26 December 2009

After a long hiatus

. . . I'm left feeling like the queen, who announced one year (1992) that she'd had an annus horribilis, which we've had this year. Life has become so chaotic that I've been away from the blogosphere, but I am trying now to make a return and resume more normal duties instead of just running in what I term "survival mode".

Not everything has been bad, of course. Princess Sleepyhead has had highlights: doing better at her new school than expected -- for the first time ever she received an academic award -- and finally finally getting to perform on "Carols by Candlelight" on Channel 9. She has waited and waited and waited for that. And while I don't have a link to that performance I have one to the Victorian State Singers performing their nine-lesson carol service (the lessons have been edited out, though not by me) earlier this month. It's well worth a listen -- they're an excellent youth choir, and looking for new members. In case you're Melbourne-based and under 30, here's their website.

Sir Talkalot, the cause of much of this year's chaos (which is a change as he's usually the "easy" child), has started at a new school, which he loves and we're very impressed with.

So, let's hope the new year is more settled, happy and productive in all ways -- for you and me both!

30 April 2009

Things that are griping me at the moment

(i) People who say they're going to show up for something and don't. Last week, we had our Rotunda night with John Clarke and had over 160 people say yes they were coming -- at which point we declared the session full and turned a lot of people away. And on the night, we had around 110. Lots of our students didn't come and said they had wanted to but didn't bother because they'd heard it was full. The night was fantastic -- John was informative, entertaining and so warm and generous with his time, Sherryl was a very relaxed and competent interviewer, and then we followed their session with some excellent student readings, so it was a shame that we had turned so many people away. I know sometimes there are genuine reasons people can't come at the last minute, but I doubt so many people had emergencies... Why bother booking if you don't intend to come? And if you can't -- please let us know!

(ii) Government bodies who think that the way to increase TAFE patronage is to increase fees. Please excuse the trumpet-blowing that's to follow, but I feel quite passionate about this. We have a fantastic course -- I truly believe that. We have a fantastic bunch of committed teachers who love our course and love teaching in it. We've worked hard to build it, to make it a dynamic, happening place, to recruit an enthusiastic staff -- and although we're tiny we're leading the university in terms of what we're doing online. We've embraced the university's community engagement directives, and are running events that are well attended both by students and those in the wider community. The feedback we're getting is excellent. We've risen in the pop pols since I started, from third to second place and have that final place, which we believe rests on its (excellent) marketing abilities, in our sights, even if it is way ahead of us. Our students love our course (most do, anyway -- I can't speak for them all, of course...). We have so much going for us -- and now we're under the gun. Thanks, people! Raising prices, yes, that's how I'd get people to come too. (Pardon the sarcasm!) What it means is that those who are thinking about studying at TAFE should jump in now and lock themselves into the current fee structure. 

(iii) Councils who do sneakies -- like putting up small no-parking signs without warning anyone that they're going to do this. That's what's happened at the end of my street -- and I got caught there the other day. $113 worth of caught to be exact. What made it worse was I had originally parked somewhere else and thought the car might be too near a corner so moved it to do the right thing. Argghh. Clearly, I wasn't looking for signs because I've often parked there. Mind you -- my brother got caught somewhere after a council erected the signs while his car was parked. How rude is that! Fortuitously (and fortunately), he happened to have photographic evidence, but still had to go to court to get out of it. After my exhausting efforts to get another fine (only $75 worth in a different council) overturned last year -- I won, but I'm still wondering whether it was worth it, given the amount of time and grief it caused me, I've decided that this time I'll have to just suck it up. In this house, we have a process in place that works well: if one gets a fine they think is truly undeserved and that they're pissed off about, the other quietly goes away and pays it. It's just as though the fine has disappeared...

20 April 2009

Well, the holidays are over...

And it's back to school. Yay! The house to myself to get some work done. Today it's workshopping and class prep and editing and maybe working on my own stuff -- if there's any time left. And that's the problem with my priorities really. Everyone else's work comes first. I'm going to be looking at ways of addressing that the next few weeks.

