Filed under: America, Dublin, Ireland in General, Literature, Writing | Tags: Dublin writers, Peter Sheridan
I used to take very long, solitary road trips when I lived in the States. I never minded being on my own or driving for days – it was a bit cathartic, really – except for one particular time, when I drove from Indianapolis to Baltimore and back for a friend’s wedding. Many calamities befell me on that trip, from having my car break down on the highway, to a bout of seasonal hay fever that drove me to insanity, to spending my 25th birthday alone, and on top of it all, a terrible aching for Frank. I was in a pretty miserable state of mind – he lived in Ireland, I lived in the USA, we’d been apart for five months, and there was no end in sight. I was feeling very sorry for myself, to say the least.
However, even in the dark moments of that trip, there were pinpricks of beautiful light, and one of the best was when I stumbled across a used book store in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the kind of place that was packed end-to-end with stacks and shelves and piles of dusty books, into little rooms and closets, up a rickety staircase, and haphazardly thrown into some sort of organised chaos. Often in places like that, you don’t go looking for particular titles, because you’ll get lost and frustrated. Instead, you explore, and you let a book find you.
On that humid May afternoon, Mr. Peter Sheridan, and his memoir “44: Dublin Made Me” found me. The book ended up in my hand, then on the seat of my car, and all the way home to my bookshelf in Indianapolis. I didn’t actually read it until some time later, but I can truly say that it, and its author, left a permanent and growing imprint on my life, particularly since I set up housekeeping in Ireland. In the years after discovering this treasure, I’ve found Peter’s other books as well, and, funnily enough, mostly in used bookstores – “47 Roses,” “Big Fat Love” and “Break A Leg.” They’ve joined an elite pile of literature I am loath to part with – except for “Big Fat Love,” which was too good to keep to myself, so I had to share it with my best friend for her last birthday.
This is going to sound ludicrous to many of you, but I really miss the fuss we Americans make over Valentine’s Day.
In Ireland, this holiday is barely worth a mention. Last year they ran a little piece in the local paper asking the locals what they thought of it and it was overwhelmingly dissed. Most people, it seems, view it as a cheeky “Hallmark Holiday,” a forced attempt by retailers to make people declare their love when they really should be doing that every day of the year.
I do not disagree with these comments, but I think I fortunately have a broader view of Valentine’s Day because it was so much fun celebrating it as a kid. What about parties with your friends and loads of little Valentine cards shared between you? What about the heart-shaped candies with the funny sentiments and the minty, chalky flavours? What about a little heart-shaped candy box covered in cheap satin next to your cereal bowl in the morning as a special surprise from your parents? What about an extra $5 and a hug from your grandma?
Filed under: America, Ireland in General, Weather | Tags: hot drinks, ice skating, rain, skiing, snow, snowboarding, winter
Many Irish folks I know are obsessed with the weather. Funny, perhaps, since the weather (in my view) doesn’t seem to change all that much around here. Rain, drizzle, downpour, bit of sun, drizzle, rain, drizzle, fog.
Still, I have conversations about it on a daily basis with the people around me. Seems they watch the forecast religiously, and quote their knowledge to friends and family on the streets. ”It’s meant to lash by Wednesday.” ”Ah sure, but they’re saying it’ll turn mild by the weekend.” ”Well it’s very warm today, so it is – the cheeks are flying off of me.”
And so forth.
The last few days have been full of horrendous weather, truly awful, miserable and bleak fare. The wind has blown terribly hard for days, bringing bucket-loads of rain and littering the town with a trail of broken umbrellas across every street and footpath. Last night, the wind was so bad, it even blew the pebbledash right off the side of our house.
I have to say, winters here are still strange to me. I’ll never quite get used to the lack of snow or the way the grass glows its most truly emerald hues between November and March. I love coming home to a roaring coal fire, but I miss the smell of burning pine. And, even after growing up in a sub-zero climate, I don’t think I will ever adapt to the bone-chilling dampness of a truly dark winter’s day in this part of the world. No amount of fire or tea or blankets or sweaters can make a difference when one of those chilly Dickensian days decides to hit. No wonder everyone here died of consumption a century ago, and no wonder people still struggle to fight off colds and flu now. No wonder we all count down the days until Spring!
