The Best Christmas Ad. Ever.

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This ad is simple.  There are no flashy twinkling lights, or cute kids with animals. No traditional jolly Santa drinking a fizzy drink. No Christmas carols or reindeer.

Just a quiet radio advertisement. One of Ireland’s favourite.  Sit and take a minute to get lost in your imagination. (1.29 minutes to be exact.)

Close your eyes and listen.

I dare you not to be moved.

When I hear the Barry’s Tea ad, the magic has arrived and I know it is Christmas.

The Ultimate Revenge

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bullying

Do you remember that kid from your school? The one who was picked on and ridiculed by the other kids? Do you know where that kid is now?

Last month, one man achieved the ultimate revenge on those who bullied him. He managed his county team to win this year’s All-Ireland Hurling Final (a very big deal) and was welcomed home by a crowd of 20,000 supporters in a town with a population of approximately 26,000. Continue reading

Road-tripping all the way to Legoland Windsor

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As I mentioned in my most recent post, the young emeralds and I went on a UK road trip in August this year. First stop on our trip was Legoland Windsor.

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We spent one full day at Legoland, from 10am to 6pm. We only left at 6pm because our feet could not take any more walking – the park was actually open until 7pm.  The young emeralds had a ball. Continue reading

Beautiful Bath and Racy Romans

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tearooms

The very English looking Bea’s Tea Rooms

During August, the young emeralds and I took to our car for a two-week road trip to Britain. It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour as we visited lots of different locations. And what do we consider is the jewel of our entire trip? The stunningly beautiful city of Bath in Somerset of course.  If you haven’t been, then I can only say put it on your bucketlist.

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The Roman Baths

One of the main attractions in the city is the Roman Baths - a historic site based around hot springs which the Romans thought had healing powers. We visited the baths at 7pm one evening and so managed to avoid the crowds that queue up during late morning and afternoon in summertime. 13yo and I listened to the general guided tour provided for visitors on a handheld device, whilst 9yo chose to listen to the children’s tour.

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Listening intently to the children’s tour of the Roman Baths

Both were very interesting and 9yo came away with lots of interesting facts which are not covered on the ‘grown-up’ tour. (Romans didn’t wear swimming costumes and so went swimming in the “nudie”, who knew?). Continue reading

The Meaning of an Irish Cup of Tea

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Photo Credit: Barrys Tea

Photo Credit: Barrys Tea

Are you a tea or coffee person?  Me, like most Irish people, I’m definitely a tea person. You just can’t beat a “cup a’ tay”.

Yes, I know there are Irish people out there who drink coffee and love it, and I am partial to to odd cup of good coffee myself. But coffee has a long way to go to replace tea in Irish hearts. What do you think inspired Mrs Doyle and her “Go on, go on, go on.” in Fr. Ted?

Mrs Doyle from Father Ted

Mrs Doyle from Father Ted

Whatever event happens in life, an Irish person will offer you a cup of tea.

There’s the “Welcome! It’s great to have you home again.” cup of tea for the emmigrant just arrived from the airport, home on holidays.  If this is a family member who hasn’t been home for a long time, they will be given tea in the ‘good cup’ first time around. After that they will be served the same mugs as everyone else. If it is an emmigrant who returns home regularly then it’s straight to the mug.

Photo Credit: Lyons Tea

Photo Credit: Lyons Tea

Then we have the “Wait till you hear this” cup of tea for sharing news and gossip. While the kettle is busy boiling, the room is cleared of children and any other unwelcome intruders who are not allowed to hear the big news.  This cup of tea is usually accompanied by whispered voices with sometimes audible gasps of shock or peals of laughter – depending on the topic of conversation. It is also often followed swiftly by a second cup if the news is serious or juicy enough. Continue reading

Help! There’s a town in my house!

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The restaurant is open. Anyone for a beer?

The restaurant is open. Anyone for a beer?

Have you ever had your floor space taken over by a town that appeared from nowhere?  The kind of place that is populated entirely by animals who walk & talk, have occupations, and lead busy lives.  The kind of town that is ruled by your kids.

This type of town planning has been taking over my floors for years.  Sometimes it is a little animal town with everything an animal could need including homes, restaurants, schools and play areas.

The School

The School

On other occasions, the town appears for Polly Pocket.  But Polly’s town is usually a lot more self-indulgent with space for clothes shops, yachts, karaoke stage and a pink limo. And as for the Sylvanians, don’t get me started on that lot. If you need it, the Sylvanians have it!

Dolls house converted to apartments for Sylvanians.

Dolls house converted to apartments for Sylvanians.

The endless suburban sprawl sometimes extends to several rooms in our home.  Transport is no problem.  The townspeople have a choice of bus, limo, cars, yacht or jet ski to travel between rooms towns.  What looks like empty floor space always has a purpose.

“You can’t stand there, that’s the swimming pool!”

“Beeeeep! You are blocking the bus. Get off the road.”

“Please can we leave it here for one more day?”

Usually they do get to leave it there for one more day. And maybe that is just because I would have loved to have had play-sets just like this when I was small.

A Sense of Place

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View from the Cliffs of Moher

View from the Cliffs

Where do you have more freedom?  In the town where you grew up? Or miles away, maybe as far away as possible? And is freedom all you need?

I read a comment from Fr. Ted creator Graham Linehan today where he said in an interview that moving to London gave him a freedom he didn’t have at home, he said “I found it quite freeing that London didn’t care about me.”

I had to agree with him. I have lived in London.  Moving there from small town Ireland, I loved the anonymity and the freedom that came from nobody knowing who I was or where I came from. Freedom from family and place, and all that goes with it.  Freedom to try new things and re-invent yourself to a certain extent. And I still get that feeling today when I visit any big city outside of Ireland.

Dubai by Night

Dubai by Night

But, having moved back to Ireland , I have to say there are benefits to living in small town Ireland too.  At my uncle’s funeral I was struck by how, when you are surrounded by extended family at a time like that, then it doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, a farmer, unemployed or a CEO.  To your family, you are simply someone’s daughter, cousin, brother or sister. You have shared roots and memories.  It’s the relationship that matters.  You belong to and in the family regardless of what else you do.

Though I don’t live in the town where I grew up, I ran a 5km road race there recently. As I ran through town, people cheered me on by calling me by my first name. (And in come cases, calling me by my sister’s name but we will ignore that for now). I knew lots of faces in that crowd.  You don’t often get that sense of belonging and community in a big city, particularly if you move there as an adult.

And therein lies the dilemma, freedom v. belonging. There are positives and negatives to both.  I suppose the main thing is that you create a space where you feel at home and you build your own community no matter where you are.

Words from Michelle Obama in Dublin

Words from Michelle Obama in Dublin

And then the heavens opened…

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bamboorain

There I was typing my most recent post in glorious sunshine and heat, when just three days later the heavens opened.  Oh yes, we’ve had rain! Lots of it. Thunder and lightening too.  Places like Dublin, Cork and Donegal have had flooding as a result. The first shower of rain – a cloudburst - turned our patio into a little grey pond.

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Which is just as well really, as it means the cat doesn’t have to resort to  drinking from the paddling pool anymore.

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And hell, even the dragonflies seem to have smiles on their faces after the rain.

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The best bit? At the moment we have the best of both worlds. Some showers but lots of lovely sunshine in between. 

I’m beginning to like this thing called Summer!

No rain for 15 days

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No more swinging through the water sprinkler.....

No more swinging through the water sprinkler…..

Its official. Ireland is in a drought situation. We’ve had no rain for 15 days – yes FIFTEEN days!! In a country where rain is normally a daily occurrence, this is big news. Send us water immediately foreign people, otherwise we will dehydrate into piles of green Irish dust!

Instead of rain we’ve had temperatures every day in the mid to high 20s.  We’ve even had a record 30 degrees in places.  A full-blown heat-wave by our standards. Though nobody is complaining, because it’s been years since we’ve had any kind of summer.

Our councils have started putting water restrictions in place.  So the fun the kids have been having with hosepipes and paddling pools may be coming to an end.  You see, in a country where rain is plentiful, nobody plans for the rare times when we get none. So we are likely to run short if this keeps up.

Green leaves lapping up the sunshine.

Green leaves lapping up the sunshine.

So far I have to say my garden is doing ok. Nothing is wilting and I haven’t been watering anything other than the few pots with flowers in.  Even the Fuchsia and another unknown rambler that have transplanted into my garden from next-door, are looking well and healthy.

Fuschia flowers.

Unknown rambling plant, a visitor from next-door.

Unknown rambling plant, a visitor from next-door.

I bought a native Irish apple tree at Irish Seed Savers a few years back.  Seed Savers are an organisation who dedicate themselves to increasing the numbers of native Irish plants available to the public, because many species went into decline over the past 50 years or so.  My tree seems like the garden and sunshine. Right now it has some baby apples growing on it’s branches. They look big in the photos but they are about the size of small limes for the moment and probably just as sour!

Native Irish apples.

Native Irish apples.

Native Irish apple

Native Irish apple

And the bees, who a few short weeks ago were frozen and wearing hats and mittens, are now out in the sun enjoying as many flowers as possible.

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It’s all good so far folks. 

Just keep some water for us.  Just in case.

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