Castle Toward

Castle Toward – Yesterday

Yesterday, I was delivering a training session in Dunoon, and I took the opportunity to visit an old stomping ground – Castle Toward. For those who are possibly unaware, Castle Toward was a residential centre where many thousands of young people, myself included, spent many happy times learning and teaching music. The building itself is a magnificent old place and it was not unusual for pupils to be in tears when they left there for the last time before they left school.

In recent years, however, it has stopped being used as a residential centre, and had fallen into a state of disrepair, as a local community group tried to buy it from the council, who disagreed with the sale, and a lengthy legal battle ensued.

I went along yesterday to see if I would be allowed to see the place, and lo and behold, I simply walked up the drive, and there the old girl stood. Not only was the building still there, but there were people working in and around it. On speaking to a friendly workman, I discovered that it has been sold to a local businessman with the view to turning it into a wedding and function venue. With that information, as I looked around I could see that the terrace has had new concrete finials installed, there is a state-of-the-art security system in place with cameras everywhere, and the rooms inside are in the process of upgrading to modern standards, by all accounts.

I posted a picture of the castle on facebook, with the caption saying that I’m not sure what type of emoji to use. I’m happy that the castle is going to be used again, but not happy that it is no longer going to be a residential centre that many future generations of children can benefit from, in the way that many past generations have.

So I suppose the emoji should be the one with the straight mouth – neither happy nor sad.


New Website

I’ve decided (again!) to redo my online presence, and bring everything into a single website – this one, to be exact!

Over the years, I have had various sites, under various names – LoNoteMusic, Martin-Thomson, Music Made Easy, Scottish Music Services etc. That just got confusing for everyone, including me. So, I have made the decision to bring everything under a single site, and only have 2 domain names pointing at it – and That way, if you search for me, you’ll find me.

I WILL be keeping it updated. I haven’t been good at that in the past, but call it a mid-year resolution – I’m doing it!

I may be offering a sales service as time goes on, but only for very occasional things. I have decided that the sales side of what I do is too time-consuming and just plain awkward, and so I will be removing the option of reselling other companies software. I may offer some of my own stuff for sale (services, compositions etc), and I will be keeping in touch with the big companies, so if you need something, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. The good thing about that is that because I’m not focusing on sales, I’m not that fussed about making big profits, so my prices should be competitive!

So, enjoy the site, and keep in touch, either via my blog, or via the Contact ¬†page. I’m always delighted to hear from you!

First blog of 2017

Well, here we are – 2017 already! In fact, we’re a fair way through the first month of 2017, and this is the first chance I’ve had to update the blog.

I don’t want this to become a simple list of everything I’m up to, but I do need to mention what is going on in my life during January. In the second half of last year, I applied for and won a tender to provide music training in Aberdeenshire Primary Schools using the fabulous Charanga resource ( if you’re interested, by the way!). The plan was to deliver this on and off over the first three months of the year, but when I contacted the schools to set up the dates, they pretty much all went for January. This means, of course, that I am now spending Mon – Wed in Aberdeenshire, and Thu-Fri teaching in Bearsden for the full month of January. It’s great fun doing the actual work, working in schools with the heady role of 18 pupils, but it does entail a 3-hour drive every Monday morning, and every Wednesday evening. So far the weather has been kind, and it looks like it will be this week too, but that area is notorious for school closures due to snow in January, so I’m keeping my fingers well and truly crossed.

So that’s my diary taken care of, let me tell you about the fevered thoughts going on in my wee brain.

Language. Brilliant isn’t it? I was in a shop in rural Aberdeenshire last week, and as I left, without thinking I said to the lady behind the counter “See ya later”. Back in the car, I thought – I’ll probably never see that lady again, but I just quite happily promised to encounter her again at some indeterminate time in the future. Now I know that it is just a throwaway figure of speech, but I got to thinking that we use a lot of these in our everyday use of the mother tongue. We use language figuratively all the time, saying things that we would never mean literally, but they convey exactly how we are feeling about something. “I could kill for a fish supper” does not mean that I would in fact commit murder, but it does convey how much I desire some fried seafood and vegetables. “It’s pouring down” – Is it really, or is it actually lots of droplets, as opposed to a steady stream of water? Even the standard “Och, that’s a lot of rubbish”, more often than not is descriptive rather than literal. Our language is full of these types of descriptive terms – I’m sure there is a proper name for them, but what it is beats me (It doesn’t actually beat me around the head, you understand, it’s just another example…).

