Ahoy There me Hearties

I have just discovered Paul Elkins. I love his creativity and the ideas he comes up with. In this video he takes a trip on the water in the smallest wooden motor boat I’ve ever seen an adult sit in. Watch till the end if you want to see an array of beautiful houseboats. Some of them have been there since the 1930’s.  By the way, if you live there and your boat got scraped, now you know who did it. Enjoy.

Posted in The Good Things in Life, videos | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Living Past in County Clare

During the summer my family and I explored the Craggaunowen, Living Past complex in county Clare. I hadn’t been there for many years and it was a bright, sunny day for this second visit. Craggaunowen recreates the way people lived in Ireland during the Pre-historic and early Christian eras. An adviser to Sotheby’s on Medieval art, John Hunt, came up with the idea and purchased the land, which was the site of a ruined castle. He restored the castle to it’s former glory and built a crannog and ringfort on it’s grounds. In time he gave the complex to the Irish people, hoping it would be developed further. Here are some photos that may give you an idea of what you will find there should you get the chance to visit.

The Castle


It was built by John MacSioda MacNamara about 1550, a typical fortified Tower House that the gentry of the time lived in. With the collapse of the old Gaelic order in the seventeenth century, the castle was left uninhabitable. Under the direction of Tom Steele (not the singer/actor) in the early nineteenth century, restoration work began. It was not until 1965 that the work was completed by John Hunt.

wpid-dsc_0011.jpgIf you look closely at the lady with the spinning wheel, you will see that eyeglasses were invented much earlier than we have been led to believe. ;)

On a more serious note, imagine trying to keep warm on an Irish winter’s evening with a fire that small. This is a photo of one end of a very large room.

wpid-dsc_0013.jpgThis is the other end. The king of the castle appears to be in full control of his subjects in this image. I think he’s calling for dinner to be served.


I take it this was the owner’s bedroom as it has a lovely view from the parapet through the open door.


This must be the guest bedroom – a bit more sparsely furnished than the one above. Notice the mattress, not exactly Memory Foam but a lot better than a hard floor. There was an electric socket on the wall at the end of the bed, proving they also had electricity in medieval times. ;)

The Crannog

During the Iron Age and Early Christian Period some Irish communities lived in lake-dwellings of this type. Even as late as the seventeenth century these crannogs would have been occupied. They were artificial islands where people lived in relative security (a bit like gated developments nowadays) The houses where made of wattle and mud and the area was surrounded by a timber fence. To get onto these islands you would need a dug-out canoe if there was no causeway or bridge to use.

wpid-dsc_0061.jpgThis reconstructed crannog has a bridge which is used to gain access. You can be excused for thinking it looks like a scene from Tenko (1980’s tv series about a Japanese POW camp).


Here’s an example of some of the real estate you will find within the boundaries of the enclosure. A solid roof and sturdy walls, what more could you ask for?


Inside the cabin there may have been one window opposite the doorway and a fire in the centre of the floor. The occupants slept around the edges of the room, possibly huddling together in the winter to keep warm. In the photo on the left, you will see an example of an Iron age clothes airer – only joking. It’s the packaging that the evening’s dinner came in and will either be worn or slept under, probably both. This was, of course, at a time when wearing animal skins was not frowned upon.

wpid-dsc_0130.jpgIn this shot you can see a typical Iron Age family having some fast food, (meaning any edible animal that ran quicker than thirty miles an hour). If you don’t believe that, then it’s my family having a picnic in a crannog around the communal fire pit. (Notice how the king has joined his subjects for the meal, dinner mustn’t have been served in the castle).


This is an underground passage called a Souterrain, used for a food storage area. It is well built, ventilated but draft free, and can maintain a constant temperature of about 4 degrees C or 38 degrees F, irrespective of how hot the day is. Souterrains were also used as hiding places in case of attack or as escape routes.


A rebellion being quashed by one of the king’s loyal soldiers. You can tell by the tee-shirt he’s destined for greater things.

