The state of the world leaves me speechless…

The state of the world leaves me speechless…

It’s been 5 years since I started this blog and photo journal, and I think it’s time to bring it to a close… for all the heartache and sorrow, it’s been an amazing period of time, full also with joy and wonder, and I am eternally grateful for all that it has given me…

Into the next chapter, whatever that may be…

que vaya bien, todos….


December 31st, Menorca

My 1st week here was like spring – real heat still in the sun, eating lunch out on the patio, even threw myself into the sea my 2nd day, in the bathtub, just to make sure I was really here (the water was incredibly cold!). And then cold enough at night for both fires. Perfect. And then winter arrived…but the house is in fine shape, sis keeps it beautifully, and with both fires going we are snug as two bugs… The garden was a wilderness – I had to try and curb my enthousiasm and not get carried away, but it was a good project to have.

We had my customary Solstice party on what turned out to be the worst day of the year, weather-wise – lashings of rain, total downpour, and bitter cold, which kept a few people away, but probably all for the best as we were indoors but not crowded, and it was all our local menorcan neighbours and friends, plus R&J and a few others. Diana had decided to join in the fun this year, instead of being bah-humbug like last time, and she made the most beautiful christmas tree out of boughs of the oak tree out back, stuck in the old painted stove pipe from upstairs that’s been lying out back for the past year or so – got a bunch of baubles from Mistral, and some fairy lights and hey presto! Magic… Julia also gave us early xmas presents of solar outdoor fairy lights, so we were all set! The place looked beautiful… I cooked up the usual storm, and then by the middle of the party succumbed to the head-cold that was doing the rounds and retired to bed – but not until l got all the burly guys to come and pick up the cama matrimonial and moved it out from under the drip in the corner of the room – classic… “It’s heavy!!” they cried…

Christmas was just the 4 of us gnawing on Bernard’s other leg (he wasn’t up for joining us, his health is not good, poor man, but was happy to give us a leg of lamb) and then that night the Pesh arrived – a great christmas present… she is a total delight – sweet, smart, savvy but not blasé and deals easily with people of all ages – a joy to have around. We had a great 2 weeks with her… in hindsight I suppose one week would have been less stressful for sis ultimately – I did ask her, way back when, if it was okay for pesha to stay through the 3 Kings, as she wanted to try and do a story on it, and sis said yes, of course, but I should have known better… live and re-learn… but overall it was great. Of course Jan. 5th and 6th were a howling tramontana which meant the Kings arrived by bus, not boat, and they delivered the presents on foot, not horseback – so there was no story to be got – but we had a splendid time anyway… Having upstairs as the guest room works wonderfully well – the guest can disappear up into their own world for as long as they like – even tho’ the upstairs bathroom is basically impossible, it’s so cold (we use it as the cold storage room), and pesha did most of her work huddled under the blankets.. it’s been a real winter, the first we’ve had for several years.

We got the garden put to bed, all except for some big-job pruning that sebastian will do, and I helped sis plant a small winter huerto. The bills this year are simply enormous – hopefully no major repairs next year (hope springs eternal!) and definitely no building projects.

I still need to spend at least half my year in Westbeth, but since it does seem that full-time co-habitation in menorca isn’t realistic, it’s all for the best. I am still a New Yorker, in spite of everything – my tribe is there, and what little work I have… and I need to finish the record! Who knows what next year will bring, anyway, both health-wise and world-wise? The future has never been less easy to read, so let’s just hope for the best and prepare for the worst (Pesha says she and her friends are coming to menorca to help run the finca, the minute the apocalypse arrives!)

Fasten your seat belts, everyone, we’re in for a bumpy ride…. I’m going to sign off now, don’t know when I’ll be back…It’s been exactly 5 years since I started this journal, so I think it’s time to draw to a close (not to mention the fact that I can’t bear to think about, let alone articulate, what’s happening here in the US!) Surrounded by white light may we be well protected by our angels and our guides…


Dec. 6th, Cotherstone

What a week. I have worked my tush off – rather more than I should have, probably, but I’ve done almost everything I set out to do. The potting shed is now a carpeted, furnished bedroom (only missing the bed, and curtains – oh, and the wardrobe), and a lovely room it is too.

Mick Carr came and took away sundry items, and in return will bring us a single-size wardrobe. And Moppet is making us curtains for both up and down stairs, with Peter Atkinson putting up the poles I bought, and the wall bracket lights (he thinks he may be able to use the old ones from Saltoun, which would be lovely!)

I put the upstairs back to rights, after the chaos of construction work followed by cousin David’s 3-month occupancy – both things I’m very grateful for, but tonight is the first time I feel the place cleared of the clutter and the piles and back to the peaceful place it was.

Also, and most importantly, today I finally sent off the Luristan bronzes and pots to the Ashmolean, after nearly 4 years of searching for a home for them – patience and perseverance… I am so pleased… they will be a collection in Mum’s name, and the money will be used to put a headstone, finally, on her grave in Skokie, so her name will be on both sides of the pond – only appropriate! Dad will probably be rolling in his grave (not that he has one!), Cambridge man that he was, but they were mum’s, not his, and the Ashmolean is the very best place for them – the biggest collection of Luristan stuff in the country – it’s not called the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology for nothing! I only hope they get there in one piece – I wrapped them in miles of bubble wrap.

I haven’t taken a single walk, except down to the river Sunday morning – too busy or too tired – but it’s been bitterly cold – next year…

Dinner with Jeff and Carol – his cancer is coming back, I fear, he will likely be starting chemo again in the new year. So unfair… Dinner with Mary Matthews and friends, very enjoyable folk… and I sang in the Messiah the following night at Barney School Chapel – really fun. Sunday lunch at Phil and Jane’s, supper (and bath!) at Stopover this evening… friends… the balm of my life…

And so to Menorca for a month on the finca with sis … plus a 2-week visit from Pesha, who will en route from Cairo to Istanbul, to start her new chapter – Happy Solstice! Bon Nadal! y los Reyes! So much good to be thankful for, to help balance the fear and anxiety about what’s ahead for the world. Stand and be counted… No more complacency, just tons of love and hope…. and resistance where necessary!


