Saturday, December 30, 2006

FELICE NAVIDAD!

Just back after a fabulous Christmas in Spain which included a thick snowfall in the mountains of Murcia. I built a mujer de nieve, like the true Canadian I can be at times. Pics to follow when my friend Annie sends them. We were at her and her husband's casa grande outside the lovely little town of Onil (pronounced "O'Neill" and there is even an Irish bar called O'Connell's!) just north of Alicante. On Christmas day, after Mass in Spanish, I joined the rest of the townsfolk in the queue to kiss the feet of the statue of the infant Jesus held out by the priest in front of the altar. We had already had a big dinner on Christmas Eve with other guests from Wales and Italy, but on the Day itself we sat down to a second feast with more guests from Ireland and Romania. The meals included vegetable soups, turkey with stuffing, big shrimps, freshly made pizza, pasta with shellfish, and various salads, followed by desserts that included ice cream, flaming puddings, and a huge Christmas cake with almond icing. Yum. The trip ended with a few days site-seeing in Barcelona. More about that anon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

An Post

Oh, I love An Post, the Irish postal service. They are sweet. I was checking with their Customer Service department via email to see if a parcel I sent to Canada had arrived and they reported back to me that indeed it had. So then I sent them a thank you and Beannactaí na Nollag (Blessings of Christmas) and here's what someone wrote back: Na habair é - fáilte. Which is the Irish version of "Don't mention it - you're welcome." It is truly wonderful when people use Irish here because, alas, the language was nearly wiped out by English colonization; but though the number of native speakers is declining, happily the number using Irish as a second language is steadily increasing. PS Here's the Christmas card they sent me. Speaking of English colonization, that's the central post office in Dublin, the last hold-out of the doomed Easter Rising or Irish Revolution of 1916. You can still see the bullet holes in the columns. Also there is the famous statue of Cuchulainn inside.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Listening

Couldn't go dancing tonight. Too much to do! Last of the Christmas cards gone, but a ton of gifts to wrap, especially the ones for family dinner tomorrow. There are still decorations to go up in the house and my desk is a mess. Sigh. But here is the music that is keeping up my spirits as I work away:
Prairie Ceilidh Christmas - western Canadian band called Prairie Ceilidh singing English, Irish, French, and Scottish carols, plus a cowboy carol for the lads out on the range, the Huron carol, and a wonderful song by Tim Janz (in the band) called A Winter Wish (for Sarah). He's got a beautiful voice, bit like Stan Rogers.
Celtic Christmas Moods - gorgeous instrumentals by Ceol Cú Chulainn, playing uilleann pipes, whistles, flutes, accordian, keyboard, bodhran, fiddle.
Songs for a Celtic Christmas - Anúna, who really don't need an introduction. Yes, they were the ones singing for the first Riverdance extravaganza. Beautiful voices.
A Guitar For Christmas -Liona Boyd looking like an angel on the cover, swathed in white.
Carols From A Cathedral - From the choirs of Bath and Winchester Cathedrals (you can't beat a bit of serious tradition) - my fave is "The Holly and the Ivy."
Christmas with the Rat Pack - I was in love with Dean Martin when I was a kid. Jaze.
The Best Christmas Album in the World ... Ever! - and indeed it is pretty good. It's got two CDS, one with trad stuff like Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Steeleye Span's Gaudete, and one with pop stuff like John & Yoko's Happy Xmas.
Must go. More to do. Christmas is coming!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Punch

Still going like the clappers! Last of the cards tonight plus gift-wrapping, a few more presents to buy tomorrow, some more decorations to put up in the house, then on Sunday a lovely Christmas dinner and exchange of gifts with Finn's grandparents and her Dad down in Naas. Here's my recipe for mulled punch:
organic pressed apple juice
slices of ginger
powdered ginger
cinnamon powder
grated nutmeg
mixed spice if you wish or mulled spice sachet
slices of lemon with peel
slices of orange/mandarin/satsuma with peel
whole apple peeled with whole cloves stuck into it like a sputnik
Simmer it all nicely on the stove and serve in glasses with a whole cinnamon stick.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Nollaig ag Teacht!

Yes, Christmas is coming! And with the galleys just done, I am throwing myself into it, like a rock star hurling himself into the crowd. So far, still up. Load of cards written but still more to do and all those heading for Canada, America, India, and Japan are, of course, dead late. Still in time for Ireland and Europe, however. Meanwhile, the lights are up in the window plus the little Crib and silver candlestick with white candle. The box of decorations is out from under the stairs and all over the kitchen table. Tree will be bought today. Decorated tomorrow. Tonight is the Christmas party at my set-dancing class. Yahoo. I love this time of year, the Silly Season as a dear friend calls it. Must fly. Presents to buy!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Free Hugs

Omigod, one of my seven sisters sent me the most amazing video on Youtube. Search for: Free Hugs Campaign. Inspiring Story! (music by sick puppies). He looks like John Lennon. Yeah, I cried. Check out www.freehugscampaign.org afterwards. I'm trying to decide if I'll start this myself in Dublin. But we are now in the dark and lashing wet season. Hmm, would make for interesting filming. All those sodden Irish people hugging each other. (And, of course, someone would try to pick your pocket while they are at it.) Meanwhile, I'm still pissed at Amnesty UK forcing the best videos of David Armand doing Torn off the air and leaving their own crummy version which is shot from too far away. Scroll down and you'll find better. Look for the image of the big stage. Every time Amnesty forces the video off someone else puts another one on. Even the anti-fascists can be fascist, eh?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Crash and Burn

Am I back in Ireland? Not quite. Got into Dublin this morning at 5:30 a.m. after the usual smooth flying that Aer Lingus provides. However, feel as if run over by said airplane plus two-ton articulated lorry. Meanwhile, check out this video on Youtube for a great laugh: Natalie Amnesty International Torn (that's what you search). Friends in Toronto directed me to it and I have been telling everyone else since. David Armand is a genius and Natalie is a sweetie. Would cheer up a corpse. Alas, Amnesty International UK forced the best versions off the air only today. Bad move, guys, whatever happened to sharing? A little generosity goes a long way, especially when you want people to be generous to you!

Friday, November 17, 2006

La Belle Ville

Having a ball in Montreal. I swear, everyone here has that je ne sais quoi that you get in Paris. A casual flair, a joie de vivre. People meet your eyes in the streets, even smile, most look happy. There's an old Hebrew saying that a stranger can see what's wrong in the first three minutes. But it also goes the other way. On a non-verbal level, you can grasp the essence of a place when you first arrive, an immediate reaction to it, before you settle in and meet the inhabitants and have experiences which colour your opinion for good or ill. Anyway, it's pretty goddam gorgeous. Just waiting to head off for my second gig at Magill, then later today doing Librairie Paragraphe. Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Don't Panic!

Right now I am running around like a madwoman trying to get everything done before I leave for Canada. As well as sorting out finances, packing, figuring out what I can't take on the plane, and making notes for my talks, I must finish the bathroom renovations, get stuff to put on the woodworm I just discovered eating away the kitchen baseboards, stock the house with groceries, pick up last shopping items, clean the house, get American and Canadian dollars at the bank, AND -- last but not least -- look over the copyedit of The Light-Bearer's Daughter which is arriving tomorrow! Arghhhhhhhh
Meanwhile, here's a pic of me in my Indian outfit which I wore to my set-dancing fancy dress night. I bought it in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, south India as it reminded me of an Irish dancing dress. It's embroidered with gold thread and tiny pearls, like a fairy costume.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Library in the Sky

Calling all librarians and bibliophiles. Look at this amazing site I've found on the Web through a google alert: www.librarything.com. What a labour of love. What a work of genius and ingenuity. I got lost in the interdimensional stacks. It even comes in different languages, including Welsh! (No Irish yet, though.) And have a look at Tim Spalding's other sites. He is without a doubt the reincarnation of Isidore of Seville, the great cataloguer of the Middle Ages.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Oíche Shamhna

(Pronounced ee-hah how-nah. Yeah, I know. With Irish you think up a pronunciation that is as far as possible from the spelling and you'll be close.) This night gets two blogs as it is such an important one in the Celtic calendar, see Book Blog. I've put the cats in the cattery - so no one will throw them on a bonfire; yes, I'm afraid that happens every year, the dark horrible side of the Irish- , the scary mannequin is in the porch holding bowls of sweets and pennies for hand-outs, and all the candles are lit. Finn is off to a fancy dress disco and I am off to a fancy dress céilí. She's going as someone who just fell out of bed (with more clothes on than others, I might add!) and I am going in my sparkly Indian dress that looks like something from Faerie. Will post a pic of it on Book Blog tomorrow as I wore it to launch The Chronicles of Faerie blue compendium in Toronto on Hallowe'en a few years back. Have a great night and don't eat anything without a wrapper (the dark horrible side of North Americans) or you'll wind up like this pumpkin!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Irish Roads

I am telling you, Irish roads are like the staircases at Hogwarts. Every time you go out your door everything has changed, changed utterly. The lay-out is different, there are new roundabouts, and you end up shooting past places you intended to visit. In fact, all of Ireland is under construction. What Brendan Behan once said about Toronto is now applicable to his own home, i.e. "it'll be great when it's finished." But, alas, it may not be great at all. It may be ruined, ruined utterly.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Last Straw

I can’t believe Jack Straw – Labour Leader of the British House of Commons – asks Muslim women who visit his Lancashire clinics not to wear their veils. The bloody cheek! How dare he tell any woman what she should wear to his office? Does he ask Catholic nuns to remove their veils? Has he issued a dress code for men? I find more than sinister this recent European trend (mainly French and English) against religious schools and icons, stressing the ideal of a "secular society." The Western ideal is not a secular society, it is a liberal society which separates church and state while also tolerating and even celebrating cultural, racial, and religious differences. The alternative is a Soviet-style atheistic society where religion and all signs of religion are banned and everyone looks like clones. It didn’t work there, it won’t work here. I’m so glad I belong to two countries that don’t tout this kind of rubbish: Canada, which promotes multi-culturalism, and Ireland, which says "ah sure, whatever you’re havin’ yourself."

Prayers on the Road

Whenever I see poor dead animals on the road, I put my hand over my heart and say a little prayer to wish them well on their journey to the other side. I have no time for the nonsensical idea that animals do not have souls. Everything in creation is ensouled. Sometimes, of course, as I drive past I discover I have just prayed for a soggy T-shirt. But that's okay. Then the universe and I have laugh. (Though one must add a pox on litterbugs.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Librarians

When I was at the giant American Library Association conference in New Orleans this summer, I met some amazing librarians involved in some amazing programmes. Here's one of them: www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/2ndchance.htm. It's a collaboration between the Austin City library and the Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center. This is a short-term detention centre for young people between the ages of 10-17. The library introduces them to books in the hopes of encouraging a lifelong reading habit. "For many of the children, this is the first time they have ever read a book outside of a school assignment." Life is hard enough on this planet; imagine what it's like for these kids starting out on the wrong foot before they even get very far down the road. Who knows what book might reach out to them? To give them strength? To give them hope?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chilling Out

This week was defrag time after the stress of the deadline. Slept a lot and read Widdershins by Charles de Lint; loved every bit of it, especially the Native cousins. My honey was away and he sent me some music. Sigur Rós, an amazing Icelandic group whose music is fey, wyrd, and wintry of soul. Have a look at them on www.sigur-ros.com. There is a magical video of a song "Glósóli" from their album Takk, but you can view it better on YouTube. It's a version of the fairy tale of the Pied Piper. My daughter says the little one at the end makes it, but I don't think so. Stunning images, exquisite music. The CD I have is untitled. They are truly beautiful and strange. Tried to post an image of the album cover, but blogger is not responding tonight.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dublin City University

Speaking of my webmaster. Here's another site that he's involved with. If you want to see what the bright new things in Dublin City are doing, check it out. www.mediaproductionsociety.com. It's just recently up and running.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Blog

Yes, my webmaster has pointed out to me (being the highly efficient person and college student that he is) that this blog is exactly one year old today. We've come a long way from ranting on about Hex, October 17, 2005. Or maybe not. Well, at least I learned how to post pics! And YES the final edit of The Light-Bearer's Daughter (third book in The Chronicles of Faerie) was completed yesterday evening. HURRAY HURRAY HURRAY. I am a free woman until the galley proofs arrive. That means I can have a life for a while and get back to dancing, hiking, painting my bathroom, shopping for November trip, reading books, meeting friends, doing emails, making phone calls, and other general having-a-life things.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Leonard is The Man

Drove up to County Meath yesterday for library visits in Dunshauglin and Dunboyne. (Had 100 kids for the latter. There is always that moment when I look over the sea of faces and think, "oh God, what if I bore them senseless?" No sweat. We had a great time. I love kids and I love teenagers. And love is the greatest force you can direct at anybody, according to Albert Schweitzer and/or Gabriel Marquez, depending on your source.) ANYWAY, driving up there I listened to Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man and Future. Omigod, that Canuck is not only good, he is great. And what a sexy bugger and at his age too. I think he was in his 50s or 60s when he wrote and recorded those seriously hot songs. And he was obviously in love and lust at the time, more power to him. Before his sojourn in the Zen monastery. (Not surprising, that leap from sexuality to spirituality, both being life-affirming yokes.) Apparently there is a brilliant newish documentary on him, but half of it is U2 blathering on about him. My God. Like getting Dan Brown to talk about Samuel Beckett. I mean, who gives a flying f'k what U2 thinks? (Now let me tell you how I really feel about it.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blatherumskite Site

Meant to blog this hilarious Irish site www.blather.net - "Talking shite since 1997" - and forgot; but was reminded when one of the writers contacted me. They are really bloody funny. I haven't figured out the archaeological connection yet (are they students? professors? grave robbers?) but expect I shall after I delve (ahem) some more. Do have a look and a laugh.

Happy Thanksgiving!

All you Canucks. Did we have turkey? Nope. But that's because we are vegetarians.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Arty Family

Here's the website of one of my artist sisters, Lorraine (who is also a published poet) and her sculptor husband, James: www.lorjames.com. Art doesn't run in our family, it gallops. My dad was a jazz musician (cut a few albums with the Warren Peace Trio --yeah, that was the band leader's name!) and I have five, yes count them, five sisters who are visual artists. One, Georgina Black, is self-taught but has won prizes, and the other four, Patricia, Yvonne, Lorraine, and Deirdre are all graduates of various art colleges and exhibit professionally. Yvonne Whelan and Deirdre Whelan are based in Toronto while Patricia Burnes and Lorraine Whelan are based in Ireland. There's got to be gene, eh?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Jazzy Trad

I've been asked to recommend music that I love. Here's my latest fave. Mike McGoldrick is an incredible and eclectic musician (uillean pipes and various flutes) but you have got to hear him on the wooden flute playing trad music like it's never been played before. "James Brown's March" is one stunning Irish-trad-jazz groove that just has to be heard! (Hey, my dad was a jazz musician. I can say 'groove.') He's got some gorgeous voices on the album too, Karen Matheson and Karan Casey, singing in Irish and English. This is a fantastic CD. I'm listening to it right now and I am transported.
Here's the info: www.verticalrecords.co.uk.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Me vs Eircom & Perlico

Yahoo, I just successfully set up my modem and I am now surfing at Broadband speed. We have the technology. Meanwhile, however, I've recently discovered that if you change from Eircom to Perlico for cheaper service you lose the right to use the Irish International Operator, but not only that, you can't access Canada Direct to make collect phone calls! No one told me this, of course, not Eircom or Perlico. Okay, I understand that the Irish Operator belongs to Eircom so therefore they can cut you off (but why not just charge?) but Canada Direct is a 1-800 number. As it is the Canadian International Operator not the Irish one, that seems utterly wrong of Eircom; a petty punitive measure against ex-customers which they should not be allowed to practise. Afterall, the line rental is still paid to them. Perlico is acting dumb and pretending they know nothing about this when they surely must. So, does wee David have time to go into battle against two communications giants? No. I must finish the final edit of my book. But when I do finish, Eircom and Perlico watch out.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Testing Teens

Despite all our psychologies and sociologies, we know a lot less about young people than tribal societies, specifically the teen need to test themselves with pain. This need can be seen in benign forms such as piercings, tattoos, punishing athletic and dance practices, all-night activities, or simply standing out in the rain with no coat or umbrellas (Irish teen rite). Then there are the sinister ways – drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, fighting, dangerous driving and the like. In the native American ritual of the Sun Dance, young men willingly suffer terrible ordeals which are witnessed by their community while medicine men and women stand by to heal them. How many teenagers do we lose every year because we are not there when they test themselves?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Celtic Latin & Hurricanes

It was some night. I headed into Dublin last Thursday to attend a lecture at the Royal Antiquarian Society by Dr David Howlett of the Bodleian Library at Oxford (I am not worthy). He invited me to hear him speak as I have reviewed his work on Celtic Latin texts in Books Ireland. (In fact I mentioned one of his books in a very early blog when I quoted a centurion who died in Roman Britain.) Dr Howlett is not at all your usual fusty boring academic. Witty and gregarious, he speaks with lyrical enthusiasm about the early Irish and their complex and eccentric (one might say daft) word-play with Latin texts. After the lecture, I headed home in the dark of night through the tail end of a hurricane. Trees were down, the roads were strewn with branches and leaves, and I had to grip the steering wheel to keep the car in its lane. I was certainly glad I was driving a heavy old Ford and not some sleek light model!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Come Dance With Me

Back at set-dancing for the second week. I love it! Except the bloody road to Enniskerry is closed and you end up driving all over the gaffe and through the mountains just to get home! There were three groups dancing last night, and we've learned two new sets, the Lussmore and the Williamstown, both quite elegant and a little complicated. I have my new dancing shoes and they are brilliant. Can't wait to start battering. But there are times, I must admit, when I want to get out on the floor and dance up a storm of Irish step-dancing. My feet yearn to do it. But Irish dancing is too hard on old knees and limbs, even the Lord of the Dance is discovering that. Oh, fabulous news about the Irish Dancing & Culture magazine. They have featured my books in the October issue and next month there will be an interview and a short-story contest! More about that on my book blog.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Courtesy

A final comment on the Pope's remarks. There are many within the Church who point out that this crisis could have been avoided had the Pope himself not demoted (or as some say "fired") and removed from the Vatican, Fr Michael Fitzgerald -- an expert on Islam and the Church's best man for inter-faith dialogue with Muslims.The Jesuit Fr Thomas Reese predicted a year ago that misguided remarks could lead to people dying and churches burning. In today's tinderbox world, free speech must be tempered with prudence and courtesy.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pope's Remarks

Well, seeing as I've got my Holy Communion pic below I feel obliged to comment. Isn't the world in a bad enough state with fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims waging their crusades and jihads, now we've got a fundamentalist Catholic pouring oil on the fire? For those of us who wish to live in a post-Enlightenment 21st century, it is a nightmare watching the world being dragged back into the Dark Ages by all these madmen.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fair-haired Holy Girl


I sent this pic to a friend recently as he made an offhand comment that my hair was less blonde in my youth. Harrumph. Here's proof that it was more blonde. First Holy Communion is a fabulous day for Roman Catholic kids. Even if you are poor, your family goes all out with clothes and treats and you are someone special all day long. My mum made this gorgeous dress and I designed it myself! I got the idea for the skirt panels from an illustrated book of fairy tales (a princess's dress except it reached her ankles). The material was some kind of stiff stuff -- will ring my mum to find out -- and the patterned flowers are velvety. New shoes and everything. Oh what a cute little kid I look, butter wouldn't melt. But how on earth did my parents manage this for each of us with one wage and ten children?!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lasairfhíona

I promised I would blog this amazing new voice on the Irish music and Irish-language music scene. Her full name is Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola, but she is now using her first name only -- pronounced lassar-eena. It means "Flame of Wine" in English, and that is the name of her second album. She sings some songs in English on that CD including a lovely one she wrote herself called "Galleon", while her first album is An Raicín Alainn (The Beautiful Comb). Both are exquisite. I heard her live last week. She's very much a colleen, a little shy, and needs someone to tell her not to keep looking at her watch when she is doing a show, as her audience doesn't want to be reminded that she will not sing for them forever. Her first language is Irish as she was born and grew up on Inisheer, the most Irish-speaking of the Gaeltacht Aran Islands in the west. You see a bit of the landscape behind her in this pic, as that is what those stony islands look like! I've been to Inishmore, the main island, and also Inisheer. Beautiful places. Here's information from the CD jacket: CAT NO: LNC002CD. www.flameofwine.com and www.aransinger.com. Also try: www.irishmusicmail.com.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tempus Fugit!

Expected to blog more this week but it has been catch-up time. The house is still a mess and I didn't get started on the bathroom -- need to chip and paint the ceiling and tile a wall -- but I organised finances, got to Dublin for a dental check-up and meeting with friends (fabulous dosai restaurant on Mary St, it was just like being back in Tamil Nadu - yum!!!), began to sort out my Canada speaking trip in November (more about that in Book Blog when dates and venues are confirmed), got to the gym at last, and switched banks and telephone companies. Still must buy tiles for bathroom, tidy up office, answer reader email, finish reading a friend's manuscript (it's brilliant so far), buy some new clothes for autumn, sort out new gym. No rest for the wicked. And here's a pic of me heading off for Tonelagee mentioned below. God, I love Ireland. It refreshes my soul. Look at that purple heather.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wrecked

Finished book Friday just in time for the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures, THE BEST ANNUAL FESTIVAL IN IRELAND BAR NONE.
Here's who I saw:
On the mainstage, Papa Gee and Colours Afrobeat Foundation - the latter were the most beautiful women with the biggest bottoms I have ever seen! And Trans-Global Underground with the Trio Bulgarka. While bopping around like a maniac to these guys, I had one of those epiphanic moments. Noticed the gang in front of me were in their teens and thought for a sec, "jaze, am I bit old for this lark?" and then of course I looked up at the stage and who were we all groovin' to? Bulgarian grannies!!!
On smaller stage: Lasairfhíona, hottest new thing on Irish-language and Irish music scene. A voice of honey. Will do a separate blog on her.
Workshop/talk: Sounds Ancient - about ancient Irish musical instruments beginning with stones with holes in them (hey, if you blow in them, it sounds like a sea gull's cry while three holes gives you a mini-flute!), Bronze Age trumpets, a replica of the Wicklow pipes - dated to 2600 B.C, found in 2003 AD near Bray - giant panpipes made of yew wood with complicated mouth pieces. Amazing.
Here's what I bought: beaded bracelets, shell earrings, a green wraparound skirt, mango tea, a gourd shaker.
Here's what I ate: falafel with tabouleh plus lemonade with mint, potato rosti with homemade salsa, and a crunchy Indian snack from Mother Amma's stall.
Here's the information stalls I visited: Concern's village, Mother Amma, and Médecins Sans Frontieres. The latter are my heroes. If I had any kind of skill that was useful to them, I would volunteer, but I don't, so all I can do is support them with money and advertising. Will do a separate blog on them shortly.
FINALE. Out clubbing to Sudanese gospel rapper, Immanuel Jal. Will blog him separately also. I was mesmerized and traumatized by what this amazing young man had to sing and say. He was a boy soldier at 8 years of age. Here's his CD: Ceasefire (2005). I'm going to buy it tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jawing

Got my mouth wired yesterday for some serious teeth improvement. It involved buckets of anaesthetic (asked the dental surgeon to freeze my head as I'm a wuss. He obliged, almost.) a scalpel that felt like a saw, and a leprechaun's jackhammer. I keep thinking, "actually, it's not so bad,"until the painkillers wear off. This is just the beginning of a long painful process that will see a dream fulfilled. Check out the bockety smile in the profile pic and you'll see what I mean. Meanwhile, only 4 more chapters and the book is finished! Yahoo.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tonelagee

Quick post as I am knackered from overwork and must sleep before doing it all over again tomorrow. End in sight but somewhere next week. Did take a break from the deadline to go hillwalking on Sunday. A glorious day of sunshine and wind and great chat with fellow hillwalkers - pics to follow - but the greatest laugh was discovering the true name of one of the mountains we climbed. Tonelagee. Tón le gaoth. "Arse to the wind." Ah, the Irish. You can't beat them for a great place-name.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Quam Ob Rem

Which means "for what reason." Okay, the truth. The veritas. I have a box of Latin vocabulary cards on my desk and I like to do a word or two a day. Keep the lingua fresh in my mens. (Must find out if such a thing exists for Irish.) And the reason I was thinking about Loretto is that one of my old school chums, Ellen, now called Elena, sent me an email. This is the fabulous thing about the Web. People are contacting me out of the blue; my past keeps washing up on the shores of my life, bringing all kinds of interesting things. I am going to get together with a bunch of my high school buddies the next time I am in Toronto. That will be November this year. I'm doing readings and talks at St Michael's College (U of T), McGill in Montreal, and some libraries and bookstores. Will post dates and venues closer to the time on my Bookmark Book Blog.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ama et Fac Quod Vis

Yes, Latin is my lingua dilecta, favourite language. Well, after Irish. Ama et fac quod vis. "Love and do whatever you wish." That was the motto Mother Elaine, my Latin teacher, gave us back in Loretto College, Brunswick Avenue, Toronto. I still don't really understand what it means. If you have love in your heart, you can do no wrong? If you love what you are doing, the sky's the limit? As long as you love, you can do whatever the hell you want? Needless to say, the latter interpretation was the one I chose back in high school but I thought it rather odd advice from a nun. Now I know loads of people had nightmarish experiences with the Catholic clergy back in the pre-Vatican II days of Roman Catholicism and many consider themselves "recovering Catholics." I have a few bones, myself, to pick with my old church, but I have no complaints whatsoever against the order of Loretto sisters. They were fabulous. Most of them were young, pretty nuns with great intellects. They were feminists quite early on and made a point of telling us "make your mark in the world, girls, you are not only here to be wives and mothers." Quite a different message from what the rest of society and the Catholic Church at that time were saying, let me tell you. I have the fondest memories of all my teachers, both nuns and lay persons, in that school. I loved being there.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

