Virtual Sociability and the Tunes of the Summer

At AMH Pianos, I strongly believe that whatever we do, we can do better. The philosophy that there is always room for improvement, rings so loudly to me that in spite of getting excellent reviews from so many of you, I continuously strive to give you more for your money and interaction with my company. As the official summer has just kicked in according to the Met Office, we have been blessed with incredible weather, warm days and long hours of sunshine through out the land. So whether you are on a boat ride from the Tower Hill pier, or shopping or eating out near Bayswater, there is a chance that you would not have forgotten your mobile phone, which would probably be sitting snugly in your pockets or handbags. That is exactly why when I first started, I thought why not put technology to some good use for both work and play?

Facebook Heart

Many people, to this day, probably still do not rely on a mobile phone, let alone a tablet or a computer. This is to say that perhaps the concept of social media has not quite sunk in with so many out there. There is a chance that whether it’s a student roaming around High Street Kensington, a tourist wandering near the Baker Street attractions, or even that student’s mother or grandma living in one of the outer boroughs of Bromley or Bexley checking up on them or their friends or family, someone you know might probably be only a few clicks away on Facebook. Love it or loathe it, this platform has become a 1 Billion strong global community, which now has started offering even greater accessibility for blind and partially sighted users like myself by offering audio descriptions of photographs and videos. Then there is Twitter. I love the world’s first truly mobile network, which has been the place for breaking news stories, and from Ealing to Plaistow, it has won me many amazing friends and got me in touch with so many vital contacts at the same time. I would be the first to put my hand up and admit that I am not a techy computer super-geek – no indeed! My interests are everything to do with piano tuning and looking after pianos Still, I am amazed at just how many of my fellow colleagues, to this day, continue to miss out on such a large network of opportunities, which are easily available, increasingly accessible, and best of all, FREE!!

Whilst the days are longer, the summer is in full flow, and there is a general buzz around London, why would someone not choose to be Linked In to what the city has to offer. Why would someone, who wants to grow their business, not take advantage of Google Plus, where results influence your search ranks? Most of all, what amount of social interactions, are my fellow colleagues missing out on, which could improve their quality of life? I feel fortunate enough to have the opportunity to truly enjoy what the Capital has to offer both physically and digitally, and I also get to learn about new stuff on a daily basis in a form most convenient to me. Please come along, and offer your friendship to me, and I will offer you my life long friendship and service in return, both throughout the summer and beyond!

Pinterest MortarBoard

The Marathon Circle Of Life

Personally, I really did not know what to call this piece. I felt a sea of emotions over the last couple of weeks, from elation, to sadness, to pride, and everything in between. Watching yet another month pass into our history books, I would like to take some time to just contemplate as to what really happened in the capital in addition to my work. This is important, because what happened, will have an ever-lasting impact in the whole world. Let’s tackle each emotion, and feeling one at a time.

Queen's 90th Birthday

First off, let’s talk about pride. Saturday 23rd April was of course St. George’s Day. The man, most widely known as the Patron Saint of England, can still inspire the best among all of us; a sense of real pride to be English, and British. From Oxford Street and Picadily Circus to Westminster, Whitehall and the entire boroughs of Southwark and Greenwich, it felt like I was living in perhaps the greatest city on the planet, at the heart of the greatest country on Earth. Couple this with the Queen’s Birthday, and Barak Obama’s historic visit, there were troops seen marching near Hyde Park, St James’s Park and near Buckingham Palace. There were men and women with Union Jacks milling about. There was definitely a greater buzz on the streets of Hammersmith and Fulham, around Knightsbridge, and it seemed like even my lovely customers were getting into the national spirit as I visited them to carry out tuning and maintenance jobs on their pianos. I just could not help but think of how many pianos have been manufactured in, and sold by, Britain, as a sense of joy flowed through my veins that whole week.

LondonMarathon2016RunnerDressedAsAGiantShoe

Next up, came the London Marathon. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, this was a record year for the London event, where over 247,000 applicants put their names forward to take part in the event, which finally totalled a very cool 36,000 runners. I guess pride and elation would both go hand in hand here, since it was none other than Major Tim Peake who provided the countdown to the start of the race, right from his International Space Station hangout. While so many people ran a great race, including an actual giant shoe, I felt partly disappointed not to be able to run it myself due to some niggles. Still, there is always 2017, and I certainly hope to run the event, and would really like to thank Metro Blind Sports for their support throughout my campaign. Finally, my condolances to the family of the late Army Captain David Seath, who lost his life during the Marathon, and a well done to so many of you who battled adversity to show your strength and determination in reaching the pinnacle of human endurance as you crossed the finish line near the Embankment.

