Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Brief Distraction From Our Monetary Woes

View From My Bedroom Window 2/12/2010

I'd like to believe that this unseasonal snowfall is God's gift to the children of Ireland. After all they've been exposed to so much negative energy these past few weeks: from their parents, one of whom may have lost their job; from their teachers, whose futures now seem very bleak indeed; from every tv and radio station blasting out the same old mantras of how Ireland is financially doomed. Children being children pick up on these things.

So, the good man above has decided enough is enough. What better way could he light up the faces of our children than for them to wake up to a magical winter wonderland! Yes, that's exactly what happened.

My Snowcapped Recycling Bins

The past week has been amazing. The depth of the snow has taken me right back to my childhood in Ringsend where my friends and I would build giant snowmen and bring them to life by the usual means of eyes, nose, hat and scarf. Thank goodness I'm old enough to remember the harsh winter of 1963, not to mention one or two earlier ones!

My Front Garden

While the present weather conditions are a source of great fun for a lot of people, I am very aware that for some it's causing nightmares. Apart from people being stranded on motorways etc, one couple in County Wexford had what might have been a very serious situation turn into a joyous occasion. The mum-to-be was rescued from her rural home and later delivered not one but three beautiful boys in Wexford General Hospital. Wow!

OK, while God probably had some hand in providing the much needed relief from our money problems, I'm more inclined to believe Mother Nature played a major role!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Before We Had A Telly

I was around twelve years old when my Dad finally agreed we could have a television and that was because not only was it coming up to Christmas it was also that he wanted to see the horse racing which I remember started around St. Stephen's Day and ran over a few days. I loved the English commentator's posh accent which sadly you don't hear any more and so much did I love it that in recent times I've actually YouTubed races just to hear that voice again!

Well, prior to having our own telly I was invited sometimes twice a week by a neighbour at the top of our avenue to watch the childrens' programmes on our national broadcasting station, Telefis Eireann, which started at 5.00pm. She was a lovely lady, Mrs. Reston, whose husband worked for Urney's, the chocolate manufacturers. He used to drive the company's Volkswagen van and got to bring home all the broken chocolate, a lot of which his dear wife would every so often give me tons of in a brown paper bag. It was like living next door to Willy Wanka!

Back to the telly. The first programme that comes to mind and which I continued to watch for many years was "Let's Draw with Blaithin", (Irish name pronounced "Blawheen"). A simple, yet extremely well presented programme where a young lady with an easel and large white sheets of paper showed us in great detail how to draw basic images such as bowls of fruit, flowers etc. She would then complete the picture which looked as good as any great work of art. All that of course was in glorious black and white.

Other great favourites were the cartoons, "Tom and Jerry", "The Pink Panther", not to mention "Felix The Cat", I adored him! All of these were viewed in the comfort of Mrs. Reston's front room with me seated in an armchair (what luxury!) with a little coffee table holding my slice of cake on a lovely patterned plate and a glass of lemonade. That hour twice a week was my time in Heaven.

I did have to make sure I left at exactly 6.00pm because that was when Mr. Reston would arrive home from work. It was always drummed into me that when the husband came home you left because it was very bad manners to be in the house when the family were about to have their tea. (Tea time back then was always between 5-6pm).

Two more programmes I remember with great affection, especially the latter were "The Flintstones" and "National Velvet", the beautiful story of a young girl whose dream was that her horse would one day run in the Grand National Steeplechase. Those I got to see in our neighbour's house across the road on a Sunday afternoon because I used to mind their baby, even on a Sunday, I loved it. A few years later when I would babysit their then two children on a Wednesday night I'd get to see "The Wednesday Play" on BBC 1. Oh my God, if only my poor mother knew what I was watching!

We didn't have any of the UK channels because we didn't have the aerial on the roof, just the cat's ears sitting on top of the telly! God be with the days when a good thump, usually from my father, on the telly top or a few minor adjustments to the cat's ears always got the picture back to some degree of focus not to mention straightening out the zig zag lines! The snow of course was an accepted part of our viewing, if it was slightly less on some nights we had an excellent picture! It's scary how far technology has since come.

So, there's my happy memories of early 1960s Irish television, one station called Telefis Eireann and do you know what - the quality of their programmes was far superior to a lot of what is shown nowadays. Maybe television should close down again at 11.00pm, sure after that it's just complete rubbish!

To end I will use the nightly phrase of the television continuity announcer which was "Oiche mhaith agus codladh sámh", translated from Irish means, "Good night and sleep well".

