Saturday, 28 January 2017

January, slow and fast.

This is what I see  when I am running.

The rhythms of January are always slow notes for our family, it is a firmly not a time for new resolutions mainly because they are so hard to live up too but more of a time of cosy austerity after the excesses of Christmas. A time of more, not less: more home cooking, more making, more plans for the spring, more contemplation and for me at least more running.  Now the next paragraph or will seem like a whinge fest but please bear with me.

Usually I can find much to love in the crisp linear beauty of January, the subtlety of winter's light but this year I have to confess to finding it hard to appreciate life so easily. In part this is due to the increasingly horrible political developments. Here in Ireland we seem stuck between a rock and a hard hard place, Brexit on one side and foulness of Trump on the other. For example, one of our most successful sectors in our unstable little economy is that of our food and drink exports, the Agri-Food sector has risen for the seventh consecutive year to reach 11 billion. However it has been estimated that Brexit has already cost the Agri-Food industry 570 million. This interests me because I feel a deep connection to the Irish countryside, two of my Great Great Grandfathers were farmers. I want to invest a little bit of money in rural Ireland. I want to live in a country were my children will not have to emigrate to get a job.

For far too long much of our focus has been centered away for rural Ireland particularly towards FDI. Rural communities have been worst hit from the economic crash of 2008 and the shortsightedness of successive governments. Such communities and therefor the wider national community can only benefit from a growth in trade. Tourism is another woefully underdeveloped sector of our economy. We had to give up on the house we wanted to buy in rural Donegal, there were too many financial implications that could not be quantified, but undaunted we carry on hoping that something suitable will pop up. We have found a beautiful farmhouse built into a mountain but despite it being advertised in every Irish property website and via an estate agent; it seems that no one knows whether the property is in fact for sale. Least of all the selling agent!

I have also begun the unexpectedly dispiriting process of applying for a job, it seems that my 15 years experience in the bar/restaurant trade counts for nothing as I had the impertinence to take a career break to look after my pesky children.  I have spent the last six tears studying for a degree that qualified me for little except volunteering for a non-profit. Hmmm, groan and moan. However, I have been working out all my frustrations on and in my running shoes and eventually have fallen into a running routine. Well, oh my goodness I am ecstatic! I feel like a real runner. I wish I could adequately explain to you the marvelous post-run feeling when bursts of endorphin fall exquisitely down to a wonderful glow of energized well-being. CT in one of her gorgeous posts describes the lovely 'clean' feeling that one acquires after a run.

After starting the couch to 5k programme ages and ages ago I still have not managed to get up to a continuous 5k however I can run/walk for 7k. This includes the recommended 5 mins warm-up and warm-down either side and the majority of the time is spent running. Next run I must join it all together, of course the difficulty is mainly psychological. For me what is interesting is that no matter what my mood is before the run and admittedly for much of January it has been grey going on irritable with unexpected bouts of tears, after a run I feel tougher, centered, ready to take on what ever life may bring. On the CV I may be an unemployable house wife on the wrong side of forty but when I am running I feel like this, only with better boobs and a top on. 😏

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Monday, 21 November 2016

Letting go, Running on. Part. 2

I have to say if you are ever buying a property, there are many things to consider but the most important is to get a survey. My solicitor says that many clients do not want to bother with this additional expense. I can understand this notion, for sure our Old Lady is still standing despite the ravages of the years and the climate. It is tempting to ignore all the cracks and let your imagination furnish and indeed burnish a dull reality. A survey will certainly bring you down to earth from your giddy joy with it's impersonal conclusions. The survey is catastrophic. Rising damp, damp ingress, wonky chimneys, wet-rot, dry-rot, undefinable boundaries on conflicting maps, a septic tank on third-party land, possibly polluting and only just registered. Family members suck in their breath and subtly warn caution, of great difficulties ahead. Mr S and I initially feel sadly relieved.

I read the surveyors report over and over, I understand the extent of the undertaking. A builder friend warms of hundreds of thousands of euro. Our solicitor firmly advises us to walk away. We both agree, that survey was the best few hundred quid I ever spent.  But she irritates me when she asks, what do you even see in that house, sure you could just build a nice new house. This is absolutely not the point and my contrary side rears up. The Irish country-side is littered from Malin Head to Mizen Head with one off homes of dubious architectural value at best and an affront to logical demographic planning at worst.