DJ Derek

This conveniently brings me to the one emotion we dread as human beings: sadness, caused by irreversible loss. As news about DJ Derek from my old haunts around Bristol filtered through, about his funeral last Friday, and the details of his mysterious yet tragic death kept becoming clearer, I could not help but mourn the loss of a West Country icon that stood for diversity and cross-cultural integration, in an era where there was none of it. The following few days then further brought bad news for the Arts. First, we lost the extremely versatile and talented Victoria Wood due to cancer, at the not-so-old age of 62. Then, as if that news had not quite sunk in, we lost Prince. This one was of particular sadness to me. Not only was he extremely innovative as a musician and an artist, he was also just 57, and from the time where in order to succeed, you did not always have electrickery at your disposal; a great voice and all round talent had to be your instruments. From the amazing patriotic highs, to the extreme lows of sadness and bereavement of some of the most iconic figures of their generation, gone in an instant within the space of a week.

Prince PicturedIn1986

So as we approach a rather cold end to April, and make our way towards the bank holiday, I wish to take a moment of introspection. And I ask that whether you had the chance to fly the flag around London Bridge, watch the London Marathon near the Cutty Sark, or pay tribute to your favourite stars of yesteryear around Brixton, there is just one truth to the matter. Life is too short! Therefore, take every opportunity to strive to be the best at whatever you do, so that your name and deeds become your ever-lasting legacy. Have a great bank holiday from AMH Pianos and be sure to pay your tributes in the comments.

VictoriaWood 1954-2016

Promoting The Perfect Pitch

It is just under a week to go before the 2015 London Marathon. Now in its 34th year, this is the largest marathon by virtue of its global coverage, number of runners and the amount of fund-raising. A scenic route, of 26miles 345yards, from Maze Hill to Green Park along the Embankment, awaits over 36,000 runners this year. These are the lucky folks who have made it to the starting line out of a record 247,000 entrants who went into the ballot. This post is for all of you; in honour of the 2016 London Marathon, let’s talk about the fun facts, history and highlights that you would encounter during the course.

London Marathon StartLine MazeHill

The course begins in London’s East End. The site sits outside of the traditional Roman boundaries of the City of London. Initially composed of small villages and hamlets around a Roman roadleading from London to Colchester. This was an area of green and open space compared to the crowded streets of the city. Olden day East London was a deprived, impoverished, crime filled, smelly neighbourhood, where the more odour rich employment sectors were based, away from the the over-crowded and affluent centre and Westminster. So, early industry included tanning, rope making, lead making, slaughter houses, fish farms, breweries, bone processing, tallow works and gunpowder production. However, it also saw the creation of the city’s cultural melting pot due to mass migration since the 1750s, starting from the Huganots, and carrying on to the Russians, Jews, Afro-Asians and more lately the East European states.

The Whitby, London's Oldest Pub, Established1520

Following the German raids during the Second World War, and high crime rates during the 60s and 70s, East London has seen tremendous regeneration, and is perhaps now one of the trendiest areas of the capital. From the Shard near London Bridge to the heart of the financial district near Canary Wharf and Canada Water, places like Bow have also served as the birth place of the Labour Party. Jarvis Cocker, singer of the pop band Pulp, wrote a song called 59 Lyndhurst Grove after being thrown out of a party at that address in Peckham. East London is the most popular film location in the city, playing host to everything from Oliver! to A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. The naval buildings of Greenwich stood in for Washington in Patriot Games. The Dome, now the O2 Arena in North Greenwich, the focus of the Millennium celebrations, is the largest structure of its kind in the world – big enough to house the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Statue of Liberty. No wonder the area of London has expanded since 1600, making the city first in history to reach a population of one million.

CrowdAtTheLondonMarathonNearBigBen

At the other extreme, when you have passed 107 pubs, including some near Borough Market that serve alcohol from 7AM, you would pass the famous Cutty Sark, and possibly run into Jensen Button, Christy Turlington and Downton Abbey’s Robert James-Collier, or one of 25 politicians along the way, you would definitely encounter some querky antics only the marathon can offer. There will be over 100 official Guinness World Record attempts during the marathon, ranging from the fastest marathon dressed as a leprechaun, to the fastest marathon in high heels. I do wonder how many of the runners would have put down piano tuning, or even piano removals as one of their occupations. And one just cannot talk about the Marathon without mentioning the vast sums of money raised by all the runners: £716million in total to date, and charities such as Metro Blind Sports rely substantially from all of your donations to any of your friends and family taking part in the event.

