Thursday, December 26, 2013


At last I've time to update this poor, neglected blog.
I hope you all had a happy, peaceful and healthy Christmas time. My mantra, as this busy time, has been "it's a season, not a day" and it's been a great help to know that whatever didn't get done in time for 25th. might get done on another day! Or might not!

So, after an interval of over a month, New Ross JFK memorial is today's topic.
It didn't go quite as expected, but well enough. A friend travelled down with me, but we got lost en route and instead of arriving 30 minutes before a rehearsal/runthrough, we arrived 15 minutes before the actual performance. I was quite upset, and felt rushed and not in control, and of course this caused the little mishap that followed.
Taking my Horn out of the case, I let it fall and now have 2 horrible dents which will have to be fixed. Thankfully, they do not seem to unduly affect the sound, as I couldn't leave it in to be fixed because I needed it to play!

In all this chaos, I forgot to ask my friend to video the performance, so all I have is a photo, but it is a precious one.

This is just after the performance, with Vincent, the composer. You can see the JFK memorial and eternal flame in the background, and to the right of the picture is the spot where JFK made his quayside speech when he visited New Ross in 1963, just a few months before he was assassinated.
I asked Vincent to autograph my music, and he wrote the most beautiful words, telling me how proud he is of my achievements and the musical journey I am on! 

The piece was played again in the National Concert Hall the following Tuesday, and I got a piece of video so you could hear it. I'm not playing, but I'm a proud Mamma cos Zoe is playing tuba in it! I found that I had to turn up the volume on my laptop to hear it, so I hope it will work for you.

There have been several other musical adventures in December, more to follow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Harvest and Autumn

I've been having some fantastic walks and blackberry foraging expeditions with my friend Patricia.
We discovered a lovely little patch, very close to where both of us live, and it has been so much fun to pick the berries, chat, then go home and make jam and crumbles!

Even a handful of berries livens up an apple crumble! I use eating apples, then it needs very little sugar.

The same friend invited me to a Hallowe'en "Samhain" (Irish word for Hallowe'en) party. I wasn't sure if it would be my kind of thing, all I knew was that there would be a bonfire and that it was alcohol-free. I decided to give it a go, as everyone else had plans, so a party was definitely better than sitting home alone!

It was about 40 minutes drive from Dublin, down winding country roads, but we got there just fine.
A beautiful sweeping driveway led to a huge, well-lit house, and as we parked, people were assembling and greeting each other. We registered and paid, then went and had a cuppa.

We were invited to write out something we'd like to let go of, wrap it around a twig and offer it up to the fire. That's my twig in the picture above!
About 8.30, everyone was invited outside for the bonfire ceremony, and my word, what a bonfire! I've never seen one so big, or so well built. It lit first go, and flames licked the sides and in seconds it was a well established and warm fire.

 We all put our little twigs on the fire, stood and chatted for a while, and listened to some drumming.

Then there was dancing in a huge room in the house, and a lovely looking butternut squash curry with jasmin rice. Oh, and chocolate brownies! And more tea!

The dancing was electric! It was hard to believe that it was an alcohol free scene, and there were people of all ages. We really enjoyed dancing to the rock beat, and when we got tired there were some bean bags to relax on. I took the above photo from my bean bag! The muslin with autumn leaves was a very effective decoration.
We explored the house a little too: it's used as a Shamanic healing centre, and they had massages and other things on offer in the beautiful rooms.

Just like Cinderella, we had to leave the ball at 12.00, as Patricia had to collect her daughter and friends from a disco.
We certainly enjoyed the night; I was so glad I had accepted the invitation!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Culture Night

Just home from a most amazing night.

The orchestra I play with, who rehearse just once a month (as opposed to Band, which is twice a week!), were invited to play in Castletown House for Culture Night.

Culture Night is a fairly new phenomenon in Dublin, where lots of places open their doors/ hold events free of charge. Buildings that are normally closed to the public open up for the evening too. There is always a great buzz around the city, and the country too, as the popularity of it has spread nationwide now.
Below is a picture of the beautifully restored Hunting Room, where we played.

