Sunday, April 30, 2006

Eastern shores

Originally uploaded by goforchris.
I just had to blog this photo - if you know we're off to Crete soon you might be forgiven for thinking we'd gone early! In fact this is Newhaven Harbour, along the shore of the Firth of Forth from Leith. We spent the day there yesterday - an excellent lunch in Chez Daniel, followed by a walk along the road to see the incredible collection of flats being
built on reclaimed land just beyond where I took this photo.

Having already visited two such flats in the past, I was determined not to look at any more, but we were seduced by a penthouse show flat because of the views it would afford. And yes, the view was magnificent - and you can see it over on flickr - but I don't think I'll be moving from The Blethers just yet. Show houses are, of course, designed to within an inch of a table napkin, and to leave one book lying on a chair would upset the whole shebang, but my main gripe in all of the flats we've visited is that there is nowhere to put your smalls! Sure, there are wardrobes - but do *you* hang your unmentionables in the wardrobe? Trust me - there was no floor space in that layout to accommodate a nicely concealing chest of drawers.

Chest of drawers .... hah!

Friday, April 28, 2006

A puff

A quick note to publicise a link from edublogs to a new online publication, "Coming of Age:an introduction to the NEW worldwide web". I'm continually amazed by the number of educators - much younger than I am - who haven't a clue what I'm talking about when I tell them of my (very limited) use of technology as an educational tool, and this book (downloaded and printed off into comforting solidity) could help to persuade and illuminate.

Presumably there have been innovations in the past at which traditionalists balked and which are now in everyday use in classrooms, but at the moment I can't think of them. Answers - but NOT on a postcard - to my Comment box!

Early birds

Lochside path
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Another righteous morning - up early and off for a walk in the Bishop's Glen (pictured - more on flickr) As I walked up the road beside the lower gorge, the sound of the birds was drowned out by the rush of water below, but as I emerged at the lochside the noise died away and I was surrounded by birdsong.

It was, quite simply, perfect. The temperature was about 5ยบ, according to my car, the sun was in the "wrong" place - because I usually walk there in the afternoon or evening - and there wasn't a soul. I walked a mile and a half, stopping every now and then to take photos, and when I returned to the car the first dog-walkers were appearing. Normally I'm a gregarious sort, but I found myself resenting their intrusion.

I may be tempted to rise even earlier some sunny day!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Progress resumed

I'm happy to report that after my pointed remarks to the students involved and my moans here, there has been a return to activity on Progress Report It's less than a week now to the Standard Grade exam, and I suggested that they use the site to work on specific skills - maybe a paragraph using dialogue, perhaps including different dialects, or a bit of descriptive writing.

I'm realising through this that a blog set-up is brilliant for targeting in this fashion; at this stage it's a waste of time to write entire essays when you're still floundering with basics like the layout of direct speech. Once a student knows what 700 words in her own handwriting look like, she knows what her finished essay should look like on the page and can hold that in mind as she writes. I've been interested to find recently that if I write a Critical Essay from a Higher English paper, I will do it in about 700 words, give or take a paragraph. This happens whether I write or type, and is not the result of deliberate strategy. But with 8 Standard Grades coming up, few students have the time to write whole essays more than once in the last push of revision - like preparing for a marathon, it's better not to do the whole distance.

Blogging is a brilliant tool, but as I was commenting over at edublogs earlier today, the main ingredient in a successful student is not a grasp of technology, nor a brilliant teacher. Rather it is the fire in the belly that drives a student to want to improve and be willing to put in the necessary work. There is no magic wand. The deadliest drawback is the mixture of diffidence and complacency that characterises too many of our students - and I fear it is more often found in girls.

And now I'll stop before someone makes me!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care ...

Today *could* be the start of a new regime. I was up at 5am this morning, catching an early ferry to meet a friend off a flight from the USA and take her to Cumbrae to do a stint in the cathedral as Acting Warden. As a result, I'm half dead and instead of blogging at midnight I'm doing it at 10.30pm. If I get to bed early, I may be able to rise early as well - though actually I find 5am just a little discomfiting. Somehow the inclusion of wailing seagulls in the dawn chorus is all too appropriate.

When I stopped work, I had this vision of myself rising early and leaping off to the pool or the gym to hone my aging carcass. No such practice has evolved. Instead I stay up till 2am and get only 6 hours of sleep in bed. However, I read that in the Middle Ages people would take a "first sleep" in the early evening and then stay up till the small hours blethering and quaffing. Maybe I should have lived in another era.

But I don't think I'd have liked the sanitation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cuckoo ....

Ok. It's official. It may be chilly, showery, windy - but it's Spring and I heard a cuckoo this afternoon, making unmistakably cuckooesque calls in the Bishop's Glen. We were walking through the devastation left by the Forestry people when they have removed all the timber from one of their forests - think the Somme without the guns - when this call came, clear and repeated several times.

I enjoy the fact that we have all these paths giving us access to the hills and forests - but when the trees are harvested it takes an age for the hillside to recover any appearance of normality, while the actual terrain remains hopeless for walking because of stumps, branches and ditches. It was great to be there in the pale sun today, however, and a treat to hear my first cuckoo of the year.

Almost made up for yesterday!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Death of a Hydrangea (or two)

Today, inspired by hearing a performance of a once very familiar Beethoven sonata at the gig the other night, I decided to see if I could still play it myself. Now it must be all of 40 years since I last played this piece, and almost the same - since meeting The Maestro - since I stopped playing the piano. What was so strange was that I could in fact still get through it - the fingers seemed to remember what to do in a manner most unlike what happens if I try to play something I've never seen before. Not only that, but the auditory memory was there, still linked to the fingers and landing them more or less in the right place at the right time.

By the end of the piece, my hands and arms felt leaden. Now, this could be old age and lack of practice, but I think it was also the result of my morning's work in the garden. I wouldn't dignify the activity with the name of 'gardening'; it was the usual slash-and-burn found at The Blethers only without the burning (the incinerator disintegrated some years ago and Mr B felt it must be environmentally more friendly to take the debris to the tip. It's certainly less fun). Hydrangeas derange me, and I was deep inside one hacking away with the long-handled loppers. Not for me the dainty dibbering in finely raked, rich soil; rather the lone battle with the brambles and the great pile of dead flower-heads scattering in the rising gales which have characterised this dreary day.

Now I see Blogger is having another "scheduled outage at 4pm PDT", whenever that is. If it eats this post, that'll be the last nail in today's coffin. I'm for bed.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mind-blowing mummy

A quick thought before bedtime. Actually it *is* bedtime, but I'll think briefly nonetheless. After last night's jolly excursion I had a quick look at my stats and discovered that, thanks to appreciative comments in a Yahoo group by a couple of cyberpals, the number of page views for this site from the US had risen considerably. The contrast between the two venues, as it were - the village hall in a tiny seaside village and the vastness of cyberspace - struck me forcibly.

I was also struck by the contents of a post that one of my friends had contributed to the group. In it, he recounted the historical story of what we know as the Exodus from the point of view of the archeological evidence, making me think twice about, inter alia, the death of the Firstborn - which could have referred, apparently, to the death of Kamose Seqenenre Taa ll, last king of the Theban 17th dynasty, who died from a wound received in battle against the Hyksos invaders. In the account, the term "Firstborn" is used as one of the titles of the king. You can even see his mummy, complete with head wound, here

The king which followed him is Amose, Moses in Hebrew. Amose (Moses) was the founder of the great 18th dynasty and was responsible for driving the Hyksos from Egypt and back into Palestine. According to the Egyptian version of things, the Hyksos then founded a new city there. It was called Jerusalem.

I'm actually incredibly ignorant about this area, and I was fascinated. The business of history being written by winners also struck me; having been adept at map-drawing I gave up on history at a lamentably early age. So, Digs, if you're reading this - thank you for opening a wee area of my mind to new knowledge, and my apologies for a hasty and probably inept condensing of your information.

There. I feel I've lifted a tiny corner of a big box, peered inside, said "wow!" and promptly shut it again. But at least I now know that the box exists. And that it is one of milllions that I've never seen.

Wow. Again.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fly me to the ... sticks

Just back from the kind of evening where you have to pinch yourself to make sure you're actually there ... singing in a community hall in the back of beyond to an appreciative audience who've already sat through a couple of hours of varied turns. In fact, because we were accompanied in our last piece ("Fly me to the Moon") by a keyboard with a rhythm section added, we felt positively 21st century by comparison with the rest of the evening.

