Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Curious Case of the Invisible Visitor..... and the Incurious Cat!

We  had become aware of the presence of a visitor in our house recently. A mysterious type who left little signs of their occupation, in one spot only, whilst remaining totally anonymous and utterly invisible.

The ripped plastic rubbish bag under the sink, a couple of mornings ago, was the first sign. Was that Pretty Cat of ours rummaging where she shouldn't be again, we wondered? Hmmmm.... a possibility, I guess. I will admit to an immediate suspicion lurking in the back of my mind, one that I did not want to come to the fore, but if I was right it would be best to know for sure - right?

'Only one way to find out', I thought to myself as I gingerly placed three cubes of cheese in the contained under-sink area - before quickly slamming the doors shut! 'Eeek' ..... a sound uttered silently by me..... and not so silently by our visitor some time later upon devouring said cheese!!

It was official - there was a mouse loose about our house.

With a disinterested Pretty Cat snuggled up in her favourite daytime snuggly place, and no sign of  her moving - ever - it was up to us to sort things out, it seemed. I was not impressed I can tell you. This is the same cat who insists - insists I tell you - on bringing home a menagerie of critters, sometimes on a daily basis, for our approval. There have been birds, some of whom were almost as big as herself, teensy frogs and meeces of all sizes. There was even almost a squirrel to present to us one day, only I helped save it from her clutches. And dare you toss away any of her 'play things'? Why, she'll go over the back wall to retrieve it, bringing it back in through the window and laying it joyfully at your feet once more! Numerous times!

But a mouse loose about her house? Couldn't give a care...... curiosity suddenly being very dangerous for cats!

So we used a mousetrap instead and came down the following morning to an empty trap.... that had been triggered. A bit of a Houdini was our invisible visitor.

Subsequent cubes of cheese strategically placed in various locations over the next night, with Pretty Cat locked in the same room, were left untouched. Which begged the question: had our visitor departed of it's own accord? Hardly. They can burrow anywhere, right?

Okay, at this point I have to stop for a minute to tell you that I am shuddering as I type this and my skin is veritably crawling! But I must continue, for there is more..... are you ready?

Last night turned out to be a bit of a sleepless night for me, yet again. One of the many such nights during what has been pretty much a sleepless, and sunless, summer. So down the stairs I crept, book, glasses and phone in hand at about 5 am to be met at the door by our Pretty Cat; who was looking especially pretty and adorable as she wanted some food. 'Food for you and tea for me',  I mumbled as I put the kettle on. Then as I reached for her food I saw her suddenly taking an interest in the area behind the kick board .... near the sink. I'm shuddering again! Aha.... there ya go pretty girl! I'll get that kick board taken away when everyone is awake, I reckoned, and she can have at it.

Oh, how naive am I? Like, having finally taken an interest she's, like, gonna wait?? Really??

So, in my innocence, I snuggled down on the sofa, head buried in a pile of cushions which lay on the arm rest, reading my book and drinking my tea. Tiredness was hitting ..... eyes were closing .... closing ..... closed. Briefly awaking long enough to put the book away - with eyes still closed, it's my latest sleep-trick - only to snuggle deeper and to fall into a gentle slumber.

'What was that noise', I thought to myself as something tried to break through my slumber? 'Get off the fish tank' I sleepily admonished Pretty Cat, without even opening my eyes. Mistake #1.

'Oh,' I muttered a short time later as I felt a weight landing on the arm rest behind my head. 'Ah, Pretty Cat finally coming to settle down beside me for some cat cuddles' I thought. Only 'she' never got any further than the arm rest. I half opened my eyes to look but upon seeing nothing I settled down for some more glorious sleep. Mistake #2! I really, really am shuddering here!

The background noises continued, then came one noise that I simply couldn't ignore - the inevitable, undeniable and very audible 'eeeek' of a mouse VERY loose about my house .... with a Pretty Cat finally giving chase!

