Category: ireland

NaNoWriMo take two

Being unemployed and generally unmotivated, I decided to use my first exam and essay free November in years to do NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write an entire book (50,000 words) in a month. Which is about 1,667 words a day.

For the most part, I kept with the 1,667 words a day rule. There was, however, at least one day in each week that I didn’t have enough time to write. I then had to write double the next day. Of course, I didn’t want to ruin my beautiful chart, so usually I put in that I hit the word count each day so it would look pretty:

NaNoWriMo chart

Of course, last Friday I stupidly did not do that and now my chart is ruined. Seriously, though, I loved this chart. It really helped me keep on track to update it every day, to watch my progress and to be constantly reminded how how much I had left to reach my daily word count:

NaNoWriMo words

I want one of these for every book I write. I’ll have to look into that.

Of course, now you’re probably asking what my book is about. As usual, let me back into this answer with a little preamble about how and why I chose my subject.

Everything I’ve written in the last two years or so has been quasi-autobiographical, pseudo-memoir creative non-fiction. But my true background, my passion for writing, comes from character based fantasy novels.

I haven’t been reading what I would call “good” books in the last little while. It started in January with a new addiction to a romance-fiction series by Karen Marie Moning that Alaina sent me for Christmas. Then, with so much school work and traveling for the next two semesters, I ended up needing books that were entertaining. That were an escape. I couldn’t concentrate on the literary type of books I normally read.

When I got home from England, I didn’t want to think about life much. So I kept reading about other people’s melodramatic lives in new romance serieses.

When I decided to endeavor to write 50,000 words in one month, I knew I needed to break away from my usual type of writing. I knew I needed something that was exciting and interesting to keep my attention for a whole month. I knew I wasn’t going to write the next great Canadian novel in one month.

So I decided to write a romance novel. A time travel romance set in Ireland. Ireland is the perfect place for it, because it’s already so magical and romantic in my mind. And I know it well enough to describe it in fair detail.

This was my plot description:

Lexi Kelly is a Canadian visiting some relatives in small town in the Connemara region of Ireland. Her cousins take her to a Beltane festival, where she gets a wee bit drunk. Costumed people start to blur as they dance about, and the next thing she remembers is waking up in the morning. Only she’s not where she thought she was, she’s in 1275 and servant girl is calling her “Lady Alexandra.” She quickly discovers that she’s recently married, to a bullheaded Irish lord, Aedh Muimhnech Ó Conchobair. Strangely, everyone thinks she’s always been there. Her and her husband, however, are not on good terms. He could care less about her and had to marry her as part of an alliance. Miscommunication and frustrations ensue.

To further complicate things: just as she’s starting to resign herself to her new timeline, she gets thrown back into modern Ireland. She’s returned to her Aunt’s house, where she’s apparently been off studying Gaelic for two weeks. Confused, she decides to extend her stay in Ireland and meets the beautiful Irish man she was always hoping for, a charmer named Dechlan Gallagher. Things progress and she starts to think that 1275 and Aedh were all just a really strange, whiskey induced dream.

At which point she gets thrown BACK to 1275.

Basically she keeps jumping between the two timelines at unpredictable (and hilarious) times. There’s a mysterious force at work and eventually she has to make a choice between the two timelines.

Fun, right? I thought so. And guess what? It worked! I won!

I'm a winner!

Apparently I can actually write every day and get somewhere. Considering I’m still unemployed and without a career path, maybe I really should be a writer! I’m pretty damn proud of myself, I have to say. Which is hard to come by when you do almost nothing with your life on a regular basis!

Check back soon and I’ll post an excerpt!

The Road Less Traveled

How many of us spend our lives in a city we barely see?

It’s the same old story. Jaded by life, we go through our days with blinders on. Without the energy or the interest to see or do things. To explore.

There’s so much in Ottawa and around that I have never seen, and I lived there for 22 years. There was tons in Galway that I never saw in my four months there. I remember walking to work one morning in Galway, following the river back behind the Roisin Dubh, watching the swans and the garbage float side by side. And suddenly I was struck by the fact that, even though I was on my way to crappy job too early in the morning and even though it smelt like vomit and stale beer, I was in Ireland. It was so easy to forget. To concentrate on hating my job or on what club we were going to go to that night.

This time, I made a decision to change that.

I made a list. It’s a whole page of places to go around Newcastle. Most of them are either in the city or on the Tyne and Wear Metro system.

My best memory from Ireland was when we crawled underneath the Blarney Castle with only the little flashlight from my keychain. Because we were terrified and had no idea where we were going or whether we might get thrown out before we got to kiss the Blarney Stone, but we were there. In this little passageway underneath a castle. People had been there before - the bottles and garbage everywhere proved that. But in a place so chalk full of tourists, for that moment it was ours.

blarney

This weekend I became an adventurer. Living in alone in a new city is terrifying and lonely at times, but I made this decision for myself and I know that I can love this. So I went exploring, to distract myself from the small ache of loneliness that followed me to London and back again.

This weekend was Heritage Open Days in Tyne and Wear. Tyne and Wear is the area of between the two named rivers, including Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland. They were offering special tours of many places that weren’t normally open to the public, and even the places that were normally open were free. I admit that I forgot about it entirely on Friday, and slept in quite late on Saturday. But I still managed to make it to three places on Saturday and one today.

One of the buildings I saw, Alderman Fenwick’s House wasn’t normally open at all. And the highlight of my day on Saturday was the Bell Tower at St. Nicholas Cathedral. I had gone to St. Nicholas the first Sunday I arrived in Newcastle. It’s a gorgeous old church, and I walked around inside the seemingly deserted building for a while on my way back to my flat. I returned on Sunday for two reasons. The first was that it was close to the Holy Jesus Hospital, which I visited before it, and the second was that the Heritage Open Days booklet promised a display of the oldest books in the Cathedral’s collection.

stnicholas

I arrived just in time for the magic words.

“So I guess you all want to go up to the tower then?” The guide said to the gathering crowd. I immediately tried to blend into the group. I definitely wanted to go up to the tower.

stairs

The staircase up the Bell Tower is impossibly narrow, steep and dark. The first place we got to was the Bell Room. From here, the Bell Ringers (who have trained for years to be able to do this) use the cords to ring the eight bells in elaborate sequences which produce the tunes you can hear for miles from the Cathedral.

bells

We had to leave our bags here, because the staircase got narrower from then on. Right before we left, our guide rang one of the bigger bells. As we climbed the staircase, the sound buzzed through the tower. The walls trembled with the vibrations. We stopped briefly at the Bellfry to watch the huge bell swing back and forth.

We continued on to the very top of the Bell Tower. Heritage Open Days is the only time they let the public up this tower. And so we stood, where not so many had stoof before, looking out at the city of Newcastle from perhaps the highest point in the city.

newcastle

You should know, I’m terrified of heights. But as I looked up, my back pressed firmly against the stone wall of the Tower, I knew it was worth it. The climb. The shaky feeling in my knees as I glanced at how far away the ground was. I was looking up at the spires of the Bell Tower, from right below. From the centre. From a spot that so few people had before.

tower

I’ll continue the next part of my weekend adventures tomorrow, with my first trip to the North Sea.

The sound of heaven shaking…

I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning - not because it’s so early, but because it was raining. I love lying in bed when it’s raining outside. Not in a “I don’t want to go out” way, but in a listening to the soothing rhythm of the rain drops and remembering way.

When I lived in Ireland, it rained almost everyday. I used to lie in bed far too late in the mornings, listening to the rain against the huge window over my bed. I was only there four months, and I only had one suitcase. Ireland didn’t always feel like home. But it did when it rained. I love rain. Those days rainy days you’re always saving for.

And it was raining cats and dogs out side of her window
And she knew they were destined to become
Sacred road kill on the way
And she was listening to the sound of heavens shaking
Thinking about puddles, puddles and mistakes…

there is a season…

Happy May 4th.

One year ago today, I left for Ireland. Today, my work visa expired.

I’m not really sure what I think about it. It’s been an interesting year. I wish I was still in Ireland, but I keep reminding myself that by the time I left last August, I was done with it. That was my past, and it was awesome. This is my future - and it has potential too.

Each part of my life is different, feeding a different part of me. Last summer fed my spirit, my adventure. This summer, I think, is going to feed my mind, my academic side. Next summer will be about endings and beginnings. So I can accept that, and maybe even embrace it.

But it’s still a little sad. It’s very easy to miss escaping real life.

i imagine my life is a photograph….

More, from Ireland.

