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.