Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cold case

So, the local newsletter - appropriately called Community News - was being passed around one of the local hostelries. One by one, locals flicked through, pausing over the photos of themselves (for ours is a colourful, high-gloss publication, packed with people). And when it was passed along to me, I saw that the cover feature was the Christmas Day Swim.

Now, I had promised to get a photo of me in the water for a friend, but my camera's battery was all tuckered out that morning. I looked at the cover, at the teeny figures in the freezing water and thought 'I recognise that swimsuit...'

Better late than never :-)

I looked at the cover, thinking of Christmas morning, how I warmed my swimsuit on a radiator before heading out...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Festival Central

Pretty full-on weekend, without so much as a disco nap to keep me going.

Well, Friday began with the serene sanctuary of The Algiers, before heading on to a lively Square where music & O'Driscolls abounded. Saturday was all about Shakespeare: workshopped the Bard all day (which was glorious, on all levels) and then an evening of sunshiney pints talk music talk pints dusk talk pints pints.

Didn't even make it out to Sherkin on Sunday, due to weather of the manky sort (but lots of glowing reports back about fine food and ceoil and craic). The lovely folk at Inis Beg were having an open day in aid of the Simon Community, so I nipped out there to show support through the mankiness. Not that anything could detract from their beautiful gardens: ah, those delphinium spires glittering...

Sunday was also the wrap up of the O'Driscoll gathering, including the farewell from the outgoing Clan Chieftain and the inauguration of the new. Having been in Canada for the last two years, the base of the new Chieftain is all the way over in Skibbereen. Lovely speeches, and a great mix of attendees from all over the world.

Stretch-ey yawwwwwwnn. Back to work.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Twice the fun

Been meaning to mention this for ages, but now, with the O'Driscolls in the vicinity, it's high time to talk names.

In all likelihood, Baltimore (despite attempts to connect it to Baal-worshippers; sigh) is an anglicisation of 'Baile an Tigh Mór': the Town of the Big House. However, the Irish name for the village is more specific in its reference; Dún na Séad: Fort of the Jewels.

Built in 1215 (how could we forget!), the castle of Dún na Séad is one of nine O'Driscoll castles in the area, and was their main stronghold.

The nature of the 'jewels' in question are unclear. Some trace the name back to an older pre-O'Driscoll site, which Dún na Séad was built over; others claim that the jewels refer to plundered spoils, and from there weave tales of piracy and privateers and sneaky sacking.

Who knows. I'm just saying, the Irish and English renderings are distinct.

And speaking of distinct things, this year's Clan Gathering coincides with the Sherkin Shindig - three days of trad sessions out on the island, starting today. That's right, we're doubling up on festivals!

But for me, it's time for some more coffee and scribbling...

Have a great weekend :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

O'Driscolls of the world, unite and take over...

So, the O'Driscoll Clan Gathering is about to commence. Granted, the concept may be unfamiliar; it certainly was to me in my pre-Baltimore days, when every family name seemed to branch out from myriad roots, with competing seats and claims to chieftain-hood.

Not so the O'Driscolls. The theory goes that if you're an O'Driscoll, no matter where in the world, you're originally from Baltimore. (Although technically - and this clearly is not the time to labour the point - they used to live in other parts of the country.) Anyhoo, the O'Driscolls were driven here in the 13th century (by... ahem... the O'Sullivans), and Baltimore + Environs became their family seat, which they peppered with castles and forts and all kinds of stronghold-ey type dwellings. Short version: they thrived for centuries (thanks in part to some pirate-ey antics), were suppressed yet again, spread across the world, and now return to raise a glass to themselves once a year.

I'm guessing by Monday I'll know more. They arrive this evening.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Breakfast Advice

Ah, it's that time of year where pregnant women seem to abound!

Sweet moment this morning: I was in Apple Betty's, which is empty except for me and a table of folk having a big catch-up session. And there's a little blonde girl who's zipping around the place, looking like one of Rodin's nymphs come to life. She keeps talking to the nice ladies behind the counter, and bounces over to my table to tell me that my "new" coffee is coming (=with extra shot).

Anyhoo, so she stands by my side, drawing away happily. I sip my new improved coffee, and we chat about letters and pictures and colours. And when her mom (who's a member of the heavily pregnant multitude) tries to repossess her, murmuring "If you were half as well behaved at my table as you are here...", the girl slips from her hold, sits herself down opposite me, and draws quietly, smiling to herself. So her mom leaves her with me until it's time to go, time to coerce the child with the wonders of the Outside World: promises of shops and playgrounds and all manner of treaty things. As she's leaving, the mother turns to me and smiles: "You obviously work with children".

Er... no. No. Head shake. No.

She turns to go, pauses, turns back. "You really should." She nods, satisfied, and off they go to the Outside.

Pretty adorable.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A delight from beginning to end

Lovely day: conversations with friends, family, sunshiney travel, exploration of all the fecky shops in Kinsale, yet more conversation with friends AND family. And onwards, to Baltimore, where I arrived in time to see this...


Monday, June 22, 2009

Davy Byrne's Irish Writing Award

Quick post, before I settle down for the remainder of the evening...

So, I nipped up to Dublin today for the announcement of the Davy Byrnes short story award, hosted ever so graciously in and by Davy Byrnes. Six fantastic writers were shortlisted , and earlier this evening, after three lovely speeches, Claire Keegan was awarded the prize for her story Foster.

Richard Ford, who judged the competition from the longlist of 30 stories (drawn from over 800 entries), gave the following citation on Claire's story:

A child’s rapt and eloquent vision of life-in-tumult between two families. In lifting a homely rural life to our moral notice, the story exhibits a patient attention to life’s vast consequence and finality, and does so through a lavish, discriminating appetite for language and its profound capacity to return us to life renewed.

So, well done to all the shortlisted, and to Claire for her winning story. I've read one of the stories so far - Kathleen Murray's Storm Glass, which is closely-woven and haunting and just plain fab. So, super-special congratulations to Kathleen for both the story and the short-listing - superb job!! The plan is that Stinging Fly will bring out an anthology featuring the shortlisted and winning stories this summer; one to look forward to :-) And well done to Declan Meade (editor of Stinging Fly) for spearheading, managing, and delivering the whole competition from beginning to end. An epic task. I suspect he's deserving of a significant break right about now...

As you can imagine, there was toasting galore this evening, and catching up with friends old and new. And bizarrely, the village of Baltimore was the subject of much conversation (Bushe's Bar, Glenans, Chez Youen, yadda yadda...)

Tomorrow will be another travel-heavy day - just saying this up front, in case the next entry is a smidge bleary, or non-existent, or features misspellings...

Friday, June 19, 2009

A rose by any other name...

So, I'm holding out for mosquito bites. Maybe mutant mozzies. Or not even a mosquito, but some weird blow-in insect whose larvae came over in the ballast water of a ship - one of those kind of creatures...

Because otherwise, those little red spots around my ankle, each one resembling 'a dew drop on a rose petal' (how pretty does that sound!), are something else.

Chicken pox :-(

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When communions go bad...

God love those little children...

At its best, this is a shame: you think that maybe they just got carried away with the preparations for their special day, and somehow lost the big picture. One child besting another in flounce, metres of fabric, general meringue-ness.

At its worst, there was no big picture to lose sight of. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflected facades

I love the way R.M. Rilke's poetry just evokes and evokes; keeps you pondering about meanings...

Lady at a Mirror

As in sleeping-drink spices
softly she loosens in the liquid-clear
mirror her fatigued demeanor;
and she puts her smile deep inside.

And she waits while the liquid
rises from it; then she pours her hair
into the mirror, and, lifting one
wondrous shoulder from the evening gown,

she drinks quietly from her image. She drinks
what a lover would drink feeling dazed,
searching it, full of mistrust; and she only

beckons to her maid when at the bottom
of her mirror she finds candles, wardrobes,
and the cloudy dregs of a late hour.

