Xanadu Reading Challenge – June 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  The sub-categories are only a guide, feel free to adapt and expand as you like.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

For , the theme is Language.

Sub-categories:

• a book in a language with which you are familiar, but don’t read in very often, if at all.
• (if you are monolingual) a beginner’s “Teach Yourself” book in a language you are interested in.
• a coding manual in a programming language you don’t know, or in which you have more to learn
• a book about the history of language or linguistic

Reading suggestions:

. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exúpery
. Harry Potter in any language
. Teach Yourself .. in 24 hours

I’m reading:

Teach Yourself Javascript in 24 hours

Come back next month for our July suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in May or June!  Happy reading!

 

Stitch ‘n’ Bitch at Xanadu – June 2021

Our next Stitch ‘n’ Bitch takes place on Thursday, 17 June, at 6.30 pm BST, in one of the rooms of Xanadu Online Theatre.  For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is when people get together to work on their various projects while having a natter and a bit of craic at the same time.

The Xanadu Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is hosted by Aoife Flood, a highly experience knitter, who will be on-hand to answer any questions and offer help; beginners are welcome.  You don’t have to be knitting though: you can crochet, embroider, sew, or do any other craftwork you may have underway.

The event is co-hosted by Notes From Xanadu Artistic Director Mary Tynan.  If you wish to attend, please register by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.  See you there!

About our host: Aoife Flood’s knitting journey began on a trip to New Zealand in 2007, when she came across a book of designer knitting patterns while browsing in a shop. She decided that, if she wanted to have these designer clothes, the best way was to knit them herself. So that was it; she got the bug and has been hooked ever since. Aoife will sharing some of her wonderful work with us in a gallery exhibition in the coming weeks.  She is wearing one of her own pieces in the photo.

Canadh agus Caint – Part Two

After a successful launch in April, Canadh agus Caint returns for a second session on Thursday, 10 June, at 7.30 pm.  We will start off by learning a simple song in Irish, and then see where the conversation takes us.  Irish speakers of all levels are welcome, from complete beginners (we recommend Duolingo) to fluent Gaeilgeoirí.  As usual, you need to register for this in advance by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com, and materials will be sent out in advance

This month, Canadh agus Caint will be hosted by Suzanne Ledwith and Julia Kennedy, with assistance from our artistic director Mary Tynan.  See you there!

Beidh an dara seisiún Canadh agus Caint ar siúil Deardaoin, 10 Meitheamh, ag 7.30 pm.  Beidh muid ag foghlaim amhrán simplí as Gaeilge, agus ansin, tar éis an canadh, an caint.  Beidh fáilte roimh daoine le gach leibhéal Gaeilge.  Mar ghnáth, ní mór duit clarú le haghaidh an imeacht – seol ríomhphoist chuig notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com – agus seolfaidh muid nasc agus focail an amhráin duit roimh an oíche.

Beidh Canadh agus Caint óstailte le Suzanne Ledwith, Julia Kennedy, agus Mary Tynan. Bígí linn!

Stitch ‘n’ Bitch at Xanadu – May 2021

Our next Stitch ‘n’ Bitch takes place on Thursday, 20 May, at 6.30 pm BST, in one of the rooms of Xanadu Online Theatre.  For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is when people get together to work on their various projects while having a natter and a bit of craic at the same time.

The Xanadu Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is hosted by Aoife Flood, a highly experience knitter, who will be on-hand to answer any questions and offer help; beginners are welcome.  You don’t have to be knitting though: you can crochet, embroider, sew, or do any other craftwork you may have underway.

The event is co-hosted by Notes From Xanadu Artistic Director Mary Tynan.  If you wish to attend, please register by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.  See you there!

About our host: Aoife Flood’s knitting journey began on a trip to New Zealand in 2007, when she came across a book of designer knitting patterns while browsing in a shop. She decided that, if she wanted to have these designer clothes, the best way was to knit them herself. So that was it; she got the bug and has been hooked ever since. Aoife will sharing some of her wonderful work with us in a gallery exhibition in the coming weeks.  She is wearing one of her own pieces in the photo.

Xanadu Reading Challenge – May 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

For May, the theme is Music.

