Learning things (by )

I love learning new things. I'm usually struggling to find new things to learn; the last fun bit of computer science I learnt about was Bloom filters, and they didn't hold my attention for long. The last really fun bit of computer science I learnt about would be content-addressed storage, and I'm still having fun with that, but I can't find any more to learn about it. I'm having to make stuff up myself, which is rewarding in its own way, but much harder work.

Of course, this past week I've been learning TIG welding, which has been awesome. It's been a while since a whole new field of things to learn has opened up to me, and it's nice to work on a new class of physical skills. My routine physical learning is my weekly Krav Maga training, but I crave variety. My lust for learning benefits more from intensive two-week courses than an hour a week for years. I'd love to go and take a proper welding course at a college, but I can't spare the time; I have to practice when I can in the evenings and weekends. I'm getting good at horizontal/flat welds, but I'd like to master vertical and overhead (because if I work on anything large, such as the festival trolley, in my cramped workshop, I often can't rotate everything around to be nice and flat). Also, suspecting that the trouble I was hitting with stick welding is at least partly to do with the limitations of my old cheap AC welder, I want to use my new welder's capability to do nicely regulated DC stick welding and see if I can learn to do good stick welds. And I'd like to get some practice in welding aluminium and stainless steel, as I have applications for both of those.

So that's physical skills sorted, for now. Mentally, I've been learning how antennas work. There's no particular reason for this; it's something that's always puzzled me somewhat, but what's triggered the recent interest was a birthday gift from an old friend, of the ARRL handbook, which goes into some detail; and then meeting an interesting guy at a Cheltenham Hackspace Open Evening who turns out to design broadcast transmission antennas for a living, who answered a load of questions left open by the books. I still want to get a better intuitive grasp of the quantities involved - how many volts and amps appear on an antenna feeder line? What field strengths in volts per meter would you expect to find at what distance from an antenna? Does that relate to a corresponding magnetic field strength in tesla?

I've also been learning Morse code. This is quite interesting. I thought I'd memorise that table of dots and dashes and that'd be that, but it turns out that this technique tends to maroon people at slow morse speeds, as they mentally record a sequence of dots and dashes then mentally look it up in the table to find the letter. To get fast Morse skills, which tend to tend towards one or two characters per second, you need to learn to recognise the sound - "di di dah" - as a letter directly. So I've been using a combination of the Farnsworth and Koch methods to learn Morse; growing my "vocabulary" a letter at a time, and using an enlarged inter-character spacing. The latter is because I was tending to find that I'd hear a character, and write it down, but while I was writing it another would have been and gone, which was confusing. I want to reduce that inter-character gap, but I might wait until I've learnt the entire alphabet via the Koch method, so I can mentally be writing entire words rather than concentrating on a letter at a time - with a reduced alphabet, Morse training tends to involve writing down random gibberish (so far, I know M, K, R, U, S and O; at least the old Nokia SMS beep now makes sense to me... di-di-dit dah-dah di-di-dit!). Again, I have no particular reason to learn Morse - I learnt it as a child, but then forgot it through not using it, which had always faintly irritated me. I've often wondered about using it as a crude interface to tiny embedded computers, although it'd be frustratingly slow for most uses. The usual reason to learn Morse is to do CW amateur radio; that's an idea I've toyed with in the past, but being able to talk to random people over radio holds little appeal (I can talk to random people over the Internet much more cheaply and easily). However, I'd be interested in getting an amateur radio licence as a mental challenge, or as a means to some other project that requires radio communications capabilities, so I might go for a course if one comes up at a good time. I'd like to be able to operate a radio transmitter in an emergency situation, too.

I love to learn things, but I feel sad about not using the skills I pick up. Ok, I don't want to use my Krav skills - they tend to involve hurting people, and are only useful when already under danger of harm coming to me or people I'm protecting, which is nothing to be happy about. But I practice welding because want to make metal things. But by no means do I only learn things when I have a need for them; I learn stuff because it looks interesting and the opportunity arises, then I try and find applications. I've already been excitedly thinking about how aluminium welding will simplify the construction of one of my old back-burner projects - making a hiking staff out of aluminium tubing, that has a stack of lithium-ion batteries inside it at the base, a computer with a keyer in the middle so I can interact with it, and a high-brightness LED lantern on the top so I can have a variety of illumination options (white all around, white forwards only, red all around, etc). I had been working out complex systems of brackets and bolts to hold it all together, but TIG welding it would be much easier, neater, lighter, and stronger. Now, I had considered having a button that could be used to strobe the lights for Morse emergency signalling - and the logical next step was to include a co-axial semiconductor laser in the top that could shine a bright beam for signalling in Morse (and, at a pinch, be used to light fires; you can get 2W laser modules off the shelf these days, and all those lithium ion batteries are going to be able to source a lot of power...). So perhaps I should get a ham licence, and make the staff in sections joined together with insulators, and make it be a two-meter band dipole antenna (which is one meter long) with a CW transceiver inside, so it can also send and receive Morse by radio? That might be fun, and not much extra hardware as it'll already have a decent ARM microprocessor inside.

For now, though, I'd better focus on finishing off my server chassis (which I'm building my welding skills up towards), and make a new welding bench (mine is curved, and wobbles because the floor is uneven and the legs are too weak), and do some metalwork that's needed around the house... I'd like to do some more focussed Lojban study, too; right now I'm just picking up vocabulary by looking for words for things I don't know yet when I need them, but re-reading the reference grammar to remind myself of bits I rarely use would be good!

The School Holidays Begin (by )

It is that time of year again when there are no school runs and I have no completely free child time - Jean however is almost ten so I can work whilst she is around now. In fact at the moment she is helping me!

So we let Jean plan the first day of the holiday - it was without Mary for most of it as it was a pre-school day and they continue during the holidays.

We constructed a plan based on the sorts of things she wanted to do - namely Home School which she loves and I initially came up with when we were snowed in at The Bakery back in her infant school days.

Home School Monday

We started with an American breakfast - Jean's school had done an Independance Day breakfast but the last term we have kept missing dates and time changing and the such like, probably due to my concussion. Jean was quiet upset about this so we investigated the sorts of things Americans eat for breakfast and decided it was a combo of a Canadian and Full English and set about creating our own probably very wrong breakfast!

Jean's American Breakfast

This of course started with us grubbing up potatoes from the garden - I used the bags we had for moving (from Essex which then got used for lots of things but all had busted zips or handles etc...), to grow potatoes in - I am phasing this out as most of the bags have reached the end of their life, and we now have an allotment!

Grubbing up the tatties

We were after the "new" white potatoes rather than the bigger potatoes and the pink/red potatoes so Jean kept checking with me she'd gotten the right type until I pointed out I was just grubbing up all useful potatoes as I needed to make a casserole with the turnips and beetroot from the allotment anyway.

Jean asking if freshly gubbed up potatoes are big enough

We harvested an entire pot of tatties which Jean then selected the ones we wanted for breakfast - we went with sauteed potatoes rather than the chips we'd seen in some of the breakfasts as we just couldn't cope with the idea of chips for breakfast.

Jean and her colindar full of potatoes

She then scrubbed them and chopped them whilst I started on the rest. Once that was done she mixed up the pancake mix, got plates out and general reminded me what I was doing! She also went to the shop to get three missing ingredients.

We used the flat bed sandwich toaster to cook the pancakes, this was the first time either of us had cooked this thicker type of pancake. It was fun and I put the coffee perculator on for me. Jean poured us juice.

Jean putting the maple syrup on pancakes

She took a stack of ten pancakes so it would look like the photos! And she doesn't normally eat maple syrup but she poured it on. She made up a granola and home made yogurt mix too.

Jean tucking into her American Breakfast

It was a HUGE breakfast - fresh sliced tomato, suateed potatoes, baked beans, 2 rashers bacon, 2 suasages, a fried egg, and 2 slices of toast! She basically ate the bacon and cereal and then nibbled on the pancakes all day. The rest did me and Mary for a meal each. 😀

We then learnt Latin, she did some at a language day at school and come home obsessed. She had a piece of paper she had already made notes on (mainly she observed that the Harry Potter series had used latin for the spells). When I say we learnt Latin, what actually happened was that I found a series on Youtube of which I followed the first lesson and then left her to it, she was on lesson 9 at the end with pages of notes.

