Friday, 12 December 2008

Breaking the silence

It's been a trying couple of weeks for our girl, but she thought she ought to blog before December is completely past. She's off to Illinois on Monday to visit the parents-in-law (who are internet free) so radio silence will be enforced. She doesn't have much to report as she hasn't been rowing (although the Christmas Head is tomorrow!), and doesn't feel like she's done much else either. But, one bright spot was of course going to see David Tennant in the RSC's latest production of Hamlet. The whole production was FANTASTIC. She'll never be able to tell how it compared to Ken's Hamlet of 1992/3, as she never got to that production, but she suspects well.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Fancy dress season

In a couple of weekends it will be the Cambridge Christmas Head. In addition to the usual prizes, there is a prize for the best fancy dress. Obviously (especially as my crew don't exactly train) this is the prize we are most in contention for. So, forget what I said last time, we are apparently going to be snowmen. That might just be the case again this weekend anyway as the weather forecast is for more chill factor. My chillblains from last weekend are already complaining just at the thought of it.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Brrr, it's cold out there

Today I could have paid for the privilege to sit freezing cold on a river in Bedford, being marshalled for a Head Race. Having experienced the Siberian winds, hail, snow, rain and sleet for free in Cambridge this morning, however, I admitted to a moment's gladness that my crew had bailed on me for the said race. Brrr, it was cold. And when no-one will peel off any layers, the rowing is *bad* as snowmen aren't renowned for their flexibility or manual dexterity. Indeed, I'll prove to you it was cold. I actually put the heating on for a couple of hours today and got the flat up from 10 degrees C to a roasting 14. Mind, I feel decadent now.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

simply the beth talks musicals (1)

First up for the simply the beth treatment: Mamma Mia!

I'd heard that Merly Streep was very good in this film, and Pierce Brosnan less so. So I wasn't horrified to find that the men weren't as strong as the women in the film, having been over-prepared on that front. If you enjoy Abba, nice landscapes, good acting, a touch of Bollywood here and there, then you'll love this. If you don't know how the story pans out, you'll enjoy it more. I didn't know what happens (despite various attempts over the years to get friends to go to see Mamma Mia! in the theatre with me), so I particularly enjoyed the twist on 'I could dance with you baby' and other touches. 'The winner takes it all' scene could have benefitted from being less stationary. For me the best part was undoubtedly 'Slipping through my fingers'. It brought tears to the eyes of a childless woman mourning the time she hasn't spent with her child yet. Generally, a big thumbs up. Buy the DVD when it comes out and watch it with your daughter or mother.

Secondly: The Sound of Music; a musical we have all seen, I'm sure, and can't even remember the first time we saw the film.

What's its secret? Listeners to Elaine Paige on Sundays on Radio 2 will know how often her guests cite 'The Book' as the most crucial element in their essential musicals. And there's no doubting that the book behind this show is fantastic, all the more so because it's true. If you haven't read the story of the Van Trapp family after they made it over the mountains, get a copy of it now.

The success of the film cannot be doubted, even by those who are unaware of the phenomenon that is Sing-along-a-Sound-of-Music. It was quite an eye-opener for me when I went to this event some ten years ago in Newcastle upon Tyne. All those men dressed as nuns. I went as a brown paper package tied up with string, a dress my then boyfriend made for me. Sadly a more conservative Maria won the best costume competition.

The Sound of Music has got a new audience through the BBC1 programme 'How do you solve a problem like Maria?' And it was this take on the reality TV show that caused a friend of mine to be quite so desperate to see the show at the theatre. So this August we finally went to see the show at the London Palladium.

What did I think? Let me review the show itself before I discuss the whole experience package. Captain Von Trapp aside, who, for me and my companion lacked any stage presence whatsoever, the show was good. The Mother Superior had a truly superior set of pipes. The scene between Liesl and Rolf was neatly choreographed and original. And the stage management was on another level - you have to check out the rotating hill.

But, overall, I didn't enjoy it. Why? The audience. I paid £35 for the pleasure of being up towards the gods and, guess what? I got to sit behind a women who decided a modern take on the beehive was a good idea for a theatre hairdo. When you're struggling to make 5' 2'' this is not good news. The end result was that I spent the whole show fully aware of the audience.

