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Showing posts from 2015

Memory, History and Remembrance

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In my mind I'm climbing a winding stair. The steps are cold and worn, and the only light comes in through narrow windows. I'm touching the curved wall with one hand, and with the other I'm hanging on to Marion's skirt. She is formidable and elderly, square and calm in her tweed coats and skirts, neat shirt-blouses and sensible shoes. Looking back now, I remember that day in Enniscorthy Castle. I was about nine years old. I remember her black leather handbag which always contained a white cotton handkerchief, and the fearsome bottle of Mercurochrome she used as an antiseptic to treat childhood cuts. I never knew that in her teens she was  a revolutionary, trained in arms and ready to fight and die for Ireland's independence in the Easter Rising of 1916.  A year after I finished university I left my home city of Dublin for London. My mother often came to visit me there and once, on a walk by the River Thames, she mentioned that though Marion had

Memory and Potential

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To the Celtic ancestors of peoples who now live all across Europe, the in-between spaces between one season and another were taut with energy. They were the points of balance between memory and potential, when the belief that all things contain all other things was expressed in communal ritual.    This is the season of Lughnasa when the wheel of the year turns again and the world prepares to enter the   months of darkness which we see as cold and dead and the ancient Celts saw as pregnant with new life. It's a time for gathering in, for celebrating life and expressing mutual support. The ancient Celts' rituals were held in in-between places - on beaches between land and sea, on mountain tops between earth and sky, and on water which is the basic necessity for life. Here in Corca Dhuibhne memories of those ritual gatherings are still to be found at Lughnasa. All around the peninsula boat races are held, in which crews from the different communit

The Dublin Table

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First there was the Galway chair. There was a family story that it was made as a wedding present. I don't if that's true. I know that it once stood in my grandfather's home in Galway, in a room above his barber's shop in Eyre Square. I know that, when the shop was sold after his death, it came to Dublin with my grandmother, a charming, angry woman, who took to her bed on arrival and stayed there, in a temper, till she died. I know that when I was born, my father shortened the legs so my mother could use it as a nursing chair. I remember kneeling in front of it when I was five, playing house; I put a pastry board across the arms as a roof, and tucked my teddy to sleep on the seat. When my mother died it went from our house in Dublin to my brother's house in Enniscorthy. On the twenty fifth anniversary of my own wedding I asked him if I could have it as an anniversary present and it crossed the the country again, from Wexford to Corca Dhuibhne

The Rough Month of The Cuckoo

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Here on the Dingle Peninsula I am emerging from one book to the next in The Rough Month of the Cuckoo. Scairbhín na gCuach is the name given in Irish to the uncertain weeks between mid April to mid May when chilly winds from the north and the east can blast the early growth in the garden and send us scuttling home from walks on the mountain to nights of music by the fire. Yet bright sunny days can tempt us out for lunch on the stone table in the garden under the sally tree. And last year's chard, sprouting broccoli, turnip tops and rocket struggle gallantly on, offering new shoots and flowers for salads, while fresh parsley, marjoram, garlic chives and fennel are springing in sheltered beds.   Last week I was standing around in a t-shirt in Killarney National Park posing for photos to promote Enough Is Plenty.   This week I'm wearing woolly socks under wellingtons and bundling up in a fleece. By the time we get to the book launch at The Dingle W