What I Did Today

...well, technically what I did yesterday and today, since we started at 5 in the morning yesterday and finished at about 1:15 today (keep in mind I was talking about finishing at 1:15 in the morning and I didn't get any proper sleep...). Important note: Names have NOT been changed, because no-one's done anything wrong. This means you can sue me into oblivion.

The reason I'm talking about it is that firstly, it was really fun and secondly, part of it is something you'd want to tell your grandchildren about. You see, the chamber choir (which I'm part of) and CCF from my school were going to dedicate a plaque to old boys who lost their lives in wars at St. George's Memorial Church - incidentally, the chaplain said it was probably going to be the last school plaque dedicated here for the foreseeable future, making it a bit more special for us - and then us choir were going to sing at Menin Gate. I know quite a few choirs sing there anyway, but it's still something special to sing at such an important ceremony.

At this point, some people might think we were being disrespectful to sing at the Last Post ceremony. I'd like to point out that we didn't sing "My Heart Will Go On" or something like that - we sang Psalm 121. Not being religious, I'm not sure how appropriate that was. What I do know is that 1) we sang it really well and 2) it felt solemn. Furthermore, we spent about half the day doing remembrance stuff, so it wasn't just another stop on the tour as it is for some choirs.

I was off like a shot in the morning because I thought I was going to be late - cue me dressing quickly and wolfing down my food like a maniac. Alas, it was all for nothing, since we started half an hour later than we should have. On the way there was a hell of a lot of bantering, including a very weird game of 20 questions where I dissolved into giggles, as everyone missed my (very obvious) person - it was Plato. On the Eurostar I got blackmailed into doing physics at uni (again).

After reaching Calais, we piled back on the coach to go to Ypres; right now I should mention that we had a guide with us who apparently used to be in the army. He was quite a friendly, intelligent guy who joked around with us, tried to get us to learn stuff (it only half-worked, since my school is dumber than a box of rocks) and was very good at describing what it would have been like for the soldiers in WW1, in contrast to a previous WW1 trip which didn't teach me anything. We ended up going to Sanctuary Wood Museum, where we managed to get our choir (which the guide christened the Glee Club) into some kind of formation and I had to work out the pitch of a 1916 whistle (I have something approximating perfect pitch)...also, we had to make up a rap with two verses and a chorus, and we had to do all the effects. Seeing as we're a church choir and not a rap group (and we bantered a lot about this - we tried to do gospel songs last year and failed hilariously), we ended up with two limericks instead, written by Sam and Chris (two year 13s and the loudest tenors you'll ever meet) with input from other people when we felt like it. Seeing as neither of them study English, it should come as no surprise to you that they're crap and don't even rhyme properly:

There once was a poor old shoe
Whose owner didn't have a clue
It got drenched
In a World War trench
So what was Sam to do?

We went to Tyne Cot
Where we saw a lot
The weather was fine
The design was sublime
For they will never be forgot

...Anyway. The museum itself is actually pretty interesting and I wish we had had more time to pootle around the collection of photos and artifacts; as it was, we ended up in the trenches (which are tiny, winding and muddy as hell - they could easily drive a person crazy), where we learnt a bit about the average day (and night) of a soldier. Incidentally, some of the CCF people are probably going to be generals and air marshals some day, judging by their conduct. I took quite a lot of photos there and pootled over quite a lot of rather unsafe-looking metal covers...I was going to go through the tunnel, but I would have ended up ankle-deep in muddy water.

After that, we were off to Tyne Cot for lunch and to see the memorial there. Again, more banter and more history too - it was refreshing to be able to mourn and reflect privately rather than being forced into it, as I was on another trip (I'd rather not go into details). Us choir girls changed and had to guard the bus to stop the boys from seeing, and then we were off again to Ypres and St George's Memorial Church. The CCF went to see a museum while we went to rehearse, but they got to go to the chocolate shop and we didn't. Cue everyone in choir, including the Upper Sixth (some of who are eighteen and legal adults) desperately trying to get Amelia and Mr Stanbury to buy us chocolate - it didn't work. Then we had to cart everything to the church while some of the girls rushed to get their bags from the coach, not having heeded the warning that said coach would be driving off while we were doing our stuff.

So we rehearsed in the church sans chocolate. If you ever go there - and it's a pretty place - it's absolutely covered with plaques. The only places spared are the floor and ceiling, probably because they couldn't figure out how to get them up there. Keep in mind that this is even more impressive when you consider that each plaque has to be approved by both the Church of England and (if I recall correctly) the Belgian government. The church, by the way, is tiny - even the choir stalls are a squeeze. There were about 16 of us, but we couldn't fit everyone in...well, we just about managed in the end, but it was rather difficult. A side effect of this tininess is that it's really easy to fill the church with sound, and so we had to go easy on the pieces and float them. Oh well, we can sing them with our eyes closed anyway, so it's not a big deal. We finally polished off our psalm, everyone asking me for F# all the while, and we went for a break - more sitting on the grass and eating while Chris warmed up on the trumpet (he was playing the Last Post), we asked the CCF people about the chocolate, and everyone else having a go on the trumpet as well. Then came the actual dedication service, which was packed with people - both the CCF and OAs, as well as our school chaplain, the Headmaster and the Head Boy. All in all, it was quite a good service - quite moving - and we did well, I think. We had a good gander at the plaque and talked to the OAs quite a bit. Even though it must have been a good couple of decades since they left, they still remember their houses and they still have that house loyalty...it's really amazing. You see, my school's quite small and it's a bit like a family. I guess they had that feeling back then as well. Then we carted everything back to the Head's minibus, including some CCF stuff which said CCF people had neglected to take back, and on the way to the Novotel (where the Head was having a reception) the father of one of the tenors (not Sam or Chris) struck up a conversation with me. Seeing as this tenor and his family are all quite cultured and musical, I was rather flattered.

