Shingles and all that jazz

I am into my second week with shingles. It is painful. unpleasant and restrictive. I got the antiviral medicine within 12 hours of the first blister erupting, also painkillers and stuff to make me sleep but had to go back to the gp within the first week as the painkillers firstly prescribed were not touching the pain.

I was already on antibiotics having been diagnosed with pleurisy two days before the blister appeared. I don’t do things by half – ever.

Of course we have had some fabulous weather, well really fabulous for West Cork. The sun is shining and I had just got the man who helps in the garden to put the swinging hammock up. One of the pills I am on instructs me to stay out of the sun so even though I have the canopy on the hammock have had to stay mostly indoors.

There are whales just off the coast at the moment. How I would love to be out on a boat with my camera. One chap encountered a humpback when he was kayaking only yards from the coast near Dunmore House Hotel. There have been lots of sightings out of Baltimore too and Baltimore is rapidly becoming the whale watching capital of Ireland. We are fortunate to have some really experienced guides on the whale watching boats and it is a huge draw for tourists.

I went along to the Tom Crean play performed at the Celtic Ross Hotel – and it was brilliant. And the Vespertine Quintet played Grove House, Schull a few days before. Equally inspiring such talented musicians and of course the inimitable Jessie Kennedy who is shortly to launch her new CD entitled The Carbery Songs. The launch is appropriately in St Fachtna’s Cathedral, Rosscarbery. It promises to be a memorable evening. Having heard a couple of the songs already I am so looking forward to hearing the rest of the CD,

There is so much to look forward to and West Cork really comes into its own at this time of the year, that is if you are a lover of literature, music, and the arts. Spoiled for choice and so lucky to live here.

Whirlwind few days

There’s so much happening these days it is all a bit mad.  But that’s life in West Cork.  The first session of the Fiddle Fair was on Thursday in the Castle with the two Dermots – Dermot Mclaughlin and Dermot Byrne.  Great music and great venue, Dun na Séad Castle.  Many of their pieces of music reminded me of the tunes I listened to in my youth and they were originally from Scotland, or maybe they were originally Irish, went to Scotland and came back again – whatever there was a touch of nostalgia for me.  I didn’t know any of the names of the tunes but knew the tunes.

It was a gentle introduction of what was to come.

But Saturday dawned and suddenly my day was pulled apart.  There was a little girl who was receiving her First Holy Communion wearing her grandmother’s communion dress, worn by the grandmother 48 years ago.  A lovely story so notebook and camera gathered up, I headed to Ballydehob.

But firstly there were sheep to be seen to.  They were grazing in my friend’s garden but grass shorn so job completed, the farmer and another friend had been rounded up to move said sheep to new pastures.  A few circuits of the garden enabled the sheep to be directed into the waiting trailer and off they went bleating a sorry farewell.

Next to the Church where a mass of excited children, newly booted and suited, washed and scrubbed and gleaming were exiting the church into the sunshine, happily posing for photographs.  Images of this day will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  Mums and dads, grandmas, granddads, aunts, uncles, siblings all in the finery smiling into the lens.  Ellen posed happily for me with her mum and dad and grandma.   Darling little girl with the brightest smile and so like her grandma in the photograph of 48 years ago.

Then we headed to Schull to track down another friend, whose birthday it was.  Armed with a very special ice cream, flowering plant and a bag full of treats and gifts we eventually found her.  Spent a wonderful afternoon, sharing the ice cream eating shortbread biscuits, drinking tea and coffee and chatting and laughing in the sunshine overlooking the islands and the sea.   Decadent days, but birthday wishes exchanged and very happy we had shared the couple of hours with her.

Back to the Fiddle Fair for the Saturday night session.  The Foghorn Stringband with Nadine’s smile the warmest greeting you could wish for.  She is so lovely and she and Sammy, Caleb and Reeb are so welcome back to the Fiddle Fair.  Their Old Time music, is familiar to us all and really no one wanted them to leave the stage.

Next up were Daimh with special guest Eilidh Shaw.  This was a Scottish group, but one guy was from  Canada another from California although living in Scotland.  The voice of the girl Gaelic singer was as sweet and gentle as an angel and although I don’t have any Gaelic here too I knew the songs she sang from my childhood.   They played their hearts out and for some it was their first visit to Ireland and I do hope they come back again.