Vintage TV Image via:
Telefis Eireann logo Image via:
Felix The Cat Image via:
TV Rooftop Aerial Image via:


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

West Cork Beckons One More Time

At some point during our holiday earlier this year in Allihies in the beautiful Beara Peninsula we decided we'd return for a while towards the end of the year to experience a little of the harsh Atlantic winds that beat the south west coast during the winter months. (See previous two posts for holiday and location link details).

Well, we're back here, perhaps a little too early to experience any great weather change but nevertheless to enjoy once again the beauty and tranquility of the place decribed to us last time by some of its residents as "magic". I'm inclined to believe them.

Hubby has been down here two weeks ahead with me joining him last Wednesday. My immediate feeling was that I never left the place since July, yet at times it feels like it was sometime last year, very strange indeed. Each time I visit I'm beginning to feel more and more that I'm coming home, the only other places having that hold over me is my hometown of Ringsend and London.

We're continuing our usual travels with strolls down the long bohreens, along the Ballydonegan Bay coastline and lots of hill climbing on the Beara Way walks. What is amazing is the weather, there are days when the sun feels as strong as it was during July so along with the clear blue skies it's difficult to realise we're into the first week of October!

The only clue to the season is when walking along the bohreens you notice that the berries have all but died on the bushes and the flowers have begun to wilt, what was once green is now taking on autumnal shades. Beautiful nonetheless. I'll be here until the end of the first week of November so meantime I'm really looking forward to some exciting weather conditions with dark skies and lashings of rain and fierce winds blowing in over the moors. I shall be in my element! Until then....

Top centre image: Autumn foliage, bohreen towards Allihies.
Top left image: Berry bush, bohreen towards Allihies.
Bottom right: Wooden gate, bohreen towards Allihies.
Bottom left: Ballydonegan Bay Coastline, near Allihies village.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Journeying Onwards - Beara Holiday

A lot of walking has taken place since I last posted. I reckon my level of fitness has increased by well, a little bit. I never did manage to write up the posts I thought I'd have so much time to do but I'll give you a little glimpse of some of the lovely places we visited over our eight weeks in the Beara Peninsula, West Cork.

We spent our first week revisiting all our favourite places which included walking along scenic bohreens (the Irish for back road or lane), one of which leads from our holiday home to Allihies village and taking a lovely walk from behind the house up to where there were lots of sheep with their baby lambs and some beautiful doe-eyed cows, they too with their young ones. The weather during this time was so warm with constant sunshine that along with the breath-taking scenery you would be forgiven for thinking you were in any one of the mediterranean hot spots, not that I would have traded this for any of them.

During this first week we also found a house for sale which we immediately fell in love with. On and off over the past twenty five years we've been searching for our country home where we will eventually settle to live out our remaining years. This house welcomed us warmly. It had a feel to it that I've never felt in any other house we looked at before, like we belonged there. I'd begun to decide what colour we'd paint the outside, turquoise perhaps to compliment the blue-green sea which lay below and was accessed from the land surrounding the house, the sale of which was included in the price.
Week two was wonderfully exciting in that we had a visit from both sons and the fact that at one point we were all together of course made me deliriously happy. At the end of their stay I returned home with them for a few days to check that all was well with the house and give it a bit of an airing.

Four days in Dublin was all that was needed to tell me that, although I still love my fair city, I was aching to return to the quiet of the West Cork bohreens and sleepy country roads. During my Dublin stay one evening on my way home from visiting my youngest son I was awestruck by the beauty of one of our most famous streets, Merrion Square. The evening sunshine had provided a magnificant light in which to capture this great Georgian street at its finest. For a brief moment Dublin was tugging at my heart-strings.

The remaining weeks of our holiday were spent absorbing the beauty of the Beara countryside through long walks (many hours at a time) which usually ended with us visiting our local watering hole, O'Neill's Bar & Restaurant in Allihies village. There you'll be served the most delicious fresh cod/haddock and chips you'll find anywhere in Ireland. They do a good shandy into the bargain!

We made Wednesday our shopping day, so off we'd head for the weekly groceries into the nearest town which was Castletownbere, about a ten mile car journey. Back to the subject of food, Mama Mia Pizzeria in the Square, Castletownbere was my favourite place to get, guess what? fish and chips, the fish so fresh they were almost still hopping about as they didn't have far to travel from the sea across the road!

Half way through our stay we had the pleasure of having a lovely couple, friends from way back, visit us for a few days. As none of us had ever been to Dursey Island we decided this was as good a time as any. To make a long story short, it turned out that as our friends wanted to do the extremely long walk we decided they should go ahead as I knew I wouldn't be able for the very steep climb and would have only held them back. Hubby and I knew we could do the shorter walk at any time. Luckily our friends went ahead with the cable car trip as it was closed down a few days later due to a mechanical problem!
Our holiday would not have been complete without a visit to the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Retreat Centre, Garranes, Allihies. Over the years we have visited the Centre many times including attending retreats and just sometimes for nothing more than being in a quiet space. I can't begin to describe its sense of peace and tranquility but even as you enter the grounds a feeling of calm comes over you, you know you're in a sacred place. We've been there in sunshine and cloud but for me, it's when you sit in a meditative state in the quiet of the shrine room with the mist and stormy sea raging below the cliff top that you most feel its power.

During the two months of almost being cut off from civilization as we know it in Dublin I had the time to get to understand myself a bit better. Apart from discovering how physically unfit I am I realised I'm mentally stronger than I credited myself with. Maybe it comes with older age but I've a confidence in myself now I didn't have years ago. For instance, a simple thing like making important decisions has become easier and even if that entails deciding to move to the country, when the time comes, I think I'll be OK with severing my city connections. Of course I'll still be in touch with family and friends and have them visit as often as possible.

We didn't succeed in buying our beloved house but we're hoping that if property prices continue to fall then maybe we might be in with a chance. If it's meant to happen then it will.

Above images from top:

View from trail from Barness to Garnish.
Bohreen from holiday home to Allihies village.
Fuchsia bush along bohreen to Allihies village.
View from land of house for sale.
Merrion Square, Dublin.
O'Neill's Bar & Restaurant, Allihies village.
Mama Mia Pizzeria, The Square, Castletownbere, West Cork.
View towards Dursey Island.
Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Retreat Centre, Garranes, Allihies.
Sunset from our holiday home, Allihies.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Revisiting The Beara Peninsula

It doesn't feel like nine years since hubby and I rented our holiday home in Allihies, Beara, West Cork along with our two sons who were then middle and late teens. It is to this same house we have now returned, minus the sons who will be visiting at some point during the vacation.

At the time of booking the house I was a little apprehensive because I worried that perhaps there would be too many memories of when we were a complete family there (including Sandy, our deceased golden labrador) and that I'd miss the boys terribly. Somewhere along the line I've realised that they've grown up and are now living quite independent lives, so, three whole days into the holiday I'm completely happy with just hubby and I enjoying this lovely time together.

The house is exactly as we remember it except for one or two minor furniture changes and the views haven't changed at all!

I will update this holiday diary every few days as I'd like to share with you what I feel may be one of the most important trips we've undertaken in a very long time. This is more than just a holiday, it's a spiritual journey for both of us.

Top image: Babbling brook, back road to Allihies Village.
Bottom image: View from our hall door.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Gerry Ryan - Much Loved, So Sadly Missed

Irish radio listeners will this morning be trying to come to terms with the fact that they will not be hearing the familiar voice of one of their favourite morning DJs, that of Gerry Ryan. Gerry, broadcaster with RTE radio 2FM died last Friday aged just 53, his untimely death throwing the whole country into a state of complete shock.

My own reaction when the news first filtered through was "it can't be THE Gerry Ryan", seconds later my worst fears were realised. Sometimes when a person dies before their time it makes you angry, you ask why? Why is it always the good people who are taken from this world?

Gerry was not only a great radio and television presenter he was someone the public felt they knew personally. During his morning radio shows listeners would call in to discuss many topics including sometimes a most intimate and painful event in their lives. Gerry would listen with all the listening and empathy skills usually associated with a trained counsellor, he was completely there for them, a confidante. Another side to his big-heartedness was of course his involvement with many charities, including UNICEF.

Who knows what the future held for Gerry? Ironically, the day before he died he had just signed contracts with RTE (Ireland's national radio and television network) to extend the running of his radio show and begin a Saturday night television talk show, the latter fulfilling a long held dream.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues whose grief must be immeasurable. Gerry, may you rest in peace.

Image via:


Monday, March 29, 2010

A Short Stay In Paradise

Last week I had the great pleasure of spending a couple of days in Drum, a beautiful location just outside the town of Boyle, County Roscommon. It was my work on a short film which took me to this magic place, its haunting ambience providing the perfect setting for the film's storyline.

