Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Classic Cinema, Listowel

We were an elite group, the Thursday night film club crew, or maybe not so elite in that you’d join in when you had the chance. The organizer and cinema owner foresaw my dropout from the club. ‘When you have children’, Kieran said, ‘we won’t see you for eighteen years outside of coming to see the children’s films.’ Despite, or perhaps in spite of that premonition, I would try to get to the film club once or twice a year after the birth of the children.

The emails would come in announcing the line-up of films to come in the following weeks, French and Italian films (my favourites), arthouse and independent films that might not make it to a cinema outside of Dublin but would somehow end up being shown on a Thursday night around 8pm (because he’d wait for a while to let the people come) in Listowel.

Once the numbers had assembled, Kieran would walk up in front of the screen before the film started rolling, and deliver a lovely speech about the film. He told us why he chose the film, why it had made its’ way by detour to a small town in North Kerry (of all places), delivering his critique. He had heard about this film, found it and had to show it to us. I could cry it was so beautiful. If you are passionate about film, you would appreciate this lovely man, who, standing before us, without airs, told you about the film he had brought to his theatre for us to watch in our own Cinema Paradiso for the evening. We were blessed.

I always got the feeling this cinema was his labour of love. There was nothing fancy, cans of coke for drinks, popcorn at just above cost price and very affordable entry tickets. And at the end of the film, there he would be as you exited the screening, your eyes sore from crying or giving out, no matter, waiting to hear what you thought of the film with a glint in his eye. ‘What did you think?’ He really wanted to know.

Tonight, I heard of his passing, after a battle with illness. Kieran will be missed. He was a gentle reminder to us at the Thursday night film club, that people do and will continue to do work that they love, bringing beauty to lives in a very simple and elegant way.  If this afterlife business is anything like the movies, I’m sure he’s en route to heaven with a comfy seat reserved in front of a big screen and everlasting film reel. Say that it might be so. God rest you Kieran Gleeson and thank you.



Just a Small Bar of Quality Chocolate

If you are married, engaged to or dating a farmer, you will probably be familiar with Valentine’s weekend on the farm. If you’re new to it, i.e. in the first throws of love, your expectations are probably still high. God love you. If you are a seasoned veteran, or married for, let’s say, nine years, you know that no matter how much you try, the following scene is forever repeated.

When the cows start calving, the farmer is still half alert to his whereabouts, whilst he spends his day running between the calving house, the parlour and the calf pens, he is still aware that there is life outside the yard, in the house perhaps. This my friends is February.  By March, life is such a blur and you are so sleep deprived that St. Patrick himself or the Easter bunny might have taken up residence and you’ll not notice. So, in February, like it or not, we celebrate St. Valentines day and with it comes the obligation to do something lovely for your loved one. I say obligation because it has become a bit of a chore. Not so because we are a couple who are not in love but because we’re a couple who despite our protestations about the event, still feel obliged to tick thee Valentines box. And it most always ends in, well, something akin to misery.

My expectations around Valentines have depreciated on a yearly basis since that first bunch of flowers delivered to the office. Mortified, I told him in future, that we could skip Valentines day or postpone it until all the cows were calved. I was trying to be a nice girlfriend and him being of the male variety and instinctive when it comes to understanding what a woman wants when she says ‘don’t mind me’ continued yearly to do something lovely for Valentines Day. Sigh.

I really do think there is a line in selling farmer’s chocolates and flowers for the wife when he goes to pick up his supplies at the local creamery. Two bags of ration, a bucket and roses for herself ahem. So every year the conversation goes along these lines;

Me: Look, there’s really no need to bring me anything this year, you’re under enough pressure.

Himself: Ah no, sur, if we can’t go out (don’t even try to organize a night out) can’t I get you something?

Me: Honestly, let’s not this year, I’ll make us a nice dinner, with wine. Bring wine. No wait, there’s wine here. No need to bring anything.

Himself: Oh right, instead of wine? Some flowers?

Me: Not at all. You’re fine, just go to the vets and bring on the (insert medicines needed) and whatever you do, don’t bring flowers or chocolates.

Himself: You want chocolates?

Me: I don’t want anything!

Himself: (Exasperated) No chocolates so.

Me: Look, if you’re in the supermarket, bring a small bar of nice chocolate, we can share.

Himself: (now knowing that he is in the minefield and everywhere he looks is garage flowers, cheap chocs and roses says) What kind of chocolate?



I’ll leave you there in your imaginations to imagine the nuclear energy that might have been harnessed following that explosion. It’s the same every year. St Valentine, or Hallmark or whatever you’re calling yourself these days, you have a lot to answer for.

Happy Valentine’s Weekend whatever the day throws at you.

(Notice: No farmers were harmed in the writing of this post)





For Posterity

This post is for posterity’s sake, for the moment when I scratch my head and think ‘was it that hard?’; here is my answer to that future question of mine. I’ll need to answer that question when the veil of amnesia comes over me when my youngest is say, five years old and I wonder if it was difficult at all. This post is for that time, in answer to that question. Lest I forget. Lest I forget and wonder what the mother with three young children is making such a fuss about, why she looks like she’s just been dragged backwards along the farm yard by a tractor, why she always looks like she needs coffee and why you suspect she grabs chocolate bars in the quiet refuge of the pantry.

Yes, it was most definitely hard. I can’t decide which is more difficult, getting them to school or dinnertime. It’s the flip of a coin. To set this particular scene, I need you to imagine the heaviest downpour of rain known to man falling over a farmhouse in North Kerry at 8:50am on a Wednesday morning. Ash Wednesday to be exact (we could go a step further by saying it was somewhat appropriately Ash Wednesday, but let’s not be dramatic). The eldest son is learning to tell the time and so offers ‘helpful’ reminders of the approaching deadline of 9 o’clock every time the long hand moves, which is every 60 seconds I can tell you. The middle child has had his first nose bleed, just as you are trying to squeeze wellies and coat on the toddler-baby who is wriggling around, frankly, being awkward. Nose bleed alert in place, I run (trying to be calm and upbeat about the bleeding four year old’s nose, how’s that for a challenge?) to find something to stop the bleeding, anything; toilet roll, tissue (if only), teatowel, a rug? Eight minutes to 9 o’clock the eldest announces, about to have an existential crisis on the speed of time passing. Nothing will stop the blood flowing while the bleeder now tells you there is no way he could go to school, while putting a hand to his forehead in a reclining pose. Crash, what’s that? Why of course, today is the day the toddler-baby-monster learns that the footstool helps him to reach the kitchen table and he can drop items on the floor and they make hilarious noises. Clang. Hilarious. Six minutes to go. Blood still spurting I would say. Baby type person has taken off his wellies and coat as the eldest looks on appauled, one eye faithfully on the clock. Clonk. Five minutes to go. Arrrrgh. Keep calm, visualize a calm seafront. Bet others mothers don’t have to deal with this? Why me? Is it just me? Crash? Nose bleed is stopping. Into the car. Pouring rain drowning all little people in the few metres it takes to get from the front door, luckily washing away all traces of blood on the faces concerned. Must remember to teach him, again, to tie his seatbelt. Lunchboxes? In the car. ‘I’ll wash you now with wipes’ I say while wondering if would be better to keep him at home? One minute to nine, we arrive at the school gate, wet, bloody, downtrodden from the trenches.

Everyday is not as such. Not so the scene of battle. I pride myself that there is the odd moment of calm but it is rare with three young boys. So here’s to you future self  posing that question, you did it! High five; you’ve survived. And I’m guessing if you’re reading this you might need a timely reminder of those days gone by, just for nostalgia mind you, and to remember when you see that girl with the three small children, well, you know yourself, you know what to do…

No more Scooby snacks…

It’s the same story every year. He’s pacing the stalls waiting for a calf to arrive, trying to get organized in time and I’m psyching myself up for it. It will be all right I say, I can do it I say. It’s all positive. All good.

And they’re off.

I think as the first cow was calving, my four year asked me to fly the biscuit into his mouth like it were a Scooby snack. At breakfast, they’re crazy, bedtime, crackers. They’ve been on Daddy time for the Winter and now it’s back to their drill instructor.

Cadets, about March. Stop speaking with your mouth full. Look lively. Brush your teeth. But Daddy says….. Am I Daddy? Put on your pajamas, no, not whilst wrestling. No wrestling. Put your brother down, and the other one. Daddy reads us two books. Still not Daddy. Another cow bellows behind in the yard. In twenty-four hours, there have been five, yes five, new arrivals. They miss Daddy. We miss Daddy. I lay the baby down to sleep. And the older boys creep into bed, calm I think, so as not to wake him up. They always wake him up, not tonight. Where is Daddy? While you’re asleep, he’ll be in to give you your kisses but you have to go to sleep now.

He arrives in the door, happy but a bit worn out from the day. A storm rages outside. He drags himself up the stairs for the night-nights two hours into their sleep. The tea is drawing. Two mugs. Isn’t it great? We both laugh and I have to tap his shoulder to wake him up to drink his tea. He’ll have to go check the cows again before bedtime, the final check. I go to bed, I may or not see him depending on things outside. If I wake in the morning and he’s there, it’s a bonus. There’s no need for an alarm as I have three boys climbing over me in the morning looking for breakfast. It starts again. Where’s Daddy?

This is more or less the story for dairy farming families throughout the country. A nod to the farmer outside in the pouring rain with the cows, and another to herself holding the fort.

Springtime is most definitely here. Puppy power.