30 June 2010

Day 30 waiting to be read

Day 29 reading at the moment

I got this because I simply adored his first novel "The sound of one hand clapping" (and the fabulous movie adaptation with Kerry Fox).

28 June 2010

Day 28 great movie adaptation

Changed my mind. This is the best movie adaptation ever.

Day 27 main character is my ideal

Martha Quest of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence series is not a nice woman and it's only in the last book, The Four-Gated City, that I have come to get her. And right towards the end of the book - one of the best endings I know - she has this utter clear sense of what matters.

Day 26 to read to my child

Ram Dass from my homemade yoghurt and bread days.I would read it to my nomadic restless child but then again I think she knows: Be Here Now.

Day 25 main character is a lot like me

Not a whole lot, but quite a lot. Obviously not literally so.

Day 24 nobody thought I read it

In grade 10, my English teacher told me I was useless at modern languages and - at age 16 - I believed him, dropped it and instead concentrated on Latin for my language requirement. This called for boring boring boring hours of revising vocabulary and reading Cicero's speeches and his racist opinions on the Barbaric (i.e. not us) tribes and accounts of the life of warmongering males in general with the odd sprinkling of poetry and fables. An exercise calling for discipline not unlike what was asked from a Roman soldier - I dedicated one entire summer to it and it got me where I needed to get to and the moment this was achieved, not a minute more was wasted.
Two years later a mysterious and wonderful Irish man who had already been messing with my heart and soul for a couple of months gave me this book and said it mattered to him and maybe I would read it? It was a bit like learning to read again, remaining clueless for entire sections but getting the drift and no looking back after a short while.
Tried to read it again last summer. Couldn't get into it.
Searching for the movie version.

23 June 2010

Day 23 slimmest book I have

also online

Arrogance and greed meet an indigenous tribe.

Day 22 the thickest book I have

1000 women, more than 1000 pages.

Day 20 best book I had to read in school

I did not really like it at the time, found it boring, too much monologue, but soon afterwards I was hooked and have read it many times since.

22 June 2010

Day 18 most beautiful cover

Not just the cover, a big fat book full of wonderful images. As the title says: A feast for the eyes.

Day 19 always wanted to read

Not always, I usually read the books I want to read. There are libraries, second hand books and amazon.
But the poems of Seamus Heaney - all of them - and getting my head around them or better still the audio version where he reads them himself. Sold out completely.
Digging by Seamus Heaney
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

day 17 lucky dip

Yes, what a lucky dip! I must read it again. Remember how I persuaded S to read it and she raced through it and we both wanted to read absolutely everything by Arundhati Roy, immediately.

And so we have and she is fabulous.


The thought that the days are once again getting longer initially fills me with panic.
But, that much I have learnt in these last nine months: Panic comes and goes, it has no hold over me. Well, at least not now with summer out there and seven weeks of summer break for R ahead of us.
I am slowly learning to not fear the future, to let it happen. I have accepted a bit of this life. A bit only, mind you. There is too much to fear, so I am doing bits. Bits of work, bits of gardening, bits of cooking, bits of cycling, bits of weeping, bits of laughter, bits of distraction and so on.

20 June 2010


At the risk of coming across all esoteric or religious - and I am neither - I still feel this urge to note that at the moment I feel so incredibly grateful. Grateful for this slow unfolding summer, the abundance of fruit and blossoms, for R on my side, his patience and confidence, for lovely S far away and yet so close with her whirlwind ideas, for gentle N who despite all her personal upheavals has made the last 6 weeks so much easier, for being able to cycle down to the river every so often to watch this magnificent force of water flowing towards the sea, for pleasant dinners on the patio, funny or moving or crappy DVDs to watch in company, all the books to read and discover, to be able to sleep most nights, listening to birdsong when I wake in the mornings...

16 June 2010

Day 16 ninth book on the second lowest shelf from the right

Coffee table book. Brilliant.

Day 15 4th book on middle shelf from the left

In the 1980s I sold stacks of "Heroes" before I finally managed to read it (while I was working in a bookshop I never had time to read anything apart from catalogues, reviews and invoices).
And I got hooked.
And have read anything and everything by him since.
And I actually wrote him a fan letter.
And he replied!

Day 14 from my childhood

A slim little volume with coloured illustrations of European moths reminds me of summer evenings  with my mother and my grandfather. We would be sitting quietly on the patio waiting for a moth to come to the honeysuckle and try to be the first to identify it.

Day 13 makes me laugh out loud

Language, this guy really likes language and so do I and it's just great. And a great story (or rather stories interwoven, overlapping, linked) and the mediocre movie adaptation has a great soundtrack.

Day 12 recommended

Way, way behind with my June task.
Day 11 is out, I don't hate books. Period.

Day 12 recommended:

This was recommended to me left, right and centre and duly purchased. And now it's been sitting there on the shelf looking at me and I cannot get started.
Maybe it's the blurb on the back cover announcing
"A moving book about families, about love and death and faith."
As if I need to voluntarily work my way through any of these four disaster scenarios. But I will read it. One of these days. Probably. Maybe. Soon.

12 June 2010

from the wise man

If you are afraid of fear it can overwhelm you. But if you invite it calmly and smile at it with mindfulness it will abate.

When we panic we do not know what to do. Through breathing, smiling and giving we will find a solution.

other things

Our big cat is dead, she was put down after another seizure kind of event and is buried at the bottom of the garden. What a relief!

Tax rebate has arrived! My first success story since getting sick as I did the tax returns when I things were really shitty.

The garden is paradise. R starts his summer break in two weeks.


Almost every day  there is at least one moment of doubt whether this autoimmune diagnosis is valid. While I am on this roller coaster ride and long forgotten (i.e. absent for a couple of days) symptoms come back seemingly out of nowhere to viciously attack me, my imagination runs wild and the dreaded "what if it's..." pops up uninvited in my head screaming at me, especially at night in our lovely quiet neighbourhood without a noisy car, bus, train, plane, unruly cats or late night pedestrian to distract me.
So I juggle likely explanations about drug side effects and delayed efficacy, the hot weather, wrong food for dinner, menopause etc. around my head until I eventually fall asleep.

For some time now headaches have come and gone, increasing in intensity and a good day now is when the panadol kicks in which it rarely does. Yesterday all I could do was walk up and down in the garden trying to distract myself counting my breath, the roses in bloom and picking the first ripe raspberries - to no avail. In the end I remembered that one patient in my room at the WKH in November told me that she always drinks an espresso for her headache. And it did help  but I felt/feel like shit nevertheless. Doctors now want me to monitor time and strength etc. of headaches which obviously sends me into a fizz as I try to figure out why they are concerned.
And there I was not too long ago telling myself how lucky I am that I don't  have migraines. Whatever hit me yesterday was migraines' big sister.

The thought that I have been carrying this noisy dizzy vertigo exhaustion in my head and body for over nine months now (half time of my sick benefit) and that in less than three months ... fills me with panic and I end up weeping for my losses: working, cycling, walking, running, dancing, careless and thoughtless daily activities like boring household. Oh shit. This can't be it. No way. Come on, think of something. Quick.

10 June 2010

warm summer night, clear sky

Day 10 one from my favourite author

Dervla Murphy is one of my favourite authors and this one is one of my favourite books written by her - and I have read all of them.
She is such an exceptional woman. I don't think I would necessarily like her in person - and I have heard weird reports - but that's not the point.
For me, her writing reinforces the saying that the world is our homeland and humanity is our family. In her books I have discovered Nepal, Laos, Peru, Siberia, most of East Africa, Madagascar, India...on bicycle, foot, donkey or horseback. She has brought me to Rwanda and Northern Ireland, the Balkan and the Waterford hills.

"...we ...humans .. need to be close to, and opposed to, and sometimes subservient to, and always respectful of the physical realities of the planet we live on. We need to receive its pure silences and attend to its winds, to wade through its rivers and sweat under its sun, to plough through its sands and sleep on its bumps. Not all the time but often enough for us to remember that we are animals. Clever animals, yet ultimately dependent, like any animal, on the forces of Nature....Whole areas of one's humanity could become atrophied if one remained always within a world where motor-roads are more important than trees and speed is more important than silence."

(she wrote this in 1982 camping for the night somewhere high up in Ecuador with her nine year old daughter and a mule)

09 June 2010

Day 9 first book I read

My parents didn't go for cute little picture books. We got the odd fairy tale read to us but after that you were out on your own. There were book shelves at home, mostly science and the standard canon of "proper" literature, the school libraries and birthday presents.
I started out with the newspaper headlines, progressed to cereal labels, public posters, road signs (fire warnings, rabies notifications, church service schedules...) and books were the obvious next step. For the first couple of pages I read aloud and I left out the words with "sch" (I was reading the German version) because I didn't know how to pronounce it but somewhere along the line things fell into place and I haven't looked back since.

Day 8 reminds me of a place

Kitchens in LSF, TO, WSQ, wholefood days, homemade bread and yoghurt, alfalfa seeds sprouting in a jam jar, we are 4, 5, 6 ... more adults, several toddlers, cats occasionally, visitors, A walks in, humming and shuffling his feet, late as always, when food is ready and work is done, always offering to do the dishes and never doing it.
Twice a week we bake several loaves of sourdough bread. The smell is magic: suddenly the kitchen fills up and one loaf is eaten while still hot.

08 June 2010

hope and wait

In early autumn 1981, I spent a morning with a wild group of new agey feminists in the basement of a yoga school near Fitzwilliam Square.  We wanted to start a health group and in particular we wanted to promote natural childbirth as a sort of radical right, all very theoretical and somewhat militant (the early 80s...).

When I left home that morning I was a healthy young woman, slightly hippie-ish, broke obviously, full of wild ideas and ideals, absolutely none of them involving motherhood, and mainly interested in connecting with other likeminded women ready to shake up the establishment.

When I got home that night I just knew that I wanted to get pregnant. Nothing seemed more important or urgent. And there was no discussion, none of the predictable arguments from my feminist friends could change my plan. I had to work hard on convincing R and I mean hard, including one very rough and stormy sleepless night on Inishmore of all places.

That done I naively thought things would sort of happen overnight.
Haha. In fact what followed was a couple of months of waiting and hoping and dashing of hopes and getting to know physical signs or rather imagining non-existent physical signs and when it finally did happen there was none of that romantic glow and shiny eyes and whatever softness of body some women-who-know tried to convince me of.

But that's another story and I am getting carried away here.

It's the waiting bit and the hoping bit that I am reexperiencing these days. I don't  want to dwell on it because it could all be back to square one tomorrow.
But as I drove back from BG this afternoon, Kate Bush blurted out of the car radio as I was driving through the sunny tree-lined streets and I turned up the volume and - loudly - sang along and grinned almost happily at the poor unfortunate teenagers at the traffic lights who had to witness this crazy scene.

07 June 2010

Day 7 reminds me of someone

This and all the other Hessayon books on various gardening skills remind me of Jack, the gentleman, gardener, dinner table expert, cross word solver, grandfather and best father-in-law. I miss him.

06 June 2010


After three days of heat a thunder storm with massive rain this afternoon. The smell of rain on the hot patio stones overwhelming. Roses and lavender in bloom, sage and estragon almost up to my shoulders, a handful of plums on the little tree, first raspberries blushing, delphinium ready to blossom, taller than me. Strawberries next week if the sun keeps up. Rucola and lettuce ready for harvest.

Day 6 can only read once

Almost sinfully, I spend money on thriller - admittedly cheap - paperbacks and they crowd the very top shelf in triple rows and there are only very few that I can read more than once and then it's for a certain aspect or character like in the brilliant Arne Dahl or Ake Edwardson series. Stieg Larsson is nothing compared to these two.  Nothing!

Day 5 read again and again

Almost everyday I dip into a book from our shelves, it's like saying hello. Sometimes I just look at a cover or read the blurb on the back or open at random for a few sentences. And as a leftover from my bookshop days I automatically rearrange, sort out spines or stack in a different order with the result that our books are continuously messed up and when I try to find a specific title I get lost and will soon have forgotten what I set out looking for.
In the past, I attempted to get this mess into some shape and I did succeed in a rough sort of way. But sorting the fiction alphabetically is impossible because there is ficion and there is fiction - and they cannot mix for the sake of alphabetical location and easy retrieval.

What I read again and again is this poem by William Butler Yeats which I first read in a pub near Keel Strand on Achill Island in 1979

and have turned it around and around my head ever since:

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths
Enwrought with golden and silver light
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light
I would spread the cloths under your feet
But, beeing poor, I have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

04 June 2010

Day 4 hate

Hate books? Let's not waste strong emotions on printed paper.

03 June 2010

Day 3 favourite

Obviously, there cannot be just one favourite book. But this comes very close.
The first copy I read was a tattered library paperback.
I used to imagine that had I had a second daughter I would have named her Fleur - or tried to against R's objections.

02 June 2010

Day 2 waiting to be read

Know next to nothing about it but read somewhere that it was a good beach book. And since I am missing out on beaches at the moment, I'll at least go for the book bit.

01 June 2010

Day 1 reading at the moment

She is Irish and from Dublin and I can hear her voice while I am reading this. I mean I can hear the accent and when she has a woman standing behind the counter of a newsagent I can see the counter with all the sweets and crisps and the evening papers stacked beside it and  the the wanted and missing notices next to the poster for a jumble sale or a novena on the door.

"No one asked anything, except would he like a cup of tea, because in this house, it became clear, questions were out of the question."

Sums it up very nicely. I have had so many of these cups of tea.

a task for June to keep the mind busy

31 days - 31 books
Day 1 - reading at the moment
Day 2 – waiting to be read
Day 3 – favourite
Day 4 – hate
Day 5 – read again and again
Day 6 – can only read once
Day 7 – reminds me of someone
Day 8 – reminds me of a place
Day 9 – first book I read
Day 10 – one from my favourite author
Day 11 – once loved but now hated
Day 12 – recommended
Day 13 – makes me laugh out loud
Day 14 – from my childhood
Day 15 – 4th book on middle shelf, from the left
Day 16 – 9th book on second lowest shelf, from the right
Day 17 – lucky dip with eyes closed from my shelves
Day 18 – most beautiful cover
Day 19 – always wanted to read
Day 20 – best book I had to read in school
Day 21 – worst book I had to read in school
Day 22 – thickest book I have
Day 23 – slimmest book I have
Day 24 – nobody thought I read it
Day 25 – main character is a lot like me
Day 26 – to read to my child
Day 27 – main character is my ideal
Day 28 – great movie adaptation
Day 29 – terrible movie adaptation
Day 30 – reading at the moment
Day 31 – waiting to be read