Crafting · Disability · Parenting

I finished the cushion cover…eventually. I have so much more I want to do.

Oh how times flies when you are muddling through life as best you can. Last November (eek! didn’t think it had been that long ago) I posted a couple of times about a cushion cover I was making in sewing class. The posts were as much about how crafting has become a bigger part of my life as about the cushion cover itself.

I did eventually finish the cover after much cursing and ripping out and redoing. (In my defence I was limited by a very large cataract in my right eye which was replaced in June). Its not perfect, far from it, but I was pleased to have finally finished it.

The whole episode of struggling with the cushion cover – in large part because I had to miss a number of sewing classes – has epitomised some of what I feel about how life has turned out for me. I’ve always had lots of ideas for projects floating around in my head – research ideas (women’s history is my big research passion), ideas for community projects, ideas for books I think I’d like to write, ideas for our home and garden, and over the last few years, craft project ideas have been added to that jumbled mix.

I’m not short on ideas. My imagination is clearly still working (if possibly in overdrive) and I have the skills and ability to at least get most of these underway. Yet my finish rate is very poor. Is that because I start too many things and then don’t have time to finish them? Possibly that’s part of it. I currently have two crochet projects, a knitting project and a cross-stitch project on the go. There are four unfinished sewing projects I can think of easily without having to go and check. And that’s only the craft ideas.

I’m typing this at my desk in our home office where I can see a notebook in which I pulled together all the ideas I had for research and writing projects that were on various bits of paper or in the back of other notebooks where I jotted things down as they came to me. I just checked that notebook. I compiled the list nearly two years ago, and there are 49 separate projects on it. FORTY-NINE.

I don’t know if that is good – that I can think of so many things I want to do – or bad because maybe its easier to make a list than to actually do any of them? I am very aware that the biggest obstacle to me getting on with all of these things is headspace. Time is another huge issue, but headspace is probably the biggest one.

As carer to my beautiful disabled daughter – who is now fifteen which doesn’t seem possible – headspace is at a premium. There is always so much to be done in my caring role – admin, chasing up people, making sure all paperwork is correct so she can go to respite (and that currently means co-ordinating paperwork from three different sources/healthcare providers, checking it is all correct, cross-checking to make sure none of it contradicts anything and physically getting this paperwork to and from various people), attending appointments, etc etc etc. That’s on top of her daily care needs which have increased considerably in recent years. And that’s on top of housework, trying to make sure I eat decent meals rather than falling back on processed crap (and too much of it), supporting my husband who has an acquired brain injury, and the list goes on.

Is it any wonder I’m short on headspace?? I know that in one sense it would be easier? better? more sensible? to let all those ideas go, and to ‘just’ focus on caring for my daughter, helping my husband and running our home. But I’m a person in my own right too. I have things I want to do that will bring me enjoyment, pleasure, a sense of achievement, fun. Being a carer should not mean I have to give all that up.

We were told just the other day that our daughter – so by extension us – have been allocated ten hours per week of home support. This would be a huge thing for us. Those two hours each day, five days a week, would hopefully be a help in getting some more headspace for me. I was thrilled and to be honest more than a little surprised to get that news. THEN in the next breath I was told that at present there is no one to provide that home support. I was much less surprised at that piece of information. It actually took a few days for the intense disappointment I am feeling to register with me. I am not letting this go and I will persevere. But right now it feels like yet another insurmountable task. If there is such a thing as a goddess of headspace, this would be a really great time for her to put in an appearance.


