Archive for November, 2010

In Patrick Kavanagh Country

30/11/2010 Comments off


I seemed to loop my way around the North of Ireland to make my first visit to Inishkeen and the Patrick Kavanagh Festival this weekend.

I first travelled north by Ben Bulben to Letterkenny, past mile after mile of election hoardings for that day’s by-election; my destination a North West Words event at Cafe Blend, Letterkenny, that has to be one of the most welcoming poetry reading venues in the country.

Sinn Fein coasted to an easy electoral win. I made it through Omagh and Monaghan to Inishkeen with snow threatening and visitors mingling in the frosty air. We did the tour of Kavanagh places, taking in Rocksavage Fort, Cassidy’s Hanging Hill, Billy Brennan’s Barn and Shancoduff: ‘I looked and three whin bushes rode across / the horizon …’

In Carrickmacross they have their own trail of Kavanagh haunts when ‘moments big as years were mine to squander’; and frisky mares could ‘kick the stars out of the sky’.

By Sunday morning I was headed south, making my way as best I could through motorway slush listening to Emma Donoghue and her father Dennis being interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan and he talking of his  daughter’s writing that impresses ‘sentence on sentence’.

I was distracted by a dangerously filthy windscreen due to the cleaning water freezing. I vaguely heard Dennis Donoghue talk of his memoir Warrenpoint that I read almost twenty years ago, visualising the photograph of a  stern RUC father on the cover.

It was time to concentrate on getting home through the snow and bracing myself for announcements from the IMF and ECB of Ireland’s austerity programme. Patrick Kavanagh would have something sharp to say about it all.

Fear, Grief and Unexpected Hope

22/11/2010 2 comments

This Irish Citizen found hope from an unexpected source in a week when four children died violently in rooms at their homes and the IMF and ECB arrived in Ireland.  My source of hope came from Emma Donoghue’s novel  Room. In a 12-ft square room where a sky-light gives the only glimpse of the outside world, a young woman nurtures her child and preserves her own sanity through the power of language, storytelling and imagination.

I could not have believed that I would turn to such a book in a week when we were shocked and numbed by public and private tragedy. How could a novel that evoked the horror of a family’s incarceration by Joseph Fritzl  bring hope? But it did just that for me in a memorable and multi-layered read.

Five year old Jack finds richness and wonder in the confined room that he shares with Ma – he knows no other world. It is a place where he has  ‘thousands of things’ to do  like following a spider’s movements, watching a new leaf emerge from a potted plant and listening to Ma‘s advice: ‘It’s called mind over matter. If we don’t mind it doesn’t matter.’

This trailer for Room catches some of its magic, I think.

This is my book of the year.

Maybe you found hope this week gone in story?

How to Get Yourself Off Your Lazy Butt and Start Writing Already

18/11/2010 Comments off


Get off your lazy butt and write!

 How to Get Yourself Off Your Lazy Butt and Start Writing Already.

Thoughtful and provocative suggestions in this Blog on starting and keeping a writing routine.

Summed up in make it your goal that you will START to write.

Maybe you have suggestions to add.

Rolling Sun on Croagh Patrick

15/11/2010 Comments off

I didn’t get to the Rolling Sun Book Festival in Westport this week-end. Only heard about it late in the day and was intrigued by the title. It seems that at certain times of the year the sun appears to roll down the side of the mountain on the nearby Croagh Patrick.

I spent my childhood some twenty-five miles from Westport and Croagh Patrick. My memory is of the evening sun oozing around the mountain’s silhouette in a creamy light as we squinted through our kitchen window.

As for the Rolling Sun Book Festival, it looks like it was loosely literary but also about music and storytelling and chat and cooking. Yes, cooking, as Tamasin Day-Lewis, daughter of Cecil Day-Lewis, brother of Daniel and a regular visitor in the Westport hinterland, was one of the festival guests.

It’s a full dozen years since I bought Tamasin’s book, West of Ireland Summers Cookbook, based on recipes she  remembered from her childhood days in Mayo. Apart from the braised lamb shanks, I’ve tried few of the recipes. But, many times, I’ve feasted on the wonderful photographs by Simon Wheeler and enjoyed  Tamasin’s nostalgic narrative pieces that accompany the cooking tips.

She recalls the time as a child when she came second in a horse race on Carrownisky Strand, Louisburgh and her father wrote a poem, ‘Remembering Carrownisky’, about the moment: ‘an image that time may bury but not unmake’.  

Maybe you were lucky enough to get to some of the Rolling Sun Festival events?


Image credit here.

6 Fun Ways To Spend a Cold, Dark Night « New Urban Habitat

10/11/2010 2 comments


 6 Fun ways to spend a cold dark night



Read on the New Urban Habitat blog about six fun ways to spend a cold, dark night and get through these days of stark, depressing economic news.

Read aloud to one another.

Tell a story.

And more suggestions for these windy nights.

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