Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mominski Horo

The 60, 70s and early 80s was an extraordinary time for Irish music. A 'revival' took place with bands such as Planxty, De Dannan, The Bothy Band (and many others) emerging, giving a buzzing, new and youthful feel to traditional tunes that had been circling around pubs and sessions over the last couple of hundred years. Andy Irvine (the beardy one) went one further by travelling in Eastern Europe and bringing back traditional Eastern tunes that he seamlessly wove into the Irish sets, to brilliant effect. Here's Paul Brady, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny with various stringed instruments playing a Mominski Horo.

Take a look at that red haired guy, Paul Brady, who simply couldn't look more Irish if he tried. He sang the best version of one of my most favourite songs (and it's pretty rare that I enjoy a traditional song, I'm far more about the tunes), Arthur McBride. We do it in my band though it'll never be as good as this.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cold and clear

Yesterday we went out to make the most of a rare and perfect cold, wintery day. Bypassing the crowds at the Cowbridge Food Festival, we headed further on to Llantwit Major where there is a pebbly beach and a few shops.

We found a tiny pizzeria for lunch that did really tasty food.

I had Italian sausage and olives on mine

Those delicious and calm looking previous pictures mask the messy reality of sitting down for lunch amid packets of baby wipes with a small child who stuffs handfuls of pizza into his face until he gags and spits it all back out. Here's me trying to drink coffee with a wriggly toddler, squirming and eating packets of sugar, after wrestling with him for 15 minutes when he refused to sit in the highchair.

Back to the idyl. We headed to the beach and set the tiny demon free on the sands. He ran straight towards the wet bits, screamed when we wouldn't let him fall on his face in the icy water and pleasingly pointed and lisped 'dog-eh' every time a bouncy dog leapt past on the shore, spraying sand and seaweed.

I love days like these. I don't mind how cold it gets, as long as the sky is clear.

Looking West towards St Donats and the Nash Point lighthouse. It looks peaceful but we could hear the foghorn being tested and a fighter jet from St Athans was screaming back and forth across the sky.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Inspiration V

      Strutting Bird, by Berthold Löffler  1903
Alonso Cano, San Francisco de Borja (1624)
Illustrations by Olga Kopetzky for Das Nürnberger ABC (Germany, 1912)
Julius Von Klever (1850-1924), Erlkönig, ca. 1887
Louis Anquetin (French, 1861-1932), The Gust of Wind, Bridge over the Seine, 1889. Oil on canvas, 119 x 126 cm. Kunsthalle, Bremen.
Marcel Schwob. La Porte des rêves. Paris, 1899. Illustrations by Georges de Feure
Nils Asplund (1874 - 1958) - Orpheus in the underworld, 1914
Robert de Montesquiou, Montesquiou as the Head of John the Baptist (Honeysuckle fabric by Morris and Company)
William Bruce Ellis Ranken (British, 1881-1941), Young Man Sketching. Oil on canvas, 89 x 69 cm. Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum
Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848-1926) - A Russian dinner menu
Here are some Little Nemo strips by Winsor Zenic McCay, so unsettling and detailed. I will do a whole post on these one day, but here's a taster:

'Where has that cage gone! Oh! I was dreaming again, huh! I did get out of it anyway! Um!'
'There's that boy dreaming again. I heard a thump, I think he fell out of bed. Hey! Nemo!'
'Nephew! Oh!! What is it you want of me eh'

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The race to the finish

Finally things seem to be falling into place for us as we draw to the end of this tumultuous year.

At last we have a car that doesn't grind to a halt down every time you drive above 50mph. We have an offer accepted on that house we wanted a few months ago after writing the owners a begging letter. Our left over mortgage offer from the last house that we failed to exchange on was renewed far more quickly than I had ever dared to imagine, with an extra 6 months expiry date and a (rather ambitious in my opinion) convincing indication that we will be moving over the Christmas holidays.

The end of the year is fast approaching and I'm feeling positive. If all goes according to the plan Christmas is going to be a huge blur of activity, mince pies crammed between packing and organising and presents opened sitting on boxes. I'm trying not to do anything to prepare until we exchange contracts. When we thought we had a house earlier this year I cleared out the utility room, chucked loads of stuff and e-bayed half my life before it fell through and unfolded as a disappointing (though clutter-free) anticlimax.

2013 is going to bring me my first ever mortgage, my first ever toddler (nearly 14 months, he's trying so hard to say words) and from January, the desperate search for furniture and my future in a new town will begin.

I'm obsessed with the final note of Louis Prima's voice in this song. It's incredible.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fiddle: Poll Ha'penny

I'm going to start using YouTube again for uploading tunes. It's such a convenient way to get feedback and keep track of my progress. I used to do it a few years ago but I've had to make all those videos private because of how bad I sound, which is quite encouraging..! I'm not naturally good at playing by myself, I am far more used to playing with others. Hopefully it won't matter too much.

Here's a slow hornpipe called Poll Ha'penny.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Inspiration IV

Francisco Goya- No hubo remedio [There was no help] (1799)
(1857-1917) Interior of the Seville Cathedral - Jose Gallegos y Arnosa
Eric Ravilious - Chalk Paths, 1935
Kacho fugetsu - book cover
He went forth into the dawn sleepless - Elizabeth Shippen Green (1871 – 1954)
Jacques-Louis David, Study for the figure of Plato in the ‘Death of Socrates’ (1787)
Madeline Mackay (Irish, b.1980) Egret her website
‘I was alone in a palace of leaves’- illustration for Harper’s Monthly, Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1902.

