What's the story about the 8th....?? - 21st November, 2017
So...The 8th December….
For the religiously inclined it’s the Feast of the Assumption, and naturally all the religiously run schools and institutions shut up shop for the day, making most parents have to take the day off as well to cater for their darling offspring.
It was also traditionally fádo fádo (a long, long time ago) the day that the farmers and country folk would make the epic journey to Dublin for a bit of oul’ Christmas shopping. (Frawleys on Thomas Street was a particular favourite of my grandmother for shopping in).
Now… what you have to bear in mind, is that the likes of motorways and the concept of public transport operating more frequently than ‘one bus up-one bus back’ is still relatively new to us.
The whole celtic tiger thing helped us get a little more cosmopolitan and open to more efficient ways of doing things… like getting to Dublin faster, and more frequently. Add in urban renewal projects in most large towns throughout the country, and there are now very few retail places that don’t have branches outside of the capital.
So… up to a decade or so ago, this was a common practice amongst the more aged among us to descend upon the city, in frantic attempts to spend their hard-earned cash they’ve been squirrelling away since Easter.
While officially it’s known as the Feast of the Assumption, it’s always been commonly referred to as “Culchie Day”, culchie being the traditional and derogative term Dubliners used to describe … well… everyone else.
It didn’t matter if you hailed from other (and dare I claim, better) cities such as Kilkenny, Cork, Galway, Waterford…
This hearty rivalry still exists to this day… not just on Culchie Day, but usually at little events such as All-Ireland Hurling or Gaelic Football Finals. If Dublin are in the finals you can be guarantee the rest of the country is behind and supporting whichever country Dublin’s playing against, even if it’s a rival to your own county… especially if it’s a rival county. We’re strategic and tactical like that in making convenient alliances. It’s all part of our devilish charm….
That’s pretty much the story behind the release on the 8th Dec. I travelled up to Siobhan last week and we had the final review/edit …. and so far, everything is ticking along nicely. Even have some great reviews and feedback
So to have a mini celebration, as well as a teaser, I’ve a treat for you... an exclusive digital bundle, consisting of ... a sample of the book and soundtrack and a desktop wallpaper. Click here to access your Exclusive Subscriber Crossing Lives Digital Bundle and download ..... And enjoy…
To paraphrase Robbie Burns… The Best Laid Plans… 7th November, 2017
… take 40 years to complete… or often go awry….
I did promise to email in October, but as you’ve probably realised, that didn’t happen. I’m blaming Ophelia, and in true Irish style, we gave her a collective national verbal thrashing on twitter. Got the day off work though. Thanks Ophelia.
I also did myself a bit of an injury, sprained one of the deep muscles in my right shoulder. Honestly, don’t ask… it’s probably safer and saner to not know…
I also had a work trip to Madrid (I know, my life is tough sometimes), to meet with my European counterparts. For why, I hear you ask… I’m soon-to-be-appointed to a project connected to the European Anti-Money Laundering Directive… and again, believe me when I say, it’s nowhere near as exciting as it sounds. It’ll be boring paperwork and recordkeeping. If you’re really interested in knowing more, I can send you a link to the Directive… It’s riveting!!! Add in the new General Data Protection Regulations and the party just won’t stop……
So, here we are, November already, and loads on this month, hence the earlier than normal email….
On the day-job side, my team and I have been nominated for an Excellence and Innovation Award. We’re one of 30 projects shortlisted from over 100, and we’re three engagements at part of this; photo and video shoots, tea with the Secretary General of our department, then the actual award ceremony at the end of the month. In between all that, I’m on a training course for Managing Underperformance…. I assure you, nothing to do with stage management or putting on a show…. Well, maybe…. I’ll keep you posted on that….
So, that’s all the boring, official (mortgage-paying) side of life….
On the other, more creative, side, there’s been loads happening….
My brand-spanky new digital piano arrived, (and partly the reason for the shoulder injury - a ‘I’ll only do 15 minute practice’ lasted 90 minutes instead!! Every. Single. Time.)
In saying that, it’s been fun relearning all my old stuff to play again, and… I’m working on the original version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I still haven’t worked up the courage to video any of these little practices/performances… yet….
I’m also in the home stretch for releasing Crossing Lives. And you probably know by now it’s never simple and straight-forward with me… but I asked a cop I know to have a quick read of it for accuracy and authenticity.
In less than 24 hours of receiving a draft copy of the novel, the Garda of 20ish years’ experience, none of which involved human trafficking, was involved in his first human trafficking case. Needless to say, I was subsequently accused of jinxing him with some form of witchcraft or sorcery…
Yeah… I’ve a knack for weird stuff like that… it makes life… I’m going to say ‘interesting’…
Agus sín a bhfuil agam (and that’s all I have)
All Hail the Overachiever..?? - 26th September, 2017
It’s recently come to my attention that I…. (and I can already hear the astonished gasps at the impending revelation) … am an Overachiever… Naturally I denied it for years, but only on the basis that I somehow equated overachieving with high achieving… which is something I certainly don’t think I do
(I stand to be corrected on that… Please submit your supporting evidence on a €50/$50/£50 note!! :’) )
So Overachiever…!! I guess what it means, to me at least, is that I try really REALLY hard.
To what end you may ask?
In a way it can be equated to perfectionism, (only perfectionism is more insidious and dangerous to the creative mind), but I’d always been taught to be the ‘good little girl’. That meant being useful as only a young girl could be in the 70’s and 80’s, cleaning, cooking, you get the idea…
But to be useful is to be of service… (is it any wonder I settled on a civil service job??). This obviously brings about its own set of issues and problems later in life; a tenuous grasp of self-esteem, confidence and identity. I know, I’m a product of my era and that generational way of thinking and doing.
