25th June 2017
Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is the largest visitor attraction in Ireland outside Leinster,
and consists of a large island on a lake, with a country house separate from the wildlife
park. Visitors can enjoy the free-roaming animals and birds, such as spider monkeys, ring-tailed
lemurs, wallabies, macaws and capybaras. Some animals like giraffes and apes are kept behind
minimal barriers or on small islands to maintain the appearance that the visitor is walking
alongside them. Other animals are kept in natural habitat enclosures as part of breeding
programmes for endangered animals. Fota has a tremendous record for breeding cheetahs and
Rothschild giraffes, and recently celebrated the birth of a gorgeous Sumatran Tiger cub.
The park is a self-funding charity and part of the Zoological Society of Ireland which includes Dublin Zoo.
Visitors can arrive by car or train with a charge for parking. The paths are level tarmac and a
number of wheelchairs are available to borrow. A jeep and carriages runs during summer.
A visitor who requires a carer to enjoy the day can bring that carer free of charge, with proper
documentation such as a travel pass. One important factor however is that dogs are not allowed,
even Guide Dogs or assistance dogs, due to the free-roaming animals. Cafés and accessible
toilets in three places, as well as benches and outdoor picnic tables, make this a day-long visit.
Feeding the animals is not permitted, but you can watch them being fed wonderful salads and
fruits, and if you're not careful the spider monkey will steal your lunch, as happened to us.
This week’s horsey read is Heartbreak Cove by Lily Everett. ISBN: 9781250018380.
A female sheriff of an island community is suddenly responsible for a young niece she hadn't known
existed. There's a horseman who returns to the island at the same time, bringing his favourite mare,
a rescue horse. He's not entirely on the level but the sheriff only knows that his reputation
with ladies precedes him and this makes her wary.
Lots of fun, lots of horses and outdoor descriptions, just enough sense of menace to stop us
relaxing too much. And a blossoming romance with the child's best interests put firmly to the
fore. I found Heartbreak Cove suitable for young adults or adults.
This week’s environment book is Once They Were Hats by Frances Backhouse. ISBN: 9781770412071.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - except one part - in which the author went here, there
and everywhere connected with beavers past and present, from a British museum to Canadian
network of dams and lodges visible from space. She investigated history - beavers lived at
the headwater of just about every river on the North American continent and their ancestors
spread across Beringia to Asia and to Europe.
We find out about four million year old gnaw marks on wood, and how beaver lakes created
a good environment for early peoples. This changed with the 1700s influx of European fur
traders; beavers were almost wiped out over 200 years. And of course the 20th century
conservation movement which has led to today's return of beavers, amazingly even to New York City.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal
humanely, helped save the Peruvian rainforest and other good deeds for no cost.
18th June 2017
This week I am going to honour a local library to show that not only a giant institution
can make a difference. Raheny Library in Dublin has two car parking areas and each one has
a dedicated space for vehicles carrying wheelchairs. Recently a revamp has provided two
ramps, one at the main door and one at the fire exit. They have a hand rail so a person
wheeling themselves can pull the wheelchair up to the door. Inside all the bookshelves
are on ground level and the reception counter is an easy height.
When I was growing up, libraries did not have a restroom for the public, but an accessible
one has been added to this library. The staff also keep a spare wheelchair in case a visitor
would find it easier to browse in one, and there are plenty of seats. Tables and chairs are
often in use as a homework club and Wi-Fi, net-connected computers and DVDs are available.
There's an induction loop for hearing aids and large print books are available; I also notice
a box of reading glasses to borrow. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful, facilitating
various activities and exhibitions.
This week’s horse book is Alex, The West Nile Horse by Kathleen Murray Klosterman. ISBN: 9781939625397.
Alex was a young Saddlebred who had been vaccinated, but still caught the West Nile disease
from a mosquito bite. This is fatal in 94% of cases so there was almost no information on
recovery from this encephalitis disease. Katie stabled her horses at the same livery barn in
Arizona and ended up buying Alex to retrain him. This will mainly be of interest to horse owners
and trainers, but it can be amusing and very sad in turns and is inspiring to anyone recovering
from illness or helping others to do so.
