May and New Beginnings

May 30th and 31st
Two days in Worksop and I’ve been reacquainting myself with Dad’s shed. Those of you who were following these blogs in 2016 will remember my mammoth efforts at trying to get this building into a trim and tidy state. I failed somewhat then, as Dad was reluctant to see some of his prized hotchpotch of rusty nails and sundry other detritus be tossed into the oblivion of the Nottinghamshire household recycling system. Well, now the client for my tidying efforts is Mum, and she is not so sentimental about detritus. When I arrived yesterday, said shed contained one large pile of stuff with no space in the middle to even really step in through the door. Now, after much “You’re having a laugh”-ing as each margarine container and biscuit tin of assorted gubbins was opened (one of them was actually empty in one extreme case of capriciousness) and sorted, all items are categorized in one layer around the edge of the shed, with things that she will need the most nearest the door, but no matter if she needs something else, everything can be seen from the middle of the shed which is now the majority of the shed. Now relaxing with cricket on the telly. A good end to the month.

Have a look here for those old shed stories: 23rd – 29th March.

May 29th
After my excellent research trip to Alnwick Castle this morning with the very lovely and informative Yvonne and Gary, I am now inspired by the Steller’s Eider Duck, and will write a song about (or at least containing) it forthwith. I’ve already written a song about the Eider Ducks we get here in Northumberland, so another should be a piece of cake, right? Here’s the bird in question, if you’re interested. A handsome fellow, and the particular interest of Lord William Percy, who saw service in World War 1, both post and pre trips to the Arctic for ornithological pursuits. This Steller’s Eider Duck was his particular interest: “… the most fascinating of all ducks in the Old World or the New.”

May 28th
We’re singing this song in The Bridge Singers at the moment. It sounded very mellow and croony this evening. Not quite as mellow as this version, perhaps, but a very creamy sound was being created. That’s the point, so I was very happy!

May 27th
Busy but marvellous day in the sun giving me headaches and tiredness of eye and therefore an excellent sleep at the end of it: singing jauntily with Lionheart Harmony at Aln Valley Railway, chatting and snacking with Gwyn, Anne and other friends in their glorious garden, home for nap and catching up on the Chelsea Flower Show on telly (trying not to think about my weedfest outside) driving Shuna and Lesley May to Ingram Valley to sing madrigals with Madri Gals, where it was a treat to sing 2nd soprano with Kate and eat Penny’s superior cake. This is one of my favourite ever madrigals and we’re singing it soon at Feltonbury. I remember the first time I sang it was at an ad hoc singalong with Southern Consort of Voices for Chris when he was departing Dunedin. Dowland is wonderful. This video combines Dowland amongst friends with a heritage railway, so sums up the day rather well.

May 26th
Roaming round for hours looking at lights and seeking out shelf brackets has been the order of the day. Tynemouth Market was a highlight as ever. Also bumping into Jacqui and Peter, and then Shuna and David – you don’t expect to meet choir and village friends in Newcastle, so a complete treat. No music today alas, but here’s one I did earlier.

May 25th
Album: Time Out In York
Approaching from different directions, Mum and I met up in York for some climbing of steps, gazing in awe and railway banter. I arrived first and left last, so plenty of time for more gazing at either end of the day. Bonus treats of the day were a chat with Andrea twixt Alnmouth and Newcastle and fried cheese, avocado and bacon sandwiches at home with Jamie.

Lines, streaks and hands.

Roof fan.

Trying to line up the logo and the clock and not being quite tall enough.

Time to reflect at St. Wilfrid’s Church, next to the Minster

“I can see it!” Mum cried with glee as we gazed down from the top of York Minster’s Central Tower

Roofline. 270 steps up, they said, and Mum confirmed the maths on the way down.

Rainy tourists waiting for their tour to start. Happy to have opportunities to look down on umbrellas.

Gargoyles, windows, ceiling, school group, tour group, kerfuffle, Chapter House.

Time to mess about in a hidden cranny.

Time to pull yourself together, Sir Nigel.

“I don’t want to climb another step!” she said, and sat down!

Time to mess about again in an even more hidden cranny.

Creatures on the Astronmical Clock, back at York Minster. The choir was practising for evensong at the time. Sublime.

I went back to the Chapter House and no-one was there. I sang and it was resonant, and therefore I sounded grand.

Twisted clock.

Pillars and clock.

5.45, in fact, but this building and this clock are not working.


















May 24th
Claire said, “I’ve been listening to some of your music on Youtube. Some of it’s really way out, and then some of it’s really simple. I like it” Sheila said (with audible approval from those around her, after learning “You Will Remember” this morning) “Oh Cheryl, that’s really beautiful!” “Look Back!” raced past 1000 views today on Youtube – that’s two of my pieces in the last month or so that have tipped over that milestone. Lionheart Harmony sang “No Umbrella Blues” this evening ready for performance on Sunday. This was a good composery day!

May 23rd
I’ve been finishing off my arrangement for SATB choir of You Will Remember in readiness for the Remembrance concert in November, and while I was at it I made a more versatile arrangement for an ensemble of your choosing, with melody part, two accompaniment parts and a bass line – this could be performed by a singer with instruments, or by a vocal ensemble of any voices, or a mixture. I added the links to my blog on the song too:


May 22nd
A year since I wrote this. Oh my! I rather like it. Grown-up music, see!

May 21st

JCB with phone box

I fielded phone calls for Jamie who had hightailed it to London. I boarded a bus which was overheating in several ways and had to keep pausing for breath. I spotted blue and white sailor shirts everywhere I went in Alnwick. Are they the current fashion, or are they always popular attire and I’m now more attuned to them on account of yesterday’s concert apparel? I deposited cheques at the bank. The customer before me was talking loudly about it being a very backward branch what with the counters and actual people serving behind them. She told admiring tales of space stations of machines at the big city branches and people-less super-efficiency, and spoke disparagingly of old folks set in their ways preventing the thrusting advance of the young and their space stations. I felt old as I smiled gratefully at the ironically young woman behind the counter whose job was being willed away only moments before.

One moment before landing – the road’s about to be pre-potholed.

I returned home to find a low loader dropping off a JCB outside the house. It was an entertaining process which involved much rattling of chains, ribald remarks from men in high viz jackets (actually one of them was wearing a blue and white sailor’s shirt), a little bit of road-surface re-shaping, which come winter may well add to the pothole count on the new bridge, then it trundled off away to the pub for some merriment with the other machinery in their car park. I laughed and joked and sang with Carol. I went off to choir and it was as ever splendid. We laugh a lot and sing a lot and improve a lot – next step: turning pages silently. I went with a few chorister colleagues to The Foxes Den to find that Jamie had returned. Wheeeeh. I had a hug, then chatted merrily to others, then a further hug.


The sailor man and his levers

May 19th-20th
Weekend. A couple of shots, seconds apart, from sunrise at Warkworth Beach on Saturday, and a song I was reminded of while chatting to my old colleague Ros at The Sage in Gateshead on Sunday evening. Indeed there were lots of lovely chats with old friends and colleagues not seen for a while. I composed this song for a trio of schools in the area, and it was performed by them at an event in Alnwick Playhouse in 2011. This is the chorus which they all sang, then each school had their own verse inspired by their particular bit of Northumberland. Happy memories and as Ros said, “A very cool song!”
Stop! Touch the history on the breeze,
See the sturdy castles.
Listen to the tales
This sandstone can tell.
Cool, burling streams, bubbling up through the hills,
Meander through the dales towards the sea.
Trundling waves brush the golden sand dunes
Stop! Stay awhile in our home Northumberland.

The most magical moment of any sunrise walk.

Seaweed and other acceptable debris.

May 18th. Album – Sunrise Walk. My it was cold, but gorgeous as usual. The tide was so far in that I couldn’t make it to the rocks at Birling Carrs. The highlight of my walk was after my camera had run out of power, alas – a family of stonechats stonechatting in a bush in the dunes, silhouetted against the blue sky and staying still for ages. It would have been a great photo! As I watched them in delight, a pair of linnets twittered by, and then on the way home lots of yellowhammers on telephone wires and gateposts caught my eye. In other news today, I completed my arrangement of You Will Remember for the Remembrance concert and I hightailed it to Fingers Adrift this evening where I played with reasonable accuracy and energy, but had trouble with the top A on my descant. The new treble almost made it to the end of the rehearsal too! Nice one!

Tide’s in.

Splish splash!


Green straw – unacceptable debris…..


….picked it up, put it in my pocket, put it in a bin.








Nettle Frost

Ice Picnic

Time to leave










May 17th. When you head off to the supermarket with your pocket full of money, your car full of petrol and your head full of culinary ideas, it’s a happy thing to be sure. And then…..when you stop in the car park to allow someone to reverse out of their space with a smile and a nod, and a flashy blue car overtakes you, stops the reverser in his tracks in a drastic collision-preventing screech, and swings into a parking space directly opposite the reverser….. when two ladies take so long to choose their bananas that you have already selected your entire week’s fruit and vegetables and they still have not cleared the way for you to do your own banana-selecting…..when, during the prolonged fruit and vegetable selection process you are reversed into by a mobility scooter next to the cucumbers and the driver merely continues reversing until she has replaced you successfully at the cucumbers, selects one and speeds off without a word…..when a trolley-wielding couple deliberately head you off at the start of yoghurt aisle, stop, then decide it’s not the right aisle for them, turn in your direction, (you are now in their way as you wait patiently), and ask you brusquely to allow them through…..when two sets of shelf stackers and a customer obliviously stand in a row, completely blocking the confectionery aisle, you wait patiently for over a minute before the customer moves on, having selected nothing, and one shelf stacker tells you how uncommonly patient you are and you reply with a chortle that in this shop one really needs to be thus…..when you join a till queue and the couple in front of you are slow packers, struggle with their payment methods, move snail-ly away, and the till operative is a learner driver who really doesn’t know very much about the till, the scales, vouchers or which vegetables are which…when throughout all this you are still smiling…..well then you know without a shadow of a doubt that you have earned those white chocolate and raspberry cookies that you slipped guiltily into your trolley while you waited for the aisle-full of elderly customers to make their difficult bakery decisions.

May 16th
Sunrise with no sun. Tide right in, then heading out. Wind howling. A very bracing walk. Back to some Pearsall and Camm choir work. A visit from the boiler man, and then a rehearsal for Sunday’s concert at The Sage Gateshead. It’s Rutter’s Magnificat and L’Estrange’s Ahoy! with 300 other singers. “Of A Rose, A Lovely Rose” is my favourite movement from the concert. I’m a bit annoyed that I can’t get “Pastime With Good Company” (it’s in Ahoy!) out of my head. It’s a top song but I could do without it in my sleep.


May 15th
Post-meeting chatting for an hour and a half this morning with Anne was a delight. Continuing to sort out the utility room and dispose of things was less so. In between I was sorting out more music for our November 10th WW1 Commemoration/Remembrance concert – particularly this gorgeous song by Ravel, who was a driver in WW1, both in Paris and on the front at Verdun.


May 14th
Sunrise. 4.59am. A busy horizon with two boats and another thing out there as well as the sun. On the drive home there was a small company of linnets and a solitary deer near East Thirston. Such a plethora of morning treats. The music is from this evening’s exceedingly merry and laughter-filled rehearsal with The Bridge Singers. It’s one of the Burns numbers from January which then was for four soloists, but now is for everyone – one of my favourites in a concert that is to be filled with them. This is one of my arrangements, and I must admit that I’m rather proud of it.


May 13th
Three responses to my music in recent days that mean I’m doing something right, or everything wrong. “We can’t include your music in our programme because it’s too difficult to sing and too difficult for our audience to listen to.” “Your music is too simple and not deep enough. Composers who write mostly for children are not what we’re about.” “When are you going to compose something new for us? – we love your music.” Makes you ponder.

May 12th
Today I’ve spent the day alternately with lovely Jamie and with lovely Alison, and indeed for this Aracadelt number, both were there: firewood sorting; kitchen floor choosing; sight-reading at Felton Music Saturday (including soprano-ing with Jenny and alto-chatting with Anne); salad and continued-banana-cake munching; 2nd-soprano-ing with Mary amidst much merry chat with lots of village and choir friends on our Madri-Gals selection for Feltonbury; cheery Peter-chatting as I stroll back home; strimmer-watching; garlic bread and dip snacking (We can finally have the garlic bread now there are no more people to chat to or sing with!), binge watching The Woman in White (2 episodes left for tomorrow evening). )….and it was sunny and tomorrow it will rain and that’s OK because I like the rain and I’m not going anywhere. Splendid Saturday.


May 11th
Started the day with the sunrise at Amble. I went to my usual place at Warkworth, but turned right instead of the cutomary left. The tide was out and I was able to get right into the bottom of the staithes. My camera was having a blurry morning, though, so this is the best of them unfortunately. Three swans, one trawler and the edge of Coquet Island. The rest of the day whizzed by in a storm of wood store frustration, banana cake and plumber chat. Jamie says he’s going to sort out the wood in the morning, the banana cake is delicious and the plumber is on our side. All’s well. The music here is Lionheart Harmony singing No Umbrella Blues at Thursday’s rehearsal. Present were Gary, Simon, Sid, Mick and me. I love that it’s just part of our repertoire now. We’re singing it next at Aln Valley Railway on May 26th, I believe.


May 10th
I wrote an article about The Bridge Singers for The Bridge, which is our local newsletter, beating the 10th of the month deadline in relaxed fashion with hours and hours to spare, then spent the day in an assortment of sorting, cooking, arranging and bathroom pondering – how to fit everything in there is more ridiculously tricky than you might imagine when you consider the enormous size of it. The bathroom man is coming again tomorrow, so we really need to have a clear idea. In the evening I went off to Lionheart Harmony and we were a small band of five but merriment was much in evidence and increased towards the very end when Simon made us all guffaw with his literal and dramatic interpretation of the lyrics “you can have this heart to break”. I then went off to collect Jamie from Alnmouth Station and for once I was out at sunset as it enhanced to great effect the signal box.


May 9th
I went for a walk to deliver a laminator and some music and I saw a charm of goldfinches. I went to a rehearsal for the big spectacular at The Sage and chatted with several parties of old friends. I was planning our Remembrance Recital and I remembered this song.


May 8th
I awoke early, full of Fyer Fyer and hied me to the seaside for the sunrise. This cockle making a 3 in the sand and this warbler (a sedge warbler I thought as it darted about, mostly out of camera range) entertained me royally. In these days of heightened pothole awareness on Northumberland’s backroads and not-so-backroads, there’s still the opportunity to gaze with wonder at the huge amounts of blossom on all the blossom trees this year and also at the sudden and startling explosion of verge dandelions. I feel sorry for the Northumberland County Council pot-hole fillers, with their huge lengths of road to maintain and the sudden deterioration in all the road surfaces following the cauld blast in early spring. I might write a song about them. Upon my eventual return I found lovely flowers hanging from the door-knob from choir and village friends, the Allans. Such a treat. They’re now on display in my “The Bridge Singers” front window if you want to see them.


May 7th
Monday, so The Bridge Singers had their rehearsal, even though it was a Bank Holiday. And an excellent turn-out in spite of oodles of sun and traffic all day. The sopranos and altos finished off the note-bashing for Red, Red Rose with me, while the tenors and basses attended to their own needs on Westlin Winds in the small room. Deep Purple and Caravan are settling nicely as is this…Fyer Fyer. We’re at the stage now where we can start to think about making it sound light and carefree. At the moment it’s loud and feisty, but with now only the occasional mis-step. I’m so proud of this choir singing stuff like this. I’ve learnt that they like to learn things loud and feisty, but then are perfectly capable of adding the subtlety required for performance – performances which are still over a month away. The recording is of course flawed due to the machine’s proximity to me and, the basses and 2nd sopranos who stand directly in front of me. The picture is from Saturday when the sky was indeed on fire.


