Tuesday, 27 June 2017


I know lots about singing but very little about neuroscience so I started researching the web and found a site entitled ‘Neuroscience for Kids’. As I couldn’t find a kid to explain it to me, I had to come up with a layman’s interpretation of my own. This is the simplest explanation that I can comprehend. We talk about our brains being ‘wired’ so imagine that the wire is cut into thousands of pieces. The way that our ‘messages’ travel from one piece to another is by way of chemicals called neurotransmitters. What has that to do with singing? Well research shows that singing stimulates the production of these chemicals, both those connected to emotional and physical functions resulting in a host of benefits associated with singing such as improving maths and literacy, thyroid balance, multi tasking and general wellbeing.

I suppose that research into the benefits of music, and singing in particular, is more appealing to scientists than research into other types of alternative therapy. They can observe what is going on in the physical body rather than struggling with the notions of energy channels or meridians of Chinese medicine or the ‘water memory’ or ‘energised water’ of homeopathy, for example. It is far more difficult to be dismissive or to talk of placebo effects when they can observe what is going on in the brain. Not that the workings of the brain are fully understood but neuroscientists can tell us that neurotransmitters are being stimulated my music and it is having observable consequences directly linked to that stimulation.

The nice thing about all that is that it adds credibility and real substance to the claims and observations that music therapists make. Singing is not only a joyful past time but it is good for you, not only mentally but physically.

If the scientists amongst you will forgive me for minimising their work, I suppose one can sum up their offering by saying:

“The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing, our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified.”

Of course, when I take a singing session, for example with a group of stroke survivors, I don’t usually start by saying, “Hello, I’m here to stimulate your neurotransmitters!” I do try to be entertaining but more importantly, I try to involve them and get them to overcome the inhibitions they may have about their vocal prowess, or their struggle to make certain sounds or their difficulty with timing and rhythm. I get them to have fun whilst reaping the benefits that the scientists confirm are actually real and not imaginary or fanciful assertions.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


A long, long time ago, in fact over 1000 years ago, brown bears used to live in England. These bears were big and very fierce. They had a round face and 42 teeth in their powerful jaws. Their hair was about 10 centimeters long and covered their bodies from head to tail and they had big paws and sharp claws. Most of the bears weighed no more than 300 kilograms but occasionally a giant bear roamed the land and this is the story of one such bear. He was a male bear weighing 400 kilograms and measured over two and a half meters in length. When he stood on his hind legs he was almost the height of two men who in ancient times were of course a little shorter than they are today. This bear was the strongest and most fearsome in all the land and he was known as Arthfael meaning Bear Chief.

Although Arthfael would often fish for salmon or trout in the swift flowing streams and rivers near the cave where he lived, his favourite food was meat. He would venture from his cave through the surrounding woods hunting for rabbits, wild boar and any thing else that took his fancy. What he couldn’t eat, he would often drag back to his cave to snack on later. No other animal or human for that matter, could challenge him and he roamed freely in his domain doing as he wished.

After some years had passed, Arthfael started to roam further afield in search of food and one day he reached the edge of some farmland surrounding a small village. His eyes sparkled and his mouth watered when he saw small flocks of sheep and herds of goats scattered around strange mud and straw huts with smoke coming from them. New and tempting smells drifted his way as the scent of cooking came from the settlement and then there were those funny looking creatures moving around on two legs. He remembered that his mother had told him about them when he was young. They must be humans, he thought. His mother had told him to be wary of them but they didn’t look as if they were any threat to the mightiest bear that ever lived! Arthfael gave a scoff, huh! Why had his mother told him to be careful of those puny little creatures? He gave an almighty roar and raced down a gentle slope from out of the trees and attacked an unsuspecting goat, killing it with one blow from his enormous paw. The humans screamed and ran in all directions except for one or two who ran towards him with long sticks shouting as they came. However, Arthfael just stood up on his hind legs and bellowed with such ferocity that the humans turned tail and ran leaving Arthfael to devour his tasty goat dinner.

