Maggie Nicols

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Occasional writings

THURSDAY  6th JUNE

 I'm a wee bit  late with my monthly blog but not such a long gap as before. Just done a wonderful gig with drummer Denis Charolles and guitarist David Chevallier. Our set list:- The Times They Are Changing, (Bob Dylan); Dynamite Dream ( me) Phillistins (George Brassen) Free impro into I've been Loving You Too Long ( Otis Redding) impro into 'Systol' (Denis) To C From C ( David, to a poem by Cesar Pavese) I Could Write A Book ( Rodgers & Hart) Superstition, a very laid back yet intense, slow hip hop feel ( Stevie Wonder) and loads of surprises in between the pieces and during them. I love this trio. we're playing The Vortex, on the 19th of November, as part of The London Jazz Festival. In Systol, Denis asked me to speak and I speak on one of my favourite themes; the way some new agers talk about all being one and yet demonise the dark, as other and for me, the dark is as sacred as the light; a deep place of rest and revelation. The seeds are nurtured in the dark until they are ready to face the light, etc. I don't want a sanitised 'one' which excludes the other.

My wonderful friend, gutarist Bea Sauvageot has commissioned me to compose material around this theme. She wants to record some of my older material as well. We both feel passoniate about genuine inclusion, not just the tick box kind to get funding. The kind that honours the creative power in people who are often stereotyped, underestimated and excluded. She has written a revolutionary book called "Vive Le dyslexie" based on her many years of radical, pioneering work with people and dyslexia. she uses free improvisation as part of her method and challenges the orthodoxy which sees only disorder and not the creativity in every human being. I did one of her music projects and she wrote familiar text in a way that was almost impossible to understand, in order for people to ge a small sense of what it is like to feel disorientated by language and conventional spelling. It was in French but in English, it could look something like this:-  thec atsa ton them at. That's a pretty crude example. her texts were much more evocative and the music she wrote was great. There was even an improvising hip hop dancer who was stunning. Well, even though I'm wide awake on two green teas and post gig joy, I think it's time to wind down. I'll be writing again in around a month if not before.

Friday 26th April 2013

I've got back in to my site builder. I don't know why I couldn't access it before. Anyway, on the advice of my friend  ace trumpeter Robert Henderson, I'm going to start with a monthly blog and then maybe fortnightly and then possibly weekly, etc.

 

My daughter got sectioned unfairly before Christmas ,last  year, on the 20th Dec just before the very talked about winter solstice flagged up as a crucial time in the Mayan calender. She wasn't a danger to herself or others but the housing association management and the care co-ordinator wanted her to move somewhere with more support and didn't know how else to get her out of her supported tenancy. Every time I hear them answer 'Gwalia care and support', I smile bitterly. She  felt safe and happy there but they mistook her difficulty with communication, as lack of capacity and were worried every time she went out to her favourite cafe. She's been going into Carmarthen for over six years and no harm has ever come to her. She used to get the bus in before she left home. It was stated that she was at risk from 'predatory behaviour' She doesn't talk to anyone except the staff in her favourite place 'Get Stuffed ' pizza restaurant. They say that if anyone approaches her, she politely ignores them or gets up and moves away. 

 

The irony is they've found her another placement somewhere  riskier and as they can't lock her in .....?! Her care co-ordinator is the ex mayor of Carmarthen and a town councillor. I think some people in the past have voiced concerns. She talks to herself sometimes and appears unconventional I think he's worried as a town councillor and a social worker that he'd be liable if anything happened to her, even though there's no evidence at all that she's at risk.

 . I think he genuinely wants to see her thrive but doesn't get how stressful it is for her to move again. She didn't want to leave home two years ago and then settled after a couple of months of reacting adversely to the place. A psychologist advised it would too much of an upheaval to move her again and various people with understanding of the autistic spectrum offered to work with the staff. Their advice and offer of support was ignored. The problem was that there was a stand off between the housing association and services about what the appropriate level of funding should be and now they're going to end up paying more than if they'd got her the extra support, requested in the first place. They minimised her Aspergers and now quote it as the reason she needs to move!

 

We went to see three places  today and I think they're great but it's not me who has to live there. My daughter wants to go back to the place she's called home for two years and her solicitor says she has a legal right to but if she does, they could section her again, even though it's a misuse of the mental health act.  I'm hanging in there, trying to support Aura's right to choose and yet voice my concerns that she wont get a fair chance in the place she loves. The support workers have said they'd like her back but the team leader, management and care co-ordinator don't want that. Gwalia is getting rent, her furniture and loads of her clothes are there. She's in limbo. 

 

The only place she likes of the new ones, is a bus ride away from the shops and the only decent cafe closes at 3p.m. She loves the pizza place in carmarthen.  Every single staff member has built up a relationship with her. Nothing deep, of course, but warm and friendly and welcoming and that is significant. There's also an art college that supports people on the autistic spectrum. My daughter has Aspergers  and is a brilliant artist.

 The only time social workers seem to listen is  if I'm trying to facilitate what they want. It's pretty difficult. I sometimes just want to go along with them for the sake of a peaceful life. I was hoping Aura would fall in love with one of the new places but even though she quite liked one of them, she's adamant that she wants to go back to Greenfield Court. She's staying with me, otherwise she might still have been on the ward until they found her somewhere else to live. Dr Wiecko, the ward psychiatrist didn't want to do that. He'd lifted the section at the appeal and she stayed in as a voluntary patient. He released her back to her home and the care co-ordinator manufactured a non existent crisis to get her back on the ward.

 

I have mixed feelings, because in spite of the brutal unjust way he went about things,the care co-ordinator is offering to get all the funding for all the support she needs in the new place. Mind you, he said that about Greenfield Court but never put it in writing. I just wish he could have backed up his  verbal promises  when Gwalia were asking for more support. 

 

I've done everything I can to help services. Aura and I visited the three place twice before the official visit to give Aura a chance to familiarise herself with them. I refuse to put pressure on her. My opinions are pressure enough.

I had reservations two years ago about the placement with Gwalia and was told emphatically that it was the right place and bent over backwards to get her to move and settle in there and then when she'd bonded with the staff and felt safe and happy, a new social worker came along and said she was at risk, going out into town. There was some insane stuff too about her wearing 'inappropriate clothing in winter. She wears a coat but doesn't like her legs covered up and prefers girly shoes, although if it's really cold she'll put her boots on. The whole thing is a mess and my beautiful daughter has been hurt and is confused. As far as she knows, the day to day staff are kind and say how happy they are to see her and then she's told she has to move. 

I did an Equinox Tarot spread about all this and the central card is 'Change' so there you go. Maybe Aura will agree to move and it'll be a brilliant place. let's hope so. 

Wednesday October 5th

II've been very disturbed by Nato's bombing of civilians in Libya and this article in the newsline expresses how I feel.

This is how NATO is defending civilians in LibyaON Saturday, the Red Cross visited Sirte, which has been under intense bombardment and shelling from NATO planes and ships, and by NATO’s ground forces of the NTC for the last three weeks. NATO is now using the same illegal phosphorus bombs that Israel used in its recent deadly assault on Gaza!

A week ago Moussa Ibrahim reported that NATO had killed 2,000 civilians in the previous week.

The ICRC team included a doctor and reached Ibn Sina hospital, inside Sirte, delivering urgently needed surgical material to treat about 200 wounded people, including dressing kits, body-bags, and 400 litres of fuel to run the hospital’s generator.

Said Hichem Khadraoui, who headed the operation, ‘The hospital is facing a huge influx of patients, medical supplies are running out and there is a desperate need for oxygen. On top of that, the water reservoir has been damaged.’

The Red Cross reported that, ‘Due to the volatile security situation’ – ie the danger of being murdered by NATO – ‘the team could not stay long enough to fully assess the humanitarian needs of civilians.’ That said, the ICRC team has been able to meet with representatives of civil society, who reported dire needs in terms of drinking water, food supplies – in particular baby food – and hygiene items. ‘We are committed to returning to Sirte as soon as possible,’ said Khadraoui.

An earlier ICRC statement said: ‘Civilians fleeing Sirte report that water and electricity in the city are cut most of the time, food reserves are very low and access to health care is very difficult We are also hearing about severe shortages of medical supplies in the hospital. We are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation there.’

This again is NATO intervening to protect civilians. The ICRC statement added: ‘The ICRC is stepping up its efforts to obtain access to Sirte as rapidly as possible. It has a ship loaded with medical and relief supplies that is ready to leave from the port of Misrata.’

Clearly, NATO is not willing to cease fire to allow the ship to dock so that the sick, the hungry and the wounded can be helped.

The ICRC added: ‘Around 3,000 displaced people, including many children, women and elderly people, are dispersed in a desert area between Sirte and Harawa, some 30 kilometres east of Sirte.
These people don’t want to go any further. Despite very difficult living conditions, they want to remain as close as possible to their houses. They have no proper toilets or showers, and they do not have enough drinking water. Diarrhoea and fever are spreading. No health care is reaching them.’ 

Again this is NATO’s good work, with Hague, Cameron and Sarkozy at the helm. Conditions in the other cities besieged by NATO are no different.

What of the liberated areas? Surely they are feeling all of the benefits of NATO’s attention. 
On Saturday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling on Libya’s ‘new rulers’ to stop armed groups from rounding up suspected Muammar Gadaffi supporters and abusing them, saying that some detainees reporting beatings and electric shocks ‘had the scars to prove it’.

HRW added that it had visited 20 detention facilities in Tripoli and interviewed 53 inmates, including 37 Libyans and 16 sub-Saharan Africans. 

The group said some black Libyans and detainees from sub-Saharan Africa were even forced to do manual labour, including carrying heavy materials, cleaning and renovating buildings around Tripoli or on military bases. The report was based on prison visits between August 31 and last Thursday. 

HRW said thousands had been jailed, including women and children, and none had been brought before a judge. Detainees who reported abuse said guards had beaten them, sometimes on a daily basis. Seven prisoners in two facilities, including women, said guards had given them electric shocks.

The situation is clear. It is NATO that is the war criminal along with its NTC ground forces. It is Hague, Cameron and Sarkozy that must be sent to The Hague, not Gadaffi. It is a disgrace that the trade unions in the UK have not lifted a finger to stop the UK’s dirty imperialist war in Libya! There must be action without delay!
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FRIDAY 24TH JUN 2011

I'm finally able to get onto my website again but I doubt if anyone's reading this cos it's been so long since I last wrote.

I read a very moving article by Swami Satyananda about his guru Sivananda  and how he never turned anyone away ;

even those who meant harm to himself or the ashram were welcomed and given blessings. I cried my eyes out on the coach to London

reading this cos it's what I aspire to with Hecate's Haven. People think I'm mad and I know why and I'm no guru but at least with

The Gathering I can almost be completely inclusive. I think If someone wished harm, I would automatically want to protect myself and

others but wouldn't it be great to fear no-one and have the spiritual and creative resources to welcome everyone and know that you could

still have boundaries within that. Anyone is welcome but don't take liberties! Ironically, in 20 years of The Gathering no-one has ever been

turned away, in London or in Wales and no-one has ever done any harm. People have felt challenged and provoked  at times but that has

stopped it getting too cosy and insular.Beyond The Gathering though, I feel I would need a team of people who could between us handle

almost anything. I'm certainly not deluded enough to think I could do it on my own. It certainly has touched  a very deep soul longing in

me, that article, but it has also brought up all my resistance and fears as well. Melin Dolwion is mum's and I have to respect her need not

to be overwhelmed  by my visions of community. So far it is evolving gently and the safe cauldron container is creativity which I feel

brings out the best in us all, individually and collectively. My overriding committment is to her and my daughter. I trust that everything

else will keep growing as it needs to, including my inner strength and balance.

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 27TH 2008
I was sixty on the 24th of this month. I spent the day in bed which at first was frustrating as I'd booked a treat for myself but was too dizzy to go. I think my body went on strike and once I'd overcome the disappontment, I had a lovely time reading old diaries, doing crosswords, dipping into a pile of books I'd put on the bed and doing a lot of writing too.
 
I find it easier to write longhand than to do this blog. I've got so many different books to write in.
 
I've got the books I made that came out of the yoga course I did at the beginning of last year.
 
We were encouraged to make our own and once I'd got over the I'm hopeless and can't do this sort of thing, I was very happy with it and am now on my fifth  one. One for each nine week cycle (eight from the teacher and one I added for a week of improvising a routine)
 
I use it to observe feelings that arise from my yoga practice; blocks, breakthroughs, general
reflections on resistance and progress, even insights.
 
