Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Dip

Well, another fabulous few days. Christmas Eve morning began with a friend calling with champagne, and I never looked back!

On Christmas morning here, there's a swim off the pier in aid of a local charity or group. Growing up in Malahide, there were always a few people who went swimming on Christmas Day, but I never really paid it any attention. Here it's a bigger deal - the whole village comes out to watch - and for some reason, I thought it might be a good thing to take part in.

And so yesterday morning I warmed my swimsuit on a radiator, and poured myself a glass of champagne. Then off I went. Everyone gathers in the sail club, then make their way out along the pier, and jump on in. Brrrr. It was cold - very cold - but not 'ohmygodiamgonnadie' cold. There were about 35 of us, including a bunch of very brave kids. We swam across to the far pier and back again.

And then there's hot ports, whiskies, chocolate.

The day went great: skyping with Doncaster, Dublin and Singapore, and catching up with friends over the day. The venison with chocolate sauce was very very good, and the champagne jelly & syllabub was a perfect follow-on. And then I joined a local family for post-prandial games & conversation.

Most treaty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You're some bitch

Goodness me, it's been days since I blogged - how simply dreadful!! [I'm filled with Oscar Wilde language at the moment]. Life has been pretty hectic.

Off we went on the ferry to Sherkin Island on Friday evening, and did our first performance. We were extremely well taken care of, and no-one seemed to mind that we perhaps weren't quite polished...

And so the play was followed by a session, and on the second night when we came to the line "I heard you were out dancing till four o'clock in the morning!" there were smiles backstage, for it was all too true. Night Two was followed by Casey's Christmas Party, which finished, ahem, later than the previous evening. The cast were in various stages of tenderness last night, but rallied for the performance (and having a fantastic audience really boosted us all). And so we hurled ourselves into session three, which was, ahem, later still. And involved daylight.

The vampy villain role went down well: last night someone came up to me and said: "Jesus, you're some bitch!" Success!!

Oh, and I had a bad car accident before dress rehearsal, and have been in agony throughout! I have a sash-like bruise across my front from the seat belt - the amount of concealer it took to cover that up!

Tomorrow, I shall start thinking about Christmas...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A glittering debut

That's the vampy lipstick of which I speak, not me. Yes, we did costumes + make up + props + lighting this evening. An Ideal Husband is gradually coagulating - not the most enticing of verbs, but theatre can be a sticky business.

Using the props revealed a whole host of problem areas, and there was improvisation a'plenty on my part. However, we're getting there.

The only writing today was a To Do list: the day was spent between drama things, a minor 'break' for sorting Christmas #2 photos for the faaaamily, and a trip to Skib to proof the programme. Today's Christmas Cardey post is still sealed, because I refuse to open those lovely cards in a hurry...

However, the good news is that I'm responding to a cocktail of cold medications. Feel a little trippy dippy dopey, but that's not necessarily a bad thing...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Elvish ways

The butchers in Field's Supermarket were more like Santa's elves , they were working with such jollity and eagerness; surrounded by spiced beef, game, loins of some creature or other... I could have watched them all morning. But I ordered my joint of venison and off I went. (My sister has a recipe for venison with chocolate sauce which may be the Chosen One).

Speaking of which, the Grand Master of Costumes is clearly the holder of all kinds of occult and arcane knowledge. My voice is worse today. Beyond husky-in-a-seductive way. At normal volume I sound like Darth Vader; loud becomes high-pitched in a Justin Timberlake kinda way; and whispering does a great Gollum. None of which are particularly Wildean.

Oh dear.

However, the good news is that a saviour has been born. Or brewed. Just savouring my first hot port of the season.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Long day's journey...

Long day :-) I left Dublin shortly after 6am, picked up all our costumes in a roadwork-clogged Limerick, then headed for West Cork.

Nap. Costume fittings. Rehearsal - which is still going strong, but I'm not in Act IV, so I dragged my ready-for-a-sleep self home. Got a head cold over the weekend, so I snuffled a bit through my evil conniving vampy scenes. (The Master of Costumes this morning thought I'd lost my voice as well, but I reckon that's just a result of family conversations & playtime.)

Anyhoo, home now; I have taken a certain mother's advice, and poured myself a glass o'wine.

I also test-drove my new "food machine". Obviously. Aaah, chilli popcorn - such a warming treat on a wintery evening for a tired snuffley lady!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Spice of life

Charging charging charging... phone, camera, toothbrush. Off to Dublin tomorrow, for my second Christmas celebration of the year :-)

The pub quiz finale was a tense affair, and although our only success was in the raffle department, it was good craic. Highlight for all was during the movie theme music round: the pub door opened to the opening strains of The Godfather. "Here he comes!" someone called out. And sure enough, a local godfatherly-type figure entered slowly, and made his way through the pub, smiling benevolently upon us in our helpless laughter.

My popcorn maker died a few weeks back, and I am really feeling it this week. To tide me over, I prepared a vat of spicey pumpkin & sunflower seeds: plenty o'chilli, sprinkle of cayenne, salt & pepper. Kind of addictive, as it turns out. But bursting with protein, magnesium, B-vitamins - all kinds of good things.