Winter was quite the opposite in Montana, where I grew up. We couldn’t wait for winter to begin!
A haven for winter sports and piles upon piles of glistening snow, Bozeman, Montana, was a destination of sorts for many. Skiers and snowboarders started saying their prayers early that they’d be able to have their first run by Thanksgiving (late November) and, equally, hoped their last wouldn’t come until Easter.
I’ve loved snowy winters for as long as I can remember. Two of the public parks within walking distance of our house were flooded every winter so people could go ice skating for free. We took lessons sometimes, but mostly, we’d just walk down to the park on a whim, skates tied together by their laces and carried over a shoulder. We’d change in the warm-up hut, where the smell of wet wooly mittens and snow boots still lingers today. Mom might have sent us over with a thermos of hot cocoa, which would be safely stowed under a bench for later. We’d skate around and around until the arches of our feet hurt and our fingers were frozen.
Filed under: America, Arts and Crafts, Entertainment, Family, Food and Drink, Ireland in General, Literature, Music, Parenting
As ever, Christmas has gone by in a flash. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and before you know it we’ll all be back at work. For us, we’re enjoying the last few evenings spent by the fire with the tree still decorated, finishing off those last buttery cookies and smidge of Alaskan smoked salmon while starting to make our plans for 2013.
To be totally honest, I’m sort of glad the holidays are coming to a close. This year has been tough for us, and the last month even moreso. It will be nice to start with a clean slate. The baby kicking in my belly is a constant reminder that things are again about to change, and the 3 year-old running around my house half-naked (we’re potty training ) is evidence that nothing has stayed the same for long, anyway.
In honour of the changing times, here’s a little recap some of my favourite moments and successes of the last 12 months.
The light is yellow tonight as I walk up the hill toward our little neighbourhood grocery. Ireland is the only place I’ve ever been where the streetlights cast an egg-yolk-yellow glow, bathing everything the light reaches in sepia tones. It’s cold as I puff up the hill and I know I’ll be glad to return to our blazing coal fire, but for now it’s good to feel the fresh air on my face.
I pass a few people on the streets, some in track suits and sweats, buying beers for a night in, and others dressed to the nines for a night on the town. I can see the pubs and clubs of Drogheda are in for another bustling weekend. I don’t actually feel like I’m missing out on anything there. I avoid a group of rowdy teenage boys as I near the shop and I dodge the usual debris – empty beer cans, a losing scratch card, a crumpled cigarette box. Inside, the shop is warm and full of people even though it’s nearly 8 p.m. (more…)
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged - you may have noticed? – but to be perfectly honest, things have been fairly boring in our neck of the woods. I haven’t been feeling 100% for several weeks now, and we’ve just sort of been getting on with the business of living day to day life. No day trips, no special meals, no pictures even!
But now it is October. The days have cooled significantly and the nights are darkening earlier. All my friends in the US seem to be going pumpkin crazy on Pinterest and Facebook while I’m checking the stores daily for the big crates of fresh pumpkins they only bring in right before Halloween. I didn’t have a garden this year, and I don’t know if pumpkins would have fared well anyway – the ones I grew last year rotted on the vine from all the rain. So I’m dreaming of all the pumpkiny things I might try in the upcoming weeks. I saw a recipe last night for pumpkin frozen yogurt made with Greek yogurt – maybe try?
Filed under: America, Family, Food and Drink, travel | Tags: Boston, history, Paris, US Embassy, US Visa, vegetarian
Where to start.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that we’ve been working on getting Frank a visa to live and work in the States. As much as we love Ireland, we’ve felt the call back to America for several years now, and we’d love to go back there with Evelyn and embrace certain opportunities that are easier to find there than here. About the time Evey was just a few months old, we started the application process. This entailed massive amounts of paperwork, locating old documents and records, doctor’s visits, immunizations, and lots and lots of money. Every hurdle we jumped only led to bigger, more confusing challenges. So, we’ve been ticking away at it for over two years.
