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.

Philipa Farley

Generation Pandemic

The most socially awkward thing I’ve ever done.  So awkward I’m not going to * anything.

Have a baby in 2020.

But first, please enjoy the preceding few weeks’ hilarity in my meme and photo folder.

It was really awkward.  Not least because of how it happened.  One-time-only bad decision making, if you know what I mean, after a few glasses of Irish-cream-what-what from Aldi.  I mean, can we be more classy?  I’m thoroughly embarrassed as I type this and remember myself saying something like: “it’s the end of the world, who cares anyway?”  (April ’20).  In any case, one fine day sitting at the computer, the nausea hit me from my toes up.  My first thought was, no.  Just no.  No way.  And then himself got sent straight to the pharmacy.

 

Back to the awkwardness.  For a while, it just looked like the Covid Stone.  Then it started looking like a real baby.  I was stuck at home, as we all were.  Going literally nowhere except to hospital appointments by myself.  Time went on and it was just too late to say anything on all the work video calls.  I mean, what do you do?  Stand up and show off your belly in an ‘accidental’ side shot?  Yawn and stretch?  Or do you interrupt proceedings with an “excuse me I have some news?”  While debating these various different and equally awkward scenarios, so much time passed that it was nearly time to have the actual baby.  And then he arrived early.  So then the message had to very quickly turn into “hey, I’m off here now for a bit of personal time, but not for too long.  No, I don’t have Covid.  BRB”-type messages.  AFK for a few days.

I had my baby on the 29 November, by section, in CUMH.  It was a Sunday night – change of shift time.  It was really scary and very unpleasant, with  Graeme (my husband) waiting outside in the car park for hours and nobody knowing what was going on.  I was admitted to the Emergency and was in for about five hours, in labour, on a narrow bed, not able to reach my phone.  By the time I got somebody to pass it to me, I was pretty much being dressed for theatre.  We thought I’d go in, be calmed down, and sent away again.  Not that simple.  Graeme was allowed in basically as they were cutting me open – after they had to repeat the spinal block that didn’t work the first time.  Just a really unpleasant evening.  He had to leave when they wheeled me out of recovery.  He hadn’t been able to attend a single doctor’s appointment with me.

Ruairí came out shouting the odds though and was pretty okay.  This was the biggest relief for me at that moment.  We had a difficult pregnancy, him and I.  Besides it being incredibly awkward, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  From start to end, the ball was dropped by the doctors and midwives involved in that regard.  If not for our GP and the village pharmacy, I don’t know if we would have come out okay.  That, and all the delicious healthy snacks Graeme made.  Endless snacking.  Snacking till the food is up your throat with the nausea.

To this day, I’m waiting for the South Infirmary to phone me back to get my sugar readings from about 6 months ago.  And yes, assholes, I left multiple messages on your various answering machines.  Can you tell I got sick and tired of injecting myself with insulin?  I have the biggest respect for anybody who lives with diabetes.  I did a needle count one day, rough estimation:  I had to prick my finger seven times a day in order to test sugars and inject insulin twice a day.  I will be avoiding the follow-up fasting glucose test for a while, possibly until the trauma subsides.

When I went into labour, they gave me medication for high blood pressure, as that was playing up too.  They explained at the time, but, honestly, I wasn’t listening to anything or seeing very much.  I met so many people there that Graeme remembers; don’t ask me who they are though!  That medication did something, and Ruairí’s sugars crashed at 48 hours.  He landed up in the neonatal unit with a sugar level of 1.9.  This was at 10pm at night.

After I had been told that afternoon that he had a murmur in his heart, I had to tell Graeme in a text message.  I couldn’t voice note or call because the other children were listening in.  Then I had to message, from the deserted basement passage of CUMH in the middle of the night, while our baby was being revived.  He got through that.  The murmur disappeared.  And then he was jaundiced.  So jaundiced he went back into the neonatal unit for a few days and sessions under the lamps.  We had been able to take him home for one night only at that point.  I had to go back to the emergency for very high blood pressure.  Sitting, alone, again, on a tiny bed, my milk came in leaking all over.  I pumped.  He drank.  We got through it.  He was allowed home when he was one week old.

I don’t think anything gets more awkward than this experience.

All that trauma with nowhere for it to go, in the middle of all the trauma of our lives every day these days.  At times, the awkwardness is really funny.  But, at other times, I cry.

When we need the hugs and the chat the most, they’re not there anymore.  We need to fix this.  Be kind to the people around you.  Ask how they’re doing.  Make space for people to tell their stories.  We’re all going through something, and we need each other.  Let’s take turns having a bad day and allowing ourselves and others to have a bad day.  We’re nearly there.  Let’s not leave anybody behind.

As my niece says, he is our tinnnnyyyyy piece of cheese.

 

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.

Philipa Farley

Welcome to 2021

Merry New Year to all of you!  I went AWOL for a good reason there – to be revealed in the next column as The Most Socially Awkward Thing I Did in 2020 and Ever.*  In any case, here we are.  Locked down.  Again.  The third time over.  Well, it’s more like the second time, as the time before this didn’t really count.  Or did it?  Time is a bit hazy at the moment.  I find my mind reverts back to our Southern Hemisphere, South African calendar in a Clockwork Orange-type blip from time to time.  Is it the start of the school year? Is it the end?  What’s happening?  It feels like July, but it’s not.  Will summer ever come back?  If I start posting pictures of crossed out I I I Is send help!

At least this time I’m allowed alcohol.  Counting down the days till my Kahlua arrives.  I plan on making copious amounts of Dom Pedros.**  The older children have asked for banana bread.  This is such old news for me, I’ve decided that we’re clearing a shelf in our front entrance little room which is as cold as a fridge.***  This shelf will be dedicated to all things baking.  I’m going full Martha Stewart this round of lockdown – minus the securities fraud and Snoop Dogg collab.  Expect a slew of overnight and two day fermented yeast baked good pictures if you follow me on Instagram.****

Other coping slash distraction mechanisms include binge watching series.  Schitt’s Creek has opened up a world of meme-age.*****  We’re onto Brooklyn 99 now.  It’s making me regret not going into the police service and becoming a detective (that is one of my lesser-known regrets – I think I would have made a very good detective.  I also have a queue of schmaltzy 90s and 2000s romantic comedies to get through; Sweet Home Alabama ticked off that list.  Mental chewing gum is where it is at.

Seriously though, what are you doing to cope?  Retail therapy is dire.  No more middle aisle shopping at Aldi and Lidl.  Who the fuck classified that as not essential?  Can we have a word, please and thank you?  I’m still on Amazon – yes, with my Prime account intact.  I spent a couple of days doing calculations and comparisons with .de; shipping is a monster, yoh!  Still cheaper on Prime.  And for those of you buy-local loyalists, the money I save buying on Prime gets spent on (Michael McIntyre Voice) spicey bags (normal voice) at the village takeaway.  My version of shop local.******

In any case, fuck Brexit.  Really.  I don’t say much about it publicly, but I am sad it actually happened.  I’m sad for all that could have been and now never will be.  I’m sad for people who believe they’re so much better than everybody else that they put walls up, slam doors shut, and retreat.  Small people with small minds.  Nationalism turned disease.  There, I said it.  Ugh.  In protest, I check out my items on Amazon one by one,******* while I watch my romcoms, eating alcoholic milkshakes and dreaming of UBI and communal gardens.

Welcome to 2021, everybody.  The year we all eat less and walk more.  Or not.

