“Can You Love Someone Who Did Bad Things?”

“Can You Love Someone Who Did Bad Things?”

In the wake of all the recent abuse allegations, comedian Sara Silverman posed this question, which was widely reported in the press, and resonated with something I have often felt: Can you (or is it OK to) love someone who did bad things? For me, the answer is always going to be a resounding “yes”. Don’t we try to teach our children that it is their bad behaviour we don’t like, not them? Given how flawed so many of us are, doesn’t it also follow that we still need and want to be loved, even if we’re far from perfect? The demonisation of all of the recent perpetrators of bad behaviour is worrying. Yes, it is absolutely necessary to expose and discourage abusive or unwanted sexual attention and to ensure that abusers face the consequences of their actions – but does bad behaviour make someone a complete monster? Does it mean they have no redeeming features? Are they unlovable? Are we not allowed to love them? That’s what I liked when Sara Silverman’s discussed her love for fellow comedian, Louis CK – her contrasting, but not conflicting, feelings of disapproval and love.

‘Don’t we try to teach our children that it is their bad behaviour we don’t like, not them?’

When I was growing up, I learned early on that many of the ‘responsible adults’ in my life weren’t very reliable, and in some cases, not to be trusted. Yet, in the main, as I got older I was able to separate out my hurt and anger from my need to love those I wished to love. I chose to forgive them, rather than continue to bear the burden of my own rage and pain. Some things (and people) remain unforgiven, because what they did was unforgivable, but that is a choice for each and every victim to make, not the media or the public.

Later this week, at an evening of ‘Memories’ hosted by Bristales in Bristol, I’ll be sharing IMG_0009a memoir about my father that demonstrates the love I felt for him, despite his many failings. I know how greatly loved he was by many, but also, how hurt others have been by his actions. Our story isn’t like the ones at the heart of the current media storm, he was wild and sometimes neglectful, not abusive – although my mother, were she still alive, might not agree. But my relationship with her is a whole other story!

“.. A great big bear hug from my old Dad was the true currency of love.” (Colours – a memoir of my father.)

The key for me has always been, and still is, to follow your own heart and love whomever you love. They may not live up to your expectations, they might let you down, they might even do “bad things” – but no-one can tell you who to love, and, let’s face it – it’s pretty hard to stop loving someone. Does the mother of a killer stop loving her child? The sister of a drunk driver? The friend of a felon?You may not like things about someone, you might even be rightfully angry and judgemental, but yes, of course you can still love them.

An evening of MemoriesBristales, The Room Upstairs, The White Bear, 133 St. Michael’s Hill, BS2 8BS Bristol.    Friday 24th November 2017, 7 – 9.30pm.                  Tickets on the door or book here:                                                 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bristales-memories-tickets-39881169652


“What Do You Do?”

“What Do You Do?”

This question comes up hundreds – no – thousands of times in one lifetime. At parties, walksIMG_9560 in the park, from strangers, or new friends. They’ll all ask… “So, what do you do?”  I answer as honestly as I can, “I write, I sing, I teach a bit, some volunteering, you know…” What I can’t know is how somebody is receiving this information. Many make it known that they think that this sounds creative, or even exciting. Others might want me to qualify this statement, for instance, to say that I’ve published two novels, or that I only teach part time, usually for agencies and more recently in my own home – TEFL. Nobody asks straight out how much money I earn, but I can see that the ‘value’ of what I do is often judged in monetary terms.

I was rather delighted years ago by a policeman who described my then lack of a full-time job, but busy schedule singing and writing, as “gainfully unemployed”. IMG_E6338At the other end of the scale someone close to me recently stated that I’d “never worked” since they’d know me, a devastating blow to my self esteem. A full-time Masters degree; a play; a published novel; a batch of songs; some teaching in secondary and at home; my creative writing class (voluntary) for the homeless – do they all count for nothing? Why? Probably because my efforts don’t always generate an income, and I am not seen to be partaking in the daily grind of a regular job.

