Saturday, 18 February 2017

Saturday 18th Feb

Dear Everyone,

Today is the beginning of half term - hallelujah!

I had just about run out of steam by the end of the week.

Knitting is proving a great way of reducing my "Freecell" addiction, although I still click-click-click away as a sort of disconnection ritual from interacting with people (pupils!) after teaching. I'll be giving it up for Lent (again); just watch my fingers get the shakes and my hand hover over the mouse for 47 days.

Anyway, that hat I knitted last week? I wore it on Monday and Tuesday, and had to come to terms with the fact that it really was too big and loose. It was easy enough to unpick, and only took one evening to re-knit on smaller needles. It is still a bit loose, but much better. I reckon that counts as TWO things finished for February.

I had a go at knitting a red heart to make into a valentine's card - in fact I had several goes with two different patterns, and gave it up as a silly idea. However, my last pupil on Tuesday morning was away, so I had time to visit one of my favourite shops before arriving at the next school: Handcross Hardware and Craft

It sells EVERYTHING. My excuse was that I had left all my pens at home, and I knew I would be able to buy one there. There's coal and compost and bicycles and children's buckets and spades and whirly flowers and plants outside, and stationery and ornaments and knitting wool (not much) and gift foods (teas, coffees, biscuits) and COOK frozen food and seed packets and household cleaning materials at the front, and gardening and farming and torches and rope and oil lanterns and mouse traps and hoof oil and horse harness and heaven knows what as you further and further and further back. I did very well to escape with four packets of seeds (broad beans, Brussel sprouts, lettuce and radishes), a cheap fountain pen and a packet of posh chocolate to share for Valentine's day.

Why broad beans and brussel sprouts? I am determined to grow and eat some vegetables this year. Fresh tender young broad beans bear no relationship at all to the solid grey rocks that used to be dumped on our plates at prep school. I wonder sometimes if eating was meant to be a form of penance at the convent; spinach full of grit, red cabbage boiled to a pale sludgy grey and broad beans - I've said enough about them.  And when we were in Canada last year, we had brussel sprouts that had been picked BEFORE the frost; they had the sweetest flavour you could image, so unexpected. I'm hoping to get them started over half term. These look like being a good idea too. We buy them in Waitrose when they are in season.

I've added the text, for the info on companion planting. Nasturiums and mint. Gottit.

Friday was a First Aid course instead of teaching grade 8 cello, grade 1 viola, numerous beginner pianists, a beginner cello, a grade 4 cello and a group of grade 2 cellos. It made a pleasant change. There wasn't a lot of bandaging, and we spent most of the day doing chest compressions on a variety of different sized dummies. Being a musician I found it impossible to deliver 30 compressions; musicians count in 4s and 8s. But luckily it doesn't matter if you do 32 before you do the two "rescue breaths". Singing that "Staying alive song" in your head, like in the TV advert.

Afterwards, in the evening, it was time for drumming again; it is going along quite nicely. There are half-a-dozen regulars, and they seem to be enjoying themselves.

It is now Saturday morning. I'm rattling off this post, having had croissants and coffee, and then I am taking a book back to bed for a wide-awake lie-in/lazy morning.

Yesterday the weather brightened up in the afternoon - I'm hoping it will do the same again today.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sunday 12th February - Finishing Off

Well, at the beginning of the week, it was pretty much me who was finished off - but the antibiotics that I started the previous Friday were kicking in by the end of Monday.

I took Monday morning off, much to the cat's approval. She is always hoping I'll have a duvet day. In the afternoon I had an appointment to discuss treatments for osteoporosis - an unwelcome side-effect of being on steroids. It was a bit of a done-deal really - the previous load of pills had disagreed with me, so I knew that they would probably be recommending an infusion, which should last for a year and hopefully without ALL the side-effects of the last stuff.

As the week went on, I felt more and more like my usual self, buoyed up in the knowledge that this weekend (11th/12th February) I had very little scheduled.

It snowed very briefly this week - lovely fine brilliant white crystals on Friday night - on my way to African Drumming. It was soooo coooold at church, and no heating on (again) so I unlocked the hall and we had a good time sitting in a corner near a heater there. Just the four of us this week - usually there are a couple more - and for some reason we sounded Really Good together. Maybe because we weren't shivering as usual? The snow had stopped, coming home, and there was just enough left on Saturday morning to act as a reminder that it hadn't all been a dream. Apparently the current full moon is knows as the "Snow Moon", so I'm glad that it did do a bit of snowing.

