Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Brilliant Weekend!

I had a friend to stay for the weekend - I've not seen her for 14 years. We were best friends at my first secondary school, which I left aged 14, in really a very bad headspace (the school was rife with bullying, and I was not temperamentally suited to staying at a boarding school). By the time I felt able to think about my time there (without the attendant mental and physical pains - I would get really bad stomach cramp!), we had lost touch. An attempt to get back in contact through Friends Reunited didn't work.

Then, in January, she got back in touch through Facebook. We started emailing, then using MSN, and suddenly the years had disappeared, and it was as though we had never lost touch.

So she came up to visit us on Saturday and stayed overnight - poor John didn't get a word in edgeways as we chatted pretty much non-stop - ranging from general state of the world through to what my ex-classmates are now doing (I can't think of a more fitting punishment than "estate agent"!). It was incredibly cathartic - I was able to lay a lot of demons to rest, and it was actually genuinely interesting to find out what was happening (including the very real sadness at learning that one of the nicer people in my year had died a few years ago from a drugs overdose - not the end that I would have thought for him aged 14).

Whilst I know that my time at that school will always be with me - every so often I will get a flashback, usually from an unintentional comment (a recent one was our hockey coach saying that he'd forgotten about me whilst sorting out the training - that pushed me back to being the only one from my year in our boarding house not invited to a party - the group left from the bus stop opposite my bedroom window...), but I can now accept that what happened, though unpleasant, helped to shape me and is part of who I am.

In other news - my training for the Race for Life is going really well - I went out for a run last night (hooray for lighter evenings!), and went a little bit further than I'd intended. Mainly because I got lost... The outward journey was not too bad, but the last bit got a bit muddy and slightly overgrown, so, when I turned round and spotted a nice paved path heading back in roughly the same direction, I thought that would be ideal! Unfortunately, it very quickly curved away from the route that I had initially taken, and I ended up doing quite a big loop before it rejoined the main pathway (and as it scrambled down the hillside at the end to a three-way path split at the bottom, I was very lucky to get the right one heading back!). But I did just over 2 1/2 miles, and most of it was running, so I'm feeling very pleased with myself.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


I forgot to mention that we had an orchestra concert on Saturday as well, playing at a church in Thornbury (raising some money towards the church's restoration). It went reasonably well - second half a lot better than the first half, though the atmosphere in the church played havoc with the woodwind; going from a warm early-evening to a cold church, to it heating up again after the interval when the radiators were turned on, led to quite silly amounts of condensation coming out of the instruments - the first oboe had a mini-waterfall coming over his thumb!

However, I am incredibly chuffed that my solo in the Borodin went far better than I'd anticipated - the balance of oboe and cor anglais with the strings underneath sounded absolutely glorious in the church accoustics.

I did feel slightly sad, though - the person who had organised the concert (one of our trumpeters) had mentioned whilst we were setting up that he was bit concerned that one of their congregation might disrupt the proceedings. She is an Ulster Protestant and Bi-Polar; the church that we were playing in was the only one in the town which had not banned her. She had called him up earlier in the week and told him that the concert was the work of the devil and that she wasn't going to let it go ahead. Fortunately she did not show!

Whilst I know that she has mental health issues (though having worked with someone pre and post their bi-polar diagnosis, I can't believe that her attitude is not just a manic-exaggeration of her own feelings, rather than being wholly out of character), I feel really sorry for her beliefs. To feel that music of any kind is evil (and, yes, we were playing a mixture of music from high classical and religious (a lovely theme and variation on "Simple Gifts" in a piece called "Shaker Variants) to film scores and show music) and to want it out of not only your life but everyone else's is incredibly sad. I am an atheist, and have been for about 15 years now, but when I play and listen to music (particularly classical, but also things like electronica, indie etc) I get the same sense of peace and spirituality that I did when I was able to believe. She is missing out on this, and doesn't even realise it.

Spring is Sprung

The sun is out, the birds are singing (even at 2am - one very insomniac bird (possibly a blackbird - I'm not sure...) that was going full tilt when I came back from babysitting last weekend), the breezes are warm, and I've lost my voice... Given that this is the only cold I've had this year, and it has followed its usual course (severe sore throat (which I blasted with a strong hot todday!), move to chest, get better, kick out voice with last gasp!), it's not too bad (and, after judicious application of chocolate) is starting to come back :-)

The glorious weather meant that our final hockey match of the season was played in bright sunshine, which made the 2-1 win feel so much nicer than normal! The fact that we are at the top of the league, however temporarily (about half the league still has another game to play...) is a great team-ego boost as well.

I had my first training with the TKD-Demo team - I'm going to be doing some sparring (choreographed, but should hopefully look very real!), and also one of the skills (which I wasn't expecting, as I've not done those before) - essentially, I'm going to be breaking a board with a side kick (not a wooden one, but a plastic one which slots together, as in this vid (from about 1.26 onwards - it's Bradley and Vaughn doing a pattern before then)) Then Bradley is going to be doing a flying kick over my outstretched leg and breaking another board. We've done it with pads, but it's going to be very different with boards - I envisage a lot of practice over the next few months!

Sunday was spent pretty much in the kitchen - cooking roast beef for the first time in ages, and getting my Yorkshire puds just right - I'm very pleased about that, as I've never done them before! But they rose perfectly and tasted great - and as a bonus, we only ate four out of the twelve, so I've got another 8 bagged and frozen for future use. I also made my pasties for work, and then pancakes for supper, as we'd eaten a large meal at lunch, so didn't want anything major before heading out to TKD in the evening.

Yesterday, I went for another run - this time managing to get out whilst it was light, and we had a lovely trip down by the river - very peaceful and lovely scenery to look at whilst moving through. We covered 1.7 miles in total, but I wouldn't think that more than 0.7 of that was actually running...

Friday, 20 March 2009


Should you happen to be bored and trawling the internet, FML is a relatively new website (1 month) where people post the miserable / ironic etc things which have happened to them, in nice short two or three sentence paragraphs. It might be Schadenfreude, but I have found a number of these incredibly funny...
(thanks to Boobs, Injuries and Dr Pepper for that one!)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

More Sport and stuff...

As if I don't have enough to do...

Somehow, and I'm not really sure how it has happened (peer pressure from my TKD teacher - thanks, Kerry! ;-) ), I've signed up for the Race for Life this year. For anyone who doesn't know, this is an annual "women only" event (I'm not really sure why it is women only - Wikipedia says that it was originally set up to promote awareness of women's cancer, and there is a Run for Moore which is men only.), to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

So - in the summer, (June 13th to be precise...), I'm going to be running 5K (3.1 miles for those who deal in old money). Not a huge distance, I'll be the first to admit. But, my general length of run is either slowly once round a hockey pitch (there's a very good reason that I'm the goalkeeper, and it doesn't just involve general insanity or a love of being pelted with hard balls), or a sprint up to the station gates, down the steps and back up the other side, just in time to see the train pull away.

I had my first training run today with my friend Alice (who is also doing the Race for Life). Well, really, a training walk with an occasional break into a jog... But good enough for a first go :-) Hopefully in the next three months, I'll be able to train up to running the full 5K :-)

Obviously, the aim of the race is to raise money for Cancer Research. So, if anyone fancies looking at my fundraising page, the address is:
http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/jotoon ;-)

In other news - anyone who enjoys classical music and comedy should check out this link to the BBC Radio 3 Classic Relief - a concert done for Comic Relief - it is fantastic!

Thursday, 12 March 2009


Does it say much about my morning state of mind that it has taken me till 9.50 to realise that my work trousers were on inside out?


Like a winged arrow bears all its sons away...

As it does my posts - when the post in draft is over a month old, it gets a bit silly to finish it as it is! So I am starting again with a bit of a summary of the last month...

Hockey - some great wins... I've not been able to play as much as I liked, with other events on Saturdays and Tuesdays preventing me from getting to matches and to practice. But we are still 2nd in the table with two matches to go - there seems to be an excellent chance that we will go up the league again!

Tae Kwon Do - I had another competition in Feb, this time in Cardiff. I came away with two bronzes, one of which was similar to the last time, as there were only four in the sparring, so, winning or losing, I was assured of a medal (and I did lose, but only by a point, according to my instructor, who was one of the judges). The patterns, however, had nine people in the group, so I had to beat two others to get my bronze - and neither time did I think that I'd done well enough to win, so I was incredibly pleased with that! I've also had the trials for the demonstration team - going round various fetes and fairs in the summer, showing off TKD to the masses. Very pleased to have passed that and got into the team, and even more pleased with my company, who have generously offered to sponsor our doboks, meaning that we won't have to pay for them! (Hey, I asked the MD on the off-chance, not expecting anything, and he turned round and said 'Yes' :-D)

Culture - We had a trip to London to see Sir Derek Jacobi in Twelfth Night, which was *amazing* - there wasn't a weak link in the cast, and the Letter Scene (which, particularly when Sir D.J was performing it, deserves the capitals!) was just side-splittingly funny. Add to the mix a brilliant meal in a lovely Chinese, and fantastic company - it was an amazing day.

Culture - We also went to see Watchmen - I really enjoyed the film - possibly a little too much blood and gore when compared to the comic, but certainly nowhere near as much as Sin City! The changes in storyline (which I know some of the fanboys have been screaming about), I felt were completely justified, and fitted the story a lot better.

Orchestra - We've got a whole load of new pieces, including Danse Macabre, which is one of the first pieces which made me realise that I wanted to play in a group, rather than as a solo musician. We've also got the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, which includes as the first piece, the tune from Stranger in Paradise, played first on the oboe, and then on the cor. As the first oboe can't play both instruments at the same time, I've picked up the first oboe part for this, and also for the first two of the Snow Maiden pieces (though I've handed it back for the Dance of the Tumblers, the last in the four dances - with having to do solos in 1 and 2, and having done a simplified version of Tumblers with a slightly different rhythm, I don't think I could cope with that one as well!)

New Zealand - We've had our medical checks, and they have all come back clear, which is a fantastic piece of news. I've also fired my CV off to a number of recruiters, but they've pretty much all come back and said "Let us know when you have a visa". I did find another GIS company (reselling a rival's software) in Wellington, who are very promising, so I'm hoping that they will take me on once we've got the visa sorted...

Microcon - We headed down to Exeter at the end of Feb for the annual Exeter Uni Sci-Fi Society convention - as always, a great mix of people, some really fun talks and discussions (including one on the nature of Fandom with a capital F - I'm sorry, but if I'm not a Fan because I don't tick every box on the list of Fandom (Go to conventions, Run a convention, Slag off other people because they don't fit in to your definition of Fandom, Slag off guests because they happen to disagree with you...), then I'd rather just be a small f fan and enjoy sci-fi in my own way. Here endeth the rant (poor John heard a lot more of it over the weekend!)), and generally an all round chilling time :-)

I've also signed myself up for Race for Life, which I'm a bit scared about - I don't normally run further than up the incline to Temple Meads to get the train! However, it isn't till June, so I've got all the time in the world to learn how to run 5K...

And that is, in brief, the last Month. Hopefully, I'll post another one before the start of the next one, though I wouldn't hold your breath... I'm currently out four or five nights out of seven till the middle of May...!