Friday, May 28, 2010


So I was at Meredith's house tonight catching up on silly television shows for teenagers and chatting about all and sundry. She has recently been tested for food allergies and turns out to be allergic to all sorts of things- so she cleaned out her cupboards of offending foods and gave them to me in a Tescos bag. Which promptly broke as I was walking home. In the middle of the street. With cars heading towards me from both sides. So I froze in the middle of the street and fortunately all the cars stopped and one even asked if I was alright as I gathered up what I could save from the broken bag and strewn groceries. I got most of it, but left a bit of a trail of tea bags and broken boxes. The rest was jumbled haphazardly in my arms which was fine until the sweet chili sauce slipped through and landed on my toe where it proceeded to shatter and splat chili sauce all over the pavement and my flip flop.

The rest of the walk home was uneventful, I managed not to drop anything else and was not hit by any cars or bikes or lorries. Phew. That being said, I'm such a litterer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yoga Class: Bragging Again

I'm not good at this pose. I have a lot of trouble with it. Normally I can catch my ankles, and if I'm doing really well that day I can catch the outside of my feet and then hover at 60 degree angle over my legs.

But today? Today my yoga teacher turned the lights off, had us close our eyes, and just relax into the pose. Something about the environment or the prep that we had done throughout the class or just how my body was today meant that I just melted. I kept realizing that I had just a little bit more, so I would shift and...melt. It wasn't a strain or anything, I mean, definitely a stretch, but not a strain. And then I felt my bangs brushing against my knees and realized that if I just flexed my feet then I would be able to... just a little bit farther...and there! There! My forehead touched my knees and then rested there. My hands were still wrapped around my feet, not out on the floor like that guy, but the rest of it? That's what I did.

I was so excited that as we came out of pose I whispered "did you see that?!" My yoga teacher thinks it was because I wasn't trying as hard. How very Zen.

I haven't been this psyched during a yoga class since the first time I did a headstand. And this time I didn't even end up breaking my glasses!

The Visa Situation

I decided last week that I really ought to look up what the requirements are for my next visa so that I *know* and am not just relying on heresy and rumour. While I am glad to have a more solid conception of what I need to do, I also discovered that I need to triple my current income in order to stay in this country past 2011.

So I'm developing a number of plans in order to make that happen. I might need to leave teaching and find a desk job, or I might need to find three other schools who'd be willing to hire me for full days at my current rate of pay. Currently I'm moving forward on both fronts. I have a dinner meeting with a friend of mine tomorrow to talk about the company that he works for and what he thinks about it. I have talked to my headmaster about other schools to approach and talk to and he has promised me a reference and told me to drop his name as much as I please. Also at the Kid's school today the director asked me if I would be interested in teaching more levels of musicianship next year. So that is excellent and definitely a step in the right direction.

There are options and possibilities and I'm going to find some way to make this work. Yup.

All of this might change anyway- as I understand it the newly elected Lib-Con government is less immigrant friendly than the Labour party was, so we'll see what happens in the next year or so.

BLOGS (and events and gigs, oh my!)

Hey everyone! If you're not already reading my sister's blog you really should because she's hilarious and wonderful and in Mexico.

In the meantime: I need to up my game! No posts in ages and now she's out there being all funny and awesome. I gotta catch up.

1. I went to a panel on Women in Music with my friend Ellie on Monday. It was part of Birds Eye View, a film festival for women film makers. The line up was pretty great and contained an interesting mix of pop musicians and people from the classical world. The audience was almost entirely female and man was that an educated audience. When it was time for the question and answer section pretty much everyone who stood up introduced themselves and their titles and I kept thinking "Yup, heard of your organization."

The topic was ostensibly the status or state of women composers in the UK today. And that would have been a really, really interesting discussion. Unfortunately the woman chairing the whole thing was not a musician and didn't know the right questions to ask. I got bored during the first half hour (and a little bit angry) because somehow the whole conversation started off on the odd (and rather inappropriate) question of whether or not the panellists were angry that there was a public perception that certain pop acts write their own songs when really they don't. This ended up devolving in to a "let's make fun of Cheryl Cole" conversation which didn't sit well with me and also seemed to be a conversation that the panellists wanted to get away from and were uninterested in. (I can tell you that I was certainly uninterested.) It was just such a negative and impersonal way to start off the discussion. Personal stories! Issues that they care about! That's what I wanted to hear.

