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What a corker!-y: the collection of the Rev. Seán Corkery of Maynooth

This is about my uncle, Fr John Corkery.

MU Library Treasures

by Yvette Campbell, Assistant Librarian, Russell Library Cataloguing Project

Fr John Corkery Fr. Seán Ó Corcora

Father Seán [John] Corkery was a graduate of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and held a BSc and an MA. His appointment to the post of Librarian to St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth from 1951-1973 afforded him the opportunity of bringing a professional approach to the organisation and development of the library and its collections. In developing these collections in line with the challenges posed by the introduction of lay students in 1966, he worked long hours and sought the collegial support of professional librarians in Ireland.

On a personal level, Corkery was a bibliophile at heart, a collector of books and pictures. In a professional context, he was an authority on the rare items within the Maynooth College collections. His passion for this is evidenced in his many publications.

Corkery was a priest of the diocese of Ardagh…

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Mick Murphy: A Legend in Longford, and throughout Ireland.

When my good friend, Lalin Swaris, asked me to write a piece on, Mick Murphy, I personally didn’t know the man as I am only a ‘blow-in’; therefore I had to do a bit of research and ask other people. What became clear as I learnt more about Mick Murphy was that he is a family man, a volunteer who likes to help in the community, he loves basketball, and that he is loved and respected by all.

Mick Murphy

I contacted Longford Falcons Basketball Club for some background into the history of Mick’s involvement with the sport of basketball in the local community. This is what they told me.

‘Mick Murphy, is known locally as Longford’s Mr Basketball! He is a proud Kerry man who introduced basketball to Longford in 1973/1974. He is the founder of, Longford Falcons Basketball club and the hugely successful, Longford Basketball Academy.  The club was known as Longford Juvenile BBC back then with the first club teams being Boys / Girls U16. Since then and every Saturday morning the club runs a very successful Academy programme.  Mick has coached thousands of kids down through the years, many of whom have represented Ireland and even played professionally. He is one of the most successful basketball coaches in Ireland. Mick has achieved All Ireland success from Community Games level with, St. Mel’s College, where he was head coach for over 20 years to Senior National League level with Falcons. He has also been involved with Irish national teams. Mick is an international basketball referee who is highly regarded as one of the best in the country. He is also the founder of one of the biggest national schools’ basketball competitions in Ireland where hundreds of kids compete in Longford every year. Mick is a genuinely passionate sports coach who has always cared for every player both on and off the court. He has been recognised for his contribution by numerous individual sports awards and Longford Person of the Year awards. He was inducted into Longford Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 for his contribution to sport in Longford. The award was presented to him by, Paul McGrath. Mick Murphy, is a living legend!’

Photo by Lalin Swaris
Mick Murphy being inducted into, Longford Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 for his contribution to sport in Longford. The award was presented to him by, Paul McGrath.

So what was Mick Murphy like as a coach and a referee? Well, here are a few fond recollections from people who knew/ know him well.

‘I first met Mick about 1980. I was playing National League with Ballina Basketball Club and Mick was a referee in the league. He was a very good one, always willing to talk to the players and explain his call, unlike some other refs!!

Then when I started coaching, Westaro Castlebar, Mick was still reffing all over the country. I was always willing to dispute a call with him, as a coach now, and him me, without him calling the dreaded technical foul on the coach! We have been friends for years. As well as coaching, Mick has been busy coaching underage basketball in Longford along with his son, another great friend, Mick Junior! He was always available to play friendlies and running tournaments.

His wife, Marian, was also involved in basketball, making tea, making us all welcome.

In my estimation, Mick is one of the nicest people I have ever met in basketball circles, a true gentleman, and someday will be inducted into the Basketball Ireland Hall Of Fame which he more than well deserves, for his hard work and commitment to the game of basketball.’ – Patrick Terence Kennedy

‘I have known Mick through basketball over the years through club basketball and my time as an administrator in Basketball Ireland, I always found him to be a great enthusiast for the game and the players in the club. Now as a taxi driver in Dublin when you get chatting to customers from Longford and basketball gets mentioned, they speak highly of him and his legacy in the community.’ – Jerome Howe

‘I always loved going to referee in the Mall in Longford. There was just something special about that gym was there. I got to referee with this guy for the first time and many many times afterwards all over the country; a fantastic referee, true gentleman and a great friend.’ – John Folan

‘Legend! He coached me as a kid, a teenager and an adult; then I coached with him U14/16/18 senior men, women, national league etc.  It was all voluntary.’ – Alan Moore

So to sum up… who is Mick Murphy the man?

‘Mick is a great basketball man and very much into his community, a great working man for everyone and a family man. He is always doing good for everyone and big into the youth.’ – Bill McIntyre

‘Legend! Two fine sons too.’ – Kevin Rooney

‘What a gent! Always smiling.’ – Patrick Kiely

‘I can tell you Mick is one of the best.’ – Peggy Nolan

An Interview with Ozzie Joe Annan – a design, illustration, animation and branding specialist

Ozzie Joe Annan

1. Where are you from and what has been your career path so far?

From the beautiful south coast of New South Wales in Australia.

2. When did you become interested in art and illustrating?

From the young age of 7. I started copying my mom’s paintings and compared it to her work and thought it looked pretty good, so I kept drawing and illustrating. I filled most of my school books with drawings, (the back pages only of course).

33. What areas of art/ illustrating are you interested in at the moment?

I am interested in all forms of art and illustrations, from the old masters in art to street art, digital art to illustrations. I appreciate the processes and styles of all creatives and draw inspiration from them which then transpires to my own work.

Artwork by Ozzie Joe
Artwork by Ozzie Joe
Artwork by Ozzie Joe

4. Have you other hobbies and interests?

I have many other hobbies and interests outside the creative realm, including sports; golf, cricket, soccer and tennis. I am a spectator as well as a competitor in these sports. Reading, politics and world affairs also occupy my mind. In terms of leisure, walking and exercising also fill in the rest of my time when not pursuing my creative interests.

5. You and I have been involved in a joint project. Tell me how that evolved and about the Hattons.

I stumbled across Eileen when i was scouring the internet for collaborations with writers and creatives to pursue my pet book kid’s collection called THE HATTONS – Folks who wear different hats for different roles. After observing and seeing Eileen’s talent and passion for books and writing them this paved the way to our interesting friendship. Our shared interests naturally put us on a course to co-writing and illustrating the second book of the Hattons called The Missing Crowns, The Princess In Waiting being the first book by Ozzie Joe.

Illustration by Ozzie Joe Annan from the joint book project with me.
Link to the ebook on Amazon.Com
Link to the ebook on Amazon.co.uk

6. How would you like to see this partnership develop?

My hope is to be able to write many more books together with Eileen, as I have many more stories to share and tell.


7. What are your dreams or ambitions for the future?

The dream is to create a series of books for the Hattons collection and gaining enough traction to become a kid’s favourite for generations to come and be picked up for licensing so that eventually toys, books and other merchandises created. There are enough great stories and characters for this to be adapted into short animations and toys that I think in time The Hattons will inevtiably be licensed.

Here are some Facebook links for Ozzie Joe https://www.facebook.com/ozziejoecreativehouse/

https://www.facebook.com/ozziejoecreative/

https://www.facebook.com/OZJDS/

The Glory of Gardens

A small garden is worth more to its owner than an entire forest.

― Matshona Dhliwayo

Now, I know forests are important and that many gardeners would love forests, but there is no getting away from the fact that there is great personal satisfaction from tending and relaxing in your own garden, no matter how small.

My Garden Is My Sanctuary

As I look out to my garden
I feel a sense of pride
It really is a lovely room
Except it is outside.

Where lovely things mix and match
And greenery fills the walls
The sound of trickling water
Coming from the gold fish pond.

I love the sight of stones and rocks
And driftwood and tree ferns too
The sounds of all my chimes
I know you would like it too.

With pride I walk around my garden
And savour each scent and smell
Colours of yellow, red and gold
Striped cushion on a bench.

The bird bath has its own domain
It’s placed beside a wooden arch
Where all the birds come to bathe
And drink when they are parched.

Ladybirds can hide away
Sometimes they come out to see
What’s happening around them
With caterpillars and the bees.

There’s not much more that I can say
Except if you have your own
It won’t take long to build it up
Seeds will bloom once they are sown.

– Marie Church

A photo of my garden
A photo of my garden

Gardens can be healing places when we are feeling stressed. We can just sit and relax in them or get lost in weeding and planting, which I am convinced is a definite form of ‘mindfulness’.

‘Immersing oneself in nature is good, and the act of gardening goes one step further. The physical activity and sense of accomplishment are huge benefits to human health. In addition, the great thing about plants is that they respond to human care in a non-threatening way and plants don’t discriminate. Cultivating a plant or entire garden can be a huge boost to self-esteem.

Gardening can transcend social problems. No matter your race or social status, a love for plants can bring people together. Several researchers and projects have shown gardening to promote positive social interaction.

Spirituality varies from person to person, but nature often plays a role. Being within a healing garden creates a sense of peace and connectedness to oneself, others, and perhaps things greater than us.’ Christopher Enroth https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/good-growing/2019-06-05-gardening-still-important-humans-yes-because-gardens-can-heal

The healing power of a garden

There is something about putting your hands into earth that is grounding and connects you to nature and gives you a sense of being part of the universe. There is something for the gardener to do all year round; they observe the changing of the seasons and the beauty in each part of the cycle which reflects our own lives upon this earth.

Pulling Onions

A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a Green Thumb.
Wishes are like seeds, few ever develop into something.
Sitting in a garden and doing nothing is high art everywhere.
Beauty is the Mistress, the gardener Her slave.
Complexity is closer to the truth.
When all the chores are done, the avid gardener will invent some new ones.
Where are the fig blossoms?  Exceptions to every rule.
Only two percent of all insects are harmful.  Why are they all in my garden?
The joyful gardener is evidence of an incarnation.
As with most arts, gardening is an expression of our hands.
To dig is to discover.
The ten thousand things are more enchanting than the Silent One.
To lift the mind, move the body.
Gardening is a slower path to a richer sensuality.
To garden is to open your heart to the sky.
The road to flourishing needs regular maintenance and repairs.
The present is merely a fleeting moment; we actually unearth our essence in our past and create ourselves in the future.
Having a poor memory helps a great deal in finding happiness.
A garden is a feeling.
Absolutes squirm beneath realities.
Your never too old to embrace a stupid idea.
The end of the garden is at the end of a hose.
A gardener loves the rain; also, for the resting time it brings.
In general, be more specific.
The Laws of Gardening are mostly local ordinances.
Sitting in a garden and doing nothing is high art everywhere.
Gardening is but one battle against Chaos.”
–  Michael P. Garofalo

Granny Bonnets in my garden
Cowslips in my garden

Gardens mean different things to different people. Here are some quotes from people I know…

Maggi Mckenna: ‘A riot of colour contrasted by the calming nature of a grey Buddha in a Zen Den.’

Sally Martin: ‘Chirping birds, nature, peace, adventure and play and a place for family gatherings.’

Dan Flynn: ‘I don’t think I believe in nature, but I do seek a compromise of the possible and the desirable. Its definitely not a place that is a projection of my control. I want harmony.’

Ann Gerety Smyth: ‘My garden evolves with me and as my family grows. At first we wanted a large lawn for them to play, now it is ever so slowly changing into a forest garden of food giving trees and plants wildlife, meadow and mystery.’

Angela Bickley: ‘Total absorption! It’s good for body and soul.’

I am going to leave you with some quotes from two of my favourite books as a child. From ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Phillipa Pearce…

Tom opened the door wide and let in the moonlight. It flooded in, as bright as daylight—the white daylight that comes before the full rising of the sun. The illumination was perfect, but Tom did not at once turn to see what it showed him of the clock-face. Instead he took a step forward onto the doorstep. He was staring, at first in surprise, then with indignation, at what he saw outside. That they should have deceived him—lied to him—like this! They had said, ‘It’s not worth your while going out at the back, Tom.’ So carelessly they had described it: ‘A sort of backyard, very poky, with rubbish bins. Really, there’s nothing to see.’

Nothing…Only this: a great lawn where flower-beds bloomed; a towering fir-tree, and thick, beetle-browed yews that humped their shapes down two sides of the lawn; on the third side, to the right, a greenhouse almost the size of a real house; from each corner of the lawn, a path that twisted away to some other depths of garden, with other trees.

From ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett…

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”

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