Thankfully things are changing. Although it still raises a lot of eyebrows among my neighbours that I live alone and have remained quite happily single. I was actually ask what was wrong with me, that I’d never been married or even had kids by this stage… like… what? So it’s okay for a man to be happily single and no kids but me…??
So sometimes the ‘overachiever’ comes from having to work harder to be recognised, or to have achievements acknowledged.
There’s also the ‘if you’re going to do, do it well’ and the ‘think big’ philosophies, or to translate into the vernacular: no point half-assing something!! Of course this also applies to the fuck-ups as well… the whole ‘hung for a sheep as a lamb’ thing. If you’re going to fuck up, make it spectacular and worth your while… (and I’ve just realised how much I quote old sayings…. Feck…!! I’m turning into my grandmother :O )
This is now my default setting… while it took a while to get over the ‘it has to be perfect’ (and something I still struggle with from time to time)… I have managed to downgrade to a ‘it’s good enough’ setting. That still doesn’t mean I don’t agonise over the right word or note or sound effect in order to get it to ‘good enough’.
So, what does that mean for you mo chara… It means you get me, somewhat filtered (believe me, that’s a good thing), but here to entertain you, and dare I say it… be of service… creatively (just to qualify!!). My birthday present to myself (the downside to being happily single, you gotta buy your own presents!!) anyhoo… it’s on the way, and it is… a brand-spanky new, full-sized, weighted digital piano.
A little extravagant admittedly, but for two reasons… playing a generic keyboard is not the same as the real thing (as I discovered before my debut concert, and more recent practices on a piano – and I really miss playing the real thing!!)
Singing Faure and Elderly Hobbits.... 12th September, 2017
Listening to Spotify, (something I’ve started to do of late - it helps ease the tedium of registering 100’s of applications each day at the day job)… I usually listen to a classical music playlist… I know, strange that, but Cantique de Jean Racine by Fauré came on…. And yes…. Funny story about that too…
I was singing in a choir in Wexford a few years ago, (yeah yeah, vocally I get around!!), and they’d been invited to sing at the inaugural choral concert in the newly and purpose built Wexford Opera House. We were under the baton of James Cavanagh, one of the top conductors in Ireland, and great choral conductor and a genuinely nice guy…
I was back in the tenor section (admittedly, it’s where I feel the most comfortable), but that seemed to cause consternation in the audience…. Don’t worry… it’s all part of this tale)
The Opera House was a strange singing experience… most of my singing (with the few notable exceptions) has been in churches and other similar venues, where vaulted ceilings guarantee a decent amount of reverberation and definitely feedback as the sound bounces back to you in about 2 to 4 seconds. We don’t have monitors or earpieces to work from so being able to hear the orchestra playing is a bit of a necessity to know, not only when to starting singing, but also on what note to start on…
Wexford Opera House is not like that… at all… there’s no returning sound… it’s like singing into dead space, but that’s only the experience from the stage… Sitting in the auditorium is an entirely different, with full-on sound, and the hall is engineered that way…
I’d sent some tickets to a friend, and she and her hubby turned up for the concert. They were sitting in the right place at the right time to overhear the conversation about a scandalous thing in the choir…. There was a woman in the Tenors… but no, that couldn’t be true, could it? And better again, she was travelling all the way from Carlow… Carlow..!! Who in their right mind would do that? (It’s about 75km/47miles away – takes about 1:15 to drive there – so a 150km/94mile round trip… okay… so that is a bit mental in hindsight)
And again, I digress…
Anyhoo… my friend was able to indeed confirm that yes, not only was there a woman singing in a traditionally male part, but was indeed making that epic journey to sing with the choir, and that she knew said person. She was met with murmurs of astonishment, and other mutterings too indistinct to make out.
So… the performance itself… because I was one of the strongest tenors, able to hold my own in the line, I ended up standing beside the bass line, and in ‘blending in’ I dressed in a suit with a dress shirt, and a boy-sized bow-tie. Why boy-sized? Well I am only a girl…!!! And the man-sized one was practically touching my ears it was so big. So, anyway… there I am standing on stage in pretty much the middle of the front row, and everyone was trying to figure out who the long-haired blond (apparently somewhat attractive) bloke in the front was… Yep… Me.
This also caused some consternation in another part of the audience… One of the elderly ladies, Agnes, singing in the Alto part had also pre-warned her friends attending of this Tenor phenomenon so it became a game to ‘find the female tenor’… The only reason they could conclude it was me was because (and I quote) my ‘arse was too rounded to be a man’s’. They were scrutinizing everyone as we were walking on and off stage. Agnes was embarrassed to tell me this story weeks later, thinking I’d be highly insulted. Me? I thought it was hilarious. Yes, I get a kick out of knocking stereotypes and being mildly unconventional. (yes, yes, I’m as shocked as you at this revelation).
So, the concert itself, was a mix of orchestral and choral works. The first half was Handel’s Ode to St Cecilia. The second half started with an Irish themed orchestral suite, then followed by The Cantique de Jean Racine, which is a beautiful piece of choral music… when it’s sung properly..!! Why did I say that…. Well… after the opening orchestral section the Basses start off, only they came in about half a tone flat (even though we could hear the orchestra).
The look on the conductors face was priceless, and he was horrified…
So the next part in was the Tenors, and being one of the stronger ones I had a decision to make in a split second, come in in line with the Basses (out of tune) or come in on the right note even though it would clash with the Bass line.