Fortunately once the questions got rolling? That's totally what happened. And the discussion went on for a good half hour after it was supposed to because people just kept asking questions. We would have kept going too if we'd been allowed to. In retrospect it would have been a fabulous networking opportunity, but I didn't realize that was what it was going to be, so I was unprepared. Next time though, next time I'll be ready.

2. Tim Hecker. Rob's birthday was last week and he is a big, big fan of Tim Hecker so Gwen, Rob and, I went to a show he was doing in Dalston. He does ambient electronica; a genre I know next to nothing about. It was an interesting crowd- mostly 20 something hipsters in a dimly lit cafe and then, when the music started? Everyone closed their eyes. There's nothing to see, it's a guy with a computer.

Rob had positioned us (we were the first ones through the door) in the exact centre of the surround sound speakers which was excellent, because as someone who can only properly hear out of one ear, I need all the help I can get in order to hear the shifting sound.

It was pretty extraordinary. I had graphic pictures floating through my head- at one point there was a vivid disappearing weasel and another time this melting pot of white goo with something pushing it's way out of it.

Did I mention it was trippy? It was totally trippy.

I would definitely go to more events like that. Especially if there were more comfortable chairs that you could curl up into and more properly relax into. There was something really neat about experiencing something that was inherently personal (eyes closed, listening intently) with a roomful of people experiencing something...similar.

3. Gwen has been getting us awesome tickets to the Philharmonia. On Sunday Rob and I went to see the Dvorak cello concerto and Sibelius 2. Rob has been learning to play the cello this year and is adorably into it (And geeking out about it to a hilarious degree: when the orchestra came on he told me what strings each of the cellists were using- he's memorized what colour wrappings each brand of strings has...)

Gwen got us second row centre seats. This meant that we could hear individual players and were smack dab in front of the soloist. It was amazing. Also, because we were *right* in front of the orchestra, that meant that I got the surround sound experience again. The opening of Sibelius 2 tosses the theme around the orchestra, and because we had just been to see Tim Hecker and because we were too close to see much without craning our necks, I decided to close my eyes and just experience the music. It. was. so. cool! (I can't believe I've never done that before. Clearly I need much better computer speakers...)

4. It's been really warm here. The nation is sunburned. Ella and I had a picnic with some of the Fire-Hazard folks in Hyde Park and I kept spilling things. We sat down and I knocked over a glass of wine (fortunately the picnic blanket was mine, so I didn't need to apologise to anyone). Five minutes later I knocked over some olives that had been marinated in chili oil. Then a glass of cider. I also spilled hummus and more chili oil on my dress. Clever. Besides my clumsiness, the picnic was a lot of fun and I even managed to keep from joining the sunburn club.

5. I met Robin Grey on a bus last year. He was carrying a guitar, a banjo, a ukulele, and a small three legged stool. I was carrying my bass. We both had to keep moving because baby buggies kept getting on the bus, so we started chatting and discovered we had friends in common. I've been meaning to go to one of his gigs for ages but for one reason or another it hasn't worked out until last week. Last week he had a gig in a pub in Clapton, so I really had no excuse not to go. I looked up the address, got walking directions, and then found myself in front of what was clearly an abandoned and empty pub.

Turns out it's an artist's collective squat and you had to go through the secret door in the garage down the side of the block. (London has weirdly progressive squatters rights laws, so this is not as unusual as it might sound, though it was my first time in a squat.) The inside was delightfully derelict. The glasses seemed not to have been cleaned any time recently and the couches and chairs were particularly snuggly.

The hour between when I arrived and when the music actually started felt like an awkward cocktail party made up of art students and hippie musicians. I was curled up in an arm chair working on lesson plans. The interesting thing about musicians in London is that all of them teach, so I ended up having a good conversation with a banjo player about our experiences teaching early years music classes.

