Culture vulture

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Berlioz, Bach and Johnny Ball pull Rachel Stratton's strings

Favourite music

I love Grieg's piano music and the orchestral sound of Berlioz, especially his Symphonie Fantastique. And I'm very fond of Bach's works for the violin. Two friends played the beautiful slow movement from his double violin concerto in D minor at our wedding in the village church three years ago. I played piano and violin at school but was always much better at the violin: passed Grade VIII, led the school orchestra and went on Saturday mornings to the Harrow School for Young Musicians. Then I played in the orchestra at Exeter University.

But now I live right out in the country with my husband Barney, a farmer, and son Rafe (16 months) it's difficult to play the violin. I tend to play easy classics on our upright piano, with Rafe banging away at the same time.

Best book ever

A Passage to India by EM Forster. But since I've had Rafe and gone back to teaching full-time I've hardly read a sensible book. I have to concentrate so much during the day that I need trash to relax in the evening. One recent exception was The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho: quite deep, about dealing with life and listening to your heart, much needed after becoming a mother.

Rare outings

Last summer, we went up to a Prom in London because I was desperate to hear Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain live. I'm looking forward to hearing the violinist Nicola Benedetti (pictured), the BBC Young Musician of the Year, play at the Marlborough College summer school this month.

Best time to myself

I get up very early, drive to Salisbury and swim for an hour from 6.15am while Barney gets Rafe up. Just lengths of front crawl. It's when I sort things out and plan my teaching. It's the only time I get to myself. By the time I get to school at 7.30am, I'm ready for the day.

Best school trip

Tales of Maths and Legends, a musical for younger children by Johnny Ball based on the maths background to Pythagoras, trigonometry and so on. It was terrific: much better and more informative than that boring Technoquest in Cardiff.

Rachel Stratton, 30, teaches maths at the Godolphin School, an independent girls' school in Salisbury, Wiltshire. She was talking to Biddy Passmore

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