The Farm in Dublin


I don’t normally blog about food, but I’m travelling, so finding food without gluten and dairy is a challenge in our bread and butter world. Every day is a hunt for something nutritious and tasty that I can manage.
     It began on Tuesday. I pre-ordered Thai chicken curry and rice for my Canadian flight with Air Transat; unfortunately they sent something labelled “Thai chicken curry” that was actually cream chicken stew–blobs floating in cream. I was flying Club, so I expected better. They were quite apologetic and it was definitely not the fault of the flight crew, but the only thing they could find on the plane was a small plastic box of kale salad. Toronto Airport posed yet another challenge. Then, on my International flight, I ended up with just a plain omelet and some fruit. By the time I hit Dublin, after eighteen hours of travel,  I was literally shaking.
     I set out on the hunt and discovered The Farm! This is an amazing restaurant on Dawson Street, which is quite close to Trinity College. The server was lovely. “Ah, you poor thing. We’ll take care of you,” she said, and promptly brought me fresh tasty carrot soup and GF toast. Their menu details the choices for several different diets, so I think that anyone could find something wonderful to eat there (even my vegan friends) and all the ingredients are sourced locally. Great staff, and it’s quiet and casual; an oasis in the heart of chaotic Dublin!
GF = Gluten Free | HP = High Protein | O = High in Omega | LF = Low Saturated Fat | V = Vegetarian | RV = Rich in Vitamins
     Today, after a morning of walking the streets and galleries, I stopped by again. This salad, which is suitable for anyone, was SO good.
Asian Green Salad (virtually fat free) €8.00
Mixed Leaves, Bean Sprouts, Spring Onions, Bamboo Shoots, Pickled Ginger, Peppers, Cucumber, Roasted Chilli, Red Onion, drizzled with Fresh Ginger, Soy and Sesame Oil Dressing (GF option, V, LF, RV)
     Of course, I had a side of chips because, well, I am in Ireland.
     Tomorrow, I’m off to hunt again.

A Sunny Dublin Day

IMG_2561IMG_2581A sunny Dublin day? That may be an oxymoron. I’m not sure.

I am in Dublin researching a new novel about an Iron Age king. Today, my first whole day in this city, I spent hours at the National Museum of Archaeology in the Kingship & Sacrifice exhibit. This is a phenomenal exhibit arranged by Dr. Eamonn Kelly and his team. Above is the perfectly preserved hand of Old Croghan Man. They found eight of his preserved fingernails and were able to fingerprint him after two thousand years! Once a king (300-200BC), he was ritually murdered and his severed remains sunk in a peat bog in County Offaly. It’s thrilling to finally be here and see him. The Celts loved their gold and there’s plenty of that on display. I have yet to explore the rest of this amazing museum.


On the way back, I stopped at the National Library to find out about research and ended up touring the Yeats exhibit: photographs, journals, video documentaries, and of course, himself reading his brilliant poems. A longtime Yeats lover, I was charmed once again by this romantic politician.

This afternoon, I explored the grounds of Trinity College where I’m staying, and got my own library card for the reading & research room at Dublin City Library. Tomorrow, I can peruse their Irish Collection. I love staying here at Trinity, and recommend it. The oak trees are marvellous, and there is a beautiful little park right beside my building. It’s secure and quiet, despite the hoards of tourists who flock to see the Book of Kells and the Old Library that inspired the library at Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Last night, I even heard an Alt J concert from my bedroom sanctuary. After eighteen hours of travel, I needed to cave, but the music was mellow.

At lunch today, I wandered St. Stephens Green in the warm sunshine. This twenty-two acre park opened in 1880. Everyone was out lounging on the grass around the trails, ponds, and flower gardens.

Finally, I must say that Dublin oozes history. One thing I’ve started noticing are the beautiful Georgian doors. Surely, this one on Pearse Street leads to a blue haven.


How Historically Accurate is Braveheart?

In anticipation of a visit to Trim Castle, and thereabouts, in County Meath, Ireland, I am watching Braveheart again. The battle scenes at the English town of York were actually filmed northwest of Dublin at the castle ruin.


Trim Castle

Another nearby ruin in the Boyne Valley, Bective Abbey provided dungeons and courtyard for the English terror, Longshanks. If you’ve ever seen the movie, you must agree that Edward 1, the Hammer of the Scots, was a terror. Mel Gibson made it so.

Bective Abbey 001L

I’ve only ever watched the final scene once. It’s just too much. When things start to go south (literally) for William Wallace, I have to switch it off. The soundtrack alone brings tears. And the pressed thistle that symbolizes love of family and country? Heartbreaking.

How historically accurate is Mel Gibson’s Braveheart? It’s not, although it’s one gorgeous story; beautifully scripted, filmed, and acted.

To read just how historically inaccurate it is, click the link.

via BraveHeart – The 10 historical inaccuracies you need to know before watching the movie | Hande’s Blog

Astonishing Clare by Michael Collins

I just read this memoir/travel piece in the June 2017 Ireland Newsletter and want to share it. Irish storytelling is lauded world over and there’s a reason for that. The descriptions, the details, the enthusiasm, just captured me. Also, I’ve been to Clew Bay and Louisburgh, and climbed Croagh Patrick. It’s a slice of west coast heaven. Many thanks to author Michael Collins for writing and to Michael Green for sharing.


Clew Bay from Croagh Patrick

by Michael Collins

We’d missed the boat to Clare. I didn’t think we would, because we were within the time limits stated. What we’d failed to realise, Pat and myself, was the clocks had stopped at the last small town we had passed through. We had even had time to pause on the way, at the top of the last rise before the land fell away to the shore, to admire the panorama. ‘See Naples and die’ they say. Pat had turned to me as we gazed: ‘See Clew Bay and die’ was his comment.

It was spread out before us, a semi-circular stretch of the Atlantic, girdled by mountains and dotted with islets – ‘One for every day of the year,’ Pat had remarked – with the large hump of our destination plugging the gap to the open sea like a huge whale floating patiently on the surface: Clare Island, five miles out to sea, five miles long by two miles wide, rising from sea level at its eastern end to nine hundred feet at its western extremity, where high cliffs took the buffeting of the restless ocean. And in among all those islands and islets was a small sand bar that the Beatles had bought. It had been taken over by hippies who were attempting to raise cabbages there.

But we’d missed the boat. Not our fault. You couldn’t book your passage so there was no passenger list. But we had been assured that there would be a boat at 3.30 in the afternoon. Now, at 3 o’clock, we could see our boat as a speck on the water, drawing away from us towards our intended destination. There was nothing for it but to return the five miles to Louisburgh and phone from there. A frantic phone call – from a phone booth where first you had to pick up the receiver and wind a handle to get the operator and only then insert your two pennies – provided us with the information that no further ‘official’ boat was expected to sail that day but it was thought that a fishing boat would be making the crossing to Roonagh Quay and back at around 7.30. The only thing we could do was to go and get a pub meal and a pint or two and wait. I made sure we were back at the landing stage by 6.30.

When the boat, with its two-man crew, arrived to deposit a passenger and return to the island before nightfall, the tide was at its lowest ebb. We had to scramble thirty feet down an iron ladder, maneuvering our rucksacks, into the well of a boat that looked frighteningly small and smelt like a fishmonger’s shop on a bad day. I had thought I was accustomed to boats, having crossed the English Channel and the Irish Sea up to fifty times. This was different. The large steamers I was used to ploughed through the waves: the tiny craft we were now sailing in sat on top of them like a cork. The waves rolled in from the stern, higher than the mast, and the boat was eased up the hills of water, to slide down the far side into the trough like a roller coaster. I did not feel confident, but the crew seemed to regard it all with the dispassionate attitude of experts.

Then Clare loomed up out of drizzly mist, all grey and green, dotted with the white squares of cottages. It was dead calm in the lee of the island, enabling me to lean over the side. The sight was astonishing. The water was a crystal-clear, pale bluish-green and the bright sandy bottom was clearly visible, with small flatfish cruising around like aeroplanes.

The boat docked at 8 o’clock and once again we set about heaving and hauling to get our baggage on shore. We walked along the top of the harbour wall, in the curve of which nestled a ridiculously tiny castle, proceeded another fifty yards and entered the pub. I say ‘pub’: it was everything – post office, grocery store, pub and private dwelling all rolled into one. Pints were pulled. Around 11.30 supper was called, a vast fry-up of sausages, eggs, bacon, black pudding. And more pints. It was like a hefty breakfast and a night out on the town all rolled into one.

At around 1 a.m. I wandered down to the tiny beach to clear my head and got strangely excited about finding a small dead dogfish stranded on the sand.

Our three-week holiday started the next day. Our time was spent working on the ‘roads’ – a euphemism for tracks made of compacted gravel and clay. Spare time was spent in the pub, wandering over the island, fishing for mackerel from a boat and for cod from the shore. The weather changed the first day: we could have been somewhere on the Mediterranean. A heat wave in the West of Ireland!

The watch on my wrist soon became redundant. I was used to a life regulated down to the nearest minute. The islanders lived much more according to the rhythms of daylight, darkness and weather. Not even the pub had real opening times: generally the first customers would trickle in around 9 p.m., the bar staying open until the last drinker left in the wee small hours or as the sun was coming up.

The result was that I was rewarded by sights that are not usually granted to the clock-watcher. One morning, after a particularly fine night of story-telling and singing, two of us emerged into the fresh air just as rosy-fingered dawn was painting the sky. Rather than going home to bed we decided to climb to a point high above the track to watch the sun come up. We sat in the shelter of a tumbledown dry-stone wall and watched the sun rise above Croagh Patrick, the sacred mountain of Ireland’s patron saint that stands on the far mainland shore looking, from our vantage point, rather like a resting volcano. The sunlight shone on a grassy plateau some thirty feet beneath us, a plateau dotted with wild flowers. And as the cold air warmed we smelt the wild thyme and saw the hares emerging from their nighttime hiding places to jump and gambol like children just released from school.

Another early-morning exploit found me with two islanders in a curragh, a traditional rowing boat made of tarred sacking stretched over thin laths, dropping a handline weighted with a stone and bearing six hooks baited with bits of silver paper. I could feel the mackerel thudding into the hooks as the line became steadily heavier. We hauled the fish aboard six at a time. Ninety mackerel in half an hour. Fishing from the shoreline was different. The bait was limpet, knocked from the rocks, the prey small codlings or wrasse. Not sport: they were strictly for the pot.

Then there was the day that we decided to take the long walk to the west of the island, a steady five-mile slog as the land slowly rose from sea level to cliff height. We lay on our bellies on grass cropped by that most efficient of lawn mowers, the sheep, and watched the gulls wheel and scream along the cliff walls, hearing the dull boom of the ocean as it gently pummeled the rocks below. A curragh came into view, rounding a headland to our left, and bobbed about like a toy boat as its occupants hauled in lobster pots. We knew the men, but there was no point in greeting them: a wave of the hand would have gone unnoticed and any shouting would have been drowned by the ocean’s deep bass voice.

I fear that this was an experience I can never repeat. Tourism and commercial interests have changed the nature of Clare. The pub has closed. There is mains electricity and a helicopter pad. But the visitor to Clare Island will still be able to savor something of what I felt when I first landed there. In June 1971.

© 2013 Michael J. Collins

Eire 06 get that stick

Clew Bay

Finding Balance, Conjuring Light

Just do your best to keep yourself in balance. One of the first things that causes Energy misalignment, is asking or demanding too much of yourself in terms of time and effort. In other words, you just cannot burn the candle at both ends, so that you are physically tired, and then expect yourself to have a cheerful attitude. So, the rule of thumb has to be: “I’m going to be very, very, very happy, and then do everything I have time to do after that.” ~Abraham (Law of Attraction)

Abraham always sends me the right message at the right moment. I’ve been in a dark place the last few weeks. Writing an intense sequel (book three) that explores some serious and edgy themes: grief and loss and evil. And also, vampires–those venomous creatures intent on sucking you dry of life force. At the same time, I rewatched four seasons of Being Human, UK. I adore Mitchell (Aidan Turner). But…I’ve reached a point where I just can’t handle any more darkness. I need to crawl out of the tomb, so to speak.

 Cloistering myself  with my laptop, digging into death and emotional pain, does not come without a price. Ironically, I’m feeling tension in my throat and neck, the vampiric space. I know it’s emotional: a symptom of anxiety. I also know it dissipates with the light–when I laugh, meditate, socialize, go out walking in the woods, get happy. I’m not physically tired: I’m emotionally drained. Sometimes, I forget that when I turn off the screen or close the book, the story lives on in my head and manifests in my body. And then the rest of the world seeps in and I’ve got nothing left. Last week, all I wanted to do was crawl into a cave in the forest; this week I know I can’t do that.

I need to pivot…to raise the energy. How do my witches do that? They dance, they sing, they laugh, they conjure fire to illuminate the dark.

Does this happen to you? Do you respond physically to what you are reading or watching? Do you cry? Get a stomach ache? Lose your voice? Does tragedy cut you off at the knees? How do you keep yourself balanced? How do you resurrect happy?



