Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Gone for Zzz's

Thank you for joining me on the A to Z Challenge.

I've learnt a lot from this challenge.  Mainly that I shouldn't write another word until I've done some sort of creative writing course.  The more I learn, the more I realise how little I really know.

Thank you to:
Trish Nugent @Trish_nugent
John Ivory @johnivory
and AnnMarie Miles @amowriting
for letting me be included with you in this.
I especially appreciate that you kept me in the loop when I fell behind in the middle of the month, due to unforeseen circumstances.  I was honoured to be included with such talented people.

I look forward to reading your blogs and books and seeing your photography, John.

Also thank you for the support:

I apologise if I left anyone out.

Also thank you to my parents, who have supported me more than they will ever know.
Happy birthday Pops, by the way.

I'm going to take a little break, to rest, eat healthily and generally recharge.

See you on the other side and thank you.

xx Cags


This is my last sentimental post.  I hope you forgive all my nostalgia.

In 2003 we went to see Coldplay in The Point on the Quays.  They were on the cusp of super-stardom and Chris Martin was enthralling with his confident swagger on the stage, as he sang his ballads.

I year later I was sitting in the car with my husband and our newborn baby.  We were doing the 'newborn crawl.' .i.e. Driving on a main road at thirty miles an hour, in a state of terror.   The baby sat obliviously, packed into his little car seat.  He was wearing a pristine white hat and a grey fleece but all I could look at were his startling, blue eyes.  I felt as if I had been hit by a train and was exhausted, terrified and jubilant, all at the same time.

Then Coldplay's song, 'Yellow,' came on the radio.  It's beautiful lyrics and tune seemed to match the moment exactly.  I looked at the radiant Meath countryside as we drove through Slane.  It was a bright October evening and the fields were dotted with sheep and huge, graceful, oak trees.  Golden light converted the green fields to a regal blanket of yellow.   I closed my eyes, enjoyed the moment and thought, 'Ok, I can do this.  I can be a parent.'

Saturday, 27 April 2013


Standing in the ditch, waiting for his rally car to drive past.
The car number 46 passes, then 48 and 49.
Still no sign of the beast, he spent months putting together.
Lovingly adjusting every screw and bolt
and making sure the paintwork is perfect.
Your friends regard you nervously and say soothing things.
But you know the risks he takes when he hurtles down
Those narrow, fecund Irish country roads.
They drive you back to the rally base.
He's there with his head in his big hands.
Devastated that the radiator let him down when he was ahead.

He's in the delivery suite with you.
Your baby has been born but not easily.
Things hadn't turned out as they tell you in the books.
The dreadful hours forgotten as you see the baby's face.
Then the room spins and you know the wait is not over.
You turn to him and say, 'Go outside, no point seeing his.'
But he won't leave as you begin to see stars.
When you come too, he still there.
He says gently, as the doctors rush about you,
'I thought I'd be left with the baby and that you were dead.'

Time passes so quickly.
Waiting for the work-load to lessen.
For some days spent together.
The young child is a blessing.

But waiting's interminable....

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ventry Beach

Ventry Beach is possible one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I spent my childhood summers on the beach.  Walking along the wide stretch of sand every year feels like getting out of a decompression chamber.  Breathe....

When I die, in the far away future, I wish to donate any organs that can be taken and have a humanist funeral.  'Moonlight Sonata' and ''Hear Comes the Sun' will be played and then my ashes will be scattered on Ventry Beach.  So I suggest you get down there before the beach is sullied by.....me.

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos.  They were taken using an iPod.  My Dad and brother Paul are the photographers in the family.

Yes I used instagram filters.  I have no shame.
My Dad on Ventry Beach

Looking up at Ventry Village
Ventry Bay at evening time.  View from the village 

By brother Kieran helping my son to ride the huge waves

Understanding special needs children

My title is vague.  ''Special needs children' has become an ambiguous label.  However I'd like to make three general points to demonstrate some of the challenges that many of these children have to overcome on a daily basis.  This does not apply to all of these children but perhaps it will help people to empathise with their difficulties.

1. Down Syndrome children often have smaller mouths and higher palates which makes their tongues protrude from their mouth.  They can also have narrower airways which can cause respiratory problems and may lead to them breathing through their mouths instead of their noses.

2. Adults with autism describe the difficulties caused by heightened senses.  Imagine not being able to tune out peripheral noises when you are listening to someone in a crowded room.  Imagine if strong smells caused to you feel nauseous.  Or worse, your arms tingled with a sensation like ants crawling on them.

