This Sparks Joy! Monthly Musings for January 2021

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

When I first decided I was going to theme my 2021 musings around “This Sparks Joy” I had intended to have each of the twelve posts focusing on one specific thing. And then 2021 actually began and I quickly realised that what I thought I should produce and what my brain actually wanted me to share were two different things.

So all the planning is out of the window and (much in the same way that my Outdoor Advent posts went from me intending to just post a picture and a quote each day into me sharing my thoughts on a variety of things that I needed to talk about and I hoped would resonate with some of you) these posts are going to be open to change and evolution. But to kick things off I’m going to talk about – and where applicable share the links to – the things that really lifted my mood, however briefly, and that have stuck in my mind over the last four weeks.

So, what has sparked joy this month?

Quite a lot, when I sit down and think about it.

My ability to dive into new worlds and creative spaces has been limited by some seasonal depression brain fog and so I’ve mostly kept that head space for my reading, which gets it’s own post later in the month. Both my TV and film consumption has mostly reverted to old favourites – The Witcher, BBC Merlin, Vera, Endeavour, The Sword in the Stone, Hercules, that sort of thing – but I did find the mental capacity for one new film. Wolfwalkers, an animated film set in Ireland during the time Oliver Cromwell was tramping about the place, is just … well, see for yourself:

If you have access to Apple TV then I cannot stress how much you need to watch this. Right now. The blog post can wait, go watch this beautiful, magical, soul healing film. I promise you won’t regret it.

I have also been sitting down each weekday evening at 6pm with my parents (whom I’m looking after for the duration of the pandemic) to watch Richard Osman’s House of Games. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know why I love it, however if you haven’t I can promise you a treat.

Basically this is a quiz show, hosted by Richard Osman, where four celebrity contestants battle over the course of five days to win the House of Games trophy. They also get to win daily prizes, all of which have that logo of Richard’s face on them and are clearly quite cheap (but not as cheap as the trophy!). The celebrities are all well known enough that it’s rare I don’t know immediately who I’m looking at and they pick well because it usually a really convivial, gentle atmosphere.

Apart from the final round, which is the same each day, the four other rounds are randomly selected via Richard pressing a button. There are enough of these that they are never repeated in the same week and many only pop up every other week. They are clever, usually very funny, and easy to join in with at home. We’ve taken to keeping score of how we do each day, although we haven’t figured out what the prize should be for “winning” yet. My favourite is “I’m Terrible at Dating” because I used to think I was absolutely awful at remembering the dates of historical events but it seems that my last five years of deep diving in to British history and my attempts at giving myself some knowledge of what went on in the USA has actually paid off. I still can’t reel off the dates to the day but I can get most of the events Richard includes to within 10 years and that makes me quite happy.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention cute animal pictures from twitter. There are far too many to link here but I will add this thread, which a friend sent to me today, that really gave me a much needed lift:

And now, having saved what I think is the best for last, and also happens to be the current obsession across most of social media …

Sea Shanties!

I’ve been really getting into British folk music since I started playing the Ukulele and knew a few sea shanties from my Dad’s side of the family (What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? being the best remembered) but I hadn’t really grasped the sheer amount of them out there, never mind the joy of watching people pick up other people’s tiktok* recordings and add themselves to the harmonies. It’s just glorious.

This was the one that started it all, Nathan Evans singing The Wellerman shanty (he recorded all the parts himself and put them together to get the harmonies):

There were lots of different versions of the Wellerman, building onto Nathan’s – added one/two/three etc people. I ran across this one with Kermit the Frog involved quite quickly:

This Wellerman I love for the introduction of a violin to the mix:

If I added all the ones I saw this post would be more than a little unwieldy but there are three more I really want to share, none of which are based on The Wellerman.

The first is a thing of haunting gloriousness (called My Mother Told Me and the lyrics come originally from one of the Icelandic Sagas):

The second is a tweet that takes you to Spotify playlist for anyone to would like an “intro to sea shanties” experience:

Thirdly there is this absolute wonder of a thing which introduced me to The Longest Johns, a Bristol based a capella folk music band who mostly sing sea shanties:

They’ve got their own website here which will allow you to listen them via your medium of choice, should you wish to.

And finally, as a last little treat, there is this; a version of The Wellerman with vaccine lyrics which makes me smile every time:


*I do not have a tiktok – I don’t really put my face onto the internet so it’s not the right medium for me – so everything I came across was via people sharing tiktoks on Twitter.

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