I came in on the proper note, much to the conductor’s relief (again evident on his face) and it pulled the Basses back up to where they should be singing. It also meant the Altos then Sopranos were also in tune. A proud moment to be sure.
At the end of the concert, again we were faced with the unusual situation of having to depart the stage via the back-stage area. Normally, again at church venues, once the concert is over there’s rarely an orderly ‘walking-off’… it’s more like a disorganised dismount from either the steps or raised platform, and it’s usually to join friends and family with the aim of soliciting praise and acclaim. The definitive difference between amateur and professional… a back-stage!!
At the end, being in the front row, we were first to march off, and I made the dash from the stage door around to the front entrance to try catching up with the friends who’d turned up… only to be accosted by an elderly hobbit. I was wearing my ‘good’ Doc Martins with my suit, so I was definitely not in heels. I can confidently describe this elderly lady as hobbit-sized, and using a wicked-looking stout walking-stick. She grabbed my hand with a vice-like grip, terrifying the life out of me, if I’m honest.
“Young lady”, she said, tightening her grip even more, and in a tone that suggested she may have been a teacher in a former life. It was a tone that was about to brook no argument.
So my mind’s reeling, spinning through every possible criticism I anticipate is coming, including the old faithfuls about not dressing properly for a woman, about singing in the ‘wrong’ part…. You get the picture….
“Young lady”, she repeated, “I was watching you through the whole of the second half, and you never once…”
Again my mind is working overtime… What the hell didn’t I do…? I knew the music, I never missed an entry, and I’d watched the conductor… I did everything a choir singer should….
“… you never once”, again with the repeat, so I held my breath, fixed a polite smile and waited for the worst… “Not once… did you look at your music.”
Say what? At that point my brain ground to a halt… I had a ‘does not compute’ moment...
“Well done”, she said, shaking my arm almost out of its socket.
“Em, thank you”, is all I managed to say before the ‘be sociable’ sub-routine kicked in. “If it’s any help, I’ve sung the Cantique a few times, so I know it quite well”, I started to explain, receiving another jarring arm shake.
“I don’t care”, she answered, and again in that tone, aghast that I was downplaying not only the apparent achievement but also the compliment. She went on. “You never took your eyes from the conductor, and never looked at the music. Well done, well done.”
She let me go, and she disappeared into the departing crowd with more speed that I would’ve accredited to her.
So that was my adventure at the inaugural choral concert at the Wexford Opera House.
I honestly don’t go out of my way to cause a stir (but in fairness, it does seem to occur naturally around me! What can I say, it’s a gift…)
Not every conductor is happy to have a female tenor. Some would rather sacrifice the entire tenor line just to have a ‘pure’ sound, but with tenors quite hard to find, most are willing to give female tenors a try.
Some time later I had the opportunity to sing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (one of my bucket-list works) with Fergus Sheil (another eminent conductor) and again in the tenor section, only this time I was positioned beside the sopranos so that I didn’t look too much out of place.
Again, most of this stems from the public expectations, and this a classical-going crowd we’re talking about here, everything in its proper place (including the women). I guess it has to be borne in mind that women were prohibited from such public performances, or even playing orchestral instruments, with perhaps the exception of the violin until very recent. (The violin apparently showed off the neck in an indecent and suggestive fashion.)
As for the cello…? OMG… a women splaying her legs in such an indecent fashion… Such stereotypes, while thankfully are changing, still hold sway in certain areas and mind-sets…
So why do I sing in the Tenors… not only because I am an actual tenor (as well as mezzo-soprano), with the proper tenor tone… I sing there because I can, and because it challenges the ’norm’. Just because it’s the ‘norm’. doesn’t make it right…
Besides, the male bitchiness is way better than in with the sopranos!!!
On Surviving Milestones... - 22nd August, 2017
So, surviving milestones…
Yes, admittedly it’s an odd title (buy hey, it’s me we’re talking about)… Surviving sounds like a ‘Logan’s Run’ or ‘Crystal Maze’, run the gauntlet type of thing or, on the other hand, sounds like an age thing, that epic leap from the end of one decade to the beginning of another….
Well, it’s neither…
I’m talking about actual milestones, the ones we set ourselves in pursuit and achievement of our dreams… these are the goals we set ourselves, the targets we can tick off on the path to greatness and glory… So you’d think there’s be elation at hitting them, but all too often that sense of achievement and mild euphoria is all too quickly replaced by the ‘What next?’ syndrome.
So where am I going with this...
I hit a number of milestones so far this year, and might I also add, three that weren’t actually planned for, but had existed as vague steps… the kind of stepping stones on a riverbed that only show themselves when the water flow is low but ones that also prove useful…
So what are these?
The planned for ones were the albums and the book, all ticking along and on schedule (a few hiccups, but par for the course – and more on those in later emails)
The unplanned ones where two premieres and a studio gig… I will expand, don’t worry...
I’m in a group called the Irish Composers Collective, it’s a group of (guess what?) Irish Composers. Mostly it’s made up of university grads; I’m probably one of the more senior members (as in age, not length of membership).
For the first two years with them, whenever I put my name in the hat to compose for an upcoming concert, I never seemed to get anywhere, and so much so that I’d considered withdrawing completely, but last September my name was first out of the hat. This was a collaboration with spoken word artists and I was teamed up with a poet by the name of Damien Lewis (we only actually met in person on the night of the performance)…
Anyhoo, I digress (again)… for the first of this year’s premiers, the ICC committee put together a series of concerts for this season. Somewhat emboldened by the minor success of the spoken word one, I put my name into the hat for the next call, a quartet of two violins, cello and either classical/electric guitar. I was again first out of the hat. The piece for that I entitled “Auroral Eclipse”, and was performed at the offices Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO), and was described by one concert goer as ‘the one piece worth coming to hear.’ (Talk about a boost to the ego).