I've been reading this through a few times - it got me thinking about the variations of that image, like a "now mark me how I will undo myself" for women. Eleanor Rigby with her face that she keeps in a jar by the door, or that princess from the Oz books, who keeps thirty heads, alternating between them depending on her mood.

Which got me thinking of Donne's Elegy 20, To His Mistress Going to Bed. On re-reading, it seemed like the flip side to Rilke - no careful decoration hiding ennui here; instead the woman's facade is happily urged off by her impatient husband*:

Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus array'd.
Themselves are only mystic books, which we
—Whom their imputed grace will dignify—
Must see reveal'd.

I liked the opposition of the two poems. But then I thought, the voice in Donne is Donne's. Who knows what the lady was thinking...

* Good reading of the poem in the TLS, which interprets it as Donne's address to his young wife, emerged from her lying-in after childbirth.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Glebe

For visitors, for locals, The Glebe has to be the most treaty spot for a lazy breakfast.

The place would need a whole series of posts to do justice to the gardens (twenty years a'growing), the vitality of the planting, the wholesomeness of the setting, the myriad blooms overflowing with apparent effortlessness.

Of course, our primary purpose was (utterly scrumptious) food. There's an easy feel to the courtyard cafe: sit out and enjoy a sunshiney breakfast, while various tame and wild creatures wander through (a robin frequented our table to check out any crumbs - we were like, soooooo Francis of Assisi).

And due to our intent focus on food, cameras were not taken out until we were well sated, strolling through the gardens...

A regular haunt for the summer, I suspect :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sense of home

Coming to this late: Yann Arthus-Bertrand's epic project 'Home' is available to watch on YouTube until the end of the day (haven't read up on the whys and wherefores of this yet; just get streaming). Here's the trailer:

I love how that man views the world. I remember seeing 'Earth from the Air' outside the Natural History museum in London a few years back. I wandered along this incredible open-air corridor of phenomenal shots, gaping at the colours and patterns and shapes of the world. There was an interview with Arthus-Bertrand, where he talked about the guilt of filming catastrophes (flooded town, child stranded on roof, sees approaching helicopter and expects to be rescued rather than photographed). He also spoke of the difficulty in getting perspective in massive landscapes, and revealed his neat solution: keep a red windbreaker in the helicopter. If you need to, you can make your assistant wear it, drop them off on the cracking-apart ice sheets, and take a great aerial shot. All you have to do is find the little red man, and you get a sense of the landscape's breadth.

Sure enough. I went back through the exhibition, looking for the little red man, and there he was... arctic wastelands, jungles, deserts. I often wondered what it must feel like, watching the helicopter take off, trace widening circles around him, if he ever doubted that they would return...

Anyhoo, the weekend was fantastic! And more on that in due course. For now, stream away...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Le Weekend Approacheth

I have family coming down this weekend. I feel I should be doing something to prepare...hmm... here's some tips from Martha Stewart on houseguest etiquette:

Creating space for guests in your home involves more than providing a comfortable place to sleep; it's an opportunity to make people feel welcome and ensure that their time spent with you is memorable.

Choose the Right Room
Ideally, a guest room is a bedroom with a bathroom attached. It should be inconspicuously placed, so that guests don't need to cross the busiest parts of the house to get to it.

Decorate Sparingly
In a strange room, comfort and space are more soothing than a clutter of unfamiliar things. On a bedside table, place a single flower bloom in a simple glass, a nice clock, and a selection of books suited to your guests' tastes.

Outfit the Bed
Make up a double bed with four ample sleeping pillows -- two medium or firm, and two soft -- as well as two smaller pillows to prop up the head when reading. Use cotton or linen sheets, starched and ironed for hotel crispness. Provide both light and heavy blankets, as well as a lightweight throw for afternoon naps.

Closets and Drawers
Make sure there is adequate closet and drawer space. Supply a variety of hangers -- at least a dozen good wooden or metal ones -- that will hold trousers and jackets, flimsy dresses, and heavy coats. And make certain there is a full-length mirror.

Bathroom Essentials
Stock it with new toothbrushes and toothpaste, a plush robe, and a supply of clean cotton towels (two large bath towels, two face towels, and a washcloth) for each guest. Supply a few luxuries that one might not find at home: a beautiful soap, an unusual cream, a special shampoo, or a small bottle of perfume or cologne. If your guest has allergies, provide a hypoallergenic soap and moisturizer.

Okay then! Well, first things first.

Chill beer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Books. Covers. And the judging thereof.

There is a dog. He is a cross-breed: glossy sleek dalmation and (deep breath) Staffy bull terrier. I know, I know, the sturdy shape of his head gives out those 'I could grip your child in my jaws and never let go' vibes. Disney does not make films about his kind.

But this dog has the sweetest nature: he's kinda goofy and affectionate and excitable but very gentle. When he goes around the village, burly men approach with trepidation, and ask with a nervous laugh about his violent tendencies. People who don't know him steer away, giving him a wide berth.

Little sigh. They somehow fail to notice his soft, meltable-into eyes. They're missing out.

He's on his own for a couple of days, and there's a troupe of feeders and walkers taking care of him. I was appointed his 'hanging out on Thursday afternoon' buddy. He got to nap in the cool of the house (while I did some knitting in the garden), then we played chasing for a while. Settling him down before I left, I snuck some pictures.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Olive oil: for more than your health

I have a few necklaces by the fabulous Alan Ardiff. He makes clear, delightful pieces, with little birds or moons or daisies that move or twirl; people are always remarking on them, and kids can't resist playing with them, happily waggling a bird or a heart.

Anyhoo, I treasure them. Love the design, love the whole range, love the guy's art work.

So, I was buying some scrumptious olive oil at the Wooden Boat Festival (as you do). And Mr Stallman noticed my necklace; "Like Alan, do you?" I launch into my "Oh I love that man!" waffle. Stallman lets me ramble on, then says: "I do his web site".

Now, apart from the pleasures of the jewellery itself, the website is simply a delight to scroll through. Cue escalation of enthused conversation.

And then Stallman tells me to check the site, because there's three new pieces online, and the first three items of feedback they get about the new range will get a pair of earrings.

How treaty a système is that.

I figure people stalk the site, constantly offering opinions on all kinds of things; the earrings were probably gone days ago. But Stallman seems confident. "Write to him! Tell him you're writing cos you bought olive oil off some guy in West Cork. He'll have to give you them. Sure what else can he do?"

Well, not give them to me. For one.

Anyhoo, the following day I wrote. And the day after that, they wrote back. I was the third :-)

And this morning's post was super treaty.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On the dry

Yesterday evening was simply gorgeous. The idea was to get a lovely wooden boat (which has been lovingly tended for months) out of the boatyard, into the water, and sail her down to Baltimore.

And the idea stayed in the realm of theory, for there is a teeny bit more tending left to do. Little sigh...

So, Plan B was pizza & wine.

...which most definitely came to pass :-)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sheer fun

Last summer the American artist Spencer Tunick did two installations (in the Dublin Docklands and Blarney Castle), which featured - oh, hundreds and hundreds of naked folk.

I had friends (of all ages, one heavily pregnant) who took part. Despite momentary pangs of 'I posed naked!?!', in their recounting the shoots sound like kooky, beautiful experiences. The images have been released today (Irish Times article here; Blarney site here; Docklands site here - the www.tunickireland.com site that all are quoting doesn't seem to be up and running yet).

The distance shots set out a landscape of bodies, where bodies form roads or meadows... and there's something very effective about a massive pattern of individual things creating an impression of uniformity (reminds me of Anthony Gormley's Field series (above)).

In terms of posing, the Docklands folk certainly had the more gruelling photo shoot, trudging out naked in the cold and lying on freezing stone:

They're very different installations, and each packs a punch. But if you had to choose favourites, mine would be this one from the Blarney shoot. It's down to the warmth of the greens and roses; something very modern and very medieval about the image, with perhaps a splash of Alice in Wonderland thrown in:

Every brave soul who took part will receive two prints from the day, and well deserved. Congratulations to all; fantastic images!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weekend Ho!

I am on the mend, for sure for sure. Just back from catching up on life in general with the village in general. And broadly speaking, all's well.

In other news, there's a new short story of mine published today in Danse Macabre which you can read, without signing up for anything, just over here.

Have a scrumptious weekend :-)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Ferry Serious Matter

Well, today was strike day here in Baltimore, as a result of one of the ferries servicing Cape Clear announced severe wage cuts. No point in re-hashing stories here (you can read the Irish Times piece here, and the Examiner here); although it is worth mentioning that the state tender for the ferry is worth €1,239,438 over five years. Sigh. And we're not even half way through yet. Sigh.

Anyhoo, two things about it:

(1) The people that came out to support the ferry staff had the nicest 'come join us' ad ever:

Day of Protest in Support of Striking Cape Ferry Workers

4th June 2009
Join Us In Baltimore from 9 a.m.
Bring and share your singing, musical, poetic, story telling,
Dancing, juggling, fire eating, comedic, talents; but most of all bring yourselves, your friends and relations, if you love the island of Cape Clear and the islands of Roaring Water Bay.

The Ferrymen of the Naomh Ciaran (the blue boat, which was always green), have been forced to strike against pay cuts and lay offs and a worsening of working conditions, whilst the owner receives a subsidy of 260 thousand this year from your taxes and won’t even discuss the situation with the men’s union.
If you want more information read the other items on the cape clear ferry, in particular “Cape Clear SUBSIDISED Ferry Operator Pleads Poverty”, or ask one of the islanders in Baltimore tomorrow.We intend for us all to have a good time, but we intend to make our point. Please Help Us If You Love The Island

"the blue boat, which was always green..." Ah, stuff you couldn't make up...

(2) Between that, and breaking news from 'Our Foreign Correspondent in Baltimore' (yes, you know who you are) that a good crowd was gathering, I nipped down this morning as they got started.

My little venture out proved a smidge optimistic (in terms of still feeling poorly). I lay very still for some hours. But hey, an ideal opportunity to dive into House Series 5 :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Smiling in the face of pestilence

The kidlets over the weekend :-)

[That's right Shona: photos of Jack at last!!!]

The little hamsters inside my beleaguered laptop are lagging; time to clear off the ten thousand high res photos I took over the last few weeks.

But first, there's a dog in the neighbourhood that needs walking. And I may just be the laydee to do it* :-)
*Okay, technically he just needs to be led to the shoreline, and he'll take it from there. Which is just as well because I'm feeling kinda flu-ey.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Birthday Round Up

Lovely bank holiday weekend, despite our group suffering from chicken pox and trapped nerves and too-much-sun queasiness. And a spilled beer (that last one was mine; little sigh...)

First of all, must catch up from the weekend before last's milestone birthday! Belated birthday wishes Laura!

Which brings us to last weekend's milestone birthday. Which began with a day for the lay-dees.

Friday morning, my sister and I went to the hairdresser together (which we realised, is a first for us). It's a glossy environment, whose rapid-fire talk revolves wholly around (horrific) celebrity gossip. Needless to say, I am not in my element. Trying to stay involved in the conversation, I ask my umpteenth idiotic question. Mr Assistant Hair asks, deadpan "Do you live in a cave?" Sigh. I think all hope is lost until talk turns to film. "See, you seem to live in the boondocks, but then you give a pitch-perfect assessment of Watchmen", muses Mr Head Hair approvingly. I explain that it comes from an era when I knew my comics.

Anyhoo, so the Hair Experience was followed by lunch, shopping of the treaty variety, and dinner (Bon Appetit in Malahide). Aaaaah, dinner...

(you can click to enlarge)

Gorgeous evening. Happy Birthday Tara!