Reading My Way Around the World

Thursday 31 December 2015

Happy New Year and thank you...

I love these quieter days between Christmas and the New Year, where there's not much office work to be done, and no big meals to prepare for, and there's time to sit around in your dressing gown and catch up.  
Blogging has fallen by the wayside for me these past couple of months and in looking forward to a bright brand new year I think I'm going to resist the temptation to get into any big blog challenges.  There are so many things I'd like to do but it ends up going into a long list of wishes and nothing gets done at all.   So I vow to be kinder to myself this year and take the pressure off. 

Playing road bowls with some friends on the Sunday after Christmas

Thank you to all you wonderful bloggers that I've enjoyed following over the past 12 months.   May your writing hands continue painting your wonderful stories.  
To Kezzie at KezzieAG -  I wish you continued joy and success with your students and with your music and your life with CBC. 
To Deborah at Temenos of the Blessing Light -  I thank you for all the joy you bring to your readers.  May your wisdom and insight continue to grow and may all your projects be a huge success.
To Hilary at Positive Letters .... inspirational stories .... - your journeys around England are a delight to follow.   I wish you a wonderful year to come, with lots more travels on the cards for you. 
To Jo at JO ON FOOD, LIFE AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE thank you for all the great recipes you share with us.  I hope your bowling group win the league next year and that you and your husband stay well and happy.  
To Inger at  Desert Canyon Living  - thank you for sharing your life with us here.   Here's wishing you a good year to come with lots more stories from the canyon.
To Vicki at Vintage Vixen  - what fun it is watching your love of vintage - I've learned so much from following your site and have plucked up the courage to try things I'd never have tried wearing before. (no pictures! lol)   Have a very profitable and successful year's trading.  
To Pempi  at Special Teaching at Pempi's Palace - who was one of the first friends I made on here through the A to Z challenge.   Your work with young ones is so inspiring to follow. Happy New Year .

There are many more who I dip in and out of every few weeks:  - here's just a few  ...The Slightly Eccentric Diary of Rob Z Tobor...worth a read for another view of the world; our fashion expert, the beautiful Denise in South America Denise's Planet; the lovely book reviews and life on an island from Cait at Click's Clan;  the writings of  Father Nature's Corner; and many many more who's photographs, writing and art give me great pleasure to follow.   

I wish you all a wonderful 2016 and I look forward to my daily trips around the world that your blogs bring me to.

Happy New Year :) 

followed by a session in the house
where the wee ones had a wonderful band playing for them
to jump about and dance all evening.  

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Small Pleasures

This month has turned out to be much busier than I'd foreseen and as a result much of Kat McNally's lovely reflective writing challenge Reverb 15 has passed me by - but I thought jumping back in today rather than trying to catch up is a much less stressful approach ... Perhaps at sometime over the holidays I'll get a chance to re visit some of the other prompts  

Today's prompt 

Issue 5 of the beautiful magazine Bella Grace carries a gorgeous illustrated quote from a chap called H. Jackson Brown Jr as follows:

"Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones."

What small pleasures gave you moments of intense joy in 2015?

What more could you cultivate in 2016?

I love this quote.

Years ago I bought one of those solar dancing flowers with the intention of giving it to someone but it never managed to find another home and sits on the window sill in my study.   And after all this time it still makes me smile every time I see it dancing.   At this time of the year it's a bit idle, but there's still a wee flurry of activity from time to time - such a simple joy.  

When we're travelling I love shopping and kid myself that the things I"m buying are really  presents for someone or other, whenever in truth I'm buying things I'd love to have myself.   Next year I promise that I'm going to start keeping more of these things:)    Because by the time I've got them home the sensible part of my head talks me in to passing them on to deserving hosts.  

On the drizzliest days of winter, it's lovely to look at something childish or silly or simply beautiful to brighten up the dark and make us smile.   

