Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Torn Jacket / Cooleys

The Torn Jacket / Cooleys

One more video from our practice, these are a couple of nice reels. Cooleys I've known for years, no idea how I learned it and The Torn Jacket I got from the middle of this stunning Martin Hayes (one of my favourite Clare style fiddlers) & Dennis Cahill YouTube Video:

That particular tune just stayed with me after I saw the video, spinning round and round in my head for days, I almost didn't have to learn it as my brain had already worked out the notes before I tried it - I've loved it ever since.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two jigs: practicing fiddle in the garden

A video from the first band practice for ages for me. Unfortunately it's without our full line up,  the sound quality isn't the best and the baby is grumbling all the way through but otherwise you get the jist...

A couple of my favourite jigs - Mac's Fancy / The Mist on the Mountain. 

I learned these from a spectacular De Dannan record which is definitely worth purchasing legally over the internet if you are any sort of fan of traditional music that shatters your bones. 

These are a couple of the several tunes that I learned by ear, a mean feat for someone as attached to sheet music (strangely known as 'dots' in the trad world) as me. 

I try to learn all the tunes I can by ear, it takes longer than just quickly sight reading music (at which I am a master) but the end result is far better. The tunes trip from your fingers far more naturally and in an ideal world I wouldn't use sheet music at all.

Next weekend we're playing at a street party in Crickhowel for the Jubilee.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Saki: The Short Stories of Hector Hugh Munroe

I really love short stories, so much. The hardest of literary forms to write, I admire the neatness of a few pages of prose where each word counts and a plot can hang from a single turn of phrase. There are two short story authors I love best of all, one male and one female. I cannot count the times I've read each of their collected works, and each time I find one more sentence to appreciate, something I've missed.

It seems a shame to only fully appreciate two but I've given Chekov a fair chance, I've battled through O Henry, I've tried to appreciate Angela Carter and turgid Turgenev... but nothing comes close to the two greatest ever short story writers in my opinion, Saki (Hector Hugh Munroe) and Dorothy Parker.

Dorothy can wait for another post, but Saki, oh Saki. I'm going to write about you.

Saki was the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, a gay Edwardian journalist who was killed by a German sniper in the first world war (his last words were, and this anecdote sounds like one of his stories, "Put that bloody cigarette out!"). Luckily, before that he produced some of the funniest and finest stories known to mankind.

I wish I could remember where I discovered the Collected Short Stories of Saki, it seems as if it's always been in my life.... I can open it and read from anywhere, it's like being wrapped in a comforting duvet while someone with a fantastical name tells you a wickedly funny story with a twist at the end you never expected.

In college, our English Literature A Level class were asked to bring in a favourite book and read a section of it aloud to the rest of our peers. In a rare fit of learning enthusiasm I excitedly brought in my battered copy of Saki planning to read 'Tobermory'.

I then experienced possibly the most embarrassing moment of my life when I noticed that everyone else had simply gone to the library in the break before the lesson to retrieve a 'cool' Stephen King book that they could pretend was their favourite.

So you can imagine how this went down to a class of bored, sneering 18 year olds:

"It was a chill, rain-washed afternoon of a late August day, that indefinite season when partridges are still in security or cold storage, and there is nothing to hunt—unless one is bounded on the north by the Bristol Channel, in which case one may lawfully gallop after fat red stags. 

Lady Blemley's house-party was not bounded on the north by the Bristol Channel, hence there was a full gathering of her guests round the tea-table on this particular afternoon. And, in spite of the blankness of the season and the triteness of the occasion, there was no trace in the company of that fatigued restlessness which means a dread of the pianola and a subdued hankering for auction bridge. The undisguised open-mouthed attention of the entire party was fixed on the homely negative personality of Mr. Cornelius Appin. Of all her guests, he was the one who had come to Lady Blemley with the vaguest reputation. Some one had said he was "clever," and he had got his invitation in the moderate expectation, on the part of his hostess, that some portion at least of his cleverness would be contributed to the general entertainment. Until tea-time that day she had been unable to discover in what direction, if any, his cleverness lay" 

Even my teacher looked at me oddly after that day and nobody asked me to recommend them any literature.

