February 2021: Bullfinches and Birthdays

28th February

I walked clockwise round the Swarland Loop, watching the moon closely and unsuccessfully for bird silhouettes, but also just watching the big old setting moon. It’s mesmerising. Back over my shoulder the sun was having a spectacular effect on the horizon. On the road from Old Swarland, I stopped to capture the big moon in a pink and pale blue sky out to the west as it reminded me of a Barbara Hepworth print (Winter Solstice) I used to use a lot at the gallery. I turned to the east to find the sun was starting to peep out above the horizon. I looked up to see a pair of bullfinches in a tree enjoying the view too, then two deer on the road to the north. And this wasn’t even the best of it – have a look at my video!

Moon to the west and sun to the east
I heard lots of woodpeckers this morning, and eventually I spotted one of them and watched for over five minutes. Here’s a fragment of that – you can hear another one behind me!
Full moon setting

27th February

Moonset and sunrise were splendid this morning. I did some pruning this afternoon and also some composing – more Ian McMillan Early Stroll ideas.

Jamie’s been building a retaining wall in the garden for the last couple of weeks. All that masonry needs carrying from outside the front of the house where they deliver it to the top of the garden!

26th February

I asked the poet Ian McMillan if I could set some of his Early Stroll tweets to music today. He said I could. I’ve selected some that contain the word silent or silence and will attempt to compose short songs that can perhaps be performed live on Zoom. It’s asking a lot, but I think it can be done! I’ve set to during the day and composed a couple. We’ll give them a go next Monday night and see how they sound.

Place Farm Primary School in Suffolk joining in happily with Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story!

Other composery news is that a school in Suffolk have been singing along with my Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story this morning (they sent me this photo of the action), and views on my seapieparcel channel flew past 65,000 overnight.

25th February

I went for a walk this morning and stood and watched a pair of bullfinches for about 20 minutes, and for once they didn’t spend the entire time hiding behind as many twigs as they could. I think this female pic could be described as a “vigilant eye-catch” as in Bullfinch Morning! And did you see the huge moon before it set? Oh my goodness, so very beautiful….and it’s not even full moon until tomorrow/Saturday, I think.

I discovered on one of my walks this last week or so that you can see St. Michael’s from the Felton Sycamores. You can also see Coquet Island from Park Road in Swarland. I found both of these things inordinately exciting.

Pied wagtail on a roof

24th February

I had a comment from someone I don’t know in the USA today about Bullfinch Morning, “That is hauntingly beautiful.” Nice to receive things like this from strangers who happened upon your music, eh!?

Also, on my walk this morning which was anticlockwise, I saw a pied wagtail on a roof and a yellowhammer on a hedge.

Watery reflections pre-sunrise.

23rd February

There was lots of intense pink in the sky before sunrise today, but then it became rather grey. Later I received 50 copies of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes in the post, so then Jamie and I spent the evening making learning tracks for the choir to start learning it.

Glorious pre-sunrise followed by much rain and a bit of a soaking on today’s walk

22nd February

Choir nighty so lots of preparing for our rehearsal – the more work I put in beforehand with recordings and the like, the less stressful it is at the actual rehearsal. We started work on The Way Old Friends Do for our new video, and I told them my ideas for the “silence” theme. I learnt a new word: rowdydow, which could be applied to the general exchange of favourable and simultaneous comments upon hearing my idea!

Jamie’s building a wall in the garden I took a photo of him out there as it emerged from the piles of soil and cracked wood from the old planters and was rather taken by the evening sun on the plants out there!
Bullfinch at the top of the road – they usually lurk behind twigs which the camera finds more interesting to focus on, so this was a proper treat!

21st February

I’ve been making learning tracks for ABBA’s song The Way Old Friends Do which will be our next choir video. I worry that some are fed up with doing these videos, but others are eager for more, so I try to cater for all of them!

I’ve also been ordering things for Mum’s 80th birthday in March. It’s a big shame we cannot be there, but it’s not worth thinking about or else there’ll be upset. Shopping for things on the internet is becoming more fun, and I’ve had cheery chats with the people who are going to provide Mum and Michael with their afternoon tea!

