Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tranquillity: Beach Colours, Short Days, Shore Vistas.

Tranquillity: Beach Colours, Short Days, Shore Vistas.: "Even the mucky brown mashed spiral wrack looks and smells good; look at how the low winter sun, just a few days off the winter solstice enh..."

Beach Colours, Short Days, Shore Vistas.

Even the mucky brown mashed spiral wrack looks and smells good; look at how the low winter sun, just a few days off the winter solstice enhances colours along the shore line at Greencastle, County Down .And, depending on which direction the weather is coming from, if the air is damp or not, the time of day, this same vista will look different every time. I walked along this way today trying to remember the name of a painter who worked entirely in browns; here's a place he might be interested in. If you are an observant type of soul, and did the same walk you might just be able to conjure up in your mind the possibilities of working with such limitations.

Spiral wrack is common brown seaweed, tons and tons of it have accumulated here with the recent storms and high tides.Fifty years ago it would have been collected by farmers to spread on the fields where the potato crop was to be grown. I suggest  to my husband that we might gather up a few black plastic bags as our vegetable patch has been disappointing this past two years. He is against it as we are down wind from Sellafield nuclear power station, fearing the contamination, but who knows, it's probably too late.

This belt of rich brown on close examination is full of colour: yellow ochre, olive green, leather brown, Vandyke brown, sage, and the wetness glints and gleams like amethyst, topaz and jet. All worked off a brown palette? I think- too technical for me- but my current oil painting I have going of this shore is shaping up in an interesting way with the introduction of red and purple hues.I have used pure yellow ochre for the sand and grey black and white for the stones. It doesn't sound very subtle but the contrast of the unmixed colours sets off the subdued but rich tones within the brown wrack.

Some of the stones are mourne granite, it's full of black crystals.Black is not as dark as it sounds, a polished black surface when lit up by the sun reflects an amazing amount of light.Next time you're watching the news and there is a shot of the front door of 10 Downing Street, observe how that black paint absolutely gleams.A piece of mourne granite, observed in the same detail as common wrack, is sufficient material for an individual blog.Here's some pictures of today's walk to keep you going until I post.
Mill Bay and the Mourne Mountains.
Middle shore, Greencastle.
Close-up, middle shore Green Castle.
Trick of low light, Green castle.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Tranquillity: The sea is black and there are three suns in the s...

Tranquillity: The sea is black and there are three suns in the s...: "Today, 29th November 2010, the sea in Carlingford Lough appeared to be black.Black is bad, I always take the colour of the sea to be indicat..."

The sea is black and there are three suns in the sky.

Today, 29th November 2010, the sea in Carlingford Lough appeared to be black.Black is bad, I always take the colour of the sea to be indicating something about the weather.The sea reflects the sky, the sky is the weather, the weather is coming from the Arctic, and I am remembering an old 'Tomorrow's World'   BBC TV programme  making the case that global warming is accompanied by global cooling. The only  meteorological  thing Ireland has going for it, an island on the same longitude as Newfoundland where the sea freezes over, is the gulf stream. Rostrevor, where I live, similar to parts of the south west coast of Ireland, is known for its mild climate, not today.If we were in Newfoundland the Lough would be frozen over and our children might use skis for getting to school.The gulf stream simply means we don't/shouldn't need snow mobiles, sleighs or winter tyres. So this is how it works- global warming melts the ice cap, this lowers the temperature of the North Atlantic and cools the gulf stream, Ireland ( and England?) freezes over.

   The colours of the sea and sky when there is bad weather on the way is interesting. We all know the saying, 'a red sky in the morning is a shepherd's warning.' This simply means bad weather is coming from the east, the sky is very clear,  accompanied by cold Siberian wind creating the record conditions of cold that we have today in South Down.

     Other things you might look for if you have a mind to: red sky at lunch time in December, always always followed by very severe snow; green sky, what? Yes green sky, the last time there was green sky  a thunder storm of biblical proportions exploded over England; we heard it in Ireland.

     Other bad weather signs observed today that may or may not indicate the severity of the weather- up at Aldergrove airport three suns appeared to be in the sky, we have to presume this is an optical illusion, the ice in the air having a mirror effect, or it is the end of the world, take your pick; and I spotted a lapwing pecking about on the side of the road near Killowen.That lapwing has been seriously blown off course. I hope it doesn't get run over, or frozen, and that its not on it's own.  It may stay here and even produce some offspring, if it's not the end of the world.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Tranquillity: Winter Garden

Tranquillity: Winter Garden: "The year dies, the shortest day approaches and the garden is a mess. At least I got some tidying up done a couple of weeks ago so there is a..."

