Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tiger 1996 - 2012.

I remember very well the day in winter of 1996 when I went to collect you.  You were lounged nonchalantly on a bed in a small townhouse in Bray where the owner had christened you Florence.  You were about 3 months old.

I took you home to our little rented house in Blackrock where our then 10 year old daughter rechristened you Tiger.  You lived an indoor life for a few months and then we all moved a few miles further south when we bought our house in Shankill.  Do you remember the endless entertainment your still kittenish self had with the hidden water sprinkler in the back garden of our new house?

In Shankill you were on hand to welcome home our babies, Roisin in November 1998 and Mia in September 2000.  You also knew my father, Michael before he passed away in 2002.

Then one day you were gone.  I called and called you.  We searched our neighbourhood.  I drove up and down the nearby motorway looking for a body.  All in vain.  You had just vanished.  We were all sad as the realisation gradually dawned that you were gone.  But life was busy – with two babies, a teenager and both Paul and I working hard.  By now our family had expanded to include another cat – Simba.

On a Saturday morning, some months later, I arrived half asleep into the kitchen to find you were back.  Sitting up on the high stool and meowing your head off, clearly telling me of your adventures which hadn’t seemed to have taken any toll on your beautiful appearance.  We were delighted and stunned and never ever discovered where you went for those missing three months.

We moved again in 2002 to this house in Cabinteely and the following year added another two cats to the household.  But you Tiger were always the matriarch.  Beautiful, elegant and slightly aloof.  You were no lap cat preferring on occasion to sit beside someone but rarely on a lap.

When Dylan the dog joined us five years ago, it was you Tiger who very definitely taught him that he was the very bottom of the food chain in the house and that cats rule!  You taught him well – he has never forgotten.

Tiger helps Mia with her homework.

You were so affectionate. Like lots of cats – an open book or newspaper on the kitchen table was a signal for you to come and make yourself the focus of our attention instead of our chosen reading matter.  You would head butt the paper and wind yourself around a book making reading or doing homework a challenge.

You were always here Tiger.  As you got older the outdoors was fine for an hour or two in the sun on mild days but what you really loved was to curl up on your blanket under a radiator.

Your other favourite thing was to sit on the back of the chair and look out the front window where you could watch the neighbourhood comings and goings.  You also had a handbag fetish and loved nothing more than investigating a good handbag – the more expensive the bag the more you loved it.  More than a couple of friends left this house with their designer handbag covered in cat hair!

Like many of us in this house, you were a great talker. You knew your name and often responded to being spoken to with a series of meows.  Those meows took on added impetus in the morning when you demanded to be fed at once! Paul was your food slave!  And like Simba, you loved it when I started preparing dinner.  You sat on the floor to the left of the cooker (while he took up position on the right) and waited till I dropped a piece of chicken or some other tasty morsel.  Sometimes you stretched up and tried to hook a piece of meat for yourself!

Your last year or so were marked by your inability to groom yourself as effectively as you would have liked but that meant that we could give you a girly grooming session in the garden which you loved.  Only last weekend we spent about 30minutes together at the picnic table at the end of the garden and as I brushed your coat you purred your pleasure.

Sometimes we both got distracted at My Kitchen Table and spent long minutes watching birds in the garden or just thinking about life.

In the last week or so we knew you were fading Tiger and we vowed that as long as you were comfortable, eating and sleeping we would not force any intervention.  That stage came to an end yesterday when we knew you were no longer comfortable.  It was an unbearably sad morning as we all spent what we knew were our last hours with you.  But ever the lady and a cat who always knew her own mind you spared both of us the trauma of euthanasia in the Vets surgery as you breathed your last in the car beside me.

Tiger you were witness to all the events, big, small, happy and sad of our family life over the past 16 years.  Your constant presence in our home is no more but you remain in each of our hearts and our memories.
Tiger Sherwood Scully, cat, friend, part of our family left us on Saturday 25th August 2012.

Cats are synonymous with female energy, magic and the moon...

I hope Tiger that somewhere you are winding yourself around the legs of one Mr Neil Armstrong and that you might find a celestial kitchen table where you can sit and he can regale you with tales of how it felt to walk on that moon!  You'd like that!

In memory of Tiger Sherwood Scully.
1996 - 2012.
Thank you Tiger -  we will miss you but never forget you!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Fostering kittens for the DSPCA is always interesting but the kitten we took delivery of on last Wednesday has a particularly special story.

