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At last, a breakthrough! I’ve been plodding away with the Chopin Waltz in A minor, seemingly not really getting anywhere. Apparently part of the problem is that I’m not curving my hand enough, so I have had to have remedial scales lessons. I finally feel like I have broken the back of it.  A few nights ago it just clicked. I don’t feel Ive been doing anything differently, but perhaps that extra scales practice has paid off. I rarely practice my scales. Every lesson starts with 3 octaves of either major or minor scales, which just goes to highlight to my teacher (and me) how much I neglect them. I have a suspicion that it wasn’t my scales that helped, but the fact that I’ve not played the piece much over the last few weeks, due to various people coming to stay with us. First was my mum who came down for the weekend. It was great to see her as we live at the other end of the country from both mine and my wife’s parents, so don’t get to see them as often as we would like to. Then a quick wash of the sheets and the following weekend my best friend came to stop with us. She lives over in London and loves coming out to the countryside. We took her up for lunch in Hay-on-Wye, eating at the café in Richard Booth’s bookshop. We’ve not eaten there before, but have fancied it for a while. The pancakes with yoghurt and maple syrup were very tasty.  The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering round the bookshops of the town, for which it is now famous. My friend is also a great pianist, so we managed to play a duet from Carmen together. I love playing duets as it forces you to keep playing even when you make a mistake.

Back to what I was saying about not practicing: I think that the brain needs periods of rest when learning new skills to learn in the background. I developed this theory when I was a teenager learning to juggle. A trip to Sidmouth International Folk Festival in a friends converted ambulance was enough to turn me on to the joys of juggling. You might see it as the preserve of weird dope-smoking, petuli oil scented, dreadlocked crusties; but for me it is a great way to relax. As I was learning to juggle I would spend hours and hours trying to perfect a certain move. By the end of the session I’d still be dropping them. But after leaving it a couple of days, with no practice at all I would start the next session able to do it. I honestly think these periods of rest are almost as important as the time spent practicing. For the record I’m actually an accomplished juggler. My friend and I used to juggle 6 fire clubs passed between us. On a couple of occasions we used the juggling and fire-breathing to entertain the queues at nightclubs. This was really just a cunning plan to get free entry to the club and to try to impress the girls. Which on the whole it did, but unfortunately nobody likes paraffin breath. Below is a video of a couple of guys doing what my mate and I used to.

I digress; The Chopin is definitely going to be conquered. I am thinking of playing it in public at the next one of my piano teacher’s get-togethers for her adult pupils.

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