Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The White Beach

The story behind the song

The coast of each country usually belongs to the Crown or the government, so we were really surprised years back when a very wealthy landowner near here closed off access to parts of the beach making it impossible to walk past his estate.   He gradually bought up more and more of the shore, shutting off access as he went.

One of these areas was known as the White Beach and was accessed via a lane from the main road which passed a wetland field, known locally as the Pond Field, and you came out onto a headland called the Moat, to get onto this piece of beach.  I had only ever walked on it a couple of times, but a few years ago we were heading down for a walk and were met with a huge barbed wire fence.

So a local campaign started to get it opened up again. However the wealthy man, in the style of landowners of old, just hired plenty of lawyers and kept the case open in the courts hoping people would run out of steam.   Eventually though, the case was won by the people and he agreed to a compromise, to build an extra walkway.

Now in the middle of this a couple of things happened - we wrote a song about people's memories of summer picnics there; sang it at the festival and got a good response to it, but had decided not to really rant about this man's involvement, only that it was no longer open to the public.  A few months later we decided, as the court case was coming up, to just go for it and have a good old folkie rant about injustice and so on.

But, just as we finished it the man in question died - in a horrible helicopter accident - and no matter what people thought of him and his ways before hand, no-one, including ourselves, were prepared to talk ill of the dead.

Anyway, we finally finished it and recorded it a few years back, leaving out blame and just making it into a nostalgic ballad about a place rather than a landlord .... enough of those stories have been told in Ireland over the years.

I'd love to know what you think of the story... Here are the lyrics.

The White Beach (Campbell/McFarland)
The story of an event that happened near us, where people were up in arms that the local landlord had closed off access to a favourite beach

Walking by the sea today
I wandered back in time
I can still recall my father’s hand
Holding on to mine
And the first time that he took me
To a hidden piece of shore
That his own father showed to him
Many years before

He told me lots of stories
from the time he was a lad
About family summer Sundays
with the picnics on the strand
And about the Yankee soldiers
that stayed there in the war
Who danced at Ballyedmond and walked with sweethearts on the shore

And he said
“Walk with me to the white beach
And we'll walk there one more time
Come and walk with me to the white beach
And I'll take your hand in mine
Come and walk with me to the white beach
Past the Pond Field on the way
We'll cross the moat together
Come and walk with me today”

Then he told me of the anger
when the landlord closed the way
And a fence was built around the Moat and the Pond Field drained away
He couldn’t understand
just how they failed to see
What the lovely White Beach
meant to you and me

Now I’m thinking of the white beach
In my mind’s eye I can see
That lonely stretch of strand
That holds such memories for m
And when I’m on a foreign shore
With children of my own
I’ll tell them of the White Beach
Close to my Rostrevor home.  
And I’ll say

Fro the CD Back There (2015)

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Scavenger Photo Hunt June 17

Joining in today with Hawthorn for her monthly Scavenger Photo Hunt    Check out some of the others who gather their photos for this - it's really interesting to see different interpretations of words and to see their corner of the world. 

So in between recording sessions I really welcomed this challenge to get me outside and to have something else to focus on this month ...

The setting sun

We were looking right in to the setting sun at the top of Lough Nevar, overlooking Lower Lough Erne.... really hazy as a result, but I kind of liked these photos - couldn't choose between them. 

and I loved how the light of the setting sun lit up the trees that evening earlier in the month.

Your local wild place

Well, there are lots of dusty corners with spiders in them around my house at the minute and they could easily pass for wild places ... but this is at the bottom of the garden - there's a strip where the bluebells grow and we never cut it until they have disappeared back into the ground - every year I intend to scatter some wild flower seeds but never remember until about June when it's too late, but still I love the grasses.  

My kind of beautiful

Look to the skies

I"m cheating a bit here -  this photo was taken early in May not June - but what a glorious day it was...  I love looking up through the trees - it reminds me of childhood days, climbing trees in the woods, imagining we were Robin Hood and his merry men - I was Maid Marian of course :)  And later, searching for hazelnuts ... Those woods are gone now and there's not a chance that I'd be able to climb a tree anyway, but it's great to let your mind wander back. 

Mini beasts

The mini beasts in this boy's mouth didn't stand much of a chance..  He? She? had a nest on the front wall of the house and we sat for ages watching him flying in and out feeding whoever's hiding in there.   Whenever we went outside in the sun, he'd fly in all sorts of directions to distract us.
Something I never thought of before, was pregnant birds - I just assumed they laid their eggs and that was that.   But we had this strange looking bird walking around the back garden early in May and not being able to find it in the bird book I posted a pic on Facebook to be told, that's a pregnant blackbird!!!   Why I hadn't thought of it beats me, but you live and learn.  Anyway, this one could be either Mummy or Daddy Robin.


I had so many attempts to catch the rain at the beginning of the month but this was my favourite - or I'd probably be more accurate to say that this was the only one vaguely in focus lol

Something summery 

There's this enormous rhododendron in our garden - every year I threaten to cut it down, or at least cut it back.  But for the couple of weeks that it blooms it is magnificent, and the bees just adore it - there are literally hundreds of them on it at a time.  

Urban Wilderness

There's an old building in the middle of the village that should be tossed or revamped or something ... but I swear the reason no-one touches it is that for a couple of short weeks from the end of May into June, it is festooned with the most beautiful wisteria.  

My own choice

The trees are dropping their pine cones all over the place at the minute

Thanks Kate, for organising this photo hunt every month - off now to have a look at what everyone else has been up to.  

Friday, 30 June 2017

The deaf piano teacher #WATWB

It's the end of yet another month and time for We Are The World Blogfest which is happening on the last Friday of every month this year and encourages us to share a positive news story of human interest. 

It is co-hosted by a group of bloggers and this month the task is shared by Belinda Witzenhausen,  Lynn Hallbrooks,  Michelle WallaceSylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein.
Please go and visit them and read the stories they're sharing.  

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Fun with photos for the new album

We're still debating a title for our new CD - the working title is "Together," - because we're both singing on it and we're a duo etc ...  but we're both feeling it's not quite right.  There's a couple of days yet to decide.   But apart from that, progress is well on its way - we're in the final days of mixing and getting artwork and photos done alongside that.   It's a bit like tidying in all the loose threads on a massive patchwork quilt - great fun.

It's hard getting photos of a couple that don't look like wedding photos - so I wanted to share a few of the fun photos we got - probably never be used for anything serious.

I have a condition called Sjogrens Syndrome which leaves my eyes very sensitive to light.  For the last CD cover I wore sunglasses and felt really stupid - but this photographer, when I said I needed glasses, suggested Tom put them on as well. So we had a good laugh pretending to be the Blues Brothers - and turning out more like Peters and Lee as some smart alec suggested :)  Poor Tom's knees were wrecked having to come down to my height!

Check out our Kickstarter campaign, if you fancy pre-ordering the CD,  which will be launched at the end of July at our local folk festival.  I'll preview a few songs over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Have a good week

Took an hour out on Saturday evening to drive around the Forest Drive at Magho in Co. Fermanagh - the sun coming through the trees was beautiful after a very showery couple of days.  We've had a very busy week in the studio, recording extra bits from some of our very talented musician friends - double bass, fiddle, lead guitar, mandolin and whistles have all now been added, and as a special bonus, we recorded my community choir, Singmarra, who are singing harmonies on one of the songs.  By the time we got down to Fermanagh to see my mum on Saturday we really needed a nice walk to clear our heads.   This forest drive is beautiful.  More pics to come.

We're reeling here after yet another chaotic election aftermath - it is going to be fun to watch what happens in the next few months now that the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland are in the role of Kingmakers after the Conservatives didn't get the majority they needed in the General Election.  Over here we don't get to vote for Labour or Conservative and it is extremely frustrating that our politics is still very tribally based - on a Nationalist/Unionist divide - with no real issues being discussed, only tribal allegiances.  Sadly the middle ground parties that would appeal to those of us who don't want to vote Orange and Green were all ousted.  And to top it all, the main nationalist party, Sinn Fein, won't sit in a British Parliament, so half the population here has only got the voice of abstentionism to represent them.  It is way past time that they got over this ideal.   They sit in Government in the South of Ireland and don't agree with their ideals either.   Anyway, that's the update.  

