To Snowdrops by William Wordsworth

How amazing! Today’s the last day of 2018 and there’s already a little clump of snowdrops in bloom at the end of my garden. I feel I have to honour the ocassion by including a Wordsworth poem about this tiny flower.

Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they

But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,

Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day

Storms sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay

The rising sun, and on the plains descend;

Yet art though welcome, welcome as a friend

Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May

Shall soon behold this border thickly set

With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of spring,

And pensive monitor of fleeting years.

And now a look to the future as gifs and messages start pinging on my phone;

Transylvania – Myth and History

Dracula
Classic Christmas Presie of the 60s

Reading “the classics” was almost a rite of passage into adult literacy when I was young – almost like Dick King Smith or Roald Dahl for kids of today. Little Women, David Copperfield, Great Expectations were among my favourites. And when I heard that Dracula was written by Bram Stoker from Marino, it held a particular fascination along with his fictional residence in Transylvania. When I discovered that Transylvania actually existed, it was in a place “behind the Iron Curtain” and so as far away as any fictional land. I did not however forget it – just put it on a bucket list.

Transylvania - fact or fiction
One of the many tempting advertisements to visit Romania!

When I saw “ Five-day trip to Transylvania” advertised, I jumped at the chance. As is usual, the first and last days are spent travelling to and from the destination. With the wonderful airport assistance staff that help those of us who have limited mobility, it is no longer an arduous experience! We arrived in Sinaia, a ski resort in the Bucegi Muntains just before midnight.

DAY 2 Peles and Pelisor Castles

Peles Castle- Summer residence of Royal Family until 1947

With temperatures below zero, we wrapped up in layers for our short trip into the mountains to visit Peles Castle, considered to be the most stunning Castles in Europe. Our tour guide, Adrian, was so proud of his country that almost everything we saw was “the most or the best or the first”. Built in the 1800s, Peles was one of the first castles in Europe to have central heating. In 1948 the castle was confiscated by the state but thanks to a “white lie” about fungus in the wood that would be harmful to humans, Peles was saved and remained unchanged.

Pelisor Castle

Pelisor (little Peles, maybe we would call it Pelesín!), a smaller castle in the same grounds is also very impressive. The climb down the valley to see the castles was steep and icy and prompted use of a taxi for return to the bus!

Little church in Sinaia Monastery 

With the afternoon free to explore, a few of us decided to make a quick visit Sinaia Monastery on the way home. Sinaia takes its name as one would guess from Mount Sinai and was inspired by the founder’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The visit was short as we all wanted to make the cable car ride into the mountains before dark. It was a spectacular ride and a delicious Roamanian stew accompanied by “vin fiert” warmed us as we took in the views of the town far below us.

Drinking mulled wine as I look down on Sinaia from Ski Station

DAY 3 Brasov

We headed into the Carpathian Mountains today for a visit to Adrian’s home town. Seemingly this town is one of the most visited in Romania and the architecture is certainly beautiful.

Council Square in Brasov

The Christmas Market was a particular draw, but it was also great to see the old town gates, the main square, the Black Church (so called after a fire) and Rope Street (the narrowest street in Europe).

Rope Street – used by firemen as access; now an art gallery

I was particularly interested to find some lovely felt decorations and the crafter who loved sharing tips and tricks about needle felting. Really fruity vin fiert to wash down the local sausage was a speciality. Also recommended was “tuica fiert” or hot schnaps but this was vile!!!!

DAY 4 Bran Castle


Preparing for the climb!

Today we journeyed into the center of Romania to the village of Bran in Transylvania. The infamous Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler ( you don’t need much imagination to guess his preferred method of torture) was immortalized as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula and thanks to this loose link to the famous vampire, Bran Castle is popularly known in the region and beyond as “Dracula’s Castle.” Adrian was at pains to tell us that Bram Stoker never visited central Europe and that there are castles all over Europe that would have greater connections to vampires.
Bran Castle was built between 1377 and 1388 atop a strategic site overlooking a heavily trafficked mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia, the land over which Vlad III of the Order of the Dragon or Dracul ruled in the 15th century.
The castle was given to Queen Marie and her descendents in 1920 as a token of appreciation for her efforts to unify Romania. After her death, Bran Castle was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ileana, who ran it as a hospital during World War II. In 1948 the castle was seized by the Communist regime, but it was returned to Dominic von Habsburg, Princess Ileana’s son, in 2006.

