Saturday, December 5, 2009

Swell Season again!

I am
late posting about the Swell Season/Frames concert at the 930 club in DC on november 9th. It was awesome - of course. But there are disadvantages to going to a standing (unseated) show. It's hard to see! I think there was an above average number of guys over 6 feet tall in the audience. Also, standing for over two hours gets old fast. Here's the set list from the show. Their encore included four songs! I knew they'd be doing High Horses as an encore cuz it wasn't in the show, and one of the best songs from the new album Strictly Joy. Another favorite is Low Rising - and the video seems to confirm my impression that this album is about the end of Glen and Marketa's relationship
Be sure to check out the video of Red Chord, the final song. Glen sings The Parting Glass as a moving tribute to Liam Clancy, the last of the Clancy Brothers, who passed away December 5th, 2009. Now that I have given up my subscription to the Irish Voice I miss out on this kind of news which doesn't reach mainstream media. Glen notes the pivotal role that the Clancy Brothers had in bringing Irish music to America (and he notes - of course it was here already). Irish traditional music in fact was kept alive in America when it was on the wane in Ireland. The years I lived in Boston there were a number of accomplished musicians who worked during the day as streetcar drivers, house painters, and at other blue collar jobs, and at night and on weekends played traditional music. Fiddler Larry Reynolds , brothers Paddy , Johnny, and Mick Cronin, and Joe Joyce. There were many nights when I sat in living rooms, VA halls, and other gathering spots listening to them play just for the joy of it. An era is ending.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Stitches on The Bridge (to the isle of Skye)

This summer I finished knitting a panel for the Stitches on The Bridge project for Highland Homecoming Scotland. I made my panel with 2 skeins of Kiparoo Farm Skye yarn (very appropriate) in a beautiful colorway of heathery purples, and greens. There are 2 shots of it on the top.
Here's a description of the project from their Ravelry page:

An invitation from Luib na Lùban (In Amongst the Stitches), a new textile art group in Skye and Lochalsh, to Scots, ex-pats, Scotophiles and anyone else to take part in an ambitious project to cover the Skye Bridge in knitting!The Skye Bridge links the Isle of Skye with the mainland in the West Highlands of Scotland.Our aim is to link this (rather large!) piece of guerrilla knitting with Highland Homecoming 2009, which celebrates Scotland’s great contribution to the world, in October 2009.

The panels were hung on the Skye bridge this past weekend of Oct. 24th-25th.
There are several links to videos on YouTube.
The best are: BBC and my favorite in Gaelic on BBC An La.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sheep in New York : Rhinebeck!

I attended Rhinebeck for the first time last weekend with my friend Martha. The weather was challenging on the drive up (rain) and Sunday (light rain), but it was worth it! Rhinebeck is very awesome (can you say very awesome because awesome is a superlative already). I loved the opportunity to see vendors I'd never seen before at either Stitches East or Maryland Sheep and Wool, including: Black Rose Fibers, Hope Spinnery, Buckwheat Bridge Angoras, Decadent Fibers, Foxfire Fibers and familiar favorites from MSW Brooks Farm, Green Mountain Spinnery , Carolina Homespun and Spirit Trail. My new favorite yarns are cormo (expensive!) and yarns from small farmers - especially naturally dyed (plant dyes rather than acid dyes) and natural colors (brown sheep). I just took pictures of the yarn I got and put it on Ravelry this week. I bought yarn from Hope Spinnery (6 skeins), Decadent Fibers (1 handpainted skein of bulky), Carolina Homespun (Elemental Affects), Green Mountain Spinnery (Wonderfully Wooly), some alpaca, and another natural colored skein of something soft and wooly- have to find the name which I wrote down somewhere. My sister Christine drove over from NW Connecticut (under 2 hours) and I ran into my friend Rose from Texas, Mary Alice from MA (both friends from Golden Gate Fiber camp), Heather and Kate from (Red) Sox Knitters who came down in June for a Red Sox game, someone I know from work (totally random), and 2 friends from Maryland Cheryl and Monica (who was somewhere on the grounds but we didn't run into her). It's amazing to see so many people you know at such a big festival.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book swap IRISH

In the summer of 2008, I met someone at a professional conference in Lake Como, Italy who turned me on to Paperback Book Swap. Recently I have focused on requesting books by Irish authors, or on Irish topics. Out of the 93 books I have received in the past 14 months, 36 are Irish-related. Check out the hyperlinks for more info on each title. The books I have gotten include literature, fiction, memoirs, poetry, mysteries, history, women's studies, and more.

