Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 30 September 2016

September Photo Hunt

Joining in today with Hawthorn's monthly scavenger hunt.   I love this challenge of putting pictures to her words.   Go and check out the link and play along if you fancy joining in and have a look at all the other wonderful photos from around the world.  

September  has been a crazy month - it's my birthday month which I love - we're on tour at the moment in Scotland and before that we had a load of gigs, plus my poor mum had time in hospital so we were on the road a lot, between visiting, working and caring.   Thankfully all's settling down now.  

So here's this month's mix and match of tenuous links :)

We're evicting spiders constantly at the minute - boy can they spin webs quickly
you get rid of them and five minutes later there's another cobweb somewhere
This one was outside the window - aren't they simply fabulous when the rain falls on them


This windmill looked like it had lost a blade, or was only half built
in the Borders of Scotland


I know this isn't what you traditionally think of as Filigree, 
but I couldn't take my eyes of the beautiful patterns in the Forth Bridge
To me, it looks like lace.

We played a gig early in September on the Tall Ship Soteria on Newry Canal
This was our view before setting sail
OK, another tenuous link - This is in the inside of the lighthouse lamp
at the smallest working lighthouse in the world in Queensferry
The smallest lighthouse in the world
Well, almost asleep, with one eye open.  
This was Mr Magoo - one of two beloved cats who have now passed
- his sister is in a picture below.
Probably the only thing that would make me stop touring is having another couple of fur babies 


Greencastle, Co. Down at low tide.
Hydrangeas drying to a beautiful vintage colour

Sheba, following Tom for a walk on the beach.  I can still feel her fur in my head ... Sigh ..
She and Magoo were left in a box at the doorstep of an office I was doing some temp work in
I took them home for the night and he stayed for 10 years and she for 13 years. 

The new bridge across the Firth of Forth to be called the Queensferry Bridge I think
Apparently somebody commented that it was a good idea
to leave  a gap to stop people driving on it before it opened!!
Seriously though, it looks like it defies gravity - 2 parts hanging in mid air.

With thanks to Hawthorn for organising the monthly Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun.   Off now to see everyone else's pics.

Monday 26 September 2016

The Last Days of Summer

It has been a beautiful week of sunshine - perfect for bringing my Mum home out of hospital.  It reminded me of this song I co-wrote at a songwriters workshop a while back with a lovely singer songwriter called Eugene Brosnan.
Tom caught the sun glinting on the water and it made a perfect match.

We're off to Scotland now (in the pouring rain) for a run of folk club concerts - it is always a pleasure to catch up with friends here and to play in these intimate little venues - the last tour for this year.   Thankfully my brother has come home to be with Mum for the time we're away and by the time we're back she should be back on her feet again.

And I've just realised this is my 300th blogpost - not all published mind you, but still an achievement.

Have a great week and enjoy the colours of Spring or Autumn whichever part of the world you're in.

Monday 19 September 2016

No rheumatism there.

I spotted this video coming up in a list underneath a video that one of my friends posted on Facebook - it really made me smile.  And as Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens again it seems appropriate. As my father would have said "There's no rheumatism there!"

Have a great week with lots of energy and smiles.

Monday 12 September 2016

Learning new skills - go gently

Today I'm reminding myself to go gently.

I did a search for some music to go with this phrase and found this artist whom I'd never heard of before ... Suzanne Ciani - she's a synthesist ... I love the melody...


A friend called the other day to get help from my other half with her computer.  She was berating herself for not being able to do basic things on her new laptop,   I was trying to tell her that we all feel like that even if we're using the computer all the time but she wasn't hearing me to go easy and she'd get there.

Recently I've been working on arrangements for singing workshops and for my choir.  It's something I've avoided assiduously for years because the relevant software is sooooo slow to work with and on the face of it quite complicated.  And of course, having a go every 2 or 3 months isn't going to help the learning process.   By the time I get back to it, I've forgotten the little bits I did learn.

