Thursday, 9 August 2018

Remember Mix Tapes?

Two years ago I bought paint to tidy up my office.  I keep trying not to call it an office - a den, or a study seem much more artistic, but an office it ends up as, or a junk shop more like.  Everything in the house that doesn't have a place ends up in here, all the necessary stuff as well as all the 'just in case I might need it someday' stuff.  Why do we keep these things!

Anyway I finally convinced the painter of the family that the time was now and we decided to do three rooms (they're small), the clearing of which should have been a doddle.  Until we came to the office that is - 4 days it took me!

Anyway, it's all over now and the place looks lovely and clean and I don't want to repopulate it with all that junk again, no matter how necessary it is.   I've had a really good clear out of books I'll never read again, had a great rummage through old photos from the days when I actually took time to put them in albums (such a pity not to do that any more) and the final treasure find was a box of cassettes.  Ok, most of them needed to go in the bin - they'd been recorded on a 4 track machine which we don't have any more, so they can't even be listened to.  But in the middle of them all I cam across a handful of mix tapes that a couple of people had made for me back in the day when I was playing in the pubs in Belfast - suggestion after suggestion of songs to try out, or simply to listen to.

So I spent a lovely couple of hours going through You Tube to listen to some of the songs and had a real stroll down memory lane.   Three or four of the tapes were given to me by a guy who regularly came into a Monday night gig I did in the Rotterdam Bar.  He had an enormous dog that he always brought with him - it was a St Bernard or something like that -a huge gentle giant.   One night while I was in the middle of my set, the dog came up and just sat on my foot, quite oblivious to the chuckles from all the regulars and quite pleased with itself to be in the limelight.

I also found old Mini discs ( no longer playable), VHS tapes (no longer playable) and even a few Betamax tapes (no longer playable cos we have no player).. How technology has moved on in recent years.  The gramophone records and old vinyl discs still need a good going through, but I reckon lots of sheet music will be heading for the shredder or maybe for sale on eBay for someone who likes crafting with it.  I've actually managed to find someone who wants old cassettes for an art project too which was great as I couldn't imagine them ever disintegrating in landfill.  Apparently he's weaving it into rope for the linen museum.

Cleaning out is a great tonic.  Now the challenge will be to see how long I can keep it like that!

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Happy Sunday

 Rossnowlagh Beach yesterday was quiet and peaceful.   The tide was out and the smell of the sea was just wonderful.  Not warm enough for sunbathing or swimming (for most people except a few hardy children) but the surfers were lying patiently in wait for the next wave to come in.   It was so calm they might have had a while to lie there I think.

We learnt to drive there - it's 3 miles long when the tide is out like this... This photo is a bit out of focus but I loved the quality of a painting in it.

 Sun glinting on the water added sparkle

 I love the patterns in the sand - it was great to get my toes into it.

 I wish you all a lovely Sunday and hopefully you are not getting scorched wherever you are.
We have a concert this evening over on the other coast in Newcastle and after a couple more studio sessions this week, we start packing for our HOLIDAYYYYYYSSSSSS.  Back to the sunshine - happy days.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Festival week

Soul music on the outdoor stage
At the end of a wonderful week of music and celebrating far flung friendships, we are all gathering our wits and energy again.

clouds gathering over the square
and the newly redecorated church
We only went to a few concerts - Ralph McTell on Saturday night was just superb and what a lovely man.   I really only knew a few of his songs and when the entire hall sang The Streets of London, the heightened emotions in the room was palpable.  Our own Sands Family finished things off in great style and a few of the younger performers were delightful earlier in the week, including Catherine McGrath whom I wrote about here.

We counted 11 different nationalities at the singaround Tom and I hosted on Sunday and our own concert on Saturday went off well in spite of the dreadful downpour that arrived just in time for us to pack our gear into the car and send mice scuttling into the house for cover (we still don't know if there's one lurking in here somewhere).  The first rain in 7 weeks in these parts, it was a mixed blessing, but the gardens breathed a huge sigh of relief.  It can stop now, ok! (still pouring as I write).
making the most of your circumstances
Billy, above, was the steward of the local sports hall for many years and he hasn't been too well for a while - it was great to see him out and about in his own personalised car - that's the way to do it:)

Today is the start of Autumn in the old calendar - Lammas - and in another couple of weeks the leaves will start to turn, although a lot are already well wilted with lack of water. 

