Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Reflections.

It is hard to believe Friday has come around again so quickly. This is a week that began well. We had wonderful weather at the weekend. I was out and about with my camera, enjoying a couple of quiet days after the busyness of the previous week.
The gazanias were also enjoying the sunshine.

I have been sorting through old photographs, beginning to delete the unwanted ones in an effort to save on storage space. Our theme for our photography workshop this week was portraits. This was stretching me.  Portraits are not my thing. Until my trip to Nepal last year I was better known for asking people to get out of my way, they were ruining my shot. Living on my own now it was hard to find a willing subject. Even the cats run when they see the camera. I eventually presuaded a friend, to being my guinea pig or should I say model? He was very patient but he soon tired of posing for yet another shot form a different angle.

Here are a couple of the results:

I plied him with tea to keep his spirits up

I really struggled with this lighting. I got lots of noise. In post procuction while eliminating the noise, I also lost the character lines of  his face. Any ideas anyone?
My week was going well,  I was feeling so good I couldn't think of one bad thing that had happened to me during it. It just goes to prove one should never become complacent. Wednesday it all started to go wrong. I knocked over and broke my 3TB external hard drive. It contained all my photographs collected over the years. What's worse is, this was only a new one. The last one blew up only a couple of months ago during a power surge.  This one can be rescued again, I am told, but at a cost!

So then today I sat down to write this blog post. I read the three prompts we were given and thought "Oh, oh." This is not going to be an easy one for me. 

Prompt No. 1. What was the funniest thing I saw or heard this week.?  Hmmm. My sense of humour has taken a bit of bashing over the past few days. My remote control keyboard stopped working today.  Yesterday I dropped my phone as I was coming into the house. Luckily, the phone is ok but the case is broken. I thought to myself what next? 
Well guess what? This is the second attempt at writing this post. The first seems to have disappeared into the ether. It seems that the Blogger app on the iPad hasn't got an automatic save or maybe it is because I hadn't put a title on it. Hence my second time try.

Prompt no. 2. What book or books had the greatest influence on me.....skip that one, I love books but have any really had a major influence on my life?

 Prompt No.3.  A quotation by Maya Angelou. "There is no greater agony than holding an untold story inside you"  Well, that doesn't apply. I have always been a "sharer" even if my confidants were reluctant ones.

Decisions, decisions, this week is going downhill rapidly!

It looked like No. 2 was my best option. This is where I would love to lie and say that the book that has had the greatest influence on me is some great piece of literature like James Joyce's "Ulysess" or one of Mahatama Gandhi's many works. That might make me look good. Unfortunately that is not the case. 

I read for pleasure. Almost always fiction. I read across the spectrum from light chic lit to books that are critically acclaimed, lyrically written, books that get me so involved in the story that it is a couple of days before I can start a new one. It takes me time to separate from the characters.  Some.books I have really enjoyed, just for their pure escapism, books that took me away from my daily routine to a place where I did not have to think, where I could  just relax, laugh and enjoy

So what or which books have had the most influence on me? Wait for it!  I can almost see you wincing as I say it. Enid Blytons books are the ones.  Do I hear shocked intake of breath, the exclamations, "What? Is she out of her cotton picking mind?  Now we know why she is Cilgin Kiz, Crazy Girl!

Enid Blyton has not been critically well received. She has been accused of being a second rater, her books of being elitist, racist, repetitive and totally predictable. 

Then why? Why has this author's books been so influential in my life?

 When I was eight, I moved schools. I was in second class. I found myself struggling, both with making friends and keeping up with class work. Everyone else in the class seemed to be able to read fluently. I was stumbling through. My lack of fluency affected every subject. How could I do the math when I couldn't read the question?

Dad stepped into the breach and gave me lots of extra help at home and it wasn't too long before I began to read proficiently. At the time there wasn't the great array of children's books that is available now. I still love children's books. We even read one, "The Monster Calls" in my Irish book club a couple of years back and it was probably one of the only books we all agreed we liked. I was sad when my girls grew to big for me to indulge myself by buying them beautifully illustrated picture books. 

