Wednesday 27 May 2015

U3A Music Appreciation Group

I heard that Halesworth Branch of the U3A were trying to start a Music Appreciation group  so this afternoon went along to a meeting designed to test the water of interest. Sadly only 4 people turned up, and one of those let after 10 minutes or so – having thought it was Musicals appreciation and preferring to be outdoors on a lovely summer afternoon. The 3 of us left listened to 4 very different pieces of music brought along by one person. They were

Out of this only Michael Brecker is in my own collection albeit not the particular track that was played and assuming I got the track name correct I can’t find an online link to it.

For me the “introduction” of the session has to be the Ketil Bjornstad’s music inspired by the paintings of Edward Munch. Although not normally a lover of choral music I very much took to the mix of cello, timpani and choral voices and bought the album! I found this interesting review of his work

Monday 18 May 2015

Dziękuję (Thank you)


His best friend

Our best man

Memories of years ago

His wedding

Lots of vodka

Smuggled in, in cases large and small,

for toasts,

which seemed to go on forever,

Translated by a maiden aunt for me

the only other non-Polish speaker there.

And now, amazingly they emerge from slumber,

a few refugee words,

heard then,

reheard now

in another story

performed this morning by Krystyna

(c) Sheila Ash, 2015

Sunday 17 May 2015

Blues for BBK – an Elegy for B.B. King

“The thrill is gone” sings the reprise

I wipe the tears from my eyes.

“The Thrill is gone” is all the airways play

Hallelujah on this his judgement day.

Is it true the main man’s gone?

His music lingers long.


Raised sharecropping cotton in the American South

Discrimination and the Klan handing its justice out

a 15 dollar guitar nestling sweetly in your hand

“3 O’clock blues” sounding strong across the land

You hit the road in ’52

Nothing else for you to do.


The Beale Street Blues Boy and his bands

played a year of one night stands

Playing the juke joints, clubs and bars

You and Lucille were the stars

Heading t’ward the legend you became

“King of the Blues” in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Don’t fight over women. Don’t run into a fire.

Sing praises to the Lord in a gospel choir.

Foot stomping blues made me sway,

broken heart laments took my breath away.

Soulful 12 bar poems, finger-plucked in 4-4 time,

endorsing my heart strings to resonate in rhyme


With that deep gruff vibrato’s cadence

Full of pain and perseverance

Signature songs of lust and loss

overcame at such a cost

rhythmic rifts of grief and pains

The Man is gone, but the thrill remains.


© Sheila Ash 17th May 2015

Monday 11 May 2015

Thoughts for a defeated Liberal politician

He sits in front of his computer screen


avoiding the news.

Fixating vacantly on its pixels.

Demoralised, crestfallen

He drifts

amongst feelings of rejection,



The long night

still showing in his red, tired and baggy eyes;

the open window to his depressed soul

rejected by that 4:40 alarm call.


Why him?

Yesterday he had it all.

Now nothing, redundant;

ousted, displaced.



His unplanned future

waits before him as an empty screen.


© Sheila Ash, 11 May 2015

Saturday 9 May 2015

Mongolian Winter, 2010


Slowly it advances ever onward

striding southward

crossing mountains, plains and seas.

Spreading forward

never stopping

relentless, creeping fingers of death

of white and cold

of ice and snow

of mist and fog.

Temur Zud, the cold one approaches

blanketing the sky

shrouding bodies

chilling bones

brittlising sap.

Life snaps away at the gentlest touches

whilst moonlight shimmers on the winter ice.

The lakes, solid to depth

giant mirrors on the barren-dry, unyielding earth

enclosed on all side by mountains white from top to toe

the herds lie dying.

The migration to the cities begins.


© Sheila Ash, 2015

Wednesday 6 May 2015

A Man and His Camel – a devotion above all else

Gold Dust (first published in Arabic in 1990 as al-Tibr)

by Ibrahim al-Koni

Upon reading that al-Koni was a Libyan Tuareg, writing in Arabic, who had been translated into English, and now had been shortlisted for the coming 2015 International Booker I knew I had to read his books. I was then even more amazed that his books were in my local Library. I tackled this one first just because it was a short one.

It tells the story of Ukhayyad and his thoroughbred Mahri camel whom he deeply loves. Their relationship is one of both physical interdependency and spiritual communion, and one can read the camel as being a manifestation of Ukhayyad’s untamed self. A tribal sheikh tells Ukhayyad: "We always say that the Mahri is the mirror of his rider. If you want to stare into the rider and see what lies hidden within, look to his mount, his thoroughbred . . . Whoever owns a Mahri like this piebald will never complain for want of noble values."

Their story is set at the time of the Italian occupation of northern Libya and its associated warring disputes, so I am surmising the early part of the 20th century. This would still have been a time of Tuareg cross Saharan caravans and a primarily tribal nomadic lifestyle. Unfortunately for the young man, he pays a heavy price for his dedication to his camel, having to give up his wife and child, kill a man who tries to swindle him, and isolation and rejection from his family and tribe. The camel had saved his life once when, thirsty, he found a well but it had water only in its depths and there was no bucket to pull it out. Instead Ukhayyad jumps in the well tied to his camel who then pulls him free. The bond between man and animal is surpassed by nothing and no one for either party. The reader is touched by the camel’s dogged determination to return to the young man when he is pawned for grain during the devastating famine which places Ukhayyad, his wife and child in danger of death. However the young man forgets his oath and pledge to the goddess Tanit made to save his beloved Mahri.

Finally hunted by relatives of the man he had killed he is chased to the remote  rock caves at Jebel Hasawna. He attempts to finally say goodbye and send south his camel to safety and freedom in the deep Sahara and alone in the caves he is haunted by the prophetic cave art  of ancient hunting scenes and the cries of djinn and his pursuers.

The book reminded me in this aspect of Naguib Mafhouz’s A Thief and The  Dogs, and of Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist in its fable like construction and moral tale.

ashrambling’s verdict 3* A classic story of brotherhood between man and animal, the companionship that is the difference between life and death in the desert. On one hand, it is a story of endurance and love across the desert voids, and on the other it is a parable of survival human society with al its own pitfalls.