Friday, 29 June 2012

Catching Up

What on earth happened to the last month?  I've been horrendously busy and it obviously shows with my neglect of the blog.  To summarise what's been happening in my life (and in order of appearance):-

June Week 1
  • We put on a very successful RPG/games convention during the first weekend of the month.  I even got to play two games.  Fortunately, it was the Queen's Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend (a 4-day-er) and we needed the extra two days off to recover.
  • HMQ celebrated her Diamond Jubilee.  We recorded the river pageant and watched it on the Monday. (The Guardian has good photos, here.)  I am glad we didn't try to go and watch.  Not only wouldn't we have seen anything with 1 million people lining the Thames, the rain was torrential!  I think I spotted an old friend, Mark Nixon, in amongst the rowers on the Gloriana.  However, try as I might, I can't find a full list of the rowers so can't confirm it.  Mark is certainly qualified to be there - he's an Olympic rowing medalist.
  • Watched the concert at Buckingham Palace, live on the telly.  Please can someone tell Sir Cliff Richard that his voice has reached the embarrassingly bad stage and he should hang up his microphone.   HMQ had the good sense not to arrive until after his set.  That was planned, although I didn't know it until later and was worrying that there was bad news about Phil-the-Greek (i.e. that "bladder infection" was being used as a euphemism for something far more serious).   Spotted Prince Charles looking drawn and wiping his eyes at the back of the royal box.  Told DH,  "Uh-oh, looks like bad news" and then the Queen walked out all smiles.  Charlie's tears must have been from relief!  (Or from suffering from Cliff.)
  • Had an out-of-schedule rehearsal for the ECS concert on 16th June.   We spent most of the evening practising the new commission, Sea and Stars, composed by Julian Phillips with libretto by Simon Christmas.  Oh my God, did we need it. We were still a bit lost - really needed to rehearse with the orchestra but that never happens until the orchestral rehearsal on the day of the concert, which means that the first time we hear all our cues is less than 4 hours before we sing it in concert.  The balance of the concert is Brahm's Deutsche Requiem (sang it for the first time in May and absolutely adore it).
June Week 2
  • This week can best be described as one big sing.  It started with choir rehearsals and finished with the concert.  We rehearsed on Monday, Friday and the afternoon before the concert.  We had been doubly cursed:  concert hall scheduling means this concert was only 6 weeks after our last; and Julian was very ill at the end of last year when we'd had free time to work on the new composition, with the knock-on effect that we didn't get our scores until that window had passed.  By Friday night, Jonny, our conductor looked exhausted.
  • In the middle of all that, we bought a new car.  No, not to replace Toy.  It's for DH.  "Frank" is a top of the range Skoda Fabia diesel, complete with climate control, lots of cup holders, a chiller cabinet in the lower glove box and an allergy to fuel that rivals Toy's.  He is the latest model but was registered in 2011 and had just over 10,000 miles on the clock, which meant we paid one third less than the current list price. I abused my Tesco credit card - bought Frank on it to get maximum clubcard points - then abused another credit card by transferring this payment at 0% balance for 11 months. With a 3.5% fee, it's far cheaper than a car loan and he'll be almost paid off by the time it expires.
  • My sister arrived from Australia just in time to come to my concert!  I walked onto the stage at the Cadogan Hall on the Saturday to see Eldest, BIL, DH and two friends doing a Mexican wave in the balcony.  After the interval, they spelt out my name using the gestures from Village People's YMCA.
  • The New Commission:  Sea and Stars went well, especially considering we'd only had one rehearsal with the orchestra and soloists.  I must say, while the orchestra did a really good job, they looked as confused as we frequently did when they rehearsed the ending.  Oddly enough, I found that rather reassuring. The performance went well, which is the main thing. Not much "cat scratch music"; plenty of melodic orchestra (think Dr Zhivago meets English Patient).  I do think, though, that we missed a trick:  this isn't a piece that'll go into the general choral repertoire; it's more a piece for soloists and orchestra with choral backing vocals.  And that is unfortunate.  I thought the idea was that we'd commission a piece that other choral societies would want to sing but this isn't it.  The choir's part doesn't have a tune to reel you in.  Pity.
  • The Brahms was beautiful as always. I do love it.  Twice, the altos sing a phrase that is so beauitful it brings tears to my eyes.
  • Sunday, we had some friends around for a BBQ, in order to introduce them to Eldest and BIL.  Most had met BIL before, since he visits us every couple of years and was over at Easter.  It was a sunny, warm afternoon - the first for almost a month.
June Week 3
  • Took Monday off to spend some time with Eldest and BIL.  Went to the butcher in the morning and finally lost at freezer tetris.  Couldn't fit a shoulder of lamb in the freezer, no matter what I tried.  Shoe-horned in all the other meat.
  • Tuesday, we all went to Royal Ascot. Here's the Australian contingent, all dressed up:
  • Saw the Queen in the distance:
  • As usual at Ascot, failed to back any winners.  Maintained my perfect score of "Nil Points" (say it in French, to match Britain's Eurovision score).  I can't even win a raffle at Ascot. The first time I went to the racing at Ascot, I was a guest in one of the boxes.  My hosts had numerous "prizes" for the guests during the day.  I didn't win one.  (There were 12 guests.)
  • Did I tell you how great it is to have Eldest and BIL stay?  I love them both to bits.
June Week 4
  • Monday night was my re-audition for the choir.  This is the first one I've done.  I was incredibly nervous.  Fortunately, we now re-audition in small groups, so I could pitch off the others.  Unfortunately, one of the altos in my group has a vibrato that irritates the hell out of me.  (She's a nice lady; I just don't like her voice.)  Jonny was smiling encouragingly, but I had no idea how I did on the night.  (I found out today that I was successful.)
  • Eldest and BIL hired a car on Sunday and went down the south coast for a few days, returning on Wednesday.  I worked from home on Wednesday morning so that I could collect them from the drop-off point at Heathrow.  Managed to get quite a bit done, even though I didn't have that much on the to-do list (it's the quiet end of the month).
  • Wednesday night, we went for dinner at the Hinds Head in Bray.  It's one of Heston Blumenthal's establishments; a country pub which offers a silver-service dining experience. The food was wonderful.; the staff were friendly and attentive.  I will definitely be going back.
  • Thursday we all took the day off and went to Oxford.  Wandered around Christ Church, took photos of the Great Hall (reproduced in the Harry Potter films), and generally wished I was 17 again and smart enough to get selected to be an undergraduate there.  I'll stick a photo or two of the hall below this post so you can see it is real (they're still on my phone).
  • Eldest and BIL left this morning to fly to New York.   We drove them to the airport before heading on to work.  I didn't cry, because that would have set us all off, but I really wanted to.  I miss them so much.  It was great having them here and being able to sit and chat for hours.
- Pam

