GRACIAS A LA VIDA things i am proud of in my life

JAN FAIRLEY:  some of the MANY THINGS I AM PROUD OF

http://www.janfairley.com

  1. having three wonderful children; intelligent and aware;  happy in their partnerships and with their children; happy in their work running a cutting edge brand company; wine maker/importer; vocational teacher
  2. living and working in Chile during  the Popular  Unity Presidency of  Salvador Allende years 1971-3; experiencing the energy, fervour and enthusiasm and idealism of that periods  and surviving the 11 September 1973 coup d’etat. Living in Temuco in a street called ‘Porvenir’ (future)  and having as close friends the Cordero family – neurologist Ruth, psychiatrist Martin, and their 3 children Ruthie, Martin hijo and Paula- and going to their home all the time to hang out, eat and chat and play table tennis. Spending time each week singing with the patients at the hospital  in Chol Chol  as part of Ruth’s therapeutic regime for them. Helping the Cordero family escape out of Temuco to Santiago  and eventually to the UK  after the coup d’etat when Martin father was taken in and tortured and then placed under house arrest.
  3. having three inter-disciplianry degrees: B.A. Hons. Compaative Literature with Languages (Spanish) (Essex 1971); M.Phil Latin Amerucan Studies (Oxford 1977);  PhD (Edinburgh 1987);  writing my MPhil (Latin American Studies, Oxford) on ‘la nueva  canción Chilena’, the first thesis of that nature  on a popular music in a British university; ditto my PhD on ‘Karaxú, the music of the Chilean Resistance’ (Ethnomusicology, Edinburgh); studying ‘Third World Literature with Jean Franco as an undergraduate at Essex University.
  4. being first woman Latin DJ in Scotland (for Club Sandino i.e. fusing love of politics and music); and first woman radio DJ to play world music on BBC Radio Scotland for Earthbeat 1991-04, a weekly programme (Thursdays 7.30 until 8.30pm) I named the show myself (with help from colleague and friend Lucy Dúran)
  5. being lucky enough to be selected  in the lottery  for Anthony Gormley’s 4th plinth project ‘One and Other’  in Trafalgar Square, London  on Monday 14th September 2009 2pm-3pm where I read poems for the ‘disappeared’ in Chile and Latin America’ from the plinth, wearing a home made cape (thank you Jan Newton for making it) , saying ‘Remember the disappeared’  – linking poems offered by present old  friends to those who are no longer here. Picture is in the book Gormley’s company produced afterwards and film guarded somewhere by Welcome Trust?  A unique experience: it was windy up there though and although I wanted to dance a ‘cueca sola’ for the disappeared in memory of the ‘mothers’ who did  I could not brave it.
  6. to have worked for the BBC as an official BBC freelance  in the 1990s until 2003 and made lots of wonderful feature documentaries from parts of  Europe and other parts of the worlds for BBC Radio Scotland, Radio3, Radio 4 and World Service; particularly the R3 series ‘Songs from a country called Spain’; WS series ‘Ports of Call’ (about which I wrote a chapter about for the book Migrating Music ed by Jason Toynbee)’;  and the 2003 ‘Chile 30 years’ after documentary for R4, one of the Sunday docs of the year
  7. being Director of Edinburgh Book Festival 1995-7;  making huge change  by taking it annual; giving it a more international flavour; having Latin American writer Mario Vargas Llosa open it (with opening party music from Salsa Celtica); nominating 3 dead poets  for the festival – Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, George Mackay Brown; having three visual art exhibitions (Neruda photos direct from Chile; Gunny Moberg photos of Scottish writers and of Orkney and Mackay Brown); introducing the  readings for imprisoned writers (because of my time in Chile 1971-3 (which later became an Amnesty project); bringing in a yurt for stories for kids; co- organising the opening PEN conference;’ starting the ‘Friends of Edinburgh Book Festival’; introducing a ‘body and mind lifestyle tent with creative artists in it;   doing a small mid-year book festival weekend at the Traverse and Film House in November; organising some co-events with Mark at the Film Festival; organising and creating some music events like Mairi Hedderwick Katie Morag stories for kids with the late Martyn Bennett playing music; having Gerda Stevenson do the ‘Story of Barbar.’  And much more to be proud of there even if ultimately  I fell foul of the board being slightly headstrong, too much my own person, and naïve  as to significance  of profit in first change-over year; and then one can  add in  remarks from people with limited vision  like then bookseler and EBF treasurer Ainslie Thin that ‘poetry  does not sell books’ etc
  8. Taking part in TRILOGY Nic Green’s groundbreaking 21st century feminist show at the Edinburgh Firnge August 2010 Arches at St Stephens when as part of the choreographed women’s dance group; we danced naked to the Pixies, celebrating  our bodies, which for me was big time, as I had a masectomy and re-build, so to be naked on stage and expose that was liberating and accepting. I also took part in the very final performance at the Arches in Glasgow in January 2011.
  9. being a singer since I was about 4; singing everything from Gilbert and Sullivan leads at school (Yum Yum, Rose Maybud, girl in Pirates) ; to acapella group  Witches Tuesday; latterly  being member of champion barber shop Forth Valley Chorus; singing regularly with my wonderful singer songwriter friend Carlos Arredondo, and his wife, my close friend Giovanna Reboa
  10. being a good salsa dancer and not bad at tango either and coming from a family of dancers: the extended family of my grandfather used to own Fairley’s Ballroom at the toe of Leith Walk in Edinburgh( my family the Fairleys come from Edinburgh and our roots and family tree literally go back here for centuries). Fairleys was infamous for being popualr with sailors and for rough fights! They also owned a bar down in Leith port itslef… leds said the bettr said my father when i made a BBC radio Scotland series called ‘Are ye Dancin?’ when various champion dancers  told me all about Fairleys and its reputation – they had a good ballroom dancing term apparently.
  11. walking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in March 2007; walking pilgrimage to the Holy Island of  Lindisfarne with Northern Cross from 2000 onwards and sharing community life in village halls on the way
  12. being Chairwoman of the IASPM (The International Association for the Study of Popular Music) of which I had been a member since 1983 between 2009-11
  13. being member editorial board Popular Music Journal (CUP) from 1980s and being responsible for over 12 ‘Special Issues’ including the last one dedicated to me ‘Music and Age’
  14. having a great group of wonderful loving friends whose company I enjoy hugely
  15. having organised host of fabulous fun parties in my home; meals, suppers shared with friends most often with great music  made by all
  16. having become a NUJ journalist to write about musicians who otherwise would not feature in UK press: first ever article  and commissioned reviews for Songlines magazine début issue; Folk Roots/fRoots); Scotsman; Herald; my first ever piece about Silvio Rodríguez and Cuba in The Guardian!!! also being NUJ freelnace Edinburgh Welfare Officer for quite a few years
  17. taking part in Toby Gough’s Teatro Botanicum shows during Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Botanic Gardens: taking the roels of Queen’s Elizabeth and Victoria in the Spice  Trail (and singing);  Lady Lipton in The Tea Party (check show name)
  18. being proud of loving life to the full and living it tot the full and rarely being afraid of danger
  19. thanks for being curious, intrepid, often sacred but just doing it often naively and often following ideas others first introduced to me
  20. GRACIAS A LA VIDA que me ha dado tanto!
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ISA BROWNS – obsession news! Plus house visit of members of all-female barber shop Forth Valley Chorus; ‘A Meeting by the River

Yes!!! …  i am obssessed with my henny pennies- brown Annie, pale brown and creamy Moira and Lizzie. I get up at 6ish, and go and let them out of their coop  into their run, and it has strengthened my legs going up and down steps to garden, after days wasting them in bed at hospital and hospice. I go out at least twice a day and sit with them, and take friends  out to sit and watch!  Jane from Rosewell, outside Edinburgh near Roslin who gifted them to me-   yes gifted them- ‘what goes around comes around’ she told me –  tells me they  are Isa Browns, and you can see details about generous Jane and her work at her  site at www.edinburghchickens.com

My old friend Anne with whom we are linked by all things Chilean solidarity campaign and events- she is an events organsiser- Bliss Promotions based Bedford – does Irish day in Trafalgar Square; and lots of Melas; and comunuty event;s and about to do a huge Queens Jubilee picnic event in Picadilly, London  – involving whole of Piccadilly –  just went after two lovely days.

I am busy ediitng a half written chapter document on Inti Illimani and Quilapayun the two Chilean ‘new song’ groups i have followed since 1971 – and why they have ‘cannibalised’ themselves and divided into two groups based on issues of culural capital, betrayal  and a destruction of ‘soul’ by some involved … with Argenine editor Pqblo Vila for his book Militant Music. Yikes lots of references to do: must avoid moral high ground but i have my empathies as i have followed them and travelled with them since io met them – Jean Franco my old professor at Essex who taught the Third World Literaure courseI did  radical first course of its kind in Europe, probably world at time  – gave me an introduction as she had taught Chilean scholar  Claudio Dúran and  so i met him and his wife Marcela in Santaago; and Claudio  introduced me to his brother Horacio ,who came into the house, complete with that bewitching small armadillo backed lute Andean  charango under his jacket, off out to sing in a factory with Inti Illimani – and so it all began!! i wrote my M.Phil thesis at Oxford as part of my Latin American Studies degree  on ‘la nueva canción Chilena’- the first thesis on Aatin American Popualr msuic to be written  in a UK university (even if i say it myself – thank you the late Robert Pring-Mill fpr all your encouragement and support);and then i wrote my PhD (Edinburgh) about the amazing group Karaxú – the Music of the Chilean Resistance. And so i have followed these two groups and others and Karaxu as long as they existed for over 40 years… i know a lot about them…

I am loving life and really enjoying everything – I really am living in the present  moment  – which is wonderful and thrilling and i am loving every minute of it all. Kind of celebratory every day. I have totally planned my funeral; my legacy;giving my archive away to Chile and Cuba/Canada nd a UK university; it all feekls good and i am giving small gifts to friends as keepsakes as they come.

yesterday 8 members of the the 100+ all-female barber shop  Forth Valley Chorus,  the gold award winning baeber shop chrous i sang with )helping them with UK Europe chamionship and going with them to sing at Sweet Adeline’s convention in Seattle in 2010; – an experience to challenge any feminist, i tell you; but one full of female companmonship and competitive spirit and celebration of all things ‘womanly’ in every aspect you can think of-  i emean everyone wears false eye -lashes folks,  everyone, and alshings of make up and hair pieces and other cover over body aprts and it is all glam and glitzty and enormous fun to boot when you let yourself get into it and stop standing outside and judging yourself…!! )- anyway they  came to the hous end sang and chatted for an hour and it wass exhilerating- thanks  you all you wonderful friends – and David musical director – heartelt thanks – and joy!

oop my mate Jennet here so off i go … to show her the henny pennies

Today playing Ry Cooder and  V. M BHatt ‘A Meeting by the River’  0 sublime

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Cuban spider homeopathy and Middle of the night delusions

it is more like 6am.  I woke up about an hour ago wide awake, probably as the result of doing my regime late yesterday so i had my enema and bath etc after 9pm when i got back after my lovely yoga class with Rosemary Leburn. I have a cold too. I woke up with the horrible realisation that nothing i may be doing maybe making any difference whatsover! I know I have joked that may be the case but i really think I have not believed it.  I kind of think because i am following this regime i will outwit cancer. Then i wok up realising it is probably growing away just the same and sooner or later I will feel ill and then there it will be blocking some other aort of my innards. I could be eating bacon and eggs each day for all it cares! maybe not eating a normal diet is not helping at all… ayeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Yestrday I texted Filiberto in Cuba and he is going to see if he can get me some of this blue scorpion liquid or pills that is made there form blue scorpions which are only found inb Cuba and which has been effetcive against cancer. Valentina the lovely Chilean singer reminded me of this  last week. It has taken me over a week to even think of doing something about it. I find in my case there is always a time lapse for an idea / recomendatiuon and the ability to do anything about it.so kath bateman my mate who runs caledonia languages picked it up in Havana and I am taking it now!!!

