Beautiful Berries

It was a day for the garden in this neck of the woods. Nothing too strenous, mind. Just plucking pounds and pounds of berries.

Yes, the Chook House garden has the most amazing crop of blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries, this year. The elderflower isn’t such an odd fellow in the whole mix as I tied up a bunch of them in muslin and cooked them up with the blackcurrants.

There’s a mighty good bunch of blooms on the elder tree too, so I’m thinking that this might be the year that I finally get around to making elderberry wine. Teen Son is very keen to help…

Pots of blackcurrant and gooseberry jam are stowed away now, ready to unleash their plump sweetness in the depths of winter. Redcurrant jam or jelly to follow.

Meanwhile, I am high on vitamins having stuffed myself with berries today. And high on a parkrun time which saw me, by dint of clever planning and race strategy, beating last week’s time….by twenty five seconds!

Hmmmm, maybe I should just stick to gardening and jam making….

Juneathon 28 Mileage: 3.2
Juneathon Total:82.02

Barack Obama Plaza. No Kidding.


Barack Obama Plaza sign

Barack Obama Plaza, Co. Offaly, Ireland. No, I couldn’t believe it either.

Spying the billboard on the Dublin-Limerick motorway last Friday, I simply had to investigate.

I was, of course, in Moneygall, Co. Offaly.  Just three years ago, on a blustery day in May, President Barack Obama and the First Lady arrived in the little village of Moneygall to acknowledge the President’s Irish ancestry.

We know him as Obama but, of course, he’s really a Kearney from Co. Offaly. And we Irish will do anything to proclaim the great and powerful as one of our own.

Long, long ago, when I was young, I recall a sign emblazoned on County Galway pub declaring that President Kennedy had visited there. The sign stayed decades after the President had left and indeed, as we say here in Ireland, had gone to his reward.

I had often wondered, then, what kind of people would divert down a road to follow a sign declaring the merest hint of a presence of a former President.

Well, now I was one of them.

Only this time, there wasn’t just a sign…

Barack Obama Plaza

…there was a petrol station complete with vast forecourt, and a variety of takeaways, including the largest Supermacs takeaway in Ireland.

Mr. Supermac himself, had built it. That’s Pat McDonough, a Galway man, who had started out with a chip shop and a dream and now has a chain of takeaways around the country.

And, to underscore the American theme, there this, the quintessential American car.


I wondered what President Obama would make of it all?

One might expect a person of his stature to settle for a finely chiselled sculpting. Or a plaque on his ancestral homestead. Or even Obama Street. But, a petrol forecourt?

Back in 1970s Ireland, John Travolta called out to us through the rain and wind and bog. He wandered around a drive-through theatre all slicked back hair and gleaming teeth of him, crying for his Sandy. We saw all the shiny cars and the almost felt the balminess of that night air which plainly spoke of endless proper summers and teenagers unfettered by parents, nosey biddies down the road, or lack of money. Oh! we wanted to be there.

The closest we got was to the neon lights of Supermac’s takeaway, bashfully-and speechlessly-eyeing our latest crush over curried chips. It was the highlight of our week.

Replete with a choice of takeaways, fuel dispensaries and easy access for the motoring population, Barack Obama Plaza embodies of a lifestyle of great ease, a lifestyle that anyone could aspire to. It is a testament to the American Dream.

Thirty five years later, and I am reliably informed that Obama Plaza has is a destination of choice for the bored  youth of Offaly, Tipperary and Limerick.

Youth will often want to be somewhere other than their present location.  Faraway hills positively glisten with promise and all sorts of elixirs lurk at the end of the rainbow. Obama Plaza fulfils such dreams The sheer spread of concrete and tar, the glisten of shiny reinforced plastic and of metal is the antithesis of bogland Offaly. And it is important that it is.

This is a little piece of America, designed to lure all sorts of gods and goddesses, hopes and dreams. Who knows who might tumble down the motorway, sweep by the Cadillac and order a Mighty Mac? And what possibilities lie beyond the bog and field and boundaries of your childhood?

Maybe, with a little extra detailing, you’ve shined up the chrome on your 1999 Toyota and are out to impress your auburn haired college-going girlfriend? Wouldn’t this be the place to be? You might even manage a little conversation between your steak sandwich and Mighty Milkshake. You might even talk of other shores, better wages, fulfilling bigger dreams. Or you might simply watch the rain trickling down on your windscreen yet again and dream of endless summers in warmer climes. And you may settle, once again, for grass and bog and rain.

President Obama is probably thrilled to have his name to such a place. And isn’t it far better than a homemade roadsign proclaiming that he had passed this way? And isn’t he all about hope and aspiration and, as he proclaimed himself in Moneygall that fateful day “Is féidir linn!” (“Yes, we can!”)

I stood in Obama Plaza though I didn’t bother driving through to order a Mighty Mac or even curried chips. I am more of the nosey biddy now, the observer, watching young people and their shenanigans.

I still have dreams, of course, though they are different now  from those of my youth. I’ve grown to like the bog and the fields and even, sometimes, the rain. I like it enough to feel a judder of disquiet when cast amid a sea of concrete, tar and metal.

But I know that hope is vital. And so is aspiration. And better still, is believing that we can make our dreams a reality.