About three weeks ago, Frank got a call from the US Embassy in Dublin. They told him his visa had been approved! This was wonderful news. Except that he had to use it by August 3rd. At that stage, we were looking at having to be Stateside in 2 1/2 weeks’ time or start over, including paying the fees again. We were also told there was one additional paper we had to have renewed, one that usually takes several weeks to get. So we just kind of kicked into high gear, asking favours of family and friends and strangers, started researching flights and frantically running around trying to figure out what might happen in only a few days time. I was saying a lot of prayers, but I was also practically having heart palpitations every day over the instability of our immediate future.
Thank God – it worked out at the last minute, as these things usually do. Frank got the extra papers sorted and we found out more information from the Embassy. We learned that he could fly to the States and activate his visa and then come back to Ireland for a few more months to tie things up here. We also learned that I had to go with him as his main sponsor. On Thursday morning the 28th of July, the Embassy called and told us Frank’s visa was ready and waiting. So, while he took the train to Dublin to collect the papers, I booked the cheapest flights I could find – to Boston, of all places – and by Friday morning the 29th, we were on a plane headed West to the USA.
Filed under: America, Food and Drink, Ireland in General, UK | Tags: Hall & Woodhouse Brewers, Huyghe Brewery, J.W. Lees, Porterhouse Brewing Co, Shipyard Brewing Co, Wells & Youngs, Whitewater Brewing Co, Wychwood Brewery
As promised, here are the beers we tried over the last two weekends and our corresponding reviews. Slainte!
1. Banana Bread Beer - Wells & Youngs, Bedford, UK
Light perfume of banana on smelling with a subtle sweetness of bananas mixed with a light ale, a bit like Newcastle. Little bit of artificial aftertaste. Frank says, “When you burp, it tastes just like banana bread.” Nice, thanks Honey. This was nicer than I thought it would be and not sickly sweet. I would definitely get it again, but I wouldn’t drink more than one or two in a single sitting. M – 8/10, F - 7/10
When I was a kid, we used to go on school outings to The Skate Palace. It was a big deal, a reward for good grades, and I looked forward to it for weeks. I remember everything about those afternoons of roller-skating – it may seem silly now, but it was probably the biggest excitement of my young life, next to summer vacations and Christmas. But it was exciting in a different way. It was thrilling because… it was a little bit bad.
I got to thinking about this the other day when I heard the news of Whitney Houston’s death. As I contemplated the loss, I was transported back to those days at The Skate Palace when I would skate past a framed poster of Whitney up on the wall, one where she was leaning forward a bit to show her cleavage as she tossed back a massive tangle of teased 1980s hair. I was a little bit scared of Whitney Houston. And I liked it.
Not that my school would allow us to listen to her music! Oh no – our choices were very narrow, and even more so when my skating days were with the homeschool crowd rather than the private school crowd. I can still see the mothers-in-charge, pursing their lips as they sorted through the contributions of tapes and records for the DJ. New Kids On the Block? Definitely no. DC Talk? Nope. Amy Grant? Maybe. Michael W. Smith? Pushing it. Acapella Sings America? That’s more like it.
It was vehemently believed in our small circle that any kind of rock – and God forbid RAP – music, even if under the guise of Christian artists, was downright bad. If you listened to it, you’d end up getting pierced and dyed and living on welfare, or worse, you might turn Democrat.
But I still kind of liked it.
Filed under: America, Film, Health Care, Ireland in General, Writing | Tags: Simon Fitzmaurice
It may surprise you to learn that Frank was not the first Irish filmmaker to catch my attention.
It was 2004, my first year working for Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. I definitely felt in over my head as I frantically tried to manage a massive Call for Entries and plan for the upcoming Festival. I was still in the “I will do anything NOT to get in trouble” frame of mind, so when I got an email from Ireland requesting a fee waiver for a student film, I was immediately inclined to turn the cheeky filmmaker down. The short version is that the filmmaker, Simon Fitzmaurice, twisted my arm with his charm and I let the film in for free, thinking to myself, “this better be good.”
I remember getting the short film, “Full Circle,” in the mail and putting it straight away into the office DVD player, my curiosity driving me on. I pushed “play” and sat there, frozen, captivated in the dark room as I watched a beautiful story unfold, unlike any I had seen that year out of hundreds of entries. I had tears in my eyes and I was in love. This film HAD to make it into the Festival, and from that day on, I did everything I could to nudge it and encourage it forward in the process. When the jury chose “Full Circle” to win a Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Award, I was over the moon.