On My Bookshelf – The Cailleach of Sligo

The Cailleach of Sligo

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I pulled from my shelf this book of Stories and Myths from the North West of Ireland by Michael B. Roberts. Last summer I bought it at the Liber Bookshop in Sligo just a few days after we had the privilege of touring ancient sites in the area with the author. Roberts is an anthropologist and storyteller who has dedicated his life to preserving and renewing the myths of his people for future generations. We could Continue reading

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Follow the Money


“Follow the money,” the famous words whispered by Deep Throat in an underground garage during the Watergate scandal, can be usefully applied to any number of ills afflicting American society. To take just the two main scourges of the present day, gun violence and opioid addiction, you can be sure there are people somewhere raking in huge profits on the backs of the victims. Continue reading

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On My Bookshelf – A Flap of Nuns

St. Mary's Romford

I’m in the back row second from the left.

A Flap of Nuns isn’t  the title of a book on my bookshelf. The term is one of the collective nouns in James Lipton’s classic An Exaltation of Larks. I use it here as a means of confession that I own far too many books about nuns than you would expect of a lapsed Catholic and firm agnostic. But once a convent schoolgirl always a convent schoolgirl in some sense. I was educated by nuns from the age of seven to eighteen, first at St. Mary’s Convent in Romford and then at Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School. If it were up to me the collective noun for nuns would not be Flap, it would be Clack, for the distinctive sound of rosary beads, worn hanging from the waist, rattling and clacking as Continue reading

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Exploring Your DNA

DNA_double_helix_45My latest blog for the library (MCPL) is a companion piece to On Learning I’m EnglishIt includes a reading list on how genetic science has revolutionized the study of human origins and prehistory. Plus a great novel about the last days of the Neanderthals. Do you have a bit of Neanderthal in your DNA?

Exploring Your DNA

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That Was The Year That Was


Long ago and far away in the England of the 1960’s television political satire was born. I was fourteen years old, precociously interested in current events, and allowed to stay up late to watch That Was The Week That Was. TW3 as it was known first aired on Saturday November 24th 1962. The star was a young David Frost and I was soon helplessly in love, my first big crush. The show was revolutionary. The hitherto staid and cautious BBC Continue reading

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On Learning I’m English

Overview of DNA structure

I learned some shocking information this fall. It was a simple matter of spitting in a tube for one test and swabbing my cheek for another, but the results were complicated and confounding. I learned that the majority of my DNA is English. As the woman in the TV ad says about her Native American ancestry, I had no idea.

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We’ll See What Happens


“We’ll see what happens” is one of President Trump’s favorite phrases. His trademark talk and tweets contain a limited vocabulary of words and phrases, which he slots together in seemingly random combinations. How many times have we heard “believe me,” “that I can tell you,” “amazing,” “sad,” and of course “no collusion”?

But “we’ll see what happens” is in a class by itself when it comes to strange Continue reading

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