Trapped by nature in cubicle one



It was a delightful ambient of 21.2c, beneath a blue sky decorated in tufts of white cotton cloud, and bathed in rays of irresistibly inviting bright sunshine. Who, on such a day, could possibly ignore the allure, of a call to nature?

In obedient response, I found myself once again, in the ever uplifting surroundings of Farmleigh Demesne, that magnificent former Guinness Family estate, now in the caretaker ship of the Irish State: Office of Public Works (OPW).

The entrance to Farmleigh Demesne, which is open to the public during much of the year, is accessible from inside Dublin’s Phoenix Park, at the Castleknock Gate end.

Safely parked in the public car park, I stepped into warm welcoming and comforting spring sunshine. I slung my knapsack over my shoulders, pulled on my headphones, and tuned in to my favourite walking companion radio station: Lyric FM.

I was all set; ready to utterly lose myself, as I have done numerous times before, in a stroll around those delightful surroundings, and in tandem, drink in the glorious strains of symphonic music, which I consistently find stimulating both for general thoughts and ideas.

The internal periphery of Farmleigh Demesne, to include the periphery of the public car park, provide an average walking pace duration, of thirty to forty minutes; just perfect for me. So, off I went.

Having completed the circuit of the public car park, and turned on to the path, leading towards Farmleigh House, that voice in my head, the Plumber, broke through the lovely symphonic airs, with a special announcement:

‘The flowers need watering’

Aw heck I thought. My second call of nature today. Can’t that wait? The music was too lovely. The overall ambience in the moment was just way too captivating for any deviations now. I told the Plumber to pipe up, and on I rambled.

However, Plumbers clock was showing one minute to midnight. There was no way; he was letting me off the hook, with his blathering.

Ah, I thought, there’s a pit stop in the courtyard. Maybe a brief diversion there, will quieten the Plumber? And so it was, that I headed to the courtyard.

The hollow clung of the pit stop outer door, saw me within the empty inner sanctum, and heading for cubicle one. Thud and click, and the cubicle door was now closed and locked.

Ah, at last, the Plumber was placated. I could now safely navigate back, into my sunny symphonic bliss, right?

I turned the door latch and pulled; resistance. I turned the latch in the opposite direction and pulled; resistance. I turned the latch back the other way and while grabbing the bottom of the door pulled but again; resistance. Crikey!

I stood back for a five second mind reset, following which I repeated the previous attempted escape ritual, but again; resistance. Good grief! I was incarcerated.

I then heard the hollow clung of the outer door again, followed by a few footsteps. I, the incarcerated, while rapping on the inside of my cell door, called out:

‘Is there anyone out there?’

Free range human answered: ‘Yes’

Incarcerated: ‘I think the cubicle door is jammed. Would you mind giving it a push from out there?’

Free range human: ‘No problem’

Thud on outside of door.

Incarcerated: ‘Not a budge; I think the lock is jammed?’

Free range human: ‘Turn the lever the other way and try again’

Incarcerated: ‘Ok’

Repeat performance but; still resistance.

Incarcerated: ‘No joy’

Free range human: ‘Swing the latch the opposite way, and try again’

Incarcerated: With an accompanying image, of phoning the Samaritans Locksmith – ‘Ok’

As the latch turned, I heard a sound which I had not heard previously. I reached down, grabbed the bottom of the door, and while holding the latch firmly in the chosen position, tugged again, hard on the door.

Ah ha. Miracles do happen. The door grudgingly yielded.

Escapee to Free Range Human: ‘Thanks, you are obviously skilled in remote control’. The inner sanctum reverberated to belly laughter, from Free Range Human.

Gosh, that could be serious; say’s I, to a ‘yep’ response, and a broad smile, from Free Range Human.

‘I’ll head over to the house right now, and let them know the situation. Others could get locked in’ say’s I.

And so I did.

As I arrived, at the transparent glass entrance doors to the house, I could see a lady member of staff inside the hallway, walking towards the doors. I held a door open for her, and as she walked through, I said:

‘Come here till I tell ya. There’s a problem in cubicle one, in the gents’

With a serious face, the lady covered her mouth with her hand, not knowing what was going to be revealed next.

‘Yea, say’s I, there’s a dodgy lock in there, and I nearly got locked in. Maybe ye might consider leaving a spot of lunch in there, for such contingencies?’

Well, it was like sunrise, her hand dropped rapidly away, and her face lit up, in the most magnificent broad smile.

‘Oh right say’s she. I’m so sorry. I think we will have to put some gin in there, as well as lunch’

‘Gin say’s I. Absolutely. Forget about the lunch. Just go with the gin. That would be the best way, by far, to be locked, in there.’

Cue for second round of belly laughter, in fifteen minutes.

‘Sorry about that, says she. I will put an out-of-order notice on the door right now’

‘No problem, say’s I. Thanks.’

I took my leave of smiling Lady Gin, and re-joined my own company, for more symphonic bliss, and my original immersive wallow, in the glorious nature of Farmleigh.

So, is there a moral to this story?

Well yes, there is.

If ever you get locked in a cubicle, it may turn out to be a bigger pain in the a**, than the one you went in with.

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A Celtic odyssey to French Polynesia.


All either of us had known about Tahiti was, that it was this idyllic south sea Island paradise, located somewhere within the Pacific Ocean. So, prior to our journey there in 2006, there was much swatting up to do.

Our great south sea holiday adventure commenced with an epic air journey: Dublin – London – Los Angeles – Tahiti. When you say that quickly it doesn’t sound much, but it amounted to a marathon twenty three hours in the air, with only a short two hour ground respite, in Los Angeles. We were pretty tired by the time we arrived to Los Angeles and did our best to grab some rest, in my case unsuccessfully, in the terminal building before our flight was called for Tahiti.

We eventually boarded the flight at L.A. and after the fourteen hour marathon air lap, eventually arrived at our much anticipated destination, Tahiti.

We were bathed in the most luxurious of tropical balmy air while descending the steps from our aircraft to the hot tarmac. We made our way the short distance on foot to the arrivals building, which by typical airport standards, was a small building. The process of check through and luggage collection was refreshingly laid back, and we were quite impressed by the friendliness and warmth, of all of those whom we encountered at the airport. If the airport building and surroundings were unremarkable, we were in for a treat when we got outside, because the lush green countryside was just glorious.

The national flower of Tahiti is the Tiare, a delightful small white gardenia, which abounds everywhere. We enjoyed its adorning roadside presence en-route to our hotel and were gladly surrounded by its delicate loveliness again, within the lush surroundings of the hotel gardens.

Our hotel was more like a small paradise village than what one might imagine, as a classic hotel. Its reception area was a bungalow style building, nestling among sumptuous flower beds and fruit laden mango trees. Its apartments were akin to detached bungalows as they nestled among the greenest of tall vegetation and colourful flower beds. Flag stone paths meandered between apartments, reception, and restaurant and also out to the stunning ocean frontage. A long stony beach, defining one length of the boundary, of our paradise village.

It was early morning local time. We were tired and hungry, so following check in and first visit to our apartment, we decided to head to the restaurant for breakfast. What a vista. The sun was already up. The birds were chirping. The sounds and smells of the ocean filled our senses, as did the soothing rustling of the lush foliage, in a warm and gentle morning breeze. Gosh, we truly were in heaven. We forgot our tiredness and just sat a while, at the restaurant terrace, soaking in the delightful surroundings.

I do believe that nature can reflect the character of a local people and nature chose to tell us something, on that very first day, in lovely Tahiti. A very welcoming member of restaurant staff took our breakfast order, and while we awaited arrival of what we had ordered, we were treated to a number of visitations, both to the ground at our feet, and to our table top, by several beautiful tiny bird species. It was as if they were the encore, to the sensory delights, which this lovely place had to offer. Our breakfast experience on that day, was the first of so many delightful alfresco dining experiences, which subsequently we were destined to enjoy, throughout our stay, on lovely Tahiti.

When we travel great distances across time zones we really do get quite disorientated, in this regard, yours truly was no different. We had decided that I would leave my watch set to Irish time and that my friend would set her watch to local time; so far so good. Well, in the earlier part of the holiday, on one particular morning, I awoke naturally (wide awake). I showered, dressed and was into the sloppy business of trying to apply some suntan lotion, when my friend awoke, and asked me if I was aware of what time it was. I said I guess it’s close to 8am. She said you can guess again. It’s 4:30am. That was some shocker eh? What could I do? Wide awake and ready get stuck into the tourist thing. I had to settle for reading a book, to whittle away the time, until breakfast.

Life is full of surprises and holiday time is no different. Tropical showers can be mighty; well, tropical. On one of the days, we had decided on a particular plan of tour action, which involved taking a taxi, for part of the journey. As it happened, before the taxi arrived, and following a few intimidating thunder claps, it had started to rain. The rain got heavier, just as the taxi arrived. Believe it or not we had a brolly with us, as you do of course, if you are Irish.

