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New Year in Margaret River, Australia.

January: Sailing in Sydney

February: Antigua, Eastern Caribbean: Illustrated talk at Antiguan Museum, St. John’s 
(  on Ann Davison, the first woman to sail single-handed across the Atlantic, in 1953.

March: Oxford. International Women’s Festival (
Illustrated talk on Ann Davison, first woman to sail single-handed across the Atlantic, in 1953. Venue: Long Room, Town Hall, Oxford. Thursday 5 March 2.45pm -4.15 pm.


Friday May 1st

May Morning is big in Oxford. Horns of Plenty , the street band with whom  I play alto sax, entertains Bealtaine revellers returning from Magdalen Bridge. We start at 0615. See you there?

Venue: The High and environs.  Click here to read my Irish Times piece about Bealtaine.

Monday May 4th

The ffrench Connection is the story of two great estates, one in Monivea, County Galway and the other in Simbirsk, a town 893 kms east of Moscow.

Click here to listen to the programme

My radio documentary, The ffrench Connection, is aired on RTE Radio One in the Documentary on One series  at 1800.

This is the story of two big houses, one in Monivea, County Galway and one in Ulyanovsk, in Russia. Producer Liam O’Brien and myself travelled to Russia – and to Monivea – to make this programme which is about two women one of whom had a moral right to Monivea and the other a legal right. Set both against the Russian revolution and events in Ireland following 1916, this story has a strange ending. Tune in to RTE ( )  to learn what happens in the end.

Russia! I’d first visited it with Ian in  1980 when it was part of the Soviet Union and returned to it many times on my way to and from Tbilisi while researching  Please Don’t Call it Soviet Georgia.

But ten years had passed  and many things had happened since I visited Moscow enroute to Ulyanovsk to make this radio documentary.

Click here to read what I wrote about Moscow this time round

Sunday May 10th

A week’s sailing out of Chatham and into the Medway estuary and beyond into the North Sea. The naval dockyards at Chatham have been here since Tudor times. 

Click here to read Irish Times feature called Learning the Ropes.

Tuesday May 21st

Royal Albert Hall to hear Eric Clapton. Eat your heart out, - Patti Harrison, this one is for me. Click here to hear the man himself. 

Mister Clapton, please. Click here to read my Irish Times piece about Crossroads, the drug dependency clinic on Antigua funded by Eric Clapton.

Saturday May 23rd

Yachts in the Volvo Race arrive in Galway. ( Watch out for the Chinese/Irish entry: Green Dragon.

The Irish government invested 6 million euro in the hope of securing Galway as a stopover and it’s worked. The payback is expected to be some 46 million euro.

Click here to find out what's on in Galway while the boats are in.

The voyage from Boston to Galway is the 7th leg of the race. After this, it’s Goteborg and the island of Marstrand, then Stockholm and finally St Petersburg , home of Russia’s greatest poet – Anna Akhmatova. But that’s another story…


Tuesday June 2nd

Have rucksack, map, bottle of water. Can travel. Today, I set off to walk solo from Santiago to Finisterre. I’ll let you know what I find at the end of the world.

Thursday June 4th

THE NOCTURNAL SIGHS, snores and flatulence of my sleeping fellow travellers in our 500-bed pilgrim hostel encouraged me to rise at 5am and venture into the dark for an early morning start on my way from Santiago to Finisterre

Click here to view the full article

Tuesday June 16th

Bloomsday in Dublin. Drinks in Cavistons, a stroll up to the Martello Tower to listen to the one and only Barry McGovern read from Ulysses as he does every year. Last year, we started off in Cavistons and ended up for dinner that night in La Cave, via the Horseshoe Bar. It can only get better…


Saturday, July 4th, Independence Day, USA.

Not only but also – a baby girl, the latest addition to the family, should be making her appearance round about now, in Sydney, Australia.

Click here to read Louis MacNeice's poem: Prayer before Birth:

And click here to read my feature in The Irish Times about MacNeice himself and his home town of Carrickfergus.

Friday, July 24th.

 A return visit to Moldova as an international election observer, working under
the auspices of the OSCE – Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe.

While there, I met another observer from North Carolina who put me straight about the great Delta Blues singer,Robert Johnson, from whom Eric Clapton learned a great deal of his craft. Johnson is the man said to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, in exchange for the devil making him the best bluesman ever.

Here is Robert Johnson singing The Crossroads…

If you liked that, how about Clapton’s version which he sings here with John Mayer.

If you’re interested in Clapton, drugs and his Crossroads clinic in Antigua read my artcle entitled Antigua, Mr Clapton, please.


What did Thin Lizzie know about highwaymen?

