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.

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.

Theatre in 2012

I saw a lot of theatre this year, through college in the first half of the year and volunteering at the festivals in the autumn, but I still feel like there’s a lot that I missed. This is not a list of the ‘best of Irish theatre’ in 2012. This is a list of my personal favourites from the year.

Silent, Pat Kinevane and Fishamble
I’ve already written about some of the things I love about Silent but this 90-minute one-man play really is a complete tour de force. The LA Times described it as “Krapp’s Last Tape performed by Madonna” which is a pretty accurate description! A lot of the joy in this piece is found in Pat Kinevane’s performance. His portrayal of homeless McGoldrick, who once had splendid things, is so enthusiastic and full of fun. You don’t expect a story of homelessness and helplessness to be so funny, and this surprise adds another layer of joy to the piece.

Silent was Fishamble’s original Show in a Bag and the minimalist approach to set and props serve the story well. The story is engaging and well-told and touching without being sentimental. I saw it for the first time in the Town Hall Theatre in Galway early last year. Immediately after the show, I was eager to see it again and wanted to bring so many people to see it with me. I haven’t managed to do that yet. I missed it in the Peacock during the summer and in Smock Alley a couple of weeks ago, but I’m hoping to see it again before the year is out. The show is off to Australia this month but will be back touring Ireland in March.

Tiny Plays for Ireland, Fishamble
This is another Fishamble production and it was a fantastically ambitious project that was wonderfully executed. It started this time last year when Fishamble sent out a call in September 2011 for “tiny plays”, no more than 600 words. The response was huge and Fishamble received over 1,700 entries. The final production – twenty-five tiny plays in the space of an hour, on the same set with the same actors – was done so beautifully and so simply that it actually did create a snap-shot of the Ireland. With a clever use of costume and a few wigs, the cast manage to play teenagers, married couples and elder statesmen convincingly. Seeing the quick changes and multiple characters was part of the enjoyment of the production. There was a wonderful mix of comedy and heart-break in the production as a whole, and sometimes even in the same short play.

Because of the huge numbers of entries received and the high quality of the writing, Fishamble put together a second collection of plays and Tiny Plays 2 opens in the Project Arts Centre in March. It’s something worth seeing even if you are not a regular theatre goer or know someone who you want to encourage into the theatre! The little snippets mean that if you don’t like what’s going on onstage right now, there’ll be something different along in a minute. I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

The Mothers Arms, Little John Nee
I saw this show last January in the Town Hall Theatre. It was the first play we went to see as part of our reviewing class and so it was the first thing I had to review for that class. It was a tricky review to write because I really loved the show but found it difficult to find words to describe what happened on stage or why I enjoyed it so much.

I went in to the show knowing nothing at all about Little John Nee and came out a life-long fan. It was a joyous piece of theatre set in a the public house of the title, somewhere in the wilds of Donegal and involved lots of music and a far amount of silliness. Little John Nee is another wonderful performer and a joy to watch as he switched between seven or eight different characters. I laughed my head off and had a wonderful evening. I have yet to see his follow-up show Sparkplug but I am keeping an eye out for it and reccommend you do the same. (It is also nominated for an Irish Theatre Award for great Sound Design.)

Alice in Funderland, thisispopbaby and the Abbey Theatre
I’ll keep this brief because I’ve already written loads about Alice on this blog but it really was one of my favourite things of 2012. I often think of it when I’m sitting in the Abbey before a show, wishing there were twinkling glitter balls on the ceiling. (I’m very partial to a bit of disco ball action.) It was unlike anything else I’ve seen on the Irish stage. It really had more in common with a West End musical in the brash, brightness of the production and the slick song and dance routines. But at the same time there was a very Irish sense of humour running through and some truly beautiful songs.

Boys of Foley Street, ANU Productions
I didn’t find Boys of Foley Street quite as harrowing as last year’s Laundry, perhaps I’d been working in the Lab for two days before I saw the show so I had some idea of what to expect. However it was a visceral and heart-breaking piece of theatre, with fantastic performances.

The time spent in the flat was particularly terrifying. Much of the piece took place out on the street, so suddenly finding yourself trapped in the small flat was a bit of a shock. Seeing the hidden, private lives of people trapped by drugs and poverty made me feel helpless. The performers so in your face that you felt trapped. It was completely immersive and left me feeling sakend and disjointed.

The final piece of ANU’s Foley Street project Vardo Corner will be in Gypsy Rose’s caravan, which I imagine will have a similar terrifying claustrophobia to it!

A Doll House, Pan Pan
This was the first production I saw in the newly renovated Smock Alley main stage. I thought the round, almost Shakespearean sitting suited it beautifully. I’d read A Doll’s House for the first time last year so it was fresh in my mind. Though it’s one of those plays that I’d been aware of for years. I really enjoyed Judith Roddy’s Nora – her manic energy and childish glee in the early scenes of the play were wonderful to watch and captured Nora’s character beautiful. Pan Pan manage to be both playful and academic in their interruption of classic texts and this was no exception. The nanny takes on the role of academic analysing the play but also plays games with Nora instead of her small children.

Pan Pan have a gift for putting their own unique and memorable stamp on classical plays. For example when I think of Hamlet, I think of a Great Dane called Toby and their production of Everyone is King Lear in Their Own Home means that when I see King Lear at the Abbey next month, I’ll probably walk out with a song about “a little mouse with clogs on” stuck in head. And I will probably always hear some of the lines from A Doll’s House in the Batman voice. In a glorious twist, Torvald goes to neighbour’s costume party as Batman and when he has his confrontation with Nora, he is still in full Batman mode. No matter how familiar you are with a text, PanPan force you to see it in a fresh way. But despite this playfulness, they also have a devotion to and respect for the text. And this was seen in the climax of the play when the actors lay in separate pools of light, on opposite sides of the stage and said their lines slowly and carefully, so that all the meaning had time to sink in and we could see their relationship slowly folding itself up and disappearing. It was beautifully done.

That’s my short (and very late) wrap up of my favourite 2012 theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to see some wonderful work already this year and I will be writing about that here soon.