Oh my goodness did I leap off that sofa! And leaped about the room with squeals of horror and 'go do your thing pretty girl', in equal measure!

What happened next can only be described as the most unusual cat and mouse routine that I have ever witnessed; though in fairness 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons are my main comparison. And speaking of that cartoon, much favoured in my childhood home, I must tell you that I was only short of hopping up on a chair, donned in a dressing gown as I was, with my broom in my hand!

Although she'd obviously kept at it while I had dozed, and wouldn't let it out of her sight, our cat only seemed interested in catching the mouse if it ran. Definitely a play thing to her it seemed, I shouldn't have fed her!

So I 'helped' by gently 'encouraging' the mouse to move with my broom - with accompanying yelps of course! - before leaving the two of them alone in the room, with the back door open, while I made my escape to another room. Ooh... the noises, the squeaks and squeals that came from that room!

Eventually help arrived and our no longer invisible visitor was 'moved' out into the garden. Our cat was then joined by another, much younger and definitely hungrier, cat. Things were really getting interesting. I swear watching this trio in action was like watching a David Attenborough programme or taking a field trip in the Serengeti National Park!

Our cat lost interest but wasn't quite sure if it should let the other cat, a regular visitor here, hunt her play thing on her territory! So there were a few half-assed hisses and swipes at both visitors before she took a back seat to watch the proceedings. It was hilarious! The younger cat didn't quite know what to do with this indomitable play-thing of a tutter that just wouldn't give in, or run away. In fairness it was injured but I swear to you it faced up and fought back! Astounding.

Eventually both cats walked away leaving an injured mouse behind, but before we could dispose of it the younger cat crept back about ten minutes later and, like the robber's dog, swiped the mouse, quick as you like, and away with her over the neighbouring rooftops!

And just like that it was all over and our visitor is no more.

I'm just hoping there are no 'relatives' left behind?

And I will be checking my pillows before I sleep!

How about you?

Sweet dreams!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015: The Burren

We have accomplished a couple more trips since our Glasnevin Cemetery trip to add to this year's Summer Bucket List in the last few weeks. Unfortunately due to a misplaced camera connection I have been unable to update you on our travels. However as this has since been rectified  I am now delighted to be able to finally share our experiences and accompanying photographs with you!

This was a very much looked forward to, special trip, that I have nicknamed my 'Good Karma Trip' - the reason for which shall be revealed shortly. It involved two friends, who are also related, and their two fifteen year old sons heading off to soak up the scenery and atmosphere on a section of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way for a couple of days; just after the August Bank Holiday weekend in fact. And after our experience I can assure you that, although thankfully the rain held off for our only touring day, the Wild Atlantic Way most certainly lived up to it's name!

The Burren is a fascinating area of great geological interest in Co. Clare containing limestone pavements, among other things, and is one of Ireland's National Parks. An ideal location of great interest for teenagers, families etc to explore. Confusingly there are two Visitor Centres for The Burren - one in Corofin and the other in Kilfenora - and we mistakenly visited both! You see unlike other Visitor Centres these ones are not in situ - there is a ten to twenty minute drive to get from them to explore the limestone pavements of this karst landscape. After watching an informative, albeit twee and rather old, video in the Kilfenora centre and viewing their interesting display we headed off with directions in hand to embrace this fascinating region and its wondrous sights.

We walked the area surrounding the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

The limestone pavements of The Burren stretch for miles and miles and we explored this relatively small area of it.

Marveling at the interesting shapes...

And at the vast and varied flora growing between the pavements. It is said that all sorts of flora, including Alpine and Mediterranean, grows here.

We could have spent far longer here but we had only one day to see all that we could. If you visit here for a few days you could go on one of the organised walks, or get the directions for one, at either of the above Visitor Centres. For us however it was time to move on as there were more sights to see.

