Reading My Way Around the World

Saturday 28 February 2015

Technical Blogger help required

Hi my lovely friends.

Can any of you give me a bit of advice on how to set up another tab that is more than a page here on Blogger?

I would really like to do a tab on restaurants that I find as I travel and perhaps places to stay too.   Do I need to set up a new blog and then link to it as an external feed?

Your advice would be much appreciated.

And here's a wee pic from York yesterday - inspecting the walls for oncoming marauders :)

Friday 27 February 2015

The East Neuk of Fife

The harbour at Pittenweem

One of my favourite things about touring around folk clubs is that we go to out of the way places - not on the first call of the tourist trail.

We spent the weekend with some old friends and on Sunday we all headed out for a drive around The East Neuk of Fife - that's the East Nook, or East Corner of Fife for us non Scottish speakers.   

We visited several farm shops - they are so lucky to have so many of them - I only know of one in our area and it's about 50 miles from where I live.
I spotted this wee family of ducks out in the rain ...
Duck Art

It was a bit of a wild day - a spot of rain got onto my camera lens

We popped into another big farm shop place - at Cambo - where they have dozens of varieties of snowdrops - and a whole family of cheeky little piglets … like this wee fellow.
swathes of snowdrops at Cambo
One of hundreds of pastures of snowdrops -
someone spent a lot of time planting them. 
Dusk over May Island

Fabulous skies as dusk fell

And finishing up in St. Andrews….
Looking down to St Andrews

sunset on the church window

Flags at the Old Golf Course in St Andrews
A good time was had by all.

Thursday 26 February 2015

A simple gift

At the border between England and Scotland
We're coming to the end of what has been an excellent tour - York tonight and Keighley tomorrow finishes it.

But for the last two-three days I've been feeling rotten with a bad cold and really convulsive coughing which beset me twice during the concert on Tuesday night.   I'm so grateful that we had a very kind audience who know us well and who finished the last song for me cos I was coughing so badly.

Our hosts for the night, Mike and Tish, were so sweet.   We chatted for a while when we came in and next morning, before I got as far as the shower Tish came in and very kindly ordered me back to bed.   We had yesterday off and had planned to find a hotel and just lie about for the day - this was after the original plan of meeting a cousin for lunch had to be shelved due to my sniffles.   Anyway, I digress.   So they had decided I looked so ill that we could just stay with them for the free day.   And boy was I grateful.  Everyone went out and left me dozing - I didn't get up until after 5 - I couldn't have if I'd tried.     And thankfully I'm a lot better today.

The simplest of gifts mean so much and that was worth a lot to me.  Thank you both so much.

What kindnesses have helped your week?  

Monday 23 February 2015

Is a Dove a Doo Da

Back in sight of Ailsa Craig on Friday night
These past few days we've been having great fun with dialect and trying to get our ears tuned in to the various Scottish accents.  

Folk clubs always have floor singers before the main guest of the evening goes on, and one of the floor singers at Girvan (back down near Ailsa Craig again) on Friday night sang this Jim Douglas song and everyone was falling about the place laughing.   Tom and I in turn were laughing at their hysterics, but in truth I got about one word in ten.   So our friends that we've been staying with for the weekend gave me the words … it's very funny and it is properly called The New Teacher.

So I thought I would tease you with a snippet of a song and see if you can figure out what the singer is on aboot  - especially for any of you teachers reading this who might be trying to teach your childer to speak proper England-like!!!

This has kept me awake most of last night I might add - could not get it out of my head and now I'm wrecked ….

"Is a dove a doo, dad
Is a doo a dove?
Is a cow a coo dad,
A sparrow just a spyug
Is a wall a waw dad
Is a dog a dug?
She's gonny warm ma ear dad
Instead of kelp ma lug."

Got it?!

Here's a video of some children singing it just so you can get the tune and let it stay in your head for the next 24 hours too and I won't be going mad on ma oon…

It's slow getting pictures loaded up when we're travelling - there's not much time to sit on your own.   But we had a lovely weekend off from gigs, visiting friends and having a drive around the East Neuk of Fife - I'll be back soon with some pictures.

Today now we're heading to Stirling to sing at the folk club there tonight.   Then down into England tomorrow.

Have a brilliant week and I'll be dropping in when I get the chance to say hello on your blogs.


Friday 20 February 2015

The Rhythm of the Day

Photo by Allan McMillan @ Edinburgh Folk Club
Tours take on a rhythm of their own very quickly - the focus of each day is the concert that evening, so we try to get up and have breakfast around 9, get on the road by 11, do the day's chores - like post office, bank, or buying guitar strings, camera card etc - then on to the next town.   Arive at our digs by 3ish - have something to eat and if there's time a quick nap, then get to the gig by 6.30 or 7 for set up and sound check and the show starts at 8pm.   Off stage by 11, time for a quick chat with folks that have come to see us, then pack up, load the car and back to the digs by midnight.   The first two or three days are always toughest and then you get into your stride and by the end of the trip you don't want to stop.

There's not really any time for doing any touristy stuff so I've been snapping pics out the window of the car and annoying Tom's head (he's doing most of the driving) by shouting -ooh that's lovely stop here!!

Another view of Stranraer harbour
with the ferry terminal in the background
 We came over a day early and stayed on Monday night in Stranraer.  It used to be the main ferry terminal from Belfast but the ferry company has moved up the coast about 5 miles leaving a huge hole on the shoreline in Stranraer.

Ailsa Craig in the mist

Then to our first gig in Glasgow which was lovely.   The Star Folk Club has been going for more than 40 years - this is a new venue for them and it was smashing - great craic… I only managed a picture of an empty stage but someone posted some on Facebook

And this pic specially for Kezzie
Dr Who had landed in Glasgow … quick snap through the window:)
Wednesday was Edinburgh - one of the oldest folk clubs in Scotland ….  the photo at the top was taken by Allan McMillan at the club - I'm delighted to have some good live photos - thank you Allan.

you can see more here….  The gig was great and we saw some old friends who had travelled a good bit to see us and sang a few songs too.  

Doris Rougvie is a legend in Scottish folk music - she runs the House of Song at the Celtic Connections festival in January every year


- and her husband Hugh Hoffman writes ridiculously funny parodies full of brilliantly cringe worthy puns :)

And last night we were in Falkirk Folk Club - again another fabulous night - a brilliant singing audience - they joined in heartily with every chorus and even sang along in French!!  

Driving through Edinburgh yesterday I took a few pics …. It is such a photogenic city - the sandstone buildings are simply beautiful and the place is full of great charity shops, vintage shops, craft shops … oooh paradise - I could easily spend a few days browsing here.

a street full of goodies

There was a lovely blue sky yesterday - the perfect backdrop
for the churches

the stairs
and the back of the castle 

It's been lovely having an hour to post this.  We're in a friend's house in Falkirk.   So now we're packing up to head back to the West Coast - down to Girvan for tonight's folk club. 
I do my knitting in the car - a habit I picked up from my Mum - got the first sleeve finished yesterday for the cardigan/jacket I'm making … aiming to have the second one well on the way by the time we're home.
I'll be back with more updates in a few days. 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Restaurants worth a mention

We eat out a lot when we're travelling and every time I'm in a nice place I keep thinking I should start a wee review page.  So here goes.   And I should say, these are my opinions and this record is mainly as a reminder for me that when I'm back here in a year or 18 months, there'll be somewhere I can recommend to myself :)

Today we were in The Apiary on  Newington Road,  in Edinburgh

It is superb.   5*

This is our second visit here.  It serves food all day which is very useful and has a really interesting menu.  It's also licensed.  Furthermore, I have loads of food allergies - a real pain - but the staff couldn't do enough for me.  

We came in on a tester day which meant the menu was half price and was superb.  And even at full price it was not overly expensive - £9.50 each for starter and main course.   Check out the menu here

If you're in the area and looking for a mid priced good meal, give it a shot.  

The quality of these photos isn't great - they were taken on my phone which is a bit old, but I hope you get the atmosphere.  Check out their website for a better view.

A final note, the restaurant don't know I'm writing this review.

Sunday 15 February 2015

GYB party - And the winner is ...

I  spent a lovely hour this morning catching up on reading everyone's blogs for the last week or more - such a pleasure having a trip around the world glimpsing into different lives ....

So many are new blogs that I've started to follow since the Grow Your Blog Party organised by Vicki at 2 Bags Full .  The party was such a huge success for me.   I started off with 34 followers and ended up with 60 - I am so delighted and not a little scared I must confess - the doubt gremlins are always hard at work when wondering if your blog is ok.  

However, I met some lovely ladies (all ladies that day) with amazing skills and great humour and great blogs.  I look forward to keeping in touch over the coming months.

And during the party, several people offered prizes ... and I was happy to do likewise.

And so on with the business of the day...   I got Tom to help me in this task ... hence all the drums in the pictures... we're rehearsing on and off all day today.   And I have to own up that this is an idea I stole from someone and I can't for the life of me remember who I saw doing it.   So if it's someone reading this, I hope you don't mind.

I decided that I would do 3 prizes rather than the one I originally said ...

I wrote out all the names and put them in a bowl

and got my lovely other half to draw the winners ...

 And ta da .....Drumroll ...