Now in the village there lived a pretty girl called Hildred. She had long blonde hair that glinted in the sunshine and sparkling blue eyes that seemed to be able to look into your very soul and seek out everything that you were thinking. Her best friend was a fair haired boy called Darwyn. He always had a twinkle in his steely grey eyes and a smile that could melt the heart of many a fair maiden and especially that of Hildred. After a number of attacks from the giant bear Arthfael, the two were sitting together one day and discussing the plight of the village. “Why won’t all the villagers stand together and fight the bear?” said Hildred. “They are just too scared” replied Darwyn “and they think the bear has been sent by God to punish them for their sinful ways”  They think that the bear will leave them alone if they worship God more and behave in a manner more pleasing to the Almighty. “I wish we could do something to save the village and our animals” mused Hildred, half thinking out loud and half looking for a solution from her beloved Darwyn. He was a clever lad after all, surely he could think of a plan to rid them of the terror that was facing them more and more frequently.

The two sat in silence for some time thinking things over when suddenly Darwyn stood up and announced that he alone would confront the bear. Hildred pleaded with him not to do it. It was dangerous and Darwyn would almost certainly be killed. “Better that than give in to that bullying brute of a bear” retorted the young man. Seeing that his mind was made up, Hildred came to a decision. “Then I shall help” she announced and, just as Darwyn could not be swayed from his decision, neither could the brave Hildred. You know, bravery is a strange thing because the bravest people are not those who are fearless but those who do something even though they are scared. Darwyn and Hildred were two such people. Very scared but very brave.

For the rest of the day, the two friends sat discussing ideas and trying to formulate a battle plan. In the end, their plan was not much of a plan at all for they had little experience in such matters. They noted that the giant bear Arthfael, usually came looking for food first thing in the morning when the sun had sent its first rays above the horizon and lit the sky with glorious shades of pink, orange and red. So for the next two days the sneaked out of their parents huts and waited, hidden in bushes at the bottom of the slope below the woods from where Arthfael usually made his appearance. Darwyn had taken a short sword from his hut that was kept hidden in a blanket behind his father’s bedding. The sword had belonged to Darwyn’s grandfather who was given it when he once fought in the feudal Lord’s army many years before. Before his grandfather had died two years past, he had sometimes shown it to Darwyn and taught him the basics of its use, mainly the thrusts used in close combat. Although the thought of close combat with Arthfael sent shivers through his spine, the sword was the only real weapon Darwyn had apart from the sticks, scythes and pitchforks that the villagers used for everyday farming use. For her part, all Hildred had was a sling and a pouch of carefully chosen stones. Unusually for a girl in those days, Hildred was very skillful at using the sling and she would often fire stones at targets she set up at some distance away making the local boys angry when she proved more accurate than them. However, she secretly doubted that her ammunition would trouble Arthfael too much no matter how accurately she was able to propel it. Anyway, Hildred was agile and a fast runner and the plan was that she would distract the bear by firing at it from one direction and then another confusing it to the extent that Darwyn could seize his moment to run in and thrust the sword into the bear’s heart.

For two mornings they rose from their beds early and waited with beads of sweat running down their foreheads displaying the apprehension that they were trying to hide from each other. Nothing happened, No Arthfael, he did not appear. On the third morning, unbeknown to them, Arthfael had set off from his cave with the intention of stealing another lamb or goat kid from the village. On his way, he happened upon a family of wild boar and managed to grab a piglet for his breakfast which he found very tasty indeed and certainly satisfied his hunger. He was about to turn for home when he thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to carry on to the village and grab a defenseless morsel and carry it back to his cave for his dinner later that night. So it was that he strolled somewhat more slowly than usual in view of his full tummy and started down the slope above the village with his eyes already picking out a target in the field below. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his rear leg as Hildred’s first stone hit him. He turned to see who or what had dared to sting him when another stone hit home from a slightly different direction. Her heart pounding, Hildred ran to the cover of another bush and fired once more hitting Arthfael on his nose. The bear roared and stood up on its hind legs so that he looked the size of a mountain to the brave young friends. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Hildred and ran towards her. Bears are quick but with a full tummy, Arthfael wasn’t quite as quick or nimble as Hildred and she managed to run to his rear and fire another stone hitting his bottom. Darwyn saw his chance and jumped out form his hiding place and towards the bear. He was about to thrust the sword into Arthfael when the bear suddenly turned and lashed out a mighty paw catching Darwyn a glancing blow knocking him unconscious. In her horror, Hildred dropped her pouch of stones and before she could recover them, Arthfael grabbed Darwyn by his belt and carried him off into the woods.