We played in Castletown last year too. This year was even more special for me! We had been working on Beethoven's 7th symphony for much of last year. It is very challenging, even for great players. The 2nd movement featured in The King's Speech. We played it at our summer concert in June, in a church in Co. Kildare.
But this time, the 1st Horn guy was unavailable, so I was on my own, which to me is terrifying.
 However, I decided to "feel the fear and do it anyway", got down to some serious practice over the past 2 weeks, and did it!

Castletown is a most beautiful place; the grounds are amazing, and it's just 30 minutes drive from my house!
 I went straight from work, so had about 20 minutes to walk around and take these pictures.
 Isn't it beautiful?

Lest you think it's all meadows, peace and quiet, there is a small airport nearby, so planes are overhead if you care to take notice!

I am so thrilled to have played a very difficult piece of music, and solo Horn! All the work was certainly worth it, and has given me a  new-found confidence.
On a high!!! And once again, I reflect on and express gratitude for, this marvellous musical journey that I am on. It has already taken me to places I would only have ever dreamed of, and I have made fantastic friendships along the way.
There is no destination here, it's all about the journey. A good philosophy for life!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Don't know where to start, but here goes..

It ironic that I hadn't time all summer to write a post, barely had time to comment, and now that school's back, and band's back, found time! So much to catch up on, better make a start.

Hubby and I had a lovely Italian holiday in June. We had a Silver Wedding anniversary, and coincidentally our flight was that day, and even better, there was a performance of Aida in the Arena in Verona. Yippee! Got a train from Milan to Verona.
It was very little extra to go 1st class, so we did, and free Prosecco was included! yay for Italian trains!
What better annniversary food than pizza. Delicious!
This is where our luck ran out.
As we began to eat our food, the rain began, and did not stop all night.

There was water running down the street, like a little stream.

There was great debate as to whether the opera would begin, and we got all the detail: if it doesn't start, you get a refund, but sometimes it starts, stops a few minutes later, maybe restarts, and so on. In this case, no refund!
We made our way over to the Arena, which was full of excitement, people wondering if it would start.
We waited half an hour, but the rain showed no sign of letting up, so we went back to our hotel.
Next morning, the sun was shining again. The opera had not started. Wise decision to go home!
To be continued....
I'm not sure what Blogger is doing to my pics, will try to rectify this tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Read Only

Life has been a whirlwind, and my blogging has really suffered. I've been a terrible blogger recently, posts only whirling round in my head, never making it to the keyboard!
(this picture is of a glass of Cava!)

I'm still enjoying reading your blogs, and commenting when I can.

Hoping to be back with some posts soon. In the meantime, I hope you're all enjoying this amazing summer.
Last one like this I remember, it was the summer before my (now 17 y/o!) son was born, and my 2 little girls, then 2 and 3 y/o, spent every day in the back garden, swinging, sliding, paddling. Most days, we'd have some friends over, and what a blissful time we had. Endless days of blue skies and summer fun!

These days, they barely go outside the back door, the garden is mostly used by me, and I enjoy pottering, clipping, watering.

See you all soon, I hope!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunshine and holidays! At last!

We've had some lovely days here in the last couple of weeks.

When I see a beautiful sky, the words of W B Yeats always come into my head "Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, enwrought with gold and silver light". I thought of cropping the wires etc out of this one, but decided that they give it reality.
 I thought the shadows on these buildings looked eerie, though I love this stretch of Stephen's Green.

 And this was eerie; there was hardly anyone around, at only 9pm!

"Tread softly because you tread on my dreams".
School's out since Friday! I thought it would never come- the last couple of weeks have been incredibly busy, but some more dreams have come true too. More on that in the next post.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Race, and Rose Petal Butterfly Buns

It's been a busy couple of weeks here.

