Saturday, July 30, 2011


Thursday turned out to be a very frustrating day. The Music Man (an fear na cheoil) and I stayed out way too late on Wednesday night. (We got to bed at two am) On the way to the language class, he started feeling really bad and went back to the room. I couldn't concentrate on the lesson and walked back to Teach Gleann Dobhar at the tea break. He was feeling a little better and wanted to drive to Killybegs to get some money and find a pharmacy. 

I wanted to do at least one of the set dance classes and since it was still cloudy and very windy, I thought today would be the day. An added incentive is that the President of Ireland is at Oideas Gael this week and is in the set dance class in the afternoon. I'd like to say that I've danced in a set with her. Maybe I'll get the chance at the Ceilimhor on Friday night!

My husband said we could be back from Killybegs in a couple of hours. In my heart I knew it was going to take longer than that. It did. It took nearly three hours, which meant I missed the start of the dance class.

So, we decided to visit Tra Ban (Silver Beach) at Malin Bhig, just a few kilometers away. We had heard that there were 150+ steps down to the bottom. That's a lot of steps but it was so worth it!

From the car park.

 The famous steps. There might be 150+ I didn't count.

 Atlantic waves
Tomorrow is our last day, so it's language class in the morning and hillwalking in the afternoon. I'm already gearing up to say goodbye. Sniff.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coastal Walk

In Alabama when somebody talks about a coastal walk, you know they’re going to be in Gulf Shores walking along the sugary white sands in their bathing suit. Coastal walk here in Gleann Colmcille means something quite different.

On Wednesday, the weather was cool and wet, again, especially on the heights, so Tony opted for a walk along the headlands just to the northwest of the village.
I’m sure he sighed heavily when he saw Sean and myself waiting in the parking lot with the others. Slow pokes again. Sean said it seemed to be the natural order.

This walk wasn’t anywhere near as strenuous as the first two, in the beginning, at least.

We saw sea caves.

We saw quartz outcroppings.

We saw rocky areas that looked like they could be on the surface of the moon.

This is our housemate, Elisabeth.

We climbed down rock faces. Well, some of us did.

We were going back by the beach, but the tide was in and we had to tromp through a farmer’s cow pasture. That was the steep part on this walk and while sheep are prolific, um, poopers, they got nothin’ on cows.
My boots stayed in the car all night. I hope they don’t charge us the extra fee for cleaning it out. 

Belfast Lasses

We’ve met some wonderful people here. After the orientation on the first night, we met three women from Belfast, Northern Ireland. This is their first time here at Oideas Gael, too. They are Helen, Michelle and Ruth. I don’t know anybody’s last name. It’s like they don’t really exist while we’re here. The Belfast Lasses, as The Music Man and I call them, are a little younger than we are and a lot of fun for me to hang out with while my husband plays in the pub sessions.

Session at Roarty's on Wednesday night.

We have explored the Church of Ireland graveyard.

The Belfast Lasses and me in the church graveyard.

We save seats for each other at the evening concerts.

Michelle and Helen at the Wednesday night concert.

Ruth at the concert.

We’ve talked about our children, our pets and our jobs. It's fun to see them around the village and wave hello or stop to chat in the miniscule grocery shop. Makes it almost like home.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tomb Walk

Our second hillwalk was to a five thousand year old Neolithic tomb. The weather was cool and wet again.The climb over the hill was a long one and I lagged behind all the others just like the first day. Luckily, there is another slow walker in the group. His name is Sean and he’s a retired member of the Irish Parliament from Dublin. 

We started out at the Oideas Gael campus and took several back lanes to get to the road over the hill. It finally leveled out and then started downhill.
Once on the other side, we could see the tomb, or what’s left of it, on the other side of the road, in a bog.

Our guide, Tony, said this kind of tomb is called a court tomb. It has small antechambers and was rather large. There are spiral carved into some of the larger stones, but they are very hard to see, especially on a cloudy day. Archaeologists found burned and unburned bones inside, but can only speculate on what that means. 


