Marooned in the Modern World

In conjunction with my book "Swiss Family Suburban" this blog is from my diary; the diary of a wife and mum in a world where neither is valued highly. Beth Bill.

31st March 2010

At the end of a busy month Em and I took our Grade 8 flute exam together yesterday. Em has been working towards this for quite a few months now but I decided to go for it only 8 weeks ago. It's something I should have done about 20 years ago, but at the time I met David, had twins, then Matt and was then deeply immersed in family life. Although I feel bad for not working at it earlier, taking our flute exam together did have a nice poetry about it. The exam invigilator commented how nice it was that two sisters took their exam on the same day - ha! I'm under no illusion about how old I look, so perhaps she was just being cautious. My friend, Mae, who used to teach me and now teaches Em, accompanied us for the exam and so afterwards we celebrated by having cake at a nearby garden centre and then an evening meal later. It really is a red letter day -after 20 years!

Years ago, before I was married we used to have two dogs - a Cairn Terrier and a Yorkshire Terrier - which were pretty crazy, being pedigrees. I am now allergic to dogs and have felt that our lives were busy enough. However the children have a friend whose family run a dog grooming and boarding dogs business. They have a lovely little dog who isn't settling well with them, as they are out of the house for long hours and have lots of other dogs about the place, and needs a home... He is a cross between a miniature Poodle and a Bichon Frise, which don't molt - and therefore don't make me sneeze. He has such a lovely temperament. After having pedigree terriers he seems so calm - he doesn't run off and just wants to be close by you. He came over just for a trial period, but fits into the family so nicely and is so settled - I think he's here to stay! In this picture you can see that he's putting our archytipical 'blanky' to good use and is sitting on Em's Geography schoolwork. He now spends the days sitting with the children as they do their schoolwork - that must surely make it more palatable.

27th March 2010

Jonti joined in with a local Symphony orchestra today. In order to take part we had to buy him a dinner jacket (he could use his dad's bow tie). The joke was that we were going to have to go to all this expense for him to stand there and play the triangle! On the night he did play some other bits and bobs. The concept of reading music and staying in time is valid (in actual fact counting innumerable bars rest and then playing at the right time is more difficult) but it did sound funny. Next time he'll get to play Timpani too, so I guess it's the old concept of time served.

20th March 2010

Em competed in a local music festival competition today, in an open woodwind - under 18's class. The joke of it was that she was the only competitor in this particular class, so she won the trophy outright! I guess it wasn't an absolute given; she wouldn't have been awarded the trophy if her playing wasn't up to standard. Admittedly it doesn't seem quite right, but at least she bothered to enter and try. Nevertheless, she now has her name engraved on a Trophy which has been doing the rounds since 1963.

It was good to know that Grandad has an engraving machine in his little market stall and so Em's dad could engrave her trophy for her. A small perk, but a lovely personal touch I think.

I used to teach Em myself, but once she got to Grade 6 I handed her on to my friend, Mae, who is a far better musician than I. In fact she used to teach me piano, so yet another lovely personal touch.

17th March 2010

Jonti had his Grade 5 piano exam today. This constitutes as the practical aspect of his homeschooling music GCSE equivalent. In reality it is far above GCSE as most GCSE pupil's I've seen at present only have about Grade 2 or 3 and Btech music (worth 4 GCSE's) doesn't even require that you play an instrument! Jonti isn't really that keen on piano, percussion is his real love and what he really does well in, but he knows that he needs piano to really 'get on'. Nevertheless, we've had some grim moments over these past few months - ah, the joys of home education!

As ever he is sailing pretty close to the wind for this exam (my mum tells him that I was just like that - thanks mum!) but this was exacerbated by the sun streaming through the window in the exam room, so that he couldn't see his music, and sticking keys on the exam piano. I had to make a formal complaint afterwards. The ABRSM were very helpful in their attitude, but it didn't do much to help Jonti on the day.

13th March 2010

I sang, with the Ceramic City Choir, in a concert of English songs (which did include some Mendelssohn). The Elgar and Vaughan Williams pieces passed off pretty well, but Lo, The Full Final Sacrifice by Finzi was horrendously difficult and we didn't quite pull it off. The final 'Amen' section really is sublime. Nevertheless, the evening was good overall and the family enjoyed the concert. Surprisingly, the church was really full - everybody must have decided to come last minute and pay on the door!

12th March 2010

Yipee; five eggs a day again! I know that the weather is still really cold, but at least the hen's are laying again and their water isn't iced up now. Two of the hens (Constance and Emelia I think - Constance staying true to her name) have laid eggs pretty continuously all winter. Now we are just waiting for Charity to pick up the pace. I really can't work her out. Her comb has stayed shrunken, ever since her first molt last year, and she just doesn't do anything. She hardly moves about and rarely bothers to scratch around. I would think that she was ill, or even dying except for the fact that she must be eating loads as she is huge! She has sunk to the bottom of the pecking order but waits until all the other hens are out of the shed and then goes back in and tucks in to her hearts content. We'll see how she goes on when the weather warms up.