Singing for Health & Much More!

Inside St Mary’s Church. Photo credit: Hina Singh

Singing for Health is a short course  that is offered by Slough CMHT’s Hope College to it’s service users. It was set up to promote mental health recovery, psycho-education and access to activities and support within the community.  

From my own experience I know just how vital this is.  The mental health sevices available have enabled the service user to build upon regain and strengthen self-autonomy and in tandem helping them to reduce the stigma. As a therapist said many a time we all have mental health not just those attending the CMHT with a diagnosis. Fortunately for us locals the Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust is a tour de force in the diverse mental health services it provides in the community not just in the clinical setting. We truly are blessed.

Now for my experience attending ‘the Singing for Health’ Workshop. I missed the first session but still wanted to try to get there, to help me rebuild on my lost; confidence, resilience assertiveness and its accompanied increased isolation. I needed an activity that allowed me to be sociable without too much politics & unnecessary competition. I just needed a place where I could go and leave my troubles at the door and upon leaving feel lighter for having attended.

So, on the morning of my first time attending the group I was very anxious , equally excited and exhausted due to minimal sleep. Nothing new there – moan, groan, moan, groan! Then I arrived at the venue, St Mary’s Church in Slough. I actually did a whole lap of the church trying to find the entrance. Finally inside, I found the group and a few familiar faces hoorah and some! Everyone seemed so warm and friendly & as a newbie I felt very welcome. The group consisted of 4 singing teachers, support workers and us service users. To be honest I was very distracted by church interior with it’s stunning stain glass windows, high ceilings and ornamental details scattered about!

I’m a huge music lover but also naturally very shy so I never had much confidence to sing growing up, except for at home! In particular much to the annoyance of my younger siblings, who would get fed up of their elder sister’s dulcet tones (hahaha). To the point whereby they laid down the ground rule that I wasn’t allowed to sing when ‘Top of The Pops’ was on the tele! If I sang along they would ‘mute the fudgin TV’! This would be preceded by all of us madly scrambling to hog the blessed remote control – that we lovingly nicknamed ‘the remo’ – just before the show began, Arghhh!!! Not that that stopped me singing at home at other times or whilst Top of The Pops or any other music show was on [insert Muttly’s mischievous laugh here]. I am sure most siblings in those days and now can relate to this madness of bickering!

Oops I digress.

As a group we start with some warm up exercises and then split off into three sub – groups to practice our specific parts of the songs du jour; the tune, the harmonies and the low tones. Before I knew it I had embraced singing with full gusto with the first song which was ‘Lollipop’ oh my god, I was in heaven (pun central oops). Suffice to say, I felt at home being a big kid and being reminded of classical films such ‘Stand by Me’. You know! That infamous scene when the 4 teenage boys go off on their secret adventure walking across the train track singing this song

Film: Standy By Me. Photo credit: Pinterest 

Also the brilliant film ‘Corrina Corrina’ came to mind when, Molly and her friend have a spat in kids gospel choir scene, they then hug it out and Molly comes to life as she throws herself completely into singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’. “Another classic TUNE”!

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Film: Corrina Corrina. Photo credit: Wikipedia

I cannot help film referencing as you can see, sorry.

So back to my singing experience by now I was grinning from ear to ear, as I sang my heart out and happy childhood memories ensued. Memories of attending my beloved St Laurence C of E primary school, yonks ago. For this reason I feel somewhat of an affinity to Christianity even though I am Hindu. Ah my little hymn book and saying the Lords Prayer every morning in assembly came flooding back to me standing in front of the stained glass windows you can see in the picture above.

Everytime we reconvened to sing as a collective something beautiful happened, hearing the harmonies subgroup as we all sang I ‘drank in’ the whole exponential spiritually uplifting experience, finding that inner voice and being totally in the moment totally present and mindful. Priceless.

Finally, I recall talking to the support worker and saying “Why did it take me so long to come to this group?! She knew exactly what I meant and remarked “It’s hard to put it into words, right! When trying to encourage a person to attend, words alone cannot explain this, you really have to come along and experience it for yourself.

She was so spot on! – (You know who you are).

~Blessings to you all,  Hina xo ~

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Change is Hard & So is Acceptance

The garden outside.

Found this photo I had taken a while back!

This photo is so symbolic for me for so many reasons.

This is the garden area outside where I use to attend a support group, that was a major part of my life for so long.  Change is incredibly hard and so is acceptance. As the saying goes ‘we fight to hold on and we fight to let go!’

Unfortunately for me, it went from being interesting and a place of belonging to something that was not helping me thrive and feel safe – for complex reasons I shall not go into.

