Na na na nanana naaaaa, nana na na, hey Jude!


Fourteen years ago I picked up my GCSE results, walked back down the hill from the top site hall to my house, picked up my bag, piled into a car and was driven, by Mum, to Towersey Village Festival.  

 

I didn’t know that I would be attending 12 of the following 14 years’ festivals, nor that I would remain camping with the same kind people who feed me and give me a chair to sit in and a gazebo to be sheltered by.  I didn’t know that people from that festival would inspire me to study their music at university or trust me to be involved in the behind the scenes workings.

Happy Birthday Towersey

Happy Birthday Towersey

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Out of reach, so far…


I’ve got a bit of a problem.  I’m totally in love with Mark Darcy and I can’t get him out of my head. There is a good reason for this, I’ve had a fair bit of bus travel lately and so have binge-read Bridget Jones’ Diary and am now over halfway through Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (book is far superior to the film, to me the film never existed).

Am now though thinking, and writing, about self as ‘self’, starting to wallow in self pity at lack of boyfriend and wanting to resort to urban family for support.  Unfortunately, urban family is spread across 3 different continents, a number of time zones, many are no longer singletons (although in no way smug about it) and I should be doing other things instead of pining about something that it totally impractical anyway.

So, reasons for being currently in love with Mark Darcy:

1) Is helpful in the kitchen and thoughtful at birthday (v.good)

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Lucky the mole born into a musical family…


The title of this blog post comes from the first line of a book I love ‘The Musical Life of Gustav Mole’.  It’s not a book many other people I know have heard of, but I had it as a child and it was illustrated by my Grandmother’s friend Kathy Meyrick.  The Amazon review says ‘Gustav Mole is lucky enough to be born into a musical family, and this charming tale traces the enriching role that music plays in his life. Gustav’s musical education is rich and diverse, covering a wide variety of genres and styles. This is the perfect introduction to musical instruments, ensembles and occasions, and a humourous and sensitive exploration of what music can bring to our lives.’

Gustav starts off playing pots and pans on the kitchen floor, moves on to other instruments at school and eventually learns violin.  It’s a beautiful book in many ways and that opening line as always stuck with me.  Lucky the mole born into a musical family.  I consider myself to be a lucky mole.  My mother was a dancer, my father probably could have played instruments but didn’t, I think he sang well but it was mostly under his breath.

As I was walking back through Brackley to Turweston this afternoon I was thinking about how lucky I have been because of little things that have happened and how they have helped shape me into who I am now…  I spent years away from music because other things got in the way and I lost touch with people lost confidence in myself and then was a little scared to throw myself back into it.  But spending the weekend at Warwick Folk Festival has helped to change my perspective again.  I had forgotten the friendliness of people within this community, I had forgotten the safe, welcoming atmosphere of a good festival, I had forgotten the enjoyment you can have singing in front of an audience.

If Mum had not decided that she wanted to learn to clog dance, if Delphine hadn’t put up an ad in Brackley Town Hall advertising clog within Owlswick Morris which Mum saw and joined, if Dad hadn’t been keen on the Corries, Fairport Convention, The Oysterband, if there had never been a degree set up in folk music, I might never have taken the path through life that I have so far.

I was nervous about heading to the festival this weekend.  It’s all very well sending off an email asking for a gig when you are living on a different continent, but it’s another thing when all that’s standing between you and singing, on your own, in front of people.  I’m not going to lie, I did think about ringing up to say I was ill and couldn’t make it, but having worked the other side, I know how much hassle that would cause, even though I’m not at all known as a performer.  And were I to have done that, it would have been another example of my self-sabotage, which I am trying to avoid.

So Richard dropped me off at the bus stop, I got the train and started frantically trying to remember songs and roughly time them to help plan my sets.  There was a moment of panic when I thought I only knew 5 songs, but soon they started to come back to me.  A short taxi ride and I arrived at the festival.

My first impression was that it was relaxed and smaller than I’d expected based on the line up.  There were no barriers between the main site and campsites, giving it a more relaxed feel in that respect than others I’ve been to.

My first gig was on the Co-op stage, a small raised platform with about 25 seats in front.  The first half of the show came from The Wild Man of the Woods, who told us tales about the woodland, the history of ‘The Green Man’ and how our modern idea of him may have come about along with songs.  It was great and we had a few chats over the course of the weekend.

