A World Premiere

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Last week it was the Spring Fling, the annual Spring music concert at the older boys' high school.

It was James' last year taking part in the concert as a pupil and he was certainly kept busy in it.

Firstly he played the piano accompaniment for the guitar ensemble. Then he moved onto the newly started school Jazz Band, where he played trombone, and where Calum played trumpet. They both played their respective brass instruments in the Senior Wind Band, who performed a James Bond Medley. I would have added a wee clip of their bands playing, but I don't want to distract from the main focus of this post. 

The biggest thing James had to do at the concert was to stand up and give a presentation before the 'world premiere' of his animation. OK, so it wasn't a world premiere as such, but it was the first time his animation had been shown in public before a large audience so it was as good as a premiere to us anyway!

In his 6th year at high school James is studying Advanced Higher Gaelic, Advanced Higher Music and A-Level Art (Their school choose to offer A-Level Art rather than Advanced Higher as most of the Art Colleges prefer this as a qualification.)

For his main project for Art he had to do a work of Art titled 'Journey'. What this piece of Art is is entirely up to the students, and so James decided to make animation since he used to enjoy working on them so much when he was younger. Since his main study for music is composition he also decided that he would write the music for the animation himself too.

In his presentation at the concert he explained how he went about working on the animation. First of all he wrote a piano version of his soundtrack. Then he orchestrated this. Once he had written the orchestrated version he went around and asked all of the instrumental teachers at school if they would play the parts of their instrument so that he could record a proper version of the soundtrack. The staff were all so helpful and more than happy to play their parts for him. Then he just had to tweak with the levels a bit and his soundtrack was finished. The final result sounds amazing, but that wasn't the end of his work. 

Next he had to work on the animation. He wanted to animated a character against a live background, and so spent a week going out in all weathers to the woods around where we live. He got both photographs and film clips of the trees, the ground, the river, the rain falling etc. Finally he animated the little stick man over the backgrounds. This was the most labour intensive part of the project as each frame was hand drawn. There are about 24 frames per second and the film is 4 minutes long, so it works out at about 5700 individual drawings. He was only given a week to work on this section and so you can see why he chose to make his character a little stick man. Even though the man is just a stick man, he still added the shadows to him to make him more realistic.

 He has put so much thought into every tiny part of this that it just works so well. The teachers at school were so impressed with it that they asked him if it could be shown at the concert, so I know it is not just me as his biased mum who thinks it is amazing!

Anyway, enough of the chat about it, and onto the actual animation. For the best effect play it in full screen (clicking the little thing at the bottom right of the clip)

He has also added the soundtrack on it's own, which I think is a great idea because sometimes when you are watching a film you are distracted a bit from listening to the music properly, even although the music makes the film.

I studied composition as my main study when I did my music degree, which is what James also wants to do, although he is taking a year out after school to decide for sure. I know that I didn't have as much talent as him, or as much confidence either, when I was 18 and so I'm pretty sure he has great things ahead of him if he continues like this.

He has set up his own You Tube channel where he hopes to add more music as he gets it recorded and would really love it if he got a few more subscribers. You can find his channel here. I'm sure a lovely comment here or there on his animation would also be most welcome :)

Snow Days and Super Snow Days

Tuesday 20 March 2018

It's been a reasonably snowy winter here this year, much to the delight of the boys. The older boys still remember the really big snows of winters 2009/10 and 2010/11 and have been longing for another snowfall like that since then. The last few winters have been more typical of all our usual winters, with a few big snowfalls in January and February, but with nothing bad enough to bring everything to a standstill as happened in 09/10 and 10/11.

This winter seemed to be going to typical way, with a decent but still average snowfall in the middle of January.

Every year in the week of James' birthday it snows. It may not be on the actual day of his birthday, but at some point during the week of his birthday you can be almost certain that it will snow.

This year a couple of days before James' 18th the snow came down nice and thick.

Because the trains in to school were unreliable with the weather the boys had the day off school, even though the schools weren't closed - although James and Calum were already off on study leave. And since everyone needs a break from their studies every once in a while, we all went out sledging after lunch on that first day of the snow.

Everyone had so much fun!

Fraser (4) was squealing with delight every time he went down the hill, as you can see from the clips further down.

Back at the house we built ourselves a snowman in the garden, before going inside to warm up again.

Here is the compilation of sledging clips. Like I said, listen out for Fraser's delighted but maybe also a little bit scared squeals!

The January snow stuck around for a few days, with more falling over a couple of days, but then it all melted away the following week.

Towards the end of February the forecast was for a severe spell of snow hitting the east of the country, but I have to admit that I had my doubts about whether it would actually be as bad as they were predicting. After all every Spring they forecast that this year will be the year of the 'Barbecue Summer' and every Autumn they say that it will be a cold and snowy one, and each time it turns out to just be pretty average either way, and just like the summer or winter before!

The forecast was for the heavy snow to start on the afternoon of Tuesday 27th February, and as I left to pick the boys up from school the sky was clear with beautiful sunshine. By the time I got off the train 30 minutes later the snow had started and Fraser had turned into a snowman by the time we reached school!

The snow in the city hadn't been quite as heavy as it was out where we live, and when we got off the train home again, 2 hours after I had left in the sunshine, there were already a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Now that we were all safely home from school I was happy for the snow to keep on falling! Which it did, all afternoon and all night. 

Just before bedtime we heard that all schools in the city would be closed the following day, Wednesday, and so everyone was delighted!

The snow still didn't stop, and in just a couple of hours the milk bottles at the front door went from this...

.....to this.

The amber weather warning soon changed to a red one, for the first time ever here for snow, and the council very quickly announced that schools would also be closed on the Thursday.

On the Wednesday afternoon the boys really fancied going out for a walk while the snow was still falling heavily. So we did.

I wrapped Fraser up doubly warm with a blanket since he would be sitting still on the sledge - he was finding it tricky to walk in the snow as parts of it were so deep. He was like a little Eskimo prince being pulled around by everybody.

And by the time we reached the park, just 5 minutes away, he looked more like he had been on an Antarctic Expedition!

Fraser wasn't the only one who looked like a Polar explorer!

On Wednesday night we measured the depth of the snow in the garden, and it was about 11 inches deep.

Thursday saw the snow continue to fall, and some impressive looking icicles were forming on the house.

The heavy wind had made snow drifts all around the back garden.

And up against the back door too.

Once again everybody wrapped up and headed out to play.

Our ruler disappeared in the snow when we tried to measure the depth of it and so we measure how far down we had to dig to find it. This time the snow was 17 inches deep.

The car was obviously still not going anywhere!

But the boys had fun.

They decided to work together to build an igloo, although we realised that we were never going to work out how to do the roof properly and so it was going to be more of a snow fort than an igloo.

Our other problem was that the only tub we could find for making bricks was a Carte D'Or ice cream tub, which meant that our bricks were pretty small!

The cold Easterly wind meant that it felt even colder outside than was forecast, and so we couldn't stay out for very long before coming back in to warm up.

We ate a lot of soup on these snow bound days!

Meanwhile the whole of the central belt of Scotland had ground to a halt. Mr Housefulofboys had been working from home since Tuesday and all travel networks were advising people not to travel anywhere.

The forecast had said that there would be less snow falling on Thursday than there had been on the Wednesday. That wasn't the case with us, as you can see in this clip I took after lunch on Thursday.

On Friday the schools were closed again. The snow didn't fall quite as heavily throughout Friday as it had done the previous few days, but there was no sign of it thawing at any point soon.

The younger boys still enjoyed playing outside for short spells, until they got too cold.

By this stage of the week we had run out of bread. The older boys had trudged through the snow with dad to the local shop on Thursday evening, only to find it looking like something from the Eastern Block during the Communist Era. There was no bread, milk, eggs, meat, fruit or veg at all. Thankfully our freezer was well stocked with enough to keep us going, except for bread, and so on Friday I made some Soda Bread to have with yet another lunch of soup.

By Saturday our street was just about passable by car, and once we had dug it out we decided to venture out to Sainsbury's to stock up on supplies. We had heard from others in our street that all of the big supermarkets were struggling with fresh food supplies as none of the supply lorries had been able to get in and out of the depots all week. 

Once we made it out of our street the main roads were now clear, which is more than can be said for the Sainsbury's car park!

It was obviously the first day all week that many people had ventured out to the shops and the only time I have seen Sainsbury's quite so busy is on Christmas Eve!

The rumours about the fresh supplies proved to be true, and this was what the bread aisle looked like - no comments about the state of the Scottish diet and the fact that the only two loaves left were wholemeal ones please! 

On the Sunday, after the morning service, Fraser and his little cousin made a snowman the same size as them. I think they must have had some help from their brothers.

By Monday schools were all open again, the trains were running again, and things began moving again across the country.

The following morning we woke up to another morning of heavy snow and covered roads.

Thankfully the snow stopped by lunchtime and from then on the thaw set it. Albeit a slow one. 

Now three weeks later there are still mounds of snow around that haven't melted away, although it has mostly all gone. We had yet another heavy snowfall on Saturday night/Sunday morning there, but nowhere near as bad.

The boys are now well over the excitement of any new snow falls. It was fun while it was here, but the novelty of it has worn off now and like me they are very much looking forward to Spring making it's long awaited appearance