Tired, But Busy

The title says it all. I feel exhausted (probably from the cold weather) but I remain busy practising the piano, writing and self-publishing poetry, and mastering a number of foreign languages.

I would particularly recommend the FSI French Revised, available as a free download.

The course offers more than 80 hours of audio tuition, along with two PDF books amounting to 1000 pages, and focuses on spoken fluency.

Admittedly, some people don’t like constant drills and repetition exercises, but I’ve personally found this teaching method invaluable. I’m supplementing my studies with the Assimil New French With Ease, another great educational tool for learning a foreign language alone.

Till next time.

Currently studying French, German, Russian


A Live Recording, Lawrence Estrey, Piano

A few months ago, I posted the following article. Today, I recorded a live performance and converted the tracks to YouTube videos. For once, readers will get to hear my voice and an English accent.

A Stand Up Musician – Sort Of

We’ve all seen or heard stand up comedians. They get up and do a slot in venues, gaining valuable experience and exposure.

In the past few months, I’ve been working on an equivalent in small settings in suburban north London, UK. Generally, I do a mixture of classical piano and ragtime, lasting between seven and thirteen minutes.

If the mood is right, I’ll start with the third movement from Beethoven’s fourth Sonata in E-flat, then follow with the Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin. I might end with a popular like I Love Paris by Cole Porter or add another short classical piece (time permitting). Chopin works sometimes, but not always. Each audience is different.

I enjoy these opportunities to share my piano playing with others and I value the chance to begin with a technically challenging Beethoven movement, which people always seem to appreciate.

Till next time.

Book Review – The Choice by Edith Eger

Phenomenal and haunting with a powerful message and a startling denouement.

Genre, autobiography.

This book left a strong impression on me, various images replaying in my mind afterwards.

In the narrative, Edith Eger, a clinical psychologist in her late eighties, relates her experiences of growing up in a Hungarian Jewish family in a region where Jewish people played an integral role in life but where latent anti-Semitism was rife, along with various other Hungarian-Czeck ethnic uncertainties.

A ballerina and gymnast, Edith arrives in Auschwitz at the age of sixteen with her parents and one of her sisters.

She witnesses countless horrors, but copes by adopting a strong positive outlook, part of which involves active fantasising about the life she left behind and how she will return to that life once the war is over.

Shortly before liberation, she becomes dangerously weak and ill and nearly dies but somehow survives.

Further danger awaits her, both in the days following her liberation and in the period afterwards when she is resettled in Eastern Europe with her husband and young daughter. She then has to make a choice that will see her lose the family fortune.

Later in life, and still traumatised by her experiences at Auschwitz, Edith reluctantly turns to the writings of Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who also survived the Holocaust.

She eventually meets Frankl, both by personal invitation, but also as part of her career as a clinical psychologist.

She begins to share many of his thoughts and observations with others in distress – most notably, that people have the choice to decide how they will respond to experiences, no matter how painful or debilitating.

More than thirty years after her liberations from Auschwitz, Edith returns there and discovers a startling, haunting and almost terrifying truth about what really happened the day she arrived at Auschwitz as a girl of sixteen.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, only to say that an unexpected reunion takes place in the months after her rescue from the camps. I think the book is beautifully written.

The photographs of Edith portray a woman full of joy and life, despite the experiences she went through, and her message is uncompromising, essentially, ‘you can’t stop trauma and loss, but you can chose how you respond, whether to be a survivor or a victim’.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Photos Taken On An Old Phone

The years in question? 2009, 2010 and 2011. Early smartphones. I hadn’t yet posted on Facebook and I didn’t even have a USB port on my computer at one point to allow transfer of photos to the PC from my phone.

Fast forward a few years, and I managed to share most those old files online through various means. I was looking through the photos recently and was pleasantly surprised.

Technology And The Soul

Recently, I’ve thought about technology a fair deal. How it makes such a difference to our day to day activities.