In the few weeks before that another call out for composers came for to work with Gamelan Nua (Irish for New). And guess what… pulled from the hat again. This was more of a challenge, not scored the way western music is, only 5 or 7 notes to work with depending on which instrument or system. To say it was challenging is actually putting it mildly, with the expectation of turning up for their practices adding unnecessary pressure into the mix.
I’ll admit I played (ha ha, no pun intended) it safe with the composition, but the greater result is that it was performed in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Alas not in the main auditorium, but on the plus side – bragging rights. Having been performed the National Concert Hall always looks good on CV’s and grant application forms.
I steered clear of the next two call-outs, but put my name in for the latest one…..
You’ll never guess….!!!
Fourth on the list!!! For a wind quintet this time (still not in my compositional comfort zone, but at least I know how to score/compose for this) and for performance in December, again to be performed in Dublin. (I will keep you up to date with what’s happening with it)
The studio gig was also unexpected, but again one harbours dreams and aspirations to be considered good enough to get ‘the call’… Would I be interested in laying down a cello track or two, on a new album…. Emm… let me think about this for all of two seconds….!!! It’s with the same guy with whom I did my Sound Healing Practitioner course with (healing studio upstairs, recording studio downstairs). We ended up laying down a cello track there and then on the one night (actually it was more like 3 different overlaid cello tracks….). So I’m a studio cellist now as well…..
I think when we set up high-level goal we often overlook the smaller, almost inconsequential steps, often disguised as a dip below the surface, or a side-step that doesn’t immediately seem to align with the ‘big picture’.
Opportunities seem to present themselves in unexpected ways and fear is never an excuse to not put your name forward. So why put myself through all this… well… it is a challenge, isn’t it? It’s an opportunity to flex my compositional muscles and to also expand my portfolio, as well a ‘getting out there’ to a new (albeit small) audience.
So I guess it’s important to realise that not all stepping stones are obvious, some lie just below the surface, but still provides invaluable support and help in moving forward nonetheless, so long as you’re prepared to get a little wet/suffer a little discomfort in pursuit of a goal.
Alas, no one ever said it was going to be easy, and as the saying goes; if it was easy, everyone would be doing it…
So what’s the difference between a viola and a trampoline….?? - 25th July 2017
You may or may not already know the answer to this one… and why have I asked…??
Well… it was homework set my Musicpreneur Sensi Carlos, and believe me when I say everyone in the group piled in with either their favourite or the one they’ve heard the most. (Personally, I’ve a few fav’s…. What’s worse than a clarinet...? Two clarinets – yeah yeah... good old rivalry between the string and woodwind sections).
What really stood out from the feedback in the group though is that bass players and drummers take (ahem)… a beating… The annoying guy who hangs around the band…? That would be said drummer… And as a bass player (sort of) all I can do is pretend to chuckle but inside I’m visualising the weight of a bass smacking across the back of their head… (but I couldn’t do that to an instrument, any instrument… except maybe the clarinet!!!)
Is this prevalent in any other art form?
Well of course it is… both writing and painting, craftwork and any other creative endeavour all require the submission of soul, the surrender of the ego, so perhaps the jokes serve a purpose, more than one.
We are naturally self-effacing creatures in an extremely, often excruciating lonely pursuit of a dream. Most are introverts, dreading those moments where we have to stand in the spotlight, and bare that tortured, agonised soul… but the jokes… they help us laugh at ourselves, to poke some fun at the absurdity of how serious we take ourselves more often than not. By teasing our comrades and musical contemporaries, we build a bond through instrumental rivalries … most of the time…. The band played Beethoven last night… Beethoven lost! I actually used that once to describe a concert I was a part of, only it was Vivaldi’s Gloria that got hammered. Beethoven himself was a master the elegant putdown, telling another composer of his time that he liked his opera, and that Beethoven would set it to music… so the bitchiness is not a modern phenomenon.
But aside from using them as a personal scourge and piling on the concept of the artistic struggle, why does society as a whole revel in hand-rubbing glee at these putdowns? Art, in all its forms, has and I sincerely hope will continue, to be the soul of society, the consciousness of the people. Cesar A Cruz once said that Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. No revolution was ever started by someone who couldn’t dream big, dream of a better way or who wasn’t afraid of that excruciatingly lonely pursuit of that dream. The jokes then take on the role of suppressing the artist, stuffing them back into their lonely little boxes. Society wants you to feel small, belittled, of little consequence, because deep down society is afraid and doesn’t want you to know it. It is afraid of the worlds we can build, the hope we can bring, the joy and happiness in the sublime…
I’ve fairly sure this wasn’t quite what Carlos had in mind when he set the task, but then again, since when did I ever follow the standard path? Me… I’m an artist, prepared to brush aside the brambles, the intertwined branches and push my way through my own personal artistic jungle….
And the answer to the opening joke…. You’d take your shoes off before jumping on the trampoline.
Oh!!! The Horror!!!
Now… if it was a clarinet….
Some exciting news coming soon….. (No!!, I’m not getting a clarinet…!!)
Slán agus beannacht
On Midlife Teenage Crushes - 11th July 2017
… (and the tribulations of casting your book)
Greetings and Salutations
Like pimples, spots and greasy hair there are some things that don’t go away after puberty wrecks its havoc…
The teenage crush is another one, although I think the more mature form is called infatuation. Whatever you want to call it, it can be quite obsessive… In really extreme cases it’s downright stalkerish and scary, (not to mention borderline illegal). When it comes to the ‘out there’ stuff, I have to confess, I’m a moderate conservative … yeah yeah; I hear raucous laughter in the background too…!!!
