After two days of rain, we have a bit of light snow this morning. As the ground is now so wet, it won’t/can’t settle. Thankfully. Thursday was a cracker, though. Wonderfully warm and sunny – wall-to-wall.
Roger’s dog, Alex, is fine but demanding at times. Last night in the early hours, however, at about 01:00, he managed to get back out of the Bagarstuga and sat in pouring rain on the threshold howling hoarsely till I got up and went out and sorted him out again. Not a good night!
The rain has more or less got rid of the snow lying around, lingering. Now most fields are more grassy than white. This suits Rocky, who now wanders at will, in and out of the outbuildings. Charlie is very wary of Alex, understandably as Alex barks wildly, straining on his tether to reach him. He sits, puffed out on the edge of the porch and when I open the door he rushes past me and back into the house. Rocky is also similarly cautious and spent much of yesterday indoors, curled up on the sofa, dozing contentedly.
There are now hundreds of Fieldfares around, the whole area is alive with them and the noise is remarkable. This morning there was also a significant flock of White and Yellow Wagtails and just newly arrived as I plonk here, Redwings, in the garden. Woody, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, is noisily hammering away on the telegraph poles, skipping round them, trying to conceal himself whenever I approach. There was also a lovely Grey Headed Woodpecker trying his hand at the now empty nut-feeder. These are quite rare in Sweden and one of the most notable birds here in the nature reserve. They are a bit like a dowdy Green Woodpecker but with a clearly defined grey nape/head.
Still no sign of the Golden Plovers or Swallows and Martins yet. No doubt, they’ll be here very soon as the snow has gone.
The Spanish house sale seems to be rolling along nicely though the buyers, a London-based French couple with three young kids, are hassling us to leave and/or sell them some of the furnishings etc. This would normally be okay with us but we must think of replacement costs which are horribly high. So, I reckon it wil be easier to simply turn them down, I think. The development means we really must start to think about going down to France sometime soon on a house-search. Luckily we have the Swedish place still – though we hope to sell this too – so have some leeway. But as the French system is pretty similarly paced to the Spanish one, we must get our act together.
Normally at this time of year, we are often in the USA, attending a great music festival, Merlefest, http://merlefest.org/ in North Carolina, a gloriously beautiful state – Appalachans, Blue Ridge Mountains, Smoky Mountains etc – a real feast of a place with generally great Spring-time weather. Being a Scot, I usually find people in the region to be welcoming and warm and friendly; most have some Irish or Scottish blood in them somewhere.
This year’s event will be somewhat poignant for many, I suspect, following the death of one of its stalwart performers, banjo ace Earl Scruggs. I’m already missing the experience and this weekend is the main one of the event. This year apart from the usual names of Roy Book Binder, Peter Rowan and Doc Watson, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush and David Holt etc., there’s also an old friend and guitar mentor playing. Mary Flower is a Portland, Oregon, based player of great skill. She’s also a good laugh. I’ve had the privilege of spending a fair bit of time picking with her at her home in Portland over the years and last met up with her at the Cognac Blues Passions festival a few years ago where she was guesting:
This year she’s been nominated for awards by the WC Handy Blues Foundation for her current album, ‘Misery Loves Company’ In truth, she’s a fairly regular nominee/contender:
Probably her best offering since one of my own personal favourites, ‘Ragtime Gal’:
At Cognac I also had the great pleasure of meeting with and getting to know a great old Mississippi-born, Alabama-based bluesman, Willie King. Willie had a remarkable life and was a wonderfully funny, warm and generous guy. I had been in touch with him on a regular basis and he had invited me out to Alabama to play with him at a small blues festival he helped organise each year. I was looking forward to the possibility and to meeting with him again when, unexpectedly, all contact frittered out. It was only when listening to the Paul Jones Blues programme on BBC Radio 2 online one evening that I learned of his death from a huge heart attack. A very sad day. I still find it hard to believe that he’s gone: he was larger than life!:
The oddest thing about meeting Willie was that two members of his then backing band, The Liberators, had both been students at Sussex University at the same time as J and I, though our paths had never knowingly crossed at the time. Music does indeed make the world a small place at times, I often find.
With Merlefest in mind I’ll leave with these pics, all relevant. The festival is named after Merle Watson, a fine guitarist now gone, and son of the great, multi-Grammy winning Doc Watson:
A favourite, inspirational album and, not far from his home in Deep Gap, NC, this road sign says it all:
Doc doing what, after 80-plus years, comes naturally, with Jack Lawrence:
And another favourite of mine and the only person I know personally to have played at Woodstock, frighteningly over forty years ago now, as lead guitarist with Jefferson Airplane, Jorma Kaukonen: