A Line In The Sand. August 2018

August 31st
A busy day: Morpeth early to drop off Jamie; back home for cleaning and the last teensy bit of tiling in the kitchen (grouting tomorrow!); short score for Mustering in Siberia produced and printed; visit to Brinkburn for a meeting with the organist who will actually be playing it (it’s sounding good); receipt of posters for that concert; drive to Morpeth to drop off the car at the station for Jamie; bus home, but the bus was running 45 minutes late, so at last a moment of rest albeit in the bus station, which is not lovely but there are seats, and teenagers (and also passengers who are delayed by 45 minutes) are entertaining to watch; Fingers Adrift recorder practice at which my music stand finally became completely useless after several months of recalcitrance, so I shared with Connor which was fun because we laughed a lot and Jenny’s dog Ellie took a special shine to me; walk home to find Jamie happily returned. Also today Rock Festival Choir appeared in the Northumberland Gazette following our recent triumphal sing at the Edinburgh Fringe. Read all about it here! 

Imagine the tappity tap of a woodpecker and you have the full idea.

Also today, I watched and listened with delight to a woodpecker for 10 minutes in the grounds at Brinkburn while I waited for Kieran the organist to arrive. Also today I received an email with a list of upcoming repertoire for a concert in March, included in the list…Bach, Camm, Chilcott, Bamling, Whitacre, Gjeilo. Happy list. I wonder what the piece is?

August 30th
I’ve resorted to having a list of jobs today, so many are there. I’ve steadily ploughed through the items on it – each one bigger and more time-consuming than at first imagined, so of course the list is not complete. I ended the day cleaning some items from the kitchen which are slowly but surely being returned to their correct room and their new home. I’ve found myself using a pipe cleaner to clean the inside of a pipe. I do have quite a collection of pipe cleaners, but previous uses have been restricted to fashioning treble clefs to help with music notation or creating useful shapes for 3D graphic scores and the like. They’re also good as stand-in triangle strings, I might add, but to use for cleaning pipes is a new idea for me. It worked, by the way.

August 29th
I took my new song to my organist friend Alan, and he played it through and we worked out some registrations for the organ part. I made an accompaniment for The Lamb and sent it to another organist for an upcoming concert. I wrote a list of tasks I want to finish before the end of August. It’s too long. Jamie cut some tiles so now I can complete the tiling task over the next few days. We also found a couple of tiles that Gaynor bought us once and we were waiting for somewhere to put them. We now know this and they will become part of this cut tiles/sundry tiles area of the kitchen.

Three bulbs.

August 28th
I finished my song. I made haggis and sausagemeat rolls. We bought light bulbs for our kitchen under-the-shelf light fittings. We sang for Sid at the infirmary. I was very sleepy.

August 27th
Composing again. So close to being finished now – both house renovations and compositions. Tonight at The Bridge Singers we learnt and sang through all of You Will Remember, tried out a few fragments of my new piece Mustering In Siberia and sang through The Lamb. We haven’t sung it for over a year, but twas as yesterday. We did sing other people’s music too – Pearsall’s Lay A Garland and Lotti’s Crucifixus and a bit of Britten, but it was mainly the Camm show. This is not the reason I took on the role of directing this choir, but it is a bonus, and they do seem to like my stuff. I was incredibly excited to hear the bits of new piece that only a week ago did not exist. The thrill of hearing for real the stuff that’s in your head will never wane, I suspect! Here’s this wonderful group of people singing The Lamb, last time we performed it.

August 26th
Composing day with much progress made on twiddly organ music and lashings of choral lusciousness. In the evening there was singing at Bamburgh Golf Club with these four. At this precise moment the Captain is giving out prizes in the next-door bar so we’re taking a breather in barbershop corner. Simon’s on his phone, Gwyn’s on the prawns and Mick and Jamie reflect the contrasting moods of the evening. It’s always good to sing with these folks, and there were members of our audience who enjoyed what we did and yelled “More!” in a raucous fashion when we stopped, but it is always hard work singing against a party atmosphere. Such a splendid view though, out to sea and across the course. You see youngsters behind Jamie on the 18th green, and over my right shoulder I can report that there are islands and other scenic ocean things.

August 25th
Back to composing. It’s my song using the diary entries and other writings by Lord William Percy. He’s in the WW1 trenches in France looking back to just before the war started, when he was in Siberia observing the Steller’s Eiders. It’s for organ and choir and will be first performed on September 22nd at Brinkburn Priory. That’s less than a month away and it’s not finished yet. I don’t seem alarmed by this, but I will be if I don’t get the music ready for the choir by this Monday’s rehearsal!

The moon’s been big and bright these last two nights as well

Meanwhile, Jamie’s been perfecting the paintwork by dabbing and here and there delicately with a tiny paint brush in the bathroom. He’s also sorted out a mis-hanging door, re-attached two bits of skirting board, put up the laundry dryer pulley thingamy over the new bath, put up our bathroom pictures again, applied the circular saw to the remaining bits of old kitchen and then taken them to the tip.

August 24th
This is my new grouting float. Today has almost entirely been about this implement, which at times has been my friend and at other times has not. I am not such a fan of grouting as I’d hoped I would be. Don’t get me wrong: I have grouted meticulously until the very end of the task, improving and learning as I go, and Jamie, who is not prone to unnecessary praise or encouragement, has told me that my efforts will do. I suspect it’s the tiles rather than the grouting that has caused me to be so doleful – they really are a tiler’s worst nightmare, as I was repeatedly warned by the one who knows.
I need to do something I’m already good at next.

August 23rd
Tiling in the kitchen.

Tiling in progress – what the fridge deliverer saw.

Armed with my handy list of “things required for tiling” from Neil, I hightailed it to Topps Tiles in Alnwick and came home with all the knickknacks, full of a lack of confidence. I procrastinated, I had a pre-tiling nap, I embarked. Everything Neil said about these uneven, differently-thicknessed tiles when he was exasperatedly creating the bathroom wall, gradually made sense. I refrained from mutteringly shaking my head, mind you, and ploughed on. I enjoyed this task, particularly finally getting to use the spacers for spacing instead of merely admiring them and lamenting their uninspired name. The worst is perhaps yet to come with the grouting tomorrow. I have a brand new float to help me with it, but still….

The view from where the fridge now stands.

In the midst of all this, the new fridge arrived, but Jamie dealt with that. I cowered upstairs and let him engage in all the manly banter for once. I did overhear one of them say how much he liked the orange though, and complimented Jamie on his exuberant tiling design. “Oh, it’s my wife in charge of the tiling,” he confessed. “Really!!? Wow!” exclaimed the fridge deliverer.

Stop Action Shot

August 22nd
More organning with Alan, this time at Brinkburn. I’m very fond of the Waldflute stop. More composing. More singing with Sid at the infirmary. More Jamie at home. This week’s going well.

August 21st
Composing day. Talking organ with Alan. Committee meeting with date scones by Eileen. Alan’s very good. He played my new piece, such as it is, and we tried out different stops. I wrote things down and had ideas. I helped him with his Facebook account. Also, Jamie was here all day. We selected a tall table for the bathroom. This is how I like days to be. There was talk of this song today too. A popular favourite.

Smooth grooves and reflected Hungarian light

August 20th
A man came to do things to the drainage grooves on the new granite today. He kept calling me “lovey” which I found interesting as I had thought it might be “duck” on account of him coming from down that Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire way of the ducks. He did make the drainage grooves smoother and all the finger-searing sharp edges are gone, and was only here half an hour, so not long or incompetent enough for me to build up any animosity to the loveys. Later there was The Bridge Singers which was fun and energetic as ever. We’re getting to grips with Lay A Garland by Pearsall quite nicely. In between, I composed. All my four verses now have tune and accompaniment is being crafted. Tomorrow: organ flourishes by way of added colour.