All is Well

Just blogged on my Book Blog how well things are going with the new book. But as I enter the last week before my deadline I must keep the head down and write write write. However, here's a little pic of me as Gwendolena (Mrs Merlin) dancing on a huge stage in front of over 1,000 people (yee gods). Not bad for an Isadora Duncan imitation. Face could have done with a bit of theatre paint, though. Thank you Brenda Sutton of Mythic Journeys for sending this. (See www.mythicjourneys.org.) And thank you to the wonderful photographer, Beth Gwinn. It was great meeting you, Beth!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Techno Dodo Brain

No time to blog as I am going like the clappers on third Faerie book; though, paradoxically, I did post on my book blog today and here I am posting right now. And, damn, I just discovered that I enabled comment moderation on both my blogs and there were comments hiding away in a file that I didn't know about. I am such a techno-dope. I've disabled that feature but have left the human-check-thingie (see what I mean?) to avoid blogger spam.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Cedars of Lebanon

I watch in despair as Lebanon burns once again. Do I have a strong opinion on this? I do. But first, my political stand: I support the right of Israel to exist in peace and I support the right of the Palestinian people to a thriving homeland. Irreconcilable differences? I always believed that a peaceful solution to Northern Ireland was possible and look there. In fact, I remember attending a party many years ago in L’Derry at the invitation of my friend, Roy, a Protestant peace & reconciliation worker married to a Catholic. (Martina: "It really hit me when I saw the lambeg drum in the living room.") The party was for a group of Palestinian and Israeli peace & reconciliation workers who had come to Northern Ireland on a research trip. You want to talk about heroes? I was in awe of them. That such people could exist, such men and women, risking their lives to cross such divides. They told Roy that this was the first step they laboured to get their opposing sides to take: You are my enemy, I hate you, but I will not kill you today. And there they were, taking turns to sing the songs of their homelands (it was an Irish party) and cheering each other on. So therein lies my hope. Here’s my anger: who is making and selling the arms? Who is profiting from this? Where are the factories where all these missiles, tanks, guns, and rocket launchers are being made? Who are the people going to work every day to build them, knowing they are making weapons of death and destruction? Who are the owners of the factories? Who are the salesmen who are making the deals, not caring to whom they are selling instruments of death? Who are the men and women who make money from the death of men, women, and children? And why do we know nothing about them? Why do we know nothing about the arms manufacturers and dealers who fuel all the wars on our planet?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Canadian Summer

Got an email from Findabhair today. She's having a terrific time in Ontario. Wants to know if she can get a tattoo in Collingwood with her friend, Holly. What a soul sister thing to do. I said yes. (It ain't my body.) She also has good things to say about good-looking Canadian boys. Now this was my devious plan in sending her over there. She is to fall in love with Canada and decide to go to college there -- to my alma mater, Trinity -- so she'll move back with me. Otherwise we are looking at the generational curse of my family: loved ones separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Parents, grandparents, children, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews all split on each side. Though popping back and forth like pinballs, it must be said. We need an entrepreneur in the family to start an airline. Enough with the bloody artists!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Oh Canada!

Put Finn on a plane for Canada this morning. Trying not to be an over-anxious mother. She's staying with friends in Creemore and visiting family in Toronto. Missing her already! I'll be over myself in November to do some readings in Toronto and Montreal. Will post when and where on my Bookmark Book Blog closer to the time. Meanwhile it's back to work. A little personal note: Emma, one of my cats, is utterly flaked out on the floor beside me. It is ROASTING HOT here in Ireland, mirabile dictu. Going on a week now of unadulterated sun, we are all bizarrely (for the Irish) bronzed and blonded. Well, not counting the many who are red and blistered. Give us another week of this and everyone will be saying "the heat's desperate" and "will it never rain."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stop the Lights!

Well, I really just wanted to note that I am finally posting items on my Book Blog again. I've got a few items and pictures that I think will be of interest to readers.

And meanwhile, here's another magical photo of William Todd Jones caught inside a flaming wheel. I think it's a fabulous image. If you want to find out more about him and his work just Google or Yahoo him. There's loads of entries.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Sash Me Father Wore

Well, not me Da, me Big Uncle Jim from the North. We were the Green side. But Happy July 12th to all you Orange people! May the sun shine on your parade! When I was young in Toronto, the Green side of the Irish community actually marched in the Orange Parade -- Irish dancing schools, the Neil McNeil and De La Salle boys bands, and even the Knights of the Columbus (or is that a false memory?!) And on St Patrick's Day, I distinctly remember the Orange Lodges getting me to do Irish dancing at their celebrations of the day (yes!) as well as the Daughters of the Eastern Star clubs and the Masonic Lodges. That's the way these holidays should be celebrated -- as cultural festivals which both sides can enjoy together. I know that's hard for people in Northern Ireland to envisage because there has been so much bigotry and bloody murder on both sides. Yet it is not impossible, as the Canadian communities from both these backgrounds have proven. Roll on that day and the sooner the better!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Little Tale of a Dryad

Here's how it happened.
I was having a quiet breakfast with a teacher attending the Educator’s Conference, part of the Mythic Journeys Conference in Atlanta, and up comes Brenda Sutton, one of the Mythic co-ordinators, with William Todd Jones (see satyr below on the left). She introduces us.

Todd: We’d like you to play Gwendolena, the wife of Merlin, a wood nymph.
Me: I’m a big long in the tooth for a wood nymph, amn’t I?
Todd: No, you’re perfect. You’re tiny and blond and you look like a fairy.
Me (highly flattered and sucked in like a Hunt’s tomato): Okay, I’ll do it.
Brenda (into her headset): We’ve got a nymph. The nymph has been found.
Brenda (to me): You should hear the com chatter on this.
Me: Could you call me a dryad?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Two Husbands


Bet that caught your attention!
The two satyr lads in this pic were my two husbands in The Life of Merlin performance, (written by John and Caitlin Matthews) at the Mythic Journeys Conference in Atlanta last month. I was the wood nymph, Gwendolena, wife of Merlin. William Todd Jones on the left was Merlin, while Toby Froud on the right was my young second husband whom Merlin killed with a deer's antlers. Nope that's not me in the pic, but the gorgeous Wendy Froud (mother of Toby) whom I tend to think of as the High Queen of Faerie. She is the creator of many fabulous creatures including Yoda of Star Wars. And you probably won't recognise Toby as the baby from Labyrinth. Okay I am going to stop name-dropping right now. (I was just saying to David Bowie the other day that name-dropping is a very unattractive trait.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tolkien Over Pullman, No Contest

Picked up The Wand in the Word, an excellent book at the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans (ah, New Orleans). The subtitle is "Conversations with Writers of Fantasy" and it is compiled and edited by Leonard S Marcus. Some of my favourite fantasy writers are included such as Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Brian Jacques, and Madeleine l'Engle. (The two women I read as a child, the two men as an adult.) The only sour note is Philip Pullman attacking, yet again, JRR Tolkien. A dwarf insulting a giant. Yes, I enjoyed His Dark Materials but it is not the masterpiece that is The Lord of the Rings, nor is it a work I would ever re-read. More importantly, it is not a work that would change my life, help me through a dark time, or inspire me to be a better person. These latter descriptions describe the writings of the two great men that Pullman constantly attacks -- CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. At this point, me thinks he doth protest too much. There's something personal here. Did the two professors fail to recognize the 'genius' of the young Pullman when he was at Oxford? Is he still fuming over that fact and taking his revenge now that they are dead and cannot defend themselves? A petty little man when all is said and done.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day!


