Friday, December 31, 2010

Where is Swords' Buzz gone? - Panto Day 3

Some months ago I blogged about how Swords town was buzzin' - lots of life about the place, kids had plenty of outlets for their creativity, dance schools, choirs, musical groups, sport, music lessons, art lessons - whatever turns you on.

Tonight I feel like taking it all back and agreeing with the Grinch in my office who claims Swords is the most apathetic town in the North County. We had to cancel our evening show tonight because we only had six people in the audience to entertain. Normally we would entertain anyone who showed but in this case all attendees were related to cast members and were happy to wait until tomorrow to see the show. Houses have been very poor throughout the run and it is disheartening to stand on stage and address empty chairs.

But it was the small children I felt sorriest for. Truth be told I was glad for a night off - I forgot how much energy one uses in performing and an early relaxed night is very welcome. But the little 'uns were disappointed. I felt not only for the cast members under ten but for our lovely Sleeping Beauty's daughter who had come along with her father and her grandmother to see us. A perfect peach of a child, as talented and beautiful as her mother. She came backstage to be greeted by us all and to strike a blow with a sword upon the person of the wicked witch for daring to try to eliminate her mother twice a day over a five day period. She loved all the attention and went away happy enough - assuring us that she would be onstage with us all next year.

But the little soldier who marches around manfully for the Teddy Bears Picnic every performance but who has been too shy to take a bow up to now had decided that tonight was his night was more than a little crestfallen. Poor little fella.

However - onwards and upwards. And if you know anyone , ANYONE - within a ten mile radius of Swords beg them to come and see us in Rivervalley Community Centre on tomorrow Saturday Jan 1st or Sunday Jan 2nd at 2pm and 5pm. PPPLLEEEASE!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Panto - Day 2

We were all exhausted today but determined to put on better shows than yesterday. Today was the technical glitches day- spots in peculiar places, overlong blackouts and the occasional burst of music when there should be none. But we got around it all and I think our audiences (small but discerning!) were happy.

I thought about the huge amount of work that goes into producing a panto - and all of it in people's spare time - building and painting the set - the theatre company actually built a stage as there was none in the community centre. Then there is sourcing all the music and rounding up musicians willing to help out, lighting and sound expertise, make-up artistes, costumes, front-of-house, advertising and promotion, stage and music directors and the backstage staff. We have a brilliant hip-hop group perform, The All-Stars - all local teenage girls - and by God are they talented. A huge number of people in the background; then you throw a fairly big cast in on top of it including children - a lot of the actors very inexperienced but full of enthusiasm. It does seem a shame that so few people see all that work.

The show is more polished now (after 4 performances we have probably made up the rehearsal time lost to bad weather.) So if you are in the vicinity of Swords between now and Sunday Jan 2nd pop up to Rivervalley Community Centre at 2pm or 5pm and join in the fun. I can guarantee a laugh and some fabulous singing and a magical tale for the under fives. Plus our Sleeping Beauty is Russian and can say 'Jaysis' with a full Dublin accent (pas devant les enfants..and never on stage!)

I swear, we're worth it!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Panto Queen, Old and Battered, Only Umpteen-teen

Well, we got through it. The first day of our Panto run that is – two shows today and the only thing that didn’t happen was someone falling off the stage. I bet that’ll be tomorrow.

Half the cast arrived with colds/’flus (depending on ones sex), caught, we decided, from third courtier (left) at yesterday’s dress rehearsal in a very large fridge which was masquerading as a community centre. The burst water pipes in said community centre hadn’t helped, although we all arrived for rehearsal suitably booted in wellies. Who says amateur drama is a non-risk hobby!

There were fluffed lines all over the place, people tripping over hems of overlong costumes, a nightmarish ten minutes ( actually two but it felt like ten) when nobody seemed to know what was happening next because the sound man forgot to hit the button with the fill-in narration. He wasn’t a very sound man for long – he was a shook man after the producer got her hands on him, it was alright though she’s married to him. For now.

Seriously…that’s ridiculous because how can any comment about Panto be serious. For a show that only had a full cast twice in the last three weeks because of snow, ice, and flippin’ Christmas we didn’t do too badly. All our really good singers sang their solos to perfection. Our fairies were farcically brilliant and Sleeping Beauty was beautiful - helped enormously by the fact that she is in her mid twenties but looks fourteen and has a delightful Russian accent. The camaraderie between Prince Valiant and Dandini was great and their number went really well – the rest of us muddled through and camped it up big time although the energy was way down by the second act of the second show. Somebody did wander into a scene where they had no reason to be and was shooed off by waspish mad good fairies! Hilarious - for those of us backstage anyway

But despite everything that went awry I sat backstage after my first exit and inhaled and felt the tingle of that - long ago and far away - very first performance again; for one brief minute. That excitement – knowing you are going onstage, not as yourself but as someone that others can relate to on a different level to ordinary everyday social interaction.

If I thought too much about it, I would have the decency to feel embarrassed that I had asked friends and neighbours and work colleagues to come and watch me practising my hobby – and pay cash to do same! I mean, it’s a bit self- indulgent. But as I left the centre (knackered) I met two little girls waiting for their Dad. They recognised me and pointed at me, whispering.

- Hello! I said - Did you enjoy the show?-
- Oh yes, said little girl#1 -The Sleeping Beauty was very beautiful-
- And the funny fairies were so funny - added little girl#2 – Oh! I wish I could have been up there too!

I laughed and waved at them and left the place with a smile on my face. Knowing that at least for those two wee girls it was as magical as I felt it should be. And above all as a cast of ordinary individuals – shop assistants, librarians, office workers, electricians, Mammys and Daddys, real people – we had strived to do out best and tell a story and ‘do all the voices.’

A story of hope, of love and laughter and song and the belief that together we can defeat the evil witch and live happily ever after.

As long as we don’t fall off the stage.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Upstairs Downstairs...again

Halleluia! They didn't make a mess of it. It's not the same obviously. My Mam isn't sitting by the fire, a tiddly on the mantlepiece and her sewing on her lap. I'm not just out of my bath, tartan dressing-gowned and slippered, cup of milky tea and two Marietta biscuits, dying to see the goings on of the Bellamy household. Mam loved the Upstairs crowd, I far preferred Downstairs. The servant classes had to work harder but at least (apart from Mr Hudson) they could more or less be themselves once that Upstairs lot weren't about.

What am I talking about? Why the new three part Upstairs Downstairs that started on BBC1 tonight of course.

No. 165 is revisited in 1936 - a different world in some ways to the one the Bellamy family left and a world that is about to change again, this time irrevocably. Rose, loyal servant of the house for 40 years is the only original cast member back, helping the new Lord and Lady staff and run their house on a shoestring. A sassy kitchen maid, a wonderful cook who loves to cook but only for discerning palates, a marvelous butler with all sorts of little habits. A cheeky chauffeur. A bit of a brat of a sister to the lady of the house. Germans. Wallis Simpson. A delightfully eccentric mother-in-law. A fight over a girl. Superb costuming and casting. And of course that glorious house - always as much a character in the series as any cast member. I laughed when I saw the maid pushing and upright vacuum cleaner on the landing for I remembered being horrified that Rose and Daisy had to daily hand sweep all those stairs 'in the olden days'.

So yes, as a piece of nostalgia it fully satisfied me, I wonder what those viewers without that viewpoint thought? I did feel that the female 'upper' class characters were a little vacuous and somewhat reminiscent of characters from the endless Agatha Christie remakes, I think British TV and film really ought to move on from these - they've been done to death (bad pun - ouch permitted).

However overall it worked for me - gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling Christmas fails to give me now that Santa has deserted the house. I had a little weep and a little smile and was glad to conjure up some happy memories of childhood Saturday nights.

Plus I'm dying to see what happens next.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Randomers on public transport

I only started driving a few years ago and although I don't miss waiting for completely unreliable buses, as a writer I do miss the wealth of material one overhears.

I was reminded of this last Saturday evening as we waited in a freezing station for a Dart. Two young 'wans' - scantily clad and carrying cans of cider waited too and with the neck that only alcohol can bring started chatting up son#1 and his mates. One of the lads has spacers in his ears which create a hole in the lobe that enlarges with time. The girls were fascinated and wanted to put their fingers through it, the poor lad was terrified! So I started to chat to the ladies to deflect attention from the boys. I explained how the spacers worked and young wan#1 said she'd never get them but she had a tattoo.

She showed me a nice little rose on her shoulder, then she said,
- I'm going to get something written in Hindu on the back of me neck.
- Why Hindu? I asked
- Ah I like the writing and it's kinda mysterious like, isn't it
- Unless you go to India, I opined
- Janey, I'll never go to India. I'm terrified of India and Belgium.
This statement made with wide-eyed innocence

We all erupted into laughter.

- Why on earth are you terrified of Belgium? I asked
- I saw this film once about this heroin addict and it was set in Belgium. Terrible it was.
- Where's Belgium? asked the second young wan -Is it in Germany?-
- Well it's not TOO far from it, I smiled
- Ah it doesn't matter sure I'll never be going there either.' said young wan#1!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

For Chrissake......

Fr. Brian D'Arcy was on the radio this morning with Marion Finucane. It was a most interesting interview and I'd say his fellow clerics and the real Christian men and women (outside of the hierarchy) will applaud him.

Brian said that all the old certainties are gone. Church. Government. Banks. Big Business. People are frightened, nothing feels safe anymore and as we always have known but choose to ignore none of us knows what tomorrow may bring.

Brian talked about the message of Jesus Christ - the Beatitudes - and said that they are the real advice for Life, not the commandments. The Beatitudes are messages full of serenity and love. Brian also talked about being chaplain to those in the media glare and his efforts to comfort and console these people in times of great stress. Being under constant scrutiny by the whole country must be incredibly stressful, I'm sure some of our 'celebs' can only feel relaxed when they shut their front doors and seal themselves away from a public hungry for gossip and quick to condemn. To many these 'stars' are the new Gods, they are admired, influence thinking and it is hard when we find that they too have feet of clay. But as always we should practise the maxim 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

How did Christ's beautiful simple message get translated into the mess that is the Catholic Church today? It makes me weep and want to rage against Rome, demand that every man and woman within the Church walk away from their fine buildings, their art treasures and the billions in their banks.

The clergy - if they wish to really follow Christ - must walk away from all this power and glory, this - stuff. Stuff that was bought on the pennies contributed by the poor, by my mother and grandmother by your father and grandfather, on laundry made and washed by young women, on the sale of children to wealthier families, on rosary beads made by tots.

Out. Out. Out. You must leave. Throw yourselves on the mercy of your congregations - Let's see if you can REALLY follow Christ's teachings. Many do - but far too many do not. Help us . Please. Guide us through life, console us in our grief, visit our sick hold our hand when we are dying.Do NOT tell us how we should behave. Accept us, in all our wonderful flawed humanity.

TELL THE TRUTH - for it truly sets you free.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mother Teresa's bin babies and my knitting career

In 1980s Ireland with unemployment and taxation high, money was scarce even for those in employment. Sound familiar?

I was single, living in my parents' home and my social life consisted of involvement in an amateur drama group, one night’s boozing and dancing at the weekend and of course gossiping with friends. We didn’t do gel nails and hair straighteners, clothes from BT2 and designer handbags, we had no internet, mobile phone and few of us drove our own cars but having a laugh with pals, listening to music, chatting about what was on TV and admiring each other on a night out as we searched for a mate we did – much as men and women have always done. Imagine that! We aren’t such dinosaurs after all.

One thing I have noticed a return to in this recession is knitting. A friend of mine alerted me to Springwools in Tallaght. Springwools has been on the go for decades, they’ve always had loyal customers but are now experiencing an upsurge in trade thanks to the attractiveness of a non-expensive past-time and the fact that they use the internet to promote their business, a webpage, a facebook page and secure online shopping – this last a godsend to those of us who have had difficulty in sourcing yarn (particularly something a little different) over the last decade or so. The lovely Zita and her family are doing all in their power to make knitting popular and sexy again, of course those of us who always knit always knew this!

My knitting history started with Mother Teresa in the early 1980s. Two of the girls I worked with were feverishly knitting up little white articles on four small needles everyday at lunchtime (this before such things as flexitime, paninis and lattes) We made tea in the canteen ( now called staff restaurant) brought in out own sambos and bitched our lunch hour away. It was dangerous not to be in the canteen at lunchtime – because conversation always tended to be about the absent one! When my workmates explained to me that the white articles evolving on their needles were in fact vests for Mother Teresa’s bin babies I thought it wonderful. These tiny knitted garments would leave our canteen and wing their away across the world; ending up warming the tiny malnourished body of an unwanted baby. I begged the girls to show me how to knit. I drove them mad for a week, I couldn’t hold the needles or wool properly, my tension was too tight and as I smoked at the time I had to stop after every few stitches for a pull of my fag smouldering in the ashtray in front of me (Imagine! Smoking indoors! In work! Where food was consumed!)

I wasn’t a great pupil but my enthusiasm was infectious and soon I had several others signing up And we all sat around the table knitting and bitching. The lads who normally sat with us left when they saw the needles coming out. I think they intimidated them in some way, as our needles clicked so did our tongues. Perhaps we reminded them uneasily of some powerful matriarchal figure in their lives! Whatever. They left - we knitted and talked about them!

I could not finish off this little vest properly. I was a disaster and as days went by I was ripping back, cursing and attempting again to knit off in a way that would permit a baby’s head to pass through the garment, doing it wrong, re-ripping, re-knitting , re..etcetera etcetera – you get the picture. At this stage my Calcutta baby’s vest was dingy and disgustingly bally from all the abuse the wool got. In frustration one morning on the way into work I decided that I’d had enough and deliberately left the vest, wool needles and all on the bus. I went into work with enormous relief and quite enjoyed my performance of faked annoyance at tea-break that day, ‘all the bloody work’ I wailed ( I was 22 and single with no responsibilites, I didn’t know what work was!).

Hoist by my own petard – as always. My kindly workmate who had so diligently helped me learn how to knit went down to CIE’s Lost and Found that lunch time and arrived back triumphantly to the canteen with the offending garment in hand. My heart sank and I had to come clean. The girls roared with laughter and I was never, ever, let forget it. They finished off my vest and it was duly sent off to India. So at that canteen table I learned how to knit, helped dress a baby and had the best time in the company of lovely women. I went on to knit garments for myself – some successful, others not. I knit lots of little cardigans hats and bootees for the boys when they were babies, some dreadful some gorgeous. I have knit alone and in the company of others – it is intensely therapeutic. It is a skill. You can make garments that are quite truly original (not always a good thing!). But I think the thing I liked most about knitting is the conversations I have had around it. People seem to regard it as a defunct skill of a backward rural populace – and yes I know all about cheap mass produced fleece etcetera. It may no longer be as widely practised but it’ll never be defunct. Not once we have women who like sitting together and blethering, or sitting alone and relaxing while still being occupied.

So off with you now to, buy some needles and wool and start your own little Stitch 'N Bitch group – you might surprise yourself with a new found talent. At best you’ll have a life long hobby, at worst a good night in with pals! And something new to wear.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The IMF and The Magic Treacle Jug........

Listening to Messrs Lenihan, Cowen and assorted hangers-on over the past week, and in particular the Budget speeches from Dail Eireann today, put me in mind of a story by Enid Blyton that son #2 loved when he was a smallie. It was 'The Magic Treacle Jug' and was one of those stories he asked for over and over again. It was about a naughty elf or goblin or brownie (one of them yokes) who spied a little old lady who had a constant supply of treacle for her pudding from a magic jug. All she ever had to do was say 'Pour jug' - or some such command (it's been a while since I read it)- and the jug would oblige with a dollop of thick sweet treacle.

Anyway this naughty little person stole the jug from the old woman's kitchen window and ran home delighted with himself, he now had an endless supply of treacle for whatever pudding he wanted or even just to eat on its own. When the goblin reached home he made himself a pudding and when it cooled a little ( very careful not to burn himself this goblin)he sat down, rubbed his hands in glee and he commanded the magic treacle jug to pour. And pour it did.

Unfortunately for our naughty goblin he neglected to hang around the old woman's kitchen window long enough to learn the magic words which would stop the treacle jug pouring. He paid dearly for his ignorance and deviousness. His pudding, plate, table, floor, kitchen, house and finally he himself were soon covered in black sticky treacle. I think the story ended when the old woman (really a good witch natch) arrived, stopped the treacle jug pouring and after she scolded the goblin she retrieved her property and left him to clean up the mess he made

So there you are - a fairytale designed to teach the under fives the basic life lesson that those who pour from any pot not their own invariably end up in a sticky mess. Maybe I should have been reading that story to the government ( and many of the people) of this god forsaken bog at the same time I was reading it to my toddler. Perhaps then the command 'Pour jug' might not have issued. We mightn't all have colluded in the sticky pouring but by god we're all having to collude to clear it up. It's that or drown in the bloody stuff.

The real problem of course is that in this all too real life there is no good witch to come along and make everything ok. The IMF have scolded us alright and we are shamefacedly trying to clear up our mess. Meanwhile the treacle jug, like the banks and developers, is sitting smugly back on the shelf - empty but intact and gathering dust. I hope if we ever use that treacle again we do so with a spell-book in hand. And a good witch supervising.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mary Byrne's X Factor

I'm not a great television watcher. I watch 'Emmerdale' occasionally, 'Casualty' on a Saturday night, and sometimes 'Holby City' on a Tuesday. I avoided all the Big Brother and Celebrity Get Me In, Out or roundabout type shows like the plague. The only draw back to this was the fact that I hadn't got the faintest idea what my fellow tea-breakers were talking about for years. But I must admit that I usually watch the X Factor if there is an Irish interest (once Casualty is over).

And by God do we have an Irish interest this year. Mary Byrne for me symbolises all that is positive, life-affirming and above all resilient about this little island of ours. That lady is giving it welly, cheered on by Louis Walsh and every man, woman and child in Ireland. Mary is single-handedly cheering us all up - it's on a par with your county team winning the All-Ireland despite being broke and bloody freezing - actually it's better than that.

I wonder do I identify with Mary because we are the same age-group and from similar backgrounds. I learned today that she too lost her mother many years ago and like me still misses her Mam. Mary only started to really flex her vocal chords in recent years (although she always sang) as I only started to find my writing voice, after years and years of voracious reading. Perhaps both of us were building up our words/songs until we felt brave enough to throw everything at it.

Son#1 sings and plays guitar and he and 'the band' are in a local competition on Thursday. I teased them that they are on their way to be Ireland's 2011 entrants for X Factor and their eyes lit-up. I see the same light in Mary's eyes - the light of self belief and drive. Maybe we could all take a leaf from our teenagers and Mary Byrne. We have today, let's get through it. And tomorrow? Well, we'll cope with that then.

Hard work, determination and above all self-belief and we can have an Ireland we can yet again be proud of.

Lecture over.Carpe Diem and........ G'wan ye gud ting, Mary.

P.S. I wonder if I e-mailed Simon Cowell would he make sure that Mary's performance next week doesn't clash with Casualty?!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The homes of Donegal

Just back from an overnight in my beautiful Donegal. We were all up to celebrate the birthday of one of the Cunningham clan. All twelve of Teresa's children were there, coming from all over Ireland, from London and most especially from Chicago. It is only the second time in twenty years that they have all been together. It made for a very special night.

The drive up was fabulous - I normally groan at the thought of three and a half hours trapped in the car with my family but for once the lads didn't squabble and we were all stunned into silence by the beauty of the early evening sunset over the magnificent scenery. I commented that any tourist arriving into Ireland and travelling by car towards the Northwest would have been gobsmacked by the beauty.

The Cunningham clan gathered and gathered and gathered. The food was top class, the wine flowed, the laughter was great and of course the singing started. At one stage Teresa got to her feet and we assumed she wanted her bed . Not that lady. Dancing she wanted! As did her lovely sister and her 94 year old neighbour Brid, I danced with Brid and I swear to God the woman - a tiny wiry woman - has the grip of a thirty year old man. Unbelievable. They breed them different up in Donegal for sure.

It was great to see all the cousins, I think there were twenty of them there, all growing into fine bright young men and women. And yet, I couldn't help but wonder how many of them will have to leave this island, another generation - yet again- in order to find work? How many of them, God forbid my own boys, will end up rearing their families on foreign soil? How many times will they all be able to gather together in the one house at the same time, to celebrate a birthday, a wedding or to mourn the loss of a loved family member. It tinged the night with a little sadness for me. I hope all those cousins will look back on last night with great fondness, a night to be laughed over for years.

The making of good memories for our children is so important. Whenever any of us feel a little troubled remembering nights of good craic, company and particularly the complete acceptance of those who love us can soothe our troubles somewhat. And that is the thing I will carry with me always about the Cunningham clan of Donegal. In every home I visit there I have never felt anything but love and welcome. I have been a very lucky woman to have been accepted by these very special people. I LOVE YIZ LADS!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The ? Factor - NaNoWrimo style

When I started NaNoWriMo ten days ago I was fully enthused by and committed to the project and stared rattling off my opus. It was ( note WAS) about a woman who is confined to a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt and the relationships she forms while there - particularly with one poor woman, christened 'Maddser' by the other patients. I thought I had the whole novel plotted, was happy with my two main characters and promised myself that this would be it. The novel that would finally be published.


A tangent grew into another character. A young female teenager who was a participant in X Factor and ended up in the psychiatric hospital. This young woman fascinated me and I started to explore her back story. I met her mother, her grandmother, her childhood friend, the people in her neighbourhood, her school. The local newsman who became obsessed with her and her quest for fame. Her agent, manager, the judges on the show, the other contestants. Of course I can't call it X Factor as I'm quite sure the title is copyrighted so I'm calling it ? Factor as I wait for it to title itself. You all realise of course that this initial part of the process has absolutely nothing to do with me. It is only in the edits, all 10 to 12 of them, that my skills are called for. I just sit here, giving myself tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome while my characters tell their tales. Then I have to knit all those tales together in a manner that will grip a reader.

So Maddser and my depressed first heroine have been thrown to one side and I am now writing this X Factor contestant's story. It's bloody fascinating, even though I never watch the show I would have to have been confined on a desert island with no access to any media to be unaware of the phenomenon that is this television programme. I suppose what fascinates me is the drive that must be part of the psyche of anyone who would put themselves up week after week for rejection. Jesus. At least politicians only have to do it every four years and most of the rest us can rely on an interview at a max of one a year in order to keep out chosen jobs.

My character is fragile like us all as are her family. What impact could something like this have on ordinary lives? At the moment the book is meandering all over the place ( much like my heroine's troubled mind) but I am actually enjoying the process.

Maddser will have to wait to be released from her incarceration ( unless someone wants 8,000 words on the subject!) until I let this young lady either win, or lose.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Birth - Life - Death

The death of a child is always devastating. Not just to the child’s parents but to everyone who hears of it. A child’s death is just against the natural cycle of things.

Hearing of the death of Micheal Martin’s (an Irish politician) seven year old daughter recently reminded me of something the American poet and essayist Thomas Lynch wrote.

Thomas Lynch is an undertaker, funeral director or what ever title one confers on those who look after our dead. So he is surrounded by death in the midst of his life. In the rearing of his family. His constant proximity to death - although he would point out that he’s no nearer to it than any of us but his handling of the dead gives him - we assume some inspired insight on what it is to be dead. It doesn’t of course. It does however make him think more about it than the rest of us probably ever do. This is all a long winded way of quoting him below. He says it so much better than I ever could (from ‘The Right Hand of the Father’ in ‘Undertaking – essays by Thomas Lynch’). I paraphrase him slightly in the second paragraph.

‘’When we bury the old, we bury the known past, the past we imagine sometimes better than it was, but the past all the same, a portion of which we inhabited. Memory is the overwhelming theme, the eventual comfort.”

“But burying infants we bury the future, unwieldy and unknown, full of promises and possibilities outcomes punctuated by our rosy hope. The grief has no borders, no limits, no known ends…….Some sadnesses are permanent. Dead babies do not give us memories. They give us dreams.”

I pray God I never have to bury my dreams.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And we're off...

NaNoWriMo and me fingers are blistered from rattling out words already. NaNoWriMo for those of you not in the know is National Novel Writing Month. A couple of students in the States (where else!) started it some years back and you sign up for it and attempt to churn out the bones of a book in a month. So there’ll be no blogging, surfing or Facebooking from me for a while.

November is a great month for it. The clocks have changed, the dark and dismal evenings are in and if you have access to a computer and can carve out a few hours for yourself most days the target of fifty odd thousand words in the month is attainable. Of course a lot of what you write is tripe ( or mine is) and will never last edits. But it is a great way of kickstarting that novel you knew you always had in you.

The bulk of the first draft of my first novel was written during NaNoWriMo 2007, I didn’t sign up last year as I was committed to ghostwriting a book and although I started in 2008 I fell off at the first hurdle!

The commitment to put your behind on a chair and write for a few hours does pay off. I felt a great sense of achievement that first year and went on to finish the novel and polish it up and send it off. It died there but I did it, I wrote a book. Maybe this year’s attempt will pay off. I think this novel may be better as I have two under my belt at this stage and understand narrative flow a little better. I’ll be churning it out anyway and it may join other stuff under the bed or it may not.

If you never write it it’ll never be published so it’s worth a try.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Short and sweet...not my style!

I've been playing around for some time with flash fiction but I'm not sure I 'get' it. I'm posting one I wrote some time ago that I like but would be interested in any feedback. Does it work? Can you see her? Do you feel for her? Is the last line a cop out? Will all you nice people let me know what you think?

I don't think I have ever quite grasped flash fiction's purpose - although I like it more than the literary short story. Perhaps it is a stepping stone from the short story to poetry? Maybe that's why I can't 'do' it. I love poetry but a lot of mine lacks...passion, I suppose. I don't think the short story has anything to do with longer fiction, and can't understand when people assume that all short story writers are on their way to a novel as a next logical step. I freely admit I read what are classed as 'literary' short stories and cannot understand what I've read half the time. But then I'm a bit thick. So here's 'In These Shoes' - you like?

In These Shoes -

by Evelyn Walsh

She had dressed herself for weather and instead of her usual circuit around the grounds she trundled her electric wheelchair through the gates and towards the village.

A woman helped her negotiate ticket purchase and to manoeuvre her chair onto the Luas. The sight of the cables reminded her of a tram trip she had once taken with a boy. A summer’s day, a promenade by the sea. Her eyes clouded, but neither his name nor his face came. She sighed. So many names, so many faces. She remembered the tram though, the sea-breeze; and laughter. A great day.

At St Stephen’s Green she felt alien, afraid. It was too many, not enough years since she had last been in this spot. All changed, changed utterly. She sat for a while, looking and listening. So many people. Good-looking, confident, busy people.

She moved into the shopping centre, quietly marvelling at everything but single-minded in her purpose. She located the shop on the centre’s floor-plan and muttered the directions over and over, programming her internal GPS.

She found the shop and almost cried aloud with sheer delight.A single suspended shoe was the window display.Deepest patent claret red, a bowed front and a killer spiked heel. She reached beneath the chair for her purse, fingers fumbling as she pulled out the much folded, once shiny advertisement.

Her eyes brimmed.
Once Jimmy Choo's shoes – soon to be Her shoes.

In these shoes she might once more dance the tarantella; or perhaps glide across a highly polished ballroom floor in the arms of an impeccably dressed young man, who held her with passion and tenderness.

She sighed.
Failing that they could bury her with the shoes on.

And we did.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ridiculously beautiful evenings

I had a slightly sour weekend. Well, up to Sunday evening anyway. A
‘poor me, I’m an almost fifty year old overweight boring public servant whose life is incredibly tedious and shows no signs of being anything but tedious ‘til Death does me take’ type of sourness.

Actually I was more than a little depressed. I think I may have started the menopause and I don’t know about the rest of womankind but I feel that having periods every fortnight, being exhausted, alternating between excessive sleepiness and insomnia, being cranky and having hot flushes at the same time as one is menstruating is Just Not Fair. So yeah, poor me, nature is ‘a ass’ etcetera etcetera.

Then on Sunday evening I drove to Skerries, a seaside village in North Co Dublin, to attend panto rehearsal. It was a glorious evening and I parked in the public car park along the sea front and sat for a while drinking in the beauty. The sun going down seemed almost staged as it lit scattered cumulus from below, incredible shades of red, gold, deep burnt orange. The boats in the harbour and the lovely buildings along the seafront in Skerries were sharpened in a light that only an artist can capture. To me photographs taken in that light always look staged, false – I always suspect photoshopping. The incredibly deep clarity of the light, particularly at this time of the year, is otherworldly. Everything seems so defined, heightened - you can almost feel, taste, hear the sharpness. The sea’s ceaseless lapping, that infinite rise and fall, the hub bub of children in the nearby playground- a dog barking further away. It lifted my spirits and I forgot about myself for a while. Bliss.

After a thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal -nothing like a bit of ridiculous slapstick to cop yourself onto yourself- I walked back in the early darkness to the carpark. The sun had set and a waning gibbous moon was in command of the sky. This was, if possible, even more glorious than the earlier sunset. I love that sweet low low almost full moon. Its slightly imperfect rotundity, the scarring - its mountains -the shadows that can be seen on its pale surface. It is so far away and yet so near I often feel if I stretched up as far as I could I would almost be able to touch it. The moon strikes me at times as a hole in the night sky, not light – just an absence of darkness.

The fact that last night the moon was reflected on an almost still sea made the sight even more magical. Sound was still as sharp as during the earlier sunset but different, more mysterious, as befits a beautiful night. All that beauty made me modify my objections to Nature in relation to my bodily functions earlier in the day. Modify not completely accept.

‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose’, although I still think having a period and a hot flush at the same time is quite simply taking the piss!

Friday, October 22, 2010


I think I have sleeping sickness. I swear - as soon as the weather turned even slightly cold I battened down the hatches and disappeared into the safety of sleep. Strictly speaking I probably have some type of a virus which is shutting me down but as the only symptoms are sleepiness and a desire for quiet I think I may be regressing to whatever creature I evolved from.

All this would be fine and dandy if I didn't also have to earn a living, feed a family, amuse children, placate a husband, write the odd bit, clean a house, talk to siblings and friends, take part in the things I enjoy doing AND find time to wash myself. Very hard when you keep nodding off.

As each day/ night passes where I have slept six or seven hours more than I usually do I wonder am I going insane. I don't feel insane. Although apparently I tried to reef the hair out of my current husband's head in the middle of last night. He has quite thick hair and I got a good handful of it. He had to slap my hands into wakefulness. Must admit I'm smiling as I write about that. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that at least in sleep I am letting my true feelings find a way out! Poor man.

Although when I think of the dark thoughts I have had about numerous colleagues in recent months I think I better lock the bedroom door when I sleep, in case a vivid dream has me stalking the main street in Swords in my fleecey red dressing gown with a very large poker in my hand looking for irritating fellow public servants. Hmmm. Parents should start telling naughty kids about me. Might improve behaviour about the town. Would I get a long sentence do you think? Would subliminal irritation be sufficient justification for bateing some irritating twit about the gaff. Probably not.

Ah well. I suppose all the nights I normally spend rambling through the house cleaning and thinking and occasionally writing because my brain won't shut down were due to catch up on me at some time. I wish someone would invent an Evelyn remote control. It would be a huge success. Yiz could shut me up. Rewind me. Pause me or quite simply turn me off whenever I was doing your head in. I'd be first in the queue to buy one!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Writing 3.0

I've been fierce cultured this month. Fingal County Council are running a series of readings, workshops etcetera during October calling it Writing 3.0 and best of all it's FREE! As all the best things in life are of course.

So I was at a poetry Open Mic in the Council Chamber where poets Colm Keegan and Dave Lordan gave virtuoso performances. There was a good turn out and I don't think the chamber has ever heard such honesty and passion. Maybe more cultural events there could soften some of the grubbiness of politics. Then yesterday I attended the 'Drivetime Diarists'at Farmleigh House. Up to this I was thinking of voting for David Norris for President (unless Rebecca De Havalland is serious about standing)but Fergus Finlay really impressed me. He read a lovely piece about his daughter and then talked about his little grandson, even playing us a recording of the wee man singing 'Ireland'. Yes, maybe Ireland is ready for a male President again. As long as he doesn't want all us women to be dancing at crossroads!

Joe O'Connor had us all in stitches. That man is so funny. I really get his sense of humour, if he's ever stuck for a few bob he could do comedy routines. He puts a smile into my day. The beautiful Olivia O'Leary read a few pieces too. Her intellect is so keen and she is so elegant and ladylike. She was so brave all those years ago to dare to challenge those ****ards in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 'Gwan Olivia. I'd be embarrassed to stand beside her as I'm totally in awe of her.

Then this evening I went over to hear the lovely Nuala Ni Conchuir (sp?)read from her marvelous novel 'You'. Nuala's little daughter Juno stole my heart away, she watched and listened to her Mammy talking and there wasn't a peep out of her. A happy little soul.
So home I came, culturally sated as 'twere, and turned on the goggle box in the corner and there was my dear friend Rebecca De Havalland telling her sceal to Brendan O'Connor. She was totally relaxed and natural and her usual intelligent articulate self.Rebecca rocks.

Off to the car boot market in Balbriggan in the morning. You can only fit so much culture into one weekend!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Pet Day..........

Someone told me to stop using ellipses in my blog titles. They're irritating apparently. After I looked up the word ellipses ( this person not being the type of person one admits not knowing a word to)and discovering that they are my little..... I thought 'No way, I likes me ellipses'. One should be brave enough to finish the thought I'm told, not mislead one's reader. I like being misled as a reader, thinking you're going to get one thing and then enjoying getting something else.

Which leads me to my own little (or rather big) ellipses. My offspring, who are never quite what I imagined they would be, they're always better than that. As I write Sons #1 and #2 are in the back garden. Son #2 is attempting to catch Mr. Tuppence and Rita, our two dwarf rabbits. Son#1 is sitting on the edge of the trampoline, playing his guitar and singing. Something he wrote himself - a pal came up with a riff that they both liked and they've built that into a real fine melody. Then Son #1 wrote lyrics to it. I'm rather pleased. Poetry has always been beyond my reach as a writer, I do attempt it from time to time, but it is really very poor stuff - mainly because I fear I have no music in my soul.

But Son #1 seems to have something. A spark. Now all I can do is give him space and hope he develops that spark into a passion that he will carry with him all the days of his life.

It's a pet day in Dublin. A warm mid October Indian summer like day. As the sun starts to decline in the sky I can feel that hint of real autumn, smell winter on the breeze. But for today my garden is full of flowers and music and rabbit catching and I feel... yes. Thank God I'm alive.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Magic Carpets...........

I got involved in a wonderful theatre company in North Co Dublin recently. As the children no longer need me 24/7 (although if the ten year old had his way I would never leave the house) I have fallen back to my first loves, reading and theatre.

This group 'Magic Carpet Theatre Company' is amateur but it is run to professional standards with a cracking production team, a wonderful director and a determined and down-to-earth musical director. Everyone involved has a love of and passion for theatre. I walk into rehearsal rooms and I know these people mean business.

We're doing a Panto for Christmas, to be performed in a local community centre which can seat up to 350. Scary thought - to fill 350 seats for six performances - or at least attempt to. The Panto is 'Sleeping Beauty' penned by the marvellous Alan Cash - it rips along with one liners, double entendre and slapstick humour. We have great singers and dancers - they're even letting me sing! In the chorus of course and occasionally I just mime because I know I'll put everyone else off.

We were rehearsing today and I felt so safe, so at home. I wonder why I ever stopped performing? Alright, alright I know there are those who say I'm permanently on stage, but so what? If I feel comfortable being me but acting the mick as someone else who is to say that that is a pain in the butt. You don't have to come to see me! Promise. My poor father especially, he still hasn't forgiven me for making him sit through three and a half hours of Hamlet in 1978. I played Hamlet ( all girls school) so he couldn't even dodge off for a pint when my 'bit' was over!

So there's me - the Queen in Sleeping Beauty. I'll sashay across the stage, ham it up and thoroughly enjoy myself along with all the cast and crew members plus the six 'houses' we aim to fill.

Will yiz all come? Promise? Yay!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Feckin' flirtin' makes the world go round.......

I watched ‘Nationwide’ on RTE one night last week and d’ye know, I might yet be converted to de telly. It was a feckin’ brilliant programme and there was this aul’ fella on it from someplace in Tipperary. He was 95.
He was talking about being him and dancing and they showed him being him and dancing. And he was feckin’ deadly. Because he had my own philosophy on Life.

Well, when I’m not depressed anyway.

That philosophy is ‘flirtin’ makes the world go round’. Jemser is fierce wise and he knew it before me and so did me Ma – you’d want to seen the pair of them flirtin’ – feckin’ scary.

Feck love, feck sex , feck money - once you can eye someone and say ‘Oh Hello!!’ then you’re living and having the craic. And I learned that at me Ma’s knee. She was a mad one for flirtin’ – with everyone – men, women or not to sure. Mam flirted with everyone which made her a great salesperson of course. She worked in the bridal department of Hickey’s Fabrics in Henry Street in Dublin city– and every girl/woman that bought a communion/wedding off my Mam will remember her because she minded every customer as if the customer was her own daughter. Liz Walsh. A name to remember all your life and smile I betcha there are thousand of women in Dublin who remember my Mam.

Mam just liked people and d’ye know, for the most part, so do I.

Like Anne Frank I have fierce hope for humankind because out there are people like me and Anne and my Mam and you, people who believe we can make a difference – ‘every day in every way’ etcetera etcetera.’

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – we’re moving into a golden age in this country and I’ll be dead and feckin’ miss it so yiz better not make a mess of it or I’ll come back and bash yiz over the head with a feather duster.

Carpe Diem.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm movin' to feckin' Leitrim.....

I'm cheating, I wrote this last week when I should have been working on novel#2, but sometimes you have to take a break from your characters. Do your bloody head in some of them. So here you are or should it be there ye go...........

I’m movin’ to feckin’ Leitrim

I swear to God I’m only here three days and I am selling my house in Dublin, giving up me safe little job and moving lock, stock and barrel down here.

It has it all – Carrick –On–Shannon is a vibrant little town, great shops, pubs, restaurants, a vibrant Arts scene – its own river and the gorgeous countryside. I know Jemser will love it (I haven’t told him yet so don’t ask him about it!) I have to suss out the pubs, trad music scene and Irish conversational groups and golf courses first.

Son #2 will LOVE it – its a smaller community, lots of kids his age, smaller class sizes and a willingness in the community to recognise and care for those little geniuses among us. He’ll get over all his little fears, make pals, play football for a smaller club made up of kids who want to be there. We’ll go swimming regularly too. He’ll lose weight and the shop isn’t there tempting him all the time. We’ll be able to buy a house big enough that he can have his own kid’s area and have mates over doing the annoying things ten year olds do. Sorted.

I’ll be able to stop working and write fulltime. I’ll be able to run into Carrick when I need to get my fix of old and rare books (I found THE BEST BOOKSHOP, Trinity Books). When the sisters or brothers need time out from their busy lives they can come visit and chill.

Now I know damn well that Son #2 will be a problem – he’s sixteen with a wide circle of friends, but he might very well come around to the idea. I’ll have to cheat him into it SO DON’T TELL him. I have a sly plan formulating. I would have put Donegal as No. 1 choice of somewhere to live outside of Swords – but the journey from Dublin is still a killer. At least Leitrim is only two to two and a half hours – doable. And the train comes to Carrick-On-Shannon.

Don’t you just love it when a plan is coming together. Now, where’s me cheque book………………

Saturday, October 2, 2010

God came to the Irish Writers Centre......

Well, I'm off again. I attended the Publishing Day in the Irish Writers Centre and , for those of you who haven't already, you should sign up for one of the great courses they are running this Autumn/Winter.

It was a great day - lively and informative - and I met lots of lovely people from the world of the written word. Mega.

I thought Emma Walsh (no relation) - literary agent - was brilliant. Emma is young, tuned-in and obviously loves what she does. Exactly the type of person you want selling your work. Passion.