Saturday 5 December 2015

Show us your self(ie)

Reverb 15 - day 5 - hosted by Kat McNally and today's prompt ::

Go on, show us your selfie! You know you want to.
If you've been a part of Reverb before, you know that this is the bit where I invite you to share your favourite photo of yourself from the year (selfie or otherwise). 
I don't like getting photos taken when I'm singing - my face is always screwed up somehow and I look really dorkish or should that be dork -y?  So I was really chuffed with this nice one taken by  Michel during the house concert we did in his home in September.

Gosh, I didn't realise how stressful it would feel putting this up - it's one thing sending photos to a promoter and letting him post them, but it makes me very nervous, panicked even, putting one up myself ... what is it they say about performers being shy?! lol 
 I'm hitting publish quickly or it won't go at all...

Oh for a day in bed!

Reverb 15 - Day 4 and the prompt comes from Kathleen Jowitt.  

Making wreaths with friends the day after we got back. 

Kathleen writes:

As the year ends, and we look back at the joys, achievements and disappointments of the past twelve months, it's worth taking some time to recognise what our efforts have demanded of us and where our resources have been depleted. 

Whether you have spent 2015 bringing some long-cherished project to fruition or simply trying to keep your head above water, it's likely that this has come at some cost to you. 

How can you replenish your (physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional) resources? What do you need most of all at this moment?

A full day in bed ... oh please ...
Surrounded by some of the books I haven't had time to read .... Nothing serious or intellectual ... something quite trashy would do nicely thank you :)  And perhaps a bar of chocolate :) 
And then someone to bring me at least breakfast in bed - Tom's great at doing that to be fair ...   But lunch and dinner would be great too .... ok, maybe that's too much to ask for.   lol

I find it very hard coming back to ground after touring or after working on a big project.   Moving from town to town along busy motorways can be ... is ... exhausting.  The concert always revitalises, but then you arrive home and collapse.   This year more than others I was straight into other projects after two days home, which helped with grounding.   But they're slowing down now too and I'm finding it hard to just be .... with no excitement, no deadlines.  Just commitments.   So I'm thinking that what I need right now is this writing reflection.   It's very stabilising, and very worthwhile.   Looking back over old photographs from the year, paying attention to what I've achieved - a new CD, two choirs great students, well put together tours ...and settling in to the rhythm of winter and the festive season.  
In another couple of months, when the days start to stretch and it's time to start moving again, I'll be so relaxed that I won't want to go anywhere, but right now -it's off to bed.  

How do you replenish your energy?  I'd love to hear. 

Thursday 3 December 2015

Sister Moon

This is Day 3 in Kat McNally's reflective writing challenge Reverb 15

When was the last time you stopped to look up at the moon?

What did she have to say to you?

Full moon over the Mountains of Mourne 1st June 2015.
I'm enjoying going back over photographs searching for something for these prompts and remembering the year.  And realising that at this time of the year we don't see much of the moon.   The curtains are closed way too early.   It's almost dark here now by 4.30.  And I miss her.   
On this particular night I was driving back from my first night with a new group of singers and the full moon was just spectacular.   Oh how I wish I could photograph it properly.   That might be on next year's wish list - that, and wondering what the moon will look like down in Australia.  

Here on the coast in summer time the moon rises from behind the mountain and sends its beautiful light across the lough.  It always makes me wonder what was it like in ancient times?  Did people imagine that the moon would fall out of the sky?  No wonder they worshipped her. 

Her beauty dominates the night sky and casts a stillness and magic over the landscape that makes my heart fill with joy.   It's impossible to feel sad when you look at the moon.  

And yet some of the creation myths that include the moon are anything but joyful.   I once wrote a song for a Solstice show about the myth that the sun and moon were lovers but they were banished to the sky to never be able to touch or properly see each other again.   How sad.

And for some beautiful images and sounds here's one of my all time favourite songs 

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Wild and bare

The garden today - wild and bare

It's Day 2 of Reverb 15 hosted by Kat McNally of I Saw You Dancing.

