Monday, 26 September 2016

What we did last summer.

Hello! I have been away from this space for so long it does seem like a novelty to be blogging again. Thank you so much for those of you who popped in while I was away and encouraged me to get back! I can't tell you how much that means. The last few months have been very very busy but thank-fully the last couple of weeks of August signaled a long slow decent into a lovely summery laziness. But where did September come from - I can't believe it is nearly finished? The weather here has been so lovely it has been a little shocking to be plunged back into the Monday to Friday school routine and feeling the season turn away from the sun and into Autumn.

So, the big news is I finished and passed my degree with a respectable BSc 2:1 which is a higher second-class honours. I finished my last paper on the 31st May and didn't get the results till the 7th July and I can tell you, the waiting was excruciating! By the end I was crippled with compulsive email, Facebook and course site checking and updating, so the relief was palatable. It is indeed a pity that I did not finish my degree when I was 24 instead of 44 but there we are, I would not be the person I am now if not for the choices I made. Better late than ever eh? I am going up to Belfast in October for the degree ceremony and cannot wait to get all decked up in the cap and gown and be presented with my degree from the 'Graduate Presenter' and whoever else represents the Open University at these events. I know it is all rather silly but nevertheless I feel compelled to have my five minutes of swishing around like a proper academic and get my photo taken in a stupid hat. The kids are super exited about it especially as we will be staying in a hotel and seeing the Egyptian mummies at the Ulster Museum. I'm going to have a celebratory pint in The Crown. I think I have earned it.

So it is sad to say goodbye to the summer - but we did have fun. We...

Celebrated Aunty Momo's beautiful wedding. Congratulations M &S!!!xxx

Gave the kids their first festival experience at Vantastival 2016.

These guys below are the brilliant Candlelit Tales. This month, 28th & 29th  they are in the Stag's Head in Dublin (re)telling some of our classic Irish myths and legends for the Autumn with their own brand of charismatic delivery and musicianship

Vantastival was held at the gorgeous Beaulieu House and is a sweet little boutique festival which is very family orientated. We particularly loved all the kids events in the magical walled garden.

'Discovered' the stunning Lough Ramon, Co Cavan. There were no filters used on these photos, everything really was that colour on that perfect summers day.

At last we found ourselves on the Wild Atlantic Way in amazing Co Donegal. Now, in the past I have been guilty of completely ignoring this part of Ireland in favour of the more famous, perhaps more touristy spots like Galway and West Cork but as the late great Ian Bank's remarked in The Crow Road, "Sometimes things only come to you gradually." Inexplicably, the fates have conspired to raise Donegal from a dim consciousness of a remote unknown northernmost county that hangs off the edge of Northern Ireland into a gripping obsession. Donegal is really a state apart, it remains part of the historical and legendary province of Ulster but politically partitioned from the UK entity that is Northern Ireland and geographically detached from it's own political 'home' the Republic of Ireland. 

Unfortunately Donegal you are also the home of the national embarrassment and country music treasure that is Daniel O'Donnell! Daniel is, I would admit is a somewhat unique performer who appeals to a very particular demographic and was celebrated for hosting an annual massive tea party for all his fans at his Co Donegal home. His relationship with his fans was brilliantly and hilariously parodied in the sublime Father Ted episode, The Night of the Nearly Dead.  Donegal was just not that appealing. Anyway, I digress, however for almost a year, for some reason this place has been following me around, friends have been sharing pictures of glorious deserted beaches all over social media all in Donegal, By accident, I stumbled across Sharon Blackie's beautiful writing especially 'Falling into the land's dreaming'In between all that the news was full of  the next Star Wars being filmed on Malin Head, the highest point of Ireland and Charles and Camilla popped over for the weekend.

Then, I was researching material for a short story idea and wikied up the gorgeous Glebe House, home of the celebrated English artist Derek Hill (who also tutored Prince Charles) and just in time for my birthday I heard Maggie O'Farrell talking about her inspirations for her latest book 'This must be the Place' and that was it! Of course we just had to go exploring. It was too spooky not too! Here is a smallish (self-indulgent) snapshot of what we found there:

Narin Beach.

I could live here.

Glenveagh National Park:

Glebe House

Wee Library at Glebe House. This place is one of the must see places in the county for art lovers, interior designers/historians and people who just love atmospheric houses. The website does give a good flavour of the riches contained in the house. E who appointed herself camera woman for the day was given special permission to take some photos of the interior -usually completely and utterly forbidden-but was so over-awed by the whole experience she did take a single frame! (Much to my chagrin.)

Slieve League Cliffs

Foothills of Slieve League.

