Thursday 30 August 2007

What do you call a viola player who ...

Been very busy since last blogging. Trying to avoid being struck off by Mac.

Did my tidying up at work on Tues and met the new member of the department, which was good. Home for cooking, mashed pots, stewed apples, veg and chisken risotto, all with 3 saucepans.

Yesterday, with food to Grandmas. She beat me on the word puzzle as often happens, taking our combined score up to average. We don't spend too long on it, that's my excuse at least. Must check today's paper for the answers we didn't get to the crossword. We had some great words that didn't fit.

Thence to the Proms to see the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orch and we all know who comes from Bavaria. I really like their conductor Mariss Jansons lots and lots. The Sibelius 2 in the second half was pretty great.

Today I went to a localish string shop in a cute Kent Village and bought a viola, case and bow. The whole outfit. It's new, Chinese and lovely. It was a relatively quick visit a mere 2 1/4 hours and I'm on cloud 9. I took my fiddle in too as it had a minor prob with one of the pegs.

I learnt lots too. They make violins there and showed me some wood they had bought to make a 'cello ( yes I am one of those people who believes that 'cello starts with an '.) I had to look carefully to see more than 4 planks of wood, but the two guys were oohing about what a beautiful instrument it would make. Really rhapsodising. My viola has a lovely flame at the back and they said every line is a winter in the life of the tree. It made me realise how much carving is involved for the front and back too, because the wood is quite thick. There's no rushing in the world of instruments. It's so different from noisy London.

The shop, like many music shops was stacked full of stuff. The two violas and three bows that I tried out were placed on top of boxes containing 4 , 1/4 size 'cellos. Nothing fell off thankfully. Had to be careful not to step back suddenly, kicking a case. Anyway, enough bowing room which is the main thing.

Turned out that the owner had some of the school violins in and knows the 'Cello Teacher. Anyway, due to circumstances, I was given a 10% discount enabling me to buy the more expensive instrument and bow. Lucky me!

So no viola jokes here please.

I already have blisters on the finger tips of my left hand and I have to learn the first mvt of the Schumann Piano Quartet. Ouch. And, you're only as good as your last concert, which was on the horn and was disappointing, sadly. Practice, the solution to most musical probs.

Did I say I liked Mariss Jansons? Meeting my Aunt to hear him again doing Beethoven 9 tonight. Just pleased that I'm not screaming the top As at the end. Being an alto has its compensations.

Back to work next week, so life will be less exciting, but I'll still be playing this gorgeous instrument.

My viola awaits.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Hi ho hi ho, sigh

After an indecent length of time, it's off to work to do some tidying up, move into my new work space, order some music and plan some stuff. Next week, when we start back will be a whirlwind, so best to get sorted now.

Off for a swim first, methinks. Time it carefully and the pool is nearly empty at the end of the very early session.

Monday 27 August 2007

Down's Syndrome Carnival

Just read this very inspiring blog linking lots of Mums (Moms) with children who have Down's Syndrome. I'm certainly no expert here but thanks to a Priest when we were growing up, one of the Altar Servers had Down's Syndrome and I am very grateful to have been given that example as a child.

It also makes me worry what example I give as a teacher, but that as they say is another story.

Also a picture on that blog to a book about Prof Lejeune, published by Ignatius, looks like a goody. Have been re reading a biography of St Gianna Molla published by them which is excellent.

Visits from as far afield as Canada overnight. Hallo!

Sunday 26 August 2007

Fifth Symphony

Over the past few months I've happened upon Prokofiev 5 a couple of times. Once the week the Royal Festival Hall opened with the LPO and once for a morning on an orchestral course I was on the other week. In the British tradition of playing things on minimal rehearsal, we did 2.5 hours practice and then finished the morning playing it through. We did that with Brahms 4, Beethoven 3, RVW 2 and Sibelius 4, so this was not for the faint hearted. The afternoons were lighter - Stravinsky Piano Concerti and the like. But I digress.

Anyway, P5 is on Radio 3 now direct from the Royal Albert Hall in London, tonight's Henry Wood Promenade Concert as they say and I think I'm going to have to get a recording of it. I went on this course with a colleague from work and he was raving about it whilst I was being a bit sniffy. I think he was definitely right and I was suffering from sitting at the back hearing a totally unbalanced account of the symphony as is the lot of the horn section. That was also true of the LPO performance as we sat behind the horns and percussion. Great sound but the woodwind were rendered inaudible. Also, although being so close to the clash cymblas that you can be one with them counting bars rest and see the things vibrating is exciting, they are loud even from behind. Sitting in front of them as I frequently do is worthy of a separate post and can cause tinnitus ( I kid you not.)

Wow it's just finished and I must say the BBC Symphony Orchestra have gone way up in my mind. Prokofiev 5, now on that list of works I should know but don't enough. An amazing fizz to the end of a symphony. Sounds like a clockwork mechanism. Our performance had Peter Donoghue (= quite famous pianist,) so just as we were flagging he came in and seemed to be ramping up the tempo at the end for extra excitement. It's got lyrical melodies too and magnificant orchestration. Better than Shostakovich in that respect at least.


Over at Mulier Fortis champagne corks are popping and this time it's not the Motu Proprio. 40 000 visitors. Oooo. Here, at the as yet select, nay sparsly populated (the mid Wales of the Blogosphere - Machynlleth on a wet Tuesday afternoon,) Bara Brith, we are approaching double figures! As the Irish side of the family say, 'You're very welcome.'

Mac suggested we google Bara brith yesterday and we got several exciting references to the yummy stuff and one to my blog. It was a bit like my surname, one of those very common Welsh ones. Occasionally, Friends Reunited email suggesting I research other people with my surname. Er, but 10-15% of people in North Wales have my surname. Are we really all one big family or is it just that when birth certificates were introduced, surnames were invented and people took their father's name? Probably a mixture of the two.

Saturday 25 August 2007


Mulier fortis has just popped over for a training session and now I can do links!

INSECT= a corruption of INSET = Inservice training for teachers = day off for pupils.

St John Fisher's Half-sister Lived in my Parish

Thanks to people in this parish who research things and write books, a book about the history of Catholicism in this part of the world was published. Then in June we were given prayer cards with some prayers from St John Fisher, written in the Tower of London.

Also, in that little pamphlet was a brief summing up of his sister's life. Sr Elizabeth White was a nun in the only of monastery of Dominican sisters in England at that time. There also lived in that monastery the sisters of two of the Carthusians, Bl William Exmew and Bl Sebastian Newdigate, who were executed days before St John Fisher was beheaded. The monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII and though the community returned under Queen Mary, were forced to leave by Queen Elizabeth's Visitors in 1559, ending their days in exile in the Low Countries. We now have the Priory Shopping Centre in the town. I don't know if it's the same site.

I like to think that St John Fisher must have visited his half sister, especially as we are in the Diocese of Rochester and as I live just off the old London Road must have passed by.

By coincidence, my parents live in one of the many St John Fisher Parishes and in 1985, the 50th anniversary of the first Mass in that town since the Reformation, they organised a trip for the Youth Club to visit his cell in the Tower of London. I also went with my Mum to see St John Fisher's Calendar, which lists all his actions as Bishop. It was on loan from Kent to East Sussex and was in Lewes of all places. Looking back it is amazing that we didn't have to wear gloves to handle the folios. She wanted to find a reference to their parish. Unfortunately, although she can read Latin fine, the hand-writing was illegible past reading the dates. Still a priviledge that we saw it.


Very handy isn't it? Just occasionally they send quite a useful e mail advert, but today...

Hello, Miss Leutgeb, We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated "The Early Horn: A Practical Guide (Cambridge Handbooks to the Historical Performance of Music)" by John Humphries have also purchased "Learn to Play - the Flute (Learn to Play)" by F Cappelli. For this reason, you migh...

Mm don't know quite what I'd do with a flute book. Give it away? Not going to help me with me horn playing for sure. More than one person bought both these books? In the world of Venn diagrams that is surely a teeny intersection. Horn Intersection Flute = I'm getting my microscope out.

