The Weekly Balance – #54

Welcome to the latest post of The Weekly Balance. Let’s have a look back at the past seven days in my life and what I’ve learnt from it.

What I’m thinking about

Vaccines against COVID-19! It’s been the main headline of the news for weeks now – in Ireland, our vaccination roll out began just before New Year’s, and supply chain ups and downs aside, our programme has been on-going since. Maybe not as fast as we would all like, but we have to remember as well that pretty much every country in the world wants vaccines against COVID-19 right now, so that’s a pretty competitive market. It’s amazing nonetheless to see vaccines being administered around the country – a mark of huge progress since this time last year, when our first case of COVID-19 in this country had yet to be announced. A serious achievement for science, it has to be said. This weekend I was delighted and very grateful to receive (as I’m considered an essential healthcare worker) my second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and I mean it when I say I don’t take that privilege lightly. I sincerely hope that we can vaccinate as many people as safely possible over the coming weeks and months. It’s the light at the end of a long and often dark tunnel that we need right now. You can find more information on COVID-19 vaccination in Ireland here.

What I’m reading

This week I finished Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, the second book I’ve read by Jones – I read American Marriage earlier this year which some of you might have read my review of previously. I didn’t love American Marriage – that’s not to say I didn’t like it, I just didn’t feel like I got to know the characters well or connected with them. Silver Sparrow was a very different type of story – set in Atlanta, it is told through the narrative voice of two teenage girls who don’t know they are in fact sisters – Dana Lynn and Chaurisse. Their father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist – married to both of their mothers, Gwen and Laverne. Gwen and Dana know James is a bigamist – Laverne and Chaurisse, the wife and daughter he presents to the world, do not.

We meet and get to know Dana as she tells the first half of the book’s story, her world where her father keeps his marriage to her mother a secret, visiting them now and then – Chaurisse’s perspective follows, the life where her father is hers and hers alone, she and Laverne living a grander life than Dana and her mother do. But what will happen if and when James’s big secret is let out? That’s the tipping point the book builds towards through Dana’s half of the book, and… you’ll just have to read it to know how that unfolds!

I enjoyed this book – it’s a page turner, it tackles some big issues, and challenges your thoughts about each of the characters as it progresses. Dana and Gwen feel they have to fight for James’s attention and investment in them as a family , while Chaurisse and Laverne don’t even know they had competition for it. James as a character was hard to understand – clearly he feels he is a man who is just trying to do the right thing, yet lives his life as a bigamist. The book dives back into the early history of his relationship with Laverne and Gwen, both of which could not be more different, and I think that’s an important part of the book. All the same, I didn’t find him a particularly likeable character – in contrast to his brother Raleigh, who just seemed a bit more… down to earth? Level headed? I’m not sure. My favourite part of the book was Chaurisse’s side of the story – it’s also the more fast-paced half of the book too. All in all, it’s a book I’d recommend, I preferred it over An American Marriage definitely.

As always, let me know what you’re reading in the comments below! I’m currently reading Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout.

What I’m listening to

This week there were a few podcast episodes I really enjoyed actually. I’ve listed the top three below for you guys:

How To Fail with Elizabeth Day: The first episode of series 10 of this podcast was absolutely brilliant – an interview with Jameela Jamil, whose podcast and platform I Weight I’m a big fan of. In this episode, Day speaks to Jamil about failures, her I Weigh movement, and so much more. An honest and very relatable chat.

The Women’s Podcast: I love The Irish Times Women’s podcast, and I dove back into their archives this week to listen to an interview with Elizabeth Strout, author of several books including Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again, which I’m currently reading. It’s a lovely interview with Strout, discussing her inspiration for Olive Kitteridge’s character, why she chose to write a sequel, and her writing routine.

Desert Island Discs: I listened to a wonderful episode of this podcast this week – an interview with astronaut Tim Peake. It’s a fascinating interview, where he discusses his career to date, what being in space is actually like (including the training and mental preparation for it), and his song selections are spot on too – he even picks Aerosmith ‘Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ as the song that reminds him of missing his wife – a podcast to make you smile.

What I’m watching…

It’s a Sin. I said last week I had started this show, and I finished the final episode towards the end of this week. Oh my GOSH it’s brilliant. Heart-breakingly brilliant. It follows a group of friends, many of whom are gay, living in London in the 1980s as the HIV/AIDS crisis drew closer and closer to the UK. It tackles the stigma surrounding homosexuality in every single episode, stigma which was made all the more cruel because of the misconceptions back then about HIV/AIDS being a virus and disease that only affected homosexual men. The show is witty, poignant, clever and as I said, it will break your heart, but it’s a must-watch. I watched it on Channel 4 On Demand (free to watch) and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

And that’s a wrap for this week gang! If you want to get in touch, you can find me @theirishbalance on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I hope you have a lovely week ahead folks – remember, stay informed with the advice from your local health authority regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance and be kind!

Ciara x

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