You learn something new everyday

Well I certainly proved this to myself yesterday in sewing class. You might recall from last week that I’ve started sewing classes again and I’m making a patchwork cushion cover Yes, with a zip. Class was on yesterday morning and I spent a good while trying to decide on the layout of the squares I’d cut out. I’m using four different patterned fabrics so it took a while to settle on a design that didn’t jar my eyes too much. I’m quite happy with the final version. Blue is one of my favourite colours.16 fabric squares, each measuring 4.5 inches (approximately) in various patterns of blue and white. Having eventually decided on the layout for the cushion cover, I then had to sew the squares into pairs and then sew two pairs into a row, ending up with four rows. And this is when I learnt something new. The instructions for the cushion cover say to use a quarter-inch seam allowance. I couldn’t see that marked on the footplate (I think its called the footplate) of the sewing machine, so I asked my sewing tutor. She showed me that if I lined the edge of the foot up with the edge of the fabric, that would be quarter of an inch. That’s grand. THEN she points out to me that you can select a stitch which centralises the needle, thus making it sure it would be said quarter of an inch. And the next stitch option on the selector would place the needle to one side of the foot which would be useful in certain projects.. Huh. I hadn’t noticed that before. That mightn’t be unusual if it was a machine belonging to the college that I hadn’t previously used . But it is my own sewing machine, which I bought five years ago. And I never noticed that on it.

So I learnt that much yesterday! 16 fabric squares sewn into strips of four And then I sewed the squares into rows of four πŸ™‚ Next week I’ll be sewing the rows into one piece to make the front and I fear the zip comes after that .

Bits and Bobs · History

Remember remember the 5th of November

I don’t know if kids still say that in England but we certainly did in the 1970’s. Bonfire Night was a much bigger thing than Hallowe’en when I was a kid. I didn’t know anything about the Gunpowder Plot or the history of that period. All I knew was that I liked fireworks and that Mum made sausage rolls and baked potatoes when we came home from the firework display and bonfire. Bonfire night was fun, pure and simple. Then one year we were at the bus stop waiting for the school bus with all the other mums and children from our parish (we went to school in a different town as there was no Catholic school in our town) and it must have either been Nov 5th or a day or two before it because I remember hearing one woman saying to my mum “You don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes in Ireland do you?”. I’d never been aware of that before. I knew my mother was Irish, I knew I had a Granny, lots of aunts, uncles and cousins in Ireland, but I had never thought before about there being differences between Ireland and England. Ireland in my very limited experience was where Granny lived, where we got this drink called red lemonade (and no, it is not the same as Tizer we always explained to friends in school) and where there only seemed to be one type of crisp and that was Tayto which only seemed to be made in cheese and onion. (I was a devotee of Salt n Shake. Tayto was a disappointment for me)

Anyway, back to the conversation about Guy Fawkes. Mum’s reply to the comment above was “no, but we might have if he’d succeeded” I remember another mum who was also Irish sniggering at that but the general reaction – in my memory anyway – was a frosty silence. We were living in a town in England’s West Country at the time, there wasn’t a sizeable Irish community, although there were a few families with at least one Irish parent. But I still remember it – I think I must have been 8 or 9 so its over 40 years ago – and I clearly remember asking my Mum for probably days afterwards about why would Ireland have celebrated if Guy Fawkes succeeded, and why didn’t the English mums find that funny, and why is Ireland different from England and why and why and why…… I probably got on her nerves. I do think that episode awoke something in me, a curiosity, a wish to know more, an awareness that the two countries that shaped me were different and had different experiences. I couldn’t articulate any of that at the time and not for years afterward, but I think now that much of the learning, researching, thinking I have done all my adult life began that day when I wondered why the Irish didn’t celebrate Guy Fawkes.

Disability · Parenting · Politics

What Makes A Carer Cry?

Being a family carer is a full-time job. Yet not everyone who carries out this role receives any kind of financial recompense. Some, like myself, get Carer’s Allowance, which is means tested, and even if you are awarded the full amount, in Ireland that amounts to €219 per week. TWO HUNDRED AND NINETEEN EURO A WEEK FOR A FULL-TIME JOB AND THEN SOME. No apologies for the capitalisation there, that needs to jump out at you.

But don’t carers do it for love? Well, yes we do love those for whom we care but does that mean we are not entitled to any kind of recognition for what we do? What about pensions? I don’t pay stamps so my pension will be affected. I called it a full-time job so what about paid leave? Shouldn’t we get some time off? Remember also that being a family carer can last for many many years. In my case, I’ve been doing it for fourteen years and I will be doing it for many more years to come. I’m 50, and I increasingly wonder – and worry – how I will manage as I age and my daughter gets bigger.

