February Garden Update: Sow What?!

 

Well it’s a new one for me this year, I’m actually vaguely prepared!

My goal this year is to grow all the perennials that I’m planting out in my garden from seed instead of buying them from the garden centre. This means that with things that I can’t grow from seed I can buy from the shops and not spend a lot on the things that I can grow masses of for a lot less.

This also means that I can grow 4 different plants to plant out around my neighbourhood! There are three different spots I’m planning on planting up this year:

Here is a map (because Maps are awesome!)

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Roath Library:

This patch of grass we dug up last April in the pouring rain with the intention of planing wildflowers there…. well… the whole growing season came and went and none sowed any! So this year I’m determined to put in some wildflowers and some easy perennials that will just grow and love it and make the neighbourhood look great to passers buy!

It’s what people see as they drive past and if it looked really nice I think we would attract far more shoppers and people to the area!

Topaz Street Garden:

 

When you look past the rubbish there’s a great little patch of ground where a lot is growing! Including these snowdrops!

So I’m growing some things to put in the ground there!

And finally

Helen/Brewery Park:

This is the main reason for forming a Parks Group in my neighbourhood as this park has really just become grass and an over grown thicket which we’re going to clean, tidy up and then plant up! and hopefully it should be awesome!!!!

(I don’t have a photo of this yet…)

 

What’s Sowing on?

a lot….

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I started with things that would (allegedly) take 14-28 days to geminate… however, after a week we already have a lot of seedlings! GULP!

So, I’m growing shasta daisies, Echinacea, Artichoke, asparagus, Dahlia, Marigold, and also Verbena and¬† Rudbeckia

Here’s some photos of them!

 

 

And… Here is them at present…

Which is great because PLANTS! but also a bit of a worry because 1) I don’t have that much space! and 2) They weren’t supposed to go germinate until the end of the month or at least until the end of the month!

So I’m going to have a lot of plants in pots waiting for the weather to change! GULP!

But It should be fine! My friend is letting me use their greenhouse so phew! I can take some of these monsters up there until April hopefully!

In the Garden

So In the rest of the garden, spring is here… bringing Daffodils and roses….?

DSC_0479.JPGMy first daffodil came up next to the kitchen.. and honestly… I have no memory of planting it… sooooo…. look out for more exciting random acts of planting!

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Another Mystery solved was where I put these crocuses… because I bought them last year moved them around A LOT! and couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d put them… soooo I guess they are there…

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This is just a cute anecdote, this is the pot that was found during our Keep Adamsdown Tidy Litter pick in the summer!

This is what it looked like in Sept!

 

Other New Things I’m trying!

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I’m trying using a plastic storage box as a cold frame! (I’m growing red hot pokers and bleeding hearts in there… doesn’t that sound dramatic!)

DSC_0484A Rose in Feb! What?!?! Go Home Rose! You’re drunk! I mean… it’s a late blooming rose but this is ridiculous….

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I also transplanted Planty (the Elderflower tree we’ve had since he was a lil seedling) into a bin.. it’s big, it was free and I used my garden compost to fill it! So he should be happy in there for a good couple of years and then we’re take him out, bonsai him and stick him back in! I might chain it to the fence so it doesn’t blow over, but it’s very heavy!

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I also planted a crocus lawn… however only two of them have come up yet… so wait for that development!

 

And Here’s some other flower pictures from around the garden including my garlic bulbs coming up!

And that’s it for this month!

Tune in next month to see how the bulbs go!

 

Also, The Topaz Street Garden got £80 in funding! So I can buy mulk and compost and PLANTSSSS!

 

 

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Go Big or Go Home! (OR) What happens when there’s no one in charge and an unlimited budget!

I did a wedding this week that was ‘big’ and by ‘big’, I don’t been 250 guests and a horse and carriage. I mean: 300 guests, horse and carriage, string quartet, big band, singing waiters, harpist, stilt walkers, magician, face painter, kabab stall, ice sculpture, castle venue, party bus, elvis impersonator, EVERYTHING!

the trouble with booking everything is that everything has to work together, unfortunately if you don’t tell the ‘master of ceremonies’ what’s happening you can’t work out a schedule…

So, the ceremony was in St Mary’s in Tenby, which is lovely but HONESTLY either pedestrianise the whole town centre or sort out your roads because driving, dropping off the harp and then having to park and walk a mile away, was a nightmare!

I was only playing for the first 30 minutes of the ceremony, there was a full choir and a trumpeter for the rest of the ceremony. ‘This was a big wedding’ I thought as I ran back to my car to pick up my harp from the church to head to Pembroke castle for the reception.

I saw three wedding cars (which is normal for a large wedding) and thought ‘oh that’s nice’.

Two hours later, after a 20 minute drive to Pembroke and an hour and a half waiting for the horse and carriage to do a tour of Pembroke and then arrive at the castle, I went into Pembroke Castle and though ‘oh this is huge’. They had a horse with a horn on it’s head… just wandering about (A REAL LIFE HORSE! just sitting there in the castle)!

So I went to set up and the big band came into and said ‘what part are you playing?’. ‘Oh the wedding breakfast’ I said, ‘so are we’… so we decided (after they wouldn’t let me just join the band… which, honestly, rude. If you’re at an event and you’ve been double booked with another incredibly competent musician like myself and you’re just doing kinda straight forward rep that everyone knows, you should OF COURSE play together, it’s more fun and you’re getting paid either way!). Anyway, so they said ‘we’ll do a set then you do a short set’, so they did a 40 minute set and I did a 20 minute set. I went to wander around during the second band set and talking to the master of ceremonies, who was also being surprised at every turn by the new performers arriving hourly. The DJ’s said, ‘well, we’re starting at 7pm and the first dance is at 7:30’. Baring in mind that this is already 2 hours behind schedule and they haven’t got enough wait staff to work the wedding.