The winner of a bundle of my CDs is Maggie

And the first runner up of a copy of Songbirds is Threadpainter

And the other runner up is J at What Happens at Grandma's

I'll be coming past to let you know.   And I sincerely hope you enjoy the music

Thanks again to Vicki and to everyone who visited my blog on that day and in the weeks since.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Off on the road again - UK tour

We're starting out on our first gigs of this year by getting across the water for a lovely wee tour to visit some great folk clubs in Scotland and England and catch up with friends on the way.

Starting in Glasgow on the 17th and ending up in Keighley in Yorkshire on the 27th if the snow stays away it'll be a very pleasant trip.

If you're anywhere near any of these venues and you're into folk music it'd be lovely to see you or please pass the info on to anyone whom you think might be interested...

All dates in February - most clubs start at 8pm, unless otherwise stated.   It is advisable to check their website for details before travelling.

Tues 17th -  GLASGOW Star Folk Club @ The Admiral Bar
Wed 18th - EDINBURGH Folk Club at The Pleasance
Thurs 19th - FALKIRK Folk Club @ The Tollbooth Tavern
Fri 20th - GIRVAN Folk Club @ The Queen's Hotel
Mon 23rd - STIRLING Folk Club - Stirling County R.F.C.

Tues 24th - CRAMLINGTON Folk Club, at The Clef and Cask, Dewley - 7.30 start.
Thurs 26th - YORK, the Black Swan Folk Club, Peasholme Green -
Fri 27th - KEIGHLEY Bacca Pipes Folk Club, Ukrainian Club, Henry Street - 8.30

Have a great week rest of weekend..

Sunday 8 February 2015

The A to Z challenge 2015

The A to Z challenge is going to be coming up again in April this year - if you haven't done it yet, and fancy taking on the challenge of writing a blog a day for the whole of April , not including Sundays, and going through the whole alphabet and meeting lots of new people, it's well worth having a go at.   It's not for the faint hearted - I have to say I found it really challenging last year and I wasn't so busy, so there was time to figure out what to write about.    A lot of people took a theme and I think that this year I'm going to do the same.   so I've been wrecking my brain and I think I have one that will be do-able.   I'll tell you at the end of March :)  I met some wonderful people on it, some that have become like friends , or pen friends … part of the challenge is to visit at least 5 blogs a day and there are people from all over the world and from all walks of life.

Meanwhile this has been a silly crazy time work wise - yesterday for instance, the day started with a meeting about The Emigrants's Tale - that's a subject for another post; followed by a rehearsal for the tour coming up in Scotland and England, followed by more writing for The Emigrants' Tale, and finishing up with doing voice overs for a TV ad!   Phew …. The day before was similar - singing with senior citizens, planning for a German tour in October, recording piano pieces for the Emigrants Tale and working out songs for one of my students …. I'm also trying to learn new songs for the recording that got postponed by a few weeks … My brain's been melting a bit, but thankfully I've managed to keep all the balls in the air without dropping any.

And ending on a funny note, we're visiting my Mum this weekend.  Her wee cat is feeling a bit sorry for itself after getting the operation earlier in the week.   But …. when she took her wee boy cat to the vet, they told her it wasn't a boy, but a girl!!  My poor mother was mortified, but the vet's staff and everyone since has had such a good laugh … .It was worth it to bring a smile to their faces - I often feel sorry for people working in veterinary surgeries - the so often have to deal with such awful things and for people who love animals that must be so hard …. I'm sure my mother's mistaken identity will keep them cheered up for a while to come …. Meanwhile Tiger is still a bit off colour and will still remain Tiger ….

How's your week been?
Did you do the A to Z last year?   And are you up for it again this year?
How do you cope with doing 10 different things at once?
I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday 7 February 2015

The Session

Getting ready for the session

The session is a regular part of life in Ireland and we have several regular ones in Rostrevor. 

Deirdre on the fiddle
These pics were taken at the Tuesday night session a few weeks ago.
The pub is tiny
This one is mostly songs based which is quite unusual as most are tunes based with a few songs punctuating the music.
Jimmy playing whistle tunes
I don't get down very often as it's always a late night or early morning but when I do go down I love it and always have great fun.
Alfie on banjo - he leads the session with Matthew
There are singing sessions in the area every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and an early one on Sunday.   So if you're around and have a song to sing or a tune to play then drop in.   You'd be very welcome.
Some visitors from Denmark

Sunday 1 February 2015

New Beginnings

Today, at the Brigid of Faughart Festival, I attended a lovely singing workshop with Noirin Ni Riain who is a wonderful singer in the traditional Irish style,  and a world recognised teacher and expert in Gregorian Chant as sung by the monks at Glenstal Abbey in the West of Ireland.   She actually lives at the monastery and continues her studies of the Celtic Church and its music.

