West Cork

The Land of Milk and Honey – Part One

Monday 26th September started very early in the Ja Ela house.  4.20 am to be exact as the son’s in-laws rose to prepare for the lorry which was to transport what it could of the yellow post-it note labelled furniture and boxes to the Pelawatta house.

The Most Auspicious time to enter the house was 10.20 am and to move furniture or ourselves in before the prescribed time is considered unlucky.  We were running the gauntlet of the Monk’s advice anyway as Gate Late the builder – whilst bringing about 15 workmen into the house over the past few days, was still not going to have the house ready for us to move into yesterday.  Jaia, the son’s father-in-law, was nominated to stay there last night but much was to happen before we deserted him to his lonely vigil.  (He has just phoned this morning to say he didn’t sleep a wink last night!)


Firstly think West Cork Time and double it.  Jaia and Sumitra woke me at 4.20 am but I was able to get back to sleep until around 6 am by which time they believed the lorry had abandoned us.   In any event the lorry driver and lad arrived at 6.30 am.   And so began the task of cramming what they could into this vehicle.

Meanwhile Sumitra was busily preparing for the blessing of the house and the Buddhist traditions which must take place to ensure harmony, peace and success in the couple’s new home.    Food was cooked, white rice and coconut, some small bottles put aside, oil, leaves gathered from one of the coconut palms in the garden.  The leaves were dry and brittle and shredded and folded into smaller strips.  Some fresh white flower heads which cascade over a wall on the lane, were neatly snipped off and dropped into a small plastic bag.  Sumitra swung the plastic bag over so it ballooned with air and neatly twisted and tied the top to keep the flowers as fresh as possible.  We did not have the brand new clay bowl needed for the ceremony so a call was made to Sumitra’s other daughter who lives near the Pelawatta house to have one delivered to the house for our arrival.

The first drama was before we got to the main Ja Ela road.  We have to cross a railway line which has no safety barriers.  There was a queue of traffic in front of us all trying to cut across on to the main road.   The bell was ringing warning of the impending arrival of the train and it was a case of do we go or don’t we go, in case the train arrives first?   We did go and the train didn’t arrive first.

The next drama was when we were on the motorway.  Locals mainly don’t use the motorway as it has toll stations on it but it saves us a great bit of our journey and the traffic is light compared to the main drag.

Suddenly the son, driving, called, ‘Will you look at the size of that – it’s huge – it’s enormous!’   I twisted and turned from my back seat vantage point looking all around me for a huge truck, lorry or car.    Well that’s what you would expect on a motorway in any other country.

The enormous beast was a very large lizard, looking like he came from a prehistoric age, was at least six foot in length with a large swinging tail and he was crossing the six lanes of the motorway, (three in each direction) without fear or favour.  He was on his own territory and with his head erect, and ignoring the line up of cars, which had been commanded by a policeman to halt, the lizard continued looking neither right nor left, but headed in a completely straight line to the muddy river which bounded the other side of the motorway.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my camera phone out quick enough to snap this.

The lorry had arrived at the Pelawatta house by the time we got through the traffic.  The traffic is crazy but this is an island approximately the same size as Ireland but with a population in excess of 22 million and I think each and every one has at least one car or tuk tuk or scooter.  Everyone is going somewhere.

I remember being told not to ride the clutch when I learned to drive.  If you learned to drive here – and I pity anyone who has to – you need to be taught how to honk your horn.  There are ‘let me through there please honks’, angry ‘get out of my way now honks’, and continuous honks which mean ‘I am coming through no matter what and you have been warned’.   Drivers just press the car horns for any little thing and it becomes a language which accompanies any journey here.   And I think my son is the only one who knows what indicators are for in this country.


We arrive at the Pelawatta House in good time for the ceremony.  Sumitra’s other daughter has sent a driver around with a brand new pristine clay pot.    We are almost ready to begin the blessing which will be detailed in the next blog.










Wonderful Life

Today I had a message on facebook from a young musician in Chile. We are mutual fans of Colin Vearncombe (aka Black), whose velvet voice casts a spell over me and many more.  Colin writes his own wonderful music and meaningful words, with many successes including the multi million record selling ‘Wonderful Life’.

Privileged to live in West Cork, I am fortunate enough to be able to join the Black fans at the intimate concerts held in Grove House, Schull.  Colin lives near Schull these days.   He’s a nice guy too.

Francisco José Sylva is all of 22 and is just about to release an EP.  He kindly sent me a link to his work and I listened through icloud, to three of his songs this morning, which I assume will be on his EP.  I particularly like Transcend, the music and the words.

It’s a wonderful life isn’t it when I can listen to music composed on the other side of the world in the rural isolation of West Cork.

Hard to think that my interest in music began with the one and only record we had – a single by the Everly Brothers, ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ which was played consistently whilst my mother was at work.  After school, I’d open the windows, carefully lower the needle on to the disc in the portable box radiogram, and play the record consistently at full volume. Our neighbours in the flat above were not amused yet were word perfect within 24 hours!


Christmas and all it involves in the run up to it means I have been missing from this blog. Thankfully Made In West Cork was busy with website orders and regular customers – although be assured, we won’t be making any fortunes any time soon. But Made In West Cork is not about that – it’s about raising the profile of all the wonderful crafts men and women, and the artisan food producers in this most beautiful part of the world.

Another hospital stay was lined up earlier this month but I am back to normality, whatever that is, and hopefully will blog more regularly.

I can’t comment on the madness that is happening in the world. Don’t have the experience of these different cultures, or the expertise in politics.

A bit like an ostrich really, although it pains me that there is so much suffering, death and destruction, ebola, and humans harming humans. But there is only so much I can take on board.

So I do what I can within my little corner for others and change what is within my power to do so. It isn’t always self serving, but I confess to getting a buzz when something I have tried to help with comes right, or even partly right in the end. Makes raising your head above the parapet worthwhile.

The West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, is the venue for our Burns Supper. It’s the fourth year it has been held in Skibbereen and will be a great night out hopefully for all the stalwarts who have supported the event.

I was at the Mercy Heights awards night on Friday night. A fabulously uplifting and inspiring evening with all these beautiful young women blossoming into the leaders and shakers and movers of tomorrow. They are doing so much good in and around their corners, I wish we could clone them and share their caring ways all around the world. But the good news stories don’t make the headlines.

David Puttnam was guest of honour and his speech as usual totally inspiring, honest, warning of dire times ahead, giving great advice and he honed in as he always does to what was important to his audience. He always says exactly what is needed. The only other person I have heard speak who has this talent for honing into exactly what their audience needs to hear is former president, Mary McAleese. I have heard her speak on several occasions.

But it was a personal experience which made me a fan of the dear lady for ever. My husband was dying and was in palliative care in Skibbereen Community Hospital. She was touring the hospital and spent a few minutes with him in his room. She asked how an Englishman had ended up in West Cork and when he explained she asked if they were looking after him properly. I spoke glowingly of the standard of care and said, ‘They even allow me to bring the dog into his room.’ She wanted to know what kind of dog and he explained we had a Springer Spaniel. She asked how old Cookie was and commented that at three she would still have the Springer madness. Her two Springer Spaniels were in their early teens and had lost that bounding crazy energy Springers are renowned for.

So Mary McAleese wove her magic around him that day. He had something in common with the President – their love of Springers and a wonderful story to tell the nurses and his visitors.

Dogs were so important to my late husband throughout his life. When he was in good health and come home from work he would walk through the door and call ‘Hello darling. How are you today?’ I always knew he was talking to whatever dog had greeted him. It was never me.


To be or not to be?

When I started writing up these blogs, and some are rejigged work previously  published or unpublished, I was on a huge learning curve.  I am learning slowly the mechanics of posting, tags and titles and can’t thank Perry enough for his perseverance and for being my help line.

I hoped the blog might promote the small business I run, trying to highlight the wonderful food, crafts and products which abound in West Cork.  www.madeinwestcork.ie if anyone is interested.  Every tutor in every business course I have done or advice session I have attended has encouraged me to write a blog.

I am called in the journalistic world, a stringer, i.e., I know nothing, but can write about any subject.  (Eoghan Harris applied this label to me and such is my ignorance I had to ask someone what it meant.)

I love people and love to interview and write up their stories.  Everyone has a story, but when you live in a small and sparsely populated community, you have to be very careful what you write and whom you write about.

I am credited with never causing offence.  Not sure if that is true because there would be some national/government organisations I have offended, mainly because of my dislike of fish farms.  But I never knowingly or deliberately try to offend anyone personally.

I take great care that everything I write is accurate, the information and spellings.

So where to go from here?  Do I write more about my travels, about people and personalities I have met here over the years, about my childhood, or the harrowing two years of nursing someone with cancer?