Monday, 30 November 2015

More musical memories - Sheeran and Sonatinas

Exactly a year ago I wrote a piece about a piano concert and a rock concert. HERE  I didn't realise that my life was such a pattern of predictability as here I am twelve months later writing about the same things.

Yesterday was the annual piano concert for the pupils of a couple of local piano teachers. This is Sibs's fourth year and as usual there was an incident that we now come to associate with this concert. 
Year 1 - playing an octave or two too high
Year 2 - forgetting her music
Year 3 - the flyaway ponytail
....and then there's year 4

This year it all started well. She was pleased that she was one of the first to perform so that she could enjoy the other players. 
A few minutes into the piece there was a stray breeze and her sonatina music fluttered before dancing off the piano onto the floor! It threw her off guard for a moment but she kept going. 

So another year, another story.

there goes the music...

On the theme of music, the previous night we were at Suncorp Stadium enjoying slightly different sounds. Ed Sheeran was in Brisbane supported by Passenger and Rudimental.  I had managed to get some tickets when I was back in the UK in April and surprised Sibs with them for her birthday a few months ago.

I had heard that he was a good live performer but I was surprised how good one man and a guitar could be. It takes some guts and self-confidence to perform a stadium show with no fancy stage set up and just a guitar and a loop pedal. There were a few screens behind him, as to be fair if you were seated any distance away he would have been an ant sized spot! No-body seemed to mind this pared back look though.

I was familiar with his music but his live performance plays around with this familiarity. I was seriously impressed. His songs grew on stage with layers upon layers being added via the loop pedal and the crowd loved it. Whatever Ed asked, they obliged. It was a beautiful sight to see the sea of arms punching the air to 'Bloodstream' and then phone lights illuminating the stadium during ' The A Team'.

Here's a little clip of the 'The A Team'. (I'm not sure if it works on mobile phone view)

Every single time Ed Sheeran has performed in Brisbane it's rained and of course Saturday was no exception. It didn't deter the enjoyment though and my plastic poncho stayed in my bag so I just got a little bit wet!
He worked hard to keep us entertained and the show was over way too soon for my liking.

Sibs was seated some rows behind me with a friend and I glanced back a few times to see her on her feet with arms in the air. During the de-brief in the car on the way home I loved the fact that she has become as much a people watcher as me and had to smile when she told me all about the antics of the couple in front of her.

Great weekend of music.
Making memories.

 photo dbb2da21-529c-4ff9-a473-ba34a9a441ca.png

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

My little trouper

proud: - feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of achievements, qualities, or possessions of someone with whom one is closely associated.

Dear Sibs,

I know you don't read this blog, but maybe one day you'll stumble across it and it will tell you about certain moments in your life. I'm sure you'll remember all the significant ones - the holidays and the events but just like me, you'll possibly forget lots of other smaller but precious ones.

You know how you like to write things down in random note books around the house? Those note books that we sometimes find in unexpected places and have a chuckle or a smile at the memory? That's a bit like my blog. This is where I write down some memories that we make....

Last week I was extremely proud of you. I know I told you, but I really want to remember it so I'm writing it here.

2015 has been a biggie with plenty of changes and challenges, and the diagnosis of scoliosis has seen you manage the wearing of a restricting back brace day and night. Do you remember how that's all that you were concerned about was the question of whether you could keep on dancing?

Your lovely dance teachers who have been so supportive throughout the years made sure that you could keep on dancing....and dancing....and dancing....

Then when you started your new High School you told me you wanted to audition for the dance group. (Did I show my apprehension? I hope not, and if I did I was just being super protective.) You were so thrilled when you got a place and I remember you telling me how good all the other girls were.

Last week you got to showcase what you have worked on during the year with this school group. It wasn't a big glitzy affair, just a small theatre of parents, family and friends getting together to support their girls.

You smiled beamed all the way through.

I couldn't take my eyes off you.

I remembered back to when you were three and we had just arrived in Brisbane and you said you wanted to dance. We lived a few minutes walk away from a dance class and one Saturday morning you dressed up as a fairy and I took you there. You beamed that day too.

I have since been lucky enough to see you perform in big productions on big stages and I have always been so proud but last week it was intimate and special.

Last week I got to see you dance.
I got to see exactly what you love to do and it was so beautiful to watch.

You had told me about the piece that you choreographed and I knew how excited you were to perform it. I was a bit lost for words...and just about managed to contain the water works!

"Let it Go" - music by James Bay, choreography by Sibs

You have been so resilient this year.
You have exceeded all of my expectations in the way that you have adapted to things and you need to know that you are becoming an incredible young woman.

You're a courageous little trouper.
I'm proud of you.

Caru ti,

 photo dbb2da21-529c-4ff9-a473-ba34a9a441ca.png

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Look for the helpers.

The tragedy that has occurred in Paris has really touched a nerve with me today. 

Intuition is a funny thing. You can call it coincidence, gut feeling, a niggle, whatever....but when it kicks in it can stop you in your tracks. 

