Showing posts from 2020

The Wran's Day in Dingle 2020

  December 26, just after the winter solstice, is The Wran's Day, as much a part of the holiday season here in Corca Dhuibhne as Christmas Day itself. This year, because of Covid, and for the first time in living memory, the celebrations have had to be cancelled. The sorrow is palpable but so is the determination to come back even stronger next year. Here's an extract from my 2013 memoir The House on an Irish Hillside, to give an idea of what we're missing, and what we look forward to.      'If you study folklore or anthropology, you learn that the Wran’s Day belongs to a tradition that stretches back to the first people who came here, thousands of years before Christianity. Its name is a corruption of the English word ‘wren’, and in Irish it’s Lá an Dreoilín. There’s endles research on the Wran’s Day, and suggestions that dreoilín, the word for wren, comes from draoi-éan, ‘druid’s bird’. It’s linked to ancient midwinter festivals and shamanism, when a shared web


    Yesterday was The Transatlantic Book Club 's US and Canadian publication day, the launch of the fourth Finfarran novel published there by HarperPerennial. Normally I'd have been dressing up and setting off for a celebratory party with hugs and kisses and glasses of wine and much posing for photographs and signing of readers' copies. But this is 2020 and I'm in Ireland, where right now we're all living in lockdown, unable even to visit family members and confined to a radius of 5 measly kilometers from our homes. I'm also at the very end of the Dingle Peninsula, so - while a 5 kilometer radius offers some of Ireland's most glorious mountains and long, deserted beaches - it's not exactly thronging with cheering Finfarran fans. So I'd resigned myself to a phone conversation or two, emails from my agents and publisher and a bit of tweeting. Which would have been fine. But instead - because I have the best and kindest readers in the world - I had a b

The Rythms of Life in Lockdown London

Last September our TV signal went down. We’d just travelled from Ireland to London, where settling into our two room flat normally takes five minutes. Boiler on, yep we’ve got hot water. Fingers crossed, deep breath, phew, the broadband’s still working. Stick a pizza in the oven and watch an episode of Taskmaster . Totally normal. But that night, we had a crisis. An ominous blank, black TV screen.  I should explain that our two rooms are in an inner-city block, part of a former jam factory with an eighty- foot, redbrick chimney that says HARTLEY in huge white tiles. In Ireland, our stone house - two rooms again, plus a dodgy back kitchen - is up the side of a mountain in the West Kerry Gaeltacht. It has a compost bin, ridges for growing spuds in the front garden and apple trees, fuchsia hedges and gooseberry bushes round the back. Anyway, there we were in London with no TV signal and, since I’m talking Freeview, with no chance of finding a human being to set us rig

It's Perfectly Okay Not To Be Shakespeare

Here's one of my occasional writing tips. I hope those of you who aren't writers will find it helpful too. As more and more people are required to stay at home, for the sake of our own health and others', we're increasingly being exhorted to take this time to be creative. "Write a diary!", people say; or "here's your chance to start that novel"; or "why not take up a new hobby?; or "Shakespeare used downtime during the plague to write King Lear, you know!" Well, yes, that was what Shakespeare did, but a/ he was a brilliant, professional playwright and b/ he and his contemporaries were accustomed to the frequent, localised, bouts of plague that disrupted their lives and work and closed London's theatres. Most of us are neither of those things so, personally, I'd forget about using Shakespeare as a role model. Instead, I'd suggest this. In these unprecedented times, many of us may be helpe