So at this point (6:45), I clapped my hands together and said ‘I’m done here.’ packed up my harp and went home.

turns out they had triple booked us with the string quartet as well but they had had the good sense to go home!

It looked like a fun and great wedding! This is not a read on the wedding itself, they all were lovely. This is just a warning to other brides, if you’re having a BIG wedding with lots of extras, get someone in charge. a wedding coordinator would’ve been cheaper than paying a harpist, an 8 piece brass band and a string quartet for the wedding breakfast and it means that things run smoothly and you don’t have to worry about anything else but getting married.

If you’re having a normal and small wedding this isn’t important, a harpist is usually the only ‘extra’ you need. Although, I would say a harpist is an ‘essential’, why have a dress when you could have a harpist? but I’m very bias. And you don’t need a coordinator so a small or normal size wedding because usually the venue will sort out things and you just need to do flowers, clothes and registar, and that’s about it! and get a harpist, maybe a local harpist, if you’re in Cardiff I know a gal! (she’s swell)! (she’s me).

Getting through January with my acquaintance Brenda.

Remember summer?

When everything was in bloom and pretty?

These were all shots of my garden!!! SOOOO sunny and warm and there were flowers!!! and sunshine!

 

I think my whole house suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) we’re all mad and cranky and no one is happy until the end of march!

Anyway, my garden looks like this now:

We’re putting in gravel on the seating area to level it out! so that’s a work in progress! (also I’m using a plastic container as a green house to see how well that works!)

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There’s still lots of colour, lots of things happening! there’s still loads of rocket growing that’s pretty tasty!

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The willow is budding up and it’s so fluffy and cute! I have to really resist stroking them and picking them off! I may have done that to one already…

A few small things are in flower, and brenda is having a blast exploring!

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She moves too much to get a nice picture of her playing outside!

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August Wildflower garden

 

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January Garden

In the wildflower garden it’s just wallflowers I threw into the bed in mid-september and they really stuck! so definitely a good move!

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August
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January

It’s a work in progress, I think the issue with a small new garden is that you don’t get a lot of height immediately and you sort of have to wait for it to grow and I think I’m still in the stages of planning and moving stuff around and trying to work out what I want there.

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Upcoming projects:

 

  • After cleaning out next door’s overgrown Buddleja forest and we’re planting a wildflower meadow, it’s easy to maintain, you only need to mow it once a year and it’ll be great for wildlife!
  • My community garden down the end of the street got ¬£75 in funding so we’re planting roses and more plants and getting the local primary school involved in planting it up! which is pretty awesome!
  • I’m starting a local Parks groups to tidy up my neighbourhood green spaces! which is pretty awesome!
  • I’m planning on growing more veg as I’m terrible at it, I’m far more of an ornamental gardener and I don’t really have a great track record… but I’m going to try more!
  • I’m growing more from seed this year, and trying to get more of a cottage garden look in my little city garden, might start a spin off blog about that…

The end.

It’s 2018. Oh God, when does it end? When can I win?!?!

Despite this incredibly depressing title I’m actually in a very good place right now. Just thought I’d clear that up before anyone gets worried.

It is the nature of the beast, and last year’s New Year’s post was ‘Blurgh, Eye Roll, It just keeps going’¬†

Today I thought I would look back on the past year, answer some questions that I previously had and update you on my ‘most comfortable life’. (The secret is cruise control, it was cruise control the whole time).

So, 2017 has been a lot ‘busier’ than 2016 by a factor of 100. I had more work, more weddings, more adventures and far more failures than anyone anticipated! The thing about having a growing business is that it grows, that’s it’s whole point. You build on it, year on year. And that’s what I’d like to stress to all the young musicians out there is that sure, you’re first year might be a bleak one but next year is gunna be better and the year after even better than that!

So, Part 1:

Being Less complacent and ungrateful.

I am content… or at least far more content that I used to be. I started going to a 7am yoga class in April and damn it if that hasn’t changed EVERYTHING! I am now fitter and far happier than I was before.

Similarly, over the summer there was a busker in my favourite pitch. ALL SUMMER! he would get there at 8am and would never finish… and he finally packed up his bags and went home in September, and I honestly have never been happier and more grateful to be able to walk into town and find my favourite pitch is completely empty. It’s such a nice feeling.

I think these two factors have played a huge part in my 2017 development.

Part 2:

Where I try to Structure my work week

The 7am yoga classes 4 days a week have REALLY helped this, if you have something to get you out of bed, let you leave the house and make sure you remember to shower every week then you basically have a built in schedule.

I have found this really lovely. Similarly, having my regular teaching slot on monday and teaching my community choir on Friday have added to this.

But most importantly the amount of gigs I’ve had this year is a lot more than before and that requires a lot of organisation, which has really helped me feel structured in my days.

It’s been really nice. I kind of feel like if this continues I can use it as an excuse to hire an unpaid intern and have them answer all my emails.

The House is fine, mine and Sarah’s friendship didn’t end and it’s all going fine…

Part 3:

Where I tried to improve myself in the past year.

