Saturday, 31 March 2018

March Scavenger Hunt

And well as the Positive News Blogfest, the end of the month marks the fun Scavenger Hunt - words to be interpreted by a picture, hosted by the lovely Kate at I Live, I Love, I Craft, I am me.  I've missed a few months but I'm back to play along :)


Short of going out and photographing all the very many potholes around the roads at the minute, or thinking of the hole that is left by all the friends who have passed away this winter, it took me a while to find this photo from last summer - the treasures in a hole on the beach.


This is a cardigan called Cosette and my first attempt at knitting from the top down and doing a seamless piece.   It's slow work but I'm pleased with the results so far and can't wait to see it blocked and pressed, opening out the lace pattern and evening out the stockinette parts.  Nearly finished the body now and ready to start adding in the sleeves.  

Reading now

I've just started this book and it's really enjoyable.   Zadie Smith is a name I see regularly but have never read anything of hers before and I'm engrossed ... she's a great writer and it's interesting having a glimpse into the world of a young black person growing up in London.  

Black and white

Messing around with the macro function on my camera, I'd been playing at angles on this pine cone and thought it looked interesting in black and white.

Begins with H

I was scratching my head for a while trying to find something beginning with H and spotted this orchid holder which I brought back from Germany a few years back ... there are lots of glass shops in the shopping arcades in Germany and I rarely come home without a piece.  These were so cute.  And my orchid loves it - this one is blooming for the third or fourth time.

My own choice

Watching the birds in the morning is such a soothing pastime - and with all the cold weather we've had they've been putting on quite a display around the feeders.  I was chuffed with myself for catching this one ...  a bullfinch I think - he was sitting in the sun and stayed there for ages.  

Off now to see everyone else's interpretations of the prompts..  Do you fancy joining in?  Check it out here.   

Friday, 30 March 2018

Positive News Magazine #WATWB

Here we are at the end of another month - time to take part in the We Are The World Blogfest, a global event in the blogging world, a chance to spread positive news for a day.  A special hello to     Belinda Witzenhausen,  Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein  Shilpa Garg, and Eric Lahti who are the cohosts for this month.

I must confess that in recent months I have more or less entirely stopped watching the news, or following stories online - there is such heaviness in the world.  And it's getting harder to find stories that I want to share.

But the young kids in America in the past few weeks have been inspirational - they are lighting a spark that I so want them to turn into a huge fire.  Isn't it remarkable that most of these wonderful young men and women are not as old as this century and as a result have spent their entire lives so far under the threat of doom and war and misery ... I hope they are the catalysts for change that this world so deserves.

But the story I want to tell you about today is about a magazine I found that prints only good news stories.   I'm sure some of you have already come across this.  It's called Positive News, what else, and is printed in England.  I've been subscribing online for a few months and the stories that come out weekly are interesting and full of hope, including the companies who are sponsoring them.   This month I finally bought a physical copy of the magazine as well.

Check them out and support them if you can - it'd be great to see more positive journalism instead of constant streaming news that no longer simply informs but seems to try to tell us how to think.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Give My Head Peace

That's a real Northern Irish saying and the title of a satirical comedy show that ran here for years on local TV - a political commentary couched in a sitcom and recorded weekly to reflect the goings on of our local politicians and all the other bodies at work all through the Troubles.   In fact black humour was as much a part of daily life as all the rest of the stuff and what kept us sane.

So last night we went to a live show of Give My Head Peace in the Grand Opera House in Belfast and what a laugh.  They had done another 3 TV shows recently and this live show carried the story on - very clever, very colloquial and very very funny.  46,000 people applied for the 200 tickets to the 3 live recordings of the TV shows so naturally this theatre tour sold out very quickly.

You've got MLAs (local politicians not currently sitting in government but still getting paid much to everyone's annoyance), a bad marriage, the police, flags (or 'flegs') a clerical henchman, stand up ... basically anything that can be lambasted and by golly they lambast very well this group - no-one gets missed.

The Opera House is always a delight to visit - built in 1895 and full of elephants and ornate decor, it's a cosy wee theatre.

The woman sitting beside me was a bit put out by the elephants and got worse after she managed to down 4 pints of cider in the 2 45 minute halves of the show!  She reckoned they should be taken down!  

But I love the elephants - it makes me feel like I'm back in a different era and still watching modern theatre.  (Apologies for the photos - it was hard to get anything clear with all the lights on).

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Happy St Patrick's Day

My shamrock is looking very bedraggled - but it is St Patrick's Day and I wish you all the luck of the Irish today wherever you are.  

it is absolutely freezing here with flurries of snow all day and the rugby final in Twickenham looked arctic - but Ireland WON!!!  Yay!

It's been a while since I summoned up the energy to write ... our house has been beset by this awful flu that's doing the rounds ... for a while we dragged ourselves to a couple of gigs, but eventually gave up and took to bed.  Thankfully we're both on the mend, slowly, but my energy is so low I can't get doing anything.  
Still one positive sign has started to appear - I'm bored silly - can't be bothered reading, much, or even watching TV, so this week it's back to work and hope the energy holds out.

Being self employed it's really freaky not working - you just can't show up for stuff so there's no money coming in and that really adds to the panic of not being well.   It certainly helps to get you back on your feet more quickly.

The sun was shining earlier in the week and I got out into the garden for 10 minutes - thankfully my lovely snowdrops haven't disappeared yet.   They're in the most awkward place and every year I promise to move them and each year the days fly on and they're still quite happily hiding in a corner ... maybe this year.

I hope you're all well and keeping warm in these northern climes and enjoying the beginnings of Autumn further south.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Keeping Interested

This is how motivated I've been feeling lately!!

As with most jobs, being a musician has lots of bits that are boring, repetitive and hard to stay focussed on ... I'm thinking mainly of PRACTICE!!   That dreaded word.   It takes a lot of discipline to keep doing your daily work, or in my case it's more like sporadic or at best weekly work a lot of the time, especially just after coming home from a tour or after finishing a project.   Problem is, when I don't do the work, come the start of the next tour or project, it's like starting from scratch again.   It doesn't help the mood, or the confidence,  one tiny bit.  

This quote has been attributed to many people of all musical disciplines.... Yikes.

So to stay interested I play games with myself.   And the internet is a great tool.   I find new singing exercise videos, or new guitar videos, or I'll try out songs from a singer that I haven't gone back to for a while.   And after teaching classes I'll occasionally take half an hour to sing songs out of one particular book and sing at the top of my voice (usually when Tom's out of the house!) while battering the hell out of the piano in the process.  And of course Singmarra keeps me focussed on a weekly basis where I have to do my warm ups or else my voice will collapse.

Recently I came across this great warm up voice video.  Perhaps you'd like to try it.  If you're at all interested in improving your voice or in just keeping it functioning well - I particularly think of teachers in this respect - then warming up is crucial and this one from Mark Baxter is a really excellent and simple one.  Be warned, Mark doesn't speak throughout it, so don't do what I did and close your eyes - you'll want to follow the instructions on the screen for the first run through anyway.

Now to find someone or something to trick me into spending more time doing publicity or social media or tour booking .... humph.  I think I'll go and play with paint for half an hour first ... or maybe the ironing would be fun lol

How do you get yourself through the boring bits of your work?   Any and all tips most gratefully received.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


My last year's Brigid's Cross

Lá Fhéile Bhríde  

Happy St Brigid's Day  

Blessings of Imbolc to you

 What a lovely way to finish this first month of the year with a blue moon and very big tides.  

The almost full moon and low tide at sunset - Monday 29th -Newcastle,Co. Down

I've always loved, and felt it was very right, that the 1st February marks the beginning of Spring.   I know that the astrological Spring doesn't actually start until 21st March, and the meteorological spring is different again, but today still feels like the beginning of the year.   Perhaps it just makes me feel more hopeful that the darker days of winter are nearly gone and brighter, warmer days are just around the corner.   It seems very long to have to wait another 7 weeks to feel like that!!.   
The snowdrops are already in bloom - have been since Christmas - I spotted some daffodils today, and already the days are a good bit longer.  