3. Children with ADHD can blurt out inappropriate comments before they even realise that they have said them.  They are also prone to showing their emotions without restraint which can lead to teasing or bullying.

Hopefully I have not generalised too much and there is some food for thought in these points.  If I am missing anything important, please feel free to post a comment on this page and I will add them to this post.

Tinu - Asylum Seeker

Tinu is from Nigeria.  We met on a course, four years ago; teaching Basic Literacy Skills to Adults.  We had to talk for five minutes about why we wanted to be volunteers.  She made a very impassioned case, if I remember correctly.

Asylum seekers sometimes need help learning to read or write English.  Our course tutors always looked to Tinu when they talked about 'English not being your first language' and she would nod understandingly.  At tea breaks she would talk about the free grinds she gave to primary school children.  Some of these children lived with her in Mosney, Co Louth.  (Mosney is the centre where asylum seekers were housed.)  She explained that she was not allowed to do paid work therefore she volunteered in order to be useful.

A few weeks after that Tinu, Joanna and I were put together to do a project.  Tinu and Joanna had very strong personalities and clashed from the beginning.  I suggested that we all write our submissions and I would try to string them together.  Tinu's essay was amazing.  As we had coffee I asked her if English was her first language.  She replied that is was but that she didn't contradict people when they assumed that she didn't speak English well.  She was used to it.

Later that year a few of us had a reunion and a meal out.  I asked if anyone had seen Tinu.  She had been deported back to Nigeria.

A few months later I got an email from Tinu asking me to join a social network site that I didn't recognise.  I deleted her email without even asking how she was.  I regret it now.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Science, social media and seduction.

Writing a blog a day has been difficult.  When I came to 'S' I was stumped.  Science, social media and seduction are the three topic that were suggested to me.  So here goes:

I have belatedly discovered a love of science.  Doing biology as a subject for my Leaving Cert was no laughing matter as there was no internet to copy and paste from.  Instead I had to learn lists and since my recall memory is atrocious it was painful process, both for me and my teacher.

Now, however, the choice of information about our world is almost overwhelming. From nano-technology to space, to our bodies and psychology, every day I discover something new and fascinating about our world.

On facebook I follow, 'I Fucking Love Science.'  The enthusiasm might be a bit over-stated but nevertheless, it's always an interesting read.

You see, social media has become a very efficient way of sharing links to science topics.  @spaceporn is an excellent account on twitter.  (Sorry about all the strong language, I don't name them, just follow them).  And, of course, the wondrous @Cmdr_Hadfield, who tweets from space and reflects our beautiful world back to us.  He has done as much in raising NASA's profile in the past few months as the first Astronauts did when they landed on the moon.

Using my phone I can find any constellation in the sky using an App.  Although sometimes it's nice to just sit outside and look at the stars.

As for seduction, what do I know about that?  .............although I've been told a sense of humour goes a long way.

Rage 2

This is a continuation of a piece of fiction I wrote on my blog in February 2012......

The humiliation of her mugging stayed with Anna for several weeks afterwards.  The Guards took a statement for insurance reasons.  Anna could describe every tiny detail of her attacker's face but she knew it would make no difference.  The Guards had enough on their plates without dealing with her trivial case.  She missed her iPod and her music and was reluctant to go walking again.

Mark dealt with the news as she expected her husband to deal with such news, with rage.  "If I ever catch that fucker I'll kill him.  How dare he even think he could put a hand on you."  However, within ten minutes he was back to his usual routine.  "You've lost one of my socks.  How can I put a pair of socks in the wash and only get one back."  "Roll them in together and they won't get lost," was her angry reply.  She was tired of this circular argument that continued every evening.

Her son had thrown a huge temper tantrum in the garage earlier when she was getting petrol.  He was used to getting a Bob the Builder comic every Friday but this week they didn't have a copy and he was beside himself with anger.  His body contorted as he kicked and screamed on the ground.  Three people in the queue had looked at her with contempt as she attempted to control him.  But it was impossible. She had to wait it out.  She was sure that his problem ran deeper than bad manners.  He could understand when she said no to sweets but he hated when a routine was broken.  She could feel his pain but didn't know if this was motherly love being subverted.  Was she 'too-protective' of Oisin, as Mark had accused her.

Oisin was watching a Bob the Builder DVD in the playroom while Mark watched rugby in the main room.  She decided to lie down for a minute on the bed.  She enjoyed the cool air from the open window as it brushed her face.  It was a lovely day outside.  She'd bring Oisin for a walk in half an hour.  She just wanted to clear her head after the stressful day.

Not long later she heard a car pull into the driveway.  Sighing, she gingerly stood up and looked out the window.  It was Una, her sister-in-law with her baby twin girls, Regina and Olivia.  She stood at the window looking longer than she usually would, reluctant to move.  Una got out of the car.  She regarded the back garden and the house carefully.  Then she walked over to the washing line and took two socks down and put them in her jacket.  Anna couldn't take in what she had seen.  Why would Una do that?  She must have imagined it.

When Una came into the kitchen with her girls, Oisin was standing on the kitchen table and kicking the spilt salt into the air.  "Jesus, Anna, how do you stick that kind of behaviour?  That's bold now Oisin.  Didn't your Mammy tell ya."  Mark walked into the room.  "For feck's sake," he muttered.  Anna grabbed Oisin angrily from the top of the table and Oisin started to howl.  "He'd behave better if you'd take him outside in the fresh air," said Una.

Anna regarded the scene and then calmly asked, "Why did you take socks from the line, Una?"  Una denied all knowledge of what Anna was talking about, looking at her with pity.
"I photographed it on my phone.  I was looking at the lovely day and caught you doing it."  With that Una smiled and answered, "Just having a bit of a joke with you Anna.  Where's your sense of humour gone?"

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Spending my day in classrooms means I'm used to a certain noise level.   It's not noisy all the time but it can be, especially during art class or playtime.  It's a thing you get used to.  When I'm on the yard at lunchtime I love the sound of children playing and laughing, it's a beautiful thing.  However they also argue and fall and cry.

In the evenings I bring my son and sometimes a friend home after school.  Again there is noise and shouting and that is as it should be.  But sometimes I make myself a cup of tea, sit at the kitchen table and look out at the garden in total silence.  I can feel the vibrations from the day leave my body.  Other times I go for a walk and clear my head.  I keep asking my son for 'quiet' but then I feel guilty because he's only doing what little boys do.

The rest of the day I have the radio or T.V. on and there is noise following me around the house.  Living in the country means I've gotten used to quietude.  Or so I think, but when I wake up early in the morning I don't like the solitude.  The Dawn Chorus has stopped since a motorway was built in front of our house.  I miss it.  It used to be deafening and I would wonder how anyone could sleep through the cacophony of the birds.  However I just turn on Chill FM or Lyric FM and they lull me back to sleep.  Perhaps I don't like the Quiet as much as I thought.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Paris and Pacifism

I saw a bomb explode in Paris in 1986.  It was planted by ETA, the Basque separatist group, it killed 1 person and injured 23.

My mum and two brothers and I had just passed the building which was near Notre Dame.  We had stopped at a corner when I felt the air around me suck away.  Then I saw the glass and a few bricks from a building, a block away, explode.  Finally I heard the violent bang.  And that was it.  One life gone and many others ruined.

We read the papers and listened to the news that evening in our caravan outside Paris.  Reunited with my Dad we then travelled down to the South of France where I became friends with teenagers from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.  The first question I was always asked when I told them I was Irish was, "Do you see a lot of bombs in your country?"  I usually explained that the bombing going on in Ireland mainly happened in Northern Ireland which was a long way away from where I lived.  

When I got home I carried on with the teenage tradition of wandering around town on a Saturday afternoon. However a notion took hold of me that the E.B.S. building on D'Olier Street, made with an all glass front, could explode at any time.  I never walked past it again.

The notion that one minute you can be standing peacefully and the next a building is literally tearing you to shreds has disturbed me ever since.  As a teenager it made me question humanity.  That is why I am a pacifist. Violence can never be the answer. 


Finding a patch of warm sand in the high sand dunes Pat sat down with his book.  A soft sky complimented the green, choppy sea.  The dunes protected him from the gentle gusts of wind.  It didn't take him long to lose himself in the book. 

Suddenly he heard a voice talking animately over the dunes.  Pat felt a wave of irritation roll over him.  He had been looking forward to this day all week.  It was the voice of a teenage boy.  

"We both had drink taken.  It's not my fault you tripped.  No wonder you fell, you were looking at the Ivan fella half the night.  I saw you,  I SAW you."

Pat felt uncomfortable but he was aware that if he moved the boy would know that he had been overheard.  The conversation took a turn for the worse with name calling leading to an inevitable break up.  

