Reading My Way Around the World

Sunday 29 June 2014

The Week That Was

I'm joining in again for Cynthia Lee's Scattered Life Collective, to reflect on my week gone by.   Check out the link to see some of the other people who are playing along there.

I've been very tired this week and struggling to get into any sort of a routine.   But we've still made good progress with the new CD, recording guide tracks - this is the first time, in 7 CDs, that I'm recording the guides myself .... this is where we decide on the key, the tempo, where the breaks will come for instrumentals - basically the arrangement.   Then I put down a guitar part to a click track, like a metronome, so that the players who follow me will have a perfectly synced track to work to.  And then a guide vocal is done too at this stage.   It's been a really enjoyable process so far and we have some tracks ready for the next stage.   Our hope is that we'll have a good few done in the next week or 10 days and then after the Festival we'll come back to it and decide what goes on next and whether or not we have an album in the making.

But then I look at the state of the house, and the garden, and the laundry, and the unanswered emails .... and just want to lie down and sleep.  Better not look says you .... lol

Out the window: I can actually see out my windows today :)   Spent all morning cleaning them ... The hedges need trimmed ... but my little solar powered flower on the windowsill is cheerfully dancing away - he always makes me smile.

On the menu:  Lamb Tagine and Pomegranate Couscous taken from a separate recipe. ...  I've been wanting to try this recipe for a long time - probably because I really want to buy one of those cute Moroccan tagines and there's be no excuse if I can't cook the meal.  It was yummy by the way... worth trying and very simple to do.

Watching:  It's been all about Wimbledon this week - it hasn't been rained off too much - what a feat of co-ordination watching them covering the courts in less than 30 seconds ...
The men's matches have been great to watch - huge pressure on Andy Murray with Federer, Nadal, Djokovich and half a dozen others queuing up to put him out.    The women's games aren't as enjoyable - they make so much noise - although when both players have sounds, it's almost like a very annoying song.   But it was a shame to see Serena and Venus Williams both being put out - making way for a new generation.

The Carriage House by Louisa Hall - it was not a bad story - perfect summer reading - not too taxing and the characters were engaging enough ...

Good things:

A spin in a boat - we were out in a little rib boat during the week - my picture at the top of the blog was taken from that angle - it's a total change of view and I love it.

The launch of Fiddlers Green Festival on Friday night - so much to look forward to - a week of local and international music, art, sports  and mountain walks.  I"ll be doing a blog about it early in the week.

My brother home from Australia - looking forward to catching up with him later this week and taking in a session - he plays fiddle and sings too ...

Started working on another song -  it nearly counts as prolific now!!!  This is another co-write with the same lyricist that I finished a song with a couple of weeks back.   I'm hoping to have 5 originals on this new CD, plus one from hubby... but 3 of them need tweaking at the moment and then have to be learnt!   It's a good feeling seeing them come together.

Here's a song from one of the Festival guests - Luka Bloom - Luka was based for a long time in New York - he has a famous brother - Christy Moore - one of Ireland's best known and best loved folk singers - he changed his name when Christy started to become famous.

So that's been my week - how's your's been?

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Another Liebster Award set of questions

One of the blogs I nominated last month for a Liebster Award - (read more about the Liebster award here) - tagged me back - heartfelt thanks to Stephanie's Studio:)  I am honoured to be nominated. 
Stephanie is an artist and author and teaches about herb lore as well ... really interesting blog.  
Rather than writing about the whole Liebster award again, I thought I'd just answer Stephanie's  questions here.  It's taken me ages to get around to finishing  ... so apologies for the delay (pleads overwork, tours and burn out as an excuse!!) ... 

