Monday, May 01, 2023

May Day, Bealtaine, The Start of Summer!

 What a joy to see May Day.  This was one of those long and dreary winters, with the tardy spring delaying its growth as long as possible, but at last the trees are in fresh green leaf, and the white lilac is coming into full scented bloom.

Something else has come into bloom, our latest book!

All The Way by the Grand Canal is published by O'Brien Press on Monday next, May 8, and will be in all the bookshops then.  It can also be purchased online from O'Brien Press.

We had a lot of fun researching this new child of ours, spending a great deal of time crossing the midlands of Ireland from east to west, from Dublin to the Shannon, and discovering quite a lot of places we hadn't known anything about before.  

Like the utterly gorgeous little hamlet of Belmont where the lock and the cottages and all the old buildings around combined to make it the most peaceful place possible.  Really fascinating were the round indentations in the sides of the lock, which were where the bargemen would insert their poles to guide the boat along.  Remember the phrase 'wouldn't touch it with a barge pole'?  Well, the canals are where that saying originated, and here they really did touch the walls, and push hard too - they had to, since the horse would have been untackled and walked on to the other side of the lock, leaving them with no other means of propulsion..

The book is two things really:  a guide to anyone wanting to walk or cycle this wonderful long greenway from our capital city right across the Bog of Allen to the mighty Shannon, but also a history of how it came to be, who built it, what stories and incidents happened along it, and all sorts of fascinating facts that you find when you are researching something right out there in the field.  So as well as being ideal for the strolller with the family, the keen hiker, and the ardent cyclist, it's perfect armchair reading too for anyone who wants to know more about hidden Ireland and its history.

Look at the splendour of White's Castle and Crom-a-Boo Bridge (great name, isn't it?) in Athy.  That was where the Barrow Line branch separated from the main Grand Canal and headed south to join up with the river Barrow and thus connect Dublin efficiently with the port of Waterford.  Remember, all this was before railways were thought of, let alone roads and cars, so the canals had a vital purpose for conveying goods and people.  Guinness even had its own barges plying the canal from Dublin to thirsty purchasers in other towns and cities.  They always claimed that the slow peaceful carriage by boat added a certain je ne sais quoi to the barrels!

We are fairly proud of this, our sixth offspring, Richard and I.  But of course it didn't take long to start wondering where we should explore next.  Somewhere mystic and mysterious, with a few ghosts and goblins and unexplained occurrences maybe? A haunted island, perhaps? Will keep you posted.

Last weekend, having finally relaxed on the book (there are always last-minute changes, alterations, queries) we headed over to Wales on the ferry.  Richard wanted to get a few new shots of red kites, and I wanted to indulge my yarn habit at Wonderwool Wales, a huge annual occasion in Builth Wells where sheep farmers and spinners, knitters and crocheters, buyers and sellers of all kinds converge for a weekend of fun.

Look at this splendid felted March Hare being wheeled proudly around by its creator!  She had lost the use of one arm through illness and got it back to full working order by making this amazing project! I didn't get her name, but well done you!

I am always on the lookout for Norwegian yarns, and found a stall which stocked them.

Yes, quite a few skeins and balls found their way into my ample shopping bag at SKD Yarns!

Got to meet in person at last one of the great exponents of the traditional knitted gansey, Deb Gillanders of Propagansey.

We tend to disagree when we meet on Zoom, about the tightness and gauge necessary for ganseys.  I always err on the side of softness and drape, she insists on rock-hard work knitted on piano wire, but we get on just fine.  That reminds me - I have a traditional gansey to finish for a much-loved nephew's birthday coming up in June - better get a move on.

Had a special meet up with an old friend, Linda, so that we could compare spindles and spinning skills. And Linda of course had pre-ordered her copy of the new book so we were able to hand it over,  duly signed by both of us.

