Wednesday, 16 October 2013

MOBO Awards 2013 - VOTE NOW!

...and for those of you who do not know what MOBO stands for, it is Music of Black Origin.
Laura Mvula  is up for five awards.  Laura and the band (with my youngest daughter Iona on harp/vocals) will be playing at the Awards Ceremony at 9pm on BBC3 this Saturday 20th October , and 11.15 pm on BBC1 on Sunday 21st.

There is still just time to vote for Laura at   http://www.mobo.com/voting2013

For a reminder of her fabulous songs, here are the band on last month's North American tour performing on the David Letterman Show ...


and in Chicago...


Unfortunately the videos from the Today show in New York, and the Jimmy Kinmel Show no longer seem to be available.

For those of you who are in North America, watch out for their November tour which may be coming to a venue near you!  - link to schedule as follows   http://www.lauramvula.com/events

STOP PRESS - LAURA MVULA WINNER OF MOBO BEST FEMALE ARTIST AND BEST R & B / SOUL AWARD!!

Laura beat Jessie J and Rita Ora in the MOBO Best Female Performance 2013 group.   I will put a link to the MOBO ceremony later in the week.

Monday, 2 September 2013

With a different hat on.

Just to show I am not always wearing smelly trousers and a weird gold helmet, here I am with my judge's hat on at the Welsh National Show a few weeks ago.  The lovely horse is my Part bred Welsh champion Stanleygrange Regal Empire, bred by Jerome Harforth.

Friday, 30 August 2013

A Missionary in Belgium

I had a lovely unexpected surprise on Wednesday when Kris Annaerts and Sabrina Proost from Belgium turned up on my doorstep.  It transpired that about ten years ago Kris had bought Cwrtycadno Cenhadwr, a young colt that I had sold to Holland and subsequently lost track of.  Quite a timely re-discovery as he is a full brother to my 2013 Royal Welsh Champion Cwrtycadno Perlen (see previous post) and the first foal by Cwrtycadno Cymro.  He was called Cenhadwr (the Welsh for missionary) as we had just moved into our present home Ffrwdfal House which had previously been set up as a religious retreat for returning missionaries, and the colt was one of the first ponies I exported to the continent.
 At the time he was born he was a great disappointment as I was eagerly hoping for a filly foal, but had to wait another two years!  However he has landed on his feet, or should I say hooves, leading a fulfilling life as a marathon driving pony.  Kris and Sabrina gave me lots of photos and video clips of him in action.  Here he is in his role as lead pony in a tandem.....

 
.............and in action at Hatrival ...........
 
 video


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Cloud Nine

Absolutely thrilled to bits that my Welsh pony mare Cwrtycadno Perlen trotted her way to victory last week when she was awarded the Overall Welsh Pony Championship at the Royal Welsh Show, arguably the highest accolade in the Welsh Pony showing world, and a once in a lifetime achievement for most people.   It was particularly gratifying as it is the only time I have won it as an owner-breeder.  
 
 
Many many thanks to Tom Best and David Blair of the Waxwing stud (where she has been on lease while I have been riding in foreign parts) for producing and showing her so superbly once again - last year she was Reserve Female Champion.  A tremendous effort considering these have been her only two outings as an adult! 

 
 Perlen (and handler Tom Best) receiving the Coed Coch cup from judge Meirion Davies of the Heniarth stud, Perlen apparently fascinated by the cup!  She also won the Queen's cup which is awarded to a different livestock section every year - unfortunately no longer by Lizzie in person!  And of course a coveted gold Welsh Pony and Cob society medal to add to her silver and bronze ones.

...a proud and excited owner who had just scrambled over the fence into the ring, with Tom and Perlen - the pony may look resigned, but she can now afford to rest on her laurels!  Photo taken by visiting Ozzie friend Toni.

Unsurprisingly the bubbly came out in force at home, and not least because our Dutch guests Geert Verbaas and Marit Timmermans won the Junior Mare class with their lovely mare Stougjeshoeve Emilia and also a third place with a two year old filly.
Other successes were a 3rd place in the yearling colt class for Coriolan de L'Aurore out of my mare Cwrtycadno Colomen (on loan with Ingrid Delaitre who took the lovely photo of Tom and Perlen in middle), and 4th place in the two year old colt class for Debbie Thomas's Waxing Glimmer who is out of my mare Cwrtycadno Glain (on loan with Perlen at the Waxwing stud).

And in the unlikely event that there is someone out there who will not only be as transfixed as me but also can understand Welsh, here are links to S4C video clips of her winning the Senior Mare class.......
http://s4c.co.uk/sioe/cgi-bin/2013.pl?rm=vt&vt=181&l=c
and the Overall championship............
http://s4c.co.uk/sioe/cgi-bin/2013.pl?rm=vt&vt=194&l=c

Sunday, 30 June 2013

I can't Get No Satisfaction........

....as the Rolling Stones belted out last night on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.   But plenty of satisfaction for youngest daughter Iona, performing on the same stage earlier in the day in Laura Mvula's band - here is a Iona's eye view .......

 
Link to Laura's set  ..... Laura Mvula Glastonbury 2013
 
..... and they even got to hobnob with the Stones backstage afterwards............

 
Playing the part and mooching round Glastonbury like a rock star with her minders...actually fellow musicians James and Karl ..............
 
 
 
On Wednesday she collected the new electro-acoustic harp especially made for her by Pilgrim Harps
 
 
She is delighted with it but has yet to play it in a performance - she decided Glastonbury two days later might not be the best time for a maiden trial!
 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Iona the little Marble

Video of my little girl playing to an audience of 10,000 at the O2 Arena in Laura Mvula's band.  Look out for her singing and clapping next to her harp on the left.   Paloma Faith was the other artiste at this venue.


This coming Saturday 29th June at 2.00pm they will be performing on the Pyramid Stage (the main stage) at Glastonbury as one of the supporting acts before the Stones in the evening!
Watch out for them - Iona will be playing the new electric harp she has been sponsored by Pilgrim Harps and which she is collecting mid week!   Looking at the TV Guide, Laura is specifically scheduled to be on BBC3 between 7 - 8pm on Saturday evening, although there is also coverage of the festival on BBC2.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Dr Who?.....

......Dr Julia Harper of course!   I am happy and proud to report that no doubt as a direct result of the hours spent poring over her thesis in the lorry during the Ireland ride, not to mention the perceptive and penetrating questions I posed, Julia's viva last Monday June 4th went with a boom bang a bang, and she successfully acquired her doctorate.  But please do not mention post modern hybridity or Habermasian theory (wasn't he in a pit or something?) to me ever again.

The End of the Road

The following morning, Friday 31st May, Zorbee and I made the final push to Dunmore Head, the westernmost point of Europe excluding Iceland and smaller islands.

With over two thousand archaeological sites, the Dingle Peninsula has one of the highest concentrations of ancient monuments in Ireland, and we soon came across this strange feature - an ancient pig sty or hen house? ............
 
....well possibly used as such in more recent times, but originally this would have been built as a dwelling - an example of early Celtic bijou? These clochans or beehive huts litter the area, and although it is unclear when they date from, (estimates seem to range widely from 4000 to 200 years ago!) some experts think they were mainly constructed after the twelfth century.
 
Nearing Dunquin, or Dun Chaoin (Caon's Stronghold) to use its proper Irish name ..
 
Dunquin is probably most well known as being the location for the filming of 'Ryan's Daughter' and more recently ' Far and Away'.  The old schoolhouse which was specially built for Ryan's Daughter is still in existence if falling into ruin, but film set Kirrary town which was also built from scratch was subsequently bulldozed by local request - they must be kicking themselves now for destroying a golden opportunity to milk the present flood of tourists!
Over forty years ago I visited Dunquin with my sister Rhiannon when we holidayed on the southwest coast.  The local bus deposited us on a bleak road at the top of the then tiny village and we walked down to the pub where one of the indoor scenes with John Mills was filmed, and where a desultory couple of locals eyed us curiously.  We also wandered down to the slipway which featured in the storm scene.  Now Dunquin has quadrupled in size and coachloads of tourists pass through regularly. There are pottery shops, a visitors' centre and tea rooms - where were the latter when we were gagging for a cup of tea and a bite to eat forty years ago?  Never a problem finding Guiness though.
 
And here are Zorbee and me at the end of the road - the furthest point we could safely or legally reach on Dunmore Head - beyond lie the Blasket Islands...

 
Julia was waiting patiently with the lorry, and we loaded up almost immediately and set off back to Rosslare.  However not before a bit of excitement as I had not realised that an unofficial one-way system existed on the narrow and precipitous road round Slea Head to the south. Luckily before we had gone too far we came bumper to bumper with a large tourist coach, rapidly followed by another.  I was forced to reverse several hundred yards to a small parking area where I was able to execute a three point turn on the edge of a cliff and then go with the flow! 
 
