Friday 30 July 2010

Speyfest - Water, Wind and Fire

The Speyfest opening concert I spent my birthday money on was well worth it! (actually... it only cost one birthday card's worth. I still have money left over for my next treat planned in August. *happy grin*)

The concert started with Calum Stewart, a flautist from nearby Garmouth (where I took photos of Spey Bay recently) and Heikki Bourgault from Brittany on guitar. They started the concert on an upbeat of Celtic melodies interwoven with a modern jazz sound. Light bright fast moving music that rippled and twisted like water in a stream. Calum's flute notes swirled and spun through the early evening, taking the audience with them. I felt like a leaf being whisked between bright stones by rushing Water, down mountain waterfalls into spiraling pools of sound. Cool in every sense of the word! You can hear some of their music HERE.

The next group up was Daimh (pronounced "dive"). These six marvelous musicians describe themselves on their MySpace page as "the ultimate Scottish, Irish, Cape Breton, Californian group."

Within a few beats of the bodhran drum it was easy to hear we'd moved to a completely different element. Daimh's music is full of Fire. Their style is bold and untamed. It reaches into you and pulses through your blood and bones. Even at its most liquid and flowing it hits your senses like a big gulp of good whisky. Things really were beginning to heat up as the sun went down!

Daimh's molten melodies are perfectly complimented by the warm smoky voice of Calum Alex Macmillan (playing the whistle in my photo).
Songs of war, lost love and other strong emotions were interspersed with brilliant playing by all six. I really can't pick one band member who stood out because they all were so well matched in their talents and skill. They were excellent.

To follow on from such an impressive musical high would be daunting to most musicians, but Capercaillie are truly in a league of their own. It was such a thrill to see them all on stage, including the amazing Karen Matheson.
I'd wondered if my sense that the night's music was moving through the elements would continue... and it did. If Daimh were Fire than Capercaillie were Air, which is rather fitting for a group named after a wild bird! Daimh may have set the audience on fire, but it was Capercaillie who lifted them out of their seats and took them flying.
Karen's incredible singing spins your senses. She moves through moods like wind over water. I don't think I've ever heard anyone sing that fast. She takes the Gallic language and transforms it into a living sound.

The group alternated songs with instrumental pieces, all equally delightful. They are all excellent musicians, but I must admit the fiddler, Charlie McKerron, did stand out for me. Perhaps because he was playing to a "home crowd" (he comes from nearby Hopeman) he really gave 101% on the night. Here he is playing his heart out centre stage...
Capercaillie's music flew us through the rest of the night. Pure, perfect Air music. I felt like a bird flying over the soul of Scotland, all its emotions laid out beneath me in clear notes and melodies. The joys and dances as light as a spring breeze over rolling hills... the sorrows and songs of mourning carrying you high above dark cliffs and crashing seas.

Like I said yesterday, I came out to Scotland to meet my True Love and fell in love with a country and a music group at the same time. My future husband drove me all over Scotland to the sound of Capercaillie on the car cassette tape. Even now, eight years later, there are Capercaillie songs that take me straight back to those first magical moments of discovering love. For me their music is a part of my love story as well as the music of a group I love and I was really thrilled to hear at least four of my favourite songs sung live at the Speyfest concert.

"And what about the fourth element?" you ask.

Well... it was there too. I first noticed it in the middle of Daimh's session. I was listening to the beat of the bodhran when I started to notice another more resonant beat. There were no other drums being used on the stage and I couldn't figure out where the beat was coming from at first... until the floor started to throb beneath my feet.

The drum beat was the sound of people keeping time with the stamping of their own feet. They kept it up for the rest of the night, through Daimh and Capercaillie, and I was driven to join them. As we all added our own heartbeat to the music I felt more connected than I ever have before. I've always felt connected to the land and wilds, but this was the first time I felt connected so deeply to the people. As all our feet used Earth to drum a beat I found myself thinking of my Scottish and Irish ancestors... Earth and sound reconnecting me to my own roots.

When they finally finished the audience refused to let them go. This photo below of the standing ovation is blurry due to all the clapping, waving and foot stomping!
They returned with an extra finale treat - Karen brought with her Calum, the lead sing of Daimh...
Together they sung one of my favourite Capercaillie songs. They were fantastic, the audience went completely wild with people dancing and everyone joining in singing along.

It was an incredible end to an incredible evening.

