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Finuala Dowling

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

NEW YEAR READINGS – The Olive Station, 7 pm on Thursday January 8

Celebrate literary newness, adventure, beginnings

The Olive Station

off Main Road, Muizenberg

6:30 for 7:15 pm, Thursday 8 January 2008

Cover: R30 – R10 for a glass of wine, plus R20 to the Catholic Welfare Zimbabwe cholera fund

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My New Play, Not-a-hundred-and-four, at the Milnerton Playhouse

Not 104I’m delighted to announce a production of my play Not a-hundred-and-four by Milnerton Players later this month. It’s part of a triptych I’m engaged in on the topic of dementia (the third part, a novel, may have to wait till arts funding changes in South Africa, by which time I myself may be a demented work of art).

I originally wrote it as a radio play for a 2007 BBC competition and it was listed in the top 100 of over 1000 entries. It’s been through a few drafts since then.

The play — like the poetry book, Notes from the dementia ward, launched this week — is about how dementia affects a family, the tensions that arise between siblings, and the heartrending decisions it leads to. There’s lots of humour in it too, not least because the matriarchal character — Ava Harding — .is both naturally witty and sliding into madness. Another reason to see the play is that my daughter, Beatrice Willoughby, makes her big stage debut.
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It is difficult to explain

Notes from a Dementia WardNotes on Notes from the Dementia Ward

A useful poetry exercise is to ask students to begin a poem with the phrase, ‘It is difficult to explain…’ They can ditch the phrase later, but the idea behind the exercise is to trick them (by asking them to complete the sentence and elaborate) into describing something that is on their personal continuum from problematic to unfathomable.

The exercise is one that comes straight from my own writing practice – I often feel the urge to type those very words when I sit down to compose, full of thoughts but with no words as yet to explain the predicament within. Not exactly ‘no words’. At the beginning of the creative process, I feel like an archaeologist piecing together extant papyrus fragments and then guessing what goes in the lacunae.

What was difficult to explain, as I wrote many of the poems that are about to be published by Kwela in my new collection, Notes from the dementia ward, was the effect of caring for my mother as she descended inexorably into dementia; the feeling of betrayal as we committed her to institutionalised frail care; the panic and despair as I failed to match the burden of caring with necessary extra income; and in the midst of it all, the sudden death of a beloved and apparently healthy brother.

Within this period of loss – theft, really, it felt like at times – there were of course also lighter moments, lightning flashes of love and hilarity. Notes from the dementia ward does not depart from my favoured tragic-comic pitch.
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Poetry with Piano – Lit-Blitz Fundraiser – Poetry Workshop

Poetry with Piano

On Monday 16th June I will be reading with Charl-Pierre Naudé in the cellar at The Olive Station, Main Road Muizenberg. The show starts at 7.15 pm.

Louis Zurnamer Louis has chosen piano pieces from the classical repertoire that “speak to” the poems with witty underscoring, lyrical interludes and nutty improvisations. A weighted keyboard will stand in for the baby grand of your imagination.

The Olive Station’s fully licensed restaurant will be open from 6pm, serving Mezza plates, soups and Lebanese Lamb and Bean Stew, with coffee and cake available for dessert before and after the show.

Ticket price is R60 and booking is essential. Phone The Olive Station on (021) 788 3264.

Lit-blitz fundraiser

On Sunday 15th June at 6pm, I will be reading with at Baobab Books in the Baobab Mall, Long Street. The line-up, with Guy Willoughby as MC, includes Gus Ferguson, Patricia Schonstein, Beukes, Hugh Hodge, Sarah Lotz, Epiphanie Mukasano, Mary Magdalene Yuin Tal and Sam Wilson, as well as the seven-minute movie Klean Kut by Terry Westby Nunn.
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What I hate about interviews

…speaking of Kalk Bay Books, here’s a piece I wrote to help Ann Donald launch her great website:


First, I must say that I’ve had some wonderful interviews – with John Maytham, Michelle McGrane, Victor Dlamini, Leon de Kock, Sue Seger, among others. But like most writers, I’ve also on occasion been ‘interviewed’ by charlatans and sadists.
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Cape Cool Comedy – What-what Whatever

More from the Dowling SIsters on 28th March 2008 at the Olive Station, Muizenberg…

Do any of the following irritate you?

a) loadshedding Yes/No

b) recorded voices telling you that “your call is important to us” Yes/No

c) doctors whose minds are clearly on their next golf game rather than your health Yes/No

d) supermarket staff using queues as discussion therapy opportunities Yes/No

e) handymen who turn a loose screw into a wholesale demolition job Yes/No

f) people who confuse a work ethic with racism Yes/No

g) self-appointed experts signing South Africa’s death certificate Yes/No

If you didn’t choose YES at least once, then Cape Cool What-what Whatever is not for you! But if you found yourself ticking YES, contact The Olive Station, Muizenberg, and book now for this hilarious series of comic skits starring Jeremy Blackburn and Tessa Dowling.

BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL! Phone 021 788 3264. Entrance is R60; a special, optional Olive Station menu will available for those who want to sup; show starts around 8h15pm. Please have credit card details ready to pay for the show when you call (you can also book and pay cash at the door).

Gratuitous information

This short story appeared in the January edition of The Big Issue. The February edition is now out – buy your copy today!

The book wasn’t very interesting. Only Pat had made it past chapter one. The book club was fascinated by the author, though. He was known around Cape Town for making women fall in love with him before cruelly rejecting them.

“Genevieve tried to climb the drainpipe outside his bedroom,” offered Lily. “The bastard wouldn’t open the window. She’d have fallen to her death if the Chubb Alarm guy hadn’t caught her.”

It was absurd how much they all knew about each other in this town, thought Pat. For instance, she knew that Lily herself had arrived drunk at a dinner party given by the famous but hard-to-read author and thrown up in the soup. What was one supposed to do with all this gratuitous information?

The book club’s talk turned to sex, which was easier than pretending to have read the roué’s eleventh novel. Pat listened without participating. She wanted sex as much as she wanted a carrot in her ear. No, that was not true – she’d prefer the carrot because then at least she could get on with chores. You could get a load of towels folded with a carrot in your ear, if you had good balance and didn’t need to answer the telephone in between. The same could not be said of sex. On the other hand, she only had to have sex once a month, whereas she did the towels daily.
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The Dowling Sisters would love to see you at their earthworm evening at the Olive Station, Muizenberg, Thursday 6 December at 20h30.

Entrance R30 includes free worms.

Booking essential:
021 7883264

Back by popular demand, Patrick Dowling explains how to start an earthworm farm and save the planet. Includes skit, poem and Jamie Oliver style demonstration.

Gus and Dave Ferguson at the Olive Station

Come to the Olive Station on Friday 23 November at 20.30 when everybody’s favourite local poet, the witty and soulful Gus Ferguson will present a selection of his poems, mainly from his new collection Dubious Delights of Ageing and Other Follies.

He will be aided by Dave Ferguson (harmonica and beatvox humana). “Dave Ferguson has to be one of the best harmonica players in the world. This man is a show on his own!”
Boulevard Blues

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On good and bad and just plain gossipy poetry

Not unrelated to my previous blogs about poverty, I find myself teaching poetry. More disquieting still, I find myself marking poetry.

How do you assign a mark to a poem?

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