Because of our tight schedule - one important factor being Julia's imminent viva - we did not have as much time for orthodox sightseeing as we would have liked.   However at midday we were conveniently passing through the little town of Annascaul, and were able to stop for lunch at the South Pole Inn.  This was previously owned by Tom Crean, who not only took part in both Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, but also Shackleton's failed attempt. Crean was one of the remaining three men to row from Elephant Island with Shackleton and negotiate the mountains of South Georgia to raise the alarm.  As a result not a single life was lost.
So here is Julia outside the South Pole Inn (which is crammed with Tom Crean memorabilia) taking a fleeting moment to glance up from studying her thesis......
 
.....and here am I arm in arm with the hero himself.  Note the darling little husky puppies he is carrying (how sweet!) and the inn in the background.......


Then it was the long haul back to Wexford, where the horses were staying at Ballyhealy House again.
Betty Maher-Caulfield was home from her Uzbek travels, so she and her talented artist daughter Serena were able to join us in a couple of bottles of bubbly to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Ireland leg.

Our last evening sleeping in the lorry, and Julia looks supremely happy at the thought of her last night curled up on the floor........

TO EVERYONE WE STAYED WITH -
MANY MANY THANKS FOR THE IRISH HOSPITALITY!!
We did not pay a penny for horse or human accommodation the whole way across Ireland and that has to be a first for the many countries I have ridden through.
As one of the main aims of the ride is to raise money for charity this has been much appreciated.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Cantering through Kerry

Tuesday May 28th dawned wet and miserable, but happily it had cleared up a bit by the time Zorbee and I had set off along a quiet lane over the forested hills to Castleisland.  But what were these extraordinary Triffid like plants on the side of the road? ..........
 
We arrived a bit tired and damp at Mary Bradley's well run Eagle Lodge Equestrian Centre at Gortalea.........  
 
............where the horses were again accommodated in comfortable stables on a rainy night.
Mary seeing us off on Wednesday morning. I did not always manage to get photos of everyone who put us up as we had generally left by the time people appeared on the yard in the morning!

 And here the horses are on the west coast, having a picnic by the sea at Derrymore before Zorbee and I set off along the beach on the north coast of the Dingle Peninsula.......

After days tramping boringly along tarmac roads, it was a real treat to be able to trot and canter all the way along the beach for miles from Derrymore to Castlegregory. .................

 
and in VIDEO 

Zorbee perked up no end, and we made excellent progress.   We were able to reach Kilshannig on the peninsula to the north of Castle Gregory, where the horses were provided with a large grassy field at O Connor's Trekking Centre.

The next morning Zorbee and I tackled the beach on the other side of the peninsula, where the Atlantic breakers were crashing on the shore.  I managed to find a lone walker to take the photo below, and you can see I have eventually persuaded Zorbee to get his feet wet - by the end he was splashing relatively confidently through the small waves!

Up through the mist and over the Connor Pass to Dingle..........

By the time large vehicles reach this sign it is usually too late!.......
 
The panorama down to Dingle on the other side..................
 
It was a few more hours to sea in the distance and along the coast to Ventry, where John Patrick gave the horses a field at Long's Riding Centre
 
 

Corks out in Cork.

 
We left Cahir early on Saturday 25th May, and I was able to take Dallam on a short cut via a bridge over the River Suir unfortunately but not descriptively pronounced as sewer - you can just see us in the photo....
 
This led to the local attraction the Swiss Cottage - an example of an ornamental cottage, probably designed by Nash.  Unfortunately it was so early that the only glimpse we had of it was through the bars of a locked gate!
 
After a quiet ride along some quiet and scenic small lanes, we rode from Tipperary into Limerick ......
 
......but there was hardly time for a quick rhyme before we came at a walk to County Cork  - three counties in a day!
 
 
A dreadful scene of scarecrow murder? .........
 
..........the most likely suspect apparently plays rugby for Munster scarecrows...... 

 In Mitchelstown we were luxuriously hosted by Patrick and Miriam Mulcahy in their beautiful Ballinwhillin House.  -    Video    very much recommended if you are holidaying in County Cork.
The deer were unceremoniously evicted from the field in front of the house to make way for their equine guests, who were soon head down and tucking into Irish grass......