One of my "unofficial" resolutions is to finish something every month. I'm not sure if finishing the back of my green knitted jumper counts. After all, I have to knit the front and two sleeves and then sew it all together before it is properly finished.

There are a couple of other jumpers I want to knit, but the problem is choosing the right yarn. The recommended yarn would make it a very expensive project, and I'm not prepared to lay out that amount of money unless I am sure I am going to finish it. So, I bought a ball of cheaper wool, and knitted up a swatch to see if I could get the right tension (so many rows and stitches in so many inches). The answer with this wool was "not quite" - right number of stitches, but too many rows. However, this pattern claims to be do-able in a couple of hours:

That seemed a good plan, as I gave the last hat I made to number 1 daughter after her umbrella failed to survive a bruising encounter with a lamp post. (Can't find a picture of it.) Anyway, I cast on 50 stitches and set to. It should have been knitted on circular needles, but I don'y have any in that size (10mm) so I knitted it flat, and got in some more practice at sewing up seams.

Result, three hours later, (with pause for supper).

It was very straightforward. A certain amount of "un-knitting" was required as I was watching "Sense and Sensibility" on television at the time. Something went a bit wrong with the knitting at the same time that something went a bit wrong between Marianne and Willoughby. But that's what advertisement breaks are for - sorting out the knitting. I was forewarned, though, and set it aside when Edward Ferrars visited the Dashwoods at the end of the final episode. All's well that ends well, including the hat. Which fits. And I have met that unofficial resolution for this month.

I've also finished a novel that I have sort of enjoyed. A friend recommended it after I had described how taken aback I was at the monumental rudeness of two African characters in a murder mystery I had read, where an African, of African descent, shouted "you son of a slave" at another African, or Caribbean descent. The fact that both characters were clergymen made it all the more shocking.  This is a love story, but also illuminates the differences between being American Black and African Black, and how it all works in America, Nigeria and London. I might not have got around to finishing it, if I hadn't had the "unofficial" resolution at the back of my mind, but in the end I'm glad I did. I think this story ends happily too. I can't be sure, because the ending is really a beginning, if you see what I mean. I'll find something easy and cheerful to read next, before I pluck up the courage to read the next "real" book on my list:

Product Details

which I bought in my favourite bookshop, in Petworth, last time we were there.

Somewhere I came across the idea of creating a list of 100 things to do over the course of the year. I've put together about thirty or so, with room to add other ideas as I think of them. It's a mixture of mainly small items. Like "go for a pic-nic", "take in the view from the top of a hill", "spend a day at the sea", "eat a vegetable that I have grown in the garden". I like lists, and marking off when things are completed. If the items are too large, I might not have the pleasure of putting in a tick beside them. I loathe the "One hundred things/places/books to do/see/read before you die" types of lists. Maybe if I were about twenty-something I'd feel differently.

Now then. Are you ready for Valentine's Day on Tuesday? Me neither. But I Have A Plan...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday 5th February - Mozart, alive and kicking

Dear Everyone,

What excitements have happened since the last post?

One was watching a live broadcast of "Amadeus", performed at the National Theatre and broadcast to our local theatre. What a good idea! I know that these live broadcasts are not new, but this is the first time we have been to see one. It is also the first time I have seen Amadeus - ever.

It was astonishing - Mozart as an extraordinary, volatile, off-the-wall and rather pink genius (wearing rather beautiful pink Doc Martin boots in the first half). Salieri wrestling with the knowledge that his own more than adequate talent was as nothing compared to Mozart. The Court as a collection of aristocrats living the conventional life of the times, with a superficial enjoyment of the pretty tunes and daring entertainments presented to them.

What I really enjoyed was the "placing" of Mozart's operas in the narrative of his own life; Salieri fully aware of how the characters and themes in the operas reflected what was happening in Mozart's own life, and Mozart himself apparently totally unconscious of the parallels. Whether this is true or not, I don't care - the drama and juxtaposition of Salieri's musical and emotional knowledge against Mozart's apparently effortless ability was what fascinated me "There are no corrections in these manuscripts - can it be that Mozart just writes everything down perfectly, without alterations, rough copies, mistakes?" Amazing, if true.

I now need to listen to his Serenade in B flat, with Salieri's commentary in my mind. I think this is the one, starting at 19:31 in from the beginning.

Image result for Gesellschaft in den Gärten der Villa d'Este, Johann Wilhelm Baur'Este.jpg