Further along the walk, he pointed out a collapsed dolmen in somebody’s sheep pasture and told us about an uncollapsed dolmen that a local farmer uses for a dog kennel. Why not? Dogs gotta have shelter, too.

Relax, You're In Gleann

When we arrived at Oideas Gael, Siobhan greeted us and we followed her to the B&B they assigned us to. It was a pleasant surprise to be staying with the Cunningham family at Teach Gleann Dobhar. The house is big and it is definitely a family home. There are two boys, two girls and Bailey the dog. Martin and Margaret Cunningham, the owners are warm, accommodating people. In fact, The Music Man came down with a cold on Monday and Margaret fixed him a hot toddy. There are six of us from Oideas Gael staying at the house, Jim from Belfast, Paula, from Italy, Mert and his French wife, Elisabeth, who live in Dundalk, my husband and me. There are also people taking this course from Japan and Russia. 

The orientation was Saturday afternoon and the first class was Sunday afternoon. The Music Man is in level one and I'm in level two. We have language in the morning and the chance to take an elective in the afternoon. I opted for the hillwalking and of course, my husband is taking a Gaelic song class.

The first hill walking session was quite a climb and we passed by several stations of the Turas Colmcille, which is a pilgrimage walk, usually done in the summer. The tradition of it is very old and most likely predates Christianity. 

The Kneeling Stone.

Tober Colmcille or Colmcille's Well. All the stones around this well
were brought by pilgrims.

 A watch tower from the 1700s I think. I missed the history lesson.

 Sea cliffs northwest of Gleann Colmcille.

The weather is very changeable. Down in Gleann it was cloudy, but this was 600 meters higher and the atmosphere was very different. It's a wild and beautiful place.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Drumcliffe To Gleann Colm Cille

We’ve been to Donegal all three times I’ve been here. Google maps said it would take four hours and thirty-seven minutes to get from Ennis to Gleann Colm Cille. I didn’t believe it and I was right. We did make some extra stops looking for a USB car charger to no avail. We also stopped at Drumcliffe. The weather was gorgeous so we had some lunch al fresco at the tea shop just outside the graveyard.

St. Columba’s church at Drumcliffe is a protestant Church of Ireland. W.B. Yeats is buried just outside the front door. After lunch, we took a stroll around the church and graveyard. Just past Drumcliffe is Benbulben, a spectacular, mesa like mountain. It makes a dramatic backdrop. 

The church was open so we went inside. To my surprise, the entire back wall of the church is lined with memorial plaques for one Jones or another. Since that’s my maiden name, I guess some of my ancestors could have come from there.

After being stuck behind tractors and “caravans” on the N15, we turned off and headed toward the dreaded village of Killybegs. It’s a very nice village with a large fishing fleet that operates out of the harbor, but the last time we were there, a slashing Irish rain was pelting down on us as we tried to find our way to Sliabh Liag to do some hillwalking. No matter which road we turned onto, we ended up back in the center of Killybegs. On Saturday, however, the sun was shining and we thought there would be no problem, until we came to a sign that said “diversion”. With all the orange cones and fence, they weren’t talking about entertainment. But, the Fair Ones were smiling on us and we found our way to Kilcar and Carriagh, and just past that to Gleann Colm Cille.

There are not adequate words to describe how beautiful this place is. Everywhere you look is a picture postcard. Even if we don’t learn a word of the Irish language, I feel blessed to have come here.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ireland, Finally!

Traveling to Ireland by plane can be grueling until you realize it used to take months to cross the Atlantic. Our flights went from Birmingham to Houston, Texas, to Newark, New Jersey, to Shannon, Ireland. We were afraid we were going to miss the flight to Shannon since we were held out on the taxiway for over thirty minutes. When we finally got off the plane we rushed up the jetway, only to be told our flight to Shannon was going to be on the same plane. Somebody was watching out for us.

We made it to Ennis without smacking any car mirrors and found Sleepy Hollow Bed and Breakfast, run by Elizabeth Ryan. It is easy to find and a very comfortable place to stay. 