When we opened the front door of the apartment, we saw the taxi parked at the grass verge, and the rain coming down in sheets, with mighty tropical force. Such was the force that rain drops were bouncing back up, from the surface of the roadway. The taxi was one of those people carriers, with a sliding door at the side. I put the brolly up and escorted her good self, under cover, safely over and into the taxi. The rain was driving so heavily, that I had to hold the brolly well down over my own head, to try and remain dry. However, fully down the brolly would have to go, before I could board the taxi. So, I stood back slightly, and with the brolly still obscuring my forward vision, pulled it down rapidly, put my foot on the threshold of the taxi doorway, and lunged forward to get in. Next thing I knew, I was laying on my back on the wet grass verge, seeing stars. I had not seen the low roof line of the taxi, and had whacked the top of my head off it with such force, that it had propelled me back, with an equal and opposite force. Good auld Newton; he never fails to visit when you don’t need him. Needless to say, the sympathy laughter from inside the taxi, cleared the stars away as fast as no Oscars in Hollywood might. Anyway, thankfully I survived, to continue with my exotic touristing.

Neither of us would describe ourselves as religious people. However, whenever travelling, my friend likes to visit local churches appreciating the associated architecture and art. While on Tahiti, one such visit was to grant us a rare and real treat. On the first Sunday of our stay, with a little local assistance, we found our way to a nearby church. While it was a modern looking building outside, it was a bright and airy, though very warm gathering space, on the inside. We noted that all the women present were wearing similar garb i.e. broad brimmed straw hats, and cream coloured linen dresses. However, it was the music and the singing which was so very beautiful. Melodic choral tones with traditional south sea instrumental backing graced and soothed our hearing. The music was delightfully other worldly, with its attendant therapeutically mesmerising effect. We were sorry indeed, when the ceremony finally came to a conclusion.

On the following day we decided to sign up for a bus tour of Tahiti. While we were at the hotel reception awaiting the arrival of our tour bus, I got into conversation with a Japanese gentleman. As it turned out, he also was taking the bus tour and so our conversation had an opportunity to develop. He introduced himself as Kazuo Hirabayashi. He said that this visit, marked the closure of a four year absence for him, from Tahiti and that his previous visit, had been one of sadness during which he had scattered the ashes of his late wife, into the ocean off Moorea, a neighbouring island, which they both loved, and had visited often, in earlier years.

Kazuo spoke excellent English, and we quickly discovered, he also had a delightfully keen sense of humour. In meeting Kazuo, we had come upon someone with an extended knowledge of Tahiti, and its neighbouring islands. He had retired at 60, following which he and his wife had regularly visited both New Caledonia, and Tahiti. Our holiday experience was about to be significantly enhanced, by the lucky happenstance, of encountering this amiable Japanese gentleman.

Actually, gentleman is perhaps a less than adequate description of Kazuo. As Kazuo relayed to us, the full story of his Tahiti connection, it did not take us long to realise that we were actually in the presence of a lovely, caring human being. Apparently, some years back, while holidaying in Tahiti Kazuo’s wife had suffered a stroke. She had need of emergency hospitalisation in Tahiti and had been looked after very well; so well, that after a partial recovery they were able to travel home to Japan.

Although his wife was now disabled, and confined to a wheel chair, Kazuo looked after her, in every detail, with particular loving care. He looked after her meals, washed her hair, applied her makeup, including her nail polish and in her wheel chair, took her with him, everywhere. If fact, when his wife was stronger, they subsequently travelled back to Tahiti, to extend personal thanks to those, who had been so kind to them previously. I suppose one might say that, in many ways, Kazuo was a man ahead of his time.

Despite the subjects sombre nature, characteristic of Kazuo’s innate sense of humour, while ending his story about the scattering of his wife’s ashes, Kazuo said that his wife was now “swimming with the fishies”.

During our bus tour, Kazuo suggested if we wished to take a ferry trip to Moorea (a neighbouring Island) the following day, he would be happy to accompany us and act as our personal tour guide. Needless to say we were thrilled, and immediately accepted his most kind offer.

The following morning was gloriously sunny and ideal for a sea ferry journey. We had decided to hire a car on Moorea, but almost forgot the all-important drivers licence and passport. So, after breakfast, and a quick breathless scurry for me, back to our apartment to grab the documents, we finally got on our way to the ferry port.

I have to say, considering all holidays to faraway places, which I have so far been so lucky to have experienced during my lifetime, the one memory which always looms largest for me, has to be that splendid ferry journey, from Tahiti Nui to Moorea.

The sights, the sounds, the colours, the people, the atmosphere were utterly magical. We positioned ourselves on the open upper deck of the ferry so that from a photographic point of view, we would have a complete 360 degree vista. Looking forward on the vessel, we could make out the distant peaks of Moorea as a silhouette of blueish sun shimmering haze. Looking aft we could see the gigantic white and broadening wake of our presence on the surface of that delightfully blue ocean. It was as if some giant finger, applying white paint, had been drawn across a blue oil canvas. The pleasantly warm ocean breeze wrapped itself around us. It tossed our hair and tried, but failed, to mute the volume of our animated and excited conversation. There were so many nationalities on that ferry journey. I tried to sustain a conversation with a Chilean gentleman, who battled to try and be understood through English. His high pitched, heavily accented tones and limited English reduced me, to nods of approval and polite smiles. I have little doubt however, that at a visceral level, we fully understood each other. The magnificent surroundings which nature had placed us into, in that moment, provided all the translation, which could ever have been necessary.

And so, Moorea loomed larger and larger, and finally we docked. We took a taxi to the car hire office, where good auld Murphy’s Law, promptly kicked in. Just at that critical point, where drivers licence and passport had to be presented, I realised that it was my friend’s driving licence and passport which hurriedly, back at our apartment, I had grabbed. So, although we had agreed that I would do the driving on Moorea, she now had to step in and literally, save the day. She did indeed save the day, and did so excellently. We now had our car, our driver, our personal tour guide and a stunning island to explore; what more could we want?

“Moorea is an island of volcanic origin, located 11 miles northwest of Tahiti and has a circumference of 37 miles. Many people have described Moorea as the most beautiful place on earth. After a visit to Moorea and inspired by its beauty, author James Michener wrote the fictional book Bali Hai, a book depicting paradise. In his book he writes, “peaks which can never be forgotten … the jagged saw-edges that look like the spines of a forgotten dinosaur”. One of the features so striking about this island is the jagged peaks and spires that give the island its unique profile. Moorea’s appearance is the result of volcanic activity hundreds of thousands of years ago.”


What better vantage point to survey the vista of Moorea from, than Belvedere Point, a viewing platform set atop of what unquestioningly is a mountain in its own right. The moment we turned on to the sharply elevating semi dirt track, which directions indicated was the access rout to the viewing platform, our trusty driver became nervous. I couldn’t blame her, as the ascent was very sharp.

In places the track was somewhat ill defined, and there were no safety barriers to prevent vehicles from sliding off the track. Another concern was the relative narrowness, of the track. Two vehicles could not pass each other, in opposite directions, without the most extreme caution. I’m sure that our treasured Japanese tour guide Kazuo, in the back seat, was whispering Shinto prayers to himself, as our wheels crunched at the gravely way, for grip. Anyway, proudly and skilfully our driver got us safely, almost to the top, before succumbing, to the inevitable nervous exhaustion of such focused concentration. I took over driving for the last few hundred yards, and we ultimately emerged into the viewing point car park.

Oh my god, what a view. The tribulation of ascent had been so worth it. We could see for miles over the tree tops and the lush green mountain foliage, out towards the coastal area which had once formed the live back drop, for that famous 1958 movie musical: South Pacific. The movie South Pacific starred: Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr, Juanita Hall, France Nuyen and Ray Watson and was based upon the book Tales of the South Pacific by James.A.Michener. The awe inspiring natural beauty of what we beheld, during our all too brief sojourn atop Belvedere Viewing Point, truly cannot adequately be conveyed, by mere words. One needs to see it, to fully appreciate it. I must confess to breathing a tiny sigh of relief though, when we finally emerged from the Belvedere Point access track, back on to level ground. I’m sure both our driver and tour guide friend did likewise.

Now that we had our stomachs back, we were reminded that they needed filling. Needless to say, Kazuo knew exactly in which direction to point us. During past visits he had befriended the manager of the Sheraton Hotel, and was keen for us to meet her. Sheraton Hotels can be impressive, but what awaited us on Moorea, was truly something special.

We arrived, parked up, and with Kazuo leading the charge, we followed in his enthusiastic slipstream, into the luxurious reception area of the Sheraton. I could see this woman walking in our direction, and noticed from the smile lighting up her face, that she had recognised Kazuo. She greeted Kazuo, as one would a long lost family member, and we also were greeted most warmly. After brief small talk, Kazuo indicated that he intended showing us the hotel beach restaurant. The manager pointed in the direction we should follow, and off we went. Well, if Belvedere Point had been a visual feast, what unfolded in front of us as the beach restaurant, was every bit as stunning. The scene was one of typically sumptuous turquoise water, and reed huts, adjacent to a long beach of golden sand. In every imaginable sense, it was truly postcard. We selected a nice shaded table, and settled in to enjoy a lovely lunch, and a leisurely chat about our impressions so far, of Moorea.

