A New Year’s Whodunit

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Happy New Year! I hope the Christmas holidays treated you well?

For me, there was lots of food and family time, plus half a day at work on New Year’s Eve. But I didn’t let office time spoil the week…my SO and I went to the theatre afterwards to see a matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – the longest running show in the world! Yes, the 1950s murder mystery show is now in its 68th year. It was very enjoyable, with lots of humour. I expected it to be more serious, like last year’s Witness for the Prosecution. However, as seems to be the case these days, there was someone behind us rustling a popcorn bag throughout act one, opening fizzy drinks and constantly fidgeting, like we were at the cinema, and not a LIVE STAGE SHOW. Anyway, getting back to The Mousetrap, as is tradition, I’m afraid I am unable to tell you whodunit!

I was back at work properly on Monday after lazing around for the best part of two weeks, and I will be returning to my intermediate rhythm tap class tomorrow after a 2 month break. I had signed up to an 11-week writing class at City Lit in Covent Garden, starting next week, but I changed my mind and got a refund, as I really need to buckle down and get some things finished first. That won’t happen if I’m out every Wednesday evening and my list of commitments is longer than before. I keep saying I want to ‘do less’ this year, so instead of committing to an 11-week course, I’m going to look out for one-off workshops instead, and use my free time to actually sit down and write. And practice ukulele!

On a different note, whilst in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve, I came across dance wear specialist Bloch’s brand new shop, which had moved from its prior location in Drury Lane. I love checking out the tap shoes, so I went downstairs to the shoe area and found the brand new Jason Samuels Smith patent tap shoes:

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drool!

I already have leather versions in white and black, so I probably would go for a different colour in the patent…if I was splashing out on new shoes.

Which ones you do prefer?

12 Highlights of 2019

As we near the end of 2019, I thought I would share with you my list of 12 highlights of the year:

  1. Amazing trip to Edinburgh in January, my first time in Scotland (not counting a coach trip to the port of Stranraer to catch a ferry to Northern Ireland)
  2. My second Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive in Salford in February – learnt loads and hung at lunchtime with a pal from my London class.
  3. Realising that I need to get back into writing!
  4. Sucking up my nerves to attend another tap improvisation workshop
  5. Summer tap dance intensive in Covent Garden in July…although I only managed one day of three
  6. A relaxing sunny beach weekend in Dorset, with delicious Thai food!
  7. Northern Ballet’s Cinderella at the Sheffield Lyceum, also my first time in Sheffield
  8. Being able to replace our horrible carpets at home with new carpet and wood-like flooring
  9. DIY Farrow & Ball kitchen makeover
  10. Rhythm of the Dance and Heartbeat of Home (Irish Dance shows)
  11. Learning to play beginner’s level ukulele and performing at the end of term Christmas concert
  12. Completing and passing 2 more modules of my HR course

Next year I would really like to attend some writing workshops and maybe try to get something submitted and published again (e.g. articles, reviews) like I did when I was a student. I’d also like to get a new job…

What were your highlights of 2019? What are your hopes for 2020?

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!

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!

Round of Applause

 

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Last week’s tap & gym outfits

Tap class is going really well at the moment. We’re doing a fantastic percussive routine to the song SOB by Nathaniel Ratcliffe and the Night Sweats, which includes lots of steps and lots of clapping. The thing with tapping and clapping, it’s a bit like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time…and sometimes we’re stepping on the beat and clapping on the off-beat. It’s amazing, I LOVE IT. It takes a lot of practice to get it right, and I am making sure I do that when I’m at home (and sometimes at work during a break), otherwise I think I’d be struggling every week with the speed of it.

We only have this week and next left of the term, and then we head into the summer break…but not before the ‘Summer Shorts’ workshops! I’ve enrolled on the Tap Improvisation workshop, but this year I’ll be giving the Shim Sham workshop a miss because I have a church BBQ. Then, in the last week of July I will be attending the 3 day Intermediate Tap Intensive at CityLit, along with a couple of my classmates! I can’t wait, but I’m going to make sure I pace myself this time.

In need of a break last weekend after doing lots of summer fairs and things, my SO and I headed to the south coast for a long weekend on the beach. It was so warm and Mediterranean-feeling, that we could have shut our eyes and thought we were in Spain. The beach was looovely, a little shingly, but once we got over that bit and into the (chilly) sea (took me a while!), we found sand!

On a final note, I thought it was high time for a dance show, so next week I’m going to my local theatre to see an Irish dance show called Rhythm of the Dance. I’ll tell you all about it next week!

