Hairy House

Hairy House

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

London Theatre-going!!

Music! Dancing! Leg warmers and cat suits!
Yes, we went to see the apparently immortal Cats, at the London Palladium yesterday, courtesy of the in-laws.
And what a strange, lovely, dreadful, incredible show it was too!
We were all so tired we could hardly keep our eyes open, after a big weekend of sixteenth birthdays and illness, but we dragged ourselves through the Arctic winds and all the way into London – my favourite city in the world – and into the red carpeted and faded splendour of the Palladium. And it was worth nearly every minute – even the awful parts.
The dancing and singing, was, of course, superb. And after a lifetime spent dissing Andrew Lloyd Webber, I have a new-found respect for him after having been subjected to the music from Wicked, Lion King and, of course, the world's favourite fart song, Let it Go. He might take his best ideas from other people, but he sure can write a good tune – one that is memorable, easy to sing and doesn't necessarily require one to whine. And if you think that Beethoven was the master of stringing out a coda, then just have a listen to old ALW.
However. I have never been to Cats, though have played the music from it numerous times – usually in lush orchestral arrangements. So it was quite a shock – and not necessarily a pleasant one! - to hear it in all it's original 1980's twangy synthesiser colour. In fact, I was (stupidly perhaps!) surprised as to quite how dated the whole thing was, with the big hair and make-up and, as pre-noted – the Jane Fonda leg warmers. They have beefed up one of the cats into being a New York street dancer – with beautiful British diction of course – and Juliette particularly enjoyed that, which was a relief after the digging me in ribs every time old Deuteronomy sang flat. Not that my children are at all judgmental,you understand. They have also beefed up the amplification, which was a pity as it meant that you could hardly hear the singers when the band was playing forte, so you had no idea why they were all singing about Umbilical cats, or dancing around with cereal packets on their feet or pink wings on their backs. But that didn't really seem to matter, as it was mainly about the spectacle of the thing.
After the show, we exited, with a mass of people all heading for Oxford Circus station, then on to Marylebone, all amongst crowds of chattering theatre goers, all perfume and spangles, faces alight, clutching programmes from various concerts and shows throughout London. And all this on a Monday night in February.
Oh, the intoxication of it all! You trundle up an escalator, past the posters for Wicked, War Horse, Carmina Burana - the ballet - The 39 Steps – now, along with just about every book ever written, a major singing and dancing triumph, (Just waiting for Wolf Hall, The Musical, starring Robbie Williams as Cromwell) Billy Elliott, The Lion King etc etc and your brain fizzes and jumps with the excitement of it all. This is London! It is all here for the taking! We could go to see anything!
And then you realise that no, that only applies to Millionaires. London is the city of beautiful people, the rich and talented, the famous and historical, the infamous and the mystical.
And you go home to your little village and get up four hours later to drive your children to school, everybody grumpy and tired and grey, in the golden light of dawn. Hey ho, the wind and the rain. Or something like that.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Half Term and Ponderings on Education...

In England there is a wonderful thing called Half Term. Instead of the four terms a year that we had in Australia, there are only three terms here with a half term break of a week, and in my opinion it works much better. As a teacher, I always felt like a fraud for the last two weeks of term – actually, I felt like a fraud most of the time, but that's another story - as the kids were always so tired in the 9th and 10th week of term that they would droop through the door when they came for their lessons and I felt awful trying to teach them anything. That might also have something to do with the over-active guilt gland I developed in childhood, but nevertheless, I do think that ten weeks – especially in the hot weather, is a long time for them to deal with. But here in England, the kids only have to go six weeks or so (I think?) and then they get to recharge.
That's the theory anyway. I think what generally happens is that everybody gets ill and spends most of the time snapping and snarling at each other. Like today. Frosty morning, but beautiful sun shine the rest of the day and nobody has felt like going for a walk, because we were up most of the night with coughs and colds and asthma attacks.
I can't really comment much about schooling here, as Sam doesn't communicate much (at least, not about school!) and Juliette has only been at school for a few weeks. But so far, I have to say that I am impressed that they don't use lap tops as much as they did in OZ. They have to write stuff with Pens and Pencils on Paper!! In six weeks, we have had no dramas over essays that have been eaten by computers, or lap tops that have stopped working and took two weeks to fix, with a resultant massive build up of homework due. I don't have to worry that the kids are spending their lesson time watching porn or playing minecraft, (this might happen during breaks, but I don't think it's happening during lesson time any more....). And assignments appear to hinge more on the content, than the visual impression of their power point presentation. 'Tis early days yet, however, so will be interesting to see.
What does puzzle me, is how kids here seem to have two extra years of education than they do in Australia, and yet, from my understanding, someone from Australia can come straight to university here from school. How does that work? Is the education there really so much better that they can do it all in two years less?
Answers on a postcard please....