1.    What is your favourite day of the year and why?
The second last Saturday in July!!
Last year's pre festival gathering
Fiddlers Green Festival runs for 8 days starting on the second last Sunday.  It's a wonderful week of concerts, parties, walks and above all the coming together of friends from around the world whom we haven't seen for a year.  So on the Saturday we have a BBQ outside, weather permitting, or a party indoors if it's raining, and it is the highlight of my year - hearing different accents and languages and catching up on all the news. 
2.    What fairytale resonates with you the most?
Mmmm I really had to think about that one.  Perhaps Cinderella - trying to please everyone and hopefully having strength to win through in the end.  
3.    What is the most important thing for you to do daily?
Sing for even 5 minutes. 
4.    What do you wish you had more time to do?
Morning pages, walking, and meeting up with friends. 
5.    If money was no object what would you spend your time doing?
What I'm doing now. Being a travelling musician - but I would teach less and get an assistant to help with the office work. 
6.    If you could have one magical ability what would it be?
To turn up at a gig without having to drive or set up gear!!!
7.    With which animal do you feel those most affinity?
Cats.  They are so completely secure in themselves and they make me feel so accepted. 
8.    Where do you go for inspiration for your blog?
My touring, the songs and where they came from and snippets of stories I hear along the way.  And sometimes reading other blogs will suggest a tangent to go off on. 
9.    If you could have a one-on-one interview with any author, poet or artist, living or deceased, who would you interview?
Ooh this was a hard one - there's so many.   Bette Midler!  Or George Eliot.  I would love to learn more about the trials of being a woman artist in a time where you had to write under a man's name to be published.  
Or Mozart.  He toured extensively under the most gruelling circumstances and complained about having a sore bum from sitting so much!! Sounds so familiar.  He was managed by his mother and in between everything he managed to write the most incredible music. 
10. What would you most like to try that you have never done before?
Fly a small aircraft - especially one of those planes that lands on water.
11. Pick one word that sums up your work?

Thanks again for nominating me Stephanie ... it's been very interesting thinking through your questions.  

On another note entirely, I read all the blogs I follow, in Blogger Reader, but for the past few days I've only been seeing one blog at a time - so I haven't been around commenting.   So glad normal service has resumed. 
Til next time.
Fil x 

Monday 23 June 2014

The Scattered Life Collective

Sunset tonight - Summer is here for another few days
In the spirit of Cynthia Lee's Scattered Collective, I thought I'd play along this week to reflect on my week gone by.

Out the window:  It's been overcast all day but beautifully warm and outside my window the rhododendron is finally going out of bloom and the cotoneaster that I cut back this morning is allowing a bit more light in.   I have basil plants growing on the windowsill and an orchid that has been blooming constantly for nearly a year now .... It delights me to see it's lovely elegance when I drive in.

On the menu: The remains of last night's summer solstice picnic is needing to be finished - so I'm going to try out a new recipe for one of my favourite foods - Avocado Hummus.  And some roasted rhubarb to finish up.

Mary Gauthier has been turning up on lots of lists this week - her new album, Trouble and Love, is on my list to buy in the coming weeks ... Here's one of her songs from an earlier album, that I think every songwriter wishes they'd written.

I've been doing very little reading this last while - too much going on and too many distractions.   But last weekend I picked up a few new novels and just finished one of them - Jennifer Johnston's "A Sixpenny Song".   A girl coming back to the home she had left many years before, after her father died and left her the mansion and finding out the real truth about her mother's death ... I like Johnston's writing - beautiful descriptions of scenery and feelings, but nothing so heavy that I have to think too hard about it.

Good things:

Tom admiring my sports car at the vintage car show yesterday!!!  
I wish ... wouldn't it be lovely?
The vintage car rally in the park yesterday - 1400 cars, bikes, vans and tractors on display and a beautiful day for it.

Summer staying with us for another while - it makes you feel so good having warm weather for a sustained period.

Saying goodbye to my students for the summer :)

The Summer Solstice Picnic - we have a new women's group in the village - a lot of young women hvintage car rally in the park yesterday - 1400 cars, bikes, vans and tractors on display and a beautiful day for it.

Finishing a song with a new co-writer - I'll write about it in a future post.

Out and about this week:

This video made me laugh out loud

And this blog made me cry

So that's been my week - how's your's been?
I've been slow at answering comments these past couple of weeks, but I promise I'll do better this week.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Remembering Jaimidi on Midsummer's Day

Jaimidi - 2001

13 years ago today , we were involved in a concert for the Summer Solstice.  
Tom and myself, Maria Flynn, Peter Benson and Dermot McQuaid created a band called Jaimidi from an idea of Dermot's to do a concert about the sun. 