Interior courtyard Bran Castle

The climb to the rocky outcrop between the counties of Wallachia and Transylvania was steep and slippy – temperatures had dropped in the mountain area and the ground was icy. Once you reached the castle, you then had to maneuvering the many stairs and secret passages inside. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Our castle guide was excellent and mixed stories of fact and fiction, terror and romance. Luckily, the last queen suffered with arthritis and so had a lift installed that she could have afternoon tea with her friends in the tea rooms at the bottom of the rock. So I certainly welcomed the easy descent.

Site of Movie, Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman

By this time hands and feet were beginning to freeze, so a hostelry was found for soup and mulled wine under the castle and the mountain range which was setting for Nicole Kidman’s film Cold Mountain.

Bran to Sinaia

We had a lovely trip back to Sinaia along the snowy country roads and were back just in time for some shopping and the turning on of the Christmas lights.
A fitting end to a great trip!

I went to see the Pope!

In 1979, Shay and I took David to see the Pope in the Phoenix Park – a great community expedition. I’m not sure how much religious fervor was involved but as it was probably going to be a once off event, I wanted my one-year-old to be able to say he was there! (I must root out the one or two photos of the Pope-mobile taken from a distance). Walking posed no problem then and we joined the throngs marching from Lucan with our picnics, rugs and rain gear. I still remember the excitement of seeing the 15 acres sectioned by barriers and overlooked by the massive Papal Cross, the buzz as Pope John Paul II landed and toured between the corals, waving and blessing, and the high as we walked home through the Strawberry Beds.

This time I was going for me. However the task was gargantuan as there were going to me massive traffic restrictions and lots of walking, prohibitive to my level of mobility. Luckily ‘the sister’ had ordered tickets and was as interested as me in attending. The fact she lived ‘just over the wall’ from the site meant that she could provide accommodation and ‘push-power’ if I could access a mode of transport. Limited mobility is not how I had envisaged my retirement years – you should have seen my bucket list for traveling – but I’ve learned to put a brave face on it and if I had to swallow pride and take to a wheelchair to get there – so be it.

I think all the church bashing that went on during the weeks before the visit cemented my resolve. Joe’s, Ray’s and other’s dismissal of my faith and their encouragement to jeer and make little of my beliefs really irked me. Certainly there have been awful crimes perpetrated by the church, but other agencies played a role too –state, state agencies and families are not blameless.

There was little discussion on the amazing work also done by the church – Pope Francis’ visit to the Capuchin Day Centre on Saturday was an acknowledgement of that. For all the years I worked in Catholic schools I saw the kindness and assistance that was given by nuns and priests to many hardship cases. I also knew the personnel comfort my faith and people of faith gave me in time of loss, fear and illness. I think the Knock visit on Sunday morning was the most stunning example of faith – people standing for hours in the rain, filled with joy to see this leader.

Pope Francis is certainly charismatic. He is renowned for his work among the poor of Argentina and has a lot to say about human rights and compassion. He has a huge job ahead of him addressing the crimes and the cover-ups. Of course, I would like to see women with a more influential role in the church – but I think it will happen if enough strong women campaign and certainly their presence at the governing table will bring massive change to attitudes.

So what was it like – amazing, moving, inspirational? Yes – all of that! It was wonderful to be part of the experience with hundreds of others, some just there for the spectacle but all there to see a great man and share a celebration. The weather was dreadful and certainly dissuades many. But our Croke Park ponchos kept us dry. There were miles to walk but as a seated traveler, I certainly couldn’t complain. We joined in with the prayers and hymns – would have loved if there had been more that I knew. We thought the Pope would pass closer to us but we did see him in the distance.

 

I’ll probably never get a chance like this again – so I was thrilled that I made it.

Super Blue Moon’ Jan 30, 2018

       

A rare phenomena occurred last night and what is probably rarer is that I managed to photograph it – a Super Blue Blood Moon. Although the forecast was for the moon to be visible from 5pm yesterday until 8am this morning, the skies above Naas were quite cloudy except for an hour around midnight.

A ‘Super Moon’ is simply a moon that is closer to the Earth than normal. As a result, it appears bigger and brighter in the sky.
A ‘Blue Moon’ is also simple and means the second full moon in a calendar month.

Although we use the phrase “once in a blue moon” to indicate rare occurrences, blue moons are not quite as rare as the famous phrase suggests: the next Super Blue moon is due to appear on March 31. However, the next one after that is October 2, 2020.

