Historic Sites for FFCP Practice

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  1. greenwdse

    I'm faking it.

    I'm faking it in the hopes I will get by simply by sounding clever. Is this cheating or do others do it as well? It doesn't matter. I have three weeks until the big show and I've got to figure out how to do a solo for Bill Monroe's Southern Flavor. Who am I to even ASSUME I can play that fast, that intricatly, that brilliantly? I'm just some schmuck. . . trying to fake it.

    And it's not as if there's a wealth of tabs out there for it. No. I'm on my own.

    Tremoloes are my key to succeeding here. Oh, how ironic that I'd have to rely on my old nemesis, the tremolo. The B part is mostly on the middle strings - a two fingered D, then a two fingered E, back to the D. . then a two fingered B7, holding down the second fret on the A and E strings. Ok. . .ok. . I can do this. Someone get me a cuppa tea. I can do this.

    Determination and Fortitude. That's what I need. And I've come to just the right place to be inspired. About four hundred feet away, across that bridge, lies Scotland, with its kilts and whiskey and bagpipes.

    Bagpipes. Oh how the English hated the sound of bagpipes. They hated it so much that after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 that diminished the power of the clans and led to Scottish integration into a larger "Great" Britain, the sound of those bagpipes was shunned. Even tartan wearing was verboten. So Scots took up the fiddle and it became fashion.

    They were a tough people, determined to succeed, to create, to make inroads where others only dream to do so. When huge numbers of Scots settled in the colonies and into the Appalachian Mountains, they brought their fiddles and their music with them and this music would evolve into bluegrass.

    Here. . . take this lovely rendition of Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine.

    And now the three-century old Caledonian March.

    I love the Scottish. Don't you? You know why I love them? Because they live in Scotland, that's why. And Scotland, despite what you've seen in Trainspotting, is awesome. Did you know the Proclaimers have just come out with another album?

    When the industrial revolution took off in the 19th century, Scotland experienced a surge of intellectual and cultural empowerment – in the natural sciences, the arts, technology – Scotland was cranking out superminds. It was like Florence in 1500, or Vienna in 1900, or New York in 1950. Scotland was where it was happ’nin.

    This bridge may seem little. But it was huge when it was created back in 1820. The Union Bridge is one of the first ever suspension bridges and this one is still carrying traffic nearly two hundred years later. It was designed by a Royal Navy man and son of Scotland (though born in London) Samuel Brown. His creations inspired the new generation of visionary engineers that shaped the empire - like fellow Scot Thomas Telford and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This "little" bridge, was a symbol of the way forward.

    My late stepfather, an engineer who knew bridges perhaps better than anyone in the world, would have loved this place.

    It's a good place to reflect and learn determination and fortitude.

    Keep yer heid, Lad. Keep yer heid.

    History - 8
    Ambiance - 7 A River runs through it. Lovely spot.
    Acoustics - 3
    Tush magnets - 2 The bollards are scraped, because drivers think they can take their Audis on it. It's more Panda-sized!
    Seclusion - 2
    Places to hang the gig bag away from midges - 1
    Drizzle shelters - 1
    Nearby snacks - There's a honey farm up the road that has a great cafe and even better honey!
    Cost - Nada.

    Notes: It seems there are no birds of prey up here.
  2. greenwdse
    In 1780, nearly three billion miles from the planet Neptune, a girl was born to parents struggling to get by in the small Scottish town of Jedburgh. Her name was Mary Somerville and when she was young she would wander in the town and in the garden and woods and under the shadow of this enormous ancient abbey where I'm sitting and practicing. She loved to learn things. She was fascinated by the birds, and the insects. . . and her parents encouraged her to read and read - Calvinist teachings, Shakespeare, whatever she could get her mitts on.

    Others tried to make sure she stuck to needlepoint, but she couldn't stop reading and learning. As a teen she was sent to Edinburgh where she learned arithmatic and mathematical sciences and OH how she ate that up!

    She was warm and polite and social but she had morals - not having sugar in her tea as a protest against slavery. Somerville married young, and it almost ended her dreams. Her husband wanted her to mind the kids and stay in the kitchen. Mary's daughter wrote many years later how he "possessed in full the prejudice against learned women which was common at that time." And when he died while she was nursing her baby, it gave her intellect the freedom to soar. She went back to the books and studied, feeding on trigonometry, calculus, Newtonian physics and then when she found she wasn't full, she absorbed astronomy, chemistry, natural sciences, magnetism and so much more. She married again and started moving in circles that included the greats of art and literature like Turner and Sir Walter Scott. She became friend and mathematic tutor to Ada Lovelace, the mind behind modern computing. Without Somerville, it''s very possible the MandolinCafe site wouldn't be.

    Somerville published her findings on so many subjects - the relationship between light and magnetism years before Faraday, the physics behind planetary movement - collecting mathematical data that would lead to the discovery of the planet Neptune , geography and molecular science. And she did all this while making sure the kids were fed and their nappies changed.

    While in her late eighties, the philosopher John Stuart Mill had written a petition demanding parliament give women equality before the law and the right to vote. Somerville was the first to sign. She passed away, still absorbing the world around her at 91.

    When I was in college, I too fell in love with mathematics. I was lousy at it in high school, but once I started taking calculus, I started to see how things moved and speed up and twirled about. And schoolwork became puzzles. I adored it and excelled at it. And all these years later, because I never applied it to my career sadly, I've lost it. I really regret it because academically, nothing has quite taken its place.

    But Ursula, the Eastman 315, beckons me to try even harder. And that's a good thing. She makes me want to keep learning.

    So when I saw a weekend workshop run by Jesper Rubner-Petersen nearby, I leapt at the opportunity. I'll tell you all about it after I go. It's a busy time. It's after this big show I'm apparently playing in (have I formally agreed to this yet? Is there still time to back out? I'm terrified!). Learning creates new fears that need to be overcome, new challenges that need to be tackled.

    But I need to practice practice practice.

    History - 8
    Ambiance - 8
    Acoustics - 7
    Tush magnets – 8
    Seclusion – 4
    Places to hang the gig bag away from midges – 2
    Drizzle shelters - 8
    Nearby snacks - 9
    Cost - Because I'm with CADW, I get in for free. Normal prices into this glorious abbey is 6.

    Notes: The abbey is Augustinian and dates back to the 1100s. It's a lovely stroll especially around the herb gardens. Rugby backbone Greig Laidlaw is also from Jedburgh.
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