The Burren area also has many caves, one of which is open to the public and was very nearby, as one of the signposts declared. Off to Aillwee Cave with us then so we reckoned ..... and off we went!

This was an interesting stop and well worth a visit. Again we were stuck for time so couldn't enjoy all that this had to offer. We bypassed the Birds of Prey, the lovely looking 'forest walk' and went straight through to see caverns filled with stalactite and stalagmites, an underground waterfall and the remains of bears long departed from this earth, and this region! It was an interesting thirty minute visit enjoyed by us all.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the atmospheric cafe here at the Aillwee Cave and admired the panoramic view of the limestone pavements which lay all around for as far as the eye could see.....

Naturally we couldn't come all this distance without visiting the famous Cliffs of Moher, therefore we immediately embarked on an hour long, extremely scenic, journey along the coast road. This took us through Ballyvaughan and Doolin, allowing us to admire the limestone pavements that spread from the hills and mountains we had just passed through right down to the shore, until we finally arrived at our destination. We had heard much about the 'astronomical' cost of parking at the Cliffs of Moher but as it turned out there was no charge for the boys and it was just €6 per adult, which included access to the Visitors Center for all four of us and therefore worth it, in our opinion. And this centre was perfectly, and environmentally, located right on the cliffs so that we could enjoy the science and informative part, followed immediately by the wonderful view of these majestic cliffs. A wild and windy day it may have been and although that did dictate where we allowed the boys to walk it did not take away from the stunning views.....

It was an incredible day filled with magnificent views that we will remember for a long time to come, that said I think the Cliffs were the highlight of our day.

For the two days we visited this area we were based at the Inn at Dromoland which is located on the ground of the very upmarket Dromoland Castle. It's poorer sister it may very well be but we'd definitely recommend it! It's very reasonable and it's location is ideal to access from Dublin, is perfectly placed on the edge of all the places we visited and allows for a shorter journey back to Dublin on departure than if you stay closer to, say, Ballyvaughan. The food in the hotel restaurant and in the bistro bar is plentiful and splendidly presented and the Games Room was ideal for our teenagers. Tip: give the pool area a miss and take a walk through the grounds instead ;)

And the 'Good Karma Trip' part? Well, this trip was originally planned for last summer but due to my back injury and subsequent hosptialisation on the August Bank Holiday Monday in 2014 we had to postpone. The day we left on our adventure in 2015? Why, it was Bank Holiday Monday of course. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate a years anniversary of being unable to walk properly for such a long time then embarking on such a trip!

I cannot wait to see where we visit next year. I'll be sure to tell you all about it!

As this post involves getting teenagers out of the house and exploring nature and our wonderful Irish scenery I'm linking this with Fiona's #CountryKids over at Coombe Mills .

Saturday, August 15, 2015

#Netflix #StreamTeam Newbie News.....

Maybe you haven't noticed my absence of late from this lovely blogosphere, or maybe you have? If so then there are a number of reasons for this. Like .... well .... it's the summer holidays; a time to be out and about, and a time to relax when you are not. Lack of sleep has definitely played it's part too of course. And then there's the fact that the wonders of Netflix has finally entered the house of Jazzy!

Oh yes, it most certainly has and after my pre-holidays lamentations regarding the lack of prime time TV viewing, especially at weekends, I am as happy as a sofa-snuggling, tea-tippling (make that wine on a weekend night!) gogglebox-goggling person can be!

Before I go any further let me declare that my Netflix subscription and Apple TV device has been provided to me free-of-charge as a new member of their worldwide blogging #StreamTeam. All I have to do is watch it and review! Well, I did have to set the whole thing up too. Which actually isn't completely true. Although it's relatively easy to do it's even easier when you have a tech-savvy teenager in your house to do it for you! Thanks son....

So, what has been so riveting on Netflix to drag me away from these hallowed web pages then?