Imbolg (also Imbolc) is a time of transition and initiation, both a gateway and a celebration. The word 'Imbolg' translates from Gaelic as 'in the belly' after the swollen abdomen's of the pregnant ewe's. The Festival of Brigid is celebrated on 1st February all across Ireland and increasingly in countries where Celtic soul beats strongly in the hearts of many. Imbolg heralds days growing longer and buds starting to open as our sap rises too. 

Brigid is renowned both as a pagan goddess and a Christian saint.   She was born in Faughart in Co. Louth, just a few miles from here.  And although she is one of the patron saints of Ireland, she also has deep associations with Wales and Glastonbury.  

Here are some links you might like to follow to find out more about this archetype of the divine feminine in Celtic culture.  

The annual Brigid of Faughart Festival happens over this weekend and ties in with a summer festival
Brigid's Way - links to the place most associated with her in Kildare.  
The Newgrange website has more great information about the origins of Imbolc and about the passage tombs at the hill of Tara where the sun lights up the altar on both Samhain and Brigid's Day.  

* * * * * * * * 
This lovely poem by Kieran Murray can be read in its entirety on the Brigid's Way website.


For our Pagan Goddess
The Flame it burned bright
As nineteen priestesses
Tended it every night.

And the other St Brigid
Her Christian counterpart
When accused of being wicked
Held hot coal to her heart.

So we honour both Brigids
On their Feast Day the same
As we craft a reed cross
At Imbolc in their name.

Friday, 26 January 2018

January 2018 Scavenger Hunt

Oh dear - I had totally forgotten about the Scavenger Hunt, until I went to my Reading List today and saw all the tantalising headlines.  I had to discipline myself not to look, while I hastily pulled my images together for the first list of the New Year which Kate at I Live, I Love, I Craft, I am me thankfully shortened for this month :)
If you fancy playing along the link up is here.  


The sky never fails to fascinate me ... the reds of the beautiful sunsets, the sparkle of the stars or the watery colours when there's snow in the air .. I spotted this yellow in the sky a few weeks back when I was out for a walk - a harbinger of early daffodils.

Starts with an O

... or in this case .... looks like an O.  
All over the north of Ireland our local councils are working hard at improvements to help attract tourists.   Newry has both a river and a canal and a few years back they add these gorgeous fountains to the canal - I thought it would fit O very well.


My friend in Denmark sent me one of these lovely star lights last Christmas and brought the second one during the summer.   I haven't taken them down yet cos they're so atmospheric. 


A while back I was looking for an outfit for a photograph and found this skirt in a vintage shop in Belfast.   Thing is, I forgot that I can't have sequins while there's a guitar on my knee! and at least 3 times I've gone to sell irt on but I just can't bear to part with it.   Maybe it'll finally get worn this year.


While looking through photos from the last couple of months I found lots of colour around Christmas, but when I looked a bit further back this just jumped out at me - a dahlia in a pot outside my back door.   The colour was so intense and now that the light is growing again it makes me think of warmer days to come

My Own Choice

This is certainly not my favourite photo of the past year, but it is most certainly the memory that brought me most joy. ... our very tiny wee caravan which I cannot wait to get back out in again this year.   Really we need something a tad bigger, but we couldn't get anything bigger down our drive so our tent on wheels is going to be staying for another while .... Can't wait ... :) :)

Thank you Kate for continuing to put inspiration into the Scavenger hunt .... I'm off now for a browse at everyone else's images.  

Belfast communities come together for carol service #WATWB

Last year I really enjoyed taking part in the We Are The World Blogfest
The idea was, and still is, to flood the internet with good news stories at least once a month.  
This is now the 10th month and I'm happy to add my name to the group of people from all around the world who are taking part.

* * * * * * * * * *
We're well into the new year now, but I want to refer back to something that made the news here over Christmas.   As you know, I live in Northern Ireland where years and centuries of division have made for a very conflicted community and at the moment a very fragile peace.  

This story really gave me hope.  

I want to give a cheer and a shout out of well done to two communities in the Ardoyne area of Belfast who for the first time in more than 40 years have come across the so called Peace Wall to have a carol service together.  Lead by two children, one from each community, this is the most beautiful scene we could imagine for the end of this year of division.  The British government has promised to bring down the peace walls by 2023 (there are over a hundred of them, built to keep opposing Catholic and Protestant communities apart, who live on streets that back on to each other).