With no thought for her own safety, Hildred finally gathered her pouch and ran after them picking up Darwyn’s sword as she went. Seeing them a little way ahead she fired another stone from her sling narrowly missing the lumbering Arthfael whose speed was reduced considerably not only by his full tummy but by the weight of the unfortunate Darwyn. Hildred quickly drew close to them and fired another stone, this time hitting Arthfael on his already sore back leg. “Enough of this” the bear thought dropping Darwyn and turning to face the slim, delicate human who was becoming a real annoyance and spoiling what had promised to be such a pleasant and fruitful day.

Before Hildred could react, the bear was upon her knocking her over with a slash of his enormous paw and leaving blood trickling from a shallow wound on her arm. Now lying on her back the bear stood over her roaring angrily. “This is it” thought Hildred and a small tear appeared in the corner of her eye. She looked right at Arthfael not just with fear but with something far deeper. As she gazed beyond his eyes and into his heart she felt both respect and forgiveness for this beautiful animal who was about to end her life. After all, the bear was trying to survive and live as bears do just as humans try to live their lives as best they can; to find food and seek happiness amidst the beautiful countryside of England.

Arthfael stopped and looked back at Hildred; at her silky blond hair, her pale tender skin and into those timeless deep blue eyes. He observed the tear that had formed there and something stirred within him. A strange new emotion entered his very being He felt compassion for this brave and beautiful young girl who was trying to save her beloved Darwyn. Arthfael turned and walked away leaving both Hildred and Darwyn behind to tend their wounds and make their way slowly back to the village. Arthfael never again troubled the villagers or stole their livestock and for years to come the story of how Hildred had tamed the mighty bear chief, Arthfael, was told in gatherings and by campfires throughout the land.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


“Bed time!” The words that Matthew always hated. “Can’t I stay up a bit longer”, he pleaded but his mother could not be persuaded so, reluctantly, he made his way up stairs, brushed his teeth, donned his super hero pyjamas and jumped into bed. Matthew had learned not to make too much fuss. If he did as he was told, sometimes his mother would let him stay up a bit longer to finish a game or read a story but if he was difficult she became even more strict.

Matthew felt restless but he lay down and closed his eyes trying to nod off to sleep. “I wish our house had secret doors and passages”, he thought so that I could sneak out of bed and explore. He lay there imagining all sorts of adventures that he might have when suddenly he was startled by a bright light on the wall opposite his bed. He rubbed his eyes and, to his amazement, he saw that the light had become a shimmering door. Unable to contain his curiosity, he slid out of bed and approached noticing a large crystal handle that seemed to tell him to turn it and step through the opening.

Matthew opened the door and stepped onto a colourful raised platform above a yellow train track. Before Matthew could take in these strange new surroundings, a voice came over the loudspeakers dotted along the platform. “Next train is for Adventure Land stopping at Susie’s House, Doll City and Teddy Town”. Susie was Matthew’s friend who lived in the next street and he wondered why she had never mentioned that she had a secret station there. As he was thinking about this, he heard a noise to his right and looked up to see a big wooden train with red wheels and a tall blue funnel. It was pulling five open topped carriages in different colours. Green, purple, pink, red and orange. Behind this was a bigger, covered carriage painted blue with a guard poking his head out of its door.

The train stopped at the station and the guard shouted, “All aboard” in a booming voice that sounded very important. Matthew jumped into the red carriage which had four comfy seats, two facing forward and two backwards. Matthew liked to face the direction that the train was travelling so he took his seat just before the guard blew his whistle. The train started rolling and entered a long, dimly lit tunnel. In no time at all, it emerged from the tunnel and into another station where there were lots of flower baskets and pretty paintings on the walls of the waiting room. “Susie’s House”, a voice sounded. “This train is for Adventure Land stopping at Doll City and Teddy Town”.

Matthew’s friend Susie emerged from the waiting room carrying her favourite doll. He was dressed in nothing but a small white nappy and was bald apart from one clump of fair hair that fell into a big curl on the top of his head. Susie often carried him with her and said that his name was Charlie Brown. The name had been given to the doll by her grandfather and had always seemed appropriate so was never changed. Susie caught sight of Matthew and waved. He waved back and opened the carriage door for her to join him in the red carriage although he suspected that she would have preferred the pink one.

“Hello Susie, hello Charlie Brown”. Matthew greeted them with a smile. “How come you have never told me about this train?” he asked trying not to sound annoyed. “It’s a secret train”, replied Susie “and you are only allowed to know about it if the dream weavers build a platform at your house. They will only build one if they know you can keep a secret and if you have been good and are ready for night time adventures”. With that, the guard’s whistle blew and the train pulled out of the station at Susie’s House.

“Where are you going?”, enquired Susie. “Don’t know”, said Matthew. “Might go to Teddy Town. I lost my teddy the other day. Perhaps he is hiding there. What about you”. “I’m off to Doll City”, she replied. “I’m taking Charlie Brown to see some of his friends who live there”.

The train picked up speed and the wind blew through their hair as they passed fields of toy farm animals and buildings made from Lego and Meccano sets with paper mache rocks and hills behind them. The train soon pulled into Doll City where the streets were full of all sorts of dolls the like of which Matthew had never seen before. He waved goodbye to Susie and Charlie Brown as the train moved on across more fields and rivers until he heard a voice announcing, “Next stop Teddy Town”. The train slowed and chugged into the station.

Excitedly, Matthew jumped out, left the station and started off down the main street. It was market day and the town was crowded with teddies of all shapes, sizes and colours. Not just teddy bears, mind you, but all sorts. Elephants, donkeys, monkeys, gollies, bunnies and even a rather frightening looking alligator. Just as he thought he would never find his own teddy, Bertie Bear, in such a crowded place, he spotted him by an ice cream van with a big cone of cookie dough ice cream. It was all over Bertie’s nose and was dripping down his cheeks as his long tongue scooped up another dollop of his favourite treat. “Typical”, thought Matthew. “Trust Bertie to find an ice cream van”. Mind you, the ice cream looked so tempting that Matthew ordered himself a large chocolate chip cone topped with nuts and joined Bertie, savouring every lick of the best ice cream he had ever tasted.

“Wakey, wakey!” a voice rang in Matthew’s ears. “Oh, I see you’ve found Bertie. Where was he, in the cupboard where I told you to look yesterday?” “No, I found” a bleary eyed Matthew started to say but he stopped. He remembered that the train was a secret and he wanted to be sure it was still there every night when he went to bed.

Sunday, 26 April 2015


I must have woken up in a philosophical mood this morning because I found myself sitting up in bed contemplating the nature of consciousness. Then I thought that I hadn’t posted on my Twitter account for some time so trawled my mind for inspiration. I confess that Twitter is still something of a mystery to me and the main benefit that I have derived from it is as a medium to complain about big companies and get action. It seems that even the likes of BT and Peugeot who do a great impression of not caring a monkeys, just don’t like negative comments of social media. That aside, I realise that local businesses follow me as a method of advertising their services and, for some, I’m sure it works but my attempts to follow suit have yielded nothing. What I find more baffling are the follows that come from around the world, especially those that do not seem to be drawing attention to a particular product, condition or campaign. Then, ridiculous as it may seem, I feel a certain pressure to post something mind blowing or at least interesting. Hence, this morning I thought post, “Every act of unconditional kindness makes the world a better place. It lights a candle in the darkness.” Still in my philosophical mode I then examined the word ‘unconditional’. Often people have the attitude of ‘what’s in it for me’. They want something in return. That attitude is easy to spot in the extreme but even for the most benevolent, the unconditional bit can pose a problem. Sometimes we get fed up for doing things for people and getting no thanks or even getting negativity in return. Does that mean of acts are not unconditional because we do want something in return even if it is an occasional ‘thank you’? Perhaps, but if we were perfect we wouldn’t be on this Earth so we can only do our best and continue to light our little candles in the darkness and forgive ourselves for sometimes wanting to light them in a slightly different place.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