"I don't know why I even bothered with ya.  You're only a tease.  You're only good for one thing."

Pat winced.  This lad should shut up before he completely buried the relationship.  However it was too late.  He heard a rustling and the boy appeared, standing over Pat.  He was tall and skinny but he moved gracefully and with the confidence of a young man.  

"Sorry about tha'" 

"Sorry too, I didn't mean to overhear it.  I was all comfortable here before I realised you were behind me.  Just ignore me or sit down, whatever suits you"

The boy sat down beside Pat unexpectedly.  

"I just don't know how I keep doing this," he sighed as Pat noticed tears in his eyes.  He pulled up his shoulders and it made his whole body shake.

'I'll give you an unsolicited tip.  No matter how badly you feel and how much she has hurt you, don't resort to name-calling and tit-for-tat.  Be above it.  Also, if a woman doesn't show you some basic respect, get away from her.  I'm talking from experience.'

The boy looked out at the sea.  He never turned his head to Pat but he quietly asked, 'How are you the expert? Did you meet the right lady?'  

"I did but she died two years ago.  She really was a lady."

They sat in silence together until Pat finally suggested, 'Fancy a pint up at the pub? What age are you anyway? Old enough for a pint, I'd say.  What's your name?'

"My name's Patrick and I'm seventeen, nearly eighteen."

"Ha! We've the same name.  Come on!  I'm buying."

Friday, 19 April 2013

Nightclub Kiss

This is my N post for the A to Z Challenge.  I'm quite behind but I think my friends understand.

Lizzy stood in the middle of the nightclub with her flashing tiara and luminous sash.  There was no way to hide the fact that it was her birthday and she was thirty.  She had been dreading this birthday for about two years now.  Her plans for life hadn't worked out as she had hoped- being married to Tom and getting ready to have a litter of babies.  When they had split up Lizzy had been devastated.

But that had been six months ago and her perspective had changed.  She finally got the job she wanted, teaching adults basic computer skills.  Not a well paying job but a job that made her feel fulfilled.  She had great friends and a good social life.  Lizzy loved hill-walking and this had led to fun-filled weekends away.  Finally she had concluded that she hadn't completely loved Tom but he had been part of her 'plan for life.'  Sometimes you can't plan for life.

She watched her friends in the distance dancing their little hearts out.  Over on the balcony she could see one of her learners, Jack.  He was working as a bouncer in the nightclub.  He was in his forties, with a beard, tattoos and built  like a tank.  She had walked past him, without acknowledging him at the door.  It was the unwritten rule that you didn't have to acknowledge one another in public, if you did her course.  In case the learner would have to explain how they knew Lizzy and would be embarrassed.  Jack was a particularly reluctant learner who had been sent to her by the Dole Office when he wasn't working.  Once he had gotten the job he didn't turn up to all his classes.  Lizzy kept instructional sheets for him and took extra time helping him when he did turn up.  Everyone deserved a chance.

In that moment Lizzy took stock.  She was completely contented.  She wasn't drunk, just tipsy and she was grateful that her 'plan for life' had been diverted.

Suddenly she felt someone rush up to her very quickly.  Jack appeared in a flash beside her and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.  She felt his beard brush her skin.  Then he was gone.  It was like a little thank you, just for her.  Nobody had even noticed. Lizzy felt delighted.  A perfect end to a perfect night.

As she left the nightclub that night, linked by all her friends, she and Jack made no eye contact but they didn't need to.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Maria Montessori- 3 short facts

This is a very short blog about the educationalist Maria Montessori. (1870-1952) Here are three short facts about her.

1. She was one of the first female doctors in Italy.  Her attendance at medical school caused consternation and her attendance at class, with men, in the presence of naked bodies was deemed inappropriate.  Therefore she had to perform her dissections of cadavers alone and after hours. She smoked cigars in order to mask smells, especially of formaldehyde.

It is rumoured that the only reason she got into medical college was because her name was misread as Mario.

2. Montessori had a son, Mario, with an unnamed doctor.  She didn't want to give up her academic life so they agreed not to divulge his identity and that they would never marry anyone else.  He later married someone else.  Maria left her son to be fostered but subsequently was reunited with him.  He carried on her work with her and after her death in 1952.  (I discovered this on Wikipedia today-despite studying her methods of education for five years.)

