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December 2015, Menorca

Back on the island, to my beloved finca… It seemed that I brought winter with me… they’ve had an endless summer, and it was glorious the day I arrived (nov 20th) – I even threw myself in the sea for a quick baptism (really cold water!), the surest way to feel that I’ve truly arrived – but the following day the temperature plummeted, the wind and rain started – oh yeah… but with both fires going we are very cozy, and after 5 days or so it broke, since when it’s been glorious – crispy cold nights, days of hot sun at midday, but cool air, perfect for gardening, and hiking… I did the front garden the first week (how lovely to see the earth again!), and got through most of the fig garden this week before my joints demanded that I stop – I can’t get out of bed in the morning, and my shoulders scream at me 24/7… not to mention my back and hips… crap, I say, and double crap… I’m not ready for this… so much to do…!

the week in cotherstone before coming out here was fairly productive in terms of getting ready for the build (converting the potting shed), but the weather was filthy (again, it broke as I arrived, they’d been having a beautiful autumn) and I got no walks in except down to the river and back most days – tho’ that was pretty spectacular a couple of times – we had lashings of rain and things were flooding all over. I didn’t see it in full spate but high enough, and the high tide marks of flotsam and leaves were astonishing… Mary Matthews hosted a great dinner (at my request, kind and generous spirit that she is), with them and the Robertsons and a couple of artist friends of hers – she seemed genuinely happy that I’d asked her to do it, thankfully! so much fun… also a good evening with Mark and Mary – dinner and the village panto! No sign of Sam – he’s truly gone, I fear…. I can only hope it’s to a good place… que vaya bien, querido…. I miss you, and keep you in my heart… you got to be a wild animal, a real cat, and I cannot regret that…

October was full of good things – a splendid Wau-Wa gig at Barbes – the 2nd in less than year, mirabile dictu, which meant we actually had time to learn a couple of new pieces, not just try to remember the old ones… both of them from Mahagonny, of course, my beautiful obsession: the Alabama song, finally, (an arrangement of the songspiel version, much the more interesting); and a version of Essen for Rinde, including the introductory “first comes eating” – all very satisfying… then on to BAM, for weeks of ER and William Kentridge – good company to keep… ER was very well received, and glowingly reviewed in the NYT – except that once again there was no mention of the music… hey ho, plus ça change… I wish them well… I heard Kentridge lecture at the Studio School (riveting), saw his piece at BAM (a glorious mess) and finally saw his production of Lulu at the Met (gilding the lily – I had to go back a second time to actually hear the music, I was so busy LOOKING the first time – not good, altho his stuff is wonderful, always). Good dinners with friends, and walks, and lunches… chi gong in the park most mornings…. We had the Westbeth Flea Market before I left, and I have signed up for meal deliveries in the building… life in westbeth… have also booked a kamikaze concert here for january…

and then there was paris… jesus, man’s inhumanity to man is incomprehensible… I took part in the Climate March here in menorca on Sunday, with Bett and Manel – there were about 250 folk, pretty good for this little place, and manel was good company, very knowledgeable… felt good to put one’s feet where one’s mouth is…

postscript… later, about to leave… two great hikes with Angela, bits of the cami de cavalls – the first from Favaritx to Es Grau, and a week later from Cala’n Porter to Son Bou – wonderful… and two great purchases – a new wood stove for my room, and a new mattress for my bed – a warm, dry room and good sleeping at both things devoutly to be wished for at this stage… and 3 really great weeks with sis – such a good time we had together – thank you…


October 1st, New York

October – how is that possible? time time time… it has been raining, and autumn is in the air…

the piece [texts & beheadings] is up and running at the Folger in D.C. – I think it’s good. perhaps the music is a little too “on the money” – it reminds me of Ellen telling me of all those Woolf scholars who didn’t realise it wasn’t Woolf they were listening to in “Septimus and Clarissa” but McLaughlin… the 4 girls finally owned the songs the night before I left D.C. – they are troopers, one and all, and have given their all to make it work… hopefully it will not all fall apart while I’m away from it – but we have a little rehearsal time before it comes into BAM, to put things right if need be… toca madera…

Nephew Chris came to D.C. for a couple of days – I had flown him out to New York and given him my apartment for a week as a graduation present – a great joy wandering the Library of Congress and Botanic Gardens with him, plus a family reunion dinner with charlie and emily green… The pope seemed to follow me around, first in D.C.then in New York… plus the chinese premier in D.C.and Putin in NY.. corridors of power… I have started listening to the radio again (wnyc) – perhaps that’s why I get depressed here – the state of the world is so god-awful if you listen to the news, it’s a wonder anyone gets up in the morning… perhaps best not to listen to the news, just to music… unless one is actually going to DO something about it… the only doing I know how to do is music… altho’ I’m thinking of volunteering as a gardener’s helper in the Hudson River Park – so much weeding to do…

We had a perfectly splendid Kamikaze reunion the other night – what a total joy, warts and all… I billed it as an open rehearsal, since we hadn’t had one, and hadn’t played in 4 years… in the event, we didn’t actually rehearse but played our asses off – but we did sit in a circle, the way we do in rehearsal, and that’s what I want to do from now on (should we ever play again) – the joy of, as doug put it, “making – and being in the middle of, that sound”… it was also the night of the Super, Blood, Harvest Moon with Full Lunar Eclipse – wow – we closed the first set with Homage, exiting the building in full throttle, taking the audience with us, to view the eclipse in all its peach-coloured glory from the Brooklyn sidewalk – when the clouds would permit… a great night… we played 9 to midnight – my poor chops! tho’ doug did a great job figuring out set lists that gave me breathers on piano, accordion or uke… I had a really good time blowing again, particularly the bari – but I do wish reading on the bass clarinet weren’t such a mind-fuck, or I’d play it a lot more… but then I’d have to get Clarence refurbished, not just play doug’s Kohlert, which is so much more in tune…

I also faced the music with the tax man finally – not as bad as I feared, luckily, tho’ not pretty – but I don’t think I’ll lose my home (or my shirt)… toca madera otra vez…

I have bought a ticket to go check in with the other side of the pond in November… needs must, but I really must be mad… tie me up, tie me down…


August 8th – New York

Arrived back in the city yesterday, after a marathon 24 hour journey via Barcelona and Moscow (don’t ask…), to find inches of dust and no phone or internet… hey ho…

what a wrench, to leave the garden, the huerto, sis and gat the cat, not to mention the sea, the island in general… it has been the hottest summer on record which, added to the absence of the trees, has made for a slow pace of life – all the better… aside from my morning and evening swims in the big blue (idyllic, not a medusa in sight since late may), I spent hours every day in the garden and huerto – we had vegetables coming out of our ears – we need to buy a deep freeze if we’re going to continue doing this… my 7 weeks alone were every bit as beneficial as I hoped they would be, and the 3 weeks together with sis after her return were just fine as a result – she had had an absolutely wonderful time reconnecting with her kids, and came back in great shape – of course she has fallen apart since, as a reaction to the repeated separation, but hopefully the island will work its magic on her and she will find her peace again. The place is a lot to take care of by oneself, good with the two of us when we’re both in our right minds – verremos… but these past months have done wonders in repairing the damage of last winter… I have been completely out of touch with the rest of the world, with regards to current events and such, and very happy to be so – I know it’s the old ostrich attitude and maybe I can’t hide forever, but it seems to me that if I can, I will… it is good for me, it doesn’t hurt anyone else… nice work if you can get it…

speaking of which, on to things here… texts & beheadings… taxes.. wish me luck…


June 21st – menorca – Summer Solstice

How did 3 months slide by? a quick recap:

march was spent in cotherstone, trying to sort out my health and the cottage… I finally got an appointment to see a cardiologist, for the day I left – classic. But I was feeling much better, so wotthehell archie, there’s a dance in the old dame yet…

meanwhile, I had a great hang with sam. I wrote a new tune (and then some). I finally found a really old Fylde mandola, right there in Barney – Bob Jordan’s, it had been upstairs of the antique shop all this time, and Luke had finally brought it down and put it in the shop, thinking to sell it. It needs work but has a lovely sound, and it would be great to keep it “in the family”… I spent a whole week cleaning the rental cottage and making trips to the dump. I got someone to come and paint the place from top to bottom, I had all the carpets replaced, and finally I decided i wasn’t cut out to be a landlord, particularly an absentee one, so with diana’s agreement, I put the place on the market to sell rather than rent… jesus me beads, as mum would say… then I went back to new york…

