Thursday, 15 January 2015

Back to Blogging

I can’t believe it’s been a year and seven months since my most recent blog post.  Thank you to my friends who have urged me to get writing again.  Anxiety laden, I’m beginning today, and hope to write at least one blog a week from now on.

It’s so lovely to have readers, they’re really important, but I’ve begun to realise it’s also vital I de-clutter my head by writing down some of my thoughts.

I was really nervous as I opened my blog folder on my lap top just now.  I’ve called the file ‘Thank You Maeve’ and my first blog is ‘We’ll miss you Maeve.’  I wrote it following the death of Maeve Binchy in August 2012.  She inspired me.  I loved her writing as a teenager, and her chat made me laugh as an adult.  Every time I heard her voice on the radio my spirits lifted.

Checking back on the date of my last blog, (19th June 2013), I cringe as I realise my first task is to insert a missing word in the very first line…now how did I miss that?!

I stopped writing for pleasure in September 2013 when I began a full-time masters in Irish Literature and Culture at NUI Maynooth.  I thought my experience as a mature student would be perfect blogging material, but instead everything I wrote sounded worthy. 

It was the print version of the earnest, and annoying, radio ads churned out every autumn, extoling the virtues of becoming a mature student. Being a mature student is fantastic… it’s fun, exhilarating and stressful…and a privilege of course to be able to grasp a second chance at education…but those incessant ads grate on my nerves.

My life as a mature student began aged 37, when I got a place on the UCD access course (based in Pobalscoil Neasáin, Baldoyle) in September 2002 studying English and Politics.  It was brilliant, I loved every minute of it.

My friend Gemma was the catalyst for this.  Having completed my leaving cert in Malahide Community School in 1982, along with about forty other students I did really badly in English, a subject I was passionate about.  

There were two great English teachers in our school with very different teaching styles, but the results from both classes were awful.  Back in touch with my own teacher Catherine Kilbride, she told me recently that memories of that results day in August 1982 still haunt her.  She left the school soon afterwards becoming principal of the now closed Miss Meredith’s school in Baggot Street…where Maeve Binchy taught too for a time.  The other teacher, the late Ann Colville, had a letter she wrote complaining of the ‘closing of ranks’ within the Department of Education published in The Irish Times.  At that time there was no recourse for teachers or students but thankfully that has changed.

Anyway…sick of listening to me talking about repeating the English exam, Gemma urged me to move on, complete the ‘return to learning’ course and do an English degree instead.  I really wasn’t sure I’d be able for it.

That famous D was the impetus for my further studies.  Over the next few weeks I hope I’ll have a bit more to say about my three years from 2004-2007 as a mature student in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra…described by my husband as ‘the Carlsberg of degrees’…and my recent year in NUI, Maynooth where I was totally absorbed, challenged and stressed out.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


I did it and I feel great! 

Absolutely fantastic actually.

Did what?

Lost a stone?  Gave up the Bud?   Walked the Camino?  Nah…none of these.

I completed an hour’s housework without getting distracted!

I’m not sure I’ve EVER managed this before.

It all started having coffee with my friend Bernadette this morning. 

Yeah I know…a treat in advance of the new me.

I said to Bernadette that I wished I could work in my own home like a professional cleaner would…whizzing around for close to three hours creating a lovely clean house with an unmistakable fresh smell in the air.

Bernadette set me a challenge.

‘Pretend you’re a cleaner coming in to your house once a week and work for three hours uninterrupted.  Hoover and wash the floors, clean the bathrooms and do some dusting (dusting!) or wipe a few windows…but this is a bonus… you stop after three hours and you don’t do it again for a week.’

STOP after three hours and don’t do it again for a week… sounded brilliant!

I decided that today I’d start with one hour.   Now this wasn’t actually cheating.  I had pottered and faffed around for lots of hours yesterday and even did an hour’s pottering and faffing this morning before Bernadette called at ten…so one hour today would be a good start.

I closed my lap top. 

I put my phone on silent and as I noticed two missed ‘events’ I avoided the temptation to phone Pauline and text Jean... this could be my treat after my hour’s housework.

Of course I wanted to check Facebook and Twitter.…but I didn’t succumb…not even a sneaky glance.

Firstly I had to ignore the clean wet clothes in the machine.  I love hanging washing on the line so this would have been cheating.  Even on a gorgeous sunny day with ‘lots of drying out’ I had to resist.

I also had to resist folding and sorting the two baskets of dry clothes sitting on the kitchen floor.  You see I love doing this job too.  I find it therapeutic and inevitably slip into a daydream thinking that maybe Barbara Scully or Eithne Reynolds have written a new blog that I must read...urgently.  I’m also quite likely to be distracted by The Sunday Business Post folded on the couch beside me as I spot another article I missed the previous week.     

So temptation avoided, I got to work. 

The bathrooms were scrubbed. 

The kitchen floor was mopped and as for the hall…well this had been driving me mad since my son’s 18th birthday party…ahem on 31st May…but now it looks great and even smells of pine! 

Halfway through my daughter asked me for a lift to her friend’s house.  Normally I wouldn’t hesitate…conversations with teenagers happen in cars…but this time I told her she’d have to wait half an hour. 

No problem there…she was amused and delighted by my new found domesticity.

As 55 minutes approached I quickly changed my duvet cover.

Usually I end up groaning in horror as I’m about to go to bed at midnight and realize I’ve either forgotten (or avoided) the fact that I stripped the bed that morning.

Now the laptop is open…and I feel great.

In a few minutes I’ll phone Pauline and text Jean.

Then I’ll hang the clothes on the line.

Then I can fold the other ones.

And maybe then I can read for a little while.

I think I’m actually looking forward to my three hours cleaning next week.

Saturday, 25 May 2013


I’m not long home from the John McGahern seminar in Co. Leitrim, and I’m buzzing.

I found the academic papers presented yesterday afternoon kind of heavy going…but my much brainier friends Gemma and Edel thoroughly enjoyed them.   

All three of us agreed that we loved, loved, loved, the chat from authors Pat McCabe and Michael Harding.

They spoke about their writing, read from their work and explained the influence McGahern had had on each of them. 

As McCabe read from his novel The Stray Sod Country he adopted the various accents of his characters.  A natural mimic his delivery was hilarious.   

He told us a great story about his eighty six year old father-in-law who was sitting in the audience.

‘Having spent sixty years in education…The Master, as we call him…said  

“Pat, what’s this book where you can say anything you like about anything at all?”

…it’s called Facebook I replied.’

Michael Harding had the audience enthralled in Aughawillan Community Hall this morning. 

Like McCabe, he used various voices to capture the nuances of different characters from different parts of Ireland.  These characters weren’t fictitious.  They were real people from real life that Harding had met along the way.

He treated us to a scene capturing the brevity of speech he identifies with people from Leitrim compared to the verbosity of speech of those who hail from Cavan as epitomized by his late mother Nellie. 

Harding’s delivery is subtle and comic.  I wish I could capture how funny it was.

As I type this I can hear his voice (or voices!) in my head along with the laughter that echoed through the packed hall. 

Of course for anyone who has read Harding’s memoir Staring at Lakes (I’m half way through) or his regular Irish Times column they’ll know he has lots of serious suggestions on how to engage better with ourselves and the wider world …but he’s never preachy and often funny.

Harding believes ‘we spend more time in the remembrance than the experience of a story.’  As we retell it ‘we enter more deeply into the experience and the telling enriches it.’ 

Yeah I think he was saying we exaggerate the event, alter facts, focus on different aspects each time, but ‘the remembrance becomes more deeply rich’ for this.

I’d a brilliant twenty four hours and have two more signed books to add to my collection.

My kids laughed when I asked who’d like to be left them in my Will!

As for the photograph…I couldn’t resist it.