50 songs in 50 weeks

Today is April Fool’s day. It is also my half birthday, which makes me 45.5 years old precisely.

It’s no revelation that I’m currently struggling with depression caused by abject loneliness on the one hand and monumental feelings of underachieving, made worse by a baffling inability to finish creative projects on the other. I’m aware that unless I somehow get myself out of this, my future is not going to look any different.

A thought occurred to me not long ago: I would perform 50 original songs in 50 weeks and upload them onto YouTube – one song each week – and my half birthday would be the ideal date to launch this venture.

For the following 50 weeks, I would get all those half finished songs written, rehearsed, performed and uploaded, along with my already existing songs (some written many years ago and many never played publicly). This would help me push out of the darkness and give me a creative goal each week to work towards.

Why 50 songs? I don’t know. Maybe I should do 45.5 songs to reflect my age, but then that would leave one unfinished! Or, perhaps a song a week for a year? I suppose 50 felt to me like a good, solid number.

It would be easy right now to push this idea aside. April 1st is here and I find myself nine days into a particularly nasty virus, complete with nasal congestion and a silly cough, which has rendered me feeling like hell and unable to actually get a half decent note out of my mouth. And I’m right in the middle of a massive DIY project, having bought a kitchen off eBay (for a bargain £205) and ripped out my existing one. And I find myself thinking if I don’t succeed at this, then it will be another failure. But if I don’t push myself, then my music will continue to be something I am not having a decent crack at. Hmm. What to do?

Some might say that an artist should never work to deadlines, that creativity should not be scheduled or enforced and that we should all just leave it to the Muse. But, I have had inspiration and not always followed it through with enough perspiration. So, I’m making myself accountable and committing to greater effort.

As for the songs, some may turn out to be good and some might be hilariously bad – we shall see – but perhaps one or two might resonate, touch, move, entertain or bring a smile to others along the way. If nothing else, I’ll end up with 50 YouTube performances of 50 original, finished songs and every week I shall witness my own little victory over ‘not finishing’.

So, should I do this? Yeah, go on then.

The rules? Each week starts on a Monday and that week’s song must be up on YouTube by the Sunday of that week. Simple.

50 original songs in 50 weeks. Watch out world, this is not an April Fool’s joke.

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Our forces survey

Lest We Forget

The Tower of London has seen over four million visitors during its amazing Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red installation of 888,246 poppies, commemorating one hundred years since Britain became involved in the First World War. One poppy for each British life lost. I had the privilege of visiting the Tower during this exhibit.

It was very busy and very moving. Part of what made it moving was the sheer number of people who crammed around to see, and the reverence they showed.

And then the 888,246 poppies. How do you count that? How do you get your head around that? A sea of red. A sea of blood. A sea of sacrifice.

Below are some images I captured (click to enlarge).


Planting poppies

Crowds as poppies spill


Our forces survey

The Tower and the poppies

Beefeater among the poppies

Lest we forget

© Rosaleen Donnan

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What Not to do with a Half Frozen Bottle of Water

I’m sharing this in the hopes that nobody else ever does such a thing.

Why would they? I hear you ask. Yes, I know. It was stupid.

In an effort to live a fully hydrated existence I’ve been buy two litre bottles of value carbonated water  - which you can get for about 20p  - and drinking it by the pint, which is actually a rather lovely experience when it’s nice and cold.

In an effort to chill a bottle quickly I stuck it in the freezer. To my dismay after removing it, I realised that about half of it was frozen solid. I unscrewed the lid and found that the neck of the plastic bottle had a giant plug of ice frozen into it.

This prompted me immediately to think something immensely foolish: I shall bite around the top of the bottle and it will dislodge the plug and then I shall be able to pour water around it and into my glass!

Sadly my thought became an action and I placed my mouth around the neck of the bottle ready to bite the ice free.

It was at this point that the full force of the not-yet-frozen carbonated water,  held under significant pressure, was released, propelling the ice plug at high speed across my tongue and straight into the roof of my mouth, whilst simultaneously, shooting unknown quantities of itself down my throat and airway.

The ice plug ricocheted back out of my mouth and across the dining room floor.

The noise was profound to say the least – a mighty explosion taking place within my own head and thus heard from both outside and inside of my own body.

At first I didn’t know whether I had just seriously maimed myself. I was choking on the water and spitting blood and my entire mouth cavity felt like it had been the victim of some sort of evil ice grenade.

I checked. My teeth were still there. My lips were not bleeding. Aha, just my tongue and the roof of my mouth lacerated, then.

I spat a bit more blood. Eventually I stopped choking.

What remains these eighteen hours later as I write this is a cut up and painful roof of mouth and tongue and a swollen and painful airway and the realisation that it could have been a lot worse. I am grateful that it wasn’t.

Sometimes things are funny and not funny at the same time. This is one of those things. Please do learn from my monumental silliness: half frozen fizzy water is not a toy.

Rosaleen Donnan


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Pumpkin does binkies

Bunny Binkies in the Grass

Binkies are a sudden twist or leap done by a rabbit, usually as a sign of complete joy. It can be a head twist, a flick of the feet, or a full body movement.

The video below is a collection of binkies by Pumpkin, filmed back in 2010 on a little handheld cam (this was before he met Snowdrop).

I thought it would be fitting to compose a little tune to go with this video so I’ve accompanied it with a piece called ‘Binkies in the Grass’, which I wrote and performed on my Martin OM21L guitar.

Behold, three minutes of sheer bunny binky indulgence.

(c) Rosaleen Donnan

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LA Freeway

Cine From the Archives – Los Angeles 91

I happened to have my camcorder with me recently when I dropped in to see my sister Rachel and family. My bro in law Gary was playing old cine film from years ago.

He loaded up a reel which he filmed when he and Rachel visited me in Los Angeles in the Fall of 1991. I was living out there at the time and on a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with Youth With A Mission (YWAM).

I grabbed my camcorder and recorded the footage as it played.

There’s something about cine. It seems to instantly age any footage filmed and propel it into the category ‘timeless’.

The video captures moments of their visit to Southern California and includes footage taken when my DTS went to South Central.

It reminds me of a time when things were simpler, God was easier to find and the sun was guaranteed to shine. Very happy memories.

Those of you who were there, yes,  that is Jonathan and Kay Charlotte doing the American Slide and jumping around in the middle of Compton.

Gary always accompanied this film with U2′s Hollywood mix of their 1988 song Desire – the two really fit together.

I love the scratches on the film. No After Effects plugin needed there.

I’ve edited U2′s Hollywood mix to fit it with the length of the cine film – just officially saying that in an effort to be transparent about all things copyright related.

Rosaleen Donnan

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Thoughts About D-Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

I’ve grown up seeing the black and white footage of young men jumping off boats and into freezing water and flying bullets.

I’ve been moved by the brilliant cinematography and storytelling of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.

I’ve even played it on the PlayStation.

But I am reminded that history is real and made by the lives of real people.

I am reminded that my own Granddad landed somewhere along that 50 mile stretch of coast line in the days which followed D-Day.

A couple of years ago I went to Normandy and visited war memorials with graves stretched out around me and I read the names of men who gave their lives.

I stood on some of the beaches and tried to imagine being there on June 6, 1944, with all that carnage going on.

How did it really feel to give your life there and how did it really feel to survive it? I can feel something but I cannot really know.

I’ve tried to do the maths and fathom the price paid but it doesn’t add up. Human blood has incalculable worth.

I’ve tried to imagine how now would look if history had been different and if bravery had not been so monumental and sacrifice not so freely given.

I’ve wondered but I cannot truly comprehend this.

All I am left with is to give my gratitude to every allied soldier who landed on those beaches 70 years ago. Thank you.

Here are some photos I took when I visited.

Rosaleen Donnan

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Beautiful Dereliction

My sister let me in on the whereabouts of a secret derelict location somewhere not so far away, so we spent a few minutes exploring it the other day.

There is a bit of a niche interest at the moment in shooting derelict urban sites so, not to be left out, here are some photos I shot.

We wanted to respect the site and so we only stayed for a few minutes and we did get permission from someone who lived on the same land. Sneaking onto derelict sites is not something I am endorsing – it’s trespassing and it can be a health and safety risk.