Every time I try to write about our political situation here I end up tying myself in knots as we have a very confusing political system that most of us have trouble understanding, so trying to explain it to outsiders is next to nigh impossible.   Suffice it to say that the DUP are an extremely conservative party and it will be interesting to see how things progress with them in Westminster and how people in England will take to their extreme views.   Although on a positive note, while they are pro Brexit, they do not want a hard border here - that was the biggest fear in Ireland that there would be a return to Customs and border controls once Britain comes out of Europe, as the only physical border with Europe is between the North and South of this island.

Now that I've totally confused you, I'll wish you a happy, peaceful, safe and productive week and head back to my microphone - we're finishing vocals this week, getting photographs taken, sorting out artwork and then start mixing at the weekend.  Loving it.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Kindness Challenge Reflection Week 3 - Self Acceptance

If you're following along with Niki's Kindness Challenge, you'll know that for the first three weeks Niki has prompted us to look at kindness to ourselves in various ways.   And this week it was the oh so important Self Acceptance.   You can check out some of the other participants here.  That is a particularly hard one for artists of all kinds and for musicians in particular...

So if you're a musician or have one in the family, this is for you.

I read an article recently from research done at an English University, that depression is very high in musicians - more than 65% out of the study group of 2200 said they'd suffered from depression as opposed to 11-15% in the general population.
And one of the reasons they came up with was doing a job that other people considered not to be a proper job and the lack of support therein.  Oh boy - I know that one well.   And as co-host of the local folk club I hear the same phrase from nearly every musician who plays there, no matter how successful they have been in their career or what age they are, they still talk about their mother or a well meaning friend asking when are you going to get a real job?!!

If you're interested you can read more on the research here and also read some excellent expansions on the theme and suggestions both for musicians and for their families and friends to combat this - especially useful for young musicians starting out.  Cari Cole Music Ltd

I've always struggled with accepting my voice and my own musical ability.  These short essays have come along at the right time, in the middle of a new recording and I'm learning to practice what I preach - spend more time doing the work and less time beating yourself up about the bits you can't do.  And I'm finally learning to accept the voice I've been given.

I tell everyone of my students how wonderful they are and how much they have improved each week.  And for  the people in my singing group - who all collectively and individually think they can't sing - my role, as I see it, is to encourage, to praise and to honestly tell them how wonderful they sound together.  I never ever give a negative comment ( or try my best not to anyway).

But until now I am guilty of never telling myself well done for finding the right songs to make the group sound like that, or for the results of the hours of guitar, piano and voice practice that have allowed me to easily enjoy playing on this recording, or for accepting my own musical  knowledge which has come from 50 years of constant work and which enthrals and thrills me more and more with each passing year - when I allow myself the time to nurture it and not constantly beat myself up about what I don't know or can't do.

So after three weeks of focussing on self care and self kindness I have learned a lot.   As Brene Brown said in the excellent video Niki posted as part of the blog announcing this week's theme, this is a daily practice, something you have to be aware of all the time, daily, even hourly at times.   So, no, it's not fixed, but it's been a good start.

Now we're moving on for the next few weeks from self kindness

Friday, 2 June 2017

Five bits of Music Trivia

I love useless information - probably the result of watching so many quiz shows - we're addicted to The Chase in this house.  An ageing opera singer who lives near here told me once: "Dahling, you must have another interest outside of your music, or you will go crazy - in my case I watch football!"  Good advice, so we ended up getting addicted to quiz programmes lol

So for today's Five on Friday here's some useless information related to music.

