• theniamhcooper

Getting Through Lockdown...

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

... One Day at a time

Lockdown. We're already sick of it. But hey, here we are, and we're going to have to deal with it, one way or another. To lighten the mood, for the next six weeks, I will be posting ideas on how we can get through this, drawing inspiration from things that happen, should happen, won't happen, or might happen. We've got this. MEH. (Masks. Elbows. Hands.)

Day 31 - Bloody Sunday

Today is the day we remember the events of Bloody Sunday, exactly 100 years ago.

Day 30 - Educate your sons

I have been thinking about the disturbing revelation during the week, that thousands of sexually explicit images of Irish women were leaked, without their consent, on the internet. Read more here if it troubles you as much as it troubles me.

Day 29 - Toby Mac

Taken from TobyMac: #SpeakLife

On this Thursday where lockdown measures are being discussed yet again, and the government and NPHET, Ireland's National Public Health Emergency Team, are discussing whether or not to continue with our level 5 (highest level) lockdown, which finishes in two weeks, it feels like a day for reflection. These resonated with me, maybe because I want to do all these things when some sort of 'normality' has been restored. Whatever normality will be.

Leave a generous tip.
Hold the door open for someone.
Let someone into your lane.
Pick up that random piece of trash.
Write a hand-written letter.

Small acts have a ripple effect. This is how we change the world.

Day 28 - Love

I've started writing poetry again. Taking stock. Love, life, loss, what I've felt, imagined and observed, and everything in between. Head on over to the musings on love if you want to check it out.

Day 27 - Celebrate

Celebrate yourself. Live colourfully and rejoice in that BRAVE SOUL that is you. Celebrate your valour, your culture, your voice in the world. You are essential. And so is your joy.

Lady Gaga, 17th November 2020

Day 26 - Monday

Only 5 Mondays till Christmas week... Put that in your pipe and shmoke it.

Day 25 - Winter Lockdown

Today, another guest blogger joins us. Sarah Forristal, Nutritional Expert at Vitalise, and Massage Therapist in Solace Holistic Centre, Clonakilty. We had the lovely Joyce from Solace writing some words of wisdom for us a few days ago. Sarah brings us her thoughts on living through Winter Lockdown. Thank you, Sarah!

Winter Lockdown

- by Sarah Forristal

Another lockdown but a different season this time. Winter has crept up on us and I find that the darkness at around 5pm still catches me by surprise some days!

According to Chinese wisdom ‘winter is a time to rest, to meditate deeply, refine the spiritual essence and store physical energy – in the form of a little added weight – for the cold season. Even though the slow yin processes dominate, one must stay active enough to keep the spine and joints flexible.’

Good advice indeed! Winter is a time for hibernation, slowing down and staying warm by the fire, but if we remain too still then stagnation occurs. I have observed this in myself over the past few weeks. Spending more time indoors and moving less causes my body and head to feel constricted at times.

Even a short burst of movement outside clears my head and warms my body.

I have gone swimming in the sea most weeks and it is something I hope to continue through the winter. I like the challenge of feeling the cold, breathing, remaining calm and relaxing in to it. It reminds me of my Chinese yoga classes years ago in Amsterdam. My teacher would give us instructions in how to contort our bodies into uncomfortable positions and then we would remain there for 9 long, slow, deep breaths while he would say:

‘Create space, relax, smile!’

It might be a lesson in how to get through these strange times - feel the uncomfortable feelings that restrictions and uncertainty bring, focus on your breath as it fills the space in your body and then feel the release and relaxation as you breathe out.

Christmas Porridge

As it is the season for warming foods I thought I would share a simple recipe that we have for breakfast at this time of year. We call it ‘Christmas porridge’ and although it seems decadent it is simply:

  • Porridge oats cooked with coconut milk

Then, once in bowls, mix in:

  • a tablespoon of raw cacao powder

  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

  • some maple syrup.

  • add a topping of your choice.

My son Leon likes raisins sprinkled on top of his while I have sunflower seeds on mine.

Unprocessed cocoa powder (raw cacao) contains antioxidants, magnesium, and also boosts the body’s natural production of serotonin, increasing our mood and ability to fend off stress. Cinnamon is a warming spice that aids digestion and is said to help balance blood sugar levels, which means less cravings during the day.

A happy and healthy start to the day.

Enjoy and take care,

Sarah x

Day 24 - The perfect Fire

On a day like today, all we want to do is snuggle up by the fire. Nothing stopping us, really. If you're fortunate enough to have a fire place, but always battle with getting it going, or keeping it going, this is for you: How to build a perfect fire. Loosely based on my Granny Nora's fire-building technique. Minus the plastic bottles.

To begin, you will, of course, first need a fireplace. Should you not possess one, an outdoor area is an option, but it must be a) yours, b) far far away from your wooden garden shed, and c) not combustible.