Anyway, I started to read. A whole new world began to open up for me. I was quite a solitary child. Even though one of six, I am an only girl and and there was a three and a four year age gap on either side of me. We lived out from the centre of the village and  we were still regarded as blow ins by the "locals".

I used to read my Mum's books that she had when she was a girl. The Girls Crystal.  They were big thick books, thick pages, by that time a dull shade of brown. But the short stories inside were good. Then I discovered Enid Blyton. While  the "Secret Seven" were not my favourites I thrived on the adventures of the "Famous Five" From the comfort and safety of my couch or my place sprawled in the sunshine on the sitting room floor, I enjoyed their amazing adventures and imagined myself with them, especially with Timmy the Dog. Then there was the Adventure series, the Five Find Outers and of course the school series, St Clare's and Mallory Towers. How I longed to go to boarding school, not for the marvellous schools of course. No! I never thought about what it would be like to be sent away from home at a young age. But oh those tuck boxes and midnight feasts, how I longed to to take part.

One night, when I was ten, I was reading one of my favourites, "The Hollow Tree House" I was enrapt and couldn't put the book down. My Mum came out to the toilet around  four in the morning and saw the crack of light around my door. I had snapped off the light as soon as I heard her door open but I was too late. She came into my room but I played dead. 

In retrospect I would have been better to leave the light on and pretend to be asleep. I could have pleaded I had fallen asleep much earlier and left the light on. She said nothing and left the room.  As soon as I heard the click of her door and I knew she was safely back in her room I turned on the light again and continued to read. To be honest I don't remember much of the story now, but I do remember the tears pouring down my face as I read. I know the children ran away to live in a hollow tree and one of them got very sick.  As for reading late, I thought I had gotten away with it until the next morning. However, I was let know in no uncertain terms I had been caught. My punishment? My bedside light was taken away for a week. So for the rest of that week I had to read standing up at the end of the bed, beside the wall light, ready to put it out. I obviously hadn't learned my lesson.

I progressed from Enid Blyton to the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew mysteries. From there it was back to my Mums books, "Three Daughters of the United Kingdom" , "Honour without Reknown", then on to some of the classics, "The Swiss Family Robinson" being one of my favourites. By the age of thirteen, I was reading Walter Macken and Nicholas Monsarrat. I don't ever remember feeling lonely or bored. I always had books.

Move on a little and I was in teacher training college. One day we were discussing children's literature with our English lecturer. She was giving Enid Blyton "down the banks." Children  shouldn't be let near her books she said. The books were totally unrealistic. Children go off on an adventure, they are missing for weeks. There is no hullabaloo, no hue and cry. When they eventually arrive home, they are greeted by their mother who has prepared scones for their tea. They are never scolded or warned not to go missing again. There are so many things critically wrong with the books. But I totally disagree with children not being let read them!

I actually found my voice, something rare for me in those days. I spoke up and contradicted her. Yes I do agree with some of what she said but Enid Blyton must have done something right. She has sold over six hundred million books. Children have given their opinion by buying her books.

 I argued that it I felt it was our jobs as educators to get children reading, something, anything, that catches their interest.  I don't care if it comics or the back of the cornflakes packet. Every child is different, has different interests and tastes.  We need to cater to those tastes. How many of us, as adults finish a book we don't like or do we put it to one side?   How many teachers have given a child a book to read and told them they must finish it, they will not get another until they do?  But If we can get them reading, if we can enable them to catch the "reading bug" then it is our job as educators and/or as parents to introduce them to better quality books. If any author, any comics  non age appropriate or violent content excepted)  starts a child out on their reading journey, if they create and foster a lifelong love of reading, they hold value. 

Therefore it is Enid Blyton's books that have had the most influence one me, not for their intrinsic or literary value,  not for being thought provoking  or intellectually stimulating but because they turned a reluctant reader into a voracious one. They sparked my love of reading, a lifelong gift which I have endeavoured to pass on through my 35 year teaching career and to my four children. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


 My Friday Reflection

I haven't been blogging for a long time but this week felt the desire for the first time to get out and wield my pen. The problem was where to start. I had some old posts written but not uploaded as I hadn't added my photographs to them but after that where would I go. I decided to joined Friday Reflections the brain child of Janine Riper and Mackenzie Glanville. I am not always good at meeting deadlines but this seems like the ideal starting point to get me writing again.

