Showtime!

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Last night was the night of my debut ukulele performance!

The end of term performance was made up of beginners, improvers, and two ukulele song groups that meet during the day. We performed songs in our own groups as well as all together. After half an hour of drinks, nibbles and mingling with our guests (one of my colleagues, plus my SO came to watch), we kicked off the evening with a song written by someone in the improvers class, which included a kazoo piece… As beginners, we performed ‘Teenage Kicks’ and ‘YMCA’, joined at the front by a guy who volunteered to lead the actions! The other groups played songs including Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Fairytale of New York’, George Formby’s ‘Leaning on a Lamp Post’ and Maroon 5’s ‘Memories’. We all came together at the end to perform ‘Santa Baby’. 

It was so much fun! I did feel a little nervous during the rehearsal, and I even wondered if I was going to get the giggles when I saw my friend and SO in the audience, but that was all gone by the main event. I wore a Christmas jumper! Everyone sang along! 

I spoke to the tutor afterwards about the next steps in learning and I mentioned that I’m returning to tap dance in January, which led to her and a guy from my class talking about their experience of learning or having a go at tap dance and wanting to try it again…so I gave my recommendations!

It has been quite a week for coming out of my comfort zone, actually. On Sunday my SO and I led the second Sunday in Advent service at church, and I really hate standing up the front and reading aloud. I get really nervous, a dry mouth and a scratchy voice. I think people are surprised when you can dance in public, but dislike speaking or reading. Two very different things! I really need to be more Alan**.As it was Advent, we arranged the chairs in a circle with the advent candles on a table in the middle as a focal point, which was lovely, but also made it easier in terms of nerves! I actually read out a Bible passage, a prayer and finished with a fairly long poem…and I enjoyed it! The next one is in late January. Who knows, I might even play my ukulele.

**Alan is a guy from a local running shop who has the gift of the gab; he’s an outward processor!

4 Wins Last Week

I made myself go to the gym

In fact, I actually tried out a different gym just to check it out as another option, seeing as my current gym is fairly restricted and lacking natural light during this 2 year refurb. I didn’t do any upper body resistance work this time, just to save the shoulder that I pulled a few weeks ago. It was a bright and airy facility with decent space for stretching (in fact, the girl on the mat beside me kept standing on her head) but it is a 5-7 minute walk beyond my current gym….

I completed and passed another module of my HR course

Yes! After all that reading and writing about redundancy and employment law, I wrote 3 assignments and passed them! I’ve taken so long over this qualification, that at this stage, rather than aiming for merit, ‘good enough’ is good enough! Four modules complete, two to go…On to recruitment!

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Had a relaxing spa day

For my SO’s birthday this weekend I took him for afternoon tea and spa day! It’s so nice during these dark and germ-ridden months to get away from it all (i.e. London) for the day and chill out in calm, steamy surroundings in Hertfordshire! Delightful hand-cut sandwiches, mini cakes and other sweet treats made it even better.

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I fell in love with the Ukulele

On Wednesday evening we chose the songs we are going to perform at the end of term concert. It dawned on me that there are only two weeks of beginners ukulele classes left and then it’s all over!
I love learning to play and the class is so much fun, but I need to return to RHYTHM TAP in January (already enrolled!) and I will struggle to do both, especially as the improvers uke class is 7.15-8.45pm, plus my 1 hour plus journey home – I’ll be dead by Thursday lunchtime tap! What to do? ARGH (Either way, I will keep playing). I think it may be time to suggest an informal music group with the other musicians I know of at church who don’t currently play their instruments in public. Perhaps we can muddle along together?

Have a good week, all!

Dorrance Dance Review

Last Thursday evening I went to Sadlers Wells, London’s home of dance, to see Dorrance Dance perform a triple bill: Three to One, Jungle Blues and Myelination. Led by Michelle Dorrance, Dorrance Dance are known for their Rhythm Tap as opposed to the typical theatrical showtap style, which made me jump at the chance to see them.

Jungle Blues

A lighthearted, southern, bluesy piece featuring the whole company. Smiling and laid back, with the gangly and awkward Warren Craft sliding around the stage in a slapstick fashion, it was fun to watch.

Three to One

After a short break, this piece began with 3 pairs of legs illuminated by a rectangle of light. Dorrance was in the middle in tap shoes and two barefoot male dancers were either side, doing exactly the same steps; an interesting concept of sound and silence, light and dark. Eventually they were fully lit and Dorrance is thrust into the darkness.

