Sunday, 28 September 2008

Music Matters

I had a moment of extreme sadness tonight where I suddenly felt, quite strongly, the full force of unlocked potential.

It's one thing to have one's own ability to enjoy and perform music impaired, but quite another to not be able to pass down musical ability and nurture it in someone you love.

I've done my best with piano lessons but my aunt and uncle weren't wrong when they suggested that perhaps proper lessons may be in order if my son is to get serious about it. After all, I never trained as a teacher. They both did, and though they wish they lived nearer so they could teach him themselves, they did the right thing suggesting he gets lessons.

Anyway, that's a slight tangent. What got me tonight was the fact that since we moved out of nursery rhymes I've not heard my son sing a song all the way through. And that struck me as quite incredible. Then I started crying.

Now, I can see that it's not all my fault. Apart from having a condition and a prescription that together have done a great job of destroying my senses, I am also up against the National Curriculum, which places music firmly at the bottom of its list of priorities.

How can it be so? Doesn't anyone in education recognise the value of singing on a regular basis, of having access to free music tuition and regular music lessons within the timetable? It should be right up there with Literacy and Numeracy, Art and Science. That's what I think. But the days of singing en masse seem to be over. I used to sing in assembly every day. And in a choir at primary school, and then in a Saturday music school, and then at GCSE, A Level and in the university choir. And several shocking bands. But we won't go there.

I know a vocal coach locally. But I think my son is now a little too old to be learning World Music and shaking a tambourine in a room full of earnest hairy mothers with their flora and fauna-named offspring. Which is a shame. Sort of. To be honest it's the only access to group music around where I live, and I suspect in many other areas. The years he would have enjoyed that with me have disappeared in a blur. And that's what I'm struggling with. It's a huge chasm, a divide that cannot be bridged.

So I'd like to share a memory with you. When he was very, very small my son stood in the middle of his Grandma and Grandpa's living room and shyly managed to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. All curly locks and big brown eyes, he sang it very softly and yet with that magic only music can bring of knowing he was sharing something that brought pure happiness.

Sunday, 21 September 2008


I have some news, and a tendency to wiffle at the moment so this will be brief.

Contrary to what my brain and body are both telling me is possible, I am attempting something rather ambitious. I am doing it on the precept that:

The foggy mind is equally valid and so should be given the chance to express itself

And so, I am embarking on a course in writing plays. The absolute bottom line for me is that I do not expect myself to perform at the level I enjoyed when last studying. This is an online course, it doesn't go towards a degree and it is purely for me to exercise the grey matter.

I would like to say how marvellous the OU has been in setting this up with my requirements in mind. I have transcripts of audio and audiovisual material and will be able to arrange flexible deadlines. I can do a lot of reading lying in bed with spiralbound textbooks and will save online activity for when I feel up to it.

I would love to be able to just write. But after four years steeped in psychiatric medication I feel my brain could do with a kick-start.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


An email. Just to show that I think about more than what I'm having for tea on any given night ;-) I sent this at the weekend to the organisers of this year's local arts festival.

I am writing with some thoughts about scooter hire for future festival events. I was hoping to come and see my sister in a choir performance at the museum and art gallery tomorrow at 4pm. A phone adviser informed me, incorrectly, that the art gallery has scooters. They don't but they do have manual wheelchairs. Unfortunately as my son is quite young he is not able to push me in a manual chair.

I have my own mobility scooter but it is not allowed on public transport. So I called Shopmobility. Their closest centre is closed on Sundays so couldn't help me get to my event. I called the other Shopmobility across town, and they are open but only til 4.45pm. Luckily for me my sister has another performance outside a pub at 1pm so I am hiring a scooter at 12 noon and coming all the way across town and hoping it doesn't rain.

Here are some thoughts for next year:

Could you hook up with the company who provides shopmobility scooters and help fund the opening of the closed shopmobility centre for the whole weekend? Shopmobility is a charity, independently funded. But I am sure a deal could be struck, given the positive publicity that would result.

Could the festival provide a central designated scooter hire location - perhaps hooking up with a major scooter manufacturer in a sponsorship/advertising deal?

I am certain that a press release publicising scooter hire for people with disabilities would lead to many more visitors to the festival from the disabled community next year. It has proved difficult this year for me to make the necessary arrangements to attend, but I hope in future years that it won't be so hard.

I look forward to hearing from you

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

I Want Something's Flesh

Yes, okay a shameless Withnail and I quote. I don't do it often but it really fits the occasion as yesterday I had my first red meat for a long, long time.

I did years on the theory that red meat exhausts the chronically sick body and should therefore be avoided. Then I read the opposite just before the weekend and thought "Sod it."

So yes, another post about what I'm eating. But the joy of savouring a lamb shank slow cooked with onion, leek, sweet potato, garlic and rosemary with roasted butternut squash on the side just had to be recorded.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Adventures in...

Slow cooking.

I won't go on at length but we've been stuck in a rut food wise for quite a while. The less energy I have the less imaginative I become. I needed a kick start and found this, which takes you to a goldmine of slow cooker recipes. And within this site, there's another link to even more recipes.

There are two advantages to slow cooking. One it's incredibly cheap (a slow cooker consumes about the same energy as a lightbulb, if not less) and two it's ridiculously easy. Other than a quick browning of vegetables and meat all you have to do is bung everything in there in the morning and leave it for six hours.

Things I'm going to try include meatballs, meatloaf, a whole gammon, various chicken and pork recipes, sausage and bean stew, thai veg curry, lamb knuckle (cheaper cut) and a few self-created casseroles.

I just couldn't stand the prospect of the same old stuff all winter. And I think my son, as he's growing a foot a week, needs some good fuel inside him.

Monday, 1 September 2008


Much excitement all of a sudden. Due to not doing much at all this summer I have managed to save enough for a small greenhouse. The one that I uncovered from the undergrowth last year proved to be beyond my capabilities where renovation is concerned so I gave it away on Freecycle.

Now, there are several things that get me very excited about resurrecting my greenhouse project. One, we will pay for it in six months if we utilise it properly and never buy crap bags of salad, EEC compliant cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or French beans ever again.

Two, it will be fun.

Three, it will mean I can finally use my half price seeds bagged at Woolworths earlier this year.

Yes, I'm still feeling like death on a stick, but I figure that if I start eating properly maybe that'll help? It will give me something to do on the days that I can do things, and I can instruct my son in the art of acquiring green fingers for the days that I can't lift a watering can, which it has to be said is more days than not. He has no choice. Anything heavy or out of my reach will be his domain. And he will get to eat whatever he manages to grow. No more trips to the corner shop for fluorescent bootlaces. God, aren't I awful? Stupid old hippy mother with her Good Life notions.

To be frank though, if a school can get kids growing prize orchids (saw it on Gardener's World) then I figure I can get mine interested in tomatoes and suchlike. She said vaguely. This is new territory for me I have to say.

If anyone still reads The Beauty Offensive and has experience in these matters could you tell me if I can get away without a concrete base? Basically it's cheaper to get my tattooed gardener to put it straight on soil on it's steel base and infill with gravel.

I await responses with interest. But having been away for so long I won't hold my breath. Oh. Just scrolled down and forgot I worked out how to blog from my mobile only a day or so ago. Won't be doing it often though. They haven't worked out how to centre pictures, and that's not on around here.