Let’s assume, though, that you would like the cosy glow of an open fire, in an enclosed area inside your house, and that you have an actual fire place. Making a fire like granny used to is not always easy. In fact, granny didn’t have the advantage of fire logs and such like, which of course we do. Granny also would use the now frowned upon practice of melting plastic bottles to start a fire. This, of course, is not recommended. Also, the practice of lighting open fires has come into disrepute of late, mainly owing to its environmental dodginess. So, if an open fire offends you, stop reading now. If, however, you have a fireplace, and need a bit of a cosy glow for the soul, on a day where crappy winds and shitey rain are on the forecast, read on. Predictive text suggested cosy glow for the soup. Which also works, however, it is not as useful as lighting a fire.

For those folk who have not successfully made a fire in a while, or, in fact, ever, or those who don't have a granny to hand, here’s the recipe:

  1. Put on your gloves, even if your hands smell like granny’s kitchen afterwards.

  2. Load your grate with nuggets of coal. It helps to reflect on the fact at this point that the same term is, in fact, used for edible items of chicken. How they are related, no one knows. As a trick, such as not to use too much fuel, you can place a timber log or a briquette or two behind the mound of coal.

  3. Make a dip in the middle. Of the coal, not the log or briquette. You will break your nail.

  4. Place two pieces of fire lighter (preferably the eco kind), or a piece of fire log, into the dip. For those fire virgins: No, they should not be lit at that point. A tip I learnt from an auctioneer once, when it came to staging a house before a viewing, was that it was not, in fact, necessary to use the whole fire log. She had a knife specifically for the purpose of carving a log into 4 more or less equal pieces = 4 fire starters. Genius.

  5. Arrange kindling, pieces of torn up cardboard, small pieces of wood torn off larger logs, dried sticks, cast-away love letters and suchlike around the fire lighter/piece of log.

  6. Now, build a tipi-like construction with the fuel you have: briquettes, logs, etc. For those of you who don't know what a tipi is, shame on you. Do not proceed until you have googled the word 'tipi'.

  7. Fill the gaps in your tipi-fire-construction with more coal.

  8. Light the fire log/lighter and enjoy.

  9. After approximately 20-30 mins, or when the fire has exuberantly spread into said glow, top up with coal – sometimes, spreading the fire out at this point, and adding coal into the glowy bits (this is, in fact, an official term), helps.

  10. Immediately, top up with a thick enough layer (3-4 handfuls) of slack, also known as singles. It works even better when the slack is properly wet. I soak mine in a bucket, continuously, and ignore that it’s almost impossible to get the bits at the bottom out (just don’t ever get to that stage, just keep topping up the bucket. Who wants to get what's at the bottom of the barrel, anyway.).

  11. Leave your fire, and it will burn and glow and hold its shape for about 3-4 hours. If it collapses into itself, don’t be tempted to try and help it. It will continue to burn away merrily and if you disturb it, you may as well start over as it will burn much faster if touched.

  12. When the glow is reduced to a tiny mound, repeat as above.

Grab a book, some of those queen cakes left over from yesterday (recipe below), and enjoy.

Day 23 - 13...

... is not a bad thing. Fridays are usually the best day of the week, and on the 13th, it's important to remind ourselves that the fact that we think number 13 is such a negative thing once started as a thought in someone's head.

Here are my 13 reasons why I think Friday 13th in lockdown in 2020 isn't such a bad thing.

  1. If you, like me, have school-going children, then it's a blessing, for many reasons, that the schools are still open. The days have a structure, and it gets everyone out the door. If I think back to lockdown 1.0, I think it was the lack of routine in our days, the endless drifting from one day to another, and we sometimes didn't even know what day it was, was probably the most difficult. So, today I am counting the little blessings, which, on Friday 13th, is probably a good thing to do.

  2. It's not lashing. All the time. At least not where I am at present. Which, apart from the school run, is 0 KMs from my home. Isn't it mad how the weather can seriously affect our mood? Even if it's raining where you are today, maybe go out in it anyway, walk around the garden, go shopping, take the dogs out, or walk your hyperactive cat. You'd be amazed how re-invigorated you'll feel when you come in and then step into a hot shower. And maybe have a hot chocolate. Because it's Friday.

  3. You can have a hot drink. Whenever you feel like it. So put that kettle on and sit with your tea, coffee or whatever it is you feel like today. There is a person out there who doesn't have access to a kettle. So I suppose what I am saying is, it's good to be grateful for the simple pleasures.

  4. Friday is treat day in our house. We try to cook healthily, and mainly from scratch, during the week. I have just returned from the shop with oven chips, and there will be Donegal Catch's finest, and for those of us who don't like fish much (me!), there will be something else yummy. Having a day a week where the term healthy eating is bent beyond all recognition is something to look forward to.

  5. A smile from a stranger is powerful. Having the banter with the guy in the ESB van next to me, who was wondering if I'd bought enough (I was laden down with said Fish, Chips, organic salad, and two newspapers) put a smile on my face. I've decided to 'pay it forward' and try to smile more. Without looking weird, of course. Even beneath the mask, you can always see if someone is smiling and it might just lift someone's day.

  6. If you've dogs, like me, their unbridled joy when you spend time with them makes me smile every time. It makes up for all the hair they shed. You could knit a carpet from it.