Floating Islands - by Dyolten on Flickr

William Blake - The Last Judgement (1808)
"I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land." Blake

Friday, October 19, 2012

My favourite books: The Latin Trilogy - Louis de Bernières

At college and university, if anyone asked me what my favourite book was I would say that it was Louis de Bernières' Latin Trilogy. I'm not sure I could still say the same but then, in my formative years, they were totally my Desert Island books and I will always think Louis de Bernières is a stunning writer.

I still carefully keep my battered, taped up, page wrinkled copies and occasionally read one or the other, just for the pleasure of jumping back into the familiar world I loved so much. I've read them all countless times - I'm not sure I could explain the plots but the atmosphere lingers in my mind. I remember in snatches the characters and stories, just like memories of people I've known or situations I've really been in. The trilogy froths with South American culture, drug wars, lust, whoring, hilarity, revenge, magic, incredible characters and the quick beauty of the mundane. Horrific and extremely difficult to read episodes of brutal torture are never far behind a fateful love story or good deed - like life they are full of moments of huge impact and beauty as well as depression, disaster, illness and death.

They helped give me an appreciation for reality, reinforcing the echo of a memory I have from school that has stuck with me. Many unfortunate things had befallen several pupils in my form all at once. Two people had broken their legs, someone lost their father to a sudden heart attack, one got hit by a car and was injured. I went home and told my parents, commenting on what a bad time everyone was having in my form particularly. My parents told me that it wasn't strange, it was just life in which bad stuff happens a lot and you must learn how to deal with it. I think that was the first time I really appreciated that how you absorb and cope with situations has more to do with how badly or well you react than the situation itself.

These three books were beside me in parallel to my discovering the real world with all its myriad disappointments, banality and drama, and will always hold a very special place in my heart.

One of my Things To Do Before I Die was to go and see Louis de Bernières play the mandolin in the musical group he was in for a while, the Antonius Players.

Unfortunately this will never occur - he is no longer a part of that ensemble, sniff.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My new header

You might have noticed I have a new header. I think it's reeeeeeally beautiful. Huw made it for me.

If you're interested in web design or development, particular if you're in Cardiff or South Wales, take a look at his company, rootsy.

rootsy are particularly experienced in Drupal, E-commerce and Wordpress sites, offering branding, design & development as well as ongoing SEO management. They mainly work with creative and ethical companies like start ups, existing businesses and online shops.

If you're extremely lucky, I could be your copywriter ;)

Go and see!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sussex for the weekend

On Friday we drove down to Sussex to visit my mum, a nightmare journey not helped by my foolish decision to not take the short cut we usually do. A terrible mistake as we hit rush hour traffic by Slough and were delayed by over an hour. We arrived at my mum's house with a sobbing, hungry baby who was way past his bedtime. But it's all soon forgotten.

Saturday was a glorious day with ravishing Turner skies and sun showers. In the morning we went into nearby Lewes to catch up with one of my oldest friends and enjoy breakfast at Bill's (I had Eggs Florentine).

Lewes is now a pastiche of itself, with 'black face' Morris Dancing and extortionate farmer's stalls. Everyone is dressed in Jack Wills, Barbour, Joules or linen and there are more antique shops crammed into a square mile than is good for anyone. The epitome of the English arty middle classes if you could ever want to find such a place. I explain to the cashier in Waitrose that you are charged 5p if you want a plastic bag in Wales and he is bemused.

Back home at my mum's and my sister is there. It's so lovely to see my son with his auntie.

I inspect the damp heat of my mum's tiny geometric green house. Aubergines and peppers hang.

She has a small apple tree too. The fruit inside the apples is as red as their skins.

The last of the passion flowers cling to the fence.

After lunch we decide to go to Sheffield Park and Garden to see the tree colours. We drive down this road which is called Witches Lane.

Designed by Capability Brown in the 18th Century, it's a stunning place, especially in Autumn. The rain threatens and the wind picks up so good photos are difficult.

We find the most incredible and perfect toadstool fairy ring growing up through the orange leaves. I hadn't seen one since I was a child.

Through the Rhododendrons.

Huge mushrooms have appeared between the pine needles.

Here's Sheffield House which is privately owned so you can't go in. A shame because it looks really fantastic.

We go home for dinner.

My mum has exquisite taste in home furnishings.

Jelly mould collection.

Huw and my sister drink red wine.

After stuffed peppers and home made apple and blackberry crumble we say goodbye to my sister who is going back to London. An interesting evening follows in which Huw, mum, her partner and I intensely discuss, as we always end up doing, meditation, reincarnation, consciousness and 'truth'. Language is a huge barrier for us and we always end up agreeing that after hours of talk we are only arguing about jargon.

On Sunday morning we leave at about 12 to get home to Wales before dark. But before we leave we take a short stroll to my mum and her partner's impressive allotment. The first frost has been that night.

Brussel Sprouts.

Squash grown from a packet of seeds that my grandmother, who died in 2004, gave my mum many years ago.


Rainbow chard.

The dew is still on the grass at 11.30am. My mum's partner who is from Nottingham chats with some neighbours at the swings. Their accents hail from The North too though they have lived in Sussex for 18 years after moving down from Yorkshire. "It's a totally different world down here" they agree. Living in Wales, we get the nod of recognition too. "You don't realise until you go back."

We leave and start the 4 hour drive home. I watch the landscape change and the clouds gather.

Over the Bridge to Wales, home with my jar of homemade blackberry and apple jam and greenhouse peppers. It was nice to go back.