The first time I saw the inside of a T.V. studio was when I was six years old and was chosen to appear on BBC T.V.’s ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ programme. I had been playing the piano for almost a year by then and I was desperate to meet, and duet with Jonathan Cohen, who played the gorgeous white piano on the children’s programme ‘Play Away’. My dream came true in February of 1979, and I was absolutely enthralled with performing and television. I cried non-stop for a month after it all ended, I had loved it that much.
Music was my main focus growing up, and I loved playing the piano so much that I would sit and play all day – I used to have to be dragged off the stool to eat and go to bed! I discovered shortly after starting lessons on my sixth birthday that I had ‘perfect pitch’ – the best kind, which means that I can tell you the name of any note played on any instrument, or the note a vacuum cleaner hums on, or the key that the telephone rings in, or …. along with being able to listen to any piece of music and have the note names reciting in my head as I listen, as well as knowing without having to think, what keys the music is passing through from start to finish. I am grateful that I have learnt how to control it, and now have the ‘key to the off switch,’ so I can, when I choose, just listen to music without having a constant running commentary going on in my head!
I won a major music scholarship to study as a Junior Exhibitioner at The Royal Academy of Music in London, at the age of eight, then continuing my piano and violin studies at Trinity College of Music until I was fifteen. I was awarded another music scholarship to study for my A levels at Sevenoaks School, and then won a place at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, to read music when I was eighteen, and won the Instrumental Prize for performance during my first year.
During that time, I had managed to become the only person to have two Jim’ll Fix It badges to their name, as I wrote back to the show when I was 17, saying that I had improved my piano playing a great deal since the original show when I was six, and could we repeat it again …the producers obviously liked the idea, as I got to do it all over again, and loved it just as much! The final ever Jim’ll Fix It programme was a look back at 20 years of the show, and was broadcast in December 1994, just a few months after I graduated from Oxford. I was the only ‘Fixee’ invited to perform on the show. I played Gershwin’s own arrangement of ‘I Got Rhythm’, I’d been fascinated with the piece, since Jonathan Cohen had played a part of it during the original ‘Fix-it’ all those years ago.
Then along came Pepper and then Chandi, and Freestyle, and the rest is history. I had definitely found my passion, and after Id figured out how to actually train a dog and then invent moves and put them with carefully chosen music, I have loved every routine since! I always feel I’m competing against myself to come up with new and innovative ideas that really push the boundaries of what has gone before, and Chandi and I are responsible for inventing many of the moves that you will see performed by other people in competition, such as the many hind leg moves (Chandi actually thought up the beautiful back to back move), but some moves remain unique to us – our sequence of moves where Chandi is on her hind legs and follows me, then we turn so she is leading and then we are moving in opposite directions, is one example, along with the One Tempi (skipping), and Chandi holding an object with her front paws, amongst others … We are always flattered when we see other people like our moves enough to attempt them with their own dog – Chandi, though, is always the original and the best!
Through our Freestyle performances, Chandi and I have been invited to appear on T.V. numerous times, and our appearances include, Blue Peter (twice), The Crufts programme, When Will I be Famous, Richard and Judy, Britain’s Got Talent, BBC Breakfast, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, This Week, Daybreak (twice), The Hour (STV) and This Morning.
Having won all three Crufts Heelwork to Music and Freestyle competitions in 2009, we have chosen not to defend our titles since then, preferring to work on other exciting projects, such as our DVD (click here). We both feel that we have nothing left to prove as we have won every major competition in the country many times over – Chandi and I have four Crufts titles to our name; we won the very first Freestyle competition to be held at Crufts and we were the first to win all three competitions in the same year. There is something very special about being the first to achieve such things!
Just because we have not competed at Crufts for the last couple of years does not mean that Chandi has retired – far from it!