I also have a series  of books I can just scribble in uncensored. It's a mix of how I've always kept my diaries and a response to the writer Julia Cameron's suggestion to do three A4 pages in longhand every morning- The morning pages she calls them.
 
I keep this up for periods of time and then rebel. I don't want to do these bloody pages etc. Sometimes I fill them really easily and other time I'm writing stuff like "I can't think of anything to write and I've got one and a half bloody pages left to go."
 
It's a kind of thinking aloud excercise and you're encouraged to write anything, inane drivel and poetic flights of fancy if they occur! If you keep it up, it really works on a lot of different levels,
including creative ones.
 
I have just started a Queen's book. My friend Morgan came back from the Goddess conference in Glastonbury and was inspired by a workshop she went to, held by Donna Henes. The general consensus for some time has been that women go from Maiden to Mother and then straight to Crone.
 
Donna Henes suggests that like the four seasons, there are four stages in women's lives
and that the autumn stage could be our Queen time. She has written a book called 'Queen Of Myself ' which I really like; loads of stuff to write about and practise from there as well!
 
Morgan has started a Queen's group which is a collective of nine women taking it in turn to
lead sessions.
 
Two nights ago we walked the labyrinth in Hecate's Haven asking ourselves if we were living the life we wanted and if not why not.
 
In our sharing after we went from moved by the experience through tentative and then relaxed free speaking. It was great.
 
Next time we'll be looking at our dreams and any recurring themes that come out of the last
session. This is why I've decided to start a Queen's book.
 
It's yet another situation in which I'm finding kindred spirits who want a connection between political activism and spiritual exploration. It's a powerful combination which I feel has been gestating in me for some time and is going to be very effective individually and collectively
 
I go on a lot about trusting the Muse in The Gathering and when I'm teaching and two years ago I bought a book called The Nine Muses( A mythological path to creativity) by Angeles Arrien which also involved journaling  There's a lot of excercises and it felt a bit daunting so I let it slide. I picked it up again today to resume work with Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses
and of memory.
 
I will try to  tackle :-"Write or collect what you know or have heard about your ancestors, other than parents or grandparents" I've made a start on that. I remembered my cousin Rhona Munroe, saying we have an ancestor called 'Moonshine Willie'! and mum has said there's a Berber saint on her family tree and on her French mum's side are Hugenots who fled persecution and dad talks about my Gaelic great grandmother all dressed in black like an old Italian or Greek matriarch : quite a mix I suppose.
 
I also would like to do "Create a collage or photo album of significant people, places and events that you do not want to forget"
 
It's finding the time!!
 
There are wonderful excercises in abundance on every page. I'll just have to take my time doing them but at this rate it'll take me ages to get through all of the nine muses!
 
The one thing I could do, if I could let go of my attachment to it, is watch less television and spend that 'leisure' time exploring other things,
including writing this blog, updating my website, resuming my songcycle composition on the major arcana characters from the tarot etc etc
 
as it happens, I'm writing this now instead of watching telly but I may weaken and watch Coronation Street in fifteen minutes.
 
Actually, I'm finding that television is not so seductive for me as it was. I do enjoy it though.
 
I'm trying, yet again to get to bed before midnight, except for special occasions, not just
late night viewing. I tried last year and was getting really buzzy on all my increased energy.
 
I'd got it down to  lights off at 11.50 p.m most nights and then 'Big Brother' got me, all because I heard there was a militant peace activist on it.
 
It turned out she hardly opened her political mouth but spent most of her time in there compulsively cleaning but I still watched and then got completely hooked.
 
The same thing happened with Germaine Greer, then George Galloway and Ken Russell.( not the compulsive cleaning)
 
I'm determined not to fall for it this time....
 
It drained my energy and there were a couple of situations I'd have handled a lot better if I hadn't been so tired.
 
I also have a shapeshifting journal and a book of shadows and a dream book, over ambitious or what?
 
I'm reading loads of books  too but now, instead of feeling overwhelmed I'm reading a couple of pages at a time and seeing lovely connections between the books.
 
The only books I can read fast are novels from the library which I read on trains and buses. i love travelling for that very reason. i get to read.
 
I will end today's entry with an excerpt from
my muse journal which I wrote in March 2006 re
three important memories or longings :-
 
Memory 2 :- The first time I sang with John(Stevens) and Trevor (Watts)
 
" WOW- The Little Theatre Club, The Sustained
Piece  magic - ecstasy, transcendance- musical and spiritual communion and communication.
 
The Click Piece - walking to the edge of a cliff and one leg in the air like The Fool in the Tarot-
total trust and then laughing deliriously cos it was too intense to trust in my ability to free fall
like that.
 
It changed me forever, introduced me to the liberation of improvising from a deep place which informs and nourishes every aspect of my creativity, daily."
 
 
 
 
 
 

SATURDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER 2007
Has it really been over three months since i last wrote anything. Blimey!
I should imagine that anyone who was reading this blog has given up on me but I'll continue anyway.
I got an email from an old friend telling me that one of my most important influences and mentors, Peter Oliver, is seriously ill.
 
He and Joan Oliver were innovative theatre practitioners who transformed The Oval
House in South London, from a Church of England Youth club into a centre for radical theatre and music and kept a hell of a lot of the youth with them.
 
You didn't need any qualifications to participate or even run workshops.
 
Hundreds of people developed there, such as actors
Stephen Rea, Pierce Brosnan, directors Neil Jordan
and Mike Figgis, mime artist Nola Rae etc, etc. I haven't tried googling it in but hopefully there'll  be more information about it on line.
 
I acted there, I sang there, I started running workshops there. When me and my ex husband needed somewhere to put on a festival, it was the Oval House that provided the space.
 
I also was able to showcase 'Contradictions' there
We hosted a week long event at The Oval House.
In fact come to think of it, the programme from that time is on the 'Contradictions' page of my website.
 
Roz and Alphi Pritchard continued the wonderful work that Peter and Joan Oliver started.
 
I can't believe how much of my creative life was intimately tied up with that wonderful place.
 
I even found out about women's liberation there, when I surreptitiously 'borrowed' a copy of germaine greer's 'The Female Eunoch' that I found lying around in the Oval House canteen.
 
Dearest Peter Oliver with all my heart and soul I thank you.

FRIDAY 25/5/07
I  got an email re The Gathering in London and it prompted me to  reply in depth and I'm cutting and pasting what I wrote cos it cuts to the heart of what I believe about  community and improvised music.
 
 I've included some other comments minus the adresses.
Dear All,
           Albert Ayler said" Music is the healing force of the universe" I wouldn't use the word 'therapeutic' It's misleading. As soon as you start worrying about musical criteria, the Gathering  as a springboard for social, creative, magic will die and it'll be yet another bunch of musos with competing ideas of what the 'true aesthetic' should be. It's up to the experienced improvisers to  embody the principle of total trust and then the muse will not let you down and the magic will take you by surprise when you least expect it.
The Gathering is not a do- gooding therapy session. it is healing and liberation for all of us who seek community of authentic, creative being on the deepest level and those who just want to have fun
and those who are shy and nervous and those  who want to make music or explore their instruments etc etc. In other words, anyone. I defy any regular to say that they haven't grown musically and in social awareness from The gathering
In other words, it's a mystery of revelation and sweet surprise and remember that clumsiness is an essential part of grace for all of us.
It takes great courage to trust the process but it's infectious and trust brings out the best in us all.

 In my experience,this applies to gigs workshops and life itself. When I trust it always works. Is that madness? Well if it is, it's divine madness.
Of course, as Evan Parker passed on to me, the Sufis have a saying " Trust In Allah but remember to tether your camel"  and for me, the tethering of the camel is a good venue, communication,
welcoming people,  some gentle honesty,(if keeping quiet  feels like a compromising of one's integrity) gentle, cos it's too easy to crush someone's creative flowering with the wrong kind of criticism and maybe looking inside oneself and how one reacts to something one doesn't like may be even more relevant etc etc. Each one of us makes a difference by how we play and conduct ourselves.
 
I've really had to practise what I preach here in Wales. it's taken a long time to build up to a group that appreciates free improvisation and doesn't always want to force it into a more  conventional jam session. There have been times when something has happened and I've felt that critic inside
wishing someone wouldn't do this or that and after abandoning trying to make them be 'freer' or sulking I've actively said to myself over and over"Trust" and wow, it's amazing, within minutes, I've stopped worrying about what someone else is doing or what someone else may or may not think about it and I'm posessed by the muse and can swim with the flow and the cross currents and inevitably, I feel the magic again
Sometimes  musicians will get disheartened. It's happened here too but they often come back and if they don't, that's ok too. There's nothing to stop people organising a more ostensibly music oriented session. I know that, for me it would end up feeling limited and even boring. I love the eccentricities, and foibles of humankind that The Gathering exposes me too. It brings out the best in me. It's the closest I get to 'egolessness' and healthy, creative ego.
In our different Rhythms together we are infinitely sustainable and creative.
    lots of love, maggie xxxxxx
 
>From: "Frank
>Date: Sun, 13 May 2007 12:16:47 +0100
>
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: javier  >Sent: 13 May 2007 00:07
>To: frank
>
>
> >From: Frank
> >To: Frank
> >Subject: RE: Gathering - let's open this discussion> >
> >long time no see, but I am glad you are still in touch and very many
> >thanks for your thoughts below.
> >Perhaps some other more academic improvisers than me can recommend
> >books about improv, though I would say a book with an interesting point
> >of view
> >is: Nada Brahma - The World Is Sound (Music and The Landscape of
> >Consciousness) by Jaochim-Ernst Berendt.
> >
> >As to your worthy thoughts below, you may bear in mind that The
> >Gathering was originally started as a social event and not as a public
> >performing group (although there have been incidental performances at
> >odd times), so we are not attempting to be in the same league as the
> >illustrious names you mention.  I believe the intent has been to keep
> >it open to all.
> >
> >I shall forward your comments and let you know any response.
> >
> >All best wishes,
> >frank
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >
> >Sent: 12 May 2007 21:20
> >To: frank
> >Subject: RE: Gathering - let's open this discussion up
> >
> >Sorry dear Gatherers about my English but I am chilean. I think that is
> >very a complex issue to put the borders in between improvisation and
> >anarchy. I am not musician and I've been three o four times in the
> >gathering but I hadn't taken part on it,  I decided to keep quiet, why?
> >may because  I have the classical idea of the needs of to have some
> >trainning, talent or skills before  doing anything in the art
> >territories, if you don't have any of it problably everyone will notice
> >it and of course nobody are going to play with you or make any
> >recording of your unskillful efforts. Also I think the idea is to
> >contribute with something.
> >For long time I been a record collector and listener, my taste includes
> >ethnic, medieval, renassaince, barroque, contemporary, free jazz,
> >improvisation, electronic, prog rock, psichodelia, avantgarde rock,
> >etc; but despite of to have listened to hundreds of rare oddities in
> >the end I keep listening to those which have got some degree of
> >direction for example Art Ensamble of Chicago, Sun Ra, Coltrane, and of
> >course London Jazz Improvisers, Globe Unity, Spontaneous Music Ensamble
> >or AMM. But what does it make a good improviser or a good
> >improvisation? it is still a mistery to me. For me is a kind of
> >connection in between myself  (ears, mind, body &
> >soul) and everything which is surrounded me (I mean people, history,
> >nature and the unknown cosmic forces) through the music and the
> >physical vibrations.
> >Another thing which I notice living here in London is that the English
> >are like cats they can live alone listening to music, reading books,
> >watching films and attending to exhibitions but few share it and
> >discussed about it, maybe they  just exchange some information after
> >each event what's next and that sort of things. I am latinoamerican and
> >for us it is very important to include each other in this trip inviting
> >people to our home  exchanging opinions and tuning our emotions in a
> >certain way which make us to believe in  there are other human beings
> >feeling the same like me with the same kind of values, trying to work
> >together growing this way of living. The English make good music but
> >there  is a lack of reflection, communion and communism.
> >
> >   Maybe I am quite naive and also you  have got another financial and
> >historical situation (involving two world wars, colonization, slavery,
> >Irak, Afganisthan, Falklands, etc; ) which make  you to learn about to
> >get stuff and knowledge by and for yourself and  do not trust in
> >anybody  in order to survive or it's just  because your society is very
> >competitive then people just  want protect themselves of do not to be
> >exposed to anothers opinions.
> >What does it make a good improvisation?  may the answer is in the mind
> >of all these masters like Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Barre Philips, Paul
> >Rutheford, Fred Frith, Chris Cutler, Charles Hayward, John Edwards, Lol
> >Coxhill, Onette Coleman or Cecil Taylor but one day they should have to
> >sit down together, discussed it with the audience and to write a book
> >explaining that.
> >Could you recommended me a good book about this? sorry but I haven't
> >read Derek Bailey's or Eddie Prevost's books.
> >Javier
> >
> >
> >
> > >From: "Frank
> > >
> > >Subject: Gathering - let's open this discussion up
> > >Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 14:51:47 +0100
> > >
> > >Your points of view are interesting and welcome, as, although seldom
> > >spoken of, there is always some subliminal division between Gatherers about what
goes down and what doesn't.   Personally I do have a musical esthetic although try to bear patiently when things don't go the way I would necessarily like.   Yes, Maggie's idea was and still is that anything
goes except violence.  She used to say that The G. is not just about music.
Tho I try to keep my mouth shut and let things take their course I do understand Jeremy when he explained why he doesn't come to Gatherings
much anymore, because they are often not very 'musical' and are non-directional, and he always wants to tell people when to shut up and listen (like me). I told him he should speak out.  In true
anarchy everyone's view is valid.  I have on occasion spoken out about proceedings but feel that I'm being the Big Bad Wolf and out on a
limb. Steve said that he doesn't think Gatherings are about making good music, tho great when that happens, he doesn't think that is the point.
Moshi said that Gatherings are as much about tolerance as anything
else, and Maggie used to stress the therapeutic aspect of improv.
Jeremy was dead against that view, not believing in music therapy at all.
But just this week Chris at last spoke out (to me at least) about why he
often leaves early.   I have tried to get these things discussed openly
> >but
> > >it seems folk only talk about them one-on-one, not in the group.
> > >
> > >So for the time being I think it is enough that there is a space and time
> > >for open collective improv without being a directed workshop.   Eddie
> >runs
> > >that one.   And, as I said, I am am not wholly convinced of conduction
> > >either, and I do see Jeremy's point that the necessarily limited
> > >number of conduction gestures makes effects sound cliched and stilted.
> > >As for this week, yes it did drift around but there were some
> > >interesting moments (even tho you were blocking the view Chris and I
> > >had of each other
> > >-
> > >I respond as much to what I see people do as what I hear; light
> > >travels faster than sound), but there you go, I don't 'run' The
> > >Gathering and if you (or anyone pretty much) doesn't agree with my
> > >suggestion (for you to move back into the circle) who am I to argue?
> > >
> > >
 I felt that we could have used a stronger lead voice (sax or
> > >other).  So this week's Gathering may have lacked balls but there
> > >were some interesting
> > >sounds and your bass sounds good - and you played a strong lead.   Let me
> > >know if you want a copy.
> > >
> > >All best wishes, and do come again the next time you are in town.
> > >You know Gatherings are different every week depending on who turns up.
> > >
> > >frank
> > >

> > >
> > >-----Original Message-----
> >> > >Sent: 12 May 20
> >
> > >
> >  I am
> > >not too sure about the music we played. Have you listened to it and
> > >how do you like it?
> > >
> > >I had mixed feelings. The acoustics are great and I found the thinner
> > >instrumentation interesting, but at the same time  there was often a
> > >lack of responsiveness, initiative and direction  as well as passages of very idiomatic material. I
> > >also realise that I do not share some of Maggie's / The gathering's
> > >concepts. I attempt to render two particular ones as (i) there is no
> > >boundary between life and music, and between what is happening in the
> > >frame of a performance and what's outside, and (ii) everything you do
> > >is OK. I think improvisation is, among others, about taking decisions
> > >(not necessarily rational ones, but they will have consequences and
> > >there is such a thing as being wrong) and exchanging of points of
> > >view, which implies subjectivity. I cannot really relate to getting
> > >carried away by the stream of some purported general conciousness as
> > >a strategy in improvisation. This seems to imply not taking
> > >responsability for the sounds one is producing. It can also lead to
> > >very clischee loaden playing.
> > >
> > >But having said that I acknowledge that people with very different
> > >concepts can play together with interesting results.
> > >Although the gatheruing is not really about results.
> > >
> > >It was fun being there and see you again
> > >
> > >Cheers
Armin-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
 Von: "Frank 
Gesendet: 11.05.07 20:51:35 An: "'Arnin 
Betreff: Gathering
Hi Armin> Good to have you at the Gathering.   It was an unusually small group this
week - a sax, flute or clarinet would not have been amiss. 

SUNDAY 13TH MAY 2007
Another important part of my life was refreshed and rejeuvenated yeterday.
 
I attended a meditation day at the Padmasambhava centre in Llandeilo yesterday.
 
It feels so important to be healthy in mind,emotions,  body and soul.
 
As part of the day, we worked with a process initiated by Swami Satyananda : S.W.A.N which stands for Strengths,Weaknesses, Ambitions and Needs. We were invited to meditate on an issue/resolve/problem, difficult decision etc  and explore it in relation to Swan.
 
I found it really useful to let insights come from a deeper place. We alternated
meditation with writing what arose spontaneously out of that  deeper consciousness.
 
At the end we looked at action to be taken and resolves we could make.
 
I had to accept that I'm not superhuman and bionic. I can't have late nights and early mornings and still cope with all the projects and political actions I am committed to undertaking. Something as simple as resolving to have earlier nights can make a huge difference to how I handle the overload but there were deeper
issues which came up and surprised me about what an important part of me the late night persona has been.
 
yet again it's the challenge of simplicity, the wisdom in the often underestimated "obvious"
 
I am so happy to be joyfully engaged in a daily yoga practice again.
 
I stopped teaching because I  wasn't practising and didn't feel I could urge class participants to do so if I wasn't practising what I preached.
 
I'm not sure if or when I'll teach yoga again but i might start putting stuff up on the yoga page on my website.
 
I have been talking to singer and healer Francine Luce about  possibly doing a joint summer school in 2008 which integrates, voice, movement, yoga
and healing.  
 
I often use yoga breathing practises in my voice workshops. In fact I introduced them to the students in the master class I did at the jazz School in Bern 
which I will write a bit about now.
 
EXTRACTS FROM MY WORKSHOP DIARY re two day
class in Bern 17th & 18th April 2007
 
" A really fruitful first day. They were all very open and their singing teacher Sandie Patten has obviously done great work with them. She was very welcoming, warm and friendly" 
 
She gave me her C.D which I listened to when I got home and it's gorgeous. She's a beautiful singer.
( I've just spent ten minutes looking for it so i could give people the title and Sandie's website.)
 
" I had first, third and final year students and my apprenticeship with the king of mixed ability,John Stevens stood me in good stead. 'Names with Clapping' developed into a fine, if slightly tentative pulse based improvisation. It was more familiar territory for those who hadn't experienced free improvisation.
 
They had all said valuable things about what improvisation meant to them when we went round a couple of times at the beginning.
 
John's 'Sustained Piece' was magical. We did it twice and the voices blended beautifully both times.
 
In his 'Click Piece' there could have been even shorter sounds from a couple of them but again it was lovely.
 
The two together led to a gorgeous group improvisation.
 
The morning ended with a stunning version of the piece I wrote based on the clapping rythms which evolved out of 'Names & Clapping' and
discussions from a women's workshop I did in Slovenia  'Wings Of Rhythm'
 
The singers in bern, as in slovenia, sang it beautifully
and all the different lines wove in and out of each other until we were improvising;taking it in unplanned turns to fly and ground it for one another. Ah, what joy."
 
In the afternoon we did a piece I learnt from both Nancy Diuguid and Libby Gallagher. 1-20 where the group collectively has to create space for individuals to walk and name one step at a time till you reach 20.
 
If more than one person walks or names a number at the same, you have to go back to the beginning. It's a great way to  have a laugh and yet build concentration and a kind of group telepathy, especially when you've had a lunch break and need to get back on track.
 
" We got there after a few nice tries" It's a great feeling when you get to 20. It invariably surprises people that they can do it.
 
" 'Short Impros' (one of my pieces) as always a revelation of sweet surprises, each small group blossoming more and more as we went round again.
Each group, as always,unique.
 
John's 'Ghosting' also brought  forth some wonderful soloists and the ghosting was superb.
 
We finished with an awesome 'Rhythm Of Your Own Life' We used Click as the entry into vocal percussion and then sang the song and then everyone took an inspired and convincing solo over the chords which Myria played on the piano. I was very moved. The group improv at the end was exhilerating.
 
Thankyou all my Muses I am blessed with your gifts."
 
I'm going to try and write about day 2 tomorrow.

FRIDAY 11TH MAY 2007
I've just come back from doing a gig in Paris called
'LA VOIX EST LIBRE' 
It was hosted by 'Jazz Nomades'and lasted for three days; a mixture of songs, poetry, rap, improvisation and cabaret to mention just some of the musical feast that was on offer.
 
I was there on the last night as part of 'Le Cabaret des Musiques a Ouir' as one of their guests.
I was invited by drummer/percussionist/wild spirit Denis Charolles and we played in the last part of the second half.
 
There was so much on that we didn't get to do the whole programme. I wanted to do one of mum's wonderful songs 'J'aime La Vie,' which she wrote when she was grieving intensely for her soul mate, my stepfather, Bas.
 
It's typical of mum that she can feel that love of life in the midst of despair and in fact
that seemed to be the spirit of the whole evening.
 
The determination to overcome the bitter disappointment at the election of the right
wing Sarcozy in France ran through both the passionate improvisations of the first group, the 'chansons impopulaire' of Fred Le Junter, who opened the second half, and the words,music and attitudes of all the cabaret performers and musicians;
 
despair transformed into defiance and joy
 
The place was packed and the audience were comrades in response and spirit. You could
feel the collective solidarity between musicians and listeners. It was amazing to sing in such an overtly political and expressively free environment. My dream come true; politics
and creativity united and thriving in the face of all the obstacles and battles ahead.loads of humour as well.
 
apparently, all three nights were sold out.
 
It was in a beautiful old  theatre, almost in the round,
with three floors. It's called 'Aux Bouffes Du Nord'
and they have a website: www.bouffesdunord.com
which I'm going to check out when I have time.
 
after the gig, most of us went to a bar where, one of the artists,singer/songwriter and accordionist Christian Paccoud got everyone singing, including a rousing rendition of 'The Internationale'
 
I got really good feedback for my song 'Dynamite Dream'
which is about trusting in change and our abiltiy to
keep dreaming that another world is trully possible
and that, in our different rhythms together we can make a difference even when everything seems impossible
and we feel like giving up.
 
I don't think Nicolas Sarcozy is going to have an easy ride on his road to divide and rule and repression.
 
In the words of pianist Bernard Lubat:-
" Ce n'est qu'n combat, continuons le debut"
 
I think that means something like; we'll carry on fighting
as we always have.
 
In the programme Blaise Merlin, musician and one of the organisers, writes about the crucial role music can play in these times.
 
"La musique a plus que jamais son mot a dire, plus d'un
pensee a fair circuler, plus, d'un souffle artistique, politique, moderne a nous faire entendre."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

THURSDAY 10TH MAY 2007
A couple of recent events to report.
Maria from the Parliament Square peace campaign phoned to let me know of a series of 'pre-emptive peace strikes they are organising There was one on mayday (1/5/07) It was too short notice for people so I decided to do something on my own which I was pretty nervous about. I got some white cardboard and wrote:-
    INVEST IN CARING NOT KILLING
   
    PRE-EMPTIVE PEACE STRIKE
 
 
I tied some string round it and wore it on my back.
my daughter wanted a lift into carmarthen and once we were there she decided to stay with me, which I was really grateful for.
 
We walked around town and various people commented and asked questions.
I had a few discussions with people and found the global women's strike slogan about caring not killing a really good basis for discussion with whoever engaged in conversation.
 
There is much talk at the moment about having to ration health care and start charging for certain "less essential "services. I read an article in which it was stated that even that wouldn't be enough and that some "unpalatable" choices would have to be made.
 
The global women's strike say that  annual military spending is ten times what is needed for food, shelter and clean water etc for everyone in the world. O.K now tell me that the'free market' is  progressive and 'modern' and that socialism is 'old fashioned'
 
The capitalist system, based on profit, not need, reminds me of a terminally dead patient kept artificially alive by machines. The main growth industries are arms, legal and illegal drugs and the sex industry.
 
