Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 30 August 2013

Farewell for now


"Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun"

Seamus Heaney died today .... (read this piece from the Washington Post)

...such a great loss to the world of Irish literature ... he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and some say he was one of the world's all time great poets.  There was a ruralness to his poetry and I've always loved the richness of the language - this poem, Digging, sums him up well for me - a poem which is very relevant to the digging we all do as artists.

"Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks in to gravelly ground:
My father, digging.   I look down.

Til his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any man on Toner's bog
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper.   He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf.   Digging.  

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.  

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests. 
I'll dig with it."

* * * * * * * *

I hope this isn't goodbye ...

I'm so sad that this 30 day challenge to blog every day for a month has come to an end .... I've missed the last few days and it'll take a few days to get caught up reading the last week's worth of blogs from all the wonderful new people I've come to know here ... and hopefully it'll be a practice that we'll all continue.   A huge shout out to Effy Wild for starting this off!   Check out her brilliant web site and courses for artists here.

Right now, I'm in the middle of France - it's dusk - and there's a noise that belongs to places that are warm and sunny - a slight hum of insects, friends preparing dinner, distant sounds of traffic.... the outline of the hills is dark behind the vineyards, and there's a vague shade of pink left in the sky.  Tomorrow we have a gig, but for tonight we're still allowed to feel like we're on holiday.

We've been spending time with some old friends - it's been at least 6 years since we last saw each other, but it may as well be yesterday.... Isn't that the lovely thing about friendship ... you don't have to see each other every day to connect ... we were sitting around the table trying to remember where it was we first met ... and the only thing we can agree on was that it was at least 15-18 years ago and it was in Holland. 

We've spent the day lazing around the place after the morning trip to the vegetable market ... those photos will have to wait for another day...  and I even spent some time making art.

I hope that I continue to see all of you on a regular basis - I look forward to continuing reading your blogs ...  and look forward to the next challenge to connect.

Enough wine for another couple of years!  Outside our friends garden fence this is the wonderful view :)  Near Cahors in France.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Le Château

A very short entry today, just to check in ... I've been uploading the past couple of days blogs - it's rainging today so I'm having a happy couple of hours playing ... :)

The village where we're staying has a château ... 

When I was at school - a few years ago! - I wrote a project about the Loire valley and the châteaux of the wine growing region ... and this is the first time I've ever got to see one!  It's still occupied - as a holiday home - by 3 related families ...

It was built back in the 12th century and all of it originally was like the buildings on the left ... but later updated.   It has a moat the whole way around it, teeming with carp .. when the weather clears I'll get a few more pics.

And our residence for the next few days .... a 300 year old town house .... old, solid and warm ... with grapes growing on the outside wall :)   I'm in heaven.  
Day 25 of Effy's Blogalong Challenge


Written on board Celtic Ferries Ship.   Thursday 22nd August – to be uploaded later. 

Concentration is difficult for me these days…. I’m very easily distracted by the internet, the TV or blogs or, or, or … So I’ve come up with a cunning plan to trick myself into getting some work done …. I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes and work on whatever it is I need to do …. 15 minutes filing, 15 minutes practice time, 15 minutes working on new bookings, 15 minutes meditation … and it’s working for me. 

Running some errands on the way down 
But today we’ve set out on our first holiday in 15 years – well it’s not entirely a holiday cos we have a few gigs on the way, but it’s a break from routine.   We drove down through the country today finishing up a couple of jobs en route, delivering stuff, seeing people etc 

… and got on to the ferry at 8 for a 9.30 overnight sailing.   Beautiful night for it too ....

Two ferries leaving before us
 And it’s packed … people sleeping on the floor everywhere and in fact a couple of women came on in their PJs ready for the night!!    It’s always colourful in summertime on ferries.   But I love sitting and watching it all …
 A woman just walked passed us and turned to her youngish son and said “ I TOLD you to wait over there for me!   Now go before I give ya brain damage and I’ll come back and get ye in a few minutes”!

