Monday, 22 June 2015

*IRISH COLLEGE: Ready, Set, Lean ar aghaigh!*

                       Countdown to the annual stint in Irish College has begun.
'I NEED the big suitcase down from the attic, Mum. I'm packing.'

I regard my younger daughter blankly. Packing?
And then I remember.
She's off to Irish college this weekend. Three weeks in the Gaeltacht. Total immersion in the Irish language. 
For those not born and reared on this little island, the phenomenon might seem a bit strange. Each year, thousands of Irish children and teenagers scatter to the four corners of Ireland for their stint in one of the many Coláisti.
Whilst some board in schools, specially rented for this purpose, others stay with host families in traditional Irish speaking areas.
The format is tried and tested: classes each morning, games and sport in the afternoon, Ceilí after dinner. Hours of dancing jigs and reels leave the kids elated, exhausted and ready for sleep.
Here, in Irish college, independence is learned, lifetime friendships formed, summer romances enjoyed.
The daughter is 16 and this will be her fourth year. She's rearing to go.
'Do you have everything?' I ask, regarding the mountain of clothes on her bedroom floor.
'I might need more tee-shirts. If I forget something, I'll write.'
Old fashioned letter writing is the only form of communication allowed. No mobile phones. Or books. Not even a dictionary. By the end of the first week, most of them are dreaming in Irish.
'Will I be going to Irish college next year?' the boy asked at dinner the other night. He'll have finished his first year in secondary school by that stage. If he follows in both his sisters' footsteps, he'll be due to go.
'I'm not sure,' I said. I've found it's never a good idea to give too much away a year in advance.
'Will I get to play hurling there?' At 12, the traditional Irish sport is the real love of his life. His sisters glanced at each other.
'Probably not,' the eldest said, as gently as possible. 'It usually depends on whether they have helpers who are willing to organise it, and enough people to play.
'I'm not going, then. Anyway, I'll probably have to ask girls to dance at the Ceilí.' I struggled not to laugh at his horrified expression. 'And I'm rubbish at Irish dancing,' he added.
Meanwhile, his sister is giddy with excitement. She's returning to the same area as before.
'I wonder who'll be my Bean an Tí? I'd love to get the same house as last year.'
It won't matter. Within five minutes, she'll have made new friends. And her letters home will be funny, chatty and filled with lists of things she's forgotten.
As we say in this part of the world, the craic will be mighty.

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Have a wonderful week,
Thanks for reading,
Hugs & xx,

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

*Something fishy about these supplements...*

'SO, WHY do I have to take fish oil again?'

The youngest looks at me patiently. I sigh. We are revisiting old territory.
'This is a very high grade fish oil. And it's excellent for your skin and your brain.' I put an emphasis on the last word, hoping that will call a halt to the questions. It doesn't.
'So what's in it?'
I look at him. I know he's winding me up.
'What do you think?'
'Well, fish oil obviously. But is there anything else?'
'So they just take the oil from the fish and put it into these little gel thingys and sell them in bottles.'
Where is he going with this?
'That's right.'
'So if it's so important, why can't I just eat fish every day?'
'Because we try to have a balance of fish and meat and vegetarian meals, that's why. I cook fish at least once a week.'
'Some weeks you don't do fish,' he points out.
'Well, all the more reason why you should take your fish oil every day.'
'I wouldn't mind eating more fish.'
'We're not talking fish fingers, you know. You'd have to be eating oily fish every day. You know what that is, right?'
He nods.
'Salmon, mackerel, sardines...'
Obviously one of my lectures has sunk in.
'The truth is, it's expensive.' There. I've said it. 'Maybe not mackerel, but that's not available all the time. I know we all love salmon, but it's dear.' Especially when you're feeding a family of four adults and one boy who seems to be permanently hungry. Not that you'd guess. Not a pick on him, as we say here.
'Which is something else I don't understand,' he says. 'We're an island, right? And there's fish everywhere in the sea. We should all be eating fish all the time.'
'Ah yes, but it's not quite that simple, you see.' I try to sound knowledgeable. 'It's all about EU quotas.'
He shakes his head.
'What the hell are they?'
I smile. And I say what I often say in these circumstances.
'Go and ask your father.'
He shrugs and turns to go.
'Hey?' I hand him a glass of water. 'Take your fish oil first.'

Follow THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE via Email (See Follow by Email to the right of this pg). You will get my fortnightly personal column, plus updates/guest author posts straight to your email. Your email address will NEVER be given to anyone, nor used for ANY OTHER PURPOSE.

Have a wonderful week,
Thanks for reading,
Hugs & xx,


Monday, 1 June 2015

Interviewed by Stacy Juba: #romance #inspiration #Hollywood

GOOD Morning from cold, rainy Dublin.