  7. With lockdown, there are no visitors to the house. So today, I am not hoovering.

  8. Friday = wine

  9. Friday night = if you're not working, it's the best night of the week

  10. Time for phone calls. The 'zoom' call has taken on a bit of an annoying connotation, so leave it if you don't fancy doing your make-up or your hair. Just pick up the phone. We all have so much more time on our hands - and it IS good to talk.

  11. If you have an oven - bake. 4462. No, that's not some sort of morse code. It is the simplest recipe known to wo/mankind - for Queen Cakes. If you're into ounces. 4 oz butter, 4 oz sugar, 6 oz self-raising flour, 2 eggs. If not: 1oz=30g (approx.). Some vanilla essence, choc chips etc. if you fancy it. And, of course, bun cases. Bake at 180 for 14-16 mins.

  12. Eat those Queen Cakes.

  13. Do movie-night. That's what Fridays are for, after all. Enjoy!

Day 22 - Actions

Due to the advancing hour, I wanted to share something with you that I saw this evening on OneMillionWomen, and I turned it into a Canva Design. It made me think quite a bit. Maybe it will resonate with you, too.

Day 21 - 11/11/2020

On this very symmetrical date, I reflect on 11 unusual things that happened this year. Or, put another way: If you’d told me this time last year that these 11 things would happen by 11/11/ 2020, I’d have declared you insane:

1. There would be a global pandemic, and the entire world would go into lockdown. Schools would close, businesses would shut down and frontline workers would suddenly become essential and valued.

2. St Patrick’s Day parades all over the world would be cancelled.

3. We would not be able to see, or hug, our loved ones. People in the street would cross the road and avoid you, and if they came too close we’d cross the road.

4. Matt Damon would spend much of lockdown in Dalkey.

5. I’d start writing again, and one of my stories would be part of a collection of stories written during lockdown, all proceeds going to frontline staff.

6. I would receive an email from Jeremy Irons.

7. A black man would be held in a headlock for almost 9 minutes, resulting in his cruel death, which would spark weeks of BlackLivesMatter protests across the USA, and spreading around the world.

8. World leaders would play down the virus, then get infected and hospitalised.

9. Donald Trump would become even more dangerous, bigoted, homophobic, stupid, and racist – then lose the election, and refuse to concede.

10. I would team up with other publishing professionals and publish a coffee table book for charity.

11. A film with Irish accents worse than Tom Cruise’s accent in ‘Far and Away’ would be released.

What 11 things would be on your list?

Day 20 - 10 words of the 2020

As I am writing 'Day 20', I find it hard to believe that we're still in lockdown. So, today, I thought it was rather fitting to feature the Collins Dictionary 10 words of the year - starting with the Top Word: 'Lockdown'.

All content (c) https://www.collinsdictionary.com/woty

I love the images from their blog so much that I am featuring them here, in alphabetical order. With additional explanations from https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/collins-dictionary-word-of-the-year-for-2020-revealed-1.4404794. Enjoy.

BLM: abbreviation, for Black Lives Matter – a movement that campaigns against racially motivated violence and oppression.

coronavirus: noun, any one of a group of viruses that can cause infectious illnesses of the respiratory tract, including COVID-19; so called because of their crown-like appearance in electron micrographs

furlough: noun, a temporary laying-off of employees, usually because there is insufficient work to occupy them; verb (tr) to lay off (staff) temporarily. from Dutch verlof, from ver- for- + lof leave, permission; related to Swedish förlof

key worker: or keyworker, noun, an employee in any of a number of professions considered to be essential to the functioning of society, for example teachers, police officers, health workers, shop workers, etc.

lockdown: noun the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces.

Megxit: noun, informal the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties, announced in January 2020; from Meg(han), Duchess of Sussex + (e)xit; influenced by Brexit

mukbang: noun, a video or webcast in which the host eats a large quantity of food for the entertainment of viewers; Korean, from meogneun eating + bangsong broadcast.

self-isolate: vb (intr), to quarantine oneself if one has or suspects one has a contagious disease; self-isolation, noun.

social distancing: noun, the practice of maintaining a certain distance between oneself and other people in order to prevent infection with a disease. Also called: physical distancing; social distance or socially distance, verb

TikToker: noun, a person who regularly shares or appears in videos on TikTok.

Day 19

With the new Disney Christmas ad out, it's the perfect day to feature something lovely for the little ones here today. We all get stuck for a bed-time story every once in a while, and today's guest blogger is the very talented Michelle Young, owner of Ink Wing Academy, who writes the most gorgeous children's stories and poems.

So, bubble up the milk, add the cocoa powder, and give it a stir, add cream, marshmallows, and a big cosy blanket, and settle down to this gem of a story. Michelle, over to you.

Thanks also to the fabulous artist Manka Kasha for giving us permission to use her beautiful art, which has inspired Michelle to write this story.

Little Cloud Girl

There once was a girl that lived on a cloud – a marshmallowy soft cloud, just like the pure white pillowy one you first imagine. Except, this cloud was different. This cloud had a doorway. Just one doorway but It led to an infinitive imaginarium of places. Once the door was opened, a new place - a new slice of imagination was revealed - ready to dive in to.

The doorway could only be opened by the little girl who lived on the cloud. Only she saw it and only she could open it, to the endless possibilities that lay beyond it. Only she seemed to own the ability of wonder. Her head was always in the clouds, you see.

Every morning, as the sun rose, the Little Cloud Girl would awake and stretch. Her fingertips would tickle the moon goodbye for another day, her toes would blow kisses to the stars. After a cup of camomile tea, she would be set for her next adventure.

Once she opened the doorway to space. She became a star-blader, jumping from star to star with silver glints on her tippy-toes as she skated from one to the other, orbiting planets and somersaulting through galaxies, catching a ride on a comet’s tail.

Another time, she fell into the land of giants. She felt even smaller than the already tiny pint size that she was. The ground would tremble, and lightning would roar as hairy giants shot from the dull sky in this grey world of stone and caves. She was glad to leave quickly for fear of being stamped on or eaten as a morsel, an unsatisfactory meagre crumb!

Last week, she fell into a world of words. They tiptoed, STOMPED and ran around her, twirling, whirling, swirling around her until she was dizzy. They led her into thick enchanted forests of words that whispered, cried, YELLED and SHOUTED until she couldn’t see or hear any more. All she needed was silence. A powerful word. But it eased her mind as she lay on the ‘lence’ like a bed. It didn’t make a sound.

The last time she opened the door, she fell into her own feelings. A little navigator, aviator, she tumbled through tall towers of fear that crept with hidden shadows. She tickled her way through fields of laughter, catching a parachute ride on a dandelion clock - remembering to make a wish on the way!

Now, it’s almost morning again. Her fingers and toes are ready to stretch and the kettle’s on for tea. Where will she go next?

© Michelle Young

Day 18

And just like that, the world could breathe again.

Celebrating President-elect Joe Biden, and Vice-President elect, Kamala Harris. May the healing of the world begin.

Day 17

Just because you can, doesn't mean you have to.

Day 16 - Life is for Living

Today Joyce O'Sullivan from Solace Holistic Centre in Clonakilty joins us with her thoughts about lockdown, and what we could try, from her perspective as an experienced therapist. Thanks so much, Joyce!

“Life is for living. Today I will involve myself in the joy of living.”

I read this quote recently and what a reminder it has given me that we are here to live. It got me thinking though, does living depend on how much we are willing to participate in life as it is right now? Having made it through our first lockdown now we have been catapulted into a second one, there is a deep sense within me that it is essential to participate in living so I can live my life to the fullest within the boundaries of our lockdown.

My mother has many philosophies that she lives by and the one I lean on mostly to encourage me to participate in the joy of living as it is now, is to:

“Get up, Get Dressed and Get on with it”.

As a therapist this has now become one of my daily mottos. I do feel it is so important to keep a routine in your life in lockdown; this in itself is a way of participating in life. What a routine looks like varies depending on the person; I would encourage everyone to get up out of bed at the same time, weekends included, and to go to bed at the same time. This insures adequate rest for mind and body. And when I say get up out of bed, absolutely, having breakfast in your pjs goes without saying really, but do get dressed within an hour of getting up and don’t just dress yourself, dress your bed as well. You will thank yourself for this when it comes to bedtime and your bed gives you a hug when you get into it!

So what else happens during a lockdown? Oh yes, we are told to limit our movements and yet we must look after our health where movement is promoted. I don’t know about you but I’ve tried the 12-minute workouts and I can never move the day after. It’s not fun, walking is much easier! So can we look at it in a different context: Movement isn’t always about the act of moving; it can, in fact, be the act of sitting in stillness, staring out a window. Seeing the movement happening outside, we instantly have an ever-changing image to look at, and in this stillness with the external movement allows movement within. It supports internal mind, body healing, the soul gets a chance to breathe. Now I am not saying to sit all day but allow yourself guilt-free time. It can be five mins up to an hour, to allow the stillness to heal part of your internal system.

Participating in your life will inevitably involve food. Home-cooking is encouraged but not essential; what is, is having regular set meal times and I am not talking about 3 meals a day. Remember you might be after exercising, for a physical workout, reading, which is your mental workout, and staring out the window, the soul’s workout. So realistically we are looking at what we call elevenses or morning tea, lunch, afternoon cuppa, dinner and maybe even supper. You know, that snack you just can’t resist for fear you would get hungry during the night.

Here’s a thought: You know that outfit you were saving for a special occasion? Pick a night, and your favourite food, put on the outfit, some background music and enjoy date night with yourself, or whoever happens to be in your house. All of the above is part of a self-care routine which supports you to participate and to be present in the joy of living in lockdown.

Lockdown is not forever, but setting yourself up with a good routine that works for you is key. And don’t worry, you’ll have your bad days and even your bad moments within your good days. That’s the ebb and flow of life in and out of lockdown.

Joyce xx

Day 15 - 1 day, 3 ½ brushes with the law

For all those of you who are having a shit day, or a shit week, this is for you.

Today I join the criminal underworld.

