Piano Tuning in the Magic Kingdom

On one of my regular Piano Tuning gigs, I passed through the barriers at what is now known as Kings Cross International. Nothing much unusual about this journey, since I use the station routinely.

However, in my day-to-day coverage across London, it does not even occur to me that close to the Disabled Access Point, our favourite friends Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione had boarded the Hogwarts Express. From the station’s interior, right along Euston Road, the magnificent Victorian infrustructure has many sights to admire, and includes plenty of locations where the various films have been shot. This is also the location where J.K. Rowling’s parents had first met.

Kings Cross St Pancras Station

Strangers walked past me, carrying goodies and even wearing hoodies, from the Harry Potter Shop, and I did wonder, if only for a moment, as to what it might have been like servicing instruments in the magic kingdom. No people! I am not talking about Harry Potter World, which you can actually get to from Kings Cross on the train. I meant all the places where the film locations exist, such as the real Diagon Alley near Temple, or the iconic Craven Street: the street that inspired Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (Cannon Street, or even the walk from the Lambeth Bridge to the Westminster Underground. Bringing the gift of music to so many, even for a brief moment, seemed full of mystery and intrigue, and who knew that London allows you so many chances to even go on a little treasure hunt without putting your hand in your pocket.

HarryPotterWorld

Now that the day of the London Marathon is approaching, it occurs to me, whether or not, I might be able to do a treasure run, whereby I could enjoy a popular trail whilst getting fit and ready at the same time. Where should I start? I mean, what would be the safest, most interesting route from, say Greenwich, which ends at the famous Sherlock Holmes Pub? Please let me know your ideas in the comments.

LondonMarathonFinishLine

Just Warming Up

London Marathon 2016 Logo

Training for the upcoming London Marathon is not easy! In spite of having already run a considerable amount, just packing in the miles, as any experienced runner would tell you, is simply not enough. There is a range of factors requiring constant ongoing attention; overall fitness, diet, rest and sleep and even the right kind of shoes and sensible clothing depending on the weather. Then again, did I forget to mention AMH Pianos, and the wide area that we cover on a fulltime basis?

BlindRunnersInARace

Yes it is a gruelling often draining regime from start to finish, literally. Even a standard practice run, lasting a few miles, is able to burn up thousands of calories – thousands more than normal. So why do it? Why should one such as myself pay good money and spend months, training for an event that was first commemorated to honour the sacrifice of a lone Greek soldier who ran a distance of 26 miles to inform the Athenians about an impending Persian attack close to the port city of Marathon? Why endure physical hardship when, at the same time, tuning and moving pianos presents me with physical exertion in the first place?

Metro Blind Sports Logo

With over 36, 000 runners participating each year, everyone has their own reason. Some do it for charity whilst others take it upon themselves to prove to their peers and loved ones their own unique abilities. Even more astonishingly, a sizeable group of people do it for a living, hoping to emulate national and international milestones. My sole reason: Metro Blind Sport, a charity of usually understated importance that is battling on perhaps a vital issue blighting the disabled community as a whole: physical fitness. Many people may or may not realise that a blind or partially sighted person may be limited in their overall mobility, which in turn affects their social wellbeing, quality of life and even mental health. Exposing myself and other blind and partially sighted people to a world of physical fitness and adaptive sports is the sole aim of this small London based charity.

As promised I will continue to keep my readers posted on the progress of my training, meanwhile I would appeal to my readers to please donate generously to this wonderful

cause. My Justgiving page will follow soon.

Celebrations in 2016 go on…and on

The New Year has been and gone; fireworks, after-parties, New Year’s resolutions and good wishes all around. In fact, we have probably broken our New Year’s resolutions long ago, and cheery Christmas music and tinsel have long been replaced by the usual chart toppers; the lights are now off amid what many people may describe as the most challenging month of the year. Sounds familiar? No, not quite yet.

Tower Bridge at New Year 2016

Living in London, the Metropolitan capital of the World, is not even close to a dull affair. Just listen beneath the surface and you will notice that celebrations carry on and on. I feel extremely delighted about the fact that, no matter where I am in the City, the Christmas and New Year theme carries on throughout the month of January, meaning that there is a party to attend only a short train ride away.

Saint Sophia's Cathedral Bayswater

When most of us are finished with the 12 days of Christmas the following day heralds the arrival of the Armenian, and Greek Orthodox Christmas, followed by the New Year’s celebration around the 14th of January. Fortunately therefore, the large Greek and Armenian communities in London pull out all the stops, culminating in extremely creative, melodic sounds coupled with some of the most iconic rhythms on the planet. You just need to listen.

