Saturday, 25 June 2016

a brief interruption... oh Wales, when will you learn...

Dear Wales, what have you just done?  Iesu mawr...

Once again, the majority of you have aligned yourselves with England and, in this case, voted to leave Europe.  52.5% of you voted that way.  Is Wales disappearing?  It'd be easy enough to blame the English immigrants in Wales for this mess - but in actuality, all of my so-called 'English' friends voted to remain in - perhaps more on that later - so, the difficult truth is, far too many Welshies made the vote to leave.

So let me share with you some of the ways in which you have just screwed yourself up the ying yang.

Wales was heavily funded by the EU.

See all those blue plaques everywhere?  Yeah, that means your village hall, your town centres, your museums, your galleries and your local theatres were all built or re-built with European money.  I hope places like Theatr Felin Fach and Theatr Byd Bach will survive.  But who said communities need culture anyway?  Eh?!  Any money left over will now go sinking back into London and East England.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Year One, Week 32, 33, 34, 35 - dancing round menhir

Okay, another look way back, nearly four years ago...
November 2011...

Elsa and I tried to walk the old train track from Llanbedr to Aberaeron... or at least what was left of it.  The old track had been dug up sometime in the 60s by some Lord numpty.  Shame because the old tracks would have been useful (especially as the buses in Wales have become next to useless and soon to be extinct apparently, but that's for later...)

Anyway, we had a lovely day wandering through fields and over old wooden bridges, enjoying the company of the trees and sheep.  We never did make it to Aberaeron though - we just couldn't find the path through.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Year One, Week 29, 30 & 31 - an early x-mas

All the way back again... look back... waaaaaay back... to September 2011...

The Bethlehem Village Band started rehearsals for the christmas.  Yeah, it was a bit early but then we were trying to record an xmas album after all.

After the success of our debut at the Bethlehem Christmas fair the previous year, we figured we'd be silly not to record.

Of course, it felt completely mad to be playing Christmas tunes in September.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Year One, Weeks 26, 27 & 28 Occasions

This is a look back... waaaay back... all the way into August 2011...

One thing I did forget to write about was the infamous walk.  My good friend Huw was raising money for the Urdd Eisteddfod (and is a part of the organizing committee), to be held in Sir Benfro in 2013 (now since past!).   He had the route all planned and a small chunk of the Celtic crew made their way down to Huw's parents for the weekend.  I had to meet them the morning of the walk itself.  Huw had done the walk and had said it was quite lovely.  It was supposed to have been a nice sunny day but of course it was absolutely lashing down.  Buckets of water... we were all completely drenched, soaked to the bone... except for Jane who opted for the car... but I think she did get her comeuppance some time later...

All told, there was James, Katie, Bjorn, Huw, Sarah and Jane.  Was that it?  I think so... it's been a very long time.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Year One, Week 22, 23, 24 & 25 - The Summer

Right... on the race to catch up...

That first week,  I remember playing in the Gower with the Bethlehem Village Band.  It was a Twmpath in the village hall back in Martin's old stomping grounds.  There was an enthusiastic crowd and some ravers who danced some of those old dances in real style.  Earlier in the day, we all went for a walk down to Pennard Castle - Vicky, Jas, Martin, Sille and myself.  It was a beautiful sunny day, the smell of ocean and sand.  Dai's Vicky was also at the dance and we danced some mazurkas.  I think that's when I started to finally understand that dance.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

One Year, Week 19, 20 & 21 - Celtic crew, Cwps & Cwrs Madog

Yes, now a year late...

The Celtic crew... I haven't seen much of them lately.  But last summer we were still playing football (lost to Penrhyncoch 11-3... one funny game!) and playing "Beans" and speaking Welsh and Mgoiyu... that sort of thing.  It was time for Enrique to leave.  Back to Columbia.  It was sad to see him go, the end of an era I suppose.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

One Year, Week 16, 17 & 18 - Cardiff, Cwm Du & Sille's Day

"Life is made of meetings and partings.  That is the way of it." - Kermit the Frog

Well, yes, nearly a year behind now.  If I maybe write a little everyday and summarize some of the weeks, maybe, just maybe, I'll catch up.