I suppose if asked I'd have said that concerts like this belonged in my childhood, when we used to go to the Brodick Summer concert in the local hall and see the plumber in a play and hear the hairdresser warble in a voice which hinted at better days. But no - it was all there, and we were a part of it. From the singer whose partner gazed lovingly at her as she sang (and who revealed that they'd been fighting madly over the choice of repertoire) to the various ladies of a certain age (present writer included) who had to juggle specs and music and the spotlights which dimmed in a random manner which suggested a fluctuating electricity supply - nothing seemed impossible.

Ah well. A Good Time Was Had By All. But why do sheep lie on the (single track) road during the night?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Standard Grade Writing?

I was sharply reminded today that not everyone shares the realisation of the value of blogging as an educational tool. My two students seem to have forgotten all about Progress Report over the Easter break, reverting in one case to pen and paper and in the other to doing no writing at all before coming for a lesson.

Sadly, the writing produced for my inspection showed none of the flair that had been emerging from the blog interaction - rather as pupils would seem engaged by a class lesson and then go off and do as they'd always done. And yet I'm convinced that continuous practice in writing for an audience is the way to hone these skills - and that the kind of piecemeal work which focuses on specific skills is (a) perfectly suited to blogging and (b) absolutely necessary to develop stylish and accurate prose.

I hammered away at the old mantra: Writers write. If they don't write, the skills languish. It is often felt that there is little you can do in preparation for a Writing exam - apart from knowing how much you can write in an hour and fifteen minutes - because the questions cannot be predicted. This is nonsense. If there is anyone out there preparing for the nonsense of the Writing Exam at Standard Grade (do you think Graham Greene wrote in exam conditions?) there are indeed ways to prepare.

Observe people, places, sights, atmosphere with the eye of what Edwin Morgan called the "accursed recorder". Be aware of yourself as a participant in a story called Life (though not all the time - you'll get a name for yourself). Listen to what people actually say and how they say it. And write something every day - a paragraph, a good sentence, a snatch of dialogue, a description. And if you're fortnate enough to be in the 2% of web users who publish a blog - make use of it!

And now I'm away to let the bee out of my bunnet.....

Minority Pursuits - recovered!

I accessed my lost post in Claire's bloglines and reproduce it here to prove that I have not yet lost all my marbles. It is, of course, past its sell-by date and therefore a little sad.

"According to a piece on today's Guardian Unlimited blogging is still very much a minority pursuit. Only 2% of Internet users publish a blog, and only 10% - around 2.8 million people - view a weblog once a month or more.

So it's small wonder that I find it such hard work trying to persuade people of the value of this kind of communication, and still find myself explaining what I'm talking about to perfectly sane people who have never heard of weblogs. I find that even when I've directed someone to this blog to see something particular, they prefer to send me an email to tell me they've seen it, and even to comment therein, rather than post in the comments box. Today I was asked if it wasn't embarrassing to put my feelings into the public domain. I guess you won't do this kind of writing if you're inhibited - but what do you write? And for whom?

Anyway - if you're reading this, you're in a significant minority."
Posted on: Wed, Apr 19 2006 11:56 PM

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lost and gorn forever?

Yesterday, I posted a little link to a Guardian story about the small numbers of web-users who publish blogs (about 2%) and even view a weblog at least once a month (about 10%) It was brief, slightly smug (after all, it's nice to be ahead of the pack in my declining years) and to the point. At least one person read it. And I read it, dammit, this afternoon - because Duffy complained that he was unable to post a comment on it.

Neither was I. I mailed Blogger help, having trawled through vaguely relevant but ultimately unhelpful topics in the Help section. I emptied my cache. I republished the entire blog. And then the poor thing vanished without trace. And I mean without trace - it's as if it has never been. It's not listed in the post list of titles. If Duffy and others had not seen it I'd suspect my sanity - such is the effect of a bad blogger day.

If this were to happen to other, more important (to me anyway) posts I'd throw a wobbler. As it is, I shall merely sulk.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Get on with it ....

