Pre-admission & the first days

I was called back to Cork to have the pre admission tests completed on Friday, 30th June.  My daughter in law drove me up for this and I was conscious that I was taking her away from her work on the busiest day of the week for her job.

I suppose now that I must have been still in a state of shock.  I remember gabbling on to one of the nursing staff doing the pre admission test, about a book which I had found in my bookcase.  My 8 year old grandson was managing to read this.  It was all blood and guts, an adaptation of Treasure Island.  The grandson had surprised his parents reading words which were way above his regular reading ability.  I had discovered the book was especially written for dyslexic teens and it had succeeded in opening up a vocabulary that was interesting to a boy of my grandson’s age.   I had no idea how this sample book had arrived in my bookcase.

The nurse had a boy of the same age and one a couple of years younger.  The younger boy’s reading ability had overtaken her older son’s and was causing the nurse a great deal of difficulty.  By the time she finished with me she was going to buy into the Don Johnson reading system in the hope of having the same result as my grandson’s.

I can’t really remember anything of importance in the tests.   Should I have been asking about what was in front of me, or about the tests.  I was pushing everything away until I had to face up to it.

I had a list of stuff I had to get and do before I started the chemo and I had a book of hints and tips with a colostomy.  I had booklets on dealing with cancer, diet sheets as my diet would have to change,

I know I speed read them all but to be honest, nothing was penetrating my brain.  I could also not complete an easy level of Sudoko.  This is always a pointer that I am tired or unwell.  I expect I was both.

I had to buy nightdresses too as with the target area being my bottom, pjs would be too restrictive.   I had taken to sitting on soft cushions and using a cushion even in the car whilst driving myself and a cushion on the chair in front of the computer.

The level of pain was still excruciating.  I had thought that no one would suffer pain with cancer these days.   But I did and even when in hospital it was difficult for the staff to understand the level of pain I was experiencing.

The weekend before I was admitted was a race to get everything done that needed to be done.  I had accounts to finish, a VAT return to do and there were family birthdays coming up so I bought cards and sorted the gifts out.   I needed to shop for everything on the list the hospital had given me and see that the house was left in reasonable order.  I didn’t know how long I would be in hospital or when the chemo and radiotherapy would start.

We didn’t deliberately not tell people about my diagnosis.  It was just everything happened so fast and I had so much to do in these few days that I had to deal with what was a priority.   People would find out in time anyway.  That’s part of living in West Cork.

My son drove my up to the hospital the day of my early morning admission.   I was taken to the pre-operation area but waited some hours before being taken to theatre.  I waited so long that one of the nursing staff took pity on me and went to the shop and bought me magazines to read to while away the time.  People are so kind – aren’t they.

I remember waking up in the recovery room in the late afternoon and knowing that something poisonous had been removed from my body.  My bowel had been looped and in fact I would have been in serious trouble (well I was in serious trouble but even more serious trouble) if the twisted bowel had burst before it was unlooped.

At some stage during that first stay in hospital I had a port put in around my collar bone.  This was to stay with me for months.  It saved my arms becoming like pincushions as my old veins are twisted and turn at alarming angles so inserting a cannula was difficult at the best of times.  My veins used to be a delight for young house doctors but not anymore.  Having a cannula fitted also restricted my use of the iphone so the port gave me more freedom to keep texting!

I had not told or discussed with my sons that I would refuse any chemo or radiotherapy treatment.  My reasoning was that the two years before my husband died had proved a nightmare for me and my son and daughter in law in Ireland.   The other boys and family members had come over from time to time and supported us as much as they were able to.   John had been given two weeks to live but lived for two years – determined to live until he was 100.   The disease defeated him when he was just short of his 74th birthday.

But I had vowed I would not put my son and daughter in law through the same experience.  It was a very hard and difficult two yeas for us all and they were young with a young family and had their own lives to live.  John had not been offered any chemo or radiotherapy as he was so frail by the time of his diagnosis it was decided he would not survive the treatment.  Besides which they didn’t know where his primary cancer was.

So I went along with the initial surgery and tests.  Then they found a lump in my groin and I thought that the cancer had travelled.  But tests proved the lump to be benign and all other tests seemed to prove my cancer was contained in the one area.

I was a dreadful patient during this time.  At times I didn’t have a clue what ward I was in or where I was in the hospital.  For a few days I was sharing a six bed ward with women who were at different stages of treatment for breast cancer.  I still was at  sobbing point with the level of pain I was in.  The main trouble was getting the prescribed pain killers on time before the pain shot through to a level that was really distressing.

