Well good day fair burghers of the Tweedie blog on this soggy Father’s Day Morning! I’m going to intersperse this blog with pictures, because, believe me, you’ll need the tea breaks. . .
My Dad’s always been known to his friends and workmates as Tweedie and while I nipped to the shop a moment ago (in the car, still forgetting the milk I went out for in the first place!) there was a fantastic monologue on RTE1 called (I think) ‘The Best Man For the Job’ – an Irish father’s view of his sons and how they have allowed him his ‘fatherhhood’ . . it was priceless and really beautifully written.
And how, they live their lives (now at 10 and 12 years of age, respectively) through their imagination, whether it’s Spiderman, Despicable Me etc and at full throttle, as most kids do and how we all used to do.
We watched Despicable ME2 again last night before the session in Cryan’s Hotel in Carrick on Shannon with Noel Sweeney (flute), Johnny King (Bodhran), Jim McLoughlin (button accordion), Dominic Keogh (bodhran), Donna McCann (concertina and voice), Desi Kelleher (who is fast becoming my favourite all-time banjo player – his CD is fantastic!!!), Sven (bouzouki) and Brid (fiddle). My word, it was brilliant.
(Photo : Peter Crann L-R : Sandra Joyce, Niall Keegan, KT and Daoiri Farrell)
Now then – two Dads I know are also on probably 2 of my all time favourite CDs and they (the cds) have never been released. Niall Keegan (flute) has nearly finished (it’s awaiting one track for the past 2 years, I believe, yawn) a CD (working title, ‘Flunkt’) with Ryan Molloy (piano), Kieran Munnelly (flute) and Philip Barnes (flute). It’s unbeeee – lieveable and the first track I would like played at my funeral, it’s so beautiful.
Shanti Paul Jayasinha (my all time favourite flugelhorn player) has recorded a live CD a few years ago now, with pianist Steve Lodder called ‘Rhythm Changes All’ and as far as I’m aware, it has never been released and is simply stunning – and was recorded live one afternoon at Dartington Hall (I believe) in one take.
When I asked Shanti Paul a few years ago if he was going to release it, he said that he and Steve Lodder decided not to as they didn’t really play like that anymore. . .
(L-R : Elaine and Peter Ellis)
Another Dad, Peter Ellis, shared a super story with me about when his son was 5 (about 20-odd years ago).
‘We were about to leave for school and I was checking that my son had done everything. I asked him,
‘Have you packed your school bag, got your PE kit and remembered your spellings list and. . .’
He tugged at my jacket and said,
‘Dad. . .’
I looked into his very serious eyes and heard him say slowly,
‘. . .I just try to do one thing a day, well,’
Wasn’t that fantastic? That’s my life philospohy now, Karen,’
(Photo : Tony O’Nions)
Now then – I used to be hyper critical of stuff I didn’t think was upto much and last year, whilst with Vic King at Galway Arts Festival suddenly caught myself being such an ‘expert’ who only complains and does nothing!
We are now in a society that does just that.
We love to complain – it’s so much more self satisfying to do that with pals and do nothing to either change it or show we can be better ourselves (at music / art etc).
So! I’m releasing (after a LOT of nudging by Niall Keegan) a CD of a cassette I made 30 (!) years ago. At the time, I was often asked to make a cassette of my favourite Irish tunes for people in sessions.
After about the 13th time, I decided to grab Adrian Burns (a fellow Willesden, London bod and rather tasty bouzouki / guitar player I was playing in sessions with at the time.
We called over, one Saturday morning, to the house of Thomas Nagle (a lovely piano accordionist – thankfully younger than me so I wouldn’t be competing against him at the fleadhs – phew!). Minutes later, the kettle’s on, I’m playing Tom’s piano accordion (120 bass) and firing tunes out at Adrian who, quick as a flash, backed me with great ease.
A couple of hours and copious cups of tea later, we had a C90 cassette of my favourite tunes, which, over the next 10 years, bootlegged (with our permission) it’s way all around Ireland and the UK.
I forgot about it until, years later, a fella came up to my Dad with a copy of the said cassette.
At the time, I was playing with SWAP and May Monday. Me and Dad had, following the death of my mother, began making trips to Ireland to teach and play sessions at the All Ireland Fleadhs again. This often resulted in meeting up with old friends and the conversations often went thus :
‘Karen – how’s it going? Still touring?’
‘Yes – all great really. . .’
‘You know, that weird auld music you’re playing in Scandinavia is all very well but would you never just do a trad CD?’
This used to slightly bewilder me. As if the world needs another trad accordion CD. . . .!
Niall Keegan reckoned that I should put the cassette with Adrian out as a CD. It is, after all, fully trad in style and would answer those queries. . .
So – we are! And it’s been edited and mastered by Andy Bell; no softening any edges (remember this is a cassette in the dark days of ghetto blasters!) and some of the howlers I make are priceless and staying in.
It’s a ‘field recording’ (as the academics in the trade refer to) – I never understood that phrase. Where’s the cows / gates etc? So it won’t be full price but even I am proud of the music on this recording. My Dad loves it.
(Photo : Tony O’Nions)
Meanwhile, Adrian Burns has never really quite forgiven me for ‘going off’ to play with Ivan Miletitch and then Ian Carr. Which is a bit rich as I forgave him for ‘going off with’ Noreen Cullen. . . but that’s another story and she is, after all, like Carina Normansson : not only stunning but a party in a paper bag! – two marvellous women I totally aspire to be like.
Adrian’s titled it ‘Bootleg Panini’ (sp?) as I always played a Guerrini or Pigini accordion and I’m doing the artwork. It’ll be launched in November this year at the Birmingham Trad Fest (26th -29th November) and coincides with the relaunch of May Monday (duo) there – Timo and I are sharing the Friday night concert with Mary Bergin (tin whistle) and the Mulcahy Family!!!! And Tony Linnane (fiddle) is also on the weekend bill. OH! I so love that man’s music! Talk about not to be missed. . . The festival is on their second year and was a riot last year, apparently, or as Clondra Seamus would say, ‘A pure pantomime,’ – it’s funny how Irish people use what I would think of as negative words as superlatives. I suppose a little like how young people used to use the word ‘Bad’ meaning it’s excellent / cool.
(Photo : Tony O’Nions)
Anyway, last Friday night (keep up!) we were playing with Noel Sweeney (flute), Jim McLoughlin (button accordion), Seamus Thompson (fiddle), Donna McCann (concertina and voice), Sean Thompson (button accordion), Johnny King (Bodhran) at the Longford Arms – great venue and acoustics for a session. Sean, Seamus and I worked out that we hadn’t met for 35 years! What music (another 2am job) we re-visited that night.
Then, last Thursday night we were at a wonderful session in Carthy’s Bar, Roscommon – again, another super venue, great acoustics and apart from Aine and Aine (two great young muscians and fabulous Sean Nos step dancers – they even gave us a step with another young lady friend of theirs that night), there was John Wynne (flute) and Frank Kelly (piano accordion) – superb players and hilarious company. . .I could write a book about their stories (especially Frank and Patsy Hanly’s – Patsy was at a meeting that night and couldn’t make it but he’ll be there again next week, or is that the night of the concert with Brid Harper and Dermot Byrne at Strokestown House? Eeeek. So much for moving to the tranquility of Ireland. . . )
And I wouldn’t mind but I’ve only been going to that weekly session about 7 times! Beautiful music, acoustic and so much laughter. . .I feel I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Last Wednesday night was (my favourite) at the Camlin Bar in Clondra, Co Longford with all the usual suspects and for those of you who missed the Irish TV documentary about this pub, the weekly session and it’s idyllic location see :
Run by Seamus, Jim and Rosie Breheny, you couldn’t get a better welcome or amazing night’s fun (every Wednesday come hail or shine) – tunes, songs, stories and more, all by the locals. And sandwiches at around midnight!!!
