Friday, 28 July 2017

Pictures so far......including coffee in Isafjordur........

Akureyri and the laundromat - exactly where Morag said it would be ! Well don't that lady ! The lovely old restaurant where we had coffee and the very startling church !

A simple lunch - ha ha - Officer on the bridge in sunny weather so the door was open, he was however on his phone ! Isafjordur and the bakery, the sun is shining and the sky is so blue, what a beautiful little town. Kate trying to reconcile the coinage and work out if she can afford the green tea, only to add it up and find she has a little fortune.......

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Dinner, Lunch and portion control.......

We docked in Akureyri at 7 am this morning in a sunny climate with the tips of the mountains just a little snow capped. The Atlantic has been very kind thus far, calm waters and no waves above 3 metres even out in the middle of the Northern part of the ocean. Sailing out from Seydisfjordur last evening was gorgeous- wonderful layered rock formations and such greenery, all the way up the mountain sides. We sat by the big windows hoping for an amiable whale to surface somewhere but clearly they were not up for playing the ' entertain the tourist ' game. 

Dinner was a delight - it was Italian night, so the waiters aprons were made of an Italian flag, the wine was Italian and the food of the same ilk. My first G&T of the cruise went down a treat and the Beef Carpaccio and Pollo was delicious. I love people watching, and a few cruises ago we had a dreadfully overbearing man on a table close by madly trying to outdo all his fellow diners with stories of wealth, fame and achievement- this time, I am gratefully able to report all around us are quiet and respectful of other diners, and are clearly there ( as we are) to eat as much gorgeous food as possible within the dining hours ! Greed rules.

I do like going to the restaurants for lunch and dinner - you may think this is simple gluttony,  it actually it is the opposite. The restaurant provides portion control ! In the buffet I may be tempted to layer four pieces of meat or cheese, but in the dining room one is given the right amount of everything for one person, and so it is difficult to be gluttonous!

Ah well, off to a delightfully correct lunch, Mmmmmmmm 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Seydisfjordor, Iceland .......lovely

Lots of interesting photos ! Selfie docking in Iceland, turf house in Torshavn, The Blue Church, coffee shop in Iceland with ship close in view - bar closing hours in Seydisfjordor!!! 

Iceland and physio .........

We have arrived in Iceland, and I have just had my third physio appointment for the frozen shoulder. It is painful but is working wonders. The ship have a resident physiotherapist which is a first as far as I can tell, and he is working small miracles. He says the pain is from the shoulder blade which is stuck, and that after 40 years of continuous piano playing it would be a miracle if I did not have very stuck shoulders !!

The sun is shining and kate and I will disembark after a quick lunch and explore the small village in front of me as I write called Seydisfjordor - I think…….sorry Morag and Magnus. 

I can upload the writing with my Mifi equipment but must wait for faster wifi to upload pictures - it is what comes of being in small and remote places I think ! If we were docking in New York it would be a different story I reckon.

The peace is wonderful, and the food delectable. The Faroes were lively and now on to the first of four ports in Iceland finishing with Reykjavik.

Pictures to follow !

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Ah !

The mocktail of the day..........

Coffee for the soul........

The start of the holiday........

We finally arrived, a good deal later than either of us had hoped, due to a flat tyre at The House of Bruar ! What should have been a simple hop and skip to Dundee cruise terminal was rather more difficult. With the fast service from the NFU insurance rescue service and the absolutely great treatment by the maintenance men at the house of Bruar, we were not worried by it, and were on our way in about an hour and a half. The car was duly parked in the multi storey car park and a taxi ordered to travel the 500 metres to the terminal - which is impossible to walk due to the restrictions, port passes and security men ! We hardly had to queue at all, oddly the late arrival meant that the vast majority of embarkees had already boarded and were by then, clearly swigging a cocktail in the captain's club. After a simple and fast book in we found ourselves heading for the buffet, having not eaten since our ( very fine) cooked breakfast at 8.30am, I certainly was feeling a little peckish ! The waiter kindly brought me some ham and cheese on a plate......the afternoon tea buffet fare, delectable as it is, is very bad for my I was discliplined, restrained and altogether angelic re my food ! Muster happened, the deeply unattractive life jackets were donned, the walk to the lifeboats made, and the general regulations regarding the fact that abandoning ship is always the very very last resort, were made and then we were free. I made for the spa and had my Grosvenor like locks cut and shaped - so I will now be respectable for another few months. The hairdresser was from Belgrade and chatted enthusiastically about his family and son who lived in a Serbian village where they grew strawberries for their income. He was very passionate about the war and very sad that the country had never recovered from the horrors and general slaughter so working abroad was the only way he could support his family back home. He was also quite a bad asthmatic and another reason for ship work was that his medical issues were cared for at no cost, something which he could not afford back in his homeland. We are so very very lucky. It is almost dinner time, I am sitting drinking a non alcoholic cocktail which is probably sugar loaded, but tonight I feel the need. A sea day tomorrow........bliss.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Eden Court and holidays.............

Last night tonight ! One glorious final show and then off on holiday. It went so well last night, the whole busy stage flowed with an easy rhythm, and yet again I had the comments I was hoping for i.e. I didn't know where to look, there was so much going on !

I love Patience but it isn't one of the strongest of the operas and in fact was something of a flop until Oscar Wilde joined the troop and did much publicity for it. The language is hard to understand but that trade mark Gilbert and Sullivan humour shines through. Making a very busy stage screens out some of the weaker sections and adds more interest than perhaps that moment might have naturally !

The suitcase stands packed, the drive to Inverness will be gorgeous, when I dropped Gretel off at her swanky hotel down the road with Janet and Craig my car thermometer was registering in the middle twenties centigrade. Unheard of on Paradise generally.

Onwards and upwards, blogs from Nordic countries will be next for my readers.




Friday, 21 July 2017

Patience- Victory, we triumph !

We are two nights done now, so halfway through the run. This year due to some double booking by one venue we were left with only four of our normal five shows, so here's hoping the finance adds up in the end. We are totally non profit making and we self fund our own productions. I have oft times been persuaded to try for funding or bursaries but throughout my whole teaching career I have declined that choice. I am always reluctant to lose any control to other 'bodies' or to feel as if we must conform to other funding groups ideas or regulations. Self funding means it is always monetarily tight but we - the committee as well as myself - have complete control over how we spend and on what. In other words we answer to no one but ourselves.

The two first performances have been fantastic. This has been such a relatively easy ride - I honestly don't think I have shouted very much at all ( you may need to verify that with my lovely cast of course ). There have been no real hitches or issues and everyone is giving their all. I am so very proud of them. Last night's audience laughed in all the right places and gave real encouragement to the cast. We feed so much on an audience reaction, so if they are very dead it can be a miserable experience ! 

The guys singing the trio in Act 2 always raise audience guffaws and along with the ridiculousness of the whole libretto it is a great night out !

The costumes are gorgeous, the show looks quite remarkable, and the ladies sari's are exquisite and jewel bright, and as was remarked to me last night, the girls immediately walk with serene elegance, and it is true, they seem to change their physical air when the flowing silk is wrapped around them !

I have packed my case now, the Icelandic Krone are waiting for me at the post office and the ship is on its way to Dundee as I write. On its way specifically for me you understand ! Having said that I am so looking forward to the next two shows - standing in the wings and watching is such a pleasure.

Many congratulations to everyone. Set builders and painters, magnificent costume ladies, terrific trio of props ladies and my wonderful, hard working and ultra talented cast. 

 Some pictures of the dress rehearsal plus a pre rehearsal group !




Sunday, 16 July 2017

Final big rehearsal and some very indisciplined eating !

What a great rehearsal.......the finest 'long Sunday' we have ever had. It came, it ran to time and it finished on the dot of 7pm. Here's hoping that means a blistering dress rehearsal tomorrow night !

The problem is always the lighting. I understand nothing about lights, lighting boxes, filters or washes etc so we may need someone who understands these things, and someone who knows where the equipment is kept ! Sadly all my years in the business count for nothing in the tech department, my skills are on the stage, and on the stage only !

Ah well, we shall see.

I ate extremely badly today as well. I had packed up a proper diabetic lunch complete with some fruit, some meat and some low carb snacks, but as soon as the buffet food appears, and the homemade cakes, tablet and flapjack are plated up I am a woman without a shred of will power. This is the reason why I have none of these things in my kitchen, not even hidden away in a deep dark back cupboard ! My will power is, in reality about as fragile as an extremely badly built spiders web ! So I won't even bother checking my numbers tonight, it is all too depressing ! Lots of water to dilute the glucose I think !

Many congratulations all the cast - it is a true cast of 30 individual roles, each with a part to play, business to get on with and the confidence to do it. 

What a cracking group !

A little preview, but no costume trailers - t'would spoil the surprise !









Thursday, 13 July 2017

Curry and tough love

Chicken curry and a couple of poppadoms has been my 'post rehearsal' snack of choice over the last week. My Instant Pot has provided me with the wherewithal to make flavoursome and delicious meals in the speed of light ! So tonight after our final normal evening rehearsal I enjoyed a bowl of said curry, and some dark chocolate to follow whilst watching one of the All Blacks v Lions rugby matches on YouTube! What a great way to wind down after a long session with Mr Sullivan and Mr Gilbert at their silliest !

I am such a tyrant I sometimes wonder how they all put up with me - truly I expect the same level of work and attention that a professional company would require, and the same 100% effort in every part of the production. I say 'again' more times than any other word - but that very concentrated repitition is the very thing which makes it excellent, and at the high standard that I know they can deliver. I simply won't budge. I expect correct, slick, flawless and funny, and will never accept anything less than that. Year after year they come up with the goods, and each year they become more able and more dedicated in their outlook.

I do hope they still enjoy it........I am a leopard who won't change even one spot. My tough stage love allows for many outcomes. The young aspirants will learn in the future that I am a positive kitten by comparison with many producers and musical directors. The adult members are able to participate alongside the youngsters achieving such strength of sound and tone quality that their game is raised beyond anything they might have thought possible, and the children are being trained up to be the next generation of disciplined and self motivated singers.

But........I still hope they are having fun ? Fun can also come from high standards and not just from messing around with good friends.

I am proud and delighted - even when I am growling !

I love this picture - today the tough, but next Wednesday you will all fly !


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Patience, Printer and Cullen Skink.....

We are very close to the opening night of Patience now.........infact a week today we open at Kyleakin Hall. The fine group of principals rehearsed tonight until around 10.45pm, shows what dedication they have ! All those tricky moments where dialogue transitions from solos to ensembles and chorus moments. The bits which make most of us tongue tied, and those moments which stress us out infinitely more than the singing !

The dances are blocked, the humour is bubbling up like a spring from the earth, and it feels as if the show will knit together and begin to flow. It takes so much work to reach this point, and one often wants to remind an audience - who only ever see the finished article  of course - that it is months of hard work and sweat which have allowed us to arrive at this point. Of course the whole point is that an audience never sees the 'work', only the slick and well oiled result. 

I am very proud of the whole company. The way they have rallied once more in the face of a lost main role, the loss of set builders and crew including the place of building and painting, and the costume ladies grappling with Indian saris and British Army uniforms. It has been a tour de force of sheer will power, inventiveness and raw talent !

This is a super photo of my gallant crew, still smiling even at the end of a long rehearsal !

