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Summer Solstice, menorca

What a difference 10 days can make… a renewed appreciation of my various lives, resolving to do better this time… hope springs eternal…

I left in mid-spring, and have returned to high summer – 30 degrees and rising, the garden bone dry… but still so beautiful, and swimming in the big blue bathtub is ecstatic (as long as the wind holds to the north!).  The bougainvillea were barely starting to flower when I left, 10 days later they are in full white-throated bloom, what an explosion… wildflowers are over but now I can clear and let the beautiful red earth return to being the basic landscape… except for the morning glories, which have finally really taken hold and are absolutely loving the morning sun created by the big prune this past winter. And speaking of which, the ullastres podados have also exploded with new growth since I’ve been gone, quite astonishing!

The day after I got back saw a huge harvest of green beans, and the 2nd half of the potatoes dug up, plus the first aubergine and a ton of green peppers – even a few tomatoes, brave souls!  We feasted al fresco on the solstice, my first evening meal outside, hard to believe – garden-to-table potatoes and green beans, the best ever… bon profit!

I’ve been gone from New York 3 months now, and I can feel it – part of me yearns for it, part of me finds it hard to remember it clearly anymore… this triangulated living takes its toll, in spite of its wealth of advantages… rootless cosmopolitan indeed… but I’m a lucky so-and-so – even if I don’t have the career I might have had, had I stayed put and put my nose to the grindstone… but I guess that ain’t me, babe…

June 16th – Cotherstone

So strange to be back here… it’s been 7 months since I was last here, and now over 5 years since mum died and we sold the house – hard to believe, it feels both very far away and only yesterday…. for the first time, I start to feel like a stranger here… and yet the cottage, and the landscape, offer me both succour and a sense of security – as I type that, I look out the window in front of me and see the sickle of the new moon – what is it they say, never look at the new moon through glass?  I will try not to be superstitious….  I love this place, and find myself dreaming of making it more comfortable – a glassed in back porch as a utility room, to give storage space (now that the potting shed is a bedroom) and a small place to sit in the sun, when it comes out… a bathtub, something I miss more than anything, to ease my aching bones… even, luxury of luxuries, underfloor heating downstairs, in the hall and bathroom, to take the chill off – in the winter it is ice-bound down there, especially since Jeff tore down his workshop and I am now totally open to the north… but there is no point in spending money I don’t have on upgrading the place if I’m not going to live here, and in all honesty, could I?  It’s lovely to visit, but… two things continue to draw me back – the sense of family, continuity, which, without kids of my own, is very important; and the love of the landscape, and walking in it. But my bum knee makes me realise that if I cannot take advantage of the wilderness, the idea of being here is a lot less attractive… and at a certain point, a bathtub is a younger woman’s game … what am I thinking of?  I managed two walks before admitting defeat – from Wynch Bridge to High Force and back, and Abbey Bridge to the Meeting Of The Waters and back –  by the end of the second one, my knee was killing me, and I was done… ice pack and paracetamol…

In lieu of long walks, I have once again been trying to purge, this time box files from the attic, full of old financial records of mum and dad’s, plus the unsold shoes from the Great Collection that came back from Tennant’s, and that lay in Moppet’s barn for 4 years until Diana brought them back here.  I had already pulled all the real beauties of the collection, so was not surprised to find almost nothing worth keeping in all the bags of returns.  I tried to take them to to a 2nd-hand shop in Barnard Castle who had said last year that they would take them on consignment, only to find they have since gone out of business – naturally… a shop in Darlington that Moppet told me about said they only dealt with current fashion, not vintage… so I was about to consign them to the charity shops when Moppet called to say she had a size 5 friend who woud take the lot – hallelujah…. the furniture in David’s storage in Winston also has to go – I took photos, and hope I can interest Luke Jordan (whose father owned my mandola), altho’ so far he has not been answering the phone and the shop says “closed” – et tu, Brute…

I had drinks with the Royles in Saltoun House this evening – they continue to slowly renovate, and the place looks and feels great… I have no problems living next to the old house, it feels good… but it’s a tug of war… part of me wants to divest completely and move on, part of me is still deeply attached…  I haven’t been here at this time of year since I left after selling the house… it is such a beautiful time of year, everything so lush, and such beautifully long evenings – sun doesn’t set til 10pm, still light in the sky at 11… it’s the Cotherstone Fun Weekend (village fete) and I watched the duck race this afternoon with great glee – such a fabulous event… but I truly felt like an outsider, for the first time… [later: that said, the following day I bumped into 4 or 5 people during the course of the day, who were all very welcoming and seemingly very happy to see me – go figure…]

On a lighter note, my cultural weekend down south was an astonishing feat… I flew into Gatwick Friday midday, trained up to Tufnell Park where Jan met me and whisked me straight up to the opening of the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk… a 6pm critics’ dinner in the big house with the bigwigs, a 7 pm concert followed by a 9.30 opera – and that was just day one… this year’s festival is celebrating Britten in America, coinciding with Bernstein’s centenary, so the concert, with the astonishing BBC Scottish Symphony, included Britten’s Simfonia da Requiem, which I LOVE, and the Michelangelo songs which, orchestrated by Colin Matthews, made so much sense; then Copland’s Quiet City and Bernstein’s 2nd symphony, the Age of Anxiety – a truly great concert.  The opera, a commission and world premiere, was disappointing – or maybe just not my cup of tea – Emily Howard’s To see The Invisible – I don’t think it was just jealousy that made it feel unsuccessful – but a brave attempt…

Day Two included a morning spent on Aldeburgh beach (replete with old fishing boats drawn up on the shingle, very Peter Grimes) while Jan interviewed the head of the festival, then off for coffee with friends of hers about 20 minutes into the countryside, from whence we went to an art gallery cum clothing sale even deeper into the countryside (I fell in love with Suffolk), and then to a concert in Blythburgh church – guitar and consort of viols, all Bach, including a bunch of the Art of Fugue – heaven… back to London in time for a late supper, including a visit with the newest member of the Dalley family, Marlow, aged about 6 weeks.  Sunday saw us in our glad rags down to Glyndebourne for Handel’s Julio Cesare – a really memorable production, flawless cast, absolutely fabulous – and a glorious day, so the picnic in the gardens was everything it should be… what’s not to love about Jan’s job?  A LOT of driving over the 3 days, but totally worth it.  Up at sparrow fart to catch the 7.30am train north, but it gained me a whole day, so no complaints.  The cottage was remarkably dry and not cold upon arrival – they’ve had lots of sunshine over the past couple of months, what a difference it makes…

The job in Houston with Moscone is set, and I have bought flights to Toulouse and Sicily for my August vacation – reckless, but hey ho the wind and the rain, one mustn’t forget to carp the diem… life is short…

June 7, menorca

Christian and Miriam have been visiting from Marseille – 10 days camping at Son Bou, hardy souls, then 4 days with us.  They hiked almost all of the Cami de Cavalls.  I joined them on 4 days, with the aid of my newest friends, 2 walking poles.  I’ve always pooh-poohed them – “what do you think you’re doing, skiing??” – but in actual fact they are a wonderful invention, taking a lot of weight off your knees and turning it into a full-body workout instead of just the legs – I’m a convert.  The two best excursions were one north coast (Cavalleria to Pregonda and back) and one south coast (Son Saura to Galdana), the second of which we did as a 2-car expedition, involving enormous amounts of driving, but well worth it – I had dipped for for short swims at Pregonda and Cavalleria, but I got my first real swam in the turquoise water of Torqueta and Macaralleta, the first time in 20 years, probably  – heaven…

Having visitors also means doing things you otherwise never get around to…  I finally went to Ca’n Oliver, the museum in Mao dedicated to 18th and 19th century Menorca, situated in a glorious old town house, complete with double staricase 3 stories high, and murals on all the ceilings.  Stunningly beautiful, and full of period detail of the everyday lives of ordinary people (as well as the rich and famous).  I learned an interesting fact, that under the British occupation the Menorcans continued to speak Menorquin and Catalan, languages that were banned throughout the rest of Spain – an example of the Brtain’s “benevolent” colonialism, and why the Menorcans have a soft spot for them, historically….

We’re having another morning of heavy rain – there have been several recently – for which I should be very grateful, as it saves me having to water the garden and huerto, but in fact it’s been so damp that the tomato plants all have the blight from lack of sun and too much water – a first, that has NEVER happened before.  We took off all the blighted branches and leaves, and applied an eco anti-fungal but I don’t know if they’ll survive.  And we dug up about two thirds of the potato crop, in case they got the blight, too, while I”m gone… lovely harvest, very proud… also calabacin coming out of our ears, as always (been doing tempura flowers, yum), some lovely green beans and strawberries, and a few fava beans… plus lettuce, of course… the nasturtiums are still in full bloom, so we are eating gorgeous salads…

I head to London tomorrow for a weekend of culture with Jan, then up to Cotherstone for a week to check in up there – hate to leave the island in June, but needs must… hope everything survives in my absence – perhaps when I come back the rains will have stopped, the aubergine and peppers and tomatoes will be bearing fruit, and the wind will have shifted to the north (it’s been southerly for weeks and weeks) and cleared the big blue bath tub for the return of morning swims…
Que vaya bien, todos…

May 1st, 2018, Menorca

“Hooray, hooray, the 1st of May, outdoor f***ing starts today”  – but not in this weather!