Have you ever been to a place for the first time and it has felt like coming home? This is what this holiday felt like. Maybe it has something to do with those soft Northern accents, maybe something about the quiet friendliness and easy hospitality of the people. I don't know but I hope that I will be back very soon. I have a hopeful plan. To this end you can now find me on Instagram @linnetinoriel and chuckle at my amateurish attempts to get to grips with that platform.
Thanks for staying with me till the end, I hope I shall be back here very soon too. Take care and have a great week. xxx

Friday, 8 April 2016


Well now, that was a longer than expected blog break. I have to admit to spending the end of February and much of March in a kind of fug. I think I managed to catch about three consecutive and different viruses which left me devoid of any energy, so zero running for all of those weeks! Even walking my beloved dogs became a slow short trudge and my eyes would slowly close every time I sat down at my desk to do any study. Grumble.

As well as being smothered by the cold, overwhelmed by the amount of work I still have to do in the diminishing time before my degree finishes, I have also had the weight of the expectations of other people placed upon me. Why is it that those who demand such unreasonable expectations of acquiescence from you barely manage to reciprocate those very same standards? Quite depressing and infuriating.

Now that I have all that off my chest, I am glad to say I am back on top form, yay! I have two runs under my belt this week. Unfortunately, I have gone backwards a few weeks in the couch to 5k plan but reassuringly I don't think it will be too long before I can catch-up and improve. I would love to be able to do a 5k Park Run at the start of summer. In crafty news I have been finding the sockalong hosted by Christine Perry on Facebook very inspiring -just search for Winwick Mum Sockalong and feast your eyes on the amazing selection of gorgeous home-made socks that all these ladies are producing. I have made a start of sorts -after four attempts and two changes of needles  this is how far I have come.

Knitting is tricky, I can't watch TV or read like I do when I crochet but hey there is always a little bit of time to spare for a new craft! I have also just recently found the knitting podcasts on youtube -such fun. Lovin' Little Bobbins Knits and The Grocery Girls.

In other news we have had some lovely family time together over Easter, back to London for a short break too. I found some great thrify treasure which I must try and show you later -the light is very poor here today. Lots of fun and plenty of time for the kids to pose dilemma's for Mum and Dad. E who is now 9 has been asking for a phone and unfortunately I suppose she wants a smart phone. Apparently Every Single One of her classmates has a phone and she feels left out. I don't know what to do, I don't want her to have access to such powerful technology at her age, technology that will also give others access to her. I don't want to spend the money on another phone but the guilt! Imagine being the only kid without one!

I wandered past this painting in the National Gallery:

I don't know what the title is or the artist but it is a Renaissance  painting of The Virgin and Child. Just look at the expression of annoyance on her face! I think it sums up parenting very well. I love you to the ends of the earth but why won't you do as I ask? She also knows that he is going to grow up to be a handful.

Right my dears, that is all for now. Are you all enjoying these first tentative signs of spring? Maybe where you are it is Autumn? It is still quite chilly here in Ireland, damp and wet but I can feel the stirring of life. I will leave you with some beautiful Hawthorne blossom from our walk this morning. Bye. xxx

Friday, 12 February 2016

Mad Dog Lady.

So despite firmly insisting to my family, that we were NOT, under any circumstances fostering/adopting or buying another dog until the summer or a fairly large lottery win, when DAR (Drogheda Animal Rescue) called me up and asked if I could be a short-term fosterer to this wee guy...well how could I resist? His name is Bosco and he was found as a stray but also he was terribly bitten by what we assume was a very big dog. Look at his poor poor neck -now this is well on the way to be properly healed so I don't want to imagine what he looked like when he was first found. Now he is with a lovely foster family and is holding his own with four other dogs but his current foster family are going away for a little break so we have him for B&B.

