Aesthetics are everything in this game.

I’ve said it a lot, but I honestly believe if I lost half my body weight and dyed my hair blonde I wouldn’t have to work as hard. And while I’m a little bit like ‘no… that’s not how the world works’, I’m also pretty sure that this would be the case.

My whole job is Aesthetics.

I am obsessed with Ambience and aesthetics, which is a good thing. If you’ve ever seen pictures of my house you’ll know how many god damn lamps I own… I am so obsessed with lighting that I have thought about taking spotlights to gigs just incase the concert venue didn’t have lighting, I haven’t done this yet but I am very sure I will if I ever get a bigger car!

In my house aesthetic is king. Every room has at least two lamps, all the down stairs lights are on timers and every room is layed out in a way that, if you were to film it, it would be visually pleasing (with some camera trickery so that you couldn’t see the piles of garbage lining some of the walls). I am into my mood-lighting!

When you are a musician your primary goal is your ‘ART!’ your ‘Craft’. When you work as a musician your primary goal is to not get fired, keep the money and pay the rent. Therefore, when you play at events your main job is just to set the tone. No one is listening to me when I play at fancy events, but they will hear the tone of the harp and the style that I’m playing with and subconsciously respond to that.

Similarly, the main component of playing the harp IS the harp. People don’t hire me for their wedding because they like the sound of the harp, they do it because they like the sound of the harp and the look of the instrument. If you like the sound just play a CD. Having a giant imposing instrument that’s taller than most people (and this is a country where I, a towering 5’6, am sometimes the tallest in the room) is a form of spectacle. But like a classy spectacle, like a dog wearing a tuxedo…

This is all to say that my job is mostly about appearances. Sure, I can play the hell out of a harp, but I have gotten far more work from having nice photos and good public image. How you present yourself in this industry is incredibly important.

I’ve sort of run out of things to say about this theory. But I’m sure I will be back later on to repeat myself and add more!



I’m terrified all the time and that’s ok.

The one, and probably most important, knowledge I will ever pass on to any aspiring young musician is this,

‘you will be scared and cripplingly unstable mentally, emotionally and also financially for your entire career’

That’s a lot to think about but honestly, after having some mornings where all I do is lie down on the floor of my office and stare at the ceiling for 5 minutes, I think it’s important to share to other musicians so that they know that that’s exactly how it feels most of the time.

I’ll start with ‘financially unstable’ as that is the main concern most of the time.

Work Like you don’t need the money

Work like money doesn’t exist and you are a self funded billionaire who got driven here in your private blimp.

As a free-lance musician, most of what you do is, putting it bluntly, ‘being middle class’. You basically come from a land where money doesn’t exist and you don’t have any bills to pay on your magic cloud above the rest of humanity. You make AAAAaaart, Dharling!

That is the standard mindset we put our young students into when they are in college or uni. The idea that you will occasionally sing with a full orchestra and people will come to your recitals of Leider and mélody is utter nonsense half the time! I can’t tell you how much Handel I have memorised that I couldn’t make a penny from! maybe that’s just my failed classical mezzo talking. But in the real world you have to do what is financially viable. So if we are telling our students ‘you will leave here and make art’, they will expect that, when in reality, you leave and have to play Bruno Mars and Coldplay. Or if you’re a harpist, Pachabel bloody Canon in bloody D.

One of the main components of this insecurity comes from the work. or lack of work, or work you have to go find.

I have to tell myself every month ‘the money will come’, because it does. At this point we’re almost 6 years into me finding money from music, so I’m not too worried about it. However, if I was at a large company or just a regular job, I would know where that money comes from.

You work in a shop, you sell things, that money then turns a profit, you get paid for your time out of that money. However, when you are the staff, product and Karen from Finance, there isn’t that nice distinction of ‘oh here is my salary, I worked this X amount and was paid my regular wage for that time’. You don’t get that in life. you get ‘this big company paid me a lot, this person paid me a little’ it’s all just a matter of luck and picking numbers out of a hat. And this is amplified by busking, some days I’ll do great and some weeks I’ll “struggle” through (it’s not a struggle I just will earn less and in my mind, because we’ve been taught to equate wealth to quality, I think I’ve done a bad job, even though most of it is random anyway).

So, every month, week, day, anytime you find yourself sitting on your office floor staring into the ceiling wondering how you’re paying for you life and what kind of a future you’ll have and when that horrible feeling of ‘never knowing when it’s all gunna sort itself out’ comes, just say ‘the money will come, the work will come’. I say this often to myself and it makes me feel better, and I hope it helps you too.


The Second most important thing they don’t tell you as a free-lance musician, is the loneliness and all the countless hours you will spend by yourself in a practice room or studio. This is pretty harp specific, but I think most people can relate unless they are in a band.

I have talked about this before in previous posts but it still stands. I spend a lot of the day by myself, talking to myself.


I get angry and sad whenever I sing songs about having a different kind of life. Like ‘someone else’s story’, when the lyrics say ‘I could be in someone else’s story, in someone else’s life!’, that’s the bit that actually resonates with me. I’m pretty happy being single, it’s not something that bothers me or that I even think about in those terms. I tend to think of it as ‘I am an individual’, and I basically don’t think about it at all! However, I dooccasionally think about how different my life would be had things panned out differently. If I had started Harp younger, If I had gone to a music college for singing, if I had given up on this whole music nonsense and done English lit! If I had gone to a different university, or If I had moved to London after university.

For half, if not all, I can only imagine my life being worse. If I had started harp younger, I would hate the harp, as so many people I’ve met who played the harp at a young age and now can’t play it or don’t play it (it’s definitely a ‘later in life instrument’ for a lot of people). If I had gone to college for singing, I would know an awful lot about singing, but I would never have started busking, I wouldn’t have done any Student union stuff, and I would probably think I was ‘above’ a lot of work… (this is not a reflection on Music College kids, just, I’m kinda ‘above’ a lot of work now, imagine how insufferable I would if I had a Bmus from Royal Northern!). If I didn’t do Music I would have probably still played harp… I don’t think a whole lot would’ve changed there. If I’d have moved to London I would currently be the most exciting person in a recruitment firm, until I faked my own death in order to get away from that life and would probably still end up busking somewhere… honestly, all roads lead to Rome… or Cardiff… ‘The Rome of Wales’, as it’s never called by no one!


To conclude

This has probably been really depressing to read, here is a cat gif.

That’s exactly how I wrote this.

But if you want to go into the super fun world of free-lance musicians here are some positives.

1. You will always have something fun to talk about… yourself.

My favourite saying is, ‘I always talk about myself because that’s the only subject I know everything about’. If you play a non-typical instrument, in a non-typical genre, then you basically have the floor for at least 5 minutes. You don’t have to answer any questions directly and you basically can’t give any wrong answers. It’s a lot like being a politician.

2.  You can yell at people.

This one is fairly harp related, but if I’m taking a 6 foot instrument down the street and you don’t move, I will yell at you to move. What? You couldn’t see me?, yeah sure, course ya couldn’t… Also, if the staff don’t open doors… ok guys, I’m basically a monster and a prima donna and now I have a giant harp to suit my ego, what more do you want me to say?

3. At fancy venues, someone will park your car for free.

The best thing about being a musician is getting all the stuff rich people pay for for free. someone parks you car, someone brings you a drink, someone rubs your feet… I don’t think that man worked there…

4. You get to go to fancy venues and snoop around castles and museums in the dark and after hours.

This is honestly the best, you wanna run round Caerphilly Castle for free? bring a harp, you wanna private viewing of a Manet painting? just get your harp into Cardiff museum after hours. It’s pretty cool getting to go to places you wouldn’t pay to go into, but if it’s a work thing, SURE! (N.B. the Museum is free and everyone should go see it! It’s fantastic)

5. You don’t have to talk to anyone who isn’t paying you.

This is only partially true, I get a lot of random members of the public just coming to have a chat with me while I’m busking, and sometimes its nice… sometimes… other times they just wanted someone to talk at… which, in that case, talk to anyone else… the street is full of people no trying to work. go talk to a charity mugger maybe? But for the most part, I don’t have to deal with middle people, there isn’t a whole office full of people for me to have to chase for different things, it’s just me. doing me. by myself. God, I’m so alone.


The Sky In A Room: A performers diary.




Hello there again dear friends.

By now you’ll know about my fascinating double life as an organist.


And I thought I should keep a diary of all the things I’ve learnt my thoughts and feelings about playing the same 3 minute Italian pop song over and over and over and over and over again 2 days a week for 5 weeks.

I’m currently at the start of week two so I will try and remember everything from week one and continue to keep updated after every set.


Week 1:


so after the two days of rehearsals and private viewing last week it was a little bit of a relief to be finally actually doing the project. The set times has shifted around quite a bit but it ended up being three 1 hour sets, which I think works well because there’s only 2 long breaks instead of a bunch of small breaks, and it also means you get to go home at 3:30 if you’re on the early shift and don’t have to come in until 11:30 if you’re on the later one.

The first day was tuesday 6, my first full day, foolishly I had bought an entire packet of fig rolls (I love fig rolls! and this comes in later on), so the first set was a little bit of a struggle, getting warmed up and comfortable after being told ‘Do it slower’ ‘do it quieter’ all throughout the rehearsals. But honestly, there’s 7 different performers with 7 very different voices and what is quiet for me is VERY loud for someone else, so my ‘piano’ is just what it is… so after that first set I went and watch two episodes of Bojack horseman and ate a whole packet of fig rolls… the second set was my favourite, warmed up and comfortable with enough energy to do the whole hour and feel pretty good about it. Second break I have a cup of tea and chat with the art dept women (as our green room is also the Art Dept break room), my third set was a little dry and I had to go to the loo really badly so that REALLY dragged on… because I had eaten an entire packet of fig rolls and it should be pretty obvious to any one reading why I needed to loo so badly…


Anyway, the day ends and I have to go play a conference drinks reception down the bay.

The next day I’m off to a music in Hospitals gig in Taunton which is a real culture shock after spending about two weeks just thinking about one piece and then having to play and whole concert full of different repertoire!


Friday comes along and I’m back, this is very much the same, a little rough to start off with, then a beautiful second set and a comfortable third set. I have to take a choir rehearsal right after so I was VERY warmed up for that!


A change of plans and a big arts magazine critic coming on Saturday means that I’m in on Saturday as well, although I hadn’t planned to be in! So on saturday I’m having my photo taken by the south wales echo about my lovely little Topaz Street Garden and then I have to grab my stuff and hurry in for 11:30. By this time our green room has moved. It’s no longer the windowless box that is the Art Dept break room but a gorgeous meeting room with front facing windows at the very front of the museum! It’s huge, it’s quiet and there’s excellent people watching!  so… naturally I spend my breaks practicing my cartwheels.

I’m not good at cartwheels.

As a result of the green room being moved we are now using the public loos (we were using the Art Dept toilets which are closed to the public) so on my pre-performance loo trip a woman stops me and says ‘Oh you’re the singer! That was just wonderful!’, which is the first of I’m sure will be MANY loo trip compliments. (‘Loo Trip Compliments’ is going to be a merch-shirt you can buy at )

Today’s tip: practice makes perfect…. sooo keep practicing.

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So, Saturday I’m pretty tired but I make it through, it’s not too bad, more fig rolls (No I have not learned my lesson and I refuse to!).

Week 2

Tuesday 13th Feb: Today was an interesting one… in the sense that an old man snuck up behind me and really startled me! Which was a little terrifying. For the last week people have been a solid metre away, and usually off to the sides because I am very much like a horse, it is best to approach from the sides as to not spook me!

That was during the very end of my middle set and I did yell ‘That was terrifying!’ at the man because honestly, he was a foot away from me and directly behind me… also he was in a windbreaker and I did NOT hear him approach with is worrying! silent! like the wind!

I’ve started trying to make the other organists laugh when we swap places, because I feel as though whenever I’m replacing someone they always look very serious and if they haven’t played the piece 800 times already, and if no one can see your face I’m going to do a lot of eyebrows… I like to keep things interesting.

As far as the actual music, I’ve started adding parts, which I justify thusly:

So when we first got the score it was a transcription of an audio life, this was then simplified in the second draft and made easy enough for us non-organists (because none of us are really organists, however they did find two singing harpists, so that’s pretty impressive!). So when I play it I like to try and re-incorporate the complicated aspects of the first draft so that it’s more like an on going project where I try and make it a little harder for myself every week.

