January 2020 – Start With A Leap

This coal tit has just finished with the seed feeder and was having a wee break on a nearby plant pot before returning for a second helping.

January 31st

Dark damp morning so I settled for the birds again at sunrise. While I watched and attempted to take photos over a period of about three minutes, there were two blue tits, a coal tit, two great tits, two robins and a blackbird and a dunnock waiting for scraps underneath the feeders. I’ve merely picked out the photo that was the most in focus – the dark conditions and the flitty-about nature of the birds made for a tricky photo shoot!

I’ve made it to London! They’re singing along with my video in their classroom!

Then the day was spent finishing off my Bullfinch Morning song, making a rather tasty sausage casserole which we accompanied with some runner beans frozen from the summer, and as I worked away another tale of my Billy Goats Gruff song came flooding into twitter – that’s two in a week. So not only have I conquered Wales, but also now London!!!

In the evening we went to Longhoughton for choir – RFC practising for Sunday’s Candelmas evensong, and realising that there’d been no leaping today, we engineered a quick jump by the car. However, Jamie was reluctant to take the picture as it was so dark and he says he no longer has a steady hand, so he leapt and I once again dealt with rather dark conditions!!!

Jamie takes a leap in the dark – and I reaffirmed my belief that it’s so much easier to coordinate feet off the ground with shutter opening and closing when you actually hold the camera and take the picture yourself! However, you cannot do that when you’re doing the whole thing yourself!

An attentive dipper on a pooey rock.

January 30th

Greeted the well-and-truly-behind-the-clouds sunrise from the bridge outside the house, looked down and saw this on a pooey rock. I do love a dipper.

We each got in the air at least once for one of the six photos in the burst, but alas, never all three of us at the same time!!

Later, I went out in the mighty wind with Julie and Shirley to find a waterfall. I tried out the words to my new song on them and they approved. I also managed to persuade them to leap with me in front of Linhope Spout. More composing, then we were off to Lionheart Harmony in the evening with the first full house since before Christmas – very merry it was too!

Arms out to greet the day.

January 29th

Out to the coast for sunrise, then a whole day of composing my bullfinch song, and by the end of the day, I’m just about done. I now have to turn it into wind band and choir music and all will be well. I went along to the Coquet Wind Band rehearsal this evening to hear the Felton Lonnen arrangement and it sounded alright to my ears. It was useful to go along as it will definitely help with this next task!

Sunrise from the compost heap.

January 28th

This video has been watched over 500 times in two months, which is astonishing. I’m so happy to see that these teachers have added their own twist by including instruments as well as voices.

After a tiring day yesterday, and a desire to sleep a little longer into the morning today, I stayed at home for the sunrise, which I suspect was a good ‘un out at the coast. I took the peelings up to the compost and surveyed the village scene. I did leap on the mossy steps, but didn’t put too much energy into it as moss is slippery.

I did a lot of composing today which is an excellent thing and organised meetings in connection with a new commission, and then in the afternoon when I was at my tiredest, this appeared on Twitter and made my heart leap at the joy of it! I’ve put a bit of leaping into my new song:

Look to the sunrising island.
Apricot cloudwisps enfolding the wavy horizon.
Dance in the teeth of the shouting!
Leap, heart! It’s a dayspring morning!

January 27th

Concert day! And what a concert it was. The Bridge Singers’ Burns Night Celebration with a full house of very energized audience members, and our exceedingly special guest Richard Michael, who is a jazz musician of exceptional brilliance and enthusiasm and generosity. I spent all afternoon in his and his lovely wife’s company, and then we worked together in this concert. He of course, was the star of the show, and a very unique part of our celebration, but I am so proud of this choir and their spirit and musicality. I am also so proud that a musician of the calibre of Richard could see in them what I see, and felt it worth his while to come down from Kirkcaldy to share the stage with us. We first met him last year when he was the organist at one of his relative’s wedding and we were the choir…so he knew what he was coming to. His warmth and enthusiasm towards the choir was very heartening and encouraging.

All the arrangements in the concert were mine, and this was also very cheering for me – quite a variety too. Gary and Jamie sang Loud Blaw The Frosty Breezes with choir oohing in the background, and I have to say that it was rather special to hear those “mmm”s in the audience after we finished – you know the ones you get when something has touched something in them. We often laugh about them when we’re in an audience of mmm-ers, but on this occasion I found it rather pleasing!

Anyway, lovely Dave took some photos of the evening and I had my machine recording away in the background, so here’s the rousing finale, just before Richard and Morag left to catch their taxi to Alnmouth Station for their journey home to Kirkcaldy – he already had his hat and coat on ready for the off!

