Saturday, June 29, 2013

Return To Allihies - Latest Wanderings!

To continue from where I left off last time, hubby and I have left Skibbereen where we spent a wonderful four months and have now moved into our lovely rented house in Allihies in the Beara Peninsula, West Cork. I've probably declared this many times but since our first visit to Allihies twelve years ago, it's been drawing us back time after time to the point where we now know this is where we want to live out a good deal of our retirement years.

Our plan is to divide our time between West Cork and Dublin, probably spending a fair amount of time over the coming months with the family in Dublin because as I mentioned in the earlier post, we are to become grandparents in August.

Each day here brings its own beauty - early morning thick mists wholly enveloping land and sea, horizontal rain with gale force winds and sunshine that casts a golden glow across the fields, coaxing the foxglove and fuchsia flowers into full bloom - all that sometimes in one day!  Rarely are two hours the same.

Since we arrived here three weeks ago we've been walking the bohreens and back roads to Allihies village almost on a daily basis and when the swirling West Cork winds permit, we cross the rugged Ballydonegan landscape.  For what seems like miles we walk along the cliff edge, where, far below, blue-black waters weave and crash their way between the dark, mountainous rocks.  I find it terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived back down here after a two year break is that everywhere seems the same, nothing has changed, for that I am so grateful.  Not a property developer in sight!

Over the weeks we have made new friends, these two little guys find shelter from the winds just outside my writing room window, usually early in the morning and on warm sunny days, they relax on the lawn with their mother.  They're so used to us now that if we come out they just glance up then continue chewing the cud!

I plan to write regular updates on life in our little haven in Allihies.

All images taken by me, June 2013.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Remembering JFK - First U.S President To Walk On Irish Soil

I'm not quite sure where you'd need to have been hiding for the past few months not to realise that, at this very moment, Ireland is in the midst of commemorating President John F. Kennedy's 50th anniversary visit to these green shores.

Although Dublin, Cork and Limerick were honoured with his visit it was his "homecoming" to (The Kennedy Homestead) Dunganstown, New Ross in County Wexford which drew the greatest media attention and indeed, the massive outpourings of "Cead Mile Failte" from family and locals alike. It was from this place in 1848 that the President's great-grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, left for the United States along with the many other emigrants aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship.

I was exactly eleven and a half years old on that evening in June 1963 as the presidential cavalcade moved slowly along Westmoreland Street, Dublin.  Standing tall and tanned in the open-top car was the President of the United States, JFK, as he was affectionately known to one and all.   Deciding I wanted a good view of this exciting person who had traveled from a far off land (well, actually Germany that morning) to be with us I gradually inched my way out to the front of the crowd, my mother within grabbing distance behind me.

I'm not quite sure if it was his brown skin (I'd never seen anyone with a tan before!), dazzling smile or his amazing presence, probably all three I suspect but I went weak at the knees when he passed by.  I'm even certain he made eye contact with me as he waved, well, I live in hope!

As we didn't have a telly until a little later on, mother and myself would head over to our neighbour across the street to view on her Bush or Pye 17" box all the comings and goings of the President as he traveled around the country giving, what became, his historic speeches.   Yes, for me, the summer of '63 was a good one.

Above image: President John F. Kennedy in New Ross, County Wexford, 27th June 1963 via Wiki.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Greener Pastures Beckon!

They say time flies when you're enjoying yourself and this has certainly been the case during our two months down here in beautiful Drishanemore, Skibbereen, West Cork.  Daily, I'm drawn in by the breathtaking surroundings which could be mistaken for any one of the many exotic locations around the world.

Rain or shine, the view, from the left side of the house, mesmerises me.  Just looking out over the sloping lawn which merges into the small field below then across the narrow gravel road that leads you straight to the water's edge of the magical cove, takes me into a kind of hypnotic trance.  I know that when we finally leave here I shall miss this place with all my heart.

Nearly three years ago when hubby and I returned to Allihies in the Beara Peninsula (a two hour car journey from Drishanemore) after first visiting with our children back in 2000, I never realised the impact that this small village, with the old mine engine house as its landmark, would have on our lives.  It's to there we returned a couple of times during these last two months and it's where we will eventually spend a considerable amount of time over the coming years.  For the immediate future, however, we have very good reason to be in Dublin as much as possible - in late summer, we are to become grandparents!