my 5 weeks back in westbeth were glorious. I suppose since my time there was finite, everyone stepped up to the plate, and I saw everyone (lunches, dinners, walks, gigs) and played with almost everyone (kgc being the exception) – I did in 5 weeks what normally would take 5 months… and it was spring… I was sorry to leave…

and leave again I did, may 7th. back to cotherstone for a week, no sign of sam, a possible buyer for the cottage, and then on to menorca for 10 days with sis before she took off for CA to see her kids. And a great 10 days it was – it went a long way to making up for the ghastly time over the winter… poc a poc… the island is dry dry dry, the earth cracked like mid-july rather than mid-may. but the huerto was in and with much watering I am already eating from it – lettuce, calabacin, beans, first pepper, first aubergine… tomatoes and onions coming on… the lack of the giant pines right by the house changes the landscape utterly – back to lots of sky – and lots of heat… but the caña is up, and I am planting succulents and cacti, cuttings from friends and neighbours, chiefly Rob and Bernard… B also brings drinking water from his well, and plant and herb advice… and we did have a wonderful thunderstorm earlier this week that gave everything a much needed drenching…

with diana gone, I have moved back upstairs, which I love (it is truly home to me) and have painted my downstairs room… the joy of being alone here is largely due to knowing that the time is finite… the sale of the rental cottage is still hanging fire – the buyers continue to balk at this and that, I try to possess my soul in patience… and meanwhile I have discovered I am in potentially deep shit with my american taxes, which has put a giant cloud over my time here – I may lose westbeth apart from anything else – but I am looking for a tax attorney, trying to deal, and to remain present at the same time…. steep learning curve… life is short and one needs to seize the carp… I am grateful for all the blessings and hope to learn from all the mistakes… the sun is hot, the sea still muy frescita but bliss… ¡empieza el verrano!


March 9th, 2015, Cotherstone

a belated welcome to 2015… one hell of a lot of water under the bridge, some of which I’m happy to let slide by and disappear, but some of which needs to be celebrated…

Someone once told me they had given up reading this as it just made them jealous… well, sweetheart, I wouldn’t have wished some moments of the past few months on my worst enemy, but I don’t feel like dwelling on them, and nor have I since I started this endeavour back in 2011 when I first returned to the UK. It seems to me that far too much time and effort is wasted by people moaning online, sharing the most intimate or inane moments of their lives with hapless passers-by and close friends alike. Not that I don’t like a good moan occasionally (who doesn’t?) but I generally prefer to do it one-on-one, preferably over a large glass of wine or whisky. No, I started this as a way of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, to remind myself of my good fortune in challenging circumstances, and that still holds true.

So… suffice it to say that the experiment in trying to live with my sister on the finca ended in ignominious failure (not that anyone should be surprised, really) although there were wonderful moments along the way: my first winter huerto, including my very own potatoes (the best ever! says this proud grower – mateo would have been so proud) which I dug up for christmas, to accompany Bernard’s leg of lamb (“let’s gnaw on Bernard’s leg for Christmas” says Julia); lettuce and leafy greens still in abundance when I left the second week of January; the first new lambs born in our fields; a wood stove in my bedroom which made that corner of the house cosy and gave me a warm retreat and sanctuary; a good first menorcan Solstice open house with all the locals, including a blazing fire pit out back and lots of candles; my studio remained functional until I left, tho’ whether anything I wrote there is worth the paper it’s written on is up for debate; great hiking when the sun was out, the island green like Ireland, quiet and empty of all tourists… the sad news is 3 of the giant pines in the front garden have died mysteriously – not only a sad loss, both as 50-year old companions and a source of summer shade, but also a majorly expensive proposition to remove, being so close to the house… siempre mas obras…

By January, things were pretty dire in the house. Luckily I had planned my SE Asian odyssey as a once-in-a-lifetime midwinter getaway, so get away I did, leaving sis to recoup in solitude as she so desperately desired. I had done everything in my power to make it work, but just as the menorcans seem to want tourism without the tourists, so my sis seems to want company without the company… but at least we tried… even if I had my doubts from the start, at the same time wanting so badly for it to work, if we’d never tried, we’d never have been sure it wouldn’t work… What Happens Now is the Big Question…

In the meantime, 6 weeks of exploration in SE Asia, courtesy of two old friends, both of whom, incidentally, I have known since the late ’70s in Oregon – how time flies… with Joan Schirle in Bali, and Joanne Petrina in Singapore – thank you, my dear friends, for giving me such a splendid time, and without whom none of it would have been possible…

Highlights in Bali: the stunning beauty of the landscape (it was the rainy season, so incredibly lush), the warmth and gentleness of the people (their word for foreigner, “tamu”, literally means “guest”); studying gamelan at Mardika’s, and kecak in the Wantilan, such a joy, such a joy; going to house ceremonies in formal sarong and kebaya to watch our master teachers perform topeng (riding a motorbike in a full-length sarong at night in the rain was a fun experience); hanging out at our home, the beautiful Melati Cottages in Penestanan, more than somewhat due to being sick, but being taken such good care of and in such beautiful surroundings; being the rainy season it was relatively quiet with regards to tourism, thankfully (tho’ I still found Ubud a bit of a nighmare when I did have to go there); realising after a month of 30 degrees and high humidity that my shoulders have never been so relaxed, in spite of it all; getting to finally spend real time with Joan after all these years, one of the Great Women Of The World. The last few days on Bali were spent up on the rim of the stunning Batur caldera, courtesy of Joanne P… a view from my balcony to die for; hot springs on the crater floor that first afternoon; the amazing temple in the forest with all the carved forest people; the delightful Poonia, guide and driver, and charming Kadek, our host.

Chinese New Year in Singapore and Phnom Penh, such contrasting cities…
Highlights in Singapore: the delightful antique shop (“we buy junk and sell antiques”) with the giant grandfather-clock-sized Stella music box; meals both at home and abroad with Joanne & Charlie and their cohorts from the Earth Observatory; the beautiful Botanic Gardens; the final morning ferry ride to Kusu Island… But best of all, being whisked off to mythical Phnom Penh for 5 days – such a contrast to the sterility of Singapore (albeit a triumph in urban planning), back in the “real” SE Asia with all its chaos, mess and vibrancy, living Joanne’s fantasy life: riding all over town in tuk-tuks in search of silk markets and good food; a morning of pampered luxury at J’s favourite spa; cocktails in the Elephant Bar of Raffles Hotel; the sanctuary of the Villa Langka, tucked away in an alley in the heart of downtown, an urban version of Melati; my unforgettable morning spent out in the Killing Fields – so quiet, so peaceful, nothing but birdsong (and an excellent audio guide, something I normally eschew) to accompany the ghosts of the 3 million exterminated… man’s inhumanity to man is unfathomable… the final morning’s 90-minute drive through dirty, dusty, depressing evidence of poverty and a climb up 482 steps to a 12th c. temple complex on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, a stunning mini Angkor Wat with amazing views of the surrounding countryside – and no-one there but us… I am one truly lucky so-and-so…

However, ill health combined with bad news from the home front in Cotherstone have forced me to change my plans for the month of march – instead of taking my final month of composer’s residency at Montalvo CA, before returning to nyc in April, I am spending it up in the frozen north of the UK, taking care of my health and family business – all tests so far have been negative, luckily, next is the cardiologist… still a mystery… meanwhile, it snowed for a couple of days last week and I’ve been wearing long-johns and 2 wooly sweaters – and that’s indoors… now it’s howling winds and horizontal rain… quite the contrast to last month’s tropics… Sweet Sam is ecstatic to have me back, spending his days curled up asleep by the fire, and his nights out hunting, coming in at 3am with muddy paws and mouse breath to sleep on my head – so wonderful to hang out with him again, but what am I going to do?? I am losing his caretaker… sometimes it all looks so hopeless, and then I look again and realise what an amazingly fortunate person I am… but many questions still to be answered… watch this space (if anyone is still reading this far down the page) and if anyone has any answers, let me know…


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