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Sand…it’s in there somewhere

Writer’s Block

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A few months ago I decided to make 2019 my year of getting back into writing. I’ve been writing this blog, plus small amounts of content for my soap biz website and social media, and I update web pages for church and work…but now I want to concentrate on improving my writing and future prospects by developing skills in particular types of writing such as:

  • copywriting
  • copy editing & proofreading
  • digital content writing
  • report writing

I have begun my ‘journey’ by enrolling on a copywriting introductory workshop, which takes place in London at the end of July, and I have been reading a great book called ‘May I Have Your Attention Please?’ by copywriting whizz Mish Slade. It’s funny – since stating my intentions a few months ago and saving off a load of writing exercises to have a go at, I suddenly find I am writing less than before!

I was going to write a blog post on one of America’s tap dance legends at the weekend and then I had a mental block. Maybe I’ve been overthinking it and getting too concerned with putting out a FANTASTIC AWARD-WINNING blog post. To be honest, it’s probably more because I’ve been doing a lot at the weekends with my soap biz now that Spring and Summer fete season is upon us! Well, as I am now 2 events down, with 2 to go (a small one this Saturday and a BIG event 22nd June), I can look forward to setting aside some time this summer to do some writing practice exercises. There are also various free creative writing workshops around my borough in the autumn as part of a local literary festival.

In other news, rhythm tap classes resume this Thursday lunchtime and I am VERY excited! I was feeling a little jaded yesterday and wondering if I need a break, but GIRL, you’ve just had a 2 week break and it’s the final stretch before the summer break (and our teacher asked me for a song suggestion)! I have also been keeping up with weekly gym sessions at the university and I feel a lot fitter. I’ve even lost about 2kg since I started training – BOOM! I’m hoping to fit a session in tomorrow as I met an ex-colleague for lunch today (Gym Tuesday). Because it’s a bit too close to tap day, I’ll probably just go easy….

:))

Studio Spring Clean

Hey, how was your weekend? This weekend I ended up tidying up my garage, which is also home to my makeshift dance practice studio!

This involved sweeping the floor and my tap floor which had accumulated leaves and garden dirt. I moved my collapsible ballet barre so that it’s in my practice space – to make sure I use it for stretching. Unfortunately there’s not enough space at present to leave it up permanently.

There’s a lot we need to get rid of, so I got a big cardboard box and filled it with items to go to the charity shop or tip. There are a lot of plant pots…including pots that were left behind by the previous owners! We also need to list an old IKEA wardrobe that’s not old at all, but we have no need of it any longer.

In addition to a spring clean, I also hung some dance related art! One piece was a poster I already had of the tap legend that is Jason Samuels Smith. I chopped it down to fit a frame and hung it above the mirrors for inspiration! I also purchased a canvas of a dancer that I spotted at The Range to add extra dance atmosphere! A trip to the tip is definitely in order this coming weekend.

Before locking up, I had a quick practice of the Around The World step we learnt on Thursday!

Blah blah blah

Newsflash: I did NOT attend Move It 2019 on Friday, even though I had tickets!

I’ve been going to this huge dance exhibition in London every year since the mid 2000s, but I ended up being unwell last week, plus I had 2 days of a 4-day Essential Oils course over the weekend, so I decided to stay local.

The essential oils course was good on the whole (lots of lovely scents!), but because it was only a group of 4 students, 2 of the ladies who came together ended up dominating the sessions, interrupting with endless questions, many of which weren’t particularly relevant to the whole group, which led to the tutor replying almost every time with a 20 minute explanation.

To top it off, I was told at the end of the second day in front of the others that I am ‘the quiet one of the group’ and need to express myself more…So with that I was made to feel extremely self-conscious and like there’s something wrong with me.

Well hear this: THIS IS ME!

I’m not an extrovert, but I’m not completely introverted either. I believe the term is ambivert (somewhere between the two). I make conversation easily with people, I’ll strike up conversations on the train platform and I express myself through dance and the written word, but I am also drained by too much people interaction (Christmas anyone?).

This is me!

I grew up with two older brothers who dominated the conversation at the dinner table. My mum also talks a lot! Being the youngest, no one was asking my opinion. My default became to listen and observe.

I am not an outward processor, I take a bit longer to absorb and process the information being taught and any questions I have tend to come to me later after I’ve had time to think. (Actually I did ask relevant questions and took part in all aspects, but I didn’t want to interrupt the tutor mid-flow because I was trying to listen and understand). My personality suits my job in dealing with people sensitively and they know I’m not going to blab what they’ve told me to everyone in earshot.

Something I’ve come to realise is that:

  1. Many people cannot stand silence
  2. Those who tend to call you quiet do so because you’re not saying anything…to trigger them to talk endlessly about themselves.

What I would have preferred is a set time for questions at the end of each day instead of the constant tangents throughout the day that were not reined in by the tutor.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve learned what I wanted to know about using essential oils safely in my soap biz side gig, so I’m calling it a day and getting back to focusing on rhythm tap, writing and completing my ongoing human resources studies!

Have you ever felt like people are criticising your personality? Have you been told you’re too quiet? Too loud? Aggressive? Passive? Passive-aggressive?! Please do comment below.