A Magical Saturday

At Grooves on the GreenFollowing a magical sun filled Saturday which encompassed so many things, including a visit to  the Grooves on the Green music festival in Ashley Cross, I could not have expressed this observation any better …

Partners in a relationship have different roles.

There are times when the burning intensity and power of the sun are called for, and times when the soothing luminescence and serene wisdom of the moon is what’s needed.

A complementary relationship in which the partners cooperate and work together is a beautiful thing.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Kutai Lighthouse

Suzanne Vega - Tom's DinerWe are off to see Suzanne Vega at The Lighthouse theatre in Poole tonight. She is, and has been, one of my favourite singers for decades, so I am really looking forward to the concert.

As I often do, and I’m sure you do too, I’ve been listening to her back catalogue since I bought the tickets a couple of weeks ago.

Each song is like an old friend and arrives bringing a plethora of memories with it. Those memories, in Buddhist terms are held in a state called Ku, or Kutai, where something exists and doesn’t exist all at the same time.

The human brain is an amazing thing. On the one hand we can remember people and events from forty years and more ago. On the other, I can walk from the lounge into the kitchen and forget why I went in the first place, and I know we’ve all been there.

Amazing stuff that grey matter, a hugely complex system of neurons and synapses awash in a cocktail of serotonin, dopamine and countless other magical neurotransmitters, all busy doing their own thing, but all in sync. And all it needs, to switch on some memory buried deep in time, is a handful of notes in a particular sequence.

Here are a few rather shaky images from the show …

Suzanne Vega - Live In Poole

Suzanne Vega - Live In Poole

Suzanne Vega - Live In Poole

On The Fiddle?

On The Fiddle?In case you were wondering, my CELTA course is going rather well, all things considered. Apart from the fact that I am really enjoying the whole experience, it’s a bit like Chinese water torture, the lesson preparation and assignments just keep coming.

Last night was a little milestone on our collective path, half way through the sixteen weeks of study and a brand new gaggle of victims, or more properly, teaching practice students. A lovely group of people, all very keen to learn and very willing to be subjected to our formative teaching skills.

As well as being a new set of faces, these students are still taking their first steps in learning English, as opposed to our previous charges, who were really quite fluent. So the challenges, on both sides of the classroom, were slightly different. There was more emphasis on keeping things simpler and checking that individual students understood what was being taught.

The evening went really well. We were teaching them new vocabulary in the context of music, and they worked really hard. The highlight of the evening, for me, was talking to the oldest student, an 83 year old Middle Eastern gentleman, who was keen to tell me that he has been playing the violin since he was 7. He had the callouses on his fingers to prove it.

It’s so interesting, meeting new people. People who have incredible stories to tell. None of this would have happened had I not made the causes. Karma is a wonderful thing.

Stairway To Heaven

In The Court Of The Crimson KingI’ve had a wonderful time today reliving my teenage years, listening to Led Zeppelin whilst enjoying more sunshine lying on the balcony. Each and every song hold memories of years gone by.

Zeppelin were one of the first supergroups and I was a huge fan back in those days. Along with groups like Cream, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, they wrote the soundtrack to my youth. I could name many, many others, but the list would fill the page.

Things were very different back then. An Afghan was an embroidered shaggy coat that smelt awful when it got wet, not what it means today. A trip to Oasis in the old Bull Ring was always an adventure filled with Loons, Tie-Dye T shirts, Joss sticks and psychedelic cheesecloth.  My first live concert was at the Town Hall in Birmingham in 1969. It cost 6/- (six shillings), 30p in today’s money, and I watched Genesis, Lindisfarne and Van der Graff Generator on their first tour and soaked up every last note with my mate Martin Loake.

But listening to the music today, some 45 years after I heard it the first time, revived memories in a way that only certain smells can emulate. I say smells, because in my case, the smell of steam engines takes me right back to childhood holidays in Margate. Each morning, or so I recall, my grandfather took me to the shunting yards to watch the tank engines arranging the commuter coaches into the trains for people to get to work. One whiff of coal smoke and oily steam, and I can see it all so clearly.

The music took me back to school days. Long hair, those loons, tie-dye T shirts and evenings spent in my bedroom with the commandeered family PYE gramophone, and a reel to reel tape recorder blasting out the latest Progressive Rock tracks. I was supposed to be studying, or doing homework, but all I can remember is trying to pick out the chords on my six string and practicing riffs. No wonder my exam results suffered.

As those memories came flooding back, it got me thinking about how wonderful it would be if we could recall events from our past lives. I have been through past life regression sessions in the past, with some interesting results, but that’s not quite what I mean.

My life has been a cycle of repeated events, some good, others not so good, but the cycle is quite clear. Finally I have seen the light, I’m taking steps to avoid another cycle and trying to learn from past mistakes.

My Buddhist Practice, and particularly the study of Karma, have made me look at the past in a different way. I now realise that I created the causes for that cycle to repeat and by stopping doing that my life will change course forever. It can be a painful realisation, seeing where you have been going wrong all these years, but not as painful as going on the way I had.

Life has changed, I have changed, and the music is as brilliant as it ever was.

Boogie Woogie Poppadums

Chicken VindalooSaturday night and we’re out with Charlotte and Rob at the Rupali restaurant in Kingswood. The boys are being looked after by grandma and we are free to have an evening to remember.

The food is great, chicken vindaloo for me, preceded by a pile of poppadums with the obligatory accoutrements, lime pickle, diced onion, mango chutney and some kind of yoghurt sauce, yummy.

It’s a really nice place, very friendly. The last time I was in there was after Rob’s stag night. He wasn’t with me that time, he was safely at home, being tended by his brother, after a slight over indulgence of the amber nectar.

It’s funny how some memories come flooding back, whilst other stubbornly refuse to put in an appearance. I know was there with his mate Jason, both of us slightly the worse for wear, but I have no recollection of how we managed to get back to Longwell Green that evening.

Anyway, I digress. After the meal we walked up the high street to the Black Horse, where Rob’s mate Richard was playing lead guitar for a local blues band. It was loud, it was hot and the landlord, who is know for his abrupt nature, was rather abrupt. But it was a great gig and the place was heaving.

It’s been a rather long time since I’ve been out with C & R without the children, and I’m sure it was as nice a change for them as it was for us. They say that a change is as good as a rest, and this change was great fun, we mustn’t leave it so long next time.

A Rockin’ Good Evening

A Rockin’ Good EveningHaving spend the day doing ‘stuff’, it was great to let our hair down (not that I have much) going to Phil’s 50th ‘open mike’ evening at a pub in Fishponds. With so much talent and so much fun, the evening flew by so by the time the pub closed, and we found ourselves sitting outside in the beer garden, we were well into Sunday morning.

I like to think that I can play guitar a bit, but seeing people who devote a large proportion of their lives to making music, I have to admit that I’m a rank amateur. The diversity of the performances was amazing. Everything from Pink Floyd to the one humorous classic ‘There’s a hole in my bucket’ were done, and all received rapturous applause.

Being ‘Johnny Come Lately’ in B’s circle of friends, I always wonder whether I will fit in. But in typical style, everyone was lovely and made me feel more than welcome. So a truly rockin’ good evening was had by all and it was a fitting celebration of a milestone birthday. Happy birthday Phil, let’s hope there are many, many more to come.

Pure Talent

Click here to see more of Liz's workSunday is supposed to be the day of rest, but in true Greystones tradition, it was a mixture of work and play. After a slightly later start than yesterday we got on with a few little jobs, little in stature, but as always, bigger in reality, all taking longer than expected.

The highlight of the morning was a visit from B’s friend Liz. She’s a hugely talented lady, an artist and a professional violinist. The sort of person who oozes creativity and who is in the fortunate position to be able to live in a beautiful part of the country, whilst making her living doing things she truly loves.

The highlight of the afternoon was choosing the plants for the hanging baskets for the front of the Cottage. There are so many beautiful plants, but so little room to pack them in, so some difficult choices had to be made. Having decided that we would plump for a pinky purple colour scheme, it narrowed the field down a fair bit.

Having found a selection of tall and short, upright and trailing plants, it was great fun mixing the compost and getting down and dirty in the greenhouse. We had a little battle with the planting. B wanted to go all random, but I wanted them to match. So we came to a compromise of a matching pair of random baskets.

We gave them a good dousing and apart from actually hanging them on the wall they are ready to look beautiful for the whole summer. It’s lovely ‘creating’ a feature out of plants and flowers. Even a klutz like me can make a beautiful display when you have nature’s perfection to work with. When they are fixed in place and looking lovely, I’ll post some pictures so you can enjoy them too.

A Love That Will Never Die

The Secret Piano - Alexis FfrenchA parcel arrived at work today, and in it was an amazing little gizmo, an Apple TV module. It allows me to stream my photos, videos and my music, wirelessly from my iPad or my PC straight to my TV and my home cinema system.

So I’ve spend a wonderful evening looking through my photo albums, whilst listening to Earl Klugh, Pink Floyd, Alison Moyet, Alexis Ffrench and many others in stunning surround sound.

It’s only when you really sit and listen to music you love, some that hasn’t been played for many years, that you realise what power it has to lift your spirits and gladden your heart. So whilst I dislike the marketing strategy of Apple, with their restrictive practices and all, I am delighted with my new acquisition, and I’m sure it will be worth its weight in gold.

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