Last night’s moon was also be classed as a ‘Blood Moon’

which is when sunlight passes through the atmosphere above the Earth, casting a dark colour across the surface of the moon and happens thanks to a total lunar eclipse across Australia, Asia and parts of the USA. As is the case with all total lunar eclipses, the Earth will cast a darkened red-tinted shadow across the face of its natural satellite, hence the term “blood moon.”

This is quite a rare phenomena as the last ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ happened in 1866, and according to Astronomy Ireland’s David Moore it won’t happen again until 2037.

We in Ireland witnessed the Super and the Blue aspects of the Moon last night but the Blood aspect was not visible to the Irish observer

Great to get some photos as the moon appeared through the clouds over the trees out back.

  

The Blood Moon-27 July 2018

I’ve always been fascinated by the planets and stars although I never pursued the interest past reading or TV programmes. However, I do watch out for forecasts of “extra-terrestrial” events. In January of this year I actually managed to photograph the Super Blue Moon.

Last night however the Blood Moon was the focus. Andrew Fabian, professor of astronomy at the University of Cambridge, explained the “blood moon” phenomena in today’s paper:

It’s called a blood moon because the light from the sun goes through the Earth’s atmosphere on its way to the moon, and the Earth’s atmosphere turns it red in the same way that when the sun goes down it goes red.

The longest eclipse of the 21st Century!

The promise of a glimpse at Mars, travelling closer to Earth than it has done since 2003, and looking like an orange-red star prompted a plan to drive to Mayo designated as “a dark sky reserve” to watch the spectacle.

But by Thursday the weather forecast was for clouds and I felt that Kildare offered as much of a chance of a gap in the clouds as anywhere and the trip west was cancelled.

After weeks of glorious sunshine and clear blue skies, Friday started very dull and very overcast: not a break in cloud cover at all. By evening it had started to rain. So instead of Mayo, I hit for the Curragh.

I drove the motor way to Newbridge – exiting at each bridge to see if the view skywards unhampered by buildings would yield any glimpse of the reddening sky! No Luck! Onto the Curragh where I stood alone as sheets of rain drenched me (our Mediterranean Summer didnt encourage having rain gear!). There was no other sky gazer to be seen. However, undaunted I stayed until 11.30 when the phenomena was to finish and drove home to download images of what was invisible in Ireland

The next lunar eclipse of such a length is due in 2123.

Italy or Holland

 Many years ago, a parent of a Special Needs child addressed the Parents Association of our school. Her child was transitioning to Secondary school and she wanted to explain why “inclusion” in the local school was so important to the little girl and to her family. It was a very moving address, particularly the poem she quoted by E. P Kingsley about the dramatic life changes a parent of an SEN child needs to make.

In recent days I heard the same poem quoted in a very different but equally relevant context by a person who had a life changing illness. The ultimate message of this poem is that things don’t always go to plan: there are things we can’t change; But we can try to accept, to adapt; the alternative is to be miserable.

 A Trip to Holland
By Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability — to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans… the Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, Gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After several months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.

You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland!” “Holland?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy. I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.

So, you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around. You begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. And Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, ” Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that experience will never, ever, ever, go away. The loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

KERRISMS – IRISH TIMES JUNE 29, 2018

Copy of article that appeared in The Irish Times: Fri, Jun 29, 2018 written by
Mary Hannigan


From banjoed to wojous: The Brian Kerr World Cup phrase book

RTÉ co-commentator’s unique contribution is so informative – and richly entertaining

The research hasn’t been entirely scientific, a random chat here and there, but it would seem that the country will not rest until Brian Kerr fits all of this in to one sentence:
“The knicky-knacky redser was right to have a ging from there, but it was a wojous effort, hit the ’keeper straight in the mush and now he’s gone down banjoed.”
If you’re a tourist in Ireland at the moment and you’ve been tuning in to RTÉ, this might have left you asking “what?”– so we’re going to try and help you out below.
But be assured, the man in question is the man of the tournament thus far. Never mind your Luka Modrics and Harry Kanes.
Some co-commentators are informative, some are entertaining, you rarely get it all in one package.
Which is why we say: Brian Kerr, we salute you.