There are so many aspects to the role of full-time family carer, and these do of course vary depending on the needs of the person being cared for. However, there are some aspects which are common to many carers – administration/paperwork (which frequently feels never ending), manual handling (usually without getting any proper training in same), provision of intimate personal care (and that’s quite a big thing to get your head around), advocacy (for which read minefield), research (into conditions, financial supports, therapies, the list is long), and that’s only some of it.

The emotional cost of being a carer is immeasurable. I know I am not the same person I was before this. I’ve learnt things I never knew I’d need to know. I’ve done things I never thought I would be able to do. I’ve seen and experienced things no one should have to see or experience. And I am by no means alone in this. All too often, however, it can feel like you are shouting into a void when you express some of the exhaustion, frustration, pain (mental and physical) and all the other maelstrom of emotions that the system and its many shortcomings puts on carers.

A couple of carers I follow on Twitter recently came up with an initiative to highlight this and to try and reach out to a wider audience to let people see what carers deal with. Every Thursday, they and other carers tweet snapshots from their lives, or problems they are currently facing, to show the reality of being a carer in sometimes horrendously hard situations. One thing we are all sick of is the platitudes telling us how great we are or how strong or how amazing ……. with not a jot of real help offered. The initiative is a simple hashtag #WhatMakesACarerCry on Twitter. Go and take a look. You might be shocked by what you read.


Disability · Parenting

Fionnuala’s new space #2 – the kindness of strangers

There are so many things about our building project and the help we have received that have left me almost lost for words, but one is the willingness and interest shown by people who don’t know unlikely to ever meet us or ever see the finished build, yet who are willing to donate, to wish us well, to share our fundraising appeal…. In these very strange and uncertain times it truly gives me hope for the future of humankind that people are prepared to reach out to help a family like ours. Thank you all so very much. My beloved Granny would have said there’s a place in heaven for people like that. My belief system is rather different to hers, but I believe in karma, it will come back to you xx

If anyone’s looking to find out more about our story and our crowdfunder, you can read it all here:

Crafting · Uncategorized

Crafting a comfort zone

This is going to be a cushion cover. Hopefully.

Crafting wasn’t a term I heard much until a few years ago, and to be honest I probably would have assumed it related to people who crafted items on a professional basis, i.e. for a living. I didn’t think it related to people who did handcrafts for a hobby. It wasn’t something I ever would have associated with myself. I could knit a bit but wouldn’t have described myself as a knitter. I could sew on a button. I couldn’t crochet and I hadn’t tried cross stitch since I was in school. How then have I ended up with a craft stash of various yarns, fabrics, needles, hooks, a sewing machine, macramΓ© cord and assorted cross-stitch kits? To be honest, it seems to have snuck up on me. (Mind you the company I keep might have something to do with it…… E, L, M, K, C, C, S…… you know who you are!)

My mother taught me how to knit when I was a child. it wasn’t completely successful, she wasn’t the most patient teacher and I wasn’t entirely keen to learn. She was an excellent knitter who could do an Aran jumper without a pattern. After she died I took her knitting needles home and use some of them today. I haven’t tackled Aran though. I lost interest in knitting pretty quickly and only started to think about it again when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2006/7. I don’t think I’m especially unusual in that, but I never actually knitted anything for my daughter until she was about 7…. I did quite enjoy it though and found myself looking at yarn in shops and picking up the odd ball without a project in mind. That was the start of a slippery slope!

I turned out a couple of cardigans for herself and one for myself which I was quite happy with. I made a few wee baby hats for charity, and was rather surprised to find how soothing it could be. There are times when my head feels so full and overloaded with everything going on and all the stuff I need to try and remember/keep on top of that I find its almost impossible to relax. The rhythm of knitting (not that I do anything complicated. Like an Aran. Without a pattern.) seemed to absorb some of that stress. Hmm. Maybe I was onto something here.