Bonne fete du Canada! (Je m'excuse, but if anyone knows how to get the 'e' with a proper accent on Microsoft, please let me know and I'll correct it.) This is a pic of the flag I have hung in my front porch. I am missing all the celebrations back home! When I was a kid, it wasn't a big deal. No wonder. It was called "Dominion Day". Puis, le 27 octobre 1982, le 1er juillet devint officiellement "Fete du Canada." Back then, we didn't have a national anthem or a flag either -- just God Save the Queen and the Red Ensign, the flag of the British Navy. Pierre Trudeau changed all that, our greatest and sexiest Prime-Minister. Must remember to add him to my list of heroes on my website FAQ page. He was a red rose on our country's lapel.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Faerie Sites

Here are two magical fairy sites I found glistening on the web: www.faerieworlds.com and www.faeriemagazine.com. Yeah, I know I am supposed to be working -- not flitting about in the Realm -- but I'm waiting for my soul to land. It always takes longer to arrive than my body. I think it likes gliding over the vast blue of the Atlantic.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Crash and Burn

Whoa. Got back yesterday some time in the morning after a six-hour delay in the Louis Armstrong International Airport at New Orleans (how great is that, an airport named after a jazz musician) due to bad weather in Newark, then a mad dash for my plane to Ireland, and a very comfortable flight back home. Got mum a bottle of Crown Royal Canadian whisky and Finn a bottle of DKNY perfume, duty free. Said hi to my bed and passed out for the day. Now I am wandering around like a zombie who's been hit by an articulated lorry (tractor-trailer for you non-Irish). Was that three of the most incredible weeks of my life? Yes. Am I still alive after it? No. When you've been on the mega-go 24/7, it is a serious shock to suddenly stop. Yesirree, it's crash and burn time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

San Francisco

It was so strange. I stood in Union Square and had nostalgic feelings but didn't realise at first that I was in a place that I hung around when I was 18 years old. Back then, the square was all grass covered, now it is cement. Another great memory of this city is when I went into the huge library (now a museum) and despite the fact I was in my bare feet, the librarian let me sit down at a table and read all day. After months on the road, I was dying to read a book. So I read Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles from beginning to end. Yes, I did get the idea for the boggles in The Light-Bearer's Daughter to have eyes like gold coins from Bradbury's Martians. Hey, as James Joyce (or was it Brendan Behan?) said: artists don't borrow, they steal. And I say, if you are going to steal, you should do it from the best.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Soft Seattle Rain

It's Friday, so I must be in Seattle. Keep losing hours as I travel west. One hour disappeared in Chicago and two more by the time I got here. And there's so little time to blog. However, I have been sending my webmaster diary entries for the tour, so if you want to know what I am up to check out my website and click on the butterfly. Here's some tour trivia:
Best thing I ate: vegetarian burrito with veggies, cous cous, salsa and sour cream in little restaurant in Naperville.
Worst thing I ate: 'cheese and crackers' (chemical byproducts) on the airplane.
Best moment on the tour: okay, can't do that as so much good stuff has happened but I'd be lying if I didn't say that the Mythic Journeys Conference completely blew me away.
Worst moment: last night, when I arrived in Seattle late and starving, but had no energy to go look for food. Wanted to go home. Missed Finny, my cats, and R. Now I'm fine, so it was just one of those low moments. Gotta run. I've got a gig at All for Kids tonight but first Chauni is taking me for sea food. Oh, and Seattle is very cool. Ate breakfast in a real diner -- sat at the counter -- and there's art everywhere.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Blogger Community

Oh, meant to mention this neat blogger thing. One day I clicked on the blog next to me and went to Potfry which is a political satirical blog. Though it is right-wing and I'm unhappy with some of his targets e.g. PETA,I thought the writing was brilliant and the humour hilarious. So I commented on his blog and then he got back to me and we discovered we have some similarities including the fact that his wife was born in Ireland and grew up in Canada -- just like me! -- and he sent a photo of his gorgeous twin girls. Anyway, he lives in New Jersey and I told him about my appearance at Books of Wonder in NYC and he showed up and bought my books for his girls and we had a great chat. Here's the thing. He is definitely right-wing and some of the sites who approve of him are scary to me, yet we found common ground and a liking for each other. Is this not the essence of democracy? Is this not the truth we must embrace? That no matter how difficult it is we must be able to listen to each other and to seek out common ground. How else can we live together on this planet? We will never all agree with one way, one vision. Like Rumi says: Beyond the world of wrong and right there is a field. I will meet you there. Potfry and I met in that field and discovered that we could hear each other even if we did not agree, and not only that, we found that we could like each other.

Joy!

Well here I am in Baltimore, just out of Atlanta and the Mythic Journeys Conference which was one of the most incredible experiences of my lifetime (peak experience as Maslow would say). You'll find more details on my site if you click on the USA Tour butterfly and go to the tour journal. Here's the short version - there were youth troops and magical workshops and I was in a performance flitting around the stage as Gwendolena, a dryad and wife of Merlin, and Deepak Chopra was reading Rumi with Coleman Barks while a cello and drum played behind them and there was a Mothers of Myth banquet with great Asian food and I got in a scrap with Ellen Kushner over JK Rowling when we were on a panel together but I really like her and we did this Jewish/Irish thing of really enjoying the scrap because that is a big similarity in our cultures and I danced all night to Emerald Rose and I cried in Gertrude Mueller Nelson's seminar about the fairy tale of the handless maiden because a woman talked about the death of her teenage daughter by heroin addiction - oh God, oh God, my heart broke -- and I cried when the young people of CREW (Conflict Resolution Group) spoke their monologues. Yes, really I was a basket case but in a wonderful way.

Monday, June 05, 2006

NYC

Well, here I am blogging a lot sooner than I th0ught I would! I'm in the New York Public Library where I am doing a reading at 4:00 p.m. today, the official beginning of the tour. So far, so great. The flight was good, my hotel is fantastic -- The Paramount -- would recommend it to anyone visiting NYC. Right smack dab in the middle of the Theatre District (i.e. Theater District as they spell it here). Weather? It's cooler here than in hot sunny Ireland, surprise, surprise. Jet-lag this way around is great. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. full of beans and ready for breakfast and a walk around the city. Meeting with my publishers today, then lunch with editor, then reading.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ready to Go

My bags are packed. I'm ready to go. I'm standing here on my big toe. Don't know if I'll have time to blog as I criss-cross the great America, but you never know. There could be an idle computer just sitting there waiting for me. If so, I will. Meanwhile my webmaster has set up a special tour page for me and he intends to add photos and other bits and bobs sent on by the bookstores I am visiting. Here's the link: http://www.ormelling.com/tour_2006.htm. Yes, I'm a bit nervous, but I am really more excited. It's going to be fantastic. The hard part about being a writer for a gregarious extraverted type like me is working on my ownio all the time. I do love to get out and meet and greet!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Algonquin Tea Company

I am always being contacted by the most interesting people! Here’s the website of an organic tea company in Canada which is also an amazing community: http://www.algonquintea.com/. Apparently several people there – young and not so young – liked The Book of Dreams, the fourth and final instalment in The Chronicles of Faerie. This thrilled me to bits as that book is my favourite of all my books; plus, they are sending me a packet of tea. (Hurrah, says the tea granny.) I am hoping to visit the community when I’m in Ontario in the Fall. And may I just point out that here is more proof of my contention in The Book of Dreams that there be magic in Canada!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Busy Bee

Lordy, not much time to blog these days as I gear up for my American tour. Spent all day yesterday shopping with Findabhair -- summer clothes for her and nice bits and pieces for me. I am really getting excited about the whole thing. The new revised edition of The Summer King is now out in the US and should be available shortly in the UK, Eire, Australia, and New Zealand. It is almost double in size and a far superior book to the original. I do hope my Canadian publishers will bring it out soon in Canada. Meanwhile check out my latest great news on my book blog. I've been named a Top Ten Fantasy for Youth in the USA, hurrah!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Citizens of the World

A friend in Seattle is involved in this amazing programme and I thought I would blog it: www.globalcitizenjourney.org. The problem with the news media is that it either keeps us in a state of terror and despair by telling us everything that is wrong in the world, or it attempts to stupefy us with inanities. Judging by television and newspaper reports, the forces of chaos and darkness are winning - war, corruption, murder, greed, genocide, the wholesale destruction of nature - and we are not told of the gains by the other side, both small and large. We need a balance. We need to know that there are as many solutions as there are problems; that there is good in the world struggling away, no matter the odds.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dawn Chorus

Have redeemed myself for failing to get up early for the Easter service on Bray Head! Yes indeed, I did get up at 4:00 a.m. this morning to travel from a friend's house in Glendalough to meet up with Birdwatch Ireland at the Upper Lake car park to hear the dawn chorus. Apparently similar groups were meeting all over Ireland as May is the best time for such an event. Despite rainy drizzle and the mist rolling through the valley, two lots of about thirty people headed off bravely on a walk led by ornithologists. They identified the various calls and birdsong of robins, wrens, chaffinches, song thrushes, jackdaws, great tits, and blue tits. My favourite, as always, was the hoarse cooing of the wood pigeons. There was also an occasional squawk from a wild pheasant. We were told things I didn't know about birds. What a hard life they live -- most don't survive beyond 12 months -- yet there they are, singing their hearts out. Meanwhile, I made some notes for those scenes in The Light-Bearer's Daughter set in Glendalough.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

USA Tour

I've posted some details of my American Tour, June 4-26, on my book blog. Do pop over and see! (Click on book blog above.) I'm really looking forward to meeting readers all over the States. The second book in the revised Chronicles of Faerie series -- The Summer King -- is due out this month in the US and UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand, along with the paperback edition of The Hunter's Moon. I'll be promoting both on my tour.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Call

Why have a yearning for destiny? the poet Rilke asks in the Duino Elegies. I say because we are driven by a need to have meaning, to be more than something small that creeps upon the earth, waiting to die. My soul yearns for a big life, a mythic purpose. Some dried-up poop of a critic once referred to my writing as "Melling's terrified flight from mundanity." No shame there! I don't want to be ordinary. Why squander the great gift of existence on a petty life? Stand before the mystery and cry "Here I am! Let me make a difference! Let me do some good! Let me serve creation!"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

All That Jazz

Got to two events at the Bray Jazz Festival last weekend. The best was Niwel Tsumbu at the Town Hall. From the Congo and now living in Cork, he is a young guitarist of astounding talent who composes most of his own material. I was deeply moved by one of the pieces as images of Africa played through my mind. Then he announced it was called "Country" and was about his homeland. I hope he is happy here in Ireland. The other event was closer to traditional jazz and reminded me of my Dad who was a jazz musician. He played the big bass, or bass fiddle as some call it, and he loved the likes of Grapelli, Ellington, Goodman, Reinhardt et. al.