I see I haven’t written since the year began – so much water under the bridge…. Babette’s Feast in Portland and now in NYC, for which I wrote some music long distance, and Karin Coonrod worked her customary magic directing… I finished Geography with the help of a Kickstarter campaign to which, once again, my friends (and many strangers) contributed munificently…   It hit the stands in mid February and I managed a release concert at The Owl in mid March, with almost all of the musicians who had recorded on it.  Greg Cohen was in town for Ralph Carney’s tribute at Roulette (such a loss – what a wonderful human being, crazy as may be but all the more amazing a musician), so Greg joined me, Doug, Dana and Marika as the core band, with Matt, Peter, Kenny and Joy (who did an opening solo set) swelling the ranks… only Charlie B and Isaac Alderson couldn’t make it, being out of town… it turned out to be the night of a freak snowstorm and I feared the worst, but in the event the place was packed – hardy New Yorkers, yay!  thank you, one and all, for coming out and bearing witness to my latest endeavour… since I almost immediately fled town for what may be 4 or 5 months, I imagine it will sink without a trace, but somehow that has never bothered me – it’s the making of it that is important, after that it’s up to the universe…

I’ve also been trying to finish up Vagabond.  I made the Jan 31st deadline for the Duffy Institute, both orchestral and piano/vocal scores, then spent a month making all the parts, and it had its first full reading in Norfolk in mid March (immediately after the Geography concert – no peace for the wicked).  2 days of vocalists with rehearsal pianist, the 3rd day with full orchestra.  I had never thought they would actually produce it, but they were all so enthusiastic (the director mentor constantly saying “oh I’d do this and this for this scene” etc) that Jan and I thought “well, maybe??” They had found us some more money with the stipulation that some of it be used to fly Jan over for the workshop – it was wonderful having her in the room, fun for all of us and we got so much work done.  There are still some things to be addressed, but we know what they are (of course 2 months later Jan still hasn’t sent me the rewrites – plus ça change…).  However, in the end they have decided not to (produce it).  Not a surprise, as I say, but still a slight disappointment, for all that.  So now we must look elsewhere – gulp… I am going to the opening of this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, at Jan’s invitation, to press the flesh etc, and I have written to some people I know in the US – verremos…

Meanwhile, Westbeth has been undergoing major reconstruction for the past few months, and starting in March it was the turn of the light well outside my windows.  It will be going on (and off and on) until December, they say, but the worst of it was to be May and June, they said, when my windows would be taped up so I’d have no air and no air conditioner, so since I was headed across the pond for sis’s 70th birthday at the end of March, I figured I’d just stay away as long as I can and avoid it… so here I am on the finca….

It’s been a long, cold and wet winter here as well, so spring is quite delayed, but the island is green green green and the wild flowers rampant.  I planted the potatoes a month ago, and they are already quite sizeably above ground – the rain last night and today is making them very happy, as is everything else in the huerto, which has been in for 2 weeks now – onions, tomatoes, peppers, beans, aubergine, calabacin, even some peas and strawberries this year, since it’s been so wet and cool…. we did have 10 days of glorious early summer in the middle of last month, but today it’s back to early spring and both fires are going….  my studio is up and running so I can work, tho’ the garden and huerto take most of my attention these days.  It’s still too cold to swim, and a seriously bum knee has put a large crimp in my hiking habit – really sad, as the island is looking so glorious at the moment…

But two recent highlights: the first was a gathering here of the Saura clan for a Saturday comida  – they are the family that run the bar where sis sings on a thursday night in Mao – Geddi and Juan run the bar, Ramon does the music, along with Arturo (who is the ex-mayor of Mao and a pretty good piano player).  Ramon has a gorgeous voice, and plays the guitar like a pro (he gigged in hotels for years), and when the 3 of them (Ramon, Arturo and Juan) sing menorcan songs together I could listen all night (much of the 60s and 70s stuff I could do without).  Sis had been trying to get them over for a meal all winter, so I just asked, the night I got here, and lo and behold, they all came con mucho gusto, along with Lucia and Verio, a lovely couple who are there every night and have had them all to their house, so it was a fun, food- and drink-filled afternoon, with loads of local delicacies, and much music after… and then… Joan Schirle was just here for 4 days (we are talking about a possible collaboration, so wanted to talk in person, as well as catch up generally, it’s been too long…) – she had been in the south of France visiting friends and was on her way back to CA…  We managed a day hike and picnic up to Pregonda, which was fabulous – I had a cane and went slowly, but it felt so good to be out and about… Actually, I lie about the picnic – we made sandwiches, but then stopped in Mercadal for lunch at Las Vegas – incredibly good value prix fixe menu – and ended up having the sandwiches for supper when we got home! But it was a lovely day… also a short excursion to Es Grau one evening, to walk along the beach and back through the S’albufera, so I’ve not been totally deprived…

