26 June 2007

250 Word Review: 'Hearing Birds Fly' by Louisa Waugh

This book was a present from my brother I was was put off for ages by the subtitle ‘A Nomadic Year in Mongolia.’ I’m not the travelling type and previously couldn’t have pointed to Mongolia on a map. But surprisingly, I really got into Waugh’s account of her year as a teacher in Tsengel, a remote Western Mongolian village. It took a while, but her admission that she wasn’t the ‘roughing it’ type (like me!) made me warm to her.

The book balances Waugh’s personal story with the history of Mongolia and the people of the region well, and some of the facts I learned were very fascinating (although people I’ve told them to weren’t so interested – did you know Mongols drink tea with salt? Do you care? Didn’t think so!) It was humbling to hear how the people of Tsengel cope with barely any electricity, little money, terrible weather conditions and only bread and meat to eat. In a culture where we complain if there’s nothing on TV or the trains run late, reading the stories of real people who have next to nothing does make you value what you have. And these are real people, who go to discos, gossip in school canteens and fall in love. It’s so easy to forget these people exist, let alone have feelings.

I won’t be keeping this book to read again but I am glad I read it and would recommend to anyone, especially those interested in travel or Eastern Europe.

25 June 2007

Generous Journal part four

Oh dear, another vey ungenerous week! I keep forgetting to come out with carrier bags when I want to go shopping in my lunch hour, not good. Managed to acquire a WHSmiths and a Debenhams bag this week (the Debenhams bag is partly hubby's fault, we were shopping together). I also didn't give to or buy from any charity shops or buy a Big Issue. I'm sinking into a deep pit of wickedness and selfishness, deary me!

But this week I'm going to be good. If it'll stop raining I'll go out in my lunch and buy a tote bag to keep in my handbag for shopping, and I'm also doing Race for Life which is raising money for Cancer Research. But I've just realised I won't have much to write next week if I write everything now so I'll stop. There we are.

This week I will mostly be ...

... STILL dieting - I missed my target for the first time this week, noooo!
... trying to fit in jogging sessions
... sheltering from the rain
... reading 'Shadowmancer' and getting round to posting a review of 'Hearing Birds Fly'
... Racing for Life on Sunday!
... hoping July will be warmer and drier (dryer? more dry?) than June

18 June 2007

This week I will mostly be ...

... dieting, still (only 4 pounds to go now!)
... finishing off 'Hearing Birds Fly' and moving on to 'Shadowmancer' by GP Taylor
... trying to fit in Race for Life training
... going to the West Midlands to see friends
... celebrating our first wedding anniversary on sunday! Woohoo!

17 June 2007

Generous Journal Part Three

Umm ... not a very Generous week this week. I was forced to take a carrier bag from Clintons Cards (the crafty minx bagged up my cards behind the counter so I couldn't see her do it!) and, well, I haven't really done anything else good either to be honest. But I did get my Blood Donor card! Woo-hoo!

I'll try to have more to tell you next week, promise.

16 June 2007

The Big Concert!!

On Thursday I was in a concert which was the culmination of my two years at Leeds College of Music. The concert was for the Beginners and Intermediates n the Popular Singing evening classes, and as an Intermediate, it was my second concert, but no less scary than the first! To keep it brief I'm only going to talk about my fellow intermediates, who you can see in the picture above.

The first of our lot was Susan (far left, in the pink jacket) singing 'One Moment in Time'. Now I'm very proud of our Susan. Last year she was so nervous she only just got to the end of her song and had to stop a few times. But this year she sang beautifully, hitting notes I can only dream of, and with such confidence. It brought a tear to my eye!

Next up, Vivienne (white shirt, blue scarf) singing 'Patience'. I'm very close to Vivienne as she arrived early like me and took me home after classes so of course I thought she was ace! She's had trouble using her lower register but the low bits sounded great on the night and she also moved around which I know was a challenge for her.

Then there was Mhairi (far right, next to the speaker) singing 'Don't Wanna Miss a Thing'. She has a beautiful, warm voice and she brought a different quality to the song and made it very feminine. She also hit a note I know she struggled with, so well done to her!!

After a couple of beginners was Jane (white dress, yellow jacket) singing 'Fields of Gold'. Jane has a really pretty, 'tinkly' voice which really suited the song. I hate Sting but I liked her performance!!

Another few beginners, then Mel (next to Mhairi) with 'Walking after Midnight'. She struggled with the timing a little but sang well, and carried on to the end despite her nerves without any fuss.