Happily, a little part of me is being interviewed on warm and sunny author's Stacy Juba's Blog

Here's the Interview:

Romantic comedy author Sharon Black is an Irish author, whose debut novel, Going Against Type was e-published by Tirgearr Publishing in September 2014. Formerly a journalist, she has also published short stories. She lives in Dublin with her husband and children.

Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.

I outline my books. I start with one sentence, summing up the whole story. So, for example, the sentence for my debut was:
‘This is the story of two rival newspaper columnists who unknowingly fall for their bitter enemy: each other.’ That tends to focus the mind. Then I do a rough synopsis. And then I start to flesh it out. Scenes first, and later on, chapters. When I start roughing out characters, this might change, but it’s good to have a skeleton with which to start. But it always changes.
Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in?
I’ve always read in lots of different genres, but my feel-good reads were the romantic comedies. So when I decided I wanted to write, I knew it had to be contemporary romance, and more specifically, romantic comedy.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of editing. How about you?
I tend to just write it all first. That has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you have something to edit. Somebody once said it doesn’t matter what sort of rubbish you write, so long as you edit brilliantly! The disadvantage is that you can end up with a lot of stuff you don’t need, and you have to sift through all that, which can be a bit frustrating. But that’s just instinctively how I write.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I love the beginning, when I’ve everything planned out, and I’m starting to write scenes. They’re really rough first drafts, but characters start to come to life on the page, and the possibilities are endless. Of course, I’m still quite new to it all, so I don’t have the experience some writers have. But the first novel I had published, wasn’t the first I attempted. I’ve been writing a long time.
What inspired your latest release?
Going Against Type was inspired by the 1940s Hollywood film, Woman of the Year, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey. In the film, Hepburn plays a high brow newspaper pundit, who hates sport. Tracey plays a sports reporter, and when Hepburn dismisses sport in her column, Tracey leaps to its defence. They know each other straight away in the film; there’s no subterfuge. In my book, I made my heroine a sports reporter, who’s given a shot at writing the new sports column, Side Swipe, for her paper. In her first column, she says something that annoys the gossip columnist, known only as The Squire, at a rival newspaper. And so their battle begins. The Squire is my hero, and in real life, they meet and fall for each other, but they guard their alter egos. I loved turning the stereotypes on their head. And having worked for Dublin newspapers, I understood the settings.
What do you read? Do you read different genres when you’re writing versus not writing?
I don’t read everything, because there are certain genres that just don’t interest me. But it’s safe to say that I read a fairly good mix of literary fiction, and commercial women’s fiction. Every so often, I also read a good thriller. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m writing. I would still read the same sort of thing.
What books are on your nightstand or by your chair?
At the moment, I’m reading The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton. And I’ve just finished Two Fridays in April, by Roisin Meaney. After The Miniaturist, I’ll be reading Sheila O’Flanagan’s latest novel, If You Were Me. There are a few others. Like most people, I have a TBR pile!!
Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?
My desk is a fairly big wrap-around affair at the end of my kitchen. It actually tucks in to a corner pretty neatly. Some people think it’s a very odd place to have an office, but you do what works for you.
The desk itself is actually a complete mess. I’m not a tidy person. I’d love to be! The great thing about it, is that it’s beside huge patio doors, that overlook a modest patio and a small but private garden. It’s important for me to be able to see trees and flowers. And a trampoline, and a hurling practice net, and a basketball hoop!!
Tell us about your hero or heroine. Give us one of his/her strengths and one of his/her weaknesses.
My heroine is Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan. She is 29, born in Dublin, and shares a house with Helen, who owns a local Italian café. She went to college in Galway, where sport was a huge part of her life. An injury in her final year, prevented her from becoming a professional sportswoman, so her work as a sports journalist was a natural choice, and she loves it.
Her biggest strength would be her pluck. She isn’t afraid to take on new challenges, and doesn’t look for any favours in the male-dominated world of sports journalism. In fact, she has to work harder to prove herself. Her weakness is that she doesn’t give herself enough credit as a woman. When Derry Cullinane (the hero) first asks her out, she can’t understand why he’d be interested in somebody like her. His usual type of woman is very different from Charlotte. When she’s describing him to Helen, she says at one point, ‘He’s Saville Row…I’m Wrangler Jeans.’
E-books, print, or both? Any preferences? Why?
I like both. I’ve had an e-reader for about two or three years. It was a Christmas present. And it’s great to be able to download a book late at night, if I’m stuck for something to read. It’s also invaluable for travelling.
But it’s also wonderful to browse around a bookstore, and treat myself to a few books. I’ll always want to do that. Honestly, I don’t think I have a preference.

Thanks for reading,
Have a lovely week,
Hugs & xx,