Three thoughts:

1. Nature reclaims the planet quickly once humans leave the scene.

2. Dereliction can feel a bit creepy.

3. Dereliction can be beautiful.

Rosaleen Donnan

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pumpkin flops

Bunny Flops

When your bunny does a flop it’s a sign that your bunny is utterly blissed out and content. It can appear surprising, even alarming to a human when a bunny throws itself into a flop but it is a wonderful thing. The bunny is happy beyond words. All it can do is flop!

Here is some footage I took in 2010 and 2011 on a little Sony Webbie HD video cam I used back then.

Be prepared for bunny cuteness.

Rosaleen Donnan

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falling for something

Falling For Something

Here’s a song I wrote quite a number of years ago, probably around 2006.

It’s about time I got it out there in some kind of recorded form so here it is on YouTube.

It’s a funny old thing just how serious/angst ridden I look when I sing sometimes. I probably need to work on that because I’m truly not feeling that way at the time. I think it’s all that concentration!

Rosaleen Donnan

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The Return of the Red Kite

Some of us in the UK might’ve noticed that we’ve been seeing regular sightings of a bird which we did not grow up with.

Red kites were a common sight all over the UK back in the Middle Ages. As carrion birds they mainly feed on dead animals and, of course, there was plenty of that sort of thing lying around in medieval times.

The birds almost became extinct here in the UK. In 15th century Scotland, people were encouraged to kill them and in 16th century England, they were almost totally wiped out under the ‘vermin act’ in the centuries that followed and, so, by the end of the 19th century, they survived only in parts of Wales, in ever dwindling numbers.

After being carefully and successfully bred and introduced back into various parts of the UK (starting in 1989) they have become a familiar sight again for many of us, and this success story continues as this work continues.

You can tell a red kite by its white bands on the under side of the wing and chestnut brown colouring and also by the shape of its tail, which is forked inwards and not fanned outwards. Their wingspan can be over five foot.

I’ve been really excited to see red kites recently in Bracknell – even flying over my garden – but I hadn’t been able to photograph them with my standard lens.

I recently picked up a Canon EFS 55 – 250mm ISII for £100. It’s truly amazing what a £100 lens can do – okay, these images are not pro (feel free to buy me £2000 worth of glass for that!), but this lens has captured the birds’ beautiful colourings quite well I think. Below are some pics I shot last Monday near Henley-on-Thames.

Rosaleen Donnan

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Dad Plays Air Trumpet

My Inheritance Track

Recently my writing group was given an exercise entitled My Inheritance Track, based on a concept which ran from 2008 to 2011 on BBC Radio Four’s show Saturday Live, where guests chose a significant, cherished piece of music or song they’d inherited and then shared a song they’d want to pass on to future generations. Our creative writing task was to focus on the first part and write about a song we felt we had inherited. Here’s what I wrote.

My inheritance Track

The record player sat in the centre of our veneered wood chip seventies shelving solution which took up one entire wall of our sitting room.

My early years were before the days of portable music or headphones (at least, we didn’t have such devices) and so it was from the sitting room that any recorded musical sound waves made their way into my life.

Three or four songs come to mind which I would consider inherited but I’ll select Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. My strongest memories of this song are not, however, from any vinyl spun on the record player but from my dad’s own regular performances around the house.

He still does this.

My dad’s fingers become drumsticks upon any kitchen appliance or desk or door or other improvised surface. The melodies themselves are usually expressed as a trumpet or a saxophone.  A double bass may also feature. Mimes are included.

Traffic lights provide an opportunity for a quick musical interlude at the steering wheel. Actually, I can’t think of a situation where my dad might not burst into a musical rendition of any particular favourite song of his.

One happy memory of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore involves me sitting with my dad at a beachside bar in Mombassa, Kenya, enjoying a Tusker beer when a jazz band appeared behind us and kicked off with that familiar refrain, courtesy of a saxophone. This time it wasn’t coming from my dad. We both laughed in celebration of hearing something so familiar. It was as though they had played it just for us.


So, anyway, I was at my sister’s, busy thinking I should post this little article, and, as though reading my mind, my dad began clicking through a few backing tracks he now owns on his Macbook and burst into a rendition of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, this time singing the lyrics but complete with instrumental accompaniments (and mimes). I asked him to go back to the start of the song and I captured the video on my Nexus 4 phone. Here it is below (apologies for shaky footage).


Rosaleen Donnan

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creative musings and offerings.