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
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.
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.
It sounds so romantic doesn’t it and nestles in the bottom of our valley in front of the farm with a babbling brook running through it. As we walked down the other day 2 roe deer and their buck ran from the wood and stood in front of us, almost challenging us to continue into ‘their’ home. They eventually ran off leaping the 7′ wall out of the stream bed up onto the road with ease but stayed within earshot watching us as we did some metal detecting. We have found a ‘hoard’ of … spoons … a few forks and the odd knife or two! Every square yard has produced a spoon over the last few months. We have puzzled for hours as to the explanation and searched old archives and newspapers for evidence of boy scout camps or army cadet camps but to no avail. We even wondered if the local chapel had held an open air religious event – hugely popular in Victorian times around here attracting thousands of people, or had they scattered their spoons like ‘litter louts’ after the annual Whit Sunday swim in the old mill dam followed by jelly and ice cream? The answer is very practical however and we found out quite by chance during a conversation with the local butcher. ”No, he laughed, they had pigs in that field and used to feed them swill from the schools.”
Really enjoyed the reception and venue last night – thank you Black Dyke Mills. They weren’t joking – it was cold, but there were settees and comfy chairs where people were snuggled up under blankets with hot water bottles. Lots of wine bottles and picnics at the chairs and tables. Luckily they had a pa system as the space was vast and my expensive microphone decided to break alas … I have another one but it needs a mic stand which at the moment is being used as a ‘gibbet’ to dry a batch of hands for some more puppets we are making! One of our parrots, Bennie, is still very sweetly saying ‘hello’ to the rabbits who now live opposite her! She is absolutely fascinated and spends here time watching them from her low perch. In the summer last year when we moved the parrots outside in the sunshine they were all quite happily chatting away to the hens who came to peck at any seeds thrown from the cages.
I promised you details so here they are: The Black Dyke Mills have opened a new venue in the their mills in Queensbury. They say it can be a bit chilly so wrap up but you can take as much of your own wine and beer as you want … you get to listen to me and jazz bassist Seth Bennett (playing separately that is – but you never know!) and its on 28th March – starts at 7.15 pm. There’s enough room to just turn up on the night and I’m told its a very interesting space. If you want to get it all booked up email me on email@example.com
I played at the local school again this week and (out of a class of 30) 6 children announced that I had played for their parent’s weddings! We have two more additions to our house – I have called them Cordelia and Cedrick but have absolutely no idea if they be does or bucks. I suspect when my step son sees these very cute baby bunnies he will re-name them and perhaps we may know if we have sister and sister by then (fingers crossed!!!!) More soon …
Many of you might know that sometimes when I come down for breakfast I am quite often met with a harp been laid right across the kitchen table having new strings or been patched up.
This is what happens when you are married to a harp mad woman who has played with Led Zeppelin , Guns and Roses and is friends with Fleetwood Mac.
Fiona Katie spend hours and hours making her harps look old and one year she did too much of a good job as it just so happened where she was playing the antiques road show was on.
Spotting Fiona katie with the harp one of the professionals dashed over and before he could even open his mouth a crowd had gathered around .
“Ha Ha” “Thats a Beauty” then he said this is a rare 17th Century italian triple harp he declared in excellent condition look at the patina where it has aged he declared. “Can you play it he asked “? Yes replied Fiona Katie
Then he looked again
“Tell me where did you get it he enquired “? in front of a crowd of about 40 people which had now gathered
“I made it n the kitchen table two weeks ago” she said grinning and the triple down the middle is a chocolate box ribbon to cover up my bad joinery. The crowd laughed and he took a big swig of his wine and walked off very quickly indeed. We never did see that bit aired n the television program but Fiona Katie did get a call from Mick Fleetwood couple of weeks later to see how she ws and to wish her a happy christmas.
I have put a link to Fiona Katies last interview with out local journalist
After a long spell of bad weather I decided that Dave and I would do a spot of metal detecting.
Metal detecting and local history is Dave’s hobby and it was good to see him enjoying himself for a coupe of hours and I joined him to keep him company and to help him out where I could .