Monday, May 01, 2006

From Rumi

Wake up!
Our ship has been ice-bound long enough,
The time has come to sail the open seas.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Come Dance With Me In Ireland

Just back from my set dancing class. It was only mighty. I've almost got the Kilfenora set and there were lovely tricky bits in that West Kerry set. The class is in the old Enniskerry village hall which is something out of the 1950s with its big wooden floor and high windows. We dance from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. with a little break for tea and biscuits. Set dancing is addictive; everyone who does it says so. The intricate patterns weave a soothing sort of magic in the soul. I've put my name down for a full weekend of it end of September. The last time I did one of those was about 13 years ago -- "Commotion By the Ocean" at Salthill, Co. Galway -- with the great set dancing master, Connie Ryan (may he rest in peace).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Census Ireland

It's the night when everyone in Ireland must sit down and do the census. I'm off to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and fill out the form. There's something oddly comforting and thrilling about such an en masse participatory human activity. As the North American Natives say, "we are all family."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

JK Rowling

Recently discovered JK’s website, not the ones set up by the film companies or publishers, but her own personal space: www.jkrowling.com. It’s quite magical, but also down-to-earth; like herself, I imagine. She even blogs, e.g. a writerly complaint about not being able to get paper in downtown Edinburgh. She sounds like a real sweetie. Once I got over my envy at her inconceivable success, I finally read her books and declared myself a fan. I’ve reviewed her twice for Books in Canada. I don’t know why people say she isn't literary. Who are they comparing her to? Dostoevsky? Her writing is at least as good as CS Lewis’s in the Chronicles of Narnia and he is considered "literary".

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Willing Spirit

Did I make it? Nah. The spirit was willing but the oul flesh was weak. Did pop into a church, however, on Easter Sunday morning just in time to hear the priest say "come out of your tomb and into renewal, begin your new life!" Okay, says I, and saw where that fit perfectly into the theme of the new book. Going like the clappers at last. (See Book blog.)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter

If I get my act together, I may wake in the wee hours of the morning on Easter Sunday and climb Bray Head for the ecumenical service on the summit as the sun rises. (Then big breakfast for everybody in the Christchurch hall.) When I lived in Kinvara, on the west coast, I was lucky enough to attend the service that Druid-Priest-Poet-Writer John O'Donohue (of Anamcara fame) used to hold in the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey. He would light a great Paschal Fire on the side of the mountain which everyone could see burning brightly as we headed out in our cars in the black of night, down the narrow twisty roads of the coast. Then he celebrated Mass on the priest's rock in the graveyard outside the abbey walls, while it was still dark. You could sense and even see the ancestral spirits hovering in the crowd. By communion time - "all are welcome to the feast" - he had moved us into the shelter of the ruins and dawn would be rising and the new day come. Famous Clare musicians such as Davey Spillane filled the air with traditional tunes. Wonderful. Yes, I shall try to get up Bray Head.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Magical Visit

Well, the visit with Herbie Brennan (Faerie Wars) and his wife, Jacquie, was even more magical than I could have hoped. First the drive over the mountains across Calary Bog to Glendalough and up through the Wicklow Gap to County Carlow. Then arrival at a big 18th century house with a stone circle on the front lawn and rookeries in the tall trees. After that, a delicious lunch of potato soup, smoked salmon, sprout and spinach salad, assorted cheeses, and an onion quiche. (Jacquie is a herbalist and gifted cook). And as we feasted, such chat as makes the heart and mind sing. To quote Herman Hesse, "in a world of exiled wanderers, there are times when paths cross and for a while we feel at home."
PS More about Herbie on my book blog!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Firefly

And here's me as a firefighter at NBCD School (Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defence) when I was an Officer Cadet in the Canadian Naval Reserve. I look like a bug. A big black bug. (Say that 3x fast.) In truth, I was hopeless. Kept backing AWAY from the fire while the P.O. (Petty Officer) was yelling at me to go forward.
I see two of the gang behind me, Nancy and Eva I think. The only female platoon, we had to name ourselves after some Canadian or British ship. Maureen and I were pushing for "Impregnable" but the final call was "Magnificent Division."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

California Girl



Sorry for the mess of this photo, but it is very old. That's me blowing a chewing gum bubble in Santa Cruz before heading south for L.A. Steve from Maine is to the left of me, then Carl from San Francisco (boyfriend of Carol who is taking the picture), then Mark, also from Maine (he and Steve were heading north, to homestead in the Yukon) and - dearest of all - Ron, from Kentucky. Ron was our guardian angel on the road. We were living on Highway One that summer. "Transients" they called us. Street kids. It was my first great adventure, camping out in the world. I was 18.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Prairie Epipsychidion

Quote from amazing Canadian writer:

"The world fails to dissolve at the edges into myth and dream, only because one wills it not to."

Sharon Butala, The Perfection of the Morning.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Yeah, it's obvious why the Buffster is my all-time favourite television show, even topping Star Trek. I can relate to a small blonde who fights demons. And I agree with what Charles de Lint says in Waifs and Strays, that Joss Whedon is a genius.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another Demon Down

I’m making great progress with my new meditation regimen thanks to Jack Kornfield’s book A Path With Heart. Buddhist spirituality is truly akin to modern psychology, e.g. wrestling with demons equals dealing with painful patterns. Naming the demon is a huge step towards banishing it and even vanquishing it. Today, I got a big one. I was trying to figure out what to call it when a phrase of my poet friend, Frank Golden, came to mind. The minute I said to myself "it’s the demon of The Appalling Vista" – and burst out laughing – I knew I had it. This, of course, refers to that dreadful cataract which can coat the eye and make you view your entire life – past, present, and future – with such cruel and devastating judgment that there is nothing in sight but a bleak wasteland. Awful. A poisoned whisper in the mind. A killing lie. A demon.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Away with the Fairies II

Took the day off to read Herbie Brennan's Faerie Wars and then went straight into the second book, The Purple Emperor. Absolutely loved them. Once I had adjusted to the fact that his view of Faerie is utterly different from mine, I was enthralled. Wonderful characters, tremendous suspense, magical twists and turns, creepy villains, and great humour. I love old Mr Fogarty, Princess Holly Blue, and the Forest Faeries the best. Would highly recommend these books if you haven't read them. Now I must return to reality and to work -- tomorrow.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bookmark Up Again

The book blog is back up again thanks to my webmaster, Piers. He republished the lot. Go raibh míle maith agat, a Piers! If things get dodgy again, I may have to host these blogs on my site. But let's see what happens. Meanwhile, though I will be thoroughly engrossed this weekend with Maya Lila authentic movement workshops -- see www.gorsehill.net --I hope to post the general outline of my American reading tour, June 5-25, on the book blog by Sunday.

Lost Blogsite

Still no sign of Bookmark blog and no word from blogger.com. I may have to republish the full site. (Stay tuned.) Meanwhile, I am slowly but surely getting to grips with the new version of The Light-Bearer's Daughter. It will be about twice the size of the original. It's like wrestling with an angel. Somedays, a demon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bookmark Blog Astray

Sorry, folks, my book blog seems to have run away with the fairies. I've notified blogger.com who will, I hope, find it. Meanwhile, try clearing your browser and refreshing (do I know what this means?!) and see if it appears. Do let me know if it does.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Path With a Heart

Here's a 2,500 year old mantra I got from Jack Kornfield's book (another light in the dark):

May I be filled with loving kindness,
May I be well,
May I be peaceful and at ease,
May I be happy.

You say it constantly, as often as you remember, for a month. Just for yourself. After that, you say it for those you love and eventually, those you don't. After that, you say it for the world.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Duibh!

