Monday, 7 October 2019

A reading challenge

After Christmas I read a book that my brother had left behind on his last visit home from Australia - it was by Tim Winton which described a journey up the West Coast of Australia through and to an area that I will never get to visit and I just loved the descriptions of the landscape and travelling along with the characters.

So I decided to start a little challenge for myself - to travel the world with the books I read.
While I've always been very loyal to Irish writers, and there are many many wonderful Irish writers, both north and south, male and female, old and new - I've long been fed up with the emigration story and often pick up books just for the sake of going somewhere new.  And I almost have to put on blinkers when I pass Waterstones - their book of the month nearly always ends up in my bag.

Anyway, looking around the web at reading challenges, I came across Tale Away, a fantastic blog written by Ash, an American woman who regularly puts up challenges to read 52 books from 52 different countries each year and her suggestions are fabulous.  I'm not following her challenge as I've already read a lot of the titles on her suggestions lists and I don't get through that many books in a year either,   So my challenge to myself is to read a book from or about every country in the world - ideally written by someone from that country but as long as it's set there, that will be enough.    I've no time limit as I'll likely wander off at various times to read the latest best sellers and books by local writers, and some of the books by new to me authors will almost certainly send me in search of more that they've written, but it's already a fun journey.

So for this year, here's the pile of books I've been through so far.  I mostly only read at night, so I don't get through many books a month, but a lot of these have been real epics, and not all will go onto my books of the world list.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - a lot of people didn't like the tv show of this book which I haven't watched, and I've never read any Atwood books before which was why I picked it up before I started this challenge (although I might cheat and add her as a Canadian entry).   I found it fascinating for a book written 30 years ago and so much of it is scarily possible in this crazy world we're in at the minute.  

Dirt Music by Tim Winton - the book that started this idea.   An interesting story of a dysfunctional community on the south west corner of Australia - and the journey up the full length of the west coast was fascinating and the landscape was well described.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce - set in England and not really a travel type book, there was a fascinating insight into classic and classical music in this story of a record shop owner who has the gift of knowing what piece of music a distressed person needs to hear to heal.   And there was a great Spotify playlist added at the end which I've listened to several times. 

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks - a collection of short stories that all revolve around a typewriter.   I'm not particularly into short stories but I was interested to see what Tom would write and they were very enjoyable short night time reads and his voice is almost audible in the way he writes. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.   What can I say.   This book was amazing - really a 5* from me.  It's not recent and I'm sure many of you have already read it, it held me enthralled the whole way through.   Set in Afghanistan during the rise and subsequent fall of the Taliban, it's the story of two women thrown together.  

Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi - this is set in Germany between the two wars and again it's a fabulous story, a suggestion I got from Ash's blog .   The lead character is superb - she's a dwarf and thereby an outsider and is featured in other books by this writer which I will definitely look into.   We spend so much time in Germany and yet I had not read any books by German writers before and the translation was very good as well.   I loved the fact that it left some German words untranslated, words that are already in the English language or are well enough explained that you understand what they mean.   

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende - although the country isn't specified in this book, it is definitely South America and it had a really surreal cast of characters, but then that's Isabel Allende's trademark isn't it? It wasn't one of my favourite of her books but still an enjoyable story.  

Small Island by Andrea Levy - Oh, I adored this book - another 5* from me.   And it explained a lot to me, or rather pointed out a lot, of the awful discrimination suffered by the Windrush people who came from Jamaica to help out in Britain's call for workers after the war.  Great story, beautifully written and a wonderful cast of characters.  

Tangerine by Christine Mangan - I only picked this up because of the title and it gave me a north African storyline but for me it didn't hit the spot.   

There's more to come, but I'll not bore you just yet.   

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Off to a calmer place

I had to venture outside today for various meetings and passed a dog yapping delightedly at the waves that are churning up the beach - the poor girl who was with him was huddled against the wall trying to get some shelter while the dog yelped at every passer by to come and look and see what he had found ... very funny.   Unfortunately I was in too big a hurry to get out of the rain and too busy laughing at him to take out my phone and take a picture of him ... but this was later

Thank you all for the lovely comments on the photos at the Scavenger Hunt - I really must go and figure out what on earth is going on with Blogger - "give it a good talking to" as Kate would say :) . But it won't let me comment individually and by the time I go back and look at what someone else has said to comment on it, I've lost the original thing .... Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.   Life's too short ...

Yesterday we gathered to give a final send off to a lovely singer colleague of ours, Rosemary Woods, who battled for several years with cancer and could finally rest without pain.   It was a very emotional day but a beautiful send off for a beautiful woman who blessed everyone who ever met her with her presence, her heart felt words and her gentle personality.   Even when we visited her in the Hospice, Tom and I came out smiling, feeling like we had been uplifted and gifted with something.  We worked on the same circuit and with the same agents and although we weren't close close friends you were a big part of my musical family and I will miss you dear Rosie, as will all the many people who's lives you have touched.  Rest in Peace dear friend.

