Monday, 24 September 2018

losing it

Kettles on the lough during Storm Ali
lots of firewood as a result 
This morning started bright and early and with a spring in my step I decided to clear my desk before I even put coffee on - first find a certificate for one of last year's students who's mum was coming around to collect it at 11.

Not a problem

No.   Definitely not a problem.   I know exactly where it is.

I thought..


3 HOURS LATER .... a very distracted, frazzled and most annoyed other version of me finally gave up looking and thought I'd better get on with some other work and make a few phone calls.  

The (brown) photo envelope was on the sitting room table for weeks and only last week I tidied up and definitely put it in the office.

On the plus side, months of filing is done.  However ...

Finally, 5 hours later, I made a long overdue phone call and while telling my colleague about the problem and fiddling with a bunch of sheet music and knitting patterns in the sitting room, I felt a bit of card sticking out - and there it was - IN A WHITE ENVELOPE!!  Who puts certificates in white envelopes!

Definitely cracking up.   It must be old age setting in.     Now to find my glasses :)


I hope your Monday is a bit more organised and that you have a great week.

At least the blackberries survived the storm
and they're not even one bit stressed 

Friday, 7 September 2018

The path back to Autumn

A slow path back to the world
I'm not quite ready to give up on summer yet... it's been so delightful having long periods of sun and when the rain started at home we managed to follow the sun again back to France.   Now, we've a couple of unscheduled days off in Germany before our concerts this weekend and the sun is  still shining.   So I'm sitting outside on the veranda sipping a glass of wine and doing a bit of catching up.  Our dates are here.
Alone with the cat and my thoughts



This is my birthday month and my favourite time of the year.   Here in the North East of Berlin we're staying with friends at a house that was only just built the first time we visited 25 years ago and is now beautifully and randomly matured - forests nearby, not a sound of traffic anywhere within earshot, and food and drink still the common languages.   The talk with our friends down in Munich on Tuesday was all of Brexit - I don't think I could ever give up this sort of easy travel ... hopefully it all turns out well enough to not cause too much hassle, or perhaps it will be time to up sticks and move.  
Having a chat with the neighbours

It's been an enjoyable if unconscious break from online pursuits this summer and I've found it hard to get back to the day to day focus of the visibility needed to enable classes and tours.  But it'll not take long to get back into the swing of things.   All around us friends are starting to enjoy retirement or the prospect of it and it can be quite unsettling.  I'm starting to feel the need to slow down myself but have a good few years yet to go until I reach the age for a state pension.  I feel tired from being constantly ill over the past number of years, but my head is still full of energy.   So my intention for this coming big birthday, and for the coming winter is to focus on increasing my energy, getting a bit fitter and keeping myself as healthy as possible to be able to keep on touring and getting to see beautiful parts of the world like this.  To be able to enjoy long, late into the night discussions with good friends, to enjoy seeing the new generations as they grow and to enjoy my singing groups at home as they develop and mature.  


Thursday, 6 September 2018

Boats v Planes, Cars v Trucks

Travelling by boat is by far my preferred mode of transport.

A more sedate way to travel - traditional boats on the Loire River

This week we're back on the road again - to Germany this time - and as it's a short trip we decided to fly and borrow a PA - Tom already has a set of congas in Munich (and in Canada and in Australia!).

I'd forgotten how busy (for that, read stressful) going by plane is - a silly early start, then hours of walking and queueing and checks and more checks.  More time queueing to pick up our rental car and then straight out into motorway traffic in a left hand drive car.  For the record, being a passenger on the right hand side freaks me out far more than driving on the left side .... good grief!  As an aside I'm recovering from a summer cold which is determined to lodge in my chest - the antibiotic I'm taking is making me break out in a sweat; it's 26 degrees C and that's also making me perspire; but by far the top cause of glowing profusely is the huge truck pulling out right in front of me with what seems like inches to spare.  So I'm burying my head in the computer writing this blog.  (Note to self, don't look up suddenly when you see a truck looming and scream with fright and terrify the driver)



Boarding in Harwich at sunset


On the other side of things, going by ferry is much calmer, and driving your own car is much more familiar.  When you load up at home, providing you've forgotten nothing, that's you until you get to your destination.  No tramping around in queues.   There's time to look around you and perhaps have  a leisurely meal on board the ferry if it's a short crossing and time for a lot more relaxation if it's a long one.  You can take time while waiting to board to knit or read or grab a quick nap or catch up on emails.  By the time we reached Munich yesterday I reckoned we could have been waiting to board our second crossing if we decided to do a land bridge (Ireland-Scotland/England-Holland).   We're now driving up to Berlin for our first gig, loaded to the gills,  so that would be no different than going from Rotterdam to Berlin, time wise,  if we'd come by ferry.

On the Carlingford Ferry

So from here on I'm choosing the more sedate way to travel - unless we're heading to the other side of the world.

How about you?  What way do you prefer to move between countries?   Are you lucky enough to live on a large landmass and have the possibility to go by train or car?  Do you find it hard to drive on 'the other side of the road'?  I'd love to hear.


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.