Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I love the Bansha Show. It is one of the highlights of my year and so looking forward to Wednesday 28th August....a chance to meet old friends and chat idly for hours watching the dog show, sheep trials, show jumping events, eating homemade cakes, and poring over flowers, vegetables, fruit, arts and crafts etc. Bansha show is considered by many to be one of the best village shows in Munster. I believe it's success is due to an overwhelming sense of community. Meanwhile, I'm in the UK and whilst driving yesterday, I read a poster on the side of the road advertising the fact that Nantwich Show was on today. This morning I decided I'd go as it had been many years since I had been able to go. Nantwich is a beautiful little town, 4 miles from my home town of Crewe. Nantwich has beautiful black and white oak-timbered buildings dating back to the Tudor era, not unlike those in the city of Chester, the county town of Cheshire. Nantwich was a Roman salt-mining town and the miners were paid for their work in salt. Salt, of course, was a very important commodity in those times, as it was used to preserve food, as an antiseptic, to clean utensils and even teeth. The inhabitants of Nantwich were called 'dabbers' because their 'wages' wrapped up in a sack, were 'dabbed' up on to a counter or the like. To this day people from Nantwich are called 'dabbers'.
After purchasing the biggest 99 ice-cream cone I have ever seen, my next port of call was the cheese tent. Now cheese is undoubtedly my favourite food. Give me a selection of cheese, some crusty bread, Danish unsalted butter, olives, grapes and assorted chutneys and I am in heaven. Nothing could have prepared me for the array of cheese that I saw today however. I've never seen anything quite like it. Rows and rows of cheeses from all over the world; stands of cheese, that you could sample. It was mind-blowing. 
Imagine my absolute delight though, when I saw a Bord Bia stand promoting Irish cheese in the middle of this tent in Nantwich. I was so excited about seeing Irish anything, but cheese....this was special. I know that Ireland is currently negotiating cheese exportation to Canada, which does not surprise me at all, given the ridiculously high prices of cheese over there. I bought five smallish pieces of cheese last September, which cost almost 90 Canadian dollars. I was particularly pleased to see Cashel Blue Cheese there and went over to chat to the owner behind the stand, who informed me that they were finally getting their PR act together and were heading to France for another Cheese festival after this one.
From the cheese tent I went into the vegetable and flower tent and saw the biggest cabbage, the longest parsnips and the cutest onions I've ever seen in my life.
                                                                         Crinoline dress springs to mind!

Rats Tails anyone?

                                                                                 Ah....Daddy, Mammy and Baby Onion!
Next Stop were the Land Rovers. I have loved these since I was 15. The nearest I got to one was a 3.2 diesel Isuzu Trooper, which sadly I had to part with whilst I was doing my degree in UCC, because it was costing me an arm and a leg to drive up and down. I WILL buy my favourite of all which is a Land Rover Defender before I get much older. I saw some new ones today, but I'd prefer one with a few miles under its belt. Apart from a financial point of view, the thought of 'brand new' makes me sick with nerves. 

From the new, I ventured forth to the vintage! There was an American car there beginning with a 'C', not Chevrolet or Cadillac that was at least 27 foot long. Trying parking that monster!
Then I came across a black Austin 7. My father's first car was a black Austin 7 and I can still recall the first three letters of the registration as FOE.... I looked inside and couldn't believe how small it was. I saw myself and my two brothers huddled into the back and as both of them were poor travellers, one or both invariably puked all over the place. My father Maurice, whose middle name was 'Weaver' after the river, that runs through the hamlet of Nantwich, was a 'dabber' and a mechanic, who knew everything there was to know about car engines, that was until the advent of electronics.
Then to my surprise, I came upon some vintage bicycles complete with paraffin lanterns on the front. I had a 'sit up and beg' or 'high Nelly' bicycle as a young girl and I remembered the times that Diane and I travelled to our first discos on it. I'd cycle and she'd run, then we would swap over. I had to be home by 9.30pm in those days. How things have changed.  
I saw massive bulls, sheep, shorn and otherwise, and the most beautiful shire horses. Wandering back through tents and stalls towards the exit, I came across a stand of fun loo seats.
Thought this was hilarious and would have bought it, had I room in my case to bring it home. Thought it would be great fun to put it in the upstairs loo for the friends that stay over. Definitely not for downstairs viewing and the more formal visitor.
I meandered back to my car along the canal bank, looking at the barges and pictured myself living on one of them. I'd had a lovely day that had brought back many happy memories, but as shows go, Bansha Show still stands head and shoulders above the rest....even Nantwich!
Ciao for now!