So I think I’m more than allowed to add bits. And also it’s FUN!

performance wise, I’m thinking of the piece more as a complete 1 hour work rather than one song repeated. And I’m working to the half hour every set. So I will play and say to myself ‘Oh Almost half way through’. It’s a lot like that Kimmy Schmidt bit where she says ‘You can do anything 10 seconds at a time and then by the end it just starts again’ and that is A LOT like this piece. I’m just working through it.

Vocally, I’m trying to do it in the healthiest and most artistic way I can, which is always a neat on going project.

Organally, I’m experimenting with speeding things up and slowing them down during the cadenza, which is alright.

My thesis statement about the project so far is this:

There is no tangible goal or outcome. You aren’t building anything or making anything. At the end of the project all you’ll have is the small amount of money they’re paying you and a nice photo your mother will probably frame in her dining room. You go back to your regular life as a busking harpist who occasionally plays posh gigs. So the only thing really happening is the gradual progression of time. Just like Life and Winter you’ve just gotta get through it.

Also today, LOO TRIP COMPLIMENTS! An Italian lady stopped me in the loos to tell me how wonderful my singing was and asked if I was Italian… clearly that language training day paid off!

Today’s tip: life is full of compromise. You can’t win ‘em all.

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For the Friday performance I had someone leave a note on my stool (upside-down so I couldn’t read it during) and when I got up to swap performers the note had disappeared. After an hour of wondering I returned for my final shift at the organ and the note has landed between the pedal board! That was the only exciting thing that happened.


Week 3

I keep bringing in ‘Green room snacks’ because the work is pretty tiering and bringing in some garbage food to eat during the break is the only thing keeping me going.

For Wednesday’s performance I may have eaten far too many cookies during my first break and spend the second break trying to hold them all in! Oh boy! that made life exciting.

For the Friday Performance my parents came down and my mother absolutely loved it! They came for the last performance and during the first hour I thought ‘I should use the swell pedal’. There is a small wooden pedal on the right hand side of the organ that effectively opens and closes a lid on the organ. It catches on latches was you push it down and you have to push the long catch away as you press the pedal so it can move…. Anyway, I had not used the swell pedal except for when I pressed it during the photoshoot and thought I had broken the whole thing.

The key to doing anything in life, be it taking apart an alarm clock, fixing a car or playing an organ is to always remember who it was before you started messing with it. Unfortunately, I only now know this bit of wisdom… because I decided to press the level anyway…. there is a part in the piece where there is a long organ solo in which nothing happens… there’s not stops to pull, no pedal notes to change, nothing. So I decided to put a small swell during this section to make it ‘more musical’…. and of course by ‘more musical’ I mean ‘I was bored and like to challenge myself’. So, without thinking about where the pedal was on it’s latch I went and engaged with the swell pedal… it didn’t go poorly, and in fact, someone came up and said that it was the ‘Most magical hour of their life’ so, I can only assume my desperate right leg dancing up and down seemed like part of the plan… same to say when you know there is a change coming up and you will have to move your feet and body you tend to be far more willing to find a solution. I bravely (because, let’s be honest, I’m writing this blog and I am the hero in my own narrative), found a latch and clicked it in place! ‘PHEW!’ I thought, ‘Old Sammie did it again! safe!’

It wasn’t on the right latch… for the next 15 minutes I spent my time between wondering how many latches there were and where the bottom was, I eventually go up the nerve to click it down another run and I thought I’d call it a day.

Would I try it again? Absolutely, it was thrilling and made the time fly by.

What did I learn? You’re asking the wrong person…. because I got out of there pretty quickly after and didn’t look back! Pedal, You’ve been swell!

Week 4:

I only did Sunday this week and oh boy was that a struggle!! We were hit by heavy snow and the humidity dropped a lot (that’s what happens when it gets cold and snows) so singing in an already pretty dry room that just got dryer was a living hell…

I spent the first set just concentrating on breathing and trying to get a good sound! It was quite a shock coming from last week’s nice and controlled singing to this week’s train wreck.

The second set was, of course, much better, and I was slowly starting to warm up, I had 5 gigs cancel on me because of the snow so this was my first time properly singing all week as well!

The final gig I decided to have another play with the swell pedal and It went… well… swell! surprisingly I did pretty well! A museum assistant came and stood next to me for like 10 minutes at 4pm and I turned to her and said ‘you ok’ and she gestured back the universal signal for ‘Don’t mind me’… always 15 minutes later she was still stood there and I said ‘Is there a reason you’re stood here?’ and she did the hand gesture again and said ‘We’re closing early so if you could finish up’… the action of waving your hands in a low X across your body does not indicate ‘If you could just finish so I can go home, that’d be great’, it’s a ‘Don’t mind me’ gesture… anyway, I did one more because I had gone round again by the time she said something and we got to leave 15 minutes early, but it was really odd that she just stood there instead of just saying ‘we’re closing at X time so finish at X time please’, which is what other MA’s have done in the past 4 weeks… anyway, it was just a weird thing that happened… as you can probably imagine, when you’re singing the same song over and over again in a dark room staring into an organ keyboard there is very little going on….

I think I’m still watching the clock in a way that I don’t do at any other time. sometimes I do it if I’m playing a long wedding breakfast if I’ve come to the end of the set that I like and have to do music I’m not that much of a fan of, but mostly this is just doing an action and watching the time go by… it’s basically a skilled version of shelf stacking in tesco… except I get hour long breaks every hour and get to practice my cartwheels and am also being paid a lot for the 5 hour day so I really should stop complaining and get better at cartwheels.

Week 5

I made the mistake of bringing four chocolate chip muffins into the green room and then I spent the whole day wondering if my performing partner was gunna judge me for eating all four of the muffins (that’s important to this story)

So, I actually fully warmed up before this performance on Wednesday and that may have been the trick all along. I went to 7am yoga and then did a full and long vocal warm up at home… so my first set was really comfortable and easy… and so was the rest of the day… I think the main reason it was so easy was because I put the swell pedal (clearly the cause of all the drama and interest throughout this second act) to a notch below ‘fully open’ during the first half of my first set, this meant that the organ was a little quieter and a little easier to sing over when you’re just starting out the day.

The day went well and I did a couple plays with the swell pedal that were actually very successful. My Cartwheel was not.

Today’s tip: sometimes practice doesn’t always make perfect.

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Sarah also came to see me and enjoyed it.

Today’s tip: ART! A.R.T.

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well gang, we’ve come to the end. Does it feel like the end of an era… not really… am I full of emotions… no….

Today went fine…exactly fine. I got to eat muffin number 3 (I ate two of the muffins yesterday…) and during my last set I heard a dog barking…. ‘Who lets a dog into an art gallery??!?! how did a dog get in here!?’ I thought for a second, then I remembered the seeing-eye-dogs (Is that what they’re called) that I saw in the foyer and thought ‘Wouldn’t it have been hilarious if I hadn’t seen them’. you can’t turn around or see behind you while playing so it would’ve been completely out of the blue. This really made me laugh during my final go round of the piece.

all in all, a pretty good day. My performance partner at the other muffin and tweeted that he was ‘Saving me from myself’… which is very true.


Final Thoughts

Throughout the performance I have had a lot of time to think and I would say I divided my time between two things:

Firstly, I spent a large amount of my time and energy on the piece. Playing and singing it to the best of my ability. Once the first set had happened the whole thing became a sort of ‘Marathon vocal exercise’ where the only real goal is doing the piece in a confortable and artistic manner…. which is basically the whole root of my work as a musician and essentially what I do when I busk or play at weddings/events… It’s basically what being a musician is all about. It is, what I have described in pervious posts, ‘Being an artist’, spending hours and hours on the same piece. I have written about how I rarely rehearse the same piece for a long time because that’s not economical for my style of work. If I’m spending 8 hours a week on some Bach that only lasts 3 minutes then I have to spend an insane amount of my time rehearsing to get a 3 hour program. However, when put in a position where you are basically being paid to rehearse one piece over and over you get to play with different aspects and features of the music.

I don’t think I did it right or ‘how the artist intended it’ once… I did it how Sam Hickman thought it should sound, and I think people liked that… I didn’t come in and play the same piece over and over again exactly the same each time, I changed it up… a lot…. and I think that was the intention of the work… but also, I added a lot of stuff… big sections of rubato, runs, trills, other trills, melismas, humming… I feel like I basically stuck to these philosophies ‘I’m getting paid either way’ and ‘If the artist wanted it a certain way, he would have stayed and baby sat or he would’ve been more specific’. It’s a real ‘While the cat’s away’ situation and this mouse is gunna at an organ solo that no one expected.

My Second thoughts were mainly regret. Mainly I thought ‘I’m not being paid enough for this’…. and while that sounds like I’m a complacent and stuck up diva who is, honestly, just the worst. I think it’s pretty true…

My expectation of the piece was that it would be 3-4 days a week as a minimum, we would be a small group of musicians coming in frequently and being paid a lot as a consequence… however, it turned out to be much more like a light work load that I originally thought… I had this impression that I would be slowly driven mad by the song… playing it over and over again for weeks on end… the studio manager in an email said ‘We’ve like the performers to play of the song so much that they hear it when falling asleep at night’… that was a little laughable for me because the thought of me being able to get to sleep that easily seem as ridiculous. But also, it was only 2 days a week… a the very most… and only 3 hours a day… with hour long breaks in between… so I didn’t ever get the song stuck in my head… in fact for the first two weeks I had ‘Always something there to remind me’ by Burt Bacharach,

and then for the last two days I’ve had ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ by Elvis Presley, but not the Elvis version the arrangement from the jut box musical ‘All Shook Up’  which is actually a delight and you should listen to it.

My other regrets were about the art itself… ‘this is kinda bullshit’, I would think… ‘how is this ‘ART”…?!’ like, It is art in the sense that that is the term you would use to describe it… but it’s not particularly timely or relevant… like 2018, Trump is president, Grenfell tower, NHS cults, The Me Too movement… and I’m sat in a dark room playing a song Gino Paoli wrote to a sex worker he ‘fell in love with’ after paying her for sex… sure… I guess that’s relevant and says something about our culture…

The main think I found it said about our society was about our economy. (and what do you know the Times beat me to it In the tv show ‘Adams Ruins everything’ he does an episode of the economy, and why your Iphone costs far less and the company makes far less than App developers. He states that ‘Services are more valuable that Goods’, and this is very true in the music industry, Adele will make X amount from Music sales but will make a lot more from tours, that’s why so many musicians tour and their tours are huge and long and they all get vocal injuries because none of the them are bloody trained. But the Same must be true about art… a painting for a museum might cost (let’s say) £1000 to commission, but having 7 people on staff 6 days a week, and paying for the idea of having them play the same song over and over again costs well £30,000. And if you want to do the piece again…? well that’s more money for the artist… it’s the equivalent of licensing a song for a TV advert but having a live band play the song for you every time they want to use it. I don’t know if this theory is right… but honestly, after playing the same piece on repeat for five weeks my new moto is ‘Does it even matter?!’

So those were my thoughts… I had other work around this gig because it paid just under my weekly financial target (which basically meant I had to keep working, teaching and booking gigs just to keep everything running) and they aren’t paying us until the 25th of March, which would’ve been nice to know going into the project because I did not budget on having no money for 2 months.

so quick fire summary section:

What did I set out to do?

Get a gig for the dead period between Christmas and the start of wedding season.

Did I achieve that?


Did I enjoy it?

Meh… it happened. I don’t really remember it.

Would I do it again?

double the salary and yes, sure, why not.

What did I learn?

how to play one piece on an organ… after playing it over and over again and also singing an Italian over and over again, I am now 90% certain that I can play organ professionally and speak fluent Italian….

Today’s tip: you only miss the opportunities you don’t take.

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I also learnt that I am bad at cartwheels.

Preparing to die in Relative Obscurity: My Theory.

I have a theory. Now, it is much like my theory that my parents were funding my residency at the hilton (which has yet to be confirmed or denied!!!!) but it’s that level of paranoid.

My theory is that there is some secret cabal of the press that doesn’t like me. Like once I spilled wine on a Wales online reporter and they were like ‘oh boy! Sam Hickman will NEVER get featured in our publication!!!’.

I have this theory because I am never mentioned in the press… or on any local or public platform, despite having working for years. My main example of this is this article from wales online:

Not only do I busk more frequently than half of these men (and they are all men… what a surprise…) but I have been doing it for far longer than a lot of them as well….

I also shared a buzzfeed article recently that had ‘harps’ playing in the hayes… as if there are just a hole gang of us…

Anyway, I went to an event yesterday and one of the women I was talking to said ‘Why has no one does a story on your work yet?!’ and I said ‘I don’t know’ and I’ve been saying ‘I don’t know’ for the last 3 years!!!! Honestly, I just want someone to notice me so I can go places… and by ‘go places’ I mean, ‘maybe tour’… who knows!?

But i think it happens when I put on concerts and try to get traction on things. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a lady, harpist or just terrible at everything but I can never NEVER get any damn attention when I’m trying to do things!

What a mess.


Anyway, I’ll stop complaining and get back to work I guess.


February Garden Update: Sow What?!


Well it’s a new one for me this year, I’m actually vaguely prepared!

My goal this year is to grow all the perennials that I’m planting out in my garden from seed instead of buying them from the garden centre. This means that with things that I can’t grow from seed I can buy from the shops and not spend a lot on the things that I can grow masses of for a lot less.

This also means that I can grow 4 different plants to plant out around my neighbourhood! There are three different spots I’m planning on planting up this year:

Here is a map (because Maps are awesome!)


Roath Library:

This patch of grass we dug up last April in the pouring rain with the intention of planing wildflowers there…. well… the whole growing season came and went and none sowed any! So this year I’m determined to put in some wildflowers and some easy perennials that will just grow and love it and make the neighbourhood look great to passers buy!

It’s what people see as they drive past and if it looked really nice I think we would attract far more shoppers and people to the area!

Topaz Street Garden:


When you look past the rubbish there’s a great little patch of ground where a lot is growing! Including these snowdrops!

So I’m growing some things to put in the ground there!

And finally

Helen/Brewery Park:

This is the main reason for forming a Parks Group in my neighbourhood as this park has really just become grass and an over grown thicket which we’re going to clean, tidy up and then plant up! and hopefully it should be awesome!!!!

(I don’t have a photo of this yet…)


What’s Sowing on?

a lot….


I started with things that would (allegedly) take 14-28 days to geminate… however, after a week we already have a lot of seedlings! GULP!

So, I’m growing shasta daisies, Echinacea, Artichoke, asparagus, Dahlia, Marigold, and also Verbena and  Rudbeckia

Here’s some photos of them!



And… Here is them at present…

Which is great because PLANTS! but also a bit of a worry because 1) I don’t have that much space! and 2) They weren’t supposed to go germinate until the end of the month or at least until the end of the month!

So I’m going to have a lot of plants in pots waiting for the weather to change! GULP!

But It should be fine! My friend is letting me use their greenhouse so phew! I can take some of these monsters up there until April hopefully!

In the Garden

So In the rest of the garden, spring is here… bringing Daffodils and roses….?

DSC_0479.JPGMy first daffodil came up next to the kitchen.. and honestly… I have no memory of planting it… sooooo…. look out for more exciting random acts of planting!


Another Mystery solved was where I put these crocuses… because I bought them last year moved them around A LOT! and couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d put them… soooo I guess they are there…


This is just a cute anecdote, this is the pot that was found during our Keep Adamsdown Tidy Litter pick in the summer!

This is what it looked like in Sept!


Other New Things I’m trying!


I’m trying using a plastic storage box as a cold frame! (I’m growing red hot pokers and bleeding hearts in there… doesn’t that sound dramatic!)

DSC_0484A Rose in Feb! What?!?! Go Home Rose! You’re drunk! I mean… it’s a late blooming rose but this is ridiculous….


I also transplanted Planty (the Elderflower tree we’ve had since he was a lil seedling) into a bin.. it’s big, it was free and I used my garden compost to fill it! So he should be happy in there for a good couple of years and then we’re take him out, bonsai him and stick him back in! I might chain it to the fence so it doesn’t blow over, but it’s very heavy!


I also planted a crocus lawn… however only two of them have come up yet… so wait for that development!


And Here’s some other flower pictures from around the garden including my garlic bulbs coming up!

And that’s it for this month!

Tune in next month to see how the bulbs go!


Also, The Topaz Street Garden got £80 in funding! So I can buy mulk and compost and PLANTSSSS!



Go Big or Go Home! (OR) What happens when there’s no one in charge and an unlimited budget!

I did a wedding this week that was ‘big’ and by ‘big’, I don’t been 250 guests and a horse and carriage. I mean: 300 guests, horse and carriage, string quartet, big band, singing waiters, harpist, stilt walkers, magician, face painter, kabab stall, ice sculpture, castle venue, party bus, elvis impersonator, EVERYTHING!

the trouble with booking everything is that everything has to work together, unfortunately if you don’t tell the ‘master of ceremonies’ what’s happening you can’t work out a schedule…

So, the ceremony was in St Mary’s in Tenby, which is lovely but HONESTLY either pedestrianise the whole town centre or sort out your roads because driving, dropping off the harp and then having to park and walk a mile away, was a nightmare!

I was only playing for the first 30 minutes of the ceremony, there was a full choir and a trumpeter for the rest of the ceremony. ‘This was a big wedding’ I thought as I ran back to my car to pick up my harp from the church to head to Pembroke castle for the reception.

I saw three wedding cars (which is normal for a large wedding) and thought ‘oh that’s nice’.

Two hours later, after a 20 minute drive to Pembroke and an hour and a half waiting for the horse and carriage to do a tour of Pembroke and then arrive at the castle, I went into Pembroke Castle and though ‘oh this is huge’. They had a horse with a horn on it’s head… just wandering about (A REAL LIFE HORSE! just sitting there in the castle)!

So I went to set up and the big band came into and said ‘what part are you playing?’. ‘Oh the wedding breakfast’ I said, ‘so are we’… so we decided (after they wouldn’t let me just join the band… which, honestly, rude. If you’re at an event and you’ve been double booked with another incredibly competent musician like myself and you’re just doing kinda straight forward rep that everyone knows, you should OF COURSE play together, it’s more fun and you’re getting paid either way!). Anyway, so they said ‘we’ll do a set then you do a short set’, so they did a 40 minute set and I did a 20 minute set. I went to wander around during the second band set and talking to the master of ceremonies, who was also being surprised at every turn by the new performers arriving hourly. The DJ’s said, ‘well, we’re starting at 7pm and the first dance is at 7:30’. Baring in mind that this is already 2 hours behind schedule and they haven’t got enough wait staff to work the wedding.