  1. Flat Tyre on the school run, so naturally, I pull in. 20 mins later – Girls have been brought to school by sound neighbour - Guard stops. My smile fades to a frown as he asks me to drive on, with a tyre flatter than Flat Stanley. I look at him, horrified: ‘I thought you were going to HELP me.’ He drives after me, leans in my window in the muddy lay-by he’s directed me to and insists he would have helped if I’d had a jack. I give him a teenage eye roll, no longer caring about, or knowing, Jack, and say: ‘Whatever. Please go away and leave me alone.’ and roll up my window, Badass-school-run-unyummy-mummy style.

  2. 2, not 1, front tyres later. Bank card blocked by AIB due to transaction which was not fraudulent, so I have to sing for my tyres. I do so successfully. I realise the sun is shining. I have recovered and commence my 13-minute drive home. COVID checkpoint. Young guard with too much time on his baton points out that tax is out. I explain long saga and shit day. Young guard does not even give one flying filibuster, and fines me €80. Consoles me that he could have taken my car off me but didn’t. I tell him I look forward to receiving my fine in the post

  3. I decide that I won’t start on the whiskey just yet as I have to arrive at the school gates sober. I straighten my halo and pay motor tax. Breathe and smile as I approach COVID checkpoint. I'm ready. Garda #3 looks at windscreen and I have my screenshotted motor tax proof ready. Instead, he scolds me for not putting insurance disk back in its holder after paying said tax.

Dinner consists of Indian Chinese containing no nutritional value whatsoever. Tomorrow, we’re cycling the 2 ¼ hours to school.

PS: Not much of the above was actually made up.

Day 14 - All eyes on the USA

Today, we woke up with a bit of a knot in our stomach. And there was no result, yet. But a whole lot of worry, with a much tighter race than many of us thought. So then we carried that knot with us through the day, and most likely, it will be a few more days before it is known who is the next US President. It's hard not to obsess. So I say: Give in to it. Just - obsess. This election is probably one of the most important one in recent decades. It affects all nations, not just the USA.

So, go easy on yourselves today. I have declared today Crunchie Day, in all its honeycomb-chocolatey goodness. It promises 'That Friday Feeling'. I decided that that's exactly what we need today. 1 bag, 12 bars, 3 people: This should last us for 4 days. Unless I conveniently forget to tell my girls I have a whole bag. Then it will get me through almost two more weeks of lockdown.

Go on, find your Crunchie - or whatever your yummy equivalent is. Obsess, and enjoy.

Day 13 - Soon

After the terrible events of yesterday in Vienna, and a lot of reflection about the state that the world is in, we all need a bit of hope. If you like poetry, have a hero in your life you want to do something for, or just like really sound people, read on.

I haven't spoken about an initiative I've been working on here, as I wanted to keep it separate from my personal blog, but I've realised that they're intertwined. What happens in my work affects me in my personal life, and vice versa.

The times we're living in are bloody hard. Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic, fearful of how long more we have to live with this madness, and this 'new normal' - which is so far from normal that we shouldn't even call it that! Many of us have lost our jobs, yes, I did, too, and the financial worries are suffocating. We're worried about the economic impact of the pandemic. We're trying to stay in control but every day something new happens, and the rug gets pulled out from under us anew, every single day. We're treading so carefully on the zebra crossing of life at the moment, trying to avoid the black lines, and yet, we can't. Every second line is a black line. But every second line is a white line, too.

The world is unstable and uncertain and it's a fucking scary place. And just when we think it can't get any worse, we watch as the nightmare that is Donald Trump bores his abhorrent grip even deeper into our world. Movement, cult, narcissistic reality TV shitshow, or whatever else you want to call the trail of destruction that is Donald Trump: This does not just affect our friends and family in the US, it affects us, too. The vile rhetoric. The irresponsible enabling of deplorable behaviours. The disgusting attitude towards women. How can so many thousands of people support a man who thinks it's ok to grab women by their most vulnerable parts?

And so, today, we watch. And we wait. And we know that Joe Biden really isn't the guy, but he has to be the guy, because the other guy was never an alternative, and because there is no one else. And because, at the end of the day, Joe Biden is not Donald Trump. And, dare I say it, it cannot get any worse than Donald Trump.

And then, last night, there is a message from your friend in Vienna, and you are shocked to the core by what happened there. First the beheadings in France. And now this. An apparent Islamic extremist attack, in a city I once lived, and a city I would have considered one of the safes places I have ever been. Until last night.

So, today, we're reeling. Memes about 2020 are doing the rounds, and humour is such a great coping mechanism. 2020 is like the concentrated version of things that could go wrong, will go wrong. 2020 is one big fat Murphy's Law. But today, I don't feel like yet another meme. Today, I don't feel like laughing. Today, I am sad and upset and I am finding that keeping it together during these times is near impossible, when most of us are balancing our lives on a knife edge at the best of times, let alone with all this misery that is happening all around us. I honestly find it hard to think of a good news story we've had in the last week. The last month. Yes, the media is probably feeding our fears. But the bad news is outweighing the good at the moment, and it could well drag us down.

I've switched off the news. I've had enough. And so, I turn my focus towards the work I am doing, to get through another day. Because that's what each of us are doing. We are keeping going, for our friends, our families, but really, it's just one day at a time.

