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Easter Sunday 2012

Less than a week off from Brecht and Eisler, we had a freak snowstorm last Tuesday (my birthday!) which dumped 6 inches of wet, heavy snow on all the darling buds of march… I was up in scotland visiting my sister faire, where it had been 24 degrees only days before – go figure…

Various and sundry splendid expeditions were made while up north of north: to the beach on the Moray Firth; to Cromarty and the Black Isle; to Ullapool, across the highlands on the west coast, where you catch the ferry to the Hebrides, and home of the reputedly best ceilidh in Scotland – altho’ it hadn’t yet started up for the season, needless to say – neither had the Cromarty ferry, which is why we ended up on the west coast to start with – who knew it was so close? only 55 miles from Inverness – also home of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (helped by eating it while sitting on the waterfront watching the most amazing evening light); to Randolph’s Leap and the Findhorn river, land of green and gold; to the Benromach Distillery in sis’s home town of Forres, where they make the world’s only organic single malt (and mighty fine it is, too); and to the Automata Museum in Kinloss, owned and operated by one Michael Start, who designed the wonderful automata in Hugo (and repaired Scorsese’s watch) among many others… who knew what treasures lurked in these scottish backwaters? check it out: http://automatomania.co.uk

Sad to say, on my return I found that one of my mum’s wonderful old dogs is no more – dear sweet Patsy, one of a pair of ancient long-haired dachshunds, had a heart attack and had to be put down earlier that day… the other, her brother, dear old deaf and blind Tom, had also fallen into the fish pond a couple of nights previously (Mum had a busy time while I was away, god bless her) – he is bewildered to be on his own, and we are all bereft… I have just cleaned up the kitchen after Easter Sunday lunch – cousin David has taken Aunt Liz home, mum has taken Tom upstairs for an afternoon nap, and all is sort of all right with the world… happy easter…


March 28th

I fear we may have had our summer already…. it’s been simply glorious the past 5 days or so…. strong sun and real warmth, nay, heat (20 degrees celsius!), blue, blue skies – the river looks like august, it’s so low… the ground is actually dry… gotta love it, gotta fear it… my librettist (and long-time friend) came up for the weekend to kick-start my writing process. Long walks, too much wine, but a whole lot of writing… I am actually writing again, it feels great… god knows if any of it is worth keeping, but I’m writing – hallelujah… but now I must hie me to scotland to see my sister fair… ’tis time for our birth day celebrations… the darling buds of march?


21.3.12 (european spelling)

palindrome day… Happy vernal equinox everybody, and happy birthday Johann Sebastian. So glad you are/were around…

A moment of panic when it seems part of the ceiling in my apartment in NY is falling in and my wonderful tenant (who is also looking after my cat) threatens to leave immediately… but thank the lord for good friends… within 24 hours of my flurry of panicked emails, the thing is fixed and all is once again calm and bright. So I don’t need to abandon my mum, to get on a ‘plane to go fix a ceiling – just as well, as she (my mum) is due for more slicing and dicing shortly – though I have to confess to a small, sneaking extra beat of the heart, thinking of a few days back in nyc with my cat and my friends… but the ticket would have been exorbitant, the timing excruciating, and that pleasure will come, that will come, in good time… looking at maybe the end of may, for a week or so, if all is well? kamikaze, wau-wa, anyone? I have regretfully decided that spending the entire month of May at Montalvo is out of the question – too far for too long, things are way too uncertain… the folks at Montalvo have been wonderfully understanding, saying that I have an open invitation to complete my 3rd month of residency when the time is right – I am deeply appreciative, both for their generosity and for the light at the end of the tunnel that it provides…

meanwhile, back in teesdale, spring is springing… the daffs are out in force, and the birds are deafening.


March 14th

my, what a difference the sight of sunshine and blue sky (not to mention warmth) can make in a girl’s life… a long weekend in Marseille with good friends (L’Estaque, actually… I can vouch for why Cézanne and all those painters chose to live there – the light, that exact shade of blue in the sky, is unlike anywhere else)… markets & music, hikes in the hills, ferry to Frioul, cous-cous in the quartier…. a brief but ecstatic dose of mediterranean living that was exactly what the doctor ordered – I could feel myself opening like a flower….

to combat the hedonism, sunday was the anniversary of the Japan ‘quake & Fukushima disaster, so we drove to Avignon to take part in the 235 km Chaine Humaine from Avignon to Lyon (the area of most of france’s nuclear plants) – my friend Christian, whom I went to visit, and whom I’ve known since we were 14, always reminds me what it is to be a socially responsible human being, in the nicest possible way… a grand day out with kids and grannies, students and shopkeepers hand in hand, all 60,000 of us inching along to join the dots… (it’s missing from the photo journal – couldn’t take pictures because my hands were otherwise occupied) – we also went to a wonderful benefit concert/party the night before at Rouge, a restaurant run by friends – a food drive combined with all kinds of music – african percussion, classical piano trio, lyric chansons, R&B and swing – again, kids and grannies and all in between, a real clubhouse for the community…

en route to marseille I stopped in london for some other “culture” (staying with a friend whom I’ve known since I was seven- we’re talking real roots here). Tate Modern (Kusama and Boetti), Tate Britain (Picasso & the Brits), and Rossini at the Hackney Empire (Barber of Seville), a fabulously restored old vaudeville palace, worthy of the florid lines of the barber’s arias… Kusama’s Infinity Room will stay with me for a very long time… good meals with good friends, one day being breakfast in Cotherstone, lunch in Putney, dinner in Balham, nightcap in Tufnell Park… thank god for London Transport. In spite of all the travel, I feel fully restored.

I’ve been reading Morton Feldman’s collected writings, “Give my regards to eighth street” – what a revelation he is. He had somehow passed me by all these years, until I heard Neither at City Opera last year, as part of the Monodramas evening (with Zorn and Schoenberg), great night, particularly the Feldman, which knocked my socks off. And now this (I found it at the South London Gallery last time I was down) – I find myself constantly saying “Yes!” – particularly when he talks about not being able to work until he has found the perfect chair… and his connection with the visual arts…


March 1st, 2012 Cotherstone

Spring is ever closer – in fact a couple of days ago some blue sky appeared overhead on my afternoon walk, the birds were in full throat (well, almost), the views across the dale were distinctly softer, and I had me a new spring song by the time I got home…

I’ve been checking out the local music scene – singing with two different community choruses (the choir thing is very strong in this part of the world) and playing/singing at a couple of different folk music venues. The choruses rehearse in schools – both in Barnard Castle, the local market town (Barney, as it’s known), one in the state school, the other in the private one, or “public” as they’re called here, very confusing – and the music is made in pubs – one at the Old Well in Barney, a monthly gathering of the B.C.Folk Club, and the other in the tiny hamlet of Butterknowle, a half-hour drive along tortuous back roads to the back of beyond, but a thriving community and happening gathering. A wide range of talent from beginner to pretty great, they’ve all been very welcoming to a stranger from across the pond playing ‘foreign’ music – tho’ I do know some traditional tunes, and am spending time with the mandolin learning more – I’ve been taken under the wing of a whistle player who lives in the village, so I have some local cred… And the choir singing is really good for the wind, after years of singing on a microphone… all grist to the mill…


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