The last time I had such an infatuation over someone, I really was in my teens and it was over Jan-Michael Vincent, in Airwolf. I don’t normally go for the more mature gentleman, and yes, it’s also the embarrassing reason I took up the cello… well, one of the reasons, the other being that no one else at school was playing it so I was guaranteed a spot in the orchestra, no matter how bad I was… So… that’s one of the dirty (embarrassing) little secrets out of the bag.
The latest… or at least the more recent one, because he’s lost his lustre for me (or I’m just growing out of this man-crush), was Jared Leto…Yeah, I’d not heard of him either, until 2010. I remember it well, and it’s not a flattering story, for either of us…
An Irish publishing house ran a competition in the winter of that year in a bid to find the next hottest new writer. All one had to do was submit one’s award-winning manuscript and hope against hope it was more award-winning than the rest. Alas, mine was not. The book I’d submitted was Of Heroes and Kings. That wasn’t its title at the time either, Siobhán and I had batted about words and ideas on what to call this monstrosity. And it was, starting off with 160,000 words, but in getting it ready for the competition, and with Siobhán’s help, managed to get it down to 120,000 (still pretty epic proportions – when I was finally published in 2014, the manuscript stood at 98,000 words – that’s a whole novella’s worth cut from it)
But… the connection/discovery of Mr Leto… well… Siobhán and I did the inevitable - we tried to put a cast together, a list of our preferred actors for the roles… Corey Haim was another of my teenage crushes, but he’d passed away earlier that year, (which was quite shocking as he was the same age as me, and completely dispelling the Hollywood Glamour Myth). So the hunt was on to find another lead actor.
While the cast was all hypothetical, (and I’m sure it’s something most, if not all, emerging writers do… it’s like the writers version of fantasy football, putting your dream team together…) except no one fit the bill for Seth Morand (my lead in OHAK). And as I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise, I didn’t make the requirements easy. And before anyone asks… Jamie Dornan wasn’t on the scene at that stage, or he likely would’ve been in the (hypothetical) running…
No… Neither Siobhán or myself could agree on anyone, nor find one that fit the bill, until…
Early December 2010… Saturday night… nothing worth watching on TV so I scuttled on down the list of channels until I hit the music ones and settled on Scuzz. It played a song, and instrumental one (no mic-screaming lyrics), and though maybe Scuzz was experiencing a ‘mellow moment’ at that hour of the night. I was still editing OHAK so I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention, until it stopped and I glanced up to catch the name of the band. No such luck… until it started back up again with Part two. Ah, I thought, it was a suite (still thinking in classical mode), and that’s when any further thoughts of editing went out the window.
What caught my attention?
A half-dressed man, making impossible leaps out of tall buildings, running about the place, and with a really dodgy set of blond highlights in his hair….
Not that I was paying much attention to his hair because interspersed with all this action were very … er … interesting images (of a grown-up nature, we’ll say no more). To be fair, the guy looked a little familiar, I felt I’d seen him somewhere before, and then it twigged with me…. He was an actor (still couldn’t place him).
So what was he doing running around in a music video?
Obvious answer… hired for the job…
Why is he singing? (simultaneously groaning at yet another actor who thinks he can … oh wait… he can actually sing)…
But it was the fight scene in the video that sold him as Seth. It went beyond the mere talents of an actor. This had the smooth fluid motion of a warrior, and exactly how I imagined Seth would be…
I texted Siobhán: “I’ve found Seth.”
“Great”, she texted back. “Who it is?”
“Not a clue”, I replied.
This time I caught the song and name of the band, but to be honest, I couldn’t make out which was which, so I looked them both up… and this was back in the days of connecting to broadband… none of this wifi luxury. So I looked up Hurricane and it came back with a reference to a band, banned in 1971… After that video I could understand why, but it was a little modern to be of that vintage, so I looked up the other name: Thirty Seconds to Mars (thinking what a dumb-assed name that was for a band), but lo and behold I discovered Jared, and texted Siobhán… She’d never heard of him either so I stalked… er… researched a little deeper and found the list of his films (I KNEW he was an actor!!) and called her.
Some of the films we’d seen but he still didn’t stand out until I got to the film ‘Alexander’… then it twigged with me….
“So who is he?” she asked.
“The really bad Irish accent”, I said.
“Yeah,” the tone in both of us getting lower as we realise I may have made a grave error. “At least Seth’s American”, I said, “he wouldn’t have to attempt an Irish accent again.”
“Thank god for that”, she said, and I heard her shuddering down the phone…
I think I've moved on since then.....
Till next time.....
Slán agus beannacht
When I find myself.... - 27th June 2017
Mo chara. Cónas atá tú?
Put the kettle on, make a cuppa, settle in on your favourite seat…
I was going to start this with the opening ‘I found myself in Dundalk the other day’, but I was struck by the absurdity of that statement. Firstly by the ‘I found myself’ which implies I was lost … yes, yes… I know we’re all a little lost at times; spiritually, metaphysically and definitely physically, as in ‘okay, I took that turn, now where the fuck am I?'… sort of lost.
Secondly, how would you ‘find’ yourself in a place? Was a piece of you missing and you had to embark on a treasure hunt? Did you wake up in a strange place with no idea how you got there? [at this point I have no hesitation in openly admitting my mind works in mysterious ways, most of the time.]
