Week 5 Day 1: The Day of the Sun

Today the sun came back. Not in the way that the sun does every day where it just sort of casually saunters above the horizon, but in the way that the sun sometimes does when it’s in the mood to troll you; suddenly the sun will shine brightly down on you just when you thought it was cold enough to wear a coat. Yesterday, it was. Today, wearing a coat is basically signing your own death warrant.

Fortunately, the sun saw the error of its ways and by lunchtime it had gone back into hiding, lurking ominously behind a cloud and threatening bloody vengeance upon the whole of humanity. But we’re ready for it; we’ve been preparing for this all summer. Soon it will strike. Soon.

 

 

Anyway, other things happened apart from my apparently completely losing my mind. Tomorrow I have to play in my solo performance lecture. It’s not too stressful (hopefully) because it’s basically just a masterclass where the lecturer tells us what we need to do to improve our playing and we unlearn all our bad habits. My worst habit currently is pointing myself completely off to the side and showing the audience my lovely left side. It’s clearly my best angle, but sometimes they do like to see your face apparently.

This performance would be a lot less stressful if my bassoon reed weren’t on its last legs from a combination of a) old age and b) me boiling it to combat the old age. The boiling sort of worked, but again, it also shrank the end that goes on the bassoon crook. Wish me luck for tomorrow, because I have a feeling it could all go horribly wrong. I mean, there’s a pretty huge chance that everything will go wrong and I’ll just end up fleeing for my life chased by a horde of angry pedestrians.

what’s even going on today. I’m so weird.

Week 4 Day 1: Cheffing with Charlie

(Ok so read that ch- like it’s chocolate and maybe it’ll work better) (Also damnit Charlieissocoollike because I wanted cooking with Charlie but you’ve already nabbed that, you clever sod you. )

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? Already week 4 and already I’m wondering how I managed to come to uni without any waterproof shoes. It’s finally stopped raining for the day, so maybe we can start doing outdoors things again (except not, because the shoes problem still applies). Anyway, abandon your outdoors fun because I’m about to tell you what the latest on the cooking scene is: slow cookers. Yeah, totally student-y. Why would you say otherwise??

Slow cookers are so amazing I could rave about them for weeks. A cooking thing that you start yesterday evening and then this evening there’s an amazing curry staring accusingly back at you??? Or a way to cook a chicken that doesn’t involve getting weird chicken juices all over the kitchen floor when you try to cut it into pieces? I’m interested. So, without further ado, the first recipe: roast(ish) chicken.

Serves: 6 (Disclaimer: 80g servings each. That actually turns out to be perfectly sufficient, so… But yeah, if you insisted on having double that you’d only get half the number of servings etc. I suspect you understand that)

You will need:

1.5kg whole frozen chicken (£3.99)
3 carrots (£0.30)
2 parsnips (£0.68)
1 baking potato (£0.35)

For reference, this is the biggest chicken you will get in your slow cooker. I don’t want anyone trying to punch a chicken into a smallish slow cooker, because frankly that’s not going to be pretty. eewww

Method:

1. Cut up the vegetables into a nice vegetable-y bed on the slow cooker. The goal is to keep the chicken from touching the bottom. If that happens, bad things will happen.

2. Put the defrosted chicken on the bed of vegetables. You did defrost the chicken first, right?

3. If you feel nervous about not putting a bit of water in, put some water in the slow cooker.

4. Turn to low, leave for approximately 6 hours.

5. Do other things.

6. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Inevitably a bit will have touched the side and will fall off the chicken. It’s fine, it’s salvageable. If you’re feeling a bit fancy, you could grill the skin/the chicken in the oven to crispify the skin so that it’s even more delicious. Salt and olive oil are your friends here.

If you chose not to do that, the chicken will literally fall off the bone when you try to get it off. Alternatively, you can just rip the bones out by accident when you try to pick up the legs/wings.

7. Serve with like roast potatoes or fried potatoes or rice or whatever. Note, the chicken will probably taste of the vegetables it nested on, so don’t use any you think are absolutely repellent. Save the rest of the leftovers. I recommend using jars for maximum weirdness. (When people open up the freezer or fridge and just see jars full of dead chicken, their reactions tend to be somewhat exciting)

8. Use leftovers for further deliciousness

9. Optional, put all the chicken bones and a bunch of vegetables BACK in the slow cooker with about a litre of water. Leave for at least 8 hours.

10. Sieve/filter/whatever the flip. Pour into containers, put the containers in the fridge/freezer. Congratulations, you’ve just made chicken stock!

11. Optional optional extra: skim the fat off. You can do this once it’s chilled, or you can just not bother if your goal is to have a slightly fattier meal. I can’t always be bothered to skim it, so sometimes I don’t (gasp)

And that’s that, my super easy 8/11 step process for cooking a whole chicken. You’re welcome.

Week 3 Day 6: The procrastination is starting to get to me

There’s something about being a student that seems to invite procrastination. Whether it’s through blogging, listening to your favourite musical on endless repeat, watching old tv shows or even just flicking idly through recipes in order to ‘get inspired for dinner’ – it’s not going to happen, you’re just going to have soup like always – there’s somehow no way to escape the mindlessness that comes when you’ve got to get an assignment done. Even if it’s an assignment you enjoy, there’s always something more interesting. In my case, there’s some really urgent washing up. The washing machine lining needs cleaning. Actually, that one’s true, the washing machine lining has some exciting mould (almost gone! don’t worry!)

Today I set myself a to-do list with five things on it. Those things were:

1. Bassoon practice
2. Gym
3. Composition
4. Talk to mum re:trains
5. Arrange a gym class session

I completed three of those things, and that’s only because one of them is so vague all I had to do was send one measly text. If you’re interested, the two I failed at were the gym based ones, which somehow does’t surprise me because one of those involves leaving the house and the other involves sending an email/ ringing the gym.

What I found was that getting the tasks done required nothing more than just sitting down (or standing up; I never practice sitting down. There are never any chairs in the recital room without arms) and just doing them. Just doing them was all it took, all I needed to do my composition task. It’s finished now; I did 50% of it in about an hour. The other 50% took me probably three times that, just because I was on the internet. And that’s probably nothing new to anyone, and it certainly wasn’t news to me. I already knew that multitasking reduces your efficiency dramatically. I just never kind of… connected it to my efficiency. It’s the difference between knowing and comprehending, I guess.

But doing that saved me so much time. I’d rather spend two hours just doing an assignment than spend a week not really doing it but sort of making progress. There’s probably something to be said for setting an hour to do a task and then taking a break to do all your misc. internet business. Tumblr can wait for half an hour, you’re not an internet phenomenon. (unless you are. why are you here, internet phenomenon?????) I expect I’d get my essays done a lot more quickly if I could just do that every time instead of faffing around going “but I haven’t written my 200 words yet, I can’t stop!”

Technically speaking this composition exercise took me 12 days to do, because I spent so long each day with the sibelius file open just staring at it. It’s not going to magically change just because I didn’t blink for ten minutes, I have no idea why I didn’t just do something more productive. like descale the kettle for the billionth time this week, yeah, sounds like a worthwhile way to spend the afternoon.

Somewhat ironically, this very post was derailed multiple times because I absolutely had to check my tumblr notifications. I guess I haven’t really learnt anything after all.

Week 3 Day 4: So much more excitement than I really bargained for

As we all know (?) I do an orchestra in London, and it’d be something of an understatement to say I enjoy it. Our last concert, just as a completely random example, was a film music concert except for the part where I played Let it go, a whole load of Scott Joplin rags (actually, that one was more boring than exciting for me personally, but hey, I think the audience liked it), and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia. Don’t recognise it? Don’t worry, there’s always youtube. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Back? OK then. So this orchestra is great fun, and this year we’re doing loads and loads so I’m really excited about it. Obviously, as always when things get exciting, a problem came up.

The problem was this: RHUL. Specifically, the Symphony Orchestra. Because this year, the RHUL orchestra rehearsal is on the same day as the other orchestra rehearsal. Yeah, I was pretty upset too. But, I thought, as long as I still do at least two of the other orchestras (the requirement to do solo performance!) and apologise to the conductor, it should be fine, right? I mean, it’s not like the orchestra is compulsory or anything. Ha, what a thought.

Only they didn’t take it as well as I’d hoped. And when I say they took it badly, that’s an understatement.

The email I got essentially blackmailing me with expulsion from the solo performance module unless I did Symphony Orchestra definitely felt like a bit of an overreaction.

So, let’s just let that sink in for a minute. The department went as far as that to get me to do something which wasn’t even compulsory. I have a sinking feeling that next year the rules will be changed, but until then… I have an even more prominent suspicion that this is only because of the instrument I play and nothing to do with the actual departmental stance on people not being in Symphony Orchestra. Nobody’s sending threatening emails to the many legions of flautists dotting the campus. (seriously, they’ve started forming colonies. Whole sections of the campus are infested)

Maybe I should have expected it after I received an email from the head of performance (i.e. not the conductor) telling me I’d made it into Symphony Orchestra despite not auditioning for it. But hey, it could have been an honest mistake. Perhaps.

Anyway, I pointed out that Symphony Orchestra was in fact optional and I should be able to choose which orchestras I play in without being threatened. The response to this was such a sudden U-turn I almost couldn’t believe it. Apparently the conductor was just disappointed that I had chosen to not participate in Symphony Orchestra. …

I came very close to sending back a very rude email, but I suppressed the urge.

Of course, the matter wasn’t closed, not by a long shot. Because then the conductor herself chipped in asking me to come and talk to her so ‘we could work something out’. There is no we. If there ever had been a we, it would have been in the audition where I offered to see if I could maybe alternate rehearsals. Unfortunately this isn’t possible for one simple reason: the music they’re playing in Symphony Orchestra AND the London orchestra is really fucking hard. I cannot humanly learn to play both, and frankly I can’t understand why you’d want a substandard performance.

Hey, I’m not a conductor. Who can say what goes on in their mysterious minds?

Suffice to say that in the meeting we established several things:

  1. I respond very badly to threats
  2. The piece in Symphony Orchestra requires three bassoons. There are three bassoons at RHUL including me. Well, you should’ve checked you had three in your orchestra before you chose the piece, frankly.
  3. Apparently I’m not committed. I don’t really know how much more committed you can get from 1 chamber orchestra, 1 sinfonietta, 2 chamber ensembles at RHUL, 1 symphony orchestra, and 1 wind quintet. BUT IF YOU THINK OF A WAY DO LET ME KNOW.

I don’t think I’m friends with the conductor anymore.