One of the things which Tahiti is famous for, has to be its black pearls. Kazuo knew of a local Jeweller, a French lady who specialised in creating pieces of jewellery incorporating black pearls. After lunch he offered to direct us, to her nearby store. We spent some time browsing the beautiful pieces of hand crafted work, which this lady had produced, before having to make haste back to the ferry port, for the eleven mile journey back, to Tahiti Nui. Conveniently, we were allowed to return the hire car, to park up point, at the ferry port. Our return ferry journey was as enjoyable, as the outward journey had been.

The following day, back on Tahiti Nui, saw the three of us enjoy a mountain climb Safari Tour. We travelled in a small convoy of open topped, off road vehicles. Thank goodness someone else was doing the driving, because we twisted and twined and rocked and lurched, as our vehicles clawed their way up the sharpish gradient, of the mountain side.

Aromas, from the sunshine bathed exotic plants and lush foliage as we passed them on our ascent, was something for the senses to deal with. At points along the journey our driver would stop a while, to point out various plants, and explain a bit about them. We arrived into this area of trees bearing miniature bananas. I kid you not; bananas no longer than ones finger. No surprise then, when our driver revealed the name of the banana species: Lady Fingers.

About half way into our ascent, we emerged into a clearing which had a large pool. Our driver announced a take five break and if anyone wished to swim in the pool, that it was quite safe, to do so. There were those who took him at his word, and indeed my friend enjoyed a short paddle. However, Kazuo and I preferred to sit a while in the shade, and take a few photos. Anyway, all back on board again, and we were literally rocking and rolling, as we continued our accent.

My alleged brain, by now as firmly rooted to the seat as possible, was getting a tad black and blue, from the repeated motion shocks. Anyway, we eventually arrived at our tours majestically elevated termination point. It was a monastery, nestling into the mountain side, and the location at which, we were to enjoy lunch.

My goodness, with mere words, I could not justice do the vista which presented itself to us from the dining area. From our supreme vantage point, we were looking out over a lush and predominantly green mountain valley, whose slopes were interspersed with the modifying colours of huge exotic flowers, and shrubs. As we enjoyed lunch, we were fascinated by the passage of sun and cloud in combination as it introduced the most amazing blend of shade and light, across the valley. It was breath-taking; truly breath-taking. A safari of a lifetime, one might justly claim.

During our final days on Tahiti Nui, we visited an area in which the most colourful, traditional totem pole like religious objects, are preserved. They are a link with those native Polynesian peoples, of aeons past, who once, with gentle presence, graced that beautiful island paradise.

We visited the home and art gallery of that famous painter Paul Gauguin. Gauguin was of the school: Post-impressionism, Primitivism. He was born in Paris on 7th June 1848 and died on Atuona, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia on 8th May 1903.  We could not imagine more beautiful surroundings than Polynesia, as inspiration for any artist.

We also became aware of the movie actor Marlon Brando’s link with Tahiti. In the 1960s, while filming the famous: Mutiny on the Bounty, Brando first saw Tetiaroa an island 30 miles north of Tahiti Nui. It was, and is, a place out of time, with its vivid turquoise water, untouched beaches, lush vegetation and teeming life, both above and below the water. Brando was to marry Tahitian Tarita Teripaia and to live out his later life on that island, in that most magnificent part of the world. Brando felt that Tahitians had something to teach the world, about how to lead a happy and balanced life. Having been to lovely Tahiti Nui, and met its people, it came as no surprise to us, that Marlon Brando would have reached such a conclusion.

As is said so many times, all things, good and bad have an ending. Such, sadly was the case, with the ending of our magnificent holiday, to the Polynesian Paradise Island of Tahiti. However, apart from the fabulous memories, and the photographs which we took away with us, from that amazing holiday, we also took away a treasured new found friendship i.e. Kazuo. This amazing man, this consummate world traveller, who I guess was 78 when we first encountered him, became a lasting friend and subsequent guest of ours, on a number of occasions, back in Ireland. It was a great privilege and pleasure to have known him, sadly for only a few short years. Unknown to us at the time, during 2013, Kazuo passed away, at home in Japan. May you rest in peace, Kazuo dear friend.

Without any doubt, our holidays both to Astoria, and in Tahiti, were amazing; the latter, being truly the holiday of a lifetime. These magnificent experiences for me, would never have come about, but for the alertness, competitions skill, and wonderfully innate generosity, of the dear friend, with whom I shared those amazing experiences.

For those who may have happened upon this, as an isolated story, there is in fact a prelude. Here is the link:

Prelude to: A Celtic odyssey to French Polynesia

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The luck of the Irish is real; well, for some anyway.


It was an unremarkable April afternoon in 2005. I was sitting at my desk, beavering away, when my work phone began to buzz. On pick up, I was treated to the chirpy tones of a good friend of mine, asking me if I was near a radio. She announced that she had entered a radio competition, and felt confident of winning.

Unfortunately, I did not have access to a radio. However, I asked what the competition was about, and what she had to do to enter. She said the competition was to do with answering questions about a film, and the prize was a holiday.

Hmmm, I thought, very interesting, as the day just happens to be April 1st. ‘Oh’, says she, ‘I never thought of that’. In the next breath she said ‘No, I think it is genuine. Anyway, I will know closer to 5pm, at which time they said the results would be announced’. ‘Well, good for you’, I said, ‘and the best of luck. Let me know, as soon as you get further word.’

For those who love horror movies, the film: The Ring 2, which premiered in Portugal in March 2005, would no doubt be familiar. The story revolves around a female journalist, played by actor (Naomi Watts), who battles to prevent an evil Samara from taking possession of her son’s soul, actor (David Dorfman). The film was a sequel to the 2002 film: The Ring, which in turn was a remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ring. The Ring 2 was made in Astoria, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.

The radio competition question, which my friend had answered, and as it turned out answered correctly, had been: In what country is Seattle? She texted the answer and thought to herself, as one tends to: well, that’s the end of that. Little did she realise however, that it was actually going to be the beginning of something quite remarkable.

The Radio Station responded to say that her name was one, among five other correctly answer texts, which had been chosen at random, as the first stage of the competition. They said that around five pm, one name would be chosen randomly from the five, as the competition winner, and that she should keep listening for the announcement, on her radio.

Well, I was just preparing to leave the office to head home, when my phone buzzed again. On pick up, this animated and joyous voice filled my hearing, with the exciting announcement that she had just won the competition. She said that the prize was a complementary invitation, to the Irish premier screening, of The Ring 2. Congratulations and well done, I said. After a fractional silence my question was: But did you not mention a holiday as the prize? Her reply, in roguish voice, was instant: Oh yea, says she, they also threw in a one week, all expenses paid holiday, for two, to Astoria. With characteristic innate great generosity she next asked: would you like to come along? Holy moley I thought; is the Pope a Catholic? Would I what? She got an instant answer in the affirmative. Some of The Ring 2 had been made in Astoria, and apparently the holiday was to include a tour of sites which had formed part, of the film set. The holiday to Astoria, was scheduled to take place in September 2005.

It turned out that radio competitions, similar to the one which my friend had just won, had been fielded simultaneously, in eight or nine European countries, and that two competition winners, from each of those countries, would be participating in the holiday to Astoria. No shortage of company then, on the future holiday adventure.

That was it then. Done and dusted; a super holiday to Astoria, right? Well actually no. There was more, and as it turned out, much much more.

We were told, that during the Astoria holiday, there would be a second competition. This competition was to be based on the film, The Ring 2. The prize for the second competition would be associated with the original film, The Ring. So, what was left for my friend to do, except watch the film, over and over, until the screen on her television melted? In my friend’s case you might say that’s what happened. She admits to having watching the film, at least twenty times.

So, in the fall of 2005, it was Dublin-London-Seattle. It had been some time since I had last been to America, twenty-four years, to be precise. In Florida, in 1981, I had been impressed by the typically large and flamboyant American cars and so had an expectation of something similar, in Seattle. I was amazed to find traffic surroundings there incredibly familiar, with much smaller cars of makes and models one might see any day, on any of the roads of Europe. The flights and transfers had been comfortable and we were now beginning to settle into our hotel. Our hotel was lovely and lived up to its touted reputation insofar as the beds were concerned. “We have exceptional beds” was their tag line. A point of real luxury, for me anyway, was the heated tiled floor in the en suite bathroom. It was so luxurious, that one could easily be tempted to stay there and sleep standing up.

After a hearty breakfast on day two, it was time to settle into the serious business of giving Astoria, a coat of looking over. Enter stage left Tour Guide: Bob. While our Bob was a bit of a character, he did seem to know his stuff and, as he guided us, kept us well regaled with snippets of local history and useful details on the various sites associated with the making of The Ring 2. Bob also took us to see the former family home of John Jacob Astor after which the city was named i.e. Astoria and of course whose name graced the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel chain. John Jacob Astor was however, one of the passengers on the ill-fated Titanic, and lost his life in that tragedy. After saying adieu to Bob, we proceeded as our own tour guides, with a very pleasant visit to the waterfront, and a browse among the shops, during which we found one particular quaint, oldie worldie, country-style shop, to be of particular note.

Day three ushered in the second competition. Luckily for us it had been organised to take place in our hotel. Those who have seen the film The Ring, will be aware of a particularly sinister cabin in the woods, in which certain horrors took place. Well, I kid you not; part of the prize in this second completion was that the winners get to spend “a night in a cabin in the woods”. Crikey, I though. Don’t quite fancy that prospect. Anyway, chin up and let’s get on with it. So, all the previous completion winners were gathered together in small conference room. Participants and partners were sitting together on one long couch facing towards a giant television screen. The rules were explained i.e. the film The Ring would be projected for a period, and stopped at some point. Participants would be asked to describe what happened next, in the truncated scene. The first participant with their hand up, would get to give the first answer, and if correct, would win the competition. A hushed silence fell over the group, as a section of the film was started. It was allowed run for about five or ten minutes and then BANG, it was stopped. So, the question was asked: what happens next? Well, I had never before seen my friend’s hand rise so fast;  it hit the ceiling at the speed of light , so to speak. She was asked to describe exactly what happens next which, to the best of her ability, she did.

OH DEAR! OH DEAR! We were heading to that scary cabin in the woods. Yes, my friend’s investment in twenty viewings of that film back home, had handsomely paid off. But wait for it. A night in the so-called scary cabin was but a teaser. The real prize was a two-week, all expenses paid holiday for two, in Tahiti. Yes you read that correctly, that glorious South Sea island Tahiti. Why Tahiti? Well, apparently the character Samara, from the film The Ring, was supposed to have come from Tahiti. Were we glad that she had chosen to be born there? Were we what? The Tahiti holiday was scheduled to take place, in May 2006.

So, we were advised to collect our overnight gear, and head down to the lobby, where a limo was waiting outside, to take us to the cabin. We stepped into the limo, still unsure of what lay before us, well me anyway. It turned out, according to the Limo driver, that we were being taken to a cabin on the coast, named Turks Lodge.

After a pleasant scenic drive, we finally reached our destination and oh boy, what a lodge. After winding our way uphill, along a short forest road, we emerged into a clearing and before us, set upon a high elevation, side by side, were two massive lodges. After climbing a long flight of timber steps to the front door of the appointed lodge, our driver opened the entrance door, and handed us the keys. Just before his departure, we asked him if he was aware if there were any kitchen supplies, in the lodge. He didn’t know, but said he would wait, while we checked the kitchen, and would be happy to take us back the road to a local store, if we needed anything. As it happened we did, and back we went, by limo, to shop for breakfast supplies. Imagine, heading for grocery shopping in a limo. It was positively surreal. We got what we needed and he dropped us back to the lodge. He told us, he would be back the following day around noon, to take us back to our hotel.

What a lodge it was. Built totally from pine it had that lovely timber smell about its interior. Its rooms were laid out at varying levels. Its master bedroom had a Jacuzzi and wet room shower area, within a few paces of a huge and comfortable bed. It had an extensive veranda out back, with a view overlooking the forest and the nearby Pacific Ocean. A note on the fridge indicated that Brown Bears might stop by, and warned that we should not attempt to feed them. As it happened, no bears visited. Our short stay there was both comfortable, and intensely visually stimulating. On cue, the following day, our trusty limo driver returned, and ferried us back to our hotel.

We thoroughly enjoyed our remaining couple of days in Astoria, and spent much of our time, on foot, exploring as much as we could. I recall on the Saturday, we awoke to some noise in the street in front of our hotel. On peeking out the front window of our room, we were astonished to see the entire street, and the extensive car park opposite, covered in what looked like country market stalls. Needless to say, we hurried through breakfast and lost ourselves, for a number of hours, among the myriad of market stalls. It was amazing. A stall city had sprung up overnight. The marketeers were lovely friendly people, and their range of craft goods available was as extensive, as it was impressive.

Of course all holidays have an end point, and so we ultimately had to bid farewell to Astoria, and join the rest of our competition group, in winging our way back to our respective homelands.

However, for us the big consolation was, that in a few short months, we would be off again, on another travel adventure, but this time plying our way, many more thousands of miles down the globe, to a tiny island paradise, in the southern ocean.

So, if by chance, while reading this part of the story, you realise that you also, were part of that competition winners group, which travelled to Astoria in 2005, then it would be really nice to hear from you. Why not leave a comment below?

To be continued. See you in Tahiti ……..

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An Oscar would indeed be Wilde


Little did I know, all those years ago during teenage, when I inherited a Brownie Box Camera, that imaging technology, both still and motion, would surge ahead so rapidly. Indeed, way beyond imagining, into an incredible stratospheric level of sophistication.

My reality back in those early days was rolls of celluloid film. Chance taking, with primitive camera settings, and long waits for chemist based processing, was typically the order of the day. Photographic results of course, did not always meet expectation.

Like many others at that time, being enthusiastic about photography inevitably drew both myself and a friend, towards setting up our own home based photo processing darkroom. Together with  trademark red bulb, to protect against film exposure, and basins of liquid chemicals for processing i.e. developer and fixer etc., we were on our way.  Of course no self-respecting darkroom of that era, could be found without the obligatory enlarger, that big clunky piece of equipment which facilitated projection of negative images, on to a variety of large photographic papers, and so, we did enlarger as well.

My enjoyment of photography continued through several iterations of cameras, and ultimately migrated from film, into the amazing realm of digital.

The ultimate marriage of stills and moving image capture, into single, very light, small portable devices, was indeed hugely transformative. The first analogue, tape based video camera which I bought during the 1980s, a Canon product, cost me over €800; a not inconsiderable sum of money, at that time. It was big. It was heavy and it was somewhat awkward, to use.

Today, for less than a couple of hundred euros, one can acquire very sophisticated, small and light imaging devices, which capture both stills and moving images seamlessly, with the latter having incredible HD quality.

So, along with digital came volume. Take as many stills and films as you like, and simply delete what has not turned out to expectation. Such volume, as a prospective business opportunity, was not lost on the sharpies. Various internet based applications began to appear, offering to store all of your stills, and all of your videos, for free; an offer which few could resist. Then hey! Voila! The likes of YouTube is born.

In my humble opinion the golden age of YouTube was before it became subsumed into internet Behemoth Google. However, it is still an amazing facility, with useful, if somewhat clunky and limited capacity, for video editing. I joined the throngs and set up a YouTube channel in 2011, and have published a number of minor videos there since.

In recent times, I have been keen to make my videos look a little more sophisticated, and indeed to make the task of editing them, both easier and quicker.

Over a period of time I considered a number of alternative editing packages and typically, being slow in making decisions in such matters, shelved the lot for a while. However, I recently came upon an application named: Filmora (with versions available for Windows and Mac) and decided to investigate more.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered. Filmora turned out to be quite a sophisticated “starter level” video editing package. It incorporated much of what I would have anticipated should be, in a video editing package, and indeed quite a bit more.

I played around with the downloaded trial version for a while, and was amazed at how quickly, I seemed to be ascending the learning curve.

The Filmora interface is clear, well-arranged and its icons are intuitive. In short, I found it to be a neat, effective and pretty sophisticated piece of kit. I was hooked and decided to purchase a single user licence for €67.15 (Vat included). It was a reasonable enough price, I thought, given the sophistication of the software.

My next challenge, given my novice state of knowledge of Filmora, was to see if I could produce some sort of half decent results, in the making of a couple of videos edited together using the package.

I suppose I could not have chosen two more diverse subjects, for trial videos as: 1/ The 22nd May 2017 Manchester Bombings and 2/ Aspects of Dublin’s Phoenix Park but there you have it, those were my choices.

For those who may wonder what is involved in producing videos, and not just via Filmora, well, the answer is: a lot of work, and a generous helpings of patience.

So, I will immediately take off my hat to those thousands of intrepid YouTube Channel Alternative Media types, many of whom, on a very regular basis, produce some truly amazing videos with such useful content, both from an educational, and entertainment stand point. May your efforts be long-lived, and may you grow and prosper.

While taking account of the fact that I am still on a learning curve with Filmora, I will summarise for you now, the kind of time and content effort, which was involved, in producing the two videos referred to above.

Firstly, in preparation for each project, one may assemble more artefacts that one ultimately decides to use. So, with that in mind, here goes:

The Manchester Bombing Film

This project was completed during a number of sessions over three days i.e. 4th through 6th June 2017. I assembled a library of 25 images, authored 6 scripts, and recorded and edited 16 audio files, in facilitation. The final cut film duration, turned out to be: 41 minutes.