1.  The Longest Song Title in the World

"I'm a Cranky Old Yank In A Clanky Old Tank On The Streets of Yokohama With My Honolulu Mama Down' Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-on-my-seat-o, Hirohito Blues" !!   Recorded by Hoagy Carmichael in 1942.
What a Mouthful!  Here's Bing Crosby singing it.

2. Water Music

Most toilets flush in E flat - something to think about!

3.  Mozart ...

was only five when he wrote the melody that is now sung to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

4.  Beatles

At the end of the Beatles song "A Day in the Life", an ultrasonic whistle audible only to dogs was recorded by Paul McCartney for this Shetland sheepdog.

5.  The Ice Cream Code

In another lifetime I used to drive an ice cream van - for about three weeks, by which time I had eaten more than sold and found a real job for a while.   But did you know there's a Code of Practice for ice cream vans?  Penned in 1982.
And it states that you should not sound chimes ....

  • for longer than four seconds at a time
  • more often than once every three minutes
  • when the vehicles is stationary
  • when in sight of another van that is trading
  • when within 50m of schools during school time or of places of worship during worship times
  • more often than once every two hours in the same street  
There y'are now, as Frank Carson would say. 

Joining in today with FAST for Five on Friday.   Thank you to Tricky and Carly for hosting.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Introducing: Pat Coldrick - never give up on your dream

It's been a while since I introduced any new musicians here.

So, Ta Da ... Drum roll - please welcome Pat Coldrick.

Pat is a self taught classical guitarist from near Dublin who played at our folk club a couple of weeks ago.  As well as playing flamenco and classical pieces he also writes his own music and does beautiful arrangements of Irish airs.

Above all else, Pat is a wonderful example that you should never give up on your dream.
He played guitar as a teenager and into his early 20s, then gave up as he couldn't make a living at it.  He turned to woodwork and for 25 years ran a successful business.   Until the crash came and many small businesses perished in the south of Ireland, including his.  He hadn't played guitar at all in that time, but picked it up one evening and decided to go out and busk.   People asked for more and the rest as they say is history.   Now he plays all over the world and his music and arrangements are sought after.

Our folk club venue is very small - Crawfords Bar - 45 people is the maximum we can put in.   On that night it wasn't full because many people hadn't heard of him, but for the 30 or so people who were there it was like a shared experience of being transported to another world.  His stories are charming and he fits as easily into playing in front of thousands of people in St Petersburg or New York as to playing in a tiny room.

This is a piece he wrote called Antartica ... it just blew us all away.  Enjoy.  And please support live music wherever you can.  30 people loving someone playing or singing can be much more of an experience than thousands worshipping at the altar of some rock god.

And something more traditional without the addition of effects - Sevilla by Albeniz ...


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Focus on blogging

Focussing on the details
For a long time I've been trying to find a new name for my blog and to find a more focussed direction for it.   Sometimes I think that if a stranger dropped by they'd have no clue about what I do other than stand around with a guitar, do a bit of knitting and take pictures of the sea lol - none of which are entirely false.

So I'm rummaging around for a new name that at least tells people what I do - this version will probably change - I'm not entirely happy with it - and if any of you have any suggestions I'd love to hear it.   And I'm going to try to stick to some sort of a timetable and still write about the things I love - music of course, positive news stories, and this beautiful part of the world I live in - but also have content that is more suitable to share more widely (through Social Media for example) and see if I can find out where other musicians hide in the blogosphere.   There are many I know who do blog, but even being interested in them I get bored about being told every day to buy my latest CD.  

I follow some art blogs and I love watching their mix of colour, giveaways and sales talk, although they are the other extreme and don't show so much about their lives.   Then there are the crafters, writers, and fashionistas I follow and last but definitely not least, the friends I have made here in the years I've been online - I love visiting you all in your different corners of the world and hearing what you're up to and what you've got planned.  And I equally like sharing that too.  So that'll have to stay too.

So watch this space.   Doubtless it'll turn out just as unfocussed as ever, but I'll enjoy coming and chatting :)  We'll see.  And I'd love to hear your suggestions for a name.

