Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 26 March 2021

Photo Scavenger Hunt: Light/Dark

Joining in with Kates's weekly photo scavenger hunt today.   


This is the last week that Kate is hosting this challenge after 5 years of coming up with prompts.  It has been fun Kate, thank you so much for all the time and effort you've put into it.   I've enjoyed taking part and seeing what everyone else has come up with for the words.  It has been a lovely creative diversion.  There will be a new host from next month - Astrid of Dragon Stitches and Stuff by Astrid and I'm looking forward to following along.

But for today Kate's last prompt is Light/Dark

I had to scratch my head a bit for this one but looked again to the sky and sun  

Looking back over some photos while I was searching for sunsets last week, I came across these pics that I took back in January on a beautiful day even though it stayed dark most of the day.    

This is at Warrenpoint Shore looking down Carlingford Lough with Finn McCool and the Cooley Mountains on the right and the sun barely up in the sky even though it was nearly midday. 

This last one was taken on the Boa Island on Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh at 2pm in the middle of January and again the light had hardly changed. I love the moodiness of those cold days.  

The clocks change tomorrow  (I have to remind myself they Spring Forward not Fall Back!). Already we're having dinner without pulling the curtains - this year has moved so fast and yet it feels like we've hardly moved. But looking back at these photos we can see the movement easily. I love the fact that we get brighter now by 2 minutes a day until the Summer Solstice.

We've just cancelled another tour for May so there'll be lots more focussing on the garden and the sky to look forward to and to keep us amused.  

Check out the other interpretations of this prompt HERE.    And thanks once again Kate.

Friday 19 March 2021


 Joining in with Kates's weekly photo scavenger hunt today.   And the prompt is


I'm afraid I don't often see sunrise - not after the end of January anyway -  so only evening pics for this prompt.  

We get an extra 2 minutes of daylight every day from now until the Summer Solstice - recently I was talking to some Australian friends who were astonished by how quickly we've moved from dark to light when it was all feeling so gloomy for them before Christmas.   I've loved taking the time to notice this past year - to see the changes and yes, to notice how quickly we move back into wonderful light evenings - having dinner now without closing the curtains. 

As I don't have many pics of sunsets from this year I took a wander back through some previous years and we had some spectacular skies - winter sunsets are just beautiful ( and a couple of summer ones too). 

March 2021

Beautiful days and freezing cold evenings still, but the light is gorgeous.

March 2020

Those red skies are so exciting to see - 

must have been a good week at the start of lockdown last year

March 2018

Cold and misty - I love those evenings.

March 2017

Another fiery sky.   

March 2016 - The Gold Coast just south of Brisbane and a few days rest time. 

March 2016 - travelling from Tullamore, NSW

Big skies and such a defined horizon.

March 2016 again - travelling from Melbourne to Canberra by bus

not quite sunset but almost...

March 2015

Almost dark - I remember that year - the local papers were full of fabulous sunset photos.  

Thanks for wandering down March memory lane with me.   I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's photos ... Check out the other interpretations of this prompt HERE.  

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Happy St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick's Day to you all.   

We'll raise a glass and wet the shamrock 
and look forward to being out playing a gig somewhere this time next year.  
This is Ross's Monument in Rostrevor lit up for St Patrick's Day.  General Ross was part of the British forces in America that burned what is now the White House causing it to be painted white!  I've never noticed the monument being lit in green before but it looks magnificent.  There's a replica in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he was buried.  
Here's a great article about Robert Ross - apparently the monument is built on the site he had planned to build his home should he have returned from the wars in America.   Some day when the weather improves I'll go up and take some photos - it looks right down Carlingford Lough to the Irish Sea.  

Take care, stay safe and see you soon.

Friday 12 March 2021

Look up/ Look Down

 Joining in with Kates's weekly photo scavenger hunt today.   And the prompt is

Look up / Look down

Did you see the snow moon at the start of the month - wasn't it amazing?  (no decent photos I'm afraid)

I've always wondered why we don't give the moon a name - like Luna.   All the other planets' moons are named after gods and goddesses, why not ours!   Mind you it would only be something else for people to argue about ... 

Looking down is easier to photograph....