Here is Noirin singing Ode to Brigid.

I learned today that Imbolc is the time of new beginnings - when we sow the seeds for the coming year.
I came away with lots of ideas and plans.   Now I just need to sit down and put some of them into action.  And the first of these is to catch up with all the lovely new people who came to my blog from last week's party.   It's been such a busy week and I've only managed to visit about two thirds yet.   So this week, I promise to get by and say hello.

Are you starting anything new at this time of year?  You know I love to hear.
Have a wonderful week.

Imbolc, or St Brigid's Day, the start of Spring

 The 1st February is officially the first day of Spring here... not that the weather pretends to fall in line with that.  But already the snowdrops are up and a few lambs are already in the fields.  I should warn you this is a long post so you might need a cuppa ...

There are many things to celebrate about the start of February..   Imbolc, St Brigid's Day, Candlemas and Groundhog Day - all happening on the 1st and 2nd of the month.

Imbolc, pronounced I-molg. is one of the quarter days of the Celtic year, half way between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.   The word, it is thought, comes from the old Irish word oimelc, meaning ewes milk.  Until recently it was celebrated in Ireland as St Brigid's Day, but in recent years, the resurgence of interest in the Celtic Calendar have meant that both are celebrated now.

Check out this fascinating blog for detailed information about Imbolc and about what's happening around Ireland to celebrate it.   John Wilmott, Woodland Bard is an expert in Irish mythology and keeps a sacred labyrinth at this restored cottage in Co. Leitrim.  John has become a friend through Facebook and he is a store of wonderful information.  He is a bard and keeper of treelore among other things.

Then there's Brigid's Day - in Ireland there are several festivals to Brigid, whether to the goddess or the saint.   Brigid of Faughart Festival  is run by my friend Dolores Whelan, who is a teacher in Celtic Spirituality.   Check out her fabulous Celtic Calendar on her website where the year runs from November to October.   I'm going to a workshop on spirituality and singing as part of this festival which will be so interesting .... I'll report back.   Faughart near Dundalk in Co. Louth is recognised as Brigid's birthplace.

In pre christian times our ancestors dedicated the day to Bride, the pagan goddess who was the daughter of Dagda.   Legend has it that the cauldrons of Bride were always full and her followers would be blessed with plenty.
With the arrival of Christianity, the Church allocated Bride's day to St Brigid and gave her the same attributes - generosity.  She is the patron of the hearth, the forge, the family and marriage.  To confuse things there is another St Bride too who was Mary's midwife and later protected Mary and the infant Jesus from King Herod.   Here feast is also the same date.

My less than perfect Brigid's Cross from last year.
Brigid's crosses are still made - mine in these pictures are from last year - I'm guessing the bigger one was made by my mother - it's quite perfect .... My own smaller one is not nearly as neat!  The crosses are made from fresh rushes. I'm not sure that I'll be at home this year at the weekend to make one, but I'll always get a new one somewhere.  It's a beautiful symbol of the turning wheel of life.  

I find it interesting that although I am not religious these old symbols of our ways of life are important to me to have in the house.

And here's a lovely English folk song for Candlemas sung by the gorgeous singer Kate Rusby It is based on The Robert Herrick Poem, "Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve" which Kate has set to music.  

Candlemas Day is on the 2nd February and marks the day, 40 days after Christmas, when Jesus was presented to the temple.   It also was the day when all the candles for the coming year were blessed, so it was literally the Mass of the Candles.
Again, this is believed to have been a pre-Christian festival dating back to Roman times when Februa, the Mother of Mars was celebrated by a candle carrying procession the the streets of Rome on the date when Women performed certain purification rites.

And lastly Groundhog Day, and really all I know about this is the movie of the same name.   But I do love the names that are given where the groundhog is celebrated on February 2nd - my favourite is Punxsutawney Phil - he must be great when he's called Phil :)

Some silly interesting facts about February

  • In years when it has 28 days , it starts on the same day of the week as both March and November.   When it has 29, it begins on the same day as August.
  • The old English called it Solmonath, the cake month or mud month or Kalemonath, the cabbage month.   The Germans called it Horning, meaning the month of the hornets.  
  • The flowers associated with February are the violet and the primrose - strange when neither are in bloom. 

Traditions and rituals abound at this time of year ... I could write for hours but I don't want to bore you into submission.   If you'd like to find out more do follow the links to John and Dolores.

I also want to make mention of Irelands Own Magazine for some of the other bits of information.  It is a weekly magazine that has been around since 1902, documenting and preserving the old Irish ways and celebrating the people and places of the country.