"An incredible step forward, where the impossible has become possible".

The cohosts for this month's We Are The World Blogfeset are:  Shilpa GargSimon FalkLynn HallbrooksEric LahtiDamyanti Biswas and Guilie Castillo.   

Please take a look at their stories, or check out the Facebook link where lots of people are adding their contributions ...  

Until next month I'm sending peace and love and light to your corner of the world.  

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Bookshops and new projects

Coming up from Dublin the other day I had a quick run into the shopping centre and just couldn't go past Waterstone's Book Shop.   An invisible hand pulled me in.   I swear I had nothing to do with it :)

What is it about a book shop?  It just fills me with delight and excitement - touching all those covers with stories inside - voyages of discovery to take.  People to meet.  Battles to fight, to be won, to be lost, and to travel in my mind to all those wonderful places.  Tom usually has to steer me out with the shakes if I don't actually get to buy something but I escaped from him today ... Mwahahahahaha

Anyway, I came away with two lovely looking new novels to keep me quiet in between getting stressed with a brand new project for Singmarra (although I later realised that East West STreet is actually a biography - not sure about that ... see!  way too eager to just get a book in my hand without paying much attention to what was inside it).

So yes, a new project for Singmarra

I do mainly secular music with my choir - folk, pop, African, songs in different languages.  There are a lot of church choirs in the area and I wanted a space where non religious folk were welcomed as well as church goers.   As a non church goer myself I recognise the benefits of people singing together that would traditionally have only happened at religious services and I know that many people miss that feeling of joining in.

But a friend here, who's husband died several years ago, approached me about Singmarra taking part in a musical for Easter that her husband had written more than 30 years ago.   It's called Three and Thirty Years, the life of Christ, and is a modern musical or cantata based on the Easter story.   It will be a huge amount of work and I hope my lovely singers will enjoy it - they'd all expressed an interest before the holiday, so we made a good start at our rehearsals over the past couple of weeks.  The show will last for 75 minutes and the chorus are in most numbers as commentators.  In between thinking 'this will be fun' I'm thinking what have I done!!!

This is a dramatic change for us, going from a non performing group to doing a massive project like this - I have to say I'm very excited about it though.  After an initial production meeting panic really set in, so now it's time to go step by step.

This would be  suitable show for children or for community choirs right up to professional musical organisations. Great songs, funky rhythms, and a great challenge.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Foggy Days

We've been really fogged in here over the past few mornings.  After all the wind and storms it seems very silent, like everything is wrapped in a cocoon.

 The other shore disappears and even the drips of water on the ends of branches drop off quietly.

I love those days.  It's a bit like Keats mellow mists of Autumn have got misplaced somehow or the calendar is out of sync with itself.

But then the day opens up ... the last snow is still on the hills (we've not had much snow down here) and there's a wonderful colour in the sky.

A mist lifts off the mountain - it's almost like the trees are steaming

I hope all's well with you

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Until We Meet Again

I wrote this wee song last year ... a wave, a thank you and a hello for all the friends we've made on our travels, both literal and virtual.

Best wishes to you all.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


Isn't that a great word ?   Rumbledethumps ... makes me smile every time I say it?

Well, this is the reason ...
Turnip or Swede?

Whether you call it a turnip or a swede (here it's turnip, over in England it's a swede) ( I think it's also called Rutabaga ) this is a staple root crop at this time of the year and in our organic veg delivery we get one at least every other week.   And I get very bored with it.   So today I went in search of something else to do with it and came up with 


 .. a recipe by Sue Lawrence on the BBC Food website
It sounds like something out of a fairy tale forest.

Basically you just boil potatoes and turnip, separately cook some kale or curly cabbage in butter, then add to the spuds and turnip and mash together.   Season, top with some cheese and put in the oven for 30 minutes covered and another 15 minutes uncovered.   

And it was yummy.

Have you any other nice suggestions for this?  