The top 20 essential Kerr-isms: A guide for RTÉ-watching tourists

(1) Wojous: “That was a wojous attempt.”
After an effort on goal by Poland’s Kamil Grosicki almost ended up in Lithuania. Rubbish.
(2) Banjoed: “Looks like he’s banjoed now alright.”
After Morocco’s Noureddine Amrabat was floored by an Iranian shoulder. Wrecked.
(3) Helter Skelter: “I’d say we’ll have a bit of helter skelter around the goal now.” The likelihood of a mad scramble taking place in the penalty area as the attacking side desperately try to score.
(4) Dunt: He gave him a right dunt there.”
Bump, shove, thump.
(5) Rattle: “He’s gonna have a right rattle at this.”
In this case, when Ivan Rakitic stepped up to take a free-kick for Croatia. Give it the mother of all whacks.
(6) Knicky-knacky: “Peru have a couple of knicky-knacky players.”
Tricky, skilful, that kind of thing.
(7) Makie-uppie: “It looks like that was a makie-uppie one. They never practised that on the training ground. Just bang it in there and hope for the best.” When a Nigerian corner was so wojous it was highly unlikely it had never been rehearsed.
(8) Linkie-uppie: “Nice linkie-uppie play there.”
When a team puts together a string of very lovely passes.

(9) Ging: “Ah, he had to have a ging from there!”
When Iceland, needing a goal, opted not to attempt to score one. A shot.
(10) Blem: “Ah go on, have a blem!” We were going to say ‘see ging’, but during a heated debate in the office one faction insisted there is a subtle difference between a ‘ging’ and a ‘blem’. We still have no clue what it is, though. So, see ‘ging’.
(11) Rag Order: “Tunisia are in rag order there at the back, they’re all over the place.” Not defending with a tremendous amount of shape or discipline.(12) Mill: “It looked like the goalie was gonna mill yer man out of it.”
To send an opponent in to the middle of next week.
(13) Wingery: “He looks more like a wingery type of bloke, but he’s playing in midfield.” In this case, on an Iranian player with a physique more suited to playing on the wing.
(14) Mush: “It hit the keeper right in the mush.” Face, as in when the ball struck Peru’s Pedro Gallese in the mush.
(15) Banger: “Peru are kind of lucky to be there, in the group they were struggling early on, but then Bolivia played a banger in their match, so the result was overturned.”
RTÉ: ‘Brian Kerr’s Word of the Day – ‘Banger’, noun. An ineligible Dublin soccer player, usually an older player in a younger group age.’

(16) Stick That In Your Pipe And Smoke It: “He stood on his mate’s toe a minute ago, so he stands on his and says ‘there’s a hard tackle back for you, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.” Used to indicate that the person addressed will have to accept a particular situation, even if it is unwelcome. In this case, Mario Mandzukic being flattened by Nicolas Tagliafico in revenge for his challenge on Nicolas Otamendi.

What was I up to in APRIL 2018

I put great store in blogging at least one a month, keeping a site up to date with some bit of news or trivia!!!! – but somehow or other April escaped me. My excuse – I was busy attending night classes in  Web Design using Word Press and I certainly learned a lot. Our tutor set us up with a “play site” each where we could practise the various elements of web design. She also encouraged us to work on  a “real site” and so I used the site I manage for the Kildare Retired Teachers organisation as well as this one to hone my skills. My April entry on the Kildare teachers’ site was about the annual outing.

My entries on the play site were all to do with the class/home work. Here’s what I wrote about “pages”:

There’ll be lotsa talk about PAGES on this course and I need to get it straight in my head – So THIS is an example PAGE. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in my site navigation hopefully (in most themes).

It’s the home page – so it should explain why I am here?

In 2013 a parent established a Web Page for school. I started doing a bit of blogging on the site but the set-up and the format had been established for me. I merely had to come up with content and fill it in as if on “a template”.

THEN I got a present of a blog – I’m a diary keeper – so this was just another way of keeping my musings – those that I didn’t mind people reading. AGAIN A GREAT EXPERIENCE but very little technical know-how….got there by luck rather than design!

Made eye contact when a blog was required for Retired Teachers’ group  and found myself with a job. As I had some experience with the ‘wordpress template’ I went online and tried a “do it yourself” setup with wordpress. Got so far and then had to call on my expert.

 

Now I want to know a bit more – why and how things happen – so HERE I AM

 

 

Mothers Day 2018 – Mam and Gran

Mother’s Day quotes

“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.” Princess Diana

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” Unknown.

“If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” Stevie Wonder

“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.” James Joyce

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.” Jodi Picoult

“God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” Jewish Proverb

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” Oprah Winfrey