I spent the day on Saturday playing six beautifully decorated pianos stationed in various places in Leeds – including the railway station, the Corn Exchange, the Tetley Brewery. This was a fringe event for the Leeds International Piano Competition which is held in the city every three years. I joined the Let’s Play the Piano Meetup group for the first time, a group of pianists that meet monthly both in Leeds and Manchester.

I took the train to Leeds and the first piano was in Leeds railway station. We were greeted with coffee and pastries by the organiser, Ben, but I hadn’t anticipated seeing a steam engine in full steam in the station! The whole city is buzzing with festival events and some lovely artwork had been placed in the station concourse. I played my own works from three of my published books of piano pieces:  Ghost Town Suite, They Went west and Outback.

Just visible through the beer bottles at the Tetley Brewery!


Playing my piece A Night At the Opera from my Ghost Town Suite, in Leeds City centre – part of the Leeds International Piano Competition fringe festival.



June 8

I’ve decided to take a chance and temporarily jump ship, so to speak, from the life I’ve fashioned for myself. Most of us, I suppose, have had at one time or another the impulse to leave behind our daily routines and responsibilities and seek out, temporarily, a new life. That daydream  has always retreated from me in the face of reality.  But I’ve had a feeling for a while now, as a turn a milestone,  that here  is a new phase of life, one that I need to embrace, no matter how full of doubts I may be filled with right now.  My daughters have   graduated from college and  are embarking on  new adult lives of their own. A voice inside my head calls me with  insistence, if I dare to listen to it, Hey, you there! you  need to get back to the narrative of your own life. Perhaps if I travel by myself to somewhere unfamiliar where all the labels that define me, both to myself and others are be absent, I could explore a new me.  But I wonder about my capacity to be a woman in a place without and identity, without friends. Alone of seven weeks? I have fallen into habit, quite naturally I believe, of defining myself in terms of who I am to other people-I am what others expect me to be -a daughter,   wife, mother, teacher, mentor, friend, critic. I’d like to stand back from these roles and make the acquaintance of that new person who emerges.

Now, how many reasons can I think of why I shouldn’t do it? What about my house? Who’s going to feed Tilly? I won’t be generating any income-yikes!  Suppose I get sick in some strange place. What if I disappear off the face of the planet? The response from friends has been unanimous. In fact, over the past few months as I’ve wrestled with this dichotomy on hikes through the redwoods, along the coastal buffs and along the beaches of Santa Cruz, in hurried intermissions at concerts and leisurely dinners I’ve come to see who my friends truly are. Go, they say, your children are grown, and Anthony can look after the cat. Some of them tell me in hushed voices that  they are secretly envious of my independence.

In planning the adventure some kind of cultural connection with the place I selected was of vital importance and this was easy to find. I would immerse myself in the place of my father’s mother’s family. Since beginning to research my family’s history seven years ago I’ve visited many places connected with my family. But on short visits with my daughters we had time for little more than finding a little moorland village in Lancashire, jumping out of the car to take a photo of the stunningly beautiful church, or take a quick picnic in the local cemetery (yes, one of our favorite pastimes!) or grab a half a shandy and a bag of cheese and onion crisps in the local hostelry. With seven weeks I wanted to  wake up to the views my great, great, great grandparents had from their kitchen window, touch the font where 5 generations ago my relatives were baptized and then climb the hill above the village to look down on that church, a view that may not have changed during the last 600 years. Someone recently asked if I was going to England to see members of my family. Only the dead ones, I replied!