My Weekend: Reviews opened a whole new world to me

Glanmire based Mairéad Hearne of book review blog ‘Swirl and Thread’ tells us how she likes to spend her weekends
My Weekend: Reviews opened a whole new world to me

Mairéad Hearne. Pictures: Odhran Duchie

Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Mairéad Hearne, and I am a bookaholic. Originally from Wilton, I moved to Glanmire in 1999 with my husband. We have two daughters and, it’s true what they say, the years do pass by very fast. I gave up full-time employment following the birth of my eldest in 2004, but I have always been doing something, from volunteering to part-time work.

Years ago, I started a blog, Swirl and Thread, which developed into a book review blog that has since been a catalyst for the direction my life has taken. I have a passion for books, and I am a very enthusiastic reader. When I started to review it opened up a whole new world providing me with some wonderful opportunities to attend events, book launches and book awards ceremonies.

The writing community is a very special group of people, so very welcoming and always so delighted to chat, whether online or in real life. Also, I have to mention the book blogging community. Although primarily virtual, I have made so many blogging buddies on Twitter where I spend way too much time! The support is second to none. I really did find my tribe.

In Cork, and across the country, we are lucky to have incredibly talented writers producing some amazing work. The literary world is visibly buzzing with activity with so many festivals and events taking place at any given time. The Cork World Book Festival this month and the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry in July are two fantastic occasions and all very accessible to everyone. I have been invited on local radio to discuss books and have been a panellist at the Cork World Book Festival. I have also been honoured to launch books and to have been a host at a recent festival event.

One of the best decisions I have made in recent times was to return to college last September, to upskill from my B.Comm degree (1992). I applied for the Certificate in Digital Marketing in MTU, run by Stephen Ryan and Zahid Aslam. It was a very intense course, further developing my digital marketing skills and also giving me back some of the confidence I had lost over the years. I now work as a PA for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin across her portfolio, which includes, Murder One International Crime Writers Festival and also, with her author hat on, Sam Blake. My role is mixed across many literary areas, including digital marketing, SEO and social media.

On my LinkedIn Page I have a quote from C.S. Lewis which I truly believe in — ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream’

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

My ideal Friday night has changed over the years. Where once I’d have been ‘out out’, now you’re more likely to find me sharing a bottle of vino and watching a movie.

Lie ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

In an ideal world I’d be up at the dawn enjoying the sunrise while listening to the birds, but I go to bed way too late for that. Weekdays I’m up at 7am and on weekends it’s around 9am.

Mairéad Hearne. Pictures: Odhran Duchie
Mairéad Hearne. Pictures: Odhran Duchie

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Not really. I try to schedule as much as possible in advance. I do write reviews and blog posts over the weekend though, which does eat into my free time.

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

Oh, definitely Trieste in Italy and it would have to be with my husband. Since reading NORA by Nuala O’Connor my interest has piqued even more. And of course, it’s the home of good coffee!

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

We tend to go to Garryvoe, as it’s the nearest beach to where we live. On Mother’s Day my youngest and I took off there with a flask of soup in a picnic basket. After a very brief, wet walk, we returned to the car and enjoyed our warm lunch to the sound of the waves crashing outside. Nearby in Glanmire, we have The Rocky Road which is a beautiful 6km walk, with much of it via a wooded, pedestrianised path.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

Growing up we were a big rugby family. I spent many a weekend over in Dolphin RFC so I’ll always watch a live game on TV when the opportunity is there. We recently went to the women’s international against France in Musgrave Park and, while the result was not in our favour, the atmosphere was electric.

Up to Christmas I was doing a bit of running but I damaged my knee so that’s all on hold for treatment. I hope to get back to it as soon as I can. Running really is my escape valve.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter do you have a signature dish?

I love both to be honest but in the last few years we haven’t done much of either. The pandemic really impacted all of us socially.

My signature dish is a Spanish Stew made with chorizo and cannellini beans. It doesn’t have the looks, but the flavour is really delicious. It was a recipe I tore out of a magazine years ago and it has stood the test of time. I have also dusted off my slow cooker recently, thanks to Nathan Anthony and I can highly recommend his Slow Cooker Roast Chicken Dinner. Trust me on this one!

We have so many places to eat out in Cork— where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

Fellini’s is a big favourite in our house. We have always gotten a table there, no matter the day. The food is consistently good and the staff are all so very welcoming. Recently we had dinner at Sketch in The Imperial Hotel, and it was top class service, with extra attention given to my daughter whose birthday we were celebrating. The Barn does a fantastic breakfast and has a great atmosphere. I’m a little fussy with my coffee as I drink an Americano (black, no sugar), but I will say Cork Coffee Roasters never fails. Recently I also discovered Umi Falafel on Academy Street and had the most delicious lunch (of falafels of course)

Sunday night comes around too fast... how do you normally spend it?

I am a huge reader, so once all the household jobs are done, it’s feet up and I grab my current read and get through a few chapters.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

7am every week day I am woken to the beeps of my alarm clock and every single time I berate myself for not going to bed earlier the night before. I’m not so sure I’ll ever manage it.

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