There are a couple of offers of work on the horizon, for September… we shall see… meanwhile I must make a short sampler of the Vagabond recording to have something to send out to potential interested parties – so hard for me to do, I can’t see the wood for the trees…. but I must keep my hand in, and try not to turn into a total payesa… I need to keep my life in NY afloat…. life with sis is as complicated as ever (she was so thrilled and happy to see me at first, but it wears off pretty quick…) But we are managing – only just, at points, but at others very well   – we had a bonfire last night in the fire pit out back – the last legal day for burning until October – we even baked potatoes in the coals – yum!   today I slept until 11, playing catch-up after playing hostess for 4 days, walking the tightrope between guest and sis…. She gave me a colouring book for my birthday, and I am having the most marvelous time with it – great therapy, and it helps slow me down and not feel frustrated that I can’t leap out of bed in the morning and do 6 million things before breakfast as was my wont… time to turn a new leaf, learn some new tricks…

I realize one reason for the bum knee may be that I had a 13 hour layover in Madrid on the way here, from 8am to 9pm, and it being a glorious day I spent it walking all over the city in the wrong boots, going to 4 museums and 2 galleries, the only respite being a 2 hour soak in a fabulous hammam I found right in the heart of  town – a great find… but it could have been too much of a good thing (for the knees, not the mind!)

Onward and upward, at a slower and more stately speed…


Dec. 31st 2017

That was a year that was…

2017… Begun (as ended) on the finca with sis. Then back to NYC by mid-January for the rest of the winter – texts&beheadings mini-tour (including a women’s prison and the Cathedral of St. John The Divine), KGC at Westbeth, Wau-Wa @ Lethe Lounge, Vagabond reading in Norfolk VA, courtesy of the Duffy Institute for New Opera, and mixing and overdubs for Geography throughout… then back to the finca by early April for three and a half months of healing time – bliss. Time to plant and grow the huerto, and eat the fruits thereof… 4 weeks in the middle to myself while sis went back to deal with the last of her stuff at Startforth, time to write some, two visits from Jan to work on the libretto in preparation for the September meeting… back to the city by late july for doctor check-ups (all good)… august included a road trip up state with Beth C. – stellar – ending at Jack’s Creek – and house sitting in Tappan with the best speakers I’ve ever had to pleasure of listening to…

I had wanted to be back on the finca by October sometime, but work showed up – mirabile dictu – and I really wanted to get the CD finished before leaving… I launched a Kickstarter campaign for it, scary but very successful ultimately, and managed to have it in hand a week before I left in December… meanwhile I landed a big fat audio book recording that also financed a 2 week trip to cotherstone (see photos below) to check in with that part of the world and try and get the last of the vagabond writing done – unfortunately only half of the libretto revisions got to me in time – but at least I got those done… and 2 days before I did finally leave NYC (Dec. 11th) we did that crazy triple bill at The Kitchen – Forever Weird – Microscopic Kamikaze Passengers… seriously fun…

The past 3 weeks here have been the usual mixed bag but generally good – I was totally run down by the time I got here, so came down with a bad cold for a week, but not too bad – and pesha came for a week’s visit – always fun… I have 2 more weeks before heading back to NYC for the balance of the winter, to find out what’s up with the construction due outside my windows, and to prepare for the 2nd Vagabond workshop in mid-March (orchestral and piano/vocal score both due jan. 31st – help!!!)… I hope to be back here on the island soon thereafter…

2018?  I want to go to Morocco – in April?  I would like Orfeo to happen again in Italy… I would like to spend as much time as possible on the finca, but I would also like to get back to the west coast, maybe even do the road-trip/solo tour up the coast… Montalvo? gig the new recording? at least a relase gig, preferably in march, with greg, who said he might be in town then…

We have survived a year of Humpty Dumpty as president – if you can call it surviving… what a nightmare… the ramifications are so appaling I can’t look at them, I live like an ostrich… can we get rid of him? can we take back the senate in November? Let’s hope 2018 brings us all some sanity… along with health and prosperity… I am one of the fortunate few… but we are living in the end game…


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