I have always had a strong pain threshold but what I was experiencing now was difficult for the nursing staff to understand.  My cancer was considered to be rare and I reasoned it was their lack of experience in dealing with such a cancer that caused them not to understand that delaying the pain relief, at times an hour or more overdue, was allowing the level to reach a crescendo that would not be quashed by the prescribed pills.  It was also distressing for the other women in the ward who were not in any pain and also believed like I had that you no longer suffered pain with cancer in these modern times with all the drugs that were available.

I have never been a hospital bell ringer, but took to ringing the bell and I know the staff were fed up with me.   I was terrified my catheter would overflow and I was ringing for pain relief before I was due to have more drugs.   The level of drugs needed two staff to administer them so that made it more difficult on a busy night to get two of them together to sign out the drugs.

There was one night when the wards must have been hectic when I again rang the bell.   I was in agony laying on my back.  The male nurse came along. exasperated with me.  No wonder as I said, ‘I am in agony with my back and can’t get any relief.’

‘Why don’t you try turning on your side.’ was his scathing suggestion.

He was quite right of course.  I apologised for ringing the bell and not thinking of turning around to ease the pain.  I turned on my side and had immediate relief.   But I was so doped with the level of drugs that I was on and the level of pain I was in, that sane thought and common sense had long since departed from my brain.

And in fairness before he went off duty the next morning, that nurse apologised for his treatment of me.




The first ten days

The first ten days of my admission to hospital are a blur.   I had surgery the same day as I was admitted and had my bowel diverted.  I had a colostomy bag fitted and this would stay with me for the future.  I remember discussing this with my late sister-in-law, a fastidious woman to whom appearance mattered so much she would co-ordinate her husband’s clothes to match in some way to what she was choosing to wear.  Their colours never clashed.

Poor Anne was to be diagnosed with bowel cancer and prior to her diagnosis we had talked about a colostomy bag being the worst thing either of us could imagine.  Her cancer was too advanced to be treated.

Now I was to live with a colostomy bag and I wondered if it was 1984 instead of 2017.

A trio of nurses in the hospital deal with patients such as myself who had to learn to use colostomy bags.   They were kind but firm as I struggled to take on board what I was going to have to deal with for the future.  I made every mistake in the book.  I had to have the bag changed one night during my first admission and a student nurse was sent to help me.  I hadn’t even thought far enough ahead to cut the bag to size and the pair of us struggled in the bathroom but as the young nurse grew more nervous, I took a fit of the giggles as it was a ridiculous situation and one I never thought I would see myself in.   I learned always to have a supply of bags cut to size in advance of being needed.

I decided I was not going to have any treatment.  My son and his wife with myself, had borne the brunt of my husband’s cancer.  He got two weeks to live and lived two years, which was great for him but became a nightmare for the three of us, although in fairness my son and his wife have never complained and were brilliant to both of us throughout his illness.

They were young with two young children and I decided that it was better that they got on with their lives and didn’t go through the same experience with me.

One of the hospital staff, a lovely person I had met several times at fundraising events over the years, pulled the curtains around when she learned I had refused treatment and sat explaining how wrong that decision was..  She explained how much treatment had advanced and how successful the treatment for my particular cancer was.  She told me how the dna of my cancer had been sent to labs in the UK for identification so my treatment would match exactly what was needed to beat this.

Then one of the stoma nurses told me how unfair I was being to my family by taking away the opportunity to support and help me.  I had always been there for them but it is much easier to give than receive.  I had to learn to ask for and receive help.   The chemo and radiotherapy teams introduced themselves to me.   The tall blonde radiotherapy doctor with a willowy figure one could only dream about, explained that the treatment I was to receive was brutal but my cancer was curable with this treatment.  It was what was used worldwide for my particular cancer.

Well-meaning people told me ‘never have chemo as it is a poison’, ‘if the cancer doesn’t kill you the chemo will’.   With these ‘reassurances’ spinning around my head, I was so unsure but in the end had no choice but to reluctantly agree to treatment.  I went home to wait for the call back to start treatment.

Organising for admission

I arrived home and began to organise myself for admission.  I had lists everywhere of whom I needed to contact to give them the news I had cancer and what had to be done before going into hospital.

What a long way we have come during my lifetime that we can say the word ‘cancer’ openly.  It’s still said with a shudder, and fear and sometimes only in a whisper but the word was seldom used verbally as I was growing up and it eventually became, ‘the dreaded C’.

Is it because of television and the speed of communication these days that we are so open and informed (well we think we are) about everything?

