#2: Things Are Swingin’ – Peggy Lee

If you listen to Peggy Lee singing “Things Are Swingin'” I probably don’t have to write a word about why it makes me happy. Great song. Great arrangement. Great delivery. It’s on the iPod that lives in my bathroom, so it’s often the shower soundtrack (a change from Que Sera Sera in my early twenties, but that’s another story). It’s so well crafted on every level – the lyrics are witty but not too clever, that sparkling piano against the horn arrangements, swing that makes you want to move, and the delight of Peggy Lee’s singing (she had to be smiling while she was recording).

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along:
Things are swingin’,
Birds are singin’,
And just what do you think those bells are doin’ but ringin’?
‘Cause they have to ring to make this whole thing rhyme,
And you know that things are swingin’ all the time.
If the news is
What the blues is,
Then we’d better just practice up on our ones and twoses,
‘Cause where love is you can always find a rhyme,
And where love is, things are swingin’ all the time.
It’s as simple as
As a dimple,
Just remember that
You can find some brand new swingin’ ideas
Underneath your hat!
So keep countin’,
Keep it mountin’,
Till you think it must be Ponce de Leon’s fountain!
Yes, the fountain of youth, for those who know the score,
Means that things will keep on swingin’ for evermore.
Like an ocean
That’s in motion,
Like the wind that’s blowin’ the boat right in to shore,
It’s the livin’est thing to live and breathe
And keep on laughin’ up your sleeve;
Things are swingin’ and they’ll keep swingin’ some more.
Yes, things are swingin’ and they’ll keep swingin’ some more,
Let’s keep on swingin’ and swing right out the door!
Songwriters: Jack Marshall / Peggy Lee

Happiness as anarchy

Like many, I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning and face an election result that indicates the Australian public has descended even further into selfishness, ignorance and greed. But I did get up and looked at a glorious Autumn sky, and read the wise words of fellow Ballarat musician, Mick Trembath:

“Happiness is the great act of anarchy now.
Contentedness is the great revolution.”

His words gave me hope and reminded me that we all have the power to change things, and that small change is equally important as big change.

As I tended my garden and talked to my chickens, I decided that sharing happiness is important. To that end I have decided to post everyday for a year a little something that brings me joy and makes me smile (in no particular order).

#1: Watching autumn paint the leaves in yellow and orange and red

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These are Riesling grape vine leaves in my front yard. I can see the vines from my lounge room window and observe the changing seasons. There aren’t many leaves left on the vine, but the afternoon sun catches the remaining leaves in all their glory. I could prune now, but I’ll wait until all the leaves have dropped, enjoying their beauty for another week or so.

Dying cowboys and double basses

Like the 19th century prairie, recording is a strange blend of high stress, fun and the beauty of being completely in the moment. The stress is in making something semi-permanent and paying for studio time, and the beauty lies in a dedicated time and space centred on sound and capturing the music. So it’s an absolute treat to take out the stressful part and record on a whim without any risk (read: cost) or outcome (read: album to release), which is exactly what I did a week or so ago.

This is how it happened:

Rex: “Hey Amie, do you want to record some stuff at The Main Bar sometime?”

Amie: “I’d love to. How about Wednesday night?”

Rex: “Cool. Let’s do it.”

So we did. Twas a great night recording some songs with piano, uke and double bass. No stress because it didn’t matter if we got any good recordings out of it or not. The funny thing is a lot of went quite well!

Here’s a sample: Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie

 

Prescription #2: De Bortoli Noble One, Botrytis Semillon 2003

A few weeks ago I had a serious tidy of the ‘keeping’ section of my cellar. It’s the part where you can’t stand up properly, need a torch to see anything and definitely cannot negotiate after too many drinks. My faithful drinking companion was there to assist me in the record keeping department and to hear my excited noises when I rediscovered old bottles I’d forgotten. It’s a bit like bumping into old friends, there’s a whole lot of love there but you’re not sure if you should leave them be to age gracefully or grab them by the hand and go out partying.

Most of the bottles stayed put, but we opened the 2003 Noble One, based on it’s colour. For a wine that’s only 15 years old, it is extraordinarily dark, which raised a red flag for how the wine would taste. I’m pleased to say it’s still drinking very well. Aromas of caramel and apricots, with just a smidge of kero, like the perfume of someone who has just left the room. On the palate prunes and walnuts. It’s smooth, not overly sweet or cloying like some stickies can be, and a good line of acid to balance. But the best thing is that a sticky will last in fridge for quite a while, so I’m still enjoying it a few weeks later. In fact, I’m having a little sip as I type!

