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.