Sunday, December 21, 2008


Wait, don't hang up. I know you're sick of this song already.

Sooner or later the madness will stop and everybody will forget (please god) how Simon Cowell tried to kill Jeff Buckley all over again. Alexandra will go and make lots of nice records with Beyonce (or whatever) and we can all relax again.

In the meantime I am grateful to the X-Factor for this one thing; yesterday I walked into the kitchen at my Mother-in-Law's house to find Ian and her poring over the printed out lyrics of the song- Ian explaining his interpretation at his mother's request.

I think that will be my Advent moment this year. Bring it on.

Happy Christmas everyone (and thanks to Paul for the call to blogship).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I cannot lie

I love this video.

Monday, November 17, 2008

i am involved in mankind

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

John Donne

This is the last thing I read last night before going to
sleep and having
the most horrendous nightmares. I don't
know if they were related but this morning
both John
Donne and the dreams have caused the thought that our
security is not
fragile, it is illusory.

This means that all we have is each other.

Let's stick together. Are you in?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

what's wrong with this picture?

Seriously, 50, billion? 50 billion but hospitals have to close. 50 billion but ambulances are rusting to death. 50 billion but charities have to rely on the nation's gambling habits to fund their work. 50 billion and how many homeless?

Does that bug anyone else? Because that happens to be my 50 billion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogger has gone nuts

It keeps telling people I am updating at really random times of the day (and on random dates).

Apologies for this. I don't know how to fix it! :)

Hope you're all good. I'm sure a Greenbelt blog is due soon. Will get round ito it....

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Great Things About Northern Ireland Part 2

I didn't make it to Belfast Pride today unfortunately but, via the magic of Facebook, I did get to hear some of the stories and see some of the pictures. So glad the sun was shining on everyone. Happy Pride everyone! This picture was taken by Ian Mobsby who has blogged about Pride here. He said that this woman just kept smiling at everyone, even when she was berated by the fundamentalist Christians who had come to protest.
Another from Ian. This makes me happy.
Cary's picture.
And another from Cary. Changing Attitude is the group I was meaning to be with today. I can see Willow in the background here! They got big cheers from friendly onlookers.

A day like this should make us all hopeful.

Thanks for the photos guys.

Friday, August 01, 2008

everybody row

There was glitter, there was doom and each was indebted to the other.

That is what I love about Tom Waits. Well, one of the things. In a circus tent theatre in the middle of Dublin he can have a few thousand people singing 'misery is the river of the world' with such joy that it all seems to make perfect sense.

The first time I felt like I really needed the music of Tom Waits I was pregnant with Ana and driving to the hospital for another check up. Feeling all the feelings of pregnancy (sometimes all at once) and getting sometimes overwhelmed with thoughts about life inside life, listening to Heartattack and Vine on that overcast drive had me thinking that maybe everything would be OK as long as there were artists in the world who were committed to being blistering honest about the emotional changes inherent in a human lifetime. I knew how Saul felt with David conjuring his spirits.

I need Tom Waits. I need someone who can sing 'you're falling down' in a voice that raises up. Such a ferocious and beautiful voice. How sweet the sound. It was a wonderful night.

P.S. I've added a title link to less self-indulgent review! :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

a document in madness

A few words on the RSC production of Hamlet which I saw last night in Stratford Upon Avon. This could be a patchworkish sort of blog as I am pretty tired and am not sure I can do a completely coherent piece.

I love Hamlet. It is hard to find words for a play which already says just about everything. I thought deconstruction was something to do with post modernism until I read Hamlet. There is a really beautiful ambiguity about it and last night's performance shone such a delicate light on all of its facades. I came away thinking that maybe it's only acting that can give meaning to language. Or maybe only act-ions. Or something.

It must be hard to act a part like Ophelia or Hamlet without giving in to the desire to answer the questions that the play refuses to answer; what is it to be mad? what is it to love? what is a ghost? what is a father? a mother? how can one live in the present and the past at the same time and how much thought should one give to the future?

Patrick Stuart was bad to the bone as Claudius and Ophelia made me cry with her crazy flower arranging. Particular kudos to David Tennant whose portrayl of the oedipal Hamlet in his mother's bedroom was one of the most touching things I have witnessed on stage or screen. To read about someone whose anxiety about the present leads them to torture themselves over the future while yearning for the past is one thing. To witness what it is like for someone else to try to crawl back inside their mother's womb is another. It extends out somehow so much further than the words alone.

Time traveller indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I've just made Ana her first itunes playlist. It contains all her very favourite tunes including:

The Theme From S-Express (S-Express)
Vertigo (U2)
Suddenly I See (KT Tunstall)
14th Street (Rufus Wainwright)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (Flaming Lips)
Upside Down (Jack Johnson)

Her favourites are S-Express and the Rufus Wainwright (which she won't talk during). I have noticed her digging Billy Joel lately do that'll be going on, along with the Proclaimers, very soon.

The first song I can remember really loving was 'You're the One That I Want' from Grease. I was about Ana's age when that came out as a single so maybe she'll remember this stuff too in years to come.

What's the first song you can remember loving?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Great Things About Northern Ireland Part 1

Last night Ian and I went to see the Hothouse Flowers in a wee bar in Castlewellan. We got a perfect spot right beside the bar and about a metre away from where Laim O'Maonlai was sitting playing his piano. So close that a couple of the women beside us were seriously contemplating stealing his cardigan which he'd left behind him out of his line of vision (they picked it up and put it back a few minutes later!) It is the only gig I have ever been to where an audience member was playing air uilleann pipes. I think I have would have enjoyed it if only for that, but of course there was much more.