 

*As in EVER.
**Discovered this is a Very South African thing.  Basically, adult milkshakes.  Double cream, ice cream, and whiskey whizzed up together.  Can substitute whiskey for Kahlua, Baileys, Frangelico, etc.  I might try a chocolate/orange combo.
***We could right now skate on our swimming pool.  Yes, the above ground pool is still up.  Totally ran out of fucks to give.
****Don’t follow me on Instagram.  Most vanilla happy-snap account ever – more for my own amusement.  Twitter is where it’s at – JustCallMePips.
*****David Rose is a gift.
******Just go with it.
*******Avoid VAT and import duties: tick with Prime.  You’re welcome.

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.

The New Normal

What the fuck? The new? New, new, new what? Normal? Fuck no! Are you seriously telling me this is new? What, we weren’t governed by a bunch of self entitled, public school, ‘man of the people’ wannabees before this? No, and they couldn’t run a sack race or world beating track and trace before this either, yeah. This is not a revelation to me. Or you, I’m thinking, at least if you have a grasp on whether it’s Sunday or not and who Meghan Markle isn’t?

And have you heard it’s a virus that effects the poor, old, under classed, vulnerable, and ethnically other than white wealthy worse? What are the chances of that eh? Exactly, nothing abnormal or radical or different about this shite. So new that it’s no surprise. It’s exactly what it was before, the old unchanging order. Because, lets face it, the odds have been stacked breathtakingly high against the usual suspects for ever.

The only new is that that bunch of no marks are too incompetent to have worked out how to really squeeze the rest us of yet, even if their incompetent management is ensuring that those with least to lose are losing most. But don’t worry. they soon will have found a way of dodging the bullet – by using the rest of us as a human shield – even if Dominic Bummings and Dido Hardarse do decide to return to producing limp dance music. Because, while they are apparently very bright and see the real picture, they don’t exactly seem to be having the required surgical impact on the virus. They’re not the antidote. You need to worry though. You need to fire your fluffy little minds up about this, because their masters and mistresses are not up to the task of articulating a short sentence let alone killing the new cancer that is consuming our weakened corpse just as they throw away the EU drip.

Come Shopping with Me, by Ash Reddington

Ash Reddington is a talented Irish actor, writer and filmmaker who is based in New York City.  In this short comedy film, her character Svetlana goes window shopping in Manhattan during lockdown.

You can find out more about Ash at her Backstage page.

Don’t Let it Pass you By

Arion Productions Ltd presents Passing By by Martin Sherman at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Passing By begins, deceptively, with a one-night stand.  A one-night stand that turns into eight weeks and becomes the substance of the play.  Thrown together by circumstances, the two main characters have intensive intimacy forced upon them, which leads to both comic moments and personal revelations.  It is almost like a bubble of unreality, in which normal life is suspended for a period of time.  Naturally, all such bubbles eventually burst.

Toby and Simon meet at the cinema, and then return to Toby’s apartment.  Simon has just arrived in New York from Miami Beach.  The following morning we hear that Toby is about to leave for Paris, so their relationship seems doomed to be a brief one.  Nevertheless, Simon turns up at Toby’s place of work (a wine shop) several days later, and a subsequent discovery of mutual illness, coupled with the fact that Simon has nowhere else to stay, causes them to nurse each other back to health over the next 8 weeks.

This is a well-written, carefully-structured, balanced play.  It has overtones of the type of New York humour found in Woody Allen or Neil Simon, and the contrast between James Cartwright’s portrayal of Olympic diver Simon, and Rik Makarem’s New York Jew Toby adds to the richness of the mix.  Simon is laid-back, confident, physically fit and has never had a day’s illness in his life (until now), whereas Toby is nervous, neurotic and seemingly hypochondriac at the start of the play.

Both actors filled their roles extremely well.  I couldn’t fault the accents, and James Cartwright’s initially relaxed Simon was a good foil to Rik Makarem’s anxious Toby.  However, it was as the play progressed and the roles reversed that the actors came into their own, and the interplay between them was excellent.  The juxtaposition of characters was what made the play, and, to me, was reminiscent of many wonderful similar stories: The Odd Couple; Prick Up Your Ears and even Ernie and Bert!

