Blog: The Autumn so Far

Time for a blog, methinks. Yes, you all thought I’d forgotten about these didn’t you? Well, no such luck, I’m afraid.

Why the delay in blogging activity, then? Do you remember that thing that happened a while ago when the sun came out? I think it was called “summer”? Well, during that happy time I was of course far too busy to be writing any blogs. After all, there was gin & tonic drinking to be done. Got to get one’s priorities straight.

In between drinks, I did find time to help out around the theatre, rigging lanterns, pressing buttons, that sort of thing.

If there are any Health & Safety Officers reading this, then I would like to reassure you that, yes, of course I waited for the intoxicating effects of the gin to wear off before I went anywhere near a ladder. I have no desire to be humiliated on YouTube.

Anyway. All that was some time ago, and we are now well into autumn, both in terms of our theatre programme, and the weather.

 

A few weeks ago an event was held at the theatre in commemoration of a gentleman named Trevor Shears, who sadly passed away about eighteen months ago.

If you’re interested, you can read about him and his importance by clicking here, because I am instead going to talk about the other half of the day’s events: the concert put on by the fantastic Eileanóra Ni Charthaig and some of her musical chums.

I may be able to spell Eileanóra’s name, but it is a better man than I who can pronounce it.

We’ve hosted the occasional concert here before. You are probably familiar with the Jazz Picnics we traditionally hold on a beautiful summer’s rainy day.

Musicians roll up to the theatre in some sort of vehicle or vehicles, and proceed to extract from it not only themselves, but the most extraordinary amount of equipment: music stands, microphones, amps, pre-amps, speakers, subwoofers, miles upon miles of cabling and of course, instruments. When one observes the effort put in by drummers and bassists in particular, one can’t help but think that the harmonica player has the right idea.

We have our own PA System in the studio, of course, but it is haunted. So we tend not to use it for gigs. The poltergeist causes enough frustration when getting the balance right with just a backing track, let alone a whole five-piece band. This is why bands bring their own system. Plus, it saves me having to worry about it.

There was the usual set-up. Sound checks and the like, a bit of rehearsal. Everything was going just fine.

The time came for the gig, the audience were seated and the performers came on stage. Eileanóra sat down behind her electric piano and pressed one of the keys.

Silence.

The poltergeist, it seems, had struck.

Things often go wrong, of course. The phrase “Technical Difficulties” is one we are all familiar with. Particularly us technicians. It’s like a call to arms. And within seconds of hearing it, there we are, screwdriver in one hand, spanner in the other, and a roll of Gaffa Tape perched on our head for good measure.

As it transpired (after a few minutes in which I remained wholly calm, I assure you), the fix was a simple one. The male BS 1363 had become separated from it’s female outlet counterpart, causing a disruption in the electrical circuit, and therefore preventing the current from flowing through the electrical equipment.

Or, to put it another way, there was a break in the line and neutral conductors between the wiring in the fixed installation and the wiring in the appliance, which, as air is a superb electrical insulator, was creating resistance more than sufficient to impede the required Wattage from reaching the live parts.

Or, to put it a third way, the plug had come out of the wall.

Stay tuned for more electrical mumbo-jumbo.

Once I had performed the highly technical manoeuvre of plugging it back in, the PA system sprung into action, and the gig continued unhindered, and we were granted the acoustic delights of Mess of Blues, Summertime and an unusually jazzy version of The Rare Old Mountain Dew, which is a brilliant traditional Irish tune and has nothing to do with the bottles of green, fizzy stuff that Americans seem to like. Anyway, fantastic music, very much my kind of thing. And if you missed it, then… why? What were you doing?

 

Now for more electrical mumbo-jumbo.

It was about 8:30am when I found myself sat in my car outside the FDC, on the outskirts of Norwich. “FDC”, as I was surprised to learn as I entered the complex, stands for “Football Development Centre”. I feel the time is right for some sort of quip regarding the sporting performance of Norwich City FC, but I shall refrain, as I fear their supporter would hunt me mercilessly.

I digress. I should be telling you why I was in such a place. Nothing to do with football, thank goodness. This was the improbable meeting place for the Plugtest training course. And I was soon to find myself in a small room accompanied by eight men, all of whom had considerably less hair than I do.

I was to learn, over the course of two days, how to perform the in-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment. And I can say with complete sincerity that yes, it really is as exciting as it sounds.

For those of you who aren’t sure what that is, you know those green “PASS” stickers that you get on electrical equipment? Yeah, I was learning how to stick those on.

There is more to it than just sticking the label on, of course. It doesn’t take two days to learn how to do that. We had to learn how to perform polarity tests, insulation resistance tests, earth continuity tests, leakage tests and, of course, functional checks. Almost without exception, these tests are performed by plugging the thing into another thing, and pressing a button. But it’s useful (and actually quite interesting) to know the theory behind it.

There was an exam, as part of this training. A practical test and a multiple choice questionnaire, which featured a number of fiendishly phrased questions.

The practical element was quite straightforward. Test two appliances and fill out the necessary paperwork. I was given a lamp and a hairdryer, which rather elegantly summed up both my working and personal life.

I jest, of course. I never use a hairdryer. Terribly bad for one’s hair, you know.

The theory exam was rather more taxing. I thought, now that I had left university, I was done with this kind of thing. But no. Once again, I was to be ruthlessly quizzed. There were a few questions about about the nominal protective conductor resistance of a 30m flex with a c.s.a of 2.5mm2. Or the situations in which a residual current device would disconnect the supply. Or the precise manner in which a Class III appliance is isolated via a SELV source. They were all easy.

The hard questions were the ones about the regulations and legal what-not. Those aren’t things that are dictated by physics. They were decided. Probably on a whim. And can easily be misinterpreted.

But, at least as far as the exam is concerned, I did not misinterpret them. I am now certifiably “competent”. My mother has never been so proud.

In order to do this sort of testing, one doesn’t actually need any specific qualifications, which surprised me. One just needs to be, as they put it, “competent”. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to say what you have to be competent at. You see what I mean about misinterpretation?

 

Last week we had some guests. Rather a lot of guests, in fact. Dizzy’s Dance Studio, which is a dance school based in Swaffham had put together a showcase of rather impressive scale. The performers numbered in what seemed to be the hundreds, but more realistically numbered in the dozens. Still a lot to fit on our stage. Even the very youngest students were involved. They looked barely old enough to be walking. And they were still better at tap dancing than I am.

The show, entitled A Classical Twist, brought together a huge variety of dance and musical styles. Tap, ballet, street dance, other ones that I don’t know the name of, and some Irish dancing for the finale.

It was a week of quite hard work. Lots to be done, and not much time to do it in. On the plus side, I’ve had a lot of practice at programming chase sequences into the control board. Lighting thirty-four different pieces uniquely was certainly a challenge. I hope I rose to it, and I hope I did the choreography justice. Not for me to judge, really, is it?

Regardless, it was good to have people around, and maybe we’ll see them again, sometime. Keep dancing.

 

I’ve just glanced at the word count. I think it’s about time I stopped talking and did some proper work.

Before I do, I must mention the 22nd of November. On the 22nd (that’s a Sunday) we will be holding an Open Day between 10am and 2pm, in the hope that we might be able to find a few folks who are interested in volunteering, either on-, off- or backstage. Keeping this place running would be impossible without all the people who volunteer their time. If you are at all interested, click here to read more about the Open Day.

There. That’s my good deed for this blog done. I’ll shut up now.

 

Oh, one more thing. Shirley Valentine opens next week. Tickets here.  They’re going very quick.

 

All done. Ta-ra.

-Merlyn

 

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