May 6th
I’ve been preoccupied with two arty tasks today – tiles for the bathroom and how they should be arranged around the new shower cubicle come July, and tweaking the design for the upcoming Summer Road Show by The Bridge Singers following the exacting standards set by the committee at their recent meeting. You’ll have to wait for one, but here’s the other. Do come along and hear us on Saturday June 16th at one or more of our stop-offs. We are currently learning and polishing some truly excellent music. While I’ve been doing this, I’ve been catching up on lots of radio I’ve missed recently and also listening to the final day of the Championship season on BBCRadio5Live, and I did get incredibly excited at about 2.30 when Cardiff City were promoted to the Premier League without having to go through the play-offs after a 0-0 draw with Reading. In truth, the most excitement was with the relegation battles, and what wonderful radio it is with all matches starting and finishing just-about simultaneously, and commentators butting in frantically from all round the country as last-minute goals go in and everything is turned on its head once again. Snooker in the evening – much more relaxing, especially when you don’t mind who wins. Meanwhile, I believe it’s been another sunny day outside…and warm too.

May 5th

My first sight of the sun.

Sunrise. At this time of year, there’s much credit to be gained from hightailing it down to the seaside at dawn, and the rewards are numerous, I can tell you. Both the sun and moon were at play this morning, as well as a barn owl, reed warblers, a linnet, many pied wagtails and the usual oystercatchers and other sea birds. I was focussed on the sun and the sea which were in perfect harmony.

The overall pinkness was very serene.

Four Cuddy Ducks sport with the beams.



Big, curly shell.

Floating Coquet Island.

Blocks. I wrote a song about them once….also a log. Alnwick & District Choral Society did the world premiere of it. It’s called The Log On The Beach.

















May 4th
In the evening, Rock Festival Choir sang at Alnwick Gardens for an event down by the lake and cherry blossom. We sang this amongst other things. I took the pictures so I’m not in any of them, but I did sing all but one song, and am on this recording from last summer!



May 3rd

Beautiful sister. Beautiful greenhouse.

Portaloo sunset. Sun behind the clouds, alas.

Things you do on the day after your Dad’s funeral: take your brother to Sheffield for a train to Manchester Airport at 2.30am; have a nap; take your husband to Retford for a train to London at 7.30am; eat leftover sausage rolls;

Cloche Central

Device for extreme pruning

sleep during the morning; wake up for fish and chips with your mother, sister, brother-in-law and close friend; field a belated and slightly irritating phone call from Nottinghamshire Care Services who now would like to set up a care package so that your mother can care for your father at home;

Gate in need of repair

Grate Weeds

wave off your brother-in-law and close friend who are returning home; leave your Mum at her home for a much-needed sleep in front of the telly cricket while you head off with your sister for a fresh-air walk in Clumber Park; laugh and joke and walk in Clumber Park; return home to find that your mother has on a whim encouragingly gone out to see friends at church and will be back in an hour; eat cream cake and finish watching the cricket from earlier; go to bed early; sleep instantly.

May 2nd
When your lovely husband sings at your Dad’s funeral, and your beautiful sister delivers with humour and steadiness a eulogy that makes everyone laugh… when your sort-of cousin tells you that as such occasions go this was a splendid day, and when about 100 people fill up the church to help you say goodbye…when hugs and generous words and happy reminiscences and people from all walks of his life come along to the food fest afterwards and tell happy stories of him and them and you…well then you sort of have a good day in spite of everything.


May 1st
My sister makes beautiful flower arrangements. Here’s her latest with one of my favourite windows.


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