Still miss popcorn though. This weekend...

Speaking of which, have a great weekend folks :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So wrong it's right

Goodness me, we have the pub quiz grand finale this evening, and the day has just slipped away from me. I'm all behind like the cow's tail...

Sometimes, a typo is entirely successful: it just wins you over with its accidental charm. Like the sweet mice topping on the menu of my beloved pizza place in Garajau. Typos like that, you wouldn't change for all the world.

There's a big tv looming over a couple of check-outs in Field's, running local ads and making Christmassey announcements. They show a big colourful ad for a restaurant (coincidentally, a pizza place) in Ballydebob.

That's right. Ballydebob. Which if you pronounce in proper local fashion, would be Baal-d-bob.

I thought Baal-d-hob was the jauntiest place name ever, but this...


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Thinking about Christmassey music today. I don't mean the tinny cover tunes piped through shops, but actual music. Music that you might not hate.

It started with the O Holy Night from the Christmas episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The fab soaring hymn production style of W.G. Snuffy Walden (what a great name) is given a real New Orleans twist. Just phenomenal.

And from there I got thinking of The West Wing and so to The Yale Whiffenpoofs, whose Christmas album have been added to the family music collection in recent years. (Our childhood staple was John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together to which we used to decorate the tree each year.)

Anyhoo, so The Whiffenpoofs led to a capella, and on to Straight no Chaser, a group from Indiana University. I hadn't come across them before: in addition to 'straight' songs, they do funny medleys of boy bands or sitcom tunes or hipiddy hop. And their 'Lion Sleeps Tonight' is worth a listen. But keeping to the theme, their 12 Days of Christmas is a treat. Christmas should have some argumentative songs!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

dear fat furry catpuss

Rest in peace, Mister Postgate, creator of Bagpuss. Your work will live on.

I cannot believe there were only thirteen episodes of Bagpuss made. Thirteen? Why don't we end up referring to it Friends-style, 'The one with the ship in bottle', 'The one with the ballet shoe'? I guess it was always more about the characters than the plot.

I had a look at the episode guide; smiling at the audacious imagination of the little mousey population of that curiosity shop:

Episode 12: Professor Yaffle has a basket which is full of odds and ends. The mice investigate it and find an old-fashioned broom which is made from twigs. The mice decide to make a flying machine out of the basket.

Episode 8: Emily brings back a box to the shop. The Mouseorgan mice open it up to discover that it is a Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Mill. The mice start the Mill and using breadcrumbs and butterbeans make chocolate biscuits.

Breadcrumbs and butterbeans... what else? :-)

And in other mice news,the computer mouse turns 40 today. Who would have thought...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Defenestration: throwing someone out of a window

I've been exploring Wikipedia's page on the unusual. It's subdivided by names, places, numbers, language, science, death - whatever takes your fancy. Now, I'm not a huge Wiki person, since accuracy is so very difficult to control, but that said, this is fascinating.

Some entries might be familiar (the town of Hell, Michigan; the sobering thought of safety coffins; or maggot therapy, by all accounts wonderful and worthy of celebrity endorsement and a massive awareness-raising campaign).

Others are more curious or bemusing or downright worrying: a list of death-defying situations resolved by MacGyver (in the pilot episode he disarmed a missile with a paper clip - seriously); the Ontario town of Punkeydoodles Corners (known for its frequent sign theft - and who wouldn't!); and there's a whole section on Exploding Animals. That's right. The good news is that Exploding Head Syndrome is a total misnomer. Phew.

And coincidentally, the same Wiki page also details the Wilhelm scream, which I only just heard about from my brother this very day. It's a staple in-joke of the film industry, apparently, and you can hear it in all its glory below - from its 1953 origins through Reservoir Dogs to The Phantom Menace.

Note to self: pay more attention to death screams.

Friday, December 5, 2008


The other team members were able to reel off any current affairs tidbit that you could possibly want to know about. But then came the question: "Who is Declan MacManus better known as?"

Ah, how I love that man! Just hearing his name makes me smile...

Well, the dates for the play have been finalised:

> Friday 19 December: Sherkin Community Hall
> Sat 20 & Sun 21 December: Baltimore Community Hall
> Friday 2 January: Skibbereen Town Hall (Note to self: schedule disco nap for that afternoon. And not too much fizzy on New Year's Day...)

Tickets on sale... whenever they're ready from the printers. Baby steps...

And in other news...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Distilled genius

Blustery rainy day. Spent the afternoon curled up with intent, with a toasty fire and plenty o'candles. Still contemplating a word that means scribbling-but-on-a-laptop; in the meanwhile, tappy-tap-tapping will have to suffice.

So, you know when unwrap a new DVD box set, let's say it's The Wire Series 5 for the sake of argument. And before you immerse yourself in the next epic journey of these characters, you want to indulge in a quick, atmospheric recap?

Well, here it is. The Wire: 4 seasons in 4 minutes.

