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Three and a half years ago I became vegetarian. Three and a half weeks ago, anticipating a certain health diagnosis at any time, I also gave up all added sugar in my diet. My mother is of a certain generation and, although a very good cook, struggles to know what to offer guests with specific dietary restrictions. She once had a vegetarian and a coeliac for dinner at the same time, and nearly lost her reason! So, the idea for this blog was born. Every recipe that features here will be vegan (and, obviously, vegetarian), gluten free, sugar free, lactose and dairy free, and suitable for people on a low sodium diet. That's right, you read that correctly. Even if you have guests with each of these restrictions coming to the same meal, everything here is safe for them. And, before you expect weird and wonderful ingredients to make an appearance, everything I'm using can be bought in larger branches of all major supermarkets - you don't even need to visit health food stores. Try the recipes and tell me what you think!

So What's This Tweet Treats Thingy All About?

Watch the brilliant 30 second trailer below and all will become clear!

Tweet Treats Trailer from Catherine Ryan Howard on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Pint And A Haircut

While working on tweettreat, I was introduced on Twitter to @PintAndAHaircut, a guy called Garret Pearse who was working on a similar project; a compilation of true Irish stories to benefit Haiti. I sent a very short piece to Garret, and was delighted when he decided to include it in the book.

The book has now been launched, titled A Pint and A Haircut: True Irish Stories for Haiti, and all royalties are going to Concern's Haiti Fund.

I decided to interview Garret for this blog, curious about the similarities between our projects:

So Garret, how did you come up with the idea for Pint and a Haircut in the first place?

Last Christmas, I got a book from my sister called ‘True Tales of American Lives’ which was a compilation of true American stories submitted by listeners to a show hosted by the author Paul Auster on National Public radio.    While I was in the middle of reading it, I heard about the awful earthquake in Haiti and I had the idea of doing an Irish version as a way of raising money for Haiti. 

Where on earth did the title for A Pint and a Haircut come from?

I racked my brains for weeks to come up with a title but couldn’t think of one I was happy with.  They were all a bit clichéd and unremarkable.  I then ran a competition for people to submit their suggestions and while I got some pretty good ones, none of them really grabbed me.  Then I got a suggestion from a lady called Jean Cousins to just use the name of one of the stories I’d posted on my blog, ‘A Pint and a Haircut’ and I thought – yep – that’s it!  Now why didn’t I think of that weeks ago?!  Funnily enough, ‘A Pint and a Haircut’ was the very first story I received. 

Compiling a book like this is a huge amount of work to take on. Are you by any chance slightly mad?

I’ve a great ability for blind optimism and self deception.  When I first sent out the email asking people to send in their stories, I thought it would be just a case of checking my email account a few days later and selecting some of hundreds of stories and then sending of to a publisher who would fall at my feet in admiration while offering me a deal on the spot!

The reality was obviously a little different.  Everybody said ‘oh that’s a great idea, I know someone who could give you a story’ but that missed the point – I wanted them to tell me story.  In hindsight, I now realise how hard it can be for someone to sit down and put pen to paper.

All the same, it’s been amazing how generous people have been in so many ways to get the project to where it is now – generous with their stories, their advice, their help, their money (Thanks SoftCo!) and even just their enthusiasm which kept me going through the darker moments.

You seemed to get a publishing deal very quickly. Who did you have to sleep with to get that? ;-)

What? I could have slept with someone instead?!  Now there’s a bit of advice I could have done with ages ago! 
Seriously, I got some good advice from the likes of Willie O’Reilly at TodayFM who suggested getting a sponsor to help defray some of the publishing costs.  I’m very fortunate that I work for an Irish company (yes that same SoftCo) who are incredibly supportive of charity projects. Securing some very generous sponsorship from them made the approach to publishers a lot easier.  I submitted my idea and a few of the stories to Londubh and it moved pretty quickly from there.

Who exactly will benefit from the book, and how?

All the royalties from the book will go to Concern’s ongoing relief work in Haiti.  The last story in the book is from Mary Donohoe, a Concern worker in Haiti and it illustrates better than I can, how critical it is that Haiti continues to receive help and how beneficial that help can be.

Who are the people who contributed to the book?

One of the most pleasing aspects of the book is how diverse the contributors have been.  Stories have come from people from all walks of life, of all ages and from all around the world.  I received a few stories from established writers but also from people who have only recently started to write and even those who’d never put pen to paper before and just wanted to help with the project.

Was it difficult to choose the stories that finally made it into the book?
Yes, extremely.  And that’s not a facetious answer.  We had to leave some fantastic stories out for the simple reason that we didn’t have room and I tossed and turned for a week fretting over which ones to include and which ones to leave behind.  Included in those left out was one by submitted by my mother.  She seemed to take it well although she did mention something about meeting her solicitor the next day ‘to make some changes’ to something or other...Actually now that I think of it, she hasn’t had me round for dinner in ages either...hmmmm....

Were there any common themes running through the stories?
While not every story necessarily fit into a theme, we did receive a number of stories relating to similar topics – death, health and parents being the most common (which, it being an Irish collection, didn’t surprise me).  What was great was the diversity of stories even within those themes.

Have you a personal favourite story, or one that really struck a chord with you? 
It sounds trite but all the stories mean something to me.  However, I do find myself coming back to a few in particular.  If I were to pick one that I think combines everything I was hoping for in a story, it would be Speech! Speech! by Ian O’Malley.  It evokes many emotions from humour to sadness to hope and is an unmistakeably Irish story.

And finally, how can we get our hands on a copy?
The book should be available in all good book shops throughout Ireland.  It is being distributed by Argosy and Easons Wholesalers.
It is also available to buy online direct from the publisher, Londubh.

Thanks for that, Garret, and I wish you every success with the book - it's an amazing thing to have taken on!

If you'd like to read more, the gorgeous cover design is by @eolai who has blogged about it here


  1. Why have you no comments? I wonder are they being eaten? I thought I left one yesterday. Anyway, great post and lots of information in there. I can't wait to get my hands on the book - bet it'll be brilliant (am I allowed say that?)And poor Mammy Pearse!! M.x

  2. That is a wonderful interview, Jane! I'll be ordering my copy soon. x