Friday, December 6, 2013

That Cool Guy - Mandela

Nelson Mandela.  Madiba.  Father of South Africa.  Peacemaker. Visionary.  Leader. Husband. Father. Grandfather.  Humanitarian. Activist. Politician. Prisoner.

I am relieved that Nelson Mandela’s life has finally come to an end.  I feel sure that the last months could not have been easy.  Although most of us die in hospital, most of us aspire to finish our days in our own homes, with those we love.  Madiba achieved that, which is fitting for a man who achieved so much.

It was during the 80s that the situation in South Africa started to seep into my consciousness.  I was aware of the furore caused rugby teams from these islands who continued to play in South Africa when many sporting teams were boycotting the country in protest against apartheid.   I was aware of the young girls of my own age who had lost their jobs in Dunne’s Stores for refusing to handle South African fruit. 

But it was the late 80s before I became aware of this man, this Nelson Mandela.  This was due mainly to the song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and the 70th Birthday Concert which was organised in London, featuring some of music’s very best acts including Dire Straits and The Eurythmics.  It was a kind of political Live Aid.  So I thought this Nelson Mandela must be a pretty cool guy.

A few years later, in February 1990 I was glued to my TV as this ‘cool guy’, Mandela, who up until that point was just a silent, invisible figurehead, walked out of prison, hand in hand with his wife Winnie.  He was an old man, albeit an elegant one who walked very erect and slowly presumably savouring sweet freedom.  I, along with everyone else got my first real look at this man we knew but didn’t know at all.

Since then we have all watched this elderly man as he led South Africa into a new dawn of peace.  His presence was welcomed all over the world as he shared his wisdom and his crusade for peace and freedom.  And that make us so very lucky. 

Our children and our children’s children and their children will learn about Nelson Mandela.  They will watch videos of him and they will read his speeches.  We however, have been given the privilege of watching Mandela’s journey and that of South Africa in real time.  And for that I am so grateful. 

Mandela was a visionary leader.  He was a gifted orator.  But he also had wisdom borne from a deep self knowledge, which I assume came from the long years he spent incarcerated.  He was the physical embodiment of that famous Gandhi quote - “Be The Change You Want To See In The World.”  Mandela walked his talk and did so with grace.

Along with his wisdom was the inner peace of a man at ease with himself and his shortcomings.  “Don’t make me a saint”, he said, “I am no saint”.  But more than this, what made Mandela outstanding as a statesman was his humour.  He was quick to laugh and he poked fun at himself regularly.  He wore his greatness lightly.  And only the true greats of politics have conquered their ego sufficiently to not take themselves too seriously.

The world will wait some time to see his like again.  Thank God for Madiba.  May he rest in peace. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

SEND A CHRISTMAS CARD.. but do it right!

On a shelf, in the corner of my living room are this year’s supplies, neatly arranged in three piles with two of my favourite pens lined up alongside. I am now waiting for the right moment.  Preferably a cold, frosty night when I can light the fire, turn off the TV, pour a glass of wine.  I have to be in the right frame of mind.  This is not a job to be tackled when tired or grumpy.  My heart must be open and my mood should be good.  Then, placing a large book on my lap to function as a table, I can begin. 

The writing of the Christmas Cards should never be rushed.  It is something to do carefully and with thought.  If you have a variety of card designs it is important to match the right card with the right recipient.  Before you have written one word, your choice of card already says something for you.  In my case I usually buy cards from an animal charity which will go to friends who I know have pets.  It’s probably not a great idea to send a cute kitty card to someone who hates cats!   I also usually buy cards with the message ‘as Gaeilge’ and well as ‘as Bearla’ and a lot of these cards will go overseas. 

There is no excuse not to buy a charity card.  Most charities sell them so there is a huge variety.  And remember to buy direct from the charity rather than give a department store a cut of the price also.  When I receive cards it is always interesting to see what charities friends are supporting.  A non charity is card is bad form. 

The writing of the card is where many people really let themselves down.  Merely scribbling your signature on the bottom is really not on – I would prefer no card than to receive such an impersonal non effort.  If you are sending cards - do it right.

A good pen is important.  But no matter how brilliant the pen is, it still can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  So take your time and ‘do your best writing’.  And begin by always addressing those to whom you are sending the card.  So your card should start with a ‘Dear’ or ‘To’.....

Then please - write an actual message. This is the whole point of sending a card and it’s worth putting in a bit of thought into.  Usually I find that my Christmas Card recipients fall into a few distinct categories.  There are those who you see regularly and to whom a nice wish for the festive season and perhaps the coming year is appropriate.  Then there are those people you no longer see regularly and so an extra line or two hoping all is well with them is a nice touch.  Finally there are those with whom you only correspond at Christmas.  I love this category because to me this group encapsulate the real meaning of the festive season.  These are old friends or family who you still hold dear and so it’s nice perhaps to write a short paragraph giving them a quick update on your affairs. 

To me this is what Christmas should be about - connecting with people.  It’s a once a year opportunity to tell those family and friends that you value them and to send them your best wishes.  I love to receive a chatty, newsy card.

So to finish.... are you a ‘love from’ or a ‘best wishes’ person?  Either are OK but do write all the names from whom this card comes.  In other words don’t be attempted to do initials.  It’s OK to shorten the entire family to ‘and family’ or similar and this particularly can be handy when you have lost track of the recipients children.

Finally – addressing the envelope.  I have only one thing to say about this!  Women are people too.  They are not extensions of their husband.  If I get a card addressing me as Mrs Paul Sherwood it’s going in the bin.  I think that’s clear enough.

But do send cards.  And if I haven’t convinced you, then please don’t bother including me for one of those awful virtual cards via Facebook or Email.  You know the ones that play dire music and have cutesy animation.  THEY ARE NOT CARDS. 

