Unearthing Buried Treasure

Wit and WisdomI read. A lot. To be truthful, these days I read a lot of beginnings of books, get distracted and then start another one. I’ve developed a short literary attention span.

I keep telling myself that I should stop buying until I catch up with my to-read pile but I can’t help myself. It’s in my DNA – I’m a book hoarder, or collector if I’m trying to sound distinguished. They’ll come in handy for that library I’m going to have one day. Or so I keep telling myself.

I found the latest addition to my ever-expanding collection last week. On Friday past, Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter was transformed into a buzzing hive of cultural activity for Culture Night. We saw lots of impromptu arty and cultural stuff, including a fencing match on the side of the street, children painting chalk drawings on roads, a Beat Carnival interpretation of Tusk, drum circles, community choirs and much more besides.

My most exciting Culture Night find, however, was stumbling upon a little bookshop I’d never noticed before. Located on Lower North Street in the heart of the city centre is a true treasure trove. Simply named, The Bookstore, it’s jam-packed with books of all genres, with shelves and additional stacks piled high, from floor to ceiling.

In the poetry section, I uncovered a copy of Hood’s Poems of Wit and Wisdom, published in 1856 and still bearing its W.H. Smith & Sons subscription library  sticker on the front cover, which, if my research serves me correctly, was an early venture by well-known known newsagents chain, W.H.Smith.

I paid £5 for it and I doubt it’s worth much more; it’s bruised and battered but still beautiful. It also provides an interesting opportunity to look back at poetry of yore.

If you’re to judge a book by its name, Hood’s work delivers both wit and wisdom, as well as a chance to examine the language used by poets in the 1800s.

I’ve dipped in and out of it since last week and have enjoyed the journey thus far. I’ve scanned in a few of the shorter poems, so you can have a read for yourself. Would love to hear your thoughts.


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Women with Extraordinary Stories

ocob2013_bookcover_finalI’ve been spending a little time dabbling with fiction recently, though none of it is polished enough to be published here just yet.  Tonight, I’m hoping to draw some inspiration from other writers at a special ‘Women with Extraordinary Stories’ event.

The event is being hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as part of this month’s One City, One Book initiative. Throughout May, events have been held across Belfast to celebrate the latest novel by local author, Lucy Caldwell All the Beggars Riding. The initiative is essentially a community reading programme, which has, over the last month, encouraged everyone to read and discuss Lucy’s latest novel.

I’ll hold my hands up at this point and admit that I haven’t read the book, but I do intend to. Regrettably, I’ve also missed a lot of the One City, One Book events this month but I’m glad to be getting along to this one.

Tonight’s event will feature the stories of two incredible women:

Journalist Letitia Fitzpatrick will join Lucy Caldwell to discuss her experience of living with loss, following the death of her husband from cancer.

Melanie Grimsley, who survived a horrific car fire as a child and endured hundreds of operations, will tell her story to journalist, Ivan Little. The Fermanagh mum of two is now training to be a lawyer and recently published her autobiography.

I have the greatest admiration for these women and hope that hearing their stories tonight will give me a renewed enthusiasm to get back to my own writing.  For anyone that’s interested in coming along, the event takes place tonight (Monday 27th May) at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Malone Road, Belfast at 6pm. The event is free to attend.

Grammar Watch

Eats-shoots-and-leaves-book-coverNo one’s perfect. I say that as a disclaimer – there’s no doubt that within this blog and in past examples of my writing, you will find mistakes – we’re all human. However, there is no excuse for flagrant misuse of grammar and punctuation, particularly if you’re a business.

When I was studying Journalism at Dublin City University, one of our lecturers insisted that we all read Eat, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss at the beginning of our first year. It was sound advice.

The book’s very title is a lesson in the importance of punctuation – how the placement of punctuation can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Is the Panda a hungry, gun-wielding psychopath, or simply a vegetarian with a penchant for shoots and leaves? Depending on where you place the comma, it’s entirely up to you.

To this day, when I see a stray apostrophe, comma or semicolon, I feel like taking one of the trusty Panda Says No stickers from the back of the book and slapping it over the glaring mistake in front of me.

the-panda-says-noInstead of doing that, I am adding this Grammar Watch feature to this blog. The Panda Says No and so does this writer. It’s time to name and shame.

Please feel free to comment and share your own examples – it’s the only way they’ll learn.

Bedtime Reading

To give myself a little kick-start, I’m revisiting one of the best self-help books I’ve read about writing* – Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ This time round, I’m going to read it from cover to cover – the man clearly knows what he’s talking about.


* The best book I’ve read on writing aside from Eats, Shoots & Leaves – we’ll come back to that – I’m obsessed.