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.  

Monday, 11 June 2018

A Roving We Will Go

We had such an unusual sight at our concert in Riesby in the North of Germany on Thursday night last when 12 Journeymen showed up at the gig - journeymen and women I should say.  The local newspapers were dying to get a photo and we were delighted to be included.

It is a very rare thing to see so many of them together - usually there is just one or two.  

Do you know about Journeymen?   In Germany they are called Travelling Workers and they're all craftsmen and women.   They wear an insignia on their tie to denote their craft - in this group there were carpenters, joiners, a blacksmith, a goldsmith, a pastry chef, and a metal worker - I didn't get to ask the rest.  They have a very strict code of conduct and practice and all of them wear their uniform with pride.

Journeymen  are apparently quite common now again in the German speaking world but one young man told me that apart from New Zealand and very occasionally in Ireland and Scotland, they're not known anywhere else.  If one comes to a business to ask for work, they must be given a job if there's a place for their skill and if there isn't, the business owner agrees to look after them until work is found.  This is a very old tradition and was a common way for a young man to gain an apprenticeship until the 1920s when the Nazis came to power and banned them as tramps.

They sign up for at least 3 years and a day and must stay travelling at least 50 kms away from their homeplace.   They must be single, have no children and no debts so they're not running away.   They leave home with €5 and can only have the same amount when they return - they only do this to gain experience in their work and not for monetary gain.   The word Journeyman comes from the French word Journée meaning a day as they are paid daily and the main reason for this journey is an apprenticeship.

And the reason there were so many?  Well one of the girls was finishing her time on the road, after 4 1/2 years, and the rest came to walk her home.  They still had 20 kms to go from here.  And she was going home to get married to one of the others who had left 2 years earlier but came back to join the troupe for the walk.

I asked one young man why he had decided to do this and he said that it symbolised freedom for him.  In this world where people are so afraid of strangers, I think this is a wonderful thing.  By the time they have finished their time as a journeyman they are a master at their craft.  This Wikipedia article is a very interesting article if you'd like to read more about the tradition which is known as on the Walz and indeed the song Waltzing Matilda is about someone on this journey.

They were a really love bunch of people and I felt honoured to have met them.

If you're familiar with Irish or Scottish music, you'll maybe know this song - The Roving Journeyman, here sung by The Corries.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A Day on the Road

With friends from Denmark and Germany waiting for the 0630 ferry from Hallig Hooge.
The truck in the back has everyone's luggage and all our equipment in it.
The smiles belie the fact that no coffee had yet been consumed!
When asked about being 25 years playing music with the Rolling Stones, the drummer Charlie Watt replied that they'd only be playing music for 3 years and the other 22 were spent hanging around.

I concur - although at a much reduced level than the Stones.

Touring is wonderful - we get to see great places and having a string of concerts together gets you well honed and into good shape.   And the concerts are always wonderful - people are kind and generous.  

But the down side is the time in the car on the motorway.   We are constantly looking for new ways to travel over to the Continent that involves getting the most sleep - let's say that this one didn't fit that bill very well.  We were away for 12 days and with the exception of 3 of them we were up and well away long before 9 and on several days we were actually travelling by 6.30 A.M.!!!! (in the vain hope of avoiding traffic jams).  Then sleeping afternoons (if there was time) and getting ready to play in the evening.  And all the time the weather was showing off at its best 30-33 degrees C.  We travelled 2,300 miles through 7 countries, did 7 concerts and sold lots of CDs.

After a week of it I was totally shattered.  But thankfully we were staying with friends most of the time and towards the end of the trip we had 3 nights in one place and our friend Rita fed and watered us and let us lay about the place for a day which helped enormously.  

And here I am, home again and planning to do it all over again!   Are we mad or what?

So today we're taking part in #FairPlé - a day of musical activism for Gender Equality in Folk and Traditional Music in Ireland.   I'm hosting a session at 2pm (the sun's still shining - will anyone want to be inside in a pub?)  and afterwards we're going for dinner to celebrate Tom's birthday.
Please, sun, wait around for another couple of days.  Pretty please??

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Restful Sunday

Very very low tide on the North Sea -
 the ferry to Halllig Hooge had to leave 90 minutes early (at 6.30am) to catch enough water.  

I'm only today getting to check in on some of the May Scavenger Photo hunt blogs and some lovely images there are.

We've been on the road for just over a week and I mean literally on the road - so sick of Autobahns - 6 1/2  hours to do 300 kms and 9 hours to do what should normally take 5 hours!   Still, the gigs have been good and we've seen some unusual sights.  I'll try to post a few more photos in the coming days now that I have a decent signal.

