Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 28 February 2020

BBC Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle tomorrow

Csilla and I will be on the Eve Blair Show on Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle on Saturday next at 1pm talking about our Emigrant Woman's Tale shows in Derrry and Armagh the following week.

If you have time have a quick listen in.

After our first show of the revived Emigrant Woman's Tale in Dundalk

February 2020 in photos

It feels like February has been spent entirely on the computer, doing publicity for one show or another and getting stuff ready for the various internet spaces.   

So I really enjoyed taking an hour out today in the unexpected sunshine to take a few pics and think about this month's clues for  Hawthorn's aka Kate's Scavenger Hunt - it really is a great way of slowing the month down for a moment and taking stock.

It has been such a stormy month - each weekend seems to blow harder than the one before - and there's another storm on the way today ... but I am so grateful that we haven't had the same problems as our neighbours over in England .... I just couldn't bear that flooding ... I hope you all are safe and dry enough.

So this month's words ....


We've never been into Valentine's Day here - 33 years I'm waiting for a card!!!  But then he hasn't received one either lol - too stingy to pay for a card - plus it's close to our anniversary and if we manage to remember that we sort of combine the two.

I spotted this lovely heart shaped stone on the beach ages ago and thought it might fit the bill for today.  

The beach is a total mess at the minute after all the storms - and the mussel boats along here cut the seaweed as they go which then all lands up in an icky mess ... this is just one part of it ... all of that used to be grass.  Once these storms pass we'll get a crew together for a beach clean up day.


The Nissan Hut at the bottom of our lane lost even more of its roof during storm Dennis, or was it Ciara?  - it really is on its last legs and the guy who owns it keeps trying to nurse it along rather than abandoning it.   It came from the German POW camp in Rostrevor when it was dismantled after the war - one of the last still surviving.  I've been in for a nosey and unearthed lots of interesting stuff.


That'll have to be Red the squirrel....
The sun came out for a short burst one day last week in the middle of the pouring rain and who ambled in!  I managed to get out the back door without disturbing him - isn't that tail just fabulous!  He looks like he has a mohican haircut ... and he certainly didn't go hungry this winter!


Take your pick! 

You know my other half is a percussionist ... at some point in a recording they were looking for a jingly sound and the 'keys' were brought out!  And they've been added to down through the years - even at gigs, people would give us spare keys to add to the chain ... Mostly now it just hangs up in the music room/studio collecting dust 


The trees are still all bare and showing their beautiful barks with all their knotty details.   I love the shape of trees at this time of year.  

My own choice

Meet Bob the wounded crow - this is a terrible photo - I can't get close enough to him ... he's been hobbling around the garden for the past month or more - looks like he has a broken wing - probably in the storm.  He stands under the feeder waiting for the wee birds to drop something for him and of course he's getting fed scraps.   It's really funny watching him eyeing up the feeder, head cocked, one eye focussed.   But I'd love to be able to help him fly again - usually crows aren't my favourite birds, but he's not annoying the other ones and the squirrel doesn't quite know what to make of him.  We've still been pondering getting another cat, but the wildlife is so good around here we'd miss all the drama if a furry beast was chasing them.  

So I'm off now to have a look around everyone else's photos for this months' words.  Thank you Kate for keeping this going.  

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Border Stories

Just a heads up about a show I'm doing locally here at the start of March.

I've written about The Emigrant Woman's Tale which I've co-written with Hungarian poet Csilla Toldy - it tells the story of her escape from behind the Iron Curtain as an 18 year old, juxtaposed with my growing up on the border here before and during the Troubles.   We come from opposite sides of Europe, one from the country, one from the city, and have crafted a very nice show from our music and words.
We recently performed the show in Dundalk and had a lovely review of it ....
"The Emigrant Woman was fantastic. We saw it in Dundalk & we thought it was amazing. A great & true story with amazing music, we highly recommend everyone to go & experience it".
Bernadette & Dixie

We will be in Derry on Friday 6th March and in Armagh on Saturday 14th March.


Now we've extended it into Border Stories to include a short dramatic piece about homelessness, entitled Bananas!, also written by Csilla and performed by Belfast actress Vicky Blades.  These shows will be followed by a discussion chaired by award winning journalist William (Billy) K Graham.
Entrance is Free, supported by the European Union's PEACE IV project.  

Sunday 8th March - 6pm - (International Women's Day) - An Cuan, Rostrevor
Thursday 12th March - 4.30 pm - Shimna Integrated School, Newcastle, Co. Down
Friday 13th March - 6pm - Sticky Fingers Arts Space, Edward Street, Newry.

Borders and homelessness are so much in the news at the moment and we are looking for more venues to take particulary The Emigrant out to - so if you've any ideas please get in touch.

Sunday 23 February 2020



The practice of buying more books than you're ever going to be able to read ...

That makes me smile ...
Love it

Recents and laying in waiting

I wrote back in October about a challenge I've set myself to read my way around the world.   So I've finally added a page that I will update as I go along to just keep a record of the countries I've visited and, time permitting, I'll add individual posts about the various books as well. So, 26 countries at the moment .... only another 170 or so to go ... According the UN list there are 195 at the moment, not including Taiwan, the Cook Islands - and probably not Scotland, England Wales and NI as individual ones either - but they're countries too ... It'll take me the rest of my life to complete, but that'll be fun. 

I've been struggling with content from a lot of places because many of the highly recommended books are based on stories of war and turmoil and displacement and there's only so much of that I can take at one time.   So I've been detouring when there are writers that intrigue me and looking for lighter options as well before diving back into more war torn areas.

But for now this is a Tsunduko Sunday - my library of books waiting to be read may never get done with .... but what a fun way to go:) 

Saturday 22 February 2020

Playing shop

I'm fulfilling a childhood dream today ....

My friend Belinda runs the local craft shop here in town - Good Craic Gifts.  She's Australian and has added so much to this place - the shop is a total celebration of local arts, crafts and music and a centre point for a lot of the activity that goes on around here. 

A while back, over coffee, I carelessly mentioned that I'd always wanted to have a shop - when I was younger ... So hey says she, come and sit in for me now and then...

So, today I'm shop minding - and really just catching up on some writing, reading and knitting in between visitors.   But I love this space.   It's a bit like playing doll's houses when you're in a caravan or away on holidays. 

It's blowing a gale outside at the minute and then all of a sudden the sun pops out for five minutes before the next deluge, so it's been quite quiet and I've been resising the urge to inspect every single thing in the shop lol

Have a lovely weekend and hopefully you're staying dry.  

Saturday 15 February 2020

Simple Pleasures


I love them! 

This week I've been up in Belfast 3 times and for the first time I've had  a chance to use my new free pass on the train - we don't have a great train service here in Northern Ireland, except for the satellite towns around Belfast and the main connection between Dublin and Belfast which thankfully runs through our local town of Newry and is really good. 

Tom and I headed up to #OutPut Belfast - a day long music business conference on Thursday and it was such a pleasure to sit on the Enterprise, have a cuppa, chat through stuff and feel like you were citified for a day with no worries of parking and traffic.  The conference was quite good, although full of wide eyed youngsters - we both felt a bit jaded along with the other few old hats whom we met there.  It also felt very London centric so I was delighted to hear our Arts Officer talking on one of the panels about our unique sound over here.   There's a fantastic new music scene which I'm really out of touch with as it doesn't really impact on our music at all, but some great bands to watch out for and hopefully another Snow Patrol or Soak or Ro will turn up out of here. 

Then back again on Friday with Csilla to pre-record an interview about The Emigrant Woman's Tale for the BBC.  We're bring the show to Derry on 6th March and then Armagh on 14th so this radio programme will go out on the 29th February - a lovely piece done down the line with Eve Blair, the presenter in the studio in the North West and us playing and singing in Belfast.  There's a piano backing that I wrote for one of Csilla's poems - Sub Rosa, which is written directly about her experience of crossing the Green Border past the Iron Curtain from Yugoslavia into Italy - however I don't play piano that much anymore and we're doing these shows only with guitar - so my nerves were a bit on edge yesterday having to remember that the studio piano is not like my old monstronsity in the house that needs the life hammered out of it to get a decent sound.   But a few takes did the job. 

I love the feeling of walking in the city - there's an energy which doesn't live in country villages and I easily reach my steps target for the day and come home with a smile on my face even after dragging the heavy guitar case around.  Having grown up in the country I've always preferred cities but city born hubby much preferred to get out and into a small town.  I think the train pass will be used more frequently in the coming months.  Love it :)

Saturday 1 February 2020

St Brigid's Day

image from RTE programme mentioned below
The blessings of Brigid to you today on this first day of Spring - it's Imbolc.   I still haven't got a new Brigid's Cross for this year but hopefully someone today will give me one.

If you're interested in the old traditions, here's a lovely piece from RTE about St Brigid and the Coming of Spring which is still a very important day here. 

And a mention to the Brigid of Faughart Festival across the lough from here in Co. Louth - which is always very thoughtfully curated.   Faughart outside Dundalk is one of the main shrines to Brigid  on the island - they celebrate her both as Goddess and Saint.

Back to the more mundane - when a technical company tells you that it'll only take a couple of clicks of a button to do something I should know by now that their definition of a couple is way way way off the mark!!

We've had our website hosted by an American music company for many years - one who also helps us put our music on iTunes and lots of other pfaffy things that I try mostly to ignore.   But they have been emalgamated into another company and we were assured of a very quick and smooth transition.   To be fair they did give us a good bit of warning but life got in the way of business there for the past few months.

And the couple of clicks???   2 weeks!

So anyway we're up and running by the deadline of this Friday - we've made some changes with more to come -have a look and see what you think.