Looking forward to singing along at Catskills Irish Arts Week.Caty Bartholomew

It was the Sadstice here last week rather than the summer Solstice as the young broken bodies from Berkeley arrived home to a numbed nation for burial.

Just thrice in my long writing life have words failed me. Always because of the fangs of tragedies. It has happened now.

In the past kind editors like our own Debbie have enabled me to cope by leaving a blank space on my page to represent somehow sympathy, empathy, the vacuum of hurting and shock for the families and friends and the nation. Maybe some of you can fill this blank space with your own sympathies and prayers? Please do that.

Afterwards I will move on with no further comment because life goes on, does it not, and that is the way of this demandingly complex world.....

Moving on, as we must, I have to say how much I am looking forward to returning to the Catskills this month for the hugely enjoyable craicaganza, so to speak, that is the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham.

I was there for the first time last year, chaperoned by my daughter Ciara and the powerful Sligo balladeer Mai Hernon and, though I have had a good year since, that week in the Catskills was the best of all. The fact that the invitation to return takes me out of Ireland for Orangemen’s Day, the fiery Twelfth of July, is an added garnish and bonus.

I will state categorically again, as I did after last year's experience, that the East Durham event in what has long been the summertime playground of the Irish, is at least as stimulating, warm-hearted and enjoyable as the fabled Willie Clancy Summer School here in Clare which, aptly enough, wends to close on the very Orange day on which the Catskills festival begins.

I will get to spend a night in Miltown Malbay before catching the plane over to New York, but already I know that the best elements of the Clare festival will be making the same trip and will arrive fresh and well in Rip Van Winkle

territory. Ciara cannot travel this year, unfortunately, and she is consumed with the greenest of jealousy.

Without harking back directly to recent events in California, it is a fact that nowadays the soul and spirit of the diaspora in the U.S. (and in Britain and Europe too when I've encountered it) is somehow even warmer and stronger than in many areas of the homeland.

I do not fully understand that and it is not easy to admit it, but there is ample proof that in some amazing way the Cead Mile Failte not alone survived the coffin ships of the Famine and afterwards but also mutated into a very special communal thing indeed.

As Mick Dolan used say in my childhood, "You could warm your hands with it on a winter’s day!" And your soul too.

I so look forward to my week in the hills and, as before, to meeting many of you readers also. Special greetings here to Pat and Ann who know who they are. The first coffee is on me.

A negative side of our festival season here in the west and indeed throughout the country can be the reality that, especially at weekends, the quality of the music and dancing and craic for the majority attending can be diluted by the presence of some young folk who, frankly, want none of that at all and are only there for the beer.

It is not a major issue and they are entitled to have their brand of fun but it can, and sometimes does, add a bit of "edge" to the evening that we can do without.

As the best musicians in Ireland came over and played their hearts out in the Catskills last year I noted with great joy that everybody, young and old, were fully partaking of the flow of the festival and there was no "edge" at all.

I will get my wordage back before the week is over for sure. I will talk too much for sure, just like always, and I will enjoy every note of all the musics, maybe especially the like of Robbie O'Connell and Mary Bergin and the stories of the step dancing maestro Timmy the Brit and the balladry of Mai Hernon.

Reidin O'Flynn, the energetic director, will ensure that I will turn up for duty every morning and afternoon of a truly therapeutic time spent in the heart of your special diaspora. And I will sing a song or too, also, with my cracked old nicotined voice, just to prove how much I am enjoying myself again after the Sadstice of 2015.