Saturday 30 March 2024


Last year we invited people to write a few lines about utopia, their idea of a society in which they'd like to live. We talked to people in Cobh, County Cork, and emailed friends. We thanked everyone who gave it thought and wrote it down, as well as those whose silence made us wonder why it is so hard to think beyond the confines of the society we are in. 

Utopia? That isn't real 

Utopia? Cobh is a very historical place

Utopia? It never works out, I hear

Utopia is a cas limite. Hard to imagine beyond the reality that surrounds you and you imagine an ideal, though you may not like the word. Take a leap. You have the time, the freedom. 

You have a neck, use it, Tony O'H used to say. 

Tread softly for you tread on my dreams. Mr Yeats.

It's a privilege to bear witness to your ideals. Bernard Laughlin.

A plague mentality has overtaken us. A  state of ranting and whingeing. We only have time for opposition. Utopia isn't opposition, it's dreaming radically and convincingly beyond your current state. 

Friday 22 March 2024


Read the first chapter of Lynne Tillman on the plane, Haunted Houses. Too speedy at thirty-seven thousand feet. A quick whizz through the early lives of three girls,  Short sentences. All emotion kept to the full stops. I already had enough haunting of my own. I was impatient with Jane, Grace and Emily. I wanted to sleep. The cloud cover over southern Portugal was frayed underneath, shreds of it dangling in yellowish light as we approached the airport. 

On the communal bookshelf in the guest house in Tavira, on the main square, by the Ponta Romana, I found Graham Norton. 'Like sucking on sweets', said one of the puffs. I knew Graham Norton when he was twenty or so. He was defensive/derisive then. So I expected him to be wielding his material with some mix of his former self. But no. He was right in his small town mystery and the concoction of his plot. As advised I read  Forever Home at a gallop. It's a deepening puzzle, a domestic mystery plot, with wit, description, decisions and solutions in West Cork, a little emotion, not enough to be frightening, enough to affirm, in view of a positive outcome. Well, Graham, I would hardly have recognized you if you weren't so famous.

The next day we took a long walk along the beach, into the rising mist and the sun. Thinking about footprints and sand, how far we've come, how far to go, to the anchor cemetery where we learn the history of tuna fishing, its energy and then its demise. There's yellow broomrape in the marshes. Broomrape grows on the energy of other plants. Resplendent yellow flowers on a fat stem coming out of nowhere. The tuna do not run any more, straight in April into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic, athwart in September, the other way around. Seventy men, fourteen boats that formed a circle in which the massive tuna were trapped. A whole summer of work back then.

On the beach by the tuna cemetery I read the first paragraph of 'The Umbrella' by Tove Ditlevsen, and stopped, so pleased by this quietude, this unpromise. Every usual situation undermined, under threat. The stories in The Trouble with Happiness are very short, no one comes out of them well. Something that was already underway has come to a head and the future will scarcely be different. Writing is more than redemptive. It is a lone signal of being alive. My nephew Tom was in a band called Redemption but did not know what the word meant.

Hallélujah, says the accordion on the Ponta Romana, Tavira, that evening.

There's a wooden hut with a rusty padlock we occupy most of the day on the beach. We have a table for lunch, an old plank. Bread, cheese, tomatoes, olive oil. I read a Tove Ditlevsen story and then lie back. 

On the plane home I am still not ready for Lynne Tillman. My neighbour is a large woman in red who is doing Tesco Sudoku puzzles and eating crackers and chocolate biscuits alternately..  

Saturday 9 March 2024

Greetings from the Countryside (Strong Emotions)

An exchange between Judy Kravis and Laura Fitzgerald 

Hi Laura,

I've been reading your Greetings from the Countryside (Strong Emotions).

Good to see it on the page, with time to mull over your version of land etc.

You are so much of the place, by birth and more, whereas we have come in and made a place our own.

Strong emotions in either case. You by birthright and we by no right, as some would say.

Our immediate neighbours, and we only have one lot, have told us that everyone around here hates us.

Which isn't true, but they'd just like company for their own hatred.

I asked another neighbour a mile or two away, from a small farm in west cork herself, why they hate us.

She said it's because we're english by birth and they think we're better than them.

Becoming irish is no answer. You have to have a couple of people in the ground to be irish, someone told us.

And if you do, it's just another set of problems isn't it ....

Hope the exhibition went well. Do come visit if you're coming this way,

all the best,

Judy xx

Hello Judy,

I think the above email is very much a thing in itself, a container story. It's complex isn't it ... we all do and don't belong. Sure I think I'm probably Norman given the Fitzgerald, who knows who plundered what if you go back far enough ...

Thanks so much for buying a copy of the publication. I'm very glad I was able to make the printed version, the gallery were very good to me.

I hope we can manage to meet up over the summer, yourself and Peter are very welcome to call to us in Inch also. I'm sure Dad would enjoy showing you around.

Thanks for the great email/short story!

Best wishes,


Friday 1 March 2024


Yesterday afternoon I nearly dozed reading Sleepless by Marie Darrieussecq, by the stove, entranced by these literate non-sleepers, Kafka, Proust, Duras and many fellows who wrote out of and into their sleeplessness. Nothing like other people's failure to sleep for making you sleepy. This a leap year so we should leap. With friends, if possible.