Sunday, May 27, 2007

My friend, GH

Here's to true friendship that has weathered many storms, yet emerged stronger than before.

GH and I have been school mates for nearly nine years now... sec school, jc, then university. But I guess we never got to know each other well enough until recently. Even though we were close since jc, doing many stupid things together, taking turns to practice on the grand piano... we never actually understood each other on a deeper level. In university, we were twins in the department, always seen together (especially since we had most of our modules at the same time). We turned to each other for company, supporting each other through long nights churning out essays to be handed in the next day, having dinner together (taking 4 hrs!), going on day trips...

This year we drifted apart. I moved out with some others, she continued staying in student accommodation. She got close to HS, believed HS's tales about others, including me... I got close to II, complaining to each other about HS's self-centered behaviour. There was some tension in the beginning, since GH believed me to be what HS said of me. We remained cordial at the very least, and gradually broke the ice while having to play in the same rehearsals.

Only a few months ago did GH see HS for what she really was. Somehow she had matured a lot and was so different from when I last saw her before the holidays. When HS saw GH fraternising with the enemy, GH was of course written off as 'one of them' as well. It's heartwarming now that things have been cleared up and we can be there to support each other again, with increasing understanding of each other. I guess discussing our stupidity and mistakes opens the door to other topics we've always kept to ourselves.

I'm glad I have a friend like GH. It's significant that such a topic has made me break the silence that has settled over this blog; what better to write about to revive a dead blog?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Easter break

It's the holidays again, this time with three essays and two pieces (one not more than 6 mins and one 8-12 mins long). And this time I'll be good. No more one-day-late essay that got demoted two grades down just because they took away 5 marks for the lateness! No way.

On top of the essays and assignments, I'll also be preparing for a written paper and two recitals. And an extra recital that's not graded for me, but I'm just playing as part of somebody's ensemble. Of course I'll have to make sure I play properly and not be the cause of her getting a grade lower than she deserves. I might accompany her for her recital too, if she remembers to leave me the scores before she goes home for the holidays.

Guess I don't have it as bad as people who have to spend their holiday preparing for about 3-5 papers. But it also depends on how you see the situation, I think? Anyway, I'm quite pleased that at least not all the deadlines are on the first day of term.

Had a good break yesterday, though. OM came down to visit us and he gave very constructive comments when I played some of my recital stuff for him. He's a great help. Then we (OM, II, GH and I) went yum cha-ing for lunch. It wasn't too expensive in the end since we could split the bill between the four of us. A pleasant change from normal chinese meals that would end up costing about the same.

I had a day-off as well. I just love not having a nagging feeling at the back of my head that's making sure I remember I have to get to work by 5.30. Went for a movie with HN at night and we had a great time laughing at the silliness of mr bean. Just felt he was so stupid to be running away from authorities when he could have asked them for help. But he was real hilarious and sort of cute in a way while he was in the car with the French actress. I guess that's what bean is, his silliness is what makes everyone laugh. However I kept feeling he is evil, because of some of the things he did. Of course, at the end of the day he's the mr-good-guy who managed to return the stranded boy to his father (which is in no small part due to luck).

Well, going to start mugging and working hard from today! Although at the back of my head I think I will watch 300, with HN again. Of course I won't say no when he's such a fantastic person to catch movies with.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

To Kill a Mockingchicken

Yesterday was my first time butchering a whole chicken. At first I was wondering what to do first and where to start, then it was a little odd feeling the bones cracking under the knife, but the mission was finally completed after forty minutes. Basically only cut off the thighs, wings and breast meat. Decided not to waste my time figuring out what to do with the rib cage since I was going to use it to make chicken soup anyway, so I just chopped it into half for easier storage in the freezer. Wish I had a chopper though; I imagine the job would have been easier if I was using that rather than a normal knife.

