Saturday, 31 August 2013


Every so often, I stumble across something on the internet that genuinely impresses me.  Lots of things I like, but it isn't that often that I'm really blown away.

This video is a perfect example of someone with a serious talent.

The first few seconds you think "what on earth have we got here?"  Then she starts to play...


Nearly time...

Tomorrow it will be September.

September is exciting for many reasons:

1:  It's my birthday month.  This year I "celebrate" it with a marathon night time walk around London in aid of cancer research UK - specifically focusing on their leukaemia research branch - after that horrible disease took my grandma in the 1990s.  She was someone who I would very much have liked to have known better.

I am after sponsorship, so if anyone is so inclined to do, or feels as strongly as I do about beating cancer, please do make a donation.  It's so easy and completely secure.

2:  It's back to school!  Now, whilst I enjoy the 6 week break very much, I don't really mind the fact that I have to go back to 6:45am get-ups.  I'm back to teaching Reception, which is my very favourite year group.  They are so much fun at that age, but I literally have to teach them everything.  Just something as simple as forming a straight line to walk down the corridor is something I have to actively teach them.  Each year I forget how much they don't know.  But they change so much, and so quickly.  It's amazing.

3:  The change in seasons.  September is always the month when you step outside for the first time and feel that very distinct chill in the air.  It's very distinct, and quite different from just a "cool" summers day.  I really like the first day I notice that.  Generally the weather through to Christmas, although cold, is pretty harmless.  It's Jan/Feb that really suck.

In all, September is just the month of "new".  It's a bit of New Years all over again.

Friday, 30 August 2013

So, I went on holiday...

I wanted to see how Movie Maker worked, so over the course of a little mini-break to Somerset(ish), I took a few short clips.

I put them together into a little movie.  It's really, really easy to do!

You can watch it here.  If you want.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Am I Old?

On a forum I visit sometimes, there was a thread asking "what have you done this weekend?"  This is what I've done -

Yesterday I watched an online screening of the opera "Billy Budd", which I've been looking forward to for quite a while. After watching it through once, I went back and re-watched some of the best bits. Then had a craving for my "special mashed potatoes" so made them. Then washed my hair and watched a LoveFilm disc.

Today I finished a book I've been enjoying "The Orphan Master's Son", whilst drinking coffee and eating bourbons, then I watched the Tom Hardy documentary about poaching on ITV Player. Plans for the rest of the day involving making tea next, having a bath whilst starting on my next library book. Then I may watch a DVD as there doesn't seem to be much decent on TV tonight.

And then I realised I must be getting old.

Reasons Why:

1:  I watched an opera.
2:  I liked it so much I went back to watch some bits again.
3:  I got excited by mashed potatoes.
4:  I read a book.
5:  I watched a documentary about rhino poaching.
6:  I borrow library books.

What my weekend should have been like.

Wellll...  Saturday day time I went up town and spent £60 on clothes and had a McDonalds Happy Meal.  Then I went to Tesco and bought a shit-ton of alcohol and got ID'd.  Then I went to Adele's house and we got good and drunk and then went up Wetherspoons and then Embryos nightclub. 

Today I have a stonking hangover, so went to McDonalds for a mcmuffin.  Then I went back to bed.

I'm just not cool any more.  Or perhaps just not 18 any more.  Those were the good old days.  ;)

Friday, 23 August 2013

I'd Tap That

My brain took one of it's convoluted, tangled little strolls this afternoon.

It began with a 3-hour long performance of Benjamin Britten's opera 'Billy Budd', which I've wanted to see for a long time, and found out about a month ago that Glyndebourne opera company were doing an online screen of the 2010 performance of the show.  Anyway, it was very good, and as it's an all-male cast, there were plenty of opportunities for eye candy.  The chap who played Billy was particularly pleasing on the eye...

This led me to consider that I have a LoveFilm disc to watch.  'Lawless', with Tom Hardy in it as some gun-toting gangster.  Now Tom Hardy is very high up my "I'd Tap That" list.
(Sums up my feelings quite succinctly)
So then my brain went down a very enjoyable path of "so who exactly would join Tom on "Sally's I'd Tap That List"?
So I present, in no particular order...  The List.
Tom Hardy

Okay...  He totally transforms himself physically for every role, looking completely different every time I see him, often looking completely un-lovely.  He has a lot of slightly crap tattoos...  But he films TV shows about saving elephants and played Heathcliff in 'Wuthering Heights' in an extremely sexy manner, so all is forgiven.

