Silvester’s Primulas

Heavy as it is was with pandemic worry, my heart couldn’t keep from singing when I set eyes on the flamboyant blossoms in front of Silvester’s Stores on Magdalen Road. It is a real treasure of a shop, run by the son of the man who established it decades ago. A hodgepodge of birdseed, hardware, crockery, and other domestic items, its over-stuffed shelves harken to earlier times.

Some of the stock may be older than I am, but they also carry fine, fresh specimens for the garden. I usually just linger there on the pavement, soaking in the uproarious colour before going on about my day. But since my days have become increasingly circumscribed by the walls of my own home, last week I chose three lovely primulas to call my own. I couldn’t help but hum as I walked down the street with the plants in my arms.

As I arranged them on the window sill in our bathroom, a little ditty entered my head. The next day I put my phone on the music stand of our electric keyboard and pressed record. I then went back and took some more footage of the shop and its environs, watched some YouTube editing tutorials, and, over the course of a few days, stitched it all together into a teeny-tiny film which I released on Valentine’s Day.

I hope it captures some of the delight these flowers have brought to me on these dreary winter pandemic days. I like to imagine the wonder and vitality of their little blossoms careening through the ether, conspiring to connect us in spite of the lonliness of lockdown.

Sh*tshow

A not-so-subtle analysis of the current political moment.

The idea for the song popped into my head one morning, fully-formed, as my percolating coffee burbled gently under the eerily calm voice of the newsreader. 

As the day wore on, I imagined singing this new song at the top of my lungs at a Bastard English Session. This fantasy put a desperately needed smile on my face. Since I knew James Bell was interested in doing another video collaboration along the lines of Newcastle to Portsmouth, I plucked up the courage to do a one-take video and shared it with him.  He added some wicked harmonies and recruited Calum Novak-Mitchell, Mick Phillips, Laura Theis, Trev Williams, Hannah Gray and Josh Robson-Hemmings (of Threepenny Bit) to join in the mayhem.

The awesome instrument Mick is playing is a nyckelharpa. It’s from Sweden.

Here’s hoping the tides turn soon. May the mean-spirited sh*tshow give way to a pile of benevolent compost, from which a new era might spring.

It’s alive!

Grumpy by Sam Twigg and the Sometimes Band

We did it! We actually did it! Our lockdown video is finally live. Thank you Hannah Gray, Jane Griffiths, Colin Fletcher, Tracey Rimell, and Joshua Robson-Hemmings for contributing your talents on flute, fiddle, bass, vocals and guitar. This project kept me going and only occasionally drove me up the wall. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, why not share it with someone who has contributed to, and/or alleviated your lockdown grumpiness?

Live streaming for Folk Weekend: Oxford 2020

Hello fine friends.  As I type I am preparing for my first ever live streaming musical performance, as part of Folk Weekend: Oxford 2020.  Although I am struggling to make sense of life under quarantine, I know music is at the core of my own survival and the root of so many relationships that I treasure.  I hope you will join me at 7 pm  British Summer Time later today for our wee experiment.

UPDATE: Sucess! We had over 1000 viewers. It was amazing spending the evening with old friends and new listeners in Australia, South Korea and the US as well as the UK. And you can still watch the video, anytime you like. Thanks to the amazing team at Folk Weekend!

Ten reasons to write a song

You can’t find your keys and singing “Where the %&$*£! are my keys?!?” again and again calms you down a bit.

You watched a lot of Sesame Street as a child.

When you sing it, the ache lifts.

You can’t get the riff out of your head.

Those words stick together like cookie dough.

You have a sleepless child in your arms and the whole night ahead of you.

Whenever you said the word “radish” as a child your mother burst into the refrain “Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt.” That confused you and yet seemed the natural order of things.

You grew up in an age of catchy advertising jingles and sort of figured out the formula.

You never know when Julie Andrews might turn up and you like to be prepared.

The important things need protection and a gentle melody provides strength as well as comfort.