Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Wanderer has returned!

What's this lurking in the boot of our old Discovery??
One harp... wrapped up against the rain!

If my life plan comes together and I end up doing lots of harp gigs then I'll treat the harp to a 'new coat' and a proper protective base.   At the moment it has to make do with some covers that are probably the best part of 50 years old.
Under the covers it's looking very smart indeed.  A man in London has crafted a new sound board, replaced the old felts in the pedal mechanism and fitted a new set of strings.  The tone quality is fantastically even and the sound is amazing!
Here's a detail of the sound bound and the modern 'eyelet' system for the strings.  (In the past the holes were larger and then plugged with little black pegs.  This caused loads of unwanted buzzes if I started to play loudly).  I've split my time this afternoon between playing and sorting out all my music.  There's a real temptation just sit and play for hours - but that would result in blistered fingers that could compromise my playing for weeks.  As a result, I'm trying to pace myself. 
After such major surgery, the harp is going to need regular attention and tuning as frequently as possible for a few weeks (at least once a day).  It will let me know when it's happy because it will start to 'hold its tuning' for longer periods.
It's so exciting to have the instrument home again and another phase in my new life plan starting!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What a difference three days make.....

Lovely Lady Supply Teacher arrived on Monday morning.  She is absolutely wonderful with the pupils and a really great colleague to have around the department. Coincidently, she was a Head of Music in a Birmingham school until last Christmas (with 20 years 'at the chalk face').  Her reasons for leaving full time teaching are remarkably similar to mine - but she still has two young children, so a supply contract for classroom work suits her best for the moment.  It's like she's been sent into my life for a reason......amazing when a new friend appears out of an immensely difficult situation!

I had a meeting with Enthusiastic New Deputy Head this afternoon.  I feel like I have a great relationship with him - largely because I am completely outside his agenda for changing the world but he still has a healthy respect for the work that I've put into the department.  He does have a blunt style which is alienating some of my colleagues, but I prefer to work with people who ask the right questions.... even if the answers are a little uncomfortable. 

Fourteen people have applied for the Music teaching vacancy that has resulted from Lovely Colleague taking on my role.  I have decided to take a back seat in the interview process next week.  This appointment is the first stage in Lovely Colleague taking over the department and she doesn't really need me hanging around!  In addition, Bullying Deputy Head decided (without consultation) to put the interviews on Thursday which is my main teaching day for exam groups.  I'll have a bit of time first thing in the morning to say "Hi" to the candidates but then I'll disappear....

I'm saving the best news until last... I had a phone call from Morley Harps yesterday lunchtime.  My harp is completely restored, healthy and waiting to be collected!  This means that we will be off to the South Cotswolds again on Saturday morning.  Watch this space for more photos and posts!

What a difference three days make.....!!  Jx

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Getting 'All Dramatic'...

We live about 6 miles away from Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property with lovely formal gardens and beautiful parkland.  As locals we know all the footpaths that lead onto the estate but, as NT members, we always go through the visitor entrance so that the house gets its share of our subscription(...and because I'm the sort of person who always gets caught!)  Yesterday was a perfect day to take the camera for a walk across the park..

Eventually we cut down some lanes to the Worcester to Birmingham canal tow path. 
The reflections were spectacular...
At the bottom of these locks we turned back up the hill towards the park.  The air quality was so clear that I managed to capture this shot of the whole of North East Worcestershire...
I'm going back to my 'indoor' life tomorrow.....but only for 18 more teaching weeks!
However I know that there's a blizzard of 'silly stuff' waiting for me at school.  At the moment I don't even know who I'm going to be working with at 8.30 tomorrow morning.  The Greek Supply teacher may still be there OR (following the incidents that he was directly responsible for in the week before the holiday) there may be the Lovely Lady Supply teacher who I interviewed on the last day of term OR the Adorable Ex-Pupil Supply teacher.
I'm aiming for a 'Zen-like state of calm' at 7.20 tomorrow morning...!!!!
Realistically, I'll settle for a day that only requires one glass of 'recovery red wine' in the evening!!
To all other teachers out there... "Bon Courage!"
Only 5 weeks until Easter...

Friday, 20 February 2015

Near Sea and Sky...

We've just got back from five lovely days on the South Coast.  We don't get to see much sea in Worcester - so I tend to get a bit 'over-excited' when I get chance to take any vaguely nautical photos.  Here are a few of my favourites...

Dramatic Skies over the Mouth of the Solent (Sunday afternoon)
Blue Skies over KeyHaven (Wednesday morning)
Blue and White Beach Huts near Milford on Sea (Tuesday morning)
Boats moored between the Mud flats (Wednesday morning)
Our budget hotel (South Lawn Hotel, Milford on Sea) was a real 'find'.  All this lovely scenery was just a short walk down a quiet lane and the walking was superb!  (We actually walked 12 miles on Tuesday and 14 miles on Wednesday.)  People have given it bad reviews on Trip Advisor because the décor is really out of date and the bathrooms need some serious modernisation.  It certainly isn't a Boutique Hotel - but it prices itself accordingly.  We paid £90 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast for the two of us.  The meals were nicely cooked and the breakfasts were enormous.  All the staff were really friendly too.  On balance, we felt that it was good value for money. 
My parents were so impressed by our reports that they've booked themselves in for three nights at the beginning of March.  There are masses of flat walks on broad paths through the KeyHaven Nature Reserve that will suit Mum (who has Huntington's Disease).  Milford also has a great sense of community and some great little shops.  I hope that the weather is kind to them and that they enjoy it!
Today Mark has driven all the way from Cheltenham to Thetford and back to help a friend collect a racing car.  All this time behind the wheel won't have done his back any good.  I think I'm going to be chief cook this evening!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Only one more early start....

