1 year

 

This day last year was a “first day of the rest of my life” kind of day. I had woken up from a wonderful party where all  my friends had gathered to celebrate my “retirement” from my full time job as a Young People’s Services Librarian, I’d been working in libraries  for 10 years. So although I would still be working on my charity project at the prison library, I would no longer be a proper children’s librarian! That was a big deal to me.   And look how lovely the library family were – I still miss them.
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I was so so moved by how many of my friends came to my house to party with me. I felt very loved and supported – and I am thinking perhaps I should organise another party soon?

I woke up in this new world on the 8th and by the 12th I was heading off on my first tour of Germany.  I just got back from my second tour of Germany on Sunday – so it seems things have gone full circle.

As so often goes with life, it feels like the year has gone very quickly and at the same time I can’t really remember exactly how things used to be, the changes and the time have creeped up on me.

I wanted see where the road took me but I also had plans for this year too and mostly they stumbled in to place.

I wanted to see a bit more of the world and sing my songs while I was at it I managed to wind my way to Germany, Brussels, Wales, France, Iceland, Ireland and a few far flung corners of England too. I’ve met some wonderful people and seen some beautiful places. I’ve also had a couple of calamities – which is good, I think, because I lived to tell the tale.
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I wanted to spend more time on my music, and I have. There aren’t many days I leave the house without my guitar. I am either playing music, recording music, writing music or teaching music. It is a wonderful, insane, pinch me am I dreaming sort of a life to live – and that makes it all the more easier when I am paying overdue charges because my bills are late again or living off of Aldi soup.

I wanted to develop my Storybook Dads charity project and I have been able to do that. I can’t really understand how I managed to do that at the same time as working my last job. It still has lots of flaws but it is getting there, and it continues to make a real difference to the families who use the project. I recently sat down and started planning all my “dreams” for next year and really putting in to place some more sustainability and development for this was top of my list.

I wanted to be there more for my friends. Many of my close friends have quite different lives to me now and we have to make an effort to make sure we remain what we’ve always been. I got to watch one of my friends little girls for 6 weeks while she attended a course, it was the best afternoon of my week by miles. I also babysat for my friends son (he is only five months, I was terrified) but her and her husband got a date 😉
This Saturday I have planned a “Super Mums” afternoon that involves yoga, meditation, tea and cake for my Mum friends.  Maybe those things sound like obvious things to be doing for your friends but I wasn’t finding the time before – I want to be able to do more of this stuff next year. If you’re my friend – if your life is similar or different or somewhere inbetween – I want to see you more, talk to you more, be part of your world more 🙂

I also wanted to mend my broken heart. Sometimes I think it has mended. Sometimes out of nowhere it sneaks up on me and reminds me that it is very much in pieces. Lately I am starting to think that maybe it is always going to be a bit broken, it’s one of my defining features and there are people who will love me all the more for it – a bit like my lazy left eye!!! Which someone I have a lot of time for told me he has never noticed…which is silly because it is as clear as….well as clear as the eye on my face… 🙂

Apart from the bits where I talk about my broken heart, I tend to try and be positive in this blog but like all human lives there’s been some hard parts to this year, some have taught me things, some have just left me feeling totally helpless and blue. But overall when I look back this year has been a lovely year.
Thank you for being a part of it.  🙂 xxxx

So many people have been part of it that I can’t possibly thank or mention everyone but….

Colin Weston – Thank you for believing in my music and helping me share it across the world. Everything about Independent Music Collective is a dream and I am so proud to be part of it. Gigs in shoe shops, mobile buses and student unions in Iceland – who knew? It is no exaggeration to say you’ve helped me achieve things I have been dreaming of since I was about 12. Thank you from the bottom of my heart…..:) In your face…. xxx

Mum and Dad – For the loans, for the love, the advice, the shoulders to cry on, for looking after the pets when I go off adventuring, for mowing the lawn 😉 and so much more xxxx

Jess Distill – for asking me to join you on your trip to Iceland, for being brave and following your dreams – you make me want to be brave too.
For inviting me to be part of The Company of Players, you have no idea what an impact that has had on me, I have never felt more welcomed and more like a real musician when in the company of you all. Thank you xxxxx

 

There’s so many more people I want to mention who have been such a big part of this year Lauren, Paul, Spinky, Amy, Lewis, Lydia, Clare, Tony, John….the list goes on and on. I have so many lovely friends.

Lots of love
From me and my lazy left eye!!!

xxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 year

11 Months

One month away from a whole year of blogging!

After getting back from Ireland I had a week at home of working, gigging, hanging out with my pets, falling over on my skates…the usual, before heading to Looe for a week of rehearsals and a slot at Looe Festival with The Company of Players.

It was a lovely week, as bandmates we’ve all got to know each other a bit better, last time we met to write we had amazing times getting to know each other and a lot of fun, this time we all knew each other that bit better, and the living arrangements (caravans) meant we were all a bit closer all of the time, I think the physical closeness seemed to give us all permission to share more and be more real. I definitely left Looe feeling like I had bandmates, friends and now also people  who I could confide in and who could confide in me.

Looe was breath-taking. I’ve seen a snow covered lake in Iceland this year and a double rainbow in Ireland, so I kind of thought I’d had my share of beautiful places, but Looe was wonderful. I could have spent days there exploring and I hope to go back.
Swimming in the sea had to be one of my highlights of the year – I was terrified! 🙂

Here are some photos of our time…Lovely Looe

 

Alongside some lovely local gigs I have also headed back to The Den to do some recording with Lauren Deakin Davies. I am really enjoying the sessions and excited about the new songs. So far I have recorded one that I wrote almost a year ago while in Germany, one I wrote while I was in Calais, one I wrote when I was in Looe, and one which I wrote in my bedroom in Hemel Hempstead. I am not too sure how I am going to get them out or exactly where or when but I am excited 🙂

 

What else has been happening? Um I saw NFL at Wembley, caught some pokemon with my nephew, played a lovely gig supporting Ben Otowell, got a little promotion at work (woo), got a shiny new housemate which has taken our living arrangements to three ladies, a cat and a rabbit, I also went to see Astronaut Tim Peake on his return to earth tour, caught the amazing Aurora live in Cambridge,  Saw the new Brigid Jones movie with my Mum and pre-recorded  a show with Danny Smith from Radio Verulum (it goes out November 2nd)

Thanks for reading, I look forward to next month, my year anniversary blog.
xxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Months

Ten Months

 

“Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way. And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems”

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For a long long time I have had this little dream of travelling from Dublin to Galway, soaking up all the green of Ireland and all the wonderful music and visiting Thurles where my Nan was born. I wanted to learn to ride a motorbike, book a month off and travel the Wild Atlantic Way. I didn’t learn to ride a bike (yet) I only had six days off work but I thought “What if I never get round to doing this” so I travelled from Dublin to Galway, went along the south run of the Wild Atlantic way and visited my Granma’s birthplace in what turned out to be one of the best trips of my life! So that’s this blog’s little life lesson – if something’s worth doing, then perhaps it’s worth doing half assed and in a hurry than never getting round to doing it at all?!

I saw beautiful sites, heard wonderful music, chased rainbows, got so drenched in the rain I had to travel to the next destination in my underwear, didn’t see the Cliffs of Moher properly because the fog came, collected stamps in my Wild Atlantic Way passport, drank Guinness in Dublin, pulled my first pint, kissed the Blarney stone….had a really magical adventure.
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Ten Months

9 months

To save this months blog being mammoth I am just going to blog about my time volunteering with Care4calais in Sangatte. I’m “blogging” on my phone on the journey back home from France which ended with my best friends beautiful wedding in Pertuis. I am in that wonderful morning after state that only a wedding can leave with you -that is a mix of crippling fear and hungover doubt that you will die alone, alongside a feeling that all you really need is love and love is so simple and so beautiful and you’ve never felt more alive but maybe you need a lucozade or some water or possibly a hair of the dog?? Who knows. Anyways on to the blog! 
Like many people I get a little bit numb to the images I see on the news, but when I saw Aylan Kurdi’s tiny little body washed up on that Turkish shore it was not something I could ignore. I think about that image a lot. So when I was invited to a wedding in Marseille it made sense to book time off work the week before to go and volunteer in the refugee camp in Calais. To try and do something. Anything. 
Arriving

Walking in to unknown situations usually terrifies me, but I felt quite calm as I wheeled my luggage in to the Care4Calais warehouse. Partly because I’d had hardly any sleep the night before and caught a 5am train to be here and was maybe delirious, but also partly because I just felt this was a good place to be. I was greeted by friendly faces, told to sign in, put on a hi vis vest, grab a cup of tea and take a seat.

Sorting

After a welcome and brief from one of the team leaders I am assigned to “primary sorting” this is the first stage of sorting the boxes and bags of donations into piles. The warehouse here is a well oiled machine but it doesn’t take too long for you to get the gist of things and start sorting and labelling at a record pace. I then moved on to “secondary sorting” which is getting everything in to size order to make the distribution of clothes in the camp as quick and successful as possible. There’s much excitement when we come across some brand new men’s trainers. 
There are currently around 6800 people in the camp and 200-300 of those are women and children. The rest are men. So we are able to keep the best donations for women and children only sending them almost new items. 
The “jungle” as the camp is often referred to, has fallen out of the UK media a lot lately so donations are slowing down even though the camp population continues to grow. 
So much time is spent sorting, it’s wonderful to see how much people donate but some of it does make the mind boggle. There’s a dirty old and still damp sleeping bag? A sequinned body con dress for night clubbing and a bag of odd shoes? By the end of the morning we have just as many dirty, damaged or inappropriate items as we do have things we can send to camp. 
But the overall feeling is people do still want to help and these donations can make a difference to the lives of the people on the camp. 