The resemblance to both the Joe Orton story and the Sesame Street roommates was enhanced by the set (presumably designed by Philip Lindley).  The majority of the play is set in Toby’s bedroom/kitchenette, which is a very good simulation of a 1970s room, with nylon bedspreads, padded headboards and an old-style black dial telephone.  The only false note was a television remote control of a type not in common use until the early 90s – a bit of an anachronism for 1972.  The three other short scenes – in the wine shop; at the cinema; on a bench – were very cleverly fitted into the main set.

The interesting thing about watching a play which was actually written in the early 70s, rather than one written today looking back at the period, is that there is no benefit of hindsight.  There is no dramatic irony, apart from that which the audience themselves experience, and the writer had no knowledge of the vast changes which were to take place in the lives of gay men in New York and elsewhere over the next couple of decades.  This gives a purity to the piece, almost as if we were looking through a window in time and space, that you just don’t get with retrospective writing.  For this, and for many other reasons, I would recommend you catch this play – as it is passing by.

Passing by is at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden until 30th November, nightly at 7.30, tickets £14 (£12 concessions).  For booking or more information visit www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk or telephone 020 7240 6283.  Photos by Scott Rylander.

Mary Tynan

Belfast Girl: A Love Story

As it’s now less than two weeks till opening night, I wanted to let everyone know about Belfast Girl: A Love Story, from London Irish Theatre.

Set in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, Belfast Girl: A Love Story considers the human dimension of the Northern Ireland question, and uncovers the personal costs of political struggle.  Annie is the Belfast Girl of the title: a working class protestant who grew up during the troubles.  Her marriage to Orangeman Billy is on the rocks, and an unexpected visit from English Catholic Dave, her childhood sweetheart who she hasn’t seen since her teens, brings matters to a head in an explosive manner.  The play is written and directed by John Dunne, and features Mary Tynan (me) as Annie and Ian Macnaughton as Dave.

The story of Dave and Annie has been through several incarnations over the years.  The first, titled Belfast, premiered in the 1990s and featured the couple as teenagers, with Tanya Franks as Annie.  I become involved during the second incarnation, Belfast Boy, which was written to be the second play in a double bill with Geraldine Aron’s A Galway Girl, touring in 2009/10.  This was a two hander, with the older Annie and Dave meeting again after many years.  Belfast Girl followed in the summer of 2010, and I played Annie for the second time in a completely new work which also featured Annie’s brother and husband.  This play has recently had a Belfast run, in which the story was expanded to include two further characters.

Belfast Girl: A Love Story returns to the two-handed format, but with a twist.  There may be only two actors, but there are more than two characters!  I’m really looking forward to playing Annie again, and would like to invite readers of Notes From Xanadu to join the audience.  Previous versions Belfast and A Belfast Boy have both received critical acclaim from the press, and Belfast was a Time Out Critic’s Choice.

“John Dunne’s sensitive squint at the Ulster legacy adapts well to the stage.  What’s impressive about the rapid stucco of tense, bite-sized scenes is that they’re eloquently counterpointed by a driving commitment to character development.”  Time Out

“A sharply realistic play still willing to speak for love, however guarded, as the central human value.” City Limits

 “Fantastically gripping.”  What’s On

 “Moving stories in an Irish odyssey.”  Camden New Journal

Belfast Girl: A Love Story is playing on both sides of the Thames this Summer.  It opens on 20August 2013 at the London Theatre, New Cross, running nightly at 8pm until 24 August, with a Sunday matinee on 25 August at 4pm.  It then runs from 27 to 29 August nightly at 7.30pm at the Babble Jar, Stoke Newington and from 30 August to 1 September at the Precinct Theatre, Islington, with all performances there also at 7.30pm.  Tickets can be bought on the door, from the London Theatre Box Office (www.thelondontheatre.com), and from www.irish-theatre.com .

Belfast Girl: A Love Story