National Folk Festival shines through

Sometimes, the National Folk Festival held in Canberra each Easter can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, affected by rain and early cold weather.

This year though has been a cracker. The rain on Thursday cleared up, and the rest of the weekend has been beautiful, autumn weather with sun-shiny days, and cooler evenings.

We ventured out to the Festival late on Saturday afternoon, having planned our attack.  You can of course just wander around, or plant yourself in one location and enjoy the music and other entertainment as it wanders by.

But for our evening entry fee of $85 for an adult, we wanted to make sure we made the most of our time there.

We started off with Sam King, a local Canberra singer and guitarist who was supported by a moveable feast of drummers, along with a cellist and vocalists.  His set was solid and enjoyable, and stage presence that is developing, which is what can be expected at an event that supports younger artists.  Big thumbs up.

Sam King  Sam King

Next we moved to witness a band billed as new roots and world music, from Denmark – a somewhat eclectic mix.  Himmerland were hot, they knew what they were doing and they did it very well.  Would have loved to have seen a longer set, but that’s the nature of a festival.

Himmerland Himmerland 2  Himmerland

A little breather after that, then Jordie Lane, with his engaging show patter, cute sing-alongs, and moving, haunting ballads.  We saw him with Billy Bragg last year, and he was equally impressive this time, with a band to support his set.

The large, Budawang Hall was host to The Simpson Three, with a wide array of instruments to display their musical virtuosity.  It was packed, and the audience loved it.  So did I, and again, I wanted to see more.

There was a wide range of food and drink options at the festival, with queues that moved fairly quickly and a reasonable selection of other stalls mainly selling jewellery and clothing.


After a dinner break, we watched a few buskers, and strolled the stalls, before heading off to our final performance, Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens. Another Canberra artist, most of her musicians had appeared with Sam King earlier in the day.

Julia and DSS                                            JDSS 2

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens  

The set was tight, with Julia’s personal singing style engaging and moving the audience.  The live performance backed up the good review from the Sydney Morning Herald for their new CD, Family Pets, this weekend.

All in all, it was great value for money.  The logistics worked well for us, arriving later in the day, and we left both sated and keen for more.  Will definitely aim to get back next year, and also try to follow up on the artists we saw.


Thursday night playlist 28 March 2013

Once upon a time I had a job programming music for a commercial radio station. Initially, it was great, and I learned so much from the people I worked with. But it’s a poisoned chalice as you have to program for the demographic of the audience that the station’s advertisers are trying to reach, not the music you love. Finding a balance is difficult. So stuff it, I say. I’m going to program music for my own Thursday nights – things that will get me over the hump to Friday and beyond. They won’t always be from a set point in time, but I have to say, I love each and every one of these songs.

I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. Some have ads on them, bear with it, and click through.  If you want to watch on YouTube, click on the logo on the bottom of the YouTube screen.

Fed up with the supermarket two-step

dreamstimefree_67275 butterfly

© Robert Magorien | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I’ve long thought that supermarkets are just modern factories.  Like processing factory workers, we trawl up and down the aisles, pushing metal baskets on wheels, putting item after item into the trolley.  It’s a thankless, mind-numbing task at the best of times (unless chocolate biscuits are involved). And even if you buy your fresh goods at markets, you still need to enter the supermarket for toilet paper, toothpaste and other processed goods.

Then, once we’ve got the trolley loaded up, we go and take everything out again, put it all on the mini conveyor belt (you see my factory analogy here) so that someone else can process these same items for payment.

People, we need a better way.

Why oh why isn’t there some smart bod out there developing an app or a scanner that means I only have to handle what I buy once in the shop, instead of four times?  You put it in the trolley, you take it out again, then someone else puts it in a bag, and then you put the bag back in the trolley.  Then you take it out of the trolley again and put it in the car, or lug it on the bus, or into your cycle panniers if you are really virtuous. Then when you get home you take it all out again, and put it away.

Honestly, talk about double handling.  BUT, if there was some way of scanning the item when it is selected, and packing it into the bag at that time, then surely it would speed up the process, and reduce the number of times we do the supermarket two-step.

A little bit of on-line research showed that several forms of trolley scanners have been developed, and some have even been trialled in Australia.  IGA has been testing one system in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. (

How much longer before the main supermarket chains bite the bullet and invest in these technologies?  I know they will have an impact on jobs in supermarkets, but there will still need to be staff to provide assistance to the technically challenged, and manage the processing of items, and check that we have actually scanned everything we have put in the trolleys.  And I know it will allow a database to be kept of what we purchase because it will be linked to our profiles. But I’m ok with that, really.

So come on Coles and Woolies, how about investing in some of this gear?  I’m over the supermarket two-step.

Gigantic parade in Barcelona

Heralding the end of summer, the Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona, festival is Barcelona’s major cultural event.

Held over five days in September each year, concerts, exhibitions, displays and parades mean that there is sometimes too much to do if you are in Barcelona as a normal tourist, which takes you to see the Gaudi buildings and the Barcelona Markets.

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In 2011, we were in coincidentally there (fortunately booking our accommodation very early on in our trip planning) for four of those days of Merce, and I can confirm that the celebrations are extensive and run through the course of each day, well past midnight.

My favourite event was the Parade of Giants. We first came across the giant statues around the corner from our accommodation in the Ciutat Vella.  At that stage, we didn’t really understand what Merce was about, but managed to inspect the statues in detail where they were being stored prior to the parade.

