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Showing posts from March, 2012

How to join a traditional Irish music session

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As with many things in life, the clue's in the name. And in this instance the name's in Irish.
I'm talking pubs here, and names over pub doorways. In Corca Dhuibne you won't find The Frog and Ferret or The Old Anchor. Instead you'll see names like Tigh Uí Mhurchú, Tigh Uí Chatháin or Tigh an tSaorsigh. The word tigh in Irish means house. So those names mean Murphy'shouse, Kane's house and Sayer's.
The reason's simple. Round here that's what pubs were till quite recently. Ordinary houses where people came together to share each other's company after a day in the fields or out fishing. 
I don't know why particular houses were chosen. The house where I'm writing this was one. It's a low stone house, built over a hundred years ago in the foothills of the mountain. People say the room was always warm; that its high, boarded ceiling made a great acoustic for music; and that the couple who lived here had no children, so there was no fear o…

St. Patrick's Day on the Dingle Peninsula

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Here in Corca Dhuibhne this week's about watching the weather. One thing you don't want on St.Patrick's Day is rain on your parade.

The weather at the end of the Dingle peninsula sweeps straight in from the Atlantic, so with a strong wind behind it the rain can pass us in minutes. This year primroses and celandine are already in flower by the roadsides. And shamrock's growing wet and green in the fields.
And last year the weather was glorious. Sitting in the church in Ballyferriter I watched dust motes dancing in sunlight as the congregation sang Dóchas Linn Naomh Pádraig. Later, over the gentle sound of An Drúcht Geal Ceoigh on the organ, you could hear sheep calling on the mountain.Then, as the priest left the altar, the church doors swung open and people streamed out into the sunshine to the sound of whistles, concertinas, accordions and fiddle, all playing St. Patrick's Day in jig-time.
Outside, neighbours shook hands and swapped news. The musicians inside were…

Writers need Rituals

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Writers live uncertain lives. And people who live uncertain lives love ritual. Trust me, I know. I've spent half my life studying ritual in folklore and mythology, and the other half creating rituals of my own. 


Rituals are familiar gestures and patterns that reassure, comfort and energise the people who inherit or create them. Wherever we go we seek out the right conditions in which to re-enact them. And having found the right conditions we're content.

For me it's bookshops-that-are-coffeeshops-that-serve-tea. 

Normally I work facing a computer and a blank wall. But every now and then, I need to get away from my desk with a pencil, a rubber, a sharpener and a notebook. It's when I'm starting something. Or finishing something. Or at a turning point. Or stuck...

... actually I'm not sure quite when it happens. But the point is that a point comes when I have to get out of the house and into a bookshop, surround myself with other people's words and images, make p…