My general advice? Stick to the film. It can't be beaten.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Things I am not fed up of (2)

Brown speckled eggs. Being a towny, and having my views based pretty solely on the comments of my father, another towny, I have always thought the brown, speckled eggs are somehow 'better' or more 'healthy'. It's not something that's easy to explain. I have had it pointed out to me by an excellent German friend that this is rubbish. Each year at Easter she bemoans the difficulty of getting white eggs in the supermarkets, because she wants to dye them for Easter and the colour and decoration just doesn't take as well on brown eggs. She puts the lack of white eggs on sale in the supermarkets down to a general and ignorant British feeling that brown eggs are 'better'. It sounds plausible to me. But, depsite that, I still like brown speckled eggs. And I get particularly excited when feathers are involved.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

You're in hot water now

I've just been reading about Anglo-Saxon ordeals. The ordeal of hot water, where the defendant was obliged to plunge his hand into boiling water to retrieve a stone, put in mind of this phrase. 'Aha!' I thought. 'This must be where our modern saying derives from.' I have, however, been wrong before. I recall once proudly announcing to my best friend in Durham that I had worked out why Prebend's Bridge was named thus. 'It's because its before the bend; it's 'pre' the bend.' She put me out of my ignorant misery, but really, words like prebend, who knew those?! That first year at Durham I spent a quite a while wondering where I could get my hands on that immensely useful book 'ibid.', some sort of encyclopedic reference book one could only presume. Yes, I expect you're laughing, but only if your schooling included exposure to Latin.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The requisite amount of faffage

Just how much faffing is required when it comes to trailering boats? It always seems to be disproportionate to the task in hand, and tonight was no exception. If you also want to take 2 hours 20 mins to trailer two fours, you will need:
  1. an organiser who is the only person who knows where the trailer is etc. etc. to turn up at least half an hour late
  2. several of the trailerage crew to not show, and a bare minimum to show at all
  3. to increase the number of trips needed between the boat house and trailer by as many times as possible by forgetting trestles, boat ties etc. etc.
  4. to not notice until you come to tie the boat onto the trailer that you have less than half the necessary number of ties, and so need to send out to the shops

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Yesterday's exercise was truly erg(h)

If there's one thing worse than using an erg room after 10 gung-ho men, its using if after 10 gung-ho men and with another 8 such of the species. Really they were no advertisement for their sex.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Public versus private transport

I did the maths. Yes, it was possibly going to be cheaper to hire a car and get my husband to drive us both from Cambridge to Birmingham for the weekend, than to get the train. Certainly it would be more flexible, and should be quicker. The variables I didn't include in these calculations were:
  1. forgetting a map (which might have increased the petrol usage)
  2. getting a puncture on the M42
  3. having to pay for the replacement tyre (a rare and expensive one, bien sur)
  4. forgetting to buy a map for the return half of the journey

In terms of stress levels, it was a bad deal for hubby.

Nevertheless it was nice to go home and see everyone for 3.5 seconds and do the 'being a family together' thing which in my parents house these days equates to taking the dog a short walk, watching the TV and torturing each other with the cryptic crossword in the Radio Times. In addition, the dog had dressed up for Halloween and was doing an impression of 'Frankinmut' (he had rather large stiches protruding from his muzzle where he'd had a biopsy a few days before); I got to see the 'all new' Shirley Baptist Church (gone are the pews, the marble and the traditional layout - this jury is still out); and I also visited my brother's flat in the 'Hemisphere' development opposite Edgbaston Cricket Club (what used to be the Tally Ho Tennis and Bowls Club).

Quotes of the weekend:

(Milly, 4 year old niece): You're the bestest girl in the whole world ever.

(Joe, 12 year old nephew): You've got nanny hands.

You've got to take the good with the bad.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Something scary for All Souls

Radio 2 is going for Halloween type music today: 'The Monster Mash' followed shortly by Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. This reminds me of something sure to make you shudder. Now, I'm not sure I'm getting my facts straight, it could have been that the dance costume I have in mind was worn to 'Dancing in the Street' rather than 'Thriller', but as I did routines to both in my teenage years, I feel I can let this pass. Picture this: turquoise catsuit, gold belt, gold glitter wig and, the piece de resistance, pale pink leg warmers. Definitely not a treat.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Artefacts of the week

Any Anglo-Saxon coins. Real ones though, not the (actually not so cheap) replicas I bought from the FitzWilliam Museum yesterday to show my class. Go, for example, here.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Things I am not fed up of (1)

