Monday, 19 September 2016

No rheumatism there.

I spotted this video coming up in a list underneath a video that one of my friends posted on Facebook - it really made me smile.  And as Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens again it seems appropriate. As my father would have said "There's no rheumatism there!"

Have a great week with lots of energy and smiles.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Learning new skills - go gently

Today I'm reminding myself to go gently.

I did a search for some music to go with this phrase and found this artist whom I'd never heard of before ... Suzanne Ciani - she's a synthesist ... I love the melody...


A friend called the other day to get help from my other half with her computer.  She was berating herself for not being able to do basic things on her new laptop,   I was trying to tell her that we all feel like that even if we're using the computer all the time but she wasn't hearing me to go easy and she'd get there.

Recently I've been working on arrangements for singing workshops and for my choir.  It's something I've avoided assiduously for years because the relevant software is sooooo slow to work with and on the face of it quite complicated.  And of course, having a go every 2 or 3 months isn't going to help the learning process.   By the time I get back to it, I've forgotten the little bits I did learn.

We live in a culture that demands instant gratification and that rewards speed and competence.  But what happens if we just slowed down and did a little bit everyday - eventually we get the desired result - a new skill or whatever.   And especially as we get older, or just have too much going on in our heads it gets harder and harder to learn everything quickly.

To paraphrase Homer Simpson - to learn something new, something old has to go out ... or something along those lines...
I love that idea, and it makes sense to me when I'm trying to learn more song words - something simply has to be forgotten to make room to remember something new.

So, deep breath and back to see if I can finally get to grips with this software.

Keep trying y'all and go gently.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Around These Parts: The Janus Figure

The Janus Figure
Recently we took a visit to Caldragh Cemetery on the East end of the Boa island to see the famous Janus Figure.  The Boa Island is a 5mile long island on Lower Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh, with bridges joining it to the mainland with the most wonderful views of the lough on both sides of the road at the bridges.   There are always birds on the water and fishermen out in their boats.  It's a fabulous drive and I love going that way when I head home to West Fermanagh.

Boa Island across the top of Lower Lough Erne
The Janus Figure dates back at least 2000 years and predates Christianity.  Although Janus is a Roman god and is associated with the month of January as he looks both ahead and behind, this figure, also facing both ways, is considered to be Celtic rather than Roman - the Romans never made it as far as Ireland. It's more likely that this was a statue to the goddess Banba after whom the Boa Island is named - one of three sister goddesses of ancient Ireland.  
In Irish mythology, Banba (modern spelling: Banbha, pronounced [ˈbˠanˠəvˠə]), daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann, is a patron goddess of Ireland. She was part of an important triumvirate of patron goddesses, with her sisters, Ériu and Fódla.
This statue is considered to be male and female with the indent in the top thought to have been for antlers.   The markings down the side could have represented hair. 

The two faces
and the hands on the stone alongside
Tom leaving a coin in the indent between
the two heads for luck

In the 1980s a primary school project from schools in Belleek and Kesh at opposite ends of the Lough did a lot of research into the area and even though this site is only a few miles from my home, I can't imagine why we've never visited before.

The Celts, along with many other races of the time, believed that the soul resided in the head, hence the large head and eyes on the carvings.

There is a definite ancient feeling when you walk into the graveyard and the misty day on which we visited helped highlight the air of mystery from another time and space.

Looking from the side

A smaller figure was moved from a neighbouring island Lusty Mor in the early 20th century.   It is badly disfigured but you can still see the face there.
The second smaller figure - quite badly disfigured
with lots of offerings at his feet

The late great poet Seamus Heaney wrote the following lines about the Janus figure after a visit in 2006.

January God by Seamus Heaney
Then I found a two faced stone
On burial ground,
God-eyed, sex-mouthed, it's brain
A watery wound. 
In the wet gap of the year,
Daubed with fresh lake mud,
I faltered near his power ----
January God. 
Who broke the water, the hymen
With his great antlers ----
There reigned upon each ghost tine
His familiars,
The mothering earth, the stones
Taken by each wave,
The fleshy aftergrass, the bones
Subsoil in each grave. 

And then beside the two figures and the other stones lying around the field, there is the most wonderful fairy thorn.  The superstition is still very strong here to never cut a fairy thorn and this one has twisted into all sorts of ancient shapes.   There were some ribbons on the branches so obviously others think so too.
A fairy thorn protects the space

Spot the blue ribbon where someone has left an offering

There are only a few recent gravestones in the cemetery.   The theory is that the stones littered around the field would have been markers for burial sites and every family would have known where their spot was without the need of a big stone which would have been the preserve of only the wealthy.

very few modern gravestones in the cemetery

Lough Erne has 365 islands on it - so we were always told in school.   Mind you I heard that said of another lake somewhere recently, so perhaps it was just a convenient number to let us know there were LOTS of islands on the lake:)  

Some day soon I want to visit Devenish Island  which is another ancient island, but with more monastic connections rather than pre Christian.

There is more about the Janus Figure at this lovely wee site - Ireland's Hidden Gems

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

August Photo Scavenger Hunt

Joining in today with Hawthorn's monthly scavenger hunt.   I love this challenge of putting pictures to her words.   Go and check out the link and play along if you fancy joining in and have a look at all the other wonderful photos from around the world.  

That was a great day for hanging around drying your wings!


The Janus Figure on the Boa Island in Co. Fermanagh
The Celts believed the soul resided in the head
so the head and eyes are proportionately larger than the body.
I have a post coming up about this later on.


Sinead playing the button key accordion at a traditional session earlier this month

We passed this house in Australia earlier this year
I wanted to see inside but didn't think it'd be polite to go and ask


Feet firmly planted waiting...

