Thursday, 1 December 2016

Three Little Pigs From Home Are We

Just a quick one to show off a project I have been working on for the last week or so.

Our friends Iain and Rachel have had a baby (an adorable daughter named Hazel Gail) and I wanted to make a gift for their son Kieran who is officially a big brother!

For his big brother gift, they bought him a puppet theatre so I thought I should make some puppets to go with it.


I am super stoked at how they came out. They were really fun to make. I picked the story of the Three Pigs because it is a good one for practising sequencing and repetition with the lines 
Wolf: Little pig, little pig, let me come in
Pig: Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.
Wolf: Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in! 

Plus there is a matching element. Did you see what I did there? Each pig wears a bow tie made of the same colour as their house. 

Lest you think I left wee Hazel out, I did make a beautiful (if I do say so myself) hot air balloon mobile for her cot that I completely neglected to get a photo of before I posted it. 

And I will say that I had so much fun making these puppets (and playing with these puppets, if I am honest) that I might make myself a set!

Happy playing, Kieran! 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Murder Ballad Monday--Binnorie

This is the first in my Murder Ballad Monday series of posts about the ancient ballad of The Twa Sisters.

I am starting with Binnorie because for me it was the original source material. I remember very clearly when I first read the poem. This was back in  1981-82  when English classes had "readers"--a book with a collection of poems, stories and excerpts from larger works that also had follow up questions and quizzes. I am assuming schools still have this sort of thing, but they are probably modern and dumbed down. All I know is the ones from the 1980's (which were undoubtedly books left over from the 1970's) were full of interesting, challenging tales.

I recall the feeling I had as I read it. The prickles on the back of neck and the ever dawning realisation that the bad sister was not going to get away with it. I fell in love, then and there, with the romance of the ballad. I adored the ballad form itself--while others were annoyed at the repetitive refrain, I loved it. It gave you a sense of structure and made it feel quite old. I now know that it actually was really old, not just a modern poem copying the old style. I also was fascinated by the bit where she is turned into a harp. Was she really transformed into a swan or was she just so beautiful and elegant that she was merely mistaken for one? I have subsequently done a bit of research on this and there is a whole "swan maiden" genre about women transformed or mistaken for swans in literature.  How long had she been dead when she was made into the harp?  How did the harp play? Did it sing with her voice?  What happened to the sister? Was she punished and if so how?

I think the only thing I did not love was the ending line of "Woe to my sister, false Helen" as it didn't seem to have enough zing for me, if you know what I mean. It felt like a Scooby Doo sort of ending. You know like this:
Ghost: Woe to my sister, false Helen! Wooooo!
Velma: Jinkies! it was the evil sister!

Here you can listen to Custer LaRue singing a version of this ballad. I have provided the lyrics at the bottom in case you want to follow along. The sound quality is a bit low, so make sure you turn your volume up.

So here is how it breaks down as compared to other versions:
Name of ballad: Binnorie
Performed by: Custer LaRue
Refrain:
  Binnorie, O Binnorie                                                                                                                               By the Bonnie mill-dams of Binnorie
Number of sisters: two
Where did they live: in a bower
Appearance described as: younger sister has a lily white hand and yellow hair. Older sister not described
Sweetheart:  a knight who courted the oldest with gifts but loved the youngest
Excuse to go to the water: “To see our father’s ships to land”
Body of water: river strand
Does it include the line “Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam”: yes
Miller and child: yes. Miller and his daughter
Mistaken for: mermaid or milk white swan
Described in death: golden girdle, gold and pearls
Who finds her on the bank: a famous harper
Instrument she becomes: harp
Body parts used: breastbone, yellow hair
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: yes                                                                                           Do the strings sing individually: no
What does the instrument sing:                                                                                                              O Yonder sits my father, the king
And yonder sits my mother, the queen                                                                               
And yonder stands my brother Hugh
And by him my William, sweet and true                                                                                                  But the last tune that the harp did play 
Was ' Woe to my sister, false Helen.'
Is the sister punished: doesn’t say

Here are the lyrics so you can follow along if you wish. I have eliminated the refrain so it won't be so long
There were twa sisters sat in a bower;
There came a knight to be their wooer.

He courted the eldest with glove and ring,
But he lo'ed the youngest aboon a' thing.

The eldest she was vex-ed sair,
And sore envied her sister fair.

The eldest said to the youngest ane,
Go and see our father's ships come in

She's ta'en her by her lily hand,
And led her down to the river strand.

The youngest stood upon a stane,
The eldest came and pushed her in.

'O sister, sister, reach your hand,
And ye shall be heir o' half my land.'

'O sister, I'll not reach my hand,
And I'll be heir of all your land.'

'O sister, reach me but your glove,
And sweet William shall be your love.'

'Sink on, nor hope for hand or glove,
Sweet William shall better be my love.'

Sometimes she sunk, and sometimes she swam,
Until she came to the miller's dam.

The miller's daughter was baking bread
And gave her water as she had need.

'O father, father, draw your dam,
There's either a mermaid or a milk-white swan.'

The miller hasted and drew his dam,
And there he found a drowned woman.

Ye could not see her yellow hair,
For gowd and pearls that were sae rare.

Ye could not see her middle sma
Her gowden girdle were sa bra.

Ye could not see her lily feet
Her gowden fringes were so deep.

A famous harper passing by, 
The sweet pale face he chanced to spy.

And when he looked that ladye on,
He sighed and made a heavy moan.

He made a harp o' her breast-bone,
Whose sounds would melt a heart of stone.

The strings he framed of her yellow hair,
There notes made sad the listening ear.

He brought it to her father's hall,
There was the court assembled all.

He laid the harp upon a stone,
And straight it began to play alone.

'O yonder sits my father, the king,
And yonder sits my mother, the queen.'

'And yonder stands my brother Hugh,
And by him my William, sweet and true.'

But the last tune that the harp played then,
Binnorie, O Binnorie
Was 'Woe to my sister, false Helen!'
By the bonny mill-dams of Binnorie


So that's it for Version one of The Twa Sisters. Stay tuned next Monday for Version two. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

I Can See Clearly Now

Folks, my eyes are rubbish.

I come from a long line of people with rubbish eyes.

We were all glasses wearers in my family. 

In the 1980's we looked like a family of hoot owls. 

I have been wearing glasses for nearly 30 years now. 

 In 1987, I just started wearing them occasionally for reading. I mean, I didn't need them all the time. In fact, I could go without them several hours of the day. I was fine. I could handle it. 

I went on like that for several years until one weekend in 1993 when I had a killer migraine. I thought I was dying. When I finally could stand to be in the light again, I put on my reading glasses and it was like I had forgotten how to read. The page was full of unintelligible black squiggles. But when I took off my glasses, I could see it clearly.  I raced to my optometrist and he tested my eyes. I will never forget what he said.
I don't know how this is even possible, but you have somehow gone from being far-sighted to being near-sighted. 
Image result for near sighted far sighted
Seriously, Now I didn't need  reading glasses. I needed distance vision glasses. I was moving onto the hard stuff. Like an addict, I couldn't live without them. My life was a fuzzy outline until I put on the lenses that made everything clear again. I lived for it. I was addicted to being able to see clearly and I wore my glasses from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. But I thought I was still in control. 

In the year 2000 (or thereabouts) I had another killer headache and upon recovery my glasses were broken. One lens worked and one did not. I again when to my optometrist who was baffled at my vision. he said:
This is not even physically possible. Since the last time I saw you one of your eyes has reverted back to being far-sighted.

So yeah. Now I was near sighted in one eye and far sighted in the other, just like my dear old dad. My eyes were making me an addict. I would do anything--I mean anything--to see clearly. Clarity was my goal. 

Then when I turned 40, my body began to fall apart. 

First my womb decided to stage a revolt and had to be assassinated in what we now call the horrible hysterectomy. Then my eyes decided I needed to be like a crackhead looking for a fix. I needed to see clearly and I needed to see clearly now or somebody might get hurt! 

There was no killer headache this time, just the slow fading of my youth as I sat in the optometrist's chair and was told I needed varifocals. 

 Varifocals, people! That's bifocals without the line! That's for middle aged people! Oh wait--I *am* middle aged! Shudders uncontrollably.

Well that was nearly seven years ago.

I really am middle aged now.

And my eyes are even more rubbish than they were.

It started about a month ago.

The headaches.