The Novotel was very fancy, but absolutely boiling. Even Lydia, who's always cold, thought it was boiling...over a dinner of chicken and chips and some free Coke we made conversation, while the other table was in an uproar of laughter and I tried to get to sleep on the table. Most of the choir went to get chocolate without telling Lydia...and she was pissed off when she found out, I can tell you. We tried to get out into something approximating open air, where the school chaplain was fascinated by bent spoons and someone made up a meme involving him and the Assistant Director of Music kissing...at least, as per Poe's Law, I think it was a meme. (To the best of my knowledge, both parties are straight. There. Now you can't sue me for implying they're gay when I've already explicitly stated something to the contrary...or can you? Oh well, there's worse out there.)

After the school chaplain tried to pocket the spoons (which are quite cute, I must admit), I offered to go to the chocolate shop with Lydia, since she really did want to go. This was when we found out that everyone else had already been...at any rate, Mr Rose gave us permission to go if we were at Menin Gate in 20 minutes, and also gave us a map because I wasn't quite sure which way it was. As Lydia is in year 13 and I'm in year 10, he also told her to look after me...we exchanged a few funny looks when we heard that. Especially since I did the navigation.

We went out, walked to Menin Gate because we didn't know where the shop was (or what it was called - I guessed Leonidas), walked back because there were only 2 directions we could go in, found the shop, got high from the smell of chocolate and bought waaaaaaaaaay too much. Best of all, it was only 10 euros - and I was right about the shop name. We got to Menin Gate on time, since it was only across the street, and the rest of the choir ended up being 5 minutes late...ooh. We stood around bantering, got into formation, and I had to give everyone the first four notes, since we didn't bring anything to find a pitch with. Keep in mind I'm talking about the Last Post ceremony, the one where you're not allowed to screw up. At all. So...no pressure!

It was an extraordinarily solemn occasion, and I think we acquitted ourselves well: the acoustics were great and the psalm was probably the best we've ever done it...shame we don't have a recording. At least, I can't find one on Youtube. (If you can, post me a link.) After that, the day was pretty much done and we piled back on the coach to the Eurostar, where the other coach in our party got to go on an earlier train and we didn't...and we were both stopped by UK border police, because apparently busfuls of British schoolchildren are havens full of terrorists and illegal immigrants.

We tried to get onto the earlier train, and I phoned my parents to tell them this. In this way I apparently managed to jinx the entire coach, because not only did we miss the early train, our normal one was delayed due to signalling failure. (Incidentally, my attempt to jinx WW3 didn't work.) I went into crazy survival mode and calculated how long we could survive - answer, not long, because I don't think we had that much water and although we had food, most of it was nutritionally crap (although it tasted good). At least I didn't lose the game - someone else did. (Oh, and you just lost.)

Fortunately, they got the signals working again and we were off. The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful, but it was a good day - and I'm still tired.

Additional notes:

  • "Stop copulating!" - said by either Tori or Chris in response to Sam and Sophie snuggling.
  • Mr Rose's reaction to the above.
  • Ben rapping.
  • Ian the sixtysomething theory teacher (I think he's in his sixties, but I'm honestly not sure because he never seems to age) being appointed a breakdancer.
  • Abi and Dumbledore.
  • Abi getting furious when I proclaimed myself the anti-Dumbledore (as in matter and antimatter).
  • Me giggling hysterically when nobody guessed my person was Plato in 20 questions, because I thought it was obvious.
  • Me guessing Mike Huckabee for Chris's person in 20 questions. It was George Bush and I overcomplicated things.
  • Some of the sixth formers think I act older than I actually am.
  • So far I've been blackmailed into doing physics (twice) by Chris, maths by Ms Swarray-Deen (who almost had a heart attack when she heard I was thinking of doing physics at uni) and biology by Miss Nugent.
  • Mr Rose taking a while to twig it when I said I would like to get the choir to do Sumer is icumen in. (Here is a link to the Wikipedia if you don't know what that is, now go edumacate yourself, please.) To be fair, though, we were all dog tired, and he was fine when I suggested doing the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day by Purcell. (Interestingly, I got that one wrong: because it's marked as being the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, which is actually called Hail! bright Cecilia or the Ode to St. Cecilia (Z.328), on a CD of mine, that's what I thought it was called. The actual piece I wanted to do is called Welcome to all the pleasures (Z.339). So if you're reading this and you go to my school, or you think you do, please tell him about the correction!)
  • Sam lying down with his long legs blocking the gangway + Sam refusing to move + me refusing to go round the other way because I'm a stubborn cow + me being short + me accidentally straddling Sam's legs while trying to step over them + a certain sixth former with a dirty mind who shall not be named here = FAIL.