It's certainly stopped me today. 

I have a bit of a routine. I wake up too early and I go to bed too late. (Yes, I'm writing this at 12.30 am).  I do try and counteract this and wind down in the evenings but I'm just no good at getting enough sleep. One of the things I try and do is switch off from any screen time before bed. I'll usually just read or crochet for the last part of my awake time instead. 

For whatever reason, I didn't follow my usual pattern and last night I scrolled through Facebook and I saw a post from a friend in Paris. It was written in French but I got the gist and I wondered what concert she referred to that she was attending that evening. I sent a quick 'Amuse toi bien' (Have fun) message and I smiled at her "This is the life" comment. 

When I woke this morning I did something else that I never do. I picked up my phone and checked a news feed. I did it before I even got out of bed. 


I saw the beginnings of the reports coming in from Paris. At that point a lot of things were unclear and there were only a few mentions of casualties but I knew that a concert venue had been part of the attacks.

As the morning went on I kept watching and reading the news and the stories were getting worse. I had to turn the TV off as it was too harrowing. There was that niggling feeling... I couldn't stop thinking about my Facebook exchange the night before. 

I checked my phone and eventually there was a message - 
"We are safe but it was a close call. We were at The Bataclan last night...."

It went on to say how awful it was in Paris.  I can't begin to imagine. 

Once I knew that my friend was safe,  I was quite emotional and I found it difficult trying to explain to Sibs what was going on. Having some kind of connection to the awful situation was increasing my feelings of vulnerability. 

All day today I kept thinking about the theatre, the concert, those awful moments of realisation for those innocent people. People in the wrong place at the wrong time...

I want Sibs to see the world. I want her to feel that she can explore but each time something like this happens it quietly petrifies me...


Sibs and I went to a party tonight. I wasn't really in the mood but we danced and it was fun. On the way home we began to talk about the day and the conversation quickly moved to how the news and social media was dominated by the attacks in Paris. We spoke about the relative safety of where we lived and we tried to find a sense of perspective in the tragedy.

I remembered a quote that I read earlier in the day and it helped. 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me,
'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'."
Fred Rogers

There are always helpers and there are great acts of kindness, compassion and care in the midst of the horror. There are good people with good hearts. 

The good will always outnumber the bad.

Paris est dans mes pensées.
Paris is in my thoughts.
 photo dbb2da21-529c-4ff9-a473-ba34a9a441ca.png

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Herman the German is back!

Herman is back!

I've missed Herman... It's true, when you can't have something, you want it more.

Herman and I were friends for some months. I looked after Herman until one day I had a slip of concentration and accidentally killed him off!

Herman was no more....

Now I should probably explain that Herman the German is actually a cake. No, he's not just a cake, he's a friendship cake. I wouldn't usually associate a gender with an item of food, but I will make an exception with Herman. He's a little bit special. You can't buy a Herman cake and you can't just decide on a Sunday afternoon to make a Herman cake - you have to be given the starter culture. It could be said that Herman is ageless and indefinite.

Well, maybe not quite indefinite....The story about me accidentally curbing Herman's existence needs a little explanation.

Herman is actually a version of those irritating chain letters that you got when you were a kid but it's without the irritating bit.
Basically you start with a bowl of gloop culture - aka baby Herman.  This is similar to a sourdough starter and this is what you look after for 10 days before it becomes cake Herman. You stir baby Herman daily and feed him with sugar, flour and milk on day 4 and then again on day 9. At this point baby Herman becomes too big for his bowl and you create four equal portions of him. You can then keep the chain going by passing on three of these portions to friends.  On day 10 you are ready to make a cake from your remaining portion. (I would usually pass on two portions, bake one and keep one going.)

On one occasion after feeding Herman the necessary ingredients on day 9, I then forgot to divide the mixture into 4 and just went ahead and made a ginormous, enormous feed an army sized Herman cake. The cake didn't work and I had no baby Hermans left! It was a sad day.... of the friends that I had previously given a baby Herman to, had gone against the instructions of keeping Herman warm and loosely covered in a large bowl and had gone ahead and put him in the fridge - what a wonderful rebel she is!

So about five months after I had passed him to her she gifted me a refrigerated portion and even though it was touch and go for the first few days I revived him and he's back.

Yesterday was day 10, so I have given two portions away, I have one ready to go through the 10 day cycle again and I also baked one. The best bit is that it worked. Herman became a cake and he was delicious!

Next time I'll give one portion of culture away, I'll bake one, keep one going and I'm going to try freezing a portion, It will be like something out of a sci-fi cryonics novel! I wonder if he'll survive that?

It's always a well received cake whatever I do with it. There are many variations and the one I made last night had chopped up apple and a handful of cranberries.

Good to have you back Herman,
 photo dbb2da21-529c-4ff9-a473-ba34a9a441ca.png

Link to the Herman the German Friendship cake website - HERE