It's in the same vein as The Nine Minute Sopranos; which is also quite a rollercoaster...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A mixed bag

Catching up on a miscellany of things today, none of which will feature in this week's pub quiz I imagine (other team-mates are picking up the slack, reading the Examiner).

Anyhoo, there's a nice interview with Toni Morrison here. And who knew there was such a thing as Lebowski Fest - yes, that's right, a celebration of all things dude-ly, with a healthy scattering of White Russians along the way. Wonder if there's something similar for Diner, where you sit around with friends and talk about Presley over sandwiches and debate nuance vs gesture until the dawn...

Here's something I meant to post weeks ago - a glimpse at Loy Krathong, held on the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai calendar. Like so many great winter festivals, it seems to feature flowers and candles and themes of renewal and hope. Looks magical.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Masqued Intentions

I guess everyone has a marketing weakness. My purchasing vulnerabilty centres around Absolut (see the disco ball for details). The new limited edition - Absolut Masquerade - is currently bringing sequinned festive cheer to an off licence near you. "In an Absolut world, every night is a masquerade." A soft slip-case with over 3000 sequins; unzips slinkily down the back...

Those marketing people would have me from hello.

Monday, December 1, 2008

All losses are restored

Ahh, I am back on coffee. The healing is complete.

A weekend of scribbling, reading, rehearsal and housework (seriously - the post-illness house is spanky clean). Pummelled through Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; I really want to read the Blade Runner script now - fascinating choices made in the adaptation.

Anyhoo, for now, let's return to penguins. Or one penguin in particular, with honed survival instincts and problem-solving capabilities.

Whaddaguy!! Although I gotta say, with killer whales circling, I'm surprised no-one in the boat panicked and suggested tipping the little guy back in. Or maybe I've just seen too many movies...

Friday, November 28, 2008

An environment in which to thrive

What is it with me and mushrooms!

Okay, first there was that bathroom ceiling incident in Madeira (photo right), which was a smidge strange.

Fastforward to West Cork: I recently moved an orchid away from its sunny spot because a certain... well, I won't go into that. She'll only say that the world blames mothers for everything. Let's just say I moved the plant recently; it is now in a not-so-warm, not so-sunny-spot. So, this morning I go to check on it, and lo and behold:

There are another two teeny-tiny shrooms peeping out on the other side of the pot. Think I'll let it warm up by the radiator for the evening; see what happens.

Have a great weekend folks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No harm, no...

Well, what else would you send out there on Thanksgiving but Sarah Palin and her turkey-pardoning-cum-slaughtering antics.

The uncensored interview (here) is funny enough; following a token turkey-pardoning, Palin is interviewed while work gets underway behind; the interviewer hams it up, asking about state programmes 'on the chopping block'.

But the news report on the interview adds a whole other level, complete with real-crime-tv blurring out of turkey parts and headline titles worthy of The Onion: "Turkeys die as Gov. Palin takes questions from media"; "Gov. Sarah Palin keeps talking while turkeys get slaughtered behind her"; "Turkey-killing fowls Palin's news conference":

I'm not sure on whom this reflects most poorly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A spanking good time

On the mend, oh happy day! Having tea & toast with confidence.

Flaffed around with a draft poster for the play - plenty o'fun playing with victorian fonts and images. But I now know more about corsets than I ever ever want to.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The I'm-digesting-glass sensation is easing. Slowly.

Slept till noon; spent the day curled up, still and quiet.

Speaking of which, I should get back to that right now...

Monday, November 24, 2008


I feel that lying somewhere out there is a wax Orlaith-doll, with a plump pincushion beside it, all glittering sharpness...

Yeah, so I'm not well. Crashed on Saturday evening; crazy feverish & sore. I finally got up when I just couldn't believe that a single night could last so long. It was almost 7pm. Sunday.

Today was better; I woke before noon.

Baby steps :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008


Last night, the ten thousandth round of the pub quiz ended in a dead tie between us and another team. Time for a quiz face off! I contributed little throughout, but earned my keep in the film/mythology departments with the 'Juno' questions. And in the end, we won :-)

The Golden Notebook Project caught my attention this week: it describes itself as "part of a long-term effort to encourage and enable a culture of collaborative learning". Seven writers (all women) are reading Doris Lessing's classic as an e-text, adding marginal comments as they go. So, the public can read along with them, add their own views in forums etc. Interesting idea. I don't know if it's the best way to read a book for the first time (which it is, for me) but if it was a book that I knew quite well, I would probably be eager to dip in and out of the responses of seven intelligent people.

In other news, here's a short exposing the nefarious nature of cats, complete with cute little kitty noises. And it's just for Maggie :-)

Little machiavellian fluffball...

Have a great weekend, folks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There are a million stories in the naked city

Crispy, sunshiney day here. I'm curled up, tapping away, while around me swirls the aroma of carrot & ginger soup. Perfect.

I was idling with a friend last night, vaguely entertaining when I might visit her in New York (so vaguely that it's perhaps indistinct to the naked eye; it's a way off, is what I'm saying). However, The Moth would be a must-do for the next trip:

The Moth is a NY-based organisation dedicated to "unashamedly old-fashioned storytelling". They have a couple of events each month featuring great tales woven (live) by the likes of John Turturro, Garrison Keillor, Lili Taylor, Salman Rushdie, Ethan Hawke, Moby, Neil Gaiman...

They also have a StorySLAM, an open-mic event with a pre-set theme, where anyone can have 5 minutes with the mic: from neurosurgeons to voodoo priestesses, from NYPD officers to retired pickpockets -- everybody has their say.

You can see a NY Times video article on this week's Moth Ball here.

Off to subscribe to The Moth's podcast now...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life moments

With Google as host, LIFE magazine is bringing its massive photo archive online (2 million down, 8 million to go). It's all there for your perusing pleasure: from the American Civil War to Vietnam; the Great Depression to landing on the moon; the academy awards to surfers (back when they were called "surf riders").

An absolute gem. Here's one of Grace Kelly in March 1955, having won the Best Actress Oscar for The Country Girl.

What a treat :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another penguin ending

Day two of a proper, organised daily schedule. Three will make a pattern. Fingers crossed...

Writing going well, as are rehearsals. My sister entrusted me with a vampy lipstick and lipliner; not that I'm wearing them yet, but I think they're psychologically supporting me - in the vampy role, that is, rather than in writing. (Hmm. Although now that I think of it, maybe, just maybe...)

Anyhoo, here's a recent interview with Berkeley Breathed on this month's publication of the very last strip of Opus, the world's favourite neurotic penguin.

You can see the last strip here and the final reveal here.

In the lead-up, there was much speculation about the fate of Opus, which Berkeley faces head on:

"K-k-k-kill? I've never said the K word. Did I? Don't YOU say that. COMPLETELY depressing. He's Passing Into the Ages. A Christian Scientist appreciates the distinction. Opus will be where I'd like to think of him being for the rest of my life ... which will be a small surprise to many readers. And possibly a Sopranos-like disappointment for some, but I simply will not bow to clich├ęs this late in the game."
Be happy, Opus.

And in other news:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three. Vodka & Orange Juice.

A catchy-uppy weekend: movies, tv, sleep, podcasts, interviews (including Joss Whedon and Elvis Costello) - oh, and I finally got the christening photos downloaded. They featured the particularly cute christening cake...

By the time the cake was laid out, my sister's twins had already cut a deal: one got to eat the teddy bear; one would devour the miniature baby, head first:

It was technically a chocolate biscuit cake, except the biscuits were replaced by crushed maltesers. What's that? Why yes, eating a slice did simulate the classic symptoms of a heart attack...

Mom's headed back to Dublin, sigh. We took part in the drama pub quiz last Thursday, which was great craic. One of the rounds opened with:

1) How many daughters did King Lear have?

2) What are the ingredients of a screwdriver?

Me. In my element. Right there. I mean, the questions moved on to sport and current affairs, but for that moment...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The final introduction

"Missing Wednesday to Reception, please. Could Missing Wednesday please report to Reception..."

Well, the week progresses, buffered along by undulations of coffee and wine. One second-guessing moment, when I was chatting to a lovely woman in Skibbereen the other day:

And where are you living?


That's where I live. Whereabouts are you?

Mariner's Cove.

(kind of pondering)
What's your name?


(penny dropping)
Oh! You're that Orlaith...

So, there's me, not at all sure what this means. If it's conceivably a good thing. Or bad. Portent-of-doom kind of bad.

Someone mentioned you the other day and I didn't know who you were and they were like, "Orlaith! You know - Orlaith!" and you know the way you hate being the last person to know someone...

Actually, no. I have no strong feelings about being the last person to meet anyone. Being the last person to discover The West Wing or The Kite Runner or Dial2Do, maybe...

But I understand it's very possible to have those feelings about people.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stolen moment

Another whirlwind day. Okay, super-lazy breakfasting, but once that was done we were on the road. Shopping, coffee with friend, shopping, er... shopping, wine, wine with crosaire, dinner, wine, and a healthy dose of The Gilmore Girls. Yep, we are all sassy-quoted up.

I am determined to finish Ian McEwan's Saturday any day now. Perhaps even this very day...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Almost perfect composition

Superb weekend, despite the Travel Gods of Washington DC frowning upon my brother's attempts to get out of the US...

The christening of Lily May is complete (she is just made to be a Tennessee Williams heroine; must work on her Southern Belle accent when, you know, she starts speaking. "Why Lily May, ah belieeeeve you have a gentleman caller...") . I officially featured during the ceremony; the priest periodically broke off from Christianey liturgical things to say things like "Camera Lady, if you'd like to come up here to take photos. The anointing with the oil will only happen once..."

No pressure or anything. Took several thousand photos, none of which are yet downloaded.

Have enjoyed days of much conversation over much wine with (almost all) the family; and my mom's decided to spend a few days in Baltimore, so the trend looks set to continue this week...

