Progress check after 28 weeks of my journey of learning the craft of frailing or clawhammer old-time banjo. This week I muse on how other musicians are always practicing more than me, and run through three of the tunes from the Tuneworks book – Speed The Plough, Morpeth Rant and Winster Gallop.
Winster Gallop as practised by Pony Folk live from the Dining Room:
Another of my favourite meals at the moment is Sweet Potato and Spinach curry, very simple to make on a one or two ring burner, it provides a quick and healthy dinner.
Light olive oil
Slice the onion and garlic and fry in a little oil until soft and caramelised, if it starts to burn add a drop of water to the pan.
Add some curry powder (a few teaspoons per person) and a little more water and simmer for a while.
Dice the sweet potatoes into 1cm cubes and add to the pan, mixing them in to cover them in the curry sauce paste.
Top the water up to maybe half or three quarters of the way up the sweet potato and bring to the boil.
Turn down to a simmer and place the lid on, this will boil the potatoes in the water and steam those on top – you can experiment with how much water to add to balance the boiling / steaming of the potatoes to how thick you like your curry sauce. Less water equals a thicker sauce.
The cooking will take somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes, turn the curry occasionally scooping the potatoes from the bottom of the pan to the top, they are cooked when you can easily push a knife through them.
At this point start piling spinach leaves into the space at the top of the pan, replace the lid and let them wilt in the steam.
As each batch wilts down, stir them in and add another handful to the top and repeat.
For speed and taste use white basmati, 80g per person. I always rinse with running water first and then add to a pan of boiling water.
In about 8 to 10 minutes the rice will be soft and fluffy and can be drained and then rinsed with boiling water.
First recording of ‘Speed The Plough’ by Pony Folk, not really a performance, more of a snapshot of an early rehearsal.
Week 26 of my learning the craft of playing Frailing Banjo by watching Patrick Costello videos on YouTube. It’s been a few weeks since the last video was made as we are in the middle of moving house and so have no broadband connection. Luckily I’ve discovered the local library has an excellent connection so this one has been uploaded from there.
This week we have been stewarding at the 2018 Folk Gathering in Alstonefield, Staffordshire organised by Peace Through Folk to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. I have included some snippets of some of the performers – make sure you look out for their full video of the Saturday Peace Concert.
We have been learning ‘Speed The Plough’ and ‘Winster Gallop’ from the Tuneworks music book and I have had to learn the ‘D’ chord this week to play these tunes.
Now I’m off to practice that D chord…
Write something profound,
Write something meaningless,
Write for the joy of writing,
Write for the hate of writing,
Write for the ugly,
Write for the beautiful,
Write the way,
Write the time,
Write for the right now, the long goodbye and the happy ever after
Write for all the dark mornings and the long dark nights,
Write for the summer sun and the winter stars,
Write for the blazing heat, the bitter cold, the warm rain and the cold snow,
Write for the stark mountain peaks and the lush valleys depths below,
Write for rivers of ice, streams of crystal cool, gold filled, earth blood,
Write for the burning horizon an the nothing in-between,
Write for love,
Write to save your soul,
Write for peace,
Write for right and write to make the world whole,
Write to be read,
Write to be ignored,
Write to be indifferent,
Write, just write once more.
Week 22 of my learning the craft of playing Frailing Banjo by watching Patrick Costello videos on YouTube. This week it’s more John Hardy and Boil ’em Cabbage Down, a quick rendition of You Are My Sunshine, the Banjo version of my song ‘Millie’ and an early version of the guitar version of ‘Millie’ too all crammed into 12 minutes.
‘Millie’ is a composite of a story. D had been volunteering at a pony rescue and was telling me about a pony named Millie. This particular pony was nearly blind and would have to hold her head sideways to take a look at you. It felt quite a frustration for her but she was now living peacefully in the sanctuary. Other ponies had other stories, like from the time the farming subsidies rules changed and having ponies on a farm became a cost not a profit. The sanctuaries were working overtime driving across Wales and filling horse boxes with ponies to save them from the slaughter. These words, these stories melded together with an assignment from the Song Writers course I was studying on FutureLearn which involved writing about ‘our town’.
‘I Remember’, roughly recorded in the campsite of the Bromyard Folk Festival.
I don’t have any way of documenting the melodies for the songs I write, only the chords and lyrics, so recording them is my best option at the moment in case I forget the tune later.
