A weekend of Culture with a Vengeance in Bray

On Friday 22 September, I could feel the slick in my throat and tried coughing. It didn’t move. I sighed and kept on driving, the wipers casting away the rain as I drove down N3 to Dublin, back and forth, lash and slash. Windscreen wipers, motorways and rain are the epitome of misery, I thought. Its not fair, here I am setting off for adventures in Culture, and my chest feels bitter, my eyes are icicles and my throat feels like a twisted snake. Mind over matter, I thought, twisting my mouth into a determined smile. Let the duel begin.

My first port of cultural call was Gortnamona where Gill, Stephanie and Samuel, Gill’s two year old grandson, were pitched. There is nothing more artful than a glorious, happy go lucky two year old boy who enjoys food, football, golf and is happy to kiss strangers under the kitchen table. He was a delight, particularly when watching him stuff his mouth with the joys of pancakes.

I was reminded of the windscreen wipers later at the Vera Klutz exhibition in the Hibernian Art Gallery, the first port of Cultural call for Steph and myself in Dublin. Klutz had a series of mechanically operated waving arms, maybe 25 of them on one wall, waving like wipers. I wanted to adorn them with bracelets, have dripping blood flowing down the wall. I really liked her sculpture, and her video looped brains/heads. Each exhibition piece was different. I was impressed by her versatility. It was a wonderfully eclectic, very exciting exhibition

Stephanie and I then meandered around St Stephen’s Green, stopping at Dublin artist, Dermot Brennan’s work: fantastic water colours where the paint trickles, fades, and leaks on to the beach, bridge, rain, rivers that are his subjects. The contrast of colours is superb. I want paintings of the lady with the orange umbrella. He is at St Stephen’s Green most Sundays. Worth a visit.

I was also really taken with the Royal College of Physicians building in Kildare St which had opened its portal for the day. What a fabulous 18th century building: grand staircase, ornate wood panelling, cornices, stained glass and the most fabulous wooden Dun’s library dating from the 16th century. But what was most fascinating was the staff uniform. They looked very debonair, stylish and sexy in a fine 18th century military outfit. Steph had stopped to ask about the discrepancy between the 18th century building and 16th century library. The uniformed member of staff explained but I wasn’t really listening as I was too busy staring at her, wondering why she was dressed like that. It seemed rude to ask. I wish I had.

Then we set off for Poetry Ireland to catch the last of the readings from the Trocaire / Poetry Ireland competition winners (so sorry to miss Angela Carr and Bernie Crawford’s poem) but it was lovely to chat to them both. Later, I enjoyed listening to Matthew Sweeney and Jackie Gorman who are part of this year’s Introductory Poets Series. We popped over to the Irish Writers Centre just in time to hear the last few readers of the writers’ soap box.

Now, food and wine are an important feature of culture, and I was delighted to have Stephanie drive me all the way back to Glenageary to feed me leek and potato soup and a lovely New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The throat was stilled after half a bottle. Sadly, it came back with a vengeance in the night. The voice went missing altogether in Bray at the Literary Festival the next day. The ears were still in place  so most of my body parts did pay attention to the wonderful array of poems, stories from Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Alan McMonagle, Catherine Dunne, Anne Marie ni Churreáin, Paul Bragazzi, Orfhlaith Foyle, Tanya Farrelly, Martin Malone, David Butler and John McKenna (phew) in lovely venues across the town. Well done to the Bray Literary Festival Team. But this morning, the chest set up its cannon ball of coughs and the nose was on artillery duty, so I took to the hills and had to miss the rest of the fest!


Thank You, World

2017 has been good to me, so far. My mother would say that by announcing this, I am putting its future in jeopardy! But to hell with caution, my yellow daffodil of spring wants to trumpet!

I have funding from Cavan Arts Office for a fourth series of AT The Edge this year, and not only that, we have nine brilliant readers (think cat and cream and you have the right image of me here). The first on Tuesday 2 May will see Cavan welcome Kate Dempsey, Colm Keegan and Helena Mulkerns. In August, Maurice Devitt, Stephen James (tbc) and Lisa Frank and in October, Afric McGlinchey, Mairead Donnellan, and Brian Kirk. I am so looking forward to seeing them all in Cavan.

So, I was surprised when another Cavan Arts Office envelope plopped down into the porch of The Bungalow last week – the porch is where I occasionally sit when my muse goes awol. I smoke, keep an eye on the neighbours, and watch for what my garden is growing. Anyway, this envelope from Cavan Arts Office was telling me that I had been given a professional development award to get a mentor to help me finalise my first novel and collection of short stories. This was brilliant news which came at a very good time for me as my muse has been more missing than musing recently. Not writing is another ‘art’ of writing that my mentor may have to help me with! In fact, in the past few months, I have spent more time submitting material (thanks to Angela Carr for her circulation of submission and competition deadlines) and editing my early stories. It has been alarming but interesting to see how raw and unkempt my early short stories are; a raggle taggle of cock tales in sore need of pickles and extra shots! I vaguely wonder, how I know this. When and how did I learn the craft? More to the point, what exactly did I learn so I can do it now? I’m hoping my mentor who has much more experience than I will be able to tell me!

Anyway, that is not all! There is more good news. We are having a poetry party in Cavan at the Town Hall Arts Centre on Poetry Day, Ireland (Thursday 27 April at 6.30pm). The Town Hall has just received good news too. It has received three quarters of a million euro from the Department to refurbish the listed building. They plan to install poets on every landing to recite poetry every thirty minutes (not really, I’m just getting carried away). So, we having a poetry party to celebrate Poetry Day, Ireland, but not just a poetry party, we’re having a poetry and cake party. What better way to spend a few hours on National Poetry Day, reading poetry and eating cake!

So, this Spring is good, and I want to say thanks. Thanks to Crannóg in Galway, the Lakeview International Journal, Anomaly, and the Honest Ulsterman for publishing four of my short stories.  I loved reading at the Crannog launch in Galway last Friday. My son, Joe, said there were two women who were crying with laughter. I could hear their guffaws and it was very encouraging, so thank you to them. (The story is Irish Mothers, Beware and you can read it in this edition of Crannóg (http://www.crannogmagazine.com/). Thank you to Cavan Arts Office for supporting At The Edge, Cavan, and myself. Thank you to all the readers who are prepared to come to Cavan and read. Thank you to Nuala, and all the local poets who come to my own poetry workshops, and thank you for reading this blog. I should also thank my family, and Poppins, my dog, and, Ciaran, the postman who brings such good news and is nice about Poppins barking at him, and oh, my mother! I should thank my mother!