We just burst out laughing …  although what she said was awful, it was delivered in a broad Dublin accent which, if you listen very closely you’ll recognise as English, but is really a language all of its own – from the markets area of the city, and spoken by a lot of the travelling people.   A few minutes later 3 youngish men stood beside us talking and it took me at least a couple of minutes to realise that they were talking English too. 

Beautiful night for a sailing
I love listening to people in public places – catching one sentence out of context can be really funny.    There’s no wifi on board tonight so kids are running around the corridors and between the people lying on the floor, so the cinema beckons now before we go to our really comfy cabin ….  If we can get in past all the wee urchins!!

But before that I’m trying to get a few minutes to concentrate….

I started a new piece of knitting around the same time as we started Inner Excavation – and it’s driving me nuts …. It’s a lace pattern (with a very long rib!), done in 2 ply wool – and you have to totally concentrate or you’ll end up at the end of the row with either more stitches or less stitches than you need.   It cannot be done while watching TV or while chatting and I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks knitting two rows and then unpicking them again … 

I now have two stitches less than I need on the needles between half way and the end of the row and I’ve already ripped this out a couple of times!! 
So I’m thinking this needs to be like a meditation … do one row at a time, in total concentration and then put it down for a while and repeat.  
Or else I’m going to be leaving £50 worth of wool for another project. 

I’m writing this to upload it over the next couple of days when we have a connection again … but for now it’s back to people watching and start practicing my understanding of French – the cinema’s been abandoned ….

This is Day 22 of Effy’s Blogalong Challenge. 

Friday 23 August 2013

A Different Pace of Life

23rd August on board Celtic Horizon, nearing France.
time to chill
Just sitting here watching the clouds go by
We’re travelling at 30 kph … no hurry … the knitting is sorted, the pages are written, photos are taken and we’ve had a half hour in the sun out on deck … What a way to go … wouldn’t it be great to have a couple of hours like this every day!

Alderney in the distance
Passing Alderney in the Channel Islands … There was lighthouse flashing and then a boat appeared, heading directly for us … it was definitely someone signalling a coded message from the island to the ship and now the occupants of this boat are coming to find the culprit HAHAHAHA
coming to catch the spies

The other half is sitting with legs dangling over the edge … and of course I can’t see green cheese as they say but I have to have it too …

Can I play too?
I met the objects of the woman’s annoyance from last night – 4 8 or 10 year old monsters and a slightly older minder … running up and down the corridors slamming doors at 1 o’clock .   Feeling so proud of myself that I went and talked to them … astounded that they actually listened … the poor mother!  They were so cute … I’d love to have gotten a photo cos I’m sure one of them is going to be famous at some point.   They’re so innocent looking but they have trouble written all over them.  

A Frenchman!!  We must be nearly there ... 
I think this is going to be the mode of transport for the next few tours to Europe … a day to chill out is the answer to all woes. 

Day 23 of Effy's Blogalong Challenge 

Thursday 22 August 2013

Family connections - in laws

It's been a busy day getting things wrapped up for September classes - changing days for community choir, planning one to ones, enrolling in a Pilates class for myself, updating my website  and having a great acupuncture session with our local physiotherapist - busy day.   But tomorrow we're heading away to do a few gigs.

We'll be dropping in to see a cousin of Tom's that he hasn't seen since they were both very small and we've been going through family snaps to bring to her ... There's something about old family photos that makes me pause for a while and just breathe and let the mind wander off on its own trail.

Tom on the right with his younger brother - obviously the fish was special!
 In the middle of it we found this great picture of my mother in law and her sister when they were in their late teens.   They both loved clothes and worked in the linen mills edging handkerchiefs ...  They'd go to the pictures (the movies for my American friends here) to see what the stars were wearing and then come home and copy those dresses and have them ready to wear the following week at the dance.  Clever girls!

Time for school ....
Tom heading to the new school.

We reckon his Uncle on the left was a member of the Sopranos!!

This is Day 21 of Effy's Blogalong Challenge  ... I've missed a few, but mostly I've kept up - both with writing and with reading some of the other wonderful blogs in this group - it feels like I've gotten to know a whole new family.  

Tuesday 20 August 2013


Some days my longing to belong is stronger than others .... I'm always torn when leaving my home place to come back to where I now live ... and in a couple of days I'll be torn when leaving this home place ...  Such a strange feeling - it takes me a few days to feel like I belong in either spot and yet I don't  totally belong in either.

never struggling to belong
We visited a community garden on Sunday - these flowers and seed pods just looked so perfect together .... 

Here's the wonderful Dolly Parton singing her song Wildflowers - a song about belonging and where you choose to put your roots down.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Random thoughts on travelling and finding quiet time.

I'm really happy to be going away for a holiday next week but at the same time it's making me feel a loss at the realisation that the down time I've carved out during the past few weeks of the blog challenge will be much harder to come by.  It's been a wonderful blessing taking the time to come and chat each evening - at least that's how it's felt - a chat with a new tribe where I feel very comfortable.

I'm not at home this weekend either and it's challenging to find some quiet space and time to concentrate enough to find something to blog about.

It's hard enough at home but all my bits are to hand there.  This is how it's going to be for the next few weeks so this weekend is giving me a chance to make a list of what I'll need with me.

A new mid sized journal for starters (any excuse to buy a new journal is always good)
A connector for my camera to the laptop or iPad
Photocopies of the intro and first chapter of Women Who Run With the Wolves - you certainly need space and quiet to get into that.
Some pencils and crayons on the off chance that some doodling time might present itself.

But this is mainly making it clear to me how much we need our time alone and our time to be creative.  So one of my tasks when I'm away is to plan out some sort of timetable for the winter that allows for time alone and for time to play.

Here's a song for the road ...  Andy Irvine's tribute to Woody Guthrie .....Photos tomorrow ...

Friday 16 August 2013

Day 16 - Sister Moon and a new toy ...

Oh the beautiful moon ... just spotted her rising this evening ...
Had to get outside for a look ...

And I found a new toy ....a tripod!!!   woohoo .... a lot steadier.

The water looks so inviting with the reflection on it...

and the clouds ....

how mysterious ....

I was seriously off centre this evening - no time all day to just be on my own and do something creative.   And the next few weeks we're going to be on the move mostly ...  panic.

Really enjoyed these few minutes to breathe and focus.   

I'm writing to Santa for a new camera lol

Remembering ...

15 years ago today, the Troubles in Northern Ireland came to an end .... at the hands of dissident bombers who blew up the centre of Omagh town - 29 or 30 people died ... I can't remember exactly what the number was, and I don't want to check ... I've been trying all day to not notice it!

But it marked a turning point ... we had had calm for 5 years running up to that ... and then out of nowhere, on a Holy Day holiday here , the centre of people's lives in a small market town were destroyed.
I remember being in Connemara with my cousins, visiting for a few days by the Atlantic Coast ... and I remember crying when I heard the news .... probably the only time I cried throughout all the years that had gone before.

But for the first time, people came out onto the streets to protest against the violence ... I stood in our local town a few days later with 1000s of people, willing it all to be over ... ..  the following year, the ceasefires were announced, and not long after that the Good Friday agreement was put in place .... It's not perfect by any means but it was a starting point.

I wrote this song years ago on my father's anniversary, but it seems appropriate for tonight ... 
thinking of all of us and what has gone before.

There has been incredible healing done since that day; the two tribes living here at least now acknowledge each other.

Almost immediately after the ceasefires we started to talk to each other - friends and neighbours talking about our feelings and our experiences ... no-one had done that for the previous 30 years - there was an unspoken rule that you never talked politics or religion - we introduced ourselves mostly by first names because your surname would give away your religion.  Up until that point I hadn't noticed the fear in my stomach every night going to bed ... Tom and I are a mixed marriage - two different sides of the perceived divide ... and people had been shot for less.

