Friday, 28 August 2015

To Loughcrew and Lloyds Spire.

Last weekend was the last Saturday before the kiddos went back to school. (They went off this morning and the house is so quiet and mysteriously tidy!) So as the weather forecast predicted sunshine in the morning and persistent rain for the rest of the weekend - it was time to take advantage of the promised dry spell, dust the trusty thermos off, pack everyone into the car and set off for the day to explore somewhere we have never been before.

I have been wanting to visit Loughcrew for a long time now, not only are you promised a beautiful magical garden to wander around but nearby there are some of the most stunning megalithic passage graves in all of Ireland. In the gardens there is a zip-line and a climbing tree for those of us who like being suspended a long way above the comfort of terra firma on a rope. I packed my kindle and some crochet as there is also a coffee shop where I could happily dog-sit while the rest of the party could investigate the activities of the adventure centre.

Despite scorn for our choice of music from the little ones in the back seat, getting completely  lost twice and meeting a oncoming idiot driver, hurtling murderously down the middle of a twisty country road, we arrived at Loughcrew in very good spirits and were delighted with what we found. Our spirits had been greatly restored by he short drive to Loughcrew from the pretty town of Kells , the car climbing to an elevated plateau, dissecting a glorious panorama of  countryside, a vast quilt of green fields and tumbling grey and white dry stone walls. We had asked directions from the happiest lady in the land, cheerfully mowing her immaculate green baize lawn craved out of the side of a rocky mountain and found her mood contagious.

First place to explore was the atmospheric family church of St. Oliver Plunket. Man, there is nothing I like more than wandering around ruined churches and graveyards, I find the atmosphere so calm and peacefully contemplative. I love trying to decipher all the inscriptions and dreaming of all the people who lived once and are now resting here. The rest of the family don't share this attraction and are happy to scamper through and quickly on but I lingered and was delighted to be accompanied by a little wren as I wandered.

The gardens of Loughcrew House are a very atmospheric remnant of a now-lost 16th century house, it is one of those places that I can imagine full of shivery shadows after dusk. To walk in the company of such venerable yews was a privilege and the Alice-in-wonderland sculptures were charming. The highlight of the kids trip though was seeing their Dad ascending the climbing tree and the Hen Party falling in the lake.


I have one teeny criticism though, the promised 4k Lake walk is quite hard to access, the directions are confusing. we did attempt to follow the red arrows but there was a wire fence running through the apparent access points. We could have walked back to the coffee shop to ask the very friendly and accommodating staff but the heavens decided to open and we decided scurry back to the car and  make for home. Disappointingly this meant that we did not get to visit the Cairns this time but I'm sure we will be back this way very soon.
On the drive in, as we were leaving Kells,  we had passed an intriguing sign for The Spire of Lloyd, pointing to a structure that looked suspiciously like a lighthouse. Given that Kells is fairly inland, Lloyd and his spire seemed fairly extraneous! This seemed like one of those potentially exciting places that all too often is ignored as we drive on to another destination. So weather allowing I was determined to check this place out and having driven away from the rain we called in and well gosh it was worth it. So first we had to stop for a swing at the playground in the community park, then down through the fields to look for the Ring fort and back up to admire the view from the spire.

The spire is indeed a lighthouse and was built by the first Earl of Bective as a memorial to his father, Sir Thomas Taylor. The folly is also said to have been built as a comfortable viewing platform from which the Headfort family could enjoy the course of the hunt. This impressive symbol of 18th century wealth and landownership sits in poignant proximity to a one of the bleakest and most moving features of the Irish landscape, a famine graveyard.

The Great Famine, An Gorta Mor, 1845-1852 was a catastrophic failure of both the potato crop and that of the structural forces present in Irish society that saw over a third of the population, the landless labour class exist in abject poverty dependant on a one crop subsistence farming and the vagrancies and often brutality of the absentee Landlord class. Over a million people died of starvation in these years and a further million emigrated, leaving a scar on the cultural and demographic nature of the country that has yet to fade completely from our psyche. How fleeting our lives can be, potentially we are all migrants from poverty and conflict.
As the clouds darkened and the rain swept over this place, we thought of all those nameless people buried here in a pauper's grave without individual marker.
A contemplative end to a great day out. Thank-you so much for reading and have a great weekend with those you love. xxx
As part of Heritage week, both Loughcrew Gardens and Lloyds Spire are open to the public this weekend and are free of charge. The lighthouse is open for viewings on Sunday 30th August.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Song 2. Week 5. Whoo Hoo!

Hello. I can't wait to tell you this. This song is how I feel when I start running. Every time.

Song 2 by Blur.

I am at the business end of the Couch to 5k programme now, I just cannot believe how far I have come. I am on week 5 which is three different runs:

Run 1,
Warm-up 5 min walk
5 min run
3 min walk
5 min walk
3 min walk
5 min run
5 minute warm down walk.

