Monday, 14 July 2014

Dylan Update and a flash back to the past...



It seems that my grandson, Dylan’s transformation into Spiderman is complete!

First it was the glasses:

... and not long after, it was the whole outfit.

Dylan is now nearly four years old. His birthday is in October, like mine and so the big 4 is just around the corner. He is a very active little boy who enjoys dressing up and posing for photographs. This is his 'official' photograph, taken at Nursery recently:



Whenever I see pictures of him or observe his behaviour when he comes to visit, I can’t help thinking back to my own three little boys when they were the same age. It doesn’t seem so long ago to me, you see; although in reality it is 36 years since my eldest son, Robert, was four years old.

This is Robert, aged 4 and his brother Edward aged 1. David wasn’t born yet. The year is 1977.


The photo was taken by a professional photographer. I know that at the time we could hardly afford it, but I so wanted a nice picture to keep so we stretched ourselves. Robert is wearing a 1977 T-shirt, which celebrated the Queen's silver jubilee year. Edward is wearing a hand-made jumper that my friend made for him. At the time it was celebrated if someone made a hand-made garment, but these days, it seems to be frowned upon because children's clothes are so cheap to buy. It is as if to get a hand-made shawl, jumper, school jumper or whatever is somehow inferior to those which are shop bought. I know this isn't true of all families, but it certainly is a fact in some. What about you? Do you or did you value a home-made garment or do you, did you prefer something shop bought?

The days when my children were little were the happiest of my life. It is hard to compare those days with these days when I am almost a different person. I look back and I think, did this really happen? Why did it go so quickly? Looking at the picture above, it would not be long before Robert started school proper and then it would be ‘teacher said this or teacher said that.’ and I would no longer be that most important person in his life. For now he was mine, all mine and we shared everything together. We lived in a happy bubble, not having much money, but having plenty of time.

This was brought home to me recently when Edward was in the park with Dylan and granddad. When granddad J came home, he told me that when he went to pick them up to go and play cricket in the park, Edward was making a sort of origami bird for Dylan. I knew exactly what he meant. I had a flash-back to a time long ago when Edward was keen on origami. I noticed that he liked making things with bits of paper so I bought him an origami book.  He loved it. After making a few simple things, he went on to make a crane. He became so proficient at making cranes that he remembered how to do until this present day (he is now 37). It was probably a crane that he was showing his own little boy how to make! The memories came flooding back and brought tears to my eyes.

If you don't already know the story of the 'peace crane' please do click here and read it for yourself.

Be peaceful today and enjoy every minute.


Star

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Starlight Promotions - 3 - Sounds



When a potential customer wants to know what a particular band sounds like, they usually ask the agent for a demo. or perhaps a chance to see the band in action. I enjoyed matching the potential customer with the bands. The bands would either send me a demo. cd of their own or a list of where they were playing so that they could be seen. Later on they had their own websites, but at the time I started doing the agency, it was mostly on demos.

As I got further into the agency running I would take samples of their cd's from their demos and put them on the website. That was fun to do.

I always tried to go and see the bands myself and very often I took a video of them so that I could use some of it for agency purposes. At the time (1990's) I only had a large video camera, which got heavy to hold after a while. These days all that is so much easier. I now have a small hand-held video camera, which looks like a phone. I can use the videos straight onto my computer, You-tube or wherever. YouTube didn't exist then.

One of the bands which was busy on the local circuit had a singer who I got to know well. He was one of the 'good' band members. He always called me back when he picked up my answer phone messages and always turned up to gigs at the right time. They were reliable. Reliable is a word much prized by entertainment agencies. It's no good doing all the work to get a band for a customer, only to find at the last minute that they can't find the venue or they turn up late. After a few times of being let down, I kept a band in reserve. This seemed a good idea and I called upon it once or twice.

The singer I'm talking about, I shall call A. He told me that the band had made a record (CD) with a well-known record company, only to find that it was going to be released in Japan, but not here, not for a while anyway. This was disappointing for the band naturally. We were entering the time of Indie Bands, Indie Record Labels and it was a whole new time.

We decided to set up a record label, YEAH Isn't that exciting. I'll tell you about that as we go along, but for now I'll stay with the agency.

The website was getting more and more hits and often got first placing on Google. That would be very hard to achieve these days!

I found I could see who was visiting the website and get statistics, which were very revealing. From doing that I could see a trend. I began to keep records of the statistics and published them on the site so folk could see.