I found her on google translate trying to check her own translation before she restated the vid to find out if she was right. Her translation was closer than google translates. I discovered I know random bits of latin - I assume from my Classical Civilization A'level. Later on I corrected Alaric's pronounciation as well coughs.

Then it was time for the first ever Stubby Marathon!

The Stubby Marathon Supplies!

I am still struggling with reading and writing, I am using voice tech or just going really really slowly in short bursts. But it is easier for me to do long hand rather than typing and it is a writing challenge month so I looked around and thought "you know what I have a ream or two of lined paper and lots of pencils that haven't even been sharpened!" - BAM!!!

The idea?

It is a writing marathon that will last at least the summer holidays - me and Jean sit for at least an hour writing trying to wear the lead out in the freshly sharpened pencil. Each day we see who has used their lead the most - we re-sharpen the next day so the points are the same so there is a day to day winner and an over all winner (you can write outside of the allotted time and I can't write for very long at all and have to make coffee in the middle etc...). Jean has written 2 stories and twice as many pages as me so far. I am designing a medal for her 🙂

This summer is our marathon summer but more on that later.

I think we then mixed things up a bit by having our outside time and snack before we started on our hour of art. This was basically us working our way through various kits Jean's had for birthdays etc... WHY OH WHY are the instructions in kids craft kits so dire? I mean they really are bad and I think most people think it's the kids just not getting it but it really isn't - it's the instructions :/

trying to work out the instructions to craft kits

It took me most of the hour and a very bad keyring, to remember some basic stuff that I could do before the concussion and have been doing since before I was Jean's age 🙁 This hour was frustrating for both of us but we decided to see it too the end and not jump kits and she at least made a lovely bracelet though with improvisation and not the technique that the kit was designed for!

Jean's shoe lace bracelet

She then played outside on the trampoline whilst I rested my brain, she then set herself up with her maths - these are GCSE level maths but with the questions in accessible easy comprehension which were ones my mum had for teaching those who had failed or not sat GCSE's the first time round. Some of them my mum had made herself and some were from packs provided by the college - the course was cut leaving my mum with all the teaching stuff and no one to teach 🙁

Then Al and Mary came home and we wizzed off to pick up some garden fairy lights which the girls put together whilst Daddy made dinner - they are bees and ladybirds and hopefully there will be a blog post on what we've done with the garden soon!

Jean and Mary putting together the bee and ladybird garden lights

Mary went to bed and then Jean and Alaric played with the electronic kits and only got shouted at once by me for making the radio they'd just built too loud (issue was they couldn't work out how to control the sound level - or so they say!).

Jean doing electronics with Alaric

We forgot to practice the recorder which Jean was going to attempt at 9:30 but I banned!!!

So I think that was an epic start to the holidays - since I started writing this blog post she has been writing schedules and naming each day - this was Home School Monday. But we have also had:

Tidying Tuesday, Wet Wednesday, Friend Thursday and today which was going to be Allotment Friday but then got turned into Cinema Friday has actually been named Freedom Friday as she decided to go home with her friend for a sleep over instead and pointed out that me and Al (Who has a day off of work) do not have either kid with us today.

TIG Welding: The First Day (by )

Today, I took the day off work to take my new TIG welder for a spin.

I started by getting some pure argon shielding gas; prices for this stuff vary widely (10 litres full of gas at 200 bar for £35 plus £15 shipping, or the same for £77.90 including shipping?), but I managed to get a 9 litre cylinder filled for £25 at Target Tools and Supplies in Gloucester. They don't seem to have a web site, but they're here.

With that installed, everything worked fine:

My welding setup

I didn't have to find out how wonderful R-Tech's customer service are, because the thing arrived in full working order and was easy to set up and use 🙂 I ran a few test beads across some scrap steel, and it worked pretty much as I remembered from my TIG course all those years ago, so I set to doing something useful.

