Weekly Photo Challenge – Spare


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Tomorrow the International Literary Festival Dublin (ILFD)  is coming to an end. All week I have been going to readings and book signings, meeting new friends and dipping in to the world of literature.

A side effect, and one I could have easily predicted, is that my to ‘to read pile’ has grown. Four new books hold lots of promises between their covers and all I need now is a bit of spare time to discover them in.

As if the world was conspiring to make just that happen I found a small bar of Lindt chocolate hidden between the pages of my newspaper this morning, a gift from The Irish Times to sweetened the day. So now, armed with a cup of tea and the desire to read, I will sit out in the afternoon sun for a while and begin my journey through my new friends – the perfect way to spend any spare time.

the books (so far) the ILFD has made me buy - now all I need is some spare time to read them in

the books (so far) the ILFD has made me buy – now all I need is some spare time to read them in

looking up at shoes


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While walking o the bus last night I noticed something odd: a pair of heals dangling from a cable.

Now I know that last year there was a project around Dublin called look up and put a sparkle in your step’, all over Dublin there were signs and  sparkly heels were draped over cables encouraging Dubliners look up. But the heels I saw yesterday were white, no sparkle and more importantly no sign. So I couldn’t help put wonder what the dangling heels were doing there.

Since it was on the south side of the Liffey maybe it’s a signifier for a particularly posh drug dealer or maybe the sparkle has just worn off. But either way the dangling shoes made me smile, and a thought occurred: maybe even walking on air in hurts when wearing heels, and that is why angles go barefoot!

elegant street decoration

elegant street decoration


it’s all Russian to me


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Last night I sat on the most uncomfortable chairs for and hour and a half to listen to Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich talk about her work. The event was billed as a conversion but it ended up being more like a lecture – Irish journalist Conor O’Clery  would ask a question and off she’d go, only interrupted by her interpreter to allow us to catch up with what she was saying in Russian.

Her stories were long and winding, circling around questions she asks herself and answers she is trying to find. Fascinated by stories she has made it her life’s work to listen to the stories of those who are usually not asked. She likes to go beyond the expected and find the mundane that is tinted with the extraordinary.

When asked if her international success and her Nobel Prize have changed the way she is viewed in her own country, she lives in Belarus, she sighed and said ‘being in opposition to the authorities is a long held tradition by writers where I am from, but now we are also in opposition to our own people, this is new and much harder.’ She went on to say that during the fall of the Soviet Union there was so much hope but that ‘freedom doesn’t come over night, freedom is a long, long way.’

‘We didn’t really know our people, we worshiped an ideal of what we believed the people to be- but they weren’t. So we built bridges to go over rivers, but the rivers then went another way.’

Chernobyl is of particular interest to Alexievich ‘there was no precedence’, that made the stories the people told so unique and surreal. ‘Soldiers were on rooftops washing the them, and scrubbing firewood – it was like in science fiction. As physical beings we could not grasp the unseen, what we could not smell, touch or see.’

After an hour and a half shifting around on my seat, a dance everyone in the audience was occupied with, it was time to join the long queue to have my copy of Chernobly prayer signed. And I have to say that was the only point in the evening where I was somewhat disappointed – Alexievich signed my copy but her attention was elsewhere. A Russian speaking woman was monopolizing her attention, not very considerate to the rest of us who waited in line. And it was clear that Alexievich was very tired and maybe I should have just let the opportunity slide- but then how often does one get to ‘meet’ a Nobel Prize winner?

An added bonus of the night – I met two wonderful women in the queue and we ended the evening over wine, olives and lots of chat – in English.

Svetlana Alexievich (courtesy of Headstuff.org)

Svetlana Alexievich (courtesy of Headstuff.org)

International Literary Festival Dublin


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Ireland is known for it’s writers and this week Dublin is celebrating all things literary. Yesterday evening I went to a talk with two wonderful Irish writers: Lucy Caldwell & Anakana Schofield. They both read from their books and engaged in a lively discussion about character, language and setting hosted by lecturer Selina Guinness.

It was truly inspiring to listen to two successful writers talk about what they do and listen to their hard won words. Sadly their weren’t that many people in the audience, those who didn’t go really missed out, but since we were such a small crowd I got the chance to exchange a few words with the authors – and both were generous with their time.

On the way home, a bright green bag holding Lucy Caldwell’s short story collection Multitudes swinging by my side, I felt really lucky to live in a city that celebrates  authors and gives them so much space.

me getting my book signed by Lucy Caldwell (courtesy of ILFD)

me getting my book signed by Lucy Caldwell (courtesy of ILFD)

Tonight I will be listening to Svetlána  Alexiévich, the Belarusian investigative journalist and non-fiction writer who won the Noble Prize in Literature last year, the first journalist to ever have done so and only the second non-fiction writer since Winston Churchill in 1953 to have been given the prize. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say and hope to get my copy of her book signed.

There are more events I’ll be attending as the week turns into the weekend and I hope that by listening to all these acclaimed authors some of their words will steep into my fingers and help me on my own literary endevours.





just wondering


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This morning I was watching a  bee flit around the flowers on my windowsill and marveled at how she seemed so filled with purpose and determination. Her weight bent the stalks of the blossoms but she held on and crawled inwards as far as she could go. After a while she flew off and left me wondering.

Wondering about why the bee knew with such certainty what she wanted and how she was going to get it when I often struggle with that. Not the knowing what I want, more the ‘how I’m going to get it’. Seeing how the bee allowed the stalk to bend to the point that it would break, but it didn’t made me wonder if maybe I just give up to quickly sometimes.