So, as I drive up the A9 tomorrow, I have no idea what thoughts will enter my head. I have some time to kill in the hotel tomorrow evening, so you may get to hear them, if they’re of any interest.

See ya later…. ūüôā


Decline in Standards

I know, I know – two posts in two days, but this has been on my mind for a while now…

I am getting really rather frustrated at the decline in standards as regards the written word. I don’t only mean online, although that is by far the biggest culprit. I also am seeing more and more typos, bad grammar and just plain bad English in all sorts of places in the real world too.
I suppose I could be called a Grammar Nazi, in that I much prefer to see the language used properly. There are a few favourites(!) that always get my hackles up – “Loose” does not mean “unable to find”,”off”¬†means “not on”, not “pertaining to”,¬†¬†and of course the age-old “They’re, There, Their” conundrum, but I am seeing more and more new ones appearing on the scene recently.

For example, I have seen a few examples recently of people writing something along the lines of “he told me how good of a job I was doing”. The word “of” is completely redundant here, but it has appeared in print a number of times recently. In the real world, in things like newspapers. You know, the things written by people whose JOB it is to use the language properly?
Another one I have an issue with is something I have only very recently come across, mainly due to being on holiday and therefore able to access the delight that is daytime television, a genre that appears to be populated by a large number of ill-educated people from the UK and the USA, mainly in some sort of TV courtroom, or having an aggressive presenter shouting at them for having loose morals or for their poor parenting skills. Anyway, I have heard a number of these people say that they “axed” someone something, when they really mean “asked”. I mean, that is even harder to say, so you can’t call that laziness!

The last one I am seeing more and more recently, is the use of an apostrophe to try to indicate a plural. In the run up to Christmas, I saw honestly saw a sign in a supermarket advertising “50% of Brussel Sprout’s”. And this wasn’t a hastily hand-written sign, it was a printed¬† piece of cardboard, which probably meant that it had been proof-read!

Is it me???


Where have I been??!?

It has been a while since my last blog post, and for that I apologise. But then again, no I don’t!

It’s been a while, because I have been insanely busy. So much so, that when I get a moment to relax, the last thing I want to do is to sit down and write a blog post! (Sorry about that…)

So, what have I been up to? Well, I was given the chance to cover a colleagues absence until a permanent replacement was appointed. I decided to take the opportunity, even though it meant working full-time for 5 weeks. Now, when I say full-time, what I mean is TEACHING full-time, while still covering everything else I usually do in my 5 non-teaching days per week. I have to say – it damn near killed me! It’s a long time since I taught in schools every day from Monday to Friday, and it re-confirmed my belief that I really don’t want to go back to doing it full-time. Which makes the IT side of my life even more important.

And that is a good thing, because in the past 4 months or so, I have never been busier. I’ve had trips all over Scotland, from Aberdeen to the borders, plus a very pleasant trip to Sheffield. I’ve worked with a number of hats on, including Charanga, Finale, Cubase, Sibelius, plus of course my own LoNoteMusic fedora. All good, and with no sign of it slowing down in the new year, that can only be a good thing too! I have also been speaking to a training venue in Helensburgh about providing Music Technology and iPad training for them, so watch this space in 2017 for more news on that!

Musically, it’s been an interesting term. The fantastic pupils of East Dunbartonshire continue to surprise and delight me, and the Christmas Concerts with the EDC Concert Band and at Bearsden Academy were fantastic events at which the pupils excelled themselves and were a true credit to everyone who knows them.
But I suppose the big news musically, is that I am no longer the conductor of the YMCA Glasgow Wind Orchestra. That is because that ensemble no longer exists. We have now extracated ourselves from the YMCA/YPeople organisation and are “going it alone” under our new name – the City of Glasgow Wind Orchestra (CoGWO). We had our inaugural concert at Christmas, which went very well, and importantly, we had some excellent conversations with members of the audience which will have a very positive impact on us as we move into 2017.

So that’s you up to date with why I have been so quiet on here in the past few months. What’s coming up in 2017? Well, I will be spending a major part of January up in Aberdeenshire doing a YMI project, there’s a string possibility of some more AVID work on the horizon, plus of course teaching away (for 2 days only!) in EDC, and thoroughly enjoying conducting the fabulous CoGWO!

My New Year resolution is to be more active on here and on Twitter (1 post per day is the target on there, maybe one per week on here). Hopefully then, I will be able to share some thoughts about stuff, rather than simply bring you up to date with my various comings and goings!!

Tara for now!!