Today has just been one of those weird days at work where ‘Insurmountable Mountains’ have crumbled into dust – just because my line managers decided to see things differently.  It’s been a long and nasty story (involving ill-thought out decisions, some bullying, the unions and a lot of tears) and I couldn't decide whether to post about it or not.  The unexpected ending is perfectly timed for the half term holiday.  I’m a brooder and would have found it impossible to leave the whole situation in the classroom.  Now some real ‘mental down-time’ is on the horizon!

I’ve got lots of plans for my week off.  I’m meeting up with long term teaching friends on Saturday afternoon.  One of them texted that she has some 'big news' to share with us.  I'm wondering if she has found her own escape tunnel?  We became friends when we were all teaching in Redditch in the mid-1990s.  Since then we've followed our own career paths across the West Midlands but always stayed in touch.  I really value their opinions and love meeting up.
On Saturday evening we’re having a little Valentine’s themed evening meal with my parents (heart table confetti, pink fizzy wine etc).  They've helped us out a bit recently with one thing and another, so it seemed like a nice chance to spend some quality time together. 
We’ve also got a few nights booked in a hotel on the coast near the New Forest.  Its Trip Advisor reviews are very variable but we are only paying £90 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast for both of us.  At that price I think we’ve got to be ‘tolerant’ of its possible quirkiness!  I’ll report back (with pictures!) later in the week.  We've done a couple of walks in the area in the past and we know that it's nice lane and coastal path territory.  If the weather holds it will be lovely.  There are also plenty of 'covered' things to do if the weather falls in completely.
Only one more 'get up'!   Jx

Sunday, 8 February 2015

No Dramas

Have you noticed that I suddenly went quiet about three days ago? No dramas. ?... it's just that our house computer died suddenly.  I have used a little tablet to post this today but it's hopeless for proper blogging because you can't see what you're writing!  I will hopefully have a new computer on Wednesday.  Between times - I hope that you all have a nice weekend.  To all the teachers out there - five more days!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


In September our household income will effectively be cut by 45%.  For the last two months I've been carrying out a 'controlled assessment' to see if Mark and I can handle the resulting life-style changes - not as a frugal novelty but as a fairly permanent financial state of affairs.
I've paid myself a new weekly cash allowance out of my salary and put everything else into savings.  I've then written down everything that I've spent my cash on... even down to 46p chewing gum and £1 parking fees.  I've found that the process of 'spending knowingly' has made me more appreciative of most things and less inclined towards frittering money away in my coffee shop habit.  Don't get me wrong - Mark and I have had a couple of lovely lunches out recently - but they were planned treats for special occasions not normal routine.

I'm not pushing the 'cash conscious' lifestyle onto Mark - but I know that he is quietly watching, thinking and coming up with his own ideas about the shape of our new future.  We're starting to develop 'filters' for a our spending..
  • Are we getting real value for money - is there a cheaper way..
  • Will the purchase be a real improvement in our life...
  • Will we end up in situation where we are obliged to spend too much money...
Recently we were asked to buy tickets for a charity formal dinner.  Some friends of ours wanted to get a group together but the tickets cost £90 per couple.  The friends also wanted to stop over at the hotel (another £75) and are enthusiastic drinkers (a large shared drinks bill!).  They were really offended when we declined the event.  I wonder if this couple will remain our friends as we move our financial goal posts.  I hope that they will - because we have known them for years and have a lot of shared history.  I worry that they won't - because his role as a Company Director with all the trappings of a large salary means a lot to them.

I'm excited about the future and completely believe that I'm doing the right thing.... I think I've just been a bit naïve about some of the implications....

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Look Who's Come To Stay.....

This is my 'baby harp', which has been on permanent loan to a musician friend for the last five years.  I borrowed it back on Friday and have had a wonderful weekend getting all the 'harp playing ants' out of my fingers.
My big harp (which went to London for major surgery before Christmas) is unlikely to be home for a while.  Harps are grumpy things at the best of times - they hate changes of temperature or being moved - so the process of replacing the sound board and strings on my big harp was always going to be a slow.   I was getting bothered that my fingers were softening up too much.  I certainly didn't want blisters when my lovely harp does come home.... so this wee beastie is helping to keep my fingers in shape!
Actually it's been a lovely weekend all round.  Mark and I pottered over to Hereford yesterday and cruised the Charity Shop bookshelves.  I found five books and a ball of wool.  Mark found a couple of car books, a pair of jeans (final clearance in the 'White Stuff' sale) and a load of useful 'bloke' things from a quirky old hardware shop near the Town Hall.  Last night we went round to my parent's for a roast dinner.
Today I've just mooched between short bursts of harp playing, cooking, crafting and reading.  No blisters yet...!