Cards are written by hand and are delivered by the postman.  But best of all they can be displayed in your home suffusing your living space with their good wishes and festive cheer.  So do send a card.... but do it right.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


The current talk of an electiricty strike brought this piece to mind. 
 It was broadcast in 2002 on Lyric FM

The morning did not start like any other.  I felt the bitter cold as soon as I put my nose outside the duvet.  Our house was never cold in the morning.  Like most, our heating system swung into action while we were still dreaming, thus ensuring we always greeted a new day in the comfort of temperatures worthy of springtime in the Mediterranean.  Not today.  Today I knew it was a raw February morning.  My breath formed little clouds as I hurried through the Siberian temperatures to investigate what had happened to the heating.  As I became more awake I realised it was not just the heating but all the electrical appliances that were inactive at 8am on this Sunday morning.  We had a power failure. 
My two small children had followed me downstairs and were standing in their bare feet and light nightwear, shivering and wondering why there was no breakfast on the way.  The house was oddly quiet. 

My first priority was to combat the cold and so I set about lighting a fire, something we usually only did on special occasions, such as Christmas or when we are having guests over on a winter evening.  There was great excitement as we set the fire and the children ran back upstairs to get their dressing gowns and slippers and a blanket to wrap themselves in on the sofa. 

“Can we watch Barney mom” they asked and I gave a quick and simple explanation of electricity, which like air, only seems important when there’s none. 

“Well can we have our toast now?.”   I was about to explain about the toaster also needing electricity when I remembered that we could make toast at the fire.  Bread, butter, jam and a long handled fork were assembled on the coffee table and I positioned myself on a low stool at the hearth and began to hold the bread towards the flames.

The children giggled excitedly under their blanket mesmerised by the flames and intoxicated by the smell of the slowly grilling toast.  Our world had condensed into this small area of delicious heat and light around the fire.  The only sound was of their little voices, marvelling at this unexpected adventure at breakfast time and the crackling of the fire.  We were joined by the cat, freshly returned from her nocturnal wanderings.  Cold and tired, relishing this unusual luxury, she laid her weary bones on the hearthrug at my feet.

It was a precious moment of pure contentment.  One of those moments when God seems to make a simple but very direct attempt to strip away the distractions of life, distilling it down to the core.  He then says very clearly, remember this moment.  This is what is precious.

Held in this moment of time, suspended in the firelight, I am transported back to the days of my own childhood.  I remember it was my father who taught me how to set a fire and my mother who had first held my bread to the fire to toast it.  I have a moment of supreme clarity when the threads linking me with the past, with my parents and grandparents are as tangible as the flames which dance in the grate.  I look into my children’s eyes and strain to see the threads stretch into their future, to their fireside and my own grandchildren.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The cover of the Culture Magazine of The Sunday Times last weekend caught me attention as it featured a stunning photo of Dame Judi Dench who is currently starring in the movie ‘Philomena’ which opened recently in cinemas in Ireland.  Amid the sea of perfectly enhanced faces we normally see on the cover of magazines Ms Dench’s portrait is refreshingly beautiful in what I hope is an honest way.   

There is currently an ad on TV which begins by a woman announcing that she is growing old gracefully to her friend who in turn says that she would like to grow old disgracefully.  There are a number of women in the conversation mentioning things like glowing from within.  However just about the time that you the viewer is harbouring an inner glow in the hope that this is another refreshingly honest take on older women – they mention some bloody serum that ‘really works’.  A fact they know because of the ‘second looks’ they get.  Ta Dah... plus ca change?

The message stays the same – women must fight ageing all the way and remember that our worth is entirely dependent on how good, i.e. youthful we look.  The results of this ‘war on ageing’ can be seen every week on The X Factor as Ms Osborne resorts to jumping about a lot to make up for the fact that her face is not quite as mobile as it should be.  Madonna is another example of someone who is maybe winning the war on ageing by beginning to look extraordinary... anyone remember the series from the 80s called V (about reptilian people).  And then there is or was Cher... well.  I rest my case.

My husband is a photographer and he often says that women who have ‘had work done’ (God be with the days when that meant the addition of a conservatory) might look young from a distance but that up close they scare the bejaysus out of him.  

It’s beyond time that real women (who like me, even if I could afford ‘work’ I am way more afraid of looking odd than looking old) took a stand and retrieved women’s middle and senior years as being just as valid as their youth.

In ancient mythology woman was represented by the Triple Goddess of The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone.  The triple spiral found in ancient Ireland is said to be a representation of triumvirate view of woman.  The maiden was of course revered for her physical youth and beauty, the mother respected as the nurturer and carer.  And the Crone was respected for her wisdom.  But it was this wise and powerful woman, this Crone that became hijacked over the centuries to become the evil witch capable of knowing the unknown and of dastardly deeds.  By the middle ages she was a witch with evil powers but at least she had power.  In today’s society the older woman has been reduced to nothing.  Age is seen as entirely negative and we must fight to remain young....  to the point of cutting and pasting of our faces.

British actress Kristin Scott Thomas who is 53 spoke this summer about how she feels invisible and not just when she is in the company of younger co-stars but even walking down the street or among strangers.  And if someone as well known, as accomplished an actress, as beautiful as Ms Scott Thomas feels like that what about the rest of us?

Ageing is seen by modern society as failure, particularly for women.  And it seems to me that modern, older women are content to accept this as fact and to undergo surgery and injecting poisons in order to attempt to delay the inevitable?   This fact depresses me far more than noticing my lines and wrinkles.

Tomorrow we celebrate the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  Samhain marked the end of the harvest but it is also the time when we celebrate the Goddess as Crone. 

So amid the mayhem and madness this is time for older women to retrieve their true power.  We are in many ways at the pinnacle of our real power.  We have been around the block a few times; we have lived, perhaps given birth and raised children.  We have worked, we have loved, we have cried and we have laughed.  We have gathered wisdom and stories along the way.

The Crone stage is not the end.  It is a new beginning.  It is time women to step into your power, don your witch’s hat and scream it from the rooftops.  WE ARE WISE POWERFUL for invisible... only if you allow yourself to be.


Thursday, October 24, 2013


I am delighted that one of my ambitions came to fruition this week when I presented my first radio programme, THE HEN HOUSE on Dublin South FM.