We put the Detector on one of the preset modes and away we went .The first few digs were iron and then we found a really good target and so had a go at digging that.We detected a modern 1p coin and it was a good 5 inches deep.But I was really pleased to have actually found a coin albeit a modern one.
I expect that many targets on the land will be quite deep as the land is called “Marsh” and not without good reason and it is quite easy for even the tractor to get stuck at this time of year.
Local legend tells of a horse and carriage which left the road in pre victorian times and became stuck in the marsh. The owner of the horse and carriage was unable to get either free so shot the horse and allowed the whole lot to sink, how true this is I dont know but I have seen a few cars go off the road over the years and it took a whole day to get one out and the damage to the car would have made it a “write off”.
We are going to carry on detecting over the next few days .
The area we live in was heavily influenced by the textile industry boom and there is a wealth of history in the local area.
This afternoon I decided to try my luck down one of the footpaths which runs through our land . We own the footpath and the land but have to allow “right of access” through our farm. I got a really good signal and found Dave’s walling hammer which he lost about 3 years ago .
On Sunday I am playing the harp at a private concert in Ribble Valley. I love the area and the scenery. I am hoping the weather is nice so that I can play outside .
We live on a small farm in Haworth West Yorkshire
Fiona Katie my wife designs, plays , and builds harps.
Many people think that farming is a easy job and that a idyllic life but the truth of the matter is that is is incredibly hard work and life and death can occur quite quickly.I remember when I started in farming a few years ago and was told the first thing to remember is that wherever their is livestock there is also deadstock .
Today I was reminded of those words I had heard when I found out I had lost one of my closest companions Dennis,. even though I am hardened to death and I do not fear it in many ways this has nevertheless upset me.
Dennis was not a person he was in fact our pet goat (named after a person called Dennis who is the Illustrator for “The Book of Caris )but nevertheless I loved him like many love a pet dog or pet cat and he always seemed to have a lovely smile on his face.
Fiona Katie my wife was very wary of Dennis especially when he would stand on his hind legs and said that he smelt (which he did) and I have to admit he was incredibly strong.
Dennis would often at one time torment the neighbours .
Dennis would walk out of the farm gate along the track down into the manor house at the end of the track and would feast on the rose gardens. He would then walk back to the farm and sit at the side of his wooden shed and pretend he had never left the farm.
His actions infuriated my neighbours and cost me many bottles of wine as recompense for his actions.
Seeing the chap next door red faced with anger moaning that Dennis had eaten his prize rose bush called Oscar nearly caused me to choke as I tried to stifle my laughter inside (Yes naughty I know but you had to be there to appreciate the situation)
Fiona Katie found Dennis on his bed this morning and thought he was just asleep.
Sadly he had passed away in his sleep .
Dennis you will be very sadly missed by me for sure . But maybe not by our neighbour .
Sleep well my friend .
The early harps were made with curved bottoms so that they rested lightly on your shoulder and moved with you as you played. A friend of mind in Haworth had one dated 1786 with 3 beautiful painted panels fastened down the back. A nightmare to change strings though. We only had to replace one once and we threaded the string through the hole at the front and used a crochet hook sellotaped to a garden cane to grab the string and pull it out of the bottom. As the gut string was cut to a set length we had to very carefully sellotape that to a long length of fishing line so we could pull it back through after we had tied the knot. Modern harps have holes cut down the back to make life easier! A pupil of mine told me her cat likes to sleep inside her harp and crawls in through one of these holes. My daughter had a kitten called Catkin and she did exactly the same. When we started to play the harp she let out a yowl and scratched her way up to the hole and bolted. We have had nearly a foot of snow this week and I discovered just how un-aerodynamic the hens actually are. it was too deep for them to hop around so when I fed them I scraped a patch of grass and banged the feed bin. They would fly out of the wood with their legs stuck out in front and crash land up to 10 yards away sometimes on top of each other. No harm done however. Thank you for all the messages (and for reading the blog) – and yes a bag of chips in Whitby sounds just the job! 🙂