the park

I’ve written before about living close to a large park, and how much I love that. There’s always something to see, and no matter what sort of a hurry I’m in, just being in the park relaxes me. I hadn’t been brave enough to take photographs until the week when I realised that lots of the students had gone- the university is right next door to the park- and that I had the camera with me. I’m still a beginner at this photography business, so forgive the feeble attempts to show you what I like.

Of course, if the children had been with me, they’d only have noticed one thing.


the dancing

Tuesday morning, 8 am. I was fit for the hills. Girl2 was in floods of tears and was not to be negotiated with, Girl1 was bouncing with excitement and wanting me to watch her practise: ‘count me in for my new step’, ‘can you do my hair’, ‘isn’t my cape like a superhero’s?’. I had a day of the dancing festival behind me, another full day to go. I hadn’t had coffee yet. Did I mention it was only 8 o’clock? Maybe the day could only get better? But then, I was going to be spending the day in a hot theatre watching 70-odd 9 or 10 year olds lepping about a stage, with varying degrees of skill, enthusiasm and agility. Time for medication…

Monday could have been worse, because Spurs Fan took the evening shift of driving, distributing numbers, serving the tea etc, but it was a late night. Monday + 10pm + Girl2 = receipe for disaster. On Tuesday morning she was exhausted, had a day of school ahead and couldn’t find one of her medals. She looked in her dancing bag, in the big bag, in Spurs Fan’s coat pocket, but it was nowhere to be found. And she had to bring it to school to show her friends. Today, not tomorrow. No, a substitute medal would not do. Grabbing a random medal from the hoard upstairs and suggesting it was won on Monday would be cheating. There was no solution so off we went to school, Girl2 blotchy and despairing, me not much better. Then the school phoned to say she was ‘fretting’ ( I heard ‘having a meltdown’) because she’d forgotten her violin. Luckily we live in the next street to the school so Girl1 trotted off to save the day, while I finally got the coffee. It was still only 8.30 am…

The festival was full of familiar faces- the usual prizewinners, the rest of us, some new people. I met a former colleague at his first festival; what joys are ahead? It’s about showing off, having fun, spending time with friends and maybe getting a medal to show at school. My own dancing career was brief; I had no coordination, enthusiasm or resilience. Our girls are grand wee dancers, but they’re not winning championships. They deal with that remarkably well. They swallow the disappointment, dust themselves down and keep on going. I admire that.

Image from flickr

There are heavy shoes and light shoes, fizzy drinks and sticky sweets, new steps and new dances, big smiles and anxious faces. Girl1 eyeing up a costume with lots of sparkly bits. Should we get noisier heavy shoes? How do these small children get their feet to do these things? Team dances, couples, 3 hands- each of them a small miracle of coordination and practise. A tea break; time to go outside for air, even in the rain. Coffee and a bun. We’ll get through ok. I’m perfecting the art of reading at the back while not missing  the important people dancing. (It wasn’t always thus- ‘yes, of course I saw you, you were great.’)

Eventually we all got home in one piece. Each girl got 3 medals. The lost medal was found in Girl2’s dancing bag after all. I had a long bath and finished my book. We all relaxed.

Thank all gods it’s over for another while.


When I was a student not many acts came to Belfast, so we went to see lots of those who did-   Suzanne Vega, Echo and the Bunnymen, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Depeche Mode. Ultravox, when I was still at school. (Those sentences are like like a time capsule, aren’t they?) So, I’m regularly surprised by how much goes on in Belfast these days. If I had energy and money, I could be out a lot. Last week was the book festival and this week it’s the Open House Festival and ChilliFest. Lots happening.

What that means for me is that I didn’t get to see Caitlin Rose or Laura Marling or other interesting sounding acts listed in the programme (but I will be investigating further). I certainly won’t be at the Fleet Foxes/ Villagers gig, no matter how I enjoy them. £38 per person to stand outside. I’m not hardy enough for that, Spurs Fan only tolerates them and we’d need to pay a babysitter. Nope, not going to happen.

