Monday, December 27, 2010

Jingle Bells

Meredith had a Christmas Party and we played pass the parcel. The forfeit that I got was to sing a Christmas carol and accompany myself of guitar. I don't play guitar...but it's cool! I came up with a morose version of Jingle Bells and started playing it over and over again (don't I sound like fun to have at a party??) Dave whipped out his computer, recorded the song, and added a bunch of effects to it.

Not very secretly I *like* the result.

I still haven't figured out how to put just audio tracks up on this blog, but I can put up videos. So here are some pictures of wee 'airy ginger coos from Scotland last year with Sarah and Desh. Accompanied by the saddest/creepiest version of Jingle Bells I think I've ever sung....


video

Saxophone

I just played my first reed instrument! I'm up in Penrith for Christmas with Ella and her family. Her mother, Jilly, is a workshop leader, jazz musician, and all around cool lady. We've been having sing alongs with the piano and lots of harmonies (not so much me, I try to stay on the melody and that is hard enough with everyone else wandering off to different parts of the chord) and today, because there is a surplus of instruments lying around the house, I got to try out the tenor saxophone!

For Christmas Ella, who just got back from New York, bought everyone these ridiculous adult-sized footy pajamas. So please envision me in this giant fleece monstrosity, covered in rubber ducklings, trying desperately to play the saxophone....

The air kept shooting up through my top lip and I couldn't see where my fingers were going and my whole head buzzed and goodness that was fun! Jilly got out her accordion, and once I figured out how to play 3 notes semi consistently, we had a little jam around G.

Turns out that you can make quite a nice vibrato by giggling uncontrollably.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Food.

My food habits are getting weird.  (Again.)

I just had 9 clementines for dinner. Last night I had too many salted peanuts and a packet of blueberries (which are out of season! What were they doing in the shop??). On Sunday (or was it Saturday?) I had ice cream.

Which isn't to say that I haven't been cooking or eating well. Geoff and I made a delicately spiced, creamy parsnip soup. Last night I made a marinated turkey steak sandwich and some red cabbage Asian style coleslaw.

It's just that I don't eat that food for dinner. I pack those for lunch and go back to having my fruit and junk food at night.

That's balanced, right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tykes To Catch Up On! (Again)

The tykes are still tyking along. But this time it isn't just random tyking around, this time we have direction. Namely towards our Christmas show on Thursday!

Here, let me tell you about it:
1. The Nursery Tykes are singing songs about Stars.

For some reason this year for both halves of the show (Nursery and Reception) I managed to decide that there should be PROPS. A LOT OF PROPS. Not really sure why it turned out that way. (No, I know why. It was because between props and actions or learning lines, I decided props and actions would be easier. Not sure if that is accurate or not yet.) Right. STARS. Prop-wise for Nursery we've got four fishing poles (bamboo garden stakes) with stars hanging off the end for Fishing For Stars, and five giant stars (think 2.5' wide) for Five Little Stars. Oh, and every class is making festive hats and wands with stars and practically silent jingle bells.

All of these props have been decorated by the tykes, so what that means is that they are all covered in not particularly well glued on glitter. Which means that now the entire school is also covered in glitter. Anywhere I walk while carrying the props is now covered in glitter. All of my work clothes are covered in glitter. My hair is covered in glitter. My trousers are covered in glitter. The glitter is covered in glitter.

Glitter, glitter, glitter.

And that's not even taking into account Reception's props. (Really only the Silver fish which are, of course, decorated with glitter...)

2. Last Thursday we had our first full rehearsal with the Nursery and the Reception tykes all together in one place. It turned out that due to some miscommunication between me, the head of Early Years, and the kitchen staff that instead of an hour in the hall, we had 20 minutes. But that's okay! We'd make it work! Because the tables were also already set up for lunch, we also had a lot less space than I was expecting which meant that when we actually got around to starting I was completely encircled by roughly 100 tykes.

On Thursdays I work as a nursery assistant, which is nice because I get to spend more time with that class of tykes, but is also kind of frustrating because I don't always know what is going on and because it is not *my* class, if things are dragging I don't feel like I can say "Right, we're doing this now" because that would be stepping on the head teacher's toes. Basically I am still adjusting to working for someone else, so it was with great relief and joy that I was able to be in charge of that rehearsal.

Everyone rocked their songs. We ploughed through them and they kept quiet when it wasn't their turn to sing and they sang loudly when it was their turn to sing and they all followed me when I got their attention by patting my knees and I had all of them doing the vocal warm up together and applauding and oh! I felt like I was being lifted up on a cloud made of endorphins and awesome.

3. I feel a bit bad about how many props and bits and bobs I've been handing off to the teachers to figure out how to make, but may I just say that they have come through with flying colours?! The nursery tykes all have different seasonally related hats- one class has gold reindeer antlers made from cut out hand prints, one class has felt Santa and elf hats, and the last class has 3D Christmas trees held together with sparkly pipe cleaners. The whole effect is adorable and awesome. The reception tykes all have their animal hats, and while people have been thinking that the polar bears are mice (I would object by asking what on *Earth* mice have to do with Christmas and winter except that the other two classes are fish and ducklings respectively so I suspect that I wouldn't have a leg to stand on with that argument) they all look fantastic.

Things To Catch Up On! (Again)

I've been neglecting you! I'm so sorry! Things have been happening!

Here, let me tell you about some of them:

1. *Ages* ago we had our second impro show! And it went really, really, really well! The group that we had this term managed to gel in an excellent sort of way that meant that for our show we were all on it and all managed to elevate everyone's performances.

It was particularly exciting for me because I had my first ever monologue. I got a comment after the show telling me that I had looked completely relaxed while I had been performing by myself. I thought about it and yes, I had been completely relaxed, but also? I've got something like 16 years worth of performance experience. Yeah, sure, it's music performance and not acting- but I don't get nervous or shaky while I'm on stage. (Afterwards? Yes. My whole body collapses and starts quivering as soon as the show is over...I think that's weird.)

Four of us ended up at the end of the show with perfect scores (and everyone else had been trailing us only very slightly- seriously, it was an amazing show) and so as a tie breaker the directors had us do impressions...Yeah. I'm not good at that. (I'm not actually good at acting- I only have one character and she is me.) So I turned to Alistair who was sat next to me and asked if he'd be willing to do an impression with me. Nick was up first with an excellent Gordon Brown, Guy was next with a dead on Tony Blair, and then Alistair and I followed as a pair of rocks...Alistair ended up going up against Nick's Gordon Brown for the championship due to his stronger commitment to the Rock-ness of his rock. Mine was undergoing a "gentle earthquake" due to the fact that I couldn't stop giggling....

Our group was so strong and so good together that we've decided to keep meeting outside of the classes to continue working together over the winter. We had our first meeting last week and it was excellent. Only 5 of us made it in the end, but the space we have to work in is awesome and seriously, I love that group of people.

2. The vegetable box continues to be like Christmas every week. This week we got Jerusalem artichokes which I think may be my new favourite root vegetable. Oooh, but parsnips...it's too tough. Don't make me decide.

3. I found a discarded branch from the bottom of a Christmas tree outside of a pub. I rescued it and now have it hanging on our living room wall complete with red ribbons and one lonely Santa Claus ornament. See? I decorated!

4. Christmas plans are continuing apace- I'll be up in Cumbria with Ella and her family for Christmas and then down/over to Newcastle/Durham with Nik for New Years. 50% of the train tickets have been purchased, which means that I'm *almost* on top of these plans. (So close.)

5. This weekend we have a new version of Heist with Fire-Hazard. Heist was my first Fire-Hazard game, so it's kind of exciting to be on the other side of it this time. Instead of a warehouse, for this run we have found an old Police Station that has been turned into artists studios. The cells are still there however, which should add a fun bit of....realism? Eh, fun obstacles to the whole thing. We've got a whole weekend worth of runs for it, I expect to be exhausted at the end.

Friday, December 3, 2010

London is a Snow Globe

We've been having a bunch of snow fall this week. Each morning I've been checking to see whether transport is running and wondering if we were going to have a snow day. Frankly, I've been hoping against a snow day because A) we need the rehearsal time and B) I, um, really like my job? Anyhow- London has been pulling through with very little delay in transport (particularly for tubes and buses. The trains out to the suburbs have been hit a bit harder, but even with serious delays- the trains have still been running.)

This Thursday, during my incarnation as a nursery assistant, we started out the day with our annual Pantomime show for the early years in the hall. (See previous post.) The tykes *loved* it, screaming their heads off and standing up in order to point out the bad guy and give as much information to the characters about what was happening as they could possibly muster. The show was Jack and the Beanstalk and in the first act when Jack and his mother were talking about being poor and oh, so very broke- one of the front row tykes kept saying "I could give you the money!"

D'Awww.

In the afternoon we usually have games all together with the other nursery classes and I wasn't sure if we were going to or not because the hall was full of people and outside was covered in snow.

Silly me, I shouldn't have worried. We had an EPIC 40 minute long snowball fight and sledding session.

Highlights included
1. Dropping snowballs on to tyke's heads
2. Ganging up on the teachers who took longer to get out of the classroom. And by "ganging up" let's please be clear that I mean "ambushing."
3. Squealing tykes
4. Squealing teachers
5. Sliding tykes down a small hill while using plastic building blocks as sleds
6. Our PE teaching marvelling aloud that we get paid to do this...Sometimes I'm amazed at how lucky I am. (All the time. All the time I'm amazed at how lucky I am.)

Englishness, Quintessential

There are some aspects of Englishness that I am still picking up, like while grocery shopping today I realized that my list contained the term "kitchen foil" rather than "aluminum" (though I guess here it would have to be "aluminium" anyway and I'm just not ever going to say that). But there are some things that will always, no matter how long I stay here, mark me out as a foreigner. (My inability to pronounce any words containing the letter 'O' without a diphthong notwithstanding) And one of those things is Christmas Pantomimes.

Seriously. They're weird.

They're also very, very English.

And weird.

Also, I'm never going to think their innuendo laden seaside postcards are funny.