Then it was me.  There was one face I recognised in the audience, Maurice, who was vocal in his appreciation of the songs. Thanks for that! And when I was done thankfully people came up to talk to me and tell me they enjoyed it.  It’s always nice when people do that.

Work done for the day I had some amazing jerk chicken, pork and curried goat from the Caribbean stall (take a look at the food blog in a few days for my review) and then I watched the concert featuring Demon Barbers XL, O’Hooley and Tidow and  Jim Moray and the Skulk Ensemble.  They were all brilliant, but the highlight for me was definitely O’Hooley and Tidow, who I’d not seen on a main stage before.  Their nomination for best duo at the Folk Awards was well deserved and I bought their beautiful album ‘The Fragile’.  Although my ipod was sadly drowned in my tent during the festival, once it is either restored or replaced (more likely) I am sure I’ll be listening to ‘The Fragile’ on repeat.

Saturday’s lunchtime concert was in a cafe in town and a slightly different atmosphere.  I didn’t feel quite as comfortable and I think perhaps that came across during the performance, but it’s good practise.  My sister and her family came along to watch and afterwards we headed back to the main festival site, playing ‘spot the castle’ with Imogen.

We didn’t get far into the festival as the kids wanted to watch the morris dancers.  Having grown up with morris, Alex and I are pretty used to the inherent strangeness of it – people dressed in funny colours, bells, flowers, clogs – but the kids were mesmerized.  One asked if they could come in their van and stay sometime.  I think they will also be moles born into a musical family.

Time spent wandering around, trying to get a fiddle fixed, feeding children passed and they had to go and I had to get ready for the next gig.  This one was in the Music Department and I was so tired from being kept up by my tent neighbours I had to sit down for half of it.  I don’t think anyone minded too much and I’ve written my first song based upon those neighbours.   I got soaked heading back to the tent and that’s when I found the death of the ipod.  Let’s just take a minute to mourn a friend of over 6 years.

Sunday morning was crisp, cool and glorious.  I sat and chatted to Jan of Jan’s Van for about an hour or so about anything and everything.  I wanted to get a portrait of her and although it’s not what I had in my head, i still like it.

I had one more concert to do and it turned out to be my favourite.  A sing around style concert ‘Women’s Song’ in the title, me, Rosie Hood and Salvation Jane.  I’d not heard Rosie or Salvation Jane before so when they were singing I was just sitting and listening, almost startled when it came to be my turn.

It was one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever had, relaxed, warm (atmosphere, physically I was freezing!) and I had some lovely chats with people afterwards.  (Seriously, if you ever happen to come to one of my gigs – please do – and want to say anything afterwards, please do, despite appearances I’m not overly confident and it’s helpful to hear what people want to say!)

So I could relax, wander around taking photos and was called over by the lovely Amy Davenport and introduced to her in-laws Paul and Liz Davenport, who very kindly bought me dinner, provided me with an amazing chocolate cake and gave me advice about promoting myself and getting recording.  I’m sure I’ve bumped into them before over the course of my festivals and folking, but it was lovely to talk to them.

Of course there was lots more but if I go on I’ll bore you further, but one of the last things that I heard before I left came from my former boss, Jonathan, who said that the good thing about Warwick as a festival is that children can, even for a weekend, have a bit of a free childhood.  They can go off and wander, explore, play, watch musicians and dancers, try different things in a safe environment.  I think this is part of why I love folk music so much, it’s a community, it’s a family and I’m a lucky mole to have been born into it.

‘Of all the money that ere I spent, I spent it in good company’

Jan told me to take a portrait when she wasn't looking.  This is it.

Jan told me to take a portrait when she wasn’t looking. This is it.

Men of Morris

Men of Morris

Passing on knowledge

Passing on knowledge

Jan and her Van

Jan and her Van

The Wild Man of the Woods

The Wild Man of the Woods

Crab apple or unripe apple?

Crab apple or unripe apple?

Jim Moray

Jim Moray

Teardrop

Teardrop

O'Hooley and Tidow

O’Hooley and Tidow

Slow-Mo XL

Slow-Mo XL

Belinda O'Hooley

Belinda O’Hooley

Heidi Tidow

Heidi Tidow

Demon Barbers XL

Demon Barbers XL

Clogging

Clogging

Demon Barbers XL in action

Demon Barbers XL in action

Unicycle

Unicycle

A perfect time for dinner

A perfect time for dinner

Blue skies over Warwick

Blue skies over Warwick

Amy Davenport dancing.

