Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Anniversary

I started this blog 10 years ago, when I was 30, and it has functioned nicely as an aide memoir of my 30s, as well as being representative of a very 2000s form of literacy - in just 10 years, the landscape of the internet has changed so much - how many people start or even keep blogs these days? They're more likely to facebook or tweet something - in fact, even I started a twitter account last week mostly for work purposes.

When I started this blog, I had only been a lecturer for a few months, and was the youngest and newest person in my department - noted for being able to make webpages and put lectures ON THE INTERNET and considered dangerously newfangled by some of the crustier members of staff who wore bow ties and had beards. Now of course, just ten years later, the latest influx of new 20-something lecturers to my department all have very active twitter accounts. And one of them treated us to a demonstration of how we could be using twitter in our lectures - while we're lecturing, we could have a twitter feed projected onto a screen behind us, so the students can tweet their comments and questions (and criticisms of our clothing choices). Naturally, it was met with howls of scorn from the more established members of staff, and I stayed quiet, because I knew that at some point in the future, this happens to everyone, and tweeting will be replaced by mind-transference or 4D-connection or something so it won't last either. Everybody gets their turn at being obselete.

Initially I disapproved of blogging too, finding the word itself unattractive as well as the idea of publicising your private thoughts and opinions. But 10 years of blogging has been instrumental in helping me to sharpen my internal censor and write for an audience, even one that has been ever-dwindling. I compare this blog to the personal diary I kept between the ages of 15 and 25, and am horrified to find so much angst and wailing in those hand-scribbed pages. I don't recall that period as especially unhappy (although young adults can be somewhat over-dramatic and less experienced at coping with grown-up things), and I think that there is a tendency for personal writing to focus on a litany of complaints and woes if you don't think anyone else will read it. So many diaries of famous people emerge after their deaths and people are always so shocked at how tortured and miserable they were - I'm not so sure. I just think personal diaries bring that side out of you, while blogs are more likely to make you jolly because you want to be entertaining rather than depress people.

Or maybe it's just that I've had a remarkably good 10 years since I started this blog. I've had 10 books published, become a professor, passed my Grade 4 piano, moved house four times, spent two years in Bristol, had great holidays to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, America, Italy, Iceland and France, gained two nieces, four nephews and a great-niece. I've kept hold of my fella, and my hair, didn't get any speeding tickets and apart from occasional sinus problems and a bad back, have stayed healthy. I think I am more patient, confident and sensible than I was 10 years ago, although probably also less spontaneous and sociable.

When I read back some of the earliest blog entries here - a commentary on Blind Date's new format, The Cheeky Girls and the breakdown of a relationship between Les Dennis and Amanda Holden - all I can think is - who is this person and why did they spend so much time paying attention to such rubbish!

And no doubt, if I manage to keep this blog going for another 10 years, I suspect I'll probably be thinking much the same thing.



Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Back in June I took my Grade 3 piano exam, after a hiatus of 26 years. The trouble with these graded exams is that when you pass one you start wondering what the next one will be like, so ignoring the voice in my head that warned of weeks of stress ahead, off I went to register for Grade 4, which happened today.

In some ways it was less scary as the routine was the same as last time so I knew where to go and what would happen. I know for example that the piano you do the exam on will be one of those big grand piano types and even sneezing on one of the keys will make an enormous booming sound, nothing like my little electric upright which has a volume control and requires keys to be pressed most distinctly before it will make any sort of sound at all. Unfortunately, grade 4 requires the pedal to be played - something I have never bothered with as it tends to make a terrible din. One of my three pieces (B1 Alone at Sunset) is constant pedal pedal pedal - if it was a car journey all the speed limits would be broken and you'd have a lifetime driving ban. Not only that, but every other second you have to play quiet, then loud, then quiet, then fast, then slow, then slow and quiet, then fast and loud. It's like an ultra-quick round of Simon Says and I always end up confused and whimpering quietly to myself by the end.

(This is not me playing)

I managed to get through my scales at the start OK, although started playing the right hand when asked to use the left, and I think I may have made a couple of minor errors at the end, but it is a complete blur. I can only recall that the kindly examiner did not ask me to play any of the dreaded F Minor scales which require your hands and brain to enter alternative dimensions. Instead I was given G minor, which I had spent literally minutes rehearsing over and over the night before to get it perfect.

I played my three pieces - not great but OK, and managed the sight reading bit OK as well. Then was the most awful bit - the aural test where you have to stand behind the piano and sing notes back and answer questions about whether a piece is in 2/4 or 3/4 time. I am just about able to get a mid-way score on Singstar on medium level, as long as I have a Tina Turner or whoever singing along with me to keep me in check, but I was somewhat thrown when handed a sheet of music and told to sing it, with no accompaniment. I kind of made a few nasal grunts, which even surprised the examiner at their ineptitude, and we moved quickly on.

I should find out the results in a few weeks - my fella took Grade 2 at the same time, so bizarrely, he has managed to get to the same level I was at 6 months ago - even though I have a 26 year head start on him. As for Alone at Sunset - it can stay alone. After four months of daily wrestling, that piece of music is due to be retired.