Now where are we?
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
What a strange day Easter Monday is. I don't think it's at all strange if you're having a precious holiday before work on Tuesday, but after the high drama of Holy Week and Easter day I felt the day quite empty. Perhaps this is a good thing: I was contemplating, not for the first time, how it must have felt to be one of the disciples after that first Easter. (All that contextual Bible Study has got to me!)

OK. You've seen - or heard, because you were too fearful to go to Golgotha - of Jesus' death on the Cross. You were distraught and terrified in equal measure. Then you heard about the empty tomb. Or you were there that evening when Jesus appeared in the room where you were shut in "for fear of the Jews". And then he went off again, according to John, for another eight days. So on the Monday - what? What do you do now?

And we know that, in the event, they got on with it. If they hadn't, we wouldn't have a Christian church. They picked themselves up and they did what Jesus had told them to, without his being physically there to lead them. Quite something, really.

Now I've always found it hard to say goodbye to people. Even if they're at the end of a phone (or VOIP if we're being thrifty) I miss their actual presence. There's a space which nothing else fills. I wonder how I'd have got on if I'd been a disciple. Pretty miserably, I suspect. Right now I'm about to go to a Worship Group meeting to work on next Sunday's service in my own church. This has been going on for a while now to let Hugh our priest go to one of the other churches he's been in charge of - we have DIY Sundays every month. But this will be our first Sunday of a vacancy. Hugh has retired. He will be back - but until our new Rector arrives we're on our own.

That's why I've used the photo above from our NZ trip. We were trying to work out just where we were in this wonderful high desert. Feels a bit like that now: exalted, exhilerating - but pathless.

Better get on with it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Holy business?

Easter Day. Christ has risen! And in a quiet afternoon moment, before returning to church for an ecumenical service which we are hosting, I can't help reflecting on this past week - surely the busiest Holy Week I've ever experienced.

It began last Saturday, with the all-day rehearsal for Stainer's Crucifixion, which we performed in the Cathedral of The Isles on Palm Sunday afternoon. When the rest of the choir went home, we stayed. During the next three days we sang Evensong each day, and because we don't do this all the time that meant daily rehearsals. We also attended Morning Prayer, a midday Eucharist and Compline. Wednesday's Evensong of course included the Tallis Lamentations - we rehearsed that for hours. It was great - but it was all-consuming.

Then home - to collect moss for Gethsemane, to make it into a garden on the Altar of Repose, to be present at the Last Supper and the watch which followed. To be there in church for the last hour, to return on the Saturday to prepare the church for Easter and to carry my candle in the Vigil of Saturday evening. And today - a joyful Easter Eucharist, incense, flowers, singing - and back this evening, not only to participate but also to rehearse and perform in a small group.

I suppose I'm wondering what it would be like to be passive, to receive all I wanted to from the week and not have to give anything. I suspect I'd feel strange - it seems my natural way of life to be one of the people who put the show on the road, so to speak. Being married to the organist and being someone who can sing, read or proclaim at the drop of a hat means people expect you to be there and doing. But I'm aware that all this activity means I read nothing for myself, I fall asleep the moment I relax, I have few serious thoughts that are not tied to some part of the drama in which I'm involved. And yet the experience of doing all these things is immense - and despite feeling I've landed in some obscure religious order who sing and make replicas of gardens from unlikely materials I wouldn't miss it for a moment.

Not much room for the still, small voice, eh?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Paschal Vigil

Tonight the Light of Christ returned to our darkened church, in a service quite unlike any other. Hugh our rector lit a fire in the grounds outside the church - mercifully the rain held off - and a sizeable crowd from the other churches in Dunoon joined us as he pressed into the paschal candle the grains of incense to symbolise the five wounds of Christ. He then lit the candle from the new flame, and we processed into the dark church proclaiming "The light of Christ" three times as everyone lit their wee candles from the big one.

The service continued by candlelight - Old Testament readings, responsorial psalms, renewing of baptismal vows - and ended with "Ye choirs of new Jerusalem". After the solitude of our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, it was strange but heartening to be joined by so many people. I hope the visitors from other traditions gained from our special service.

