Friday, 29 June 2018

June Photos

Here we are at the end of another month and it's time to join in with Hawthorn and the merry band of photo scavengers from around the world.  This month we were happily (well, a bit grumpily, but mostly happy) out travelling again, so the photos are from various places.


We stopped in Amsterdam on our way back to the ferry from Germany earlier in the month and had a day pottering around, mainly to allow me a visit to the wonderful Stephen and Penelope Wool Shop (- if you're a wool person you'll probably know of Stephen West - really out there  knitwear designer - fab-u-lous darling.  More of that in a future blog.)  Some of my friends here can't believe I dragged Tom into a huge city, two days before his birthday, to go to a wool shop on the pretext that the day out was his birthday treat!

There's lots of yellow around Amsterdam - bicycles, flowers, clothes etc.
But this one had to take the prize ... the Amsterdam Duck Shop
and who was out in front only Donald - it was a real laugh-out- loud, stop-and-point sort of shop, with lots of great characters represented as bath ducks.

Starts with a ... T 

We're in the middle of the most wonderful spell of sunshine here - (there's not a bit of work being done inside and the garden is finally getting in to shape).   And these little flowers are all over the place - our lawn (or what I lovingly call our moss) is full of wild flowers that miraculously bounce back again after each cut.  Watching a video on Aril's blog this morning I discovered that it is called Birdsfoot Trefoil - (we'll ignore the B bit of it and just go with the T) -  I was having trouble finding a suitable T so this just came up in perfect time.


I called in to the wool shop in Rheinberg in Germany - it's called Die Strickleiter (the Knit Ladder - a play on words of rope ladder).  Her bicycle was outside and the ladder covered in wool was a real hook to get me in.  Cute isn't it?

Starts with a ... G

I was looking for an AirBnB in or near Amsterdam before we left home and nearly took one on a houseboat - I wish I was more courageous to try these things - we couldn't gain access until 8pm which is way too late and had to be out by 10am which is way too early so the idea got passed on, but as we walked along the Amstel I spotted this garden which is right up my street of potted gardens, although when I looked closer it's just as much a mess as my own at the minute.  

Gardening Amsterdam style


I loved the stillness of this boat at the mouth of the river Erne at Ballyshannon 
and the silver of the water around it.

My own choice

Beach huts at Harwich in Essex.   I just love this sight any time we're on the East coast of England.  And this was a huge row of very well maintained huts.  We had an hour before we needed to queue for the ferry and after a feast of fish and chips I dragged a reluctant husband out to face the bracing cold to get a closer look.

So that's it from me for this month.   Thank you as always Kate for hosting this really enjoyable monthly challenge.  I'm going to check in on everyone else's blogs over the weekend.   If you fancy joining in or just seeing what's going on, check out the link here.  

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Faeries by William Allingham

The River Assaroe in Ballyshannon

We're back to a spate of beautiful sunshine here - just perfect for Midsummer. I love the Solstice - it brings me back to myself, to remembering nature and folklore and traditions. 

At this time of year as a child, we would have been in the hay field helping to save the hay and enjoying those special smells and the wonderful taste of tea and egg and onion sandwiches in the open air. 

We've been over in Donegal a lot in recent years, and a few weeks ago we went to see an old mill outside Ballyshannon and it reminded me of this poem we all learned as children.

(As an aside, I'm having terrible trouble getting my blog to hold its formatting, so apologies if this appears in miniature - anyone else having this problem? ) 

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen, 
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men. 
Wee folk, good folk, 
Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, 
And white owl's feather!
William Allingham

It's almost a shameful thing to admit but I've never been a great fan of poetry. But this is one poem I have always adored. It was written by William Allingham (more about him below) in the mid 19th century. He grew up in Ballyshannon in South Donegal where my mother also comes from ... It's just a few miles from where I grew up which made the poem even more resonant to young minds. The River Erne flows into the Atlantic at Ballyshannon and there's a dedication to him on the bridge there. 

I totally believed in the fairies - I suppose I still do. Nobody I know would ever consider cutting down a fairy thorn for example. The stories of the Children of Lír and Tír na nÓg were told alongside Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and were even more believable in a way because there were no princesses in Ireland. And I remember introducing you to the Leprechaun's clothes over in Carlingford late last year - you can read more about them here under the heading Neat. 

This verse was used as a threat to us as children - go to sleep or the fairies will come and get you. They took little Bridget - they'll get you too if you don't go to sleep. In the poem, Bridget comes back after 7 years and all her friends are gone, because of course time goes very slowly in the land of the ever young, Tír na nÓg.

The Faeries
Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, 
We daren't go a-hunting For fear of little men.
Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore Some make their home --
They live on crispy pancakes Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds Of the black mountain-lake, 
With frogs for their watch-dogs, All night awake.

High on the hilltop The old King sits; 
He is now so old and gray, He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist Columbkill he crosses, 
On his stately journeys From Slieveleague to Rosses;

Or going up with music On cold starry nights, 
To sup with the Queen Of the gay Northern Lights.
They stole little Bridget For seven years long; 
When she came down again Her friends were all gone.

They took her lightly back, Between the night and morrow; 
They thought that she was fast asleep, But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since Deep within the lake, 
On a bed of flag-leaves, Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hillside, Through the mosses bare, 
They have planted thorn-trees, For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring As dig them up in spite, 
He shall find their sharpest thorns In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, 
We dare 't go a-hunting For fear of little men.
Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather.

William Allingham, pic Internet 
William Allingham (19 March 1824 – 18 November 1889) grew up in Ballyshannon on the banks of the River Erne. Most of his poetry was lyrical and many were turned into songs - probably the most lasting apart from the Fairies is Adieu to Ballyshanny, which is still sung in the area. He was a contemporary of Tennyson and Carlyle and after he died his diaries were published which highlighted his contact with these more celebrated poets of the day. 

Do you believe in Fairies? I'd love to hear.

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