DALKEY BOOK FESTIVAL

Seaside Marquee – DALKEY BOOK FESTIVAL
In the last few years I have become a right pain in the ass about The Dalkey Book Festival.  “It’s great,” I enthuse to all and sundry, “brilliant events and the town buzzes with energy and the sun always shines”.  Most of those I know who visit will book one or maybe two events.  But me… with my addictive personality… I book way too many and end up tearing about the village from tent to town hall and back again.  I try to build in gaps where I can venture home just so my kids don’t think I have actually gone away for the weekend.  Although every year I wonder should I book into the B&B in the village if there is such a thing – and that’s another mystery – why isn’t there a boutique hotel in Dalkey?  Staying onsite would enable me to not miss a thing… I could completely immerse myself in all the cleverality.  Like the old days back in Dunelles pub in Dun Laoghaire where even if you weren’t smoking a joint yourself, you could get high just breathing I could absorb more just by being there.
Dalkey is a perfect location for a festival.  It’s small and retains the feel of an Irish village, but it also has lots of great places to eat and drink.  And boy is it scenic.  Even for me, a Dun Laoghaire woman (2ndgeneration, I’ll have you know) who misspent much of her youth around Dalkey, the festival allows me to glimpse the location through fresh eyes, especially this year with the addition of the The Seafront Marquee in Dillons Park overlooking Dalkey Island.
But what makes the Dalkey Book Festival so compulsive is that it provides much of what is missing in Irish media today.  A chance to sit and listen to some great speakers discussing big questions, philosophical questions… the kind of stuff that makes you think.  There are great panel sessions too where various topics are debated.  But not debated in the polarised way we have become used to seeing on TV where the extremes are encouraged to contest the issue in sound bites with the facilitator constantly chiding them to hurry up.  Dalkey Book Festival is many ways is reminiscent of the heyday of the Late Late Show.  Long conversations liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and humour.
It is a perfect way to hear your favourite journalists (Fintan O Toole, Olivia O’Leary and Dearbhail McDonald featured this year) as well as writers and thinkers on a wide range of topics.  And that is the key to understanding the Dalkey Book Festival – it’s not just about books, it’s about much more.  And at its heart are the long philosophical conversations that Irish people love to have on topics that are important to us.  This year there were sessions titled ‘Economists, What Are They Good For?’, ‘New World 2020’ and ‘The Next Billion’.  My own favourite was ‘Who Owns 2016’.  And again, unlike the debates we are normally subjected to in Ireland on radio and TV, there are no winners.  No conclusion – but plenty of food for thought, plenty to mull over for days afterwards.
Oh – and it tends to remarkably free of politicians.  What’s not to like?
Well, there is one thing… I would love to see more women on the various stages.  From quick count I did on the adult events (there’s a great kids programme too) there are almost double the amount of men on stage than women.  And historians – although I like Diarmuid Ferriter, I sometimes wonder is he our only historian.  I would especially like to hear someone like Mary McAuliffe discussing Ireland’s revolutionary decade.  Mary has done lots of interesting work on women’s involvement… perhaps that might be something the organising committee would look at next year.
Either way I will be there.  I’m saving already… are you on their mailing list? 

IT’S WORLD BOOK DAY

Some of my best friends are books.

Some of the best trips I have ever taken have been within the pages of a good book.

Books have a gentle power to raise your spirit, open your mind, and touch your heart.

There are few pleasures more sublime that starting a new book which holds the promise of a great escape into another world.

Being an enthusiastic reader, with ambitions to one day write a book, I love going to hear established favourite authors doing readings and being interviewed. I love to hear how they write, where they write, what inspires them and how they started. Not surprisingly good writers often are great talkers. I have been enthralled by Alexander McCall Smith (wonderful raconteur), Melvyn Bragg (oh the intellect), Patrick Gale (who lives what seems like an idyllic life) and our own Maeve Binchey (master storyteller). These evenings have all been interesting, amusing and inspiring, not to mention a cheap night out.

Dun Laoghaire is probably one of the best places in the country to live if you like books and writing. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Library Service runs the wonderful Library Voices series of talks by writers, along with the annual ‘Mountains to Sea Dun Laoghaire Book Festival’. And down the road is Dalkey which now also holds an annual Book Festival.

