Sunday, April 26, 2015

My 12 Signs of Summer....


We have been blessed, it must be said, with some recent fabulous 'pre-summer' weather. And I've enjoyed every minute of it. I simply wallowed in the beauty of our Easter break and there was a very special moment on the beach this week that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Yes, I know it's early days and yes, I know that it's gotten cooler and we've had some more April-appropriate rainy weather of late.

But it was sunny again today. Well, this morning at least and again later this evening. Tomorrow will bring an even lower drop in temperature and more rain, but today it warm warm enough to yet again enjoy a walk, and a brief lounge outdoors. In between the intermittent clouds and hailstones that is!

Hailstones notwithstanding I've been recently thinking  about all the little tell-tale signs suggesting that summer is approaching.....

1. My solitary garden chair that gets unearthed from beneath it's rain and frost-worn protective covering, and it's faded cushion that's hastily rustled up from the depths of the spider-laden  - *shudders* - garden shed, on every day that the sun deigns to shine. And I think that it's not long now until the protective covering is fully cast  aside and the whole patio furniture set is revealed!




2. I look longingly at the barbecue resting underneath it's rain and frost-worn protective covering and think: 'it's not too soon to start using it, is it'? And then wonder, 'who's going to clean it first though?' But I already know the answer to that one!

3. The squeaking of the velux windows as they have their first opening of the approaching summer season, and I smile as both sides of big patio doors are finally cast wide open too.

4. The fully-laden clothes horse as it now regularly stands outside, with it's damp load gently flapping in the breeze.

5. I start thinking of raspberry-based recipes as I admire our ever-expanding raspberry bush that is blooming, with it's flowers just waiting to pop open and burst into luscious, juicy fruit any time soon.




6. I end up wearing less coming home from a walk then I do going out, as I shed a layer en route. Rarely is a scarf or warm jacket needed these days but sunglasses are a must!

7. I think of the summer holiday that approaches and the even less layers I hope to be able to wear then, and promptly quicken my pace!

8. I notice the good moods and sunny dispositions of those I meet on walks or in shops these days, and their ever-growing smiles.

9. Ice cream. I haven't indulged yet but I will soon, and I just have to get my hands on one of those new Magnum ice creams! I think I'll start with the yummy strawberry white chocolate one , and see where I go from there.

10. As I laze on my lounger I think of sipping long, cold summer drinks, with maybe even the odd glass of wine in the back garden of an evening, as the sun begins it's decline.

11. The sun as it sets a little bit later each day and the harmonious twittering of the birdsong that trills insistently at that time, as if the birds also sense the approaching nightfall and don't want the sun to set either.

12. Sunscreen. Don't forget the sunscreen, no matter how early in the season it is!


And so it appears that our lovely 'pre-summer' weather has departed for a while, but I'm sure it'll return. After all these are only my 'pre-summer' signs of summer.

My real sign of the actual summer has yet to materialise you see.

The annual invasion of the army of ants that descends, mistakenly considering our home to be theirs. Until we convince them otherwise, that is.

So we can all relax, for until the ant invasion the arrival of our real summer has yet to come.

Meanwhile I'll stock up on the sunscreen........ and the ant powder!!




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Captivating Solitude






I sit in solitude 
In mind and space 

Surrounded by blue hues 
of sea and sky 

And the glinting of a brilliant sun. 

Thoughts slowly ripple through my mind 
Like the gentle lapping of the trickling waves 

The horizon glimmers on glassy sea 
It lies far away, 
Way beyond my reach and imagination

The calming sea sounds wash over me
Cleansing my mind from stresses

I breathe deeply, gently
Calm and warmth embraces

The mind and soul cleared
Refreshed

Alone in my thoughts 
And with these sounds

I am almost kidnapped 
by this solitude and beauty

Sounds of life intrude

A siren seeps through the bliss 
An airplane soars overhead

The needs of the day
That lies ahead are calling

 So I reluctantly escape
These captivating clutches

Assuaged in the knowledge 

That it is I who leaves 
And not this place    


Friday, April 17, 2015

All Quiet on the Western Front



It was the middle of the night as I steeled the grit from my eyes and got behind the wheel of the car - to drive the sleepy-headed teenager and his classmate to the airport for a much awaited school trip. 

And I thought to myself, well it's far from the airport I was brought - even though in actuality I lived very close -  for any school trip I was ever able to go on.  But that was back in the dinosaur age, as my son himself might have you believe.

There was a school trip to France once - by boat. Airplanes didn't take off with as much regularity back in the Mesozoic Era you see, and flight costs were of Titanosaur-ic proportions.  Even though going by sea was cheaper I still couldn't go as it was still too costly and besides, I was a very bad traveler. 

However I do have some wonderful memories of a trip on a barge and a visit to the Japenese Gardens, as myself and an 'old' school pal recently reminisced.

The point is, the power of a good school trip is such that we still remember it - and from all those eons ago too ;)

This present day school trip takes in the World War 1 museums, cemeteries and battlefields of Belgium and France. The sights and sounds of this by-gone era - to be seen in reality as opposed to on an onscreen battlefield - is well-suited to any teenage boy with any amount of street-cred coursing through his veins. 

The relief of getting him 'out of that bed ... NOW' and out the door on time, for the final time this week, was palpable. And I was practically flooded with glee - when I reminded myself that for the next three mornings that particular 'pleasure' will be someone else's problem! 

Oh, yes.


The battlefields of morning routines and school studies have moved to a completely different country.

For three whole days.

I shall enjoy.

Wallow in my relative non-commitments.


Drink wine with my lunch, if I'm so inclined.

Stroll down to the local pub for an evening with the husband, and stay for as long as we damn well please.

Get up whenever I want and have whatever I want, whenever I want it.

Go for a simple walk at my total leisure.

Ramble aimlessly through the house, sighing with ease.

Feeling the emptiness.

Wondering what he's doing and where he is? Right now? As I glimpse through the itinerary, for the umpteenth time. 

Considering for a brief moment of breaking the 'do not text or call me' rule, before wisely deciding against it.

Missing him already.

Looking forward to his safe return.

Wishing him Safe travels, sweet dreams and the makings of fond memories. And heaping virtual appreciation and patience upon the teachers accompanying them all.


Oh, yes.

It is indeed all very quiet on the Western Front. 

On this Western Front that is.

As for the Western Front of World War 1 Battlefields, restaurants, teenage boys, hotels and flights?

Well, of that I would not be too sure! 








Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dungarvan: My Slices of Gold Coast Heaven


If you're a regular visitor to this blog then you'll know all about our little holiday haven, tucked away in a lovely, sun-blessed corner of Co Waterford. You'll also know that we have visited it very often throughout the years, and that it's seen us from toddler to teen-hood with our son.

As I never tire neither of this place, nor of the taking photographs of it, you'll also have been bored silly bombarded treated to my thoughts and accompanying scenic shots over the years!

And guess what? Following our most very recent trip you're now going to be bored bombarded treated to some more!

You see it was SO gorgeous down there again this year. Our room in the traditionally styled and very family oriented Gold Coast Hotel overlooked the harbour; and it had a balcony too for goodness sakes. I could have lived happily on this balcony - like, forever - just savouring these views from morning....





To the sun beginning it's decline.....







    Right through until the night spectacularly fell





From the extremely low tide, apparently caused by the recent solar eclipse and Spring equinox which was promptly followed by a full moon ......





    To watching the sea birds flock to shore for their evening tea on a very full tide.





Although these photographs were all taken from the comfort of our balcony we did actually leave the hotel room!

We had to make our traditional visit to the stunning Clonea Strand you see, which is only a skimming stones throw away from the Gold Coast harbour.

I got some beautiful shots of this glorious beach the last time we were here, but on the first day this time around the low-tide was a bit of a restriction. But it was still very beautiful......






With rock pools .....



Just made for exploring!





But  a sea fog was rolling in......








That completely obscured the beach by the following day. Honestly, the very large Clonea Strand virtually disappeared before my very eyes and you could barely see the hand in front of your face. 

However it didn't stop children and families from ignoring the 'never cast a clout 'till May be out' expression and going swimming, playing in the barely visible rock pools and making sand castles - and some fabulous sand art too.... 





 We also ventured into Dungarvan itself - to the delightful Indian Ocean Restaurant - where I was confounded as to how I'd never noted, in all the years that I've been coming here, that New York is not the only place on this earth where one might find a 'Flat-Iron Building'!!





We also spent sometime at the edge of Dungarvan Harbour .....





And we admired the quaint and very functional St Augustine's Church which was constructed in 1828 and reconstructed in 1870. Except for one little portion, obviously!





Then all too soon it was time to bade farewell once more to our glorious holiday haven




And to one of it's quaint hotels




But before we departed this golden shore, our holiday haven decided to grace us with a farewell all of it's very own; by presenting us with the most stunning sunset ever....









Farewell, oh glorious Gold Coast of Dungarvan.


Until next time.......








As I have mentioned above we stayed in the Gold Coast Hotel this time, as our usual hotel of choice The Clonea Strand Hotel only opens for the months of May to September. 

The decor may be considered dated in these family-run and family oriented hotels, the food traditional but very tasty and there may not be a flat screen TV in sight - but the staff are so lovely and we can highly recommend both of these Hotels for your family Staycation! 

These hotels are also a great base for Golf trips or for touring the surrounding areas of great beauty, and The Clonea Strand in particular is a great spot for weddings.

They also have a holiday houses and apartments to let - for easy, family holidays. Who needs a flat screen TV anyway? With a beach close to hand, a lovely harbour and sandy areas to explore, Golf for the golfers, Leisure Centres in both hotels to avail of and The Play Loft and small Bowling Alley to enjoy also! 

 There's something for everyone at The Clonea Strand/Gold Coast Hotels, making it your perfect family staycation venue.


Note: I was neither asked to nor paid for writing this. I wrote it because I adore this place and simply because I wanted to.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Easter Reasons To Be Cheerful #R2BC



Easter is such a lovely time of year. Although the weather can vary dramatically there can be some lovely bright evenings, accompanied by a light feeling in the air. One that's tinged with the hopeful promises of a lovely summer just lurking around the corner, one that's waiting to shower us with it's rays of sunshine, anytime soon.

And with  that positivity let me shower you with my Easter cheer!


Pre-Easter Celebrations

My Easter break got off to a wonderful start with another meet-up of my SHOWgal pals. Another evening spent lazing over a nice meal, where both the conversation and the wine flowed with great regularity - as did the hilarity! We wondered if we could top the 'lift situation' from our last night out? We concluded that wine-spluttering conversational moments containing such hilarious faux pas like 'the civil cervix' (don't ask!)  meant that, yes, we most certainly did!

I swear, nights out with these ladies are like a much needed tonic and should be prescribed on a regular basis, for everyone in the audience!

And if you're wondering about the acronym 'SHOW' well, it was coined by one of the gals and means 'Seasoned Hooofers On the Wine'. Which says it all really! As does this photo.... oh the poor wait staff in that restaurant!



   Some 'Merry Murderesses of Cook County Jail' just itching to don those dance shoes again!


Easter Religious Celebration

Now before I go any further you should know that I'm not terribly religious and attend weekly Mass only when I can, which is a rare occasion these days. But Easter is a special time and a good friend needed a dig-out on Good Friday; and I never let a good friend down. Even if that means being a reluctant member of the 'Stations of The Cross' pageant!

 I really wasn't looking forward to it, it was a chore; a task to be ticked off that day's to-do-list.

 I really didn't expect to enjoy it but ever so surprisingly I did, and I played my limited 'role' as best I could. The pageant was actually a little moving, especially with our 'Jesus' who uttered appropriate groans of pain and anguish at all the right times. We were a costumed hotchpotch mix of parents, ex-Panto members and children. The feeling of community spirit was very high, and for that reason in particular I was very glad that I did it.