NatalieEckerdMotherOf5ToRun2016MarathonInHighHeelsIn4hours

With live broadcast in 190 countries worldwide, remember to catch the action, cheer and push on those tired bodies, aching limbs, and even 1200 St. John’s Ambulance volunteers who make this event one of the most well known on the London calendar. Remember to cheer the 250 birthday boys and girls, aged between 18 and 90 who are participating this year. Finally, a word of advice: whatever you do on the day, running or just observing, please try not to attack a Chelsea pensioner, because theoretically, this action still remains punishable by death!!

Easterly Spring From Your Top Rated London Piano Carer

The Big Ben Clock At Westminster Houses of Parliament

As the clocks jump forward, the weather brightens, and with spring, young men’s (and women’s) fancy turn to thoughts of love. I feel it is time once again to check in with everyone of you, who have made me feel so welcome since my arrival in the capital. There is plenty of exciting news to bring to you. We have some extraordinary success to celebrate as a company. Since all of you have supported me through so many good times, and stood by my side to help overcome adversity following my relocation and the establishment of my own piano tuning and removals business, I feel that this entry is to all of my service users, my friends, my guides in an otherwise scary and vicious world.

London2012 Olympic Games Venue

During almost the last two years, we started AMH Pianos from very humble beginnings. What I possessed, were merely my ambition, ideas for a great service, and the skills needed to provide the service, together with my faith and belief in my own abilities to stand and deliver a high standard of work, even at the toughest of assignments. Now, just before, Easter, because of all my well-wishers, I feel that what I see before me is not short of an amazing miracle. I am so honoured and humbled by the fact that after blood, sweat and tears, we have finally attained the top spot on Google when searching for a Piano Tuner in London. I am incredibly touched by all the wonderful positive reviews and wonderful feedback given to me by so many of you from all walks of life. We now cover most of Greater London and now even cater to the residents of Islington, plus Hackney, and from South Bromley to Wapping and all around Tower Hamlets and Newham, there is a strong chance you would be catered to with that same level of commitment that is expected of AMH Pianos. More improvements to our services and presence is on the way very soon, and of course, we appreciate your feedback. and contact

TheBigLondonEasterEggHunt

By now, you may possibly be wondering about the purpose of me writing this entry. You may most likely be trying to connect all the themes within here: Easter, Spring, London, Daylight Savings, and Piano Maintenance? I can assure you that there is a connection indeed. A joyous Easter miracle, lifting me to the top of Google’s summit, could not have come at a more opportune time than the start of spring. And as the clocks move forward, I feel that with your support and generosity, my work, skills, and standard of service will continue to move forward, taking giant leaps ahead to usher in brighter days and healthier musical instruments across the city of London. Wish me Luck!

The Seat of Learning

On a normal day in London, my piano tuning, and full-scale repair work takes me to some interesting places around the city, right from South Bromley and the southern edges of the capital, to Temple Fortune towards the far north, and from everywhere in between. Whilst every service job always adds experience to my resùmé, and experience and practice are never to be taken for granted by anyone, I always think back to my time at the Royal National College of the Blind in Hereford, and the importance of formal learning about my craft. A specially tailored classroom, focusing on a skill or specific subject, can add character, discipline and life-long transferrable skills to one’s toolkit, in turn leading to a more enhanced experience when doing what we do. My years at the RNC have allowed me to gain a specialised craft, gain valuable insights into the industry and consequently, earn a livelihood.

LondonSchoolOfEconomicsMainEntrance

During work hours, I always tend to encounter a wide range of students, from all backgrounds, subjects and institutions dotted across London. There are plenty of world-class universities and specialist colleges through out the city, making the capital perhaps one of the largest student populations anywhere in the world. A collection of young, bright and eager minds, often embarking on challenging academic disciplines, possibly away from home, or even their country for the very first time, appear to be taking on the world. These young people, whether studying at top rated universities like University College London or Imperial College, or a specialist institution such as the Royal Academy of Music or RADA, will be our future doctors, engineers, service providers and world leaders. A competitive city such as London, will always attract the sharpest, brightest young minds, with the promise of a better life for them and their families. Whatever the discipline, one must never discount the value of top quality education and the struggle to improve one’s own wisdom and knowledge.