My mother's buddleia was covered in butterflies when we visited last week

And even though I don't work in schools our work is very term-time dictated, so I love this time of year when there's only performance related work to do - recording, researching, updating.   And while I love my students and my singing groups I'm so happy that there is still another delicious month of untimetabled time to come - more visitors to welcome, some work to do on the recording of a friend's album and a holiday to look forward to.   Happy Days.

How's your summer or your winter shaping up?  Are you getting some time to rest?  Is there enough water and if you live in England I do hope that you're not affected by the floods that are bound to follow.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Fiddlers Green Festival 2018

Songs and a picnic at Fiddlers Green to start the annual festival in Rostrevor.
A couple of hundred of us walked up the hill to the clearing at Fiddlers Green to start the festival last Sunday.  For a change, this year the grass was bone dry, it was a gorgeous afternoon, and once we'd all recovered from the ordeal of the climb, it was a splendid start to proceedings.  Performers from Denmark, Germany, America and Spain did their party pieces along with all of us from here while everyone enjoyed their picnic.

Fiddlers Green is a community festival surrounding a folk festival which happens at the end of July every year and attracts a festival family from all over the world.  As well as the music side of things, there's art exhibitions, lots of mountain walks, children's events, traditional tunes and song sessions and far too many late nights and various refreshments to imbibe!  

The invisible partner has been the wonderful weather we've been having.  Thankfully it's not quite as scorching here as the folks over in England and Wales are having to endure, but it's still been in the mid to high 20s which for us is fabulous.  Everyone's out in the street and the atmosphere is great.

We have a gig tomorrow afternoon and then I'm off to see Ralph McTell tomorrow night.  Sunday Tom and I are hosting the final singaround at lunchtime and the final concert with The Sands Family is like a big collective hug to say goodbye to everyone until next year.   On Monday a crowd of us will head back up the mountain (further up this time), weather permitting (there's storms on the way) to finish it all off - that'll finish all of us off too no doubt but a pint of Vitamin G will restore equilibrium when we get back down.  

I hope you all have a great weekend.  

Friday, 29 June 2018

June Photos

Here we are at the end of another month and it's time to join in with Hawthorn and the merry band of photo scavengers from around the world.  This month we were happily (well, a bit grumpily, but mostly happy) out travelling again, so the photos are from various places.


We stopped in Amsterdam on our way back to the ferry from Germany earlier in the month and had a day pottering around, mainly to allow me a visit to the wonderful Stephen and Penelope Wool Shop (- if you're a wool person you'll probably know of Stephen West - really out there  knitwear designer - fab-u-lous darling.  More of that in a future blog.)  Some of my friends here can't believe I dragged Tom into a huge city, two days before his birthday, to go to a wool shop on the pretext that the day out was his birthday treat!

There's lots of yellow around Amsterdam - bicycles, flowers, clothes etc.
But this one had to take the prize ... the Amsterdam Duck Shop
and who was out in front only Donald - it was a real laugh-out- loud, stop-and-point sort of shop, with lots of great characters represented as bath ducks.

Starts with a ... T 

We're in the middle of the most wonderful spell of sunshine here - (there's not a bit of work being done inside and the garden is finally getting in to shape).   And these little flowers are all over the place - our lawn (or what I lovingly call our moss) is full of wild flowers that miraculously bounce back again after each cut.  Watching a video on Aril's blog this morning I discovered that it is called Birdsfoot Trefoil - (we'll ignore the B bit of it and just go with the T) -  I was having trouble finding a suitable T so this just came up in perfect time.


I called in to the wool shop in Rheinberg in Germany - it's called Die Strickleiter (the Knit Ladder - a play on words of rope ladder).  Her bicycle was outside and the ladder covered in wool was a real hook to get me in.  Cute isn't it?

Starts with a ... G

I was looking for an AirBnB in or near Amsterdam before we left home and nearly took one on a houseboat - I wish I was more courageous to try these things - we couldn't gain access until 8pm which is way too late and had to be out by 10am which is way too early so the idea got passed on, but as we walked along the Amstel I spotted this garden which is right up my street of potted gardens, although when I looked closer it's just as much a mess as my own at the minute.  

Gardening Amsterdam style


I loved the stillness of this boat at the mouth of the river Erne at Ballyshannon 
and the silver of the water around it.

My own choice

Beach huts at Harwich in Essex.   I just love this sight any time we're on the East coast of England.  And this was a huge row of very well maintained huts.  We had an hour before we needed to queue for the ferry and after a feast of fish and chips I dragged a reluctant husband out to face the bracing cold to get a closer look.