1. Divorcing Jack Author: Colin Bateman
2. Stone of the Heart: An Inspector Matt Minogue Mystery Author: John Brady
3. Walking On Water Author: Gemma O'Connor
4. Whispers of the Dead (Sister Fidelma, Bk 15) Author: Peter Tremayne
5. The Marching Season Author: Daniel Silva

6. Border Crossings: Irish Women Writers and National Identities
7. There You Are: Writings on Irish and American Literature and History Author: Thomas Flanagan
8. Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972
Author: Peter Pringle, Philip Jacobson
9. Politics and Performance in Contemporary Northern Ireland
Author: John P. Harrington (Editor),

10. Wild Irish Women Author: Marian Broderick

11. Under the Eye of the Clock: The Life Story of Christopher Nolan
Author: Christopher Nolan
12. The Star Factory Author: Ciaran Carson
13. The Bend for Home Author: Dermot Healy

14. The Portable James Joyce
15. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation Author: Seamus Heaney

Poetry and Drama
16. The Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry Ed: Edna Longley
17. Selected Poems 1966-1987 Author: Seamus Heaney
18. The Spirit Level : Poems Author: Seamus Heaney
19. Selected Poems of Louis Macneice
20. New selected poems Author: Les A Murray (not Irish, but an influence on the poet Sinéad Morrissey)
21. Modern Irish Drama (Norton Critical Editions) Author: John P. Harrington
22. Selected Poems (Cape Poetry) Author: Michael Longley
23. The New Poetry Author: Michael Hulse, David Kennedy, David Morley


24. Nocturnes Author: John Connolly
25. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Author: Brian Moore
26. A Son Called Gabriel Author: Damian McNicholl
27. The Thief of Time Author: John Boyne
28. Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas Author: Morgan Llywelyn
29. Titanic Town Author: Mary Costello
30. The South Author: Colm Toibin
31. For the Love of Ireland: A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers
The Christmas Tree Author: Jennifer Johnston
33. Dislocation: Stories from a New Ireland
34. A Green and Mortal Sound Author: Louise DeSalvo
35. The Tea House on Mulberry Street Author: Sharon Owens
36. An Irish Country Doctor Author: Patrick Taylor

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Emergency [room] knitting

Last Wednesday at 6 a.m. my son had to go to the Emergency Room. As he wasn't bleeding or in severe distress I did take time to grab my knitting before going out the door. It turned out he had a collapsed lung - which is not unheard of in young men (and for no reason). We were in the ER 9 and 1/2 hours before he was admitted. I have been doing plenty of knitting the past 5 days in the hospital including knitting this Turn a Square hat (Jared Flood's free pattern) from the Berroco Pure Merino and Berroco Pure Merino Chine I bought last Sunday at The Fiber Space in Alexandria VA with my friend Martha. I knit this up Friday night watching my Red Sox playing the team who shall not be named (there is another name they are commonly known by among Sox fans but I want to keep this clean) in New York.
I took these pics with my Blackberry so they aren't the best quality.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"The Troubles" for Tourists

Belfast is booming economically - reflected in the graffiti commentary on the wall above. Not only has it shed its gritty past as a grey, industrial city, but has been peacful for the past ten years since the Northern Ireland Peace Process culminated in the Good Friday Agreements . It is significant that the Northern Irish peace agreement occurred on Good Friday, as it is a day that many Christian churches - both Catholic and Protestant - throughout the world stage peace walks.

I made several visits to Belfast during the troubles in the mid-1970's and early 1980's, and was witness to the devastation of the Troubles. That is why I have mixed feelings about "Troubles" tourism. I didn't have an opportunity to take a Black taxi tour in Belfast, and some appear to focus on the famous murals.There has been a great deal of "disneyficaiton" of historical sites in the Republic of Ireland, and I worry that this is spreading to the North.

I also visited Derry a city I had only passed through in the 1970's. On that day, I only got a glance of the famous mural YOU ARE NOW ENTERING FREE DERRY, and quickly left town. The hostility to strangers was palpable (understandably so).
There are recently created murals in the Bogside, the Catholic area where the Bloody Sunday killings occurred, and the site of many battles between the British Army and locals. Catholics established
Free Derry a self-declared autonomous Irish nationalist area from 1969 and 1972.
The Bogside Artists , three ar
tists, have created 12 murals in the neighborhood illustrating history of the troubles, and paying homage to peacemakers. While this is a tourist attraction, The Bogside Artists efforts do not come off as a commercial enterprise. I visited their gallery, and because it was a hour wait for a tour, and starting to rain, walked through the area on my own.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Paradise : Ireland

Ireland - Northern Ireland and the Republic - is a bookbuyer's paradise. Additionally, books one can find in the North may not be available in the south. Some writers easily cross the border such as Ciaran Carson, the Belfast poet. Other writers like Glenn Patterson, a Belfast novelist, are harder to find in the south. Could it be that Carson, fluent in Irish, a Catholic, and Irish nationalist is thought of as Irish in a way that Patterson, a Protestant is not? There are probably academic writings on the topic, and I will try to avoid simplistic conclusions here about such complicated issues. It is simply an observation, and I may well be totally wrong.