Thankfully nobody belonging to us was harmed, blown up or locked away.   But all of us suffered a trauma that will probably not entirely leave us in our lifetime.  Now a new generation have grown up knowing no violence or threat or army on the streets - they'll be the future.    And if that leads eventually to a United Ireland it'll be brilliant, but it will be just as brilliant if we stay a separate entity.

* * * * * * * * * *

I had planned to write about something totally different tonight, but that is what came out, so I'm just going to go with it.  I've had a very productive day, lots of creativity, singing, knitting, cooking, I even drew a picture!!!  OK, I'll have to show you it!!

I am sooooo proud of myself!  Huge thanks to Alisa Burke - I've been taking her Summersketch class and have tried to copy her picture.   wow, next thing you know I'll have an art journal page to show!!!!

OK, I'm cheered up now ... Time for bed ... It's midnight here.
See you tomorrow.

This is day 15 of Effy's Blogalong Challenge

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Tuesday Songs

You don't see many great songs about Tuesdays ... Ruby Tuesday is the first one I can think of .... but that's about a person .... Mondays inspire a lot of things - anger, excitement, anguish, doom and gloom, the start of a diet ... but Tuesdays are just in the middle.

So I went searching  ..... here's the songs I could find about Tuesday .... I started off having a real laugh .... the David Bowie one is ridiculous. (and this from a real Bowie fan!!!) ... but then I a few gems followed .... Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder  and Counting Crows really stood out for me ... and of course Ruby Tuesday ... in fact I probably like Marianne Faithful's version of it better than the Stones, so I've added it in at the end ....


David Bowie - Love You Til Tuesday  ( this must have been a precursor for the Laughing Gnome!! )
The Pogues - Tuesday Morning
Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday (live) - I want Mick's jacket!
The Moody Blues - Tuesday Afternoon
Cat Stevens - Tuesday's Dead
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Tuesday's Gone
Stevie Wonder - Tuesday Heartbreak
Counting Crows - On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago
Count Basie - Tuesday at Ten
T Bone Walker - They Call it Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just as Bad)  ( had to sneak that in)
Michelle Branch - Tuesday Morning
Marianne Faithful - Ruby Tuesday  (with a gorgeous wee film featuring Catherine Deneuve)

I hope you're having a great Tuesday :)

Day 13 of Effy's Blogalong Challenge

Monday 12 August 2013

Stones in all their beauty

I've been enjoying reading so many beautiful, wonderful , articulate, insightful and interesting blogs recently as part of Effy's Blogalong challenge .... 

Kathleen posted a lovely one about Rocks  - 
I mentioned the lovely walls we have near here and thought I'd tell you more today.    

I live in a beautiful area and one of my favourite drives to take visitors on, is up through the mountains to see the Mourne Walls ... you'll also find something similar to these in the Aran Islands off the Galway coast.  

The Mournes are granite and were formed a long time ago ...  as a result of the Ice Age the land was covered with rocks - the ones that Finn McCool didn't throw at someone -  and farmers clearing the fields of stones built walls with them ... dry stone walls ... the mountains are crisscrossed with them ... and I find them so beautiful... It's like a patchwork quilt.  

I can see lace patterns in them ....

and years of history ....  if these walls could only talk

and apart from all the small ones enclosing fields, there is one huge wall - 
The Mourne Wall 
These following photos are courtesy of the Tourist Board

It is 22 miles long and was built to keep sheep and cattle away from the Reservoirs that were being built to supply water to the new city of Belfast.  In a wonderful testament to the craftsmanship of the day, some parts of that wall are almost vertical and most of it is still intact today ... 

It crosses 14 peaks and skirts around the bottom of another one.  It took 18 years to build and is mostly 6 ft high and 3 ft wide .... 

....One of these days I'm going to walk it.   

The Mourne Wall is a great tribute to stone I think ....

