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


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


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. and Also try:

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.