The picture is of the scene early on, and the audio is the last minute of our concert! At the end of this minute, Richard and Morag left the building!

January 26th

Grey morning with a hint of something. Julie says: Looks like you’re being blown in the wind!

Early leaping on a grey morning, followed by bullfinch composing and programme printing and folding. This evening I gathered up Richard and Morag from Alnmouth Station and made arrangements for tomorrow. Jamie and I then watched last week’s Silent Witness – rather depressing with lots of abusive husbands and partners and abused women resorting to desperate measure. We thought we’d lighten the mood with an episode of Grantchester, but it didn’t work – an abusive father and husband murdered one of his house guests, and another abusive man assaulted one of his colleagues, and then as the progamme came to a close, the son of the first man punched his colleague, and the husband of the assaulted worker heads out with a dark look on his face, presumably to punch someone.

January 25th

A quick frolic on the beach today as we had a rehearsal for The Bridge Singers at 9.30am to sing through things and to organise seating – always a difficult process when we have seating, as we can never sit in our usual places in any of the venues we sing in. Anyway, the choir is sounding great and apparently there are only 6 tickets left for Monday’s Burns Celebration. In the afternoon, Jamie and I caught up on lots of telly and ate curry from M&S – so tasty, and so relaxing!

January 24th

Sunrise, practising Lotti, thinking about bullfinches, thinking about Robert Burns. Jamie came home from London this evening, which is splendid. Choir tomorrow – last rehearsal before the Burns concert on Monday.

It really was one of the most spectacular pre-sunrise set of colours, clouds and reflections that I ever did see. I took a lot of photos, which I may use in a video one day, but in the meantime, here’s the best of my leaps!
Sad sunrise banana on the Felton Lonnen.

January 23rd

I went up the street today for the sunrise, as I was to be out and about later. There was a banana skin in the road which provided a focus for my sunrise photo, although the sunrise was somewhat hidden. I did do some leaping by the farm gate that was for a time the focus of my early morning photos. It always reminds me of Sid who used to remark, “There’s nothing more satisfying than a well-hung gate.” It probably had some sailorish double-meaning, but still it always makes me smile now.

You’ll have to take my word for it that my feet were off the ground!

Then I went to Wooler to dep for Veronica with the Cheviot Singers – we did a bit of Burns and some old favourites and there was much laughter. I then hightailed it to Amble where Julie, Shirley and Rebekah had assembled for fish and chips after a long morning walk for them. More chat and laughter. Then home for a brief gathering of ideas before Lionheart Harmony.

Leaping near the round boulder phenomenon.

January 22nd

Attempted highland fling pose!

Stroll, croon, listen, leap: my day; my new song.

During the leaping which was not as spectacular as yesterday, I received a message from my pal Julie on seeing this leap: “A wee highland fling comes to mind!” I felt that my limbs were not in quite the right positions for this description, so, seeing that the beach was once again empty (having gone for a longer walk than usual and all the usual dog walkers and joggers having done their thing and left) I attempted to live up to her description!

When I got home I discovered that my videos cleared 47,000 views on my YouTube channel. Very thrilling. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVlv1tTbwIvS9-10EFCKYWQ/

Go on – have a listen and be part of the 48th 1000!!!

January 21st

Tear-jerking gorgeousness before dawn.

I could tell as I drove towards the coast that the sky was going to be glorious – I can never tell from our place down in the valley. When I emerged onto the beach through the dunes, the beauty of what I saw actually made me weep. It was so breathtaking. Anyway, the camera could not really cope with the wider picture but you get an idea from this zoom-in on the birds with the island in the background.

Sunrise! Wheeeeeeeeeh! Good morning from Northumberland!

Later, when the sun rose, I attempted my usual leap/shutter coordination and of the six shots, two had me in the air – one looks as though I’m actually quite springy! As the day progressed, I became increasingly sleepy – my usual Tuesday lethargy, but I did learn than bullfinches were once called mawps, and that Henry VIII created an act of parliament by which people could claim a penny for each one they killed, as their springtime raids on fruit trees were deemed “criminal acts”. This is why they’re so rare these days, and are no longer a pest. They used to be kept in cages like budgerigars because of their beautiful colouring and sweet, whistly songs. If they were taken very young from their parents, they learnt their songs from their human owners and consequently were adept at folksongs. There are recordings of this in existence.

Running jump!

January 20th

Distant Leap 1
Distant Leap 2!