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FROM A DISTANCE – all the way from Seattle Barbara and family sing for me!

http://youtu.be/EhK4-14MuIY

ho ho ho folks just got to share this with you- it coems with a grab a tissue warning and a sing alonga join in feeling for all – received it last week have played it to everyone who enters house- nurses included- and Barbara and family are happy to share it

I met Barbara Burton when she was lured to Edinburgh back in 1990s  to study for a music PhD in socoloogy department- i soon convinced here with my usual persuasive slightly bullying – you go to so this – style – that while i would miss her gorgeous, vivacious presence never mind her exquisite piano playing (she was going to be a professional pianist but moved siadeways) that she would be bter off in Texas studying with the incomparavble Steven Feld who was my man of the moment- his insight in his peerless groundbreaking book Sound and Sentiment once made me fall off my bike as i cycled to the library to finish my PhD – he made me realise that just as  a man becomes a bird as they did in Papua New Guinea through the music bird ritual – that so for Chielan exile group Karaxú  MUSIC WAS RESISTANC

enjoy From a Distance which Barnara and i sang with my kids toroughout the early 1990s – Barbara  went to to study with Feld in Texas!!! never looked back… Steve appreciated the getsure even though i did not even know him then – B met her husband Jim there- it was meant to be!!  and B  sent me a Christmas compilation tape of her favourite music- lots of blues – and this song was first on the compilation

Enjoy!!

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APRIL JOY: HENNY PENNIES IN THE GARDEN

Introducing henny Fairleys Annie, Lizzie and Moira!! gosh back on my blog after quite a gap as messed up access-  thank you Emily, Joyce and Chris for getting me back in again! I am feeling radiant on steroids and full of energy despite the fact that i am now in final weeks of life after a stay in Western General Hospital almost a month ago. There thanks to radiologists Dr Glancey and Dr Melios  i had a miraculous tiny almost do-it-yourself  drain fitted to my stomach for 36 hours which drained  off 8 and a half litres of protein liquid my cancers have been weeping into my stomach! might put a picture up folks –  gory!!

only downside was that my blood pressure dropped low – it’s low anyway-  so for next 10 days i lay around in bed at home not sure which way up or whether  i was feeling either i was about to faint or be sick – BP  it was 70 80 90 over /// In end i went to the wonderful Marie Curie Hospice for 8 day stay where they stabilised me and now i have a smll permanent drip in my arm  which the district nurses now come here home every day to change via a syringe pump and this keeps me able to function. I have a massive appetite  being on steroids gives me energy and means i hardly need to sleep – i think it is like being on amphetamines!

Family have been here – grandosns Kabe and Theo and their parents –  all the time – and friends from afar and close to home – and lots of great Easter celebrations.  My treat to myself was hens for the garden which i have always wanted. It was fast – i bought a hen coop on line and it arraived two days later. Paul a super efficient young guy who does gardens built it for me; then  went and got hens. They  were given me by lovely generous hen keeper Jane out of Roseeell whose name i found on the internet and who when she heard from me i needed hens quickly  for these final weeks offered me two of hers. Thing was there was some disapproval at tiees in casae it was trying to do too much and Paul’s Dads ‘ a poultry men’ tunred out to be  barn battery Marshalls chunky chicken experience and he told Jane free hens got eaten by foxes… bad karma…

I decided to wait until i had a proepr run and had won people round and that night Jane;s had gone to a wedding leaving her father in law to put hens into coop and he forgot and a fox got them after all- yes thta bad karme … it was April  Fool’s Day next day but this was no joke and Jane was sure if i had taken them Moira and Lizzie would have been still alive.

Still i got a coop and named two of the hens after Moira and Lizzie. The 3rd called  Annie, named by Fran, a neat brown hen,  laid immediately and i get an egg a day. Moira and Lizzie will lay shortly. They love the garden and their house and i let them out to scratch around at least once a day.

The blessings keep coming as yesterday the man from the local Mexican shop Caoba in Stockbridge sold me his own chiminea as he is not expecting any delivery for a month so going to have garden central heating while sit in my blue garden Yemaya house watching the hens!

Meanwhile i am puting all my reveiw tickets into art books – i have collected a pile over time- by no means all – since 1998 ish and am calling the books ‘Just some of the culture i have enojoyed’ or ‘An Edinburgh Woman’s Cultural Life’ or ‘the gigging girl’ – such fun!

Two old friend’s  Simon Frith and another mate Ian Christie are editing a book of my  work bringing together chapters i have written for various publications and journalism for fRoots and Songlines and The Scotsman  which is thrilling  if not a bit egocentric !

I am making codicils to my will concerning my extensive Chile, Cuban, world music and radio archive  and donating them to various people and institutions. The responae on the IASPM list when i asked for advice through up really excellent debate and suggestions.

