Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 29 June 2018

June Photos

Here we are at the end of another month and it's time to join in with Hawthorn and the merry band of photo scavengers from around the world.  This month we were happily (well, a bit grumpily, but mostly happy) out travelling again, so the photos are from various places.


We stopped in Amsterdam on our way back to the ferry from Germany earlier in the month and had a day pottering around, mainly to allow me a visit to the wonderful Stephen and Penelope Wool Shop (- if you're a wool person you'll probably know of Stephen West - really out there  knitwear designer - fab-u-lous darling.  More of that in a future blog.)  Some of my friends here can't believe I dragged Tom into a huge city, two days before his birthday, to go to a wool shop on the pretext that the day out was his birthday treat!

There's lots of yellow around Amsterdam - bicycles, flowers, clothes etc.
But this one had to take the prize ... the Amsterdam Duck Shop
and who was out in front only Donald - it was a real laugh-out- loud, stop-and-point sort of shop, with lots of great characters represented as bath ducks.

Starts with a ... T 

We're in the middle of the most wonderful spell of sunshine here - (there's not a bit of work being done inside and the garden is finally getting in to shape).   And these little flowers are all over the place - our lawn (or what I lovingly call our moss) is full of wild flowers that miraculously bounce back again after each cut.  Watching a video on Aril's blog this morning I discovered that it is called Birdsfoot Trefoil - (we'll ignore the B bit of it and just go with the T) -  I was having trouble finding a suitable T so this just came up in perfect time.


I called in to the wool shop in Rheinberg in Germany - it's called Die Strickleiter (the Knit Ladder - a play on words of rope ladder).  Her bicycle was outside and the ladder covered in wool was a real hook to get me in.  Cute isn't it?

Starts with a ... G

I was looking for an AirBnB in or near Amsterdam before we left home and nearly took one on a houseboat - I wish I was more courageous to try these things - we couldn't gain access until 8pm which is way too late and had to be out by 10am which is way too early so the idea got passed on, but as we walked along the Amstel I spotted this garden which is right up my street of potted gardens, although when I looked closer it's just as much a mess as my own at the minute.  

Gardening Amsterdam style


I loved the stillness of this boat at the mouth of the river Erne at Ballyshannon 
and the silver of the water around it.

My own choice

Beach huts at Harwich in Essex.   I just love this sight any time we're on the East coast of England.  And this was a huge row of very well maintained huts.  We had an hour before we needed to queue for the ferry and after a feast of fish and chips I dragged a reluctant husband out to face the bracing cold to get a closer look.

So that's it from me for this month.   Thank you as always Kate for hosting this really enjoyable monthly challenge.  I'm going to check in on everyone else's blogs over the weekend.   If you fancy joining in or just seeing what's going on, check out the link here.  

Friday 22 June 2018

The Faeries by William Allingham

The River Assaroe in Ballyshannon

We're back to a spate of beautiful sunshine here - just perfect for Midsummer. I love the Solstice - it brings me back to myself, to remembering nature and folklore and traditions. 

At this time of year as a child, we would have been in the hay field helping to save the hay and enjoying those special smells and the wonderful taste of tea and egg and onion sandwiches in the open air. 

We've been over in Donegal a lot in recent years, and a few weeks ago we went to see an old mill outside Ballyshannon and it reminded me of this poem we all learned as children.

(As an aside, I'm having terrible trouble getting my blog to hold its formatting, so apologies if this appears in miniature - anyone else having this problem? ) 

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen, 
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men. 
Wee folk, good folk, 
Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, 
And white owl's feather!
William Allingham

It's almost a shameful thing to admit but I've never been a great fan of poetry. But this is one poem I have always adored. It was written by William Allingham (more about him below) in the mid 19th century. He grew up in Ballyshannon in South Donegal where my mother also comes from ... It's just a few miles from where I grew up which made the poem even more resonant to young minds. The River Erne flows into the Atlantic at Ballyshannon and there's a dedication to him on the bridge there. 

I totally believed in the fairies - I suppose I still do. Nobody I know would ever consider cutting down a fairy thorn for example. The stories of the Children of Lír and Tír na nÓg were told alongside Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and were even more believable in a way because there were no princesses in Ireland. And I remember introducing you to the Leprechaun's clothes over in Carlingford late last year - you can read more about them here under the heading Neat. 

This verse was used as a threat to us as children - go to sleep or the fairies will come and get you. They took little Bridget - they'll get you too if you don't go to sleep. In the poem, Bridget comes back after 7 years and all her friends are gone, because of course time goes very slowly in the land of the ever young, Tír na nÓg.

The Faeries
Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, 
We daren't go a-hunting For fear of little men.
Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore Some make their home --
They live on crispy pancakes Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds Of the black mountain-lake, 
With frogs for their watch-dogs, All night awake.

High on the hilltop The old King sits; 
He is now so old and gray, He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist Columbkill he crosses, 
On his stately journeys From Slieveleague to Rosses;

Or going up with music On cold starry nights, 
To sup with the Queen Of the gay Northern Lights.
They stole little Bridget For seven years long; 
When she came down again Her friends were all gone.

They took her lightly back, Between the night and morrow; 
They thought that she was fast asleep, But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since Deep within the lake, 
On a bed of flag-leaves, Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hillside, Through the mosses bare, 
They have planted thorn-trees, For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring As dig them up in spite, 
He shall find their sharpest thorns In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, 
We dare 't go a-hunting For fear of little men.
Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; 
Green jacket, red cap, And white owl's feather.

William Allingham, pic Internet 
William Allingham (19 March 1824 – 18 November 1889) grew up in Ballyshannon on the banks of the River Erne. Most of his poetry was lyrical and many were turned into songs - probably the most lasting apart from the Fairies is Adieu to Ballyshanny, which is still sung in the area. He was a contemporary of Tennyson and Carlyle and after he died his diaries were published which highlighted his contact with these more celebrated poets of the day. 

Do you believe in Fairies? I'd love to hear.

Friday 15 June 2018

Dodging football

Most distraught that they've taken the Chase off for the next four weeks - I think there's something happening in Russia - must be more spy stuff!

I've been having a catch up week, getting posters out, more tour planning, getting back to my singing groups, catching up on accounts and tidying the house.   To that end I spent today loading stuff up to eBay to clear out some of the mountain of summer clothes I have, in all the varying sizes I've been.   Why do we keep buying summer clothes that only get worn for a few weeks a year if you're lucky!  Each year I swear I'll buy no more and then come the first rays of sun the bright colours are like magnets.   Mostly I buy in charity shops, but even so, it still fills space.   So I'm feeling very virtuous.

Last weekend we went out for a wander around Ballyshannon with my mother - and went back to the little fairy forest that I'd written about here in Spring before any of the trees had started to bud.

There's a lot more colour now and there'd obviously been bits of work going on from little fairy folk from the town.    

The place is delightfully un organised and haphazard and is on a flat walk so it's ideal for the elderly as well as the youngsters.

Have a lovely weekend, whether you're engrossed in, or hiding from, the World Cup.  

Monday 11 June 2018

A Roving We Will Go

We had such an unusual sight at our concert in Riesby in the North of Germany on Thursday night last when 12 Journeymen showed up at the gig - journeymen and women I should say.  The local newspapers were dying to get a photo and we were delighted to be included.

It is a very rare thing to see so many of them together - usually there is just one or two.  

Do you know about Journeymen?   In Germany they are called Travelling Workers and they're all craftsmen and women.   They wear an insignia on their tie to denote their craft - in this group there were carpenters, joiners, a blacksmith, a goldsmith, a pastry chef, and a metal worker - I didn't get to ask the rest.  They have a very strict code of conduct and practice and all of them wear their uniform with pride.

Journeymen  are apparently quite common now again in the German speaking world but one young man told me that apart from New Zealand and very occasionally in Ireland and Scotland, they're not known anywhere else.  If one comes to a business to ask for work, they must be given a job if there's a place for their skill and if there isn't, the business owner agrees to look after them until work is found.  This is a very old tradition and was a common way for a young man to gain an apprenticeship until the 1920s when the Nazis came to power and banned them as tramps.