Martin Luther King

The month of January also happens to be Black History Month. It is not only a time to remember, and make amends for, our shameful collective past, but also a time for musical education. Be it Caribbean Calypso, African Polyrhythms, various inclinations of Jazz and Soul, there is great music beyond the UK Top 40. Again, you just need to keep your ear out whilst walking the streets of our beautiful capital.

Chinese New Year in London

Finally towards the end of the month, we gather together to welcome in the Chinese New Year. This ancient rich culture has played an important role in astrology, ancient mythology, and of course, fascinating music with a completely different perspective to the West. This New Year’s Celebrations are truly a spectacle – one of increasing importance due to the cultural and socio-economic empowerment of China, along with a growing Chinese diaspora.

With so much going on, I do wonder why anybody, especially in London would have a reason to feel depressed just yet. There are great food, fabulous costumes and a colourful vibe on display, all with the opportunity to gain cultural insight and education. One just needs to get involved in the amazing London community and there will be plenty of events at which to give and receive the best wishes for the New Year. Last but not least, wherever you may be reading this, have a great 2016 from AMH Pianos.

A Brief History Of Lewisham-WOW!

I am always fascinated by, and deeply interested in the history of places which I carry out my work of tuning pianos, restoration and repairs, and piano removals. I like to imagine what it might have been like back in time, as London which we know today developed from small villages or even a collection of properties. This is my favourite whistle stop historical account of Lewisham, a vibrant and important borough of London.

Lewisham began its humble Saxon beginnings as Oleofsa’s village. In 862 Lewisham was referred to as LIofshema Mearc, then as Lieuesham in 918 and as Levesham in the Doomsday Book In 1086. Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham (1610-1657), founded a grammar school, a primary school, and six almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham.

In 1816 Lewisham was described as a rural village on the banks of the Ravensbourne that could only be reached by a long coach ride. It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to cover the distance in a day without what TFL has provided us in terms of transportation these days.

In 1828 the Riverdale Mill was built and is the only one of the Ravensbourne mills still surviving today. The Riverdale Mill was initially a leather mill and then became a corn mill in the 18th century. The first railway through Lewisham, the North Kent Line to Dartford, opened in 1849 and the present Lewisham station opened in 1857. In 1897 the Lewisham Clock tower was built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Lewisham Street Market started in 1906 Lewisham town centre was devastated by a flying bomb in 1944, but recovered by the 1950’s. In 1977 the Lewisham Shopping Centre was built and in 1994 the High Street in the town centre was pedestrianised allowing a traffic-free street market and an open space.

Lewisham’s rich history has fed into the vibrant diverse town centre that it is today. The area is bordered by Catford, Deptford, Greenwich and Hither Green. It is a busy shopping district with a good mix of chain and independent stores and Lewisham Shopping Centre, which is one of the biggest in South East London, and Lewisham Market. The market is open seven days a week with the Monday to Saturday market selling mainly fruit, vegetables, fresh cut flowers and a small range of non-perishable goods. The Sunday market is a general market selling non-perishable goods with up to 60 stalls. There is also an annual programme of themed markets, which include, French, Polish, International and a market made up of local traders.

On Lee High Road there is an eclectic mix of independent shops which include an Italian barbers, an accordion shop, a Polish shop and fancy dress shop. At the Ladywell end of Lewisham High Street a pet store, a selection of beauty and hair dressing businesses and a wide selection of specialist food stores can be found.

Lewisham Borough’s famous residents, past and present include Danny Baker (Broadcaster), Kate Bush (singer/song-writer), James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister), Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer), Big Jim Connell (socialist), Ernest Dowson (poet), Alfred Titch Freeman (cricketer), Gabrielle (singer/song-writer), Sir Isaac Hayward (politician), Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress), David Jones (painter & poet), Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter), Spike Milligan (comedian & writer), Mica Paris (singer/song-writer), Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker), Terry Waite (Archbishop’s Envoy), Max Wall (comedian) and Ian Wright (footballer), just to name a few. That seems to be a fairly illustrious, star studded list if I say so myself.

I really enjoy travelling throughout this part of the city, and sometimes wonder in hundreds of years time, how will people be living, and will there be pianos to tune.

