Saturday, 17 March 2018

Happy St Patrick's Day

My shamrock is looking very bedraggled - but it is St Patrick's Day and I wish you all the luck of the Irish today wherever you are.  

it is absolutely freezing here with flurries of snow all day and the rugby final in Twickenham looked arctic - but Ireland WON!!!  Yay!

It's been a while since I summoned up the energy to write ... our house has been beset by this awful flu that's doing the rounds ... for a while we dragged ourselves to a couple of gigs, but eventually gave up and took to bed.  Thankfully we're both on the mend, slowly, but my energy is so low I can't get doing anything.  
Still one positive sign has started to appear - I'm bored silly - can't be bothered reading, much, or even watching TV, so this week it's back to work and hope the energy holds out.

Being self employed it's really freaky not working - you just can't show up for stuff so there's no money coming in and that really adds to the panic of not being well.   It certainly helps to get you back on your feet more quickly.

The sun was shining earlier in the week and I got out into the garden for 10 minutes - thankfully my lovely snowdrops haven't disappeared yet.   They're in the most awkward place and every year I promise to move them and each year the days fly on and they're still quite happily hiding in a corner ... maybe this year.

I hope you're all well and keeping warm in these northern climes and enjoying the beginnings of Autumn further south.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Keeping Interested

This is how motivated I've been feeling lately!!

As with most jobs, being a musician has lots of bits that are boring, repetitive and hard to stay focussed on ... I'm thinking mainly of PRACTICE!!   That dreaded word.   It takes a lot of discipline to keep doing your daily work, or in my case it's more like sporadic or at best weekly work a lot of the time, especially just after coming home from a tour or after finishing a project.   Problem is, when I don't do the work, come the start of the next tour or project, it's like starting from scratch again.   It doesn't help the mood, or the confidence,  one tiny bit.  

This quote has been attributed to many people of all musical disciplines.... Yikes.

So to stay interested I play games with myself.   And the internet is a great tool.   I find new singing exercise videos, or new guitar videos, or I'll try out songs from a singer that I haven't gone back to for a while.   And after teaching classes I'll occasionally take half an hour to sing songs out of one particular book and sing at the top of my voice (usually when Tom's out of the house!) while battering the hell out of the piano in the process.  And of course Singmarra keeps me focussed on a weekly basis where I have to do my warm ups or else my voice will collapse.

Recently I came across this great warm up voice video.  Perhaps you'd like to try it.  If you're at all interested in improving your voice or in just keeping it functioning well - I particularly think of teachers in this respect - then warming up is crucial and this one from Mark Baxter is a really excellent and simple one.  Be warned, Mark doesn't speak throughout it, so don't do what I did and close your eyes - you'll want to follow the instructions on the screen for the first run through anyway.

Now to find someone or something to trick me into spending more time doing publicity or social media or tour booking .... humph.  I think I'll go and play with paint for half an hour first ... or maybe the ironing would be fun lol

How do you get yourself through the boring bits of your work?   Any and all tips most gratefully received.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


My last year's Brigid's Cross

Lá Fhéile Bhríde  

Happy St Brigid's Day  

Blessings of Imbolc to you

 What a lovely way to finish this first month of the year with a blue moon and very big tides.  

The almost full moon and low tide at sunset - Monday 29th -Newcastle,Co. Down

I've always loved, and felt it was very right, that the 1st February marks the beginning of Spring.   I know that the astrological Spring doesn't actually start until 21st March, and the meteorological spring is different again, but today still feels like the beginning of the year.   Perhaps it just makes me feel more hopeful that the darker days of winter are nearly gone and brighter, warmer days are just around the corner.   It seems very long to have to wait another 7 weeks to feel like that!!.   
The snowdrops are already in bloom - have been since Christmas - I spotted some daffodils today, and already the days are a good bit longer.  

Imbolg (also Imbolc) is a time of transition and initiation, both a gateway and a celebration. The word 'Imbolg' translates from Gaelic as 'in the belly' after the swollen abdomen's of the pregnant ewe's. The Festival of Brigid is celebrated on 1st February all across Ireland and increasingly in countries where Celtic soul beats strongly in the hearts of many. Imbolg heralds days growing longer and buds starting to open as our sap rises too. 

Brigid is renowned both as a pagan goddess and a Christian saint.   She was born in Faughart in Co. Louth, just a few miles from here.  And although she is one of the patron saints of Ireland, she also has deep associations with Wales and Glastonbury.  

Here are some links you might like to follow to find out more about this archetype of the divine feminine in Celtic culture.  

The annual Brigid of Faughart Festival happens over this weekend and ties in with a summer festival
Brigid's Way - links to the place most associated with her in Kildare.  
The Newgrange website has more great information about the origins of Imbolc and about the passage tombs at the hill of Tara where the sun lights up the altar on both Samhain and Brigid's Day.  

* * * * * * * * 
This lovely poem by Kieran Murray can be read in its entirety on the Brigid's Way website.


For our Pagan Goddess
The Flame it burned bright
As nineteen priestesses
Tended it every night.

And the other St Brigid
Her Christian counterpart
When accused of being wicked
Held hot coal to her heart.

So we honour both Brigids
On their Feast Day the same
As we craft a reed cross
At Imbolc in their name.

Friday, 26 January 2018

January 2018 Scavenger Hunt

Oh dear - I had totally forgotten about the Scavenger Hunt, until I went to my Reading List today and saw all the tantalising headlines.  I had to discipline myself not to look, while I hastily pulled my images together for the first list of the New Year which Kate at I Live, I Love, I Craft, I am me thankfully shortened for this month :)
If you fancy playing along the link up is here.  


The sky never fails to fascinate me ... the reds of the beautiful sunsets, the sparkle of the stars or the watery colours when there's snow in the air .. I spotted this yellow in the sky a few weeks back when I was out for a walk - a harbinger of early daffodils.

Starts with an O

... or in this case .... looks like an O.  
All over the north of Ireland our local councils are working hard at improvements to help attract tourists.   Newry has both a river and a canal and a few years back they add these gorgeous fountains to the canal - I thought it would fit O very well.


My friend in Denmark sent me one of these lovely star lights last Christmas and brought the second one during the summer.   I haven't taken them down yet cos they're so atmospheric. 


A while back I was looking for an outfit for a photograph and found this skirt in a vintage shop in Belfast.   Thing is, I forgot that I can't have sequins while there's a guitar on my knee! and at least 3 times I've gone to sell irt on but I just can't bear to part with it.   Maybe it'll finally get worn this year.


While looking through photos from the last couple of months I found lots of colour around Christmas, but when I looked a bit further back this just jumped out at me - a dahlia in a pot outside my back door.   The colour was so intense and now that the light is growing again it makes me think of warmer days to come

My Own Choice

This is certainly not my favourite photo of the past year, but it is most certainly the memory that brought me most joy. ... our very tiny wee caravan which I cannot wait to get back out in again this year.   Really we need something a tad bigger, but we couldn't get anything bigger down our drive so our tent on wheels is going to be staying for another while .... Can't wait ... :) :)

Thank you Kate for continuing to put inspiration into the Scavenger hunt .... I'm off now for a browse at everyone else's images.  

Belfast communities come together for carol service #WATWB

Last year I really enjoyed taking part in the We Are The World Blogfest
The idea was, and still is, to flood the internet with good news stories at least once a month.  
This is now the 10th month and I'm happy to add my name to the group of people from all around the world who are taking part.

* * * * * * * * * *
We're well into the new year now, but I want to refer back to something that made the news here over Christmas.   As you know, I live in Northern Ireland where years and centuries of division have made for a very conflicted community and at the moment a very fragile peace.  

This story really gave me hope.  

I want to give a cheer and a shout out of well done to two communities in the Ardoyne area of Belfast who for the first time in more than 40 years have come across the so called Peace Wall to have a carol service together.  Lead by two children, one from each community, this is the most beautiful scene we could imagine for the end of this year of division.  The British government has promised to bring down the peace walls by 2023 (there are over a hundred of them, built to keep opposing Catholic and Protestant communities apart, who live on streets that back on to each other).

"An incredible step forward, where the impossible has become possible".

The cohosts for this month's We Are The World Blogfeset are:  Shilpa GargSimon FalkLynn HallbrooksEric LahtiDamyanti Biswas and Guilie Castillo.   

Please take a look at their stories, or check out the Facebook link where lots of people are adding their contributions ...  

Until next month I'm sending peace and love and light to your corner of the world.  

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Bookshops and new projects

Coming up from Dublin the other day I had a quick run into the shopping centre and just couldn't go past Waterstone's Book Shop.   An invisible hand pulled me in.   I swear I had nothing to do with it :)

What is it about a book shop?  It just fills me with delight and excitement - touching all those covers with stories inside - voyages of discovery to take.  People to meet.  Battles to fight, to be won, to be lost, and to travel in my mind to all those wonderful places.  Tom usually has to steer me out with the shakes if I don't actually get to buy something but I escaped from him today ... Mwahahahahaha

Anyway, I came away with two lovely looking new novels to keep me quiet in between getting stressed with a brand new project for Singmarra (although I later realised that East West STreet is actually a biography - not sure about that ... see!  way too eager to just get a book in my hand without paying much attention to what was inside it).

So yes, a new project for Singmarra

I do mainly secular music with my choir - folk, pop, African, songs in different languages.  There are a lot of church choirs in the area and I wanted a space where non religious folk were welcomed as well as church goers.   As a non church goer myself I recognise the benefits of people singing together that would traditionally have only happened at religious services and I know that many people miss that feeling of joining in.

But a friend here, who's husband died several years ago, approached me about Singmarra taking part in a musical for Easter that her husband had written more than 30 years ago.   It's called Three and Thirty Years, the life of Christ, and is a modern musical or cantata based on the Easter story.   It will be a huge amount of work and I hope my lovely singers will enjoy it - they'd all expressed an interest before the holiday, so we made a good start at our rehearsals over the past couple of weeks.  The show will last for 75 minutes and the chorus are in most numbers as commentators.  In between thinking 'this will be fun' I'm thinking what have I done!!!

This is a dramatic change for us, going from a non performing group to doing a massive project like this - I have to say I'm very excited about it though.  After an initial production meeting panic really set in, so now it's time to go step by step.

This would be  suitable show for children or for community choirs right up to professional musical organisations. Great songs, funky rhythms, and a great challenge.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Foggy Days

We've been really fogged in here over the past few mornings.  After all the wind and storms it seems very silent, like everything is wrapped in a cocoon.

 The other shore disappears and even the drips of water on the ends of branches drop off quietly.

I love those days.  It's a bit like Keats mellow mists of Autumn have got misplaced somehow or the calendar is out of sync with itself.

But then the day opens up ... the last snow is still on the hills (we've not had much snow down here) and there's a wonderful colour in the sky.

A mist lifts off the mountain - it's almost like the trees are steaming

I hope all's well with you