I spent more on books than I did on food in my 11 days in Ireland. Coming home, my bag of books was heavier than my suitcase of clothes etc. Now I need to take a year off to read them all.

Upstairs Books, Dublin

Ulysses and Me : Declan Kibard (Literary criticism)
• Language and Politics (QUB journal)

Queens University Bookshop, Belfast
Shelmalier - Medbh McGuckian [poetry]
Had I a Thousand Lives by Medbh McGuckian [poetry]
The State of the Prisons - (2005) by Sinead Morrissey [poetry]
There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996) by Sinead Morrissey [poetry]
• My Twentieth Century Night Life: A Padraic Fiacc Miscellany [poetry]
Pirate Queen the Life of Grace O'Malley by Judith Cook (2004)
Last Before America: Irish and American Writing by Fran Brearton and Eamonn Hughes (2001)

Waterstones Belfast
Derry Hodges Figis Dublin

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Belfast, devout and profane and hard

[Queens University/Botanic Gardens/Belfast at dusk]

The title of this posting is, very appropriately, taken from a poem by Louis MacNeice, a major influence on poets of Northern Ireland. From Sunday July 19th to Saturday July 25th I was in Belfast to attend the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry's 2009 Summer School.
During the week w
e had lectures and workshops from poets and writers including Ciaran Carson, Sinéad Morrissey, Medbh Mc Guickian, and Gerald Dawe among others. The experience was everything I had hoped for, though new experiences are full of surprises. A characteristic of Ireland - North and South - that I love is that there is no cult of celebrity like we see here in the US. Famous people, whether poets, musicians, actors, etc. still mingle with the public, and are not elevated way above the "common people". In turn, they are given their space, and folks interact with them normally. About 5 years ago a friend of mine saw Bono, The Edge, and their families eating at an outdoor cafe in a seaside town near Dublin. While the restaurant staff was attentive, they were able to enjoy their meal like anyone else. The poets and writers at the summer school were humble, and interacted with us extensively through the week. One of my classmates, Stephanie, and I even ran into Medbh Mc Guickian one day on the street. She recognized us, before we realized it was her. Americans are still a little sparse on the ground, so we stood out:).

Highlights of the week included writing haiku with Cieran Carson, and Sineed Morrissey's talk which explored her favorite poets including someone new to me, the Australian poet Les Murray. I loved Medbh Mc Guickian's exploration of Seamus Heaney's poems, which made his poetry so
accessible. Probably my favorite session was Gerald Dawe's discussion of his book My Mother-City in which he describes life in Belfast in the 1960's before "The Troubles". I was thrilled because he discussed Van Morrison's album Astral Weeks (which I have mentioned in past posts is my favorite album of all time). He analyzed the song Madame George - the best on the album in his opinion - in depth, and then played it. An insight I gained this week was that poetry, song, and music are not separate - at least for these poets. Astral Weeks is sheer poetry, and captures Belfast in so many of the references " on the train from Dublin to Sandy Row", "throwing pennies at the bridges down below" and places like Cyprus Avenue.

Some things to know about Belfast - it is peaceful, and thriving. There is plenty of shopping (I bought shoes - Echos on sale, went mad at the Lush store, and lots of books). It isn't easy to find food after 7 pm when pubs stop serving food. A pint of Guinness is only 3 pounds 10p (under $5 for 20 ounces) while a pint costs 6 euros or more in Dublin ( almost $8). People make a point of being post-sectarian though we had a 70 plus year old cabbie who acknowledged being a proud Prod, and to being a poet (he had a book of poetry in his glovebox). Cabs are plentiful and pretty cheap and won't turn their noses up at short runs. Often it is cheaper to catch a cab if there's 2 of you, than to take the bus (which costs a minimum of 1 pound 60 p). Our digs were a mile or so from campus and the walk home was uphill. The morning walk was no problem, but at the end of the day it seemed much longer.

