If you look carefully on the State Theta website, you’ll see a picture of Guineapigmum indulging in an arcane Pilates ritual.  I’ve been doing Pilates with a local teacher over the winter; just what I’ve needed to get my much abused body back under control.  Anyhow, Audicia is planning to hold a series of classes – various activities – in her brand new, very beautiful Ormiston studio over the summer, so do take a look at her brand new, equally beautiful website.   The classes aren’t yet on the website by the looks of it, but they are on posters displayed at various locations locally.

And the guitarist Gordon Giltrap is playing in New Winton village hall at the start of June.  I think there are tickets still available if you’re interested. 

A hissy fit or the Secret Life of Chemistry Teachers

New Winton Village Hall, near Tranent, was the venue for a concert on Friday night, featuring local singer-songwriters Kim Edgar and Alex Hodgson – and, on the double bass,  Gareth, head of Chemistry at PL.    The hissy fit came from GP1 as we hadn’t consulted him in enough detail before buying tickets and he went swimming instead.  His loss – it was a great evening of entertainment.   There are two more evenings coming up – a Scottish Music Night on the 10th May and the guitarist Gordon Giltrap on the 6th and 7th June.  Gordon Giltrap played at the hall a couple of years ago and was apparently a huge success, with tickets selling out within a week.  We’ve bought ours; although if GP1 throws another fit, there may be a ticket going spare.

Rock on!

nwage0121.JPGTonight is the Ross High School concert, always a good event.  Last week the brass players from the primary and secondary schools around the county gathered for their annual Christmas bash, with the Glasgow-based Scottish Co-op Band, home of the brass instrumental teacher, playing the second half of the concert.  I think it’s fair to say that, whilst the standard of the first half of the concert may best be described as variable, with a lot of young players who may have only been learning brass for a few months, overall the band has improved year on year.  And they only get one hour’s practice all together, just before the concert.  It’s always a great evening: this year’s highlight was the guest soloist, a gorilla drummer from the Co-op Band.  Nuff said.

But moving on.  Continue reading

A Scottish summer

The boys are back, exhausted and happy.  They’ve had a ball and the concert yesterday was fantastic, a really high standard. They’re full of stories and are both set on going back again next year, so 6 hours a day of music and a hectic social scene has enthused rather than discouraged them.  GP2 went straight to bed when we got home yesterday at 7pm and slept for 14 hours solid.  I suspect he’d been surviving on adrenalin for the last day or so! Plus the odd dousing in North Sea waters, given the state of the clothes that are going into the washing machine. 

So we have a few days at home and then it’s off to Katie Morag country for a week with the dive club.  Continue reading

Home Alone

hedgehog-in-garden.jpgI’m all on my own for a few days this week, with the boys in St Andrews and husband deep south on a school reunion.  It feels quite strange – I don’t have to take anyone anywhere and can cook and eat what I want when I want.  So instead of cooking dinner at the normal time last night, I went into the tropical rain forest that is masquerading as our garden and cut the grass, filled the brown wheelie bin and picked all the currants and gooseberries.  I excavated the compost bins from a blackberry jungle – goodness knows what’s happened to the raspberries – and tried to identify the location of the pond.  I know it’s there, as I dug it.  Continue reading

Life is too short…

…to iron boxer shorts.  I had thought that this was an activity restricted to mothers-in-law until a few months ago when I spotted my sister-in-law brandishing the iron over a pile of unsuspecting boxers.  Apparently her husband expects crease-free boxers. Personally, I’d just show him where to switch the iron on but then my housekeeping standards do leave something to be desired. 

I had planned to write this as a lead-in to a meditation on working at home, following a piece on Mother at Large .  That will have to wait, however, as I found myself indulging in something altogether stranger yesterday evening – Continue reading


zeugopterus-vsmall.jpgAs expected, one pass, one fail.  One very bouncy, highly motivated child – even an hour & a half of football in the rain didn’t manage to dampen his enthusiasm last night.  And that’s as it should be!

As for the other “am I bovvered?”. Well yes, actually, though you might be doing your best to hide it.  It would be very easy to say “It’s your own fault. You should have worked harder” and of course therein lies a very large part of the truth.  But in reality the whole truth is lurking somewhere in that muddy pond between teacher & student. The trick is going to be in swimming out of the pond with some motivation intact.

 I am hoping that one positive result might be some glimmer of understanding that, with prelims looming,  good exam results are not simply handed to you by the teacher.  But I’m not holding my breath.

As for motivation, with both boys now bussing it to school, I promised myself I would use the extra 40 minutes in the morning to cycle to work  (OK, I know I work at home but a quick spin round the block before a day at the hard drive seemed like a good idea).  So have I done it? Not very often, I’m afraid to say but I did go out this morning and it was great.  Now I must crack on with some work.

 Just got some comments back on a report I wrote recently & thought you might appreciate the following:-

Para 6 – “none were detected” not was

At least he didn’t write ‘where’.

Those music grade exams…

ballansmall-copy.jpgStress levels were running high in the guinea pig cage a couple of weeks ago.  November for the exams suddenly transmogrified to 1st November – a big difference in practice terms between 1st and 30th, particularly with the October holiday to think about.

No1 son was clearly not ready by the weekend before.  No2 son, having ridden an empty  threat of the exam annually for the previous 2 years, should have been note perfect.  His parents certainly were, particularly as No1 played the same pieces for the 2 preceding years (so that makes 4 years of Pink Panther…  Thank goodness there isn’t a No3).  But the timing of one of the pieces was still a problem, so OH decided a piano recording was needed to play along to.  This we managed by 2 days before the exam and it was a revelation.  Aaagh – could have been done a year ago.

Meanwhile, No1’s pieces were still ropey, he still didn’t know his scales – there is never any scale practice at school and it is very difficult to make them do at home something that is not reinforced at school – and neither of them had done any aural or sight reading, and a bare minimum of playing with accompaniment.  So we agreed No1 shouldn’t do the exam.  But the music teacher disagreed and, as you will know, teachers are always right.  We had a crash course in scales, he did the exam and there were tears.

So my comments/questions/complaints are:-

  1. Is it acceptable for a teacher only to cover part of the syllabus and expect the rest to be done at home? Difficult when we don’t have a piano and the aural syllabus is quite sophisticated. Even more difficult when we don’t realise this is what is expected.  I assume this isn’t the approach to SQA teaching.
  2. Why are there no parents’ evenings for instrumental teachers?  I know you’re all busy with concerts etc in the evening but perhaps this should be part of the job.  One evening at the High School for all instrumental teachers for the whole cluster would do it.
  3. If there are problems, why don’t we as parents hear about it? For the main curriculum, I get a phone call if a piece of homework dares to be handed in late. (I’ve even had calls to tell me the children are absent when they’re sitting happily in class).
  4. It is so difficult to get in touch with the instrumental teachers as they are only in school part of the time.  I’ve found I can’t rely on messages getting beyond the front desk – but communication is another issue for another day. 
  5. Is there a value in doing the grade exams?  I happen to think there is:- they give the children a target to work for, they should be a logical part of a steady progression in their musical development and as such should just slot in, they should give the children an affirmation of the standard they’ve reached and so should be an achievement that recognises their hard work.

Trouble is, we should have known better because we went through something very similar with Grade 3 at primary.  I put that experience down to the problems of roving teachers trying to organise stuff through the primary school and assumed all would be wonderful once we were in the high school system.  Wrong.

Our main concern is that the children learn to enjoy making music and develop a lifelong skill.  And I have to say the teacher concerned has done lots of good things with them, they both enjoy playing and we’ve always had a good relationship with the teacher.  I feel so let down over the exam, but just hope we can sort it out in a grown up manner without a big falling out. 

We won’t be doing any more exams unless I can be assured that the system is overhauled!