And the 'role' I played? Why, Mary Magdalene of course! Yup, typecast. I know!



Easter Holidays 

It's been a while since our last trip to this beautiful spot on the Gold Coast in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, so we treated ourselves to a few days there over the Easter weekend. It was fabulous. We attended Easter Sunday Mass in a lovely, quaint church where the community spirit was also high with the lovely involvement of the local children in song and liturgical dance.

We were so blessed with good weather, affording some stunning views. I took so many photographs that they just might get their own blog post. So for now I'll leave you with this little teaser!






Easter Crafts

In the fortnight before Easter I immersed myself in the knitting and crocheting of some cute Easter chickens, chicks, eggs and one lone, teeny, tiny 'marshmallow bunny'! They were such a joy to make and truly brought great cheer. I know they are a small collection but I intend to add to them each year. Well, they're such fun to make and it sure beats housework!






Easter Birthday Celebrations


Once upon a time there were two little boys who were born three months apart, one at Christmas and one at Easter. They became very good friends, which was really rather handy since their mothers were such good friends also. Friends who also just happen to be cousins. The boys birthdays have always been a  perfect excuse to meet up at such lovely times of the year. And this Easter was no different. A trip to the interesting BodyWorld's Animals Inside Out Exhibition was planned along with a lovely lunch, allowing both teenagers and adults their 'catch-up' time.
Unfortunately,  due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to bow out unexpectedly at the last minute, but the boys enjoyed their day out, and I am very glad about that.


The thing is that sometimes our dreams really are 'Visions?'. Sometimes, sadly, they actually happen, and the dreaded phone call is received.


However, currently all is relatively okay as the fighting spirit reigns. For now.


So we shall continue to be cheerful.


And remain hopeful.


As this post is part of a Blog Hop you might like to read some more 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' as listed below and as hosted hosted by Ojo's World!










Friday, April 3, 2015

Visions?


It was the early morning sound that we all dread. The trilling sound of an incoming phone call, loud and shrill.

I stood hand on heart while my husband ran downstairs to answer it.

He seemed cheerful enough in his responses to the person at the other end, but I knew that I was right in my assumptions of whom the call was from. He finished the call by saying he would pass on the message.

He then cheerfully informed me that my mother was being brought into hospital by ambulance. 'But, what's wrong with her?', I wanted to know. 'When was the ambulance called? How on earth could I do the school run and be at the hospital all at the same time?'

All these thoughts, and more, were tumbling through my mind as the panic inside rose higher and higher.

And then I woke up!

It was all a dream. A very, very realistic one. So much so that I pottered down the stairs to see if there was a missed call. Nope, all was well. This time. Thankfully.

But it could happen, at any time. Of that I am very aware.

I then fell back into a restless kind of sleep, for just a little while. I subsequently went downstairs to get a cup of tea only to find strange men in my kitchen. Unexpected strange men, and not of the nice variety either. They were taking things off my walls and out of my presses, explaining to me that they were here to 'finish the job ...... did your husband not tell you?.... we arranged it with him yesterday'.

Hmmmm..... it didn't seem quite right to me, not at all. I was very suspicious, so I left the house. I didn't go far but I did go quickly as I knew they were going to follow me. Oh, I was all fingers and thumbs trying to ring the local Garda Station, who's number I have saved on my phone for safety reasons. But no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't make the connection. I then strayed further away from the house, loudly bemoaning the fact to all and sundry that there was never a passing Garda car when you needed one.

Oh God, the strange men were catching up so I legged it over a road bridge that was leading to some kind of holiday camp over the road.

Then someone ran over my leg.

My bad leg.

'Oww' I yelled ..... to the back of a scuttling and very disgruntled Pretty Cat ..... as I woke up..... for the second time that morning!!

Yet again I was struck by how believable this dream was. How very possible it was that strange men could turn up in your house and play that line?

So convinced was I that I thought it was actually a pretty genius scheme!

Think about it....

Eventually, when I could finally shake the effects of these dreams from my mind, I concluded that although both were possibilities it was the former that was most likely.