They sign up for at least 3 years and a day and must stay travelling at least 50 kms away from their homeplace.   They must be single, have no children and no debts so they're not running away.   They leave home with €5 and can only have the same amount when they return - they only do this to gain experience in their work and not for monetary gain.   The word Journeyman comes from the French word Journée meaning a day as they are paid daily and the main reason for this journey is an apprenticeship.

And the reason there were so many?  Well one of the girls was finishing her time on the road, after 4 1/2 years, and the rest came to walk her home.  They still had 20 kms to go from here.  And she was going home to get married to one of the others who had left 2 years earlier but came back to join the troupe for the walk.

I asked one young man why he had decided to do this and he said that it symbolised freedom for him.  In this world where people are so afraid of strangers, I think this is a wonderful thing.  By the time they have finished their time as a journeyman they are a master at their craft.  This Wikipedia article is a very interesting article if you'd like to read more about the tradition which is known as on the Walz and indeed the song Waltzing Matilda is about someone on this journey.

They were a really love bunch of people and I felt honoured to have met them.

If you're familiar with Irish or Scottish music, you'll maybe know this song - The Roving Journeyman, here sung by The Corries.

Saturday 9 June 2018

A Day on the Road

With friends from Denmark and Germany waiting for the 0630 ferry from Hallig Hooge.
The truck in the back has everyone's luggage and all our equipment in it.
The smiles belie the fact that no coffee had yet been consumed!
When asked about being 25 years playing music with the Rolling Stones, the drummer Charlie Watt replied that they'd only be playing music for 3 years and the other 22 were spent hanging around.

I concur - although at a much reduced level than the Stones.

Touring is wonderful - we get to see great places and having a string of concerts together gets you well honed and into good shape.   And the concerts are always wonderful - people are kind and generous.  

But the down side is the time in the car on the motorway.   We are constantly looking for new ways to travel over to the Continent that involves getting the most sleep - let's say that this one didn't fit that bill very well.  We were away for 12 days and with the exception of 3 of them we were up and well away long before 9 and on several days we were actually travelling by 6.30 A.M.!!!! (in the vain hope of avoiding traffic jams).  Then sleeping afternoons (if there was time) and getting ready to play in the evening.  And all the time the weather was showing off at its best 30-33 degrees C.  We travelled 2,300 miles through 7 countries, did 7 concerts and sold lots of CDs.

After a week of it I was totally shattered.  But thankfully we were staying with friends most of the time and towards the end of the trip we had 3 nights in one place and our friend Rita fed and watered us and let us lay about the place for a day which helped enormously.  

And here I am, home again and planning to do it all over again!   Are we mad or what?

So today we're taking part in #FairPlé - a day of musical activism for Gender Equality in Folk and Traditional Music in Ireland.   I'm hosting a session at 2pm (the sun's still shining - will anyone want to be inside in a pub?)  and afterwards we're going for dinner to celebrate Tom's birthday.
Please, sun, wait around for another couple of days.  Pretty please??

Sunday 3 June 2018

Restful Sunday

Very very low tide on the North Sea -
 the ferry to Halllig Hooge had to leave 90 minutes early (at 6.30am) to catch enough water.  

I'm only today getting to check in on some of the May Scavenger Photo hunt blogs and some lovely images there are.

We've been on the road for just over a week and I mean literally on the road - so sick of Autobahns - 6 1/2  hours to do 300 kms and 9 hours to do what should normally take 5 hours!   Still, the gigs have been good and we've seen some unusual sights.  I'll try to post a few more photos in the coming days now that I have a decent signal.

For now we're finished with this run and will take the ferry back to England on Tuesday night before a last folk club gig at Uppermill on Saddleworth Moor on Wednesday night and then on over to Dublin the next day.

I hope the sun is continuing to shine on you - have a lovely week.