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?


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


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.

December Sunshine in West Cork

img_2108What an end to the year! This day was slipped in as an extra as if we are not really coming up to the shortest day of the year.

Fuschsia still bloomingimg_2102sunrise dramatic and temperatures abnormally high.

It is so sad to hear of the death of another prominent figure AA Gill restaurant critic of the Sunday Times  he entertained us so well with his incredibly witty columns  His last insight into the compassion of a NHS nurse said so much about his true nature.

He knew that compassion is not something you can pay for .  He got that from the public sector and I hope it gave him some comfort in his last agonising days. On a beautiful day like today it is hard to believe that such suffering exists.

His only desire was to have more time with his family . A lesson for us all as we rush around getting ready for Christmas .



The Irish ‘Orient Express’ all set to roll into Cork


Luxury travel

Maybe next time I will take the Grand Hibernian to Cork instead of the old road or the N7!

CORK is set for a major tourism boost next month with the arrival of the country’s very own ‘Orient Express’. The arrival of the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury overnight train, will result in a marked increase in the number of people visiting the city, and attractions such as Blarney Castle, the English…

Source: The Irish ‘Orient Express’ all set to roll into Cork

August weekend road trip

Instead of taking the usual N7 to Cork from Dublin, I decided to turn off to follow the alternative route. This is the old road. I found myself in the middle of a Festival in the picturesque town of Durrow Co Limerick.

Scarecrows lined the roads into the town and stood or leaned or hung on outside all the shops, public buildings and village green. A wonderful market set up on the green with the best of food, gifts and banter.


Hang in there


Don’t pull too hard!


Let Down your Golden Hair!


another night on the tiles


Driving to Cork from Dublin can be fun. Just don’t take the Motorway the whole way.

The brown alternative route opens up the heart of Ireland with its imagination, sense of community and sheer fun. With tolls savings amounting to nearly €5 you can afford to stop for a coffee anywhere along the road. It may be slightly longer but the experience is superior – less cars, more scenery, more “facilities”, if you feel the need.

What a wonderful achievement by the people of Durrow!

Ahakista memorial to Air India disaster

” Time Flies, Suns Rise and Shadows Fall, Love Reigns Forever over All”

This inscription brought tears to my eyes instantly when I visited the Ahakista Memorial to the Air India Disaster earlier this year. The setting is so peaceful and beautiful, yet awe inspiring. The knowledge of the grief suffered by the loved ones left behind after this Air disaster made it an emotional experience that took me totally by surprise.

imageTo stand at the edge of the sea and look out between the mountains framing each side of Bantry peninsula feels like gazing towards eternity. The sundial faces permanently in this direction reaching out to those never recovered from  the sea. More about the area and the Air India Disaster.



Source: Ahakista memorial to Air India disaster

Tuba or Trombone?


Mississippi Bridge

Will it MISS the bridge or do we call Superman?

some thing new around every corner

one of the many features on the New Orleans streets

My dream of seeing New Orleans started when I was 19. I would work for the summer in Florida and then travel to NO with my money saved.

It didn’t quite work out like that. The heat and humidity and my homesickness led me to cut short my American trip, So the dream slipped in to the back ground while I got on with life.

The location of the 2015 AFCC conference (Association of Family and Courts Conciliators) in No revived the dream and sparked my imagination.

It sounded too exotic to be true and the thrifty everyday working part of me grappled with the wanderlust and desire to feel a warm breeze in my face.

The warm breeze in my face won. I sourced flights via Boston and navigated the US booking system who confirmed my identity by making a deduction from my credit card and then asking me how much that was, before confirming my booking.

My adventure began when I took the shuttle into NO from the airport. We drove between two sides of a cemetery, like driving through a field of tombs. Death is part of the narrative in NO. The voodoo religion, the elaborate cemeteries reflect a connection with the next life that feeds into a frenzy of living life to the full while you are here in this world.

I stayed in an apartment on Frenchmen street, which turns out to be the liveliest all night street in NO. Our balcony overlooked the street and we sat late at night in the balmy heat, enjoying the jazz bands and funky reggae sounds emanating from the various pubs and hostelries.

On the first night, we joined a tour of the haunted houses of NO, guided by none other than a voodoo priestess. She escorted us around the older area of the city, the French Quarter, stopping outside houses where appalling murders had been carried out. She came to life describing the limbs cut off and the bloodbath found at the scene, leading to the haunting ever after of the building. She filled us in on the local history and brought us to one of the oldest pubs in NO, the Lafitte Blacksmith Bar where we treated ourselves to hurricanes, a rum based drink guaranteed to set us up for the night.

It certainly did and after the tour, we stood on the edge of the great Mississippi river and watched its unstoppable flow towards the Gulf of Mexico. A huge cargo ship made its way down towards the massive bridge spanning the river, and I insisted on waiting to see whether it would fit under it. The twin influences of Perspective and hurricane brew made me fear for the cars crossing the bridge and wondering should we tell Superman that he should be getting the in phone booth to change.

It all went fine though and we wandered on to find somewhere to eat. We interfaced with some young homeless men, lolling on a bench with a beautiful Siamese cat on a leash in front of them, curled up on top of an upturned mayo bucket.  Roisin needed very little encouragement to sit beside them and give her version of “Peggy Gordon”. Its hard to know who was more surprised, us or the young men. We were “treated” in return to a song relating the death of one of their friends in a fire in NO in 2009. The chorus contained the very eloquent and touching phrase “f—k the f——g firemen”. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

On to the Oyster House for a mouth watering  meal of southern dishes – shrimp and chicken “homerun” on a bed of fluffy white rice – oh yeah!

Chuck had a full plate of oysters which he generously shared and Roisin had the “enormous plate” and “this is supposed to be a starter “  experience that everyone gets when they come to the States for a holiday.

Once we left the Oyster Bar, the balmy heat gave way to a cooling breeze and we felt really at one with the world.

Wandering down Frenchmen street fed our musical souls as we sampled rock, reggae and jazz in an atmosphere of friendly hedonism. Dancing, smiling and laughing we made it home after 2 , but were up again next day at 7. We clocked into the conference schedule , experiencing the streetcars and wandering through the French Market on the way to the business district where the Hilton is.

My two days in NO lived up to my expectations and beyond. Knowing the recent struggle the city has had with flooding and Katrina, its soul and verve and vibrancy defy the elements. The sense of history  lives alongside an intense awareness of the present and the need to grasp every moment.

Even after all the years of suspending my dream of going to NO, the very reasons I wanted to go in the first place rang true for me. How could I have shelved it for so long? To make up, I plan to go back at the very next opportunity.

Such a cool cat!

Listening to "Peggy Gordon"

Such a cool cat!

French Quarter in New Orleans

so many amazing buildings in New Orleans

still playing on..

pictures of Louis Armstrong adorn accommodation