Some images from the warehouse 


Clearing  up the camp

“Litter picking” was my first job on the camp and seemed like a good way to get stuck in to helping. Walking in to the camp wasn’t as daunting as I thought it may be. It’s an uncomfortable comparison but being in an unstable environment, surrounded by men and sticking out like a sore thumb is something I’ve got used to working in a prison for 10 years. 

This isn’t the last time the camp reminds me of prison, and I am not sure who that feels more tragic for? The prisoners? The refugees ? All I know is that somewhere we got things very wrong and it will take lifetimes to make it right. 

There aren’t any proper rubbish facilities on camp- as it is an illegal settlement the authorities don’t want/don’t allow the residents to become too self-sufficient/settled – but because they don’t want a full on humanitarian crises on their hands (I think they have one?!) they allow volunteers in to the camp to help clean up (the politics  of this place is ever-changing and hard to get your head around) 

So, litter picking, it doesn’t take more than a couple of hours for six volunteers to fill up the two roles of bin bags we’ve bought with us. They are filled with old food and drinks containers and general waste it’s a rough job and I put my hand (with a protective glove on) on a dead rat more than once. 

To my niave suprise I am also constantly picking up empty tear gas shells. They are everywhere. A stark reminder that this is a place of conflict. I’m told the French police  often use tear gas and rubber bullets in the camp, that things have been more heated lately since they dismantled part of the camp. 

One volunteer who had been back in Febraury says that it feels like there is less hope in the camp now. She says it has to do with things like Brexit. I feel a weird pang in my stomach. It’s a strange feeling. I realise it’s shame. I feel ashamed to be English!  What a terrible thing to feel when I come from a place full of so much and so many people to be proud of, but in that moment it is how I feel.  I feel this “shame” twice more in just one day. I feel it again when I see the fence around the camp. I read in a newspaper back home that the UK government spent 7million erecting that fence?!  I stare at it and imagine just what could be achieved here with 7million and we chose to build a fence?! A fence??!!!!! 

I feel it again when talking with a man from Sudan. 

“-where you from?

-England, London. England 

-why do you hate us so much? ” 

I didn’t take any photos on camp but I wish I had some to show people. Not to see all the bad conditions. They are awful, so bad people are getting sick with things like skurvy.  I wish I could show photos of some of the homes , shops, schools, churches people have built here from nothing! Some are beautiful, colourfully decoarated with messages of hope. 

We take a break from clearing up and go to a “restaurant” and buy a cup of tea. It tastes so good. For a moment you could mistake yourself for being in a bohemian afghan run coffee shop in Camden. This is the most surreal place I have ever been. 

While litter picking we have found an old camp poster. Inviting the community to gather for silence and remembrance of those killed in the recent attack in Nice. 

You can learn a lot from someone’s rubbish. 

Teaching English 

I felt very uncertain about putting my hand up when they asked for volunteers to teach in camp. I came here to help and give something back but I also want to challenge myself and develop as a person so I figured I should try something I was scared to do? 

As with most things, the reality of the situation wasn’t as scary as I had thought. Over a long and tiring three hours, different men came over to learn some English. Sometimes on their own and sometimes in groups.  One young man, Mustafa, from Sudan, sat with me for the whole session. We had a set of flash cards with images on. I told him what they were in English, he repeated them,  wrote them down and put the Arabic next to it. He was creating his own English dictionary. 

Another man from Afghanistan had no English at all and could not write in his own language. It was hard for us to communicate but we had fun pointing at body parts and labelling them. I’m not sure what “nose” translates as to him but he found it hilarious, he just kept pointing at his nose laughing and going “nose nose nose” -it won’t exactly help him navigate legal documents but it’s a start! 

One man asked if I could teach him French but I couldn’t help. He already had perfect English. He explained he was a Doctor and where he is from, Syria, all Doctors learn english. 

Our team leader came and told us to pack up and immediately head to the meeting point. The police were in the camp. From what I understand they do not routinely have a prescence on or patrol the camp so if they are there something has or is about to happen. The atmosphere changes very quickly to one where you don’t feel safe at all and I instinctively check my inside pocket for my passport. That tiny little booklet that means I have more human rights than Mustafa who says “I want to say thank you. Your help is good” before taking his “homemade dictionary” and leaving too. 

