Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Play The Blues

Once, some people were singing their songs and dancing their dances while the last few who could speak the ancient language were alive. They were trying to record as many kinds of songs as they could - creation story songs, wedding songs, work songs, everyday life story songs. Everything went wrong the entire time they were recording. People disagreed on how to do the songs and dances, they had electrical problems, instruments kept disappearing. Finally, one of the elders called out "Stop, stop!" He said that the spirits were angry because there had been a death just days before and they were not singing the proper songs, funeral songs.  So, the people stopped singing creation story songs, work songs and the like, and began singing songs of sorrowful happenings. Even when they didn't know the words to these songs, the people sounded out each of the syllables of each of the words in their singing and by doing so formed the lyrics perfectly.

These lost words which described the sorrow had turned into parts of words, "syllables of sorrow" and no matter the language, when we hear these syllables which usually descend in tone as does a major chord's slur downward into a minor third, we know that it is a "syllable of sorrow" even when we do not know the meaning of the words. 

We always know when it's a sad song. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So, there's an Afro-Cuban music workshop happening and all the visiting musicians and teachers need to be driven to meals and to gigs and to classes and so, Adam's driver when Adam is in town, is now the Cubans' driver. Here he is after three days of staying up till 3 a.m. or whenever the musicians are ready to go to bed and getting up at 7:30 in the morning or whenever the musicians need to get to breakfast, brushing his teeth, trying to wake up before he drives off in the van.  It is a white van, like Buddy's, but the steering wheel is on the left. Buddy's is on the right. The driver is beginning to look like the musicians he is tending to.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sitting in the Mist

These are
drivers when he is 
on the road 
in California.
No van, no Buddy, 
no Errol Linton's Blues Vibe 
and the road 
is longer
and wider
than in England. 
are farther.

A Long Way From London

Before Knockengorroch, before York, Adam went to the tidepools of Trinidad in California where the sand is a fine, grey crushed gravel and the sky is a white foggy mist. When he returns, he will go there again and walk out onto the rocks that belong to the Pacific Rim. Adam doesn't bring his guitar on the plane, it's too hard on the guitar. There are guitars in California as well as in London.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sigh, Another Fallen Chimney Swift

This morning, another little bird, another Vaux's Swift came down the chimney. It is fat and healthy, so I did as they suggested in the Wildlife Care Center.  I picked it up and I reached as far up the chimney as I could and placed it against the side so it would cling to the bricks and creep its way back up to its nest. It grasped onto the bricks when I let go of it. See Marley in the background? The little birds make him nervous. Either he is worried that this one is a rat - the little swifts screech and screech at times - or that he will get into trouble in some way to do with the little bird. This is a photo of the previous bird to fall from the nest. I didn't take a photo of the one that fell today because I wanted to get him back up the chimney as quickly as possible. Also, it isn't a good idea to handle them unless they need rescuing or feeding. If you look closely at the bird's tail (click on the photograph to blow it up),  you can see little spines at the tip of each tailfeather that the chimney swift sticks into whatever it is clinging to.

I have gone back to the fireplace many times to listen and try and discern if the little bird is okay and will keep watch over the next days to make certain it has not fallen down the chimney. It appears that it has climbed farther up the chimney from where I placed it.  Every day, we can hear the calls of the babies as their parents come down the chimney from above. So much so, you'd think they were inside the room.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Falling Birds

We call them chimney swifts. Sometimes they are called 'faux swallows' or Vaux's Swifts. Without slowing in flight, the parents dive down the chimney to their nests which they had constructed out of sticks held together and stuck to the bricks with spit, much the same spit that holds together the bird's nests in China that become the Chinese delicacy 'bird's nest soup'. Bird's nest soup has not caught on here.

The chimney swifts cannot perch as they do not have the opposing talon - birds' versions of thumbs. They cling to things and are great at climbing up and down on vertical surfaces.

This year, the babies have been tumbling from their nest to the hearth below. When they are as old and fat as this one (I was told after I took it to the Wildlife Care Center), you can reach up into the chimney provided there is no flu or you can reach past the flu  and set the baby on the wall and it will either creep back up to it's nest or the mother will come down to the baby to feed it. I decided to leave it with its 3 other siblings I had taken to the care center each of the three days before this one fell from its nest. This little one has a little bit of food on its beak as it was just fed emergency food to keep it from getting dehydrated (soppy dry dog food made into a pudding is one recommended formula) before I took it to the Wildlife Care Center.  Today, the care center told me it has survived as did all of its siblings I had rescued, but one, who had also come down the chimney. Hopefully, it is the last one to fall. When these babies are ready to fly (perhaps in a week), they will be brought back, nearby my house, where they were born to be released.

After the nest or nests are empty and the birds have flown south, we must put a screen across the chimney once again. It is too worrying to have the little ones tumble down the chimney. Even the dog gets upset as he has been trained to not chase birds and when the little ones are cheeping and flapping about, he gets up and goes into another room.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Teatime In York

It's a the "SpeakEasy" pub in York and it's a soundcheck. Jim, the drummer, travels with everything he needs to make a hot cup of tea on the road at anyplace with a level surface, at anytime the band has stopped. Everyone is hard at work, even though they've been sitting in the van since driving here directly from London and only stopped once at a service station (no, no time for Jim's tea kettle there) and everyone is hungry and tired, but that's what tea is for.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Doorstep

In the daytime, doors open and close. From the street, steps are most usually seen as something to walk up to get to the door.

In the night, an enclosed set of steps in front of a door could mean a place to sit out of the rain. Or, it could appear as a place to sleep somewhat protected from the cold and those who wander the darkness.

Or, a door above the steps could be an entranceway to a warm room with a table where you pay to be given a hot drink and a chair in which to sit and youwatch through the window as the rain falls on the sidewalks outside? Or, behind the door stands a desk and behind that sits a clerk to whom you pay for a place to sleep on a cold night?

It all depends upon who you are, what you are looking for, or if that door is locked.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ronnie Dancing on the 4th of July

We had the 4th of July here, on the Plaza. Ronnie put on his red shirt with the white sleeves, his green shoes and went dancing. There was no sunshine that day in this town so everyone put on sweaters and hoodies over their summer shirts and went to the game down at the ballpark, drank beer, ate food, set off fireworks without starting any fires and had a good time anyway, even though many wonder what we are celebrating, these days. So, on the 4th Ronnie went dancing and many watched and celebrated dancing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leaving London

That's a small glimpse of the back of Buddy the driver's head, up there in the front seat of his van.  Buddy, the provider of home throughout the tour, has just finished picking up the members of Errol Linton's Blues Vibe, and has safely stowed their luggage, the amps, the guitar, bass, drums, and harmonicas and now he's following the bus out of London and is headed toward the M1 which travels due north to places like Northamptonshire, where Norman Of Catford was born. Soon, the band will be wishing they had food stowed in the van as well.


A photo from the summer's travels of Errol Linton's Blues Vibe on tour north from London, through the center of England to Scotland, then all the way back down to the southern coast of England. Here's 3 of the 4 members (not shown -  Jim the drummer and, of course, Buddy the driver) at one of the stops on the trip - the Knockengorroch World Ceilidh Music festival in Dumfreyshire, Scotland. Shown, left to right, are Adam Blake, Errol Linton, Little George Sueref on an unusually, they say,  sunny afternoon to a happy audience who loved Errol and the band. Nobody had to say this, it was obvious.