Aspects of Dublin’s Phoenix Park Film

This project was completed during a number of sessions also over three days i.e. 7th through 9th June 2017. I assembled a library of 11 images, authored 14 scripts, recorded and edited 28 audio files, took 1 video sequence and assembled 3 music file options, in facilitation. The final cut film duration, turned out to be: 18 minutes.

The above might seem a lot of work, especially given no commercial purpose or expectation. However, for me it was a labour of love, and part of my small contribution, to today’s voluntary sharing economy.

Given that none of my videos on YouTube have ever been monetised, not by me anyway, you might make the valid point that while I am contributing voluntarily to a sharing economy, YouTube aka Google, my hosting site, are enjoying profits based upon what I produce voluntarily. Well yes, that’s true, but the quid-pro-quo, for the moment anyway is, that I have a ready means of storing my videos and convenient links with which I can circulate my video work.

I am however at present, looking into a “peer to peer” sharing option i.e. a site currently in development called BitChute, as an alternative hosting site to the Behemoth Google/YouTube. However, BitChute has a way to go yet, before being fully operational. So, at the moment, it’s a game of patience.

For readers who may be interested in checking out Filmora as a video editor, here is a link to their site –

Here are links to the first two films I produced using the Filmora editing software. Hopefully, it will all be onward and upward from here –

I don’t think I would quite earn an Oscar yet. However, maybe in the future, it may not be such a Wilde idea.

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His was a remarkable life and a profound journey.


The year 1667 was a historic one in medicine; French Doctor Jean-Baptiste Denys performed the first ever blood transfusion, in June of that year.

1667 was also a historic year in Ireland, with a transfusion of a different kind, i.e. new life, in the person of one Jonathan Swift, born in Dublin, on 30th November.

Swift was the second child and only son of Sir Jonathan Swift, Attorney, and Abagail Erik. Both Swift’s parents were of English descent, his father came from a place called Goodrich and his mother from Frisby. Swift therefore, could be described as Anglo-Irish.

Sadly, Swift’s father died a couple of months before Swift’s birth. However, Swift was subsequently to be cared for by his uncle, Goodwin Swift.

Swift had arrived from a lofty blood line, with lineage to several personages of note, one of which was none other than the exalted writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh.

From the outset, Swift did not enjoy perfect health. By all accounts he was a sickly child who was afflicted by an inner ear condition known as Meniere disease. Meniere disease causes hearing impairment, with accompanying nauseousness. He was to be burdened with this condition, for much of his life.

From an educational standpoint, Swift was well looked after by his uncle, Goodwin Swift. From 1674 until 1682, Swift attended Kilkenny Grammar School and in 1686, he obtained a BA degree, from Trinity College Dublin.

Following his qualification, Swift, who was a member of the Church of Ireland, moved to England for a period and took up employment as a “Statesman’s Assistant”. For at least ten years, Swift worked with Sir William Temple, an English politician, statesman and essayist. Theirs was to develop into such a close working relationship, that William Temple actually became Swifts mentor.

Swift’s growing interest in politics was no doubt augmented by the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. This bloodless revolution and war of English Succession, was to see King James 2nd unseated from the throne and replaced by King William (then Prince of Orange) and his wife Queen Mary. These were unsettling times.

In 1690 Swift returned to Ireland and in 1695 he became an Anglican Priest. It was around this time that Swift began writing. Swift was ultimately to become a foremost prose satirist and under pseudonyms, was to publish many pamphlets, essays, poetry and a couple of books.

However, Swift was also to become a tireless worker and advocate for the poor of Dublin. In 1700 for example, he started The Irish Loan Fund, which provided loans to low-income families.

Given Swift’s keen interest in politics and his developing literary prowess, when the Tories came to power in 1710, Swift, who had an affinity with Toryism, was asked to become Editor of the Tory Examiner.

The next move in Swift’s career in the Church of Ireland was to come in 1713, when he was invested as Dean of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

It is commonly believed that in 1716 Swift married a lady named Esther Johnston. Esther was fifteen years his junior. While no records actually exist to confirm their marriage, it is none the less believed that Swift and Esther remained lovers, for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps what Jonathan (Dean) Swift is best remembered for, are his writings; chief among which has to be his much beloved book of 1726 i.e. Gulliver’s Travels. In this book Swift introduces readers to one Lemuel Gulliver, an erudite gentleman whose academic achievements include Mathematics, Physics, Medicine and Navigation. Lemuel’s travels include such exotic places as Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, Japan and Land of Houyhmhnms (go check with your travel agent now).

Jonathan Swift seems to have been a man of considerable perception and indeed, a man before his time. Upon arriving to the Land of Houyhnhnms, (phonetics Ho-e-nums), Lemuel Gulliver encountered beings he called Yahoos “who were said to govern the herd”. By all accounts, these beings were a thoroughly dislikeable species. The following brief abstracts from Gulliver’s Travels, will give you some insight into Lemuel’s feelings in relation to the Yahoos:

“The Yahoos were a species of animals utterly incapable of amendment by percept or example”

“The Yahoos were the only governing animals in my country, which my master said was altogether past his conception.”

“A soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill, in cold blood, as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can.”

“Choosing rather to trust myself among these barbarians than live with European Yahoos.”

“And getting to the side of the ship; was going to leap into the sea, and swim for my life, rather than continue among Yahoos.”

“I would suffer the greatest hardships, rather than return to living among Yahoos.”

Pretty conclusive then; Lemuel Gulliver, emphatically could not abide Yahoos.

Jonathan Swift wrote in two modes of satire Horatian and Juvenalian. Gulliver’s Travels is an example of Horatian satire while Swift’s later book A Modest Proposal is an example of Juvenalian satire. Because of his strong support of Irish causes Swift wrote A Modest Proposal, which was published anonymously, in 1726. The full (somewhat lengthy) title of that book reads as follows: A Modest Proposal for preventing the Children of Poor People from being a burden to Their Parents or Country and for making them Beneficial to the Publick. In A Modest Proposal, Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles, by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. He was of course mocking the heartless attitudes to the poor which prevailed at the time, and striking at British policy towards the Irish, in general.

So potent was Swift’s sharp satiric writing, that it found very little favour with the British establishment and remarkably, eventually led to his printer, being convicted of sedition.

Writing as M.B.Drapier, Swift helped to prevent a debased currency from being imposed by the government, on the Irish people. In gratitude for his remarkable work for the poor, in 1729 Dean Swift was granted the lofty honour, of the freedom of the City of Dublin.

Sadly, in 1742 the great Dean suffered a stroke. The affliction was to see him deprived of speech. He also developed a swelling in his left eye, which rose to the size of an egg and which inflicted upon him the most excruciating discomfort. To the observance of close friends and perhaps directly related to the impact of the stroke, Swift’s behaviour became such, that a friend of his observed there to exist “such definite appearance of madness”. Swift was eventually declared of unsound mind by his closest companions and guardians had to be appointed, to take care of his affairs.

And so, on the 19th of October 1745, in the 78th year of his life, Dean Swift died. His remains were interred, together with those of his beloved Esther Johnston, within the precincts of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8.

Ninety years after his death, his body was exhumed by Sir William Wilde, a prominent physician in the city, and Oscar Wilde’s father. Sir William discovered that Swift had a loose bone in his inner ear, and that ‘Menire’s disease’ was at the root of many of Swift’s problems.

Apart from the lasting legacy of Swift’s influential body of literature, we also benefit today from another very significant legacy of his i.e. the existence of St Patrick’s University Hospital, located at James Street, Dublin 8. Swift left the not inconsiderable sum of £12,000.00 in his will, explicitly for the purpose of founding a hospital, for the mentally ill. As a consequence, in 1757, “St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles”, first opened its doors to the public.

The great man’s obituary reads as follows:

“Here is laid the Body of Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart. Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous (to the best of his ability) Champion of Liberty.”

The year of this writing 2017, marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Dean Swift. The transfusion of new life in 1667 delivered to us this great man. We shall live long in his literary shadow, and shall be eternally grateful for his continuing support, of our mental wellbeing.

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I give you Hazel; a very special currency.


It was the year 1880, a year during which the building of the great Panama Canal commenced; that vital shipping conduit, which eventually was to link the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It was also a year, during which the world was to receive a small gift; a gift which was to blossom into one of great beauty and talent.

On Sunday 14th March 1880, a baby girl was born to Chicago couple: Alice and Edward Jenner Martyn. Because of her beautiful brown eyes, the couple named their daughter Hazel.

Little did Alice and Edward realise, that ultimately their daughter Hazel’s beauty, personality and artistic talents would, for a significant period, shine like a bright star with dazzling luminosity and that she would be involved in some of the most momentous political maneuverings of the early years of the 20th Century, involving both Ireland and Britain.

