Storm Brian ~ wet and wild

Rain stops play as Storm Brian sweeps across Ireland. At least it’s stopped me enjoying the fresh sea air to the degree that I may otherwise have done. To be fair, Dun Laoghaire isn’t getting anything like the worst of it but it’s quite bad enough. An umbrella is useless in this wind so we’ve mostly stayed in today but we were picked up and taken out for lunch to Cinnamon, a lively bistro-style restaurant in nearby Monkstown.


I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting to photograph lunch – a truly delicious warm goats cheese, walnut and apple salad with sweet potato fries. It was sooooo good! Over the years I’ve been to a fair few eateries in this area but this is probably my favourite. My kind of place!

The weather is a good excuse to chill out in front of the TV in the afternoon – something  I never get to do on a Saturday afternoon. I’m not complaining,; it’s been a nice excuse to do nothing.  Food and property programmes are the main offering so, curled up on the sofas, we watched a few in between dozing off!

It can be very tiring doing not much at all. An early night beckons!



My Emerald Heart … continued

My father was brought up in Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary), a seaside town a few miles south of Dublin. Dún Laoghaire  means ‘the fort of Laoghaire’ who was the 5th King of Ireland. Once a busy port, nowadays the town is home to several sailing clubs including the Irish National Sailing Club & School, and various other other water-based activities. The marina is the largest in Ireland.

I love this place and visit when I can. Dad was the eldest of five and sadly only his youngest sister M survives. Rather wonderfully she is only a little older than me and in the absence of a sister,  she is the nearest I have, and we two are very close.

It’s a difficult thing to explain but I love the sense of belonging that I experience is when M and I walk the length of Dún Laoghaire pier.


Then we stroll slowly along the seafront out to Sandycove, where the James Joyce museum is housed in one of the few remaining Martello towers (a small defence fort built across Britain and Ireland in the 19th century. The opening scene in Joyce’s famous novel, Ulysses is set in the tower.


Also mentioned by Joyce is the Forty Foot which is probably Ireland’s most famous swimming place, and for generations it has been the place for Dun Laoghaire’s male swimmers, though for the past twenty years its clear, clean waters have become popular with women and children too. Even at low tide the sea here remains deep and at any time of the year (including Christmas day when hundreds congregate), no matter the temperature,  you can watch people diving from the rocks. 

The Forty Foot

Forty foot

Close by is this amazing Avant-Garde house (below) designed by, and lived in, by Michael Scott (not to be confused with the Irish writer of the same name), a high profile Irish architect and winner of the Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture.

Scotts house

Here too in Sandycove is the house that was the family home and when I visited as a child I marvelled at the sheer luck of of my father as a boy living so close to the seaside! At Sandycove we leave the seafront and continue our circuitous route through Glasthule. Full of pretty gift shops, classy cafe bars and almost every kind of service you would expect in a sizeable town, this delightful village is a thriving little jewell.  In common with most places houses vary in style and size and if you have €1.5 million to spend, you’ll have no problem doing so here.

The road from Glashule leads straight into Dunlaoghaire town but just before we reach the main thoroughfare we usually stop for the obligatory coffee (and quite possibly lunch)  at Poppies. I love Poppies!  Entering this delightful little coffee shop is rather like going into someone’s cottage home. Here is what we DIDN’T have today.


Sadly, at the moment, M is not very well and not up to the lengthy walk, so after a shorter walk this morning, I went off by myself this afternoon whilst she rested. Our intention was to go out for something to eat later (there is an abundance of restaurants within a short walking distance of the house) but by the time we’d have gone the the sunny,  crisp autumn day had changed to a wet, windy squall. We looked at each other, looked out of the window and both shook out heads. Crackers, cheeses, cooked chicken, hummus, grapes and apple made for a satisfactory substitute.  The weather’s not looking too good tomorrow either but M’s daughter is coming to pick us up for lunch in Monkstown.


Dublin – The Bank on College Green

Given the recent uncertainty surrounding Ryanair it was with a sigh of relief that I found myself at Dublin airport this morning. This was not the only relieved sigh of the day:  as one who detests flying and fears the worst from beginning to end of the entire process, the first occurred as we landed safely.

I left home at 5.45am and, quite apart from being far too stressed to eat,  I cannot face breakfast at that ungodly hour anyway so my first port of call on arrival was The Angel’s Share, a bar at Dublin airport. It’s far less crowded that the coffee shops – mostly businessmen having meetings. Two slices of toast and a cup of good coffee  followed by a make-up touch up, and I felt ready to face the rest of the day.

I caught the aircoach into Dublin city centre where, before my onward journey to my relatives’ house with whom I am staying, I met up for lunch with some old friends who moved from the UK to Ireland a couple of years ago to be near their daughter and grandchildren. I had thought them just a few miles away but discovered that their journey to Dublin takes an hour and a half. I was touched that they were willing to travel that far to have lunch with me.

