Monday, 31 December 2012

When Dreams Come True

A New Year is just about to begin and at the start of a new year I always find myself looking back and forward.
A new year seems so full of opportunity, the potential to shape our lives as we would want them to be be but in truth, the possibility for change is always there. Our lives are built from an ongoing collection of events which are shaped by the choices that we make every moment of our days - what we do and what we do not do, over time, these decisions all blend together to build up the overall picture of that which is our life (a collection of individual days).

As so many things contribute to build up our lives, to substantialy change our direction takes a number of factors and the first one is surely 'space' for clarity of thought. In 2012, I was given a wonderful opportunity to go to Canada and spend several months there working on a photography project. Yet, removed from my life's daily events in Scotland I also had the opportunity to look at my life and decide in what ways I wanted to shape it for my future. Of course tho', not everything we plan to do does happen as we envisage - but through our set backs, we also have the opportunity to learn what and who are most important to us. And for me, that's what 2012 has been - a year of reflection, planning and preparation for the future, the future I want for the next chapter/s in my life.

Who knows exactly how 2013 will turn out, who knows who will be in my life (our lives) as 2014 begins. But in 2012, I know I spent my time with some really great people and looking back I know that one more than any other installed in me the need to remember that it really does take time to make our dreams come true. Yes, sometimes something can happen suddenly but it seems to me that what benefits us the most are those changes which actually take a lot of time and hard work to achieve. When dreams come true we need to be standing in the right place, at the right time and to have first got to that place we need to have done a lot of work in advance.

Life like the weather is always changing, sunshine and showers, sunrises/sunsets.  In and out of our lives people move, some friends stay forever, others for a short while. But each person we meet has the opportunity to teach us some important lesson from which we can benefit and take with us, a lesson carried in our hearts and in our minds to help us shape our journey.  So in 2013, what I hope for the most is patience and perseverence to stay true to my own plan to make more 'dreams come true'. Time is so very precious, I think it is worth the effort of the work it takes within each of us to make our dreams come true. And in that process - my thanks to these really inspirationational people along the way who enter our lives and share their wisdom which helps us to stay true to our forward journey. Success comes ultimately from an ever onwards, ever upwards movement, pushing on through the clouds that will shadow a journey, always pushing onwards, upwards to the light.

The most encouraging words in 2012 said to me from a friend -
"Remember - eventually, the cream rises to the top"

Words applied to 2013, which by 2014, will have helped me
to have made yet more new dreams  come true.

Looking back from 10 April 2014 I can see
- in 2013 - my birthday 'dream' came true :-)

And everyone who ever achieved their goal
- in the beginning it was 'just' a dream...

Michael Buble and his mum on Oprah Winfrey's show

Sunday, 27 May 2012


The Saltire flag - as with any country's national flag, the Saltire is one of Scotland's most iconic of symbols. The home of the flag originates at Athelstaneford in East Lothian where legend has it that the sign of the flag first appeared as white clouds on a blue sky before a winning battle. And, what Scot is not inspired by the Saltire proudly flying.

Yet today, thankfully, the flag is not seen in fights to the death but displayed in celebration around many cultural and sporting places in Scotland. And surely, there are none so dear and iconic as our national football stadium at Hampden. However, recently, connected to the Queen's Jubilee celebrations and the 2012 Olympics - Scotland has been awash, not with Saltires but with union jacks (much to do with marketing initatives used by national stores keen that 'we' join in Jubilee parties and BUY BRITISH). Nevertheless, where intense union jack 'activity' can be troublesome on the eye of a nationalist supporter - it is quite something else to stomach an unacceptable announcement that the Saltire flag is to be banned from flying at Hampden during the 2012 Olympics, the Olympics which Scotland is also involved in hosting.

Despite all the PR spin that Scotland was to play a big part in the Olympics, although happy to take Scottish money supporting the Games, the fact that we might want to fly our flag over our national stadium - no that does not appear to be ok. Such an absurd ruling, when I heard this myself I at first thought that I must be mistaken. But no, there are numerous news stories confirming what is surely a step too far for any Scot to accept without protest against this ban. For more details see: BBC NEWS STORY

Online, protest action has now begun to raise the profile of this insensitive ruling by the Olympics governing body. To get more details and to support that campaign please visit this page and help to spread the word against this unacceptable Olympic ruling through your own social media sites. Facebook protest group.

In 2012, in the quiet village of Athelstaneford (the home of the Saltire flag) across the fields where battle raged, now all is quiet with bird song and the breeze, the only sounds to be heard. From Athelstaneford, out across Scotland and beyond - now there appears to be a growing resurgence in Scottish people finding their voice. It seems to me in 2012, this is not the time to stay silent about a Saltire ban but to make some noise and speak out!  Speak out and lets see the Saltire flying in Hampden and in other places across this country. No country should be told by others where they can and can not fly their flag at home - let's fly the Saltire in Scotland and especially at Hampden!