There are long-tailed tits in this photo, but I cannot see them, can you? But they were definitely there! They are very small birds of course!

20th February

I’ve been planning for the next singalong event for The Bridge Singers at which we will launch our new video. The theme will be “silences.” There was much consternation from those that voted for it that I removed Lullaby Of Silences from the singalong the other day even though it came 3rd in the poll of favourites, so we’ll do that one. Further down the list, but in the top 20 were the two Factum Est Silentiums we’ve sung, so I’ve plumped for a “silence” theme. We’ll also sing a few new songs too. The list I sent them is here, if you want to have a listen:

ABBA – “The Way Old Friends Do” [High Definition] – YouTube – we’ll launch our new video of this.

The Bridge Singers perform Factum Est Silentium by Anerio – YouTube – we’ll sing along with this

Billy Joel – And So It Goes (Audio) – YouTube – we will have been learning this, so will have some sort of recording to sing along to even if it’s just me and Jamie!

The Bridge Singers perform Factum Est Silentium by Richard Dering I’ve found a recording of us singing this from 2017, so will use that

Now Westlin Winds, Robert Burns, arr. Cheryl Camm – YouTube – The last verse of this has “silent” in it!

Let all mortal flesh keep silence – John Rutter (arr.), John Scott, Cambridge Singers – YouTube – this is the tune for Hush My Dear from our December lullaby video, so we’ll substitute these words into our arrangement!

Lullaby Of Silences, Cheryl Camm – YouTube – Connor has agreed to sing the first verse live on the night, and I’ll make a compilation of various other recordings for us to sing along to.

A flock of redwings in a field – there were about 30 of them altogether. This is the first year I’ve ever seen them, but this is the third time in 2021!

19th February

I sang in the underpass today – this is the new song we’re going to be singing in The Bridge Singers starting on Monday – it’s Abba’s The Way Old Friends Do. I’m making an arrangement of it so not much else to report.

A bit of Abba in the underpass
Another photo from 15th and the sunny snow!

18th February

“What shall I write to the choir about today?” “The wind,” came the helpful reply. “It’s very windy out there.” When I was a geography teacher, (Oh yes – when I first came back to England, the headteacher of the school I was working in thought that it would be a good idea for me to teach Year 7 geography), I did deliver a whole unit of work on the wind. For about three months I was a great expert on the Beaufort Scale. I rootled through my old files and found a few activities to share – a few write back and said they’d given them a go! It was a bit of a slow day – the only thing with any energy was the wind.

17th February

Nothing. Not even a photo!

My friend Penny sent me some flowers a week ago – lillies and roses. The lillies have just opened!

16th February

During most of the day I was suffering from my regular Tuesdayitis, the main symptom of which is knackeredness, resulting in mental lethargy. I spent my time wisely and caught up with some episodes of Best Home Cook on the BBC iPlayer, which for some reason is this year filled with celebrities (many of which I’ve not heard of before, I must admit). I like this programme because I think Claudia Winkleman is very funny, I also think Mark Addy on the commentary is very funny, and I like to see what messes they make from the items in the brown paper bag in the rustle-up round.

Today, in the spirit of rustling-up, I procured from our “nine days since the last grocery shop” supplies, a packet of sausages as my featured item for today’s meal, and found elsewhere a few stray carrots, half a sweet potato, the last can of cider, a tin of tomatoes, the last of the week’s mushrooms, the last two cloves of a garlic bulb, and an onion. I set the sausages a-thawing while I chopped other things, fried the choppings off, added the tomatoes and cider and did simmering. While this was happening, I had a brainwave and found to my delight a packet of stuffing in the cupboard. I poured boiling water on the contents in a bowl and divested each sausage of its skin. I plunged in my hand and mixed the sausage innards with the stuffing and formed it all into patties. I divided the simmerings equally between two Pyrex dishes, fried off the patties and placed them on top of the two concoctions – one for today, one for tomorrow, then peeled a couple of our huge supply of home-grown potatoes for roasting and piled the whole lot in the oven for a couple of hours. Of course, they usually only have a third of that time on the telly, but still…these days, I have no time limits on my efforts in the kitchen as I no longer have to time our meals’ readiness with gaps in the phone calls, and I’m not on the telly. Half an hour before serving I whipped off the foil from the potatoes and the lid from the Pyrex to encourage crispiness. At the appointed time, I forced the judge to serve everything out while I extracted things from the oven in my mitts. A dollop of sour cream later we were ready for munching. Did I get through to the next round? I think so…”Yes, nice!” was the verdict.