As we are leaving we see a group of  police offcers. They are armed and wearing protective masks. None of us like the idea of being tear gassed or caught up in what’s maybe about to happen. 

As we leave i notice refugees heading back from the main bridge. Many of them are seen here. It’s one of the only places to get phone signal on camp and, I assume, a spot to wait for a passing truck headed toward the channel tunnel.

There are more police vans outside the camp. As we drive away we see an industrial digger headed towards camp. 

I feel very uneasy to be living in a world where I can no longer tell which are the “good guys” anymore. 

When I get back to my room i think I am just exhausted  from the working days, the traveling, the long hot walk to and from the warehouse each day. I feel really emotional. In bed that night I just feel so much stuff! 

I feel anxious to be going to my friends wedding at the weekend all alone. Then I feel selfish for even thinking that when I’ve just seen what the refugees are facing each moment.

I feel stressed that the place I’m staying added an extra tax I didn’t know about and if the hotel in Marseille does the same I will run out of money. Then I remember it’s a bed in a room. Not a 5 man tent that I have to share with 15 others.

I cry that night and I’m not even really sure why but being on the camp has got to me. In just days. I have a really vivid dream about that little boy on the Turkish shore. I sleep with the light on for the rest of the night. 

Distribution 

Distributing donations in the camp has changed recently. Care4calais are trying new things and doing everything they can to reach everyone in the camp but even in summer, a peak time for volunteers, it is an ambitious task. With the camp at almost 7000 people and volunteers at around 30-60 a day the odds are against them. At the moment they are operating a ticket system. Residents can “order” what they need to be collected the next day from the container.they hand out around  300 tickets a day and hope to cover the whole camp on a three week rota.  Before volunteering to help we are reminded that this will be challenging and only to put our hands up if we really feel we can manage it. The team leader asks for men to help with “security”(I notice that female volunteers seem to really out number male volunteers)

Once it’s decided who will be at the distribution we are given a clear brief on what we need to sort.team leaders explain time and again that things can escalate quickly in the camp and can get heated. These people have nothing and will be waiting in line for hours if we have made a mistake with their order tensions will run high, people without tickets will try and line up. You can’t let them it will be hard. Some of the residents think we work for the government it is hard to explain you are a small team of volunteers trying your best.

We practice our line up. I will form part of a human wall which will protect the line and stop people cutting in.  

We check the orders. Everything is packed and checked and checked again. My admiration for those running care4calais just continues to grow. 

We are briefed again before heading to camp. 

They want to get this right.

It’s a hot afternoon and i am covered in sun cream. I’ve done a wee we all have! 

(Going to toilet on camp would take a strong will so volunteers hold it! We have that choice, we don’t live there. I think about the women on camp. I recall the “nightmare”Moments I’ve been caught somewhere with a sudden need for a tampon and nobody has one. I can’t imagine this on camp. I can’t imagine) 

So we set off and the distribution goes really well.my arms are stretched and aching from holding them up as part of the wall and we need to call for “security” a couple of times but mostly we have a positive time talking to people in the line, helping people, it feels good. At one point a guy in line plays a Justin beiber song on his phone. He has no shoes. This is the strangest place on earth.

Today is the first time I see a really tiny child on camp.he is about 18-24 months old toddling about, kicking a ball, laughing, he doesn’t have a care in the world.

How did he get here?

How did anyone get here? 

How did we get here? 
xxx

9 months

Eight Months

I finally got round to editing up all the footage from  my UK tour.
Here be the links
UK Tour Part 1 – Sycamore Sykes

Uk Tour Part 2 – No King. No Crown.

UK Tour part 3 – Zoe Konez

I am currently working again with Colin Weston and the Independent Music Collective to put something together and I am excited to announce that soon. This will be my fourth tour working with IMC since November 2015 and I feel so happy that I’ve been able to do so much travelling around with my guitar. It doesn’t always go to plan, sometimes the nights are very quiet or maybe nobody really wants to listen, or I get lost or mugged (see earlier blog for details ha ha!) or I run really really low on money – travelling around can be expensive, but I always feel like I get to take something away from the place I have been and that I get to leave a little bit of my music behind which is a great feeling.

I’ve been writing so much this past 8 months, some of the songs I’ve played live because I get itchy and impatient to play them but there’s a big chunk lining up to form my next album/ep whatever it may be and I am really hoping to get working on this soon. Just need to put some money together to get back in the studio, so excuse me while I hibernate a little to put in the hours to raise the funds.