2 weeks ago, daughter was  stewarding at a rowing race, so Hubby and I went along for a look.
We didn't get to see her, but we did see some cool boats.
They're bigger than I thought up close
We had a "Country Fair" in school last week, organised by a group who are following a vocational programme of horticulture, woodwork, cookery and I.T. They had lots of games, a mobile farm, a falconry display and some cake competitions (for staff!).

Initially I thought I would make something for the Novelty Cakes section, but then I knew I wouldn't have time, so I entered the Taste section with plain old butterfly buns. For filling, I used my Rose Petal Jam, and cream. The recipe is a very easy, all-in-one method that I have used countless times over the years when baking for school cake sales.

Well, guess what? They WON!!!!! First prize!
( I know it's all about taking part, but I love to win! Others clearly do too, because the competition was huge...chocolate cakes, cheesecakes, pavlovas, profiteroles....)

We're now just 4 weeks away from summer holidays, and I can't wait!
The sun finally made a decent appearance this weekend, and I did loads of gardening...of course I'm exhausted and stiff now!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Concert Hall

It was everything I ever thought it would be, and so much more...
I took this picture as I went in; so amused at going in the stage door!!

We had an hour of rehearsal and sound checks, then a break before the concert started. We were opening the second half of the concert, so were free to do as we pleased until a little before that. We went for a bite to eat, then a fellow Horn player and myself got "usher" seats at the back for the first half. It was so good, and we sang so much that I almost forgot we would soon be playing! All of the songs were Golden Oldies (Abba, Elvis, Diana Ross, and songs like New York New York). We sang, danced, applauded.
                      (at the end of rehearsal, just to prove to myself that it really did happen!)
And then, before I knew it, we were doing our tuning out back! I really had to contain my excitement and boy could I feel the adrenaline rush. I have been backstage in that hall several times as a band helper when my kids were playing, and each time I've wished I could also be playing on that stage.

I don't have the words to describe how it felt to walk onto the stage. It was amazing!
Bright lights, and seeing a packed concert hall, eagerly anticipating our music is very powerful. Knowing that my entire family were in the audience, and several friends too, meant so much to me. I wasn't nervous, just wanted to give a good performance.
                                            (Hubby was nearly thrown out for taking this!)
We got a great reception! The pieces we played were all well-known, including Riverdance, The Sunday Game(that's an Irish one!), Radetsky March.
Then the orchestra and choir joined us on stage for a grand finale of Hey Jude. I swear, I thought I would burst with emotion!
 It's such a beautiful venue to play in, and to have a lively, appreciative audience was amazing. I will never forget this night; dreams really do come true sometimes!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What a week!

Rollercoaster would best describe it.

I was in Limerick at the weekend with the band, at the National Band Championships.
And still reeling from the shock: I won a prize for my playing! I was so shocked, in fact, that I didn't realise they were talking about me (they announce the winning "section", but I was the only person in that section). I just sat there waiting for someone else to collect the trophy....yes, a Trophy! First time I've ever won anything like that!

We had a night of partying, as the band won a total of 4 prizes! They really know how to party, young and old. We had so much fun! Danced and laughed the night away!
On Sunday, I got news of the death of a friend. Cathy had been ill for 5 years, with a cruel illness called MSA. It's a form of Parkinsons. She was 50 in February. She was a most beautiful, vibrant, fun-loving, kind lady, with gorgeous Irish red hair. I am so sad that we will never laugh together again.

Tomorrow night, the band is playing in the National Concert Hall.
When I began playing French Horn 7 years ago (really? how did that time go so quickly!), I put my dream up in the sky, with the stars. The dream was to one day play in our National Concert Hall.