Jeremy Irons was in the audience on the Saturday night and it was standing room only as the marquee held a capacity crowd and lots of people were just too late to get tickets.

I got in around 1 am and spent Sunday doing the write up for Jessie Kennedy’s new cd, the story of Ellen and the communion dress and generally catching up.

Today was the icing on the cake with a session in the Riverside Cafe in Skibbereen.  The Foghorn Stringband played a couple of sessions and they are a joy to listen to and to watch.   The lads from Cape Breton, Troy MacGillivray, Shane Cook and Jake Charron played too – making sweet magic with their fiddles and guitar.  Others joined in but what a wonderful way to spend a Monday afternoon or indeed any afternoon.   I met a friend for lunch at the Riverside and to join in the Fiddle Fair post mortem session so we ended up spending the whole afternoon there.  Had to move my car in case the traffic warden was about.  In fact I should have moved the car twice, but Brendan McCarthy senior was dancing with Nadine and we were all singing again when The Foghorn Stringband set up for the second time.  So it was 6 pm before the lunchtime session finished.

I said to Sammy and Reeb and Nadine that we do this all the time in West Cork – and we mostly do.   A mad mad world and here’s to the next time.

A man’s world where women are invisible.

I want to write about how I was ignored today at the counter in the hardware store. Most of the men being served were farmers. I was next in the queue but the queue is landscape shaped as the counter is spread almost the whole width of the shop with several tills. I was next but an elderly farmer leaning intently over the counter was the next one to be served by the young salesman who came out of the back office. I am of course female, old and pretty nondescript and definitely not a farmer.

I did say,’I was next.’ but I was similarly ignored as the ‘men’ went about their business.

I walked to the front of the shop and called to the girl who usually mans the till nearest the exit but was busy sweeping the floor, ‘Can you see me?’ She looked up enquiringly and said, ‘Yes!’ And I replied, ‘Well apparently I am invisible to everyone at the back of the shop as you have to be male to be served there! And it’s not the first time I have been ignored!!’

She did her best to placate me, got another sales guy to serve me, but I left with nothing and will go back tomorrow in a better frame of mind. And I will observe the unwritten rule in this store anyway, ‘it is indeed a man’s world and women should know their place, three places behind and subservient to any man who is in the queue or non queue as it is!’

The Fork Lift and the Moon Car

RNLI Union Hall 1






Yesterday I declined a lift in a fork lift so I could be hoisted fifty or more feet in the air in order I could take an aerial photograph of some pretty fabulous cars, even if it was for the RNLI. Thankfully there was someone on hand who was much younger and braver and who could handle my camera.

Union Hall West Cork is a pretty special place, full of pretty special people. I always try to believe there is good in everyone.  Mostly everyone has good in them somewhere but some people make it very hard to find!

But yesterday was a spectacularly good day with people being at their best and doing their best for others.   It was one of those brilliantly sunny days when West Cork glows at its best. All eyes were on the fleet of pretty special cars which had arrived in the village to support Union Hall RNLI.   As I go by colours usually to identify any vehicle, please forgive me if I mention only three which were easily identifiable even to me.

(To be truthful I had the details given to me.)

Of most significance was The Moon Car which many vintage car enthusiasts were seeing for the first time. This vehicle has a pretty interesting history and I googled it to get the information which follows. It is a bright oh so shiny yellow and was gleaming at its best yesterday

Pat McSweeney of Ballineen owns the gleaming yellow immaculate 1919 Moon Car, a beautifully restored Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The car is said to have disappeared on the evening of 21st March in 1922 when it was used in an attack on Crown forces disembarking in Queenstown, Co Cork from their base in Spike Island. The Moon Car was hidden and rediscovered in the 1980s and eventually acquired by Rolls Royce restorer James Black in Co Antrim.   You will read much more of the history of this vehicle on line.

RNLI Union Hall 3RNLI Union Hall 2







Main organisers of the event in support of Union Hall RNLI fundraising branch on Sunday, April 26, were Crosshaven Veteran, Vintage and Classic Motor Club with members of a number of other vintage car clubs coming along in support.