The name came from a carving in the old graveyard of a sun god, Jaimidi, and the local legend was that when St Patrick came through this part of Ireland he made a deal with the locals that they could continue worshipping Jaimidi, providing they cut a cross into the stone, which they did.   In this area people would use the mild expletive 'jaimidi junkers   -like jeeny mac.. that sort of thing.
The image from the burial stone was used on the cover of the CD.

Anyway, Maria, Peter, Dermot, Tom and myself got together 8 days earlier and wrote, arranged and rehearsed a concert  - it included pieces to honour the sun - from Sunrise - through the day, Newgrange, Guinevere, Rosebuds in June, Dulaman, Lonely Sky, Burning Timesand through the evening, Evening Falls, Legend, In the Gloaming, to the next morning and an arrangement of Morning from the Peer Gynt Suite which we called Maidin (meaning morning in Irish) and finishing with Here Comes the Sun.  Each piece was prefaced by a piece of poetry or writing.

Here's a few songs from the show:
Maria and I singing In the Gloaming
Maria singing Newgrange - our arrangement of a Clannad song.
Me singing Dulaman - a traditional song from this area about gathering seaweed.
Dermot, aided by Peter and Tom, singing Guinevere, a Crosby Stills and Nash song

Every year we talk about getting together again but it was something that was a beautiful one off - on an evening when the heavens were with us - after part one of our concert, we had a long break, the sun went down and the moon came up right on cue - now that's good organising for you:) 
We recorded the show in one live session a few weeks later (4th July 2001) for a CD which we called The Turning of the Day - I think one or two copies still exist.  

Maria has recently recorded a beautiful album of jazz standards - you'll find her on Facebook.  Peter is part of a wonderful soul band call Cold Porter, also on Facebook and Dermot is a soloist - a brilliant guitarist, fiddler, singer and arranger.

Blessings of the solstice to you all today.  
Do you celebrate mid summer's day? I'd love to hear what you're up to.  

Saturday 14 June 2014

Looking Back Over our German Tour.

The venue in Gross Schauen
This morning I'm catching up on reading around everyone's blogs, having an unexpected morning to myself.
We're just back from a packed 7 day tour around Germany - 6 gigs in that time - and a very unexpected weather boom which soared up to 35C (high 90s in Faherenheit).   While it was fantastic to have heat for a week, I can fully understand now why everyone complains when the temperature stays up around 100F - it's impossible to do much - I was feeling very drained by the end of the week.   thankfully all our concerts were in the evenings so the temperature had dropped considerably and the wonderful German efficiency ensured air conditioning in most buildings.   Our one worry was that people wouldn't come out to a show when it was so warm, but we were delightfully surprised and had good audiences everywhere we went.

The tour...
So we flew into Hannover so that we could pick up Tom's congas which were left with a friend near there - then straight on to Kiel.
Our first morning there we had a very early start - up at 7am to catch a ferry to Hallig Hooge - it's a 90 minute drive to Schuttsiel where the ferry leaves from and as we haired along the roads with only minutes to spare our guide and friend Barney was hastily making contingency plans in case we missed the boat.   I'd been following some friends on Facebook doing 100 days of happiness posts and when I saw the ferry waiting for us I thought there's my first day of happiness!!!
So happy to see the ferry!

I've written about the Hallig before here - "a handful of soil in the sea" is the title of one book about the place - right in the middle of the sea … This was our fourth visit, but the first one in good weather - the horse drawn carriages were out to take the day trippers and everyone was busy at the cafes.  
Day trippers
Barney, me, Joern, Maike and Tom after the gig
We wandered around, slept for a few hours, had typical Nordsee dinner and got ready for the evening which turned out to be a lot of fun.   Joern and Maike at the venue were great fun and I had to resist having yet another glass of schnapps at the end of the night.

Cos once again it was a 7am start to catch the 8o'clock ferry back to the Mainland - three early mornings on the trot don't sit too well with us - I used to be an early morning person, but you can't have late nights and early mornings - now I function best if I can sleep until about 9.

