Sheila Darling & Bill Johnston, acoustic music for body & mind. Notes/2003-2004 Diary notes.pdf Notes/2004-5 Diary Notes.pdf , Notes/Diary Notes 2006.pdf Notes/Diary Notes 2007.pdf , Notes/Diary Notes 2008.pdf Notes/Diary Notes2009.pdf , Notes/Diary notes 2010.pdf Notes/Diary Notes 2011.pdf , Notes/Diary Notes 2012.pdf Notes/Diary Notes 2013.pdf Notes/Diary Notes 2014.pdf Notes/Diary Notes 2015.pdf , Notes/Diary notes 2016.pdf Notes/Diary Notes 2017.pdf

,Diary Notes 2018.pdf Diary Notes 2019.pdf

Diary Notes 2020:

A reader has suggested that I reverse the order of posting so that the most recent post appears at the top of the page: I'll give it a go. Let me know if it works better for you

29th January 2020:

28th January 2020: U3A East Suffolk Folk Music Group at The Brook Washbrook: an enjoyable afternoon playing and singing in a social setting, the point made that 'folk music' has become commodotised and costed to facilitate its place as a branch of the music industry with degrees and professional qualifications as the main entry route. Bill and Richard had a good old moan about the changing times and the tarnished jewel that is now a bizness! The room was full but we all had a fair crack, Sheila sang 'Caledonia', Bill 'Mama Tried, and together we sang 'Meet Me Where they Play the Blues'. Tunes 'Weaver's March' and 'Quaker'. Bill has noticed previously that his concertina, (checked as in tune), is slightly out with Rob's Crane Duet. Both probably show as 'in tune' but an uncomfortable tremolo when played together. Rob is looking at the Bramfod Cock as a possible venue on the way home. Bill has transcribed his preferred Melnet TotM, (a pipe tune 'Return to Muirheads' which is a joy to explore although unlikely to win against a fingerbusting French jobby-figuratively and literally intended). Posted a cover photo for U3A folk musician's FB page. Seems to be well received.

27th January 2020: Bill's cold is breaking, lots of sneezes and snuffles. He finished reading 'The Runner' by Peter May, (China series). Each swam, JG keen to relate that four/five 'Bards' played at a 'Burns Supper' with Brenda, (and got paid). Pictures available. East Suffolk Morris Practice: a productive evening practicing dances rarely seen in public to tunes barely remembered and idiosyncratic!

26th January 2020: Sheila to gym. Bill spent pm exploring tunes on amplified guitar. Could offer background finger style. Played the Lakewood through the Ashworth amp, sounding excellent. Lord Nelson session:very enjoyable.melodeon,flute,two guitars,three fiddles,mandolin. A mix of songs and tunes. Phil came along for the first time. Simon contributed blues and piedmont finger style. Thank you to Nigel for coming along in support, the regulars seemed to enjoy the evening.

25th January 2019: we walked into town and signed up for the Ripple Wholefood co-op. Had a song/tune up in the evening. 

24th January 2019:Bill feeling better. Sheila to Yoga. Mary D rang for a catch up, and to offer us a Bill'nSheila floorspot at Everyman Folk Club on Friday. Should be good, (Skip Mim and Maria, Tin River, also have a spot. A local favourite of Bill's). The Hadleigh FAC French Weekend is cose to fully booked. SimonH has confirmed we are ok for Friday night (open concert). Bill thinking that a current career option for folk performers is to charge for workshops on a commercial basis, (Mel Biggs, JK, French Weekend), whether alongside a concert or not. Where workshops have been included or nominally charged, they now comprise an income flow. Phil W made it to the Steamboat session last evening. Interesting to receive his impressions as he used to attend when John & Ginny ran it ( as long time ago). The emphasis has changed since then, but Phil enjoyed catching up with John T and managed a few tunes. He is keen to sample Wayward. (Fordham and Wayward are two days apart usually so a glut followed by a fallow period for tunesters.) We aborted a Bill'Sheila practice which included senior moments from each!

23rd January 2020:Happy Birthday Laurel. Each swam. Sheila working. Bill under the weather so not out further. Phil W keen to visit more sessions, and hoping to put a gallic band together. Sheila to Pretty Grim practice,lots of events have just hit her PG inbox

22nd January 2020: Day in, Bill has finished novels byThomas Enger and Tony Kent and will look out for more from each. Played some Mandolin/Guitar/Anglo.

21st January 2020: Bill walked into town via a visit to Nat and Jasmine.

20th January 2020: Bill/Sheila swim, Bill catch up with John G and strating early managed a mile!. Bill had a tramp around Felixstowe, bumped into Steve and Sari P from whom learnt that friend, former colleague and neighbour Melvin Pratt died late last year. A man whose cynicism and dark humour was easily a match for Bill's. Holly for tea. A good catch up session, she returned some books and a mandolin I had forgotten owning! Perhaps time for a clear out, five is more than enough! East Suffolk Morris practice: an enjoyable evening. There will not be a 'spring trip' this year so just as well Bill signed up for the Chameleonic outing! (Pete K concurs on shared travel)

19th January 2020:Lazy Sunday. Sheila for a walk with family, Bill brushing up some Sh3♂ed tunes and Anglo/Melodeon. Woolpack Session: enjoyable. eight of us in the end with a couple of ALFs (Arch Lever Files). Tunesmiths Peter, Sheila Bill and Noel which was fun without a need to cater to 'standard' repertoire for purposes of inclusion. Bill had thought to go to the Hadleigh French Weekend workshops this year, his enthusiasm doesn't run to £12 a pop (yet). Paying a lot more for a day with JK in a couple of weeks but that is another story. The weekend will be a great sucess regardless as it has a ready market of Francophile musicians across East Anglia and beyond. Usual anxiety having committed to the Chameleonic trip to Bosnia. Had promised for years to make the promised 'final' trip, but........, a familiar pattern for Bill of commitment then doubt usually (hopefully), followed by resolution!

18th January2020: Sh3♂ed and partners meal at Des and Ruth's. Very enjoyable. We now have to practice a set list for Slackfolk in March, planning a couple of practices. Bill did some Anglo practice, working out some new/old tunes.

17th January 2020: Bill finished reading 'The Blood Road' by Stuart McBride, a bawdy police procedural set in Glasgow. Confirmed Morris trip to Bosnia Herzegovina and committed by buying flight tickets. Flies from Gatwick which is a pain! Anglo/guitar practice. Sheila Yoga. Potential for Henley folk night but........ and Bungay a step too far for gipsy balkan music.

16th January 2020:Sheila working, Bill to swim. Sheila pacemaker check, all well, Bill anglo workout. Missing Roger D's New Year party, starts and finishes early and Sheila working until 7pm, not practicable. Sheila to Pretty Grim practice.

15th January 2020: Sheila work and swim, Bill appointment and knoodle, we practised some songs in the evening when we could have been at Blaxhall session, ( a come down after Fordham), or Mark Harrison at mid week blues, (a one trick guitarist, seen before). About time for an evening 'in'. Holly has advertised her EP launch at the Arbor House on 23rd February. Bill rang Laurel for a catch up.

14th January 2020: Sheila to swim and then to a meeting in Colchester. Bill spent most of the morning editing the YT video of last evening's Plough Monday dance out. He attended the U3A afternoon session at the Douglas Bader, but proceedings had been shoe-horned into a back room which was inadequate to accomodate the number of people present, (the pub had apparently prioritised a party from BT and re-located the prebooked U3A diners). Bill gave it a miss.Fordham session:a select group of seven and an extremely enjoyable evening. Bill had taken a quiet mandolin, but not a problem when people play music 'with' each other. Lots of variety and tunes that fell out of Bill's head years ago if they ever were there, but finding them is not too hard. Worth a windy journey and sets Bill up up for a month of Suffolk 'fare' before a re-boost.

13th January 2020:Sheila had the oven in pieces when Bill woke up this morning! We eventually repaired the door when Bill returned from swimming, a return to routine. East Suffolk Morris. Plough Monday in Bramford. Bill doesn't usually 'do' Plough Monday which has hitherto meant traipsing around a cold publess village in the dark. This year we re-located to Bramford where we were made very welcome at 'The Cock' to start the evening and for a singsong to conclude proceedings. Bill brought the box brownie along and there is a YT video, (mini feature) to celebrate. Storm Brendan joined in the fun.