I’m taking a walk myself across the Cork and Kerry mountains to research my next project. A stint on Radio Kerry brought in lots of responses and I’m still getting phone calls and emails about the historic butter roads. More on this as the summer progresses.


Sunday, August 9th

The Fastnet Lighthouse is a famous one, lying off the south coast of Ireland though there are others, including the one at St John’s Point, in Donegal. Click here to hear my talk on RTE’s Sunday Miscellany about lighthouses.

It’s just thirty years ago since the Fastnet Race in which fifteen sailors lost their lives in one of the worst storms ever encountered. Click here to read about it.

The Fastnet Lighthouse is a famous one, lying of the southern coast of Ireland.
The loss of life in 1979 would have been much worse but for the courage of the RNLI crews of the lifeboats that went out that dark, stormy night. Click here to hear my talk on RTE@s Sunday Miscellany programme.


Sunday, October 11th

To hear about my favourite bad boy – Richard 111 – click here and find the programme for Sunday, October 11. You won’t be disappointed.


Last year, there was talk of reviving the group which had formed to oppose the closing of Bewley’s, Dublin’s most famous coffee shop:

The economic news is bad, but Ireland's coffee houses continue to thrive. Plans to develop them as artistic focal points, combined with a more leisurely era, could mean their best years are yet to come, writes Mary Russell

Click here to read about it all

Friday, November 13th
The Conference on the role of coffee houses in Dublin takes place today

Dublin has a fine tradition of coffee houses dating back to the 1600s. One of the oldest was Dicks, in Skinners Row close to Dublin Castle. Traders, merchants, ship owners and actors drinking in them, needed to put the word out about their businesses, upcoming sales, theatre plays etc and so printing presses developed alongside and often within the coffee houses.

 Dublin City Librarian, Maire Kennedy, delivered an illustrated talk about some historic coffee houses while Professor Kieran Bonner, from Canada, offered his theory about place:
 There are three places in our lives. First place is home, second place is where we work and the third place is where we meet friends, chill, network.  He asked: is the coffee shop replacing the pub as the third place?
The conference was organised by the Café Culture Project of which I am a founder member and you can learn more by emailing:

 We hope, in time, to have online copies of both speakers’ presentations. Click here for an Irish Times report on the conference


Dec 14/15

Dublin choir, Gloria, give a concert at St Anne’s Church, Dawson Street. Gloria is the city’s gay and lesbian choir which apart performing in the top flight range also manage to create some lightweight music as well. They also perform with Dublin’s Garda (Irish police) Choir.

Wednesday Dec 16th. Lunchtime

Concert at Dublin’s  National Concert Hall ( NCH) by the Dust off Your Trumpets band – a group of musicians made up of people who formerly played with dance bands, orchestras, ceilidh bands and of people like myself ( I play also sax) who are always looking for someone to play with. Dust off Your Trumpets are supported by the NCH.
Our much in demand musical director, arranger and conductor is Joe Csibi – who is also a mean double-bass player.

BIG reminder:
If you are buying Christmas cards this year, they are available from the Royal National Lifeboats Institute on :
This site covers Britain and the whole of Ireland. It will take you to where you can  shop online and will also tell you where your nearest RNLI shop.
Please support the RNLI throughout the year.

Sunday and Monday, Dec 20/21

Celebration of the solstice at Bru na Boinne (Palace of the  Boyne), at Newgrange, about 30 minutes drive from Dublin.

This World Heritage site is where the beginning of the ending of the long dark days of winter has been celebrated for the last 3200 years.

The sun, as always, will appear over the horizon, at approximately 0905 hours. If you are in Ireland, this is the only place to be.

Tuesday, Dec 28th

Flying to Johannesburg to meet, among others, Elizabeth Ann Barber Rodger, born way back in June, when I was sailing through the English Channel towards France.


I’ll see the New Year in JHB, high up in Observatory. Then a few days in a game park where, I learn, there is a Ladies’ Smoking Room!

This is followed by a visit to another well known game reserve called Dipka where the women and girls will celebrate Nodlaig na mBan, or women’s Christmas, the day, in Ireland. when the women sit around doing nothing and the men do all the work.

Last year, I celebrated it at the Opera Bar, in Sydney, this year in the bush at Dipka.

 2010 is looking busy: more short stories in the pipeline,  a look at my current project ( no, not Syria),  a talk in March, in Oxford,  about my favourite 15th century traveller, Margery Kempe and a seminar in February, in Dublin on travel writing.
And lots more to come….


I have just completed my travel  book on Syria and will be putting some of it here to see what people think about it. Your comments will be very welcome.

I’ve also returned to writing short stories and some of those also will be going on the site.

Click here to view what happened in 2008

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