In Praise of Fiona Shaw


Colm Toibin discussing the novella The Testament of Mary, patiently and charmingly made clear that once a book is published and out in the world it is out of the author’s hands as a woman repeatedly took him to task over the imagery used to advertise the play made from the novella and starring Fiona Shaw. It was the crown of thorns across her mouth I think  she objected to.

Fiona Shaw’s face behind the crown of thorns used as a gag is disturbing and arresting. Perhaps she just has a strong face but it makes her look like Christ.
She was a tour de force in the Testament of Mary stage production at the Barbican but I preferred the less mad Mary I had envisioned from reading the book. Somewhere between the two, perhaps.

The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 2014 23.33 BST

‘Among the many fine things to come out of Cork are crubeens (pigs’ trotters), the short-story writers Frank O’Connor and Sean Ó Faoláin and the actor Fiona Shaw; the last is displaying her characteristic sense of adventure on stage in The Testament of Mary. In line with the demands of Colm Tóibín’s original novella, Shaw presents us with a mother of Christ who is, by turns, angry, sceptical, guilt-ridden and grief-stricken, and who fiercely resents the appropriation of her son. This is typical of a restlessly exploratory career that, in tandem with director Deborah Warner, has led Shaw to play an emotionally arrested Richard II, a biliously pregnant Hedda Gabler and an unusually resilient Mother Courage. Some actors take the stage by default; Shaw invariably takes it by storm and is unafraid to make bold choices and bare both body and soul. In an age of cross-gender casting, one has to speculate on what she’d be like as King Lear.’

One Year On


It seems hard to believe that it t was only a year ago that Murielle’s Angel was published  by Cinnamon Press.  A year in which everything and nothing has changed.

It was so momentous at the time, a huge milestone, and such a fillip that someone should show their belief in me as a writer by actually publishing my book,  like betting on an outsider to win.  But then Jan of Cinnamon Press, herself a poet and novelist and a wise and brave woman, is willing to take those risks on your behalf.

I still think of the double rainbow seen from the car window on the way home from the launch.

I have had some lovely reviews too from those kind enough to post them.

‘Beautifully written .Gentle yet perceptive prose weaves a spell creating a real sense of place. An interesting and varied cast of fellow travellers on journeys of self discovery walk the Camino. Their paths and stories criss cross . Their relationships are brief and transitory, yet they will not be forgotten as they are remarkable in their own way. Similarly they will make a lasting impression on the reader .
A delightful book, most enjoyable. Interest never flagged and it was a real pleasure to pick up the story at the end of the day and escape into an oasis of calm.’

There has been much to learn and there still is.  There is still much to write.  My current book whose characters are still putting me through my paces  will I hope be delivered in due course, after the long slow editing.

And the next? Already the need for background reading is pressing.



The Rabbit Who Sits in My Mother’s Garden


The rabbit who sits in my mother’s garden has been absent for days. It’s an intermittent rabbit at best and doesn’t move when it’s there. You have to look for it in whatever location it has chosen for its intermittent presence.
Hard to say how old it is. It could be ancient and in its wisdom just sits and thinks, contemplating maybe or just sits, content enough, not even twitching or nibbling.

I wonder if it’s not an incarnation, a visitation (intermittent) from a past friend.
Let’s face it at 93 that could be most of them.
And then I wonder if it is an indication of the mood she will be in when I get there, and she refers to herself when she says, ‘The rabbit is here again.’

Perhaps the rabbit is an admonishment or better, an alter ego, especially now that Ma does not go out much herself and the rabbit is doing what she would be doing if she could escape too.

An omen even; but I haven’t decided if it’s a good omen or a bad one; not yet. It’s too intermittent.






I dreamed last night of Bruegel and Icarus falling into the sea.  Perhaps I was thinking of life or  the suffering of others and ‘how it takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along,’ as Auden (and Carlos Williams) noted too.

We had ambled past a minor media frenzy and armed police standing guard outside the law courts in New York.  We realised later that it was the trial of Abu Hamza, recently convicted of being Abu Hamza.


W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning