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June 28, 2017 / catherinebwrites

LOCAL HERO

Mount Ararat from Yerevan

Mount Ararat is, they say the place where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the flood.   You can even see a piece of wood which,  they say, is part of the ark in a museum in Yerevan.   Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and Mount Ararat the national symbol.  You can see the mountain from all over the city.  But, after a genocide in 1915, the border shifted and now the mountain is in Turkey. This is a great sorrow to all Armenians.

Noah’s Ark setting out.

I was there recently, observing the election.   The area I had to cover included eleven  villages between Yerevan and the border.   The villages are poor with houses built out of rough concrete blocks and, from time to time, in this impoverished community, you will see a pillared mansion with a high fence around it.   The contrast between the few “haves” and the many “have-nots” could not be starker.

On our first day we had to visit all the polling stations to check that they were properly set up.  Most of them were in schools.   The schools were bleak, concrete buildings with crumbling steps, uneven floors and caretakers doing their best to keep them clean and functional.

Waiting to vote

In one village, the caretaker greeted us at the door.   She was a solid, dark-haired woman, middle-aged and exuding an air of formidable competence.   She showed us the polling station and then insisted that we view the classrooms.   “Her” classrooms.   As she was not  the kind of woman to brook disobedience, we followed her into a classroom.   It was, like the building, pretty bleak, with worn tables and chairs and an obvious lack of equipment.   But, it was spotless, there was a vase of plastic flowers, some hand-painted pictures on the walls and lace curtains on the windows.  We remarked on this.

“I like to make the classroom pretty,” the woman said, “because I believe that children learn better when the classroom is nice.”

Then she offered us coffee and brought us to a kitchen and a refectory.

“I am the best cook in the village, ” she announced, “Everyone in our village knows this is true, so I cook a good meal for the children every day.   Because children cannot learn when they’re hungry and some of our pupils come from very poor families and they are hungry.”

Checking the register

As she was making the coffee she drew our attention to the pictures decorating the walls throughout the school.   They  had clearly been painted by an amateur artist and ranged from cartoon figures to vases of flowers and village scenes.

“My daughter-in-law is a very good artist,” our friend announced, “so I told her to make pictures for the school so that the children have something nice to look at.”

Got the ballot papers

As we drank our coffee, my partner asked what the exam success rate for the school was.

“Last year,” she announced, “Only two children in my school failed the State examination.”

“You must have very good teachers.” I suggested.

“Of course,” she replied, “I will never allow bad teachers in my school!”

Counting the vote

Next day when we returned to observe the voting in that polling station our friend was standing in at the school door, all dickied up in her Sunday best, surrounded by neighbours and friends.   She greeted me like a long-lost friend, hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks.   Her neighbours were astonished.   How could this ordinary village woman know these exotic foreigners who’d come from afar to view the elections?  Then she took me by the hand to meet the Chairman of the election committee.

It was only when I got home that it struck me that, this ordinary village woman was affecting the lives of every pupil who passed through that school and every teacher and thus, every one in that village.   I just hope that they recognise what a treasure they have in their midst.

 

 

 

 

 

April 30, 2017 / catherinebwrites

Things You Didn’t Know About Dating Men in Their 30s

The following is a guest blog post from American humor novelist Jeff Gephart, whose new novel is called ‘Accidental Adulthood: One Man’s Adventures With Dating and Other Friggin’ Nonsense.’  Learn more about Jeff and his work at www.jeffgephartwriting.com

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Dating Men in Their 30s

 

