Author: Kathy

Keeping track of life as it flies by. Really love travelling and photographing sights, lights and nature.

Sands of Time

The sun enticed me to the beach today.

A privilege of country living is being able to capture moments like this. The rippling of the waves brings peace.

I thought of Keats’ wonderful lines:

Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired, 
    Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea; 
        Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude, 
    Or fed too much with cloying melody— 
        Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood, 
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired! 

Nature has a powerful way of allowing you to connect with yourself and what is really going on inside.

Now I didn’t come across any sea nymphs or anything but I thought of my sister who left us four years ago on this day. The sea still comes in and out and always will long after we are gone. It leaves marks on the sand that are gone the next time the tide comes in. I suppose this is what they mean by the sands of time. Always shifting but never disappearing. When someone you love is taken away, other things you love still remain such as the sea, sun and fresh air.

I thought of Neptune the God of the Sea – even he cannot hold the tide back. Last night I went to see the Justice League, a movie featuring Superheroes where there was an awesome pale blue eyed Neptune, complete with Trident. He managed to hold back a few floods in order to ‘save the world’ but even he was pushed back eventually.

I have a metaphor for my efforts to change my career. Its from Castaway with Tom Hanks. There is a coral reef about 200 metres out from the beach that he has to get past before he can paddle out into the wide ocean. The waves break on it continually and he has wounded himself on the sharp coral many times. He spends his days devising methods to get himself past the reef, designing rafts and failing time and again. Eventually he uses an old piece of corrugated plastic that washed up on the beach and puts a makeshift sail on it. The wind in the sail gives him enough momentum to get beyond the reef, allowing him to journey back to civilisation.

The wind in my sails has been my friends offering me a country retreat while I paddle past the rocks of convention so I can start forging a new way of life.

It has been exciting so far but I hope I don’t have to get picked up by a liner in order to make it wherever I am going. I am going ahead with a mind ‘open to everything and attached to nothing’ – thank you Wayne Dyer.

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Not  exactly a Coral Reef but what sun on a Winter’s day.

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Patterns left from the ebb and flow of the sea.

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Bright winter sunshine on the wet sand.

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Leaving the Big Smoke for the Good Life

I have always wanted to live in the country.

For many and varied reasons, I never achieved that dream but it stayed with me, until today when I finally acted on it.

To me, there was never any contest between the fresh air and the green fields, the trees and the wildlife and the concrete jungle of the city.

Some of the reasons are that I failed to pay attention to my real passions in life. I can blame my career choice as being burdensome and unfulfilling or I can blame being caught on a treadmill.

It doesn’t matter what the excuse or reason is, I had the choice myself ultimately.

I have realised that you cannot map out your future, you just have to save up some money and take a chance – see what happens – tell people about your dreams and see what happens.

sunset

I had the incredible good fortune to have a wonderful friend who offered me her mother’s house in the country while they waited for probate to sell it. She offered me the chance to sample country life for six months because I had had the courage to share my dream with her.

I signed up for an organic horticulture course and loved every bit of it, creating a garden diary and working in an inner city garden in my spare time.

I spent every weekend coming down over the summer, preparing for the big move when I would leave my job in Dublin.  We worked on the house and garden, digging out weeds, planting, writing lists and painting furniture. Roisin made inventories of all the furniture and contents and we walked and dreamed about our ideal house. It turned out that we shared a similar dream – hers to have a studio and to grow her own food. Roisin is an accomplished artist and successful grower already.

The sun shone and I cooked and enjoyed the peace while Roisin made inventories of the thousands of books her mother had left.

The weeks flew by and the day for my leaving work – end of September drew closer. Then I was asked to stay until the end of October – it seemed like a never ending month and while I was buoyed up with the idea of leaving, the work became more difficult than ever, knowing I would be walking away from it in the near future.

The Friday came when I could actually leave. It happened that I had to be in court all day. I packed the car early in the morning so I would not have to go home again. The day dragged on for ever and I had my last coffee with my stalwart barrister with whom I had done countless cases over the years.

I returned to the office and collected my last few things and said my last goodbyes – it was the Halloween party in the office and everyone was staying late.

I imagined myself gliding down the road in and glorious exit out the M50. It was not quite like that – fog had settled in on the road and it was very difficult. The traffic was truly awful and I felt a bit cheated.

BREAKAWAY

Eventually I stepped out of the car at my new home looking out on the sea – the sky was clear and the stars twinkled clearly against the true blackness of night. I inhaled the night air and knew I was exactly where I wanted to be.

The Slimy Molluscs

Sludge

Molluscs are the second largest Phylum in the Animal Kingdom. How do I know that?

Because I am studying Organic Horticulture and our last assignment was studying Slugs and Snails.slug sketch

 

Why do I need to know about Slugs & Snails?

So that I realise that they live in the dark and wet parts of the world, the shady cracks under stones and leaves, basically, in the Sludge.

The hint is in the name. Onomatopoeia and assonance never worked so well. Words that begin with Sl and even better, SLu, bring to mind oozing wetness such as we have never felt since we were children experimenting in the garden, before our parents spotted us. The joy of mud cakes as a child. We need to learn textures when we are children because we sure as H–ll are not going to get down and dirty when we are grown up.

So why does a horticulturalist need to know where a slug thrives? Apologies to all vegan out there, but it is so we can exterminate them. In a situation where we cannot use pesticides or anything that will harm other animals or birds, we have to use methods such as drowning them in beer, squishing them or poisoning them with iron phosphate.

Knowing that they will multiply and come forth when it rains gives us the tipoff to bring out our arsenal of weaponry to the garden at the appropriate moment. It is the cabbages or them and quite often it is them who survive leaving the poor brassica looking like a skeleton.

We also learn that their sense of smell is keen but their eyes, which are at the top of two revolving tentacles sticking up off their head, is poor. These tentacles are also used to smell. They like the smell of beer. How does a beer loving, cabbage eating, revolving tentacled animal end up living in sludge? Our is not to understand the ways of nature. Ours is to know that some slugs produce a calcium enriched mucus slime that forms a shell. they are called snails or escargots, the French delicacy. This occurs mostly in the city where slugs can eat more eggshells for calcium.

So even a Gollum like creature can perform minor miracles in its nether kingdom of sludge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparkling Dungarven

On the plus side of life in the country is the bright lights and on the negative side is the intense dark. How is this contradiction possible?

My local town Dungarven has the most remarkable display of Christmas lights. No matter what direction you approach it from – an illuminated Angel strung across the main street bugling you into the town or and enormous Lighted Santa Bear across from the Supervalu.IMG_4217

The park has an illuminated swan and swishes of lights enticillant (I think is how the French describe the Eiffel tower when it twinkiles up and down) the trees under which a group of adults are led through a routine of pressups and warmups.(war mups?)

IMG_4219But the dark? Oh yes. It comes at about 5pm these days which is why the lights work. It is an intense dark, not the dirty light we get in Dublin.

On clear nights we are compensated by the spectacular stars. On ordinary nights with the cloud cover I am convinced there is a glow in the sky over Dungarven from the lights that was not there before.

Driving in the dark is not my idea of fun.

Why I picked up a total stranger last night holding a red can for petrol I do not know. But I did and brought him to the nearest petrol station which was 5 km away. He was a simple type honest looking man with a stubbled chin and big eyes. He left his car with the hazards on at the side of the road. When we got back to it I noticed a passenger. ‘ thats my wife’ he told me. ‘ she is very nervous’.

I opened the boot so he could get out the red can of petrol and I wondered where they were going where they lived and a thousand other questions. They faded into the intense darkness, my curiosity unsated ( if thats a word). He did seem to know a lot about cars.

Another six weeks until we reach the shortest day and then another six weeks until its as long as it is today. But can Spring be far behind?

Babe the pig in the Country

What a looker! our thoughts about pigs are so mistaken. Not the mucky snorty things we believe since childhood, but fast, intelligent animals, full of curiosity. They are responsive, especially if they think you have food, but affectionate and develop attachments.

This is one of the many side benefits of living in the country. One of the many discoveries I have made. No one could have described to me exactly what they are like. You just have to get up close and personal to see what I mean.

I am glad to have had this encounter in my life. Pigs are kind of important in our lives, if only as a nasty name to call people. The use of their name to make people feel bad about themselves is so wrong. Pigs are abused for their little tails, their snouts and their roundy shape. Yet they have been used by British soldiers as a name for German soldiers during the World Wars. Woodlice are called “Fatpigs” which is mean to pigs as they are so far above them on the food chain. In fact, I would say pigs snuffle them out of the ground when they are doing their food searching.

This snuffling is how truffles are found. Pigs are highly valued for this ability in France.  Truffles are a fungus that grow in forests, under trees and pigs have a knack of finding them.

So enjoy any chance you get to meet a pig. Its well worth it.

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You lookin’ for me?

Where the Oatmeal comes from

Years and years of eating porridge and flapjacks, of collecting tokens from the packets, and only now I visit the source of all this delicious oatmeal. It dawned on me that many of the farmers on the east coast of Ireland were growing oats for the factory.

It took a visit to the Waterford Greenway, linking Waterford

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to Dungarven on a 48km stretch of disused railway for me to make the connection between my breakfast , the mill and the crop grown to make it.

Sitting in the Coach House cafe near Kilmacthomas, I felt I had to walk at least some of it if I was to get bragging rights for having been on the Grenway.

So I walked the 1 km to Kilmacthomas village. Signs for the Mill but no actual sighting. Reillys traditional butchers where you can see them making sausages. No card machine-I was nearly checking to see that they had switched to the decimal system. Had to buy some wagon wheels eventhough they were made for children. A round of sausage meat with an circle of black pudding in the middle and finished off with pastry trimming as the wheel rim. I baked one later in the oven and they were a real treat.

But back to KIlmacthomas and the Oatmeal. I wandered down the hill to the river. I was able to get back to the greemway by walking up to the Kilmacthomas viaduct. Enormous arches holdung up the now disused railway line.

Up here I could look beyond the village. There in all its industrial magnificence was the Flahavans oat mill. I looked below and saw the river. Duh! Mill – has a millrace. Seems obvious but of course it would have originally been powered by water.

It is a beautiful setting and looking over my other shoulder, I could see the village. I had an ‘Under Milkwood’ moment when I observed the comings and goings of the place from a distance.

It was a revelation to me that my chilhood bowls of porridge had come from here. I would say there is not a child in Ireland who has not sat dejected in front of a bowl of porridge and been told not to leave the table until its finished. The misery of seeing snakes coiling in the bowl while anothe bite is forced down. This food has become aclaimed for its low glycaemic index in latter years and it has enjoyed a revival unparalled by any other food except maybe avocadoes.

And still it comes from a mill on a river in a splendid corner of our beautiful country.

Espresso Brownie

Anything chocolatey and gooey in the centre – delish
With the hazelnut and dark chocolate this recipe has healthy credentials.

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Does Espresso in a brownie make them breakfast?
They are nice enough to have anytime of the day but maybe that’s stretching it. What ever about that, they really are delicious…..
Please be brave and take them out when they are still gooey in the middle as that is the hallmark of a really delicious brownie!

Cuts into 16
Oven at 180C

50ml good quality espresso
200gr dark chocolate
150gr butter

150gr sugar
3 eggs

50gr plain flour (You can substitute almond flour or an other gluten free flour of your choice)
100gr hazlenuts, toast gently, skin and chop

Melt the chocolate, butter and espresso gently over a bain marie
Whisk the sugar and eggs together
Fold in the flour followed by the melted chocolate mixture
Add the hazlenuts and pour into a greased lined tin approx 10″ by 10″
Bake for between 15-20 minutes. This is because all ovens…

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Up By Napper Tandys House

This Sunday I went walkabout in Dublin’s oldest streets. Researching the price of organic cherry tomatoes, I made for the Dublin Food Coop. From Thomas Street, I passed throught Meath Street and The Coombe. Quiet and clean swept it being a Sunday, the redbrick houses are history in themselves. The families that grew up there, the messages bought, the workers arriving in , scraping theit boots on the built in irons that still protrude from the redbrick at foot level.

The men who arrived home without work during the lockout and strikes of 1913 – the stories those walls could tell.

IMG_3017Google maps brought me to the market – a buzzing hive of activity. Tourists from all over th world had found their way to this hub of crafts, music collections ,coffee and food.

Cherry tomatoes were to be found @ €5 per kilo. Sourced from Spain so methinks there is a gap in the market for Irish Organic Cherry tomatoes.

 

Break my heart at Breakfast

Apricot jam -v Marmalade

unopened jar of Apricot Jam bought by mistake

Did you ever cut open a brown scone, butter it and reach for the marmalade only to find the orange spread you ladle on is Apricot jam masquerading as marmalade?

The illogical anger as your taste buds struggle and yearn for the zest and buzz of marmalade is matched only by the disappointment that your breakfast on your breakaway has been partially spoiled. The anticipation of the perfect breakfast scone has been unfulfilled and you look around for someone to blame.

How could anyone think the bland smoothness of apricot would fool me? Who actually made the decision to substitute the real thing with an inadequate replacement. Better by far to say ‘We do not have marmalade’ than to lead one down or up the garden path and lull one into a false sense of consumable confiture.

It is actually not jam at all  or jelly as they call it in the US.  The real thing was sliced in a manual slicer attached vice like to the kitchen table  Seville oranges came in once a year and the annual ritual would rotate between the Rayburn where the slices would bob around in the preserving pan, pounds of sugar added until it was decanted into sterilised Jam jars  and oh the smell!

In times of need when the real thing was all eaten, mother would make it out of a tin .  Delicious !  Only when all else failed did we buy a pot of marmalade.

The sausages are eaten, the second cup of coffee is poured but its all gone up in a puff of smoke.

Is it worth talking to the waitress? Will this only serve to fuel the anger, underlining the unfortunate start to the day.

Or does one just bottle it up and buy ones one jar of the real stuff at the local shop.

Did you not know that ‘I was a morning grouch – until I discovered Little Chip marmalade ‘. One of the best pieces of advertising ever.

So remember- serving Apricot Jam can be responsible for morning grouches all over the world.

Islands of my Dreams

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

Is it only me or does everyone see the land mass nearest them as the first island they looked out at as a child?
When I look out at Howth, I see Cape Clear. When I look at Clare island off Luisburgh, I see Cape Clear.
I think the shape of these land masses is similar. Ridges left after the glaciers slid their way through valleys to eventually melt into the sea.


Their height is similar – not a very scientific observation but it gives me more to go on than nostalgia for my faulty perception.
Or is it just wishful thinking- to be back in those days when your horizon was bordered Cape Clear, when the day was regulated by high tide so we could jump off Colla Pier.
The walk past Hannah Fleury’s house, its perennial garden laden with scent , where her gorgeous golden retriever would curl on her back, beseeching us to rub her belly where her nipples felt velvety and nubbly under our fingers.
We would pick up a swarm of files there that would pester us for a few fields. Our towels would round our heads, we must have looked like a small group of nomadic berbers, tans and freckles and sunburnt, instead of the mahogany skin of the desert inhabitants.
We loitered at the pier, in fact we loitered everywhere. I cant think of a single other thing we did. We cycled, speeding down the 30’ gradient up at Caherlaska,, and freewheeling up the other side, seeing how far we could go without pedalling.
We would later cut those hills out and dump our bikes in the heather and go across the springy turf and jump goat like over the rocks until we reached the holiday bungalow.
Never going straight in to the house, but instead climbing directly on to the asphalt roof of the garage and in to the attic space, almost entirely filled with a table tennis table made of plywood and hung around with sheep skins drying on the rafters.
The smell of those pelts is with me today, an acrid, earthy type of odour, inhaled deeply by us with whatever other dust and particles were in that roof space as we sped around the table, becoming more accurate every day with our serves and volleys.
Dinner was almost invariably fresh mackerel cooked whole, with four scores across the sides and grilled or fried with butter.
Served with liberal lemon juice and potatoes, we left the house as soon as possible after dessert, squeezing every last minute out of the long evenings with the stunning sunsets lasting any time up to 11.30.
Maybe that is why I always think of Cape clear when I look out at the horizon from Dun Laoghaire. We were kings of our world for those few uncompromisingly lived weeks where natures backdrop knows no half measures.