I am listening every day to a  crazykitsch  Italian record i bought in the market in Carrara in 2010 – Collezione Italiana de Renato Carosone- songs form the 40s and 50s and 60s – gorgeously cheerful and upbeat

hasta pronto anyone who read this thanks for your support always!!

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Shake, rattle and roll into 2012

Month or so  since I wrote:  truly fantastic Christmas with all the family here – two grandchildren and I revel in being ‘Granny Scotland’.  Best and most beautiful tall Christmas tree ever from forest in Peebles: it had a strange double trunking at top (now living in back garden).  Fantastic New Year with Brazilian friend Martha, her daughter María, son-in-law (lovely guitarist William) and grandson Led: candle lit procession to Carlton Hill with thousands of others on the ‘night afore’; superb  last performance of Christmas show Beauty and the Beast at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, and Italian supper with Carlos and Giovanna on  Hogmanay; with pipers and harpists at Gilchrists  in Portobello for us all as the year turned from 2011 to 2012. Then a   Brazilian New Year’s day:  meal with salt cod, courtesy of Martha, with much  music and singing (ping pong and chequers) from everyone who came. Since then have been to London  for  the annual  Popular  Music journal board meeting when it was lovely to see everyone again in the beautiful Royal Society of Arts building (Nikki, Keith, John, Allan, Sarah, MArtin and the CUP people). Next day did a trip I love going up river by boat  from Tate Britain to Tate Modern to see the Taceta Dean film installation; visited Occupy outside St Paul’s  for a short time (brave people). Main object of trip was to see my children and grandsons again… visited my lovely friend Toni  and lovely friend Jen.

Also saw the intriguing  Dr Etienne  Callebout again at the Nutri-Centre. Have to say process of getting the results from the bllod and urine tests that were done for him by Genova Diagnostics and getting his recomendations were very  frustrating full of delay (all rather inefficient)  so i nearly gave up on him before Christmas. When i did get his hand written recomendations in the post after numeous emails and calls (lab mislaid results…) they were diifficult to decipher and I then went into a panic as it means taking about 40+ or so highly specialised supplements, pills and liquids, morning and evening; plus a strict regime involving three ‘green’ juice a day and three green juice days a week with green only foods and extra more old fashioned de-tox mustard foot-baths and epsom salt baths. The rest of the time a diet that is a mostly green juices, green and purple veg and oily fish (hardly any fats save oils; no salt, no sugars…); breakfast of  mix of 20+ special proteins and ‘super foods’, nuts, oils, and supplements. I could not get my head around the whole thing for quite a long time. Totally anti-social and bloody hard work to boot. Also extremely costly. Not easy to get all the things needed (5-6 source places in UK, Germany, Belgium, Singapore and USA).

Then after a  time in mid-late December I realised I had no choice really. Got my very modest lump sum pension in bank which is not a lot but hey might as well spend what I have in coming year and see if it works. It should just last the year. Sourcing pills and supplements  has taken time as you have to ring/email/ go on line/ transfer moneys (also can’t read his handwriting easily so needed  type it all out again into a list etc); then the actual regime takes a long time to follow each day, including  regularly  sorting and counting  pills into glasses ready  to take (they all come in different size packs and bottles so you run out of some quickly, so you have  to keep on top of ordering them); got to make sure you got all greens and food in house (asparagus soup 3 times  a day – i manage once… if lucky); got to go get fresh fish all the time (nearest fishmonger closed in Autumn  but still not far up hill to Bruntsfield); and then you’ve got to do it! Huge  mental adjustment. Avocado, avocado, avocado

Still i am managing to get into it although rather more slowly than i hoped.  3 days a week are  just (meant to be) green de-tox days: no protein or anything else – just green juices and green soups; special mustard foot baths; epsom salt big bath when you  rub castor oil into lymph areas all over body with a cold pack on your head and neck (I kid not!). Really not managed that all yet.  Building up to it. Wasting time not doing it. Seem to be a lot of emotinal hurdles to jump. Lack of protein some days makes me feel weak and weepy. I can get set off at least thing – any sense of perceived (often ill-perceived!)  ‘rejection’ – totally illogical stuff – i just feel like a birds egg that got trampled on.  Often feel totally unreasonable. Spend so much time on my own so get ‘locked’ in thoughts in my own head. Poeple are kind but hey who is really interested in this kind of regime and life and talk of enemas!