But you can't just sample a few paragraphs of one story to appreciate Saki (I should have mentioned that at my 'reading') you have to immerse yourself in the Edwardian world of manners, the talking animals, the viciously smart children, the unpleasant elderly aunts who deserve to die, the miserable artists and the vain, well dressed cads obsessed with asparagus sauce. The names, oh my god, the characters names should receive an award in their own right:

Clovis Sangrail
Sredni Vashtar
Conradin De Ropp
Odo Finsberry
Arlington Stringham
Luitpold Wolkenstein
Lulworth Quayne

You can read many Saki stories online, but I recommend buying a copy. I might just go and read some now, starting with The Un-Rest Cure...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Detmold Twins: Life and death

Although I live in Wales, I come from Sussex from an area where many great artists and writers lived.

Charleston is just down the road from my childhood home, Virginia Woolf drowned herself in the river Ouse and Rudyard Kipling lived nearby in Burwash.

I recently visited Batemans, the Jacobean home of Rudyard Kipling, now a National Trust property.


There were loads of interesting things on display at the house but I wanted to mention the works of the Detmold Twins in particular because their artwork is as strange and fascinating as their life story.

I was already aware of their work and saw some at the Age of Enchantment exhibition in 2008 at the Dulwich Picture Gallery but, in a tiny wood paneled room, my eye was caught by their beautiful illustrations for the Jungle Book. I had no idea these were kept at Batemans.
The twins, Edwards and Maurice, were treated as one individual in their early creative life, producing brilliantly observed wildlife paintings, but this ended when Maurice suddenly killed himself aged 25.

Edward worked alone until the age of 74 when he too committed suicide.

Here are some of the sublime Jungle Book illustrations:

This painting is my favourite - up close the black outlines are quite thick, giving a beautiful defined feel to both the elephant and the man which contrasts with the faded background
Richard Dalby in The Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration tells their story better than I could:

"The Detmold twins were a unique phenomenon in British art, recognized by their contemporaries as a single creative personality divided between two bodies'. Their remarkable etchings and watercolours of plants and animals, minutely detailed in the Japanese manner, are all prized collector's items.

Charles Frederick and Edward Barton Detmold were born in Putney, south London, on 21 November 1883. Their middle names were later replaced by Maurice' and Julius', but the two boys were generally called Maurice and Edward.

Edward Detmold
At the age of 5 the twins developed a dual passion for drawing and observing animals, and made regular sketching expeditions to Regent's Park Zoo and the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, where they drew detailed sketches of shells, crayfish, monkey skulls, and hundreds of other animal subjects. Their first book, Pictures from Birdland, comprising 24 colour plates, was published by J.M. Dent for the Christmas market in 1899. The Detmolds' most celebrated joint achievement, and among the finest book illustrations ever produced, was the set of 16 watercolours depicting scenes from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Macmillan first issued these in November 1903 Maurice suddenly committed suicide in April 1908.
Maurice Detmold
Edward was devastated but was determined to carry on with all the various ideas and projects they had originally planned in unison. He joined the ranks of Hodder & Stoughton's immortal band of gift book illustrators with the superb 1909 edition of Aesop's Fables.

His final two opulent gift books for Hodder & Stoughton were Fabre's Book of Insects (1921), with 12 remarkable colour studies of the beautiful and bizarre denizens of the insect world a seen through Detmold's microscope' eye; and The Arabian Nights (1924), a very successful change of direction into the realms of exotic fantasy. On the strength of The Arabian Nights, Detmold could have become one of the greatest illustrators of fantasy and fairy stories. During the 1920s Detmold continued to draw, paint, and hold exhibitions of etchings and drypoints, but it was not long before he retired completely from public life. "

[next quote taken from Poul Webb Art Blog]:

To quote from Keith Nicholson's introductory essay in The Fantastic Creatures of Edward Julius Detmold:

"A decade of intense activity was drawing to a close. Detmold could look back upon some fine achievements, but he was disillusioned with many of the uninspiring commissions for children's books he had undertaken. A pointless and destructive world war emphasized his worst forebodings of man's direction in the new century. The happiness of his childhood and the loss of his twin brother, now recollected in an uneasy tranquillity, combined to produce an existential crisis in the artist.

In the wake of feeling that life for him had become meaningless and intolerable, he produced a literary work which testifies to his readings in Schopenhauerian pessimism and the Buddhist philosophy of the Upanishadr and the Bhagavad-Gita. Life, his only un-illustrated work, a book of aphorisms, was published by J. M. Dent in 1921. A key book to an understanding of Detmold's mind, Life is an inauspicious-looking small volume printed on one side of the leaf only. In his preface the author writes: `The following words have come to the writer, over a period of many years, as the fruits of self-overcoming.'

From the curious, mystical text we learn that there are two ways of attainment: `The direct positive way - through progressive liberation - passing from the lesser realisation of the body, to the greater realisation of the mind, and therefrom to the realisation of the infinite through the soul; and the direct negative way -through disillusionment - which comes of infatuation with things in themselves, and the inevitable passing thereof.'

In the event, Life was Detmold's farewell to the public world of books, and his testament."


On 1 July 1957 he committed suicide, nearly half a century after the death of his twin brother.

There are some lovely images of Edward Detmold's later work in two parts (one and two) on the Poul Webb Art Blog.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Art from the photobucket vaults

I tried tonight to scroll back through internet history on the Wayback Machine and recover all my old 'art'work from Elfwood. Yes, embarrassingly, I was big on Elfwood (Gallery 271!) in 2002, getting 'Moderator's Choice' twice in my time.. yes twice. I know.

Amazingly my gallery was there on a snapshot from 2004, but I could only see the thumbnails of most of the pictures and the full sizes wouldn't load. Distressing.....

I deleted my gallery a few years ago after spending ages trying to get into it and then discovering that my 16 year old self had used the password 'wormsickness' (what?!) and was sure I saved all my old pictures to my computer somewhere, but now I can't find them.

I have the originals of some of them but some are lost, gone forever, given to old friends, boyfriends, sent across the world.

I saved what I could and went on a trawl through my entire computer to dredge up any old drawings and doodles from 2003 and beyond, they are mostly bad photos of pictures which is a bit sad.

I will just leave these here for my biographers:

Teratoma - 2004. Sick.

 This was something I drew in 2007, it was going to be a book illustration but the book never got published. Probably just as well in retrospect.

2006 - a blind woman being pursued by a serpent.

 2007 - a doodle, I distinctly remember listening to David Bowie while doing this. I had no job and lived in a small room in Brighton listening to the guy next door practicing his DJing.

This was also meant for the book which never got published.

Djinn, gave this original away, it was a birthday card. I don't remember when I drew it.

  The Frog Mouse - this was for a poem my friend wrote, probably 2001. This is one of my favourites. I feel it combines frog-ness and mouse-ness effectively.

 Doodles cut from the sides of my college notes 2001-2003.

 This was also for the book.. the drawing I love the most. It's for a story called The Lost Camel

 Here is a terrible picture of a big unfinished A3 drawing I did whilst living in a small yellow shoebox room in Reading in 2005. There was a piece of graffiti across the road that I always thought was really over dramatic and petulant: 'They never understood' - it was under that exact tree and somehow my pen just took over to the right there.

'detail' which isn't at all detailed.

 I have no recollection of drawing this - it's a failed one.

