Five Favourite Newsletters

Newsletters, Tiny Letters, SubStacks, whatever you want to call them, I love getting these updates from people’s lives in my inbox. I’ve always loved email. I subscribed to so many mailing lists in the pre-social media days of the internet that email was how I first got to know people online. Email is still the first thing I open when I sit down at my computer.

A good newsletter can feel like a great secret and it feels a little bit odd to be talking about my favourites out in public like this. Maybe it’s because they are sent directly to me and that makes them seem private and personal, or maybe because they remind me of the early days of online journals when every newly discovered site felt like it belonged to me alone. But I like sharing the things I love, and I can console myself with the fact that very few people read this blog, so they will remain mostly secret!

These are five (plus one bonus one) of my favourite free newsletters.

1. Patelagrams
Vinay Patel is a screenwriter and playwright who sends out a weekly newsletter that’s mostly about his writing life and a little bit about his cats. I really enjoy reading about how writers write and he also writes well about the things he’s seen on stage and screen. He writes for theatre and tv and I like reading about the differences between the two processes, and about the next stage, after the thing is written and handed over to the directors, designers, actors, etc to become something more than words on the page. The newsletter provides a good insight into the day-to-day life of a busy, working writer who is juggling lots of things – bits of teaching and mentoring, seeing work performed, meetings, writing deadlines – and what that looks like, or more accurately, what it feels like from the inside.

2. The collected ahp
Anne Helen Peterson wrote one of my favourite essays this year – How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation and she also writes this regular newsletter. I really enjoy her writing so I’d probably read it no matter what she was writing about. As it happens, she is currently writing a book on burn-out and her newsletters are often about her own experience/recovery, which is interesting to me. She also includes a great selection of other things worth reading around the internet.

3. Jimsy Jampots
Amy Jones was a writer for The Pool until it folded last year and I subscribed to her Tiny Letter because of her writing there. She used to send out a regular newsletter that I looked forward to every Thursday. I don’t think she ever missed a week! The newsletters are less regular now but they haven’t stopped and I still enjoy them when they appear in my inbox. The style is a personal “what I think” section, some recommended reading from around the internet and also a curated list of things to buy, from dresses to notebooks, novels and necklaces. I have bought things receommended by Amy on more than one occasion but I also just really enjoy her writing.
She has also written a book called To Do Lists and Other Debacles.

4. That’s What She Said
Anne T Donahue’s is one of the first newsletters I subscribed to and still one of my favourites. She has a wonderful, chatty, informal style which reminds me of old-school blog posts. She tells you where she’s writing from and what’s she’s been up to, but also writes a lot about trying to figure out life and is very frank and open about how difficult that can be. She sometimes answers readers’ letters, Agony Aunt style, and every newsletter includes pet peeves and sources of joy provided by subscribers. I often feel like I have a better understanding of the world after I read her newsletters. This feeling is often fleeting, but I enjoy it while it lasts!
Anne also has a book out – Nobody Cares.

5. Can’t complain
Emily Gould is a writer living in New York with her husband and two small boys. I read her novel Friendship a few years ago and signed up for the newsletter because I like her writing. They are occasional treats that give me a glimpse into a life that is very different to my own and that’s why I like them. There was one a few months ago that just gave me such a rush of nostalgia for the descriptive, serious blogs I used to read a lot of in the late 90s/early 00s. She also often includes recipes.

Bonus – Criticism and Love
These were a series of critical essays written with love by Maddy Costa and Andy Field. They were dense, nerdy writing about (mostly) British theatre makers. There are no new essays coming, for now, but the archive is still online.They remind me of things I read in college when we were often taught about theatre practioneers we would never get to see and that we could only experience through someone else’s description. I like reading about theatre and I like seeing how other people write about it. Each essay is an indept look at the work of one company or indivdual. I think it’s a lovely thing to do for theatre makers, to collect their work in this way and share it with others. (The theatre makers might not agree.)

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

All year we’ve been told that the current climate emergency means that we need to say goodbye to business as usual, that we cannot keep living as we currently do if we want the planet to still be habitable beyond the next 10-15 years. In a lot of ways, Christmas is the exact opposite of sustainable living. Christmas is about eating too much, giving presents, sparkly things, buying stuff, spending too much money and general rampant consumerism. It’s also about tradition. It’s a festival dedicated to doing things because that’s how we’ve always done them. This can mean everything from hanging the 20-year old Christmas decorations that your parents bought the first Christmas they were married to boiling up a big pot of Brussel sprouts even though nobody will eat them. Obviously some traditions are more ecologically sound than others. But this Christmas, for the sake of the planet, let’s embrace change and do things differently.

In that spirit, here are my tips for a greener Christmas. None of them have the power to turn the tide on climate change but they are still a step in the right direction. Individual action is not going to solve the problem but it’s still worth doing. A little bit less plastic in the sea or a slight lower carbon emission is a good thing. We can all do better. At the same time, change is hard and we live in an imperfect world so it’s important to be kind to yourself if you slip up sometimes – it not possible to be perfect all the time. The trick is to keep trying.

Hope is a radical act and doing something is always better than doing nothing. The situation isn’t hopeless just yet – we still have time to solve the climate crisis.

These tips are not just about green living and sustainability. Most of them will also save you money and give you an opportunity to get one over on our capitalist overlords. There is a certain satisfaction to be had from turning your back on all the consumer nonsense and just thinking to yourself “No, I don’t want to buy a chocolate orange panettone. And you can’t make me!”

Avoid bringing excess plastic into your home

It may be too late for this one, but skip the advent calendar this year, especially those beauty calendars which are full of tiny plastic bottles of stuff you’ll never use. They are a perfect example of something we’ve have been tricked into thinking we need. We need to stop buying them so companies stop making them because they really are just a giant pile of single use plastic.

Do a reverse advent calendar instead and put something into a box every day in the run up to Christmas and then donate it to somewhere like Inner City Helping Homeless or the Capuchin Day Centre during the week before Christmas.

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Giving green gifts

Aim to buy less this Christmas and give homemade gifts or experiences instead – cook someone a meal, offer to babysit or give tickets to a play. Vouchers may be boring but they let people buy something they actually need and will use. Vouchers from TheTaste are a good present that doesn’t involve giving stuff.

If someone tells you that they don’t want any presents this year, whether it’s because their house is too full of stuff or because the planet is dying, respect their wishes. Warn them that you are going to take them at their word, give them a chance to change their mind, and then do what they ask and don’t buy them anything. If you truly believe that Christmas is a time for giving and if feels weird to not get presents for people, there are lots of charities collecting presents for those who need a little help this Christmas. Inner City Helping Homeless are doing a fill an Xmas truck appeal, and Bang Bang cafe in Phibsboro are collecting gifts for children living in Direct Provision.

There may be people in your life who you have to buy something for and you know a voucher or homemade gift won’t cut it because they will be expecting something substantial and beautifully wrapped under the tree. If that’s the case, try to avoid buying plastic tat or gift sets all wrapped up in plastic. Books are a good alternative – they are endlessly reusable and when they reach the end of their life many years from now, they’re also mostly biodegradable. You can often get second hand books that are as good as new in book shops or charity shops.

Speaking of beautifully wrapped gifts, loads of the things we use to wrap presents contain plastic. Things like sellotape and shiny wrapping paper are a disaster for the environment. Make sure your wrapping is recyclable. There are lots of alternatives you can use from brown paper or newspaper to cloth or gift bags.

Eat green

Project Drawdown puts reducing food waste at number three on their list of ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Avoid throwing out food this Christmas by only buying and cooking what you know will get eaten. Invest in some good storage containers so if there are leftovers, they can be saved for another day. Avoid food waste when you’re eating out as well by sharing side sides and desserts and not over-ordering.

Skip the selection boxes and giant tins of sweets. All the individual sweet wrappers are difficult to recycle and will last for a really long time. For alternative Christmas treats to nibble in front to the telly, think about making your own Christmas cookies or chocolate biscuit cake. Nigella has an easy recipe for Hokey Pokey (also known as cinder toffee or Crunchie). Or if you’re looking for something more grown-up, chocolate Florentines are delicious and look much fancier and tricky to make than they actually are.

