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2018 – Year in Review

I started this particular blog on wordpress in 2008 and it is hard to believe 10 years have passed since. There was a time when I wrote more than 20 blog posts a year as an honest and real expression of my thoughts at the time. I rarely blog here now (instead I blog on my tutor website), I do however like writing an end of year review on my personal blog as it grounds me back to what blogging is really all about. Within the tutoring community blogging is often seen as something necessary for SEO purposes. For me blogging should just be about blogging and I blog about whatever I feel like blogging about. I hope to revive this blog or merge it with my tutoring one eventually. For now here is my 2018 year in review:

A year of accommodation in limbo

I left my Old Street flat last year in summer 2017, which seems like a very long time ago. I intended to buy a property but the uncertainty over Brexit means I don’t know what’s happening to the market. It’s not a terrible situation however, as I’ve managed to save more money for a deposit and as property prices have been static I’ll be in a better position to buy. It’s been really nice to have been living with my family in the meantime. Though most of my belongings are stored at my brother’s garage, so I feel in a state of unsettlement. I wonder if I even really need that stuff now as I’ve managed perfectly fine for 1.5 years without it.

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Spending a lot more time with family this year.

A year of losing a friend and a singing influence

The only two blog posts I wrote this year were a tribute to the Cranberries singer and much closer to home, a tribute to the sudden loss of Steven Joad, a prominent figure and helper on the London open mic night scene. Both losses meant a lot to me and I wrote about them at the time.

In March 2018, the world lost Stephen Hawking. My life crossed his for a very short moment and my Facebook post at the time was:

I was 20 back then and out in Cambridge with my collecting tin, raising money for Poppy Day with the RAG club of Imperial College. I happened to be just outside the Marks and Spencer and I noticed someone inside. I was in two minds if I should go and say hello but I went in anyway. After a brief conversation with the carer, I handed her a couple of poppies, including one for the person she was with. The person in the wheelchair acknowledged it with a brief flicker of his eye and I went off outside to collect again. It was Stephen Hawking. What a true inspiration to humanity, a moment of time and space I will never forget. Rest in Peace.

Paid off student loan

21 years after I first took out a student loan I finally paid it off late this year. It was a more emotional moment than I had anticipated, as for the first time in a very long time I became debt free. The loan was part of my life and when times got tough for me financially I was able to defer the loan. Thankfully the last 5 years were good for me and I started paying the loan off again. Bring on the next debt of the mortgage.

The rise and cutback of my online tutoring

My online tutoring just got busy and busy in the 2017-2018 year. That was my busiest year of tutoring ever and I was at it 7 days a week.

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Meeting up with Indie Tutor friends, colleagues, supporters, co-workers. Whatever you want to call it 🙂

I had gained some weight as I tutor from home. The days of going out commuting daily and running about on the London transport network seems like a faded dream. Little did I realise that running around had some (albeit limited) benefits! My social life suffered and I stopped performing music regularly as well once I moved further East with trips into central London taking a little longer. Furthermore, I got involved in many tutoring related side projects as well which really took up a lot of my time.

So, this summer I made the decision that I was going to take a hit in my income for 2018-2019 and reduce my tutoring hours. I’m glad to say I’ve managed to discipline myself to not tutor on Sundays and I keep Friday and Saturday evenings free. It’s a great work-life balance and I’m very happy with it all. The rise of my online tutoring in other countries means I tutor midweek daytimes more than ever. I’ve got a regular schedule of going to the gym, running at the local park and going out to a local cafe to get out of home. The new schedule doesn’t always go to plan but it sure has allowed me to focus on my love of live music and singing more as well. More on that next.

Singing lessons and playing open mic nights

I was taking singing lessons sporadically in 2017 but this year I’ve really gone for it.

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Performing more regularly at open mic nights again 🙂

I’ve been taking them regularly every week, once a week since the summer. It’s been quite a process so far and in many ways I’m only now starting to find my true voice. I really look forward to sharing it all through new recordings I’ll make. I bought a brand new microphone for vocal recording in 2017 and I’m planning to buy studio audio monitors too. This will complete my PC’s transformation into a fully fledged demo audio studio. I fully intend to release a bunch of solo material as a singer in 2019 or 2020.