I have started sending out messages to the fantastic writers, photographers and publishing professionals who have been working with me over the last 3 and a half months, to make a premium coffee table edition of the charity book 'Lights on the Horizon', mentioned on this site back in May when we did a paperback edition. One of the three questions I asked the contributors was: 1) Why did you get involved? And today, I am going to answer the question. Why did I think, when Jeremy Irons gave us such encouragement back in July, it was a good idea to go down a crazy rabbit hole (sorry, Andy, I stole this one from you!)? Why did I decide that we needed to do a coffee table book? Why did I set up a GoFundMe page to raise money, when I'd never fundraised in all earnest before (well, apart from the odd parents' association Christmas-wreath-making, Come-Dine-with-me-hosting, or Strictly-Dancing? These were all fine, as these were all done as part of a team!) And why did I keep going, when we were nowhere near the GoFundMe target, yet I was propelled forward by people's generosity - though it jarred with me that my friends would get involved, when I knew how many were suffering financially? Why did I take on the back-end-battle of publishing, which I had never had to deal with before? Why did I persevere when there were countless reasons not to do it? What kept me going?

Quite simply: It is HOPE.

Hope that we are doing something worthwhile. Something good. Something that will benefit others, those frontline workers who have to keep going, day after day, fighting unimaginable battles with this invisible enemy that is the coronavirus. When many of us are finding it so hard, and so overwhelming, to have to stay at home and deal with this virus, and our spiralling fears.

I keep going, because I know that this book will be worth it. It has kept me going through a very difficult time personally. And it is starting to become clear to me that people, too, started believing in this project, because, in some small way, it is keeping them going. It is a bit of a positive news story. It is a glimmer in the darkness all around us. I am getting more and more messages of encouragement. After days of silence, there is another donation. After days of uphill battles, a lovely message from a friend. A kind word from a writer. A photographer, bailing me out when we had to change yet another image. The generosity of strangers. And so, I started blogging about it and people started responding, and I realised that this book was giving people hope, too. 'Lights on the Horizon', with the very apt title, given by its creator, the very talented Andrew William Tinney, isn't just for the frontline workers. It is for all of us.

So today, on this sunny Tuesday, when the weather is at odds with how this person is feeling (is there such a thing as un-pathetic fallacy?), I wanted to bring you a little bit of hope.

In our book, there is a beautiful poem, written by a beautiful poet, and person, Amy O'Connor. She's a very talented lady from Tipperary (but we'll forgive her, as she's based in Cork) whom I didn't know before we embarked on this journey to do our coffee table book. I've been following her on Instagram and I have to say, her poems strike such a chord. Maybe because I am a sensitive soul beneath it all, and I can feel the yearnings of love and the sufferings of loss shining through Amy's heartfelt lines, every word carefully placed in each of her poems.

Today's poem is a hopeful one for us, and by God do we need it today. With Amy's kind permission, I've reproduced it here. So give it a like if it does something for you, and go on over to Amy's Instagram page for more, if this has whet your appetite. Thanks Amy for allowing me to share this here.


We're in this life restricted.

A place we have not been before.

So, I go to my dreams to be free

and be all yours once more.

To sail among the stars at night.

To dare to hug the moon.

I know I will be yours once more, my friend.

I know it will be soon.

'Soon' is featured in our brand new coffee table edition of 'Lights on the Horizon', and we will keep you up to date on progress on our Facebook Page if you want to support it. It's out on 20th November. Pre-orders available on Kerr's Bookshop Clonakilty, Philip's Bookshop of Mallow, Charlie Byrne's in Galway and The Secret Bookshelf in Carrickfergus. More to be added. All bookshops can also post the book when it's out. When published, you can also purchase it at Bookstór Kinsale.

Day 12 - Vienna

Thinking of all my friends in Vienna tonight.

Pic credit: By Eliza0027 - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. All of the photos are currently uploaded on Wikipedia and are properly licensed. File: Vienna - View of Maria Theresien-Platz and the Kunsthistorisches Museum - 6297.jpg by Jorge RoyanFile:Vienna Rathaus (HDR) (8371699233).jpg by russavia, Vienna Rathaus (HDR)File:St. Stephens Cathedral (Stephansdom) (7815703256).jpg by russavia, St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) File:Staatsoper 8940.jpg by Karl GruberFile:Parlamentsgebäude, Wien (14480340476).jpg by SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34563417

Day 11 - Stuck in a Moment

Maybe it's because of the times we're in, but this song has been in my head for the last few days. Maybe it's the lyrics, or the fact that An Post are doing commemorative stamps, as it's 20 years since U2's album 'All that you can't leave behind' was released. Yes, you can tell I'm a fan.

Anyway, today, with the wind picking up again, and the rain battering the windows, it's time to light the fire, or if you don't have one, a candle, or if you don't have that, oh, just a torch. If you don't have a torch, you might invest in one for the winter. 2020, just sayin'.

So go on, light whatever you've got - and stick on the old YouTube wireless. Isn't that what the young folk call it these days?

Sit down and listen, really listen, to these lyrics. So so apt for these strange times.

Take it away, Bono.

Day 10 - Halloween

Halloween 2020. One we're going to remember, one way or another. For the day that's in it, let out all the frustrations by taking the word (and maybe, the world) apart - then putting it back together again. Ready? Here's mine:

H - Hell!

- But also, a time for Heroes.

A - Absolutely the most awful year I can remember!

- But also: admiration, for the strength and kindness people have displayed.

L - Lockdown. Twice. And God only knows how many more. Sick of it.

- But also: Love. It's all that matters, really.

L - Lentils. Almost as bad as 2020.

- But also: Lights on the Horizon - a charity book we started during lockdown. All proceeds go to frontline workers in the HSE and NHS. Head on over to our Lights on the Horizon Facebook page for more information.

O - Old. Feeling old, feeling sad, feeling weary, feeling mad.

- But also: Opportunities can be found in unexpected situations.

W - Worry. The constant existential worry. It's exhausting.

- But also: Wonderful friends. Irreplacable.

E - Elections. Now if that turnip gets re-elected, then we're truly doomed.

- But also: Enough. But in a good sense. You are enough. You've got this. You can do this. One day at a time.

E - Exes, getting back in touch. What's that about.

- But also: REnEwEd Energy. Sometimes, it comes, out of the blue, and has given rise to some interesting conversations, and projects.

N - Numbness. This feeling of dread that leaves you fading with fear and immobile with inertia.

- But also: Narnia. Maybe it's real.

Good night everyone x

Day 9 - Fridayyyy!

It's Friday! And although Fridays aren't as special as they once were, for many of us, they're still a Friday, and Fridays must be celebrated. Here are three things you can do to celebrate Friday (that don't involve alcohol!)

  1. Dress up. Tomorrow is Halloween, and you can still Trick or Treat for Temple Street - even if it's from home. And what's more, you can go over to TodayFM as they're giving away €500 for the best costume. Ah sure, we're all big kids really. Go for it.

  2. Come Dine - At home. Host a dinner party for your lovelies. Hoover your floor, cook something nice, set the table. Light the fire. Get out the good glasses and the special plates, even if it means you have to handwash them. Put out serviettes, make a starter, go the whole hog. Rope in the family, if they're willing. Set a time and write menus. Invitations with a start time and a dress code. Head over to Pintrest for some sample menus, if you like. Make a list and venture to the shop for the ingredients. It will give you such a lift to have something to look forward to. And if it's just you: Do it anyway. I'm going to cook myself up a storm tonight. I may even get out the table cloth!

  3. Treat yourself - and save someone. Go online and browse. There are some fantastic bargains out there at the moment, and retail is really hurting. So ditch the Amazon (you should do that anyway, for reasons I won't go into now, but suffice it to say I worked there, and I am not a fan of autocratic management styles.) and go local. There is an amazing new Facebook page called Shop in Ireland with hugely talented artists, writers and creatives, or just those who want to promote their Ireland-wide shops whose doors are closed due to our current level 5 restrictions. Head on over and get inspired. Set yourself a budget (or don't, if you're still earning) and shortlist three things. Buy one. Imagine if each of us bought just one small thing from a local business today. It would literally save jobs. Good deed done for the day. Tick.

Day 8 - Words

... matter.

Day 7 - Follow the Rainbow

It was on this day last week that we all frantically shopped, saw friends at an acceptable distance, stocked up on stuff we didn't need, went for a drive, because we could... because at midnight last Wednesday, this new lockdown became a reality in Ireland.

It's harder this time around. Many more are on the COVID PUP and the feelings of fear, anger, despair, financial worries, and the overwhelm that is the unchartered territory of a pandemic for so many of us are real.

Today, many of us have felt that pang of 'One week down, five to go...', and asking ourselves: 'And then, what?' The fear that going back to some sort of normal on Dec 1st, and then, when the numbers go up again, finding ourselves yoyo-ing our way towards Christmas, and beyond, are a distinct possibility.

So, what can we do?

As we face into another yellow weather warning in many counties in Ireland, one thing that always seems to work for me is stepping outside the door. I love the world, first thing in the morning (I used to be such a late riser - what happened!). There is something lovely about the air. Or, like today, when there are showers, and then the sun comes out. I think I saw about three rainbows today. And even if it's dark: Just go outside. For a minute, two, ten. Walk or just stand. Listen. Breathe. Reset. It does seem to do its magic, nature. Worth a try for all of us over-thinkers, when the inner monologue proves too deafening.

It might change the incessant thought stream from 'One week down, another five to go!' to 'OK, we've managed one week. We can do this.'

Mind yourselves. x

Day 6 - Carry On

Sometimes carrying on,
just carrying on,
is the superhuman achievement.

Albert Camus

Day 5 - Advent Calendars

We've done the baking, and we've endeavoured to give the pumpkin spice pancakes a try. Maybe Samira will give us the recipe! I don't know about you but the bank holiday didn't really seem like a bank holiday this time round, and bank holiday Monday had a bit of a tepid sort of taste. So I thought, what better thing to do, with all the rushing around and organising, then to reward ourselves with something we can get something out of, that lasts just a little longer?

