Thursday, 21 January 2016

Ice and Shadow.

A world transformed. Sparkling and fresh, pink and white. Finally a morning to quicken the senses, the kids played slides outside on the pavements and reluctantly went off to school, wishing for snow. The dog couldn't wait to get out. She follows me anxiously as I set the house straight and whinnies when I have the temerity to go to the bathroom after putting my boots on. Her eyebrows comically working overtime while I fill my pockets, keys, phone, treats, plastic bags, then open the door and go! Over the fields.


The dog takes a great leap into what she thinks is a giant puddle only to find that alarmingly it is now a sheet of ice. She practises reticence at the next great mirrored pool. These fields are not remote, bordered as they are on three sides by the ever encroaching town but are blissfully silent this morning, the only sound the satisfying crisp, crunch, crack of my boot against hard ground and brittle ice. Eventually it is time for home, time to puzzle over the structure of yet another TMA. (Tutor Marked Assignment)

Mum, why are you sitting down?
Oh, I agree sweet dog of mine but I am so close to finishing. I have been studying for this degree for six years now, why is it now so close to the end-only five months to go - that I find myself with zero motivation? Two rounds of coffee later and a browse through email/social media/blogs/course forum
settles the mind into focus.
Then sure it is just half an hour before the kids come home. Time for a crochet break.
And a walk with my newest literary crush:
I can't tell you how much I love this book, Robert Macfarlane is a master storyteller and his love of the land shines out of every page of this wonderful immersing book. His writing is exquisite, this is one to fall into only to emerge with extreme reluctance.
I have learned to appreciate January, even though I go into almost a semi-hibernation. These short rhythmic days of walk, study, craft, read, kids, dinner, are pleasing in their simplicity.

( Lovely things that I have stumbled over today:
There is an embarrassment of richness here but I LOVE Katherine Price's blog post, 'Clatter of corvids on a blustery day' and the compelling recording of Chris Yates's walk with his young son in search of a big cat in Wiltshire. 'Nocturne'
I have now managed to write half of my TMA and so as a reward I am going to jump into bed with clean PJ's, a hot water bottle, a huge mug of tea and listen to
Amy Liptrot's 'The Outrun' on Radio 4
Goodnight! xxxxx

Monday, 11 January 2016

Winter's Light

Sometimes, it is just a perfect day. I think Winter is my favourite season largely and contrarily because those days of brilliant crisp sunlight are so rare and fleeting.

"One of the secrets of a happy life, is continuous small treats"
Iris Murdoch. The Sea, The Sea

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Killed by Death.

So, today was my first run of the new year and the first, since the week before Christmas, me bad! I am annoyed with myself as I had been doing so well, practically bouncing along in my new runners and clocking up a solid 20 minute run, over halfway in the Couch to 5K programme. So then all the Christmas prep had to be done and then 'course it was Christmas and then we had to recover from all the Christmassing, the travelling, the drinking and the eating by sitting around crocheting, watching movies and munching tidying up the selection boxes. Additionally the weather was very very bad, stormy and wet, sure you wouldn't have put a dog out in that! When we did venture out I almost got very stuck in the deep mud all alone in the dusky fields. Creepy.
It was with great trepidation that I got ready for my run, all the bits that had been tightening up before the holidays were once again a bit wobbly and I felt so creaky and old. Even my ankles are aging sigh...but I pulled on the lycra regardless. As a tribute to the force of life that was Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015 RIP) I had this classic on the playlist.

I wouldn't be a big Motorhead fan but this song is one of the best running songs ever as well as containing one of the best nonsensical lyrics in music:
"If you squeeze my lizard,
I'll put my snake on you."
I mean what other mad eejit could get away with that! As a small digression my other favourite so-bad-it-is-good lyrics are these:
"Put your 'lectric eye on me babe,
 Put your ray gun to my head
 Press your space face close to mine, love" Thank you David Bowie.
Anyways, there is nothing that gets the old adrenalin flowing that running down a steep hill with Lemmy screaming in your ear buds. I doubt that the man himself would approve though. Apparently as a sop to the Doctors advice after being told he was very sick, Lemmy good-naturedly replaced his drink of choice - whiskey - to vodka. Live fast, die old eh?
I didn't attempt a 20 minute run today, just 2x 8 minutes with 5 mins walking in between and you know it went ok. I did get a weird cramp across my neck at one point and my eyes (WTF!) were sore at one point but I really enjoyed it. It is a strange feeling this running business, one the one hand I feel so exhilarated and alive in kind of the same way as I used to after a great nights clubbing or a night of the best craic down the pub or having a really successful week in my old job. Yet, on the other hand I feel so in control so focused, it is unusual. I didn't expect running to feel so er existential but at the same time it is so easy. Just pop on some shoes and off you go, if not for 20 minutes, then 8 or even 2 minutes. But is it cheating to plan your run so that the majority is on flat ground and the last minute is down that lovely steep hill? ;)
Right now I have to go and struggle with some OU study and whether access to politics and therefor rights should or can be extended to include non-humans? These are interesting issues for sure but there is one theorist that we are reading at the moment who is so complex he makes me feel immediately sleepy as soon as I try to read the text. Yawn.
Bye for now...Lots of


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Nollaig na mban.

Hello! Happy New Year and Merry Nollaig na mban!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are easing slowly back into the post-Christmas routine. After days and days of torrential rain when it seems as though the hours of daylight diminished to a few sparse minutes, it seems fitting that this morning should rise into a beautiful crisp sun-shiny winter morning. Today in Ireland is Nollaig na mban or Little Christmas/ Women's Christmas where it was traditional (in the West mostly I believe) for the women to take the day off from the grind of the household tasks and celebrate with friends and relations leaving the men behind. I must admit until moving here I had never heard of this custom, we never celebrated it in my own family in the North. This year I had forgotten about it until listening to the radio this morning.

Of - course the relevancy of this custom is somewhat suspect - shouldn't the division of domestic and the caring tasks be fairly distributed by now? However, in a world where the issues of equality and concerns of the feminist movement are still acutely relevant; I think that  Nollaig na mban still deserves special notice,  it is important to both celebrate the power of our femininity, the strength of the women who contribute/ have contributed to our lives and generally nourish our spiritual and physical selves. My little girl was very interested in celebrating Nollaig na mban unfortunately she had to be packed off to school this morning but in the future we shall take it as a day just for ourselves or get together with friends and family.

I am going to put my feet up, drink some coffee and reacquaint myself with the lives of some incredible Irish women. This year is the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the nascent emergence of Ireland as an independent nation and the beginnings of a century of great change in the lives of many women. Some women did not wait for change they pioneered it.

Maud Gonne: Political Activist, Irish Nationalist, Spiritualist, Actor and Muse of W.B. Yates. The Woman's Peace Committee. The Women's Prisoner's Defence League.

Countess Markievicz: Revolutionary, Socialist, Suffragette, first woman to be elected to the British Parliament, formed the 1st Dail Eireann, Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, Artist, founded Fianna Eireann, joined Irish Citizen Army, key activist in the Rising and on the Republican side in the Civil War.
Hannah Sheehy Skeffington: Teacher, Suffragette, Irish Nationalist, Political activist, founding member of the Irish Women Worker's Union, assistant editor of An Phoblacht.

1916 was also the birth year of a very important woman in my life, a woman who did not break out of the conventions that the patriarchy and indeed sectarianism that (Northern) Irish Society had set down for her but a remarkable person nevertheless, at times infuriating but with a fierce love for all her family. She held a profound faith but had a sharp realism about the sexist confines of Catholicism . She left school at 14 and became a mill girl but wrote secret lines of poetry and reminisced fondly about being told that she could draw very well. She brought up six children and partly one grand-daughter for whom she would buy great piles of second-hand books out of her sparse pension.

J.H. 1916-2010.

Happy Women's Christmas to you all! 2015 was a very good year for our family and I am really looking forward to whatever 2016 will bring. What are you hoping for this year? Who was inspired you thus far? Bye for now - here's hoping my blogging will be a tad more regular. ;)