Mick's Blog: recipes, book reviews, etc

Book Review: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney 

The Glorious Heresies  

Lisa McInerney  

Tim Duggan Books 2015  pp. 389

On St. Patrick’s Day this year we played a concert in Scottsbluff, NE and were also asked to do an outreach at the local correctional facility. This was a new departure for us and though we didn’t know what to expect we were eager to try something new and see how our music went down. I remember at the time looking out at our fairly small audience — maybe fifty people — and thinking to myself, “I’m not really sure there are any actually bad people out there.” True, the audience was, in all likelihood, made up of fairly low-level offenders who were well-behaved. Some of the women seemed to show the ravages of meth use and some of the men may have been in for some form of violence and I was pretty sure that harm had been done to innocent people along the way. But I was inclined to believe that what was before me had more to do with lack of living skills, lack of good examples than with evil hearts. I mention all of this because, at the time, I was reminded of this book by Lisa McInerney.  

This is a morally complex book with characters ranging from shady to stygian. There’s murder, prostitution, drug-dealing, alcoholism, poverty and yet there’s also redemption on many fronts and for all the moral grime there’s love and honor and something resembling nobility.  

The book opens with a mutual seduction scene between fifteen-year-old Ryan and his new girlfriend, Karine D’Arcy. The rush of excitement, the nervousness, the lust and affection are captured perfectly — I was totally won over by the writing from the first page. This relationship between Ryan and Karine is central to the book and proves an enduring and inspiring partnership.  

The second chapter details the murder of an intruder into the home of the mother of one of the city’s more brutal crime bosses. The mother, Maureen, barely escaped being placed in a Magdalen Laundry some forty  year earlier and had her son taken away from her. That son, Jimmy Phelan, in mid-life had searched for his mother and found her in London and brought her back to Cork where the action takes place. Maureen views herself as a kind of angel of redemption and does away with the intruder by hitting him over the head with the Holy Stone — a rock painted gaudily with an image of the Virgin, acquired at some shrine. This murder sets in motion a series of events that affects the main characters in the book — Ryan the drug-dealer; Georgie, the teenage prostitute and drug addict who tried to save herself by joining a religious cult; Ryan’s alcoholic father who doesn’t know how to save his son …  

While a lot of recent books, it seems, tell their story from multiple viewpoints, this one has one one, omniscient narrator who doesn’t immediately reveal the identity of the person being written about. So, when you think of Ryan’s father as a brutal alcoholic based on Ryan’s thoughts, you then hear the thoughts of a sympathetic character — who turns out to be Ryan’s father. This is not a gimmick, though — more the idea of walking in someone else’s shoes and an illustration of how we can fail to see each other clearly.  

The language is a little difficult at times. It can be brutal but is more often wonderfully poetic. It’s also often darkly hilarious. There’s a certain amount of slang that I wasn’t familiar with because slang is always changing and because places such as Cork have some of their own peculiar patois that you may not hear in other parts of Ireland. It’s a delicious read, though and full of aching humanity.

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy 

Hillbilly Elegy
J.D. Vance 
Harper, 2016 
272 pp.

I’ve gone ‘round a few times, debating with myself whether to write this review or to stay with fiction. Fiction is safer and it’s easier to write about because not so much is at stake. At the most fundamental level there can be a lot of fact-checking to do; at a more complicated level (especially these days) there can be a whole political/idealogical level to deal with.  

When I went to university in England in the mid-70s, there were the usual bugaboos of racism and sexism and the more complex problem of classism. The virtues of the working class were extolled and qualities pertaining to the middle and upper classes were, if not vilified, then certainly seen as less authentic. My own appreciation of folksong and music from the lower classes and the warm, non-judgmental reception I met with from working-class people in general, led me to a similar affection. At a time in my life when I felt it more important to be judged on my own apparent merits — did I buy my round? could I tell a good joke? could I thrust and parry verbally with the best of them? — all of that meant more to me than people asking me about my ambitions and prospects.  

After university in England I came to America and found it confusing. Two things I noticed straight away. There were no small eggs sold in the supermarket — the scale started at medium — and there was no working class. There were ‘the rich’, the ‘middle-class’ and … well … ‘the poor’. It seemed to me that the poor were kind of written off. This, after all, was America and if people were poor it was mostly their own fault. We lived in an aspirational society and these people, for some reason, didn’t aspire to be middle-class. This, of course, was happening in the UK as well. On the death of Margaret Thatcher, the MP Glenda Jackson spoke of the “heinous social, economic and spiritual damage” done by Thatcher’s policies and how the aspirational society was aspirational for things, that greed and selfishness were valued above caring and looking after people. Margaret Thatcher was the one who said, after all, that “there is no such thing as society”. The motto here in the US ran along the lines of “greed is good”.  

And so here we are with Vance’s book and the Monday morning quarterbacking of why the Democrats so unexpectedly lost the 2016 presidential election. For some obvious reasons focus has been pointed at rural America and the disaffected people living there. For less obvious reasons a particular focus has been shone on Appalachia and the endemic poverty and social problems to be found there.  

Vance declares in ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ that the problem is cultural, not economic and his litany of abusive dysfunction is horrifying. Domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and poverty on a major scale are everyday facts of life. People, he says, spend themselves into the poorhouse buying bigscreen TVs, iPads etc.. in an attempt to have the goods of the world — often with credit cards at exorbitant rates. The pointlessness of life leads to all kinds of substance abuse and the problem is perpetuated by a lack of any kind of role models. He, however, was lucky in having the support of his grandparents who were firm believers in education, while all the time being pulled down by an addicted mother and a revolving cast of father figures, almost none of whom had anything to offer. In the end he escapes his old life and ends up graduating from Yale Law. It’s not surprising then, that this book has a strong tone of ‘bootstrappery’ about it — a sense that it’s not the government’s job to make your life better; that you need to get a grip on this and raise yourself up. 

A similar examination of the ‘working class white’ problem is discussed in an article posted online by Forzetti: On Rural America: Understanding Isn’t The Problem. In this article particular blame is placed on a rigid, unaccommodating Christian fundamentalism that denies these people the intellectual tools to assess their situation with any clarity and to rid themselves of the fear of a rapidly changing world.  

I’m uncomfortable with these (and other similar) analyses. Something is being lost in these communities, something that we may not recognize until it’s gone. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems that a sense of dignity and their own value has been robbed from these people. Hillbilly Elegy is often quite a moving book, and I’m glad of it’s generosity of spirit even while it is merciless in its evaluation of its world. Meanwhile I’m wondering if I have a right to any opinion on all of this. I can hear the catcalls of ’liberal guilt’ and the scoffing at the idea that I know anything about that world or that I have any right to an opinion. But Vance’s book has given me long pause and I’ll be thinking about it for some time. 

Some books   

I’ve not been keeping up with my reading of late. At least, not with my fiction reading. The pile I want to get to is getting higher all the time and includes books I’ve wanted to read for years. Instead I’ve found myself reading nonfiction and science books.  

The first of these is Mindset - The New Psychology of Success. I was intrigued when I heard the author, Carol Dweck, speak on a TED RadioHour on NPR. The book is some 240 pages and though it contains a lot of anecdotes of the “Jane was 26 and having a lot of problems at her job” sort, many of these are quite enlightening and help to illustrate the main thesis viz. that telling kids that they’re smart or talented tends to put them in a fixed mindset, a belief that ‘you have it or you don’t’. This makes kids — and adults, too — reluctant to take chances and afraid to try things in case of being caught out as less than they are thought to be. On the other hand, there is a mindset that says ability can be improved through work and practice and can be a source of enjoyment rather than something that needs to be proved. This might seem obvious to most people but, again, one of the advantages of the anecdotes is to see that we may not be as growth-minded as we would like to believe. It’s a fascinating read and one that has illuminated certain parts of my life for the better.  

How We Learn by Benedict Carey is also an illuminating book. A couple of the ideas I was already vaguely familiar with from works by people such as Tony Buzan — ideas such as repeating learning at timed intervals — but this book is much more in-depth as to the science behind the learning process. Some of the information is counter-intuitive e.g. the old bromide about working in a quiet space, set aside for that purpose, to be worked in at assigned times — is wrong on all counts. We learn better with ‘distractions’ around and when we vary the time and the place of our learning. The ‘learning machine’ that is the brain, is still only barely understood but it’s proving to be very eccentric and quirky instrument — and way smarter than we’d thought.  

The Canon, a whirligig tour of the beautiful basics of Science, by Natalie Angier has chapters on such topics as Thinking Scientifically, Probabilities, Calibration: playing with scales, Physics, Chemistry etc., each dealing with a different aspect of Science and all mind-boggling. The chapter called Calibration, for instance, examines scale from the tiny, tiny atomic, with its vast distance between objects relative to their size, to the hugeness of the universe — also with it’s vast distances between things. She points out that it’s relatively rare in the scheme of things to have anything much happening on the in-between scale where we happen to exist.  

I’m still reading this one — and I may well re-read. There’s a lot of fascinating information here, but there’s also a philosophical bent to it — a recognition that science is a method, an endless question, a philosophical pursuit. That science is a verb.  

The end of all this, is that the universe is seen as something of exquisite beauty and tantalizing mystery.

Song Profile: Mary from Dungloe 

This song is on our CD, Saint Bartholemew’s Feast and, though it’s not one we perform a lot, it’s one that I have a great affection for. It’s a Donegal song and it’s one that my father was likely to sing snatches of now and then. The first recording I heard of it was in 1968 by Emmet Spiceland, a trio formed by the amalgamation of two folk groups in 1967 — The Spicelanders and The Emmet Folk Group. The Spicelanders were two brothers, Michael and Brian Byrne and the Emmet Folk Group was Donal Lunney, Brian Bolger (no relation) and Mick Moloney. There were many comings and goings in the band but the line-up that recorded ‘Mary’ was Donal Lunney and the Byrne brothers. The song was written in the mid-1800s by a Donegalman — as both the name of the song and the references to The Rosses and Gweedore will attest — called Pádraig MacCumhall.  

The song went to #1 on the Irish charts in February 1968 and the modish Emmet Spiceland were the object of Beatlemania-like adoration from fans. They were young, good-looking and trendy. Their musical style was soft, acoustic with lush harmonies and, later on, light orchestration. Groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary and The Kingston Trio were obvious influences and a savvy management company put its marketing skills to good use, making the band huge in Ireland. 

Their fashionable and cool affect did much to make folk music trendy and their arrangements — especially those made later by Donal Lunney — were (and remain) hugely influential. This was all very fashionable and really kind of fleeting but it set the groundwork for what was to follow. Lunney wasn’t in the band for very long and went on to duties in Planxty, Bothy Band and Moving Hearts — all legends in Irish folk music history. Other members went on to music and other careers — Mick Moloney, in particular, found fame in the Johnstons and later as an admired academic in the folklore field.  

There were other bands at the time doing similar things, Sweeney’s Men had a grittier sound and a good deal of Americana in their repertoire. Skara Brae had a very jazz-influenced take on old songs in Irish. It was plain, in retrospect, that something was going on as far as Irish folk musicians trying to find a definition of themselves, some coherent identity. And, within a few short years, many of the members of the above groups were founders or members of Planxty, Bothy Band, The Pogues — three different takes on traditional music but all profoundly Irish and all much more muscular than earlier forays into the tradition.  

But quite apart from the fact that the recording from Emmet Spiceland was in many ways seminal, their version of Mary from Dungloe was especially nice. The band’s next single was Báidín Fhéilimí, a song sung unapologetically in Irish. This, too, was a big hit. A lot of people were learning about the old tradition and realizing that it wasn’t a drawling miseryfest but a tradition of great beauty and spirit. It wasn’t one of the big songs and is not particularly original but it does have lovely directness, a sorrow in its heart, spoken plainly.  

Colcannon hasn’t done anything particularly unusual with the song. It is, like some many songs of the type, best sung straight ahead. There are lines in it that may be found in other songs — the last verse is found in many songs with the girl’s name changed appropriately. There are many versions available online but if you’re looking for it, be sure not to get the song confused with the annual festival of the same name.  

So, here’s the version by Emmet Spiceland and here’s one by Colcannon

Book Review: A Drink before the War 

A Drink Before The War  
Dennis Lehane  

This is the book that made Lehane’s reputation. It won the Shamus Award the year it was published (1994)  and introduces the PI duo of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I’d not read any Lehane before this and, though I’d heard a lot about his work, I was a little hesitant. I’d heard his books described as ‘gritty’ — which often means violent and which is not particularly my preferred style — though it can be carried off very well. His historical novel, The Given Day, was met with very positive reviews and was heralded as proof that Lehane was a fine writer and had moved “far beyond the confines of the crime genre”. I’m a little suspicious of mystery writers that are hailed a ‘good writers’. They seem to want to live up to the accolade and have a tendency thereafter to produce large, ponderous tomes. Not what I want in a mystery. I do like my characters to be three-dimensional and complex so that I care about them and their doings but P.D. James, for instance, produced wonderful mysteries before becoming too enamored of the inner life of Adam Dalgleish.  

So, I started reading and the style is brisk and moves along at a nice clip. The narrator, Patrick Kenzie, is chatty and self-deprecating in a wise-guy sort of way but charming and insightful, too. He notes, for instance:  “That's the thing about being a victim; you start to think it'll happen to you on a regular basis. It's living with the reality of your own vulnerability, and it sucks.”  

We get the set-up for the story — some Boston politicians want him to recover some documents that were pilfered by a cleaning lady  from the office of one of them. The fee is generous and the job looks to be straightforward. And from there the plot thickens.  

The main character, Patrick Kenzie, is the son of a Boston hero fireman, whose fame and brutality have overshadowed the life of his son. His partner, Angela Gennaro, is a childhood friend and is married to Phil, also a one-time childhood friend and now a serial wife-beater. (Family abuse features quite a lot in this book). There is an awkward sexual chemistry between Kenzie and Gennaro that is only made more awkward and annoying by Kenzie’s flirting, wise-guy, macho posturing. For a while I really started to dislike him. But when Angela puts her foot down and as the story becomes more serious Kenzie gets a grip on his harassing ways and the relationship matures into one of mutual respect and grown-up behavior. This was a risk on Lehane’s part and, though my description of it is simplistic, it’s carried off very convincingly and it was a turning point in the book for me.  

There’s plenty of local color in the book not to mention corrupt pols, gang warfare, child abuse, race relations and violence. But it’s an engaging book and the pundits were right — Lehane can really write.  

Recipe: Chicken Thighs Dijon Style  

Chicken Thighs Dijon Style 

I got this recipe from a cookbook by Jacques Burdick called French Cooking En Famille (1989). The blurb on the front by M.F.K. Fisher sold me on it and, though it’s a bit tattered and spattered, I sometimes like to pick it up just for the writing. I find Elizabeth Davis to be much the same way — I’m quite happy to read her observations on food and of her interest in life.  

This is a great Autumn dish, rich and comforting but one can still imagine eating it outdoors on a warm afternoon in the grape arbor.  

I’ve increased the amount of herbs from the original. The measurements below are the original for the recipe but I usually use about ½ lb of mushrooms and one large white onion, coarsely chopped. So, here it is:  

Les Cuisses de Poulet a la Dijonnaise  

6 - 8 plump chicken thighs — trimmed and skinned if you want  

1 Tablespoon of kosher salt  

1 Tablespoon of coarsely ground black pepper  

1 teaspoon dried thyme  

1 teaspoon of crumbled marjoram  

3 Tablespoons of sweet butter  

3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil  

¼ cup of dijon mustard 

6 - 8 large white mushrooms or equivalent (I use about ½ lb. small white ‘shrooms) 

4 small white onions (I use one large white onion, coarsely chopped.)  