After trawling through the programme, I pottered into the living room and realised that Spurs Fan had discovered the Sky Arts channel. Not only had he become aware of its existence, he was actually, purposefully, watching it. There’s no football on to occupy him I know, but still, what could it be?

Ah, Cerys. A wonderful reminder that we may not get to live music as much as we would like, but when we do it can be wonderful. Cerys Matthews played in Belfast in February, as part of yet another festival, and she was great. The gig was in a church, so the acoustics and atmosphere were fabulous. There was no bar; instead there was coffee and caramel squares. Not only did we have seats, we had a ledge/ prayerbook rest to balance the refreshments on. Enormously civilised. She sang well known Catatonia songs, traditional Welsh songs and some of her solo material. She had us all singing a round. Afterwards, in a traditional division of labour round here, I bought CDs and Spurs Fan got her autograph.

A balance is what’s required- an odd night out, some creative TV programming (lots of Glastonbury this weekend) and concert dvds. Then I can spend 3 hours watching Leonard Cohen from the comfort of the sofa while Spurs Fan works out his fantasy football team for next season.




When I was writing this I was struck by the difference between the 80s pop and what I’m liking now- and then I remembered that even way back then I was listening to Laughing Len and to Bruce, so there is some degree of continuity. I didn’t just get to 30 and cast away all childish things..

I went out!

@speccymcspecspec*: Went out, like a young person. To the book festival, like a grown up. Am now home and ready for bed, like an old person. Tweet sent 8.30pm, Saturday 

You’ll know I’m attempting to rouse my mind by reading more, reading better. In reality this has meant buying more, buying more books, but these will all get read eventually. Honest. (I’m beginning to think that the Jilly Cooper may actually be the cause of the brain deadness rather than something just to keep me entertained until I wake up again. It’s never ending, and ridiculous and is turning into a chore rather than the fun romp I’d hoped.) You’ll have gathered that I tend not to consider book buying to be ‘shopping’. This has been a long term issue which has not been eased by the Kindle: too easy to buy and forget about what’s on it.

The Belfast Book Festival has been on and I was determined to go to something, anything. Luckily, I managed to get to the event I most wanted to attend- the launch of Down these Green Streets, a collection of recent Irish crime writing. Declan Burke, Brian McGilloway, Colin Bateman and Stuart Neville all contributed to the book in some way, and spoke on the night. I’ve read, and enjoyed, books by all of them. Neville’s The Twelve is well worth hunting out. Other writers were present but didn’t announce themselves or input and so can’t complain that I’ve left them out.

the festival

Brian McGilloway is a teacher and I sort of envy his pupils; I could listen to him all day. Of course, I have no idea what he teaches or what his ‘Sir’ persona is like, but  when talking about crime writing, his own and that of others, he was wonderful. Informative and entertaining; who would have suspected he’d need to research nappies from 1976? He didn’t read from his most recent book (the one after last week’s purchase), but next year’s publication. A novel about The Disappeared, the section he read included dead babies and abandoned old people. It was moving and gripping and it will be far too long before it comes out in paperback. In a cunning move, he’s hooked me into buying his next two paperbacks before I’ve read the most recent. Maybe he teaches Business?

launched and paid for

The authors talked about how being brought up in Northern Ireland during ‘the troubles’ influenced their writing- either by a decision to ignore it altogether, create a comic distance, or provide a backdrop to the story. They discussed their approaches to research, the decomposition of stomach contents, the sense of order provided by crime fiction and the issue of using the image of the Empire State building in a -never made- film called Empire State.

...and a freebie!

A civilised hour away from the house, a new book (paid for), a new book (free), listening to experts. A good time was had. No wine was consumed during the having of this good time. I might be a grown up after all.

* Not my actual Twitter name. Yet.