Blog

Going With The Flow

“The seasons change to teach us the very inevitability of change. Our duty is to adjust our sails and flow with the current of change – adjust and learn, adapt and modify to the newness that life presents from time to time.”
― Sanchita Pandey, Lessons from My Garden

‘Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be…….. ‘ Elvis Presley sings in the song, ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love.’

Yes, sometimes we just have to go with the flow. During this time of Covid 19 we have had no option but to go with the flow.

The River Shannon flows through my village of Tarmonbarry / Termonbarry. On my side of the river lies the county of Roscommon and on the other side, the county of Longford. For the first part of the Lockdown I was only able to walk along one side of the river as I was restricted to walking 2 km from home. In the last few weeks we were allowed to go 5 km from home, so I was able to cross the bridge over the river and walk along the other side to the small village of Clondra. So I see the River Shannon in different moods and from different perspectives. But one thing is for sure, it keeps flowing, one way or the other.

Me, standing in front of the River Shannon.

The River Shannon means ‘wise river’. It is named after Sionnan, the granddaughter of Manannán Mac Lir (Son of the Sea), a sea deity in Celtic mythology. Sionnan means ‘possessor of wisdom” and the Irish name for the River Shannon is Abhainn na Sionainne. Sionainn is a combination of the words ‘sion’ (wise) and ‘abhainn’ (river).

Sionnan is the Goddess of the River Shannon. Legend has it that Sionnan went to Connla’s Well – the Well of Wisdom in the Celtic Otherworld (the realm of the dead). As Sionnan lifted the cover off the well, it erupted and the water flowed down the mountain dividing the country in two. Her body was washed down the mountain and she transformed into the goddess of the River Shannon. ‘ https://www.cruise-ireland.com/blog/river-shannon-facts-and-faq/https://www.cruise-ireland.com/blog/river-shannon-facts-and-faq/

Its source is known as the Shannon Pot… Here is a slightly different version of the story above.

‘As the surface rising of Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon Pot’s fame can be traced back to the legendary Finn MacCool and the Fianna, the great warriors of Irish mythology. Legend has it that Síonnan, ,the daughter of Lodan (a son of the Celtic God of the Sea, Lír), came to the Shannon Pot in search of the great Salmon of Wisdom. The great salmon was angered at the sight of Síonnan and caused the pool to overflow and drown the maiden. Thus the Shannon was created and still bears her name today.’ https://www.marblearchcavesgeopark.com/attraction/shannon-port/

The River Shannon in Tarmonbarry/Termonbarry
Nature blossoming along the banks of the River Shannon
The River Shannon from the bridge that goes from, County Roscommon to County Longford

The natural habitat along the River Shannon. Photo by Aoife Moynihan

Going with the flow doesn’t mean you should just drift along on the current. Yes, things can change in an instant and you may need to change tack but that doesn’t mean you should lose sight of your destination. It is a matter of navigating the waters of life. There might be storms, droughts, deep depths, dangerous currents, oncoming obstacles, weeds that might tangle you and peaceful passages. Enjoy the journey and don’t forget to appreciate the beauty along the way, but remember you might end up at a different destination you were aiming for; but maybe that was the way you were meant to go. Steer your boat, but remember that sometimes some higher power might take the rudder.

Interview with, Mary Smyth: Artist and Animator

Mary Smyth, is another artistic and creative relative. My paternal grandfather was Mary’s maternal great-grandfather. Mary and I have been working on a project which you can read about in this interview.

1. When did you realise you were good at art?

I always enjoyed art as a child and in school. I took part in many workshops and competitions with the, Aisling Children’s Art festival, Longford, when I was very young and did facepainting with Backstage Youth Theatre, Longford.

Mary was chosen to create artwork for the posters and leaflets for the, Aisling Children’s Festival, Longford for 2019.

2. Who encouraged you in your artwork?

My parents and teachers definitely influenced me when I was very young.

3. What influences your art the most?

I follow a lot of traditional and digital artists online which are a continuous inspiration and influence on my work. I especially love figures and characters and the various ways people explore their shape.

4. Why did you decide to study animation?

Studying animation was something which could’ve gone another way. I was very torn when choosing my discipline in college. It wasn’t until final year that I felt progression in my digital work and started to experiment with ways I could enjoy the medium. I often take a multi-media approach, sometimes creating 3D models / sculptures and adding them into my scenes before using traditional animation over it. Every so often I paint!

Setting a animation scene.
Working on animation scenes with local school children.
An animated story based on Mary’s younger sister, Lily May.

5. Tell us about your project for animating my book, ‘The Reckolahesperus’. What processes are involved?

 Eileen approached me a long time ago on animating, ‘The Reckolahesperus’. It involves traditional 2D animation, lip-sync, motion design and effects. We recorded the speakers ourselves and the designs are based off the original illustration work in the book. We are hoping to share it into film festivals soon. 

My book, ‘The Reckolahesperus’.
A scene from Mary’s animation for my book, ‘The Reckolahesperus’.


6. You have been doing a lot of work with various groups in the local community. Tell us a bit about those.

 I work a lot with schools and festivals. Currently I am working with Hannah Carleton on an online scrapbook art and creative writing challenge for children during lockdown called ‘Household Hero: Scrapbook Challenge’ on facebook and youtube (https://www.facebook.com/HouseholdHeroLongford/) where we post a weekly challenge and videos to help the children. It is supported by Creative Ireland Longford and Longford County Council. During this year’s Cruinniú na nÓg ( Meeting of youth), animations from school projects I held this year with St. Joseph’s National School, Gaelscoil Longfoirt and St. Mary’s Drumlish National School will be screening for the first time with Still Voices Short Film Festival. I have also worked with Cruthú Arts Festival, Backstage Youth Theatre, Aisling Children’s Art Festival and Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre with various promotional artwork and children’s animation day workshops.

7. What are your dreams and ambitions for your art in the future?

 I am enjoying research in college and would like to continue that for another year. I am open and looking forward to what happens after that. I definitely want to be working in film and animation and to travel with it but who knows what the future will hold!

A portrait by Mary of her younger sister, Lily May.
One of Mary’s art works
Book cover art done by Mary.

Meet The Artist Angela (Corkery) Bickley

Today, I want you to meet my very talented sister, Angela (Corkery) Bickley. She has done the most beautiful illustrations of flower fairies for my new book, ‘A Posy of Wild Flowers’.

Bluebell fairy
Forget-Me-Not Fairy
Ivy Fairy

1. When did you realise you had a talent for drawing?

When I was at school.

2. Was it always your dream to be an artist?

That and a ballerina!

3. What training did you get to help hone your skills as an artist?

I had a very good art teacher at school who inspired me. With her guidance I got my ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level in art. I then went and did a foundation course at Portsmouth College of Art. At the end of that it was a toss up between sculpture and graphics. I decided on sculpture, though I spent a lot of time with the graphics students. I didn’t consider painting as I was told I had a weird sense of colour.

4. How have you used your artistic skills in the different communities you have found yourself in?

As well as drawing, I worked in a pottery while I was at school and along with other craft skills I taught Art and Crafts in West Cork, while I was bringing up a young family. I also started painting at that time. My husband’s job took him to England and we had to move there in 1983. I got a job in a pottery on the Isle of Wight. From there I got a job teaching art at the Presentation Convent. In 1988 I gave that up to train as a nurse. I loved this job but missed my art, so I started teaching figurative sculpture and ceramics at adult evening classes whilst still nursing.

5. It is said it is hard to make a living from art. What is your answer to that?

It’s incredibly hard to make a living as an artist. People generally don’t realize how much time and effort goes into it.

6. Have you enjoyed working on this project with your sister?

Yes, of course 🙂

7. Your husband, Jon Bickley is a sculptor. Tell us a bit about his work.

I was at college with Jon, we were both on the same sculpture course. He always preferred sculpting animals, whereas I preferred people. He has a workshop at home where He works daily making and casting sculptures.

Angela and Jon’s wedding
Sculpture by Jon Bickley – Resin bronze
Sculpture by Jon Bickley – Foundry bronze
Sculpture by Jon Bickley – resin bronze
Sculpture by Jon Bickley – Resin bronze

8. You will be selling cards of the flower fairies for this book. Have you any future plans for doing other cards etc?

Yes I hope to go on to produce more work which can be made into cards and prints.

Some of the cards with flower fairies, taken from Angela’s illustrations for ‘A Posy of Wild Flowers.’
One of Angela’s cards in cello wrapping with accompanying envelope
Angel, pottering in her garden with her dog, Holly.
One of Angela’s commissions.
One of Angela’s commissions
One of Angela’s commissions

Interview with Lalin Swaris: Adopted Son Of Lovely Longford – Photographer, Chef, Man of the People and Promoter of Longford.

  1. Where are you from originally?

Sri Lanka

2. Why did you come to Ireland?

To study Hotel Management at St Mary’s College, Cathal Brugha Street.