So that's it from me for this month.   Thank you as always Kate for hosting this really enjoyable monthly challenge.  I'm going to check in on everyone else's blogs over the weekend.   If you fancy joining in or just seeing what's going on, check out the link here.  

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Faeries by William Allingham

The River Assaroe in Ballyshannon

We're back to a spate of beautiful sunshine here - just perfect for Midsummer. I love the Solstice - it brings me back to myself, to remembering nature and folklore and traditions. 

At this time of year as a child, we would have been in the hay field helping to save the hay and enjoying those special smells and the wonderful taste of tea and egg and onion sandwiches in the open air. 

We've been over in Donegal a lot in recent years, and a few weeks ago we went to see an old mill outside Ballyshannon and it reminded me of this poem we all learned as children.

(As an aside, I'm having terrible trouble getting my blog to hold its formatting, so apologies if this appears in miniature - anyone else having this problem? ) 

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen, 
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men. 
Wee folk, good folk, 
Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, 
And white owl's feather!
William Allingham

It's almost a shameful thing to admit but I've never been a great fan of poetry. But this is one poem I have always adored. It was written by William Allingham (more about him below) in the mid 19th century. He grew up in Ballyshannon in South Donegal where my mother also comes from ... It's just a few miles from where I grew up which made the poem even more resonant to young minds. The River Erne flows into the Atlantic at Ballyshannon and there's a dedication to him on the bridge there. 

I totally believed in the fairies - I suppose I still do. Nobody I know would ever consider cutting down a fairy thorn for example. The stories of the Children of Lír and Tír na nÓg were told alongside Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and were even more believable in a way because there were no princesses in Ireland. And I remember introducing you to the Leprechaun's clothes over in Carlingford late last year - you can read more about them here under the heading Neat. 

This verse was used as a threat to us as children - go to sleep or the fairies will come and get you. They took little Bridget - they'll get you too if you don't go to sleep. In the poem, Bridget comes back after 7 years and all her friends are gone, because of course time goes very slowly in the land of the ever young, Tír na nÓg.

The Faeries
Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, 
We daren't go a-hunting For fear of little men.
Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore Some make their home --
They live on crispy pancakes Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds Of the black mountain-lake, 
With frogs for their watch-dogs, All night awake.

High on the hilltop The old King sits; 
He is now so old and gray, He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist Columbkill he crosses, 
On his stately journeys From Slieveleague to Rosses;

Or going up with music On cold starry nights, 
To sup with the Queen Of the gay Northern Lights.
They stole little Bridget For seven years long; 
When she came down again Her friends were all gone.

They took her lightly back, Between the night and morrow; 
They thought that she was fast asleep, But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since Deep within the lake, 
On a bed of flag-leaves, Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hillside, Through the mosses bare, 
They have planted thorn-trees, For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring As dig them up in spite, 
He shall find their sharpest thorns In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, 
We dare 't go a-hunting For fear of little men.
Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather.

William Allingham, pic Internet 
William Allingham (19 March 1824 – 18 November 1889) grew up in Ballyshannon on the banks of the River Erne. Most of his poetry was lyrical and many were turned into songs - probably the most lasting apart from the Fairies is Adieu to Ballyshanny, which is still sung in the area. He was a contemporary of Tennyson and Carlyle and after he died his diaries were published which highlighted his contact with these more celebrated poets of the day. 

Do you believe in Fairies? I'd love to hear.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Dodging football

Most distraught that they've taken the Chase off for the next four weeks - I think there's something happening in Russia - must be more spy stuff!

I've been having a catch up week, getting posters out, more tour planning, getting back to my singing groups, catching up on accounts and tidying the house.   To that end I spent today loading stuff up to eBay to clear out some of the mountain of summer clothes I have, in all the varying sizes I've been.   Why do we keep buying summer clothes that only get worn for a few weeks a year if you're lucky!  Each year I swear I'll buy no more and then come the first rays of sun the bright colours are like magnets.   Mostly I buy in charity shops, but even so, it still fills space.   So I'm feeling very virtuous.

Last weekend we went out for a wander around Ballyshannon with my mother - and went back to the little fairy forest that I'd written about here in Spring before any of the trees had started to bud.

There's a lot more colour now and there'd obviously been bits of work going on from little fairy folk from the town.    

The place is delightfully un organised and haphazard and is on a flat walk so it's ideal for the elderly as well as the youngsters.

Have a lovely weekend, whether you're engrossed in, or hiding from, the World Cup.