Do you stick to a plan with your blogging, or is it more random and when the feeling takes you?  And have you stayed focussed on what you blog about or has that changed over the years?  And if you have a business, do you blog separately about that?  So many questions, so little time lol

Friday, 26 May 2017

Scavenger Photo Hunt May 2017

Joining in today with Hawthorn's Scavenger Photo Hunt - matching images to random words and taking a look back at the past month.

I really struggled with this list at the start, but it has turned out to be great fun - especially with the gorgeous weather we've been having these past few days.  Not being on the road for a while now all this month's photos are from nearby.  There's something about going out into nature with a camera that makes me look closer.  I love it. 


Lichen along the granite on the beach


I love glass window ornaments.   This cat was made by a lovely Polish woman living locally several years ago - and my aunt Betty bought it for me when she came to visit.   It still makes me smile.
Cat on a hot tin fence :)


Had to share a couple of photos for this one...
My clanky old faithful
used for accompanying my students
It's loud and they have all coped with singing over it!

My very first piano
very woodworm-eaten and beaten up now
It was given to me by a my Dad's cousin Leo when I was about 8
and I could pick out so many tunes on it
that my mother finally sent me for piano lessons

and my pride and joy
made in Belleek Pottery
My dad was arranging for one to be made for a man's concert pianist daughter
and told him that his daughter was learning piano
so he paid for one for me too!  Wasn't I lucky.  


Watching the rain coming in down the valley across the Lough


The hawthorn bushes have been magnificent this year - is it the mild winter or the dry spring?  Whatever the reason, they have been a joy to watch.   And now they're turning pink before the blossoms get blown away.


I love low tide.   What's under the deep.  It was a new moon yesterday so the tides are even lower, exposing the hazards for ships coming up the Lough.


We have to really fight to keep ivy off the trees here - this one I managed to uncover a few years ago and the textures are really starting to settle now... Bark always reminds me of the Trees in Lord of the Rings - what were they called?   The Ents?  When I see a sign saying Heavy Plant Crossing I always imagine one of these trees crossing the road :)  

Like the skin of some animal - I love the patterns in tree bark.

Weave or Stitch

I learned to knit Aran patterns when I was very young - my mother's way of keeping me out of mischief.  But this was easily the most silly one to do - it's a pattern that Save the Children issued years ago and I was looking for something quick and quirky to put into my friend Belinda's craft shop.  It's an Egg Cosy!!  Definitely not the most useful thing you could make.  And the decision at the end of it was that life is too short to be doing many more.   If she's very good, she might get a second one just because I have enough wool, but there are definitely better things to be at!!!  But it is so much fun.   If you're interested you can find the pattern on Love Knitting here - it'd be fun for kids at Christmas.  

Makes me laugh every time I look at this.


When I recorded my first CD, 25 years ago, everything was recorded onto 2 inch tape.   If you made a mistake during a 'take' you had to do the whole thing again as It was really complicated to try to fix things.  And when it came to mixing, engineers needed 4 pairs of hands to be able to manage all the different possibilities.   Now things are very different - not necessarily easier, but certainly easier to fix.  Below are just vocal, guitar and percussion tracks as the basis for a new song.  
Recording in the digital age.


I wonder how much time has passed since these shells had owners.

Are you playing along with he photo hunt?  It'd be great to see your interpretations.

The man who planted a forest #WATWB

I am joining in today with the monthly #We Are The World Bloghop  - sharing good news stories.  Check out the link and consider joining in.  
It is co-hosted this month by Emerald BarnesEric LahtiInderpreet Uppal,  Lynn Hallbrooks,  Peter NenaRoshan RadhakrishnanThank you so much for doing this guys.  

We are the World came about in response to all the negative news stories that are bombarding us these days, in an effort to flood the internet with good news stories at least once a month.  

I came across this story and thought it was wonderful.   