Of my three daughters, two have been reading since they were first able to make sense of words on a page – which is just as well as I was an awful reader of bedtime stories. Tucking my babies into bed and settling myself beside them to read, usually resulted in my snoring gently long before they did. My dear eldest, who is now living in Perth, never read despite my regular encouragements. But (and listen up all you parents who fret about your children reading) when she began to commute into town, as the ripe old age of 23 she discovered the joy of books. Once again, the sight of any of my girls with their head in a book never fails to make me smile. It’s as joyous as watching a line of washing blowing around in the spring breeze. And I love hearing the regular cries of “mom, I’ve nothing to read.”

When I think of children and books I always think of Gaybo on the Late Late Toy Show who always began the book segment by saying that giving the gift of a book to a child is to give for life… how right he was. Santa always brings books to this house.

Like most readers I also love a good bookshop. To wander around shelves crammed with wonderful characters, tales from all around the globe and from all periods of history including the future is truly magical. The air is heavy with possibilities. Libraries offer similar promise coupled with wonderfully eclectic noticeboards offering local courses and services. When my girls were younger the local library was a great way to pass the afternoon and again cost nothing.

The only thing, associated with reading and books that I don’t really like is book clubs, which surprised me. I did join one for a while but it brought out the worst in me (she says honestly). I realised how much I don’t like being told what to do – as in ‘this is the book we are all reading this month.’ I cheated when it was my turn by suggesting books that I had already read so I could have a month off to read my own books. Whatever personality fault I have, meant that I couldn’t take the talking and debating the book seriously. I reverted to my teenage schoolgirl self, messing, making facetious remarks and disagreeing just for the sake of it. I decided to leave the club (although some of my best pals are in it), before I was asked to behave which would have been the ultimate humiliation. I suppose my ideal book club would be where each person would bring a good book they had read on the basis of ‘bring a book, take a book.’ But then again I do this with my bookish friends informally anyway.

I have a rule which says that life is too short and too full of good books to spend time reading a book you are not enjoying. You know that feeling when you go to bed and remember the book you are reading is not doing it for you. That’s a sign to abandon book and pick up another. It’s the reverse response to a good book – which you dread finishing, because you don’t want it to end.

Finally – books are meant to be shared. Don’t clutter your home by hanging onto every book you have ever read. Swop them, donate them to your local charity shop or take them to a second hand bookshop where you will get credit you can use to get more!

I am about to start the latest book by one of my favourite authors (Dun Laoghaire Library Service take note) – The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall by Paul Torday. Paul’s first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen remains one of my all time favourites and it has recently been made into a movie which will be released here just after Easter. I have seen it and it’s a gem. I will post a review in due course!

So if you have time today pop by your local bookstore and pick up a book – it’s World Book Day and you’re worth it!

Happy Reading….

Photo of my ‘To Be Read’ book shelf where my books are minded by my owls!

ESCAPE INTO A GOOD BOOK

This morning on my slot on 4FM with Gareth O Callaghan, I talked about books and the joy of escaping into a well written book. I am not one for thrillers, true life crime or gritty reality. No, my favourite type of book is a well written story full of quirky and well drawn characters. Bearing that in mind I mentioned some of my all time favourites, which are:

This is a great book especially if you own a dog. It is narrated by Enzo the family dog who is in his twilight years. Enzo is a wise old soul, who believes in reincarnation (he can’t wait to come back as a man with thumbs) and loves to watch motor racing on the TV. But this isn’t Marley and Me. Enzo tells us the story of family who deal with love, loss, trauma and illness. It is beautifully written and really gets under your skin as a story. You will laugh and cry and in the end you will look at your own dog in a whole new light.

This is a very charming book which tells us the story of Mr Rosenblum and his attempt to become the perfect English Gentleman. As you might guess the Rosenblums are German Jews and Mrs Rosenblum does not share her husbands obsession about becoming English. She works hard to remember where they have come from and protect their culture. But her husband leads them on a wonderful adventure in a rural English village which is comic but ultimately poignant. A great story, gently told. Takes a wee while to get started – so bear with it for the first couple of chapters.

I bought this book on a whim as a gift for a friend and borrowed it back as soon as I could. Set in the deep south of America it tells the story of the two Waverly sisters who live in a big house that has been in their family for generations. Magic is all around as the garden blooms all year around and has a particularly special apple tree. Claire Waverly is a caterer who makes treats and cakes using ingredients from her magic garden – so that her confections can have strange affects on those who eat them. Their perfect life gets somewhat ruffled when a new neighbor moves in next store and ivy starts to grow in the garden. A book to curl up with and dream about later.

A prolific writer Alexander McCall Smith is a charming Scotsman who only began writing after a long and successful career in law. To date he has written about 60 books and is probably best known for his No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series which is set in Botswana. However I love his Scottish books particularly his Isabel Dalhousie series. Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher who edits a monthly journal and is hugely interested in people and in moral dilemmas. This can regularly lead her to get involved in other people’s issues more than she probably should. These books are set in Edinburgh, McCall Smith’s home town which he clearly loves. The descriptions of the city and the gentle pace of these books make them such relaxing reads.

So these are some of my very favourite books. If you like the same kind of books I do, I would love your suggestions for my reading list!

And don’t forget to tune in every Saturday to 4FM for Gareth O Callaghan’s ‘Anything Goes’ programme – a great magazine programme for a Saturday morning.

Photo by Raider of Gin on Flickr

ME and BOOKS

The lovely Olive O’Brien, writer of children’s books asked me to write a Guest Post for her lovely Blog, Write Olive. And so I did! The post is entitled My Books, My Friends. So head on over to Write Olive, have a read and leave a comment. Don’t forget to tell her I sent you!

I hope you enjoy. And thanks Olive for honouring me with a guest appearance on your blog!

HOUSEKEEPING STUFF

No not that type of housekeeping, although it is exactly that, that I am abandoning for a couple of days for a wee break in the Sunny South East – Wexford to be precise!

So I shall be off air – which may be a relief to many of you!

I will bring notebook and pen and hope to write some bits and pieces if I get the peace and quiet I crave! I am also bringing Uncut Diamonds, the book I won from it’s author Karen Jones Gowen’s Blog. And a bit of spirituality with another dip in and out of book.

I am looking forward to walks on the beach, and around the nature reserve we are staying on. The girls (2 out of 3) are a little dubious about all this peace and quiet but Dylan is more than excited! And is raringto go as you can see above!!!

Anyway in the meantime, can I direct you over to my dearly beloved’s blog where you will find details of his involvement in Happy Faces Day in aid of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland. So if you are in the Cabinteely area next week – pop in and have your photos done for a donation to the charity. All details on Paul Sherwood’s Blog

So enjoy the rest of the Easter Holidays….

Barbara

x

SOME RANDOM BOOK NEWS!

I have just realised that I am much luckier in the blogosphere than I am in real life! In real life, I never win anything. I won £5 on the Lotto in 1987 but nothing since, until I started blogging that is. A couple of weeks ago that nice young man, Donal Skehan over at The Good Mood Food Blog sent me a lovely book of Healthy Heart Cooking by Sally Bee; my prize for winning a competition on his Facebook page.

And now I hear that because I was the 100th follower of Karen Jones Gowen’s blog Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author, there is another book winging its way to me, this time from the USA. Karen’s second book (respect sister writer) is called Uncut Diamonds. She describes it as a 350 page novel, a mix of chick lit and women’s fiction. It’s Steel Magnolias with Mormon characters, following the lives of two sisters, one married one single, set in rural Illinois during the 1970’s. Well being a child of the 70s myself and a HUGE fan of Donny Osmond, that sounds just great! You can buy (sorry) your own copy from her website!

So it is a nice balance to also let you know about another book project. Gareth Pearce is a good guy who is putting together a book of stories to raise money for Concern’s work in Haiti. Gareth says that ‘we Irish all have at least one good true story to tell – whether it be funny, sad, poignant, surprising…’ So if you have a story which might fit the bill send it to Gareth at trueirishstories@gmail.com. For more information see http://www.trueirishstories.com/

"And I would like to thank….."

“I am so overcome, I can’t believe it! Oh my God, I am so thrilled.”

OK, so that’s actually from my Oscar acceptance speech but I am very honoured to have been given my first blogging award from my friend Suzannah at Joy Frequencies. Being appreciated by fellow bloggers is a great pleasure especially when that blogger is someone who writes as well as Suzannah! So thank you S.

Now I have the pleasure of passing the award on – and it must go forward and not backwards ( Joy Frequencies is one of my favourite reads – along Suzannah’s other great blogs Journeys Close to Home and My Name Is Zing).

So, first off I would like to give this award to Niamh Griffin over at Writer On The Way Home. Although Niamh’s blog is really aimed at returning emigrants and new arrivals to Ireland, her view of this country with fresh eyes (having spent many years abroad) often gives native readers such as I, a quirky and wry look at Ireland and her writing is insightful and always entertaining. So congratulations Niamh – here is your award!

I would also like to present this award to Alison Wells at Head Above Water. Alison is a gifted writer and her blog is full of wisdom and beautifully put together words. She is a great encourager of anyone attempting to write and an inspiration. So here you go Alison!

Finally, (and I know this could be seen as nepotism), I am going to hand this award on to one of the best photographers I know – Paul over there (a few feet away) at Sherwood Photography, not for his words but for his sublime images! Here you go Sherwood – catch!

Now, part of the deal, apparently is that on receiving this award I now have to list 7 things I like (excluding people). So here goes….

Books / Bookshops / Libraries…. in other words I love spending time with books, whether reading them or just being surrounded by them.

Animals – regular readers of this blog will know that I love my cats and (as they say at all the best gigs) it’s time to introduce the band. Tiger (tortieshell) is the Matriarch and beginning to show her age now, Simba (very large tabby – used to be male) is the constant in the house or garden and the most vocal, Pasqua (ginger used to be male) is a shy boy who had a very difficult youth but just wants a quiet life now and finally Kitty – or girl cat as she is known. Kitty hangs with my youngest whom she loves very much. She used to love the eldest until eldest (who is 22) got a boyfriend. And my boy Dylan (da dog) needs no introduction!

Good Coffee – must be proper coffee, especially in the morning. My favourite is Illy – and thanks to Nor who keeps me supplied.

Churches – especially when abroad I love to visit churches. Churches especially when devoid of priests and dogma are truly beautiful and sacred spaces.

Autumn – my favourite season. See my post A Heartfelt Welcome for Autumn

America – great service, good positive attitude and some of the friendliest people on earth. And we will be there in less than two weeks. Whoop de doo

Laughing – I have a sign in the kitchen that says “a good laugh is sunshine in the house”. And so it is!

So there you are – over to you Niamh, Alison and Paul should you wish to play!

Now excuse me while I go and move some things around to make space on the mantlepiece!

What 5 things would you hate to have to live without?

What are the things in your life that you really could not bear to be without? What are the little pleasures that you indulge in regularly? The things that make your day or week complete. Kids and partners/family don’t count. But list just 5!

Here are mine (in no particular order).

Red Wine – have I a problem? Don’t think so, but am big enough to admit that as the week rolls on and as Thursday and Friday afternoon heads towards 5pm, I like nothing better than the pop sound of the cork being wrenched out of the bottle, followed by the glug, glug of the red nectar splashing into a suitably large glass!! And the first sip of red wine.. mmm.. What time is it?

Books – what’s to explain? I always have at least one novel on the go and possibly have another one for dipping in and out of being read also. I get very antsy if I don’t have another 3 or 4 lined up waiting for my attention.

Baths – really cannot understand how some people get rid of their baths in order to make way some huge, fancy, jets coming from all angles shower. Showers are OK for waking you up and revitalising you. But for relaxation and the sensual pleasure of sinking your weary bones into warm, perfumed, bubbly water – YOU HAVE TO HAVE A BATH. Most of my days finish with a lovely, lazy soak…

Cats – As regular readers of my blog will know I have a dog I adore and who adores me. But I also have 4 cats who treat me with differing attitudes but none of whom adore me. All like (and probably love) me, but they balance their affection with occasional sympathy (like they know it all and I am more than a little daft), contempt (try moving a cat off your place on the sofa) and sometimes they just like to ignore me – no doubt ‘cos they think that I am getting ideas above my station. Even though I spend my life getting rid of cat hairs from everywhere, I love the way my four cats decorate various corners of my home and garden. And cats always know how to look terrific!

Chinese Take Out – I can’t wax lyrical about Chinese food cos I know it’s full of msg and stuff that makes you fall asleep about an hour after eating it! But Friday nights in front of the telly in my PJs (having had an early bath), book at the ready in case the telly is crap, cat beside me (and hubby beside cat!), glass of wine in hand is complete when the ‘chinky’ arrives!

M&S €12.50 dinners for two are a newcomer to my list and may replace the Chinese in time.

Anyway there are mine! Now what are yours?

Oh… and the classy photo is by that hot shot Sherwood guy again…. check out http://www.sherwood.ie