This week I chose the prompt: 5 things I am grateful for this week.

1. Singalong .

 I belong to a Singalong group. We  are an international group who meet once a fortnight to sing, usually, but not always. harmoniously.
H3A Singalong Group.
It is very relaxed and no matter in what humour I arrive I invariably come out smiling. Singing is good for the soul. But not only do we sing, we laugh, swap stories, we share memories and bits of ourselves as we share our music. What fun it is to sing in our native languages and help others to get their tongue around our particular one, be it  English, Turkish, French, Dutch, Irish, Hungarian to name a few. You would think “having an ear” this should be easy but things aren’t always as you imagine. In addition to the singing, what warms me is the inclusivity of the group. Each one of us can bring a new song, take turns to choose which song we will sing next and of course to bring goodies which we enjoy during the tea break.

2. Spring.

Yesterday at Singalong, we sang ”The Rose  One of my favourite lines in this song is  near the end It says “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed, that with the sun’s love, in the Spring becomes the rose”
I am just emerging into my Spring, all around me are signs of Spring. My plum tree is in bloom as is the almond tree across from my house. The sun shines more often than it rains now and I wake up to bright sunshine most mornings.

 More to the point, I am emerging from my own particular winter, what has been a  difficult period in my life, a time I filled with lots of or perhaps one could say frantic  activity to “keep me warm” during the cold days, This lately was followed by a period of  "hibernation" to rest up and recover.
I woke up this week to feel that surge of creativity which has been dormant, an awakening of what I thought might be lost.  So I have resurrected my blog, blown the dust off my camera, I am experimenting with new recipes and have settled  down to finish a large knitting project I  had undertaken instead of flitting from one project to another without finishing any.
This will eventually be a bedspread made up of just over 700  individual hexipuffs, knitted stuffed and then joined together.

3. My Camera.

This, more than anything else at the moment, is my creative outlet. I need one without planning a project or doing something with my hands I become stultified.
I have joined a photography workshop, it also meets once a fortnight. We all have different cameras ranging from serious DSLR’s to Point and Shoot to  the camera on our phones. We have been looking at the area of composition. I enjoy challenging myself. Sometimes it seems easy. For example, a recent topic was texture, pattern, shape and a frame within a frame. It should be easy to capture a shot but the challenge is how to make that image interesting, to capture the viewers attention. We have to submit "homework" This is wonderful because we are learning from each other, looking at each other's photos.

Our latest topic will be my biggest challenge. It is portraits, not my cup of tea at all. I am known for telling people to move out of my shots they are spoiling the view. One night this week I was talking to my daughter on Skype. Our cameras were open. I don’t usually like looking at a close up of myself, but I noticed the way the light from the reading lamp was falling on my face. It immediately got me thinking ….ooooh now there is a portrait, just not me, not a selfie!  I just have to find a willing victim to sit in the same position while I play with my camera, and the lighting.

Sorry daughter for being distracted!


Like many Irish families, we are scattered. We live in five different countries, on three different continents. We were lucky this year to be all able to get together at Christmas. I am so grateful to Viber. We Skype each other but those conversations are more often than not one- to-one. What I miss most is our times around the dinner table when the conversation was often a free-for-all and you would find waht you said picked up before you could even put it down. Viber is the closest I can get to this, now we are apart. We have a group messaging system. So the conversation may begin in Edmonton Canada, gets an immediate reply from Germany followed by England, Ireland and Turkey. Not in any particular order. It can happen at any time of day once you are connected to the internet. I am immediately taken back to the family dinner table. Viber has made it  clear that my daughters suffer from a genetic disorder inherited from me. I was accused for years of having a “ smilie or sticker addiction,” It seems to have been passed on. One daughter says we have regressed to communicating in pictures, cave art. Well what can I say. If a  picture paints a thousand words……


 The downside with Viber is if you happen to sleep - we are in different time zones - or if you lose your wifi connection, you could  have over thirty messages to scroll back through to see what you have missed.
But then of course, you haven’t missed it. The conversation is there waiting for you…and you have time to come up with a suitable reply! So not a downside after all!

