Monday, August 29, 2011

Risking 'Jane Eyre'

I've read all six Jane Austen novels but I've never read any of the Bronte sisters novels. Imogen has read 'Jane Eyre' but that's all. So when Mum suggested we go and see the new 'Jane Eyre' movie I was interested. I've got a reputation for not liking many movies but this time I decided to risk hating 'Jane Eyre' and go.

Originally Mum wasn't going to go to the cinema with us but when Imogen and I pleaded with her she agreed to come and watch with us.

The lights dimmed, we settled into our seats and the huge screen flashed on and the speakers boomed, but this wasn't the movie. All that was on the screen were ads, long boring ads for newspapers and nursing homes.

Finally after add after add 'Jane Eyre' began and we sank into her miserable world. I half expected that I was going to cry or even sniffle but thankfully my eyes remained firmly dry as Imogen pointed at tiny details I might have missed if she hadn't shown them to me.

"It's Queen Henrietta Maria," she whispered.

I searched the walls of the creepy old house and found the painting of the queen. It's funny how things you learn about creep into unexpected places. We were learning about the kings and queens of England not long ago and Queen Henrietta Maria was one of them.

I watched interested, hoping that this was one of the few movies I actually like. Thankfully it didn't disappoint me. I believe that 'Jane Eyre' is one of those very few movies.

As we emerged into the sunlight we discussed the movie. Mum had enjoyed the movie as much as I did and we compared it with the other version we saw. Imogen says it's closer to the book than the other version but I can't compare it to the book, having never read it. Now I'm going to read 'Jane Eyre'.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Losing Myself in the World of Jane Austen

Imogen walked in the door. On her back was a bag of library books. She opened it and pulled out two thick juicy looking books.

"I found these for you," she said.

I looked at the titles. 'Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels' one proclaimed. The other said 'Jane's Fame'.

"Thank you," I gasped.

I was blissfully happy. Two new Jane Austen books to read and they were big ones. I wandered over to an armchair and flopped down already flipping open 'Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels'.

I opened the page to Chapter One and lost myself in the world of Jane Austen. Soaking myself in knowledge of the Regency period I would emerge only once in a while to spout out some interesting fact. I would corner Imogen or Mum and say something like,

"Did you know that Colonel Brandon doesn't have a first name?"

or, "Did you know that in the movies the producer added scenes showing the hero doing manly things like chopping wood, shooting or fencing?'

"Edward Ferrars chopped wood?" Imogen would say incredulously. "That's ridiculous. He's a gentleman."

"I know," I would giggle and hurry back to my book to find out more.

Unfortunately for me the books, though really thick didn't last very long. I finished 'Jane's Fame' yesterday. I shall have to go to the library to find some more. Poor librarians when I get to the Jane Austen section.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Beautiful Performance

People streamed into the parish hall. A hum of voices and the scraping of plastic chairs on the wooden floor filled the room. From my place in the audience I could just see the choir moving into position in front of the audience and finding their pages in their books. If I lent a little to the right I could just see Imogen sitting in the choir but Dad and Callum were hidden by old ladies.

The conductor stepped up onto a little table so that the whole of the choir could see her. One of the singers sat at a keyboard and started the soft accompaniment. At the wave of the conductor's hands the choir burst into song. I don't know how they understand the strange language of waving hands and sticks but somehow singers do.

Imogen's high voice was clearly noticeable among the slightly lower voices of the other sopranos. I could hear her through the whole performance but especially on the high notes. Imogen has the highest voice in the choir and is the only one comfortable on the highest notes.

If I listened carefully I could make out Dad and Callum's voices rumbling away in the bass section. Even when they were being trains and chuffing along it sounded brilliant. I don't see why any choir would want to pretend to be trains but still they did it wonderfully.

The choir sang heaps of songs, broken up by a few solo performances. One of the singers sang two solo pieces. One of them had the audience chuckling and whispering to each other. The other was much sadder and the audience sat hushed through it all. Another time the conductor's husband played 'Over the Rainbow' on the keyboard.

The whole performance lasted an hour and half but it didn't feel half so long. It didn't feel like I had been sitting there for that long when Dad, Imogen and Callum came to collect me.

In our parish there is a group of ladies who are famous for their sandwich making abilities. We always hope when there is an event in the parish that they will be organizing the food. Thankfully they were at this event and had brought heaps of their sandwiches along with loads of scones, cupcakes and biscuits. Gratefully we dug in.

I loved listening to the performance and hope that I can go to more. I've been to two performances by the Berrima Singers now and loved them both.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Imogen comes in at eight thirty for bed. She finds me sitting on the floor in my pyjamas, sketchbook in hand scribbling away. I look up and grin sheepishly. I've 'been in bed' for half an hour all ready.

"Why aren't you in bed?" she asks.

"I got... distracted," I say, holding up my sketchbook.

She takes a look at my half finished picture and (very kindly) doesn't get upset.

At seven fifteen in the morning Imogen comes into our bedroom. Again I'm sitting on the floor sketching away. She comes over and attracts my notice.
"What are you doing?" She asks me.

"I got... distracted." I grin, close my sketchbook and stuff my pencils away. "I'd better get moving."

Lunch time arrives and Imogen wanders into the bedroom and would you believe? I'm sitting on the floor putting the finishing touches on my picture.

"What are you doing now?"

"I got... distracted. Look! I've finished my picture," I say, not very bothered by being caught drawing.

Imogen takes a look and praises the picture sky high. A grin spreads over my face from ear to ear. Ideas start flowing through my head for other pictures. What amazing outfit should I use? I flip to a blank page and start scribbling.

Today Imogen, having seen my newest pictures, said, "Why don't you post your pictures on your blog?"

"That's a good idea,"I said. "I'd like to do that."

When we counted up my best pictures there were so many that Imogen had another fabulous idea.

"You should make a separate page for your drawings," she said. "I'll set it up for you."

So she pulled out her laptop, clicked a few buttons, scanned my drawings then called me over.
"Would you like your page to be called "My Artwork?"

"Yes please," I replied.

Imogen clicked a bit more, uploaded all my pictures and clicked on my new page. There, arrayed in all their glory were my drawings in the order they were drawn.

"Would you like a new blog background?"
I nodded. She opened a new window and began clicking. With amazing patience Imogen lasted through my uming and ahing and found me the perfect, pink (of course), beautiful background.

Thanks to Imogen I have a new page on my blog, a wonderful blog background and all my drawings on my blog. I have the best sister ever.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Exams and Flowers

The temperature dropped as I trotted towards the exam room. My breath looked like dragon smoke in the freezing air. I clenched my hands inside their bright purple gloves, trying to get some warmth into them. I sat, the only one waiting for an exam, on one of three ice cold plastic chairs outside the building. Beautiful music drifted out from the exam room where the examiner was playing.

I slipped one purple hand out of its glove. All the tiny warmth I'd built up in my hand vanished into the frigid air. Digging numbly in my music bag I located the list of my pieces. Quickly I shoved my hand back into the glove.

The examiner came to the door.

"Charlotte?" she asked.

I nodded. I followed her up the steps into the exam room. Some wonderful person had put a gas heater in it. The examiner sat back down at her desk. I pulled out the piano stool and wriggled my fingers out of their gloves yet again. Despite my attempts to keep them warm they were still purple as my gloves.

My fingers ran up and down the piano as I played scales. Though they were working hard no pleasant warmth spread through them. They remained stubbornly cold.
"Oh well," I thought. "I'll just have to play with cold fingers."

So I did. I rumbled away, hoping that I'd remembered everything that my teacher had told me. I think I played rather well considering my hands were so cold. Finally after what seemed like an hour of torturous singing and ear tests the examiner folded up my piece of paper.
Thankfully I skibbled out. Imogen was sitting outside waiting. She handed me her bag and trotted off. No sooner had I sat down to wait for her than I got nabbed by my teacher's wife. Though I'd wanted to open my result with Imogen I had to open it early.

But as soon as I could I wriggled back to the exam room and sat down on a low wall. Someone started playing another piano and I couldn't hear Imogen's exam. Slowly my eyes started to close. But the wall was too cold and my feet were nearly numb so I couldn't go to sleep. But I was exhausted. All the extra lessons and practises were over!

Imogen finally came out and we hurried back to our teacher to open her results. After ages in the freezing cold place we were glad to come back to the nice warm van.

"Let's have morning tea out," Mum said.

We cheered. Mum treated us to hot chocolates and doughnuts. I was starving and very glad to eat something. While Gemma-Rose finished eating Mum went to do a little shopping. We stayed at the table and waited.

Mum appeared with a trolley at the checkout. We saw two bunches of flowers sitting in the front.

"This one's for you, Imogen," she said handing a bunch of orange flowers to her. "And this one's for you, she handed me hot pink flowers.

Our grins spread from ear to ear. We've never been given flowers before as congratulations. When we got home Imogen and I tried our hands at flower arranging. We mixed the pink and the orange flowers in the vase.

We made a huge cake from two sponge cakes, whipped cream and strawberry jam. It was so tall that the slices fell over as soon as they were cut and I got rather good at catching slices as they collapsed onto the side.

On the whole the exam weren't too bad. I think that the time in between exams is wonderful. There is the couple weeks spent resting from practise and lessons. And when we begin again in a little while we'll be all rested and ready to start preparing for another exam.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rumbling on the Grand Piano

"Tinkle, tinkle, achoo, splat," Some one's got a cold and it's exam week.

This seems to happen every year just when we need to be well for our exams. Winter is a rotten time to have to play your best. You tinkle along thinking,

"This is going wonderful. Maybe I'll get to the end this time," then you feels a cough tickling your throat or your nose begins to run. "Oh no," you think, "can I get to the end before I cough?"

But the urge gets stronger. You try desperately not to cough or sneeze but finally just as you are nearing the end of the piece it explodes out of your throat. Your finger slips on the most important chord in the piece. Splat. You've hit a wrong note. But then the other fingers slip as well. Crash, Bang, Discord!

"Not again," you think, running for the tissue box. "I'll never be good enough for the exam."

This week Imogen and I have our piano exams. The weeks leading up to this week have been rather hectic. We've had heaps of extra lessons and done hours and hours of practise. So much practise that Imogen was forbidden from practising for two whole days. What a hardship! (We've also done a lot of splatting)

But with all these lesson, practises and all that splatting am I nervous? Unfortunately not. No matter how hard I try I cannot get an attack of the nerves. It appears that I'll just have to go into my exam without trembling from head to toe. How very unfair.

On Sunday we got to play on the exam piano. It's pretty horrible. You can't play a short sharp note at all, the keys squeak (so Imogen told me. I couldn't hear the squeaking) and the peddles look like they've been bashed. But there is a consolation. The exam room is large (and freezing) and echoey. You play a loud note and the room magnifies it till it's twice as loud. I didn't realise this at first and banged away like I usually do. My usually quiet piece of music boomed out.

"Oops," I thought. "A little bit quieter perhaps."

My teacher thought so too.

"Never mind," I consoled myself. "I might have to play the quiet bits softly but I can rumble on the piano in the loud bits."

With an internal giggle I played the piece again a little softer. This appeared to suit my teacher as he didn't ask me to play any softer.

My thoughts on the exam? It's going to quite fun! Rumble on the piano, sing a few ear tests and skibble off for morning tea. Sounds great to me

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jane Austen Girls

Imogen and I are Jane Austen girls. We've read just about every piece of Jane Austen's writing we can get our hands on. Imogen has even read all six of her novels. I though am horribly slack. I have only read five.

While wandering around the library looking at just about every section as we'd already ransacked the story section we found a wonderful shelf. Tucked in between books about Shakespeare and King Henry 8th and his six wives (not to mention all the computer program books and gardening books) we found a shelf devoted to Jane Austen and her books.

A tiny book caught our eyes almost immediately.

"The Jane Austen Handbook," the title announced and the subtitle said, "Proper life skills from Regency England."

So of course we pulled the book out immediately and flipped through it. How to dress properly, how to travel, where to travel, types of carriages, what an entail actually is, how to elope to Gretna Green, the book told us everything a young lady might want to know.

We popped the book into the already bulging bag of books we'd already collected. We scanned the shelf for more interesting books. A yellow and black spine stood out among the brown spines, the black spines and the boring grey ones.

"Jane Austen for Dummies," We read.

We had to borrow that one.

"The Jane Austen Handbook" was a great find. Soon after the library trip I curled up in the little patch of sun I could find that was free from cats and read it from cover to cover. I now know what a lady should be taught, what clothes to wear at what kind of day and that handkerchiefs were a relatively new inventions in Regency England.

"Jane Austen for Dummies" gave the ins and outs of Jane Austen's life, the original names of her books and her most memorable characters.

My favourite section was the most memorable characters. It wasn't really a surprise to find as Most Memorable Leading Lady Miss Elizabeth Bennet and as Most Memorable Leading Man Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.

But Shock and Horror when I read the section on manners and found a list of Jane Austen's most gentlemanly heroes and those that failed to make it. Mr Darcy was listed among those that had failed. His fault was meddling where he shouldn't and insulting a lady to her face.

Having read the books on Jane Austen and her books I feel like trying the one and only novel that I haven't read before. "North Hanger Abbey" doesn't seem to me as nice as the others. Imogen read it and didn't like it as much as she did "Sense and Sensibility" and "Persuasion". Of course none of the other novels can ever be as good as "Pride and Prejudice". But it would be interesting to read it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Bridemaid's Dress in the Hottest Shade of Pink Ever

Our eldest sister, Felicity is getting married in the spring. Imogen and I are two of her bridesmaids and Gemma-Rose and Sophie are her flower girls. This is so exciting but we have had some pretty amazing problems getting the bridesmaids dresses.

The first problem was finding the dress. Mum searched the Internet with a fine toothed comb to locate a shop that made a dress that we liked, could make the dresses to our own particular measurements and that Felicity liked. After a long while on the computer Mum found the perfect dress.

But then came problem number two. We had to ask Felicity's opinion of the dress. She lives way over on the other side of Australia in Perth. It's difficult to catch her on the phone to discuss the wedding preparations. But eventually news leaked through that the dress had been approved. Felicity decided that she'd like Imogen to wear blue and me to wear pink (of course!).

Measuring had to be done next though. Mum cornered us in her lair with her measuring tape (actually she called us into her bedroom). We were wound round and round in measuring tape and numbers were noted done in a notebook.

"We'll just check your height again," Mum told me.

I kicked off my pink slippers again. I stood by the wall behind Mum's bedroom door and was nearly squished when Dad opened it suddenly. Mum placed a book on my head and marked away with a pencil.

"You've gotten shorter!" Mum exclaimed.

She hurriedly measured me for the dress length again. Sure enough I was a few centimetres shorter than last time I was measured. Mum measured and remeasured trying to find my actual height and the length for the dress. But I didn't get much taller. Eventually we gave up. I was obviously not going to get any taller any time soon.

After a few days Mum sent off the order for the dresses. All we had to do now was wait and get some flower girl dresses. But a few days later there was an email.

"The lengths for the dresses don't seem right," the email announced. "Please send us the heights of the young ladies (it actually said that)."

After another round of measuring Mum sent off our heights. I still wasn't any taller. Another email arrived.

"The heights match the length," it announced.

We breathed sighs of relief. Thank goodness Mum had measured us right. And so we went back to waiting.

So we waited patiently, thinking that the dresses would come in early spring. But this morning when we were saying our morning prayers the parcel man arrived. He handed Mum a large grey post pack. We crowded around Mum vying for the best place to stand.

"I think it's the dresses," Mum announced.

She ripped the bag open and pulled out two plastic wrapped parcels. One was the hottest shade of hot pink imaginable and the other was vibrant blue.

"Wow," I said.

"Go and try them on," Mum urged.

Imogen and I fled to our bedroom. I pulled the packaging off the dress and unfolded it. The pink look even pinker without the wrapping. But the dress didn't look quite right. There was supposed to be chiffon layer. I turned the back of the dress towards me. The zip was on the wrong side of the dress. But I took a look at the inside and laughed at myself. They'd folded the dresses inside out. I unzipped the dress and turned right side out. This side wasn't quite as bright but it is still the most beautiful shade of pink I've ever seen.

Imogen and I did each other's zip up and paraded out to Mum. Thankfully Mum didn't ask for a longer skirt for me. If the skirt had been any longer than it is I would have been walking on the end.

The dress is beautiful. I can hardly wait for spring to wear it. And the skirt is long enough for me to do some growing in the next few months.

I can't actually post any photos as we're not allowed to reveal the dresses till The Big Day. But later after the wedding I will post up some photos.