Been a busy summer!

As my teacher colleagues will confirm, we work so hard during term time that our holiday periods are sacrosanct. Different teachers have different priorities during their down-time; some get out of the country as much as possible, some use it to catch up with friends and family. Me, I tend to spend time in the garden, maybe catching up with some work I have been unable to fit in to the term, usually I make some new plans for the upcoming session.

This year was different, though. I started off by delivering a couple of training sessions to teachers from Glasgow schools as part of EdICT‘s Summer School program, where we run a fortnight of training sessions for staff who are unable to attend during term-time for whatever reason. I’m always wary of these, as you are never really sure if anyone will turn up – we are all full of good intentions during the term, but when it comes to July, and the sun is out, the temptation my be to just stay in the garden, rather than spend 90 minutes in front of a computer in a¬†school. Well, I’m delighted to say that the sessions I ran were very well attended, and the staff seemed to enjoy their time with me, which is always nice to hear!

I then had the opportunity to deliver a Music IT training day to colleagues at Barnsley Music Education Hub. When we were setting this up, way back in January, I suggested that it could be a major day, with instructor-led sessions on a variety of topics, along with a hands-on area with laptops running other software packages that staff could go and play with whenever they wanted. That is exactly what Alex, the Hub Manager wanted, and so we ended up having sessions on GarageBand for the iPad, General Music Apps for the iPad, Smart Music and Charanga. I also brought my suite of laptops that were running Sibelius, Finale, ProTools, Cubase and Sounds Active. All of this took a fair old while to set up and prepare for, and it turned into a full-on day, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed, and judging from the feedback forms, so did the staff. Job Done!

The Barnsley day was on a Friday, and I drove directly from there to tick an item off my bucket list – attending a Formula One Grand Prix. Living in Scotland, we don’t easily get the chance to see these machines up close and personal very often, and even though I had attended various motorsport events at Knockhill, I had always wanted to experience an F1 GP. Well, having spent 2 days at Silverstone, and seen and heard the cars at close quarters, I can now say that I have. Unfortunately, I left the event feeling somewhat underwhelmed. The race itself was vey processional, Lewis Hamilton led from lap one to the end, but my main gripe was the event as a spectacle. When I attend the BTCC event at Knockhill, there are support¬†races involving cars of all different types – single-seaters, Porches, Ginetta Junior and G50s, even Radicals, in addition to the 3 races from the Touring Cars. At Silverstone, there were F3, F2 and F1 cars, which were all very similar in style, sound and speed, plus the Porches. Add to that the fact that the crowd were VERY partisan in favour of Hamilton, to a hero-worship extent, which is a trait I have never understood, and I came away thinking that I was glad I was there, but I won’t be in a hurry to go back.

The next day, I had a meeting in Birmingham with the various other Regional Managers of Charanga Music Ltd, with whom I have been doing a lot of work over the past few years. It was good to meet everyone and put faces to names at last, and as usual, the atmosphere with the Charanga folks was as friendly and fun as ever. The meeting ended fairly soon, and we adjourned for a very nice lunch at a local Tapas bar, before the 5-hour drive home.

I then started preparing for the International Society for Music Education (ISME) conference in Glasgow, at which I was demonstrating Finale and Smart Music. This was a major international conference, and over the three days of the trade exhibition, we managed to have some great conversations with colleagues from all over the planet, from Africa to Australia, and from Sweden to the US of A.

I finished the summer off by attending the inaugural Ignition Festival of Motoring here in Glasgow – a great three days where I got to see and hear PROPER racing cars at close quarters, including Sebastian Vettel’s title-winning RB7 Red Bull in the hands of David Coulthard, the current BTCC title-holding Honda from Gordon Shedden, plus a huge range of supercars, hypercars, hot-rods, vintage cars, a live stunt show from the Top Gear team, and a huge exhibition in the SECC from all areas of motoring. Petrol-head heaven!

Throughout all of this, I have been suffering with an in-grown toenail, which on the face of it sounds trivial, but it is actually extremely painful. Not only because of the pain in my toe, but also because one tends to walk differently to compensate, which causes all sorts of other problems in the legs and knees. I have had regular visits to a podiatrist, and we have finally decided to get it removed once and for all. That happens this week, so hopefully I can start walking normally again, and with a bit of luck be pain-free for the first time in 2 years.

So, there is a round-up of my unusually busy summer. Schools go back in Glasgow at the end of this week, and in East Dunbartonshire next week. I’ll be glad of the rest!!