SouthbankUniversity

Whether I am boarding a train at , or performing instrument relocation around one of the student halls of residence near Kings Cross, these young and dynamic students always seem to have bright ideas, ambition and interesting thought patterns. They make great conversationalists, full of aspirations and optimism. Despite all the stories and negative press around student life, the growing student debt and acts of decadence, one cannot help wondering how many of these generously paying customers for our city’s economy would gain plaudits in the media for studying all night, conducting innovative research, contributing to charities and causes, living away from home comforts for the very first time in the face of adversity, or just learning the best way to balance demands and expectations in the fast paced world we inhabit. Sometimes, it is just too easy to fall under the spell of sensationalism based on other people’s expense, is it not?

BirkbeckCollege UniversityOfLondon

So at the beginning of a sunny spell, here is to all the students, from Colindale to Croydon. Here is hoping that the sun always shines on your creativity, boldness and future success. After all, we would all be dependent on your work in decades to come. Make us proud!

GoldsmithsCollege MainBuilding

London Piano Tuner Running for Metro Blind Sports- 2016 London Marathon

This year, I am running the London Marathon for Metro Blind Sports. The charity has been set up to support both Blind and Partially sighted people, to stay active and engage in sporting activities.

MetroBlindSports LondonAthleticsFestival

Should you be losing your vision, or have had long term sight loss, Sport is something we should not miss out on. It boosts physical fitness, increases confidence and mobility, reduces health risks, and even raises life expectancy.

Wheverever in London you might be, from Greenford to Stratford, from Brent Cross to Bexley, regardless of your skill level or ability, Metro Blind Sports offers plenty for everyone to maintain a good quality of life for individuals who may be otherwise left isolated and at serious health risks.

The charity is mainly run by Blind and Partially Sighted people, offering a full range of sport from Blind Tennis, Football, Cricket, Swimming, Skiing, and a complete range of athletics.

Volunteers for MetroBlindSports

Check out the link below:

Metro Blind Sports – Home Page

Should you be interested in sponsoring my Marathon run, or if you might be considering volunteering to help at events, please take a look at the Virgin Giving page and/or Metro Blind Sports website. Your support and generosity are indeed much obliged with special thanks.

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=metromarathon

Please Support MetroBlindSports

I will be posting updates of my progress until the actual Marathon day, via Twitter and via the blog. Should you wish to follow my training and fund-raising progress, please take a look at www.tuningpianos.co.uk and visit the blog.

It is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to run for Metro Blind Sports, I hope we will be able to raise some funds for this wonderful, and much appreciated important cause.

All the best

Andy Howard

The Cold Blues of London Winters

MetOfficeLogo

It has been quite an eventful winter, both for AMH Pianos as well as for the UK. The Met Office, classifies seasons either based on the Astronomical shifting of the Earth’s axes, or on the meteorological shifting of the temperature patterns. The Astronomical shifts are fairly constant, which therefore, makes the temperature shift based seasons more interesting to study. Having recently seen a Flag of London – yes there is a flag belonging to the City of London, on a very cold and rainy day, I, like my fellow Londoners, could not wait for warmer times, brighter days and sweet sunshine.

FlagOfTheCityOfLondon

According to the Met Office, the end of the Winter is scheduled to be on the 29th of Feb. Now that we have passed Christmas, welcomed 2016 in Conventional, Orthodox and Chinese varieties, and even experienced the full force of love on Valentine’s Day, it is time for outdoor fun, be it picnics in Hyde Park, a trip to Kew Gardens, or even some shopping around Shepherd’s Bush. The longer days also mean more tourists, more running and more outdoor musical events. Yet, one cannot feel a tinge of sadness at the passing of perhaps the season that the UK is designed for.

LordsCricketGround St.JohnsWood

We celebrate the spring and summer in so many extravagant ways: most of our sports, school holidays, events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Proms, or the Notting Hill Carnival,are all geared to appreciate weather that Britain is just not programmed for. Whatever the weather men say, we are still a cold country, where we build snow figures, wear anoraks and carry umbrellas, long for a hot bath, whilst cuddling up in our warm duvets by the fire at night. Any one of these activities is quite easily referred to by our culture as creature comforts. Yet as people, there must be something missing in the bleak mid winter that the woolly jumpers, winter warmers and season of Santa Claus just doesn’t generate the same excitement.

SomeToolsNeededForPianoTuning

So as I walk with my tuning tools, I would spare one last thought for the wonderful, comfortable winter. I will do that extra yard of warm-up exercise, shield myself from that cold that one last time, and adorn my warm jumper with pride, while sparing a thought to the leap year day, when the seasonal blues end. I say to you oh glorious winter: thanks for the memories, and see you again soon!

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.

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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.