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Jan. 15th, 2019, NYC

2019… wow…

Tempus has fugited big time… I have been just leading a life, and somehow 5 months have gone by… The autumn was spent partly here, partly in Texas, partly in Menorca – perhaps that’s why… I’ve not actually just been sitting on my ass in Westbeth, which is what it feels like at the moment – altho’ I am currently decked out in multiple sweaters, hat and gloves, the heating being somewhat impaired as a result of the great Build It Back campaign – the longer I’m here the more dysfunctional the building seems to get – but I’m not complaining…. I just bought a sofa that someone in the building was selling off cheap – not as elegant as the one I have, but bigger and a hell of a lot more comfortable (taking a leaf out of my sis’s book), so perhaps I can leave my bed in the alcove and read and nap in the sunshine just the same – verremos… I still have to figure out how to a) get it down into my apartment and b) how to get rid of the old one. Meanwhile we have a Kamikaze concert in about 10 days, so I am vainly trying to get my chops together…

Texas was a success, ultimately, although I seem to have had a sinus infection since then that I can’t shake – such ghastly weather, insanely hot and humid, and equally insane air conditioning in the hotel, how can anyone live like that?? I finally had a CT scan today, verremos otra vez… I couldn’t possibly record a book like this, if they ever offer me another one… or record, which we’re meant to be doing in February with Mr. Wau Wa.. The Alley went the distance, paying for as much recording time as we really needed, and it ended up sounding really good… Then on to Seattle, Ellensburg, Portland and Eugene – reunions with RB and Cathy, Joanne P, Sue and Mona, then Calliope and the big Ray hang – another grand reunion of an old tribe – it seems to be that time… really worth the effort – particularly as dear Ray then passed away in his sleep a couple of weeks later – he was done… we got it right, for once….

Thanksgiving, Solstice and Christmas in New york, all vintage – Nyack, Westbeth (a really good party this year) and Brooklyn (Beka & family), including Midnight Mass at St. John The Divine, always a treasure… And then to Belfast for the 50th, and final, Henry Tonk memorial New Year’s Eve Banquet. Getting on the ‘plane – actually, getting TO the plane at Stewart International Airport – I thought I was absolutely mad to even think about it, but it was totally worth it. Not just the Banquet – 12 courses (actually about 42), 12 entertainments (actually about 26) and 12 hours (actually almost 14), for a maximum of 60 people, about 20 by the end – but also, and even more so, the days of pre- and post- hang…. rekindling old friendships – neither Fred nor Gerry had changed one iota, nor Charles and Jackie; re-connecting with Doff Pollard, who lives in Whitby so I hopefully will see her in the spring when I return to Cotherstone (more about that anon); and then making new ones – many duets with Peter Nelson, ex-prof of my alma mater and all-round good egg, and getting to know Susan Herivel, John’s girlfriend before me and a great find… and of course John and Marcus – and Joanna, who managed to feed the five thousand every day for a week, somehow, without batting an eyelid, even with the most dreadful case of the lurgie… John built a giant Henry head as the centerpiece for the banquet stage (flanked on either side by King Kong, of course) – the head then had a ceremonial immolation the following evening – satisfyingly final, altho’ it was generally agreed that all was not over and that things would continue, tho’ not necessarily in the same form – midsummer bonfire with rites, anyone?

I shared a lovely Airbnb with the Lambla clan for the first 5 days, which was enormous fun – finding costumes, planning and making banquest courses and entertainments, reminiscing – and then spent the last couple of days at Sans Souci with Marcus and Joanna (and Susan and various others – a constant stream of visitors). Belfast has become a major international tourist destination – I went to the ‘Titanic Experience’ on Jan. 2nd, something rather more than a museum, very well done – not the sort of thing I generally would go anywhere near, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – most of all the SS Nomadic, the Titanic’s tender that is tied up nearby and is definitely my kind of ship – that gets my vote for the next banquet, if there is one. Altho’ it was all quite quiet, relatively, being the day after New Year, I was surprised at all the international tourists – turns out Game of Thrones was filmed in the countryside around Belfast… that explains it… good for them, altho’ tourism really is a the modern plague. I see it here in NYC, in Menorca, everywhere… I also got in a good visit to the Botanic Gardens , and the Ulster museum, where the Ulster Academy show was up, including pieces by both Marcus and Joanna, an all round startlingly good exhibition, and two fabulous dragons hanging in space on the top floor – more Game of Thrones, no doubt, but happy for it…

Meanwhile, back in NY … I have been offered a 3-week residency at the Graves Foundation in March – 3 weeks of isolation in the beauty of the northern CA landscape, no phone, no computer, no nothing, on my own. March was my 2nd choice, my first being late July early August, a time much beloved by academics, so little wonder they took me up on my less popular offering. So, altho’ tho I could devoutly have wished to stay home for another month, I will be heading west at the beginning of March, to start work on the Morris Graves piece with Joan Schirle. I applied to Opera America for funds – I should really have asked for funds to further Vagabond, but I figured Joan’s grant writing expertise gave me a better shot… I shall get none either way, so what does it matter?