3.Montessori developed her method of education mainly through scientific observation of children.  Originally she had developed materials and methods that were for the benefit of children with special needs but later they began to be used in 'mainstream schools.'  The materials were well made, usually out of wood, attractive and durable.

She was asked to set up a school for under-privileged children in  the San Lorenzo district of Rome in 1907.  She called it 'Casa dei Bambini.'  The teachers didn't have desks and they were regards more as guides.  Allowing the children to choose the materials that they would work with themselves.  The 'directress' (all women in those days) would introduce a more difficult exercise to the child when she felt they were ready to move on.  The child could use the materials as often and as much as they wanted.

Montessori also introduced child-sized furniture which may seem obvious now but was not common practice then.  Her school was a huge success.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

In Love

My son and I have some of our best chats when we are driving in the car together.

Last week he threw one of his random questions at me. 'What's the difference between fancying and loving someone?'  Dear Lord, he's only eight but I still need to answer the question.

I took a deep breath and tried my best to explain.
'Well..... when you fancy someone you like the look of them.
When you love someone, you like what they say and love spending time with them.  You want to tell them stuff and listen to them.  You also fancy them.'

I'd love to tell you his reply but I'm sworn to secrecy.  It's very cute though.

Friday, 12 April 2013


Lorcan drove pensively through the Phoenix Park.  The weather was his favourite kind, not too hot, blue skies and a gentle breeze.  His dog, Betty, yelped enthusiastically in the back of his car.  She wanted a walk and Lorcan felt inclined to agree.

A few minutes later he heard some mesmerizing chill-out music coming from behind the trees. Betty, understanding him, followed the music as Lorcan followed her.  There was a kite festival in a huge field behind the trees.  Lorcan loved the way he could walk into the most random of events in Dublin.  He was an impulsive person and let his instincts lead him into unusual situations.  Sometimes for the good and sometimes not but he seldom regretted 'living in the moment.'

He sat on the warm grass with Betty leaning against him in the ungainly way that dogs do.  The music was hypnotic and there was enough warmth in the day to make him feel contented with life.  A group of professional kiters were flying ten kites in unison.  The kites moved perfectly together, turning and swaying in the soft wind.

He looked around him.  Couples and families sat in groups on the field.  Young children were getting their faces painted in the distance. His contentment evaporated. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a feeling of overwhelming grief covered him like a rain-sodden bedsheet.  He was alone.  No-one to share this moment with.  How many wonderful moments like this had he witnessed?   Longing for a partner almost broke his heart.  Did these moments really matter if he had no-one else to discuss or remember them with?  How he longed for a man to share these times with him.

With that, he stood up, rubbed the grass from his jeans and headed back to his car.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Junior Infant

Ernest Hemingway was famously challenged to come up a story in six words.  His answer: 'For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.'  (There is still a debate whether he did actually compose this.)

If there's one thing that twitter has thought me is the beauty of brevity.  I'm a huge fan of @veryshortstory.  A story being told within the confines of 140 characters.  Every word in important and precious.  Painting a picture this way takes skill.  Please check it out.

Some of the most funny, heartbreaking and interesting tweets I've read are when two people that I happen to follow are exchanging tweets.  It's like an overheard conversation.  But, it's twitter, so nothing is private. Right?

With this in mind, here's a short tweet I posted one day after school.

Junior Infant

Tiny, blonde, button-nosed Junior Infant,
Wearing a duffel coat and glasses.
Worn-out, he sighs,
"I can't find my school bag."

It's on his back.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

In Isolation

Tina, Garreth and Donal got out of the old Toyota and stretched.  It's had been a long drive from Dublin.  Although thankfully the weather had stayed  lovely especially for Easter.

The camp-site appeared to be empty, most of the caravans were unoccupied even for this breathtakingly beautiful part of Kerry.  A few sheep peered over the hedge on the east side of the camp-site and the gentle sea could be heard lapping on the sand over the sand-dunes to the west.

Garreth and Tina were going out six months now and Donal was his oldest friend.  The plan for a weekend in Kerry had been thrown together over a few drinks the week before.  Tina's parents had been uneasy about letting her stay with her boyfriend in the mobile home but this was the nineties and perhaps it was time to move with the times.  They liked Garreth and he appeared to have a settling affect on Tina.  She had been a bit 'hard to control' for the past couple of years.

Tina had short, soft, spiky black hair and she wore dungarees and a paisley shirt with dock martins.  She looked like a little pixie with her tiny frame and streetwise clothes.  Garreth played on the first rugby team for a south Dublin private school.  Donal was tall and gangly with a bookish appearance albeit with strong shoulders.  He also went to the same private school.