I had a lot to do   Would I need pyjamas or nightdresses?  I had been a pyjama girl for years but realised with the nature of my cancer I would need nightdresses.  I bought sixt nightdresses as I would try to save my daughter in law any pressure about having to take my washing home, wash and dry it and return it to the hospital.  Everything would be landing on my son in Ireland and his wife and they seemed to bear the brunt of all my problems, much as I tried to be as independent as possible.

I had been in hospital so many times during the past three or four years.  I began to suspect that the cancer had been the underlying cause all along.  There was nothing to be gained from thinking along these lines.  My cancer was rare and difficult to diagnose.

I had no symptoms other than a slight bowel movement change.  I had no bleeding, no pain until the ‘piles’ began to appear.  I had had the national bowel screening test without any call back and another test the locum had organised a few weeks previously.  He had been delighted to phone me to say that it was clear.

I remember slowing to let the locum, who had made the appointment with the bowel consultant, cross Main Street, Skibbereen.   He spoke to me through the open window of the car, ashen-faced.  ‘I got a letter from Mr McC.’ he started.   But I cut him off mid-sentence as I had my 8 year old grandson in the back of the car.   The grandson is as bright as a button and was listening intently to what the doctor was saying.

I phone the locum later to explain why i had been so rude.

The day after I had been diagnosed, I was called to the hospital for pre-admission tests and five days after that I was being driven to CUH to have the surgery.   This was when my adventures with my stoma would begin and I was to start on a huge learning curve.


Telling the boys

There I was with the news I had cancer.   The private consultants’ building has a central cafe on the ground floor and I ordered a green tea (soon to be on my list of forbidden beverages), whilst I gathered my thoughts.  Firstly I knew I was near to tears and I had to take on board what I had just been told.

I didn’t want to break down in front of my friend’s 13 year old daughter.  I felt very sorry for myself, but I knew this would soon pass as soon as I had to deal with practicalities.  I quickly texted my friend to say that I had caught the bus home and to make their way home without me. I said I would speak to her and explain why, later.

Then I emailed my four sons saying simply that I had been diagnosed with cancer, that I would be admitted to hospital and operated on within the week.  I would keep them informed as I went along.

This email was very difficult to send. I was fighting back the tears as I typed the words.  I kept my head down so others in the cafe would not see me crying and I pretended to blow my nose, wiping the tell tale tears at the same time.

After all I was the mother and it had been my job as long as my boys had been alive, to protect them from hurt and harm and to do my best for them.  I have honestly done that all my life, and always had their best interests at heart in whatever I have done.  Some of  them would not agree with me.  I am the only person that has been a constant in their lives and there was a chance that I would not survive this.  I know we all have to die sometime and no matter that a couple of the boys were then in their 50s, they were still my boys and I wanted to protect them.  I knew I was causing them upset by sending this message.

It was a beautiful sunny day, a bit breezy and I walked down the paths past the main hospital and down towards the bus stop.  I sat down on a bench and let the world pass me by.  I wondered how many other people had been given similar news that day.

But I had a guardian angel looking after me.  ‘What are you doing here?  I thought you were in Spain or Sri Lanka or somewhere exotic?’

Margaret had been visiting her son in hospital.  I had known her for years since we were in a writing group together.  She is the kind of friend that no matter how long since we have seen each other, we can pick up straight away.  She quickly sat beside me when she saw the tears well up again.   I asked if she was going to Skibbereen and could I have a lift down the road.   She was and I could.  She lives in the same parish and would pass the end of my road on her way home.

There was truly no one better to be with me at this time.  We talked amiably as we walked slowly to Margaret’s late aunt’s house where her car was parked.  She explained about her son being injured.  Her husband was staying at the hospital with him and she was heading back to Castlehaven to be there for the rest of their family.   Two cups of tea and two chocolate biscuits set me straight and I knew although the tears might come again, for the time being I could talk about what had happened and what I was facing into.

I needed to get home and get on with what I had to do before I was admitted to hospital.  I would have pre-admission tests within forty-eight hours and was being operated on the United States’ Independence Day, July 4th.

I now knew what a stoma was as I had looked it up on my iphone whilst I was in the cafe.  I was to have a colostomy bag fitted so that the anus, the area where I needed to have treatment, (chemotherapy and radiotherapy), was clear.  So it was a matter of diverting the bowel which made common sense.

I didn’t know if I was to have an colostomy or an ileostomy and how either would affect me.  Over a matter of weeks I was to discover the difference between each one and a lot more besides.


