Monday 31 August 2009

Watching paint dry

My Dad has very kindly painted my front door Buckingham green which is green in a jolly way without being Irish Tricolour green or Celtic green and not dark like British racing green green.

But I can't go nowhere til it dries - 16 hours it says on the can, but we think it will be a lot quicker and I'm not staying up til 4am before I can lock the front door. Oh no.

Saturday 29 August 2009

I was almost disappointed

when I noticed that the sign at the till in the local posh butchers had been changed from;

'Due to the large numbers of forgeries, we no longer except Scottish notes.'


'Due to the large number of forgeries, we no longer accept Scottish or Irish notes.'

So much for, 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand...'

The first time I saw the first notice I became entranced and almost stuttered when asked if I wanted anything else.

The Caecilia

Just pinched this from Musica sacra.
The Catholic Renaissance, would include magazines that looked like this, with contents to match.

Thursday 27 August 2009

7 Things

Patricius at Singulare Ingenium asks "What are the seven things that we as Catholics want or would like to see happen?"

Clearly trying to save this blog from drifting into the random musings of a holidaying teacher obsessed with plums, (but with a mind drifting in the direction of apple chutney...anything to put off the moment of having to mug up on Controlled Coursework for GCSE, the ICT security implications of which will, I am certain, not be addressed by the exam board, actually I'm sure they aren't, I went on the INSECT course, but I digress.)

Mm having had a sneak look at Fr Tim's answers....

1 Send all the Music Directors of the Dioceses (whoever they are???) to Solesmes and give them the Gregorian Missal for Sundays and Feast Days. Buy lots of copies of Plainsong for Schools and start teaching the infants the Missa de Angelis. Get rid of hymns written by Protestants. ICEL worried about the new English translation sounding like Cranmer? Too right, but we don't seem sensitive to music written by heretics. So, music is just a vehicle to which you attach words and has no inherent meaning then? Purcell in a Catholic Church? I've heard it. Get some qualified like, MA( Oxon), FRCO, LRAM, ARCM music editors to go through the hymn books and where needed provide two versions of hymn accompaniments, one for organ and one for piano. (rant warning) Just as there are practising Catholic teachers out there in non-Catholic schools, there are practising Catholic musicians out there driven to insanity who will not involve themselves in parish music because the repertoire and the way they are treated is so awful.

2 Put a choir loft in the new Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary Blackfen with of course a stellar organ, trumpet stops, the lot. Have also a chamber organ for smaller music too.

3 Commission Catholic artists and musicians to produce beautiful works of art for churches and cathedrals and ignore the people who say it's a waste of money. They are just closet puritans.

4 Get every diocese to follow the lead of Bishop O'Donoghue and implement his Fit for Mission documents.

5 Challenge anti-Catholic legislation and do not go for the compromise. It never works.

6 I used to think that we could just wait 20 years til the dodgy stuff had gone out of fashion, but that will be too late to save things so I'm afraid some people are going to need to be put out to grass. Sorry folks but, lay chaplain is an oxymoron. If your chaplain can't celebrate Mass, they need to go.

A GCSE Catholic RE needs to be introduced which takes in the Catechism, Scripture and Catholic Culture. That would mean Saints, the liturgical calendar, some sacred art and Catholic music. My Grandfather's text book - 'Red Letter Feasts for Catholic Schools, with illustrations from the old masters', published in the late 50s shows that it can be done.

6 1/2 Have a campaign to encourage us all to support Catholic religious orders, charities etc even more, to generally build up the Church in this country. (Pop over to The Sisters of the Gospel of Life and buy them a buggy and get your Xmas cards from ACN.)

6 3/4 Free up lots of time, energy, people and money by getting rid of committees and boring meetings. Support people who are doing stuff, not talking about it.

6 7/8 Priests say the black, do the red.
Laity bask in the unfussy silence, whichever the Form of the Mass.

7 Celebrate Feast Days in a Boglesque manner, with Masses, Processions, Food and Fun.
Implement a Fit for Mission: Merry England programme.


Interesting that the GCSE Results have received more attention on R4 today than last week's A Level scores. Perhaps because their publication does not coincide with the release of a certain inmate of a certain Scottish prison. No conclusions reached in their discussion on The World at One, but difficulties in saying IGCSE, which became IGSE, on several occasions. Get a grip. Maybe it should be iGCSE.

Anyway, I was reminded of one of the Latin Teachers at work, a sarcy scouser, whose take on the grade inflation situation was,

'Julius Caesar couldn't have done our Latin O Level.'

Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Allotment Police

I hope I survived the survey; 'Leutgeb, you're fired!'

The plan was to go up to Town with my Mum and the Priest from Ghana who is staying in their Parish and holding the fort for Fr H, but Fr E had to do something else so we didn't go in the end.
Instead, I pottered over to water me kale and a lady walked all round the site.

'Look! Look!, ' rather in the manner of Janet and John books, or Peter and Jane, for those of you of a Ladybird disposition, I wanted to shout, 'I'm so keen, I've planted stuff that won't be edible til next March.' A few strands of couch grass of the very high in seed variety missed out on last week's cull, but my reasoning is as they are adjacent to next door's 4' high mass of brambles, I'm the one who is a victim of pernicious weeds not them. Indeed, I had to cut some of their stuff back last week, if we want to get petty and the Council, it would seem, have tendencies in this direction. Our side of the allotments is pioneer territory. Next door but one, Irish gentlemen has cut trees down and made a ladder out of the branches. Log cabin sheds will be next...

PS Speaking of Janet and John, does anyone remember the story of 'Here we go'? Did it in fact, provide the inspiration for the famous football chant? It was a yellow book and contained lots of words like there, where, when, the, then etc Was there a story? I always found the print very ugly, especially the g's.

Did anyone else listen to those BBC Schools musicals and then perform them? We used to sit in pin drop silence whilst they sang the songs millions of times before we were allowed to and there was always a man with a rrrresonant Bass-Baritone voice. This was great when they practised the percussion bits. We never had any percussion instruments, so sat silently whilst they counted you through it all. 1-2-3- ting! 1-bash-bash-3-ting, always with a flurry as you approached the final cadence of a verse. Brilliant stuff.

Monday 24 August 2009


One of my life goals was achieved this am when I made ratatouille with onion, tomato and courgette I had grown myself. The olive oil is just a step too far, even the Romans had to bring that kind of thing with them. I was saving my last onion for this moment and despite being ignored for two days, the courgette did not let me down.

In other news. Plum glut leads to panic buying of jam sugar. The supermarkey only had 3 bags full when I had a look earlier. Baa Baa black sheep had obvioulsy been in the vicinity.

Sunday 23 August 2009

One word


Thus the conductor of the orchestra I play in emailed the Committee.

Always on the lookout for clever means of funding, the ever efficient secretary contacted one of those composer trusts, because we were playing a symphony by this guy- early 20thC English, never heard of him and they have given us £500. That will pay for the hire of the Church on the afternoon and evening of the concert, or most of it anyway. The other piece is Dvorak 8 and that will come from Westminster City Music Library, is out of copyright and will cost a lot less to perform.

Repertoire often comes down to - no soloist, no harp, no extra wind, timps only and out of copyright. (Harps with a harpist for the afternoon rehearsal and evening concert cost £100 each.) As the conductor likes early 20thC French stuff, it can be tricky. We get threatened with having to play Mozart and Beethoven symphonies if we are short of cash, but most of us would be happy to do Mozart 41 or Beethoven 7 now and then!

Committee meetings have taken the form of us sitting in a cafe at the South Bank, listing repertoire with people saying rude things about stuff they don't like. I'm still rooting for Brahms 3 and St John's Waterloo as a venue, but we always come back to the same 3 places, which work we stick with them.

Brahms 3, Brahms 3, Brahms 3

Oh dear

Catholic Church Conservation has this post about the Monastery of St Florian outside Linz. My Austrian friend of previous post lives in Linz, although she comes from Styria and we have visited this monastery. As it says in the article, Bruckner's favourite organ is in the Chapel and he is buried in the crypt directly below the organ.

I haven't experienced anything iffy there and coming from a country devoid of anything visually Catholic, walking round a city where they have a Guild of Cribmakers just after Christmas was lovely. Different shops with their own cribs in the windows. Great.

Of course, you only see the surface as a tourist and my German not being exactly great, unless you want obscure musical terms, means pretty much anything could be being preached.

Saturday 22 August 2009


The best opera, by the best composer, as a friend once described it. On now at the Proms. Just into Act II.

Florestan will soon be released and reunited with his wife Leonora, aka Fidelio, for it is a rescue opera and she, a trouser role.

People sometimes rumble on about various problems with it as a work, but the music and sentiments more than compensate, for me at least and put Beethoven in the list of good composers. After WW2, the first work performed in many German Opera Houses was Fidelio.

This in contrast with Wagner whose Die Walkure I have to teach as a set work next year. Sigh. Not my choice.

Looking back, I was very lucky to teach Fidelio and The Matthew Passion as set works.
Still, I have my new CUP Wagner Companion to entertain me til I go beck to work. I'm feeling work avoidance dusting and hoovering coming on...haven't cleaned those kitchen cupboards out since I moved either.

Plums Plums Plums 2

One of the best ever cooking ingredients is Ready Roll Puff Pastry.

Another interesting fact is (I hope,) that it contains no milk products.

Two of my immediate family have become lacto intolerant in the past few years, so this has to be factored in. Main courses are fine, but most dessert recipes start with butter.

This one does not.

Unroll your puff pastry onto a non-stick baking sheet or line it or whatever.
Then roll out marzipan and fit onto the pastry leaving 1/2" border all the way round.
(You can get ready roll marzipan too if you are feeling really decadent. Otherwise it's a rolling pin, icing sugar and a sticky work top.)
Cut up your fruit quite thin.
The original recipe said nectarines, but I have plums.
I guess you could experiment with other stuff. Have fun.
Arrange artistically.
Bake at 180C or Gas Mark 5/6, until the pastry is cooked and the fruit is soft.
Take round to your parent's for Sunday lunch.

The sort of pudding that works well for breakfast on Monday too. Cold. Mm.
Or taken round to your Mum's friend who has broken her wrist. what is it with wrists?

My other trip to deapest Kent

Yesterday I was also down in Kent visiting my landlady and landlord from when I started teaching and meeting up with my friend from Austria who was a language assistant then.

Burgi (aka Notburga) is a pretty serious singer when not teaching English and Spanish and we got talking about what you have to do when you are not enjoying a performance. This was on the back of two performances she had just done of 'The Creation.' Even the stamps have Haydn on this year. Her Choir had hired a very famous soprano - so famous in fact that I have heard of her. I was very impressed to hear she was singing with such a top name. But it turned out that the lady in question had not been singing for about three months after an operation and her performances were dire. Terrible tone quality, unclear diction, out of tune and out of time. Oh and no phrasing either.

Burgi said that all the while she studied the faces of the orchestra and they betrayed nothing. She said there was almost an audible gasp from the choir whe she first sang. We decided that you have to focus on something else when either the soloist or indeed the music is not working the magic. You can just focus in on your own playing, or the mechanics of accompanying carefully or indeed any number of things that mean that you are actually engaged in the music and really trying to do it well. Tough stuff if the soprano soloist should really be indisposed and someone needs to be phoning round for a dep.

Scotney Castle with Fr Mildew

Down into the Garden of England, via oast houses, beautiful countryside and the A21, which retains the feel of motoring in yesteryear to Scotney Castle.

Met up with Ches ( who knew where everyone else was and what we were up to- always a great boon when you arrive on your own,) Fr Mildew, blog commentors Delia and Dilly Day Dream and several other friendly people. We 'did' the big new house (1837) and then repaired to the walled garden and a big picnic table where we laid out the spread. Thanks to Delia and Dilly Day Dream for lots of lovely food. In answer to the question, 'How similar are people in real life compared to on the interweb?' I'd say pretty similar. (Not sure how that pans out for me. Oh well.)

Fr Mildew entertained us with his commentary on the letters' page of the that publication we don't actually read. (At £2.50 a week, you could be doing lots of entertaining things with the extra £10 a month. Quite a good bottle of wine. That M&S Meal Deal. Give it to Charity...Buy your Mum some flowers....) Then he read us an account of the escape of Fr Blont from Scotney Castle, now a ruin. We viewed it from the hill, where Fr Mildew packed in more story and drew a small crowd of other visitors, as he pointed things out with his stick. Then it was down the hill to find the Priest Hole. We had two possible sites and Delia's torch was great, giving us all an extra view.

The weather was very good by now and Fr Mildew took us to a bridge over looking the Castle where we took some photos. After a walk around the grounds it was time for a cup of tea and more talk before the trip home.

Thanks to Fr Mildew for organising it all and for his very informative and entertaining story-telling.

Saturday 15 August 2009

The Assumption

After a Missa Cantata and Benediction, (what better way to spend Saturday morning?) it was someone's birthday, 19th in fact and she had baked and created an exciting cake in the form of a train, on Match Makers (orange flavour) track, each carriage decorated in a different way. Much more attractive than the Ffestiniog Railway and a great deal more tasty.

Which reminds me, that I was gently chided for not mentioning the lovely BBQ I went to last Sun. Often on Sunday a Mother with a line of beautifully behaved little boys sits at the front. I had mentally named her, 'pretty Mum with lovely sons,' but now I find she has a real name too. Last Sunday she was there with her five older sons and new baby son. Always happy to be gathered in, (not to mention extremely grateful,)the Mother of the large family round the corner - BCF (Big Catholic Family,), invited everyone over for a BBQ. The children all had a great time in their lovely garden - paddling pool out, table tennis... and all played wonderfully together whilst being entranced by the baby and being fed delicious food. (Almost a Boglesque rhapsody on a summer afternoon in England? Plums dropping from the tree as we ate, at one point into the potato salad! All true.)

Thursday 13 August 2009

The old, the new and the old again

Tomorrow my friend M the organist is coming round. She is a retired primary school music specialist and had things been different would have gone to Music College. Instead, she got herself harmony and counterpoint lessons, joined the London Philharmonic Choir and sang under Adrian Boult and generally set about doing as much music as time would allow. She is an excellent pianist. When we go to concerts she produces her own programme notes and is not afraid to disagree with the printed ones. She takes music seriously.

She was chuffed to get a postcard from Solesmes and it turns out that she sang in the nuns' choir when she was at school as well as then teaching plainchant and is bringing her LU round tomorrow. She's also re-introducing plainchant at her Church, bit by bit.


OK, so now for the serious stuff. During the course of my pizza evening with old school friend, I learned the amazing fact that she has given her bread machine away to a gluten free friend and now kneeds her dough whilst surfing the net.

She explained, right hand mouse, left hand in bowl with dough. I nearly snorted quattro formaggio pizza in a most unladylike fashion.

Doing more than one thing at a time. Any takers?

This reminds me of a car journey game I used to play with my much younger (and now married) brother. It consisted of putting unlikely names with animals.

Darren the lion.
Wilfred the zebra.
Doris the tiger.
Emily the python.
Gerald the cheetah.

That sort of thing.

A bit of research

I thought I'd look up a couple of my Grandmother's relations on the interweb last night and turned up something interesting, (to me at least.)

My Grandmother was born in the West of Ireland and her Maternal Grandmother was the first school mistress in that village when they opened a school in 1880. That much I found confirmed on the 1881 census for that part of the world.

They also had a connection over at least three generations with a religious order. It was this order of nuns who educated my Grandmother and her sisters after their Mother died in 1919. In fact, Grandma was with them from age two to twenty as she went to one of their teacher training colleges in Manchester.

Anyway, back two generations from Grandma on her Father's side was where the connection with that order started and her Great Aunt, went to Canada in 1880s, into what was then mission territory and set up some schools, all before the age of thirty. The place was very anti-Catholic, to the point of the nuns being taunted in the street and sounded pretty tough. Also interesting (because this is a theme in the family,) is the fact that she was very good at languages, speaking French and German, something that was very useful with all the different immigrants from Europe, including French nuns who presumably had been kicked out of France in one of their periodic religious expelling sessions. She rose to be Mother Superior General (which I knew and not something Grandma was fussed about,) which explains why she was mentioned by name in the article I was reading. It set me thinking how bold people were in the past, striking out into foreign lands and with the support of their order and the local hierarchy, doing all sorts of things.

Anyone else got any interesting rellies of a religious sort?

My Mum was taught by one Mother Ethelburga who was related to St John Rigby and I once went to a talk given by a Dutch Priest who was a third cousin of Bl (St?) Titus Brandsma.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Plums Plums Plums

'Tis a good year for them.

On Sun, a friend offered me some from her garden.
Yesterday, Colin, allotment neighbour offered me some of his.
But, I have my own glut, thanks to Ruby next door.

Feeling like a snack? Pop out and pick a plum.

So this am, trying to keep my freeze or bottle something daily plan I picked a kilo and made jam. Looks like it's setting too. four jars, this time. Will have to see if Ruby would like a jar.

Tales before the stave

An interesting post-lunch prog yesterday, talking about the sqiuggles in The Winchester Troper.

Here on iPlayer.

Needless to say it had to have the,' 'how the English got there first, ' spin which is a shame because it would be interesting to know if the musicians in Winchester had any contact with the people across the water who were doing the same at about the same time. At one point one of the contributers even says that the script is similar to what was being used in France. Sigh.

Anyway what was very interesting was how the m/s ended up in Cambridge as part of the the Reformation plot to make England the centre of the universe. The prog said they wanted stuff pre-1066 and this book fits the bill.

Also, post-Solesmes, it was interesting to hear their take on the notation being an aide memoire and how the pitch is inaccurately notated (to our minds,) as Dom Saulnier siggested the making of books was not necessarily for people to sing from. Also, some of the stuff in this book appears to be for the Coronation of Edward the Confessor.

One wonders how many m/s were lost at the Reformation anyway. I once asked the librarian of one of the oldest Oxford Colleges what they have by way of music manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the answer is none.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Jam Sugar

Having made five jars of blackberry slop, I invested in some jam sugar and made three jars of jam today. Magic pectin!

The blackberry slop is pleasant enough with yogurt or added to apples as a pie/crumble filling, but does not do the job of jam.

The allotment site has a vast patch of blackberries, so I may make some more tomorrow. Time to squirrel away food for the Autumn/Winter.

When things get busy at work I console myself that at least I have home cooking.

Pizza sometime

with school friend. Actually, we knew each other when I was 9 and she was 8 and we played (scraped) in a String Orchestra. Although she only lives a few miles away we only see each other about twice a year as she works in the high octane world of CGI (my friend in Soho! I have seen her name in the cinema,) and is always at work, or so it seems to me, holiday rich teacher.

And so tonight we meet in our Pizza Express to catchup.

She too shares my interest in things home grown, though has little time for it, so I shall take her a few things.

First, the delights of the Shoulder Class, which is really aimed at the elderly.
As I joke to my Mum, the walk there and back is the best bit.

Seven Things

I have been tagged by Ches.
Seven ordinary things that I like.

1 Coffee (it is breakfast time.)
2 The smell of linen dried outside on the line.
3 Mountains (OK, so not so ordinary in Kent.)
4 Coal smoke - evokes memories of tea at my Grandparent's in Wales as they lit the fire at 4pm...Wales Today on the telly, homemade cakes and blackcurrant jam.
5 Growing things from seed.
6 Laughing at a good joke.
7 Playing Brahms 4.

As usual, everyone has already been tagged, but if you missed out, then now it's your turn.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Home again again

Back from the land of my Father.

The weather was great. Lots of mountains and seaside and Wednesday's visit to Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru.

Did some celebratory spotting and queued up to get in behind Dafydd Wigley, former leader of Plaid Cymru. See how egalitarian Wales is? We all queue up together to gain entry to the Maes (field.) 25 000 people went the day we did and they still had plenty of ice creams to go round. Heard some great singing of course. The highlight of the day for my parents was the University of Bangor tent (they met there), where they found some photos of people they knew. Of all the universities in Wales it had the best and biggest stand, which pleased them.

The weather brought out people for ice creams all over the principality and when we went for a walk along the coast one day and stopped for refreshment, saw a very elderly couple tucking into huge ice cream sundaes.