(Photo : Tom McElvogue)
So, as you can imagine we (I mean me, Tom McElvogue and Nick Wiseman-Ellis, who is over for a rest – ha ha) have had a very lazy Father’s Day, mostly walking around Lough Key, near Carrick-on-Shannon. Gorgeous. Well worth a visit if you’re over here in the Midlands of Ireland.
Now I did warn you – this is a long one and can be digested, like Jane Swayne’s fine dark chocolate, slowly and intermittently or with a big mug of Resolution Tea (and pot with covered with an Anne Humphreys’ ‘Thermal Enhancer’ as Clive Mead calls teacosies – and he’s quite an expert, I can tell you) and dive back to bed on this sleepy Sunday evening.
It is here – the household are snoozing or snoring, toes cocked up to the moon (as my mum used to say) and I love the tranquility of times on my own like this. I often knit, read or watch the swallows doing their loop-de-loops at this time of day.
This morning, though, I spent a few early morning hours ironing. I do love ironing (when it’s on my terms. . .and no deadlines); I don’t iron things like sheets or socks anymore, but yes I do iron J cloths and pillow cases and duvet covers. I remember the Poozie girls arriving at my house in Derby one time (in the early nineties) for a rehearsal few days and I continued ironing as the tea was poured out and they were filling me in with the news since we last met.
Mary (Macmasterpiece) said, eyes wide and totally cutting into Patsy’s chat, mid sentence (she was not amused),
‘Karen, you’re ironing. . a. . J CLOTH!!!’
‘Yes,’ I said, turning my focus back to Patsy who suddenly forgot what she was saying and looked at me in disbelief (and the pile of ironing I’d been saving up for at least a week).
I think that was the beginning of the end of my Poozies days; I’m not sure Patsy and Mary ever got over it 🙂
But I digress.
(Photo : Tony O’Nions)
I’m not very good at meditation but I find that while ironing or playing the accordion, my focus is so acute and my heart so happy (and warm!) that I am able to empty my brain of every thought and just be in the moment.
My most creative ideas, tunes I am most proud of and fondest memories happen all in my head at these times, so much so, that I now have a notepad velcro-ed (sp?) onto the ironing board and am thinking of getting a dictaphone screwed onto the top of my accordion.
I’ve met a lot of people who talk about mindfulness – I’ve found my ability to focus on one (or sometimes several) things very carefully has often driven colleagues to distraction, caused them to go out and buy a punch bag or worse, try to lecture me. Uh oh. . .
(Photo : Tony O’Nions)
I read a lot and I knit more and more too – both activities make me think quite deeply (hmmm – how ‘deep’ is ‘deeply’ and what can we compare it to? Does anyone have a brain ruler?!); I wear my heart on my sleeve (‘Really?’ I hear you say) and I care very very passionately about everything.
These days I don’t rant so much – I’ve decided it’s best not to waste time talking about things / people that I don’t agree with / like.
No publicity (as against bad publicity) acts as a deflater of profile, I find. Any other publicity just promotes the people and things and activities that I don’t like / agree with and you don’t know if I disagree / don’t like something / someone because rather than not having mentioned
OK. Now to the rants.
(This is the cover of a ‘my accordion playing in progress’ from Technical Terry – a beautiful idea. Not only has his playing really come on leaps and bounds since I last taught him, several years ago, it’s such a wonderful thing to receive, as a teacher. He’s the best and used one of my cartoons for the cover too!).
I have been trying, quite hard, to get an American Visa to work at the Acadia Trad School which begins next Sunday. Read on – it’s not looking promising. The only reason I’m letting you be a fly-on-the-wall here is because I’m tired of uncaring bureaucracy, red tape and the ripple effect it has on innocents who are trying to work or those trying to attend concerts / workshops, having saved up and put aside time to do so. . . .Let alone the poor organisers Chuck Donnelly who put SO much time and effort into these wonderful summer schools. . .
