You know how every now and again coincidences just happen, like when you’re indicating to turn a corner and your blinker synchronises with the car in front of you? Or, that when you’re watching TV and having a conversation with someone in the room and you suddenly realise that you have said the same word as someone on TV at the exact same time?
Well, there are coincidences and then there are ironies.
Such as like tonight. Stuck in traffic on a particular stretch of the motorway at 6.30pm and then stuck in the SAME stretch of motorway on the return journey at about 10.30pm. Not a pleasant coincidence, but made funnier by the irony that I was listening to Meat Loaf (can’t beat a good rock out on the way down the M6 at night) and then this came on.
Ironic huh? “All revved up and no place to go” booming out whilst sat in four lanes of solid traffic with engines off because of an accident up ahead.
Have I mentioned I hate driving on the motorway at night recently? I’m sure I have…just once or thrice. It’s all because of the plan to convert the motorway network around Greater Manchester from a good-enough-but-would-be-great-if-it-were-better system to what they laughingly call a “Smart” motorway network.
It’s where the hard shoulder becomes a normal driving lane at peak times with a variable speed limit announced on gantries every half mile or so. Sounds smart enough, but the process has taken nearly 4 years so far, with frustrating traffic jams EVERY DAY, a mandatory 50mph speed limit, road closures, (lack of workmen working whilst said roads are closed), removal of lighting and junction signage pretty much all the way of the M60 between the M62 and the Trafford Centre, potholes that you could go fishing in and enough cones to stretch from Manchester to Mars and back – twice. There are hard barriers along the central reservation and the left hand edge of the carriageway and there are no hard shoulders any more, meaning when cars break down (or just overheat because of travelling in first gear for 20 miles), they have to pull up in the left hand driving lane (no shoulder or verge remember) and cause yet more tailbacks and more misery for the cars behind who have to either swerve to avoid them, or who slow down to see who’s hit who and if there is any blood anywhere.
Now, calling this new system “smart”, well, that’s ironic isn’t it?!!
It’s been another mixed day today so I thought I’d share a few photos with you.
First, my daughter’s car. It’s a lovely little car, almost a year old now, and perfect for her to run around in to work and the gym and so on. I quite like it myself to be honest, especially all the automated features like windscreen wipers that come on on their own when rain is detected. Or the medianav device that connects to my phone so I can listen to my own music without trailing wires all over the place.
One thing it is NOT good art its opening the bonnet to replace the screen wash. Exhibit A…. my dad helping me work the stupid bonnet out and filling the stupid water bottle.
Next, this headline in the newspaper today: Music is good for dementia, which is great news for most of the people I know because we enjoy so much music we have got a huge pool to choose from in later years in case we need it to keep our little grey cells working.
Now, like every good story arc, there has to be an element of tragedy, or disaster, or downright nastiness. My next picture shows a group of youngsters attacking not one, but TWO buses near home this evening.
These kids were goading the drivers and trying to damage the vehicles. The drivers had it well in hand, but even so, it saddens me to think that this is what passes for entertainment for kids like this.
And finally, the best bit of the day, my other band room – Todmorden Community Brass Band. This its the band I conduct on a Friday and where my poor husband gets a load of stick from me as he sits on the top chair as Principal Cornet.
We are currently in our post Christmas spell and we are looking at potential pieces to play in our forthcoming anniversary concert so and over the summer for our outdoor gigs in and around the local area.
So that’s a little peek at my Friday this week. I also did some studying and some work for church but I didn’t take photos of that. I could perhaps share with you a little something I watched as part of my studies if you like?
Go on then. Here’s a bit of Laurel and Hardy from 1928. I hope you enjoy it.
Outside my window… Storm Eleanor is gearing up and we’re battening down the hatches for her to hit tomorrow sometime
I am thinking… about a story that is floating round my head that came to me in the night. Now, before you go thinking that writers are gifted stories all the time, this one was the result of about 4 hours tossing and turning, arguing with myself and having conversations with people that I know will never happen. In an attempt to try and get those negative thoughts turned off I started reciting nursery rhymes and was struck by Little Bo Peep and how that simple little rhyme could be turned into a three act/scene play. The next two hours of insomnia were spent jotting down notes and working out the what if’s and what then’s of a potential story. Inspiration doesn’t just strike, it’s a result of a lot of things!