RNLI Union Hall 2







Winners of the Buckley’s Bar Best Car trophy were Phillip Tiby and Sal Tiby Perks of Youghal, with their 1936 Wolseley, at 25 horsepower, the biggest one made. The vintage group were travelling on to attend another car event in Bandon,

Also on show in magnificent condition was the1938 2530 red Rolls Royce, owned by Patrick Burns of Blackrock, Cork city.

In great West Cork fashion refreshments were served in Myross Rowing club house to all who attended the event. The cars were then lined up on the causeway against a backdrop of a memorial to all those lost at sea either in the adjacent waters or from the surrounding villages who had perished at sea in other parts of the world.

Another brilliant West Cork day to add to the many.

Weekday lunches

It’s wonderful weather in West Cork these days. Warm and sunny although it is supposed to change for the weekend.

What is it about weekday lunches that start around 1 pm and you scurry to get home in time for the six o’clock news, although the news today is distressing and painful. On driving home I hear of a settlement to a little boy of €3.5 million for his care for the next five years. The HSE finally admitted responsibility for his paralysis and apologised. His poor parents had to take on the system. Then there are the unknown numbers who have died in the Med on boats which were no more than the coffin ships of the past.

But we have whiled a few hours away in good company, enjoying sunshine in the garden, gathering round a coal fire in the cool of the airy house. The food was pretty incredible too, and each of us were given a doggy bag to take home so supper is supplied.

The UK is in the throes of election fever, Ireland bubbles on with news that Prince Charles and his wife are to visit both North and South next month, and the next scandal will probably be about the properties which were taken over and sold on too cheaply with the Irish taxpayer picking up the bill, but we were in another world.

Back to the lunch – it is so decadent to sit around enjoying good company, great food, pretty magnificent wines and general conversation, catching up with those who have seemed to hibernate this long winter. We are all just that little bit greyer, personally a bit plumper, memories fading, and some with hearing aids sheltering in shell-like crevices.

A charming long lazy lunch on a Tuesday? What kind of people have time to do that? How mad is that, but then how mad is West Cork living. As one companion declared today, ‘You must agree, you have to be slightly mad to live here or you wouldn’t survive!’

And I do agree with her. Here’s to the next time. Anyone for a haggis Sunday lunch? That’s next on my agenda.

The Sound of Music

It’s the fiftieth anniversary of film of the The Sound of Music but I saw the stage version in London when I was a teenager- over fifty years ago.

A girlfriend and I had made the journey from Edinburgh to London aboard the Starlight Special. This was by overnight train, leaving Waverley late in the evening and arriving in London around 6 am the following morning. The attraction was the ticket price – five pounds sterling.

The £5 entitled us to a seat and a journey.  We settled in a compartment where we were joined by a husband and wife who were making the same journey.

There were lots of lads aboard the train and we headed off to the buffet car, ‘for refreshments’ but really to eye up the talent.  The drinks were flowing, there was a good natured fun crowd and the stewards joined in the laughter and fun.   We headed back to our compartment at one point, but the husband and wife had stretched out full length on each side of the compartment taking up all the seats.  With nowhere to sit we retraced our steps and joined in the party which was in full swing.

Around 3 am the revellers started to quieten down and we stayed on in the buffet car playing cards with a group of lads who had no intention of closing their eyes all night.  We’d never played cards for real money before, but beginners’ luck was with us, either that or our competitors had really had far too much to drink.  We arrived in London having doubled the spending money we had for the week!

We were staying with a television personality of the time, the days of live television.  She got tickets for us for the Sound of Music stage show which would later become one of the most enduring favourite films of all time.

She had arranged for us to go backstage after the performance and meet the stars of the show.  But firstly she told us not to tell anyone we had watched the show from the gods!

We duly went backstage. It was exciting and thrilling and another world, although the dressing rooms were smaller than we expected.   After all the colour and atmosphere on stage during the performance, somehow backstage was duller, a bit jaded and didn’t live up to expectations.   I knew there was something different about the man who was the leading character’s dresser, but didn’t understand what was different or why.   It was to be quite a few years later before the penny dropped.

