Tag Archives: Dublin

Lá Fhéile Phádraig

All of us have things we love about our native lands, and all of us have things we can’t stand. I’m no exception. I’m very proud of being Irish, and by and large I’m happy to live in Ireland and to say that ‘ich am of irlaunde‘, but there are also things which make me angry, mad, and depressed about the country of my birth. As ‘modern’ as we like to think we are, there’s a lot of inequality here, and there can be a strange, parochial, ‘me-me-me’ mindset which privileges some people over others, and certain groups in our society are given far too large a platform to espouse their viewpoints, sometimes at the expense of reasoned debate.

Hm. No different to anywhere else then, I suppose.

There’s one day of the year, however, when it’s easy to cast all your cynicism about being Irish to one side, and just enjoy the fact of your nationality, and that’s ‘Lá le Phádraig’ – St Patrick’s Day. I never go into Dublin to watch the St Patrick’s Day parade there any more, because as spectacular as it is (and this year was no exception) I can’t deal with the crowds, and the noise, and the public drunkenness (though if you’re younger, fitter and more of a party animal than I am, you can’t beat Dublin on St Patrick’s Day for ‘craic‘). I stay at home instead, where the parade consists of a few old tractors chugging up the main street, and the local Irish dancing school jigging along behind them, and local amenity groups taking a chance to thank the people who’ve supported them all year round. This is the sort of St Patrick’s Day parade that I love.

Photo Credit: Hotelsireland via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Hotelsireland via Compfight cc

I haven’t been living in my local village for very long (well, it’s several years at this stage, but in Ireland, unless you’re born somewhere you’re always a ‘blow-in’!), but I have made friends in my time here, enough to see several familiar faces in the crowd and walking in the parade itself. This recognition connects me to the parades of my childhood, in which I knew everybody, and makes me feel part of something bigger and more meaningful. I love that I live in a place which has a hugely rural flavour and sensibility, where showcasing farm machinery and celebrating our local Macra na Feirme (an association for young farmers) and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (a nationwide network of Irish music and dancing groups) is a parade highlight, and where people of all nationalities and backgrounds walk together in the strip of our local Gaelic Athletic Association football and hurling clubs. I’d sooner stand in the cold to watch this sort of parade than I’d like to look at the fancy, multi-million euro spectacles put on in our larger cities; the smaller parades make me feel Irish, and they make me feel proud of the hardworking, dedicated and connected community which unites our smaller towns and villages up and down the country. I’m wary of nationalistic fervour, and I don’t believe that pride in one’s country should make a person blind to that country’s flaws, but watching the effort that people put into their costumes and floats, and the good humour with which they wait for hours for their turn to walk in the parade, and the sense of togetherness that the day fosters, I can’t help but be happy to live where I live. And that’s a good thing.

Whether you observed it or not (and whether you were even aware of the day at all!) I hope you had a good St Patrick’s Day, and that you wore a little bit of green, somewhere. Did you manage to catch a parade, or do anything ‘Irish’ on the day? If you’ve never been in Ireland on March 17, maybe next year is they year you should pay us a visit – just make sure to wrap up warmly while you’re waiting for the parade to start!

Photo Credit: Mijos via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mijos via Compfight cc

It Does Your Heart Good

Over the weekend, I had cause to be out in the world, among people, in an actual city. I even took several forms of public transport, alone and unchaperoned, and I managed to survive the ordeal intact.

In fact, it was rather fun.

Photo Credit: Chris_O'Donoghue via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Chris_O’Donoghue via Compfight cc

Getting out like this is a big deal for me. When one is, as I am, living away from a major urban centre, and stymied not only by an inability to learn how to drive (all right, all right, so more like an unwillingness than an actual inability, but this will be the year, my friends. This will be the year I finally bite that particular bullet!) and also slightly financially embarrassed, getting around can be hard. But I had a friend who was home on a flying visit from a foreign clime (well, the UK. Not exactly Svalbard, but still. I don’t see him very often) and so efforts were made and trains were taken and streets were navigated, and everything worked out perfectly.

On the way home, I took a tram for part of my journey (I did this mainly because I think Dublin’s tram system is extremely cool, and I just wanted to take a short trip for fun. If you’re ever visiting that fair city, do try it). In my carriage was a lady travelling with her father and several of her children, and they were a thoroughly charming bunch.

