Gina Leishman

Composer, Multi-instrumentalist, and Singer

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…