I am thankful… that our NHS has been able to treat me, my husband and my son over the Christmas holiday. We have all been pretty ill at one stage or another and needed various stages of medical support in the last couple of days. Today’s thankfulness is the urgent treating of my husband’s kidney stone and subsequent water infection
I am praying for… a swift recovery for all of us so we can crack on with what needs to be done
I am creating… reams of notes
I am going… to try and do some studying tomorrow. I’m a bit behind the calendar but nothing that I can’t catch up
I am wondering… if I’m going to need further antibiotics for this horrible throat infection
I am reading… “Origin” by Dan Brown. It’s very much in the same mode as “The Da Vinci Code” et al, but it’s an entertaining read and quite thought provoking
I am hoping… my husband has a restful night tonight
I am learning… that the older I get, the longer it takes to shake illness off
In my garden… the bins have been blown all over, the fence panel has detached itself from its moorings and the shrubbery is looking a bit tattered. It’s stormy out there tonight!
In my kitchen… had this for lunch/dinner/tea today. A vegetable base, lamb stock, pearl barley and split peas with some leftover lamb from Mum’s New Year Dinner yesterday. Hearty yet delicate and made us all feel a bit better
A favourite quote for today…
A peek into one of my days… taken the week before Christmas. Hollingworth Lake near Littleborough
One of my favourite things… is finding a new box-set to watch on Netflix
From the board room… I love this hot water bottle cover. Might try to make this sometime!
There is some news I wish to share with you which I shared on Facebook just before Christmas. You may know that I have been exploring ministry in the last 18 months or so, and I have been put forward for a selection panel to see if I am suitable for training to be an ordained minister for the Church of England. I am really pleased to be able to tell you that I was successful, and I will be training from September to become ordained. Thank you everyone who has prayed for me and offered me support in practical and spiritual ways on this journey thus far, and I hope you and I will continue our journey together as we see where God is calling me onward.
Actually, the day began about two weeks ago with a phone call from my son one evening that started with that familiar “Muuuuuum……?”
He plays Bass Trombone with Pemberton Old Wigan Band, which is a First Section brass band in the North West area. For those who don’t know, the brass band movement groups its bands together first of all by geographical area and then, according to how good they are they are divided in the sections. The elite bands are in the Championship Section and then according to ability, the rest are graded into four more sections, a little like the football league.
I haven’t played my cornet in earnest for a number of years, and then Ethan rang me on the way to band one night to see if I would be able to help his band out at the upcoming area contest. In February and March each year, the bands in each area compete against each other by playing the same piece of music (different for each section, and getting more difficult the higher up the section in which they are played) and the top two or three (depending on the size of the field) will go through to the National Finals which are held in September to compete against the winners from the other sections from around the country. There are other contests held throughout the year and bands can accrue points according to their placing in the contest. At the end of each year, bands can be promoted up a section or demoted down a section depending on their placing in the section overall.
When Ethan rang me, Pemberton were short of a back row cornet player and he asked me would I be able to play for them. To be honest, I was more than a little apprehensive at first. My lack of match-fitness was one thing, but a couple of other factors were making me a bit unsure of whether to say yes or not. But I did say yes, and boy am I glad that I did!
As a band, we have put in hours and hours of intense rehearsal over the last couple of weeks, including a four-hour rehearsal last Sunday and two hours each night this week. I’ll be honest, at times it was a bit tedious and drawn out but at others it was exhilarating, exciting and a lot of fun.
I was wary of doing anything that would distract me or put me off my playing, so for the last week or so I have been cutting down my medication because of the side-effects it has for me. One of the worst is that it gives me a very dry mouth, which as you might appreciate, when you’re nervous and about to play in a music competition on a brass instrument, can be quite troublesome. Another of the more pronounced side effects is that it can sometimes make me distracted and it affects my concentration, again, not brilliant when you have to concentrate intensely for the duration of a performance where 28 other people are depending on you to be at your peak.
And so, we arrived at yesterday – Contest Day.
The contest was held in the Blackpool Winter Gardens and we had to meet for a rehearsal in a nearby church hall at 7.30am. It meant a very early start for us yesterday as it takes an hour or so to get from home to Blackpool. I didn’t want to be late so I set my alarm for 5am, and we left the house at 6am heading for breakfast at McDonald’s. Well, you have to have some compensation for such an early rise on a Sunday haven’t you?!
The rehearsal room was freezing cold, but the band all quickly settled in for a warm-up by playing a couple of hymn tunes to loosen up our lips and to get us playing together as a band. We played “Blaenwern” (the tune for “Love divine, all loves excelling”) and it was so beautifully played that I cried. Yes, I actually cried. I was moved by the musicality, the sound of the band, the perfect execution of every note and in my head I was singing the words as we played. It was one of those rare spiritual moments in music making that are just sublime and can’t really be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced them for themselves.
