Friday, 17 May 2019

To Ell and back

I've started this blog at least four times and keep re-editing from "We're in the middle of our annual trip" to "We're home!" and various stages in between.  

Back on the road

After all the drama of hospital visits over Easter,  we actually made it to the ferry on time.   Tom only got out of hospital on the Thursday and I came home from town on Friday morning to find him out mowing the lawn!   The man has no wit.
 
Ell, in Luxembourg, home place of Jean Claude Juncker
Thank you for all your good wishes - it took half the tour for him to get back to normal and for my stress levels to reduce!  And it took nearly 10 days to feel rested.  My MIL was also in hospital at the same time, and that plus not getting an Easter visit in with my own mum, left me rattled with blood pressure soaring.  It was two not very happy bunnies getting on to the ferry.

Our AirBnb stop in Rouen old city.
However we had a fortnight travelling around the Benelux countries and Germany.  We did 4000kms in 2 weeks and though we're home tired, the memory of lovely gigs and seeing old friends totally overtakes the motorway hours..
We took the ferry to Cherbourg in France, and from there started with a house concert in Luxembourg then north to Rheinberg where we did concerts in Mehr and Hamminkeln, then further north to Oldenburg to stop off with friends and next up to the North West Coast to head out to Hallig Hooge (or Hooge Burg as some wag suggested - do all the burgs in one trip!). 



I find the huge windmill farms in the north of Germany strangely beautiful, although it's hopeless trying to get a decent photo from a moving car

I've written before about Hooge, a very interesting not quite island in the middle of the North Sea.   The main attraction at this time of the year is the arrival of 10s of 1000s of Canada Geese and people travel from all over the country to birdwatch.   For me, I must be honest and say that I don't like cold windy places - once is enough, even the west coast of Ireland is a challenge for me - give me sun any day   But I do love the people on Hooge - islanders are exceptional.  Did I ever tell the story of my song Island Love?   I must do that.



Low tide with one of the Hallig islands clearly visible in the distance



Our last gig was in Zevenaar in Holland and some lovely photos were posted up on Facebook yesterday which I've shared on our Facebook page if you care to have a nosey.





I have been keeping an eye on your blogs even though I've not been posting comments.  There's a feeling when you're on tour, that you're 'on' from the minute you leave home until you get back again.   If you're not driving, and the drives are torturous in Germany, you're either with people or getting ready for the gig - finding an hour alone is very difficult, even on days off.

So as well as getting down to the next thing on the desk, I'm looking forward to getting back to some regular writing and reading and commenting.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Apologies


Thank you all for understanding my need to rant the other day - and apologies for the bits of print that I'd copied in from Wikepedia and didn't spot the formatting - I wasn't intending to shout parts of it lol

In the midst of all the annoyance and chaos, as Aril pointed out, hasn't it been a joy to watch young Greta Thunberg making her quiet potent statements.   It will be interesting following her progress.  She is the positive we all need.

The bluebells have been really early here
I spotted this lovely ladybird late last week in the garden.
And on the positive note here, Tom got released from hospital today just in time for us to head off  on tour on Saturday, storm permitting.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Lyra McKee

This world is a mess - and for a long time I've been struggling to write blogs because all I've wanted to write is political comment and at the same time I've wanted to keep this space a positive and bright one.  But I have to pay tribute to a young woman who was murdered on Thursday night.

Lyra McKee
Many of you will have seen the news from Northern Ireland in the past few days of the terrible killing of the young journalist Lyra (pronounced Leera) McKee in Derry on Thursday night.  Here we are back in the news, but for all the wrong reasons, again.

I cannot describe the feelings of anger and sorrow and fear that is permeating this land.   Apart from the sadness at the loss of this young life, a voice for the future, there is a sorrow for all of us.   We Cannot Go Back to this.    People are so angry, so afraid - I just want to cry every time I think of it.

Lyra... 

was a freelance journalist and an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights for which she gave a TedX talk in Stormont a few years back.  She had a publishing contract for two books which she was in the process of completing about life here and she was ruthless in her investigations and criticisms.
This is a wonderful tribute to her from the Independent newspaper

Not In My Name

The  thugs need little or no excuse to start things up again.  But all over the country posters are up saying NOT IN MY NAME - most certainly Not In My Name!  Perhaps some good will come of Lyra's death and maybe, just maybe, it will be catalyst to get our power sharing government back up again.

The police were expecting violence as a run up to the Easter Rising Commemorations and right on cue a riot started, petrol bombs were thrown and a few shots of a handgun finished a young life.   Yesterday, Easter Sunday, is a day of celebration in the South of Ireland - it marks the day that the  1916 Rising happened which led to the Republic of Ireland being formed.