Friday, 27 September 2019

September in Photos

I started this at the start of September in the hope that I might get to play along this month with Hawthorn's aka Kate's Scavenger Hunt. - a word for a picture, a picture for a word.   The past two months I've been almost there, but not quite .... and here I am on the last Friday rushing around looking for the last couple of photos lol.  So here goes ...


Meet my new grand nephew born at the end of August - this photo is the epitome of cosy to me ... the size of it - awwww.   Unfortunately he lives in Australia so it'll be some time before I meet him, but all are well.

Changing Foliage

I had great plans to photograph a local house that is always covered by a beautiful red climber at this time of the year, but I'm just back from the dentist, thinking I was due for a simple procedure and ended up with a root extraction ...on my birthday!!!!!   So photo forgotten - so this is one I took this week last year up the Fairy Glen


My friend Cat and I went to see the American knitting designer Stephen West at Woollin outside Dublin earlier in the Summer.   He was a hoot, so over the top, and a perfect antidote for me who has to do everything by the book.  
I decided to do one of his patterns - this is The Doodler which was great fun to knit and I know it's more of a shawl than a scarf, but I wouldn't have the nerve to wear it as a shawl, so scarf it is!  And it's a bit out of focus cause the wind just wouldn't keep still for a second.


There are thousands of cob spiders around at the minute and cobwebs everywhere - our house is quite old and if you leave it for a couple of days it's been invaded again.  
But none of the webs are pretty enough - but this is one from last year when the fuchsia were still in full flow


What can I say?   Not my finest hour lol . This should have been a nut crust for a quiche ... oops

My Own Choice

I have to include another pic from my flight at the start of the month - and yes, I'm still smiling about that.   But it's a full year past now since the big birthday ( a year ago today in fact :) ) - this birthday doesn't count for anything other than the fact that I've managed to survive another year.

I thought the islands looked like those big crystals you see - you know where the edges are a different colour - 

So delighted to be playing again - off to visit the other photos now.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

New Voices of Ireland

Dublin is a cacophony of sound and the most noticeable thing for me are all the different languages and accents you hear walking down the street.   So an exhibition of immigrant artists and connected themes was a perfect end to our day in the city last week.

New Voices of Ireland is run by the Centre for Creative Practice, an organisation in Dublin who facilitate immigrant artists and local artists working with immigrants, helping them integrate into the arts scene in Ireland and helping them get their work out there. 

The opening speaker Ailbhe Murphy, an Irish gay activist, was very eloquent and asked an interesting question about the word immigrant - if we went to work in New York say, would we be immigrants?  Probably not ... We'd more likely just be people who have moved to NY for work.   So why is it different?  in a country who's people have been so badly treated down through the years as emigrants, why are we so bad at welcoming this new wave of people to our shores.

My friend Csilla from Hungary is a poet and film maker writing in English.   She was one of 10 artists selected for this exhibition and it was a very inspirational evening.  Ranging from a play, a monologue, photography, architecture, film, and a very unusual installation of written words, the show was varied and of the highest standard. 

One who really caught my attention was Nicola Anthony who is based in London, and takes stories from refugees and immigrants and turns them into mini works of art - words carved in bronze, put in a bottle with a clock mechanism and sometimes with sound - I found it incredibly moving.

Nasrin Golden  from Iran, takes items from her home and turns them into large scale photographs that  end up resembling Persian carpets - beautiful work. 

She says: "The project uses images from the past, the longed for. However, they are shaped by the experience of cultivating a new identity in the here and now,  mirroring and duplicating in an attempt to replicate the identity of the observed and create the new. Questioning the order of form in the world around us by surrounding our self with perceptions of our own identity." 

Csilla Toldy presented two short film poems about Belfast - the changing view of the city - an outsider looking in.   They're not up on her website yet, but it was interesting seeing what an newcomer sees of our city - I tend to not see the mundane side of it and only view the nice bits, but she very cleverly highlighted the similarities between the two sides of the still divided town.  This is one of her other short film poems.

Unfortunately I didn't get time to view "Still Waiting for the Summer" by the German film makers Barbara Lubich and Michael Sommermeyer, documenting how a musical group made up of people from several different nationalities, challenged the very strong right wing element present in Dresden where they all live.   Well worth watching I'm told.   Over 30% of people in Dresden voted for the right wing Deutschland fur Alles in the last election - a very scary thought.

Wann wird es endlich wieder Sommer / Waiting for the summer's return (Trailer) from hechtfilm - filmproduktion on Vimeo.

All of the pieces presented on the night were very interesting - the other artists were Mirjana Reneduzic an actress from Croatia, Romi Cruanas a theatre director from South America, Leia Mocan who presented several pieces made from recycled waste,  Irish digital artist Joe Ryan who looked at the point when an old building is taken over by a new structure and how it changes the community.

