Sunday, 28 February 2010

A Blue Violin

Our house is never very quiet - outside school hours I mean. A small metallic blue thing, no bigger than a credit card, when attached to a 16 year old by headphone leads, is quite inoffensive. Attach it by a different lead to an amplifier and/or computer... (The best place for it is in one of my gadget cosies - see later).

Noisy though our 16 year old can be, his 13 year old sister is far worse! Her brother began clarinet lessons at the age of 8, and she felt left out - the nagging started. I bought her a descant recorder - I thought she'd soon get tired of it! SHE didn't! In desperation I bought a treble, lovely - more mellow sound, but - silly me (musical knowledge zero), the fingers of a five year old don't reach its length. Daughter was still nagging for something to play. Next I happened across a very elderly flute. What was I thinking of? I could barely work out how to put it together. Our local music shop advised that, after a service, it would certainly be suitable for a 5 year old. With a book the 5 year old mastered the basic fingering, without any help, and joined in with group lessons at school. We progressed to shared music lessons for them, the teacher kindly found us a much better flute on ebay - sorted? I wish! Our son did a few exams,realised it involved hard work and gave up. At the age of 10 his sister needed a better flute to prepare for grade 5!

Nagging didn't stop. At age 9 - 'I'd like a saxophone'. 'Instead of the flute?' - 'NO.' 'Well you'd better start saving up!' Two birthdays and the value of one Christmas present later - one alto-sax. My sister-in-law plays an African drum. Daughter tried it - saved up for one. At some point a 2/3 size guitar joined our collection and a harmonica found its way into a Christmas stocking.

At secondary school, I thought it would be good for her to study something, from scratch, with other students in her year, in order to share music with them. I can still here myself saying "...we wondered about percussion lessons". They have a very good and enthusiastic music teacher - that sort of enquiry is immediately acted on. I should have a better awareness by now, but I was vaguely thinking of the African drum. SCHOOL PERCUSSION LESSONS ARE GIVEN ON A DRUM KIT!!! Well I know that now! Daughter loves it. Nagging started again. Piggy bank (hers I should emphasise - she is good at saving) emptied, enquiries made, resistance worn down, dining table moved.

Our daughter was uncertain what to have from us for Christmas. Other family members were kindly re-filling the piggy bank - ready for Scout camp. I hated the thought of her not having something to open. Three days after leaving her appendix in the operating theatre, we were back in the music shop trying out guitars, she looked a bit uncomfortable but managed. One or two recent chart hits came from these trial instruments. Apparently the chords are available on-line and she had been using her small guitar! I'd no idea she could play it!

If I dare to complain about the 'noise' at home? I'm told that it 's my own fault - I should have let her have the shiny, blue violin she really wanted when she was five.

(And that would have given us a quieter life?)

( Afore-mentioned gadget cosies available in my Folksy shop. How about this one?)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Alternative Technology

Its dull - raining mostly and there's no wind.

At 6.45 am I was making sandwiches, packing drinks, (shouting at 16 year-old to get up)looking for: waterproofs, necker,(shouting at 16 year old....) cash,( shouting at.....)walking socks and boots (shouting...). I finally gave up and had cup of tea. At 7.30 am I was standing at the front door apologising to Cub Leader for absence of 16 year old (supposedly the long-suffering lady's Junior Leader) and shouting at 16 year old to grab his ruck-sack and put his boots on. He appeared - much relief. Feet, clad in sports socks, hovered above boots, he muttered something unintelligible which we eventually de-coded as 'wrong socks', and pounded back up stairs. His sister started complaining about '... all this noise '.

Meanwhile, afore-mentioned Cub Leader was texting furiously. She doesn't get a signal at home, husband is in Cardiff for rugby, TV is mysteriously set to S4C, she doesn't speak much Welsh, husband is suspected of sabotage and, due to absence of signal, this is her first chance to tell him what she thinks of the situation. Son (and cub leader) eventually left, with walking socks and boots. By 8 am I felt exhausted.

I had another cup of tea (at the point of reading this 13 year old will start singing 'Right said Fred'. She has become addicted to humorous Bernard Cribbins songs - Hole in the Road etc. Something to do with: appearance on Doctor Who, Face Book and Google)( Look up the lyrics if you wonder what I'm on about!). I then tried to fix clickable photo-load into blog. Failed - will try to do better next week!

Alternative Technology? Not a reference to struggles with absent mobile signals, sabotaged, Welsh-only digi-boxes, Wallace and Gromit type devices for waking sixteen year olds or, sadly, a solution to my photo problems. The destination for local Cub packs, and my sixteen year old, is The Centre for Alternative Technology, at Machynlleth in mid-Wales. We have visited, as a family, on a few occasions - although not for several years now. It is invariably dull, even in the summer holidays, often wet and never windy. Recycling demos will work, as will water-purification-type displays etc. - but as for the wind and solar power installations...

My attempt at humour is mis-placed. The center is well-worth a visit, and having done its best to promote a rather un-fashionable theme for many, many years, now finds itself to be 'in' with those of us committed to a more ecologically sound existence. Thankfully we're growing in number!

For those of you more successful with technolgy than my immediate circle, and who actually have mobile phones that work, how about looking at the gadget cosies in my Folksy shop. I've chosen to show you this one, although it may appear again on Monday, in reference to all things Welsh. ( Image sadly not 'clickable' - see above. I'm afraid you'll have to enter my shop by the long route and click the Folksy button - or click on the slide show).

Friday, 26 February 2010

A Snow Mover

Apparently there are various techniques that may be employed - sawing into blocks and pushing, cutting a trench then inserting something like a huge cheesewire and pulling ......

I thought that I was going to sit down to watch Masterchef and hadn't got a clue what my husband was talking about but he was fascinated by the tale and although I was trying to do PE kits and consent forms for the next day, I ended up watching the last five minutes or so of the earlier program. I don't know what it was called, but it seemed to be connected with winter in Yellowstone National Park.

Snow fall is very heavy, and buildings struggle to carry the weight of a layer which can easily be 2m deep. It is, apparently a particular problem at the eaves which overhang, to protect the building from the elements, but are largely unsupported. Structural damage may easily result. This brings me to the title of this blog. A 'Snow Mover' is contracted to climb onto the roof, and remove the snow. The 'General Store' was said to be one of his largest buildings. With a very gently sloping roof, the layer of snow was up to his shoulders. This was one for the 'sawing into blocks' technique. I don't quite remember the details, but I think it took longer than a week to clear the roof and he would expect to return several times over the winter. His own house seemed to have slightly more slope to the roof and I think that was one on which he employed the 'cheesewire', although I wasn't quite tuned-in at that stage.

I had become engrossed in the ins and outs of a job which I would never have imagined to exist. I know Scotland was struggling yesterday, but this sort of puts UK weather into context. How many other previously unheard of jobs are there. UK last names are often derived from jobs which existed in our history and this can sometimes be a fascinating insight. I think I was particularly intrigued because we were watching someone in one of the most developed countries in the world, performing a task which I hadn't imagined to exist, using only basic hand tools and his own strength, working in quite severe conditions.

Perhaps this does not capture your imagination in quite the same way as it has mine, but if anyone knows of any more obscure occupations in modern society, I'd love to hear about them.

Appliqueeing miniature buildings onto gadget cosies to sell on Folksy does not have quite the same ring to it. However, in true Blue Peter style here's one I made earlier. I hope you like it!