3. Why did you stay in Ireland?

I left home in 1967 and went to Switzerland to train in hotel work. I worked in different departments of hotel work. I met an Irish lad, a co-worker in the hotel. He told me about Cathal Brugha street, ( St Mary’s Catering College). I enlisted in the college in 1968 and went to Jurys hotel in 1971 to do summer work. I met Peter Kelly’s (Fianna Fáil T.D. R.I.P.) brother Pat, who was the assistant manager and, Breege Savage, who was the receptionist. After the summer work, Pat told me that he would get me a job in the Longford Arms Hotel in Longford.

So I came with him to the Longford Arms Hotel and Breege went to the Annaly Hotel. I was a trainee manager under Dermot Kelly, who was the manager in the Longford Arms. I worked in all departments of the hotel as a trainee.

I met my beautiful wife in Longford. I went to the Imperial Hotel in Dundalk, Co. Louth in 1974 as a junior assistant manager, but I had to come back to Longford as I couldn’t manage without my true love. We got married and had our wonderful family.

I was also a barman as well as a chef. I was trained in Chinese cooking. I was the manager of the Crews Inn in Rooskey, Co. Roscommon; and Head Chef in St Mel’s College in Longford for 21 years.

4. What made you become a chef?

I had enough experience to be one.

5. How did you become interested in photography?

After retirement I became a couch potato so my daughter gave me an old camera and kicked me out of the house. I had been the secretary of the Photo Club back in my college in Sri Lanka.

6. How did you get involved with the Longford Park Run? https://www.parkrun.ie/longford/

Kevin Kane, who is the founder of the Longford Parkrun was looking for a photographer and I got it.

Photo by Lalin Swaris of the Longford Parkrun
Photo by Lalin Swaris of the Longford Parkrun



7. You have filmed and taken photos at Longford Writers Group Events. Do you enjoy helping local groups?

I thoroughly enjoy shooting local events and charity events and to promote Lovely Longford.

Longford Writers Group book launch of their anthology, ‘Home Made’. Photo by Lalin Swaris.

8. Why did you set up the Facebook group, Photographers of the Emerald Isle?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/522032684637134/

It was two of us. It was Antonio Simoes’s idea originally. https://eileenmoynihan.wordpress.com/2020/03/02/an-interview-with-photographer-antonio-simoes/ The idea was to promote Longford. Since then it has widened to include photographs from the whole island of Ireland, north and south. It is to also to encourage amateur photographers in their endeavours.

9. Have you any plans or ambitions for the future?

To keep promoting lovely Longford and helping out charitable causes.

(See some of Lalin’s photos of local Longford people, and scenes from Longford town and county, below.

Longford Photographer, Michelle Ghee
Longford Politicians, Joe Flaherty and Peggy Nolan

10. You got an award for Longford Person of the Year 2019, an award for the most Inspirational Photographer in 2019, and you were one of the 10 people who were chosen as People of the Year in County Longford. How did you feel about that?

I am delighted and thankful to the Longford people.

Cocooning

The word cocoon originates from the 17th century: from the French word cocon, from the medieval Provençal coucoun ‘eggshell, cocoon’, diminutive of coca ‘shell’. The verb dates from the mid 19th century. https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/cocoon

Most of us associate the word with the silky covering spun by caterpillars to wrap themselves in while they gradually turn into butterflies.

Today, I’ve decided to share a story on the theme of cocooning, that I wrote for my local writers group which is Longford Writers group, for our online meeting. As you will see, the link with the ‘eggshell’ origin of the word (see above) is connected to this story…

“I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re ok.”

Humphrey Littleton was totally fed-up. Okay, he was seventy-two, but he didn’t consider himself old and frail. The government wanted all the over 70’s to ‘cocoon.’ “I’m no damn butterfly,” he said out loud. Humphrey understood about protecting the elderly during this pandemic, but he reckoned he was healthier and fitter than many half his age. Why couldn’t he just do social distancing?

He had always been a bit of a rebel. He had been a teenager in the ‘60s and that was a time of protests and new freedoms; his generation had talked about love and peace and fought against war and authority. Was he going to lie down now and just accept what the authorities told him to do?

What was that? A pinging musical sound was coming from his iPad. It would be his daughter Lily with his granddaughter Beattie, calling on Skype. Humphrey rushed into the sitting-room to answer the call. He loved being able to see Lily and Beattie, and Lily’s husband Ned, (when he was there).  They lived in Australia and any time spent with them online was precious.

              “Hi Dad!”

              “Hi Grandad!”

              “Hello, Lily and Beattie, it’s lovely to see you.”

              “How are you Dad?

              “Well I’m a bit cross actually.”

              “Why?”

              “They want me to cocoon and stay at home because I’m over seventy. I’m not some old fool. I know how to do social distancing and I’m not going to take any risks with my health. I will go mad if I can only go out to the garden.”

              “But Dad, it is for your own good.”

              “Humph, it is like Big Brother!”

              “Grandad, we don’t want you to get sick and die,” said Beattie with tears in her eyes. “We want to fly to Ireland to see you after all this.”

              “It’s okay honey, I promise I will be good, and I might just come to Australia to see you, after this crisis. I will definitely need to spread my wings after being cooped up.”

              “Why don’t you get something to do Dad, so you don’t notice the time passing?”

              “Well, actually when I said ‘cooped’ I got a brainwave. I think I will get some chickens. I used to look after them as a boy at home. That will keep me busy, and I will have fresh eggs. I can get some from the farmer down the road, Pat O’Donnell.”

              Humphrey started rubbing his hands at the idea. He couldn’t wait to get going on the project.  Lily and Beattie smiled and agreed that it was a great idea.

              As soon as the call was finished, Humphrey went out to the shed to sort out wood for building some hen coops. Humphrey was a man who always had things put away for use in the future. He was always prepared for any eventuality. Being out of control was one of the things that made him feel disorientated since this virus started. Now he was going to take some sort of control over something. Humphrey started whistling as he busied himself, getting wood and nails.

              Humphrey researched how to make chicken-coops on the internet. Then he went out and carefully measured everything and started constructing the coops. After a week he had them made and when his daughter and granddaughter called him on Skype, he proudly showed them off.

              “They look great Dad,” Lily said.

              “They’re really cool, Grandad,” Beattie added… “What do you have to do next?”

              “Now, I must get a run to let the chickens run around in. Apparently you can order one online. You just have to put it all together.”

              “That will keep you busy Dad,” Lily laughed.

As soon as they had finished their video call Humphrey researched chicken runs on line, comparing quality and prices. Once he was satisfied, he ordered one, which was to be delivered in a few days.

When the run arrived, he was delighted, as he was eager to see his project completed.. He studied the manual for instructions in how to assemble it. He worked through the instructions methodically and was very pleased with himself when he had the whole thing put together. Humphrey carefully lifted it over the chicken coops and stood back to survey his handiwork. He noted that the day had gone quickly, that he felt good spending time out in the garden, and he didn’t feel angry anymore. Humphrey couldn’t wait to show Lily and Beattie the progress he had made. They could see his pride at what he had achieved, and noticed how happy and animated he was.

“I’m going to get six hens from Pat O’Donnell tomorrow. He will leave them at the gate for me, and I will leave the money in the porch for him.”

“I’m dying to see the hens, Grandad.”

“As soon as they have settled in, I will introduce them, and you can name them.”

Beattie beamed all the way from Sydney. It made Humphrey’s heart swell with love for her.

True to his word, Pat O’Donnell delivered the hens along with a big bag of pellets, and two bags of wood chips for bedding, and took his money. Humphrey rang him up and thanked him, and then started settling the hens into their new quarters. He gave them some pellets to eat plus some fruit and vegetable scraps. He couldn’t wait until the morning to see if they had laid any eggs.

Humphrey was up at the crack of dawn. He went into the chicken run and opened the coops. He made soft clucking noise to the chickens and gently felt about in their woodchip bedding. He found three eggs in all and was delighted with his find.

The eggs were fried for breakfast and put on hot buttery toast. “Good enough for a king,” Humphrey chuckled to himself. As soon as he had finished his breakfast, he video-called Lily and Beattie. Beattie was very excited about naming the chickens. He led them down the garden on the iPad. He propped his iPad on top of one of the coops.

“Now, I want the first name that comes into your head when you see each chicken,” said Humphrey, smiling. “Here’s the first one,” he said, scooping a chicken up in his arms.

“Freckles,” Beattie answered instantly. “Brownie, Charlotte, Peggy, Hawkeye, and…. Dolly,” Beattie called out as each hen was shown.

“Well, you did a fantastic job in naming them, Beattie. I will video them every day to show you how they are getting on.”

So, Humphrey did just that and Lily put the videos up on Facebook and Humphrey and all the hens gathered a huge following. Some fans contacted Lily to ask if they could email Humphrey as he didn’t do Facebook. Lily vetted each fan that asked and then sent them Humphrey’s email. Between the chickens and the emails, Humphrey didn’t worry about being ‘cocooned’. Like the chickens he was grateful for the simple things in life. As he fed the chickens he spoke his daily mantra to them…“I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re ok.”