The crowds at Wonderwool Wales were frightening, but everybody was so happy and enthusiastic and willing to share ideas and notes that it was all very relaxed.  Except for the endless queues for coffee.  It has to be admitted that the modern trend for 'slow' specially prepared brews is admirable, but it does make for a long waiting time.  In the end we did without.

I think this picture says it all about the long and happy weekend - one tired but contented spinner heading for home.  

As did we, breaking our journey in Carmarthen on the way back.  Where we saw a dog taking his ease and enjoying the street scene.

You might be wondering how our own new little monster has been getting on since last time.  Well, she has grown a bit, is happy, healthy, very loving and quite biddable - until she gets on to a beach,. Then you can say goodbye to Tasha for the rest of the day.  Or until she tires out, which so far appears to be never.

There was a traumatic experience on the beach at Ballycotton a month or so back.  Tasha exploded down the sands, saw gulls in the distance, and hared way out along a wave-washed sandback to catch them. They of course flew off, cackling with laughter, and she paused briefly to reconsider her options.  Seeing me strolling along the beach some distance on, with the older dog, she decided to cut across to intercept us.  What she didn't realise was that a rather large section of wave-tossed sea lay between.

That small black head is scarcely visible here, so Richard has kindly circled it in red.  I was frantically watching through binoculars and so could see the brief moment of shock as she found herself well out of her depth, and then the almosts visible shrug of canine shoulders as she coped with a completely new exercise - swimming.  She had not, up to this, come across deep water. Or anything other than shallow pools, come to that.

The wind was strong, and blowing offshore, towards her.  I could see her trying to make headway and achieving very little.  I cupped my hands and shouted encouragement.  Then she seemed to set her teeth and try harder.  Slowly, slowly she started to move against the wind, towards the shore.

Here she is, gradually nearing the shore, but still in quite deep rough water.  On the right of the picture there you can see Troushka anxiously paddling out as far as she dares, to guide her in.

And she was out, on dry sandy land at last, soaked through, panting a little, but rather pleased with herself.  She lay down and rolled in dry sand vigorously and then chased off to see what other adventures she could find.

I should perhaps explain that Richard was some distance away on a sand dune with a long lens, looking for rare gulls.  He was thus able to capture the frightening event, albeit at long range.

I know, I know, you will say any puppy can swim automatically, it's no big thing.  But Tasha had never been in for anything but a paddle before, and though she looks quite big in that final picture, she is still a fairly small little spaniel.  And the offshore wind and the waves were pretty strong that day. Well, at least now I know she can swim the Channel!  But my heart was beating fast at the time, I can tell you.

Now it is time to enjoy the start of summer.  Wherever you are, mark this day - one trusts that you did go out at dawn to wash your face in the dew, but if you didn't, there is still time, up to midnight.  Bealtaine, Beltane, one of the two great Celtic festivals from the beginning of time (the other of course being Samhain, which leads into winter). 

Later came divisions like Imbolc in February, Midsummer, Lunasa in August, and Midwinter, but these two were the principal festivals in ancient times separating the two halves of the year, and were marked by celebrations, feasting, and ritual, including the magic fire, kindled by the senior druid from nine special woods.  All other fires had to be extinguished before this, and then rekindled from the sacred flame.  

Remember that back then, fire was essential for survival, and most households kept the blaze going from one end of the year to the other.  Extinguishing it for these two festivals was a serious matter (no, they didn't have safety matches, nor yet gas lighters.)  Once all house hearths had been rekindled, and the sacred fire had burned down, the ashes were spread on the fields to encourage fertility. Parents would mark young children's clothes with an ashy cross to stop the fairies stealing them away.

Maybe you should light a fire tonight too?  Throw on a few herbs if you do. It's a good way of keeping in touch with the old beliefs.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

And About Time Too!

 Well it certainly wasn't meant to be a more-than-two-year gap since the last post, but life kind of got in the way.  There was a book to get published (Stories from the Sea), and some travelling to do (once we were allowed so to do) but here we are at the beginning of 2023 and it's high time we got back on track.