Liam's voice is like angels. There was a little moment during a song I'm not familiar with when he sang one long note to the audience, repeated about four times, and it was like nothing earthly. I thought, that's it, I can leave now. We stayed to hear a bunch of songs we did know and then the Lakes of Pontchartrain and then, this: Si do Mhamo(a traditional irish song, the chorus of which translates as 'she's your granny, she's your granny, she's your granny, the hag with the money').

What's this got to do with the north? Well, half the bar (including my presbyterian husband) were singing along with gusto. It was sort of great. I like being Irish in part because of the great stuff we have that no-one else has, and because the good stuff that we have is very very good! Many protestants in the north have embraced and are embracing their Irish heritage and finding out that it belongs to them as much as soda bread and the Giants Causeway and all the other things you were allowed to enjoy as a kid (OK, there weren't that many....)

When you listen to the news it is easy to forget the good stuff. So I'm challenging myself to think about it a bit more often (such a hardship- it might involved going to more pubs..).

Any joiners?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

my house is very small, with woodchip on the wall...

I've been working on the shed over the past few weeks. The white you can see in the first picture is insulating material- the kind you get for doing the roofspace. After I'd fitted it I wallpapered over it to make it look all pretty :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Three Reasons I Love Second Hand Bookshops

1. They leave you alone in there

The owner of a second hand bookshop will not follow you around, assessing if you are the type who is about to spend a fortune on their goods before asking you if you 'need help' to spend your money. Sometimes they will ignore you completely. This is a rather beautiful experience in my opinion. You can spend a very long time in a second hand bookshop without feeling in the slightest bit conspicuous.

2. The Derren Brown factor

There is a kind game I play in second hand bookshops, especially in the type of shop where the books are in double rows and you have to remove piles of books to find the ones lurking behind. If you are looking for a certain book eventually you get this feeling like if you think hard enough about the title of the author it will soon show up as if it was waiting there for you the whole time. The times when this works will be worth an entire afternoon of searching and you can walk out of the store feeling like a Jedi knight AND you'll have the book too! What could be better?

3. Everyone wins

When you find said sought-after book you feel like it is worth a lot of money due to the (physical but, remember, also mental) effort you have put into its discovery. Look inside the cover- it only costs £1.20! You might feel slightly guilty as you bring it to the counter, as if you ought to pay more, only to be told you can have it for a quid. Second hand bookshops don't make a lot of money. They are delighted with your custom! If you still feel bad, pay the full asking price! Everybody wins!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Prayer Plant by Sinead Morrisey

It was given to me small, whorled like my brother's tongue
in the game when we were children, its three leaves
wrapped up tight in themselves, barred as an oyster.

I can scarcely remember what happened in between:
how many months (or pots) it took to enter
its own abundance. Now it hangs full and excitable

over my fireplace, concerned mostly with maintenance.
Come morning, after I've moved all night from room
to room in search of sleep, and I can sometimes witness it

lower its fringe of adjustable oars beneath the rim
of its lazuli bowl, as though blushing, or weeping.
Then, by evening, before the sky has acknowledged that

-already- the light is draining, catch it levering
its slow arms towards heaven again, mindful as Islam.
is it praying in the dark or in the daytime?

Friday, June 27, 2008

He Got the Moves

Posting this for Auntie Doris. I hope it makes her smile as her blog did me this morning.

I love Stephen Fry. He would somewhere close to top of my fantasy dinner party list. And this is about as close to dancersize as I will ever get.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Like the Sea

Heard Don Cupitt in Belfast last night and am still thinking about it today. He talked about the 'outsidelessness' of the world, as he sees it, 'the world of our language, an ever changing continuum like the sea, with nothing anchored, or objective'.

I am thinking about the world of our language today. How careful we must be. How careless I often am. How much I am looking forward to taking a break from teaching. People ask me what I am going to do instead. I think the truth is that I intend to spend some time alone thinking. Because it's been some time since I did that and I really feel the lack of it. I want to figure out ways to be more careful with the world of our language, for, as Don said last night,

'It is a world to which we all contribute, for as we have inherited one construction of everything, so we will bequeath another'

What world am I constructing for Ana? For the students I teach? What language do I want to exist in response to Iris Robinson? I know that the sea of violence must pass, that we must make it pass, if we want it to pass.

I'm not sure about 'outsidelessness' but I do know that the inside of the world belongs to us.

May we speak it anew.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Lost for Words

I'm still thinking about yesterday's news and the subsequent party political broadcast on Radio Ulster. I really wanted to say something about it here but it was hard to think of words to adequately do justice to the feelings. I was pleased to find the following blog post this evening. It means I don't have to say nothing. Here is what I want to say about yesterday, to everyone in my country and, very much, to myself. Let it be.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Silent Valley Reservoir

I was here today. I heart N.I.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Complainte De La Butte

As a monoglot I have never considered French any more beautiful than Spanish or German (in fact I love the sounds of German). But there is something about French in song....

Spent this weekend in Cardiff with Lou and Joe, enjoying their company and music collection. I have no idea what the French music was or what the translation might have been, but it was lovely...

And the French Eurovision song was the best one.... do a youtube search.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Machinery of Grace

by Michael Donaghy

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer's twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell's chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante's heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn't, of course, I've fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.