3 plump garlic cloves, peeled  

½ cup dry white wine  

½ cup heavy cream  

Preheat the oven to 350º  

Sprinkle and rub into the chicken with the salt, pepper, thyme and marjoram.  

Heat the butter and oil and brown the chicken  

Place the chicken in a foil lined pan and brush liberally with dijon mustard  

Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 40 mins.  

Slice the mushrooms and chop the onion coarsely (if using one large onion; if using small onions, quarter them.) Peel and slice the garlic.  

Dredge the mushrooms, onions and garlic in the flour. (If you want this dish to be gluten-free just skip this.) 

Depending on the amount of fat in the pan, either discard some or add more — if you leave the skin on the chicken there’ll be plenty of fat.  

Toss the vegetables in the hot fat, scraping the bottom of the pan and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.  

Add the wine and deglaze. Cook for another couple of minutes.  

Add the cream and cook on low until the sauce thickens, remove from the heat and stir in any left-over dijon mustard.  

Strain the vegetables out of the sauce and place in the bottom of a buttered serving dish.  

Place the thighs on top of the vegetables  

Pour the sauce over the thighs.  

You can now brown the dish under the broiler if you want.  

Burdick recommends sautéed green beans and buttered rice as accompaniments. And, of course there’s that bottle of white wine to be finished. 

The Daily Haiku  

If you’re familiar with our Facebook page or our Twitter, you’ll be familiar with the daily haiku. Every day we post an original haiku, sometimes referring to things that are happening with the band and sometimes, it’s just about whatever happens to come into my ken at the time.  I had once (pre-Twitter) had a practice of writing haiku a day for several years, so the idea of taking up the practice again didn’t phase me, and the form seemed uniquely suited to the 140 character restriction. We thought it might be a nice way of touching base with our fans without wittering on about ourselves all the time. And so it began.  

At first, the haiku were fairly to the point. The first one read:  

when November comes  

we play Seattle, Whidbey  

and Centralia  


birthdays today for  

Virgil Bolger, my brother  

and Tom Burke, my friend   

but I also posted about nature, the original role of the haiku:  

a distant soft chord  

hums from the highway this dawn  

crickets chirp descant  

In time I began to experiment. I always stuck to the syllable pattern 5, 7, 5 per line. I like the discipline of it and it’s what people expect. In actuality, the haiku syllable number system can be very flexible and many modern haiku even ignore the number of lines. This can make certain words almost unusable: does ‘fire’ contain one syllable or two syllables? Where I come from ‘Ireland’ has two syllables; in the US many people pronounce it as three syllables.  

The haiku is traditionally about nature and those pieces that are about the human world are called senryu and a good number of the posts fall into that category.  

I’d make no claims for my haiku being poetry — haiku is a very powerful and subtle art form once described as “an open door that looks shut”, but the act of producing them has proven to be a growing experience. There’s the fact that one must be written everyday — “inspiration is for amateurs” as artist Chuck Close once said. Then there’s wondering if the piece is any good — you just have to put it out there and take what happens. For any kind of creative artist, both of those disciplines are well worth developing.  

I experimented with sound. Though rhyme and musical language is not a feature of haiku I, being bred on Irish poetry, just had to use alliteration, assonance and consonance and all of the features that I’m familiar with. 

a thunder stutter  

then gutters slug-full of rain   

drain to grateful dirt  

and sometimes I insert myself as narrator. This is probably my primary sin against the form and one I often feel uncomfortable with:  

if I could but fly  

I’d wild goose chase all across  

the grey Winter sky  

some are dark:  

a foxglove venom  

rent his heart; tore ventricle  

and blue vein apart 

some light:  

a scut of a child  

a rogue of the smiling tribe  

loping down the road 

So, it’s the daily haiku. Or the daily ‘something like a haiku’. The art form itself is hugely pleasing to me and allows great flexibility. At this point, I’m not sure that I could achieve the depth and poignancy that a really good haiku can give, but I’m having fun and when I get stuck, I can always throw in a limerick: “There was a young lady of Exeter …” 

Recipe: Lemon Ricotta Soufflé with Blueberries 

It happens every year with some fruit or another. The crop has ripened and all of a sudden there’s this great but brief abundance. Sometimes it will be strawberries or raspberries or mangos — sometimes it seems as if everything has come into lusciousness at the same time and a trip to the fruit section of the market is a cornucopia of choice.  

