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.

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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

In the middle of Mascagny’s Intermezzo

the bridesmaid ran over and plonked her head-dress on my head and then ran off again.  Ten minutes later she was back and danced to the Irish Jig I was playing and snatched the head-dress from my head and gave it to the Groom.   I have nearly finished my dress for my son’s wedding in August.    It started months ago when I spotted some pink/gold dupion silk on Keighley Market.  We rummaged deep and found some matching organza.  I had twenty quid in my pocket and spent the lot on some of each.   Week’s later whilst sat in a hospital waiting room I spotted a biro on the window ledge, grabbed a leaflet advertising ‘PALS’ from a display stand nearby and started sketching and designing the dress.  When I came home I had to check how much material I actually had to work with but with a few adjustments I started to cut it out.   My son and his fiancé had printed RSVP cards with suggestions to tick along the lines of:- ”YES, I AM COMING WITH BELLS ON”, ”YES, I AM COMING BUT NOT SURE ABOUT THE BELLS”, ”YES, I AM COMING BUT HATE BELLS” etc.   My son has since told me that no-one quite understood any of that.    Luckily I have been asked to play the harp in Church, in Ireland so of course they are going to get BELLS – and needless to say none of the guests will be left in any doubt – I have also made myself new matching sets of bells, one for each ankle …

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.

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.

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!

A Night at Black Dyke Mills with Seth Bennett, Dave Widdop and co

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 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