Well, myself and said tech-savvy teenager have been having a bit of a Netflix binge most nights and we've been so caught up with one series that we haven't done a lot of exploring. In fairness the series in question is five seasons long and we've decided to watch it in full before moving on. That said I've done a little exploration of my own. Here's what we've viewed so far:

Breaking Bad

This was top of our list from the moment we knew the Netflix kit was coming, and as the very first pilot episode had us hooked it sure hasn't disappointed. The beauty, and damnation, of Netflix is that just as an episode finishes leaving you dangling on the edge of the proverbial cliff-hanger, or on the edge of your jangling nerves, you simply click to watch the next episode! No need to wait until the following week. We are currently on series 3 - needless to say we're having some very late Netflix-streaming nights! This series isn't to everyone's taste; it is rather gruesome at times and in the earlier episodes the sex-scenes somehow manage to be graphic without showing much. If you know what I mean? But it is also gritty, humorous in a black-humour kind of way and totally riveting. As an over 18's show it really isn't suitable for an almost 16 year old and although I'm allowing him watch (only when I'm with him) this is very much under review. On the plus side we are having the most interesting conversations sparked by this show. Seriously, how else do you get to have the necessary talk with your teenager about sex, drugs, violence and morality without it sounding like a lecture? So far it seems that I don't have much to worry about. Not when he's still saving various critters, including a not-quite-dead-yet mouse, from the tenacious clutches of our Pretty Cat (a definite misnomer when she's in prowler mode) to release into the wild!

Orange Is The New Black

I like that Netflix isn't just your average box-set viewing and as this was a direct to Netflix production I wanted to watch it. I have to be honest and say that the first episode didn't really grab me, spoiled as I was from my Breaking Bad binges! I've watched 3 episodes so far and it is growing on me so I am likely to give it a chance and watch some more.

Unbreakable Kimmy Scmidt

A zany, quirky show with blink and you'd miss them moments and some rather cheeky one-liners that they somehow manage to get away with! I have to be honest here and admit that this show holds a special place in my TV viewing list. You see I won a blogging competition last March and got to attend the official launch of this show in London! It was a wonderful day and I really did enjoy it. We got to see three episodes at the launch so I was very much looking forward to catching up with this show. It's still fun....

House of Cards

There are so many TV series that I have yet to see and this was another one on my list. I've only watched the first episode and again I am hooked, I definitely want to watch more!

Better Call Saul

We are aiming to get further on in our Breaking Bad binges before we watch this one. Hurry up already!!

I have to say that so far our Netflix viewing is very enjoyable, it's a great way to spend lazy, relaxing time with your children and teenagers; and as screen-time goes it's a far healthier option I reckon! No more 'What's On TV?'.... with Netflix there is always something on TV. We will definitely be kept entertained for some time to come and there's always new additions.

Watch out for the recent back-to-school launch by Netflix of a brand new TV series for tweens called Project Mc2  This is a 'Netflix original series, Project Mc2  follows four super smart and science-skilled girls as they are recruited to join the spy organization, NOV8 (that's "innovate"). On the girls’ first mission as secret agents, they covertly and comically offer protection to a British Royal about to embark on a very important space launch. They use S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths) and girl-power to save the day, proving that Smart is the New Cool™.'

And also Beasts of No Nations: an original powerful new film that will debut on October 16th 2015. It is 'based on the highly acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, bringing to life the gripping tale of Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. Newcomer Abraham Attah gives a stunning portrayal of Agu, while Elba dominates the screen in the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.' 

This exciting trailer puts it on my must-stream list for sure!

So MUCH Netflix..... so little time.

I hope to re-surface soon and tell you some more!