So, I completed this run at the beginning of last week and was totally elated at my progress, so couldn't wait to start Run 2 which is supposed to be after the warm up,  8 minutes of running, 5 minutes of walking, then another 8 minute run. However, I updated the phone to whatever the latest operating system and the only thing that disappeared was my C25K podcasts so after a reload I accidently stared running Week 5, Run 3 which was a huge jump to 20 minutes of running!  Well, I can't run for 20 minutes non-stop but I nearly did it and you know what just a few more runs and I know that I will be able to do this. When I think of this in my future I feel like quite emotional. The icing on the big fat cake was a collegiate nod from a proper jogger, or perhaps he was just acknowledging the cuteness of my happy furry running companion. I swear that dog wears the most enormous grin when she is padding alongside.

Week 2, Run 2 is proving to be a right killer though so until I can master this set I think I am going to be sticking here for a bit.

Due to the school hols, I have had to tweak my routine around the kids so have been running at dawn and dusk. Apart from needing to nod off after lunch, this has been a really great experience, a wee bit of alone time in the busy day. At dawn, I was surprised to see quite a majority of women out, jogging and power walking. At dusk I keep my eye on the horizon and run towards the beauty of the cloud formations as the sun sets. I know I have been complaining about the Irish weather but, you know there is a quality about the drama that plays out in the contrasts of the sun and rain keep me here in this sometimes soggy but always beautiful little island.

So in-between all that someone recommended that I listen to some 'Philosophy Bites' podcasts in preparation for this years Open Uni module and 'course had to listen to this guy Mark Rowlans on Philosophy and Running. Mark Rowlands bought himself a wolf - as you do - and to avoid the destruction of his home by this noble creature, began to run to exercise the wolf into exhaustion and is now hooked on the action. Rowlans (I think!) sees an existential purity when the reasons for running fall away,- losing weight, getting fitter, being able to dance when 80 - and what is left is joy in the action for its own sake, for "it's own intrinsic value". I am beginning to see the value of running for pure pleasure, to "be in touch with the intrinsic good in life" which is a Good Thing and not just because I haven't lost a single ounce yet! All the best! xxxxx

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Between the showers.

Hello! Welcome back to Oriel. How is your summer going? Ours has been a tad miserable to say the least. I guess we should have known, toying with The Weather Gods in such a cavalier fashion. So since our purchase of some garden furniture at the end of May in a joyous burst of enthusiasm for the hot promise of a Summer, any Summer, we have used the set approximately twice and the view to the garden looks mostly like this. Sodden. Abandoned.

Met Eireann, the Irish Meteorological service has been monotonously persistent with it's daily depressing forecast of 'thundery rain moving east'; this has been the worst summer since I moved to Co. Louth and that year it rained for a biblical forty days! Nevertheless, we have been trying to make the best of it, embracing the excuse to catch up on our favourite house pursuits, crafting, baking, reading, colouring and watching as many films as can be squeezed into a rainy afternoon. I am making steady progress with O's Autumn Sunburst blanket and Rosie likes it too.

She is a very crafty dog as you can see, these are a pair of PJ bottoms that I made for E from the fabric I bought up in Belfast and blogged about here. I followed this brilliant tutorial from the completely marvellous Countryside Tales blog and managed to run them up in about three hours!

The sun did make an appearance briefly and conveniently for a little photo-shoot. I miss you Sunshine.

E is delighted with them and I cannot wait to make some for myself as soon as a little bit of fabric cash manages to settle in my purse. When we were in London, I couldn't help noticing that those colouring book for adults were all over the place, despite being an avid colour-in-er in my youth, I didn't really 'get' the concept at the time but of course now that we are At Home, they seem like such a good idea and not just for the grown ups either. I love the intricate detail of the Secret Garden one but thank-fully for our diminishing summer budget, you can print out some free sheets from Red Ted Art and I just love how the kids approach the same picture in their own unique way. Sadly no pics of our art, it is just too feckin' grey for photography.

Play-doh is another 'old' toy that is also making quite a come back in our house, of-course we had to try the allegedly fabulous no-cook make-your-own recipe but oh my goodness letting two over-enthusiastic kids loose with bright red food colouring is not for the faint hearted. My lovely old farmhouse table is now covered in great globular red stains which no amount of elbow grease can shift AND the resulting 'playdoh' was deemed Far Too Yucky and promptly discarded and Mr S cajoled into buying some real stuff from the big supermarket.

Some days, it has been too wet for some people to even get dressed and Baking in Onesies and Licking Bowls in Pyjamas has become quite a weekly event. I don't think Mary Berry would approve.

Mr S has been getting all creative too.

Can you guess what it is yet?


Mr S is attempting some serious pallet reconstruction. Hopefully, I will be able to reveal the result of his endeavours before next summer...! Bye for now. xxxxx