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On the last day of Merce, there was a huge parade that started from the building where the gians were house.  There were people bearing banners and playing lots of drums and other percussion instruments.  The Giants depict kings and queens and other important figures from Catalan history. They are mounted on platforms that are steered through the streets, with the drumming calling attention to their presence (it didn’t take much!).

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The noise just from the parade was overwhelming, and in fact, the whole week was a highlight of that trip.  But if you want to go, book your accommodation early.  And take some ear plugs.

This is a more traditional parade story, as part of the A Word a Week Challenge,

Further information:

Parade’s End to unhappiness

Parade’s End is a tv mini-series that has recently been broadcast on Australian television.  It tells the story of Christopher Tietjens, (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) an uptight aristocrat, who is saddled with a wife that he met and had a liaison with on a train.  Her baby may or may not be his, but even though he is unsure of the situation, Tietjens does the right thing and marries her.  He’s that kind of chap.

Parade's end book

Drawn from four novels written by Ford Maddox Ford set before, during and just after World War I, Parade’s End refers to the end point of Tietjens journey.  By the end of the war, there will be no more parades for soldiers, and he won’t have to keep fronting up to meet his commitments and responsibilities.  The war has changed so much, and despite his resistance, it has changed him.  If his paradigm has historically been that one must do the responsible thing, the lesson from the story is that doing the responsible thing can damn near well kill you, and at the very least make you very unhappy.  And it’s that acceptance of unhappiness that stands out as being so different from the norm today.  Today, we are constantly exhorted to be happy, but for many of that pre-war generation, unhappiness was just part and parcel of life.  And you just lived with your lot.

So while Tietjens starts out believing that his life is one of responsibility and honour – the symbol for this is the ancient Groby Tree on his family’s estate propped up and never to be cut down – the changes wrought by the war result in his acceptance that his life can be different.  He is the one who can change it. This acceptance is symbolised when he throws of some of the wood from the tree, gleefully chopped down by his wife, onto a fire.  Soon after, he takes up with his mistress, at long last ending the sexual tension between them.

The performances by all involved were fantastic, but it was such a complex story, I did find it difficult to follow. (I understand the books were the same.)  The dialogue was complex and fast moving – you had to concentrate, like in West Wing – and the story jumped about a lot.  I have no complaint with this, but I am glad I was able to watch it on line, and not interrupted by long-winded advertising.

This mini review aims to encourage people to watch it for themselves if they get a chance.  If you like good drama, it’s worth it.

And, it was a good way of linking in to this week’s A Word a Week Challenge, Parade! – it doesn’t have to be a photo, does it? 🙂

Action photo challenge

I’m starting the Word a Week photography challenge from fellow WordPress blogger, Sue Llewellyn .

The current word is action. Rather than take any new shots, I’ve gone back through my existing images, which is a really useful and interesting thing to do, reminding me of what we’ve done and where we’ve been.

I don’t have a lot of “action” shots, and many of those I do have are sport related.  But here is a selection.  Thanks Sue Llewellyn!

Nightfest 1

Juggling at Canberra’s Floriade Nightfest 2012 meant lots of action in these lighted tumbling sticks.

Netball 2 netball 1

There’s always plenty of action at netball

Long jump Cait 2012

The long jump and the flying hair

Footy 2012

At the Australian Football League match between Carlton and Essendon in April 2012

Theme music sets the tone

Sometimes, the musical themes to tv shows or movies are the best thing about them, or they resonate more than, or just as much, as the stories being told.  Certainly, they play a central part in evoking emotion from the viewers, and stay with us longer, I think.

Our daughter is learning the theme to the Indiana Jones movies at the moment, and it’s a constant presence either on the instrument during practice, or being whistled around the house, or as an earworm long after practice has finished.  Every time I hear it, or recall it, I can see Harrison Ford striding forcefully, or running at brakeneck speed, or fighting a baddy.

At the same time, the Australian tv series, The Dr Blake Mysteries’ theme is also on high rotation in my head.  I am visited by the haunting cello and violin counter-plays several times during the week, brought forward by the promos for the show. I think the composer has really succeeded in capturing the mood of the program.

Dr Blake

The series’ stories revolve around a regional GP in Victoria in the early 1950s.  Dr Lucien Blake has returned from post-war Singapore to take up his father’s practice.  One gets the feeling the return is not his first or even second choice. His family has gone missing during the war, and he still has someone searching for them; part of him is still there.

The stories portray a fairly recent Australian past. The younger Dr Blake’s way of the looking at things – questioning the assumptions made by the police with whom he works as the police surgeon, and those of the society in the regional locations – represent winds of change that will take some time to reach these smaller communities.  Whether these views will be accepted is another question all together. It’s a standard detective procedural, the dialogue is sometimes a bit clunky, but the producers and writers have very successfully captured the times, and the locations and in particular, production design, are first rate.

Filmed in muted, darker tones – greys, browns and blues – the theme and incidental music provide the perfect accompaniment for the maudlin mood of Blake and the sadness he has brought home with him.

The composer, Dale Cornelius, posted this video on YouTube, explaining how he composed the theme, and how the various elements of the theme didn’t really fall into place until he saw an episode and could get more of a feel for the tone of the series.  I think the changes he made at this stage nailed it.

The theme to Home Box Office’s Deadwood series (2004-2006), is in a similar vein with its mood and tone, and uses a “fiddle” sound rather than violin, to reflect the wild west setting of the show. It’s another favourite of mine. There are many more great themes that come to mind now I’ve started – I don’t want to stop.  But I will.