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A Pint of Plain, by Bill Barich

July 4, 2016 1 comment

I picked this book up while I was in Dublin in May this year with my husband. It was in a used bookshop that was going out of business so I thought I had to get something. What would be more apropos then to read a book about pubs while visiting Ireland. Actually, it was something I seriously hadn’t thought about prior to purchasing the book, visiting pubs, that is.

I’ve never been much of a drinker, except maybe by accident when I come across something really tasty and then take too much. But normally, drink is not first on my list. I’m very deliberate in that way.

In fact, our only purpose for visiting a pub when we were in Dublin was in search of some real Irish music. Ironically, this is one of the purposes that the author has when he first begins his research into what has happened to the Irish pubs and their reputation. He’s looking for authenticity and part of that approach is for him to locate somewhere that plays authentic music.

Barich certainly visits many pubs, both within Dublin and without. He does a decent job of describing the interiors, the food, the beer, the staff, etc. He also has a poetic style of writing. I suppose what I found lacking was any real organization in the book.

After reading the whole book, and it took time. I realized that we actually did a decent job of visiting the one pub that probably had as authentic an atmosphere as lucky tourists my get on their first try – and that was O’Donohues at 15 Merrion Row. Here’s a link to someone else’s youtube video of the live music.

Along the theme of music, Barich describes a collection of more than 1800 melodies that went into The Music of Ireland in 1903 and which is still commonly referred to as “The Book” for still being a definitive resource for musicians. Barich repeats a quote that describes traditional music:

Traditional music…connects the past to the present and closes a circle, and that’s the source of its powerful hold on an audience.

This is the best music link I could find on YouTube. Prepare for 40 luscious minutes of Irish music.

This must be true to some extent, because I have often felt myself held by traditional music, even when it is not my own, but I must say, having descended from four Irish relatives, the pull of Irish music holds me in a way that most other traditional music doesn’t. Is there some type of genetic memory that clings to us from generation?

My only regret, after reading the book, is that we didn’t visit the Brazen Head Pub, even though we walked right past it and it definitely looked inviting. We just didn’t take the leap!

Barich spends a few moments, in spatters throughout the book, referring to Oldenburg’s theory of third places (“great good places…that are at the heart of a community’s social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy”) and how pubs fit into the definition of “third places” – not home, the first place, nor work, the second place. A third place provides neutral ground that erases the distinction between a host and a guest… Anyway, there is a ton to read on that subject.

While in Ireland, I discovered that many Australians originated from Irish convict status, and I was able to confirm that none of my stock began in Australia this way – not that it would have meant anything if they had.

My Irish ancestors: My maternal grandfather descended from pure Irish stock on his mother’s side. Her father’s parents were Hugh Carolin 1808-1964 (Dublin) married Margaret Gilchrist 1805-1857. Her mother was Elizabeth Spillane 1808-1896 (Holycross, Tipperary). I don’t have information on whom she married. Based on the period that these people were alive, I am assuming that they fled Ireland during the potato famine.

Heading to Ireland, at a time, when Syrian refugees were and continue to pour out into the rest of the world, and rediscovering part of my family’s past had a certain serendipity to it. All of us have come from somewhere and many of us have immigrated at some point in our lives or our ancestors have. Would I be here, in the United States today, prospering, if my Irish relatives had not been able to escape Ireland’s potato famine…looking for food and life?

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Categories: Books, Family, Ireland, Personal, Travel

The art of NOT being busy

December 17, 2014 Leave a comment

I just read this blog about being busy and the impact it has on our lives and how the author hypothesizes that we have become “human doings” instead of “human beings”. It reminded me of how hard I tried, when my children were young, not to over-commit them to extracurricular activities. And, how I tried to make family time our main activity. This was helped by the fact that I didn’t have much money, so we couldn’t afford to do everything we might have wanted to anyway. Even then, though, I struggled with the amount of mail I had to deal with, the email, the social commitments and the chores that made up the our lives. Still, there seemed to be less of it than there is now.

Sometimes, when I look around today. I think that one of the key the signs of status is showing that you are busy (with activities). In other words, having the time and money to be activity-driven is a sign of status. Other times, I just think we are so afraid of stillness, contemplation, looking inward and finding our creative center that we fill our time so we don’t have to do that.

My kids are adults now, but I still fight that activity-driven life. I fight that urge to fill every moment with something. I like having the flexibility of spontaneously going for a walk, or how about taking a day off from checking my email…that’s fun too. Could any of us, in this era of cell phone driven communication, bear to put turn those phones off for a day that was completely unscheduled and unstructured? What would happen? What if we could do that for one day each week, just let the day evolve…and see what happens…it’s a novel idea and I’m not sure even I could do it. But I think we would all be better for it.

Categories: Family, Personal

My cousin, the artist

October 22, 2014 Leave a comment

I wanted to quickly give my cousin, Nicola Taylor, the artist, a plug because I think the work she is doing is really fabulous. And, when I saw this brief article about her, it made me think that we could all use some free advertisement now and again. So I should write something.

Nicola has always been an artist, at least that I can remember. Ever since she was little, my grandmother used to show me her pictures and hold them up, even if she didn’t always approve of the pictures themselves—I think she had a problem with some feature of the lady on the beach house that Nicola had painted. Maybe something about the belly button 🙂 I can’t really remember. The point is, she saw art being made there, and she talked about it. I saw it too, and remember being jealous of Nicola’s ability to imagine something and then to make it real on paper.

Anyway, Nicola has talent, that’s clear. Taking the time to develop that talent and then exposing herself by putting her artwork out there, in the public realm: that’s ballsy. Personally, I love what she’s doing with color, with feminism–at least that’s how I see it. There’s been this whole movement towards showing women without bodies, or parts missing and I see that in some of Nicola’s artwork. Her intent may not be what I am reading into her artwork, but that’s ok. I see it as women being more than just parts. It’s talked about in the media but it still happens: women are objectified for their parts…legs, lips, hair, etc. When those parts are missing, or represented in new or different ways, that says something to me about perspective and how we must be very aware of how we look at women, we must try to see past the “parts”.

Nicola’s use of color and shape are interesting. They draw you in and make you want to understand what she is feeling when she’s painting, what is inspiring her. I would love to see her showing somewhere and look forward to a day, sometime soon I hope, when she is doing that!

Categories: Art, Australia, Family

To my Grandmother-a poem

September 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Mardie

 

I couldn’t write

love

your death

 

opened something

 

and I am deeply lost

 

Since then

I have been

weeping

Categories: Family, Personal, Poetry