The phone box we can see from our window.

August 19th
Lie-in. I did not actually wake up until 7am. It’s unheard of. I then proceeded to stay in bed for another hour and a half snoozing. Eggs Benedict for breakfast was yummy, then off we strode in the relentless drizzle to find the phone box we could see from our window. Next, it was away to the city to meet up with the choir for a cancelled sing in the relentless drizzle and an extended chat-and-snack out of the relentless drizzle.

The window from which we can see the phone box.

Then forth we ambled once more to Canongate Kirk through relentless drizzle to a rehearsal in blue. Then more chat-and-cake, then another performance of Rachmaninov before lots of happy listeners, then descending towards The Scotsman through relentless drizzle, more chat-and-drinks, and the last train to Alnmouth (which is almost a chirpy song from the 1960s), fond farewells as we climb into our drizzle-soaked cars. At home I discover that the relentless drizzle has found my pyjamas lurking in the bottom of the bag into which the umbrella had also been thrust, so I filled up my hot water bottle in the new, not-quite-finished orange kitchen and passed once more into sleep, damp but cosy.

Rehearsal in blue at Canongate Kirk

Flags at Canongate Kirk

Personally, I feel that I did a better job tonight. I was properly on it notes-and-language-wise, and to me my voice sounded more mellow yet confident. Chatting to Gwyn later, he thought the previous night was more thrilling on the whole – tighter and edgier. Both were great and no matter, it is an absolute joy and honour to be part of this excellent choir and to sing in what is a quite exceptional alto section in music by Rachmaninov that positively wallows in delicious alto scrumminess. The Great Doxology is still my favourite movement, but oh my! the whole thing is glorious.

August 18th
Up early to catch the 8am-ish train to Edinburgh from Alnmouth. We chatted with lots of choir and village friends on the platform before repairing to our seats in the quiet coach for a breakfast of the last of the cakes and strawberries. We sallied forth in Edinburgh to locate our B&B and drop-off bags.

Banana and K6 in the same picture

It turned out that our room was ready so we moved in and gazed at the view which included the Water of Leith, historic buildings, the Firth of Forth and the distant hills on the other side. Then we hightailed it to Greyfriar’s Kirk for a rehearsal of the Rachmaninov Vespers with Rock Festival Choir. That done we were back to the B&B to get into our concert blacks, then back for a performance with around 200 in the audience who stomped and cheered as we smiled at the end.

Rehearsal at Greyfriars Kirk

So happy to see lots of our friends from The Bridge Singers in the audience. The choir and their guests were dining together, before another stroll back to our now night-time view and a well warranted sleep.

August 17th
Lots of composing in a quiet house with no workmen and no Jamie. Eating left over cakes. Visiting our mate Sid in Alnwick Infirmary with three other Lionheart Harmony members and singing Coney Island in hushed tones around his bedside. “Strictly two visitors per bed”, said the signs, but we ignored that and were not told off. Indeed the next door patient gave us a clap and Sid was all the chirpier for a bit of woodshedding. Also, we’re off to Edinburgh tomorrow for to sing Rachmaninov’s Vespers at the Edinburgh Fringe so I made another little video to help spread the word. It’s too big for this website so have a look here! https://twitter.com/RockFestChoir

August 16th
The first cakes from the new (not yet finished) kitchen.

August 15th
Sunrise walk with a very high tide causing me to risk life and limb (well, damp toes) to get to the rocks. More composing. In the evening, tootling and warbling at Felton Park, including in the Magical Glass. I love it.

