Friday, 27 May 2016

The Cope

There wasn't a great deal to do in Dungloe, but I can't say I was ever bored. One evening we walked out to the end of the pier, to see about the possibilities of a good sunset photo. 

We decided we'd need to keep looking, but it was a pleasant walk all the same.

Bill was fascinated by this old hotel. I could see why. I've heard that women fall in love with men for their potential; I am more likely to fall in love with a building for the same reason. In both cases the potential is often more imagined than real.

I didn't know much about Sweeney's Hotel, but I did know about 'The Cope'. This was an important part of County Donegal history when in 1906, Paddy 'The Cope' Gallagher founded the Templecrone Agricultural Cooperative Society. 

This area of Donegal is called "Na Rosas" or "The Rosses", the Irish word for 'headland'. The soil isn't very good at the coast and farming income needed to be supplemented. Local families worked hard to produce textiles and to catch fish. However, transport systems to the market towns in the east part of the county were practically non-existent. Their efforts to make a living were thwarted by the 'middle men' who sold them supplies, such as salt for curing the fish, at high prices, then bought their produce at low prices. They were called 'gombeen men': shady wheeler-dealers who made their profits at the cost of others. The Cooperative gave families an alternative that would represent their interests, as members.  The grandson of Paddy Gallagher also gives himself "The Cope" as a middle name, it likely being useful to his political career, but it seems to me he's riding on coat-tails. Then again, there are so many men by that name in the area it may be the only way to properly identify himself to his constituents.

I did try to buy some shoes in there, but there weren't any employees to be found. It was a bit eerie having a big department store with only a few customers and no staff.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Learning the Language (Not)

We camped for over a week at Dungloe. It's dead easy to find on a map because of Arranmore Island. It was the only caravan site Bill could find in that area and it was fine; very handy for the town. One of my first challenges was to pronounce the name properly. I caused more than a few smiles by saying Dun-GLOW. They say it Dung-LO. Subtle difference, but for them apparently a big one.

Our first morning we visited the tourist information centre which used to be a Catholic church but was now the town library / information centre. One of the ladies there said she was distantly related by marriage to someone by the family name I was after. She said it with a rather strained expression. Turns out he is known for his tall tales, so not perhaps not a great source for genealogical information. She didn't seem to know that family history was a major American hobby or that DNA testing was available. I couldn't imagine I would be the first to inquire about this, but perhaps I was the first in her experience. She did help me out by correcting my pronunciation of Braade: not Braid, but Bradge, rhymes with Madge.

We picked up a few maps with some walking / cycling / driving trails marked, but as for determining distances or reading place names, they weren't very helpful. They didn't think they had an Ordnance Survey map, though on a later visit we found they did. Still not as complete as one would wish. I would be armed with Google Maps and Google Earth if I were to try navigating there again. That's the map on which I could find Rannyhual.

However, we were pretty safe walking up and down Main Street in DungLo. I spotted a craft shop called The Erratic Makers, named for the erratic boulders that are fairly common in the area. Bill explained this term to me, but I looked up again:

A glacial erratic is a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. "Erratics" take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres.

You would know one if you saw it - just a huge rock sticking up in an odd place. Bill liked to call them 'erotic boulders', but there isn't anything sexy about them. And so I took no photos.

Yes, my dear husband, being his usual erratic self.

Perhaps the craft shop would improve their business with that subtle name change (though I did my best there to contribute to the local economy before we left). 

The art nouveau style window caught my eye.

I photographed this building because I thought it very handsome, no improvements necessary. Bill thought the owner might be a bit confused, the pub being called Patrick Johnny Sally, but no doubt it all makes perfect sense to an Irishman.

Smoke from a peat fire.

We wandered in one evening after dinner and discovered a great place to photograph sunsets, from the balcony at the back. We met some people from Dublin back visiting their home town and that was where I learned how to pronounce their name: not Gallagrrr, GallaHER. Clearly I just think I know how to pronounce words...

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Ahoghill and Beyond

So, we caught the ferry the next afternoon. I felt like an old hand at this given the number of trips we'd made over to the Continent, but this was different.

For one, the journey was only a couple of hours and for two, loads of Irish accents on board! Thirdly the engine died at one point, which was slightly worrying, but it all worked out. What I hadn't planned was lunch. Big mistake. 

We had one of the worst lunches I can remember: lasagna, cabbage, carrots, garlic dough balls and chips. I don't know why I let Bill lead me into these things. He walks and runs for miles and miles and I do not. Men burn more calories than women. I'm mostly sedentary with bursts of enthusiasm followed by long periods of recovery. In preparing for our return journey he did ask me to 'save' him from the lasagna so, thankfully, we didn't repeat that experience. 

Not the church we were looking for.

Anyhow, we landed at Larne and drove to Ahoghill, just the other side of Ballymena. (We have Ballymena to thank for actor Liam Neeson; and apparently for John Wayne too, as his great-great grandfather emigrated from there in 1801). 

I noticed there are loads of Irish place names that start with 'Bally' names. I was wondering about the old fashioned slang 'bally', a euphymism for the British swear word 'bloody'. Bill wondered about it being form of 'bailey' which is the outer wall of a castle. However, according to this website, bally is Irish for 'place of'... and Ballymena is the 'middle town' or something. Anyhow, it was Ahogill I was interested to see, it being the place where some of my great-great grandparents married, there in County Antrim. They also emigrated to Dalry in Scotland. 

Ahoghill is not pronounced 'a hog hill' but aaHOGle, like this. I will probably always fondly mis-pronounce it, but I thought it only polite to know better in front of the natives.  Apparently this word has something to do with Yew Trees and the town itself has decided it was the "Ford of the Yew Trees" - or a shallow place in a river near some yews. And I'm guessing it would be the River Maine. 

We looked all over for the Catholic church, but it was nowhere to be found, not even on Church Road. I should have written down the address more carefully, but I was focusing on a different branch of the family over in Donegal for this trip. My main impression of Ahoghill was how prosperous it looked and how many new-looking houses there were. Clearly the English town planning system (rows of identical houses all facing the same way) doesn't take precedence in Northern Ireland and it was much more attractive for it.

They paint the sheep to keep track of the mating programme.

I was generally pleased with what I was seeing, but it didn't feel right: the sun was shining and that makes everything different. I'm used to seeing Ireland greener than green under grey skies. That blue seemed a bit off, but the temperature was a very pleasing 80-something and I wasn't going to complain about not being wet and cold!

I merrily snapped photos to prove that the sun does shine in Ireland and to document our trip. I took several of road signs highlighting 'Ahoghill' but I'll spare you those. We were across County Antrim and the next one (Derry or Londonderry, depending upon your politics; I'll just call it the middle county).

I recognized this church from the book I read earlier this year An Historical, Environmental and Cultural Atlas of County Donegal. (Yes, I did read it and thoroughly enjoyed it). Not to my taste but folks around there seem to like it, which is what matters.

Then we found ourselves in a different kind of terrain and I began to understand how the west part of Donegal is so different to the east. 

I noticed the difference on Google Earth when I linked to the ferry crossing yesterday. West Donegal isn't that green; it is more brown and grey, but with the bluest lakes I've ever seen. 

I'd read a whole Atlas about the place, but I was still astonished when I saw it for myself.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

On the Way to Donegal

We're just returned from our first holiday this year: we spent two weeks on the north west coast of Ireland, in County Donegal. I was going there to look at the place my Irish ancestors left in the 1840's when they emigrated to the West of Scotland. I hoped I would find out a lot more about them, but knew it was unlikely because most of the Irish records were destroyed either in their war of independence or in the civil war that followed. Still, I'm very pleased we went. Bill has always been a bit dubious about the wisdom of a Brit travelling to Northern Ireland, but we had zero bad experiences and found all the Irish people we met to be extremely pleasant.

This involved driving up to catch the ferry at Cairnryan (used to be at Stranrar) from Scotland to Larne, on the east coast of Ireland. We broke our drive somewhere on the coast of southwest Scotland in Galloway. We've joked that if Britain decides to leave the EU then surely Scotland will have another referendum and vote for independence. Then we would have an excuse to move to the southwest coast of Scotland, which is incredibly beautiful and seems to have better weather than we do in the northeast of England. Something about the Gulf Stream I've never got the gist of. 

The campsite was miles from anywhere and there wasn't much to do except walk on the beach and investigate the building (a farm house as it turned out) around the corner. 

An entirely pleasant way to spend the evening.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Granny Square Addiction

I've discovered my real passion for using yarn (they call it 'wool' over here, even if it's acrylic...I like my term better) is not knitting, but crochet. Specifically granny squares, which are far easier to do in front of the telly because you aim for the spaces, not for the stitches, at least most of the time.

Given that my source of yarn is a knitting group that gets donations of yarn collected by the local Rotary club, it helps if you can use small scraps and this is one of the gifts of granny squares. 

Even while I'm working on one I find myself planning the next! I mainly think of colour combinations I want to use. I make all the centres of the 12 squares then I do the next row of each and so on, as this makes for the most uniform design and I can select thinner or thicker yarns as needed. If I have a very large supply of one sort of yarn it makes things much simpler, but those aren't quite as much fun.

It was a long time before I felt happy taking yarn, my sweaters were so slow in the making I had nothing to show for what I took. Not so with granny square throws. They are small - only about 3 x 4 feet - but then this group knits for babies and children, so that seems appropriate. Just working on them in front of the telly a few evenings a week I can churn one out about every fortnight (two weeks).

I never thought something with as many holes it would be warm, but I've learned they are, as my creations keep me cozy while I work on them. 

And this last throw - obviously not granny squares - I made somewhere back in the 1980s, I think. I've never used it much, never even finished it properly by trimming the ends. It just gathered dust in the attic and I decided it was time to pass it along. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Home Fires Theme Song

Home Fires is a dramatic series (OK, soap) set in a Cheshire village during WWII. The main characters are members of the Women's Institute, which is why I started watching it. Now in the second series I'm not sure it has much to do with the WI any longer but, too late, I'm hooked.

No idea if it is available in the US yet but if it comes to your area I recommend watching it, at least once. In the meantime, enjoy the theme song.


It's written by Samuel Sim. The artists are vocalists Heather Cairncross, Ioanna Forbes L'Estrange, Rachel Weston and Grace Davidson. Chris Richards (clarinet), Ileana Ruhemann (flute) and Caroline Dale (cello).

This music has grabbed me almost as much as the TV show.

Monday, 25 April 2016

This Year's Stack

Inspired several years ago by LR at Magnificent or Egregious, I started posting about the books I got for Christmas. I'd meant to do so back in January and so set them up and snapped a photo, then another that was a bit straighter. The only two photos I took in January 2016. Amazing.

So here they are:

The Sustainable Fashion Handbook, Sandy Black. Haven't read it yet. I'm hoping it will inspire me as much as a book I saw everywhere a few years ago, but can't find now. It was about how clothing designers were finding ways to reuse textiles or design for zero waste. 

An Historical, Environmental and Cultural Atlas of County Donegal, Jim MacLaughlin and Sean Beattie. A wonderful book that covers so much I feel I've already been to Donegal. I admit to skipping the chapters about glaciers and geology; I simply don't have the vocabulary to understand it. But I read every other word from front to back, making frequent reference to the map showing towns. If I manage to keep at this blogging lark I'll no doubt have more to say about this!

Women in my Rose Garden, Ann Chapman. Started on this but wasn't grabbed. Will have another go. I think I thought I would learn something practical about roses, but my initial impression is that it is a collection of stories about the women for whom roses were named. 

Quilted Bags and Totes, Denise Clayson. A gift from Vivien! I've not tried quilting yet, but I think it would be an interesting addition to the scrappy bags I love to make.

Sew Useful, Debby Shore. This got passed around the craft group one evening and I snapped a photo so I could put it on my wishlist. Several projects in there I want to try.