Speaking of which, I'd better get back to it

Friday, November 7, 2008

Drawing together

My family is scattered today. Everyone's travelling; busy with work, funerals, children. But tomorrow we'll come together for a christening - and although we may be jet-lagged, travel-weary, sleep-deprived, and/or a smidge hungover - I am SO looking forward to it!

Safe travels, everyone. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Serene saintliness

There's a big Blood drive on at the moment, and today I went along to the West Cork Hotel to donate. The Pelican People had my records from Dublin donations many moons ago; afternoons when you'd linger in Pelican House and enjoy a pint or two of guinness, crisps, chocolate - it always seemed a special place, filled with treaty things.

After a zillion questions, the iron level check was the first stop: the Iron Nurse squodges a blood droplet onto a slide and slots it into a red machine. Three of us (there's also a Watcher present) watch the machine. We wait. I try to calculate the last time I ate red meat. We wait some more. I wonder if there's any iron in popcorn, last night's dinner. Nursey-watches are consulted; it's apparently taking longer than usual. Finally there's a read-out. It says 16.2. I don't know how bad this is. "Jesus," says Iron Nurse to the Watcher, "great levels today". It's a fine result (apparently 12 is a low indicator). I'm all ironed-up. Good to go.

On to the gurney: blood pressure time. My entire life, blood pressure tests have elicited the same response: "You must be very fit". No, I sometimes try to explain, no I'm really not. Might there be something - a condition - whose symptoms are the appearance of fitness? It's the same today (although at the moment I'm probably reasonably fit, thus further hiding the condition that's already disguised). The Needle Inserter Nurse comes along, surveys the forms and the read-outs. "You're very relaxed," she says, "All good". And so we begin. By the end of the session I'm a smidge too relaxed: I have to uncross my legs and squeeze one of those rubber stress-balls to encourage signs of life.

There's nothing like donating blood to make you feel like a saint!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

De Oratore

On a day filled with eloquence in defeat and victory, here's something completely different, from Michael Stipe (who recently voiced his belief that an Obama presidency would move America "forward with hope").

From REM's Dublin gigs last year, this is Stipe, charmingly embarrassed:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting privileges

With the day that's in it...

Sacha Baron Cohen has the best line: "What you do inside the voting booth is a secret. I like to make a hand relief. Niiiiiice!"

Monday, November 3, 2008

All is calm, all is bright

Apparently the Sun is enjoying some quiet time, with hardly any sunspots this year and solar winds at their lowest in 50 years. No-one's quite sure what, if anything, this means, but "they're" keeping an eye out. (Like Palin, scouting for Russians...)

Anyhoo, it's an ideal time to take a look at the action during the sun's sprightlier phases.

There's a whole set of great photos (courtesy of NASA) over at the Boston Globe. Phenomenal, as phenomena should be :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

On dry land

The Glenans learn-to-sail training boats are all out of the water. Another season over...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Things of a vampy nature

So, the local drama society is putting on Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, and we've been rehearsing away. I was talking to a friend who knows the play:

So who are you playing?

Mrs Cheveley.

Isn't she the glamorous vamp?


I've seen you glamorous...


A longer pause follows. The word 'vamp' hangs in the air, unspoken. Tumbleweed blows through. It's getting a bit awkward.

(super supportive)
And one acts in order to take on different characteristics...

The notion of me as a vamp is a tad... laughable, risible, ludicrous; I could sit with a thesaurus and poke fun at it all the live-long day.

Of course, everyone's being supportive: my sister even bought some red lipstick, in a shade probably called Vampy Whore's Delight. So that's taken care of, at least.

Anyhoo, in other news, Martha Stewart has spent the last month devoting her lifestyle marketing empire to all things Halloweeney: she's explained how to carve a thousand types of pumpkins, make fake cobwebs from - I dunno - gage jam or something. But there was one suggestion that was pretty cute:

Now, I'd need a whole fleet of ghosts on my plate, but how dinky are they!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taken out of context

Note to self:
Visitors may be amused by notice board reminders.

Or disconcerted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

'Kay i don't make films, but if I did they'd have a Samurai

Settling back in to work has proven a challenge. I mean, obviously I've achieved - and learned - certain things today:

1) Went to the gym, where daytime tv was on; Oprah was interviewing (aka gushing over) Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Turns out tv makes running-time go faster...

2) Made lunch

3) Watched a beautifully animated short film of a trampolining elephant

4) And the really good news is that I now know most of the words of 'One Week' by Barenaked Ladies (you can sing along with the lyrics here or watch the video here). Hadn't heard it in years!

Now, on to my next worthy project. Dum de dum...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

that was the weekend that was

Aaah, what a great weekend! Lovely walks, pints, conversations...

And we had Christmas.

I put it down to the granola. Orange & cranberry flavours got us in the Christmas spirit, and since Sean & Shona will be celebrating in Singapore this year, we thought why not...

It even happened to be the 25th.

So, we had a fantastic Christmas meal, and the next day enjoyed a St Stephen's waddle, then telescoped time neatly to ring in the New Year.

