Setting Sail for Inishmore

Miss Wendy and I tried to do the overnight B&B trip to Inishmore. We got up early Tuesday to go get our tickets for the ferry and make arrangements. The woman at the ticket office said the crew were making a decision at 9. They decided not to go that day.

More timid folk would have decided then and there not to make a crossing in January.

Miss Wendy and I, however, were determined, so we went back yesterday and sure enough, the ferry would be sailing so we got our bus & ferry tickets, but decided not to do the whole B&B thing, which ended up being just as well. Remote islands in the Atlantic in January, it turns out, do not offer experiences conducive to relaxed enjoyment. Imagine our surprise.

We found ourselves back in Connemara on the bus, which took a bit longer than we had anticipated to get to the ferry terminal. Miss Wendy, as you know, used to work at the Coast Guard Academy and has been on whaling trips and whatnot. My family used to have its own boat and I’ve been on ocean ferries before.

I have never been in water that wild! Miss Wendy said she understood now why Poseidon was the patron of horses as well as the sea as we plunged up and down in the waves. Arm rests have other uses than just resting arms, I discovered. I was trying not to think of things like The Poseidon Adventure and just roll with the waves. Even as I write this, I feel that strange sensation again. I didn’t feel ill at all, just nervous.

Very very nervous.

It didn’t help that all the islanders we met that day said, “Rough crossing?” and then proceeded to regale us with their own decisions not to take the ferry that week. The woman in the stone shop showed off her arm brace and said how she was supposed to go to her doctor on the mainland, “But I’ll leave it until next week.”

Our tour around the island brought us to seals (which I don’t think either of us could make out) and lots of sea birds, which Miss Wendy found in her guide book. The ruins of the 8th century monastery and its cemetery were quite lovely and picturesque, living history.

The beauties of Dun Aengus were considerable but there was a bit of a problem; as the woman in the heritage office told us, “Be careful by the cliffs.” What she might have said was, “The opening to the ring fort creates a kind of wind tunnel that combined with gale force wind will knock you off your feet.” We discovered that for ourselves. Some dramatic footage of the cliffs.

The cafe where we warmed up before the hike up to the fort gave a lovely warm glow from the turf fire and the delicious food. The pub at the end of the tour proved a welcome sight as we tried to steel our resolve for the journey back. By the time we walked to the pier, the wind howled and the rain assaulted us. We got on board, but they warned us they were changing us to another boat. After about a quarter of an hour, we all decamped for the smaller, less swank ferry.

A few people had told us the journey back would be better, but coincidences added to our nerves. In the pub the telly showed a Raging Nature program on people dying in blizzards detailing how it feels to freeze to death and the woman sitting across the aisle from Wendy read a novel Dead Tomorrow! or something like that. I think we both blanched when one of the sailors, after staring out the fore window for a time intently, reached up to the row of life jackets hanging on a shelf above our heads. However, he was just retrieving his newspaper which he’d put up there. So we plunged on through the sea in the dark this time, rolling and pitching, rising to meet the waves and it was a bit better but still nerve-wracking, so we were glad to reach shore.

You can see all the Inishmore pictures at the end of the Ireland album. I think we’re going to treat ourselves to a spa day today. I expect I may be back to visit the Aran Islands.

Critters Poll: still time to vote for me for best horror short, or as part of the Dark Pages: International Noir anthology; you can also vote for the lovely QoE‘s artwork as cover artist.

Boxing Day v St Stephen’s Day

I’m packed and ready for the next journey — meeting Miss Wendy in Dublin which ought to be a lot of fun, but makes it no less difficult to leave Dundee. A bus to Edinburgh Airport then a flight to Dublin and one more bus into the city centre. Hopefully Miss Wendy is having a chance to sleep off her jet lag as she should be there already. I leave the UK where it’s Boxing Day and arrive in Ireland where it’s St Stephen’s Day. Will I feel the difference?

I’m over at the New England Horror Writers blog today with a little information on Dundee’s Howff: drop by and enjoy!