Myelination

This final, longer piece showcased the entire company, including the two breakdancers. The pint-sized B-girl was mesmerising in her contortions and fluidity of movement, if not slightly disturbing at points. I’m thinking of her frenetic movements on the ground, engulfed by red light as Warren Craft plays an electric guitar behind her, like something from The Exorcist (I’ve never seen the film, but I’ve seen enough trailers and silly gifs).

This show was pure rhythm and every sound was hit like a drum. Each dancer had their time to shine, and my favourite was Christopher Broughton’s old school tap solo, which was a nod to dancers such as the Nicholas Brothers, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and others. A suited Nicholas Van Young’s quick tapping brought to mind Gregory Hines’ close to the floor tap style.

Can I just mention the live jazz band on stage. The singing was exceptional. The guy on the keyboard and occasionally the drums had a voice like velvet. I’d buy his album!

I give the show 4 out of 5 stars for its innovative 21st century interpretation of rhythm tap dance, but it wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting, after rave reviews of previous shows. It was probably a little ‘out of the box’ for me this time.

What I Did This Week

I only went and pulled my left shoulder while pumping iron in the gym this week! Unfortunately I was trying to even up both sides by letting my least dominant side initiate pushing (or pulling) the weights, and ended up straining the muscles and making my weaker side even worse! Anyone else done this?

Thankfully I was OK to play my ukulele at the class this week – just no playing overhead 🙂 We had a go at one of the songs we’re going to play for the end of term show in December, and also I Have a Dream by ABBA, including the finger-picking bits in the middle and end of the song – hilarious! There were only 6 out of the usual 11 of us, but it felt like those of us who were there bonded a bit more this week. (I also sat in a slightly different seat to usual, just to mix it up a bit). We played I Have A Dream again all the way through so that our teacher could record it for us to practice with at home.

There’s so many people coughing and spluttering at work and on public transport, and then I wasn’t feeling 100% the afternoon of the class, but rather than slinking off home, I made myself go along…and I had a blast!

*Shocker* – today I would have been back at Rhythm Tap Intermediates, but I emailed my teacher this morning and asked her to cancel me off this half-term. I really need to rest my troublesome left knee, and as I said in my last post, I took on ukulele lessons without dropping anything from my list of commitments. Sad face, but needs (knees) must!

Even though I won’t be dancing this term, I’m going to see the game-changing NYC tap dancer Michelle Dorrance’s company Dorrance Dance perform at Sadlers Wells next Thursday evening. SO EXCITED! I’ll will give you the full breakdown next weekend!

I have to say, since the clocks went back I’ve been dosing up on vitamin D (Vitabiotics ULTRA D), along with C plus Zinc and scoffing all kinds of fruit. I actually found the time transition a lot easier this year – how about you? I’m also wearing earplugs at night to make sure I sleep through any potentially interruptive sounds (like heavy rainfall, revving motorbikes, screeching foxes and so on). Hoping this all helps keep the germs at bay. Actually, the best thing is to just AVOID LONDON!

Uke Can Do It

I’m now halfway through a term of ukulele classes! I’m really enjoying it and feel like I’m taking to it quite well. I never enjoyed my school clarinet lessons like this! Learning in a group probably helps, as does the ability to sing along with your instrument, and lack of setting up, cleaning and numb lips that comes with playing woodwind!

Last night we learned that we would be doing an end of term performance at the college on 11th December!! We had a go at one of the songs we’ll be playing, which was written by a student from the improvers class. A kazoo was also played played!

I’ve been thinking this week (yet again) about my writing ambitions and the amount of things I’m doing at the moment. If I really want to be a writer I need to prioritise writing and drop some of the other things off my list…

  • HR Practice studies – 2 modules left
  • Ukulele class
  • Tap dance classes
  • My soap biz
  • Work!

I read a great quote yesterday:

When everything is important, nothing is

My HR studies are progressing again, after I had a moment in September when I was ready to quit. I have an assignment on employment relations that I want to submit this weekend, and then that module will be completed, leaving 2 remaining modules (Recruitment and Learning & Development Activities, incase you were wondering). Then I’ll get my certificate and Associate membership!

