Friday, 23 September 2011

"Rawl aht ver Barrel........"

I've been hanging on to do this post and it's taken a lot longer than I thought, hence the radio silence.  Actually there are a couple of things to tell you about but I think I'll split them into 2 posts.  Sorry, boring administrative detail there.  However, my blog = my internal monologue made manifest.

Remember my lovely new saxophone that I bought a little while ago, back in June?  When I was in the shop - Chamberlain Music in Haslemere, Surrey - my eye fell on all the digital pianos and I noticed how small and neat they were and, more importantly, that you could play them with headphones and they'd be silent!  I live in a small cul-de-sac that is packed with houses, we're all very close to each other, and the walls are not amazingly thick.  And, naturally, in the summer everyone has their windows open and you can hear what's going on.

Generally, though, we're a very civilised bunch and are considerate about noise - I mean, I've only had to call the police out a couple of times over the 16 years we've lived here and that was due to more than noise, there was violence involved but I won't go into that here.

About six or so years ago, our immediate neighbours (we shared an adjoining wall) installed a piano in their study on the ground floor.  It was a traditional, upright piano, and they started having lessons and then practising on it.  Neither of them were absolute beginners, but I still got hear every single note.  This didn't bother me, but it did underline to me how much noise travels through these houses.  Because of this, I try to restrict my sax playing to when the neighbours are out.  (The piano-playing ones moved out about 4 or 5 years ago, and the new ones don't seem to play any musical instruments at all). I am nothing if not considerate.

But seeing the digital pianos in Chamberlains got me thinking.  I used to play piano in my very early teens - I can't remember exactly when, something like between ages 11 and about 14, I think.  I had proper lessons and was studying for Grade V piano/Grade I theory when I got all teenage-flouncy about it and decided I'd rather spend my spare time hanging out down the park with boys than practising endless bloody scales.  So I stopped.

Now, of course, 35 years later, I rather regret it.  I didn't find it easy to play, it was not one of the instruments that came naturally to me (I'm better on wind instruments - recorder, clarinet, sax) but it taught me everything I know about the technicalities of music - how to read it, notation, theory, etc.  So I started thinking.  We don't have a lot of space in our house but these new digital pianos don't take up much room.  The keyboard itself is a standard 88-key size but there are no strings, so there's no upright bit.  The only space you need to find is for the width and depth of the keyboard.  And I managed to find about 3 places in our house where one could fit! 

I broached the subject with TLH and he seemed quite positive about it, so I said, as with my sax, I'd start saving up my earnings from jewellery sales and proof-reading, and I'd do some online research to find one that would suit my purposes.  I decided I could live quite happily with a Roland F-110 digital piano

I started saving but it was going a bit too slow for my liking so I negotiated with TLH and we decided that he'd chip in the rest of the money and I could have the piano as my Christmas present for this year.  A bit early, yes, but what the hell?  I never know what I want for Christmas so am, consequently, a bit tricky to buy for (unless it's books and CDs but they're a bit unimaginative), so this solves that problem!  Hooray!

We popped back into Chamberlains on the Saturday before August Bank Holiday.  TLH had not been there before and, like me the first time I went there, was entranced by all the different instruments in the showroom - everything from harmonicas to full size grand pianos.  He picked up a ukulele and immediately got ribbed by the staff for playing the opening chords to 'Stairway to Heaven'!

(pic from "Wayne's World" for those bemused by the reference)

He'd not seen any of the digital pianos before so I showed him the one I was interested in so he could get an idea of the size, and a very helpful saleschappy ran through its features and showed us comparable keyboards.  But my mind was made up, and so the order was placed.

Of course, things never really go smoothly, do they?  It transpired that Chamberlains didn't have any in stock but they would contact Roland to deliver one to me directly.  After a few days, Chamberlains emailed to say that, unfortunately, Roland didn't have any in stock either and were waiting for a shipment which should arrive within a couple of weeks!!  I was peeved but, obviously, there's not a lot I could do and, in any case, I'd waited 35 years for a piano so what's a couple more weeks, huh?

2 weeks came and went, still no piano.  Chamberlains chased Roland down for me and, finally, FINALLY, it was delivered yesterday.  It arrived in a box the size of a coffin which took up most of our entrance hallway and weighed a bloody ton. Why, yes, that is my Bet Lynch leopardskin raincoat on the bannister...

There was no way I was going to be able to get that upstairs on my own, so I had to wait all day until TLH came home to nearly rupture himself getting it up the stairs.

