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.