Any Mummers ‘Lowed In?

A Newfoundland Christmas tradition that features in Up She Rises is mummering. Here’s how it’s explained to Rachel:

“You’ll have to come mummering with us,” Judy said.


She laughed. “Mummering. It’s a Christmas tradition. You disguise yourself, go round to the neighbours, put on a performance and …”

She caught my wary expression. “It’s fun, music, drinking, a bit of craic.” She turned to her husband, “Tell her Bill.”

“It’s an excuse to get hammered,” said Bill.

“It’s more than that,” chided Judy. “It’s a cultural imperative, a tradition that needs to be maintained, it’s…” She grinned. “Yeah, it’s an excuse to get hammered.”

I came across an interesting article here about how mummering is making a comeback in Newfoundland, although I don’t accept the contention that it was banned until the 1990s. How do I know ? I went mummering in the 1980s.







Dildo & Famish Gut: What’s In A Name?

When I started writing Up She Rises, I named the fictional fishing village in which its set Twig. I just liked the sound of it. But I might need to change it.

My lovely Newfoundland born and raised cousin recently read the manuscript. She loved it. (hear that agents?) She was fulsome and kind in her praise, with one small caveat. She didn’t think the name Twig worked:

“If you are planning to get the book published in Newfoundland, you should consider changing the name of the town. Newfoundland is known for its unique and colourful place names and Newfoundlanders take particular pride in their nomenclature. So the name really has to work for the Newfoundland audience to buy into the book.
[A] tree reference doesn’t really work. There are place names which refer to geographical features i.e. Rocky Harbour, Bell Island etc. And names that suggest refuge like Little Hearts Ease, Heart’s Delight, Comfort Cove etc.”
I could dismiss my cousin’s advice, but I value her opinion. As much as it kills me, it might be time to say good-bye  to Twig. I’ve been playing with names on this list of abandoned or resettled communities in Newfoundland. Twig could become:
Little Bay
Turnip Cove
Little Tickle
Pudding Cove
What do you think?
Now enjoy this video about another proposed name change in Newfoundland:

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Up She Rises is a work of fiction, but its genesis was a two year period in the mid 1980s when I taught in a small fishing community in Newfoundland. I lost touch with my former students when I left, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from one of them this week:

I am sure you don’t remember me. I am a former student of yours from Patrick’s Cove . . .  I heard you have written a book and I’d love to read it. I hope all is well with you and that life has treated you well. You were so good to me.

Of course I remembered her and emailed back straight away. Then I started thinking about that time in my life, even digging out old photo albums:


That’s me back in the village. I taught high school, so these two gorgeous little boys weren’t students. Whoever they are, I am loving their freckles.

Where were you in the 1980s?


Destiny Turns on the Radio

Up She Rises is set in the 1980s and music (both pop and traditional) forms the backdrop to many of its scenes. Remember that classroom scene I posted awhile back?

In the car yesterday, I flicked between radio channels and found Irene Cara belting out What A Feeling from the ’80s movie Flashdance. There’s a Flashdance reference in Up She Rises, but what struck me yesterday was the lyrics which I’d always found quite cheezy:

Take your passion
And make it happen.

Huh. That, my friends, is what I’m trying to do with writing.

So, with leotards raised in solidarity, enjoy the song (because how could I not post it?) and here’s to making it happen. Whatever your it may be.



A Bit to Rest Your Toes On


Sigh or Wish by Deanne Fitzpatrick

Lucille is the landlady of Rachel’s boarding house. She is also one of several local women who hook rugs. One Friday night, at loose ends in Twig, Rachel joins them for a session:

Flossie and Annie, who it transpired were sisters, sat side by side, their hooks moving in time. Flossie’s rug featured a bright orange house with the ever-present sea behind it. Annie’s was much more detailed. It showed a woman in red dress and white apron, standing in a grassy yard, pegging sheets to a clothesline. Flossie and Annie hooked like Lucille, row by row.

In contrast to the others, Biddy seemed to hook freestyle. In her design a woman knelt in a wooded area, picking blueberries. I marvelled at Biddy’s hook roaming the surface of the burlap. When I commented on it, she said, “Ah sure, as long as you fills it in, it don’t matter how. I likes to meander.”

The speed at which the scenes unfolded was unbelievable, the blank canvasses filling in rapidly before my eyes. It amazed me that the women were creating such vivid works of art from a bit of burlap and recycled wool and rags. But they would not accept my effusive praise.

“Ah go on with ye,” said Lucille. “It’s only a bit to rest your toes on.” 

“You knows yourself,” said Flossie.

“Sure anyone could make these,” added Biddy.

I’m not sure anyone could hook a rug, but maybe someday I’ll have a go. If nothing else, I’d like to buy one,  maybe one hooked by Newfoundland artist Deanne Fitzpatrick who now lives in Nova Scotia. Deanne kindly granted me permission to use the beautiful image above. Her rugs are magnificent; you can see some more of them here.

Are you crafty? (in either sense of the word)


Pockets of Happiness


It takes awhile, but eventually Rachel starts to find pockets of happiness in Twig: music, craft, friendship. Sometimes we don’t realise what’s available right under our nose.Like Rachel, I recently found a new cause for happiness, a pocket of writers, in my own little town.

A few months ago I stumbled across the Loose Muse in Winchester, run by the wonderful Sue Wrinch. It features readings by poets or novelists, followed by an open mic session. I’ve attended two sessions and thoroughly enjoyed them both. When Sue learned I was from Ringwood, she told me about Rough Diamonds, a new literary event in my little town.

I took myself along to the May session of Rough Diamonds and was thrilled to meet and listen to fellow writers. I’m on the mailing list now, so there’ll be no stopping me. I might even read at the open mic session. I’m sure Rachel would want me to introduce her to the U.K, right?

Any rough diamonds or pockets of happiness hiding right under your nose?

Between the Jigs and the Reels

Rachel is a recovering violinist, having quit the instrument years ago. But when she hears school caretaker Phonse Flynn playing the fiddle, Rachel is enchanted. So much so, that she asks him to teach her how to play it his way.  Here’s an excerpt from their first lesson:

Phonse picked up his fiddle and cradled it, the wood gleaming like a brooch against his work shirt. Although I had practised, I was self-conscious now; my arms felt rigid.

“Like this, luh,” said Phonse. “See how it’s resting on my shoulder? It’s got to be loose, it’s got to be like a part of you.”

I slipped the fiddle into a softer pose. Phonse played a few bars very slowly, his movements exaggerated. Then he pointed his bow at me. “Have at ‘er, girl.”

I drew the bow slowly across the strings and tried to copy what he’d done. We repeated this a few times then he put down his fiddle, sat with his hands on his knees and listened, his head down. I was glad I couldn’t see his face.

“Good,” he said, when I stopped. “You got the talent all right, but you’re stiff as a plank, maid. Loosen up.”

Even as he spoke, I could feel my shoulders hunch forward, my right arm tight. I forced them back and began again. Once I’d mastered a piece, we would repeat the process. Phonse would play, then I would mimic. Line after line. His playing sounded fluid, soft, and floaty. Mine sounded staccato, laboured, and stodgy.

Now, enjoy this video featuring the master fiddler himself, Emile Benoit. And you know what, he looks a bit like Phonse.