In saying that, I know we’ve all read posts, blogs, stories of people ‘finding themselves’ when they travel. They find peace, find solace, even find their bliss… but I have to wonder just how long that lasts for. Does it stay with them when they return from their wanderlust? Or do they find themselves lost again, only to yearn for what they perceive is ‘missing’ from their lives.
At this point, I hate to sound like the end of a documentary where presenter or commentator says: ”If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised, please contact…” But seriously, if this is/was you, I’d love to hear about it…
And why should you? Why would I? Well, it goes back to the ‘I found myself in … [Don’t worry, I’ll get to the why Dundalk at some point..!!]
Do I ever feel metaphysically lost? Answer is, all the time. I rarely feel I fit in. Communication is best for me in writing because the speed of my writing is almost on a par with the speed of my thoughts, but writing also allows me to slow down and put a coherent stream of thoughts and ideas together. When I talk, it’s like having an out-of-body experience. There’s a 404 Error – connection not found between my brain and my mouth … and I babble… while the out-of-body me is cringing and wincing at the utter shite I seem to be spouting…
So, yeah … lost…
Ultimately I know it comes down to this whole ‘being present’ and ‘grounded’ thing, and it is something I am working on… Can I blame it on my extreme introversion? [I once scored a 1 on the Introversion/Extroversion scale of 0-13]. Blame it? Yes. But honestly, where does that get me? Sympathy? Alas … no. But even if it did, what would it really achieve? Nothing much. I think the psychological term is Learned Helplessness. [Betcha didn’t know I studied psychology for two years].
Another term is being [or playing] the Victim…
Now, before you point out that victim has many connotations, I humbly accept that. I’ve personally been the victim of crimes, [two different break-ins in the space of 10 days]. Those were situations beyond my control, and is not the kind of victimhood I’m referring to. It’s the one where there appears to be a severe allergy to taking responsibility. The ‘I failed my test because the teacher set the questions too hard’ sort of thing, when the reality was just you just weren’t arsed studying… Responsibility.
At this stage I’m guessing what’s going through your head at this point is ...’where’s she going with this?’… [was kinda wondering the same thing…]
Okay… grounding… re-centring… And…
Tolkien once said: Not all who wander are lost.
Emerson said: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
So the point, I suppose… is that we don’t really ‘find’ ourselves in these places. The location, or the book, or the music simply holds the key to unlocking and revealing that part inside you that already existed, but either we weren’t ready to see/accept/experience it, or we were afraid to …[that pesky personal responsibility thing again]
And even then, the key to unlocking this isn’t in the place or in the thing we read… the key is also within, but it’s the external experience that resonates with us, wakes us up, makes something rattle inside us, the same way wine glasses will shake. The uncomfortable disconcerting unsettled feeling inside is the key to discovering yourself. And if you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable, all the better. It means you’re not afraid to seek your own personal truths, push your boundaries, or to go out on a limb. As my dad always says, you make your own salvation. A bit of a sage, my dad.
Okay, metaphysical ramblings over…
So… Dundalk… it’s not exactly ‘just up the road’, and I checked google maps, it’s 173km/108 miles away, but thanks to the power of social media, I got an invite to an Italian composers concert. In checking it out, I also booked a ticket for a Swiss composer’s premiere concert for the night before, and then had the opportunity to attend a reception by the Swiss Embassy.
Now, at the risk of dispelling all magic and mystery about this… this isn’t the norm when it comes to classical music [well, in my experience anyway]. Perhaps it was a convergence of all the necessary elements. It was an interesting night, and I put myself ‘out there’ [fumbled the ball trying to talk to the composer, but hey, you can’t win them all]… but… I am in a position to now invite the Swiss Ambassador and the Honorary Consul to the premiere performance of Emergence. [It’s still in the planning stage at the moment. And when I go for it, it’s usually pretty epic, that goes for the fuck-up’s too!!]
And Dundalk holds another special place for me. I’ve a scene set here in Of Heroes and Kings, so I did the tourist thing, found the street corner where I’d set the scene, and took pics. At the suggestion of Carlos, my musicpreneur guru, I’m going to create videos of book/chapter readings and add the pictures of the various locations in [another future feature to look forward to].
So in a way, I did ‘find’ myself in Dundalk. I found the bravery to go “Hi, I’m Elaine, it’s a pleasure to meet you’… and … ‘actually, I’m an author and composer myself’… and … ‘you’d like to hear more about it? Sure…’
There was no out-of-body experience… well, only when I made an ass of myself to the composer … but as Samuel Beckett once said: Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Jaysus… us Irish are a deeply philosophical lot..!!
So that’s pretty much all from me for now. Again, as always, your thoughts and views are always welcome and appreciated.
Go n-eírí an bóthar leat
Slán agus beannacth
You can change who you are…. But ... - 13th June 2017
...can you escape who you’re meant to be…..
Tá fáilte romhat,
So we’re firmly into summer, or at least what passes for summer here (pretty much like winter, but the rain is warmer), although the forecast for the rest of the week is supposed to be good, with actual sunshine…..
So…..The title… “You can change who you are…. But can you escape who you’re meant to be”….. What the hell am I talking about this time……?? Put the kettle on……..
When I was growing up, discovering boys, starting to date and all that craic, I often fell afoul of that one thing that bugs the life out of me (and still does to this day)…
It’s a really Irish thing… at least I think it is, and I have to admit that I find this whole current obsession (perhaps that’s a bit strong) with the ancestry thing quite bizarre, but that’s because of the aforementioned thing that bugs me…
Meeting any boy’s parents is a daunting thing at the best of times, but growing up in a small(ish) town made it seem like facing an interrogation by the Gardaí from Special Branch. (May I also point out that I’ve actually no experience of such an interrogation, it’s pure conjecture, imagination and too much police dramas), but I’d always be asked: ‘so who would-ja be on your mothers/fathers side’.