A Writer Discovers the Famous Dundee Cemetery

by Kate Laity

The Dundee Dragon (picture by Kate Laity)

I have a lot of New England friends who enjoy exploring the graveyards of the northeast and probing the histories behind them, so it’s a treat to be able to visit an even older cemetery here in Dundee where I am spending Christmas. Of course the big holiday in Scotland is Hogmanay, but I have to be back in Ireland this year, so I’m going to miss it. Dundee also has a famous dragon as well, though it’s best known for the three Js: jute, jam and journalism. The jute mills once employed much of the population, until jute production was outsourced to India in the 1920s. Orange marmalade continues to be a staple of British tables. And Dundee remains the home of DC Thomson, creator of The Beano, The Dandy and The Sunday Post… [read the rest]

Did you get a Kindle or some other reading device for your holidays? Need something to read on it? I have some suggestions 🙂

BitchBuzz: Making Small Talk

The light begins its return today: a relief. It was beginning to seem like the sun had gone down before I’d properly gotten up. Then again, that could be due to my lazy schedule. I am getting some good relaxing in 🙂 and a bit of writing, too, as well as watching Allan battle angry penguins in cars (o_O).

It’s Short Story Day, I hear. May I suggest my collection Unikirja? Or if you like something more gruesome how about It’s a Curse: Drunk on the Moon 7. Guaranteed quality!

My column today may seem a tad ironic: who’s less qualified than me to talk about conversational skills? Ah, but those who can’t do, teach or so I’m told. Better than I used to be.

Dos and Don’ts for Holiday Small Talk

By K.A. Laity

Holidays bring the often trying task of making small talk with people you do not really know, whether they are co-workers in distant cubicles, business acquaintances you’ve never really had a chance to develop a rapport with or relatives you can’t actually recall having met before, or at least not since the age of three. While Oscar Wilde maintained that, “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative,” I say any port in a storm when faced with days of chit chat with unfamiliar people.

As a person accustomed to spending the better part of her time alone, I find it taxing to make conversation. Like most introverts, I am stressed by time spent in groups.

While I have been able to develop extrovert abilities for my professional life, the fact remains that I am not a good conversationalist except with a few intimate friends (or online — the internet is a great gift to introverts). But it can be possible to make small talk without falling into Eliza Doolittle perils

Read the useful tips over at BBHQ. I guess penguins are the theme of the day 🙂 Yes, I was pleased to work in that scene from My Fair Lady as well as The Testing of Eric Olthwaite. Black pudding at the ready!

Talk About the Weather

Everywhere I’ve lived people have always said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Even in Houston, which flabbergasted me because nine or ten months of the year it is relentlessly hot and humid with only the regular 3pm brief thunderstorm to break the hellfire monotony. It was slightly more true in Michigan, but you could generally get a picture of how the weather would go in the morning and plan accordingly with reasonable accuracy (contingent on your knowledge of the seasons, I should add).

In Galway, however, it is literally true. I do consult the weather oracles (i.e. I check my phone) and look out the window, but I know that what I see outside may instantly change. I have walked out into rain and arrived at my  destination in sunshine. I have generally given up on carrying an umbrella, as the bins on most days look like this one. The gales of Galway are legendary. I risked an umbrella today because there seemed to be no wind and it was that kind of pervasive misty rain that quickly soaks everything. But by the time I was crossing the Corrib on my way to campus, the wind had begun to gust again.My umbrella made it here, but I suspect that it may be a challenge on the next leg of my perambulations.

In Galway it’s important to wield your brolly like a rapier, twirling it to brace against the shifting winds, dodging other umbrellas on the narrow pavement — so far it seems to be a very gendered norm, with men raising their umbrellas and women lowering theirs, but we shall see if that has just been coincidence so far. But most of the time I either just get wet or wear a hat (shock, I know). I was walking along the Claddagh the other day, enjoying the dramatic skies (thanks for the touch up on the photo, Ayub!) and watching a jackdaw eat mussels by flying up a few feet and dropping them on the rocks. There were a few rainy clouds out to sea, but while brisk, it was quite pleasant.

And then it started to hail! The wind blew so hard that it was difficult to walk as I hightailed it back toward the centre. Yet by the time I got up to the street again, the sun was out. Sure, it was still raining. But the sun was out. It’s crazy, but it always gives people something to talk about, eh?

This weekend there’s the Fiction Slam on Friday and then Octocon on Saturday, so I’ll be heading up to Dublin to finally meet Pádraig Ó Méalóid face to face after all these years. Next week I’m off to London for some fun including not one but TWO Alan Moore events and some idling in East London with the mad Mr Murphy. Next it will be off to Scotland, but more about that anon. For the present, let’s talk about the weather…

Snapshots of Galway

As I’ve been getting nudges to show you a little of my new home city, here are a few snapshots from my new phone. I still don’t have internet at home (ayiii!); but I do finally have a mobile! Which means I have a camera now, too. I love living surrounded by rivers and canals as well as the bay. Above is abbot canal on the way to campus near the Salmon Weir Bridge and the cathedral.

This was some interesting ivy on the wall along the canal on Nun’s Island.

Folks on Facebook already saw this: a late lunch at the Mill House Restaurant, right over the canal and next to the Corrib.

The local Galway Bay Ale is quite refreshing and I recommend you give it a try, if you don’t go for the Galway Hooker Pale Ale (it refers to a kind of ship!).

I live in the bustling centre of the city. Folks prowl up and down Shop Street or down to the Latin Quarter, all a minute’s walk from my flat. And yes, the madness goes on late into the night, so I will likely be keeping late hours here, too.

And in Eyre Square Centre, it’s all about the wolf! Hee, I love this new window display. It’s weird living adjacent to a mall. One exit takes me right into Dunnes (during opening hours) who’re kind of like the Irish M&S. And yes, that means there’s a Foodhall in the lower level (phew!).

Ooh, that reminds me! I need to get some batteries so I can get the Newgrange video off the camera. Here’s one photo from the old camera. More soon.

10 Things I Love

Tapped by my Twitter pal, Betty Herbert, here is a random list of 10 things that I unabashedly love. They are not in rank order and this might be a completely different list tomorrow. Anyway, it distracted me for a moment from the packing panic.

1. Peter Cook

2. Mark E Smith

3. Jane Austen

4. Beowulf

5. Cary Grant films

6. Martinis

7. London

8. AbFab

9. My kantele

10. Writing

What are YOUR ten?! Don’t think about it; just list them. I challenge you! Come here and leave a comment to tell me when you’ve answered.


I started out the day purposefully: I got a needed oil change, ran to the store and then came to campus. There things began to bog down a bit, not only because there was a lot of email to get to and a call from the Dean but then there was the printer not working. I haven’t bought new ink for my printer at home, so I’ve generally relied on the printer here on campus. When we got new printers and a whole new print admin system, I was the only one who never had a problem printing. Everyone else was screaming for blood because of course they decided to change the system at the beginning of the semester. So I’ve taken advantage of the one colleague in the building to have him print a couple of emergency things and will hope the Mac guy gets around to me soon.

Yes, we have one person in IT who’s competent in Macs. We have (last I knew) over 200 Macs on campus. And you wonder why our last Mac person quit to go to Skidmore where she has fewer headaches and more pay… oh, that’s right. No wonder at all.

You can catch up with the latest episode in La Ronde, the round robin story started by Patti Abbot. Today’s installment (#10 already!) is “It’s Raining Down in Texas” by Graham Powell. Amazing turns this narrative has taken: now in Texas.

Kit Marlowe’s The Mangrove Legacy will be available from All Romance Ebooks on December 15th! You can get The Big Splash there now (as well as at Noble Romance and Amazon).

21st Century Gothic will be printed on my birthday 🙂 though it won’t be available until 2011.

I just got word that my presentation “Bringing a Medieval Woman to Life” (about writing a play on the life of Christina of Markyate) got accepted for the Great Writing Conference in London next June. Looking forward to that. I’m also considering a conference in Akureyri, Iceland as well. We shall see. Yeah, don’t remind me of that note which says “Just say no!” I am (on the whole) doing less. Well, less of some things. Combining things, too, seems helpful (work that does double duty). But yeah, it remains the case that there is so little time, and so much to do!