It made me think of all of my friends who are creative – singers, musicians, writers, actors – are they not allowed to describe themselves as ‘actor’ or ‘writer’ if they’re not currently in paid work, or generating money somehow? What about the legions of artists who have gone before – Keats, Van Gogh, Dickenson, IMG_E9275Kafka, Poe… all died undiscovered as great artists, many in poverty, and often ridiculed when they were alive.  For every one of these, there are thousands more who will remain forever unsung – talented, in every sense of the word, but maybe not at promoting themselves or making money. The lesson, if there is one, is to accept that the creative urge is an essential part of human experience and expression. We write and sing and ‘make’ because we must, because we are gifted (or cursed) with something within us that seeks the light. A bud that struggles through the dark winter soil to greet the first rays of spring and then blooms in the wasteland or the depths of a cruel season doesn’t care about the environment, or whether you buy it and put it in a vase. It just blooms.


Glastonbury 1 – Dawn 0

Glastonbury 1 – Dawn 0

Glastonbury festival occupies a unique space in the national psyche as a mass haven for hippies, revellers and music lovers. For almost 50 years, festival goers, old and young, have flocked to Worthy Farm to let their hair down and party like its 1969. This year was my first visit ever. I went as a volunteer for Shelter, working in the Meeting Place bar run by Avalon, a busy, noisy, fun-filled space where people came to drink and dance their socks off until the wee hours. My learning curve was steep – no bar experience in over 30 years to professional mojito and cocktails mixer who could juggle a frozen margarita, a couple of real ales and four pints of cider on the side. No problem.


When I wasn’t working ( 3 x 8 hour shifts over 5 days), I was immersing myself in the fantastic, friendly atmosphere and catching some of my favorite acts: Radiohead (awesome), Rag n Bone man (heart and soul), Biffy Clyro (spent too much time ogling tattooed body to really listen), London Grammar (exquisite). In addition to the big stages, Glastonbury offers a host of smaller size venues with an eclectic mix of bands and artists. I was delighted to catch 2 bands who hail from Bristol – The Peoples String Foundation, maestros of gypsy jazz and marvelous smiles, and and Cut Capers, whose fusion of swing jazz and rap kept us all jumping. If I’d had more time I’d have explored the circus and comedy tents, spent longer in the healing and Green fields (where my old Friend Steve Murrell was doing the sound for Speakers’ Forum – when he wasn’t accompanying me to gigs and events and shooting the breeze!)

On my second night I joined a throng of friendly,energised people up in the field by the ‘sacred stones’ for the annual Summer Solstice celebrations. They didn’t disappoint. A giant wooden phoenix ready to be lit, drummers in fluorescent body paint, hordes of fire twirlers, an opera singer in angel wings, a choir, incarnations, and… fireworks! It felt as if a whole nation’s budget for the year was being let off in one night – fantastic.

The only negative I have to report is that the amazingly dry weather led to a bit of a dust storm during the first few days and I suffered from a tight chest and scratchy voice for the whole week- no singing for me 😦 Since returning home I’ve been exhausted and my symptoms have mushroomed into a hacking cough which makes it hard to sleep and still no singing voice! But would I go again? Would I !!!

Ps No, I’m not going to discuss the toilets. Unmentionable.

Bittersweet Farewell…

Bittersweet Farewell…

C637E6FD-1F61-45E1-867D-9D9AC0A2BA38It’s so hard to say goodbye to something or someone you’ve loved – a person, a pet, a boat – a VW camper van (!!!) – it’s always sad to think they’re leaving your life for good. Even inanimate objects can provoke feelings of loss and regret – think of that feeling when you misplace a treasured piece of jewelry or a gift from someone special. So, it’s with a big bag full of memories and a sad heart that I bid farewell to Dawn Chorus, the yacht that Martin and I made our second Atlantic crossing in, along with dogs Bonny and Buzz, and where I heard the news my Mum had died (mid-Atlantic). It seems life is always tinged with sadness, even when we have our happiest times.

On honeymoon in Donegal in “Daisy”
The year Martin and I got married (2008), my beloved camper van, Daisy, was stolen and then never seen again. I remember all the joy and laughter in that van from when my daughter Eve was small enough to sleep across the front seats to the hilarious trip to Ireland for the wedding carrying four dogs and a  couple of bridesmaids, including the then teenage Eve. My heart still stops if I see one like it.
When Martin and I first saw a Southerly 42 RST at the 2007 Southampton boat show this glamorous, high end yacht was something we wished we could have but knew we couldn’t afford. We had a little Westerly Centaur 26 at the time and were just learning to sail. In 2012 we bought a Northshore Vancouver 36 in America, built by the same company as the Southerly, but over 20 years old. It was beautifully made and sailed like a dream. Alice in Red took good care of us all around America, Cuba, the Bahamas and across the Atlantic to home. When she was sold, we rushed to the marina in Portishead where she was stored to see her being hoisted on a lorry for the journey to her new home on the east coast of England. Alas, we were too late, and when we got to the boatyard, she was gone. I remember both of us looking dewy eyed as we stared at the spot where she used to be.  aliceinred2013.wordpress.com