One gig missed my little video blog as it was kind of a few days after my tour – and the perfect way to end it. This was a gig for Andrew Turner as part of his Huxley House Concerts series. I was fortunate enough to share the night with Tom Speight whose CD has become a permanent fixture in my car since. Andrew and his family were beyond welcoming to me, the urban myths and legends you hear from other musicians who tell tales of how wonderful his hospitality, home and shows are, all turned out to be true.
Andrew is a true blue music fan, as a musician or a fan of music he is someone you’d be really worthwhile getting to know.
You may have to ask him to leave the room during your set though!!

My First Full length Album “Floundering” turned 1 year old on June 22nd. It was nice to have this blog to be able to look back on some of the things I have done in that past year so I shall definitely keep tapping away some nonsense here once a month.

A highlight of this past month also had to be the Birthdays! My wonderful friend Spinky celebrated her 33rd year, my good friend Dylan celebrated his 1st! and Caitlyn her 2nd (Both were thrown amazing parties by their parents and I feel super blessed I got to be at them) My good friend Clare also had a birthday but we still need to celebrate it because life just got too busy to actually find a moment to eat cake and drink wine together! My dear friend, confidante and producer extraordinaire Lauren Deakin Davies turned 21 and it was awesome to get to spend time with her and the extended Folkstcok Family celebrating

21!  When I was 21 I would have been in my last year of university. It is at this point that some of the bands I play with start to get tricky to hold together – everyone is growing up, moving on and doing their own thing. This feels, to me at the time, like an epic tragedy of unhealable proportions, but actually it is what led me to play songs with my good friends Clare and Charlot – and eventually when life wiggled and changed a bit more, to playing songs all alone, which turned out to be something I really love doing. So now when  I feel like I am in the middle of something which seems like the end I try to see it as the beginning, because it is the beginning, it just feels like the end sometimes.

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Eight Months

Seven Months

The 8th of June would have been seven months since I left  my Job of ten years and embarked on some new adventures. Up until now I had done a fine job of blogging monthly on the 8th to log what I have been up to. But time has just been passing in a haze!
This was mostly down to me heading out on my first UK tour! Which was a great experience, I learnt a lot about myself, other artists, the UK music scene and gigging in general. It was great fun, but also really hard work too as things didn’t always go to plan and fall in to place ( I shall maybe form my thoughts and save all that for another blog) Needless to say I ended the tour with my heart full up of this beautiful country and the wonderful people that can be found in it.
I took lots of photos and video and have been editing it all together.
Here is the first part. Hope you like it. I am working on the next instalment now 🙂 xxx

Tour Blog: Part 1

Seven Months

Six months…

 

“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.” – Willy Wonka

Just yesterday I was speaking to one of the prisoners I work with about time. He was saying how he remembers being sentenced to six years and he couldn’t even process what that amount of time really  meant. To just have to take this chunk out of his life. He said, at the time, it felt like being told you were going to die 6 years earlier than destiny had planned for you. That 6 years were just going to be taken away and you’d never get them back. Now just 18 months from release he says the time has flown! I said “Surely that is a good thing?!” he said “No, not really, not if this is how fast time is always going to move, because I’ve got so much to do to get things back to how they were, and I am not sure there is enough time”

Having started a monthly blog and now being on the 6th one – I’ve got that weird thing time does to you when you your “old life” feels just like it was seconds ago but at the same time it feels like a lifetime away.  I feel like “I shouldn’t be sat here writing a blog on the internet, I should be off somewhere experiencing life” but this past year has actually been one of the hardest of my little life yet and being able to look back on things has helped in some ways, it’s made me realise that even though it doesn’t feel like it I am moving on, which is all we can really do when life offers us a tricky hand. Learn from it and crack on.

My Granma, who has been a little unwell of late, referred to her illness in this way the other day

“He (God) looked down and he thought “Ahh our Josie you’ve been having a little too much fun” and so he handed me this packet. And I’ll manage it. I’ll manage it”

She also said “You can tell you are a pretty girl still, even with the braces” So, you know, words of wisdom abound at all times from that little one.

But what she said was helpful. You do have to take stock and get perspective on things.
Regardless of the “Packet” you’ve been given. You can manage it 🙂

S0 now I’ve got that whimsical stuff off my chest this last months adventures….

The Company of Players had their first outings to be part of the celebrations for Shakespeares birthday in Stratford Upon Avon and also headed to Bristol Folk Festival. We were all a little apprehensive I think (apart from Sam, who doesn’t seem to be phased by things, or if he is does a good job of holding it all together for the rest of us) We had a few technical issues (There’s 10 of us! So I think the sound team worked wonders really) but we were well received and all really enjoyed the day and left buzzing!  Chris Dobson took some lovely shots of us in Bristol and you can have a look here… Players!