We moved on to the testpiece – “Land of the Long White Cloud” by Philip Sparke – and the band were definitely up for a good performance on stage.
I thought it might be a bit of fun to share a series of snaps through the day, which I did on Facebook yesterday. I called them all “View from the PamCam. It’s […] o’clock” and this is the first of the day.
During the rehearsal we learned we had drawn number 9 out of 13 in our section and we expected to play at around 12 noon. It meant we had a fair bit of time to kill so we made our way to the Winter Gardens to do so.
As well as time to just sit and relax before the performance, it was a great chance to catch up with a few people I’ve known from my banding life throughout the year and I was really pleased to get to know more people in my own band a bit better. A good chance to bond, if you like.
After a while we were called through to the preparation/dressing room for yet more waiting around.
This is backstage. A big space behind the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens that allowed 6 bands at a time to get changed and warm up. I bet all you non-music folk imagine something a bit more glamorous don’t you? Haha, nope, this is the reality of banding. Lots of music cases, lots of uniforms strewn around the floor, hundreds of people milling about and a distinctive whiff of “nerves” from the bandsmen waiting to go and compete.
This is me with my son before we went on to perform. Slightly nervous at this point but under control. One thing about all that waiting about is that it helps settle any lingering nerves from rehearsal and the very early start to the day. Each band has to have its players registered with them, and the next stage of the day was go through to Registration where we get ticked off a big list.
And then, suddenly, it was time to take to the stage.
We played in the Pavillion, which is a room that hasn’t previously been used for competition. It was a huge room with a dark blue ceiling studded with lights, and no stage which meant the bands were seated at floor level along with the audience. The adjudicators were housed behind screens at the back of the room from where they would write their comments and come to their decision about which order to place the bands. The shape of the ceiling made the sound projection a bit strange, and when I was standing at the back of the room for the results later on, I could hear the whispers between people at the front of the room as if they were behind me. It was a little bit like being in the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral, and the sounds we made on the stand created a strange “bounce” which was a bit disconcerting to say the least.
The performance felt as though it went well, but it is really difficult to tell. If you can imagine that you are dressed in strange clothes (a tight jacket that belongs to someone else with a buttoned up collar and a dickie bow round your neck), in a strange room (almost dark, with strange acoustics), playing a very complex piece of music that requires intense concentration, listening and counting to be able to execute it to a very high standard, while all the while battling stage nerves you can imagine a little about how much adrenaline would be pumping around the system. I can’t really tell you how we sounded, but I can tell you that the dynamics were good, the soloists were EXCELLENT, the lyrical melody lines were beautifully played and when it came to the emotional climax of the piece the band were all moving and playing as one body.
It is very very difficult to achieve an objective view of a performance from within a band like that, and it’s difficult to know if our interpretation was good or not…
…until we had finished the last note that is, when the audience erupted with applause.
Now, I’ve heard good bands play contests where the audiences have politely clapped, but never have I experienced an audience reaction quite like that before. It was AMAZING!
We took our bows and trooped off stage, wobbling and on a high from the adrenaline rush of performance and made our way backstage to get changed again.
As there were only a couple more bands to play, it wasn’t long to wait until the results.
Here we are at the back of the room waiting for the adjudicators to deliver their verdict. There are two adjudicators, and they each took a turn in giving the bands some advice, and some insight into what they were looking for in the performances, including how they reached their verdict. They told us that the top four bands were easy to determine, because the winners stormed ahead of the rest, the 2nd placed were close to them but not as good, and the 3rd and 4th placed bands could have been the 4th and 3rd they were that close. The rest of the pack were a little way behind those four and all had their own strengths and weaknesses in their performances. So, the winners were brilliant, the runners up were really good, and the rest were OK, according to the judges.
It is normal practice for the Area contests to announce the top 6 placings, and it is a horrible feeling to be waiting to hear your band’s name, whilst at the same time NOT wanting to hear it because you want a higher placing.
The band in sixth place was announced…not us. Phew.
Then the band in fifth place…. not us. Phew.
Then the band in fourth place… not us. Phew. But feeling sick now.
Then they announced that there was a prize for the best section on the day. What?? Never had that before, but who has won it?
Would you believe it, the best section on the day was judged to be the trombone section from band number 9. That’s us!!!!
But wait. Have they announced that now because we haven’t won anything else? Or have they announced it because we came third?? Oh no, the sick feeling is intensifying now.