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Winter Garden

The year dies, the shortest day approaches and the garden is a mess. At least I got some tidying up done a couple of weeks ago so there is a flower pot full of primulas in bloom. Why are they in bloom? Why was I able to pick a handful of blue berries last week? Why was my aunt still picking strawberries at the end of October in her garden? Why are the winter vegetables the red cabbage, the leeks and the spinach not thriving, yet I will be able to pick enough broad beans tomorrow to include in a rice dish?Is this global warming?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tranquillity: Good Luck Aung San Suu Kyi.

Tranquillity: Good Luck Aung San Suu Kyi.: " I have just searched 20 hours of twitter posts; there is only one mention of Aung San Suu Kyi's release from 15 years of house arrest i..."

Good Luck Aung San Suu Kyi.

     I have just searched 20 hours of twitter posts; there is only one mention of Aung San Suu Kyi's release from 15 years of house arrest in Burma; a woman who was elected to government there and then incarcerated by the ruling elite who have ran a military dictatorship during that time.I was surprised because whilst most of those I follow are within literary circles, I am linked up to the Irish Times, RTE and the New York Times as well as several local journalists, so I would have expected some recognition of the weighty events in Burma yesterday. Many of the posts over the weekend are about x-factor, football, what to do at the weekend, NY Times: free trade,OK that's alright and you were the only one mentioned events in Burma, then there were one or two mentions of Remembrance Day.On the BBC World  News the item is only 7th on the most watched list after something about Elvis getting drunk and something about James Blunt.
     Good luck Aung San Suu Kyi, you are going to need it. I hope you have a chance to link up to twitter,set up a facebook page and study news feeds from around the world.You will find that in fifteen years things have changed, celeb is God, the world is bankrupt and it is a very dangerous place for  brave women who raise their heads above the parapet.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Tranquillity: Virtual Telepathy

Tranquillity: Virtual Telepathy: "Science fiction often explored the possibility of telepathy.Some in the genre promote the idea that as civilisation becomes more advanced, s..."

Virtual Telepathy

Science fiction often explored the possibility of telepathy.Some in the genre promote the idea that as civilisation becomes more advanced, somehow or other humans will evolve telepathic skills.Even in this day and age there are people who claim to be able to know what someone else is thinking.

We practice telepathy: yes we do. I am sure just about everyone can give you an example of when they were aware of 'something telling them' to go or to do or to act in a particular way, and they can recount the details of the consequences of either acting on this impulse or not.There are times when we just 'know.'

I would argue wanting to know is one of the things that make humans tick, it drives scientific enquiry, it takes us to new places, in the past this instinct caused humans to explore the world, now we want to explore space. It drives literature and the media, we are more hungry than ever for news, celeb gossip, we are constantly online, we now have the ability to communicate across the world, and space, in seconds.


Monday, 8 November 2010

Tranquillity: Sore heads seems to be the order of the day.

Tranquillity: Sore heads seems to be the order of the day.: "What a coincidence! I am doing my uni thing and reading my fellow-students blogs and at least three of us are suffering from sore heads. Is ..."

Sore heads seems to be the order of the day.

What a coincidence! I am doing my uni thing and reading my fellow-students blogs and at least three of us are suffering from sore heads. Is it the time of the year? Stress? High blood pressure ( Frankie) is one cause I seem to have an allergy to moulds and fungi so any time I go into an environment with spores of these organisms I have a mighty headache for the following 12 hours.Unfortunately the advised medication of anti-histamines makes me completely non-functioning so I am either eating pain killers or going about the place with a cross look on my face. The associated symptoms of blocked sinus, sore ears,  and sore neck make my posture not unlike that of the hunchback of Notre Dame, and I have black rings under my eyes that a zombie would be proud of.

     I was torn between wondering was I 'sick' and therefore should stay in and feel sorry for myself,  or talk myself into going out into the fresh air. Well I ended up in the fresh air on Saturday morning working in the garden. The runner beans needed taking down and the seed pods collected for next year, there is about fifty pansies to be planted out,  and the plastic summer chairs needed cleaning and putting away for the winter. So after a while I found more and more jobs: clearing the decking, putting all the old empty flower pots in the green house,  and clearing some rubbish out of the shed. I potted up some primulas and a few of the pansies and moved the tubs close into the shed wall to protect them in the winter.I also had arranged for a sweep assisted by his friend Sooty to come and clean the chimney as I would like to light the coal fire during the winter. This also meant the coal bunker had to be cleared out and moved in anticipation of a delivery of coal.I decided to stay out until Sweep arrived, eta 12.30pm and make the lunch when he left. 1.30 pm I was still working outside and the rain was now quite heavy, he still hadn't arrived so I decided to take down half a dozen giant sunflowers and find out if the seed heads were viable and could be used for the birds over the winter.

     He finally rang, lost. The directions I had given him proved to be useless, 'follow the sign for Santa's Cottage' I said. He said 'yeah?' I said 'Yeah, and if you are lucky you will see him walking the reindeer.'  There are  signs for Santa's Cottage at the end of our road, and  he does have a reindeer.

     Final garden job was scattering a bucket of soot over next year's vegetable patch at 2.30 pm  before going in for a shower and lunch. Despite being outside for 4 hours, 1 of those with the rain running through my hair I found out the fresh air made me feel better, no headache, and I was ready to save the world.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Woman, what's in a noun?

What does the word 'woman' mean to you? My MA project is a series of stories about 'Women,' I am not entirely happy about this word because, and you can do this yourself, if you google it, the vast, vast majority of the links you will get will link to pornographic sites, and thus presenting negative views of women. So what is the next step? I go first to the thesaurus and look for a synonym. Most of the alternatives are degrading: petticoat, skirt, moll, broad, I can hardly believe what I am reading. So enough of that, next step the The Oxford English Dictionary online and punch in 'woman.'
 The first 3 choices of meanings offered to me before the noun, were as follows: 1.Woman found in bachelor. 2. Woman found in battered. 3.Woman found in leg. What ? OK Susan get over all of that, go straight to the noun, 'An adult female being.' alright, not entirely helpful in trying to find good, positive related accurate words. So I read down another bit and think, 'how interesting, just look at all those ways woman used to be spelled! 'Passing over the old English I spot the following:' shame' 'hell hath no fury' 'every woman is at heart a rake' Then under 'the essential  qualities of a woman'-
‘G. EGERTONKeynotes 188 To get at the woman under that infernal corset.
There is an awful lot on this page, I will continue to study it, getting the right word seems very far away at this minute in time. Germaine Greer was right.
p.s. I'm not a feminist, I'm just shocked and annoyed at what I found.

Poetry is alive and well and living in Belfast

In this past week I have received no fewer than 4 invites to poetry book launches in Belfast, plus a similar number of invites to readings. All this in the small region/province of Northern Ireland. I also receive poetry invites and newsletters form the Republic of Ireland and Dublin is just as close to me as Belfast, so there is really no excuse for not taking up some of these invitations, except if I went to everything I got an invite for I wouldn't have time for anything else. So why this phenomenon in Belfast? It may to be something to do with the Seamus Heany Centre for poetry: ( )  this is the academic side of it, equally there are slams, poetry evenings, poetry tours, events all over the entire country, we must have quite a significant percentage of our population writing poetry. Maybe it's the same everywhere someone please do the calculation and let me know.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Tranquillity: Poetry is.....

Tranquillity: Poetry is.....: "Did you remember national poetry day last week? Poetry is personal, what does it for you will not do it for me.You can be lonely as a cloud..."

Poetry is.....

Did you remember national poetry day last week?

Poetry is personal, what does it for you will not do it for me.You can be lonely as a cloud, amused by Pam Ayres ( I am) or depressed by TS Eliot. I read  his Wasteland in my summer holidays, it went beyond depression, it was scary. So this brings us closer to the definition of poetry, it has to move us in some way, so it doesn't matter if it rhymes ( unless it does matter to you), or sometimes it doesn't even matter if you can't understand it, it can still move you, try this one by Medbh McGuckian:


I see the skeleton of the year poised in the cool moonspray,
Trying to catch at the blemished calendar of the next.

Embraced most of the day by the low and slender rainbow,
The world-jewel sweeps on with its morning noon and night.

The nowhereness of the fifth-month stayed for a moment only,
Before the earthless mountain light anointed without mountains.

or some comedy/philosophy:


i wanted one life
you wanted another
we couldn't have our cake
so we ate each other.

Roger McGough.

My contribution for National Poetry Day 9th October 2010.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tranquillity: e-books or real books? Consult a crystal ball.

Tranquillity: e-books or real books? Consult a crystal ball.: "We are in a wonderful change environment, all sorts of gods and philosophers are telling us about the future of books and publishing, they a..."

e-books or real books? Consult a crystal ball.

We are in a wonderful change environment, all sorts of gods and philosophers are telling us about the future of books and publishing, they are consulting their crystal balls and getting the sort of reality you expect from this source.To me it's the same shift from painting to photography and from silent movies to talkies. Or even to take it back to another example Leonardo Da Vinci knew humans would one day fly. I hope he is enjoying himself looking down from heaven and seeing the reality of his vision.So the book as we know it is changing, but I don't think we will be going to museums in ten years time to look at books, my view is that the reasons for the decline in book sales are many and complex. One of the reasons might be that our values have changed, we value what we can consume, and what costs as little as possible.It seems odd to me that a glossy magazine, full of expensive advertising can cost nearly as much as a paperback.  I wonder if we did the sums and scaled up what books cost thirty years ago and what they cost now, we would find books have lost monetary value. What is the answer to this? Possibly ebooks, but I don't think ebook sales are equal to sales in print.( someone can correct me on this if they want) and this to me is minimalist consumerism, stream the words as directly as possible into the brain and collect the mirco payment. So where is the pleasure in finding a title? The lead from a friend, a review in the Guardian, an accidental conversation in the library, the quality of the art work on the cover, the construction design, and as I said before the feel of the book. So maybe its about splitting the world into consumers and connoisseurs? I don't know. What I do know is no matter how magic your crystal ball is, you will only know the direction of the future of books after it has happened.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

I like the feel of a book.

Books are soft, they feel good in the hands, they have a certain weight. Then there is sentimentality: those carefully chosen books from a dear friend or lover, something is written inside the cover, there are pressed flowers in there somewhere as well, you read the book on some exotic holiday and the pressed flower is a memento. I have a book with rose petals from  a garden in India and all the wonderful people I met there wrote a memento inside. And books look good, there is design and artistry involved in creating the cover, they are meant to be seen and displayed and enjoyed.There are books with tear stains, coffee stains, locks of hair inside.I love my old books that when opened up have squiggles drawn inside by my children when they were toddlers.I remember the intense look in their little faces as they turned the pages, studied the content, and then drew a little toddler whirl with a biro. They even then knew there was something important about books and acknowledged this in their own way.Will ebooks bring the same joy and pleasure? No, they are sterile, cold and hard.Book sales may be diminishing but I don't think its because of ebooks taking their place, its a change environment, exciting, but its not the funeral of books, too much pleasure at stake.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Five men rule the world.( Sadly no women)

Tonight's BBC news reported on Rupert Murdoch wanting to buy out BSKYB. He owns most of the media here ( as well as Autralia?) and apparently is going after the BBC itself. Mr Murdoch and Bill Gates, and the trio at Google must be some of most powerful individuals that have ever existed on the planet.They are the new empires, overtaking McDonalds and Coca cola as global products. We are being told what to eat, drink and think. The only good thing I have to say about all of this, these guys didn't bomb or kill anyone to dominate us. If you know different answers on a postcard please, just for baddness.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Scary twitting and blogging.

I have just had this discussion with one of my fellow students on the Professional Writing MA about followers on twitter, some of the people following us, we have no idea who they are. Also we have both checked the stats views on blogger, and we are both attracting views from people in countries, who 1. by no stretch of the imagination can have any connection with us, and 2. English is definitely not their first language, and, 3. must have very little to do in their lives except scan random messages.More sinister than this? Don't know, don't like it, already been scammed, it wasn't nice.
   If Frankie and I, who I was talking about this to earlier on, were on a night out, and a couple of people who we didn't know suddenly started following us, we would probably hide, or maybe even ring the police. OK, I know there is a facility on twitter etc to block people but, somehow or other just randomly just picking up followers, for some strange reason only known to themselves, well, it just doesn't feel right.

Friday, 17 September 2010

First there were breakfast meetings-

and then there were training days on Saturdays and Sundays, but at least we got fed.I have had some first class lunches on training courses. I also remember about twenty years ago being served scones with fresh cream and jam, on arrival at a course! The recession has kicked in; I have had one of those weeks, two  cpd courses, both starting at 12.00 noon and running over lunch time,one course finished at 4.00pm, there was no food ! No sandwiches! Has the world gone mad? I know I lost weight this week.At least in the good old days of the breakfast meeting there was a fry -up waiting to send us  on our way.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Chairman Mao would have loved blogging.