 5. The Cat Brush,
Last but not least, this week I am grateful for a new purchase, a cat brush.  I am not the only one grateful for this  Buster, the cat, after initial doubts, is  even more grateful than I.

Now, every morning, Buster gets a good brushing. Is it the fact that it is Spring?  Boy can this cat shed hair! As I was ironing the other morning, I made a mental note to myself, either bring the cat with me on my next trip to the hairdressers and get him dyed black or buy a new wardrobe of blonde clothes. Ginger cats and dark trousers are not a good match.

My mind immediately began to ponder the possibility of  developing a spray on, brush out hair dye for cats. You know they are not fond of water. Therefore a  wash in, rinse out will not work. If I could or someone else for that matter could develop the product I could dye Buster to match my outfit on any given day so the cat hair would not show. With this was tossing  around in my brain, I spotted the brush on the shelf in the supermarket. Not quite as good as a fur dye nonetheless I quickly snapped it up and brought it home to Buster.

I was not sure how he would react, so first I told him of my plan to dye him black and mentioned as I had not come up with a spray formula it would involve water and washing. I then produced the brush as the alternative.  What can I say, after first trying his disdainful stare, he saw I wasn't caving!  He decided to give in with good grace flopped down rolled over and purred.
Later, having invited his friend  Zorro into play, they both collapsed exhausted onto the bed! Hmmmm...... I am going to have to introduce Zorro to the brush or tell her she could end up blonde...for the summer months anyway.

An couple of hours of chasing each other around the house, followed by a bedtime story it is time for a nap and hopefully not shed to much!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Beruwela Lighthouse. A Photostory.

Most days after school  we went to the beach. In addition to the ladies selling sarongs there,was a group of young men who in addition to chatting offered us various trips to us in the locality, at a price of course.

It was thanks to them we found our way to both Lunuganga and Brief Gardens, though in the end we went with our school tuktuk drivers as they gave us a much better price.

They also suggested that we take the short boat trip to Beruwela Lighthouse on a nearby island. In their estimation the best time would be sunset.

So we arranged to meet them one evening after school.

It was a good if slightly scary trip. There were no life jackets, and it soon became apparent why the lighthouse was necessary.

Barberyn Island complete with lighthouse. Are we heading straight for those rocks.

There were no life jackets and it soon became apparent why the lighthouse was necessary.

The view from the top of the lighthouse was wonderful as was the sunset.

Our tour guides.
The lighthouse was built by the British in 1928 but there may have been an older structure prior to this. It is still fully functional. It was getting a face lift when we arrived.

The road to the lighthouse

It is getting an overhaul.

It is one of four international lighthouses still working in Sri Lanka.  

The lamp .

What is that in the distance?

It is the statue of Buddha, at Kande Viharaya, the higgest statue of Buddha in Sri Lanka

Looking towards  the centuries old Ketchimalai Mosque, the white building in the near distance. 

75% of Barberyn Island is covered by coconut trees.

Coming to rest in the trees for the evening?

Home to five lighthouse keepers.

The sun begins to set

Ship heads into the path of the setting sun.
At the top.

The light is on, photo was impossible to take as the boat was going up and down!

Back at the hotel

Once again the beacon is lighting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Temple of the Tooth - Kandy

 According to legend, when Lord Buddha died , his left canine tooth was discovered in the ashes. This tooth is believed to have come from India to Sri Lanka and is now housed in the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. Thousands of people flock to the shrine to see the casket housing the tooth  which is put on display three times a day among much fanfare.
Map of the temple complex.
Our driver told us he had a guide organised for us. We were not allowed to delay, we had to go hand in our shoes, and head straight to the door of the main complex. I understood as the guide was waiting but  there were small buildings dotted around the complex just calling out to me to be photographed. Ah well, I would get them on our way back. After all, we had all day..... or so I thought!! Our guide, while knowledgeable, spoke at knots an hour and rushed us through the Temple. He told us it was because we had little time, the showing of the casket would begin in half an hour and our tour must be finished by then. Maggie later found out he was booked to give an English lesson.

