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My Week Anne McCabe

Anne McCabeAs frogs spawn and Enda says sorry, our bitter winter recedes

Spring is in the air, infusing the author and director with a welcome lease of life


The frogs are splish-splashing. and actually saying “grrroccobiiitt”, Frogs spawn black jelly scum in the rivulets. Life is back at last, the sap rising to restore us after feeling brittle and grey like twigs. January was a hard month.

I’m in Coolattin woods listening to frogs, and remembering Jerome. The plaque carved under an oak tree reads: “The seed that bears my soul shall fly, and I will live forever.” My friend who died of Aids, aged 36, is dead now 20 years. Paddy in Wicklow says he made you feel special – it was those piercing blue eyes. He’d carried his coffin along with The Edge. I’d forgotten that.

Up in Dublin for the mid-term, criss-crossing the country, only two hours door-to-door, the motorway a boon. Yet I bate cars and the perils of Junction 8. This dichotomy: east-west, city-country, writing-directing, the inner life and the outer. On the motorway I drive under a rainbow, its prism sweeping down onto the tarmac. I wonder if I’ll find a pot of gold.


The delights of Dublin include the burnt-coffee smell in the door of Bewley’s. Cora Fenton, one of my actors from Deception, is in Fred and Alice at the theatre there, an exhilarating hour of theatre about mental disability. On to Alice Maher at Irish Museum of Modem Art. I love the hair and the big ball of briars, criss-crossed, like my mind.

Discover the Italian quarter for dinner with friends; very buzzy, feels like I’m abroad. I take the Luas (and think: about time Galway got a Gluas) down to Smithfield for the film festival. Lore is not exactly a bundle of laughs – post-war Nazi children on the run, very unsettling – but isn’t that what art’s for?

Monday back In Galway brings some order to the day, which is punctuated by Nora’s school schedule and
ballet classes. She’s trying out her newfound love of Shakespeare, quoting reams from The Merchant of Venice. She dances selected scenes from La Bayadere, just for me. We saw it at the Bolshoi, courtesy of live transmission from Moscow in the Eye Cinema.

I love the village size of Galway, every comer crammed with poets, musicians and artists. I’m almost not a blow-in after 15 years here. No matter my location, I’m on-demand by text, email and Facebook: all these virtual connections, paths criss-crossing at speed, a ball of briars. At least the lambs outside bleat the same
tune, and the drystone walls are solid. I try to imagine a simpler life, 500 years ago In this same tower where I now live.


Of course I cannot complain about the virtual world because, at last, Under the Avalanche is available as an eBook thanks to PubliBook Ireland. Its theme of secrets and shame reflects the current Irish psyche, thanks to the recent Magdalene report.

Tuesday is a spring morning. Spot sniffs at fox trails, his zest for life undaunted despite his tumour. The sun rises as a jubilant ball over frosty fields; crows caw in bare branches over Celtic crosses in the graveyard – my own personal art gallery.

Suddenly winter, with its bitter regime of punishing torrents, is absolved. Like Enda Kenny. He said sorry, and meant it. Whumpf, right in the solar plexus, compassion straight to the gut, Big boys don’t cry. Men of courage do. Apparently a Magdalene survivor in the Dail gallery said: “I hope someone thanks him for us.”

What was that about the quality of mercy? “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven …” Bookseller Des Kenny asks where’s the next book, as all those fans are waiting. So I print out all 250 pages of the new manuscript. It now lies waiting on my desk for an edit, accusing. I dive into the text, thrashing around to solve a structural problem, until I come up with a nugget from the deep.

It’s Book Club night, reading Gillian Flynn’s addictive Gone Girl with a supportive group of women who first encouraged me to publish. I never knew when I wrote Under the Avalanche what effect it would have, so when my first reader rang to say she cried at the end, well, I was over the moon. We are above all visceral creatures; we feel before we think.

Time to spawn some more.

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