But of course, up here in the north, that means division.  Any celebration means division up here.    There are many who want to be part of that Republic, and there are many who see it as an abomination, an excuse to cause trouble. And in the middle there are many, like myself, who while  considering ourselves Irish, want to keep our heads down, fly no flags, be content in the status quo and get on with our own lives.


Up in the North West, in Derry/Londonderry they've always had a hard time and are rightfully worried about a resurgence of violence.   They are on the border with Co. Donegal which is in the south.  And the border issue around Brexit is adding fuel to the worries.

Which is it you may ask?  Derry or Londonderry?  Well,  It's actually both.   

When I worked for the BBC it was compulsory to say Londonderry first, then Derry second and after that it was up to you.   Thanks to a much missed radio DJ called Gerry Anderson it became known as Stroke City (get it?  Londonderry Stroke/ Derry!)
Derry is the anglicised version of the old Irish name Daire, or the modernised version Doire, which means oak grove.   The London prefix was added to Derry when the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I in 1613 during the Plantation of Ulster.    To the majority of people born on this island, Catholic or Protestant, it will always be Derry.  But legally it is Londonderry.  However to confuse issues further, the local council is Derry!   Let's opt for Stroke City!)

Then on Sunday I managed not to watch the news until late in the evening and saw the terrible tragedy unfolding in Sri Lanka.   That knot of fear and stress that we lived with for so long was back.  It only takes a moment for some thoughtless idiot, wanting to go down in history for some heroic deed as he/she sees it, to shatter hundreds of lives.

What an Easter.   And to top it all, Tom's been in hospital all through it!   Hopefully he'll escape soon.
Normal service will be resumed asap.

Friday, 29 March 2019

March in Photos

I have been really bad at blogging this past while - too many distractions I think - with the constant news and rumours and maybes and uncertainties it's hard to focus on anything.

So it's with delight I started hunting for photos for this month's scavenger hunt - a photo inspired by a word - organised by Kate at I Live, I Love, I Craft, I am Me  I love checking in on everyone else's photos and having a wee photo trip around the world.

Flat

The weather has been beautiful over the past week or so, albeit still very cold, and after an appointment I went for a stroll along the sea front in Newcastle - Co. Down.   This is my favourite place for an afternoon out - lovely coffee shops, nice boutiques, great public art and sculptures and the endless expanse of the Irish Sea which was very FLAT calm.  



Wheel

It took a while to find something for this -  I spotted an abandoned tyre on the beach in Newcastle - not very picture squeue but ... and then I thought of the bodhran (pronounced bow ron), the Irish drum that Tom plays.   Originally made from an old metal sieve which was covered with a goat skin, now the circle is wood, but the skin is still goat.


and this wee lad joined in for some of the songs at the session we ran on St Patrick's Day



Swing

I've shown this photo before here on the blog but it fascinated me and I went out most days to check on progress while we were in Denmark.    The swing of the man and woman to indicate whichever way the wind was blowing was like watching the birds ... and they'd work harder swinging the axe and saw the stronger the wind blew.





Ragged

This mountain is part of a pair - the Cock and Hen - I think this one's the Cock because of the comb on his head .... I loved the ragged tops of the mountains and the way the walls pull everything into a sense of order






Pot

Some crocuses in one of my pots a while back ... I've been collecting these ceramic mushrooms which make a lovely tinkling noise in the rain and wind.



My own choice

Back to Denmark for this one .... while we had an amazing run of concerts, a very special event will be my main memory of this trip .... In one of my earlier photos of the horses, the young woman leading the horses was looking a bit padded shall we say ... well she gave birth two days later and we got to meet the first grandchild of the house in its first hours in the world.   Wow!   She is so beautiful.   As any of you who read my blog regularly know, we don't have children, and I've never felt any loss or overwhelming desire and of course it's too late to do anything about that now... But seeing this little bundle sparked something in me which I hadn't experienced before.  I wish her so much luck and love and hope that this world will be kind to her - she certainly has a wonderful family around her.


Well that's it from me for this month - hopefully I'll be a bit more organised and regular with my posts in the coming months, but at least this monthly check in gives me a chance to say hello.
Head over to Kate's blog to check out some of the other photo entries and perhaps you fancy joining in yourself.   

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Happy St Patrick's Day

Wishing you all the luck of the Irish today.   

Narrowwater Keep, Warrenpoint all lit up for St Patrick's Day





Friday, 1 March 2019

February in Photos

February has been a very busy month and I didn't even realise it until going back through photos to join in with Kate for the February Photo Scavenger Hunt.

The words this month are all to do with the senses so I'm going to try to connect them somehow to where we were through the month, not in the order Kate listed them.