On a less serious note, we had a thoroughly jolly time this afternoon creating the Easter Garden from the moss of Gethsemane. Di , over at Heathbank has an amusing account of the coy angel and his role in Mark's account of the resurrection - which we will have tomorrow morning.

Normal life may be resumed soon - though I wouldn't bank on it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

At the foot of the Cross

Station of the Cross
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
In a thoughtful piece in yesterday's Guardian, Giles Fraser talks about " the slow break-up of the last great nationalised industry: the Church of England." Much of what he has to say contrasts the genteel figure of fun that is the trad English vicar with the power and the energy of the Good Friday story. It is this complacent gentility that has always put me off a certain kind of church - and yet such a church, an "establishment" institution, might well have been filled for the traditional "last hour" service on this day.

In the church in which I worship, there were five people present for Christ's last hour on the Cross. It was not always so - I can remember a time not so long ago when visitors would come, and a decent handful of regulars. Today, it seems, the demand of visiting relatives, or shopping, or washing the car or whatever takes precedence. For a moment I felt ... despairing? resentful?

But look at the picture I have posted here. It comes from the stations of the Cross in the cloisters of the College at Cumbrae, and seen close up is is a crude representation. But how many people are at the foot of the cross? Five. John's Gospel seems to suggest that there were five there - though the punctuation makes it slightly ambiguous. Everyone else had gone, either from fear of association or - the majority - from indifference. Crucifixion, under Roman rule, was no big deal. It happened frequently. People would be with friends, seeing relatives, tending their donkey .....

We Christians are so close to the story of Jesus' suffering that we find it hard to realise that most people, in Roman times and now, were indifferent to his fate. However, I find it still more difficult to understand how people who would claim to be Christians do not want to stand at the foot of the Cross. Presumably they will be there to sing hosannas on Easter morning - the joy without the darkness.

But I would not have missed being present in Gethsemane garden, and at Golgotha.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Maundy Thursday


We have come again to
This place, this Garden -
We came before, but it seems
New to us now, in this dark.
And we must watch - watch
What? And for what long hours?
Hard it is, to watch a man wrestle with himself,
To watch the inside of my mind.
Moments crawl like black insects.
A cat speaks close in the hollow air;
Voices sound far in another world.
Eyes droop in a dizzying second as
Time slips sideways into oblivion.

A sudden movement warns and
Wakes. It is nearing its end, this
Endless watching, and now it is
Too brief, hearts race, senses cry out:
Stay. Not yet. I did not
Concentrate - and it is over.
He is taken from us, and the darkness
Crowds accusing, jagged with regrets.
Under a bloody moon, the world
Turns quietly towards the day.


Music and Silence

The Cathedral of The Isles
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Holy Week is a special time in the church year, but to spend the beginning of Holy Week in a beautiful cathedral, living in community, attending Morning Prayer, the Eucharist, Evensong and Compline and singing sublime music every day is an experience beyond words.

Today, just before we left for home, we sang the second part of Tallis' Lamentations of Jeremiah. This is a setting for 5 male voices - as the top part is for an alto I was involved along with two tenors, a baritone and a bass. The music is complex, unrelenting in its demands, and totally rewarding. I have performed it before - 4 times, in fact - but still am unable to claim to know the music or my own part, and keep discovering new things in it. Today it was the magic of the dissonances - and the passion of the writing towards the end, when the prophet describes the desolation of Jerusalem.

When we had finished singing, Bishop Martin said a final brief prayer in what was almost a whisper, and we left in silence. Half an hour later, we were on the ferry heading for home. Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, and we continue Holy Week in our own church. Life seems very full, and very rich.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Not blogging but singing ...

I'm about to have a break from blogging and return to my pre-geekery love of choral singing - not with a cast of thousands (oh, all right - a hundred then) but with no more than three voices to a part, on Sunday. I shall be singing in a performance of Stainer's Crucifixion in the Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae, rehearsing all day Saturday and dashing home so's we can do Palm Sunday in Dunoon before returning to the Cathedral. The picture is of the sanctuary - the polychromatic tiling is a feature of Butterfield's architecture. The building is one of my favourite places and the acoustics are wonderful.

