Piano teaching update

I’ve bought a sheet music manuscript pad for things like scales.

I’ve written usual and unusual notation holding for 4 notes and holding for 1 note of all major scales.

The reason for unusual notation for left hand is to help with understanding the same starting place. This may not work!

We’ve started to cover timings and holding notes, touched on but not really covered sharp/flat notes so this is for practice in between lessons.

We’ve covered different hand clefs at start of each line. We’ve done a simple piano arrangement of Ode to Joy and the next hopefully familiar piece is a slightly less simple piano arrangement of Bach’s Prelude. Trying to use pieces that can easily hum between lessons so the tune sticks.

Bajiquan – core, standing, hips

One has to learn fundamentals through separate practice before Bajiquan can be applied a) correctly then b) correctly and flowing


  1. Standing – zhan zhuang and when time in gym will add back against wall, bend knees, hold a weight
  2. Core & hips opening (for now – yoga and see if works)

Ruskin lecture – Beate Howitt, Guild of St George

There’s a mini reunion of May Queens at the lecture, some of whom have not been to Whitelands since the 1970s.

May Queen festival not just about fun and education – trying to do the best you can in your own life.

Beate used to standing in front of children as a teacher. She was at Whitelands Womens college in Putney in 1950s. Everyone lived in as students.

The government introduced 2 year teacher training course and in exchange for a grant, had to commit to 2 years teaching.

May Queen core duties to be charitable works. In the first month had to start teaching. At end of 2nd term, asked to vote for May Queen. Secret ballot paper had to also write vital statistics, so that dress could be made.

Her tutor had created the last 27 years gowns, included during the war – no fabric. Embroidered name of Queen on white muslin.

Some students asked to collect flowers from Covent Garden. Had staves with cowslips attached to the top. Was anxious because invited guardians but they hadn’t arrived.

Her family were German, fleeing the war, living outside as refugees. Settled in a part of Germany that was allocated to British government. Played in streets without shoes, insufficient food and no books.

So told at 17 was not university material but was accepted by Whitelands.

She had been bullied in Uk schools prior to college because her family were foreign and they were called Nazis. However her sporting abilities won them over. Still felt that didn’t quite belong, couldn’t invite people over. In Germany 5 of them shared one room, in UK 5 shared one house. Helped in church, youth work.

Given books as part of May Queen. Became part of a community that had existed since 1880s. Very impressed by Ruskin and social reform outlook.

She wanted to try and make the world a better place, open young minds and inspire them to enjoy nature, learning. Was introduced to care home next door and started to help there occasionally.

Ruskin argued for boys and girls to be given same advantages. He wanted cultivation of moral, spiritual kind, arts, debating meaning of life, delight in nature. Children flourish woth independent, self-directed learning – includes tolerance, Compassion, respect.

Found teaching heartwarming. Helping children to learn to see e.g. through drawing. Education where the mind is liberated from preconceptions and dogma. The May Queen offered a life transforming experience and being accepted for whom she is, in her adopted country. Developed confidence and enriched life beyond measure.

And now for something completely different – May Day Festival at Roehampton

Whitelands is having it’s annual May day festival tomorrow which is very traditional. Students elect a King and Queen who get suitable robes made and it’s all good fun with returning May Monarchs from generations past. I’m not attending tomorrow but going to the Ruskin lecture this evening:

One of Ruskin’s Whitelands College May Queens: Her Personal Story”

Beate, who was May Queen in 1957, has had a life-long interest in Ruskin’s ideas. She will talk about her journey as a refugee from Nazi Germany, her memories of the day itself, and her reflections on the ways in which her election as the May Queen finally gave her a sense of acceptance and belonging in this country.

The testimony of a teacher who has followed the Festival for more than sixty years will give a uniquely personal insight into the strange tradition of Whitelands’ May Day, and inspire today’s students to appreciate how valuable this tradition is.

Whitelands history

Some pics:

Inner May Pole in the college

black and white photos of May MonarchsCollage of May Monarchs throughout the 2000s

Briefing Note: Update on the Salisbury poisonings

Tim Hayward

The following briefing note is developed by academics researching the use of chemical and biological weapons during the 2011-present war in Syria. The note reflects work in progress. However, the substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political situation in the Middle East and UK-Russian relations. The authors welcome comments and corrections.

Authors: Professor Paul McKeigue (University of Edinburgh), Professor David Miller (University of Bath) and Professor Piers Robinson (University of Sheffield)

For correspondence:  piers.robinson@sheffield.ac.uk/+447764763350 ; Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda (syriapropagandamedia.org).

Key points

  • The Skripals were exposed to a phosphoroamidofluoridate compound named A-234, of high purity indicating that it was most likely prepared for research purposes.
  • A-234 or similar compounds have been synthesized at bench scale by national chemical defence labs in Russia and the US in the 1990s, and more recently in Iran and Czechia. A small quantity of A-234…

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Victory Day с днём победы

This evening I went with my Ukrainian friend to Mazaika duo concert at Pushkin House in London. My friend was born in the Soviet Union and was used to celebrating Victory Day in Ukraine with parades.

They played and sang a Ukrainian song too. Amazingly talented couple.

Mazaika duo elsewhere:

Chatbots update – Roebots, Russian Bots, learning and teaching

Everything blogged so far: Chatbotblogposts

Chatbot interesting articles:

A colleague recently presented at an internal learning and teaching festival and we got lots of interest in use of chatbots. Internal experimentation over the next few months focused on customer services functions of chatbots e.g. as sources of information when asked questions. Moodle chatbot experimentation on hold because of wider integration of help functionality with other services. Roehampton have an existing public Roebot on https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/ at the bottom right-hand corner of page:

screenshot of roebot chat window






Students and staff can use a virtual librarian chatbot service:

screenshot of virtual librarian





For specific chatbots to enhance learning and teaching processes – beyond simple communication, we are currently exploring both dialogflow and botlibre. Over the summer we will be working with students who will be initially designing a bot to help with basic information sourcing (probably botlibre) but will use this to help understand more complex conversation structures (possibly dialogflow). This will have learning and teaching elements with the student involvement but for ethical approval timeframe reasons, we are not sure at this point whether they will be psychology research projects or mini learning and teaching projects or both. As per the learning and teaching research process, it may not be possible practically to find enough time. We aim to have a working infobot ideally by September but definitely by October.

Unfortunately still not possible to develop multilingual Russian/English chatbot building due to everything else but this may emerge as we develop the structures for the infobot and alternatives ways of saying things based on personal native language/s.

Here’s a banking Russian / English chatbot though: http://www.talkbank.io/en/