As a young woman, although Hazel’s heart was firmly elsewhere, under pressure from her Mother, on 28th December 1903 at 23 years of age, Hazel married one Edward Trudeau. At the time of her marriage, Hazel was still very much romantically in love with fellow artist: John Lavery whom she had met years earlier in Brittany, France. However, fate was to take a hand and only four months into their marriage, Edward Trudeau, after a short battle through pneumonia died suddenly, as a result of a pulmonary embolism. Hazel was eventually to be reunited with her beloved John Lavery, but not for several years.

In life, as we know, there are givers and takers. Hazel was, without question, to develop firmly in the former mould. Throughout her adult lifetime, Hazel was given to identifying talent among those with whom she associated and by way of carefully considered introductions, assisting such talent on its way. In no small measure, Hazel’s vivacious and gregarious disposition marked her out for particular attention. Such attributes without question, smoothed the way in matters of introduction and social engagement. While living in England, Hazel’s skill as a hostess also contributed hugely, in the development of a significant and influential social circle. Hazel, needless to say, had no shortage of male admirers.

Hazel’s skill as an artist, coupled with worldliness from being well-travelled and her eventual second marriage to renowned portrait artist: Irishman John Lavery, placed her in good stead for her ultimate adopted role. She was to become a London Society hostess and consummate Political Networker. Hazel’s was truly a beguiling, alluring and most potent currency.

They were troubled times, those of the War of Independence in Ireland. For all, that many of us may think we know, about the Irish and British characters who played a prominent political role on life’s stage, in that era, there is so much that we simply do not know.

While some observers of that time, claim that Hazel espoused Liberal Politics, none can be definitive. However, historic papers do reveal that Hazel was liberal in her affections and also, although not stated but implied, perhaps somewhat insecure. The latter is difficult to understand, for someone who seemed to absolutely thrive, on social interaction.

Irrespective of what politics Hazel truly espoused, she was comfortable in engaging with guests of all political hues and none, at her dinner parties. Such openness saw the Lavery household visited time innumerably by both Irish and British Politician over the years, but in particular, visitations were intense, during the Irish Treaty Negotiations of 1921.

It was during the above period that Hazel was reputed to have struck up a romantic relationship with Irish Free State Representative: General Michael Collins. The relationship of course was denied for years, but upon emergence, in recent times, of personal correspondence between Hazel and Michael Collins, it became clear that such a relationship did in fact occur. Sadly and shockingly however, on the 22nd of August 1922, Michael Collins, while visiting his home county of Cork, at a location named: Beal na Blath, was assassinated.

Two years after the death of Michael Collins, Hazel responded to Kevin O’Higgins, then Minister for Justice of the Irish Free State, with her affections. A relationship blossomed and continued until 10th July 1927, on which day Kevin O’Higgins, also became the recipient in Ireland, of an assassin’s bullet.

Incredibly, despite the above relationships, Hazel’s marriage to Portrait Artist John Lavery remained solid until Hazel’s death on 3rd January 1935. John Lavery died, six years later, on 10th January 1941.

During the period of the Irish Treaty Negotiations, John Lavery completed many portraits, of key individuals involved, from all political hues. This process was facilitated, in no small measure, by the magnificent organisational and social skills of his wife Hazel Lavery, who tirelessly networked among the players, ensuring their frequent presence, within the Lavery household. Many of John Lavery’s wonderful portrait works, of that most significant era in Irish History, can be seen today in the Dublin City Gallery Hugh Lane, Claremont House, Parnell Square North, Dublin 1.

When compared with many women of her time, Hazel Lavery (Nee Martyn) experienced an extraordinary and invigorating journey through life. That journey brought her into contact with so many talented movers and shakers in the world of politics and the arts; people, who like herself, would indelibly stamps their towering presence, onto the history maps of both Ireland and Britain.

Hazel, by all accounts was a person whose intellect and unsurpassed influencing charm, was matched only by her disarming irresistible warmth and beauty. To summarise her in modern parlance I would simply say: beautiful networker extraordinaire.

If, in 1880 the Panama Canal was destined to become a conduit for great ships plying the world’s oceans, then Hazel, who arrived in that same year, was also destined to become a conduit through which the key players, in the ship of state of a yet to be formed Irish Republic, would negotiate their way, to its birth.

A new nation needs a new currency. In 1928, the Irish Free State invited John Lavery to “create an image of a female personification of Ireland” for use, on its new bank notes. The personification, which later came to be known as: Cathleen Ni Houlihan, would be the image of his wife Hazel Lavery set against a Killarney backdrop, with her arm resting upon a harp and a black shawl draped over her head. The image of Hazel would adorn Irish bank notes for 42 years, until our national currency was superseded, in the 1970s, by the Euro. It was indeed a fitting tribute to Hazel, who had done so much, on behalf of Ireland, to facilitate interaction between the various negotiating parties, during that critical year of 1921.

For further detailed information in relation to Hazel Lavery and her remarkable life, I would refer readers to a wonderful book entitled – Hazel: A Life of Lady Lavery 1880-1935 written by: Sinead McCoole. The book was first published in 1996, with a digital edition published in 2012. Here is a link to the digital version –

As a nation, we Irish have spent an inordinate number of years, suffering under the yoke of imperialism. While the Rebellion of 1916 and the later War of Independence, at huge cost in lives lost and in suffering, did eventually lead to twenty-six of our counties, coming out from under that yoke of imperialism, there still remains much angst among us, in relation to our separated six northern counties. Perhaps such angst could be properly described as either latent trauma or even “malignant shame?”

Dr.Garret O’Connor M.D. one of our number, who has spent over thirty-five years in the U.S., has set out a most interesting analysis of a condition which he describes as: malignant shame. Dr.O’Connor’s hypothesis argues, that we as a nation, have been traumatised by years of subjugation under imperialism and that as a result, probably to this day, in one form or other, suffer from a condition which he has named: malignant shame. Here is a link to his analysis –

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We must reach towards the stars; sooner rather than later


Newgrange Passage Tomb

Most of us, the lucky ones, live a safe and fulfilling life, cocooned in the bubble of our own private existence. Many of us pass the entirety of life’s journey, with minimum travails, absorbed in earning a living, raising young and interacting within a close loop of family and friends. We have little time, if any, outside our necessary work-a-day self-absorption to contemplate our greater existence; where, as a species we originally came from, or what may be happening in our Solar System, our Galaxy or indeed the vast Cosmos, of which we are but a tiny infinitesimal  but very open part. Maybe now, in our 21st Century, it is time, as individuals, that we gave more consideration, to such matters?

There are of course many specialists who do contemplate extraterrestrial matters; people with much scientific skill and dedication, who seek to advance our knowledge of the vastness of the mysterious environment within which the world we inhabit exists. They seek also to unlock the mysteries of many of the other worlds, which also occupy that same environment. Astronomers, Physicists, Mathematicians, Planetary Scientists, Rocket Engineers and many more, bring their talents to the table, in mankind’s effort to push the boundaries of space science and in so doing, to permanently unshackle human kind, from the bonds of Earth.

Throughout the ages, many have been fascinated by the night sky. On a clear night, the universe puts on a glorious display of various sized twinkling lights. Who could fail to be impressed and indeed mystified, by such a masterful vista filling and seeming endless display? Certainly, here in Ireland, our Stone Age ancestors were impressed. They built stone monuments, which many believe, align with particular star systems. They also built, what many now believe to be, primitive astronomic observatories; one prominent example being, the “Passage Tomb” structure on a high vantage location, 8km west of the town of Drogheda, in an area known as Newgrange.

Newgrange, with its long, internal portal accessed passage, which leads to a central inner chamber, was constructed in the Neolithic period circa 3200 BC. Newgrange therefore, is older than Stonehenge in England and indeed older, by 500 years, than the great Egyptian Pyramids. The builders of Newgrange aligned it with the rising sun in such a manner, so as to ensure that during each winter solstice, the rays of the sun, would enter the passage via the portal and for a sustained period, bathe both the passage and the inner chamber, in light; masterful building indeed. However, with the builder’s obvious awareness of the heavens, it would be hard to credit, that such a gargantuan building effort would be put into something, which would have a use on, but one occasion each year. This is where speculation related to astronomical observation enters the equation. When, on a clear night, inside the darkened passage, our ancestors observing the heavens would enjoy a portal framed view of sections of that magnificent vista as Earth rotated, during the hours of local darkness. The strange thing about Newgrange, is that at some point in its ancient history, it was totally entombed and remained in virtual obscurity, until its re-discovery and excavation by Irish Professor Michael J. O’Kelly, in the later part of the 20th Century.

For all we believe we know about Earth’s history, there is yet so very much we simply do not know. We find sophisticated stone structures around our world and marvel at how the “ancients” could possibly have crafted and erected them. Speculation abounds about “ancient technologies” but, how could such technologies have been acquired? Yes our Earth is old; very old. Chillingly however, we are also aware, of certain significant past extinction events, but we do not yet have any comprehensive understanding of exactly how and why these events occurred. Given the age of Earth, it is of course conceivable, that past human/humanoid civilisations did exist here and having thrived for millennia, created and utilised sophisticated technologies; technologies  now lost to us in time and swept away perhaps, by global extinction events?  So, if we are to survive as a species, it is my simple belief that we need to accelerate our study and understanding of such matters; we need to do so urgently and in a spirit of world-wide open co-operation, nation with nation. We need to stop wasting our precious resources of finance and intelligence on wars of both greed and the destruction of our own kind, but instead focus as much of those resources as possible, towards expanding our knowledge of the history of Earth, its place in our Solar System and its near companion worlds.