Meanwhile, if you would like some attention for your piano here in 2015, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Give thanks to www.lewisham.towntalk.co.uk
Best,

Andy M Howard (AMH Pianos)
AEWVH Dip, MABPT, MIMIT
Fully Qualified & Insured Piano Tuner Technician
(Disclosure Barring Service) Checked

Office: 020 3685 5083
Mob: 07500 661581

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Looking Back At the Years

It has been quite a journey for me, both personally and professionally, ever since I set up AMH Pianos. With my work gaining constant coverage across London, I have been profoundly affected by the multi-cultural surroundings, which seems to exhibit novel creative and social dimensions not found in Bristol and the West Country. I feel as if the vibes of the capital have moved me; shaped my ways of thinking as well as my perspective in life. I do wonder, what might have been, had I not made the bold move of taking the world on my own terms, in new surroundings. Certainly, whatever has become of me in the last few years, has been a substantial improvement.

With my birthday on the horizon, I reminisce about my own personal development. Ever since my relocation to Hammersmith in West London, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many unique, interesting individuals, from all walks of life. I not only am tasked with looking after their pianos, they are also my friends. Being in the capital, my offerings related to piano removals and full scale general repairs have allowed me exposure to an even greater array of instruments, in different surroundings. Constant exposure to all makes and models has ensured that I am able to provide a better tuning service with the passage of time.

In addition to what I know best, I have also learned the use of social media and have even gained quite a fan following. Blogging, training for the London Marathon, and being exposed to the arts, has without a doubt, filled in many of the building blocks that nowhere else in the country could. However, in the grand scheme of things, all this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The greatest accomplishment for me, I feel, has been my personal development on the people skills front. Each time one of my customers provide me with praise and thanks, appreciating what I have done, I feel so much taller, yet humbled. For a new place to be favourable, it is not the environment or infrastructure, but rather the people who make up the community. Being blessed to be part of a cosmopolitan, multifaceted and creative mix, I come away each day learning not just something new, but often something so out of the box. This daily phenomena is sufficient to keep me grounded, since whenever I feel like I have learnt a great deal, I also find myself thinking that I have really not learnt anything at all. Still however, there is a long way to go before world domination.

Reflections on Guy Fawkes Night

The nights are drawing in & the season for pyrotechnics has begun across Britain. Starting with Halloween, it gathers pace, culminating with a bang at the New Year. Revered highly by the ancient Greeks & worshipped by the Zoroastrians fire has fascinated man since the dawn of time. The old traditions of history, like the Hindu wedding ceremony & the Olympic torch, all depict a harmonious relation between fire & music. So as I wander throughout London, I can just imagine the City’s historical grandeur consisting of gaslights, architecture & beautiful music – perhaps some of the finest works ever created.

European classical music has been created to grip, captivate & provoke thought. Could the creative purity remain unadulterated, not confined to today’s chart topping convention! Today’s instrument definitions have changed whilst fire remains constant. The contrast intrigues me. Classical music is deceptively simple in execution & creation, despite the complexities of the stories & human emotions conveyed. With our shorter attention spans, craving more extravagant visual displays, is our aesthetic appreciation rising at the expense of our musical concentration?

London fireworks
London fireworks – courtesy: Timeout

Is our changing perception evolutionary or revolutionary? Was there an event that tipped the balance to make us resonate more with transverse light than with longitudinal sound waves? Is the trend reversible? If so then what would the catalyst be? Only a few days after Guy Fawkes Night, I leave you with these thought provoking questions. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a new, more fulfilling sound leading into 2016.

Have a melodious week ahead, from everyone at AMH Tuning Pianos.

My Massive Personal Physical Challenge

Next year, will bring for me a massive challenge both mentally and Physically. I am at this time, preparing for the London Marathon 2016. This is going to be my second London Marathon, and I am running in aid of a blindness charity called Metro Blind Sports. The charity helps Blind and Partially sighted people to enjoy sports and live a Healthier lifestyle, and opens sporting opportunities which may not be available to them.

I have not only been set the task of running 26 miles, but also to promote the charity and hopefully reach out to Blind and Partially sighted people across London. Bring it on!

The Race starts in Greenwich Park, and finishes in St. James's Park, with the iconic finish along the Mall heading up to Buckingham Palace. Being new to London, I really enjoy passing through the many Boroughs where I serve the public through my Piano Tuning and Piano Maintenance work.

I am planning to write Blog entries throughout my training, and also hoping to add some film clips of my training runs along the way. These would be available to watch directly from my website or through my Youtube Channel, and I will let you know on Twitter, GooglePlus and Facebook when the next clip is live.

Generally I run from my home, over the Hammersmith bridge towards Barnes, dropping down onto the river bank, heading towards Kew, and on towards Richmond Park. In addition, I will also be doing some track work at the Battersea Park running track , to build up my speed skills and general physical fitness.

As a blind runner, taking on such a challenge, is a real mountain to climb, and I hope my runs over the next few months will interest you, and offer an insight into running a marathon with severe sight loss. If you have any advice or running tips for me, please share them in the comments section below, or by sending me an email. Wish me luck!

Accessible London

Having travelled all over the UK, I often think to myself: is London the most accessible city in the country? We are seeing a really integrated transport system in the Capital, with great transport networks, both above and below ground and having step free access becoming more and more the norm for the commuters of London. As a Blind Piano Tuner, I can travel, using this amazing public transport system, carrying out my work and indulge in social activities. Having a smart phone, using GPS and route mapping, I don’t think I could do as well anywhere else in the UK. Transport for London, TFL, should be really proud of the network, and I would like to give thanks for the skills and insights of the city planners.




Audio announcements on trains and buses are helpful to so many people whether you are new to the city or travelling to other areas outside of your daily commute. These audio systems help along all stages of ones travel. Many accessibility advancements, I feel, have been a direct result of the Paralympic Games 2012, which as one of my passions, finds great coverage across London, providing all the more reason to fall in love with this beautiful capital of ours.

In praise of Greenwich

Thought I would offer a little insight into some of the areas in which I tune pianos throughout London.

One of the Boroughs I enjoy working in is Greenwich. I love the history of the place, and the mix of districts within Greenwich: Abbey Wood, Blackheath, Charlton, Eltham, North Greenwich, Thamesmead, Westcombe Park, to name but a few!

Each of these areas has its own personality, offering great diversity and a colourful mix throughout the Borough of Greenwich.

I really enjoy the history of Eltham, what with the quintessentially English royal Palace, and I wish so much that I could travel back in time and see what life was like there in the Fifteenth Century!

Having moved to London recently, I make the most of what the city has on offer, and you will see me going to concerts at the 02. I have also been fortunate enough to have walked over the top of the Dome, and taken the cable car across the Thames.

I really enjoy the trip aboard the Thames Clipper along the riverbank into Westminster. I especially love this trip at night time, marvelling at all the amazing buildings and bridges lit up as you make your way to Westminster Palace.

My favourite sights include St Paul’s cathedral, the amazing Shard at London Bridge, and Tower Bridge at night time. It was fascinating to discover that Tower Bridge is classed as a ship, and has a captain manning the helm at all times.

The reason I’m writing this blog about Greenwich is chiefly the result of my time spent exploring the Borough following my recent relocation to London.

Time is such an interesting concept, and I guess the Borough of Greenwich is the modern day focal point of time, “the Prime Meridian Line”.

I have so much more to say about the Borough, what with music and entertainment over the years, but for now, it is time for me to go!

The Musical Fireworks!

It is the season for pyrotechnics across Britain. It normally begins with Halloween & gathers momentum, culminating with the new year with a bang. Fire has fascinated man since the dawn of time; the ancient  Greeks regarded it as one of the primary elements, & the Zoroastrians even worship it. The old traditions of history, like the Hindu wedding ceremony & the Olympic torch, all depict a harmonious relation between fire & musical accompaniment. So as I wander across the busy streets of London, I can just imagine a time when the historical grandure of London would have consisted of gaslights, architecture & beautiful music – perhaps some of the finest works ever created.

Music through Europe’s  history has been created to grip the listener, captivate the imagination & provoke thought. There were no editing tools, no recording studios & tracks did not end after four minutes. We of course now have more types of instruments at our disposal than ever before. It makes me wonder that if people have still maintained the love for fireworks- simple yet spectacular in appearance- then what has happened to our oratory tonal sense? Classical music was simple in execution & creation, despite the complex  layers of stories & human emotions conveyed. What has happened to us that our musical concentration has waned in spite of easier access to sound, whilst simultaneously, our fascination with fire has heightened as we find it possible to create & enjoy newer ways of enjoying bigger & better fire based displays, even in the face of fire safety legislation & our unpredictable weather?

London fireworks
London fireworks – courtesy: thetimes.co.uk

Could our changes in perception be explained by events that are evolutionary, or are these events revolutionary? And I wonder if there was an event that marked the turnaround for us humans to develop our appreciation of light at the expense of our appreciation for good sound? Are our combined senses now drawn to entirely different types of rhythms, that the transverse light waves resonate more with our consciousness, compared to the longitudinally generated sound waves? Most important of all, are these trends reversible, and if so, then what would be the catalyst to tip the balance to a more stable equilibrium? I wish to leave my readers with these thought provoking questions. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a new, more fulfilling sound amidst the fireworks leading up to Christmas & beyond.

Have a melodious week ahead, from everyone at AMH Piano Tuning.