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Tall Ships Festival 2011 in Waterford, part 2

Yesterday I wondered if the spirit of discovery I felt on day one of the
Tall Ships Festival might be just a product of the excitement of a much-anticipated event finally getting under way. Now as day two draws to a close, I’m delighted to report that the spirit is still very much alive and well.

Here are the ways the Tall Ships Festival took me out of the ordinary today:

– Cycling into town dressed as a pirate first thing in the morning – definitely a first (and possibly a last).

– Strolling up the middle of the Quay mid-morning with hundreds of other “pirates”. We were supposed to be marauding, though I’m not sure we did a great job – do pirates normally chat, bask in the sunshine and carry small children on their shoulders as they maraud?

– Realising that men in their fifties and sixties have a hugely unfair advantage in the piracy imitation game – stick a bandana, an eyepatch and a billowy white shirt on them and they look so much the part, they blow everyone else out of the water (sorry, couldn’t resist…).

– Leaving a city-centre cafe without ordering when the daughter and I noticed to our total shock that the prices on the “Tall Ships Special” menu were double the normal prices. We were shocked, A – because of the bare-faced cheek of it, and B – because the city authorities had specifically requested local businesses not to put up their prices during the Festival (and most have taken heed).

– Sitting at one of the rows of trestle tables on the Quay, admiring the TS Royalist docked alongside, helping the daughter handle her foot-long hot dog while I tucked into Thai noodles, chatting to friends and neighbours passing by.

Now, like yesterday evening, the sounds of the Tall Ships Festival are resounding out across the City – tonight it’s fireworks, their banging and whizzing oddly dulled at this distance. These evening sounds are wonderful, reminding those of us tucked up at home on the outskirts of the City that the Festival is in full swing.

Now to get some sleep for (hopefully) more marauding tomorrow.

Tall Ships Festival 2011 in Waterford, part 1

The thing I love about big public events like the Tall Ships Festival 2011, which kicked off in Waterford this afternoon, is that they take you out of yourself. They lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.

Sitting in Jordan’s pub on the Quay on a weekday afternoon, chatting away to total strangers, is not something I normally do. Granted, I only ended up doing it today because it was the only way the daughter and I could find to escape the crush around William Vincent Wallace Plaza, where the formal launch of the Festival was taking place. We squeezed our way through the river of immobilised bodies, up the little flagged alley and in the side door of the bar. Five minutes later, the daughter and I were perched on red velveteen seats in the window, sipping lemonade, watching Keith Barry predict something amazing on the Plaza across the way (admittedly it did lose something with the lack of sound) and sympathising amiably with fellow street-refugees about the crush outside.

Once the crowds eased, the daughter and I were off again, doing a grand tour of the market on the Quay, gaily spending money on whatever took our fancy (because spending outside your budget doesn’t count on special occasions, didn’t you know?), eating our own body weight in burritos, hotdogs and cupcakes (an unusual combination, I grant you, but hey, the Tall Ships only come every five years!) and dawdling deliciously with nowhere to be and no schedule to stick to.

When we’d seen and eaten everything we could, we decided to deal with the non-appearance of the bus by walking most of the way home. The Quay to Williamstown on foot was a joy: Strolling along in the late-afternoon sun, hardly a car in sight, daughter in a blissed-out world of her own with her iPod plugged into her ears and her hair dancing wildly around her face, the view of the City spreading out behind us as we advanced up John’s Hill towards Grange and home.

Now I’m sitting on my sofa, listening to the ship’s horns as they echo out from the Quay, across the City and out into the County, bidding us goodnight.

To close, a confession. Jordan’s is one of the most historic buildings in Waterford Ciy. I have often marvelled at it from the outside, at its cheeky sideways tilt and its faded, half-timbered glory. I was born and bred in Waterford. Until today, I never saw the inside of Jordan’s. Circumstances combined today to lead me there.

There are three more days to go of the Tall Ships Festival 2011. I can’t wait to see where it takes me tomorrow.