I spent a week in Cotherstone in November, on my way back from Menorca, and hooked up with a woman who offered to help me airbnb the cottage – she does it with her cottage in the village (next door to Madeleine’s old place)- she’s made a real go of it for herself, so maybe she can help me – verremos yet again… after 5 years of coasting, it’s time for things to pay their way or say bye bye – time to get real….  I also had a final stay at Stopover Hall with Moppet & Johnny before leaving, complete with a soak in the biggest bath tub known to mankind – they move to the Farm before the end of the year – the end of an era, but Wal-E continues to reside in the barn, bless them…

I can’t bear to talk politics – both of my countries are so f****d I can’t bear to think about it…. the only good news is that we took back the House in November… now, if we could only NOT go through with Brexit, we might stand a chance to get back on track… wishful thinking, I’m afraid… On a more positive note, I have finally and belatedly taken up yoga – I am going twice a week, and oh how I wish I had thought to start this 30 years ago… What will this year bring?? God speed all who sail in her… and a Happy New Year to all…


NYC Sept.19

I have re-discovered the juicer… Given to me by my friends after the diagnosis back in 2016, I drank vast quantities of green juice to get me strong for surgery, only to have them tell me afterwards that dark leafy greens were bad for me – well, counter-productive to the meds they swore I had to take… so I stopped juicing – boo hoo… but the lightbulb finally went on, and I am now a convert to apple/beet/carrot/lemon juice – wow, makes me feel like superwoman.. go go go! hooray for juicers…


September 2nd, NYC

And I am finally back, after 5 months’ absence – quite the culture shock…

The last few days in Palazzolo were definitely about event density… the saturday night performance, starting with smoke painting in the piazza and ending with the Italian Constitution being copied out by the citizens – with music (me) in between – and finally a late-night pizza hang at the orphanage, where the clay oven had been built.  Rosemarie and I barely made it home, we were so tired…and the following day (Sunday) the third and final trip to Buscemi, for the celebration of their patron saint, the Madonna del Bosco – the fabled Dancing Madonna, as the burly men bounce her statue up the street to the strains of the brass band and the pealing of every bell, followed by the totally mind-bending explosion of confetti and streamers – we were right underneath it all, fabulous – I much prefer the small town as opposed to the bigger ones…. and so my trip ended as it began, with fireworks and Banda and processions – yay!

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I then had two whole days with the family on the finca – Chris, my beloved nephew, and his lovely new girlfriend Catherine – an afternoon kayaking to Isla del Colom. and an expedition to Cavalleria with Bett and her kids… plus three great dinners on the patio… sis in good form…

and so back to New York… what a shock… luckily the current heat wave had just broken, and the next one starts tomorrow, when I head to Houston for the start of 12th Night rehearsals at The Alley…. jet lag has been brutal – after 5 months away, my body is totally on the other side… I am seriously sleep deprived..


Aug. 23rd, Palazzolo

a morning spent up at the greek theater with the mandola… quite a hike up there carrying the instrument, it’s not light, but I had the place to myself for a full hour and was just packing up when the first visitors arrived… it’s smaller than I remember, but so beautiful, and pitched on top of the world… there must have been some greek theater going on at some point recently, because there was a plywood stage and floor, with part of the floor painted blue – for the sea, no doubt – and a giant blue mask (others are scattered around town, I noticed). Everything very damp after yesterday’s heavy rain – so different from 4 years ago, when we were stunned by the heat, and the rain didn’t arrive until the last week of September. Apparently it’s been raining most of August… I have no complaints, it’s good working weather and I love my studio in the Travelers’ Museum (how appropriate…) I have begun a photo collage on the walls about my version of Slow Time… even started a new song… verremos… the crazy birds are back outside my window in the evening – they love the mandola, it seems, just as they always did, singing along like crazy with their ‘electric static’ sounds…

Yesterday we went to Buscemi to see the extraordinary itinerant museum dedicated to preserving a record of how the old life was lived – dotted all over the small town in various small rooms, as well as a couple of larger houses, this one man (Rosario Acquaviva?) has dedicated the past 30 years of his life (he started at 28) to collecting and recording the old life that has disappeared – bravo… It turns out it’s actually the 30th anniversary celebration tonight, so if it’s not raining we will head back to catch that, and the last bits of the museum that we missed because of the torrential downpour… Buscemi is a lovely little town – it also has a big saint’s day celebration on Sunday, with the Banda and exploding confetti etc. – will try to go – it’s our last day (our ‘performance’ is saturday evening) and the other option is to go to Ortiga for the night, but that may be pushing the envelope… take it easy, girl….

so today I took a siesta after lunch, then made a tortilla for the evening repast – the onions here are amazing! – and headed back to the studio for a couple hour’s work, which ended with Rosemarie suggesting an apperativo in the piazza… the evening light on the chiesa di san sebastiano was gorgeous… two spritz’s later, we stumble back to the apartment for tortilla and tempura’d squash blossoms (Pam had joined us by then, having finally got her clay oven built and lit), and at 10pm the four of us (Piotr, the young Pole, also joined us) were taxi’d over to Buscemi for the festivities… much confusion over what was happening where, but after waiting for the puppet show to start for a half hour or so (not a hardship, the piazza in front of the church was a lovely place, and Piotr had managed to find a 2 litre bottle of local wine & 4 cups for 4 euros, so we were happy ), the director of the museum announced that it wouldn’t start until we’d all been to the museum (it was his 30th anniversary celebration, after all), so off we all trooped! and I’m glad we did – there was a wonderful quartet of young folk musicians singing in the courtyard – 3 girls singing, 2 playing tamboura and one the fiddle, plus a guy on accordion, all really good – delicious… finally, about midnight, the puppet show! Orlando Furiouso, of course, very violent but rather fun, with a guy who sang about the Baronessa Ricorini (?) – good big peasant-style voice, good guitar playing – and also cranked the handle on the thing that looked like a toy piano but was a kind of giant music box, playing the same frenetic tune each time to accompany all the killing… and then the folk quartet started up again, this time amplified, and we danced! so much fun… but the taxi was waiting for us, so we had to leave at 1 a.m (1.30, really), and I stumbled into bed around 2am… grazie mille!

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