Saturday, 24 May 2014

Birthday Corby Brighton Chelsea Flower show

Well, May has become life changing. Great reviews, a great party, great shows and flowers. Got a lot of photos for you, and a bunch of news. Got a wonderful review or too about the place, which is grand as the album is released in the US this coming week. Here's one from Seattle. Where, hint hint, I would love to play.

So - where to start? OK. The big birthday at the 606 club was just brilliant. Habie Schwarz took some superb photos of friends and performers there, and I'm including a couple, here. The 606 was the best host venue in the known cosmos and thanks to the kindness and generosity of my great friend Ernest Hecht we had a superb party. We had curry and prosecco, performances from Mel Harrold, Sarah Moule, Bjarne Norum, John Korn, Claire Martin and Simon Wallace, and Eve Ferret and Ben Bowling spoke, Philip Herbert wrote a poem specially and Rania Hafez read Sufi wisdom. And Mari Wilson, Claire Martin and I had a sing. Ronnie and the Rex blew up a storm and we danced. It was a party and a half and I thank everyone who helped make it so. And there was cake from Megan's in the New Kings Road that went all around London as well.  Here's Ernest having party fun -
Ernest laughing
Steve Ruby Barb and Claire Martin

The Old Girl Talk get together Mari, Claire and Barb

Sally Blades, Barb and Ernest
Phil Herbert getting a big kiss
James Offer brings the cake and candles

Sophie Coats and Amanda Denton Stuart Ongley and Dave Mauchline in the foreground

werewolves of London dancing to Ronnie and the Rex

Then there was a great show last friday night at my lovely second home theatre, The Core in Corby with a fantastic audience of Dylan, Cohen and Barb friends in the audience, before we met with the International Women's Forum weekend. On the saturday we were at BAFTA in the David Lean room (great black and white stills from some of Britain's most celebrated films) and Simon and I got a standing ovation from a fantastic audience of some of Britain's most mover-y and shaker-y women after rocking out Red Red Wine and Forever Young. On the Sunday there was a breakfast debate at King's Place, the sun beat down and we hammered at the way forward for women in the world. We got there in the end. Now we just have to make it so! Inspiring speeches and conversations, on, as Shelley Von Strunckel pointed out, hallowed ground, with Boadicea buried nearby - apparently under a platform at Kings Cross is one theory.

Monday found us in beautiful rural Northamptonshire. I went looking for the grass snake (which resolutely refused to show itself) in Ros's pond, while mum and Ros went to bond with the alpacas in the field beyond. I discovered I have alpaca fear, as they came running towards me and I upped and ran away! I may still be traumatised by the alsatian that ran at me when I was a little girl. But I shall go face my fears and the alpacas again next time I'm at Ros's and make peace with their leader. They kind of look like punk sheep so really we ought to get on fine. Here they are, mum and Ros and the alpacas, all having a super time together.
alpaca fun, Ros and Mum in Brigstock

more alpaca fun for Ros and Mum

alpaca a go go the guys love mum and Ros
After the alpacas we had tea sitting in the late afternoon sunshine in the garden before heading off to a superb rehearsal with Head of Snakes and The Deep Roots Tall Trees choir at The Ark school in Rockingham Road in preparation for the big concert in August. We made for home under a lovely May night sky but no owls and the next day we were up early and off to Brighton, where we hit the pier with a vengeance before I headed off to my shows at Komedia, with Simon playing up a storm and the best audiences in the Brighton festival.
Mum on the pier

Simon - a musician prepares

Mum finally got all of me in on the iPhone

me preparing in dressing room

we love Brighton
Back to London after a couple of great seaside days and then straight to heaven, or Chelsea Flower Show as its also know. I've never been and now I am going to go every year. It brought my latent botanist out, I conversed about carnivorous plants and peonies, cacti and fuchsias with anybody from anywhere who'd care to. What's wonderful is that all the gardeners are more than happy to engage anyone interested, because of the true love they feel for the work they do and the plants they nurture. I embraced the scent of a thousand blossoms. Glorious to be with Aki my sister in law and mum on such a sunny afternoon (after the hail and thunder) and just look at plants (with about ten million other people). We all crawled around in a state of bliss, bathed in photosynthesising artistry. Then we sped off like jet setters to Julian's birthday party, pink champagne and more people. And May isn't even over yet! Just a taster here of Chelsea's marvels and Aki, my mum and I, enjoying them. I'll leave you with the flowers and say - Happy Spring to you all on this gorgeous May Bank Holiday.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Bluebells in Richmond Park and short stories on Radio 4

May burst into sharp focus and the lovely Lena arrived from Australia. She compiles the bi-monthly newsletter and does a superb job, and as, when she visited me,  the day was glorious - Bank Holiday weekend - imagine, good weather on a May Bank Holiday weekend! As it was gorgeous, we headed to Kew Gardens along with half of London, to see the bluebells and walk the treetop walk. Parking proved something of a challenge, and involved sitting in the car eyes peeled like a metal bird of prey ready to swoop into a space when someone else vacated. Once parked though, heaven awaited. The Treetop Walk is quite something. I have suffered form vertigo for some time (couldn't walk across the Carrick Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland) and conquered it by going climbing with John Paul Zaccarini at the Ladbroke Grove Indoor Climbing Wall. If you want to conquer vertigo go to a climbing wall with a circus professor who can scale a rope in 3 seconds. Thats my advice. I managed quite well on that wall and surprised myself. So I had a flying lesson. Near Shoreham there's a small flying centre and you can take a lesson and you fly over the sea in what I can only describe as something thats one step up from a paper plane. The wind bats you about like billyo and you essentially live to face another day, very slightly braver and less scared of turbulence. Recommended. I shall try that rope bridge again when I get the chance - which wasn't when we played Newtownabbey last week, to a glorious audience who couldn't have been nicer. After the gig we met up with John and Dorothy Morrison at Bill and Ed's after show and generously thrown party. Back to Kew. The Treetop Walk takes you in a circle through a bunch of treetops. Thats the general concept. And as the horse chestnuts are in blossom right now, and all the trees are bursting with new life in a million shades of green, it was stunning. Felt like a bird. Bird on a mesh walkway, at any rate. Then to the bluebell woods. Heaven is probably like Kew bluebell woods in spring. Walking through a scent laden sea of tremulous blue flowers, I thought, I could stay here forever.

First flash of the bluebells

The path leads through the blue.

The blue goes on and on…….

Midsummer night's dream could happen here so easily
There's still time to catch the short story Sunset to Break Your Heart, which is set, not as the BBC announced, on Shetland, but on the Isle of Skye, and Barra, South and North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. It was written as part of the Songwriters Write Short Story series for BBC Radio 4, and was a joy and a challenge. Mine is the Sunset to Break Your Heart story in full and words rather than song - though a it of the song tops and tails the piece. It was read by Suranne Jones, and was my first short story to be aired. You can hear it here till Sunday the 11th.

And Sunday and Monday we sing the Dylan and Cohen songs with Dudley Phillips on bass, Simon Wallace of course, on piano, at Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho. Then to Corby on the 16th at The Core at Corby Cube, and beyond that The Brighton Festival, Komedia, on the 20th and 21st of May. All the dates and booking details are here  under Live Dates.

So, see you there, between bluebells.

Till then……..