Reading My Way Around the World

Saturday 27 January 2024

Monument to the Unknown Women Workers

Up in Belfast a while back there was time for a proper look at this bronze sculpture outside the train station.  It is by Louise Walsh and was put up in 1992 beside the Europa Hotel.

The Monument to the Unknown Women Workers apparently had a lot of controversy around it  - I always thought it was a tribute to the Millies - Belfast was built on the mills and all the women who worked there - Belfast girls are still - called Millies - but apparently this was intended to be a tribute to the ladies of the night who congregated at Amelia Street across the road, but the artist decided that a wider tribute to the unpaid women workers was more appropriate and the original planners decided against it.  

The Crown Bar beside Amelia Street, the former red light district of Belfast
The statue stands across the road from the Crown Bar, one of Belfast's most iconic places of interest - an original gin palace which still serves great food.   Inside, the bar is laid out in booths which would have been used by the ladies who congregated in Amelia Street on the corner. 
One of the women is an office worker with quotes about equal pay and various office acroutements attached to her

The second is a mother with the trappings of motherhood, babyhood and the home. 

There's a real mixed bag of comments on Trip Advisor which, apart from Wikipedia,  was the only place I could find any information about this - some people thought they were ugly and in the wrong place.

I think they're fabulous. 

The sculpture was commissioned in the late 80s by the Department of the Environment and after it was dropped a private client recommissioned it in 1992.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

A new year, a new home

Like the twisted trunk of this old tree Tom and I have re rooted ourselves and moved West to my old home house on the borders of Co. Fermanagh and Co. Donegal - we're a few miles from the Atlantic and in the county full of lakes, bogland and wide open spaces.  

It's been a huge move emotionally and spiritually, totally apart from the physical upheaval.  We were in our last house for 20 years and in that town for 30.  There's a story I heard once

,  that when a gypsy dies the rest of the tribe burn their caravan and all its contents.   That's what I'm going to do if I ever have to move house again - OMG!!!!  I'm sure you've all been through it at some point in your lives - where does all the stuff come from!   We're here now 4 months and there's still things I can't find.   I think that's the hardest part of moving - we lose the familiar - the things you knew exactly where to find them, the shops to go to to get a certain item, the friends to call for a coffee when you're bored or need a break.   

And yet there's a lot that's familiar here - people I went to primary school with still live along the road and have been very kind both to my mother when she was alive and to us as we settle in.   I remember faces although I can't always put a name to them yet, and down the years of spending holidays with mum we have kept a foot in this camp which is making the transition a lot easier.  

Some brave souls going for a New Year's Dip on Lough Erne.  

So it's time now to get back into some old rhythms.  I"m back to tour planning and have started work on a very long overdue songbook and I hope to start doing the occasional blog again.    Tom is enjoying doing renovations to the house and we're both enjoying not driving anywhere for a while - the 210 mile round trip that we were doing sometimes twice a week in the last months of Mum's life, we are definitely not missing those.   And the new will become familiar in time.   

I hope you are all well - although I've not been posting, I have been popping in from time to time to read your blogs and catch up with you.   

Mostly our lives have been led on Facebook and YouTube so if you fancy popping in there to say hello I'll be glad to see you.   

Happy New Year - may this one bring a little bit of peace to the world.  

Monday 7 November 2022


Gosh it's been ages since I've checked in here and I thought it was time to come by and reassure everyone that I'm still here - thanks Susan for the nudge.   

Under the beech tree on the garage roof
They're all in hiding now

It's a miserable day here and I've nailed myself to the desk to do some catching up and start getting work stuff ready for Christmas.   I have a real love hate relationship with Christmas preparations - as soon as I see things in the shops in October I want the biscuits and puddings and then I turn into Scrooge and don't want to hear a carol or see a decoration until Christmas week.   That all being said I made my cake at the weekend and start the choir on Christmas songs tomorrow - eek!  

We've been running between two houses since Mum passed away and for several months before that, and our own house was looking kind of unloved and unlived-in for a while.   We needed a concerted offensive on spiders - where are they all coming from! - and now it's just taking a day to feel like home again each time we come back.   

A lot of clearing out has been done and if this rain ever stops I have a gardener waiting to help me make her garden more manageable when we're not living there full time.  The penalty for living so close to the Atlantic is rain 90% of the time according to the builder who'd been doing some fixing up for us.  It dumps on Donegal and Fermanagh first so that by the time it gets to us here in Co. Down it has tamed down a bit.   I think people in Cornwall and Devon are the same.  

My lovely mum Margaret or Marguerite as she was known on one side of the family,
who passed away in July.  
She was 3 weeks away from her 95th birthday.  

Mum was a great crafter.   A life long member of the ICA (the Irish Countrywomen's Association, the Irish equivalent of the Women's Institute), she knitted and crocheted, made our clothes, embroidered my Irish dancing costumes and tried her hand at every new thing that came along.  Right up until a few days before she died she was still asking us to bring her crochet into the hospital to her.   And like every crafter she had endless supplies of everything needed - for every new craft!  So I have two trunks and two cupboards full of patterns and material and tools dating back to the late 50s and as yet I've not tackled the attic!  And that's after giving away enough wool for two or three blankets at least.   It's a real treasure trove and although I can hear her asking why I'm poking around in her stuff, I'm enjoying what I find.   Problem is I also have those collectors instincts and already have a house full of stuff that'll never be touched again!

Saxophone on a folk album you ask!!
Channelling our inner Van the man band on a couple of songs

We finally got back to recording over the past couple of weeks, finishing up pieces that we need other people to play on and fingers crossed the album will be totally finished by the end of this month. 

Tom at work making everything sound good.

We'll have a song out on digital platforms for Christmas and the album will hopefully have a February launch.   So normal service is returning.

Ah!  concertina!  That's more like folk

I find it hard to find up beat things to talk about when life isn't going so smoothly and I hate writing doom and gloom  - there's enough of that in the world.   But I'll be back at some point.  

Thanks for reading.   

Fil x

Thursday 9 June 2022

Updates from here

Things have been a bit manic here and I'm a bit the worse for wear at this stage, but the end is in sight.   

summer colour in spite of the cold

My brother arrived home from Australia on Sunday for a month long visit to stay with Mum, which has freed our time a bit for a few weeks to let the end of term run out, get choir performances done and get the album finished.   Unfortunately new medicine I've been on has not agreed with me and I'm struggling putting one foot in front of the other at the minute - isn't that always the way - never feel poorly when you've loads of time to be sick in ... humph.   Anyway, this too shall pass as some wise person once said.  

Break out the champagne ... We had a successful crowdfunding project on Kickstarter - hit our target a few days ago and the time isn't up until tonight at midnight so we're delighted with that.   A couple of very generous friends asked us to do special concerts which we are only to happy to do and they lifted the total well up between them.   

Terrible photo but drum set up in the living room
Now we're finishing up our bits of recording.   I have to say this has been a most enjoyable experience.  Every room in the house has been used and as if by magic it all disappears in the evening.  

guitar studio in the bedroom

 Yesterday and today I've been engineering for Tom to add his percussion parts and I'm getting to grips with all the technical terms - I am now someone who knows that a bus is not only a means of transport!!  Mind you I can't explain it much beyond that but it's something to do with sound recording lol. 

For the next few days now we'll do backing vocals and final vocals while other musicians are adding parts to songs remotely.   On previous recordings we brought a musician in for a day to add their instrument to several tracks, but now most musicians have the facility to record in their own studio and send the parts back.    So there's bass, fiddle and keyboards going on to some songs and we've a few minor things to add then - perhaps an harmonica on one or two songs and we're looking for a nice wooden flute player.   I've never gotten around to buying my wooden flute but I will do that over the winter - mind you my wish list of instruments never seems to get smaller - let me see: I need another guitar, a ukulele (even though I'm not a fan of the instrument, but it may have uses in recording ), a wooden flute and a shruti box.   I think I'll have to keep doing the lottery.  As you can see my annoyance with music has diminished - the rest over covid has really done me good - that and constant playing with paints and papers.   Now to get the medicines sorted, get a wee break and hope that my mum keeps improving.   She'll be 95 next month so we'll look forward to that.      

And of course, I can't go without the squirrel updates :)  Our morning entertainment ... 

Count the tails!!!

there was another one on the ground

... if the sun is shining they are really red but if it's dull they seem much browner.  I really must learn to take better photos but the wee brats won't sit still long enough for a good pose - they need training :)

Til the next time, stay well and safe.  

Friday 20 May 2022

World Bee Day

Today marked World Bee Day according to Positive News Magazine.   Is there a day to celebrate everything now?  Mind you the bees need celebrating.   

Our neighbour John keeps bees so our garden is full of them at the minute.   The cotoneaster is starting to bloom and they're all over it and we left a lot of dandelions until their blooms had disappeared.  The bluebells though don't seem to attract them in the same way.  I've also seen quite a few bumble bees around - they're really fun to watch, just getting on with their business and burrowing into the ground. 

And then I've become addicted to the Spelling Bee - another NYTimes puzzle alongside Wordle - are you on the Wordle fad yet?  Apart from the really annoying American spelling of words it's a good brain challenge.   I've reach Queen Bee status a couple of times on the Spelling Bee and they have absolutely beautiful bee pictures - a couple of which I have appropriated here.  

In other news we are progressing well with recording on the new album which we now have a working title for - Shoreline.   Our fundraiser on Kickstarter got off to a good start and we're on schedule to have all the guide tracks finished in another 10 days or so, barring more hospital appointments for mum.   We're down with her every weekend now so the week and our brains are split - I keep trying to walk through a window to get to the loo in the middle of the night - it's very disorientating moving between two beds on a regular basis.  It's around now that I wish that I'd got a 'proper job' with a pension and paid sick leave when I had the chance and when petrol didn't administer heart failure every time you went to fill up the car.   A bit late now.  But all will work out.  

So once the guide tracks, or the skeleton tracks as I like to call them, are done, then it's time to add the little bits of other instruments.   Nowadays that's mostly done remotely - we send tracks to a keyboard player or guitarist or fiddle player and they add their bits and send it back for finishing.   So then when all the songs are completed to our satisfaction we put final vocals and harmonies on the tracks and start mixing - that's when the fun really begins.  

We hope to have a sample of one of the songs in a basic form shortly. 

Images removed due to copyright infringement ... 

Tuesday 17 May 2022

The Squirrels babies are here ...

 I just had to share this ... 

In the middle of the recording this afternoon I looked out the window and we had four feeding together ... how fabulous.  

Thank you for all your comments the other day - much appreciated :) xx

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Too much

Sing for Earth Day Rostrevor 
singing in the forest after a morning workshop learning songs to praise the Earth.

It's been such a long time since I posted here - nearly three months - that I hardly know how to start writing.   It's not that there's been anything overly dramatic happening that has kept me away, just an accumulation of too much.   Too much distraction, too much general illness, too much tiredness, just too much.  Anyway, I'm back for now - not promising anything more than that, just to say hello and let you know we're all still alive here! 

So what have I been up to? 

We had a first trip of the year over to Scotland to do a couple of folk club gigs last month - it was harder than usual to get ourselves wound up and started, but by the third gig we were back in our stride again and the fourth gig of the week, when we got back home again, was superb. Great energy.  

crossing bridges in Scotland

My extra two new choirs have been enjoyable but I'm finding it hard to keep my energy up for three nights a week, especially during the dark months, driving on country roads and leaving a roaring fire after an early dinner.   Now with the brighter evenings it's not quite as bad.   But the one off workshops I've been doing -for International Women's Day and for Earth Day, have been very enjoyable.   I think I'd like to do more of those.   

Recording wise we're making good progress, finishing songs and getting guide tracks completed, ready for other musicians to add sparkle to them.   We are launching a crowdfunding campaign to presell that CD and get people involved with the process.   Here's the link if you're interested in contributing.  You can hear one of the songs which will be a single - People - in the background of the video.    

The view from Carrick Cottage Cafe in the Mournes on a sunny Easter Tuesday - heavenly.
The Isle of Man was visible in the distance and the place was absolutely packed. 

The garden is starting to perk up and I'm so excited to see that my wisteria has finally bloomed - I've always loved seeing very old wisteria after being in a house once on Orkney where the conservatory was just full of blooms and from there the whole house was filled with the heady smell.   I think I planted this one 5 years ago and patience has finally won out.  

Over Covid I've had more time to play with paper and paints and have dabbled with junk journalling which I really enjoy - it's great not to have to be brilliant at something and just enjoy sticking things in a book with glue. 

and playing with found poetry 

I think the best part of this pastime is all the bits to be bought - sweetie shop for grown ups lol. 

I have been dropping in from time to time to catch up with your writings and I was very grateful to Susan for getting in touch a while back to see if we were ok - I appreciated it so much Susan and hope I didn't scare you off with my ranting - it wasn't the best day when I wrote back !

Take care everyone and belated Bealtaine greetings.