Honestly, I feel like I nailed this one! 2017 has been a year of me just killing it! except financially, the first quarter was a MESS! I may as well have been in a coma or taken a 3 month sabbatical with how little money I actually made that quarter.

So, I didn’t have a formal resolution, but I did achieve a lot of the generic things people aim for. I did lose a bit of weight, which is nice but honestly not that important. I made actual friends! Which honestly, please take a moment out of reading this to let that sink in. I, an adult woman, made new adult friends in 2017, by talking to strangers and now they are my friends! I made a ton of friends from my yoga classes, from which I got a planter at the end of my street, joined up with the gardening community in my neighbourhood and helped my neighbour clear out their garden. I also joined a brass band briefly because of yoga and I also got out the house more. My back doesn’t hurt that much anymore, which is really refreshing for a harpist to say!

Anyway, was I more ‘authentic’ in my being? sure, why not? Did I wear flats to every party? No, because I was never invited to any parties. Did I eat better… well I ate a box of chocolate biscuits for lunch… sooo… I guess not. I mean no one’s perfect!

So, as far as ‘tangible goals’ cross-referencing with last year’s expectations for the year, here is a brief update.

  1. I did get better wine, but I think that was just through luck and a lot of guess work. Honestly, it’s impossible to tell, they should just start keeping wine in Bins and let people ‘lucky dip’ out bottles because honestly, who can tell from the label?!?!
  2. I did put on a concert series, ‘Mid Week Music’ and it failed spectacularly! Did I learn anything from it? Nope. Not really. Would I try it again? Probably not, it’s kinda the worst thing in the world putting on concerts. I like it when I can just turn up and do a concert and it doesn’t matter what happens because I get paid either way!
  3. I did record another album! It’s called ‘Gutsy’ and I did it alone in my office, next year I’ll do something better with friends I guess… who knows…
  4. New harp? CHECK! God, I love having a pedal harp… it’s so good! My korrigan now lives with my student, my bardic is now used for teaching and busking and honestly, I think it’s a perfect mix of big and small.

Part 4:

Where I accept myself for my flaws and failures and try to move on and live the best and happiest life I can.

If you aren’t reading along with last year’s post then this probably hasn’t made a whole lot of sense. However, if you were smart and now have them side-by-side here is a quick, lightening round section corresponding to last year’s section of the same name.

  1. phew! It’s nice to know I won’t be the one to blame for that.
  2. didn’t happen, but I did change cars to get my new giant harp about.
  3. Didn’t happen, but could always happen this year!
  4. Honestly, who knows…
  5. See above.

Section 2

  1. Yep! I did! I went through and expensed only my strings the first time round… that was so stupid…
  2. Yeah… maybe this year! Who knows! might try and get some arts council funding!
  3. No one did, and guess what. I survived!
  4. Some weeks you go under, some weeks you go over, that’s life!
  5. It’s ok, but a little rocky at times. It’s part of being a grownup.

Part 5:

Goodbye and Goodluck!

Well… I hope you enjoyed this re-cap of 2017, I didn’t really specify what I wanted to do in 2018.. I guess I could only sum it up as ‘More of the same’. It’s going pretty well and I’m pretty happy with my career and how it’s all working out. If I could change one thing I think I would just like someone to answer all my emails, who also moves all my instruments for me and has a sweet house I get to hang out in, maybe with an indoor pool! that’d be cool.

Anyway, Happy 2018! I hope you all find your pool-having interns too!

I’ve lost my voice and I’m not worried.

help help… I’m sick… I said to my housemate on Saturday.¬†Well… I didn’t so much ‘say’ it, as I whispered it in my horse empty tone.

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This week I got tonsillitis, I even had to go to my GP, and here are my thoughts.

Firstly, I thought it would pass, as it usually does. I had a bad flu/tonsillitis thing at New Years for those of you following along on all the other social medias! and that passed in three days of hardcore drug taking and having to do two gigs and try not to die. (the drugs were lemsip max cold & flu, but I like to pretend I’m cool when I’m sick).

So, I got this on Monday, and I assumed I’d be fine. I went to work twice, I took some painkillers and I just waited for it to be over. However, by Thursday it had infact gotten worse… to the point where my mother, who had come to visit to change cars so that I now have a car I can fit my harp in, said ‘You need to see a doctor’. ‘What?! noooo. I’ll be fine! It’ll pass’ I said, like the naive lunatic you’ve all come to know and love me as.

It did not. Obviously, I mean, you read the title, you know how ‘getting sick’ works! So I woke up on Friday¬†and I could not speak… not because of an issue with my voice, but because my tonsils had decided to become to size and shape of my wind pipe, and over the back of my throat with a thick coat of phlegm for good measure. (N.B. this will probably be the grosses post I’ve ever written… but it’s my blog and also I’m very brave!)

So, I phoned up my local clinic, which by the way, how is that the best way of doing things in 2017!? If you have trouble speaking you’ve got to call someone to see a doctor about it? Geez! It took 3 minutes of me panic speaking to this receptionist and coughing up phlegm into my sink to good an appointment. Please tell me why a digital booking system would be more difficult… well for old people but fine!

Anyway, The GP’s office took less than an hour. a great thing about this country is our NHS. I saw my GP in 20 minutes, I explained what was wrong because I had looked up all the symptoms and issues on the NHS website and she gave me a prescription. Which I then went across the street to the pharmacy and had filled for free, because living is Wales is wonderful! (there’s no downside! we get less rain in Cardiff than London, and our air is clean!)