This concentrated rehearsing and performing is challenging but enjoyable, and most of the singers there will have looked over the music before they turn up. However, I have to admit that I'm particularly looking forward to the three days after Sunday's performance, when I'll be singing daily Evensong with only one voice to a part - when every sound matters and the involvement is total. We hope to be able to do part of Tallis' Lamentations of Jeremiah on Wednesday, before we come home to take up the Passion narrative in our own church.

So don't worry about me, faithful readers - I'll be back!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Poetry and the Passion

Involved today in contextual Bible study of St Mark's gospel, I found myself contemplating the enormity of the crucifixion and my own inability to look directly at what was going on. In one way, the story is so familiar that we are almost protected from the brutality and suffering involved, and it was hard to express a response that was other than horrified silence.

Perhaps it takes a great poet to respond for us. In his poem "The Musician", R.S.Thomas uses his customarily powerful imagery to suggest the whole sweep of God's involvement in the suffering of Christ and the totality of Christ's commitment to our redemption. It has for many years been a favourite of mine; I was delighted when a mixed ability class of S4 boys responded to it with empathy and understanding.

As Holy Week approaches, I would like to share this powerful poem with any to whom it may be new.


A memory of Kreisler once:
At some recital in this same city,
The seats all taken, I found myself pushed
On to the stage with a few others,
So near that I could see the toil
Of his face muscles, a pulse like a moth
Fluttering under the fine skin,
And the indelible veins of his smooth brow.

I could see, too, the twitching of the fingers,
Caught temporarily in art’s neurosis,
As we sat there or warmly applauded
This player who so beautifully suffered
For each of us upon his instrument.

So it must have been on Calvary
In the fiercer light of the thorns’ halo:
The men standing by and that one figure,
The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm,
Making such music as lives still.
And no one daring to interrupt
Because it was himself that he played
And closer than all of them the God listened.


Another suitcase in another hall...

Ring bell for attention!
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
More journeying - not as far as NZ, but epic in its own little way.

I've been in deepest Perthshire, staying at a wonderfully comfortable place, The Bield, for a meeting of the SEC Lay Learning group. If you click through to the rest of my pix, you will see that I couold have been swimming in the private pool or walking in the fields, but in fact I was talking and listening the whole time. And eating.

I travelled the whole way to Perth for nothing, thanks to the fact that my ferry pass is still accepted, and seems to have magically extended its range to Perth despite the non-arrival of my new bus pass. However - and this is where my journey home took on an epic quality - buses are subject to the same hold-ups as other road traffic. There was a great hold up near - I think - Denny, and we pulled into Buchanan Street bus station 20 minutes late. As I left the bus, the one next to it pulled out. It was the bus to Gourock. The last bus to Gourock - and I had missed it.

A man in a bus company uniform had only his sympathy to offer, and the advice that I should try a train. I took to my heels, not even pausing for the wee weep which I felt an appropriate response to the situation.

The happy ending? Yes. I caught an express train by the skin of my wheelie case and arrived home 10 minutes earlier than I would have if I'd come on the bus.

But I had to pay for the train.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Foray into Faure

Flags in choir
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Well. That was interesting. Let's come clean and say I now know for certain that I have missed nothing by singing more or less exclusively in small choral groups for all these years.

Yesterday I had the novel experience of singing in an alto section which sang flat. All the time. And here am I - always being told I've gone sharp. Well - I couldn't drag anyone up with me yesterday, and that's for sure. Mind you - compared with the demented shrieking I heard from the sopranos at a particularly testing moment ... I'm sure it's worse being a soprano.

I suppose it didn't help that everyone seemed to be so old. I didn't feel elderly at all - and this is bad.
Is it only people of my generation who do this kind of thing? Was it because it cost £16 to join in - and then pay to rent your music? Do people in their 20s run a mile at the thought - and do I blame them? (I don't mean the thought of Faure or Kodaly - I'm thinking of these ad hoc choirs of pensioners and fifty-somethings.)

Anyway. People who customarily sing in large choirs seem to (a) not look at the conductor (b) chat to their neighbour every time they stop singing (c) never know where we're starting from (d) sing like half-shut knives (women) or coalheavers (men) and (e) obviously feel no sense of responsibility for the final product. The maestro, by the time the "performance" came around, seemed to have withdrawn into his own thoughts.

I'm glad I don't read minds.