Feeling like a 'gooseberry' Donal offered to go to the local shops to get provisions.  Garreth and Tina quickly agreed, longing to have to some time alone.  As soon as he was gone they went into the caravan.  Tina was reluctant to go to the bedroom in case Donal returned early.  They turned on the gas heater, the kettle and snuggled on the sofa.

When Donal returned Tina suggested the lads have a can of beer while she went for a walk on the beach.  They helped themselves to the cans and relaxed in the kitchenette of the mobile van.
"She suits you," ventured Donal.
"Yeah.  She's a good one alright.  Getting a bit too settled but I'm fond of her."
"Thought it was more serious than that," Donal replied quickly.
"Imagine bringing her back to my old man and saying that I wanted the deposit for a wedding.  He'd freak.  She's a good girl and all that but seriously, she's not the settling down type.  Before you know it, she'll be looking to travel the world, or something like that."
Donal stayed silent for a moment.  "Don't mess her around.  One minute, she's too settled, the next she's not the settling type. "
"Don't make your crush so obvious, man," Garreth retorted quickly.

Later as Garreth went for a swim in the freezing cold sea, Donal and Tina sat companionably together on the sand.  They had a can of Budweiser each.  Donal opened his mouth to speak and then stopped himself.  "What?" laughed Tina.  Donal thought for a moment and then said carefully, "You know I write poetry, well....I wrote a poem about you."  "Oh, show me!" she replied.  "Not this weekend, maybe in a few months time."  She laughed and shrugged her shoulders.

She never got to read the poem but she later wondered about it.  A whole poem devoted to her.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Happiness is.......

Happiness is sitting with my family,
Cuddled together on the sand,
Gathered with friends around a campfire,
Singing songs, as the waves gently break.

Happiness is sitting at a dinner table,
Surrounded by young friends.
Everyone is laughing and joking
The night is ahead of us.

Happiness is lying in bed
With my love snuggling in behind me.
He whispers 'see how you fit perfectly'
And kisses your neck.

Happiness is sitting in a newly built tree-house,
My young son is beside me
And we're reading a book together
He smiles and says "This is the life!"

Ventry Beach at Sunset

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Women in the workforce

At the end of March a member of our Government, Leo Varadkar stated:

"I know one or two women....who probably don't make very much money from working but they do it to keep their position on the career ladder, if you like"

"But I think if somebody is in that position whereby they're actually losing money, it's costing them money to work and as a result they can't pay their mortgage, well then that is something that needs to be taken into account in any kind of insolvency regime."*

I immediately thought of several women, close to me, whom this would affect.  Two distinct types.

Firstly, three women I know who have PHDs.  It had taken years for them to attain this level of education.  One is involved in the agriculture sector, another in the health and the third in research on genes.  These women are involved in research and development that will, quite possibly, lead to job creation.  They also teach and tutor in third level institutions.  The money they earn only barely covers their childcare costs as they move from contract work to contract work.

One of these women went for a contract job interview with a charitable foundation and was told that she shouldn't get pregnant during the time of the contract as it would not be renewed.  I know this is illegal, it is happening nonetheless.

Another group of women affected are friends who are entrepreneurs.  Some of these businesses were set up during the recession and some are now established businesses.  Natasha, owns a French grind school.  She won Network Irish Business Woman of the Year last year.  She visits young women in schools and talks to them about entrepreneurship, amongst other things.

Carolyn, has her own hairdressing business. She specialises in weddings and last year when I asked her to help out with a charity event in my school that involved styling 18 hairstyles, she did it for free.  This year she set up another business setting up 'retro sweets stalls' for weddings.

These woman all keep ploughing on.  They have support and help from their loving husbands and partners.  However when they need to avail of childcare, the cost is prohibitive.

In my own case, as a Special Needs Assistant, my wages covered my car and childcare from 2005 to 2009.  That was it.  I thought about giving up my job and going into child-minding but I knew I would not need childcare after 2009.  I love my job and I feel I have something to contribute to it.  I also went to college for 5 years at night.

Here's a thought:  Let people pay for the childcare from their gross pay instead of their net pay.  I'm aware that the Government has no money left in the coffers but these woman are helping to generate jobs through their work.  They also create jobs in the childcare industry.  Is is better to allow these women to continue to do their work or pay them on the dole?

If a woman wishes to remain in the home I fully support her.  If a woman has studied for 10 years and wishes to have children as well as work, I support her too.  Most studies show that children benefit best in a home where parents are contented with their roles in life.

*This quote is from The Irish Times on 27th March.  I believe he's had his wrists slapped since.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


Liz knew old Frank from seeing him in town at the weekends.  He was a friendly man who sometimes seemed a bit befuddled but was always chatty and helpful.

Therefore she got a shock when she turned the corner in the car park and saw Frank walking, precariously near the top of the escalator.  He was gingerly stepping up the wrong escalator as it was descending down.  A small crowd of about five people were standing at the top waiting.  Frank seems to be mustering all his strength to keep going.  He was tired and was only just about keeping ahead of the descending steps.  If he went backwards he would fall but he was unable to quickly reach the top.

With a couple of steps to go Liz couldn't watch anymore.  "Somebody help him!"  She pushed her way past the onlookers and as she did a man she recognised, Tom, stepped forward too.  Standing either side of the top they leaned in, offering a hand each.  Frank knew he was taking a risk removing his hands from the moving rails but he was worn out.  Liz and Tom got a good hold of Frank's weather-beaten hands and gently helped him over the top of the escalator in onto safe ground.

The three of them stood and looked at one another.  Frank tried to explain how he had gotten into the predicament in the first place, at the top of this voice.  He was looking around desperately at the crowd.  They ignored him and went on their way on the now unobstructed stairway.  Liz wanted to say to them to stop and give him a hearing and a bit of his dignity back.  But instead she and Tom stood and listened even though what he was saying made little sense.

Friday, 5 April 2013

E.T. phones home

My E post for the A to Z Challenge

Everyone was talking about E.T. the movie in 1982.  It was the film of the year.  My family were invited over to the neighbours house to watch it on their new VCR.  Which was as exciting as seeing the movie.  We all piled into the neighbours house.  Four kids and four adults to watch E.T. on a twenty inch t.v.  In case anyone reading this hasn't seen the film.... (no spoilers) we were all bawling our eyes out by the end of the movie.  Steven Spielberg knows how to tell a story.  The nub of it was that communication and connection is what makes the world tick.

Ten years later.........

I was sent to work in a 'foreign' town by a bank.  Every Wednesday night I would wait by the phone box to ring my parents at an appointed time.  By this time, I was having a whale of a time with my friends, sharing rented accommodation and out several nights a week.  But when I heard my parents and my brothers voices, I would feel a pang of loneliness.  There is nothing that drags you home like hearing the voices from home.

Twenty years later..........

I use facetime to chat with my parents.  Not often enough.  But as a certain ad says, 'it's good to talk.'

Our technology is now better than E.T.'s

Take that Spielberg.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


You have to scratch beneath the surface to find the hidden treasures of Dublin.

My mother has been in the Tallaght Choral Society for thirty five years.  It has 110 amateur members.  They perform a couple of concerts every year.

Last year they performed a Mozart mass in Westland Row Church in Tara Street. It's hard to give justice to the choir singing in the most beautiful of surroundings.  My friend asked me to bring her wheelchair-bound mother.  At first I baulked because of all the logistics in getting her into the church.  But as usual, people couldn't be helpful enough and she got a seat near to the top of the church.  The effect the concert had on her was amazing.  I later learned that she grew up near the church and used to sneak into it when she was a child.  She adored the music and sat with her eyes closed nodding to it for most of the night.

Later that year they performed a Baroque concert in Clarenden Street Church. Again this church is very plain on the outside but had intricate details inside, as was the building practice of the time.  It was on a sweltering June evening and the church was full.  I had never been in the church before but it's stunning inside.  At the end of the first half they sang,'Zadok the Priest,' by Handel (known from the famous football ad.)  It, quite simply, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up.

Another treat was in January.  Every year Joseph.M.W.Turner's watercolours exhibition takes place in the National Gallery.  The exhibition is only held in January due to the low light at that time of year.  Turner's evolution as a painter is apparent and the fine detailing of his watercolours merit a very close viewing.  Also my birthday is in January, therefore I feel, egotistically,  that it is my prerogative to visit this every year.  If you haven't seen it, please do, but you'll have to wait another nine months.

There are so many other hidden gems in Dublin worth visiting.  For example, the IFI, The National Concert Hall, and the National Gallery, where the staff are always helpful and friendly.  The free concerts in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park. I love that I can travel from Meath and be parked and in the Olympia Theatre within an hour.