Every day a man plants trees in the same spot - 37 years later he has a forest ...
The young teenager Jadav “Molai” Payeng decided to help nature out a little bit and started planting trees over thirty years ago. He planted the seeds next to a very and deserted sandbar closely to his birthplace in the Assam region, India. Jadav wanted to create a habitat for wildlife and oppose people who were cutting trees down.    Read the full story here .... Man plants forest

It just goes to show what one person can do.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


A wander by the sea last night ... the sea drift is beautiful at the minute.

Joining in today with Wednesday Around the World

Monday, 22 May 2017

Kindness Challenge Reflection Week 2

Kindness Challenge Week 2.   Self Compassion.  

I've been thinking about compassion all week.  It's a strange word, compassion.  Even considering compassion in relation to another person, to me it brings up thoughts of religious life, of forgiveness, benediction and of suffering.  People guilty of a crime ask compassion of their accuser, leniency in carrying out the sentence.  Not to be brutal and unforgiving.   It comes from the Latin and literally means to suffer with.

In Niki's Kindness Challenge for Week 2 she asked us to look at compassion for ourselves and posted a wonderful video - it's worth checking out.  Putting ourselves first is not wrong, in fact the opposite is true.

This week I've had plenty of opportunities to practice kindness to myself and build on week 1.  And to me self compassion has to involve patience.  As well as getting rest and some sunshine.  It's been about being forgiving towards myself and accepting limitations.  It's been about realising that you'll never be perfect but there's no harm in striving to be better and it's about practicing what I preach - in my case that's about daily practice in my music and singing - when I give that up due to illness or distraction or depression or self doubt, then everything collapses and your worst fears are realised.

One of the frustrating things I find in our life here is finding uninterrupted stretches of time to focus on finishing up songs or projects - at the moment that's about focussing on the new album.  It is so hard to do at this time in our lives.  A few weeks back we had 5 recording days, broken up with one sick day, then 4 days looking after my mother taking her to appointments, then various other appointments of our own, a funeral, classes to teach, another 2 day Mum visit, a day in Dublin - and the upshot is that it has taken us a full three weeks to get back to where we were at.  It has been frustrating and keeping me awake at night.   But time passes and there's not a lot you can do about it, especially when energy is low.

As Niki suggests, I've  been trying to consider how I would speak to a friend were she in this situation and I'd be saying this:
Things happen in the right time and in the perfect order.  Relax and let things go at their own pace and at the moment that pace may be slower than you'd like, but you know what, it'll all work out ok in the end.  Everything will get done and you'll look back and wonder why you were worrying.  
So, I'd better pay attention - no choice in the matter :)

Niki  also suggested making an affirmation, or recording a tape of things that would stop the endless chatter in our heads.  I use affirmations on and off and realise that I had forgotten the practice in recent months.   So while I didn't record myself saying positive statements, I did remember to give myself some positive talk where I could.  Thanks for the reminder Niki.

How was your week?
Are you taking part in the Kindness Challenge?  It is very interesting.  There's still time to sign up and play along if you'd like.  You can sign up at the link above and also read the reflections of others taking part.

So, on to week 3.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Five on Friday - Colours changing

 I love how the colours start to change at this time of the year .... the bluebells are nearly gone and the pinks are starting to take their turn .... even the May, the hawthorn blossom, has shades of pink in it.  But still a lonely pansy is hanging on from last Autumn, showing its pretty face and keeping the link between Spring and Summer.  And I have to keep a little bit of blue...

So for my Five on Friday this week, here's some of the colour this evening.  Thank you to Tricky and Carly at F.A.S.T. for hosting this lovely blog hop - take a look over there to see some of the other Fives..

An early rhododendron ... we cut them back hard last year.

The fuchsia will be around for several months now .. love, love, love them
This mass of white at our back garden against an almost blue sky
is saying summer is not here yet ... but soon.  

The hawthorn, so delicate.... I had to put in an extra one. 

Aren't pansies so sweet - no matter the season
Selena, in pinks and purples and this striking blue ... I like having some blue to carry over.

Joining up with the folks in Spain - F.A.S.T. - for this week's Five on Friday.  
Have a lovely weekend.