 Continually drawing for things that never materialize - here's an unfinished CD cover that never actually happened

Ugly face woman lying down

Here's the link to my old Elfwood Gallery, where you can read all sorts of pretentious and hideous things I wrote in 2002 and 2004. I was having a Will Self phase (does everyone have those?) and I thought nihilism was the best thing ever.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I really dislike money management so it's odd that I've become an accidental expert at being a tight old miser. That's what happens when you move to another land, take two and a half years to get a proper job and then promptly go on maternity leave whilst desperately trying to scrape together a house deposit.

In these financially enlightened days I often weep when I think of all the money I've wasted over the years. That time I gave £250 house deposit to a flaky vegetarian girl in Brighton who predictably disappeared immediately afterwards (I like to think I am 'trusting' rather than incurably naive)...

..that time I 'one click' bought an legal copy of Microsoft Word from Amazon to write my dissertation and sent it to my old house by mistake....goodbye £100, despite bodily forcing the poor estate agent to go back to the house and check through the post. 

At university I had absolutely no concept of money, although my one redeeming action was to get a part time job during my third year and pay my rent for a term at least without sponging that off my parents. I didn't actually do any degree work but that's another story.

Here is a list of ways I've made money over the last couple of years outside my not very impressive wages. I feel like I deserve an award because I've got through maternity leave without spending any savings. I can't relax however because soon I will have £55 in my savings account and nothing else, after we give our every last penny to the solicitors (we got the mortgage by the way!) and awake to find ourselves sitting on the floor in our first house because we can't afford a sofa:

1) Register Self Employed
I am lucky enough that I've quite arbitrarily come across people who will pay me for writing for them. I've written copy for travel and flights websites, psychology blogs, airport car parking sites, blogs for jazz bands and most recently I've taken on work writing for a front door company. It's been quite challenging getting work done in between looking after the 10 month old 'early walker' I've been blessed with... but I am in no position to complain. The bad thing about being self employed is that you have to do a tax return. I usually just shut my eyes and hope for the best. I would eventually like to be completely self employed, that would be nice.

2) Survey Sites
I've seriously made around £200 from Onepoll and no one believes me. Not a hugely life-changing amount but as I'm constantly on my computer I might as well get paid for answering questions about tanning, who is sponsoring the Olympics and pudding. I also got £10 from Valued Opinions but I can't stand their website and they obviously hate me too as I have now been banned from all their surveys for an unfathomable reason.

3) Music Magpie
I love Music Magpie. I've made £90 on tonnes of old CDs. There are only two bad things about it. One is that I've now run out of CDs to sell and the other one is that their marketing emails are truly the worse I've ever had the pleasure of deleting from my inbox.

4) eBay
I know I'm late to the eBay party but I've only just got into it after being irrational scared of it for years. My 2012 news years resolution was to learn how to use it and it's going well so far. I've made a few hundred pounds selling loads of old rubbish floating around my flat. I do have nightmares about negative feedback though.

5) Money Saving Expert
When I first decided to be good with money I went on Money Saving Expert and ended up on a forum where someone was advising readers to kneel down and look at the level of milk in all the cartons in the supermarket, as 'you can often get an extra cup of tea out of some of them' and I immediately backed away from my computer in horror. However, these days I do like to browse the advice, lurk in the 'Debt Free Wannabe' forum and congratulate myself on how I never got a credit card and have no debt apart from my Student Loan which clearly doesn't count.

6) Don't buy anything
This may not come as a surprise but I really don't buy much. I don't buy new clothes, I don't go out, I don't spend anything on myself apart from bare essentials. I make up for this barren, boring existence by buying special baby stuff and not skimping on nice food. Food is something I won't feel bad for spending money on, however you will still see me beating aside old ladies to get to anything that's reduced and bulk buying toilet rolls, shampoo and washing powder in ASDA.

7) Sell your guitar
I sold my bass guitar to a evangelical Christian for the grand sum of £175.

It's so banal I know to keep going on about money. Maybe one day I will stop being shocked at myself for being able to survive in the adult world and stop talking about it. That is the last I will mention of it, I promise.