He was just born at the wrong time. Can you imagine if he was around now, blogging would have been his favourite activity, or would it have been twitter. Maybe he would have used twitter if he had suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, with his laptop under his pillow, you know the way you do, a eureka moment that only comes in that strange dimension between waking and sleeping, some thought of genius, that will slip away too easily if it is not written down. It could perhaps be the answer to life the universe and everything, but it's just usually something mundane like 'Oh crikey I forgot to collect the dry cleaning.' But I digress Chairman Mao would have really really loved blogging and twitting, he could have given us so many more of his little red book thoughts.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The answer to the Universe? Don't think so.

Stephen Hawking's   TheGrand Design is attracting a lot of comments, so I might as well put my spoke in.Another book, how sad, that sends out the message that there is nothing higher in life than a chemical soup.Hawking argues as strongly as those who justified, reasoned and proved that the earth was flat and the universe revolved around it.And it doesn't matter if you believe in God or not,but to put a religious spin on it Hawking must be bit of a God himself to be able to reduce us all to several black boards of chalk scratchings.So does all this theorising explain love, creativity,art,music,intelligence etc etc? No, it only explains where we  think might be at this point in 'time.'

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Hungry Hill

Underrated and nearly forgotten, perhaps with the exception of English Literature students, many of Daphne Du Maurier's works are gathering dust. As it happened by coincidence on a holiday in Glengariff in West Cork, my husband mentioned he had seen a Daphne Du Maurier in quite a lot of the local shops, even the grocery stores. I hadn't heard of Du Maurier's Hungry Hill, so I bought it and read it. She rises to the occasion, and is able to give a credible interpretation of the tensions between the dispossessed Anglo-Irish, dispossessed for they are neither one thing or the other; and the dispossessed Irish, the locals who see their land used to line the pockets of the Anglo-Irish landowners.Du Mauier's work, apart from being a gripping tale and worthy of being tuned into a TV costume drama, illustrates her perceptiveness of human nature and her ability to tell us what's going on inside her characters heads credibly and sympathetically. Its a classic as far as I am concerned, as it could even today give us insights into how some young men's brains work; this from a woman who was written off as a light weight romantic novelist. Her only fault in the book was to barely mention the Irish Famine.;

Monday, 9 August 2010

Evil Access

Google has been in negotiations with a major TV provider on prioritising net space for the big boys. Apparently twitter went mad at the weekend over the possible ending of democracy online. As George Orwell says in Animal Farm some are more equal then others. Does this mean blogs/twitter/facebook/utube etc etc will go underground or will we all have to sell our souls?

Answers please on a postcard, its getting back to that.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Old is best

Just finished reading Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, the old is really the best. It's a long while since I read a book that made me laugh out loud. Of the twenty or so books I have bought recently this was the only one I didn't want to put down; it was the only classic in the bunch, and it was the only one worth reading. If the publishing industry want to find out why book sales have fallen, it's my opinion this is because there are very few good books. Most classics are entirely readable, enjoyable, memorable, timeless. Many contemporary books are entirely consumable, unmemorable, often an unsatisfying read and time limited just like the bread and other items that they sit along side, and must turn over just as quickly.
     Written in 1930, and apart from the lack of modern technology, this book could be about the present. In fact it is so timeless that it reminded me of recent events in Northern Ireland towards the end of the troubles; the only time I seriously considered leaving here was one night when I turned on the TV for the news and there was Kate Adie outside the Europa Hotel in a flak jacket. Luckily after I had gotten over the initial shock, like Waugh's natives in Ismaelia, and the press had retreated into the Europa for aperitifs, everyone got back to normal as quickly as possible.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

This is the view from the ancient settlement of St Bronach in Rostrevor where I live. It is the inspiration for my writing. What am I writing about? Well if you look carefully there is the remains of a cairn grave in the centre of the field in the picture, a standing stone. There has been human activity here for at least 4,000 years. Across the lough, in the background are the Cooley Mountains.These locations are witness to many significant events in Irish History, some of which are fascinating, especially those to do with women,  and this is what I am writing about.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

virtual reality

how is it possible to know the effectiveness of blogging/ twittering/ webbing? and to what purpose? I welcome views on this.