  1. THEY’RE AS INSECURE AS YOU ARE, MAYBE MORE

    Many women feel their 30s are their “do or die” time to find that special someone. Whether it’s their biological clock ticking, or whether it’s just their family and friends (or society, indeed, in general) applying intentional or unintentional peer pressure. Becoming half of a couple, settling down–these are the “normal” things to do at this point in your life. Men are not immune to this pressure. In Accidental Adulthood, the main character Mick feels like everyone around him views him as a “fraction,” or an incomplete entity, because he doesn’t have a wife and kids, not even a girlfriend. This causes him, and most men in his situation, to do some peculiar things. They try to project an image of confidence, supreme masculinity, laissez-faire, but most of that is just insecurity causing them to mimic movie characters that seem desirable to women. I’ve heard women say most of the messages they get on online dating sites are bland, vague, and they don’t make the person sound as if he’s even read their profile. What they may not realize is that a man who sends that kind of message is just copying-and-pasting the same message to lots of women. Why? Casting a wider net. Why? Because they’ve probably already been ignored or turned down by so many women on the site that their fragile egos are telling them it’s probably not going to work, so don’t put much effort into it, but cast a wide net and you may get lucky. Mick tries this very tactic in the book. I’ve been there too, and I daresay I’m far from alone.

    2. THEY ONLY THINK THEY WANT TO DATE YOUNGER WOMEN

    Ladies, most men are physically attracted to younger, fit women because society has made that our ideal. Or perhaps it’s an extremely common personal preference. As Mick explains in Chapter 11, “If the average man didn’t find young women desirable, Playboy would’ve stopped publishing college issues a long time ago.” The thing is, the kind of man women in their 30s want is someone whose maturity actually matches their age. And there are plenty of us. The problem with those young, nubile women, is that they’re on a completely different wavelength than a thirtysomething man. They’re by and large too immature or self-absorbed to hold a man’s interest in conversation for very long. They’re boring. Admittedly, there are legions of men in their thirties that have not progressed mentally past horny teenager, and younger women fulfill their one and only use for them. But ladies, if you want a man that doesn’t solely think with his penis, then you have to attract them first with your mind. Your intellect, your sense of humor, your ability to talk about big ideas, whatever. If you whet his appetite with a good conversation (or an entertaining online profile) chances are you won’t have to look like an ill-fed swimsuit model to get and hold his attention.

    3. YOU CAN STILL HAVE FUN IN A TERRIBLE ECONOMY

    Bring home your free soup and gather around the radio for one of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” while….oh wait, nevermind. This one is from my blog about Dating Men in the ‘30s.

    3. THEY’VE HAD JUST AS BAD EXPERIENCES DATING AS YOU HAVE

    And that’s why they’re as paranoid and crazy as they seem. I’ve heard lots of young women deploring all the “creeps” they run into, especially when dating online, but it goes both ways. In Accidental Adulthood, Mick experiences some surreal moments while dating: getting patted down in public like a drug suspect, being invited to do a Sears portrait on the first date, being shown dozens of pictures of the “slut” who stole her man from her, receiving a marriage proposal on a first date. Let me tell you, not all of these events sprung from my imagination. So if a guy seems to have trouble letting his guard down, or being distant, or putting up some kind of front, it’s just self-preservation mode. Don’t read too much into it. Don’t dismiss him from your mind right away, simply because he didn’t do everything right on the first date. He needs time to get comfortable too, and to assure himself you’re not just another girl who’s going to end up another bizarre story to tell his buddies at the bar.

    4. THEY WANT COMPANIONSHIP AS MUCH AS ANYTHING ELSE

    If you want to be treated like a princess and have every date feel like a magical prom night, you have to ask yourself what level of seriousness you’re truly trying to achieve through dating. There is nothing wrong with romantic gestures and grand adventures that seem like they’re out of the movies, but not every guy has that in them. Men get just as lonely as women. If a man is divorced, he’s facing a level of isolation that he’s not used to. If he’s still single in his thirties, he’s used to it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Be prepared for–and even suggest–a date now and then that just involves hanging out. Watching TV, just getting coffee and going somewhere to simply people watch, making dinner together. Sometimes a guy just wants someone to share his space, someone who “gets him” and makes him feel wanted. Let me tell you from experience, it sucks when a cool event is happening in town, but it doesn’t sound cool to any of your friends and then you face the prospect of attending alone. Don’t come into a new relationship with grandiose expectations; you’re just going to feel let down. Look for someone whose company you genuinely enjoy, even if you’re not actually “doing” anything.