Stories from the Sea did very well, since it brought in tales of smuggling and piracy as well as ancient travellers, pilgrim routes, and of course the Vikings.

Even had to go up to Dublin to be interviewed as part of the Book Festival, which was challenging but fairly rewarding too.  DH hates talking in public, so I did most of that, while he sat at the back and observed.

One of the most exciting things we discovered when researching Stories from the Sea was that the old legends are often genuine records, not the product of fanciful imagination.  In this case, we were looking for an island off the west coast which has a fair claim to being the haunt of that terrifying monster of folklore, Balor of the Evil Eye.  Clearly a relative of Medusa, the Gorgon, he could kill a whole army just by revealing that one eye in the middle of his forehead.  Anyway, he was challenged in battle by the Nemedians on one occasion (they were, quite understandably, irate at his habit of descending on the mainland whenever he felt like seizing crops or cattle or children) and the invading army crossed at low tide to his island stronghold.  Unfortunately, in the midst of battle, the tide came in, and many of both sides were drowned. 

Well, Richard and I were determined  to find this very island and we did!  Derinish, off the Sligo shore.  And as we sat in the car overlooking the bay and the island, the tide fell, and lo and behold - a long line of cattle came peacefully meandering down from the mainland and crossed by the now visible sandbank to the lush pastures on Derinish.  Proof positive that the crossing can be made at low tide!  We made a point of coming back later, when the tide was rising again, and sure enough, the cattle were wending their way back to the Sligo shore.  They still know the way that the Nemedians did in ancient times. Fortunately, being more interested in safety than battle, they keep an eye on the tide tables!

Since then we have been working on De Next Book, which will be known as All The Way By The Grand Canal, and is coming out in May.  (You can find it on The O'Brien Press website, along with all our other books.) This has meant covering the less-well-known part of Ireland, the secret inland landscapes which lie between Dublin on the east coast and the mighty river Shannon on the west.  The Grand Canal was built in the late 18th century and was, for its time, the mighty autoroute that surpassed all previous methods of travel.  Smooth, safe, continuous, it changed life for everyone, from farmers and businesses transporting produce and goods, to travellers able to cross the country perhaps for the first time.  Lords and ladies found it far more comfortable than taking their carriages along muddy tracks for days on end; emigrants used it as the best and quickest way to get to Limerick or Dublin from where the big ships sailed; and even those who couldn't afford the fares used the towpath to get to their destination without fear of losing the way.  Just think of all the work it put in the way of everyone along the waterway too, from stable hands to ticket sellers, warehouse packers to hoteliers, servants to messenger boys - it was a game changer for everyone.  

Today this is a very popular long-distance walking or cycling route, and you have only to step on to the grassy towpath to see why.  It's a world apart from noisy motorways and endless traffic.  Instead of rattles, roars, exhaust fumes, you have the breeze blowing over glimmering water and birdsong on every bush. Utter peace.  The most excitement you will find is a canal boat puttering along one of the navigable stretches, the captain waving cheerfully as he passes.

There is history too, every step of the way and that was what we enjoyed the most - teasing out the stories to be found in old deserted warehouses, peaceful lock gates and lock-keepers' cottages, small villages where once the daily arrival of the barge from Dublin or Shannon Harbour brought the residents running from every cottage door.  

We had a wonderful time researching the entire length of the canal and came home full of ideas and notions to incorporate into the book so that not only keen walkers and cyclists, but armchair travellers too, perhaps living far away but longing to be there, could indeed transport themselves to the canal bank through the pages and Richard's wonderfully evocative pictures.

The amount of mileage we put in was frightening - or would have been if we had let ourselves think about it, but that's not the reason you do it.  It's the urge to go that bit further, see what is round the next corner, find out what the story is behind that ivy-covered ruin over there...

On one of our trips, we included another journey further north, to pick up a very special package in Longford.

Our oldest dog, Tamzin, had reached the end of her life and was now sleeping peacefully in the orchard at the end of our garden.  This left Troushka a little lonely and bemused, so of course we bethought us of a replacement.  Here came Jo's bright idea - gosh, I have always always wanted a black cocker spaniel!  And so the hunt was on.  Finally we picked her up, on one of the hottest July days ever, and brought her back to West Cork to her new home.

Which she proceeded to wreck with joyful abandon. I thought I was well used to puppies, but Tasha - Natasha de St Petersburg III, to give her her full title, into which she has certainly not yet grown - proved to be a whole new ball game.  Wildly enthusiastic and ready to tear anything she found to bits, she made the first few weeks more of a survival exercise for us than anything else.  What am I talking about, she is still making life a survival exercise for us!

At least there was no problem with Troushka, although the older dog does find her a little over-energetic at times.

They have now worked out some sort of modus vivendi whereby Tasha leaps and bounds all round the older dog, using up some of her energy, and Troushka occasionally breaks into a gallop and does a bit of mock fighting before slowing down to her usual amble.

It's not only in the house that she wreaks her depredations, but in the garden too.  How do you manage to overturn a very large earthenware flowerpot, pull out the plants therein, and scatter the earth everywhere?  Or dig a deep hole at the base of a perfectly friendly tree, when I as a gardener have a job finding anywhere I can get down three inches before hitting rock? (West Cork is like that).

The only place this little monster is truly happy is on a beach.  A wide long beach, preferably with gulls to chase.

There she can leap and gallop at incredible speeds for as long as she likes.  If the waves get in her way, she just crashes through them, seeming not to notice that she is up to her ears in salty water until suddenly she executes upward leaps that would challenge Nureyev, and thunders back to shore. "I'll get that gull, I will I will, he'll tire before I do, wonder if I flap my ears enough I'll be able to fly like him?"

A cocker spaniel can leap to surprising heights, I discovered, and that made our hitherto secure fencing around the garden suddenly less adequate.  We did our best.  We raised the height of the mesh.  Not good enough.  We raised it more.  When she had got out three times, we decided it was time for sterner measures and got an electric wire system and a collar for her which gives a warning when she gets too close.  Putting that wire all round the garden, though bushes and brambles, behind trees and across gateways, was quite a job.

Did it work?  Does it work?  Well - sort of.  Most times she stops when she hears the beep from her collar warning her not to go closer.  But put a human being on the other side of the fence or the gate, or indeed a passing dog or cat, and she seems to write off the slight shock caused by leaping over the invisible barrier as part of the game, and just goes for it.  What do we do next, one asks?

And what about the other residents chez Celtic Memory, you enquire worriedly?  How did they take to this Creature from the Black Lagoon invading their hitherto peaceful world?

Well,  you will be glad to know that the youngest cat, Brogeen, struck up a firm friendship.  Well, a firm something anyway:

When they were much of a size, we weren't too worried, but did wonder what would happen when the puppy grew bigger.

But we needn't have worried.  Even now, when she is almost twice Brogeen's size, Tasha just doesn't have the flexibilty or the sheathed weapons that the cat can bring into play. Weight yes, claws no.  The battle chases around the house, though, are somethng to behold.  More than once we have been almost swept off our feet as the furry exploding cavalcade crashes by.

The older cats, Pawtucket and Marigold, largely kept aloof, preferring to ignore this new vulgarian and making sure that they checked carefully before leaving positions of safety, in case she was lurking and waiting to pounce.

Here is Pawtucket, refusing to leave the comparative security of the sundial until she sees That Troublemaker safely engaged in some other devilment at the far end of the garden.

The onset of cold weather did make a difference though.  Both felines and canines began gradually to realise that there might be some benefit to close proximity in the darker hours.

Here is one such typical group.  At other times one or other of the cats will go over and pile herself on top of Troushka instead.  It only happens late in the evening though.  If you try to put them together earlier in the day they give you exasperated glances and flounce off in the opposite direction.  "Really, doesn't she know there's a time and place for everything?"

Me, I have a job finding somewhere to sit and relax with my knitting at night.  "Go away, this place is taken!"

What do you know, we have had some snow here in West Cork over the past few days, quite an unusual thing so far south.  The puppy loved it, the older cats were mystified by it.

Marigold:  "I don't know, I don't know.  How am I supposed to spot a rabbit in this stuff?"

But the hills of West Cork look beautiful in their light dusting of white, and down in the Gearagh, where we have had some bird rarities coming south during the past months, the whole scene is magical. Yet, in our garden, the first primrose showed itself in a sheltered place by the back door only yesterday, and the daffodil stems are already thrusting through the frozen earth.  Take your time, daffodils, take your time.  Don't risk a chill!

Here is a view of the Gearagh in its snowy splendour, offering gentle peace and harmony in an otherwise apparently crazy world.  A great place to walk and just listen to nature.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Midwinter! We Have Reached The Solstice!

 Well, what a strange year it has been for everybody, in all corners of the world.  The last time I spoke to you, it was coming into high summer and everywhere was beautiful.  The advantage of lockdown was that you could really see the season changing, day by day.

When the restrictions eased enough to let us travel within our own county, we took advantage of it right away.  The fact that Cork is the largest county in Ireland did help - you can go a hundred miles and still be within the regulations.  Which we did.  Right down to the Beara Peninsula.

Bantry Bay was a heart relaxing sight after so much time spent at home.

And taking the tiny ferry across to Bere Island was just what was needed - a brisk short sea voyage.

The bog cotton was blowing across the grasslands in great swathes.  Always wished you could spin this, but the fibres are far too short, alas.

And look at these glorious old hand-built stone steps, leading up to the loft above an old homestead.  

All the crops, the hay, the potatoes and turnips, would have been carried up there and stored carefully against the winter.

The advantage of this remote region is that you have no problem with social distancing.

Unless of course it's a female pheasant casually crossing the road on her way to the shops. Yes, of course they have shops.  'A bag of nice blackberries please, and some hazelnuts if you have them. Oh, and some new socks for the children.  The way they wear those out, running round..."

To keep myself and every other likeminded knitter busy during the long quiet summer, thought it would be a good idea to start a Great Summer Gansey Knitalong on Ravelry, the online knitting club.  Well, it took off amazingly!  Hundreds came in on it, and we all had great fun comparing patterns and showing off our progress.

This is my Great Gansey Adventure, worked in three strands of a Shetland yarn which had been dozing in the stash for years.  Those trees and diamonds and things really stop you getting bored when you're beavering away on the back or the front.  We had so much fun indeed, that the KAL continued in autumn and is now going full blast for winter.  Because the seasons have swung round, and we are at the turning once more.  From now, the days will start drawing out.  And surely things will slowly get better.

You know it's winter when the zoo starts spending more time indoors.  Well actually, all the time they can possibly get away with indoors.  Brogeen (who has grown into a splendid young man) enjoyed watching Autumnwatch on TV, occasionally trying to pat a bird by way of being friendly.

When it's a cold night, cats and dogs pile up together in a warm heap.  You wouldn't think you could get two dogs in that box, let alone a cat, but Marigold is pretty determined, and can usually find a corner of opportunity.

'Oh surely there's a place up there for me, too?  Oh go on, move up a bit, will you?'

This morning it wasn't actually raining (although that was forecast for the afternoon) so we headed down to neighbouring Kerry before new restrictions stopped us going over the county bounds

Muckross House in Killarney was looking splendidly Gothic in the drifting clouds,

and the legendary lakes were as still and beautiful as they have always been.

Even the cafe was open!  I know, I know, social distancing and all that, but we were well masked up, and the place was empty, so we risked it.  Isn't this miniature display lovely? It greets you as you go in. The scones and coffee were delicious too, especially when such little treats have been almost non-existent since the start of the pandemic. You never know how much you take for granted until you don't have it any more.

But the best was kept for last!  We decided to drop in to that weaving shed in the woods (in a deadly secret location) to wish a good friend the compliments of the season.  And once there, well, how could you not look along those shelves of coned yarns, drool over colours, almost reach out until you remembered not to touch?  But our friend was in happy mood, and hauled out a box of leftovers, cones too small to be of use, inviting me to dig in.  And then, when coaxed,he allowed the purchase of a few at the top of the range too. What a haul to bring home!  The dogs raised their collective eyebrows at the big box with which they had to share the back seat of the car, but DH agreed that it could be his Christmas present to me.

Here they are, being unpacked at home.  Nearly all pure alpaca, except for some rather jolly Donegal tweed in an unusual chunky gauge.  Oh will there be some fun with these over the festive season!

Joys of the solstice to you!  Keep your woodstoves well stoked, see to the bird feeders, and if you hear the horns of the Wild Hunt sounding out in the woods between now and Women's Christmas, then clutch a branch of apple or rowan, and wish them well.  They are searching out the bad things, and are no danger to you.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

It's Maytime, and Summer Is Icumen In!

Yes, at last May is here, and the start of the Celtic summer.  Way back, we only had two seasons in this corner of the world, winter starting on November 1, and summer beginning May 1. Of course Pope Gregory threw things out a bit when he arbitrarily decided to lop ten days from the calendar, in the 16th century, thereby putting Mayday back around the 20th of April.  But then whoever decided back in Roman times that there should be 365 days in the year plus an extra one every four years - oh forget it.  Main thing is, if your may blossom or hawthorn isn't out on the current accepted May 1, then don't worry.  It will be out by old Mayday which is tomorrow.  And by the same token, if by any chance you forgot to wash your face in the dew on Mayday, then you can still do it before tomorrow night.  Very important to observe that ritual.  Celticmemory has done it since she was old enough to toddle out by herself.

And to show you just how long Celts have been celebrating May or Bealtaine, here is a special picture.

This is Beltany stone circle, up in Donegal.  You can't get more proof of the ancient rituals of summer than a special stone circle where druids kindled the first fire of summer, using the nine sacred woods. Just imagine if those stones could talk?  What have they seen, what could they tell us?

Everything is bursting into bloom here right now, and about time too.  We had a cold spring and everything was late, but the good side of that was that they all came out together.

The clematis that I thought had died hadn't done so at all.  And to show its health, it clambered way up from the trellis, right into the branches of a birch tree.  It was simply lovely to see the veil of pink swaying gently in the breeze.

The apple trees have been blooming too, from the tiny crabapple through the old Irish species like Ardcairn Russet and Kerry Pippin, to the splendid old cooking apple that was espaliered against a back wall of the garage by Richard's father a long time ago.

We have tended to let it grow as it wants to these days, rather than tying it firmly down and lopping off extra growth, but it still produces baskets of fruit each autumn.

There is something else there too, underneath that apple tree, something very precious.

Lily of valley, or muguet de bois, must have the most heavenly scent going.  I have no luck with this aristocrat - have got roots, tried to raise them, many times, but they simply refuse to cooperate.  So how are we fortunate enough to have a little bed of them here in this dry patch under the apple tree? They were brought there from France by Richard's mother a long time ago, and they have stayed ever since.  When I see the first spear-like leaves appearing, I know it's time to go out and tackle the bramble stems and twitch grass to give them a good chance.  Lovely little things.

The zoo is adapting fairly well to this quiet isolating life, although Troushka still yearns for a gallop on a long deserted beach.  Not just yet, Troush, not just yet.  The cats are putting all their energy into attacking each other - sort of cabin fever, one would imagine, although they do have the extensive fields behind the house.

Isn't this a perfectly lovely picture of Marigold practising her high diving skills?  Actually she is pursuing Paudge Mogeely, who had been peacefully enjoying a rabbit dinner until she came along and ruined the picnic.  I must say she really shows her fluffy Turkish bloomers to best advantage in this shot.  Good one, DH!

And Brogeen is so much at home that you would imagine he had always been here.

Here he is dreaming on the small pond in the rose garden.  It's an old pig feeding trough with a central knob or boss, just big enough for a kitten to sit atop, albeit with his tail trailing in the water. After a happy day exploring though, he is content to come home and take a nap. Especially if he can find a nice soft ball of wool to use as a pillow.

Well of course there has been knitting!  When have you ever known me not to be knitting?  That gansey got finished at last:

and there was a huge frogging session when WIPs that had been hanging round for months if not years were determinedly ripped, the yarn balled up, the needles returned to their racks.  Couldn't believe how many circular needles I actually possessed!  Of course that meant I was now free to cast on another project - or two - or three... Working on a sort of smock tunic that I will call Viking Traveller, because it's just the kind of thing a warrior might wear under his chainmail to keep comfortable, and thinking of starting yet another Aran sweater.  That is one good thing about the lockdown - you do get time to knit and even finish a couple of projects.

But we get out too, if not very far from home.  Fortunately the Gearagh is very close, and at this time of year it is looking stunning.  Early the other morning, when we went down to admire the hawthorn in full scented bloom,

we suddenly glimpsed a heron, beautifully reflected in the still water.

We tiptoed past, so as not to disturb his quiet morning meditation.

Further on, we saw a mallard with her ducklings, all in a row.

When Mother Duck saw us, she got a bit worried and hastened off into shelter, with all the little ones frantically trying to keep up.

Can you see that second one almost running on top of the water?

Here he is, determined not to be left behind.  We waited to make sure the full complement had got into shelter before we turned for home.  The last look is always for Shehy, the fairy mountain, which is sometimes pointed and sometimes appearing flat topped.  That's when the Good People put up a mist so humans can't see them preparing for a hosting or a journey to another fairy fort.

Can see the top quite clearly there, so obviously Themseleves are at home, feasting and singing and playing harp music.

Gosh, forgot to tell you about the new book, and the fun we had researching it.  Brehon laws might sound boring but they were fascinating to find out about.  Wasn't all that easy - sources tend to be very academic and hard going - but underneath all the strict and severe words, a magical world lies hidden for those with eyes to see.

Gradually we got a picture of a bright ancient time where women had as many rights as men, if not more so, great care was taken of bees and birds, animals and trees, where offenders weren't imprisoned but put to work for the good of the community, and the starving, the mentally afflicted, the wanderers, were looked after.  What I found best of all was the detail on women's crafts like spinning, dyeing, weaving.  An embroideress's needle was worth more than a queen's jewels, because she could earn so much with it.  If your hens got into my garden and scratched up the woad plants I was going to use to dye my wool a lovely bright blue, then you had to pay me at least two full spindles of spun yarn, and furthermore put boots of rags on the hens in case they ever got out again!   And woe betide the person who stole a lady's pet dog.   Not only did he have to replace the pet, but was hit with a very heavy fine too.

Cats weren't forgotten either.  A moggie that could purr and also catch mice was worth more than one which only purred, and although if your cat stole some food from my house, you were liable for a fine, if it could be proved that I had carelessly left the lid off a jar or a door open, then no blame attached to you or your cat!  See what I mean about research revealing a magical world?  How practical and humane they were.  Wish we still had those laws.

Thought the lockdown would put paid to anyone even seeing the new book, but in fact it's going great guns in online orders, which is very nice.  In fact anyone ordering any books anywhere, whether for themselves or for loved ones, is doing a good thing.  I know I'm doing much more reading lately.  Oh, don't forget - if you are ordering Brehon Laws from O'Brien Press and want a personally inscribed copy, do tell them on the order, and for safety email me as well.  Wouldn't want you not to get it if you had asked for it.

I hope you are all making good use of this quiet time we are all sharing.  At times I wonder if it will be all that welcome to return to hurry and bustle, the noise of traffic, crowds everywhere?  It's so peaceful now.  Let's make the most of the quietness.