Anyway, so over the weekend it went from back to worse, as it is known to do. there was 4am bile vomiting, there was a period of three days where I couldn’t eat solids. However, I did get to watch the whole of Netflix, so I guess that was a good thing!

sleeping was a mess, you try sleeping with your mouth open and then it’s all dry and scratchy and painful. you try sleeping with your mouth closed and your body’s like ‘hey you want some phlegm to swallow? you like swallowing don’t ya? here ya go!’. And you’re lying there having to decide whether letting yourself drool all over your pillow is a better plan than having to suffer another swallow.

Anyway, so Saturday rolled around and what was a groggled bear noise became a hushed whimper.  I physically could not make noises. This continued through to Sunday where the pain lessened and the tonsils went down, but I still sounded like a husk blowing down a dirt path when I tried to communicate. A similar thing on monday, however I was well enough to get out my harp and have a play, and showing definite signs of improvement.

Which brings us to today. Today is the ‘Ssssh’ day, or the ‘Safty day’. As a singer you always want to make sure you’re doing your very best to aid recovery after vocal issues, this usually means, where other people would start talking and working again, you take that extra time to firm everything back up. I can talk without pain, but I am not going to today. Tomorrow I’m going back to some very VERY light singing to see how everything is but nothing more, looking to start singing back at work by next Monday.

This is not the first time I’ve lost my voice. in the two cases before this it was because of over use, or over use during an illness. I usually can happily sing through most illness without any pain or discomfort or damage. As long as I’m hydrated and not on any medication or painkillers, singing through a cold or a cough, is usually fine for me. This was not like that. had sung briefly for my parents on Thursday and sung on Tuesday and Wednesday busking. Which were not stressful or over worked days. The loss of voice came from the tonsillitis itself, which is a common symptom of tonsillitis¬†(just fyi). So I’m being very gentle and careful and slow in getting back to working with the voice to ensure no prolonged damage occurs.

I’m not worried.

People get sick. And, big surprise, singers are people! (I know! what a wild, far out concept!). I lost my voice because I got sick, and then I was quiet for a week and it should return in full working order if I don’t push it or over stretch it and allow it to health.

I am trained and I have worked with my instrument for long enough to know that this is what it needs.

If I was a huge X factor star, I wouldn’t know this. I would take a bunch of painkillers so I could go on stage and perform because my PA decided that this was the best course of action, then I would probably have to drink some alcohol and then sleep in a hotel somewhere because that’s what I imagine their lives are like.

The issue with stars like Adele and Sam Smith’s vocal damage is that their schedules don’t work around their instruments. They don’t let them travel and rest and rest and travel, it’s a quick tour so you don’t have to pay people too much and the singer gets worn out and then they get nodes and then they have surgery!?! Which is real vocal damage!

At the beginning of the month I was so worried that I had no gigs lined up this month, but in this case that worked out for my favour! as a self-employed musician, you usually can’t afford to get sick! You don’t get sick pay, or days off. You have to work on days people tell you to. It’s a lot like an office job but your boss changes constantly and you have no workers benefits… But I’m sure if you read this blog you’ll know every.damn.week I talk about how hard my job is… blah blah blagh.

Anyway, my voice will recover and I have enough time for that to happen without unconvincing anyone. So, for that, and only that reason, I’m glad I’m not a super famous singer like Adele but with a harp… because who’d want that life…? honestly…? having to hold all those Grammies? yuck! too heavy, no thank you!

see ya next month!

Gardening Update: The Last Rose Of Summer

Hello friends,

I realised the last time I did an update was August and, like any new garden, mine is constantly changing and things are moving. Except for the hard landscaping, which Sarah says I’m not allowed to change. ūüė¶

So lets get into it.

Here is where we left off:

https://samhickmanharpist.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/gardening-update-where-do-i-start/

Right,

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Lol, just kidding, that’s next door! (We’re planning on sewing a wild meadow there so it takes little upkeep and is great for nature) We also have a cherry tree, silver birch and some hydrangeas to plant out there next spring!

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This is my garden.

It’s still SO GREEN! December 5th and I have cosmos blooming, Hydrangeas, I would still probably have dahlias going if I hadn’t put them to bed for winter.

 

There’s a lot to unpack here so I will start at the front and work my way back.

I started composting, I took the panels from the fence and made a small compost bin, so hopefully by summer I will never have to buy compost again. It always seemed really weird to me that I had to buy dirt, the thing the ground is made of. So now I’m making now own! the leafy green on the top of the pile is the peacock orchids which have been half put away and half mulched.

So, the peacock orchid is a lot like Dahlias and Gladioli in that it is not hardy whatsoever and needs to be dug up. However, as you can see by my December garden, it doesn’t really get that cold here. So I’m experimenting. Half of my dahlias and peacock orchids (Pictured below) are in the shed ready for planting out after the last frost and half of them are mulched over and still in the ground! We will have to see what survives and what doesn’t!

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I’ve been changing out pots for winter and basically every single pot has some sort of bulb in it, daffodil, hyacinth and tulip! I also planting some in the lawn for a little bit of an early spring surprise! there’s a whole bunch of crocuses and a few mystery daffodils in there!

The only edible still going is all the salad I planted which is still going very strong, I’m planning on getting some lettuce in there as it’s all basically rocket at this point (I ate the last lettuce).

The trellises have all moved as well, I will tell you why as we move around the garden, and There is a willow structure now over the patio.

