Monday, March 26, 2007

A Day to Celebrate! (Maybe)

History before our eyes. This is the first day of the rest of Northern Ireland's life as a democratic state that truly represents its people. Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and Ian Paisley of the DUP sat down together today to agree to a devolved government in which both parties (along with the other parties) will participate. Big sigh of relief. Big cheer. Big hmmm. Well, they've set a date. May 8. Only problem is - a lot can happen in Northern Irish politics over the course of a day, never mind 6 weeks. Still, we must be optimistic. The very fact that today happened is a miracle in itself. Neither side can backtrack now without losing face. There is hope for Ulster and the holy land of Ireland.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tom Bombadill and Goldberry

With Mass in Irish on the radio (A Thiarna, ár n-Athair), I headed off across the mountains this fine sunny day to visit my favourite fairy-man, Herbie Brennan of Faerie Wars, and his tree-woman wife, Jacquie. I didn't go by the ugly new motorway which would have been faster, but went via the holy vale of Glendalough and over the wild bogs of the Wicklow Gap. The leaves are not yet out on the trees or the hedgerows but the whin is in full bloom, a cloak of gold on the brown shoulders of the hills. What lifts the heart? It is the beauty of my country. Got lost at one point and arrived flustered and late to be welcomed by my hosts and the other guests. Then we all sat down to a feast, for Jacquie is not only a herbalist, painter, and crystal healer, but a gifted cook as well. We began with 'tapas' in the Spanish style - a warm mini pitta bread served with little kebabs of sausage and chicken, tapenade, fresh humous, a salad of herbs and greens, and feta cheese with brown and green olives. That could have been lunch in itself, but then came salmon poached with lemon and butter, floury potatoes, and organic broccoli, with a rich hollandaise sauce. And, ah, dessert: a delicious custard and fruit tart straight out of the oven accompanied by a big bowl of fresh strawberries, black currants, and cherries swimming in their juices. Was I able to go on to the cheese platter with crackers? Nope. But I managed one Belgian chocolate and a demitasse of brewed coffee. As we dined like lords and ladies, the conversation roamed over many a topic including the Great Famine, thinking in different languages, the banning of herbalists in France, the similarities between Lent and Ramadan, the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor, Whirling Dervishes, and the mysterious life of cats. Good food and good company: a thing to be praised!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nothing is Sacred

The destruction of Tara has begun. Phase One of the motorway that will bulldoze through ancient sites and sever the heartland of this sacred landscape is underway. Megalithic chambers have already been destroyed, with state archaeologists assuring us "we have made meticulous records." So that's our heritage, is it? We've got an Interpretative Centre with photographs, who needs the real thing? They paved Paradise, put up a parking lot. This is modern Ireland at its worst: rampaging across the land in the name of progress and money and the speed of motor cars. Go to Sign the petition. Donate money. Show up for the vigils. The gombeen government is moving as fast as it can before World Heritage designation can protect more sites. And for godsakes, don't vote for the Fianna Fail or the PDs in the next election. Throw the lot of them out before there is nothing left for the generations to come but a wasteland! For what will it profit us if we gain the world and lose our very soul?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Little Fairy Girl - Joanna Newsom

(Here's a clearer version of this video.) She is so wyrd and wonderful! I first heard her singing a long winding tale about a monkey and a bear on the car radio. Back home, I ordered her two albums from the local music store and started sending out this video to everyone I know. And guess what. Even as I sent it to a musician friend of mine, he was on his way to my house with her first album, Ys! Magic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pleasing Porridge Please

Visited my friend Frank Golden (poet/novelist/painter) in County Clare last week and he made me the yummiest porridge imaginable. Serious silk purse out of sow's ear job. Mutton dressed as lamb. Well, whatever. Even Finn eats it for breakfast. Here's the recipe:
1) cook your oats - NO SALT
2) pop in a handful of raisins and/or some chopped apple (my addition) while cooking
3) roast a handful of pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds - ALL THREE NEEDED
4) serve porridge with layer of seeds on top
5) drizzle with maple syrup or honey
6) add milk - soya/goat/cow - if you like.
No word of a lie, this is delicious.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Irish-Canadian Post

