Hame by Annalena McAfee.

Tir na nOg, South harbour, Cape Clear, Cork, Ireland.

I believe I have mentioned before the Irish tradition of dispatching young teenagers to remote Ghaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas for the summer holidays. I spent four Julys on the island of Chléire (Cape Clear) and three of those Julys I lived in this house:

Tir na nOg, South harbour, Cape Clear, Cork, Ireland.

It’s not too difficult to see why I left a piece of my heart behind. On Sundays, when we didn’t have Irish classes and had hours to fill between dinner and the nightly céilí, my best friend and I would pack up our books and a packet of biscuits and clamber over the rocks to sit on the very corner of that headland. From there, the view stretches to the big lighthouse at Fastnet Rock and beyond that, America. That’s where I lay on a bed of sea thrift and read A Handful of Dust, The Pearl, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies and, perhaps most appropriately, Wuthering Heights.

When a man stands on the shore looking out to sea, he stands at the littoral of his unconscious. Grigor McWatt.

In her new book, Hame, Annalena McAfee imagined into being a Scottish island called Fascaray. By coincidence, I suppose, it’s near enough the same size and shape as Chléire and similar in almost every description except perhaps the prevailing winds. My island is just like hers but warmed by the glow of happy memories and a gentle southwesterly breeze.

I loved her book. I like big books. I like stories that suck you in and swallow you whole. Annalena McAfee made me laugh out loud in the coffee-spluttering, nearly-choked-myself kind of way (as opposed to the throwaway LOL kind of way) and she gave me an excuse to drink whiskey at lunchtime ( had to take the photos in daylight!). Best of all, she gave me a week of feeling almost as though I was back on that green rock. If I met her, I would give her a hug and say, Thank You.

Read my full review, including photos of whiskey, here.

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Sweet is the sound…

Spring. Shoots. seedlings. garden. gardening.

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Oh, the relief. We have made it through. It is, without even a shadow of a doubt, Spring.

We even ate our lunch outside, al fresco. It is still a wee bit fresco but still glorious. We sat, wearing fleeces and mucky wellies, with the sun on our faces, munching fatyer cheese bread from Lynn’s fantastic recipe. Life gets no better.

Look at this little over-enthusiastic sweet pea! He bolted off the blocks and left his buddies for dust but then got top-heavy and keeled over. I’ve nipped him off and I am rooting for him to make a comeback.

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Strawflowers, turnips, fennel, giant poppies, sweetpeas, peas, broad beans, fairies…

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Yes, I did say fairies. (away with the fairies have a website here)

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Can anyone tell me about this magnificent creature? He’s about as big as Bernard the giant, woolly bee, here. He paused just long enough to pose for a picture before rising elegantly skyward. Edit: Thanks, Sam at A Coastal Plot, for letting me know that this is a red-tailed bumble bee.

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There is a marked Aer Lingus hue to this post. Anyone else hearing strains of Gabriel’s Oboe? (that ad, here)

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‘Son’, I said to the teenage boy on Sunday afternoon,’would you cut the grass, please’

‘Mum’, said he in reply, ‘there is no grass in the grass’.

He has a point.

I have heard neighbours tut-tutting at the state of our, ahem, lawn.  Look, I’m certain it’s more environmentally friendly this way.

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Pulmonaria, lungwort,  or ‘soldiers and sailors’…the camouflage leaves and blue flowers; is there a more imaginatively named flower?

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Pent-up, latent energy exploding.

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My Spring project using the yarn so fine it could have been spun by real fairies. (Irish Fairytale Yarns, here.) The plan is that this will become a lacy shrug which I will wear casually over floaty summer dresses. A girl can dream.

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An tEarrach Thiar.

Fear ag glanadh cré
De ghimseán spáide
Sa gciúnas shéimh
I mbrothall lae:
Binn an fhuaim
San Earrach thiar.

A man cleaning clay
From the back of a spade
In the gentle quiet
Of a sultry day:
Sweet is the sound
In the Western spring.                          Máirtín Ó’Direáin.

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