Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 - the literary highlights.

Well another year over.

I write a diary, which, much like this blog has been very neglected of late, like very very, like I didn't even write in it since 2016, I just discovered. I normally try to write on it towards the beginning of a new year, end of an old year. But that's just an aside.

And now, for the main event.  The literary highlights of 2018, for me.

1. I started back writing. I think I can officially say this, as I'm now confident that I'm back, since starting back around May of this year for reasons that will shortly become clear, and writing fairly regularly since. 

2. Reading poetry in a meadery, invited by the lovely Emerging writer, I had a lovely time reading in Kinsale Meadery with the poetry divas.  I brought the kids with me, and though they were very well behaved, I can tell you, 4 years and poetry readings are not actually the best of friends.

3. Mathew Geden's workshop - as part of Midleton writer's group I got to attend Mathew Geden's lovely encouraging poetry workshop, I'm not writing poetry at the moment, but many of the skills are transferable, and he was a great teacher.

4. Culture Night, Midleton.  The lovely thing about this evening in Wallis's pub in Midleton was the local history on show, also that my fab Aunty and Uncle from Barbados were there and I got to say a couple of poems in front of them, kinda nerve-wracking too for that.

5. Fiction at the Friary.  Finally got to this event for the first time this year having wished myself there over several year.  Was not disappointed.  I made 3 events.  Thomas Morris, which I blogged about, also Tania Farrelly and David Butler, who were absolutely fab and fascinating on a sweltering summer's day, and finally Kevin Power, who was hilarious and brilliant, and it was lovely to see him. These events are great too because of the free books you can win just by reading at their open mic.  I read twice. Two Books. Ching Ching.

6. A trigger.  Billy O'Callaghan's short story workshop. Another one with Midleton Writers, this happened in May. We spent a spell binding afternoon with Billy generously sharing his approach to, and love of story telling.  He reminded me of some of the things I love most about short story writing, and I started that very night applying his lessons.  I've written almost 6 stories since, a big increase on the previous 7 years of 0 finished stories.

7. Encouragement. One story from years ago I had given in to Billy as a pre-read. He gave everyone a page with feedback at the end. He said lovely things about my writing. Definitely a big part of what is keeping me going in the journey.

8. Some Successes. Sent said story to the Irish Times for New Irish Writing, and they wrote me a very kind decline where they said it was strongly considered.  I then took a prompt from Fiction at the Friary to write a story including the river Lee somehow.  This story was one of three they selected as winners of their competition.

9. Benefits. Two lovely things that came with the win was the chance to get some feedback from the writers who run Fiction at the Friary - Madeleine D'Arcy, and Danielle McLoughlin.  It was great getting direct feedback from such talented writers.  The second lovely thing was a very enlightening drama workshop on how to read your work with Corca Dorca Theatre Director, Pat Kiernon - this was a half day that got me thinking more about writing but also scared me a bit as it showed how well things can be read, and made me want to use it well.

10. Big Moment.  The big moment of the year was the culmination of the above where I got to read my winning story at the Cork International Short Story Festival. It was terrifying.  There was a lovely, very appreciative audience, and we got some great feedback, I was delighted to get to go first as well, so I could properly enjoy my fellow winners Olivia Fitzsimons and Deirdre Kingston doing their thing. One of the favourite hours of the year, definitely.

Anyway - grateful to be back "at it" and hoping it lasts.  Wishing you loads of creative success for the coming year.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fiction at the Friary -

Went to see Thomas Morris at the Friary bar today, a very enjoyable occasion, the pub is quirky, cramped, intimate, the sound isn't great, but the people running the event are  more than sound enough to make up for it.

Thomas read 3 new pieces, having enjoyed his "we don't know what we're doing" collection of short stories colleciton, I was delighted to hear new work, and his diatribe on scarf wearing in response to Colum McCann's advice to writers was pretty hilarious.  He had a touching piece about a mother & son coming to terms with a transvestite dad, and an excerpt from his Encylopedia of fictional historic rats which I think my son would have enjoyed.  There followed a very interesting Q&A where Thomas gave some interesting insights into his work and the challenges of the writer with a big successful first collection.