DISCLAIMER: As a member of the worldwide #Netflix #StreamTeam I received a years subscription and an Apple TV device in exchange for some reviews. All opinions, thoughts and words are honest and mine alone. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015: Glasnevin Cemetery Tour and Musuem

After a busy summer so far we finally made a start on our Summer Bucket List for 2015! A trip to Glasnevin Cemetery for the infamous tour and a walk through the museum was top of my list - ever since I watched the fascinating documentary One Million Dubliners last year. The knowledge, passion and vivaciousness of the Historian/Tour Guide Shane MacThomais came right through my TV screen and hooked me right in. It was a fascinating and very emotional documentary I found and I was very saddened to hear that he himself passed away some time after it was originally made.

And so it was that earlier this week that we found ourselves starting our tour at Daniel O'Connell's final resting place, a decorous crypt that we got inside to view and his coffin that we got to touch - for luck apparently - led by our tour guide. Brigid also featured in the above documentary and I found her to be equally as knowledgeable and passionate about, not just her job, but the whole ethos of Glasnevin Trust. The woman never stopped talking, she had so much information and quirky stories to impart. She was fantastic!

It was fit and proper that we started at 'The Emancipator' Daniel O'Connell's grave - he who founded Glasnevin Cemetery, which was the first non-denominational cemetery in Ireland. Both facts I never knew. His decorous crypt lays very close to the O'Connell Tower, built in his honour, which at 51 metres high affords fabulous views of areas far beyond Dublin. Well, at least it did until a bomb in 1971 destroyed the internal staircase. Glasnevin Trust fervently wishes to replace this staircase, Shane Mac Thomais was also very committed to this, so that people may once more make that long climb to the top. To do so though they need funds. Wouldn't it be great if our Government, or our National Lotto even, stepped in to assist?

From there it was down this beautiful Victorian Avenue, lined with deep green Yew trees, where lots more tales of burials of the poor and victims of disease and Grave Robbers - apparently there were none here thanks to the Watchtowers and Cuban Bloodhounds - etc were imparted, to arrive at the final burial place of Charles Stewart Parnell, who rests in the Cholera Circle. Not because he died from cholera you understand, there are reasons for this! His funeral was so massive that Glasnevin Cemetery practically had a riot on their hands. How future celebrity funerals were to be conducted were influenced by events that day and these days it is ticket-holder only!

From there we visited more graves - including the comparatively diminutive grave of our former President √Čamon De Valera, for which there are also reasons - before arriving at the second last grave on our tour that day, that of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. And here I learned even more history that I'd forgotten. Two days after our tour we would see this grave side on our TV screens as the Centenary commemorations of The 1916 Rising started here with the re-enactment of this funeral. The commemoration events will apparently end next year back in Glasnevin Cemetery at the final resting place of Daniel O'Connell. Evidence of the firm place this cemetery holds in Irish history.

Of course the final resting place we visited was that of Michael Collins, also world-renowned and we heard more stories of his escapades that definitely didn't make it into our school books! And even at rest this man has his admirers with many leaving cards, flowers and letters when they visit. And apparently his long-time, regularly visiting, French admirer now has a rival!

             Glasnevin Cemetery does not lay flowers on this grave, visitors and admirers do....

Oh, we visited many other graves on our tour this week and heard many more anecdotes; but you'll have to take the tour to hear them for yourselves! I really do recommend it.

This tour is an express lesson in Irish History and includes anecdotes you will never get from a history book. There was so much I'd forgotten from my school days. We were also told that one-and-a-half million souls are presently resting in Glasnevin Cemetery - more than are walking around Dublin. Of that number more than 800,000 are in unmarked graves; pauper graves and the graves of people who died from diseases like Cholera and victims of The Famine, the biggest tragedy to hit our nation. There are people buried in mass graves - 14 buried per day on average in one grave during The Famine times - who bear no relation to one another. They may not have marked graves but Glasnevin Cemetery has a record of each and every soul buried there. How much they care about all buried here really came across on our tour. Their detailed care and attention has also been noted abroad and last December Concern got in touch to seek advice on how to record the mass deaths occurring from Ebola in Liberia.

Do you know something, we really are a country steeped in such fascinating, and devastating, history.