Kit Harington

JON SNOW!  For those of you who haven't watched 'Game Of Thrones' I advise you to do so immediately.  Saying "I'm not really into fantasy" is no excuse.  I don't much like fantasy either, but GoT is SO SO SO the exception.  Get to Season 3, then we'll talk.  Because that's when THAT happens, and THAT AND THAT AND THAT.

I got off topic.

Kit is the pretty boy of the show.  But honourable mentions should also go to Jaime Lannister and Robb Stark, and a bonus to Tyrion Lannister for proving that little can be hot as well.

But Kit, all Night's Watch in black and noble and well-meaning and downtrodden and lovely and tasty tasty...  Lovely.

Josh Groban

Oh Josh...  My original dfhafhsdafaguh (that's a wordless typed expression of "You just made my ovaries explode, damn you")
Now he's just in the realms of "so cute!"  But I don't think I'll ever not love him.  If he's in England, I'll make every realistic attempt to see him perform because he's my cheesy little happy drug.

Bradley Cooper & Gerard Butler

A bonus twosome having a man-date at the Wimbledon Men's Final.  Pretty much the best thing about this match, apart from a BRIT WINNING was the camera continually going to this pair of friend-shaped lovebirds.  And they were SO into it! 
I dunno, just these 2 together makes me chuckle.  Gerard...  Reasonably tasty...  But I'm Bradley all the way.  I think it's those baby blue eyes and the butter wouldn't melt face.

Tim Minchin

Tim is the most talented person I've ever encountered.  And in things I admire completely.  Plus he makes me laugh.  For those reasons I can overlook the mad hair.  He is the perfect example of the inside of someone's head winning me over LONG before the external appearance got a look-in.  Now I want to have a 3-hour lunch with him AND have his ginger babies.

Now, 2 bonus categories:

Firstly,  Men over 40 who still qualify as a "Tap That".

Kiefer Sutherland

No...  Actually, just give me the entirely fictional Jack Bauer...  Grrrr

Kenneth Branagh

Had a soft spot for him since I can't remember when...  But saw him recently in Macbeth and it just reminded me that "oh yeah... I like him as well."

Second bonus category - The girl crush.

Jennifer Lawrence

Not because she's exceptionally beautiful, but because she says stuff like this ^.  And she kicks butt as Katniss in The Hunger Games.

So which lovely men (or women!) are on your list?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Youtube Favourites - Jenna Marbles

I'll preface right now: -

Jenna Marbles will not be to everyone's taste.  For instance, if you're particularly anti-bad language, she's not the Youtuber for you.

Me?  I find her absolutely hilarious.  She says what women my age are thinking, but don't get around to saying, or documenting in an amusing fashion.

Following on are my top 5 Jenna Marbles videos.  In no particular order, because that would be just too hard.

1:  How Girls Pack A Suitcase

Some highlights:
"Dresses.  Coz I'm a fuckin' lady."
"Some flippy floppies."
"Some tampies."

2:  How Girls Get Dressed
Some highlights:
"This shirt smells like pee!  I wander who did that?  *looks at dog*  You fuck-face."
"I guess I'll just wear this sweatshirt... the same sweatshirt I wear every day..."
"It's not raining out."

3:  I Hate Being A Grown Up

Some highlights:
"You just had a baby?  Congratulations.  I looked at pictures of cats today."
"Mum!  What's for dinner?  Oh yeah, that's right.  She doesn't live here."

4:  How Diets Work

Some highlights:
"Nothing like a hot delicious salad..."
"I'm fucking starving."

5:  My Epic Halloween Costume

Some highlights:
Not a comedy video per se, but still fun!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

How To Be A Grown-Up

About 18 months ago, I started my own list of things it is handy to keep in mind in order to be a good pretend-adult.  Basically, things I encountered and thought "I should remember that".
Leave a comment if you have any good tips of your own.   :)

This is it:

Any courier firm is pretty much guaranteed to screw up any delivery.  Keep a note of the decent ones, and avoid the bad ones like the plague if you can.

At work, don’t offer opinions unless specifically asked to do so.

At work, if new, be quietly polite.  Trust no one.  Don’t worry right away about making friends.  Talk to plenty of different people and see who you click with.  Trust your gut, but when an old-timer in the workplace gives the stink-eye or makes close-to-the-edge comments about someone else…  Heed the warning.  Both of them should be given a wide berth until you have time to make your own judgment. 