I had suggested that we meet at The Bank on College Green. In the latest of a string of awards, it has recently been voted Dublin’s best eating pub. It is located in one of my favourite (and oldest) areas of the city close to Trinity College on a site which has been occupied since Viking times. This building is truly spectacular, a lavish mix of ornate plaster-work, intricate mosaic, marble pillars and hand-painted gold leaf embellishments.  But it is the ceiling of the bar which , which was once the main banking hall, which literally outshines all else as the sunlight streams through the magnificent stained glass roof.  The building was  described as at the time as one of the foremost jewels of Victorian Dublin.

The bar, previously the main banking hall

Bank College Green

That wonderful roof


And from another angle

the-bank-on-college-green 2

As if that wasn’t enough to leave me awed, the food was pretty good too! It was lovely to catch up with my friends but all too soon, time to say goodbye and after lots of hugs and promises to meet up again next time, I called a taxi to take me to the DART station. The Dublin Area Rapid Transit system, an electrified rail network links Dublin to its various suburbs. I was now on my way to Dún Laoghaire.

* Husband is at home decorating the bedroom.



…also known as Aviophobia or Aviatophobia. I’ll give you a clue:

It’s shortly before 6.30am and I am sitting in the departure lounge at Birmingham Airport feeling with extremely large, extremely fluttery butterflies in my tummy. I’m sure you’ve guessed: I hate flying; I detest it.

If you are wondering where I’m on my way to, take a look at yesterday’s post.

More to follow …


Ireland – My Emerald Heart


Ireland – the most westerly point of Europe, the last, isolated island before the Atlantic Ocean. The Greeks and Romans called it Hibernia meaning ‘the land of winter’. Whilst there exists small communities where Irish is spoken, these are few and far between and it is a version of English which now dominates. Hiberno English has its own unique grammar, the origins of which are a combination of Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Medieval Old Irish and 17th Century English from Western England.

That such a small island could be responsible for producing so much literary excellence (think Yeats, Shaw, Joyce and Wilde, Sean O’Casey and Jonathan Swift to name but a few) seems hard to believe but it is perhaps testament to the love of the Irish for their country. For there is an innate pride in their country in those of Irish descent. Since Prehistory people have dwelt in Ireland and some of their beliefs, traditions and folklore still influence attitudes today.

The history of Ireland is turbulent and complex. Although never a part of the Roman Empire, evidence exists that several Roman trading posts were established on east coast. The country suffered invasion from the Vikings and the Normans but by the 17th century power lay in the hands of the ‘Ascendency’ which referred to the descendants of English colonists,  and it was governed by England. It wasn’t until 1922 that Southern Ireland gained its status as the Irish Free State.

It was during the Viking era, when their chosen point of entry to Ireland was the Liffey Eestuary, that Dublin became an important international trading centre on route to the Baltic, Scandinavia and the Middle East. During the 18th century it became a great Georgian city and many of the fine houses still exist. Unfortunately those around O’Connell Street became the slum tenements so often depicted in the plays of Sean O’Casey.

The Halfpenny Bridge, O’Connell Street, Dublin

Image result for pictures of dublin tripadvisor ha'penny bridge

The late 1990s and first decade of the Millennium saw a significant transformation of Dublin’s derelict quays and docklands and, in common with most other large towns and cities in Ireland, Dublin saw an unprecedented building boom which made it into the cosmopolitan, vibrant city that it is today.  During this time a cultural and economic explosion took place and the country became wealthy beyond expectation; the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was born. Despite a falter in 2003, in terms of financial stability a prosperous future looked assured but the country hadn’t anticipated the worldwide financial crash of 2008 and Ireland’s building industry collapsed leading several major banks into bankruptcy and leaving the Government with massive debts and economic problems which they are still trying to resolve – a new chapter in the ever-changing history of this small, naturally beautiful island. The Irish have a reputation for friendliness, for hospitality and generosity and from the times I’ve spent there, I know this to be true.

I said at the start that there is an innate pride in their country in of those of Irish descent. I’m one of them.

Autumn colours, winter food


I’ve always loved autumn. In fact I’ve often said that October is my favourite month of the year. The trees look so pretty and there’s  a special smell in the air that heralds warm winter coats, boots and thick black tights.  And as the weather starts to get colder my mind turns towards what I suppose would be described as ‘warming winter food’. I like salads but they somehow just don’t cut the mustard as the nights draw in.

My winter menus will no doubt include an increase in soups and more casseroles-type dishes.  I often prepare for a couple of days at a time and where possible I make extra portions so that I can freeze them for later use.  We have a large freezer but even so, when I’ve been engaged in a cooking marathon, I can run out of space.

Favourite soups include Spicy parsnip, Tomato & red pepper and Leek & Potato (I prefer this one left quite chunky). We also like ‘Susan Soup’, a Mediterranean tomato & bean soup which we named after the cousin who served it to my daughter and I back in 1993. The reason I can be certain of the date is because she told me she’d found the recipe in the current issue of Good Housekeeping magazine and I went and bought a copy. The recipe was duly cut out and has been in my recipe folder ever since. Two recent additions to my soup repertoire are my friend Margaret’s French Onion (a meal on its own when served traditionally with French bread and gruyere) and her Pea and Mint creation.