 My overnight stay was in the magnificent Abbey House (above) which is just a five minute stroll to Boyle Town Centre. A large Victorian house set in the grounds of the 12th century Boyle Abbey, this B/B has everything to offer its visitor. If you are a lover of old world charm then this is the place for you! From the moment you walk into the hallway with its antique furnishings and decor you feel you've entered a time past, which for me, is like coming home.

The view from my room was a balm for the senses, calming, reassuring and most inspiring. My gratitude goes to my hosts, a lovely lady and gentleman who made me feel very welcome and who, on the morning of my departure, provided me with my glass of warm water with lemon slice and also topped up my bottled water.

I'd also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the family who provided us with lunch on both days and dinner on the first evening. We were many in number and the lady of the house seemed not in the least bit phased by her huge catering task. Many thanks to her and her family.

Top Image: Entrance to film location.
Centre Image: Abbey House B/B, Boyle, County Roscommon.
Bottom Image: View from my B/B room window.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Progress Brings Its Changes - Not All Of Them Pretty

It was during a return visit last week to my old hometown of Ringsend, Dublin that I truly became aware of the ever changing village landscape. As I was not tied to time on this occasion I spent a leisurely few hours (camera phone in tow having forgotton to recharge the Canon!) sauntering down the avenues and alleyways that were once very much part of my childhood.

The most devastating change has to be to the view along the Pigeon House Road where once to your left hand side lay an uninterrupted view of the sea. Now above those blue waters stands a docklands, its giant cranes and massive stacks of freight containers dwarfing the coastguard station opposite which still houses several families. Also along that road I noticed the once magnificent house whose family I used to babysit for now lying derelict, black hoarding on its windows. Around the corner from that, my avenue where I lived for fifteen years has also fallen victim to the credit crunch with one of its properties now also lying abandoned, it too boarded up. Absolutely soul destroying to see that.

On a brighter note, Ringsend Park is still pretty much the same as I knew it except for the addition of an all-weather football pitch and other sports areas which I'm sure are very welcome facilities indeed. Mind you, the railings running parallel with the park could do with a coat of paint!

Below are some then and now photos all taken by me. Time, as the song goes, changes everything!

Left: Coastguard Station 2001. Right: Roof of Station barely visible 2010.

Left: Detached house, 2005. Right: Same house, derelict 2010.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Scare At Playtime! - Early 1960s

I know it was a time while I was still in primary school so that would have been pre-1963. My friend and I, always on the lookout for a bit of excitement on our way home, decided one day to visit the childrens' ward in the general hospital right next door to our school. As I loved minding young babies and toddlers I strongly suspect it was I who instigated the mischief, our visits continuing for some time.

On this particular day after we had played with the children who were well enough to be up and about and I had cuddled a lovely little baby boy one of us decided we should take a look in the place where they kept the dead people. We were so excited at what we might see! I'm not sure how we knew that the building was called a mortuary (probably from watching the tv series, "Dr. Kildare") but we recognised it when we saw the word over the door.

I clearly remember us cautiously walking into that strange room and seeing a body on the table covered with a white sheet. We stared for a moment then it happened! An arm fell down and you could see the hand hanging from beneath the sheet. Never had I been so terrified in all my short life! We screamed and ran as fast as our little legs could carry us vowing never to return. For a long time afterwards my hospital visits were scary times imagining a mummy-like creature lurking in the doorways of every corridor!

Above image of Baggot Street Hospital formerly known as Royal City of Dublin Hospital (next door to our school) via Wikipedia.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Irish Healthcare - September 1968

With all the emphasis now on long hospital waiting lists and outrageous periods of time spent in A&E Departments I thought I'd share this somewhat lighthearted experience I had in hospital many decades ago. It was an era when you would be admitted in jig time following your doctor's referral (and that would be as a public patient) in fact, you would be in before you could say "Ooh Matron!"

As it was over forty years ago I've used some diary entries to recount the event.

Another return trip to my local hospital, this time for my first D & C. I was admitted on a Sunday afternoon at 4.00pm to an eight bedded ward and what I clearly remember is that a lot of the beds were empty most of the time I was there, no bed shortages back then! During my pre-op assessment the doctor expressed a great interest in the hairiness of my legs. Hadn't started to shave at that stage so my legs were akin to those of a footballer's.

My trip down to theatre the following morning and my subsequent waking up afterwards are all but a blur for some reason. Maybe they decided not to wake me from my pre-med slumber. It was night time, around 9.00pm, when the woman in the bed next to me set off down to the kitchen to make the supper - tea and biscuits, seemingly this is what she did every night.