First job was to fix up the dodgy welds holding the new steering gear onto the welding trolley. I ground down the two lumpy lines of poor stick welding on either side of the join I actually wanted to weld together (it had bridged in a couple of spots, which was holding it together, but it was far from ideal), and set to it with the TIG. The result was hardly beautiful, as I didn't weld it completely flat so it was a bit irregular to start with, but with no fuss at all I was able to make it bridge the gap. I'm finding TIG much easier to control than stick - I can see what I'm doing far better, so I know where I'm welding, and because it's not constantly depositing metal, if the weld pool hasn't formed where I want it to, I can move it and make sure both sides are melting together before I start putting in filler! As I was welding a 3mm thick flat bar to a 2mm-wall 25mm square tube, getting both sides to melt together wasn't an obvious operation of just applying heat to the middle, so being able to manipulate the arc was a great bonus here.

Next, I cut off some 10mm square tube to weld onto the chassis so as to stop the steering arm from swinging too far from side to side. Originally, it was possible to steer too far, causing one of the front wheels to jam underneath the front of the main body of the trolley, which is no fun; these two stops put a stop to that! However, this was my first experience of welding something that's not horizontal and easily accessible. It was a real squeeze getting to the place they had to be welded, so I kept finding my torch hand or the hand feeding the wire in snagging on things. When attaching one of the stops, I lost track of where the filler wire was while welding; it had caught on something and was being pushed aside of where I was pointing it, outside the area I could see. While I faffed with this, I left the torch pointing at one place for too long and melted the end of one of the stops off! It wasn't a bit that does anything, so I'll probably grind it off and do the same on the other one to make them match again, but still, it wasn't great...

Also, when welding in awkward positions, I couldn't see the arc so well and kept poking the tungsten electrode into the weld pool. This meant re-grinding it, which wasn't ideal as it contains traces of thorium (a radioisotope), and you don't want too much thorium dust getting into your lungs. I decided to practice a bit with the torch in awkward positions on a bit of scrap, and got the tungsten stuck again, and decided not to re-grind it - I nipped out to a nearby welding supply shop and picked up some E3 tungstens, which aren't radioactive. With one of those ground and installed, I set to a little project: making myself a monitor stand for the office (my monitor currently sits on a stack of books).

I started with flat welds to put the top together, which went fine:

The bed of the monitor stand

Then welded some tubes onto the bottom to make legs:

The monitor stand

This was a lot harder. I've not got the correct angle and electrode stick-out yet, so was struggling to see the weld pool, and ended up dipping the tungsten in the metal a lot. Also, heat rises, so I was having to work to get the flat bit I was welding to to melt and form a pool, while the tube sticking up from it was happy to melt and then flop down, making a nice arch. I think I can fix this with better torch positioning - I need to experiment more!

As well as working on my torch holding, I think I also need to pick up some thicker filler rod - I've got a kilogram of 1mm mild steel rod, and 1mm rod seems to just disappear; I struggled to feed it in fast enough and it kept balling up. I think I had the right amperage for the metal (I was using 70 amps on 3mm thick steel with a 1.6mm tungsten), given the penetration and the rate at which the weld pool formed, so I think my rod's just too thin.

Also, I need to figure out which sized ceramic to use. I set the torch up with the smallest one (which has "5" printed on the side; I have a "6" and a "7" as well), assuming that it's best to start small and move up, but during the post-flow stage I'm seeing the surface of the weld pool rippling quite violently, and when it solidifies, it has a correspondingly ripply surface texture. I'm running the gas regulator at 8 litres/minute, an I've been recommended to go from 8 to 12 for most jobs, so I don't think the gas flow rate is too high; I suspect that the narrow ceramic is forcing the gas into a tight stream so it runs faster and blows the weld pool around.

Now, when we got a compressor, we decided to name it Compressita Wurst in recognition of the recent Eurovision Song Contest winner. Continuing this tradition, the TIG welder is, of course, called Tigger, meaning that my old stick welder is therefore now called Pooh. If I get a plasma cutter, I'll call it Piglet.

I'm delighted with my welder, and look forward to improving my technique! I've a few new projects in mind - fixing up our barbeques with new legs, welding stainless steel grilles for them, and making myself a better welding bench (I can shorten the legs on my current one and make it into a shelf underneath the new one); but my most urgent project is going to be finishing off the new server chassis!

My only complaint with the R-Tech TIG161 welder is that the power switch is all the way around at the back; to turn it on and off, I have to crouch down to reach under the shelf to the back of the thing. Do other people have a handy switch on the socket it plugs into? Or do they not shove it on a shelf? I don't know.

Ok, one other complaint. The hose that connects the gas regulator to the welder (that looks white in the picture of my welding setup), when it arrived, smelt disgusting. It actually smelt like excrement. Not precisely like excrement - it was clearly the smell of some volatiles outgassing out of new synthetic materials - but that's the closest smell that came to mind. At least this was only apparent when I had my face near it while fiddling with the hose fittings to connect it up, and the smell has subsided after a day's usage. Thank God. That's the smelliest pipe I've ever encountered.

TIG welding (by )

Back in 2008, I took a welding course, in which I fixed the mistake I was making with my stick welding, and had a go at MIG and TIG.

Now, although I learnt to make nice beads with stick welding on flat surfaces, I still struggle with various things. Much of the welding I want to do is on thin metal, so I need to run the welder at a very low current, creating a feeble arc and with a tendency to stick, and still burning through if I'm not quick. I still can't do inside joint welds (the arc sticks to one side, or the other, and rarely both).

Is it my poor technique, or am I being limited by the fact I'm using a ten-year-old arc welder that cost £50 from B&Q? When I borrow a friend's MIG welder, I do much better work, and tinkering with my technique over the past decade has failed to make a huge improvement...

Whether it's me or the welder, I know that stick welding isn't perfect for what I want to do. As well as the issue with thin materials, it can't weld aluminium. I had a stick welder because it was all I could afford at the time, and living in a small flat, I didn't want to be storing compressed gas cylinders!

TIG is widely regarded as hard to learn, because there's so many variables to control - those ten complicated-looking knobs on the welder, the movement of the torch, the fine control of current with a foot pedal, the way you feed the filler metal in. However, when I tried it, I found that I liked all that control. With a MIG, you set the power level and the wire feed speed on the machine, and then pull the trigger to weld - which is great if the settings are all correct and you're doing a long straight uniform bead. But if you're having to change position as you weld, or dealing with varying thickness of metal so the rate of conduction away from the weld varies, it's trickier to have those settings correct. And to get them right, you need to do test welds, adjust, and do more test welds.

With a TIG welder, you can vary the speed at which you move the torch (and the current, with a pedal) and the rate you dab filler metal as you work, based on feedback from how the weld looks. Although there's more to vary, there's less need for trial and error. That suits me better! Back when I did the welding course, I'd really enjoyed TIG, and found it easy to do great welds, but a MIG machine looked a lot more likely to be affordable. So I was slowly saving up for a MIG machine.

And then I found that R-Tech, a local company on the outskirts of Gloucester that make welders and are widely lauded for their quality and good customer service, offered twelve months' interest free credit.

Suddenly, rather than saving up for many months for a MIG welder, I could afford a TIG welder (and quite a good one, too), with the money I'd saved as a deposit and then sixty pounds a month for the next year. THIS CHANGES THINGS...

So, today, my new TIG welder arrived. It can go up to 160 amps, it can do AC or DC (so it can be used for aluminium), it can do pulsed power control, and it has a foot pedal for precise work. So it'll be great for thin stuff. Also, it can do stick welding, but "nicely"; DC, with good current regulation, as opposed to my old AC transformer. That should make it produce much more steady arcs, so I'm looking forward to seeing if I can also improve my stick welding with it - stick welding is worse than TIG in most respects, except that it's faster and doesn't use up shielding gas. I still have a lot of stick welding electrodes to use up, so when I'm doing work on heavier bits of metal, it'd be nice to use them if I can do so and still produce good welds!

This evening, I unpacked it, ground a tungsten, put everything together, and rearranged some shelves in the workshop to set it up. I made a hook to hang the torch on by my welding bench, checked that the right things appear on the display when I turn it on, and then sadly bade it goodnight, as I'm not getting the shielding gas cylinder for it until tomorrow.

My plan is to start running test beads along a bit of scrap steel until I seem to have got the hang of it, then do a few easy jobs - such as re-doing some of the shoddy welds I messed up with the stick welder, and adding a steering stop to the festival trolley, and fixing a bit of my welding bench that snapped off after the bottom rusted.

Once I'm confident, I'm going to finish my current big project - a custom server case for love.warhead.org.uk, which hosts this site and many others! I've been taking it to my friend's workshop to use his MIG on it, which only happens when we're both free (less than once a month), and involves folding all the seats down in the car and lugging a significant weight of steel through the house. Did I mention that this thing's 1.2 meters high, and made of 1.6mm thick steel plate?

But I'm so incredibly stoked I'm going to have a TIG welder. I'd all but given up on the dream!

Learning the Recorder (by )

I'm relearning stuff at the moment due to the old whack on the head - so this mainly means I am colouring in but the girls want to learn the recorder and I have a hang up about the recorder...

Anyway to cut a long story short there is a Frozen recorder book on it's way to us and we have received a rather disappointing Elsa/Frozen "recorder" which is a crap plastic all in one moulded toy that is pretty useless but Mary loves it and it was stupid cheap so hey you get what you pay for (I was still narked if it says recorder - I expect an actual recorder!).

With panic I realised the book would probably be all music notation even though it says easy on it. I can't read music, I have a stab at learning it every few years but nope doesn't work. I normally just work things out by sound etc... this is actually what got me chucked out of my recorder class in school.

Apparently according to the then music teacher you can't be a musician without reading music. You can't play music. This crushed me. What had happened was that she hadn't noticed I couldn't read music, I was watching her and the other kids and working it out by ear and progressing nicely. Even when they started setting homeworks it wasn't too bad as it was nursery rhymes and I just worked them out but then... then they wanted us to do "proper music" story pieces as backing for singers or as part of the orchester. I did not know these songs, my parents were not into classical music - BAM a glass ceiling.

They were complex with different sized recorders - everyone else would turn up knowing the piece, after three weeks of this I knew that something had to happen for me to continue with recorder. So I asked my mum if I could have extra music lessons, she said yes and wrote a letter explaining the situation and that I could not actually read the music - could I have extra lessons (paid for) or did they know who to ask etc... to sort this out.

The letter was the death nell - in front of the enter wind section I was castigated - told that if I hadn't picked up reading music by now then there was no hope - I simply could not be a musician.

I left angry, and confused and crying, a hot mist of shame clouding my vision. I clutched my two recorders, one of which was basically shiny knew and the classic dark brown and cream, my nan had bought it for me as I'd moved up a group.

Being me I became kind of resigned and militant about this. I didn't really want to be playing the recorder anyway - I wanted to play the flute. Being a glutton for punishment I went along to the flute try outs. From my prospective it seemed to be going quiet well, I could get a sound out of the damn thing unlike the others in the room. But then the teacher took the flutist aside and hard the mutterings about not being able to read music, or writing for that matter and so on - I would like to add that I was also not the only child in the room at this point but I think the teacher had forgotten I could now hear properly as it was just after the second lot of grommets had been put in.

I doubt my pitch was perfect (I'm pretty sure it wasn't), I don't do sound as just a hearing thing anyway, I like to feel it, if I can't feel it I can't know if it will fit properly.

Anyway they came over to me and I looked up, "I'm afraid your arms are too short for the flute," he said.

"What about the picalo?" I asked - I was desperate to play the flute - this was because a blue telepathic animated character out of a cartoon series called Ulysses 31 played an epic flute made of gold and lights that she vanquished monsters with. Also I had curly hair - somehow I felt that meant I was destined for the flute.

He hesitated, "you have to learn the flute first before the picalo." He said gravely and I left the music room once more with the angry confused mist of shame and tears and snot.

My mother was furious but we could not afford flute stuff outside of the special schools programme.

Then because you know I never know when to quit I went for the choir in the final year of juniors with the same woman. But I was sick on the day the auditions were supposed to happen. When I got back there were four people out of the entire year who were too bad to go in the choir - they were the people I had extra reading lessons with in the special room.

I am a shy person. I was still determined, I was made to stand in the school hall in front of the entire year and given a piece of sheet music that the teacher knew I could not read. I didn't even know what the song was going to be. I was petrified, everyone knew I wanted to be an opera singer (it was down as part of my three fold dream which involved being a spaceman and archeologist so I could look at rocks - I thought as an opera singing I would get to design the costumes, write the stories and build the sets as well as doing singing, dancing and acting).

I recognised the song, I tried to sing, my voice stuck but then it unstuck and I started to sing.

The teacher loomed in putting her ear right in front of my mouth making comments. But I wanted to be in the choir so much I kept going.

She stopped the music, and announced I was in tune but too quiet and there was no place in the choir for people who couldn't pull their weight. Everyone knew how much I wanted to be in the choir. I don't know if I imagined it but at this point I was sure they were all laughing at me. My form tutor came and rescued me and sat on the stairs with me whilst I cried.

"Hey we can't all be good at everything, what if I told you you hadn't gotten onto the football team? You wouldn't be crying then would you?" we both knew I would never have gone for it as I was still learning to run without falling over at this point.

"I would." I said and she looked at me sitting there in her sports outfit she never took off - she knew me and sports, "if I'd tried out for the football team it would be because I wanted to play football so of course I'd be upset if I didn't get it especially if I was then told I was rubbish and would never be able to do it, in front of EVERYBODY."

She smiled and laughed, "Sarah you are amazing, you'll find away, it will be your own way, now come and see the stuff I've got planned for you lot, you're going to be so glad you aren't in the choir."

And I was - we made things and explored things, including creating our own papier mache puppets and sets. I am also still friends with two of the people who were in that group with me.

Of course I also then went and joined lots of choirs, and learnt the guitar and have sundry instruments in my house. Now I know I am not brilliant at music and I know I panic when ever technical stuff is mentioned but I love music.

These events did mar music for me though and looking at it now from where I am as an adult I feel that, that music teacher was most definately in the wrong. She was also my second year class teacher so I would have been 8? She was my least favourite of the junior school. I did revisit the school once before my work experience (which was in the infant school anyway), I made a special trip to her classroom to tell her how I'd been excepted into the choral society as well as having performed in a local performance of Joseph and his Dream Coat and so on - what I didn't mention was that I still wasn't having any school music or drama classes as I was still having to go to a special room to learn to read and write properly - I did however mention that I had been given a solo without being able to read music. I am glad I didn't know the term passive aggression as I would not have done this and I feel that in all honesty it needed to be done.

So back to the here and now as I am sure I've blogged about this story a couple of times before!

I have a recorder that I play merrily we row along to get children to sit down at readings and workshops. It turns out to be the only song I can remember since hitting my head though Jean says I could play lots of hymns (makes sense they are songs I would have known well enough from church to work out by ear).

Anyway she doesn't get recorder lessons at the school - she's had a bit of uke but they are not a big school and the teacher who could play, left... so I taught her merrily we row along. It took her about half an hour to master and remember and now she is playing it CONTINOUSLY!

Then I was struck by the panic - she was asking for other tunes and I can't remember any and I don't think I was particularly good anyway. That and the realisation that the book though saying EASY recorder would no doubt expect music reading skills... I turned to youtube.

I found this vid of Happy Birthday.

My dad was coming down the next day - it was his birthday - it took me 15 mins to get it down pat and I then remembered it in the morning for the kids to sing along to.

I was so proud of myself.

Jean is keen to learn and Mary has always loved the recorder 🙂

(She is now 4 and not the little thing in this video!)

The first thing that happened was my mum mentioned the teacher and we both had the same thought, if I can teach myself using youtube videos whilst suffering with the tail end of a head injury then how the hell did a qualified teacher stuff it up?

I realise I was a "special needs" kid but still... also there were like over 60 kids in my year - that is a 60 strong choir that was not a super duper choir so would 5 "bad voices" have made that much of a difference espcially if they were far away from the mics? And was it coincidence that we were all the "special needs" kids? I'd never thought on that connection before but it is there.

Anyway - I think I need to rest and then learn another song... well actually I am also setting up a section on here of educational stuff so Jean can find it when she wants to learn without me. It should also be useful to others and I may include links to good education workshop leaders etc... not really decided yet.

One last thing - it turns out I know random stuff about the recorder and sizes and stuff and got very defensive when Alaric suggested that only kids play them and that you never see adults playing them!

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