With that in mind I will keep staring at the blinking cursor on my screen and hope that my attempts at getting this book done will be rewarded, without me breaking or me breaking my laptop first!

There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only  scarcity of resolve to make it happen.

 Wayne Dyer



summer plans


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With all of my end of year assignments handed in and all of my students work graded it is now time to start thinking about the summer that lies ahead. My plan is to head over to Germany for a few weeks – some family celebrations and a wedding are calling – and I have decided to stay there and write.

My trip abroad is only one month away so I’ve asked my godmother if I can stay in her weekend get-a-way and she has said yes. So I’ve booked an outbound flight and now I need to figure out when I’ll be coming back.

With that in mind I have a lot to plan, organise and finances to sort out – emails to write are at the top of my list for today. And since I will have a house guest staying in my home while I’m away I need to make sure everything is tidy and clean.

But for now I can say I am getting excited about what lies ahead and only hope everything goes off without a hitch!

where I'll be staying this summer

where I’ll be staying this summer


sunny Saturday morning


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It’s meant to be raining, according to the weather forecast, but the sun doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo. For now it is shining and keeping those rain clouds at bay.

Studies have shown that we become nicer when the sun is shining, we tend to be quicker to answer researchers, give directions more readily and we even reach further into our pockets and give larger tips. Even the stock-markets trade more and is three times more likely to go up when the sun shines. Yes, even traders and investors feel more positive on sunny days, but unlike us they don’t just buy an ice-cream cone but put their money into bonds.

This happiness and optimism that awakens in us when the sun comes out to play is called the “halo-effect”. Now the halo effect defines how we see things due to our knowledge of an other thing. So, if someone is good at say card games we assume they are good at dice games too, or if someone is bad at football we assume they are bad at basketball as well. And when the sun shines making endorphins bounce around in our brains we just assume everything is good, because we feel good.

Sadly the downside to summer frolicking is that the suicide rate goes up. The reason behind this is that someone who is feeling low sees lots of happy, jolly people and it makes them feel worse about themselves so they become more prone to seeking a permanent solution.

But with all that said I just think most of us love the luxury of letting the warmth of the sun caress our skins and enjoy wearing light summery clothes. Of course we have to be mindful to not burn but letting the sun tickle us helps produce Vitamin D and as our skin is highly efficient at doing just that only 15-30 minutes of sunshine creates the same amount as drinking 200 glasses of milk would.

I am not a fan of milk myself I think I may just treat myself to an ice-cream, let my skin take care of the vitamin D production and let my endorphins run wild – what a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

like a sunrise inside a flower

 sunshine inside a flower

Weekly Photo Challenge: Jubilant


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Jubilant – what a wonderful word, and what an even better feeling. One we may not have as often as we like, but then maybe we don’t take enough pleasure in the little things so we don’t recognize it when it peaks around the corner of our emotions. After all it is so much easier to spot those unhappy moments in the making then the joyous ones before they show up .

I can be Jubilant one moment and pensive the next, and a cloud could go by and make that happen

Bob Dylan

giving up my car


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For the next few days I’ll be car-less, not because my old beat up banger has given up but because I have given up my car to a friend.

Last night I was already in my PJs curled up in front of the TV a cup of tea in my hand, when I got a very distressed call. A good friend of mine had just dropped her car off at a garage as the transmission was not transmitting and needed a replacement for a few days. For several reasons she couldn’t get a rental and she needs it for work.

So now my car is driving around Dublin without me and I have to figure out how to get from A to B without my four wheels. Luckily I still have my two wheels and the bus will get me most other places. And since it will only be for a week I am sure I’ll survive, I will just need to change a few plans.

And who knows, maybe being less mobile will force me to spend more time at my desk, working on my novel!

not my ride

not my ride

hay fever alert


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I woke up with  a little surprise in bed with me this morning, sticky eyes are back and that can only mean one thing: hay-fever season has arrived and settled in over night.

Hay-fever visits me every year, sometimes it is just little a bit annoying, sometimes it needs a bit more attention, and other times it takes over my life. I am not sure what the sneezer has planned for this year but if my sticky eyes and scratchy throat are anything to go by it definitely is an attention seeker.

So while I spent a huge chunk of my morning un-gunking my eyes, yes I had those awfully gooey bits of yellow sleepy-eye gluing my eyelashes together and keeping me in semi-darkness, I was wondering if it was time to start popping pills and save myself from sneeze attacks. The problem is most antihistamines effect me more than just a little on the side.

Some make me so drowsy that I can’t string sentences together and just want to sleep, some effect my skin (I have eczema)  and leave me with itchiness and sometimes red patches of flakiness. Other pills have been known to make me a little high, a little depressed or just don’t work. But I do own some white oval pills that do the job and only make me sluggish, turning work into a bit of a herculean task. Sadly as I have quite a lot to do today I don’t think those little friendly helpers are an option and I will just have to keep tissues by my side and try not to spray my computer.

But while I was contemplating my possibilities I wondered about alternative options, I have tried acupuncture and homeopathy in the past and they didn’t work, although I do know that others have had more success. I have tried upping my calcium and magnesium intake and it does partially work as it makes the sneezes less moist and my eyes a little clearer. So as I munch on a banana and spoon some yogurt I am hoping it will help me be less irritated and keep Mr Hay-fever at bay.



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