McMahon’s café in Glasnevin

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this blog was talk about favourite places-to-visit I’ve come across, most of which are in Dublin (for now anyways). Apologies if you don’t live in/near Dublin – but who knows? Maybe you’ll visit someday…

Found just off the Tolka river and up the road from the Botanic Gardens, with bright red outdoor chairs and pastel walls, McMahon’s is a gorgeous café. The cute-and-clean décor is just perfect, with pots of real flowers, crafts for sale at the door, cookbooks mcmahon's cookies with BOWpiled in a corner and bows on the sugar bowls and cakes. No, really.

Eating there is an absolute pleasure. Every time I’ve been there the café has been full, and it makes me really happy to see this little business thriving. Also, the food is DIVINE – I almost wanted to order a second sandwich instead of a dessert, it was that nice. It’s so easy to go to Costa or Starbucks and get your usual order without needing to look at a menu – I find it refreshing and satisfying to be supporting somewhere like this. I 100% recommend it. 🙂

For more information, and a map, see their Facebook page.

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And now some music: Hudson Taylor

Singing for StrangersThese guys are Irish, so I suppose I’m biased in their favour – maybe that’s why I feel the need to share. But whatever.

Harry and Alfie are brothers whose music I came across on Youtube. My sister bought their first album, Singing for strangers, last year; every song is distinctive and there is not one I don’t like. The songs tell stories, and the lyrics have actual meaning (“Put me in a box and tick it/don’t tell me I can’t be who I am”; “There’s no one hanging ’round since they ripped out the soul of the town.”) Also, I went to their concert in the Olympia (in Dublin) last May and it was an amazing night. The atmosphere was incredible; it was one heck of a show.

Obviously music is even more subjective than some of the other things I’ve recommended on here, so there’s no particular reason for you to agree with me. But do have a listen.

A few of my favourites are Battles, Care, Holly, and Weapons.

Hudson Taylor ticekts

Granny O’Grimm and some news

This little video is pure GOLD.

In this bedtime story by Brown Bag Films, an ominous, babysitting granny tells her own version of Sleeping Beauty; she seems to have a very personal connection with it. I saw this one a few years ago and I loved the sinister music, the appropriate thunder and lightning, the two different types of animation and the Irish-ness of it. Plus, fairytale retellings are always great.

Seriously, worth a watch, do enjoy.

(Also – news! A couple of weeks ago the lovely U.S. magazine Rookie published one of my poems. Rookie is super pretty and artsy and support-the-teenagers-y, and I’m really pleased to be a contributor. Also, this is my first time to have a poem published, so. 🙂 You can read it here. Hope you enjoy.)

Silver Apples Mag Issue 6: Frostbitten

As I mentioned in my last post, the magazine Silver Apples have made their winter issue Frostbitten free to download here. (You should read it! It’s free and it’s good!) I’ve finished my copy, thoroughly enjoyed it, and would like to tell you which were my favourite pieces and why I liked them. If you haven’t read it yet, go download your copy and then get back to me!

Like last time I did a review of a magazine, this list doesn’t include all of the ones I liked. This is just a sample, I actually had to cut the list down…

  1. The Boyfriend Shop – Arron Ferguson: Absolutely hilarious.
  2. Silver Bracelet – Faye Boland: This poem  was heartbreaking and beautiful. Perfectly put together.
  3. Let it Snow – Cassandra Schoeber: I loved the premise of this little tale. I’m a big fan of rewrites of myths or fairy tales, and I liked the idea of a reluctant, near-human Jack Frost.
  4. Coldest on Record – Michelle Coyne: Ah, this story was great craic! I enjoyed the humour, the slangy language, the impression given that something maybe-supernatural is going on…and also the depth, provided by the Grandad’s disgust at his daughter being a single mother.
  5. The Elsa Dress – James Holden: So cute. The relationship between husband and wife was great (“50p. Or is it a pound for an eff?” “I don’t care about the sodding swear box right now.”) But I also really liked the discussion about trying to raise their daughter free of pressure from gender roles, and yet discovering that everyday life enforces those roles all the same.

(I don’t have a picture of the cover because I read a virtual copy, but the cover is gorgeous.)

If you enjoyed Silver Apples, here is their lovely website. Maybe you could buy their next issue…OH and they have submissions opening soon for anyone who’s interested, on the theme “Places We Have Travelled”. Good luck. 🙂

Christmas reading haul

A very happy new year to you. I was lucky enough to be given lots of new things to read for Christmas. I’d like to share some of my favourites with you:

the mothLit magazines: First of all, there are two literary magazines, Crannóg and The Moth. Both are so very pretty, and I’m looking forward to them. I haven’t started either yet – I’m saving them for during term time, because I’ve found short pieces are less inclined to suck you in and consume brain space. However, I have been reading Frostbitten, issue 6 of Silver Apples magazine, which they have kindly released for free as a Christmas present. (You can download your own copy here.) I’ll be doing a quick run-through of my favourite pieces soon.

Books: Books-wise, my two favourites are Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, and Carol by Patricia Highsmith. I’ve yet to read Carol, but the movie was beautiful (I mean, my name is Carol. I had to see it…teaser trailer here), and I’m excited to read a lesbian romance that had an unconventionally hopeful ending for its time (it was originally published as The Price of Salt in 1952.) I’m delighted to have been made aware of its existence.

I LOVED Am I Normal Yet? It tells the story of Evie, a girl restarting school while coming off meds for her OCD. It portrayed so well her experiences as a teenager/girl with mental health issues, and her frustration with the ignorance of the wider world. But it also accurately conveyed the feeling of being a teenage girl, full stop. For one thing, this book did not pretend teenagers are self-absorbed and only interested in themselves or their clothes. Evie and her friends had fun and had laughs, they went to parties, they talked about boys, but they were also real people. They liked books, they liked learning things. They had interests in art, or in movies as an art form. They talked about sexism. They explored feminism – with some confusion at first, but conviction by the book’s end. I would definitely recommend it.

In other presents/news, I also received a lot of Cadbury’s chocolate. So not a bad Christmas overall.

Something for the Christmas list

So, something slightly more light-hearted this week.

Christmas is a-coming and I have a suggestion for the wish list:

– The movie Song of the Sea is absolutely beautiful. It was made in Ireland by the studio Cartoon Saloon. This year it received an Oscar nomination for best animated feature (like The Secret of Kells before it, which was made by the same studio and nominated in 2009). I loved the snippets of Gaeilge (Irish language) and all of the Celtic symbols woven into the animation – the backdrops were so detailed, each still frame was in itself a work of art. The storyline was also excellent: endearingly stubborn characters, a touch of modern-day Dublin, a giant fluffy dog and Irish legends all rolled into one. I loved the way each human character had a faerie counterpart. I also found it thought-provoking: for example, the use of “medicine” is echoed by the use of magic to numb emotions, and numbing emotions with magic results in being turned to stone…

Obviously as an Irish person there was a lot of cultural value in Song of the Sea for me, but this is a story for everyone and the creators should be very proud. You can see the movie’s Facebook page here and watch the movie trailer here. Enoy. 🙂

Happy Christmas and I’ll write again in the New Year.

Thoughts on terrorism.

On 13th November, there were atrocities committed in Beirut and in Paris. I want to send the deepest condolences to the people caught up in those attacks.

The killings in Paris, particularly, have had huge international attention, attention most terrorist attacks don’t receive in mainstream media. There are those who have pointed out the hypocrisy of showing solidarity to Paris when this violence occurs so frequently outside the western world, and is ignored.

I believe solidarity is important. But I take their point. I believe that rather than condemning support for Paris, we should see this new global conversation as a wake-up call. Because this is a huge problem in western media: if something horrible happens too frequently, if it happens too far away, if it’s confusing or has grey areas, if it’s not something we can relate to or something we can do anything about…far too often we don’t want to know. The story goes off the radar very quickly, or it doesn’t appear in mainstream media at all.

In that context, it makes complete sense that there has been so much more concentration on this attack in Paris. Not only because it’s in the western world – we can’t just dismiss it as one of those awful, violent, far-off countries where these things happen – but because it’s Paris. City of Lovers, City of Lights. Parisian is a word used in English, for crying out loud. It’s one of the most iconic cities in our culture, up there with New York and London.  If you haven’t been there, it’s on your list of must-sees.

What’s more, it feels incredibly close to home. I live in Ireland, and we all know someone who is there or is going there or has been there recently; a friend of a friend, at the very least. Lots of us have friends who are French. And many of us have visited Paris in the last few years. These are streets we have walked. It is impossible to subconsciously dismiss as something that most-likely-won’t-touch-our-lives, because it already has.

So yes, the shock surrounding this atrocity makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I think it’s completely justified. This is the shock and upset that such a horrifying, inhuman massacre deserves. It only becomes problematic when you question why this same worldwide shock doesn’t follow other horrific atrocities.

And that’s when, rather than criticising the support being offered, we could bring other media-worthy violence into the picture.

(I want to finish with a quick reminder that this discussion must not be allowed to become black and white. There are people in need of help pouring out of the likes of Syria, and turning on these refugees – or turning them away – will not help anything. It is absolutely imperative that the minority is not allowed to define the candle...majority in this issue.)