There were some pleasing variations on our holiday festivities in Madeira a couple of years back: this weekend we headed up Lough Oighin Hill on foot - rather than hurtling down a mountain in a basket, and I lit a single match over our New Year's pints, which contrasted with the popping champagne corks and unbelievable fireworks of Funchal.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The bank holiday weekend is practically upon us; praise!

I have family coming down, which is very treaty indeed. And as if that wasn't enough, two box sets of The Wire are also approaching this non-US Baltimore.

Happy happy!

Have a fantastic weekend, folks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Late Start

I've just made it home from meeting a friend for coffee, at 11am. It was one of those days where things lead onto other things; at one point I actually had my home in sight, but it was not to be...

Fabulous day, but it's really time to start work now.

Maybe I should just do the Crosaire first...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Word legacies

I've been thinking about quotes we say to each other in times of sorrow or trauma; we offer another's words, because our own feel woefully inadequate.

Sometimes they're tried-and-true - words that have seen us through our own darkness - and we pass them on like a great family recipe. But family recipes are sometimes formed around an idiosyncratic oven, or a particular cast-iron pot, and don't always reproduce so well in another's kitchen.

For example, when we were kids we used to love "Keep passing the open windows", quirky advice offered in John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire. Actually, we had myriad quotes from HNH, about sorrow and bears and inventing our lives - it's a veritable treasure trove. But the wry suicide humour of open windows, that's not going to translate easily; few people would automatically feel the solace in that line.

On the other hand, there's a Hemingway quote from A Farewell to Arms that offers a certainty of pain, and of life beyond that pain. It somehow reaches easily:
"The world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong at the broken places".

It's not a favourite book of mine, but what a line...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gonzo's guide to culture

Ah, there's nothing like a waltz...

Wonder if Strauss had a sense of humour. Or kept chickens.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Starting points

Lovely weekend: somehow productive, sociable, and yet I still managed to watch all 22 episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Perhaps more sleep is required...

I didn't get my Columbo blanket finished (yes that's right: a blanket to snuggle under and perhaps doze a little while the master sleuth is at work) but you can't have everything.

Anyhoo, the stormy weather this weekend reminded me of my arrival in West Cork: driving around country lanes, trying to follow a map to a house I'd never been in before. There was a killer storm raging, and I unpacked and huddled, then ran out and stocked up on wine, and huddled some more. The following morning it was calm but freezing, and I stood in the kitchen, waiting for coffee to brew. And a stag walked by the kitchen window - a six pointer - and he stopped and grazed as I breakfasted in awe.

A great start.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Caffeine & Valentine words

A most social, caffeinated day, both planned and unplanned. Catching up on work now: buffing & polishing the Tango short story; it is almost ready to go...

In other news (and I'll post more details on my website), a short story of mine called 'As Time Goes By' will be appearing in 24/7, an anthology forthcoming from the NLWC Carers Group, to be launched on Valentine's Day 2009. Awwwwww...

Have a fabulous weekend, folks.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

News to me

Okay, I may be the last person on earth to learn this, but Aaron Sorkin (respectful pause) is writing a movie about the Facebook phenomenon for Scott Rudin. And as part of the process, he's set up his own Facebook page, which is just over here.

His footnote to the intro reads:

* I feel about this introduction the way I felt about Sophie's Choice--It could have been funnier.

I love that man.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Serving Time

I seem to have been running behind all day; straightforward things have taken eons. I've reached the point where I figure: best to concede defeat, and try again tomorrow.

One of my tangents today led me to the Clampers, members of The Order of E Clampus Vitus, one of the oldest societies in California (and a piss-take of the Masoney-type orders: their head honcho is called Sublime Noble Grand Humbug and their Latin motto is Credo Quia Absurdum: “believe because it is absurd”). These guys love the odd little snippets of history, and adore slapping plaques on things - to commemorate anything from eccentrics to cocktails invented during the Gold Rush. This from a recent New York Times article:

“It’s a common saying that no one has been able to tell if they are historians that like to drink or drinkers who like history,” said Dr. Robert J. Chandler, a senior historian at Wells Fargo Bank and a proud member of the group’s San Francisco chapter. “And no one knows because no one has been in any condition to record the minutes.”
Who thought you could ever make serving on a committee sound appealing....

Monday, October 13, 2008

News round up

I am loving The Onion's report: "Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency" (referred by yesterday).

It's almost as illuminating as their report: "Disney Lab Unveils Its Latest Line Of Genetically Engineered Child Stars"...

...and almost as hard-hitting as: "Being A Detective Who Talks To Ghosts Not As Exciting As It Looks On TV".

Angels in the mist

There was a walk planned yesterday for Mount Gabriel, close to Schull.

The Orlaith-version of the plan was weather-dependent. If fine, I would head for the mountains; if the weather was manky I was supposed to curl up on the sofa with coffee and muffins and do nothing in particular for hours, probably until it was time for Columbo.

But I found myself arriving in Schull without any rigorous weather-checking. I had some more coffee out there, met some walkers; there were a bunch of kids in our group so I figured it couldn't be that bad, and off we went. Trudge trudge, rain rain.