I think, going forward that I’m not going to continue this ukulele class next year, and instead try and use what I’ve learnt so far to continue in my own time, using books, and YouTube, perhaps having a jam with the other musicians at church. After all, I started learning so I can play at church. Sometimes you’ve got to just start doing.

You KNOW I love tap dancing, right? (Yep!) But, I’m seriously considering taking a 6-12 week break from my Thursday class in the new year. Shocking, I know! (Only thing, numbers are quite small at this level during the day; I hope it doesn’t disappear from the course list while I’m gone!) This is another hobby that I can practice at home in my own time. I am probably going to attend Tap Dance Festival UK in Manchester again in February, which provides an excellent crash course in EVERYTHING TAP!

I’m going to return to running my soap biz as more of an enjoyable hobby, than pressuring myself to make it my full time career. I still have a monthly wholesale customer and I continue to register for tax on those earnings, but no more businessy career pressure! I want to move from using a base product to making in the cold process method, which my SO and I learnt about 2 years ago. We need time to practice this!

Despite the ups and downs, working 4 days a week in HR for a fantastic social charity continues until I become a freelance writer!

Sunday Cassoulet

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Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp goose or duck fat (I had none, so I used butter and oil)
  • 6 Cumberland sausages
  • 4 rashers of bacon
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Several handfuls of kale
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 400g can Butter Beans, drained
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 Rosemary stalks, leaves picked and chopped
  • Handful parsley, finely chopped
  • Crusty bread, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas mark 1. Put a large ovenproof pan (with tight-fitting lid) on the hob on a high heat. Add fat, diced bacon/pork and sausages and cook for a few mins to seal the edges, stirring to cook evenly. Reduce the heat to low, add the chopped onion, whole garlic cloves and fennel seeds, and simmer gently for a few mins.
  2. Pour over the red wine vinegar, scraping any meaty bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, kale, tomato purée, and half the rosemary and parsley.
  3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins, then season, cover with a lid and put into the oven for 2 hrs. Stir occasionally and add the butter beans with 30 mins to go.
  4. Serve with crusty bread.

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Why I Quit the Gym

This afternoon I got back from another session at my new gym. Yeah, I got back and then cancelled my membership. Why?

  • As usual I couldn’t get on any of the machines I wanted to use
  • Several machines were ‘out of order’ yet again
  • The machines are extremely complicated, so I’m not sure I’ll use many anyway
  • There’s hardly anywhere to stretch and stretching IS IMPORTANT
  • I’m not sure I’m really going to use the pool
  • I have to navigate at least 3 time-consuming road crossings get there – I haven’t got all day! LOL
  • My old gym was calling me back…

Out of frustration, I cut my workout short and went to my old gym at the University in its new temporary location (until around 2021), which is even closer to work, and I asked them for a quick tour. I went in, and I have to say, it is maybe a quarter smaller than it used to be, and there’s no views of the street outside (boohoo!), but all the familiar machines are there, and it seemed fairly quiet. Membership is £10 a month while it’s in this temporary state, so I’ve decided to do that instead. (£10 per month vs £6 per session PAYG – no brainer!)

Argh, what was I thinking? I think I was sucked in by the shiny new build council gym, but it just doesn’t come up to scratch. I got a massive discount because of when I signed up at the end of August but I’d never pay full price. EVER. As soon as I got back to work I cancelled my Direct Debit before the first payment deadline. They’ve had my joining fee – that’s more than enough!

Floors

In other news, we finally got our floors sorted at home! It’s a Victorian terraced house, and the existing carpets on the ground floor were in a right state. Especially as you come in off the street straight into a tiny porch and then the living room. That, coupled with the floor being concrete (and typical insensitive modernisations of Victorian cottages such as the removal of chimney breasts – these properties were built to breathe) created some moisture problems that came through the carpet. When we bought the place at the end of 2017, we also inherited a moth problem because the house hadn’t been lived in for a while. So, we had the carpets replaced on the landing (stair runner being done this Thursday) and we replaced the living/dining room carpet with Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) in ‘Colonial Oak’. It took a lot of work to get all the furniture out and we pulled up and disposed of the carpet ourselves before the floor guys came on the Monday to lay the carpet upstairs and prep the ground floor for laying the LVT the next day.

I absolutely LOVE IT. All thanks to my dear Nan who passed away just before we bought the house x