Reading My Way Around the World

Monday, 23 November 2020

Catching up

Hello folks

Thank you for the lovely comments on my last post - it's lovely to hear from you all.   I've been following along, occasionally dropping in and reading your blogs but I just haven't had the energy to write.   

We've had such a couple of months ... first my mother wasn't well through September and ended up in hospital for 2 weeks - she's fine now thankfully.  A week later Tom went in for a routine day procedure and 6 days later collapsed with a massive internal bleed.  To top it off, while he was in the hospital there was an outbreak of coronavirus on the ward and he was sent home early to recuperate and both of us on a 14 day self isolation ... a week later back in hospital he tested positive and once again we had a further 14 day isolation.   That finally ends tomorrow and I'm seriously going spare not getting out.   But all's starting to improve, although he's not fully well yet and thankfully the covid symptoms were negligible and I showed no symptoms at all - at least now he's immune for a couple of months at least.   

So apart from keeping the choir going online and doing a few classes I've been learning how to be a housewife lol. I kid you not - the hardest job I think I've ever done is getting meals ready on time - not our usual way of working (usually we wait until one of us is hungry and then there's a mad scramble to find something to eat)... but it's been good having something to focus on.  I have huge respect for all of you that have held down jobs, houses and brought up children - you are heroes.  

So now I"ve a couple of book blogs to write, and it's about time to get down to a bit of songwriting too.  

We're still enjoying the company of the squirrels (one of whom insists on getting inside the food box!).. 

and I took the greatest of pleasure in building a log pile on my own while Tom was in bed :) 

I hope you're all well.


Monday, 9 November 2020

Bottom of the Garden

 On a lovely day in August we socially distanced at the bottom of the garden with my friends Csilla Toldy and Tommy Sands to make a tv programme based on our show The Emigrant Woman's Tale.   

On the other side of the hedge is the sea - the border - and this series that Tommy is making looks at all the various projects that have been helped by the EU Peace and Reconciliation Fund - groups from both sides of our divided community coming together and reaching out to forge links across borders.  We were delighted to be the first programme in the series which was broadcast on YouTube on Saturday night.   

Here's the link to the YouTube video if you'd like to hear some songs, listen to some poetry and hear tales of our border crossings soft and hard - Csilla crossing the green borders of the Iron Curtain, me skipping across a sheugh as a child. 

Monday, 3 August 2020

John Hume Rest in Peace

Such a sad day here in Northern Ireland saying goodbye to a true giant of a leader who was the instrument of peace here and a tireless campaigner for civil rights.   The peace process in Northern Ireland and the subsequent Good Friday Agreement would not have happened without him and for that I am forever grateful.

"Difference is an accident of birth" was something he often said.  "Our quarrel is not about religion even though that is was it is often described as .... it is about identity."   This was and still is the truth of our situation here and he was the first person who really was able to speak about it openly and fairly.    This speech he gave to the Nobel Committee is well worth a listen if you're interested.

I had the privilege of meeting John once and he was a lovely gentle man and today he has been honoured by political leaders all over the world as well as on both sides of our community here and has been described as our Martin Luther King.

John Hume - Rest in Peace. We will not see your like again.

Friday, 26 June 2020

June 2020 Photo Scavenger Hunt

I love this monthly photo challenge run by Kate from I Live I Love I Craft
These are the prompts for June

My garden 

At the start of lockdown I was very enthusiastic about getting on top of our garden and giving it some TLC but after I sprained my ankle things slowed down - and now (7 weeks later) it's turned out that the ankle is fractured : - So I'm hobbling around with a boot and crutches and there'll be even less done.   How. Ever.   I got down on the lawn  which we've let go wild cos it's been so dry and there's no grass growing anyway and it's now a mass of wild grasses and flowers - it will be cut shortly but I wanted a few pics before that.


Another from the lawn - I'm sure I'll get this one wrong but I think this is Birdsfoot Trefoil.


Still at ground level today - much better perspective down here -  so I spent 5 minutes chasing a ladybug around to get a photo and kept snapping as it climbed up my dress ... this one is over lit but hopefully in focus and I thought it was a very happy accident 😎


I love the effect of the sun on the water in the evenings.  

Something wild!Your own choice - sorry - you're getting 3 pics here ... 

We've had great fun watching the squirrels - this young one, and another one which I haven't managed to catch yet, hasn't figured out the box and keeps trying to raid the birds' nuts- puts a new meaning on pole dancing lol  And if you have the patience to watch to the end of the little video, the mother (it looks like a female) couldn't get enough so climbed right in!