Birthday Treats

Every year I get money from my in-laws for my birthday, but this year I had a problem. I had two birthday cards sitting in my bedroom with strict instructions (and promises given) that they would not be opened till my birthday morning. The problem? Last week I saw something I really REALLY wanted to buy, but my birthday was almost two weeks away. :-(

I wanted to book tickets to go to the Speyfest. The music festival features all kinds of Celtic music spread over several venues and days. It was the opening concert I was interested in. Due to a last minute twist of fate they had cancelled one act and added another... Capercaillie. My husband introduced me to their music. I met him for the first time, and saw Scotland for the first time, to the sound of Capercaillie playing on his car cassette tape. I've been in love with all three ever since. :-)

But how was I going to get to that money without breaking my promise? Simple - I got hubby to open the envelopes, remove money and put the cards back. Am I smart or what? *grin*

The concert was last night. Here's a photo I took of the tent before the show started. Can you guess who's looking back at me? ;-)

I have lots to tell, and more photos, but that will have to wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

The Queen's Music Meme

Queen Mimi has issued a Royal Decree...

... actually it's just a meme, but Royal Decree sounded far more regal. ;-)

What do you have to do to join in the fun?
"Find a song that uses each word, either in the title or lyrics. Give us the title, or part of the lyric that fits, and the artist. Then say a little something about the tune and why you chose it. Posting a YouTube video of the song would be great, but not required."

Crumbs, Mimi... what a word selection! My song choices are:

1. WANT - "I want to Break Free" by Queen. There has to be a Queen song for a Queen Meme. *grin*

2. HELL - "Wandrin' Star" by Lee Marvin. One of my favourite songs from my childhood. :-)

Do I know where hell is? Hell is in hello,
Heaven is goodbye forever, its time for me to go.
I was born under a wandrin' star ...

3. SMACK - "Smack into You" by Jon McLaughlin

4. UGLY - "Ugly" by the Sugarbabes. I was actually looking for another song and stumbled on this one I'd never seen before. I'm not a Sugarbabe fan, but I really like the message in this video and the tune is enjoyable too. :-)

5. BEAST - "Reason Enough" by Andreas Vollenweider. Sung by Carly Simon.

All the King’s Men stand still in a thunder storm
Diamonds of rain on the skin of the battle worn
Eyes touching eyes in the sight of their long range guns
The bough that breaks, the cradle falls
Could this be reason enough?
The Beast that down to Eden crawls...
Reason enough

6. ROMEO - "Love Story" by Taylor Swift

I see you make your way through the crowd
And say hello, little did I know

That you were Romeo...

7. GOD - "Into the Sun" by Peter Gabriel.

May God's love be with you...

Saturday 24 July 2010

Spey Bay revisited.

We went on a drive to Spey Bay at Easter this year. Recently we stopped on the opposite side, on our way home from paying the fuel bill in another town.

It was late afternoon when we stopped, about 6:00 pm. I took the first photo looking across the river flats towards the village of Spey Bay in the distant sun spot. :-)

This next photo is slightly to the right. I wanted to get the reeds and water, but the angle of the bank meant I had to hold the camera up over my head. Not the best way to tell where you're aiming the camera!
As I went to walk back to the car A butterfly doodled past my face... and landed on the flowers right on the edge of the grass/reeds. I managed to sneak a quick photo before he flew off again.


Wednesday 21 July 2010

The Last Pioneer

Hubby said something this morning that was so obvious I'd never thought about it before. He said,

"It's rather nice having one of the world's last pioneers in your family."

He was meaning my mom. You see... my mom spent her late teenage years living in the wilds of Africa between Mozambique and (then) Southern Rhodesia. Her family were the first Europeans to venture through that area. My grandfather was sent ahead by the railways, before they started work on the line that would eventually join the interior to the Mozambique coast. He took his family with him.

The whole family had some amazing (sometimes funny, sometimes scary) adventures during the years they spent living in the bush. They experienced an Africa that is ceasing to exist - a place of untouched mystery and abundant wildlife.

Here's my mom posing with a hippo skull in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

It's rather nice having one of the world's last pioneers in your family...

I hadn't thought about the "last" before. In our world of travel and exploration there are so few places left untouched and unseen. How many people can say they were the first pioneer to travel through, or live in, an unknown portion of this planet?

My mom can... and yes, that really is very cool. :-)

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Silly Songs that Stick...

The dance scene from Ice Age 2 is one of my all time favourite movie moments.

...and today I found the song! I'm in heaven. :-)

Wishing you a Silly Sloth Sing-a-long day. :-D

Saturday 17 July 2010

So Who actually Runs this Place?

Let's get things perfectly clear once and for all... my name is Flopsy Rabbit and I run this place.

This garden is MINE!

NO-ONE cuts the lawn without my permission.

I will lie here regardless of how much you yell and make RRRRRRR lawnmower noises.

Yes, I know you're standing so close
you're almost in this photo your daughter took,
but I don't care.

I will not allow you to chomp up my clover and dandelions!

I will lie here in a Bunny strop and glare at you both...
... and my sibling, Cottontail, is right behind the hedge
ready to fight for our family honour.

...or at the very least sulk impressively.

Okay... so I allowed you to cut the lawn eventually.
Do not be fooled!
This was MY choice
and had nothing to do with the fact you are fifty bunny-feet tall.


We chose to let you cut the grass to leave us more room to flop...
and sprawl...
...but just wait till next time.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

The Mystery of the West Coast Trees

This is the story about my ongoing puzzle with the trees of the West Coast of Scotland.

The first time I went out to the West coast I felt that the trees were wanting me to stop... sort of "calling" me. The urge to stop was really intense, but I felt so silly I never told anyone until a friend, passing through on holiday, mentioned his own experience. He was half amused, half embarrassed, to admit he'd actually stopped out West... and hugged a tree!

He made a joke and said the trees 'made him do it.' He obviously felt a bit idiotic, so I told him that I'd felt the trees calling me too. It was a relief to realise we'd both felt the same thing in almost the exact same place.

The next time I was out that way was about a year later. Hubby was on his way to a job and I'd gone with for the drive.

We were travelling through an area of fully grown pine forest, very near where I took this photo above, when it started. I was watching the trees zoom by when I started to hear a noise...

It was a bit like when you have ringing in your ears, but it sounded like thousands of voices singing a single note. It was a very deep "OHM" sound, like the Tibetan monks sing/chant. It was mesmerising.

As we moved from the forest into an open area the sound faded... then, as we drove through a forestry area of seedlings and young trees, a new sound started up. Only here the note was a much higher pitch, like an "aaaah" sung by a choir of schoolboys. I went online and found the exact pitch/sound. The seedling forest was like a flute playing 'A'.

It was really lovely, but over so fast and we came home a different route, so I wasn't able to see if they were willing to give a repeat performance.

We don't go out to the West Coast often, so I wasn't able to test whether these events were "one offs" or not. Then last year we took my parents on a day trip to Sky. On the way home we went more North-West, along the coast, through trees and... there it was again! That feeling that the trees were aware and calling to me.

Once again we couldn't stop. This time it was because we were on narrow windy roads with nowhere you could pull over. Very frustrating. Scotland's road department never thought of tourists! This time it was a group of big leafy trees (Beech? Not sure). I was half dozing in the car on the way home when I felt this feeling on my face, like lightest fingertip taps. I knew it was the trees showing me how wind feels in your leaves and branches. It felt nice.

Further on there were pine trees and I tried to tune in to see what wind in pine trees feels like...

I wasn't getting anywhere with that when we turned a corner and up ahead was a huge old Scots pine. I tried to focus completely on that tree and I got his picture in my mind of birds in its branches and it was tickly! Big annoying irritating TICKLY. I felt... prickly-itchy-scratchy irritable. This tree would shake off birds like a dog shakes off water if it had the chance! It was so funny, meeting an irritable tree that doesn't like bird feet, that I nearly burst out laughing.

Why do the West coast trees seem so alive and aware? I have no idea! Hubby pointed out that the West coast is unusual in being fairly warm, thanks to the Gulf stream. There are even semi-tropical plants growing in gardens out that way. Could this be affecting the energy of the plants in some way? Or is it the other way around... maybe the West coast allows me to tune in to what is around us all the time? Maybe all trees are aware and it's us who are the ones not paying attention.

...maybe all the trees could do with a hug now and then, but we're just too busy (and too numbed by modern life) to notice.


Saturday 10 July 2010

Love has no Boundaries

I found this on YouTube - a beautiful little video about a very big love.