Nov. 9th, New York

Well, here it is, the future we’ve all refused to admit was possible… A populist revolt I can understand, the system is broken and too many millions have been disenfranchised, but THIS man?? Words fail…

It seems that both my homelands, on either side of the pond, have lost their marbles, lost the plot. First Brexit, and now this. Both of them were protest votes, understandable, yes, but NEITHER seem to have thought through the consequences – that their lives will be made worse, not better, by their choices. We have no way of knowing what will happen, given the unpredictability of the man who is now set to be one of the most powerful men on earth. Hillary won the popular vote [by 3 million votes, it turns out], just like Al Gore. That means many millions of people will now be feeling anger, fear, betrayal – where will that lead us? I cling to what Gail Collins said on the radio this morning, “the man is not crazy. Many defects – an attention span the size of a gnat (paraphrasing here), no regard for truth and accuracy, but he is not crazy.” I dearly hope not [but I’m not sure…]

We must try to love our enemies – hate will not help. But how do you tell that to all the ethnic and religious minorities that he has railed against with such racist bigotry, or the women he has insulted if not assaulted? And with the House and Senate both now Republican, not to mention the Supreme Court, where are the checks and balances? We the people…. It falls to us… It is OUR country… time to stand up and be counted, to become active citizens, not complacent couch potatoes (and I count myself amongst them).


October 10th, New York

One never knows, does one? (as Billie Holiday so aptly sang…) On to the next chapter, with my crown only half-way decorated…

Instead of the Kamikaze gig at Roulette being a celebration of Half Way Through Chemo, it turns out it was a celebration of No More Chemo… surprise surprise! It seems that after all the tests, done as a result of the blip after treatment #6, the cardiologist told the oncologist to “cease and desist” – my poor ol’ heart can’t take it, and is in a bit of a sorry state… so no more poison – yay! well, there will be 5 years of pills, starting in a month’s time – we’ll see if I can tolerate those… but no more Herceptin for sure, which is the one that was going to go through next August – so I am suddenly much more mobile and relatively poison-free… we just hope that my little ticker will mend itself (with the help of a bunch of nasty drugs, of course) so that I don’t have surgery in 6 months… I will do everything in my power to make it so… and meanwhile I have sewn the rest of the jewels onto the crown, just because… it’s fabulous… as is the wig that I unveiled at the KGC gig – electric blue Louise Brooks, now that’s how to become a member of the blue hair brigade…

The gig was wonderful, tho’ it damn nearly killed me – I was a total basket case afterwards, but it was so worth it, and the guys took such good care of me…
Roulette is a really great space to play in (with a beautiful 9′ Steinway), great acoustics, great audience, and we rocked it all, new and old tunes alike… I’m happy with my new piece – In The Lap Of The Gods – with just 2 short rehearsals, it came together at the gig, which is always satisfying… and we dug back into the archives to dust off things from the ‘80s and ‘90s, always fun…

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time up in Nyack recently – Rinde and Ellen are both gone for months so I have the run of their beautiful home whenever I want – it’s so peaceful up there compared to the city, plus we’ve been having the most glorious weather recently, perfect Indian summer… morning birds, evening crickets, deep blue sky, hot sun, cool breeze – very californian…

Two musical treats this w/end – Dudamel and the Venezuelans (aka the Simon Bolivar Orchestra) blew the roof off Carnegie Hall with their rendition of Messiaen’s Turangalila – they treated that crazy, massive piece the same effortless, but passionate, way Marcus treats his tuba like a harmonica – and then Bill Frisell at the Blue Note with his surf band – Greg Lees, Tony & Kenny – so much delight… and next week I get to hear Simon Rattle conduct Tristan at the Met…

Meanwhile this week I hope to start mixing the recording I started back in March – time to get back to work – it may not be gainful employment but it gives purpose to my life… much to be thankful for, particularly all the wonderful friends who have been by my side these past months – where would I be without you? thank you thank you thank you….

We will not talk about the continuing political circus – it beggars belief… as my friend Marika so aptly said recently, on the night of Nov.8th “hopefully we will all just exhale a sigh of relief together as we usher in the maintenance of the oppressive, systematic, racist, imperialist status quo, rather than global anarchy. Oy.”


September 3rd, New York & Jack’s Creek…

Ah, September… right on cue, the temperature has dropped, the air freshened, and it’s a pleasure to walk outside again – at least for now, I know the heat will return soon for the usual Indian summer…

Speaking of returning, I just got back from a short but idyllic spell up in the Adirondacks.  Having got through the first chapter of chemo treatments, I was rewarded with a week off, and hightailed it up to the mountains to stay with friends in their cabin deep in the woods of far upstate New York.  They bought a chunk of land up there some years ago, steep and fully forested, logged a clearing and, with the wood generated from the clearing, built (themselves) 3 beautiful cabins. Hurrah for the simple life.  She writes, he spends his days on his tractor, when not sculpting, landscaping and husbanding the forest – thinning it out to let in the light, and dragging large boulders hither and yon to create contours and shade for beds of wild flowers. I also witnessed the highly skilled removal of a very tall tree (it was threatening the bath house) with the aid of ropes and pulleys and the great skill of a mountain man tree climber…

Deep blue sky, hot sun in the clearing, dappled sunshine through the canopy of a million different shades of green, the sound of the creek nearby a constant companion – a little slice of heaven.  I slept a lot, read a lot, walked further every day through the woods, admiring the endless variety of funghi and shades of green from conifer, maple, oak and birch, and I creek dipped morning and evening. Who needs hot water?  (It is there if needed – life up there may be simple, but it’s not primitive, other than the outhouse, which is pleasingly so…)

Session #3 fairly wiped me out, but I feel much more like I do now than I did when I went up there, and am ready for chapter 2 to start next week. One quarter down, 3 to go!  Most of my hair is already gone, as I was warned, but luckily bald is a fashion statement, and I plan to shave the rest off on Monday (Labor Day, a suitable day for such endeavours, I think) and will start wearing hats and big earrings – I think I might get me a really fun wig for the Kamikaze gig at the end of the month, perhaps a return to the electric blue Louise Brooks… I also have a wonderful ESP crown to wear during the sessions, courtesy of my fairy godmother, which I am slowly decorating, a jewel for every session – with 12 points to the crown, I will be throughly bejeweled by the time I’m done – if you’ve got lemons, make lemonade…

Meanwhile the political circus continues.  I can hardly bear to listen to the news… but I think I must gird my loins and prepare to watch the first debate – this is actually happening, whether I like it or not… I feel like there is a tsunami of change headed our way and am trying to figure out the best way to deal with it… more lemonade, anyone?


July 31st – New York & Menorca…

What a total and complete gift this past month has been… particularly in view of the two preceding it…

After endless to-ing and fro-ing and changes of plan, I finally had surgery (total mastectomy of the right side) on May 18th, which was very successful, other than the fact that my tricky little ticker wasn’t so happy, so I had a 5-day hospital stay while they tried to get me on to some drug to which I seemed to be immune (too many dark leafy green vegetables – all that juice! who knew??). But I had lots of lovely visitors, and then a week’s recouping at Michele and Charlie’s salubrious pad… and now I can take up archery! Lots more waiting for test results, very boring, during which I made a brief foray up to Maine to visit an old friend, which was ab fab, as they say… and I continued to work on the new recording, with many folk coming in to put down more tracks, the music growing apace and slowly coming into focus… and then my fairy godmother decided that the docs could wait for a change while I went to see my sis and the finca for a month, regardless of what the results were, so when I found out that I have to have chemo after all, I didn’t really care because she had waved her magic wand and I was leaving for menorca in a few days’ time (the docs kindly agreed to wait)…

A whole glorious month on the island, a whole new me… some gentle care-taking of the finca (very gentle) but mostly a lot of swimming in the big blue, a lot of hammock time, and a whole lot of dolce far niente… the swimming has done me SO much good – my range of motion is 95% returned, and by the end of the month I felt I was back in my skin… sis was horribly sick when I arrived, but got better and we had a very good time together. The work Sebastian did on the house is wonderful – her new room is beautiful (adds a whole other dimension to the place) and the little menorcan window in the kitchen looks like it’s always been there… the island is tinder dry, but sis had taken very good care of the place (the bougainvillea has never been so spectacular, lack of water suits them), and the huerto – we have the biggest onions, and best tomatoes and aubergine and peppers – yum… moppet came for a few days, and then chris and jenna arrived a couple of days before I left – a very satisfactory passing of the baton… so glad I didn’t have to leave sis on her own…

One amazing cultural happening while I was there: a performance of Carmina Burana in the Lithica, the gorgeous old limestone quarry outside Ciutadella – a great marriage of music and place… and a great performance, by a Catalan youth chorus with local soloists, 2 pianos & percussion, that knocked my socks off. Stunning. I went on a whim at the last moment, driving the length of the island on the off-chance… it was sold out but someone had a spare ticket that had my name on it… lucky me…

Meanwhile the world goes to hell in a hand basket… Brexit and Trump (has the world gone completely mad???) were both forbidden topics of conversation this past month – I wanted a real break… but of course they aren’t going away, either of them, nor are any of the other world horrors… one could find it hard to get out of bed in the morning if too much thought went in those directions, tho’ behaving like an ostrich doesn’t help… I send my few pennies where I think they may do some good, try not to feel despair but generate hope… so many good and wonderful people around, focus on them…

Tomorrow, August 1st, as Sebastian and the finca family start to paint the house, I see the onc to get the chemo plan, whatever that will entail. Surrounded by white light, I am well protected by my angels and my guides… Onward and upward…


April 30th – New York, still…

well… how to address the bombshell? (aside from the fact that on April 3rd I had my medicare birthday – how it that possible??)

In early February I decided to finally take advantage of my new Obamacare health plan and get myself thoroughly checked out, particularly to see a cardiologist, after last winter’s scare in Bali… I was given a 30-day heart monitor and an echo-cardiogram, both of which checked out fine, other than the usual funky heart valve and arrhythmia, both normal for me… I also got a routine mammogram, and one thing led to another and here I am, 3 months later, looking at becoming a one-breasted amazon and having months and months of chemo… okay… life is definitely what happens while you’re busy making other plans – I was due to head across the pond april 1st for 2 weeks in cotherstone, to put things back to rights after the repair work, and then 4 or 5 months in menorca, planting the garden, painting the house, and generally returning to the life of the payesa that I love so much, and which is necessary both spiritually and financially – I’m paying for half the upkeep anyway, and with no work in nyc I can’t afford to stay here for more than half the year… plus my sis really needs my help, and company… but I ain’t going anywhere for a while… so get used to it…

The two weeks after the initial diagnosis on march 17th were a total roller-coaster: initially a radical mastectomy was scheduled, then a few days later a test result came in and it was “change of plan, 4 months of chemo first” and then it was “hmmm, don’t like the look of these results, need another biopsy” – and then weeks of waiting, first for the second biopsy and then for the second set of results… hard to settle into anything in this waiting mode, learning the true meaning of the word “DIS-ease”…

But the silver lining is that these past 6 weeks have given me time for numerous wondrous things. First, a chance to get in better shape for things to come: my disparate group of nyc girlfriends clubbed together and bought me a fabulous juicer, resulting in large glasses of green juice daily (thank heavens for the abingdon square farmers’ market); swimming at the Y, 2 or 3 times a week; and getting back into daily chi gong, all of which now seem completely necessary to me on a daily basis… Second, and hugely important, is the discovery of what an amazing group of friends I have here… I am truly home, and despite wanting to be elsewhere (on the island, in my garden) I am truly in the best place I could be… On top of just generally being there for me, coming to appointments with me etc., they have created a campaign to raise funds for me (this whole thing is very scary financially) – I am humbled….

Meanwhile, I have managed to seize the carp sufficiently to start recording the next “album”, working in fits and starts as time and schedule allow (god bless kilgore and all who work with him), and going to the occasional wonderful concert (mostly on the guest list, the only way I can normally do it) – from Steven and 3 guitarists (including Tronzo) at the Greenwich Music School, to the NY Phil playing Sibelius 7th and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, to Frank London’s Art Ensemble Tribute at the Stone… and Kenny’s 50th birthday bash at Nu-Blu… take advantage as you can, gina…. also taking advantage of friends out of town – two weekends up in nyack, hanging out in the back yard drinking wine and playing “onze”, and 3 days up in the berkshires, in blissful peace and quiet, nothing but trees and grass and copious birdsong (and evan playing scales in preparation for italy), with great food and easy company in a log house… thank you, one and all…

This is all a giant life lesson is learning to live in the moment, day by day, being grateful for what is, to make no plans, and to have patience (cliches are cliches for a reason…). poc a poc…

p.s. happy one week birthday, Numa Scalora – you have wonderful parents…


February 2nd, New York

Two great performances witnessed, courtesy of New York…

First, an amazing all-Beethoven concert at Alice Tully Hall, given by a period-instrument chamber orchestra from Bruges called Anima Eterna… wow… I am reminded of why we are still listening to his music 200 years later, particularly the 5th symphony, of all things, which has become so hackneyed it’s hard to listen to now – but this… what players… with the period instruments and the right scale of forces (6 1sts, 6 2nds, 5 violas, 4 cellos, 3 basses, double wwinds and brass, plus the contras, and tymp) you really hear his writing – and they played like a string quartet, as one… with a verve and commitment (and tempo!) I last heard with the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra and Dudamel… I found myself grinning like an idiot thourgh the whole thing…. they opened with the Egmont – a good way to tune (and tune into) the room (and what a great sound in there), followed by the 1st piano concerto, with the director at the keyboard of a fortepiano and about half the ensemble – gorgeous… tho’ I was curious about the fortepiano – original/repro, local/ shipped in? overall quite inspiring… but I also realise quite impossible to achieve in new york… everyone here is too busy… and it shows… this kind of music- making takes eating together, rehearsing together A LOT, focused commitment and heart… I suppose that’s why I’ve always had such a soft spot for KGC – it’s the closest I’ve ever had to a committed “family” of musicians – the years of shared experience tell in the doing of it… witness the gig at Westbeth last week, which turned out to be a particularly special evening, for that very reason…. also a good room to play, and a very nice turn-out, including Roswell Rudd, a cohort of my heroine, Carla Bley…

Second, later that same week, a screening of Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the National… I’m not a fan per se of televised theater or opera – I believe in the live experience, and I hate being forced to watch a close-up when I’d rather be watching the stage – but this was something else… not only the acting but the cinematography was superlative… loved all the regional accents in the casting.., and Benedict…. never really liked him when he first hit the public eye, found his image disconcerting, but he is so fucking intelligent he has won me over hook line and sinker…

And then there’s the ongoing presidential election circus… Iowa gave us Hilary & Bernie neck-to-neck, and Trump screaming about Cruz and election fraud… christ, what a circus indeed…how are we going to survive until November, let alone after the fact?? Growing potatoes in menorca looks ever more enticing…

We’ve had one giant snow storm, followed shortly thereafter by 60 degree thaw… global warming? what’s that?


January 2nd, 2016, New York

Another year gone – who knows where the time goes (I think there’s a song in there somewhere…) but here’s to the new one! The old one went out in a suitably festive manner… the traditional party at my place on the solstice; christmas with good friends, first on the upper west side and then in brooklyn; a fabulous new year’s eve dinner and sleep-over with more friends – I’m a lucky so-and-so. And to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, a stirring walk along the river and then back out to Brooklyn for the great Bach Fest, reading all of the 1st book of Bach’s 48 fugues with a very large group of assorted musicians crammed into a very small apartment – such fun… (and excellent dumplings!)

And thankfully with the New Year has come some suitable weather – it’s COLD, finally! Thank goodness… it has been so weird – I walked past the Jefferson Market garden the other day and there were bearded irises and roses in profusion… they say that the Arctic is 15 degrees above normal… welcome to 2016…

Who knows what this year will bring (not to mention what kind of president we’ll have by the end of it)… so much sadness in the world, so much greed, so much violence and hate… but so much potential for optimism as well, as the new consciousness struggles to rise out of the murk… let your little light shine (there’s another song)… if nothing else, I think this past year has proved what the individual can do, for good or evil, when connected with others of like mind… so let’s shine a light on the darkness and refuse to allow it to drown us out… look out for your community, give and seek its support….

More music! more laughter in the face of it all… more love… I salute you all…


December 1st, 2015, Menorca

Back on the island, to my beloved finca… It seemed that I brought winter with me… they’ve had an endless summer, and it was glorious the day I arrived (nov 20th) – I even threw myself in the sea for a quick baptism (really cold water!), the surest way to feel that I’ve truly arrived – but the following day the temperature plummeted, the wind and rain started – oh yeah… but with both fires going we are very cozy, and after 5 days or so it broke, since when it’s been glorious – crispy cold nights, days of hot sun at midday, but cool air, perfect for gardening, and hiking… I did the front garden the first week (how lovely to see the earth again!), and got through most of the fig garden this week before my joints demanded that I stop – I can’t get out of bed in the morning, and my shoulders scream at me 24/7… not to mention my back and hips… crap, I say, and double crap… I’m not ready for this… so much to do…!

the week in cotherstone before coming out here was fairly productive in terms of getting ready for the build (converting the potting shed), but the weather was filthy (again, it broke as I arrived, they’d been having a beautiful autumn) and I got no walks in except down to the river and back most days – tho’ that was pretty spectacular a couple of times – we had lashings of rain and things were flooding all over. I didn’t see it in full spate but high enough, and the high tide marks of flotsam and leaves were astonishing… Mary Matthews hosted a great dinner (at my request, kind and generous spirit that she is), with them and the Robertsons and a couple of artist friends of hers – she seemed genuinely happy that I’d asked her to do it, thankfully! so much fun… also a good evening with Mark and Mary – dinner and the village panto! No sign of Sam – he’s truly gone, I fear…. I can only hope it’s to a good place… que vaya bien, querido…. I miss you, and keep you in my heart… you got to be a wild animal, a real cat, and I cannot regret that…

October was full of good things – a splendid Wau-Wa gig at Barbes – the 2nd in less than year, mirabile dictu, which meant we actually had time to learn a couple of new pieces, not just try to remember the old ones… both of them from Mahagonny, of course, my beautiful obsession: the Alabama song, finally, (an arrangement of the songspiel version, much the more interesting); and a version of Essen for Rinde, including the introductory “first comes eating” – all very satisfying… then on to BAM, for weeks of ER and William Kentridge – good company to keep… ER was very well received, and glowingly reviewed in the NYT – except that once again there was no mention of the music… hey ho, plus ça change… I wish them well… I heard Kentridge lecture at the Studio School (riveting), saw his piece at BAM (a glorious mess) and finally saw his production of Lulu at the Met (gilding the lily – I had to go back a second time to actually hear the music, I was so busy LOOKING the first time – not good, altho his stuff is wonderful, always). Good dinners with friends, and walks, and lunches… chi gong in the park most mornings…. We had the Westbeth Flea Market before I left, and I have signed up for meal deliveries in the building… life in westbeth… have also booked a kamikaze concert here for january…

and then there was paris… jesus, man’s inhumanity to man is incomprehensible… I took part in the Climate March here in menorca on Sunday, with Bett and Manel – there were about 250 folk, pretty good for this little place, and manel was good company, very knowledgeable… felt good to put one’s feet where one’s mouth is…

postscript… later, about to leave… two great hikes with Angela, bits of the cami de cavalls – the first from Favaritx to Es Grau, and a week later from Cala’n Porter to Son Bou – wonderful… and two great purchases – a new wood stove for my room, and a new mattress for my bed – a warm, dry room and good sleeping at both things devoutly to be wished for at this stage… and 3 really great weeks with sis – such a good time we had together – thank you…


October 1st, New York

October – how is that possible? time time time… it has been raining, and autumn is in the air…

the piece [texts & beheadings] is up and running at the Folger in D.C. – I think it’s good. perhaps the music is a little too “on the money” – it reminds me of Ellen telling me of all those Woolf scholars who didn’t realise it wasn’t Woolf they were listening to in “Septimus and Clarissa” but McLaughlin… the 4 girls finally owned the songs the night before I left D.C. – they are troopers, one and all, and have given their all to make it work… hopefully it will not all fall apart while I’m away from it – but we have a little rehearsal time before it comes into BAM, to put things right if need be… toca madera…

Nephew Chris came to D.C. for a couple of days – I had flown him out to New York and given him my apartment for a week as a graduation present – a great joy wandering the Library of Congress and Botanic Gardens with him, plus a family reunion dinner with charlie and emily green… The pope seemed to follow me around, first in D.C.then in New York… plus the chinese premier in D.C.and Putin in NY.. corridors of power… I have started listening to the radio again (wnyc) – perhaps that’s why I get depressed here – the state of the world is so god-awful if you listen to the news, it’s a wonder anyone gets up in the morning… perhaps best not to listen to the news, just to music… unless one is actually going to DO something about it… the only doing I know how to do is music… altho’ I’m thinking of volunteering as a gardener’s helper in the Hudson River Park – so much weeding to do…

We had a perfectly splendid Kamikaze reunion the other night – what a total joy, warts and all… I billed it as an open rehearsal, since we hadn’t had one, and hadn’t played in 4 years… in the event, we didn’t actually rehearse but played our asses off – but we did sit in a circle, the way we do in rehearsal, and that’s what I want to do from now on (should we ever play again) – the joy of, as doug put it, “making – and being in the middle of, that sound”… it was also the night of the Super, Blood, Harvest Moon with Full Lunar Eclipse – wow – we closed the first set with Homage, exiting the building in full throttle, taking the audience with us, to view the eclipse in all its peach-coloured glory from the Brooklyn sidewalk – when the clouds would permit… a great night… we played 9 to midnight – my poor chops! tho’ doug did a great job figuring out set lists that gave me breathers on piano, accordion or uke… I had a really good time blowing again, particularly the bari – but I do wish reading on the bass clarinet weren’t such a mind-fuck, or I’d play it a lot more… but then I’d have to get Clarence refurbished, not just play doug’s Kohlert, which is so much more in tune…

I also faced the music with the tax man finally – not as bad as I feared, luckily, tho’ not pretty – but I don’t think I’ll lose my home (or my shirt)… toca madera otra vez…

I have bought a ticket to go check in with the other side of the pond in November… needs must, but I really must be mad… tie me up, tie me down…


August 8th – New York

Arrived back in the city yesterday, after a marathon 24 hour journey via Barcelona and Moscow (don’t ask…), to find inches of dust and no phone or internet… hey ho…

what a wrench, to leave the garden, the huerto, sis and gat the cat, not to mention the sea, the island in general… it has been the hottest summer on record which, added to the absence of the trees, has made for a slow pace of life – all the better… aside from my morning and evening swims in the big blue (idyllic, not a medusa in sight since late may), I spent hours every day in the garden and huerto – we had vegetables coming out of our ears – we need to buy a deep freeze if we’re going to continue doing this… my 7 weeks alone were every bit as beneficial as I hoped they would be, and the 3 weeks together with sis after her return were just fine as a result – she had had an absolutely wonderful time reconnecting with her kids, and came back in great shape – of course she has fallen apart since, as a reaction to the repeated separation, but hopefully the island will work its magic on her and she will find her peace again. The place is a lot to take care of by oneself, good with the two of us when we’re both in our right minds – verremos… but these past months have done wonders in repairing the damage of last winter… I have been completely out of touch with the rest of the world, with regards to current events and such, and very happy to be so – I know it’s the old ostrich attitude and maybe I can’t hide forever, but it seems to me that if I can, I will… it is good for me, it doesn’t hurt anyone else… nice work if you can get it…

speaking of which, on to things here… texts & beheadings… taxes.. wish me luck…


June 21st – menorca – Summer Solstice

How did 3 months slide by? a quick recap:

march was spent in cotherstone, trying to sort out my health and the cottage… I finally got an appointment to see a cardiologist, for the day I left – classic. But I was feeling much better, so wotthehell archie, there’s a dance in the old dame yet…

