Fantastic night at Azeems

I have never been made so welcome, thank you. I have played all over the place, up and down the country and people often ask me ‘where’s good?’. There’s always a pause whilst I think and then I say – well it smelt good! Mr Ali made sure I went home with a huge bag of different dishes to try. They even cooked a special meal for Dave who has such a complicated diet and hasn’t been able to have a standard curry for about 2 years! This time if you ask me ‘where’s good?’ – I can truly answer! AZEEMS in Keighley. I was delighted to have at last fathomed my new phone and answered correctly instead of cutting the poor caller off – and further delighted to discover the caller was ringing to ask me to provide the music for Bradford Literature Festival’s opening night. I received quite a few invites to London last year by surprised guests. They were fascinated by multi-cultural harp music and the full sound I could achieve from the one instrument – all the work making my unique harps and the amazing music from The Books of Caris and Anon is paying off at last!

I am sitting on top of the hill looking down three valleys and watching Dave metal detecting.  I spot a small VW camper van winding its way through the village and smile.   It belongs to friends of ours and is called Florence, they are setting off on holiday.  I cannot sit here forever alas, Dave’s finds are coming in thick and fast – buttons, pennies, halfpennies, buckles and a lovely token with ‘Oxenhope ??? Company Ltd – 3d’ and I go to help.   The memory of the Wedding is still fresh in my mind, they loved the harp music and the bands were brilliant.   All in all a fabulous day and all my love and best wishes for health and happiness go to Luke and Susan.

Breaking strings and stringing it all together

Phew!   The weather has cooled down – the hotter and more stormy it gets the more strings break!   The quick way to get a string on in the middle of a concert is to get a ‘used’ one and thread it through the 1 mm diameter hole from the back.   Not that difficult I hear you say, but the humidity was so bad the wood had expanded and the string holes had nearly closed up and to get better sound there is a wooden panel on the back of the harp with sound holes, just big enough to get your hand in to carry it, so you have to thread it through one of these holes as well!   The ‘torch’ on the mobile phone is held with the other hand directed at the spot.   I actually had a lunchtime recital in one town followed by an evening one so had the chance to have a long walk.  I ended up in the graveyard where is was lovely and cool and was drawn over to a huge monument nearly covered by saplings and ivy.   The first thing that hit me was the date – 8th August 1833 – the same day but 182 years ago.   I pulled some leaves back and read the incredibly sad story that four l9 year old  lads from this town had taken a ‘pleasure boat’ out on Lake Windermere and it had overturned and all four had drowned.  The townsfolk had erected the monument because, I read, they were ‘sympathizing with the poor family and friends’ of these boys.   The monument stands in Newsome Church in Huddersfield.  On a happier note … I have nearly, but, not quite, finished my dress for my son, Luke and Susans’ Wedding this Saturday.  The harp has already set off on its journey to Ireland.    Can’t wait … 🙂 x

of frogs and harps

The grass was wet and my long dress was getting heavier and heavier as the water soaked upwards leaving a line of mud at the top.   It had reached my knees before we came through ‘The Orchid Field’ and back onto the cut lawns by the ‘Temple’ where the ceremony was taking place!   I had started by tucking my dress into my knickers and had put my shoes in my satchel (harp bag) on my back.  The dress wouldn’t stay put, I was pushing the harp, precariously balanced on an old pram base and I put my shoes on very quickly when I accidently trod on a slimy frog.  Me and frogs don’t really get on.   There is a huge one living in an old bucket in the garden.   I wanted to clear it up and started to move the bucket but there was a slight movement at the bottom and the huge frog stared back at me challenging my actions so I thought better of it.  At a private lunch once HRH Prince Charles was a guest – still single in those days – he asked me to carry on playing the harp whilst he walked round the garden.  He disappeared behind a huge line of bushes and a frog jumped out into the middle of the lawn.  Five security guards appeared and urged me to kiss it.   I hesitated and much to my embarrassment Prince Charles appeared back laughing questioning why I had hesitated.

Major and Minor

were cart horses when I was a child in our village.  I’m not that old but when all the other farms had tractors the Tinkler sisters kept theirs just as it had always been.   They must have been in their eighties with buns, longish dresses and they wore pinnies most of the time.  It was one of the biggest farms in the district and I loved watching those horses work.  Their farm hand was called Tommy and he kept frogs in the bath of his farm cottage, bought 7 lots of fish and chips every week for his suppers and only washed his feet after hay timing to get rid of all the seeds which irritated him.  He always chatted to us kids when a big group of us walked back and forth to school.  There was an old lady who lived opposite him who was very old and stooped, she actually still wore a long dress and black shawl and picked dandelions every single day to eat.  She never spoke to us but half smiled, it was very difficult for her to move her head as it was permanently facing down.  They are cutting the grass here in this valley tonight as I write – two and three massive tractors side by side – so different – the Tinkler  sisters would be upset I suspect.  I played the harp at Ribchester last night and have only just realised I never even advertised it!   It sold out almost immediately.  I prepared the harp ‘Chorus’ polishing her till she shone and then she broke a string so last minute I loaded ‘Mystical’ into the car and did a quick dust with the inside of my dress before I started to play.

