A Trip to Ireland – Part Two

We got to watch my brother, Sean, in action at a local hotel where he and a couple of Irish dancers, The Celtic Twins, and Paul Timoney, our local seanachai (story teller, pronounced shan a ki) entertained a group of American tourists. Paul Timoney spun a few tall yarns, followed by Sean with his guitar as he sang Leaving on a Jet Plane, Carrick Fergus, Mary Mack, Makem and Clancy’s  Spancil Hill, and a couple others I can’t remember. I just love his voice and his guitar music. Next up were The Celtic Blonds doing Irish dancing. Typical tourist fare. We sat discretely in the background and watched the group trying out their dance moves (we were a kinder version of Waldorf and Statler).

Our next destination was Miltown Malbay, in Co. Clare. My husband got the ‘flu, which severely limited our activities — a bit disappointing, but what can you do. We had a spectacular view from our room, and from the communal living room, onto the bay. I was most impressed by Wayne, the owner, who had built this amazing house and rented out several rooms to guests. Mornings saw him running back and forth, taking orders, cooking breakfast. Everything was perfect too, his timing, his coffee and his professionalism.

We drove down toward Kilrush and Kilkee, and on toward Loop Head because we thought it would be fun to visit the film site of Star Wars. Those cliffs are magnificent. Wayne, who also works as a life guard, told us he had just returned from the film site.

“Hardly anybody goes to those cliffs along Clare’s southern coastline,” he said.”Everyone goes to the Cliffs of Moher.”

There were tufts of pink flowers everywhere, shooting up between the rocks. I was hoping to spot a few sea lions or puffins, but that was not to be. There were lots of cows, sheep, crows and swallows though. IMG_20160516_195923

I took a good brisk walk out along the coast one evening and watched the setting sun and heard the swallows making funny squeaking noises, like those toy plastic ducks, or dolphins even.

Back to Loop Head. Unfortunately, they had closed off the road, but we enjoyed some great scenic spots along the way.

We stopped for a snack in a pub in Kilrush. The owner told us the film crew of Star Wars had been in the previous evening to watch a football match. Mark Hamill and the new female star were not amongst them, although they are currently in Ireland, I believe.

The ferry over to Kerry took about twenty minutes; it was shorter than the drive we had planned on taking to get to our next destination. I’m so glad I didn’t drive. The route was heart-in-your-mouth thrilling and frightening at times as we manoeuvered narrow roads between cliffs, with oncoming tour buses and tourists and locals driving hither and tither.

At least we had brilliant sunshine, but that was about to change a couple of days later.

We took the road to Kenmare and followed our instructions to the Swiss couple’s residence, half-way up the mountain, to our self-contained apartment, complete with log fire, lots of buddha heads and other iconic statues and artifacts, a rack full of trance and reggae music, with a few chill cd’s thrown in. We’ve been enjoying listening to them.

Again, we were/are so impressed with what this couple have managed to achieve ever since they left Zurich and bought this old dilapidated stone cottage on four acres of land over two decades ago. Their property is on a huge slope; there’s a gigantic rock at the back of their house. Renee said he had to free the rock from moss and other vegetation which had made its home there. He has built two glass houses, a hen house, a koi pond (sadly a heron ate five of the kois), a workshop for himself and a little stone house with a pool table next to our apartment. We can use it whenever we want. We can explore the garden too and snip some of the fresh herbs scattered throughout. If we find any eggs, we can help ourselves too. His sheds and structures are filled with little interesting details and painted in bright colours, but not gaudy. Our huge terrace overlooks a meadow with sheep and their lambs, and we can watch the sun playing hide and seek over the mountains in the distance. Starlings have nested under our roof and I see them flying back and forth with fat worms in their beaks and making a terrible racket. Two swallows sit up on the overhead wires, a foot apart, and don’t talk to each other.

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The bug hit me too, and I’ve been walking around like a zombie. I refuse to give in, although last night I made a delicious chicken soup with chilli and turmeric and lots of vegetables and painted a picture. Since I didn’t bring my painting stuff, I bought a cheap set and had lots of fun playing with colours. I’ll add the final touches later, or maybe I won’t. my seascape

Looks a bit of a mess if you ask me!

I also discovered there’s a poetry workshop in Kenmare tomorrow morning and have signed up for it. It’s being held in the library. That should be fun (I hope).

We’re returning, via Killarney, on Sunday and will be leaving for the U.K. on Monday, where we’ll spend a few days before returning to Germany.

I’m glad in a way that that we’ve had a day of heavy rain and pretty strong winds. Otherwise I wouldn’t have wanted to leave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to Ireland

IMG_20160510_141924It seems as if we’ve been on the road for ages. We’ve seen so much, and now that it’s raining (spilling out of the heavens, in fact), it’s the perfect time to write a new blog post. I’m enclosing some random photos which I’ve taken with my mobile. I loved this house below, obviously derelict. I’d love to know who went to the trouble of painting in the faux doors and windows. This was on the way to Glasson, in the heart of Ireland. I wanted to pop into a craft shop, but it was Tuesday and the shop was closed. We did find a lovely little pub next door and had lunch there, so all was not wasted.

We came over for my nephew’s wedding, which was held in Slane, Co. Meath. It was fantastic to see all the family again and meet some new people too. The music was great, both at the wedding and afterwards, with various musicians and friends of Peter entertaining us all. It was one of the nicest weddings I’ve ever attended. The couple made their own vows, the sun shone, the mood was great and everyone was wrapped in the melody of love.

Since Slane is just around the corner from Newgrange and The Hill of Tara, we extended our stay a couple of days and inhaled a bit of history and culture.

The picture below is of Newgrange; it doesn’t look too spectacular, but the energy was pretty amazing there. I didn’t feel the same at The Hill of Tara, but we had a most interesting encounter in the coffee shop.

We climbed the hill, walked around a bit, checked out the eerie graveyard with the typical half-fallen stones and faded engravings of a bygone era. The ominous sound of cawking crows nesting in the high trees added to the sinister feeling. IMG_20160506_163211

There was a coffee shop and gift shop to the front of the actual hills, and it was doing a buzzing trade, so much so that we sat at the front, away from the crowds, in a little niche.

A man in his sixties came to sit beside us, asking if that was alright.

“Sure;” we said, in unison.

I moved my hat and coat to make space for him.

“I’m dying for a cup of tea,” he said, as he looked around him. “I’m waiting for my client.” He stabbed his fork into a delicious-looking chocolate eclair and took a bite. He even had us on edge, wondering who and where this client was. “Yes, this is my third year working for this particular client,” he said. “He’s from the U.S., looking for his ancestors. Problem is, he doesn’t have a name.”

“Well, that’s going to be hard,” I said. Maybe you need a psychic.”

It was a joke.

“I’m a psychic,” he said.

“Really.” I checked his eyes to see if he was joking.

“Actually, I’m a healer,” he continued. I don’t charge for my services. Why don’t you turn around.”

I caught the glint in my husband’s eye, as I obediently turned to the side.

The man put his hand on my lower back and I immediately felt a surge of warm energy rise upward. I knew he was not a fraud, although my husband later insisted he was some sort of a chancer.

“I didn’t tell my client I’m a psychic,” he said. I understood that. Too many sceptics around. IMG_20160506_144443

It was a bizarre encounter, like something out of a film. My husband was enchanted, as was I. “This could only happen in Ireland,” he said.

I would have loved to catch a glimpse of that ‘client’ but never did. We spotted Robbie again on the partking lot. He jumped out of his big car when he saw us, bluetooth headset in his ear. Still no sign of his client.

After another few days in my hometown, catching up with friends and family, we even made it to The Kilbeggan Races and placed a couple of bets on horses. Two of my horses placed and I recouped my minimal bets. IMG_20160513_194828

 

to be continued….

 

 

 

A Query Poem

Where She Belongs Cover MEDIUM WEB

Dear Mrs. Agent
I’ve written a book
It’s character driven
There’s even a hook

The theme is of love
Of finding one’s place
The story developed
From Spain as a base

The woman, unhappy
Decides to flee
Returns to Ireland
Beside the sea

No, wait
There’s more
You won’t be bored
I thought I heard a little snore

Before you dismiss me and turn all leery
I’ve having some problems writing my Query
I’d like to do it but don’t want to grovel
Can’t write a Query but have written a novel

My fingers get stuck on the keys all the time
When I try to explain ‘bout the storyline
It’s about love, but there’s a lot more than that
She finds a job and even a flat

It’s not really a flat, it’s a house by the sea
She’s starting off new, mixing sadness with glee
Sad for her man she’s left behind
Happy for the contract and the job she’s just signed

Life always knocks us with surprise
Something to teach us and open our eyes
While she’s getting to know the characters there
A niggling doubt begins to flare

What’s wrong with the old lady who lives next door?
Why don’t they like Maggie, her boss in the store?
Scratch the friendly, colourful scene
All’s not perfect in the landscape of green

But then there’s Tom
The handsome bomb
Well, he’s a charmer alright
And a modern-day knight

It gets complicated
When Javier joins the scene
The husband she left
The one that was mean

Before I reveal too much of the plot
I’ll reveal, she’s got herself in a right knot
Thank you for reading through to the end
Perhaps you can connect with a publisher friend?

Liz Doran
The End

The Books that Find Us

 My German friend rang me the other day telling me she had found a book for me. It was on the free book shelf outside the Spanish shop.  

I’m drowning in books. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I’d like to clear the decks before I add any more. Still, it was lovely of her to think of me.  

She did her best to pronounce the author’s name, ‘Nuala O’Faolain. She’s Irish.’  
Several years ago, I had read Are You Somebody, an autobiography by the same author. My brother had met her a couple of times and had given me her autobiography, which of course I read. I must admit I don’t remember much about it except that it was a tad on the sad side. 

The book my friend found for me is called My Dream of You, the German version. Curious, I began a search to see what it was about. 

book cover

On a whim, I also bought a used English version and suggested we take turns reading in each other’s language. That way, we could both improve our language skills. 

My Dream of You is about an Irish journalist who has been living in London for almost three decades. She shares an office with a gay American man called Jim and they often discuss their latest ports of call. Both of them are travel journalists and have developed a strong friendship after having worked together for twenty years.

The book begins with the protagonist on a journalistic assignment in Morocco. She meets a man at the airport who invites her to share his taxi back to town. You guessed it, she ends up in his hotel room, and they open a bottle of whiskey and spend the night together. It was not a passionate night, but she said they were both delighted with themselves after their little rendezvous. This made me laugh. All the more reason why she is disappointed and surprised when he rings her the next day, after having invited her out to dinner, to inform her he has to leave suddenly. 

Jim, her lovely American colleague dies suddenly of a heart attack. One moment he was there, the next moment he is gone. Just like that. I felt a pang of pain as I read that part. How much do we take for granted? All the friendships we expect to last forever. 

The loss of her friend catapulted her into an abyss of despair, the quiet type. She locked herself away in her basement flat near Euston square for a few days, occupying herself with reading. 

One of the paperbacks she reads sparks an intent to further explore an infamous court case that took place just after the Great Potato Famine, in the mid-eighteen hundreds. The Talbot affair is about an illicit affair between Mrs. Talbot, the lady of the manor, and her coachman. I won’t spoil any more. Suffice it to say that she decides to return to Ireland to do some further research. But that is not all. On her trip, she faces some of the demons she has left behind in her country of birth as she comes to the conclusion, while looking at some monkeys in a zoo, that she has never truly examined her family as closely as she has those monkeys as they go about their business, oblivious or numb to the curious stares of the people behind the cages. She is fifty, feeling frumpy and used, and her world is falling apart. It’s time for a change.

I knew immediately I would enjoy this book, not necessarily because of the subject matter, although I do see parallels to my own novel which I’m close to publishing. No, it’s her writing style, and then the fact that my friend said she felt magnetically drawn to that one book on the shelf of books and knew it had to be that one. I know that feeling. I’ve had it many times. It’s as if you are remote controlled. Serendipitous events like that usually hold some deeper significance. 

I began reading the first couple of pages. My friend followed with her English version. Sometimes we compared notes or compared the translation. She was quick to pick me up on my mispronunciation or when I got sloppy with my endings. German grammar is not easy! It might have helped if I had cleaned my reading glasses. As is often so with good friends, we enjoy an easy banter and like to tease each other. ‘Your glasses are dirty again,’ she’d say, tutting in mock despair. ‘Here, give them to me.’ She returned with clean glasses a few minutes later. 

I can see clearly now…

Then it was her turn to read. She sighed after a couple of particularly difficult words. ‘I’m no good,’ she’d said. ‘Nonsense, continue,’ I’d egg her on. We soon became so involved in the story that we forgot to correct each other…well, only occasionally. 

Nuala, the author, does tend to introspection and my friend burst out at one stage, ‘Get on with it.’ She wanted more action and was getting frustrated with the endless flashbacks. 
She was a wonderful writer. Her novel is informative and interesting. I’m reminded of the fact that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve heard it said many times that Irish people tend to romanticise Ireland. It’s true. 

So I’m wondering if there is a deeper message in this synchronistic choosing of that particular novel. If so, what does it mean? I’ve had enough dreams and intuitive flashes in the past to know that they do indeed help point us in the right direction, but I’m at a loss as to the significance of my friend’s book choice and her determination to get it for me.  

When I compare my novel, I realise I have romanticised everything, although I have included a healthy dose of realism in my fictional story too. Really, there is no comparison, apart from the vague similarity in story line. Nuala sees everything with critical eyes. I cannot help but think her life was tinged with melancholy. I love the way she gives the reader layer upon layer of rich narrative. She is excellent at describing every little thing, not only mood and atmosphere but also the valley, the hedgerow, the awkward love scene between two out-of-practice single middle-aged people. You’re cringing and laughing at the same time. It is not an easy read. We’ve just covered a section describing the absolute misery of the Irish Famine victims and those left behind. There’s no romance in that!

Now that we’re half-way through the book, I have no idea whether I’ll continue to enjoy it and whether it will have a sad or a satisfying ending.  I do know that Nuala is a most accomplished writer and I’m so glad my friend found her novel on that free bookshelf.

My Review of The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce

I thoroughly enjoyed The Herbalist. It had been sitting on my Kindle for several months. I had read a few pages but wasn’t in the right mood or couldn’t get into it at first.
Then one day I began reading it again and soon became totally immersed in the setting and the story.

I can clearly imagine how an exotic character like the Herbalist would have repelled and attracted the locals in a small town in Ireland, or anywhere for that matter, a mere few decades ago. That’s the part that seemed incongruous to me i.e. the fact that a man like him would have chosen to live in a midlands town in Ireland back in the 1930’s.

When a book really interests me I want to find out as much as I can about the spark that ignited the idea for the story. I discovered that the author had found a small newspaper cutting while working on the archives of a local library (if my memory serves me correctly). The cutting reported on the trial of a man with an exotic sounding name who was accused of duping the locals with his treatments and herbal potions, or something to that effect.
Fiction is fiction and if you want to immerse yourself into a story and enjoy it without every detail having to be perfectly authentic, this might be the book for you. I know Irish life, I grew up there and I was able to roll with the story. Human nature being what it is, people gossip and people tend to go with the crowd. You’re either loved by many, tolerated or shunned. Boredom and lack of stimulation can make people behave strangely. Even in the sixties, Ireland was a country run by clerics; women were repressed and had little freedom, and this is all brought home in this dark but entertaining story.

My favourite character was Aggie, although I don’t seriously think a character like her would have been tolerated in any small town in Ireland, and she certainly wouldn’t have been having parties on her houseboat. Forgive me if I’m wrong on that score. Never mind, we can suspend belief and just enjoy the ride.

Yes, the author did use her unique style, switching characters and point of view and zooming in and out of scenes. But I genuinely loved her language, her creativity and her humour at times. I’ve marked a few examples here:
It reminded her of when the thread ended on the spool and the needle ran on regardless, puncturing seed holes of light.
I was growing myself some women’s intuition.
There was a lot wrong with her face: a wide mouth, a chin an inch too long, flared nostrils. And yet … she was perfectly lovely.
Grettie would have had Mass said for a splinter in her finger.
I struggled into the fur – it was soft as sin.
Ned had a dusty old job sweeping the roads but was always neat as a pin.
Rose was lying on the ground for anyone to see, all lonely under the moon.
Was I to live like a shunned sow, like the Carver sisters in their flour-bag dresses…
…it was a low-class thing. Low-class things are so exciting. Low class, my arse…
Okay, that’s enough. You get the picture. I’m very glad I returned to this book. It was a marvellous read. Dark yes, but amusing too. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Channelling Maeve Binchy

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I don’t know what got into me, but I started writing a novel with the pure intention of emulating Maeve Binchy and her ability to hone in on human emotions while telling what appeared to be a simple story set in Ireland. R.I.P. Maeve, I’m hope you’re tuning in.

Little did I know how difficult it would be to write such a book. I started my novel Where She Belongs in 2010. It was originally called Sally’s New Life but I thought that title was a bit too twee. I can barely believe I’m still trying to perfect it and am beginning to embrace the idea of throwing in the rag, if that’s the right expression. Whatever made me think I could write?

And so now, as I’m doing my final edit (crossing fingers and toes), I’m appealing to the spirit of Maeve Binchy to inspire me and show me how she wove her magic so effortlessly.

The worst thing is, and I hope Maeve will forgive me, that although I read a few of her books, I was not one of her die-hard fans, and yet I certainly admire her ability to tug at the heartstrings. Forgive me if I’m stringing words together that should be separate. My spellcheck is not protesting, but then again I know one cannot always depend on it. Since I’ve lived in Germany for so long, I sometimes get confused. They love to string words together, and I must admit it has a certain appeal. Besides, language is constantly evolving, isn’t’ it?

So, yes. Finding our writing voice is all important. We can become so inundated with writing advice that we lose the ability to cut through the maze of meandering pathways and forget where our own path was.

I find writing fiction to be much harder than writing a blog. Showing and not telling and writing witty dialogue, that doesn’t sound stilted, are just some of the difficulties I encounter. What I don’t find difficult is creating scenes in my mind and transferring them onto the screen. In fact, the scenes are so realistic in my mind that part of me actually is in that fictional place I’ve created in the West of Ireland. I’m wondering what my characters are up to as I’ve neglected them for too long.

Back to channelling Maeve Binchy. Some of us take longer than others to find our niche. I began writing Where She Belongs after abandoning a couple of others half-way through when the going got tough and I got stuck in a quagmire. In order to free my mind, I began telling another story and thought it would be easier to write. Well, it wasn’t as easy as I imagined, but I finished it and am proud of that. I will definitely return to Future Visions when I figure out how to continue with it.

Maybe Maeve will help me with the final edits!