    5. LOVE IS A FOUR-LETTER-WORD

    Men who have stayed single into their thirties haven’t gotten there by falling in love too easily. Men who married and are now back on the market in their thirties are most likely aren’t in a hurry to declare their love as quickly as they did the first time around. In Chapter 5, Mick has a memorable first date with a woman who proclaims her love for him and even hints at having children with him. It’s a funny scene, and I’m not saying it happened to me in real life (But, it did.), but the message is clear: Too much, too soon. Some men can’t wait to settle down and start a family, but I gotta say most of those types are not still online dating in their thirties. The majority are still single because nothing has worked out so far, so naturally they’re a bit wary. If a man says he loves you too early in your acquaintanceship, take that as a GIGANTIC RED FLAG. By the same notion, if he starts too soon with the pet names–babe, bae, boo–and it seems like he’s trying to progress things strangely fast, he’s probably one of those one-track mind guys that we spoke about before. Steer clear. If you’ve been dating for a year and he still hasn’t said any of these things, well, that’s a problem for a different article somewhere down the line.

 

 

March 17, 2017 / catherinebwrites

THE SECRET TO HAPPY RELATIONSHIPS

Read any magazine, Sunday supplement, newspaper features, relationship websites and it seems like the whole world wants to know what is it that makes a relationship work?

Men agonize over it.

Women agonize over it.

Is it me is it?   Is it him?   Is it her?

Here’s the answer.

G R O W  U P !

That’s right.   It really is that simple.   Grow up.

A grown up takes responsibility for their actions…  .if only everyone did that we’d have World Peace

Knows how to listen

Knows when to give support

Does the chores that need to be done.

Asks for what they need

Asks for help.

Can say “no”

Can take “no” for an answer.

Doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

And, if there’s only one grown up in the relationship, they can say.  “Enough is enough” and take the necessary action!

Read more…

March 11, 2017 / catherinebwrites

Netherlands, Mezrab and Corsets

Source: Netherlands, Mezrab and Corsets

March 11, 2017 / catherinebwrites

Netherlands, Mezrab and Corsets

I was recently in Amsterdam, city of….

Old buildings in Amsterdam

 canals…

Coffeeshop The Otherside Amsterdam

Coffee Shops…

bicycles and….

MEZRAB STORIES

It’s a storytelling venue which also hosts music, comedy,workshops  and all kinds of great stuff. Check them out http://www.mezrab.nl

Anyway… The place was packed, stories came from all over the globe with storytellers from Kenya, Lithuania, Greece, Belgium, U.S.A., Nigeria, Iran and Ireland.

The audience was multinational, a wide range of ages, friendly, warm and enthusiastic… the best kind of audience…. there is a bar and you can also get soup and sandwiches.  The M.C. was Sahand who is funny, warm, charismatic and does a great introduction.

The Irish storyteller was me.   I told a true story about a corset.   If you’d like to see it click here:

https://youtu.be/307jypCYt0k

 

December 10, 2016 / catherinebwrites

THE MEDUSA OF MULLINAHONE

MAGICAL BEINGS OF IRELAND YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF  

No 2.

medusa-of-mullinahone-001

THE MEDUSA OF MULLINAHONE

 Inspiration and illustration: Marc O’ Connor.

There were actually four Gorgon girls but you only ever hear about three of them.   None of them were beauties but the three famous ones would give you the willies.   Snakey-haired, ugly-faced hags.  Medusa, the best known of them all, had real, living snakes growing out of her head instead of hair and, if you looked at her sideways, she’d turn you to stone.   And you know you’d be tempted because who can resist a look at a freak?

But the fourth one, Olive, the one you never hear about, was considered the good-looking one.  Helen of Troy she was not, but, compared to her sisters, she was all right.   At least she didn’t have snakes growing out of her head, just wriggly curls.   And her disposition was, perhaps, a little bit softer than that of her sisters’.  Maybe that’s why the other three demanded that she do all the housework.   Well, no Gorgon girl would put up with being a Greek Cinderella so she upped and left to roam the wide world.

She hitched a lift from Greece in a boat going to Italy and from there journeyed northwards through forest and mountain and marsh.  She swam rivers and lakes and even swam the northern seas till she arrived in Ireland, the last land of Europe, situated by the wild Atlantic Ocean.   She tried to swim the Atlantic as well but the mountainous waves were too great even for her, so she turned back and settled down in a comfortable limestone cave in Mullinahone.

She attempted to be badass, like her sisters, frightening travellers and farmers and spooking their livestock but she never succeeded.   It didn’t suit her temperament, so she lived a comfortable, if rather dull life, always feeling that, somehow, she had missed her vocation.   What that vocation might be she couldn’t have told you, except she knew that she’d missed it. Then Patrick showed up.

He’d been brought to Ireland as slave when he was a boy and had escaped.  But his return was totally different.   This time he’d come to preach and convert.   Olive went to hear him a couple of times and thought his words were wrong-headed but harmless enough.    That was, until he started preaching about the evil of snakes.

There were plenty of snakes in Ireland at the time, some striped, some dappled some reticulated, each with its place in the kingdom of Gaia.   If you didn’t bother them, they didn’t bother you.   Olive was fond of snakes and she did not like what she heard of Patrick’s attitude.   So, one fine summer’s day when he held one of his Halleluiah gatherings on the banks of the Anner, she went to see for herself and found Patrick up on a rock preaching to a gathering of fifty people or so.

“Snakes are,” he declared, “the embodiment of evil.   It was the shape of a serpent that Satan took when he came to tempt Eve into eating the apple, thus making her defy god’s explicit command.   And you can see the result, mankind was banished from Paradise to dwell forever in this valley of tears.”

Olive thought his whole creation story was nonsense. Everyone knew that first there was Chaos which created Death and Night, then Light which created Love and Order, then the goddess Gaia who was the Earth.  As for Adam and Eve, a snake and the apple…that was a tale to scare children.   She elbowed her way through the crowd till she was standing in front of Patrick.

“Who is this god who will not let people eat apples?”  She demanded.

Patrick looked down and got a terrible shock for Olive was standing in front of him totally naked. She’d been reared in Greece where naked was normal.  During the winters in Ireland she kept herself warm with a sheepskin or bearskin but, when the sun was shining like it was that day, she saw no need for clothing.

“Cover yourself woman.” Roared Patrick, “Cover your shame.”

“What shame?” she asked.

“The shame of your naked body, the same shame that Adam and Eve discovered when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden.”

“Why?   We all have a body.”

“The great Saint Augustine was right,” Patrick hissed, “unlike men, the daughters of Eve have no moral sense.”

“If men are so superior,” Olive retorted, “How come Adam did not have the guts to refuse the apple?”

Patrick’s face went as red as a ribbon and he stuttered and spluttered.

“Get away from here hussy.” He cried. “You would try to tempt me like Eve tempted Adam.”

Just then there was a disturbance at the back of the crowd and a burly shepherd pushed forward.

“I’ve caught the devil.” he roared waving a large striped snake in the air and flinging it down in front of Patrick.   Patrick leaped from the rock and beat the unfortunate snake round the head with his crozier.   Everyone joined in attacking the unfortunate animal with their crooks and their sticks till the poor thing lay dead and dismembered. Sickened by the savage display, Olive slipped away.

All that night she sat up in her cave meditating on snakes.  And during that time she believed that she’d found her vocation.

“I am changing my name.” She declared “From this day on I will be known as Medusa.   The Medusa of Mullinahone, Protector of Snakes.”

And Gaia, goddess of Earth, on hearing her words gifted her the ability to speak with snakes.

As the sun rose The Medusa of Mullinahone stood at the mouth of her cave and opened her arms.