A poem from my Husband

To my Wife
Your smile is radiant your heart is as warm as the sun
You fill me with joy and make me feel number 1
Your energy , your tenderness , your ingenious and your warm caress.
Your youthfulness, playfulness , to me you are simply the best.
The talent you possess the way you work things out with your cleverness .
To me you are my everything whatever life may bring
Scarlets ribbons emblazoned against a bright blue sky.
I think back to the time that we first met
And I smile as we shook hands how could I forget?
You took me home and loved me and you fed me too
You put me back together without using glue.
You filled my heart with love so earnest
And that spark of love became a raging furnace.
Before I met you I was broken unfixable and so I thought
But with your patience , a great love you taught
A love so special that I am so grateful for
I love each day more and more
I do not feel worthy of the love you give
You are so special and it is for you that I live.
We have been married 8 years now
Gosh the time has passed “Holy Cow”
As I take your hand in mine again today
I will think back to our wedding day
Where a garland of flowers filled you hair
And it was our special day and we did not have a care
I love you my mad harpist , joiner , farmer , friend
My love for you I could not pretend .
I love you freely , and you make me the happiest man ever
To me you are my everything whatever life might bring
Scarlet ribbons emblazoned on a bright blue sky.

The bar had an ‘honesty’ book

When I arrived all the staff were in panic – the chairs, covers and purple bows were all set up outside in the grounds of the ruined Abbey.   Of course it rained!   It was all hands on deck setting up the chairs inside and draping the covers and bows over bannisters to dry.  I took one look, ‘parked’ the harp up in an alcove, and set off to find the bar.  It was deserted, all but an ‘honesty’ book.   Having far too many strings and a strict music list I walked in and filled a pint-glass with water.  The bride was late (very late as it happens as her driver inadvertently drove into well known roadworks costing her half an hour).  Finally the room was ready, the bride arrived, calm and beautiful, and the sun shone brilliantly outside.  The ever popular, Dodge, hasn’t starred in this blog for a while but he gets a mention tonight.  He has pushed the fence over letting Donald and Daphne out again.  It took an hour and two packets of cakes to get the escapee ducks back into their pen last week.  The theory was to pen them up for the first few weeks to get them used to their new home and then try and let them out in the daytime.   They have now left their wooden duck house and decided to live under the tractor.

Well, this was a first for me

The scene was set – high up in the Dales, miles from anywhere, in a small orchard, the couple holding hands under an arch of roses – I was playing the theme from ‘Out of Africa’ and a bird flew past … the harp was covered from top to bottom!   I carried on playing but the guests were amused.  They decided to leave it be for good luck.   The drive up was amazing.   The slopes of the fells were blue with bluebells, the leaves weren’t out it was so high up and the bog cotton made the marshy valley bottoms white.   I passed an old caravan on the way to Appleby.   It was pulled by a matched pair of black feathered feet horses, an old lady bent over the traces being cheered on by her grandchildren at the side of the road.   Her face was old but the sparkling blue eyes that looked out were one and twenty.   Dodge hasn’t starred in the Blog this week as he is in his favourite field and behaving quite well.   He is fascinated with the new ducks, Donald and Daphne.  He spends hours with his head over their fence drinking from their pond instead of drinking from the trough at his side of the fence.

Dodge the Donkey is no game

He’s done it again.  The weeks go by with routine harp lessons, feeding the hens, cat and dogs – everything follows the same pattern with the same sounds.   Then you wake up to an unusual sound.   This was like what you would imagine a scarp/breakers yard to sound like.   Ear splitting sounds of metal banging metal, wood splitting, dogs barking … and a donkey braying.   A few seconds of panic and then you realise – its got to be Dodge.   Scramble into clothes, get the ‘bribe’ bucket ready (peelings mixed in with pony nuts), shove your feet into wellies, unlock the doors and follow the noise.  We had locked Dodge up in his winter stable as the rain was unrelenting the other night.  He had smashed the door past the locks and then smashed the outer door open.   Then he had decided to go back in and upset all the metal feed bins and ransack the last of the hay, neatly piled.   Arghhhhh!  He saw me coming and quickly slid the bar on the old metal garden gate with his nose to let himself onto the drive.  I shook the bribe bucket enticingly which stopped him in his tracks then I had 2 seconds to get a head start, sprint across the farm yard and open the field gate before he galloped through the garden towards me.   I dumped the bucket in the field entrance and dived into the hedge just as Dodge did his emergency stop to get his pony nuts (all four legs outstretched in front skidding on the mud).  Chorus the harp gets an outing this week for an international corporate event – the sound of that harp is improving with every week so I am looking forward to it immensely.

cold hands

Whilst visiting the Photography Museum in Bradford we all noticed that my face and hands appeared black on the heat imaging camera screen!   My circulation is terrible but I hadn’t realised just how bad it was until then – the place was lovely and warm!   The more I play the colder my hands get – it’s always been the case and I can still play whilst outside in the winter!   (I have hand warmers hidden in my pockets though)   Came home for a hot cup of tea which reminded me that my Dad visited Chicago in the 70s and came across his very first teabag.   He had just landed and being a typical English Gent searched for a cup of tea.   He was sat in the café with his pot of tea looking very puzzled at this little bag.  He always carried a pen knife so he got it out to cut the bag open and make his cup of tea.   He was quickly joined by the Sheriff and nearly got arrested.   Instead they became very good friends for the rest of his life but it seems so long ago now when we didn’t have teabags!