The Bus Stop

wpid-dsc_0060.jpgWe looked at this construction for a long time, trying to figure out what it might be, as it was not on the visitors’ guide we were given. Although it appeared to be some sort of storage unit, we decided it was an Iron Age bus stop and duly waited for the number 26 to come along. (Science buffs will understand why it was a number 26).

wpid-dsc_0084.jpgIf the bus ever does pick you up, you can get off at the Portal Tomb. At first you might think this is fake, but apparently it’s the real thing. It is about 1.25m high and the cap stone is triangular, which makes it quite an unusually shaped chamber.

The Brendan Voyage


A famous Irish sailor lived during the Iron Age and it is very appropriate that this last leg of our journey should be about him.

At the end of the Craggaunowen trail you will come upon a pyramid shaped, glass building which houses a leather hulled boat. It was built by Tim Severin in 1976, based on a vessel described in a 9th century manuscript. This design is still in use on the west coast of Ireland. According to the story from the manuscript, St. Brendan, who died in 583 AD, was a navigator and the first man to discover the ‘Promised Land‘ across the Atlantic ocean. Severin and his crew proved that it was indeed possible for Brendan to have made such a voyage by using a similar vessel. They stopped off on the Aran Islands, Donegal, the Hebrides, the Faroes and they over-wintered in Iceland before finally arriving in America, having crossed the North Atlantic.

Their boat was made of oak-tanned hides that were sewn together, then stretched over a flexible frame of Ash. This made the vessel much more resilient than a wooden boat in the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic. When the hull was punctured by sharp ice in the ice-floes, the crew were able to sew a leather patch over the damaged hide, and complete their journey.

Craggaunowen, The Living Past complex, is near the village of Quin in county Clare.

Posted in castles and ruins, environment, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Holding my Breath

I was trying to finish a chapter I had spent the morning writing, when I began to run out of steam, so I needed something to shake me up and get the juices flowing again. Where else would I find that only on Youtube. I never realized I could hold my breath for seven and a half minutes. That’s how long this video plays for. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery, too.

Danny Macaskill: ‘The Ridge’

Posted in books, environment, The Good Things in Life, writers | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

How to teach a young introvert

Jean Reinhardt:

Brilliant article, one of the best on social issues that I’ve read in a long time.

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

See all articles in the series

What should we do with the quiet kids? A conversation with Susan Cain on the future of classroom education.

Susan Cain sticks up for the introverts of the world. In the U.S., where one third to one half the population identifies as introverts, that means sticking up for a lot of people. Some of them might be data engineers overwhelmed by the noise of an open-floor-plan office. Others might be lawyers turning 30, whose friends shame them for not wanting a big birthday bash. But Cain particularly feels for one group of introverts: the quiet kids in a classroom.

Cain remembers a childhood full of moments when she was urged by teachers and peers to be more outgoing and social — when that simply wasn’t in her nature. Our most important institutions, like schools and workplaces, are designed for extroverts, says Cain in her TED Talk. [Watch: The power of…

View original 2,599 more words

Posted in Writers Resource | Leave a comment

How to Kill One of Your Characters

writing, characters death, novels,The problem with developing your characters and making them as realistic as possible is that when you have to kill one of them, you hesitate. I’m at a point in my latest book where I need to write a death scene for one of my favourite characters. This person has been with me throughout the first book and now, in the sequel, I must say goodbye. I’m not joking, it is such a difficult thing for me to do that I’m into another chapter and still haven’t done the dastardly deed. This has been going on for over a week and I have decided that this weekend it just HAS to happen. I know how, where and when to do it, but as crazy as this must seem, I keep putting it off. I even thought about scrapping the scene altogether but it’s a vital part of the story and leads to life changing circumstances for the other main characters. So (sniff, sniff) needs must.

Does anyone else have this problem? I’ve just finished a trilogy and in the third book, a character who had been there from the beginning dies, but I knew from the second book that this was going to happen – and I still got a little teary-eyed. Maybe I just need time to accept my character’s fate once I’ve sealed it. The plus side of this, is that I’m writing more chapters than I intended, by putting off the dreaded event. I have even added a twist that injects a bit of mystery into the story.