It's all a blur now anyway...

Thursday, 29 March 2012

One Year, Week 15 - Llangranog

Yes, yes... I know.  Been ages, right?  Well, happily it's because I've been so ridiculously busy that I haven't been able to get to the blog.  Must be at least eight months behind.  I'm tempted just to start in the here and now but so many amazing things have happened that I think I'll try to recount all of that.  Probably will lump a few things together for brevity's sake.

So here it is, imagine it now, last summer, a warm and lovely day, visiting my families old home...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

One Year, Week 14 - Recording with Julie


This is it... here...

All that I left behind, this long journey, all culminates in this moment.  I don't think I could have dreamed up something so unbelievable, so incredible...

I have written often about Julie.  Julie was the one and only Welsh singer that caught my attention all those years ago.  Her music is what inspired me to take an interest in Welsh music.  Her voice is the voice I hear at night, the voice that carries me forward on my journey.

How is it that I'm now recording with my guide and mentor... I don't know.  But I do know that I now count both Julie and Ceri "Ffliwt" amongst my closest friends.

Friday, 7 October 2011

One Year, Week 13 - Relations and Irish music

Borscht (beetroot soup) is my favourite food.  Just to let you know...

My dad used to say that Y Gof (the blacksmith) was magic.  That must have been true.  They seemed to have had some sort of secret knowledge anyway.  My grandfather, who was descended from a Blacksmith family on his father's side, was an exceptional poet.  I think he mainly wrote in the old style, using a form of Welsh poem called the Englyn.  Englyn are amazing little snapshots, using only 30 syllables (7+3, 6, 7, 7) and a form of alliteration that twirls in upon itself like Celtic knotwork.

My grandfather, John "Jac Carnowen" Owen-Jones, was captain of a ship and his first mate was his cousin, Jac Alun Jones of Cilie.  Jac Alun was also descended from a blacksmith and his family were quite well known for their poetry at one point.

The two wrote several poems to each other, some of which are published in Morwyr y Cilie by Jon Meirion (mab Jac Alun).

Friday, 16 September 2011

One Year, Week 10, 11 & 12 - The Reunion and Twmpathe

Week 10
The Reunion...

Richard asked me to come visit the Cwps session again, which I decided to do.  And, of course, who I should I run into but none other than the infamous duo, Bjorn and Ifor.

They followed me up the stairs to join in on the English session.

Friday, 26 August 2011

One Year, Week 9 - The Party

The Party...

I went to The Party on the weekend.  It was surreal.

But before I get into that, I should say this.

It starts here... about four years ago, I had three or four harp lessons with Siân James.  It was the first time I ever played the harp.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

One Year, Week 8 - Abergwaun, Manorbier, Fernhill in Rhosygilwen

I'm well behind on the blog now... by at least eight weeks!  The next few entries will be rough...

Let's see...

Easter... I don't remember much except that I had a great chat with Catrin.  She's a real character, great laugh and great storyteller!

At some point, I made my way to Pencader and had a quick play with Julie, Christine and Ceri "Ffliwt".

Thursday, 28 July 2011

One Year, Week 7 - Aberaeron and Dolgellau

This week I was in Aberaeron trying to create some gigs.  I suppose a strange place to try admittedly.  I had help and loads of encouragement from Elsa though.  Unfortunately, nothing really came of it.  I'll probably try there again later.

On the Wednesday, there was a scheduled Dolgellau session.  I hadn't been in ages so decided to make the trip.

Elsa was eager to make a day out of it.  I think she wanted to experience absolutely everything that Gwil and I had experienced on our many excursions up north.  She even wanted to catch the bus up there with me from Aber.  So off we went, having a nice chat all the way up north.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

One Year, Week 6 - Narberth, Llandeilo, Llandre and Cei Newydd

I got up early that Tuesday to catch the bus in to Abertawe and then a train over to Narberth.  Pwyll had died just a few days before rather unexpectedly.  Though as Enfys put, he'd been sitting on the porch watching the ocean when he passed.  No better way to go I suppose.  I had hoped to make the journey down to Llangranog that very week.  A sad loss.  Pwyll's service was beautiful though.  I think half of West Wales was there.  Jon Meirion had written two englyn for the service and there were a couple of beautiful Welsh hymns.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

One Year, Week 5 - Ystalyfera, Abertawe and Gower

I made my way back down to Ystalyfera.  I think my favourite bus driver was driving.  The one who always asks me what sort of weaponry I'm hiding behind my harp case and that sort of thing.  I found out he had done sound for the Rolling Stones at one point in his life.  How cool is that?  Very interesting fellow.

Anyway, that weekend there were more gigs with Martin and Sille thankfully... I've said this previously, but without their help I would have been at a dead loss.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

One Year, Week 4 - Llanbadarn and Capelywig

Not much happened in week four as I was still recovering... Later that week though, I had a great session with Elsa.  We went over to Llanbadarn church to play.  The church is a beautiful place with a very long history.  The church was said have been founded by St. Padarn in the early sixth century.  The root meaning of Padarn is Pater or father.  It's more than likely the site was once a pagan enclosure and then subsumed by later christians.  For one thing, the church houses two ancient stone crosses which are believed to be pre-christian but were subsequently re-used by the christian community.  The church itself was rebuilt a few times over the years.  I think the main structure was built in the 1200s.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

One Year, Week 2 & 3 - the Cwps and being sick...

It was a bit of a night at the Cwps.  I think we were watching some rugby game but I can't remember who was playing.

Many of the usual suspects were there... Ian, Hynek, Buddug, Eleri, Ifor, James, Huw, Sam... would have been a full house if Bjorn was around.  Anyway...

Before I forget, here's a mystery solved.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

One Year...

Yep... one year in Wales.  Time to reflect I suppose.

My harp playing still has a really long, long way to go, but it's slowly getting better.  Not too bad for a trombone player anyway...  and I really do love being in Wales...

Wales... Julie mentioned to me that all of this will one day become normal.  Maybe.  But my life has never been normal really.  I've lived three lifetimes in one already, though you might not guess it.  So many stories to tell...

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Week 52 - St. David's Day, Poetry, Corelw, Telynau Teifi

I had wanted to celebrate St. David's this year in the actual St. David's but I had stayed in Cardiff after the gig with Sild.  I figured the capitol would be just fine.  On my way downtown, the bus driver said, "The route's changed today.  I guess there's some sort of march on."

So that wasn't a good sign as the "march" he was referring to was actually supposed to be the St. David's parade.  Needless to say, the "march" was very meagre.  Not too many Welshies take to the holiday I guess.  Fair enough.  I suppose it's more for ex-pats and us foreigners.  Shame.  I used to really enjoy handing out daffs and eating welsh cakes.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Week 51 - Ystalyfera with Martin and Sille

This week was half term so no Welsh class.  I practiced loads and worked on a grant.

Later in the week I caught the bus down to Abertawe and met Martin and Sille in Ystalyfera.  I hadn't played with them in a really long time so it was great to hang out at the house once again.  Of course, I had missed them loads.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Week 50 - Recording in Abergwaun

I caught the bus all the way down to Abergwaun to meet Jens Schroeder and his friend Andreas in the Royal Oak Pub.

A short story about the Royal Oak... This was the pub where the French attacking force, La Legione Noire, signed over their surrender after the Battle of Fishguard in 1797.  The Welsh women of the area were said to have played a major role in the battle.  If I remember right, the women marched around the hill, past the cliffs, in a wide circle... and with their tall top hats and red dress, looked very much like part of the British army.  To the French army below, it must have looked like a massive opposing force, a never ending march of British soldiers.  One Welsh woman is remembered in particular, Jemima "Fawr" Niclas, for single handedly capturing twelve French soldiers, wielding only a pitchfork.

