Hi, welcome to String Revolution. I'm Léan, I live in Dublin with my husband and two little boys, and I am a dangerous stringy subversive.
My job is to radiate my creative truth, and to help you radiate yours. I create, without exception, every day. I write here when I have something to say.

(learn more about me).

36 Things You Might Not Know About Me

The infant Léan in 1975, with my youthful mother
[The infant Léan in 1975, with my youthful mother]

1. It’s my birthday! I am 36.

2. I kind of love getting older. (So far.) I’ve been patiently waiting for my first grey hair for years – and finally found it in August. Happydance!

3. I was an only child until I was six and a half. My sister was born then, and four years (and one day) later, my brother arrived. They are brilliant and fabulous, jointly and severally.

4. I made my first public broadcast aged 4, in 1978 or 1979. Raidió na Gaeltachta, the Irish-language radio station, came to our school, and Performing Flea Me was put up on stage in front of the mike to sing a song called “Nóiníní Bána” (“white daisies”). Need I add that I can still remember all the words? I was wearing my best party dress, which was white and froufy with little flowers. I’m sure it looked great on radio.

5. All of my primary and secondary schooling was through Irish.

6. I was bullied in school. Not horribly, but chronically. To cope, I developed a faceless, armoured avatar, and left myself at the school gates every morning. Because I excelled academically, none of the adults I dealt with seemed to consider this a problem.

7. My childhood heroes included Sherlock Holmes, Jeeves, and Viola from Twelfth Night. I was also well into the Tudors, the châteaux of the Loire valley, and Catherine de’ Medici. I liked calligraphy, lace, Victoriana, classical music. I hated being treated as a simpleton merely because I was a child. Contemporary (i.e. 1980s) pop music, I described as “wah wah wah with green hair”. (I’m not entirely sure to what extent all of this was a reaction to no. 6 above, and to what extent it was a contributing factor.)

8. I’m still not a huge fan of mainstream 80s music, although I concede that there are gems amongst the Bros dross. When it comes to pop music, I’m a lyrics person all the way – I can’t like a song unless the lyrics speak to me, and my favourite songs are those I can sing with conviction. Songs I can’t sing with conviction, I can’t really pull off at all. This is part of the reason why I’m not a professional singer – I just can’t put my heart into the kind of pap you’re expected to sing a lot of the time. (Choir’s different. It just is.)

9. I had a thorough musical education. I’ve studied recorder, violin, piano, and singing, as well as music theory. I got quite good at the recorder, and not bad at the piano – although I never owned it the way some players do. Violin, I was dreadful at (because I couldn’t bear to play out of tune, thus I never practised). Voice is my instrument, really. Singing is like a kind of meditation.

10. I sing alto, although my teacher of ten years ago reckoned I’m actually a soprano. When in practice, I have a big range – three octaves plus. When drunk, I occasionally attempt to perform all four solo parts from the start of the “Tuba Mirum” in Mozart’s Requiem. This almost certainly does not sound as good as I think it does.

11. I’m mildly ambidextrous. I can do that trick where you get two pencils and write out from a centre point, going forwards with my right hand and backwards with my left. In copperplate script, if you like.

12. I’m fascinated by language – watching my children acquire and use it is amazing – but if you’d asked me twenty years ago, I would have guessed that languages other than English would play a much greater role in my life than they now do. As well as English, I speak fairly fluent Irish and French. I have reasonable passive German and Italian, and can (probably still) make myself understood in them. My functional Latin is now mostly confined to the religious texts we sing in choir.

13. I love food. My one unshakeable dislike is grapefruit. Everything else, I either love already, or I’m fairly sure I can learn to love once I find the right context for it. Unfortunately (I sometimes think), I really want to eat sustainably, which circumscribes things a bit. That’s not as bad, however, as having been off milk and its derivatives since spring 2007 (long story, to do with a sensitivity on the part of the Feaster). I hate that. I miss cheese, dammit! I’m hoping we can reintroduce dairy one of these days.

14. I am really, really, really bad at granting myself indulgences.

15. Indulgences I intend to grant myself when I get better at it include massage treatments, candle light, swimming, listening to my music (as opposed to that of whoever’s around me), going to the theatre, and reading actual books again.

16. The way some people feel about saying “I’m a writer” – you know, the terror, the fear of exposure as a fraud and so forth? I don’t have that. (In my family, everyone’s a writer of some description – oh, except my brother, the Black Sheep, who ran away to London to work in finance). But I feel exactly that way about saying “I’m an artist”.