The entrance to the main temple
People make their offerings.
I was the holder of the " kitty", our joint funds for paying entrance fees, tuk tuks etc. I was instructed by the others to give a 100 rupee tip. I thought it was very little, about €1.50, but then wages were also very low, tipping should be proportionate, I assumed. As soon as we were finished the tour, the guide asked us for money. I was taken aback. I didn't think normally asked for their tip and he had whizzed us through the temple. However, I handed over the agreed tip and was told in no uncertain terms it was not enough. I was now equally embarrassed at offering too little and annoyed at being asked for more. I wonder was his name Oliver?

I gave him another 100 and he handed me back the two notes and told me he didn't want the money. Boy oh boy. I wished I had done my research first and checked out the going rate! I had obviously mortally insulted him. At the same time, our tour had resembled speed dating. Move to a certain point, get the required information in as short a time as possible and then move on! So I took our money and put it back into kitty as he obviously wasn't going to accept it.

This image did not fit with my traditional image of a monk.
Monks were the only ones I saw using smart phones in Sri Lanka

Notice in the library.
Next came embarrassing moment no. 2. Maggie had seen the Temple before, but Sue and I hadn't. We decided to split up and go our separate ways to explore it at our leisure. We needed to meet again to get our shoes. Maggie had the ticket. The ceremony was about to begin. Maggie said to meet in 30 minutes, Sue wanted an hour. There were words exchanged and a bit of storming off! Heigh ho!

Hall of Worship

Hall of Worship
the Story of  the Sacred Relic is told in pictures around the Hall of Worship

Inner Courtyard.

Inner sanctuary.

I wandered around the main temple area. The flower offerings were beautiful and so many people sitting in the floor praying.

Flower offerings

More offerings. I am not sure what was inside these parcels.

 Drums and flutes, all kinds of fanfare heralded the Tooth going on display.

Do you think they have done this once too often? None of them look very enthusiastic!
No chance we were going to miss the fanfare.

So approximately 45 minutes later we all met up again, the shoes were retrieved, Maggie shot off for an Anglican church she had spotted just outside the grounds.

The Anglican Church
Sue and I wandered. I wanted to photograph those buildings I had seen on the way in but we were soon rounded up by the driver. We had to get on the road for the return trip! What happened to having all day? It looked like the driver too had somewhere else he needed to be.

The Temple Grounds

Ancient Bodhi Tree

Once we were back in the van, the mystery of the our guides huff was quickly revealed It turned out that Saga had not paid the guide. We had understood it was included. The guide had been looking for his fee for his tour. We had not understood. He did not explain, the driver had not told us. Our entrance to the Botanic Garden had been paid so we assumed when we were told a guide was waiting for us it was the same thing. Our guide, failing to "extract" money from us had gone to the driver, who paid him. We in turn reimbursed the driver. What a mix up.

Once more our return journey was 5½ hours and this time the driver planned on non-stop. We hadn't eaten since 07.30 and had been rushing around the place like lunatics..  Eventually we managed to persuade him we needed to stop for lunch. He found a restaurant, we took one look, decided hunger pangs were better than food poisoning and moved on. We were back on the road. An hour later he stopped at a tea house and said this was all that was open on a Sunday. So it was a cup of coffee, there was no food. It was a long uncomfortable journey after a very frustrating morning.We were glad to reach our hotel, collect our bags and  move into our new rooms.

What a waste of a weekend, we spent all our time on the road, approximately 11 hours for 2 hours sightseeing. I decided no more trying to please others.I had passed on the elephant farm, tried to mediate between Maggie and Sue at the temple. Enough! I have not been to Sri Lanka before or will I be touring again after volunteering. Saga might have organised my hotel for the next weekend but I will make my own travel plans and actually see what I would like to see.

Being nice is overrated!

Or maybe I should take the advice of all Buddhas?