childhood home

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Back in May I was over in Germany for a few visits and family functions. While I was there I stayed a few nights with my godmother in the house I lived in as a child. From the ages 10 to 17 I lived in a small village up near the North Sea, across the road from farms and with an orchard and a tiny wood in the back. A curly haired girl, barefoot and in a skirt, who dreamed of living in the city while picking apples.

Spending time in my childhood home was a wonderfully strange and somewhat magical experience and I have the photos to prove it:

85 gate shutter flowers bluebench poppy door flute bench apple pot horses flieder fliederbusch house wateringcan2 treetrunk wood tree woods

the cost of water – single renters are paying the bulk

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For years Irish households have been paying a tax for water and waste but now the Government has decided that is not enough and has created a new water and waste tax per household.

The discussion about this new water tax has been in and out of the media over the last few years but in five months time, when 2014 turns to 2015, it will become reality.

Today figures were released on what water will now cost and of course it is about 20% more than the Government said it would be back in April, steep inflation if you ask me.

A single household will now be paying a yearly fee of €176, about €14.67 a month, to use the tap to wash, flush and drink. This breaks down to about half a cent per liter ,you use about ten to just flush the toilet, when calculated on an average usage of 52,000 liters per single household a year.

What is surprising however is that it isn’t calculated per person as a two person household cost €278, just €102 more. Why that is is unclear, as two people, generally speaking shower twice, flush twice, have twice the amount of washing, drink twice a s much and have twice as many dishes. So why isn’t it double the cost, why do singles pay €76 more?

Children go free, as the Government says they will cover their costs, but that money is really only coming from the taxes, meaning the extra €76 paid by single occupants. Of course the cost for children is probably calculated into the €102 paid to cover any additional adult in a household, but it is clearly not nearly as much as the singles are paying extra.

Occupants do have the option to install meters, this means they will be charged on a consumption-basis.  But for many areas  this isn’t easily done, due to old  pluming and architectural issues, and most landlords won’t want to spend the cost of installing them into homes they are not living in.

This means that if you are a singleton who rents you will be paying nearly 70% more a year just to use the tap.

water

 

walking barefoot

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sand

One thing I love about the warm weather is walking around barefoot, I love feeling grass below my soles,  sand between my toes and dipping those digits into water. Just allowing my feet to breath and be free makes me happy.

Feet are created over thousands of years to walk barefoot, so when we wear shoes, no matter how comfortable are well constructed, you are encasing your feet and restricting them. Muscles that were designed specifically for walking aren’t being used properly and our toes are completely ignored. Shoes may support the bridge of our feet and our ankles, but in the process our muscles don’t develop the way the were meant to and because most shoes have heals (no matter how high) it effects the way we roll our feet when walking. And of course shoes can’t bend and shape themselves around the surfaces we step on, making us trip and stumble.

However when we allow our feet to ,literally, run free we are doing exactly what nature intended, our toes become an important piece of equipment, curling around and digging into surfaces, allowing us to keep our balance and use neglected muscles.

But we live in a society in which walking around barefoot all day isn’t the done thing and with our streets filled with gum, glass and regular dirt it probably isn’t very healthy either. And of course another downside to walking barefoot is the build up of callouses and thick skin, not always a pretty sight no matter how much nail varnish you pile on.

But at home, in the garden, parks and on the beach the joy of going barefoot is not only a wonderfully freeing experience but a healthy option and I can only recommend it. And if you who love the sensation and freedom of going shoeless summer is the time to indulge.

 

 

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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XXX GUARDIANS-GALAXY-MOV-JY-0704.JPG A ENTLaunched in 1969 in the January issue of ‘Marvel Super-Heroes’ Guardians of the Galaxy has been reinvented several times over the decades. This summer director/writer James Gunn and Marvel Studios bring the motley crew of intergalactic misfits back to the big screen with a brilliant 80s soundtrack in tow.

In a universe far, far away treasure hunter Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, (Chris Pratt) hops from planet to planet scavenging for loot and dancing (literally) his way through life. Mentally, and dance move wise, stuck back in the 80s he justifies his wayward and selfish behaviour on the fact that he was abducted from earth as boy.

But when he stumbles on a mysterious orb the true adventure begins as it puts him in the crosshairs of the feared Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and the fanatic Ronan (Lee Pace). Soon he has a whole slew of interstellar bounty hunters on his heels, one is even his ‘mentor’ the bandit Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker).

Of course Quill isn’t left to defend himself, and the galaxy, on his own and finds help in the most unlikely, and strangest, of guises: the stunningly red Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) a cross between the Hulk and Forest Gump, a hyper genetically engineered raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the gentle living tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).

Saving the orb is their main job but things are never simple, so with a sturdy walkman and a tape filled with 80s classics the Guardians dance and quip their way out of any danger hurdling towards them.

Guardians of the Galaxy is another Marvel movie that relies on clever writing and big effects. However why Gunn uses 3D is a questionable as he doesn’t really utilise it, however this may be a good thing as the fast-paced filming works better without.

Pratt is well cast as the self-obsessed, but loveable rouge, Quill, aka Star-Lord, and his dancing and love for all things 80s gives Guardians of the Galaxy a much needed infusion of originality.

Saldana is a tightly leather clad nerds wet dream, however she is a little bit bland even if red. But the secret hero of the film is Groot, even if Vin Diesel really doesn’t have much to say.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun-filled film, predictable but entertaining and brimming with visual oddities and auditory delights.

 

 

 

 

dark chocolate and cherry jam

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blackchocolate  and cherriesThis morning when I came down into the kitchen I was greeted by a beautiful sight: a row of eight jars filled with sticky sweet jammy goodness shimmering in the morning sun.

The other day my big sister called me to tell me about a jam she had just made and told me I had to try it out. So being the good little sister that I am, I followed her lead and made a batch yesterday evening. And my big sister was right, it is absolutely scrumptious.

Like most jams it was fairly simple to make, the only thing that took a little while was getting rid of the cherry pips. But once I had about a kilo (about 35ounces or 2.2 pounds) all I needed to do was put the whole lot in a big pot, add jam sugar (according to what the packet told me to do) and stirr.

When the cherries were nice and soft I used my hand held blender to make sure no big bits of cherry were left. And then, finally, I added the special ingredients: Dark Chocolate. I used the type that had a very high percentage of cocoa (mine had 80% but I am sure it would work with a smaller number too). When I dropped the pieces into the mix the smell was intoxicating, the aroma of melting chocolate mixed with sweet cherries filled my home and I couldn’t help but do an excited little dance while stirring the dark red yumminess.

Once I had let the jam boil for the required time I scooped the ruby red jam into clean jars (I always rinse mine out with boiling water), sealed them with lids and turned them on their heads to set (my mum always does it this way to create a vacuum). Of course I had a sneaky lick the spoon when all was done and mix of cherries and chocolate is truly delicious, turning my morning toast into a delectable treat.

 

 

 

small moments

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windowsill flower

Yesterday I spotted a tiny flower growing on a windowsill. It had somehow found a tiny crack, enough to allow it’s roots to take. It was delicate and fragile but looked happy basking in the sun, a minute purple flower soaking up the rays. As I got as close as I could, aimed my camera and took a photo, I started to think about the importance of small things.

We all have photo albums filled with special events and big occasions, visual aids to remind us of those significant days in our lives. But we rarely capture those quite, small moments that happen every day along the way.

The morning sun shining on the breakfast table illuminating the left over crumbs of a delicious croissant. That content feeling when you curl your naked toes into the warm summer grass. The smell and feel of freshly laundered sheets. The cheeky finger lick of cake batter that no one was meant to see. A thankful smile of a  stranger when you give up your seat for them on the bus. That moment of pure relaxation when your head hits the pillow and you don’t need to get up again. The satisfaction of buying new pens and notepads for the new school year. The ecstatic joy of finding a pair of jeans that just fit perfectly (possibly the hardest thing to achieve).

Our lives are made up of an array of small moments, tiny increments of time, short stories told in seconds. Most of them we forget or overlook, focusing too much on the big events that mark time passing. But maybe, like the tiny flower on the windowsill, if we just let our roots take hold in all the small crevices we see, perhaps we’ll find a lot more beautiful flowers along the way. And if we are really lucky, one of those small moments might just turn into a big one

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together

Vincent Van Gogh

Film Review: Earth to Echo

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Film Title: Earth To EchoDirectors Dave Green’s first feature film Earth to Echo is a Sci-Fi potpourri of 80s classics: A little bit of E.T., some Stand by Me, and a dash of Short Circuit all scrambled up together.

Three best friends Alex (Teo Halm), Astro (Tuck, as Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) are faced with family moves. The town they grew up in is facing destruction to make way for a new road.

But while the parents are packing up the bits and bobs of their lives something strange starts to happen, mobile phones are acting up and only the boys seem to figure out that there is a message hidden in the scramble.

Determined to find out what is happing they grab their bikes and following the signal head out into the Nevada desert. Hear they find a broken alien robot Echo, a cross between EVE (from the 2008 WALL-E) and a mechanical, blue glowing owl.

It soon becomes clear that Echo needs help to be able to self-repair and go home, so the three boys pop him in a bag and cycle wherever he leads, scary men in black vans always in pursuit. Along the way the pick up scrap metal, cogs, appliances and their pretty classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) and the true adventure begins.

