Sunday, February 03, 2019

A place in the winter for dignity

very pale acqua blue three wheeled vintage car

2-3 September 2017 - Finally! Aafter our lovely day trip down south we finally got to grips with Glasgow. First order of business was the Riverside Museum, as Uncle Tim was very keen to see it - he is a transport historian and this is a transport museum.

Gallery placard: "Wee Bluey, buggy, invalid tricycle, trike, Noddy car, Invacar, AC, sardine can on wheels, plastic pig, invalid car ... Nearly everyonoe had a name for this type of vehicle. AC model 70 three-weeler, 1971"

Lots to see here though I didn't take a lot of photos. A couple of the displays we came across first were about road safety, with a crashed motorcycle and also the smashed up car below.

smashed remains of a red car presented in a museum display

Later we had some wandering time. Good for taking in a bit of everything that was going on.

Breakdancer all in black balancing on head and hands in a city pedestrian mall; girl in a grey tracksuit standing nearby

a red marquee with a communist party flag in city pedestrian mall with lots of people around

a red marquee with a communist party flag in city pedestrian mall with lots of people around

dark brown brick building with a yellow "Jumpin' Jaks" sign up high, and at street level "Sauchie beer hall" above a wood panelled store front.


Looking downhill down a street narrowed by fenced-off building works on the right hand side. The modern building facade on the left shows the reflection of a much older building on the opposite side which is not directly visible behind the fencing.

Next to charred sandstone wall there is a white wall with graffiti of a happy dog with tongue lolling, a halo and 'be nice' written in its ear.

This was outside Glasgow School of Art. I think the charring must be from the 2014 fire, as we were there in mid-2017, before the more recent June 2018 fire (sad).

More Buchanan street.

man in red shorts and floral shirt holding a large net on two poles and making large soap bubbles. There is a lot of white soap on the ground and several adults and children watching.
Building with a row of first floor display windows with shop mannequins. Above is a row of smaller windows alternating with greenish copper-coloured rose shapes and conical spikes.

And on our last day we also spent some time in the small and lovely Gallery of Modern Art. I was captivated by Beryl Cook.

The painting 'Hen Party' by Beryl Cook showing five plump happy looking women carrying handbags. The woman in the middle has a large white box shaped hat on her head which looks like a wedding cake and has three white boob-shaped balloons attached with coloured ribbons

Painting "By the Clyde" by Beryl Cook, showing a woman in a leopard print coat and black hat, carrying a shopping bag and leading a small terrier which is sniffing a post.

'By the Clyde'

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These fish were in the window of a cafe where we had breakfast.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The sketch blanket

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I might have a bit of a blanket thing going on. I've made three this year. First, a rainbow baby blanket in a log cabin design from Mason Dixon Knitting, inspired by some limited edition Bendigo Woollen Mills colours in 4ply cotton. That same yarn first went towards two little rainbow dresses and later into a tunic for my niece. Those big Bendigo balls go a long way.

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More recently I made this black-cream-and-some-colours chevron blanket (pattern from Espace Tricot) for a belated wedding present.

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And during that project I honed the idea for this one.

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This drawing, done by my nephew few year ago, hangs framed in my sister's house. He has always had a great sense of colour and design, and I decided to use his stripe pattern as the basis for a blanket. As a surprise for his 13th birthday.

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I think a lot of people, when I said I was making a blanket for my nephew, imagined a baby blanket. I guess it's not the first thing that springs to mind for a 13th birthday. But I'm not sure there is ever a bad time to receive a handknit blanket, is there?

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And I did the whole thing in a month, meeting my deadline perfectly, even after the green I ordered online turned out to be quite wrong and I had to dash around town to find something better.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

There are some turns where I will spin

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In the first week of October, I did something I'd been waiting to do the whole two and a bit years I've been learning to play the fiddle. I went to a week-long fiddle camp.

I was a very raw beginner when the inaugural Stringmania was held in 2016. I'm not sure I'd even heard about it in time to register but I wouldn't have had the guts to do it at that point anyway. I did, however, time a trip to Melbourne to be able to go to a couple of concerts by the tutors.

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Last year, the timing was a bit too close on the heels of our UK trip to take more time off work. To be honest I guess I also still really didn't feel ready yet for a full week of playing and cramming new tunes into my brain/fingers.

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But I was determined to go this year and I registered and paid my deposit nice and early. As the time approached I got really anxious about it. Irrationally so. My inner voice was telling me that everyone there would be accomplished musicians, all the other campers would be friends already and clique-y. Also, I would sound bad and piss everyone off, would not be able to keep up, and on top of that, I would be overwhelmed by being with people all the time (including sleeping in a dorm/cabin).

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Tutors Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, Nicholas Ng and Jingjing Lu

My rational side did think it would probably be ok. But the truth is, it turned out to be pretty much everything I could have hoped. The atmosphere was warm and inclusive. I struggled to keep up sometimes (and did sound bad sometimes) but I quickly found some comrades who were in the same boat, and we were able to get together outside of class and try to help each other with some super-slow sessions.