I will be presenting The Hen House every Wednesday at 4pm when I will spend the hour in the company of some very interesting women.

My first guest was Jillian Godsil.  You can listen here

Enjoy.... and I would love to know what you think!


Saturday, October 5, 2013


As I write the result of the Seanad Referendum has just been announced.  The country has voted No to abolishing Seanad Eireann.  Reform – well that’s a whole other day’s work, particularly since Enda stated clearly that a No vote will not result in this Government undertaking any reform of the second house.

I am personally much cheered by the independence of mind shown by the Irish electorate on this issue. Against the massed armies of Sinn Fein, Fine Gael and Labour we had only Fianna Fail as a party urging a ‘No’ vote.  Fianna Fail, who are still taking baby steps back towards their rehabilitation with the electorate, certainly seemed to have judged the zeitgeist just right.  But it would be foolish for Michael Martin or any of his colleagues to get too excited about the victory of their side over the Government parties and the only other party of opposition in this referendum.  In my opinion although Martin performed ably during the two TV debates, this is not his victory. 

What is important about the result of the Seanad referendum was the range of independent, credible and passionate voices on the No side.  Probably most prominent of these was Professor John Crowne whose insightful intelligent contributions were hugely important in this debate.  Senator Katherine Zappone was another voice who articulated her view with zeal and enthusiasm.  Duirmuid Ferriter too and in the latter days of the campaign poet Theo Dorgan also spoke out to retain the Seanad.   

Political parties would be wise to learn that the electorate of this country are not stupid.  We don’t like being bullied into making a decision on a matter that no one was campaigning about.  We were cajoled into believing that abolishing the second house would save us €20m and allow us to enjoy sacking a load of politicians.  As a nation of bullshitters, we see right through bullshit.

As we stand at the beginning of the decade of commemoration of the events which lead to Ireland gaining her freedom, it is heartening to know that we continue to value that freedom and our democracy.  We might be a bit slow to protest against unfair austerity but we have shown that we do cherish the very freedom that the last Government pawned in order to pay the gambling debts of a bust bank. 

So Michael Martin – you judged it right and you ran a good campaign.  But this is not your victory.  The victory is the peoples.  And the people, mirroring events almost a century ago were led by academics, thinkers, poets and doctors.  What we need now are new political leaders.  If this folly of a referendum is to teach us anything it must be that!

Monday, September 23, 2013


So Ireland’s first Child Beauty Pageant went ahead in the end..... in a pub in Monaghan.  Not quite the glamorous venue I am sure the organisers had hoped for.. with all due respect to Monaghan pubs.  So now the question must be ‘should Ireland follow France and ban these pageants altogether?’

Personally I am fearful that if we do,  we will then sit back on our laurels in typical Irish fashion and congratulate ourselves on the fact that ‘we don’t hold with that kind of thing here’; allowing us to bathe in a false sense as to how we value our children and protect them from sexualisation and exploitation.

There are three problems I see with Child Beauty Pageants.. and no I have never been to one.  I am making my assumptions based on the reality programmes such as Toddlers and Tiaras and on the interview with participants and organisers on the Late Late Show on Friday night.

Firstly is the application of spray tan, false nails, hair pieces, false eyelashes etc on very small children.  To me this is borderline abuse.  I am not sure it is ever right to apply spray tan to a child under 12 years of age, regardless of the event.

Second is the issue (which I have only seen on the American reality shows about pageants) of pushing small children well beyond their physical limits.  Keeping them awake when they are clearly exhausted is bad enough but feeding them energy drinks is another issue altogether and another possible abuse.

But thirdly and most worrying is the sexualisation of young girls that is part and parcel of these competitions.  This is where the real problem lies and this was the issue Senator Jillian Van Turnout continually highlighted in her successful campaign to have hotels refuse to host last weekend’s competition here in Ireland.

But the sexualisation of children in the pageant world is just the cartoon, thin end of the wedge.  My children have never wanted to be involved in a beauty pageant.  They enjoy the reality shows because of the drama involved.  But they, like most young girls, have never harboured any ambitions to wear a tiara themselves. 

However these same young girls (now teenagers) are far more likely to be impacted by the constant but much more subtle message that is carried across all our media that a girl or woman’s worth is measured primarily by her appearance and the pinnacle of attractiveness is to be sexually attractive.

We seem to be fast asleep to this much more damaging aspect of modern life certainly her in the so called civilised Western World.  The sexualisation of our children is taking place in our own living rooms, every day of the year.  It is a message carried in music videos, in movies and in advertising.  In fact it is increasingly subtly hidden in mainstream news media too. 

Don’t believe me?  Have a look at this - the trailer for a very disturbing documentary called Miss Representation.  No matter what a woman’s achievements, her worth will still be all about how she looks.  And it’s not just our girls that are getting this message; our boys are picking up on this baloney too.

Dustin Hoffman spoke about this recently when he talked about how disappointed he was when he was ‘made over’ into a woman for the movie Tootsie.  He’d assumed that he would be a reasonably attractive woman but instead he was... well Tootsie.  He suddenly realised how many potentially interesting women he may have ignored because he judged them on their appearance. He said he had been brainwashed into thinking only attractive women are worth his time.   You can look at what he said here.

Last week I sat dumbfounded as I watched the first episode of Maia Dunphy’s new documentary series ‘What WomenWant’.  In this first programme Maia examined the world of ‘surgical enhancement’ and women’s obsession with ‘fighting’ ageing.  There was something vaguely sinister about perfectly attractive women in their 20s and 30s being told by very... well frankly odd looking men....  that they (the women) were in need of surgical enhancement to their faces. 

We seem to have already produced a generation of women who are insecure and who struggle constantly with trying to emulate the impossible concept of womanhood that they have been fed over the recent decades. 

So by all means I would support a ban on Child Beauty Pageants but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that that one step is going to make any difference to the majority of our children who are being sexualised right under our noses.  The second generation young women are well on the way to being completely brainwashed.. and it’s taking place in your home, every day of the year.  What are we going to do about that?

Monday, September 9, 2013


I was asked to write a guest blog post for the Because I Am A Girl blog for Plan Ireland.  Because I Am A Girl is a global movement that works towards empowering girls.

Although I am not a girl and had difficulty writing from that perspective (I consider a girl to be a child, I am a woman) I agreed because I support the work particularly the empowerment of girls in parts of the world where being a girl makes life very difficult.

Anyway you can read my short post by clicking here.

Monday, August 26, 2013


A few years ago BBC2 screened a documentary series called ‘Tribal Wives’.  In each episode a different British woman went to live for a period of weeks with a so called ‘primitive’ tribe in various parts of the developing world. 

There was one particular episode that stands out in my memory because it dealt with what happened when that week’s British woman got her period.  In the tribe she was living with menstruating women had to go to a special hut on the outskirts of the village.  So off our British woman went, somewhat horrified that she was being ‘put out’ of the village as if unclean.  But she found the experience very soothing.  In the special hut she was minded by other women who braided her hair and she was not expected to do any work.  After a few days she returned to her duties in the village feeling refreshed.

I had forgotten about this until recently when I read a wonderful book by Anita Diamant called The Red Tent.  This book tells the story of Dinah who is the daughter of Jacob, he of the infamous 12 sons, one of whom had a Multicoloured Dreamcoat.  But what I found so engrossing about this book was the actual Red Tent. 

Dinah grew up with many mothers as Jacob had many wives.  As is generally the case when women live together, their menstrual cycles synchronised and so the Red Tent was where the women of the extended family went while they bled.  For three days and nights, they did no work, no cooking but spent what sounded like a reasonably relaxing time chilling out together in their own female tent.

I just love this idea of retreat for a few days once a month.  Imagine if instead of living in a world that has evolved from a patriarchal society we actually had come from a matriarchial system.  How would our world differ?  Well for one I doubt we women would have gotten to the 21st century pretending we don’t actually have periods. 

This pretence is beginning to change.  We now have ads for tampons and towels with their cute little wings on the TV but the ads are largely a bit weird and full of blue liquid.

Last year Bodyform posted a brilliant ad on YouTube addressing a Facebook post by ‘Richard’ who sought to expose the lies contained in the advertising of feminine hygiene products.  In this ad, Caroline Williams, fictional CEO of Bodyform, admits that their ads have lied but makes the point that their focus groups in the ‘80s couldn’t handle the truth of periods with mood swings and cramps etc.  She even makes reference to crimson landslides.

Lately another period ad has been causing a sensation online.  This one features a young girl who is the first in her group to get her period and becomes (for a while) a kind of period superhero distributing tampons all around her.

And that, right there, is the point.  Women are superheroes.  Once a month we manage to carry on for a couple of days through cramps, headaches, mad appetite surges, sore breasts and the need to be reasonably near a loo every couple of hours.  Do we complain?  Not if we know what’s good for us we don’t?  Do we look for some time out?  Oh no, because then we mightn’t be equal to the guys.  So instead we dose up on painkillers and we try not to give the game away by putting a comforting hand on our sore abdomens as we carry on with business as usual.  

It’s the same way we pretend we don’t miss our kids when we are in work.  It’s why we are afraid to be seen crying.  We are hyper aware of doing or saying anything that might make us seem less, well, less macho than the guys.  We deny a lot of what being a woman is about.

It’s time for a new wave of feminism.  It’s time we looked at how our world is organised and made some enlightened changes.  We need better work life balance, better maternity (and paternity) leave, we need to be proud of our emotions and we need better and affordable childcare.  But most of all... we need to shout loud that WE ARE WOMEN AND WE BLEED... and sometimes that feels crap.  Actually perhaps this wave could be called the Red Wave of Feminism.

It’s time that we took a lesson from our ancestors and our sisters in supposedly ‘less developed’ countries.  I am not suggesting a row of red tents on the outskirts of our cities, town and villages... although if they came with a spa attached.. well maybe.  Could you imagine the networking possibilities of powerful women spending some quality time together once a month doing nothing but planning and dreaming and thinking?  It would be better than the golf club has ever been.

 But we need to stop pretending that being a woman is very similar to being a man.  Because it’s not.  And no, I haven’t written this while suffering PMT... I’m menopausal!

Friday, August 9, 2013


I was recently asked by the Irish Examiner to write a piece on a new book entitled "What Do Women Want, Adventures in the Science of Female Desire".  It seemed like a straight forward enough task until I read the book.  I decided I needed help - so I roped in two of my media women friends and the results of our hilarious but serious conversation are in today's Irish Examiner.

I thought you might enjoy - so here is the link.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


(Originally broadcast on Sunday Miscellany 2013)  

Summer 1979.  Ireland had a postal strike that lasted four months, 200,000 people took to the streets to demand changes to the tax system and protesters battled to save the Wood Quay site from development.  Brendan Shine was at No 1 asking “if we wanted our old lobby washed down?”   I don’t think that was a euphemism but I still have no idea what he was on about.  I was more interested in Gloria Gaynor realising she could survive and Debbie Harry’s heart of glass.

In the midst of all this unrest I was doing my Leaving Cert and preparing to enter the real world now that my education was over.  1979 was the summer I had waited for, for years.  This would be the summer I would bid farewell to the terrifying nuns, to my green uniform and more importantly this was the summer that I would embrace a grown up social life and meet lots of boys.  It was that beautiful oasis between education and work; a summer to savour freedoms of all kinds after years of rules and regulations.

The first taste of the promise that summer held came on a sunny Saturday in May.  My mother, feeling I needed a break from the study, insisted I accompany her to the Annual Dun Laoghaire Garden Party.  In the sun we shared a bottle of wine.... for the first time.   A couple of hours later as we both giggled our way up Marine Road, two guys passed us on the opposite side of the street.  One was very tall and had long leather clad legs which immediately caught my attention.  Once they had passed I decided to risk a second glance.  As I turned around, so did he.  Eyes met and we both laughed.  And I fell in love, in the way you do when you are 17.