At around this point I felt that I was doing a lot of work!!! Most of it was in the evenings because I was still doing my day job. It took time to prepare the handouts and keep the website current. I didn't charge the bands for advertising on my website. That would be illegal. I still think that was unfair but it's just the way it is. As it happened they were getting free advertising  on a website that was receiving an awful lot of hits, much more than they could hope to get on their own websites.

The way I earned my money was on commission for a sale. Even then sometimes the bands were reluctant to share their earnings. I took 10%. Most agents took 15%. I'm not sure what it is nowadays. I think that with everyone using the Internet so much, there is not much place for agents at all. Perhaps they specialise. I kept only to music, no stripagrams, no jugglers or magicians although later on I did give their names out through other agencies.



to be continued ...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Starlight Promotions - 2, I get more involved.

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So during the 90's I was bringing up teenagers! three boys! and the house was full of guitars and then came the amplifiers; small ones, large ones and my youngest decided to be a bass player and the most enormous amplifier entered the house. There was music in every room, morning, noon and night only not so much in the morning... These were the days before musical downloads. That was in its infancy and we had a lot of CD's. It was hard to know whose was whose. Where's my  ..... CD was a frequent cry.

Then there were the practises. Lots of them. Friends coming in and going out and trying out new songs. Luckily the house is detached and nobody here took up the drums. I doubt there would have been room for a drum kit although we did have an electric one.

Meanwhile I am getting gigs for all and sundry and I decided to give 'myself' a name and charge commission. So in effect, I became the fifth, sixth or whatever member of the band. I arranged the gigs, took the money and shared it out. I was meticulous with the book-keeping. I was fair to the bands. Entertainment agencies, Estate agencies etc. have a bit of a bad name. I wasn't having any of that. I was quite honest about it and encouraged the musicians to join the musician's union if they hadn't already.

So now I had a set-up. I did most of it by phone. Then I bought a fax machine. Remember those? It was useful at the time. I used the internet and realised that I needed a website. I had no idea about websites then so I did a bit of research on the net. A young lad called Robbie contacted me and offered to make me a website for a reasonable fee.  He was very young, about 16 as I recall. I was amazed at how much he knew. He designed a lovely website for me, mostly blue with pages for all the bands and a contact page - everything I needed at the time.

Then he gave me a playpen so I could practise updating the pages myself.  One of the most important things about a website is that it has to be updated regularly. Nobody wants to read something that appears the same as yesterday. I bought a software programme called Dreamweaver and taught myself how to use it. All exciting stuff.

Once I got the website, things really took off.  I was inundated with demo. discs and biographies from bands, duos and goodness knows what from all over the place. I loved playing the CD's
So now I had three things going on. I was collecting information from the bands, entering it all on a database - I used Lotus 123 and putting it onto my website. I was receiving enquiries from potential customers and sending them details and prices and I was 'mothering the bands' because they aren't really very good at administration, I discovered.

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to be continued ...


Monday, 23 June 2014

Starlight Promotions


When my three boys were growing up and getting interested in music, it was really popular to want an electric guitar, learn to play it and then join a band. When you think about it, that's an awful lot to do, isn't it. It can take a year or more to become proficient on the guitar. Then you have to find like minded people who want to join a band with you and then there are the practises!

My eldest son wanted a guitar. We bought him one for Christmas, thinking that it might be a five minute wonder. We were wrong. He soon became addicted, sitting up in his bedroom night after night, sometimes all night, teaching himself the chords and listening to the sort of music he liked, mostly classic rock or heavy metal.

My then husband J had always played guitar, folk mostly on an acoustic and the boys grew up with music always in the house. They told me later that they thought every house was full of music and guitars and were surprised to find that other people's houses were different.

After about a year, my son could play. He then started sending off for complicated guitar riffs (the solo bits in the middle of a piece) and studied those with a compulsion. He didn't neglect his school work, luckily.

I'll skip a bit here, which I may come back to later, but what followed next concerned me and my life.

Once in a band, my son (R) needed somewhere to play. Local pubs and clubs would let the bands play but they preferred a band to be experienced and play songs which other people could recognise. By now the band was writing its own stuff and wanted to show it off. In order to play in a pub, the band had to get some fans to come along and support them. This, of course, ensured that the pub landlord got bums on seats and received money for beer at the same time. The band would be paid a remuneration at the end of the night. This is where I come in. The boys in the band may have looked fierce, but they were still young and were shy to go up and ask for the money. My husband and I went to support the band and I offered to get the money for them at the end of the evening. This worked well all round. While the band were putting their instruments away, I would get the money and then give it them when it was safe to do so.

