Jimmy & Christina 11 November 2016

My wee (!)  brother Jimmy got married to the most exquisite bride I ever saw, Christina, on Friday. I know it hasn’t fully sank in yet! I had the honour of being a bridesmaid, and we had the most wonderful day.

My family is literally still on a high. It was such a blessed and genuinely happy day. It’s hard not to be totally happy for them as they have been the epitome of true love for many’s a year.

It’s been a beautiful experience. From sunrise in the gorgeous RoCo hair, giggles and the most perfect make up by Kendra. We were pampered and felt like princesses, I also feel like I have made a few new friends as we have been living in each other’s pockets this last week or so! I feel like the colours and happy memories of getting ready have been emblazoned into my mind. I really had a special, happy morning. Thank you Christina and Kendra, Clodagh and Kim at RoCo for such a great start to the big day.

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These are just wee snapshots, a bridesmaid doesn’t have much time for photos, so we will rely on Natalie Doherty photographer extraordinaire for the ceremony photos and more. I’m not doing the day justice but I just wanted to document it a little.

The ceremony was at St. Patrick’s Church Pennyburn and we were delighted that Fr. Gerard Mongan officiated. He has been a great family friend from way back when when myself, Jimmy and best man Paddy were altar servers and he was a deacon 15 years ago! He made the Mass so personal and he was so generous and funny. It all ran completely smoothly and every guest was commenting on what a beautiful mass it was. Jimmy and Christina just lit up when they saw each other and it was an absolute privilege to witness their official and spiritual union.

 

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The venue, The Redcastle Hotel and Spa is an absolute dream and I wish I could have stayed in the peaceful ocean view hotel for a week! It’s just across the border in Donegal and we got whisked there in a beautiful vintage car.

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It rained but it hardly mattered and it was such a warm and right feeling to have all your family surrounding you to help two very loved and special people commit their lives to each other. It was touching to see how much my parents enjoyed it, how proud they were and how blessed they felt. I barely have a photo here but my 7 siblings and I are a source of pride (for some reason! Ha) to my mammy and daddy and they said they preferred it to their own wedding day because we were all there this time!!

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How absolutely divine is my new sister-in-law?

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Jacob really stole the show. He danced with 18+ people (he counted in bed the next morning) and he had the time of his life. My Daddy also had a great line in his tear inducing speech ‘For 20 years until Jacob came along, it was just you and me in a house full of hormones.’ He spoke directly to Jimmy about how much he loved and was proud of him and everyone was fighting down the feels. I was actually really proud of my Daddy and his speech (although he was so nervous) was just amazing. A lady came up and called him ‘heart man’ after it. Love is the most important.

Jimmy was almost annoyed at my Daddy for nearly setting him off before his speech. Jimmy also spoke straight from the heart and got choked up when he spoke about his new beautiful, kind and intelligent wife. I have the best men folk.

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We danced the night away and some of the special requests were perfect. My parents had asked for The Obvious Child by Paul Simon as they always danced in the kitchen with the wee siblings to it. Everyone was up and it was a moment. Also the best man requested ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ by the Undertones and it was hilarious. The first dance was a Coldplay song Against the World and they were so beautiful and in love it would break your heart in the best possible way.

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If I could always look this good at 2.am!

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My room had a helicopter pad right outside. And the sea!

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The view from the honeymoon suite balcony after breakfast next morning!

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Way home 🙂

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This beautiful photo from Ann-Marie Appleton.  Looove it. 

 

So once more a huge and heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to the new Mr and Mrs Mc Callion. I love you two so much and am so very proud of you. Your wedding was a dream. Thank you for everything. So many people have been touched by this love story and this beautiful celebration. Have an unforgettable honeymoon in Mexico and New York. See you when you come home, for the next chapter.

x

 

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Supporting those living with Depression #AwareNi

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On Friday 24th June I am talking part in the Derry Aware NI Mood Walk, a 5 (or 10k) walk to ‘lift your mood’ and raise money to support local people living with depression and bipolar disorder. To me, this is a vital service. I have definitely suffered a form of depression in my life, and to watch someone you care about suffering is painful. It’s important that as much support as possible is available! I would really appreciate it if you could spare a few pounds for this worthy charity, Aware NI.

Easiest way to do it is this Just Giving link:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Fiona-McCallion2

Thank you so much x

AWARE is the only charity in Northern Ireland working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder. A Derry born charity they now have two offices; one in Londonderry and a second office in Belfast where the helpline is based.

AWARE has an established network of 24 support groups in rural and urban areas across the country, which are run by our trained volunteers. Support groups welcome people with depression and bipolar disorder as well as carers for people with the illness.

AWARE deliver mental health and well being programmes into communities, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. These programmes include our suite of Mood Matters programmes, Living Life to the Full, Mental Health First Aid and Mindfulness.

AWARE has a fundraising department organising fundraising events in schools and communities throughout Northern Ireland.

At AWARE, we believe that the people who use our services should have a say in how they are developed and delivered, so we employ people with experience of depression at every level in the organisation, including the Board of Trustees.

We rely on our dedicated and caring volunteers who run our support groups and helpline. Many of our volunteers began as service users themselves and as such are an excellent asset to us and keep us informed on staying in touch with people’s needs. Become an AWARE volunteer. 

AWARE is registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100561. Company No. N.I. 30447

A Visitor for the Funky Kitsch Inn

I have been meaning to post this all week, just a little busy so hoping it’s not too late. Wonderful local cupcake company The Kitsch Inn and cake extraordinaries Funky Cakes last year merged to make The Funky Kitsch Inn, which still stocks and creates fabulous and yummy creations but now runs a studio which welcomes birthday parties, workshops, hen do’s, afternoon tea, guest visitors and events where you will learn techniques to create stunning cupcakes and yummy treats.

Just over a week ago they welcomed celebrity of the vintage wedding cake world Tracy James to their studio for several masterclasses. The classes were booked up straight away and a busy, amazing and rewarding week was had by all at The Funky Kitsch Inn.

I wrote this piece about the visit :

Cotton & Crumbs arrive in Derry!

This week saw worldwide renowned ‘Cotton & Crumbs’ cake creator Tracy James host two sold out cake decorating classes in Derry.

Tracy touched down in Northern Ireland for the first time, choosing The Funky Kitsch Inn cake studio in Derry-Londonderry to deliver a series of cake decorating master classes. Her next stop is Barcelona!

 

Cotton & Crumbs is an award winning cake company based in England. Tracy is renowned worldwide for her vintage inspired cake creations; setting the trend in wedding cake and cupcakes. When she isn’t baking the next many –tiered delight she travels the world, teaching the tricks of the trade to cake bakers and hobbyists.

 

Laura Cairns from The Funky Kitsch Inn said ‘Tracy is an inspiration to small cake businesses; the ease with which she has grown her home based business to achieve world wide acclaim is beyond impressive. Having been self taught, she teachers her skills with pride and passion and we are utterly delighted to have her here in Derry.’

 

The group in the Tracy James master class with their handiwork at The Funky Kitsch Inn, Derry. Photo from Cotton and Crumbs.
The group in the Tracy James master class with their handiwork at The Funky Kitsch Inn, Derry. Photo from Cotton and Crumbs.

 

Anticipating the week of specialist cake crafting, a status on The Funky Kitsch Inn Facebook declared, ‘What Tracy doesn’t know about sugar flowers isn’t worth knowing!’

 

Comments from participants of the master classes have been flowing in, The Rowan Tree Cakes said ‘I’m very happy with the results of my course at Funky Kitsch Inn in Derry by fabulous Tracy James from Cotton and Crumbs.’

 

Iliana from The Rowan Tree Cakes, Ballymena commended and thanked both The Funky Kitsch Inn and Tracy James saying it was ‘a fantastic experience.’

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Some of the final creations from the masterclass. Thanks to The Rowan Tree Cakes for photo.
Some of the final creations from the masterclass. Thanks to The Rowan Tree Cakes for photos.

 

She said, ‘I found the class extremely helpful for bakers like me trying to improve skills and give to their cake a modern make over.
I was impressed by the level of detail and finesse that Tracy put into every petal and piping on the cakes.
I definitely took a lot in from this course, it was a refreshing experience overall.’  (The Rowan Tree Cakes )
Check ‘The Funky Kitsch Inn’ Facebook page to see photos of the workshop and finished cakes from the special Cotton and Crumbs master classes. There were lots of regrets from people who missed out on the workshop this time, but keep checking the page for more classes, competitions and maybe Tracy’s return!

 

https://www.facebook.com/thefunkykitschinn

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cotton-Crumbs/47401303755

 

Halloween cupcakes from The Funky Kitsch Inn:

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They also designed my blog’s first anniversary cupcakes that I treated myself to! Two years ago now. Why ever not?!

These still get talked about in my house! Yum!
These still get talked about in my house! Yum!

 

No Escaping a Phenomenal Performance

A review of ‘Over the Wire‘ a play which blew me away and which recently showed at The Playhouse.

The mere presence of a looming prison cage where the stage should be immediately set a foreboding atmosphere in The Playhouse.

Seamas Keenan’s reimagined ‘Over the Wire’ has been on a journey since it first opened in Derry in January 2013 at the beginning of the City of Culture celebrations.

Set in Long Kesh prison after the main building was burned by republican prisoners in 1974, five men live out their existence in an outdoor barbed wire cage.

Kieran Griffiths was the new director for this production, and the cage also had a new ‘Commanding Officer’ in the shape of Gerry Doherty.

Audiences had a choice. They could either sit in the standard tiered seating or ‘in the round,’ knees almost touching the steel structure. From here the audience has a privileged and very close viewpoint, trying not to flinch when any sudden violence crashes into their comfort zone and rattles their side of the cage.

There’s a huge political backdrop, but only the small world of the cage exists. With frustratingly little news from the outside, the men struggle for power and knowledge. There is an increasing damaging paranoia which becomes a main theme in the play.

I interviewed the cast of Over the Wire a few days before the play IN THE CAGE for my work placement. Thank you for the photo Aine and for all the help.
I interviewed the cast of Over the Wire a few days before the play IN THE CAGE for my work placement. Thank you for the photo Aine and for all the help.

The relationship with each other is all the men really have left, yet suffers greatly as hunger and fear, pain, humiliation and distrust take their toll.

The audience is uncomfortably close and uneasy, and the prisoners can never relax. Anything could happen next, they are constantly on their guard and buzzing with adrenaline which can almost be felt through the bars.

Keenan’s script contains much black humour which is somehow seamlessly incorporated into the action. The mood swings from tentatively laughing and ‘slagging’ to heart-stoppingly tense and dangerous in seconds.

The performances from the Derry actors was phenomenal. Pat Lunch, Gerry Doherty, Martin Bradley, Micheal Mc Callion and Andy Doherty play the prisoner’s roles.

Andy plays Dutch. the newest and youngest prisoner, cocky but with a touching innocence. Martin portrays Barry struggling with psychological problems, while everyone questions the medicine ‘the screws’ are giving him.

Pat Lynch plays Lucas, the swaggering, scary top IRA man who nobody can talk down with chilling results, and a mesmerizing performance.

Some of the most human moments see the men huddled under a plastic sheet to keep warm, taking turns singing, admits hopes and desires, speak of home. (Which is Derry!)

When one character rounds on the other is when the play take’s it’s darkest turn, despite the army beatings. The fear of the characters, their inability to escape their situation or each other is transferred to the too-close-for-comfort audience.

The proximity to the cage put audience members at risk of being hit by distrusted food or even splashed with blood.

It’s a play that is a triumph, a whole new experience and will stay in the mind long after the cage has returned to darkness.

 

Six Strings and Stigma

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The Clarendon Street Beacon Centre presents…
CD launch of the “Six Strings & Stigma” project.

14 Stories and 14 Songs – all penned by local artists. Featuring songs by:

Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas • Little Hooks feat. Tillie & Henderson • Declan Mc Laughlin • The Ard Ri Band feat. Roy Arbuckle • The Wood Burning Savages • Teknopeasant • The Murder Balladeers • Jeanette Hutton • Tracy Cullen • Tara Gi • The Gatefolds • We Are Aerials Intermission • John Deery and the Heads

‘Six Strings and Stigma,’ delivered by the Beacon Centre and supported by the Public Health Agency (PHA), captured the experiences of individuals with enduring mental health needs. They presented their stories to local songwriters such as Paddy Nash, John Deery, Declan McLaughlin, Little Hooks and Eamon Friel, who created an album of original songs that highlight the stigma associated with a diagnosis of mental illness and how people have overcome it and achieved recovery in their lives.

(I submitted this to HotPress magazine around 16th October to The Write Touch Competition. Still haven’t heard anything, so hope it’s ok to put it on my blog.)

(As one of my BFFS said, it’s been a while since the Lyric part of my blog got a look in.)

The launch of ‘Six Strings and Stigma’ took place in the City of Culture on Saturday 12 October , in the wonderful Culturlann Ui Chanain building. 14 stories. 14 songs.  Local artists were approached by The Beacon Centre and supported by the Public Health Agency (HSC) with the individual stories of people’s experiences with mental illness. What resulted is a compilation of songs that capture and challenge the stigma associated with being diagnosed with a mental illness, and the individuals’ recovery. Being honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but with Mental Health Day coinciding with the launch, and the promise of Paddy Nash, The Murder Balladeers and John Deery to name a few artists, I was intrigued. It was a chance to see a few bands I hadn’t had previously.

The venue itself was small, and as I am too, I resigned myself to only seeing a little bit of the stage. However, between each set the stage alternated to one on the opposite end of the room, so I turned around and to my surprise I was now near the front. Beginning with the wonderful Tracy Cullen, each act played around 4 songs, and in this way it was a perfect showcase of Derry’s talent. Most singers offered some human relation to their story, and there was high emotion in the room on more than one occasion. Highlights for me was the final gig for Intermission who are now going to perform under Glenn Rosborough, and Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas whose mere name is enough to bring a smile to my face. Most catchy: ‘Seized’ and ‘Rushing In.’ An excuse for a night of music and a step towards stamping out stigma.

Six Strings and Stigma is available from Cool Discs music in Derry, or on http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sixstringsstigma . I urge you to get it, it’s very impressive. Mental Illness is a cause that is close to my heart, also.

http://www.beaconwellbeing.org/

M got a nice t-shirt out of it. Your CD was included in ticket price, which was lovely. Thanks to Aisling and her bro Cormac for my ticket!
M got a nice t-shirt out of it. Your CD was included in ticket price, which was lovely. Thanks to Aisling and her bro Cormac for my ticket!
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Photo by Jamie Mollison

Book Review: The First Time I Said Goodbye by Claire Allan

‘Would you hold on tighter if you knew you were saying goodbye forever?

In 1959 Factory Girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a handsome US Marine based in Derry. Caught up in a whirlwind of romance, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray. But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise that they may have said their first and last goodbyes.

In 2010, Stella’s daughter Annabel, reeling from the loss of her father, agrees to accompany her mother back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. In Derry they both start to realise that sometimes you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted, in order to find out what you have needed all along.’

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Hearing Claire Allan talk about her book at the wonderful launch, it’s clear that it’s a book that it very special for her. It will be for you, too. It’s a many-faceted love story that spans two very different generations. Usually I’m not sure a story incorporating 1950s Ireland would draw me, but it’s so personal a story. The 1950s-60s creep in in the desires, wishes, clothing, and responsibilities that surround young Stella, making the story all the richer.

I could relate to Annabel in many ways, she’s lost and hurt, doing her best. She never has the right thing to wear! She was always a Daddy’s girl, and facing what feels like a betrayal from her mother after his death, she struggles to understand. The rebuilding of the relationship between mother Stella and daughter Annabel is fascinating and delicately depicted.

Young Stella and Ray’s story is just breathtaking. I’m not sure I’ve ever read about such a sincere and true love. It isn’t soppy or far fetched. Really gives you something to hope for and aspire to. Prepare for your heart to be broken. Claire had the idea for this book after conducting an interview with an unlikely couple. Avril and Bob were actually at her wonderful vintage book launch and Claire’s speech was so eloquent, and her presentation to Avril had everyone sniffing and staring at the ceiling. True love is out there, everyone! Myself and my friend Caoimhe saw Avril and Bob leave, walk around the corner and put their arms around each other, and keep walking.

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Vintage cupcakes and teeny chocolate books!  Chocolate Manor is amazing chocolatemanor.co.uk

I really loved the descriptions of family life, coming from a big family myself. Even across the 60 or so years I recognised traditions and sayings. I especially enjoyed the Christmas scenes. They were so magical and comforting.

I shed a few tears, mostly for love and the selflessness of Stella.

There’s some great laughs too. Annabel and her newly found cheeky Irish cousin Sam create a wonderful duo who bounce off each other.

Claire speaking at her launch, at the site of the old Corinthian Ballroom, now the lovely Sandwich Company.
Claire speaking at her launch, at the site of the old Corinthian Ballroom, now the lovely Sandwich Company.

My own city of Derry gets shown off, I always get a thrill from recognising and spotting places in Claire’s books. You may find yourself wanting to visit. So apt in the City of Culture year. The city is looking brilliant, and with the new open spaces around the Quay you can imagine it buzzing with handsome Marines and gorgeous girls.

This is a gem of a book, and so easy to get lost in. It will break your heart, and yet fill it with hope. Claire’s seventh book is her strongest yet – and really worth snuggling up with. Let me know what you think!

Check out Claire’s website and her previous books.

Me getting all Vintage at the launch.
Me getting all Vintage at the launch.

Leaning on the Lyrics

I have been neglecting my Lemoncakers again! (Can I call you that? It sounds a bit wrong.) I’m just not feeling very creative at the moment. I can’t even make a dent in my to-be-read pile of books that I was so looking forward to reading! At the minute I’m a few pages into ‘Maya’ by Jostein Gaarder but I can’t seem to get into it or make the time for it. I’m spending a lot of time working (but the hours are not going to last) and a lot of time staring slack-jawed at the internets. Also there are some cinema trips (I really enjoyed Batman: The Dark Knight Rises) and watching Breaking Bad season 2 under a blanket in M’s new house. So it’s not all bad.

I have been seeking solace in songs. I’m a real sucker for it’s-all-going-to-be-ok lyrics when I’m feeling like it’s not ok. I think that is why I am loving Newton Faulkner’s new, no.1 if I’m not mistaken, album ‘Write it on Your Skin.’ (Isn’t the title itself lovely?)

 

Newton first came to my attention at the Peace One Day concert in Derry last month. My wee sister Clare loves him, but I hadn’t really listened before. I watched his videos with her on the nights before it, told Jacob Newton was her boyfriend, and despaired at the fact that he went to a local haunt Sandinos the night before the concert. We could have easily been there! I loved his set, and listened to him a lot after it. I brought a CD out to M’s car one day and he shouted what he intended to be ‘FAULK OFF!’ to me. I didn’t see the funny side straight away. Clare pre-ordered the album and I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially the title track ‘Write it on Your Skin.’ I’m a bit like that with songs I love, I will listen to them endlessly over and over until I get sick of them. I’m trying not to do that with this one! I’m sorry if you’ve read me raving about it on Twitter. I bought it for my friend for her birthday and text apt lyrics to another friend when I was on the bus. So maybe I’m not going the right way about it. It’s worth it though, I really do recommend it.

Take everything you know,

And write it on your skin,

Then you can carry on,

And forget everything….

You should have a listen. Prepare for it to get into your head and, pardon the pun, under your skin. There’s an official video and then there was a call for fan photos of lines from the lyrics written on skin (Such a good idea!) Clare and I seriously considered it but couldn’t come up with a good idea! ( Or bother shaving our legs/ putting on make-up!) You can watch the outcome here: I obviously am just an acoustic sort of girl. It’s not cool at parties to put on Josh Ritter or Newton Faulkner, but I will persevere because I want to share it so much! The whole album is a build-you-up (brick by brick?) glass-half-full affair of great guitar playing, gorgeous lyrics and a happy voice. It’s what I need right now, food for my soul.

My best laid plans are washed away,

No time to make ’em all again,

Sometimes life gets in the way,

You’ve got to keep on breathing. – Brick by Brick