Friday, 24 November 2017

Tentacles for Tinies #WATWB

It's coming to the end of another month and time again for the next instalment of We Are The World Bloghop where bloggers post positive news stories.  I've been loving the search each month for a heart warming story to share.  This 9th edition is co-hosted by  Shilpa GargInderpreet UppalSylvia SteinSusan ScottAndrea Michaels and Damyanti Biswas .

I truly believe that the way forward on our planet at the moment is the small thing that is happening locally .. but in the bombardment of bad news we often miss out on these wonderful stories which could give inspiration to someone else to do something similar in their own area.  

This story caught my eye recently.  

Tentacles for Tinies

These crocheted octopuses from The Rotunda Foundation and the Rotunda Knitters are helping comfort the premature babies in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital  Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  
The tentacles of the crocheted octopus resemble the umbilical cord and remind babies of being inside the womb.
Read more here about the same initiative in the Neonatal Unit in Poole hospital in the South of England.

Every month since the We Are The World Bloghop started there have been wonderfully inspiring stories from all corners of the globe.   Follow along at the Facebook link.  Or better still, why not put up a story of your own.  

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Photo Scavenger Hunt October 2017

I didn't get a chance to join in with you all last month for the photo Scavenge Hunt and really missed you all - but I'm delighted to get back to playing this month.

Hawthorn always come up with an amazing list of prompts to really challenge our heads, and this month there have been some real corkers ....  so here goes.  

We have had beautiful proper Autumn days for the past few days and we took our visiting friend across in the ferry to Carlingford in Co. Louth.  Carlingford is a Norman Town and very popular with tourists... this is the pedestrian street and the arch at the bottom housed the town jail.


This is the jail - just tucked in to the left corner of the arch.   It is tiny and thankfully very empty.   totally open to the elements and only about 4 foot high - I couldn't stand up in it. but I"m sure it housed at least 3 or 4 men waiting for deportation in the 17 and 1800s

Starts with a ...... F

We stopped in PJs pub for a pint of Guinness and some lunch.   They're all prepared for Halloween and the fire was very welcome after the ferry crossing.


PJs pub is famous throughout Ireland - for many things.   For a start, it's one of the last remaining grocery pubs - they've made this a tourist feature now.   Plus the Guinness is very good and you don't have to pay Dublin prices for it, although it's still a price hike compared to here in the North.
But it is also famous for its collection of leprechaun clothes!!!
What a neat little man was Sean Og - these are his belongings.   Again, the pub was decorated for Halloween so the cobweb streak is masking his little jacket but you get the idea.   Every year, Carlingford hosts a leprechaun hunt in the mountains behind .   It also has a great Oyster Festival, if that's your thing.


This stone is new since the last time we were over in Carlingford and so interesting - for sure Kate is more familiar with the theme than I am.  Occasionally you see Ogham writing on jewellery and it's a huge field of study.   I loved this stone carving listing the trees for the different lunar months of the year - the year of course beginning on November 1st and ending on October 31st.   Apologies if this photo runs off the page a bit, but I wanted to make it large enough for you to read.


Thankfully the wet weather of the past few months has let up for a while and allowed the leaves to dry out.   I just love the smell and the lovely crunchy richness that looks and sounds like paper. 

The Fairy Glen

This vase came out of Tom's grandmother's house and it's being kept safe up on a ledge in the porch with last years' hydrangeas in it... that's actually a clay drum beside it - all the big items that we can't find a home for end up on that ledge, but then so too do the young swallows in spring if we don't keep an eye out.


The seaspray in this photo is known as a Kettle around here, or the Carlingford Kettles.
At certain times of year, the wind whips up the lough  - they're like mini tornadoes on the water ... this was the only picture I've ever been able to catch of them.   It's something to do with the lay of the mountains on either side of the lough - the sprays of water go up to 20 or 30 feet high and then appear to run across the top of the water into shore.   Very exciting to see.  

My own choice

I spotted this one time in France - not because I love macaroons - I do :)  but because of the name.
I never use my full name - because our society here was so blatantly us and them, religious wise, and my name gave away my background like a stamp on my forehead I never liked it.   Being known as Phil people had to guess a while longer.
When someone shouts Philomena I hear nuns in my head usually with raised voices and usually attached to the feeling of having done something wrong .....
But there is one exception... when it is pronounced by a French man - how shallow am I!!  Philomène sounds so much more ancient and goddess like than Philomena ... to my ears anyway ... I'd nearly moved to France for that lol.  

Making ...

As I've been spending much more time knitting this year, my horizons have been widening to learn some of the wonderful new-to-me skills that are out there.   For the first time I joined in a Mystery Knitalong - which has me tortured - not because of the mystery (you don't get the full pattern at the start), but because of the blinking beads - there are about 800 of the little blighters on this piece .... never again.
Fine lace knitting is not something I've ever tackled before, and it's very annoying because you can't really see what it's going to look like until it's off the needles.   The last row had about 250 beads on it and I"m now on the cast off which is very slow.  
But it will be worth it when I'm finished.
For the crafters reading this, the yarn is a hand dyed Tussah Silk from Yorkshire I think - this was a first for me - beautiful yarn to work with - it is so strong, but still fine - this colour is called Mermaid's Tale - can't wait to get to the end of it to see what it looks like - once I have it finished and blocked I'll do a show and tell.    Repeat note to self: KEEP AWAY FROM BEADS!!!

So that's been my month.   Off now to have a look at everyone else's pictures for the month.  
Are you taking part?  What's your month been like?  

Monday, 23 October 2017

Bake Bread for Peace #WATWB

24th October each year is designated Bake Bread for Peace Day by a wonderful Donegal woman called Breezy Kelly.   I wrote about her initiative here a couple of years back.   She started going around houses baking bread and singing songs, telling stories about the old days, bringing people back to a gentler time - with the idea that when hands are in a bowl of flour they can't be out fighting.  Even on a simpler level, by gathering people around the table to have a cup of tea and some lovely fresh scones or hot buttered treacle bread and telling yarns, community is being held together.

Here's a more recent video of Breezy - if you're on Facebook, follow her page - she puts up recipes for different breads and is good fun to watch.

And if you can, share some bread with someone, home baked if possible and spread the peace.

This post has been edited to share with the We Are The World monthly Blogfest, spreading positive news stories.
Co-hosts for the thread this month are: Shilpa GargSylvia McGrathMary Giese, Belinda Witzenhausen and Guilie Castillo . 

Follow along with  other stories from around the world at the Facebook link.  

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

On this day in history Oct 10

Edith Piaf died on this day in 1963.  She was only 47.  Piaf, the little sparrow, was a wonder and there are many fabulous singers still singing her songs.

Her funeral was the only occasion after World War II that Parisian traffic came to a complete standstill.  There were so many people at the event that allegedly several mourners fell into the open grave.  More than 40,000 saw her interred.  

I wonder what would stop the traffic nowadays.  

I'd like to introduce you to a colleague of mine who sings on the UK folk scene.   She is French and her name is Flossie Malaiavalle.   I'm honoured that she chose to record one of my songs - I Still Think of You.   When she appeared at our folk club recently I had the chance to finally meet up with her.  

Flossie sings many contemporary singers' songs, but also does a show of Piaf songs, so here is her version of La Vie en Rose.  

Friday, 29 September 2017

Knitting the border together #WATWB

I am joining in today with the We Are The World Blogfest - a monthly burst of blogging across the Internet to bring Positive News to everyone's attention.  
In Darkness, Be Light.  

This is the seventh month of the We Are the World Blogfest and up till now many of my stories have been music based.   But this month I'm shifting the focus to Art.  
I saw this lovely story last month about an art installation that happened in August - I thought you would enjoy it.    

Soften the Border was a temporary art installation in August on the Irish border between Blacklion and Belcoo - literally knitting the border together - I wish I'd seen it.  

The Belfast based artist, Rita Duffy explains:    
"As the world lurches further into fragmented and polarised realities, I feel that we are ever more dependent upon Art to keep lines of communication open and to create environments in which silenced communities are empowered to change the narratives of conflict and loss which may have dominated their lives." 

The cohosts for this month are: 

Check out theirs and other stories on the Facebook thread here

Sunday, 24 September 2017

September Days

It always feels slow in September to get back into the swing of things.   I love the longer days of Summer where there's no appointments and no hurry (and this year no sun... humph).

Then appointments and deadlines start to creep in and somehow the weeks get shorter - how come it's the weekend again can anyone tell me?

So while the berries appear and leaves start to fall, slowly things get pulled back into some sort of order.

I remember reading a comment from David Hockney once that Winter has the most light because the bare branches of the trees let in so much more light - read the post here - and it feels a bit like that in work too - more clarity comes in the early days of Autumn.   Maybe it's because this is my birth month too and always feels like a new beginning.

Talking of David Hockney, if you happen to be in New York the Metropolitan Museum of Art is scheduled to exhibit David Hockney, which showcases the artist. Hockney will also be featured in the upcoming exhibition David Hockney: 82 Portraits and a Still Life at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. There's an organisation called who are trying to make art accessible to everyone and are assisting in promoting various exhibitions.  The Met always sounds so grown up and arty to me - one of these days I'll perhaps get a chance to visit.  

Anyway ... I digress.

Back at the end of July I told you that we had completed our new album in time to launch it at our festival - it was very last minute and we were lucky to get a short run of CDs made quickly.
The rest of the main run of CDs arrived at the weekend. Woohoo!!  It's always really exciting to get those boxes of perfectly wrapped little bundles of music - when they're shrink wrapped and ready for sale they feel so much more real.

So we are now finally in a position to start promoting the album and over the coming weeks we'll slowly be getting them out to radio and to magazines.

In answer to a question on one of my blog post weeks ago,  there are lots of ways to hear what we've been creating ....(I'm such a bad business woman not to have answered sooner! sorry Kate)

The new CD is now available to download through iTunes and you can listen on Spotify (please follow if you're listening in there).   You can hear snippets of all the songs on my website here - at that link you can also download the CD from CD Baby.  And if you'd like an actual physical CD you can buy directly from us here at Ballyneddan Cottage.

We've also updated the tour lists for the next while.

Over the coming months I'm planning to write a bit about the stories behind the songs -  they are all stories from here or from our travels, with several having political rants attached.  So be warned.

In the meantime, have a lovely weekend.  

We enjoyed listening to this busker at the market in South Brittany
during our short stay last month - this was the only day it didn't rain! 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

House concerts - the new folk clubs

In recent years, we've played quite a few house concerts.  They're an absolute joy.

Where someone has a large living room or a separate room they can use, it has taken the place of folk clubs in America and is now becoming popular all across Europe.  For the performer it's fun because we don't need a sound system and we're much closer to the audience and can judge when we need to change direction more quickly.  
Here's a snap shot of 3 that we did on the same tour, the year before last, in Europe.
Beside the piano in Michel and Christine's kitchen in Orsay

The audience in Orsay

Tom amusing people with his "eggs" solo

This one was the first concert of our 2015 tour to Europe - a house concert in Orsay just outside Paris where about 40 guests arrived into Christine and Michel's house, each bringing a dish of food with them.   Wine was served and we played a 80 minute set and then joined the visitors for a buffet supper which went on well into the night.   And it was the night before my birthday, although I'd mentioned it to no-one but it still felt like a special night for me.   Orsay is a University town so there were lots of international academics there, particularly physicists and internet security researchers for some reason which was really interesting plus I got a chance to practice my French. And I even got our one French song dusted off. 

The next day, my actual birthday, we spent the day on the road driving to Munich - it took us 11.5 hours .. yawn ... but we were still fresh at the beginning of the trip and it was actually not the worst way to pass the day.   We split the driving and got to our friends house to be greeted by a birthday cake and a lovely dinner. 
Supper time in Kanne's house

The next house concert came half way through - we took a day up into Denmark when we were in the North of Germany.  Our host there, Kanne, is a performer herself and she and her husband Jørn have a wonderful concert room.
Kanne getting the audience going

Another pause for food in Denmark
It's our second time there and because it was midweek she decided to just have a small evening - So she put on a 3 course meal for 30 people plus us!!  Small indeed.   And I'd only suggested that we'd pop up to see her for a couple of hours to have a coffee :)  She is such a delightful woman and we had a brilliant night, meeting up with lots of people who had visited the festival here in Rostrevor as well.  
The audience in Luxembourg

The concert room in Luxembourg
From there we headed back down into Germany, through Kiel and around Berlin and then made our last visit of the European leg of the tour into a small village in Luxembourg called Ell, where our host Soren had laid on a 3 course dinner for 60 people!   I kid you not.   We had champagne, did a set, went and joined the visitors for a fish starter, went back to the concert room for the second set and sold out of CDs, then back downstairs for the main course and desserts and cheese.  Again, like the other two nights we met lots of really interesting people.  In Luxembourg, I'm sure I've mentioned this before, everyone speaks at least 3 languages, most speak 4 and several speak 5 - fluently!.  When I asked which language should I use they said either German or French, but we all understand English - it was quite confusing at the start.   Eventually it ended up a mishmash of GerFranglais
photo courtesy of Romain at our house concert in Ell Luxembourg

Of course, there are much smaller house concerts too - we were just very fortunate on that trip.   We've done several in a sitting room with 8 or 10 people and had just as much fun - some are very regular events for the host and are run like a concert hall, others are very cosy and intimate and are about having friends around and supporting live music.

Have you ever been to a house concert?  Or have you hosted one?   What do you think?