Sub-categories:

. a biography or autobiography of a musician or composer
. a novel where music is one of the main themes
. a book that teaches you how to play an instrument

Reading suggestions:

. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
. Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday
. John W Schaum Adult Piano Course Book 1

I’m reading:

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Come back next month for our June suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in April or May!  Happy reading!

 

Stitch ‘n’ Bitch at Xanadu – April 2021

Our next Stitch ‘n’ Bitch takes place on Thursday, 12 March, at the earlier time of 6.30 pm, in one of the rooms of Xanadu Online Theatre.  For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is when people get together to work on their various projects while having a natter and a bit of craic at the same time.

The Xanadu Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is hosted by Aoife Flood, a highly experience knitter, who will be on-hand to answer any questions and offer help; beginners are welcome.  You don’t have to be knitting though: you can crochet, embroider, sew, or do any other craftwork you may have underway.

The event is co-hosted by Notes From Xanadu Artistic Director Mary Tynan.  If you wish to attend, please register by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.  See you there!

About our host: Aoife Flood’s knitting journey began on a trip to New Zealand in 2007, when she came across a book of designer knitting patterns while browsing in a shop. She decided that, if she wanted to have these designer clothes, the best way was to knit them herself. So that was it; she got the bug and has been hooked ever since. Aoife will sharing some of her wonderful work with us in a gallery exhibition in the coming weeks.  She is wearing one of her own pieces in the photo.

Xanadu Reading Challenge – April 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

For April, the theme is Mental Travelling.

Sub-categories:

. a book from an author from a country you have never visited and have no connection to
. a travelogue about a similar country
. a novel about a journey
. a non-fiction book about the history or technology of one or more forms of transport
. a non-fiction book about space travel

Reading suggestions:

. anything by Bill Bryson
. Sovietistan by Erika Fatland
. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
. The Family Tree by Sherri S Tepper
. Endurance by Scott Kelly

I’m reading:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster

Come back next month for our May suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in March or April!  Happy reading!

 

Canadh agus Caint

14 April at 7 pm will see the launch of our latest live event, Canadh agus Caint.  We will start off by learning a simple song in Irish, and then see where the conversation takes us.  Irish speakers of all levels are welcome, from complete beginners (we recommend Duolingo) to fluent Gaeilgeoirí.  As usual, you need to register for this in advance by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com, and a short vocabulary cheat sheet will be sent out with the link, as well as the words to the song.

Canadh agus Caint will be hosted by our artistic director Mary Tynan and contributor Suzanne Ledwith.  See you there!

Ar 14ú Aibrean, ag a seacht a chlog, tá muid ag tosú le eachtra beo nua, Canadh agus Caint.  Beidh muid ag foghlaim amhrán simplí as Gaeilge, agus ansin, tar éis an canadh, an caint.  Beidh fáilte roimh daoine le gach leibhéal Gaeilge.  Mar ghnáth, ní mór duit clarú le haghaidh an imeacht – seol ríomhphoist chuig notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com – agus seolfaidh muid nasc agus focail an amhráin duit roimh an oíche.

Beidh Canadh agus Caint óstailte le Mary Tynan agus Suzanne Ledwith.  Bígí linn!

Server Sponsorship for Xanadu Online Theatre

Notes From Xanadu is delighted to announce that a new server for Xanadu Online Theatre has been sponsored by County Cork company ProPrivacy.  The server will enable us to customise the code for the theatre (we use open source software, in keeping with the philosophy of the arts centre), leading to a smoother and more exciting experience for both audience and performers.

ProPrivacy is a close-knit, family run data protection and cyber security compliance company based in Ireland. The company works with clientele in many sectors ranging in size, from small businesses to privacy departments in large multinational corporations.  It’s lead auditor and GDPR consultant is Philipa Jane Farley; if you think you recognise that name, you would be right – multi-talented Philipa has been writing the Farley’s Philosophy column for us since the arts centre’s launch in May 2020.  The ProPrivacy team have this to say about the sponsorship:

“2020 has been exhausting. More for some than others, but needless to say, everyone’s lives have changed in one way or another, some for the worst and some for the best. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken a toll on our entertainment community. It has affected our livelihoods, hobbies and the community around us.

While we may feel that we cannot control events on our own doorstep, let alone, globally, new and fresh ideas on how to charge through and grapple with such unknown times have emerged. New online businesses, video chats and social outreaches over the internet have been the new trends of the pandemic. New ways to connect with people have become a priority in a world where social distancing is now second nature.