Suddenly, all the print was TOO SMALL. Who was going around changing the font size in my library books at night when I was sleeping? Because it was real. I couldn't bloomin' read clearly again.
Image result for specsavers
So off I trotted to Specsavers. I had to wait two weeks for an appointment. Two weeks, people! In the meantime, the world seemed fuzzy and hard to look at. My eyes were dry and sore and the evil print fairy was making every font smaller and smaller as my eyes wept and begged for mercy.

I had my appointment and was told that my eyes had declined, but that was natural for someone of my age. Someone of my age! How dare they! Now, it was clear I was going to be a vision addict for life, but I didn't care. I *really* wanted to see again.

So, my new spectacles would be ready in in two weeks. Another two weeks, people! I found it so hard to wait. Everything was crap. My eyes hurt. My head hurt. My heart hurt knowing I was always going to need visual help. I think I secretly hoped I would grow out of it. But I never was one of those people who didn't wear their specs for "vanity" reasons. No, I needed to be able to see.

Well, today is the day. the day my new spectacles arrived and let me just say, any negative thing i said was WRONG.

It is flippin' GLORIOUS to be able to see again.
Image result for unicorn

It is like riding a unicorn while glitter explodes in my heart.

Everything is so beautiful. Seriously, beautiful. Everything sharply outlined. I have deeply missed sharp outlines.

I danced around town like a character in a musical who was singing an upbeat, heartfelt little number, oblivious to passersby.
Image result for snow white birds
I wandered around the public library picking up books with teeny tiny fonts and reading with ease, sighing prettily while little birds flew about my head with daisies in their beaks.

OK, maybe I made up that bit about the birds, but it felt like that.

I felt stoned with happiness. Like I was mellowed out and filled with joy. I really am addicted to seeing clearly and this was BLISS. I hadn't realised how much my eyes had changed. I knew I couldn't seem to read, but had no idea that my distance vision had declined too. I did not know what I was missing until I could see it again.

As Joni Mitchell might or might not have said:
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
Get your eyes checked and see the world so clear.

I honestly don't care if I am a speccy-four eyes for the rest of my life. It is wonderful to see this beautiful world with fresh eyes. I will not take my eyes for granted. I will bless them every day for all they do for me.

I can see clearly now.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Murder Ballad Monday

And now for something completely different...

We were at a folk concert recently where the talented Meadows family was performing (you can learn more about them here: http://www.themeadowsband.co.uk/ ) and my friend Rosie Mai and I got very excited about a particular song that they sang called The Two Sisters as we know another version of this murder ballad. At the interval, I jokingly said that I would like to research this ballad in all its various forms and write about it on the blog and she thought that would be very interesting to read so here we are. She was correct. It has been fascinating to research this ballad. So, I thought, why not write about it? Perhaps others will find this interesting, too. 

To quote our friend Chris Priestly: Are you crouching ominously? Then let’s begin.

What is a murder ballad
According to Wikipedia: 
Murder ballads are a subgenre of the traditional ballad form dealing with crime. Their lyrics form a narrative describing the events of a murder, often including the lead-up and/or aftermath. Like a regular ballad, they are often passed down orally. 

The ballad I would like to discuss for the next several Mondays is a ballad entitled The Twa Sisters. This is one of the most well-known ballads. You find versions of it in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden as well as Scotland, Ireland, England, and other European countries. American versions can be found in the Appalachians as well.
 Image result for the twa sisters
The basic plot is there are two sisters who both love the same man. The eldest is often described as "dark" and the younger as "fair." Out of jealousy, the eldest pushes the youngest in the water where she drowns which allows the elder sister to marry the sweetheart. Many versions feature a supernatural element whereby the bones of the dead girl are turned into a musical instrument which sings the story of her murder, often in a way that brings punishment to the elder sister. The song also features a refrain in every stanza that ties the song together. 

The earliest available text of this song was entitled The Miller and the King’s Daughter by James Smith and was published in 1656 in Musarum Deliciae (The Muses Recreation.)  Sir Walter Scott collected a version for his 1802 edition of The Minstrelsy which was compiled from several versions including one taken down “from the memory of an old woman.” Scott made a few alterations to the refrain changing it from “Edinburgh, Edinburgh” to “Binnorie o Binnorie” which is the version I first came across in a reader that belonged to my seventh-grade English teacher. 
 Image result for child ballads
In the late nineteenth century, a Harvard professor named Francis James Child collected a canon of English language ballads that number 1-305 which he published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. He actually collected more than 305, but any variations on the same ballad were categorised under the same Child number. So, the ballad we will be looking at is classified as Child Ballad 10. He collected 21 different versions of this ballad with titles such as The Twa Sisters, The Bonny Milldams of Binnore, Minnore, The Cruel Sister, O the Wind and the Rain and the Bonny Bows of London. Each ballad collected was accompanied by extensive notes about where and how the song was collected as well as facts about the variation. 
Image result for child ballads bertrand
While Child collected the texts of 305 variations of ballads in his five-volume work, he did not include the tunes. American academic Bertrand Bronson  took up where Child left off with his Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. Four large volumes were published between 1959 and 1972. Bronson brought together all the available tunes for each of Child’s 305 collected ballads with their texts and annotations. Many of the variations that I have researched owe their tune to this book although there have been a few adaptations borrowing refrains from other Child ballads, which we will explore further down the line. 

Over the next few weeks I plan to show you several versions of Child ballad 10 and compare them to the original source that I first came across in 1981 which was a condensed and slightly anglicised version of Walter Scott’s version of Binnorie. Each week, I will tell you what I have learned about the variation, show you a chart highlighting similar themes in the ballad compared to other variations and play you a video of someone singing that particular version. 


So, stay tuned. See you next Monday! 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Potions 101, part two

Hello fellow crafters and genuinely lovely people! A few weeks ago I made some Harry Potter potion labels. You can read about it here:
http://spidergrrlvstheworld.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/potions-101.html

I said in that post I had two more potions to make, but was waiting to find the right bottles.

Well, the bottles have been found!

Thanks especially to our friends the Haboobys who generously dug up bottles half submerged in mud near a stream on their property and then brought them to me. I could not have made these two potions without your help. Thanks for giving me your rubbish!

So here is the first one:


This one is made from an old bottle of rum. Fifteen men on a dead man's chest. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum and all that cliche rot. 

Here is the second one: 

 Floo powder! Made from ....real flue powder! Here is where I got our other friends involved. Our friends Kathryn and Peter have a wood burning stove and so i asked them if they could please bring me a small bag of ash.

Many hilarious texts were passed back and forth about me getting coals and switches in my Christmas stocking since I was so keen on getting a bag of ash.

Now, let me just say Kat and Pete are the classic definition of a wind-up merchant. What is a wind-up merchant, I hear you cry? Well, my fellow American peeps (excuse me, I mean my fellow "Canadian" peeps)  A Wind-up merchant is someone who enjoys winding others up in the sense of making fun of them or playing practical jokes. You know the sort of people I am referring to, don't you?

Anyway, they kindly delivered my bag of ashes along with a note that read:

My grandmother was very keen on art too, and she would be very pleased to know her ashes were a part of an art project. She also liked water, so if there are any of her ashes left, please can you scatter them in the river Towy. 

I was also told she was a tiny woman which is why there there was only a small bit in the bag.

See what I mean?

We have such mad friends...which mean we fit right in. (ha ha)

Anyway, now my Harry Potter collection is complete!

This is a fun project to do that is relatively cheap, especially if someone else gives you all their old bottles and a bag of ash.

Thanks friends!

Diolch ffrindiau!

Merci amies!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

What I Am Fighting For


I came across this short film today and it hit me right where it hurts.

I saw the world as it is and it reminded me what I am fighting for.

It reminded me why I am vegan and an environmentalist and what that means to me.

Humankind is destructive. FACT.

God has entrusted us with the care of this green and blue planet and we seem to do nothing but pollute it, destroy it, use and abuse it. So many people only think of themselves --satisfying every momentary desire and whim without thinking of the consequences.

Because they think they are the
Top of the Food Chain
King of the Hill
Pinnacle of Creation 
it gives them the right to treat every living being as a vending machine and fill our world with garbage. Wherever they go, humans seem to leave a path of destruction in their wake.

You should definitely watch this with the sound up as Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King really enhances the film.

Here is everything that is wrong about humanity in one short film.

Steve Cutts has just become my favourite animator.

I also saw this on his Facebook page and it hurt because it is so true. Why do we do this?
Celebrating fish in their natural habitat



He has also recently done the animation for Moby's new video. I like Moby because he is an outspoken Vegan and spreads compassion with his music. I am not necessarily a fan of his style of music, but I appreciate what he does.