Closing the first half was the fantastic Gil (just behind Vivienne in black) singing 'Diamonds are Girl's best Friend' wearing fur-trimmed black rubber gloves with 'diamond' rings on. She's always complained that she can't sing but she's a true entertainer with so much confidence, and too boot she actually can sing! I wish I could perform like her!

The first of us lot in the second half was Graham (the only bloke!) singing 'Behind Blue Eyes'. He's had problems with his voice all year through asthma but he sang the best I've heard him sing on the night and really got into the rock atmosphere of the song. He's got a brilliant storytelling, folksy voice and I hope he carries on singing.

Follwing Graham was 'Dancer Zoe' (black top, blue skirt) singing a song from a modern musical called 'Still Hurting'. This song was almost an epic in itself! Zoe gave a dramatic performance and did really well with the range of the song. A very brave choice of song.

After Tracy from the beginners I was up, and I was SO NERVOUS! (In case you don't know me, I'm the one with the specs in the grey top) I sang 'Black Horse and a Cherry Tree' which was a bit mean on the poor pianist and I felt quite sorry for him, I think I must have put an extra 'woo-hoo' in somewhere which threw him, I ended up singing the last part of the song a cappella which was a surprise, but I had a ball, did better than I thought I would (at least I think I did) and really wanted to get up again!

A few more beginners, then Kate (next to me in a black top with a brown scarf) with the brilliant 'I Just Wanna Make Love to You.' Kate is a real soul diva and she belted out the song brilliantly, I couldn't help dancing about in my chair! She was fantastic, even got pants thrown at her at the ned! (Well she did bring 'Rent-a-crowd' as she calls them!)

Closing the show was 'Actress Zoie' (beigey-brown halter top) with 'Pearl's a Singer'. I didn't know this song before I heard her sing it, but I love it now, and she sang it wonderfully, brinigng her acting skills into the performance. She's always had a very polished voice but that night she excelled herself.

Then we sang our group 'Your love keeps lifting me' which was great fun, I've loved preparing for that song mainly because Kate and I were given the main part in the chorus and we had such a laugh rehearsing together! It also made me really proud to be labelled a belter by Cara, our teacher (the one with her back to the photo), I went around telling everyone i knew, I've never been called a belter before! Wow! Anyway, it was a really fun end to the course!

So there we are, my last performance with that group of people, I'm going to miss them all and I hope to see them again soon.

11 June 2007

This week I will mostly be ...

... Dieting still (halfway there now!)
... Counting my steps (to make sure I'm doing enough in preparation for Race for Life)
... Continuing to read 'Hearing Birds Fly'
... Singing in our end-of-course concert on Thursday
... Preparing for a flat-warming on Saturday
... Trying to get more sponsors for Race For Life!

10 June 2007

Generous Journal - Second entry

Well, I said I'd keep a journal of my progress with the Generous website, so here's my second instalment. Not much to report on this week, although I've started a new action - keeping a generous journal! Haha, I'd forgotten that action was on the website! I also successfully turned down carrier bags at Boots and Morrisons, opting for, in the former case, a spare carrier bag I had in my hand bag, and in the latter, two sturdy canvas bags which are far better for carrying food in anyway as they won't split and you can get loads more in. I'm also still using mugs to measure out the water I need to put in the kettle - boils so much quicker that way!

A couple of things not on the website that ought to be:
- Buying 'The Big Issue'. I did that yesterday from a nice vendor in Ilkley and there were some very interesting articles about climate change, which everyone (including me) is obsessed with at the moment.
- Shopping at charity shops. As you will see on my first journal entry, the wesbsite does have an action for donating goods to charity shops, which is all very well and good but these things need to be bought in order for the shop to make money for their charity. Whilst in Ilkley yesterday I raided the charity shops and loved it - I got a Next t-shirt with a Mickey Mouse motif for £2.99, a jigsaw for £1.19, a Bill Bryson book for the hubby for £1.49 and - my favourite find - two lovely sleeveless t-shirts with silk trim for £1.25 each!! And they were new, donated from a clothes shop! I may post pictures of my finds to show just what you can get from a charity shop if you're persistent in looking!

So, a reasonably generous week. Let's see how I do next week ...!

04 June 2007

This week I will mostly be ...

... Stealing blog ideas from my friends (sorry Fi!)
... Reading 'Hearing Birds Fly' by Louisa Waugh
... Eating fruit and veg in an attempt to match last week's weight loss of 4lbs (yay!)
... Waiting in anticipation for some new wool to arrive
... Trying to get fit for Race for Life on July 1st
... Trying to get sponsors for said Race for life!