Last Monday (13th August), a woman left Edenderry, Co Offaly and drove (without stopping) to Dublin.  On arrival and when she got out of her car she was very surprised to hear a cat’s cries seeming to come from inside the engine.  She lifted the bonnet and sure enough there was a white and black, quite terrified kitten looking back at her.  The kitten had hung on and survived the journey the entire way.  Thankfully the driver contacted the DSPCA who took the kitten back to their HQ in Rathfarnham where they checked him out.

This is Scooter when he arrived at the DSPCA after his epic journey in a car engine

Miraculously the three month old kitty survived without injury.  When we met him on Wednesday, he was still a bit dishevelled and grimy looking.  We took him home for some rest and recuperation.

Although the DSPCA had called him Eden, he was immediately rechristened Scooter in our house and we think this name suits him perfectly. He didn’t take too long to relax and soon was relishing the comforts of a cosy blanket and a safe place to sleep. In the last few days he is regaining his looks as he grooms away the dirt and grime from his engine journey.

Scooter at home!

Scooter brings with him such a great story of survival, of the kindness of strangers and of hope in the face of the seemingly insurmountable odds.  And the amazing thing is that he seems to know how lucky he is and he is so grateful for a second chance.  He is the most affectionate cat you could meet.

We are due to return him to the DSPCA for rehoming on Friday!  Mmmmmmm... I think this is one kitty foster we may just fail on!

Kittens and adult cats can have a dangerous habit of climbing onto car engines because they (foolishly) consider them warm and safe places to sleep.  Most cats would not be as lucky as Scooter was.  If you have cats in the vicinity of where your car is parked it is a good habit just to bang the bonnet with your hand before you get into the car.  This should help dislodge a sleeping cat.  Cats in car engines can be a particular habit of farmyard cats!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Being married to a Brit I have always taken a lively interest in the goings on of our nearest neighbours.  I have two children who are half English and, if I am to be very honest, that part of their heritage is not ever something I was that excited about.  Their Irishness contained all the attributes that I would have considered preferable for life – an ability to talk the hind legs off the proverbial donkey, an inner knowing of what ‘the craic’ is, the love of a good party and an understanding that slagging someone you love is really a show of affection.  Other than great organisational skills I was unsure what other national traits their English heritage gifted them.  I suppose you could short hand all this by saying my attitude to the Brits is that they’re grand – a bit boring and predictable – but grand.

To back up this dodgy theory I would regale my kids with the story of the first time I travelled to London to spend the weekend with my beloved.  I was to accompany him to a wedding – a daunting prospect as I knew absolutely no-one.  The wedding itself took place in a beautiful ancient English church complete with lychgate and with real bells tolling to announce the newly wedded couple.  The reception was in an equally lovely country hotel with duck pond and gorgeous gardens.  The day was sunny and warm.  The people I met were all very nice too and made me feel very welcome.  But it was all over by 9pm.  The bar closed and everyone went home.  I couldn’t believe it.  This to me summed up England – grand but a tad dull.  And yes I am quite aware that this was a very lazy view of the neighbours.

So when I sat down to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony I was expecting to see a well executed show complete with a dollop of Royalty and the usual line up of British greats from the world of music.  What I was not expecting was to see was Her Majesty playing a cameo role in a Bond skit where she apparently jumps out of a helicopter into the arena.  What was this?  Were the Brits laughing at themselves?
The great organisation I had come to expect was there alright – but it was used to create a show that was chaotic, quirky, exuberant and magical.  Sure there was great lighting and pyrotechnics but over-riding all this was a creativity that was mind-blowing; the cyclists with the luminous wings, the children jumping on hospital beds, the Mary Poppins’s who floated into the arena – breathtaking and enchanting.  And there was powerful symbolism too, particularly in the lighting of the magnificent ceremonial bowl of flame by the next generation of young athletes.

The Opening Ceremony seemed to set a tone that was miles away from the bad press in the weeks leading up to the games with stories of Olympic Lanes forcing motorists off the road and the security shambles.  For the last two weeks we have watched an Olympic Games where almost everything was golden – from the smiling volunteers to the good humoured crowds.

I wondered if the Closing Ceremony would revert to type.  We already knew that we were going to be treated to a ‘symphony of British music’, but once again the Brits surpassed themselves and surprised me.  We were all invited to join in a wild party with performers singing on juggernauts, in convertible Bentleys and on top of Taxis.  Annie Lennox appeared like some kind of warrior Goddess on the prow of a ship singing Little Bird.  And best of all The Who, closed the show delivering My Generation to at least three younger generations of British musicians who joined them on stage.

As I watched I began to feel that this Olympics was about so much more than sport.  Over the last two weeks our neighbours have redefined what it is to be British.  They have revitalised Brand GB into something alive, colourful, witty, creative and magical.  It has been a joy to watch.  And I am very relieved for my children and think I will stop with the wedding story now.

One of the most poignant moments of the Closing Ceremony was when the face of John Lennon appeared on the screen singing Imagine..... “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I hope one day you’ll join me.  And the world can live as one.”  London 2012 came very near to providing us with an insight as to what such a world would feel like.  Maybe the Mayans were right after all about 2012 heralding in a new era of peace and understanding on this troubled planet.  I hope so.  But, seriously who would have ever thought it would have been the Brits who would deliver the goods.

Bravo GB.  What a wonderful couple of weeks and I am very pleased to have better stories to tell my kids about what it means to be English!

Monday, August 13, 2012


I was dreading the Olympics.  I don’t really get sport.  The thought of two weeks of wall to wall competition of all kinds filled me with dread.

The Opening Ceremony cheered me up a lot though and left me a little better disposed towards the events themselves.  I actually found I quite enjoyed watching the track and field competitions.  I particularly liked the Javelin, Discus and Pole Vault – they have a balletic elegance and timelessness about them that appealed to me.   They seem to still carry the energy of ancient Athens.  The sprints and long distance races were exciting.   Mo Farah stands out for his sheer joy at winning his first medal.  His family presented a beautiful tableau as his wife glided majestically like a pregnant Goddess across the track to congratulate him while his young daughter jumped about and waved her flag.  A holy trinity of joy.

Who couldn’t but admire Usain Bolt with all his theatrical gestures and wonderful confidence?

Ireland’s Olympians did a great job too led by Katie Taylor who Sean Ban Breatnach gushingly elevated to the status of Queen Meabh and Marys McAleese and Robinson.  And sure why not – she is a gracious and wonderful ambassador for us – although I am too much of a wuss to watch boxing and really wish her sporting prowess was in something else.

There was all that joy and good humour but there was also plenty of pain and tears.  Athletes who ‘just missed out on gold’, who ‘only’ got a bronze, who ‘didn’t make the final’.  The interviews these athletes were forced to give as they came to terms with their disappointment made for some very uncomfortable TV.  I heard the words ‘failure’, ‘letting themselves and others down’, of ‘not being good enough’.  This is where I don’t get sport.

Every single competitor at London 2012 is an accomplished athlete... if they weren’t they wouldn’t be there.  Of course I understand they are driven to win and I accept that.  But I do feel that we don’t do enough to celebrate the taking part as the greater aspect of the games.

For me the bravest and most impressive competitor at the games didn’t win any medal.  She didn’t even come close.  In fact she came last in her 800m race – almost a full lap behind the winner.  Her name is Sarah Attar and she was one of the two female athletes from Saudi Arabia – the first time this country has permitted women to compete.  Wearing a long sleeved top and full leggings and a white hijab, Sarah was running for something just as precious and probably more important than gold or silver.  She was blazing a trail for women and young girls in her home country to follow.  She was cheered all the way home with a standing ovation.  This, for me, is the true spirit of the Olympics.

Call me naive but I truly believe that sport should be about the taking part and not just the winning... in fact I think it’s the taking part that should be wildly celebrated.  I have seen the consequences of ‘winning at all costs’ with young children in schools and it would literally break your heart.  I’m talking about the child who does their best but it’s not good enough and they get side-lined all the time.  This is something particularly prevalent in football.  Is it OK in sport to sometimes humiliate a child in this way?  Is it OK for the media to thrust a microphone under the chin of a devastated athlete and ask them ‘how they are feeling about not achieving better?’

In my simplistic world if you have done your best well that’s just good enough and you deserve nothing but praise and celebration.

The one athlete I saw who totally bucked the trend was young Tom Daley the British diver.  He was tipped as a possible gold medal.  He got bronze and he was thrilled.  His exuberant joyful celebration was in stark contrast to John Joe Nevin who felt he let everyone down by only winning silver.  Good on Tom Daley – what a great role model for doing your best and that being good enough.