As a young person, I had a magnetic allure towards space exploration. It was an evolving new science; an exciting “final frontier” which seemed to hold so much promise for the future of mankind; possibly as a space faring species. I watched, with all-consuming interest; transfixed over the years, as the Apollo Programme unfolded and was broadcast on our then, black and white TV screen. I bore witness to the birth and the ultimate phasing out, of the Moon Landings Programme. I watched in awe as the Space Shuttle Programme was developed. I noted its many successful missions and indeed its number of sad tragedies. I saw the Space Station become a reality, grow and become a permanent human habitation outside of the atmosphere of Earth. I watched with keen interest, as sophisticated robotic exploratory craft were dispatched to many bodies within our Solar System and indeed was profoundly impressed, when at least one, eventually travelled outside our Solar System, into the vastness of interstellar space. However, of all of this, the one point of interest which seems to have really captured people’s imaginations is the now ongoing, tentative exploration of one of our nearest planetary neighbours, Mars.

Many of course would argue that all of this “so called space exploration”, has been one giant hoax, with filming being done at secret locations on Earth and broadcast by complicit media, to deceived masses. Well, while keeping an open mind, I nonetheless believe that we do need some dog and bone type investigative journalism to possibly expose truth here, wherever it is uncovered. However, I tend to lean towards the benefit of the doubt and as such, until I obtain any incontrovertible truth of the situation, will continue to believe that space exploration, is actually occurring.

So, to Mars; in recent years, with the combination of orbiting and surface rover based exploration, we have obtained an unprecedented volume, of pretty good resolution imagery, of the surface of the red planet. At first, on the face of it, it seemed mostly to be a barren desolate and moon like, dead world. However, with the sophisticated combination of scientific feedback from the team of Mars exploration robots, this is now being proven, more and more, to be anything but the truth.

Plumes of methane gas, one of the most common markers of life, have been noted frequently, emanating from the planet’s surface. Carbon based molecules, another indicator of possible life, have been detected within samples of surface soil analysed by the rovers. Flowing water has been observed, at particular times of year, in the Martian northern hemisphere. Evidence of the once existence of ancient oceans and of the presence of standing water, have also been found. The scientific conclusion therefore has been reached, that Mars once hosted an effective biosphere, perhaps identical to that of the Earths and the conclusion reached by the Planetary Science Director of the University of Michigan, Ms Sushil Atreya is: “Mars is currently active”.

Assuming that we actually are, exploring Mars and that all of the images of Mars made public by NASA, in recent years, are authentic representations of the surface of that planet, then, there is a reason, why we need to get archeologists to Mars sooner, rather than later. With the volume of images released by NASA to the internet, significant interest has been generated. Many people have taken the time to examine, oft-times, in the minutest of detail, such images. On a very regular basis, people have noted what they broadly describe as “anomalies”, in these images. There are a myriad of videos now on the internet, featuring such Mars images with anomalies and offering various explanations, as to what people believe, they may be.

I have seen many of these images and can say with confidence and with an open mind, that in so many instances, these anomalies really do look exactly like fragments of ancient archeological runes; statues; temples or bits of buildings, the likes of which we may routinely come across, at ancient sites, here on Earth. So, it would seem that Mars definitely does have a story to tell. In my humble opinion, we need to read that story and we need to understand it, quickly, because our very future survival, as a species, may well depend upon whatever new and wider knowledge, we may glean from the Mars story.

Dr. John Brandenburg PhD, Plasma Physicist and Instructor in Astronomy, Physics and Mathematics at Madison College Wisconsin in his book: “Death on Mars” suggests that there is “evidence of an Earth like Mars in the past”. He further and rather disturbingly suggests, backed by scientific evidence, that there exists: “nuclear data revealing ‘weapons-signature’ isotopes showing two massive nuclear air bursts [in the past] in the northern regions of Mars.”

Dr. Brandenburg’s experience extends to: orbital technologies, space plasma nuclear fusion, and advance space propulsion. He spent many years working both as a contractor and directly for the U.S. Government, in space and military weapons development technologies.

As individuals, we need to breach the bubble of our own private existence and become aware of the startling possibility, that something unsavory may have occurred in the past, on a planet, as close to us as makes no difference. We need to add our voices to a global call for more urgent progress in the matter of getting humans to Mars. We need to read the story which Mars has to reveal and we need to do it very soon.

Dr. Brandenburg’s publication is not a Si-Fi book. It is factually based upon a scientific study of Mars data over many years and was completed in collaboration with several notable scientists and professionals, in the sphere of Astronomy and Space Exploration.

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Spirits rise in Dublin’s Phoenix Park



A warm sunny late August day saw me, once again, within the green wonderland of history, nature and fresh air, which is Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

I have the great privilege, of being able to visit the Phoenix Park very often and once within its welcoming precincts, my heart bathes in a warm glow of gladness and my spirit, no matter how down I may be feeling, invariably rises.

Today’s visit however, I do believe, felt an exceptional one. At its start, as always, I slung my rucksack on, pulled my headphones on, tuned in to some beautiful symphony music, popped on my sun hat and was away walking once again, within my very own paradise.

I love being close to magnificent trees; wandering along trails and meandering bridal paths. I quickly left Chesterfield Avenue behind and headed in a northerly direction among the welcoming oaks, on a winding trail adjacent to the parks perimeter wall. As the crow flies, away off to my right, but well out of sight, was the parallel running, North Road.

Maybe it was the near perfect nature of the weather. Maybe it was the sun allowing its golden shafts of light to glint playfully through the branches of the great oaks and adorn the leaf strewn path ahead of me, with angular brush strokes, like a glowing art work of nature, in progress. Maybe it was the soothing audio balm, of delightful symphonic music as it flowed, like a therapeutic river of joy, deep into my consciousness. Maybe it was all of the above and much more; who knows? All I know is, that in those beautiful moments, I felt at one with nature; a deep deep contentment, the likes of which I do not recall, ever having experienced before.

I walked onward along the path, which eventually led me to the Phoenix Park old School House and there, I crossed the North Road and entered the beautiful arboretum, just inside the periphery of Ashtown Demesne. As always, I lingered for a brief period, in admiration and in awe, of the gloriously lofty sequoia (red wood tree) and it’s many splendid companion tree species.

There were many people in the park, but today, it was as if I was in a different place. As if I had been transcended. Although I could see people, my consciousness was captivated like never before, by the beauty of the nature which surrounded me. I felt so deeply immersed, in the twin glories of the environment and the melodic symphonic sound, which was so delightful in combination, that one could almost taste it.

I continued along the periphery of Ashton Demesne, a walking trail which I had enjoyed on many previous occasions. As I progressed, my feeling of transcendence intensified and at one point, having emerged from the trees, small butterflies began to rise from the grass in front of me and flutter playfully, across my path.

As more and more butterflies rose up, to add to the beauty of my path and joined in their wonderful aerial dance, I felt as if I was being transported to the orchestra pit from whence this glorious symphonic sound was flowing; that I was observing myself, on a giant screen, wandering, so contentedly, among those beautiful butterflies. In those moments, I longed for the ability to freeze frame that scene; to set the freeze frame clock for 1000 years. As the scene began to fade, I gave the most grateful thanks to my parents, for having created me and thus allowed me the great privilege of conscious witness, to such immense beauty.

I ended my walk, with a most extraordinary feeling of deep contentment and a wish for many more days like this. My wish was not just on my own account, but also for all of my Brother and Sister humans, as we travel along life’s amazing journey.

Two friends of mine, on two separate occasions, gave me gifts of plaques which carried the following messages:

  • “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain”
  • “Life is a journey, enjoy it”

After nature, within the Phoenix Park, whispered to me in such a profound and reaffirming way, I now read those words with deeper seeing eyes and with a true comprehension of their meaning.

Now, having read the post; sit back, relax, close you eyes and re-travel that wonderful journey. It may be the very type of therapeutic imagining which will deliver to you also, that sense of contentment which I enjoyed, while experiencing the original moments.

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The Hound of the Irish


There is a beautiful vast park land, called the Phoenix Park close to where I live. On the occasions when I walk there, which thankfully are many, it never fails to amaze me how many people, with canine companions, also avail of this lovely environment. For canine and walker it’s a win-win relationship. Canine needs exercise; so does human and so, a symbiotic relationship, blossoms. However, there is so much more to the human/canine relationship, than simply the mutual need for exercise. There has to be, because a survey in 2006 discovered amazingly, that there were 640,620 dogs in Ireland.