For now we're finished with this run and will take the ferry back to England on Tuesday night before a last folk club gig at Uppermill on Saddleworth Moor on Wednesday night and then on over to Dublin the next day.

I hope the sun is continuing to shine on you - have a lovely week.

Friday, 25 May 2018

May 2018 Photo Scavenger Hunt

Joining in today with Hawthorn for the monthly Photo Scavenger Hunt - a list of words to illustrate with photos.
It's a joy doing this challenge each month and having a look back over the where, how and when of the past month, although most of my selection here seem to have a doom feeling about them ... sorry about that ... exasperation at the continuing cold I expect.   But  here goes.


A really cool evening a few weeks back.  I love seeing the low clouds.
That bare tree in the foreground never buds until the end of May and is the last to shed its leaves - every year I'm checking to see if it's dead and every year it fools me 
Thankfully the sun is now shining.  


I was doing a workshop over in South Armagh earlier in the month and in the foyer there was a big hoarding about the sinking of 'the Hannah' - unfortunately my photo is terrible of it, but it fits this prompt .  This was one of the famine ships.

and in case you're interested in shipwrecks here's an interactive map of over 4000 wrecks off the coast of Ireland - phew!  


Driving across the Queensferry Crossing (the new bridge over the Forth) in Scotland at the start of May, and looking over to the Forth Bridge in the distance and the Forth Road Bridge in the middle.  Confusing names.


Or should I say - no fences.  This is the border where I grew up.  
Both County Fermanagh(in NI) and County Donegal (in ROI) are in the province of Ulster - (it's incorrect to call Northern Ireland Ulster).  The lane in the third picture was what was once known as an unapproved road.  There are hundreds of them around the border counties. During the Troubles it was blown up by the army to then be filled in again by farmers needing to get to their livestock or to the bog.  I'm wondering how it'll be policed once Brexit lands.
looking East - North on the right

and West - Fermanagh on the left, Donegal on the right.
My home house is a few fields along on the left - our bog was on the right.

And looking northwards to the South!!  (Donegal is further north than this part of Fermanagh)


A really spectacular lump of fallen tree trunk in the woods with lots of prickly edges

My own choice

The bluebell wood at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint.
This is where the second part of the Woman in White was filmed apparently.
Summer always seems to arrive in May and the bluebells just smile at everyone.  Wonderful sight seeing wedding parties and young couples and people carrying babies in, all coming in to be photographed.

So that's it from me for this month .... I'll get time on the ferry tomorrow night (we're on our way to Germany) to have a look at everyone else's photos - a trip around the world in words and pictures.
If you fancy playing along or want to check out what everyone else has shown for these words, take a look here.  

Sunday, 20 May 2018


The bluebells are still in full glory in the garden

It takes me much longer to recover from tours these days, or maybe it's just that I'm being kinder to myself and taking the time I need to rest.  Whichever, I've been staggering through to the end of the past few weeks feeling like I've achieved nothing and the to do list has managed to get  longer.  But then I remember the gigs and workshops I've done (thank you for all the good wishes about the singing for lung health workshops - they are going really well and the gigs have been a joy),  the drives to my mum, the radio interview on the other side of the country - and I think, no wonder there's no washing done and the house is a tip.    

Whether it's that I'm getting older or that I'm a Libran, I just can't take decisions.   So I go through the days with random stuff coming into my head of must do this and have to finish that - and  I can't decide which to start with and end up doing nothing and getting more stressed.     

So I finally sat down the other day and did a list of Must Do, Should Do and Want to Do - it made it much easier to see exactly what needs to be done when.  So now, getting ready for the road again at the end of this week, I'm at least feeling ready and rested and excited - there's still a song or two to polish and words in German to learn, but that'll happen - the wonder of deadlines. 

I had a couple of hours in the hairdressers yesterday - trying to avoid the wedding - (£100k for a dress!! what the ...? ) and had a leisurely catch up on reading your blogs and putting up some photos.  Happily we also got a few hours in the garden and got it a bit tidier before today's rain - and off to view a vintage fair this afternoon ... happy days ... a relaxing weekend. 

Wishing you all a lovely rest of weekend.  

PS Thanks Kate for the macro tips :) 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

A whirlwind tour

crossing bridges - the new bridge over the Forth

We're back after a swift run around all parts of the British Isles - down through Ireland to Rosslare, ferry to Fishguard and across the south of Wales, over into England to north London, up the eastern side of the country and into Scotland and back home to the North of Ireland ... phew..   A lot of miles, 4 wonderful concerts, a radio session, catch ups with lots of friends, and a visit to Barter Books (Yaaayy,, Tom had to drag me out).   AS the name suggests, it's a secondhand book shop, one of the largest in England and probably one of the largest in the world, and you can bring in books to barter.