Anyway, we decided to detour on our way back to Kiel to check out the next night's gig in Eckerfoerde.   We were told it was a tiny cafe, that it was sold out and that we wouldn't need any PA system.   But I hate singing without a good sound system  - we turn the volume down if the audience gets too noisy and it's a great way of controlling the overall volume of the room.   Organisers often freak when they see a sound system coming in and no matter how we reassure them that we're not loud they are never convinced until the gig is half way over.   Tom plays very subtle percussion parts - bodhran (the Irish drum), eggs and other shakers, and congas to keep a rhythm - if we play without amplification, all that subtlety is lost plus we end up forcing our voices to be heard.   Bearing in mind too that our audience are not native English speakers, although the level of English is good, it's a lot of work to keep them interested all evening and if they can't hear us clearly then they're even more inclined to start chatting with their friends.   We leave lots of breaks throughout the evening so that they can chat away uninterrupted and then listen to us uninterrupted.

Anyway we met up with the owner, cased the joint! and went into the beautiful little market town for lunch al fresco beside the market - there was one stand selling tomatoes - I have never seen so many varieties of tomato - there must have been 14 or 15 different breeds.   Wow!   They really no how to do it over here.

And on to Kiel - another quick sleep and then a quick meal - a pasta place where they cook everything fresh in front of you - then sound check and gig.  This is our 3rd time playing in the Kulturforum in Kiel and again the audience were a delight, the sound was fabulous and the Pflammkuchen afterwards was the treat at the end of the night.   I got chatting to some Polish people who were in the audience on a school exchange with some teachers and students from Kiel.  WE got invited to  Poland - wouldn't that be an adventure?!  I'd love to do that - will keep you posted on developments.

At the fjord in Eckerfoerde
The next day we had a few hours free for a bit of shopping and then back out to Eckerfoerde - and once we got set up, and dodged the owner's angst about sound, we ended up getting changed in the car but went on to have another great night.    The place was packed - a much older audience but they all sang along when we asked them to and joined in very well.

A long journey next day to the other side of Berlin - over 5 hours driving including an hour in a Stau (the German word for a traffic jam).   There's still a lot of roadworks going on and a beer lorry had tipped over in the middle of the single lane traffic.

Drinks outside at the interval

Breakdfast the next morning with Detlev, Lutz, Tom and Katya
I've already mentioned Gross Schauen - it's a tiny little village - 148 residents - and we played in the mediaeval church - which only holds about 60 people - again we were told to do it acoustically without PA but a couple of local musicians very kindly leant us their PA and came up and sang a song with us at the end and gave us a fabulous breakfast the next morning before sending us on our way via a quick stop off to meet old friends Gueno and Jutta for lunch on the way.  We had a very swift catch up - and made plans to spend more time in Berlin on our next visit.  

Next stop Annahuette.   This was for their first Celtic Festival and we were chuffed to realise that we were top of the bill - an honour indeed.  There were Irish dancers, Scottish pipers from Dresden, two lovely girls playing harps and guitars and singing and a group of 6 musicians from Leipzig playing Dubliners style songs.
Dresden Pipers

Roasting hot in the marquee
A beer tent, a coffee and cake stall and of course a whiskey stand - the German festivals love whiskey - this particular shop had 100 different varieties of Scotch and Irish whiskey as well as some whiskey liqueurs  - Irish Mist and so on - and the guy in the kilt seemed well versed in all of them.  On our very first visit to Annahuett years ago, I was enticed into a glass of whiskey with the elders of the town council - three lovely men who laughed all evening.  I made the mistake of writing in their guest book "Please, no more whiskey!" and now they think I drink nothing else - oh dear.   I can just about manage one liqueur - sorry to disillusion you guys.

Our last stop then was to Munich, to our friends Alison and Frank who were the first people to give us a gig in Germany 21 years ago.  We've stayed friends ever since and always have great fun with them.   It was so hot in Munich that we stayed indoors most of the time and lounged around their patio in the evening eating Alison's great food and talking nonsense while solving the problems of the world.

Our friend Frank introducing us at the Irish Folk Club in Munich
And our last gig on Monday night was in their Irish folk club - I was surprised and delighted to meet a lady who had been at our gig in Eckerfoerde on Thrusday night - the very north of the country and now meeting up in the very south - she was visiting her daughter for the Whit weekend.    And also to come across some visitors from Bulgaria plus a man from Belfast and some good friends of ours from down in Kempten who had travelled nearly 2 hours to our concert.   I find that very humbling, that people will take the time and trouble to do that.

So all in all it was a wonderful week.   We had both been a bit nervous about doing a tight run like that - we're not as young or as fit as we once were and weren't sure that we could manage.    But we did, albeit we're totally exhausted now, but it was fun and do-able again.   I've already started plans moving for next years visit, but now it's on to the next thing - recording the new CD.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Philadelphia here I come.

I spotted this sign for Philadelphia out in the German countryside and was told that just a little bit up the road there was also New Boston.  What a curiosity in a country where all town names are very definitely of their native language!

Holger, the Mayor of Gross Schauen where we played, told me the story.  
The village church where we played a concert on Friday.

In the early 1800s many people left Germany to travel to America.   The only German seaports lie on the north coast - Bremen and Hamburg. People from the south, Bavaria and Thuringen had to pass through this region on their long walk to the North.  

The King spotted this and asked where they were going and they told him America.  So he said "this can be America". Stay here and I will give you land and seeds. He had recently heard about the wonder crop of potatoes and offered them all seed crops.  So he named the towns Philadelphia and New Boston - the people stayed and grew potatoes and the region started to grow and flourish.  To this day they still have a potato festival every year. 

Monday 2 June 2014

Kudos to Aer Lingus

There's an urban myth about a very successful Irish musician years ago who was taken to America to do some concerts.  So upset was he by the experience that on arriving in the USA he went and bought a car and a ticket for him and it on the QE2 to return home by sea vowing never to set foot on a plane again. I wonder if he ever did?

But I can sympathise with him.  I'm not a great air traveller either - flying doesn't frighten me- it's just all those queues and baggage limits and annoying counter staff and overpriced sandwiches and no leg room.  

Ferries are much more civilised - throw everything you might need into the car and off you go.  Pack a lunch too if you're feeling any way organised.  

But I have to give a big well deserved pat on the back to Aerlingus who we travelled to Germany with today.  

Firstly they allowed me to carry my guitar to the door of the aircraft and put a child's buggy sticker on it to allow that. And on the other side one of the baggage handlers carried to the carousel.  My baby arrived safe and sound😃. Happy singist here😃

But the second even more remarkable thing was that Tom forgot that he left his iPad in the outside pocket of his suitcase.   He was too distracted getting to the check desk and walked away.  When he realised, his face went white.  4 agonising hours later, out comes the suitcase and, lo and behold, the iPad was totally unscathed.  Phew!!! One very relieved hubby😃

And we went on through a very easy car pick up - with an upgrade, this thing has a dashboard that the Starship Enterprise would be proud of.  
Look at the GPS in this car!!!

A short detour to pick up congas and we finally arrived in Kiel ready for the road.  

A really good day's travelling was had.   

What's your favourite way to travel?  Do tell. 

What type of blog do you like?

I signed up for the Post A to Z challenge road trip but until tonight hadn't really had any time for a mosey around ...

One thing I've noticed over these past few months, is that there are as many styles and types of blogging as there are blogs and I've definitely come to a point where there are some I like more than others.

I like to see how many followers a blog has and to be easily able to follow along.
I don't like getting blogs by email - I do all my work by email so anything that comes in there feels too much like work - so I haven't followed any blogs that don't have an obvious followers widget.

I like to easily be able to find the comment box- one of the things I've most enjoyed about the A to Z challenge was getting into the habit of commenting when I could.  Some of the blogs I've visited have a really cool button to say you liked the blog - I can't figure out how to add that here - but I thought it was a great idea if you had nothing to add to the discussion but still wanted to show you'd been there.

I like to feel welcome to the site and don't like to be bombarded with adverts unless they pertain to the subject matter of the blog - one or two did that - what a clever idea.

I don't like overly cluttered pages where it's hard to see what the person is writing about or indeed layouts that leave you wondering how do you find out what's going on here.   If I start following a blog, over time I like to go back and read through some of the older posts and if there's no menu that's hard to do.

And I love ones that are well laid out.

I prefer Blogger to Wordpress but that's probably because I'm finding it easier to navigate - maybe as I get more comfortable with this hobby I may venture into the more difficult looking WP territory.

I love seeing photos of people's lives ...

What are your likes and dislikes about blogs?  Have you come across any really interesting layouts?