I remember, years ago, being in the Mercado Da Ribeira in Lisbon just at the beginning of the cherry season and being almost overwhelmed by the smells and colours and the sheer abundance of all the fruits available. There is something almost transcendent about such bounty.  

In the market this week the fruit superstar has been blueberries. They’ve been practically giving them away, so I had a look through one of my  favourite cookbooks — Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley — and found a recipe I’d like to share with you. It’s easy and quick. It’s gluten-free and it’s flexible — as other fruit comes into season, I’m sure substitutions can be easily made. It didn’t turn out as fluffy as some soufflés might but I think that was mostly because over the altitude here in the Denver area. It did, however, have an almost cake-like texture that I really liked and found that it went very well with coffee. 

I didn’t pay any attention to the admonition to use organic washed cane sugar and used regular brown cane sugar. The organic washed cane sugar would probably be a nice addition especially sprinkled on the top at the end.  


This warm, puffy dessert can be made with raspberries or blackberries with equally great results. 


1/2 cup sugar, preferably organic washed cane sugar 

6 large eggs 

Grated zest of 1 lemon 

1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese 

1 pint blueberries 

1. Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate or baking dish. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the sugar. 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, remaining 7 tablespoons of sugar, and lemon zest. Add the ricotta and whisk until smooth. 

3. Pour the mixture into the pie plate and bake for 15 minutes. Top with the blueberries, sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, and bake until just set, about 15 minutes more. Serve warm or chilled. 


Book Review: Unbroken Brain 

Unbroken Brain  
Maia Szalavitz  
St. Martin’s Press 2016  
352 pp.  

I found this book fascinating. I’m an alcoholic and central to all the mess that surrounds such a condition is a disturbing existential disconnect. I’ve referred to it in the past as “getting out of integrity with oneself” or I’ve explained it as “knowing that there’s a problem but denying that there’s a problem while all the time knowing that denial is just more proof that there’s most definitely a problem”. It’s a very disturbing emotional and intellectual place to be lost in and has been an issue that I’ve pondered for the good many years of my sobriety. I’ve no interest in being defined as a recovering alcoholic but it does give me some insight into addiction and what may be involved in treating it effectively and has certainly helped me to get a better grip on the issue.  

The author of the book Unbroken Brain, Maia Szalavitz, gives a much needed re-examination of addiction and its treatment rather than thinking of addiction simply as a disease or as a moral failure. She points out that there is no precise scientific definition of addiction nor any identified common chemical in any substance that can be said to cause addiction. Nor, indeed, is there such a thing as an ‘addictive personality’. Rather, she insists, addiction at root is a learning disorder. "Label addiction as merely biological, psychological, social, or cultural and it cannot be understood; incorporate the importance of learning, context, and development, however, and it all becomes much more explicable and tractable.” She points out that the majority of those who start drinking or taking drugs do not develop a dependency but rather tend to move on from the drugs or learn to drink or consume in moderation. Some 10% - 20% do become addicts and nearly all of those have suffered trauma at some point in their lives. She found herself numbered those figures, acquiring a cocaine and heroin addiction in her 20s that she describes in harrowing detail.  

This is not to say that addiction is ‘only’ a learning disorder. Much depends on when the activity starts — to start while the brain is young and still developing adds an elevated level of risk. Trauma, poverty, peer pressure, stress, chemicals and all the usual factors one thinks of as being involved in addiction come into play but as the brain learns to use drugs, alcohol, gambling etc., as a soothing exercise, it cannot just unlearn the practice when negative results are generated.  