Author interview: Maria Moulton, author of "Mammy Diaries"

Maria Moulton is the author of the just-published Mammy Diaries, a fascinating, in-depth look at pregnancy and motherhood in modern Ireland based on almost three years’ worth of interviews with Irish mothers. Published at the end of March, Mammy Diaries has already received a level of publicity in both old and new media that is remarkable for a self-published work.

I recently caught up with Maria at the Waterford launch of Mammy Diaries and asked her for her insights into self-publishing and self-promotion.

Mammy Diaries

OS: Maria, first of all, congratulations on your remarkable book, Mammy Diaries. It’s the first book that I’m aware of that really lifts the lid on what motherhood in 21st-century Ireland is like. How are you finding life as a published author so far?

MM: Thanks Orla! Well, to be perfectly honest, I’ve just swapped the busy-ness of being a stay at home mother trying to squish in time to research, write and compile a book, for the busy-ness of being a stay at home mother trying to squish in time to promote, sell and publicize a book! It’s been great fun though. I still can’t believe that it’s “out there.”

OS: Mammy Diaries is a self-published work. Did you decide to self-publish from the word go or did you consider approaching traditional print publishers first?

MM: From the start, I really liked the idea of self-publishing. Aside from the obvious benefits of working at my own pace (essential with small kids!) and having complete control over content, I also knew that the book I was putting together had a very specific audience and as such would be a lot easier to publicise then if say, I’d written a work of general fiction.
My husband was a bit nervous about the idea at the start, so for his sake I did send out a few letters of enquiry to a few traditional publishers. I never even got past the proposal stage with them, so in the end, it was self-publishing all the way! I decided to go with a company in Dublin called Original Writing and they’ve been absolutely amazing. A real pleasure to work with and very efficient, every step of the way.

OS: The publicity around the book has already been fantastic – radio slots, newspaper pieces, online PR, and your ongoing nationwide book tour. The book is also on the shelf in Easons’s, which is rare for a self-published work. How have you gone about generating publicity for the book?

MM: As you said yourself, self published works don’t tend to get into the larger, mainstream book shops, so my main goal when Mammy Diaries was published was to generate as much publicity in as short a space of time as humanly possible. The ide was to make it that much more attractive to the bigger retailers. This meant contacting journalists who I thought would be interested in the project, getting exposure in both local and national media and once I’d gathered enough clippings and podcasts, my publishers in Dublin contacted the bigger shops and “Voila!”.
The Internet has definitely been my biggest and most effective tool. Without it, the book probably wouldn’t have been written and I’d never have even considered self-publishing without it. You can do anything online. allows you to contact the nation’s media in seconds and social networking sites like Twitter, Blogspot and Facebook have just opened up so many doors. It’s amazing really how far we’ve come in the last 10 or 15 years.

OS: Which channels are you finding the most effective so far for promoting your book?

MM: Well, the press coverage at the start was a huge boost . That definitely brought the book to the public’s attention. Having it in Eason’s is great because it means that it’s easily and constantly available to people. The book tour allows me to help keep the book current and to continue to introduce it to people who may not have heard about it yet. Obviously though, as I said above, it’s the internet that’s making it all happen.

OS: Mammy Diaries is currently out in print format. E-reader platforms like Kindle can bring self-published books to a much wider audience. Have you any plans to also publish Mammy Diaries for e-readers?

MM: My husband is working on it at the moment! Touch wood, it should be available in Kindle format in the next week or so.

OS: Self-publishing used to be the Cinderella of the book world. Some sources now say it’s the next big thing. What is your view of self-publishing versus the more traditional route of submitting your work to established publishers and hoping for the best?

MM: Honestly? I love it. I think that if you have the drive to get out there and put in the work to promote your book, it’s definitely worth considering. No one is going to work as hard for your book as you are. I know I’m probably sounding like a bit of a broken record, but the internet really has opened up so many doors and possibilities.
That being said, it’s called self-publishing for a reason. You are your own editor, critic, agent and publicist, and that can get a little tiring. You’re not going to feel one hundred per cent all the time and there are going to be days when you wish to God that there was a team of people behind you organizing everything for you and telling you exactly what to do next. You are going to have moments of self doubt where you wonder “Is it really any good at all? What have I done?!”
At the end of the day though, you get to put out exactly what you want to put out and not someone else’s version of what you started off writing. Hopefully, with a little luck and a lot of work, you’ll find a group of readers who connect with what you’ve written and who will look forward to hearing more from you.

OS: For many writers, their work is a labour of love. But money is key to being able to continue as a writer. Can you talk to us a little about the financial side of a venture like Mammy Diaries – did you have to invest much of your own money into getting it published and to publicise it? Do you expect to make a profit on the book?

MM: The cost of publishing varies from company to company and package to package. With the different self-publishing companies that are out there (and there are more popping up every day) you can look at paying anywhere from 1000 euro for your basic, no-frills option to several thousand euro which will buy you editorial services, consultation on cover design, and so on.
Not being made of money myself, we went for something on the more basic end of the scale publishing-wise. Aside from the cost of petrol, all of our publicity has been free, so for us there really wasn’t that much of an investment to be made.
Aside from that, we’ve just worked really hard to do as much of the grunt work as we could do ourselves. My husband learned how to do web design so he could do my website and we also designed the cover ourselves. I have a regular (if currently neglected!) blog of the same name, a Facebook group for Mammy Diaries as well as a Twitter account that I’m getting better at using. Whenever we go anywhere to do signings, I let the local media know in case it’s something they’d be interested in covering. None of this costs money, just a bit of time and effort.
I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by a large group of friends and family who are unbelievably supportive of Mammy Diaries and do their best to promote the heck out of it, for which I’m eternally grateful!

OS: You’re currently on a nationwide book tour. How are you finding the tour? Would you recommend a book tour to other writers as part of the PR campaign for a self-published work?

MM: Definitely. It’s a great oppurtunity to meet the people who will be reading your book as well as to make contacts with book shops and libraries. Also, every launch gives you the potential for local media coverage, which is great for keeping your book in the public eye.

OS: I’ve been told that self-promotion can take as much time as writing itself, if not more. How do you go about making the time for promotion work for Mammy Diaries? Do you have any tips for other writers in this regard?

MM: Do your best to do the kind of promotion that works for you. As a mother of two small children, traditional evening champagne launch events didn’t work for me (or for that matter, for the majority of my audience!). Instead, we hold our signings in play centers where my girls can run around and play with other children and the mothers who are coming along can do the same and not have to worry about babysitters and such. The same goes with radio and print interviews – most of mine were done on the phone so I could do them from anywhere. I spoke with The Irish Times from the car while we drove around the countryside putting the girls to sleep and I did an interview with a Waterford radio station live from my kitchen in my pyjamas!
My husband was made redundant last year, which ended up being a blessing in disguise as it was his being home that gave me the freedom to really buckle down and get the last of the book finished. He’s also my chauffeur/graphic designer/web master and general go-to guy.
Aside from that, I fully admit that there was a LOT of procrastrination in the way of Facebooking, tweeting and emailing going on while I was writing Mammy Diaries. Nowadays, I use that same time to do the same things, but with a purpose. Instead of a way to procrastinate, I’m using them for promotion instead.

OS: Many thanks Maria!


Find Maria at,, on Facebook at Mammy Diaries Ireland and on Twitter at @mammydiaries.

(c) Curmumgeon 2011

Guest blog post: Friends of Breastfeeding

Check out my latest guest blog article, this time for Friends of Breastfeeding:

This is Waterford

One sunny morning last September, I was strolling down the river side of the Quay here in Waterford City. The air buzzed with conversation, shouts of laughter, and people calling out to each other. Mouth-watering aromas made the head practically swim. The car parks, emptied of cars for the weekend, were packed on both sides with market stalls piled high with every possible kind of food produce. It was the Waterford Harvest Festival 2010in full swing.