12th January 2020: a very enjoyable afternoon tea for Bards and friends at Sarah's including a chance to marvel at the house extension which is a work in progress.THank you Sarah and Pete. Discover that Pete is developing significant skills as a fiddle fettler. After tea we played some tunes. The Duke session: the first folk session since the pub was dark.Mike G and Mick R came along and the group gradually enlarged during the evening which was a success with a good mix of Tunes and Songs sung well. During the evening it transpired that the Wayward Session at The Angel in Woodbridge may be  regarded as an invitation only session Hopefully this is a misunderstanding which can be readily remedied, but is certainly not the view of others at that session. All have been welcome and session etiquette loosely prevails. If the evening is exclusive it loses its rationale.  Mike S, (who arranges the session), and Bill, have had a chat, which has been helpful, certainly from Bill's point of view.

11th January 2020: another lazy day. Knoodling on tunes and realising that a lot of songs on the list have drifted from memory. Veggie roast and Creme Caramel for tea. Find of the day Ale Möller. Lesson oif the day, how to enter a letter with an umlaut! Played some songs and tunes, (where remembered). Night in. Bill finished reading ' A Step Away From Paradise' by Thomas K Shor. (Tibetan Buddhism)

10th January 2020: we played some tunes, Sheila to Yoga, Bill to doctor.We popped to The Duke to see the heavily publicised Soapbox presentation of Margo Cilker and Friends. The friends included 'Soapbox favourite' Jack Pout, we looked on YT and gave him a miss arriving in time for 'An American Forrest' , from Oregon who were support and also Margo's accompanists on this evening. The pub was packed with the failiar faces of Ipswich 'musos' who obviously enjoyed the music more than we did. Amrican Forrest were fairly raggamuffin Americans in the 'Honky Tonk' style, and Margo Cilker's set was effectively a pub band version of Rawlings and Welch. All reasonably played but not worth standing in a packed and noisy pub for longer than it takes to decide to leave. The music was outshouted throughout by people who were present top be seen rather than to listen to the music. Not sure what this bodes for the first 'Duke' session evening tomorrow. I suspect that the contributions of the 'arch lever' groaners may lead to it being a short lived session venue. The landlord is used to the 'tune' session at his other pub, 'The Angel' in Woodbridge, which is attracting more custom every time. A perponderance of long ballads badly sung may not have the same appeal!

9th January 2020: Sheila has a full working day. She went for a walk between session, fell and scraped her hand and knee, hmm. Bill went for a swim in Woodbridge, the 'senior's' session was crammed with NY Resolutioners, but after about half an hour the pool was almost clear of people! Wayward Session: Angel: Woodbridge. Well supported both by musicians and friends who had been previously unaware we were playing at the Angel. Reservations expressed yesterday only realised in part. The lesson from yesterday's session was the principle that he who starts a tune sets the speed, style and key. A few 'starters' were left behind, and other tunes played in unfamiliar styles or keys were shoehorned into 'house' style/key. Inappropriate. A friendly and successful evening playing music. Sheila came along after Pretty Grim practice and enjoyed the last hour or so. The main issue with this session is that parking in Woodbridge is at a premium  in the evening, (for those unable to walk to the Angel).

8th January 2020: a day 'in' with newspaper, books and instruments. Roofer came around and will send a quote. The afternoon was devoted to Early Music. The 'Wayward Session' was discussed at Danegeld practice last evening and has apparently elicited additional interest from musicians there. Given that at least four of the previous 'regulars' have not yet appeared at the session, which is already beyond (Bill's view of) optimal size,it may be becoming a victim of its own success. Bill already has to bring the 'loud' mandolin along so that he can hear himself amongst the competitive jostling (he deliberately eschews loud melodeons), and sits out when he can't decide which speed/rhythm section to join.... never satisfied you may say. Beginning to understand the attraction of 'invitation only' session groups, (Tony Hall's evenings in Norwich and the Irish sessions in Mid Suffolk). Bill is invited to neither,and would probably not 'fit in' were that to change, not a problem. We'll see how tonight goes.

7th January 2020: Bill finished reading 'How the Dead Speak' by Val McDermid. A procedural crime novel which re-positions familiar characters so that the series, (Jordan/Hill), has a point from which to progress. Sheila back to work with her patients. Routine is re-established.Deferred swim achieved. Bill working on ragtime mandolin and anglo.

6th January 2020. Roofer rang so progress on the chimney in prospect. Sheila swim, Bill tried, but despite having checked before travelling, the pool was full of noisy families, and as the contemplative element of swimming is a part of the package , he deferred the experience! We had a Bill Sheila singsong thinking about Hadleigh FAC next month, and tried a couple of tunes.East Suffolk Morris Men: practice. A select band post Christmas, and an enjoyable evening exploring dances from the 'sometimes' list.  Looking at the header here it is hard to credit that there are fifteen years of diary condensed above! Maybe a book in it!