And today's prompt:

What surprised you this year ?

It always surprises me at this time of the year, how much light there is now that the trees are bare.   Even though we don't have bright sunshine at the minute, anything but, there is still a feeling of clarity.  The garden reverts to a feeling of wildness and all is quiet.

Now the the days are drawing in and a grounded feeling is coming back into my psyche after all the travelling, I'm noticing a strange sense of completion ... Each trip this year brought us almost a full circle, meeting up with friends that we haven't seen in years.  It felt initially like checking out, like saying goodbye - and for a while I was ready to give up on this crazy life we've led for 25 years or more now.  But by the end of the year, I am so surprised at how enlivened I'm feeling by the entire experience.   For sure now, it feels more like a beginning than an end.  And that's the biggest surprise of all.

What surprises have you had in your life this year?
If you fancy joining in with Kat McNally's lovely reflective writing challenge, check out the link above.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Reverb 15 Day 1 Lists and Prayers

pic taken in Sept, passing the Channel Islands

It's been ages since I've done any continuous blogging, so when I saw Kat McNally from I Saw You Dancing (I love that blog title ) hosting a reflective writing practice for December, I thought it would be a good time to step back and take stock. ... not sure how well I'll keep up but I do need to get back to journalling and looking inward at this time of the year.   All my year up until now has been constant running, and as ever I'm looking forward constantly, planning what's happening at various times next year.  So today's first prompt  from Kat:

In her seventh ever blog post, all the way back in March 2003(!), the inimitable Andrea Scher wrote: “Maybe lists are like prayers.”
 What sorts of lists do you have on the go at the moment? What do they suggest you are praying for?
My lists are nearly always about work - or more specifically, always about upcoming tours.  Next year we're heading to Australia in March, Germany in May, the UK in October and Switzerland later the same month.   And in between will be some gigs at home.   Plus a new recording.

So my lists are definitely prayers - for good well planned tours - profitable but not back breaking - with enough time off to enjoy where we are and enough energy to perform well and entertain our audiences.   I pray for audiences who get what we do and who leave the room with smiles on their faces.

And I pray for time away from the thinking about travelling to create and practice and ponder where next.

I don't need lists to remind me of all the things I need to do for my students or choirs so I suppose my lists are prayers to remind me that I'm important too and that I need to put my attention on my own practice.

Oh, and at the bottom of the current list is "make a Christmas card list!!"  I nearly forgot it was December already :)

This prompt is part of the Reverb15 reflective writing challenge. You are welcome to dive in at any time! If you’re catching up, you can check out all prompts so far in the Reverb archive.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Motorways, charity shops and too many goodbyes

OK!  I have to have a rant!  What is going on with the motorways in England?   And who’d commute these journeys every day ?  It’s unbelievable.  It’s now official.  I hate the M6!! Forecasters are saying that there will be another 10 million people living in England by 2020.  How is anyone going to move and get anywhere??? Some re-thinking is needed.
Phew – I feel better after that lol

We’ve just finished 3 lovely gigs - first off in the Red Lion Folk Club in the Black Heath area of Birmingham and stayed with the delightful Della and her husband Chris who's fabulous old house is like Aladdin's Cave - I want to have a week long holiday there.   
Tom, Della, Chris and myself in Birmingham

Then a great night in the Topic Folk Club on Thursday night – the longest continually running folk club in the world apparently.   Great songs from the floor singers and a wonderful audience for us to perform to. And finishing up the run last night we were at the folk club in Bollington - again, wonderful singers, great local songs and a very willing-to-sing audience which is always a huge bonus.  

Rahel and Tony at the Topic

I love hearing floor singers at folk clubs - the standard is always very high, with lots of original songs and regional traditional songs.   It's like having a run of mini history lessons about various localities and much more interesting to me than visiting museums.  

On our way down from Yorkshire to Lancashire we visited an old friend who sadly is very very unwell with cancer.  So sad.  I often feel afraid to contact people, thinking they won’t want to hear from me, but being self conscious is so selfish -  it made her happy to get a surprise visit and we were both so happy to have seen her. 

Sitting on the motorway and looking at all the traffic and all these people in their little tin boxes driving up and down these crazy roads, some of them commuting for 3 hours each way during the day, I think to myself that we have chosen a path that has blessed us.  We say goodbye too many times and sometimes I wonder who won't be there when next we're through this way.   But I was reminded on this trip to think about all the lovely hellos and don't dwell on all the goodbyes.  
Anyway, on a lighter note – in Birmingham on Wednesday I paid a quick visit to Off the Scales which is a not for profit shop mainly selling vintage clothes and shoes - it was suggested by Vintage Vixen - I got myself a fabulous coat for just £18 – not vintage, but I'm delighted with it nonetheless.   More charity shopping will be on the cards if we can fit in another hour somewhere.

And finally, a few things that were posted on my Facebook page this week - 
Firstly just for Kezzie, I had to share it with you J

And this fabulous video mash up to a very modern funky song - I can't seem to embed it, but here's the link - Fred Astaire dancing to Uptown Funk :)

Have a good weekend everyone and stay safe.  I"m off to share a glass of wine or three with my lovely cousins. 

What have you been at for the weekend?  I hope it's lovely. 

Saturday 14 November 2015

Sending love to Paris

This guy cycled to the Bataclan with a piano on his back
and played John Lennon's Imagine.  The power of music. Photo via Facebook
On a wet miserable day here in Ireland, everyone is reeling to the news of the terrible tragedy unfolding in Paris.

Acts of violence like this sends so much hatred out into the world and we need to balance that with as much love as we can muster.  All the good Muslim people in France need support and courage to deal with the inevitable back lash of suspicion that will follow.

Things like this make me feel insignificant a lot of the time - years of shootings and bombings here in Northern Ireland left our souls scarred.  What's the point in doing something as frivolous as music in the face of such sorrow? -  I've often felt like that.  Then someone reminded me that when we sing or play an instrument we vibrate at different frequencies and we send those frequencies out and the listener receives healing on that vibrational point in their body.  It makes me feel so much better about it to think about it in those terms.

So today joining me in humming quietly or singing out loud - sad songs or happy or angry or whatever - Let's raise our voices to the roof and raising our vibrations with it and send love.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Visiting England - all the Bs

So, we're off on the road again - to England this time.   And we're visiting three Bs - Birmingham, Bradford and Bollington :)  Then up to Scotland for another three gigs there - in Leith, Irvine and Moffat.

Apart form looking forward to lovely folk clubs - the English and Scottish folk clubs are fantastic for great singers and for hearing and sharing wonderful songs - that aside, I always look forward to getting time to rummage around charity shops and finding nice coffee shops.

If any of you have any tips in any of those areas - especially for places that cater for gluten free, I would appreciate any and all ideas.   And even better, if you know of good places to find charity shops, or vintage shops, pass on the knowledge folks :)

We've been getting some lovely reviews for the new album - why not check some of them out at my website - all the details of the folk clubs are there as well -at

If you're interested in keeping up to date with goings on in our wee world, would you like to sign up to my mailing list?  It usually gets sent out in advance of tours - perhaps 6 times a year so you'll not have your inbox full of spam unless I can find some willing slave to do some office work for me :)
Here's a direct link to sign up from.  You'll get a free copy of the CD Dreaming to download as a reward for signing up :)

Sign up to my Newsletter

All the best for now
Fil x

Sunday 1 November 2015

Scavenger Hunt October 2015

Scavenger Hunt

Today is the start of the Celtic New Year - All Soul's Day.  I wish you all the blessings of the season.
It's been a lot harder getting time to blog regularly so this monthly scavenger hunt is a great way of reflecting on the month just passed.  A huge thank you to Greenthumb from Made with Love for hosting it.   If you have time, go on over the link and see some of the fabulous photos that the other participants put up.  It's a fantastic way of getting a peak into lives in different corners of our beautiful planet. 