Our Ennis adventures included driving down O’Connell Street, the main shopping district, on a Friday afternoon. We managed to find multi-storey car park. The Music Man got the car in a spot, the whole while, muttering “I don’t like this."

We found Custy’s Music Store and wandered around in there for a short time. It’s much smaller than I expected but they did have a button accordion that my husband wanted to play. 

On the recommendation of my friend, Renee, we ate at Brogan’s, which is right around the corner from Custy’s. There is a restaurant in the front and a bar in the back. Kind of like an Irish pub mullet. We found a seat in the bar and The Music Man started looking at the posters for local bands that play there. Of course, he recognized one of them as a facebook friend and asked the waitress about it. She got on her cell phone and called the guy, finding out that he would be playing in Brogan’s that night. My husband vowed to go back after we had rested. I wasn’t so sure about it. We had smokey bacon panninis and chips for dinner. The food was delicious, but I've realized that by bacon, the Irish mean smoked ham. If you have bacon for breakfast, they are called rashers.

When we got back to Sleepy Hollow, I plugged my iPad in to recharge it. The power inverter lasted about twenty seconds. I tried not to panic and managed to be just disappointed. The Music Man came up with a plan to find a USB car charger. That would mean I couldn’t use the computer much but the iPad would be operational. There aren’t Best Buy stores on every corner here, so I decided I’d have to punt and use the low tech option.

Driving north on Saturday, we tried to find an electronics store in Galway City, but Race Week was due to start on 25 July and the traffic was already horrendous. We waved at Galway Bay and kept traveling north to Sligo. No luck there, either. We made one last ditch effort in Donegal Town. Nope. That’s when I decided to just relax and have a good time. After all, we were almost to Gleann Colm Cille!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What To Take, What To Leave

Tomorrow, we leave for Ireland and I'm starting to think about packing. Actually, I've been thinking about it for the last two weeks. Every time I came across something I wanted to take or bought something especially for the trip, I put it in a pile in the guest/writing room. The result is a mountainous pile of stuff. We're only allowed to check two bags each and carry on two bags each. I hope it will all fit, especially with all the friends we've promised to smuggle through in our luggage. Just kidding, of course. 

 This is just stuff. It doesn't include any clothes.

I have decided to take the iPad, though. I don't think I could stand being separated from it for the amount of time we're going to be in Ireland.

What kind of clothes to take presents somewhat of a problem. The daily high temperature in Donegal is in the sixties and the nighttime lows can be in the forties. We haven't seen those kind of temperatures in Alabama since early April! I'm going to have to dig out the blue jeans and long sleeved shirts and pray they still fit.

According to this Donegal weather service the weather is supposed to be pretty nice, but there's always the possibility of rain. Part of the curriculum is hillwalking, so we went to Academy Sports and got The Music Man a rain suit and I borrowed one from a friend. We have boots and socks and trekking poles. I think we're set.

What we may not be set for is the language class. We ordered a beginner CD a couple of months ago and I've been listening to it in the truck. I can introduce myself and say where I'm from, in the truck, with nobody listening. This may prove to be almost as hard as singing in public. I'm not really sure what to expect. I haven't taken a language class since eleventh grade. Trust me, that was a long time ago. 

My dad said he's be here to pick us up and take us to the airport about two and a half hours before our flight. No sense in waiting til the last minute, I always say. Now I know where I get that from. 

My sister and daughter are watching the house and the critters. I hope I've covered all the bases but I'm sure I've forgotten something. Whatever it is, the world won't end, I hope.  

Meet Donna Parker

Donna Parker was born in the rural Missouri Ozarks during an ice storm. Despite some circumstantial evidence to the contrary, she did not grow up in the 1800s. The most important things in her life are her Christianity and her family. She loves books, both reading and writing them; old things and their histories; and music, especially Celtic and Bluegrass fiddle music. She and her husband of over three decades currently live in Alabama. They have two adult sons.

When Donna  and I met years ago, she had already started writing mystery fiction. My kids were still little at that point so that was just a distant dream for me. Since then, times have changed and so have we. Donna now has several novels to her credit and occupies an interesting niche. These days, when a lot of books are praised for being, "edgy" and "gritty" Donna's novels are, well, novel! There is no graphic violence, sex or foul language.