The casino which is the stock market trades in debt and fictitious capital and gambles with our lives and the planet
 
 
"We can choose, within the limits of our epoch,
To gather our resources,summon up the forces of freedom and change
Make a nuisance of ourselves to make a new sense of ourselves" ( from "To Hecate" see 'Hecate's Haven' page)
 
 
 
 

 
THURSDAY 3RD MAY 2007
 
It's been too long and I'm rushing a quick few words off to anyone who reads this blog. I was surprised to hear from a few people who do! Apologies to you, it's the usual 21st century dilemma, taking on too much. It's a shame cos I love writing. I also want to add to the rest of the website, especially the theatre and yoga pages.
 
I also have the notes I wrote before, during and after an amazing two days
teaching a "master class" at the jazz school Bern and stuff to say about a one woman pre-emptive peace strike I did in solidarity with Brian and maria of the Parliament Square peace campaign. They hope to build an International movement of regular strikes for humanity and their website is :-
www.peacestrike.org   ckeck it out.
Now I've recommenced this I will try and make more time for it.

THURSDAY 22ND MARCH
 
Another long gap! I did go to the conference hosted by the Global Women's Strike  on the 10th March and it was really good.
 
As women told their stories  of surviving rape and other violence,I found myself moved to tears. At first I thought it was empathy and then I realised it was
opening my Pandora's box of experiences.
 
I was struck by how all the speakers had fought to get justice. When I was raped,  in the'sixties,I didn't dream of going to the police. It was just one of those things I told myself, a sort of occupational hazard of being a woman.
 
I've even recounted my stories of rape and misuse(abuse?) in an anectodal, almost humorous fashion.
 
Those experiences have left their mark in  my relationships though but because I've felt so lucky in other areas of my life, namely the music and special friendships, it's seemed like it's a small price to pay and maybe it would be greedy to want fulfilling sex as well!!
 
I was talking about this with the wonderful healer Judi Coull and I rediscovered an insight I've had before but on a deeper level.
 
 It's not just because of my past that I need sex to be sensitive with the freedom for
both people to stop and start and be comfortable at their own pace and not overtaken by one person's rhythm.
 
 It's because  an exciting improvisation where the tempo can change and contradictions flourish can be a more fulfilling experience for all concerned
 
I don't want one dimensional " wham bam thank you ma'm" sex with a man or a woman which doesn't mean that it can never get wild but that the pace isn't forced.
 
 It means that foreplay isn't just some irksome duty to be got out of the way as fast as possible in order to get on with the 'real' business but a process in it's own right in the same way that improvisation isn't just a tool for devising 'real', finished pieces deemed fitter to present but also a magical process in it's own right.
 
 
At the first session of the conference,there were quite a few stories of police negligence when women took their rapists to court and an inspiring story from a sex worker who'd had no justice and made a successful private prosecution.
 
She refused to be stereotyped as not capable of being a rape victim because of the work she did.
 
A mother spoke of her anguish for her daughter and their continuing fight to get justice.
 
There was also a contribution from the brother of a woman who'd been murdered by her ex.
 
The police had taken 7 hours to get there and no-one had told the emergency operator that police policy was not to enter a house if guns were involved so she
told his sister to stay put, that immediate help was on it's way.
 
One theme ran through every contribution; all the speakers had had emotional and practical support and help from The Crossroads Womens Centre which is where a variety of women's organisations are based, including 'Women Against Rape' and Black Women's Rape Action Project'
 
There were good contributions from the floor,including one from one of the men from 'Payday' who spoke about the macho, violent attitudes and practices that breed in the military and the necessity for  men to refuse to kill and rape.
 
.Black Women's Rape Action Project are campaigning to force the Home Office to recognise rape as torture.
 
At the moment women who have suffered repeated beatings and rape can be deported as rape is not considered sufficient grounds for asylum to be granted.
 
 
The more I hear about Venezuala, the more I realise
how crucial it is that the revolution there is defended
It's very clear that grassroots women play a huge part in the development of economic and social justice for all.
 
The law aginst domestic violence makes it very clear that rape and abuse of any citizen will not be tolerated.
 
Fifty women from Global Women's Strike have just come back from there and have brought out a new film about their experiences:-
 
    JOURNEY WITH THE REVOLUTION.
 You can order a copy or arrange a showing at :-
 
 
I felt that the different organisations based at Crossroads Women's Centre certainly 'walk their talk'
 
They are all under the umbrella of an organisation that I remember from the early days of the women's liberation movement ' Wages For Housework'
 
They have stood the test of time and seem to be going from strength to strength.
 
Back then, they were viewed with  suspicion  by some feminists.
 
I'd just come out of The Workers' Revolutionary Party' and Wages For Housework's relationship to the womens movement reminded me a bit of the party's relationship to the other socialist organisations.
 
Both are 100% active and ideologically uncompromising. Both have been perceived by some as a bit 'heavy' 
 
Both are genuinely committed to revolutionary transformation and the end of an exploitative and warmongering Capitalist system
 
Because they are so intensely engaged in that struggle, they can  come across as relentless and
intolerant at times
 
However, both organisations  are open and totally inclusive at other times.
 
I have a lot of time for them but am not sure how they would handle criticism. Would they see  persistent dissidents as agent provocateurs? 
 
THe two organisations are structured very differently and Global Womens Strike and the other related women's organisations are not
aligned to any party, however, I do recognise similarities.
 
There were two W.R.P members who had come to the conference with women campaigning for the right of return to their Island in Diego Garcia
 
The British government evicted them to make way for
an American air base and in spite of winning the right to return in several court cases, the U.K government has shamefully manipulated obscure loopholes in the law to deny the Chagos Islanders justice.
 
Both Global Womens Strike and The Workers Revolutionary Party are actively supporting them.
 
I recognised the banner that they'd brought; designed by someone in the W.R.P, unmistakeable.
 
It felt like two parts of my extended  political family
were under the same roof even if they might not recognise themselves as close allies.
 
Too much happened for me to give a full report but I'm sure there'll be one on the Global Women's Strike website:- www.globalwomenstrike.net
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TUESDAY 6TH MARCH 2007
 
I get regular mailouts from the Global Women's Strike
and they have some events coming up in march.
 
firstly for International Women's Day they are hosting a conference entitled:-
 
         RAPE,  RACE,  PROSTITUTION
 Campaigning for justice in the 21st century
 
It will be held at Trinity United Reformed Church
Buck Street, London NW1  Sat 10th March 9.30 -5p.m
 
It says All Welcome so I don't think it's women only.
 
Entrance: funded organisations & professionals £20;
waged £10; low waged £5; unwaged £3; asylum seekers free No one turned away for lack of funds.
 
They have a website which will tell you more:-
 
On Sunday 11th March 1.30-5p.m, Palestinian speakers&film  at Kentish Town Community Centre, Busby Place, NW5. Entry £5/£2.50 unwaged
 
Global Women's Strike say 'Invest In Caring Not Killing'
They have a video entitled REFUSING TO KILL
'Refuseniks from around the world speak out against murder, rape & other torture.
 
Linked to their organisation is Payday, a network of men, working with the Global Women's Strike info about them at www.refusingtokill.net
 
I'm doing a gig with Francine Luce in London for 'Mad Chicks' on the 8th March
and am hoping to get to the conference on the 10th. if I go, I'll try and report back.
 
I still haven't finished reporting on my time at Mills College but there you go.
 
 I'm telling myself that 'TIME IS MY FRIEND' otherwise I panic and then get depressed about not having enough time to do everything I want to and think I 'should' do.
 
That really is a waste of time and depletes the energy I have to be able to just get on and tackle tasks as best I can without making a drama out of it!!

WEDNESDAY 28TH FEBRURY
I have just received the following information:-

 

"Huge Israeli force swamp Nablus, impose curfew and clash with Palestinians in largest military operation in 2 years

25 February 2007 Nablus Ma'an News Agency
The Israeli occupation forces initiated a huge operation in Nablus, in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, considered the biggest operation in two years. Ma'an's correspondent reported that more than 60 Israeli military vehicles and several bulldozers entered the city and imposed curfew.

Palestinian security sources told Ma'an that a large force participated in the incursion, focused on the old city, particularly Al Yasameen neighborhood, where dozens of Israeli soldiers were deployed in the streets. The city resembles something like a military camp, the sources said.

In an unprecedented step the Israeli forces infiltrated the airwaves of the radio stations, seeking to provoke Palestinian resistance men. The soldiers distributed lists of 'wanted' Palestinians in the city and arrested six citizens, four of whom are relatives and two are brothers. The arrests took place in Rafidia, west of the city, and followed the besieging of one of the houses.

Ma'an's correspondent reported that the Israelis announced the curfew through the local radio station of An Najah University and warned the citizens against breaking it. The Israeli forces commanded Palestinians to stay home and to keep away from banks and public departments and institutions.

The announcement also said that the curfew will be imposed for no specific time period and that they will be allowed, only during specific times, to be supplied with food. The citizens expect that the curfew may last for a long time.

The education directorate announced that teaching in the schools will be suspended for the coming period due to the curfew.

The Israeli forces said that the operation aims to arrest many of the 'wanted' Palestinians, they said that they are searching for Mahdi Abu Ghazala, Ammar Akkoub, Sufian Qandeel, Amin Libbada, Abdulrahman Shinnawi and Mahdi Akkoub.

Israeli forces continue their operation in Nablus, which began early Sunday morning. Armed clashes erupted between Israeli forces and resistance fighters and resulted in the injury of at least two Israeli soldiers.

According to the most recent reports two Israeli soldiers were injured when Palestinian resistance men attacked an Israeli patrol vehicle with an explosive device in the old neighbourhood of Qasaba.'

The Israeli army stated that a bomb was hurled at one of the patrols and that shooting at the Israeli soldiers occurred in the city, but they did not announce any casualties to the Israeli military or the resistance fighters."

25 February 2007 Nablus Ma'an News Agency

WEDNESDAY 21ST FEBRUARY 2007
 
A bit of an interval since I last wrote.
 
I'm feeling good about my life at the moment; more balanced and less prone to  kneejerk melodramatic  over reactions.
 
Let's hope it really is like the music; the more I engage in creative practice and then trust the process, the stronger it becomes.
 
I'm doing a wonderful Yoga Course, designed by Poornam from Llandeilo Yoga centre.
 
It's intended to help us develop a creative approach to practising  postures and observation of different,
qualities in ourselves and our environment on a daily basis.  
 
I feel that I will now, when I have time, be able to put something on my Yoga page and possibly start teaching again.
 
Although I got good feedback from my students, I felt I was stagnating because I couldn't motivate myself to practise regularly.
 
When I was in London, I attended weekly classes with my mentor and teacher Ernest Coates and it inspired me to practice, kept me fresh.
 
Now I've fallen in love with yoga again and have a deeper understanding of how to structure a daily practice that includes continuity and change... perfect!!
 
Poornam is guided by two great yogis, Sivananda and Satyananda and  younger Swamis, Niranjananda and
Vimalratna, the latter who has written an excellent book 'Yoga With Attitude' described as 'A practical handbook for developing awareness in every day living.
 
One of my happiest insights has been that emotional neutrality is not the same as political neutrality. Instead of wasting my energy getting wound up and thrown off balance by world events I can maybe start finding creative ways to become more effective politically.
 
When I achieve emotional neutrallity my feelings flow and change more smoothly; maybe like changing gears from neutral in a car?
 
The healer I see every six weeks or so also spoke of neutrality and I've had such resistance to it in the past, mistaking it for' sitting on the fence' or indifference to the curse of crumbling, destructive, capitalism.
 
Being less fearful is hugely important to me. It makes me more capable of communicating effectively and honestly.
 
I remember the late Gerry Healy, secretary of The Workers Revolutionary Party, making us aware of the
danger of getting carried away by optimism or giving in to pessimism when selling our daily paper i.e. One day you sell all your papers but maybe no-one reads them, the next day you may sell only one but it gets passed round the factory and read by a lot of people.
 
Balance is dynamic not static. It's always changing and riding/dancing the contradiction is a buzz.
 
Time for my daily fix of 'Neighbours'  so I'm out of the closet now.
 
As an astrologer wrote re one of my configurations:
"What other people think of you is none of your business"
 
 
 
 

SUNDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 2007
 
Listening to an old Les Diaboliques gig we did for the radio in Paris and it's really
good; beautifully recorded and I feel blessed to be part of such a trio of musical divas.
 
Irene Schweizer must be one of the finest pianists in the world and Joelle Leandre is a stunning bass player and performer. I can't help but sing well with them.
 
It's great to be able to listen to myself with pleasure and appreciation ; not wincing in embarrasment.
 
At last I can acknowledge my creative power. I used to be admiringly
envious of my mate Shirley Hall when people praised her paintings and she would say, without a hint of arrogance " Yeah, they're good, aint they"
 
I can listen  objectively, almost as if I'm listening to someone else, to the strengths and flaws in my work and not be thrown off balance. This is an excellent
recording, musically. We're all playing beautifully and with great empathy, drama and humour; shape shifting moods and dynamics effortlessly.
 
I remember talking a long time ago to Art Farmer the great African American jazz player when he was at Ronnie Scotts. We were talking about Kenny Wheeler
one of my favourite players of all time; an almost painfully modest musician.
 
Art Farmer knew of Kenny's worth and said,
without it sounding in any way like bragging. "The only difference between me and Kenny is that I know I'm good" 
 
 That had quite an impact on me and at last I'm understanding how it feels to know the measure of one's self
 
 
Many who are British born,raised or have lived a long time in Britain are in danger of running themselves down for fear of seeming conceited if they dare to
recognise their talents and skills.
 
while I'm at it, I must say how happy I am with the Dynamite Dream demo that Steve recorded. I love this band. I feel so lucky to have found such creative,
inventive and dowwnright groovy musicians.
 
When we did the fishguard Jazz festival, quite a few women in the audience said it was a really sexy band!
I've never had that sort of feedback before but listening to us ........!
 
 
Shirley and Pauline have been visiting and they showed me a hint of their ventriloquist double act they'll be doing at the 'Poets and Peasants' gig in Lampeter this Thursday(8th Feb). It's brilliant. I couldn't believe how good Pauline was. How
did she convey so much without moving her lips?!!
 
They're both great performers and poets and I've just found out that Pauline sings as well.
 
Her daughter Miranda Betts of the duo Meerkat, has a beautiful voice and a real talent for improvisation. It appears that Pauline and her would improvise vocally together for hours.
 
It's like how me and mum would talk 'gibberish' together when I was a child and people were convinced it was a language. In retrospect, I call it talking in tongues cos it was definitely inspired.
 
I was going to write about the second day of the European Dragon festival,
so here is my diary entry from when I got home:-
 
"The two days achieved a hell of a lot, in spite of/because of high spirits. It was challenging cos the kids wanted to play all the time but we did achieve dynamics and concentration.
 
Miranda came  the second day and was great with them and contributed good ideas, as did Heather.
 
I kept coming back to the basics of trusting the Universe and letting the Muse take charge. Any directing I did was in order to let go of directing and in the performance it all bore fruit. Everyone worked as a team, both sensitive and bold and some of the adults who'd been doubting a wee bit realised the method in it all. Emma said she'd been moved to tears.
 
Not only did we do the parts we'd rehearsed  but they were able to respond intuitively to other parts of Pam's (Pamela Gaunt) workshop performance.
 
There was a beautiful part after we'd done powerfully wild sounds for the killing of The Last Dragon in Wales when Pam led bher group in a ceremonious scattering of sequins over the dragon's body.
 
I was moved to start a low hum, joined by miranda and it spread like wildfire through the group and was quite magical as was Pam's unplanned ceremony.
 
The great thing about even the wild sounds was that they were self regulated, the group came down as one to silence without anyone conducting it. it was totally felt.
 
When Pam or Debbie spoke dramatically, Chris, Paul, Oisan, Jem etc would do spontaneous drum rolls and sounds.
 
It is so exciting that we achieved all this thanks to the glorious Universe and it's magical Muse. I feel totally blessed.
 
I worked really hard  but it was a labour of love"
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

WEDNESDAY 30TH JANUARY 2007
 
The two day workshop in Abercych on the theme of dragon stories of Europe went really well.
 
There was a story teller from Ireland and one from Poland + our very own Pamela Gaunt who lives here in West Wales.
 
The first morning was kicked off with me doing an unplanned mini voice workshop with the children while we waited for the bulk of the adults to arrive!
 
The young ones were great and it allowed me to make a connection with them before we split up into groups for the afternoon sessions.
 
The rest of the morning we listened to stories and I improvised music  on keyboard and voice with Pam's dragon creation story.
 
She'd rewritten it so it really was improvised. I put in extracts from songs I've written as well.
 
I loved being in the moment and responding to her words, movements and
different dramatic inflection and dynamics. She also worked off the music; a nice two way flow.
 
She told another story outside which I added vocal sounds to.
 
After the break we all drew images that had stood out from the different dragon stories; dragons as villain monsters and the healing guardian of the earth, the land itself(Pam's stories)
 
Of course every drawing the kids did was special. They haven't been got at yet and separated into those who can and those who can't do art!
 
I wasn't happy with mine at all. I tried to be too literal
and it felt like a very rigid drawing of a dragon's heart.
 
After lunch the participants chose one of four workshops:- performance with debbie howlett, making stained glass effect dragon panels with Small World Theatre, story telling with Pamela and music making with me.
 
I had a really lively group of mainly boys; Oisan,Jem, Seth and Paul plus two girls Chris and Abigail and the wonderful fiddle player Heather Summers.
 
 She'd brought loads of interesting percussion courtesy of Women In Tune and the challenge was keeping the kids focused without squashing their exuberance.
 
Mind you, I've known quite a few adult drummers who
have to tap and  fidget a lot of the time.
 
We did an excercise that I first learnt from Ian Mitchell,
clarinetist and director of Gemini a chamber group who also do music in education.
 
I've sung and co taught workshops with them in the past.
 
You go round in a circle clapping three beats and a space and in the space you put each person's name as you get to know it.
 
You then introduce visual clues( if everyone is sighted,there are other ways to develop it if not)
 
We did it with different footwear and it gradually developed to become; everyone with trainers on, 2 claps and their name and everyone with boots 1 clap and their name.
 
We lost the 3 claps cos there were only two kinds of footwear but it was quite nice working with 2/4 and 3/4 only.
 
When you drop the names, the rhythmic patterns become clearer and very interesting.
 
 We substituted voices for claps and then brought in other instruments.
 
By the end of the session we'd  added words in Welsh, English and Polish (Thomaz, the Polish story teller joined us) and got a basic arrangement together.
 
I then started teaching them the melodies I've written for a twelve line story in Welsh and English. They sang it well.; half the group the Welsh lines and half the English.
 
I introduced them to John's Sustained piece as well.
The idea was to build up material for a performance on the second day which we did.
 
After the break, the options were making the panels, a walk or  story telling.
 
I was too tired to walk so I stayed and joined Pam's story telling.
 
It was a magical session which ended up with passing the dragon's egg round and listening to it and singing/saying what we could hear( a lovely idea of Pam's)
 
The children were amazing; some using their imagination and creating sounds, others honestly reporting that they heard 'nothing' and we all sang that back.
 
We ended up with a beautiful piece:- ' shhhhhhsss'
'sz sz   sz sz', 'gulm da gulm da', 'silence' (whispered)
heart beat heart beat(sung) then a silence held for a few beats, then 'nothing'( sung a few times) then 'nothing' said in a very matter of fact way ''jumping, jumping, jumping' sung in octaves and it ended with a gorgeous snoring sound.
 
I haven't got time to write about the second day which was even better.
I'll try and do that by Sunday and write more about mills College.
 
I'm really enjoying writing but I interrupted a cleaning session and I have Welsh homework to do and phone calls to make and my yoga practice and Aura wants to get on the computer to search for more photos of Skeet Aldrich ....... so/felly, mae rhaid i mi fynd !
 
 
 

WEDNESDAY 24TH JANUARY 2007
 
Well here I am as promised but I don't have much time as I have to prepare for a two day workshop which starts tomorrow and also sort out travel to Switzerland for a series of workshops and a concert in April.
 
 I have shopping, tidying and Welsh homework to do as well so I'll put a wee bit in and then continue and hopefully finish reporting on my time at Mills College next week.
 
On Thursday the 30th of November 2006 I was booked to give a talk and a workshop. I wrote in my diary re the talk ('Mentors And Muses'):-
 
" A difficult talk; well the talking was easy but i tried to cram too much into an hour and still didn't cover it all.
 
As it was short notice, there weren't a lot of people there but those who were enjoyed it.
 
I spent too long  talking about my youth down the dives of Soho and the time spent soaking up all the music in the first 'Ronnie Scott's club in Gerrard Street.
 
At least Dennis(Rose) and John(Stevens) got the time they deserved as mentors and muses in my life.
 
I acknowledged mum too.
 
People said it was inspiring and I did learn a lot from it.
 
I need more of a focus so I can time it better and do the subject justice.
 
They'd unlocked the piano and I wanted to play the first song I  wrote and extracts from my composition 'Evolution/Revolution' and do 'Moments', 'Gush and Flow'
& 'To Hecate' and also play some cd tracks" 
 
(As I'm reading this back and typing it today(24thJan 2007) I'm laughing affectionately at myself. How on earth did I ever think I could get all that in and talk about my "influences, experiences and musical colleagues" as stated in the publicity, as well!. I didn't even touch the piano)
 
" I found out that I'm a good storyteller though.People laughed in all the right places and really listened.
 
I played Irene's (Schweizer) solo from the Les Diaboliques CD 'Live At The Rhinefalls' and 'Memories Can Freeze' with the three of us from the first CD.
 
I finished by performing my piece 'To Hecate' (see 'Hecate's Haven' page on website)
 
It was good in spite of lack of time and  I'd love another go at it."
 
 
 
 

TUESDAY 23RD JANUARY 2007
 
 Here's more of my Mills College experience. It's  a bit out of date now although still  of some relevance I hope.
 
 I gave three more workshops and am including extracts from the diary I wrote at the time:-
 
(Wed 29-11-06)  " It was gorgeous - a small group of dedicated people; two from the larger ensemble, Amanda Schoofs(singer) and trombonist Andy Strain who wanted to use his voice, and then Jason Hoopes who sang and played bass and
Takeshi Oda, another singer.
 
 We did the 'click'piece several times......
 
The last time we did it, it moved  organically into a really exposed, natural improvisation, scary and intense and utterly beautiful.
 
We then did 'Mouse In The Desert'  Interesting music, diverse and flowing with lots of twists and turns.
 
Andy raised the point about wanting to carry on when it could have been the end and us being drawn back in and we talked about choices and having the courage not to go back in if we didn't want to, letting the person or persons continue and
trusting that they will let it end etc etc.
 
Amanda wanted to do 'Ghosting' and it was great;
strong soloing and perceptive, alert ghosting.
 
It led into an improvisation after the second time round and "ended" a couple of times but it felt like we all had more to say and I'm glad I went with that cos it got stronger and stronger,deeper,more intimate and very honest; great music too!
 
When it finished,it really was the end and we could let it be.  We had all shared something intensely intimate and we sat in vibrant silence for some time.
 
Thankyou Goddess. Blessed be."
 
                                                      more tomorrow
 

TUESDAY 16TH JANUARY
Mills College continued:- The evening workshop with Fred Frith's ensemble (27/11/06) went well even though we were  a wee bit pressed for time at the end cos they had to do their evaluation forms for Fred in the middle of our session.
 
He's obviously done a lot of good work with them cos they were a very easy group to work with.  He also gave me lots of support as a participant throughout.
 
We started with two of my favourite John Steven' pieces 'Sustained' and 'Click' 
 
 In the sustained piece, you sing or play the first note that comes to you and hold it for a natural breath length and then keep repeating it in your own breath rhythm.
 
The click piece can be introduced in a variety of ways but the aim is to reproduce the shortest sound you can physically make, again in your own rhythm. In this version,people put their click at the end, or near the end, of each exhalation.
 
Both pieces when trusted and followed lead to a relaxed concentration which nurtures a creative group dynamic in
which each individuals contribution is an invaluable part of the musical whole.
 
 I did each one with voices only and then gradually adding other instruments each time in a new version and then we put them together. It got lovelier and lovelier and the combined pieces sounded gorgeous.
 
 
After a break for form filling I put all their names in a hat and we drew out a septet, a sextet, quintet, quartet and two trios.
 
The septet did one of my pieces; short collective improvised phrases with longer silences in between.
 
No-one decides who will start and eyes are closed so it's totally intuitive.
 
As soon as one person breaks the silence, everyone's in
but you don't have long cos it's fleeting moments of sound and the aim is for everyone to end their short phrase at the same time.
 
The most challenging thing in this piece is the silence!
The longer you leave, the more responsive you become to another. It's a shared silence which creates an exciting tension and each new combination of sounds
seems to develop a group empathy that feels almost telepathic.
 