So they gave out pictures of rats and places as a writing prompt - I got a white lab rat and the oval office, here's what I wrote

"I hear he keeps a trained rat on his head, trained by elite navy seals, rotated and rested on a regular basis.  There's a whole swarm of them, they're kept behind the curtains when they're off but when it's show time they leap on to the big patchy surface, in under the scruff, legs and arms fit into special grooves carved into the skull and they tell him what to say:
Rocket Man better watch out.
I'm a very humble genius.
Arm the teachers.
Some days the rats obviously get distracted, they don't quite behave and they forget to tell him anything.  So the first man falls silent.  His words accurately reflecting the quietness of his head, the money worshipping slump, the yucky fixation on self.
They are the days the media calls him presidential and the rats get scolded by whoever is pulling the strings.  The master of ceremonies, a mini maestro of the planet gets cranky if the puppet comes across as normal.
His job is pure entertainment after all, distraction and delusion.  Fail to grab the headlines and you give them space to think.  Ratings, it's all about the rat things, little arms pull the levers, tiny hands twitching at power, pink eyes delerious with rage."

There followed a delightful and brief enough open mic, the crowd tending to drift away as dinner time approached, topics varied from intrusive HR enquiries, failed alcoholic dragons, to ruined weddings, bitter vengeful crazies, and nude men in drumshambo.

A most interesting afternoon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Head clutter and the real world

So I'm kind of hooked on twitter recently.  Follow me, do!

I'm not going anywhere, but you can follow me all the same.

I'm following lots of people, which is confusing when they go different directions, (kind of like my toddler neice and nephew at a wedding one time when I was left minding them and they both went opposite ways and I was like the wizard of oz scarecrow all twisted out of shape trying to point myself the two ways at once)

worse though is the hyper imminence of news.

There's so much sad things happening, and meanie pantses and I feel so UUurhghghg - wishing I could do more to make things better overall. 

anyway - let me know if I can do anything for you, anything at all, using my new found sphere of influence in the bewildering sphere of twitlands perhaps, or even something more mundane, the only criterion being that it has to be positive, take less than 4 mins and approx 300 cals to accomplish, and it should be something I'll get amazing kudos for as well as the soft and fluffy glow of feeling better about the world....

I need to limit my time in twitland though, I really do.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Things to do on a quiet holiday

Buy a 750 piece jigsaw, and nearly break your back to get it done, rename it the 749 piece jigsaw, predictably enough, even though it was sellotaped closed - it was bought for 2 euro second hand.

Take the scooter and slip it through puddles when the road is dry to draw black lines that fade when  you go far.

Get a bouncy ball and make it bounce from the path onto the large rock, it should be possible, but it's not.

Take panorama pictures with people moving on purpose so they appear twice and sometimes with extra limbs.

Go on a hundred walks, long and short.  Mainly short.

Read all the books.

Drink all the wine.

Eat all the chocolate.

Visit the home of the Táin Bó Cúaine and marvel at Méabh and the amount of men she managed to marry, though only one of them has made it onto her wikipedia page.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On winning my first poetry comp - a night at Ó Bhéal

Long term readers of this blog will find it hard to believe that my brilliance in poeting has gone widely unprized - as in prize giving ceremony - as in recognition by winning of a prize... all these years.
But now, all that has changed.  Thanks to the lovely people at Ó Bhéal last night, the weekly poetry night that I have just made it to, after 6 years in Cork, and their fabby doo five word challenge.  Myself and Emerging Writer both had a go.

The words we were given were - Body, Ship, Planet, Palm, Avalanche -

and with only 15 minutes and the odd Sup of wine, I came back with this to scoop top honours and a free drink from the bar

The reader of palms was overly calm
as he sold me a planet of riches
he spoke of the lambs and how serious qualms
could be fed to a pallet of witches

So I stepped on the ship & intended to slip
to the east when the avalanche landed
But my body was tipped, on the side of my lip
& the feast was like nothing intended

like a terrible something was bended
& into the mist ever ended

the palm reader, I promptly unfriended

I was actually v honoured to win, and surprised to get it really, because some of the others were seriously good as well, and everyone seemed to know each other - so I thought naturally a long termer would get the honours, but a good punch line always produces a whoop or two, and the MC Ciarán is a good and fair adjudicator, at least according to me...

We then saw Linda Ibbotson & Sarah Byrne doing their thang.

