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Snowdrop

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I came across this little plant on our lovely sunny walk to Harvington, a local park, this morning. It really felt like spring was join the air and we stumbled across these pretty white flowers.

What were they? The leaves suggested a spring bulb, but they weren’t like the snowdrops in my garden.

It turns out that this is  Galanthus Nivalis, commonly regarded as a native British species of snowdrop, but now thought to have been introduced in the sixteenth century. It’s different from the ones in my garden, is all that I can say.

I have spent the evening at a meeting of a reinvigorated BYMT fundraising committee. Somehow I have become the Committee’s Communications Officer. It means a lot of emailing.

 

Msbehaviour

When we return from our walk, Raffles often behaves like Brer Rabbit on his most skittish of days. He runs around the living room, jumps onto and off the sofa, goes a bit mad. I really don’t know why he does this. Is it, perhaps, that he’s relishing this final rebellious assertion of his freedom before he settles down to sleep for the next few hours?

When we came in this morning, he found an empty water bottle that I’d left on the stairs ready for recycling. He thought it was great:

Oscar clearly wasn’t keen on all the attention being on Raffles. Much of my shaky camera work was because he was butting my side, wanting me to film him instead.

I went upstairs to put on my makeup for my lunch appointment and came downstairs to find that Raffles had carefully extracted the balls of alpaca yarn that I’d carefully secreted away from his mischievous little jaws in the middle of that coffee table, and distributed the chewed yarn all over the sitting room. He truly is a naughty dog.

So I told him off a little. I didn’t shout but it was clear that I was cross and he went and stood behind Oscar to hide. Oscar looked bemused then guilty for a minute or two and went off to sulk in his bed. Poor Oscar. He always thinks everything is his fault.

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I’ve recently started trying the Hourglass brand of cosmetics and I’ve done a couple of reviews on here. I’m not sponsored or anything, it’s just that I like trying shiny new things. As a premium US brand, Hourglass is likely to produce cosmetics that suit a more diverse range of skintones than European brands, and because I have such difficulty finding a foundation that matches my skintone, I’m always up for trying (at my own expense) something new.

I tried a sample of Hourglass’s Veil Fluid Makeup at John Lewis recently and liked it a lot. It’s so much more expensive even than my previous Chanel Vitalumière but I’ve found the unexcitingly-named Beige to be a really good colour match for me at the moment. This will all doubtless change in April, when I start to acquire a honeyed glow. It’s a lot to pay, yes, but then it’s so rare for me to find a foundation that has just enough yellow in it and no pink. With the wrong colour I end up looking orange or green or grey and we couldn’t have that.

I do like the foundation very much, though. It’s more or less weightless; feels silky on the skin; is a great colour match for me; lasts all day and dries to a mattish finish, which can be enhanced by using one of their finishing powders. Veil Fluid Makeup purports to have a special anti-ageing skincare ingredient. The sales assistant told me that I could use it all the way up to my eyes and it would plump out the tired-looking skin underneath. I’m not sure about that. I’m sceptical about all these potions being included in a foundation. For my purposes it should match my skin; be comfortable to wear and last all days without settling into pores and caking. For preference it should contain a broad-spectrum spf but I do use a separate one of these in the summer.

Delighted with my sample in all different lights, I ordered a bottle from Net a Porter and I used it for the first time this morning while Raffles was ransacking my yarn. Isn’t it always a minor thrill to unpackage something new and shiny? I removed the box, pressed away at the pump dispenser and:

Now, Hourglass are a super-premium brand. Their packaging is sturdy and shiny and a cut above anything I normally see. And yet it doesn’t work. How disappointing!

I tweeted both Net a Porter and Hourglass to alert them to the problem. Net a Porter wanted me to Direct Message them on Twitter but don’t seem to realise that they have to follow me first. I’ve heard nothing from them since I told them this and included my order number and date in the tweet. Hourglass have asked me to email them, and I’ll send them this video. I can still use the foundation, and it’s good, so it’s hardly the end of the world, but when you’re paying well over the odds for something, you expect it to work, don’t you? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. (Get me, incidentally, Beckenham’s answer to Zoella.)

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It’s always such a naughty, guilty pleasure to have lunch with a friend on a weekday and drink real wine. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s because I always have the feeling that I should be doing something at home and that I’m slacking off the ironing or the cooking or, as is currently the case, sorting out the house ready for the arrival of the builders. That is a side effect of being at home raising a family: your time belongs to them and there’s always something you could, should, be doing for them.

Then there’s the feeling that you should use the time productively. I should be practising my singing, for example. Or knitting that jumper I started for the Boywonder. But today I chose to take a couple (or four) hours out and have lunch and catch up with a friend. Business people call it networking.

