Sunday, 23 October 2011

Quick catch up

Wotcha all.  How's tricks?  We're all well at Jones Towers, October has been rolling on apace and the weather has been gorgeous, hasn't it?  It's been a fantastic autumn so far, lots of blue, blue skies, warm sunshine and crunchy yellow leaves on the ground.

I harvested the half dozen or so Butternut Squashes that I managed to grow this year at the allotment.  I grew 13 last year and lost the lot to an early frost so this year I was determined not to make the same mistake.  A ground frost was predicted last Wednesday so I decided to pick them.  And now, of course, it's sunny and warm again but, you know what?  if I'd left them, we would most likely be sitting in snow drifts 30 feet deep!  Oh well, never mind.  They were mostly ripe - although varying in size from acceptable to pretty bloody small - and are finishing off sitting in the sunshine on my kitchen windowsill.

I'm giving serious consideration to jacking in the allotment.  There's a few reasons really.  One is that it's bloody hard work but I knew that going in.  Another is that every year we all get judged by the committee.  I hate this.  It's probably not as drastic as I make out, in that all the committee members need to see is that you're actually working the plot and that it hasn't gone entirely to seed and become weed-bound, but I can't help getting quite stressed out about it in the weeks leading up to the end of June.  And I'm quite a lazy person - actually, that's not strictly true.  I'm not good at being consistent in how much I do - I'll put in vast amounts of effort and then not do anything for ages, then I'll do vast amounts again.  It's also the way I do my housework.  I can literally not see the piles of clutter and dustbunnies for weeks, then suddenly I'll have a day when I go mental and CLEAN ALL THE THINGS, then don't touch them again for weeks and am genuinely surprised that they haven't stayed clean on their own in the interim.  I really like the idea of just doing 15 minutes a day but that would mean I'd have to be consistent.  I'd be very good at doing it for a few days on the trot then, one morning, I'd wake up and think 'fuck that, I'll do it later' and that would be it.  I know my natural inability to do housework and keep surfaces clear drives TLH potty but, you know, I've always been like that.  There's some stuff in this life that I'm pretty good at but housework is not one of them.  Sorry.

But I've digressed, haven't I?  Back to the allotment.  I don't get any help doing the work at the allotment.  That's okay.  I don't like doing housework, my significant other doesn't like doing gardening.  But the allotment is big and I could really do with a hand every few weeks.  Frankly it's too big for me but I really don't want to give up half of it - I want it all to myself.  So, a conundrum.  Suggesting asking friends to help would be greeted with hollow laughter - I don't have that many real-life friends and those that I do all work full-time and have large families to look after.  And they hate gardening too. 

Finally, the allotment isn't in my back garden.  It's 5 minutes walk down the road.  And even that's too far sometimes.  If it was in my garden then I'd potter around in it on and off during the day - 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there.  If I wanted to I could go out to water in my dressing gown.  And no-one would get all judgy about it.

But I do like the actual act of growing things, planting the seeds and (hopefully) eating the produce.  *sigh*.  I've got until February to decide what to do.

So, while I've been ignoring the allotment, what else has occupied my time?  Playing the piano!!!  I'm having a ball and have, frankly, astonished myself with what I actually remember, having not played the damn thing for 35-odd years.

One of the really lovely things about it is that I seem to have managed to impress TLH and, believe me, when you've been together for 17 years, there's not much that impresses anymore. I know he'd like to learn as well but, as is the way with human nature, doesn't really fancy doing it the hard way and having lessons to learn from scratch - he'd much rather just sit at the keyboard and be able to play (wouldn't we all?) but, unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.  Still, I'm starting to teach him how to play Erik Satie's Gnossienne No. 1, little by little, and he's picked up the first few bars of the right hand melody quickly enough so it shouldn't be long before I teach him the left hand bass line and he has a go at putting them together.

For those that don't know, this is Gnossienne No. 1 - it's a fairly easy piece to learn, there's a lot of repetition of the same chords and the right hand only plays the melody line with no chords at all - it's a very pleasing piece to both listen to and play and only took me a couple of weeks to get to grips with:

I'm now learning Gymnopedie no. 1, which is the famous one that everyone knows, and also another Gnossienne, no. 3 this time, which I think sounds even more mysterious, ethereal and somehow melancholy but also uplifting.  I think I like it even more than Gnossienne No. 1:

Also, I'm relearning a piece I was starting to learn back when I was 14 when I decided I didn't want to play anymore.  It's a fairly standard Grade 5 piece called 'To a Wild Rose' by Edward MacDowell and it's really quite cheesily sentimental and nostalgic but rather satisfying:

The piano is set up in the dining room bit of our living room so it's easy for me to walk past it and 'just sit down for 10 minutes' which turns into 2 hours and means the washing's still not done and the dishwasher's still not loaded but, hey, I can now play that bit that was foxing me yesterday! Win!   So, yeah, a massive time-sponge at the moment but I'm loving it so much that I don't care.

We also went to the Guildford Civic again last night to catch another orchestra on tour.  This time it was the Czech National Symphony Orchestra playing some Dvorak and Brahms.  Soloists were Nicola Benedetti on violin and Leonard Elschenbroich on cello. 

I'll be honest, both TLH and I were a little disappointed.  I think we were spoiled by the superb Moscow Philharmonic earlier this month with their spectacular violin soloist.  This orchestra was smaller and seemed a little - how to describe it? - lacklustre?  Just short of sparkling?  Dunno.  The Dvorak they played was fine and lovely, a couple of Slavonic dances to start with, and they finished with the New World Symphony which you would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by, but it was the middle thing that let it down a bit, which is a shame, because it was a Concerto for Violin and Cello by Brahms.

I don't think I care all that much for Brahms, and I didn't particularly care for this piece after nearly falling asleep in it.  Admittedly the hall was very hot and I'd been awake quite early, but there didn't seem to be much going on to hold my attention.  It was like a wave of warm, lush strings were washing over me which was all very nice, I suppose, but not terribly exciting.  Some of the entrances by the woodwind section were a bit ragged as well.  And I've no doubt that Ms Benedetti on her violin and Mr Elschenbroich on his cello were virtuosi, but they were both kind of lost in the piece.  It didn't really do either of them any favours and didn't make either of them stand out.  A crying shame really.  I think a better piece could have been chosen if they absolutely had to play together.  Even better would have been to have them play a showy-offy piece each, something that could have showcased their individual talents.  Oh well, never mind.  It was very interesting to be able to compare orchestras though.  And there were more people in the audience this time, which was good to see although I did notice that they didn't give a standing ovation this time (unlike the ovation and 3 encores for the Moscow lot), so perhaps we weren't the only ones who thought 'hmm, 8 out of 10.  Must do better'.

The next orchestra we'll be seeing in this season is the Russian State Philharmonic on 8 February who'll be playing the wonderful 'Masquerade Suite' by Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2.  Let's hope they bring their A game.

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