I borrowed a soup maker from my daughter to see whether I might like on but having tried it once I decided it wasn’t for me. However, Slimming World Magazine has on offer a different type (the kind I had thought I’d like before trying daughter’s)  and I’ve ordered one, hoping that this fulfils my requirements.  The soup maker cooks the vegetables and then blends them into soup with a choice of smooth or chunky. The advantage I see here is that once the timer is set, it needs no further attention which leaves me free to be doing something else. This appeals to my increasingly busy lifestyle. I often wonder how I ever managed to work full time? I’ll report back on the soup maker in due course.  I’m not a great one for gadgets so hope that I haven’t wasted my money.

A lot of people like to use slow cookers but not me. I have one and it’s very useful for keeping things warm. It’s ideal for large quantities of gravy or custard when I have a large family lunch but for casseroles and the like, I’m not at all keen. After everything has been marinating together for several hours, I’d defy anyone to identify whether they were eating a chunk of potato, celeriac, parsnip, swede or a Jerusalem artichoke- it all tastes the same, so totally does the gravy or sauce permeate each piece! As for the meat, who can tell what it is? Casseroles in my house are cooked in the oven.

Lazy Sunday? Not quite

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content”

Apart from the fact that they precede Mondays, and I have to go to work on Mondays,  I rather like Sundays. Sometimes they are filled with family things, sometimes they are chill-out days at home and now and then they are a day for meeting up with my friend for morning coffee. Rarely are they lazy days  – I always seem to have far to much that needs doing to have lazy days.  This particular Sunday began with me in some discomfort. About three weeks ago I had a cold. It didn’t last long and it wasn’t a particularly bad one but ever since I’ve been snuffly and a bit headachey during the night and on waking. It’s been getting worse so finally I Googled – the diagnosis is catarrh. I don’t recall ever having this before but right now, oh yes, I am suffering.

Our plan for this morning was to choose wallpaper for the bedroom. Since we were going out anyway, I decided to pay a visit to the chemist. I now have Sudafed tablets and am hoping they will do the job as I am due to go to Ireland later this week. Husband has already stripped the walls and has plans to complete the papering  whilst I am away.  I’m so glad that I hadn’t already bought the paper because I had in mind a coffee colour to contrast with the new bedding I’ve bought, but over the past few days, each time I’ve walked into the bedroom, I’ve been startled (not too strong a word) by how light and airy it looks now that the removal of the existing wallpaper has revealed white painted walls.  I’m not a fan of painted walls as I prefer some light texture but in terms of colour, my mind had changed. I chose a plain magnolia paper which has a slight bark effect. Husband tends to leave decor decisions to me.

Once home I had my breakfast. It was late – around 11 am but I hadn’t felt like it earlier. This morning it was porridge with raspberries. It was tempting to then sit back and read the Sunday papers but I had ironing to do – just a few items I want to take away with me.

Then my two sons arrived. Eldest has picked up the final bits and pieces from the old house. We have agreed to store some bunk beds until they are required for his small sons (both still in cots at present). Youngest son has a bigger vehicle than the rest of us so this was requisitioned to effect transfer of said beds. The ‘problem’ with a split level house is that it comes with a split level loft  i.e. two lofts. This is attractive to people – in particular, sons who require the storage of various items . We reminded eldest son that we still have stuff in there since his 2013 move, and the younger one that his wife’s wedding dress has languished there since the year before that!  It seems that the more we aim to relieve the lofts of their contents (a slow process with downsizing at some unspecified future date in mind) so other people fill them up!

I missed lunch having eaten breakfast so late and made some greetings cards instead. I noticed on Friday that the selection at the gym is running a bit low. To the end of 2016 I’d made about £650 through sales at the gym. This has been split equally between Cancer Research (the gym’s chosen charity) and the research fund of Crohns & Colitis UK (my choice). So far in 2017 it is about £170. Here’s a small sample of today’s effort.


I also made a start on  Christmas cards for my own use. Then I remembered that I had a little bit of sewing to do before the daylight fades. I don’t like to leave it until late as I find it more difficult to do by electric light. I shortened some leggings (I find that even some marketed as ‘petite’ are longer than I like) and repaired the hem on a dress.

It was late afternoon before I got a look at the newspaper. Then, in no time at all,  my thoughts turned to dinner. I don’t often cook a roast and wanted to try a vegetable roast with feta cheese (and very nice it was but I forgot to take a photograph). It wasn’t Husband’s kind of food so he had cheese & ham quiche. Soon I’ll get my bits and pieces ready for work tomorrow, have a bath and settle down to watch episode 3 of The Last Post.  So that was my day – not a lazy one but no great effort expended either. How was your Sunday?