Celtic Connections, Glasgow

Since the 21st of January Glasgow has been hosting Celtic Connections. The festival goes on until the 5th of February and as the programmes are on the radio I think they are available for people outside the UK to listen to. If you’re interested have a look here anyway.

Celtic Connections gets bigger every year and there are some amazing people performing this year, from all over the world – even Olivia Newton-John! Glasgow has become a real Mecca for fans of folk and traditional music.

The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau

The Willow Cabin cover

The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau was published in 1949, my copy is a 1951 reprint. This is the first book that I’ve read by the author and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her books.

The Willow Cabin covers the years from 1936 to 1948 and the settings are various but mainly London and America.

Caroline is a 22 year old aspiring actress, in fact she’s really talented at it, but she’s also rather immature. Her relationship with her mother and step-father is fraught and when she falls for Michael a well-known surgeon who is much older than her she moves out of the family home into an hotel.

Michael is unable to get a divorce from his wife (hmmm) but that doesn’t put Caroline off and when war breaks out she throws up her acting career to follow Michael around, they’ve both joined the army.

For most of the book Mercedes, Michael’s Anglo-American wife is absent, apparently in France, possibly helping the resistance or even dead. But in the last third of the book the war is over and Caroline goes to America where Mercedes has pitched up. Mercedes had been very well off before the war but she has used the last of her money to buy a farm in America and to build a small house for a family of German refugees who are supposedly her employees along with a French family of refugees.

The two families can’t get along and have absolutely no sense of gratitude for everything that has been done for them. I’m sure that that was Frankau’s way of pointing out how the UK had been bankrupted by a war not of its making and had got nothing out of it but a debt that took generations to pay off and absolutely no thanks from the rest of Europe for all that had been done for them and the sacrifices made.

The atmosphere of wartime London in particular is very well portrayed I think, of course the book was written not long after the end of the war.

The title of the book was taken from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and there seems to be some confusion on the internet as to what it means. However I have always understood that willow was worn by women whose loved ones were away from home – at war or at sea or whatever. It was a way of telling people (men) that they weren’t really on their own, they were waiting for the return of their lover.

All through reading this book I had the 1970s song All Around My Hat by Steeleye Span going around in my head, if you don’t know the song you might be interested in listening to it now.

I believe that Virago have reprinted this book as a modern classic so I’m counting this one towards my Classic Club Challenge, I’m not far off reaching 50 now.

Honfleur in France

Our last port of call on that cruise we went on in October was Honfleur in France. It’s north western France and the weather was very similar to British weather as it tends to be in that area. In fact we had to go into a shop and buy ‘une paraplui s’il vous plait’ – yes the rain was coming down in buckets! That was the only bad weather we had the whole cruise. Luckily we had taken most of our photos before the deluge.

aharbour 1

aharbour 4

But Honfleur itself turned out to be a wee gem of a town, very ancient as you can see.

old building 2

The town is just a very short walk from where our ship Black Watch was berthed.

aharbour 7

aOld building 3

aOld building 5

Some of the houses are very chocolate boxy and others are in dire need of some tender loving care, the one below looks scarily dilapidated!

aOld Building 6

And the house in the photo below is where the composer Erik Satie was born.

aOld Building 8

Sadly it was a Monday again and although most of the shops were open, because Honfleur’s economy must be massively boosted by the cruise ships that visit – the second-hand booksellers obviously didn’t think it was worth their while to open on a Monday. I was SO ANNOYED because I was dying to get in there and get in amongst those books. I wasn’t bothered that they were in French. I would have bought that old copy of Gulliver’s Travels if it had been open and I could see boxes full of old Tintin books in there.


Some women press their noses up against jewellery shop windows but with me it’s the bookshops – or chocolate shops!

I’m sure you know who Erik Satie was but just because I love this piece of music by him I’m putting it on here. Gymnopedie.

Kelvingrove organist’s Bowie tribute

The organist at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow played Life on Mars today as a tribute to David Bowie and a chap called Gordon Wilson was smart enough to film it on his phone. The organ obviously isn’t the best instrument to play it on, but he makes a good job of it I think. The organ is played every day at the same time, but the last time we were there, when we had Peggy from the US with us, we weren’t lucky enough to hear it.