 I am so looking forward to my holiday which begins the day after the last night - but there is a part of me which does not want to allow that to overpower the pleasure and joy at seeing the show. Somehow thinking beyond the show seems in a small way to diminish the huge the holiday will come, but before that I want to fully appreciate what the team have produced, and let my pride in that be the most important thing. 

I have been wrestling with a new printer for the last two days. It was supposed to be a 'simple setup' and easy to hook up to the wifi and the Instant Ink contract, a piece of cake. Bah ! I was two hours trying on my own, then 78 minutes on the phone to the technical people being passed to different folk - all of whom were very helpful and did eventually sort it. A Ph D in Computing was probably the lowest qualification needed to get this printer moving in the right direction !

It is now up and running leaving a slightly distraught and exhausted owner and a wake of destruction! Now, so it seems, it will tell its maker ( not in Heaven you understand) when the ink is getting low, and as if by magic, the correct cartridges will be sent through the post to my door. I am not holding my breath, just keeping my piano playing fingers crossed that it all works !

I made cheesecake once more in my Instant Pot, and low and behold it worked and actually tastes like true New York Vanilla Cheesecake. Twice must mean that it does the job, and is not the fluke I half believed it might have been. I also made some delicious Cullen Skink, that glorious smoked haddock fish soup which I love so much. It makes it in 5 minutes once the onions have been fried a little. Some milk, butter, stock and smoked fish, plus bacon lardons if I have them, are all that is needed and hey presto utterly delicious soup. Two friends have now purchased one, and no, before anyone asks I am not on commission from Instant Pot . Com !

Honestly !


Monday, 3 July 2017

Audition fever and holidays....

It is my last week of teaching and I am looking forward to the rest - albeit that I have the show to do in the next 3 weeks ! So not an easy rest if you see what I mean, but then the day after the last night show myself and K are driving to Dundee and catching the 'slow boat to Iceland' ! Well, a wonderful cruise calling at the Shetlands, the Faroes and three corners of Iceland. It is with Cruise and Maritime and oh boy I am so looking forward to it ! 

I feel a tiny bit decadent as after Iceland I leave for the South to spend time with the family and fulfil my birthday present, two days at the Athletics World Champs in London. Then the grandchildren and M are returning to Skye with me for a week before I start my teaching term. Only six weeks after that I leave for another cruise on the new Cruise and Maritime ship, Colombus, for 12 days in the Baltics ! What a few months I hear you all say ! Indeed you are right, and it has worked out as a lot of holiday. My pupils will have to suffer for a month or so, but I feel certain they will survive ! 

There will be exams next term but not til November, and N will make her auditions for Music College in December, so there are some important and intense happenings, but even with all my holidays there will be plenty of lessons for those things !

Choosing audition material is so very important and I slightly flatter myself that it is a skill that has been one of my strengths. In my career - as we speak now - I have never failed to get anyone in to a Conservatory. This is not just clever teaching, but also the knowledge that for the prospective auditionee, it is not the right time to audition, or it is not a feasible choice, or a pupil, however much they want it is simply not up to scratch. This has meant a few difficult conversations over the years, a few disappointments for some, but success for those who really can do the job. That knowledge is worth more than gold, saves much future disappointments, and hopefully secures places for those singers who are at the top of their college year, and not clinging on by the fingertips !

The fingertips scenario is the worst place to be. Just getting by, but never being given operatic roles or plum solos. It can be very demoralising. 

Being a big fish in a slightly less elevated college is much preferable. Middy always told us that being a happy, talented and contented amateur was indeed very rewarding, and being a miserable and oft times unemployed professional who is not on the top rung of the ladder, is a depressing place to be.

She was 150% correct, and N will definitely audition - but at her control freak teachers' timetable !!! It's fine though - she knows that......


The tranquility as opposed to.....

The stress  - Agh !



A domestic few days away preparing for next week..........Yorkshire Song School !

I just had a lovely, if fleeting visit to Sussex to see the family, and most enjoyable it was too. I flew on the early morning plane to Gatw...