Taste

We started the month at Annaghmakerrig, the artist's retreat in Co. Monaghan and despite both of us having a stinking cold we managed to make progress with several new songs and I had a fantastic break through with some problems I'd been working through.  
One of the highlights of staying there for me is joining together with the other people for dinner - it's the only rule of the house.   This particular night there were 14 for Sunday dinner - a poet, a film music composer, a sculptor, someone working with prints, a writer of memoirs, a playwright, an actress working on a new production, two novelists, a painter and ourselves .... I can't remember all the others, but it was such a fabulous melting pot of ideas to share and be inspired by.   The food is fabulous always, but it is the company that makes the difference. 


Sound

We have been doing lots of shows this month, so sound has been the predominant sense.    In the middle of the month we had a concert near home in Burren in an old converted primary school which is now a heritage centre .... Foolishly, or maybe not, we chose a Thursday, not paying attention to the fact that it was 14th February!!   And when it was pointed out that it was Valentine's Day, we thought, sure, no-one of our age worries about that nowadays!  Hah!  Wrong - I get more calls of apology saying I have to baby sit the grandchildren so my son and his wife can go out to celebrate!  Pfff..... In spite of that we had a lovely night and sang lots of love songs in our set.   The acoustics are simply beautiful in the room and while we weren't packed to capacity we had a splendid audience who were willing to sing along with all our choruses.

Ready for the gig in Burren
Full house concert in Denmark

My own choice


We have been in Denmark for the past week, doing a run of house concerts.   I've been finding the long days very tiring, but exhilarating at the same time.  People come for a meal interspersed with music so we're dong lots of chatting, socialising, discovering people, trying to find solutions for the world problems and Brexit!, partying, eating as well as playing a concert and joining in with the house band.  The level of understanding of English is almost totally fluent here so we don't have to rearrange things quite so much in order for people to follow our stories and what the songs are about.   The Danes are a lovely gentle people, quick to laugh at a joke and so welcoming into their homes and our friends Kanne and Jørn that we're staying with have spoilt us rotten.

Feel/Touch

The folks here are part of a family that own a horse riding school for training riders and coaches - so 4 horses and a coach etc.   We got a ride around for 20 minutes in the back of one while they were putting the horses through their paces - of course I didn't get a proper photo, but I will try to before we go home.   Later I got to ride a horse, for only the second time in my life.   Beautiful animals although terrifying when they made it run - not funny!   But I'm going back out for another ride today.   
it's a lovely feeling moving with an animal.   The house and farm and that of the neighbours and friends has dogs, cats and chickens running around as well a the horses so it's a very touchy feely place to be.


Sight

I just had to include this photo for sight - when we were walking through the stables to get to my horse, this one kept poking its head out under the bars to get a sniff - it was having a laugh at us, of that I"m certain - it was the mad eye that started me laughing. 




Smell/scent 

As I write this there are wonderful smells coming from the kitchen downstairs as our hosts get ready for this weekend's house concerts - they will provide food for 48 on Friday night including ourselves and 45 on Saturday - there are cakes coming in and out of the oven and everything smells yummy.  

Yesterday we drove north to a different house for another house concert and we travelled up by the coast.  
Denmark has miles and miles of beautiful white sandy beaches - in fact you can ride a horse from the border of Germany right up to the northern tip of Jutland (the western of the Danish islands).  Apart from the thousands of bunkers that have been left over after the war, it is an unspoiled clean white sandy beach.   Even though we're only away for a few days I just love getting back to the smell and sound of the ocean, or in this case the North Sea. 
  


So that's it from me for another while - I'm going for a bit of armchair travelling now to have a look around everyone else's photos.   Thanks as always to Kate for coming up with the words to get the grey matter going and to give a bit of an account of our month.   

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Booking in Advance

A quick question for you ....

If you see a show you fancy advertised at the local theatre or cinema, do you book in advance?   Or do you just leave it til the last minute in case something changes?   Perhaps you like to just turn up at the door?

Recently I've noticed a change in people's booking habits - perhaps it's all the uncertainty over Brexit here that is making people less sure of where they'll be or what they'll do (for example, the housing market has taken a big hit and that's what's being blamed) ....

But several theatres and small venues I've spoken to or been in contact with have been getting in to a real panic if there are no pre-sales 2 weeks before an event, and they are then cancelling the upcoming show.   One theatre booker told me she cancelled 5 shows in the Autumn alone because of that.  

Normally in music, in small venues at least, venues wouldn't start to panic until a few days before the event and push up their advertising for a last minute sale and then keep fingers crossed right up to the last day.  But obviously theatres are a different animal.

I would always be a very last minute buyer - probably to see how I"m feeling on the night - and maybe it's because we plan so much of our lives way way into the future that I leave our leisure events until the last minute.    But I'm going to try to make more of an effort from here on in.  

If you do like to go to see shows, try and book a wee bit earlier to give them some confidence.