This was the experience that thoroughly confused me in my days as a drunk. I had finally gotten to the point where I knew that I didn’t want to drink any more but somehow I felt compelled against my own wishes. I stopped drinking at one point and decided to go to an AA meeting. I hated it. It seemed to be a lot of miserable people almost frantically indulging in caffeine, sugar or tobacco — or all three. I never went back. I stayed sober for six months and relapsed. I drank in moderation for a while but the consumption increased. Finally, after a number of years I stopped again and now, some sixteen years later, I’m not interested in booze. But I never went back to AA. The author herself admits that many aspects of AA and the twelve-step program that is the basis for many recovery programs were very helpful to her. But she is also highly critical of its dominance in the recovery world and points out that many other recovery programs based on a more scientific approach have as good, or better, recovery results. She is particularly critical of the AA notion of needing to ‘hit bottom’. I know that I never hit bottom but I did know I was in trouble. As is pointed out in the book each addict may respond to many different treatments but one one-size fits all of AA and related programs and the harsh criminalization on behalf of ‘the war on drugs’ have more of a track record of failure that success. In fact, one of the distinguishing marks of addiction is its resistance to punishment. Instead, a program of harm-reduction has seemed to have the most successful results. 

The book is thoroughly researched and remarkably free of jargon. I shall be interested to see what the medical community makes of it but it rang very clearly for me. For maybe the first time it seemed that a clear light was shone on this condition, and many mysteries cleared up. It also made me feel that I no longer had to reconcile the idea of being the victim of a disease while at the same time being a moral failure. 

If you have an addiction, or if you know someone who has, I recommend this book. Highly. 

Song Profile: Mollaí na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin 

Song Profile: Mollaí na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin.  

Some songs just grab you straight away. Some songs grow on you over time or when you hear a particular rendition. This song grabbed my attention after I heard the version called Mal Bhán Ní Chuilleanáin, by Lá Lugh, sung by Eithne Ní Ullacháin. Rod (our former flute player) gave me a copy of their recording of the same name and the track jumped out at me. I’d heard the song before and had music and lyrics for it — why hadn’t I realized how great it was? So I went to my copy of Ceolta Gael and started reading the music and words. The words were the same but the music was different. Not hugely — it still fit the lyric snugly but the feel of the song was very different. Whereas the original was an almost bouncy tune complete with chorus, this version had a haunting quality that, to my mind, suited the lyrics so much better. All of a sudden it came alive and the chorus — while rarer in sad songs — made so much more sense.  

Is fada liom uaim í, uaim í  

Is fada liom uaim í ó d’imigh sí  

Is fada liom thíos agus thuas í  

Mollaí na gCuach etc, 

She is far from me, from me 

She is far from me since she left  

She is far away below and above (everywhere)  

Mollaí na gCuach etc.,  

There are meaning on top of meanings here. “Is fada liom uaim í” has the literal meaning given above but it’s also a way of saying “I miss her” or “I long for her”.. “Thíos agus thuas” means literally “below and above” but in common idiom can mean “North and South”, “in every way” or “everywhere”.  

I won´t get drunk anymore 

I will not taste a drop of ale ever again 

Since I lost my little young girl 

That I might put money in my pockets. 


She is far from me, from me 

She is far from me since she left  

She is far away below and above (everywhere)  

Curley-haired Mollaí Ní Chuilleanáin  

I will build a house on the heights 

And I will have four white spotted cows 

And I will allow nobody near them 

Except for lovely fair Mollaí Ní Chuilleanáin 


If I were in Death’s difficulty 

And the people saying I would not recover 

I would never make my will 

Until fair Mollaí would come. 


One day I was in the wood 

I caught a glimpse of a pretty girl 

She would make a corpse live 

Or a fine young lad of an old fellow.  

For  the song I’ve stayed with the spelling Mollaí Ní Chuilleanáin. There are different spellings of the name in Irish — Ní Chuilleannáin is common, as is Ní Chuileanáin. The issue is further complicated when the name is Anglicized, giving us Cullinane, O Cullanayne, Quillinan, Culnane, and Quilnan. It is also sometimes translated as Hollywood, since the Irish word for a holly tree is ‘cuilleann”.  

We recorded this song on the album Trad and it is a favorite of ours to perform. Here’s a link to a video of the song recorded live at a concert in Evergreen, CO a few years ago.