In the good olde days before internet and google, where you can trace your lineage from the comfort of your laptop, all you had to do back then was say who your grandmother or grandfather was and the local busybody… er… historian would unerringly trace your line back three to four more generations from them. Only when they could go back that far, and didn’t have a bad reputation were you deemed acceptable. If you had relations known to have fecked off to England, or even better, to ‘A-meri-K’ then you earned extra bonus points. If your line held any disturbing or unsuitable traits then you lost points, rankings and were subjected to a frosty reception before you were swiftly dumped by said boy. (Obviously not being good enough for that family).
Now, for the sake of entertainment and a good read, I exaggerate… kind of...
The trouble with living and growing up in a small(ish) town is you couldn’t (and to directly quote my grandmother here) “piddle crooked or someone would know about it” (sometimes she varied the piddle with widdle, but you get the picture).
Yes, small towns are rife with such idle gossip, and with only one real channel on the TV back then, maybe have an aerial strong enough to pick up a BBC channel, well… it’s ripe for a bit of auld unsavoury chat. Add marriages into the mix and you end up with a family tree that quickly turns into a jungle (I know because I saw the one for only one of the Brennan sides on my mother’s side, it had no bearing or relation to the Brennan’s on my dad’s side). This is why I steer clear of the whole thing… it gets just way too messy. And there’s an old saying too, where there’s a will, there’s about 500 relations waiting to get in on the act. Whoever said it obviously had an extended Irish family.
But, I hear you mutter, where or what does that have to do with the title… Ah, I answer… everything (and I’m getting to it, honestly), but another anecdote from the personal archives to explain…
Not long after my grandad had passed away, I was indulging in a round of Pitch & Putt (or mini-golf if you’re on the other side of the Atlantic) and ended up playing a round with a very nice gentlemen whose house and garden backed onto my grand-uncle’s (on my dad’s mother’s side – it tends to get very complicated) property. My granduncle had a ‘bit’ of a reputation for being a contrary and narky old fart.
So, having one half of my lineage already established, I was then asked ‘who would I be on the other side’? (The standard question for this line of enquiry.) After we established who my mother’s father was, this kindly gentleman fixed we with a ‘quare’ eye (a really strange look) and said, (with a hint of resignation to my fate, I noted), that with my granduncle on one side, my grandfather on the other, (and I quote): “Jaysus, you must be like a briar”. Naturally I tried to regale my folks with this horror story, but my dad just laughed and said it would teach me not to tell people who I was…
But here’s the thing… Am I resigned to such a fate and such a temperament? Are any of us? Are we doomed to succumb to inherited personality dispositions? Or… once mindful of them, can we change? Neither of my folks display any of the narkiness that was prevalent in men of that generation, that whole ‘I’m the man, and that’s why’ mentality. (my dad’s always been very progressive in that regard)
Now, in saying all that, I’ve definitely inherited my granddad’s (dad’s side) penchant for mischievousness, and his ma’s ability to tell a tale (or two, and of epic proportions). Are these inherited, or products of exposure, listening to the stories of my grandad’s often ingenious pranks? Or has deciphering the who’s who of the stories my grandmother told instilled a sense of intrigue that I’ve since utilised in my own story writing?
And the music, it exists on both sides of the family tree. Both granddad’s were Séan Nós singers, as was the aforementioned narky granduncle, and one granddad played the button accordion.
So while I’m not immune to little bouts of ire whenever an unpleasant situation arises, I certainly don’t think I’m ‘like a briar’. (Although I do stand to be corrected by anyone who may provide evidence to the contrary).
At least, not anymore… growing up/maturing a bit, meditation, the quest for self (aka midlife crisis) has taught a lot of lessons, including being mindful of how I react to situations and people, and events and all the other crap that life can throw at you. But then there’s in other side, the writing, the music with clear lines of traceability of their origins, any maybe it all comes together in me… once I finally got my act together, and my arse in gear…
So yes, I do believe you can change who you are…. But having (finally) realised who I’m meant to be, why would I need to escape it…?
As always, you thoughts and replies are always welcome…..
Slán agus beannacht
Summer's finally here.... (Sort of) 31st May 2017
Mo chara (my friend)
How's it going? Well, summer is finally here, in Ireland at least, and the 'sunny south east' certainly lived up to it's name.... for all of three days, then proper summer weather returned to normal with almost two days of a downpour.
After the appearance of that bright glowy orb in the sky (and a quick google search to figure out what it was - it's been a while since it was last seen, to be fair) came the inevitable freckle explosion from exposure...
The curse of Irish skin...
In saying that, I received a compliment from a friend on facebook which I have to admit threw me a little, I'd been taunted at school, mostly by flawlessly porcelained and blond classmates for being impure... I kid you not... almost like a scene from Harry Potter... The compliment made me question my own programmed beliefs that no longer serve...
But.... this wasn't what I had intended when I started this email.... honestly!!!! I had updates, and a little surprise.... hurrah... I've been playing around with the cover arts and came up with some wallpapers for your delectation, and you can download here.
So the topic for this email.....Precociousness…
It’s a word I’d only learn when I hit my teens, but it was something I instinctively and actively practised as a kid. Despite the warnings in the early ‘70’s (1970’s just to be pedantically precise about it), I still talked to strangers, accepted sweets… anything to be liked, accepted, wanted by society in general, and the world at large. And on an early morning in a hotel room in Tallaght, Dublin, I find I still do.