Apart from bronze-age copper mines all over the place, at the top of the mountain is Mount Gabriel tracking station, which controls the airspace in these here parts, tracking all craft going to/coming from the Americas. As you can imagine, lots of security, and massive golf-ball-type radar domes. On a fine day, the views are apparently spectacular.

It was good fun, despite the no-view and the rain. I have a tendency to be adopted by children, so there was much mucking around up and down the mountain. And by the time I got home, Columbo was asking his first question...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Are you new here?

Yes, the blog does look different; it's in a new place. A place with a neat layout, uncluttered by ads, a place where photos upload after only one or two attempts... altogether happier place :)

What's in a name

Okay, I continue to get queries about this, so let's set the scene:

I am in Ireland. At the south of Ireland is Cork. The west part of Cork is West Cork. And along the coast there is a place called Baltimore.

It is not - repeat not - the land of The Wire. There are neither Marlo Stanfields nor Snoops; not a nail gun in sight.

Baltimore, Maryland is named (in a roundabout way) for this Baltimore, so while there is a connection between the two, it's pretty tenuous. Okay?

I'm considering the matter settled.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tropical Tango

Glorious sunshiney day. When I wandered along by the harbour this morning, there was a fishing boat in: two seals were slinking their way across to have a nose around for scraps.

I'm working on a story I've wanted to write ever since I saw this picture:

It's George Bernard Shaw, learning to tango in the gardens of Reid's Palace Hotel, Madeira. It was 1925: the year he would be awarded the Nobel Prize.

On arrival in Madeira, Shaw received news that his closest friend William Archer had died of cancer. A couple of weeks earlier, Archer had written to Shaw of his forthcoming operation:

"I go into a nursing home tomorrow. I feel as fit as a fiddle so I suppose my chances are pretty good. Still, accidents will happen. Though I may sometimes have played the part of all too candid mentor, I have never wavered in my admiration for you, or ceased to feel that the Fates had treated me kindly in
making me your contemporary and friend.

I thank you from the heart for 40 years of good comradeship.
Ever yours, W.A."

Shaw was devastated, and threw himself into writing during his six-week stay at Reid's Palace. But at some point, he decided to take a lesson in tango. And his partner's name was Hope. Miss Hope du Barri.

On leaving, Shaw gave his dance instructor a signed photo, inscribed: 'To the only man who ever taught me anything. GBS'.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The drawback

So, the disadvantage of living in a scrummy, welcoming place is that a quick lunchtime coffee becomes an altogether longer, more alcoholic affair.

Time to establish a routine, and boundaries; perhaps even set a morning alarm...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Baltimore Walking Festival

Baltimore had its Walking Festival over the weekend. Fantastic couple of days:

Saturday afternoon we headed out to Inis Beg, the most northerly of the Carbery Hundred Isles. Weather was a bit 'watery', but cute animal life and adorable view spots (like Pumpkin's Puddle!) made up for that. Definitely a place to revisit.

Sunday was a heritage walk, which was a treat. Got to hear all about the Sack of Baltimore (1631), when 108 villagers were abducted by Algierian pirates (quotes from The Princess Bride ran through my head: "Murdered by pirates is good!"). Amazing tale, and glorious weather.

And after much walking and conversation, we finished up with a good scattering of pints, as my brother would say. Lovely.

Friday, October 3, 2008

All together now

Yesterday was All-Ireland Poetry Day, celebrated with readings in every county in Ireland. Cork's session was hosted by the ever-gracious Clonakilty library (housed in a renovated corn mill), with poets Tom McCarthy, Catherine Phil MacCarthy and Ian Wilde.

Poetry and the Internet share a similar obstacle: at times, it's like sifting for gold; you have to trawl through a lot of rubbish to get to the good stuff (or to continue the corn-grainey theme, there's a whole lotta chaff to separate). Last night was like stumbling upon the perfect internet portal site, maintained by users a bit cleverer, sharper, a bit more visionary than you yourself.

The poems, styles, themes, deliveries were all pleasingly diverse, and while there was talk of writers and writing and writers-on-writing, there was plenty about other media; words that had been inspired by a Rodin sculpture, or a painting, or a friend's turn of phrase. It reminded me of a quote from sculptor Antony Gormley: "I want to start where language ends". And so he sculpts, and perhaps his work inspires a poem, which inspires a painting, which inspires a quirky remark, which a poet overhears and it resonates with them, and on and on.

It was a treat.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lough Hyne

I love little reconnaissance trips, nipping out just to get a taste of the all-shiny-and-new environment. No pressure to see 'everything', because you can always come back; the idea is to tag some worthy-of-further-exploration places.

Lough Ine (which can never be spelled the same way twice - say NO to standardised spelling)* is such a place. The lake is tidal, with an asymmetric cycle: water rises for 4 hours, and falls for more than 8, until the Atlantic gathers enough height & momentum to push up through the narrow Rapids. Wacky.

