Category Archives: Special Days

Atlanta, RT and Booker T.

Jillian here.  I just got back from Atlanta, Ga where I attended the Romantic Times Convention. The convention itself was fun and it was good to see other writer friends as well as chat and interact with readers. I had two pretty awesome things happen in the reader arena – with the same book. I wrote a story called Rex, the Ex and the Hex– first draft was done in 12 days – it was such a fun story to write as the hero believes himself to be hexed and visits a number of hoo-doo folks to try to get rid of the hex (like a witch doctor, a haruspex, a tarot reader, etc).

One reader mentioned she read it and thought it was really good and she could tell I was having a blast as I wrote it. That made me happy as I was glad that shone through.

Another reader saw the cover on a magnet on my table at the signing. She grabbed it and said, “You wrote that?” When I said yes, she said, “I loved it so much, I read it twice and I never do that.” – Her words were worth the trip to Atlanta for me.

The other best thing about the conference wasn’t really related to the conference. My friend Sandra and I went to a concert at a local winery/cafe where they serve tapas and their own wines. I love 1960s music and when she said she wanted to go see a man named Booker T. Jones, a Grammy winner, I was all on board for that. I said, “Booker T. and the M.G.s?”

Well, these days, he travels with his son and two other guys. The music is still wonderful. He and his son played a ballad version of Purple Rain by Prince and it was so moving it brought me to tears.

We got a chance to chat with him in the lobby afterward. What a nice, humble, kind man he was. I could’ve stayed there all night. It was that amazing.  If you get a chance to go, do!

here’s one famous song  and another with his son on guitar.  I tried to upload one of the videos I made but for some reason, the computer said no.  We were seated right by the piano. It was awesome.

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Singing with Macapello Choir

One year ago I told you about my Macapello Choir at a singing day at a big Choir Convention in Bristol, I cannot believe a year has passed but then it has been a challenging year.  Macapello Choir’s latest performance was on Sunday 9th April 2017 at this year’s Choir Convention.  Some of you may remember reading about last year’s Convention where we performed the song we had written ourselves, When Will I See the Sun. This year we managed to be slightly different to all the other choirs by walking onto the stage singing, yes singing and walking! Risky!!  We performed four songs in total. First walking on, two songs whilst on the stage, the fourth as we walked off again, singing! Wow despite our reservations it went down a storm!

The Convention brings together 16 choirs from the south west of England for a day’s singing.  The first part of the day consists of combined singing, about 500 people together, in four part harmonies.  We learn the songs on the day so it is always fun and a great way to meet new people.  We have a lunch break then same format applies.  Four experience musicians lead the day but in the evening each choir performs a variety of songs.  Some choirs were ambitious this year which added to our anxiety levels.  One large choir performed a piece by Bruckner another a piece by Elgar, this is the level of choral societies rather than community choirs so we were suitable impressed.  One group sang a tribute to David Bowie, other performances range from Gospel through Swing to Classical.  Standards vary of course but everyone is enthusiastic and enjoy the performance.  Accolades from one’s peers always feel special.

We had to wait until the second half to perform our songs again making us nervous.  The adrenaline kicks in once we start but our leaders keep reminding us to breath, smile, relax, focus – all at the same time! We began with Well I woke up this morning with my mind set on Freedom … a lively, uplifting gospel song.  We settled ourselves down then sang Your Children which I have told you about before.  Next was our ambitious  Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold one of the themes from the film The Hobbit. The Basses have the lead in this and as we only had 3 we were apprehensive, especially the three guys! Well, we earned a standing ovation.  In shock we walked off the stage singing Famba Naye a rousing African song which many of the audience knew so they sang along with us.  We  managed to keep within the time limit – just – 8 minutes for the whole thing! Our choir leaders Dave and Lisa were over the moon as the other choir leaders congratulated them on our achievement. Sadly I’m not able to share all the sound files.

What a night!  We sang on the coach home although we were exhausted. I love being in my choir as many of you know but an occasion like this makes me feel so proud of a group of people of all ages (top heavy on over 50’s at moment!), backgrounds and skill levels who come together to make such wonderful music.


The venue is beautiful with great acoustics.

 

 

Click here to hear Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

It’s That Time of Year Again

So, here we are again at that time of year when everyone seems to go crazy, often completely overboard just because it’s Christmas. A special time of year, yes, but Christmas is only 1 day. One day, not 3 months, which is how it now seems to be. It was back in August when I first spied Christmas cards and mince pies for sale in the supermarket; mince pies with a use-by date of 31 Oct 2016! And as we hit December running, I can’t find my usual things in the supermarket, because shelves have been reorganized for Christmas stock – row upon row of chocolates and sweets and all the good things to eat. Horrendous queues at checkouts; one would think we’re going to be snowed in for 6 months with the amount people buy “just in case unexpected visitors arrive!” The stress and worry, never mind cost, usually on credit cards that take over a year to pay off, of buying gifts for everyone including neighbours, the cat, and anyone else who happens to pass or ring the doorbell. Houses in our town decorated since October with icicle lights blinking from the guttering, and Christmas trees on sale in November, which will have shed all their needles by 25 December.mr-mrs-snowman

I may sound a bit of a grouch, a kill-joy, Scrooge, a person who hates Christmas, but I am not. Quite the contrary. I think it is a magical, wonderful time of the year. I just wish it didn’t start so early, that the commercialism wasn’t so intense because nowadays, that sparkle, that anticipation has been killed. It just isn’t the same any more.

In my childhood home, the Christmas tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve, long after we kids were in bed so that in the morning, there it was in all its glittering glory with our presents – mostly handmade by my parents: clothes and toys, just a few each, stacked underneath. As children in the 1950s and early 1960s we were extra lucky, although we didn’t realise it at the time.

Every year my German grandmother would send over a large parcel to us in England. It would be packed with all the lovely, delicious treats of Christmas that were then unobtainable here: glittering Advent calendars, iced gingerbread hearts and Lebkucken, and Pfeffemusse, marzipan filled Stollen, and so much more. I think it was smell of that parcel I remember most, that wonderful spicy cinnamon and ginger smells that said “Christmas is coming.”

tree Christmas in the Domino house is a very quiet affair now. We do have a tree, an artificial black one with gold baubles and one two other little sentimental decorations. We stopped doing presents years ago, except for the littlest children, and how much simpler and more enjoyable it has become. We’d rather folk spent their money on themselves, not on us. We don’t have turkey to eat, we don’t like it. We might indulge in a Christmas pud and a few mince pies, but no crackers to pull on the table. No fuss, no hassle, simply a large enjoyable meal in good company in an atmosphere of calm serenity to relax in.

Don’t get me wrong. I love large family gatherings. The noise, the laughter, the company, and I do so wish I could have all of my family at mine one year, but we are many and scattered far afield. Thank goodness for the telephone and internet so we can at least speak to each other even if we can’t share a hug and a kiss. The thoughts are with family. With friends. With those we have lost and those who are new to the fold. With memories. To me, this is what Christmas is all about: Family. Not the gifts, not the food, not the decorations, as much as I love seeing them. It’s also about magic. Father Christmas and sleigh bells, and the Christmas movies to make you laugh and perhaps shed a tear.

I’ll leave you with what is one of my favourite Christmas carols. Apologies if you’ve heard it before but I’m sure many haven’t. Whatever Christmas means to you and whatever you do this Christmas, do have a good one. A safe one. A warm one, from the heart.

Silly me: I meant to include the English lyrics. These are the closest and best I’ve come across for translation.

The Bells Never Sound Sweeter

The bells never sound sweeter
Than at Christmas-time.
It’s as if angels would sing
again of peace and joy,
How they sang at blessed night!
How they sang at blessed night!
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

Oh, when the bells ring out,
As soon as the Christ child hears them,
He swings from the sky
Hastily down to earth.
He blesses the father, the mother, the child
He blesses the father, the mother, the child.
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

It chimes with a sweet sound
Far across the seas,
So that all will take delight in
The blessed Christmas-time.
All rejoice with beautiful song,
All rejoice with beautiful song,
Little bells with their holy ringing,
The earth chimes along!

 

 

July Happenings

July has been hectic even manic at times! A Roller-coaster of a month so far and it’s not over yet!! A red letter day was 10th when my youngest grandaughter Alice aged 10 appeared on the West End Stage, in London, with her Stage School. The Shaftesbury Theatre is at the heart of Theatreland. A coach full of excited performers and their families left the West Country, where we live, and drove to London. Anxious parents (and grandparents) dropped the children, with their teachers, off outside the theatre then we had a whole afternoon to spend in London. We chose to go to Covent Garden which was a short walk away. We made straight for an Italian Restaurant, one of Evie’s favourite places (Alice’s older sister aged 12) where she chose her usual ham and mushroom thin based pizza. Oh and olives to start with mini ciabatta rolls sizzling in garlic butter. Peter (known as BapBap by the grandchildren) and I (NanNan) had a delicious, rich, beef stew with gnocchi and Kate (Mum, our daughter) had roasted vegetable calzone. Perfect to set us all up. The olds also had an excellent glass of red wine each. Feeling suitably revived we wandered the stalls. Street musicians, acrobats, and students from the Royal Opera House sang, danced and performed around the squares. Tourists from many different countries followed their tour guides or just sat absorbing the scene. Sun shone gloriously, we managed to eat various flavoured gelatos to round off the afternoon, oh and fitted in some retail therapy. BapBap carried the bags patiently! Then it was time for the show.

The theatre is beautifully decorated, three tiers soared into the roof but we were in the front of the stalls. 16 different Stage Coach Schools from around the country as well as London gathered to perform, the standard of each school was incredibly high. We cheered loudly when our school came on in the second half but they got a standing ovation at the end of their performance. The theme of their piece was Land Girls (and boys) in the Second World War. The hair was in 40s style, with a modern twist, and uniforms of dungarees and shorts. They looked great. I know I was a proud grandma! They sang a selection of popular songs from the time with back-shots of real people projected onto a screen. Ages ranged from 10 to 16, the polished performance was worthy of that great theatre. FB_IMG_1468739361811Freddie Underwood, the Principal and Director beamed with pride. What a night.

A trip to Wales to see my niece Rhiannon graduate on 14th with a Masters Degree in Education. You have seen photos of Rhiannon in a previous blog. We were pleased to be invited and again proud of her achievements, a single mum who teaches full time.  On 19th her daughter Kerys graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, we were unable to attend but what a pair of amazing women they are. 20160714_161836

The other big occasion was between these two events on 17th when we hosted a family reunion at our small house. Luckily the sun shone as a total of 35 of us gathered (all my immediate family plus some of my cousins) aged from 84 down to 3. It was the first time for 15 years since the majority of us last met, none of the 7 young children were born then. My 5 grandchildren were there aged 3-12, my 8 year old great-nephew, a 6 year old cousin, 3 other great-nephews aged 16 and 18 and Kerys 21. Plus of course their parents and grandparents. Lots of champagne flowed, everyone brought food ranging from vegetarian pies, home-cooked gammon and beef, chicken dishes, salads galore, desserts, cheese, cakes you name it. Not much was left by the time everyone had gone home! The photo gives a small flavour of the day. received_1042511749178271

Wednesday 20th was my big Choir Concert. We sang the song we wrote earlier this year, When Will I See The Sun, for only the second time in public plus a range of other music from old English folk songs to a moving song, Pura Mame, from Figi honouring our ancestors. Another wonderful night, a dear friend was there to cheer me on and might submit a comment!20160720_195234_Burst05[1]

My birthday is on 30th but my son Matthew is 45 on 27th and my grandson Pete is 7 on 1st August so more celebrations to follow! Pete will be in New York with 16 members of the American branch of his family.

August will settle down and we can recharge, maybe.

It’s Ladies’ Night by Valerie J. Patterson

It’s ladies’ night!  Oh what a night!

Last month I invited the ladies from the office over for a little dinner and some poker.  I expected it to be a good night.  I expected us to have a couple hours of playing cards, eating, and talking.  I expected everyone to have a good time.

I was wrong…

It was a great night!  It was several hours of non-stop laughter and shenanigans!  And everyone had a fantastic time!

I can’t wait to do it again!

Oh my!  Put five ladies in a room together, add a deck of cards, some poker chips, food, snacks, wine, and dessert [and a charming male who makes intermittent appearances throughout the evening] and you have the recipe for an exceptional evening!

We ate.  We played poker.  We ate again.  We played poker.  We ate again.  We played more poker.  We talked about everything under the sun, laughed at ourselves, discussed work for perhaps 30 seconds, and then went straight into carrying on again.

Did I mention we played poker and ate?

It’s good to get together and get away from the stress of the job, the worries of the family, and just relax and laugh and share…and be with other women who understand that we all need to escape once in a while, let our hair down, and be completely at ease being who we are individually.

The time passed so quickly that evening, but oh my how fun it was to be there in the midst of it all as one of the gals!

Until next time, may you gather your friends together, laugh until the cows come home, and play a little poker!

Artists and their gardens.

I promised in my April blog to tell you about one more treat I had, an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse is the latest block buster exhibition and a feast to the eye, particularly for those of us who love gardens. It ended on 20th April and I am unsure if it will be shown elsewhere. I studied art history and achieved a Masters Degree in History of Art:Venice and Europe from Warwick University in 2000, when I was 52. A life changing event as my core term was 10 weeks in Venice studying Renaissance art, I left my husband and family to study for a year at university as a postgraduate student – took a lot of nerve and support! My plan was to start on a whole new career but health issues prevented me, despite the setback I am left with a love of art which will not leave me.

The delight of this exhibition was that works by many artists I’ve not heard of were displayed. The rooms featured paintings of Impressionist Gardens, International Gardens, Gardens of Silence, Avant-Gardens, Gardens of Reverie but the main focus was on Monet’s early years at Giverny and his later years at Giverny culminating in a room featuring his Waterlilies. As well as paintings one room had a scaled down model of Monet’s heated greenhouse with seedlings and plants ready to plant. Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1926. His work covers that period including the years when failing eyesight, a cataract, affected much of the colour palette of his work. I cannot describe much of the work as I am limited in space but suffice to say I was transported. I wish I had bought the catalogue but my house has hundreds of art books and catalogues and little space so I resisted!

The paintings included work by Scandinavian artists, French, American, German, Spanish – some personal others huge displays. Scattered through some of the rooms were notebooks detailing botanic sketches of various plants and huge photographs of some of the artists working in their gardens. Some with their team of gardeners!. The viewer has a glimpse of the world of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Architecture varies which reflects colours and textures of various countries. The warmth of Spain, the cool colours of Northern Countries, each work is a blend of colour and vibrancy. Camille Pissaro’s vegetable garden contrasts with Renoir’s wild gardens, others bring the outside inside through glass windows and reflections but everything stimulates the senses.

I hope I have given a flavour of my wonderful day, a difficult task for me to undertake as I cannot cover the long list of work. I have put a link to the website which has a little about the exhibition as it’s finished but lots of other interesting information so do check it out. The exhibition catalogue will be available on-line if anyone would like to buy it. I haven’t included any images myself as I’m uncertain of rules regarding copyright. The main thing is that gardens offer places for quite contemplation, sharing with other people, eating and drinking, playing – particularly with children – but plants in window boxes can offer a different perspective of gardening. In the UK many waste spaces are being reclaimed by local communities, orchards are being planted in the middle of built up spaces, roundabouts are cultivated and many of these initiatives offer free fruit and vegetables. The schemes don’t seem to get vandalised either, bring communities together and get neighbours talking. All show the power of the garden.

www.royalacademy.org.uk

Surprise Surprise

Easter Sunday dawned a very special day for my family in that it was also my mother’s 90th birthday. My sisters and I had racked our brains trying to think of a suitable present, but what can you get for a gentle, fit and independent lady who has had a full, exciting life and done much more than most of us would ever dream of doing. There was simply nothing she needed or wanted other than a quiet meal out with her daughters. Ha ha, not this year, Mum! My brother solved the dilemma by deciding to come over from Spain, where he lives, to help celebrate this grand occasion, so we agreed he would be our mum’s birthday surprise. She hadn’t seen him for several years now that her travelling abroad days are over and it is unlikely she will go to Spain again. Thus the plot was hatched.

Bob flew into Bristol airport on Good Friday, where my husband and I met him, an hour’s drive away. It was a beautiful morning. Rather than a boring, hectic drive across the city, we took him the scenic route where he could enjoy the views and spring daffodils and fresh greenery our country does so well at this season, scenes he hadn’t realised how much he missed. Saturday was wet, windy and depressing so we spent the day relaxing and catching up on all our news and gossip, until the early hours of Sunday morning. It was 2:30 am before we ventured upstairs to bed, only then realising the clocks had gone forward by an hour and it was really 3:30 am!

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Mum and Bob chatting

We set off at noon to drive to one of my sister’s home where we were having an informal, relaxed family get together. Everyone was already there so Dave and I went in and said our hellos etc before I called Mum out into the hallway, saying her birthday present was there and that it was too heavy for me to carry in. The look on her face when she saw my brother was priceless; we were all too emotional to take any photos. Once over the shock, the champagne was opened and glasses raised. Another surprise came with the arrival of my daughter and her two children, whom my mother hadn’t seen for some time. It was such a pity that one of my nephews and his wife and son – little George – couldn’t make the journey, they were well missed by everyone, particularly by Bob.

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Mum cutting her cake

Much feasting, drinking, chatting and laughter ensued. Mum’s real present is to be a family photograph of all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered around her. One of my niece’s husband is a professional photographer so busily clicked away as we scrabbled over each other and squeezed up to get us all in – good job we’re a close family. We haven’t seen any of his photos yet but the best one will be blown up onto canvas for her, one Mum, and us, can treasure for years to come.

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My daughter and her two children

We left my brother with our mum so they could spend a few more days enjoying each other’s company before leaving for Spain again. Having spoken to Mum yesterday, she totally enjoyed her birthday, complete with several cakes and balloons, and was over the moon at seeing her only son again – a complete surprise.

And we all look forward to sharing many more birthdays with her.