So… let me explain a few things. Early morning because I’m uncharacteristically wide awake at stoopid-o’clock. A trip to the loo and subsequent peek out of the window (and an amazing view for a city hotel room) revealed what seemed an unrealistically bright morning beyond the curtains, and proved to be the lights (on fully beams) on in the stadium across the road. Football? Rugby? I don’t know. I care even less, that’s sporty crap and I don’t really do sports.
So what then has me in a hotel room? Am I on some adventure? Somewhere exotic?
It had a bad rep as I was growing up, but it’s rejuvenated itself and even has a luas (tram) stop, a luas that goes all the way into the 3Arena (formally The Point Theatre), where I was the previous night to see one of my favourite comedians; Billy Connelly. (And I wanted to see him before he pops his clogs/kicked the bucket, so to speak.)
He’s not a well man, with Parkinson’s and overcoming cancer. In his own inimitable way he takes the piss out of his condition. His way of not giving in or giving up, methinks. His observational humour is something I love, admire and subconsciously assimilated over the years. Robin Williams was another amazing mind and quick wit that left too soon. Two amazing, admirable men, fighting their own battles in their own ways.
But… what has this all got to do with pre-dawn writing in a hotel room far far from home (Donkey – Shrek fans will get it!!) Well, three reasons…
Actually, one reason, three different messages…
Firstly from Carlos, my musicpreneur coach, telling me to start blogging, a concept I’ve resisted from the start of my artistic ‘career’.
Like… what would I write, to which he answered; “You’re a storyteller, tell them a story they want to hear.” “Right on”, I said, poking fun at Carlos with his own catchphrase.
Or… translate that into Irish-speak “Yeah! Right!” (meaning, no! I don’t think so!)
Then Dave, a long-time friend, newly established PR Guru (and the guy who introduced me to the music of Tori Amos) said to write three pages each morning, every morning.
Eh, come again Dave and feckin wha?
“Yeah, three pages, they could be post-its,” he says.
Now… I know my handwriting’s small, but there are limits. So, a notebook sat on the bed, unopened, unused, neglected, feeling so sorry for itself. And a pretty little notebook, so it does go to show, look’s aren’t everything.
So message number three came from Michelle, while we had coffee in the same hotel only the morning before, and she said I should write my story. She’d read my intro email homework/assignment set by Carlos, and she’d found them funny, insightful. But… write my story? Like with Frank McCourt and other dreary, turn of the century tombs of woe that send readers into a deep spiral of depression?
“Ah”, she said, “but you used music to heal, and now it’s helping to heal others. Write about that…”
So there you go, how these emails came to be......
And so my friends, until next time....
Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.
17th May 2017
Welcome back - Tá fáilte arís - (Anyone brave enough to try pronouncing it, here is it phonetically - Tah fall-tcha a-riche)
And welcome to the inaugural Clan email (outside of the initial welcome ones)….
Having had my ass handed to me for my lack of communication skills, you’ll be happy to hear I’ve gotten my act together, and have some more stories, anecdotes, and even an advance preview of the next book that’s coming out at the end of the year, and will be landing in your email boxes on a more regular basis from now on …
(and sure, while you’re here, stick the kettle on for a cuppa, you know this will be long one).
… is one of my oldest and one of my best friends. The actual oldest friend (as in the longest) is Selin in Turkey, who I started writing with through the International Pen Pal thing back in the 1980’s, and yes, we’re still writing, albeit infrequently and via emails mostly…
But I digress…. Siobhán is also my editor, and I’ve gotten to the point where I no long argue back about comma’s… there’s just no point….. (groan, sorry, that was bad).
We first met back in ’90 in Rostrevor, Co Down (Northern Ireland), as part of a cross-border education/cultural initiative. I’d just finished a year Post Leaving Certificate(final State exams for anyone outside of Ireland) course in Secretarial studies (yep, I’m a qualified secretary, but no, I haven’t worn the stereotypical short skirt since my early days in the civil service when a female manager followed me into the toilets to tell me how well the skirt fitted around my arse)… Sorry…. Another digression…
I’ll back it up another step… Why was I doing a secretarial course? I didn’t get any of my choices for college that year, and my folks thought this course would be good for getting a job. Me? I only did it to learn how to type, so I could be a real writer (yeah, don’t worry, I have since learned, that’s not what makes a writer, but the ability to type sure does help).
At the end of the academic year, the Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) of Carlow County Council announced this cross border scheme, and ran a competitive interview to select candidates for a three month work/student experience in France. Naturally, I had to give this all of two seconds of considered thought before deciding to go for it, and I was one of four selected from the course. We were joined by another four students from the VEC School in Baganelstown, Co Carlow, and twelve students from various schools in Co Antrim and Co Tryone in the North.
So that was twenty of us heading to Montbeliard, France for three months on various work placements. It was a blast, with some scary moments for me, but that’s for another time and email.
The whole point of the scheme was to develop North-South cooperation, communication, friendships, almost a decade before the Good Friday Agreement was reached, and I’m quite proud to say, that this North-South connection is still going strong after twenty-seven years. It can be contentious at times, but what friendship isn’t.
And our initial meeting didn’t bode well either that first weekend in Rostrevor. I tried to avoid her completely. She reminded me too much physically of my school bully, hence the aversion, but on a walk into the village on a Saturday afternoon, after the familiarisation and team building exercises, we were the two stragglers. She asked if she could walk with me. I just shrugged and said yeah, sure. The rest is history. We’ve been (metaphorically) inseparable ever since.
So, as always, I hope this has brought a respite to your day, a bit of a smile…
Til next time…
Slán agus beannacht
(s-lawn a-gus bann-ocht)