Time to review the holidays, which were almost a non-event this year. We did see several movies: Race to Witch Mountain, Inkheart, Knowing and Duplicity -- and I saw The Reader, just before the holidays began. Plus we went to see Wicked, and didn't I get a shock when we drove into the city because we were late (what a surprise! not) and missed our train. I was expecting parking to be around the $20 mark. Foolish, foolish woman. I'd forgotten that usually when I drive in to go to a live show, it's the weekend, and weekend parking is cheaper. The first place we stopped was $47. Gulp. Then a bit further out we found one for $40. Further out still we eventually found parking for $32 -- one of those places where you leave your keys in the ignition, and they park it for you, which really freaked out the kids. Our plenty of free time was eaten up in the cross-city slog, and neither child had eaten anything, so by the time they bought food (which I was most surprised to find out they were allowed to take inside) it was right on starting time. We had great seats -- second row -- so close we could see where the actors' hairpieces ended! Anyway, I'll post reviews on my writing blog.

Other things we enjoyed -- Victorian State Singers presenting the Credo Mass on Good Friday. I was settling in for something that was going to go on for hours and was surprised to find out it was considerably shorter than I expected, but beautifully presented as always. Man, I love this choir, which is struggling a bit with numbers, though I can't imagine why. Actually, that's not quite true. I do know why -- I just think in a perfect world this group would be bursting at the seams. First, people have to get over their misconceptions. Princess Sleepyhead has been trying to recruit at school and not meeting any kind of success -- kids saying why would they want to join a daggy choir. 

And why would they? Here's a few reasons. For a start, there's the practice of singing for three hours a week, which for those doing VCE can only be a huge benefit. Then there's the performance experience. This is a choir that does fairly regular performances -- great at getting any performer used to what's expected -- with a varied repertoire of music. So that's the next point -- learning lots of different styles of music, broadening knowledge of what's out there. And then there's the other thing, perhaps the most important of all: this group has fun! They love singing, and their leader, Doug Heywood, and pianist, Alexander Cameron, are great motivators. It's a serious choir with a great sound that has lots of fun -- what more could you want?

07 April 2009

In the bad books

That's me. Sir Talkalot is barely talking to me. I'll have to rename him Sir Talkalittle if he keeps this up. What have I done now?


He was supposed to be at a friend's house this morning, and I didn't take him. Er, hello? I did try to get him up. He refused. And I had a dental appointment. At 11.15. Now, seriously, if he's still in bed and refusing to get up, what does he expect me to do? Maybe he shouldn't have been up playing computer games half the night.

And then he's equally unhappy because I did pick him up at his friends' house this evening. 11 pm to be precise. (Well, "accurate" really because I only went once.)

He wanted to stay all night. I said no because we've got something on tomorrow -- and hasn't he just proven this morning that he can't get up after a late night?

We agreed on midnight -- well, no, I laid down the law; he acquiesced rather than agreed. But then he rang up today and said there'd been a change of plan, and they were going somewhere else, and he wasn't telling us where because he wanted to stay all night. That's just not on. His penalty was an hour earlier pick-up. So he barely spoke to me all the way home. Tough. We can play it his way or mine. I choose mine.

02 April 2009

What I hate

is kids that come up to you at 1.30 am and say, "Mum, we have a cultural day tomorrow, and we all have to take some food to share from our background. Can you make me something Dutch to take..."


21 March 2009

Friday madness

Are other families as disorganised as ours? On Thursday, I spent the day in the hospital at the fracture clinic with Sir Talkalot and his broken arm. I took a book I'm reading for school to read but got little reading done as Sir Talkalot wanted to talk. So I put the work off. That evening I was feeling ill with stabbing pains in my abdomen -- I thought maybe it was a UTI, but it turned out to be some odd sort of gastro bug that's doing the rounds; in any case, I didn't get any work done.


Friday morning, I wake up feeling feverish and with aches and pains everywhere. And Sir Talkalot has missed his bus. Again. Resigned to having to take him, I'm ready to go when Sir T notices the dogs were out. There's much cussing and cursing (yeah, they're the same thing really, but it sounds good!) as the blasted dogs don't want to be caught, but we get them inside, eventually. By this time we're running late.

We drive into school and get there at 9.05. Sir T has an excursion and is dismayed because there are no buses waiting. No buses, and no students waiting for buses.