And where were the men?  ...Probably having a pint in the Royal Oak!

Just kidding... apparently, the Pembroke Yeomanry was the first volunteer unit in Britain to be awarded a battle honour.  The Battle honour 'Fishguard'.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Week 49 - Ty Siamas and Corelw

It was a funny week.

I went up to Dolgellau again with Gwil.  Of course, we stopped by our usual haunt, Y Sospan.  Well, it's not looking too clever over at the school.  It's the second time I've been there that they haven't had a space for us to teach.  Gwil was saying that it's happened quite a bit to him since christmas.  I think he was upset about it.  I must admit, I was expecting something like this and wasn't bothered overly.  I don't think the headmaster ever really saw the point.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Week 48 - A great session with Gwil and Elsa!

I heard Julie say this at some point, in jest "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story."  That might become my new motto!

I was back at the Aber folk dance night.  I think I might have tried some clogging which is good fun but hard to do.  I also ran into Buddug in my new Welsh class.  Her Welsh is amazing.  She was saying she's not enjoying Pantycelyn Uni residence (It's the Welsh speaking flats).  For one thing, she's got a straight head on her shoulders and already lived, so to speak, whereas, most of the other students are there just to party.  The other strange thing, she was saying, was that most of the students switch into English almost immediately.  I've noticed this up in Dolgellau in the Welsh language school.  Welsh isn't the predominant language at all.  This is a very bad sign.  End times, I'd say...

But enough of that.  I'll rant about it later, shall I?  Onto happier things...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Week 47 - Jet-lagged in Aber and Pencader

I'm ridiculously jet-lagged right now.  I shouldn't be this bad.  I keep alternating days of sleeping in unbelievably late and then next waking unbelievably early.

I got my hair cut, and spoke Welsh with the hairdresser, Meinir.  She was quite nice to chat with.  I understood virtually everything that was said.  Though I found I was a bit too serious in Welsh... I couldn't make any funny little comments.  But it did feel good to feel vaguely fluent.  Of course, that feeling never seems to last...

I was back at the Welsh classes and started a new class that's at a higher level.  I understood very little but it was a really great challenge.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Week 46 - A Welcome Back to Wales!

Even the ocean missed me!  No kidding.  Everyone I've talked to and visited has been so excited to see me.  Laughter and smiles, jokes and hugs... what a welcome!

The musicians here are so incredibly passionate.  Constantly moving, trying new things, sharing new music, always excited... and the trip back was like butter in comparison to the trip out.  There's a sign, if ever there was one.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Week 43, 44, 45 - Canada... hmm...



I'm not sure what to say about Canada... I guess, I just forgot what it was like to be there... It was a job to temper myself once again to fit in.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Week 40, 41 and 42 - Dolgelle, Cei Newydd and trip to Canada

It was the last chance to teach at Dolgelle and then later I visited Geraint and Sam in Cei Newydd.  It was great to see them again.  They were busy decorating the tree.  

Sam returned a x-mas card that had addressed her with the wrong last name.  She sent it back saying "Deceased".  I thought that was absolutely brilliant and so funny... and that so exactly and succinctly describes my entire family!!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Week 39 - The pilgrimage to Bethlehem

Bethlehem... right.  Before you get all excited, I'm referring to Bethlehem, Wales which is a tiny little village near Caerfyrddin.

I caught a bus into Caerfyrddin but then missed my connection.  Jay was kind enough to pick me up so I wouldn't have to wait in the cold.

We went through Llandeilo along the way.  It's a great little town.  I was surprised.  The shops seemed very hip and quaint all at once and it felt like a place that I'd be happy enough to live in.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Week 38 - The Gower Allstars in Caerdydd

I taught in Dolgellau again.  Not too much to report there, except that the kids are extremely amusing.

It snowed close to the weekend.  Bronwen happened to be at the bus stop.  None of the buses were running, which was so funny for the amount of snow there was.  There was a massive line up for the bus so I decided to go buy some tea instead and maybe catch a later one.  But the bus still hadn't left when I returned so I hopped on.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Week 37 - Dolgellau session and Corelw

I went to another Welsh class.  Alice really keeps us moving forward.  She's utterly fluent so I'm glad she's there to pull us along.

I met again with Elsa.  I think we went to see a movie... ah, yes.  Harry Potter.  I like Harry but the movie was a bit, well, boring.  The cinema in Aber is really sweet though.  There's a concession stand right down by the screen.  How cool is that?!  I had a lovely time with Elsa as she always tells these crazy stories about all her adventures.  She's traveled around the world quite a lot, which shouldn't have surprised me, but it did anyway.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Week 36 - A Welsh-Samoan Wedding

I got back from Llydaw (Brittany) on Monday.  I went to the regular Aber dance that night.  It was great to see Elsa and Gwilym again.  If I'm remembering right, Elsa later came in for tea.

I ran into Bethan (from Edmonton) quite randomly on the street but haven't heard from her since.  I also happened to run into Gwil on Tuesday.  Later Elsa came over the same day.  I made some lunch, which I think was spinach-watercress soup and then we went for another long walk up into the cliffs.  I may have shown her where the secret stone circle is.  That was also the day we went to the Aberystwyth museum.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Week 35 - part 2 - Llydaw

A quick digression...
The French government still hasn't recognized Breton as a language.  Shame on you Frenchies!  I was talking to Bernez about it.  He believed that during the 70s, there were maybe a million people speaking Breton.  That number's now dropped to around 300,000 but most of those are in their seventies.  He was sure that in the next ten years, the number of speakers would drop to around 40,000.  Frightening, isn't it?!  There are some Breton language schools now, but only 1% of the children attend them.  Perhaps, it is too late for the Breton language.

It's a shame because it is a living treasure.

Anyway, the trip in Brittany continues...

The next day after breakfast, we rehearsed for a couple of hours.  I forgot that in France, everyone smokes all the time.  Literally, ALL the time.  The wine was already out at the rehearsal as well.

Week 35 - part 1 - Llydaw

Well, I got a gig in Brittany, mostly through plain old luck.  Tomos "trumpet" was supposed to go there with Julie for this gig but his wife decided to have a baby that week.  Well, not so much decided but you know what I mean...

Anyway, I was happy to sub in.  Julie drove (as I can't drive standard unless it's an emergency) and we left in the late afternoon to catch the over-night ferry from Portsmith.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Elsa Davies and Gwilym Hardy

I'm still about five weeks behind with the blog.  It's mid-December now.  Week 41, Day 280 to be exact.  I thought I'd have time to catch up but there's no way.  It's been an amazing journey so far.  When I think back on my life entirely, it's all been pretty incredible.  I'm glad I stuck with music... there's so many stories to tell and not enough time to tell them......

Anyway, a short break from Wales as I head back to Canada for x-mas.

But before I get on that plane, I have to say a quick word about Gwilym and Elsa.

It's high time to write about these two.  We haven't had a chance for all three of us to play together in a while and I really miss it.  You have no idea how much.  So a little tribute.

I know you both read this silly blog so close your eyes for a spell...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Week 34 - part 3 - Abercych

On the weekend there was finally another Abercych Twmpath.  This Twmpath is a great event hosted by Simon which brings the little village together and people of all sorts - Welshies, hippies and arty people alike.  I think it's got to be one of my top favourite events.