This is Day 12 of Effy Wild's Blogalong Challenge ... Great fun:)  Find out more here
And visit my web page here to find out more about me...

Sunday 11 August 2013

Overcoming fear

I've had a long afternoon to myself - bliss!!  My husband and I both work from home and it's very rare that I get the house to myself - short of throwing him out on the lawn!!!    But that'd never do :)   He'd only go round the back and get back in again like the cat we used to have :)

Reading Blogs
I've spent a couple of hours reading blogs - and getting very encouraged and inspired by all the wonderful stories, advice, wisdom, sorrows and laughs I'm reading ..   When I signed up for Effy's Blogalong challenge I thought that I'd maybe manage one or two, but now I'm getting very angsty if I miss one ...  in fact I'm almost thinking that this is something to carry on with after the month.    But don't get ahead of yourself!   There's still 19 days to go.

Lessons Learned ..
One thing I've learned this month so far, is persistence  and attention to detail - well two things actually!   And in my journal a memory came flying out at me - being told by a music teacher that I was unmusical - not only that, but THE MOST unmusical child she'd ever come across!!!   This, as she was holding the door open for me to walk into my Grade 7 piano exam!!!   Well!!!   Needless to remark, the results weren't very good on that particular day!!  But I thought I'd left that behind.   Apparently not!

I have an almost pathological fear of practising - my stomach goes into knots, panic overtakes me, a pressure headache follows and I go and play a game on the computer instead!!  I can learn songs for an occasion ok, but allowing myself to just mess around, to play (thank you to Juel for the wonderful post about play) , to enjoy myself, even to enjoy listening to music and playing along with it - it becomes a terrifying experience.    Sometimes I can get through it and once the guitar is in my hand or I'm at the piano then I'm fine ... but getting to there is a pain - and my body has taken on a lot of these pains over the years, to the point where I've given myself the ultimate excuse by getting Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogrens Syndrome - one affecting my hands and the other affecting my mouth and voice!!

Helping others but not myself
I work with singers who were told when they were young that they couldn't sing and I'm a very good teacher - or allower would probably be a better word - I believe you can't be taught to sing cos you already know how to do that, but I can help you allow yourself to do it and I'm very very good at doing that ...for others.   So one of my girls has to sing at a wedding this coming week - she was very nervous and asked me to play piano for her and then the practice gremlin came out to play again.    So thanks to Effy and the wonderful members of the Glitteratia for pointing out the value of persistence and attention to detail,  I'm going to use this event to focus on this fear - again - with the help of some EFT and journalling as well ...
And I found this in my journal which made me smile ... I added the quote today.

As usual I couldn't think what to write about when I started this page ...   This is Day 11 of Effy's Blogalong Challenge.
Find me on Facebook at

Saturday 10 August 2013

Changing the dream

Lately I've been finding it hard to focus on dreams - in fact I've been trying to give up on my dreams

... to just live where I am now

Maybe to change the dream to one of being able to be content with what I'm doing now, instead of constantly trying to improve, move upwards ....

Does that make sense?

A friend was talking about her husband's depression and reckoned that ambition, or thwarted ambition was the biggest contributor to it ....  that at this time in this world we are all trying to improve something ... our bodies, our minds, our status .....that we're never content with where we are .... and it made sense to me..

Maybe it'd be better to enjoy now, appreciate how far I've come and stop worrying about where I think I should be.

Nature doesn't have to improve on what She already is ...  just perfect.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Have a wonderful weekend...

Friday 9 August 2013

Seeing things differently

This lovely postcard arrived a few weeks ago from the Baltic Sea ... 
... it came from a good friend from former East Germany and it reminded me of the first time I visited that part of the world.  

In Birgit's hallway there was a noticeboard full of postcards - each one had come from one their friends' first visit out of the Eastern Bloc.   The idea moved me greatly .... they had each dreamed for most of their lives about where they would go to first if they ever got a chance to leave the East.  One went to Greece, another to America, another to Iceland etc etc.  

