Tuesday, 9 July 2019

A quick trip to West Cork and a great idea

Gosh I'm so far behind with posting photos and coming by to say hello.   Every time I think I've something ready, something else needs doing .... aargh ... but I'll catch up.   I will, I will, I WILL :)
So to recover we ran away for a few days to West Cork.  And got a heatwave for our trouble.   

We did a couple of songs with the fabulous John Spillane (the essence of West Cork someone called him) in the wonderful de Barra's Folk Club which was our reason for being down that far south (it's about a 5 hour drive from here) - so to capitalise on it we decided to take our caravan (adding another couple of hours to the drive) and have a wee break which was worth it.   

We've played in de Barra's several times, but maybe 25 years ago - we were wondering if one of our posters might be at the bottom of this pile we spotted on the wall!

As a bonus we hit upon the annual Old Time Fair and Brass Band Competition on Saturday  - a really joyful day of swing music, old trades, everyone in great form and the shops doing flying business.

Clonakilty is a beautiful town at the best of times, with loads of boutiques, great places to eat, excellent music and lovely pubs - it's about 40 minutes west of Cork city and well worth a visit if you're ever around those parts.

Here's a blast of the wonderfully fun (and pink) Ambling Band from Bristol who treated us to a splendid round of well known songs and got the whole crowd joining in the Can Can.   And they lead the final parade of vintage cars and steam engines in the evening.  If you're ever needing a band to add a bit of fun to your festival these guys are the business.

And the wonderful idea?  
I spotted this sign in a cafe and I'm sure there are uses for it everywhere ... 
The photo's a bit blurry but it says

A Brilliant Idea.

Reduce Use of Paper Cups
If possible please return

We're getting ready for Fiddlers Green Festival now, coming up in under 2 weeks - a couple of gigs for us and for Singmarra and Tom's book launch - and also preparing for a tour of the Emigrant Woman's Tale over the Winter - so lots going on.

Hopefully I'll see you again before too long.
In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your summer (or Winter, Susan :) ) .

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The Birds Song

The RSPB recently released a record of birdsong which managed to go to the top of the charts - a fantastic achievement.  And they've now started a Birdsong Radio - wonderful.    It is surely the biggest delight of my day to hear the birds singing in the morning and to watch them feeding in the garden.  Check it out here

On our recent trip to England and Scotland we had a morning off in the Lake District and found TheBirds Bistro :). A brilliant place to buy special foods for the birds and squirrels.  We came home loaded down.   Check it out if  you're in the area. 

And at the same time, my Tom has written a fun song called The Birds Song - a parody on immigration - have a listen - and a watch of our birds :). 

He's working on a children's book at the moment illustrated by a friend, Colum McEvoy.  I'll post some of the images in a future blog post - it will be launched at our festival here next month.   

"We may have different feathers and sing a different song
But when we sing together, the differences are gone. "

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Getting the ducks in a row

Outside a farm shop in Fife, these wee chaps were almost in line

Firstly thank you all for your lovely comments on the photo Scavenger Hunt last week - I really enjoy that challenge and the lovely community that has built up around it.

And secondly, what on earth is going on with this weather!   I had to go to Belfast early this morning and as yesterday was sunny I thought 'no need for a scarf or warm coat' - I nearly froze.  It's like February - or as I heard someone on the radio saying "the month of Donegal" :)

Now, a question for you ... 

If you're looking for information on the internet, where do you search first?  Do you go directly to a website, or to Facebook, or do you just type in a name in Google or some other search engine?   I'd be very interested to know.

When we were in Germany last month someone said that when they searched for us on the internet, it was a different type of music coming up than what we played in our concert ... I never thought to ask where they'd searched.

So when we returned home I started looking around - something that should have been done months,  even years, ago, and sure enough depending on where you search, different information comes up, some of it years out of date.  I've had a website for nearly 20 years and what was really ahead of time back then is so outdated now and technology has jumped on ahead of us, confusing the issue (and me).

So since we came back we've been trying to get everything to line up ... not an easy job and seriously doing my head in.  And it'll take another couple of weeks of concentrating on it.

So do let me know what you do - what's your preferred way of hunting down information.