On the performance front I found a great venue 15 minutes walk from where I live. It’s the perfect way for me to get out of home, get some fresh air walking and blast out some songs once a fortnight. Going out and playing live is my thing and I’m so glad I’m doing it again now.

New laptop, monitor, microphone, chair and guitar amp

I got myself a brand new laptop (the very first one I’ve ever owned) which comes in very handy for tutoring when I’m away from London or at a cafe. To enhance my online tutoring even more I upgraded to a larger monitor screen this year. From 21″ to 24″ and in future I plan to pair both monitors up too.

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Funky new Rode NT USB mic.

I also got myself a really decent microphone for my online tutoring and Facebook live-streaming. The Rode NT USB is a cracker and I can’t believe I only upgraded to a good quality mic so recently. Additionally, I got myself a decent ergonomic chair since my job involves sitting on the same chair for hours. I had been using a terrible folding chair for nearly two years and when I started getting back pains and breathing problems, I seriously had to make a change. All this is superb investment in my own well being as an online tutor and to enhance the tutoring experience for me and student. I’m a big believer of reinvesting in the very best possible hardware, software and resources when it comes to online tutoring.

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Dell 24″ monitor

And lastly, I treated myself to buying the Boss Katana 50 guitar amp. It’s the first electric guitar amp in 20 years that I have bought and has really got me into playing my electric guitar a lot more at home. Usually home guitar amps are pretty rubbish, so I would only play my electric guitar properly in rehearsal studios and gigs. But now I can get some of that raw rock guitar roar at home from a really decent sounding amp.

Maths teaching professional development and Education technology

This year I’ve learned more about the skill of teaching than I have in any other year.
img_5001 I’ve learnt a phenomenal amount on teaching maths from one of the best networks for CPD, the La Salle Education Complete Maths Network. This fills me with a great sense of confidence in my abilities as a tutor. The fact that I now have a fair bit of teacher training is going to add a ton of value to my tutoring. I’ve also read a lot and followed education blogs. I feel this journey into truly exploring education has only really just begun and more on that will be on my tutoring blog over the coming months and years. I also attended a couple of EdTech events, Bett 2018 in January and the EdTech exchange.

Indie Tutors and my tutory live-streams

I remain totally dedicated to organising tutor meet-ups and community. Each week me and co-host Henry Dingle hold a lovely Facebook livestream for tutors. I’ve really started to get better with this live presentation on video. And I’ve even started my very own live-streams on my tutoring Facebook page (Atul Rana – Online Tutor). I’m a big fan of video and hope to really do a lot more of this next year. After running tutoring courses, Facebook groups and attending maths events all over the U.K. in the last 3 years I’m getting a good sense of what’s needed.

Summer hot hot hot

This summer was one of the hottest I can ever remember. It really was amazing and memorable. England’s unexpected performance in the Football World Cup 2018 added a national sense of optimism for a short while. I blogged about the summer in some detail on my tutoring blog. img_4090It was amazing to go on many day outs with my mum and sister, locally in Hackney Wick, Greenwich Peer, away to Windsor Castle, the Farnborough Air Show, loads of local carnivals run by the council and watching team India for the ladies Hockey World Cup 2018.

I had a lovely time going to Edinburgh and a friend’s birthday weekend near Peterborough jamming lots of music. I performed at the Mint Street festival again. Iron Maiden + Def Leppard were my two big gigs this year. Both surpassing expectations.

Books I read this year included Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, Factfulness by the late Hans Rosling and Craig Barton’s How I wish I’d taught maths. All invaluable reading. Things I didn’t do at all in 2018 included any sort of travel abroad. I do miss going to India and hope to travel there soon.

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From the Beast from the East, to an early hot spring weekend, to being cold again, to a long hot summer, a mild autumn and a mildish winter, with never ending Brexit drama all around, 2018 was a roller coaster. Despite what was going on in the outside world, it was a great year for me personally. It was a year of growth followed by reflection, re-balance and renewal. It has set me up perfectly for 2019. Happy new year all!

Other year in reviews: 2017, 2016, 2015

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In Memory of Dolores O’Riordan

On 15th January 2018 I heard the news and posted my immediate thoughts on Facebook at the death of Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan.