5th January 2020: Lunch at the Woolpack and a walk around Christchurch Park. Working on tunes this afternoon, particularly phrasing in Morven's March which is a 3/2 tune. Woolpack Session: first of the year. Very well attended with the usual mix of material. Fortunately there were enough musicians to keep the Arch Lever brigade to a proportionate contribution. Bill's folk guitarist dentist, Alex K came along for a look. It transpires that he has bought the house where Bill lived in his teens and early twenties, between 1964 and 1978. The room where Bill cut his teeth on guitar and mandolin is intended as the music room!  Strict cut off at 10.30, (we suspect the staff were feeling slightly overwhelmed, and they had been on duty  all day.

4th January 2020: Front offside tyre replaced, drove off, handling poor, rear nearside flat! Returned and relaced that. Suspect Co-Op Parking spaces the culprit but no obvious damage so perhaps malice involved. Start the year on a paranoid note! Ashley/Natalie and Jasmine visited. Bill had a knoodle in DADGAD emulating some of Zoe Wren's playing, (rather poorly, not good in open tuning).Bill finished reading 'The Black eyed Blonde' a Philip MArlowe novel by Benjamin Black, a reasonable pastiche but insufficiently hard bitten!

3rd January 2020: A quiet day. Sheila to Yoga, Bill rummaging in the Chris Partington's Village Music Project tunebooks, picked out a couple to try. A fantastic resorce.Most of the remainder of the afternoon was spent playing Anglo concertinas. A style seems to be emerging which is a hybrid of Irish and English technique with some dusty remnants of a clumsy transfer of melodeon fingering (which has at times to be addressed). Roger D is highly respected and very capable, but not necessarily an ideal template for improving technique.While Sheila's back is much improved she is frustrated that her lack of mobility in the frozen shoulder restricts violin practice. Hadleigh Folk & Acoustic Club: Megan Wisdom and Zoe Wren in a double header. As we drove off we realised Bill had a flat tyre. Deposited vehicle at Autofit and came in Sheila's. Floor spots were Glass Thistle first outing for a band based at a Woodbridge school, who brought along a significant tribe in support. All decamped very obviously in the interval, and while the main act was onstage setting up. This left a large bare space in the audience. Rude in the extreme, (Bill's views on this behaviour previously noted). Alice Martin played four songs, loquacious as ever. She also decamped in the interval.  Megan Wisdom opened the double header. Nervous but clear spoken and sang well. Zoe Wren played a very enjoyable set, comfortable in stagespace. She made reference to being a member of a 'folk' family. Sophisticated guitar style in various tunings, and an interesting approach to songwriting. (We have a Bill & Sheila floorspot next month). Bill's posts about local sessions seem to be giving the impression that he is running these, he is not. Roy Nicholls runs the Sunday sessions and Mike Sherwen the Angel, Woodbridge Wayward tune session. Neither use social media. Mike sends group reminders on e-mail, but still with some attenders missing so  Bill posts reminders/notices. The Sunday sessions are a (very) mixed bag round the room, Wayward is a tune session.

2nd January 2020: The day began with a sparrowhawk visiting our (suburban) garden. Bill has posted video from yesterday's dance out at Snape on FB and shared with the sides. Bill recorded and posted a Melnet Theme of the Month video: 'Stone Mountain Wobble'. Pretty Grim have belatedly put Whittlesea Straw Bear on their events list, we have a clash, pity.

1st January 2020: Sheila welcomed the New Year in Poole  . Bill cursed the fireworks which kept him awake. His first email of the year was prefaced: 

"Happy new year, or not. 'New Year' messages are patronising, and corporately funded ultra nationalism is ascendant. If there was a lifeboat to man I'd be on it, but then I realise......... Media is Soma for the masses and the global extinction of humanity may be the only way to save the planet. A difficult call for a selfish survival species. Enough jollity!"

That set the mood! (Including the inherent contradiction).
Back to the music........ Snape New Years Dancing: Barley Brigg, Danegeld and Pretty Grim a good turnout and fine weather. Bill stayed for about an hour and a half when there was a hiatus. NW Morris always seems strangely out of context  relocated and sans processional, Bill described it as a static ramble in clogs, he also described the 'made up' border morris as a samba band with screaming, given the preponderance of drums. Sheila arrived home in the evening, trains and buses on a bank holiday!