Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Is it Music? Can't tell...

Well, another Eurovision has been and gone...

John has blogged at length on the individual acts
, so I won't repeat his words - his sentiments on the acts mostly reflect mine.

There weren't as many wince inducing performances as usual - the German performance where they hid a bagpipe in one of the singer's vocal chords is the one that really stands out. Most of the acts just wiffled past - even now, I have to look back at John's notes to distinguish some of them (Serbia had an entry? Really?).

Terry Wogan did us proud, again, though. "If I have to sit through this, then you can all join me..." plus his admission that there might have been a couple of drinks up in the commentator's box...

Rather sadly, it looks like his comments at the end of the evening were taken seriously. I can understand his frustrations - whilst the UK entry wasn't good enough to win, it was certainly the best entry that we have fielded for a very long time, and deserved to come a lot higher than where it did. Political voting took over again, and seemed to be even more prominent than usual (Terry's comments that the Eastern bloc voted for Russia in a bid to keep their oil and gas might sound cynical, but you never know...). It would be very sad if TW stopped commentating Eurovision, as I feel that most people only tune in to listen to his revelations (I certainly would be less likely to watch if the commentator took it seriously...). Maybe the answer is two Eurovisions; East and West? Or does that negate the whole point of a contest bringing the whole of Europe together?

Saturday, 24 May 2008


We had a lovely evening yesterday - we had our annual concert at a local school's fete. It's usually a great fun event - we play bouncy music (like medleys, such as the Bond themes, music from Grease, or music from Porgy and Bess), in a very relaxed atmosphere, and afterwards, we go back to our director of music's house for an American Supper (where everyone brings an item of food, and we all share it...)

The reason that I enjoy this so much is not just because the music making or the social aspect, but because every year, we get to see the impact that music has on children. Most of them wander through with their parents, getting cakes or going out to the raffle, but one or two every year dance to the music (particularly when we play the Can-Can!), or sit down and simply listen. I love being able to communicate how I feel about music to someone else, particularly someone who can then take that joy and potentially learn an instrument of their own. Just brilliant.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Good News / Bad News

Well - it has been a busy week or so - again...!

On Saturday, I took part in a Tae-Kwon Do tournament. I had been given the impression that it was going to be a 'local' event - i.e. for the three clubs in our area, so I was in for a bit of a shock when I spotted teams from Paignton and London! This was a team event, so three of us competing per team. (There were only four teams in our category!) We came away with a silver in the patterns - these are synchronised patterns, so each member of the team has to perform at the same time and with the same pacing. We didn't get anything in the sparring, but then we were a bit unlucky - I went up first (and lost, though I was later told that both my fights were close things), and the lady from our team who went up second withdrew halfway through the match (she hadn't wanted to spar in the first place and panicked!). So (as it was a knockout tournament, and each round was best 2 out of 3), we were down to the third/fourth play off. I went up first again, lost again, and then the final member of our team went up. She was winning the bout, and then jumped and landed wrongly on her knee, ending up not being able to put any weight on it, and having to go to hospital! (Fortunately, x-rays have shown that it was just badly twisted, and no major damage was done; given that our instructor is out for the best part of a year after possibly snapping a tendon, we do know what problems can come up!!) But I still enjoyed it, so much so that I'm going to put myself up for a single competition (i.e. not relying on anyone else...!) in Cornwall on the 7th June. Overall, our club did really well, winning 56 medals overall.

We also had a fun evening yesterday - Paul Merton is touring with an improv comedy show, and by some fluke we managed to get tickets (it sold out very quickly); I hadn't realised who else was going to be appearing in it; Richard Vranch (who is actually a talented comedian in his own right - he was wasted hiding behind the piano) - and Mike McShane (who has lost a lot of weight since appearing in Whose Line is it Anyway - he is half the man he used to be, but no less funny!). Great fun :-D

We've also had a few less fun things - our poor Skoda is now pretty much broken to the point where it is going to cost more to fix it than it will to buy a new car, so we are off out to get another one with my company bonus this year (huzzah for the change of company financial year which means that I get it 6 months earlier than normal!!). Hopefully this one will last more than a few months.... We are also definitely now on the move again (when we've found somewhere to go...), as our landlady has failed on the mortgage again, and the bank has informed us that they are taking her to court to gain possession of the property (though we still have until August to get out, and she may still pay the overdue balance (though as this is the third time in 6 months, I'm not holding my breath!)).

But I'm confident that we will get both of the above sorted out, and in the meantime, we have so many cinema things coming up! We've already been to see Iron Man (very silly, but great fun as well), are going to Indiana Jones this weekend, and then have films such as Batman, Prince Caspian and Hellboy 2 to look forward to - it's going to be a fab summer!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Copyright Breaches

As a blogger and a reader of blogs, I found this link running from Random Acts of Reality .
Essentially, the Hate Mail (both weekly and Sunday) has decided that lifting copyright material, or misrepresenting bloggers in articles is acceptable behaviour.

I am really lost for words on this. Even though Private Secret Diary has now received payment for his work, and When A Woman's Fed Up has had the article taken down whilst waiting for the results of the PCC enquiry - this situation should never had arisen! I am disgusted that this paper has the temerity to call itself "professional".

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Ffantastic Ffiesta!

Well! The event that we have spent over a year and a half working towards is ffinally ffinished...

And what a weekend it was - around about 100 people congregating on the De Vere Hotel in Swindon to celebrate the works of Jasper Fforde with a Ffiesta of fun and games.

This had been a stressful convention to plan - not least because of contractual issues which left us (as organisers) nearly £2,000 in debt. Most of that was on my credit card.

I was also worried, as there had been a fairly nasty review of the last Ffestival on Ansible (someone who believed that it should have been a convention with signing queues and panels and the like), and I was having nightmares about everyone wanting their money back... So, you can imagine that my frame of mind wasn't fantastic going into the Friday night!

However, I really need not have worried.

It was a FFANTASTIC weekend! From the start of the Saturday morning, when Katie's "Getting to Know You" game worked its magic and got everyone talking, right through to Monday afternoon, everyone seemed to have a brilliant time. The bus tour of Swindon was a big success, as was the table top croquet tournament (and, as usual, in the quintessentially English game, the final was between the Americans and the Germans...) The Maskerade was such fun - the level of ingenuity of people getting dressed up was brilliant (as well as specific human characters, we also had a Dodo (Pickwick) with her chick, a Will-Speak Machine, as well as the representation of footnotes...) We even did an audience participation Richard III, which, despite possibly being a little overlong (editorial blushes...), turned out really well - much better than having to sit quietly and see the play done by ac-tors... (Hey - anywhere you can "Boo" Richard and yell "He's behind you" at Clarence and the murderers.... Probably somewhere closer to what would have happened in Shakespeare's day with the groundlings at the Globe anyway!)

What totally overwhelmed me, though, was the incredible generosity of everyone who attended. At the start of the auction, Phil stood up and explained that we were having financial problems, and that the convention was running at a loss. And then the bidding started. Jasper as auctioneer, and a variety of items, some donated by Jasper (many different editions of his books, in a number of different languages), some donated by the Ffiesta (mainly croquet sets of one form or another...), some donated by other people (Terry Pratchett donated, through his PA, three signed copies of his books; those magnificent folk at ArmadaCon donated two free tickets to their convention, something John and I took advantage of!) I was keeping a running tally as the auction progressed, and kept on thinking I had to have got my maths wrong - the total just kept on rising and rising. By the end, when we had auctioned off everything which wasn't nailed down (including an early draft of the first chapter Jasper's not-yet-published book "Shades of Grey", which he had read out to us earlier in the evening), we had raised £2,700! This more than covered our debts, and, with additional monies raised through the selling of merchandise and various silly games (throw the marshmallow into the dodo's mouth, guess the weight of the entroposcope, whack a dodo...), we have enough to put some aside for the next Ffiesta, and also to donate to charity - final totals not sorted out yet, but it should be over £1,000!

And on the Monday, a group of about 12 of us went out to the Uffington White Horse to show some of our American guests some very British pastimes - driving through twisty, high hedged country roads, some of them mildly flooded, discovering that the one signpost to where you are going to is half way up the road you were meant to have taken, about thirty seconds after you have just overshot it, and, of course, having a picnic in the rain, saying "Isn't this fun...?" Fortunately, the sun came out fairly shortly after we finished eating, and we ended up flying kites and having a brilliant time - a very relaxing end to the weekend.

And now I collapse...!