Grand March Titanic

2009 review

Started the year with walkies on the beach, and enjoyed Scottish Dancing at Burns Night.  Jem auditioned for High School Musical and MT4UTH.

In February Max had to go to the vet’s for his shoulder to be X-rayed, and Jem went skiing on a school trip.  In March we went to see Flashdance, and Jem sang I’m Still Hurting at her school concert.  During April we went on a bike weekend to Kesh, and saw Evita.  At Easter Jem went to a course at Bird College, and was awarded the hardest working student cerfickatick.  I went to a weekend Scottish dancing course in my alma mater, Coleraine High.

In May, my nephew did well with his goats at Balmoral Show, and I received my favourite text of the year from my sister: “Cld u get some cabbages, and if so cld u bring 6?”  We went to the North West 200, which was badly disrupted by accidents and weather.  We went to see Fame and Cabaret, and I ran a 10k run for action cancer.  At the end of the month my son turned 18; we celebrated with a family party in the Hilden brewery, and I made a montage of photos from throughout his life.

In June, Jem got to meet the President of Ireland, and appeared as Martha in High School Musical.  In July, we went to see Never Forget, and Evelyn Glennie, before heading to China for an amazing trip.  The high point for me was seeing that glorious diamond ring of the eclipse, although dancing on the Great Wall was rather fabulous, and the whole trip was truly magnificent.

In August, Jem appeared on the stage of the Grand Opera House in Godspell, and my sister described her when she dances as looking as though it’s the most wonderful thing she’s ever been asked to do. She got her photo on the front of the local paper.  Mum and Dad celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary, and we had a wonderful party with cake and a song wot I wrote: I’d converted some old camcorder tapes onto DVDs for them, and had fun making covers and and labels.  At the end of August I rode my new bike, Zucchero, to Skye, and only dropped it once!  And was able to pick it up myself. In Skye we visited Calum’s Road, where R and a group of about a  dozen bikers will be setting off next year to ride to The Gambia.

In September Harry started university, and Jem auditioned for Guys and Dolls. She also did a photo shoot for the pantomime, and her picture was used many times for publicity.  We looked after my sister-in-law’s dog, Mack, when she had to have breast surgery.

During October, Jem played the Narrator in her school production of Blood Brothers, and had her Just Dance audition.  I visited old friends in Luxembourg and Frankfurt.  November brought parents evening, where for the first time I got nothing but glowing reports!  She then totally wowed the audiences with her charming portrayal of Miss Adelaide .  In December we went to London and saw Legally Blonde, and I decided to do something about the 2 stone I’ve put on since I stopped smoking 2 years ago, and re-joined the gym.  I also decided that the deteriorating atmosphere at home, which had included many flouncing outs, 3 day sulks, and a laptop flung across the room, was untenable, and I found a little apartment for Jem and I to move into in the New Year.

I’m approaching the new decade with a positive attitude – I will lose some weight, I’ll be visiting The Gambia in February, and help Jem get through her GCSEs.  Come September who knows where we’ll all be!

New computer

new PC


Behold my new computer!  My previous one, although only 4 years old, constantly gave problems with interenet access>  We’d gone to PC World origionally to get a new wireless card, but the prices of computers fall so rapidly, with a corresponding increase in power, that it made more sense just to buy a new machine.  This little HP baby came complete with a printer/ copier and scanner all in one.  It’s got Windows 7, which I’m still finding my way around, and I also get Word and Excel 2007.


So far so fab!  The updated software is very intuitive – for instance when I stick the SD card from the camcorder into it, it instantly recognises the clips and imports them into Windows Live Movie Maker.  From there, editing is a doddle, and it’s a push button choice of “Upload to Youtube” or “Make a DVD”.


Same with photos on my phone, which in the past have given me great problems.  Now, the computer recognises the pictures and imports them itself, without any need for software from the phone.



Jem has inherited my old one, minus the internet access, but with Word, Excel, Powerpoint and iTunes it’s got lots of features that she needs for homeworks and music.


Now all I need is anme for it – any suggestions?

Just Dance

Jemima was lucky enough recently to get through the first stage of auditions for Just Dance, a reality show to be shown on Sky 1 next year.  We flew to Edinburgh for the next round, unsure of what the format was going to be.  Turned out she had to perform in front of a live audience, complete with bright lights and scurrying camera crew, and be interviewed back stage.  The panel certainly had gravitas in the dancing world – Adam Garcia, Kimberly Pussycat Doll, and Ashley “Diversity” Banjo.  And they were being extremely strict – in the 5 or 6 hours we were there I saw them approve one dancer.  And no, it wasn’t our J.  She’d danced her little heart out – all winsome smiles and graceful limbs.  Her face lit up when Ashley asked her about the music, written for her by her boyfriend.  And all the judges’ comments were constructive and believable.  I was bursting with pride (yes again!) at her ability to cope unprepared with this tough ordeal, and to keep her chin up and keep smiling during the feedback.

Apologies for teh watermark on the video – having just upgraded my ‘puter to one using Windows 7, I’m rather disappointed that Movie Maker still doesn’t import mp4 or wav files, and so in order to capture Matty’s stunning music I had to use a free trial download.

Summer Palace

This beautiful collection of buildings set around a large lake was the peaceful summer retreat of the Emperor and his family. It was a favourite haunt of Dowager Cixi, who reputedly built the folly of the marble boat with money that had been intended for the Chinese navy. The 900m Long Gallery is decorated with colourful paintings, and noisy sweet corn vendors yell their sales pitch. The lake is peppered with a variety of boating activities.

Raiders of the lost archives

Eclipse France 99

I seem to have been assigned the role of family archivist. Probably because I’ve had a camcorder since the babies were teeny, and now as I learn how to use Windows movie-maker and similar computer technology, I have great fun taking my “photo of the day”, and compiling a monthly montage, complete with background music. These things don’t run smoothly of course: movie maker won’t let me import any songs from iTunes that I have ripped from a CD, only ones that I’ve downloaded. And the ongoing saga of problems with my Sony Ericsson K770i and Vodafone continue: I’m about to send back the 4th – count ’em – replacement handset in under 6 months.  The problem this time is that it won’t speak to my computer so I can’t upload my photos.

I’ve acquired a scanner, and am working my way through the collection of old glossy paper photos – the one above was taken in France in 1999 while waiting for the last solar eclipse.

But some joy with the old camcorder tapes and machine: I found a bloke who operates out of a tiny little unit in a business park, packed to the rafters with various recording equipment. He was able to convert old camcorder tapes to DVD in under 24 hours, for tenner a tape, and I was delighted with the result, especially discovering the old footage of me as Matthew Kelly for a Stars In Yer Eyes kiddy birthday party.

So now I can freecycle that old chunky camcorder. And concentrate on getting the best out of my dinky little digital video camera – thanks for all the advice I’ve been given on recording the upcoming eclipse in China!

Editing suite

I seem to have spent most of today in edit mode: this afternoon was devoted to sitting in a dark room with a bloke in Newtownards who I’ve entrusted to edit the old camcorder tapes of my parents. This will be part of the Golden wedding anniversary present so I’d like a good job made of it. As we went through the rushes and I watched him edit, using me to identify which grandchild was which, I got the horrible feeling I could have done better myself. I did have fun though, using the number of candles on the cake, or the badge the child was wearing, and the “Happy Birthday to….” name in my quest for identification. And gosh it was spooky seeing all the kids when they were teeny. And more than a little embarrassing

7th birthday cake

7th birthday cake

seeing my hairstyles and outfits.