Wading into the Lake of Sorrows

UnknownLake of Sorrows, Loughnabrone, does not appear to be a real place (at least it doesn’t exist beyond Erin Hart’s fictional novel) but County Offaly is, and I am going there in a few weeks. I reread this 2004 archaeological murder mystery in advance because I’m researching the landscape and Iron Age Ireland for a Hollystone Mysteries spin-off. Offaly is the omphalos of Ireland, lying as it does in the ancient province of Leinster, centred between Galway in the west and Dublin in the east. It is:


…the ancient region known as the Mide, the centre. It was a place that had been ascribed all sorts of magical attributes, the powerful locus represented by the central axes of the crosses on Bronze Age sundiscs, from a time when the world had been divided up into four quadrants, North, South, East, and West, and a shadowy central place, which, because it was not There, had to be Here (9)

It is a land of mountains, wild lands, and rivers, and also of bog. In fact, the Bord na Móna boglands figure into this crime novel, as do those treasures of the past that are occasionally unearthed by a turf cutter. Or by a couple of brothers.



Sometimes it’s treasure; sometimes it’s a body. In the case of Hart’s novel, the Brazil brothers, Dominic and Danny, unearth a large Iron Age hoard in 1977 while working at the Loughnabrone Bog: “numerous axe-heads, several amber bead necklaces, a scabbard and sword hilt, and twelve bronze trumpets” (15). (The Celtic tribes used to scare the bejesus out of their enemies by blaring trumpets in battle.) Complying with the laws of Treasure Trove, the appropriate people are notified and the treasure is shipped to the National Museum in Dublin. At least, most of it. When Danny leaves for Australia, not long after with his reward money, no one is suspicious; until, twenty-odd years later, his body is unearthed in the bog.

American forensic pathologist, Norin Gavin, is in Loughnabrone to examine an ancient bog body in situ. Strangled with a triple knotted leather cord, the man also had his throat cut, and was drowned. A ritual triple murder associate with Iron Age Celts? Most likely. Then, within minutes of her examination, Danny Brazil’s body appears:

the skin was dark brown and the features slightly flattened, the nose smashed to one side, but the eye sockets, skull vault and jawline clearly marked it as human. One skeletal, clawlike hand was curled into a fist and raised above the head…wearing a wristwatch (24).

Danny is clearly no Iron Age sacrifice, though he appears to have endured a ritual killing. Nora, and her lover, archaeologist Cormac Maguire, become embroiled in a complex murder investigation that involves, naturally, several other murders. Well-researched and crafted, what I am most curious about are the Iron Age references and the landscape of the bog. For example, Nora’s first experience on bogland–one I do not intend to replicate–is to be caught outside her car during a dust storm. Suddenly, a stop at the side of a country road turns sinister:

The dust cloud engulfed her, along with the road and the vast expanse of bog on either side, closing her eyes, filling her nostrils and throat with stinging peat. Suddenly unable to guage any distance, she ran blindly until her right knee banged hard into the car’s rear bumper. The glancing pain took her breath away. She didn’t dare open her lips to cry out, but limped around to the driver’s side and climbed in closing the door against the dust that tried to follow her (10).

Note to self: do not stop the rental on the side of a country road, no matter how pastoral it appears, or how long it’s been since the last pit stop!

Hart makes reference to several Iron Age artifacts. The Broighter Hoard was discovered in Derry in 1896 and is exquisite. Quite possibly, these golden gifts were votive offerings to a sea divinity and date back to the first century BC.


La Tène neck ring


Broighter Hoard

How many artifacts are discovered and remain in private collections? And if they are loved and cherished is that such a bad thing? For people like me, yes.  I can’t wait to spend time at the National Museum of Archaeology in Dublin admiring those long buried clues to our cultural past. How can we construct a life for a people who left no written records? That is what I am about to discover.





Circulating Now Celebrates 20 Years of Harry Potter!

Our fascination with magic knows no bounds. It grows and shapes our culture. We are muggles searching for the portal that can whisk us free of our mundane lives.

Circulating Now from NLM

By Erika Mills ~

J. K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the debut novel in the seven-book series that became a pop culture phenomenon, on June 26, 1997. Over the past two decades, the exploits of the boy wizard and his friends have spawned successful cinematic and theater adaptations, developed a devoted and enthusiastic global fandom, inspired admirers to create Harry Potter-themed art and media, instilled important moral lessons into a generation of young people now coming of age, and even added to the English lexicon! (See: “Muggle” in the Oxford English Dictionary.) The NLM History of Medicine Division celebrates the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter with special events onsite, as well as a five-post series in Circulating Now.

While the world reflects on 20 years of Harry Potter, we look back further in time—to the Renaissance—at the history that inspired some of the…

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