The willow came from the community garden, and although it doesn’t look like much now, it should grow out and I will weave it into a lovely little living pergola. It’s quite vigorous but we all know how brutal I am with my clippers so I’m not worried about it.

The green house hut is where I’m propagating hydrangeas for next door. I will move it over one of the beds in the spring to act as a cloche before the weather gets nice again.

Next photo!

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A VERY sad looking wild flower garden.

The cosmos REALLY took off this year and were almost 7 foot! They are huge. I’ve cleared out this bed for winter and mulched it with compost. I’ve planted daffodils for spring as well as anemones. But the most exciting thing (Which you can’t really make out) is the apple tree in the centre of the bed. I went to Coed Hill Rural art space in November on a VERY cold Thursday and picked out a ‘Scrumptious’ apple tree (That’s the variety we shall see if it lives up to it’s name!). The bay bush is going well and I will divide that in the spring and make it into a small hedge at the back where the cosmos is I think. I also moved a rather twiggy acer into this bed late summer so keep an eye out to see if that makes it through winter!

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So, because the cosmos are HUGE, This is the best angle I could get of the long boarder. From left to right, there’s a pot with some lovely oregano I propagated from the plant in the north bed, and some parsley Sarah planted out in the summer. Then there’s the mystery plant I’m not sure what it is! You an see the willow beams that should turn into small trunks as the years go by. There’s the rose, a new little evergreen topiary, Maxine, who should look better come spring. More parsley, that Sarah planted and I’m now worried will never die and will live there until the sun explodes. My lovely lavender, at the back theres a hebe and one of those bushes that flower yellow in the spring. There’s also a fig tree that I will be planting next door because figs don’t ripen in this country apparently and I don’t want to give space for something that’s not going to do very well.

Then, Now here’s the exciting bit, a new plum tree!

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It’s a stick now, but next year it should grow out a bit and I plan to espalier it to the fence. It should take up a small amount of space and give us tasty tasty Victoria Plums!

Then there’s a wisteria and the rest is salad.

The obelisk is there just so it has somewhere to go. It’s a small garden so I just popped something in the ground where there was space.

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The north bed is still looking pretty fresh. We got a ‘Cola plant’ which smells and tastes like coke-a-cola!

The pear is nicely budded up to give us some lovely fruit next year and hopefully the honeysuckle will cover up more of this horrible fence by then as well!

 

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Also, here is a rose still blooming. In December.

Next year I’m not deadheading this rose as it looked terrible in late summer but great in June/July. I think it’s an older variety of rose because our neighbour has the exact same type and he doesn’t know how old it is. It was here when we bought the house.

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Planty is doing well, he’s mulched and we are planting him up in a bigger pot next spring when he starts to re-grow.

He’s an elder tree and they grow like weeds and will take over any garden they are in, so we’re keeping him in his own little pot so the rest of the garden can survive without having to be really really watered well in the summer months!

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The Shade Garden is doing well, I will be expanding that trellis in the spring so the Passion flower covers the whole wall.

and Here is my small crab apple tree and my little blackberry, which I am hoping to train on to the wall.

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I mulched with compost and also fallen leaves this year so we will have to see what happens next year with all that goodness in the soil!

I’m tending towards a no-dig style of gardening where the mulch is just chucked on top and is worked down by all the insects that live in the soil. It’s a very easy and simple way of doing it!

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And that’s it from my little garden, I will post again in spring when all the bulbs are out!

See you in the new year!

I Just accompanied an [Reality-TV show] contestant and I have a few things I need to say.

It is winter 2016¬†and I just got home from an event…

By the time you read this the [event thing] will probably have folded and the “singer” in question will have probably been long forgotten in the collective consciousness of our nation… or she won and now have a christmas number one and a record contract.

I have written before about why I’m not going on the X factor/britians got talent/some other rehash of this idea. But I¬†would like to share this experience because it was so beautifully fulfilling of everything I now know to be true about the “singers” these “talent” competitions attract.

So, I was booked to play at this launch for an hour set during their drinks reception, which was lovely, I played they did some talking and I did some networking and mingling (because I’m a social butterfly business woman).

Anyway, I got approached by the photographer at the event who said ‘[suchandsuch] from the x factor is hear and wants to sing, would you mind accompanying her?’ (I’m not omitting a name because of legal reasons I just can’t remember…)

Anyway, I agree because I’m a sadistic masochist¬†who loves watching people and I’m also always game for accompanying others because I like to practice that skill. So I’m introduced to this girl, I’m guessing 18 years old, blonde, thin (honestly, the only difference between me and taylor swift right now is dress size), and we are ‘talking’ which is basically me shouting at her in this loud room and her whispering back… like she was literally whispering…I would later find out that she’s not even on the show anymore… so she was just whispering to be annoying or cute (honestly, probably both she was about 12 years old)… so, I’m suggesting pieces she might like to sing like that ed sherran song ‘Thinking out loud’ and she whispers some nonsense back, then she suggests ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

Now, I do this completely straight normally, with the occasional¬†embellishment on the second time round, I do it in a sensible key that is not too high or too low and is actually perfect for belting… This girl was a ‘pop’ singer, and by that I mean a ‘crap’ singer. When you aren’t warmed up to sing and you’re a singer then you aren’t ready to work. Unfortunately this girl was about 10 years old and hadn’t developed a ‘showbiz backbone’ to be able to say ‘no, I’m not doing that’ or ‘I need to rehearsal real quick and warm up’ like a real musician would have, or at the very VERY least had a great sense of humour about not being warmed up… or prepared to sing a C… it’s not a hard song, my 9 year old student manages it with a million times more grace than this gal.