 

***post not sponsored, obviously***

Flutes and clouds

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We decided, my singing teacher and me, that the imminent upheaval of our house extension, amongst other things, has gone to my throat and it’s causing my squeakiness. If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you’ll know I decided that a couple of days ago, but, having initially dismissed the idea, my teacher was eventually persuaded of its validity. Funny how that happens.

I was worrying about reaching the top notes when rehearsing Carmina Burana in choir tonight. It’s quite a tough sing for 1st sopranos and Mr Orff waits until the end for the part that probably makes the most demands on the voice.

The way our choir goes, the 2nd sopranos are asked to sing the 1st alto line and first sopranos sing the 2nd soprano line for the Blanziflor and Helena piece. A lucky few of us who can aspire to the top notes get to sing the 1st soprano line. Yes. That’s me. Except that sometimes it isn’t me, especially when I’m not super confident.

My teacher decided she’d nip this in the bud. We did some exercises using proper singing technique to go up to top C and top D reasonably comfortably. After that the B I have to sing doesn’t seem anywhere near as hard.

It’s not any special technique to get up there, though. It’s just making sure that the jaw is relaxed and I’m not forcing a loud sound. Envisaging a fluty sound floating up there in the clouds. A raised larynx. Breath support in the right place. Above all, trust.

Good singing technique, in common with all sorts of disciplines is all about the psychology, the attitude. The slightest negative thought, loss of self-confidence, will affect the production of sound. There is the nub. The trust that I can do it. The confidence that I’m good enough. It’s a leap of faith in myself.

The photo up there is of my Carmina Burana score. You can see all the little reminders and encouragements I’m using to try and persuade myself that this top B is all perfectly normal and doable. It’s the opposite of Mozart’s snarky wind-ups to his mate Joseph Leutgeb on the scores of his horn concertos.

I kept all of this in mind at choir tonight and, though my speaking voice resembles that of a frog with laryngitis, I sang well, managed the top notes without scraping or straining. Smiley face.

Does practice make perfect?

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I am practising my singing most days. It’s taking ages just to learn the rudiments of these songs I’m preparing to perform, first in music groups and then for my Diploma.

I should be practising for an hour each day. That’s easier said than done but I am now making it a priority and now that I can make a reasonable fist of singing the four or five I’ve put together so far, it’s more pleasure than duty.I still have to choose and learn four or five for my complete 35 minute Diploma recital.

I have had a cold recently, but I still practised. I recovered and could work on going up to top C every day as my teacher has instructed. This is to give me confidence in my voice. It’s funny, you see, how I can reach top C fairly easily in lessons when I can see neither a stave nor a keyboard to tell me where I am in the tessitura. But as soon as I see those leger lines written above the stave, I panic and think that I can’t possibly get up that high. In fact, I have annotated my copy of Carmina Burana, which we’re currently practising in choir, with “This is NOT high for you, Gita” above the top B. Who am I kidding? It IS high,  but I should be able to do it reasonably well.

I recovered from my cold but my voice has turned in the last couple of days into a disturbingly squeaky cross between Minnie Mouse and adolescent boy. I feel absolutely fine and I can only ascribe this to a stress-related condition. My theory is that your stress comes out somehow. It might be in nervous tics, or obsessively picking our eyebrows or split ends; it could be self-harm or a very short fuse leading to an explosion of bad temper. Some people have migraines; some people have panic attacks. My stress comes out in not being able to control the sound that emanates from my vocal folds. Stress ruins the very thing I love doing most. Think about that.

It used always to be like this when the Boywonder had exams orwhen he was doing bêtises at school. And now I think it’s partly due to the stress of the extension and financing it; the BYMT campaign and the fact that I have a singing lesson tomorrow and I strenuously want it to go better than my last lesson when, obviously having a bad day, my teacher gave me short shrift. I don’t like short shrift.

So here is a picture of what I have to do for practice. The scores are on the piano, where I bash out the notes; you can see that there is an accompaniment on my laptop and I listen to it on my headphones, and sing along. After a while, I just sing solo without the backing track, and check my notes or tricky bits at the piano.

None of this is a substitute for a good lesson though. I hope it goes well for me tomorrow.

Council meeting

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Nineteen

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It’s our Boywonder’s 19th birthday. He’s all grown up and helping get the Chardy harvest in somewhere near Melbourne. He’s all settled in now, working hard for up to 12 hours a day in the blazing sun and enjoying this opportunity but I miss him a lot.

We were FaceTiming him last night and it occurred to me that we looked just like Rajesh’s parents in Big Bang Theory. So I took this picture. He’s over 10,000 miles away and we can talk to him just like that. Technology is so brilliant.