The hop-on hop-off buses touring Dublin are also a brilliant way to spend a day.  I once was involved in taking a school tour with 35 schoolchildren around Dublin.  We stopped at Christchurch Cathedral, Kilmainham Gaol and Collins Barracks.  The commentary by the 'Dub' bus drivers was hilarious and much more entertaining than bus tours I've done in other cities.

I'm a Dub but I've lived half my life in Meath.  Meath has given me a family, a job and a home.  But, Dublin will always be special for me. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


When I was seventeen I was sent to Strasbourg on a student exchange.  The family I went to stay with had a daughter of seventeen and a son of eighteen.  They were the coolest, most chic people I ever met, Clare and Eric.  I never knew what adventure lay ahead with them: partying by a lake for the night, sneaking into German health spas, (by climbing over fences) growing all manner of unusual plants in their bedrooms.

On one of the final nights in Strasbourg they woke me up at five in the morning.  Told me to dress warmly and follow them as they picked up a couple of friends along the way. At that time of the night in France all the boulangeries were baking and the smell wafting down the streets was divine.

Finally we got to the square in the middle of the city.  The huge cathedral was in front of us.  Then Clare and Eric informed me that we were going to climb up the side of the cathedral.  It was the 1980's and  I was wearing heels.

There was scaffolding on the side of the building.  We climbed over small fencing and started to climb.  I never objected at any point. It just felt like the most exhilarating adventure.  Even when we spotted Gendarmerie and had to freeze for a moment.

It didn't take long for us to get to the top of the building.  There was a gift shop and we sat outside and chatted, smoking casually.  Then Clare announced that we were going up the tightly wound spiral staircase that lead to the very top of the cathedral.

At the top we sat down on the cold stone stairs and looked between the medieval windows.  The wind blew in quick gusts around my then, long hair.  Strasbourg was breathtakingly beautiful below with the dawn breaking on the horizon.

It's probably one of the happiest memories of my life.  My whole life ahead ................

Box of Tissues

The first thing she saw when she entered the room was a box of tissues on the small coffee table, in between the two low chairs.  How presumptuous of her to do that.  As if they would be needed, and nothing else.

Louise looked around the room, taking in as many details as possible.  The books about personal development along with 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.' Unexpected in a room for counselling she thought.  There were children's drawings blue-tacked to the wall.  Did the counsellor have children, or were they nieces and nephews.  

Gentle, soothing music was playing on a stereo and somewhere, she couldn't see where, there was a scented candle burning.  

They sat down.  Louise had to recap her week.  Talk about how she had progressed with her goals.  It felt one-sided.  Telling the counsellor all of these intimate details but knowing nothing about her.  Louise looked for clues about the woman sitting across from her, staring hard into her eyes: She was well dressed but not in an old-fashioned way.  Had dark brown eyes which were very intense when they bored through her.  No wedding ring.  Slim and exuding a calming presence.  She suited her job.

Louise broached the harder subjects, it had been a hard week.  The counsellor asked questions she didn't like but she listened and understood everything that was being discussed.  Louise felt a well of emotion over-run her.  She desperately didn't want to cry or use those tissues.  She took a deep breath and swallowed as deeply as she could.

The time went quickly after that.  Goals for next week were discussed.  

'No tissues were needed,' thought Louise. ' I win,' as she wandered back out into the real world.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Another Day in Renting Paradise- A to Z Challenge

This is my first post on the A to Z Challenge.  I hope you will bare with me on this challenge as I'm a novice at writing and Blogging. Please see

Diane and Teresa sat on the second-hand sofa together, watching a soap on the battered T.V. The third member of the group of girls that were renting, Sorcha, had gone upstairs with her boyfriend.  Diane and Sorcha had had dinner together before Teresa came home late and sodden from her job.

Sorcha was in love and this made the girls very happy.  The three girls had met through an ad in the local paper but they had hit it off immediately.  Partying and chatting together, almost like sisters.  When Sorcha met David it had unbalanced the group but he quickly became a part of the gang.

Diane noticed the noise first.  From upstairs.  She laughed to herself and turned the volume up on the T.V.  Concentrating on the storyline of the soap.  Unfortunately the bedroom was above the sitting room and the walls were not thin.

Finally, Teresa, sat bolt upright.  Looked in terror at Diane and said,

"Crap, do you hear that squeaking?  I think we've got............mice!"