It struck me that we took an awful lot for granted.  

When she and her family visited us here in Ireland, the tide was full as we drove back from the airport to home .... several boats were moored in the bay.   Next morning, we drove along the same stretch of road and the tide was out.   They were in shock - where had the water gone?  and why were the boats facing the other way?  I had never passed remarks on either thing ... but now it's the first thing I see.  And which way the boats are facing .... of course they get turned around as the tide moves....

What do you see differently that you didn't notice before?

Wednesday 7 August 2013


This is just a very quick post - I don't want to miss a day in this Challenge to do a Blog a day for a month.  It's been so interesting ... like everyone else, I thought I'd have nothing to write about, but just sit down at the keyboard for a minute and an idea comes up - now why can't I do that when it comes to writing songs or doing anything crafty or arty!  It's also given me a chance to let my blog develop without advertising - by the end of the month I hope to have plucked up courage to share it with my mailing list and Facebook Page ... not yet though - don't want to spoil my fun and make another stick to beat myself up with!

I love seeing friends coming to the house ... but it must be said that it's also nice to see them going!!!  On Friday we're going to not answer the phone or go anywhere or talk to anyone ... have a day in pyjamas ... oh bliss!!!!  And then I want to get back to Inner Excavation and try some of the art challenges therein.  A few poems and songs have been written but I haven't posted anything yet ... work has been getting in the way - pfffff work really is such a distraction!!

But in the meantime, it's nearly dinner time so I'd better get a move on - we're going to be very healthy this evening - a big salad and some local fish and an even bigger fruit salad for afters.    The colours are wonderful at this time of the year ... and if proof is every required that a God exists,  mangoes are it!!!!

I saw this outside a cafe in Galway a couple of months ago .... a really nice thought for the evening.   I hope your day is going well wherever you are - will be reading around all the blogs later on ...

Big Hugs to you all

This is Day 7 of the Blogalong Challenge ..

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Cloughmór and Finn McCool

Clough Mór means big stone in Irish ... and the Big Stone dominates the local landscape here in Rostrevor .... It lies at the top of Slieve Meen in the Mourne Mountains about 1000ft above the village.
At the Big Stone

 But legend says it was thrown by the giant Finn McCool - who threw most of the big stones that are littered across the North of Ireland - he liked throwing things did Finn!  He was also responsible for creating the Giants Causeway, the Isle of Man and Lough Neagh and he gives his name to the mountains across the Lough - the Cooley mountains - where he sleeps on top of them.
Looking across the Carlingford Lough to the Cooley Mountains from CloughMor

The story goes that while Finn was out hunting boar one day, a huge shadow fell across the Lough and another giant stood there - as big as he himself was.
This giant was called Ruscaire, the giant of Snow and Ice.   He challenged Finn who was the giant of Summer, to a fight and both giants drew their swords each with a foot in Carlingford Lough and their other foot astride the mountains on either side.  They fought all day with swords and the second day with clubs.   On the third morning Ruscaire arose and stole Finn's sword while he still slept, although honour stopped him killing him.   But when Finn awoke and found that his sword was missing and that Ruscaire had taken it, he started throwing rocks and stones at him and a battle ensued that shook the mountains to the core. The Cloughmor Stone was beside him - it weighed 50 tons and with great effort Finn put his giant arms around it and hurled it at his enemy, burying him under the weight of it, where he melted away like ice into the mountain.

Finn McCool asleep on the mountain

Finn was so exhausted after the effort that he lay down and never wakened.   Some people say that the little people covered him stones when they couldn't waken him and others say that over the years he simply turned to stone.   We'll never know the truth but his image can still be seen there to this day.
Can you see him?

For more myths and legends about Finn, Queen Maeve, Cuthulainn and the little folk in and around Carlingford and Mourne, there's a great website -

This blog is also posted at my website -

I'm taking part in Effy's Blogalong Challenge and really enjoying posting a blog each day for the month of August.