I wonder how more recent political events, and the people involved in them, will be viewed in years to come through burials at this cemetery; and what people taking this tour, or watching TV documentaries, will make of them?

This tour is ideal for older children and teenagers, and you save money if you book online! There is no signage from the M50 exit (that I noticed) so just stay on the N2 - learning from my mistake and by-passing the exit to Finglas Village! - until you eventually see this massive graveyard on your left and the sign for the car park to your right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Thoughts on a Tuesday.....

Well, my overall thought is how quickly this long 'summer' school holiday is actually going! It is flying by. Helped by the fact that ours was just over two weeks shorter due to the Junior Certificate exams. Of course the lack of seasonal sunshine to our so-called summer can, on the other-hand, make some days interminable. As does a particularly long bout of insomnia. More of which anon...... Sigh.

With 'only' five weeks left before we're back to the school routine I've just realised that I haven't yet accomplished any of my Summer Bucket List trips! We have been busy though, with a lovely family holiday followed ten days later by scout camp for my teen boy, which was immediately followed by a week of computer coding with the fabulous team at Academy of Code. We're lucky, I know, but it was great to be able to do these things to keep occupied. Scout camp added a little maturity, independent thinking, and ..... ummm.... more fun..... to our ever- growing teenager. I could see a change on his return. It does a teenager good to get away from his or her 'nagging' parents. If only to realise that there is no such thing a free ride in this life and that expectations are placed on you no matter where you go in your in school, home and, eventually, work life.

July is almost at a close and we finished it with an overnight stay in the stunning Druids Glen Resort for our wedding anniversary. This is such a fabulous resort, filled with little touches that makes it deserving of it's five start rating. And if you work it properly - I am an expert at this - you can easily turn an overnight into a full two day break! You simply arrive waay before check-in time on the first day, enjoy breakfast, have a stroll through the grounds, savour a lazy lunch-time glass of wine etc; then stay 'waay' after check-out time the following day. Fitting in some relaxing pool time on both days of course! And you never know whom you'll meet on that exceptionally scenic stroll.......

                                      Baby cygnets too busy feeding to look at the camera!

So, that only leaves August then. I am determined that next month will be filled with those Summer Bucket List walks and trips, providing a perfect antidote and alternative to teen gaming.

Speaking of which, as of today we now have a night-time screen time alternative that will get teenager and parents into the one room viewing the one screen. At the same time....

Yes. you are now looking at one of the newest additions to the growing #Netflix #StreamTeam blogging community!

We can't wait. Thanks to my tech-savvy teenager it's already set up with some preferred box-sets and movies all ready to go.

So much Netflix viewing...... so little time.

See ya in September!!

Just kidding, I'll be sure to re-surface from the comfort of our snuggly sofa to let you know how it's all going.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BE AWARE: Choose Your Pilates Class Wisely.........

On this date one year ago I  happily and energetically dashed along to my local gym to attend what was to be a very fateful Pilates class. I had attended only one class the previous week and truly had no idea of the months of pain and anguish that were to follow that day's simple act.

As a fit and relatively flexible (in comparison to others of similar age) ex-dancer, who also had at least two years Pilates experience from previously attended classes a few years back, this really should have been such a simple act. It was the summer, my Curves gym had closed down and I wanted to do some gentle exercise to keep me fit for the remainder of the season. Something I'd enjoy doing, and as an ex-ballet dancer Pilates really ticked that box. Not only that, it is very good for you and helps with any back issues. If correctly taught that is......

The first indicator that something was wrong, had I been paying any attention, was the cost of the class; at €4.50 per class it was very cheap. The next indicator was that although the instructor briefly mentioned the 'zip and hollow' method of 'engaging your core muscles' - this is an absolutely essential tenet in the teaching of Pilates which protects your lower back while you exercise - he didn't actually teach it. The instructor of the previous week's class never even once mentioned it. 

The final indicator that should have sent me running out the door - ironically I thought I'd complete this class first then never come back - were the amount of class members in attendance. In excess of twenty people attended each of those classes, which meant they were mixed ability classes although were not advertised as such. The instructors didn't know the abilities of each attendee, nor did they ask; they simply demonstrated the exercises and let each class member decide what level of each exercise they were able for and had very little time for individual correction.


Besides, you put out a 'challenge' like varying levels of one exercise ( for that is what it will be seen as - trust me) to a relatively flexible ex-dancer and she's going to give it her beat shot, isn't she? Of course she is, especially if the 60 year old beside her can do it!

Turns out that sit-ups from a supine position are not advisable for someone, however fit they are, who hasn't done Pilates in a while. Attempting this, even though it was a really good attempt that didn't leave me feeling too strained immediately afterwards, can lead to a serious back injury. It can lead to an inability to simply place your leg into your pyjama bottoms going to bed the following night. That leads to not being able to walk the next day. A simple act that can lead to being practically bed-ridden on a downstairs sofa for two whole weeks, until you're eventually admitted to hospital with your doctor's words of  'immediate MRI ..... and..... concerns of paralysis' ringing in your ears.

Never doubt the agony of a bulging disc lying on a sciatic nerve.

And all because of , in my opinion, a very improperly taught Pilates class.

See, the problem with Pilates classes here in Ireland is that anyone can teach them and there seems to be no watchdog and no Board of Registered Pilates Instructors to oversee that everyone is safe - I did ask. As I understand it Gym Instructors can receive Pilates training as part of their over-all training - or receive additional Pilates training - they then adapt and adjust their knowledge to fit the gym-based class ethos.

Last summer was ruined for me and my family, and last Autumn and Winter too, but I now know how to keep safe when practicing Pilates - yes, I'm back at classes!

The gym I attended on that fateful day will not accept that the way their classes are taught makes them culpable in any way and they consistently maintain that their classes are beginners level!

Therefore I feel that it is up to me, as someone with a long background of dance, exercise and Pilates (see note below) experience to share what I have learned in order to help others choose their Pilates Class wisely and exercise safely.

If you are thinking of attending Pilates classes, or are returning after a long absence, then I urge you to consider the following when choosing your class:

  • ONLY ever attend Pilates classes taught by trained Physiotherapists or Pilates-specific instructors* (i.e. an instructor who teaches Pilates only.)
  • Ensure that the class you attend has only 8/12 attendees.
  • The classes you attend should be streamed in differing levels e.g. Beginners, Improvers, Advanced etc... 
  • Always start at Beginners level.
  • You should never be asked to do sit-ups from a prone position in a beginners class. N.E.V.E.R.
  • The class you attend will most likely cost more than €4.50! Expect to pay €15 which, in my hard-earned opinion, is well worth it.
  • A really good Pilates Instructor will spend time, every week if necessary, teaching you how to 'zip and hollow' in order to 'engage your core muscles' - and will repeatedly remind you to do so.
  • A really good Pilates Instructor will go from student to student on each exercise ensuring that your posture is correct and that you are therefore safe. This is simply not possible in a class in excess of  twenty people.
  • Don't just listen to your Physiotherapist/Pilates instructor...... listen to your body and don't continue with any exercise that causes any discomfort.
  • A really good Pilates instructor will constantly assess how each exercise affects each student and will not allow any discomfort.
  • A Pilates exercise should never cause you pain. 
  • Avoid Pilates classes taught in Gyms. If they don't tick all the above boxes then, in my opinion, they are not safe.

[*Update: Pilates teachers trained by the 'only licensed Pilates training centre in Ireland' - Stott Pilates - can be included in 'Pilates-specific instructors' above. Thank you Little Messers House for that very informative comment below! However I would still consider to this check-list no matter who the instructor is. For personal safety reasons.]

And what of me, one year later?

Well, I can happily say  that after months of pain and inactivity I am now, thankfully back on my feet. I am getting stronger and fitter and more flexible as each week passes. Ironically the one thing that has helped me the most is going back to Pilates classes! But this time I chose wisely - very wisely indeed. I now  attend a Petite Pilates class taught by Physiotherapist Hope Staunton and this 'group physiotherapy class' - as I like to call it - has been instrumental in my recovery.

In fact it has made a new woman of me and has almost restored me to my previous flexibility!

If you have any similar experience or any thoughts or advice I'd love to hear from you.......

Take care......

Note: I have previously attended Pilates classes taught by a Pilates-specific Instructor, a class taught by a Gym Instructor and am currently attending a class taught by a Physiotherapist, so this blog post  is therefore based on these and my recent painful experiences.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Empty Nest Prep......

It's that time of year again. The family holiday is over and the family nest has been once more briefly vacated by my energetic teen, who's away - hopefully - enjoying this year's scout camp.

So, once more all is quiet on this Western Front and all, so far, is well. There was no fuss, no panic as we sent him on his way this year - me being such an old hand at this lark by now. Well, it is his third time to spend over a week away from home after all. We're getting used to it.

He has willingly swapped the comforts of home and his 'customised' bedroom for a world of camping outdoors, with long forest hikes, backwood fires and camp-fire songs. A world where he'll eat what he's given (or starve), helps with meal preparations and clean-ups, gets his own drinks/snacks, keeps his own space tidy and quickly learns that the bellowing of 'Muumm....where's my/can I have.....' doesn't really work. Where there are tons of activities like: falconry, horse-riding and the every much liked rifle-shooting and archery, just for example, to fill their days. They can even go zip-wiring or walking through the treetops..... although personally I would prefer the latter to the former!

                                        Sooo glad I wasn't there to see what happens next!                                                                                        (both photos cropped to reveal only himself)    

So what of me while my teen is off gallivanting through forests and activities?

Well, I've swapped a world of teen-minding - which in fairness is more about encouraging outdoor activities than anything else - for a very, very quiet world indeed. This my third endless day filled with.... well.... whatever I feel like doing if I'm honest. I do plan on accomplishing some jobs while he's away. Yet here I am blabbing blogging on my laptop for anyone who wants to read. Well, it is more fun than anything else I've got planned! There will be a couple of nights out too, don't worry!

I'm getting used to the quiet if I'm honest and, although it may not win me a 'Mother of the Year' prize anytime soon, I must admit that I kind of like it!

Sometimes. It's easy to like what you know is thankfully only temporary. It is a little lonely too and I constantly find myself wondering what he's doing. Facebook photo updates on the closed scout group page keep me informed, and very happy.

I thought of him as the sky began to darken last night. What are they doing now? Sat in their tents? How long a night that would be, every night, I thought to myself? Then my question was answered this morning with a lovely video uploaded of them singing - very loudly - around an open camp-fire! Such fun! I'm sure there will also be night-hikes and a spot of bivouacking for the very brave too!

I thought of him again this morning as the rain was falling outside. Their week is going to end with a lot of rain, especially this Thursday and Friday. What on earth will they do then, asks the mammy in me? They're scouts and as such they're well prepared! Sure isn't that why they brought their wet-gear, and the mountains of clean socks/underwear? How lovely to go traipsing through the forest with the rain dripping through the verdant leaves.... or sitting in tents listening to the tympanic sounds of the raindrops hitting the canvas. It's all part of the scout camp experience.

Soon enough the week will be over and our scouting teen will return home with happy thoughts and memories, a rucksack to be emptied directly into the washing machine, himself to be flung into the longest shower - ever - and hopefully.... possibly... some of those 'helpful' skills listed above? I can but hope....

This is a week that prepares us parents for when the nest empties more permanently which, when I think about it, may not be a million years away. And it's a week that gives our teenager some skills to help him depart it.

At least that's how I like to think of it.