Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Joan Baez wows Glasgow

Another first for me. Last night I witnessed the hard men of Glasgow simper under the hypnotic vocals of legend Joan Baez. The show at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was special for me because having just learned the rudiments of guitar I have a renewed love of all things folk.

Joan Baez was a huge draw when I was a child and to have the chance to see her singing live was a privilege.

This lady, who has shorn her hippy hair, now looks stunning with a trendy silver crop. She retains the crisp vocals and astounding range of early Joan. However she did admit last night, after forgetting lyrics for a second time, that her brain cells are not what they were. Her band played a little out of sync with her; this was explained when she introduced them as having met her only a week and a half ago. Because of this I enjoyed her solo set best, just Joan and her guitar.

It is a testament of our time, that her signature protests songs have now been reintroduced into the set. Dylan's God On Our Side was particularly telling.

The humor was provided by the guy in the first row who persisted in shouting out requests, despite Joan's plea for a translator. The affection the crowd poured towards Lady Joan was touching. I suspect she has a long career ahead of her.

Just Read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

In my quest to read more African books in 2008 than I have in my previous fifty years, it was a delight to stumble upon Poisonwood Bible in the Bibliocafe. The book is a former Oprah book club choice but, having now peeked into the list, with some exceptions, I am beginning to think that is no bad thing.

Set in the Belgian Congo at the time of Independence, this novel tells the tale of an evangelical minister who drags his wife and four daughters into the jungle to convert the natives. Told through the five very distinctive female voices, this is a masterpiece in character, plot and sentiment. With the exception of War and Peace it is the best book I have read this year.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Food for Free but no vitamin D

One of my few sunflowers not felled under the weight of August's rain.

Experts said on the radio yesterday that the people of Scotland suffer from a vitamin D deficiency because the sun's rays refuse to shine here. Looking at the weather today I can see their point but there is so much more going for us that we forget to look beyond what the experts tell us.

Last night's full moon could not been seen through the rain clouds, but I knew it was there. I am inclined to call this the Harvest Moon although that technically is not correct; the Harvest Moon is the moon after the first frost and miraculously we haven’t had a frost yet. But harvesting is what I did most of the weekend. The wet summer means the hedgerows are dripping with produce and there is enough for me and the birds. The day was dry and bright on Sunday and Colin and I stepped just outside our door and foraged for sloe berries, rowan berries and brambles. The hawthorn is in abundance too but we had run out of bags when we reached them. I also collected some beechnuts which I intend to roast.

And like last year I collected pounds of plums and damsons from my neighbours’ trees. Yesterday while the rain poured down and the sun refused to gift the Scots with their necessary dose of vitamin D, I spend the afternoon in the warm company of the radio making compote, jam, chutney, wine, sloe gin and rowan berry liqueur. I think we now have more than enough sugar and alcohol in that batch to see us through the wet winter.

I just need to find my own herring stock and then the vitamin D problem will be sorted.

My barrel garden

More firsts

The harvest in the garden has also been a bumper. In keeping with my Fifty First Timers here is a list of all the vegetables and fruit I grew successfully for the first time this year;
Peppers, cucumber, cauliflower, leeks, celery, asparagus pea, red onion, tomatillo and Brussel sprouts. I am also attempting to grow aubergine but as yet they have to bear fruit. Rhubarb, gooseberry and blackberry, have also been planted this year although the birds had the feast of the harvest there. I grew marigolds from seed and used these as a companion plant for the greenhouse plants. It was amazing to watch them being shredded by tiny beasts while the veg plants were left to grew in peace.

If the food prices continue to rise at their present rate I may have to put in even more effort next year to reduce my food air miles and the strain on my budget.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Buffalo Burgers and Mud Cakes

Wet or What!

Hydro may be Greek for water but Hydro Connect is Rock and Roll for Mud

Last weekend I experienced probably the best first of the year. We went to our first ever music festival; Hydro Connect, a boutique festival still in its infancy which is held in the impressive grounds of Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll.

We wanted the whole outdoor festival experience so opted to camp, although we weren’t so brave as to take our own tent, we opted for ‘posh’ camping organised by Tangerine Fields. The tents were supplied and erected. All we had to do was lug our supplies in from the car park situated twenty minutes up a muddy path. Being festival virgins we were dismayed to realise that the dozen bottles of beers we carried in would be banned from the site. So we drank some, hid the rest in the woods and vowed to know better next time.

The weather was overcast on the Friday but warm and dry. The main stage was situated at the bottom of a field directly below the castle and because the tickets were limited to 20,000 it was possible to sit on your free poncho and watch the bands without any obstruction and dance around on the grass without spilling your drinks. It was also possible to spot friends you haven’t seen for over a year.

The Friday highlights for me were Manic Street Preachers and the brilliant and very tall Kasabian, who were headlining that stage.

We were further delighted to stumble upon Sparks, a weird band I remember from my teenage years.

The first night in the tent was not too bad, but that may have been helped by the alcohol consumed. We were disappointed that the dedicated toilets and showers promised to us by Tangerine Fields had not arrived. The line of Portaloos was found after a long traipse through a muddy field and were non too fresh by the evening.

The next day was still overcast but dry. The earlier line up was uninspiring so we headed towards the Speakeasy tent for brownies and coffee. Alan Bissett was due to appear at four but before that we saw an interview with the organiser and the Duke and saw a fantastic new band called Grace Emilys. It was such a treat. Alan Bissett performed his piece in wellies and was very entertaining.

Although I was ambivalent about seeing Paulo Nutini, he was the highlight of the day for me. His set was spot on and his new songs inspiring.

The tent field - no chance of escape

Our night in the tent was spent sleepless, listening to Tangerine Fields staff playing guitars and singing. There was one happy guy who held the title of “The world’s most irritating laugh”. If I had met him next morning I think I might just have punched his laugh out.

On the Saturday I noticed the camping and festival fields were morphing from grass to mire. When Sunday arrived wet with no outlook to clear, I predicted a mud riot in the car park later, so we packed up early and took the car out of the muddy field and parked it in Inveraray. Although the coffee shops there were filled with tourists, the owners welcomed all the festival goers and didn’t seem to mind the muck on their carpets.

Back at the field the mud was getting deeper and someone started a mud slide. Waiting in the queue for the toilets was like trying to walk through plastacine, and it stank because the urinals were overflowing (I was reliably informed).

The rain continued until six in the evening. When Sigur Ros came on stage the sky was clearing, mist was settling over the tops of the trees and the air was filled with a spooky anticipation. This is what I had been waiting for and I was not disappointed. They played a perfect pitch set and had the crowd baying for more.

Other highlights from Sunday were Elbow and Goldfrapp (what is it with her and clowns?)

The festival goers were a friendly bunch and just out for a good time. The setting was perfect despite the mud. I will be back next year - well done Duke of Argyll, thanks for giving up your home for the weekend

One other first from the weekend

One of the main festival attractions for me was the food on offer. Loch Fyne had a tent which served the best pre baked macaroni and cheese I have tasted (and I have tasted many because I have a personal challenge to find the best macaroni and cheese). They also have yummy lamb stovies and kebabs, and juicy cheese burgers. There was little of culinary interest outside this tent with the exception of The Puddledub Farm Stall. Have you ever tasted buffalo burgers? The nutritional value posted outside the stall was impressive. I had to try. They were succulent and tasty and hit the spot. I might catch them at a local farmers market later in the year and stock up my freezer.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A chance to be inspired

Below are the details of the Lapidus Residential Conference. I have been a fan of Lapidus for over a year now. They are a worthwhile group who believe in the power of the word. This year's impressive lineup are sure to inspire you.

I first saw Seeds of Thought last year at Glasgow's West End Festival and try to catch them whenever they make an appearance. Their performance poetry is stunning.

The Line Up

Words In The World - Residential Conference at Newbattle Abbey

A rich line-up of poets, storytellers and environmentally-friendly writers has been announced for a Residential Conference in the beautiful setting of Newbattle Abbey near Edinburgh from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th October.

The theme is Words in The World and you’ll be exploring the power of words to change yourself and the world. To inspire you there will be Seeds of Thought, an urban poetry group who share words, art and music; Valerie Gillies, the former Edinburgh Makar and Ted Bowman of the National Association for Poetry Therapy (USA).

The Conference aims to encourage personal, political & ecological explorations for writers, singers, activists, environmentalists, health and social service workers... anybody who wants their words heard in the world. There will be Open Space sessions facilitated by Larry Butler & Margot Henderson to maximise those fruitful, between-speaker spaces.

This conference is the harvest of a year-long project run by Lapidus Scotland. Contributors from previous workshops such as land-artist, Gerry Loose; storyteller/poet/singer Margot Henderson and crofter-poet, Mandy Haggith from Assynt will report, share and create new synergies out of the work done throughout the year.

Words in The World is like a river flowing over stone, each event deepening the relationships and embedding the insights made over time. Come and add your unique voice to the flow.
Contact: lapidusscotland@yahoo.co.uk or Lapidus Scotland, 2/1 14, Garrioch Drive G20 8RS.
Rates: inc. full board: £190 (conc); £240; £290 (organisational)

Supported by Awards for All, Scottish Book Trust, Glasgow City Council and Lapidus [Literary Arts in Personal Development]