And Lough Hyne hill is super-cool. Now, after Madeira, anything that doesn't require climbing gear is pretty much okay, but Lough Oighin (though steep) is a doddle - it's got little steps and reinforced paths and signs and even some railings. It starts out as a foresty stroll, with glimpses of fabulous views as you wind your way up. Rowan trees in autumn plumage; blackberries ripening; eat as you go. The crest of the hill is a carpet of heathers and gorse, with phenomenal panoramic views...

And if you recklessly decide to off-road, and climb down through steep spikey gorsey territory (yes, afterwards I looked like I'd been wearing Crown of Thorn legwarmers), you 'come' (read: plummet) through dark woods filled with all kinds o'mushrooms. Which were duly tagged as worthy of further exploration...

* Although according to the people who validate Irish place names, it should be 'Hyne' in English.

Golden October

So, I'm getting all into hearty autumnal fare. It's the time of nutmeg and cinnamon, sweet potato and pumpkin; soon it should be chilly enough to try out those mulled wine spices already materialising on supermarket shelves.

It's been a popcorn-free day (shocking, I know). The place is filled with the aroma of roasted butternut squash soup, and a little mound of pizza dough is proving in a sunshiney spot. I guess technically, pizza is not particularly harvesty, but it's looking warm and golden, and fits in very nicely.

And if all that treatiness wasn't enough, the summer flowers are still going strong.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Snuggles in the bluster

Brrr... a blustery day here.

With broadband up and running and great mobile reception in my home (praise!), I've been gradually catching up with friends, enjoying leisurely conversations about the ups and downs of life/love/change/work.

They got me thinking me of Boethius, who ponders many of the same themes in The Consolation of Philosophy, which he wrote while in prison awaiting execution. He's a great writer - clear, thoughtful and poignant, and he sums up the whole love-and-sorrow-as-flip-sides-of-the-same-coin thing beautifully:

'For truly in adverse fortune, the worst sting of misery is to have been happy.'

Love that guy.

Photo: sheep snuggling on a blustery day by the Old Copper Mine, Sheep's Head Peninsula, West Cork.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


My belongings are out of long-term storage. Friday, they bid farewell to Madeira and set sail for me! I dare to dream that I'll be unpacked by Christmas.

Obviously, my popcorn maker isn't in Madeira. Who would be bat-crazy enough to leave such a treasure behind? No, that stayed by my side throughout (and indeed, expired, and was promptly reincarnated).

Apart from organising Madeiran things, today has been all about writing: screenplay work, where words are punchy and concise and waffle-free. Not at all usual for me.

Okay yes, there was a sauna, but that was during an approved break time. And it was for medicinal purposes (cough cough).

Anyhoo, while we're on the subject of stuff, these people buy unclaimed cargo & baggage by the truckload to sell on. Interesting to see what kind of things have been left behind over the years - engagement ring, guidance system for an F16 jet, 40-carat emerald, shrunken head...

No mention of a popcorn maker.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday Heaven

I've settled in Baltimore, which is about as pretty a place as you could be. Especially at sunset.

Idyllic day: leisurely breakfast & writing; then a walk around the cliffs by the Beacon (yes, it does exactly what it says on the tin; see below) - also known as Lot's Wife. The afternoon found me idling over the crosaire with a sunshiney pint.

All very treaty.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Plumbing, Rats and Great Design

Back in the land of broadband - praise!! Several moons have waxed and waned, but at last I've settled and unpacked. More about interim life in time, but first...

So, this morning, two plumbers arrived to investigate a sluggish drain condition I'd inherited. The drain covers in the back garden were opened up, and pipey tools of various lengths appeared. Now, 90% of plumbing problems seem to be caused by those plastic hang-off-the-side-of-the-loo fresheners, so I was expecting one of those.

Instead, they brought up an entire landslide: piles of rock, sand, earth. It became clear why my petite tub of drain unblocker had been unsuccessful. The Head Plumber said that when the houses were built, some pipe hadn't been sealed up; the underground landslide was a situation years in the making.

As he hefted out another pile of gravelly slush, Head Plumber started back: at first he thought he'd got an electric shock, but there were two little cuts in his finger. Two little incisor-type cuts. And then it made sense how all the gunk got into the drains in the first place.

Rats, burrowing.

Tetanus. Leptospirosis. Bubonic plague. Differential diagnoses from House M.D. filled the air...

I remembered seeing a first aid kit when I moved in; it probably wouldn't have anything for rabies, but I fetched it anyway. It contained two safety pins and a single latex glove. Not the most rigorously maintained of emergency supplies...

We resorted to Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream. Wearing the remaining latex glove, Head Plumber finished clearing and assessed the unsealed pipe. "You wouldn't have an empty whiskey bottle in the house?" I brought out my recycling: we tried out a passata bottle, and some wine bottles, but they were all too skinny. You needed something broader, something chunkier...

Something Absolut.

I went to the freezer, got my trusty bottle of Absolut Citron, decanted it with a twang of regret.

Blessed thing fit like a glove.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back on the air

New country, new book, and a new incarnation of the blog. It was inevitable...

[For those just joining us, the story so far can be found at Orlaith in Madeira]