Very personal things

Newly added to ‘The Music Page’. Youtube videos (below), and a new EP ‘Still Ill’ (four improvisations based on ‘Still Ill’ by The Smiths).

Album: ‘Still Ill suite’ on Last FM

Still ill (i) – jazz improvisation on the song by The Smiths



The music I’ve written and uploaded, under the name, zero.enmity.

2010 Albums

(Hi res image here)

Album: ‘Tomfoolery’ on Last FM

(begun 2010: ongoing)

– Hallelujah: Deconstructing the h-theme: A (3:30)
– Hallelujah: Deconstructing the h-theme: B (5:52)
– Hallelujah: Deconstructing the h-theme: C (3:58)
– God Bless the Chile (played straight) (7:23)
– Hallelujah D: Reprise (5:08)
– Improvisation with Atonalism (7:22)

This is an album for ‘off-the-cuff’ or less serious tracks.
The first three and the fifth are abstracted improvisatory variations on ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen.

Videos from this album

God Bless the Chile

Hallelujah A: deconstructing the h-theme

Hallelujah B: deconstructing the h-theme

Hallelujah C: decontructing the h-theme

Hallelujah D: Hallelujah reprise

Improvisation with Atonalism


Having a disabled daughter taught me a very good lesson early on.

After she was born, her mother and I used to take her to an early intervention centre. With the best of intentions, we were keen to push to her do the best she could as early as possible, which was a reasonable aim.

However, we pushed much too hard. We were always encouraging her to go one step further, physically and intellectually. We weren’t unkind to her, but children are very sensitive, and we caused her a lot of unnecessary stress. When she was about 3 years old, she started to develop behaviour problems, she was always unhappy and she lost a lot of hair (Down’s Syndrome kids are prone to this). So we mellowed our own behaviour, we enrolled her in a much more fun and relaxed special learning centre, her hair grew back and she became the happy kid we have now.

I learnt something quite important from this.

She has her limits. We can help to achieve her maximum, but she is disabled, she’s got a limit beyond which — barring a miracle from God — she isn’t going to go. She’s not going to be a great academic or an athlete.

And that’s OK.

And then I thought, well, I have my limits, too. I’m never going to Einstein or Newton, and that’s OK too. We all have our maximum. God created us with certain gifts, some of them in one area and some in another, but, as Jesus said, none of us can make ourselves taller just by thinking about it, and none of us can go further than the furthest we can go.

We can fulfil our potential, or at least try, but we’re never going to go beyond it.

It was good to realise that. It made me more relaxed about myself, and more relaxed about my other daughter. Living in Japan now, where most parents place a lot of unnecessary pressure on their kids, I am even more glad to have the chance to learn that.

The people who act happiest and laugh the most in company are very often the loneliest people. This is a sign. It’s not that they are putting on a brave face, or pretending, it’s simple: lonely people are genuinely delighted to be with others.

People who aren’t lonely, who have plenty of friends, can be quite blasé about festive situations: it’s nothing special to them. For the lonely, it’s a time of great excitement. Into their dark world, a light has shone! They are filled with joy. But when the light is gone, you don’t see to what sadness they must return.

I didn’t know this when I was young. I had friend I loved who committed suicide, and I couldn’t understand it. She was always so happy when she was with us — the extended group of friends — her action was seemingly without reason.

But it’s the happy ones you have to watch out for: the more excessive the delight, the more you should care. It’s a sign.

Introducing my daughter

One of my daughters was born with Down syndrome. She is two now, but the picture above shows her when she was aged one (click for a larger look). We knew about her condition before she was born — in fact we were told a highly exaggerated story about how disabled she would be, but that’s a tale for another time.

She’s a wonderful kid, curious and cheeky in a very cute way, with a big infectious laugh and an almost outrageous enthusiasm for life that frequently bubbles over and draws in the people around her. And she has a special place in her heart for me — she’s a ‘Daddy’s girl’. Of course she loves her mother deeply (as do we all), but when she’s upset it’s me she turns to first for comfort. And when we’re out, she and I are a team.

Jesus’ commando raid

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night… 2 Peter 3:10

I perfectly understand why parents-to-be feel unable to bear a disabled child, I was horrified and terrified when I found out my daughter would be intellectually disabled. I felt sadness, disgust, anger, humiliation, guilt — every selfish and stupid emotion a man can feel. I’d love to say ‘I’m not ashamed to admit’ how I felt, but the truth is I am deeply ashamed of the awful things I thought.

But in that darkness, in the darkness one night, Jesus blessed me with a single grain of sense and, contrary to all that
was going on in my mind, I found myself praying to God to help me love my daughter, and that if he didn’t reject me, then to make me able to not reject her. I prayed, ‘Lord, just put the love into my heart!’

My daughter is the second of non-identical twins, and there is a lengthy tale behind her first few days in the world, involving ambulances, incubators and misleading diagnoses, but I will cover that another time. Nevertheless, much had been going on, and I had been able to maintain an emotional and physical distance from her for a long period of time. It wasn’t until several days after she was born that my wife, who could see what was happening, told me gently but firmly that it was time to stop keeping myself apart from our daughter, and suggested, ‘why don’t you bath her’.

I undressed her and there she was, pale, naked and limp like a little rag doll. I looked into her eyes, and it seemed that they were searching — searching for someone to love her. And as I recall it, perhaps a voice inside me whispered, ‘man, look at this child, she needs a mother and father to love her, can it be you?’

Then I felt something happen in my heart. Like a commando in one of those old war movies, Jesus had placed a bomb in the huge concrete dam I had built around my heart. First there was a faint rumble, then a little crack, then a trickle, then as the warm water splashed gently on my daughter’s skin, a great flood of love began pouring out.

…as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.The Gospel of St John 13:34

God has blessed me with so much love for my special little darling that my heart nearly bursts with it — and he filled her with more love for me than I ever imagined such a little vessel could hold. And out of his grace, and without needing to be asked, he blessed us with much joy and laughter too.

When we were trying to come to terms with the imminent prospect of a disabled daughter, some people told us ‘It won’t be as bad as you expect’, but for me that doesn’t begin to describe it. A better explanation would have been, ‘it’s going to be better than you could ever have imagined.’

Further reading

“Not a vegetable after all”