That one member of staff who has been nothing but lovely/friendly/charming to you, but about whom no one else has a single good thing to say, should probably be avoided.  Put them in your mental box of “people I can smile sweetly at, but must be guarded around”.

Perfect the “staff meeting face”.  It means a neutral expression for the most part, but try and make eye contact with whoever is speaking, nod thoughtfully and go “hmmm” from time to time.

If you’ve bought something a few times and decide you just don’t like it… stop buying it “just to try”.

The above rule applies mostly to tea and porridge.  You don’t like them.  Ever.  I have a weird thing about buying both of them occasionally, just to see if I suddenly like them.  I don’t.

Any food that comes in any sort of Christmassy packaging, other than established brands of chocolate or sweets, is usually awful.  Save that craving for bacon-wrapped sausages and mozzarella sticks for another time.

Don’t save important things to “do tomorrow”, because you’ll forget or something else will come up that means you can’t do it.  Do them now.

Don’t rely on the internet to work tomorrow either.  Send that important email/do that important work thing right now.  It’s just easier.

Always keep a pot of change in the house, and keep it topped up regularly.  £2 and 50p coins are both good ones to save.  I have pots of both.

Similarly, a purse in the glove compartment of your car with a few quid inside can only be a good idea, and is perfect for unexpected parking fees/service station coffees.  Just remember to take it out when the car goes to the garage for its service.

Keep your own records.  Days worked, money paid, cancellations, anything important.  Don't rely on an employer to remember how much they owe you.

Set up an adult filing system for important documents that would make sense to your mum in the case of an emergency.  That pile on top of the bookshelf is not a filing system.

Get phone credit before you run out.  22p remaining is not enough.

Never say “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”  You won’t. 

If you have holiday time and want to take an actual holiday that involves travel, money and effort, always do it in the first half of your break if you get the chance.  NEVER the last half.  Do that and you’ll just feel disgruntled and like you’ve not had a break, however lovely your actual holiday was.  It turns out that the most restful place to be is your own home.

The ring road, may be further, but it’s ALWAYS quicker than driving through the town centre.

Don’t go to supermarkets on Saturdays, unless you plan to be there before 8am.

Always do the washing up on the day you make the mess.  Because you’ll hate it So Much More tomorrow.  A dirty kitchen in the morning is horrible.

Take that little pile of recycling to the bins every time you have a bin bag to chuck out.  So much easier to manage than a massive pile once a month.  The same goes for other bins around the house.  At least check them before going downstairs.

Fill up the windscreen washer before a winter drive of any length, particularly if it’s rural or involves motorways.  You’ll be pleased you did.

If you’re not sure whether to say that thing to that person.  Not saying it is probably the best thing to do.  Or at least make a decision to sleep on it or save it for another time.

Always carry painkillers and lady products (if you’re a lady!)  Just in case.  There’s nothing quite like a nagging low-level headache to ruin an otherwise lovely meal out with friends.

If a social occasion comes up that you aren’t 100% sure you are going to enjoy… drive there.  A car is a perfect get-away vehicle for when you’ve had enough.

Don’t go to parties when you only know the host.  Even the most outgoing person in the world would hate that.

Chuck some bleach down the loo once a week.  Again:  Easier.

Buy new loo roll when you start on the last roll of the previous packet.

Have that list in your head of “Things You’ll Need Until You Die”, that you can stock up on if you see them on a great special offer.  For me it’s washing up liquid, toothpaste and hand wash.  Things that won’t go out of date.

Try and do at least one thing every day that makes your living space nicer.  Even if it’s just “straighten out that row of shoes”.

Be the person who reaches out to friends first.  When you think, “wow, I haven’t spoken to Sarah in a long time”, be the one who emails first.  Then at least, come what may, you’ll know you did your part.

Try and maintain your house with a frame of mind that “I’m moving out in 3 months” (even, and especially, if that’s not true).  That’ll help keep the clutter at bay and you’ll become an expert of getting rid of that junk you’ll never use or need.

Ebay stuff like DVDs and computer games.  They will sell quite well.  Yeah, you can freecycle or donate most other shit.  But when time or mental resources are low, feel no guilt about throwing the lot in the bin.  If you are hanging on to something because “I should try and sell that”, it’s usually better to just chuck it out.

Actually, it’s usually better to just say nothing.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Choral Bucket List = Achieved!

For as long as I'd been aware of them, there were a few choral classics that were firmly on my bucket list of "pieces I'd love to sing one day".

When I lived in Newbury, it just so happened that one of the oldest amateur choirs in the country rehearsed every week 10 minutes walk from my house.  It was the type of choir that took itself terribly seriously, hired the best conductors they could afford, gathered soloists from the world-famous early music vocalists, "The Sixteen", and had "Seasons".  All terribly serious and very fantastic.

Now, they say that being able to read music isn't a requirement.  Hmm... beg to differ!  I can read music well, and struggled.  Those early rehearsals, I didn't know if I was coming or going.  These were dead serious pieces we were learning, that first concert I prepped for was "opera choruses", just to give you an idea.

To sing in English was unusual to say the least.  We did a lot of Latin, a lot of Italian, some French, some German, and some English if we were lucky!  I loved the Latin and Italian and actively disliked the German, too hard and not phonetic!

Now, ticking away in the back of my head were those pieces that I've always wanted to do...  and if I was ever going to get the chance... it would be with Newbury Choral.

I started strong by ticking off 'Va Pensiero' in that very first Opera Choruses term.  A nice, relatively easy one to start with, as most of it is in unison across the four voice parts*.  I always loved the little staccato quartets and the sudden dynamic changes.

Quite a long time after... after a year or more of works I didn't love, we did Handel's 'Messiah'.  And woe betide anyone who dared to call it 'The Messiah'!
There are a number of fantastic pieces within 'Messiah', but by far the best, and most exciting to sing is the 'Hallelujah Chorus'.

Then, the next season, it was the most exciting one yet!  Possibly the most dramatic, exciting piece of choral music out there.  'O Fortuna' from 'Carmina Burana'.  Starts quiet, gets MASSIVE.  One of those pieces where, if your vocal chords don't ache at the end, you're doin' it wrong.
1:39 on this recording...  gets me all a fluster.  Then at 1:59, you have to find a little more to ramp up the volume a jump more.  This is the one piece I know of where you teeter right on the edge between singing and screaming.  To sing this, sitting right next to the drums...  Amazing.

Then, I had to leave Newb Choral to move house.  I thought I wouldn't get a chance to do the final piece in my choral bucket list...  But I was wrong.  I was invited back by a friend to take part in a 'Come and Sing' event.  One of the pieces we performed was 'Zadok The Priest'.  Otherwise known as the coronation anthem.  It's just a really beautiful piece and gives you that little burst of patriotic zeal.

With that, I'd ticked off my "big 4" of the pieces I'd always wanted to sing.  I remember doing all 4 so clearly.  Each one was very much a life highlight.  It doesn't get much better to realise as you are singing, that you're in the middle of a bucket list moment.  It's very special.

* When in four voice parts, I was always alto.  When we worked in eight parts, I did alto one, or very occasionally soprano 2.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The fourth Wall

Here is Rolando Villazon (my favourite tenor - watch any interview with him - all round nice guy), breaking the 4th wall* when the audience just won't stop clapping.

* When a performer breaks character to, in some way, acknowledge the presence of the audience, or some other factor outside the realms of the world the character inhabits.

And here is Rolando just being fab, nailing a "The Impossible Dream" duet.  It starts getting awesome from 2:04.  If you can't get a bit mental and OTT during opera, when can you, eh?

Gun Control

(Another cross-posting from an old blog)

It has now been almost a week since the tragic mass-shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Listening to all the news reports, it reminded me so much of the shooting that happened in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996.  I was 11 years old at the time of that shooting, and I remember how shocking and scary it was.

Now though, these events have taken on a different significance for me.  Because, but for a twist of fate, I could have been the teacher of any of those children, both in Dunblane and Newtown.  I teach children in that age group and younger.  I often have sole responsibility for 20+ very young and vulnerable people.  And when these tragic events happen, I find myself thinking about the teachers.  What did they do to protect their children?  And perhaps, what would I do?

An average day at school and no one could ever be prepared for the sound of gun shots somewhere in the building…  It would be an incomprehensible nightmare come true.  I find myself thinking about escape routes in schools I have known, items around the classroom that could become a weapon…  I actually talked that one through with a friend the other day…

Thankfully though, I live in a country where this is an extremely rare event.  But, perhaps most importantly, as a direct result of the Dunblane shooting, within the year, ALL unlicensed cartridge-loading handguns were banned in the UK.  The only guns that remain legal are muzzle-loading and historic handguns.  Security within schools was also tightened and new controls put in place with regard to building access.