Reginald's Tower and Quay, Waterford

With all the negative news to hit our City last year, it would have been no surprise if visitors had found the atmosphere on the streets to be glum and muted. Instead, they found the people of Waterford engaged in what was basically a year-long party.

For me, like other locals, the hardest part was picking what to go to. It would have been physically impossible to attend everything.

There are some highlights that have stuck in my mind. A day in early July spent at Spraoi in the Park, when it seemed like the whole City and County was in the People’s Park, sitting on the grass in the sun, listening to the live music. My husband hoisting our daughter onto his shoulders to see and hear the drummers in Arundel  Square at Spraoi a month later. My then-one-year-old kicking up her feet in delight at a “Baby Boogie” dance session with Libby Seward in Garter Lane as part of SprOg, the children’s pre-Spraoi festival. My older daughter and I joining in the dance moves to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” that Rev. Bazil Meade, leader of the London Community Gospel Choir, taught the audience at a rousing concert at the Waterford International Music Festival in November. (We still do the moves when we think nobody is looking.)

There are too many other special moments to describe: “Seussical the Musical” in the Theatre Royal at the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera; Joseph O’Connor reading from his new novel at the Imagine Arts Festival; leaning against the wall across the road from Azzurro in Dunmore East on a Saturday afternoon in August to catch the music of the Jack Grace Band playing on the restaurant terrace at the Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival.

Now that we are almost half-way through 2011, with Ireland’s biggest ever open-air banner presiding proudly over the Quay, the excitement is palpable as the City gears itself up for the Tall Ships Festival 2011. It’s going to be some party.

Speaking of the Quay, I am reminded again of that morning last September. With the parked cars replaced by rows of market stalls and the place jam-packed with people, my seven-year-old was feeling a little disoriented. She looked up at me with a puzzled expression. “Mam, where is this?”

I could not help but smile as I gestured at the scene in front of us. “This is Waterford, love. This is Waterford.”

Thanks, compliments and other awkward things

Everyone likes to be thanked. So much so, that we tend to get a bit sniffy if someone forgets to thank us for something. Children are constantly reminded to say “Thank you”. So why is thanking often such a thankless task?
The after-dinner speeches at weddings – the main participants’ only chance to formally express their gratitude to family and friends – are dreaded by many of the guests, some of whom pass the time by placing bets on their duration. The tearful thank-yous of award recipients on Oscar night are mocked and satirised. Thank-you cards are the Cinderella of the greeting card world, much bought (good intentions and all that) but little used, often lying forgotten at the backs of drawers.
Personally, I am a thankophile. I get a warm fuzzy glow from thanks of all kinds – whether I am the intended recipient or not. I devour the Acknowledgments sections of books. (Why? Do I secretly hope to find myself in them?) For me, the credits at the ends of films are part of the entertainment. (The cleaners in my local cinema hate me – I stay until the screen goes blank and the house lights come on, while they pointedly sweep up the popcorn from beneath the seats on either side of me.)
Compliments – now they are a different matter. I blame genetics. Being Irish, and a woman at that, I am simply not in the right gene pool to be comfortable accepting compliments. As anyone who has met any Irish woman knows, compliment her and you will receive a self-deprecating eye-roll followed by a rattled-off summary of where she bought it (invariably the cheapest, nastiest bargain-basement place in town), how much she paid for it (next to nothing), and the ways in which it successfully hides her hideous figure (it’s basically a potato sack with buttons so it covers everything).
What is the effect of this tirade on the hapless complimenter? As Gil Gonzalez says, rebuffing a compliment is “the equivalent of giving a gift to someone and having them go on about how you shouldn’t have”. The complimenter feels rebuffed, of course – after all, he has basically been told that he is wrong. He is unlikely to compliment the recipient again. Worst of all, he may feel prompted make a re-assessment and conclude that actually, yes, you do look hideous.
Having recently become sensitised to this bad habit among Mná na hÉireann, I have turned over a new leaf. Now, when a compliment comes my way, I suppress the wave of purchasing information welling up inside me. Instead, I pin a smile to my face and say “Thank you”, even if it is through gritted teeth.
People with religious beliefs are likely to be more familiar with the therapeutic properties of thanking, in the form of prayer. As a child, I bothered God on a nightly basis with a list of thanks and acknowledgments that would have put any Oscar recipient to shame. Now that any notion of God and I have permanently parted ways, I have discovered the concept of “gratitudes”. Gratitudes are like prayer in that (ideally) you say them (usually to yourself) first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or both.
To whom is my gratitude addressed, you might ask? For me personally, gratitudes are a way of enabling myself to feel gratitude for the good things in my life; they are not directed at specific people. Any specific thanking that needs to be done, I like to do in person.
A related issue is the use of terms such as “No problem” and “No worries” to respond to thanks. Now, these statements are appropriate to some degree – at least they are an acknowledgment that thanks have been given. However, as I recently read somewhere, these statements are still off the mark, as their underlying assumption is that there might have been a problem or a worry to begin with. They introduce a negative slant to what should have been a completely positive interaction: thanks given, thanks received. A much happier response to thanks is a simple “You’re welcome” or its more refined cousin, “It’s a pleasure”.
Back to thanks. I recently spent some days in bed due to illness. With the help of family and friends (including my very good friend, the internet), life in the Curmumgeon household continued pretty much as normal while I recovered. All attempts at thanks by me were rebuffed with responses along the lines of “Sure what kind of parent / friend would I be if I didn’t help out?” Which is a very canny way of putting an end to my thanking overtures.
I might have to don a fluffy pink dress, go on TV and burst into tears to show them I really mean it.


I overheard the following exchange in the doctor’s surgery the other day:

Older man to receptionist: “Are you the girl that works in Specsavers?”
Receptionist: “No, not me.”
Man: “Are you sure, I could have sworn I saw you behind the counter in Specsavers.”
Receptionist: “No, definitely not me, I work … er … here.”

Seems going to Specsavers doesn’t always have the desired effect…

Mother, reassigned

Following the example of our political leaders, I am updating my job title from “Mother of Three” to the following, with immediate effect: Minister for Transport, Health, Education, Defence, Justice, Food, Finance, Equality, Sports & Tourism and Mental Health.

Lines Penned On the Occasion of the Epiphany

I wrote this a few Christmases ago. A bit of light-heartedness seems especially appropriate now as 2010 draws to a close. Remember, it’s for a giggle, people – no disrepect intended to anyone of any religion! Merry Christmas everyone!


Lines Penned On the Occasion of the Epiphany

In olden times – nay, yesteryear,

Or perhaps it was days of yore,

Three Irish men sat down to plan

A trip to a far-flung shore.


They’d heard Our Lord had just been born

And they just had to see Him first-hand

They settled it over a couple of pints

They would head for the Holy Land.


Frankie Malone was the brains of the group,

He would sort all the travel and visas,

While PJ O’Brien would make sure to sort out

Some gifts for the baby Jesus.


PJ and Frank knew that Willy Magee

Was a few bricks short of a load

So to give him a job, they put him in charge

Of refreshments and snacks for the road.


They were finally ready, the boys set off.

The road was a hard one at first.

But their spirits were high and Willy had packed

Five slabs of Dutch Gold for the thirst.


In Damascus they met up with three fellas in turbans

Who claimed to be led by a star

Our heroes just shrugged – they were tolerant types –

And they asked them along for a jar.


Frankie and Co. felt guilty next morning

When their friends couldn’t move from their beds

But with no time to waste, they bid them goodbye

And left them there nursing their heads.


As they got nearer Bethlehem, matters improved

In terms of their method of travel

The locals stood back in amazement and gazed

At the three Irish lads on a camel.


In a field outside Bethlehem they had a wee session,

The end of the journey was near.

And just as well too,” hiccuped Willy Magee,

“’Cos that’s nearly the end of the beer.”


One last thing,” cautioned Frank, as he downed his last drop,

We’ve a problem: our names are too silly.

They’ll laugh at us in Bethlehem if we say that our names

Are PJ, Frank, and Willy!”


What were those lads called who we met in the bar

And left sound asleep in Damascus?

Oh yeah – Casper, Melchior and Balthazar,

We’ll just say those if they ask us.”


They set off and were just at the stable door

When O’Brien did let out a groan.

The gifts for the babby – I got them, but lads –

They’re in the boot of me car back at home.”


Here – divide up this stuff I bought in that bazaar,”

Said Frank, having thought for a minute.

It was meant for the missus, but she’ll be none the wiser,

Sure I haven’t a clue what is in it.”


So they knocked on the door, and were welcomed inside,

They rejoiced at the Virgin Birth.

Then a shepherd regarded the gifts they had brought

And scornfully asked, “What on earth?”


Twenty shekels that cost me!” said Frank, incensed.

Mmm – errr…” said PJ, far from sober.

Then Willy produced his last can of Dutch Gold

And solemnly handed it over.


People heard far and wide of the three foreign men

And their strange tongue (some believed it was Greek)

And the gift they had brought for to worship Our Lord

(Even if it was somewhat – unique).


Only three weary Persians, not long back from a journey,

Declared there was really no mystery.

But no-one believed them how three Irish blokes

Stole their place in the annals of history.


© Curmumgeon 2010

Clothing Remarks

Anna Carey at The Anti-Room got me thinking about us workers-from-home and our often strained relationship with clothing.

I’m in the “slippery slope” school of thought on this one. In other words, what starts off as simply not removing your slippers for work can easily become not removing your pyjamas. From there, it’s a slippery slide to just staying in bed with the laptop. And as the saying goes, she who works in pyjamas, thinks in pyjamas.

OK I just made that one up.

In my experience, what I am wearing for work directly affects my frame of mind and the quality of my output.  For example, imagine what wonderful work you could produce in this get-up:

With hair this adorable and a dress this frilly, what does it matter if I type without looking?

Having said that, I do not sit in my home office in power suits and stiletto heels. As long as my apparel can be fairly classified as outerwear, is clean and sometimes even ironed, and is fit for opening the door in, I consider myself properly kitted out for a good day’s work at the PC.

Lately, however, standards are starting to slip. Advancing age and the mellowing that goes with it means I can justify an increasing degree of slovenliness. Although I have noticed that my slovenliness varies in accordance with the people I expect to encounter:

Postman – pyjamas: not appropriate; dressing-gown: yes, at a stretch; hair brushed: no need.

Childminder – all bets off, even teeth unbrushed is OK.

Female friends – different league; fashionable gear and make-up required to maintain competitive viability amongst peer group.

Family members – a degree of pride is involved here so: pyjamas – no way; dressing-gown – only with good reason, such as having recently given birth or illness; bare feet / slippers – better not, as although seemingly minor, these can be interpreted as little “telltale signs” (of anything from a dip in work levels to full-blown depression).

Children – irrelevant – they are utterly indifferent to what I am wearing as long as I maintain the expected flow of food, drink, cuddles, transport, entertainment and soothing-to-sleep.

I do have one sacred cow when it comes to clothing, though: pyjamas should never, ever be worn to the supermarket, to the bank, at the school gates, or anywhere else in public. Being seen in public in your jammies is only a small  step away from being seen out in the nip, and that is the stuff of a well-known universal nightmare, with very good reason.

No, no. Not even wrong.

No matter how curmudgeonly I become, I hereby declare that I will never sink that low. Amen.

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