Top sunrise at the beach with a low tide, glorious pre-dawn hues of orange and pinkypurple, not many people, no wind, no rain, followed by composing, more cream horns (all gone now!), choir correspondence; writing and designing the programme for the Burns Concert next Monday. Then we had The Bridge Singers’ rehearsal this evening where we practised certain things quite a bit and ran through everything else. It’s going to be fab. Hurrah! We started the rehearsal with my Red, Red Rose and then Loud Blaw The Frosty Breezes. Everything in this concert is either composed or arranged by me, I realised. Splendid feeling.

Leaping down the path to the river, trying not to be seen by anyone walking their dogs or heading to The Running Fox for their newspapers!

January 19th

We were off out today to see Little Women at the Tyneside Cinema and to buy socks to replace the holey ones, so I did not go to the beach, but instead frolicked in the river bed just outside our house as the sun rose on the rooftops of upper Felton.

Street beech sunrise.
Beech street sunrise.

Little Women was grand – a splendid film of a wonderful story. All acting was marvellous, as was the scenery, and the music, and looking-back-and-forward treatment of the plot.

When we got home we tackled the reject cream horn cases, accompanying them with flaked limey salmon and a gloopy concoction of cream cheese, goat’s cheese, sour cream, dill and a dab of horseradish, with cucumber on the side. They were completely delicious….and there are enough left for tomorrow!

January 18th

Leaping through the rising sun.

Lots of people and their dogs at the Saturday beach, and lots of golfers and their lost balls in the dunes, but I still managed to find moments when leaping out of their collective gazes was possible. Alas in all my attempts I did not manage to get one photo where both my feet were categorically off the ground, even though they really were on many occasions! This one was the closest I could muster, as I emerged from the dunes.

Just before the sun rose, and just before I took off, there was a colourful glow and lots of promise.

Then I made cream horns for Rock Festival Choir’s start of year rehearsal/shindig tonight – I spent most of the day on this, making flakey pastry from scratch for the first time since my school Domestic Science days. I followed a recipe to the letter, and did indeed end up with cream horn cases that are so very, very flakey – a delicious texture indeed. But to my taste, and Jamie’s, they were too full of fat. I used an ancient Be-Ro cookbook recipe and we agreed that the proportions were of a certain era and perhaps less fat would be more to our taste these days. These cream horn cases are waiting for us to eat as we head into the new week. I used the back-up frozen pack of pastry for the ones I eventually took to choir, which were filled with chocolate ganache, a sort of strawberry jam sauce that I also made today from scratch (also had back-up bought strawberry jam just in case) and a whipped-cream-strawberry-yoghurt fluffy gloop. In spite of the drawbacks with the flakey pastry, I have learned a lot from my efforts today and will have more goes.

Choir itself was a hoot with much sight-reading of Lotti and Vivaldi and resultant messes of notes here and there, but mostly we are all very good at sight-reading and therefore we really did get an excellent idea of how splendid it will be. I got to sit between Jamie and Connor for the entire rehearsal, so what a lucky alto I was.

January 17th

A running jump! …And a seemingly innocuous wave in the background gathering it’s might for a stealth raid on the camera!

This morning’s visit to Warkworth Beach was in the midst of a symphony of grey skies, roaring waves, an inordinately high tide and a very small beach – so small that every possible person and their dogs were crammed in, so no hope, I thought of a leap. I went up past the golf course and through the caravan park to the other side of the rocks which were completely inaccessible via the normal route because of the sea almost reaching the dunes. Over on the other side there was even less beach, but there were no people, so I set up the camera on a rock and dodged the waves to attempt the leaping. About ten seconds after this photo, the rock upon which the camera was perched and the footprints you see in the sand here were completely overwhelmed by a wave, but I was alert to the danger and had rather dramatically swooped to gather up the camera and had rather athletically leaped to safety on an even higher rock shelf. Then it started to drizzle with nagging persistence so I retraced my steps and came home via a now empty beach! There was then merriment at recorders tonight and steady composing progress during the day.

January 16th

“There’s a log on the beach…” I wrote a song about that once. It’s called The Log On The Beach! Good morning from Northumberland!…where there have been some very high tides lately and therefore some dramatic changes on the beach.

Back to sort of normal today with sunrise beach leaping and a mixture of tasks during the day and culminating in Lionheart Harmony, for which I had prepared a 3-part arrangement of “Did You Not Hear My Lady?” by Handel. We had a go at it and it sounded good. I also heard today that Kantos, the chamber choir from Manchester, will be singing my Red. Red Rose at their Burns Night dinner on 25th Jan. Excellent news!

Peeping out through the curtain at sunrise – the bridge railings are away being repaired so we have temporary ones for the time being.

January 15th

Determined to finish the arrangement by noon, I did not allow myself to even go out of the door until I was done, so I peeped through the curtains at sunrise to capture the scene and was straight back to it. I did indeed finish by noon and handed the scores and parts over to Andy in the afternoon. He intended rehearsing it in the evening, so I may or may not have to do re-writes after that!

Good morning from apricot-dawnleap Northumberland

January 14th

A leapy, apricot start to the day, then a full day of wind band arranging – nearly finished!

January 13th

Good morning from Northumberland to Mr. Lancewood-on-the-turn, to Mrs. Moon-not-quite-full-to-the-brim and to the company of Geese-catching-the-sunrise-light!

A moon-filled morning with a very early start, but no beach today and no leap today either as I was hard at the wind band arranging until time to prepare for choir. We managed to learn from beginning to end my new arrangement of The Lea Rig – such a beautiful melody, and recapped Ca’ The Yowes and tackled Loud Blaw The Frosty Breezes with mixed success – those who learn by listening don’t struggle so much with the five/four time signature as those who rely more on the notation. Interesting – sounded good though. It’s all for the Burns concert on 27th. It’s going to be fab.

January 12th

The very tip of the fishermen iceberg.
Connie leaps – we managed to get her between me and a no-fishermen gap!
Dog and ball – her favourite thing!

I went to the beach this morning and found it heavily and increasingly populated by fishermen – a club event, I suspect. Too many spectators for leaping, anyway. Half way along my chosen route, I received a message from Rebekah asking if it was my car in the car park, so I turned tail and headed back south and met up with her and Connie, who obliged with several leaps and we strolled. We did lots of chatting and laughing too and all was very happy.

For the rest of the day I have been arranging Felton Lonnen for wind band, and am nearly there with it. I feel that my wind band muscles are coming back now. Phew! I also made a pizza for lunch with soda bread for the base – I seem to be getting the hang of this now too. I’m learning the feel of it so have dispensed with the recipe and the scales and it was much better than last time when I followed everything rigidly!

A parcel of sea pie taking off as a direct result of Connie chasing the ball – I did ask Rebekah to throw it in their direction so I could try and get an action shot!
Ghostly leaping before sunrise with a very intense strip of pink on the horizon.

January 11th

Take off at exactly sunrise with Coquet Island probably getting the best view!
Landing at sunrise – you can see the splash I made as I frolicked in the run-off!

I have spent the entire day on my wind band work, listening to lots of other people’s and continuing with my own. After all these years of focussing on choirs and school, it’s quite an adjustment to be back with instruments and professional instrumentalists. I find that I am thinking a lot about my time in Manchester at the RNCM, when this was what I thought I’d end up doing – just about everything I composed then was for woodwind, brass and percussion.

Jamie can jump higher than me on every occasion – due to his basketball training when he was young, he says. But sometimes, when the coordination of camera and leaping works in my favour, the camera does indeed lie!

I did get up and on with this extraordinarily early – sunrise leaping came after already over three hours’ work! Jamie decided to come with me and it is nice to have a leap-pal from time to time. Two of us leaping add extra pressure to the feet-in-the-air/shutter-open coordination issues, but we managed a few, and although the sun was hidden behind the exceedingly windy clouds, Jamie managed to catch a couple of me at the exact moment of sunrise!

Newcastle and the Tyne Bridge (and the Swing Bridge and the Millennium Bridge) from the High Level Bridge, just as the sun starts to make the roofline sparkle.

January 10th

Newcastle and the Tyne Bridge from the Gateshead side. The sun there is a reflection on a Newcastle window. As you see, sunrise is at rush hour at this time of year, so no leaping. I don’t do leaping in public, as I said before!
The actual sun and Tyne Bridge from the Newcastle side.

Several chores in Newcastle needed attending to today, so I headed into town via car and then Metro in time for the sunrise at the Tyne Bridge, which is one of my favourite bridges. I came home with two music scores, two picture frames, two slippers, two mango scented candles and two dollops of fish paté reduced for quick sale. A successful trip. For the rest of the day I grappled with my wind band arrangements and when tiredness overcame me at 3pm, I read some book and had a nap before proceeding with the music. It’s Toby’s Room by Pat Barker. My inspiration for the wind band work this week has been listening to my lovely friend Christopher Marshall’s music for wind band. His skill is unnervingly wonderful and I’m loving listening to his sumptuous music again. We did our Masters degrees together in New Zealand and now he lives and works in Florida and is an exceedingly successful composer with performances and commissions all over the place.

January 9th

Leaping in the subway keeps your camera dry at rainy sunrise.

A rainy day. I ended up doing lots of admin today, which needs doing but is not particularly thrilling. There was also tidying and cleaning because Lionheart Harmony was here tonight. I also made a banana cake, though. At choir we sang No-Umbrella Blues, and Gary and Jamie practised Loud Blaw The Frosty Breezes for The Bridge Singers – they sound great together of course! I walked up to the subway under the A1 for sunrise, so that I could keep my camera dry during the leaping!

Grey skies at sunrise with Coquet Island and Amble in the background.

January 8th

A few minutes later and looking directly east, it’s a pink-tinged arms-down-feet-up leapy sky.

Off to the beach again this morning with a cold wind and plenty of cloud so not much of a colourful sunrise, but empty beaches, so plenty of leaping opportunities. (I won’t be leaping in public!) Later I continued with my wind band work and also had some excellent feedback from two lots of Early Years practitioners about “Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story”: “Thank you! We will look at this story/song as a class!” and “Gwych! That’s fantastic. Will look forward to sharing your video with the class and exploring music in our story!” (I’ve made it to Wales!”). At the end of the day someone purchased 20 copies of the low voices version of Red, Red Rose, so a performance in the offing, I should think! I’ve never heard this version sung – very thrilling.

January 7th

Another day and no leap this time but instead learning tracks galore, lots of composing and arranging and a rather splendid, if very brief sunrise sky which I watched from the garden.

Good morning again Mr. Lancewood-on-the-Turn. What an excellent view of the village and the sunrise skyblush you have…and yes, at this time of year, you are the most interesting thing in the garden, so must condescend to have your photograph taken whenever I cannot drive or walk elsewhere at the correct time!

January 6th

Another day, another leap, but this time the sun was hiding. Choir started tonight and we’re cracking on with our Burns preparation for January 27th. We spent about an hour on Ca’ The Yowes – sounding very spooky and the choir seems to be warming to its foggy nature.

Six shots of me jumping in the distance – so hard to get both feet off the ground at once at the same time as the distant camera’s shutter opens – 2 out of 6 is not too shabby! My next lot of six didn’t even have me in the photos at all!
Glorious pre-sunrise skies elicited a joyous leap

January 5th

In the opposite direction to the sunrise was a magical glimpse of double rainbow

A very productive day with sunrise walking and leaping on Warkworth and Alnmouth (southern) beaches, completed arrangement of Burns’ The Lea Rig for The Bridge Singers, lamb curry from scratch, a romp around Alnwick Gardens before it shuts for the winter clean-up, then a spot of composing to finish. Also, I’ve been reading a book in recent days…a novel… Life Class by Pat Barker. I’ve read it before and remember loving it, but my sister has leant me the next two books in the trilogy, so I’m catching up on the characters before I embark on the next. I finished it today. I haven’t read a novel since my last pair of glasses – the distance at which you hold a book was the distance I couldn’t see anything – useless glasses really. My new ones facilitate the reading of anything at any distance without strain or headaches, so novels are back in my life. Hurrah!

Good morning Mr. Lancewood-on-the-Turn

January 4th

Jamie and I went to Newcastle today so no sunrise walk, but I did go up to the compost heap at the correct time and surveyed the scene from up there. Judging by the light in our dark little spot it would have been glorious out at the coast, but still…when sunrise is so late you’d have to be in two places at once. In Newcastle, we split up – I went to Windows to peruse choir scores and Jamie went to Waterstones to spend an £80 gift voucher I found lurking in a pile of stuff I tidied up on New Year’s Eve. Then we went to see Knives Out at the Tyneside Cinema – a very clever and funny film. A sort of Agatha Christie type story with Daniel Craig playing Benoit Blanc who solves a very complicated crime with quirky methods and a very strange accent. We both agreed it was a very entertaining couple of hours. The Tyneside was heaving too which is excellent – such a brilliant cinema.

“Good morning!” said Mr. Bullfinch

January 3rd

I went for a walk on the Swarland Loop at sunrise and saw bullfinches, as I had hoped for. This one sat helpfully in the glow of the sunrise. I also did a leap at the obelisk, I saw long-tailed tits (one of them also did a leap), I heard a woodpecker, watched a charm of goldfinches cavorting, had a chat with a lady called Pippy, who spoke of a jay in her back yard yesterday, I had further ideas for my song and I got a blister on my left foot.

Leaping at the obelisk!
Leaping long-tailed tit.
The rather splendid scene before the leaping began!

January 2nd

I went to Warkworth Beach for the sunrise and a leap. It was also glorious. I had good ideas for my new song too, and I saw a stonechat in the dunes!

Someone, in response to yesterday’s photo said “Keep on leaping, Cheryl!” So I will.

January 1st

We went to Ross Sands for the sunrise and a leap. It was glorious.

We did leaping.


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