Elsa showed up there with a couple of family members.  It was great to see Elsa though I didn't have much of a chance to visit with her at the actual dance.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Week 34 - part 2 - Sesiwn Ystalyfera

There was a sesiwn in Ystalyfera called Sha Nol Sha Mlan.  It was hosted by Geraint and the Swansea crew.  My boy Chris Reynolds was there naturally.  I'd been rehearsing with Martin and Sille and we all thought it'd be fun to join in.

The session was held in Y Wern, the great local pub with the home brews all named after Buddy Holly.  The pub was really hopping, crazy busy.  I heard a ton of Welsh being spoken that night.

Week 34 - part 1 - Ramsey Island

On the Monday, the remainder of the group walked to see Ramsey Island.  It's an amazing walk.  We started from Porth Clais very near St. David's cathedral.  In the far distance, we were able to see St. Non's church, the mother of St. David.  It was the perfect day for walking.

As we crested the hill we were able to see the island of Gwales off in the horizon.  This is the island that features in the old Mabinogion story about Branwen and Brân.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Week 33 - Brief Digression, Yscolan's Musicians

Annwyl Yscolan...

The last post was a bit long (or rather vastly too long) but I did want to say a quick word about all the musicians that were at Yscolan and give them my deepest thanks.

Week 33 - Yscolan

The Gateway...
Another quick visit with Veronica and Mary.  It was extremely short unfortunately.  Veronica thought that she might be able to get me out to this artist's retreat in Ireland.  It didn't happen but other good stuff did, which I'll write about later.  Anyway, it was good to see them before they made their way to Ireland.

On the weekend, I went to Ceri "Ffliwt"'s music retreat, Yscolan in Sir Benfro.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Week 32 - Dolgellau school, Cardigan and Ystalyfera

I went to the Welsh dancing again.  It's always interesting.  Nigel tends to do different dances every week, which is sure to keep up the interest in the veterans, but I really can't remember any of the forms.  I got to see Elsa clog dance with the boys (Keith, Howel and Nigel).  She's so good and so naturally graceful!  I'd love to try some Welsh clogging at some point but it's on a long, long list of things to do.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Week 31 - Pencader Jam Session and a visit to Dolgellau

Steff playing the mandola
I can't remember how or why, but for some reason I made a trip to Pencader.  I think I decided to drag Gwil down there for another little jam session.  Actually, now that I think about it, this may have been the time Gwil discovered he was going to Pencader because I told Julie over Facebook that he was... even though I didn't ask him.  Funny!

Anyway, Steff showed up for part of the evening.  Man, he's a phenomenal player!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Week 30 - A Digression: The Quest to Learn Welsh

I'm not very gifted when it comes to language.  Even writing a simple email is a struggle.  I'm not like my sister who is able to write stories and poetry quite naturally.  Considering the difficulties I have with just the one language, I've realized that I have almost no natural affinity for a second and definitely none for a third.

Which is a problem as I've been on a long quest to learn Welsh, the impossible language.

I think Welsh may have always been there in the background murmurings of my childhood (for most of my youth, the English alphabet just never did look right) but my first very clear memory of the language came when I was about eight.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Week 30 - dosbarth Cymraeg, Pencader, Pontypridd

Is it just me, or are these blogs starting to get a bit... oh, I don't know... more boring than usual?  I think in my haste to catch up, I left out all the great little details.

Well, if you thought it'd get better, it's not likely.  At least not in this entry.  lol!

See for yourself.

The fall Welsh class finally started.  Only three students for the first class.  Denise from the summer course was there.  Her and her husband Rob are from Birmingham originally and are both learning Welsh.  I've met quite a few people from England who are learning the language which is encouraging.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Digression - What week is this?

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago when I was in a bit of a funk.  As Buddy always said, "I'm feeling much better now."  ...but thought I'd share it anyway.  

A little thing on my mind.

The easy way out for me would be to go back home.  Back home to familiar faces, friends and family.  Back to easy gigs that I know I could do in my sleep.  Back to my home, a regular bed, back to jazz, funk and ska.  That'd be the easy way.

It is tempting.