Reading My Way Around the World

Wednesday 30 September 2015

A Chance to Breathe

Notre Dame Cathedral
Trying to remind myself on a daily basis to breathe, ground, centre and shield is a challenge.

When remembered,  my day goes by with ease, I'm more present and obstacles don't seem quite such a big deal.

But on the days I forget, it's like breathing itself becomes difficult.  Panic sets in with no warning.  

I had time for a beer in a street side cafe in Paris on Friday in the area that houses the new Conservatoire of music where hubby is away buying a new drum.  I'd been dragging him through back alleys and shops in the very very expensive Le Marais area of the city for hours so a seat for me and a bit of shopping for him was well overdue.  

But I digress.

Even with all the noise of traffic, muzak coming over the tannoi, and men shouting at each other in various languages. It is still the most relaxed I'd felt in ages.  

Breathing is a useful pastime 😀

This post is part of the One Word Blog Linkup hosted by, Janine of Confessions of a Mommyaholic and Lisa at The Golden Spoons  This week, the word prompt choices were Mystery and Breathe. 

Wednesday 23 September 2015

The Architect's Apprentice

My blogging friend Hilary, who's blog Positive Letters...Inspirational Stories  is always full of information, recently posted about renovations to Canterbury Cathedral which she got to see up close - check out her post about it here.  It's a wonderful insight into a great and historic building.

It reminded me of this book which I've just finished.  The Architect's Apprentice is written by Elif Shafak and tells the story of a young boy called Jahan and a snow white elephant which he befriends, and the journey and life the two have, getting to the Palace of the Sultan  in Istanbul, where Jahan eventually falls in love with the Sultan's daughter and becomes apprentice to the great Architect Sinan.  

I didn't realise it when I was reading it that many of these characters actually lived - and eventually in his old age, Jahan becomes the Chief Architect who builds the Taj Mahal whilst his teacher and master Sinan was responsible for many of the fine buildings still standing in Istanbul today.

There were six of us: the master, the apprentices and the white elephant.  We built everything together.  Mosques, bridges, madrasas, caravanserais, alms houses, aqueducts . . .  
I think about Istanbul every day.  People must be walking now across the courtyards of the mosques, not knowing, not seeing.  They would rather assume that the buildings around them had been there since the time of Noah.  They were not.  We raised them: Muslims and Christians, craftsmen and galley slaves, humans and animals, day upon day.  But Istanbul is a city of easy forgettings. Things are written in water over there, except the works of my master; which are written in stone.  
Beneath one stone, I buried a secret.  Much time has gone by, but it must still be there, waiting to be discovered.  I wonder if anyone will ever find it.  
If they do, will they understand?

It's a compelling story with great characters, not least of which is the white elephant Chota.  It’s a story of building and destroying bridges, and of building things as a parallel to how we, or others, build our lives.

I must confess that my reason for buying it in the first place was the cover of the book - full of exotic colour and pattern, a picture of a world I've only seen very little of (many moons ago when I lived in Dubai for a few years).  But I'm glad it found it's way into my line of vision - it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and perfect for picking up at night when there wasn't time to do long bouts of reading. The story stayed very alive.


Sunday 20 September 2015

A few walks and memories

I've started to play with my camera again this past week, trying to remember what I'm doing with it!  My attention span is getting worse by the day lol



Walking on the beach last night I spotted these winkle shells tucked in-between the rocks


Tenuous link to bridge here - the bridge of the violin was the closest I could find - taken at this session in Antrim last month.  The tunes played at a session are also bridging the gap between amateur and professional and between cultures and between songs and stories.


The ferns at the bottom of the forest this morning - they look so luscious


There have been very few butterflies around this summer - but I remembered this old brooch I had.  Once I'd cleaned up the candle wax off it (?) it got the chance to shine again :) 

Joining up today with Scavenger Hunt Sunday

Saturday 19 September 2015

Around here

Low tide at Rostrevor Bay Wednesday night
We've been having some lovely September sunshine these past few days - and great sunsets.   I find it hard capturing sunsets, even with the special setting on my camera - it never quite gets the light right.   