It was also lovely to travel to Bristol and back with Kelly Oliver. It’s been great getting to know all the musicians better and spending time with them. I am looking forward to our trip to Settle together this Friday.

The Sunday after heading back from Bristol, I had my Roller Derby Fresh Meat Graduation! You can read all about it here…a blog within a blog #Inception Minnie the Minx
Followed by a beautiful night at the Green Note where I got to play a night curated by Blue Monday – one of, if not THE, best promoter in London Town. I was snapped here by the lovely PJ Photography who seems to have captured a good side of what was a really tired Minnie that night!

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I also attended a special party for Radio Superstar Nia Visser. Nia is a wonderful supporter of our local music scene in Watford and surrounding areas and has run her own show Raw Vibes – showcasing local talent for the last 5 years!! She held a special party to celebrate five years and also her moving on to new radio adventures (Good Luck!!)  I got an award which was rather lovely too and now has pride of place on my bookshelf!!!

Time was then filled with work, more work, visiting friends, celebrating my nieces birthday, pretending to be a ghost, going to the movies, staying up late, writing songs and plotting, planning and scheming for my upcoming tour. I have become the bane of everyones inboxes. Trying to get support to help promote my gigs around the UK. And so many people have helped out with playing tracks on local radio shows, listing it in local “What’s on” guides, putting up posters, spreading the word. And Now we are just a week away from tour.

So next time I check in with the blog, I hope to have lots of tales from the road.

Thanks for reading. Was another long one 🙂 xx
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Six months…

The Fifth Month

 

It’s a big blog.

I am late with this blog,  but for really good reason. I have just been really busy. I finally stopped being really busy last night. I was meant to go to a gig but I got in from a 10 hour stint at work and was so exhausted, and coupled with realising I don’t have quite enough money to feed myself for the rest of the month, I thought better of spending £18 on a train ticket in to London.

I sat on my bed with my notes, diary, admin stuff and thought “I am going to catch up with emails and stuff, and write my monthly blog” I drank two glasses of wine and fell asleep.

So some of the best bits of the last month include…

Visiting Balcony TV in Camden. An awesome opportunity to be part of this show which some of my favourite musicians have been on, and also to work with producer  Lauren Deakin Davies  (always a pleasure!)
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Playing at Loughton Folk Club with Piers Haslam. Thanks to PJ Photography (Paul Lyme) for taking some lovely photos. You can have a ganders here PJ Photograpy

I also hosted a small event at my own house, which was lovely. It was the first time I’d done anything like it but I will definitely do more. It was an evening with Authors Sue Hampton and Leslie Tate. They talked us through the process of becoming and being writers. We were a small but perfectly formed audience who all took a lot from the evening. Songs were sung, stories were shared, conversations were had about everything from cross dressing to eggheads, how to bake a vegan cake to writing original stories. Tony Birch bought plenty of wine, I bought plenty of snacks, everyone bought plenty of loveliness and it was all we needed. If friends, wine, snacks and words sound your sort of thing then keep your eyes peeled because I  will post on my Facebook page if I host something again.

Ok so this next bit was a massive highlight for me! Zoe Konez released her EP at a magical gig in London as part of Kal Lavelle’s series of awesome “We Love…” gigs. Not only is the EP heartbreakingly good and now exists in the world for us all to hear, I also got to be part of her awesome backing band alongside some of my favourite musicians. Thanks again to PJ photography for capturing the moment, if you hadn’t then I am not sure I would have believed it wasn’t all a dream. You can check out Zoe’s latest video here…Click here to fall in love with Zoe

 

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I played a gig for Lobby Live at the Watford Colloseum – it was a really lovely night for me as I had people from all parts of my life attend to support me. Family, friends, musicians, work colleagues, previous work colleagues, Roller Derby girls, wonderful neighbours!

I also got to play with the wonderful Masakichi in Bedford – thanks to Neil McCarty for this snap of me doing so…
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This month also saw the first proper meeting of The Company of Players
This project is the brainchild of Jess Distill of Said the Maiden. I’ll probably be talking a lot about this on my social media and in real life because it has swallowed up my thoughts and heart quite a lot.

The idea of the project is to gather together some folk musicians to create a body of songs based on the life and works of Shakespeare – as part of the celebrations this year marking 400 years since his death.
There are 10 of us. We just got back from a week of writing together in Derbyshire which was one of the most creative, inspiring experiences I have ever been a part of.