It was super.  Linda is a visual artist also, and it shows in her work, bringing us to the Jardin du Luxembourg and back to Kinsale - she read beautifully.
Sarah, for me, was a revelation, she does something with criminals and victims of crime during the day, (almost like a superhero), then comes out and unassumingly slays audiences with gentle gin soaked hangover poems, as well as some darker ones, breaking up the lines with deft little additions

"I held the mouse's little brown body (I didn't really)"
or having said that Light & Fire are not the same thing, saying "I bet you're glad to have that clarification, it's good to get that one cleared up"

I've just joined her mailing list.  Anyway - great to know that Cork has a serious share of talented folk  around the place.

Friday, May 12, 2017

How is it not Friday yet, oh wait

So I was going to write a post yesterday about what a long week it has been, and how could it not be Friday yet - and how maybe it was friday somewhere else in the world but it really needed to be Friday here yesterday because I was, frankly, ex haus ted. 

So tired was I that I forgot to post the post about it, and now I'm too late, because it is Saturday.  No actually it's Friday.

I'm sorry, I'm a bit tired.

I was so tired on the train on Wednesday I wrote quite a garbled excel related email to a colleague that merited the following response which I really felt deserved wider reading

I am sure that when you penned this email, it all made sense. However, in its transit via cyberspace it appears to have become, unfortunately, corrupt. I once tried to read Ulysses backwards. That was a similar experience."
I really wish he would start a blog.  The above mail had me in stitches.
Anyway enjoy the weekend all y'all

Monday, May 1, 2017

Here's the sun

Is it that time of year again? there were hailstones only last week, and ice on my car.  Now I feel like I could almost go out and buy an iced coffee, but not really.

The 3  year old's birthday party was  yesterday, only decided really what we were doing about it on Thursday night, being hopelessly disorganised... So texted around, invited people, most of my friends are pretty dignified people, so only committed to maybe making it - not sure, but they'd try, because they had possible other plans for the bank holiday weekend, which was totally understandable and fair enough, but it did leave me in a bit of a sticky position, half of the possible attendees were unconfirmed... anyway I won't bore you (too  late you say), happy ending, they almost all showed up, there was much merriment and screaming and running around, and very very few tears. The nearly 6 year old had bumped his head before the whole thing while playing "being invisible" which of course requires him to walk around with his eyes closed, so I was glad there was no further drama for the day really - that was plenty.

We spent much of today just getting over it all, lolling around the house and garden (not laughing out loud - at least not all the time, that'd be weird), it's annoyingly nice all day, so that any minute spent indoors is a minute of guilt, she says as the cartoons play in the background - yes I'm sick of bug hunting I'll admit it.

I do love the little one though, the threenager. (of course I love both of them, but since it's her big day I'm gushing a bit).  She is so stubborn. (I do not have a clue where that comes from).  She is fearless (ok so I stole that out of beauty and the beast, but she watched that, so she is pretty hard to rattle too),  She's always had a real ease in the world about her, as if she's a woodland creature from a disney film and everything is always just wonderful.  She is super kind to big bro - donating the caterpillar face off the cake to him yesterday so he'd be happy.  She's cool as a cucumber, she needs hugs less than I do, but when she does give one out it's amazing.

Anyway, gushing over, nothing to see here.  Smusheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Myself and Mr VC got to go to London for a couple of days last week, just for a break, it was, I can reveal exclusively here, the best trip to London had by any parents of two young monkey bootses so far this month, bar none.

Some random highlights included:

  • The amazing Foyles book shop
  • Finding Van Gogh's Sunflowers while looking for a coffee shop
  • Seeing Agatha's Mouse Trap in the Salubrious St Martin's Theatre
  • The Elgin Marbles that are not in fact marbles at all
  • The genuine friendliness of the Londoners.  I often go there for work, but rarely stop to talk to anyone (except the people in the big fun meetings I go to), so it was an eye opener how nice they all were, we didn't meet one unfriendly person, and even got a free plastic bag from a big supermarket who shall remain nameless.
  • Having a train all to ourselves because it wasn't really supposed to be going from that station but yerman said "Not officially - but hop on there anyway" and even the driver still talked to us as if he had a full train.

Other than that, the house is full of Chocolate here. Hope all y'all had a good Ishtar.

Monday, March 27, 2017

More notes from a train

The guy across the way, diagonally has his two fingers up to me, he's lucky I don't take it the wrong way, they're just supporting his temple as he stares in deep concentration at the screen.
My baldy friend opposite has just answered his phone after zero rings. Talk of a hotel in London, 7 k a room, fuck off.
They both got on while I slept, and then I was woken by the ticket man, pesky ticket man.  I was all in a heap getting out this morning, 6 minutes later waking than I'd planned, nearly fell down the stairs, (last two steps of it at least), ripped the calendar and made an awful clatter, probably waking the kids.
I needed that hour of sleep that "they" stole from me at the weekend, "they" who decide these things, why don't "they" just leave me the hell alone...

They're building a funfair next to my workplace, honest to goodness, funderland, with a proper ghost train behind my bosses desk, and when we're at meetings upstairs there'll be people outside the window dropping from heights and screaming (and I don't work at Apple or anything).  This will go on for 3 weeks.  Can you believe it?  We had a lovely bit of wasteland beside us, there used to be a dairy there and it had been reclaimed by nature, was a real little paradise in suburbia, a haven for wildlife.  The fun fair is putting paid to that though. 

Yerman opposite has lost his call now 3 times in a row and last time hung up while shaking his head in disgust, all while I could hear the other person still talking.  Hates losing any bit of control I'd say.  Expensive headphones on him.  He'd love to think I was writing about him.

Anyway - so yeah, there was a poor little lost pheasant going around our car park yesterday, avoiding the diggers and construction, and I hope he'll be alright, but sure nature never really has a happy ending.  Wild animals don't live long lives, finally quietly and peacefully passing on surrounded by their loved ones. 

I'm very tired and have been up very early, so that thought is making me disproportionately sad.

So I'm going to think of sleepy puppies instead.

Though I daren't go back to sleep in case Mr Money decides to sell my laptop out from under me.  I'm fierce secretly passive aggressive to strangers though aren't I? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

At the cutting edge of Milk

Two threads of research into milk have come to my attention in recent days... which I thought I'd share, being the kind sort of sharing type of person that I am.

One is in terms of milk's interaction with the microbiome* of a baby - apparently natural human milk encourages good guy bacteria bifidobacterium to grow like crazy in the baby's intestine (so it becomes 80% of what's there), and that in turn sort of gives the child a good micro "fingerprint" for want of a better description, it shapes how their guts will work and what types of bacteria will live there for a good while into the future - reducing a person's predisposition to all sorts of diseases and yukkiness.
Now, the scientists love the bifidobacterium, partly because it's "Y" shaped, and partly because when they give it in spades to prematurely born babies they are 15 times less likely to get a nastly gut illness called NEC. So Mam's milk encourages this good bacteria, got it? Right, so what the scientists are now trying to do is figure out what the good bacteria is making out of it - basically what is it excreting, so that they can mimic this, you guessed it, and add this product to formula, bug poop.  I think this is a little strange, but admittedly fascinating. 

Two is that there's actually a lot of research going into Equine milk.  Yep, horses.  I know there's a brand called Cow & Gate and a scandal called horse gate, so marketing might struggle a bit more with that.  We don't mind getting a helping hand from Daisy to feed our babba's cos we're used to that idea, but Black Beauty, or Shergar?  Would that only make the kids too bloody fast anyway? Any parent who has raced behind a toddler in a terrifying game of multistory carpark chase, knows this is possibly not the best idea.  The boffins are looking into it because apparently horse mammies are very like human mammies and feed their young more often than cows.  I also wondered if this one will ultimately lead to Monkey Milk, which would surely be closer again, but again marketing might stop this bright idea in its tracks, sure it's unlikely the monkey equivalent of veal will have such a ready market.

Maybe easier to support mammies who want to use their own home made stuff, family recipe, passed down the generations, freshly batch prepared every time, perfectly adjusted according to the weather, age of the child, time of day, growth spurts the child is going through, and infections going around.  Just maybe. 

* for the science bit - the microbiome is the family of bacteria that we all live with, that live on and in us, they outnumber our cell's 10 to 1, but scientists think that ratio goes down to 1:1 after a good poop.  (sorry - gawd I seem to be apologising in my posts a lot lately)