The lyrics are based on the poem style of a pantoum, a form where the lines are repeated throughout the poem / song:
I hadn’t heard that for a long time, at least a month or so. “Run Forrest run”, the street heckle of adolescents vying to impress their peers in a world where shouting catchphrases from a film that was screened before they were even born is the pinnacle of a street heckle. C’est la vie, kids will be kids. Last Monday we were out for a speed session. Running is often thought as a pastime where the ‘jogger’ pulls on their trainers and plods around the same route three times a week before going home for a hearty breakfast or piece of cake depending on the time of day and day of the week. Fortunately the reality is far more interesting and technical. There is a maxim in running:
“the only way to run faster is to run faster”
Is this intuitive or counter-intuitive? If I tried to run faster then I would run out out of steam before I’d finished my allotted route for the day, so runs are broken down into different types. A typical set of runs for the week might be the ‘long run’, perhaps on a Sunday morning this is the longest and slowest run of the week used to build up endurance. A ‘tempo run’ might then be next, from a technical perspective this is a run where the pace is just below the lactate threshold ie you are still flushing out the lactate quicker than it is building up in your legs. It is fast and it is hard and it is maybe 20 minutes long. Another run might then be some kind of technical speed run, this could be sprints over short distances, sprints up hills or sprints around a running track. Basically a burst of speed followed by a jog or walk rest period all broken down into sets. This is what we were up to that day.
There is a wide pathway between two warehouses near where we live, it is about 150 metres long and has bollards at each end with four equally spaced lampposts along it. It’s a short warm up jog down to this path from the house and then we do some plyometric exercises to work down the lampposts to the bollards at the far end. High-knees, heel-flicks, sides-steps right foot leading, side-steps left foot leading and then striding out like leaping gazelles down to the bollards. Our speed session here is a pyramid set of sprint to the first lamppost and jog / walk back, turn and sprint to the second lamppost then jog / walk back, then the third lamppost, then the fourth then back down to the third, second and first. Then rest and repeat. We happened to coincide this week’s run with lunchtime at the @MarksandSpencer warehouse where a flock of yellow hi-viz vested workers were crowded around a picnic table in the carpark’s designated smoking area. “Run Forrest run!”, the lone cry came from that direction as we hurtled toward lamppost number three.
The best comedy is fear based we were told a couple of weeks ago by a stand-up comedian, he had told us how he prepared for a gig by watching the audience. Picking up cues and generalisations on class and maturity and education to try to pin down what he thought they were most afraid of. This, he said, is where the humour lies: in taking peoples fears and playing them back to them and exaggerating them for the laughs. All laughter is fear based.
What generalisations could I make about our audience? This wasn’t a group of adolescents on a street corner vying for popularity among their peer group, their ends, their homies. This was the frontline of the retail powerhouse of the high street, this wasn’t just any old warehouse employee, this was after all an M&S warehouse employee.
“Run Forrest run!”, the peak and pinnacle of heckles on a bright Monday afternoon, from a grown, mature, functioning member of society. Perhaps working in a warehouse is no different from being at school? Clocking-in, clocking-out, performance tested, being told what to do, bossed around? It’s been a long time since I worked in a warehouse for extra cash whilst studying for my A Levels. Perhaps things were different then, perhaps Forrest Gump hadn’t been made back then, perhaps nobody ever ran past while we sat outside in the sun.
Around that time I was attending Aikido sessions at a nearby village hall. It was a small club, almost all the regular members were black belts, first, second, third, fourth Dans with a handful of other belts. In the summer we were occasionally disturbed by the local youth banging or jeering through the open windows. On occasions like this merely closing the curtains would make the problem disappear – the common heckler outfoxed by a curtain. Now you see it, now you don’t. On other occasions where this didn’t work, Sensei would invite the youngsters in, to sit at the back and watch our group of judo-suited, barefooted and be-skirted performers dance the dance of Aikido. This usually upped the ante for us as well as the throws and holds became more exaggerated and acrobatic. Often times the kids would laugh and squirm and be gone in five minutes, but occasionally some were fascinated and would stay and watch. This was a great lesson for me in the craft and practice of Aikido, not just as a practice but as a way of being as well. There are no attacks in Aikido, everything is a deflection of an attack, using the inertia of the attackers force to deflect or throw them away in a circular motion. Thus hecklers are invited in to become part of the ceremony rather than confronted, their fears are allayed and they are heard and welcomed into the community. It is there for them if they choose to take it. I wonder how this can be translated to the hecklers on the street or the M&S Car Park, I can hear your fear from seeing something different but it is here for you if you wish to find out more and overcome those fears.
“Run Forrest run”, perhaps this can be your running mantra, after all he ran right across America as I recall in the film, that’s a long way from smoking on your lunch break in the M&S Warehouse car park.
Come join us on Saturday morning at #Parkrun, 09:00 Hanley Park, there will be over 350 of us there waiting for you.