Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 19 December 2014

Send A Cow

While dosed with a bad cold recently, I got time to wander around the wibbly web a bit - catch up on reading some of the blogs I follow, daydream about new sofas and curtains, and just generally have a nosey around.

And above all drool over knitting patterns and ideas.

And then I came across this image...  and I thought the meaning behind it was worth passing on.

This is Gloria, the 'Send a Cow charity' mascot, sporting a very chic jumper to highlight the charity's new Christmas gifts catalogue.

This is a charity that was set up by farmers in the West Country in England, who raise money to bring cattle to small villages in seven different countries in Africa, as well as helping with sanitation and various other necessities that those countries need.
In their own words:
Send a Cow’s Christmas catalogue contains gifts that make a difference to poverty-stricken families in seven African countries. Gifts range from ‘Local Cow’ (£205), which provides a farming family with milk and manure; ‘Little Donkey’ (£9) which helps families take good care of their four-legged friends who transport farm produce to market; and ‘Tip Tap’ (£10), a bestseller which improves hygiene levels in areas where soap and water are luxuries.

Simon Barnes, CEO of Send a Cow said; “This year we’ve taken the idea of the quirky Christmas jumper one step further, to encourage people to think differently about the gifts they buy this Christmas. Instead of buying chocolate for a friend, why not buy something unusual - for as little as £5 you will greatly improve the lives of poverty-stricken families in Africa. This is our 13th year of the Christmas catalogue and over the years we’ve raised over eight million pounds to help poor families. We really hope that you will support us this year by buying a gift, to help us change even more lives this Christmas and beyond.”

Send a Cow’s Christmas catalogue is available in print and online – for more information go to or call 01225 874222.

At our last choir gathering of the year, one of our members was sporting a fabulous Christmas jumper..   she comes from Australia, so she's forgiven, especially when the bells attached to it could very tastefully be used for percussion while we were singing the gorgeous Yorkshire carol Sweet Bells.   Go Belinda!!!  :)

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Will we have a White Christmas?

The shops around here started playing Christmas songs early in November!!   Drives me crazy ... so I stay out of them or else I become a grumpy old woman and who wants one of those around at this time of the year.

But now it's safe enough - around the time that the weather men start talking about whether or not we'll have a White Christmas.

It'll certainly be time to have another viewing of Holiday Inn or as it's called now "White Christmas" - that film would bring a tear to a stone.

But to keep me going until then, here's a splendid version of the song that my friend Laura sent me earlier today .... couldn't keep it to myself ...  Sung by the gorgeous honey voices of The Drifters.

All together now, sing along ....

Monday 8 December 2014

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

Singing Carols at the Craft Fayre

We've had such a busy weekend of it, taking part in the Christmas tree light up here in the village on Saturday, firstly with my lovely wee choir and later with Tom at a Winter Concert for the Festival.

The children from the local school as Mary and Joseph
followed by a host of shepherds and angels,
being turned away by the butcher

How's your Holiday shaping up?
As yet, I still haven't gotten moving here at home with decorations or even cards yet - the first priority is nursing a cold and cough which has had me under the blankets for two days - a great excuse to catch up on old movies and watch lots of sentimental afternoon stuff.
The choir all wrapped up and ready for the pageant

Tuesday 2 December 2014

An Artist's Retreat

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annamaghkerrig
I've fulfilled a long held ambition this weekend past, to have a stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co. Monaghan.

This is a residential retreat for artists of all disciplines to come and have a space away from home and be looked after, fed, watered and housed to facilitate the creative process.

And it is magnificent.

Some more of the residence block

Part of the old formal gardens
The opening of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan is today seen as a turning point in the cultural life of Ireland. At his death in 1971 Tyrone Guthrie, with the encouragement of his family, left the house in his will to the Irish State for use as a residential workplace for artists.

Guthrie’s dream was pursued by visionary and dedicated people through the two arts councils in Ireland at a time of deep political division. The old house was skilfully converted and Annaghmakerrig opened its doors to its first residents on 10 October 1981."

At Annaghmakerrig Lake

Anyone from any art form (and you don't have to be Irish) can come here for some seclusion - and the only rule is that everyone comes together for dinner which is home cooked and 5*.   There's a dance studio, library, art and sculpture studios .....
I had no less than 3 grand pianos to choose from!!! 
... we were in the music room which houses two grand pianos - luxury.  Plus there's another grand piano in Lady Guthrie's drawing room.  
The Music Room - the other grand piano is in the opposite corner
I found that this piano on the right in the big room brought a new tune from me every time I sat down ... the one at the window in the photo above that was perfect for working over ideas and transposing chords and the one downstairs only wanted folk music played on it!!!   

What a luxury to be the only player and be allowed free access to all these instruments - my piano at home does not compare and might have to give up its place for a newer model.  Although it breaks my heart to part with instruments that are still intact, still it would be wonderful have one that feels good under your fingers.

Writing a melody at the piano

I was fortunate to be here with a poet, Csilla Toldy, who secured a bursary for the two of us to work on a project for 4 days.   Very lucky for us.

Csilla (pronounced tShiela) is from Hungary.  I have been setting some of her poems to music and we are co-producing a piece about emigration which we hope to have ready for International Women's Day in March next year.  

As our stay went on the creative energy just grew and grew to the point where I found it very hard to switch off and get some sleep - I wanted to write, paint, play, create - anything to get the adrenaline, ideas and energy out of me and onto paper or into the voice recorder on my phone.

An oasis of calm
Each night all the artists come together for dinner.  One night we had a singing and storytelling session afterwards and on another night a tour of the art workshops.   There were 4 painters, 2 other poets, a playwright, a storyteller, a journalist, someone developing a script for an animated film, another working on a poetry Ph.D, an essayist (who knew such a thing existed) and at least two novelists.  We come from Holland, Germany, Australia and America as well as Csilla from Hungary and a few of us from Ireland.

Looking in to the big dining table
where everyone gathers each evening
It has been so interesting to hear the conversations at dinner and to exchange ideas from all around the country North and South - and to exchange ideas with people from different artistic disciplines.

The stairs beside my room
and some artwork that a previous resident had done.

Over the years, many world famous artists have stayed here - and most leave some of their work behind to dress the walls, fill the library and add to the already huge collection.

We've made very good progress over the weekend, had many long conversations and pushed ourselves hard to produce work that would not so easily happen at home.   I've written two piano pieces and one song and Csilla has written several new poems.

I will definitely try to go back here for some time on my own in the future.   It's a working holiday and everyone leaves utterly exhausted ....  but oh what a wonderful exhausted.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Having people over for dinner?
Have a look at this to give you some courage!

Happy Thanksgiving my Friends :)

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Misty Mornings

We're having some very misty mornings around here at the moment - spectacular low clouds on the mountains to the front and to the back of us.  And bizarrely our castor oil plant, to the left of the picture above, is in full bloom.  

As you can see we still didn't get the leaves lifted ... I've always loved how in America, the leaves come down quickly and can be cleared just as quickly.   But here they come down slowly - from the middle of August really - and there's still some hanging on by their finger nails.  So you go and lift a pile and more come tumbling after.  They'll have to wait now for a few dry days to get them liftable again.

A wee reminder if anyone is still considering helping out with our Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign - here's the link.   We finish on Sunday and still have a bit to go to reach our target.   I'm starting to feel embarrassed reminding people through my mailing list - I guess I'm not cut out to be a sales person!   But a last push will hopefully get us to within the distance that a family member has agreed to top it up from.   Fingers crossed. 

Normal service will resume next week lol

An Update on my Kickstarter Project for our new CD

Well! We have 4 days left in our Crowdfunding Campaign and still have some way to go to reach our target.  It finishes on the 30th November.

Will you get involved?  

 It's simple:  It is not a scam but a bonefide way for artists to manage cash flow.  

We are asking you to prebuy the new CD or any of the other incentives - singing classes, workshops, multiple CDs etc. thereby helping us reach our goal of £2500 to enable us to complete this CD and get it manufactured and marketed.  

As of now, if 100 people prebuy the CD we'll reach our target - or if 1500 people put in £1 each.   That's the beauty of crowdfunding - many small contributions can achieve the goal.  

To those of you who have already contributed, thank you so much.   Would you consider mentioning it to your friends for extra brownie points?:) 

And to some of you who said you'd be involved but haven't gotten around to it, this is a wee nudge that we are running out of time.   

How do I contribute? someone asked.
You simply click on the link in the video - at this link - - and then look down the list of items to see which appeals to you, click on that one and follow the instructions.  

