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


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


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.

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 ...


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