Spring is late but there are signs!

You may have heard the rumour that spring is here but after such a tough winter, it may not feel like it. So here’s some proof of spring’s arrival. It may be slow but when the buds burst open and the flowers rear their beautiful heads, we’ll all be delighted and forget all about the storm damage. I promise!

Schull, West Cork

View from near Sailor’s Hill, Schull

 

west cork walks

A morning walk in Caharlaska, West Cork

 

West Cork villages, schull

Village flowerbeds starting to blossom

Blarney castle, Cork

Sunny day at Blarney Castle, Cork

 

Cobh mudflats Cork

Mud flats between Cork and Cobh

 

West Cork spring

Butterflies searching for the sun

 

snowdrops

Snowdrops!

 

Loch Hyne West Cork

One happy pup in Loch Hyne woods

 

 

 

To be happy, look up!

West Cork sunsets, ireland

Glorious West Cork sunset taken from our front door

While walking around the local village, I’ve noticed a huge amount of people looking to the ground as they’re walking.

I’m not sure whether it’s shyness, sadness, confidence or an overloaded mind, but seeing as we live in such an idyllic spot, it’s certainly made me think. Why are people looking down instead of up? Is it a habit, an unconscious act or a lifestyle choice?

If people are always looking down, thinking inwardly, is it impacting their life in a negative way?

(Take a look at the photos on this page to see what people have been missing – they’re all natural, no filters).

Irish sunsets, West Cork

Another intriguing cloudscape

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people regularly walk while texting/tweeting/playing games on their mobile phone. Although we all multi task and have other concerns on our mind, I wonder – is this really necessary?

As you all know, I love the outdoors and spend plenty of time gardening, walking, running and cycling (with rowing recently added to the list). Part of the reason I moved to this gorgeous part of the world was to enjoy the beauty nature has to offer. And I honestly believe that part of the reason I’m so happy is because I connect with nature throughout the day, every day.

Irish sunsets, Irish skies

Moody, but such incredible beauty

Remember that feeling of joy as a kid when jumping in puddles, playing in mud, building sandcastles, picking wild flowers or collecting skeleton leaves?

Even living in an inner city suburb or council estate (like I did), these things were attractive, sought out and enjoyed.

If you find yourself asking the question, where did those days go? – guess what? They’re still here. That feeling doesn’t have to change. Go play!

And no matter how busy you are or how heavy your heart, please remember – to be happy, look up.

Amazing skies

stunning West Cork landscape

Collecting gorse to spark up the fire

This is a brief post today – and more about living rurally than writing. You’ll see why in a minute. It might even take your mind off this freak cold weather for a moment.

Living rurally, we’re lucky to have the opportunity to make our lives as self sufficient as possible. The other day, myself and my husband were out collecting gorse for kindling. It was a lovely bright and warm day when we set out, but as you probably know, Ireland is prone to some weird weather habits.

Firstly, we were showered with hail, even though there was an incredibly bright sun. We could see dense clouds in the distance, and Cape Clear was getting a battering, but there wasn’t a hint of cloud near us.

Incredible West Cork sunset

Such elegant shapes…

Distracted for a moment, we watched the dark skies sweep across Atlantic, before carrying our bundles home. However, we couldn’t resist returning as night fell…

Just look at these amazing cloud formations and colours! The perfect example of how your environment can inspire your work or your motivation to work. I couldn’t resist sharing. There are no filters or camera tricks involved, I promise…

Sunset, West Cork

…and dramatic colour.

West Cork, sunsets

You can see the hail cloud clearly here

gorgeous skies, west cork

Isn’t the orange stunning?

Watching the sky change was an incredible experience – something we do frequently, but probably not frequently enough. After all, thanks to these skies, these views, this fresh air, I manage to write with a clear mind and happy heart. What more could I ask for?

What encourages you to keep writing?

Farewell to summer…

As I watch the trees turn into glorious shades of amber, burgundy and golden brown, with a warm, glowing sun – I can’t help but feel that all is forgiven re the terrible summer (think gales, flash floods and frost).

So, to say farewell, here’s a few photo’s of the final few months of ‘summer’ in lovely West Cork.

A gentle summer breeze…

Our field turned into a pond (August, 30 minutes of rain)

Road turned into a river

Eels swimming up the road!

Driving rain (hence the floods)

Poor Bob insisted on her walk (hot bath followed)

All’s not lost: runner beans, leeks & sprouts doing well

Garlic crop: small but pungent

Meet Ozzy and Freckles – two very wild additions

How did your summer compare?