Foggy sunrise at Swarland

15th February

Today is The Bridge Singers’ Top 10 Singalong evening. You can read all about it here and listen along with us. The Bridge Singers’ Top 10 Singalong

This foggy sunrise was rather magical. I do so love a foggy sunrise. I declared as such to a dog walker I passed in the snow later on. She gave me a wary look, and I thought perhaps I’d become one of those old ladies who people wish they’d not smiled at because they say strange things out loud in the street….and she didn’t even know that I’d already been singing in the underpass. 😀

The Parting Glass in the underpass and some more foggy sunrise.

14th February

I put together a Valentine’s Day list of songs for the choir – some they know so they could sing along, and some that we love.

  1. Billy Joel – And So It Goes (Audio) – YouTube
  2. Haydn: Missa In Angustiis “Nelson Mass”, Hob. XXII:11 In D Minor – Credo: Et resurrexit – YouTube 
  3. George Michael – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Audio) – YouTube
  4. Vivaldi : Concerto per mandolini RV558 (allegro molto) – YouTube
  5. Queen – You’re My Best Friend (Official Video) – YouTube
  6. The Lea Rig, Robert Burns/Trad. arr. Cheryl Camm – YouTube
  7. Flying Pickets – Only You – YouTube
  8. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud (Official Music Video) – YouTube
  9. Come again! Sweet love doth now invite – John Dowland, John Rutter, Members of the Cambridge Singers – YouTube
  10. The King’s Singers: Billy Joel arr. Bob Chilcott – And So It Goes – YouTube

13th February

I did the Swarland Loop in less than two hours this morning as we had an early Skype call to Australia, so no stopping for photos in the snow and frost, although, it was hard to resist this treecreeper creeping on a wall rather than a tree!

Some images from my snowy walks on 10th and 11th February

12th February

I’ve spent the whole day making scores and recordings for Monday’s singalong with The Bridge Singers. I appear to have taken no photos either!!!

10th and 11th February

I wrote two stories about my morning walks on these two snowy days. I also sang in the underpass on 11th, as you will read – slightly out of tune and slightly out of time – it’s hard singing with yourself! Click on the images below to see a larger version of the stories!

Birks Of Aberfeldy feedback that I collated for the choir

  • Beautiful! 
  • This is beautiful and lovely soloists !
  • Thanks for keeping us all in touch with each other!
  • Truly amazing xx
  • Wow that is tremendous!! Well done you guys
  • I was there in the summer – beautiful walk x
  • Brilliant!
  • That was so cool 
  • Awesome 
  • That was brilliant
  • Awesome think I will have a dram
  • Beautiful x
  • My mother sends all the links to her friend who in turn sends them to another choir director in Canada – she’s very impressed that you’ve continued to do these recordings instead of performances
  • One of my favourites, thanks to Rabbie Burns
  • I think it’s a beautiful piece of art and very atmospheric. Thanks Sue, wish I could paint. 
  • A lovely painting and art work Sue – very realistic.
  • I love doing these recordings – my neighbours and family do eagerly await them – they like to see what we’re up to and what we sound like.
  • Beautiful art work, Sue
  • Perhaps not our very best but a cheerful tune sung cheerily and well done to all of the soloists.
  • I’m sorry I didn’t join in this time, but do keep doing them because I love to see and hear all my choir friends.
  • I’ve had a few listens to ‘The Birks’ and good though it is…it isn’t our best is it!?
  • I know I struggled with timing and that did seem to be an issue…but still for remote recording it’s very good!
  • I met someone from another choir while I was out walking and she was very jealous of all the things we’ve been doing including these recordings.
  • I really don’t like doing these recordings – the sound of my own voice is awful to me. However, I do like the end results and it’s so good to see everyone’s photos and I’m always impressed with the art works, so I will carry on joining in, so do please do more!
  • Amazing thank you 
  • Great start to the weekend 
  • Thanks for all your hours of work on Aberfeldie.  It turned out well!  
  • Another triumph! Our neighbours and friends loved it too. Good solos
  • We’ve just listened to The Birks it so lovely with the photos and paintings
  • What Cheryl thinks…the result is pretty good. It’s true it’s not one of our best, but it’s not the worst either.  The editing process was difficult this time as fewer people joined in and this makes it harder to blend the voices in the final mixdown. However, I love the contributions from everyone: art works, photos and singing. Jamie and I had a very cheery hour or two looking through our old photos for waterfall posing! The three soloists were very brave and put a lot of enthusiasm into singing their verses and making improvements during the process. I am very happy with all three solo verses and bravo to Jacqui, Julie and Dawn for volunteering. I also love Sue B’s art work and was happy to include it as the title picture this time. I learn a lot about the choir and about how to do this editing each time we do a new one, so for me, the process is enjoyable, even though sometimes (as with this song) it’s time-consuming and requires a bit more effort. I will continue to offer this recording process as one of our choir activities until we start to rehearse and perform together. I don’t know what the next one will be. I’m open to reasonable and legal suggestions.
Jamie on the road to Swarland

9th February

My brother’s birthday and it seems that everything that was ordered for him arrived on time and in good condition, and the cheese and fruit were all delicious!

Also the voting for the choir’s top ten is complete and I’m very happy to find that two of my pieces are in there!

  1. Bogoroditse Devo, Rachmaninov;
  2. Abendlied, Rheinberger;
  3. Lullaby Of Silences, me;
  4. 59th Street Bridge Song. Simon and Garfunkel;
  5. Northumberland, Gary Steward;
  6. Hallelujah, Cohen;
  7. If Ye Love Me, Tallis;
  8. Skydancer: Ghost Of The Moors, me;
  9. Locus Iste, Bruckner;
  10. The Peanut Vendor, Simons;
  11. The Parting Glass, Trad.

There were a lot of comments from others to say that they would have picked Lullaby of Silences but didn’t because it should be a joyous occasion. I took the decision to replace it in our singalong with The Parting Glass, and promised those who were aggrieved by this that we would sing it at a later date.

Jamie came with me on the walk this morning and we sang together in the underpass.

The distant sea and Inanay

8th February

A walk and not much else.

7th February

I went for a stroll through the hail and snow for a couple of hours. Lots of fun. It was mostly hail that landed on me, but there was a patch of actual snow and I was very excited to find this snowflake on my coat sleeve. I always become exceedingly over-excited when snowflake-shaped snowflakes are spotted. For the first I don’t know how many years of my life I thought that snowflake-shaped snowflakes were a fictional conceit.

One snowflake!

6th February

A day of rest after all the Birks Of Aberfeldy effort…apart, that is from watching the river rising quite high from the window! It’s not the highest we’ve seen it, but it’s at the stage where sightseers come to the bridge a look over and then look across at our houses and no doubt opine that we’d be the first to be flooded if it came up much further. We never have been flooded.

5th February

I finished The Birks Of Aberfeldy video and here it is!

2nd, 3rd, 4th February

Sunrise on February 1st

I’m busy editing The Birks Of Aberfeldy. There’s a lot of greyness outside, but I’m still managing to go for a daily walk, but no photos taken on any of these days!

1st February

Monday so choir night and a busy afternoon preparing Purcell and I Can See Clearly Now. I did go for a walk though and it was a splendid sunrise.

I also sang a bit of Skydancer in the underpass
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