Ar an taobh cúil d'fhocail
Tá a mhacasamhail de shaol.
(from Cathal O Searcaigh's "Taobh Thiar")

In between the words
Glints a reflection of the world.
(My translation, with apologies to the poet)

Note: there was supposed to be a gorgeous pic of Ireland here but it seems the fairies jinxed blogger.com today!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Darest thou now, O soul

Walk out with me toward the unknown regions,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
(Walt Whitman)

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Doctor in the World

Been fighting with shadows lately as "I wake to the fell of dark, not day." So I listen to Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings Suite and read Dr Hollis's Swamplands of the Soul (Inner City Books, Toronto). A former English professor turned Jungian therapist, Dr Hollis writes like an angel – a dear, kind, helpful angel. His books are full of poetry and encouragement and inspiration. He doesn’t offer quick fixes. He insists it is up to us to save ourselves. But like a horse whisperer, he says beautiful things to calm a troubled mind, to ease the way. He speaks of "the heartbreaking journey that is life" and being "alone on the high seas of the soul," and how, in a universe of exiles, we may meet each other upon the road and, for a time, feel at home.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Annaghmakerrig



No blogging for a week as I was away at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co. Monaghan, my heart’s home for many a year now. This is the view I gazed at as I worked at my desk each day. (More on Bookmark blog.) Got lots of work done, made some new friends, walked miles through the drumlins and around the lake, ate far too many desserts – Lavinia, the chef, is an artist with food - dealt with old memories, discovered angels. All in all, time well spent.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sony Rotters

I know. I know. But there's a happy end to the story. Before I threw out the blasted CMT-EX5, I decided to go online and see if anyone else had a problem with it. Lo and behold, mirabile dictu, didn't I find Todd, the man, the computer fix-it man. And there in full colour, he showed how to fix a broken CMT-EX5! Nothing complicated, just one big fat design flaw. (Sony cannot NOT know about this. The machines must be breaking down all over the world. Todd is in the USA). The metal plate at the back of the loader comes loose and either pushes your CD too far forward to be read; or you could be loading your disc behind the plate, again where it can't be read. Just get the cover off, don't be afraid, and press the plate back into place. (I'm considering a bit of superglue if it comes out again.) Here are the proper instructions: www.housecallcomputerservices.com/Help/Sony%20CMT-EX5/.
HURRAH FOR THE WEB. THANK YOU, TODD. SHAME ON YOU, SONY!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shrove Tuesday

Yes, I had pancakes for tea. Findabhair made banana ones served with lemon, brown sugar, and some ancient maple syrup. No, I wasn't shriven today as I am a recovering Catholic rather than a practising one. But I did get the words of that song I can never remember, from my mother. Here they are. Traditionalists take note. You are supposed to sing them before you eat your pancakes, or perhaps during, but not with your mouth full.
Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday
Poor Jack went to plough
His mother made pancakes
But didn't know how.
She rolled them, she turned them
She made them so black
She put too much pepper
And poisoned poor Jack.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Remember Sometimes

I've been wandering in the shadowlands lately. Typical February blues. Had a Big Dream a few days back, though. I was doing cartwheels out in the universe, dancing with the stars. Reminded me of the insight I got last year: that we are beings of light caught in matter. The adjustment is ongoing, but the clash of spirit and matter drives a lot of us crazy, hence the aggression, greed, and destructiveness. There are reminders of our origins, our true nature, everywhere -- in dreams, imagination, art, story, music, architecture, mysticism, the saints that walk among us, the strange longing that comes sometimes, the sense that we are in exile ... But it also seems, as Stan Grof would say, that there's a taboo against remembering who we really are. Perhaps it would interfere with the mission? And there, of course, is the other problem with remembering. One can sound barmy.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Courage, my love

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage," said Anais Nin. A hard pill to swallow, for it makes us utterly responsible for where we are in our lives. My first inclination is to blame lack of money, lack of opportunity, lack of lucky breaks, lack of ... but then I read of those amazing souls who have overcome everything to achieve their dreams and I accept the truth of Nin's words. Fortune favours the brave.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sony Garbage

My CMT-EX5, a front-loading Sony CD-player which cost 300 Euro, died two months after its warranty was up. It worked for less than two years. Totterdells, the place where I bought it, says it will cost me 60 Euro to find out what’s wrong but that doesn't guarantee the price of fixing it, nor does it guarantee that it can be fixed. Sony Ireland says it will charge me 45 Euro to look at it, again with no guarantee of final price or even of repair. The truth is we are living in a world where giant corporations make unbelievable profits selling us products for which they take no responsibility past a single year. The only recourse left to individuals is to warn each other about the rip-offs. So for what it’s worth: I am a human being and not a "thing that consumes" and the Sony Corporation sold me a piece of garbage. Pass it on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More Irish Dancing

I don't think I will ever get over my Irish dancing past and I don't really want to. I've been having dreams about it for years, where I go back to feises and I am dancing on stage. This is a pic of the group from the Butler Academy of Irish Dancing that toured Ireland with the Irish-Canadian Choral Society. (We would all have been in Riverdance if it had happened in our time.) That's Mrs Butler on the left, may she rest in peace. The pretty woman in the back, second on the right, is Paula Woodgate of the Woodgate School of Irish Dance. Her husband, Mike, is beside her. I'm the one in the green in the front row. I danced "the Girl with the Buckles on her Shoes" while the choir sang. My best friend Sheila is in purple on the far left, front row. On the far right, front row, with the red hair is Christine Fitzpatrick, also a good friend. I'm still practising as I will be dancing on my tour (more about that in the Bookmark blog) but you know ... it's not as easy as it used to be.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A thought from Yeats

On a sunny day in February, before I head out to St James Hospital to visit my child's grandfather, I am thinking of something I read in Yeats's Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland. He comments on how fast the world is moving and how "too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold." But now that we have sped up our lives to such a pitch, will we ever be able to slow down again?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Damhsa Gaelach

Just back from the All-Ireland Oireachtas in Killarney. It was not only a jaunt to the west of Ireland, but a journey into the Deep Past. Irish dancing was the great love of my childhood and early teens, but I left it to venture out into the wider world. How sweet and sad it was to return! How wonderful! There was my best friend, Sheila Delaney, dancing in the adult céili with other dancers I knew, Teddy Hall and Maureen Galligan. What a laugh we had together in the late night bar! And how good it was to see old faces such as Peter Smith, Paula Woodgate, Bernard Hines, and Jimmy Friel. I did shed a few tears at one stage, missing those who have left this world: my dearest friend and fellow mad-party-person Bernie Morris (to whom I dedicated the American edition of The Hunter's Moon) and my dancing teachers Mae and Paddy Butler and their daughter June. They were all such a big part of my life. And I thought of them as I watched the dancing on stage, so different from my day but recognizable still. Have to admit I got used to the costumes (started to pick out my favourites) and even the wigs. The dancing itself is far more intricate and exquisite. I was thrilled to see it. And, yes, it has inspired me to practise! Did a good half-hour today before I collapsed ...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bookmark Blog Up

My Webmaster tells me I must announce that my Bookmark blog is up and running. In fact, there is a link to it on this page, over there to the right beside my website link. I think his design is fabulous as usual Thanks, Piers, you're brillo! The Bookmark blog is where I will post things specifically to do with my books, e.g. research, artwork, tours, appearances. It will be all about the agony and ecstasy of being a writer. Meanwhile this blog - the one I am writing now - will be my soapbox. Something I have always wanted. A place to express all these opinions buzzing around in my rattleskull brain. Ain't blogging grand ...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

World Culture Festival


Oh this is great. My first attempt to put a photo on my blog. (That's one New Year's resolution done and dusted.) This is my friend Kathleen and myself at the World Culture Festival in Dun Laoghaire last summer. We are obviously listening to someone mellow and not the Mighty Zulu Nation which had us on our feet and dancing for Ireland. I'm wearing clothes I bought in India and had no idea that I was sharing my chunni!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Pamela Izevbekhai

There are so many people in trouble in the world, it is simply not possible for one person to help them all. However, it is possible for one person to help one person. Pamela Izevbekhai came to Ireland seeking asylum to save her two little girls from FGM (female genital mutilation). Pamela comes from a part of Nigeria where this practice does not take place, but she has married into a family who insist that her daughters suffer it, even though Pamela and her husband are against it. Attempts have occurred to kidnap the girls in order to force the procedure on them. Pamela's first child, Elizabeth, died as a result of FGM. These facts have been documented and proven, yet the Irish government has rejected Pamela's application for asylum. When Pamela refused to return to Nigeria with her girls, she was arrested and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail. The Irish government maintains that this is a cultural matter. How can the endangerment and possible death of small children be a cultural matter? On January 23, 2006 Mrs Justice Finlay Geoghan ordered Pamela's release pending a hearing on February 20, though the Irish state argued to keep Pamela imprisoned and separated from her children. If you would like to know more about Pamela's situation log on to www.letthemstay.org. If you would like to contribute to her campaign, an account has been set up: "Let Them Stay," Bank of Ireland, Stephen Street, Sligo, Co. Sligo. Account no. 25245231. Bank Sort Code 905440. It is possible for one person to help one person.

