Friday, August 22, 2014

Sessions and Castles and Kittens, Oh My!

It's been a great Summer in Ireland - probably our busiest ever. After dashing off to the UK for six weeks (see previous post), we settled in for a summer of sessions and medieval music.

Sessions ran all through the summer, and weekends saw us travelling to play music in castles all over the country, from south (Ormonde Castle, Carrick-on-Suir) to north (Dunluce Castle, Bushmills), east (Narrow Water Castle, Newry) to west (Athenry Castle, Galway), and points in between (Fethard).

Traditional Irish sessions:
New Ross: Nan, on the flute, came from India to stay a couple of weeks - always a high point in our summer.

Ballywilliam: Yes, that's the same young piper, Eoin. Saw him a lot this summer; he's turning into a serious player!

We made up a variety of medieval ensembles for performances in castles all over Ireland.
Tania and Mike in Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir
Sam Burke (Nuada) travels and performs with an even bigger collection of unusual musical instruments than we do,
Rehearsal time at our house.
so when we get together to practice for some summer gigs it's a real stringfest (plus a few whistles, reeds, and of course drums!)

Leading the procession around Fethard's medieval walls.

Tania went up to Northern Ireland for a couple of days to play with Sam and Ferris at:
Dunluce Castle, perched dramatically on the rocky North Antrim coast.

Narrow Water Castle has less impressive surroundings (a dual carriageway),
but unlike Dunluce it has a roof. And we had fun in the great hall.

Then it was back to Mike and Tania, the duo, as we finished our medieval "season" in Athenry Castle, Co Galway.
Mike, exploring the grounds.
Tania, setting up in the great hall.

At home in Inistioge, we took advantage of some barbecue weather, celebrated the christening of our neighbors' new baby, and got adopted by a pair of absolutely adorable barn cats.

Don at the grill

'Pearls' and 'Rocky'

Somehow, in between all that, Mike managed to get a lot of work done on the house. I'll try to get a new update to our house restoration blog soon, but here's one of the highlights - a working wood stove. That's in addition to the underfloor heating he installed last year, so now if we ever have time to stay put through the Winter, we'll be nice and cozy!

The summer's ending. Mike is staying a bit longer to finish up some of the good progress on the house, but Tania has said goodbye to friends, neighbors and kittens, and is saying hello to our Pacific Northwest friends as she travels solo in the coming weeks to two festivals and a performing arts showcase. See our calendar for details.

'Bye for now!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UK 2014 - On the road again... Or, rather, 'Still on the Road'.

Our intention is always to share highlights of our travels as we go, but in reality we're generally too busy doing the traveling to write about it. So once again, this is more of a "looking back" post, but it's recent enough that we haven't had time to unpack yet from this trip!

We got back to Ireland in March. The weather wasn't too bad. The house wasn't too bad, either - only a bit of mold and a lot of musty towels, clothes and bedding. We had two weeks to get turned around and start the UK tour, and we spent most of that time scrubbing walls and running loads of laundry.

The one big disappointment was that after the very first shower on our return, the shower unit died. Blew a capacitor and seriously fried. Good thing we have a bathtub, too. As much as we like seeing our friends here, we didn't want to return to the days of showing up for visits with towels and shampoo.
So, leaving shower repairs for later but having taken care of the important stuff of airing and cleaning both house and caravan (because we'll have company starting to arrive very shortly after we get back here), we hit the road...
... and arrive in Liverpool.
Our first few shows were in the North of England, and we had one day early on when we decided to just be tourists for the day. This was after a show in Guisborough, so first off we walked up the street from our hotel for a look at the ruins of the old cathedral. This has to be the fourth or fifth time we've played in this town, and we never even knew this was here!
From there, the logical thing to do was head for the coast by the most scenic route we could find. Actually it looks a lot like our road in Ireland, except we can't see the ocean ahead of us when we're driving into the village.
We went the long way around, through Borrowby, to Staithes - a gorgeous little seaside town perched on the sides of a... is there an English term for fjord?
It was still early in the year, so the bright sun only warmed the place up a little bit
but that didn't make the beach any less popular.
Making our way farther north, we got to Northumberland. No work here, just a couple of days off between the shows in northern England and the ones in Scotland, and we wanted to spend them with our friend Liz.
And there happens to be this great little bakery in Allendale, which made a good excuse for a walk to pick up some savories for dinner.
Liz is a wonderful Appalachian dulcimer player. We went out for a session with her in a local pub just after we arrived, and spent the rest of our time there going around to visit (and play music with) all the old friends we bumped into there - Ian and Marilyn and Chris and Anne... and then we were out of time and on the road again.
Onward and Northward, here we are in Scotland. We arrived just in time for Easter with Steven and Elizabeth. And set out for another walk on another beautiful but chilly and windy beach.
Getting off the beach seemed like a good (warm) idea, but then, from the top of this hill, Steven pointed out North Berwick Law and suggested we go climb it...
Here's the marker at the top.
And here's the view at the top. There had been a whalebone arch erected here, and this is the modern, synthetic replacement.
I don't now how we got so lucky with the weather, but a few days later we were out sightseeing again (this time to Tantallon Castle, a semi-ruined mid-14th-century fortress). Look at that bright blue and green. In Scotland!
The rest of our time up in Scotland was a grand whirlwind of reunions with friends we hadn't seen in far too many years, interspersed with some really nice shows and amazing scenery, and then we were back in England. The bluebells hadn't been quite out yet in Scotland, but they were almost finished in Yorkshire.

In addition to the human friends we get to stay with, we also get plenty of feline and canine companionship along the way. Eska was the new puppy when we came to Birdsedge last year. She's still a puppy - a very BIG puppy.
Millie still thinks she's a puppy, too, but she has been around for awhile. She and her people, now in Manchester, used to live down the road from us here in Ireland. Fortunately Dave and Helen found a place right next to a very big park, so she still has open fields to run around.
The morning after our show in Louth, we went for a walk up the winding bell tower stairs to the steeple of the cathedral church. A good workout, and an even better view from the top.
And the prettiest bathroom window I've ever seen :)
Near the end of the trip we were back in Norwich, where this blog, and in fact our whole career and life together began. Norwich Folk Club meets in this lovely old Church Hall. And there's Bridget, coming out the door to greet us. 
Well, that was it. Round and round and up and down and back and forth, and the miles (and months) fly by. Now we're back in Ireland. Will post more soon. 'Bye for now.