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 I went for the first time to a concert of the Bromley Musicmakers this afternoon. I’ve just joined with a view to being one of the performers when I feel comfortable. It’s to give me practice singing solo in front of an unsuspecting audience on whom I can try out my Diploma pieces. It’s frightening as it’s a bit of a step up from the solo singing group I’ve been attending sporadically in the last year but it’s good for me so I’m going to have to push myself to do it.

The Musicmakers is going to be a great way of hearing music that I’ve never come across before. Today’s programme included pieces from Scriabin and Chaminade as well as the more usual Vaughan Williams and Bach. For me, the highlights were the Shostakovich duets, played by a father and daughter violin combo with piano accompaniment; a young Japanese pianist playing Liszt’s Liebestraum and something from Ravel and the final two movements of a Brahms violin sonata, played by two music students.

It was a little unfortunate that the poor pianist was extremely nervous and had some mental blocks, forcing her to restart several times. According to MsDD, who plays a Brahms Clarinet Sonata, his piano accompaniments are fiendish. He wrote them to show off his own virtuosity and, I guess, to make sure that no-one else got a look in on a lucrative accompaniment business. Anyway, when she played, the pianist was fabulous, but she could not conceal her tears at the end and had to sit at the back being reassured by the violinist, who made a great fist of her bit, in trying circumstances.

I’m looking forward to these monthly concerts. We are so lucky with the level of musicianship in our local area.

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And finally, a #subblogging postscript:

This blog is my space for trying to express how I feel. Yesterday I was talking in general terms about how I felt about the whole unfollowing/blocking thing. I have, however, despite the “butthurt,” (whatever that might mean) not forgotten it’s the Internet, and open. Which is why I refrained from naming you on here and I didn’t go into details about why I quietly unfollowed you.

Showing uncharacteristic interest in me and this blog, however, you exploded the story and thereby named yourself. Having already called me an “entitled old bat,” (which is rich as you are older than me,) you encouraged some of your followers to call me further names including “bastard,” and “tosser.” So that was nice. You then continued in the same tiresome, infantile, passive aggressive, attention-seeking, self-centred mode that made me unfollow you.

I’m wondering why losing me as a follower is so important to you. We obviously have little in common. Unfollowing is not a crime. Why make such a fuss? You’ve got plenty of people hanging on your every word. If I’m so objectionable, why does it matter so much to you that I no longer follow you? If you’d have done it to me, it would have been a relief.

Have you ever wondered why so many of your erstwhile friends end up blocking you? I suppose they’re all terrible human beings too. Given how you’ve behaved, I should have blocked you in the first place without giving you the benefit of the doubt. Now I have and I’m glad. And that is my final word on this subject.

 

Different perspectives

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The days are becoming lighter and at least a little warmer, thank goodness. Here’s a photo of our reliable garden snowdrop, first flower. It’s about to be uprooted, kept safe and moved to be planted in our newly-redesigned garden in the autumn. The hellebores in the other picture will be saved too. I’m still not quite sure how different the garden will look this time next year but these will add early flowers to the raised bed by the terrace.

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We are continuing with our #saveBYMT campaign. I received a reply from one councillor today. He has actually made some interesting points but a lot of his responses to my letter either use the Council’s stock phrases or facts that I cannot check ahead of the meeting on Monday evening. He also enclosed this letter from an indignant woman:

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This lady’s information is out of date but I am concerned that her spurious arguments are being used to bolster support from the council to cut the BYMT’s funding. I’m wonder whether Councillor Tickner sent a copy of my letter in his reply to her. I rather doubt it.

Checking the FB page of the campaign reveals some, in my view, odd arguments. Apparently, those of us who can pay should not benefit at all from Council spending, even whilst paying for it. I’ve come across this sort of nonsense on Twitter too.

Presumably this means that access to parks, roads, schools, dustbin collections, schools should be two-tier and means-tested.  Those who can afford to pay should not benefit at all from any public funds, whilst simultaneously financing the access for those who can’t. We’ll have separate parks, roads, bin services for wealthy and poor people. Now, I’m wondering about a) how fair this is for children who have no control over their parents’ income and b) how excluding any one section of society on the basis of something over which they have no control in any way fosters societal cohesion. Unless we are actually saying that those children with richer parents don’t have talent or ability or are somehow undeserving. And some are saying that, I think, which is odd.

I mean, with the best will in the world, having one Rich Kids’ Concert Band and one Poorer Kids’ Concert Band isn’t going to win national and international awards is it? Should young musicians not be judged on talent rather than their parents’ ability to pay? Funny that. It’s the whole basis of why I’m fighting against the plan to scrap the funding, reversed.

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I quietly unfollowed someone on Twitter yesterday. Actually soft blocked them, which means that they can no longer automatically see my tweets, although they can if they look for them. I blocked someone else a while back too. Long term followers of this blog will know how I agonise for months over unfollowing and blocking and I almost never do it. It took me two years to unfollow someone once, and I put up with grief and constant finger-wagging from them during this time, because I was too meek and lacking in self-esteem to realise that sometimes I did know better and I did not have to put up with their rubbish.

It seems to me that not everyone in this world can like everyone and we all have our own quirks and foibles. If you can’t stand me, don’t follow. I’m fine with that. In real life, off social media, if people constantly behave in ways that annoy, irritate or insult me, I distance myself from them. No-one forces people to be bosom buddies with everyone. Why not, then, on Twitter?

I’m keeping my own counsel about why I have unfollowed the most recent people. I’d actually muted one of them for a while without them noticing, then realised how much calmer I had felt in that time.  The behaviour of both since then has only confirmed my choice. I’m sure everyone is happier now.

 

One for the Tate

An exclusive preview of Raffles' next Turner Prize entry

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Harsh realities

Money photo

 

It’s all very well getting carried away with excitement at, finally, the prospect of a new kitchen and a house of which I need no longer be ashamed. We have been wrangling for years with our insurance company over a subsidence claim, and spent years before that overcoming the huge trauma of the  upstairs refurbishment done badly wrong by a previous team of tea swilling bodging builders and a managing architect who signed off things that he should not have. No idea why he did this. Why, after all would one actually trust people to do properly what they say they can do beautifully? He can’t in any way have been as fed up as us of a project that lasted over eight months instead of the planned four. We spent several tens of thousands of pounds rectifying the mess they made and some things are unsolvable. Unsurprisingly, those builders went bankrupt at the end of their project with us.

Having recovered sufficiently to comtemplate doing more work on our house, we are up to our eyes in glass doors and awning fabrics and too-expensive slate flooring and practical cupboards and boiling water taps and ovens and the usual exciting stuff. But paying for it: ah yes. That thought is sobering indeed.

This is how it is: the OH earns the money and I spend it. How funny that joke has always been! And now we’re taking on another huge mortgage at the same time as we have teenagers carrying on with their education.

The way the OH is paid is being changed radically this year. I’d best not go into the details but it means we shall be somewhat worse off.  I’m sure those people who spend incredible amounts of their energy deriding those who work in financial services will derive some comforting Schadenfreude from this. As I point out to anyone who will listen and several enveloped in the comfort of their own prejudices that they know better: my introverted, OH spends his day saying no to people who earn multiples of his salary and who don’t take kindly to “No.” His job exerts a terrible toll on him. But, you know, go ahead and hurl abuse at him anyway.

I, in particular, will be a lot worse off and this is upsetting me. It’s not, after all as if, as some seem to think, I lounge about all day doing my nails and feeding my family on junk food. Now, I understand that it’s all in a good cause: we’ll have a lovely living space but austerity is hard to accept. As we all know.

This post is glum. I am glum. Arguments about money are never good for a relationship but nor is brushing resentment under the carpet, for them to accumulate and trip people over at the most inopportune moment. And that is the end of tonight’s post.

Choices

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I feel overwhelmed by choice this week.

We are doing the pre-prep prep for putting stuff into storage in advance of the builder’s diggers moving in a few weeks from now. Stuff lies everywhere, not in its proper place, which is stressful. Not that it ever had a proper place: it’s shocking how stuff builds up in cupboards, on floors, in drawers to fill rooms with things you might have needed once but for which you no longer have a use. Really one should have a decluttering clear-out every year but then, having paid for a THING, one is loth to part with that THING in the sure knowledge that almost immediately it has gone, it will become needed and of use again.

Choices about what to chuck, what to keep, what to take to the charity shop. Will we be able to sell the children’s ski stuff on EBay? Can we remember our old passwords? Should we try Gumtree? Will the Hospice Shop, the one that’s never any longer taking donations because they’re full and have no room for anything else, will they take something so obviously end of season as skiwear?

I have a cupboard of baking tins because every recipe calls for a different size or shape of tin and I never seem to have the one I need. I have them in old aluminium, in heavy anodised aluminium; in non-stick; in old silicone; in new silicone. Every time I open the cupboard something leaps out at me like Inspector Clouseau’s Cato. Today I cleared that cupboard out, surprised at how little I could actually put in the Don’t Need bin bag.

We need to choose the flooring. The Yorkstone I initially chose is, of course, the most expensive and there will be a lot of floor, inside and out. So is it blue/grey slate or normal slate or green slate? If so is it from China or India or Brazil or Wales? Riven or smooth? How representative is this swatch that I’m trying to match with the kitchen doors and the work surfaces? Do I want the wood on all the doors or a combination of wood and plain? If plain which of the five white colours do I choose?

This is supposed to be the fun bit, but it isn’t. I don’t want to spend a remortgaged fortune on a style disaster. I’m sure Jennifer Aldridge didn’t find her kitchen choices as painful as me.

 

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