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!

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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.

The Field of Spoons

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.”

The harp player fell of the stage and banged his head badly …

No – it was not me – it was the first line of a book that a member of my audience was reading.  I was playing for the patients in the Doctor’s surgery which I do regularly and looked up to find a whole row of old men having a fit of the giggles.   I often get booked to sit and play the harp in the most unlikely places where there is stress or where people just need cheering up etc and I play and chat and play again.  They came and showed me the detective novel and I read it out to the large room of people.  Big grins all round!   There were a number of very poorly babies and toddlers so I tried lullabies – no success so after a brief discussion with my audience we decided to put my bells on and try a different tactic.   It worked!   The little ones were dancing and apparently my new friends (who had given up trying to read) informed me that men tap their feet but women don’t … certainly in that Doctor’s surgery!

The hens are confused.

I stuck homemade eyes and a large conical nose onto my fluffy, sausage duster, stuck the whole lot onto a massive cushion and tied two smaller cushions on the sides.   I then rigged it on top of the step ladders and stood it on the balcony overlooking the wood and paddock.   Amplifier and microphone set to the weirdest echo settings and I started my Easter Egg hunt with a conversation between my 10 year old stepson and ‘The Simomurf Bird’.   He respectfully answered all the Bird’s questions and promised he would find all her stolen eggs.   I love treasure hunts and successfully dodged two rams and 20 hens to lay all the clues and hide the eggs.   The weather here today was beautiful with not a drop of wind so I could balance the eggs in trees and on top of walls.  The hens were completely confused with the pink and golden eggs and I resisted the temptation to hide them in the hen house.    I placed an egg on the tractor seat – Stix, the cats, favourite sleeping place and he guarded it from a safe distance.  One of the hens started laying eggs on this seat and I didn’t notice for a while because Stix was laying on top of them!   I am playing the harp in the Doctor’s surgery again this week and I have two new pupils which is wonderful.

I have a harp named Vernal made at the Spring Equinox a few years ago.   A huge amount of work went into this harp and it included a specially designed section to hold the ‘luted’ soundboards into place down the centre.   Alas the rigidity of the structure has resulted in a slight deadening of sound.  It throws out some power but apparently the sound isn’t brilliant … yet.   There is so much stress from 122 strings that things may change over the years!   All my harps are named and this harp was beautifully painted by a friend of mine.  It depicts a naked woman and flowers – very subtle so at first people don’t realise.  The harp names all end in ‘AL’ because the first harp was made out of an old garage aluminium shelving unit  and my kids nick-named it Big Al.   It was followed by Celesti-Al, Ang-Al, Purp-Al, Beautif-Al, Pythagor-Al, Nautic-Al, Tropic-Al, Cordi-Al, Hand-Al, Vand-Al, Cathedr-Al, Mediev-Al and Fin-Al.  The ‘Nudey Lady’ harp is officially named Vern-Al and unofficially named Virgin-Al but some people call it – I don’t like the ‘F’ word but add ‘Al’ … 🙂    Don’t forget if you live near Bradford there is a concert next Saturday 28th at The Black Dyke Mills, Queensbury.   Doors open at 7.15 pm and you can bring your own wine.   I shall be playing a harp made with inlays especially commissioned by my husband Dave whilst visiting Sorrento.   The harp is called Chorus (we have moved on from the Als!) after the harp player from Dave’s Book – The Book of Caris.   The music and stories from this book will be featured at this concert – it spans influences from ancient Persia, Aethiopia, Celtic and is absolutely fascinating.   See you there? x

A rainy Saturday

I looked out of the window on Saturday morning and the rain was coming down in great sheets across the valley , the sky was ashen grey and the whole house felt a lot colder.

Dave was unwell and had picked up a bit of a bug. Normally this would not have held him back but his immunity is not as good as it should be and he laid on the sofa for most of the morning in front of the fire . After a light lunch , Dave and I decided that we would head off to Hebden Bridge which is a small mill town located just over the moors from ourselves. I purchased some hooks to hang clothing from over the wood burner and we went for a cup of tea in the famous “waterwheel” cafe

Dave just had a cup of tea and I joined him but had a small bun
Dave was fascinated as just outside is a river and the cafe owner has made the most of it as the cafe has a archimedes screw which is computer controlled.

Dave also noticed the picture on the wall of a skeleton playing the harp and just had to get a photo of it as he found it highly amusing