Tulips are my most favourite flower.  Especially the curly edged ones.   I love how they look as they go from opening to fading to dying.  Last year, just as lockdown was starting, a friend brought me a beautiful bunch that were grown locally and I just couldn't stop photographing them, looking down into their beautiful insides.  

Check out the other interpretations of this prompt HERE.  

Thursday 11 March 2021

Filming in lockdown

So after all the practice and stress of learning to lip synch, figuring out clothes and make up, finalising scripts, finishing writing a song and getting it recorded etc etc etc filming day arrived.

It was interesting filming in lockdown, keeping distance and masking up as much as possible although obviously Csilla and I couldn't do that and sing or speak so we were mindful of having a good space between us for our scenes together and with the magic of cameras angles can be found to make the gaps look smaller.   She and Alistair the director are a couple, the two cameramen are in a work bubble and Tom, who was doing sound, and I are together of course, so it made things a lot easier and we all brought our own food and flasks for refreshments.  

We started the day filming all our conversations and links.   On stage we tell our individual stories as links and then link to either a poem or a song.  And I do quite an extensive interview section with Csilla to hear about the actual mechanics of how she escaped from behind the Iron Curtain - it's a fascinating story.   Maybe because we've always looked for humour here, the bits about my growing up on the border are often the funniest parts.

That took nearly 4 hours and after a break for a very quick lunch we went on to filming one of our joint pieces and then all my songs done using the the same staging set up and then finished with a new set up for Csilla to do all her poems today. 

Here Csilla is acting the Clown - she wrote a poem about dressing up as a Clown to cheer up her parents and I set it to music.  This was fun to do.  

Lining up shots

Checking out the smoke machine for Dreaming a song I wrote when we first started travelling to Germany and getting out of the enclosed feeling of Northern Ireland and realising that it was ok for people to talk about sensitive subjects like politics and religion and ask each other their name without the answer having hidden meanings. 

Creating a mood - I managed not to choke on the smoke but the film part looks brilliant on this. 

The director Alistair and Csilla setting up Europa

Cameramen Ryan and John lining things up

The famous clapboard - always wondered how they worked.  It gives a sound so that things can be lined up in the editing suite - without it, sometimes it's hard to make the pictures exactly match the mouth that we're seeing.  So this was our 19th scene of the day, take 3.   (Thankfully we managed to nail most pieces in 2 or 3 takes, even in pieces like this where we both perform separately).   

Csilla preparing for Europa a poem she wrote after the bombings in London in 2007 where she wonders if Europe wasn't held together by the Berlin Wall.   We do it like a Greek tragedy - I sing the chorus and she speaks the verse.  It was the hardest to figure out how to film and was the last of the day so we were both pretty wrecked but I think we managed to get it. 

It was a long day but very enjoyable once we got into the swing of things.   Sadly I don't have any pics of our conversation bits or of Csilla's work today - I've been busy doing my zoom classes but this will give you a feel for it and I'll keep you posted when the film is totally ready for viewing.  Tom was in the background doing sound and it was him took the photos of me but managed to avoid the camera himself.  He's now going to be doing the edit in the next week or so.  

Tuesday 9 March 2021

This time last year - our last live gig

Can you believe it's a full year since lockdown began.  I remember reading avidly accounts from China where people were relating how they coped with 7 weeks lockdown and I remember thinking, how will we do that.   Then it was announced that we'd have to shield for 12 weeks.   My mother was convinced she'd be dead.   We were all in such a panic - trying to get mum used to using an iPad or phone to no avail.  And I nearly had a meltdown in a supermarket when people were standing right on top of me!  So stressful.   

And here we are a full year on.  

We had our last concerts as part of the Emigrant Woman's Tour - Csilla and myself - on International Women's Day (belated greetings for yesterday by the way, to all my lovely women blogger friends ) and then one more on the 13th where by that stage nobody had the nerve to come out.  Our final date of the tour for the 14th was cancelled along with the St Patrick's Day gigs.   

Now to mark the year and to wrap up the project, we are filming the show tomorrow.  It's been a frantic week or so here - frantic by lockdown standards anyway - how are we getting so tired when we're doing next to nothing - but we've finished writing a song and have it recorded now - final tweaks this morning.   

Today is my final day of practising to lip synch all the songs and we've all the dialogue rehearsed, clothes organised and are more or less set to go into an empty pub that was absolutely freezing when we went to check out locations on Saturday - so I think I'll be bringing a blanket as well.  And we all have to bring our own food, cups, glasses everything.   It'll be interesting to see how this works with social distancing etc.   We have five different sets in the one room.   

It's been good having a deadline to work to, and it's been great getting back into the studio.   I sang a song about growing up in the country last year for the show but it never felt finished - so that was the main job of the week to finish rewriting it.  The Stories that Lived in the Woods.   

And fingers crossed, next week when the Executive announce the first dates to open up lockdown, we might at least be able to meet a few people in the garden.   And Spring is inviting us outside again.   Woohoo :) 

Friday 5 March 2021

Signs of Spring

 Joining in with Kates's weekly photo scavenger hunt today.   And the prompt is

Signs of Spring

We had a couple of glorious days last weekend and got lots of pruning done - the rhodedendron finally got its comeuppance, and it's now got a reprieve until it blooms when it's going to get another onslaught from my loppers.  

I've been setting seeds and in the music world I'm finally getting motivated to produce work - we're preparing for filming The Emigrant Woman's Tale next week and I'm delighted to have another deadline to work to - a song to record, pieces to learn and rehearse.   We've already done the outline and running order  and energy seems to be rising along with the daffodils and crocuses.  

I always bring in a stem of forsythia early in the year and the buds and flowers are just starting to show now.  

New neighbours have moved in next door ... 

and signs of spring are everywhere .... 

Things are looking up.  Take care and have a lovely weekend.  

Thursday 4 March 2021

World Book Day

Image stolen from the World Book Day charity site (in case you're looking for any ideas)

I always thought this was a day just for school kids to get dressed up but it's given me a chance to do another update to my Reading My Way Around the World challenge - follow the link to get the full list for my challenge to read a country from as many countries in the world as I can manage - no time limit - and I'm taking a lot of ideas from a great blog called TaleAway where Ash sets a world reading challenge every year with 52 books from 52 different countries. 


The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson

I loved this book  ****
1627 - In a notorious historical event, pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted 400 people into slavery in Algiers.   Among them a pastor, his wife, and their children.  
In this debut novel the writer imagines what history does not record:  the experience of Asta, the pastor's wife, as she faces her losses with the one thing left to her - the stories from home - and forges an ambiguous bond with the man who bought her.


She Would Be King by WayƩtu Moore ****

This is a strange book - I enjoyed it, but I was a bit bewildered by it at times.   
It's a mix of fantasy realism and historical fact relating to the creation of the new country of Liberia.  It focuses on three characters who all have special powers and have come from backgrounds of all loss and tragedy.  

Here's what the cover notes say:
In the West African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed with immortality at birth.  On a plantation in Virginia, June Day struggles to hide his extraordinary strength from the brutal slaveowners.   High in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon discovers he can fade from sight at will.  
Cast out, forced to flee, sent away, they are drawn together in the tumult between settlers.  


The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder **

This is a very short book - a sort of modern day fairy tale.  

"My father died eleven years ago.   I was only four then.  I never thought I'd hear from him again, but now we're writing a book together."  

Georg's grandmother finds some papers stuffed in a chair that are a letter to Georg written shortly before his father died.   It's the story of a girl he sees and becomes besotted by and asks the now older son to help him solve the riddle.  


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry ***

This is a Young Adult novel telling the story of the Danish Resistance during World War 2 and their plan to smuggle the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden.   Told through the eyes of one 10 year old girl.    A part of history I knew nothing about.  

And my top selection from this group of books 

Kenya/Liberia/America and others

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr ( Short Stories) *****

I've not been a fan of short story collections but seem to have been reading more of them in recent years.   And this one, as the critics said, was Exquisite.    Anthony Doerr wrote one of my all time favourite books "All the Light We Cannot See" and he has a beautiful way of writing. This collection starts with the title story which is set in Kenya and is a story of a blind shell collector who is an expert in his field. There's a story about a Liberian refugee; a couple of stories about fishermen in America - just a lovely collection.   5 stars from me.  

So, I hope you enjoy your reading and I hope there's a suggestion or two here for you.  I'm nearly caught up to date with my list and if you have any good suggestions for me of books you've enjoyed you know I'd love to hear.  Are you a fan of short stories?  or fantasy realism?  

Happy World Book Day