Callebout checked my blood (‘still sticky: not  worse but not better…’). He’s a private doctor with many patients – no shortage – so you can’t bleat about costs, or ask  ‘will this be worth it’. Got to take it all on trust. Can’t check out if he is the genius people say – got to believe it.  He is using his expertise to try and help one stay alive. It’s a cornucopia approach: everything that might help thrown in but all very highly guaged. Ask him a  question and you get a highly technical answer.

My whole life is different to what it has been. Not shaped by work any more. Usually in January i am darting through to Glasgow almost every day for 2 weeks to Celtic Connections festival (0ften there and back in a night) to see concerts and write about them for Scotsman: not this year.  Done a bit of reviewing and some work in recent months (flamenco compilation, few music features)  but nothing much. Place taken straight way by others too. Bruised ego problems!

Pf course I am not doing badly. I am very lucky. Lovely home, great family, amazing friends. Yes friends are great: they come round; we go for walks (Judy, Therese); they phone (Judith, Christine; Giovanna who phones almost every day ‘bambola how are you?’ she says…); lots of cinema often with Fran takes my mind off things (The Artist, Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Atalante). MET nights at the Cameo Picture House cinema lots of Saturday nights  (Judy, Dave, Clive). Tai Chi on wed mornings. Yoga on Monday nights.

Burns night  January New Year resolution:   get into the garden, do a bit each day; focus on being here and holidaying, treats in Scotland; try and get to London every month or so to see grandchildren and children;   finish wriitng comitments to others and write my book on women and music in Cuba. Stop feeling sorry for myself.  It’s easier said than done to live in the present moment: you keep have futile thoguht like   ‘oh i might not be here in 4/6/ months, a year etc’  ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep taking the pills and supplements- shake, rattle and roll into 2012. Off to try the mustard bath…

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‘Old ladies’ exhibition day: 4 December 2011 – everyone round for tea, cakes and remembering our mothers.

I have not written this blog for almost two months partly because i have been tied up doing my Gersen diet, partly doing  projects. I  am pretty much following Gersen: enzymes IP6 and Inositol, Quercetin, Bromelain, CQ10; fresh green and carrot and apple juices, Hippocrates soup and about 3 coffee and camomile enemas a day. (I am still waiting for Dr Callebout to send me the ‘regime schedule’ he promised after i sent blood and urine for special diagnostic testing a month ago now.  Not sure why it is taking so long…).

I keep remembering the classic story Basque writer friend  Bernardo Atxaga told me once: death comes to a man in the early morning and tells him he will be with him by midnight. He spends the day riding on his horse to the end of the kingdom to avoid death, only to find him when he gets there. Death wonders why he spent his final day riding rather than with his family and friends or something like that! I have an image of St Paul at the gate of heaven when i get there (of course)  saying ‘ ah you’re the one who  spent most of her final months/ years juicing and doing enemas – what was wrong with living…! Maybe i’ve put the other side of that joke in an earlier blog – anyway bears repeating: get to the pearly gates and am waiting for room allocation (will it be bunks in sunshine or hammocks even?). And i say i hope i’ll be billeted with the musicians. And the eprson at the agte loks at their clip board and says: ‘Ah a music journalist: you’ll be with the roadies and sound men!’ (i.e. for none music scene people- in purgatory with old grey haired, ponytailed men in tight old black jeans with their bum cheeks showing, and black  t-shirts!)

Of course i am doing plenty of living: been to a few great gigs – Malian kora man Toumani Diabate, female sitar player Anoushka Shankar, at Usher Hall (thanks Karl, thanks  The Scotsman!); saw lovely opening film of French Film festival – sequel to Manon des Sources – forgotten its name!;  enjoying the MET  operas live  into the Cameo cinema almost every other Saturday night at the moment – going with friends  Judy and Dave and Clive and eating cold porridge from a pot now instead of sharing the smoked salmon sandwiches and home-made cake and glass of white wine with the others.  OK the  last two times i have actually had a sandwich and a small slice of cake… and some high cocoa dark  chocolate

