The Joy of Sadness

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” -W.B. Yeats I want to say a brief word today about the importance of making space for sadness. I'm not going to give a lecture about being brave enough to face our sad feelings in order to work…

The Beginning

2017 was a turbulent, strange, unexpected year for me. The highlight was going home to Ireland for a month by myself. I'm still processing the journey and what it meant to me, and you can follow along as I write about it in installments. I've posted four already, and more will be on their way…

A Writer in Ireland: Part Two

Castles are never how you imagine they're going to be. You picture yourself wafting from medieval great hall to windswept rampart, the imagined accompanying strains of Enya or Clannad making you feel ever so slightly weepy, when in reality you find yourself in rubbish-strewn, freezing ruins with Sam and Betty from Wisconsin, their shell-suited thighs…

A Writer in Ireland: Part One

Born in this island, maimed by history and creed-infected, by my father taught the stubborn habit of unfettered thought I dreamed, like him, all people should be free. -John Hewitt, "The Dilemma" There was a surreal, joyful melancholy to this homecoming. As we punched through the haze above a sweltering London and soared left, easing to…

Beginnings

I'm going home next June. I was born in Northern Ireland, and lived with my Protestant minister father and my mother and two siblings in County Armagh, just by the border. In the seventies (yes I am that old) South Armagh was known as “bandit country” because it was such a dangerous place to be during…

Music to Write By

If I'm lucky, every week I spend a number of happy hours by myself, writing. Music is often my only companion. If I'm really concentrating - trying to craft a particularly tricky sentence, or juggling a complicated plot sequence, I turn it off, but most of the time it is the perfect accompaniment. I'm like Pavlov's dogs: the minute…