Back to the placings. The band who came 3rd… not us, but one who we expected to give us a good run for our money. Phew…. getting REALLY sick now.
And now the band who came 2nd… Oh boy, NOT US. Good grief. Can’t take the tension. Have we won, or have we come nowhere?? Can’t stand this, it’s awful.
The winning band (here we go) were also awarded prizes for the best Musical Director, best Bass section and a trophy for their Secretary (for some reason)… was the band that played….. NUMBER 9!!!!
That’s us! THAT’S US!!!!
We did it! So, so happy!
There is nothing quite like that winning feeling, especially after so much hard work and intense rehearsal. I am really proud of being a part of that winning ensemble, and I am extremely proud of my son who won a prize alongside his mates in the trombone section.
There is a bonus to the story too, in that because of points accrued and because of the win, Pemberton Old Band Wigan have been promoted to the Championship Section from January next year. That is a huge achievement and is all down to hard work and dedication from their players and their conductor Ben Dixon.
I doubt I will play with them again, but yesterday will forever stand out as a pinnacle in my banding life.
Looking out my window… I am looking at a garden that is in serious need of some TLC
I am thinking… about how busy I am going to be for the next 8 days. I am going to be taking part in my first brass band contest for a very long time, and in the first section which I have not played in for even longer than that. The busyness comes from the amount of rehearsal I have to do between now and then, not just the 2 hours each night with the rest of the band but the couple of hours each day on my own practice at home too to make sure I am in tip top condition to the band and the performance justice. I am looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measure to be honest.
I am thankful… for the gift of music.
One of my favourite things… is sharing food on a Saturday with my family and having some good ol’ quality time together.
I am wearing… post-shower comfies.
I am creating… a crocheted blanket for my son’s girlfriend Megan.
I am watching… as I type this, “Despicable Me” is on TV in the background, but something that I have been going out of my way to watch is “No Offence” on Channel 4. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!
I am reading… “The Ghosts of Idlewood” by M L Bullock for a bit of light fiction reading, but I am also working my way through Richard Coles’ “Bringing In The Sheaves” and “Being a Priest Today” by Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown.
I am listening to… Meatloaf a lot at the minute. I was at my cousin’s partner’s funeral last week and we listened to “Paradise in the Dashboard Light” as part of the service. It spurred me on to revisiting some of the tracks I used to listen to a while back and that I’d not realised I hadn’t listened to for a while.
I am hoping… to hear from the bank soon about a proposal we made to them about our future finances. If they don’t agree in writing then we are going to be seriously up against the wall and will more than likely lose our home. It is a tense time.
I am learning… that even when you do things right, and that you obey the rules, when you’re at the mercy of big corporations who can change the goalposts on a whim then it doesn’t matter how much you comply, you will still lose.
In the kitchen… we are having burritos for tea tonight. Probably not too authentic but tasty and a great way to share food with the family regardless of accuracy!
I thought the sparrow’s note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home in his nest at even;–
He sings the song, but it pleases not now;
For I did not bring home the river and sky;
He sang to my ear; they sang to my eye.
From “Each and All” by Ralph Waldo Emerson A moment from my week…
I was caught up in the aftermath of a crash on the M60 on Tuesday this week (video link below – apologies for the advert beforehand, I can’t control that). I had dropped my husband off at work so I could have use of the car to get me to an important meeting about my future training in the church. Fortunately for all concerned in the incident there were no serious injuries or fatalities, but unfortunately for me, I was sat in the car for about half an hour and very nearly had to visit the Bishop’s office still dressed in my pyjamas!
It’s funny how one careless action by one person could have so many consequences that cannot be foreseen or even dreamt of when they do it.
Looking out my window… I can see clear blue skies, but I can hear the wind howling and there is a storm on its way.
I am thinking… I might cook cheesy bacon pasta for tea tonight.
I am thankful… that mental health in young people is taken seriously.
One of my favourite things… is driving with my son to band practice and having a natter about all sorts of things, both big and small.
I am creating… this little beauty. I began it during the evening on Boxing Day (for my non-UK readers, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day) and it is going to be used when we go away in our caravan this summer.
I am wearing… layers, layers and layers today. The heating is on but I’m bone-cold.
I am reading… “The Coroner (Coroner: Jenny Cooper Series)” by M R Hall
I am watching… The BDO World Championships on TV this week. I love watching the darts, and the BDO suits me because it is not as high-powered or glitzy as the PDC competitions. Darts are good to crochet to as I can listen and only half watch the TV as I’m concentrating on the yarn in my hands.
