Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tree Tings

[Orlaith is still away in Plum Village, so this is Sean'n'Shona again, filling in. She'll be back soon, honest!]

Here's a photo taken today, with three important things in it:

And they are:

1) In the distance, "Family", a wooden sculpture by Liam O Neill, Ireland's top woodturner.
2) A nice hangy-downy thing for the door, so the door can stay open and (most) of the flying things stay out.
3) The blue stuff at the top? That's blue sky. The sun is shining in Ireland and it's stopped raining. Yippee!!

Sorry for the dodgy quality - taken with a camera-phone. Now, back out to the sun!

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's Someone's Birthday

[This is a guest blog: Orlaith, our hero, is about to "go silent" for a while, as she retreats to Plum Village in France for a week. Meanwhile, Sean and Shona play caretaker. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) - as our North American Friends say. ]

So it's Orlaith's Birthday today. Yippee!!

Aside from trying to ensure we got all the apostrophes in the title and the text correct, we'd like to wish our blog host a very Happy Birthday, in the style to which she has accustomed others (is "accustomed others" even English?? - never mind):

We went out to dinner tonight to celebrate the birthday - thanks Pauline. Orlaith was overwhelmed by her birthday presents, in particular a 'teeny tiny' bikini and a muji refillable bottle - how extravagant!

Orlaith has been in the bosom of her family for the last week(s) and is probably ready to live the lifestyle of a monk for a week or so. We're ready for her when she returns.

Have a fab time in Plum Village/ Bordeaux/ London / Madeira ! See you soon!

And finally, what is the French for : "That's right Rita, they're hicks!!!!" ?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A day and night of conversation

Spent the afternoon swanning around Dublin with mom, which officially managed to count as 'research'. Curled up in Neary's for a long lunch, then went to the National Gallery (to check out their Rubens) and the National Museum (to check out their bog bodies and have a glass of wine).

Meeting with my editor tonight. Gulp.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Past homes

I forgot to mention yesterday: I visited Whitefriar Street Church (the place where St Valentine has come to rest; it isn't on Whitefriar Street anymore). In the foyer was a poster for an afternoon concert - by a choir from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I used to live in Grand Haven. It was as close to Grand Rapids as it sounds.

Anyhoo, I'm staying out in Malahide at the moment, where I grew up. I spent the day doing the usual - wondering at all the changes and new developments in what used to be a sleepy village.

Malahide Castle is still standing, but much of it (not the bit pictured) looks like a building site. There's a pile of leftovers from the summer concert series (Pink etc.), and a fleet of people are breaking the staging and starting to re-lay the lawns. My mom lives within hearing distance, and gardened one afternoon with Arctic Monkeys rehearsing in the background. Sweet.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Untimely research

Where is the time going? Over the last week, every time I went to leave the house to do researchy stuff, it started raining. (The times I left to do other things, the weather was fine. I have jogged fairly regularly, eaten well and drunk finely over the last few days.) This morning, I was determined. And having mapped out my day, I opened the door. The heavens opened.

My research is at the non-negotiable stage, so off I went into the downpour. I checked out a range of city spots from Medieval to Georgian times, huddling in doorways to scribble down notes. Conditions were not conducive for photos, so I didn't capture the grotty sign that declared:
I loved it though.

Anyhoo, I got some helpful stuff along the way, then met a friend for coffee & wine. He has just completed a book on Dublin, from Viking times to the present day. As if by magic...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rained in

Kidlets asleep... it rained all day so we stayed indoors, playing and dancing and colouring and watching tv. They're starting to get into Murder, She Wrote.

My brain is filled with manic babbling of kids' superstar Jo Jo the clown.

I probably need a dose of Aliens to balance things out.

Have a good weekend :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Kidlets

My nephew and niece turned two today.

We're currently all on a sugarey high, some of us enjoying the effects of birthday party wine as well. The kids have had a brilliant day and enjoyed lots of treaty things and terrific presents.

But there's no beating a cardboard box.

I'm babysitting them tomorrow, and I suspect the box will feature strongly in the day's activities. Who knows, we may even play with some presents :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The reading

What a lovely evening!

The Irish Writers' Centre was pretty much packed out. Books were selling, sparkling water was flowing - you get the picture.

At the award ceremony last week I read the opening of 'Gilt', which throws you in at the deep end. It's quite a tough piece to get the hang of when you're hearing it for the first time. Last night I chose a more user-friendly section, which I think worked better. The reading was taped, so I'll see about getting footage uploaded, and then you can judge for yourselves.

The nicest audience in the whole world turned up, asked interesting questions and took the time to chat and give feedback after we wrapped up. Brilliant!

Okay, now down to work :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Zippy-quick Post

I'm reading in the Irish Writer's Centre tonight, and need to do a few things beforehand, including choosing what to read!

My days in Dublin have a tendency to slip away far too easily. There are several researchy things I need to get done for Cured with Death before I head for France - they're all very pleasant, and basically involve wandering the streets and stopping for coffee/wine, popping in to a couple of museums...

Yesterday I trailed a few of the locations where scenes are set, and my reaction surprised me - it was like visiting famous spots. I peered around corners thinking, "So that's where that happened. How cool!"

Anyhoo, now to focus on more immediate priorities: what to read for the nice people who attend the reading this evening :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Catch up Part Two: Things of a fishy nature

Photos from the award night on Friday. Apparently I had only the one look that night. I was happy before we left for the ceremony...

...and when we arrived and saw the published book...

...and after I got my award and fish-knife.

But writing awards were not the hot topic of conversation for the week. Just before we arrived, the biggest drugs haul in Ireland was seized off the coast of West Cork. It was a bizarre happenstance: bad weather flared up during the unloading of a shipment of cocaine in a little bay; the smugglers' boat capsized, and one of the guys had to go for help.

