Showing posts from November, 2012

Thinking about Maeve Binchy

This time last year I wrote a sentence which I remember erasing twice. Each time I typed it I was afraid it might seem pretentious. And each time I erased it I felt like a coward and typed it again. ' My own trade', I wrote, 'is crafting the world into words'. In the end it took assurances and endorsement from others before I could let it stand. Why is it so hard for a writer to have confidence in what she does? Why should I feel my statements need external endorsement before I can write them down? In the past I believed it's because writers work alone. There's a sense in which we create without any context: and that's ironic because creation is about contextualisation; the act of writing is about  framing and re-framing life as a series of pictures, juxtaposing one against another to provide the balance and perspective that enhance awareness of the world. All in an attempt to understand it. For over a year, as I wrote The House on an Irish Hills

A Winter Day on the Dingle Peninsula

Preheat the oven to c230/ gas 8. Scatter flour thickly on a large, heavy baking tray. Sieve twelve ounces of plain, white, unbleached flour and a level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Hold the sieve as high as you dare, to incorporate plenty of air. Add a large pinch of salt if you want to. I never do. Then sieve four ounces of wholemeal flour into the bowl as well, tip the residue of bran in after it, and throw in a handful of linseed or sunflower seeds, and maybe a fistful of oats. Tap the bowl on  the table to bring everything to the bottom. Then combine the lot with a swirl of your hand in one direction and a turn of the bowl in the other. Next make a well in the centre of the mixture and add 350ml of buttermilk all in one go. (I know I've mixed metric and imperial measures, that's the way my mind works. And anyway I just use the full of a big glass for the buttermilk.) Then, using one hand and turning the bowl with the other, draw the flour in

Echoes of ancient Irish ritual on St. Martin's Day

  It was dark last night as we drove home across the country. Our last stop had been in Clonmel at the seventh bookshop in three days in which I'd met booksellers, chatted to readers and signed copies of The House on an Irish Hillside before taking photos, grabbing another coffee and a sandwich and taking to the road again with the mapbook on my knee. It had been a lovely trip along autumnal Irish roads that snaked between broad, harvested fields edged by stone walls, tall trees or golden-brown beech hedgerows. But as darkness fell and rain began to spatter the windscreen my mind was reaching out for the rougher, wilder landscape of West Kerry, Tí Neillí Mhuiris and home. We lit the fire when we came in, sweeping away the soot and ashes blown down onto the stone hearth in our absence, and heated soup for our supper. A fierce wind was gusting from the ocean. Later we slept again in our own bed, protected from the gale by the cluster of ashtrees planted at our north

Memories Of My Enniscorthy Granny

I'm writing this on a chilly evening in Tí Neillí Mhuiris after a long day spent making arrangements for an Irish book signing tour. Hours on the phone talking to lovely, welcoming booksellers, eager to advise me where to park when Wilf and I arrive in Cork, Clonmel, Wexford or Waterford next week. Emails confirming dates. Updates on local radio slots. Interviews with local newspapers. Piles of notes on my desk waiting to become the orderly schedule I always need to type out for myself before we set off. But now, with a glass of wine by my elbow, I'm able to think past logistics to the joy that's to come. This time next week I'll be back in the soft green landscape of Wexford amongst memories of my Enniscorthy granny, a tiny, gentle lady who marched through life with the courageous motto that one should always 'keep the best side out.' In Chapter Five of The House on an Irish Hillside I write about the starched cloth on the polished table whe