Friday, July 22, 2016

ABRSM Grade 1 Piano - Finally

I've gotten the bug back. I've missed only 1 or 2 practice days in the last 4 weeks, and I always practise for at least 30 minutes, often an hour, so I'm probably averaging 40 minutes a day.

So the time has come. I've retrieved the ABRSM applicant number from the gmail account, I actually registered a year ago. The exam dates are from early November to December. I can apply after the end of this month, and that's what I'm going to do.

I want to learn to play all kinds of stuff, but I need to get a few grades along the way first.  So here we go. No more procrastination or excuses.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

ficus carica var. colar

I mentioned my latest fig fiasco the other day. There were actually 4 figs in the pack, and I'd tried the sink-test with only one of them. They were going mouldy, so in for a penny, in for a pound, I eviscerated the remaining figs and put the pulp and seeds in a large glass of warm water. Thousands of seeds, almost all floating. But, long story short, precisely 15 of them sank, and will be sown.

I'm going to get foraged figs in this hedgerow, come what may...

Playing the Blues

Practising today I did, as usual, all of the Grade 1 scales and broken chords, a few runs through of the old Poacher, RH, and then went back to the "12 bar blues" I started on during the week. I've pretty much got the LH with it, but it just didn't sound very blue. Bit of googling reveals why, it's in a straightforward piano scale, not the blues scale, which is in the pic here, C minor.

Playing it in a regular piano scale is what makes it sound rather dull. So, now, I'm reminded of what Little Carmine said to Tony Soprano: "You're at the precipice, Tony. Of an enormous crossroads". Maybe I should just forget, for now anyway, about the ABRSM and the grades, and focus on the blues. Because that's what I really want to play. 5-10 years from now, I see myself playing in a bar. I could, theoretically, be able one day to play Chopin's Ballad, say, but my family and friends, whilst undoubtedly impressed, would be listening to it rather dutifully. But Bessie Smith would be a different story, of a Saturday night, with drink taken...

So that's a new departure. Start with the scales and take it from there. 

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Practising on a Danemann

I've been at the University of Greenwich for work. There's a common room by the library at Mansion Site with this Danemann 5' 2" grand. As a University, no one would describe Greenwich as easy going, and the lid was firmly closed with a stout padlock. By bloomin' Jingo, it took some negotiating to get them to unlock it, but I got there eventually, and got back into a daily practice. 

Funny how a strange piano can lure one back onto the straight and narrow path of daily practice. Nearest pub is over a mile away, and frankly there's sod-all to do in the evenings so that might have something to do with it. This is the first Danemann I've played on. According to Wikepedia, they were popular with "British embassies, the P&O Lines, Harrods and many educational institutions" which explains what it's doing there, a teacher training college before it became part of Greenwich University. 

Omitted to take any music with me, so it was Lincolnshire Poacher RH, and the Grade 1 scales etc. I'm not going to be ready for Grade 1 this year, hardly practised since I got back from Saudi, so the Poacher might be falling by the wayside if I need to start on the 2017/18 syllabus, (my 3rd, incidentally). So to get the LH doing some work, I spent an hour with the 12 bar blues, below. I've learned (and forgotten) a slightly different one in the past with an extra semitone in it. Almost got this LH. Memorised but not yet fluent. 

It's good to be back at the keys. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hedgerow - Yet Another Update

Maybe it's something primeval, the need to secure a growing space with a hedge. The Secretary Formerly Known As Bee Lady has not gotten back to me about more bare root hedging plants. I don't know what the story is there, but must proceed under my own steam for now.

This winter I'll plant the gorse right around the boundary, in a staggered row with gaps to be filled subsequently. Assuming the seedlings don't get waterlogged or dried out over the summer, there are 200, enough for a staggered row 1ft apart around most of the boundary. For the rest, I'm going to buy (yes, I know) blackthorn seeds, and stratify them this winter to plant next winter. Also silver birch, (the first tree I learned to recognise when I was a small child).

Thinking further ahead, maybe several thousand years further ahead, I'm going to stratify yew, (the price of rootballed yew is outrageous - so there's a big profit margin if you have a bit of ground and patience). Holly has a similar stratification schedule to yew, so I may as well start some of them, too. By the time they're ready to plant out, any gaps or weak spots in the hedge will be apparent.

And any other appropriate trees that come my way. I've not given up on figs, for example. But no success with supermarket figs for seeds, yet. Mind, seeds from dried Turkish figs appeared viable, but turned out not to be. And I got maybe 10 seeds from Brazilian figs grown in Israel, which passed the sinking-test, but have not germinated. The latest fig fiasco has been var. "Colar" from Spain, purchased in Sainsbury's, which didn't taste great and yielded not one single seed from the sinking-test.


It's mostly weeding, this time of year. Sowing direct has not been a great success, but it's not a complete wash out, either. Hoed between the rows, and then got down into the rows of coriander, sage, neeps and beetroot to thin and weed. It's extremely satisfying to stand back from that and see a row of well spaced, weed-free plants. And getting down and doing real fingertip weeding means you're getting to know your crop, and all the bloody weeds that invest them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Getting the Most out of an Intrusion

I rigged up a gate months ago, with wire hinges, "secured" by more wire tying the gate to a post. It would take a burglar of modest intelligence a few seconds to spot the weakness in this, and so it proved. Sometime between Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning, somebody disconnected the hinges. He or she then rifled through the shed. Nothing taken, no real vandalism.

So I got around, at last, to fixing up the gate with proper hinges, and even bought a cheap padlock.

Topped off with barbed wire. It's not exactly Fort Knox, but it deters the casual/creepy visitor. I told one of the neighbours what had happened, and he told me that others had had similar visits, nothing stolen or vandalised, it was just made obvious that someone had been there and been through the plot holder's stuff. I strongly suspect a fellow plot-holder, someone with some serious personality flaws.

But, whatever, I'm very pleased now to have a proper gate.

Slugs, Snails & Copper Wire

Many gardeners clearly believe that copper acts as a barrier to slugs and snails. The theory is that an electrolysis effect occurs between the slug or snail, its body, and the copper. I can find no academic research to back this up.

So I decided to try to find out.

Here's the equipment. Cheap cider, two empty plastic containers and 0.5mm copper wire.

And here they are in situ.

The idea being, slugs and snails would be attracted to the cider. If the copper barrier theory has any validity, the right hand pot would fill with dead specimens, the right hand with its copper wire, though attractive, would be snail free, or at least have less than the right hand one.

Unfortunately, some other allotment fauna, likely a fox, likes cider so much it pulled up the pots apparently to get the last dregs of it out of them.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Persicaria maculosa

Growing in the margin of the pond, (well, growing at the edge of the muddy holes in the ground at the bottom of the plot), quite a lot of examples of this plant. I had no idea what it was, and whether it's been attracted to the pond, or was there hitherto. Thanks to Twitter in the person of Enviro Bytes, it's suggested that it's Persicaria maculosa, which also rejoices in the name of spotted lady's finger. Leaves might work on a salad.