Rachels Ramblings

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A Non-Mathematician At The Maths Jam Weekend
November, 2014

Extracted to A Non Mathematician At Maths Jam

Remembering Christopher Hogwood
October, 2014

Extracted to its own page.

The Story of Bolero

February 14, 2009

When I was a child, we didn't have a television, so the rise of Torvill and Dean was among the things I missed. My violin teacher videotaped the performance of Bolero at the Winter Olympics, and let me watch it at the beginning of a lesson, but that was all.

So the first I really saw of Torvill and Dean (apart from archive clips) was on Dancing on Ice. The ITV programme about Bolero reminded me just how astonishing they are. I've watched Figure Skating coverage - when it makes the schedules - and, frankly, although the current crop of champions are fantastic, I'd rather watch Torvill and Dean. Who are twenty or more years older than the current competitors.


I think I've worked it out now. Watching Torvill and Dean, I always find myself exhilarated by the achievement of perfection. Every line is matched, every turn precise, every extension finished, polished and honed. Many of the routines we see in competitions covered on the television lack some of that polish. The Story of Bolero made clear the hours of hard, dedicated work needed to achieve that precision.

A Salutary Reminder
September 9, 2008

We listen to so much chamber music now that I am inclined to forget - even though I played in many orchestras when I was a student - just what a difference the conductor makes. We had the final of BBC's Maestro on this evening, and it was worth sitting through all of it, even the intermediary waffles of the presenter, just to see Maxim Vengerov and Roger Norrington bring the BBC Concert Orchestra to life.

That said, we were very impressed with the three finalists. Conducting is even more difficult than you may have gathered if you have been watching the series!

Our holiday

Every now and again something happens that sparks a thought, or someone does something that deserves brownie points. We had a great time exploring Hadrian's Wall in August, and several people and places contributed to that.

The B&B where we stayed. We do a lot of travelling, and once upon a time I worked in a hotel. We are, therefore, the Guests From Hell: we know how things should be, and I know how easy they should be. Grindon was wonderful. Friendly, comfortable, and efficient - a combination which is really very tricky to pull off.

We visited the Lakeland Bird Of Prey Centre on an impulse on the drive home. These impulses sometimes lead to disappointment, but not on this occasion. I've been to "wildlife displays" which were slicker, but none where the person giving the presentation displayed such a casual and easy mastery of their material. We just had to be careful not to be caught out by his very dry sense of humour!

Well, one expects major attractions like Housesteads and Vindolanda to "get it right" (whatever that may mean). Still, the talks that we attended at both places were much better than the average: they provided a sense of place and an idea of the current state of knowledge, and they were both perfectly pitched for the interested but knowledgeable listener.

Alnwick Gardens were fantastic, and Cragside and its builder, the Victorian entrepreneur and inventor William Armstrong, should be better known.



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