Thursday 18th June 2015
As requested, a detailed account of what happened at the US consulate regarding my visa application yesterday :
A Day at the US Consulate in Belfast by Karen Tweed June 2015
So, yesterday (17th June), Marian McGauley drove me to the American Consulate in Belfast in good time for my 10.30am appointment in order to go for the final leg of obtaining my work visa, which allows me to legally work at the Acadia Trad Summer School 2015 for 5 days at the end of June 2015.
I went through security – I have been to that particular office before and the staff are always very helpful and friendly; we chatted about music, the accordion (one officer had recently taken up the piano) and the fact he thought he wasn’t actually ‘musical’.
Then through to the consulate itself, I waited less than 5 minutes to go to the first window and hand over my copious paperwork. The lady there informed me that I had petitioned for the wrong visa – she asked me to sit down while I waited. Then I was called up again, to be told that I had to pay an extra $30 and then she could proceed (which I did and got a receipt).
I then gave scans of my fingerprints and was asked to sit and wait for the next step.
About 20 minutes later, I was called to the booth for interview. Everything seemed in order; they returned the documents they no longer needed to me and kept my passport. I queried whether I had, in fact, applied for the wrong visa – she checked and said that what I had been told was incorrect – that I had, in fact, applied for the correct visa. Frankie Lieberman has done this for me several times previously so I had been rather taken aback when told it was wrong.
I would also like to point out that the online visa application form this end is a nightmare; firstly, you are not allowed to apply too far in advance and on answering in the negative to all the questions as to whether I am a terrorist, involved in terrorist activities or criminal activities, more drop-down boxes appear to ask you several more questions (every time).
Finally, many hours later, calling the office with one’s reference number you are told that you may not actually get an appointment for at least 4 weeks (which, in turn, is after the date I was due to fly). Apart from being extremely stressful, it’s an insult to one’s intelligence and, I am afraid, rather puts the lid, for me, on ever contemplating future work in the United States again.
But I digress.
Before I had a moment to query the $30 fee (see paragraph 4), she then began to say :
‘I have to inform you that no visas nor passports have been able to be processed / printed in the world since the middle of last week due to a problem in the system. When are you supposed to begin your work?’
I replied, ‘A week this Sunday,’
‘And when do you fly out?’
‘Wednesday 24th June.’
‘I’d advise you to postpone your flights. There is very little chance you will get your passport processed by then, even if the system is working by Monday,’
‘That’s hilarious,’ I said.
‘It’s really not funny – it’s a very serious situation,’ she said, politely.
‘I apologise – I mean ‘hilarious’ in the context of ‘astonishing’ or ‘unbelieveable’,
‘We had a problem in the computer system last month and so had some construction work done, which meant we were not able to take appointments here for a month, until last Monday. Luckily, it has so far only affected applications since last Monday but still, there is a backlog and your passport will have to be processed in order which is why I doubt your application will be processed in time for your flight. This is a very serious situation. Would you like your passport posted to you or will you collect it?’
There’s very little that results in me being lost for words, but this was almost one of those moments.
‘If I can confirm the telephone number that you have for me is correct, I would like you to call me and I will be here in a couple of hours to collect it.’ I replied,
‘One last thing – if my passport can’t be processed in time and this is not my fault, can I still travel to America this month?’
‘No, I’m afraid not.’
‘Ah well, no one has died. Let’s see what happens,’ I said.
‘I’m impressed with your philosophical attitude; I wish others had your calmness.’
And with that, I left my passport with her and left the building. The lovely security guys on the way out asked if I could shed any more light on the situation because no-one knew what was going on.
So. . . no apology, no offers of compensation.
My flights and my partner’s flights this coming Wednesday 24th June 2015 is scheduled with Aer Lingus, departing 11.40am from Shannon, Ireland and arriving the same day into Boston, USA at 13.25
We paid and booked for the cheapest flights we could find – 637€ each; we did not get travel insurance as I had to take out travel insurance for flights to Australia for a festival in March 2013. I was, due to emergency surgery made on the day I was due to fly out (and 2 months’ serious health issues leading up to the intended flights) , unable, at that time, to take the flights and after a long administrative process, only received the bare minimum of flight cost refunded – no doctors’ fees, travel to hospital and weighty health expenses (doctors’ letters to confirm my inability to fly etc etc). That, coupled with the very stressful work visa process for Australia (even though it is in the Commonwealth and I was a UK resident at the time) not only put me off travel insurance but also ever working in Australia again.