I don't know if it was something to do with my hairy legs and arms but I now feel that they were carrying out some sort of research on me. All my pee had to be collected in a jug plus they were taking blood samples twenty four hours a day which included through the night. Even back in the 1960s you only remained in hospital for a couple of days following a D & C but they held onto me until the Friday afternoon, five and a half days in all. It wasn't all bad in fact I had a very interesting time observing everything going on around me. The nurses were a howl, one of them was always singing the Mary Hopkins song, "Those Were The Days" which was a chart topper at the time.

Another thing I was very aware of was how particular the cleaners were when carrying out their work. The beds were taken out into the middle of the floor to wash behind them and the head-rests were wiped down with a damp cloth. Often when Matron entered she would swipe her finger along a ledge to check for dust, and when the nurses knew she was coming they would very quickly tidy the bedclothes and lockers.

The supper-making lady in the bed next to me on my right hand side had goitre, I think she was waiting for her operation. From my second night onwards she allowed me accompany her to the kitchen to prepare the supper. The elderly woman in the corner opposite me was dying and it was heartbreaking every time she would call out for her son. The woman in the bed next to her wasn't in good shape either. The other beds remained empty.

On the Thursday afternoon a poor soul was brought in, obviously a psychiatric case. They put her in the bed two down from mine and had to restrain her arms because she was completely hysterical. Shortly afterwards she went to sleep no doubt because they had tranquillized her. Even though I felt very sorry for her I was terrified she'd wake up and kill me! My fellow patient was scared too. I explained my fears to the nurse and it was decided that both my friend and I would be moved over to the ward across the corridor. As the poor woman would only be there overnight the other two patients who were both too ill to notice were not moved. The same day painters arrived on the ward, just as well I liked the smell of paint back then.

Life on the other ward was a bag of laughs so much so that I was really sad at having to leave the next day. I'd made friends with a girl who was about thirteen or fourteen, we got on great sharing stories and having a good old giggle as teenagers do. Later I watched Paul McCartney singing "Hey Jude" on Top Of The Pops, it was a real treat as we didn't have BBC at home because we only had the "cat's ears" on top of our telly. That Thursday night we sat around the bed of a woman who was also up for a laugh, listening to a pop music programme on her transister radio and telling jokes. God, I didn't want this to end, it was the best fun I'd had in ages.

It was around 11.00pm by the time we all settled down and as the young girl and I were still a bit afraid of the psychiatric lady I asked the nurse could she and I sleep together. Surprisingly she said we could but we would be in trouble if Matron came in! We took the chance and whispered and giggled till God knows what hour.

Friday arrived and little did I realise how sad I'd be at leaving all my new found friends. I got talking to another lady on the ward who'd recently had a hysterectomy, I'd never heard of it before. I didn't really mind her explaining the gruesome details of her operation, in fact it was very interesting. I'd learnt something new and facinating about the intricate workings of the human body.

It was early afternoon when I bid farewell to my friends and kind nurses.

To sum up my feelings about my overall care as a patient I would have to say:

Nursing Care - Excellent. Nurses had time to sit and talk with patients. No bed shortages. Clean wards.

Where did it all go so horribly wrong?

Above image of my then local hospital taken by me in 2002.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting Things Into Perspective

Today, I moaned because I stepped in cat poo.
Today, a child in Haiti moaned because his broken body lies trapped beneath the debris.
Shame on me.

Above image sourced at: Reuters/


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Nature's Christmas Gift

While England, Scotland and parts of Ireland were experiencing heavy snowfalls we here in Dublin had to wait a little longer for our white Christmas and boy, was it worth the wait. New Year's Eve was about to spring a beautiful surprise!

As my family and I watched telly in the warm comfort of our living room outside the first snow flakes of the year had begun to silently fall creating a magnificent Christmas card landscape. To add to the magic we drew back the curtains and watched the snow fall through the orange glow of a street lamp. Heaven.

New Year's Day and hubby had me up at 10.00am sharp. Armed with my best digital camera (Canon IXUS 300) we headed off to our local park which on entering looked like a scene from "The Snowman". Right that moment I became a five year old again, all my senses awakened by the beautiful sight which lay before us. I was actually bouncing up and down!

At times we walked in silence listening to the crunching sound of our footsteps in the snow.

Now and then a bird called out and I worried that his tiny feet might be cold.

I am so thankful to Mother Nature for granting me my Christmas wish. Enjoy the images of her present.

All photos taken by me, New Year's Day 2010. (Hubby in the foreground!)