Amy Davenport dancing.

Fun at the Festival

Fun at the Festival

Jan's Van

Jan’s Van

For more of my Warwick Festival Pictures, take a look at my new Flickr page.

An aside for various friends…


I found this poem when I tried, spectacularly unsuccessfully, to learn Hungarian.  This may seem an odd choice of language to learn, and well, it is, but since I had had members of a Hungarian folk band and dance group coming to stay with us since I was 12, it seemed polite to at least try.

I’ve managed to learn simple phrases like:

Yes – Igen

No – Nem

Thank you – Köszönöm

Please – Kérem

Good morning – Jó reggelt.

Good afternoon – Jó napot.

Good evening – Jó estét.

Good night/sweet dreams – Jó éjszakát.

Cheers – Egészségédre!

So at least it’s a start at the language, I can be polite, but the poem has become one of my favourites.  It is about a couple, but since I have no boyfriend at the moment (or for the forseeable future) then I’m thinking it actually fits well with friends here and far away…

I guard your eyes
With my aging hand,
with my aging eyes,
let me hold your lovely hand,
let me guard your lovely eyes.
Worlds have tumbled,
through their fall
like a wild beast chased by fright
I came, and I on you did call
scared, I wait with you inside.
With my aging hand,
with my aging eyes,
let me hold your lovely hand,
let me guard your lovely eyes.
I do not know why, or how long
can I thus remain for you –
but I hold your lovely hand
and I guard your lovely eyes.
Endre Ady

“…you were born in a merry hour…”


“No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born…”

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.  I think it’s a very accessible way of seeing Shakespeare, which I started seeing live on my 12th birthday.  Yes, it’s a bit far fetched that Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves are brothers and Keanu’s not really worked on his acting, but Michael Keaton is a joy as Dogberry and it has a great pairing of Beatrice and Benedick in Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.  The characters just spark off each other from the beginning of the play/film, trading insults and quips, with equal levels of intelligence. They deceive themselves in thinking that they don’t care anything for each other, but after being tricked by their friends they have an open and honest declaration of their feelings and have one of the strongest relationships in Shakespeare’s plays.  (Sorry to anyone who has actually studied literature, I just really like Shakespeare and that’s my understanding of it, feel free to correct me in the comments….)

Growing up I saw these films and plays, I read books and imagined that one day I would meet someone  like Jo Marsh meets Professor Bhaer, Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley, you get the picture.  Basically someone who gets me, can put up with my nonsense and give back as good as they get from me.  Someone who I feel completely comfortable with and can just be myself.

Now I know someone like that, in fact my Mum even said he was my Mr Knightley, and I’ve loved him for years.  With all that’s been going on I thought it was about time to tell him, because he might feel the same, or he might not, either way I would know and could either give it a go with him (not sure how that would work in separate continents) or let it go and find someone equally marvellous but who wanted to be with me.  So I told him, I wrote a letter.

I was very stressed waiting for a reply – never post something important over a weekend, it just drags out nervousness – but when I got one, well, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for but it was good to hear.  Not sure why I was worried really, I knew that he would be really good about it and reply in a way that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  So, yes, it doesn’t seem like my life is going to be working out as it does for literary heroines, but there you go, it rarely does.  I’ll just have to keep reading things with a pinch of salt and remember that reality isn’t always so neatly plotted – happy ever afters don’t just drop by, you’ve got to make some choices to help you find your own, but if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.  So I tried and it didn’t quite work, but I’m glad that I did.  I’m now back in touch with a really good friend and don’t have to be trying to hide how I feel (apparently I wasn’t so successful in that anyway because he already knew.  Balls)  I know he’ll always be there if I need him and life is much better with him in it, whether we are a couple or not.

So that’s that then, and in 5 days I go back to Africa.  These past five weeks have been a huge mixture of emotions, but I’ve got normal life to get back to…

(For those of you wondering, I know I would be, I let him read this before publishing it, it seemed only fair.  His only comment to add was: “You should mention that I was wowed by your paella.  I certainly was.” So there you have it.)