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Don’t forget to feed your vegetarians this Christmas. Make sure they feel welcome and included with veggie canapés and a proper vegetarian main as part of the Christmas dinner. You might not be ready for 100% veggie Christmas but even cutting out some meat dishes can make a difference.

Dressing festive

Do you really need to buy a new Christmas jumper? You could skip the tradition in favour of buying something that you’ll get much more wear out of or maybe get together with friends for a Christmas jumper swap. This can branch out to a general Christmas clothes swap – all those fun, sparkly things that you only wear this time of year.

Spreading the word

Individual action will only get us so far so take the opportunity over the festive period to send some Christmas messages to your local politicians asking about what they’re going to do to stop climate change. We need to put lots more pressure on our government and with a general election looking likely in the new year – now is a good time to do it.

You can also aim to have a few chats with people over Christmas about the climate crisis, focusing on how it’s not all doom and gloom, and hopefully without lecturing people. Getting people interested and eager to do something will further the cause more than giving out to people and making them feel hopeless!

 

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be green!

 

11 Things I Learnt at the 2019 Dublin Fringe Festival

I really enjoyed this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival. It was two weeks of booking more shows than I could really afford and seeing wonderful performances all over the city. It’s one of my favourite times of year. I love coming out of a half six show while it’s still bright out and then heading off to see something else. I love bumping into friends in theatre foyers and hearing what they’ve seen or what they recommend. Here are some of the things I learnt over the course of the festival.

Continue reading “11 Things I Learnt at the 2019 Dublin Fringe Festival”

Nine reasons why I haven’t posted anything in months

1. I’ve been writing off-line things.

2. I have big ideas for big things I want to write about but I get intimidated by the subject matter.

3. I’ve been watching television instead.

4. And reading books.

5. And going on holiday.

6. I have a full time job that involves sitting in front of a computer screen all day. Most days I don’t want to do that all evening as well.

7. It’s really easy to get out of the habit of writing, and really hard to get back into it.

8. Writing is hard.

9. I can’t remember how to write or why I even want to.

…but I think I’m slowly remembering again.

New Year Resolutions – it’s never too late!

It felt like January would never end but it’s finally drawing to a close and on Friday it will be February. Soon, there will be more light in the sky and green buds appearing everywhere. It’s a new beginning, and there is still time for new year’s resolutions. The resolutions you made in the final days of December might be cracked and broken but you can still make fresh, bright new ones! Resolutions that aren’t about punishing yourself for the excesses of Christmas. Resolutions that don’t involve giving things up.

Here are six resolutions that are designed to add something to your life and make it better. They are all a bit earnest and do-gooder-y but they are definitely better than a juice cleanse.

Continue reading “New Year Resolutions – it’s never too late!”

7 ways to start preparing for the next recession now

Based on nothing more than a hunch, I think there’s another recession coming. A hunch, and the fact that stock markets are plummeting, the US is becoming increasingly unstable and if the UK succeed in crashing out of the EU, they are going to take us down with them. At home, the soaring rents and house prices aren’t sustainable – can’t be sustainable – and in the boom and bust cycle which we seem cursed to repeat, that means a recession is on it’s way.

Nearly €2.5bn wiped off Irish stocks amid global slump
From the Irish Times on Dec 6th 2018

After seeing this terrifying headline early this month, I started thinking about what I could do to prepare for this inevitable recession. I always feel better when I have a plan.

My plan does make some big assumptions. It buys into the narrative that there’s more money sloshing around right now than there was 5-10 years ago. I know this isn’t true for everyone. There are over 10,000 homeless people in Ireland. There are children growing up in hotel rooms. Over 15% of the population is living under the poverty line and the income gap is growing all the time. People are working good jobs and still broke because their salary is being eaten up by rent.

This silly listicle will not be relevant to a lot of people and I’m sorry about that. A better way to prepare for a recession would be for the government to take the Apple tax (and the Google tax, and the Facebook tax) and invest it in social housing and other public services. I can’t make that happen so here are some things to do instead.