Festivals, Stations and Jellyfish Swarms

Mackerel skies and horses tails

Moor your boats and lower your sails

These portent-filled skies haven’t been a problem but the mist has, so the boat has been firmly tethered to the pier for the most of June/July. We’ve had a few fishing trips but the shrimp pots are still waiting to be shot and the mackerel has been as scarce as the sea jaunts. However, jellyfish are in abundance, filling the lobster pots and driving the locals mad with their promise of a warm summer that hasn’t yet arrived.

Jellyfish on the shore

On one of our sailing trips it looked like the surface of the sea was bubbling in the distance; on closer inspection, it was a vast swarm of white and purple common jellyfish. In thick layers, they filled a chunk of sea (about 20 square metres) right down to the sea bed – something I’ve only ever seen once during a lagoon visit in Montego Bay many years ago.

As for the mist, it’s slowed the vegetables right down and has left a depressing air over the land. It’s amazing how much you feel the weather here. In a city, you can still go to an art gallery or the cinema, and you can cut through or alongside buildings which offer some shelter from the elements. Here, you’re constantly open to nature’s whims. It’s wellies and woolly hats one minute, sunscreen and caps the next.

A friend of mine has decamped to the village from Dublin for a few months and is amazed at how differently the weather affects her day – and she’s right in the main street. We’re only two miles out but planning is almost impossible; if the weather is fine, you need to get out and tend to the crops or go fishing while you can. It makes life very unpredictable, unsettling at times. And winter when it’s meant to be summer leaves a bizarre taste all round.

Luckily, I decided to take a break from novel writing this month, donating some TLC to my garden and (theoretically) myself. As the cuckoo moved her morning song to 5am, I tried lowering my sails, filling the month with festival cheer and short term projects.

Perfect spot for a live writing event!

At the beginning of June I was at Writers’ Week in Listowel, shaking hands with Michael D. Higgins and chatting to the likes of Patrick deWitt and Germaine Greer. At the end of June, I was writing live stories with two other writers in Kent train station as part of the Midsummer Festival in Cork City. Somewhere in between I was weeding, pruning, side shooting, plant feeding and earthing up drills in an attempt to keep blight away and growth encouraged.

Working on the Ciudades Paralelas installation called Station meant trips to the city every weekend for rehearsals and then two further weekends of performances – a pleasant change during the muddle that is an unpredictable rural summer.

This area is usually known for better weather, but last year’s summer was non existent and this summer is seemingly following suit. Not that I’m complaining. Since visiting my father as a young girl and helping with his garden, living like this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. The visits were during school holidays and nothing extraordinary, but coming from Middlesbrough, an industrial town, they were a slice of heaven in my adolescent life.

I feel lucky every day to live in my own version of paradise, but feeling restless without a big project to grapple, I was pleased to get the chance to be away. They say a change is as good as a rest, but in truth, it’s been tiring. Since February, I’ve stayed in either Galway, Cork, Kerry or Dublin (a day’s travel in most cases) a total of 11 times for work and writing related events. And I’ve somehow written a new book in between as well.

Big (but still green) tomatoes

People think you take it easy when you live in the countryside but I’m finding the opposite to be true. It’s not the stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily do in a city that makes you busier (e.g. chopping firewood, fixing ditches, finding lost cattle, helping elderly bachelors with their farms), it’s the everyday basics. You have to work harder to socialise, to establish yourself in the community, to find work and then maintain a work/life balance.

It was difficult to let go of the novel-writing for the month and in many ways it was more stressful trying to do less. But I guess this is just conditioning. I’ve realised it takes longer than we think to allow ourselves to just be. I’m slowly getting better but I’ve a long way to go.

As we head further into July, the cuckoo has spread her wings and migrated to Africa. Like her, I’m ready to get going again. The sails need to be hoisted so I can focus on my next big project: editing two books simultaneously. I hope the sun arrives, bringing with it an abundant crop and a much-needed surge of energy. And a few mackerel (of the fish, not cloud variety) would be nice!

(Please note, this is a cross post with Krank.ie: an Irish news and current events magazine website.)

June in photos

Waiting for the tomatoes to ripen

Rain helps flowers bloom

Writers’ Week wore out my shoes!

Cutting grass for silage

Sea mist covers the land

Tiny runner bean, just growing

Crawford Gallery reading room (Cork)

Cow in mud after excess rain

Listowel – home of Writers’ Week

Skeleton of a 1940’s fishing boat