May melted into June and during the long weeks of attempting to cram my brain with all sorts of useless information, I wondered about Sexy Long Legs.  Being six feet tall, I always knew that I was going to have a problem finding a boy to take to my Debs.  But summer would provide me the opportunity to track him down and secure his company for my big night in November.

Finally exams were finished and we raced out of our convent school and into our futures which we seemed to think we would find in Dunelles pub.  Located in the basement of the new and shiny Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre it was a windowless, dark, cavern; like a private club for penniless youth.  Singer Dominic Mulvaney and his guitar wove the music of Dylan, Young and Croce into my memories of the place.  There was magic and lots of funny smelling smoke in the air.

The best spot in Dunelles was a booth which had a view of the stairs.  There me and the girls would play the ‘whose legs are those’ as they descended into the murky half light.  And it didn’t take long for those familiar Sexy Long Legs to make a confident swaggering descent.  He knew everyone, except me. 

Meanwhile Aer Lingus’s first female pilot got her wings, boat people refugees arrived from Vietnam and the country got ready to welcome the Pope.  My main worry was my Debs and the fact that the clock was ticking.  I had to get to know Sexy Long Legs enough to ask him to accompany me before someone else did. 

Nights in Dunelles dissolved into each other and then in late July it happened. I was standing on Marine Road, waiting for the last 46a home when he joined the queue.   Trying to act cool but feeling very hot under the collar I boarded the bus and he sat on the seat in front of me and offered me a Rothmans.  Through a cloud of smoke, I abandoned small talk and got right to the point. “Would you fancy coming to my Debs in November” I gushed at him.   “Yeah, why not” he answered, “that will be three Debs Balls this autumn.”  It wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for.  

Next night in Dunelles I couldn’t wait to see my date again.  In he arrived and as he breezed past, the only change was that he now said “Hi Barbara”.  Slowly the realisation dawned that my asking him to my Debs had not conferred any changed status on our relationship. In fact I was just last in a queue of three dates he would be accompanying on their big nights too. 

But me and the girls had found the social life we craved and we had met lots of boys.  Summer rumbled on with nights ending with either a visit to The Ritz on Patrick’s Street for a bag of chips or a walk to The Forum Cinema in Glasthule where the only late night movie ever on was ‘Pink Floyd Live In Pompeii’.  We endured the heavy metal for the thrill of being surrounded in the dark by the unfamiliar musky aroma of male bodies. 

As August died, The Boomtown Rats were declaring they don’t like Mondays and in town, a new punk band called U2 were playing in McGonagles.

Summer faded into autumn and I continued to try desperately to capture the heart of Sexy Long Legs.  Finally on a warm September day he asked me if I wanted to go for a walk down the Pier.  By the lighthouse we shared my first joint and afterwards lay on the grass in Moran’s Park watching the clouds and then we kissed. The sheer boldness of that day was thrilling in a way I still can’t articulate. 

An enormous, ugly library now squats on what used to be Moran’s Park with its dark recesses, neat lawns, mysterious deep black pool and where the birdsong was interspersed by the gentle twang of lawn bowls.  It was a great place to lie in the grass and savour first love and the last summer of true freedom – that delicious gap between the world of education and that of work. 

And yes 'sexy long legs' accompanied me to my Debs and looked even finer than he did in his leather trousers... but....  “sin sceal eile” (that’s another story).

The image above is of a painting by local artist Jim Scully.  Check out his website here

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


The first thing I thought when I heard of Pat Kenny's move to Newstalk was that I hope they have somewhere for him to park his motorbike with a roof.  I then hoped that the arrival of such a radio superstar might nudge the station into providing decent coffee. 

It is going to be a huge change for the veteran broadcaster, leaving the leafy campus and free parking in Montrose for the altogether more utilitarian surrounds of the third floor of Marconi House.  

But that aside, Kenny’s departure from RTE is wildly exciting for media nerds (of which I am one) as it opens up a range of possibilities and conundrums for broadcasting generally and for three stations in particular... namely RTE, Newstalk and TV3.  But it seems to me that the biggest challenge may in fact be for RTE 2FM.

Clearly RTE Radio One has the most pressing problem as it now has quite a large hole in its weekday schedule.  ‘Today with PK’ sat squarely and very comfortably in the mid morning slot; a slot in which Gay Byrne and more recently Gerry Ryan worked their radio magic for decades. 

The untimely death of Gerry Ryan proved how unprepared our state broadcaster was for the sudden departure of one of their major stars and revenue earners.  With no obvious successor poor Tubridy was moved from his comfortable slot on Radio One and was shoe horned into 2FM where it was hoped he would hold onto that precious ‘Ryanline’ audience.  It was an impossible task for Tubridy and the station still seems to be in a quandary as what to do in with this previously lucrative morning talk slot.

Many believe that 2FM should revert to being a music station and go back to trying to serve a younger audience.  Personally I think the station has missed that boat.  The teenagers I know wouldn’t listen to 2FM in a fit, stations such as Spin 103 (Dublin) in particular have that market sewn up. 

The problem for 2FM it seems to me is that a lot of their presenters and indeed their audience have stayed with them.  Gerry Ryan would be mid 50s now as is Dave Fanning and Larry Gogan is well beyond that and is (rightly) still broadcasting on the station.

RTE Radio 2 was launched in 1979 which was the year I left school.  I have listened fairly frequently ever since and I was a huge fan of Gerry Ryan, who brilliance at broadcasting and whose people skills were only fully recognised when he was gone. 

Unlike when Gerry died, there is a list of possible and seemingly very capable presenters who could deliver the goods and retain the audience (read advertising revenue) in the wake of Pat’s departure;  namely Miriam O Callaghan, Claire Byrne, Aine Lawlor and Audrey Carville.  And yes... they are all women.... as good ole Bob Dylan predicted all those year ago... "the times they are a changing."

It is interesting that Newstalk are scheduling Pat Kenny immediately after their Breakfast Show.  RTE have traditionally given listeners a bit of respite after Morning Ireland in a slot that went from Ryan Tubridy to John Murray and is currently being caretaken by the very capable Miriam O Callaghan.

So I wonder would all this upheaval will signal a return to Radio One for Tubridy where he could once again provide the light relief after Morning Ireland before handing over to one of the female current affairs heavy weights I listed above.

So the problem RTE still has really is what to do with 2FM.  Personally I think there is still a space for ‘talk radio light’ in the morning.  It needs the right presenter.  It may well be a woman... (there are no women presenters on 2FM weekday prime time) and like a lot of the pillars of 2FM, she may not be that young!  I’m thinking a Fiona Looney or Jennifer Maguire kind of woman.  Wouldn't that be something....  

Then Newstalk and the other independent radio stations might realise that women can do radio too... and can do it very well! 

Monday, July 15, 2013


I was asked to East Coast Radio to come up with some book suggestions for summer reading.  I was wondering why summer reading should be any different from reading at any other time of year.  I mean, the books you like are the books you like... you're hardly going to change genre just because the sun in shining.

Do those who like violent thrillers turn to soft romances just cause the sun in shining or they are lounging by the pool?

So here are a selection of the kind of books I like - there is a bit of variety and I have also included some Irish Women's Fiction (used to be called 'chick lit').

This is a great read... the story of a woman called Bernadette Fox – a strong woman, but who develops an allergy to Seattle and to people so that she becomes agrophobic. 

Her daughters fabulous results in school means that she claims her promised reward of a family trip to Antarctica.  But Bernadette by now is having her life run by a virtual assistant in India.... so  a trip to the end of the earth is problematic.  So she disappears.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages.

This is on my to read list.. it comes recommended by a good friend in the US and as over the last 6 months so many of us in Ireland fell in love with Cmdr Hadfield I am dying to read this.....

As America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.

Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, meeting regularly to provide support and friendship. Many became next-door neighbors and helped to raise each other's children by day, while going to glam parties at night as the country raced to land a man on the Moon.

As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives-they continued to rally together, and the wives have now been friends for more than fifty years. THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.

I haven’t read this yet but it comes highly recommended by my mother and some friends whose judgement is rarely wrong.

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss. 

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

I loved this book... I flew through it... but it moved me like books rarely do.

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

This is a (older) young adult book... and a debut from Dawn O Porter... documentary maker, journalist and married to our own Chris O Dowd.

You could read it in one sitting.. but for anyone who has once been a girl this book will resonate with you – even if your girlhood was two decades before the characters in the book.

Set in the mid-1990s, fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the power of female friendship


The Captains Table by Muriel Bolger
No matter the problem, a Mediterranean cruise is the perfect solution – at least, this is the opinion of a group of solo travellers who enjoy dinner together at the Captain’s Table during their first night on the ship.
When a group of solo travellers meet for dinner on the first day of a luxury cruise, alliances are quickly formed. But as the ship makes its way through azure Mediterranean waters, it becomes clear that some of the passengers have their own reasons for wanting to escape their everyday lives . . .

The Letter by Maria Duffy
Just launched... the letter is the story of Ellie Duggan is getting married in seven weeks. But just before she sets off for a fun-filled New York hen party weekend, she finds a letter addressed to her sister Caroline.Dated only weeks before Caroline died in a tragic accident, it contains some startling information which forces Ellie to face some truths about herself, Caroline's death - and even her forthcoming marriage.Ellie has spent the three years since Caroline's death running from the truth. But as the weekend in New York comes to a close, she makes a drastic decision. As Ellie finally lays old ghosts to rest, she realises that the truth can set you free. But will she be willing to take the risk?

The Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan
 Land of Dreams is the stunning third novel in the Ellis Island trilogy. Ellie's idyllic and bohemian family lifestyle on Fire Island is shattered when her eldest son, Leo, runs away to Hollywood to seek his fame and fortune. Ellie is compelled to chase after him, uprooting her youngest son and long-time friend and confidante Bridie as she goes. Ellie fashions a new home amongst the celebrities, artists and movie moguls of the day to appease Leo's star-studded dreams. As she carves out a new way of life, Ellie is drawn towards intense new friendships. Talented composer Stan is completely different to any other man she has previously encountered whilst kindred spirit Suri opens Ellie's eyes to a whole new set of injustices. Ellie sees beyond the glitz of 1940s Hollywood, realising that the glamorous and exciting world is also a dangerous place overflowing with vanity and greed. It is up to Ellie to protect her precious family from the disappointments such surroundings can bring and also from the more menacing threats radiating from the war raging in Europe.

5 Peppermint Grove by Michelle Jackson

 Ruth Travers is leaving Ireland like so many of the Irish Diaspora who have gone before her. But, instead of a coffin ship, she's travelling business class on a Boeing 777 and will be landing in sunny Perth, Western Australia. Leaving behind her married boyfriend of ten years, Ruth hopes to make a fresh start. Her mother Angela, who lived in Perth in the seventies, is distraught when she hears that Ruth is Australia bound. It is only when Ruth discovers a sealed airmail envelope, with 5 Peppermint Grove, Perth, scrawled across it in her mother's handwriting, that she wonders what else Angela may be hiding. Her best friend Julia Perrin gently orchestrated the move to Perth for her friend's own good. She is a successful businesswoman with her own travel company and so busy fixing everybody else's life she sees no need to do so with her own . . . until she visits Ruth in Perth! Sunshine, sandy beaches and barbeques abound but there may be more than Angela's secret waiting for them in Peppermint Grove . 

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Last night I toddled off to bed way too late after staying up to watch ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’ followed by Primetime on RTE.  Both programmes were on much later than usual to give us an insight into the workings of our Parliament as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was being voted upon.  Twitter was as usual great craic particularly as the team on TV3 kept rolling out pairs of TDs to be interviewed outside Dail Eireann by Vincent who was in studio.  There was Fidelma Healy Eames who faced sideways to camera and kept her finger in her ear the whole time and better still was Peter Matthews who kept his eyes fixed on the floor.  All of this to the distant chants and prayers of protesters gathered at the gates of Leinster House.  The subject being discussed in the chamber was serious but the theatrical element of this late night sitting was captured beautifully especially by TV3.