The first half of October has been spent on the road, finishing up our European tour.  
It was a very enjoyable and successful trip, meeting up with lots of friends old and new, playing in a huge variety of venues - churches, clubs, an aircraft hangar!!, small theatres, and house concerts.

When we eventually made it home on the 19th, the adrenaline hit the bottom and the cold I'd been carrying started to do really well for itself - in fact it's still doing well!   But it has been lovely to be home and get my choirs started back singing again, preparing for the C word..  

So without further ado, here's my contribution for October's list.

Are you looking at me?  We spotted this chap down in Co. Cork when we stopped off for a walk in Baltimore Forest on the day of our last gig of the tour.


I love my friend Kanne's creamy white decor - this is in Denmark - we did a house concert in the room at the back 

Here in the North of Ireland we have miles but in the south it's Kilometres.  During our trip we drove just over 6000 kms - that's about 4,300 miles I think.  - nearly every day was governed by how far we needed to drive that day or how far to the nearest rest stop or lay-by.  kilometres are great - they go by so much quicker than miles!


Driving in to Luxembourg, we passed this town hall, salle de f√ęte - a communal hall that can be rented for a small amount for family gatherings right through to big functions.  
I love the lattice work on these kind of buildings.


Back in Ireland again - I loved the shades of Autumn here in Galtymore Forest.  In fact Autumn was beautiful everywhere we drove.

On the ferry over from mainland Germany to Hallig Hooge.   The cabin is below the water line and it felt like looking in to a washing machine as we left the port. 


on the ferry home


In the Mournes in Co. Down


There's lots of graffiti along the sides of the German motorways - mostly on bridges.   They fascinate me ... I was driving at this point and I kept wakening Tom up to get some snaps for me and this one popped up just at the right time.  If you look to the left of the word Muse, it's written on the other side of the fence - It beats me how they manage to do that. 


Some of the Bonn folk club audience in the middle of the caravans and other Bed and Breakfast spots at Camp Base - easily the weirdest place we've ever played - read more about it here. 


German motorways under constant construction... I loved the registration of the car in front of us - don't scream, don't rant, don't get annoyed at sitting so long behind me?

Whatever you want
At the Nature reserve in Storkow Germany ... I loved the colours of this wee fella and the water around him.
Here's the list for November's Scavenger Hunt if you fancy joining in.

November's List

A Stranger
Looking Down
The Weather
Out and About
Whatever you want

Monday 19 October 2015

Camp Base Bonn

Bonn Folk Club meets on the first Friday of every month.   IT's mainly a platform for local acts to perform and then if a touring artist is in the area and free they'll do the main guest spot.
Their normal venue was busy on 2nd October when we visited so they had to move for the night and ended up in this place - Camp Base.

If you are ever looking for an unusual place for Bed and Breakfast then this is it.

Take one abandoned aircraft hangar, fill it with caravans, camper vans, railway carriages, a couple of buses, bits of planes and a few other ingenious sleeping places - tart them all up - and hey presto, beds for the night.

To sing in acoustically, this place was a nightmare - I had a proper hissy fit when we first went in to the stage and then I just shrugged my shoulders and said "whatever, let's get on with it".   You couldn't hear people talking from the stage beyond the first couple of rows, but you could plainly hear their guitars and hear them singing at the bar at the other end of the building!

But it turned out to be a great night and I met a lot of people that I have only met before either on email or Facebook or blogging.

So here's a feeling of Camp Base, Bonn.

 This railway carriage has 30 or 40 beds in it ... there's another one outside the hangar as well.

A ski lift carriage

And the best of all .... a Trabant with a tent on top!!   Two beds in it - the cheapest price for the night - just €24 per person per night. There used to be an Irish traditional band called Upstairs in a Tent - I wonder had they been here.

 The view from the stage at the end of the night when the audience were starting to leave.