To be continued.............

Top image: View from bedroom, Drishanemore, taken by me, March 2013.
Bottom image: "Man Engine House" Mountain Mine, Allihies, taken by me, October 2010.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tragumna / Lough Hyne, Skibbereen, West Cork

As it was a lovely evening last Sunday plus after watching Ireland's disastrous defeat to Scotland in the Six Nations Championship at Murrayfield it was time to hit our local, The Skibbereen Eagle, in Tragumna.  Our first time there and only a twenty minute walk, well, for me, anyway.  Nice pub and with its warm, welcoming wood-burning fire I thought it would be packed, but no, just a couple of families with their young children and another older couple at the other end of the bar.

By the time we emerged an hour later the sun was setting over Tragumna, which of course created magnificant lighting.  The views over Drishane Island and the Tragumna pier are particularly beautiful at that time of evening.

Monday afternoon saw us head to Lough Hyne, Ireland's first Nature Reserve with splended woodland walks towering ever so high.  With encouragement from hubby I did manage to climb up onto the first layer, if you like, and was generously rewarded by the breathtaking views down onto the lake and roadside. I loved every minute.

Later that evening we learned that there would be a full moon so at around 10.30pm I got hubby to accompany me to our little cove where we just stood and listened to the waves and watched in awe, the amazing moonshine turn the water to silver.  It's a memory that will remain with me forever.

Top to Bottom Images:-

Drishane Island, Tragumna, Skibbereen, West Cork.
Tragumna Pier.
Scenic walkway along Lough Hyne.
Lough Hyne.
Woodlands around Lough Hyne.

All images taken by me, February 2013.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Greetings! From Skibbereen, West Cork

I can't believe hubby and I have been three weeks here already!   The house we're staying in is everything I've always wanted - on a hill, overlooking a cove.  The fact that there's a boathouse in the huge garden really conjures up, for me, images of Enid Blyton's "Famous Five" not to mention the cove at the end of the long garden which for some reason constantly reminds me of Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca".  We even have the iron gate leading to the drive. 

The area is Drishanemore, Skibbereen in West Cork and as yet there are many places of great interest we haven't visited but plan to do so in the coming months.  Overall, the weather has been fairly good, through there have been a few days of continuous rain and it definitely has been very cold in recent days but in general, we've managed to get out for our walks almost every day.  As I always say, a grey sky has its own beauty.

With the house being a family home I'd rather not show internal images for privacy reasons, much as I'd love to, but the beautiful external views can certainly be enjoyed.

Top to Bottom Images:-

Boreen not far from house.
Cove 100 yards from house.
View from garden.
View from my writing desk.

All images taken by me, February 2013.


Monday, February 18, 2013

New Poetry Blog!

Over the past couple of weeks I've had lots of time to sort out some of the things I've been putting on hold over the last few months and one of them is starting up my new poetry blog.  I'm so excited!  Rather than mix my rambling words in with all my usual stuff I've decided to separate them and give them their own space, I hope they will thank me some day by attracting the eye of some high street publisher, well, any publisher really!

So, before I get too carried away I will give you the name of the blog which is, Ann Brien ~ Thoughts From A Dog-Eared Notebook, subtitle, Words in Progress......

I hope you will stop by from time to time.  I'll leave the poems already on here for your convenience.

Thanks in anticipation!

Above image via Wiki.


Friday, February 15, 2013

The Big House

When I was a youngster sometimes I'd hear my father or someone else mention that such a person was in the "Big House" which years later I understood to mean he or she was a patient in a psychiatric hospital.  Back then people found and still are finding it difficult to discuss depression and mental illness in any form.  The hospitals were known as Lunatic Asylums for the Insane and other dreadful, frightening names, so no wonder we were scared at the very mention of them let alone the sight of them.

These institutions were huge granite or red brick buildings looming up within large high-walled areas usually containing a laundry, bakery, chapel and other smaller outbuildings. Three of our most famous Irish psychiatric hospitals, St. Brendan's Hospital (also known as Grangegorman and originally the Richmond Lunatic Asylum), St. Ita's Hospital (formerly Portrane Asylum) and St. Patrick's Hospital (originally St. Patrick's Hospital for Imbeciles) date back to between the mid-1700s and late-1800s, and, as some came into existence through either large donations from wealthy donors or Government grants, I'm sure only the finest building materials of the day were used in their construction. They've certainly withstood everything our Irish climate has thrown at them over the years, though some now are in the final stages of total disrepair.

In recent years it has been decided that these hospitals, both here in Ireland and further afield, no longer provide the proper environment or adequate accommodation required to meet the needs of the mentally ill.  Some patients are already in the process of being moved to other facilities, others, too elderly and frail both in mind and body to be disturbed, remain within the confines of what to them is home.

As a part of my research for an upcoming film in which I'll be playing a psychiatric patient I've been reading up on the care and sometimes barbaric treatments administered to patients in some of these grim institutions. At this point I hastily add not Irish ones although perhaps some of these too are not wholly exempt from blame.  I'm shocked to the core to discover the inhumane conditions these pure people had to endure in the name of healing. 

The following poem, part of which I wrote a couple of years back, is written from the viewpoint of a passer-by who has just walked through a psychiatric hospital ruins and is standing before the building questioning what really happened within its walls down through the ages. The hospital is purely fictitious.

The Big House

I stand before you asking
If your walls could speak
What horrors would they reveal.
You stare through sightless eyes
Your windowpanes once warmed by summer sun
Now shattered as the broken spirits of your long dead, forgotten inmates.

Your open doorways beckon from the storm
Creatures, winged and animal alike
As once they welcomed human souls in search of refuge from their demons.

Pills and potions were the menu of the day
And when chemicals alone could not mend the most broken minds
Temporal lobes were seared to exact the desired calm.

Your white-washed walls more befitting bovine habitation than human comfort
Now crumble piece by greying piece into the dust and fossilised bird shit.
On your few remaining iron beds manacles still dangle
Like the hanging Jesus on his Calvary cross
A grim reminder of freedom so cruelly denied.

Chimney stacks stand tall against the darkening sky
Two hundred years of desperate cries and splintered thoughts
Long carried on the wind.

Before they finally crush your wasted bones
Just let me say to those unfortunates who died within your walls
I'd like to think you left this world sensing someone cared.

No need now for barred windows for no one's left to flee your prison
Those still living seeking peace in new-found sanctuaries
Those no more at rest in dreamless sleep.

© Ann Brien 2013

Above image:  St. Brendan's Hospital, Grangegorman via Wiki.
Image used only to portray the poem's fictional hospital's state of disrepair.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Any Old Iron?

My greatest memory of Saturday nights in our Ringsend house is of my mother ironing in the living room.  Never a woman to rush out and buy the latest gadgets she quite happily made do with what, even then (mid-1960s), resembled an item which would have looked more at home in a glass showcase in the National Museum!  This apparent prehistoric object was in fact an iron made from real iron - now, I don't have to be a Mensa member to guess that this is how it probably got its name.  She had not just one but two for the simple reason that you needed two, one for working with while the other heated on the cooker, in our case, a gas cooker!  I was always terrified watching the blue flame curl around this rusty monstrosity, expecting it to explode through the roof at any given moment.

When mother had cleared away after tea she would place on the oval dining table her ironing paraphernalia which consisted of; a heavy piece of felt on which was placed several old sheets folded into a large square, all of which made for a wonderful deep, thick ironing board.  While this ritual was being carried out, the first iron was heating like billyo on the dreaded gas cooker.  Then, fast as lightning, when the iron had reached the required temperature and for the life of me I'll never know how she knew this, she would place it in its stainless steel shield, put the other iron on to heat then begin work on my father's shirts which would have taken precedence over every other item of clothing.  The trick with this form of ironing was in the speed with which you worked because the irons cooled very quickly.  I wonder now how my mother had such energy at the end of the day, it makes me tired just thinking about it!

I'll never know why she didn't just invest in an electric iron which would have made life so much easier for her but it was probably because of her fear of electric gadgets, she didn't trust them.  Hence, our household didn't possess what would have then been considered luxuries such as a fridge or washing-machine, mother preferring to rely on a tin box hung on our backyard wall to keep the food cool both in summer and winter and rolling up her sleeves each Monday morning which was of course, washday.

Above image via: