It's snowing like nobody's business...
photos to come when I wake up.
photos to come when I wake up.
|weblog -- photos -- elisse -- hayden -- miscellaneous|
It's snowing like nobody's business...
photos to come when I wake up.
All alone in the woods
I've been banished back to my little hut in the woods since the return of the pianist whose room I have been squatting in for the last 2.5 weeks. It feels like a post-apocalyptic scene as nothing has changed except it smells musty, and since the Turtleboys left tonight, ALL the surrounding huts are now devoid of people.
I do love my wee hut and have refurbished it with a coffee maker, a rose and some more wall decorations, however it will never be as cool as hanging with the late-night crowd in the Music building. And there were no strong men in the neighbouring huts that I could summon tonight when I was about to leave - it was pitch black outside except for the flicker of an enormous deer-antler right in front of my window.
This week has rolled in a fresh bunch of adventures. Wednesday night saw a Klezmer jam hosted by yours truly, which began with 3 of us running through a piece of music in 7/8 that we had transcribed the week before. By the time we had finished the piece, 15 people had magically appeared, some with instruments, many curious artists who were up for clapping and dancing while we read and improvised pseudo-klezmer music. It was an electric night, made even better with the eclectic pile of pilfered drinks and snacks that people brought.
Of late, I've been getting down and dirty with a big transcription project - I set myself the challenge of transcribing Isora Club - a Danzón, and arranging it for flute, clarinet, cello, bass and piano. I was quite smug what with perfect pitch and all, and my head has since shrunk a tad as it's two weeks in and I'm still struggling with getting down the notes in the piano part. I'm going about it very analog - pencil, paper and a small mountain of eraser-shavings on my desk, and trying to 'hear it in my head' - as I could probably get another college degree in the time that it would take me to learn how to use Sibelius.
Inju (my wonderful collaborative pianist and future wife) and I found ourselves in the right office at the right time, and yet again playing in a friday night concert! Though this time the piece was not nearly ready when we were propositioned 2 days before, so following the National Arts Centre Orchestra concert with Pinchas Zuckerman, we found ourselves practicing side by side until 1am. We pulled it off (memorised too... but only just) and celebrated hard at the reception afterwards.
Sunday a small bunch of us met at 7:30am at breakfast, then drove to some natural hot-springs nearly 3 hours away, in the heart of BC (British Colombia). Needless to say the whole trip was amazing, and the almost-untouched hot springs were sublime. Some of us even braved the running back and forth from the hot water to the freeeeezing creek. I now feel like I can say that I have seen a bit of Canada beyond the castle-in-the-clouds that is Banff and the West Edmonton Mall. We saw some incredible countryside - ghostly expanses where the pine-beetle has ravished all the trees, and some glorious mountains bathed in sunlight. And I was awarded my first proper Tim Hortons experience - terrible coffee and a greasy box of 40 'timbits' donuts. There's a whole system to eating Tim Hortons and every time someone bit into the unpopular Cherry Surprise, they passed it back to ever-fattening 'tourist'.
Forgive me father
It has been two weeks since my last post on occasionallyhuman. This seems to correspond neatly to about the time when i renounced my good intentions and bought a bottle of Tanqueray.
Despite the fact that I now have a liquid outlet, the events of the past fortnight have left me with memories that I desire to record in writing, or in song format, whatever spills first.
The jazz concert was a riot - Edwin (Bill Bailey on crack with a violin) and I had solos, and made it our mission to learn jazz improvisation in half an hour the day of the gig. I think they could smell that we were frauds, but we pulled it off with fireworks, and had a rocking time. Following that was a wine-fueled reception, then a jam with the 'indie' guys - band The Wooden Sky. Their indie magic and Tom Petty covers brought out a side to everyone that I have not previously encountered, and am so happy that I did then!
The next week involved playing and recording the 'christal harmonica' (note: wine glasses) for a piece with oboe, performing 'my piece' again in Craig Day Day, jamming with a Kanun player - expert in middle-eastern music - which morphed into a day of comprehending 7-beat rhythms, experimenting with microtones and transcribing a whole piece, which has planned performances and recordings for kanun, flute and bass. I also had two wonderful lessons with Henk Guittart on the Leclair sonata, which culminated in a performance of it last night with harpsichord and continuo, and me avowing to read Quants' treatise 'On Playing The Flute'.
Wednesday 29th October is decidedly one of my favourite days in history. After our middle-eastern listening session turned into a chill day-long jam with Phaedon and Jake, Adam Kinner - room-neighour and wild tenor sax / clarinet / drums / singer / composer / player - put on a private show in his little room of improvisations and songs he'd cooked up during the residency so far. I was completely blown away by his stuff, which included playing clarinet into a snare drum and singing an interactive song whilst playing kit, which had the audience humming a pentatonic tune while he sang poetry about slaves. It all ended with us humming a melody in three parts, which he will use for a future recording of the work. It was such a love-filled moment, like a scene from Rent - it brought a tear to my eye.
We retired to the indie-boyz' hut once again where we had the craziest dance-party in the history of mankind. Everyone was going wild to james brown and jackson 5, shaking or banging any kind of instrument that was lying around.
The Wooden Sky, my new favourite thing have sadly left to begin a tour of Quebec, but we have had plenty to distract us from the indie-shaped hole in the universe that they left behind. My first ever pumpkin-carving session happened on thursday, and my team who did a stellar job of etching Barry Shiffman's (director of music here) face onto the squash were rewarded with a measly 'honourable mention'. Last night, my first real halloween saw a funk party with live band (of course) in farrally halls, and a mixed-bag of nutty costumes. I went as Old Gregg of the Mighty Boosh fame, and awarded myself best-costume prize of the night for involving a torch to create my 'downstairs mix-up'.
over and out
I'm In Heaven
Afternoon-long session with the jazz greats, piazzolla tango quintet, jam with an indie band and 86% poulain chocolate.
I am so happy right now.
Haunted by Electro-Magnetism
It's said that the natives avoided Banff, specifically the site where the Banff Centre now sits. It's supposed to be a place of anomalous sleep, visions and contains some connection to the spirit world - those caught somewhere in between life and death. Sadly I haven't been privy to any ghosts or apparitions yet, but there have certainly been a few curious happenings for which I previously had no explanation. I haven't lost hope though, halloween is on its way.
Don Hill, resident crazy bald person at the Banff Centre showed us a couple of his documentaries last night, which shed some light on the situation. Having had a ghostly encounter in his house in Canmore (closest town to Banff), he hooked himself up to electrodes in a quest to justify his experience scientifically. In a weird mixture of paranormal experiences, physics, psychology, medicine, music, art and spirituality, he ultimately failed to come to any conclusions. However he did find that the electrodes mentally reproduced his ghostly encounter, and that electro-magnetic fields hang about densely rocky and tectonically active places. It turns out that the site of the Banff Centre is sitting on an intersection of 5 major faults.
Is it a coincidence that this 'Centre for Creativity' is built on this sacred, unstable, vision-inducing site? I don't know, but I was starting to worry that my mind was going soft and artsy when I had trouble sleeping, and more worryingly when I did fall asleep I never escaped doing mundane tasks at the Banff Centre. Or the fact I get electric shocks whenever I touch anything anywhere here. Or after drinking a cup of coffee the other day my heart rate went crazy and I felt like I was having a panic-attack.
I feel much better having something to hold accountable for all this.
Weather: Cold, but in the positives
Epiphany Of The Day: There is no sense at all in trying to give up caffeine while I'm here.
Eating healthily most of the time, no problem. Sustaining some form of weekly physical exercise, certainly doable. Trying to lay off the coffee and still find the will to open my flute case each morning, not something I need to be fighting with. It's been a learning experience only having to think about one person every day - and can be very nice when I get the urge to take a hot bath at 11am - however I tire myself out very easily and embrace all the legally available stimulants I can get!
We had a rocking Cabaret concert last weekend. I played three movements of the Bolling suite for jazz flute and piano, with bass 'n drums. It was great fun, though a little strange playing to a 'musician' crowd that listened intently to every act instead of chatting and sipping wine, which is what I had envisaged.
I enjoyed a wonderfully refreshing lesson with Daniel Taylor, countertenor. He reminded me that I have a back (body-part) and refreshed all the Alexander Technique advice I had conveniently forgotten hunched over my music stand in the little hut for the last three weeks. Since then my breathing, sound, posture and confidence have had a little push in the right direction. I dig this whole self-study thing, but I certainly appreciate the value of human interaction. I couldn't do it without someone gently reminding me of the simple things...
Friday night will see the première of Craig Day's work for solo flute. I'm very excited about performing it, and am going to try and push the boundaries ('I see a boundary, I eat a boundary' - Boosh) by playing it by memory. A warning to the people in the front row, there's some extended techniques which may involve involuntary projectile spit!
Elisse with a Piece
Today I made 50 laps (1k) in the pool, a might step up from my huffing and puffing 10 on the first day. Walking, drinking, playing is pretty much fine, but get in the pool and by god you feel the altitude.
Cool things have happened. My hut-neighbour composer and I were privy to the St Lawrence String Quartet's rehearsal of a new work, with the composer. Inspired, we spent the next day walking between our huts discussing, changing, adding to the piece so much that I've started colouring in bits in order to distinguish them. So I have my very own solo flute piece! Can't wait to perform it in a couple of weeks.
We went hiking last weekend at the stunning Lake Moraine. It was so damn gorgeous we sat for hours just watching the sun rise over the lake. Eventually we ventured further into the forest where I had my first sighting of a grizzly bear!! It was very special.
Other than that, getting down to inventing weird ensemble combinations - going to try my hand at playing Piazzolla with flute and electric guitar (forcing 'band-boy' to read classical music), the Bolling Jazz suite with drums 'n bass, and Villa-Lobos for almost all the instruments we have here - flute, oboe, cello, alto sax, guitar, celeste and harp. No harpist in sight, but might try and translate it for Catherine's Cora which she's been building here!
Scared of the weather
Weather: 8º and windy
Nice: Family of deer walked past my window.
There are these nasty-looking purple clouds threatening to dump ice on my little hut. I'm struggling to stay outside more than 5 minutes now, and locals assure me winter hasn't hit yet.
Thank god for the church (never thought I'd say that...) who had a charity clothing sale, where I managed to score 3 snow-proof jackets, snow boots and a Gruff Rhys style jumper for 20 bucks! Now all I need is an electric blanket, heated towel rack and full-time masseur.
Things are moving along steadily. Got my teeth into the nigh on impossible Rodrigo concerto, and a new work for solo flute being composed by my hut-neighbor Craig Day. The social scene is picking up slowly too - managed to round some musos up for a drink last night, there's photos here.
There was a concert of Aboriginal Innuit Throat Singing last night, which completely blew me away. Mind, it took me a shamefully long time to figure out that Canadian Aborigines are Eskimos!
Musician, Protected Species
Weather: 7º with sporadic icy rain
Danger: Grizzly bear spotted downtown Banff last night!
Me: So when does it start to snow round here?
Person: What do you mean? It snowed already 2 weeks ago.
It's my first day back at the Banff Centre, and I'm very happy. It seems set up so that lots of different things are possible, and people will work to make it happen. I'm excited about the artists and concerts coming up, notably Pinchas Zuckerman and some serious names in Jazz.
The other residents are lovely - I've already found some Mexicans with which to keep the Spanish going, and everyone seems equally nerdy and excited about weird "collaborations", including visual artists involved in a cosmic rays project, and sound engineers comparing musical recordings to animal sounds from the forest.......................
Also cool are the people from the Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery who float around campus with brightly coloured maths equations on their pullovers and CERN handbags. Eeh! I love it!
Let's talk about the weather
Current temperatures, in order of preference:
Barcelona - sunny 26º
London - cloudy 16º
Melbourne - cloudy 7º
Banff - 2º
Current plan of cold damnation:
London - friday
Banff - sunday night
London - early 2009
Melbourne - later in 2009
My New Pet
Waiting for the Third
Last week Hayden's hard drive crashed and burned.
Today I discovered the airline company I bought tickets to Canada with has gone bust.
Oh hey, look at that. The toilet's broken again.
I'm Still Here
We've been busy little bees of late. Poor excuse for having neglected elisse.org for the last year, however revamps and updates on the way as I once again journey far from the real world into the impenetrable artistic depths of Banff, Canada. 21 days and counting...
Hayden and I have been cooking up a new website which is set to greatly enhance the lives of classical musicians everywhere. Launch is 9 days 22 hours away. We'll let you know when we're rich and famous.
Brava on the Costa
We went camping.
Thanks to Hayden accidentally bringing back 2 tents from London (he thought one was the fly); the Tim, the Angela, the Me, Hayden and Daniel and Mai went up north to the Costa Brava - lovely beaches, lots of wind-surfing and piles of Dalí.
Not only did we manage to get the tent up without drama (thanks Cat!!), the boys rigged an interesting solution to the new tent that Mai and Daniel ended up with: no poles, no covers, nothing more than what looked like an inside 'doorway' into other tent-rooms.
So we got some sun, nabbed some fresh orchard apples and had a yummy pizza at this cool place with giant chess AND trampolines! The mosquito bite count ended up pretty standard - Elisse: 23, Hayden: 0
The two of us drove up to Cadaqués - gorgeous fishing town on the most easterly tip of Spain, and home to the Orchestra of Cadaqués, in which my flute teacher Jaime plays and increasingly conducts. It was very pretty and we saw lots of rock-pools and sea urchins, however not a single starfish! I'm no longer convinced they exist in the rest of the world...
Following that, we spent a couple of days with my adoptive Family in a small town near Figueres. They did a very good job of fattening us up with yummy russian food, and we went to see uncle Leo play with his jazz trio at a restaurant. All in all very lovely and relaxing.
Though it doesn't stop there, with the Festa Major de Gràcia starting tomorrow (yep, we've been here a year!), followed by Hayden's family whisking us off to Andorra for a few days. Certainly enjoying this long mediterranean summer!
A sad day for all
I am a purist when it comes to chocolate. Since my easter job at Haighs many centuries ago, I will only adhere to the highest quality, mostly dark, and savoured in prime conditions.
Yesterday I sat down to my well-deserved square of dark orange Lindt, which to my horror did not break away from the block. It bowed drunkenly, and proceeded to melt to a sticky brown river in my hands. As much fun as I had licking it up and trying to return the remainders to the packet, it dawned upon me that I would have to resort to the unthinkable: keeping chocolate in the fridge.
So there it is, my lone block of Lindt, next to the spinach and manchego cheese. Perhaps it's high time those swiss took a stroll away from their alpine comfort to see how real people suffer in hot places.
I am Hayden
The Domi, the Hayden and I went to stay at a farm in Chianti (vineyard/olive oilery). It's an Agriturismo thing - one of a bunch of Italian farms that have set up a small accommodation bit, and its revenue gets put back into the farm. A brilliant system, especially when it means surprisingly cheap rustic-muffin accommodation for us on a well maintained, GORGEOUS farm and a welcome gift of wine and olive oil. Mmm Mmm!!
So we stayed 3 nights with bleeding gorgeous views of San Gimignano (medieval Manhattan), drank, swam, cooked bolognese and risotto, had Limoncello, panforte, regional cookies and fragoli liquor, bread with olive oil for lunch, that sort of thing. Amazingly we also managed to squeeze in trips to Siena (where they were setting up for the horse race), Monteriggioni, Volterra, and San Gimignano. On our last night we scored an outrageous panoramic-view dinner in San Gim which included Hayden and Dom sharing a Florentine steak (3 fingers thick) and me working through gnocchi with truffles and cheese. Honestly, we couldn't even order a dessert between us.
So after this dreadfully relaxing and stupidly-gorgeous-in-every-way holiday, we drove back to Spain via the scenic route. We went past La Spezia, got lost for lunch somewhere near Genova, saw Nice (and swam there), Cannes and stayed the night in Toulon. Having managed to drive through the busy delightfully smelly sunday market there (olives, rosemary), we went off to spend the day in Marseille. Didn't see white peugeot taxis, but did climb up to the Notre Dame and had another very enjoyable, panoramic day. We later got caught in a massive traffic jam, and jam of diversion of traffic jam, where we decided to stop off and have a french pizza from a mobile pizza place mid-jam, which was kind of sweet.
So here we are back in Barcelona with lots more wine bottles, a huge hunk of left-over parmesan and Pepe. It doesn't seem like much of a step down, except it's very noisy during the summer nights here, and we are adjusting to some new housemates. Crazy ones, that get up at 5:45am and go for a run, then go back to bed...
Armed with a far too general 'map of Europe', I managed to survive the solo drive from Barcelona to Florence. As a bonus I ended up with broken air conditioning: not fun traversing the whole of the south of France in summer, survived an intimidatingly thorough police check, managed a grand detour (my own fault entirely) almost up to Lyon and arrived in San Remo too late for dinner. However, I did arrive in gorgeous San Remo, and had a delicious hazelnut/chocolate gelati whilst observing the cool Italian youths hangin' round their vespas in too-tight pink polo shirts. Damn I'm old..
So I had a lovely time with mummy seeing Florence, Prato, Lucca, Viareggio and Pisa. Highlights included the Uffizi and Academia museums in Florence, swapping my car for an air-conditioned Fiat in Lucca then spending a lovely quiet day there following mum's bargaining for our free parking spot, an INCREDIBLE lunch at a random out-of-the-way restaurant on a windy road (the one with the Panna Cotta), climbing the tower of Pisa and sitting on the roof of the hotel in Prato drinking wine and eating Haighs chocolates (thanks mum!). Oh, and surviving driving into Florence!
Then Hayden came by plane, and we met with the Danni and the Dom. Walking through the streets of Prato (a small, quiet town) on our first night all together, I heard somebody call out "Elisse!"
Who else could it have been but the wayward modeling traveling manscara-wearing Rick (of the Josh and Rick fame) who happened to be dating a Monash lass that had already had a lecture from my mother. Yarrrr
So we did some things together which Hayden can tell you all about because I'm off to eat my two fresh custard tarts from the Portuguese shop!
Home is where the Heat is
After almost 11 months living in Barcelona, I finally feel totally at home here. Here are some of the reasons.
- I know the whereabouts of the local uber alternative/organic supermarket
- I'm familiar with the tiny street with all the wild second hand clothes shops
- I know how long it takes the hot sun to burn my fair skin
- I know where to source fresh cream, halva, harissa and sun-dried tomatoes (it wasn't easy...)
- I'm adept at using the bicing system
- No matter how hippy I decide I'll be in the morning, I've never felt out of place in the streets. There's always more dreads, peircings, tattoos and legging-skirt-pants in a 5m radius than I could ever collect
- I know that a real paella does not contain chorizo
Cloudy with a chance of showers
This afternoon we had a major breakthrough - I enjoyed my first warm shower in 4 days! Then it fell down.
Recently our apartment has started to crumble around us. After 8 months of relative peace, the washing machine began disgorging relentlessly upon every use, by contrast our toilet stopped flushing entirely and we were filling up a bucket every time we wanted to go. Shortly after, water started dripping from the toilet roof, followed by bits of roof which would land on you in a white puff when you were sitting there peacefully. Then the building inspectors deemed our balcony mortally unsafe, and we've had to remove the three plants we had out there (rosemary, jasmine and basil). Then our hot water started playing up.
The guy who came to look at it was talking about something wrong with the water pipe that ran next to the oven - clearly a gas pipe. He then started to mess around with the shower, which resulted in screwing it up even more and since then we could only get a 1-stream trickle out of it - too little to kick in the water heater, even if it worked. Washing my hair in the sink is not so bad, but by god you miss a hot shower when you don't have one.
In the meantime our landlady bought us a 'solar shower' - basically a big plastic bag you fill with warm water that falls out in a controlled stream. Having nowhere to hang the thing, we put it on the shower rails, and it was fine for me, then fell down taking the shower rails with it during Hayden's attempt.
So it's all been a bit of fun and games.
At least with the current mad sun/stormy weather we can count on some sort of daily showers..
I'm Going to CANADA!!!
woooooooo000 I'm going to CANADA!!!!!!!
Eurotrash and other stories
The plan was that two girlfriends from my spanish class, Hayden and I would quietly and nerdily lock ourselves in and enjoy the fruits of this year's Eurovision song contest. However - as is common in this vibrant place - one thing led to another, and we ended up with about 18 sweaty, excited people crowding around our tiny tv in our tiny living room, honey joys in one hand and vodka jelly shots in the other. We whipped up tacky decorations, provided official score sheets, a betting draw and were encircled by a chorus of gay guys oohing at all the shiny handsome men on the tv.
In other news I have my 4-hour official school exam on thursday, so I'm cramming in all the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo + condicional compuestos and pronombres relativos that I possibly can. Following that, the aural is on friday, and I can SEE THE LIGHT in the culmination on friday night, when we will inaugurate the newest addition to the household... the soon-to-arrive BBQ in a very special ¡Barbacoa fin de curso nivel cuarto!
RIP beloved pets
I've put up some photos of Shepsi, taken in year 10 for a media project at school. I have great memories of the shoot, the cranky old SLR and cooking them up in the dark room. Sadly the shop-scanned negs just don't have the same feel to them, and I can't seem to find any that I'm really happy with, despite my meagre attempts at prettying them up on the gimp. Nevertheless they're a good sample of the beautiful, fun-loving fifth member of our family who made it to a ripe old 17.5 years old.
We returned from lunch at about 6:30pm, which is a good indication of the pleasure we derived from it. Santa Maria is a tiny, trendy joint which is the brainchild of former Ferran Adrià (El Bulli) students. We boldly opted for the taster menu - essentially a license for the staff to supply tapas and tapas and tapas non-stop until you fall over.
Highlights included maki rolls with pork, mango, avocado, seeweed and pineapple on top, carpaccio of pork loin with artichoke and pear, frogs legs (a first for me), quail, duck liver on fried 'angels hair' (something sweet you usually find in breakfast pastries) and various unidentifiable salads and other morsels. Dessert was outrageous - before the tiny, perfect tiramisu and plate of chocolate truffle and nibbly bits, there was there cup of vanilla custard adorned with what i think was cola mousse, atop raspberries and poprocks (aren't they illegal or something?)!! We were instructed to eat it 'bottom up' and it was this fizzy bubbly sweet thing. Uff! I could have died..
Wierd thing was emerging from the toilet slightly more than tipsy, the taste of the frogs legs still lingering. T'was dark, there was spooky music and straaange pictures all around.. I spotted two dry fish tanks with shells on the bottom and low and behold a live frog camouflaged in each one. Felt a bit queasy for about 5 seconds, but forgot all about it when I returned to more tapas being shoved in front of us.
So that was anniversary number 7.
Some Kind of Kinder Renaissance
I've finally found myself in a moment where I've done everything necessary - I survived my morning spanish exam, had an amazing, enormous lunch at the Japanese restaurant, enjoyed the fresh air and the sun and here I am, left with no choice but to procrastinate online.
My birthday was certainly memorable. The day itself I was out working from 8:45am until 10:30pm, but in the end I really enjoyed it. I brought lamingtons to my spanish class, just like in primary school, later my Canet kids presented me with this *beautiful* trendy red handbag substitute hip holster thing, then I went out with Hayden to a sweet little 'Catalan-fusion' restaurant in Gracia, and ate kangaroo for dinner, followed by this incredible invention dubbed 'chocolate semi-curado'.
I had a wee party last sunday on the roof. We adorned it with crepe-paper flowers and all sorts of colourful things. It was nice, especially when we finished it all off by having our very own 'falla' on the roof in honour of our kitchen shark that has guarded the door since Australia Day. We did the lot - Juan poured rum (for lack of lighter fluid) on the pile of paper shark on a tray, and we had a solemn procession accompanied by solo pink-recorder music, speeches, then our very own pyromaniacs display not 4 meters from a row of gas bottles...
It's like, just April. And we're on the roof eating lunch getting a tan under a never-ending blue blue sky.
[insert evil laugh here]
So much to do, So much to see
And I'm far too tired to explain the plethora of photos up there now.
In the meantime enjoy reading about this New Zealander who claimed to have been left speaking Australian after being raped by a wombat.
Globe artichokes with beurre blanc
2 x large artichokes - 0.79
300g butter - 1.05
1 x onion - 0.15
1 x very drinkable bottle of Spanish white wine - 2.25
Knowing it would cost 5 times more to make the same glorious dish in London
Since this day only happens once every 4 years, i see no reason why it should not be celebrated as an international holiday.
In any event I'm in the mood for one. Last night we paid our respects to the Gimlet bar, who serve two of my most favourite things in the world - good gin and glacée cherries - in the one cute little pretend martini glass. They're not cheap, but two is all you need to feel delicious, and the sensation is not encumbered by unnecessary additions like tonic or ice.
Last Sunday I spent the day in an olympic stadium in Reus rehearsing for the upcoming ACEM concert. The 'wind sectional' consisted of 1000 catalan music students blowing their instruments at more or less the same time. Having gone out the previous night, left the house at 7am then proceeded to get lost in Reus, I was expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. The whole thing was very well oiled and the sound of 300 flutes playing at the same time didn't break my skull. I was however shattered by the time I got home and was greeted lovingly by my insanely hungover boyfriend who still hadn't managed to leave the bed at 6pm.
In other news since my last rant about the thorough knowledge of grammar I have in my mother language, I have been appointed English conversation teacher at my Spanish school. In return for a couple of hours of weekly conversation with levels 3 and 5 English, they pay my course fees plus a nifty bonus for books. It's a great deal except for the fact I don't understand English.
Jodida Pero Contenta
Yesterday we had a 'quick review' of the present and present perfect subjunctive, which we should all know back to front by this level. I totaled a number of 1 completely blank face (me he quedado a una vela) in the room, and resolved to learn it before the aural practice the following day. God knows how I ended up in level 4 of a possible 5, especially with my expert knowledge - thanks to the Australian education system - of grammar in my home language. I think I can pick a noun, verb and adjective, but put me face to face with a present perfect subjunctive and I'd probably self-destruct.
Like Buika eloquently describes in her song Jodida Pero Contenta, I am indeed very happy with the classes. The pace is exhilarating and I'm loving recognising more and more of the finite spanish language every day. I'm prompted to talk in spanish whenever I can, and love exercising the quirky phrases our young teacher regularly imparts upon us. I suppose the final straw would be a spanish-speaking boyfriend.. but I guess I have it ok lest I forget english altogether.
Once again drawing inspiration from The Might Boosh, which we had playing at home all afternoon, and this moment in Black Books, I decided to attend Carnaval as a prostitute robot from the future.
I went with the boys to Sitges - site of the campest, most densely transvestite fiesta, and had a wild time. Turns out Carnaval is just one massive dress-up party, and we had lots of fun drinking botellón (a home-made plastic-bottled alcohol picnic) and dancing to terrible pop music until 6 in the morning. Most people opted for shop-bought costumes and props, so I think I get points for originality.
It was definitely a success because it's monday now and i'm still sore and a bit testy.
Since Hayden has nothing better to say
I'll relate in rhyme our Australia day.
It all began at quarter to four
When the english clan arrived at the door
Their clocks were on Luxembourg time - out of sync
But that didn't stop us pouring a drink
More people, more food and lots of white wine
We danced and we laughed until quarter past nine
Out came the pavs that went down as a treat
And then we resolved to head out to the street
A friend of a friend told us 'walk to the square'
'There's fire and food - a fiesta right there'
So we joined all the crowd by the bonfires and heat
And noticed a queue for obtaining raw meat
They cooked on the flames for a charrèd delight
And tribal music vibrated the night
After singing and dancing in catalan
To the cuban bar went our little clan!
Mojitos and photos and drunkenish fun
They kicked us all out with the rise of the sun.
What a mix cultures and people at play
That made it a special Australia Day!
(see the photos)
The Sweet Life
There's nothing I like more than dancing around in the warm afternoon sun to Alfie and the Shins whilst intermittently whipping up a pavlova or two. I'm very excited about our little bash tomorrow. I've cleaned the deck (the roof terrace), made kindergarten decorations of Aussie flags, kangaroos and a huge map of Australia, which all my housemates are decorating (juan drew a cactus in the desert... sillyhead), tested the sound-system in which i'm dropping an extension cable through my window, and even stolen sand from the beach to make home-made paper-bag lanterns. Out of the mixed crowd (Spanish, Catalan, Colombian, Portuguese, Serbian, etc) will be a grand total of three Australians, so between snags and the cat empire, there'll be lots of educating going on.
Oh, and I even managed to procure fresh cream in Barcelona! The woman went out and came back minutes later with a tub of the stuff, as if they keep the cows out the back!
The Rest of the Story (because I like to be on top)
We left the very next day and travelled by bus to Madrid, where we performed our first concert. It was an exhausting experience sight-reading first flute in the actual concert, and afterwards greeted the complimentary cava with relief. This was the beginning of a trend of traveling ridiculous distances by bus, staying in a nondescript town many miles away from the city or concert destination then performing without practice and weary from the long journeys. We performed 11 almost consecutive concerts in Madrid, somewhere near Bilbao, near Burgos, near Barcelona, Badajoz, Jaca and then on into the south of France. If you look at the map of spain you can get a vague idea of the portion of our lives we wasted on that bus.
For New Years we stopped off en route to buy our own cheap snacks and drinks to pool together for an evening feast (of sorts). We arrived at our destination (a hotel in the middle of nowhere, en route to Badajoz) and it was explained that - Romanian style - the men would carry the bags into the hotel while the women would go downstairs and prepare the food. Offended to the highest degree, my Spanish roommate and I hid in our quarters and enjoyed gin & tonic and Spanish television until it was 11:30pm and safe to emerge into the sexist wingding. It was a quiet and uneventful night spent mostly avoiding the older male Romanians who were more than eager to give a kiss to the only piece of fresh meat on tour.
Post-concerts, the director would walk down the bus and hand out cash mafia-style as our payments. We had to sign a piece of paper for this, and to my surprise I noticed a Evgeny Kleiner on the list. I introduced myself to him, and it took him a while to believe that I was also a Kleiner - he made me write my name on a piece of paper and said, "but some Kleiners are Jewish. You're not Jewish are you?". After establishing that I was and that there were enough holes in both our family histories that it is quite possible that we are related, a transformation occurred. Previously a quiet and introverted man (he is Russian, so didn't interact with the Romanians so much), he sought me out at every possible point from then on, favouring me as 'familia'! He'd walk the whole length of the bus to offer me a cookie first (para familia!) and carry my bags or open doors for me whenever he could find the opportunity.
I was soon to meet his brother - also a double-bass player - who came for the France part of the tour, and immediately it struck me how much he resembled my late grandfather. I might be completely off the mark, but at the time the whole coincidence seemed fun and exciting. The brothers invited me to stay in their home in Figueres (2 hours north of Barcelona) after the tour, and I gladly accepted.
In spite of everything, the end of the tour was lots of fun. The Romanian, Spanish and Russian people I befriended were all such wonderful characters, and we shared many great moments together. It's funny how depriving yourself of certain expected luxuries (such as three meals a day) can open the door to new and crazy experiences that really leave a deep impression.
Mas muy que bien-e
The Story (in decidedly more than two parts)
On the way to Andorra, a Catalan woman rang me up and asked me if I could play for two weeks with an orchestra who were to do a tour of Spain and the south of France. Rehearsals were in Barcelona and started on the 25th and they would pay me how much? more than the others, (it was the 23rd and they were desperate) so don't tell. I was not in the position to turn down a stack of money, especially at this time of year, even though it meant I was to forgo my much anticipated sojourn of excess in Valencia. I did think very hard about it...
Having returned back from Andorra, I discovered that the rehearsals were in fact an hour and a half out of Barcelona, in a remote location that you could only reach with one specific bus. I checked the sunday/holiday timetable and rocked up prompltly at 8:15am on Christmas day, to find a tacked-on sheet with the special timetable for the 25/6 December - first bus out left at 11:30am. It was freezing and the streets were dead, and I was stressed out - couldn't reach the woman by phone and worried if I should take a taxi, lest be late for the first rehearsal. One hour and a cold coffee later I finally got through to her and she told me 'no te preocupes!' (no worries mate), come when you can.
I rocked up at the hostel in Corbera (none of my friends in Barcelona knew where it was) and walked into the rehearsal tired and heavy with bags to be greeted with a stern 'you're late' by the maestro. I'd been counting my regrets for 4 hours already that morning, and was feeling very fragile when I sat among the orchestra of chav-dressed weary faced Romanians and proceeded to sight-read a violin concerto, new composition and 15 Strauss waltzes all the while being instructed in Romanian.
It was a long day, and when rehearsals wound up at 10:30pm, I suggested to my fellow flute-mate that we go to dinner together. 'There's no dinner' she said and I laughed and said come on let's go get dinner. 'There's no dinner' she said and when she saw my face she said 'Hasn't anyone told you? There's no dinner. We ate at lunchtime'.
