WHAT TO DO IN 2019
YOU now have 22 days to follow through on 2018’s New Year’s Resolutions. Ten days to lose all that weight, go to the gym, give up drinking, learn a foreign language, get fit. Good luck! Of course you could draw a line under this year’s good intentions and resolve to have a go at some of these in 2019...
JOYS OF JOYCE
TAKE Ulysses with you on holiday – and read it this time. It’s very good, you know.
GO for a walk in Tollymore Forest in Co. Down. The route to the King’s Grave is particularly recommended.
Nobody knows if a king is buried in this megalithic mound – dating back to between 1000-1500 BC – but given the prominence of the site, it’s safe to assume it was someone who held a lot of sway in these parts some 3,000 years ago. A king perhaps, or a knight.
The path which snakes along the Shimna River, whose follies, gothic outrages, grottos, obelisks, barbicans, pretend sentry boxes, faux hermitages and natural beauties inspired the likes of CS Lewis and Edward Lear, is enchanting.
As you near the sight of the King’s Grave, the Mournes can be glimpsed through the trees. It’s a view that would inspire any writer.
GO to the Air Guitar World Championships during the summer – in Oulu, Northern Finland.
The current holder is a Japanese gentleman, the fourth person from Japan to hold the title. To date, no Irish person has ever won.
There are many rules, but these seem to sum up the ethos of the art: air guitarists’ guitars must be invisible, ie. not made of anything else but air; air-electric or airacoustic guitars are both acceptable – an air guitarist can use either or both during a performance; plectrums (non-air types) can be used as props.
Probably see you there.
LEARN A LANGUAGE
SPANISH is reckoned to be one of the easiest for English speakers; Scottish Gaelic should be a cinch for Irish speakers. Frisian (parts of Germany, Netherlands) also looks a good bet: ‘De barst atmosphera wass njoggentich’ is Frisian for, ‘The craic was 90’.
The hardest nearby language is probably Basque. Apparently it has no syntactic parallels to either English or Irish. For instance, ‘Ach, I’m just popping down to the shops for some messages’ is ‘Oh, Gutxienez dendetara joan naiz mezu batzuetarako.’
THE course of true love never did run smooth.
Lysander loves Hermia but to be together they’ll have to run away. Demetrius loves Hermia too but she hates him. Unlike Helena, who loves him like mad. Someone needs to sort this out. Yes, you can immerse yourself in a bit of Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is being toured in 2019, everywhere from Belfast to Bridgend.
This column’s tip would be Mike Tweddle’s production at the incomparable Tobacco Factory in Bristol, if you happen to be in the vicinity.
You can see if his Bottom is all it’s cracked up to be.
The play runs from February 20 to April 6 at this terrific venue, a favourite of this column.
All your Shakespearean favourites will be there, and really up close – Puck, Oberon, and of course Nick Bottom.
WE’LL be having a close encounter with an asteroid on February 15.
A near-Earth planetoid called 2012 DA14 (as it likes to be known as on formal occasions) will pass about 34,000 kilometres away from the Earth.
In astronomical terms, this is a Very Near Thing (closer than the Moon, for instance); whole Hollywood movies have been based on less.
However, this column’s astronomy correspondent, Dr Juan Smallstip-Foreman, assures us there is no cause for panic.
FLY THE FLAG
HEAD for the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Ireland’s entry hasn’t been chosen – so you’ve still time to write that elusive winner.
THE FULL BRONTË
READ the book where the hero, who only has one name, marries a woman whose surname becomes their son’s first name.
Yes, it’s Wuthering Heights, featuring Heathcliff, Isabella and Linton Heathcliff.
Alternatively visit the Brontë Homeland Interpretative Centre in Drumballyroney, Co. Down.
Ay oop! And you thought he were a Yorkshire lad!
But the hero (or anti-hero if you like) of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff, could well have been based on Emily Brontë’s memories of her uncle.
Welsh Brontë, like Emily’s father Patrick, grew up in the beautiful rolling countryside around mid Co. Down.
Uncle Welsh reputedly travelled all the way to London on one occasion, specially armed with a big stick, to silence critics of his niece’s novel.
The hilltop parish church and school at Drumballyroney, where Patrick taught before going to England, is now the nucleus of the Interpretative Centre – which covers all the details of Patrick Brontë and his illustrious offspring.
TAKE a Game of Thrones tour round the North. What? You hadn’t heard some of the GoT was filmed in Co. Antrim? Check it out on www.milking-itfor-all-its-worth. com. But some of the GoT sites really are stand-alone wonders. Try Ballintoy harbour, with its limestone and basalt cliffs rising vertically out of the sea, and jet-black rocks protecting the quayside where Theon arrived on Dragonstone. From here you’ll get terrific views across to Sheep Island (real name, not a GofT makey-up one). Britain, only 19km away, is also visible, looking like a slightly bigger Sheep Island.
ONE of the finest views in palaeontology is available on Valentia Island: amongst the earliest footprints known to science are on a trackway that threads along a coastal rock platform in the shadow of Jeokaun Mount, not far from Valentia Lifeboat Station.
Indented on the rocks are footprints of a 385million-year-old four-legged animal, or tetrapod, an early ancestor of us all.
Some 150 distinct prints from at least one animal can clearly be seen – made by something probably the size of a collie.
The best time to view is early morning or late afternoon when the sun casts the prints into relief.
The footprints are a crucial link in the story of the evolution of life on earth.
Until somebody pulled themselves onto land, all vertebrate life was in the sea.
You can almost hear this creature say in a Kerry accent, ‘Yerra, I wonder if this is such a good idea...’
PLAY TO THE GALLERY
‘IT’S amazing how often my soul goes to the National Gallery and how seldom I go myself,’ said essayist Logan Perseall Smith, no stranger, I’m sure, to readers of this column.
And of course Logan speaks for us all.
So this year pop into the National Gallery. Highlights include Caravaggio’s The Taking Of Christ.
Caravaggio led a violent life – he enjoyed prowling the streets of Rome, sword at hand, looking for victims to engage in an argument or a fight.
Surprisingly he made it to the ripe old age of 38. But he left behind some of the most sensational and glorious (not to mention campest) art.
Hellelil And Hildebrand, The Meeting On The Turret Stairs – a delicate Frederic William Burton watercolour – should likewise on no account be missed.
THEY say it’s impossible to lick your elbow, but you could give it a try to while away a boring business meeting.
HORSES FOR COURSES
SEE one of the greatest sporting paintings ever produced – Hambletonian Rubbing Down by George Stubbs.
It’s housed in Mount Stewart House, standing on the western shores of Strangford Lough, Co. Down.
The painting, one of the greatest ever studies of victory, pain and triumph, was completed when Stubbs was 75.
When the National Gallery in London staged a major exhibition, ‘Stubbs and the Horse’, in 2005, this one great work was missing – considered far too valuable to travel.
Game on: Israel’s 2018 Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai and, below, Thrones star Emilia Clarke