Lots of food for thought.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Not good at change

There's so much new stuff to learn all the time these days, particularly to do with computers and various devices.   As a result when I find one thing I like I'm very reluctant to change. 

But, I've finally given in and changed my browser from Safari - for months now I've not been able to leave comments on your blogs from my laptop, but could do it on my computer.   Now it won't play either.   I really don't like using all Google products, or all from any company for that matter, but it's so annoying when you spend ages writing messages and none show up.   So apologies if I've been AWOL and I'll see if Google Chrome performs any better. 

Sat with my mother for an hour on Sunday eating ice cream and looking out at the sea at Bundoran.
The hills of north Donegal were just about visible across the bay
It is still the most calming thing... looking at waves ... love it.

Monday, 16 September 2019

In Dublin's Fair City

It's a gorgeous day here today but I'm sitting in a long queue on the phone waiting to get through to national insurance people so I'm putting the time to good use.   

For a myriad of reasons we had to cancel our planned holiday in France this year so we decided on a few day trips to make up for it.  Firstly to Dublin

And we had blue skies and warm sunshine for it on Friday.  My friend, Hungarian poet  Csilla Toldy, with whom I collaborated on a two handed theatre piece called The Emigrant Woman's Tale, had a video poem in an exhibition of New Voices of Ireland (I'll give this a separate post) so we decided to make a day of it.   The train to Dublin always feels like a treat to me (trains were already gone when I was growing up in rural Fermanagh) and after lunch in my favourite Lebanese restaurant and a wander around Grafton Street we headed in to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.

Image borrowed from the Internet
Photography was not allowed in the main room where the actual book is on display so I've borrowed these couple of images from the Internet.  
Now, I'm sure all you learned folks reading this know about or at least have heard of The Book of Kells.   It's a 9th century illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels plus some introductory texts which was written by 4 scribes and 3 artists as far as scholars can tell.  
It really is a beautiful thing and is considered the oldest example of its kind in Europe and is Ireland's greatest treasure.  
As well as the main manuscript, the University also holds 7 out of around 20 remaining small transcribed books that monks would have written themselves before setting out around the world to preach the gospel.  

Internet Picture ( I think this one is of Matthew)

The exhibition From Darkness to Light describes the making of the book, plus The Book of Armagh which was written slightly earlier and the Book of Durrow, what inks were used and how they. were made and the fact that the exhibit book took somewhere around 189 calf skins to make.  Such laborious work.  And the scholarly research is impressive.

I've wanted to visit this for as long as I can remember, but I'm a terrible tourist and never got around o it and unfortunately when we went in the place was packed - apparently there was a cruise ship in for the day.   We got a glimpse of the book for a couple of minutes and the young people from the tours were so noisy we couldn't wait to get out again.   I will go back sometime though - perhaps in Winter.   

The best part by far of the exhibition for me was walking through The Long Room which is the oldest library in the world and was built in the mid 1700s to house every book that was printed in the British Isles.  It's a beautiful space and houses over 200,000 ancient books and manuscripts including an original copy of the Irish Declaration of Independence - apparently only 2 of them exist.  

The magnificent Long Room

Notice there's no J on the edges - there was no
letter J in Latin
The domed ceiling was added
long after the original building to house a second level of books
 The library also houses the Brian Boru harp which interestingly (for me anyway ) has nothing to do with the 11th century High King of Ireland Brian Boru, but was given to Trinity in the 18th century and dates back to the late 14th or early 15th century.   It is the symbol of Ireland and is one of only three instruments of its kind in existence.
Again there were so many people around it was hard to get a decent photo but I loved the detail on this - it's encrusted with tiny jewels and crystals which suggests that it was the instrument of a master musician or bard or someone from a very prominent family.
A detail of the Brian Boru harp

Another image borrowed from the internet

So all in all a very interesting browse and I'd highly recommend it, if you haven't already visited.   Trinity is right in the centre of Dublin so very easy to get to - but try to avoid the cruise ships unless you're actually on it yourself lol

So from there after a wee sojourn in Powerscourt Town House for tea and cakes, it was a long walk to the exhibition which was a delight.  

As I said earlier I'll do a separate post for the exhibition .... stay tuned :)

Sunday, 8 September 2019

A walk in the woods and a new sculpture in the park

Hello all
It was lovely to hear from some of you last week and good to get back to having a bit of space in my head again.  

A new metal sculpture in the Narnia wood
For the record, I spent ages leaving comments over a couple of weekends only to find out that my laptop doesn't like to play with Safari :( and kept none of the comments .... So hello to Kate and all the Scavenger Hunt players for the last couple of months - I loved your photos - Kate always puts up some out of the box words to illustrate with a photo and the challenge is a great way of catching up on the month gone by - my drafts folder is full of *nearly* ready to post posts that didn't quite make it ... maybe this month.
Not sure if I like her but she'll not blow away
like the willow figures

Have a great week - hopefully the Autumn isn't in full swing yet and that there's a bit of sunshine left

Beech nuts in profusion this year