I’m noticing a pattern here. . .
So far, my partner and I have :
– Paid 637€ each for our flights
– Paid 10€ for an International driving licence
– Paid $30 excess visa fee even though it was confirmed that I (and Frankie) had
actually applied for the correct visa (and no refund was offered)
– Paid 14€ to get to Belfast from Dublin (bus); 35.45€ to get from Belfast to Longford (return) and will need to either get another bus back (c. 20€) or take the car (fuel c. 40€)
So far, Frankie Lieberman has paid on our behalf :
$325 filing fee and $300 expedited processing fee to petition my visa application form and c. $15 to post the paperwork to me, registered post.
We have agreed to reimburse her on our arrival to the USA.
Luckily (to quote the consulate official), we did not yet book and prepay any accommodation (for outwith the Acadia Trad school time), car hire (to get there from Boston – this was by far a cheaper option at the time of booking than flying into a more local airport to Bar Harbor, Maine) or my partner’s accommodation and food while at Acadia Trad School.
I have already been paid $500 deposit from Acadia Trad School which I will need to return if I need to cancel (unless due to bereavement or health issues as per contract) and I will forfeit the fee I would have got by teaching there.
This work was to also to combine a short holiday / research time for some compositional work I am undertaking concerning underwater oceanic creatures and includes a visit to the New England Aquarium where they have a superb collection of jellyfish.
As it turns out, I will have lost a large amount of money, been under severe duress and stress which increased throughout my 4 and 1/2 hour bus journey home from Belfast yesterday afternoon (I took the bus to save money. . .).
My partner (while I was travelling back yesterday) checked how much it would cost to postpone our flights to Saturday and it would cost 412€ per flight (one way).
As this is not cost effective to us, we have left the original flights intact and await to hear from the US Consulate in Belfast.
If you need any more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at the above address and telephone number.
So far, there are 2 senators working on this and I’ll know tomorrow whether I am able to ‘proceed’ or just to collect my passport from Belfast, withdraw my petition and not go. My sincere apologies if that happens. . . and in the last few days I have heard from 3 friends who have had similar problems. As ever, the ‘powers that be’ get away, scott free and professionals like myself miss out and worse, the public who put aside time, money and energy are disappointed. It makes me heave.
Lastly – have a read of Chuck’s email :
From: Chuck Donnelly <email@example.com>
Sent: 18 June 2015 02:00
To: Karen Tweed
Subject: visa problem
We desperately want to get you here. There are no alternatives to you!
Can we talk Thursday? I will contact my senator, but I need to know more from you about what happened.
When was your flight booked for? I’ll need all the details.
and, last night, after a phone call and my despair for him, a very hardworking course leader, who had to handle Irish concertina player, Padraig Rynne, being turned back on arrival at last year’s summer school. I wouldn’t blame Chuck is he never engaged anyone from Europe again really. . . life’s too short and this system is ridiculous!
From: Chuck Donnelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: 18 June 2015 21:43
To: Karen Tweed
Subject: Re: visa problem
This is, of course, really disturbing. I just contacted my Senator’s office (senator King). They did confirm that the passport system is down (sheesh…!!!!).
They will assign a case worker to it and give it a high priority. I’ll keep you posted. I expect to hear from them tomorrow; I will cal if I don’t.
If anyone on this email has any ideas, please let me know. This business of keeping accordion and concertina players (last year it was Padraig Rynne) out of the country is really getting tiring!
. . .and from my Scots / Kiwi luthier friend, Davy Stuart :
From: Davy Stuart <email@example.com>
Sent: 18 June 2015 21:57
Subject: Re: visa problem
Dear Karen, so sorry to hear about your visa issues. It’s not just
Ireland, there was an item on our news about kiwis in the same boat.
Supposedly a computer failure, they apparently have 100 experts working
to try to fix it. They’re obviously not that expert.
Hope it works out OK, somehow…
Great to talk the other night, or should that be ‘listen’! 🙂
On a more positive note, I would like to thank Chuck Donnelly,
Frankie Liberman and Lorraine Carpenter for being so understanding and supportive. They are the best.
Irish Ferries are having a summer sale of 10% off car ferry sailings and the kids go free!!!
See www. irishferries.com for details.
And, as I’m slowly getting my website updated, I’m offering skype lessons for the rest of June as a buy-4-and-get-one-free-deal. So 5 skype lessons for £100.
Usually, I offer skype lessons at £25 per hour and while the whole idea of skype can be a bit daunting if you’ve never done it before, it’s wonderful in that you can sit in your house, switch on the computer, have a lesson with me, sitting in my house and then go and have a cup of tea without travelling anywhere.
Me? Bored with travelling? Absolutely! I’m starting to develop a ‘homebird’ instinct. Tee hee.
And. . .the only way to deal with stress if you don’t like ironing is to buy a copy of the NEW TIM DALLING CD (with Ian Carr – guitar and Neil Harland – double bass) entitled ‘Eve’s Bonie Squad’. It’s THE best CD I have heard in absolutely ages. Listen to ‘Hey Burro’ – WHAT a track. The man is simply a genius, both in his songwriting, poetry, musical ideas and his accoridon playing. He’s inspired me and Ian Carr for many years now. While I’m sad that the New Rope String Band will be doing their last tour in November, I’m terribly excited about what they will, as brilliant artists, in their own right (individually) will bring to enhance our lives in the future.
You need this CD in your life. Simply stunning – buy it (and several more for your friends).
(Photo : Tony O’Nions)
And finally – a question. Answers to me by emailing me the answer, your name and address & the CD of your choice from my webshop to firstname.lastname@example.org with BLOG QUESTION 1 in the header by July 9th (the prize for the first correct answer plucked out of the bag being a CD of your choice from my webshop):
1. Who’s my favourite minion?
(Photo : Tom McElvogue))
Agency : Lorraine Carpenter at Different Strings Agency
Tel : +44 (0)117 904 1870 / (mobile:) +44 (0) 7929 135744
And around and about. . . .
1. From: tim Dalling <email@example.com>
Sent: 18 June 2015 22:36
Subject: Joe’s Tune Bank website
Hello all, what a lovely day we had last sunday! Continuous tunes for 10 hours, good crack, lovely folk and plenty beer to wash it all down. A credit to the fun and variety of joyful music that Joe’s memory inspires.
I should have made some announcement about this on the day but in the fun and excitement I forgot. We need to pay for the making of the website.
With what Robert Baines has spent on buying the web storage space and name for the next two years (just under £200) and a small contribution to Tom Dalling (£200) for the hours that he has already spent and the days that he will be continuing to spend creating a website to house and share Joe’s tunes and some photos and memories.
So ideally we want to find £400. At a very rough estimate there’d be at least 40 people who were around last sunday or who knew Joe enough to be interested in supporting this little tribute project, so if we could all chip in a tenner then we’re sorted. Obviously ability to afford this will vary, so give what you feel you can afford, more or less, at the Donations page that Tom’s created on the tunebank.org website, here…
For those who were there last sunday, see it as a very reasonably priced ticket to a great ten-hour concert. For those who weren’t see it as investment in a valuable catalogue of a Tyneside fiddler’s rich and varied repertoire at the turn of the 20th/21st century. A lovely living musical anthropological resource.
Please pass on to any other possible interested parties.
In the event of there being lots of donations, extra funds will be spent either improving the website or being sent to a cause of which Joe would have approved eg the Cuba Solidarity Music Fund that money was given to after Joe’s funeral.