I haven't written a blog since my time in Japan which was full of new experiences that I wanted to record and share. But in actual fact I'm presented by many new sights, sounds and tastes all the time in my own country. So, before I return again to the very distant islands of Japan, I shall start to record some of what I've been experiencing closer to home.
I have just been touring for the month of July, playing in beautiful venues in beautiful parts of the UK. We reached most corners of the British Ilse, and I saw many places for the first time. Time slows down when you're traveling, you're like a child taking so many new things in. I no longer like to stay in one place for too long. I'm going to practise some more life lengthening, and find out how other people live along the way.
I was accompanied by Ichi (from Japan, my husband), Wig Smith (other half of The Hand), Carrie (responsible for these brilliant photos), and Alessi (who jumped from her ark to ours for 3 dates). One of the most memorable places for us all was the North Yorkshire Moors. We stepped up onto the high ground and flapped like birds in the wind. The sense of so much wide open space was rare and exhillerating. When it was time for our sound check we stepped down from the high ground to a sheltered hamlet, and into scandinavian-esque hut from a different time. Specifically built for live music, the acoustics were beautiful and so we didn't need a PA (which is how we choose to perform whenever possible.)
It's hard to decide which few places to go into detail about when so many left such an imprint. From the incredible acoustic space of the Union Chapel in London, to the Rude Shipyard Cafe in Sheffield with it's cosy bookshop upstairs via a staircase of steps each painted a different colour.
The New Orleans Jazz Club in the loft of an old sweet factory in Louth left a particularly strong impression. The walls were lined with photos of the jazz club members, right back to the days of black and white. There were amazing smokey murals depicting scenes from the streets of New Orleans, and frilly parasoles haging from the cieling beams. Throughout the night the true history and spirit of the place revealed itself to us. I noticed that the bar tender was in the old photographs as his younger self playing the clarinet. I chattered to him and found him so gentle and willing to talk about the history. He told me it had been running for more than 50 years and had never before let outsiders in to play (other than some famous american Jazz players). The jazz club chairman (in the painting playing the trumpet above the queen and behind Ichi playing the trumpet) a stickler for tradition, had not budged for years despite heavy persuasion from other comittee members. Only then, for the first time, had he caved in. And so somehow, there we were, The Hand and Ichi and Carrie, playing our songs, a historal moment within those dusty walls! It was humbling. Lovely people and so memorable. Thanks so much Mark and the others who helped it to happen. I hope many others can have the chance to play there.
Another very memorable day was joining in with the goings on in my uncle's garden in Durham, a jungle on a hill complete with chickens, bees and spiral stone sculptue that he's been building for years. Carrie is in the photo with the chickens. It was organised to raise money for Palestine. There was an Iraqi ude player who was incredible to watch and hear. Scales and rhythms so different to western music. He showed us a clicking of the fingers technique which almost blew my eardrums. Needless to say I hadn't any hope of mastering it. Later some people from Palestine and the Iraqi ude player sang songs from their shared Arabic repetoir and me and Carrie attempted an arabic dance.
All our buzzing about from corner to corner of the UK has been so rewarding in so many ways, like we're yielding honey at every step. In Durhum we had the treat of getting to look inside my uncle John's beehives. Among other things, I learnt about the different roles within the hive, the making of new queens, and the swarming of bees when they run out of space (something John has to work at to prevent). This video, taken by Ichi, shows the bees at work, and the bee keeper at work. It's incredible to see bees working like clockwork as a team, producing all that golden sticky goodness!