Friday, 13 February 2015

Random Ironies

This is the irony of the situation.
Our stuff arrives, there is much too much of it, so what do we do? We go out and buy more stuff!!!!
The main trouble being that we have no storage space in this house, so it was off to our most hated place in the world – Ikea! - for under the bed storage etc.
Every time we go to Ikea, we say “never again,” but, within the course of two years or so, we are drawn inexorably, moths to the blue and yellow, woody, meatball smelling hell of it.
This time, I went into battle determined that we would come out with only what we needed, instead of loaded down with a ridiculous number of candles, photo frames, kitchen utensils which seem like SUCH a good idea, but remain untouched in a drawer for years and, miraculously, we won! But it was a hard fight.
Rupert, who hates Ikea even more than me, and who is usually the stronger one, had a particularly hard time of it. “But don't you think this might be a good idea?” “Oh look, this is just what we've been needing for - “, “Hey, this would be a great thing for the -” the sentences would flow from his mouth, even as his eyes begged for mercy. But it was the look in his eyes that convinced me to keep battling. Other couples passed us and you could see that they had lost the battle, for their eyes wore the dazed, zombified expression of the fallen, as they pushed their trolleys around, loading them up with items which would undoubtedly be unpacked later with astonished cries of “What on earth -?”
Maybe I am too much of a scrooge, but it appals me, every time. Maybe it's my Liberian upbringing, but it hurts to see so much stuff, such an orgy of buying, such a lust for homogenised THINGS that this place brings out in us all. After paying for our STUFF, it was almost a surprise to exit into the car park in England and not to find ourselves back in Brisbane again, the homogenisation was so complete.
Is it just me, or do other people feel the same way?? Answers on a postcard please – or better still, on this page or the facebook page! Actually, wouldn't mind a few postcards....
And meanwhile, we have added to our STUFF, against my better judgement, by buying a television. This is the first time in my life that I have had a television, except for a brief period during the Gulf War in Riyadh, when my parents bought one so that we would watch the propaganda machine at work. Back in Brisbane, we had a projector, so that we could watch videos, but it only worked after dark and we only used it a maximum of three times a week. However, we can't use said projector here, due to lack of space, so we caved in and bought a telly, which arrived this week. Now that the kids all have iPods and we have two computers, it seemed silly to hold out against screens. So now we have a TV and can waste our evenings channel hopping in a search for something to watch...and so far, it has sat in the corner largely unused, because when we have switched it on, even with a thousand channels, most of what is available is so mind numbingly numbing. Though there have been exceptions and a promise of exceptions, meaning that I have already mentally reserved an hour on Wednesday and Sunday evenings for goggling. Is this the beginning of the slippery slope? Is this the end of my novel, my memoir and my blog writing?
Oh well, I can comfort myself with the fact that I have a jar of pickled herrings in the kitchen.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Tale of the Exploding House

Seven to ten days after the ship docks is when you'll get your stuff, the shipping company said. We'll let you know as soon as the ship has actually docked, the shipping company said.
But it turns out that saying and doing are not the same thing.
What actually happened was that we got an email, out of the blue, from the shipping company telling us that they were going to deliver our container in two days time and they hoped that was okay with us, as if they had to keep it for any longer, we would have to pay them rather a lot of money.
So the week we thought we had to redecorate our bedroom, turned into a day and a half - which was not a bad thing, though slightly stressful, considering our incredible joint gift for procrastination. And it is great to have our stuff, though it didn't turn out quite as I had imagined.
In my imagination, our stuff arrived in the morning, I had a lovely couple of hours hoovering and mopping the floors I have been itching to get to for the last few weeks and in the evening we sat down together at our dining room table and toasted ourselves with champagne. We then retired to sleep in our very own beds!
What really happened was that by the evening, the whole house was crammed with so many boxes we couldn't move, the floors were covered in a thick layer of mud from the boots of the delivery men, our bed was in pieces, as we had had to call someone out to take it apart before we could get it upstairs and the sofas were in the garage as they hadn't managed to get them through the door. My back was in agony from all the bending and carrying and Rupert was sneezing and swollen eyed from all the dust.
I know we are very lucky and I know that life could be an awful lot worse, but I have to say it has been quite an emotional journey, unpacking our lives here, our Australian Citizenship certificates, our maps and books about Brisbane, everything, of course, covered in a thick layer of black dog hair.
However, three days on and I am sitting on the one sofa we managed to get into the house, my feet up on one of our own footstools. We only have about fifteen boxes left to unpack and the house is now looking likes ours and is almost clean. Ish.
But here's the thing - to quote, as I like to, Mr Bryson. Back in Brisbane, I thought I had been ruthless about throwing stuff out and only bringing the essentials. So why then, have we brought case-loads of swimming costumes – when we now live in the village that is furthest from the sea in all of Great Britain? Why have we brought boxes full of old soft toys of both Rupert's and mine – toys that we never even brought out for our kids because they were stuffed at the back of the cupboard-under-the-stairs and we had forgotten about them? Why have we brought Rupert's old skiing outfit and boots (“The kids might go skiing one day”. “Yes, dear, and I am sure they will want to wear your old '80's style ski outfit.”) Why did we bring boxes of dreadful paintings I did, back in the day when I thought I might be able to learn how to paint, Early Learning Centre percussion instruments for one year olds, boxes of cards and letters that have languished in a box, unopened since we left England 15 years ago? Why have we brought books and CD's belonging to my cousin Meg and a sock belonging to the Reeves? And what on earth, pray tell, are we going to do with all this stuff now?