This is where Notes from Xanadu has blossomed. Emerging from what was formerly an online magazine with Arts reviews and periodic COVID-19 articles, Notes from Xanadu transformed into a lively and active social page where artists from all walks of life could come together to continue doing what they do best even with the entertainment industry in complete shutdown.

Mary Tynan, who suffers from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, has overcome extreme personal challenges and advocates to raise awareness of this neurological condition. Mary has taken back her life in a global lockdown and created this forum for her fellow artists to have an opportunity for creativity and to take the stage once again in a transformative way over the internet. And Mary has even dusted off her old coding skills, and learnt new ones, allowing her to customise Notes from Xanadu to her high standards.

As a data protection company fortunate to be able to continue working through lockdown, ProPrivacy got to thinking about how we would be able to make a difference in this industry for which we have a great love. As we have seen the Arts take an enormous knock in this pandemic, Notes from Xanadu came to mind. ProPrivacy took this opportunity to support Mary and her endeavours to grow her platform in a small but hopefully significant way by sponsoring a server for her online theatre. ProPrivacy will continue to supply data protection and cyber security support for Mary to continue running her Arts centre with peace of mind. ProPrivacy feels incredibly privileged to be able to support a woman whose values align with that of our own, inclusive communities sharing resources to enrich those around them.”

The new theatre software is going to be built by Philipa and Mary working together, and we will, of course, share news of the development as it happens.  We live in exciting times for online arts and Notes From Xanadu and Xanadu Online Theatre will continue to do our utmost to stay at the cutting edge of the field.  If you are interested in working with us on a volunteer basis in any capacity, please drop us a line at notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.

As of 2021, ProPrivacy are expanding their services to support small businesses through their offshoot, The Career Designer. This new line of services and digital products is informed by the company’s primary focus, data protection, privacy, and cyber security, and deals with the inner workings of starting up a business with an online first focus from scratch.

The Career Designer is to be launched within the next few months for people who want to make their ideas pay. It’s about helping people and transforming their skillset into a business, especially for those during this pandemic who are out of work or are struggling to make an income. Philipa and team want to share their many years of business experience and niche skills in an easy to understand way which can help people turn their ideas into stable and thriving businesses. They will walk you step-by-step through the process of building a business from start to finish, accounting to marketing and all the legal requirements in-between. Macro-knowledge for microbusinesses if you will, catering for business construction as well as business maintenance.

If you are interested in The Career Designer or other services offered by ProPrivacy, please visit their website, or email the team at info@proprivacy.ie.

Xanadu Reading Challenge – March 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

As March is the month of St Patrick’s Day, the theme is All Things Irish.

Sub-categories:

  • a book by an Irish author
  • a book about Irish history
  • a travel book about Ireland
  • if you are Irish – a book as Gaeilge. Children’s books are fine, but try to challenge yourself.

Reading suggestions:

  • Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
  • The Story of Ireland by Neil Hegarty
  • Hitching for Hope: A Journey into the Heart and Soul of Ireland by Ruairi McKiernan
  • Short Stories of Padraic Pearse: A Dual Language Book (English and Irish Edition)

I’m reading:

Piano Mhín na bPreachán le Cathal Ó Searcaigh.

Come back next month for our April suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in February or March!  Happy reading!

The discussion group for our February reads will be on Sunday, 7 March, at 4pm GMT. March’s will be on Sunday, 11 April, at 2 pm GMT.  If you would like to attend either of these, please email notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com if you haven’t already done so.

 

 

Come back next month for our March suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in January!  Happy reading!

The discussion group for our January reads will be on Sunday, 7 February, at 4pm GMT. February’s will be on Sunday, 7 March, at 4 pm GMT.  If you would like to attend either of these, please email notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com if you haven’t already done so.

Stitch ‘n’ Bitch at Xanadu – March 2021

After a very enjoyable first outing, we will be holding a second Stitch ‘n’ Bitch on Thursday, 11 March, at 7.30 pm, in one of the rooms of Xanadu Online Theatre.  For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is when people get together to work on their various projects while having a natter and a bit of craic at the same time.

The Xanadu Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is hosted by Aoife Flood, a highly experience knitter, who will be on-hand to answer any questions and offer help; beginners are welcome.  You don’t have to be knitting though: you can crochet, embroider, sew, or do any other craftwork you may have underway.

The event is co-hosted by Notes From Xanadu Artistic Director Mary Tynan.  If you wish to attend, please register by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.  See you there!

About our host: Aoife Flood’s knitting journey began on a trip to New Zealand in 2007, when she came across a book of designer knitting patterns while browsing in a shop. She decided that, if she wanted to have these designer clothes, the best way was to knit them herself. So that was it; she got the bug and has been hooked ever since. Aoife will sharing some of her wonderful work with us in a gallery exhibition in the coming weeks.  She is wearing one of her own pieces in the photo.

Xanadu Reading Challenge – February 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

The theme for February is Spring Awakenings.

Sub-categories:

  • a book about nature
  • a coming of age story
  • a novel where the protagonists are animals

Reading suggestions:

I’m reading:

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow.

 

 

Come back next month for our March suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in January!  Happy reading!

The discussion group for our January reads will be on Sunday, 7 February, at 4pm GMT. February’s will be on Sunday, 7 March, at 4 pm GMT.  If you would like to attend either of these, please email notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com if you haven’t already done so.

Stitch ‘n’ Bitch at Xanadu

In another first for us in 2021, we will be holding a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch on Thursday, 18 February, at 7.30 pm, in one of the rooms of Xanadu Online Theatre.  For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is when people get together to work on their various projects while having a natter and a bit of craic at the same time.

The Xanadu Stitch ‘n’ Bitch will be hosted by Aoife Flood, a highly experience knitter, who will be on-hand to answer any questions and offer help; beginners are welcome.  You don’t have to be knitting though: you can crochet, embroider, sew, or do any other craftwork you may have underway.

The event will be co-hosted by Notes From Xanadu Artistic Director Mary Tynan.  If you wish to attend, please register by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.  See you there!

About our host: Aoife Flood’s knitting journey began on a trip to New Zealand in 2007, when she came across a book of designer knitting patterns while browsing in a shop. She decided that, if she wanted to have these designer clothes, the best way was to knit them herself. So that was it; she got the bug and has been hooked ever since. Aoife will sharing some of her wonderful work with us in a gallery exhibition in the coming weeks.  She is wearing one of her own pieces in the photo.

Xanadu Reading Challenge – January 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

The theme for January is New Beginnings.

Sub-categories:

  • a book published in 2020 or 2021
  • a book given to you as a present (or bought with a book token) in the last couple of months
  • a book about a new hobby or interest
  • a book to do with a New Year’s resolution
  • a New Age book

Reading suggestions:

I’m reading:

The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski, received as a Christmas present in 2019.

Come back next month for our February suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in January!  Happy reading!

Update: it’s been suggested that we have a live, in-person discussion group once a month (online) to discuss what we’ve been reading – if that’s something you would be interested in, please comment below, or email notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.

Nature in the Raw

In the world of nature, battles are fought daily that exceed in ferocity even those of our bloodiest, be it Waterloo, Stalingrad or Valley Forge. The natural contests differ from the human in that the former are conducted as a matter of survival and predatory food, whilst humans too often have mutually slaughtered for less justifiable reasons.
If you had been present in a garden shed in the West of Ireland, on a day when the sun shone brightly through the small rooflight, you would have witnessed a memorable spectacle being enacted: a fight to the death between a wasp and a spider. The spider is an astute tactician who knows well the importance of selecting the battleground best suited to neutralizing the wasp’s superiority in weaponry and manoeuvrability, to level the playing field. He must at the outset disable at least one of the wasp’s advantages in weaponry.

The battleground was an unusually strong web, right up in a shaft of strong sunshine. Of the forest of webs in this virtually untouched habitat, this fortification was of the strongest. A foraging wasp, minding his own business and failing to keep a sharp lookout, reported his blundering intrusion by a frantic acceleration of his buzzing wings. This (which is well known to a spider) is designed to enmesh the intruder deeper and deeper the more he struggles.
You would observe the entire web violently rocking, such was the energy of the wasp. You would find the spider, and he was a big one, waiting expectantly at the extremity of one web strand, from which position he could sally forth to any point of the web in attack. If you were familiar with spider strategy and language, you would understand that his tactics were to tire out the wasp until the point when he could rush in and deliver the paralysing bite.

It was a long wait. At intervals, the spider would make a rush towards the wasp, a manoeuvre that alarmed the wasp into a renewed frenzy of buzzing. Time and again he advanced and time and again retreated, as the fellow had obviously learned the wisdom of discretion being the better part of valour. As the buzzing got fainter and lower on the audio scale, you might predict how this was going to end. If you were a betting man, you’d be laying odds on the spider.

If you stayed until the denouement, you would have witnessed the countless rushes and retreats and the wasp’s failing strength, but nothing in nature is quite predictable, and, as the spider poised for the final coup de gras, the buzzing re-awoke to a sudden crescendo and the wasp broke free, mocking his erstwhile adversary all the while. The spider was left crouching at the edge of his torn flytrap, and one can imagine his chagrin, in spider language – Damn! If the wasp was trailing a metre-long string of web – for all the world like one of those advertising streamers towed by light aircraft – it was a small burden to carry for his triumphant escape. And if he was trumpeting his triumph over a wily enemy, who are we to criticise him?

Tony Tynan

Ar Líne Le Chéile – Online Together

Before I was involved in an online arts centre, I was involved in an online school.

The Covid-19 has involved a lot of “online firsts” for me, many of which involves using new software for face-to-face online conversation. Ar Líne Le Chéile was the first of the firsts.

As soon as the schools in Ireland were shut, on Thursday 12 March, three friends (Notes from Xanadu contributors Philipa Farley and Simon Woodworth, and electronic engineer Gerard Heaney) and I decided to set up an online school. We wanted to be able to help children of friends and family with any isolation and loneliness that they might be feeling as a result of the crisis, and to give them the opportunity to explore new ideas with each other. The next day, Philipa gave Gerard and me an introduction to Microsoft Teams, and two days later I ran a trial lesson with my niece and nephew, to make sure I knew what I was doing, software-wise (with more than a decade’s experience I was fairly confident on the teaching front).

As it soon became clear that the regular schools would be sending work home for the children, I decided to have a different focus – theme-based, multi-disciplinary lessons designed to whet the student’s appetite for further exploration or activity, in whichever direction might take their interest. The first of these was a virtual visit to the British Museum to visit the Rosetta Stone. We also used a hieroglyphic typewriter, and made posters. After a meeting with parents on the Monday night, the school opened with this lesson on Wednesday, 18 March, with 11 pupils.

We settled into a regular routine after that with the themed lesson on Mondays and an associated feedback class on Fridays. On Wednesdays, I led a half-hour conversational Irish class, whilst Philipa taught Scratch programming on Thursday. Gerard gave us an evening Introduction to Electronics on the second week. During what would have been the school holidays, I led a weekly “keeping in touch” session on the two Thursdays.

Ar Líne Le Chéile has pupils from Sligo, Roscommon, Dublin, Cork and Galway. The school is free, and the teachers are giving their time as volunteers. I asked some of the children and parents for their thoughts for an earlier press release.

“It’s a great way to learn – you feel connected with other learners” said Jack Keaney, a 12-year-old student.

Charlotte Gask, mum of three of the students, had this to say:

“For me, I think the subjects are great. It lovely that it includes lots of ages and abilities, but mostly I love that it is scheduled. It gives us an anchor for our ‘school’ day.”

Her daughter, Georgie Longstaff, added:

“I like it, it’s more fun than school.”

Philipa’s two daughters, Ruth and Zoë, love that they can help demonstrate and make a game (while learning). They also like helping their mother to teach.

We are currently on a two-week break, and there was some thought that maybe the normal schools might be resuming before the end of that, but An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s announcement yesterday has made it clear that primary and secondary schools will not be reopening until September. Ar Líne Le Chéile, on the other hand, will be resuming on 11 May. Our students are the nicest bunch of children you could possibly hope to meet, and I am looking forward to seeing them all again on Monday week – nuair a bheidh muid ar líne le chéile arís (when we will be online together again).

Mary Tynan

More information about our school can be found at www.arlinelecheile.school.

Philipa Farley

Summer Plans

Transplanted. Geeking out about most things AI, law and quantum, offline and online, when not spending time with the family, pets, and friends. Expect commentary on food and wine from time to time.

What are your summer plans? I can tell you that we were planning on a trip to the seaside, possibly to a hotel. This was besides quite a long list of day trips out to touristy joints such as the Cliffs of Moher. We were perhaps partly planning at some point to go to Disneyland Paris*. These things obviously depended on work going well. You know, because I’m ‘self-employed’** and these things are generally achievable and within our control.

Well, Mother Nature, God, the Universe and everything else has handed us 2020 on a plate with a side serving of ‘screw your plans, human’! I suppose at this point on day whatever of whatever we call this situation – lockdown? quarantine? self-imposed semi-solitude while we count our loo rolls? – it is as good a time as any to practice gratitude, mindfulness and everything else akin to such.

I’ll start with gratitude for the fact that we likely won’t be subjected to masses of humanity in small enclosed spaces over the summer. Most likely you, dear Reader, will have experienced the deep joy of overwhelm and meltdown, as we have on several occasions, in the midst of activities that had previously been begged for with much persuasion. So, I am thankful that I can just cite COVID-19 LOCKDOWN 2020 in response to any such Disneyland related requests, parks and cruises included. My screw you to TV advertising during prime time! We’ll save a few ‘youro’ in the meantime too. Happy days.

Let us move on to mindfulness and living in the present moment, because, let’s be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a single human on this earth that can tell us what tomorrow will bring. Our default is the present moment. And it’s pretty damn uncomfortable! I’m on the verge of doing the |||| / on the wall above my desk. I keep having to ask what actual day it is. Now, more than ever before, we realise what a man-made construct time in fact is.

Everything else akin? Well, I for one am at the stage of hands in the air and do what you want***. Really, I am. I am a compulsive goal setter, planner and organiser. These are great skills in the context of a regular and functioning system. Right now, not so much. They are anxiety causing beasts.

Which brings me to the last point of this likely last column because like our previous reality, all changes at some point****. Was ‘before’ regular and normal? Is the universe resetting? Should we have taken the other colour pill? Forgive me, I seem to have woken up in the midst of the type of ridiculous movie that I usually don’t go and watch because when will that ish ever happen to us? Daily life feels like driving in the mist. It just swirls without context or horizon.

So, with time passing as it inevitably does, this summer, you might find me and us here at home, braai’ing*****, fixing up the garden and generally enjoying each other’s company. Outsiders of the household might be welcome but keep your two-metre distance. Happy days!

*The smallies were negotiating a cruise. Not going to happen ever because I have the words DIAMOND PRINCESS forever burned into my prefrontal cortex. Everything from hereon in will be put through the COVID-19 LOCKDOWN 2020 filter.

**On my LinkedIn though, I’m a director, lead auditor and consultant. Sounds so much better, no?
***But only after the daily schedule has been strictly adhered to – school work, cleaning, meals by the clock.
****Someone else can have a turn now!
*****Because barbecuing apparently holds a whole cultural context that we have yet to wrap our heads around.

Philipa Farley

Yemeni Exchange

As the elderly Boeing 727 took off from Abu Dhabi and banked around a huge thunderstorm, I realised I was heading somewhere different. In 1998, I was on my way to the port of Aden in Yemen. As the plane approached the airport there, the burned-out hulks of aircraft littered the airfield around the runway. The terminal building itself was gouged out with a huge bomb crater, the scars of a civil war that had ended 4 years previously. We had to enter the arrivals area via the men’s toilets. I was held up by customs who insisted on writing a lengthy note in my passport because I was carrying a (then relatively rare) Toshiba laptop.

I had been sent there by my employers to help commission a telephone exchange. Aden was blisteringly hot as well as being a bustling madhouse, with a good chunk of the city inside a volcanic crater. The base station for our new mobile system sat on top of a ridge at the edge of that crater, over razor sharp lava fields. It was so hot that the 4×4 we used to get there had two air conditioning units. The icy chill of the 4×4’s interior was a huge contrast to the waves of heat radiating from the lava field on which the base station was built.

The telephone exchange was in cooler surroundings, but still extremely hot. A trip to the bathroom involved shooing the rats out from under the toilet! Outside the bathroom was a tented area, at which the faithful prayed several times daily. The calls to prayer from the muezzins were piped over loudspeakers all over the city. It is a sound I will never forget.

The sea was as warm as bathwater to swim in, and we went for a dip one evening, right next to the huge desalination plants which supplied freshwater to the city. Swimming was very pleasant, but not effective for cooling down! The food at the hotel we stayed in was excellent, but I made the mistake of sampling a local drug called Qat. Qat is a leaf which, when chewed, is pleasantly sweet and gives a very mild narcotic buzz. A British colleague described it as “chewing a Privet bush.” It was certainly not unpleasant and it was not unusual to see Yemeni men with a wad of Qat shoved in a cheek for chewing.

Unfortunately, in my eagerness to sample local customs, I had forgotten basic food hygiene and cleanliness. As a result of my Qat–chewing, the subsequent stomach upset caused me to rapidly lose 5 kilos over the following week. The rat–infested toilet was a frequent visiting place. It took 15 hour’s unbroken sleep to finally clear the bug and recover some sense of normality.

Yemeni men used to walk around hand-in-hand and Yemeni women invariably wore black abayas with a slit opening for eyes. Underneath their severe outer clothing, however, you could frequently see a colourful and fashionable shoe peeping out. I was lucky to experience how friendly and helpful Yemenis were: I never felt threatened or unsafe there. Whilst, at the time, there was a habit of kidnapping foreigners, they were always well treated. So much so, that a French kidnap victim was presented with an AK47 on his release and wrote a letter of release to his captors. Unfortunately, this friendly practice ended when the government started to shoot kidnappers, a counterproductive practice that resulted in the deaths of several victims. It was surely a sign of future trouble in the country.

After two weeks, the telephone exchange installation was successfully completed. I was able to make mobile telephone calls on the system, always a gratifying experience. Unfortunately, I had less than 12 hours to enjoy the fruits of my labour. At short notice, I was asked to travel to Egypt to talk to customers in Cairo. I had to travel to Sana’a to catch the flight because of an airline strike in Aden. This involved a 400km journey in an aging Peugeot 305 with a Qat-chewing(!) taxi-driver.

The countryside was epic. It rose from dry wadis near the coast through rocky foothills and mountains to an elevation of over 2000 m in Sana’a. We passed through dusty little villages of cube-shaped houses, as the air grew cooler and the countryside greener. There were frequent military checkpoints and, unknown to me, a lot of the rural areas had local chieftains who were the ones kidnapping foreigners.

The taxi-driver, however, was a lunatic. There’s a scene (not that one) in Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone subjects Michael Douglas to a hair-raising high-speed drive along a narrow cliff road, overtaking into oncoming traffic. My driver did the same thing while nonchalantly chewing his Qat (he did offer me some, but I politely declined).

I arrived in Sana’a unscathed. At 10,000 feet altitude, it was lovely and cool, with much more greenery than the coast or inland. A misunderstanding about my hotel destination lead to a lively conversation between my driver and some locals. All were intent on me arriving safely, and I did – just in time for dinner with a Ukrainian colleague, before an early morning departure to Cairo. When I arrived in Amman for a connecting flight, it was a pleasant shock to see the faces of women again.

Arriving in Cairo, my local contact was crestfallen to see I had no business suit. Unfortunately, I had packed for technical work at a telephone exchange, not visiting customers. Interestingly, all the management of the mobile service provider were women, which went slightly against the stereotype of Middle Eastern countries.

Compared to Aden, Cairo was a huge metropolis – but, nevertheless, another bustling madhouse. Nearly every taxi had dented side panels, as driving was regarded as a contact sport. I spent a couple of days there, with one notable dinner by the banks of the Nile. I did see the pyramids briefly from an aeroplane window on my departure.

Simon Woodworth

Edinburgh Preview – Much Further Out Than You Thought

Much Further Out Than You Thought is a one-man show which tells the story of Lance Corporal James Randall, who finished his tours of duty in Helmand six years ago.  It is Remembrance Sunday, and he is in his living room in south London recording a birthday message for his young son, surrounded by childhood toys and memorabilia.  As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that James is suffering from PTSD, and the audience learns how the collision of civilian Britain and front-line Afghanistan can lead to catastrophe.

