Flying Colours: August 2020

Sunrise leap. Four feet off the ground
Sunrise seaweed at Ross Sands

31st August

Bank Holiday Monday and the day started we with me apologizing to Jamie for dragging him out of bed at 5am to head up to Ross Sands in time for the sunrise. It was pre-planned though and after a mug of coffee on the way up, and a glorious sky promising much and delivering more, agreed it was worth the shock.

The circumstances were difficult for the camera, which is a shame because this looks like a very springy effort from me!
Moonrise and Coquet Island

The day ended with Jamie apologizing to me for not racing out of the house at 7.45 pm to hightail it to Warkworth for the moonrise. I went on my own and that was glorious too, and I managed perfectly well on my own, and he had a relaxing two hours at home without me, and not leaping about on the darkening, deserted beach like a mad thing in front of an orange moon. No apologizing needed all day, we decided. Both happy and lots of Bank Holiday fun had by both!

Sunrise leap

30th August

I drove off to Warkworth this morning for sunrise and in spite of a very un-promising sky at home, it was well worth the effort. I took quite a few photos and at the end of the day made them into this video using an old song I wrote using the ideas from a rather nonsensical Facebook conversation between myself and Sarah Gray. During the rest of the day, I did some composing. Not enough, but nevertheless, a good start. On my way back from Warkworth this morning I saw a fox which nonchalantly ambled across the road in front of me. I have never before in my life seen an alive fox (all previous foxes have been in a gory heap at the side of the A1) so this was quite the thrill. Also today, there was live cricket on the BBC and excellent it was too – the coverage and the match, in which England beat Pakistan in a T20 game and many runs were scored.

A very jolly round and this morning’s sunrise!

29th August

A quiet day. We watched the film version of Brideshead Revisited and enjoyed it again after previously seen it (but forgotten it until you see it again, so nothing is spoiled by that!)

26th-28th August

I’ve spent these three days collating all the many sound files and photos for The Bridge Singers’ newest video. The song is Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) the Queen song by Brian May, and would have been part of our Queens-themed summer concerts. These video recording tasks have been good for us – helping us learn new repertoire and keeping us busy and connected to each other while we cannot rehearse, but it would be so much more choiry to sing together again. We’ll see…

Hopefully The Bridge Singers’ last lockdown video of 2020, but you never know! This is an arrangement of the Queen song. We recorded it individually at home and also in small groups under the bridge again, with the river and traffic flowing by, and various river creatures joining in. This is the trickiest song we’ve attempted to learn in this no-rehearsal period and there are some fluffy moments that were un-iron-out-able by our sound editor! However, it’s a great way to learn the song and remember what we’ve been going though in 2020, and when we’ve performed it together we’ll record it again and it will be perfect!
Splashy waves and evening silliness.

25th August

I spent all day sorting out old drama and music projects in response to a request from a teacher in an international school in the Middle East. It’s been good to have a look at some of these old projects. I still have plenty to add, but here’s at least a start. Jamie and I went for a walk at Warkworth in the evening. It’s been raining all day, but not while we were out, which was nice!!! It was foggy though and the sea was exhilaratingly splashy.

A few Musical Dramas!

Sunrise leaping at the gate with the barbed wire.

24th August

I woke up very early this morning with a bit of a commotion outside the house with police cars and their blue lights in attendance at a minor road traffic collision. Jamie went back to sleep, but not me so I set to with some composing and tidying. At 5 I went for a walk in the grey sunrise. I headed off up towards Swarland, but went down a new path and ended up in Old Swarland, thereby missing out actual Swarland. Good to know where that path leads, though! I spent quite a bit of time watching some nuthatches in the trees near the A1 – so much harder to keep them in view in the summer with the leaves on the trees!

I do like the look of a heron.

23rd August

I went for a walk at Druridge Bay with Julie, Shirley and Rebekah this morning. A bit of composing, a bit of drama writing up, a bit of cricket listening filled the rest of the day.

We went up to harvest things for lunch and found plenty of tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse. There were also beans, courgettes and potatoes for lunch, and dahlias for decorative purposes complete with a lethargic bee feasting deeply inside one of them, which made it all the way to the house before making its presence known with a drunken buzz.

22nd August

A gentle day with little thought and lots of cricket and food and sitting about with Jamie watching the telly.