I've spent the last few days thinking about Christmas presents, but today, how about a Christmas present - for us! One that keeps on giving. With my upbringing, up to the tender age of 19, happening pretty much exclusively in Germany, I can safely say we've had these for a while - the handmade, fill-it-yourself variety, but the trend has really caught on in Ireland in the last few years, so I present to you: the non-event advent calendar.

There are so many brilliant ones around, and who said they had to be for someone else? And, with (usually) 24 little presents, that's 24 lil presies right there. And, who said they had to be for Dec 1st? This year has gone entirely upside down anyway. So, why not break with tradition and order one for yourself. And no, I'm not affiliated with advent calendars or their manufacture, chocolatiers, or Jesus, in any way.

Sure why not have a look at what's out there. Or task someone to make one for you. It's the ultimate self-indulgence, and by God we need it right now. Boots have them, as do Rituals, and various other retailers, even Aldi has one for dogs I hear. However, I would advise against snacking on a Bonio. Take some time and pick one you like - and try to shop locally, if you can. I ordered one for a friend the other day, and one spare one. I've decided I'm going to give the spare one... to me.

To be opened on November 4th, or thereabouts, when we've heard that Donald Drumpf has not been relected. Partayyyyy!

Day 4 - Pumpkin spice pancakes

Today's blog is all about taking it easy on yourself, and having a self-care kind of day. It's a term bandied about a lot these days, and there is no one explanation for what it really means, because what makes us feel good is individual to all of us. But the fact of the matter is that many of us are guilty of not carving out enough time in our day to yes, mind ourselves, stop, recharge, and take a breath, so we power up again to keep going. And if we're not sure where to start, whom better to ask for today's inspiration than an accredited acupuncturist and yoga teacher, the amazing Samira Branch.

Reading how Samira manages to get through a day of lockdown might give us ideas, too - thanks Samira, it sounds just like a perfect day (and breakfast!) to me!

Samira Branch:

To keep my spirits up and my mental health in tip top shape I start my day with an hour of yoga; a mixture of Kundalini and Ashtanga to warm and wake me up.

Lately I’ve been treating myself to a yummy breakfast of pumpkin spice vegan pancakes,

discovered thanks to my new found lockdown hobby of experimenting with delicious vegan meals... now that I have the time to prepare them. A bracing autumnal walk followed by a warming tea gets me out and about where it’s lovely to bump into those neighbours I rarely otherwise see. My weekend treat is putting the feet up and enjoying the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Sounds fantastic, Samira. Maybe you'd be tempted to take part in the next Strictly Clon Dancing? If you do it, I will...

Day 3 - Dunowen House Apple Cake

Food warning. But it's worth it. Because, let's face it: lockdown means baking. The lovely Kela Ledwidge of Dunowen House has shared with us this absolutely gorgeous, and totally simple, recipe for the most amazing apple cake. Yes, I made it myself last week and I can confirm it’s “All ga!”, as my brother used to say when he was 11 months old. He's in his forties now. Don’t hate me, Brian. It’s still one of my favourite phrases.

For the next 5 1/2 weeks, we should not beat ourselves up over what we’re eating, but instead, enjoy the deliciousness of home-baking, and do whatever we can to make ourselves feel better. This cake definitely has a bonus, too: It’s one of your five a day. Yes, I know I’m reaching. But whatever works, people!! Also, who doesn’t love a loose bottom tin.

Here’s the full post from Kela:


Since the children returned to school, the days are almost back to normal levels of busy-ness. Monday is still cake day here but we also need to get the homework and sports activities squeezed in.

With plenty of apples still left to use up and time against me today, I went back to an old reliable and favourite here, our slightly rustic Dunowen Apple Cake. Whip it together in 10 minutes then pop in the oven for 50… the smell in the house will be divine and you will be a complete domestic goddess!!

[Edited by 5MinuteMusings: You can, of course, be a domestic god, Demi-God, or whateverthehellyouwant-God, too!]


  • 220g caster sugar

  • 110g ground almonds

  • 110g self-raising flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 3 free range eggs, lightly beaten

  • 140g melted butter

  • 2-3 Bramley or other cooking apple. Peel, core & slice.

  • Flaked almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 160C or 140C fan. Butter the base & sides of a 20cm spring form or loose bottom tin then line the base with parchment paper.

2. Sift flour & baking powder into large bowl, then mix in the sugar & ground almonds.

3. Make a well in the centre and add the melted butter and beaten eggs. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined.

4. Spread 1/3 of the mix on the base then cover with the apple chunks / slices. Pour the remainder of the mix over the apples, spreading gently until mostly covered. Don’t worry if some of the slices are not covered.

5. Sprinkle the cake with flaked almonds then pop in the over for 50-55 minutes until golden brown & a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

6. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm with cream or custard. It’s also lovely eaten cold the following day.

Thank you, Kela. It really is delicious. Give it a go. It's the weekend, after all. Or if you're reading this any other day of the week, hey, feck it. Just give it a lash. Bon appétit !

Day 2 - 5 Things