17. Our house was built in 1932. It’s by far the youngest building I’ve ever lived in.

18. I have an exquisitely keen sense of my midline – an imaginary line that bisects the body. So I could, for instance, take a pen and, starting at the crown of my head, draw a line down the centre of my forehead, down my nose, down my philtrum, down my chin, over my larynx, down my torso between my breasts, over my navel, and so on down [redacted for decency], and then up again, along my spine and up the back of my skull to my crown again. The line is very fine – probably less than a millimetre wide on my head, a little blurrier on my torso. If someone is touching me, it’s very uncomfortable if they are near the line but don’t balance the touch on the other side of it.

19. All my life, I swore like a trooper. When the context invited it, I delighted in turning the air a fabulous shade of blue (and no, it’s not because I lack the capacity to express myself eloquently; I find that suggestion risible). But when the Oyster began to soak up vocabulary like a sponge, I realised that in fact I didn’t want to hear him using obscenities without first understanding more about their place in our language. So I stopped swearing. I went cold turkey at first, because it was actually quite difficult to reconfigure my idiolect. These days, I let my tongue off the hook when I’m not with children (or others who might be offended) – and it’s like finding a forgotten trunkful of beloved clothes in the attic. Yay language, in all its diversity!

20. I’m agnostic. To the core. The three-year-old Oyster was very put out when I explained this, and said, “Well … decide!” But no: I do not choose to answer questions that I consider unanswerable.

21. I have been writing a novel since 1 November 1999. I’ve finished it and everything – four times, in fact. But it’s not finished-finished. Perhaps it will be soon. That would be nice.

22. Nearly all of my old friends have moved away from Dublin. They are still indescribably precious to me, although I am terrible at keeping in touch.

23. I’m almost entirely unsqueamish. (Just don’t talk to me about alveoli.) I do all the drain-clearing around here, as well as dealing with rotting kitchen waste, turning the compost heap (all right, occasionally), and so forth. I also operate our collection of power tools (hammer drill! rarrrrr!). One day I’ll get myself that hoodie saying “Real Man”, which I’ve been promising myself for years.

24. The colours that make my heart sing are the intense blues, greens, purples, reds. Good colour combinations are more pleasurable than single colours. I prefer silver to gold. A rich saffron yellow with a deep plum makes me grin inside. Intellectually, I recognise that there must be people on whom shades of brown, rust, tan, ochre, olive, and so on have a similar effect. For me, those colours do nothing.

25. I have a fairish sense of direction, but a very poor sense of route. If I go somewhere and I’m not in charge of routing, I won’t be able to go there again afterwards without maps and directions and so on. And there are areas of Dublin where I’m quite sure the topology subtly shifts every time I go through them – because on each occasion, they seem entirely new and strange.

26. I used to win prizes all the time. School, local, regional, national. Then I stopped winning, so I stopped entering. I now have deep misgivings about competitive environments, particularly for children.

27. I talk to myself all the time. Often out loud. Frequently in an exaggerated upper-class English accent.

28. I’ve never had a pet. Not so much as a goldfish. Both my parents grew up with dogs and/or cats, but they didn’t carry the habit into their adult lives. I never particularly wanted a pet, either. Not that I’m against them; I just don’t hugely see the appeal (for me, yes? Your petfriendliness is beautiful and to be celebrated). Now the Oyster and the Feaster occasionally say they want us to get a kitten. I say, “yes, we’ll certainly discuss that”, and inwardly I think hmmm, I wonder who’d end up doing the care work.

29. I have perfect teeth. My dentist oohs and ahhs whenever she sees them. She tells me it’s nothing I’ve done right: I just got lucky genetically.

30. On the minor niggling ailments front, I have hay-fever, varicose veins, and a tendency to back pain. Since spring 2010 I also get regular injections of vitamin B12, which I’ve apparently stopped absorbing properly through my food.

31. Given a choice between form and function, I will always choose function. Say, sink taps that look fearfully stylish but are hard to turn? Bah and boo to them. Clothes that would ordinarily have pockets but don’t because it would “ruin the line”? Utterly pointless. Uncomfortable shoes? Infuriating. Meanwhile, my handbag, which is a small Jansport backpack that I’ve had for maybe six years and shows no signs of wear whatsoever? Ugly, but so damn functional I can’t imagine changing it.

32. Celebrity crushes aren’t really my thing. Having said that, I don’t at all mind looking at the three leads in Pirates of the Caribbean (viz. Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom), Sigourney Weaver, Helena Bonham Carter, or the young Al Pacino. Oh, and when I was a teenager I had quite a squishy soft spot for Michael Palin. (Cuddly.)