As I bid farewell to Twitter at about 2am, I did wonder about what kind of Banana Republic has a Parliament sitting until 5am.  It’s not like war had just been declared and there was a fierce urgency to their deliberations.  I wondered if the Dail Bar was still open – Gerry Adams had referred to the number of staff that were being kept late by this rather melodramatic approach to serious legislation.  As I climbed under my very light sheet I wondered why a workplace has a bar anyway.

I woke this morning to another fabulously sunny, hot day; nothing like it to put a smile on your face and banish all negativity.  But then I turned on my phone and found that my Twitter feed was a blaze of anger and indignation over what had, by about 8:30am, become known as #lapgate.

You all know the details.  During a break in the early morning proceedings, TD Tom Barry (FG) grabbed his female colleague Aine Collins and pulled her onto his lap.  Barry has since issued a sincere apology for the incident and apparently Ms Collins has accepted it.

So – should that be the end of it? 

No I don’t think so.  This kind of casual, sexist behaviour is an appalling abuse of male power and strength.  To be a woman on the receiving end of such boorish attention is humiliating and intimidating.  It is also against the law and has no place whatsoever in the workplace.  The fact that this workplace was our national parliament – the seat of our democracy and cradle of our legislation makes it even more offensive.  Dail Eireann by its very nature has to be a place where the laws of the country are upheld with transparency and vigour.

I was angry when I viewed the recording of the incident last night.  I accept that there was no malice intended... but that is not the point.  Tom Barry’s actions undermined the natural equality and dignity all women in the chamber.  But also have a look at the men around at the time... no one looks shocked or perturbed. 

As the firestorm on Twitter took flight this morning a Fine Gael spokesperson was quoted as saying that it was all a bit of horseplay and nothing more.  It was the polished version of ‘calm down girls and get a grip’.  This is far more worrying.  At a time when our Government is committed, through the system of quotas, to recruiting more women into politics, the main Government party thinks grabbing a female colleague and forcing her onto a lap is just a bit of nothing.

Journalist Colette Browne wrote recently of her own experience of this kind of everyday sexism in The Examiner.  As I read it I slowly became aware that I too had encountered just such ‘abuse’ in my past.   I have a vivid memory of when I was about 14 walking home from school alone, in my school uniform in bright summer sunshine.  I passed a workman involved in roadworks nearby and as I did he casually put his hand right up my skirt.  He said nothing and walked on by.   At the time I got a shock but, said nothing.  Told no one.  When I read Colette’s account of her own experiences I realised that for generations of young women being subjected to this kind of predatory behaviour and violation was commonplace.  We accepted it. That’s the tragedy.

And it is that silence which is now deafening from the women TDs of Dail Eireann. 

Individually some have posted comments on Twitter but I am very dismayed that there is not an organised statement from these women, across all parties calling for an assurance that no women (or man) will be subject to such humiliation in the future. 

I have to admit I was late to this party.  Having been out of the workforce for ten years, and having always worked in female dominated industries I can honestly say that I never experienced sexual discrimination or harassment in the workplace.  I am also 6 feet tall which probably provides me with some protection from being grabbed and man- handled at the whim of a passing stranger or colleague.

I have always believed that the world is largely as we find it and if you want to look for problems you will find them.  As women we are lucky that our rights as equal citizens are enshrined in law so we can be reasonably sure that we cannot be discriminated against in any overt way. 

But I am now realising that sexism is alive and well and thriving just below the radar.  It is just as wrong and possibly more damaging not only to women but to our society.  It is time that we all call it out whenever we see it happening.  And it starts at the top – in Dail Eireann.

Thank God the cameras were rolling.... cos to me it sure didn’t look like anyone who was present was much disturbed by what they saw.  

Note:  later in the day Fine Gael changed their tune and issued a statement which described the behaviour of their TD as unacceptable.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I am writing this on the 26th of June; an auspicious date in Irish history.  It was on the 26th of June in 1963 that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America touched down in Dublin Airport to begin his four day visit to Ireland.  It was also on the 26th of June (1996) that journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered on the Naas Road. A less well known event occurred on the 26th of June 1920 when my maternal grandfather, George Power was involved in the kidnap of a British General who was fishing on the banks of the River Blackwater just outside Fermoy in North Cork. 

All of these events are playing on my mind as I attempt to formulate my thoughts on the revelations contained in the Anglo Tapes which were made public by the Irish Independent last week.  Let me begin by saying that I am angry.... again.

Over the last five years there have been many times I have been angry.  I have watched from my corner of suburbia, without the benefit of a university degree or even much understanding of economics, as this country was brought to her knees and I was angry.  I watched as the previous Government stumbled along through their last days as if punch drunk from the events that seemed to be overwhelming them and I was angry.

Each so called ‘austerity budget’ since has renewed my anger as I witness some of the most vulnerable in our society being stripped of allowances to which they are entitled and which they need in order to live.  I have been angry at how women seem to have borne an unfair portion of this austerity through cuts to carer’s allowance, child benefit, lone parent allowance, tax on maternity benefit etc. 

Almost five years of anger and this week I am angry all over again.  I have spoken to my neighbours, my friends and colleagues and without exception all are furious.  All found listening to the cavalier conversations of some very well paid senior bankers in Anglo Irish Bank as they discussed pulling a master stroke on our Government to be truly nauseating. 

The truth is that they pulled a master stroke on US, the people of this country.  What kind of schools, I wonder, produce this type of caricature of a man - overly macho, arrogant, insensitives who seem to be so removed (or perhaps insulated) from the effects of their irresponsible banking practices.  Their supercilious, self important guffawing turned my stomach. 

As I wrestled to make sense of how Ireland has come to this point in her history I thought of my grandfather, George Power and the ordinary men and women who almost a century ago managed to secure freedom from what was then probably the most powerful empire on earth.  I think of their bravery, of the risks they took in the years leading up to 1922.