I like the way it tells that the Cardinal Ratzinger books that you haven't got round to buying (mainly because you've read the easy ones and only the proper theology ones are left, but you've got them in your trolley just in case,) are now 3p more or less than last time. Bit like the stock exchange only on a micro scale as above.

In other developments Mulier Fortis has read this and put a link on her blog. Wow. Can't link to hers as I haven't read the instructions on that yet, uhm. I would agree whole heartedly that reading lots of blogs from Catholics who are trying their best is what Grandma would term 'edifying.'

Better go to my parents now to water a bonsai tree they are looking after for a friend whilst she's on holiday only they are too, so it falls to me. I think it looks scary. Maybe it's scenery for a new film. An arborial extra. I could put it off til tomorrow only Summer has arrived in SE England. Yes, people are outside in tee shirts folks, so maybe it won't last and I cannot be the one who killed it. Oh no.

Friday 24 August 2007

Tidying Up

After procrastinating for some considerable time I have got going on serious tidying. I had a new book case delivered yesterday from John Lewis (favourite shop) and was amazed to discover that though it be self assembly it just put itself up. No screw driver needed! Fantastic.

I also went through a huge pile of bills, bank statements etc, found I couldn' find my insurance cert for the car, phoned up and got a new one sent. This may all sound totally trifling ( and is) but I have found that once I go back to school on 3rd Sept, such activities cease. Thus, looking around my home I see that virtually all decorating and furniture purchase has taken place during the summer hols.

I see that Mulier Fortis is already having the 'August Dream,' poor thing. I fear I shall not be far behind. It is hard with all the talk of exam results in the news. I'm trying my best not to think about it all and fill bin bags instead!

Off to take a chicken out of the oven for Grandma's lunch tomorrow. Done the afore mentioned mashed pots and stewed apples, just some carrots left to do.

Wednesday 22 August 2007


Something I like reading on other people's blogs are their everyday anecdotes. So here's one of mine.

I went to an Adult Education College in Central London in the Spring to play in an orchestra and whilst sitting in the canteen having a bite to eat (yes every post really does include a reference to food,) I overheard a conversation between a retired lady and a man in his thirties. They were both attending an Italian Course. He was explaining how he was going to move to either Guildford or Italy for work in the Autumn and if he went to Italy would need Italian. 'What one earth does he do for a living? Why doesn't he know where he's going? How weird, etc, ' thought I.

Of course he was going to try his vocation as a Priest. The lady then said that her son was training to be an Anglican Vicar of the part-time variety. The young man asked her if he had had to give up work to do this. 'Oh no,' she said, 'he's married with three children.' At which the young man's face fell. The conversation continued with the lady talking about herself and family.

I wish I had said something along the lines of 'Wow, fantastic, good for you, aren't we laity lucky etc,' but didn't. However, I was listening in to other people's conversation whilst ostensibly reading the paper and this is England. A few 'Hail Marys' went in his direction, but I remained an undercover Catholic.

So it's been great recently that there seems to be more publicity as to who our seminarians are and that hopefully the terminally slow like me will be able to show our appreciation a bit more.

Mashed Potato

Isn't it just great?

To explain. My Grandma is 90 and alas no longer goes out on her own. My Mum goes over a couple of times a week taking lunch and my Aunt does the other days. When my Mum has been away during the school hols, I'm the 'supply' cover.

Grandma's favourite foods at the moment are meat, green veggies and mashed potato followed by stewed apples and custard. Note apples must be warm and custard cold. So, I've been cooking quite a lot of pots and stewing lots of apples. As my parents are going away tomorrow, I'm off to see Grandma on Sat and next Wed. Already have nice pots and apples from the farm shop. As she likes 'proper' food we can dispense with all that nasty semi-skimmed stuff (hurray!) and get whole milk. Last time I got 'traditional' milk. In a carton but with the 'top of the milk' intact. That plus lots of butter and tasty spuds = fantastic mashed pots and a happy Grandma.

After lunch, Grandma does the washing-up and then we do the crossword in the newspaper plus one of the word puzzles. Words are checked against the 1967 Edition of the Oxford Concise Dictionary and often found wanting! Woe to the Editors of Times 2!