33. I can’t wear synthetic fibres. It’s not an allergy or anything – I simply hate the idea of them too much. If I make an effort, and buy a synthetic garment because I love everything else about it, I know from experience that it’ll just sit in my wardrobe, barely worn, until I give it away. This makes shopping for clothes ever so slightly excruciating. I’m able to make specific exceptions, sometimes: a coat that isn’t pure wool, lining material, nylon tights, 5% lycra in a cotton top, that sort of thing. I can do rayon, just about. But I am deeply freaked out by the thought of all these plastic fibres we produce – the mountains of badly made clothes we throw away every year – every day – every minute – that will take so much longer to break down in the ground than our own bodies.

34. When handling an everyday object, I frequently imagine an archaeologist digging it up five thousand years from now. What if this were the first thing from my culture to be unearthed? What would they conclude about us? I wonder if this is connected to my need to make things – real objects in the world?

35. My plans for String Revolution include audio, video, interviews, tutorials, patterns, products, services, and more. I am excited and daunted by this, and my monsters (bless them) think I should have done it all already.

36. I’m scared to click Publish, because half of the things on this list feel like I’m boasting, half feel like I’m revealing shameful secrets that will make you laugh at me, and the third half feel boring and irrelevant.

But I’m going to click it anyway, because hooray! It’s my birthday! Yay birthdays.

And yay you for reading my blog. Big hugs and kisses!

13 comments to 36 Things You Might Not Know About Me

  • What a marvelous list. I’m so very glad you clicked Publish.

    And, hmm, I’m thinking of doing this, too. Making a list, I mean. In a bit more than a week, I’ll be 52 (yay November birthdays). Hmm…. what to tell….

  • Grapefruit: me too! Can’t STAND the thing, it’s pure poison.

  • Eilín de Paor

    Well done Léan. I really enjoyed reading your list. You are such a natural writer. What quite interested me is that, even though we have not been in touch for many years, I was not at all surprised by most of it. You see, I think that even as a teenager, when most of us were struggling to know or create ourselves, you were already entirely yourself. I was always impressed by that. There is one thing you said that did surprise me. I am immeasurably saddened to learn that you were bullied at school. I hope that I do not know any of the bullies and that they are all long since out of your life. Belated happy birthday and thanks again for posting this. Keep enjoying growing older – I agree, it’s not that bad at all. Best wishes, Eilín

  • Eilín de Paor

    P.S. How can you not like grapefruit though…seriously :-0

  • I hate grapefruit too. And I am totally envious of your music and language talents…wow!

    Happy birthday…and thanks for sharing your list.

  • You should have got some of my genes – I’ve had grey hairs since my early twenties 🙂

  • Deirdre

    Oh, another year! Let’s go to the theatre together in 2011. One of my great regrets- and this will show me up as having had a very fortunate life – is not taking you up on your very kind offer to shout me a ticket to The Steward of Christendom. And I was sad to read about the bullying too. One of the things I like about getting older is the maturity-hard won in parts. But the challenge of keeping the fire of one’s youth….

  • Lovely list, Léan, and I hope it was a lovely birthday as well. You’ve inspired me to start compiling my own list for my birthday, which is going to be here before I know it. 🙂

  • Love this! Thanks for giving me a gift (getting to read this) on your birthday!

  • leannich

    @Lisa: Thank you! And good luck making your list. I should perhaps point out that these 36 things took me about a week to accumulate – start early if you want to get to 52 🙂

    @Josiane: Thank you!

    @She: I know! It’s the bitter kick at the back of the tongue that gets me. Yuck.

    @Eilín: Thank you so much – your comment really touched me. Mind you, I remember you seeming pretty definite about who you were in school, too. As for the bullying, it had really calmed down to a background level of indifference and default exclusion by the time I got to secondary school. It was worst in 4th class, and once I developed my strategy of emotionally checking out it seemed to ease off.

    PS: You can have my share of the grapefruit, so. Win-win.

    @Patty K: Woohoo, another grapefruit h8r! Thanks for your good wishes 🙂

    @Mollydot: Yes, I always envied your lovely stripe!

    @Deirdre: Yes, yes, yes indeed. Theatre, maturity, fire of one’s youth. Exactly.

    @Lori: Thanks, I had a lovely birthday. Nothing spectacular, just relaxed, and full of things like baking cake with my children and turning my back while they wrapped up random family possessions so I could open them.

    @Heidi: Thank you!

  • deirdre

    Oh man some of that list was familiar, I’ve been there, done that with some.

    Happy Birthday.

  • Thanks for your birthday present! I enjoyed reading that SO MUCH!
    I too thank you for posting!

    I am especially with you on number 24. I love bright, clear colours and don’t register browns, neutrals or pale colours.
    Oh and synthetic fibres. Me too.

    I would like to do this one day soon… Need to allow time for 46 🙂

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