I really did feel like quite a stowaway and messaged my sister on the first night “They are all much better musicians and drinkers than me. Send help” She sent words of encouragement (but did agree I may be the lightweight of the group when it came to drinking – folk musicians really can drink!)
The others all create beautiful individual music but I was worried they were all a bit more “traditional” folk than me and that my song wouldn’t be quite right. Due to other commitments I had to arrive a night later than the others which also left me feeling really nervous that they’d all have bonded, written songs and decided they maybe didn’t need me after-all (over-thinking things much!?)
That isn’t what happened at all. I felt so welcomed, from the moment I got there everyone was excited to meet me and to “Complete” The Company.  We spent days or nights – I am not really sure because I lost track of time – writing songs which we all. felt incredibly proud of. Sharing my song with the group was terrifying but they were all really excited to work on it and weaved their magic to create something beautiful which  I can’t wait to show you!!

I learnt a lot about writing and music during that week. I also learnt about making dinner for 10 people – you need more potato than you think. You need less carrots. Let that be a life lesson.

I can’t quite put in to words how much I gained from the week and how much it meant to me to be part of this. I am also aware how big this blog is growing! But we shared many photos, videos and info on our facebook page so please come follow us if you’d like to…we live here Up and Down, Up and Down, we will lead you Up and Down…

So some pretty wonderful things have been happening this month and I feel really lucky to be a part of them and have more things on the Horizon with a UK tour in May/June, adventures with The Company of Players and a European tour planned for November.

Rehearsals for the Ghost Tour I am part of took place, I have a new little part this year which is exciting. If you live in or near Hemel Hempstead then you can follow our antics here Spirit of the Old 

I have been fortunate enough to work with Watford Arts Council and Museum to be part of their WordFest celebrations, I’ve been telling BFG stories and catching dreams in bottles at the museum.

I’ve been learning the new job of working in a prison library and continuing my Charity project in the library -hoping to find some more time to develop that next month but as it stands we still have plenty of men taking part and benefitting from the scheme.

So lots of lovely things happening alongside some of the other usual things going on such as getting lost, having calamities and drinking a lot of tea…

Thanks for reading

xxx

 

The Fifth Month

The Fourth Month

 

It is March already, and it was actually feeling very “springy” here in Hemel Hempstead. The last few days have been bright and sunny. But this morning we have a little snow falling. March can’t really decide what it wants to do. I like March. I see where she is coming from. You don’t have to know what you are doing to be a good month (or person!)  A little from column A and a little from Column B.

So here is a little of what I have been up to since my last blog…

I was invited by my friend Liz to go to Tring school and judge their House Music competition. It was a really lovely evening, the students were all really talented and it was hard to pick out winners. There was an amazing acapella arrangement of a Justin Bieber song which blew us all away – and turned me in to a true Belieber! 🙂

It was really exciting to see how much the school supported music and how encouraging  all the teachers were. There were some great musicians at the school and it was a real honour to get to spend a night watching them perform.

tring music school

 

Playing a couple of “Loved theme” songs at Watford’s ‘The Dial up’ was a highlight to this month too. This is a regular night in town, run by my good friend Alex, but I hadn’t had a chance to get along for a while. It was nice to see people, and also to discover the Attico Arts Centre in Watford – a bit of a hidden gem – if you’ve not been and you are near Watford I would recommend it 🙂

Other musical adventures have included taking a trip to visit Martin at his Cream Room Studios to record an interview for his Podcast series – not up yet but I’ll be sure to share the link. I was also fortunate enough to work with the Promoters at “The Pad Presents” to play a couple of gigs opening for Kirk Brandon. He played two fantastic sets and each night the crowd were very welcoming. My show at the Portland Arms was my favourite. Lovely venue, warm crowd, sold some CDS and the lovely Paul Lyme was there to take some photographs. You can see his work at this link
https://www.facebook.com/PJ2photography

Kirk Brandon

I also visited BBC3CR to perform on Justin Dealey’s Breakfast show. I performed a version of my song ‘Floundering’ and also my cover of Bjork.
You can hear me having a chat and singing my song at about 1:53 and then again my cover at about 2:53. (This link will time out eventually so sorry if you are finding this and clicking this and it doesn’t work!)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03jw016

This month also saw the arrival of a new housemate at my place! Twinkle the cat. I got in touch with the Blue Cross cat rehoming shelter thinking that I would “just have a look” and “find out how rehoming a cat works” two weeks later I had my very own little cat. She was really nervous at first but is now settling in well, causing trouble, crying at 4am, that sort of thing.
She is quite a tiny little cat, having been a stray who had her own kittens a bit too early, she is likely to always stay a little dinky and be a little nervous…look at how very cute she is! She is super company and doesn’t seem to mind my singing…which is good, because she is going to hear it a lot.
twinkle

 

I was also fortunate to pick up a weeks work with Watford Arts Council. Working as an assistant to Playwright Rachel Barnett. We worked with a group of year 5 students to help them write their own plays. It was a fun few days over half term of creative games and writing activities and the plays they all came up with were so imaginative and wonderful. I hope they never ever lose that 10 year old ability for creating wonderful things 🙂
The plays are all going to be performed by students at Watford College in April. I can’t wait to see them.

Alongside this I have been up to the usual songwriting, teaching guitar, playing football, embarking on some spring cleaning and decorating, still trying to stand upright on my Derby skates, working on the Storybook Dads Project at the local prison – where I have also been helping out a little in the recording studio too.  Spending time with my lovely friends and family.

I’ve been given a job working two days a week in the prison library. This is such the dream job for me. It means I get to be in the prison more and this should help with getting to know people and developing the charity project I run there further, it means I also get to keep using my library skills and it will feel really good to be back in the library world as I miss it so much! – oh and money, it will also be good for money. This month isn’t looking too good for money. The car is in the garage and the roof of my house is leaking!! eeeek 🙂

I have also been finalising the poster for my UK tour in May/June and look forward to sharing that 🙂

I’ve found doing a monthly blog is a really good way to remind myself that I am doing stuff with my days ad that time goes fast so you have to use it up because it will pass anyways even if you aren’t ready for it to.
I am not sure if anyone out there is reading the blogs but if you are I’d be interested/nosey to know what you’ve been up to aswell 🙂

Speak soon

xxxx

 

 

 

The Fourth Month

The third month

 

Three months since leaving my job as a Children’s Librarian and embarking on some sort of midlife adventure crisis 🙂

This month I headed down to the Lost Horizons Folk and Acoustic Club at the Birkbeck Tavern.  Run by the amazing Paul and Trish. They’ve faced some serious challenges this year but continue with these amazing nights which take a lot of time and effort to put on. I’ve played for them at their night in London and in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. They work tirelessly to create wonderful nights of music. They are so passionate about music. They do it because they want to spread that feeling that they get from live from music. You can actually feel how much they enjoy live music, how important it is and how it can unite us. They are one offs. They are irreplaceable, inspiring people and I am lucky to know them. Matthew The Ox was playing and he put on a great show. I’ve been playing his album on repeat since seeing him in December.

I got to take a trip to BBC Three Counties to play my new song out on the radio. It was a really nice session. I was able to play with Lauren Deakin Davies. I love the chance to play with Lauren. I take her my little songs and say “Can you sing/play something on this” and she’ll maybe listen through once and by the end she’ll be playing along the most perfect part – she’s so exciting to work with. Making music is wonderful. Making music with your best friend, that is even better 🙂
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This month I also experienced my first Wassail in Croxley Green.  A traditional folk event which was a ritual designed to help the trees produce a good crop of fruit (to help make cider!) There are different elements to wassailing.  my favourite part (other than tripping through the park with one of my best friends in the dark) was singing a traditional Wassailing song

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.
Hurrah! Hurrah!

This month two of my best friends got married.  Spinky has been one of my closest friends for the longest of times. She’s been a bandmate, housemate and a soulmate. There for me for some of the best and trickiest bits of growing up. She is a constant source of inspiration always remaining so true to who she is on the inside and out. Never following the easy path. She is either rocking out in one of her bands (The Mariana Hollow or Kingbreaker ) or casually running marathons. She means the world to me and it meant a lot to be able to be her bridesmaid and to get to sing at her wedding.
The wedding was the most fun day and Adam and Spinky were glowing with happy – you know the kind you only get when you realise another human totally and utterly gets you, has your back and is going to be there for you no matter what? yeh, they have that glow. Sickening 😉

Here I am after the Make up artist worked some amazing bridesmaid magic!
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I also started a Fresh Meat course with Herts Roller Derby. I was inspired by my friends Gemma & Nicky who are both rather awesome Roller Girls to give this a go. I wasn’t actually as bad as I thought I would be and am really excited to get more training in.
My mum isn’t too keen on it but you get lots of padding, a helmet and a mouthguard. It’s a good look 🙂
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So this month has been full of some great stuff but the best adventure was heading to Iceland with my good friend Jess. It was such a wonderful trip. I made a little video of our adventures.
You can have a look at this link – also features a new cover song  – hope you like it

Iceland

This month I also got to play football, meet with old work friends, celebrate my Mum’s birthday, spend time with the wonderful Colin Weston who has been helping me to book another tour (thanks for dinner Colin!!), saw some Ice Hockey, met a rather important young lady, played a gig in a Gym of all places for IAM Henley with No Coward Soul, stayed up far too late to watch the Superbowl (wasn’t too sure what was going on but got to have a LOT of snacks and share it with some of the best company ever)

The next month has a lot to live up to.

xxx

The third month