1. Get out of debt.
Obvious one first. Pay off your loans, clear your credit card, get out of your overdraft. If you find yourself penniless and out of work, you don’t want to owe the bank anything. You’ll miss repayments and the interest will just keep clocking up. Clearing debt is a very boring use of money but if you are lucky enough to have a bit of extra cash now, invest it in becoming debt-free as soon as possible.

This also means that if you have a future financial emergency, those lines of credit will be available to you and might help you ride out the recession.

2. Save.
Another boring, practical piece of advice – start saving. Preferably with a credit union because it’s easier to borrow from them. Set up a savings account and a weekly (or monthly) direct debit into it. Even if it’s only for a small amount, some savings are better than none and being a regular saver looks good when you go looking for a loan. I also like the credit union because it’s hard to get at the money. There’s no cards or electronic transfers, you have to physically go into the building. That helps my savings grow!

3. Learn to cook
The cheapest way to eat well is to cook for yourself. It doesn’t have to be fancy just learn how to make the thing you like. The BBC Good Food website has lots of easy recipes with clear instructions. (Personally I really like this two-step recipe for chicken, sweet potato and coconut curry.) Cooking well isn’t hard but it takes a bit of practice. Better to make your mistakes when you can afford to, so if the meal is completely inedible there’s a pizza in the freezer you can have instead.

Inviting friends over for dinner is also a good way to enhance your social life during a recession when nobody can afford to go out. Finally, as well as being able to feed yourself and others, being able to spend time preparing good grub is a great when you have too much time on your hands, because of unemployment or under-employment.

4. Invest in clothes that last, especially shoes/boots/coats.
If you can afford it, spend money on good quality shoes and coats that will see you through a few winters. This is good advice from a budgetary and environmental point of view but also because you find yourself walking more in a recession and it’s good to have things that keep you warm and dry.

5. Join the library! All those books!
Libraries are great. Not only are they full of books that you can take away for free, they are also warm places you can go and use the internet without spending any money. You’ll also be grateful for their weird collection of DVDs when you have to cancel your Netflix subscription and can’t afford to go to the cinema. You could argue that you don’t need to join a library now, but having lots of members help libraries stay open and (I imagine) help them argue for budget increases, so by joining today you can help make sure they’re still there when you need them. Also did I mention the free books?

Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times, part of Patrick Freyne's article on the Dublin Central Library in the Ilac Centre.
Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times, part of Patrick Freyne’s article on the Dublin Central Library in the Ilac Centre.

6. Vote for anti-capitalists.
I don’t know if the general election is going to happen before or after the recession hits but when it does, you should vote with the recession in mind. We need a government who doesn’t always take the side of the property developers or the landlords or the banks. We need more tenants and less landlords in the Dáil. We need more socialists who will increase investment in public services. We need people who will put an end to the boom and bust cycles.

Leo Varankar described himself as “the CEO of the organisation” on the Late Late Show recently. CEOs tend to be selfish, power-mad psychopaths and we shouldn’t let them be in charge anymore. We need a leader who is less like a CEO and more like a caretaker. Someone who looks after the country and has it’s best interests at heart, someone who identifies where cuts can be made and also where we need to invest. Someone who understands that they don’t own the country, they’re just looking after the place for bit. Please vote for someone like that, when the time comes!

7. Look on the bright side…
…a recession might be the only thing that will bring down our carbon emissions. The last recession really helped with that but they started climbing again as soon as the economy started to recover. Yes, this is clutching at straws and it is a fairly bleak bright side but we were identified as the worst offender in the EU for carbon emission last week, which is another super bleak and depressing headline, so I’ll take any bright side I can find. We need a few more politicians who give a shit about global warming in the next Dáil as well.

Why I give blood

Last week I went to the blood donor clinic. You have to wait three months between each blood donation, but it’s probably been about 12 months since I’d last donated. Last time I went it was really busy and I left without even signing in. The time before that my iron was too low and I was told to go see my doctor and wait six months before donating again. I’m not great at giving blood regularly and I definitely haven’t given as much as I could. I’ve been doing it for about 15 years and last week was my 19th donation. (I think I get a prize for my 20th which is exciting!) But despite my patchy record, one of the nurses we looked at my chart asked me why I’d donated so much and why I kept coming back. I didn’t really want to tell him that I just did it for the free biscuits – though that is a big part of it – so I told him I did it because I know lots of people who can’t donate and it’s easy for me, so I do it.

That’s just one of the reasons. There are lots of others:

  1. Free biscuits. I can’t lie, they are part of why I go there. When I started there used to be free mini-rolls. Now it’s custard creams and blue ribbon wafer bars, but they’re still free!
  2. There’s a great view from the canteen in the Blood Donor Clinic on D’Olier Street. It looks down over O’Connell Bridge and you have to hang out there after you donate and enjoy the view.
  3. It’s a really easy way to do something good. There are so many reasons why people can’t give blood, varying from where they’d lived or the medication they’re on, to whether they’ve just had a baby or a tattoo. I feel like if I’m able to give blood, I should. I have no problems with needles and generally don’t have any problems after donating. I can’t say never because I nearly fainted in the canteen once. Thankfully the nurse behind the counter spotted me losing conciseness and had me lying on the ground with my legs raised before I actually fell out of the chair! They even have a pillow in the canteen for just this reason, which makes it seem almost normal and helped me feel less of a tit!
  4. The lovely staff. Everyone is really nice to you in the blood donor clinic. They thank you so many times for coming in, even when your blood is rejected! And my blood has been rejected many times. Mostly for low iron and once because I’d just had the mumps vaccine and it’s one of the few live vaccines that you can’t donate after.
  5. Giving blood is a sneaky way to get my iron checked. You are not supposed to give blood for this reason and it’s probably not even a particularly accurate way to test it because I think it only gives a tiny snapshot. I’m prone to low iron so I do find it useful to get a quickie look at my iron levels every now and again.

I give blood because it makes me feel good. It’s easy, it doesn’t hurt and it costs me nothing. I just hang out in the clinic for an hour, where everyone is really nice to me and gives me free biscuits. I do it because someone else needs that blood more than I do. While I’m munching on my free biscuits and enjoying the view, someone else is fighting for their life. Why wouldn’t I give blood if it can help? It’s so easy to make more that I don’t even feel like I’ve lost anything afterwards.

There’s a lot of scary things happening in the world at the moment – Trump, terrorism, Brexit – and it’s easy to feel helpless. Giving blood makes me feel less helpless.

If you’re interested in donating, for the first or fifth or fourteenth time – visit giveblood.ie to find out if you are able to give blood and where your nearest clinic is.

Currently reading: feminist literature

Over the last year and a bit I’ve been reading a lot of books about feminism. Partly as research for a thing I’m writing but mostly just because I’m interested. (This is also why I’m writing about it!)

Here is a short round-up of my feminist reading list.

The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer

FemaleEunchGermaine Greer’s feminist manifesto seems to me to be the grandmother of all feminist texts, the one that started the second wave of feminism. First published in 1970, it attempts to cover all aspects of being a woman under the headings Body, Soul and Love. This edition was published in 2006 and includes a new foreword by Greer about what the world is like for women at the beginning of the 21st century.

I didn’t find the book as informative or as an inspiring as I’d hoped. The second wave of feminism is a movement that I’m very familiar with which meant it felt more dated than revolutionary. It’s very much one-woman’s view of the world and how women should think and behave, it’s a bit too academic and a bit too bossy for my tastes.

The added extras at the back include a essay by Elizabeth Wurtzel called The New C-Word, which I did find interesting. It condemns the notion that feminism is all about choice; that anything a woman chooses to do is a feminist action. She writes “To say anything goes, feminism is whatever you believe it is, not only renders the movement meaningless but also amounts to a demand for rights without responsibility…We don’t have to respect everyone’s choices and we do have to say to certain women that they are behaving like idiots, that their choices are not good enough for a feminist world.”

The Guardian recently listed The Female Eunuch as one of it’s 100 best nonfiction books, they obviously liked it more than I did!

The Feminine Mystic, Betty Friedan

FeminineMystiqueThe Feminine Mystic was first published in the 1963 but to me, it felt more relevant and contemporary than The Female Eunuch. I liked the fact that there was so much research behind it. Fifteen years after they graduated, Friedan sent an intensive questionnaire to her college classmates. She got responses from 200 women. She also interviewed 80 women and analysed popular media, namely women’s magazines. She looked at how women are described in these magazines, in articles and in fiction, and what that says about how women are perceived by society. Similar studies done today look at female roles in tv and film, such as the fascinating Largest Ever Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender.

Frieden coined the phrase “the problem that has no name” for the yearning and dissatisfaction that American housewives felt in the 1950s and 1960s. This problem often manifested itself in physical as well as psychological symptoms. These women got married in their early twenties and were constantly told, particularly by advertisers, that being a wife and mother was the most worthwhile thing they could possibly aspire to. Friedan’s descriptions of how home-making was marketed to women in the 1950s reminded me of the early Noughties when domesticity was very much back in fashion. Women were sold an idealised cupcakes-and-crafts version of femininity and the Domestic Goddess was (re)born. The battle for equality seems to be circular. American women found a place outside the home during WW II but afterwards they were aggressively encouraged to go back to being a housewife. The cult of domestic goddess was a reaction to the 80s Career Women and the Ladette of the 90s. Even in the early Irish State, after women played key roles in the trade union movement, the Easter Rising and the War of Independence, once freedom was achieved De Valera’s government sent them swiftly back into the home, literally writing it into Article 41.2 of the constitution. A lot of work has gone into keeping women in the home over the years.

Girls Will Be Girls, Emer O’Toole

GirlsWillBeGirlsAt last, a book that’s about my own country written during the present century! After reading books about feminism in different countries and different times in the past, it was wonderful to read about an Irish woman’s experience, particularly someone around the same age as me, who has had similar experiences. This really is unusual and revelatory. Women are uniquely skilled at putting them into the place of the person they are reading about – even if they are very different. We’re good at it because books are mostly written about people who aren’t like us. It’s a much more satisfying experience to see your own experiences reflected back at you through someone else’s eyes. For any Irish woman, this book is work reading for that alone.

There are lots of other great reasons to read this book. It’s written in a more populist way than the more academic texts on this list. In a way it’s a beginners guide because it charts someone coming out as a feminist and realising the need for feminism, which the other books don’t really do.

It’s also very very funny. There aren’t a lot of laughs in the two previous books but O’Toole will have you snorting with laughter and at the most inappropriate things. For a little taster, read her piece about not shaving. But between the laughs there’s also some excellent information, such as also this mind-blowing bit of info about the clitoris.

ClitIgnorance

“Shockingly, the clitoris remains either misrepresented or omitted in much contemporary medical literature, including many of the anatomy textbooks used to train doctors. In spite of the pioneering work of the urologist Helen O’Connell in the nineties and early noughties, the first 3D model of the clitoris wasn’t made until 2009. So, to put that in some kind of perspective: modern science authoritatively mapped and made models of the human genome before it adequately described or modelled the clitoris.”

It angers me that science and medicine plays so little attention to the female body. To the extent that car test-dummies are always male so they only examine what happens to the male body in a collision (and extrapolate that the same would happen to a woman. It wouldn’t. Our bodies are different.). I think it is shameful that women’s bodies are treated like this. Doctors still don’t really know what causes endometriosis even though 1 in 10 women suffer from it and there is still a lot unknown about the menopause, which all women will go through.

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
BadFeministThis is not really a book about feminism. It’s a book of personal essays with a provocative title but it certainly delivers on that title. Elizabeth Wurtzel’s essay on The New C-Word was about calling out women who’s “choices are not good enough for a feminist world”. Gay’s book gives you permission to be that person. Nobody is perfect and everyone makes bad choices now and again.

Roxane Gay is a great writer and here she writes persuasively and engagingly about a host of different topics including gender, race, rape culture, women in popular culture and competitive scrabble tournaments. I found her writing about race and popular culture particularly enlightening. This book should be required reading for Gerry Adams and his ilk. It’s book that made me see the world differently, and while Gay writes critically about popular culture, she is also very enthusiastic about the things she loves. I find her very likeable from her writing. She’s also good fun on twitter. It is one woman’s view of the world, but instead of attempting to say that this is the way it should be for all women, these are personal essays that only aim to show one person’s experience of the world. It’s a more inclusive way of writing.

That’s some of the books I’ve been reading in the last year. Some upcoming feminist books that I am looking forward to include Lindy West’s Shrill and Laura Bates’ Girl Up. Both women are in Dublin this month to talk about their books and I’m looking forward to seeing them live as well. I’m always interested in recommendations of good nerdy, feminist books so if you have suggestions, please let me know!

January Treats

Sometimes the last few weeks of December can feel like hard work. There’s all those jobs that need to be done by the end of the year; the days that are too short and too dark; there’s so many nights out and so many hangovers and so much rain. Then the holidays come and it’s a relief to just relax in front of the tv or the fire, eating and drinking and sleeping too much; ignoring the fact that soon it will be January when the days will be just as short and dark and the weather just as miserable, but with no Christmas break to look forward to. Instead there’ll just be counting the days until payday and failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions made in happier, more hopeful times.

So it’s a good idea to do something nice for yourself and plan a couple of treats for January. I know I will need something to help me get through that long month. It might be connected to a resolution but it must be something fun. Something far away from that faithful trinity of resolutions – diet, exercise and managing your money. For me, this usually means booking tickets. Last year it was Walworth Farce, which I’d booked in November and definitely brighten up my January! This year, I have tickets for Nollaig na mBan at the Irish Writers Centre on January 6th and the Theatre of Change at the Abbey at the end of January.

Nollaig_na_mBanI booked my ticket for Nollaig na mBan really early this year because last January, I only got in by the skin of my teeth. (Thankfully sometimes throwing yourself at the mercy of the waiting list works out!) It was a really fun night in the Irish Writers Centre; Una Mulally quoted Constance Markievicz and Tara Flynn managed to be very funny about Ireland’s lack of reproduction rights. Other speakers talked about mental health, being a “lovely girl” and apologising too much. The panel discussion included lots of recommendations of great books by women which I’d forgotten by the time I’d got home because I got carried away by the wine and the Secret Santa-style book-swap at the end of evening. It was a really fun night and I enjoyed it immensely. Sadly it’s already sold out for this January but the waiting list worked out for me last year so it’s maybe worth a try.

The other ticket I’ve booked is for the Theatre of Change, the three day symposium at the Abbey. This was the thing I was most excited about when the new programme was announced in October. I’ve been to the last two and found them fascinating and insightful. (I even did a top five of my favourites panels and presentations from the Theatre of War, with YouTube links.) For this year’s Theatre of Change, I’m hoping for forward-looking, optimistic discussions but I don’t really know what to expect. One of the things I’ve liked about the last couple of years is that the content was surprising; often it was the speakers I didn’t know that I found the most fascinating, and the topics that I didn’t even know I was interested in were where I learnt the most. I know that spending three days in the Abbey listening to a bunch of artists and academics talking may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but to a giant theatre-nerd like myself it makes me very happy. Tickets are still on sale if you feel the same way. The €50 Early Bird tickets are available until December 31st.

Other January treats
First Fortnight – the mental health arts festival begins on January 1st and there are events happening all over Dublin until January 16th. I’m hoping to see some of the plays that I missed during the Fringe, and maybe some of the visual arts exhibitions and discussions. I’m also looking forward to Enthroned – “a modern fairytale charting a woman’s journey to confirm her right to existence” which takes place in St. Patrick’s Hospital.

What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now
This exhibition is on at IMMA until the 7th February. Featuring modern and contemporary masterworks from the world’s leading collections by Abramović, Brancusi, Dalí, Duchamp Ernst, Giacometti, Oppenheim, Picasso, Warhol, Yoko Ono, and many more.

Dublin Old School – there are still some tickets available for this show in Project Arts Centre, 12th – 16th of January. I loved it last year – it’s really energetic and manages to be both funny and sad. It was one of my theatre highlights of 2014.