Last Friday I saw Dawn Chorus for the last time in a remote marina in Venice, Louisiana at the foot of the Mississippi river. It took Martin’s retirement and selling his business, (and selling our IMG_6729house in Cliftonwood, Bristol) to finally be able to have the dream boat we’d wished for nearly 7 years earlier. A new one was still out of the question, but we managed to find the lovely  ‘Bubbles’ as she used to be called, in France, and after a complete overhaul by the Northshore boatyard we set sail in September 2015.  I’ve written a lot about that journey and all of the ups and downs along the way, but now it’s time to say goodbye. We’ve benefited from selling in dollars rather than pounds, and Martin and I feel it’s time to step back and think about our next adventure, and to enjoy time with our family and friends.

Dawn Chorus has been bought by a Texan couple, Darren and Detje, and Martin and I (with Buzz) will be flying home from Houston on May 2nd. We did our best to help deliver the boat from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Galveston, Texas, but we fell at the last hurdle when uncertain weather and shortage of time meant we had to part company fullsizeoutput_5238with Darren and his friend Ron, who’d been sailing with us for 700 miles of the roughly 1000 mile journey. Another bittersweet moment, because they were disappointed that we wouldn’t press on across the second half of the Gulf of Mexico, although we’d worked really well together to get the boat that far. If Martin and I have learned anything, it’s that you can’t work to a fixed timescale when you’re sailing. Flying a dog home takes a bit of organization too, and we were desperately in need of a little time to ourselves before returning to the UK, so, we made the decision to jump ship… (or were we pushed?!) How strange it was to find ourselves on the dock with a heap of luggage in a tiny place called Venice with no taxis, public transport or car hire, and on first asking, nowhere to stay with a dog! We now know why they call it “The End of the World” fullsizeoutput_54c5locally! But to the rescue came Tiffany, who works in a nearby (no dogs) hotel and who drove us and our luggage to one where the dog was allowed – phew! A couple of days later, she and her husband and son took us to New Orleans, an hour and a half away, so that we could rent a car. Oh, the kindness of strangers!!! (Turns out Tiffany is the daughter of local celebrity, Captain Timothy “Blimp” Cheramie: http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/ragin-cajuns/videos/blimps-shrimp-dance/)

A bittersweet memento of the trip was a visit while crossing the Gulf of Mexico by a very tired little swallow-like bird. It rested up with us for a whole day and a night, took a little water, but was dead by daybreak the next day. We hope it’s last hours were more comfortable than drowning in the ocean. On a happier note, we had no less than 3 pods of dolphins come and play with the boat – great entertainment for us all – and Buzz!!

We’ve now spent a few fun-filled days in New Orleans, a true feast of architecture, good music and tasty creole food; I met James Woods, a pet portrait artist, in Jackson Square and he painted our beloved pooches, Buzz and Bonny for us; we spent one evening in rowdy Bourbon street where we listened to great Blues musicians and then another in legendary Frenchman Street where the Jazz was literally spilling out onto the street. Bye bye Gumbo and red beans with rice and blackened catfish, hello soon to Tex-Mex in the lone star state where we’ll board our plane home. Meanwhile, we’re chilling out on the banks of Lake Ponchatrain just north of New Orleans, listening to the House of the rising Sun and the wonderful Paul Brady singing his version of the Lakes of Ponchatrain, a  very old traditional song from somewhere round here, composer unknown…






New Year Resolutions…

Lake Muckno near my family home in Ireland

In years gone by I’ve taken the notion of resolutions very seriously, agonising over which ones to commit to, and then painstakingly drawing up a list with steps to follow to achieve my goals. In truth, by Easter, they’re usually forgotten.

This year, I want to keep it simple:

  • Write more
  • Sing more
  • Promote my writing and songwriting more
  • Dance more
  • Do what makes me happy more

That’s it!

Here’s a little wake up tune called Awake! to ring in the New Year 🙂

Special thanks to Adam Pettick on percussion, Dig Pimblett on bass, Paul Hill on banjo and Jason Flinter at The Song Diner for recording and mixing.