So that's how it was. Sharing a room with four Romanians in a crappy hostel from where I could see the beckoning lights of Barcelona but couldn't touch them. I was despondently wolfing down the bag of rice crackers that I had by chance bought earlier for small change, when the older Romanian woman (who spoke only Romanian and Italian) took pity on me and signaled for me to wait a moment. Five minutes later the other four had joined forces, and our table was laid with bread, cold hunks of pork, mustard, home-made pickles and home made wine (in a plastic bottle) all brought in the bus from Romania. We had our own little Christmas feast and topped it off with some Romanian panettone and a mountain of cigarettes.
Let's Start A War
Last night 5 gay guys, Ana and I were drinking lots of red wine and watching OTT french singers on youtube. We left at 1:30am and went to a Bear Bar, then a huge gay club - both a first for me - and had a wild time! Then it was chocolate and churros and here I am, having already returned from giving my first private lesson, watching the sun shine outsite as my 5 housemates are softly snoring. Hot damn, this is the life...
The Story (in two parts)
I was pumped - I'd spent the last week making the glorious christmas cake (soaking the sultanas in brandy, executing my first batch of home-made marzipan and icing, making and consuming copious amounts of cake mixture and sugar sculptures), i had two bags packed - one for Andorra and the other for Valencia, xmas presents wrapped, room cleaned and was all set to go. The plan was to go to Andorra with Jordi and a friend for 1 day of skiing, return and go to Valencia the next morning where I intended to spend the festive days eating and drinking copious amounts with my various Spanish families, followed by relaxing, attending a concert and more eating and drinking.
We got half way to Andorra when I had a phone call which changed the projection of my smug little life at that point in time... But more on that later.
You understand, I have been skiing about twice in my life. The last time i remember was at Bulla when I was 14 - cruising the ice and brown mush on the green slope with complete lack of grace. In Andorra we went up and up and up and up, and having touched the sky, proceeded to descend via the RED slopes (the hardest that were open that day), Jordi sometimes holding my hand, other times forcing me with the sting of his words. I am not particularly fit, and in general am not a sporty person, so at that point the whole experience felt like torture. I admit it was exhilarating but at the time it was hard to think past the pain! At several points, Jordi took me in between his legs (he's gay - nothing sexual) and we descended together at great speed. I will never forget the time when half way down the mountain he shouted RECTO RECTO RECTO (straight, straight, straight) and we whipped through the air at a million kilometers an hour, me screaming my guts out.
You can see by my face in the aftermath photo that I couldn't do much, let alone even walk for.. hrm, 3 days after the ordeal, but like all things Jordi it was pumped with energy, intense and fun. Especially the bit where I bought two giant bottles of Gordon's and french chocolate as souvenirs on the way out.
In the end, the Romanian diaries are too depressingly impulsive to post here. So in short, here's where I'm currently at:
I'm touring Spain and France with a Romanian concert orchestra (aptly known as the Symphony Orchestra of Mediterranean Europe). There's three of us non-Romanians on the tour, but as the rehearsals and general banter is in Romanian, we're learning fast (I can already count to 10). We are travelling stupid distances back and across Spain, and virtually live on the bus. The places we stay are far from glamorous, and are generally in the middle of nowhere - on the outskirts of any city which we see from the bus, then play in, then leave. We're given two meals a day (apparently dinner is not necessary for these people) but aside from that, the atmosphere is generally nice and the whole thing is at least interesting - occasionally even fun!
It's certainly opened my eyes as to how spoiled I've been touring with JMWO, but at least at the end of this I will be duly paid for it, which is neat.
Sweet sweet internet
It's damn slow but by god it's good.
I will post the Romanian diaries when I have returned from the concert tonight. Once again we are in the middle of fucking nowhere and have to travel yet another hour at least for the rehearsals and concerts....
But as Gruff Rhys says, this is just the beginning.
Una Mezcla Encantadora
We were 3 Catalans that lived in Milan for a year, one Catalan boyfriend, one Austrian that studied in Milan with the girls and myself. And what a great time we had! Speaking in a mix - probably quite evenly split - between Castellano, Catalan, Italian and English, and everyone understood everyone and had a great time.
I'm not getting enough time to myself to be miserable about missing Hayden! I haven't even spoken to Victoria about it! And for once I'm loving being such a social bee - it's great for the language and the people here make everything so fun. I was half tempted to write this post in Spanish ...maybe next time I will.
So in short, things are super, thanks for asking!
Torta de Platano
We're having a Colombian party tonight! La gente started rocking up after 10:30 (for a 9pm start) and are still streaming in with food now at close to 1am. I had no idea our apartment could pack in so many people! And all with big, happy characters.. who generally take up more space.
It's nice just Ana and myself at home at the moment. We are on the same wave most of the time - she knows just the right moment to suggest some chocolate ice cream, and I can usually pinpoint the music of the moment.
We had fun decorating the house and I'm presently having a break from all the Latino noise flying around, but in general it's really nice to fiesta with such fun people. There's lots of banana being eaten too.
So that's it, I think.
Use Your Imagination
Yeah well, no pretty photo captions yet, but you should use your imagination every once in a while to put two and two together..
See, we don't just make this shit up...
Baby Ate My Eight Ball
We went out! Twice! In two nights!
First we went to see Jill (one of the awesome foursome from JMWO's the summer of gin and tonics) play viola in La La La Human Step's modern ballet performance all about swans. I love having friends who are doing exciting things! The company are doing an enormous 4-month tour of Europe and since Jill has already had a fantastic tour of Barcelona when we came here with JMWO last year, we had fun being very domestic - shopping at the market, cooking lunch, wandering the streets of Gracia and having tapas, coffees and mojitos. We also went up to Tibidabo, but this time brought with us a sandwich picnic and a bottle of cava, which we enjoyed in the sun on the steps of the church.
Sunday night we braved the handful of finglish (and surprisingly numerous bogan skippies) to see my love Gruff and the Super Furries perform. It was a good old fashioned gig - no backdrop, props, cartoon animation - just the boys and their guitars. It was wierd seeing lots of mildly interested Spanish people, who just didn't get into it and lyric mime like those English fans can. Noticing it was quite subdued, Gruff put on a power rangers mask for bits of the second half, and sang with the mic slotted in through a hole in the visor. Oh Danni how I thought of you!! Gruff doing his thing holding a microphone to his eye a la Noel Fielding. I was overcome with love.
We're having Sunday lunch on the roof!
How cool is that?!
A Titan Effort
Grrrr just drove into work (Southwark) to pick up my beloved Alfie and other voluminous geek textbooks and it was by far the most tedious and nerve-wrangling part of the journey.
It's been strange being back in London. Everything is so familiar, but I feel like an outsider now, being on the better side of the College line. It makes me nervous being here - especially commuting and just standing on Oxford street getting dizzy watching all the busy busy people. I can feel my muscles tensing up again.
Aside from that, as soon as we got off the ferry and entered the island of drizzle and misery, I felt like a hearty autumnal soup. I've been cooking for Claire for the last few days, and whipped up a big batch of butternut squash soup. Now I'm stuffed full of wintery food, and can last on the Spanish stuff until summer. Funny thing trying to get into Sainsbury's car park though - swearingly realised a bit late that I in order to get a ticket in and out, I had to hand-break, scuffle over the passenger seat and make a big mess of getting the ticket, fumbling back to my seat and driving in. It made me laugh though.
I left Australia about three months after getting my licence. In the 4 years since, I've driven a total of about 2 hours, intentionally on the left hand side of the road.
We're now planning to drive from Barcelona to London and back (yes, through France) at the end of this month, either driving on the wrong side of the road, or on the correct side with a wrong hand drive.
Bring on the i-pod and a boot full of french chocolate, cheese and .. damn those laws about driving and not drinking wine, and it should be great fun. Only problem is with all this spanish I've been stuffing in to my head (and my belly), all the french I ever knew has fallen out. I'm certain I'll be asking for "une baguette, por favor".
I had my first day of work on wednesday. It's in a sweet little village 45 minutes north of Barcelona (that's along the coast for directionally retarded people like me). It's a sleepy town with lovely folk, whose minds it never crossed that they are actually living in Spain. They don't speak castellano (Spanish), so it's a case of me being spoken to in catalan, and teaching in a mix of castellano, catalan and hand gestures. It's tiring work, but the kids are fab.
Otherwise, I've fallen in love with Maria Rita and Ella (again)...
blue days... all of them gone, nothing but blue skies from now on
The Next Chapter
Some photos of our Place in the Sun. If you haven't guessed already, I'm sporting a new hairstyle. Next is one of the amazingly decorated streets in Gracia (our Barrio) - this one had plastic and paper veggies hanging everywhere.
Hayden relaxing after a big lunch of Fideus a l'estil de Lleida in our new lounge area, the view from the back windows (which are ALWAYS open), the kitchen and our lunch (note the 4 olive oils for 5 residents), our room with the balcony and the view - first down towards the old city and the beach, second up towards park guell and the mountains. My new puppies, Hayden getting used to life on the balcony. I guess he'll probably work there during the week..
We had Chinese, we found an apartment and bumped into a huge fiesta in the streets around our future abode!
Thank god those shops were shut
Those Damn Holidays
Hayden's first day at "work" (in the living room), my first day getting down to work (finding a house, dealing with banks, cooking etc). Yesterday I found the twin book to my beloved Italian culinary bible: Un paseo Gastronómico por ESPAÑA and this morning was very excited at the prospect of whipping up a Spanish storm. I went out to go shopping and to my dismay discovered that all the shops are bloody shut. It's a public holiday!! Asunción - something about Mary traipsing up to heaven.
So, first day of the new Mediterranean life and we'll probably have take away Chinese to celebrate.
We went to get ice-cream in Wimbledon and I heard the customer in front of me mumble thank you and goodbye in Spanish, so I asked the guy what language I should order my ice-cream in. He laughed and said Spanish so I ordered mango and chocolate sorbet in a cup in Spanish and he was really taken aback. He smiled and asked (in Spanish) where I was from, seeming confused at my answer of Australia. Anyway he gave me an enormous pile of ice-cream for my Spanish speaking efforts.
And I needed it because I'm teaching lots of little kiddlins this week and it's either that or the gin and tonics to get me through!
11 Point Buck
We saw a beautiful elk with 11 antler ends (apparently that's a lot). That was on the way to Lake Moraine and Lake Louise (I returned there - couldn't help myself) of which there's plenty of photos of me in my new sunnies.
In summary; I played mozart 4tet for Wibb with three fabulous string players, the flutes went out for Thai and it was so spicy no one could finish their curry (I had a BLACK curry!!), I went to one of Ian Swensen's masterclasses (violin) and was completely inspired, saw some great final concerts including an 'orchestra' of cellos (it was gorgeous in the Rolston hall) and chamber groups that played Schoenberg pieces twice each, went to the Bison (10th best restaurant in Canada) and had a LAVENDER SMORE dessert with mojitos (thank you Tara.. ) and stayed up all night partying in the recording studio. And here I am! Back in the land of the miserable where it's been raining for 36 hours. It's meant to flood in South London tonight.........
Oh well, think I'll learn some Piazzola.
Update for Tara
We've spent the last two days on one page of the Prokofiev Sonata with Wibb. I don't think you could get anything so different from the Lessons we had with Tara! Wibb is using the Prokof (we all have to play bits of it in class..) to get down and dirty about the fundamentals of flute playing. It's interesting stuff, but hard to digest on the spot. I think I'll take it home and mull it over.