The recent highlight, however, was this Sunday when i invited  friends around to see an exhibition of photographs I have assembled and framed of ‘old ladies’ (and’ old men’). I have hung them (thanks to my lovely daughter Fran who did most of the work there) down the staircase like a small gallery. And they look fabulous. I am quite thrilled. There’s a lady high in the Peruvian highland sierra out with an axe  cutting brush for bedding; a  lady who sells castanets in the Albaicín in Granada;  a lady  cleaning  a family grave in Busquítar, Alpujarra on All Souls Day (thanks Mo Fini); my friend Dorothy Walton who lives in Edinburgh, sitting talking in the Yemaya house in my garden; my friend Val’s mum Marjorie Fraser at her weaving loom  in Wales with small pics of her spinning and of the wool she dyed and spun to work with; a group of friends who gathered here last year to knit squares for the ‘big knit’ blanket which was put together in Glasgow (potential ‘old’ ladies!); a Spanish sister and brother in their late 70s /80s making baskets together, which they’d been doing since they were about 8 years old in the small village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana on the Spanish Portuguese border above Huelva (thanks David Flower for lending Fiona and I your house for a few days); lots of old folk met  when i walked part of the camino to Santiago de Compostela, many of them out with their sticks taking a ‘constitutional’ in the winter-spring sunshine; a woman and her family living in the hills above Vinales in Cuba who farm coffee; a woman making and cooking food on Coyoácan, Mexico City; children from a small school i visited in the Peruvian highlands near Lares when  i last went to Maccu Piccu! (lucky enough to go there 1971, 1972 and 2009) (thanks Kathy for fixing that trek for me).

Everyone brought home made cakes – delicious ones –  Dutch apple cake, French chocolate heart cake, Dundee cake, carrot cake, gluten free cake,  mince pies, small pop in the mouth cakes, cup cakes.  Rebecca of The  Monsoon Mountains Tea Company  came and did a tasting of tea from Sri Lankan tea  estates (many of which have links to Scotland) which people enjoyed.

Perhaps the most amazing and unexpected  bit was that my fantastic musician friends Dougie (Hudson) and Andy (Cooke) (they have a group called Baobab Tree) made music for all in the living room on guitars, thumb piano and hunter’s lyre, with percussion from Chimp; later joined on another guitar by Carlos (Arredondo).  It was my mother’s birthday and i wanted to remember her, warts and all (just wish she’d celebrated  us more openly). My sister Mary came up from Cambridge for the weekend which was special.  Quite spontaneously in the invite I asked people to bring a picture of their mothers with them. And everyone seemed to do so.  Dougie said he had a song about his mum. So he sang it (a beautiful, friendly song;) and then improvised its’ chorus, and one by one each of us (at least 35 in the room) held up their photo and said some words about their mother, with extraordinary degrees of truth, also naming them, all linked by Dougie, Andy, Chimp and Carlos playing and us all singing chorus riffs.  It was truly magical – fantastic – beyond my wildest dreams – a real celebration of us all, as well as our mums, and ‘old ladies’. Whether i created this day and this exhibition because i may not become that ‘old’ an ‘old lady’ is moot: i just always had a passion for taking photos of old ladies or women – women or ladies- brushing yards, sitting crocheting or knitting, or simply sitting,  or standing  looking out somewhere – as well as making, cooking, cleaning, weaving, working – or just walking along the street. I have always been drawn to old ladies and it was really joyful to sharephotos of  them – or better said –  to be sharing them –  as they will be there for a long time yet!  I can remember the circumstances of all the photos; where they were; who i was with etc. There are so many stories in each picture and anecdotes, to tell to myself above all.  Rich and lovely times. i may put some of them up on this page but i feel a little cheeky as they are images of other people not myself or my family, which i shy away from anyway.

As i stood there singing along with Dougie and others, and swaying to the music,  looking at everyone around the room, and their photos as they spoke,  I felt right in the moment – only once or twice did i think ‘is this really happening?’ ‘ why is something so brilliant happening?’ – everyone made it what it was – thank you everyone! Bit of bliss on a Sunday afternoon. Not sure what it was like for the children there- the wee ones or bigger ones like my Fran, and Merlin  who came with his mum (and sacks of logs – thanks Merlin!)… hope it was good!

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