London 2012 changed my mind about the Olympics – mainly due to the wonderful atmosphere that was tangible even when just watching on TV.  But it hasn’t changed what I think about sport.  I’m sticking to my guns on my belief that it’s not about the winning as much as about taking part.  I know – I just don’t get sport!

Sunday, August 5, 2012



So here were are – into August and still not a sight, not a smell of summer.  We have been deluged every month and have only had the odd day here and there when we experienced blue sky, sunshine and heat, all at the same time!

Yes it has been depressing.  Yes it has made me realise that we really do reside on a damp, island in the North Atlantic when, in our hearts, many of us Irish are Mediterranean by nature.  Personally I think the Spanish Armada may have a lot to answer for.  We are temperamentally far more suited to the long languid balmy days of our Southern European cousins but instead we seem to be marooned on the wrong latitude complete with our wooden decks (a huge health and safety hazard when wet) and garden furniture.  We are possibly the only country in the world where Indian Sandstone patios are washed of all colour within 12 months of their being laid in our gardens. (If you ever think of laying an Indian Sandstone patio please don’t waste your money.  It will look like concrete within a year).

Oh yes, it has been a washout of a summer and I think finally the realisation is dawning on many of us that it’s over!  There will be no summer.  Kids will be going back to school in three weeks.  A sunny September would be nice BUT NO BLOODY USE (sorry I know I am shouting).

So have there been any advantages of our soggy summer?  I have been wracking my brain on this one for the last few days as I battle a slide into depression as the realisation dawns that summer didn’t.  Here is what I have come up with so far.....

I have saved a fortune on what I normally spend in Garden Centres.  Over the years once neighbours gardens burst forth in glorious splashes of summer colour in wonderfully tended borders I get madly jealous.  Off I go and spenD money on stuff I know nothing about.  I plant things in the wrong place and they either die or go mad so that the following years I do it all over again and never have the garden I imagine in my head.  This year it’s been a case of “garden, what garden?”

On the same theme I have developed a love of natural wildflowers otherwise known as weeds.  As the rain on the windows blurs my vision the yellow splashes of dandelion down the garden can look quite pretty.  Equally I am not so afraid of huge, fat, ugly slugs anymore... they are everywhere.

We have done less entertaining.  We are hardly 'Party Kind and Queen' in this house but there is something about long warm summer days and evenings that makes you want to get the neighbours around for chilled proscecco... hang on, this is meant to be advantages... Scrap that!  I love those evenings, even if it means I have to cut the grass and do the edges.

Although that does bring me nicely onto cutting the grass.  There have been lots of Sundays – and this is one of them – that I meant to cut the grass only to be rained off.  So instead I took to the sofa with a book... or wrote a blog post!!

Those cheap rain-jackets we normally trail around with us during the summer months we now know without a doubt are not waterproof.  So we will be well prepared for winter this year.

Skies - there have been some amazing skies.. with sinister gun metal grey clouds banked up against each other.  In turn this leads to weird light.

So what else?

As I ran out of inspiration as to the positives of THIS LOUSY SUMMER I asked the Twitter Machine for some suggestions.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love Twitter?  With thanks to everyone – here are just a few of the suggestions I received.

@mrshmc said “no hanging out washing” which may be a plus for some but me... well I love nothing more than seeing a line full of washing blowing in the breeze, drying in the sun.

@landsleaving offered “no need to get in shape for the beach”.  Indeed... although those that know me know that is not an issue for me!  But I accept it as a valid advantage!

@miriamahern said she looks forward to autumn “as it is a more normal season”.  Yes I can’t wait for autumn now.. since we have been on the brink of it for months now!!  @snastablasta echoes this sentiment by her tweet “good preparation for winter”.  Too right.

@ornagh doesn’t mind working bank holidays this summer and @JSmediabox appreciates her summer holiday more than ever this year.

So there you are.  I did my best.  I have plumbed the depths of Twitter and my own psyche to come up with some good things about our rainy summer.  It’s been difficult.  In all seriousness the lack of sunlight can have a very depressing effect.  But really there is nothing much we can do.. we are at the mercy of the vagaries of Mother Nature who this year definitely seems to be menopausal.  And remember bad weather can only improve – next summer will be better – if only because it really can’t get any worse!

In conclusion the best I can offer is to grab a book, light the fire, read a book, enjoy comfort food and settle in – it’s almost autumn!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


This week Ireland lost someone very special... a woman who embodied lots of  the very best things about being Irish.  A story teller par excellence.

My tribute to our Maeve from Dalkey is on the website.  Click here.