Yes. All right. So I eavesdropped. It was hard not to. Don’t judge me.

Anyway. During the course of their conversation the lady and her son had a brief exchange, a version of which I have thoughtfully recreated for you below. I do not jest when I tell you that hearing it made my book-lovin’ heart swell, just a little.

Mum: ‘So, we went to the library last Saturday, didn’t we?’

Son: ‘Hmmf.’

Mum: ‘And how many books did we get out?’

Son: ‘Five.’

Mum: ‘Five! And how many had you read by Sunday afternoon?’

Son: ‘Four. And a bit.’

Grandfather: *chuckles*

Mum: ‘Four and a bit. And so then, what did we do?’

Son: ‘Dunno.’

Mum: ‘We went back to the library on Wednesday, didn’t we?’

Son: ‘Yeah.’

Mum: ‘And how many books did we get out that time?’

Son: ‘Five.’

Mum: ‘And when had you read all of those?’

Son: ‘Friday.’

Grandfather: ‘Good lad. Good lad, yourself.’

I felt like cheering (even though it would have been inexcusably rude) or maybe just turning around and giving the kid a high-five. His mum was extremely proud of him, of course – my recreation of their dialogue doesn’t really get that across, maybe – and she wasn’t in any way complaining about all these library treks. She was prompting him to tell his granddad how good he was at reading, and it was brilliant to hear a whole family, over several generations, being so reading-positive and library-positive and praising a young person for being such a great reader. Particularly, of course, when that young person is a boy. Reading has a reputation as being something which appeals more to girls than to boys, which I think is a shame; any child who wants to read, regardless of gender, should be encouraged to do so. Of course. Also, libraries are underfunded and overstretched, and I was so pleased to hear about one family’s enjoyment of their local branch – though it did make me woefully guilty that I haven’t visited the one library I’m a member of in over three years.

Three years. There’s no excuse.

Anyway. Today’s mini-post is just to say ‘well done’ to that young man on the tram, and to every child who loves to read and who – like I used to – enjoys nothing more than taking five books out of the library and having them all read by the end of the following day, despite the fact that it leaves them bookless until the next trip (it’s strange how I never really learned the lesson to take books slowly and make them last – I do something similar with chocolate, funnily enough). It’s to say ‘well done’ to every parent and grandparent and guardian and aunt and uncle and older sibling and family friend who praises a child for reading and who encourages them to read. It’s to say ‘well done’ to the fantastic librarians (and, indeed, booksellers and teachers) who help children to find their next great read and who form the reading tastes and, as a result in some ways, the entire lives of the small people they come in contact with. It’s to say ‘well done’ to all the writers and illustrators out there who make books children love and which they want to experience, not just with their eyes but with their mind and their whole being. The books we read and love as children have such an impact on our adulthood, I firmly believe, and when we read as children it’s more immersive and complete than at any other time in our lives.

Sometimes, it can feel like reading is falling out of fashion. Games and apps and TV and YouTube and what have you seem to be replacing books in the lives of many young people, but I learned a lesson this past weekend. No matter how bad things seem, there will always be readers, and they are as committed and passionate now as they’ve ever been. Is it any wonder I skipped off that tram with a spring in my step?

 

 

Book Review Saturday – ‘A Crack in Everything’

Ruth Frances Long’s A Crack in Everything, published by O’Brien Press, is wonderfully, authentically, full-bloodedly Irish, and I really liked that aspect of it. Set in Dublin, and its faerie equivalent of Dubh Linn (pronounced ‘Dove Lin’, and literally meaning ‘Black Pool’, this is the Irish word which became the name ‘Dublin’; however, the Irish for Dublin is Baile Átha Cliath, which means ‘Town of the Fording Place’, as far as I remember – Ireland’s a complicated place, all right?), A Crack in Everything is the kind of book you can taste and smell as well as read, if you’re at all familiar with the city.

Image: rflong.com

Image: rflong.com

The story introduces us to Izzy (Isabel) Gregory, who lives with her parents in a Dublin suburb. She has friends, she is into music, she has a part-time job in a coffee shop and she loves ‘town’ – as most people who live in the Dublin area refer to the city centre. One afternoon as she strolls through the streets, she is captivated by a beautiful piece of graffiti, an angel painted on a wall (which did actually exist in reality; I often saw it myself!), but as she is sucked into the power of the image, she finds herself being assaulted. She had noticed herself being followed by someone whom she took to be a homeless man, and it is he who shoves her against the wall and steals her phone – but then, before Izzy’s eyes, he vanishes into thin air. As Izzy struggles to get her phone back, she finds herself drawn into a different world, one which exists side-by-side with the human one, but peopled with entirely different Dubliners. The ‘homeless man’ is no such thing – he is a member of the Sídhe (pronounced ‘Shee’), the fairy-folk of Irish lore and legend, and another member of the Sídhe, Jinx, comes to Izzy’s aid. Thus begins a fast-paced, emotional story which takes in the Sídhe, angels and demons, magic and myth and the fate of the universe itself – all of which hangs on Izzy’s being brave enough to face up to her true identity, her role as more than a mere teenage girl, and her ability to deal with her complicated feelings for Jinx who – as a newly-acquired voice in her head keeps telling her – cannot be trusted.

But when he keeps saving her life, and she keeps saving his, it starts to get harder and harder to believe that. And who, or what, is the voice in her head – and why is it trying to control Izzy’s body?

Dublin – and Dubh Linn – as a setting for this novel adds so much to the story. It really couldn’t have been set anywhere else. Landmarks take on new significance, and the particular streetscape of Dublin city comes alive. Alleyways and rat-runs which are familiar to me become, in this novel, doorways to the Otherworld (I always suspected as much anyway, to be honest), and it was so much fun to imagine yourself in the world of the book as you read. Even if you don’t know Dublin well, or at all, though, you can still read and enjoy this book. It’s very much set in a particular place, but the power behind it is one which anyone can relate to – the loss of loved ones, the uncovering of deeply buried family secrets, the realisation that you are not what you thought you were and that your family is not what you’ve been raised to think it is, and the shouldering of new and onerous burdens – and the twisty, complex and satisfyingly interconnected plot should satisfy any reader.

I’m not big on books with grand passions in them, so I wasn’t too bothered with Izzy and Jinx’s love story (it’s not a spoiler to say so, because it’s telegraphed from the first moment she sees him), and I did tire a bit of Jinx being described as ‘lean’ or ‘lithe’ or ‘hard-bodied’ or ‘muscular’ or whatever every three pages, but he’s an interesting and complex character, and the tattoos and piercings which are so much a part of his ‘look’ are interestingly woven into his identity, and I did like that. There were places when I felt the book could have been tightened up a little (but perhaps that’s because I primarily read children’s books, which move at a breakneck pace!) and where I felt description was overdone, but in general I enjoyed A Crack in Everything. I liked the fact that so many of the central characters are women – and powerful, kick-ass women at that – and the seamless, intelligent use of Irish myths, brought cleverly into the twenty-first century (I particularly enjoyed the use of an electric guitar as a modern-day harp). It builds well to a frenetic conclusion, and even though it is the first volume in a series its story is perfectly wrapped up and brought to a solid conclusion, while still laying the foundation for the next book.

If you’re into emotionally wrenching YA love stories, and/or mythology and folklore, and/or Ireland and its history, and/or kickass heroines, then give this book a whirl.

Wordhunter

As we made our way home yesterday, my husband turned to me and said: you look good.

This isn’t an unusual thing, I’m happy to say. I’m a lucky girl. I married well. My husband’s full of compliments, most of the time ones I don’t really deserve. But anyway.

‘Oh, yeah?’ I said. ‘Why’s that?’

‘You look relaxed,’ he said. ‘Happy.’

That, friends, is probably because I decided to take yesterday off. I pushed myself away from my desk. I went into Dublin city for a few hours. I took a long, long walk. I saw some friends. I – *gasp* – bought a book.

Darlings, how I have missed thee... Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Darlings, how I have missed thee…
Image: commons.wikimedia.org

It was great.

I’ve made a few significant submissions in the last few weeks. I’ve been working hard. I plan to make some more submissions next week – short stories to magazines, entries to competitions, some more research into agents who (I hope) might like my work – and I’m glad I decided to take a day to myself yesterday, because this is the thing about writing, or indeed about anything at which you want to succeed.

It takes hard work, and not just for a day or a week or a year. For always. Relentlessly.

