Monthly Archives: August 2015


Thursday night I had to sew the crest on my son’s jumper. In doing so, I broke five needles and most probably my spirit. I mean how can you break needles? Am I the only person in the planet who has broken a needle? Cheap, lousy needles. Ninety exhausting minutes I spent on that simple task, sewing a crest on the jumper. I shudder. Why hadn’t I listened in Home Economics class? Simply, all I remember from the sewing room in school was the ten minutes at the end of class the teacher made us pick pins up off of the hardest, roughest, carpet two knees have ever knelt on. If only I had remembered that magnet weekly.

Where is this going? Oh yes, the crest. There is a generation of women who would tut at my sewing skills and I assure you they were all present (in my head) when I was sewing on that jumper. They’re Italian mammas, Irish mother-in-laws, Polish aunties (aren’t I cosmopolitan?) Jay, look at the paw on her sticking through the needle. Is that how you thread these days? She’ll be there ’til tomorrow. It’s supposed to be flat on the jumper not crumply. They hang around, this symphony of nags in my head, when I’m about to venture a new domestic task that I know I’m not all so good at, criticizing my every move.

Here’s my answer to my symphony of nags. Who cares? Why didn’t I just give it to someone expert at this so that I could after a long day of looking after children and cleaning a house just sit down and pour myself a glass of wine? Seriously. Beating myself up about a crest? And I know I’m not alone in this because everyday, every time I see a friend trying to wrestle with a cranky toddler or present a child with her lopsided attempt at cookies, I think really, are you judging your domestic abilities again? There you are (for example), all PHD-ed up berating yourself because you can’t remember the second verse of Jack and Jill. Something, something, balsamic vinegar and brown paper.

So sisters, if you’re doing it yourself, try not to judge your performance on impossible standards that were set in a different time, mood, in someone’s elses’ lifetime most likely. Just put the jumper in the bag and pay the lovely person in the shop to do it for you and concentrate on reminding yourself of all your potential, of all you have achieved, that you are not the sum of your domestic abilities. Phew. And for the love of God, don’t ever buy cheap needles.

The Roses

Only in Kerry could you have such a competition as the Rose of Tralee these days and still get away with it. I mean that in a nice way. I do. Stick with me. Kerry people, country people especially appreciate a good girl. A good, descent girl with a beautiful smile, kind sparkling eyes who will woe us with her tales of adventure and professional prowess to date. And what is more, she is still proud to be one of us. And why wouldn’t she be!

We all wanted to be one, a Rose that is. Rebel or not, we all wanted to wave down at beaming Mom and Dad in the audience as we asked Gay, Derek, Marty, Ray, Ryan or Daithi to help us take off our shoes. In my day, Gay was my younger sister as I sang with the kitchen spotlight on me the two lines of ‘Oh Danny Boy’ that I knew before going on to tell the audiance, my youngest sister, how I had plans to save the world in my spare time mind you. I would then take my turn at playing Gay Byrne and ask my sister the tricky questions, really to try and trip her up because, wait for it, she was an Irish Dancer, and a good one at that. Blast. She’d get extra points with the judges.

And God be with the year, a cousin sent us down some old debs dresses to wear in our imaginary Rose parade. Me in my peach and herself in the pink satin. Our escorts would only love us. And in fairness, we’d take our turns winning and wearing the classy crown, holding the bunch of Roses or rolled up tea towels while Gay became the crooner who sang ‘The Rose of Tralee’ in our kitchen in Cork city while the fake tears (some real with laughter) fell and we felt like the most beautiful girl in the country for the time it took the singer to get through the only words of the song she knew.

The arguments continue to be made for and against competitions such as these but I’ll not add to them. I’ll make a cup of tea and wait for my own Kerry escort to finish milking the cows while I sit down and watch some great girls sing into the Kerry air as the pale moon rises above yon green mountain. Here I’m off again, rolling up tea towels.

Teddy Bear

From space, I’d imagine Ireland has an even thicker outline today. The population is most certainly on if not heading to the beach. The sun, after months of heating Europe to cinders, has eventually arrived to the periphery of the continent to sur’ God help us, Ireland. Nice of ye to leave some heat for us, danke schoen, merci, grazie, gracias.

It gives the country an instant makeover, in one weekend, we will burn our own teddy bear shaped hole in the ozone from the barbecues, deck chairs will be wiped down and sun lotion by God, will be applied. There’s still a chill, we’re not talking heat high in the teens, celsius wise. No, we’re just talking the appearance of sun.

If nothing else, it will keep the farmers happy, nobody was willing to say it, but it was a little bit wet there for a while. I intentionally stopped talking about the weather. I mean it’s not as if the weather is a surprise really. There’s a reason we sing about Ireland and its’ forty shades of green. From the window, I see all forty of them today, mossy, limey, emerald, yellowish green, cabbage green, avocado (mind you) and shamrock green (we mustn’t forget) to name but a few.

The lady in the shop nearly hugged me when I said it was a nice day. ‘Isn’t it, isn’t it’ she shouted, ‘and we were starting to think the summer forgot us.’ Never, never, the summer would never do that to us. For it is the saddest thing in the world to see an Irish person downhearted. It is true, we are very friendly and we do for the most part try to keep a sunny disposition for the audience at least. The smile there for a while was beginning to fade so as part of a seasonal bailout to put the smile back on the Irish person’s face, we got some sun.

What am I doing talking to you people? There’s a beach to get to. Children to dunk into a near freezing Atlantic. Ah bless. That lovable ridiculous optimism of ours. You gotta love us. Who wouldn’t love the people from the country shaped like a teddy bear? It’s the sun, it’s gone to the head already.

O sole mio, enjoy the sun wherever it shines upon you.

Give a Little Love

Allow me this sentimental one. When I was getting married, I insisted on making a speech. Less a speech more the hyperactive rant of a bride to be but I’m sure the audience understood. Bet they’re still shrugging their shoulders. There was little material to go by, google marriage and there seems to be an ocean of Marx brother jokes on the institution, the Oxford dictionary of quotes adding further words of cynicism on marriage. So, there I was, almost nine years ago ranting on about my husband to be and our future life together. But in fairness, what did I know? What could I know?

I’m sitting here typing in my family home today in Cork, dodging out of getting the house ready for a forty year marriage anniversary party. Forty years. On the day I married, I looked down at them from my speech and saw them look at me with pride, despite the ranting, a product of their marriage and thought that’s how to do it. In his speech later on, Dad gave the credit (or the blame) for the daughter he was giving away to a Kerryman to my mom but really we were the outcomes of two people who just kept loving us and each other day after day, in and out, under skies of every colour.

They’ve spent the morning ranting and raving about getting the house ready and the misfortunate marquee blowing down in this Irish miserable excuse for a summer. It is one of the big days marking a marriage as long as theirs. They have six beautiful grandchildren after forty years and three loved daughters. I could say something about ups and downs but it goes without saying that in forty years, the blank canvas of a life together gets a powerful coloring.

We’re here to celebrate that fine match unless of course he doesn’t go up to the attic to get down that mattress. Off I go out of hiding now to join in the mayhem of this household, celebrating the day that Anthony Bennett married Betty Collins, forty years ago today.


There’s a fine line when eating out with children between them being adorable and deranged in the public’s eye. You have to decide either to eat in an establishment where children are welcomed and put up with incessant screams from all corners of the eatery or the location with nice enough food, some tolerance of your offspring and inevitable eventual humiliation. You decide.

Oh to digest a meal. This week we managed to escape the work of the farm for a few days break in our nation’s capital, Dublin. Traveling with young children, you sign up for highlights and lowlights wrapped up in a package. Go at their pace, don’t try to entertain them by too much effort and make an effort to enjoy it yourself. Easier said than done. We were kind enough to ourselves not to put the family through the absolute torture of going through an airport. No matter how organized I find myself on such an event, it inevitably turns to dragging and cajoling children in some obscure spot of anonymous airport. Not for wild horses or Brosnans. But I digress.

So after a week of alternating between shouty-screamy and semi sophisticated restaurants that say that they are child friendly but hey who are they fooling, we found ourselves eating our last holiday supper in a pub off the motorway on the way home. The facts were such, we were tired, hungry and generally in need of some TLC. A tall order for any restaurant you might say.

Three little Kerry boys, aw, how adorable. Look at them colouring. The baby is so sweet, ash blond hair. Do they all have matching blue eyes? Aw. Look at how they’re eating their rice and devouring those sausages. Oh they must be hot. A delay meanwhile in bringing the food for the cranky parents (well actually the mother), coloring pencils, a capital idea. Could the baby get lead poisoning eating that one? Eat up your veg, and yours and yours. Still no meal for the parents.

There’s a window here people, it’s a ticking time bomb, timing, it’s all about timing. You want your icecream, not until you finish your dinner, and yours and yours. Parental dinner arrives. What about icecream? I’ll order some. The toilet, ok? You eat, I’ll bring this one. Don’t spill that glass. I’ll get the waitress. Why didn’t you say you wanted to go to the toilet when I was bringing him? No, no, you eat. Mind the baby. Not so adorable now. Another spill. The gentleman in the next table who has been cooing at the baby, decides to help up the cleaning with a bundle of napkins, don’t stand on the man’s fingers, say sorry. I feel like we’re in a glass tank with the owner over feeding us. Just leave us alone to feed these people so that we can get on the motorway and try to put them asleep and drive through the rain, awake whilst driving people. Just bring the billllllllllllllll.

Thank you so much, we really enjoyed our meal.