Silly dreams or thoughts and fears playing on my mind?

Or........ visions?

I do hope not.







Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Be Safe, Be Observant



Did you ever find yourself driving along, minding your own business, then suddenly you're mentally noting the demeanour, profile and license plate of someone you've just spotted driving suspiciously?

Or perhaps you've noted details of someone behaving oddly while out on one of your walks, or parked vehicles that catch your eye?

I have done this, on numerous occasions. I even recently followed a young man, who had seemingly profound special needs and who was out walking alone in the local park. He had his headphones on, watching his iPad and was happily, as it appeared to me, 'reacting' to the music as he strolled along.

Now maybe I watch far too many 'Law and Orders' and 'Criminal Minds' type TV programmes, and read way too many such-like psychological thriller books but, you never know when this information might come in handy, do you? The observations you process that might just be the necessary link to an as yet unknown crime....

But of course I usually forget the license plate number and other details, and think no more of it as time goes by.

With the exception of the young man above.  I followed him as far as I could that day as I can't climb steep hills, but I didn't approach him as I thought that might be frightening or startling (for us both) due to the headphones he was wearing. He didn't seem distressed or agitated and I thought that perhaps he was allowed to go walking alone, as an independence exercise? But I was concerned. My phone died so I couldn't phone the Gardai and I couldn't get an answer from them when I tried, multiple times, on my return home. I even tried accessing any relevant Facebook groups to see if anyone was reported missing. I've never seen him since and often wonder about him.

A recent court case that, in my opinion, resulted in a just verdict has brought all this to mind. Especially due to where this lady was last seen walking. She was spotted on that walk but not getting into the defendant's car 'at the shore' where she was directed to meet him.

And I wonder what difference it would have made had someone seen them meeting, or noted them driving past on that small country lane; where you have to  move in, almost onto the ditch, to let a car pass. Unfortunately it most likely wouldn't have saved her, but it might have caught him sooner. 

I've also been thinking about two other 'cold' cases that may or may not be linked to this man - this young girl here and this young mother here. Regardless of any connection it's such a pity that no-one noticed anything that would help catch the perpetrator(s) at those times either. And in other similar missing person cases. I'm sure people who did hear or see something 'odd' very much regret not investigating more, or phoning the Gardai 'just in case' at the time. Although hindsight, it must be said, can be very enlightening, and perpetrators can be very, very clever.

Many of us find walks to be so invigorating yet calming; we consider them opportunities to release the stresses of our day. Car drives can often be stressful, as we're all usually quite busy and under time constraints as we strive to get from A to B. On time! But maybe we need to be a little more observant and in tune with our environments as we go about our daily tasks? When we can, that is. We can't always be 'on alert' and must be allowed our 'switch off' moments too.

And while we need to be so conscious of our safety when engaging in online activities, maybe we should also be more alert with regards to our safety while out walking alone? I don't know about you but I rarely give it a thought. You should see the deserted part of the park that I casually, without a care in the world, recently strolled through capturing these photos as I went! The odd time I do consider the possibility of someone lurking in the forested areas, I step more into the middle of the pathway as I walk.

Then there was the late evening walk  that I once enjoyed. I was 'entrapped by the stillness of my surroundings' and the view of a solitary boat sitting in the darkening bay that evening. When I finally dragged myself away I sheepishly  ran almost all the way home in the eerie darkness! Definitely not to be repeated.

However when I disembark from late night transport, or on occasions when strolling home alone for part of my journey from the local village, I ensure I stay behind any individuals or small groups walking my way. I also hold my keys strategically in one hand while I have the local Garda Station phone number ready to go on the mobile phone tightly clenched in my other hand!

See, I am alert on any late night walks but never think of these precautions during the day.

Sadly I think I need to improve things. Perhaps we all do?

However I'm not prepared, as a friend suggests, to change my habits and only go walking through inhabited streets and areas.

I don't see why I should forego these areas of  great beauty just because there are some dangerous individuals about in our society.

But I could be  a little more careful.

And a little more observant.

How about you?