Canada Geese on Hallig Hooge - they know how to line up, almost

Monday, 3 June 2019

A walk through May - Photo Scavenger Hunt

I'm very late joining Kate's Scavenger Hunt this month, but I just noticed there's a few hours left for the Linky to stay open.  

It's been ages since I've posted anything and have missed this blogging community, but work and stress have been the ruling forces for ages now and my biggest challenge has been trying to get some rest and balance as well as putting some sort of order on work, house, garden, parents, home, internet (bane of my life) and friends.  So we're supposed to be on holiday today but the car broke down and kept us at home, so I've decided the day is being spent on the sofa with reading and writing blogs, knitting and tv (and maybe there's enough in the freezer for dinner!)

So here are this month's words


I feel a bit mean showing a snowy scene at this time of the year - although we did have snow once on June 8th here a bout 20 years ago - but this was the only seat I could find in old pics .--- It was taken at Annahgakerrig in Co. Monaghan, the artists retreat I've written about a few times.  

View (from the seat!)

And on a summer's day you could enjoy the view around the grounds - only a glimpse here.


We've had the most lovely visitors to the garden this spring - earlier in the year there was a pair of jays, now we've got a pair of doves and the biggest surprise - a Red Squirrel.    There's been a huge effort to reintroduce reds into the Mournes as there were only greys here for years and years.   So here's our wee visitor having his lunch.

Starts with a P

I was given a present at Christmas for a pottery class and loved it so much I joined up for a run of classes - I think the wheel is not going to be my thing - gosh can I make a mess but it's great fun - but I really liked making a pinch pot.  This was my second attempt before firing - although I messed it up after this pic by punching holes in it, so you'll not be seeing the finished picture I don't think lol 


We've made seven trips now out to Hallig Hooge off the north west coast of Germany, mostly in May.   Normally we catch the early morning ferry but for a change this year we travelled later in the day and this was a gorgeous sunny afternoon.
The ferry coming onto the mainland from Hallig Hooge

My own choice.

I've had this little lilac bush for years and this is the first time it bloomed - it was in full bloom when we arrived back from Germany - a lovely welcome home gift. 

So that's it from me for this month.  See you all next month.   If you fancy joining in, the Scavenger Hunt is run by Kate and she'll be posting the June words in the next few days, I'd imagine.   

Friday, 17 May 2019

To Ell and back

I've started this blog at least four times and keep re-editing from "We're in the middle of our annual trip" to "We're home!" and various stages in between.  

Back on the road

After all the drama of hospital visits over Easter,  we actually made it to the ferry on time.   Tom only got out of hospital on the Thursday and I came home from town on Friday morning to find him out mowing the lawn!   The man has no wit.
Ell, in Luxembourg, home place of Jean Claude Juncker
Thank you for all your good wishes - it took half the tour for him to get back to normal and for my stress levels to reduce!  And it took nearly 10 days to feel rested.  My MIL was also in hospital at the same time, and that plus not getting an Easter visit in with my own mum, left me rattled with blood pressure soaring.  It was two not very happy bunnies getting on to the ferry.

Our AirBnb stop in Rouen old city.
However we had a fortnight travelling around the Benelux countries and Germany.  We did 4000kms in 2 weeks and though we're home tired, the memory of lovely gigs and seeing old friends totally overtakes the motorway hours..
We took the ferry to Cherbourg in France, and from there started with a house concert in Luxembourg then north to Rheinberg where we did concerts in Mehr and Hamminkeln, then further north to Oldenburg to stop off with friends and next up to the North West Coast to head out to Hallig Hooge (or Hooge Burg as some wag suggested - do all the burgs in one trip!). 

I find the huge windmill farms in the north of Germany strangely beautiful, although it's hopeless trying to get a decent photo from a moving car

I've written before about Hooge, a very interesting not quite island in the middle of the North Sea.   The main attraction at this time of the year is the arrival of 10s of 1000s of Canada Geese and people travel from all over the country to birdwatch.   For me, I must be honest and say that I don't like cold windy places - once is enough, even the west coast of Ireland is a challenge for me - give me sun any day   But I do love the people on Hooge - islanders are exceptional.  Did I ever tell the story of my song Island Love?   I must do that.

Low tide with one of the Hallig islands clearly visible in the distance

Our last gig was in Zevenaar in Holland and some lovely photos were posted up on Facebook yesterday which I've shared on our Facebook page if you care to have a nosey.

I have been keeping an eye on your blogs even though I've not been posting comments.  There's a feeling when you're on tour, that you're 'on' from the minute you leave home until you get back again.   If you're not driving, and the drives are torturous in Germany, you're either with people or getting ready for the gig - finding an hour alone is very difficult, even on days off.

So as well as getting down to the next thing on the desk, I'm looking forward to getting back to some regular writing and reading and commenting.

Thursday, 25 April 2019


Thank you all for understanding my need to rant the other day - and apologies for the bits of print that I'd copied in from Wikepedia and didn't spot the formatting - I wasn't intending to shout parts of it lol

In the midst of all the annoyance and chaos, as Aril pointed out, hasn't it been a joy to watch young Greta Thunberg making her quiet potent statements.   It will be interesting following her progress.  She is the positive we all need.

The bluebells have been really early here
I spotted this lovely ladybird late last week in the garden.
And on the positive note here, Tom got released from hospital today just in time for us to head off  on tour on Saturday, storm permitting.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Lyra McKee

This world is a mess - and for a long time I've been struggling to write blogs because all I've wanted to write is political comment and at the same time I've wanted to keep this space a positive and bright one.  But I have to pay tribute to a young woman who was murdered on Thursday night.

Lyra McKee
Many of you will have seen the news from Northern Ireland in the past few days of the terrible killing of the young journalist Lyra (pronounced Leera) McKee in Derry on Thursday night.  Here we are back in the news, but for all the wrong reasons, again.

I cannot describe the feelings of anger and sorrow and fear that is permeating this land.   Apart from the sadness at the loss of this young life, a voice for the future, there is a sorrow for all of us.   We Cannot Go Back to this.    People are so angry, so afraid - I just want to cry every time I think of it.


was a freelance journalist and an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights for which she gave a TedX talk in Stormont a few years back.  She had a publishing contract for two books which she was in the process of completing about life here and she was ruthless in her investigations and criticisms.
This is a wonderful tribute to her from the Independent newspaper

Not In My Name

The  thugs need little or no excuse to start things up again.  But all over the country posters are up saying NOT IN MY NAME - most certainly Not In My Name!  Perhaps some good will come of Lyra's death and maybe, just maybe, it will be catalyst to get our power sharing government back up again.

The police were expecting violence as a run up to the Easter Rising Commemorations and right on cue a riot started, petrol bombs were thrown and a few shots of a handgun finished a young life.   Yesterday, Easter Sunday, is a day of celebration in the South of Ireland - it marks the day that the  1916 Rising happened which led to the Republic of Ireland being formed.

But of course, up here in the north, that means division.  Any celebration means division up here.    There are many who want to be part of that Republic, and there are many who see it as an abomination, an excuse to cause trouble. And in the middle there are many, like myself, who while  considering ourselves Irish, want to keep our heads down, fly no flags, be content in the status quo and get on with our own lives.

Up in the North West, in Derry/Londonderry they've always had a hard time and are rightfully worried about a resurgence of violence.   They are on the border with Co. Donegal which is in the south.  And the border issue around Brexit is adding fuel to the worries.

Which is it you may ask?  Derry or Londonderry?  Well,  It's actually both.   

When I worked for the BBC it was compulsory to say Londonderry first, then Derry second and after that it was up to you.   Thanks to a much missed radio DJ called Gerry Anderson it became known as Stroke City (get it?  Londonderry Stroke/ Derry!)
Derry is the anglicised version of the old Irish name Daire, or the modernised version Doire, which means oak grove.   The London prefix was added to Derry when the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I in 1613 during the Plantation of Ulster.    To the majority of people born on this island, Catholic or Protestant, it will always be Derry.  But legally it is Londonderry.  However to confuse issues further, the local council is Derry!   Let's opt for Stroke City!)

Then on Sunday I managed not to watch the news until late in the evening and saw the terrible tragedy unfolding in Sri Lanka.   That knot of fear and stress that we lived with for so long was back.  It only takes a moment for some thoughtless idiot, wanting to go down in history for some heroic deed as he/she sees it, to shatter hundreds of lives.

What an Easter.   And to top it all, Tom's been in hospital all through it!   Hopefully he'll escape soon.
Normal service will be resumed asap.