My crafting friends (or coven as one of the husbands calls us) are more skilled than me and seemed to be able to turn their hands to most things they tried. I wasn’t so sure this was going to be the case with me. Cross stitch was the particular area one of them excelled in and so while on a visit to a friend in England in 2018 I ended up in Abakhan in north Wales where I bought yarn, rather a lot of yarn, fabric (more about that below) and two tiny wee cross stitch kits. I figured if I made a mess of the kits or if I didn’t enjoy them, what harm. It was worth a try. Uh oh. Another crafting stash started to develop. Unlike knitting which I can (generally) do while following a TV show or chatting to whoever is around to listen, I have to concentrate more closely on cross stitch. That might not sound as stress relieving as the knitting but I find when I’m doing cross stitch, I’m completely focused on following the pattern that nothing else creeps into my mind. I’m totally in the zone, in the moment. Creative mindfulness I suppose you could call it.

I liked the idea of being able to sew more than a button on , and if I’m honest harboured vague dreams of making fabulous clothes, so when one of the crafting gang began running sewing classes I decided to give it a go. Now. My sewing teacher (who is also a dear friend) is an incredibly patient person. With me, she needed to be. The wee gang of us that evolved at our weekly sewing class jelled quickly into a group who laughed, drank tea, ate cake and generally put the world to rights, all while sitting at our sewing machines. We even got some sewing done! Those weekly sessions were great fun and I miss them. I’ll freely admit that the actual sewing wasn’t my strong point and that it didn’t afford me the same stress relief as knitting and cross stitch but it challenged me and I did get great satisfaction from making something wearable. I’ve started sewing classes again with the same lovely teacher but a different group and I’m actually amazed at how much I can do. However, tomorrow she’s going to get me doing a machine sewn patchwork cushion cover. With a zip. I hate sewing zips. She knows this. It will push me right out of my comfort zone. Apparently that’s a good thing. My argument that’s its called a comfort zone for a reason didn’t get me very far πŸ˜‰ I’m going to use some of the fabric shown above. I picked it up in Lidl or Aldi ages ago…. yes, there’s a fabric stash in this house to join the yarn and cross-stitch ones.

Crochet. Eeeek. Now this was one craft that definitely eluded me. My Granny was supremely talented at crochet as well as knitting (it was she who taught Mum after all) and she was making beautiful pieces well into her nineties. She tried a few times to teach me. I was older than when Mum taught me to knit, Granny was way more patient, but in the end she commented, “I don’t think you are going to make a crocheter.” Ah well. Can’t do them all. She died in 2007 and I never thought much about crochet again until a couple of years ago when for some reason I really wanted to learn. After various attempts, I was finally inducted into the art of happy hooking by a very talented woman who showed a group of mums of disabled children how to crochet. It took me a little while to get confident with it but now I’m often to be found hooking away in front of the TV. Like knitting, its the rhythmic nature that helps me to destress and relax. I’m still mostly at the granny square stage but I’ve made a few blankets for charity that way.

My craft stash is taking over various cupboards and part of my office. When we get to move into our extension, I’m taking over the room that was our daughter’s bedroom and turning it into my craft room. I’m a crafter. In the sometimes overwhelming stress of life, it seems I’ve managed to craft myself a wee comfort zone. I’ll let you know how the cushion cover goes.

Disability · Politics

#COP26 – electric vehicles and disability

The UN COP26 summit has started in Glasgow and I’m seeing way more debate and awareness of climate breakdown amongst ‘everyday people’ (I don’t like that term but can’t think of a better one) than I recall seeing at the time of the Paris agreement. That is a good thing. A Twitter conversation this morning about the need to switch to electric vehicles resonated with me, as I’ve wanted to switch to an electric car for a good while now. However, its not that straightforward for us. Any vehicle we buy as our family car has to be adapted for our wheelchair using daughter to travel in it. I’ve not seen such a vehicle advertised in general advertising. I’ve not seen or heard one mentioned outside of the disability community. That doesn’t hugely inspire me that I’ll be able to get one easily enough (when I have the finances to do so).

Musing this over on the school run this morning I wondered what I might be able to do about this. I decided to do a wee bit of research. I’m contacting the major car manufacturers and asking if they make an adapted electric car. I’m also looking at organisations that promote the use of electric vehicles to see what they have to say about adapted cars.