I hope you enjoyed the story and that we will all emerge from this time as more beautiful people in our inner and outer lives, just like newly emerged butterflies.

Technology: Helping Us During Lock down

The one thing that has become apparent during this time of lock down with the Covid-19 virus, is that without modern technology we would all be feeling totally lost and truly isolated.

At least with mobile phones, iPads and computers we can talk and even see each other. Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, friends and neighbours can communicate and reach out to each other.

Now, with so many working from home some people can carry on with their jobs. Meetings can be done by video conferencing and email is quick and easy.

With schools and universities closed, education doesn’t have to fully stop. Teachers can do online lessons with pupils. Parents can go to homeschooling sites to get ideas and lessons to help teach their children.

Artists, writers and musicians are also reaching out to share their talents with those at home. Two people I know recently did interviews with, are doing just that. See Maggi McKenna and Sean P .O’Neill below.

My friend, Maggi MCkenna, doing her storytelling with Longford libraries
My friend, Sean P. O’Neill, sharing some music

Some Problems: Many groups are using the likes of Google Hangouts, Zoom and Microsoft 365 for their meetings. My local writers group have been using Google Hangouts for our fortnightly meetings. We have been doing so without turning the videos on, just in case it crashes. It has been pretty successful but not everybody has been able to access the meeting, or had the courage to do so.

See the article and listen to me talking about it: https://www.shannonside.ie/news/local/longford/longford-writers-group-technology-meetings/?fbclid=Iw

My local Slimming World group has been using Zoom for the last few weeks, and people are finding a great help in their slimming journeys. Here is what local Slimming World Consultant, Tona Daly says: The advantage for us as a slimming group is to be able to stay on track with our weight loss journeys and to be able to ‘see’ each other as we would in group.

I am getting Readership Building mentoring online from ,Tom Blubaugh, https://tomblubaugh.net/, and the Authors Community https://authorscommunity.net/about-us/#axzz6K59EoZrf. We were using zoom for our online meeting, but since so many people are using it at the moment there have been a few problems. Also people have been questioning how secure it is. https://www.tomsguide.com/news/zoom-security-privacy-woes

Because of the security issues we are now looking at using Microsoft 365 for our online discussions.

So there are many options out there, to choose ways to get together virtually during this lock down. Why not try them out and maybe learn something new too?

Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.
– Laurie Anderson

Easter Weekend 2020

Good Friday

Under lockdown the Easter weekend is different this year, but people are trying to hold onto what they can. This Good Friday we enjoyed the traditional hot cross buns, and ate fish instead of meat. I didn’t go to church as I couldn’t, but I did watch the service online from St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford… https://www.churchservices.tv/stmelscathedral

I also rang my mother to see how she was. Our son in America Skyped us with his daughter.

As usual on Good Friday the weather changed around three o’clock and we got a shower. My mother always says this happens, and it usually does.

Hot Cross Buns

Holy Saturday

This was one beautiful day. The sun shone, the sky was blue, the flowers and blossom were blooming, and the birds were singing as they built their nests. I went for a walk with my husband and daughter down around the River Shannon that runs through the village where I live.

Our son in New Zealand, Skyped with his family. As it was Easter Sunday there, they had had an egg hunt in the garden.

My husband and I, attacked our Easter eggs while watching TV. that night.

The River Shannon. Photo by Aoife Moynihan.
Celandines. Photo by Aoife Moynihan
Budding hedgerow. Photo by Aoife Moynihan
Blossom. Photo by Aoife Moynihan
Riverside walk. Photo by Aoife Moynihan

Easter Sunday

It was raining in the morning. I watched Easter Sunday Mass online. I put on washing, and I put a chicken in the oven for dinner. I rang my mother to wish her a ‘Happy Easter.’ I messaged my siblings too. A niece of mine has gone to the hospital today in the U.K. to have a baby. She had a baby girl in the afternoon. We had the roast chicken dinner with a glass of wine, as it was a special occasion. Dessert for me was a fruit pavlova. My husband and daughter went for a walk while I cleared up.

We just watched T.V. in the evening, and I finished my Easter egg.

Easter Monday

It is a sunny day with a cold wind. It is an ideal day for drying washing anyway. I had a good chat with my youngest sister on Messenger this morning. It is her second youngest daughter’s 13th birthday today.

As I want to post this, I will leave the rest of the day to happen. I hope you all had a good Easter weekend, and thanks for joining me.