Definitely going to do more of this. At £2.99 a chicken, it's so much cheaper than buying like chicken breast/thigh/wings from the supermarkets at I-dunno-how-much-because-I-never-buy-them prices. And I can do so many things with the chicken! Just made my chicken soup just now after coming home from work... and three hours later, woohoo done! I love getting the meat off because it's already falling off the bones, and I'm keeping the meat for making sandwiches during the week (so healthy right... lol). I always like using home-cooked chicken soup for stuff that needs taste instead of those chicken stock cubes (which off course are more handy).

I love this! I can imagine enjoying a hot bowl of soup just before rushing off to work on one of those days when I just barely have enough time to change and put the make-up on after reaching home before I have to leave again. Will have some of the rest of the chicken for dinner on Monday and Tuesday, when I don't have to go to work. Haven't had a proper home-cooked meal for so long now, very satisfied and contented :)

On the work front, since yesterday I've been half a chef and half a waitress. I'm really interested and one of the new girls doesn't mind doing either cooking or waitressing, so I've been trying out the cooking. So far it's good, pretty much common sense and also cos I've seen them doing stuff for so long already. If I really want to make the full switch to a chef though, I guess I'll have to master the tossing thing they do when stir-frying the noodles. Seems like it's very essential to getting the ingredients evenly-mixed! Trying to do so with chopsticks, no matter how conscientiously, still doesn't seem to work well enough.

Now that I've been up way past my bedtime, I don't feel sleepy anymore (or maybe it's the coffee NH made just now?)... think I will start doing the work for Tuesdays' tutorial. That would be a nice change from my usual Monday night frenzied-churning sessions.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

All in a day's work

So much for feeling sufficiently recharged after taking a break on Wednesday.

On Thursday, all hell let loose in the restaurant. A chef had her day off and the two other chefs couldn't cook fast enough, the new chef/waitress (she hasn't decided) couldn't do much to help, and we were 80% full on a normally more relaxed week night. I was alternately waiting on tables, trying to placate complaining (read: fussy, non-regular) customers who didn't know our good food is always worth waiting for (seriously! the regulars never complain about waiting), and running upstairs to get more of anything that the chefs ran out of because they were too busy to do so.

At least the new chef/waitress could help me write the bills and do some washing up, otherwise I think I might have had a very strong impulse to slap anyone who called me over to their table just to tell me they've been waiting very long for their food. Duh, I know! But what can I do?! Not like I can speed up the cooking process! I was helping with things like getting the rice ready for the donburi dishes or kare rice or set or whatever, or beating the eggs, but that was about all.

After such a busy night at the restaurant and not enough sleep last night (helping a friend with some school stuff), I had an absolutely rubbish morning. GH and I had to accompany some singers for a masterclass, and because I've been too busy to practise this piece, I was sight-reading it. So was GH, but her sight-reading skills are considerably better than mine. The professional giving the class didn't give me time to react when he told me where he was singing from; he referred to them by the text instead of the bar numbers, and by the time I've found the place he'd already started singing. I'd be trying to catch where else he'd got to by then and trying to sight-read at the same time. At one point I was really lost and didn't know where he was singing at all, the second time he started, I finally found it. And the third time, I was ready to play, but for some reason he thought I wasn't. So he came over to the piano and told me off for wasting everyone's time.

I didn't respond in any way at all (read: stone face), but GH was definitely pissed off and I could feel the vibe from the singers being more tense. After the thing ended, GH furiously bitched to me in Mandarin (so that nobody would know what we're saying hehe the benefits of Mandarin!). Yep, it is my fault that I didn't practise this piece. But even if I really did, chances are I would still screw up the first or second times because you're singing a recitative and I don't know what @%&%# speed you're singing it, and where you're going from, damn it! ARGH.

Like GH said, it's not as if we were obliged to play for them; we could have said we weren't free when asked to help play for it. It was terrible to be put down in front of all the singers attending the masterclass like that, as if my poor sight-reading wasn't enough to show them that I'm such a LOSER. It's times like this I'm glad to have been with my piano teacher in Singapore, for her harsh criticisms (some friends have actually cried because of what she said), and maybe for whatever-it-is that makes me so able to remain stone-y in times of crisis. Blessing in disguise, maybe? My piano teacher used to say I play like a block of wood (read: emotionless), but the woody-ness of me also helps me not to react to harsh remarks. I'm glad to report that I still smiled at some of the singers who made eye contact with me at the end of the masterclass (no doubt checking I was all right, no?)

GH was also saying, if the pianist had been some local brit, (and had been in my situation), it would have been likely that he/she would have ended up crying. Because the piano teachers here are so PC! Everything you play is 'good!'. That applies to my first-year teacher. At least the teacher I have this year has more constructive criticisms on top of the 'good' that he says after every piece I play. Lol. Sigh... now I am totally relieved of all my negative feelings from this morning and it doesn't keep replaying in my head. Well, at least people who've heard me play for concerts know I can do it if I practise. I am not CMI lor! *grim and determined mood*

Now it's an early (ya, 2am in the morning is REAL early man) bed time for me, and an early rise tomorrow for a fresh start to a hopefully-sunny day full of practising!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Half-relaxing Valentine's day

Gave myself an impromptu day off school today. Impromptu, because I had intended to go and practise in the morning but only woke up at 9am. So I had a good lie in before slowly crawling out of bed after 10am.

Finally got to the library in the city to return some books and II's cds (she's away in London). And the shopping spree started, though not before I went to the music shop to get some scores (hey, shopping for scores is still shopping!)

Actually, I wouldn't really call it a shopping spree because I only bought a top and a jacket, and both are from the same shop! Shopaholics will all go 'chey!' when they find out how my 'shopping spree' went. Anyway, I managed to find a top that I liked and didn't cost too much. BUT it was size 12... asked for a size 8 or 10 to try, but the sales assistant said everything in the shop was all they had left. What to do, go for affordable is like that one lor. I still decided to buy it, because I can just wear a tube inside the top, plus the sleeves weren't too loose so it should be ok. Managed to find the jacket in size 10, and it looks ok, just that the shoulder part of it does look a little loose on closer scrutiny. Tried both together, and it looked quite ok to me, but I really dunno if that was just my 'whatever la, just buy them and I can go home now!' side talking. Well, shall try them on for the housemates' approval/disapproval some day.

I treated myself to 8 Millie's cookies, 3 of which I've already gobbled down. Going to go easy on the rest of them because I'm watching my weight till this Sunday is over! Haha as if it's going to make a big difference though... well it's just the temporary way to loose a little weight I guess. Will put in some effort to permanently do that when I'm not too busy (which will be never hehe).

Relaxed a bit when I got home, but I still managed to get some work done in the form of listening to the big work we've been rehearsing every Tuesday evening. Tiring stuff that I never got down to doing and now that I have, it's really fulfilling and I hope will be helpful towards my sight-reading it at rehearsals in future. Because we keyboardists don't practise stuff that are not solos, don't you know? Actually, that's not true... I've been diligently practising the pieces I play with singers and the ensemble, but I've just had too much going on to have time to practise for this piece as well.

Work at the restaurant was really busy tonight. All couples, and on top of the reservations we'd already got, many others kept coming. What really threw me into a big mess was that some customers claimed they had a reservation when they didn't. And I offered them the reserved tables only to find out later when the real customers who reserved the table came. ARGH. Fortunately it didn't turn out toooo badly... I hope. I think one customer was rather pissed to be turned away :(

The boss got roses to be given to every female customer, and there were extras in the end so we all got to take one each! And the housemates surprised me with a bunch of roses at 12 midnight (lol too late!), when they just came home from somewhere. All in all, not really a fully exhausting day and I had some time off everything to just recharge. Ready to dive into the busy swirl of activities again tomorrow!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Muscle ache

Phew, really exhausted.