So at this point (6:45), I clapped my hands together and said ‘I’m done here.’ packed up my harp and went home.

turns out they had triple booked us with the string quartet as well but they had had the good sense to go home!

It looked like a fun and great wedding! This is not a read on the wedding itself, they all were lovely. This is just a warning to other brides, if you’re having a BIG wedding with lots of extras, get someone in charge. a wedding coordinator would’ve been cheaper than paying a harpist, an 8 piece brass band and a string quartet for the wedding breakfast and it means that things run smoothly and you don’t have to worry about anything else but getting married.

If you’re having a normal and small wedding this isn’t important, a harpist is usually the only ‘extra’ you need. Although, I would say a harpist is an ‘essential’, why have a dress when you could have a harpist? but I’m very bias. And you don’t need a coordinator so a small or normal size wedding because usually the venue will sort out things and you just need to do flowers, clothes and registar, and that’s about it! and get a harpist, maybe a local harpist, if you’re in Cardiff I know a gal! (she’s swell)! (she’s me).

Getting through January with my acquaintance Brenda.

Remember summer?

When everything was in bloom and pretty?

These were all shots of my garden!!! SOOOO sunny and warm and there were flowers!!! and sunshine!


I think my whole house suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) we’re all mad and cranky and no one is happy until the end of march!

Anyway, my garden looks like this now:

We’re putting in gravel on the seating area to level it out! so that’s a work in progress! (also I’m using a plastic container as a green house to see how well that works!)


There’s still lots of colour, lots of things happening! there’s still loads of rocket growing that’s pretty tasty!


The willow is budding up and it’s so fluffy and cute! I have to really resist stroking them and picking them off! I may have done that to one already…

A few small things are in flower, and brenda is having a blast exploring!


She moves too much to get a nice picture of her playing outside!

August Wildflower garden


January Garden

In the wildflower garden it’s just wallflowers I threw into the bed in mid-september and they really stuck! so definitely a good move!


It’s a work in progress, I think the issue with a small new garden is that you don’t get a lot of height immediately and you sort of have to wait for it to grow and I think I’m still in the stages of planning and moving stuff around and trying to work out what I want there.



Upcoming projects:


  • After cleaning out next door’s overgrown Buddleja forest and we’re planting a wildflower meadow, it’s easy to maintain, you only need to mow it once a year and it’ll be great for wildlife!
  • My community garden down the end of the street got £75 in funding so we’re planting roses and more plants and getting the local primary school involved in planting it up! which is pretty awesome!
  • I’m starting a local Parks groups to tidy up my neighbourhood green spaces! which is pretty awesome!
  • I’m planning on growing more veg as I’m terrible at it, I’m far more of an ornamental gardener and I don’t really have a great track record… but I’m going to try more!
  • I’m growing more from seed this year, and trying to get more of a cottage garden look in my little city garden, might start a spin off blog about that…

The end.

It’s 2018. Oh God, when does it end? When can I win?!?!

Despite this incredibly depressing title I’m actually in a very good place right now. Just thought I’d clear that up before anyone gets worried.

It is the nature of the beast, and last year’s New Year’s post was ‘Blurgh, Eye Roll, It just keeps going’ 

Today I thought I would look back on the past year, answer some questions that I previously had and update you on my ‘most comfortable life’. (The secret is cruise control, it was cruise control the whole time).

So, 2017 has been a lot ‘busier’ than 2016 by a factor of 100. I had more work, more weddings, more adventures and far more failures than anyone anticipated! The thing about having a growing business is that it grows, that’s it’s whole point. You build on it, year on year. And that’s what I’d like to stress to all the young musicians out there is that sure, you’re first year might be a bleak one but next year is gunna be better and the year after even better than that!

So, Part 1:

Being Less complacent and ungrateful.

I am content… or at least far more content that I used to be. I started going to a 7am yoga class in April and damn it if that hasn’t changed EVERYTHING! I am now fitter and far happier than I was before.

Similarly, over the summer there was a busker in my favourite pitch. ALL SUMMER! he would get there at 8am and would never finish… and he finally packed up his bags and went home in September, and I honestly have never been happier and more grateful to be able to walk into town and find my favourite pitch is completely empty. It’s such a nice feeling.

I think these two factors have played a huge part in my 2017 development.

Part 2:

Where I try to Structure my work week

The 7am yoga classes 4 days a week have REALLY helped this, if you have something to get you out of bed, let you leave the house and make sure you remember to shower every week then you basically have a built in schedule.

I have found this really lovely. Similarly, having my regular teaching slot on monday and teaching my community choir on Friday have added to this.

But most importantly the amount of gigs I’ve had this year is a lot more than before and that requires a lot of organisation, which has really helped me feel structured in my days.

It’s been really nice. I kind of feel like if this continues I can use it as an excuse to hire an unpaid intern and have them answer all my emails.

The House is fine, mine and Sarah’s friendship didn’t end and it’s all going fine…

Part 3:

Where I tried to improve myself in the past year.

Honestly, I feel like I nailed this one! 2017 has been a year of me just killing it! except financially, the first quarter was a MESS! I may as well have been in a coma or taken a 3 month sabbatical with how little money I actually made that quarter.

So, I didn’t have a formal resolution, but I did achieve a lot of the generic things people aim for. I did lose a bit of weight, which is nice but honestly not that important. I made actual friends! Which honestly, please take a moment out of reading this to let that sink in. I, an adult woman, made new adult friends in 2017, by talking to strangers and now they are my friends! I made a ton of friends from my yoga classes, from which I got a planter at the end of my street, joined up with the gardening community in my neighbourhood and helped my neighbour clear out their garden. I also joined a brass band briefly because of yoga and I also got out the house more. My back doesn’t hurt that much anymore, which is really refreshing for a harpist to say!

Anyway, was I more ‘authentic’ in my being? sure, why not? Did I wear flats to every party? No, because I was never invited to any parties. Did I eat better… well I ate a box of chocolate biscuits for lunch… sooo… I guess not. I mean no one’s perfect!

So, as far as ‘tangible goals’ cross-referencing with last year’s expectations for the year, here is a brief update.

  1. I did get better wine, but I think that was just through luck and a lot of guess work. Honestly, it’s impossible to tell, they should just start keeping wine in Bins and let people ‘lucky dip’ out bottles because honestly, who can tell from the label?!?!
  2. I did put on a concert series, ‘Mid Week Music’ and it failed spectacularly! Did I learn anything from it? Nope. Not really. Would I try it again? Probably not, it’s kinda the worst thing in the world putting on concerts. I like it when I can just turn up and do a concert and it doesn’t matter what happens because I get paid either way!
  3. I did record another album! It’s called ‘Gutsy’ and I did it alone in my office, next year I’ll do something better with friends I guess… who knows…
  4. New harp? CHECK! God, I love having a pedal harp… it’s so good! My korrigan now lives with my student, my bardic is now used for teaching and busking and honestly, I think it’s a perfect mix of big and small.

Part 4:

Where I accept myself for my flaws and failures and try to move on and live the best and happiest life I can.

If you aren’t reading along with last year’s post then this probably hasn’t made a whole lot of sense. However, if you were smart and now have them side-by-side here is a quick, lightening round section corresponding to last year’s section of the same name.

  1. phew! It’s nice to know I won’t be the one to blame for that.
  2. didn’t happen, but I did change cars to get my new giant harp about.
  3. Didn’t happen, but could always happen this year!
  4. Honestly, who knows…
  5. See above.

Section 2

  1. Yep! I did! I went through and expensed only my strings the first time round… that was so stupid…
  2. Yeah… maybe this year! Who knows! might try and get some arts council funding!
  3. No one did, and guess what. I survived!
  4. Some weeks you go under, some weeks you go over, that’s life!
  5. It’s ok, but a little rocky at times. It’s part of being a grownup.

Part 5:

Goodbye and Goodluck!

Well… I hope you enjoyed this re-cap of 2017, I didn’t really specify what I wanted to do in 2018.. I guess I could only sum it up as ‘More of the same’. It’s going pretty well and I’m pretty happy with my career and how it’s all working out. If I could change one thing I think I would just like someone to answer all my emails, who also moves all my instruments for me and has a sweet house I get to hang out in, maybe with an indoor pool! that’d be cool.

Anyway, Happy 2018! I hope you all find your pool-having interns too!

I’ve lost my voice and I’m not worried.

help help… I’m sick… I said to my housemate on Saturday. Well… I didn’t so much ‘say’ it, as I whispered it in my horse empty tone.

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This week I got tonsillitis, I even had to go to my GP, and here are my thoughts.

Firstly, I thought it would pass, as it usually does. I had a bad flu/tonsillitis thing at New Years for those of you following along on all the other social medias! and that passed in three days of hardcore drug taking and having to do two gigs and try not to die. (the drugs were lemsip max cold & flu, but I like to pretend I’m cool when I’m sick).

So, I got this on Monday, and I assumed I’d be fine. I went to work twice, I took some painkillers and I just waited for it to be over. However, by Thursday it had infact gotten worse… to the point where my mother, who had come to visit to change cars so that I now have a car I can fit my harp in, said ‘You need to see a doctor’. ‘What?! noooo. I’ll be fine! It’ll pass’ I said, like the naive lunatic you’ve all come to know and love me as.

It did not. Obviously, I mean, you read the title, you know how ‘getting sick’ works! So I woke up on Friday and I could not speak… not because of an issue with my voice, but because my tonsils had decided to become to size and shape of my wind pipe, and over the back of my throat with a thick coat of phlegm for good measure. (N.B. this will probably be the grosses post I’ve ever written… but it’s my blog and also I’m very brave!)

So, I phoned up my local clinic, which by the way, how is that the best way of doing things in 2017!? If you have trouble speaking you’ve got to call someone to see a doctor about it? Geez! It took 3 minutes of me panic speaking to this receptionist and coughing up phlegm into my sink to good an appointment. Please tell me why a digital booking system would be more difficult… well for old people but fine!

Anyway, The GP’s office took less than an hour. a great thing about this country is our NHS. I saw my GP in 20 minutes, I explained what was wrong because I had looked up all the symptoms and issues on the NHS website and she gave me a prescription. Which I then went across the street to the pharmacy and had filled for free, because living is Wales is wonderful! (there’s no downside! we get less rain in Cardiff than London, and our air is clean!)

Anyway, so over the weekend it went from back to worse, as it is known to do. there was 4am bile vomiting, there was a period of three days where I couldn’t eat solids. However, I did get to watch the whole of Netflix, so I guess that was a good thing!

sleeping was a mess, you try sleeping with your mouth open and then it’s all dry and scratchy and painful. you try sleeping with your mouth closed and your body’s like ‘hey you want some phlegm to swallow? you like swallowing don’t ya? here ya go!’. And you’re lying there having to decide whether letting yourself drool all over your pillow is a better plan than having to suffer another swallow.

Anyway, so Saturday rolled around and what was a groggled bear noise became a hushed whimper.  I physically could not make noises. This continued through to Sunday where the pain lessened and the tonsils went down, but I still sounded like a husk blowing down a dirt path when I tried to communicate. A similar thing on monday, however I was well enough to get out my harp and have a play, and showing definite signs of improvement.

Which brings us to today. Today is the ‘Ssssh’ day, or the ‘Safty day’. As a singer you always want to make sure you’re doing your very best to aid recovery after vocal issues, this usually means, where other people would start talking and working again, you take that extra time to firm everything back up. I can talk without pain, but I am not going to today. Tomorrow I’m going back to some very VERY light singing to see how everything is but nothing more, looking to start singing back at work by next Monday.

This is not the first time I’ve lost my voice. in the two cases before this it was because of over use, or over use during an illness. I usually can happily sing through most illness without any pain or discomfort or damage. As long as I’m hydrated and not on any medication or painkillers, singing through a cold or a cough, is usually fine for me. This was not like that. had sung briefly for my parents on Thursday and sung on Tuesday and Wednesday busking. Which were not stressful or over worked days. The loss of voice came from the tonsillitis itself, which is a common symptom of tonsillitis (just fyi). So I’m being very gentle and careful and slow in getting back to working with the voice to ensure no prolonged damage occurs.

I’m not worried.

People get sick. And, big surprise, singers are people! (I know! what a wild, far out concept!). I lost my voice because I got sick, and then I was quiet for a week and it should return in full working order if I don’t push it or over stretch it and allow it to health.

I am trained and I have worked with my instrument for long enough to know that this is what it needs.

If I was a huge X factor star, I wouldn’t know this. I would take a bunch of painkillers so I could go on stage and perform because my PA decided that this was the best course of action, then I would probably have to drink some alcohol and then sleep in a hotel somewhere because that’s what I imagine their lives are like.