Like building a seven million euro plaza in the middle of a nowhere.

Or believing that one can lead a whole country.

Or even conjuring up a lover over curried chips.

Yes, we can! Is féidir linn!





The Regency Garden, Bunratty Folk Park

The bad news? I have fallen off the Juneathon bandwagon. The good news? I landed in Limerick.

Oh, and I have a plan for catching up with the rest of the Juneathon field.

Yes, I am still in Limerick for the purposes of this post. Or actually, just outside of the city in Co. Clare and I am back in  the superb Bunratty Folk Park.

This time, I am looking at some of the fantastic floral displays in the place, particularly in the Regency Garden there. It really is a breathtaking spot. A warm breeze was sweeping through there when we visited last Thursday, carrying the heavenly scents of jasmine and roses.

It was an invitation to look and linger, which we gladly accepted.

When I think of Regency, I am always reminded of Jane Austen. Assuming the planting of this garden is faithful to 1820s Britain, it is easy to imagine Austen’s cotery of characters rambling around this beautiful walled garden.

Three of the plants came from outside the garden-that’s the striped rose, the fushcia and the deep pink rose. They’re all from other parts of the folk park. Though I expect the foxglove and deep pink rose are typical of 1820s Britain, I am not sure about the candy striped rose. It was too beautiful to leave out, however.

There were no labels with these plants and so, I am at a loss for names. I yield to the greater expertise of my readers on this one. I’ve numbered them instead, and  be thrilled if you could name any of them for me.

Juneathon mileage in Bunratty Folk Park? I have no idea. I didn’t run around it though. It was more of a slow amble to savour the whole place.

But I did run on Wednesday. Just three miles.  And I had another nice amble around Limerick city yesterday, of which, more anon.

Juneathon Mileage Wednesday: Three miles

Juneathon Mileage to Date:55.14miles

Plans to catch up: On my Bike

Edited 22nd June: With Thanks to Hedwiga and Katie for helping identify the plants. And to Paige for trying!

Now, can anyone help name those plants, please?

Bunratty Folk Park

My sister and I took a ramble down memory lane yesterday in Bunratty Folk Park, Co. Clare. The ghosts of our parents and grandparents accompanied us. Along with the contents of twenty tourist buses.

As the tourists spilled merrily out along the meandering paths and cottages, we suspected both The Quiet Man and homesick forebears informed a more romantic view of their Ireland.

Thatching the fisherman's cottage

Smoke rises from the chimney, as the thatcher tends to his labours. The woman of the house is at home and has soda bread baking in the baker on the hearth.Oh to own a little houseMy father often spoke of the baker. It’s the little black pot to the front of the hearth in this picture. You may even make out the embers on top of the lid and surrounding the pot. The woman of the house informed us that it takes about an hour and a half to bake the soda bread in this way,

Our grandmothers both had very large families and farmwork to attend to. So, when we followed the woman out of the house on into the dairy it was another vaguely familiar scene from out childhood. One of our grandmother’s had a dairy too, and both grandmothers made their own butter.

In the dairy dairy

They also made the clothes for their families. The Singer sewing machine was a standard piece of furniture from my father’s childhood.

Sewing machine

As indeed, were pictures, and occasionally statues, of the Sacred Heart.

The amount of religious iconography as displayed in all of the Irish Catholic homes in Bunratty is just astonishing. But my sister and I agree that it was very typical  right up until the 1980s in very many Irish homes.

Bedroom Bedroom 2


And, while bedrooms might look like cosy features in this little houses, they were frequently damp, always overcrowded. Our mother often recalled sleeping head to tail with her four sisters in one bed.

Mind you, all five sisters were great talkers too, so I can’t see how they ever managed to get much sleep.

There is a carefully reconstructed village in the Folk Park. Complete with drapery and hardware shops…


Village stores

…a doctor’s house…

..Doctors house


..a pub…MacNamaras

..the home of the Hughes’ brothers who founded the HB ice-cream company…

Hughes Brothers House

…and the ubiquitous black Nelly which everyone aspired to owning in the 1930s Ireland.


I’ve had my own adventures on one of those bikes.

And more somber times seated at school desks similar to this one. In our day, a little white ceramic inkwell sat inside the brass holder, while our nibs rested in the wooden groove across the top of the desk.Desk

And the fact that we can recall that, made my sister and I feel very old indeed.

Oh, it is wonderful to rove around Memory Lane. The tourists we met had a delighted curiosity about it all, but we were close enough to it to know that they were tough times for very many people and the Ireland of today is a kinder place.

Though some would disagree…

“Ah, haven’t we lost a lot in this little country of ours.  We had nothing long ago but at least we were happy. We’ve none of that now, and no sense of community any more.”

The man was in his fifties and seemed was evidently  unsettled by his perambulations through the past.  Sister and glanced at each other and shook our heads. Maybe men had an easier time back then, though it’s difficult to be sure from our perspective.

The Folk Park had given us a chance to piece together a little but more of our grandmother’s daily lives.  We both agreed that it was a constant struggle for women in Ireland of yore. It’s easy to forget that amid the peaceful pastoral scenes of Bunratty Folk Park.

We so, we tumbled out of the Folk Park, thrilled with our journey, grateful to our forebears, and relieved to be living in 21st century Ireland.