meanwhile, I had a great hang with sam. I wrote a new tune (and then some). I finally found a really old Fylde mandola, right there in Barney – Bob Jordan’s, it had been upstairs of the antique shop all this time, and Luke had finally brought it down and put it in the shop, thinking to sell it. It needs work but has a lovely sound, and it would be great to keep it “in the family”… I spent a whole week cleaning the rental cottage and making trips to the dump. I got someone to come and paint the place from top to bottom, I had all the carpets replaced, and finally I decided i wasn’t cut out to be a landlord, particularly an absentee one, so with diana’s agreement, I put the place on the market to sell rather than rent… jesus me beads, as mum would say… then I went back to new york…

my 5 weeks back in westbeth were glorious. I suppose since my time there was finite, everyone stepped up to the plate, and I saw everyone (lunches, dinners, walks, gigs) and played with almost everyone (kgc being the exception) – I did in 5 weeks what normally would take 5 months… and it was spring… I was sorry to leave…

and leave again I did, may 7th. back to cotherstone for a week, no sign of sam, a possible buyer for the cottage, and then on to menorca for 10 days with sis before she took off for CA to see her kids. And a great 10 days it was – it went a long way to making up for the ghastly time over the winter… poc a poc… the island is dry dry dry, the earth cracked like mid-july rather than mid-may. but the huerto was in and with much watering I am already eating from it – lettuce, calabacin, beans, first pepper, first aubergine… tomatoes and onions coming on… the lack of the giant pines right by the house changes the landscape utterly – back to lots of sky – and lots of heat… but the caña is up, and I am planting succulents and cacti, cuttings from friends and neighbours, chiefly Rob and Bernard… B also brings drinking water from his well, and plant and herb advice… and we did have a wonderful thunderstorm earlier this week that gave everything a much needed drenching…

with diana gone, I have moved back upstairs, which I love (it is truly home to me) and have painted my downstairs room… the joy of being alone here is largely due to knowing that the time is finite… the sale of the rental cottage is still hanging fire – the buyers continue to balk at this and that, I try to possess my soul in patience… and meanwhile I have discovered I am in potentially deep shit with my american taxes, which has put a giant cloud over my time here – I may lose westbeth apart from anything else – but I am looking for a tax attorney, trying to deal, and to remain present at the same time…. steep learning curve… life is short and one needs to seize the carp… I am grateful for all the blessings and hope to learn from all the mistakes… the sun is hot, the sea still muy frescita but bliss… ¡empieza el verrano!


March 9th, 2015, Cotherstone

a belated welcome to 2015… one hell of a lot of water under the bridge, some of which I’m happy to let slide by and disappear, but some of which needs to be celebrated…

Someone once told me they had given up reading this as it just made them jealous… well, sweetheart, I wouldn’t have wished some moments of the past few months on my worst enemy, but I don’t feel like dwelling on them, and nor have I since I started this endeavour back in 2011 when I first returned to the UK. It seems to me that far too much time and effort is wasted by people moaning online, sharing the most intimate or inane moments of their lives with hapless passers-by and close friends alike. Not that I don’t like a good moan occasionally (who doesn’t?) but I generally prefer to do it one-on-one, preferably over a large glass of wine or whisky. No, I started this as a way of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, to remind myself of my good fortune in challenging circumstances, and that still holds true.

So… suffice it to say that the experiment in trying to live with my sister on the finca ended in ignominious failure (not that anyone should be surprised, really) although there were wonderful moments along the way: my first winter huerto, including my very own potatoes (the best ever! says this proud grower – mateo would have been so proud) which I dug up for christmas, to accompany Bernard’s leg of lamb (“let’s gnaw on Bernard’s leg for Christmas” says Julia); lettuce and leafy greens still in abundance when I left the second week of January; the first new lambs born in our fields; a wood stove in my bedroom which made that corner of the house cosy and gave me a warm retreat and sanctuary; a good first menorcan Solstice open house with all the locals, including a blazing fire pit out back and lots of candles; my studio remained functional until I left, tho’ whether anything I wrote there is worth the paper it’s written on is up for debate; great hiking when the sun was out, the island green like Ireland, quiet and empty of all tourists… the sad news is 3 of the giant pines in the front garden have died mysteriously – not only a sad loss, both as 50-year old companions and a source of summer shade, but also a majorly expensive proposition to remove, being so close to the house… siempre mas obras…

By January, things were pretty dire in the house. Luckily I had planned my SE Asian odyssey as a once-in-a-lifetime midwinter getaway, so get away I did, leaving sis to recoup in solitude as she so desperately desired. I had done everything in my power to make it work, but just as the menorcans seem to want tourism without the tourists, so my sis seems to want company without the company… but at least we tried… even if I had my doubts from the start, at the same time wanting so badly for it to work, if we’d never tried, we’d never have been sure it wouldn’t work… What Happens Now is the Big Question…

In the meantime, 6 weeks of exploration in SE Asia, courtesy of two old friends, both of whom, incidentally, I have known since the late ’70s in Oregon – how time flies… with Joan Schirle in Bali, and Joanne Petrina in Singapore – thank you, my dear friends, for giving me such a splendid time, and without whom none of it would have been possible…

Highlights in Bali: the stunning beauty of the landscape (it was the rainy season, so incredibly lush), the warmth and gentleness of the people (their word for foreigner, “tamu”, literally means “guest”); studying gamelan at Mardika’s, and kecak in the Wantilan, such a joy, such a joy; going to house ceremonies in formal sarong and kebaya to watch our master teachers perform topeng (riding a motorbike in a full-length sarong at night in the rain was a fun experience); hanging out at our home, the beautiful Melati Cottages in Penestanan, more than somewhat due to being sick, but being taken such good care of and in such beautiful surroundings; being the rainy season it was relatively quiet with regards to tourism, thankfully (tho’ I still found Ubud a bit of a nighmare when I did have to go there); realising after a month of 30 degrees and high humidity that my shoulders have never been so relaxed, in spite of it all; getting to finally spend real time with Joan after all these years, one of the Great Women Of The World. The last few days on Bali were spent up on the rim of the stunning Batur caldera, courtesy of Joanne P… a view from my balcony to die for; hot springs on the crater floor that first afternoon; the amazing temple in the forest with all the carved forest people; the delightful Poonia, guide and driver, and charming Kadek, our host.

Chinese New Year in Singapore and Phnom Penh, such contrasting cities…
Highlights in Singapore: the delightful antique shop (“we buy junk and sell antiques”) with the giant grandfather-clock-sized Stella music box; meals both at home and abroad with Joanne & Charlie and their cohorts from the Earth Observatory; the beautiful Botanic Gardens; the final morning ferry ride to Kusu Island… But best of all, being whisked off to mythical Phnom Penh for 5 days – such a contrast to the sterility of Singapore (albeit a triumph in urban planning), back in the “real” SE Asia with all its chaos, mess and vibrancy, living Joanne’s fantasy life: riding all over town in tuk-tuks in search of silk markets and good food; a morning of pampered luxury at J’s favourite spa; cocktails in the Elephant Bar of Raffles Hotel; the sanctuary of the Villa Langka, tucked away in an alley in the heart of downtown, an urban version of Melati; my unforgettable morning spent out in the Killing Fields – so quiet, so peaceful, nothing but birdsong (and an excellent audio guide, something I normally eschew) to accompany the ghosts of the 3 million exterminated… man’s inhumanity to man is unfathomable… the final morning’s 90-minute drive through dirty, dusty, depressing evidence of poverty and a climb up 482 steps to a 12th c. temple complex on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, a stunning mini Angkor Wat with amazing views of the surrounding countryside – and no-one there but us… I am one truly lucky so-and-so…

However, ill health combined with bad news from the home front in Cotherstone have forced me to change my plans for the month of march – instead of taking my final month of composer’s residency at Montalvo CA, before returning to nyc in April, I am spending it up in the frozen north of the UK, taking care of my health and family business – all tests so far have been negative, luckily, next is the cardiologist… still a mystery… meanwhile, it snowed for a couple of days last week and I’ve been wearing long-johns and 2 wooly sweaters – and that’s indoors… now it’s howling winds and horizontal rain… quite the contrast to last month’s tropics… Sweet Sam is ecstatic to have me back, spending his days curled up asleep by the fire, and his nights out hunting, coming in at 3am with muddy paws and mouse breath to sleep on my head – so wonderful to hang out with him again, but what am I going to do?? I am losing his caretaker… sometimes it all looks so hopeless, and then I look again and realise what an amazingly fortunate person I am… but many questions still to be answered… watch this space (if anyone is still reading this far down the page) and if anyone has any answers, let me know…


November 27th, 2014, menorca – Thanksgiving

I write in my studio, the only place with electricity at the moment, as Sebastian and Roland are on day 3 of the current electric work on the house, replacing all the old plugs and switches in the central room, the hall and the kitchen (they did my bedroom in October, Diana’s last winter) – next month they will do the “west wing” (euphemism for the tiny bedroom and store room on the west side of the house), the stable (d’s studio) and bathroom, and then we will be au courant – not that this will prevent the electricity from going out when the storms come through, we will still have to trudge through the weather up to the contador at the top of the road to throw the switch, but it should be at least less dangerous… not cheap (sebastian says he will only charge us for the cost of materials but parts are expensive) however it is necessary work, and while there is still money in the bank (swiftly dwindling), we must seize the carp…

The wind is set in the south, with its attendant mild temperatures and high humidity – plus it rains at least part of every day – but the sun usually also puts in an appearance at some point – yesterday there was a humungous storm in the morning, lots of thunder and lightning and lashings of rain, but by late afternoon I was lying on the back of the boathouse at Binibeca, bathed in hot sunshine… and not a soul in sight (other than sis, who had come walking with me) – quite like the early days… in spite of the relatively clement temperatures, I have been lighting the fire in my bedroom in the late afternoon/evening, to try and alleviate some of the damp in there – it is noticeably worse than the rest of the house, being lower and on the north side… my hanging clothes will soon be covered in mould, I fear… I must learn to live with it, after 20 years of the dry cold of new york winters…

My quick trip back to check in with sweet sam and the cottage earlier this month was just that… a quick trip… sam is fine (as was the cottage) and we had a lovely time together, but it broke my heart to leave him again – not sure how many more times I can do that… I had thought I would bring him back with me, but alas diana confessed she couldn’t handle the responsibility of looking after him when I’m not here, which at some point I won’t be… whilst there, the sale of the Shoe Collection at Tennants came up, and diana’s desire not to sell them put a giant spanner in the works, involving endless emails and trips to Leyburn on my part, the withdrawal of a dozen of the best handmade pairs, and the subsequent non-sale of much of the rest – so they will sit in the attic of the cottage and in moppet’s barn, gathering dust and mildew until we finally have to chuck everything… es la vida…

October was a truly stellar month, with good visitors and good weather, and sis in relatively good shape – things continue to go up and down, but we are doing okay for the moment. She has been through the mill recently, with teeth trouble (a bad root canal and another broken tooth) and gut trouble – the latter caused partly, I’m sure, by the worry over Brendan and her planned trip to see the kids next spring – the very thought of having to travel throws her completely out of kilter… for my part, I am trying to learn how to maintain a state of equilibrium in the midst of it all, and not to panic – this triangulated living begins to take its toll on me…

I have planted a winter huerto – lettuce, escarole, spinach, cabbage, swiss chard, carrots, onions – and potatoes! Finally, I have planted my own potatoes… they were doing great, but alas the combination of wet and warm (for november) has resulted in the inevitable blight… hey ho… We now have 7 sheep (6 ewes and a ram) in the old pig fields, courtesy of Bernard the swiss potter who lives up the road – he gave me a fresh leg of lamb (which had to go in the freezer, unfortunately, as I was leaving the next day for the UK, but I look forward to the right occasion for it) and also another flat of potatoes to plant… I will keep trying…

So much to be thankful for… a beautiful place to be, relatively good health

(I creak a bit in the damp, and have a fruity cough left over from the cold I picked up in the north – but “nothing serious, I hope”), a bit of money in the bank, company to keep loneliness at bay, plenty to keep me occupied, and future work to look forward to, hopefully – altho’ rinde wrote to say that princeton is not happening for now, and I don’t know about BAM any more, but I live in hope – I will, and I do… meanwhile I have the mandola and the old uke and an electric piano to play, and Vagabond to work on, a garden to dig, a sister to care for… there it is… the state of play… I will try to remember to skype nyack this evening, to say hi to the gathered tribe… thank you, one and all, for your friendship – let us keep the threads of the web connected…


October 7th, menorca

the end of a perfect week (contrary to the dire weather predictions) alone on the finca – me, myself and I… thank you, sis… I’m just a lucky so-and-so, as louis said… joan schirle arrives tomorrow from california – hopefully the weather will hold…


October 1st, menorca

Home again, home again… I got back last night, and this morning took sis to the airport for her UK vacation, allowing me some time alone here – heaven… it is autumn, or rather, second spring – mixed skies, sun and rain, a green blush in all the fields, things starting to bloom again. Today I swept, swam, raked, pruned, potted, did laundry and made quince jam – yes… still haven’t unpacked…

The second half of the Sicilian adventure was as great as the first – more writing, more great dinners and excursions, including Mt. Etna (in the first rain the island has seen since February – suitably spooky) and Siracusa (I could happily live in Ortigia). Two very long weekends to finish with: the first was the festival of Sta Maria Addolorata, involving several processions with the fabulous banda, immense pealing of bells and massive heart-stopping, ear-splitting firework displays including 21-gun salutes & “bombs” to break your eardrums, the streets lit up like there was no tomorrow – plus a very brisk business of raking in the dough (really big bills) on the madonna’s portable platform in return for lifting up naked babies to be blessed in front of the crowd – ah, the roman catholic church… the last weekend was 3 evenings of performances from us artists (including Chef Turi), and also including a memorable P.R. train-ride through town on the saturday morning, drumming up business – shades of our Broadway parade through Times Square back in 1983…

My last afternoon I finally found the site of the temple of Cybele, dating from late 4th/early 3rd century BC – the site was gated & locked but I managed to scale both sets of gates and walls (with the help of an ancient olive tree at the second set, meredith remaining behind to keep a look-out) and found my way down into the hidden valley. The images, carved as they are, out of and into the limestone hillsides, are badly worn away but the seated figures are clearly visible… the “mother goddess” from Anatolia, pre-figuring the greek gods – it’s interesting that her temple is nestled deep in the cleft of a valley, completely hidden, as opposed to the greek choice of sites as high and exposed as possible… such a sense of peace there – I finally reached that point of true stasis that is so necessary before beginning the return, the completion of the journey… now on to the next chapter…


September 14th, Sicily

Halfway through my gift from the Akrai Residency program of a month in Palazzolo Acreide, a lovely old hill town in the Hyblaean mountains of southern Sicily. How lucky can you get… [<www.akrai.org> http://www.facebook.com/akrairesidency]

I have been working away… I share a piano with the other composer/musician in residence (Roman, a genial bear of a man from Siberia with a marked resemblance to Jesus), and said piano resides in a little monastic cell with a skylight as the only window – I go every day for a couple of hours, and I like the discipline of it very much – going to the office… I have written a piece a day there so far, with a time limit of 45 minutes and space limit of one page (I have very small MS writing), watching the little square of sunlight traverse the wall in front of me – who knows if any of it is any good but at least the wheels are getting greased – it’s about time… then I work at home on Vagabond, and play the mandola on my rooftop terrace every evening for an hour before gathering for dinner – nice work if you can get it…

Two days ago we (6 of the 7 resident artists plus our 2 hosts) took the day off and went to the beach (earning it by 2 hot hours in another larger hill town with 50 baroque churches – a bit too much of a good thing, but the back streets were beautiful, and I got a hat for the beach) – an hour’s drive through hairpin bends, down to the southern tip of the island (hello africa – we are actually south of Tunis) to a national park, with a healthy walk through ullastres and wild (dry) thyme to the beautiful beach – very reminiscent of menorca, with reddish earth and limestone rock, even caña at the head of the baranca, only more african somehow – drier for sure… oh so happy to be in the embrace of my beloved blue water again, even if only for a short while… thank you, Claudia and Salvatore, for all of it…

things that grab me: doors, bells, birds, balconies & balustrades….


Tail end of August, menorca

what can I say about the past 6 weeks?
– lots of visitors, all of them really lovely but I didn’t I actually invite any of them…
not that I wasn’t thrilled to see them, each and every one of them…
– when I finally got a couple of weeks without visitors, sis and I fought pretty much every day…
– then the Pyrenees for 5 days, which was Fantastic but exhausting…
– then more lovely visitors…
-and the final 3rd week sans visitors (now) I’ve been sick as a dog, in bed and currently on antibiotics in an attempt to rid myself of it before I fly to sicily next week…
-but the weather’s been glorious, with plenty of good swimming in spite of the predominantly south wind – tho’ I did finally get stung in the Bathtub on my last swim before succombing to la grippe – I think my body just decided “basta”…

too much fun, but also too much stress…

it’s the the sant lluis fiesta and the announcements of the festivities are floating over loud and clear on the breeze…

the garden is looking pretty great, albeit in the latter stages of summer – we’ve been having a bumper crop of green figs from the tree in the front – even a few black ones from the surviving bits of the big one out back… we splurged on a bunch of big pots for the front garden, of varying shapes and sizes, which we are slowly filling with presents from Rob and Paco (with wonderful help from June and Laurie) – mostly succulents but the odd clipping of potentially beautiful bushes and trees… the vines are a disaster – I didn’t spray them soon enough and I fear this may be the end of them… caña on the gina patio next year? que lastima… and one of the big pines in the front has the blight – looks very nearly dead, only a few green needles on the extremities… if it’s the dreaded beetle then we need to fell it asap before it spreads to the others… another massive bill…
I must just learn to let go and accept what comes down the pike, particularly with regard to my sister, it would make life a lot less stressful… the silver lining of finally giving in and lying in bed on drugs is that I’ve been watching movies and listening to music – including my own, trying to remind myself of who I am and that I am still an artist in my own right… which I will get to work on very soon, hopefully

– Sicily here I come – oh lucky me… count your blessings, girl… time to get back to work…