The longer I spend here, the more in love with the whole thing I become. I can't belive how fortunate we are to end up with such a fab group of flute players. EVERY ONE of them are funny, interesting and caring people, and we have become very close. It's the opposite of College where you know that you're being judged by every one else, and daily life is one big competition. Everyone supports each other here and we have taken to doing things together. Tonight we all went to see the dance performance (a modern take on Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons') and tomorrow we will all go on a trip up the Gondola and to the Banff Springs Hotel for afternoon tea (Kaili's romantic idea). That's after we've heard Gloria pump it out with those horns, of course.
I've put up some pictures of last weekend's hike to Lake Louise. It was incredible - we were up by the glaciers and hiking through "bear country" to gorgeous glacial lakes and forests. When I came home I couldn't find anyone about, so being a Sunday night I dressed up, went in to town and bought myself dinner for one, a bottle of Canadian white and a hunk of fudge (TURTLE flavour) and indugled in front of "My Best Friend's Wedding". This is the life, baby!!
So here I am at last - in Banff.
It's hard to know where to begin. I went to Edmonton for a couple of days, and visited some friends I'd never met before. They were wonderfully hospitable, and in my time there I saw Canada's largest Mall (it deserves a capital M) complete with a sea-world-style seal show, ice skating rink, a glass box of LIVE flamingoes, trampolines and an indoor beach.. and that's just the tiny section that I saw! It was intriguing and terrifying in equal measures. In Edmonton, I also saw a traditional Indian music and dance performance (amazing!), walked through the perfectly manicured suburbs at midnight and could STILL see some light in the sky, and went on a lovely river boat cruise with my hosts. Oh, and we went to Tim Hortons (like a coffee / bagel chain) about 12 times a day.
If you're wondering about the toilet cubicle photo, that's GIR from Invader Zim (cartoon). I am a big fan of Gir and found it quite funny to see the drawing in the loos, as I didn't think it was that well known. Oh, and I also saw some real life Amish people. That was scary.
So anyway, I'm here in Banff now and it's so, like, TOTALLY AWESOME. It's breathtakingly beautiful, full of animals (I keep running in to deer around campus), peaceful, clean, positive and exactly what I needed. It gives me time to focus on myself and my flute playing. On Sunday we're going on a hike to Lake Louise - the place where all the Banff promo photos are taken. Until then, the pool beckons, so I bid thee farewell.
[P.S.] Keep an eye on the photos, because I'll be adding them as I go along.
[P.P.S.] Air Canada is shit
No Dodgy Apples
I just paid my first visit to the new Whole Foods "market" on High Street Kensington. I've been holding out for many months to see the new affair - hoping for somewhere to find some varied and interesting lunch food (ie. not from a chain) and pick up a treat for dinner every blue moon.
It is a literally an entire department store for shiny, beautiful food. I must have spent an hour walking through three aisle-long salad bars, a cheese "room", piles and piles of glistening fruit and vegies and herbs packed to the roof, 2483 different types of jams and god knows how many olive oils, soya chips and wheat-free gluten-free muffins, a meat section where an entire cabinet contained only sausages - singly laid out in rows of every conceivable (and inconceivable) flavour, the equivalent of a food court upstairs where you can chose between a smoothies, oysters, sushi or steak tartare, and a huge snake queue with hundreds of flashing tills on the way out.
The experience was so overwhelming that in the end (at 3pm) I ran away and bought a sandwich from M&S.
A picture tells 64 words
More photos, a little belated.
Therein lies the new addittion to our household (Alfie), the lime cheesecake with pineapple and passionfruit that I slaved over and we only ate HALF of, Edd and Sandra and their uni-antics at Hayden's little birthday bash, Dan being very persistent with the Yike, Hayden fighting for some cause or other and the beautiful, now empty jelly belly candy-ball machine from Mike and Soph!
Oh, and our take on the Underground Nation's rock-star from Jackson Jackson (bottom clip).
A new movement has spawned. I've dubbed it the 'online revelation'.
In this age of complex technology and life moving at an impossible pace, people are drawn to the new breed of online appliances where you can express exactly who you want to be (or be seen as). Hell, you can even get the internet to tell you who you really are. On facebook you can be as popular as you have ever wanted to be if you can click a few buttons. My latest venture - Last.FM - claims to foretell your music tastes, and becomes more intelligent with age. Somehow I find this offensive and part of some grand online dictatorship, but it appeals to my ego too much for me to care.
The interesting thing is that all of these revelation-applicances seem to be created by skint university students who develop their ideas obsessively while surviving on a diet of rice and chickpeas and living in tents, before being bought out by giant companies for trillions.
Something bad will come of this.
Strawberry Smoke and Grizzly Bears
I'm going to Canada!
With some good news on the funding front, I'm off to Banff in July. In the handbook for the course, they advise us that it is common to see elk, deer and coyotes as well as grizzly or black bears, wolves or even cougars! Apparently elk are dangerous during mating / calving seasons, and there's a special number to call if you see one on campus. hawhaw
The other night we went to a shisha bar with some college friends, and had a go at inhaling the apple and strawberry stuff. It was quite fun and the night became more interesting when we were called into the back room where a variety of dark-skinned girls were shakin' their asses like I've never seen before, and even gave a lesson to the white college musicians I was with, who didn't really have arses anyway. It was lovely and atmospheric, and I'm somewhat outraged that shisha bars will become illegal when the smoking laws take effect on July 1st. It's such a peaceful passtime and so rich in culture..
Once again, stupid country.
The Metallic Widows
Just returned from a week's residency at a school in Worcester with the fabulous trio. We spent the week working with the languages department in the high school, and did a project with the dancers. So we were rapping in french, scaring the kids with lots of extended techniques, and inspiring an entire primary school to go home and ask their parents if they can buy a harp.
We had a great time together and learned oodles about teaching, learning, the education system and why people are so damn happy outside London. 8am on Monday morning and the staffroom was full of happy chattery teachers! Amazing..
We also had the opportunity to perform in the gorgeous Worcester Cathedral, Hereford Duke's Palace and the school itself, where we played a piece that the dancers had worked with us on. It was an inspiring week that has made me think a lot about education and how important music is in it.
We asked the students to come up with a suitable name for the trio, as we're still going by the working title of "Kleiner trio" which I find perpetually boring. The kids were creative and came up with the likes of "The Metallic Widows", but the winner so far was from the French department, who suggested "Bow-Blow-Pluck".
I love Alfie
I love Alfie because Alfie loves me. He appeals to my vanity and lets me take as many photos of myself as I like with lots of cool settings. He's beautiful and when i press a little button on the tiny controls, he plays music and movies soooo nicely. It only takes him 20 seconds to wake up.
Resurrected, Living in a Light House
Yes, wow, there's photos up there.
They would be of..
Us in sunny Torquay
Sheree's "school uniform" dress-up 50th
Hayden learning the secrets of a paella at Carla's with her family
Apparently Australians are famous for making chocolate and ice-creams in Holland.. complete with quasi aboriginal designs. hrm..
Amsterdam: leaning houses, Rij-museum, Concertgebouw
Cubic houses in Rotterdam
Pancakes for breakfast
Another interesting Aussie contribution
Koffie met Slagroom
It's 1am and Hayden is sleeping quietly and I'm afraid to go to sleep because he's got me hooked on this bloody DS game called puzzle quest, and every time I close my eyes I'm matching rows and columns of red, green, yellow and blue gems, skulls and purple stars. Dammit.
Last week we had a relaxing holiday in Holland. We visited Mel in Groningen and had a very Australian-style BBQ for all her international friends. She went all out and bought "steaks" (processed meat in the shape of steaks), sourced out pineapple rings and tomato sauce, and did the whole thing on two disposable bbqs (Hayden sat on the ground to cook everything). We also saw Rotterdam by night and the cool Cubic Houses, and stayed a few nights in Amsterdam.
We were in a youth hostel, and the website review called this particular one a "glorified refugee camp". That was quite true, except we were lucky to share our room with about 15 other Americans, something I would hope even refugees never get submitted to. We didn't spend much time in there though - more time walking through the nicer streets of Amsterdam, eating gouda kaas (cheese), pancakes and poffertjes, marvelling at some Van Gough, multi-storey bicycle-parks and hidden Nunneries, eating chips with satay sauce or mayonaise, and embarking on our fruitless search to find a Dutch restaurant. We returned relaxed, and belive it or not, with a bit of sun-colour.
The System is Shit
We woke up especially early this morning to ring in for Glastonbury tickets. From 9am sharp we were pressing redial on two phones and reload on the webpage, all of which wouldn't connect. Despite the fact that we were one of 400,000 that pre-registered, and there were 170,000 tickets on the go, we DIDN't EVEN GET THROUGH to speak to any human or machine. The odds weren't that bad. And we were in the percentile that cared.
I'm certain there's some big conspiracy about the whole thing. There's GOT to be a secret - a Glastonbury in the know that only people who have done it before have the key to.
We have a tent, dammit!
We know a place,
Right now it's hailing, snowing and sleeting all at once. And this big frozen mush that looks like see-through bird poo is covering the cars and the pavement. Seriously, this place is so damn charming.
C'est Ma Paella ... Maximum
So Saturday saw a 50th 'school uniform' party of one of my cousins in Chav(wog)-central: Southend. No need to elaborate.
Sunday we went to my jmwo friend Carla's new house, which as it turns out is so close to our old place in Greenwich, that we used to walk past it almost every weekend. Her parents were there from Spain and we were privvy to a bona fide Valencian paella, made in the traditional enormous pan. It was a great afternoon with a very continental feel - food, food and rolling around whilst eating more food.
Today I saw a bumble bee. Which according to the BBC means that it's spring.
I Wish I'd Been Born A Girl..
I don't really get the idea of weekends here. Firstly I work from so early and so intensely on Saturday that I'm shattered for the rest of the day, like this week when I slept from 4-7pm while Hayden cooked up a chocolate storm (hint taken). And then Sunday comes round and the weather's always so damn miserable that if you've managed to rip yourself away from the couch to go outside, all you can do without spending a truckload of money is go for a walk and revel in the misery. And then you still get a Sunday headache.
So this week I have an interesting gig. It's a funeral. Not sure if it's right to call it a 'funeral gig'.. It's a reminder that musicians are whores and if we want to earn money we have to be prepared to do everything.
High on Painkillers
The doctor told me to take a cocktail of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, up to the maximum daily amount in order to kick this thing. She asked me a series of questions - am I under more stress than usual, have I changed my surroundings recently, is there anything I can remember that could have triggered this off?
The only thing I could come up with is that I may be allergic to teaching, as I seem to get a headache often when I return home from work.
Do you think that's just wishful thinking?
A Musical Update
Last night the Kleiner Trio (working title) held their first performance at a musical society in Farnborough. The concert was a wonderful success, and were received very well, especially at the enjoyable (and delicious!) supper after the concert. It was a real pleasure to play for and meet the local people who are all so keen on live music.
Last week I was fortunate to have worked with Vladimir Ashkenazy when he came to College to conduct Rachmaninov's second piano concerto. He was such a lovely person - so short in the flesh but full of spark and always equipped with jokes (about pianists). Although the one rehearsal we had with him was cut short ("what more is there to do?"), he was so musical that he inspired everyone to play well. I would quite like to adopt him, as a grandfather.
To start the year off musically, I was on another Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra tour during December and January. I hate to sound repetitive but it was a fabulous tour. We went to Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, and highlights included playing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in the Berlin Philharmonie, Dvorak's New World Symphony in the Kurhaus at Den Haag, playing Bolero with a Dervish Dancer swirling around by the stage, having an auditorium built especially for the orchestra, and rehearsing in it during its construction (i can still taste the dust..) and traveling with a wonderful bunch of people.
So, so far this year has been packed with musical entertainment (always a good thing), and there's more to come with information on my Final Recital (March) to follow shortly.
A Musical Forewarning
I met a gentleman at a gig last night who marveled at my musical email address: "firstname.lastname@example.org". Having only communicated with this man via phone and possibly my regular unmusical email, I have been inspired to revive my musical website, since it is now apparent that even 85 year olds can 'google' me with ease.
You have been warned.
Real Bacon and Eggs
Having suffered weeks of watching the "Finglish" (F-ing English) devour god awful towers of hotel imitation English breakfasts in Spain, I was still able to thoroughly enjoy the one artery-clogging tradition that we've embraced in England - the sunday fry-up.
So I'm back, unpacked, accepted the inevitable welcome-back cold (both the illness, and the weather) and now it's time for some photos.
In order of appearance,
I'm very excited about being in the bungalows tonight, back in the icy cold land where they eat white bread with butter and sprinkles for breakfast! Be Organic!
The group is fantastic this time. Everyone is friendly and mad in equal measure, and weÂ´ve had many great hours in the London Bar on London Street (in Benidorm). The barman, from London (Kingston) finds us a constant source of entertainment and is looking forward to our return in a week.
So, adios and watch out for the crazy musical group painting europe red.
Watch my dog eat snow
Top of 2 degrees tomorrow!! Ooh there's a chance we're in for a Christmas covering.
What are the odds?!
Like a Rockstar
This Forsaken Country
Come winter (which starts sometime in September and ends in about June) it seems to be very hard to get anything done in this country. Every time I have good intentions, something - the cold, the dark, the miserable people - knocks it right out of me before I've even begun. Thus my excuse for not having practiced properly for weeks, for eating lots of naughty things and being far too cold/sad/lazy to exercise them off, and for leaving a trillion things undone, as I'm usually so overwhelmed I don't even know where to begin. NOW I really understand the reasoning behind new years' resolutions.
There's only 2 weeks until Christmas, and I'll be back in Spain in 16 days. Fabulous repertoire, fabulous people (except all the ones that aren't coming back!!) and amazing places to go. But somewhere between worrying about the heating bills, making 6 potatoes last a week and those goddamn mice I've lost the mental image that keeps me going.
Stupid, stupid country.
After too many years to recall, my last pair of pyjama pants have finally ripped and died a horrible horrible death. That's the last and probably most important item of clothing that I now don't own because my poor status forces me to decide between eating dinner and covering my body. I'd much rather eat dinner.
A tasty treat
The weekend before last, we saw the swingle singers who were, like, totally AWESOME. It was a fabulous, intimate gig with loads of special guests, including the very memorable Shlomo, human beatbox extraordinaire.
This weekend we saw Pan's Labyrinth - the second in a recent spate of top Spanish films in the cinema. This is an adult-intended kids fairytale - certainly not a film intended for the kids of the main character's age! Me he gustado mucho. Es una pelicular muy muy bien.
As you can see, I have finally decided to put the photos from my wonderful viaje in Spain up. Plus one from when I cut Hayden's hair ages ago (don't worry, the side poofs are gone.. unfortunately).
So, there's the floods out the front of the apartment during the "days of rain", Jordi's fabulous attempt at karaoke (BIEN-VE-NI-DOS, oh god), boys on the beach ("mine's this big"), family Lopez-Perez (my Spanish family) at the dinner table, visiting fellow JMWOers Manolo and Elena in their town and enjoying the never-ending Spanish sun.
feast on that.
Elysian is travelling the Colleges seducing the respectave student bodies. Either we'll have a rocky roll upwawrds, or die a slow, painful death - there's no turning back now. It might be a case of selling body parts to pay debts for what we're getting into, but since we own very little and still don't have our deposit back, there's not all that much to lose.
I still haven't come up with an ingenious name for our trio yet, and this morning I was toying with the whole name-merging thing which is quite fun but naff. Anyway, since we have Claire and Lydia, I came up with 'Clamydia trio' (m in the middle could stand for "me", I suppose). Well, I thought it was funny at 8am.
Should I laugh or cry?
My final recital is on my birthday!!!!
I suppose I'll have reason to celebrate that night whatever the outcome.
And a week or two beyond that!
It couldn't have been any other way..
Que hay de nuevo?
Soy pelirroja otra vez.
Voy a España este jueves para diez dias.
Aqui, in Inglaterra, hace frio
.. pero, no es importa. Hola la playa de Alicante!
Obsessive Compulsive Galactica (Disorder)
Like, SO fantastic.
When I'm queen of the world, I'm going to ban putting cheese on top of spinach in toasted sandwiches. It belongs underneath, on top of the meat or tomato or whatever, and will normally stay put without qualms, as opposed to having cheese soup to clean up if it were to find its way above the spinach.
Some people just don't understand...
So, we've both been flat off our feet lately, and what do you do when the going gets tough?
Change your hair, of course.
Hayden's gone for the LOOK AT ME style once again, and I'll come out with whatever my mood determines on wednesday, when I'm submitting my poor head to the student academy. It's cheap, harmless and makes people stare. Who needs expensive clothes/shoes/toys?!
I was walking through the park on my way to work this morning when I saw a woman waving her arms about and a body lying on the ground. Of course I ran over to see what had happened and it turned out that seconds earlier the man on the ground, who was previously out jogging, had launched himself into the fence then commenced an epileptic fit. I helped the lady and another man who was nearby to hold him down, he was convulsing extremely violently, bashing his head on the ground and choking. After the initial shock faded I vaguely recalled things about rolling the victim on their side, protecting the head and getting the tongue out of the way - fuzzy recollections from probably 5 minutes worth of teaching at school. We called the paramedics, who turned up fairly quickly, and by then he had calmed down (but was still non-responsive).
A sobering start to the morning, what really angered me was that the woman mentioned that when the episode started, there was a jogger right next to them that she was screaming out to help for who didn't even stop. And when the three of us were tending to him, thanks to the British peoples' stoicism for keeping their noses out of other people's business, many walked or jogged by feigning indifference until they were virtually upon us, when some meekly offered "if they could help". What is wrong with these people! What if it had been them? I was running towards the scene before the other woman even saw me, and that was on auto-pilot, before I had the slightest clue what was going on.
I heart Cyprus
Lost on the net
(and other isms)
I seem to have finally found my feet churning through Javier Maria's translation of a novel, Your Face Tomorrow. Initially rendered irascible by the ornate and convoluted linguistic epithet, I now not only find vehement pleasure in consulting the dictionary once every other page, but have embarked on my very own journey of self-instruction. Commencing with a reference to Orwell's Homage to Catalonia of which I began reading an online transcription, I migrated to the History of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) which brought me to rectify my puerile ignorance of the involved regimes: Socialism, Communism, Fascism and onto Marxism, Trotskyism et al. Thanks to Wikipedia and the internet in general, I'm expecting to glean from this novel a resulting slightly more sophistocated and educated update of myself than can be expected from your average yarn.
Tomfoolery aside, we went to the Brick Lane festival yesterday which is a big mess of curry stands (mm), live music and strange people. I took Hayden to see my latest interest - Acoustic Ladyland who performed a great set. In the audience was none other than Julian Barratt, legend of the Mighty Boosh. Which means we've been out thrice in a weekend! Stupendous!
My first date
Since I was all alone this evening (Hayden was at work, stocktaking) and quickly getting bored of myself, I decided to go out. Yes, all on my own.
I resolved to finally get me down to an indie music night since I've been meaning to for the last, hrm... three years. I started off with dinner for one at the Hummus bar in Soho - a groovy little place where you can get a plate of the stuff with yummy toppings and hot pitta bread for about 3 squids. Anyway, Madame JoJo's is small and red and, well, like a former strip club. The main act who I came to see, Acoustic Ladyland were outrageous. Modern jazz meets death metal, that you can dance to! They were such characters too - the drummer was this white boy with the most enormous home-grown afro I've ever seen, expression cool as a cucumber whilst smashing away, the keyboardist could have been mistaken for a composer walking around my college with a briefcase, bass player kitted in your indie-rock suit+tie+loud glasses and the frontman looked like a tall 1920s villain, dressed plainly but bobbing up and down with his saxophone like a maniac possessed. The music was very funny, in a good way. I really enjoyed it.
And then I saw Blair from Australian Big Brother / Neighbours. But that's not terribly exciting.
Proms and Circumstance
Saw Lang Lang playing Chopin piano concerto 1 at the RAH last night, as part of the Proms. Aah the convenience of being at College. I was able to spend the afternoon practicing whilst languidly keeping one eye on the 'arena' queue, which I decided to join at around 5pm. Inside, I managed to stand behind only 2 rows of people, so I could literally see the sweat on Lang Lang's face. It was fantastic.
Having said that I was prepared to queue all day to see Lang Lang. He was absolutely phenomenal. Such a compelling performance (I completely forgot my legs were sore from standing all day) and amazing to see him so close! His encore was out of this world and nearly made me burst into tears (in a good way). The Albert Hall was packed and it was all so wonderful...
...And all that for 5 pounds?! Go the Proms!
[Edit:] Bruckner 7 is now my all-time favourite after hearing the Berlin Phil thrash it out last night.. Whoa, the energy!
We attempted our first paella the other night which turned out a roaring success. So much so that Hayden and I almost ate the whole lot, and you can see it's not small. We also had a dabble at Kahlua creme brulee when Melanie came around on the weekend, which was great too but so rich we were all rolling around with stomach aches.
Yesterday Mel and I saw Ant and Dec (yes, together), went to a lunchtime prom, had chocolate at my favourite shop, ate chunky chips and tried on uber expensive dresses at Karen Millen. We looked so out of place there and when the dress I tried on started beeping, we did a runner!
Cat arrives from Australia on thursday. Just in time for the snow, probably.
We are wombles
As an elderly lady poignantly pointed out to me yesterday,
Winter is upon us!
Part of unpacking is organising all the mess you've been putting off for years. Just filtered through all our memorabilia - old cards, letters and photos. It's scary how much I've changed since 2003.
After three days of constant unreturned phonecalls to our agent..
elisse: finally.. we get to speak
agent: yeah, i've been trying to get in touch with you guys for ages
e: ... uh, i think we've all been trying to get hold of each other. Anyway, what's the deal?
a: what's the deal with what?
e: what's going on? don't you need some money a few days before we move in? And don't we need to sign contracts and stuff?
a: oh yeah, well that's what's supposed to happen, but it doesn't really matter. You're moving in tomorrow, aren't you?
So, just like that, after a week in the dark we're "moving in tomorrow". I have a whole house to pack into boxes today, among other things.
So the photos are up there.
As you can see there's not many photos that have anything to do with music.. The collection includes:
-Beer with the woodwinds
-A particularly cool night out in Picassent
-Our fantastic Italian meal in Valencia followed by our 'bold and the beautiful' promo shot (it just turned out that way, honest)
-Dressed up for the first concert in Denia
-More Valencia: mueseum of Belles Artes, Marijana spilling chocolate ice cream all over her white dress
-Barcelona: at Park Guell, the Greek theatre we played in (after 70 years and the threat of rain..), Barri Gothic, the port and view from our hotel pool
-Cyprus: fiesta siesta, dinner in the tavern, breakfast in our cute hotel, military helicopters on top of us at the beach, St Lazarus and the view from where we played that night: outside the Virgin club
-Greek amphitheatre and the crazy airport in Cyprus, full of refugees
-Fun at Galileo followed by some pics from Segovia with the cool Aqueducts and the 'smile' dance
-Post final concert in Sagunt with the vegetarians, crazy mates and Principal Conductor Josep Vicent
-Sunrise of the parting day, Valencia beach
Il pleure dans mon coeur
It's pissing it down in London.
We arrived yesterday afternoon and already the mouldy cold-misery rot of being in this sodding place has returned. I plan to spend my days sorting out photos from the tour, packing up the house (moving next weekend), detoxing my poor neglected body and generally getting my life in order.
Jonathan has departed with the TV, so this should be a fairly productive week. Either that or I'll be climbing the walls shortly.
It's not all bad. I'll be back in Spain in less than 5 months.
I swear this place is more familiar than my old halls in London now. We returned back to our dorms in Valencia from Cyprus, which validates this place as another home away from home. Leaving Cyprus was interesting - we shared the airport with refugees from Lebanon and surrounding areas, all massing around queues for "all flights". We were delayed and close to missing our connecting flight because of it.
We just watched a documentary of the tour in China one year ago, which has made many of the new members think twice about complaining about our current conditions. I'm enjoying myself and I feel like everything, especially the admnistration feels more relaxed this time round, so it will be nice to have a break from the English's favourite passtime which seems to be catching on around here.
Although, having said that, it's back to Galileo's f***ing paella again for the next week!
Cyprus seems like a ghost island - like everyone decided to build stuff here a few years ago and just left it all part done. It's very unusual.
It's amazingly warm and the first night we were put in a "room" which had two matresses with grainy sheets, a filthy carpet, water that ran brown when you first turned it on (i've only ever seen that in movies..) and NO AIRCONDIONING. For that reason I was not refreshed and prepared for the concert that evening, which didn't go so well for me, especially when someone's phone went off during the first woodwind solo. Anyway, the unlucky few of us have been relocated to a lovely quaint traditional sort of place, and last night we had a good time - Jill slept over so we had three in the bed! We also had a lovely breakfast (so much watermellon here! Hayden I'm thinking of you).
Today we went on an excursion to the beach in Lanarca, and spent ALL DAY there! A few of us walked for an hour and a half into the "town centre" to see St Lazarus church, which was pretty lavish, but the town didn't consist of very much. The beach was great - the water was so warm and it was nice to get some sun, but it was a bit creepy being right next to the airport and seeing all these military planes and helicopters coming and going, and some menacing looking navy ships out at sea. I felt like such an innocent tourist.
Tomorrow we're off to Limassol, where we play a concert outdoors in Hero's Square, then have ANOTHER free day to get a feel for the place! Before we came, we had an incredible 2 days in Barcelona where Jordi (my flute-partner/tourguide) gave us some amazing whirlwind tours. I can't wait to spend a week there - there seems like so much to explore.
So, all in all I'm very happy because we're being given time to get a feel for the place we're in, and we're also bonding really well because of it. I can't even imagine going back to "normal life" in England at the moment...
Haloumi on the cards
Since Hayden's so much as abandoned our site, I'll take it upon myself to tell you some little highlights of the tour, while I have internet (which is only for one more day!).
6 of us went out for a fabulous spanish/italian meal last night in Valencia city and saw the amazing historical centre all lit up at night. The night was so refreshing and ripped us out of our canteen-food depression. Today I made it to the beach for the first time (it's only 15 minutes walk away!) and topped up on vitamin E, at last.
Tonight we're playing our first concert in Denia, which is an outdoors event, apparently. Should be very interesting acoustics.. Tomorrow we're off to Barcelona then fly from there to Cyprus. So the adventure starts!
Saganaki.. here I come
JMWO take 2
It's intense, as expected, and to pair things off evenly I managed to get the most drunk I remember being last night after going into town with the gang. Work hard, party hard.. Good thing this only happens twice a year. Not sure I could survive any more.
Post no. 69
We hosted our first ever couch surfers last week - Kat and Norm from Virginia. They were great fun to have around, and we had a lovely couple of days together. We showed them around our territory (Greenwich park, Cutty Sark, etc) and enjoyed a great British "pub grub" meal - fish and chips, bangers and mash! They also had a laugh at Hayden on his unicycle.
In other news, my hair is different, again. I had another Tony&Guy Academy trip, and this time said the right thing when asked what I wanted done: something funky and different. They don't need to be told twice! I was put in the advanced group and given a free head of colour, so I'm not complaining, except that my appointment was for 1:45, and I finally left at about quarter to 6.
The Paris Diaries ..only a week and a half late
This comes with a warning: read at your own risk! We take no responsibility if you become blind, fall asleep and slide off your chair or tear all your hair out.
SO, over the long weekend we went to Paris! Firstly, congratulations to the Eurostar on the British side. To get to Waterloo from our house is a single train ride, 15 minutes max. Everything's automagic - tickets checked, through passport control, on the train and gone in 15 minutes! It was a seamless journey, and the best bit was that we arrived at Gare du Nord - 4 minutes walk from our destination, chez Rozenblums. We indulged in some lovely home cooked french food before heading off to our quarters, in the basement of Charles Rozenblum's gallery.
We did an obscene amount of walking on the trip, managing to limit ourselves to approximately 1 metro journey each day. Saturday morning, armed with pain au raisins (we were too late for croissants.. at 9:30am!) we headed to Notre Dame, via the Georges Pompidou Centre. We then got lost (intentionally) and walked through the gorgeous streets of the right bank, finding our way eventually to that big thing called the Eiffel Tower. We decided to spend a good portion of the afternoon just looking at the thing, while savouring the delights of an impromptu picnic - fresh bread, saussison, camembert cheese and of course, red wine. Staggering back along the river, we came accross the Musée D'Orsay, with the intention of going in, but saw the snake queue folded four times over and gave up. With the wine taking effect (on Hayden) we went up to Sacre Coueur, Monmartre where Hayden promptly fell asleep on the grass. That night we went out to some street festival with the Rozenblums. I asked them what it was about, and their answer amounted to "Nothing. Who needs a reason to party?".
Sunday we went straight to the bakery to make sure we had our fill of croissants. We got some fabulous fresh ones which we ate by the canals, before heading to the Marais, where we went to the Picasso museum. The museum was fantastic, small enough to see everything in an hour (before museum-headache sets in). When we were having coffee in the garden (which Hayden ordered.. in french!), a middle-aged Australian couple approached us, apparently having recognised my Australian "rip curl" jacket, and shared an eye-watering flashback of when they were tripping around Europe, going to museums like this one when they were our age. How sweet!
We then went to Rue des Rosiers in the Marais, but not without stopping off at an amazing artisan chocolaterie, which had thin freshly-made sheets of amazingly flavoured chocolate! The ones we walked away with were white chocolate with exciting bits like pistacios and walnuts, dark chocolate laced with orange chocolate, and a thrilling dark chocolate laced with chilli chocolate. Anyway, we strolled through the Jewish pocket of Paris and had an awesome falafel "experience". It felt like being in Israel - people speaking a mix of French and Hebrew, especially with the chaos and noisy atmosphere. It was a good, cheap meal and the homemade lemonade was superb.
We tried to walk it off going to meet Maud at Montpanasse, but got distracted by the famous Bertillon ice cream, opposite Notre Dame. We had a Paris 'moment' with our rich ice creams, listening to a street busker play the pianola. Hayden was then roped into a street performer's act which was funny, especially the bit where he was asked his age, then ordered to cover his crotch while the artist juggled sickles on top of him. We had a nice afternoon with Maud, and showed her around Paris (strange?). We went to the Luxembourg gardens, which were packed , then relaxed at a cafe near the gallery.
That night we were planning on going to a wonderful restaurant that I had experienced on a previous visit to Paris. As it turned out, it was closed that night, so we wandered around trying to find somewhere to eat. We stumbled upon the "Pop In" which I'd read about as a little slice of Camden in Paris. We went in for a drink and laughed at all the french youth trying to dress like britpop fans. There was free live music - open mic downstairs and it was lots of fun being mistaken for locals (well, it felt like it) listening to French people sing in a very nasally English! It being about 11:30pm when we finally decided to get some dinner, we came across this cute bistro/pub called "Chez Prune", where they served us the last two plates they had for the night - fromage and chacutrie. Needless to say it was fabulous, again paired with gorgeous red wine. Mmm.
Monday morning we visited my cousin Lucy near the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter. We had a good walk around that area, then she took us somewhere where she does some DJ-ing, which was not so pretty. We left her to go to La Defense and see the "Grande Arche", which we were taken by on our last trip to Paris. We also enjoyed spotting some more cows from a Paris-wide cow display which was taking place. There's a great view down Champs Elysee of the Arc de Triophe from La Defense.
Back at Garre du Nord, we easily spotted the British waiting area, because of the enormous and neat queue of people. Citing problems between the French and English passport control, we left Paris 45 minutes late, in typical French style. We brought back a bag full of french chocolate, a V-shaped sunburn (from my rip-curl jacket) and blistery feet - remenants of the wonderfully enjoyable, eye-opening long weekend we spent in Paris!
...thanks Thea and Bruce
Mahler for Malaria
Caitlin gave me a great idea this morning. Since she's probably about to launch into studying population genetics, we're going to team up with Stef (population health) to save the world. Catherine (commerce/arts) will manage our finances, Holly (travel agent) can cart us off to remote locations and I will help raise funds through charity concerts, and music therapy "to alter your genes".
We came up with a few starter ideas for my concerts.
"I can make you thin with Mozart"
"Bad Back? Try Bach!"
"Tchaikowsky tackles chafing"
"Mahler's Malaria cure"
Debussy for a sexy...
Any interested sponsors?
The Irreproachable Truth
Today I believe in the devil, because I blame him for my uncanny ability to get sick the NIGHT BEFORE any important performance or assessment. It's so common I should really expect to have to perform sick every time. Maybe I should stage my career in a hospital - playing to the staff so they're happier and give me better treatment so I can play to the staff so they're happier..
Oh what to do?
Relax to some Mozart
I'm very excited about performing Mozart's Andante for flute and chamber orchestra this coming Thursday. I will be performing together with Andrew Marriner, principal clarinet of the London Symphony Orchestra, who is playing Mozart's clarinet concerto. On Saturday we then cruise down to Kent, where we'll give another evening concert, with slightly different repertoire. As if that's not enough, there's an exciting College symphony concert sandwiched in between on the Friday evening. I will be playing in Mendelssohn's 'The Fair Melusine' and Szymanowski's Symphony/Piano concerto no. 4. If a classical music hit is what you're after, next week is it!