Snobbery, Joseph Epstein. Dipped into this but haven't found it fascinating. As far as I read I didn't learn anything new about the class system in America. Will go at it again, but I'm thinking it holds not even a matchstick compared with Paul Fussell's book.

The Hands-On Home, Erica Strauss. I've long enjoyed Erica's blog, Northwest Edible Life. I latched onto this thinking that gardening in Seattle might be similar to here in NorthEast England. That may or may not be true. Having read through this book several times, what I've worked out that is NOT similar is my supply of energy. I was never the homesteader type to begin with, but there are still any number of great ideas in here - and it's not just a repeat of her blog as far as I can tell, which is impressive.

Gardening for a Lifetime, Sydney Eddison. I was hoping there would be some magic solution to my laziness / ignorance / dislike of cold / increasing age. This is more a book about her specific garden and about all the paid and volunteer helpers she had over the years. I gleaned two ideas from this. One is to plant bushes, not flowers. The other was a specific recommendation for plants that have great colours year round. I will be looking out for that. And I've got the name and number of a friend's gardener.

Fabric Flowers, Kate Haxell. This is another book that went around the craft group. Not sure I'll manage to make any flowers, but perhaps this is an idea for our WI craft group. Will have to have a go.

Flapper, Joshua Zeitz. A fabulous book about not just 'flappers' but women of the early 19th century, a snapshot of social history. I felt as though I was reading about my maternal Grandmother, who was an enigma to anyone who knew her. Bill enjoyed reading this book as well.

Gregor the Overlander series, Suzanne Collins. Since I totally love the Hunger Games series I decided to try these other books. I never thought I would enjoy a book whose characters were rats, cockroaches and other species I generally avoid, but I did. And so did Bill. 

The Snowball - Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, Alice Schroeder. A very large book, but incredibly readable. I enjoyed the book because it was about mid-America during my lifetime and it opened my eyes to any number of financial goings on that never blipped my radar at the time. The short version is that Buffett owes his success to having a hateful mother and being extremely boring.

The Secret Rooms, Catherine Bailey. About the Dukes of Rutland, in particular the 9th one who lived around the time of WWI. I'd not ever caught up with the Rutlands (or realised that Belvoir Castle is pronounced Beaver). I had seen the present Duchess of Rutland on the telly with Alan Titchmarsh (a gardner whose made it big) about the landscape of Belvoir. I liked it a lot for the history and the time period, for its despicable / pathetic / mysterious characters, and the insight into how the writer worked on this book. Bill enjoyed it as well, though he got quite exasperated with some of the characters. Sometimes having a hateful mother can be one's downfall as well as one's saviour.

The Pauper's Homemaking Book, Jocasta Innes. Haven't read this yet, but I shall shortly. Simon gave me this for Christmas but reminded me it was on my Amazon wishlist so I shouldn't be insulted. I just laughed at him. I doubt Bill's kids will ever understand the concept of tightwaddery.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo. I've been curious about this for a while, having read snippets from other blogs, etc. I felt as though I were visiting another culture, her outlook is so different to mine. There are some good ideas in here about folding things in drawers...things that don't wrinkle that is. I don't really wish to anthropomorphize my possessions and I'm not sure I understand her definition of 'joy'. I agree that a lot of paper work bring the opposite of anyone's idea of joy, but throwing it all away is a catastrophically bad idea and I hope no one is foolish enough to follow that advice. I plan to make a few notes and then pass the book along so it can bring 'joy' to someone else.

Aprons and Silver Spoons, Mollie Moran. I read this even before 2015 was over and really enjoyed it. Whether I needed to own it is perhaps another question. Our libraries have downsized in recent years, selling off much of the stock that would have interested me. I've bought books for £1 that I don't really have space for because I didn't want to see them disappear before I'd had a chance to read them. I will pick this one up again and if I enjoy it as much the second time, it stays. Otherwise I need the space. I don't remember many of the details, but remember I pictured Rose Leslie, the actress who played Gwen the housemaid-who-became-a-secretary in Downton Abbey.