years time. They want to make sure that they have enough money in the bank to get their kids on the property market. They want to have enough money so that they can go on a couple of holidays a year. In their spare time, they may want to play a bit of golf or do a bit of painting. But essentially, they want to wait for death in comfort. They rarely see that they now have the luxury of time that can be used to gain mastery the passion that fired them up and made their childhood magical. They fail to see that active and focused engagement could bring them back to joy. They fail to see that the child within them wants to play and sing and dance in the same way that it did when they were five. They just have to give it free reign.

Getting involved in music has taught me that drawing my pension need not be the end of a useful and fulfilling life. If I apply the 10,000-hour theory and practice in a focused way, I can use the skills that I am gaining to entertain, educate and heal…but above all to keep me in my happy place.

I have recognised and accepted that I will never play the Moonlight Sonata like Daniel Barenboim, nor do I wish to, but I can bring a shitload of pleasure to a lot of people in a more modest and possibly longer lasting way.

There is an additional bonus: forcing my fingers to do 40 minutes a day of scales and arpeggios followed by an hour of learning pieces bar by bar, may hurt, but it will keep them strong and flexible enough to be able to open a jar of jam without the aid of one of those rubber thingies. Opening my mouth to singing, pumps air through my lungs and sends oxygen to my brain. Learning songs by heart in French, German and Italian, keeps my brain cells sparking and firing. Music is keeping my mind and body strong. Music is keeping me young.

Now that I have found it again, I will only abandon music to death or dementia; whatever comes first.


My benchmark for happiness

I was a happy child.
Anxious, but happy.
Somewhere in my teens, I read my first romantic novel, and my definition of happiness changed.
Maybe it was because my living circumstances were unbearable and I needed a fantasy to hang on to, but I fully bought into the knight in shining armour myth and have been waiting for him to arrive ever since.

Aged thirteen, I formulated a two-part plan:
Step one: get away from the circumstance
Step two: find the man who would make me happy forever.

Step one was a total success. By the age of 17, I had removed myself from the place that made me cry.
Step two has never been accomplished.
I have only just really understood why:

I am the sole arbiter of my own happiness.

This morning, I woke feeling sunny. I got up, put the kettle on and stepped out of the front door.
The sky was heavy with dark grey cloud, shot through with wisps of light. I looked up and spotted a dancer and a tortoise hidden in those clouds and thought: ‘yeah.’
I ran through the day ahead, nothing much going on apart from a few little jobs, and thought: ‘today is going to be a good day.’
And in that moment, I benchmarked what I was feeling, and decided that anything less than that simple joy in being present in the world for no particular reason other than I’m here, was not happy.

In that moment, I had no feeling of worry, anxiety, stress. In that moment it was just me in the world smiling. And that is enough to make me happy.

I have finally accepted that I am the person who is responsible for my happiness. Other people can come along and add to it, (and they do, frequently) but they cannot be responsible for making me happy or keeping me that way.

Today my intellectual understanding shifted from knowing it to really feeling it. Today I established my benchmark for happiness.




No longer pissed

But still in a mist

Looking for the missing bits


Health regained

Mind reframed

But still an empty space remained


I set about a quest

You see

To find the missing part of me


Music seem to set me free

But still I was not

Wholly me


I looked around

In great confusion

Was it just an wild illusion

That there was more to me

Than there appeared to be?


So in  the midst of my confusion

I fell into a great delusion

Thinking that my future lay

Where in the past I could not stay


I did not really understand

My future was already in my hands

It took you as my  catalyst

To  undercover my true bliss


Now I’m not really big on drama

But it took a little trauma

To make me stop and realise

My talent was not between my thighs

It’s between my big brown eyes


You see


I’d missed the connection

That would lead me in the right direction

Put me firmly on my path

Let my tears out

Make me laugh


It had been there all along

But I’d not practised

So it was gone

Re-emerging when you came along


It’s not about inspiration

Just daily practise and dedication

I don’t need to be smart

To create

And celebrate my art

Which comes directly from my heart


All I need to do

Is to sit

Gather my wits

Put my fingers on the keys

And start




Her name is Friend



I have a friend

Who I depend on

Always there

For me to lean on


She’s always there

To laugh and play

There when I’m

In  deep disarray


I have a friend

Who I depend on

Always there

For me to lean on


And when I need

An ear to bend

She’ll listen, think

And help me mend


Never nasty

Never rude

But sometimes 

She is very crude


She is feisty

She is wise

Such love and caring

In her eyes

She will always make suggestions

Point me in the right direction


I have a friend

Who I depend on

Always there

For me to lean on


It hard to believe

That I have a friend called Eve

Whose love I’m happy to receive

I know that she will never leave


She’s always there for

Me to lean on

Always there

To depend on






All the self help books relate

Don’t  waste your energy on hate

You should try hard to relate

To people in a happy state


What these good books do not tell you

Is pushing your feelings down will fell you

If you bury all your hate

You’ll be in a sorry state


You can push it down so far

Pretend you left it at the bar

But it will bubble up and hit you

Turn you round,

and bloody kick you

There  is not a single doubt

Unvoiced hate will rub you out


It will run around your head

Making you wish that you were dead

You will think you’re being good

Doing what you know you should


Hate locked inside

will poison you

Make you shameful and blue

Make you ill

Sick and tired

Make you feel all hot and wired


So let it out

It’s ok for you to shout


“Oi fucker!

You made me feel like poo

What did I do to you?

It’s fine for you to have  your issues

So, go buy your own fucking tissues

If you’re feeling totally pissed

Go see a bloody therapist

I know you’re feeling horrible pain

But don’t treat me with disdain

I understand that you’re insane

Letting your noxious feelings reign

I know you’re feeling awful shame

That makes you want to leave the game


A bit of respect was all that was needed

Then I would have conceded

Walked away and you let be

Miserable and free


But you hurt me to the core

Trampled on me

Made me sore

Walked away without a glance

Leaving me in a tearful trance


Walking away may have set you free

But made a prisoner of me

You took no responsibility

So I turned the blame in on me


Because, you see

I believed  to be good

You should

Push that hating down inside you

Don’t let it out

Cos it will bite you


Now I know that that’s not true

So fucker, I’m saying:

I hate you”






This is how the story goes

This is how the truth arose

This is where the story ends

With its little twists and bends


Love grew like a delicate flower

Hidden in its shady bower

Safe from harm

For a few bright hours


First a tiny seed took root

Which became a spindly shoot

Fed by earth, water and air

Nourished with  love

And constant care


And day by day the shoot grew longer

Darker, greener,  wider, stronger

Pushing towards the warming sun

Determined that it’s work be done


Then at last a bud appears

No longer is it  a feared

To show its shy and pretty face

Gradually cranking up the pace

Growing, taller,  bigger, stronger

Cannot wait a moment longer


Then all at once

The bud unfolds

Unfurling petals

One by one

To reveal it’s hidden colour

Gorgeous in it’s gentle pallor

So delicate

This brand new flower


But a cold frost passes by

Sears that flower

So, it dies

Brown and dark and shrivelled

Life once strong

Now dead and withered


Brutally murdered

Love is gone.


My name is….

If there were such a thing, my name would be Dr  Erica P  PhD in Lame Duckery.

That makes me smile.

My relationship history is just one long catalogue of disasters.

Before I was married, I only had relationships with men who obsessed about being with ex-girlfriends, or who obsessed about having relationships with unobtainable girls.

One of the all time break-up lines I had to endure was:

‘ I love Sharon, she looks like a boy, and she lets me f*** her in the arse’


Yes really.

I have had two marriages, one was happier than the other, both split, because yes, that lure of another.

And so, this pattern continues.

You would think at my age, I would know better!

My recent foray into ‘coupledom’ was with a man of a similar age, who truly believes that his only path to happiness is with a woman who made his life a misery for 10 years. So much so that he feels that without her he could never be happy, and has chosen isolation and self pity over jolly japes and romps with me.

I did for many years choose to believe that my bad luck in finding a suitable mate was due to an inherent un-loveableness. However,  the past few weeks has shown me a side of the coin that I had not hitherto considered. The path of my destruction may in fact be due to my horrendous addiction to people-pleasing. I just want the whole world to be happy, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to include me. I must have been at the back of the self-love queue!

I am currently seeing a therapist about my most recent fall from grace, and really she is being very  helpful.

Apparently, I suffer from a syndrome called ‘Attachment Disorder’, which is complex and can be very debilitating.

In my case, I do not suffer from some of the greater ravages of this mental health issue, as apart from my love life, I have led quite a happy and successful life.

But where love is concerned, my modus operandi is to seek out broken souls who I try to support with loving kindness and gentleness, where what they really need is a massive boot in the arse with dainty size 38’s ( even better if they were enclosed in a sturdy pair of Doc Marten’s).

You see the form of the syndrome that is my speciality is my fear of abandonment, so subliminally, I choose as partners those who will inevitable tell me that the ‘gig is up, aufwiedersehen’.

I have though, due to some very skilful head-shrinking, realised that I have the power to do something about this unfortunate kink in my personality I have


  1. I could feel sorry for myself, and drink/drug myself to death, but having researched addiction,  Stage IV Liver Disease has  severely limited attractions.
  2. I could  with grace, style and finesse bow out of the game and live happily with a dog and Netflix as my companions and best friends. I love dogs, and films, but dogs have limited intellectual ability, and films of the kind I like best,  can make you angry, bitter and twisted. I feel somehow that the self pity poor me game would not work to my best advantage.
  3. I could develop a more pragmatic attitude towards sex, and get my kicks from meet-ups through dating sites. This would require a certain amount of backbone and immunity to rejection. I feel  that this option would only serve to  increase the symptoms of my affliction.
  4. Alternatively, I could build my own dating site for nearly-grannies whose best friends are their pets and Netflix. Now there’s a thought!
  5. Or I could re-evaluate my attitude, build up my resilience and work at becoming so emotionally healthy that I can spot a lame duck at within a 100 mile radius, and shoot the fucker before it shits on my head.

I choose option 5

Below is  a useful link that will help to explain Attachment Disorder and points to some more academic texts if that is what floats your boat.

Once again thanks to Tony Bologna for his brilliant article on 9 ways to hate yourself a little less

9 Steps to Hating Yourself a Little Less