May 30, 2006

Hooray for baby waterfowl

Yay! The babies are back! People don’t understand my obsession with ducks ad swans and geese and things but I think they’re awesome. I feel sorry for Andy, as whenever we walk through Jephson Gardens I always ask if I can go and look at the ducks. He always says yes and waits patiently, but doesn’t understand my love for them. Beckie also asked why I love them so much, but I don’t know why!

Anyway, baby waterfowl update;
4 cygnets
9 ducklings

Better duck turnout this year, but there were 6 cygnets last year! Poor effort from the swan population I feel.

April 09, 2006

Musicians: the truth.

Thanks to Lamby's blog!! I think it's a valuable piece of literature that everyone should be aware of!

The members of the orchestra are divided into four sections. These are woodwinds, the strings, the brass, and the percussion. Thereís also someone standing in front of all these other folks playing no instrument at all. This would be the conductor. It is generally required that the conductor is required to make musical decisions and to hold all of the instruments together in a cohesive interpretation of any given work. Not so. Rather, the conductor is necessary because the four groups would rather eat Velveeta than have anything to do with someone from another section. And, as we know, musicians are quite serious about their food.

Why all the animosity? Before I begin my explanation, let me set the record straight in plain English about some of the characteristics which typify the four groups.

Woodwind players have IQs in the low- to mid-genius range. Nerds with coke-bottle glasses and big egos, blowers tend to be extremely quiet, cowering behind bizarre-looking contraptions ó their instruments ó so nobody will notice them. It is often difficult to discern whether a wind player is male or female.
String players are neurotic prima donnas who wonít even shake your hand for fear of permanent injury. A string player will never look you directly in the eye. They never bathe carefully ó or often.
Brass players are loud-mouthed drunkards who bully everyone, with the possible and occasional exception of a stray percussionist. They like to slick their hair back. Nobody knows why.
Percussionists are insensitive oafs who constantly make tasteless jokes at the expense of the strings and woodwinds. They look very good in concert attire but have the worst table manners of all musicians. They are always male, or close enough.
The Woodwinds

Oboe players are seriously nuts. They usually develop brain tumors from the extreme air pressure built up over the years of playing this rather silly instrument. Oboists suffer from a serious Santa Claus complex, spending all their waking hours carving little wooden toys for imaginary children, although they will tell you they are putting the finishing touches on the worldís greatest reed. Oboists canít drive and always wear clothes one size too small. They all wear berets and have special eating requirements which are endlessly annoying and which are intended to make them seem somewhat special.

English horn players are losers, although they dress better than oboists. They cry at the drop of a beret.

Bassoon players are downright sinister. They are your worst enemy, but they come on so sweet that itís really hard to catch them at their game. Hereís an instrument thatís better seen than heard. Bassoon players like to give the impression that theirs is a very hard instrument to play, but the truth is that the bassoon only plays one or two notes per piece and is therefore only heard for a minute in any given evening. In order to keep their jobs, however ó and this is their only real concern ó they act up a storm doing their very best to look busy, usually by raising and lowering their eyebrows at an alarming rate.

It takes more brawn, and slightly less brain, to play contrabassoon. They are available at pawnshops in large numbers ó the instruments as well as the players ó and play the same three or four numbers as the tuba, although not quite as loudly or beautifully

Okay, now we come to the flute. Oversexed and undernourished is the ticket here. The flute player has no easier time of getting along with the rest of the orchestra than anyone else, but that wonít stop them from sleeping with everyone. Man and woman alike, makes no difference. The bass flute is not even worth mentioning. Piccolos, on the other hand, belong mainly on the fifty yard line of a football field where the unfortunate audience can maintain a safe distance.

The clarinet is, without a doubt, the easiest of all orchestral instruments to play. Clarinets are cheap, and the reeds are literally a dime a dozen. Clarinetists have lots of time and money for the finest wines, oriental rugs, and exotic sports cars. They mostly have no education, interest, or talent in music, but fortunately for them they donít need much. Clarinets come in various sizes and keys ó nobody knows why. Donít ask a clarinetist for a loan, as they are stingy and mean. Some of the more talented clarinets can learn to play the saxophone. Big deal.

The Strings

Letís continue now with the real truth about this section. We begin with the string familyís smallest member: the violin. The violin is a high-pitched, high-tension instrument. Itís not an easy instrument to play. Lots of hard music is written for this instrument. Important things for a violinist to keep in mind are: Number one ó the door to your studio should be left slightly open so that everyone can hear your brilliant practice sessions. Number two: you should make disparaging remarks about the other violinists whenever possible, which is most of the time. And number three: you should tell everyone how terribly valuable your instrument is until they drool.

The viola is a large and awkward instrument, which, when played, sounds downright disgusting. Violists are the most insecure members of the string section. Nothing can be done about this. Violists donít like to be made fun of and therefore find ways of making people feel sorry for them. They wear shabby clothes so that theyíll look as if theyíve just been dragged under a train. It works quite well.

People who play the cello are simply not good looking. They have generally chosen their instrument because, while in use, the cello hides 80% of its playerís considerable bulk. Most cellists are in analysis, which wonít end until they can play a scale in tune or, in other words, never. Cellists wear sensible shoes and always bring their own lunch.

Double bass players are almost completely harmless. Most have worked their way up through the ranks of a large moving company and are happy to have a secure job in a symphony orchestra or anywhere. The fact that it takes at least ten basses to make an audible sound tends to make these simple-minded folks disappear into their woodwork, but why do they drive such small cars?

Plucked and Hammered Strings

Harpists are gorgeous. And they always know it. They often look good into their late eighties. Although rare as henís teeth, male harpists are equally beautiful. Harpists spend their time perfecting their eye-batting, little-lost-lamb look so they can snare unsuspecting wind players into carrying their heavy gilded furniture around. Debussy was right ó harpists spend half their life tuning and the other half playing out of tune.

Pianists in the symphony orchestra work the least and complain the most. They have unusually large egos and, because they can only play seated, also have the biggest butts. When they make mistakes, which is more often than not, their excuse is that they have never played on that particular piano before. Oh, the poor darlings.

The Brass

Trumpet players are the scum of the earth. Iíll admit, though, they do look good when theyíre all cleaned up. Theyíll promise you the world, but they lie like a cheap rug. Sure, they can play soft and pretty during rehearsal, but watch out come concert time! Theyíre worse than lawyers, feeding off the poor, defenseless, weaker members of the orchestra and loving every minute of it. Perhaps the conductor could intercede? Oh, I donít think so.

Trombone players are generally the nicest brass players. They do tend to drink quite heavily, however, and perhaps donít shine the brightest headlights on the highway, but they wouldnít hurt you. They donít count well but stay pretty much out of the way anyway. Probably because they know just how stupid they look when they play. Itís a little-known fact that trombone players are unusually good bowlers. This is true. Theyíre the folks to call with all your pharmaceutical questions.

Regarding the French horn, I have only two words of advice: stay away. Horn players are piranhas. Theyíll steal your wallet, lunch, boyfriend, or wife given half a chance ó or no chance at all. They have nothing to live for and arenít afraid of ruining your life. The pressure is high for them. If they miss a note, they get fired. If they donít miss a note, they rub your nose in it and it doesnít smell so sweet.

The kind-hearted folks who play the tuba are good-looking and smart. Theyíd give you the shirt off their back. The tuba is one of the most interesting to take in the bath with you. Itís a crying shame that thereís only one per orchestra. Would that it could be different.

The Percussion

These standoffish fools who get paid perfectly good money for blowing whistles and hitting things donít deserve the considerable space they are allotted on the stage. Aside from the strange coincidence that all percussionists hail from the Deep South, another little known, but rather revealing fact is, there are no written percussion parts in the standard orchestral repertory. Percussion players do have music stands, and they do use them ó to look at girlie magazines. Percussionists play whatever and whenever they damn well feel like it, and itís always too loud! The ones with a spark of decency and intelligence play timpani.

Most percussionists are deaf, but those who play tipani pretend to tune their instruments for the sake of the ignorant and easily-duped conductor.

The guy with the short nose who plays the cymbals is no Einstein, but heís also one of the best guys to share a room with on tour. Cymbal players donít practice ó I guess they figure itís bad enough to have to listen to those things at the concert.

Percussionists pretend to have lots of kids whose toys can be seen quite often shaken, dropped, or manhandled to great effect. Whole percussion sections can be seen now and then on various forms of public transportation, where they practice getting up and down as a group. This represents the only significant challenge to a percussionist.

And that just about does it. I trust that this little tour has enlightened you just a little bit to the mysterious inner world of the symphony orchestra. This world, one which is marked by the terrible strain of simple day-to-day survival, is indeed not an easy one. Perhaps now you will be a bit more understanding of the difficulties which face a modern-day concert artist. And so, the next time you find yourself at the symphony, take a moment to look deeply into the faces of the performers on the stage and imagine how much more difficult their lives are than yours.

April 04, 2006

Doppelgangers. Fact.

This is Andy:

This is Neil:

This is Chris:

They were all separated at birth. They plan to take over the world.

Be afraid.

March 21, 2006

Dude. Tour.

Having recovered (just about) from a whole week of sleep deprivation, the cold, and having to sit next to Tom Middleton on the coach ;-) I think I'm just about ready to relay the stories of what went on on the UWSO and Chorus tour to Italy. I can safely say that it was one of the most entertaining and fun experiences I have ever had, and I'm not slightly deflated that we're all back in Blighty and not eating ice-cream in Milan, or walking across the Rialto, or choreographing exciting photographs in the amphitheatre in Verona. But all good things must come to an end I guess, and it is really good to know that we all had such an AWESOME time.

My personal highlights included;
Kicking Adrian to wake him up when we were playing a quartet in the lobby of a 5* hotel in Geneva
Waking up to watch the sun rise over the Alps with 3 feet of snow on either side of the road
Jaime's narcolepsy
Dribbling so much over Tom when I was asleep that he had to change his t-shirt
Tom's "Arab dance"
Me and Anna stalking the policemen in Milan
Formula 9
Dressing up in random outfits when drunk and being told by the hotel consierge "It's nice that you are all enjoying your homosexuality, but please can you not disturb the other guests"
Adrian being called an "inter-homo" by a random AJAX fan in Milan
Martin's comments in general, although "He has tramlines to inject spaghetti into his arms" was my favourite, along with "Phil, you appear to be having rotational difficulties"
The Northern Corner
Being taught rude Brass songs
Calling Alastair "Stairy Al"
Calling Tom a "Ginger Piss Wizard"
Never actually being completely sober
Wine tasting outside Bergamo
Tom on the roof of the bus playing a fanfare on Lewys's trumpet, signalling our return

I can't remember a time when I laughed for 8 solid days. Proof that tour really is the most fun you will ever have EVER. Thank you to everyone who made the week possible, and to everyone who was SO entertaining all week; the rest of the Back Seat Crew (Tom M, Adrian, Anna and Jaime), Alastair and Zoe, Phil, Radi, Jerzy, Ed, Mark, George and Cat, Hywel, and Lewys (sorry if I've missed anyone out!).

Here are some photos for your enjoyment, and can't wait to see you guys next term (but better still, next tour!).

Love to all

P.S. I'm still singing a certain song with the tune to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. FORMULA 9!!

February 14, 2006

What we learned last night

Say "no" to £1 drinks, kids. Especially if it is Carling. I have been awake for 5 hours, and have only just managed to get the world to stop spinning. I cannot remember most of what happened last night, nor how I got home. Such was the nature of Top B.

What I can remember of it was highly entertaining, however, and involved Nick Seagrave announcing that every week there were to be £1 drinks all night. This is not good news for my liver. For regardless of how many times I say to myself "Caroline, though art a muppet. You must never engage in this reckless, irresponsible behaviour ever again, ever EVER", I nevertheless will do it.

And so I shall carry on forgetting how I got home, what I did, who I spoke to or saw, and so on and so forth.

And I have a craving for mushy peas, the choice legume of kings. I may go to Battered and purchase.

February 09, 2006


I am sure there are little pixies who come into my room and night and put more clothes into my already overflowing laundry hamper. I remember not putting them there.

Also, I cannot be bothered to wash said clothes, not even with the incentive of being able to iron them afterwards (ironing of course being the best thing in the world ever EVER). Thussly, I have no pants. Short-term solution: Go and buy more pants. Long-term problem: More washing of said pants.

Oh how I loathe my bouts of muppetry.

January 08, 2006

My token 'New Year' entry (and I nicked it)

Here it is. My effort.

1. What did you do in 2005 that youíd never done before?
Didn't go home for the majority of the summer holidays. I lived in my own house, and did what I wanted to do. And it rocked.

2. Did you keep your new yearsí resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Didn't make any last year to keep or break. This year I was trying to be 'more eloquent'. Tought for a Northerner.

3. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?
A degree!

4. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 13th, for various reasons. And February 2nd.

5. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Managing to survive!

6. What was your biggest failure?
Time management amongst others!

7. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
UWCC Tour to Barcelona. And last exam Top B, which turned out to be totally dreadful.

8. What song will always remind you of 2005?
All About You by McFly. Without a doubt!

9. What do you wish youíd done more of?
Gone out and had fun.

10. What do you wish youíd done less of?
Washing up. Or alternatively, not bothering to fix the dishwasher.

11. What was the best book you read?
The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom.

12. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?
Appassionata, 2nd movement.

13. What did you want and get?
A new laptop.

14. What did you want and not get?
Someone to solve my problems for me.

15. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
An exam. Was 20.

16. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Living with these guys right from the very start. I love you all x

17. What kept you sane?

18. What political issue stirred you the most?
Fox hunting ban.

19. Who was the best new person you met?
Alex (duh!).

20. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005:
There are many wonderful things around you which can make you immeasurably happy if you take the time to look for them. Here is one;

November 22, 2005

It has been very cold as of late

Crikey, havn't blogged in a while. Oops.

It has, indeed, been very cold as of late. I'm finding myself wearing about 17 layers most of the time, and I have to start putting my coat etc. on 40 mins before I leave the house so I'm not late, as there are about 6 scarves to put on, and don't even get me started on the mittens…

Anyway, on the bus to campus yesterday morning, the world made me smile. It was 10.15, and still freezing. It was so cold that the trees and the fields and the fences and everything had a thick coat of white frost covering it. It was so thick it sould have been snow. I marvelled at how something so innocently beautiful could make me so smiley.

There are lots of people who don't like winter, and dread its arrival. My mum is one of those people. She hates the fact it gets dark at quarter past four, and that it's always cold. But I really quite like winter. I like coming in from the bitter cold into a nice warm house, especially if I'm at home as we have a coal fire. I like having an excuse to eat copious amouts of mince pies, and drinking brandy before I go to bed. I love the carols; end of term concerts. I'm even warming to Christmas again, despite me recent dislike of it. The Christmas (and Diwali) lights are up in Leamington, and it makes the whole place sparkle, which is hard to do, considering it's Leamington. I feel at home here.

I also like the fact this time of year brings out the best in people. They are friendlier, have more time for others, and do thoughtful things that they might not normally do. It makes me warm inside.

Please don't be sad; there are so many little things to make you happy if you look for them. The weatherman says it might even snow this week! Excited now.

Gosh, what a sentimental entry. Let me return to my hardened Northern-ness…

November 08, 2005

Symphony Orchestra rocks

You know when you get a tune stuck in your head, and no matter what you do you can't get rid of it? I'm like that right now. And it's all Symphony Orchestra's fault.

I've fallen in love with Tchaikovsky all over again tonight, and realised why he's one of my favourite composers ever EVER. His 5th symphony is in our repertoire this term, and it's fab. Makes me weak at the knees just thinking about the second movement. His orchestration is absolutely perfect. I'm listening to the Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker, which is one of my favourite pieces of music, and my most favouritest ballet ever. It's wonderful. Glass of red in my hand, listening to this. Fantastic.

But then we get on to the rest of the repertoire. Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man; A Mass for Peace, and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. The Bernstein I can tolerate. It's even quite good fun in some places, and it's great to see the brass enjoying themselves for a change. But The Armed Man…

Never did I think it was possible for one man to make so much money from 16 bars worth of music. It has so little direction and is so utterly dull. However, my mum does really love it, and she'll be coming down to see it, which will be nice since I havn't seen her (or been home!) since August.

My shoulders ache from playing the viola, but at least I'm happier tonight, which is cool. And I've just received possibly the best text I could ever imagine, and ever time I read it it makes me smile even more.


[contented sigh]

November 07, 2005

Today has been odd

Today I awoke somewhat groggy following yesterday's choral competition. Peterborough, as usual, had some damned awful adjudicator who was a general arse. Seriously, I expect he writes on his passport application "Occupation; Arse". Angered me. Apologies to all of those around me who had to suffer my stroppiness, especially Graham, whom I practically shouted at just because he was listening to music.

I found myself unable to drag myself out of bed, and lay there with that 'guilty-not bothered really-lethargic-oh God I'll need to catch up even more later on' feeling when you realise you're going to miss a lecture, but still did nothing about it and carried on lying there, thinking. I do most of my best thinking when I'm in bed, having just woken up.

Eventually forced myself into the shower, which was only lukewarm, and full of mould. I hate student accommodation; apparently, doing a degree means you are entitled to live in poverty. Anyway, finished shower, dried hair, straightened hair… Usual things.

Read Lorna's entry, and felt uplifted, if not envious, of her decision making ability. Then things started going wrong.

Card was rejected at Tesco – have 4 of your English pounds to sustain myself until I get paid, with Barclaycard bill looming ominously. Went home and managed to scrape together enough money to catch the bus, feeling a little worried, but excited at seeing people who I wanted to see on campus. Was half an hour late, but then had fun.

Now I feel funny. In an empty, unfulfilled way. Have been listening to Coldplay all night, as the words seem strangely fitting to my mood;

"When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you"

Oh God I hope I'm not in another depressive spiral. I think by now I can talk myself out of them, but it's so hard sometimes. I look to my friends who I know have been in exactly the same position, and they all seem to be doing ok now.

I often think back to what I would have been doing this time n years ago, and wonder how much I've achieved since then. If I were in Upper 6th now, I'd be talking to the people I've now lost touch with. I wouldn't be listening to Coldplay. I'd be taking pills and drinking Gin. Seems I havn't really achieved much.


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