 
.......while Julia and I were lavishly entertained when we joined a lively Book Club group from Dublin who were staying for the weekend.  
Patrick was delighted to find I had turned up on a Hungarian horse, as to my surprise it turned out that he owns a vineyard in Hungary, and the evening started in the wine cellar with a tasting of the delicious Hungarian wines he produces there - in Hungary that is!  Below is Patrick  extolling the virtues of his latest white - an extremely serious matter judging by the dour faces....
 
 
This was followed by a seven course meal in the splendid dining room including home reared venison and pork, and a few more corks came out of bottles as the Hungarian wine continued to flow.  I meant to take a photo, but was enjoying myself so much it completely slipped my mind.
Video of Patrick cooking venison just like we ate 
 
Next day it was a long trudge to our next stopover near Kanturk, but an eagerly anticipated break en route was the essential visit to the historic church in Doneraile.  The steeple on this church was the destination for the first recorded steeplechase ever run.  This was in 1752 when Mr Blake challenged his neighbour Mr O’Callaghan to race cross country from Buttevant church to Doneraile Church.  Here are Zorbee and me in front of said church, which appears to have mislaid its steeple in the intervening 250 years.

A passing Irishman was very keen to tell us that the race was actually resurrected last year, although they were unable to race right up to the church due to the golf course which now lies behind.
See http://www.p2p.ie/news.php?news_id=11324

That evening Danny Dulohery and Michelle Fitzmaurice of Kilguilkey House provided large loose boxes for the horses in a huge former cattle shed - we were able to drive the lorry right inside.   Just as well as it poured down all night, but we were all snug under cover, together with a couple of pigs and calves.....
 
 Yet another dreadful scene, this time of porcine massacre? - Cork seems a very violent county .................

....actually a stash of model farmyard animals presumably used as embellishment for the cross country jumps that Danny produces on site.
 
Riding through the Cork countryside near Kanturk the following day, Monday May 26th.
 
 
Yet more Irish hospitality - Shaun (think I have the name right) who invited Julia and me in for a welcome cup of tea - with daughters Ellen on left, and another Megan in the middle!
 
 Part of the day was along the busy road between Kanturk and Newmarket, but in the late afternoon as rain began to threaten again, we followed this quiet little lane heading west.
 
 And here is local farmer Ger O'Leary (who kindly took the horses into his stables that evening) posing outside his house in front of an Irish rainbow.  Heidi the dog was of the lick you to death variety, and she took it upon herself to sit outside the lorry all night to guard us, no doubt tongue at the ready to assault any unwary intruder.

Friday, 24 May 2013

It's a Long Way to..............



......... you've guessed it, Tipperary, where the horses are currently staying at the Cahir Equestrian Centre.

But before leaving Kilkenny we boxed a refreshed Zorbee back to Mullinavat and I rode over the hill back to Lorraine's, meeting Julia en route for a photo session by the nearby falls - Julia's turn to pose.....

Kilkenny countryside ....
......followed by an evening preprandial by the dung heap with Lorraine and sidekick Wallace the chocolate Labrador ...............
To be fair, in the other direction there was a stunning view of the Comeragh mountains.
Lorraine looked after us like royalty for the two nights we imposed ourselves on her due to Zorbee's squits - a huge grassy field for the horses, showers and pizza supper for us.

The team (almost) ready for off the next morning - right to left a studious Julia still deep in her thesis, Lili, Lorraine, an irrepressible Wallace and an impatient Zorbee.


Next stop was Clonmel in Tipperary, where yet another enormous grassy field awaited at Daverne's Equestrian Centre - courtesy of Mark Daverne (Thanks Mark, and also to Trevor English who sorted it out when he was unable to accommodate us due to coughing ponies at his yard).   With all this rich grass, Lili is rapidly getting fatter so I will have to watch her weight - in these circumstances small ponies are susceptible to a condition called laminitis which causes inflammation and pain in the hooves.
Clonmel is also the home of Magners/Bulmers cider, so it was imperative that we sampled the local offering......
Highly recommended is the Apple and Rhubarb cider, to be drunk on ice - delicious!

Today it was a short ride to the Equestrian Centre at Cahir owned by Fiona Hyland.  While the horses relaxed this afternoon in a safe little paddock (thankfully not too much grass for Lili!) Julia and I had a jaunt into town.  Unfortunately not enough time to go round the impressive looking castle, but there was plenty else to amuse us ...
Sign outside the Cahir pub 'Mary Condon'.  Is the Guiness really that lethal here?

Burial spot - on the main street !!  - of warhorse Crimean Bob.

Cwtching up to the blind piper of Cahir


....explanatory sign.......

.....and another suitably in braile....!  Think I have it the right way up.