A New Sport
I've just joined up to the global Couch Surfing phenomenon - where skint travellers curl up on other strangely willing people's couches as a form of free accomodation. It's fabulous because we can now jump on wherever the cheapest flight takes us and stay with complete strangers without spending a penny! They might even become friends in the future.
It is surprising how the internet, being an impersonal thing can lead to such random opportunities like this. It's like internet dating I s'pose: getting to chose who stays with you and who you want to stay with. Somehow it's wrong but still fun.
So, come and stay on our couch. For 4 days maximum. Unless we like you.
It's May Day and once again we are holding what has become our annual tradition (since our first attempt last year): a May Day party. On this day we erect a May Day pole and select a young maiden to play the role of Diane, Goddess of the hunt and Queen of the May. We ask the Gods to bless our agricultural endeavors for the years to come. Loosely translated, that means we clean the house, chill the wine, and make sure we have stacks of home-cooked goodies to kick-start a lazy, boozy afternoon.
Unfortunately, it's the one day of the week that they forecast rain, but all is not lost. We have space.
It's been a while
So much has happened since my last post. In summary:
-We went body-boarding at Torquay which was great fun except when I nearly drowned (Hayden didn't teach me what to do when a giant wave approaches..) and we had an awesome burger at Swell.
-Cooked curry (3 different types!) for Hayden's friendly bunch. It worked!
-Spent a day in Healesville with Maz and Josh. Awesome lasagna!
-Ev's 21st. Dress up as 'what you want to be when you grow up', when you were that age to imagine such things. Can you guess what we were?
-My brother went skydiving. He couldn't stop grinning all day.
-Hayden left, I saw more friends and family, I left (Sally knew) and now we're both back in rainy uk!
Last night we went and saw the Mighty Boosh live. H and I dressed up for the occasion and it went down a treat. The show was fantastic - my head is still spinning from all the strange goings-on! Hayden wore an excellent jacket that attracted many compliments, and I based my costume on the 'Yeti mating season' episode.
I'm allowed to post! It is fantastic to have the Londoner's home with the families. We miss them both, but agree that their life in London is not to be missed! We have all done it ourselves.
So congratulations to Hayden's and Elisse's achievements to date and I am truely looking forward to seeing them after another year of experience in London.
'The girls' and appendages (Hayden, Adam and Dom) went down to Sorrento on Saturday morning to spend a relaxing day and night eating and drinking lots in honour of my birthday. Of course nothing is ever as smooth-running as in the imagined scenarios. After finally finding Danni and her carload and getting them to cruise behind us on the freeway, we noticed lots of smoke behind us. I rang Danni up and asked her if her car was on fire, and although she said 'I don't think so', we suggested she pull over. We had to leave poor Dom on the freeway to babysit the smoking car while we caught up with the rest, already an hour ahead of us!
The lunch was lovely. As you can see from the photos, we were literally ON the beach and the view outside was gorgeous. We've captured the moment hungry Dom joined us (to roaring applause) and Holly standing by the steps because she didn't want to get sand in her shoes.. how un-Australian. We returned to the shack and had a jolly night playing Charades and other kids games all night long.
I'm well on my way to eating 21 Cakes for my 21st birthday..
The photos illustrate the beautiful first almost-week I've spent in sunny Melbourne. Hayden and I rushed down to the beach (2 minutes walk from home) hours after my arrival - it was nearly 30 degrees and my pasty white skin cracked the camera, but the photo of Hayden came out fine. We looked like such (British) tourists.
That night was Omi's 21st - the "family reunited" posed for a photo outside at her cocktail celebration.
The next morning I opened my presents at a lazy outside breakfast (I love this place!) chez Stainsby. I thought my parents had abandoned me, but it turns out they were busy organising a SURPRISE PARTY for me that afternoon. I was completely fooled and speechless when I arrived! It was a fantastic gathering and the chocolate cake was enormous. I couldn't have asked for more!
Last night we went and saw the St Leonards Old Collegians play at school. I can't believe it's been 5 years since I went to St Leos! It was strange going back and I felt very old. The photo is with Megan and Stef who also came to the opening night. I'm seeing the rest of the girls tonight, and we're going away together this weekend - more photos to follow!!
Over and out.
The concert with Claire went really well. It was fun playing in a room full of artworks packed with interested people all dressed casually, but very serious about listening to us. After the concert when people were speaking with us, one man rushed up to me and said "It was such a pleasure.. and such a surprise! Here, take this" and handed me £20!! He was gone before I could come to my senses and give him a hug and tell him not to worry, in a few minutes we will be spending the entire £20 on desserts in the fancy cafe downstairs (the treacle tart was amazing. And the chocolate ice cream had bits in it!!).
Anyway, back home late and preparing for a sleepless night doing my assignment which was due at 1pm the next day. I had done MOST of it when I decided to have a dinner-break at about 11:30pm, closed the lid of my laptop to see the TV, the laptop screen started going mad then suddenly went completely black. I'd saved my work ON THE LAPTOP.. not externally, and with Hayden 2 hours into his flight, the timing for a technology screw-up was perfect. I was up at 6 the next morning rushing to College to re-do the whole thing and hand it in before my rehearsal at 10am, the train station of course was shut, I was high on coffee and feeling queezy and everything just kept getting worse and worse...
So yeah, yesterday was terrible. I handed the assignment in with about 1 minute to go, no proofreading but better done than not. The problem is that everything good comes at a price - a fabulous concert followed by an amazing sugary creamy chocolate filled evening couldn't just be left amazing - it had to be rounded off with misery.
I have a weekend with no internet and no one else at home to look forward to. I might have to turn to watching TV or something disastrous.
I'm watching the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, just after 10am in England. It's so cool to sing the tacky anthem at top volume on this side of the world whilst watching flying trams, the Melbourne Symphony, the Australian Ballet dancing with motorcyclists, a flying skateboarder with a duck, the Yarra river lit up with spunky sculptures, flags and fireworks and of course the fabulous Cat Empire all in my beautiful hometown. I'm so happy to be going home in just over a week! Melbourne really is a great place.
Hayden and suitcase are at their last day of work, leaving tonight. Jonathan's going home for the weekend so it will be a quiet few days for me. But I can wait..
Another kind of art
Claire Jones (harpist) and I will will be performing at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square on Wednesday 15th March. It's part of the 'Wednesday Lates' series, where the gallery is open until 9pm and guests can enjoy a free music recital in the central hall, followed by live Jazz music and bar in the Sainsbury Wing Foyer. We will be performing a selection of entertaining Classical music - nothing too heavy - between 6-7:30pm, so if you're in London town, come and drop by!
I find it funny that the Brits have deemed the 'bloody' ad far too rude for mainstream audiences, and have banned it from TV here. It's amusing because by banning it, they're actually giving it more attention and as a result the ad has already been downloaded over 30,000 times in Britain.. before its launch.
Tourism Minister (of Australia) Fran Bailey said "How anyone can take offence at a beautiful girl in a bikini on a sunny beach inviting them to visit 'down under' is a mystery to me"
The timing was good... only 2 weeks until I leave.
I've got a day off..
We had lunch with Masako and Grant today, who have come to England on what I think is their honeymoon (baffling destination). It was so nice to see them again - we showed them around the College briefly and then went to a cool 'world food/music' cafe for lunch. Afterwards Hayden and I scouted around inner London testing out some of the hidden pleasures this city has to offer - the island's greatest coffee at a new Australian cafe: Flat White and a very reasonably priced, forget-you're-in-england style smelly Italian deli where we picked up some hand made delights for dinner.
This morning I had a very relaxing flute lesson/coffee at my teachers home in Surrey, which was lovely.
All in all it's been a (very) good day, though you don't want to hear about it...
It's sunny and snowing in London today!
It's also pancake day
[edit: well, it was sunny for a whole 10 minutes this morning. False hopes.]
I've been Invited to go on orchestral tour again with the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra for their 2006/7 season. That means touring in the summer to the Mediterranean and the following winter to central Europe.
Travelling and making music.. who could ask for more!
Going to Oz
I'm coming home!
After messy deliberations with freaky flyer points and kind hearted travel agents telling me I was stupid to book a flight at this time and do I know it's Easter? Everyone's travelling then... I'm making it home for my 21st Birthday. I'm missing the last two days of term to get home before the 26th, which could mean that I miss my technical exam, but really that's College's fault for not having organised the date of it yet.
I can't wait to see everyone, the sunshine, the cafes, the 21 cakes I've requested for my birthday....
Some new photos up. Evan and I had a day in the kitchen on Friday, whipping up delights like his lemon and lime tart, my special mince pies (we needed a use for the leftover pastry, and leftover alcoholic fruit from Christmas) and a scrummy dinner of Coq au vin. Last night 'me n the boys' went out with Claire to a German 'Oktoberfest' pub, where some friends of ours from College were playing in an Oompah brass band. We managed to miss the music entirely, but still caught a couple of steins while we were there. Evan now looks like a yeti.
Today I played with the City Chamber ensemble in their lunchime concert at St Olaves. Built circa 1450, interred in the Church's grounds is none other than Mary Ramsay, reputedly the woman who brought the Plague to London, and an eccentric Elizabethan known as 'Mother Goose', who used to knit little boots for her geese so that their feet wouldn't get sore as they were herded to market. The arch over the churchyard's entrance has a cluster of sculls, and a Latin inscription which translates as 'death is a light to me'. Charles Dickens was much taken with this inscription, and in his 'Commercial Traveller', he refers to this Church as 'St Ghastly Grim'.
Anyway, the point is that it's certainly haunted, as no one could manage to turn on the heating while we were there. Being extremely cold (a top of 0 degrees celcius today) meant that the piano - to which we tuned - was extraordinarily sharp, and my flute very flat. This made for some interesting intonation experiments, especially when we were playing Haydn's 'La Poule' (translated as 'The Chicken') Symphony, and the oboe and I took turns at being the solo chicken. We had to apologise to the audience and play in our coats and scarves! My fingers are only just recovering from the ordeal.
Welcome to our new website!
It's a snapshot of the goings-on of Elisse and Hayden in London, far, far away from home. There'll be photos (regularly updated, I promise) and news from the land of the cold and miserable.
This is my second week back in London from a tour of Spain, the Netherlands and Austria with a youth orchestra, JMWO. I met some very cool people and we played in amazing places, including a 5-star hotel - the Kurhaus - in Holland (they built a stage for us overnight!) and the legendary Wiener Konzerthaus. There's some photos up there.
We had a wicked Christmas with Mike, Soph and Evan at home in Aldeburgh St - a rather fancy and intimate affair with so many desserts that we couldn't even try them all! The Christmas tree is decorated with Ferrero Rochers.
Hayden and I went to Brighton on a whim last weekend. As you can see, the "beach" doesn't match up to Brighton beach in Melbourne, Australia... mainly because it's made of ROCKS. I also dyed my hair again - it's back to the preferred dark red.
And finally, It's Mozart's birthday today. Happy birthday, dude. And thanks for the Nachtmusik.