I’ll let you know what I hear back.

This all brings up much wider issues around transport and disability. Public transport in Ireland leaves a lot to be desired. You might say that there are plenty of public transport options in and around Dublin. True. But ask yourself how accessible these are to disabled people. You might be surprised. Or shocked. If you would like to know about the issues with public transport and accessibility in Ireland, I highly recommend you follow Access For All Ireland (on Twitter) (and here on Facebook) who do huge work highlighting this.

I’d love to use my car much less than I do. But my daughter’s school is 26 miles from our home. Its the only school in our county that meets her educational needs. She used to get a bus in and out each day – which she loved as she likes to travel and is very sociable – but the route has changed over the years as children have left the school and other children have joined, so her pick up time gradually moved from 8.15 am to 7.30 am. We did put her on the bus at 7.30 (and she wouldn’t get to school until just after 9) for a while but in summer 2019 when she started having PEG feeds that became unfeasible as she has a feed first thing which takes an hour. No way am I starting her feed and meds routine at 6am to have her on a bus for 7.30. That in turn brings up the issue of why is it seen as ok for some children to have such long journeys to and from school, but that’s for another day. We drive her in each day and she comes home on the bus. Not an ideal situation but hey.

She will be attending that school for another few years and we have no intention of moving so that journey will be part of our daily routine for a while yet. But if we were able to switch to an electric vehicle at least we’d be lessening our impact on the environment a bit.

Just as I was about to hit publish on this post, I saw on Twitter that the Israeli energy minister, Karine Elharrar, was unable to access the proceedings at COP26 today. She is a wheelchair user.

Words fail me.

Disability · Parenting · Politics

Fionnuala’s new space

Some of you who follow my wee blog on Facebook or Twitter might have seen mention of a project called Fionnuala’s new space. We are building an extension to our house to make it more suitable, safer and better all round to meet our daughter Fionnuala’s needs as she moves – all too quickly – towards adulthood. This is something we have been planning for a good few years now and we had envisaged starting it a couple of years ago but life intervened in some bad ways and we were not able to even think about the work needed. To give a brief idea, in the spring of 2017, Fionnuala was very sick on and off with a severe gut infection and had three hospitalisations as a result. She recovered but was quite rundown and weak for a while. In July of that year my husband was bitten by something and had a cellulitis infection in his leg which meant he was off work all summer. Spring and summer of 2017 weren’t much fun here I can tell you.

By the beginning of October however things looked much brighter, Fionnuala was settled back into school and Liam (my husband) had gone back to work. Just five days later he was involved in a collision with a car whilst cycling. I will never forget the phone calls that day as long as I live. First the one to tell me he’d had an accident and then a little bit later one to tell me he was being airlifted to hospital. I think it was at that point that I switched into a firefighting mode where I could not think about what was happening, just needed to get on with it all.

Liam survived the accident but has been left with life-changing injuries, most seriously an acquired brain injury . In his case it is one of the hidden disabilities – Liam can do most things he did before but the brain injury has left him with problems with processing, with memory and recall issues, with concentration difficulties. All of this has meant that he is no longer able to undertake paid employment. As I am classed as Fionnuala’s full-time carer, that means there is no wage coming into this house. We can manage to pay our mortgage and bills and run our car but there is no way we could pull money together for a big project like building an extension for Fionnuala’s needs. I’m not going to go into great detail here, but by the end of 2019 it was apparent that Fionnuala was going to need major spinal surgery to correct scoliosis which she was diagnosed in 2018. The surgery was planned for late spring/early summer of 2020. Well you all know what came next….. and the surgery did not happen until Nov 2020. She has done brilliantly ever since and we are so very proud of her. BUT (there’s always a but) the surgery meant we would no longer be able to carry her upstairs to bed and that she would have to sleep downstairs. We were now in the situation where we needed to make this extension happen but we did not have the money to do so.

All the same, we had no option but to do it, so in very early 2020 (pre-pandemic) we started talking to a local architectural firm about our ideas. They started drawing up draft plans and we began investigating funding possibilities. I was adamant I did not want to run a crowdfunder, I said repeatedly to my husband that I’d consider anything else but not that. I even wrote a blog post along those lines while I was in Crumlin with Fionnuala after her surgery last year.

I still stand by much of what I wrote that day. Families like ours should not have to rely on the immense kindness and generosity of others to provide their loved ones with the best quality of life possible, yet it increasingly seems like this is the norm. I don’t have the headspace or the energy to get into that whole debate yet, maybe one day. Anyway, to continue with our story, we got the plans drawn up and planning permission was applied for. In the meantime we were preparing for Fionnuala’s surgery and largely cocooning in order to keep her as safe and healthy as possible so that the surgery would not be delayed. Roll around to November 23rd 2020 and our incredibly strong brave girl underwent an eight hour operation which thankfully went very well. She and I spent the next fortnight and a half in Crumlin while Liam came home after a couple of days to prepare things for Fionnuala coming home.

This meant emptying our living room and installing the profiling bed Fionnuala got from the HSE, a separate single bed (her old one) for one of us to use. Because of the nature of her epilepsy, we prefer to be near her at night, so that meant one of us would have to sleep downstairs with her. Our house isn’t very big so the living room was the only downstairs space available. There have been a few knock-on effects of this:

  1. All daily living happens in our kitchen which is 13ft x 10ft and is a kitchen – i.e. with cooker, sink, fridge, countertop, table and chairs…… And from January 2021 we were attempting to home school in there too.
  2. We no longer get to share our bedroom apart from the few nights Fionnuala has gone to respite (which has thankfully reopened). It might not bother some people but I prefer to spend nights with my husband…..
  3. What was Fionnuala’s bedroom upstairs is now a temporary sitting room which we use for the couple of hours in the evenings after she’s fallen asleep and while we are waiting for her late feed to finish.
  4. Every room in the house is extremely cramped and this is more stressful to live with than I had imagined it might be.

Move into 2021 and we get planning permission which allows us to then apply to our local authority for a Housing Adaptation Grant for a Person with a Disability. I would like to say at this point that the grants office in our local authority have been extremely helpful and unfailingly easy to deal with. We were awarded the full grant amount which is €30,000. We pulled together a pot of money from savings etc which brought in another nearly €30,000. The cost of the extension was coming in at around €95,000. Even the more mathematically challenged (like me) can see that we had a shortfall of approx €35,000. We applied to DIYSOS The Big Build Ireland but were unsuccessful. At this stage I accepted that we had to ask for help. Ask for money from, well anyone really. That meant setting up a crowdfunding campaign and trying to promote it as best I could. I don’t mind admitting that I shed a good few tears over doing this but I had to keep telling myself it was all for Fionnuala, it was for what she needs. So I did it.

I set up the crowdfunder in late June 2021 and we have been continually amazed at the sheer generosity and kindness of so many people – many of whom we have never met and will probably never meet – who have been willing to give money to help our daughter. If you would like to read the full story, its all here:

We have had incredible support in other ways too for which we are more grateful than I can adequately express. But that’s for another post. If you would like to see how things are going with our project, just look up ‘Fionnuala’s new space’ on Facebook as I update that regularly. If you felt able to donate that would be amazing, thank you. If you could share the crowdfunder on any platform you use that would be a big help. And thanks to anyone reading this who has already supported us, it means more than you could ever know.

Food · Ritual food

Hot cross buns and Easter eggs – #nearly50

I was born on April 11th, 1971, which was – in the western Christian calendar – Easter Sunday. I was baptised Roman Catholic, and nominally raised as one, although we were not exactly the most observant or devout family. We did attend Mass but not every Sunday. I did make my First Holy Communion (which I still capitalise even in my mind’s eye) but when it came to time for confirmation I opted not to make it, which probably explains why I don’t capitalise that in my mind’s eye. Or anywhere else. I remember vividly what felt like the interminably long service on Good Friday and sitting in the church thinking “I don’t believe any of this”. Now, I am not saying that to offend or upset anyone who holds different religious beliefs than I do. I’m just telling it like it was for me. I found the whole thing boring and uninspiring. I did love Midnight Mass (again with the capitalisation) on Christmas Eve and when I was a child that Mass was still late at night, I think it might have finished just after midnight. I’d be hard pushed to tell you much about other religious feasts and festivals, except for Easter. Maybe it was by dint of having been born on an Easter Sunday. As a child I tried – to no avail – every year to argue that I should have an extra Easter egg because after all I was born on Easter Sunday. Never got me anywhere. I occasionally make the same pitch to my husband that I should have plenty of eggs cos I am an Easter bunny. I’m still not getting anywhere with it!

Easter weekend then has always felt a bit special to me, even though obviously my birthday doesn’t fall in that weekend every year, what with it being a movable feast. Unlike Christmas when I do go all out with the traditional food, I don’t really do much of that at Easter. None of us in this house are big fans of roast lamb. I’ve yet to make a Simnel cake, although when I see pictures of them each year on social media I say that I will make one next year. (Don’t hold your breath). Our daughter is not a chocolate lover and I’ve already mentioned my lack of success on the Easter egg front. But hot cross buns on Good Friday, now that IS something I go for. I’ve tried making them a couple of times and while the results were perfectly edible, quite decent really, it felt like a huge amount of faff when I can get perfectly good ones in a shop. So this morning that’s just what I did. We’ve not opened the McCloskeys ones yet but I can report the Super Valu ones were delicious, even more so with some of yesterday’s homemade lemon curd on top.

Hot cross buns are a must on Good Friday. Too much faff to make them though!

Maybe its the long weekend, although this last year has been such a blur that a long weekend no longer feels special like it did back in the day when I was in paid employment, or maybe its the overtones of it being close to my birthday but Easter weekend usually feels good to me. It used to signify the real start of the tourism season – I know things are so different now – when there would be places to go for a day out. Its spring which is my favourite season, the weather is often good, and so far this weekend – yes I know its only Friday – has been fabulous. April is my birth month and as I said in yesterday’s post, I’m approaching 50 and it feels quite liberating. I’m not sure why that is yet, I’ll probably unpick it more as the month goes on. I think I’ll buy myself an Easter egg this year.


Approaching 50!

Today is April 1st 2021 and I will reach my 50th birthday in less than two weeks. I’ve never had a problem or hang-up with getting older, and I’ll readily admit to being a little intolerant of those that do. I don’t understand why getting older – especially for women – is seen by some as something to be feared or hidden. You don’t have to look at too many adverts for cosmetics, skin care products or hair dye to see the messages of ‘hiding the signs of aging’, or’covering the grey’ coming through time and again. What’s wrong with looking the age you are? Why try to pretend you are younger than you are? Why does society – some of it anyway – have such a problem with getting older? Is it that people are seen as less productive or useful as they get older? Is it that it reminds people of the inevitability of death? Whatever the thinking, conscious or otherwise, behind these messages, I’ve long found them irritating. Now as I near my 50th birthday I’m even less tolerant of them. But I’m not going into all of that now, it’s been covered exhaustively many times.

I’m looking forward to being 50, it feels somewhat liberating in a way I haven’t defined yet. I’d not made any big plans for the occasion, but I had decided – initially as a joke with some friends – that I was going to dye my hair purple and get a tattoo to mark the occasion. Obviously I cannot get either of those done now. Neither can I have any kind of party or real get together. How then to mark this milestone event in my life?

I’m going to treat myself to a nice month, inasmuch as life circumstances permit. I know a birthday is only one day but I’ve never been known for my restraint and so I’m going to extend it for the whole month of April. Today I made a few jars of lemon curd using Darina Allen’s recipe from Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Lemon is my favourite flavour, even more so than chocolate, and I can never really get too much of it. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy those few jars this month, some on good soft white bread, some on drop scones, some in cakes.

Food will likely play a sizeable part this month – I love to cook and to eat and especially to try new recipes. I try to eat a decent diet but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes that’s down to time pressures or stress or an overloaded brain. But sometimes it’s a deliberate conscious decision. Like this morning when everyone else was asleep and I made a choice to start my birthday month with this breakfast of champions