Noble One

Prescription #1: Innocent Bystander 2011 Pinot Noir

I went hunting in the cellar last night for a bottle of Pinot Noir and discovered a box of Innocent Bystander 2011 Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley.

As you would expect from a wine that is seven years old, it is brick coloured, but still quite bright. On the nose there are smoky tones and red berries, and some delicate spices. It’s very smooth in the mouth, with a pleasing amount of acid and lingering tannins, and savoury, dark fruit flavours.

Dosage: 1-2 glasses with friend(s)
Take with food: baked figs stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and sprinkled with thyme.

wine bottle and glass

Bilbao

I’ve been trying to find the time and presence to write a blog that adequately captures my four days in Spain, but it seems to have resulted in not writing anything at all. From Paris I flew to Bilbao, the capital of the Basque country in north-western Spain. Our evening flight took us over the Pyrenees at sunset, their verdant glory bathed in golden light. Tiny villages are nestled in the valleys, with winding roads connect them, looking like sheep tracks from the air.
It was still light when I arrived in the city centre. In keeping with the beauty of the city, which I would discover over the next two days, the centre is not a square, but a circle, and planted with a carpet of vibrantly coloured flowers.
(To do justice to the beauty of Bilbao, I’m must put in lots of photos. If you want to see more detail, double click or right click the photo and open it full size. Keep scrolling, because my favourite photo is at the bottom.)
DSC03507That’s the original Hotel Carlton in the background, built between 1919 and 1926, and the first hotel in Spain to have ensuite bathrooms (read more of it’s history here). I splurged on two night’s accommodation here and it was absolutely lovely, from the receptionist who tolerated my abysmal Spanish, to the porter who carried my backpack and ukulele with the same style as if it were Louis Vuitton, the crisp white linen, elegant furniture in the room, the grand staircase (I couldn’t bring myself to take the lift), stained glass dome in the hall and chandeliers sprinkled about. DSC03550I could live here quite happily.

I wandered the city all day and into the evening, eating Pintxos – the Basque equivalent of tapas – drinking thick hot chocolate and taking in the beauty. I was struck by the architecture, with all it’s colour and decoration, and the way of life. It’s a stylish, yet relaxed city that I have fallen completely in love with.

Most of the buildings are just apartment and office buildings, like the first green one here. The next one is the Town Hall, with gryphons sitting on the light posts.

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The colours are wonderful, especially with the vibrant green of the hills surrounding the  city, which sits in the valley by the river.

 

So many of the buildings have decorative crowns, mosaic façades, and figures on the corners. The photo below is taken from the Guggenheim Museum, looking over the river and west to the mountains. The Guggenheim exhibits were not entirely my cup of tea, but it was definitely interesting, and the fact that I’m still pondering what I saw tells me it was a worthwhile visit.DSC03562
DSC03551This one below is the front of the Bilbao opera house, built in 1901, and an incredible example of Belle Epoque architecture. The detail is quite extraordinary.

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Old Time Barge

After the Ukulele Festival on Friday and Saturday, my weekend in Paris continued on a musical note on Sunday with the Old Time & Bluegrass Festival. I’d chosen my Airbnb for its proximity to the festivals but I didn’t realise I’d be able to spot the venue from my bedroom window. Looking out to the canal and a little bit left (see my previous post for a photo) the red and yellow stripes of the Anako marked the spot. It’s an old barge that is now a music venue with a bar and concert space inside and a deck outside. I’m not sure if it still moves, but it certainly floats.

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I spent the afternoon on the deck jamming with an eclectic mix of Old Time and Bluegrass players from many corners of the globe who find themselves in Paris. DSC03491

I bumped into Heather Stewart from Melbourne (now based in Paris), watched a young band from North Carolina flat foot dance by the canal with a beer, had too many coffees, learnt about the migration of folk music to America, and descended into the barge for the evening concert. There is something fabulous about being at water level but inside. Even in May the sun is already setting quite late so the portholes gave a view of the canal and people wandering on Sunday evening.

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I caught up with a few friends on Monday and wandered in the sunshine before heading off to the airport to catch a plane down to Bilbao in the north west of Spain. This weekend is definitely my favourite time to be in Paris (with my ukulele) and I may just have to make it an annual trip.