As I write this I am in my sitting room gazing through the window at the fields stretching down to the River Severn a mile or so away to the East. It is a misty, early Spring morning. The sun is trying hard to break through the veil of low cloud and the whole countryside seems to have a buzz of excitement with a build up of energy waiting to fuel the profusion of new growth that bides its time as it stirs slowly from a winter slumber. The snow drops have already been and gone but have been followed by primroses and daffodils growing not only in gardens and tubs but in the hedgerows, grass verges and dingles throughout the landscape. One of our resident pheasants potters across the lawn while above a few seagulls soar looking for easy pickings in the newly ploughed fields beneath them. It is peaceful yet vibrant. A perfect blend of yin and yang.

Next to me is an old, oak, glass fronted cabinet and, as I touch it, I feel a connection to its previous owner. The cabinet was given to me many years ago by my guitar master, Jack Goddard uncle of the actress Lisa Goddard, who lived in a small, terraced house in Southend-on-Sea. Each week I used to take my classical guitar along for my lesson but, in truth, most of the time we spent talking. Although I loved music, I probably loved all things spiritual and metaphysical even more and Jack was a psychic. We spent hours talking about Spiritualism, spirit guides, past lives,  Buddhism, Egyptology, astrology, numerology and much more. Also, it was Jack who introduced me to healing by teaching me the technique of aura cleansing.

Now I was born in India and one of the things that Jack conveyed to me from the spirit world is that, as a baby, I was ‘energised’ by an Indian holy man. It is something that I put to the back of my mind and have never really talked about. It’s not the sort of thing that one feels able or inclined to pop into a conversation and I suppose I always felt it to be irrelevant or fanciful. A bit too ‘way out’ for the material world of the Western hemisphere. However, it is something that has become very relevant in my work as a complementary therapist and my innately enhanced energy healing ability has run alongside and formed an integral part of all my other techniques and therapies.

What then is ‘energy healing’? Well, it’s not something that I can explain easily or briefly in a paragraph or two. However, faith healing, spiritual healing and Reiki are all types of energy healing. The ‘healer’ attempts to transfer the energy from ‘God’ or ‘Spirit’ or ‘the universe’ through them into the patient in order to facilitate healing. As quantum physics is now telling us, everything we perceive is in effect energy. As an energy healer I am attempting to correct the currents of energy in and around the body; something the Chinese have understood and practiced for thousands of years. 

Hence, when you come to me for some complementary therapy, whether it be reflexology, massage, tui na or some other technique, then energy healing will always be included. It’s not something I can or would wish to, switch off during sessions. I am reminded of my friend, Reiki Master and fellow therapist, Belinda Kennedy-Scott who came to me a few years ago for some reflexology. At the end of the session she said, “The reflexology was great by the energy was fantastic”.

Friday, 14 November 2014


It’s good to catch up with old friends, so I was delighted this week to share a few emails with my old flame and confidant, the author Teresa Moorey. It seems an age ago since we both attended an astrology course run by the late Charles Harvey, a field in which Teresa received much acclaim in later years.

The emails were prompted by a poem that I had posted on my website. It was one that had been written whilst at university with her and I was surprised and quite honoured that she remembered it. However, the communication brought with it some sad news that her mother had recently died and that her sister for whom I felt a great fondness, had died last year. With the news, Teresa shared a beautiful moment with me. She wrote of ‘being’ with her sister shortly after her death saying, “She was in a wonderful landscape where the colours seemed to shine out of the grass and trees, and there was a succession of bridges behind her.  She stood in the meadow, younger looking and happy, and I said ‘What are you going to do now, Annie?’  ‘Play’ she replied.”