During one of my recent walks, I got to thinking about the extraordinary special relationship which has evolved over millennia, between canines and humans and the incredible broad family of canine types, which their chosen close contact with humans, has since spawned. I am delighted of course, to be aware of the fact, that one particular breed of canine, both literally and metaphorically, towers over the rest. I am of course referring to the Irish Wolf Hound which when standing on its hind paws, can reach to seven feet tall; without question, likely, the tallest dog in the world. Although the above photo is of a white Wolf Hound, commonly, this shaggy coated breed, would present in a grey colour.

In both real history and in Irish mythology, the Irish Wolf Hound distinguishes itself as a truly extraordinary and capable breed. Amazingly, as with all other canine types, the Irish Wolf Hound’s ancestors are, in fact, Wolves. Wolves roamed freely in the Irish forests, from as far back as 34000 BC. However, Wolf Hounds were not actually bread in Ireland before 3 BC.

In ancient Ireland, as humans settled and began to farm animals, marauding Wolves mainly predating on livestock, became a major problem for the settlers. Hungry Wolves, in hunting packs, were found to be clever, tenacious, fearless and vicious predators which did not differentiate, between live stock and settler. Society therefore concluded, that something significant had to be done, to defend against the menace and threat to their very survival, which the Wolf had become.

It is believed, that the canine ancestor of the species we know today as the Irish Wolf Hound was brought to Ireland circa 7000 BC. It was not until 3 BC however, that the breed seems to have been cultivated as a formidable companion, for the nobility. It was trained for use as a war dog in battle; a sight hound in hunting and a guard dog. Wolf Hounds became valued gifts, given by Irish nobility, to their foreign counterparts. Such was the reputation of these fine beasts, that they merited mention within the writings of no less a personage than, one Julius Caesar.

Under Brehon Law, only nobility could own Wolf Hounds. Legend has it that Fionn Mac Cumhall was the proud owner of no less than 500 hounds. His two favourite hounds being named: Bran and Sceolan. The Gaelic for Wolf Hound is: Cu Faoil.

Elk, wild Boar and Deer were regularly hunted in ancient Ireland and the magnificent canine, later to be known as the Wolf Hound, would have assisted greatly in such hunts. However, its formidable reputation was to be built mainly on it’s unsurpassed prowess in hunting Wolves. During such hunts, Wolf Hounds would typically have been used in pairs; although sometimes, in a small group of up to five. The Wolf Hound was the only dog fast enough to catch a Wolfe and strong enough, to kill its quarry. Other dog species were intimidated by the scent of a Wolf. The Wold Hound however, had been carefully bread not to fear such a scent. Because of its excellent eye sigh, the Wolf Hound (a sight hound), vastly surpassed other canines. Other dogs relied mainly upon their sense of smell, to guide them in tracking. The Wolf however, was renowned for leaving very poor scent markers. In 1571, Wolf Hounds were recorded as being used, in the hunting of Wolves, in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains.

By 1584, the Wolf problem in Ireland was so severe, that legislation was enacted to attempt to address it. Bounties were placed upon Wolves. The amounts varied, depending upon whether the kill presented, was male, female or cub. The magnitude of the Wolfe problem in Ireland was apparently so impacting, that during the Cromwellian occupation, Oliver Cromwell put a blanket ban on Wolf Hounds being given outside of Ireland, as a gifts.

In Ireland, the last Wolfe was reported as having been killed in Carlow, in 1786. Following the elimination of Wolves in both Britain and Ireland, the Wolf Hound breed began to fall into decline. Despite such decline and in testimony to the versatility of the breed, there are a number of recorded instances, where Irish Wold Hounds, have been trained very successfully, in sheep herding. In the 1800s, one Captain George Augustus, set about the challenge of reviving the breed, which thankfully by virtue of his actions, is still around, for us to treasure and enjoy today.

Sadly, despite it’s formidably impressive physique, the Irish Wolf Hound has but a short life span of between just six to eight years. As with many other dog breeds, our Irish Wolf Hound, seem to possess particular systemic physiological weakness e.g heart and bone related issues, which unfortunately typically contribute, to its early passing.

In celebration of this wonderful breed, the Hound of the Irish, it would be nice if there was an annual Irish Wolf Hound Festival. What better venue, for such a festival, than Dublin’s magnificent Phoenix Park? After all, the park is already a much-loved, canine walkers paradise.

At the beginning of this article I intimated that there has to be much more to the human/canine relationship, than simply the mutual need for exercise. Of course, every dog owner will tell you there is. Each dog owner enjoys their own unique relationship with their canine companion. Such relationships are truly exemplified in the life of an amazing Irish Wolfe Hound by the name of: Bally Shannon.

Here is a moving excerpt, from some stories about heroic Wolf Hounds:

“An Irish knight or officer had his Wolf Hound with him at the Battle of Aughrim, and together they slew many enemy. But at last the master himself was killed. He was stripped and left on the battle field to be devoured by wolves. But his faithful dog never left him. He remained at his side day and night, feeding on other dead bodies on the battlefield, but allowing neither man nor beast to come near his master’s corpse until nothing was left of it but a pile of whitening bones. Then he was forced to go farther away in search for food, but from July till January he never failed to return to the bones of his master every night. One evening some soldiers came across the battlefield, and one of them approached the Wolf Hound to see what manner of beast he might be. The dog, thinking his master’s remains were about to be disturbed, attached the soldier, who called loudly for help. The others came running up and shot the faithful dog through the heart.”

To read the balance of the above story and the full story of Bally Shannon, here is the link – Bally Shannon

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“I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen”



When referring to World War One, American President Woodrow Wilson famously remarked: “This is a war to end all wars”. Oh; how wrong was he?

In 2014, we marked the centenary of the commencement, on 28th July 1914, of that terrible global conflict, during which so many young lives, were needlessly and senselessly, wiped out.

Just short of two years later, on 1st of July 2016 we paused once again, this time to solemnly mark the centenary of  perhaps the greatest mass slaughter of human beings, by their own kind, in the history of humanity. I am of course referring to, the commencement of that major World War One action, known as: the battle of the Somme.

Whenever I read history, in relation to the many tragic events surrounding World War One, I never cease to be amazed, by the apparent almost naiveté, on the part of so many unsuspecting young men, as they were being recruited into ranks which were ultimately to become, wave upon wave, of lead stopping fodder. We often read, that so many of those doomed young recruits, saw the prospect of their involvement in that awful conflict, as being one of adventure; an adventure to be shared with friends and perhaps neighbours. So, what an unspeakable tragedy it was, for the reality of their believed adventure, to turn out be, the elimination of whole streets of their friends and neighbours.

Ireland, being part of the British Empire of that time, did not escape the awful slaughter. Over 200,000 Irish men, fought in World War One. If we consider casualties from those Irish who fought not just in the British army, then we discover that 49,500 of our countrymen, never returned to their families. However, they were certainly not alone in spilling their blood in those awful killing fields, as so many other nationalities, were meeting their maker, in those terrible places, too.

During 2014, as part of a commemorative project to mark the 100 anniversary of World War One, organised by Librivox (Free Audio Books), I contributed an audio piece for inclusion within one of their catalogues. My piece was about a young American Air Man named Briggs Kilburn Adams.

In the summer of 1916 Briggs volunteered as an ambulance driver in France. In the autumn of 1916 he went back to America to finish his education and upon graduating immediately returned to France to train as an Airman. Briggs was a prolific letter writer and he regularly sent the most graphic descriptions of his experiences home to his family in America. This is what Briggs College Tutor had to say, upon reading some of the material he sent home:

“They are the most beautiful bits of writing to have come out of the war – beautiful in style and colour and motion. No one else has taken me up in the air and shown me what it must be to fly; no one else has presented so vivid a figure of war as it should be portrayed.”

Listen here to:

Selected Letters by Briggs Kilburn Adams, Lieutenant of the Royal Flying Corp

So, it is now time to transfer from America, back to Ireland.

On 1st July 2016, our national Television Station RTÉ (Radio Telefis Éireann), broadcast a unique, Battle of the Somme, commemorative programme entitled: My Adopted Soldier.

The project, of the same name upon which the  TV programme was based, was the brainchild of History Teacher from Donegal: Gerry Moore.

Gerry’s interest had been stirred by an “old crumpled photograph of a grand-uncle who died in World War One”. Given that the tragic impact of that war, had probably not left a single county in Ireland unscathed, Gerry thought it would be a good educational history project and a respectful tribute, to some of the young men who had lost their lives, for one student from each of the 32 counties in Ireland to adopt a soldier, research the soldiers background and following this, the 32 students would then bring that body of research together and archive it for posterity, within a specially prepared website.

What an amazing idea!  Well done Gerry and well done Student Researchers.

So, this is the background story, to the My Adopted Soldier Project, as introduced  by: Gerry Moore –

My Adopted Soldier – Project History

And here is the link to the archive which tells the stories of the 32 Adopted Soldiers –

My Adopted Soldier – The Archive

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