But that’s also the beauty of it. Working hard at something you love is the best feeling in the world. Having said that, though, sometimes you do need a break, and it’s okay to take one.

Image: abeforum.com

Image: abeforum.com

However, today it was back to the grindstone. It’s Friday, and for the first week in a few weeks I am able to take part in Flash! Friday’s weekly challenge. This week, the fiendish gamesetters decided that the compulsory element – which has to be included in your story somewhere – was ‘A Detective.’ The image prompt (I can’t find a usably small version of it anywhere) was the interior of a bus carriage – which I interpreted as a train carriage, but let’s not worry too much about that! – showing a pair of feet clad in admirably shiny black shoes leaning up against a pole.

You’ll just have to scoot on over to Flash! Friday to see it for yourselves, I guess.

In any case, I managed to find a story which I could fit, just about, into the wordcount, and which met all the requirements, and with which I was reasonably happy, and here it is:

**

In Her Footsteps

Day 214. Da and me get up early. Since we sold the car, we’ve been takin’ the train to school, and that sucks.

‘Got your spyglass, buddy?’ he says as we leave the house. I run back to get it, and my notebook. Can’t believe I nearly forgot ‘em! Gotta be on duty, all the time, if you want to be a real detective.

I flip through my notebook once we’ve found our seats. “Day 87: No siteings. Day 176: No siteings, no trale.” I’m better at spellin’, now, but there’s still no sightings, still no trail.

Then, I hear somethin’. Clack-clack-clack, real fast. I flip my glass to my eye. My mouth tastes funny as I look low down, at people’s feet.

There! Black, shiny, creased across the toe, just like Ma’s favourite shoes. The only thing she took with her when she disappeared.

I’m up before Da can stop me, but the lady’s not Ma. She never is.

**

So, there you have it. Far from perfect, but that’s not the point. The point is, you get back up on the horse/into the saddle/lace up your boots and start again. You keep on heading for that goal, and you keep on finding words and putting them down, and you never stop searching for your personal best.

Happy hunting! Oh – and, have a wonderful weekend.

I'm off to catch me some words... Image: teachwhatcounts.com

I’m off to catch me some words…
Image: teachwhatcounts.com

 

 

 

Resolution – Not Just for the New Year, Folks

I’ve recently come to a renewed appreciation of the power of a good ending.

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Over the past few days, Ireland has been gripped (well, all right. Perhaps that’s a bit over-the-top. Mildly interested, then) by a TV mini-series, which has been showing on our fine upstanding national broadcaster since Sunday night last. I was one of the many thousands of viewers who tuned in, night after night, hooked by the tale of a teenage girl who inexplicably vanishes from the bosom of her (fractured, and slightly weird) family, waiting patiently for the story to come to a Conclusion.

(If, by any chance, you were watching the same TV show and you managed to miss the final episode and you don’t want your televisual world to implode, you might want to stop reading at this point. Here‘s a fun thing for you to look at, instead. See you tomorrow, when I’m sure I’ll be discussing something non-controversial.)

If you’re still with me, let’s proceed. Please note: there will be spoilers.

So. This TV show was, by Irish standards at least, slickly produced and reasonably well acted. It showed Dublin as a hip, happening sort of place with its own fancy tram system and everything (get us! None of this ‘starvin’ for a spud’ nonsense any more), and several lovely cosmopolitan apartments. It featured an ultra-modern separated couple. It had hints of the movie ‘Taken’ (which also featured – of course – the most famous Irishman since Daniel O’Connell, our very own Liam Neeson!) in the frowning, ex-Army Ranger father character. It had a beautiful young mother character who was very well equipped in the crying department and who lived a super-swish lifestyle without any visible means of support. It had a mournful-looking little boy who nobody really cared about, which was terrible and Very Meaningful all at the same time. It hinted at Societal Issues, touching on things like immigration, organised crime, prostitution and underage people doing things that they shouldn’t really be doing in fancy nightclubs.

Nobody mentioned Mass. Or tea. Or shamrocks.

Feck it, anyway. Image: fatherted.wikia.org

Feck it, anyway.
Image: fatherted.wikia.org

So, in many ways, it was different from anything I’ve ever watched before in terms of a TV show cooked up, produced, and made in Ireland. The only Irish thing about it was that funding difficulties meant it was made over two years ago and we’re only getting to see it now, but that’s another story. Anyway, I watched it with great enjoyment, having fun spotting all the places I recognised and wondering if I’d see anyone I knew wandering around as an extra and trying to figure out how they made Dublin look so clean and tidy.

And then, last night, the final episode aired, and everything went a bit sideways.

Nothing was explained. No resolution was offered. I’m sure that plenty of choice words were hurled at TV screens in living rooms across the country as the credits rolled.

The show’s conclusion was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever seen on a small screen. If I may be permitted a small flight of pretension – I understand, artistically, what the makers of the show were trying to achieve by ending things the way they did. From a creative, oh-so-modern point of view, things were wrapped up perfectly. It didn’t play into the hands of expectation, norms were shattered, and the idea of perfect closure was told to take a long walk off a short pier. Rather more poignantly, from the perspective of how it really feels when a person goes missing, the ending of the show makes sense – and I understand all that.

But from the point of view of storytelling?

It’s important for stories to conclude. Even if things don’t work out the way you want, and even if certain things – important things – are left unexplained. My main problem with this particular TV show was the fact that, as well as the main storyline, so many side threads – subplots, interesting hints dropped during previous episodes, stories which started but sputtered out – were left to the viewer’s imagination in the long run. Sure, I get that when you’re investigating a person’s disappearance in real life, you have to cope with red herrings and false leads and information which doesn’t go anywhere at every step of the journey – but this wasn’t real life. This was a TV show. This was the kind of thing that people turn to for comfort, and for explanations, and for resolution. Leaving a storyline unfinished is like infesting people with an itch they can’t scratch. It goes further than irritation – it is profoundly disturbing.

The human psyche is programmed to need completion when it comes to a story arc. It’s not so much because an audience is curious to know what happened to these particular characters in this particular situation (though, doubtless that’s a large part of it); it’s more than that. Our need for an ending comes from a deep part of the brain, and it’s no coincidence that stories have been told by humans from our very earliest days, when the world was full of unexpected threats. Stories end because they are controllable – unlike life. Stories are utterly in thrall to human power, and it is completely within a person’s ability to affect and effect the movement and meaning of a story. In a world where nothing else seems to pay heed to humanity, where our power is regularly crushed out by nature or war or random tragedy, stories can be used like talismans to reflect back to us our perfected version of how the world should be. We need stories to end – even unsatisfactorily – because if they don’t, they might as well be real.

And nobody wants that.

I wish that this TV show had ended differently – even just slightly differently. I can accept the fact that the main thread of it couldn’t have a neat conclusion, and I understand that this is the only way it could have gone. But I’m irritated by the way it was done. I’m annoyed that the subplots, and the details, weren’t tied off, and that the viewers’ investment in the show – the effort put in to ferreting out connections and seeing the hints and wondering about images and motifs – wasn’t paid off. It’s irritating because it’s frightening, and because it says more about the chaotic nature of reality than anyone is comfortable facing up to. It was a clever artistic statement, sure – but a deeply upsetting one.

And a good lesson in how to anger an audience, too.

Meeting your Heroes

The husband and I had an interesting chat over the weekend. During this particular conversation we were talking about the wonder that is book signings, where an utterly calm and controlled reader (ahem) gets the chance to meet, shake hands (possibly) and say ‘hello’ to an author whose work they adore. I haven’t had a chance to do this for many a long year, but I do appreciate book signings as one of the high points of modern culture.

‘I met Neil Gaiman at a book signing once,’ mused The Husband, in the course of our discussion. ‘I thought he was creepy.’

Image: twitter.com

Image: twitter.com

‘Creepy?’ I responded, barely keeping the aghast in. ‘How on earth could you think he was creepy?’

‘Well, you know,’ responded my beloved. ‘He wears all that black. And he got up and read out stuff about death, and weirdness like that.’

(I suppose I should say at this point that my husband is more of a book collector than a book reader; he owns a lot of Neil Gaiman books, but I’m not sure he’s read very many. So, perhaps we can forgive him for not really knowing that death and weirdness and dark stuff are, quite possibly, the main building blocks of nearly all Neil Gaiman books.)

‘But,’ I spluttered in reply. ‘Didn’t you perhaps think that all that was an act, you know, like he was performing, in order to get the audience interested in the book?’