I was very moved by the vision. It was a reminder not only of the greater reality that lies beyond this world but of the joy that play can bring into our very essence. Perhaps it was something that had been missing for Annie as it seems to be for so many people. As we get older and become ‘grown ups’ we often loose the ability to play with the freedom of a child. We become concerned that we have to display and preserve an image befitting our age, profession or perceived status in the world. In short, we can become if not boring, then too serious. Sometimes it’s good just to let go and remember the innocence of childhood.

Whilst contemplating these matters, I thought of the many different attitudes towards ‘appropriate’ adult behaviour and recalled an interesting conversation that I had earlier in the year. I had been fortunate enough to attend a Mennonite wedding in Missouri. My great niece, a member of the faith, was getting married and there was a large gathering of the clan. During a lengthy discussion with a rather fierce looking but thoroughly charming individual with a long dark beard, black waistcoat and straw hat, I asked about the Mennonite attitude towards sport. The young people at the pre-wedding   banquet were all playing volley ball but no adults joined in the fun. I was told that people in his church believed that games and sport in general were child like and that when one became an adult, it was frowned upon to take part.

I found that hard to understand but in varying degrees, it is an attitude that is not restricted to the gracious and hospitable Mennonite people. Sometimes in the business world, one wonders what happened to a sense of humour and a youthful spirit. I feel that one should remember that to play with the enthusiasm of a child does not in itself make one ‘childish’ and, indeed, that play is something we all need in our lives along with a generous dose of laughter.

Monday, 20 October 2014


I was talking to Gavin Sutherland (Sailing, Arms of Mary etc.) a while back about some of the experiences that we both had ‘on the road’ in our gigging days. He commented that people should stop talking about bringing back National Service but everyone should be made to spend some time as a ‘Roadie’ for a band. I can see where he was coming from – hard work, a disciplined approach, tight schedules and they would certainly see a different side of life!

Unlike Gavin who, as part of the Sutherland Brothers, was quite a big name back in the day, I rarely had the luxury of a roadie and had to do my own lifting, carrying and setting up before and after performing. It certainly added to all the experiences I had during thirty odd years as a professional. Indeed, people often tell me to write about some of those experiences so I thought I might reminisce in some blogs so here goes with the first.

It’s about a lead guitarist who was part of the band. A lovely guy called Paul Newman. He came from a musical family and I recall once doing a gig with his Dad who was no mean piano player. Anyway, Paul was a brilliant guitarist if managed correctly. You see, Paul had one slight flaw in that he liked a pint or two. Nothing unusual in that but stone cold sober, Paul was rubbish and with too much drink inside him, he was rubbish as well. In between, he was fantastic.

I remember a particular recording session when we had to have a few cans of lager on hand. Paul arrived and said “Shall I start recording my part?” “No Paul”, we replied, “Relax and have a tipple first” feeding him the first can. The session continued with us rationing Paul as best we could to keep him ‘in the zone’

Often, at the end of a gig, Paul would rush off stage to get a pint before the bar closed and I have one memorable image of him standing at the public bar alongside some burly workman still wearing his orange silk stage trousers with a scarf around his neck.

That scarf came in hand at a service station on the way home from a gig late one night. The restaurant was full of Hells Angels and as Paul walked past one very big, hairy biker, he knocked his arm making him spill his drink over the table. “Sorry Mate” the five foot four Paul said and duly mopped it up with his scarf. I thought all hell was going to break out but the biker was so bewildered that the incident passed without a problem.

It could have been even worse and another service station in South Wales at the time of the Miners Strikes in the Thatcher era. Bus loads of police were ferried around the country at that time to deal with the strikers and, as we walked into service station restaurant in the early hours, the place went silent as about three hundred pairs of police eyes looked up at us. You could have heard a pin drop but it wasn’t a pin that Paul dropped it was a small package that looked suspiciously like a spliff (not that I would really know what that looked like never having indulged myself!) Quick as a flash Paul picked it up and said loudly, “Oh, that’s where my plectrum went”. Well done Paul, I was in fear of us all being arrested and strip searched. As it was, the noise level resumed and we enjoyed our late night snack. The force was with us – happy days! 

Picture of Dion Charles & Pine Bluff (From Left; Roger Ellis, Paul Newman, Dave 'Boot' Jeens & Dion Charles)