Apart from the seminar presentation this afternoon, I spent the whole day practising. Having my lesson tomorrow... and no, this is not last minute practising! I practise almost every day, but I would say some days are not productive and generally it gets really productive nearer the lessons. My arms are aching quite a bit because after the seminar, I spent about three hours practising on the piano with really heavy keys. It's good to do it since it'll prepare me for playing loud enough for the assessed recital, but I don't get to do this that often because the room is always occupied.

I never get tired of practising. Mentally, I mean. I really am physically tired today, but it only happens once in a while. Love to have long practice sessons that give me enough time to go into the details. And all the effort will eventually result in a good performance, I hope. I was really happy to hear from fellow ensemble players today that they enjoyed the concert last Friday. Especially the piece with the singer. Whee... I enjoyed playing it as much as they enjoyed listening to it! :D

The presentation for the seminar went well too. Between the two of us, we sometimes had different analyses from each other, but that was good because in the end one of them would be correct. And we don't have to do a presentation for next week. The catch is that he set us four half-an-hour-on-average works to listen to before the next lesson. (Active listening, i.e. finding out its history, sourcing for other information on it, look for the score, listen to the work with the score.) Bleargh. We're still not going to get a weekend in the end huh.

Will try to do everything during the week and maybe at most finish them on Saturday. Cos Sunday's the cny dinner! Haven't bought anything to wear yet, but am planning to go shopping on Wednesday. Just hope nothing crops up between now and then :/

Friday, February 09, 2007

White Chinese New Year

It's been snowing since yesterday! And it's real snow this time, as opposed to the 'fake' snow last year, which just falls for a short while and then turns into slush quickly. This snow is still here and everything is buried under a blanket of white. It's really beautiful.

This was taken yesterday morning from one of the practice rooms.

This afternoon. Everywhere looked so magically transformed. I love how the clock tower was veiled in white.

Pretty. Looks like a scene from the countryside/forest eh? (Ignore the fence haha) It's actually just the road along which I walk to and from uni. I love to see snow on branches. And also bare branches against the sky. It's a little morbid and sad, but they are also amazingly beautiful in a way I can't describe.

By the time I reached home at about 6pm today, the snow on the ground was so thick that I couldn't see the footpath any more. It's so magical! Everything's white!

Had a good day today, basically. Apart from getting quite soaked and cold from walking in the snow, and being quite tired at the end of the week, everything else was good. The concert was good, I didn't screw up my piece except for a tiny detail at the beginning (so tiny that I think possibly only those who've heard me during the run-through will notice). I also didn't screw up while playing for a singer, other than a slight stumble somewhere when I wasn't concentrating enough. Fortunately I managed not to let it sound too obvious and regained my momentum quite quickly. Possibly good luck on a day when I've only had five hours' sleep and have had hour after hour of lessons/discussions just before the concert.

And while rushing home after a lesson ended at 5pm, I just knew I was going to be late for work at 6pm. But the snow turned into a blessing when the boss' wife sms-ed to say they've decided to close the restaurant tonight. Sweet :) I actually had time to cook myself a proper meal, finally, five weeks since the start of term! It really has been so horrible that I've resorted to eating quick-cook stuff like pasta, instant noodles, frozen pizzas, cookies and mostly sandwiches or breakfast cereals, no matter how unhealthy I think they are. I couldn't be bothered.

Ok, going to sleep early tonight. I'm letting myself off because no longer can my brain take any more analysis of the piece a classmate and I have to do for Monday's seminar. We both agree that we've got the hardest movement of the whole piece he set for the class. Sigh, got to get up early tomorrow when I really want to sleep in, especially in such cold weather. But I've got loads to do!

Oh yea, and I'm going for the Chinese New Year dinner next Sunday, but have nothing to wear. Gotta find time to go shopping, but when? This is such a hassle. But I don't want to be MIA again like last year, and anyway where's the fun in staying home by myself on Chinese New Year?