Saturday, 28 May 2011

In the garden, before another review

In spite of the gloriousness of April, May has been a total wash out. Earlier this week most of Scotland was battered by storms and heavy winds that got up to over 130mph. I'm not sure how strong they were round here, but it was enough to knock more than a few trees down around the village, and closed the coastal road even heading into Greenock - generally more sheltered than the road heading south into Largs.

This is the sort of weather we're more used to in late autumn or winter - it was so cold yesterday that we finally gave in and put the heating back on for a wee bit again. Suffice it to say, the cold, rain, and lack of sunshine means there's not much happening in the vegetable patch at the moment, and unless the weather improves dramatically then I'm not sure we'll have much to show for it come the autumn. Not that I've been able to do much in the garden anway.

One success is this:

The poppies are in full bloom at the moment, a bright antidote to the dismal grey sky. When I originally planted them I was under the impression that they were going to be proper red ones - these seem a little washed out and I presume that's just the variety, or maybe poor soil quality (or a bit of both).

I've sown some more to put out in the front garden, but these poppies are growing in the patch of flowerbed out the back that I set aside for a wee spiritual focal point. They're growing in between a small cairn I've built to comemmorate my ancestors, and a small pond I use as a focal point to put some offerings out when I'm gardening and weeding (sadly neglected this year, but Rosie is keen on tending things with offerings of daisies and buttercups when she thinks no one's looking).

The poppies themselves are dedicated to the memory of one of my grandads - Poppy, as I called him - who was a gardener. I'm glad they've come along so well since I planted them three years ago now. If only I could say the same for the vegetable patch...

But now, another review.

The Year in Ireland
Kevin Danaher

This is another one of those seminal books that should go on every aspiring reconstructionist's booklist if they happen to have an interest in Ireland. It's one of those books that I love so much that I'm hard-pressed to find much to say about it that's particularly negative.

Do you want chapters covering just about everything you want to know about the Irish festival calendar? Check. Do you want it illustrated? Check. A good read? Check check check. That's about all you need to know, really.

It's set within a very Catholic festival year so not everything will be relevant to a polytheistic context, but it does do a good job of giving a good idea of the cultural context in which you'll find the festivals. The book is laid out well, with each chapter dealing with a different festival, meaning that some of them are only a page long, if that. For the longer chapters there are various subheadings to help break everything up and make it easier to dip into for reference - definitely a good thing because I don't find the index at the back to be particularly detailed or helpful.

Danaher gives a good amount of detail for the more popular festivals, and covers a goodly amount of ground in terms of the scope of his research and the dissemination of it. For anyone wanting to get to grips with ideas for things to do for the festivals then this is really the first place you'll want to look, and it will give a lot of inspiration. I've mentioned other books that are a good supplement to this over the course of the reviews I've done, but this book will really be your go-to book, unless you want to start delving into journals and more specialised areas of research, or lengthier and more concentrated books like Máire MacNeill's The Festival of Lughnasa, or Sean O'Duinn's The Rites of Brigid.*

This is not a quick read by any means, I've found. It's not a massive tome but it does pack a lot of stuff into it, and there's a lot for the beginner to chew on. Had it been written by a not so accomplished author, it would probably be overwhelming in that respect, but Danaher is not only an excellent writer, he also seems to be genuinely passionate about his subject, and that shines through in his work and helps carry the reader along, I think. Plus, it's the sort of book that's good for dipping into every now and then - picking it up to read the relevant chapters as you go along through the year. For the beginner, I would recommend getting hold of a copy of this as soon as you possibly can.

* I thought I'd reviewed this already - and I'm still semi-convinced I did, but can't find it. This review here, from a promising new blogger, does a good job of pretty much mirroring my thoughts on it.


nefaeria said...

Your poppy photo is lovely! I do hope that you have better luck in the weather department.

The Year in Ireland was one of the first books recommended to me {for GP reading} so I purchased it. I love it and is often a go-to round here.

I have been trying to track down a copy of The Festival of Lughnasa without much luck. Apparently it is floating around somewhere in our library system and so it should eventually end up at my local library. I am probably just better off buying it though if I can find it for sale. Is there an online seller that you could recommend?



Seren said...

Thanks! We actually have some sunshine today...I doubt it will last, but it's a nice change :p

I got The Festival of Lughnasa through Read Ireland when a limited reprint became available in 2008. Looking at the website they have one copy left, but it'll cost you - about $120! Your cheapest option looks like Amazon (just under $70 there), but I would also recommend looking on Abebooks to price check.

nefaeria said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I might have to start saving my pennies! ;)

May the sunshine last. :)