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.