Was there public uproar?  No.

Have gun laws relaxed again?  No.

Why couldn’t this work in America?

Well…  To a Brit, so many aspects of life in America, which are so normal to them, are utterly incomprehensible to us.  Be it their attitudes to guns, marriage, health care, social care, religion…  For a country that regards itself as forward thinking and progressive, many of their attitudes seem stuck in the 1700s.  You only have to look at the political parties to realise that… Our Conservative government has a very similar policy to the Liberal government in the States.  Only difference being, that the things President Obama is campaigning for… we’d had sorted out 50 years ago.  Britain basically looks like what America might look like if they manage to hold on to a Liberal government for the next 50 years…

And a (I think) key reason for our liberal nature?  a quarter (roughly) of Brits identify as atheist.  Compared to around 2% of Americans.  Forecasts indicate that by 2018, Christians in the UK will be a minority group.

Should politics be tied to religion?  Absolutely not.

Is politics tied to religion?  In the USA, yes.  In the UK, no.


Why can’t the American government outlaw guns?

Because they are scared.

Lobbyists from the NRA are a powerful group in politics.  Essentially, if you want to get elected, it doesn’t hurt to keep the NRA on your side.

This is so many kinds of wrong.

But it works.  Because these are white, upper-middle-class men.

To quote the brilliantly funny Louis CK, “I’m a white, middle class, man.  You can’t even hurt my feelings!”

This group is, worldwide, the most privileged group on earth.

These men say, “You can’t ban guns.  It’s my constitutional right to bear arms!”

Well you know what?  Stuff your constitutional right.  That was written in a time of single-shot muskets that took 4 minutes to re-load, in a time when many American’s lived in a land of untamed, dangerous wilderness.  It was NOT intended for a world of automatic weapons that have the potential to kill 20 unarmed people in less than a minute.  IT WAS NOT.

But what scares me even more?

It was something I saw via an American acquaintance on a blog.  She claimed to have needed a gun “a number of times” in the past month alone to “protect their property”.  HOLY WHAT?  And the way she said it was, like, “no big deal…”  If that had happened in England, it would be a public outrage, front page news and a public enquiry.  Not an attitude of “meh.”  And worse still, this is small-town-America.  It’s a tiny place, quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  It sure isn’t New York or Los Angeles.

And these obviously intelligent, caring, all-round-nice people, just don’t see how crazy that is.  It, quite literally, makes my head explode.

These people are anti-gun-control because they need them to protect their homes… and yet say these burglars/child murderers committed their crimes because of lack of mental health resources and poor parenting…  I mean… wtf?  POOR PARENTING?

And yet, here in the UK, we have problems with mental health resources/care, we have social deprivation and poor parenting…  BUT WE DON’T SELL GUNS IN SUPERMARKETS*.  And because we’ve made it difficult to get hold of guns, we don’t see our children murdered in their classrooms.

Sorry America, but you need to grow some balls and step into the 21st century.  How many more young people must be sacrificed before someone has the courage to say enough is enough?

Your relationship with guns has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Guns are easy to buy, so lots of people have them.  Bad people have them and break into your houses.  Good people need guns to protect themselves from bad people with guns… Luckily it’s easy to buy guns, so lots of people have them…

Get a clue.
*Seriously, one of the strangest and scariest things I saw in America was racks of guns for sale in Walmart.  The equivalent of Tesco.  Can you imagine how mad it would be to walk into Tescos and be all, "okay... milk... bread... fish... automatic weapons... pasta..."  MADNESS.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Are You Laughing Tonight?

I have found (and it's not just me!), that the older you get, the more you can appreciate little snippets of genius from things that very much aren't of your generation.  Things that your parents/grandparents might have laughed at, you now laugh at as well.

Earlier today I was doing the washing up to the tunes of Radio 2 (I'm old enough for that now ;) ), when this came on.  It's been years since I last heard it, but I was laughing right along with him.

I think we've probably all had that moment of getting hysterical at completely inappropriate moments.

And if it's okay for the King to do it.  I think it's okay for the rest of us!

My 2 other favourite Elvis songs -

Can't Help Falling In Love
Always On My Mind