The pub landlords got to know me and it wasn't long before they were ringing me up and asking if I could get them a band to play on the next Saturday night. Perhaps they'd been let down or just hadn't managed to get a band. I knew quite a few bands by them, friends of my sons and friends of their friends and they would also ask me if I could get them a gig somewhere or other. It was fun!

Then one day someone asked me if I could get them a band for a wedding party. The bands I was working with were not exactly suitable for weddings so I decided to advertise. That is how Starlight Promotions came into being. 

I am talking about the time circa 1992 and it was before many people were on the Internet so they were limited to how they could find information. These days people would just go on to Google or one of the other search engines and type in 'wedding bands' or 'entertainment agencies' but at the time I'm talking about, it was mostly word of mouth.

Let me know if you'd like to hear more of this story and I'll continue it.

Star

Tea-time, Red Bush Tea

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My pansy teapot

The 'Divine Harvester'
The discovery of tea is said to go back to Shen Nung, the deity with a bull's head and the father of agriculture, who ruled in China in about 2737 BC.  Resting at the foot of a bush and being thirsty, he is said to have asked a servant to boil him some water.  A few leaves fell from the bush into his cup.
Seduced by the sweet and restorative beverage thus produced, he is said to have ordered this plant to be cultivated throughout the land.
from 'The Book of Tea' by Annie Perrier-Robert

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Tea-time in our cottage is between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. depending on how hungry/thirsty we are, but tea drinking is an occupation that goes on all day. It starts for me at 7 a.m. when I have my first mug of tea. Then coffee at mid morning break, followed by more tea at lunch-time. Water with lunch, then coffee and another cup of tea at 2 p.m.  The next cup is made at 4 p.m and again at 6 p.m. At 9 o'clock it's cocoa these days but sometimes tea again. Do you think that is excessive!

Just lately I have become hooked on Red Bush Tea.
Red Bush Tea
This tea has a unique flavour. It's quite strong and definitely an acquired taste, but if you like your tea strong and I do! this could be the one for you. It's certainly worth a try. Now I have an admission to make: if it wasn't for the fabulous books by Alexander McCall Smith about the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, I don't suppose I would ever have tried that tea; but it is a favourite of Mma Ramotswe. Mma Ramotswe sets up a Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana and with the capable help of her secretary, Mma Makutsi, she has lots of adventures. I am hooked, totally hooked on the doings of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and cannot wait to read each new book. Mma Ramotswe drinks Red Bush Tea all the time so I thought I must try it. When I saw it on the shelves in Sainsburys, I picked some up. Since then I haven't looked back and I've also noticed that more and more of it has been appearing on the shelves.

Mma Makutsi on the left and Mma Ramotswe waiting for the kettle to boil:

Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe

Assam is supposed to be the finest tea, but nowadays I find that lacking in flavour. No doubt my taste buds are getting old as well as the rest of me.

Do try it and let me know what you think of it.



Star

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Sally Lunns Tea-shop in Bath


On our recent visit to Bristol to see my eldest son, Larry and I took a day to visit Bath. Whilst we were waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to the American Museum, we stumbled upon this delightful tea-room. Sadly we'd already had coffee in the swish hotel round the corner and now we didn't have time to partake of the delicious tea-cakes and tea on offer. However, I did have time to peek through the window and look at the menu!
Here are the interesting details, taken from Wikipaedia:

Sally Lunn's house

The medieval building now known as the Sally Lunn Eating House, is at 4 North Parade Passage (formerly Lilliput Alley) in Bath. The site was originally occupied by the south range of Bath Abbey and the lowest floor level dates to the reconstruction of the abbey after a great fire in 1137. The faggot oven in the basement dates from this time. After the Reformation it came into the hands of the Colthurst family of Wardour Castle who sold it to John Hall of Bradford on Avon in 1612. In 1622 Hall leased the site to George Parker, a carpenter who built the current house. The Hall estate was later acquired by the 2nd Duke of Kingston, who sold the house to William Robinson in 1743. There may have been baking on a small scale during the 1700s but it only became the main commercial use of the building around the turn of the century.
The building was acquired in the 1930s by Marie Byng-Johnson who opened it as a tea-room specializing in Sally Lunn buns, promoted with a story that she had discovered an ancient document in a secret panel above the fireplace[1] explaining that Mlle. Sally Lunn was a young French Huguenot refugee who brought the recipe to Bath around 1680. The building is now Grade II* listed.
The tea-shop window:


The view down the street:


 'A Sally Lunn is a large bun or teacake made with a yeast dough including cream, eggs, and spice, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France. Served warm and sliced, with butter, it was first recorded in 1780 in the spa town of Bath in southwest England. The same name has been applied to various unrelated breads in the US since the early 20th century.[1]

The origins of the Sally Lunn are shrouded in myth - one theory is that it is an anglicisation of "Sol et lune" (French for "sun and moon"), representing the golden crust and white base/interior.The Sally Lunn Eating House claims that the recipe was brought to Bath in the 1680s by a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

There is a passing mention of "Sally Lunn and saffron cake" in a 1776 poem about Dublin by the Irish poet William Preston.[3] The first recorded mention of the bun in Somerset is as part of a detox regime in Philip Thicknesse' 1780 guidebook to taking the waters at Bath. Thickness describes how he would daily see visitors drinking 2-3 pints of Bath water and then "sit down to a meal of S A L L Y   L U N S or hot spungy rolls, made high by burnt butter!". He recommends against the practice as his brother died after this kind of breakfast - "Such a meal, few young men in full health can get over without feeling much inconvenience".
There is little historical evidence for Sally Lunn as a person. The Gentleman's Magazine of 1798 uses Sally Lunn as an example during a discussion of foods named after people - 'a certain sort of hot rolls, now, or not long ago, in vogue at Bath, were gratefully and emphatically styled “Sally Lunns”'.[6] But it is not until 1827 that a historical person is described by a correspondent of William Hone using the pseudonym "Jehoiada", who says she had sold the buns on the street "about thirty years ago".[7] A baker called Dalmer had bought out her business and made it highly successful after he composed a special song for the vendors,[7] who sold the buns from mobile ovens. The earliest evidence of commercial production is an 1819 advert for the Sally Lunn "cakes" sold by W. Needes of Bath, bread and biscuit maker to the Prince Regent.[2]
The Sally Lunn is mentioned alongside muffins and crumpets by Charles Dickens in The Chimes (1845).[1] The same year Eliza Acton gave a recipe in Modern Cookery for Private Families, describing it as a version of "Solimemne - A rich French breakfast cake, or Sally Lunn".Solilemmes is a kind of brioche that is served warm and popularised by the great Parisian chef Marie-Antoine Carême in a book of 1815. Carême claimed the "solilem" originated in Alsace but there is no evidence to support that claim; he may have taken the idea from contacts in Bath and then tried to disguise the origins of a recipe that came from France's great enemy.





Thursday, 19 June 2014

The American Museum in Bath, England.

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On our recent visit to Bristol, to visit with my eldest son and his partner, we took a day to go to the American Museum in Bath.' The museum takes you on a journey through the history of America, from its early settlers to the 20th century and illustrates the complexity of American culture through its remarkable collections of folk and decorative arts.  Its furniture, paintings, maps, quilts, silver and glass are presented in a series of period rooms within a historic manor house near Bath in the beautiful Avon Valley in the West of England.

The museum grounds encompass 125 acres of parkland, gardens, and an arboretum and throughout the year, children's activities, living history, workshops, lectures and seasonal celebrations are all part of the life of the Museum.

The only museum of Americana outside the United States, The American Museum in Britain was founded to bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe.'

The  museum was founded in 1961 by two men who had a great love for the decorative arts of America and who wanted to share this passion with the people of Britain.  They were Dallas Pratt, an American psychiatrist who served in World War II and his partner John Judkyn, a British antiques dealer.  In the 1950's they were struck with the popularity of newly established historic site museums such as Winterthur, Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield.  So why not found a museum to demonstrate that America was more complex than in the Hollywood movies people were familiar with?
Acquiring a 19th century manor house near Bath to display their collections, the founders planned a series of period rooms for their decorative arts collections and the interpretation of American life.' from the 'Aspects of America' guidebook.

Here are some of the pictures Larry and I took when we visited:

The house itself is beautiful and the view from the front is spectacular.
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This is the view from the front:
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'This room is the 'keeping room' .17th century 'keeping' was a term used by colonists to describe where they lived.  The Keeping Room includes a pedestal table that may have belonged to Peregrine White, who was born aboard the Mayflower':
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What follows is the 'Stencilled Bedroom' ca. 1830. 'Stencilling was done by itinerant painters who travelled across the country decorating walls with paint, as a substitute for more expensive wallpaper.  The popularity for stenciling travelled back across the Atlantic to Britain, where it also was used in the 19th century.'

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We had such a good time here and looked and looked until we were too tired to look anymore! We had lunch in the beautiful refectory where all American food was served, which was nice for Larry because although he wouldn't admit it, he must feel homesick sometimes.

After the house we visited the exhibition hall in the grounds where a Kaffe Fassett exhibition was being held. I wrote about it here if you missed it the first time round.

Star