Monday, 18 March 2013

Celebrating the Irish

                                                      by Matilda

The whole world appears to be behind the Irish on the 17th March. Half a million extra people descended on the capital for the weekends celebrations. Where else should you be on St Patrick's Day?A rhetorical question apparently. One woman travelled solo from Istabul. She said her friends asked her why she would do this, to which her reply was - 'Why not?' The 500euro a night for a hotel in Dublin didn't deter her. She found a more reasonable resting place in an upmarket hostel. She was kitted out in the green, white and gold without holding back. She was here to celebrate what it means to be Irish.

An inner city grandmother had been queuing since 10.30 with her two grandchildren aged 3 and 5. They were dressed as a bear and zebra. I think the warmth of their hats contributed to this, not anything to do with being Irish. With green ponchos and matching wellies, she knew what to expect that day. The ache in her  back and arms from supporting them on the barriers was not part of the bargain. Yet, she entertained and cajoled the children for almost two hours until the parade started. It was their first parade she said. I admired her for taking them out on her own on a day like that but she scoffed at me. It wouldn't be St Patrick's Day without the parade and some rain. What was the point in watching it on TV? Is this what it means to be Irish?

Shauna Gilligan is a new Irish writer to watch. Her debut novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere is exquisitely written, emotional, poignant and real. It charts the life of four main characters who are interconnected not only through familial ties but through a similiar journey of discovery experiencing isolation, societal pressure and expectation. They deal with this in different ways explored through shifting points of view by Gilligan. This could be seen as deliberately trying to make the structure complicated in an attempt to be different but it works. Sepp, Mary, Dirk and Sheila are 3D,we share their humiliation, expectations, anxieties. Too closely sometimes. Gillligan treats delicate issues such as depression and suicide with a keen understanding, a rawness that is not overdone or condescending. Her characters are not in a faceless place - Dublin comes to life through her words. All aspects are shown as the story transcends decades and social classes. It's a vibrant city, throbbing with party life yet a lonliness and isolation behind closed doors.

Happiness Comes from Nowhere is a philosophical book in it's subject matter. Gilligan has a keen insight into the human psyche but it is not a heavy book to read. The characters don't allow it. They are just looking for the answers to questions we all have.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A book to read during mental health maintenance; happy mother's day!

Posted by Jenny

A few weekends ago I managed to take off a few hours of mummy sanity time among the shops. It was Saturday morning and the whole week I had prepared my husband that I was going shopping on my own and I meant the kind of shopping that didn’t involve groceries or children’s clothes.

When the day finally arrived I planned for an early morning start and was all packed and ready at 8.30am. Now, the best way in our house, for me specifically, to make an escape is by telling the kids that mummy has to go to work. Anywhere else usually means that they can come too. So that Saturday morning, mummy had to go to work for a few hours….. after planting a kiss on three little heads and a jolly wave at the husband, I quickly made my gettaway out the front door and although feeling somewhat guilty, but not for very long, I got into the car and drove off.

At this point the built up anticipation had me giddy to such a degree that I was singing makey-uppy songs behind the wheel. For a person who considers shopping one of the finest past-times available to female kind, I rarely take the time to go. The recession has little to do with this, as the activity “going shopping” in my head doesn’t actually mean that I go out and buy stuff. It means that I go out and pretend that I’m going to buy stuff. It involves extensive perusal of shop widows before continuing to browse inside. I might buy something, I might not. Absolutely vital to making the shopping experience a successful one is taking the time to have a latte and a scone. Hence the early hour... Of course shops would still be closed, but I came prepared with my kindle in my handbag.

Once arrived, I savoured the moment of entering the shopping centre. That gentle blast of warm air when I walk through the double doors act like a herald welcoming me to the land of milk and honey. Instantly the scents change from cold air and car fumes to a mixture of warm air, cleaned floors and coffee. A few other women arrived around the same time as I did, walking with a similar looking purpose in their stride. I imagined them also having made a highly anticipated escape that day.

Anyway, after I ordered a medium latte and picked out a fat scone with raisins sticking out (raspberry jam!) I picked a seat with a view, so I could keep an eye on the shutters of Debenhams. A coffee break was important, but I did need to keep my eye on the time.

Then…when I sat down.... that moment had finally arrived…. I eased back into the seat, stretched out my legs and slowly released a deep breath. Hmmmm. Shopping is fun, but it’s this moment I enjoyed the most. Sitting down… on my own…. few people around…. music in the background…  enjoying my scone, sipping my latte and reading a novel. Aaahhhh… Stress is for Monday.


Before hitting the shops, I read the last few pages of “Angel Interrupted” by Chaz McGee, a pseudo name used by Katy Munger. It’s the second book in the series: dead detective helps living detective solve murder cases. The living detective isn’t aware that she’s receiving help. More accurately, she sort of wonders at some level is she’s receiving help, but she hasn’t gotten it confirmed. Book three isn’t out yet, but I probably will read it when it’s published.