The story is an old faithful, a touching tale about true friendship, first love and helping each other. But sadly it isn’t really new. And while Earth to Echo does aim to be tech savvy and very of the now it can’t sake the 80s vibe it is recreating. But the all of that could be overlooked if the video-style filming wasn’t so distracting. The images bounce and wobble across the screen, often making it hard to follow or just focus.

But overall Earth to Echo is a family friendly film with a quirky alien hero, a bunch of fun-loving outsiders and a moral.

getting to know your muse

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I have been rereading Stephen King’s  “On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft” , a wonderful book filled with lots of tips and tricks of the writing trade. But in essence the main point he makes, is that writing is work, you have to sit down and put the hours in, hone your skills, learn and read  as much as you can and then let your muse dust it with a little bit of magic.

Traditionally muses are seen as women dancing around in Greek garbs, floating figments, light beings, the personification of knowledge and the arts. There are nine of them, each one a daughter of Zeus (father of the Gods and men) and Mnemosyne (memory personified), and every single one of them has a specific area of expertise (see list below). As a writer you can expect a visit from the sweetly speaking Calliope, or as a poet maybe from the lovely Erato.

In our modern day muses seem to have changed, adapted, multiplied. King says his is a dude, a basement guy who smokes, grunts and ignores him while he does all the heavy lifting, but delivers the needed inspiration. This made me think about who my muse is, is she even a she? As I sit and type I try to catch a glimpse of her (yes, I think she is a she), try to get to know her a little bit. After all if I know who I am dealing with, maybe I can lure her into action a little more often.

So today my mission is to try and get to know my muse, figure out what makes her leap up from her swing (I believe she has a playful nature) and dance into action. And hopefully somewhere along the way a little bit of her muse-magic will spill onto my fingers and into my story.

Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to  a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we are talking about here, but just another job like laying a pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be from nine ’til noon, or from seven ’till three. If he does, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.

Stephen King

A statue of Calliope in the Vatican

A statue of Calliope in the Vatican

Calliope: the muse of epic poetry, depicted holding a writing tablet, roll of paper or even a book.

Clio: the muse of history, mostly holds a scroll

Erato: the muse of lyrical poetry, mostly plays a lye like instrument

Euterpe was the muse of music, plays a flute like instrument

Melpomene: the muse of tragedy holds the mask of tragedy

Polyhymnia: the muse of hymns and sacred poetry, has a veil

Terpsichore: the muse of dance, also holds a lyre but also is depicted in a dance like stance

Thalia: the muse of comedy, holds the mask of comedy

Urania:he muse of astronomy, holds a globe and compass.

hearing things – the psychology of sound

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Yesterday a sound made me jump. It wasn’t loud, nor was it scary, just a sound that vibrated through my home when I was all alone, making me react, whether I wanted to or not.

I was watching a film, sipping my tea, when a noise surprised me and made me leave my seat and explore. It had been a sort of rustling dong, or a scrapping plonk, a definite downward drop. At first I thought it had come from the kitchen, but I couldn’t find anything out of place, so I wandered upstairs and the only thing I could see was my dressing-grown lying on the ground. Somehow it had jumped of it’s hook and decided to take a nap on the floor.

As I hung the blue offender back up I started to wonder about sounds and how they influence and alert us. We all do that sudden head upwards jerk when we hear an unexpected sound. We all let ourselves get distracted when a song filled with memories makes it’s way out of the radio. We’ve all experienced how the score in a film makes our heart beat faster or brings tears to our eyes.And some of us have sounds that remind them of certain events.

For me, for some odd reason, the sound of the washing machine hon a high spin-cycle always reminds me of summer and makes me happy and I really don’t know why. The first time I hear “Last Christmas” on the radio I know Christmas is near and my heart skips an excited beat. The sound of a train rattling by makes me think of holidays and adventures and the flip-flop on my sandals on the grown makes me feel like skipping down to the beach.

Scientist have known for a long time that sound is closely linked to our emotions. And studies in neuroscience have shown that no only is the Hippocampus (helps form memories), the Amygdala (processes memories and emotional reactions) and the Insular cortex (regulates the heartbeat and is connected to empathy, pain and social awareness) closely linked to sounds, but so are the Cerebellum (motor function and learning) the Thalamus (regulates data and sleep)  the Prefontal cortex (linked to personality and decision making) and the Broca area (affects language comprehension).

When you look at this list it no longer seems surprising that sounds effects us in so many ways, why people react to sounds and particularly music. Our brains are hardwired to listen and often let our ears decide what we think and feel.

With that in mind and the sun shining outside I will now put on some music, let my feet find the beat and dance in the hope that happy thoughts and shook up body will help me find my muse for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

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