Due to the deep fissures of history and the impact of poverty and emigration we retain so very little of our vernacular architecture. In rural areas such as Donegal, the majority of people would have lived in two or three roomed cottages. Houses and homes that are now barely recognisable as suitable for modern requirements. As a sop to tourism, we have kept a couple though -zoned them off into 'folk parks'. Little quaint remnants of how our Great-Grandparents lived, to visit with the kids on a rainy day and fondly remember from the serenity of our open plan bungalows, from the warmth of our wifi -ed modernist kitchens, while in damp fields other such houses fall softly back into the ground. I trawl the internet looking for a comparable house, trying to establish a value of the Old Lady once restored. I can't find one because there isn't one. Unique. I engage a damp-proof expert to estimate the cost of remedial repair.  I know I am irrational, but there is room to breathe in this house, for the children to play outside unsupervised. My running takes on a new urgency, pounding the pavements gives me an achievable goal to dwell on. To my astonishment, I easily complete the psychological barriers that was Week 5, Run 3 of Couch to 5k: I run for a continuous 20min along the river and then run all the way home.

The estate agent did say it would have been one of the finest houses in the area, a family of school teachers lived here. In response to my solicitors due diligence request for proof of planning permission, the vendors solicitors writes that his Granny built the house in the early 1920's and his mother would sign an affidavit to that effect. The garage used to hold his fathers buses. Of-course I want it more now. The professional expects that I have employed to help us in this enormous financial decision are worth every single euro, their advice is measured and sound. And yet.

The condition of the roof un-quantifiable until close of sale. The potential infestation of wood-devouring beetles.  I look again at all those optimistic photographs we took at the viewing, the house still doesn't look that bad. The two realities don't marry up, is the plaster a paper- thin veneer barely supporting an un-salvageable house, a frustration of vastly expensive conundrums? In my minds eye, I revisit the still empty rooms, my footfall firm on the floor, sketching their lines and re-drawing their beauty. I haven't yet made the fateful phone call to the agent to withdraw from the purchase, she is still mine for the moment. The sign still proudly announces 'sale agreed'. I could have her if I so choose but at what cost?

Friday, 18 November 2016

Letting go, running on. Part 1.

It feels like I have sat down at my computer to write a thousand blog posts since the last one but yet have produced and posted nothing of interest. I have to admit to have been somewhat preoccupied and this preoccupation has left me at times terribly busy and at others numb with boredom. Inert with the effort of drawing down the patience for waiting. Inert with the fear of hearing bad news. It appears that following one's dreams takes a little bit of effort!

Let me explain myself a little better.  While on holiday on Donegal, myself and Mr S found ourselves madly in love - with on first appearances a beautiful shabby old lady, a century old house in a stunning location. In fairness, the estate agent did say on the 2nd viewing, So all the work doesn't put you off? No, we laughed as I ran my hand over the stunning marble art deco fireplace, aware that the room I was standing in had walls crumbling and fragile with damp, the high plaster ceilings criss- crossed with delicate wooden batons which lifted the room height visually even higher but stained with water.

The kids ran around, mad excited eejits,  at once picking out bedrooms and planning to play hide and seek in the gardens and ride their bikes along the quiet country road. Little O planning on going fishing on the river that runs parallel, E where she would put her desk under the eaves. I could see clearly past all the neglect and decay, I could see great over-stuffed sofas, book-lined walls, generous window seats with views out over the mountains, the clink of glasses and the chatter of all the guests we would have to stay. Comfortable bedrooms, a roaring fire and long lazy breakfasts. A proper country retreat. All it would take was a little bit of effort, sure hadn't we done this all already with our own house?

We put in a cheeky offer. Accepted with thanks. A builder came round to check out and cost the rebuild of the wonky chimneys and the source of much of the damage, Affordable. He said, Aye it is a fair enough house for having been left. Brilliant, we said, here is where the kitchen will go, we will put an en-suit there, we can't wait to pull up all the old sodden carpets and pull the peeling paper completely off. Delighted we asked ourselves, will we even bother with a survey?

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