Somewhere deep on my band’s website is a list of singers that have influenced me, and The Cranberries have been there right from the start. For the summer of 1996 their album was the sound of teenage angst and I heard that second album of theirs endlessly. Living in Edinburgh at the time I was vowed by the potency and beauty of their music. Their minimalist chorus soaked electric guitar, sparse drums, clean simple basslines, topped with the sweet, small and lush voice of Dolores that really struck a chord for me. From the bright and hopeful Dreams, to the melancholic Ode to my family, the summery Linger, the simple yet potent Pretty and so many more incredible songs, they gave me a soundtrack when I needed it most. Rest In Peace Dolores.

There are celebrity deaths and those of musicians which come but then they fade out of memory. But for some reason this one hit me hard at the time and it still does. I am not alone and every update of the Cranberries Facebook page still has lots of sad face reactions on it. And there are so many heartfelt beautiful comments on her YouTube videos. The fans that adored her and her music are in a state of mourning.

I was living in a triple room as a first year undergraduate in 1996, my life was full of confusion, angst and happiness at the same time. It was a really strange cocktail. Music was my drug and when my French roommate put on the ‘No Need to Argue’ album on a mini CD player with small battery speakers I knew I was hooked. The more I heard the album the better it became. I left London for Edinburgh for 3 months. Still just a teenager I went into this crazy journey at a place well away from the emotional protection of my parents or friends.

I heard that album pretty much the whole summer, it really was the soundtrack of my angst, her voice rang true and her angst in those songs were companion in my loneliness and heartache at the time. Her music had real potency about it. There was something very very raw, real, vulnerable and powerful about her lush and soft voice. Her voice and songs healed me and were my companion when I needed it most.

As I had grown older I had lost touch with their newer music, they too had grown older as a band and the angst of the early writings was no longer there either. A part of me had changed and assimilated with their music. I went to Edinburgh again a few more times later through the years and every time I went there I could still hear her voice echoing in my head. The Celtic magic of her voice and music really suited the magic of that city.

The singer that comforted me when I most needed it is no longer there. Rest In Peace Dolores O’Riordan. You touched the lives of so many and we will miss you.

In memory of Steven Joad the Musicknight

Hello from the other side of the bar

Is what Steven wrote while I was livestreaming my open mic night from Belushi’s in Camden, to which I replied to later “ha ha yeah hello from the other side as Adele would say”.

Steven Joad is so very well known by musicians in the London open mic night scene. Sadly a sudden stroke took him away from us all a few weeks ago. Today is his funeral and the tributes have been pouring on to his Facebook wall. Steven’s instagram account was called The Music Knight and that he well and truly was.

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Steven’s quirky sense of humour will be missed.

Playing and performing music live is my drug. At first I did this with my band DonkeyBox but as that winded down over the years I went out alone and discovered the vibrant music scene in London by myself. What an amazing discovery it has been, so many creative souls, so many dreamers, so much talent out there. Amongst them are gems like Steven Joad, not a musician himself, just someone else addicted to the thrill of live music. He was there at several open mic nights throughout the week. He helped musicians set up, helped promoters put on a night and did those small things that made life so much better for musicians. He would happily take photos and videos of musicians, had a handy torch for whenever I was fumbling around looking for cables in my rucksack and would help setting up on stage so much more efficient and more relaxed.

The thing I will remember him most for however is how he saved me from an attack while I was performing live. In the hundreds of times I have played live there is only one occasion in which someone actually came up to me shouting abuse straight and up close to my face. I was bracing myself for a punch to my face. It was a strange moment and I was so much in the flow of performing that I just continued singing and playing the song. Steven flew out from nowhere, grabbed the guy straightaway and within seconds he was thrown out of the pub by pub staff. I simply kept playing until I ended the song and only at the end of the song did I realise what had really happened. I acknowledged the incident and thanked both Steven and pub staff for helping me then.

Rest in Peace Steven, themusicknight will be sorely missed by the many musicians’ lives and hearts you touched all these years.

2017 – Making Many New Connections

2017 seems to have gone ferociously fast. It seems to have barely started and now we are on its last day already. However when I think about it more, a lot of great stuff has happened this year for me. Most of it is on the professional level as a tutor. And for that I have already done a Year in Review 2017 on my tutoring blog post. As I have become much more dedicated and driven for tutoring I tend to blog there a lot more. Nonetheless this is my personal blog so I am glad to be reviving this 🙂

So like last year I am going to do my year in review in bullet points:

  • I say it every year but this year was my most successful tuition year ever! I am amazed by how far and wide I tutor now, from the islands in the Caribbean, India, Indonesia, Bermuda, US, Canada..the list could go on.
  • I have arranged a load of tutoring based communities on Facebook, in real life meetups and on group video calls. I have also been to maths teacher conferences. All in all I have met more people in education this year than ever before. I won best online tutor of the year award and got featured on two blogs.
  • I got kicked out of my flat in Old Street in the summer. It was tough at the time but this has given me the drive to save money and buy a flat on mortgage. I viewed a load of flats this summer with a view to buy and get an idea of the property market.
  • 2017 marked 20 years since I bought my first and only electric guitar. Many people say it looks barely an year old. I wrote about my beloved electric guitar and our 20 year anniversary on this post.
  • 2017 was the 30th anniversary of two of my most favourite albums. The Joshua Tree by U2 and Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘ N Roses. In the summer I saw both bands and for G ‘N R it was a real special moment catching the (nearly) original lineup. They were truly epic and memorable gigs.
  • I performed very regularly at open mic nights in Battersea until about May this year. Loved the staff and the venue. Yet with DonkeyBox I only played one gig the entire year. Our least busy year ever. I hope to revive this next year.
  • I played at two large summer festivals as a solo performer. This was not something I had done before and it was quite a thrill.
  • Sadly I lost my uncle, my dad’s younger brother in rural India. He had a two year struggle fighting TB and my cousin’s family is in a state of mourning still. It bought home to me that in the village he lived in healthcare is still very poor.
  • I traveled to India to visit family after a really long gap of three years. It was amazing to see the progress made there in the village where my family is from and in general. I am so happy I went and reconnected with my roots again. In retrospect a 2 week trip was too short, but hopefully I can go for longer next time. I missed the weddings of two of my closest cousins.
  • There was a cracking reunion of the Tribology lab. I met with fellow researchers and colleagues from my student days from the early 2000s. It was amazing to reconnect and catch up with everyone. It made me appreciate how special that place was and all the things I learnt during my PhD both academic and life in general. I really did make the most of my time at Imperial College London.

The one thing that I have done a lot less of in the second half of 2017 is to perform music and play live. It has practically ground to a halt as I have moved further East and I am so busy with tutoring and tutoring communities. In 2018 I hope to rebalance that as at heart I am a musician who needs to create and express.

2017 has been an year of connection and a lot of things falling into place for me as a career. I have earned more this year than any year before and that gives me a lot of confidence and self assurance for the choices I have made career wise. The Western world has been tearing itself apart this year but hell, I have sure had a great time. Bring it on 2018!

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20 Years of Playing (my one) Electric Guitar

Atul you’ve got a big box in the post today, it is by the phone waiting for you.

My flatmate of 1997 informed me on a cold November evening somewhere in Hammersmith, London. I had spent £340 on this big box, which in those days for a 3rd year undergraduate was a lot of money. The delivery was for my first ever, and the only electric guitar I have owned, an Epiphone Les Paul (licence by Gibson, yeah that Gibson reference is important!).

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Cleaning up my guitar headstock. Sometime in 1999 before a party.

1990s Indie rock ‘n roll kid..sort of

Ah 1997, the height of Indie rock music in the UK; The Verve, Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker et all were where rock music was at. Yeah sure Barbie Girl by Aqua and Britney Spears were the new sensation but I was all about geeeeetaaaar and rock! But Indie rock is not what inspired me to buy my electric guitar. I was more wowed by the guitar sounds of Aerosmith, Guns ‘N Roses, Def Leppard, U2 etc.

