Tuesday 15 October 2013

A herd of gurdies

Cousin Mira's partner Ray with old gurdy-buddies Sam Palmer, Nigel Eaton and Cliff Stapleton, heads still buzzing after the Blowzabella do on Saturday.

Ray didn't play with BZB, but he will be playing the hurdy-gurdy solo for the live orchestral soundtrack to the 1927 silent film 'Napoleon' at the Festival Hall on 30 November. At least, that was his excuse for not coming to our Dansez Français Bal that night ...

And if you want confirmation of just how dangerous this instrument is, just look at Cliff's arm.

Cousin Report #27

There I was, at the Blowzabella do the other night, pretty much minding my own business, soaking up the music and sipping down the London Pride, when I was accosted by this woman asking "are you Michael"?

Well I couldn't really deny it, especially when she said "surname Shade?", and I'm glad I didn't because it turned out to be my distant cousin Mira. We had never met, though we did have a brief email exchange a few months ago, during which we realised we would both be going to the BZB do last night.

She's my great-grandmother's brother's second wife's great-grand-daughter - is there a word for that? She'd been googling for her grandmother, Mary Levin, and came across a photo I'd put up on Flickr a couple of years ago from a Walk I did around some of our Levin places in the East End: I'd tagged the photo with some of the family names, and Google spotted them.

It turns out she and her husband are keen on French traditional music, and he plays the hurdy-gurdy. The world, as they say in Spain, is a handkerchief.

BZB 35 - hit by a Wall of Sound

Blowzabella held their 35th Anniversary do at Cecil Sharp House on Saturday. A packed dance workshop in the afternoon, a four-hour music session in between times, and a non-stop 3-hour Wall of Sound in the evening, with a mix of old and new repertoires all unashamedly for dancing, which we did, unashamedly.

In the photo Jon Swayne and Paul James sing on the pipes, Jo Freya swings on the clarinet, and Grégory Jolivet hums to himself on the hurdy-gurdy. Not to mention Dave Shepherd on fiddle, Barnaby Stradling on bass, and Andy Cutting on melodeon - couldn't fit them all into this picture, but here they are below. What a band!

They brought on too many former members to mention them all here - but it did get rather special when Nigel Eaton, Sam Palmer and Cliff Stapleton were all up there gurdying away together.

There's a new CD - 'Strange News', as in "Strange news is come to town / strange news is carried", a line from the beautiful English traditional song The Blacksmith. If the record is anything like the live performance, it'll be a cracker.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Le Potager du Roi

While we were in Paris last summer, we went over to Versailles to see 'Le Potager du Roi', the King's Kitchen Garden, built for Louis XIV in the 17th Century. It's a few hundred metres from the palace - they must have needed a good few wheelbarrows to get all the produce into the kitchen every day! Nowadays they sell most of it in the little shop by the entrance. Only a few photos this time, as it started raining and I decided I'd be better off keeping my phone dry.

Le Potager du Roi

You wanted to reach out and pick those pears, and eat them there and then!

Jan took some photos as well ... The Potager has a website, it looks like it's in French only. And once again, I was prompted to upload the photos by seeing the programme 'Gourmet Gardens' in Monty Don's French Gardens series on BBC2.

Jardin du Prieuré d'Orsan

A couple of years ago we visited the Jardins du Prieuré d'Orsan, in central France. As usual I took loads of photos, but I didn't get round to uploading them until today, prompted by Monty Don's French Gardens programme the other night on BBC2.

Les Jardins d'Orsan

A couple of years ago we visited the Jardins du Prieuré d'Orsan, in central France. As usual I took loads of photos, but I didn't get round to uploading them until today, prompted by Monty Don's French Gardens programme the other night on BBC2.

So here they are. I'm not writing anything about Orsan, because Jan wrote a lovely post that says more than I ever could and in far fewer words, so I'm leaving it to her. Jan's photos are here - you'll recognise some of them from mine, but as usual her eagle eye spots things that I miss.

Orsan's website has some lovely pictures, though you might want to turn off the annoying chirping birds, and a fascinating gardener's blog - Blog du Jardinier - for those that can read French.

You can watch the Gourmet Garden programme in the French Gardens series via BBC iPlayer  - UK only, and you'll have to be quick, it's only available until 22 February.