That’s all.

 

The Addictive To-Read List

A couple of months ago I wrote an open letter to  author Louise O’Neill, complaining that I did not have time to read her latest book Asking For It. (I finally got a chance at Halloween, and just so you know, you should read it too.) But, as it turns out, there’s a growing list of books which look dangerously addictive. So here are a few more of them:

  1. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding: I found it in my attic and the first page was very entertaining so I put it down quick.
  2. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan: It was the original Percy Jackson series that I fell completely in love with. The Heroes of Olympus books are pretty good stories, though they don’t really have enough of the old characters to keep me happy. I read them all, except this most recent one – which, I’ve just discovered, is also the last in the series. I guess I’d better get my hands on it.
  3. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: This has been sitting on a bookshelf for years, but recently a friend highly recommended it, so now I want to read it and I can’t and oh it hurts.

There’s also a couple I actually have read, but which should be approached with caution:

  1. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North: You really should read it. Not if you’re busy. It’s very intense. But you should read it.
  2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín: I’d been wanting to read this ever since last Christmas when I watched my sister swallow it whole. Over midterm, this was the other book I made time for (mostly because I wanted to go to the movie.)

(I thought that both the book and the film of Brooklyn were excellent, although in different ways. There weren’t many changes, but somehow it felt as though they told different stories. This is one where I’d recommend reading the book before seeing the movie – if you have time before it goes out of cinemas.)

Banshee – a gorgeous little lit journal

Banshee, issue 1The lovely Claire Hennessy, Laura Jane Cassidy and Eimear Ryan have created a new literary journal this year (which is really very cool of them). The first issue of Banshee can be bought here, they are on twitter @bansheelit, and  you can have a peek at their webiste here (although their submissions won’t open for another while now).

I loved reading this journal. There were some beautiful pieces. For anyone else who’s come across it, I’ve put together a list of some I particularly enjoyed:

Feamainn – Ali Brennan: I think this was my overall favourite. It’s atmospheric and eerie and each word fits perfectly, but the best part is the twist at the end. It appears to be going one way, but after the last paragraph, the story has completely flipped – I wanted to read it again from the start.

All poems by Elizabeth O’Connell-Thompson: Poetry is great. However, I am someone who thinks the words in poems are pretty, but who finds prose much easier to actually understand. I rejoiced in how accessible these poems were. Simple lines revealed really clever ideas. I enjoyed them thoroughly.

Hair – Sinéad Gleeson: I haven’t come across too many non-fiction essays before. As the first piece of writing in the book, Hair set a lovely precedent. It has a perfect structure: personal experience, reference to historical events, and literary quotes woven seamlessly together. The author’s own observations take hair – something that is so normal, so everyday – and show us how firmly it is linked to society and culture. (And self-expression, and stereotyping, and…)

Small Nuclear Family – Mel Pryor: I think there may be a metaphor in here that I missed, but I liked how “pieces of myself” didn’t just refer to physical body parts (favourite line: “a scattering of frowns inside the tumble drier.”) The descriptions got increasingly interesting and fun to imagine as the poem went on.

Girls – Annie Wiles: I’m not quite sure how to describe what I liked about this one. But I liked it a lot.

This is only a handful. Flicking through the pages to double-check the authors’ names, I found so many more that had me dithering over whether to include them. If you are looking for something to read – even if you’ve never gotten a literary journal before! Give one a try – I would seriously recommend Banshee.

Book recommendation: “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” by Leslye Walton

I was in town with friends, we were trying to find something in a bookshop and getting distracted by the YA section. I pulled this book off the shelf because the cover was so lovely (no, I would never buy a book on that basis! What are you accusing me of…?) and one of my friends said she’d read it and it was pretty but Ava Lavenderheartbreaking. So, naturally, I bought it.

“Pretty but heartbreaking” is a very accurate description. The book follows the story of Ava’s family, starting with her grandparents, and is beautifully told, with the most lovely, delicate details. It also overflows with magic realism – meaning, on page 14, one of the characters turns into a bird, no explanation offered, simple as that. The story features (among other things) a red cloche hat, a blue house, chocolate cake, and a great many broken hearts.

Also lots of feathers. Ava herself is born with wings.

However, it does get dark. The most upsetting incident is treated with the distress it deserves – probably more than it would get if it happened in real life – but the story’s dark nonetheless. Be prepared.

This was one of my first encounters with a story like it, and I loved it. Ava Lavender is one of my favourite books of the year.

Favourite quote: “Love makes us such fools.” (Thumbs up for the context it’s used in at the very end.)