Still, I'm enjoying practising.   

And the crescent moon over Finn McCool last night was gorgeous. 

It's hard to believe it's already Autumn, and I can't believe that we've all been so focussed on the weather this year lol   My American friends on Facebook are welcoming in the season of jeans and sweaters and boots and bonfires - we have hardly been out of the jeans and sweaters and boots and the fire has been lit many nights over the past few months...  

We even had a bonfire last night to clear up some of the garden rubbish.

But in spite of the cold summer, my passion flower which never gets any direct sun, bloomed all through August - a couple of blooms a day ... It's such a lovely flower.  

The first of my lovely group of singers started up a few weeks back and now I'm abandoning them to head out of the road for a run of concerts in Europe.  My friend Brona will be taking over for one of the weeks before she leaves to get married and then we get back into full swing once we return.

There's something so exciting about packing up for a tour - seeing old friends again after a year or two's absence, meeting new ones along the way.  Visiting neighbourhoods we're familiar with and this time going to a couple of new towns.   

And most of all being able to focus on just one thing for a length of time.  

We've a couple of very long drives on this trip, but still the focus of the day is on the concert and much and all as I love my singing groups, my students and my work with Csilla and the Emigrants Tale, it's delightful to focus on my own playing, singing and writing for a while. 

The few days before leaving reminds me of packing up for boarding school when I was a kid.   There was an old trunk in the house and as everything from the list was bought, or made, it was added to the trunk.  I'm sure I unpacked and repacked that thing everyday of that summer before finally making the 25 mile journey to school.   
That excitement of packing still catches me - and getting all the things ready from the list is pure pleasure. 

I'll keep you posted along the way on our travels - the full list is at my website - sign up for my mailing list when you're there if you'd like to get occasional updates of things going on that don't involve photographs of flowers :) 

So here's to la belle France, then Germany (hopefully there won't be any delays getting in and out of Munich with the immigrant crisis), then Denmark for a day and back through Germany to Luxembourg for our final port of call and back through France for the ferry home.  

Thursday 17 September 2015

An update on The Emigrant Woman's Tale

Tonight's Show in Forkhill
Tonight Csilla and I have another performance of the Emigrant Woman's Tale  - this is part of a women's concert funded by the Peace Programme and the organisers were keen to show another aspect to women here as opposed to simply Catholic and Protestant.
With the story of emigration being so huge on the news and in everyone's minds at the moment it will be interesting to see the response we get this evening.

Csilla Toldy on stage at Newcastle Arts Festival
photo by Alistair Livingstone
We're very very pleased with the response we're getting to this show.  After a couple of performances in July and August we got some great positive feedback.

This review quote from Colum Sands from the BBC - he says:

"In The Emigrant Woman's Tale, Fil Campbell and Csilla Toldy draw on memories of Belleek and Budapest to weave a striking tapestry of song, poetry and spoken word.  They take their audience on a journey that crosses borders on maps and in minds in search of that elusive place that we call home. An inspirational performance that is sometimes humorous, often moving and always thought proving....highly recommended."
Fil Campbell on stage at Newcastle Arts Festival
photo by Alistair Livingstone
And some comments from the audience as they were leaving the last performance  - I should add that this  was before the current emigrant crisis..... I find the variety so interesting - we seem to be touching lots of buttons.  

An older lady who now lives in Scotland and comes originally from our local big town left in tears - it  reminded her of being an emigrant and made her miss home more than ever - (sorry about that).   "Very moving" from a Dutch lady...  "A fascinating story" from a Scottish couple talking about Csilla's escape journey out of Hungary.  "Great to hear some of your old songs again" from some young visitors - "I love the mix of your two accents" from an American  "When you speak and sing together is brilliant" from some English visitors.   I'm pleasantly surprised.
Setting the scene at Newcastle Arts Festival Aug 15
Let's see what tonight brings.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Hokey Kokey Politics

Storming Castle the seat of the Northern Ireland Executive
Now they're out, then they'll be in, then they'll be out again.  That's how the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) are going to bring down our devolved government because the powers that be in London won't play their game and suspend Stormont.  So they've resigned their politicians, then they're going to renominate them next week, then they're going to have them resign again .... until matters are resolved ... to their liking.


So are we .. Very

Let me explain in simple terms what's been happening here, as far as I can understand it.

We have power sharing in Northern Ireland - in theory.   Unionist and Nationalist (supposedly) working together.
Now, the police have suggested that a recent murder was committed by someone associated with the IRA, and people involved with the IRA are associated with Sinn Fein, the main Nationalist/Republican party here.   So the Unionist politicians refuse to carry on working with the Nationalists until this is cleared up.  Fair enough.  Talks are due to start on Monday, but the UK government won't do as the DUP ask so they're not going to be at the table - therefore the talks will be null and void.

This is coming on the heels of months and months of these same politicians not being able to agree on a budget, on how to deal with welfare and various other issues.  In fact it appears to the rest of us that they are not able to agree on anything.  It's like watching a group of children in the schoolyard - that's my ball and I'm not letting you play with it so I'm not going to talk to you anymore because you touched it!

It is sooooooo frustrating to watch.

For sure we do not want a return to paramilitary rule here.   I will leave if we return to that terror.  But by the same token we do not want to be ruled by one party who are holding everyone to ransom with schoolyard tactics, because they and their counterparts cannot compromise.

One political commentator suggested that we are suffering from the politics of conflict.  All these elected representatives are carrying the burden of the past.   We need young people who don't have that past in their psyche who can worry about basic needs of a people.  But those same young people that we need, are being driven out of the country by the carry on - it's a total status quo.   The universities are having to cut places due to lack of funding (bad management on the part of our politicians); young people have to leave to get work (companies laying off workers and new investment not coming our way due to the unsettled situation among other things) and on and on.

Our politicians have brought us to the world's notice many times in the past and all for the wrong reasons.  It's time they learned how to be grown ups.

And the worst part of all this, these people are still being paid!  Can you believe it!

Sorry for the rant, but I'm guessing that our news isn't making most international, even British, news channels.  So I thought it was my duty as an ordinary member of the public to have my say. After all, we've had years of being afraid to speak.

Thursday 3 September 2015

August Scavenger Hunt

I've been finding it hard focussing this past while - always too many things catching my attention - my brain is getting more like a magpie as I get older - 'Oh look!  Shiny thing!"
So I thought it'd be fun to join the Scavenger Hunt for August for some photo prompts that might actually make me focus on one thing.   (If I can ever can find the hash key on this laptop.)  Got it.

Thanks to Jill (Greenthumb) at Made with Love who puts these together! Please pay a visit to the links to see more.
And thanks to Kezzie for introducing me to this.  Kezzie, I don't where you get your energy from :)  But thank you :)

August's List

Most of these photos were taken during our recent trip to the North Coast  - in and around the Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The grand causeway at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

I love the way the spit forms parallel lines at low tide  - Carlingford Lough

The stones at the Giant's Causeway are 4, 7 or 8 sided
I always thought they were all hexagons!

These beech trees were planted 250 years ago and form a hedge across the road ... 
The patterns they make speak diversity to me - all shapes and sizes.

These caves under the cliff along the Antrim Coast Road had people living in them at one time and during Penal times they were used as hedge schools.


This idea of a window box is fabulous
A bow made out of a car tyre - fabulous


A new cafe I found in Enniskillen - great coffee, veggie food, and this sign up in the loo!

A step back in time
I remember the pump in the village where I grew up
It was a communal meeting place 

(waiting til the cows come home!)

We were just getting out of the car one evening when I spotted this herd of cattle heading home for the milking.  It was hard to capture them all - they came along three paths, all in single file.   The procession seemed to go on for ages.   Really made me smile.


Back to the Giant's Causeway - and the volcanic stones
It's like a mystical landscape

All the males at my friends 60th party ... and there were twice as many females.  
A great night's fun.

Whatever you want
This little boat looked so peaceful all tied up and floating on its own.

This was a real challenge - I'd love to take part in more of them, but I'd need to get my organised head on straight.  This might actually help!! Thanks Jill.