These aren't the best pictures as I only had my phone with me and not a lot of time to spare, 
plus there was the more important task of buying books and some souvenirs for our Book Corner. 

It really is a splendid place.   It was on Kezzie's blog that I first heard about it, and I've been trying to engineer a journey to drive past Alnwick ever since - and managed to bring a bag of books with me to barter.

It's a haven for second hand books and particularly for collectors - there's some amazing antiquarian sections among the more common-or-garden books. 

But the highlight for me were the lines of poetry on every free surface.  That and the train which I didn't manage to capture.  It runs in front of this mural of famous writers of which I now have several photos in an attempt to catch one of the wee trains running on that track in front of it  (note to really need some photo lessons) - the book shop is in an old railway station that was on a line only used by Queen Victoria I think on visits to some local lord - I'm a bit scant on historical fact and no time to check this morning.

We're two very tired bods and it'll take a few days to catch up with ourselves, but we're hitting the ground running and today I start a new singing workshop for people with lung conditions in association with the British Lung Foundation.  Hopefully a few people will turn up as I'm very much looking forward to this project which will run for a few months if there are enough participants.

Better dash - I'm looking forward to catching up with all the Scavenger hunt photo blogs over the weekend and also looking back at the other positive news stories too from the We Are The World bloghop.

Talk soon.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

April Scavenger Hunt Photos

I'm taking a few of this month's photos from a walk at Easter along the Mall in Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal, where the River Erne runs down into the Atlantic.
And joining in with Kate for the monthly round up of photos to match words.  


The water had just been released from the dam at Kathleen's Falls about 1/2 mile back, causing the swirling foam.   The island is called Inis Saimer (Saimer Island).  The story goes that when the Vikings invaded the chief (or perhaps it was his lady) had a beautiful dog that died and was bored on this little island.   The dog's name was Saimer.


Low tide at Bundoran.   I love the shape and patterns of rocks at low tide - this part of the shore is quite long and flat.


Back at the Mall in Ballyshannon- there's a little walk way.  These trees are part of a Fairy wood, which must have been decorated by children.   I'm going to go back in a while when the trees are in leaf to see what it's like.  
Ballyshannon is the birthplace of the 19th century poet William Allingham who wrote "The Fairies" - a poem that was used to get us to bed at night.  "Up the fairy mountain, down the fairy glen, You daren't go a walking For fear of fairy men.."  There's something in it about the fairies stealing little Brigid and that was the part that kept us indoors at night.


Just at the end of the fairy trees there's this Little Free Library - you can barely read the letters on it - but I thought, what a charming idea.  


Along the Fairy Glen (sorry, more fairies), back at home,  we walked right past this boy.   I think the picture is a bit overexposed, but he was balancing on a stone watching out for his supper.   Usually you can't get this close to these birds - they look prehistoric, don't they?

My own choice

Finally Spring is starting to show.   In the distance these new leaves looked like flowers.  I just love that zingy colour of new life.  

Thank you Kate for doing this love scavenger hunt each month - I'm off now to check out everyone else's photos over the next few days.  

#WATWB 20 years of peace, kind of

Celebrating small achievements

It's 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast in effect ending more than 30 years of sectarian warfare.

In joining in with the monthly We Are The World Blogfest to highlight good news stories around the world I thought it was worth celebrating the fact that this accord has lasted for 20 years.  At times it feels like nothing changes, no progress is being made, but then I realise that just keeping going is in itself a huge achievement, one that has allowed us ordinary people to sleep better at night.

Local semi retired political journalist William (Billy) Graham was there at both the signing of the agreement and at the 20 year celebration which brought back the various world leaders who contributed to helping the Agreement happen.

These are  his reflections in the Belfast Telegraph.

More than 40 years since he witnessed carnage on the streets of Belfast, 
William Graham believes there is hope for the future.

This is the 13th month of We Are the World Blogfest and the co-hosts this month are
Shilpa GargDan AntionSimon FalkMichelle Wallace , Mary Giese 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Have guitar. Will travel.

And we’re off.  Out over the Irish Sea.

So excited to be heading out on the road again.  
Playing at a couple of new-to-us folk clubs near London first.

Loughton in Essex on Thursday 26th
Barnet, north London on Friday 27th 

Then driving north over the weekend- stopping for a night in Northumberland -(and I’m hoping to fit in a visit to Barter Books en route - thanks Kezzie for that tip).

Then two more clubs in Scotland

Stirling on Monday 30th
Glasgow on Tuesday 1st May. (Gosh May already)

We’re looking forward to hearing some great floor spots - the songs are always very different from region to region and it's one of things we both enjoy most about playing folk clubs.  (If you're not familiar with folk clubs, a lot of clubs devote  the first part of the evening to members who perform a couple of songs each - there can be as many as 3 performers before each set, and as few as one support act - that's known as a floor spot.  In fact I think Barnet Folk Club has half the night as a singaround/session and the second half will be us)

If you know someone living near any of these clubs who may be interested please pass on the info.  

Saturday, 31 March 2018

March Scavenger Hunt

And well as the Positive News Blogfest, the end of the month marks the fun Scavenger Hunt - words to be interpreted by a picture, hosted by the lovely Kate at I Live, I Love, I Craft, I am me.  I've missed a few months but I'm back to play along :)


Short of going out and photographing all the very many potholes around the roads at the minute, or thinking of the hole that is left by all the friends who have passed away this winter, it took me a while to find this photo from last summer - the treasures in a hole on the beach.


This is a cardigan called Cosette and my first attempt at knitting from the top down and doing a seamless piece.   It's slow work but I'm pleased with the results so far and can't wait to see it blocked and pressed, opening out the lace pattern and evening out the stockinette parts.  Nearly finished the body now and ready to start adding in the sleeves.  

Reading now

I've just started this book and it's really enjoyable.   Zadie Smith is a name I see regularly but have never read anything of hers before and I'm engrossed ... she's a great writer and it's interesting having a glimpse into the world of a young black person growing up in London.  

Black and white

Messing around with the macro function on my camera, I'd been playing at angles on this pine cone and thought it looked interesting in black and white.

Begins with H

I was scratching my head for a while trying to find something beginning with H and spotted this orchid holder which I brought back from Germany a few years back ... there are lots of glass shops in the shopping arcades in Germany and I rarely come home without a piece.  These were so cute.  And my orchid loves it - this one is blooming for the third or fourth time.

My own choice

Watching the birds in the morning is such a soothing pastime - and with all the cold weather we've had they've been putting on quite a display around the feeders.  I was chuffed with myself for catching this one ...  a bullfinch I think - he was sitting in the sun and stayed there for ages.  

Off now to see everyone else's interpretations of the prompts..  Do you fancy joining in?  Check it out here.   

Friday, 30 March 2018

Positive News Magazine #WATWB

Here we are at the end of another month - time to take part in the We Are The World Blogfest, a global event in the blogging world, a chance to spread positive news for a day.  A special hello to     Belinda Witzenhausen,  Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein  Shilpa Garg, and Eric Lahti who are the cohosts for this month.

I must confess that in recent months I have more or less entirely stopped watching the news, or following stories online - there is such heaviness in the world.  And it's getting harder to find stories that I want to share.

But the young kids in America in the past few weeks have been inspirational - they are lighting a spark that I so want them to turn into a huge fire.  Isn't it remarkable that most of these wonderful young men and women are not as old as this century and as a result have spent their entire lives so far under the threat of doom and war and misery ... I hope they are the catalysts for change that this world so deserves.

But the story I want to tell you about today is about a magazine I found that prints only good news stories.   I'm sure some of you have already come across this.  It's called Positive News, what else, and is printed in England.  I've been subscribing online for a few months and the stories that come out weekly are interesting and full of hope, including the companies who are sponsoring them.   This month I finally bought a physical copy of the magazine as well.

Check them out and support them if you can - it'd be great to see more positive journalism instead of constant streaming news that no longer simply informs but seems to try to tell us how to think.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Give My Head Peace

That's a real Northern Irish saying and the title of a satirical comedy show that ran here for years on local TV - a political commentary couched in a sitcom and recorded weekly to reflect the goings on of our local politicians and all the other bodies at work all through the Troubles.   In fact black humour was as much a part of daily life as all the rest of the stuff and what kept us sane.

So last night we went to a live show of Give My Head Peace in the Grand Opera House in Belfast and what a laugh.  They had done another 3 TV shows recently and this live show carried the story on - very clever, very colloquial and very very funny.  46,000 people applied for the 200 tickets to the 3 live recordings of the TV shows so naturally this theatre tour sold out very quickly.

You've got MLAs (local politicians not currently sitting in government but still getting paid much to everyone's annoyance), a bad marriage, the police, flags (or 'flegs') a clerical henchman, stand up ... basically anything that can be lambasted and by golly they lambast very well this group - no-one gets missed.

The Opera House is always a delight to visit - built in 1895 and full of elephants and ornate decor, it's a cosy wee theatre.

The woman sitting beside me was a bit put out by the elephants and got worse after she managed to down 4 pints of cider in the 2 45 minute halves of the show!  She reckoned they should be taken down!  

But I love the elephants - it makes me feel like I'm back in a different era and still watching modern theatre.  (Apologies for the photos - it was hard to get anything clear with all the lights on).