Dancing at Lugnasa

In preparation for my next Open University course I have 9 books to read over the summer. I’ve also been trying to find film and TV adaptations for the books on my reading list if possible. I thought it would be fun to review each one as I go along.

The first book I’ve managed to read and see the film of is Dancing at Lugnasa by Brian Friel. It’s a play set in Co Donegal, Southern Ireland in the 1930’s in which the narrator, Michael, recalls his time living with his mum and 4 aunts when he was seven.

I saw the film before I had chance to read the book. The first thing that struck me is that depsite a wealth or Irish actors half the female leads and the character of their brother Uncle Jack are all played by non-Irish people. I appreciate that Meryl Streep is a good actress and can do accents very well but it’s hard to believe the film makers couldn’t find enough native thespians to fit the roles.

That aside it’s a plodding little tale of the sisters, their elder brother and the boys’ father over the course of one summer. Of the 5 sisters only the eldest Kate has a well paid job as a school teacher. Two others knit gloves to be sold in town and the remaining two have no jobs. Over the course of the play their prospects dwindle with the advent of the Irish Revolution hitting Ireland – the gloves are to be made through factory machines instead.

For uncle Jack the film didn’t for me seem to discuss much why he had returned from his missionary in Uganda unless it was mentioned so fast I missed it depsite the fact it was faithful to the written version. However the book gives a clearer picture with hints that rather than his failing health, it was more a case of “going native” rather than being able to convert the natives to Christianity

Religion is also covered slightly as the central story running through the play is dancing (and music) including Rose’s desire to go dance at the Celtic festival of Lugnasa and the sisters frowning on such Pagan traditions. The Pagan worshipers are often regarded as uncouth and vagrants rather than upstanding members of the community, a similar route that was taken when the British colonised the African countries centuries before.

It’s one of the rare cases where I cannot decide which I liked best between the book and the film as the film is completely faithful to the text. Whilst it’s not a film that will take you on a whirlwind ride of thrills or tears (depsite the un-Hollywood unhappy endings) it is a perfect film for a Sunday afternoons entertainment.


Time Travelling in the North of England

This past week has been my birthday and I’ve been celebrating it by visiting a few places of history in both Leeds & Northumberland. On Wednesday after opening my cards and pressies we set off for Temple Newsham, a Tudor-Jacobean large house in Leeds. This house is the birthplace of a Lord Darnley. The name meant nothing to me but it would seem he was the husband of one Mary, Queen of Scots – arch enemy of Queen Elizabeth the First! For anyone like me who doesn’t drive, it’s fairly straightforward to get the bus. However it doesn’t actually stop outside the house. Instead it’s a mile walk from the closest bus stop. Or, if you are like me and have no sense of direction, it becomes a 3 mile walk when you desperately try to remember the way you went several years before and end up circling round the HUGE grounds and woods that surround it! In all honesty though, the grounds are so lush green and the weather so lovely that we really didn’t mind the walk.

Going into the house my son was asked to out away his camera. One of the reasons for visiting is that for his photography dissertation he hopes to follow the Leeds version of the Monopoly board and photograph all the of the places of interest and Temple Newsham is one of them. Of the 40 restored rooms for our viewing pleasure some of them contain drapes and bedding so old they are in danger of falling apart and so kept in very dark rooms. While we were very good in those parts of the house, there was some very sneaky photography going on via his i-phone! But hey, needs must and he has a degree course to pass J

For people with small children the house also has a little farm attached to it. However neither of us felt inclined to pay it a visit. Overall it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

The next day I travelled up to Northumberland and Belsay castle. The castle is now left for ruins but houses exhibitions to help bring in the customers. Originally built in the 14th Century as a castle, an additional Jacobean mansion wing was later added. This building is in stark contrast to Temple Newsham with being left unfurnished. The wallpaper is hanging off the wall and there was nothing on the cold walls for decoration. While I found this a little dull, the aim of English Heritage who look after it is so you can fully enjoy the Greek Revival style of architecture. I normally like a good old fashioned castle but this looked as it was – an abandoned house.

We had a wander around the grounds and they more than make up for the house. I am not a gardener in any shape or fashion so can only say how beautiful and colourful the gardens are. They are obviously looked after with much love. The gardens have been created where the stone had been cut to build the Hall and walking around you actually find yourself in the original quarry whilst surrounded by greens and flowers. So peaceful I could’ve walked around several times.

The main reason for visiting though was the Jane Austen collection – costumes from various TV & film adaptations of her books – specifically the shirt worn by Colin Firth in that pond scene. A scene that whilst very, very tame by todays film standards has a tendency to send ladies of a certain age (and any taste!) into a frenzy. Indeed myself and a friend – both well past our teenage years found ourselves sneaking over the barrier for a touch J Several of my friends have asked me since what it smelled of! Fantastic!! I would’ve liked to have seen more costumes but seeing as we were only there for the one I can’t complain.

Both the visits and being able to spend time with family and good friends served to make it a really enjoyable birthday. Now where can I go for the next one???

Every Day I Write the Book

The other thing to take up my thoughts this week has been my writing. I started writing again last October after stopping during the bleak years. In a rare moment of asking for help I spoke to a woman on one of my Open University courses as she has had a couple of books published and she very kindly gave me copies of some creative learning course materials as well as becoming my mentor


Since then in spare time I have started making my way through it as well as writing this blog. I enjoy doing it and I get a real sense of achievement from finishing something.


I also started a blog about Family Trees but haven’t had the chance to do much with it and after discovering my family have stayed in the same area for over 300 years (so far) rather than going on a voyage of discovery to far flung areas, my plans to write about the research is evolving now into picking out one or two characters and seeing if I can tell their story.


