Sunday, 4 November 2018

On tour

We've been on the road in the UK for over two weeks now and it's been a brilliant trip.   The concerts have gone very well, we've seen lots of old friends and made many new ones, we've travelled from the north of Scotland down into the Midlands of England and points in between and while I'm sad it's over I am most definitely in need of a break and ready to be at home now.

These photos were taken on the very last night in Bollington Folk Club - many thanks to John Appleyard for sending them on to me.

The clubs have been a joy with fabulous singers all along the way who have not only sang with our songs but have provided great entertainment before and during our sets everywhere we went.  And thankfully our new songs went down very well wherever we went.

There have been lots of laughs and many sad moments too as people sang songs about the great war, and many towns we passed through were bedecked with mementoes to the thousands and thousands who lost their lives in it.  And saddest of all, in of the clubs we visited, the Cutty Wren in Redcar, the organiser was very ill in hospital and sadly died the next day.  John Taylor was a lovely man whom we only met once but who made us feel very welcome.   He will be very much missed.

But then the hilarious goings on of singers in the next club redressed the balance.

We stayed with many old friends and some new ones, and of course sat long into the night solving the problems of the world and finding out about each other's views on the B word.  I'm totally talked out about Brexit now.

In spite of my great intentions setting off on a tour, I'm pretty terrible at taking photos on the road, but I'll be back later in the week with a few sights and views.

Friday, 19 October 2018


We're in Scotland at the moment and had a splendid night to start us off in Dunfermline on Wednesday night.   Thanks to everyone who came out and joined in.     

Walking around the town the next day I spotted these details on top of the cathedral.   
Isn't that just brilliant!   

Dunfermline was the ancient capital of Scotland and has some beautiful old buildings.   We hadn't much time to look around but we'll definitely go back someday to have a proper look.
It is also the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie and has what I'm told is an excellent museum in his honour.  

  • We're in Portsoy now, way up in the north, to deliver a two day songwriting workshop tomorrow and Sunday as well as a concert tomorrow night.   Tom's also doing a percussion workshop tomorrow afternoon.
More photos to follow.


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The joys of Autumn

I don't know about you but for some reason this year I am not anywhere near ready for it to be Autumn yet.  And although it's quite warm here this week, last week wasn't, so it felt like we'd gone straight in to winter.   I adore Autumn - it's my time of year, but I just feel out of sync somehow .... Whatever it is these are beautiful days to be out walking and feel centred in the time of year.

The colours are starting to change and everything is smelling so abundant and rich and fruitful.

And the load of logs that arrived yesterday are in perfect time for getting the fire lit in the evening.  With stews and rib sticking suppers (of the vegetarian and even vegan kind) and getting jumpers and woollies out again, there's lots to enjoy and look forward to as the nights draw in.

I feel so saddened and terrified in equal measure by the news this week of the scientists' warnings of what we're doing to this Earth and how close we are to major catastrophe ... and still money seems to be leading the way for our political leaders.

It was good to bring the focus back to the present and get out and get some air and enjoy the trees.

Monday, 8 October 2018

A romantic castle

It seems like ages ago now since we were in France - it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and we neither of us can wait to go again.   And of course we had to visit at least one chateau.
Warning - this post is picture heavy -( I've never learned the art of less is more when it comes to pictures.)

How would you fancy living here?

This is Chateau de L'Islette (the castle on a little island) and it is still occupied.  The family bought it in the 1960s and have been gradually doing it up.  

Château de L'Islette

You cross a little moat - the river runs past it offering the opportunity for boat trips.  

It's a beautiful old house and I would love to live in it.   
But it's real charm is the story that Rodin the sculptor had an affaire with his then 17 year old student Camille Claudel, and l'Islelette was their meeting place for nearly two years.  

It is where Rodin worked on his famous Balzac statue and Camille, famous in her own right,  did many studies of one of the grandchildren of the house - la petite chatelaine.   She often revisited the château in subsequent years and was fully aware of the scandal around her   

There are still echoes of their relationship everywhere with one room dedicated to their writings, their letters to each other and their biographies. 

La Petite Chatelaine

« You cannot imagine how good it is to be at L'Islette ... and it is so pretty here!. …
If you are nice, and keep your promise we will know what paradise is like. »

With my love Camille
(Camille Claudel to Rodin)

Let me show you around some of the rooms - the chapel first

A very clever little shadow lamp that moved around the room
very atmospheric

Some of the house - particularly the bathroom and kitchen - was very modern and obviously well used.   The family move out to a farm house on the estate during the summer season.
Very modern kitchen

A little prayer nook beside the kitchen ....
I could just imagine closing myself in there for a moment's quiet from the chaos of a busy house

The prayer nook

Couldn't you just picture yourself
gazing out there in pensive meditation 


One of the children's bedrooms
and the room where Camille stayed in later years

The other child's bedroom
And looking out Camille's window

The main sitting room on the first floor

The ceiling was handprinted
and very pretty
And back outside ....

The sundial on the wall of the castle

The Mill House in the background at the side of the chateau

The water mill house and the River Indre which surrounds the castle

As a final touch I thought it was really clever to offer children clothes to dress up in while the parents had a look at the place - you could be a princess or a knight for the afternoon :)   Apparently they do this at some of the big German castles as well - maybe in England too?  Great idea.
Fancy being a princess for the day? 
You can read more about it and see much more professional photos than mine here
These places must cost a fortune to do up and maintain but still, it was great to get a look around inside.   It's a style of life I can only imagine.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Into the new decade

Cakes galore
Thank you all for your lovely comments and birthday wishes .... I had an overwhelming couple of days and the surprise on Thursday in Belfast was to a sell out comedy fundraising concert in Belfast  with Tim McGarry and friends to raise awareness for Integrated Education (sadly only 7% of schools in Northern Ireland are religiously integrated yet and it takes some time from starting an integrated school until full funding is secure - this fund helps bridge that gap).  
I played along with the mystery tour and didn't know what was happening until the first performer walked on the stage.   I LOVE SUPRISES.   It was a terrific night.   These are all local contemporary comedians - anybody outside of here would be hard put to catch the accents or indeed the very black sense of humour and the mentalist who joined them had us all in stitches.

So then I had a party on Saturday night - just a small gathering of friends for some food and music and great laughs.   Maybe I might have another one before another 10 years are up :)

I suppose I'd better take the cards down now!!

Monday, 1 October 2018

September Photo Scavenger Hunt

Hello dear Hawthorn and photo scavenger friends

Sorry I missed out on the last couple of month's photos - my plan was to come back to visit you all later,  but later never happened.   We've had a busy July and early August with our festival and recording studio work and then the most glorious two weeks in France with our caravan.  Then straight off to Germany for a short tour and somehow September has now vanished too.  I thought I was getting myself ready early for this month's challenge but no......

If you've not joined in with Hawthorn's Photo Hunt before  check in here for the links to add your own and to see all the other interpretations.

Brightly Coloured

We spent a lovely day in Chauvigny in France at a mediaeval fair - there are ruins in the town of 5 different castles dating back to those times and the park was a blaze of colour and sound for the festival - these musicians were superb, singing and playing old instruments to a background sound of knights jousting and youngsters learning how to properly wield the swords they'd just bought. 
Mind you, everything looks bright and colourful in the sunshine. 

Upside down

My geography days are long behind me so I can never remember if these are tites or mites!  In the petrified caves near Saumur.  In this particular cave they leave objects under the falling droplets which then get coated, or petrified, and come out looking like porcelain.   The smell was fabulous.

A full pillar of deposits in the middle background


OK, so not quite ink, but at least it's writing of a sort.   I was looking for a pic of a cool tattoo - I've a girlfriend in Germany who has several tattoos of quotes from Jayne Austen on her arms and tummy but I didn't want to embarrass her by asking to photograph them.   Anyway, there's lots of this splendid graffiti around the University area in Belfast ... It makes a change from our usual political murals ( or muriels as they're know here)
Graffiti in Belfast


I got a lovely bag of goodies from a beekeeper in Germany who organises one of our concerts there - honey, royal jelly night cream and some honey lip balm as well as a bottle of honey wine which I"m really looking forward to trying.  But I didn't realise it until we arrived home that the bag is covered in little bees :)   So cute.  


The patterns in wood are endlessly fascinating - like clouds.  This was on a church door dating back to the 12th century in Vallency in the Loire Valley.   The tales that door could tell.
Such a sad face

My own choice

Flowers of course .... At Chateau L'Islette in the Loire Valley - I'll have a post about our visit there in a week or so.

So, definitely this week I'll get around to see everyone else's photos and get a quick trip around the world from my comfy seat here in my study.   

Thursday, 27 September 2018

A significant number

It's my birthday today and I've reached a significant age - I'm now entitled to a free bus pass (I rarely use the bus, but hey, it's there, it's free and who knows where I'll go!)

But it is surreal.

I look in the mirror and it just doesn't compute!

I'm switching between thinking it's all hysterically funny and the next moment I'm in tears thinking how did this happen!

But the alternative doesn't measure up at all, does it.

I've had an amazing life so far - full of ups and not too many downs.  But I have followed my heart albeit not the most sensible thing to do a lot of the time (especially now when I see my friends retiring with that beautiful sounding word 'pension' lol)   But I couldn't have done anything else.  It's always been heart over head.  

And I hope that the adventure will continue for a good few years to come.

I've lost a lot of friends in recent years who haven't reached 60 or just barely, so instead of running away and hiding today and for the next few days, I'm shouting it out loud and celebrating reaching this significant number.   And looking forward to the party at the weekend.

Heading to Belfast now for a treat after spending a delicious morning browsing through one of my pressies from Tom - this amazing tome of the songs of Joni Mitchell explaining her guitar styles.  Months of inspiration.

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.