Friday, 20 April 2012


I've had to be in London a few times this year, dashing down from Edinburgh and back again for the shortest of stays - so rushed I didn't even take my camera! However, this last trip has been longer - still very busy (with little time for photos) I had my camera with me and was struck by what I observed as I waited to cross a road.

I had stopped on a traffic island in the centre of the Mall (that huge avenue - presented so well on the TV during the coverage of the Royal wedding). Waiting for a break in traffic to continue on my way I suddenly saw a person walking along on the far side of the road with two ferrets! An unusal sight to see in any city - I quickly got my camera out and took a photo. Very well behaved little critters, the way they appeared so happily to bound along beside the man, they made me smile. But as I watched this same stretch of road the man walked out of my gaze as a huge limo pulled up (turning heads as it did, people no doubt wondering what wealthy person, perhaps which celebrity was inside). I would not normally have photographed such a thing but as the car slowed to stop - a man on a bicycle passed by (but no one seemed to notice this man).

A man on a bike with what appeared to be his worldy goods all tied up in carrier bags. Brightly red, white and blue carrier bags but in London's streets - he seemed to pass by as if invisible. After he passed I took this photo and here have cropped out the other people - those so near to him who didn't appear to even give a first glance, let alone a second. No one seemed to care and yet the arrival of the grand limo had turned heads. People seemed to see wealth and power yet poverty had passed by unseen. I recalled Norman Tebbit's comments that the unemployed should "get on their bikes and go and find work" - as I watched him cycle away, he blended into the London traffic until I could see him no more but as I stood looking - along came another limo, this time, one that was bright pink... (to turn as many heads as possible?).

It was a bright sunny day but I recalled Ralph McTell's song which had been written oh so many years ago now and yet, I shivered - in 'the streets of London' it seemed that there was as much as ever which was still so badly in need of change. Yet, how can a situation ever change if so many choose instead not to see, to be blind to the problems of others? From a limo to a home in carrier bags (the expression "there but for the grace of God go I" - people relate to what effects them but society needs to relate to what effects us all. In our world, there are many 'invisible people' in need of help.


Have you seen the old man,
in the closed down market
Kicking up the papers
with his worn out shoes
In his eyes you'll see no pride
and held loosley by his side
Yesterday's paper
Telling yesterday's news 

So how can you tell me
You're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through
the streets of London
And I'll show you something
Which will make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair
And her clothes in rags
She's no time for talking
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home
In two carrier bags

In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven
Same old man
Sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
O'er the brim of his tea cup
Each cup lasts an hour
And then he wanders home alone

Have you seen the old man
Outside the Seaman's Mission
Memory fading
With the medal ribbons
That he wears
In our wintry city
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Thank you Barney McKenna (RIP)

I lost a dear friend today, as did many others around the world, for Barney McKenna made friends wherever he went. I first met him in January 1991, I would never have known the exact date (many years on) but it was then because I had gone to do a short interview with the Dubliners on a Friday evening. Finally, I left them to return back to work on the Monday...

Few people have made such a sudden and lasting impact on my life but you couldn't have found a more down to earth group of people and Barney was at the heart of it all. Playing the fiddle I naturally gravitated to learn from fiddler John Sheahan's playing BUT what an enormous amount I also learnt from Barney. In 2011 they did tours in Scotland and England and I joined them there. After, I went on a search for the old interview tapes from 1991 and was amazed by what I heard. And I wondered, did I have ANY idea then of what I was part of. The recorder was left to run on. The banter and craic was/is as mighty as the tunes which were played. But I also hear Barney, chatting away to me. So many things from these first conversations were absorbed without me consciously remembering it all but what a positive influence. Barney talks to me of the need to play, as often and as much as possible. To play at home and to play in sessions - to enjoy and always have fun with the music. And I know that Barney could never have done anything else with his life - a man you don't meet every day, one born to play, perform and have an ever lasting love affair with music.