Friday, 1 June 2012

A pact with myself

Let's start with a touch of cynicism.  At one point earlier this week, I found myself uttering, "to become what you want to be, you have to model the behaviours of that person".  At which point, I cringed, buried my head in my hands, apologised to my colleagues and groaned, "Oh, God!  I sound like a psychologist!".

For two days, I was on a safety leadership course at work.  When you strip away the cringe-making jargon and the trainer-speak ("Let's begin a conversation about safety"), it was an interesting, thought provoking two days.  Being me, a lot of the thoughts it provoked had little to do with safety, something to do with work and a lot to do with my own personal goals.  I kept that train of thought simmering underneath, returning time and again to those fateful words, "to become what you want to be, you have to model the behaviours of that person".  What person do I want to be?  How do I get there?

What do those words mean, anyway?  "To become what you want to be, you have to model the behaviours of that person."  I decided it meant that, if you wanted to be a successful student, you had to do what successful students do, i.e. schedule and keep study sessions even when you didn't want to.  If you want to be a fit, healthy person, then you had to make exercise a priority.  To be a success at anything, you have to work out what the successful people do and then copy that behaviour - it's not enough to coast along or to expect others to carry you with them.  To be the best you can be, you have to do what the best do.  It doesn't mean a 46 year old couch potato will become an Olympic marathon runner, but it does mean that she'll become the best running version of herself that she can be.

Eventually, I decided to make a pact with myself.  I have neither the time nor the energy to tackle all my daydreams goals at once, so I have picked three.  For June only, I will focus on my singing (as well as a concert on 16th June, I have my re-audition in four weeks), learning French and the so-called "Nebulous Fitness Goal".  So, starting Monday here is what I'll do:-
  1. I will rehearse for 30 minutes a day, focussing on the concert pieces (Brahm's German Requiem and Phillips' Sea and Stars), since not only do I need to know them very well for the concert BUT they'll form the basis of my reaudition.  Official choir rehearsals will count as a singing session.
  2. Spend 10 minutes a day using the French flash-cards app on my phone to learn some vocabulary.  I'll write a review once I've played with it a bit.
  3. Every morning before work, I'll do the 20-minutes Move More workout.  That will entail getting up at 5.30am but as I'm usually awake by then, I'll just need to move my butt out of bed.
- Pam