Trying to play catch-up today. Got a review to write, people coming for dinner, the house is a mess, the To Do lists are taking over my desk, and I'm behind in my work on The Book of Dreams thanks to losing my notated copy. Arghhh. Also, when trying to fix a Firefox error on the Book Blog (Spadina Bus video), I wound up losing the entire post. Sigh. Will do it again, later. Meanwhile, here's a pic of the badge being born by a Canadian girls rugby team which toured Ireland last week, from St Mary's High School in Cobourg. They creamed every Irish team they played around the country. I didn't know which side to cheer for. In keeping with the character of each nation, the Irish teams moaned about the Canadians being too rough (to their faces, it must said) while the Canadians apologised for winning. Ha ha.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dancing at the cafe - Bande a Part (AKA Band of Outsiders)


That ole French Je Ne Sais Quoi

Woo-hoo, I've finally figured out how to post videos on my blogs. Just put a great one on the Book Blog about the Spadina Bus, appropriate for The Book of Dreams, as it refers to a setting in the book. Here's a darling one from an old French film I am now dying to see. And I love the hat because I bought a black fedora the last time I was in Toronto - just before Christmas - from the inimitable and darling Mr Rotman on Spadina Avenue (hah!). He told me he sold the same hat to Anthony Quinn and Jack Palance, two actors I have adored since I was little. I've only worn it twice so far: once in Toronto and once to a dance here. I'll don it for my new author photo which will be posted soon. But must get these steps down before I wear it dancing again.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Learning the Alphabet

Just finished my Tibetan homework. Here's some of it. There are 30 letters in the alphabet which are also root syllables with specific sounds and, in some cases, actual words, e.g. the letter-syllable nya means "fish", cha means "tea", and then there is the universal (or almost universal) ma which means "mother". Writing out the beautiful letters on music paper is like a form of meditation. But it also reminds me of painstakingly printing out my very first letters as a child in those big phonetic copybooks with pictures (loved them). I'm probably sticking out my tongue as I do the Tibetan letters. I began to learn this language seven years ago, but then my young teacher went off to India. (See Book Blog about her.) I've now added "Go to Dharamsala to study Tibetan" onto my list of adventures to embark upon when Findabhair no longer needs her mother around all the time. Learning new skills is important. It keeps the neurons firing and the synaptic connections forming. The brain, like the Muse, must be fed!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Under a Red Moon

Headed up to Dundalk on Saturday to attend a reading at Hughes & Hughes (see post on Book Blog). Afterwards we all retired to the big country house where the writer lived. After walks and talks in the walled garden, we stayed till evening and had a candlelight dinner at the long table in the dining room, with a fire burning in the great hearth. Later, we gathered outside under the branching trees, listening to the echo of a nearby river, to watch the lunar eclipse. I stood under frosty stars with a blanket wrapped around me. Everyone ohhh'ed and ahhh'ed as the great shadow of refracted light passed over the moon, slowly but surely turning it a pale fiery orange. We spoke of how our earliest ancestors would have viewed this with terror, for it surely looked as if the moon were dying. Yet their descendants, the megalith builders, would have known what was happening, as they recorded lunar events and built the stone monuments in line with them. Then a star fell out of the sky! And Dave Murphy played his black wood flute. And it was a wondrous thing to be alive.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dreams On Ice

Heard a great quote this week from Niko Kazantzakis, the amazing author of Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ. (He's the man who referred to life as "the whole catastrophe.") He said even on your death bed, you should be ready for a fresh start. That's me! But my hopes of a big change this year have, alas, been dashed. That post at the University of British Columbia on which I had my sights has been suspended due to the hiring freeze. Seems UBC invested all its money in buildings and neglected to budget for staff. Clever, eh?