I have been listening to… Pemberton Old Band rehearsing for a competition this weekend in Skegness. My son plays bass trombone for them and I sometimes give him a lift to rehearsals. I have enjoyed the experience of being a groupie rather than a player since he started playing with them, and it makes a refreshing change for me to hear a piece of music being crafted into a performance piece to contest level by a band of this calibre. They are in the First Section (one level down from the Championship Section but working on their way back up) and they are a level above where I played with Middleton Band before I stopped playing.
I am hoping… my brother recovers quickly from his surgery yesterday.
I am learning… to trust my instinct.
In my kitchen… I have been making the effort to cook proper meals from scratch. We have a limited food budget and sometimes it can be a challenge to eat healthily all the time, and I have been enjoying the challenge of finding recipes and dishes that we can eat to fill us up, fill us up healthily, fill us up healthily and inexpensively.
Board room… we are looking at the story of Jonah and the Whale for our next Messy Church and I really want to do this activity with the children:
Post Script: I found this site (Strategies for dealing with change) when I was looking for something to help someone I love who is going through some really difficult, anxious times. I found this picture, and thought it would be great to share with you too. Please visit the host site for more like this.
Closing Notes… I began this post this morning, about 12 hours ago (which is why I said the sky is clear blue and not the midnight black it is now) and today has been another one that has been packed with drama, fun, music, family, planning, crafting and laughter. I thank God that my life is so varied and that it is filled with so many people who stimulate me in so many different ways. I have to say that being a mum is challenging at the minute, and I trust God to see us through the particular storm we are weathering just now. I am grateful to my friends who visited today too – a bit of a giggle and a chat with people you love goes a long way to making things feel better! And music. Ah music. Where would I be without you? Laughing with Ethan and Megan in the car going to band rehearsal tonight and having fun finding music that we all like. Fortunately all three of us have similar musical taste and we enjoyed a great 45 minutes each way listening to all sorts of stuff, from First Class’ “Beach Baby”, to the cast recording of songs from “Sweet Charity”, by way of Glen Campbell and his “Rhinestone Cowboy” (with alternative words, courtesy of yours truly) and a bit of “Hairspray” to finish with. You definitely can’t stop the beat if you’re travelling with the Pamster at the minute!
It has been one of “those” days today. You know the ones, where randomness happens throughout the day and you just have to shake your head and say, “well, that was a bit good!”
Well my day has been a bit like that.
First of all I went to Stay and Play this morning and saw absolute genius in action. One of our mums is blind, and she has managed her baby very well with the help of either her own mum or a carer who was there to help guide her around and to make sure that the baby was always looked after. The baby has now grown up a little bit and is toddling around quite happily on her own two feet, but today, the mum came without the aid of either her mum or her carer, instead relying on the help of one of the other mums (a friend of hers anyway) to get her into the church hall and to get her seated and so on. The genius bit was this:
A set of jingle bells round the little girl’s ankle so that her mum could hear where she was in the hall and could track her movements easily. We were all astounded at how such a simple thing could mean such a lot – that not only could the mum enjoy some independence, but that the baby could also enjoy running around without getting too far away from mum. Of course there are always lots of people watching out and interacting with the mums and tots in the group so there would never be any real danger, but how’s that for a stroke of genius to help them both enjoy a bit of living!
Nature was also having a bit of genius this morning too. How’s about these couple of beauties?
Still reeling from the gorgeous skies and cold, crisp air, came a demonstration of something deeply moving. At about 12 o’clock, there was an almighty roar of engines going past the church hall as a big group of bikers made their way noisily up the main road. About 15 minutes or so later, they all came back again, this time doubled in number, going half the speed and leading out a hearse and a funeral cortege down towards the crematorium. The flowers on top of the coffin were in the shape of a motorbike, and the flowers down the side of the hearse spelled out BROTHER in black flowers. What a sight, and what a gesture to witness. Here is a video of the tail end of the procession so you can see for yourself.
Then this evening, I had the utmost pleasure and privilege to sit and listen to the Pemberton Old Band as they were put through their paces at a rehearsal for an upcoming contest. I have been going there for the last couple of months with Ethan, who is playing bass trombone for them, and I have heard the piece they are playing take shape and get generally better and better each week. The band has a great sound and tonight they were pushed to really play proper pianissimo and fortissimo, which was fantastic to hear. There are another couple of rehearsals to go before the contest at the end of the month, and it promises to be a great performance. Looking forward to it.
So there you have it, a couple of things that have made up my day today. Random? Or simply a reflection of the eclectic life I have?!