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Writing

    Writing

    Blogging, Connecting, and Gilmore Girls

    I’ve been thinking about why it is that I do this lately. Why I’m sitting here writing this blog post to you, whoever you are. There are so many websites out there, just like mine, millions of us just typing into the ether. Sometimes this fact is encouraging, and sometimes it’s disheartening. I move between the two constantly, and when I start to think about it too hard, that’s usually when I stop writing altogether.

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    Books, Writing

    Snowed in on World Book Day

    Ireland has been hit by what we’re being told are some of the worst snow conditions since the 1980s. The buses have stopped running, the schools are closed, most people are home from work. The queue in my local shop snakes the whole way through the aisles and out the front door as everyone tries to find the few ‘essentials’ they need before the shops close up. Everyone is in a panic over having enough bread, and supermarket and local shop aisles have been swiped clear of anything resembling a sliced pan. Meanwhile, we’re left stuck inside looking for things to do. That’s okay though – because today is World Book Day.

    The perfect day to sit back with a cup of tea and read.

    World Book Day

    It’s a shame the kids are off school today because I truly found World Book Day one of the most exciting days of the school year. I loved books, and when the mobile book store came to our school in the week of World Book Day, I couldn’t wait to see what I could find. Armed with my free book token, maybe even a little extra money if I wanted more than one book, I would scan over everything they had, almost dizzy with the amount to choose from. I still feel the same now in every bookshop I go into. Being surrounded by so many stories, the endless possibilities that exist within the pages of a book, brings me so much joy I don’t know how to explain it. Inside the bookshop or the library, I feel at peace, like I’m at home.

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    A snow day makes the best reading day

    Yesterday, I took a short walk down to the library to pick up a book I had put on hold the week before. I had been checking for updates every day waiting for it to arrive so I could pick it up. The snowy conditions threatened to keep me waiting another week more, but the staff at the library braved the cold to open for a few hours and I could go and get it. So now I’m at home on World Book Day, with nowhere to go and two books sitting next to me. One is waiting to be finished, and the other is patiently waiting for me to begin. What better time is there to curl up by the fire and get lost in the pages of a good book?

    A snow day is the perfect day to finish my current book. I’m so grateful to be at home today, inside in a warm house. A snow day calls for a book day. Go to your shelf and find that book you never finished, pick up something from your to-be-read pile, or return to an old favourite and read the hours away. Happy World Book Day. Make the most of it.

    Read about how I fell in love with reading again in New York.

    How are you spending your snow day? Are you reading a good book right now? Let me know in the comments! I’m snowed in, so I’ve got plenty of time to chat.’

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    Writing

    If Autumn were a guest

    Autumn leaves in a forest in Montréal, Quebec

    I feel like I’ve been waiting for Autumn all summer, but in truth, I’ve really been waiting since last Autumn ended. All of the time in between has just been counting down until this all too short season comes around again.

    After the stifling heat of the summer, feeling the wind of Autumn rolling in feels like taking a sigh of relief. I can relax a little, knowing my favourite time is here, my favourite holiday (Halloween) is on the way, and iced lattes sipped outside to cool down can be replaced by hands clutching mugs of hot drinks to warm up.

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    Canada, Vancouver, Writing

    Living under a cloud of smoke

    Smoke in the Vancouver skyline

    I have, for most of my life, lived in a place where the weather at its most extreme is often considered mild tempered for many other parts of the world. Out-of-the-ordinary weather is an event, something to keep us talking for a few weeks. What would normally be just an inconvenience in one country could have Ireland on lock-down, with schools and workplaces shut and all of us glued to our televisions watching an exhausted Joanna Donnelly move into her 12th hour of weather reporting on RTÉ.

    Although we do get particularly excited about it in Ireland, the weather is increasingly becoming an important topic in countries all over the world as we try to grapple with the effects of global warming and climate change. This is especially felt in how hot it’s been over the past summer.

    Summer heat

    Moving to Vancouver in the summer saw us landing into an intense heatwave that seemed incessant for most of June and July. It was the kind of summer heat we had come here to avoid, lured to the city with the promise of a nice 20-22 degrees celsius average high during the summer months. 

    I don’t do well in heat, I never have. Although at the first sign of a falling leaf my limbs seem to numb themselves with even the threat of cold, I would still much rather live in a cold place than a hot one. Heat makes me irritable, I feel uncomfortable all of the time, and it feels impossible to do anything when I know I have to go out in near 30 degree weather. 