We started to put it together:

And it fits exactly into the space I found for it in the dining room end of our sitting room:


My word it's a lovely thing.  Chamberlains gave me a free bench (which is very well made and obviously would cost a few quid) and a pair of free headphones.  Delivery was free too.

And this is the lid up:

Because it's a digital piano, it has all these 'voices' and settings so you can make it sound like a harpsichord or a honkytonk piano or even, should you so desire, a machine gun and a passing ambulance.  Not sure what Mozart would say to that but TLH had a fine old time last night plonking around on it and playing with all its features:

Me, I'm just happy for it to sound like a piano, be silent when I want it, and to not take up too much room.

So this morning I've spent about an hour familiarising myself with the "joys" of scales.  I bought myself a book of easy Grade 1 & 2 pieces and horrified myself finding out how difficult they are!  Still, got to start somewhere, I 'spose, and Minuet in F is as good a place as any, although perhaps I have to be a small child to be able to play it properly as I'm nowhere near this good:

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ten Years Ago

Like the lovely sas it hurts my heart to keep seeing pictures of planes hitting buildings but I can't stop watching.  There will be many millions of words written about the tenth anniversary of 11 September 2011 (forever to be known as 9/11), all of them far more eloquent than anything I can come up with so I won't try.

I will say, though, that this week, ten years ago, TLH and I were on holiday in New York.  He'd been a couple of times before on business, but I'd never been before.  The weather was stunning, we stayed in a fabulous boutique hotel (The Hudson Hotel, right next to Columbus Circle), we'd met up with some old friends from University who had moved out to the States some years before and we had a rare old time doing all the sights.

One day, towards the end of our week's stay, we decided to jump on a bus and go down to the Battery to do the obligatory Staten Island Ferry trip and stop off at Ellis Island Museum.  On returning to the southern tip of Manhattan,we wandered around a bit, and TLH stopped walking in a square with a metal statue of a man holding a large golden globe on his shoulders.  He asked me if I wanted to go up 'there'.  'Where?' I said, 'up there', he replied, pointing directly upwards.  I stared upwards and realised we were at the bottom of the World Trade Centre Towers.  I hadn't spotted them.  This may sound weird but there are so many tall buildings in NY that once they go above your eye-line, you don't tend to notice individual ones, unless you're specifically looking up.  They were SO tall I could barely lean back far enough to take them in.  They were intimidating and freaked me out a little.  I remember discussing with TLH about the car bomb placed in the underground car parks at the WTC in 1993 and how lucky it had been that the buildings hadn't collapsed then as, seeing how tall they are in real life, the amount of wreckage and damage that would have been caused would be unimaginable.  I also remember wondering if they'd ever caught the guy who had tried to blow them up.

It was very hot, I was tired, we'd been on the go all day and it was about 4pm, so I declined a trip to the observation deck.  We'd also been up the Empire State Building the day before and I wasn't entirely sure that the vista afforded from the top of the WTC would have been all that different.  I also clearly remember thinking 'I'll go up there next time we're here - after all, they're not going anywhere'.......

We left New York on, I think, 9 September 2011.

This was the photo I took from the Staten Island Ferry.  Within about 3 days of this picture being taken, the Towers were gone.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

My Desk

Hello!  Been a while, hasn't it?

I'm not very good at keeping up a steady flow of writing.  I'll post something long-winded on the blog and then be quiet for weeks, then post a few shorter ramblings, then be quiet again.  It doesn't mean I'm not doing stuff that I could turn into a blog post, it's just I can't be arsed.  And I'm finding as I get older, I can't be arsed even more.

There are some 'ta-dah' posts in the offing, as I've recently started doing cross-stitch and am enjoying it very much.  But I'll post more about that later as, today, I want to introduce you to my desk.

I was reading Belgian Waffle's post about her newly-excavated desk and, at the end, she asked "What do you have on your desk?" and I thought "You don't wanna know" and then changed my mind because, well, someone might be interested plus it's a record of what I was doing at this time on this day, so this is a post about my desk(s).  With pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.

In our house there is a tiny third bedroom upstairs.  It will take a single bed and a chest of drawers and that's about it.  I use this as my 'study' although it's known as 'the Jewellery Room'.  Because this is where I make my jewellery.  My husband is Welsh and very literal and very logical, which, I'm sure you'll agree, are admirable traits to have, and which I am trying to emulate.  I do other things in the Jewellery Room apart from making jewellery - I keep my lovely saxophone in there so it doubles up as a music practice room.  We keep most of our DVDs in here too, as well as my wool stash, so it trebles up as a storage room.  We have yet another computer and printer in here so this is where I do my 'serious' typing, i.e., "proper" correspondence, blog posting, etc., and where I fiddle about with my photographs online as well, so it quadruples as, um, a room where that sort of thing happens.