‘Maybe,’ sniffed my love. ‘But even so. Creepy.’

And he wouldn’t be convinced otherwise.

I, too, have had the pleasure of meeting Neil Gaiman at a book signing, many years ago. He was promoting the then newly-published ‘Graveyard Book’ at the time, and I – along with several hundred other fans – were crowded into the basement of a large Dublin bookshop, waiting impatiently for our hero to appear. When he did, a massive wave of excited applause greeted him, which he almost seemed embarrassed by.

Image: blogs.slj.com

Image: blogs.slj.com

He stood before us and read, at length, from his work. I had bought the book a few hours before, in preparation for having it signed, and already had it half-digested, so I was already familiar with the section its author chose to read, but that didn’t matter. It was like having an award-winning actor take to the stage – the huge room, filled to the brim with people, was silent as a tomb as Neil Gaiman read, and the book came to life before our eyes. Anyone who has ever been to a public event in Ireland will know how impressive it is to keep a huge crowd of Irish people quiet, by the way: we are the worst audiences in the world, in my humble opinion. I’ve been to hundreds of gigs and other events where the act performing can’t be heard over the clamour of conversation from the gathered crowd. I’ve lost count of the amount of musicians whose live act has been spoiled because some buffoon beside me can’t shut up talking about his weekend out on the tiles or his granny’s infected toe or the ‘eejit’ he has to sit beside at work – and yelling ‘Shut Up!’ just makes it worse. Believe me, I’ve tried it.

So, Mr Gaiman held the audience spellbound on this occasion. When the reading was complete he took questions – some inane, some rather good – and answered them with charm and wit, and not a little self-deprecation. He spoke for hours without any appearance of fatigue. Then, the signing began.

It was a bit like this. Image: blog.gnip.com

It was a bit like this.
Image: blog.gnip.com

Time was taken with every attendee; everyone was asked to write their name on a piece of paper to aid proceedings (always a necessity in Ireland, where people can have names that go on for a week or two, and are full of unlikely-seeming letters), and as I queued I saw people walking away from Neil Gaiman’s desk like they’d just been at a religious service, clutching their freshly signed copies of ‘The Graveyard Book’ to their chests with fervent glee. Gradually, slowly but inexorably, my place in the queue grew closer and closer to the Great Signing Table.

And then – like a dream – it was my turn.

I'm not saying I was *exactly* like this, but I wasn't far off. Image: kurotorro.tumblr.com

I’m not saying I was *exactly* like this, but I wasn’t far off.
Image: kurotorro.tumblr.com

‘Omigod Mr Gaiman I’ve been a fan for so long, like years and I’ve read everything you’ve ever written and you’re omigod amazing and I love you so much you’re just an absolute and utter genius,’ I may have said, in a voice like a hamster on helium.

‘My dear,’ purred Neil Gaiman, with a smile. ‘You’re too kind.’

And so, my book was signed. I was told what a lovely name I had. I was thanked for coming. I was thanked for being a fan, and for buying the books, and – in short – rewarded for my devotion. And all of that was fantastic.

But then, Neil Gaiman did an even more awesome thing.

I attended this particular book signing with a good friend of mine, a woman who has impaired vision, speech and mobility, and who is also hard of hearing. She is one of the cleverest and best-read people I know, and she is also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. I introduced her to Neil, telling him her first name, and then I stepped back so as not to interfere with her moment with her hero – and he could not have been more kind. My friend’s difficulties were unmistakeable, and because of that he spoke to her slowly and clearly, looking her right in the eye, and he spent longer with her than he did with anyone else. He asked her about her favourite of his books, and which characters she liked and disliked, and then he did a special, unique doodle in her book along with his signature and a message designed just for her.

My friend – and me, I have to admit – came away from that experience walking on air.

So – sure. Neil Gaiman dresses in black. He talks about death a lot – but then, she’s one of his best-loved characters, right?

Image: comicsalliance.com

Image: comicsalliance.com

His books tend to be a little odd – but brilliant with it. I can sort of see what my husband meant by saying he came across as ‘creepy’ – but I think that’s a stage presence, something he does for effect.

All I know is, my experience of meeting Neil Gaiman showed me a kind, patient, caring person who took the time to talk to a devoted fan, a fan who came away from his signing table with a grin that didn’t fade for weeks. That’s the mark of a good human being, in my book.