I met with writer and actor Giles Roberts after the play’s preview at the Old Red Lion in Islington.  A charming and interesting man, he is as sympathetic and likeable as the character he portrays with such expertise.  Giles was quick to point out that Much Further Out Than You Thought is not intended to be anti-war propaganda – it is the individual story of a single soldier.  He does, however, object to the glamorisation of the army which appears to be taking place recently.

Although James Randall is fictional, Giles did have the help of two soldiers as consultants when he was writing the play.  He got the idea after watching a 1980s documentary called Four Hours in My Lai, about a massacre by US troops in Vietnam.  The personal testimonies of the soldiers particularly resonated with him, and he began to try to empathise with how an act of killing must irreparably alter a person, and how it influences them in the future.

We talked about the timelessness of the situation: young men are trained to kill, but what happens to that training when they come back home?  There has been a lot of talk about World War I in the last couple of years, and shell-shock cases have parallels with current incidences of PTSD.  But Giles emphasised that warfare is more asymmetrical now: there are no longer two rows of trenches and the enemy can be anyone and anywhere.  This causes the combatants to develop a sense of hyper-awareness, which, unfortunately cannot be easily turned off when they return to civilian life.

Despite having several writing credits for spoken word, Much Further Out Than You Thought is Giles’ first play.  As an actor, trained at the Oxford School of Drama, he has many credits to his name.  The play is directed by Bethany Pitts, and Giles spoke of the short rehearsal period with a director he already knew very well, and how interesting it was to come at the material from two different angles.  Much Further Out Than You Thought is the winner of a 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award.  With IdeasTap sadly having to close, Giles and Bethany will be among the last people to benefit from their invaluable help.

Much Further Out Than You Thought is at the Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly), 56 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1EG, from Thursday 6th – Sunday 30th August 2015 (not 17th), at 3.20pm.  It is produced by the Molino Group.  For more information visit The Molino Group.

My Million to One – Worth £1 of Your Money!

For almost a year, I have been attending free events run by My Million to One, a charity run by Alana Hurd, and backed by such big names as Richard E Grant and Jason Flemyng.  I have been to Q&As with both the aforementioned actors, as well as director Hugh Woolridge.  I have also been at a Mind Body Spirit workshop and a discussion about producing theatre.  There have been many others that I have wanted to go to but time or circumstances prevented me, such as Tai Chi, circus skills and book publishing to name but a few.  The subjects covered have been many and varied – from new age thinking to the arts to business to extreme sport and even exploration: Sir Ranulph Fiennes was one of the many wonderful people to give his time to the project.  There have also been many raffles throughout the year.

The workshops and Q&As will be drawing to a close before the end of the year, but transcripts of the Q&As will remain available for members to download from the internet and there are also dozens of discounts and offers to help people achieve their dreams.

My Million to One was founded to found a home for abandoned disabled children in Southern Africa. Alana was asked to help whilst volunteering in the area, so she approached a couple of small, local charities that she knew very well and they agreed to adopt the children and give them a home.  However, she has to meet two criteria in order for the arrangement to go ahead.  Firstly, to find money every year to pay for the children’s home, plus all their needs, education & rehabilitation costs; and, secondly, to guarantee that the money will be provided for their lifetimes.

Alana has found a unique way to do it – By making £1,000,000 by 22nd November 2014.

When a million of you join MMTO, paying £1 (+ 11p credit card charge) each ONCE ONLY, the interest alone from the £1,000,000 will build AND fund the home for the children in Africa, never requiring further investment again.  This is a brand new charity model in its own right.

A million sounds like a big number, but it’s really just 10 to the power of six, or in human terms six degrees of separation.  Let me explain.  I’ve paid a one-off donation of £1 to join My Million to One.  If I get 10 friends to do the same, that’s 101.  When each of those then gets 10 new friends to join, that’s 102, or 100.  They each persuade 10 other friends – 103, who invite 10 more friends each – 104.  Those friends do likewise and we have 105, and finally this last group each asks 10 friends and we have 106 or £1,000,000.  Plus my original £1 of course.  So in six easy steps we have created a forever home for disabled African orphans, and made an awful lot of friends.

Will you be one of my ten?

Read more about My Million to One here: http://mymilliontoone.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/my-million-to-one-the-3-whys/

or go straight ahead and join here: http://www.mymilliontoone.com/foyer

My Million to One really needs and deserves our support.  Join – and tell your friends!