Barney, the first time I met him
- in a session which went from Inverness to Aberdeen 

Listening to the tapes 20 years on - I couldn't believe how relaxed I am amongst such talented, highly gifted musicians and Barney's playing then - it was amazing. Over the years he'd say "my fingers, my fingers are tired" and indeed his playing did slow but he remained as quick witted, wickedly funny and as entertaining as ever. But perhaps what I liked the most is that he had an amazing memory for all the small details. He met my folks a few times and after they passed on, still he would always talk about them and remember little stories which made me smile. Also, I liked how he would speak his mind (tho' I might not have always liked what he said). The last time we talked he was giving me his unsolicited thoughts on what I should do with my life. I had a notion to move to Ireland but he was saying "no, not just now when there are so many economic problems". But isn't that the mark of a true friend, when they say "no, I think you're wrong on that one". Dear Barney, I will miss so many things about you. So often late to arrive, your wandering off so folks would be sent to look for you and almost, a capacity to be irritating at times because you would so just 'go do your own thing'. Yet already, even in my many tears, I have found myself at times laughing today at some of the many daft and hilarious memories you've left me with from so many meetings, over so many years. YOU WERE SUCH A GREAT CHARACTER (the real deal) and who could ever know you and not absolutely love you? So many tunes, so many laughs, you have left a hole in my world which will never be filled because, without doubt - Barney McKenna you really were a man that people would NOT meet every day, you were such a unique, entertaining and kindly character that anyone would be glad to meet you even just once in their lifetime.

Barney McKenna - Thanks with all my heart
for the music, stories and time you shared with us all

When a person has left us, it is very traditional to say RIP. But this kind of seems inappropriate in the case of Barney - instead, I'd say I hope for Barney that he is sat in the middle of some great almighty session, that his pals who have gone ahead of him are now all reunited around him at last. That Barney is striking up the banjo or playing the box, that the pace of the tunes in his heart are now free to run and dance again at the speed that they once did before his fingers grew tired with old age. And, when the music stops, I wish for some time for Barney to go out fishing, fishing on the sea as he loved to do with his boat. But Barney, you were a fisherman on land as well as at sea - with your tunes and craic, you caught people, gathered them in and brought them to you. You were a friend who I will never, ever forget - a man who left the world a far richer place than it was when you came in to it. Around the world your music and banter has meant so much to so many and your legacy lives on - Thank you Barney McKenna.

Friday, 13 January 2012


One of my New Year resolutions was to have a BIG clear out of my house. When I moved back from Inverness to Edinburgh, a good few boxes went in to the attic and stayed there. So much has happened since 2006 that emptying these boxes was very far down my list of priorities. In addition, I'm probably a different person to the one who returned - I "need" very little to feel contented in my life and, for me, health seems to be much more important than wealth and possessions. Having seen my parents (in their 80's) battle ill-health it left me with more appreciation for time and my own need to use it well and be happy. And, the pursuit of photography is certainly a way I like to spend my time. Nevertheless, my photography has to fit in with other priorities and so today was my continuation of "the big tidy".

Friday 13th is often said to be unlucky but I was very pleased with my clean up and out progress. Lots was sorted out and made ready for the charity shops and I thought, "bet I'll have time for a wee walk as well". Car loaded, hand on front door to close it and the phone went... "Oh no" I thought "I'm in a rush" IF it had not rung, my first photo would have shown all of the sun, not just the last part of it before it was gone! However, the phonecall is not the point of the story BUT without it, a chain of events would not have been set in place.

Short of time I had driven to Musselburgh, my plan being to go to the charity shop and then take a walk but nope, now it was better to take some pics and then go to the shop. But within moments the orange glow was gone (I had missed the full sunset - "sure enough, Friday the 13th!"). Still, it was lovely to be out and I had some bread in the car so I decided "feed the birds and then go to the charity shop".

The bread I had was quickly eaten and I watched others feeding the hungry birds. Then an old lady arrived and I stood and had a blether with her, noticing this poor goose which seemed to be missing out I bent down to throw it a crust that had been missed. "AGH NO!" That awful moment when you realise that some ungrateful seagull has just.... "Hmmm!" I asked the lady - "Has what I think has happened, actually happened?" - "Oh dear" she said, "All on your back, lucky you were bent over". Hmm I laughed "and mum always said that was good luck". "Ach well" she said, "at least you are near the toilets so you can clean your jacket" "Yes" I said, "a fine Friday the 13th this is". 

So - A bad luck day? "No actually, it was a lovely day!  The moral of the story is "don't judge a day moment by moment but by what it brings you. Because, whilst cleaning my jacket something amazing happened... The 'unfortunate incident with the bird' meant that I did not go off to the charity shop and leave the Esk. And when I walked out the colour of the sky made me gasp! It really was one of the most incredible sunset skies I have EVER EVER seen at Musselburgh. The beautiful scene just took my breath away so, maybe my mum was right - Friday the 13th is like any other day but when a bird (or some other unfortunate, unplanned event) gives you an unwelcome  surprise then, just give it time, and maybe you will see it was good luck after all! After all, surely we create our own luck ;-D