Fast forward eight years or so and I had a little boy called Raymond.  I used to sing him the song Do Ray Me from the Sound of Music and call him my little ray of sunshine.  In retrospect I don’t know why as he whinged and cried through the first two years of his life.    It was so constant friends gave up asking what was wrong with him.

He was happiest when he was taking things apart.  If he was silent you understood it was a clock or a watch which was being dismantled.    It got so that when he entered the house of anyone who knew him everything that was musical or mechanical or could be wound up was hastily put out of his reach.

He didn’t sleep as a toddler but was content in his cot as long as he had his Fisher Price wind up musical toy with him.   We would awaken in the early hours to the noise of the crank crank crank as his little fingers wound up the movement and drift off to sleep again to the gentle sounds of Little Boy Blue….

He wore the teeth of the movement completely out and the toy was eventually discarded.

He was my third child and as he got older would ask me, ‘Why didn’t you have me first?’  He had a reading age of 13 at 6 years old, so determined was he to be on the same reading books as his older brothers.  He always wanted to run or cycle faster than anyone else and one time flew over the handlebars of his bicycle. I was on top of a ladder removing a brick fireplace at ceiling height when he came in the house screaming.  His hand was covering his eye and blood pumped freely through his fingers.  I thought he had lost his eye, but thankfully his eye was intact.  He had a nasty cut on his forehead above his eye and a scar which he carries to this day.

He was two weeks’ late making his entrance into this life. I believe he has been trying to make up for those two weeks ever since.   He arrived without warning and within five minutes of deciding it was time to make an appearance.

(We had friends staying that weekend with us, friends who were childless and who would remain so throughout their lives.  They adored being in our home that eventful day in May.)

Many years later we went to Austria with Ray, one of his brothers and some others.   We walked through the tunnelled avenue, and saw many of the scenes where The Sound of Music had been filmed.

I remember being on a coach going into Salzburg and this is where I learned I was no longer the mummy who had to take care of things for the little boys.  The tour guide asked for either passports or some information and I opened my mouth to answer and deal with whatever was necessary.  But the little boy – in my eyes anyway – dealt politely and calmly with what needed to be done.  He was after all 27.   I relaxed back into the coach seat, having learned that a part of my job was done.

The little boy now has boys of his own who have appeared on stage in theatre and musicals, film and television but not as far as I know in The Sound of Music, at least not yet.





It’s a mad mad world.

I heard today from a young woman thrilled that her family had made it out from Iraq and arrived in Turkey. They hope to make it to the UK or USA.    She misses her parents as she hasn’t seen them for a number of years, not since she moved to safety.

She spent her teenage years in Iraq during the downfall of Saddam but said the ‘freeing’ of her people had made them more afraid, frightened to raise their heads, voice what they were experiencing.  Her friend, 17, and her friend’s family were killed in an explosion.

Occasionally an email would come through from her, brief one line messages, and then for several years, nothing – no contact at all.

I believed she had been killed and pushed the painful thoughts from my mind.

Then early one morning a message on fb.   Was I the Carol she had met ten years ago?  She had tracked me down and since then I have shared her sorrows, her fears and her painful losses but also her hopes and her delight at joys.

I hope and pray she will be reunited with her parents soon.  She has blossomed from a shy awkward teenager into a beautiful confident young woman.

Next I heard from a young couple who have added a gorgeous baby boy to their family. They already have a daughter so I am thrilled for them.

The Irish water meter protesters have been released from prison.

An Irish county council has withdrawn its case against a man who believed there was no legal basis for the household tax and refused to pay.

Like many hundreds of thousands, I have paid my household / property tax.  Was I wrong to do so?  I had no choice as I had to be tax compliant to continue to run the Made In West Cork business – log on to

The court did not find in favour of the man who refused to pay.  The county council who took him to court, withdrew their case – so who wins and who loses?

Wouldn’t the girl’s parents, who are leaving everything behind them as they attempt to flee to the West and safety, love to be in a position to pay a property tax.

It’s a mad mad world.