I am so excited!
Will be back with photos, I promise! The photos in this post were taken 2 weeks ago with my iphone during a walk in the park. Even though it was cold, the flowers decided to push through with spring. The weather was better in the last couple of days, just hope it lasts.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Good Friday

Had a very interesting Good Friday, with two crucifixions!
I had arranged to meet a friend for breakfast, so we walked down to a local cafe and had delicious French toast with berries, yummy!
                                                         (photo from
My cousin (I think I've mentioned her before, opera singer) offered me a ticket to the St. John Passion in the National Concert Hall: she was performing in it. Her Mum, who is my 1st cousin, was using the other free ticket, so it was a chance for us to meet up and catch up.
 We had a sandwich and coffee beforehand, and a lovely chat. She showed me video on her phone of my 87 y/o uncle, her Dad, dancing to Ceili music in his kitchen. He is passionate about Ceili music, and seeing his face light up as he danced (with his walking stick) was hilarious!
This photo of the Passion rehearsal was on the facebook page of the NCH:
My cousin is 2nd from the left in the front, with her legs crossed! I always find it funny that they wear jeans in rehearsal, then look so completely different when dressed up!

The St. John Passion was fabulous: I don't want to use the word enjoyable in relation to a religious event, but I loved the music and found it quite emotional.

I had to rush off straight after the concert, as I was playing with the band in a little church on the outskirts of the city. It's an African community church, in an industrial estate unit, and the contrast with the Concert Hall was immense! They had a few Gospel choirs, very lively music, and a very graphic enactment of the Passion, including a crucifixion (rope, not nails, though they did hammer several times on the ground to mimic the nails going in, and the "victim" did yell very loudly).
We played some beautiful hymns, and the congregation were really appreciative of our music, even though it was totally different to their own.

Eventually got home about 10.00! It was probably the most eventful Good Friday I've ever had!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring, is it?

Can't believe this! We've had SNOW for the last few days here!

Some of it has been quite heavy, and on higher ground it is sticking.
Makes no difference to some of us (Son and I!) as we're on Easter break anyway.
Poor plants have bravely continued to push through, denying the cold, wintry conditions.
And seeing this rhubarb brings thoughts of summer days, crumble and cream, Mmmmm!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday Five: Inchydoney

My quickie post today will be really quick.

1. Was at a function on Monday and met up with a past student and her two beautiful babies. Really enjoyed chatting with her, and reminiscing.
 Someone in school today was saying it makes her feel old that some of her past students are married. Sssh! I am now teaching the 18 y/o daughter of a past pupil! How did that happen? I keep telling them I was very young when I started!

2. I still have some of that awful cold/flu left in my head. Have been going for NST. It's a very interesting treatment- not supposed to cross legs, use electric blanket, drink coffee. Must stand up and move every half hour, I'll be back in a minute!

3. Someone posted on Facebook tonight that snow is headed our way. I love snow, but not in March when I'm looking for sun.

4. I was so tired when I got home today that I fell asleep on the sofa, woke at 20.00!! Family were in and out of the (open plan) kitchen, making dinner, eating etc and I never heard a thing! I need to go to bed now, just hope I haven't ruined my sleep.
Just cos I hate to post without a photo, these are of the beach in Inchydoney, Cork, taken last summer, grey sky but beach still beautiful. Just hope I haven't posted them before!

5. I'm playing in a Mother's Day concert on Sunday. Should be fun. Must look at music tomorrow! Mother's Day here is different to the USA.
Enjoy your weekend!
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Monday, March 4, 2013

In favour of Special Schools

Here in Ireland, the government's policy on children with special needs is "mainstreaming". They go to their local school, and have supports in place to meet their special needs. They are close to their home, their family and their friends. They are "integrated" in their local school and local community.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Except that, it doesn't work for some children. And because it's policy, these children are getting a bad deal.
For some, they are the child who is "DIFFERENT", who has no friends, who stands out, who can't fit in, who constantly has an assistant with them, who can't relate to the other kids, who wonders "why am I different?", who gets called names, made fun of, pointed at, who doesn't understand the classwork, who can't do the homework, who falls behind in their work.

None of this is made up, it's stuff that children in my school told me has been their experience of mainstream education. Not all children experience this, but many do, and many stay quiet. It's only when it reaches crisis point that a special school is considered.

I've seen so many children come to our school, looking so stressed and anxious on arrival, you want to reach out, hug them, and tell them that now they're here, everything is going to be ok. They will not be that "different" kid any more, they can relax and know that they are in the right place.