Eoin Mc Hugh from Transworld spoke about a publishers p.o.v. and he was flippin' scary. And passionate. And above all - human. Exactly the sort of editor/publisher you want.

The lovely Lynn Crampton from Dubray Books give a deeply insightful look into the world of the bookseller. This lady loves books - and it showed. Passion.

Corkonian Gareth Cuddy of spoke about ebooks and the way ahead. The man is an Irish visionary - he'll be loaded one day. Passion.

And then came God. Carlo Gebler. Stephen Fry should have him on that aul' Q.I. panel - he is one of them intellectual lot - and he is funny and philosophical. And I'd say he loves his Mammy and his wife and his kids. So he's a good one. And the BBC could pay him enough to stop him fretting about making a living from being himself.

G'wan Carlo!

Friday, October 1, 2010


I blethered away all week in Leitrim and 'twas great because 'twas all silent bletherin' and now yiz have to read it all. I had no access to d'Internet so it was all words written into the mist.

And what a mist. I love the silence in Leitrim and Roscommon, Sligo, Galway and Donegal and lots of other pockets of our island nation. The silence is so - dense - I can almost taste it. I can listen through the silence hurting and find freedom on the other side. So, here goes - Leitrim blog#2.

A friend – a marvellous singer/songwriter recently told me that it is said that self-doubt is part of the creative mindset. At least I think that’s what she said.

But then I had to work out, was I a self-doubting creative person or just deluded?

This was a tricky one. When the umpteenth rejection letter comes in the door, wishing me well with my writing but it’s not for us today thank you, it is another little dream crushed. You need a bloody thick skin in this creative game. Because you’re never EVER going to know if you’re a self-doubting creative genius or just simply crackers and managing to fool some of the poor eejits around you into believing in you some of the time.

I wonder is that how Jesus felt when he headed off to the desert for forty days and nights. Now relax - I'm not claiming a Jesus complex ( my son does that for me). but Lord save us, it must have been hard being the Galilean, trying to work out was he deluded or not. And perhaps he was.

He didn’t invent Christianity of course – some other eejits did that after he was gone. Men.

He just wanted us all to be nice to each other, get back to what matters – namely each other and our environment and to break bread with each other - in other words love the people you eat with, the people who sustain your life. And above bloody all to get money OUT of the temple.

But dynasties of misogynistic homophobic males ( sorry lads, I'm sure some of you were/are nice) got greedy for all the power and the trappings of such power and forgot what it was all about. Then - whenever somebody calls them to account for themselves they say
‘Not at all!!! Sure, the Pope’s infallible – he can do no wrong, cannot make a mistake, is the voice of the Divine, so we’re always right. No doubt. No room for doubt. And tell them all they can like it or lump it.'

Sorry lads, I have a feeling we’re all about to tell you to lump it.

The Leitrim air must be getting to me. I’m philosophising again. An hour or two of ‘House’ and a good old read will help. Aah yes. The Good Life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lovely Leitrim.........

Here I am in the wilds of Leitrim with my laptop, my bum glue and the second series of ‘House’ plus the dvd ‘Life is Beautiful’. These things and the radio will be my only companions for the next week. So I’ll only be blogging, facebooking, emailing and net-surfing for ONE HOUR every evening. Apart from that I’m hiding the broadband modem stick or whatever it’s called, staying in my pyjamas and forcing myself to write at least forty thousand words of novel#2 this week.

The whole bloody novel is plotted, I have family trees for all my characters, I know what’s in their handbags/pockets for God's sake and I still procrastinate. The ironing must be done. I better weed that flower bed. The weigelia needs pruning or I’ll just go for a walk or maybe I’ll just finish this chapter and I really must watch the omnibus edition of whatever soap I happen to come across or I suppose I better feed my family etcetera etcetera. It is endless. Is it fear? Laziness? A combination maybe?

Because every time I open up a notebook or a blank screen sits looking at me - cursor winking in the left-hand corner I am seized with the most awful, wonderful feeling. This could be shite or this could be really, really good. It could sing. It could embrace the reader. It could turn the reader off books for life. The power! The power! Gobshite…me, not you!

I’m involved in the local panto this year with Magic Caarpet Theatre Company and the script by the talented Mr Alan Cash is brilliant. It zips along, busy, busy, busy. Extremely funny and snappy. We sat chatting after rehearsals last week and all agreed how important that first show a child sees is. If that show is good, production values high and it is as professional as limited means allow then you have that kid hooked on theatre for life. Even if they only go once a year, it’s different, it’s live, it’s not X Factor or Big Brother.

I think the same applies to books, give a child stories by the likes of Martin Waddell when they are toddling and you will hook them in to the joys of quality reading. That never ever goes away, they may drift away from it at some stage but they’ll always come back. Reading is such a solitary occupation. Just you and your book. Special time.

That’s why I have to make my book the best I can make it. No pressure then. Me free hour is up . Goodbye!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Darkest Hour Before the Dawn....

I recently heard a diary piece by Olivia O’Leary on RTE’s Drivetime and, as always, Ms O’Leary gave me food for thought. For that is what she talked of – thought. In the increasing electronic clamour of today’s world it is often hard to find a spot to sit and ponder or write or dream. And yet out of such quiet moments have come all of humankind’s best ideas. All those Eureka moments as thinkers leapt from their chosen place of safety and comfort to tell the world a blindingly obvious truth.

Then the rest of us could cry – ‘Yes! Of course! Sure, why didn’t we think of that!’. Often because we were to busy simply living – ensuring our families and friends have enough to eat, are clothed and warm and not in pain. But in the Western World where increasingly these essential physical commodities are not as hard won as they once were, and where technology has made the daily grind of earning a living – one that simply that prevents hunger and discomfort - much easier and faster, one would think man had increased time for thought. Quiet reflection, moments to contemplate the beautiful, the sublime – to puzzle out the conundrums of the world.

Instead there is this constant background electronic hum. I occasionally suffer from insomnia and have long given up twisting and turning in bed vainly waiting for sleep. Instead I get up and toddle about downstairs. I used to listen to the radio and clean my house. In recent years I discovered writing and use these quiet hours as some of my more productive ones in getting ideas, plot lines, character descriptions from my fevered brain onto the page. I often use the time to read – to absorb another’s thoughts in the wee small hours.

One night recently I noticed I was being distracted by firstly an electronic hum and secondly a winking light in the direction of the ‘off’ PC. After disconnecting 8 , EIGHT, plugs I eventually had both visual and aural peace. As the sun rose I heard the dawn chorus, heard starlings shifting and scratching in the eaves – saw the rabbit nose his way out of his hutch , lift up on his hind legs and sniff the air before shaking himself and lope off to feed on the last of my dahlias. I drank it all in and thought. Really thought, about the wonder of life and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

So here’s my suggestion - not that you all develop insomnia – ye would make my quiet time too noisy if ye were all up - but every day for the next ten days find ten minutes. Shut off all (ALL-including your phones!) electronic devices. Sit and stare, sniff the air, look through your window, pray or dream if you want or think or not. Just enjoy being. You might get to like it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

'Twas a big night

I love that phrase and it is the correct one to use about the launch of Rebecca De Havalland’s book ‘His Name Is Rebecca’. It was my privilege to work with Rebecca on her book and we have become firm friends, friends for life.

The book launch was in the lovely Bellini Bar in the Burlington and Rebecca’s family and friends, my family, neighbours and friends and the odd aul’ celeb stuck their heads in over the night. The extraordinary Maria Tecce sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and brought the house down. What a voice! Then Rebecca took to the stage and although she didn’t ‘do the norm’-she never does- and read from the book, she gave a beautiful speech and touched the hearts and quite probably souls of every person in that room. I felt incredibly proud of her, she has come so far and in such an intense cathartic way over the last year and I was honoured to be part of that process. It was like witnessing a birth – a moment of magic after all the hard grind.

Later in the night some of the gang were heading to Lillie’s Bordello to continue the celebrations. It’s not my scene and was way past my leaba time but Jemser decided he would like to have a look at it. He arrived home at two a.m. and I was drinking tay and writing to beat the band.
‘Well’ sez I. ‘D’ye enjoy your night?’
‘I did’ sez he , falling onto the bed, ‘Jesus, Bolly in Guinness is lovely’
‘What’s Bolly?’
‘Bollinger, woman!! Champagne .’

Champagne in Guinness! Well Holy God - what is the country coming to, he used to kill me for putting a drop of blackcurrant in a glass of Guinness many moons ago.
‘Tis no wonder the country’s in the state it’s in – aul’ fellas in nightclubs drinking quare drinks and ogling young wans. It’ll draw the rain on us so ‘twill.

Now, onto my next project…..

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two more sleeps.........................!!

Only TWO!! more sleeps to the launch of ‘His Name Is Rebecca.’! Really looking forward to it, Rebecca is a very, very special human being – actually I think she might be an angel in disguise - and I hope the book does well for her. She thinks I’m the Virgin Mary in drag so together we make a formidable team!

This will be a guna nua event and much to the horror of my female relatives and friends I have it down to a choice between two outfits, one from Dunnes for 20 euro or one from Littlewoods for 49 euro. It would be against my personal religion to spend cash on a fancy guna I’ll only wear once. They’re both cheaper than my wedding dress was (59 euro – TK Maxx). And if they all don’t stop nagging me about it I’ll turn up in me velour tracksuit – so CIUNAS!!(I can't do fadas on this keyboard)

Now I went a bit mad on the shoes and have it down to three pairs all under 40 euro cheapest pair were 4 euro in Dunnes – but too high I think - very very sexy though. What is it about shoes, why do we love them so much?

If ye are about Dublin on Thursday evening stick your head into the Bellini Bar in the Burlington and say hi. Alternately buy the book and let me know what you think. In shops from Wednescday 1st or from or Amazon. I’ll blog about the night when it is all settled down.

I am inordinately proud of both Rebecca and myself. Pat on the back to us both. We rock!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

GOD came to fighting words!!!!!!!1

Those of you who know me know how I rave about Carlo Gebler's teaching skills, so much so that he is referred to as God in our house! I did a workshop with him at Listowel Writers Week in 2009 and I have never, ever seen anyone control a room better. He focuses intensely on each participant and gently suggests changes or methods one can apply to ones writing. So I was delighted when I arrived at to do my week's volunteering for the teenage fiction writing summer camp to find that Carlo was one of the guest facilitators.