"They've gone already. Quick, quick, you have to take me into the Immigration Museum!"

"Don't you think you should go in first and check?"

"My classroom was empty. They're not here."

"How do you know?"

"We just drove past it," he says. (The road to his locker pod goes through the school itself.) "It's empty. I'm telling you: they're gone!"


"Quick! You've got to get me there."

So we head back out onto the road and battle the peak-hour car park that's called a freeway. Sir T is getting agitated by the traffic jam and our slow process. "Don't worry," I say. "If we're caught, so are they."

We get to the Immigration Museum at 9.50. Happily -- unexpectedly -- there's a car park nearby. I have 85 cents in change in the car, so I'm wondering how long that will buy me. Not long, I presume, wishing I'd brought my bag and purse. Even more happily, the meter is out of order -- although this makes me cautious because the last time I parked in a spot with an out-of-order meter, I got a parking ticket, even though I rang and reported the meter as faulty. I had two rounds of fighting that before I won. This time I can't ring as I haven't got my phone. It's in my bad. After all, it was just a quick trip to school, right?

I stay with the car while Sir T goes to see if he's school's at the museum. It doesn't open till 10. And there are no buses waiting. Hmm. They were also going to the Eureka tower, so I'm wondering if they went there first and whether we should wait. And all the time I'm almost shaking with fever. 

When eventually the museum opens, he finds the school cancelled the excursion the day before, and everyone was told -- only we were at the hospital! So we head back to school. It's nearly 11.30 by the time I get home and collapse into bed. I still don't get any work done.

18 March 2009

Legacy of Immigration decisions

Sometime about a year and a half ago, my daughter's very excellent (yes, "very" -- the word I tell my students to avoid) singing teacher was given her marching orders from this country. Doina was working here, had been so for a number of years and had built up a steady clientele, but was told that as she was between 55 and 60 and didn't have enough money behind her, she couldn't stay. 

Never mind that her business was flourishing and because she could teach from home, this was something she could long do to support herself. Never mind that she seemed to be the only classical teacher in the western suburbs. Never mind that she has a PhD is music and extensive experience in operas including running them. The good people at the Immigration Department said that such experience wasn't necessary to teach the general public.


Music is my daughter's life. And while she loves pop, truth is her voice is more suited to classical singing. She sings in the Victorian State Singers, who are as serious a group as you're ever likely to find, and the Australian Girls Choir. She's learning piano and music theory and studying music at school. But her strength is singing. She struggles with piano and is behind where she'd need to be to use piano as her VCE instrument. She's also behind in theory. And in the time since Doina left, we can chart a decline in her voice.

In the meantime, she's had another teacher, who was quite good -- and a great singer -- but who thought that the exercises PH was doing with Doina were far too hard -- so hard, in fact, that she couldn't do them.

The best solution seemed to be to go back to PH's original teacher, whom we left mainly because of the travelling needed to get there and back. Imagine our surprise and delight to find she'd not only moved closer but to our own suburb! Perfect. Only she's not teaching privately anymore. She doesn't know anyone she can recommend in the western suburbs. No, let me rephrase that: she doesn't know anyone who is teaching in the western suburbs.

So, I'm left contemplating travelling further afield, or trying to engage Doina through Skype. I know she's taught violin successfully this way, but I can't imagine how it would work with singing because of the delays. Even a fraction of a second -- Doina's playing scales and arpeggios, and PH is singing them back, only Doina's hearing different notes to the ones she's now playing. How would that be? Perhaps the only way is to give it a try. But I'm angry, immeasurably angry, that we're in this position in the first place.

Such skills are not needed to teach the general public? Such skills were making a difference to my daughter's life. But, of course, she's just the general public so we shouldn't give a shit about her. You know, if Doina had wanted to go, I would have been sad, and said fair enough. But she didn't want to go. She waged a campaign to stay, and many of us wrote supporting letters. I thought mine was strongly argued, but I didn't even get an acknowledgment. I know she'd love to come back -- whether that was viable financially if she were given a new visa is another matter, but it's a moot point anyway. I'm sure PH wasn't the only disappointed student -- we're just one family who's been affected, but a year and a half on those effects are still reverberating within us, just as they are, no doubt, with Doina.