One Year on

It’s over a year since I wrote anything for this blog.  Life can change in an instant they say.  It did for me on 28th June 2017.  I was diagnosed with cancer and there followed a whirlwind of treatment, hospital appointments and the oh so different level of care I experienced, from the sublime – the level every sick person deserves to be treated as – to the down right disgraceful in a ‘centre of excellence’.

Despite having four larger than regular size babies, I have never had piles.  So when lumps appeared at my anus, I thought I was dealing with piles.  I tried treatment with over the counter meds for a couple of weeks without any improvement.  If anything they were getting worse.  I saw a locum at the surgery.  He didn’t examine me but simply provided a prescription to use to reduce and ease the piles.  On my second visit to the gp as I was now in significant pain, I was referred to a bowel consultant in Cork.  It was private appointment and there was a three week wait.

I knew of the consultant as he had been my late husband’s consultant and was ‘the best man for the bowel.’

I had participated in the national bowel screening programme the previous year and there was no recall for that.   As I had had an upset stomach since returning from Spain, a matter of a few weeks previously, a further stool sample had been sent off from the surgery, and that came back clear.

Nevertheless there was something happening that was not right.  The level of pain escalated as I ticked off the days waiting to see the Cork consultant.   I took to standing in the shower in the early hours of the morning attempting to soothe the pain with warm water.

I couldn’t lay in bed or sit in a chair without experiencing a significant level of discomfort.   The pain was such that the painkillers would only cloud the pain for a short period of time.

I was examined by another locum at the surgery on the Monday before my Wednesday appointment with the consultant.  This kind man told me that the lumps were certainly not piles.  He firstly double checked I couldn’t be seen any quicker by the consultant and then prescribed much stronger pain relief.

I was hardly sleeping at all with the pain I was experiencing and the thought I was dealing with a cancer had danced in and out of my mind.  I just needed to be told what I was dealing with.

Eventually, Wednesday 28th June 2017 came and a friend drove me to Cork. She had an appointment for her teenage daughter at another hospital.   We were a cheery little group on the drive up, stopping to buy chocolate in Bandon, and laughing at needing the injection of sugar to keep the three of us going.

I was dropped off at the consultants’ private clinic and waited only minutes before being called in.

I suspect my consultant plays squash.  He is so full of energy, so direct and I can’t imagine him sitting for hours, for instance watching a play or a film at the cinema.   He asked me a few questions and then I was on the examination bed.   ‘You poor woman!’  were the first words he said to me.  He repeated them, and then said, ‘This is very serious, very very serious.’

I asked him, ‘Is this cancer?’

‘It is I am afraid. It is quite advanced and we have to fit you with a stoma as soon as possible.   We can’t treat the cancer until we do that.’

‘I have only had symptoms, like the piles, for a matter of weeks.’ I commented.  I didn’t add that I didn’t know what a stoma was.  I suspected that in the weeks that followed I would soon find out what a stoma was.

I was right about finding out what a stoma was.  But I was wrong about the timescale.  it would not be weeks – I would find out in a matter of days.

So if anyone has a lump or lumps which they think might be piles, please take it seriously and have it checked.







You will be sent to Ballydehob!

‘You will be sent to Ballydehob Branch!’ was the bandied threat at a British branch of a well-known Irish Bank many years ago.   The bank’s senior staff would ‘threaten’ their underlings with being sent to the small West Cork branch at the ‘back of beyond.’

Not that there’s any bank in Ballydehob these days, but anyone being sent to Ballydehob now might consider themselves extremely lucky.   Ballydehob is a hive of entrepreneurship and social industry.

Joanne’s shop opened on Monday and we initially queued outside her closed doors and accepted drinks from the beautiful Susie.   I noticed people were waiting, wine glasses in hand on the opposite side of the street and soon discovered why.   There was a stiff chill breeze funnelling its way up the right side of the street so I decamped and joined those sensible people on the left hand side which was bathed in brilliant sunshine.

Plates of nibbles were handed around on the right hand side of the street so a quick dash across the road was required for those of us enjoying the sunny evening.

My friend had arranged to meet me, but despite the chill wind was swimming in a local bay with her dogs.  She was delayed arriving for the opening having been stopped by the village photographer who was ferrying a beautiful dark haired Italian girl in his car.  There was no space in the B&B the girl had booked so my friend agreed to accommodate Flora for the duration of the Jazz Festival.

Back to the shop opening which Joanne conducted with her usual decorum and her decision to invite Bridie, the postmistress, to cut the pink ribbon was warmly welcomed by all present.

The shop contains an interesting collection of gifts, jewellery, cards, games and even bicycle clips which I was sorely tempted to buy for the youngest son, but there were no prices on anything in the shop.  People were writing lists of what they had ‘purchased’ and for which they would pay next time they were in the shop.   Joanne has very good taste, as one can see from her Porcelain Room restaurant and her new business, The Copper Merchant, definitely has her stylish stamp on it.

My next visit to Ballydehob was Thursday night which was All Ireland Poetry Day and there were readings in The Bank building.   It’s the first time I have been in this brightly painted former AIB Bank and progress on developing the premises for a variety of uses for the local community is ongoing.   Huge tribute must be made to those in the community who had the foresight to purchase this building, the loan being paid off by the profit from local lottery tickets.

The poetry readings were in three languages, English, as Gaeilge and French.    Readers were allocated a maximum of ten minutes each to read their work or the work of others.

The poetry reading theme was connections and one poem, the reader’s grandfather’s poem, had only been emailed over from the US shortly before the readings commenced.   A Frenchman, who had only arrived in Ireland that day,  read a favourite poem of his.

The poetry was as mixed as the variety of people packed into the front room of the bank.  We were all shapes, sizes and ages, and even one tall chap who was barefoot but I didn’t have the courage to ask him why he did not have shoes on.

Writer and poet, and former teacher, Patrick Deeley, read from his own work and introduced Seamus Hogan, whom I had never heard of before. (I am such a Philistine.)  Seamus read two brief poems and they were only a couple of lines, but such is his mastery of words that each word conveys what others would need a sentence to do so.  ‘Grey Smoke against a Grey Sky’ is Seamus’s latest book and his words tell so much about the man himself.   There’s all the care and love and passion there.

The official launch of Seamus’s book was further down the village and across the road so we all trooped into Ina Daly’s Bar.  It’s small with a highly polished counter and I wondered how we would all manage to cram into this space.  However a door opened off the bar to reveal a flight of stairs and we trooped down to what was essentially the cellar or basement of the house.  The doors opened off to ground level at the rear with a garden and some of the Hogan fans were already outside.  Too cold for me and most of us took advantage of the medley of seating arranged around the walls rather than stand outside.  Food again was brought downstairs from the kitchen above, and soon we were munching sandwiches, pate on brown bread, and a variety of nibbles.

Patrick Deeley spoke about his long time friend, Seamus Hogan, with great affection and obviously there is great camaraderie between the pair.   Brushing his blushes aside, Seamus read more from his new work and in some instances explained why or how a particular poem had evolved.

The Jazz Festival started yesterday and there is a mighty programme underway, something for everyone and all ages, including dance classes over the bank holiday weekend, as well as a street market on Sunday, weather permitting.


The Wedding

Saturday dawned clear and fine and it had the promises of being a perfect day.  I had a good start as I even managed to put on a pair of tights and not shred them before I got out of the house.

I hate tights with a vengeance but my Spanish outfit was only just to my knee so for once I would not get away with my usual knee highs.   With arrangements and timings being changed at the last minute I worked out I would have to change into my wedding clothes in the hairdressers and meet my family in town.

The parking fairy answered my prayers as I even got parked not too far from the hairdressers.  I had organised two bags for the day, one for the hairdressers and the other with silver sandals, in case my new silver shoes proved to be too tight later in the day (which they were), and top up make up, perfume etc and a spare pair of tights as I was sure I would snag them somewhere along the way.

I had ordered some organic steak mince from Madeline McKeever and received a text only minutes before I was due to have my face painted that her daughter Holly had my mince in the market.  ‘You have three minutes!’ warned Kelly Ann.  I made it back in time too despite Madeline’s place at the top of the market not her place any more.  Caroline pointed me to Mad’s new position where her daughter Holly was manning the stall.  Quick weigh and money exchanged, I put the mince in the boot of my car and made it back to the hairdresser in time.


Honey Bee (formerly Hair Heaven) is where I was about to be transformed into someone I didn’t really recognise in the mirror.  Pamela did my make up and successfully covered up the deep bags below my eyes.  (Marion has suggested I have an eye lift but for the time being I will stick with the paint!)

Next it was Kelly Ann who tackled my hair.  It’s quite long at the moment, deliberately so that it could be put up for the wedding, and I had been instructed to wash it a couple of days before Saturday.   Dress on and zipped up with one of the young girls who was having a well-earned break for lunch and then I was set to go.

I felt like a celebrity as everyone was commenting on how well I looked.  It’s amazing what cover up makeup and hair spray and a box and a half of grips can do.

Dashed to the Church Restaurant to get a sandwich and bottle of water which I would consume on my way down west in daughter-in-law’s car with the little granddaughter who would be a flower girl.   The cars had been swapped over and son was driving the bridesmaids in his brother-in-law’s car, whose wife was driving son’s car but it was all a bit confusing although I think I was the only one who was confused.

First stop was the bride’s home place for photographs and the little granddaughter was needed for that as was her little cousin, around fourteen months and so dotey and so smiley and sweet.  Both held a single silver stem which had a silver heart with a beautiful pink rose in full bloom in front of the heart.

I stayed in the car and ate my lunch and watched all the comings and goings.   The photographer was a great guy, running here, there and everywhere and snapping right left and centre.  I think he must have taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs during the day.

My granddaughter, three and three-quarters, held her little cousin’s hand all the way up the long aisle and the 8 year old grandson followed at a decent space apart.  He had the very important task of carrying the wedding rings.

The grandson had a brilliant wedding seeing lots of relatives and friends.  The little granddaughter danced the legs off both her parents.  She was out there dancing for every tune the band played.  Said parents only got off the floor when the band went off for a break and the little girl fell asleep on her mother’s lap.  She stirred as soon as the disco started but was whisked off to bed before she could don the dancing shoes again.

It was a wonderful wedding, a brilliant day altogether and the bride and groom take with them scores and scores of good wishes for their future happiness.  You can tell how thoughtful they are because the whole day was so well organised, from the details in the order of service to the packs my grandchildren found in their places at the dinner table. They both had an activity pack labelled with their names which would keep them amused through the breaks for the speeches.  And there were no wedding favours as the bridal couple had chosen to make a donation to West Cork Animal Welfare Group instead.

I would say the bride and groom are set for a long and happy life together.

My son had to help me walk to my car as the silver sandals were not comfortable at all and I would have been better had I kept the new silver shoes on although my feet were so swollen I might have needed a tin opener to get the shoes off.

I got home close to midnight and it took me a while to clean off all the makeup, then de-grip the hair. It was sticking out like the straight bristles of a brush but at odd angles to my head.  My mother would have said I looked like the wreck of the Hesperus.   I truly did look as if my hair had been through a hurricane.  It would have been my mother’s hundredth birthday the day of the wedding.  She was always annoyed at the fuss made of Queen Elizabeth II, who has her birthday the day before, saying she felt just as important as the Queen.

I felt a bit like Cinderella as I did not look a bit like the person who had looked back at me that morning in the hairdressers’ mirror.

And there is no Prince Charming around but if there had been he would have run a mile!

D Day – Minus One

She looked at me with her big blue eyes, pushed her blonde curls out of her face and declared, ‘Mum said you had to paint my nails with sparkles.’   She passed me the red nail polish complete with sparkling specs she had spotted on a shelf in my wardrobe and looked me steadfastly in the eyes as she lied.

But it was a beautiful balmy sunny West Cork day so that is just what I did as we sat outside on the swinging hammock in the afternoon sunshine.  I painted my little granddaughter’s fingernails and then her toenails.

Bumble bees and butterflies enjoyed the newly planted flowers and plants in the tubs along the back of the house.  Apart from the soft buzzing of the bees our world was silent.  Aeroplanes left their vapour trails as white crisscrosses in the sky – the only colour to mar the clear blue.

It was not a completely perfect day.  The granddaughter accepted my foolhardy invitation to paint.   I busied her with a variety of acrylic paints.  She chose the colours and I squirted those designated into a series of small plastic bowls.   Being the tidy creature she is and one who is totally averse to anything sticking to her fingers or hands, there was a great deal of hand washing and drying interspersed with colouring the A4 sheets of paper.

I had covered the large kitchen table with blank A4 sheets and she happily dabbed away until she decided it was time for a change of colour.  Point of action then shifted to the kitchen sink where she happily washed out the plastic bowls and instructed me on how to clean her paintbrush.  Interestingly she did not want to mix any of the colours.  The white pages are covered in different shaped splats and individually in white, red, blue or green.   And she washed up everything she had used, except the dark blue stains on the wooden kitchen table which were easily cleaned off later.

Other dramas of the day included the lack of a sunhat small enough to fit her and my difficulty fitting on the dark blue canopy for the swinging hammock although being directed on how to do so by a not yet four year old.

The canopy did its work and the three of us swung happily for a while under the shade. Left to their own devices for a few minutes, resulted in some kind of sibling rivalry.  Such was the lack of accord, her older brother required a cold compress where his eye had come in contact with a tight little fist.  Hopefully the compress has done its job and there will be no telltale black eye for the wedding photographs tomorrow.

I have everything ready, even vacuumed my car and had it washed yesterday although a blasted cat has left its sandy paw prints in a delicate pattern all over the bonnet and windscreen.

From the day I bought my wedding outfit in Spain I knew I had the perfect matching handbag in my silver clutch.   I looked for it today in the wardrobe where I keep my other handbags.  But the silver clutch bag is no longer there although I seem to have a handbag in every other shape and colour except the small neat oblong bag I had intended to use tomorrow.

Maybe it has gone the same way as the hat and the pashmina.

I have another silver handbag, but my friend who has now stepped in as my voluntary style consultant, tells me that only the clutch will do and my other silver bag with the shoulder strap is not suitable for my outfit.

Would that missing handbags and hats were all that we had to worry about in life.

A UK election, still no agreement in the North, no cannabis oil for Ava, a maternity home in the hands of the Nuns who owe so much to Irish women and children,

Then there is Rory McIllroy’s wedding to Erica Stoll at Ashford Castle.

But we have our own wedding tomorrow and the sun is going to shine as promised.


‘That sounds very West Cork’

The Customs House, Baltimore, opened its doors, on Friday of the Easter weekend.  It opens for weekends until the summer season starts when it will be open five or six days a week.  Opening hours are from 11 to 5 pm, which elicited the remark, ‘That sounds very West Cork.’   Busy mum of three, knitwear designer Sharon Rose McKeever is the driving force behind this enterprise which consists of three rooms devoted to local crafts, art, knitwear, jewellery, and of course some pieces.

Sharon Rose is also the driving force behind ‘Happy in Baltimore 4’ and there were crowds in the Square on Sunday afternoon as the final preparations for filming were underway.  The 2017 Happy in Baltimore theme is ‘No Borders’ – everyone welcome, whatever nationality or age and the completed film should be ready in the coming weeks.  Watch this spot.

Inish Beg also opened their cafe on FrIday and in addition to the beautiful grounds and gardens, there’s a pirate trail too.   Many of the fairies who have been evicted from local Coillte woodlands have now been rehoused on the Inish Beg estate.  Fairies with refugee status are declared as being more than welcome.

Skibbereen Market last Saturday was almost as busy as a summer’s day.  The holiday weekend brought crowds and visitors out in force and hopefully the stallholders did very well.

The wedding is now less than a week away.  I tried both the shoe shops in Skibbereen for silver shoes.  There was one pair in Kevin O’Regan’s Fuchsia shoe shop that I was unsure of.   They were a bit tight so I left them behind.  But a friend encouraged me to try them on again and gave her approval.  I was still unsure so the assistant in the shop suggested I take them home, try them on with the outfit and if they suited pay for them next time I was in town.

Where else would you be allowed to take a very expensive (for me anyway) pair of shoes home to try on and not leave a deposit or payment?  I am still practising with the shoes around the house and hopefully they will be fine on the day.

All the family talk is of the wedding, and already plans are being made for things that have to be dealt with as being delayed to ‘after the wedding’ or ‘when the wedding is over’,

The small granddaughter, who has a passion for the colour purple, is suffering as she is not allowed to wear purple shoes to the wedding.  Her outfit is dreamy and just beautiful. She showed me her ‘wedding’ shoes yesterday and screwed up her face as she said, ‘but they’re cream.’   They are very pretty girlie shoes with a neat little strap and a leather flower embossed on the front.  But they are not purple!

So the Ballydehob Jazz Festival is on the week after the wedding and the Baltimore Fddle Fair only days after that and then West Cork festivals start in earnest.

I joined a book reading group the other week and the designated book is Night Train to Lisbon.  I tried to download it to my Sony book reader completely unsuccessfully again.  I must see if there is a youtube video that will teach me how to use the book reader.

Meantime I popped into Skibbereen Library and discovered my library card was now extinct, or at least I don’t exist on the Cork County Council list of library members.  But I discovered a new service that is available only since the past two or three weeks.  Thanks to a very helpful library assistant, I now have a new card with a designated new fourteen digit number, which together with my password enables me to download either audio books or  ebooks to my iphone or ipad, although  don’t have an ipad – yet.  It doesn’t seem to work for my laptop.   Added to which my enquiry for a hard copy of The Night Train to Lisbon on Wednesday afternoon resulted in the nearest copy which was in Schull library being delivered to Skibbereen library first thing Thursday morning.  How’s that for service and all free!






The Old Labrador

I was driving through Ballydehob last night, late for the promised supper before the Schull play.   There were cars parked on each side of the road as I drove up the less steep hill of the two roads.  I slowed down to make room for an elderly golden labrador ambling up the road, plodding head on into the oncoming traffic, his golden face, faded, almost white with age, his walk slow and laborious.   The downward traffic slowed accordingly accommodating the elderly dog.  Like myself he had added on pounds with age.

I felt a lot like the elderly lab as it has been a rough week health wise.  But like the old dog I have been accommodated and cared for, ferried about, and my frailties considered and made allowances for with great patience.

Caleb Cairns excelled as the lead in the Schull play which now heads to the All Irelands.  Like most plays that make the All Irelands, they always have an undercurrent of a message, mostly which makes me at least uncomfortable.  Maybe I am a Philistine but I think there is enough drama and sadness in real life and around the world these days, especially this past week, that when you go out for a night out you want to forget your troubles, ails and ailments and have an enjoyable fun night out.

It was too painful to watch the results of last week’s chemical attack and there is a belief that the Third World War has already started, at least according to John Pilger.  It all seems to be about commodities and all the posturing and facing off will not bring peace to anyone.

I have long since given up taking on board what is reported on the screens in front of me, small and large.  I am well aware of how news and incidents can be rejigged and manipulated to suit the deliverer of the ‘news’.

At the United World Youth Council opening ceremony in 2004, one of the speakers from the United Nations encouraged the teenagers to change their own corner.  I believe that’s all that is within our grasp, and that we should all change our own corners and do the little we can for others within our reach.    It’s not ducking out of reality – it is enabling and making a meaningful change.

A book I have proof read for someone is to be published.  I am delighted as it has been ten years in incubation.   The thrill and excitement of the writer who struggled to get through this, was infectious.   I was as excited and as thrilled as she was.

Babysitting the grandchildren during the week turned into a techie event as the boy took over my laptop (minecraft) and the little girl had an ipad (pawpatrol).

A friend called in, a friend the little girl had not seen before and suddenly she was hiding behind me with her hand firmly clapsed in mine   Such a treat to have this little girl treat me with such trust.  Her lack of confidence soon evaporated when the friend entertained the two children with a magic trick.   The boy, at age 8, soon spotted the ‘magic’ but the little girl is a firm fan forever and now has a new friend.

Camilla Griehsel’s MA performance at Curtis Hall, CIT, Cork, was simply amazing.  Her voice is incredible and she took us on a journey around the world, songs from different countries in a variety of languages.  What a treat this event was, with the gorgeous Maurice Seezer on piano, Niwel Tsumbu on guitar and Eric Mingus on base.  I realised I had interviewed Eric and his wife a number of years ago and reintroduced myself to him.  He remembered me and had just moved back to West Cork and in fact now lives in the same parish as myself.

Was thrilled to see Ayoola Smart in Vera last week.  She was not the lead, but certainly one of the main characters and played her part so admirably.  She is a gorgeous girl and I am so thrilled with the success she has had – in the Globe last year and making inroads into tv this year.   I did a piece for her years ago when she won a beauty contest in the UK.   I found her so polite, unassuming and grounded.  Such a great credit to her wonderful mum Sally.

We are truly privileged to live here with all the beauty of the scenery and the huge musical and artistic talent on our doorstep.  The Ballydehob Jazz Festival has a great line up and on the back of that is the Baltimore Fiddle Fair.  Before all that there is a gig in Inishbeg with two great traditional musicians.

Summer appears to have arrived in West Cork and there is a bursting energy and positivity that is almost palpable.  Happy in Baltimore No 4 will take place on the Square on Easter Sunday and it should be as amazing as all the other performances – a great community working together.

The hat and pashmina are gone for ever I think.  It remains a mystery as to where they disappeared.  But it is the small things that matter.  I am so grateful thats I have got someone who will come and cut the almost one foot high grass on the lawn.  And that I have a lovely lady who is going to come and help with the weeding and tidying and replanting all the tubs, planters and containers.

All I need now are silver shoes for the wedding in a couple of weeks’ time.  I bought grey silver shoes in TK-Max but they are too dark and don’t suit my outfit.  I have silver sandals but I think silver shoes would suit the beautiful dress and jacket I bought in Fuengirola.  I was going to wear a bright pink cashmere coat that I got at a terribly reduced price in Spain.  However, one of my fashion conscious friends scolded me saying what I was planning was totally wrong and wouldn’t do at all.  She is lending me a wrap so I will be all glammed up for a change.

Happy days!