The Henrietten Kirche in Annahuette, Germany.
Many churches in Germany multitask as arts centres.
We played  here earlier this yearend every couple of years and I love the stained glass.  

The fields up the Mournes always look like a patchwork to me

OK, this is a tenuous link to floor, but it's about walking so ....
I wrote about Poetic Action in a post earlier this week
but hadn't managed to get a picture of this one in time. 

My first attempt at wet felting and I'm absolutely beside myself
with the excitement of achievement :)
I've turned it into a holder that I can hang on my microphone stand on stage
for my constantly disappearing plectrums and capos 

My own choice
My passion flowers have bloomed constantly for the past 6 weeks and were just beautiful
- on a north facing wall that gets very little sun, no attention and hardly any water. 
With thanks to Hawthorn for organising the monthly Scavenger Hunt. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Poetic Action Rostrevor

My friend Catherine organised this lovely idea and launched it during Fiddlers Green Festival.   It's called Poetic Action and she brought the idea over from Spain - I think it originated in South America.  Lines of poetry or song lyrics were painted onto white boards and positioned on key sites around the village with no other motive than to bring beauty and a smile to people as they go about their daily lives.  

All the quotes have relevance to the buildings they adorn, so for example those at the sports hall below have a theme suited to sport, and those at the Christian Renewal site, the school and the recording studio all have special meanings to those places.   
All the quotes are painted in the same style and were projected onto boards which were then painted during the early days of the festival by visitors and locals.  
In the village outside Madrid where Catherine first saw Poetic Action all the quotes were painted directly onto walls, but here our regulations will only allow them to be temporary - so they'll stay up until the end of November when there's a one day literary festival in the village and then will be stored until next year when she is hoping that more will be added to the 20 sites that were used this year.  
The former chairman of the Sports Club Patsy Tinnelly,
passed away just before the project was launched
and this lovely tribute was put up in his memory
outside the club that he had given so much of his life to
It's a fantastic idea and lovely to see.   I went for a walk around the town yesterday to have a look at some that I hadn't noticed before.  

From two of our best known songwriters -
this from Tommy Sands

..and this one from Colum Sands

No doubt about that

A poem from another of the older generation
who passed away this year.

Already some other villages are considering this idea - it's simple, doesn't cost a lot of money and has brought nothing but positivity along with it, something that we all need lots of at the moment.  Well done Cat.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Celtic Tree Astrology

A couple of months ago, I was visiting the June Photo Scavenger Hunt page run by Hawthorn Spellweaver ( love that name ) at I Live, I love, I craft, I am me - and she mentioned that she had taken her name from her Celtic Tree Sign, the hawthorn.   Ooh how intriguing.

So off I went in search and this is what came up ... a really interesting page about Tree Lore from the Druidic practices.

My birthday is September 27 and my tree is Vine.   It makes interesting reading - much of it is very similar to what you'd read about Libra, my astrological sign - always striving for the balance and never being able to choose - the story of my life!

Vine - The Equaliser September 2 - September 29  Vine signs are born within the autumnal equinox, which makes your personality changeable and unpredictable. You can be full of contradictions, and are often indecisive. But this is because you can see both sides of the story, and empathize with each equally. It is hard for you to pick sides because you can see the good points on each end. There are, however, areas in your life that you are quite sure about. These include the finer things of life like food, wine, music, and art. You have very distinctive taste, and are a connoisseur of refinement. Luxury agrees with you, and under good conditions you have a Midas touch for turning drab into dramatic beauty. You are charming, elegant, and maintain a level of class that wins you esteem from a large fan base. Indeed, you often find yourself in public places where others can admire your classic style and poise. Vine signs pair well with Willow and Hazel signs.

When I looked closer into Vine and its symbolism, it says that it would be the blackberry vine rather than the grapevine that the Celts would have read.   Now I am in a perpetual battle with blackberry vines here in this garden - they grow like weeds.   But reading that from an astrological point of view, means that they are opportunistic, or in a more modern way of saying it, they go with the flow.  I'll try to remember that next time I'm out at the clothes line and a bramble is attacking me :)   

The druids classified anything with a woody stalk as a tree, and so therefore vines are listed among the sacred Ogham ranks.  They also recognised the vine's predominant growth formation is in the shape of a spiral. This has long been considered a sacred symbol for Consciousness, Development, Renewal and Growth

I love reading about the symbolism of trees and plants.   This area has a very ancient energy and fairy lore and mythological references are in everyday usage.  So thank you to Hawthorn Spellweaver for leading me to this lovely store of reference. 

Have you had time to check yours out?  What Celtic sign are you?  do you pay any attention to Astrological or Mythological lore?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.   

Monday, 15 August 2016

What do you consider work as an artist?

How hard does a flower or a sunset have to work to look so beautiful?

For years and years I've sat down at my computer to go 'to work' -  on planning, marketing, sales and promotions of my business - organising events, posters etc etc.

And in all that time I squeezed in my practice or research or arranging or writing in between my work.

Recently I met an old friend who's a wonderful songwriter.   In his earlier life he worked as a journalist.  And since retiring from that line of work,  he plays music regularly, within a 10 mile radius of his own home and always sleeps in his own bed at night.   Never tours and never worries about any of the chases attached to any of the creative businesses.  And he says "I've never worked a day in my life - I've loved both of my jobs so much."  Isn't that a wonderful thought?

And I thought to myself - Fil, you are thinking all wrong about this.  Those other things should be only by the ways, but the real work should be the creative processes.  

Coming from a background of working 9 to 5, even though I myself have only done that for a couple of years of my earlier working life, I've always thought that I was doing nothing.

It's a hard habit to change.  But change it I will - and that's my 'work' for the time being.

Are you playing or working tonight? I'd love to hear your take on it.