David Bowie 1947 – 2016

I blogged about David Bowie once before, early on in ‘Pining’s’ career, but I can hardly believe that I woke up to the news of his death this morning. So sad, for me he was much more important than John Lennon and streets ahead of Elvis Presley. Bowie was an all round genius as well as a being a good guy, those two things aren’t often found wrapped up inside the one body.

It was T.Rex and Marc Bolan who first got me interested in music as a real fan. As an eleven year old my bedroom wall was plastered with posters of them, mainly pulled out from the middle pages of Jackie magazine. But I grew out of T.Rex fairly quickly and moved on to Bowie. It helped that my older brother is a Bowie fan so he was playing his music full blast a lot of the time. It would have been murder if I hadn’t liked the music.

So I’ve been a fan since the early days, and I’m so glad that I was there to witness Bowie’s early years. It would have been awful if I had not been able to witness the development of his career first hand, mainly through his performances on TV. In fact I never did get to see him live, my mother wouldn’t let me go to his Ziggy Stardust gig in Glasgow when I was 13. I was desperate to see him then and in later years we didn’t live close enough to any venues, and probably couldn’t afford it then, way back in the days when people paid for everything with cash, and did without if they didn’t have the cash.

Suffice to say that in the grey days of early 1970s Britain, when we had political strife and umpteen strikes leading to regular power cuts, Bowie and the Spiders from Mars were something to behold when they exploded onto our TV screens.

Unlike T.Rex, there was no danger of growing out of Bowie as he was ever changing, constantly developing and maturing, like all the best things.

I still can’t believe that he has gone.

Starman is an early favourite.

When I came out of hospital with my first son in 1986 it was Absolute Beginners which was in the charts, which is exactly what we were, new parents and clueless, but we managed to muddle through!

Another of my early favourites is what I call Tactful Cactus from the Hunky Dory album, but it’s called Eight Line Poem.

And from 1974, Lulu Singing The Man Who Sold the World which was written and produced by David Bowie, who also sang the backing track with Mick Ronson.

When I was a Boy by Jeff Lynne

Jeff Lynne of ELO fame has a new single out called When I was a Boy. I heard it on the radio for the first time last week, and in my semi somnus state ( it was on the clock radio which had just woken me) I was thinking, – who is that singing? it isn’t Julian Lennon or Sean, but it sounds so Beatle-ish. Jeff Lynne has never made a secret of his love of The Beatles’ work so I should have realised it would be him, I suppose it’s an homage to them, whatever, I really like it – do you?

It sounds like the audio version of a patchwork quilt made up from bits of your family’s old clothes, a beloved memory in every piece.

White Christmas by The Drifters and Clyde McPhatter

I was listening to Radio Scotland the other day when this version of White Christmas was played, the DJ recommended that we have a look at it on You Tube, so I did and thought you might enjoy it too.

The Drifters with Clyde McPhatter

Christmas Carols

Jack’s 60th birthday is almost over and as usual I’m shattered before I even start cooking the Christmas dinner. Having a birthday so close to Christmas is a pain for all concerned as there’s no point in going out for a meal due to everywhere having a Christmas menu at the moment, so I’ve been in the kitchen for a large part of the day. Heigh ho – part two tomorrow, the kids are all here so what more could I want?!

Well some Christmas carols would be welcome, although I’m not at all religious I do love carols and a good sing song is the one thing which I miss about not going to church.

So here is the King’s College Cambridge choir, the beginning of it reminds me of our trip there earlier in the year, although we didn’t go on a punt as it was chucking it down with rain when we were there.

Fisherman’s Blues – by The Waterboys

We were driving back home from Perth this evening, listening to Brian Burnett’s (pronounced Burnit) show Get It On on Radio Scotland when he played Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys. You can always tell when a band is Scottish or Irish, that Celtic lilt just screams out at you!

Lovely stuff, the only down side was that as we were in the car we couldn’t dance to it, we’ve made up for that now though!

Shetland Folk Festival 2013

Well, the Shetland Folk Festival has come and gone, if you want to see and hear some of the music which featured in it – have a look here.

I’m not a crazy folky myself, although I do like it I wouldn’t go out of my way to hear it. One of my brothers absolutely despises (his word) all Scottish music, and just about foams at the mouth at the first squeeze of an accordion, it’s hilarious. But he is a massive Stranglers fan and follows them all over the place, even abroad. I must admit that I would probably choose to listen to The Stranglers rather than the old fashioned kind of traditional Scottish music.