All the classes focus on learning by ear - we only received the sheet music some time after camp - and you place yourself in a level based on how fast you like to learn by ear. I enjoyed the challenge, but I wished I was more experienced and quicker to grasp the tunes. This is as much about my physical ability to play my instrument as it is my ability to remember a tune (this is where singing it first helps, enormously).

I'm so glad that I can read music, thanks to all the music lessons I had on piano. With my lovely regular teacher I learn some tunes by ear and some with the 'dots'. I'd already worked out that although I can play it through sooner with the music, if I do the hard work to learn a tune by ear (or even mostly by ear, fixing up a few notes later) I will learn it by heart much sooner and retain it better.

Which is all well and good, but for me it's a big ask to internalise several new tunes in six days, in time for the concert at the end of camp. (With or without sheet music). It was impressive to see lots of people who can do this fairly effortlessly. When it came to the rehearsal/arrangement session on the day of the concert, I quickly realised that even some of the tunes I had more-or-less learned were going to be played way too fast for me. So then I found myself at the last minute trying to listen in to the cellos and learn a couple of bassline phrases to use instead.

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Lucy Wise and Holly Downes


When it comes to the music and musicians that I love, I've always been on the outside looking in. And that's pretty much still the case, but the camp experience broke down those barriers to some extent. I saw and heard incredible musicians doing cool things, sure, but also people who are more like me. People who maybe haven't been playing all their life. I feel like I got to see a bit of the magic where a lot of elements come together into something wonderful - sometimes quite quickly and without too much trialing or planning. I have to acknowledge the very skilled tutors and director did do some planning behind the scenes. But even so, many of the tutors come in relatively cold, and some of them may have never played with the others previously. I'm so impressed by their skill and openness, coming in to a group of 100+ people and teaching them at all levels, on a wide range of instruments, and pulling it all together into a credible performance.

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View from the back of the stage, rehearsal before the concert.

The other day I caught up with a friend from camp and we talked about attitudes to music-making. I said I felt I was still personally a bit stuck in the mindset that (theoretically, as I am not performing in any capacity!) I would need to practice a piece a lot, to get it to being performable. She likened this to a classical way of thinking, and we talked about the idea of community music which is primarily about the *experience* of playing together. Of course this is exactly what session music is and what the camp was really about. I still feel though that my lack of physical skill in playing my instrument is quite a barrier. It's a slow process but I have to stop at times and notice that it is improving.

I can't begin to analyse everything I learned or took in at camp - some things I probably haven't even acknowledged. I know I want to do it again.

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Hanging out at the back of the stage and contemplating my chances of hitting one note in four.

Monday, November 05, 2018

sew no silken seam on a fine May morning

1 September 2017. Our first full Glasgow day we... got the hell out of town. We wanted to do a day trip down to Port William and Monreith, and this day promised the best weather for it. My great-uncle Tim had taken the train up from London to stay with us in Glasgow for a few days. He was quite happy to join us for a day trip out of town.

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We had a very short coffee stop in Ayr. It was a beautiful day.

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We wanted to explore this area because it is where our good friend grew up - though he has lived in Australia since his late teens. We went first to subtly check out  Monreith House. His parents lived and worked on this property back in the day.

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Then we moved on to Port William, a pretty charming town.

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I will say, I had some amazing vegetarian meals, largely in pubs, in Scotland... but this day's pub lunch wasn't one of them. I think we were a bit off the most popular tourist trails, there weren't a lot of options... it happens.

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We drove on to Monreith Beach. Tim decided to rest in the car while we took the steep stairs down to the beach.

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The whole time we were there I was obsessing over my 'secret ambition' for the Scotland trip. We were days away from leaving Scotland and this seemed to be my last best opportunity for a skinny dip... nice weather, nice beach, not too many people around. If only I had remembered to bring a towel!

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I remembered that on the track down from the road we had passed a little public toilet. I went back to check and it turned out to be amazingly well-stocked with paper towels. Jackpot!

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I did it! So much fun. K did not play along, but guarded my clothes. I didn't stay in long as it was pretty cold. Yes there was a little boat out there but far enough away I didn't really care.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

And sent him homeward tae think again

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Well. In this virtual re-living of our trip to Scotland, I've left us hanging in limbo a long time. Let's get moving again.

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31 August 2017 - we left Edinburgh with a few hours to spend making our way to Glasgow. The main place I was keen to stop was the Helix Park in Falkirk, to see the amazing Kelpies.

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We loved them. And what a great spot. Really nice accessible park, boats on the canal, and then there's the huuuge horse art. This was something really different to everything else we saw in Scotland.

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We were on a deadline, as we planned to get in to Glasgow to meet my uncle's train (he came up from London to spend a few days with us) in mid-afternoon. Just enough time for a very quick visit to Stirling Castle.

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We didn't go inside, but I can never resist a look the gift shop. There's a bottle of whisky I still wish I had bought there. The views outside were gorgeous. The drive up to the castle, winding through the town, was memorable too.

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Robert the Bruce.

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