“Snakes of Ireland,” she chanted, “you are in danger.  Patrick provokes men to kill you but come to me and I will protect you.”

Every snake in Ireland heard the message and they slithered stealthily to Mullinahone and stayed there for protection.   Soon the myth grew that Patrick had banished the snakes from the Emerald Isle but that wasn’t true.   The snakes were so grateful to Olive, the Irish Medusa that, every night, they formed themselves into a great blankets to keep her warm and during the day they wove themselves into living garments and at her specific request they wove themselves into her hair.   Once all that was done she realised that protecting snakes wasn’t enough to be her vocation so she tried being badass like her sisters.

She frightened a few farmers and herders, scarified several dogs, threw a panic into a herd of goats but it didn’t give her much satisfaction.  Meanwhile, as a result of Patrick’s preaching, men of Ireland were leaving kith and kin to live on barren rocks or hidden glens and erect stone churches and crosses to honour their god.  This didn’t concern the Medusa of Mullinahone but what she could not figure out was why did they choose to live without love?   She’d have to investigate.

She found Peadar Rua in his beehive cell, lying alone in the dark, muttering prayers to his god for inspiration. He hadn’t eaten a crumb for over a week nor let water pass his lips.   He lay on his pallet of straw with a stone on his belly trying to come up with ideas to illuminate the manuscript he was charged with copying.   This was how poets sought inspiration so,

why not scribes?  The Medusa of Mullinahone opened his door and went in without leave.   She lit a rush torch and stood before him naked except for the serpents that writhed round her body giving him glimpses of rosy nipples and sun-kissed belly.

Peadar Rua thought he must be hallucinating because fasting had that effect.   Or perhaps he was dreaming?  Or was this Satan come to tempt him?   Or an angel come from God to test his chastity?  He squeezed his eyes closed and prayed for the strength to resist the temptations of flesh but his flesh was already showing every sign of being tempted.   He opened his eyes again and she was still there.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am the Medusa of Mullinahone” she answered “Protector of snakes.”

Peadar Rua breathed a sigh of relief.   There were no snakes in Ireland so this must be a dream and no man need account for his dream.   A serpent slithered up his leg and slid round his groin.   For a moment he feared it but, remembering it was but a dream, he relaxed and enjoyed the sensation.  More serpents slid under his robe caressing his body waking his senses.  The woman was totally naked now and she lowered herself on to his sore-tempted flesh.  If this is a dream, thought Peadar Rua, I don’t want to wake up.   Slowly and sensuously he and the Medusa and all of her snakes writhed together in glorious union until they reached ecstasy.

“Sweet Jesus” he moaned, overwhelmed with pleasure.

Afterwards he fell asleep and woke, not only renewed and refreshed but, full of ideas.   He went straight to the scriptorium, sharpened his quills, mixed his colours, filled his inkwell, collected his quire of vellum and got ready to start. He drew the sinuous a snake which took up the whole page. All day he laboured without stopping for food or for drink, drawing snake intertwining with snake, curling and twisting and coming together to create one beautiful capital, Celtic T.

Meanwhile The Medusa of Mullinahone left his beehive hut laughing, she too was feeling renewed and refreshed… it had been a long time….   She looked round the other beehive huts that sat in this glen.   There had to be other scribes here who benefit from her ministrations and many more in the numerous monasteries scattered throughout Ireland.    She had found her true vocation at last.

November 30, 2016 / catherinebwrites

THE BURNING BUSH

MAGICAL BEINGS OF IRELAND YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF:

NO.1

The Burning Bush 001.jpg

THE BURNING BUSH

(Illustration and inspiration :  Marc O’Connor)

      There he is, over in the corner.   Near the fire.   Best seat in the house.   Case on the table.  Hat off.  Overcoat open.   Billy the Bar brings him a pint of plain and a ball of malt.