02 June 2007

My Generous Journal Part One

I'm a member of a website called 'A Year of Living Generously'. The link is http://generous.org.uk which I would add as a link to the blog but can't work out how. Anyone want to help me out on that? Anyway, it was set up originally as a small community of people posting ways of being more generous for a year, but word got out and it got bigger, and carried on after the first year.

I became a member after a woman at my old church in Reepham, Lincoln, gave out some leaflets during a a family service about a recent action added to the website. I thought it looked interesting and got totally hooked! Once you've signed up you can commit to actions and set your progress with them. It's full of great ideas to help the environment, other people, and the world in general. Here's the actions I've committed to so far ...

Stop taking carrier bags from shops - a self-explanatory one, my progress is marked as 'currently focussing on' as it's quite a new one. I'm having limited success, today I went to Argos and turned down a bag, but then went to a shoe shop and they bagged up my new trainers before I could protest!!

Give your unwanted/ unworn clothes to charity - again, self-explanatory, and something I've done since I was a young'un, so it's marked as 'Still Doing.' I currently have a bag of clothes in my bedroom ready to give away, as well as helping charity and recycling, it also makes more space for new things in my wardrobe!

More tea vicar? (Don't overfill your kettle) - This one's about making sure you only put as much water as you need in the kettle, saving electricity as it boils quicker. This one's also a 'Still Doing'. I find using a mug to pour in the water is a good way of doing this.

Get someone to join the Generous Community - This one I have as 'Lapsed' (oh the shame) because, apart from my husband, I haven't managed to persuade anyone to join. Although if you see this and join as a result, do let me know!

Perfect Your Pasta - This is an interesting one. Apparently, if you bring your pasta to the boil (or potatoes, veg etc), then cut the heat and put a lid on, the food will cook if you leave it for long enough. We tried it with pasta and it actually came out nicer. This one is also 'Lapsed' as I don't do the cooking in our house!!

Love Books? Join the Library - It's important to support libraries as a source of free literature and often internet access, as well as an important part of community life. This one I've marked as 'Done' although I've not borrowed anything on my new card yet because I'm still wading through years of unread birthday and Christmas presents!

Become a Blood Donor - Done! I did it for the first time a few weeks ago and was so proud of myself! This is something which everyone who is old and healthy enough should do, the knowledge that could well have saved a life is the best feeling you can get.

Unplug Your Chargers - Chargers still suck up electricity even when nothing's attached to them, so I always take mine out after charging. This one's a 'Done'.

Turn off the Tap when Brushing Your Teeth - last one, and another 'Done'. I've done this ever since I saw a cartoon on Sesame Street where a boy ran the tap and his pond outside emptied, with a scared looking fish trying to get to the water.

So there we are! I'll keep a journal every week of how I'm doing, new actions committed to, and hopefully a few people will be inspired to join!

01 June 2007

10 things that have changed since I posted last

1. I got a job as an administrator in May 2006 for a property search company, and unfortunately have not escaped from it yet
2. I moved from Beeston to Horsforth in June 2006
3. I got married in June 2006 (yippee!)
4. I moved onto the intermediate singing course at Leeds College of Music in September 2006
5. I got a bit bored of knitting and tried my hand at crochet
6. I got my nearly-bum-length hair cut off into a crop in March 2007
7. I bought a flat (with hubby of course) in Guiseley in April 2007
8. I started wearing glasses permanently
9. I put on weight through sedentary job, married comfort and not having to buy Value everything
10. I started a diet!

Like a Phoenix from the flames ...

I've decided to reclaim my blog! It's over a year since I posted and I now need a freaky Google account but hey, thought I'd drag it all up again!

Why, I hear you ask? (You being the people who, hopefully, read this, although I doubt many of you will!) Well, for the following reasons:

1. The recent discovery that my friend Fi has a blog (www.shoegalfi.blogspot.com) which reminded me that it was quite fun

2. The fact that I've just finished the two Bridget Jones books and find myself thinking in diary style, and what is a blog if not a type of diary?

3. I get flipping bored in my lunch hours because there's only so many times you can wander round Next, so I spend most lunch hours inside.

So, here it is! A new start! Now, I'd better check my profile is up to date, last time I posted I was unmarried and living in Beeston, now am married and have lived at two different addresses since then!