Monday, 23 October 2017

Bake Bread for Peace

Tomorrow 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, think peace tomorrow and share some bread with someone, home baked if you can.

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? 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Scavenger Photo Hunt August 2017

Dear All

I've been kind of caught up with stuff this past couple of months so I thought I'd catch up through this month's Scavenger Hunt organised by Hawthorn at I Live, I Love, I Craft.  Thank you Hawthorn for hosting this each month - it really gets the grey cells working and at the moment they need all the help they can get :) 

1. Relaxed 

Meet our new-to-us caravan and we're away for a much needed week of relaxation.  This was not an easy acquisition for me.  The gypsies live in caravans - and for much of my life I've felt like a gypsy being on the road so much.  lol
Anyway I'm over it now and cannot wait to hit the road again - it's really only about the size of a tent on wheels, but I love it.

2. It begins with an M...

At the end of last month my Mum turned 90.  We had a family gathering for her and she was so pleased to see cousins from America and England as well as from all over Ireland.  My mum, Marguerite, is a great crafter - she's just finishing another crocheted blanket at the minute, so a friend of mine made this beautiful cake with wool and crochet flowers on it.  

3. Time for...

A new CD!!  
Yay .... We got it finished in time for the festival at the end of July and had a very successful launch concert.  The final run of CDs won't be here for another couple of weeks (we got a short run done for the launch), so we'll be starting to promote after our holiday.   That's always fun once you get over the initial panic of letting people hear what you've been doing and keep your fingers crossed that they like it.
This is a collection of mostly our own songs, with Tom singing 4 of his own songs on the album and yours truly doing the rest.  With the exception of one traditional song "Peace in Erin" written in the early 1800s, and one from a wonderful American singer songwriter, the rest of the offerings are ours - songs about immigration, politics, peace and our travels.

4. Tangerine 

Sitting in the hairdresser's last week I was rummaging through the list of prompts and trying to get ideas of what I could photograph for each of them - but Tangerine left me stumped.  So as a last measure I headed off to Google to see what would come up under the word ... And lo and behold there's a new literary magazine published here in Northern Ireland that I had never heard of.   So thank  you Hawthorn for this prompt.   My first two copies have just arrived - in time for leisurely reading time  - looking forward to diving in.    Introducing The Tangerine Magazine

5. It begins with an O... 

I missed last month's Scavenger hunt, but while I was searching for an image to fit the word Ring I took this pic of a stone landing in the water.   Isn't it a perfect O? ;)

6. Whiskery

Our last cat died nearly three years ago and I miss her greatly.  But a special bonus has been the rise in bird numbers in the garden.  We were both gettng to a place of thinking that we'll maybe not have a cat again and enjoy feeding and watching the birds coming and going instead - after all, they don't need minding when we're away on a tour.
But then, we started getting a regular visitor - this three coloured very talkative female who decided that she owned our house and garden.   Tom came in from the garage one day to find her in the kitchen sitting looking at him as if to say "where have you been?"  At our pre festival party she wandered in again and sat in the middle of everyone as happy as Larry.   So a few weeks back I posted this photo on Facebook and asked if anyone knew her and my friend, another musician, who lives about 1/4 mile away came back - "omg, that's our cat!"
Her name's Peaches and she's still visiting - occasionally bringing her two friends with her.   We thought this was really funny - musician to musician - good taste, this cat has!
However!!  Now she's attacking my birds and we are not amused - two beautiful nesting wood pigeons who cooed us awake each morning have both been killed ... some action is going to have to be taken.  

7. Lace -

It's been a constant job this year, removing spiders, from both inside and outside the house - endless.   But you have to forgive the wee blighters when they weave such beautiful webs.  This one appeared the other morning on the fuchsia bush outside the window.  Thankfully you can't see the dirt of my windows in this photo!!

8. Bridge 

Well a sort of bridge ....
After years of negotiating and arguing and political posturing, a ferry has been opened to cross Carlingford Lough between Greenore in the South and Greencastle in the North.  We decided to come back that way from Dublin a few weeks back ... The top view is looking north to the Mournes and the bottom one, looking back to the Cooley's.  It's a lovely crossing, ideal if you're doing a tourist trip between Dublin and Belfast and wanting to take the coast road the whole way ... but it was absolutely freezing that day.  

9. Letters

Last year I wrote here about Poetic Action Rostrevor (PAR), a lovely initiative started by my friend Catherine which she brought back here after visiting a small Spanish village where someone in turn had picked it up from somewhere in South America.  
Last year the organisers put up 20 boards around the village and this year added 7 or 8 more.   Some are painted directly on to walls, others on removable boards, in case the Council in their wisdom decide they should be taken down.  This is one of the new ones.

10. My own choice

My neighbour has been growing Christmas trees for the past 10 years or so, and this year I noticed the bigger ones all have these huge pine cones ... In the evening sun they look like a bunch of little animals huddling up for the night.  

So what has your month been like?  Check out the other Scavengers here.  
Thanks again Hawthorn. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Ireland's Own

Earlier in the year, I spent one Saturday morning going through a pile of Ireland's Own magazines, cutting out items of interest and saving the song sheets from them.

Ireland's Own is a weekly magazine/newspaper which has been printed weekly since 1902.
It's a mixture of short stories, bits of folklore, corny jokes, items of historical interest, stories about entertainers, or poets or artists, usually something about nature and a song sheet in every edition with words of old Irish songs and well known old pop songs.

I've always been a hoarder of "useless information" and Ireland's Own is the mother of useless information, a lot of it Irish based.   Great fun.  

The one I'm looking at right now is from August 2011 and there's an item on one of the great Showband singers, Sean Dunphy; an item about President Obama's visit to Ireland; the story behind the Award 'The Freedom of Dublin'; The Shipping Forecast; the Irish in WW2 (a series throughout the year); If you Feel Like Singing - Sing an Irish Song - featuring the words of Old Skibereen and Bantry Bay among others; the ancient tribes of Ireland; Mrs Frances Alexander who wrote the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful; all of this along with memories, short stories, gardening and a page for pen friends.

I might drop in the odd bit of nonsense from it in the coming months.

Are there any traditional type magazines or newspapers in your area?   I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sunday Catch Up

I loved this statue in Kilmarnock
My life has been very much in two parts over most of this year - writing and preparing a new CD in the weeks my energy has been good, and lots of knitting, bits of reading blogs and even more reading books during the months when it wasn't.    

I've knit lots of pieces both for myself and for my friend Belinda's craft shop and had a much longed for excuse to experiment and have fun with different weights and textures of yarn.   My dream has always been to have a go at designing but my knowledge of textiles and drape wasn't great - I've learned a lot.  So I suppose that's one thing to be thankful for for a prolonged bout of whatever it was I had/have.   

But for now, it's the last days of Summer, and we're both looking forward to a short holiday in Brittany - cannot wait.  And with luck, fingers and toes crossed, we'll get some sunshine to get the Vitamin D levels up for the colder days.

The focus of this next winter is going to be rest and health but hopefully with enough energy for new term time adventures with Singmarra, a trip to England to do some gigs in November and our new CD - Together - which will be released in September.

Blogwise I've been going through, and deleting or editing a lot of drafts that for some reason didn't get posted, so I'm feeling a little bit prepared for the next few weeks at least.

But for now, cough cough achoo - back to bed.

Have a lovely week and a great start to the Autumn.
Just some of my reading
in past months - might even
get around to reviewing
some of them

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Flying Seagulls #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.  

The plight of refugees never seems to be far from the news these days and this story just lifted my heart.  

It's about a group of musicians, play specialists, clowns and circus entertainers who travel into refugee camps to bring a smile to the faces of the children. 

They are called The Flying Seagulls Project 

No matter what the circumstances or where they have come from, children deserve to have fun and this band of troubadours have made it their mission in life to help the kids do that - to remind them that they are children.  

The story was featured on BBC Three and was shared around Facebook.  

See the video from BBC Three here and there are lots more videos on their website.

The co-hosts of this month's We Are The World Blogfest are :

Simon Falk

Roshan Radhakrishnan,
Inderpreet Uppal, 
Lynn Hallbrooks,
Eric Lahti,
Mary J Giese

Check out theirs and other stories on the Facebook thread here

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Get ready for Oulo

Have you ever, or did you ever, or do you ever hold an imaginary guitar in your hand and rock it out to a song on the radio?    It's like an instinct for my generation I think.   But would you go as far as taking part in a competition?

Well today marks the start of the Air Guitar World Championships!  In Oulu, northern Finland, which has become synonymous with the competition.   There have been preliminary rounds happening all over the world since April ... I kid you not.  

This is a video of the winner from last year.   I could only cope with watching about 5 seconds of it :) see how far you can get .... These guys look so geeky but they're really funny and having great craic.  

Have fun.   

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.