I had rushed to put my harp in key and had acidentally put my D lever up in my bass instead of my Eb lever… that was the only issue with my performance, which I realised 3 seconds in and corrected… That poor girl just had to keep going… she was apparently ‘shy’ or something.. she kept sort of clasping her hands together at her chest like she was shielding them from the cold…

There are two things I do not accept from performers:

  1. Unprepared (if you’re not warmed up and practiced, don’t do it! winging it is not a good idea in front of a room full of people…) if you’re warmed up then wing it, if you’re unrehearsed and cold you will probably fail… that’s why I start most sets with ‘Blue skies’ because it’s an easy enough warm up even when I’ve been sat in a car for an hour
  2. Not selling it. If you are a performer, and that is your job, you can not afford to be shy or coy. If you aren’t there belting your face off to nonsense words in a completely different key then you AREN’T. DOING. IT. RIGHT! It’s so simple, just bluff your way through! Especially if you only have to sing… if you don’t have to worry about anything else and you are free to walk about and stretch out your hands you can distract people from your great ineptitude of talent and they will say things like ‘weren’t her hands enthusiastic’

So this poor girl had been roped into this and seemed fairly optimistic about it. I started the introduction and said ‘I will just follow you’. She started in the wrong key.

I do it in C, you start on a C and do the octave up C, it is suitable for all voice types because it is not high or difficult. This girl pitched an A from that…. I even played a C to make sure she knew what note she was starting on….

She was not warmed up at all. It was almost 9pm, if you’re just talking, you’re ready to sing because your voice has naturally warmed up throughout the day. try it. try pitching a C and singing the opening, if it’s past around 1pm you should be able to do it quite easily giving it enough ‘umph’. Now remember, you’re not a professional singer, you’re job isn’t ‘Being a singer’ the description of your job isn’t ‘TO SING’, this girls job was TO SING!

I am warmed up everyday because I sing everyday, I might not go to work but I sing everyday, even if it is just warming up in the morning and then not doing anything for the rest of the day I can’t start my day without being just a little warmed up… if you’re a singer chances are you sing every day, that’s your job, unless you are on vocal rest you are probably singing. This girl was a ‘Singer’.

However, this girl was not a ‘trained singer’. The reason you spend money on your child learning to sing is so that they know how their voice works. They know that if they over sing it hurts, they know what good singing ‘feels’ like, they know how to properly phrase things and most importantly they know how to pitch things and sing in key even given adverse circumstances… like singing as the cruise ship you’re on sinks for example…. This girl was not trained, it was like listening to Christina Aguilera giving birth to a whale. Why a whale? well, she was not expecting it to be in a normal key, she was expecting a pop-star A to A ‘somewhere Over the rainbow’ not a C-C ‘Somewhere Over the rainbow’. She had not been taught how to sing properly and it showed, it painfully showed. It was wailing and then faux belting (because, again, this girl had not been taught how to belt properly) she tried to ad-lib during the B section but didn’t sell it enough to make it more than a one second¬†phrase. And at the end everyone cheered, and I got lots of lovely compliments on my voice and harp because I am a professional and it is my job to be good at those things.

To that girl, I know/hope you’re reading this and thinking ‘What can I do to avoid another embarrassment like this’ here are some tips:

  1. It’s ok to say ‘No’, ‘No’ is a full sentence. You do not need to put on a strapless ballgown (yes she was wearing a strapless ballgown to a semi/casual ‘everyone came from the office’ event).You do not need to sing when you are not warmed up (she wasn’t sick she was just crap)
  2. get some training. It just works.
  3. You don’t have to be shy. You’re a god damn performer, act like it.
  4. Fake it, till you convince others you’re good at your job. easy, I did it with my career and look at me now! I’ve practiced enough to be really good at it!
  5. Loose the PA.

Afterwards, her PA came to basically excuse her for being bad at her job… he said ‘oh there wasn’t a microphone and she was singing accapella which is really hard’, I looked at a¬†woman who was stood next to me at this point and we both rolled our eyes. I sing un-amplified every day, If you can’t belt over a crowded room you’re not worth listening to amplified. Making the sound louder doesn’t make the noise any better it just makes it louder.

If I ever have a small man following me around making excuses for why I’m bad at my job (which is what this man did) please slap me. better yet, slap him and tell him to leave. Because if you worked in an office job and your assistant was going into meetings after you ¬†and saying ‘Oh, you know this room and this conference table, they aren’t glass, we’re used to glass conference tables’, then you are bad at your job and you need to either work harder or quit. honestly, think about that for a second. This man was literally apologising for a singer being bad at singing… sure it was a spur of the moment thing with no rehearsal but I’m not doing anything crazy, it’s very easy to follow if you know the tune!

Ham it up! If you are a performer you LOVE to perform that’s the point! Beyonce doesn’t play with her hands and panic when she’s unprepared she’s BEYONC√Č! she runs the world!

 

And so, I will leave you with this. If you can’t do your job, get out the way and let someone better do it instead.

 

Follow up, She is in fact 25. She should know better.

DIwhy?!! You’ve got to make your own work.

So, by now I will have started my concert series, ‘Mid Week Music‘ Which, I’m almost certain will be a huge¬†failure, but hey! I tried!

