Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Our internet is still effectively down, which is happening more and more. Sorry for the sporadic writing.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter

Poulnabrone Dolmen, The Burren.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Learning to live with less

Sorry for not posting more lately; we’ve had a few technical problems, as our internet connection fades in and out according to the day and time of day. Also, I’ve been writing some larger articles for a couple of magazines, and will tell you more about which ones and when as they become solid. Finally, I’ve been working a lot at my day job in Dublin, leaving me a few hours to spend with The Girl in the evenings, but not much else.

Easter Sunday is tomorrow, which means a great deal to us for many reasons – but for purely selfish ones, as I’m looking forward to having my first cup of coffee in weeks. The Girl and I shook hands on a Lenten deal: she would give up television if I gave up coffee.

Most readers are probably not Catholic and some might not be religious, but some variant of Lent would be useful to us all. This blog, my writings and The Girl’s training all focus on living a more traditional life, and that means making do with less. Learning to do without – going for some weeks without driving, or using electricity, or some other modern convenience, gives our soul a workout. It forces us to learn different habits, until by the end of the period using less feels normal. It helps us understand the ancestors – and billions in the world today – not as fortunate as ourselves.

It helps us prepare for a future where modern comforts might be even less evenly distributed, and we stop being the lucky ones. It gives us the strength to teach others to do the same. It reminds us that what feeds our habits leaves our soul empty, and vice versa.

Happy Easter.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Good night, John Boy

The Girl walked out into the darkness, carrying her torch, to close up the chicken run against foxes. As I listened at the door, I heard her say brightly:  

“Good night Sooty."

“Cluck!” a chicken responded.

“Good night PS,” she told another chicken. “Buck,” one responded.

“Goodnight Cloudy.” “BWAAK!”

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Signs of spring

Ireland is finally entering a proper spring, with daylight stretching across the hours and the hillsides erupting with daffodils. We have to use the last of our beetroot and celeriac that lasted us through the winter, so when I take the bus to Dublin for my day job, I’m bringing plastic containers of borscht or whatever dish I made the night before.

We are also getting the first salads and herbs of the year, although the chickens like them as much as we do. We are also seeing the first of Ireland’s spring crop of nettles and dandelions, and when we have a spare hour or two, in the evenings or on weekends, The Girl helps me gather them – nettles for soup and beer, dandelions for fritters and wine.  We also found the first edible mushrooms of the year, which also became my lunch the next day.

The hawthorn trees’ confused tangles are sprouting green shoots, perfect for salads. The blackthorns are usually difficult to pick out in the hedgerow amid all the other trees, but now – for a couple of spectacular weeks – a confetti of small white flowers marks them clearly amid the largely bare trees around them. The Girl and I need to travel a few miles down the canal this weekend and mark each blossoming tree – how far it is from a landmark and in which direction – in order to remember their location and gather their sloes this autumn. 

Top photo: Bluebell woods. 
Bottom photo: Borscht with celeriac, carrot, dill, sour cream and chorizo sausage.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

One night of victory

The Girl took part in a school quiz tonight for this part of the Bog of Allen – each village around us has a small school for children, and each small school brought their students to our town hall for the event. While letting The Girl find her classmates in an auditorium of raucous children, I greeted another parent – she’s the mother of one of The Girl’s classmates and wife of a friend of mine.   

“It’s just you tonight?” I said smiling. “Your husband gets some time to himself?”

“Ah, go on,” she said, using the local dismissive phrase. “He’s home paintin’. I don’t leave him unattended without work to keep him out of trouble.”

. . . . .

The children divided into groups of four, all from the same school, per table. On a stage, a bald and avuncular neighbour read off questions like “What mountain range in Africa shares its name with a geography book?” or “What Irish hero died a thousand years ago this Sunday?” Each question was followed by hundreds of children whispering excitedly among themselves, and scribbling down answers.  

Finally, they announced the winning group – The Girl’s table, out of the dozens that were there. The four girls at the table screamed and ran onstage to get a brass cup that all four held up together, and were promptly surrounded by cheering classmates – I thought for a moment they would lift them on their shoulders.  

I let her have her moment with friends, jumping and squealing together. As The Girl found me waiting by the door, we hugged and she said, “Daddy, can you do anything for hypothermia?”

I thought a moment and said, Hyperventilating?

“Yes, that’s it.” Just give yourself a moment, I told her – you’ll be fine.

                                                                  . . . . .

We came home hours ago, and just now The Girl knocked gently on my door. You're still awake? I said, smiling.

"I just now settled down enough that I can go to sleep," she said.

Good, I said. Now remember, tomorrow you'll see all the girls that didn't win, so be gracious -- don't bring it up unless they do, and then be modest.

"I'll try to remember," she said.

Did you take my advice? I asked -- what I recommended you do if you were too excited to sleep?

"I did, Daddy," she said. "I wrote myself a letter about how I felt tonight. I addressed it to Future Me."

I'm glad, I said -- you'll have that letter all your life, and it will stay with you when a lot of other things have faded.

"Do you write things down to keep track of your life?" she asked.

Not just mine, I said.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Time for a cuppa

 This mobile tea house was a big hit at this year's St. Patrick's Day parade.The tea-serving staff are shown below. Taken with permission.