Well that's it from me for June, gosh how the year is starting to fly now - at the start of lockdown everything was moving very slowly but now it's racing.  Hopefully by next month I'll be back on my feet and we'll be moving around a bit more safely.  Stay well all ... Heading over now to the Link Up page to see what everyone else has put up for these words.  

Thursday, 25 June 2020

More Books Around the World Reviews

So ... I've now done 34 countries on my Round the World Reading Challenge - hooray for lockdown :)   Only another 160+ to go ... and I confess I am dipping into my normal repertoire of UK/Irish/American books and well.  You can check the link above to see how I'm going, but here's the rest of the recent ones.

A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi Ezri *****

Another 5 star book for me ... beautifully written.

Based on the writer's own experiences of growing up in a village on the outskirts of Beirut during the 1980s war.
It is told through the voice of 8 year old Ruba and the descriptions are absolutely gorgeous - it brought me right back to my own childhood, seeing flowers and trees and people in different ways.  And a child's view of the awfulness of war.   Can't recommend it highly enough.  

North China

The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See *****

I loved this book - so brilliantly researched and beautifully written.  It tells the story of a young girl from an ethnic minority tribe who live in the tea producing mountains of north China and how the modern outside world encroaches on them.   Lisa See, the author is of Chinese/American ancestry and this is also explored in the story.  

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirahk ****

It was a review on the cover of this book that drew me to it ... It said "Imagine it is the end of the world, and Tolkien, Beckett, Mark Twain, and Miyazaki (with Icelandic sagas and Asterix comic books stuffed under their arms) are getting together in a cabin to drink and tell stories around last bonfire the world will ever see."  Now wouldn't that make you want to at least open the book! lol 

While it is a strange book by any standards - sort of a fairytale, but not quite, again it is a tale of modern versus old ways.   And while it didn't send off any bells and whistles for me, it still kept me engaged right to the end.

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana John ****1/2

Another historically well researched book, again about mixed race and the difficulties there in.   This is set in Japan after World War 2 and after the end of the American occupation there.  Very interesting and beautifully written.  A young Japanese woman falls in love with an American sailor which casts her into a world of not belonging.  

Another Country by Anjali Joseph ***1/2

I don't normally enjoy coming of age books - getting too old I suppose - but this one held me to the end - as one reviewer said Joseph has an extraordinary ability to describe emotions and to describe what's unsaid - moods, feelings etc ... I could remember a lot of those feelings. 
Leela is a young Indian woman who has studied in Cambridge and is working in Paris trying to find herself.  

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder ****
I'm entering this for two countries as the are both the subject of this book and truthfully I couldn't face reading more about this awful period in history.

This Pulitzer Prize winning book is an amazing story of hope and triumph and belief in human goodness.

It is the memoir of Deogratias 'Deo' Niyizonkiza who escaped the genocide in his native Burundi by first of all travelling to Rwanda, then back to Burundi and eventually to America where, with no English and only $200, he managed to survive, eventually studying at Columbia University, and travelling back home to set up a medical clinic near where he was born.
Burundi is one of the 3 poorest countries in the world and in the bottom 5 of GDP and as a teenager Deo tried to build a clinic in his village.  

My star system is really just a comparison thing for myself.   And I can't figure out how to put in a 1/2 star!!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Books Around the World Update

And yet more titles from my reading challenge ticked off this year so far.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo ***

I picked this book up from looking at Reese Witherspoon's Book Club list and frankly it wasn't entirely my taste... however, it was a good enough story that kept me engaged until the end, even though it felt more like young adult fiction.

Set in Malaya in the 1930s,  Ren is an eleven year old houseboy who has a secret mission to find his dead master's severed finger and reunite it with its body.   He has 49 days to do this or else his master's soul will roam the earth for ever. 

Meanwhile Ji Lin, a dressmaker's apprentice, finds the finger while moonlighting as a dancehall hostess to help pay her mother's debts.   Their paths cross and we get a good insight into the tradions of both the colonial British in Malaya at the time and of the local beliefs, myths and traditions.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton ***

Again, another from Reese's book club and again a bit chic lit for my tastes ..

However, this was a good look at the lives of both the wealthy who fled Cuba when Castro took power as well as the lives of those who stayed behind.   It explained very well the life under Batista and the revolution that brought Castro and Che Guevara into the spotlight and the reality of what happened once they took power.  It also brought some much needed sunshine into the grey winter months.

As a border liver I understand the conflict of duality of those people who left the Cuba for America - the feelings of not knowing who or what they really are - are they American now or will they always be Cuban - that identity, and their wealth,  is tinged with the feelings of loss and guilt at what they left behind.

Even though I didn't like the writing in this book, it fulfilled its place in my challenge to teach me about another culture however it left me with the feeling that I never want to visit Cuba as it is now, something that would have been on my wish list of places to see.  Musicians have always been special in Cuba, but it was made clear in the story that they, the artist class, were treated in a way that the average Joe isn't.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian ****
Another book set in Syria but really the story is about Turkey and Armenia.  

A very good, if harrowing story, set during the Armenian genocide in 1913-15 in Syria and Turkey.  This was a part of history that I had never heard of and the book was written to coincide with the centenary.

Elizabeth Endicott is a wealthy young American who arrives in Aleppo, Syria with her father on an aid mission to help deliver food and meidcal aid to refugees of the Genocide.  There she meets and falls in love with a young Armenian engineer who has lost his wife and infant daughter.

I've read a few books about the animosity between Turks and Armenians but didn't know any of the reasons.  This was a very good read. 


The Expats by Chris Pavone ***

Not much to say about his one ... it's a bit of a romp spy story ... easy enough reading.
We visit Luxembourg quite often and play there most years so it was quite interesting for me visiting some of the landscape I know, but other than being set in the city there, it didn't add a lot to my knowledge of Luxembourg - might need to read something in French to get further into it.

I think that's enough for now .... on to my next batch.

What have you been reading recently?  Any suggestions to fit my journey, preferably lighter themes?   A lot of stories that make it to best of lists are set in conflict zones and I find it hard to constantly read heavy stories even though it is interesting to learn about history and geography through fiction.  Still there's times that a jolly good laugh or detective or a love story will do just as well.  

As always a huge thanks to Ash at Tale Away where I get lots of inspiration of new countries to visit and new writers from those countries.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020


Life is starting to slowly picking up speed again around here, with lots of the sessions moving online and our local craft shop opening up for a few days this week.  Like everywhere else, the parks and beaches are packed on the good days so we're choosing to stay closer to home. 

The first of the online festivals takes place today to mark Bloomsday and Tom and I have a short video in it of the famous "Loves Old Sweet Song" (Just A Song At Twilight) which features in the book - - that'll be around 6pm Irish Time.  I'll also be compering part of the event from 10am.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Bloomsday celebrates the James Joyce book Ulysses, once voted the greatest book of all time (- to my mind it falls into the category of the most tiresome of all time!  Call me a Philistine but I've never managed to get beyond one page of the blinking thing, even in spite of studying Joyce as part of my English course at Uni).  

Anyway that aside, Ulysses takes place on one day in the life of Leopold Bloom - June 16th, 1904 (Joyce chose that date as the day he met his future wife Nora Barnacle) .  It takes place in Dublin, but reference is made to here “He hoped Miss Douce had nice weather in Rostrevor.’-  one of the few places mentioned outside of the city.   So naturally, some eagle eyed enthusiast here, in this case theatre designer Alistair Livingstone,  spotted the connection and not content with having a connection from the area to C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and the Queen no less, they have raised Joyce to the level of the others and there will be a one day festival online on the 16th, connecting in with festivals in Dublin, New York, Budapest, Australia and the Irish Cultural Centre in London. 

More info from the Press Release

Presented by The Light Theatre Company who have filmed, ‘Sirens at the Bar’, Based on the ‘Sirens Episode’ in ‘Ulysses’ by writer Csilla Toldy. Performed by Vivien Botos Cole (Miss Douce), Jennifer McGovern (Miss Kennedy) Neil Cole (Simon Dedalus), Jason Benson (Lenehan) Directed by Alistair Livingstone following strict social distancing rules, specially for this year’s event.   

They have also filmed a Bloomsday breakfast which will start the day off.

Apart from musical representations of Joyce’s poems and songs of the era, Poetic Action Rostrevor (PAR) will present ‘Joyce over Rostrevor’, a series of inspiring quotes from Joyce pictured at iconic locations.

A series of filmed readings will include episodes from the novel, poems by Joyce performed by actors  who have sent us their recordings from Belfast, Dublin, Scotland, England and even New York, children's short stories from The Dubliners and new pieces especially written for the festival.

Tune in today (or in the coming days as it will stay online) on Facebook: and on YouTube.