Then the music started: the whole place was lit by candles and the first act was this Italian guy with a guitar singing traditional songs and telling stories. Oh my goodness. I've never wanted to go to Italy before, but now? Yes. Yes, please. Unfortunately, though I'm fairly sure he was introduced as "Santa Mozzarella," I've had no luck in finding any sort of online presence under that name. Which is really too bad because it was the most magical and downright special experience I've had in a long time. Again, the communal act of seeing fabulous music in a dimly lit room. I like it.

And the I had to go home and get some sleep. So I did that too.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I just got way over paid for a gig. Not that I'm complaining, but when I play in two pieces and get paid the same amount as the soloist? That's just silly. Especially when the gig is as fun as that.

The baroque choir conductor that I've been working for put together a concert to fund the Bach cantatas that he's been doing. There was a Telemann recorder concerto, some English clarinet music, a lovely cantata by Pepusch (I love baroque recitative; love love love it), and then a bunch of gorgeous a capella singing- some early music, some arrangements of jazz tunes and (I'm so serious here) Old MacDonald. The choir is made up of the conductor's friends from University and the are fabulous. Really wonderful to listen to. I was grinning while sitting in the audience and just kept thinking to myself that a: I want to sing in a choir and b: I love music. I love love love it. (Which sometimes I forget.)

After the gig we went to this adorable/expensive local pub (that's what you get for living in a posh London suburb) and everyone was lovely. I ended up chatting to two people in particular and because the singers all have real world jobs we ended up talking about job opportunities and ideas. One woman is an English teacher and was telling me all about the training for that- apparently it is very flexible, fun, and with this certification allows you to teach literally anywhere in the world. (She's using it to travel the globe, not a bad idea.) Then there was a fellow who works at The Royal Albert Hall and each time I mentioned a project that I had worked on he would spout off two or three organizations I should put my name in for. So we exchanged contact information because I want to pick his brain when I have a notebook nearby.

The recorder soloist was a friend of mine from Guildhall that I haven't seen in a year and a half. So we spent the train journey catching up and chattering away like chickens. (Do chickens chatter? I mostly like that phrase (that I may have made up) because of the alliteration.) She's got very into medieval music recently and we now have a master plan that involves me learning the medieval harp (don't worry- it's small! (ish)) and forming a trio with her partner. Brilliant? I think so.

The fun thing about traveling on public transport with the bass is that everyone talks to you. This is annoying sometimes, but tonight I was game. I was also on two different trains and three different tube lines, so there were a lot of different people to talk to. There was the couple from Boston (my sister! she's moving there! wheee!), the man from Essex who works for French Connection, and then on the final leg of the journey three hipsters who managed to involve the whole of our section of the carriage in our conversation.

"That's a double bass"

yes. Yes it is.

"What'd you play?"

the double bass.

"No! No, I mean what music?"

Telemann concerto.

"Dude. Telemann sucks. 400 concertos and they all sound the same."

... why do you know that?

"Everyone knows that."

You, over there in the corner. Do you know who Telemann is? Nope? Didn't think so.

"He's a composer"

Ah. That explains it.

They were funny. And wearing 3D glasses and 1940's women's felt hats. I love London .

Oh! And the reason this is "music" and not just "gig" is because on Thursday I went to see the London Philharmonia with Gil Shaham playing the Walton violin concerto and it was *amazing* he looked like he was having so much fun and rambled around the stage playing the violin. The orchestra rocked and the second half was The Planet's by Holst. It was an excellent, excellent concert. Made all the more fun by the fact that Gwen had managed to get us seats in the centre 7th row. Heck yeah!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cleaning House

Literally, not metaphorically.

I have these ridiculous four to five day weekends currently. (That's what I get for only working two days out of seven.) And because I don't have any other projects on at the moment I've been strenuously trying to keep myself doing productive and good things. Today? That meant cleaning the whole flat.