Donna has a new book coming out soon and agreed to answer some questions about her writing life.

K: How long did it take you to write Constancy’s Waltz, your first published novel?
D: I can never keep track of how long it takes me to write a whole book.  I think Constancy’s Waltz took several years.  I can tell you that Waltz wasn’t the first “Fiddling With Murder” book I wrote.  I wrote Dark Diamond Reel, then realized I had put so many hints about back story into it that I had some pretty good material for another book.  So Constancy’s Waltz was born.  I don’t recommend that method.

K: How many novels have you written and which one is your favorite?
D: I have seven novels out now, the four in the “Fiddling With Murder” cozy series, and three “fairy-tale mysteries”.  The three aren’t exactly a series, but some of them share some common background and/or characters.  I think my very favorite is Donovan’s Dream.  I have a sentimental attachment to the real-life setting of that one.

K: Who is your publisher and how did you get started with them?
D: My books are all published by Wings e-press.  I think I originally found them by an internet search.  I loved that all communication was done via email and I didn’t have to wait months to hear whether my manuscript had been accepted or rejected.  My experience with them has been great and I’m happy being with a small publisher.  By the way, they are open to submissions now, if any of your readers have a good manuscript ready to send out.

K: Do you have an agent? If so, who?
D: I don’t have an agent. 
K: Where do you get your ideas?
D: Oh, wow!  Ideas can pounce on you from anywhere.  Usually I don’t know where mine come from.  I like to imagine that all the stuff I’ve seen and heard and read and experienced during my lifetime has gone into a big cauldron in my head.  It all simmers around in there, breaking down, recombining, taking on new flavors, until it’s done just right.  Then something bubbles up into an idea for a story or a character.
I do like to blame my fairy-tale mysteries on my (now deceased) Aunt Edna.  When I was six, she gave me a big book of fairy tales with the most beautiful, imagination-stirring green cover.  It was my first big book.  I was hooked on fairy-tales forever.  I still have that book, although the poor thing has been read nearly to death.  Sometimes I wonder.  If my aunt had given me a book on animals or flowers or sports, would my writing have been different?

K: What is your writing process like? (Do you outline or not? Do you write every day? If so, for how long? Etc)
D: I have tried to outline.  I’ve read about and tried various tricks and methods other authors use, but I think my brain just isn’t made to be that orderly.  I usually know what the final outcome will be, but I have to write the story--walk along with the characters as they experience the story--to see what happens between the beginning and end.  What that means in practical terms is a whole lot of dead ends and re-writing, but eventually I get there.
I have a goal to write a certain number of words per day, but life gets in the way.  So, I write when I can, think about the book(s)-in-progress when I can’t, and somehow books come into being. 

K: Has your writing changed over the years?
D: I don’t really know the answer to this question.  I would like to think I’ve become a better writer, but maybe only a reader would be able to tell. 

K: Tell us a little about your new novel.
D: Here’s the back cover blurb for Dullahan Mountain Breakdown:  “At age seven, when Maura Tasgall saw her parents murdered, she gave up on happy endings.  Now, if she stays alive long enough to unearth the evil that killed them, she may find justice and closure, but still no happy ending--not unless her mother’s fairy tales weren’t fiction.” 
The book is set in the Missouri Ozarks and, among other things, explores a possible origin for the Fair Folk.  If you’ve read The Cameron Connection and Donovan’s Dream, you will meet a few familiar characters and ideas.  The books don’t constitute a series, but let’s just say they, along with Breakdown, share the same fictional world. 

K: When does it come out?
D: Dullahan Mountain Breakdown will be released on August 1, 2011 from Wings.  All the books are available there in e-book formats (including Mobi-pocket, which will work on Kindle).  They’re also available directly from Kindle and from Amazon.  Best prices are at Wings.  (blog)

I wish Donna the best of luck with all her books and look forward to reading Dullahan Mountain Breakdown on my Kindle when it comes out!