We live in a culture that demands instant gratification and that rewards speed and competence.  But what happens if we just slowed down and did a little bit everyday - eventually we get the desired result - a new skill or whatever.   And especially as we get older, or just have too much going on in our heads it gets harder and harder to learn everything quickly.

To paraphrase Homer Simpson - to learn something new, something old has to go out ... or something along those lines...
I love that idea, and it makes sense to me when I'm trying to learn more song words - something simply has to be forgotten to make room to remember something new.

So, deep breath and back to see if I can finally get to grips with this software.

Keep trying y'all and go gently.

Monday 5 September 2016

Around These Parts: The Janus Figure

The Janus Figure
Recently we took a visit to Caldragh Cemetery on the East end of the Boa island to see the famous Janus Figure.  The Boa Island is a 5mile long island on Lower Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh, with bridges joining it to the mainland with the most wonderful views of the lough on both sides of the road at the bridges.   There are always birds on the water and fishermen out in their boats.  It's a fabulous drive and I love going that way when I head home to West Fermanagh.

Boa Island across the top of Lower Lough Erne
The Janus Figure dates back at least 2000 years and predates Christianity.  Although Janus is a Roman god and is associated with the month of January as he looks both ahead and behind, this figure, also facing both ways, is considered to be Celtic rather than Roman - the Romans never made it as far as Ireland. It's more likely that this was a statue to the goddess Banba after whom the Boa Island is named - one of three sister goddesses of ancient Ireland.  
In Irish mythology, Banba (modern spelling: Banbha, pronounced [ˈbˠanˠəvˠə]), daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann, is a patron goddess of Ireland. She was part of an important triumvirate of patron goddesses, with her sisters, Ériu and Fódla.
This statue is considered to be male and female with the indent in the top thought to have been for antlers.   The markings down the side could have represented hair. 

The two faces
and the hands on the stone alongside
Tom leaving a coin in the indent between
the two heads for luck

In the 1980s a primary school project from schools in Belleek and Kesh at opposite ends of the Lough did a lot of research into the area and even though this site is only a few miles from my home, I can't imagine why we've never visited before.

The Celts, along with many other races of the time, believed that the soul resided in the head, hence the large head and eyes on the carvings.

There is a definite ancient feeling when you walk into the graveyard and the misty day on which we visited helped highlight the air of mystery from another time and space.

Looking from the side

A smaller figure was moved from a neighbouring island Lusty Mor in the early 20th century.   It is badly disfigured but you can still see the face there.
The second smaller figure - quite badly disfigured
with lots of offerings at his feet

The late great poet Seamus Heaney wrote the following lines about the Janus figure after a visit in 2006.

January God by Seamus Heaney
Then I found a two faced stone
On burial ground,
God-eyed, sex-mouthed, it's brain
A watery wound. 
In the wet gap of the year,
Daubed with fresh lake mud,
I faltered near his power ----
January God. 
Who broke the water, the hymen
With his great antlers ----
There reigned upon each ghost tine
His familiars,
The mothering earth, the stones
Taken by each wave,
The fleshy aftergrass, the bones
Subsoil in each grave. 

And then beside the two figures and the other stones lying around the field, there is the most wonderful fairy thorn.  The superstition is still very strong here to never cut a fairy thorn and this one has twisted into all sorts of ancient shapes.   There were some ribbons on the branches so obviously others think so too.
A fairy thorn protects the space

Spot the blue ribbon where someone has left an offering

There are only a few recent gravestones in the cemetery.   The theory is that the stones littered around the field would have been markers for burial sites and every family would have known where their spot was without the need of a big stone which would have been the preserve of only the wealthy.

very few modern gravestones in the cemetery

Lough Erne has 365 islands on it - so we were always told in school.   Mind you I heard that said of another lake somewhere recently, so perhaps it was just a convenient number to let us know there were LOTS of islands on the lake:)  

Some day soon I want to visit Devenish Island  which is another ancient island, but with more monastic connections rather than pre Christian.

There is more about the Janus Figure at this lovely wee site - Ireland's Hidden Gems