Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Passing and failing

Gabe

On consecutive days, Gabe passed his latest piano exam (grade 6? 7?) and failed his driving test. He hadn’t thought he had done particularly well in the piano exam, but was awarded a distinction. This didn’t impress him: “It means nothing,” – a reference I think to his more meaningful exams this summer.

The driving test was going well until his dreaded roundabout, with four exits, three of which are bunched together in a little more than 90 degrees of the circle. He committed a major fault: entering the roundabout while another car was on it. He plans to re-take the exam in the summer.

Robin

Robin, accompanied by L, took a fear of flying course, culminating in a flight for the course participants. His interest in visiting places, and more immediately a football tour and school trip which both involve flights, had inspired him to confront his anxiety. Robin was responsive to the reassurance offered on the course and managed the flight – even coping with the take-off without holding L’s hand. Future flights, he thinks, will be easier as the plane won’t be packed with nervous people, sobbing as they climb the steps and tapping themselves in the approved manner to distract from their fear.

Eliza

J is a friend of one of Eliza’s gym group. First they went jogging together. Now, fairly frequently, they visit each others’ houses. “Are you and J going out together?” I asked (ie boy/girlfriend). “No.. not yet,” she replied. That was a few weeks ago. It looks to us as though they are. Eliza seems happy and level-headed about it.

The Smiths shambles

Gabe and Eliza

While their music tastes have converged, Gabe and Eliza’s differences are seen clearly in their interest in the Smiths. Gabe got there sooner. He owns their LPs. He has a fan and critic’s knowledge of the songs and the band. He listens in his room or roaming the house on his headphones.

Eliza’s passion is lively. The Smiths provide old bangers – great tunes that she adds to playlists. She sings along, but recognises she cannot remember the lyrics, or even the titles, let alone where they appear on each album.

Eliza wears a Smiths’ T-shirt. This enrages Gabe: “a shambles”, so ignorant is she of what matters to him about the band. He spits out questions that her inability to answer proves his point.

This weekend Eliza is going to a gig. There are nods and silent acknowledgement of the event between her and L. She isn’t going to mention it in Gabe’s ear-shot. She knows how superciliously he will respond. It is The Smythes, a tribute band.

Robin

At Robin’s parents evening, he racked up compliment upon compliment for his achievement, his attitude and his conduct. His feeling for school remains at best ambivalent, and often negative, but this hasn’t affected how he goes about his school-day based on the feedback we heard.

Robin was with us at each meeting, not just the subject of the discussion, but active in it. This impressed me: where Gabe and Eliza would have been non-committal or embarrassed, Robin was articulate and controlled.

Two ticks

Robin

Two ticks – but not a mark of approval. L noticed a black speck on Robin’s upper arm as he lay in bed at his Grandpa’s house. She brushed it gently, but it didn’t come off. It was a tick – one of two that had half-buried themselves in his skin. Robin refused to eat breakfast before the ticks were removed as he didn’t want to feed the creatures. NHS Direct recommended a visit to A&E; the local pharmacy offered nothing. Auntie S suggested the vet, where her cat had been de-ticked. Robin was increasingly upset, walking around town bare-chested. The vet’s receptionist sold a pet tick removal device, which Auntie S successfully used to extract the parasitic insects.

Gabe

The half-term holiday visit to Scotland allowed Gabe to visit two universities that he is considering: Edinburgh and St Andrews. The former, which we wandered around, he found reasons to dislike. St Andrews, around which he was taken on a tour, was much more positively received: old buildings, a university town (rather than a town with a university). He also likes the idea of the four year degree, with the first two years studying three subjects.

Eliza

Eliza, setting to one side her recent indie-pop tastes, went to the Etihad Stadium to see Ed Sheeran. She was thrilled by the experience, although vague about what the concert had been like. She was a bit more specific about the taxi-driver, who had served time for manslaughter, who drove her, her friend and her family home.

Piano teacher

Gabe

Gabe has started giving piano lessons to the six or seven year old daughter of a local family. An initial try-out session was well-received and the young girl has 30 minutes tuition each Monday, for which Gabe is paid £5. Word has got around and an enquiry from the mother of another young primary school girl has arrived. Gabe is dismissive – “she can’t remember anything I’ve taught her” – but L assures me he is very gentle and doesn’t intimidate his pupil.

Robin

Robin’s first half-term at secondary school continues to be rocky. He received the invitation to have hot chocolate with the head teacher, but dropped his cup and spilled the drink in her office. He was picked for the school football team, but was played at left-back. He has made a couple of friends, although they only share a handful of classes. He’s more aware of the world, and terrified of what he hears about the news.

Eliza

Eliza, when not at school, is mostly ‘doing her own thing’. At home, she watches US TV series on Netflix, or pores over her phone in her room. But she’s just as likely to be out, visiting friends, going to a cafe in town, or in the park.

Young Voices

Robin

‘Birdcage of my soul’ was an unlikely song to hear Robin singing, but They Might be Giants‘ craziness was part of the repertoire of over 20 songs that he learnt to take part in a Young Voices concert at the MEN Arena. There was an African chant, folk-tunes and hymns as well. Hundreds, maybe thousands of school kids took part, filling much of the arena. It has put Robin in the unusual position of having performed at Manchester’s two major music venues: MEN Arena and the Bridgewater Hall.

Gabe

Seven weeks after Christmas, Gabe and L got their present from me: a trip to London to see a National Theatre production of This House at the Garrick on Charing Cross Road. I had taken a chance that Gabe would enjoy the subject-matter – 1970s parliamentary politics. It turned out to be good guess as he was fully engaged by the tales of the two main parties’s whips offices, in the days of slim or no majority governments. The play was fast-paced – clearly influenced by TV production – amusing and full of swearing. All three factors probably played towards Gabe’s enjoyment.

Eliza

Eliza has been pondering and testing the notion of becoming a vegetarian. It seems to be part of her growing awareness of societal ills. Like many people in her situation, she has to overcome her partiality for meat – in particular chicken, but also sausages. Unlike many, though, the major barrier is that Eliza doesn’t like a lot of vegetarian staples. He compromise is that she has given up meat, apart from chicken and fish.

Birthday celebration: parts 1, 2 & 3

Eliza

Eliza became a teen two weeks ago, but has continued the celebrations. We had a family meal out on her birthday night. She had a visit to Manchester’s new trampoline centre and a sleepover with her best friend a few days later. Last Saturday she had a joint birthday meal and cinema trip with school friends. A further sleepover with school friends may yet occur.

The joint birthday event had a dramatic start. Lucy, whose birthday was also being celebrated, set her own hair on fire at the table in the restaurant by leaning too close to a small candle. L made ready to douse her in water, but Lucy’s Dad patted out the flames with his hands. He’s an anaesthetist and apparently quite used to doing this in theatre. Lucy, Eliza and their friends continued the evening, although Eliza did say the smell of burnt hair was horrible.

Robin

From YouTube clips, Robin has developed an interest in basketball and, more specifically, the NBA. He knows the names of a few of the stars and a few more of the teams. A primary school tournament has given him the chance to play competitively for the first time. Undefeated in their first afternoon’s games, his team qualified for the final. There they came out on top, completing a double of school football and basketball champions. Robin’s role was in defence, allowing him to take long-shots. ‘3-pointers,’ as he said, ‘even though they only count as 2 points.’

Gabe

Gabe has completed two important elements of his music GCSE: recorded performance and composition. His performance piece was Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. On the appointed day, he played the piece twice, while his music teacher recorded it for the examiner. Each rendition included one mistake, so he was given another chance, early in the morning the following week. I dropped him at school to make sure he was there in time. Ten minutes later, it was wrapped up, with a faultless performance recorded and sent to the examiner.

30 day challenge

Eliza has joined L and me on (so far) two 30 day challenges with escalating physical demands. First, we did ‘abs and squats’ and now we’re attempting an arm strength challenge. We get together in the evening for that day’s exercise. Eliza goes first, so she can finish first. She does the exercises frenetically, pitching her torso up and down with sit-ups, not with the control I would expect of her as a gymnast. The fourth and final daily arm exercise is shadow boxing. Eliza thrashes her arms, getting quite uppity at the futility of the exercise and liking one of us to hold a pillow that she can flail at. 

Robin has played in his second cup final of the year, this time representing school. His team won all six matches, barely conceding a goal and with Robin leading scorer with 11. He has, I’m told, impressed playing alongside his friend and Man Utd academy player, Big L. 

The Beatles continue to be Gabe’s favourite band – to listen to and to play on the piano (Lady Madonna, at the moment). But he’s allowing other long defunct groups into his listening repertoire: Bowie, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and most surprisingly, the Smiths. He’s interested in which songs L and I like, encouraging us to add them to Spotify playlists (the subscription for which he convinced us to buy). He’ll listen to our choices, but hand down his own judgement on the correctness of our taste.