Dublin Film Festival isn’t happening until February but you could buy yourself a gift voucher now and make sure that you definitely go and see something during the festival.

Or if you fancy a bit of self-improvement, you could sign up for a class. This January, the Science Gallery are running short courses on how to make an app, web development and getting to grips with the Raspberry Pi, a tiny but powerful computer. The Irish Writer’s Centre has loads of courses coming up in the New Year, as does the very reasonably priced People’s College.

Whatever you do, do something nice in January.

Weekly Round Up: 25/11/2015

1. Corn Exchange’s Through A Glass Darkly
I went to see Through A Glass Darkly last night, knowing next to nothing about Ingmar Bergman. It didn’t matter, I still really enjoyed it. Wonderful performances and a dark, creepy story. I wondered how a film adaptation would look onstage, but I found it very theatrical. It still felt like a Corn Exchange show. There was beautiful movement and a precision and clarity to each character and every scene. I also really liked the scene changes, which must be one of the hardest things to adapt from film to stage!
It runs until December 5th and it’s really worth seeing. Tickets available from Project Arts Centre.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation
Tomorrow (Thursday 26th) I’m going to see Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Roisin Ingle in the Liberty Hall, a venue I really like but don’t get the opportunity to visit that often. Gilbert has a new book out called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear with a brilliant, colourful cover! You might have seen her Ted talk about the genie in the house, which I think explores similar territory. It’s a book about how everyone is creative and how we should use that in everyday life. I think, I haven’t read it yet, though I do really like this review in the Irish Times by Anna Carey. I think it will be an interesting evening. There might still be tickets available here.

3. Rough Magic SEEDS Showcase
Rough Magic’s SEEDS is a development programme for writers, composers, directors and designers. The programme lasts two years and at the end, the SEEDS showcase there work. Over the next two weeks, you can see the work of these up-and-coming artists in Project Arts Centre, in three shows and a rehearsed reading.

Anna Bella Eema
24 – 28 November | 8.15pm | Tickets from €11-16
An eerie trailer park epic about a fierce mother-daughter bond spoken and sung by three women.

Enjoy
1 – 5 December | 8.15pm | Tickets from €11 – 16
With an ensemble of ten performers, Enjoy takes you inside the minds of a lost generation of 20-something part-time workers in a comic book café.

Unspoken
3 – 5 December | 6.15pm | Tickets €11/9
An exciting new collaboration between Composer/Sound Designer SEED Danny Forde and choreographer Aisling McCormick. Employing music and dance, Unspoken seeks dialogue amid potential conflict, exploring the body as it divides and unites; provokes and resolves.

Traitor
4 – 5 December | 2.00pm | Admission free, booking advised
What happens when the dream comes true, when a radical, charismatic leader from the left is within reach of government? What compromises does she need to negotiate? Set in 2026 and 2016, Traitor looks at the journey from activism to politics. A rehearsed reading of a new play by Shane Mac an Bhaird.

4. The Women of Hollywood Speak Out
While #WakingTheFeminists has been encouraging Irish theatre makers to speak out about sexism (and new testimonies are being added to the website all the time), this New York Times article was shared all over the place last week – The Women of Hollywood Speak Out. It’s about sexism in Hollywood, as experienced by female executives, writers and directors and lots of people working in tv as well. The stories are similar and shows that it’s not just Ireland and it’s not just theatre. Hopefully speaking out about this ingrained sexism is the first step to dismantling it.

5. Pilates
I’ve been doing pilates in My Wellbeing on Dame Street for the last three months, and really enjoying it. I feels like it’s good for my brain and my body. It makes me feel more connected with my body, more present. It’s a Beginners and Improvers class on Monday evening, which I also like because it’s something to look forward to at the beginning of each week and something to help get me through Mondays. It’s a relaxed, friendly class and it doesn’t feel like you’re working too hard, but I still see myself getting stronger week by week, which I love. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try pilates. Suzanne is running a mini-term between now and Christmas and you can sign up for three classes for €25.