It was great to spend a week in Belfast, and I came home with a load of new poetry-loving friends :)


[Kelli and Ritchie, Ciaran Carson at evening concert, some of the group out for dinner, party after the concert, Peter, Margaret and Stephanie; Peter, Colm and Em]

Monday, August 3, 2009

An Annual Tradition - Sox in Balmer

This past Saturday, friends Kate and Lee and their sons Daniel and Ryan drove down from Massachusetts (Arlington) to Maryland for their second annual Sox in Balmer outing with me and my son, Camilo. From left to right : Daniel (wearing no Sox gear), Camilo (with his subtle Sox knit cap), and Ryan (fully decked out in Ellsbury shirt and regulation Sox hat).

Of course on my trip to Ireland, I took my Sox cap. At the student dining hall at Queen's University Belfast, I saw a young guy with a Sox cap every morning. Finally on Thursday I asked him "Are you a Sox fan or a poser?". He answered in a genunie Massachusetts accent, "I'm not a poser" - of course pronounced 'posah' and we proceeded to chat about Sox news of the week (hard to get in Belfast especially when you are not online).

On the flight from Dublin to NY, there were 4 or 5 Sox hats and the flight attendant even gave me extra special attention because I was wearing mine:)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ireland: Part I Dublin

I arrived in Dublin on Friday July 17th. Thanks to No Jetlag, a homeopathic product from New Zealand, I arrived tired but not disoriented. I was staying at Jurys Inn Christchurch which is adjacent to Dublin Castle (good) and Temple Bar (not so good-more later), and a great central location. After leaving my luggage at 9 am, I had to fill the hours until 1 pm check-in. So I wandered over to The Chorus Cafe for a light breakfast, so-named because it is adjacent to the site where Handel's Messiah was first performed. I then crossed over to Dublin Castle which I had never seen despite many extended visits to Dublin. I skipped the tour, and opted instead to visit the Chester Beatty Library behind the castle, home to many rare manuscripts, particularly religious books, and free admission.
Then I found my way to Powerscourt Center and This Is Knit, the well-known Dublin yarn store. The women working there were delightful. They now have two spaces in this shopping center that are across from one another. They moved into the new space recently, and closed their original store in Blackrock (a suburb south of Dublin). I bought one skein of lovely yarn from a hand-dyer in Wales. Independent dyers and yarn makers are very rare in Ireland (one is Dublin Dye Company), though the number is growing in the UK. The shop also carries British brands such as Rowan and Debbie Bliss, as well as the Irish Kilcara Tweed. But the prices weren't much less than U.S. prices.

Saturday I visited the James Joyce Centre with a small exhibit, and tiny bookshop, it is modest when considering the glory that Joyce brought to Irish literature, and the city of Dublin. Perhaps it is a reflection of the ambivalence of many Dubliners, and Irish towards Joyce. I met one of my former students for brunch at Odessa, a very nice restaurant with choices averaging 10 Euros - a bargain in Dublin. Later in the afternoon, I visited a friend I have known for over 35 years, who is now 80, and full of stories, and interesting political insights. She is well known in Dublin, and lives in a wonderful Georgian house she inherited from her aunt in the 1970's. Below is a picture of her door.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sox Week!

This week the Red Sox came to DC to play the Nats in 3 interleague games. The first game was Tuesday night and 2 Sox Knitters Ravelry members (and one of their 14 year olds) came down for a DC Meetup. At noon I met them at Union Station along with another Sox Knitter who took us to a great burger place on Capitol Hill. After lunch I went back to work and we all met at the park at 5:30 for game of Sox shirt bingo (see the card below). It was fun looking for obscure shirts of former players (e.g. Yaz, Ramirez 24, etc.).
It was a really good game with the final score Boston 11 DC 3. Papi (Ortiz) didn't play Tuesday night but I went again Thursday night with another group of gals from Boston and got to see him. The Nats beat us Thursday, and I was so glad that we won on Tuesday because it would have been a bummer for the Sox Knitters to come all the way to DC for a game to see our beloved Sox lose to the Nats (the worst team in all of baseball this year - which makes me sad cuz I'd love to see them do better - just as long as my Sox win.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spinning on WKIP Day

June 13th was World Knit in Public Day but in East Berlin, Pennsylvania it was the Annual Spin-In at the Mannings. It is hard to resist the chance to spend a day in the country, when the weather is beautiful, and fiber is involved.

With chairs set up in the shade in view of a small river and groups of 4Hers spinning, My friend Martha and I knit for several hours, broken up by a couple of trips into the Mannings' shop. What could be a nicer way to spend a summer day - sheep, spinning, wheels, knitting, and even some looms were set up under the trees and along side the river. There was a couple processing and spinning flax, a carding station to design your own batt, even sheep shearing.