The Elephant Orphanage

We were picked up at our hotel in Negomba, Sri Lanka, shortly after 6 am. Two of my sons, two grandsons,  one daughter in law and myself aboard the minibus, driven by Sanjeeva, heading North and East to the elephant orphanage. Our aim is to get there for the 9 am feeding session.

When you travel to other countries and are ferried to popular tourist destinations it is very easy to become cynical. Is this a set up to extract as much cash from the tourist? I was uncomfortable on the way there all sorts of thoughts going through my head. Are the animals being properly looked after I wondered, although what do I know about caring for elephants?  The only ones I have seen close up and in real life were as a child when visiting Edinburgh zoo, and years later when I took my own children to zoos and circuses.

Sri Lankans are an industrious race, up early working, travelling on as wide a variety of transport as one could imagine. There are lots of new roads being built in the country. Some say it is spoiling the landscape and it will never be the same.

We cross several rivers, sometimes the same river a couple of times. We follow diversion signs to take us away from the delays caused by the miles of roadworks but make the orphanage with a few minutes to spare before the designated 9 am feeding time.  Sanjeeva parks the minibus in the car park opposite the entrance to the elephant orphanage amongst coaches, buses, trucks, cars and four wheeled drives.

We join the queues, one entrance kiosk for Sri Lankans and another for foreigners.  Tickets are available to buy bottles of milk to feed the baby elephants.

It’s already about 30 degrees and we walk to a sheltered area where the baby elephants are being fed   There’s a huge canopy above them, shading them from the searing sun.

The Keepers are very smart and uniformed. Like humans the babies display different characteristics   There’s the gentle baby who keeps in the background and who is pushed out of place by the greedy baby when a bottle is proffered through the round bars which separate the animals and the public.

It’s pure entertainment as milk bottle tickets are exchanged for large milk filled suckling bottles which are devoured in seconds.

I am alarmed when I notice the animals, even the littler ones are chained.  But I realise in an instant, these ‘babies’ are wild animals and extremely strong so some control is just a matter of sense and safety.

Because of my fall earlier in the year, and the heat, I can’t walk up the hill to where the larger elephants are being fed, but watch them from a distance.

Then the parade begins as the keepers round up the elephants to escort them to the river to bathe.  The numbers grow and we have not only the babies but the mums and dads and grandmothers and grandads too and everyone inbetween.

The traffic is stopped as the long line of elephants cross the road down the hill through an avenue of shops to the river.   Again the walk is too much for be but a three wheeled tuk tuk and driver quickly take me down the backstreets to the river edge.

One of my sons takes me to a restaurant overlooking the river and the bathing elephants.

It is simply bliss.  The keepers sit atop rocks in the river and the elephants do what elephants do best in a flowing river.

They are having fun, get bold at times and wander off in little groups on their own.  But a gentle prod from the keepers, a call back to order and like naughty children the elephants return to safety.

One of the grandsons declares, ‘This is the best day of my life.’   His dad bought a ticket so the grandson has bottle fed a baby elephant.  He will carry the thrill of the experience with him for ever.

We spend an amazing privileged two hours before the keepers begin to round up their charges.  They start to herd the lumbering elephants back up the hill, past the shops crammed with elephant souvenirs, to stop the traffic again and cross the road to the orphanage.

It’s a magical and emotional experience. These animals would simply not be alive were it not for the care they are given in the orphanage.  Some are land mine victims and have prosthetics.

The spin off is wonderful to see.  The keepers and orphanage staff are employed; the line of shops which flank the road to the river would simply not exist without the tourists and there would be no need for the restaurant where we had lunch overlooking the river.

Sanjeeva explains he had been to the elephant orphanage more than thirty times and never tires of visiting it.  I can understand that.















Sierra stands for Stagger

It’s like another language – stagger, crawler and runner.

Which one are you? Or are you none of them?

you Last year I was introduced to the terms used by airport staff to categorise people who had called for assistance either on arrival at airports or between departure points.

Sierra stands for stagger. Romeo for runner and I think Charlie is the code word they used for crawler.

Even though my late husband had required wheelchair assistance in the final years when he was still able to travel, I had never come across these terms before.

It was whilst I was on the first of five trips away last year that I smashed my foot, even before we got to Cork airport.

A minibus with broken side doors, no step to help access the back door of the vehicle, necessitated the assistance of the six foot plus driver to help five foot and a bit me climb on. My right left boarded upright and my left leg, even with me being pulled aboard by this giant of a man, just couldn’t make it and buckled in a heap under me.

I couldn’t speak as the tearing of ligaments, tendons and every other piece of me inside my foot broke free and fought for space as they ripped and began to swell and contort.

I limped throughout my journey and two flights to Marrakech and spent the first few days on a roof top sun lounger elevating my foot. We travelled to Rabat and back and I gamely carried on wincing as I went.

Things and my foot did not improve and eventually medical advice was to request assistance when travelling.

It was in Gatwick airport where I first heard the phrase, ‘I have two Sierras’ used.

A Romeo can walk, maybe not very far which is why they would need help in one of the golf cart type vehicles to cover the distance, often a couple of miles, between departure gates. A Sierra, a stagger, can walk a bit and can climb the stairs to enter the plane. But a crawler will need wheelchair assistance and probably need to be hoisted on to a platform within a vehicle which raises to allow level access into the plane.

I was grateful for the service throughout the time my foot took to heal – some ten months.

I met lots of interesting people during the time I waited in the assisted passenger area, people with all levels of abilities.

I experienced a whirlwind wheelchair journey at breakneck speed through the huge and magnificent Dubai airport. A medical emergency on arrival was dealt with by paramedics before anyone was allowed to leave the flight to carry on to the next stage of the journey.

And I was in danger of missing my connection but my wheelchair driver got me there in plenty time.

People are generally very polite and agreeable when they see someone in a wheelchair and will step back and out of the way. What they don’t do is look at you. It’s as if you are from another planet or perhaps they are worried that your lack of mobility might be infectious?

I met a gorgeous jolly black lady who was quite elderly. We were sitting patiently waiting for wheelchairs to take us through to the departure gates and she listed all the trips she had made even within the first three months of the year. She was a seasoned traveller.

She had sold her house and was spending the proceeds travelling between all her extended family. ‘I travel light and I am keeping going until the money runs out,’ she confided. ‘There will be nothing left for my family to fight over,’ she giggled. ‘And I am enjoying life!’

There’s a moral in there somewhere for all of us.

It could only happen to me

Another spell in hospital. Time for reflection, and I had almost forgotten an incident that happened around thirty years ago.

I don’t know what triggered the memory, save that it is said son’s birthday today.

He had just finished boarding school and exams and had an interview for that first job. Our shopping list, as we walked through the pedestrianised shopping area in Chatham, consisted of a suit and shirt and tie.

We were strolling along in the bright sunshine when suddenly I heard the slap, slap, slap of feet running on the concrete walkway behind us. Just as the runner drew closer he slipped and, with a mighty crash, fell heavily on to the pavement directly to our rear.

I turned and exclaimed, ‘You went down with an awful thud. Are you all right?’ The young man looked up at me and I asked him if he was hurt. I began to gather all the bags he had dropped, neat little  boxes  and leaflets which were blowing about in the breeze.

I helped him to his feet. He was a little unsteady but I thrust everything I could find into the plastic shopping bags which had fallen on the ground and handed them to him.

‘Are you sure you are okay?’ I fussed.  He nodded and limped off heading towards M & S.

My son and I were looking for a men’s outfitters still in search of a suit and shirt to impress the interviewers.

The men’s outfitters had what we would have liked to buy but the suits were way beyond our budget so we made our way back to the shopping precinct to try the department stores.

It was only as we encountered a couple of policemen, then saw police cars lined up along the edge of the walkway that we realised something was amiss.

I stopped by one of the cars and asked the policeman what had happened.  ‘A young man has robbed Ratner’s the jewellers.  He’s got away with a good bit and was seen carrying plastic carrier bags and heading in this direction.’ explained the sergeant.

‘I think you will find he went into M & S.’ I said.

I didn’t hang around to elaborate or to explain my part in helping the robber escape with his ill-gotten gains or why my fingerprints would be on all the jewellery boxes I had so carefully picked up and crammed into the plastic shopping bags.