You know, he is a delight to look after, placid and playful, much less demanding than our previous guest. He loves to trot around the house with me as I go about my chores and is pathetically pleased when somebody tells him what a good dog he is. He was overcome with ecstasy when Mr S let him sit on his knee for a minute. Mr S loves our dog - to the extent that Rosie gets more attention when he gets in from work that I do but he is not really a small dog person and is slow to see the lovely characteristics of Bosco, despite this of-course Bosco loves him the best! We had our first long walk over the fields today and we noticed that B is terribly frightened of high sided vehicles and he deliberately puts our big Rosie in-between himself and the scary traffic. What is his story? In one way, I am glad that I don't know.
Shamefully, Ireland is the worst country in Europe for the sheer number of unwanted and stay dogs every year. We destroy over 84% of our strays and last year 38 000 animals were needlessly destroyed. We have numerous animal welfare charities all courageously doing their bit but mostly these are operating with extremely tight budgets and are at full capacity. Dublin Husky Rescue is just one organisation concentrating on one breed and they are dealing with a surrender rate of 2/3 huskies per day.  Many of our unwanted and discarded pets end up being rehomed in England, Germany or Sweden because in a county of only 3 million there are simply not enough prospective responsible dog owners to adopt. Some of our unwanted greyhounds are re-homed in Italy. Strong and enforced legislation is needed but tragically given Ireland's economic woes over the past few years and our continuing housing, heath and pensions crises, I am sure the plight of these animals will continue. 
Happily, little Bosco's troubles have come to an end, it is very cold and damp here today so we are all curled up on the sofa, dogs snoring, coffee brewing and candles lighted.
Guys, is there any chance of some room for the crochet please? No?
After an enjoyable but very busy week we are taking it very easy. I am day dreaming of a future with some more dogged company, an excentric country house perhaps with a few fields and a few rescue critters romping around. A Life in Wellies? The only downside to dog fostering is that one day, some day they will leave. When Rolo went off to his forever home, E was quite upset, she started compiling a list of parental crimes against children as perpetrated by her parents! Thankfully she has been reconciled to the idea of helping out a little dog on part of his journey. Both kids are looking forward to being outside, playing and walking with both dogs over half-term, which to my mind can only be a good thing! Thanks so much for reading Have a wonderful weekend. xxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Ice and Shadow.

A world transformed. Sparkling and fresh, pink and white. Finally a morning to quicken the senses, the kids played slides outside on the pavements and reluctantly went off to school, wishing for snow. The dog couldn't wait to get out. She follows me anxiously as I set the house straight and whinnies when I have the temerity to go to the bathroom after putting my boots on. Her eyebrows comically working overtime while I fill my pockets, keys, phone, treats, plastic bags, then open the door and go! Over the fields.


The dog takes a great leap into what she thinks is a giant puddle only to find that alarmingly it is now a sheet of ice. She practises reticence at the next great mirrored pool. These fields are not remote, bordered as they are on three sides by the ever encroaching town but are blissfully silent this morning, the only sound the satisfying crisp, crunch, crack of my boot against hard ground and brittle ice. Eventually it is time for home, time to puzzle over the structure of yet another TMA. (Tutor Marked Assignment)

Mum, why are you sitting down?
Oh, I agree sweet dog of mine but I am so close to finishing. I have been studying for this degree for six years now, why is it now so close to the end-only five months to go - that I find myself with zero motivation? Two rounds of coffee later and a browse through email/social media/blogs/course forum
settles the mind into focus.
Then sure it is just half an hour before the kids come home. Time for a crochet break.
And a walk with my newest literary crush:
I can't tell you how much I love this book, Robert Macfarlane is a master storyteller and his love of the land shines out of every page of this wonderful immersing book. His writing is exquisite, this is one to fall into only to emerge with extreme reluctance.
I have learned to appreciate January, even though I go into almost a semi-hibernation. These short rhythmic days of walk, study, craft, read, kids, dinner, are pleasing in their simplicity.

( Lovely things that I have stumbled over today:
There is an embarrassment of richness here but I LOVE Katherine Price's blog post, 'Clatter of corvids on a blustery day' and the compelling recording of Chris Yates's walk with his young son in search of a big cat in Wiltshire. 'Nocturne'
I have now managed to write half of my TMA and so as a reward I am going to jump into bed with clean PJ's, a hot water bottle, a huge mug of tea and listen to
Amy Liptrot's 'The Outrun' on Radio 4
Goodnight! xxxxx

Monday, 11 January 2016

Winter's Light

Sometimes, it is just a perfect day. I think Winter is my favourite season largely and contrarily because those days of brilliant crisp sunlight are so rare and fleeting.

"One of the secrets of a happy life, is continuous small treats"
Iris Murdoch. The Sea, The Sea

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Killed by Death.

So, today was my first run of the new year and the first, since the week before Christmas, me bad! I am annoyed with myself as I had been doing so well, practically bouncing along in my new runners and clocking up a solid 20 minute run, over halfway in the Couch to 5K programme. So then all the Christmas prep had to be done and then 'course it was Christmas and then we had to recover from all the Christmassing, the travelling, the drinking and the eating by sitting around crocheting, watching movies and munching tidying up the selection boxes. Additionally the weather was very very bad, stormy and wet, sure you wouldn't have put a dog out in that! When we did venture out I almost got very stuck in the deep mud all alone in the dusky fields. Creepy.
It was with great trepidation that I got ready for my run, all the bits that had been tightening up before the holidays were once again a bit wobbly and I felt so creaky and old. Even my ankles are aging sigh...but I pulled on the lycra regardless. As a tribute to the force of life that was Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015 RIP) I had this classic on the playlist.

I wouldn't be a big Motorhead fan but this song is one of the best running songs ever as well as containing one of the best nonsensical lyrics in music:
"If you squeeze my lizard,
I'll put my snake on you."
I mean what other mad eejit could get away with that! As a small digression my other favourite so-bad-it-is-good lyrics are these:
"Put your 'lectric eye on me babe,
 Put your ray gun to my head
 Press your space face close to mine, love" Thank you David Bowie.
Anyways, there is nothing that gets the old adrenalin flowing that running down a steep hill with Lemmy screaming in your ear buds. I doubt that the man himself would approve though. Apparently as a sop to the Doctors advice after being told he was very sick, Lemmy good-naturedly replaced his drink of choice - whiskey - to vodka. Live fast, die old eh?
I didn't attempt a 20 minute run today, just 2x 8 minutes with 5 mins walking in between and you know it went ok. I did get a weird cramp across my neck at one point and my eyes (WTF!) were sore at one point but I really enjoyed it. It is a strange feeling this running business, one the one hand I feel so exhilarated and alive in kind of the same way as I used to after a great nights clubbing or a night of the best craic down the pub or having a really successful week in my old job. Yet, on the other hand I feel so in control so focused, it is unusual. I didn't expect running to feel so er existential but at the same time it is so easy. Just pop on some shoes and off you go, if not for 20 minutes, then 8 or even 2 minutes. But is it cheating to plan your run so that the majority is on flat ground and the last minute is down that lovely steep hill? ;)
Right now I have to go and struggle with some OU study and whether access to politics and therefor rights should or can be extended to include non-humans? These are interesting issues for sure but there is one theorist that we are reading at the moment who is so complex he makes me feel immediately sleepy as soon as I try to read the text. Yawn.
Bye for now...Lots of


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Nollaig na mban.

Hello! Happy New Year and Merry Nollaig na mban!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are easing slowly back into the post-Christmas routine. After days and days of torrential rain when it seems as though the hours of daylight diminished to a few sparse minutes, it seems fitting that this morning should rise into a beautiful crisp sun-shiny winter morning. Today in Ireland is Nollaig na mban or Little Christmas/ Women's Christmas where it was traditional (in the West mostly I believe) for the women to take the day off from the grind of the household tasks and celebrate with friends and relations leaving the men behind. I must admit until moving here I had never heard of this custom, we never celebrated it in my own family in the North. This year I had forgotten about it until listening to the radio this morning.

Of - course the relevancy of this custom is somewhat suspect - shouldn't the division of domestic and the caring tasks be fairly distributed by now? However, in a world where the issues of equality and concerns of the feminist movement are still acutely relevant; I think that  Nollaig na mban still deserves special notice,  it is important to both celebrate the power of our femininity, the strength of the women who contribute/ have contributed to our lives and generally nourish our spiritual and physical selves. My little girl was very interested in celebrating Nollaig na mban unfortunately she had to be packed off to school this morning but in the future we shall take it as a day just for ourselves or get together with friends and family.

I am going to put my feet up, drink some coffee and reacquaint myself with the lives of some incredible Irish women. This year is the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the nascent emergence of Ireland as an independent nation and the beginnings of a century of great change in the lives of many women. Some women did not wait for change they pioneered it.

Maud Gonne: Political Activist, Irish Nationalist, Spiritualist, Actor and Muse of W.B. Yates. The Woman's Peace Committee. The Women's Prisoner's Defence League.

Countess Markievicz: Revolutionary, Socialist, Suffragette, first woman to be elected to the British Parliament, formed the 1st Dail Eireann, Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, Artist, founded Fianna Eireann, joined Irish Citizen Army, key activist in the Rising and on the Republican side in the Civil War.
Hannah Sheehy Skeffington: Teacher, Suffragette, Irish Nationalist, Political activist, founding member of the Irish Women Worker's Union, assistant editor of An Phoblacht.

1916 was also the birth year of a very important woman in my life, a woman who did not break out of the conventions that the patriarchy and indeed sectarianism that (Northern) Irish Society had set down for her but a remarkable person nevertheless, at times infuriating but with a fierce love for all her family. She held a profound faith but had a sharp realism about the sexist confines of Catholicism . She left school at 14 and became a mill girl but wrote secret lines of poetry and reminisced fondly about being told that she could draw very well. She brought up six children and partly one grand-daughter for whom she would buy great piles of second-hand books out of her sparse pension.

J.H. 1916-2010.

Happy Women's Christmas to you all! 2015 was a very good year for our family and I am really looking forward to whatever 2016 will bring. What are you hoping for this year? Who was inspired you thus far? Bye for now - here's hoping my blogging will be a tad more regular. ;)