I started with more energy, but I failed in my attempts to see the sunrise. I did wake at 4am but decided without much reflection on the matter to go back to sleep. Waking again at 5.25am and rising, I saw through the window that a glorious dawn was brewing in the east, and being too late to drive to the coast, vowed to race up to the gate near the sycamores to admire its splendours. I set forth with great purpose, but as I neared the old bank a drunken man staggered onto Main Street from Mouldshaugh Lane and proceeded to weave his way to and fro across the road in the same direction I was heading, shouting aggressively at no-one in particular, kicking cones up at the temporary traffic lights and generally behaving in a manner which compelled me to keep my distance and to observe him unseen. I had hoped that he might turn off, but he proceeded on up the hill in a zigzagging and boisterous manner, and so I forlornly turned back. I had no desire to be dealing with him at 6am in the morning.

Early morning high tide at Warkworth.

21st August

I went to the beach for sunrise today. It was grey, and the tide was very high. During the day, I listened to some cricket and composed some music, but managed to finish off my video with the spidery pictures. I used my arrangement of Bound For Botany Bay entitled John Hudson’s Bound For Botany Bay which I made in Brisbane for a Year 5 class, the teach of which wanted a convict song that his class could relate to. John Hudson was a real person who was sentenced to seven years when he was only nine years old. He ended up being part of the First Fleet to Australia in 1787.

A song about a child transported to Australia in 1787 accompanied by pictures of spiders’ webs – not one to send you to sleep in a relaxed mood, perhaps.

20th August

I didn’t take any pictures today I discover, but I did extract this little bit of singing from the recordings I made on Monday night. A very emotional bit of singing and response thereto!

The ending of Teo Torriatte complete with passing vehicle and our immediate response!
Messing about in the woods on a humid evening!

19th August

Today there was lots of looking through old teaching stuff from Australia, searching for drama activities in response to a request. I did some fun things, some of which I’d completely forgotten and some of which I’ve done again. They all need tinkering with and some of the things are not really written up at all….or at least I don’t seem to have that planning. I guess I may have thrown it out in the move from there to here. There’s only so much paper to be transported across continents, eh!? In the evening, Jamie and I walked the A1 loop -very humid – by the time we were home it was starting to drizzle.

Good morning from a spidery tree!

18th August

I took my new binoculars for a walk to Acklington yesterday. The trouble was, it was too foggy to see anything really, but I did observe this deer through the fog. What was most fascinating though was the appearance due to being soaked in droplets of fog of thousands upon thousands of spiders’ webs on every possible surface. I took loads of pictures and will use them in a new video in the next few days, but this one is a good taster!

Foggy deer walking across the same field as I was.

Someone asked me if I have any drama activities for primary schools today, and of course I have loads, so I’ve been rootling them out and will spruce them up a bit for others to use. Also today, I received news of royalties from APRA – performances on the telly apparently!

The choir gave me gifts, but the only one of them I’m allowed to hug is Jamie, so I did! Shirley captured the moment.

17th August

A day which mostly led up to mini-recording sessions with small groups of The Bridge Singers for our Teo Torriatte lockdown project. It ended up being quite a gathering on the bridge at the end of these as everyone stayed for a chat and they gave me a card, some chocolates and some binoculars as an end-of-year gift. Such a lovely bunch of people, and we’re all so glad that we can at least do these recordings again following the new relaxing of the rather arbitrary regulations.

Earlier in the day The Woodlarks’ version of SkyDancer: Ghost of the Moors (and ours for that matter) appeared on the Hen Harrier Day Youtube channel. Here it is:

The Woodlarks from Cambridge also recorded Skydancer: Ghost Of The Moors for Hen Harrier Day 2020
Us and Coquet Island

16th August

A goldfinch chirrups at me!

A very busy day. I was up at 4, showered and out of the house by 5 to walk to Warkworth under cloudy skies. They were lovely walking conditions, if a little humid and with a cloud of insects following me and ultimately enjoying a feast of me as I walked. I did this walk on Thursday as well and the air was much drier – no mist and no constant removing of spontaneous hydration from my glasses. Other differences included a lot more little brown birds out and about (maybe they’re affected adversely by the damp?) and one of the farmers had been out with his strimmer removing the neck-high bracken from one path through woodland, and also removing an entire fence and its difficult-to-close gate. Mind you, another gate, which I had previously had no trouble with, had been adjusted to make it exceedingly difficult to open. However, I managed it all, and highlights were a deer ambling gently through the field with the path down the middle, and two goldfinches sporting on the New Barns lane.

Jamie and I were on a leaping excursion as it turned out!

I arrived at Warkworth at 8 where I met Jamie for the last bit to the beach. We then went home in the car for breakfast before skyping with Gaynor and Colin. Then back to Warkworth for our 11.30 entry slot to Warkworth Castle – a proper outing. When we came home and after lunch, Jamie made blackcurrant jelly and I continued my search for the ration books. I did indeed find them, but not after looking in every possible file, pile and shelf in the office – and finding all manner of long-forgotten compositions and teaching activities in the process…so ultimately a useful exercise. The ration books were with a box of precious items from my Grandma in amongst the photos in the spare living room. So then I made my video and here it is!

Boo To My Ration Book with some photos from before and during WW2 of my Grandma, Grandad and her family. He was killed in the war, so these photos were/are indeed very precious items for her and my Mum.
A small gathering for the 11am VJ Day ceremony – photo by Ann Lings.

15th August

Today I recorded my song Boo To My Ration Book for a new video. I was all ready to make the video too, illustrating it with photos of my Mum’s ration books, but I couldn’t find them. I don’t know where to look really, although the reason I have them is because I used them in 2014 to show some children who were studying WW2 – this is why I wrote the song in the first place. Anyway, the video will have to wait, because I know they are in the house somewhere, and I’m not doing the video without!

The reason I was doing that song today was because it was VJ Day and I’ve been out to the war memorial twice for commemorations. Once at dawn and once at 11am. The 11am ceremony included the last post and wreath laying. A few choir members were there, so afterwards there was merry chat.

Evening walk and messabout

14th August

Much thought today which means not much action, but may well lead to more tomorrow. Jamie and I went for a walk this evening and saw a heron in a field way in the distance. We pondered on what it was doing in the field and whether they eat mice as well as fish.

Earlier while I was making fried rice out of all the vegetables we’d harvested, I was watching this large white butterfly on the eryngium, which is spectacular in the back yard this year.

Bedraggled stonechat at Warkworth. I was a bit bedraggled myself with the spontaneous hydration you get when walking through mist.

13th August

The whitethroat was hiding in the bracken near the car park. The camera only wanted to see the bracken, but I finally got this shot just before a man in a bright yellow jumper appeared and scared the stonechat away!

Today I walked to Warkworth again. It was very dull outside with mist and thick cloud – very murky. The murk prevented much in the way of dazzling photography – certainly no glowing sunrise. In stead I focused my attention on the Morwick Water Tower which is quite a remarkable structure that I see every time I go to the beach at Morwick and on my previous walks have noticed a gate that leads towards it. The gate does not have “Keep Out” sign on it and is merely attached to its post by a length of fraying rope. The only people discouraged by signage are poachers, so I went through it on a bit of a detour. The tower itself is behind more fencing and this does have a padlock on it, so I did not climb over.

Later, after a nap (my walk started at 4.40am) I made this video using some of the photos I took. The song is one I composed for a Year 4 class who had been studying the ancient Greeks in a unit with their class teacher. They taught me what they’d learned and I used lots of this to compose the lyrics for the song. They performed it as a processional to the rest of the class, and did even manage to sing the last verse as a round. I also recall that their teacher had been looking at kennings with them, which is why the 2nd verse is as it is! This in turn led onto a song about Romans later in the year: Roman Head Choppers – also full of kennings. Maybe I’ll do a recording of that one next!

Hymn Of The Ancient Greeks and images of Morwick Water Tower

12th August

Today I finished off the video that I started yesterday and wrote the blog for it. I also made a huge shepherd’s pie containing all the runner beans we’ve picked. Later on the evening, Jamie went out and picked a load more!

Limerick Composing

11th August

I’ve been working on this new video today. During my time teaching I used lots of limericks to encourage composing and writing creativity. this is the tune that I always used – it has my usual characteristic of time changes, which children have no trouble with at all, and because limericks all have the same rhythmic pattern, the tune can be used for any limerick!

Generic limerick music plus two limerick settings: The Zebra in The Zoo and The Weeping Puddle.
Sunrise leap

10th August

I went to the beach for sunrise today, driving under a skyful of cloud. It wasn’t until I got to the beach that it occurred to me that a lot of it might be mist or fog as there were tinges of pink about and possible blue through whatever it was. I was right. When the sun came up it was red as could be – in my photo of course, the camera sees it as white until you do a big close-up!