Sunrise sky lips


Pigeon strike and reflections

Shapely greenhouse

August 14th
Composing day at last. Time to think. Time to play the piano. Time to nap. Time to do a bit of Rachmaninov practice for the weekend. Time to chop vegetables and cook a proper meal in our new kitchen. We headed to Embleton for A Rock Festival Choir rehearsal this evening readying ourselves for Edinburgh, and when we got back we made cheese on toast – even before the old kitchen was ripped out there was no functioning grill in the old oven, so this was an utter treat after so long. I have two things to share a musical poster for RFC’s upcoming gigs and a snatch of lyrics which today inspired their music. They are taken from the letters of Lord William Percy from the WW1 front in France 2014-15.


August 13th
5pm: So far today I have attended the funeral of a friend, spent over two hours cleaning out stinky detritus from blocked pipes, and spent another couple of hours doing administrative tasks. Of these, the last was of course the worst. I also bought myself some flowers (while I was out acquiring appropriate blocked-pipe clearing implements).
11pm: Back from a very jolly choir practice with The Bridge Singers. Lots of new music tackled and enjoyed. Lots of laughter. There was also lots of feedback during choir and afterwards at The Foxes’ Den from our appearance, and singing of two songs, at Alan’s funeral this morning. “Angelic voices” was one that sticks in my mind, but there were plenty of very positive comments. We sang “Only Remembered” by Bonar and Sankey and “Come Again” by John Dowland as everyone filed out.
Later still I was listening to this on the BBC Radio iPlayer. I love Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, especially No. 4, and this new piece by Olga Neuwirth, “Aello – ballet mécanomorphe ” inspired by it is brilliant in my opinion, so full as it is with sparkling timbres and rhythms.



August 12th
Actual composing: both words and music. Also pie in the new oven and MadriGals merriment this evening. In amongst this, Jamie attached handles to the new bathroom cupboards.

August 11th
First thing, I noticed that my YouTube channel has passed it’s next thousand views. We’re up to 34,000 now. Wheeeh!
All morning three workmen were in the house: Gordon the Painter; Andy the Gasfitter (We now have an oven and a hob.); Neil the all round excellent-at-everything fellow. And they’re done. Neil will be back when our new fridge arrives to make a hole in a cupboard for the plug, but that’s it He gave me a brief tiling lesson, then drove off into the midday Saturday sun. We’re not inviting anyone round until it’s completely finished, mind!!!…but we did have hot, crispy food for tea for the first time in over a month!
All afternoon I was in Craster for their RNLI Open Day chatting with friends and directing The Bridge Singers in two brief slots. It was our first ever gig while singing on a hillside as people had Harley Davison rides on the road to the front and side of us and with people partaking of a busy crockery shy to the rear of us. Also out in the glorious harbour, just beyond the Harleys, multiple RNLI craft were staging simulated rescues and giving families rides on the tide.
All evening we ate our crispy food and watched sport on the telly.
A grand old Saturday. Craster photo, courtesy of Claire.

Window ledge. Rain.

August 10th
11am. Paint. The paint fumes give you a headache. The headache causes you to open the windows. The windows let the noise in. The noise invades your composing synapses. You need to go out really, but there’s the painter to consider, and the wasps are out there. Hmm.

Trio2: Roller, brush, floor

5pm. The painter has gone and in spite of all the feelings of bleugh, you find that you have come up with something. Lyrics at least. And fragments of music. Time for a nap now with the window open and then the delight of Fingers Adrift this evening.


Pre-orange shroud plus undercoat.

August 9th
Orange Day. Jamie was right. Everything is alright. There’s still some scepticism about the colours, but not from us two, and we’re who count in this instance. Also, a meeting at Brinkburn about a concert in September. I suddenly have even more work to do, but composing work, arranging work: work I love.

Hot Taps.

Trio: Light Wall Cupboard

August 8th
Composing day, I thought, and the thoughts have indeed been a-flowing, but notes on the page are elusive due to a busy day with the kitchen and bathroom.

Controversial colour scheme, apparently.

More blue and green pointing with Gordon the painter in the bathroom, and Neil was back in the kitchen fitting kickbacks and the sinky taps-and-pipes (only 24 hours of some fixative substance having to dry until washing the dishes in the bathroom ceases). I haven’t seen Neil for a fortnight so there was much banter and catching up. Jamie had a huge lot of very long phone calls, so all decisions were mine for the making. The scepticism about our colour scheme is now so loud that all optimism and confidence failed me this evening and I have gone to bed in a fret. After his phone calls, Jamie said that it would all be alright though.

August 7th
The man with paint in the bathroom is still there. He has applied colour. Every now and then I am required to go in there and point at a bit of wall or woodwork and say “blue” or “green”, but otherwise, the decision making has been minimal. I spent a lot of the day looking back at cheery choir pictures and listening to heartening recordings to produce this Review of The Year 2017-18 for The Bridge Singers. The blurb reads. “This year we’ve sung in Alnwick at Last Night Of The Proms, in Felton and Longframlington for our fruity Christmas Concerts, at our Burns Night Celebration, at Brinkburn Priory for a wedding and recital, at Feltonbury and a few times in between. We work hard and have lots of fun as you can see and hear. The extracts of music you hear are from Tihore Mai by Hirini Melbourne, Bogoroditse Devo by Sergei Rachmaninov, Till Autumn Comes by Gary Steward, Red, Red Rose by Cheryl Camm, Now Westlin Winds which is a traditional Scottish song with lyrics by Robert Burns, Come Again by John Dowland and Abendlied by Josef Rheinberger.”

August 6th

Light and granite

Granite corner

Men with granite in the kitchen. A man with paint in the bathroom. These were today’s developments. The man with the paint will be back tomorrow and the next day and maybe more. The men with granite have departed. Tonight was choir. We laughed and sang a lot, so nothing new there. But we started learning this with quite a bit of success.

5.27am. A sunrise “Good Morning!” from the full stop at Worksop Station.

August 5th
Sunrise at Worksop Station. Recently refurbished I might add. I was very taken with the traditional green and yellow colours of Great Central Railway, and also the full stop on the new Worksop signs. Later I went to Wakefield for a day of composing with visiting families at The Hepworth. Lots of new lullaby fun with an old favourite “Pigeon Hands”, originally composed to illustrate William Roberts’ “The Pigeon Carriers”, today its inspiration was “Three Boys and a Pigeon” by Daniel Meadows.

Modern Nature: British Photographs from the Hyman Collection

August 4th
Mummy and Cheryl mess about in the sunshine at Roche Abbey near Rotherham. For some reason, the camera has given us extra arms.

August 3rd
I’ve driven to Worksop through thick Friday traffic and energetic thunderstorms. I’ve had crispy food cooked by Mum. Yum – crispy food is hard to achieve when all you have is a microwave! Back at home the kitchen floor has been laid and Neil’s been back and fitted the reclaimed Hungarian factory lights over the sticky-out kitchen bench. I won’t be able to check them out until Monday now. Jamie’s sent me photos, but it’s not the same, eh?! An overheard remark in Worksop town centre this afternoon: “I was chuffed to ninepence: I went and bought tins of tuna.”

Bye Bye Skip!

August 2nd
Last week The Bridge Singers gave a me some end of year gifts, one of which was this damson tree. Today, I finished the preparation of the bed into which I have now planted it. The sun deserted me by the time I took pictures, but I will mark its progress with more pictures in sun and rain, no doubt. I should accompany the pictures with a recording of the choir singing the Prune Song, but alas, I seem to have no such thing, so we’ll have to be content with the learning tracks instead! Also today we waved goodbye to the skip. Kitchen flooring is arriving tomorrow!


August 1st
Album: Lines In The Sand. Up early for my favourite morning occupation. My head’s full of ideas at the moment so this is the perfect setting to allow them to evolve into something complete.

Horizon Line

Crevice Lines

Rock Lines

Stripe Lines

Froth Lines

Bird Lines

Concrete Lines

Stick Lines

Splash Line

Tide Line

Sun Lines

Fence Line



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