We've been having a bit of a mouse problem. About two weeks ago I finally got brave and moved my bed, cleaned up under and around it, and plugged up the mouse hole by the radiator with steel wool. I don't want to put traps around because I would be the one to keep track of and empty the traps- so I'm trying a strategy of prevention. We haven't seen any mice since, but surely that was not their only entry point? Anyhow- the rest of the house has been a bit of a pig sty so today I went through and tidied, vacuumed, and am now avoiding washing *everything.* This way, at least, if we find more mouse poo then that means that they're still here. If not? We're golden! Woo! (Fingers crossed people, fingers crossed.)

I needed to move all of the stuff off of the floor in order to clean and now I'm enamored with all of this floor space. Maybe we don't need to keep a bag full of plastic bags on the floor? We do use them for our rubbish bins, but maybe we can figure out some other place to store them- it's just so nice with a direct shot to the balcony (which we don't use, but still).

This blog is not terribly informative, I just wanted to share what I had been up to today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lamination! (tykes) (and kids)

I do so love laminating things. Tuesday is my planning day so Linda and I get together and sort out what on *earth* we are going to do for music club each week and then set about doing any of the bits and bobs necessary for club or tomorrow's lessons. We've decided that this week is going to be a big sing along wherein we have the tykes sing traditional songs with the REAL words and just enjoy doing that.

So I've created a stack of pictures to be put with the instruments and books that can be checked out be the classroom teachers during the rest of the week. The pictures have been pasted onto yellow card with the name of the song written on the back and then laminated. They're beautiful. (I'm not sure that we should be teaching the tykes to have such a flagrant disregard for copyright law given the fact that all of the pictures were found via google image search, but oh well.)

You've got your London Bridge is Falling Down featuring a picture of Tower Bridge (just to continue the tradition of confusion), Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes which I always have trouble singing properly because even though your hands are going *down* onto your shoulders- the pitch is going up, Row, Row, Row Your Boat featuring two children in a white rowboat, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, and Jack Be Nimble.

So that was a fairly productive half hour... (I love my job: Cutting! Sticking!)

This afternoon was an hour with the Kids. Theoretically we're preparing something Samba related for the next concert at the end of June. In reality we're learning note values and names! And because this is ENGLAND these are the names we're learning: crotchet, quaver, minim. We walked around in time to various note values, we used different body percussion for different note values (crotchet=clap, quaver=taps on the head, minim= patting knees), and we played note value Tic Tac Toe! Oh, except because this is ENGLAND we played note value Naughts and Crosses...yay!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I can't decide if I'm being clever by taking some time off because I'm clearly a bit sick, or if I'm just being a lazy bum and now I'm *so* bored because all of the excitement and awesome busy-ness of last week is over.

On the one hand, I am now caught up with sleep! Which is a good thing, because I had been working on about four hours a night. On the other hand, I am now a bit cranky and not doing those work things that I ought to.

"Work Things I Ought To Be Doing" includes writing some blogs to catch you up on last week. A quick re-cap: I arrived on Monday, on Tuesday I had work and rehearsals for The Skriker, Wednesday was the tykes, Thursday was 12 straight hours rehearsing and then performing the first night of the play, Friday was the play again, and then Saturday and Sunday were another improvisation weekend followed by a baroque orchestra gig. Whew! On Sunday night I travelled home with Sarahbeth and we ended up chattering away at each other on the train platform for over an hour. At one point an uncontrollable, massive grin spread across my face; "I love my life!" I said, bouncing up and down a little and trying not to drop my bass, which was a bit unsteady on its new wheels that I found in a trash heap.

The gig went well enough that on Monday I got a text asking if I could play again next week. Exciting! Also, I am no longer teaching the Kids on Wednesdays: only Tuesdays now. This is a great relief and I am pleased because 8 hours of tykes followed immediately by an hour of the kids made me stressed out and cranky.

So that's the quick update. There are two more game events coming up soon, which I am very excited about. One I am crewing for (a zombie hunt on Hampstead Heath...) and one that is a small test run of 15 people/picnic. And you can't really go wrong with a picnic.