When help came, they noticed lots of parcels bobbing around the bay. Parcels of cocaine, as it turned out. Valued at over 100 million euros.

We stayed in the village of Kilcrohane, where three of the drug dealers had set up base, so the talk was all of the criminals and identification line-ups and the ongoing investigation. Then it transpired there was one bale missing: containing 25kg of cocaine, worth about 1.5 million.

Lots of little boats seemed to spend the week tracing paths around the jaggedy inlets...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Catch up Part One

Back to Dublin and my e-life.

Well, we had a phenomenal week, topped off on Friday in Bantry with the Fish Award ceremony and book launch (photos to be posted when downloaded later).

In the interim, here are some snippets from Garnish Island, off the coast of West Cork.

Garnish has its own micro-climate, and it feels like walking into Italy. Amazing!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Beware of the cat

You just never know what you'll happen upon when out for a walk here...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Myriad Residents, and a missing boat...

What a busy week!! Spent the last few days tripping round the Beara peninsula, took a day trip out to Garnish Island (and saw baby seals along the way - too cute!).

There are an eclectic mix of people in the vicinity: I'm currently ensconced in a pub with amazing views out on Kitchen Cove, and [...originally this section mentioned an eclectic batch of well-known people in the vicinity, but I noticed that oodles of people were searching to track down where they lived. Growing up in Dublin, part of the city's ideology is that everyone gets their private, normal, non-worky life: no matter how famous, everyone should be able to sit and enjoy a pint in peace. So I'm scratching the names mentioned, so as not to be encouraging any stalky-type behaviour :) ]

PS - if anyone's seen a boat off the edge of the Sheeps Head peninsula, can you let me know. My brother's looking out for it...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tales from Ireland

Okay, quick news round up:

I'm on the Sheep's Head Peninsula on the edge of West Cork, and my oh my, is it beautiful. Finally got around to downloading photos, so here's a selection from the plane onwards.

I've been touring the area - sampling the delights of Kilcrohane, Bantry and Kenmare. I got to visit an amazing standing stone circle in Ahakista, which was like Stonehenge, except without the motorway.

So the odd thing is that my whole family is here - blood-related and extended. This had never happened before. Ever.

I'm pretty much the quiet one in the family. Which means it's rather um... vibrant.

PS: By popular request, I shall now mention something about cows.
They are all around us.

PPS: Writing this with a zillion people reading over my shoulder, which is a new experience. Also, I'm managing to keep up jogging. There's sooooo much flat space around, and I pad-pad along lanes flooded with the scent of honeysuckle. Heavenly :)

Friday, July 06, 2007

This is not a show, except it was

Okay, this was really incredible.

So, REM are about to record their new album. Normally they hang out in Athens, Georgia and practice their little hearts out before going into the studio. This time, they came to Dublin instead, and practiced in public. Last night was their last night.

It was like being invited in to a garage session. Except, you know, it's RE-bleedin'-M.

Michael Stipe had his laptop set up and his glasses on to read the new lyrics. Some of the new stuff is brilliant, and you really got a sense of how it was going to sound in front of 80,000 people. As a reward for enduring the new, we got some classics - Gardening at Night ("we hardly ever do this; it's a totaly bitch to sing") and Cuyahoga, my personal highlight of the night.

He was really chatty through the concert. When he searched online for some old lyrics he found "The animals. How strange. Try to stick it in. I did not write that shit!". That afternoon they'd discovered that Peter Buck had misinterpreted a song for the last 25 years. They had to take out one song from the setlist because they realised they'd just rewritten the theme song from Friends - they played us a snippet, and sure enough...

He said it was something they'd only have tried in Dublin. When they finished they lined up and took their bows, looking like a group of kids at a school play. Hope they got what they wanted out of it.

We certainly did :)

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Got the first flight out of Gatwick this morning, and napped alongside my nephew and niece this afternoon.

My suitcase was trashed en route, but somehow managed to sustain both sides breaking without actually losing its structural integrity. Go, little case!

And we're all off to REM tonight! I've seen them a few times, but always in massive venues. Tonight they're playing in the Olympia theatre in Dublin - it has a capacity of less than 1500, so it'll be a relatively intimate concert. A fantastic start to the trip!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

Packing was a bit tricky. I needed to keep luggage to a mimimum, but I'm away for six weeks and have a range of environments, from buddhist monastic meditation halls to award ceremonies. And I'd like to keep jogging while I'm away.

But it's done!
I believe there's even time for a sunshiney beer before heading out to the airport...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A shaggy dog story

My bus stop in Funchal comes with its own dog. He's a little brown fellah with no upper teeth.

The bus drivers adopted him years ago; they put water and food out for him (today there was chicken & noodles in a little plastic dish).

Normally he has a thick shaggy coat, but when I came along this morning he'd been given a short back and sides. Adorable :)

A little girl spent ages gathering leaves and twigs, and set them in a little pile before him. It was a sweet gesture, but he seemed to prefer the chicken noodles...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cue: Awkward moment

Yesterday, Scented Man stopped me on lap 5 to tender his resignation.

Okay, 'tell me about' rather than 'tender'. He was quite dramatic:
"I will not be here tomorrow morning. I will never be here again."

The Powers That Be were cutting out the night shift (so if anyone harbours dreams of a night-time cable-car raid, this is your chance).

I commiserated, and we said our goodbyes. I pad-padded away, trying to remember what lap I was on.

But apparently not everyone got the memo. Territorial Guy showed up this morning. He waited until I'd finished jogging, then asked if I'd seen Scented Man.

And in other news: for those who have suffered through a miserable June (wettest on record in Ireland), I thought I'd post some sunshine: