Monday, 29 June 2015


Dear friend, yesterday we walked the other hills at Loughcrew, a special place, sacred, barely seen. You visited when you were with us last summer, I think you climbed to the other cairns and we followed in your footsteps a few days later. These hills, yesterday's hills, are a steepish climb and there are gates to be very ungracefully climbed over and barbed wire to negotiate but we got there and the landscape, the peace and that sense of time and history and endlessness batters at you as the wind there does and leaves you breathless. Of course our boys relished the freedom of all that open space and when I'd got my breath back I stood and heard the roar of forgotten voices and wondered at it all. Wondered at the people who'd lived here, farmed here, built here, worshiped here, died here. Over five thousand years of time. Five thousand years of wind and rain, sun, snow, the ceaseless turning of the earth and all our follies, our wars and celebrations, our planting and harvesting, all those beginnings and endings. Oh, how I wonder.


Monday, 22 June 2015

rena gardiner

This arrived in the post this morning. I'd read about Rena Gardiner here and here and I immediately followed Mr. Pentreath's advice and bought a copy of the book (Little Toller Books produce the most gorgeous books, really anything from them is just fantastic) and I'm so glad I did. She was a prolific and wonderful book maker, printer, artist. I am looking forward to later on this evening when all children are in bed and I can lose myself in her wonderful work. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015


How close are you to a plain, open parcel of land marked off for cultivation? We are surrounded by them. Vast ones opened up for dairying, small ones enclosed by dense bird packed hedges, ones which lead on to others, a patchwork across the countryside. At this time of year the urge to be in them is strong. The grass has been cut for silage, leaving dry golden stubs. It is surprisingly satisfying to walk in a field which has just been cut. The smell is subtle, herbal, green. The boys throw handfuls of dried grass which the baler missed at one another and roll down the gentle slope of the field. Within a day or two there is a greenish tinge to the field ~ growth is continuing, a second cut is inevitable before summer is out.

Field names are so interesting, a lyrical intangible finger of the past pointing to something gone. With farming changing so rapidly and small fields and their hedgerow boundaries under continuous threat, it makes sense to record these names before they disappear. Names can be prosaic meadow field, river field, hill field, some relate to size the ten acres, or their use cow field, turnip field, milking field or, of course, they can be in Irish, or reflect the field's geography or its owner. The boys are forever drawing maps of places, real and imaginary, perhaps we should map our local fields, find their names before it's too late.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

things you must know

Things you must know about me:
1) weakness for chocolate. A sure fire way to get you out of trouble is to lay chocolate at my feet as a peace offering/a general no-strings-attached gift.
2) weakness for books. Only nice books need apply. For all other books I'm afraid we have no vacancies at the moment but may we wish you all the best in your job hunt.
3) weakness for art. An especially strong weakness (?) for linocuts. Hence the above now being in my hands, waiting to be framed and hung.
4) weakness of the bladder....nah, only kidding, my bladder's good.

Do yourself a favour and visit Jo's shop here for lots of quirky finds including this Two Houses print, which is in a limited edition of 20. 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

evening light

Evening light in the kitchen, soft and warm after a long day. Rhubarb for pudding balancing on the potato basket, dishes drip drying, the garden scattered with toys, racquets, balls, bare feet needing to be washed, sunlight behind curtains and that childhood agony of bedtime while it's still bright, walks in the newly stubbled fields, finding flint on the dusty lane, the whole wonderful June-ness of it all.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

of lakes and flowers

In this part of Ireland you are never too far away from a lake and on Sunday we spent the first nice, dry day of summer in the lacustrine beauty of Monaghan. A party in honour of flowers ~ striped canvas tents, ceilidh music, games, lemonade, treasure hunts and waterside walks, all in the sunshine. We dressed with flowers in our hair and clothes and enjoyed that most precious thing of all ~ a day off, together.

Monday, 8 June 2015


Despite a shockingly bad attempt at 'summer' the garden is doing its best and bursting forth. The scarlet poppies are on the cusp of exploding, they are such a treat although they don't cope with rain or wind so you have to really, really appreciate them during their brief moment of glory. There's all sorts of things self seeding in the gravel paths and there's barely elbow room in the borders. Everything is fecund ~ there's all sorts of mysterious rustlings and chirpings coming from the undergrowth. The starlings have nested and fledged and so have the sparrows at the back door. Now we are just waiting for a bit of heat, some sunshine to ripen the gooseberries and elder-flowers but, looking back, I see we are nowhere near where we were about this time last year.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

June reading

How do you choose a book? The size? (I especially love slim books, 200 pages or less). The cover? The hype? The title? The smell? All of the above? When we're book shopping it's usually with the three boys. Peaceful and quiet choosing time is limited, even when we spend an age in the children's section while they choose theirs, I usually get a hurried ten minutes to see what I might like to read. Last week we were in Hodges Figgis in Dublin and as I'm nearly finished H is for Hawk I thought I'd pick up something new. Immediately I saw The Search Warrant I knew it was for me. Thin, intriguingly titled and about the disappearance of a girl in Paris during the second world war it was ticking a lot of boxes. I flipped it open about half way through and read, in the bustling bookshop, a few paragraphs. That is how I choose. If it feels right, if I like the writing, if there's an atmosphere, if the voices of the characters sound real even though I don't know the story then I buy the book. Oh, and the size, the cover, the hype, the title and the smell also count.

***This is my June choice for The Year in Books at the always lovely Circle of Pine Trees***

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

children's books

One of the (many) joys of having an eight year old and a six year old is reading The Bedtime Story. William and Mide share a bedtime and therefore get the benefit of two stories - one each. They snuggle down in their beds, only heads peeping out, the night light is on, the room is dimly lit and the story begins...Over the years we have progressed from picture books to chapter books and have read everything from the Secret Seven, endless Famous Fives through to Emil and the Detectives, passing Awful Auntie, the Moomins, the Worst Witch, Horrid Henry and How to Train your Dragon along the way... William's recent bedtime read was Charlotte's Web which, bizarrely, I had not read as a child. It's a well known and much loved classic, a tale of friendship and bravery and love between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig. This was a lovely read, and for William who was (is?) afraid of spiders it lessened the fear by explaining lots of spidery facts cleverly woven (ahem) into the story. Although I have to admit the ending had me biting back tears...
Our new bedtime read is William at War (part of the Just William series) - perfect for our William, who is just a tad obsessed with the First and Second World Wars.

Monday, 1 June 2015

under pewter skies

It is the first of June. It was five degrees but dry and windy when I went for my walk this morning and now it's five degrees, raining hard and windy, so in fact I got the best part of the day (unwittingly). The lake was choppy, sea like. Neither of the dogs so much as dipped their paws in such was the chill factor. We didn't hang around.
Only two days before the same walk was sunnier. I went further, leaving the lake behind, walking alongside small hedged fields. There were dark whirring patches of insects hanging in the air and layers of birdsong more complicated and beautiful than any symphony. 

Walking has a calming effect on me. I like that time, early in the morning, breathing in, tuning in to something that goes into my spirit. I like to be away from human noise, just for a bit, to think and clear thoughts, to reconnect to what can get lost in the busyness of everyday life. In all honesty it's probably the most important 30 or 40 minutes in my day.