Home, Sweet, Home!

Thanks to everyone for keeping in touch this past year.

We’ve arrived home, to a splendid display of icebergs and we are thrilled to back in this very special corner of the world. Samuel travelled very well, but truth be told, he will be glad never to see another train, ship or airplane again.

Hope we’ll be able to catch up with you all over the summer.

We're Coming Home!

We are often asked if we plan on leaving and, unfortunately, we have to. The year’s sabbatical is already coming to a close and we’re beginning to pack up (and wondering where all this ‘stuff” came from and, how we’re going to get it all home!)

Of course, Samuel is coming with us too and we’re worked hard to ensure that his travels will be as smooth and safe as possible. He will be relieved to be a ‘bay cat’ once again.

Before we leave, I have one more conference to attend, where I’m presenting a paper about official and public narratives of conflict-instigated displacement in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely historical in focus, as incidences of conflict-instigated displacement because of racism continue to expand the conceptualization of the term ‘conflict’ here.

Thanks, again, to all those people how visited us this past year! We were very happy to have had a visit from Joy (who shared her ‘snow’ photo on this blog) and, who was able to bring what we missed about The Rock, a little bit closer to us. Martin and Susan were great Nova Scotian travelling companions in Italy. It was fantastic to visit with Jo and Sue, all the way from New Zealand, and we hope that we’ll see you both again soon. Kevin, Emily and Lee were fantastic hosts in ‘their Oz’ and, we wish them all safe travels on their return home. One of our mothers visited too, and even managed the Giant’s Causeway not that long after knee surgery. And, Judith and Stephanie came, too, and both are coming again,…can’t you live closer to us?!

We had lots of opportunities to travel and have appreciated places that we never imagined we’d see. Who knew that we could have endured that very, very long flight to Australia?

We have learned to text and some of you will be relieved to hear that we plan on moving ‘off the landline’ when we return. We did watch Dowtown Abbey, but truth be told, we were too busy to watch Season Four and still haven’t seen it. The ‘champ Champ ‘is Dean’s Restaurant and the ‘champ Chump,’ I’m sorry to say, is the now commercialized-and-no-longer-authentic Central Bar. We’ve enjoyed this extended time for reading, writing, taking photographs and sleeping, which we have managed to ‘fit it’ in around Irish classes, badminton, two bridge groups, mat hooking (including teaching it to others) and, meetings of a local service club that voted in the talented photographer as a member. There was also more than one mid-afternoon glass of wine. After we return, I promise, dinners will no longer be eaten in my office. I promise – it’s in writing here.

We have enjoyed the company of a good group of friends here and will be very sad to leave them. We will miss the local Jamison’s potatoes and our local library and its fabulous staff. We won’t particularly miss the ongoing controversies surrounding flags (reappearing everywhere) and European plumbing. Someone needs to tell them that the pipes can be run inside the walls and don’t have to decorate the outside of houses. We are looking forward to having a small, but warm, Jewish community around us once again and, we are eagerly anticipating whale watching (from own ‘secret’ spot), movies, our own garden and blueberry picking.

Just a couple of weeks.

Reading the Margins

It likely requires a trek to the outside perimeters of the library, the local bookshop (they still exist here, although there aren’t many independents) and the e-reader directory; contrary to previous newspaper accounts, there are lots of women writing in Northern Ireland and, depending on your politics, from across its jurisdictional contexts.

Lucy Caldwell’s, All the Beggars Riding, is getting lots of attention. Readers who might have missed it could also be directed to her two, previous novels, The Meeting Point and When They Were Missed. Maggie O’Farrell, author of Instructions for Heatwave, her fifth novel, is also the winner of two Costa Book Awards.  I spent a fine afternoon, in Belfast, listening to Sinead Morrisey, Belfast’s Poet Laureate, reading poetry she wrote for her daughter, Sophia; this was shortly after she’d won the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry. Claire McGowan, author of The Fall and two other novels, gets top billing at this year’s Belfast Book Festival, (although I admit that crime fiction isn’t really my ‘genre of choice’). Emma Heatherington’s, One Night Only, is her seventh novel; writing is her day job. Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s, The Guardian Angel’s Journey, has been published in 22 languages.

And, the list could go on, and on, and on…it only skims the surface. So, really, no shortage of women writers in and from Northern Ireland! Although, not surprisingly, none of them invited to present at the conference I recently attended on the topic of The Arts and ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

If I were going to be selective in my choice about United Kingdom writers (flying the Union flag), I’d include Sue Townsend, who died this past year; specifically, I’d recommend The Woman who went to Bed for a Year, which is seriously funny, and, at the same time, also seriously serious; and, a selective choice for an Irish writer (flying the tricolour flag), Marsha Merhan, author of Pomegranate Soup, who also died this past year.

Happy ‘hammock’ reading.