The Smith's Journal - October 2006

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Dafna Dori singing workshop: Songs From The Middle East

[ Dafna Dori teaching Songs From The Middle East ]My good friend Dafna from Jerusalem was visiting England, and so we arranged for her to give a singing workshop while she was here. It was lovely to see her again and introduce her to some of my friends who came along to sing. In fact, I was thrilled to see some of my favourite women all together in one place for the first time in years - group hug :-)

We began with some hilarious warm-up exercises, including brushing our arms and shaking out stuck energy, and a wonderful swinging of both arms in a figure-of-8 in front of you which was most invigorating, before finishing with some ridiculous vocalising. Next we awoke our voices by singing random pitches in a glorious cloud of sound. Then Dafna taught us some lovely songs in Arabic and Hebrew, which I recorded for further study in the hope that we'll be able to remember them. One of them, a well-known song called Hava Nagila, came back to me a week later and so I worked out a simple piano accompaniment.

[UPDATE: She's coming back :-]



Having been suffering from ill health for a while, I finally started reading up on my maladies and found out that the horribly itching skin I've had for some years now on my ear, eyelids, scalp, leg and (in cold weather) hands is chronic eczema. I had hoped it would go away, but alas no. Also, since September, I've had some as yet unknown (but probably linked) allergy which is causing flu-like symptoms, le(tha)rgy and sleep problems. The doctor said it was hay fever (in October?!?), but he didn't really know the full story. It's quite ridiculous to expect anyone, however 'trained', to diagnose (within a 10-minute cram-em-in appointment) someone they've never met who is feverish but trying to rationally describe a complex list of symptoms, especially someone such as yours truly who is such a medical freak of nature. The doc prescribed me some non-Vegan tablets I can't take, steroid cream to melt my face off and an inhaler, and told me to come back in 3 months. Yeah right. He was probably just having a bad day.

I later got much better advice from friends and the guy in a health shop in Amersham, whose wisdom and direct eye-contact gave me the confidence to know that I can beat this without polluting my body and propping up the drug companies' share prices. So I'm trying a selection of natural remedies, and making efforts to reduce stress which I know for sure in my case exacerbates the eczema (pray tell me, Doctor: where exactly do observable, but 'unscientific' symptoms like that fit into the NHS's Non-Holistic System, huh?).

I'm pretty sure my allergy is to dust mites, as the symptoms started during a massive house-cleaning session. Since childhood, I've been allergic to feathers in duvets and pillows; this is for the same reason. So I need to get a proper allergy test done, so I know what else to avoid, and what I'm OK with. My freezing cold olde house has become so cluttered and dusty, it is now almost uncleanable; I need to find a new place to live - somewhere warm and spacious, preferably with wooden floors and no carpets, to create a relatively dust-free zone. Deep in myself though, I know that most of my troubles stem from a lack of exercise, in fact just being too sedentary in general. So I am going to try and address that, and hope that my body can pick itself up and heal itself again. I've started reading about The Hacker's Diet (I like the idea of a fitness programme where the first step is to walk upstairs once a day ;-) and other exercise programmes, in my case not to lose weight, but to build some upper body strength which may help my drumming too :-)

My symptoms come and go, but have unfortunately been forcing me to cancel holiday plans and music events at short notice (which I hate doing), yet I still somehow manage to soldier on working :-( So please bear with me while I learn to keep on top of things.


Vitae Drum Circle play at Chesham and Amersham Libraries

[ Vitae Drum Circle in Amersham Library, photo by Sam Gill ]As part of Black History Month, Vitae Drum Circle were invited to perform in two public libraries in Chesham and Amersham. Not your usual venue for an African drumming group, it was quite an honour to walk into such a quiet place of learning with bells on my ankles :-) We did of course wonder if the librarians would tell us to "Be quiet!" but luckily they were happy to see us, equally excited about the idea of what folk would think as they walked past outside, maybe even be inspired to come in and dance. So we set up and launched straight into Kasse, Yankadi+Makru, Kuku, Soli, and Sanja. Our spirited performance of song, drum and dance was warmly welcomed, and we enjoyed the surreality of the venue. Afterwards we promptly packed up and moved on to do similar damage at Amersham, this time unleashing Asiko, Kuku, Yankadi, Djole and Pap Magatte.

Back In Action

To calm down again we went for lunch in the town, and visited the fabulous Planet Health and Organics store to get some proper medicine for my lergy. Jed and I also took the opportunity of having a sit down at Back In Action, which had a great range of Grahl and Varier (by Stokke) chairs, one of which might be good for my Ultimate Workstation. Of the kneeler chairs, I liked the Stokke Variable and Hag Balans, both of which put less stress on the knees than the Putnams Posture Chair I used to use. I couldn't get on with the ball chairs, but the Grahl Duo Back chairs felt like a lovely spinal massage, and adapted to your every movement in any direction - this is not just a gimmick and is almost worth the (high) asking price. Best of all, I got to try out my favourite ever chair, Peter Opsvik's stunning 'Garden', which I one day hope to have in the glass-domed top of the East Tower of the Abbey I dream of building, complete with telescope for stellar gazing...

[UPDATE: I later acquired a Stokke Variable and Grahl Duo Back :-]

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2006-10-05 - last updated 2008-01-01