It took me a very long time to decide on what guitar I was going to buy and consulted quite a few friends at the time who also played electric guitar. I had already been playing acoustic guitar for a year and I managed to fight with it enough to play a few riffs. When I say fight it, that’s because acoustic guitars are hard to play for a beginner and I had overcome a big hurdle by playing a bunch of chords and riffs on it. I had also just spent the Summer of 1997 in Newcastle where I met my long term friend Zaff. Zaff was an incredible guitarist and musician and in him I met a true friend and musical mentor. He taught me quite a few things about music in those early days. And I had got to play his electric guitars a lot during the summer of 1997 in Newcastle.

Dilemma : U2 sound or GnR?

My big dilemma for a guitar look and sound boiled down to basically two opposing soundscapes.

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Gold top

The Edge sound (U2) vs Slash (Guns ‘N Roses). Those bands are well and truly epic and the guitar sounds could not be more different. Edge with a rythmic, delay soaked chime and Slash with his blazing thick riffs and long melodic solos. I wanted both but alas could only buy one guitar. I went for the Slash option in the end, and quite literally bought the Gold top colour guitar that is part of his signature look. I figured that The Edge did ocassionally use Les Pauls and you could get a good enough U2 sound from a Les Paul. But you can’t get a Stratocaster to sound like Slash. So that was it, I ordered my first electric guitar on the internet by a phone call made on a landline. And as for that guitar not sounding like an Edge type, well I got pretty close to it in this cover I did, shown in this glorious video recording.

At the time I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a guitarist or a singer and being in a band was still very much a dream. My guitar playing progressed very slowly from 1997 to 1999. Between 1999 and 2000 I lived in Aldershot with some art students. Somehow they really appreciated my guitar playing and I first started performing in public then at campfires then later at house parties and jam sessions. In early 2000 my friend Zaff was in a band in Newcastle, I went to see him perform and for the first time ever I got to learn how things work in a band from him first hand. I was impressed and decided I wanted to be in a band too!

2000 : I join my first band

As soon as I started my PhD at Imperial College I auditioned to join a band, and I had decided it was going to be as a singer who played guitar rather than the other way round.

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The Guns t-shirt and guitar 🙂

I joined my first band Melodion and my guitar playing progressed fast, my singing progressed even faster. The discipline of band practice, being forced to learn entire songs from start to finish, keep in time with the drummer and band *and* to deliver great vocals and a performance was frankly a lot to take on. I rose to the challenge and thankfully Frank the lead guitarist of Melodion (my first band) really encouraged me. My identity of a singer who also played guitar was being reconsidered as I was far better at singing at that point than guitar. In fact with covers like Creeping Death by Metallica I couldn’t play and sing at the same time, and with Under the Bridge by Chili Peppers only one guitar was needed. However other covers like Cats in the Cradle and Britney Spears’s Hit Me were truly enhanced by two guitar parts. I refused to let go of my guitar and continued to play and sing.

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DonkeyBox featuring me and lead guitarist Matt Jones in 2002, both with Les Paul guitars at the time, rock!

It took a good 6 months before I hit the stage with a full blown gig with Melodion. We had started going on stage as a band for jam nights. When I wore my electric guitar on stage live I became larger than life, I became an extension of who I am and I could break out of the shackles of the shy and quiet guy. Sometimes I felt out of place playing guitar and singing live, yet I also felt like it helped me release an inner intensity and energy in a way I never was able to before. With the years I got more used to being on stage and my identity as a live rock and punk guy.

2002 onwards – DonkeyBox days

The most I have used my electric guitar is with my band DonkeyBox. From 2002 to now in 2018 it is the only electric guitar I have used. In 2000 the lead guitarist of Melodion Frank realised that both our guitars were sounding ‘bad’ at higher volumes. We didn’t know much about tone but we did know to get the same quality at higher volumes we needed new guitar pickups. Frank was doing a PhD in Electrical Engineering so I trusted him on this. He went to New York on holiday and got me some brand new guitar pickups. Two DiMarzio’s – Super Distortion for the bridge pickup and Norton Air for the neck pick-up. Apparently the guitar dude in the shop recommended these in the NY shop for a heavy rock sound.

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Wearing that guitar on stage makes me come alive as the gods of rock power me up.

And boy were these pickups spot on. They utterly transformed the sound of my guitar. The guitar sounded fresh, large, lively and clear both in clean and distored settings. Over the years I have got my distortion out of the Metal Zone MT 2 pedal. My tone tends to be a little more abrasive with a AC DC feel to it. The lead guitar tone in the band is a bit softer as that tone can cut through guitar solos. We found the perfect tones between the two guitars in DonkeyBox.

Open Mic Nights : The Rise and Fall of Les Paul

Can there be too much of a good thing? I started playing open mic nights and started performing solo in 2010. It was terrifying at first, even more terrifying going on stage with a band for the first time. I had nothing to back me up and my voice and guitar tone would be standing out completely on their own. I performed open mic night after night, more on stage in them than with my band in total.

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I loved playing open mic nights.

In 2014 I had to retire my Les Paul from open mic nights and got a brand new electro acoustic. The electric guitar wasn’t great for solo accompaniment for the type of songs I was playing. The guitar was mostly plugged through venue PA systems and sounded horrific through them. I got a joyo pedal to simulate the sound of an amp but still it never really cut through. The set up with an electric guitar and solo vocals was simply out of place. So as much as I had to detach from my identity and look with my trusty gold top Les Paul, I did so in 2014. The Les Paul is saved for what it does best…rock ‘n roll in a band or studio setting.

Should I get more guitars?

I’ve had a remarkably monogamous relationship with my electric guitar. Once I had my guitar and had the new pickups installed, it really worked like a dream for me. I had developed my own tone and playing style on it. Both the clean and dirty sounds work brilliantly for me and I have never felt the need to buy another electric guitar.

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At open mic nights, giving it all even with very few people in the audience.

However as I get older and listen to more subtle tones in guitar I am tempted to finally get ‘The Edge’ guitar aka a Stratocaster too. But then there is also the Telecaster option, and a PRS and why not Ibanez (by my fav guitarist Joe Satriani). I can see why many of my lead guitarist friends now have more than 5 guitars! The electric guitar is a beautiful and iconic instrument, the wood ages and the tones improves. So I look forward to the next 20 years of service from my trusty old Les Paul.

Moving Out of Old Street Flat

This by far has to be the longest gap in my personal blog updates. As 2017 ends a short Christmas break gives me a chance to reflect on some of the key events of my life in 2017. This blog has always been a place where I can express myself and gather some of my own thoughts together and I am glad to get it going again after so long.

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Walking by the canal in Hoxton/Shoreditch. Only a 5 mins walk from where I lived, absolute bliss 🙂

Ah what a location!

So in October 2014 I moved into a small flat in Old Street/Shoreditch in London. It was a big move for me at that time, initially a very difficult move but eventually one that bought about an exciting new phase in my life of independence. While I only intended to stay in my flat for a year, somehow the year stretched out to nearly 3 years and I only moved out in July this year (2017). I absolutely loved the location as it was in the heart of the city in zone 1. I could walk to Moorgate, Liverpool Street and Bank easily. With a bus stop right outside my flat and Old Street tube station 10 minutes from the flat I was incredibly well connected to practically anywhere in London.

Cod and Chips at Fish Central restaurant near Old Street London.

Cod and Chips at Fish Central restaurant. An absolute delight.

And the location sure paid off, quite literally. A council estate block amongst many in that area, it meant I could get the place for a lower rent. Before I lived in zone 4 East on the central line, far far away from my London tutoring clientbase which was mostly in Tooting, Clapham and Wandsworth. And at the time I tutored a lot in North Yorkshire for residential tutoring (living and tutoring for 2 to 3 days). As such I commuted via Kings Cross station during all half terms and school holidays. Kings Cross was only 2 stops on the tube so that was handy.

Me and my ex-flatmate made a snap decision to pay the deposit for the flat when we viewed it along with more than 10 other groups. We simply offered a slightly higher than the asked for rent and got the place. As such I had no idea about how far the gym would be or any local amenities. It turned out that the gorgeous Shoreditch Park was opposite the road I lived, not only did it have a gym right next to it but also the best health centre I have been registered with. Perfect for running as well since I run regularly.

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Nestled among council estates, the gorgeous Shoreditch Park. I went for many runs here in all seasons.