I wanted to start a concert series for a number of reasons:

  1. I am basically only good at performing
  2. I would like to be able to perform regularly for people who want to come listen
  3. I like supporting other musicians!
  4. I needed to diversify my income and actually have some sort of back up when busking is a wash out.

So, ‘Mid Week Music’ was born. (this is April that I’m writing this, so it’s either a complete mess or doing ok! we’ll see!)

This month I wanted to talk about ‘Making your own work’. As a creative, it is the only way you will get work. You can get gigs and everything else, but creating your own job is the only way you will actually have a job.

I always think of Shelly Fairplay  and Christy-Lyn, two very clever harpists with a lot of hustle.

Firstly, I think of Shelly’s harp ensemble ‘Dynamic Harps’, with is an amateur harp ensemble she founded and has run for years. She founded a harp ensemble because that’s what she wanted to teach, she saw that there wasn’t one in south wales and made one. A couple of years ago I bumped into her at a bank and she said ‘Eventually I’d just like to be teaching ensembles’, and she does! she created work for herself and it’s that sort of drive that I try and take with me into my ventures!

Secondly, is my social media friend Christy-lyn, she has a fab youtube that you should definitely look at, but she’s created videos for beginner harpists and people looking to know more about playing and all aspects of harping! (I even helped out for a ‘Harp Help’ Video, and I’m sure you can go watch that now!). Her use of social media and the internet in finding a niche for herself is something I also hope to emulate. She’s doing a great job!

One thing I wish musicians would realise when leaving university or college is that half the time you will have to make work for yourself. You will have to go to wedding fayres, advertise online, create groups and make actual jobs for yourself because for the most part a large hotel chain isn’t going to pick you off the street, let you work there for two years and pay you very little! You’ll have to put on your own concerts. And it is scary, knowing that you can fail, but if you’re going to fail at least it’s on your own terms, not sat behind some desk at a recruitment firm doing a job that google could do better than you. (have I stressed how much I hate ‘recruitment’ as a profession… there are too many of you! go get a real job!)

Anyway, If Mid Week Music is still going, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD COME TO IT! and if not, then at least I tried!

I missed a gig last Friday and just spent an hour crying under my piano.

being a 24 year old free-lance musician is tough. At any age I’m sure it’s difficult, but especially when you’re just starting out and expecting the world.

It’s tough, it’s lonely, it’s boring and you get very complacent and angry. But you can’t really do any other job, anything else would seem like a waste of your talents, but more importantly, your time.

I have nothing happening next month.

During the lusty month of May I have no bookings… and it’s May.. and I’m a harpist, and it’s wedding season. I know that when we get into May I will get bookings and work will come (it’s the same as every month) but I’ve been doing this dance for almost 4 years now and I’m still not used to it.

Back when I was first starting out it was fine, I was playing it by ear, I had just let uni and busking on the street seemed way better than getting a minimum wage job in a coffee shop somewhere. It still is, and I would hate to have to do any kind of non-musical job, I don’t think I would survive. When I first left uni I got my residency, I had a little bit of stability and at the very least, I had work every weekend. Now I’m lucky if I have a Saturday gig. Sure, even when I don’t have a gig I only have to busk 3 days to meet my targets, but it’s the infrequency and the insecurity that I wish someone had told me about when I was starting out.

The one thing I wish someone had said to me was:

‘You will have to pay your rent with money you don’t yet have’

You don’t have that money yet. It’s not like an office job where you’ll get X amount of money every month, you will struggle and you will do really well and that’s fine! That’s the job! I just wish someone had said, ‘At some point you will panic about everything and just need to lay down on the floor on your office just because you feel too overwhelmed with your chosen career path’. I hope that if you are a young musician starting out and looking for tips you realise this is reality. unless you luck into a great gig or regular work, your life will be this.

I missed a gig.

I only realised it today, but last Friday I missed playing an event. or did I? I could argue that firstly, they only sent 2 emails, one of which was enquiring, the follow up telling me about a change of venue. And secondly, that they never actually confirmed payment, or even sent a ‘Great see you there’ email to reply.

So, it was a retirement event for a lecturer at Cardiff met uni, held at Cardiff university. Now, usually with booking through a university or a college, they take an invoice so they can pay me. This woman didn’t do that, or confirm that the quote I sent her was what she was willing to pay.

So the initial email was sent on the 6th, to which I replied to that day. She then replied on the 11th to tell me the date change. It was clear and there was a question in it, to confirm that times. I then replied but for some reason I didn’t put it in the diary… and so I didn’t remember it was happening and I didn’t do it!

This is the first time that this has ever happened… and I just panicked. What if I’ve done this with other events and not realised? what if I’ve missed loads of events that I’ve just completely forgotten about?!?! This is my constant waking nightmare that I have to live with. I already have horrible anxiety when driving to events, ‘What if I’ve got the wrong venue/date/time/my car runs out of gas/my tyres burst and I’m late and I don’t get paid and I have to refund these people and they write a bad yelp review and I never work again?!?!?!?!’ So, naturally this sent me well over the edge when I realised that I’d completely missed this without so much of a thought. And therefore, I did what any rational adult would do and got underneath my upright piano, got in the fetal position and started crying about how writing things in my dairy and going to gigs is literally most of what my job is and how if I’ve managed to fail at this then I’ve obviously failed at my job and should give up and get a boring office job with the same repetitive hours so I couldn’t screw that up.

No, it’s fine. You’re ok. One of the main reasons I completely forgot about this event is because I had a wedding on Sunday with a little bit of a nervous bride who phoned me practically every three days before the wedding. So I naturally must have been distracted from checking this email, maybe calling her office and confirming the booking.

4 emails is usually what it takes to confirm a booking, at the very minimum. If it’s someone I’ve worked for before then it’s only 2 ‘Can you do this date, time?’ ‘Yes, I’ll see you there’, that’s when I’ve worked at the venue and there isn’t any issue with the system of payment. So, there is a number of reasons why I missed this one. We’re human, we make mistakes, the point is not to beat yourself up about it, take a deep breath and try to make sure that you do better in the future. and exhale.

 

Next month, ‘You have to make your own work’

 

New Harp, Who Dis?

Written on 22nd April 2017.DSC_0014.JPG

I know this is long over due, but I got a new harp! and I LOVE IT!!!!

So today’s blog is about my brand new pedal harp, why I upgraded, and all my harp plans for the future! So, here we go!

My new harp is an Aoyama Orpheus 46, we got it second hand from Pilgrim harps, my parents gave me the money and I have to pay them back. I was going to get a loan for a pedal harp but my parents were willing to lend me the money so that was wonderful and meant I could get an instrument that was really great! I will be forever grateful for this!

Why I upgraded.

A couple of months ago I went to the Camac harp weekend here in Cardiff, It was wonderful and I played every single harp they had on display!

and as I worked my way round I got to the pedal harps and I just loved it! playing their pedal harps it was the sound that I always imagine my korrigan sounds like. When I was at the Hilton I used to pretend that it was a big concert grand… even though it doesn’t sounds like anywhere near to an actual concert grand.

So, I was playing all these gorgeous pedal harps and I went to all these workshops with all these other harpists with big real harps and I just felt like ‘I could do that…. but better!’. And honestly, humblebrag, but 2 weeks in and I kinda am…. so humble! I know!

So we started looking for pedal harps more seriously, I had been looking at pedal harps for about 4 years at this point. So I knew the market and what I was looking for etc. We tried a little Salvi Daphne 40 that had a great sound but the owner thought he had something far more valuable than what he actually had. I saw a great Erard on the Pilgrims website. (Brief plug, if you’re looking for a great second hand harp I would always look at their website! It’s great!¬†Their website!)

So we went to look at a Dodd and an Erard their and they also had this Aoyama. We got to look around the workshop, which was great. And play their very expensive harps! I started playing the Dodd and the Erard and they weren’t what I was looking for. As someone who plays a lot of Jazz and needs some Pedals that will really take a beating over the years, these older harps weren’t going to be up to scratch. So, I played the Aoyama, it was perfect. A little big for me, which was something I considered when buying a harp I will be gigging with. But it’s still pretty portable and should be wonderful when I finally get it out and about!

We then spent about 4 hours in traffic trying to get home!

Today's tip: new harp who dis?

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And of course I had a play when I got home! (I didn’t bring my trolley so we dragged it up to the patio at my parents house so I could have a play!)

The Gag. It didn’t fit my car…. so I’m swapping cars with my parents so that I can actually take my harp places. My mother is really worried about me getting my harp into a car singlehandedly. So here is a video of an older shorter harpist getting her harp into a car.

I’ll be fine! (She had to get it over that curb!)

Might make one of these though! Looks practical!

Anyway, The FUTURE!

 

What’s Harpening Next?

So, I’m transitioning all my material to my pedal harp… which in reality took less than a week… guys… not wanting to brag… buuuutt. I’m amazing at pedal harp!

Today's tip: find something that sounds as good as it looks.

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This was day one. (DAY ONE! let that sink in) #Prodigy

And this is 11 days later….

Guys! I’m amazing!!!! I just gotta wait until I have a car that’ll let me take it places and you better watch out!!!

Back to the point.

So, apart from being insanely good at it, one of the main reasons I upgraded was for that sweet sweet pedal harp money. Because if you have an expensive, 6foot instrument that sounds as good as it looks, then you can charge accordingly. And I will.

The other reason is the rep I can now do! I CAN DO KEY CHANGES! There is literally nothing stopping now… except that I can’t take it anywhere yet… but that will soon change! So look out other harpists, I’m coming to snatch your giiiigs!

 

They don’t have gifs for harpists snatching gigs….. so… sorry…

Anyway, the plan is to keep my Korrigan for smaller weddings and for people who want that traditional look. Also, for venues that don’t have step-free access. (Looking at you Angel Hotel Cardiff… full side eye to your crazy car park access… get it together! I did yell at them last time… I will do a full post about step-free access)

Anyway, so this wonderful new harp will be my trusty harp for the foreseeable future, or 15-20 years until I buy something new that will suit exactly what I’m doing at the time. If I’m selling out festivals and concert halls and still playing on my Aoyama, then I might buy something more impressive. If I’m still playing gigs and weddings then I might get something super portable, smaller and even more light weight.

Lever Dreams

So, I’m still going to be playing lever harp every week as I still have to busk, because I gotta pay for this big harp somehow! (seriously, I have to pay my parents back for the big harp)

I have been toying with the idea of getting a DHC for busking and concerts that an electric harp would work wonders at. I think a DHC would be a wonderful addition and would work so well with my repertoire. However, I don’t think it would actually recoup it’s investment. The Pedal harp will pay for itself in three¬†years. my Busking harp paid for itself within the first two months. The Korrigan within the first three months. I don’t think the DHC would make it’s ¬£5,000 price tag back within the first three to five years. Which is the general time scale I set for harps.

So that’s it!