If certain words in this post get picked up by search engines on the hunt for criminal activity, I promise, it’s all in my head. Keeping the characters out of my heart is the problem.

Posted in authors, emerging authors, writers, Writers Resource, writing tips | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

The Phoenix Shall Fall

perspectiveIf you are interested in philosophy – duality and perception in particular – check out this post on a new blog The Phoenix Shall Fall

Speaking of philosophy, here is one of my favourite Nietzsche quotes (at least I think it was him).

“It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them!” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Posted in Writers Resource | Leave a comment

Starting From Zero

Jean Reinhardt:

When I first tested out the waters of self-publishing, David Gaughran’s was one of the most informative blogs I came across. This post by him will tell you why. Excellent advice.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

lets_get_digital_amazonSuccess can seem unattainable to those starting out. It’s easy to forget that even the biggest sellers started from zero.

Amanda Hocking didn’t arrive on the scene as a fully formed sales machine. She didn’t have a platform which she had been diligently building up for years, nor did she come from trade publishing. She was unable to convince an agent to take her on and decided to self-publish instead, and then sold a million e-books in nine months!

Detractors tried to paint Hocking as an anomaly — and she was, in the sense that anyone who is phenomenally successful at anything is an anomaly.

But that missed the point: she was able to sell as much as the biggest names in publishing without the help of a publisher.

Soon, others followed suit. Authors like Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, HM Ward, Liliana Hart, and Barbara Freethy have sold millions of e-books…

View original 1,012 more words

Posted in Writers Resource | Leave a comment

The Bucket Challenge

jean and bucket

The ice bucket challenge has gone viral on facebook at the moment and some people are beginning to question whether or not they should participate. This is mostly due to the fact that a there has been various campaigns against funding research that includes the use of embryonic stem cells. I gave this a lot of thought as I was eventually challenged to participate. I knew it would happen, sooner or later.

If I was so against all medical research because of it’s ethics then I would not have donated to motor neuron disease research, MND in Ireland or ALS in America. Instead I would have nominated a charity or a cause that I was 100% sure would not use either embryos or animals or children or elderly people or prisoners or one that contributes to the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, or – – – the list goes on. Most research, unless it’s based on complementary medicine or natural ingredients, has been guilty presently or in the past, of some degree of what could be called unethical practices.

If people are worried about what their donation might be used for, then groups that offer support for various illnesses and disorders, including ALS/MND are a good choice to contribute to, as an alternative. Everyone is entitled to make a decision based on their own values and conscience, without being judged or made to feel uncomfortable.

The bucket challenge is a way of highlighting a life destroying disease, that many people were not aware of. I knew a little bit about ALS/MND but not very much, other than it affects a very small percentage of the population. I hate it when people are reduced to statistics. Seeing the face behind the data is so much more eye opening, so I’m sharing this video.


Posted in health and illness, social issues, society | Leave a comment

Clonmel Ireland, a town full of historical buildings.


Those arches belong to a magnificent building in Clonmel, which dates back more than 400 years. It’s called the Main Guard and was built by James Butler, the Duke of Ormond, in 1675 and served as a courthouse. Over time it was converted into shops, with a basement and additional floors added to it. Now it has been sensitively restored to it’s original state with it’s open arcade of sandstone columns. Architect Margaret Quinlan was commissioned by the Office of Public Works to provide a blueprint for the project. She was awarded a silver medal by The Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland for her dedication to the restoration of what is possibly one of the oldest surviving classical public buildings in Ireland.




Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Robin Williams Decades of Laughter.

The death of Robin Williams has left  the world of entertainment with a huge space but he leaves behind a legacy of laughter. To have the ability to bring smiles to so many faces is a great achievement for a man who  battled with depression for most of his life. I loved him in Mork and Mindy and in every movie he ever appeared in. From Dead Poets Society  and Good Will Hunting to Mrs. Doubtfire and even Popeye. He used his intuitive and sensitive nature to bring to life any character he was asked to play, making him an extremely versatile actor.

To give you a taste of how good he was at improvising, here is a clip I found on Youtube. Thank you Robin for decades of laughter.

Posted in entertainment, News | Tagged , , | 1 Comment