The issue with stars like Adele and Sam Smith’s vocal damage is that their schedules don’t work around their instruments. They don’t let them travel and rest and rest and travel, it’s a quick tour so you don’t have to pay people too much and the singer gets worn out and then they get nodes and then they have surgery!?! Which is real vocal damage!

At the beginning of the month I was so worried that I had no gigs lined up this month, but in this case that worked out for my favour! as a self-employed musician, you usually can’t afford to get sick! You don’t get sick pay, or days off. You have to work on days people tell you to. It’s a lot like an office job but your boss changes constantly and you have no workers benefits… But I’m sure if you read this blog you’ll know every.damn.week I talk about how hard my job is… blah blah blagh.

Anyway, my voice will recover and I have enough time for that to happen without unconvincing anyone. So, for that, and only that reason, I’m glad I’m not a super famous singer like Adele but with a harp… because who’d want that life…? honestly…? having to hold all those Grammies? yuck! too heavy, no thank you!

see ya next month!

Gardening Update: The Last Rose Of Summer

Hello friends,

I realised the last time I did an update was August and, like any new garden, mine is constantly changing and things are moving. Except for the hard landscaping, which Sarah says I’m not allowed to change. 😦

So lets get into it.

Here is where we left off:



Lol, just kidding, that’s next door! (We’re planning on sewing a wild meadow there so it takes little upkeep and is great for nature) We also have a cherry tree, silver birch and some hydrangeas to plant out there next spring!


This is my garden.

It’s still SO GREEN! December 5th and I have cosmos blooming, Hydrangeas, I would still probably have dahlias going if I hadn’t put them to bed for winter.


There’s a lot to unpack here so I will start at the front and work my way back.

I started composting, I took the panels from the fence and made a small compost bin, so hopefully by summer I will never have to buy compost again. It always seemed really weird to me that I had to buy dirt, the thing the ground is made of. So now I’m making now own! the leafy green on the top of the pile is the peacock orchids which have been half put away and half mulched.

So, the peacock orchid is a lot like Dahlias and Gladioli in that it is not hardy whatsoever and needs to be dug up. However, as you can see by my December garden, it doesn’t really get that cold here. So I’m experimenting. Half of my dahlias and peacock orchids (Pictured below) are in the shed ready for planting out after the last frost and half of them are mulched over and still in the ground! We will have to see what survives and what doesn’t!


I’ve been changing out pots for winter and basically every single pot has some sort of bulb in it, daffodil, hyacinth and tulip! I also planting some in the lawn for a little bit of an early spring surprise! there’s a whole bunch of crocuses and a few mystery daffodils in there!

The only edible still going is all the salad I planted which is still going very strong, I’m planning on getting some lettuce in there as it’s all basically rocket at this point (I ate the last lettuce).

The trellises have all moved as well, I will tell you why as we move around the garden, and There is a willow structure now over the patio.

The willow came from the community garden, and although it doesn’t look like much now, it should grow out and I will weave it into a lovely little living pergola. It’s quite vigorous but we all know how brutal I am with my clippers so I’m not worried about it.

The green house hut is where I’m propagating hydrangeas for next door. I will move it over one of the beds in the spring to act as a cloche before the weather gets nice again.

Next photo!


A VERY sad looking wild flower garden.

The cosmos REALLY took off this year and were almost 7 foot! They are huge. I’ve cleared out this bed for winter and mulched it with compost. I’ve planted daffodils for spring as well as anemones. But the most exciting thing (Which you can’t really make out) is the apple tree in the centre of the bed. I went to Coed Hill Rural art space in November on a VERY cold Thursday and picked out a ‘Scrumptious’ apple tree (That’s the variety we shall see if it lives up to it’s name!). The bay bush is going well and I will divide that in the spring and make it into a small hedge at the back where the cosmos is I think. I also moved a rather twiggy acer into this bed late summer so keep an eye out to see if that makes it through winter!


So, because the cosmos are HUGE, This is the best angle I could get of the long boarder. From left to right, there’s a pot with some lovely oregano I propagated from the plant in the north bed, and some parsley Sarah planted out in the summer. Then there’s the mystery plant I’m not sure what it is! You an see the willow beams that should turn into small trunks as the years go by. There’s the rose, a new little evergreen topiary, Maxine, who should look better come spring. More parsley, that Sarah planted and I’m now worried will never die and will live there until the sun explodes. My lovely lavender, at the back theres a hebe and one of those bushes that flower yellow in the spring. There’s also a fig tree that I will be planting next door because figs don’t ripen in this country apparently and I don’t want to give space for something that’s not going to do very well.

Then, Now here’s the exciting bit, a new plum tree!


It’s a stick now, but next year it should grow out a bit and I plan to espalier it to the fence. It should take up a small amount of space and give us tasty tasty Victoria Plums!

Then there’s a wisteria and the rest is salad.

The obelisk is there just so it has somewhere to go. It’s a small garden so I just popped something in the ground where there was space.


The north bed is still looking pretty fresh. We got a ‘Cola plant’ which smells and tastes like coke-a-cola!

The pear is nicely budded up to give us some lovely fruit next year and hopefully the honeysuckle will cover up more of this horrible fence by then as well!



Also, here is a rose still blooming. In December.

Next year I’m not deadheading this rose as it looked terrible in late summer but great in June/July. I think it’s an older variety of rose because our neighbour has the exact same type and he doesn’t know how old it is. It was here when we bought the house.



Planty is doing well, he’s mulched and we are planting him up in a bigger pot next spring when he starts to re-grow.

He’s an elder tree and they grow like weeds and will take over any garden they are in, so we’re keeping him in his own little pot so the rest of the garden can survive without having to be really really watered well in the summer months!


The Shade Garden is doing well, I will be expanding that trellis in the spring so the Passion flower covers the whole wall.

and Here is my small crab apple tree and my little blackberry, which I am hoping to train on to the wall.


I mulched with compost and also fallen leaves this year so we will have to see what happens next year with all that goodness in the soil!

I’m tending towards a no-dig style of gardening where the mulch is just chucked on top and is worked down by all the insects that live in the soil. It’s a very easy and simple way of doing it!


And that’s it from my little garden, I will post again in spring when all the bulbs are out!

See you in the new year!