This video, with its fantastic mix of modern technology and retro style drawing is truly mesmerising.  It features something else that feel needs fighting against. 

Many people have said this is meant to be anti-technology and I don't believe that. It is meant to be anti-selfishness. Anti-coldheartedness. Against being anti-social. 

These days, how often do you have a proper conversation with someone?
How often do you sit down for a meal and really talk and listen to others? 
When was the last time you talked to someone about your hopes and your dreams? 
When did you last put down your phone?

With technology that allows us to be connected 24/7, it is easy to spend our lives virtually, rather than in person. To me, this is another kind of destruction--the destruction of the soul. I think you lose yourself without true face-to-face interactions with people. You lose sight of who you are online. It is all too easy to become a troll and say things you would NEVER say in person because of the anonymity of the internet. You can forget who you are because you spend all your time documenting your life with a selfie, presenting the best version of yourself which is not the real version of yourself. We all have have our ups and downs.  But if people only show the edited, cleaned up version of themselves then it is easy to feel more inadequate about yourself because it seems that your life is not as "perfect" as everyone else's. This is what technology can do to us.  

OK, so maybe there is a hint of anti-technology there as well. 

I originally watched the video with the sound off and I was deeply moved. I watched it again with Moby's music and I was glad I had already seen the video so I could concentrate on the song, because I might have been distracted by the song if I was trying to absorb all the messages from the video. So it is up to you how you would like to watch it. I recommend watching it both ways--sound off then sound on,but it's your call. Just watch it. 
So be kind. 
Spread love and compassion.
Keep your country tidy.
Stand up for what you believe in.
Put down your phone and look into someone's eyes when you speak to them.
Listen.
Be Vegan, Make Peace. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

This Little Light of Mine

When Spiderman and I decided to immigrate to the UK, we did it for a variety of reasons.

To have an adventure.

To follow our dreams.

To be our authentic selves.

To escape George W Bush.

We don't talk about the last one very often, but it was the last straw that finally pushed us into action after years of dreaming.

We thought it couldn't get worse than George W Bush.

How wrong we were.

I am stunned.

Like a sharp blow to my solar plexus.

I am winded. 
Image result for pilot light
This little light of mine, that normally shines so brightly, was fading yesterday. 
It felt like the pilot light of my soul was going out. 

We have not thought of ourselves as American in years. We became British citizens many years ago because we love this country and it is our home. But as soon as we open our mouths, people know we're not from around here. We are thinking of calling ourselves Canadian for the next four years. 

So why, if I am no longer an American, has this upset me so much?

Because like it or not, the USA is a superpower and what they do and how they behave affects the rest of the world. 

I am not just scared for America, I am scared for the world. 

I am stunned that a man who says things like "laziness is a trait in blacks. It's not something they can control," and calls Mexicans "rapists and drug dealers"was elected. 

I am worried that a man who says that he would strongly consider getting the supreme court to over turn the ruling that makes it illegal for states to ban same-sex marriages was elected.

I am gobsmacked that a man who was seen to mock a disabled journalist was elected. 

I am disgusted that a man who refers to women as "dogs" or "a beautiful piece of ass" and openly brags about sexual harassment and assault saying "you can grab them by the p*ssy" was elected president.

I am shocked that a man who calls climate change a "Chinese hoax" and wants to repeal all federal spending on clean energy was elected.

I am terrified that a man who cannot wait to get his hands on the codes to launch a nuclear strike was elected.

After Brexit, there was a 42% increase of hate crimes across England and Wales. 

With a president who behaves that way, and believes that is his right to behave that way, then the US may follow suit. Hate crimes and sexual assaults may be on the rise. 

My little light was so dim. I felt overwhelmed by darkness. Then I remembered the quote by George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. 

I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love which flowed over the ocean of darkness. 

It gave me hope. I talked to Spiderman, who simply said, "We will need to up our game. This is our wake up call to bring more kindness and love into the world." 

Bonzai Aphrodite, one of my favourite bloggers says:
You will need your strength because a fight is on the horizon, and we ALL need to be there to meet it. We need your body, and your voice, and your action to fight for our black and brown brothers and sisters. Our queer community. Our Muslim friends and neighbors. We need to come together and we need to come strong. 

Where there is hate, I will show love.

Where there is fear, I will bring peace.

Where there is darkness, I will be light. 

Will you join me?