Anyway, some pictures, I think:

This is the view from the doorway.  As you can see, I have two desks at my disposal.  The one to your left is my main desk, where I construct jewellery.  The one on your right is used for cutting and gluing glass.  It also has drawers that have collapsed as it is an old crappy desk that is falling apart (a bit like me, really).  The eagle-eyed amongst you will also notice my lovely sax sitting in its stand.  It's a lovely, lovely thing *wistful sigh*.

Behind the door is hanging pouchy thing that contains various stuff, such as old jars, a rolled up poster of a Dale Chihuly glass exhibition that I really must get round to framing sometime, my old Pentax ME Super SLR camera that I got from my mum for my 21st birthday and hanging on the wall is a framed poster of an album cover from one of my favourite bands of all time, Magazine:

Signed by the band, no less (this says 'Howard Devoto'):

Moving round, we have an Ikea spice rack that makes ideal shelving for small jars for beads, pearls, etc.  It's not terribly clear but tucked into the top is a postcard of Mnajdra Temple in Malta, built in 2800BC, which I visited a few years ago, and hanging from the shelf is a papier mache, black and white painted mask from Singapore, given to me by an old boyfriend.  Oh look!  There's the computer screen with Belgian Waffling's actual post about her desk!

Then we come to the actual work surface of my main desk.  Oh lordy. Yes, I know it's cluttered, clutter is what I do and I do it very well. There are two lamps, a bead design board, tools in pots and glasses, jars and pots full of pearls and semi-precious stones, and tucked in the far right is my mini hi-fi/DAB radio with my iPod perched atop.

On the wall above my main desk is a monthly calendar and various images that I like comprised of birthday cards, postcards (from the Royal Academy and Sedona) and photos that I've taken.

Above the photos are a couple of shelves that house my ring binders, magazines, speakers and other stuff.

The top shelf has a couple of my very favourite things, an Elvis Cow and my 50p stuffed Piranha:

This brings us round to the windowsill which, you'll be pleased to hear, I recently spent several hours tidying.  There's a money box in the shape of a lady's head that I've had since I was about 9 years old and is one of only two things I've still got from my early childhood (everything else someone either threw out or gave away), there's a Mexican votive candle in a tall jar with a Union Jack flag, a large flat curved bean thing from Hungary and another candle stuck into it, a small picture of an Andy Goldsworthy installation, four empty jars, a plastic dinosaur, some old business cards and a tape measure. All most useful, I think you'll agree.

In the middle of the windowsill is my badger skull:

And now we swing round to the other desk. This is where I cut little pieces of glass that will then go into my glass kiln down in the garage to be fused, so there's a cutting mat, metal ruler, glastac glue, various other glues, cutting implements, small sheets of glass in plastic containers.  When I took this picture I had also just been sorting out some necklaces in preparation for my next craft fair - these don't usually live on this table.  There's also a sort of black metal tree display unit thing which currently has some of my fused glass window jewellery hanging from it, and leaning against the wall is a photo I took at Avebury in the winter of 2009 of a standing stone viewed through wintry trees: 

In the picture above you can just make out my earring stand, here's a better picture, including some pieces that I'm gluing together, ready to go into my stock - earrings, rings and brooches:

Next to this desk there is a tall set of shelves that houses boxes of necklace/bracelet boxes on the top shelf, more pots and stacks of containers full of beads:

And then lower down are our DVDs and CDs, and on the floor in front is the bag that I cart all my jewellery around in, with a toolbox perched on the top.  And, no, I'm not going to explain the NSFW card of Gay Biker Jesus on the wall (I would just say, though, that you can double click on all the pictures in order to get a really good, close-up view...)

And finally, looking back through the door, on the left there is a large square wicker basket which I use to store my old hard copy photographic prints, on which is a framed photograph of my late father, a birthday calendar above that, and above the light switch is a painting I did.  On the door of the cupboard are photos (of TLH) and postcards (of engravings by Norman Atkinson).

Finally, and as if I haven't crammed enough stuff into this room as it is, there is often to be found a large, elderly, grumpy, arthritic cat, usually in the most awkward places possible, either behind the chair where he's in danger of being rolled over:

Or right under the desk where's he in danger of being trodden on:

So, then, that's a tour of my desk(s), I'll bet you're feeling a lot happier about your so-called 'clutter' now, aren't you?!?