Thursday, 11 January 2018

A day to be outside

We had a full day of fog yesterday - it's ages since I've seen that - everything was very damp and closed in.  But then today was glorious.   Proper gorgeous Winter weather.   The mist was still hanging around the sea though and not quite getting away.

I love the way the sun shines on the rock pools and the jagged rocks.  Not quite frozen today

 It was good to be outside

How's your start of year shaping up?   Are you getting any time outside? 

Sunday, 7 January 2018

My Fiddlers Green Challenge

Yesterday was Nollaig na mBan - Women's Christmas or Little Christmas .  I wrote about it here a few years ago.  It's a great way to finish up the holiday and I spent not one but three evenings in succession in the company of women friends.  

After all of that it was time to get out for a good walk today.  

My breathing is still recovering after the bout of pneumonia last spring and during the Christmas pageant I was really struggling singing as we walked up the hill.   So I'm on a mission to improve my fitness this year.  I've challenged myself to walk up to Fiddlers Green at least once a fortnight and do shorter walks in between.   

Fiddlers Green is a clearing half way up the the oak forest and it's a real hike to get to.   I thought I'd need oxygen lol ....   So Him and Me headed out this afternoon.   And we made it and I'm delighted with myself.   Mind you the legs and thighs are complaining mightily.

Fiddlers Green is the name given to Fisherman's Heaven.   John Connolly from Grimsby wrote a great song about that.  The chorus goes:

Wrap me up in me oilskin and jumper 
No more on the docks I'll be seen 

Just tell me old shipmates 
I'm taking a trip, mates 
And I'll see you one day in Fiddler's Green 

Fiddlers Green clearing
It's thought that our Fiddlers Green was a crossroads at one time and perhaps the fishermen met there.   Our annual folk festival is named after it and starts in the clearing there, and many local songs have been written about the place.  

Anyway, we struggled up the hill 
I love mossy logs

It was a beautiful afternoon and lots of folk were out and about, well wrapped up.   It's freezing cold, perfect winter weather.  

Beautiful blue sky

Looking down to the Lough from Fiddlers Green
 We decided to come down another way - at least I thought it was all downhill, but lo and behold, more climbs ... And cyclists ... There are lots of cycle trails in the mountains and they're not supposed to be on the walking paths - Don't say anything, mutters Tom, knowing me far too well ... but I kept quiet for once.
Afternoon sun

We came back down by the Glenshee river - which translates as the valley of the fairies - or the Fairy Glen. The water was running hard and beautiful.  

 And on a side note - this is my first attempt at Brioche Knitting - delighted with the result.  The model was taking another video.  The scarf is the second brioche one.

What a surprise to see some blossoms

And new life already on the way

So once we were down again this was the reward ...a beautiful sunset on the lough. 

So this is where we were - half way up there - in the middle of the oak forest.   
Maybe in a few months I"ll be heading up to the top. 

The white building at the end of the photograph is a car showroom and will soon be turned into an (unwanted) apartment building and old folks home - there's a lot of consternation about it as the Council planners turned down the application - not once, but 4 times - and still the councillors voted for the project to go ahead.   It will impact hugely on the forest as it will be more than 4 times higher than that building is now!!  Anyway, that's a story for another day.  

I hope you've had a lovely Sunday and that the first week back to normal will be fine.


Fiddler's Green

Author: John Connolly
Copyright: World, March Music Ltd

As I went by the dockside one evening so fair
To view the still water and take the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing this song
Won't you take me away boys my time is not long

Wrap me up in me oilskin and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell me old shipmates
I'm taking a trip, mates
And I'll see you one day in Fiddler's Green

Now Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell
Where fishermen go when they don't go to Hell
Where the skies are all clear and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away

Where there's always a breeze and there's never a gale
And the fish jump on board with a swish in their tail
and you lie at your leisure, there's nothing to do
And the captain's below making tea for the crew

when you get to the dock and the long trip is through
There's pubs and there's clubs, and there's lassies there too
and the girls are all pretty and the beer it is free
And there's bottles of rum growing from every tree

I don't need a harp or a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a stiff rolling sea
And I'll play me old squeeze box as we roll along
When the wind in the rigging will sing me this song