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photograph of irish whistles


If You Were Mine has gone off to the printer, and after working intensively on the final edit there is a feeling that, without the bulky presence of the manuscript, my days have suddenly lost their shape.

Amid the debris of books, maps, notebooks, miscellaneous crumpled sheets of paper, pencils and pencil shavings, is the tin whistle I bought on my research trip to Dublin, along with a couple I have purchased since.

This Walton's D whistle, on which I tooted and squeaked my way through an excruciating two-hour intensive lesson at Walton's Music School, cost less than ten dollars. It has a shamrock-green fipple and a shiny nickel body, and already my fingers have spent enough time on it to have left faintly discoloured ovals around its holes. The newest whistle, a Dixon, cost a good bit more but is proving temperamental, given to sudden slurs and episodes of yodelling that are sure to be my inexperience; ironically, the cheap whistle's tone is infinitely sweeter.

What began as research for the novel has become a fixture. I've not only taken up regular whistle lessons but having fallen in love with the moody sound of low D whistles and having ordered one from the UK, I spend at least an hour each day wrestling with a length of black pvc pipe with six holes in it which can, in theory, produce a sound haunting enough to raise the dead. But at least there will always be something to do on dreich Sunday afternoons in winter. It is strange the way writing fiction almost always leaves the writer permanently altered.