However I do appreciate how much I tried to make the therapeutic community approach work. I did get some amazing support from some amazing people prior to it becoming unhelpful to be there. But in the end it was no longer the right form of support to help my recovery from some tough years of severe frequent relapses. It is bittersweet as I was priviledged to be a founding member of the group so it’s a huge loss. 

In the end I had to accept that a social setting can become toxic and unhelpful even with the best of intentions by a few & myself. 

So as I continue to greive the loss of this and other supportive therapy I use the photo above as a metaphor to aid acceptance. 

Just like the garden goes through the changing seasons of nature so do we humans who interact with it. 

It helped ground me when I needed something to do so, it soothed me when I needed to have a cry or get some support from a group member. Many a word was spoken, a tear expressed, a laugh was had, a fag smoked and a cuppa had. So, just like the saying goes ‘if only these walls could talk, what if this garden could talk?

Nature is life’s silent power. Helping us and indeed me to keep accepting, greiving and recovering through a forgotten travelled path of applying my skills and regaining my confidence & self belief.

Om Namah Ganesha.

The Abyss: It Lurks

Each time I slip into the abyss
I fear my mind
The demons
The chatter, the dark
Overwhemled by over analysis
Distortions & mental bullies
Coursing Adrenaline
Will it seap out?
How would they know?
It isn’t visible
My medicated state & fear sedate it.

Climb out of the Abyss AGAIN
Challenge every single cell
To cope, to pace, to survive
To proverbiably chuck ‘them’ out of my mind

No! No! No! There I go Again!
The abyss it calls me
To the prison of my mind
Will THEY catch me?
Will I be respected & respect them?

The Abyss it lurks

I still fight its power

I catch myself more

I respect myself more

I love myself more

I strengthen myself more

Let the Abyss Lurk as I regain my power.

Dedicated to Craig. Thank you my friend. Lots of love Hina

Film: Shohreh Aghdashloo Shines in Septembers of Shiraz

Having noticed I have a penchant for films set in the Middle East whilst scrolling through Netflix I could not, not watch this film.

However as I was going through some tough times personally, I was vulnerable to being triggered by topics of conflict, unfairness and distress it wasn’t the best timing to escape into a movie. So ignoring the mental alarm bell- to not give in to the action urge I pressed ‘play’…

I am transported to 1970s Iran which was a cultural melting pot of social acceptance and diversity until it was turned on its head by the overthrow of the monarch; the Shah Mohammed Renez Palahvi –  by the political and religious leader the Ayatollah Khomeini. As the proletariat backlash to capitalist Iran gathers pace so do the hostilities.

 Shown through the looking glass of a successful and progressive Jewish family are the reverberations of the revolution on them and those connected to them. Adrien Brody plays Isaac and Salam Hayek his free thinking wife Farnez. Big actors in their own rights. I was quickly drawn into the couple’s way of life, their own inner drives and forward thinking juxtaposed with the rich tapestry of their life in Iran with Jewish heritage. The hip western influences and sass displayed in Farnez’ glamourous fashion style,  to what she reads to how she ‘walks her walk’ as the gutsy matriarch of a ‘world’.

 Adrien delivers a masterpiece of a performance, in my humble opinion, as Isaac the self – made businessman with a conscience, some may say exploiter depending on what side of the fence you are sitting on; as he employed Israelies on his way up only to feel the sheer detest of said employees once the rebels takeover. What ensues and is communicated so brilliantly to the viewer, is the the utter pain and torture Isaac experiences as the story takes pace and his world is turned on its head as he becomes broken.

So, this brings me to the reason why I simply had to write this blog…I will get there I promise!

 Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays a supporting role but I believe she is the central character of Septembers of Shiraz. Shohreh plays Habibeh, Isaac and Farnez’ loyal and dedicated servant. I feel that Habibeh’s story is integral in showing the disparity and inner turmoil of a woman who serves her ’employees’ and is also a key part of the family. She is a confidant; sister, a mother and a hardworking woman, an important part of the family’s fabric. 

Without giving too much away Shohreh delivers a blinding performance in this particular scene.

You might recognise the actress, I recalled her from the film she co-stars with Ben Kingsley in the ‘House of Sand and Fog’ another brilliant film! 

Finally a nod to Aloun Aboutboul as Mohsen the head honcho of the guards who orders the arrest of Isaac,  with his no nonsense attitude which he’d be expected to have of course , captivated me with the internal conflict he showed with his expressive eyes.

Portraying that not all is black and white, in love and war we at our core complex beings.


Ps. What did think of film? 🤓

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You Cannot Pour From An Empty Cup

Just last Saturday over the May bank holiday weekend, I was having a self prescribed REST DAY to recover from the impact of new add – on meds I had started taking a few days ago. So I was dealing with additional side effects including extreme tiredness but positively finding a big improvment cognitively; fine motor skills, concentration & motivation! 

So all though I was ‘housebound’ whilst adjusting to the meds I was very productive at home, daily functioning had improved greatly allowing for self care and goal focused activity! So it had been an equally tiring and productive week – on a par to over two years ago when I was packing a hell of a lot into my week.

  It was the 6th day of being on new meds to to help this lapse and coping with a loss of support that had been so vital to my recovery in so many ways. The change of a very physically  busy week. So I was chilling on the sofa and doodling in my note pad – which is my saviour during overwhelming times of being lost in a mental maze of high anxiety and depression and severe disorganised thinking.

Anyways I wasn’t feeling that ‘lost’ but I was just relaxing without ‘beating myself up’ and I doodled this picture that speaks volumes internally for me and perhaps you might need a reminder too. 

Giving ourselves permission to rest and recover from illness or tough days, crises and medication changes or ongoing meds side effects is so important. 

Hey whether you have an illness or not modern life is full of demands juggling one million things. So although looking after YOURSELF should be the priority we can subconsciously neglect ourselves. Thus the saying ‘You cannot pour from an empty cup’ was never a truer word spoken!

 Balance is so important as we are continually told, so if we can just ‘cut ourselves some slack’ and ‘kick back’ we can get some inner equilibrium. Inner Peace is not really a corny destination but a mindful way of being in the present that is unique to each of us. Once you tap into that you begin to feel a real sense self – soothed calm. Its a spiritual gift.

I am Love: Film Review

I am Love directed by Luca Guadagnino. 

A little film review by Hina Singh. Just my thoughts on a film that made an impression on me. Not an acadaemic critique. I simply just love a good film as much as a really bad (good) film! Confused? Good, cos I usually am! 🙄 🤓

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Marisa Berenson, Pippo Delbono, Tilda Swinton, Alba Rohrwacher, Mattia Zaccaro, Flavio Parenti and Maria Paiato in I AM LOVE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

I love a good art house film, you know the type that screams ‘refreshing & geographical escapism’ that has you gripped and is more than ‘just something to watch’ unlike the huge hollywood production movie machine.

Set in Italy in the year 2000, with cinematography that screams out to me “A story wrapped in glossy sophisticated chic” from the home that the family reside in, through to the suits & dresses. Tilda Swinton plays Emma Recci a high society matriarch; a russian woman married into a wealthy Italian family. To be honest I love Tilda Swindon as an actress. She is so versatile in chameleon – esque like proportions. Her muses are usually unconventional too, making her film performances the more appealing.

Tilda’s wardrobe captures my attention from the get go, she is ‘dressed’ by Raf Simons for Jil Sanders and Fendi specifically for the film’s collection – which she wears effortlessly. I particularly love the reddish orange dress with the square back and the light blue shirt and relaxed trousers ensemble that her character Emma wears. These particular pieces are worn when Emma has her passionate and illicit encounters with Antonio.  

Antonia being her son Edo’s close friend and business partner. She is initially attracted to Antonio after visiting his and Edo’s newly established restaurant and she becomes enchanted with Antonio, his young looks and passion for cooking. It’s not long before Emma becomes led by her curiosity and internal longing to know more about this young man. Then ensues Emma and Antonio’s chance meeting when their love affair begins.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch this film and just that I was in need of mental escape into a film selection on Netflix when I played ‘I am Love’, I definitely wasn’t expecting such raw love scenes. However said scenes did compliment the story telling beautifully. I did find one scene a tad ‘clinical’, when Emma is undressed by her lover but that was what was being conveyed, he wanted to ‘take off’ her life: her marriage everything that represented her identity that didn’t include him; essentially her life without him. Tilda managed to non – verbally convey her vulnerability amidst their lustful trists.

Tilda portrayed Emma’s matriarchal role with steadfast ease from the touching moments with her children across the dinner table, mother – daughter time right through to quieter moments where Emma spends time just being accompanied by her trusty housekeeper in her bedroom. Where there exists an intimate maternal protectiveness that the maid showers upon Emma. I found this to be a poignant part of ‘I am Love’ in that it further showed Emma’s vulnerability and trust in her maid that surpassed the class system and was simply about a real historical bond between two like – minded women.

Once again Tilda Swinton brings a strong woman to life on screen and she takes you on a journey of a woman who is strong yet flawed.  Caught in the luxurious trappings of the high life and internally compelled to follow a simpler yet passionate existence!

Let me know what your thoughts are on this film, if you do decide to watch it.