Friday, July 4, 2014


As a member of the Tipperary branch of the Labour Party, I drove to Dublin today with three other fellow members to support Alan Kelly Labour TD for North Tipp in his quest to become the next deputy leader of the Party. We arrived  in time for lunch at the Department of Transport, which was followed by a fascinating tour of the Dail, and then on to the Mansion House, where it was duly announced that Joan Burton had become the first woman ever to be elected as leader of the Labour Party, and some time later it was declared that Alan Kelly had succeeded in securing the position of Deputy Leader. Following the recent kick in the proverbial ass doled out to the Labour Party by the electorate during the recent local and European elections,  there was a real sense today that we have a real opportunity now to show that 'yes' we are part of a coalition government, but we are NOT Fine Gael, and we will NEVER be Fine Gael. There is no doubt in my mind that when Fianna Fail left this country in tatters, the Coalition whilst governing this country within extremely severe constraints, had become so consumed....obsessed with the financial crisis, that they stopped listening to the people on the ground and consequently pushed those that were sacrificing most, over and beyond their limit. The Government had taken their eye off the ball and consequently hardworking and committed Local Council and European Election candidates and the thousands that canvassed for them were sent like lambs to the slaughter, and as it turns out, quite unnecessarily so. Those that voted Labour in the last general election felt betrayed by a  front bench, who appeared not to be willing to put up a fight and were perceived to be more FINE GAEL than the Fine Gael Party themselves. Even if they lost the battle in the end, isn't it better to go down fighting in your own corner with your own identity and principles. Joan Burton is a remarkably able politician and Alan Kelly, as he says himself, 'has Labour in his DNA....' and I genuinely believe that they will fight their corner for the Labour Party and for the workers of this country and those that are seeking work. After a day of speeches of striving for fairness and equality, I sat down tonight to watch the oscar-winning movie 12 Years A Slave

Quite frankly, I had not been in any hurry to watch this movie, because my daughter, Emma had already told me that it was disturbing, but nothing could have prepared me for the horror of this film, that is based on a true story. I sat in total silence with tears welling up in my eyes; screams choking my throat; and a tightness in my chest, for the entire thing. This film portrays the barbaric nature of the cruel crimes inflicted by the white man upon the black man, in a way that has not been realized so convincingly before. I have only ever been rendered speechless on two occasions following something that I've watched, but for two entirely different reasons. The other occasion was following an overwhelmingly beautiful production of Puccini's opera Tosca in London, which left both Emma and myself unable to communicate with each other for at least a half an hour afterwards. Through his brilliant direction of 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen doesn't allow us to feel every lash of the whip through the amount of blood spilled or flesh torn up, but rather, he forces us....enslaves us to feel every lash by leaving the cameras to linger for unusually lengthy periods of time upon an individual face....upon the faces of a group. The Director, then calls upon the chief witness of all this unbearable cruelty, Mother Nature herself, by flogging the camera to soak up the echoes of the black man's tears stitched into each leaf; each branch; each cotton blossom, each stick of sugar cane; and each stretch of sky, sea, swamp and river. It reminded me of how I could feel the echoes of children's unheeded crying from Letterfrack's infamous industrial school , that were heard and trapped within the Twelve Pins and surrounding countryside; and similarly, how I felt the echoes of Indians' tears, trapped within the mountains and countryside surrounding Vancouver, Canada, as they were forced from their lands to live in reservations. Visiting 'Whistler' should have been a highlight, but only served to confuse and leave me feeling increasingly sad and ill at ease. I captured some astonishingly beautiful images during my two week stay in Canada, and always intended to write a blog about my experiences there, but so far, apart from the background photo under the title of my blog, of the gorgeous potholes at Souke, Vancouver Island, I have not been able to do so. I am still confused and probably need to revisit and research more before I could possibly write about this beautiful but desperately sad place.

12 Years A Slave is a remarkable work of cinematic art, that I could never watch again. The saddest thing of all is that in this 21st century, slavery and torture of one form or another is still very much the reality, and there are still hordes of people who believe they are superior to others because of their gender, creed, colour, race, or financial status. I am reminded of  the little girl of a Romany family, who was taken away from her parents quite recently by Gardai without consulting social services or following routine preliminary investigations, simply because she had fair hair. The Romany family might well be suing the State  for gross misconduct, but that little girl's has been dyed nevertheless. Sad.

Today, I felt heartened as I listened to Joan and Alan speaking about fairness and equality, because without those two things, or at least to be striving for those things, we can never truly call ourselves a civilized society.

Ciao for now!