 After a while the structure dissolves and a
free improvisation takes place which usually  carries the magic of the group connectedness. It certainly did this time!
 
The sextet did another of John's pieces which a student of mine named 'Mouse In The Desert'
 
Again, like with all of John's pieces, it's a simple idea
which can be challenging in practice.
 
You can do anything you like but at one dynamic only. In other words, if you feel a surge of passion, you don't go louder but express it at the group dynamic that has evolved by each musician adjusting their playing level.
 
It's yet another wonderful way to distract the anxious mind away from worrying about playing well or having to come up with something impressive.
 
Like all the pieces, it's not about achieving  an impossible perfection but clearing away the blockages
that inhibit us from free expression.
 
The sextet sounded beautiful too.
 
It's both a revelation and a confirmation each time a group makes lovely music from these pieces.
 
The Quintet did John's 'Ghosting' piece.
 
Each person, in turn takes a free solo while the rest of the group shadows them withoout spilling into any spaces they leave in their solo.
 
The ghosters serve the soloist completely but each person gets to ghost and solo. If you're really concentrating on the soloist, when it comes to your turn to solo, you haven't been sitting their worrying what you're going to do in your solo. It tends to pour out as
an original statement of where you're at in that moment.
 
As the piece develops, the boundaries between ghosting and soloing breaks down and a group improvisation
takes off.
 
This piece worked like a dream as well; each person
bringing their own distinctive character to their solos;
some great humour as well. The depth of awareness in
the group improvisation was a natural outcome of the piece.
 
Time was running out a bit, so I didn't get to adequately explain the next piece  to the quartet or stop and start it  till it became clearer but I made a mental note to start with that piece when we rehearsed for the performance on the following Saturday. The music was still nice though.
 
The two trios were easier. I'd brought some red, green
and blue gasses which I've been working with re mood changes, thanks to a healer I see; Judi Coull from 'Well Being Sciences"
 
I got each musician to put on a different colour to see how it would affect their playing.
 
The young woman who put on the red glasses and had previously been quite quiet and shy did seem to come out of herself more.
 
Some sweet music came out oif that and they looked great as well!
 
The last trio did John's 'Scribbling' piece.
 
You sit in a triangle shape and each musician plays as
fast as possible, scribbling sounds like in automatic writing. The only instruction is that to start with each player only listens to the other two players and not themselves.
 
This creates a great combination of uninhibited expression and disciplined listening. Yes John you did it again. You took that tricky social triangle and created a flow between three people; not two with one feeling left out. By the time the piece evolves into a free improvisation, it doesn't matter if two contrast one, etc etc
 
That trio enjoyed their experience so much in both the workshop and the performance that they've decided to keep working as a trio. They were stunning both times.
 
We ended with a free large group ensemble.  
 
I told the story of one of the London gatherers who used to make powerful outburts which, at first led to everyone jumping on that bandwagon and getting stuck in a loud dynamic.
 
When people let themselves stay quiet if they felt like it, a beautiful diversity emerged cos Graham played like that cos he really felt it and would leave huge spaces which didn't then get filled up with inauthentic noise.
 
When other musicians stayed with what they felt we really were in our different rhythms together.
 
Because of lack of time, there was a bit of confusion
and I think some people thought I wanted them to have outbursts rather than to resist kneejerk reactions to them if they happeneed.
 
I thought 'Gathering' and trusted the muse and it worked in spite of the confusion. There were some great dynamics and an abundance of interesting textures and exciting music.
 
The whole workshop took place in less than two hours, with at least a twenty minute break.
 
All in all, the Universe certainly didn't let us down. It worked it's love and magic through all of us.
 
tune in next week for another instalment
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MONDAY 8TH JANUARY 2007
Has it really been this long since I wrote? I've had a strange reluctance and then xmas happened and our phone line was down and I couldn't get on line and it was quite liberating to be cut off for almost two weeks. Lots of quality time with my mother and daughter. I spend a hell of a lot of time on the phone.
 
A lot of people I know like in depth chats and I do too, sometimes but when it's several in a day, it's too much. What do you do when it's someone you care about and you haven't spoken in ages?

Mills College in Oakland California was a special time for me. It's 80% women. All the undergraduates are women and the graduates are co-ed cos it's illegal in the States apparently, to have single sex education for graduates. When the board voted to go co-educational for the undergraduates, the young women went on strike! The strong presence of so many women was definitely a plus.

I never went to college or university and have only been on campuses in the U.K for gigs, teaching and conferences and this one was the largest I've ever seen. Giant eucalyptus trees are growing everywhere in gorgeous grounds.There are historic and modern buildings for all the different departments and residents and the modern ones are designed to blend in with the landscape. There's a post office,shops and different dining halls and cafes.

I loved it but at the same time was aware of an excluded world outside; not quite a gated city, but..

Actually they have a very strong policy on diversity and good access across the board but as long as we have capitalism, there will never be access for all and of course that creates an insecurity which leads to very tight security at the entrance gates, contradictions, contradictions; good, necessary to feel safe but who are we meant to be safe from?

I went for a walk outside when I first arrived. It's a poor neighbourhood but I didn't feel any more unsafe than I do in any neighbourhood I don't know, rich, middling or poor. As long as there's people, I feel ok.It's the deserted areas that scare me the most but then I spent a lot of my growing years in a red light district hanging out with what a policeman told my dad were "the scum of the earth and the dregs of humanity" when he came to get me out of the cells after I got picked up for being underage.

This so-called underworld community was where I got my first love of and need for diversity and was one of the most tolerant, in practice,of difference that I've ever experienced, flaws'n'all.

I turned up in the music department office on Monday the 27th Nov all raring to get started and the dedicated, hard working Steed Cowart told me that as it was the end of the 'semester', everyone was very busy preparing their end of term shows and I only had one scheduled workshop to do + the concert with Joelle Leandre and George Lewis. Fred Frith, bless him had given me his ensemble to work with on the Tuesday evening.

If I'd been an opportunist, I could have spent a whole week being paid for doing very little but I wanted to make lots of music with lots of people and so Steed made some phone calls and put up some sheets for people to sign up to my workshops . I'd done loads of preparation so was very pleased to do more.

That night, he arranged for me to visit Molly Holmes' jazz and improvised vocal ensemble students. They were rehearsing for their show and she'd said she'd appreciate some feedback from me. I found loads of good ideas and talent but because Molly prefers them to perform and rehearse with their eyes open I felt they hadn't really experienced improvising from a deeper place.

Molly's a great teacher, open innovative, encouraging and supportive but if she could experience some of John Steven's pieces, for example, which we always did with eyes closed to favcilitate deep listening, and share them with her class, they'd take a quantum leap forwards. I gave some honest feedback about a series of charming but rather embarrassingly contrived duos and she got me up to sing with her, which worked well. After they saw us, they all wanted to do their duos again and the second time they were much more genuine and interesting, more contrasts; more themselves. I'd love to do a workshop with them. I thought it was lovely that Molly was genuinely keen to get lots of feed back from me.

I went to see their end of term show which was wonderful. They'd all contributed inventive ideas and Molly had composed some gorgeous vocal pieces. Lots of humour and good ensemble and solo work.. If they could let themselves go deeper and take more risks with the freer improvisations they'd be stunning.

Molly had booked a great rhythm section to accompany the ensemble on some pieces and the young women that took on board being themselves really came across better in the solos over Molly's final piece. The temptation was to do "jazzy" scat over the chords in an almost" I've got to prove I can sound like a jazz singer" style.This can end up making everyone sound the same and is one of the things that drives me indifferent about some of the technically competent but rather mannered jazz singers on the scene today.

All in all it was a beautifully diverse and captivating performance by everyone concerned.

Soon I will write about more experiences from my time there.

 

SUNDAY 12TH NOVEMBER

What a gig yesterday afternoon with Caroline Kraabel(alto sax) and bassist John Edwards.

It was organised by Caroline as part of a tribute the London Jazz festival were doing to Albert Ayler. We played after a showing of a film about him "My Name Is Albert" It was so clear that he was channeling the musical messages of healing, love and liberation and painfully clear that his revolutionary delivery was misunderstood by many.

It hurt him but he had the courage of his convictions. he needed to be loved and appreciated like everyone else but when what you do challenges people in ways that lead to rejection.....

Those of us playing freer forms of music now have much more of a community and a larger audience,although I still remember playing to three or four people up The Little Theatre Club with John Stevens. It's still hard in Britain but that's mainly because of conservative promoters. I was surprised to see a much more adventurous and diverse programme for The London Jazz Festival this year.Lets hope it's a sign of things to come.

That's one of the things I really appreciate in other festivals in Europe and The Vancouver jazz festival in Canada has everything from straight ahead to soul, gospel and free improvisation and it works!!

It was great going on after the film, even though it was in the foyer which is a place where people congregate to talk as well as listen. However,inspired by Albert Ayler and the creative energies of John and Caroline I let the music take me and didn't let fear of being too powerful hold me back. It felt authentic and moving and there's no doubt that when I open to the Universal Muse with trust and gratitude I tap into an infinite source of energy which never lets me down.

I'm able to practise a lot more in Wales. I go for walks with my tuning fork and sing long notes and rhythms, one note at a time going up chromatically. I love it. I remember asking the great saxophonist Trevor Watts, in the 'sixties " What do you practise Trevor?" He said "It's not what I practise, it's how I practise" and that has informed my practice ever since. It's a labour of love. It's creative practice.

The universe moves through you and you develop tecnically as well! It makes me a more effective messenger for the music.

Getting older is ok. I'm right in the middle of my second Saturn return and that has certainly been and continues to be a challenge. Like I wrote earlier: depression, revelation, exhausted, energised, frustration, breakthrough mood swings, new balance, etc,etc. It's that time of life when I'm facing/entering the last part of my life, becoming an elder and of course it's contradictory.My youth really has gone but I am still filled with spirit. I am determined to get as healthy and fit as I can cos there's still so much I want to live.

My mum is a great role model there. Her eyes still sparkle with the wonder of life in spite of all she's been through. She is a magnificent, creative survivor. her ex husband, my dad is pretty wonderful too. The Scots,Berber/French in my family; what a blessing..

I have a train to catch otherwise there would be even more words. Too many words says my friend Jane Lord, but there you go. It's what I wanted to do right now whether it's read or not!! love and liberation for all....

MONDAY 6TH NOVEMBER 2OO6
Dennis Austin's tribute memorial gig on the 20th Oct was so moving. Sharon Gal, Paul Shearsmith,Frank Charlton, Gina Southgate and Steve Moyes did a beautiful opening set - voice, pocket trumpet, cornet,
performance percussion and cello. It was gorgeous. Gina was like a moving work of art. Evrah as Germander Speedwell followed with a dazzling dance of wordplay about music. WOW! Afterwards, it was Lol Coxhill and Sue Ferrar who did a magical duo and were then joined by Vicky Scrivener who sang and read poems she performed with Dennis, 'Titanic'
and 'Line For The Blues' ( the latter performed solo)Her voice sounded amazing and her poetry reveals deeper layers of meaning every time you hear it; a touch of genius actually. Singer and keyboard player, Alquimia came next, playing and singing live with a recording of a gig she did with our precious Dennis.
Aah, hearing him.... Yumi followed, singing and drumming, haunting passionate and sincere. The stunning trio of Graham Wright, John Edwards and Steve Noble blew us all away-  genuinely powerful,
dynamic, daring interplay. Graham was one of our regular Gatherers in the 'nineties when we were
at Community Music and then The Betsey Trotwood pub. He used to arrive around 10.30p.m and wait in the shadows of the L shaped room. and then out of the dark would come a blast of fire which could shake you to the core. It took a while before people responded authentically to his fervour rather than have a knee jerk reaction and go loud just  because he was. It was fantastic then because his voice would soar through the ether and then disappear  cos he was very sensitive and left lots of space in between
his bursts of expression.The rest of us could be as gentle or passionate as we each felt and you could hear everyone. It was another example of how strong and creative we are in our different rhythms together.  We had the dennis Austin Toy Band after that. What else could follow. Sharon invited everyone to take one of Dennis's toys and then I got everyone's attention, remembering how particular
dennis was about who touched them his collection of toys were a part of his percussion. I said that although everyone was welcome to play them we needed to be sensitive and let Dennis's voice speak through them " They're not toys" someone said!!
We started in silence and  Dennis could be heard. It was full of delicacy and bold spirit. It brought home to me again that he really is gone and I can't just phone him and hear him enthusiastically rabbiting on. Moshi Honen, Alan Wilkinson and Hugh Metcalfe were next; another tour de force of improvisation. What an abundance of  creative evidence that improvisation
is the living embodiment of inventive Nature. I went on afterwards with Julia Doyle, Nony Ardill, Dave Fowler and Veryan Weston. Ah how great it was to sing for Dennis. It flowed seamlessly from the abstract to the lyrical; there were so many beautiful textures to take my pick from and flow or contrast with. Thanks dennis. There was a short break and then Anna Lisa Colombara, Dennis's beloved, read a breathtakingly beautiful poem full of painters imagery
about being somewhere wonderful but without Dennis. The 'Thanks Dennis' singers grew out of that poem, moving as one, like a swarm of bees humming and voicing our loss. It was magical. I think mum remembering her soulmate Bas in Anna Lisa's words,
took off and surprised us all with her vocal abandon. it was fiercely heartfelt. The voices were stunning.
Francine Luce arrived just in time (She'd been lost)
and it was just like when she was a regular Gatherer
and dennis used to give us lifts home. her glorious voice next to me and then inevitably, emerged the refrain we used to sing to dennis everytime we benifitted from his generousity " Dennis, Thanks Dennis, Dennis, Thanks Dennis" The rest of The Gathereing gradually joined us for a grand finale of celebration of our Den. His gong took pride of place and was used to start and stop procedings at several points during the night in true dennis Austin fashion.
The final gong of the night was sounded by his gentle son, Miles and then we erupted into a reprise of 'Thanks Dennis' What a night and the next day i walked in St James park missing him so much. As mum said He was genuine. Genuine, generous, enthusiastic, kind, stubborn, opinionated, quirky and so talented and actually  not appreciated enough as a drummer or photographer, like so many of our greatest talents. I'm so glad  there's a lot of his photos on my website. If you hover over them with your mouse, you'll see the credits. Tim recorded the evening and if everyone is ok about it, I'll try and put extracts on this blog .
 