Have you ever met any of your heroes? Did you have a good or bad experience? I’d love to hear all about it.

 

Bookies!

I have held many nicknames during the course of my (relatively) short life so far. My family rarely refer to me by my real name, and my friends only do so if they want to grab my attention, or if I’ve misbehaved in some way. Going through school, I had a collection of nicknames which I could pick and choose to suit my mood; one of these was Xena the Warrior Princess. I can’t imagine why.

I am a being of sweetness and LIGHT, dammit! Image: libertytech.com

I am a being of sweetness and LIGHT, dammit!
Image: libertytech.com

I have just decided – as of this morning – that I now have a new nickname. I shall henceforth refer to myself, the second I cross the threshold of a bookshop, as ‘The Bookie Monster.’

My slight addiction to books is, of course, news to none of you. However, a new and worrying aspect of my life as the Bookie Monster has recently raised its ugly head. I’m talking about the complete absence of rationality, intelligence and reasoned decision-making that seems to sweep over me the second books are anywhere in view.

An example? Oh, all right then.

The other day, I was in a bookshop. This hasn’t happened in a while, so I guess I was full of pent-up book anxiety, trying to keep myself under control so that I didn’t empty entire shelves and slam them down in front of the bemused cashier.

Image: sweetmarie-83.blogspot.com

Image: sweetmarie-83.blogspot.com

I think, on the whole, I managed to control myself. I purchased the grand total of three books – one for me, one as a gift for a friend, and another as a replacement copy of a book which I have unaccountably lost, or which I’ve given to someone and forgotten about. The book I bought for myself is one I’ve been waiting to read for months (of which more in tomorrow’s Book Review blog), and the gift book doesn’t count as a book purchase, as it was a token of affection. (I’m sure this is a law, somewhere.)

But then we come to the replacement copy of the book which was lost.

I bought the wrong one.

I bought the wrong one! Can you imagine? I suffered some sort of brain fizz/meltdown/short-out as I gazed at the shelf, and I picked up a copy of ‘Coraline’ instead of ‘Stardust.’

Any excuse. Image: myhappybitsandpieces.blogspot.com

Any excuse.
Image: myhappybitsandpieces.blogspot.com

My copy of ‘Stardust’ has been AWOL for a while now. I could have loaned it to someone, or perhaps it has been lost in one of the many house moves I’ve taken part in over the years. Perhaps some nefarious creature has stolen it from me. In any case, I noticed it was missing a few months ago when I was in the middle of admiring my Gaiman collection, and the wound its absence caused me was a grievous one. I can’t be without it, because when it comes to authors like Neil Gaiman and Jeanette Winterson and John Connolly and Angela Carter and others I love without question, I am a bit of a completist. (If anyone out there has my copy of ‘Stardust’ and wishes to return it, by the way, I am hereby calling an amnesty. Return it now, and no questions will be asked. Or, at least, remind me that I gave it to you, so that my anxiety can come to an end.)

I can’t explain why my brain shorted out when I saw the Gaiman shelf in this particular bookshop (it was the Gutter Bookshop, one of my favourite places in the world – if ever you’re in Dublin, check it out); perhaps ‘Stardust’ was sitting on it, looking at me, willing me to buy it, but my eye fell on ‘Coraline’ and my fate was sealed. I genuinely believed it was ‘Coraline’ I needed, and I was thrilled to have found a copy which was exactly the same as the edition I had ‘lost.’ I gladly took it to the till. I gleefully handed over my money, delighted that my Gaiman collection was now, once more, complete.

And then I brought the book home and realised its twin was sitting on the shelf. The loss of ‘Stardust’ hit me once again, with twice as much force as before. I also realised I was a proper idiot for mixing up the two books in the first place, and I questioned my right to call myself a Neil Gaiman fan. That was a bit of an existentialist crisis, and no mistake.

Anyway, I have found a home for my second copy of ‘Coraline’, and so a modicum of balance has been restored to the world. My search for ‘Stardust’, however, continues. And, the next time I set foot inside a bookshop, I will make an even greater effort to keep my brain from jumping at the first pretty book it sees…

This is the Bookie Monster, signing off at the end of another busy week. Happy Friday, everyone!

Image: shelversanon.blogspot.com

Image: shelversanon.blogspot.com