They call him The Burning Bush because Billy saw him one time in Beggar’s Bush.   As for Burning… well…some people  swear that they’ve seen little fires all over his coat, like flaming polka dots.   And rumour has it that, once you see the polka dot flames, you go off and do something surprising.

I suspect he likes being around literary types because this place is heavin’ with them.   One or two heavy hitters and their wannabee satellites.   After work, office workers and a few Civil Servants, like me, come in.   I asked him once if he came here for the poets.   He just smiled.

I come here because it’s handy to work… and o.k., I admit it, writing’s a bit of a hobby.   I thought that he’d make a great character for a story , that’s why, when Billy the Bar is run off his feet, I take The Burning Bush his next drink.   It’s a chance to get him talking.   Not that it’s worked.   The most I ever got out of him was that his favourite poem is Wandering Aengus.   I went into a hazel wood because a fire was in my head…   You know the one.

“It was me inspired Yeats to write that.” Sez he.

Yeah right!   The Burning Bush is old, but he’s not that old.

He seldom opens that case of his but, the occasional time that he does, people say that a silvery light shines out.   And that the light is so bright that it’s blinding and you can’t see him or what he’s doing.     I had serious doubts about that, till I saw it myself.

The case is a battered, old-fashioned thing with clickety clasps and celtic-y stuff painted on the lid.  Mostly he leaves it, untouched, on the table.   Then one evening, when the place was hoppin’, I brought The Burning Bush his drink.

“Put it out of my way.” He said and slid the case in front of him.   He rested his hands on the lid and winked at me.   He clicked the clasps and opened the lid a crack.   Silvery light flooded out and he seemed to melt into something wafty, floating above me, like a sprite… And then it was gone.   I blinked and there he was again, hands on the open lid of the case and the silvery light making him look young.

I craned my neck to see what was inside the case and I couldn’t believe my eyes.   It was filled with silvery fish!   Alive and swimming in silvery water!    I must be seriously scuttered, I thought.  Then his coat sprouted polka dot flames!

Next thing he plunges his hand into the water, grabs hold of a fish and launches it into the crowd at the bar.   The fish flapped about a  couple of times but no one at the bar seemed to notice.   Suddenly there she was.   Maura Connor.   I always notice when Maura Connor comes in yet, this time, I’d missed her.  A line from Wandering Aengus sounded clear in my head,

It had become a glimmering girl

Mind you, Maura Connor was neither glimmering nor a girl.   She was fine figure of a woman with a billowy bosom that I longed to bury my face in.   I’ve had a bit of a thing for her since the first time we met in Áras Mhic Dhiarmada.     I think about asking her out all the time but so far I’ve not had the nerve.   I reckon I make up in longing what I lack in courage.

But somehow, this time, I found myself going over and tapping her on the shoulder while the old timid me watched in surprise.

“Fancy a drink?”  Says this new me.

“I thought you’d never ask!” She laughs. “I’ll have a G. and T.”

I order the drinks and bring them back.

“So…”  She says as we clink glasses. “When are you going to ask me out?”

“This very minute.” I reply.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“Well, why don’t we finish these drinks and head back to mine.”

Morning-afters are normally a fuzzy confusion but, on this morning after, I was bright as a bee.  I remembered everything from the previous night as clear and as the hot, sea-side Sundays from childhood.

I didn’t see much of The Burning Bush after that.   It was all me and Maura.  Me and Maura eating together.   Me and Maura cuddled up on her sofa.   Me and Maura laughing our legs off at some silly joke.   Me and Maura dancing till three in the morning.   For my birthday she brought me to Prague.  Berlin for Christmas.   Madrid for Easter.   Boys oh boys, this was the life.  I moved in.

She had an e-business on the side which was how she could afford the trips. Nothing big but it turned a nice profit, enough for life’s little luxuries as she said herself.    She sold ladies fashions, discontinued lines, which she bought from several wholesalers.

I helped by answering e-mails, taking orders and, packing them for delivery.  She had the whole thing streamlined.  She and Shauna, her friend since primary school, choose the items.   Maura priced and promoted.   Shauna collected the goods and delivered.   And now,  with me helping, we could move more stuff, profits went up and I got my cut.

Me and Maura started talking about settling down and buying a house.   I met her family, they loved me.   She met mine, they loved her.   I brought her to Paris and proposed at the top of the Eifel Tower.   How’s that for style!   We set a date for the wedding.

I started taking an interest in fashion – though I wouldn’t be caught saying that out loud!   But it made sense.   I’d browse fashion sites to get my eye in and for the fashion lingo.   It came in handy when I had to answer a query.   Then, a month before the wedding, Shauna arrived with her breath in her fist and a bundle of stuff she’d collected.   He eyes were lit up, her cheeks flushed.

“Jesus Maura,” she said. “that was a close call I…”

“With the car?” Maura interrupted.

“The car?   Oh yeah, yeah, right, with the car.”

It clearly was nothing to do with the car.

Later,when I was packing a gold brocade evening suit, Original Price 1,899 Euro, Our Price 750 Euro.    It looked vaguely familiar.   Then I noticed a tag.   Brown Thomas.    But we never bought from Brown Thomas.  I checked the label.  It was Versace.  I Googled, Versace Prêt-a-Porter and there it was, part of this season’s collection.  So definitely NOT a discontinued line.

“I think Shauna might be shop-lifting.” I told Maura after dinner.

Maura drained the last of her wine.

“Not shop-lifting, love… liberating.”

“What?”

“Have you any idea what kind of outrageous mark up there is on those outfits?”

“No.”

Well. they  can afford to reduce them by 50, or even 70, percent in the January sales.   They’re ripping us off.    We’re just restoring the equilibrium.”

“You could end up in prison.”

“So could you.”

I didn’t know what to think.   How could the woman I love be a crook?     What should I do?   Send an anonymous letter to Brown Thomas?  Tip off the Guards?   Call off the wedding?   I churned it around in my mind for a week and finally decided to have a word with The Burning Bush.   He’d got me into this, maybe he’d have an out.

There he was, as usual, near the fire.   Case on the table.  Hat off.  Overcoat open.  A pint of plain and a ball of malt in front of him.   I sat down and told him my tale.

He smiled.

And pluck, says he, till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

“That’s no kind of answer.” I said.

“Apples,” he said with a wink and he took a long pull on his pint.   “Silver and gold.”

I stayed for another half hour or so but not another word passed his lips.

Later that night I woke up with Maura’s long hair in my face.   She turned towards me.   Her eyes opened briefly and she smiled.   Then she slept again.    The solution seeped gently into my head.   I’d marry Maura, I mean, she was the love of my life.  I’d pluck the apples and I’d enjoy them.   We’d have a child, maybe two, and gradually, gently, over time, I’d wean her off crime.   Children would make all the difference.   Wouldn’t they?

END

November 14, 2016 / catherinebwrites

I MIGHT HAVE BEEN MARIANNE

 

Cohen & Others In Greece

Getty Images

 

When I first heard Leonard Cohen  I thought his music was drone-ey  and dull.     I filed him under “Whiny, white boy” and thought no more about him.

Then I married a man who knows everything there is to know about all kinds of music.  He taught me to like Country Music and Phillip Glass and world music and he tried with Leonard Cohen as well.   I admitted that some of the lyrics were interesting but, I knew in my heart, that you’d never catch me sitting down to listen to a whole evening of him droning on.

A few years ago while I was racking my brains to think of a Christmas present  for my husband, I saw an ad for a forthcoming Leonard Cohen Concert.   Perfect.  I bought two tickets and resigned myself to an evening of drone-ey,  whiny, white-boy music.

The audience was at an all a-twitter with can’t-wait excitement.   We took our seats.   The lights went down, the band started and Leonard Cohen came out on the stage.   He was wearing a coat and a hat.   He gives great coat, I thought, and the hat, well the hat, at a rakish angle, gave him Sinatra smooth vibe.   He spoke to us in that baas rumble and I knew, right there and then he was talking directly to me.   This man is sexy.

I don’t remember all the songs he sang  but the words were electrifying and the music sublime.   By the time the interval came round, me and the man from Cavan who happened to be sitting beside me, were bawling our heads off, clutching one another’s arms and telling one another that Leonard Cohen was  a GENIUS!   Meanwhile my husband observed with a satisfied grin.   I was a convert.

Just a day or two ago, as I watched a documentary about Cohen’s life, I learned that he was living on Hydra at the same time as I was travelling the Greek Islands.   I had turned up my nose at Hydra because it was overrun with artistic types and tourists.   I thought myself so superior, opting to visit only those islands that were still “genuine”.

Had I not been such a fearful travel snob I might have met Leonard Cohen.   I might have fallen I love with him.   I might have been Marianne.

 

May 30, 2016 / catherinebwrites

THE GOLDEN BUBBLE – 19

IRONING THE WRINKLES

The hard work is done now.   You have the satisfied glow of knowing your writing is as perfect as it can be.    You type those magnificent words,

THE END

You print out your manuscript.   You’re so thrilled with yourself, you decide to read through it one more time and revel in your own brilliance.   Horror of horrors!   All kinds of things are wrong!

 

http://www.myironing.com.

At least that’s how it seems.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Relax.

Honestly, it’s not as bad as it seems.   It’s just a number of minor glitches, infelicities or typos that, combined with the fright you’ve given yourself, makes you think the whole thing is a disaster.

Once you’ve got over yourself and cooled down  re-read.

Read your work ALOUD.

Reading out loud is the severest tests you can give your writing.  It helps you  identify those tiny mistakes that, through familiarity, you might otherwise miss.  Watch out for and mark:

  • Misspellings
  • Awkward sentences
  • Poor punctuation
  • Over-long sentences and paragraphs.
  • Sentence rhythm and pattern.
  • Pay attention to even your slightest doubt because, even very minor mistakes, can make it hard for the reader to grasp your true meaning
  • Make the necessary corrections
  • Use the spelling and grammar check

 

   RULE OF THUMB:

Any sentence that you find difficult to read aloud, probably needs some adjustment.  

Ahhhhh… so is this really the end?

Well maybe… but then you hand it over to an editor…

More about that anon.

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2016 / catherinebwrites

THE GOLDEN BUBBLE – 18

DIALOGUE

http://media2.picsearch.com

ALICE  peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

 Alice was right.   Conversations make reading interesting…. if they’re well written.

But the words that every editor dreads are:

“I’m very good at dialogue”

It usually means that I’m good at replicating normal conversation.   Unfortunately, most normal conversation, when you write it down, is boring, boring, boring.    It’s natural. It’s accurate but it’s not dialogue.   And, believe it or not, many very good novelists write the direst of dialogue.

Good dialogue reads like it’s natural but it is in fact, highly constructed.

ASK:

What is it’s function?

Like everything else, dialogue has to serve your story.   It must give relevant information, advance the action or develop character.   It lightens your prose and can be an efficient way to reveal information that might otherwise need long explanation.

http://www.socialplatform.org

Once you  know what the function of your dialogue is, you are half way to writing it well.

HERE’S HOW TO DO IT

Write it as it comes to you.

Read it aloud.

Cut everything irrelevant.

Read it aloud again.

Cut again..

Leave it, at least, overnight.

Read it aloud again.

Cut again… until you’re satisfied that it’s performing the function you want it to perform but still sounds like real people talking.

Phrases such as:”well…”, “the thing is…”, “by the way…”, “like…” “you see…” etc. are common in ordinary conversation.   In dialogue they’re just padding. As a general rule, cut them out.   If you do use them, they need to have a very specific purpose i.e. to indicate mood, hesitation, lying, give the speaker thinking time, be typical of the character’s speech patterns etc.

http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Even padding must serve a purpose.

You will be surprised at how much you can convey in just a few words!