This week I'm not writing about Brazil. Instead, I'm taking the opportunity to show off the artistic talents of my children, partly for the simple reason that I'm hugely impressed by them and partly because I wanted to take a break from writing about Brazil. It's been a singularly unremarkable week and after last week's ramblings you could probably do with a break from my contrived comparisons between here and there.
Let's start with David, who is kindly providing the illustrations for this week's post. Not long before we moved out here I stood for an hour-and-a-half in a queue outside Cambridge's Apple Store in order to buy an iPad the day it was released. I'd wanted one ever since I'd first heard about them and I just knew it was going to be fantastic. Music, films, books, games... Everything I could possibly want in one neat little package. What I didn't realise, however, was that its primary function was actually going to be as David's personal sketchpad.
We found a few different drawing packages - nothing more expensive than 59p - and it took him no time at all to learn how to open them, work his way through all the available options for size, colour, style, etc, undo and edit and even to save them for future reference. Eventually, he even came to understand that saving each picture once was all that was necessary and having twenty copies of each picture really did take up a lot of memory.
Of course, David could paint perfectly well before we bought the iPad and has been producing carefully painted and interesting pictures ever since he could hold a brush. He's clearly the most artistically talented member of the family, though sadly this is no great compliment as the competition is risible - although to be fair, Helen is something of a demon when it comes to walls and skirting boards. But being rather unsentimental parents, we've kept no more than about four or five works from David's 'acrylic on paper' period and none at all from his more experimental 'mixed media on vinyl floor tile' period.
And that's the real beauty of the iPad as an artist's tool; it's convenient, clean, dries instantly and comes with its own storage facility. But at the same time, it still allows David to use his fingers in a way that painting on a standard computer with a mouse doesn't, and somehow that seems a bit more like 'proper' painting to me.
In actual fact, he's stopped doing so many iPad paintings recently and has gone back to pen and paper. This is partly to copy James, who still spends a lot of time designing maps and assault courses and alternate galaxies, but now does it in super-fine detail with his new Stabilo pens, and party because he's now discovered that the iPad also has games on it. Games where you can drive trains, no less! Compared to that, painting - even painting trains - just doesn't cut it.
James, as usual, has been displaying his talents through his music. He has started guitar lessons once more and his new teacher is great. Not only is he hugely impressed with James' ability (and what sort of parent wouldn't be won over by that?) but he's also discovered the knack of constantly correcting James without James getting stroppy and answering back with snide comments as happens whenever Helen or I try it.
Here he is playing one of his new pieces. It's called Stony Creek Blues.
And when he's not playing guitar, he's singing. He was invited to join the junior choir and has been having great fun going to practice after school on Tuesdays. It helps that choir is taught by Mr Murphy, who happens to be James' humanities (and overall favourite) teacher and I'm sure a fair bit of his commitment is an attempt to impress Mr Murphy.
Last week they gave their first public performance and we were treated to three songs. The first was The Prep Song, a predictably saccharine little ditty extolling the virtues of the St Pauls seven to eleven year olds. Still it was nicely sung. The other two songs were the Canoe Song and Down in the Jungle - both much livelier and more fun, both for the singers and the audience.
Next up will be a carol concert I believe. James has been practicing Once in Royal David's City and apparently the best male singer gets to do the first verse as a solo. James is being considered for the task, but is very unconfident and isn't sure he actually has the guts to stand up and do it. Later on, when he gets back from school, I'll see if he'll let me film him giving it his best shot.
Well, he did, and here it is.
So there you have it. Proud parent corner finished. I'm sure those of you with children of your own are now probably saying something along the lines of, "meh, my little Johnny/Janey could do better than that when they were two years old," to which I respond with, "go get your own blog then."
This one is almost exclusively for the grandparents.