My second favourite place in Dublin is St. Stephen’s Green. If I had decided to live in Dublin, I imagine I would have been forced to spend a lot of time there. Nestled in the heart of Dublins fair city is a giant very green park. People are sitting on the grass or on benches. Kids are feeding the ducks. There are people everywhere, since it’s nice out, but it still manages to be quiet. Like a library or a bookstore, there’s a concensus that one shouldn’t be obtrusively loud. Not meditation quiet. But at least… slow and safe. Beside the monument for the Potato Famine, a boy is sitting against the trunk of a magnificient tree, sketching. Late afternoon, the sun is shining through the tree’s leaves to make gorgeous patterns of dappled sun rays on the grass and the pathway.

In some ways, St. Stephen’s Green is just another inner city park. But… it was really the only real spot in Dublin.

As you can tell, Dublin wasn’t my favourite place. We did go on a gorgeous tour from Dublin though. We saw an old monastery, some castle ruins, the hill of Tara. Some beautiful celtic crosses. I loved this tour so much that I went on it twice. Once with Jez in the beginning, then with Kristen when she came. And not just because there’s a restaurant on the hill of Tara that makes the best scones I’ve ever had (though that was part of it). Because even the second time I went I took hundreds of gorgeous pictures. Because it was just that breath taking.

The Hill of Tara wasn’t all that much to see… but i you think about it it’s amazing. To be standing there where they crowned hundreds of Irish High Kinds. I mean, right now it’s just a hill with lots of sheep crap on the ground. But especially the second time I went.. I felt like I could feel something more. Ah, I’m a sucker from history and romantic legends.

The bus ride from Dublin to Galway was beautiful enough to convince me to move there. Before we even found a place I had secretly decided that that was where I wanted to be.

When you come in from Dublin, you hit the coast before you hit the city. And there’s this little bay, all rocks when the tide’s out, and an old castle looking out over it. It’s gorgeous There are boats in the harbour. There are pools between the rocks. It’s a really nice way to first see Galway, and, in my opinion, it only gets better.

Galways reminds me of Ottawa. I miss Ottawa, surprisingly. But Galway has the same sort of feel. It’s a big city, but there’s no dirty big city feeling. There are cobblestoned pedestrian streets full of buskers. When you walk down Shop St., you’re likely to be accompanied by a saxophone or a keyboard. Or an accoustic guitar playing Coldplay. Or a four piece string quartet. Sometimes it’s feels like being in a movie. And unlike Dublin, I feel like I belong. I don’t feel like a tourist. I live here! People even ask my for directions. And most of the time I can give them, too.

Galway is so full of Irish culture. There’s live Irish music. People playing tin whistles on the Oscar Wilde statue. Conversations conducted completely in Irish.

And it’s got everything you expect from a seaside town too. Fish and chips. A promenade. A beach. Which you can drink on. At least, no one’s ever stopped us. But the garda don’t seem nearly as concerned about drinking in public as the police back home.

On the few sunny days this city has (it’s one of the rainiest cities in Europe) the beach is gorgeous. And almost everyone’s as pasty as me! Because they all have the Irish complexion and there’s never any sun.

The rain took a while to get used to. You never leave the house without a jacket, as a rule. Even if it looks sunny, odds are that it will rain at least once before the day’s out.

But I’ve always loved the rain and now that it’s not as ridiculously cold, I don’t mind the rain. And we even had a week of really nice heat. I should have brought more sweaters though. Of course, it’s not even July yet. Hopefull it’ll still get a little warmer.

We did two tous out of Galway. Both were amazing.

The first was the Cliffs of Moher. The day was really foggy and we didn’t actually get to see the cliffs.. but the rest of the tour was worth it. We saw the limestone mountains and the famine walls. That part of the country is so interesting. The ground always seems to be made of stone. And ever now and then there are random hufe boulders sticking up. Our guide said they were left there by glaciers in the ice age. But they might as well be put there by a God of some sort. Musterious and with some deep spiritual meaning, like Stonehenge. I suddenly understoof how the ancient Irish were so religious and devoted to the earth. Things just look.. so much bigger than you. So planned, but beyond human understanding.

The other tour we took out of Galway was Connemara. I have this gorgeous picture from this lake we stopped beside. I got closer than everyone else to take the right shot. And I was just crouching there by the water and suddenly everything was so stil and quiet. The lake was smooth as glass. The picture was perfect, but the moment is what really stuck with me. It was as if I was inside of a photograph, really.

On that same tour we saw the Kylemore Abbey. It was one of my favourite places so far. I seriously would have been baptised Catholic and inducted as a nun right then and there if it meant I could live in Kylemore Abbey. It was beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it from every angle. I have over twenty of the exact same picture. Because every time I looked at it it seemed more beautiful and I was sure I hadn’t quite captured it the last time.

more to come, some time.