A Tribute to Menai Bridge Band

I still remember stepping over the threshold for the first time. My trombone-carrying arm shook a little as I took in the brassy smell that is typical of any band room. I’d been asked to help them out for a competition – that was a nice feeling, especially because it’s my home town.

I held my breath as I walked through the small hallway and turned into the main room, eyes searching around for somebody to put me at ease. I instantly relaxed, as there were a few people I knew. But it was more than that: open, warm smiles from complete strangers. Continue reading

I Couldn’t Prioritise My Degree

Priorities are complicated. I promised myself that I would work as hard as I could in the final year of my degree, because I wanted to know that I had done my best to get the desired result. As so often happens in life, it wasn’t that simple.

It’s not about what you’re prepared to do; it’s about what you’re prepared to give up and what you’re prepared to become. I was prepared to work hard when I was tired, to spend Saturdays chained to my desk, and certainly to bury myself in revision at the end. But that’s all.

There were things I was not prepared to do for the sake of educational status: Continue reading

My Exam Demons

I’m not bad at exams. I’m good at answering questions in a relevant way and at creating arguments. I don’t usually get overwhelmed when I walk into that room, although I do get a little distracted by other people’s reactions to the environment – it’s fascinating. But my GCSEs went smoothly enough and I did well at AS Level.

It was my second A Level year that threw me off course. I initially decided to take a year out of ‘education’ to follow my interests in an unpressured way, but that idea didn’t last for long. I was attracted to structure and to the ‘fun’ of choosing subjects. I decided to take three A Levels and to learn them at home – Geography, English Literature, and Thinking Skills. Mum dug out the syllabuses and past papers, and bought numerous recommended textbooks.

It turned out to be far more difficult than I imagined, working out what I needed to know – in Geography there was quite a bit of conflicting information. I make it sound like it wasn’t my fault and, in some ways, it wasn’t. The difficulty of the task, my struggle to think and write quickly, my often-bad health, and my low stamina (which is still often a problem), all contributed to the lack of motivation. However, I can’t blame it all on that. Continue reading

Music Doesn’t Inspire Me to Write

I recently talked to somebody about my musical experiences and then, presented as a completely different aspect of my life, discussed my relationship with Creative Writing. I realised something: I rarely write about music.

I am near the end of an Open University degree: ‘Humanities with Music and Creative Writing’. My two favourite subjects are sitting side by side, and yet even there they are separate.

It seems strange that music, which is a huge part of my life, should rarely make it into my writing. I love conducting, teaching music, playing trombone, music theory, singing, playing in band… I hear so many stories, witness so many hilarious events, and know that many of them would make a thrilling read! I just don’t often write them down, apart from in my journal, and occasionally in a Facebook status. Continue reading

Relaxing at the End of My Degree

I’m drinking a latte in a café at the Hidden Gardens. I am not doing any Open University work today, despite a looming assignment deadline and the final exam in a few weeks. I was at Crossfit this morning, I’m here this afternoon, and I’m going to a Passover demonstration tonight. This might seem like a strange approach for someone who is determined to succeed in their degree…

I can achieve a surprising amount in a short space of time, if it has my full attention – far more so than in a full day of distracted effort. I can do two or three hours of academic work (of the focused kind) before my concentration and productivity sharply decline. Sometimes I will push on for longer, filling the later hours with less strenuous tasks. And then I’m done.

I have heard people say, ‘Don’t manage your time; manage your energy.’ This advice has been incredibly helpful to me. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I can’t Continue reading

You Know It Has Been a Good Workout When…

  1. You finish last, but nobody notices because everyone is on the floor. Dead.
  1. By the time you know where you are, a resurrected person is kindly stripping your barbell.
  1. Coach looks at you as if he’s deciding whether to say, ‘well done’, or just to call an ambulance.
  1. You vaguely remember your own name, but only because everyone around you is saying it, preceded by, ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’
  1. If you’re able to speak, you say the stupidest stuff, like, ‘“Squat” on earth was that?’

Continue reading