I think of the women who ran messages, who operated as undercover agents within the British administration securing vital information for Collins, I think of the people of towns such as Fermoy who were subjected to looting and rioting by British Troops in retaliation for IRA activity.  I think of the families who risked their lives by providing safe houses for men on the run and of how they hid and smuggled arms to keep the push for freedom going forward. 

Last week has also brought the visit of JFK to Ireland in 1963 back into focus with the 50th anniversary celebrations last weekend in New Ross.  President Kennedy made a wonderful speech when he addressed the joint houses of the Oireachtas.  In it he referenced George Bernard Shaw when he said
“It is that quality of the Irish, the remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination that is needed more than ever today. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by sceptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?”

These words are only 50 years old but where the hell is that combination of hope, confidence and imagination now?  Where are these men and women who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?  The men and women who were to the forefront of Ireland’s fight for independence were certainly capable of dreaming of things that never were and must have seemed impossible.  They were surely very antithesis to the lily livered bankers we are hearing on the Anglo tapes.

So how has Ireland gone from a being a nation of courage, imagination and action to a passive place where a cohort of greedy immoral bankers can break us and suffer very little consequences for doing so?  And more importantly why has the anger I sense in the community not translated into action?

Just 17 years ago this country got very angry at the murder in broad daylight of journalist Veronica Guerin.  We got angry and we let the heat of that anger be felt by Government.  Within days action had been taken to seize assets of the criminals and the breaking of criminal gangs began in earnest.  Arrests were made and the search for Veronica’s killers was relentless. 

Veronica Guerin, President Kennedy and George Power and his comrades all knew that (to quote Kennedy again) “problems... cannot be solved by sceptics or cynics of those whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities.” 

It is beyond time for clear and imaginative leadership.  I am very unconvinced that such is possible in the current government but the very least we, the people of Ireland, can do is to make our anger felt.  We owe it to ourselves and more importantly to our children to insist that action is taken now to prosecute those who gambled our entire country.  I am not sure of how this can best be achieved, no more than those who protested Ms Guerin’s murder dreamed of the Criminal Assets Bureau  .. but that is what we elect and pay our TDs for.  It is our job to ensure it happens.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Being a full time 'stay at home' parent (why doesn’t someone come up with a better job description), is not for the faint hearted.  It is a job for which there is no training and most of us just jump in at the deep end.  But it strikes me that in the current climate, there must be many women and men who are now finding themselves as 'stay at home' a role they never anticipated for themselves.  Looking back over my years at home, there are a number of things I wish I had known at the beginning which may have made life a little easier.  Things like….

Being a 'Stay At Home Parent' is probably not forever
As you embark on this new and possibly unexpected phase of your life, remember that is most likely going to be a defined phase of life. Your children will grow up… you won’t be needed forever.  So it is vital that you keep that in mind and keep your professional skill set up-to-date.

A place to work from
I remember clearly when I left the world of paid work I did two things immediately:
I bought a laptop (ten years ago not every home had a computer) and I also felt I needed a desk.  I couldn’t rationalize why I needed a desk but I knew I had some deep need for a desk.  Perhaps it was a ‘me place’ – my own corner of the living room devoid of family or baby paraphernalia.  Although for most of the time that ‘me place’ was in fact the end of my kitchen table.

 Get involved
Having left the workforce you have skills that voluntary organizations and local committees may be delighted to have at their disposal.  Take some time to think about what interests you, what causes you may have some passion for, what charities’ you particularly support.  Then make contact and get involved. 

Your children’s school will no doubt regularly be looking for assistance with various tasks.  Making tea and coffee at communions etc. may not be your bag but you could offer to help out with various other ad-hoc jobs.   If your children are involved in sport, your help could be very useful there, whether it be in training the kids or doing some of the administration work.

Invisibility and The Art of Saying No
Being at home, particularly if you have very young children, can be very isolating and lonely.  It is vital that you get involved with activities beyond the local parent and toddler group.  If you don’t reach out, you run the risk of losing confidence very quickly and becoming invisible.

Being a house-spouse can easily mean that various well meaning friends and family begin to depend on you for helping with menial tasks.  You might find yourself running here and there or minding other people’s children on far too regular a basis. 

Learn early on to say ‘no’.  Remember you are still doing a job.  Just because you don’t get paid, doesn’t mean that what you are doing is not just as important as any other job you have had.  Never fall into the guilt trap of “I’m not earning money so what I am doing is worthless

It can be lonely
Unless you worked in a solitary profession, you will miss people.  Kids can be great entertainment but you will really pine for a good old chat and laugh with adults.  It is vital you work to make connections – with other parents (yep, the school gate mafia) and neighbours etc.  

Along with meeting and connecting with people in real life, the internet also offers a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and renew old friendships.  It doesn’t appeal to everyone but personally I love Facebook and Twitter  – but you know that.

Learn a new skill
Now could be the ideal time to learn a new skill.  How many times have you thought, 'I would love to learn to dance, or to write, or do some research into family history.'  Signing up for a class for a couple of hours a week should be easy enough, especially when the kids are in school.   Just make sure you do something you enjoy.

Remember Who You Are
Working in the home, looking after children and all the domestic chores, is tiring and seemingly endless.  Lunch or coffee breaks are not guaranteed and your day will certainly not finish at 5 or 6pm.  So make sure you build in some ‘you’ time into your week.  Once a week either meet some friends or former colleagues for lunch or coffee. Protect your sense of self.

Get Out!
Finally, especially if you have small children – remember you can leave the house!  I know there is a huge amount of palaver in getting young kids out for an excursion but I remember well rainy, winter days when packing them into anoraks and wellies and heading out to the park or the beach saved my sanity! 

Make memories
I could wax on lyrically about how wonderful it is to spend time with your children when they are young… or to even be around for teenagers, as I had both, but that’s also a different post.  It has all been a marvellous privilege but I know it's not a choice all have or indeed want.   

The day I left work my colleagues gathered to toast my departure.  One wise older woman gave me a card.  When I opened it her message was simply:
“Good luck Barbara.  Enjoy making memories with your children.”

And I have.  Very much.  So whether you find yourself being a so called 'stay at home' parent by accident or desire... I hope you do too.