No more travelling tutor

In Autumn 2014 I stopped taking extra work on in Yorkshire which was a tough decision as I had secure work there and not enough secure work in London. I had to expand my client base in London as I knew the way I was tutoring was unsustainable and regular ongoing consistent work in London is what I needed for a more sustainable career. I joined a few London agencies and one agency got me some absolute super clients. Two homeschooling gigs at close commuting distance gave me a big boost in income and confidence. And I went full throttle with my Wandsworth/Clapham clientbase as they recommended me to other families in that area.

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Waiting for the night bus at a quiet and serene London Bridge on a midsummers evening.

The gamble to refuse work for remote work in favour of making space for London work well and truly paid off. Within months I was starting to earn much better tutoring income than ever before. I had 7 years of tutoring experience and that wealth of experience added with the confidence of client testimonials really spurred me on.

The Rise and Rise of Online Tutoring from the home of UK tech

It really was onwards and upwards all 3 years from there. My identity as a tutor now is that of an online tutor of course and that came about after that first year of tutoring in Old Street.

Rooz Studios.

Band practice at Rooz studios. Literally walking distance for me!

Old Street is the home of U.K. digital tech and known as Silicon roundabout, an inspiring and energising place, it has tech startups and many arty types. I fell right into place (skinny jeans yes, but long beard no) and started networking online with other online tutors. I had come into Old Street with a business gamble and seeing the absolutely vast possibilities of online tutoring it was time to take the next gamble. The biggest one of all so far. Fueled by simultaneous technological advances in broadband speeds, professional social networking on LinkedIn and the rise of video calling technology on computers and tablets my next step was to go fully into online tutoring. And in the 2015-2016 year I achieved that.

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Vocal recording in my old room in Old Street.

In fact half way through my tenure I had outgrown the need to even live in Old Street in terms of a career. I could live anywhere I wanted to with no work commute! I had doubled my income in one year after my first year in Old Street. I knew then that my next move out of Old Street had to be out of the rental trap and into buying property. This is still what I’m aspiring to albeit no chance of buying in most of London, so the outskirts of London it will be where prices are more affordable. A part of me even wonders if I should still be living in London or even in the UK given that I can earn UK money from anywhere in the world. That is a longer ponder however.

3 years too long, time to move on again

My room was large but the kitchen was tiny and the bathroom had no shower so we got one of those low pressure plastic attachments. The landlord was horrific at repairing anything, we went by without a fridge for nearly a month. The flat was right outside a main busy road and I wore earplugs at night to sleep properly. All in all it felt like a temporary student flat. I had lived in better student homes in fact.

Towpath Cafe by the canal, coffee with breakfast.

Breakfast at Towpath Cafe by the canal. Absolute delight.

After my first set of flatmates left 2 years in, I became pseudo landlord and had to manage the rest of the flat. It was no easy job and complications in deposit and lack of tenancy agreements from the landlord to the new tenants made the whole stay very uncertain for me. The new flatmates were not bad but were frankly a pain to manage and things got cliquey. I wasn’t able to find a replacement flatmate when one of my new flatmates decided to leave this summer and that was it. The housing market in 2017 was down on 2016 and the landlady decided to knock the kitchen down and make improvements to the flat. I wasn’t ready to move out this summer though. Luckily I had finished tutoring for the year so I moved to my family place in East London without much pain. Most of my things are still packed up in boxes as I wait for my final move to a new property that I will hopefully buy on mortgage.

A few snippets of the good ‘ol times

  • The stunning canal walk and the little Towpath Cafe I used to eat at and relax. I went for many walks there in all seasons.
  • The many times I went for a run at Shoreditch Park, all seasons and a getaway from my life at the computer. And the many times I just went to the park to relax, lie down and occasionally meet up with friends there.
  • Fish Central – A 10mins walk from one of the best Fish restaurants in London. I had many meals there and it was an oasis on a cold winter day when I craved some fish.
  • I did tons of open mic nights, particularly at The Grove Pub in Battersea.
  • I loved hanging out in Islington, especially Upper Street. Initially because I had clients there but later because I liked the restaurants and cafes there.
  • I arranged loads of tutor meetups, starting off a small in person tutoring community that spun off a larger Facebook community. Eventually I was running video call based tutoring communities including a weekly call. This is growing and growing as the ball is well and truly in motion.
  • Visiting my then girlfriend who also lived in central London and exploring the area when I first moved there.
  • Band practices were ace. I have never lived so close to a band rehearsal studio in my life. As a result I had band practice walking distance from where I lived, so convenient. I will miss this :-/
  • The EU Referendum and two General Elections in my short tenure of less than 3 years. Boy the world changed so much so quickly.

Despite the location of Old Street as a party place for nightlife I didn’t really go on many night outs there at all. In that way I underused my location but hey ho I am no longer in that stage of my life being all that bit older.

I’ll remember my three years in Old Street fondly, it gave me new vigour and direction in life and I look forward to living there again once I am a tech millionaire and can afford to live there again…well one can hope 😉

2016 – An Epic Year of Growth

New Year’s Eve is mum’s birthday. We all get together to have a double celebration as the new year starts to set in, and this year is no exception. Personally for me 2016 has been an epic year. Video technology has radically changed the way I tutor and also how I’ve bought my music out to more people, friends in the US and cousins in India included. I’ve focused a lot more on tuition this year and most of the first half I was pretty much doing that 7 days a week. Here’s a few awesome things that happened in my life this year:

  • Most successful tuition year ever. After 2015 I realised I need to move my tuition online. That I did, and it paid off as I earned more this year than I have ever earned in one year, all on my own terms doing what I love doing for “work”. It has been a real confidence builder for me. And there was one particular band gig in 2016 in which people from all aspects of my life, from tutoring, music, family to uni friends bought it home for me.
  • This year I hit my 10 year anniversary of tutoring. There is a saying that overnight success takes 10 years.
  • Tuition was a lonely job so I started organising meetups to meet other tutors late 2015. Within a few months I became part of some tutor Facebook groups and very quickly I launched a group video call group of my own. I now have plenty of “work colleagues” to collaborate and discuss ideas with. I also run a Facebook group and am part of a worldwide group of international online tutors. In January 2016 I barely knew any tutors, in less than 12 months I literally know tutors across the globe. It has been so awesome to chat on video to Margaret and Holly every single week since the Summer. And to have met others, special mention to Henry.
  • I am now tutoring students in the US, Russia, Switzerland, Germany and the UAE.
  • I re-vamped my tutoring website in January 2016 and started blogging there instead, which is why my personal blog has gone a bit quiet. It paid off as my previously static website has now become dynamic. I get customer enquiries directly from it, it is true e business now.
  • I started tutoring for Dyscalculia. This has been a much harder journey than I thought it was going to be. Each student has been unique and much of the regular techniques that worked for tutoring didn’t work. Thanks to training courses, books and meeting other specialists I’m learning about this field very fast and intend to be a big contributor to it in the near future.
  • Facebook Live meant I was streaming gigs to friends and family globally who have never heard me perform live. It’s been exhilarating to do this. It was 20 years ago in 1996 when I bought my first ever guitar.
  • With my brother’s wedding we had the first big family event. It was a month of build up and celebration. It was a beautiful wedding, I was best man and we really partied.
  • I turned 40 this year and was glad to throw a party for that.
  • I got in touch with a friend that had not been in contact for 2 years. Things happen for a reason, and it has been great to be in touch again.
  • It’s been 25 years since my family moved to the UK. Wow, where has that time gone?

2016 has been a real year of growth, self reassurance and knowing what I stand for and where I am going in life. 2017 is going to be even better. Happy New Year!

My previous years in review : 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010


My Tweets :-)

  • The next London tutors meetup is on Sat 2 Feb 19:00 onwards. Click link to register and for more details. Pls retwe… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 22 hours ago
  • RT @donkeybox: We are playing our first show of the 2019. Hope to catch you there! 9 February 2019 St. Moritz Club, 159 Wardour Street, Lo… 22 hours ago
  • Still hard coding (badly) my band's website on HTML since 2003. Maybe it is time to learn more HTML or move it all to wordpress? 23 hours ago
  • Today’s tutoring : Singapore, New Delhi, Paris, North Yorkshire and London #onlinetutor 🇸🇬🇮🇳🇫🇷🇬🇧 2 days ago

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