Sunday, July 31, 2011

Musically Enthusiastic

We open our hymn books as Father announces the first hymn. Mouths open, we let the first notes fly out. They spiral up to the ceiling, a pleasing mix of voices. Then suddenly, discords grind against my ear. I turn my head ever so slightly and glare at Sophie who's warbling away to her own merry little tune. She seems completely oblivious to the fact that she is, for the most part, out of tune.

No one else around me seems bothered by her singing. Am I the only one who cares about the music being perfect for God? Or is it more selfish than that? Maybe I'm just impatient with people who aren't as musically talented as I.

Does God really mind whether the music is in tune or not? Does he care if Sophie warbles the wrong notes? I somehow doubt that. Sophie sings with her whole heart, enjoying every moment of the hymn, and sending it flying straight to God. Maybe, for all that I sing more musically than Sophie, her hymns are more pleasing to God than my note perfect ones.

So, next time we go to mass, when the hymn books open for the first hymn, I shall forget about how annoying the wrong notes are. Instead, I shall catch Sophie eye and share a grin. God doesn't care if we're musical or not, just so long as we are whole hearted.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Small Treats For Big Pleasure

"Come on!" Gemma-Rose cried. "We're going to walk up to the shop and get some Freddo Frogs."

We flew to our rooms and raced into shoes and jackets. No one wanted to dawdle when there was a chance of chocolate. In two minutes flat we were out the door and walking down the street. The afternoon was beautiful. The sun shone brightly in the blue sky. You would hardly have guessed that it was the middle of winter.

The smaller girls walked ahead holding onto Mum's hands. Charlotte and I trailed behind, chatting about our upcoming music exams and enjoying the beautiful wattle that bloomed bravely, turning the trees to gold. I wondered, as always, why wattle chooses to flower in winter.

Soon we reached the shop. We homed in on the chocolate section at once. Mum pointed out the treats we could have.

"I want a Curly Wurly," Gemma-Rose announced, before asking, "What is one of them anyway?"
We piled our sweets on the counter, waiting impatiently for Mum to pay for them.

"Shall we sit at the park and eat them?" Mum suggested as we left the shop.
"Yes!" we decided.
A short stone table, mushroomed out of the ground, providing the perfect place for us to eat. Coats were soon discarded as the sun warmed us.

Everyone soon joined in an animated discussion about names, and titles. No one noticed the time slipping away until Mum stood up and announced that it was time to go home.

We tripped gaily home again, enjoying the beautiful afternoon, and having already enjoyed our unexpected treat. Walking up to the shop to get a small chocolate takes very little effort, but can be so enjoyable, especially when it isn't expected. On the whole, I love small things like these, and like them all the better when I have people to share them with.

I apologise for not posting more often recently, but I am drowning in piano exam preparation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Holy Spirit Descends

It was the day of Sophie's confirmation. The cake with its twelve fruits sat in the fridge. Sophie's preparation book was completely filled out. Her white dress was back from the dry cleaners.

Sophie put on the clean white dress and stood patiently while Mum braided her hair back neatly. then it was off to the living room for photos. Snap, snap. The camera captured Sophie's huge, excited smile. She couldn't wait to be off to the church.

But first there was an hour and a half drive to the actual church. Then a wait while the small choir rehearsed the hymns for the mass. Then it was finally time to enter the church for the ceremony.

I sat next to Sophie, feeling a bit nervous. What if I forgot what we were supposed to do? We were the first in line so we couldn't even copy anyone. I ran through all the steps in my head, over and over again. I mustn't forget them.

Looking around the church just before mass, I contrasted this confirmation with my own. Apart from Sophie, there were only eight other children being confirmed, all of whom we knew well. At my confirmation I was one of about thirty children, all strangers.

The time came for Sophie to be confirmed. Together we left the pew and knelt before the bishop. He smiled at us as he checked the pronunciation of Sophie's confirmation name. Even before I had realised what was happening, we were walking back to the pew, and someone else was kneeling in our place. It had been so easy.

Sophie looked up at me, her big eyes shining, her big smile stretched all over her happy face. She squeezed my hand. I smiled back, dimly remembering how excited I had been when I was newly confirmed also.

Mass ended, we headed outside to have our photos taken with the bishop. Cameras flashed from everywhere, or so it seemed. Then we were done and walking inside for a slice of the huge confirmation cake.

Back at home again, we sliced our own, special, fruit covered cake.
"I want a bit of pineapple," Sophie said.
"Well, I want the mango," I countered.

Everyone chipped in, adding which fruit they would like to eat. The only fruit not mentioned was the poor tomato.

"Did you have a good day?" Mum asked Sophie. "Do you feel special now?"
"Yes!" she answered

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beethoven's Ears

I have an earache. Not the nice sort of earache where it's not too bad, you can sit in a chair and be waited on hand and foot until it goes away, and not a violent, head shattering sort. No, it's the sort where you've had the pain, and now you just can't hear out of the ear.

Today was piano lesson day. I sat down at the piano with my deaf ear and attempted to play my pieces. After a quarter of an hour of bumbling my way tonelessly through the pieces, completely failing to add any dynamics, I realised just how hard it is to play music when you can't hear very well.

Then, as I prepared to struggled through one of Beethoven's sonatas, I thought about Beethoven himself. He composed so much beautiful music. When people talk about the great composers, he's right up there in the top ten. Everyone knows about Beethoven.

I always seem to have known that he composed while deaf. It's one of those things I have taken for granted. Beethoven was deaf. He composed music. End of story. Until today, when I realised just how hard it is to play without hearing the music properly.

In musicianship I have to write a short tune, not more than four bars long. And gradually, with much labour, I have learnt to do it without the aid of the piano. But I'm not going to lie, it's been hard work, and listening to the music being played really helps. Plus it's always nice to hear how good the music sounds once you're finished with it.

Yet Beethoven was deaf. he couldn't hear his music when it was played. He composed so much music, and couldn't hear how beautiful his symphonies sounded. There is no worse sense for a musician to lose than his hearing. But it never stopped Beethoven. He just carried right on composing his music as if he could hear every perfect note.

I don't enjoy earache. But even earache has managed to teach me a lesson. Genius can't be stopped. It will find a way to get around any problem. And also that earache is not something I want to have regularly.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Stone Age Strikes Again

The wind howled through the trees, ripping at the branches, tearing them off and hurling them down into the road for poor unsuspecting drivers to avoid. Outside it was freezing cold. The gale ran into you like a concrete block, threatening to flatten you if you weren't careful. Definitely a day to stay inside and huddle in front of the heater.

But I wasn't inside, because I was helping fix various problems with the cars and push bikes. And no one was huddle in front of the heater, because there was no power. Yes, we had a house full of cold people with no way to keep them warm.

"It might come on later in the day when the wind dies down a bit," Dad suggested optimistically. It didn't die down. The power didn't come back on.

"What will we do about the dinner?" I asked. "We can't even defrost a loaf of bread."

"Come on," Dad replied. "Let's go and get some fish and chips."

We struggled the short way to the car and headed off. The roads were a nightmare. Tree branches lay scattered everywhere, forcing us to dodge and weave between them. A van was broken down in the middle of the road, another obstacle to get past.

As we drove into town, I scanned the buildings anxiously. Not one was showing a single light. It wasn't looking good. When we found the traffic lights black we knew that there wouldn't be any dinner to be had here. So we drove onwards.

The next town appeared, and with it, some lights, as well as more debris in the road. We might find a fish and chip shop here.

Sure enough, the first shop we came from was ready for us. In a short space of time we were driving back home with a big bag of hot chips.

On entering the house, we found it full of lit candles, in a vain attempt to keep the growing dark at bay. We huddle under fuzzy blankets, plates of food balanced on our knees, munching away on food we couldn't see. Several times whole pieces of lemon were bitten into, rather than fish.

"I'll ring the power company," Dad said. "They said earlier that that lights would be back on at 6:30." The report wasn't good.

Power will return at 6:30...tomorrow the automated man told us. We looked at each other in despair. No tea, no light, no heat, until 6:30 tomorrow!

But Dad had had enough. He marched straight to the garage and fished out the camping stove and gas bottle. Within five minutes, fresh, hot tea stood on the bench top.

Spots of torch light travelled round the house as people tried to get ready for bed, early as it was.
"It's like camping," Sophie said.
"I never thought we'd be camping in our own home," Dad said. "It feels like we're back in the stone age."

Morning came, and with it, little relief from the wind. Still there was no power. Huddled under our faithful blankets we read, or played. None of us could wait for the evening, when the power was due to come back. Suddenly, when we were least expecting it, the lights flicked on. The washing machine beeped. The fax machine came back to life. All around us the house was waking up.

Losing the power for over 24 hours showed me just how lucky we are. We can easily keep warm with our electric heaters. We can make food quickly on our electric stoves. We can brew tea easily in our electric kettles. Yes, it was very instructive. But all the same, I think I'll stick to the 21st century.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Car Trips and Cousins

"Beep! Beep! Beep! It's 5:30" the alarm clock announced. "Time to get up."
I rolled over with a groan and whacked the clock. Surely it couldn't be time to rise already. But it was.

Yawning, I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower. The hot water helped to drive away the sleepiness, as did the noises of the rest of the family tumbling out of bed.
My cousin Carrie

One hurried breakfast later and we were packed into the car, blankets laid over our knees to keep away the cold. Soon we were zooming down the highway, off to see Aunty Vicky and her family.

Two and a half hours passed. We amused ourselves as best we could. as we travelled north the weather grew warmer. Off went the blankets. Then the coats. Soon we were basking in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth. Where we live, it is very cold all winter.
Gemma-Rose and Melanie building a sandcastle

Finally we reached Aunty Vicky's house. Everyone jumped out of the car, grabbing up anything needed for the day. Cameras. Check. Sunscreen. Check. Spare clothes. Check. With these in our hands we headed for the door.

"How about we go to the beach?" Aunty Vicky suggested. Our faces lit up. The beach! We hardly ever went there. Quickly we changed our clothes and headed back out to the car. Click. Seatbelts were fastened. We pulled out of the driveway and followed Aunty Vicky's car down the road.

The beach was beautiful when we arrived. Not many people had come out, and we had plenty of room to play. The mothers chose a spot to sit, while we all scattered round the sands.

We tried playing soccer, but the ball kept rolling towards the sea. Plus kicking the ball in bare feet hurt. So, instead we decided to throw the ball around. This proved to be most amusing, especially when someone failed to catch the ball and it went rolling into the water. Our clothes were soon soaked from wild dashes to save the ball before it was swept away.
The smaller girls made sandcastles, decorating them with hundreds of tiny shells.

Time flew, and before we knew it, it was time to head back for lunch. We brushed off the clingy sand and climbed back into the car. By the time we reached the house again, lunch was already prepared by some of the cousins.

The afternoon disappeared in a flash. Charlotte and I played board games with our cousin Carrie. Sophie, Gemma-Rose, and the two cousins, Melanie and Bethany, spent all afternoon playing in a caravan. We were having great fun. But the sky grew dark. Mum and Dad decided that we had better start for home.
My gorgeous youngest cousin Jordan

We piled back into the car, tired and happy. As we sped homewards I thought about how much I had enjoyed my day. It is always a long time in between visits to our cousins. But I think this makes the visits all the more special when they do happen.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Why and Wherefore of Holiday Fever

Holiday fever has struck. We've closed our books for the last time this term. Reports have been written, folders checked. We're ready for the holidays to start. But suddenly I've stopped and thought. What is it about holidays that we like so much?

Our school term is not that painful. Maths is about the only structured work we do. After that, we make it up as we go along. Learning is mostly self-directed. We study whatever interests us, with Mum providing support and resources. Educational movies rank high on our list on things to do, as does Shakespeare in any shape or form. We all enjoy listening to Mum read books aloud. There's never a subject that we don't enjoy. Then why is it that we still long for the holidays?

After much thinking I'm still not sure. Maybe it's the fact that we don't have any work to do. But our work seems more like play than work, so it can't be that. Is it the fact that we can get up later? No, we normally get up early, even in the holidays. Is it the fact that there are no music practices to do? Definitely not! We're in the middle of preparing for exams. We can't afford to stop practising. So why?

Maybe it's that we have plenty of time to do things as a family, as Dad is on holidays too. It could be the fact that there is no structure to our day. Meals often end up being made and eaten when we're hungry. It could be the fact that we can spend whole days doing just one thing if we want to.

It could be any of these reasons. It could be none. It might just be that there is a feeling of freedom from any sort of work, no matter how fun it is. But the fact remains, we're just as excited about holidays as anyone else. And right now I'm planning what I'll do these holidays. Already a stack of books sits by my desk, begging to be read. A half finished story waits on my computer. Blog posts, as yet unwritten, dance around in my head, asking me to put them down on screen. Yes, I have plenty to fill this holidays with.

"Never mind the whys and wherefores," as Gilbert and Sullivan say, I'm just glad it is holidays. Two weeks of possibilities stretch before me. Every day is a new adventure. I'm going to fill each day with fun, spend time with my family, and live each day to the full.

Why do you look forwards to the holidays? What do you like to do when you're on holidays?