    Vancouver skyline
    How the Vancouver skyline looks on a normal summer’s day.

    I found many days in our first two months here a challenge as I worked my way through my limited wardrobe of shorts and light layers. I generally don’t feel comfortable in myself when I have to wear “summer clothes”, and usually end up in a mismatched ensemble that was decided on simply to get me through the day without completely dehydrating from sweat. 

    Heat is not my friend, but I didn’t expect it to be outdone by something else entirely: A haze of smoke caused by forest fires.

    Living under a cloud of smoke

    This hot weather is unusual for Vancouver, and it’s not as though I would have escaped it had I been at home – Ireland also saw record highs over the course of the summer. We have long been told that the world is heating up at a rapid pace, but I think it’s only now that we’re really beginning to feel it.

    We were told that August is the worst month for the heat, and it was also the time of year that wildfires really ramp up across the province of British Columbia. No amount of stories or weather alerts could really have prepared us for what was coming. This has been a record year for wildfires in BC, and the daily air quality warnings emphasise the level of air pollution and smokey skies.

    Air quality index Vancouver. 20th August 2019
    The air quality index used to measure the risk of air pollution for Metro Vancouver on the 20th of August

    The result is a lost skyline, the smell of smoke in the air, and feeling like you’re halfway to a cold with a sore throat and blocked up nose.

    Welcome to the apocalypse

    Life has become like some sort of post-apocalyptic dream. Put yourself there. You’re walking down a quiet street, the light muted and dull even though the sun is still up. You breathe in, but the air leaves a dry, rough feeling at the back of your throat. If you look into the distance you can see the haze of smoke clouding the view ahead. You’re not sure you should be out at all. With every breath you take, you inhale the chemicals and toxins that are floating in the air around you. You try to take more shallow breaths, as if that will reduce how much of the stuff gets into your lungs, and pick up the pace.

    Smoke on the Vancouver Sea wall
    Smoke on the sea wall

    This is, of course, an exaggeration. While we have had some really bad days here over the last few weeks, we’re certainly not getting the worst of it. Thankfully, the fires are not near us, it’s just the direction of wind that pushes the smoke our way, and there are other cities in the world that deal with this level of air quality all the time. Still, our blocked sinuses, dry throats, and stinging eyes are proof enough that this smoke is not good for us. 

    Already as I write this, the smoke is beginning to lift and the air quality is improving, so our few weeks of dystopian living seem to be coming to an end. In a few weeks time, this will have been just another weather event for us to get excited about.

    2 Comments

    • Reply Cathy

      Think I better off staying in mullingar

      August 26, 2018 at 4:53 am
    • Reply byrnewithme

      I think you’re better off there right now too!

      August 26, 2018 at 11:57 am
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    Writing

    Slowing Down

    Japanese Gardens, Kildare, Ireland

    Featured image taken in the Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud by Mike Andrews

    This piece was originally written for and published by an online magazine called The Olive Foxes, which has since closed down.

    I have a tendency to walk fast. I’m quite tall so I cover more ground in fewer steps than people who are shorter than me but, add to this the fact that my natural pace is very fast, it doesn’t take me long to get to the places I need to be. Whether I’m walking to work, running to the post office, popping out to buy something for lunch or simply just going for a ‘stroll’ (the definition of a stroll is to walk in a leisurely way so maybe this doesn’t apply to me), I can’t seem to help but walk quickly. Read more

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    Writing

    Sign up for the Byrnewithme newsletter!

    Byrnewithme newsletter

    Great news!

    If you enjoy what you see here on the Byrnewithme blog and you’d like to keep up to date with what’s going on, you can now subscribe to the Byrnewithme newsletter!

    Around once a month or so you’ll get an email from me letting you know about any new posts you might have missed, as well as some behind-the-scenes stories and updates that I might not have shared on the blog. 

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    Books

    What We Do Now: Standing up for your Values in Trump’s America Book Review

    Book Review What we do now standing up for you values in trump's america

    Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, I stepped into one of my favourite bookstores in Dublin, Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, to take refuge from the January cold. I started browsing through the tables of books on display and found one with a collection of books around the theme of the new American presidency, including It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and this book that particularly caught my eye – What We Do Now – Standing up for your values in Trump’s America, edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians. Read more

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