He had those young people eating out of his hand and the amount of raw energy and talent in that room was unreal. We may all give up writing folks (not that we will as it's addictive)the next wave of writers are bright bold and sassy and most of them know exactly what they want from Life. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was in my forties. I always admire those who dedicate themselves to their passion/art/whatever (once it's non-chemical) at a young age, before the needs of feeding and clothing a family become imperative that one earn's a living in some other way.

When I was at the age those lovely kids in Fighting Words are today my life map was a as follows

1. Get a job, any job - college wasn't a runner in a cash strapped Ireland for the oldest child of a family of seven kids whose mother was a part-time shop assistant and whose father was a regular pounding the beat Garda.

2. Find a fella I could get on with - that was hard for me, my body shape and intellect and general bossiness kept the boys away. I was also painfully shy and self-aware around men. Yiz just make me nervous, lads.But then I met a mountainy man from Donegal, my big gentle Jemser - AND HE LOVED ME. ME!

3. Have a bit of fun drinking and gallivanting.

4. Read a million books

5. Buy a house in suburbia and have my babies. Stop reading anything more than thrillers and easy reads for a couple of years

6. Start reading another million books

7. Take an evening class and find writing sitting there waiting for me, like walking into a room where suddenly everyone is speaking the same language as me. They understand what I'm saying.

8. Now I have the menopause and death to look forward to - but I'll happily write my way through those two.

Now these sassy lovely, lovely, talented youngsters have a huge range of options open to them. I hope each and every one of them finds there 'thing' whatever it is that makes them happy, gives them a reason to get up in the morning and greet the day.

'Gwan ye good tings

GOD came to fighting words!!!!!!!1

Those of you who know me know how I rave about Carlo Gebler's teaching skills, so much so that he is referred to as God in our house! I did a workshop with him at Listowel Writer's week in 2009 and I have never, ever seen anyone control a room better. He focuses intensely on each participant and gently suggests changes or methods one can apply to one's writing. So I was delighted when I arrived at to do my week's volunteering for the teenage fiction writing summer camp to find Carlo was one of the guest facilitators.

He had those young people eating out of his hand and the amount of raw energy and talent in that room was unreal. We may all give up writing folks (not that we will as it's addictive)the next wave of writers are bright bold and sassy and most of them know exactly what they want from Life. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was in my forties. I always admire those who dedicate themselves to their passion/art/whatever (once it's non-chemical) at a young age, before the needs of feeding and clothing a family become imperative that one earn's a living in some other way.

When I was at the age those lovely kids in Fighting Words are today my life map was a as follows

1. Get a job, any job - college wasn't a runner in a cash strapped Ireland for the oldest child of a family of seven kids whose mother was a part-time shop assistant and whose father was a regular pounding the beat Garda.

2. Find a fella I could get on with - that was hard for me, my body shape and intellect and general bossiness kept the boys away. I was also painfully shy and self-aware around men. Yiz just make me nervous, lads.But then I met a mountainy man from Donegal, my big gentle Jemser - AND HE LOVED ME. ME!

3. Have a bit of fun drinking and gallivanting.

4. Read a million books

5. Buy a house in suburbia and have my babies. Stop reading anything more than thrillers and easy reads for a couple of years

6. Start reading another million books

7. Take an evening class and find writing sitting there waiting for me, like walking into a room where suddenly everyone is speaking the same language as me. They understand what I'm saying.

8. Now I have the menopause and death to look forward to - but I'll happily write my way through those two.

Now these sassy lovely, lovely, talented youngsters have a huge range of options open to them. I hope each and every one of them finds there 'thing' whatever it is that makes them happy, gives them a reason to get up in the morning and greet the day.

'Gwan ye good tings

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's all go...........

Life has become a little frenetic and will be over the next fortnight or so. I'm helping out in Fighting Words this week , running around getting school books, uniforms (free education me eye!) and then getting all pepped up for the launch of 'His Name Is Rebecca' next week. The launch is in the Bellini Bar of the Burlington at 6.30pm, Sept 2nd - pop in if you're in town, it should be a good night - lots of little surprises lined up. I really hope this book goes well for Rebecca - she deserves huge credit for being brave enough to tell her story and then coping with all the publicity and media stuff that will go with it. Rebecca rocks!

Then I was longlisted for two comps for two of my stories - that's always nice, that little boost telling you you're on the right path.`I spent a delightful hour or two in Charlie Byrnes bookshop in Galway when we drove down to read the longlist for one competition. What a find! I could happily spend hours in it - except I'd bankrupt the family!

I had to go shopping for a guna and girly shoes for the launch - I dread shopping because I'm such a big heap and I refuse to spend what my female friends call 'real money' on something I will only wear once. So I got two outfits from which I will choose on the night plus the shoes for the grand total of €89 - low maintenance woman, me!The Late Late show has been confirmed so I can wear the second guna to that. Hope they have good prizes for the audience that night!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Exceptional Inception

I took two ten year olds to see ‘Inception’ over the weekend. I won’t pretend that I understood it all, it moved too quickly for me most of the time but the kids thought it was brilliant and it kept my attention for the whole - which is something that happens rarely for me with visual media. It was ‘Dallas’ that first caused my disenchantment with television in the Eighties. The characters were so wooden and unbelieveable, so far from my daily life that I couldn’t relate to them. Yet I had no problem relating to characters in modern plays or novels of the period. Occasional dramatizations of great writing like Paul Scott’s Raj quartet or the magnificent Brideshead Revisited I watched, I enjoyed some of the British soaps of the time, mainly so I could join in canteen chat the following day but Glenroe and the Riordans didn’t relate to my suburban life either, although I recognised the characters in them, or rather the character types.

I realise of course that televison has replaced religion as ‘the opium of the people’ and like organised churches most ‘shows’ are mere marketing tools designed to wheedle money from one’s pocket or purse. The lowest common denominator will always get the advertisers money and artists are people too and need to eat, pray, love..

This is all my usual roundabout way of arriving at a conclusion that I note many other writers are coming to around the globe. The Internet and the personal computer have at last given back to creative people the ability to express oneself freely, to write/paint/design – whatever - your own truth and throw it out there for the world to see. Without an editor or the marketing department changing your work.

Creative people do whatever it is they do because it is the only way they can express how they feel about the world. Of course churches, states and ‘isms’ have for generations tried to quell that energy or used it to make ’filthy lucre’. But it always finds its way out. Is it not wonderful – truly wonderful to see a genuine talent, something the artist cannot help practising because it is the only thing that makes sense, the only way they can make themselves heard, seen and understood. Great actors, directors, writers, artists, musicians and many, many others. Cream rising to the top, as inevitable and enduring as the sun appearing on the horizon every dawn.

So there’s hope for the movies yet. I suppose we will still have to be subjected to dross to make money for the fat cats but at least smaller houses in all disciplines can then continue to nuture new ideas and talent and let the next wave of creative energy perhaps be a tsunami. A Golden Age approaches – and I’ll be bleedin’ dead and miss it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dublin - Unesco City of Literature

Isn’t it brilliant! I always knew that as a nation we consistently punched way above our weight in the international field when it comes to the Arts, but this designation confirms Dublin’s status within the world of literature.

Many of our greats worked in and wrote of Dublin. Dublin is in itself a character in most of Joyce’s work, including his masterpiece ‘Ulysses’ - which I freely admit I have never managed to read in it’s entirety. It’s on the list of ‘to do’ but I may have to break a limb and be immobilized before I can summon enough concentration to absorb it. My own internal monologue is confusing enough without throwing Leopold Bloom’s fevered thoughts into the melting pot!

I am particularly delighted for Dublin City Council’s Library Service who were instrumental in putting forward the detailed application to Unesco. The various city and county library services throughout Ireland are the quiet backbone of our country’s great love of words. As a child I was not surrounded by books at homebut I was a member of the library. My maternal grandfather had been a ‘stoneman’ (a typesetter) and was interested in all matters literary. It was he who took me to the mobile library on Ballygall Road in Finglas to join the junior division of the Corpo’s libraries. The excitement!! There were three little enevelope type green cards which bore my name, address and library number and into these little packets were placed the details slips extracted from from a flap on the ‘date return’ page of my desired books. Then the page was stamped with the date it was due back! The joy! I so wanted that date stamp.

‘I want to do that when I grow up’ I gushed to Granda on the way home.

‘Well, keep reading and doing your lessons and I’m sure you can be a librarian when you’re bigger’ he laughed.

I would take the books to the bedroom I shared with my three sisters and devour them in one sitting. Then I would read the books again, slowly, making them last, for the mobile library would not be back for another week. Occasionally I would meet another child who loved to read and we would swap books. I often hid under the bed to read in peace, neither my mother nor my siblings could find me and so disturb the world into which I had disappeared.

I distinctly remember one good summer’s day Mam scolding me and telling me to go and get some fresh air – that I wouldn’t learn everything from books(!!). I climbed onto the garage roof with the book wrapped in a towel and read up there, perched precariously on the doubled-up towel trying to avoid a burning from the red-hot corrugated iron roof . I got so lost in the book that I didn’t realize my dangling legs were being slowly fried. It was a ‘Mallory Towers’ book by Enid Blyton. Everytime I hear of those books now I can remember the agony of those sun-burned legs.

I never did become a librarian but soon I will have a book in the library with words in it written by me. I wish Granda was around to see it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oz 3 - The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns was great. So great we paid for it twice. We got caught in the 1800 hotels debacle and on arrival at our supposedly booked and paid for hotel discovered that the hotel didn’t even have a contract with them. It was a poor start and I felt close to tears as I had been the one who booked it and paid IN FULL on Laser card. I know. I know. Fools and their money etc.

However, we were in the lucky position of having credit cards that weren’t fully maxed out and decided to put the whole incident behind us until we got home. The heat in Cairns was very welcome after the cold dampness of Sydney. One day one we rambled around and found our bearings. Or rather Jemser and son#2 found their bearings, myself and son #1 don’t have to bother with bearings when those two are about. We just follow them as they argue over which route is shortest.

Day two Jemser and son#1 went to a crocodile farm and arrived back with tall tales of ferocious beasts. Son #2 and I rambled down to the lagoon and I sat enjoying the sun as he swam in the water with people from all around the world. That is the one thing about Australia that I really noticed, it appears to be an even bigger melting pot than the States.

Day three was our Great Barrier Reef day. We were on the boat at 8am, the weather was great - the sea calm,the blueness of the sky dotted with white cumulus like tufts of cotton wool idling along and higher again were thin feathers of cirrus. We headed out to sea, standing on deck. The scene was set.

Oh lads! I am at a loss for words. I have never ever experienced anything like the coral reef. We went in snorkelling and I had to keep lifting my head to spit our sea water as everytime I put my head down I started to laugh with delight at this world that was new to me and of course filled the mouthpiece with water. Photographs and television programmes cannot do it justice. It felt like it was something from which we came, or perhaps are returning to. I don’t know, other-worldly I suppose is the best word.

The boys were totally wowed by it , son#1 said it had been worth the boredom of being stuck with us aged P.’s for over a fortnight. Son #2 came up with word after word after word to try to describe it. Jemser doesn’t swim and unfortunately despite lifejacket and strong swimmers about him he didn’t succeed in getting in. However he went out in a glass-bottomed boat and got a good ides of what the rest of us were experiencing.

We were all exhausted after it, I used muscles I never knew I had and after four hours at two different snorkelling sites was well ready for home. Those of you who have read Colm Toibin’s ‘Brooklyn’ will remember the visceral description of sea-sickness in it. I can now vouch for Mr Toibin’s description. I have never ever been as sick – and this bloody idiot of an entertainer on the return trip insisted on drawing the attention of everybody on the boat to my predicament by dedicating songs to me as my face was buried in a paper bag. I wanted to murder him and feed him to the sharks. Except I was far too ill to even move. But the Reef was worth it. Yes, definitely the Reef was worth

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oz, cuid a dho

So there we were. Finally. After months of preparation and excited chit chat we were in Sydney. A wet and dismal Sydney for the most part. E had warned us it would be cold and damp but we laughed –she had forgotten what the weather was like at home, sure weren’t the temperatures in Sydney mid-winter as high as the temperatures at home in late Spring?

The house we had rented was problematic, it was tiny and we were packed one on top of the other without any recourse to a suitable outdoor space to escape. What is it about holiday en famille that is enough to drive one insane? Particularly for that first week as each individual struggles to come to terms with the proximity of other individuals. And everybody straining against the leash to do their own thing. I am invariably cantankerous for the first week of holidays until I find a routine. The boys squabbled continuously like discontented starlings so that did not help.

We did all the touristy things. I admit to a thrill when I touched the cool tile of the Sydney Opera House. The magnificence of the harbour area and Sydney Bridge only being outdone by the sheer vastness and barreness of the plains of land we had seen as we flew into the city . Nature’s stoic greatness exceeds man’s attempts to dominate the landscape, it always will. We went to hear E. sing in a jazz session that first week. I had almost forgotten what a wonderful voice she has. We could see how fond of her all the other musicians were and it gladdened our hearts.

We found Sydney expensive. Books in particular are an insane price. I spotted a friend’s novel- ‘The Other Boy’ by Yvonne Cassidy - in one large bookstore, I was horrified to see it priced at over Aud$30, that’s almost €20!

We spent our first full weekend in a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains, about an hour’s drive from Sydney. I had heard of the place from a lovely young woman I met in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annamakerrig last year and it lived up to her descriptions. We had a delicious late lunch in a tiny restaurant called the ‘Blue Mist CafĂ©’. Best of all the place was full of second-hand books for sale. I could quite happily have browsed there all day long. The following day we ‘did’ the National Park in Katoomba, this is a magnificent place and very sensitively managed. Seeing the dense rain forests and the strangeness of the terrain I could not help but wonder what it must have been like for the first European settlers who made their way there. It can only have been a very harsh life.

On our last morning in the area we partook of the most expensive breakfast in Austrlalia! A restaurant preserved in the art deco style of the hotel it was when it was originally built. The memorabilia and nostalgia industry is alive and kicking ass in Katoomba.

My mood started to improve, as it invariably does on the second week of holidays. We had all found our stride and ways of accommodating each other. Jemser and I went to see ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ with William Hurt in the lead role, wonderful. Jemser, son#1 and E climbed Sydney Bridge in the pissin’ rain and came home elated. Later in the week E, son#2 and I went to see the musical ‘Wicked’ in a beautiful old theatre, great show – but I doubt the songs will live as long as those from ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

That week we also visited an old friend of Jemser’s who settled in Sydney over twenty yers ago and we sat on his deck admiring his pool and garden. The orange tree at the end of the garden had unfortunately been blasted by wind and frost and looked totally lopsided as only three branches remained clothed in leaves and budding fruit. I’m sure I’ll use the image as a symbol for something at some stage when I’m feeling profound and appearing pretentious!

Next up was our trip to the Great Barrier Reef…….worthy of a blog on it’s own. More anon.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Our Odyssey to Oz, Cuid a hAon

Yes, I know my Irish spelling is dodgy. Don't snitch on me to Jemser if it's wrong because he'll deck me!

Ok. I’m back! Did yiz not notice how quiet the country was for the past three weeks? That’s ‘cause I was away and wasn’t prepared to sell one of my kids in order to fund a long enough session in an Internet Cafe to blog. But I took notes and will be boring you all to death with ‘me holliers’ for the next few posts. Blogging and Facebook are the new way of showing your workmates your holiday snaps – the memory of your holiday being incredibly precious to you and mattering not a whit to anyone else.

The clan’s Odyssey to Oz began with a gloriously sunny Dublin morning, a 7.30 am taxi ride to the airport with a stereotypical taxi driver who slammed everything Irish, British, American and Australian. In ten minutes! Everything went smoothly at airport, much hilarity at the fact that two of son#1’s pals came to see him off! They mourned his leaving them for THREE WHOLE WEEKS over free coffee and paid-for egg mcmuffins in the airport’s Mc Donalds. Son #1 claimed he would be homesick for these gangly lads. I laughed. I shouldn’t have laughed-it became horribly obvious he was homesick later in the trip, more on which anon.

We flew with Ethiad airlines and it was an experience. Even in Economy it is the luxurious end of air travel. All male members of fambly thrilled with individual screens in seat backs showing a huge variety of movies, tv shows, music videos and computer games. Staff incredibly courteous and even though there were several tiny infants on board the flight was quiet and civilised. I finally got to see Neil Jordan’s ‘Ondine’ , what a magical film! The part of the fisherman Syracuse must have been written for Colin Farrell because he was superb in it. All performances were brilliant in fact and the scenery, sets etc were beautiful. Definitely a winner.

For the rest of the flight into Abu Dhabi I read, wrote, ate – relatively decent airline grub and studied the forward view on screen from a camera mounted somewhere on the plane. A joy of a journey and then a smooth trafer to a second flight. And none of our bags got lost, although I could have done with losing one or all of the male members by the time we arrived! And big step-kid #1 was waiting for us at the airport. Looking as beautiful as ever. Or maybe even beautifuller. It was so, so good to see her. I think I might have hugged her too hard and she me, because the two of us shed a few tears-much to the bemusement of the males in our lives. What is it about men and tears? They just don’t get them at all do they?
More later…

Monday, June 28, 2010

'The Chosen One'

He calls himself ‘the Chosen One’, standing in front of the mirror above the fireplace in my sitting room. The hair is in constant play. He flicks the fringe with either a toss of his head – reminding me of a horse clearing hair and flies from his face - or with a sweep of his hand.

He is good-looking, I’ll give him that, and when he smiles his dimples wink at you and his teeth are strong and white, shining. I envy him his confidence and then feel proud, for surely he would not be as confident if I had not instilled that self-belief in him.

‘You can do anything. Be anything you want to be. All you have to do is firmly believe in yourself, acknowledge your own limitations and f*** the begrudgers’.

Have I done the right thing? Sometimes I fear for him, fear the landing he might get when that first disappointment comes – as it will – for luck also plays a part. But then I realize that I have prepared him for that too. Prepared him for reality, which is just as well considering the world we live in.

I also hope I have made him aware of other people, their feelings and how he must live in the world with others. I think I’ve succeeded there. He is immensely popular, a huge circle of friends both male and female. They tease and slag each other with that teenage cruelty that horrifies us as parents. But where did they learn such cruelty? Is it innate in us all? We talked, the Chosen One and I of this and we agreed that there is a meanness in humanity, only the very, very young and those special souls who may appear ‘simple’ to our sophisticated eyes appear not to have this trait.

Is that what makes us human? Or divine? Battling that tiny voice inside that suggests cruelties, both great and small. It was an interesting discussion, one I would not have been able to have at sixteen. Sixteen. Jesus, I can still remember vividly my waters breaking when he decided to arrive a little early. Always in a hurry – he couldn’t wait to be born to start on his path. He has been running away from me ever since. I hope he’ll either slow down or I speed up and we can walk companionably at least some part of the way.

Happy birthday son.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A book with words in it by me!!!!!!!!

Just got word that 'His Name Is Rebecca' will hit the shops August 27th-28th. I almost cried when I got the news. I feel like my 'labour' is nearly over, my baby is on the way and it'll all be over soon. All my anxieties, fears etcetera over and it wasn't half as painful as I thought it would be. Or maybe I've already forgotten the tearing my hair out, throwing the laptop at the window phase - as I forgot labour No. 1 until labour No. 2 started. I reckon we would all be only children only Nature does us a favour and blocks out the memory of the pain until it starts all over again!

Like pregnancy the book started with excitement, enthusiasm and pleasure and like labour it comes to an end with a wearier pleasure that becomes a great joy.

My job is done. Now all I have to do is rear the baby/flog the book!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Chosen People

Few beliefs over the millennia have been as misunderstood as the ’Chosen People’ doctrine. I do not purport to rehash any of those arguments here. I am no religious scholar neither an intellectual nor a philosopher. I approach each piece of reading and writing in the same way – with an open mind and a willingness to learn. My ramblings here are merely musings on my reading, personal thoughts on history as ‘twere and not intended as statements of fact or faith.

When I first heard that ‘Chosen People’ phrase many years ago I thought it a peculiar aggrandizement indeed a racist nomenclature for how can any one people decide that they are ‘Chosen’ above all others?. But as I grew older I realized that the term did not necessarily mean ‘better’ or the ‘best’. For a huge number of Jewish teachings, as in Christianity and Islam and other religions, are committed to the belief that all mankind - of whatever colour, gender, creed –is created in the image of one God and is possessed of an inherent human dignity and worthiness.

The horrors of the Holocaust often come to mind when the term the ‘Chosen People’ is mentioned. Were the Jews chosen, not solely I know, but as the primary victims of genocide so terrible it will reverberate for aeons? And why? It certainly showed Humanity what cruelty is innate in us and what a responsibility, a duty we have to tolerate, accept, love and care for one another. Or is it merely coincidence that those of the Jewish faith were the primary target of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing? It could be both of course, the ‘coincidence’ will forever be used to illustrate both the suffering that Man can withstand and the cruelty that Man is capable of. The battle between good and evil goes on every day, in every one of us, in our every mean and petty thought and every small gesture of compassion and humility. We should welcome the battle within us, for the very fact of it shows us to be closer to Heaven than our human minds perhaps even realise. Above all it proves us capable of being modeled on the Divine as well as re-affirming our obvious human frailties.

Some days my head hurts with too much thinking. I think a big mug of tea, some toast with melted butter and an hour in the sun is called for. Or perhaps some gardening, for there I can be judge and jury, compassionate in staking and watering, ruthless with weeds and spent flower heads. My own little kingdom.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Midsummer mentality.........

I stood in a lift in a shopping centre this morning and a trio of middle-aged, sun-kissed ladies (much like myself) broke that sometimes awkward silence by chatting desultorily about the weather.

‘Isn’t it just lovely’ sez lady 1.
‘Yeah Mary, gorgeous…but what have we to complain about now?’ sez lady 2.
‘Not a ting, not a ting,’ sighed lady 3 with satisfaction.

I grinned. The list was as long as not only her arm but the combined length of the arms of everybody in the country. We live on a godforsaken bog which has been governed for generations by a greedy, corrupt Church propped up by successive subservient Governments, both aided by the cash from the all too powerful big business. So. Where to start?

I think the ladies had it right. When the sun shines in Ireland we should take a day- nay, a week even - off - dismiss to the back of our minds the woes and tribulations of being Irish. We should take to the streets, the beaches and fields of the country, smile at each other, be gentle and kind to one another; sing, dance and above all laugh. Enjoy ourselves. It is but temporary and therefore all the more welcome.

Perhaps when the Azores high moves on we may be refreshed enough to take up metaphorical cudgels again and bat our way into a brave new world. A Golden Age is coming, a real Renaissance.

We can but hope and pray.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

One In Four - Omos

I have just spent a most incredible evening in St Stephen's Church off Merrion Square ( better known as the Pepper Canister).

The occasion was a cultural evening - an evening of readings and music to honour those in this benighted isle of ours who have experienced sexual violence. To try to empathise with these victims and to show them that we take a collective cultural responsibility towards them and endeavour to help ease their healing through the disciplines of words and music.

The line up was superb. Theo Dorgan m.c'd, RTE radio were recording it for future broadcast, Christy Moore, Don Baker, Eleanor McEvoy, Shaz Oye and Karan Casey provided the musical end of the night. Dearbhaile Crottry performed an extract from Bailegangaire by Tom Murphy and Joe O'Connor, Roddy Doyle, Nuala Ni Domhnaill andLia Mills all read from their work and Margaret Kelleher read two poems by Seamus Heaney which the great man had selected for the evening.

Each performer outdid the one before, each made the other's performance shine, enhanced it almost until at the end of the night we the audience were left in no doubt but that we had been part of a very, very special evening.

I know it's a cliche - but sometimes cliches are the only words that will aptly describe something. When Karan Casey wound up what had on occasions been a very, very intense and disturbing night with Nina Simone's anthem of hope 'New Dawn, New Day' the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my skin prickled. For you know, I do think there is hope for our little republic yet. We are in the process of tearing down all our old sacred cows, Church, State, Banks and big business. What we will be left with remains to be seen.

But once we are peopled by those like the courageous survivors of horrific acts, people brave enough to stand up and come forward, who may perhaps feel they are reliving (often over and over and over) the whole sordid sorry horror again. Once we are peopled also by artistes like those in the Pepper Canister tonight - people willing to observe, analyse and show us our sins and our ability to heal from those sins. With people like these among us then yes, yes, Ireland of the future may well be a very, very fine place to live.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Doing a Barack on it.....

What to blog aimlessly about today, or it it aimless blogging or aimlessly blogging?
'Tis all pure sh**e anyway. My imagination has deserted me for the last few weeks and Ii couldn't engage with a fictional character or an idea if it put a ring on my finger and married me. What to do?

Continue blogging aimlessly I suppose. Another possible ghost-writing project coming my way soon, so that might kickstart something for me.

Son #1 has started to write lyrics but isn't ready to show them to the world, well myspace at least, he is doing his first official 'gig' - two numbers as opening act at some charity gig in a small country pub a few miles from where we live. All thoughts of exams have flown from his music oriented brain and I'm quite sure I will be asked,
'Will you tell me what you think Mam' a thousand times between now and the gig. I'm bloody tone-deaf and if I say 'it's wonderful' he'll think - 'sure, she hasn't a clue'. If I say 'I'm not mad about it' he'll think - 'she still hasn't a clue and she doesn't even love me enough to lie'.

Jemser says I should not project my own anxieties onto my children. Actually they weren't the words he use. He said 'Not everyone is as irrationally unsure of themselves as you.' He's right. Maybe that's why I can't write at the moment (except for aimless etc...)

I have to do a Barack on it. Then I'll conquer the world - but I still won't think it had anything to do with any talent I had (or hadn't)

Promise next blog will be positive, forward looking ,dynamic.......

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poets Do it Better.........

I had the privilege last night to tune into RTE radio One's Arts slot. It was a great show, featuring a piece on Pat McCabe and some book club. It was a 'weekend' book club, where you stay in a nice house in the country, eat lovely food, drink wine and chat about books. Sounds like my kind of weekend. Anyway the book the group were reading was 'The Seige of Krishnapur' by JG Farell, and I smiled.

I felt I had come full circle with this book because it was the novel I was reading on the first writing workshop weekend I ever attended. It was in Dingle and I finished JG Farrell's magical book that weekend and started writing my own novel(no comparison!) Eoin McNamee facilitated the workshops and I'm happy to say that I kept both the opening paragraph and the last paragraph of the novel much as I wrote them then. I still think they're rather good. Now if only I can get a publisher to agree!

Then came serendipity#2. Colm Keegan (who blogs here) was reviewing two new books of poetry and he read Grace Well's visceral poem which details some horrific domestic abuse. My novel 'The Heron's Flood' -(my title, the agents call it something else) deals with, among other things, domestic violence so I considered myself relatively aware of the nuances and horror of the whole subject.

But Grace's poem shows the violence in such an immediate light and the language used punches out the horror so well that I think it should be made compulsory reading for everyone. I could not help but be both moved and maddened by it, I felt my blood boil and my heart weep for the abused.When will it stop, people? When will the abusers stop mentally and physically torturing people they purport to love?

Listen to it here. - thurs May 27th Colm makes a great job of reading it, he is a very fine poet and writer himself and it was interesting to hear the poem in a male voice. It added a new dimension, for of course it is not only women and children who are victims.

After all that I was very glad to sit out my back garden as dusk settled and contemplate the Hawthorn tree in full bloom. Thank God for Nature, its capabilities to soothe our souls. Wish I could do it justice in a poem...........

Off to York for the weekend, mebbe I'll be inspired

Monday, May 24, 2010


Someone whom I love very deeply suffered a bit of a wobbly over the last week. This prompted me to contemplate yet again how powerful and delicate an organ the brain is, how easily the balance of it can be disturbed and how distressing such disturbances are for both the person who is suffering and that person’s friends and family.

I suppose I understand it a little myself because I have sunk into some terrifying pits over a twenty year period. I get the very odd high-very, very, odd and not enough to warrant either medication or psychotherapy. I quite like the highs, I always write my best work when I’m in that head, the big ideas come and I try to hold them, write them down, record them for use in some piece at a future date. The worst I do is stay awake too long and talk too much. After the last episode I mentioned these warning signs to the beloved other, he is in general able to spot the dark clouds glowering before I do, but he’s not so tuned to the slight highs and his reaction was

‘But you talk so much anyway, how am I to know you’re going high?’

It’s hard on him and on my family but they’re great. They never ever condemn me, tell me to pull up my socks or to get on with it and stop feeling sorry for myself. I wouldn’t blame them if they did, living with mental illness is haard on everyone in the family. Sometimes I feel self-indulgent, letting the high or low get the better of me – particularly a bad low day, a day I cannot, physically cannot get out of bed, a day I want to die, count the paracetamol or contemplate the branches of trees pondering would they take my weight in a noose. I hope I never get to that space again where I actually do something with the thoughts that lurk in the recesses of my mind. But sometimes these very thoughts are the only things that calm me. Planning my death, my funeral – incredibly morbid, dark dark thoughts.

But then the doorbell might go and a freckle-faced boy comes home, and how could I leave him yet? How could I abandon him when he still needs me. He and his brother, my step daughters, my husband, family and friends. They are my ‘will-to-meaning’ (Viktor Frankyl). I draw breath for them. I be. For them. And as long as they are I too will be.

Why am I blogging about it? Why pour my soul, the fireflies in my brain onto the page? Because I have to. We have to. As a society we have to drag mental health centre stage, it is an area of medicine where prevention pays off. With the slow decline of religion in the Western World something must replace that spirituality, the comfort the contemplation of the divine gave to generations. Whatever the Divine might be. For we all need a ‘will-to-meaning’, something to make sense of it all, make living worthwhile. For some it is Art – painting, music, reading, writing – all the disciplines. For others sport or yoga or something non-chemical for which one has a passion. That, and one good teacher, is all any human being needs after all basic physical needs are met to live a contented life. Live, love and be safe in the moment.

Amn’t I horrid deep?