Within a week you would barely recognise their faces. They settle in unbelievably quickly, relax, enjoy their schooldays, begin to understand schoolwork again, make friends. Again, I'm quoting what they have told me, a few months on.

The myth that they will be "close" to their family and friends is often that..a myth. They often don't have friends. They often feel completely isolated.

It breaks my heart that so many children experience this, and that often it is left too late to move them to a special school. Today, I spoke with a mother, and she told me how she didn't want her child to be different, didn't want to send her to a special school, but that she had to put her daughter's needs first. Her daughter has now been in our school for 8 years, and she couldn't be happier. She knows she made the right decision, and she wishes for other parents that they knew how good it can be.

I'm not insinuating that a special school is for all children, or that it solves all problems. But nor do I think that mainstream schools are suitable for all children with special needs. And in these recessionary times, when cutbacks mean that supports are being withdrawn, children are increasingly falling through the net and suffering.

In some cases, a special school is the right place for a child. Sometimes, a child just needs to be where there is expert help, where their peers also have special needs, and where they're not the "different" one. We all deserve the chance to shine.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Abandoned village of Port

 Welcome March! You came just in the nick of time, when I was fed up of this winter, and needed the promise of new growth!
Apparently March is Irish-American Heritage Month, so happy IAHM to you all!
I want to share a wonderful Facebook page with you;
for anyone interested in photos of Ireland, they post the most wonderful photos, like this one

"The abandoned village of Port is an eerie place, hidden away from the world and almost off the map. It’s a ‘famine village’ which would once have been a thriving fishing port, spectacular in its isolation and beauty. There are fantastic views of the mountains and out over the Atlantic from here. Sheep are the only things you’ll see now in the fields of peat that dominate the landscape." (from

It's been an uneventful week here, work to home, work next day, that kind of thing.
I'm linking with
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 today, and this is my 5 minute post!
Just back from visiting Jessee, and her post reminded me that we had one interesting event at school. One of the girls wasn't feeling well, and lucky for me naturally I directed her to the office, where the secretary would look after her. No sooner had I exited that office than she threw up, projectile, all over the place! halleluah that I wasn't there, even the thoughts of it makes me nauseous!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Five Blog Hop

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Came across this blog hop, and maybe it's cos I'm on mid-term with time on my hands, or maybe I'm looking for a way to commit to regular posts.
Anyway, Jessee suggests a wrap-up of the week as one post, so I will go with that.

It's been a quiet week. Normally, my mid-term is for catching up with friends, housework and odd jobs. Because of having been sick, I decided to keep things quiet, and didn't make any arrangements. I did cleaning and some organisation, some walking and yoga, but nothing like the usual "tearing around".
And my body is thanking me for that.
This is a lovely soup I had on Monday in town in Avoca (oooh, one of my favourite shops, great food, fab clothes) just look at that lovely multiseed bread
and I haven't quite figured out the picture below, is it one person or more?
Each of the figures moved parts of themselves at different times, but there's no way it was 5 people!
Hope to see you over at the Friday Five Bloghop!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
Here in Dublin, spring has come! It's a blue sky, sunshine (though cold!) day, and it finally feels that winter has come to an end.

"COMES THE DAWN"        Veronica A. Shoffstall
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn."

Cleaning up my laptop this morning, I came across this little poem, that seemed apt for today. And I had noticed the first rose still blooming in the garden, it has lasted through all the winter months. I love it, even though it is old and a bit withered. It has lived, it has learned.

This second one is a new bud...aren't flowers amazingly brave; they push through, even when days have been grey, dark and gloomy, then they surprise us with this beautiful colour. It's a bit blurred because it was waving in the wind.

Have a lovely day, everyone! We will be having just a normal, quiet dinner at home, then I will go to band practice!
On Saturday, my cousin is singing in The Marriage of Figaro in the National Concert Hall, and we have got tickets for that for our Valentine celebration. Looking forward very much to that!