Monday, 17 April 2017

EASTER: PLANT SOME NEW LIFE.



                             My bid to make Easter about more than the chocolate

I FEEL there must be quite a strong urban-rural divide when it comes to feasts like Christmas and Easter.

More so when you consider farming. Despite the fact that it's dying out a bit in Ireland, there's still a fair amount of farming on this island.

Because even though people, no matter what their background, usually have more in common than not, it's hard to imagine too many farmers, painstakingly hanging dozens of decorative eggs on the tree in their garden. I could be wrong.


Farming has changed, of course. As a child, I got to spend a fortnight each Summer, sharing a massive old farm house in Cork with two other families - one of whom owned the house and worked the farm.

They strut around the garden, bullying the dog

They were the days before health and safety regulations tied us all up in knots, and when I wasn't digging sandcastles on the local beach with brothers and cousins, I was messing about a farmyard with the farmer's children.


But it's the closest I've come to real rural living. Ever.

And as I was buying a shoulder of lamb for the meal this year, it struck me how much of a disconnect there is between the farmer breeding those animals, and somebody like me buying the cut of meat at my local butcher's.


I'm not sentimental. We don't eat huge amounts of meat, but we are all happy omnivores.


But despite my city background, I know enough to realise how little I know about the realities of life at the other end of the food chain.

Which is probably why, as I get a bit older, I find myself wondering if I should make a bit more effort to grow some food.

Note I said, grow some food. Not keep animals. Friends of ours keep laying hens in their suburban garden. They have names like Flossie and Henrietta, and when they are not in their enclosure, they strut around the garden, bullying the dog, or wander into the kitchen for a look around. I'm not quite ready for that.

I don't want to boast, but I am a brilliant dandelion grower

But in years gone past, we have grown tomatoes and strawberries and raspberries on our patio. We went a bit overboard with the tomatoes, and because they were all the same variety, they all ripened at the same time.

I grew very creative. Short of bottling them - I have my limits - we ate them with everything. I think of that year as my Italian Summer.

Another year we tried to grow potatoes down the end of the garden, and dubbed them surprise potatoes, because it was a surprise when we found one.

And I swore I'd never grow broccoli again, when the slugs grew fat on them.

It's tempting to imagine though, that with a bit of work, I could grow a few easy things. Onions, maybe. Lettuce.

I was thrilled to read that dandelions are completely edible. Packed with Vitamin C, they can be washed and scattered through your salad. I don't want to boast, but I am a brilliant dandelion grower. 

And we still have rocket growing wild on our doorstep, after we planted it two years ago!

I also thought I had mint, and chopped up a bunch of leaves to fragrance the jug of drinking water on the table, at a recent dinner with friends.

It was only afterwards that I discovered that the huge plant was actually a huge - though harmless - weed.

It's not the only weed I haven't tackled: we have giant planters that once sported shrubs and flowers. They are currently a mess, but perfect for small-scale herb and vegetable growing, and less daunting than a full vegetable patch.  

So as I nibble on a chocolate egg this Easter, I know this year, I will again strive, in my own small way, to connect at a very basic level, with our food.

Cáisc shona dhiabh.*

                                                     *



*Happy Easter.

Dear reader,

Warm welcome from Dublin this Easter. 
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Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. Sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.

Monday, 3 April 2017

TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH: INSTRUCTIONS INCLUDED



                                           The big day: couples have a catalogue of choice.                                 



AN IRISH couple recently exchanged their wedding vows in Dublin's Ikea.

There, in that vast cathedral of beautiful beds, colourful couches and flat-packed bookshelves, they stood in front of their closest family and friends, the store staff and a vast TV audience, and professed their love, devotion and promises, to assemble forever, together.

The venue for such a special occasion is the ultimate expression of reality TV, not to mention the result of leaving a vastly important decision entirely to the groom.

The Ikea couple were contestants on Don't Tell The Bride


And before everyone jumps up and down in indignation, at my apparent sexism, let me point out a couple of things.

1. Most men, are to my mind, fabulous, wonderful, caring, strong, problem-solving, supportive people. I am married to one.

2. In a million years, I would not have let him choose where and how we exchanged our wedding vows. It has to be a joint decision.

The Ikea couple were contestants on the popular Irish reality TV show, Don't Tell The Bride. The bride in question (I feel so bad, calling her the Ikea bride), apparently expressed a long-held wish to wed in a castle. Enough said.

I'm trying not to be too prescriptive. When I married 24 years ago (what can I say? I married VERY young ;) it was a traditional church wedding.

The kind of wedding that most couples in Ireland had at that time. Those who didn't want a church wedding, got married in a registry office.

What we don't do...is hand over control for our big day to the groom


Now, thanks to more relaxed rules, state ceremonies don't have to be in an office. They can be in beautiful places like castles and public gardens.

We're still not at the stage where couples can marry in their own garden, or on a beach. Although admittedly, it's hard to see many opting for an Irish beach. Which are beautiful in a kind of wild and wind-swept way.  

But what we don't do - and I'm talking about women - is hand over complete control for our big day to the groom.

Apart from the fact that he has splendid speeches and mad moves on the dance floor to worry about, the Ikea wedding proves that men are not entirely clued into romantic venues.

I'm open to the possibility that the Ikea bride really likes Ikea

Probably because until most men actually decide to marry, they haven't given their wedding a single thought.

Most women, on the other hand - and certainly once they've decided to marry - give it a lot of thought.


They want it to be special. And generally not in an oh-my-God-they've-an-amazing-special-on-cushions-and-throws, as they walk up the aisle.


Let's leave the whole life-long walking-up-the-aisle-in-a-castle-dream, aside for now. I'm open to the possibility that the Ikea bride really likes Ikea. And you know, maybe the lovely Ikea people threw in those fab Swedish meatballs for their wedding feast.

Ikea is unlike most other big stores: it's a destination. When the Dublin store opened a few years ago, I paid a visit. Maybe two. I loved what they sell. What's not to love? You can furnish your whole house and buy cool Swedish food all under the one roof.

But once you're there, it's hard to leave. I was there for half a day: that's how long it took me to find my way out of the place.

Yes, I do have an appalling sense of direction. But I digress. 

If I were that gorgeous Ikea bride, I'd be planning my first wedding anniversary now: a romantic weekend away in a beautiful Irish castle.

My advice, for what it's worth: Don't tell the groom.


                                                                                    *

 Dear reader,

Big welcome from Dublin, and thanks a million for popping by.
Please SHARE this column via the sharing buttons below.

Why not become a FOLLOWER of this blog? When I get 50 followers, I'll draw out all the names from a hat, and gift an e-copy of my book, through Amazon, to 3 winners. Or you can nominate a friend to receive it instead.  
Feel free to drop by NIUME where my blog is syndicated.

If you'd like to get THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every fortnight, go to the Follow by Email box at the top right of the page.

   1. NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Check out the witty Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type. Sample chapters/buy links @ Tirgearr Publishing

Have a lovely week, 
Hugs & xx
Sharon.