Irish Dancing in Killarney

Lost a post when things went pear-shaped yesterday, so will re-post today on the same topic. The All-Ireland is coming up next week and I will be meeting some Canadian dancer friends who are competing in the adult céili. This will be the first feis I have attended in aeons and I can hardly wait. In my day (we won't say when) I was a North American champion, and LOVED to dance! In celebration of the upcoming feis, I went into Dublin and bought myself a pair of pomps and hornpipes (no longer called that, I do believe) at the famous Talbot Dance Centre. It felt good to test out the hardshoes on the wooden floor provided. Treble, treble, heel, toe, back in the saddle. Once a dancer, always a dancer. Yep I am going to start practising regularly. It's great aerobics. And I shall get my friends Sheila and Maureen and their dancing teacher Rosie Fearon (we all went to the Butler Academy in Toronto) to give me some steps. Meanwhile, I also bought the magazine "Irish Dancing and Cultural International" and was amazed and delighted to discover a world-wide community of Irish dancers! That was the good news. The bad news was those awful costumes which belong in Las Vegas; not a Celtic or Irish motif in sight. And what on earth are they wearing on their heads? Party decorations masquerading as wigs! They look ridiculous. Bizarre also to discover that Irish dancing is considered a "sport" as opposed to a form of dance pertaining to Ireland. Has this weird mutation erupted from the Riverdance/Lord of the Dance phenomenon? Or is it some strange hybrid caused by crossing traditional Irish dancing with American beauty pageants and athletics? Yet we cannot blame the Americans - it's all over Ireland too!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bookmark Blog

My webmaster has put the Czech covers of The Hunter's Moon and The Summer King up on my site (see Bibliography). They are gorgeous! I love them. The Czech publisher, ELA, also sent some stunning illustrations. I will be posting these on a new blog which I am in the process of constructing. The bookmark blog will be solely about my work and will include notes on research, ideas for the books, photographs of places featured, pics that inspire me, publication and tour dates, and so on. This blog here -- the one I am writing this very minute -- is where I chit chat about anything and everything.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Big Brother Blog

Got my hair cropped yesterday. I look like Iggy Pop. Had a great chat with my hairdresser Dan about Celebrity Big Brother which we both confessed to getting drawn into despite the fact that neither of us likes Reality TV. (I blame insomnia.) I do think BB is decadent-society-Roman- circus stuff with the public acting as both audience and lions. However, Dan and I agreed that George Galloway is great and pooh on the media and its pontificating against him. Who are they to talk about integrity?! Even my teen daughter thinks George is the best. He maintains a certain dignity despite the nastiness of the programme itself. And what other politician would have the guts to reveal himself that way? The likes of Bertie Aherne and Tony Blair would never hold up under such intimate scrutiny. George has character. And he just might win. [For those outside the UK and Ireland, George Galloway is the radical Scottish politician who was thrown out of the Labour Party for being against Tony Blair and the war in Iraq. An American Senate Committee tried to set him up as a supporter of Saddam Hussein but couldn't prove their charges. Watching him closely on television, with his character so utterly revealed, you could not imagine this man being the slippery lying cheating Machiavellian both Bush and Blair insist that he is. Now point the finger the other way. Not so hard to imagine, eh?]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gaelgrrrr!

Having grown up in Canada where bilingualism is the order of the day, it is always a shock to be faced with the second class status of the Irish language in Ireland. My latest experience has me fuming. My daughter participated in the BT Young Scientist Competition/Exhibition this year, with a project done in Irish, the language she is being schooled in. Firstly, there were only English-language application forms to fill out, though many a coláiste (Irish language high school) participate every year. Secondly, not one of her three judges could speak or read Irish so she had to translate her material for them. Thirdly, when I rang the BT Young Scientist office to ask why there were no Irish language judges, the official actually said to me "well, I'm surprised that anyone does a project totally in Irish. I would recommend that they be bilingual." Really, says I, and do you think the English-language projects should be bilingual also? She didn't answer that one. Apparently BT Young Scientist doesn't give a damn about the Irish language. One year, get this, they gave the Irish language prize to an English-language project! Maybe that's the problem with having a BRITISH company running the show? For "BT" stands for British Telecom. So why isn't an Irish company sponsoring the youth of Ireland and the language of Ireland?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Blogus

In the middle of writing reviews for three very interesting books, I just have to share this Latin tidbit from Insular Inscriptions, by David Howlett. (A lot more interesting than its title.)

The following comes from the first century A.D., from the very beginning of the Roman occupation of Britain, and is found on the remains of a tombstone in Wroxeter (formerly Viroconium Cornouiorum):

Titus Flaminius Titi filius Pollia faventia
Annorum XXXXV Stipendiorum XXII
Miles legionis XIIII Geminae militavi aquilifer nunc hic sum.
Vivite dum sidus vitae dat tempus honeste.

Translation:
Titus Flaminius, son of Titus, from the Pollian (tribe) of Faventia
Aged 45, (earning) a stipend of 22
A soldier of the 14th Legion, Gemina, I soldiered as a standard-bearer, now here I am.
Live honourably while the star of life grants time.

Well, even if he was a soldier of an invading army, he sounds like a good man. So let's take his advice and live honourably while the star of our life grants us time to do so.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pow Wow

Some emails asked me how or where I heard about the Sisters in Spirit site. I was at the 12th Annual Aboriginal Festival in Toronto, November 2005. It was fabulous. I especially loved the dancing -- the different costumes were gorgeous -- and my favourite was the jingle dress dancing. I could have sat there all day and watched. The last time I was at a Pow Wow was in Nipawin, Saskatchewan back in the 1970s. Way too long not to enjoy that aspect of Native culture. Art is a bridge between different peoples, the best way to communicate across the divides of race, creed, and language. Well, the second best. Falling in love is the best. (I'm an old rosemantic.) I bought a good book by Harold Johnson who was there autographing his work. It's called Billy Tinker. I was thrilled to read it, as the "little people" appear in the story. This is exactly what the Irish have always called nature spirits, or fairies. As far as I can tell, many First Nations (perhaps all) have similar beliefs to the Irish regarding these spirits. Ah yes, while religion divides, spirituality too can be a bridge.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thoughts on Tolkien

Reading JRR's letters and thinking about Eowyn, my favourite of his characters (along with Faramir), it occurred to me where she may have come from. I imagine that one of Professor Tolkien's female students, brilliant and beautiful, fell in love with him and told him so. He being a man of integrity and honour, married to his Lúthien, and also a strict Catholic would have reacted as Aragorn did to the White Lady of Rohan. "Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned." Now THAT kind of insight smacks of experience.

And just a further thought, regarding the dismay in literary circles when Tolkien was hailed "Writer of the 20th Century" by readers worldwide. Fantasy is a much maligned branch of writing and absurdly so, given that it has contributed so many classics to literature. Absurd, also, given that literary giants have loved and praised it. WH Auden was one of the first to review and defend The Lord of the Rings, and the late great Iris Murdoch also declared herself a fan.

I tend to avoid people who dislike fantasy. It's not so much that they lack humour -- though, God knows, so many of them do (e.g. AS Byatt grumping away against JK Rowling, with psychobabble 101)-- but there's something lacking in people who can't see past their own noses. I think it might be a soul ...

Blague

So a grasshopper goes into a bar and the barman says,

"There's a drink named after you, ye know."

"Really?" says the grasshopper. "There's a drink named Bob?"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Prairie Bus

"Everyone's a little bit racist," is one of the songs featured in the Broadway show, Avenue Q, which is a kind of adult Sesame Street. It's highly entertaining, though not very deep, but that particular song brings up an excellent point. I have a little "thought experiment" which is probably not PC but which I think falls in line with this particular truth. It takes the form of a question:

If you were stuck on a bus for three days crossing the Prairies with nothing to look at or do, and everyone else on that bus had to belong to a particular race or nation or other sort of group, who would you choose?

Here are my top three, not necessarily in order of preference:
1) my fellow Irish -- for the craic agus ceoil*
2) Jamaicans -- ditto (fun and music)
3) people from India -- great chat and also they would bring yummy food

*A Danish friend tells me this is where the Danes and Irish differ. He says Danes would not want to get stuck with their own kind.

Of course this begs the question who you would NOT want to get stuck with, but I ain't goin' there.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sisters in Spirit

The Sisters in Spirit (SIS) campaign was launched in March 2004 in response to the alarming levels of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) feels that authorities have failed to acknowledge or respond to the reality that a large percentage of Canada's missing and murdered women are Aboriginal. The estimated number is 500, yet it may be as high as 1,000. That's 500 to 1,000 mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and nieces. The numbers cannot even begin to speak of the heartbreak. Take the time to inform yourself and others about the SIS campaign. Visit www.sistersinspirit.ca.