The most miserable day?

I feel quite chirpy today, although apparently 17th January is supposed to be the most miserable day of the year. It hasn’t been a bad week.

Monday was the usual prep day, but as well as doing lots of prison prep, and sending in the additional material the Arts Council needed for the Poetry on Loan funding, and entering a poetry competition, and going to a meeting about the GDA one-act play festival, I also managed to do some gardening. I chopped up my Christmas tree with my new super-duper ratchet secateurs, and spread some conifer cuttings as mulch, as if there is any hope at all that this will keep the weeds down. A few molehills have appeared, despite my mole scarer – grrr!

The GDA meeting was interesting. Some new proposals for ticket prices were given; it was about the most complicated system you can imagine, and really people had lost sight of the main objective – to give a discount for the adjudication day to members of the casts and crews of participating plays. I think this happens quite often – people get caught up in the mechanics of what they are doing and lose sight of the objectives.

On Tuesday we had the first full day at the school in Oxford. The kids were lovely but had the attention spans of gnats, so it was vital to provide lots of varied activities to keep them engaged. Now, I guess that for many of these kids, home has the tv, a computer game, music and people talking, all at the same time. During the last activity of the day, the teacher put music on, and I think that this is really distracting; I feel that the school should be providing an oasis of peace for the kids to work in, and to learn that it is possible to focus on one thing without having distractions. I think that some teachers are hung up on the study that showed that maths performance is improved if you listen to Mozart; the facts are that most music acts (as indeed it should) as a distraction, and doesn’t help at all.

Ok, off my soapbox now. In the evening we saw The Season of the Witch – we were too late to see 127 Hours, as we had planned. Witch was a load of nonsense, but quite well done.

Wednesday I was at home again – write-ups, prep for my GP surgery group and some play adjudications, and work on the book of pieces for the group of older people I was working with in Ross. In the evening I took the rehearsal for Treasure Island, and I made them work really hard. R.L. Stevenson wrote some great lines, and I’ve lifted them wholesale for my adaptation, but many of the actors were speaking them with such poor diction that you couldn’t hear them, and when you could there was a lack of passion. All the fighting and action is great fun, but without the words the play is nothing. I think they ended up better than when we started, and I just hope they remember what they did and how they did it.

The prison was good on Thursday, although my group session finished very early – I have no control over the time that the officers take the men away, and we hadn’t really finished when they left, but never mind; it’s one of those things you learn to live with when you work in a prison. And because the computer system they use is absolutely dreadful, it took about an hour to move four men off the waiting list to join my next course.

On Friday I bought some gravel! Instead of spending a fortune on joining a gym, I’m going to spend time spreading gravel on my drive, which is really hard work. Loads of emails and writing up, and the first session at the GP surgery this term. My little room there only holds six people, and it was full; they all wrote enthusiastically and well.

Over the weekend I’ve been to two pantomimes, as part of my work as an adjudicator with the Gloucestershire Drama Association. One was low-key with a simple set, in a small hall; the other was in a big theatre, with amazing backdrops and sets, pyrotechnics, and big choruses and a lot of dancers. One was funny, and the other wasn’t; one really felt as if it had the spirit of pantomime, and the other didn’t. Again – despite all the action, it’s the words that count in a play, and how they are delivered. At least, that’s my opinion.

The Son writes a blog, occasionally, and his latest entry has a story that really made me smile – have a look on

On Sunday I went to visit my mum in Cheshire. It was nice – she has had a lot of poor health but she was quite chirpy and cheerful.

Who says it’s the most miserable day of the year? Not me!

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