Zeus, our beloved Duirmouse, May 12, 2009 - June 20, 2010.
Abandoned by his mouse mommy at one day old, he crawled out from under our washing machine and lived, despite the odds. I fed him every two hours and took to carrying him in my pocket or in my sports bra, which became his home. Our adventure mouse not only survived but thrived, taking a hot air balloon ride over the Rio Grande, riding in three cross country road trips, hiking through the Sangre De Cristo mountains and ultimately walking me down the aisle at my wedding in May 2010. He was extraordinary in every way. Still is. This is his lullaby.
::::Goodnight, my love. Goodnight::::


Thursday 8 July 2010

The Real Winners


I'm not a sports fan, but I have been drawn into the World Cup Football this time. Partly because it's being held in my old home country of South Africa, and partly because the more I've watched the more interesting it has been. From the dramas of France to the gloom of England, from the controversy over the new ball to Paul the psychic octopus predicting the winners...

It certainly has not been boring!

Every game night I've been working my cooking-eating schedule to fit family eating before or between games. Our entire family has been rather glued to the TV. Having watched so many winners and losers come and go I must admit that a lot of the games are a muddle for me at this stage, but one team does stands out for me.


Why Ghana? Well... if you have been following the sport you'll know they were the last African team still in the competition by the quarter-finals. As the last African team playing in the first Africa-based World Cup the whole of Africa turned to them to make not only their Nation proud, but the entire continent proud.

Talk about pressure! It must be stressful enough playing knowing the hopes of your country are on you, but having a whole continent watching you in expectation? Ouch!

And "ouch" is exactly what happened on the night. Ghana basically tried too hard. When it counted the most they tensed up and although they constantly tried for goals they missed far too many times.

Simon Burnton of summed it up like this:
Unbelievable penalty drama sees Ghana miss one to win it, and then lose the shoot-out to cheaty, continent-crushing Uruguay

Final thoughts: The Ghanaians are gutted, predictably. Gyan, who missed that penalty in extra-time, is distrought. I quite wanted Uruguay to win, to be honest, but in these circumstances? They have cheated their way to victory. Within the rules of the game we all love, but cheating all the same.
Officially Ghana were not the winners and yet, unlike most teams who lost and went back in gloom or shame, they went home to cheering and celebrations.

As the official Ghana Football website reports:
Despite the setback, the Black Stars never let the continent down as they fought to the very last kick of the game backed by wonderful support from the rest of the continent.

Paintsil said (of Gyan's missed penaty), “It is penalty, anyone can miss it. It is part of football. It is not a mistake, it is not a mistake at all. He kicked it from his heart. We all wanted to win the game but, yeah, we will pick it from there.”

"The Stars fought gallantly, not only making Ghana proud, but the entire African continent," teacher Felicia Acheampong was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Ghana's captain Stephen Appiah said: "We did our best but luck was not on our side... "

All any of us can do is to try our best and yet it seems as if modern life only wants those who win at any cost rather than those who try. When you take into consideration how many people there are on this planet it's pretty easy to see that the chances of ever being "The Winner" are slim.

Not everyone will get the chance to be THE best, but everyone has the chance to be their best.

Which makes Ghana the real winners, in my opinion.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Quirky Memories

I once sold all the words of Shakespeare to a man named O.

Doesn't that sound like a great opening line for a novel? It's true too. I really did, but I'd completely forgotten about it till this weekend. I was talking to my husband about old books and suddenly remembered... back in Africa I bought this set of the entire works of Shakespeare at a second hand store. Three huge volumes over a hundred years old - Comedies, Tragedies and Poetry. The pages were yellowed with age, but they had the most beautiful engraved plate illustrations within their crumbling covers.

I always meant to get them rebound and restored, but it just never happened. When I decided to move to Scotland I had to downsize a lot. I sold a lot of my books. Well... all except the Shakespeare! None of the book dealers wanted them because they were damaged and the pages 'foxed' (those yellow age spots).

I put an advert in the paper and only one person phoned. He was very keen to see them. So keen he gave me his phone number and details. He said his name was... "O."

I asked, "How do you spell that?"
He said, "with an o..." and laughed.

He was a businessman from China. He came over to look at my books with his wife. She spoke no English, but he spoke fairly good English. He told me that he adored English literature, especially Shakespeare. He picked up those volumes of Shakespeare with reverence and awe. He didn't see investment value or damage, like those book dealers - just like me, he saw aged beauty and wonderful words.

...and he was wealthy enough to be able to promise they would be restored and leather bound once again. So, some of the greatest words in the English language went to live with a man whose name in English is only a vowel....

How quirky is that? ;-)