The site will ask for your credit card details and your card will only be charged if we meet the full target.  Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform - if we meet our target in the time allotted, then your credit card will be debited and we will receive the money, less the Kickstarter fees.  
If we don't meet our target, then no money is taken from you and we receive nothing.  

So there you go.   Please consider helping.

Sunday 23 November 2014

St George's Market, Belfast

One of the oldest indoor markets in the British Isles St George's Market in Belfast is simply gorgeous and a real treat for a day out.  It is the last covered in Victorian Market in Belfast and dates from the 1890s - before which it would have been an open market.

Full of atmosphere, on a Sunday it is mainly an artisans market - Friday and Saturday are regular market days - fish, veg etc plus artisans.  

Sunday sees ceramics, silversmiths, wood turning, lots of jewellery, foods from around the world, 
Queueing at the Belfast Bap Co. - the best bread rolls in the world!!!
great coffees, local art, photographs and memorabilia, vintage books, specialist bakers - I love it.   
Coffee anyone?

Oh and I forgot to mention live music - which was superb this weekend.

 Today there was a film being shot adding to the chaos - and the pre Christmas rush is well under way.  
Some of the original Victorian design

Someone's yarn-bombed the main entrance grille

And from the inside ..

I hope your Sunday was as much fun :)

Irish Songs in a Woman's Key: The Water is Wide

This is a series of folk and particularly Irish songs, in keys that are suitable for women.  

The Water Is Wide 
has been recorded by many many people - from Joan Baez and Bob Dylan to Maura O'Connell, James Taylor, Hayley Westenra and many more.   

This is a magic version recorded at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday in Madison Square Gardens featuring some of my all time favourite singers.   To play along in this key we will do the song in the key of D and put a capo on the 1st fret.   The notes and chords are below.

And if you're interested in the background of songs - this wonderful page has the history of the song

There are many sets of words for this song - I've given both the regular version and the Pete Seeger version as sung in the video above.    First the more simple version that is usually sung around the British Isles.
The Water Is Wide

D                         G                     D
The water is wide;    I can’t cross o’er
             Bm    Em                   A
Neither have            I wings to fly
                  F#m  G                      D       
Give me a boat        that will carry two
         G             D   G        A         D
And both shall row,     my love and I

Love is gentle and love is kind
And love is sweet when first it’s true
But love grows old and when it’s cold
And fades away like the morning dew

There is a ship and she sails the sea
She’s loaded deep as deep can be
But not as deep as the love I’m in
I know not how I sink or swim

The water is wide; I can’t cross o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that will carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

And the Pete Seeger version

The water is wide, I cannot get over
And neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

A ship there is and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I'm in
And I know not how I sink or swim

I leaned my back up against some young oak
Thinking he was a trusty tree
But first he bended and then he broke
And thus did my false love to me

I put my hand into some soft bush
Thinking the sweetest flower to find
I pricked my finger to the bone
And left the sweetest flower alone

Oh, love is handsome and love is fine
Gay as a jewel when first it is new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like summer dew

The water is wide, I cannot get over
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

Sunday 16 November 2014

Irish Songs in a Woman's Key: The Connemara Cradle Song

All the guitar books that I've come across, for folk or particularly for Irish songs, annotate the songs in keys that are suitable for men.   Women who are starting to play guitar and who haven't mastered the art of transposing yet ( a subject for another post) try to play the songs and give up really quickly because either the song is way too low or way too high.  This song is part of a series here with particular focus on Irish songs, both traditional and contemporary.  These keys are the keys in which I play and sing the songs.   

The Connemara Cradle Song is a beautiful lullaby first recorded by Delia Murphy in the 1930s. The chords are simple and can be made more simple by leaving out the Am/B move and just playing C on the word 'wind' and G on the word 'deep' and so on which makes it a 2 chord song - always useful to have.   I did a picture post about it here during the A to Z challenge - it includes my recording of the song.

