Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Time for twenty twenty.

This year was not a good year. I worked very hard all year, yet accomplished very little, and I have finished the year having been refused what I was working for, and not knowing what I will work towards now. I feel sad about things that happened this year, and that didn't happen. More than the personal, this year felt bad politically, locally, nationally, globally. So much death, destruction, damage. That is demoralising and hard to accept. We could so easily do so much better, and it is hard to live among humanity at the moment as we destroy our home, the gains we've fought hard for over generations, the better life we've made, and the potential for good lives for future generations and species. We can do better. I want to believe we will. I feel optimistic and determined for the year ahead, and I'm going to hang on to that and nurture it and breathe carefully on that little flame to keep it burning and bring it to light.

The good things this year were enjoying beauty and goodness in little moments, taking time to do things that I love, and making time to do those loved things more fully and more often.


Dawn over Portobello, Dublin, 28th January 2019.

I enjoyed that moment of beauty as dawn broke over my home in Portobello in January.


a-ha at The Point, Dublin, 29th October 2019.

I went to see a-ha play in October. The first real tape I ever got, music I listened to over and over again as a young girl before I really knew what music was, music I loved. I got to be in the same (large) room as Morten Harket. After 30 years I was so happy I went to this gig. 12 year old me thanks 42 year old me.


Björk, Cornucopia tour, Dublin, 28th November 2019.

That helped me remember how much I like going to gigs. So I went to another one less than a month later. Björk. Thank you to the person who sold us his tickets (so close to the stage!) a few days before the gig for less than he paid for them. And thank you to this Icelandic wonder. It was captivating, absorbing, amazing.


Underworld, at Wembley Arena, London, 7th December 2019.

So less than a month after that concert I made time to go and see Underworld, music that I love, that has been very important to me for 25 years and still is. I have seen them perform many times and loved every gig. This one I had been looking forward to for most of a pretty terrible year. It was wonderful. And so are they. Thank you Karl Hyde and Rick Smith.


Christmas cheese, Dublin, 24th December 2019.

I love cheese. I mean, I love cheese. And I made time to enjoy it fully with my Christmas cheese.


Sunset over Portobello, Dublin, 29th December 2019.

To close the year, I paused to watch a stunning sunset a few days ago. The sunset was better than the dawn.

It's good to have made time to remember some good times from 2019. Time for a better 2020.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

World's best cheese?

Here is a very small piece of Rogue River Blue, the world's best cheese of 2019.

IMG_4321 Rogue River Blue cheese

Rogue River Blue cheese

This blue cheese from Rogue Creamery took the top prize at the 2019 World Cheese Awards. I like it though I don't love it, it has a quite dramatic flavour and to me tastes quite strongly of wine, maybe due to the grape leaves it is wrapped in, rather than tasting entirely of cheese. And I am generally a big fan of strong blue cheeses. Clearly the judges at the World Cheese Awards think pretty highly of it as it beat over 3,800 entries from around the world. It is made at a small creamery in Oregon in the USA. I bought it at Neal's Yard Dairy in London, a wonderful cheese shop where I get my cheese whenever I'm in the city. I have bought this cheese from them before, always in small amounts as it is very expensive. This year it was retailing at an eye-watering £98.85 per kilo. That is more than double the average price of a cheese in the shop. It's only a little pricier than previous years, despite skyrocketing interest in the cheese which means that its entire 2019 stock has already sold out and you can pre-order it for September 2020. The cheese is only available in the autumn. Usually Neal's Yard Dairy stock only cheeses from the 'British Isles', though in the past this geographic purview extended to Brie de Meaux, but around this time of year they would make an exception to stock Rogue River Blue. So I have bought it from them before in advance of winter festivities. It's quite a divisive cheese, people tend to love it or hate it - when I bought it last time the cheesemonger described it as the 'Marmite of cheese'. On one memorable year, Neal's Yard Dairy very unusually still had a large piece of this cheese left in the new year, perhaps their delivery had arrived late and they hadn't been able to sell it all. The cheesemonger on that occasion was firmly in the 'hate it' camp, and didn't want this cheese hanging around her shop any longer into January, so when I went to buy my typical just-about-affordable tiny piece, she offered to sell me the entire wedge at a steep discount. Very steep - much less than most of the other cheeses in the shop. I hesitated momentarily and then went for it, returning home with a large lump of a very nice cheese. I'm not sure who was more delighted - me or the cheesemonger when she saw the last of Rogue River Blue exiting her shop, not to reappear for most of a year. The cheesemonger was happy, I was happy, my cheese-eating friends were happy, that was a happy January. And now it's the best cheese in the world. Yeah, yeah, I ate this cheese before it was cool.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Hope before us.

Never posted my photos of the Climate Strike on 20th September. These young people give me hope. This generation is going to solve the problem that our parents' generation refused to (mainly because they caused it) and that my generation are still trying to figure out.


Save the bees, save the trees, save the seas.


Climate Strike, Merrion Square, Dublin, 20th September 2019.


Amazing turnout at the Climate Strike, Dublin, 20th September 2019.


Youth Strike 4 Climate, Dublin, 20th September 2019.

More pics and some video here.

Monday, September 30, 2019

September stories.

There were several ideas that caught my interest this month and I wanted to write about. Instead time allows me now to gesture in the direction of of one their stories, that of Elizabeth O'Farrell.