The sun soon disappeared again, but the light was incredibly gorgeous.

Later I was fiddling with some limericks that I once wrote. In fact I found a word file with a whole load of poems that I’d written. They each feature a different phoneme and seem vaguely familiar from my time inventing a musical alphabet. I should finish it off – it looks fab!

Then I’ve been learning about Zoom for some mini- choir practices this evening with a few game souls who thought it might be helpful for learning Teo Torriatte. I was skeptical, I must admit, but because of my skepticism I did a a lot of work into making sure it was as meaningful as it could be, and apparently they did get a lot out of it, not least the social aspect – we did a lot of laughing, just like at proper rehearsals.

A few of The Bridge Singers bid a fond farewell at the end of our first ever Zoom rehearsal. Every choir has a picture like this these days, right?

9th August

There’s been a lot of interest in my Skydancer: Ghost Of The Moors song today as the Hen Harrier people have promoted it a bit more during the day.

If you’d like to hear this song which I’m dedicating today to my pal Ian who is a parish priest – one of the very loveliest ones I have ever encountered. St. John Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests, you know!

I’ve been working on this new video and blog of an old song – the school song I wrote when I worked in Manly in Queensland. You can read all about it here!

Song Story: St. John Vianney’s School Song

A little bit of a choir reunion We look as though we were too close together, I know, but we weren’t!

8th August

Today has been Hen Harrier Day and my song appeared twice during the online event, once performed by The Bridge Singers and once by the Cambridge choir The Woodlarks directed by James Dougal. Both choirs put their performances together during lockdown. The Bridge Singers are my choir as you know, and they also provided the art work for our video. Some of us assembled on the bridge this evening to toast the release of our video which we actually finished in May, and it was very lovely indeed to see and chat with our friends and some of their partners. Here’ our video:

The Bridge Singers’ video of Skydancer: Ghost Of The Moors as created for Hen Harrier Day 2020 and played today as part of their live feed.
Sue and I messing about, but being happy about it!

7th August

This morning I went to Craster for a sunrise walk with Sue from choir. We had a wander round Dunstanburgh Castle too and messed about a bit and chatted a bit too. Then I had a nap, then there was more chatting with choiry friends in the evening. I’m working on another video too using pictures by my brother Michael!

Sunrise on 7th in fact!

6th August

I finished my learning video for The Bridge Singers today. It’s taken me ages, but hopefully it will help them learn our new song for our newest video for August.

5th August

Dipper on the Tees
A bit of dramatic water action.

Today I went to Barnard Castle to see my sister. We arranged to meet up in Barnard Castle on her way home from Worksop. We’ve done this several times before as it is a beautiful town with lots to do and is half way home for her and within reasonable driving distance for us. This time we were going for a walk along the River Tees to Egglestone Abbey, then back along the other side. We arranged to meet there at 7am as she needed to get home by the afternoon. So at 5 am I left here, armed with a banana, two cakes and a printed off map and description of the walk from the Discovering Britain website. I set the map app on my phone so that I got the bit from the A1 exit at the Durham Services to Barnard Castle right – so very many roundabouts! When I approached Cramlington, “she” wanted me to turn off and head for the Tyne Tunnel. I refused. She was reasonably patient and rerouted. She then wanted me to turn off at Wide Open, then again at Kingston Park. She got a bit narky then and was silent for about five minutes, then said “continue for 33 miles!” in a tone of voice that definitely implied, “if you must”! By the time we got to Spennymoor, her tone had softened and we proceeded without incident. Considering the early start though, there was an incredibly huge amount of traffic on the roads. I decided at that point that I would defy her again on the way back and barely touch the A1.

Once Frances and I were safely parked in the Long Stay Car Park with tickets purchased until noon – only £1 for four hours (free until 8am) we headed off. I did notice, however, that the advertising on the back of the carpark ticket was for a free eye test at SpecSavers. I found this very amusing and tittered mightily. We descended to the river and basically walked along it, stopping at various points to read the informative notes on the map and gaze at the splashing. It’s a very dramatic river, the Tees, with all sorts of jaggedy rocks causing the water to behave in a striking and theatrical manner as it does its cascading. There are mills, both restored as dwellings, and ruinous with weeds and cows. There are lookouts and dippers and grey wagtails and ducks galore. There are tantalizing glimpses of things to come on the other side of the water. There was rich sport between the sun and the very grey clouds. We expected rain, but did not get it. We laughed and told stories and messed about and frolicked. When we reached Egglestone Abbey, we found to our delight that it is permanently open, there are bits to clamber over and there is much scope for more capers with the timer on the camera. We took full advantage of all these benefits as you can see! On the way back we encountered a man with two dogs who asked us with a sigh if we were Cummings sightseers. This is a thing apparently. People go to Barnard Castle to see the places where Dominic Cummings parked his car and went for a wander! We resolutely assured him we weren’t, and after he’d proceeded on his way, we wondered at the ridiculousness of people.

Once we got back to the cars we took up the cakes (I’d already eaten the banana for breakfast somewhere on the way down), and watched the river as we ate and chatted and tried to remember last time we’d seen each other (before Christmas, we decided), and agreed that we’d had a very excellent time and departed in our different directions – she west and me north. I did come back through the countryside and only got to the A1 at the most northerly turn-off to Longhorsley having had a very pleasant drive up across moors and through Weardale, past a bit of Hadrian’s Wall and up through lots of greengreeny bits of Northumberland. I did not have the phone nark  “helping” me. As there was no time limit on my return, I winged it, and did not get lost at all…although I didn’t always know where I was, but did always know where I was going.

Banana skin in the river!

4th August

I listened to a programme on Radio 3 about Ennio Morricone today. Such an impressive composer. I continued to pfaff on with three separate videos, none of which are completed.

3rd August

I’ve been making good progress with my next learning video for the choir today, but disappointingly, still not finished it. That’s because I’ve had a lovely chat with my mother, brother and sister today, and I was interrupted by a request from someone for an SATB version of my TTBB arrangement of Water Of Tyne, which I had to tweak and send. This evening Jamie and I went to Warkworth for a walk along the beach under what were exceptional clouds!

The first dahlia to flower this year.

2nd August

Today I made lots of cauliflower soup and also a video to go with the recording of Jerusalem I found the other day. It’s The Bridge Singers in Brinkburn last July at a wedding. There was no organist so we sang the accompaniment to Jerusalem ourselves! We took it at quite a lick too, although it didn’t seem so at the time!

The images to go with the video are from members of the choir who were asked for “pictures of lovely places in England”.
Waving at the beach

1st August

The heron was staying very still and the river was still too once I got to Warkworth
There were lots of butterflies en route including this rather scraggedy red admiral.

Today I walked to Warkworth like I did on that day in May. Jamie came and fetched me from Warkworth beach five hours after I left home, and it was exhilarating.

It started with bats and Venus and ended stonechats and flying golfballs. Some of the Saturday morning players were sending their drives all over the place and my decision to walk along the dunes was fraught with hazards. However, I did see lots of butterflies and lots of birds, and I was alert to the golfers’ inadequacies so managed to avoid being hit on the head. When I set off it was still fairly dark and I was accompanied along the river from my house to just past Tim’s by two bats who flew very low overhead and kept on swooping at me until they’d seen me off. All the time there was a very bright thing in the sky. I assumed it was Venus – I looked it up when I got home and there was talk amongst those who know such things that Venus was supposed to be rising very brightly at before 4am, and that would just about cover it. Other things of note included a bouncy deer which galloped across before my very eyes out in the field with the path right down the middle of it. When I got to the railway bridge at Rake Lane I stood there awhile and sang. Oh my! So very resonant! One day we should all gather there and revel in it. It’s a teensy bridge so we wouldn’t fit under it, and we’d have to stand pretty close to each other, so it’s not going to happen for a while, but if you happen to be passing that way, give it a go. It’s a glorious sound. I was dawdling, I have to admit, stopping willynilly to take photographs and stare at things, and didn’t get to Warkworth until sometime between 7.30 and 8. I walked down to the beach and even though it was so late, there were still hardly any people there. I walked as far as the concrete blocks and sat awhile soaking it all up, then I phoned Jamie who had agreed to come and gather me up as long as it wasn’t too early, and I walked along the dunes back to the carpark.

When I got home I used some of the photos I’d taken to make this video using my song “Windy Nights”. I composed it when I was Composer-In-Schools in Auckland in the early 1990s and have used it constantly ever since. It’s an excellent primary school song!

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