Instant messages. Emails. File sharing. Personal broadcasting powers. Citizen journalism.

I suppose I can no longer envisage life without smartphones, computers and the Internet. I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days of pen, paper and typewriters – not to mention, stamps, payphones and temperamental answer machines that stopped working for no reason sometimes. I don’t wish to live in the past. For me, “the good old days” never existed.

Admittedly, reliance on the Internet and smartphone has drawbacks. Overload of sensory input. Constant alerts. The risk of viruses. The possibility of identity theft. Online bullying.

Most days, I disconnect from the Internet at regular intervals and use the phone for calls and texts only. Even though I value the Internet, I think people need to take a step back from the ongoing bombardment of information and notifications – for peace of mind, if for nothing else.

I suppose for me, the Internet represents the human soul at its best and worst (the aspirations and flashes of genius, but also the evil and cruelty when individuals chose those paths in life). The Internet offers the person with the creative or enquiring mind unlimited opportunities to flourish – but like any great tool, one must take care when using it.

As for the nature of the human soul and the mind/body problem…I’ll leave those for another day.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Chopin, The Piano, And Indie Artists

The music industry. Competitive.

Few make it. Few even get their music heard.

Times have changed, though. The Internet has opened up possibilities for aspiring musicians – for example, Indie Music sites and streaming sites where musicians can upload their work.

Obviously, these sites don’t guarantee success, but they do give artists the chance to showcase their work. Opportunities like these didn’t exist a couple of decades ago.

This week, I uploaded two Chopin preludes to IndieSound. I am the soloist. When I first came to London, I won the Fritz Gottlieb Memorial Scholarship for Piano and studied all twenty-four Chopin preludes, along with other solo repertoire by Chopin. The music industry is tough, but I still practice the piano and seek out new possibilities.

Meanwhile, I continue to write poetry and would like to start work on another novel at some point.

Still studying French, German, and Russian.

Places In Fiction -They Need To Come Alive

A decade ago, I wrote a novel that contained a back story set in Dorset on the South Coast of England — a psychological thriller, told through the eyes of a narrator at the age of eight and as a young adult forced to come to terms with their past.

I had never visited Dorset, but I felt that the area with its countless beaches, cliffs, wooded areas, villages and acres of countryside would open up great potential for menace, paranoia and suspense in the story.

Instead, I struggled to construct a tight plot and convincing central character, and writing about an area that I didn’t know personally seemed to hinder my efforts.

After several attempts, I abandoned the novel and concentrated on projects set in the north of England, where I grew up. This time, the writing flowed and the characters came alive almost immediately.

Last summer, I visited Dorset for the first time. The area didn’t match my expectations in terms of what I’d written in regards to scene setting previously. I wondered about this recently and reached the following conclusion.

The back story came through the perspective of an eight-year-old child. In the novel, the eight-year-old protagonist reflects on ideal Dorset scenery before family events take a sinister turn and the same settings become oppressive and imprisoning. Places seem magical through the eyes of children. Children see things that adults don’t. When I arrived in Dorset, I observed the landscape through the eyes of an adult, not a child, and adults can often miss the magical feel of locations.

In fiction, the writer must make the place (scene setting) special in some way, even if it is bleak and dangerous. The writing should evoke images in the reader’s mind and invite them in – or, at least, attract their interest in the story and what will happen next.

I believe that employing a unique viewpoint plays a crucial role. The author conveys information through the viewpoint character, but they shouldn’t merely describe a location. The writer needs to paint a picture of the location from their own perspective, identifying details that another person would miss and linking these observations to emotions that intensify as the story arc develops.

The old Show, Don’t Tell. Or Live It, Don’t Describe It.

One day, perhaps, I will return to the original novel and polish it, but I don’t think setting scenes in Dorset will ever work for me.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Meanwhile, I’m working on poetry, several foreign languages (including Russian) and Beethoven piano sonatas that I hope to perform in public.

Till next time.