Ducklings

Posted by Susan Tomes on 28 May 2009 under Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

We were walking through Richmond Park, discussing various members of the younger generation and their current dilemmas. Should they change their jobs, travel the world, leave this partner or get together with that one? Will the pursuit of their dreams enable them to make a living? We sighed over the difficulty of finding one’s path in life. Where to live, what to do, how to find kindred spirits? What will make them happy?

We rounded a corner and saw a group of people standing respectfully back from something on the path beside the pond. It was a huddle of ducklings, at least twelve of them, nestling close together and ‘peeping’ tinily. Nearby, slightly bigger ducklings hopped merrily in and out of the water, watched over by a proud mother duck. We all stood and watched admiringly. ‘None of these kind of discussions in duck families, I suppose’, said Bob thoughtfully. ‘Can you imagine? “What are you going to be when you grow up, darling?” “A duck.” End of story.’

Calorie Gallery

Posted by Susan Tomes on 27 May 2009 under Daily Life, Inspirations  •  Leave a comment

hazelnut raspberry meringue

hazelnut raspberry meringue

Eat your heart out, pointlessly thin people, for this is a photo of the birthday cake Bob made for me yesterday. Two layers of chewy hazelnut meringue filled with double cream and fresh raspberries. A thing of beauty and a joy forever!

Legions of fans

Posted by Susan Tomes on 27 May 2009 under Daily Life, Florestan Trio  •  Leave a comment

I spent a long tube journey today reading the newspaper articles and special supplements about tonight’s Champions’ League Final football match between Manchester United and Barcelona. I’m not much of a sports fan, but anything can become interesting once you take the trouble to know something about it, and I can see that in any team sport played to a high level there’s the same fascination as there is in chamber music: the intense collaboration between talented people dependent on one another’s reflexes and powers.

As I read, I wondered what it must be like to have 200 million people waiting to watch on television, thousands of supporters flying out to Rome to attend the match, and thousands more taking time off work to fly to Italy without even having tickets for the match, knowing they will end up watching it on a screen in a field somewhere, but just wanting ‘to be near’. I can hardly imagine. In my line of work, there are passionate supporters and people determined to get to particular concerts, but their numbers are …. well, let’s say they are in the hundreds at most. We did once have a few music students camped in the churchyard at the Peasmarsh Festival, but I can’t say their behaviour caused the local police to tremble. No, we can’t compete with Man U. Yet I can’t believe there is less skill or value in what we do, and I still think lots more people would enjoy it if they gave it a chance.

Plodding without thought of the summit

Posted by Susan Tomes on 26 May 2009 under Florestan Trio  •  Leave a comment

Today was a Bank Holiday, but I hardly noticed. To me it was just a valuable practice day in the week leading up to the rehearsal period for the trio’s festival. Next Monday marks the beginning of a ten-day period in which we have to prepare all the pieces we’re playing in eight concerts. Once the festival opens, on the very day after the rehearsal period ends, the concerts fall thick and fast, and none of us can afford still to be thinking about notes or fingering. Even though it may look from the outside like an idyllic rural event, the festival is in some ways the biggest challenge of the year.

My left index finger is still fragile. No longer painful, it has however developed a ‘twang’ as if a tiny tendon is out of place in the fingertip. If I strike a note too forcefully, my finger ‘twangs’ as I release the pressure. So I’ve decided it would be wise to spend this week playing everything slowly and carefully.

Every year, preparing for the festival feels like a mountain to climb. And speaking of mountains, I got an important tip from reading about Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who at the age of 65 has just conquered Mount Everest. He said that his mental trick was never to think of the summit. He just kept plodding on, ‘walking for ever’, not allowing himself to wonder if he was near the top yet. Putting one foot patiently in front of the other, one of those steps would eventually be the one that happened to place his foot on the summit. I’m going to try to follow his example.

Slug Barrier

Posted by Susan Tomes on 25 May 2009 under Daily Life  •  5 Comments

Bob’s new vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden is being sabotaged by slugs. They emerge at night to munch on his tender lettuces and fledgling bean plants. We know the slugs dislike crawling over certain things, so for a while we collected our coffee grounds and spread them around the plants, but rain kept washing them away. We tried gravel and expensive bands of copper, to little effect. Sometimes Bob goes out at night with a torch and a bucket of water to collect slugs, but he doesn’t feel like doing that very often. (When I first typed that sentence, I wrote ‘Bob goes out at night to collect slugs with a torch and a bucket of water’, but that conjured up an awful vision of torch-wielding aquiferous slugs.)

Now he’s moved the campaign into a new phase by building a little wooden barrier around the vegetable patch, and affixing sandpaper to the outside of the barrier. So far this prickly wall has defeated the slugs.

We’ve been discussing whether it’s enough to have a barrier above ground level. Slugs can also burrow, so it seems likely that on meeting the barrier they may simply dive (if that is the word) under it and rise up triumphant among the lettuces. Should the sandpaper barrier be extended downwards, under the ground? What depth would deter them, and whom else would it deter?