It's hardly a startling observation to note that many blogs are occupied with the moans and groans of their writers. It occurred to me the other day that some of these bloggers could be moaning on for decades. This feature is my own small antidote to that culture, in which I present some of the things I am not fed up with, starting with the view of the tree across the road from my office (spare bedroom) window:

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Today I was brave, if lacklustre

This is not bravery on the heroic scale for most people, but for me definitely "A Brave Thing". What could constitute such a description? Nothing less than actually asking the lady at "The Stroke Clinic" for some advice on my swimming technique. Did she mock me for my size, fitness or technique, or generally make me feel like a little squished ant? No, of course not. She was perfectly nice. But I have been putting off approaching her for months now, hence the claim to bravery. Swimming, and in particular the breaststroke, is one of the few things that come quite naturally to me and which I feel confident I'm OK at, so to invite criticism is not an easy path. In other sporting news it looks as though I may still be trying to complete the Vets Head in December as this week's erg was considerably slower than last week. And before you suggest it, clearly the intervening week of lardy-arse-ed-ness has no bearning on this result whatsoever.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

I seem to be failing quite miserably

Coxing on Saturday seems to have set the tone for the last five days - viz. I have sat down overly much and not even began to fulfil the exercise quota for a very sedentary person. This bodes well neither for the Channel Swim nor for the Vets Fours Head. I fear tomorrow will have to see a visit to the swimming pool and an erg session.

On the other hand if this week's criteria for success were consumption of chocolate and catching up on episodes of the The Archers and Strictly Come Dancing etc., I'd probably be in with a chance of scoring a medal. Ca plus change.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

My afternoon of coxing...

Today was the Cambridge Autumn Head. This meant:
  1. a little bit of rowing (in division 1)
  2. quite a lot of coxing (divisions 3 and 4)
My prediction is that the crew from division 3 will have been the fastest, having had the benefit of having been chased most of the way by a college crew. Other rowing news is that I have exchanged the 'Shed of Doom' (Graduate Society erg room) with the 'Attic of Pain' (Christs' erg room). Having not sat on an erg for over three years (and over four with any determination), it was a shock to the system to have to use one of those aptly named machines. So you might be wondering why I subjected myself to this? The Vets Fours Head. It's in three weeks time. And I'm supposed to be doing it. What else can I say but 'erg(h)'.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Another week, another century

Gosh, that went quickly. Mainly due to panics about the 10th century I fear. Forget Aethelred being "Unready" though; I'll reserve that epithet for others. There were no pretty pictures this week, so instead I refer you to this website where you can see lots of lovely Anglo-Saxon sculpture.

This trip to London would have seen some much needed Channel swimming too, but my swimming buddy forgot their costume.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Artefact of the week

As I'm teaching this year, I thought I'd share some of the interesting sources and artefacts I come across in the course of my preparation. This week was Alfredian Wessex, the artefact of choice The Alfred Jewel.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

My weekend with fire engines

Two things characterized this weekend:

  1. Waiting outside in windy and/or wet weather

  2. Fire engines

Sadly I did not see the fire engine on Saturday, although I'm told that one was called and resolved the incident. Location: the Cam. Incident: horse in river holding up sculling event for over an hour. Lots of fun trying to stay still in windy weather.

I did see the fire engine today though, for about four seconds. Location: Parkside Pool. Incident: who knows, a false alarm one can only presume. Best bit: standing outside in swimming costume in very cheap space blanket without glasses and feeling like an extra for a very poorly budgeted episode of Dr. Who from the earliest of early days. Needless to say this didn't do much to help me cross the Channel...

Friday, 3 October 2008

I'm supposed to be swimming

I'm supposed to be swimming the English Channel for Aspire but am finding it hard to find the time (or is that the motivation?)

The first week went quite well. The challenge requires an average of 118 lengths per week and I did 180. But then I didn't go at all for almost two weeks until yesterday. Let me tell you it hurts when you haven't been for two weeks.

As per usual with me, I sign up for a challenge thinking 'this will force me to do exercise' and mostly don't train and then have to pull a ragged performance out of the hat on the day. Can't do this with this challenge though, not unless I want to try and swim 19 miles in one day (which I don't and couldn't).

There was also an equipment failure. Another pair of goggles bit the dust, or rather got eaten by the chlorine. Swimming with one eye shut is harder than you'd think, so I should probably buy (yet another) new pair. They just don't seem to last very long at all, even with my infrequent pool schedule.

Clearly I ought to be in the pool today, but am on 'awaiting DHL delivery duty'. Although some might say that's just looking for an excuse...