The Connemara Cradle Song 

                             C     Am/B    Am                G
On wings of the wind o’er the dark rolling deep
Angels are coming to watch o’er thy sleep
                          Am/B   Am              G
Angels are com-ing to watch over thee
So list to the wind coming over the sea
G                       C     Am/B    Am                  G        
Hear the wind blow dear,       hear the wind blow
Lean your head and hear the wind blow

Oh wings of the night may your fury be crossed
May no-one that’s dear to our island be lost
Blow the wind gently calm be the foam
Shine the light brightly and guide them to home
Hear the wind blow dear, hear the wind blow
Lean your head and hear the wind blow

The currachs are sailing way out in the blue
Laden with herring of silvery hue
Silver the herring and silver the sea
And soon there’ll be silver for baby and me
Hear the wind blow dear, hear the wind blow
Lean your head and hear the wind blow

The currachs tomorrow will stand on the shore
And Daddy goes sailing, a sailing no more
The nets will be drying the nets heaven blessed
And safe in my arms dear contented he’ll rest
Hear the wind blow dear, hear the wind blow

Lean your head and hear the wind blow

This image isn't great - I will have to find a better way of picturing the sheet music.

All the best till next week.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

The Green Fields of France

Today is Remembrance Day.

In the folk world there have been many anti war songs written, and for me, one of the most poignant is Eric Bogle's wonderful song "The Green Fields of France" or "No Man's Land".   

At the moment, there is some controversy around it.   The British Legion have decided to adopt the song as their theme for the centenary remembrances.    But they have left out the end of the song, which is the most important part - the anti war themes.   Eric Bogle said he wrote the first four verses as a lead up to the main part of the song and isn't best pleased that he wasn't consulted.   What a shame.
The story has been picked up by the Independent Newspaper 

A lot of Irish men fought in the First World War but haven't been remembered until very recently.  As this is the centenary special efforts have been made to include them. 

Monday 10 November 2014

Songbirds - Bridie Gallagher

In part 3 of Songbirds the First Ladies of Irish Song, the focus is on Bridie Gallagher, the Girl from Donegal, who was the darling of the dance halls and travelled the world to play for the Irish wherever they were based.  

Bridie died in January 2012.

It was such a pleasure for me to meet Bridie in her home back in 2005
I hope you're enjoying the series so far - just a couple more to go and then they're here for as long as they're needed.  
Do drop me a line and let me know what you think...

This blog is Day 30 of my 30 day blog challenge

Sunday 9 November 2014

Irish Songs in a Woman's Key: Go Lassie Go

All the guitar books that I've come across, for folk or particularly for Irish songs, annotate the songs in keys that are suitable for men.   Women who are starting to play guitar and who haven't mastered the art of transposing yet ( a subject for another post) try to play the songs and give up really quickly because either the song is way too low or way too high.  

Several of my female students ask me for the chords of songs so I thought it'd be good to start a series here with particular focus on Irish songs, both traditional and contemporary.  These keys are the keys in which I play and sing the songs.   

I play this one with the capo on the 3rd fret.   To move it higher, move the capo up another fret or two, or to sing it lower move it back a couple of frets.  Men will usually sing this in the key of C or D

Go Lassie Go is a song with lots of controversy around it. France McPeake from Belfast collected the song in the 1950s - there have been versions around Northern Ireland for a long time before that as well.  But in Scotland the song The Braes of Ballquider has almost identical lyrics.   At one point Rod Stewart took the case to court claiming Scottish origins.

Whatever the case may be, it is still one of the most beautiful love songs in the tradition of these islands and a song that everyone knows and can sing along with. 

Will You Go Lassie Go (traditional, arranged McPeake) 

             G          C          G
Oh the summer time is coming
                   C                             G
And the trees are sweetly blooming                                     
                  C     D             Em
And the wild mountain thyme
                  Am          Am/B      C
Grows around the blooming heather
                G    C     G
Will you go lassie go


                  C            G
And we’ll all go together
                C        D           Em
To pluck wild mountain thyme
            Am          Am/B          C
All around the blooming heather
               G      C      G
Will you go lassie go

           G             C        G
I will build my love a tower
                  C                    G
Near yon pure crystal fountain
        C     D            Em
And on it I   will   pile
    Am    Am/B       C
All the flowers    of    the mountain
               G      C      G
Will you go lassie go


          G           C                G
If my true love he were gone
                C                 G
I would surely find another
              C       D        Em
Where wild mountain thyme
    Am           Am/B       C
Grows around the blooming heather
               G      C      G
Will you go lassie go


This is the most beautiful version of the song that I could find on You Tube - unfortunately it's not in my key - but in the key of D.   Emmylou has a high enough voice to be able to stretch to this key.   If you learn it in G shapes, then you can move your capo up to the 7th fret to play along with this version. 

This blog is Day 29 of my 30 day blog challenge
If you are enjoying this series, please do write and let me know.