I wanted to write about a visit to Glasnevin Cemetery, and the many interesting people buried there. I wanted to know more about the story of Elizabeth O'Farrell, who was very involved in the 1916 Rising. And about "her faithful comrade and lifelong friend, Sheila Grenan”, who is buried in the same grave with her.


Elizabeth O'Farrell and Sheila Grenan grave, Glasnevin Cemetery.

O'Farrell was in the GPO throughout Easter Week 1916 and she delivered Pearse's surrender to the British military. She was standing with Pearse when he surrendered, with her feet and skirt visible behind Pearse in a famous photograph of that moment. Yet her feet were removed from later reproductions of the photo, with some interpreting this as her being "airbrushed from history", along with the lack of attention to her role and the participation of other women in the events of 1916. O'Farrell's relationship with Grenan certainly seems to be one of lesbian lifelong romantic partner. Yet this is also little discussed. I cannot do her story justice here. Read some of these sources and puzzle out its nuances for yourself.


Glasnevin Cemetery, map and information about O'Farrell and Grenan's grave.


The Elizabeth O'Farrell and Sheila Julia Grenan papers in the National Library including her account of 1916.


Advocating for acknowledgement that O'Farrell and some others involved in 1916 were lesbians. Also noting that O'Farrell's relationship with Grenan meets and surpasses the criteria by which similar relationships between men and women were deemed to be romantic.


Wikipedia page on Elizabeth O'Farrell.


Transcript of a talk given in 2016 by O'Farrell's grand-nephew Ian.


Including a video interview with O'Farrell's grandniece Donna.


Stories from the Statistics, from the Central Statistics Office information about O'Farrell.


Detailed article about the photographs, location of the surrender and O'Farrell's role.


Irish Independent newspaper article by an historian about O'Farrell.


The Journal online newspaper article about O'Farrell, the photographs and a play 'Eirebrushed' about her being 'airbrushed' from history.


Come Here To Me article showing some street art about the surrender and discussing O'Farrell and Moore Street.


RTE documentary about O'Farrell.


A speech by then Minister Varadkar at the opening of Elizabeth O'Farrell House in 2016: "We may never know the exact nature of their relationship, but it is enough to say that when they died they were buried in the same grave together in Glasnevin Cemetery."

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Good things exist.

It doesn't seem like a great time, in the world or in my life. It's hard to tell which is influencing which more - do I feel more despondent about the state of my life partially because the state of the world seems unendingly and increasingly horrible, or are my personal concerns colouring how I see geopolitical goings on? Maybe it doesn't matter, the personal and the political are intertwined for me in such ways. It does appear that both are objectively not great - given external and commonly acknowledged milestones, right now neither my individual trajectory nor humanity's journey seem to be reaching exciting new heights or even traversing pleasant valleys, instead struggling through deserts and dangerously near cliff edges. While the Amazon burns.

But onwards we walk, and good things are crafted and built and created. Good things exist. And celebrating this goodness I can do. Here are some good things from the last month.


There is space Lego now. Inspired by real spaceships humanity has sent to space.


Someone has bothered to plant a biodiversity garden at the train station in Farranfore, Co. Kerry.


There is good street art by Dan Leo in Killorglin, Co. Kerry.


And some by Solus, which is even optimistic.


And Ireland is just so beautiful. Like here, on a beach in Co. Kerry.


So very, very beautiful. Like here, walking on the Sheep's Head Way, in Co. Cork.


So beautiful. Even in the rain. Even on the road. On the Caha Pass, travelling from Kerry into Cork.


So much great vegetarian food. At Organico cafe, Bantry, Co. Cork.


And incredible vegan food. At Veginity, Dublin.


And local, handmade cheese. Like these, all from Cork.


So many wonderful places where I've swum. Like here at sunset on the Sheep's Head peninsula, Co. Cork.


And here at sunset at Seapoint, in Dublin.


And people making art, and making a point. Like this great piece by ADW, in Dublin.

Good things exist. People keep trying to make things beautiful and better. Onwards we go.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Partial credit.

Partial lunar eclipse, with cranes, Dublin, 16th July 2019.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Insufficient support - a friend's story.

At the start of May, a good friend of mine was in hospital having had back surgery. She has a long-term chronic pain condition and is a wheelchair user. As well as this mobility disability, she is, as she puts it, "pretty much blind" and uses a guide dog who is also an assistance dog. In order to function independently at home she needs personal assistance (PA) support. She requires the power wheelchair and her guide dog to be able to leave her home. In advance of going into hospital she was promised additional PA support hours, which were essential to her recovery from surgery. She was not given these hours. She to go home alone and try to cope with recovery from surgery, her sensory disability and her mobility disability. She kept a video diary of her experiences over the next three to four weeks, beginning the night before she was discharged from hospital. It makes for difficult viewing at times as well as being inspiring and powerful. It is a telling indictment of the Irish healthcare system, services and support for people with disabilities in this country, inequalities, exclusion, political disenfranchisement, and much else besides. Watch it.

Diary of Insufficient Support - Day 0

Diary of Insufficient Support - Day 1

Diary of Insufficient Support - Day 2

I'm not going to embed all the videos here but you can see them all in this playlist:

My Diary of Insufficient Support - playlist

And you can follow her YouTube channel here:

Colleenocasturme on YouTube

It is wrong that she or anyone would have to experience this kind of lack of care. She says it all better than I ever could, and I don't want to speak for her. Hers is a powerful voice. I hope it will be listened to.