MONDAY 16TH OCTOBER 2006
 I've just been on a very interesting funding course. I'm
not sure how much I'll be able to digest and use. I started off feeling really tearful and inadequate. We had to place ourselves on a scale from 1-10 re our experience/skills as fundraisers and I put myself as  minus zero which the very good facilitator wouldn't allow. I felt like one of my workshop participants  coming through the door and saying " I  can't  sing" and they always can, given the right encouragement  and user friendly excercises. It still feels overwhelming though cos as Jimi Hendrix  sang, in 'Manic Depression'  "I know what I want but I just don't know how to go about getting it" Hecate's Haven  is being used  a bit and  Creativity and Mutual Aid is happening, albeit in a small embryonic form, but we don't have disabled access or water and electricity in the big community room  and that costs money and with funding comes constitutions and committees and legal minefields and at the moment it's goodwill and donations and I need to have the courage to ask the people who enjoy using the space, would they be prepared to be part of a group that explores different options but most of the people I make music and creativity with are group phobic like me. That was the whole point of The Gathering and why I think it's lasted sixteen years cos no-one was obliged to make any commitments to coming every week etc etc and commitment grew without expectation or guilt or pressure. We used other people's buildings, rooms in pubs etc in London, though, and now here I am trying to do it in mum's old woollen mill in West Wales and wanting to keep it free flowing and yet having to acknowledge issues of renovation and maintenance etc
The Gathering week was fantastic cos everyone contributed so much time and energy and we got £125 in donations. I want to keep trusting that kindred spirits will be attracted to the vision of co-creating environments that bring out the best in us all and if there are any kindred spirits out there with free time and organisational skills, building skills or money, I would love to hear from you.  I veer between absolute trust  in creative community  and fear about not being able to sustain and develop the vision in viable ways that don't involve rules, regulations and bureacracy. I'm certainly not anti structure but I want it to facilitate  not impede  human need  so we can trully flourish in our different rhytms together.                                                        

WEDNESDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER
The gig at Fishguard jazz festival was wonderful even
though it was a small audience. We started with the
workshop group and they did me proud. There were a couple of people who'd only just joined and a few who'd been to every session. We're hoping to continue as a group so .... Afterwards my band  Dynamite Dream played and I was very happy with the music we made. It was our first gig as a quartet. (me and  guitarist Steve Howlett played a lovely gig as a duo at Harry Rogers' garden party this summer) and how lucky we are to have the   wonderful Sam Christie on drums, tablas and percussion. The contrast and continuity of our programme worked really well; for example, going from Otis Redding's 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' to John Steven's
'scribbling' as an introductuion to a quirky 'I Could Write A Book' by Rodgers and Hart ( affectionately called 'I Could Bite A Rook' by drummer Brian Abrahams when we did it with one of my favourite bands,'Very Varied' in the '80s
 Our lovely bass player Glenda Pescado was playing with The Astralites in The Rose&Crown straight after our gig and I sang a couple of numbers with them as well. I had a really late night and heard my mum on the World Service with John Hegley at 2.am, on the car radio while I was driving home. She played  John's fantasy image of a French grandmother he only met once and there should have been more of her. She was brilliant. It's taken a while to recover from the late night. I tend to sink into depression if I'm not careful, overwhelmed by all that needs doing and totally unmotivated and all of a foggy, tired dither I  wait for the dubious escapist comfort of other people's  lives on t.v dramas   and soaps. There is a very moving storyline about a 'Downs Syndrome '  baby in East Enders. It made me even more aware of how much I miss the residents of St. David's Care In  The Community. I did a 'Sound Of Life' music project with them and have vivid memories of their creative  and emotional intelligence. They have formal learning difficulties but certainly not creative ones.  Even before I tackle the backlog of things to do, I would like to phone and arrange a visit. There's no reply from Martin who is the music teacher there. I'll email  him. Time for 'Neighbours'  Now there's an embarrasing confession.   I still can't get the lines to work properly. WHY?                    

MON 11th SEPTEMBER.
                                         What a fantastic week we've had. I've always maintained that making creative community music with people influences how you are in other social situations together and the Gatherers demonstrate that in practise every year. Everyone chipped in with cooking, dishwashing, tidying and shopping and there were loads of new friendships formed between the regulars from London and around here as well as with new people from here and the wonderful Fran from Nottingham. She set about gardening almost as soon as she got here and
wowed evereyone with her open hearted warmth and amazing bass playing. It was great to hear her and Gary merging and contrasting their two bass guitars. We had a visit to Gary's place so the London Gatherers could see his magnificent shitake mushrooms. Everyone had been raving about how flavoursome they were. Brilliant meals kept appearing throughout the week and at the weekend
people brought lovely food with them which always happens on food to share occasions. Friday the 8th
was a new departure for The Gathering here. We had a Gathering Variety night: a mix of small group improvisations, songs, poems and an amazing duo with the inspired and skilled comedic juggling of Deb,
accompanied brilliantly by Ruth. The only problem was when I started worrying about time and got a bit anxious which is my achilles heel and then I threw away my duo with Gary and invited everyone up before we'd had a chance to settle in and set the stage for the 'Mad Millers Dance band' I really do have to sort myself out. I was compering fine until
then. Also, there was a rather long story just before which was pretty bloodthirsty even if it did have a
clever redemptive twist at the end and I started worrying about my friend Pam's children. She was too
tired to tell one of her stories. There's a lot to learn but apart from anxieties about time, it worked really well and I hope we can do something like that, maybe quarterly. The ensuing jam was pretty full on and took a while to gell but people were up and dancing anyway. Saturday was SUBLIME!!!!. A couple of people went to the beach and the rest of us took blankets, instruments and a picnic outside and sat in the garden and improvised with the elements and one another. We began before the official starting time
which meant I didn't have my hostess hat on and could relax and enjoy music making without worrying if everyone was alright or not. As people started arriving I was in more of a mellow and inspired mood.There was a glorious mix of kitchen activity,
garden conversation and music and people going up to the 'ballroom' to start music making there. It all had a life of it's own and someone that I thought was a bit cool or at best reserved turned out to be a source of neverending surprise as he played passionately on a whole range of different instruments. Improvisation, when trusted as a gift from the music always brings out the best in the individual and the collective. The whole afternoon and evening shape shifted effortlessly and by night time, there were scores of people interacting sensitively and inventively with an infinite variety of  colours and dynamics; moving between the worlds of free time and grooves, melodic and abstract etc etc etc. Blessed Be. I've got a rehearsal now for the Fishguard gig so I'll sign off for now, lots of love, maggie

TUE SEPT 5TH
                         What a wonderful gathering. I was rehearsing all afternoon with Steve Howlett on guitar, Glenda Pescado on bass guitar and someone I've just met, a wonderful drummer and percussionist called Sam Christie. We're playing at the Fishguard jazz festival on the i6th of September. We rehearsed all afternoon, had a quck break for something to eat and then the monthly gathering started. Steve and Sam stayed and we were joined by two other Steves
One of them, a neighbour and great drummer
and the other, one of the regular London Gatherers who plays beautifully;cello and electric guitar.Jane Lord  was also there with her unique approach to the guitar, quirky,bold  and totally original. Frank Charlton a stalwart of the London Gathering had arrived from London with Steve  and in spite of a painful swollen hand and he played inspired trumpet and sang and played a Brazilian drum. My dear mate and regular Gatherer from round here, Gary Whitely,
played his usual sensuous sinewy understated
bass guitar. Evrah listened, mainly. She has a beautiful voice but prefers smaller groups I think. She used to come regularl;y to the london gathering and now sings regularly with Steve(mentioned above) and in the London Gypsy Orchestra. I'm going to check out her website
www.evrah.org.uk for links to them. Another of our regulars in Wales, Keith played his usual,
sensitive saxophone. I was really happy singing and playing keyboard. Sam and drummer Steve
played beautifully together. Sam was playing tablas, kit and turntables!  He is experimenting with playing his kit sitting on the floor like Trilok Gurtu and it sounded great. I'm so glad he's in Dynamite Dream (my Wales based band)I recorded last night and will try and put a wee bit on this page or the Gathering page when I  learn how to transfer mini disc to mycomputer?!It felt like a magical encounter between my dear old comrades from the London gathering whom I miss so much and my lovely new found musical companions here. What a lucky old biddy I am to be sure. The music had all the creative dynamics and surprising twists and turns that I love about The gathering . We moved between the worlds of free time and grooves  and multi dimensional musical moods and conversation and I loved every minute of it.

Today I received two items through the post that illustrate what I was saying about my contrasting interests earlier on. I got the programme for the Padmasambhava Yoga centre.I attended classes there for a while. I love yoga and am a trained teacher although I still haven't put anything on my yoga page on my site.In the same post was saturday's edition of the Workers Revolutionary Party daily paper The News Line which I'm sent once a week.I love that paper and am aware that the WRP and the
yogis of the Padmasambhava centre might not feel they've got very much in common but there you go. Contradictions rule ok?!
I love the heading of Saturday's editorial
'Blair witchunts the unborn' People will be pauperised and then demonised as dysfunctional '" We can clamp down on anti social children before birth" said Prime Minister Blair' Actually the editorial is so good, I'm going to copy it from the wrp website which is www.wrp.org.uk I'll do that tomorrow cos Frank is playing a beautiful Anita O'Day live at Ronnie Scott's cd that he found in a charity shop in Newcastle Emlyn today and I want to go and listen to it.
 

MON SEPT 4TH
                            The first Gatherer has arrived and more will be arriving tonight for a week of talking, laughing and  spontaneous music making. This is an annual event and this time it's a week long instead of just a weekend. We're going to have a variety night
on Fri 8th with some performances of songs and poems as well as improvisation and on Saturday it'll
be an open gathering of free improvisation with all welcome to join in regardless of age or experience.
It's  word of mouth cos of the insane licensing laws  it's not publicised and no tickets will be sold but there will be a donations box. The first year the gatherers came from London I was so happy. The Gathering has been running for sixteen years in London and I
was an integral part of it right from the beginning. It
is still going and it's great to be visited here in Wales.
I feel that the openness of the music spills into spending time together socially. Everybody  contributed time,energy and resources in an abundance of mutual aid. The following years have all been special. Each one unique but all with the special creative warmth and openness that is The Gathering. I love improvisation and how inclusive it can be and when skilled improvisers are generous enough to share by example then the mixed abilities
flourish and nourish all. It's about social , collective diverse virtuosity not individual technique. It's interactive and the challenge is not to try and push it in a conventionally musical direction but to let it emerge as it needs to in and out of chaos. That can be hard for improvisers who are used to experiencing the spontaneous coherence and creative flow that comes with experience. Sometimes people who don't see themselves as musicians are the most receptive cos they don't dominate with clever licks but really listen and play sensitively and leave lots of space whereas competent musicians who jam but haven't improvised freely, can for all the best motives, try and push it in a more familiar direction which tends to fill all the spaces and can prevent the magic that happens when one is coming from a deep place and trusting the unknown. My challenge is to love, accept and trust whatever happens cos when I do I can be a better messenger for the muse. My achilles heel is worrying that everyone is ok, the classic hostess complex. Are my guests all having a good time? Could I be doing more to make sure they are etc etc then I don't get to play as much music which is where I'm more effective rather than flaffing about overattending to everyone.  OOH more learning curves ahead!!
  For some reason the lines are all weird and I dont know how to sort it I'll have to ask Harry. Apologies to anyone who may be reading my blog page.

SEPT 1st 2006
                          It's ages since I've added anything to my blog page. I've just come back from the wonderful 'Women In Tune' festival and I'm exhausted and exhilerated. This article from the Newsline caught my attention. It highlights the compulsively destructive greediness of the capitalist system. The wrp website is worth checking out even if you're not a party minded person. There are some
very strong articles and editorials from their daily paper on it. My mum reckons that Paddy O'Reagan
who writes most of them, should bring out a book of
his editorials. I find myself open to  many different
movements, not all of them compatible with each other, so my blog may contain, personal and philosophical musings, poetry, astrology, politics, earth magic, etc etc and 'How No' as Ken Hyder's granny used to say.

The News Line: Editorial New Orleans and Baghdad, twin cities destroyed by US capitalism NEW ORLEANS was allowed to be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

US capitalism and its Bush administration had on the top of their agendas massive tax cuts for the rich, the privatisation of all remaining US state services, and the diversion of all US resources to the conquest of Iraq and the theft of its oil wealth. Consequently all warnings that the city faced disaster were ignored.

Now, one year on from Katrina, the city has not been rebuilt, its flood defences remain shaky, hundreds of thousands of its former residents remain refugees in a large number of US states. Big business has happily pocketed the billions that have allegedly been provided by the Bush administration to the private sector for ‘reconstruction’, with nothing to show for it on the ground.

The city itself is still in the grip of the National Guard and US troops whose duty is to crack down on the poor, particularly those residents who have returned to the city and their ruined homes.

Baghdad, a citadel of Arab civilisation, was overrun in April 2003. Its museums with their historic exhibits were sacked and plundered, its inhabitants have been starved of drinkable water, food, electricity and jobs. Three years after ‘liberation’ they are unable to freely leave their homes because of the operations of government-backed death squads and militias.

Three years after the ‘imperialist victory’ the US administration now controls only its fortress Green Zone, in the centre of Baghdad, while US big business has banked the billions that were handed to it for ‘reconstruction projects’ that have also never seen the light of day.

The twin fate of New Orleans and Baghdad at the hands of the US capitalists is the living proof that imperialism does not differentiate between US and Arab workers, and treats them equally with a deadly hostility.

US capitalism remains solely concerned with making super profits out of the exploitation of the workers of the world, with the issue of nationality and race irrelevant.

The leader of the Canadian CAW motor workers union, Buzz Hargrove, visited New Orleans last Tuesday.

Hargrove declared that Canadian relief efforts must continue if the city is to be rebuilt. ‘All levels of American governments have failed at salvaging the city’, added Hargrove.

He went to see the devastation first-hand, joining CAW skilled trades members who are in New Orleans helping to rebuild houses one-by-one in the poor, hard-hit Ninth Ward.

Currently, 30 skilled trades workers are scheduled to work in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward over a five-week period, in groups of six each week.

The CAW president says he wants to extend the CAW project in which skilled trades workers donate their own time and money to rebuild homes.

This is a thoroughly laudable effort, but in reality it is the equivalent of seeking to drain an ocean of capitalist anarchy with a teaspoon.

The only answer to the crisis that workers face from New Orleans to Baghdad is the world socialist revolution, to overthrow and smash capitalism and imperialism to go forward to socialism.

In this worldwide struggle the US working class has an enormous role to play.

It is now under full-scale attack by the US employers and the Bush administration, which is seeking to slash wages, reduce healthcare and retirement benefits, and export millions of jobs, closing down swathes of US industry.

It is becoming an army on the march. The time is overdue for a section of the Fourth International to be built in the US to lead the struggle for the victory of the US and world socialist revolutions.

TUESDAY 8TH AUGUST 2006
 
Goodbye and Thanks Dennis
 
Dennis Austin, inspired drummer/percussionist and brilliant photographer died in July.  The photo on my home page and the one of 'my mate Shirl' were taken by him, as you can see if you pass your mouse over the images. His funeral, last Saturday was really special. His daughter read a  beautiful poem she'd written and his son spoke with deep
feeling about his dad. Lol Coxhilland Veryan Weston played two moving New Orleans hymns and his soulmate Anna Lisa shared some of the wonderful names she had for him. I sang a song I wrotefor him. Presiding over all of this was gentle, capablecelebrant Belinda. We listened to some of Dennis's music, 'Voltage' with Sharon Gal and Moshi Honen. and a live 'Gathering' gig. One of my favourite stories was of the first time his son heard Voltage.They were playing between two young rock bands and Miles overheard a couple of youth wondering who the'old' guy(Dennis) on the drums was.When 'Voltage' started playing they were gobsmacked" Now that's a real drummer"  ....Sharon told us that people thought 'Voltage's energy came from her punk days " No" she says," It was Dennis"  I remember doing a workshop with him in a 'Pupil Referral Unit'( what we used to call 'Approved Schools'!!) The youth were going wild on Dennis's percussion that he'd brought. He sat down and played and played and wore them out with his stubbornly creative stamina and they gave up playing against him and started listening and playing with him ! He was also a crucial part of The Gathering (see gathering page on my website) and once said in an interview."Some people go to church on a Sunday. We go to
The Gathering on a Monday"  Goodbye my dear generous,unique friend and thanks always.

 I went on the emrgency demo on Saturday the 5th of August against the U.S backed Israeli military slaughter of civilians in Lebanon and the wholesale destruction of the civilian infrastructure there. Hundreds are dead and a million people have been driven from their homes. I find it hard to express all that I feel. I know that me sinking into depression and despairing helplessness is of no use whatsoever to the people of Lebanon or Israel The Palestinians are under constant attack as well and maybe the rockets from Hizbollah  and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers was an act of solidarity with a people who were being  abandoned to 'collective punishment'
by Israel and the 'democratic West' for having the affrontery to democratically vote in a government that
did not meet with the occupiers approval. I know there are Israelis that are distraught about what their government is doing in the name of 'security' and it must be agonising for Israelis who feel terrified of Hizbollah rockets and have had to leave their homes but I can't be neutral.The might of the Israeli weaponry and airpower puts the Hizbollah arms, however lethal, in the shade. If Israel's war crimes against civillians aren't stopped then I want it to be defeated.Will it be made accountable for war crimes already committed? I very much doubt it. Bush and Blair are still posing as defenders of democracy after waging an illegal invasion on Iraq which has led to a bloodbath. It's the classic, one law for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else.Below are some quotes from people who've caught my attention:-
" Hizbollah, Hizbollah, Hizbollah- there is more to Lebanon than Hizbolla" Merhi Rima, youth activist in Lebanon. Independant  newspaper 31st July Absolutely.  Israel, however, is treating Lebanon as if it was all Hizbollah, justifying their murdering of civilians by saying they were targeting  Hizbollah rocket launching sites. Time and time again independant witnesses have proved that this is not the case. When you see the helplessness of Kofi Anan in the face of the killing of U.N observers and the inability of the U.N to condemn Israeli massacres because of US and Britain's veto, is it any wonder that
Hizbollah starts to appear as the only group capable of
taking on the Israeli onslaught. Whatever these mighty governments say about not wanting to harm civilians, actions speak louder than words.The only reason they seem to want a ceasefire now is because Israel is meeting fierce resistance and not because of any concern for loss of life. How frighteningly opportunist.
Much is said about the murderous intent of Hizbollah but when Israel temporarily ceased it's air campaign, Hizbollah stopped firing it's rockets.
 " I torture myself by watching CNN which is reporting this slaughterhouse as if it is a football match. Score so far: a few dozen Israelis, hundreds of Lebanese, thousands of missiles, and even more thousands of Israeli bombs. The missiles come from Iran- as CNN reminds us. The Israeli bombs come from the United States- as CNN does not remind us" Robert Fisk's war diary Thu 3rd Aug ( Independant newspaper)
 and an extract from  his entry for Sat 5th August "..More
gruesome photographs of the dead in the Lebanese papers. We in the pure'West' spare our readers these terrible pictures- we "respect" the dead too much to print them, though we didn't respect them very much when they were alive......"
 and finally, from Saturdays editorial in the Newsline
" .. Hezbollah has provided the inspiration for the Muslim, Christian and Jewish masses to put an end to the Zionist outpost of imperialism, Israel, and to go forward to a Middle Eastern federation of Socialist States where the people of the region will be able to live side by side" 
 

THURSDAY AUGUST 3RD 2006
 I read or heard somewhere that more men than women'blog' and this woman said she thought it was cos men have bigger egos to think that anyone would be interested in what they have to say and it's made me think yet again about egos. I certainly have a problem being honest about how big mine is! I remember at a Rainbow Circle Green Gathering camp, a wonderful facilitator and friend Fiona. She was upset with someone and she searched for them and then openly acknowledged she was hurt and jealous. She did it with total dignity but it was still quite shocking to witness someone not pretending they didn't have those human emotions. So often we displace them by having a go at someone about something else cos it's such a taboo being human! I feel that some of the esoteric spiritual practises have either been misunderstood or have done a great deal of damage going on and on about the ego. How many times have you heard someone say, or have said yourself "she/he has a big ego/is on an ego trip,"as a way of trying to discredit them?  So here I am joining the blogging blaggers who think they've got something worth writing about and whether people read it or not, it's one step more exposed than all the hundreds of personal diaries I've written over the years. I love writing whether I'm read or not. I sing even when there's no audience.  However,I'm hoping to learn how to set up a system whereby people can 'post' to this blog if they do read it and want to  comment.    
I've got a wonderful teacher Harry  Rogers of 'Wild West Wales' who set up and designed this site with me and is  gradually showing me how to take care of it myself. It's all gloriously new and I'm loving it.It will be part of a process where I can practise being more honestly human with all the  flaws and creativity that
entails.
                

   DANCING THE CONTRADICTION   maggie nicols
 

         gush and flow  gush and flow
         like a mighty river on the go
                      bubbling with contradiction
 
        block and hide  stem the tide
        paranoia eating  a way inside
                       begging for benediction
  
      spout and spin  full to the brim
     wanting to reach every her and him
                     in creative communication
    
     stop and start  frightened heart
     thinking  they want me to fall apart
                   drowning in desperation
 
    rage and roar  senses soar
   letting the beast out more and more
                  acting for liberation
 
   hedge and fudge   please don't judge
  i'm really  sweet and i won't bear a grudge
                  choking on stifled frustration
  (   improvisation  here)
 
    centred and strong  in a journeying song
      trusting my own sense of 'right' and 'wrong'
                   beyond overflow and restriction
 
  fly and crawl flaws'n all 
                  dancing the contradiction
             

BIRDSONG NOT BOMBS

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

3:51 pm gmt 

3:22 pm gmt 

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Here is a thought provoking historical article(31 august 2001) I read recently by Marion Woolfson,in Spotlight, about Israel and the  Palestinian leadership click here to read it. She is the author of 'Prophets In Babylon', first published in 1980 by Faber and Faber. In the 80s there were huge divisions in the Women's Liberation Movement around Israel and the Palestinians and my dear friend,the late Dorothy El Muracy, told me about this book. It " reveals the pognant and dramatic history of Jews in the Arab world from the time when they were 'prophets in Babylon' until the present day....."  and is full of thoroughly researched and well documented information.In the light of the incredibly painful situation in the Middle East, I put Marion Woolfson's name into Google to see what she is doing now and had to scroll quite a way down to find this article. It gives important background information to the current conflict. Nothing happens in a vaccum.
12:45 pm gmt 

This is my blog
This is the first entry on my new blog page. I'm not sure what I'll add to it yet  but am looking forward to keeping an online diary.
12:29 pm gmt 

2006.08.06 | 2006.07.30 | 2006.08.01

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