One thing finding out that your family have always lived in the area you come from has brought about a feeling like I should do something in the community I come from. Looking around we have little festivals, my estate ha a residents association and there are a lot of groups designed to fill the district with flowers and greenery. While all of these seem interesting they are not “me”. However I think I’ve now found something that is.


South Leeds Life is a community blog/magazine that is all about the local area. It’s a free publication and relies on volunteers to keep it going. This would allow me to do something for the community whilst still practising my writing skills. I have to fit it around work and study but even if I can only write a couple of articles a month it is still something. I’ve signed up for their community reporters course that will get me started and then we’ll see what follows. Anything that helps me become a better writer before I embark on the writing the stories that are in my head

Career Opportunities

This week I’ve put aside issues of being feminine as the last seven days has been all about business and ambition. I’ve written a couple of posts before about wanting to leave the rat race and go self employed. I’ve also written about learning to trust again and the need to tell people things without the fear of ridicule.  Learning to trust in my own abilities is quite difficult but I’m getting there.

Last week I went to a Business Start Up seminar. Three hours of speakers who can offer lots of help in setting up your own business. As expected the guy talking about tax was very dull but the company he was from are offering a free no obligation meeting on a one to one basis to ask more questions. And boy do I have questions! I can do Maths if I sit and concentrate but it’s dull and I can usually find far more interesting things to do instead. Such as having all my teeth pulled!! So going forward once I start this little adventure I think that it will make more sense to hire at least a book keeper (or try and enlist my mum to do it!) otherwise I’ll end up in trouble.

We had a very interesting talk from Leeds Libraries about the support they offer including more specialised shorter workshops. I’ve signed myself up over the summer to ones on marketing and how to effectively use social media. Far more fun than tax J They had a lot of talk about intellectual property. I’m not an artist but I have an idea about how I want my brand and logo’s to look. Hopefully my son or a friend will make my ideas into a usable design so I need to research this further as to who it would belong to. Although I suppose if I pay them a fee for services then hopefully it will mean it is mine.

While this was going on I started thinking about my business idea. It started off as knitted scarves and accessories with some beads, blossomed into a million other things before settling on an idea that I’ve been playing with for over 5 years now (and this is where I start to get honest about things I want from life and stop fearing people will laugh at them).  Way back then I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to work for myself and came up with the idea of wedding planning. I may be divorced and useless at love (Hey I’m J-Lo in that film I’ve not actually seen J ) but I adore the idea of weddings and the happy ending. I spent time with a friend swapping ideas and making plans. For her I think it was some escapism from every day work life but for me I’d got a note book filled with all the ideas, I’d done my research. I’d even talked to a Muslim friend about how Asian weddings work so I could appeal to everyone. And then it all fizzled out. I started on my downward slide and she is one of the people I now sadly no longer have contact with.

But the little idea has never gone away. I’ve recently started knitting a wedding cake for a friends wedding. Which has started me off on the theme again. I had hoped I could knit more cakes but it’s been very intricate and time consuming I’m not sure a sensible cost would match the hours put in. I do think though that wedding dolls would be sweet, a little something quirky to last forever so I’m playing around with designs at the minute. I also plan to change my colours of beads to those more suited to wedding colours. I get to play at helping create someone’s magical day and make some money while I do it. Hopefully this is now my way forward. It’s very exciting and I feel like this is exactly what I should be doing with my life.

What a Girl Wants

I haven’t written anything in a few weeks – not a blog, piece of fiction or even a bad poem. Some of it is simply because I’ve been out and about enjoying the sun, spending time with family and friends and also working on my family tree. My new OU course has started as well.

But I’ve also spent a fair bit of time brooding on this “flat heart” business (see blog Talking about a Revolution) and how I can start letting more people in. I find that if I have an issue (even one I’m not fully aware of at the time) that I end up dreaming about it. They are never straightforward dreams or ones that make any sense. One of the latest ones involved me training for the Olympics along with my sister and daughter. Well I don’t have a sister or a daughter and it’s fair to say I don’t do exercise very well either!

Apparently to dream of a daughter or sister when you don’t have one in real life means you have to start “acknowledging your femininity”!!!


This has sent me off on a bit of a thought process. What exactly makes a woman feminine?? I’m not a tomboy – I wear dresses, make up, paint my nails. I even own things in pink. My outside definitely says I am a girl. So if it’s not physical, can it be a psychological issue?

So how do you acknowledge your femininity internally? I’ve asked a few other women and all but one define it as physical things – the clothes and accessories. My mother – always one to offer outside the box thinking – said “well you’ve always had to do things for yourself so you’ve forgotten how to ask for help”. What does that mean? Well, apparently it means stop being She-Ra (80’s child alert!!) and find a guy who enjoys being He-Man and doing all the hard work. According to mother that’s most of them.

But…doesn’t that go against feminism and the right to be equal? Batting my eyelashes at the next door neighbour to get him to cut my grass (yes I tried it) felt weird but it did work. I’ve never actually thought of myself as a feminist until this discussion and I’m still not actually sure if I am one. I’m curious though – did the bra burners of the 60’s or the Suffragettes (who I’ll be studying in a few weeks) have their public protests then go home and play ickle wickle girl to their patners to get them to put some shelves up??

I put this theory to my best friend yesterday and she seems to think it’s true. That the way to a man’s’ heart is not through the clichéd stomach but by letting him have free reign over the power tools…

This week then I’ve discovered some principles I didn’t realise I had and now have to look at this and see how I can work with it and use it towards sorting out my patchy love life. And I’m still not sure what actually makes a woman feminine? I think maybe I have a research project to work onJ