Learning Frailing Banjo Week 31

This late October warm spell encouraged us to take the instruments out down to the canal. We’re staying in Northamptonshire for a few days and are really close to the Grand Union Canal. We sat down last Sunday afternoon in Long Buckby Wharf at the start of the Leicester Arm and practised a few of the English folk tunes in our repertoire: Speed The Plough, Morpeth Rant, Winster Gallop and Rattlin’ Bog.

Post Run Salamba Sirsana

After a long run there’s nothing better than a bit of leg inversion to help the cardio-vascular system get all that waste recirculated back to where it needs to be (think lymphs and lactates etc). When there’s no handy walls around to prop your legs against, a good old fashioned headstand does just the job.

#fail as they say, here it is again:

Frailing Banjo Week 28

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.

Sweet Potato Saag Curry

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.


Sweet Potatoes
Spinach Leaves
Light olive oil
Curry Powder

The Curry

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.


The Rice

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.

Frailing Banjo Week 26

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…

Incantation Number 7

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.

Frailing Banjo Week 22

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’.