This week’s nature book builds on the difference between city and country. A Walk In The Dark by
Joyce Stranger. ISBN: 9780552112109.
This is the story of a farmer who loses his sight, and gains a Guide Dog, from the author of
many books about animals and country life. The fictional Labrador in this book has to fit in to
farm life with sheep, jealous collies, and other distractions. The author is clearly impressed
by the thoroughness of the dog's training and how he enables the farmer to live a full life again.
A Walk in the Dark
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a biometric smartcard through Opportunity
International so a woman can have her own bank account, sponsored ocean research and helped Amnesty
International. All for no cost at
11th June 2017
The Bloom Garden Festival was held in Dublin's Phoenix Park recently and as always
some gardens featured wheelchair access, raised beds for easy care, waterfall and
wind sounds, seats, scents and touch plants. This year I was interested to note that
a garden had been designed to help people with dementia.
Tom Grey is a Research Fellow at TrinityHaus and using the examples of people who
had grown up near a meadow and brook, or grey stone walls, he developed a garden
with a water feature, birdsong and grey slates. The scents of lavender, camomile
and other plants, with more old-fashioned flowers like lupins and daisies, will
help older people to recall earlier days, while any garden work can be easily managed
due to vertical planters. The garden must be safe and open plan to help the senior
person and their carers relax. Plenty of inspiration here for garden designers.
This week my horse book is Shifter's Destiny by Anna Leonard. ISBN: 9780373885541.
This is an original and beautiful take on shape-shifting, where the male character
transforms to a unicorn stallion, ready to protect young females and take them into
his herd - even if the herd they are leaving is vile and threatening.
Elizabeth and Maggie are close sisters, with young Maggie just thirteen, when life
changes at their isolationist commune in New England and they flee the new leader
and his sinister plans for them. He sends workers to pull them back but a stray horse
knocks down the commune members and the two girls seize their chance to escape. Only
as they shelter in a nearby wood do they realise that the horse is in fact a white
unicorn. Next morning it has vanished and they are being watched over by a tall,
strong fair-haired man. He tells them his name is Joshua Mustang and he will see them to safety.
This week’s environment book is Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake
Haiti by Ralph R. Frerichs. ISBN: 9781501702303.
I had been hoping to go to Haiti as an aid volunteer in the wake of the 7.0 earthquake
in January 2010. An outbreak of cholera stopped aid workers from travelling. Consequently
I was interested in this account of how the cholera reached an island which had never had
a single reported case and the tragedy that unfolded.
A river was the initial source of the outbreak, and then as ill people were moved to a
hospital which could not cope, the disease spread to the plentiful rice paddies. As well
as the history of cholera, the appalling medical challenge and death toll, we see the case
through the eyes of investigative reporters who walked up to the Nepalese army camp and
found a disgusting overflowing septic tank and broken sewage pipe.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, raised a farm animal humanely, planted a fruit
tree and sponsored breast cancer research.
4th June 2017
Thanks to my roving reporter Allan for finding this wonderful invention to help
wheelchair users and others who find steps difficult. This works without ruining
the visual integrity of a building frontage. Often a period building is preserved so
the construction of a ramp would not be permitted. But with the Sesame Steps, the
problem is solved. The building demonstrated is in America and I am sure the work
could be carried out in other locations.
This week’s horse book is Fire Maiden by Terri Farley. ISBN: 9780060886189.
I enjoyed this adventure which explains lots about life and nature on Hawaiian
islands, with some legends, earth tremors and a volcano. Why weren't books this
dramatic when I was growing up? Of course the main theme is horses and we meet
quite a few with very natural behaviour shown.
This week’s environment book is Animals of a Bygone Era by Maja Safstrom. ISBN: 9780399578526.
Beginning with the earliest sea creatures and moving forwards, omitting the
much publicised dinosaurs in order to give other creatures some exposure,
this little book cheerfully displays various extreme, extraordinary and extinct animals.
The cartoon sketches (black and white) in some cases compare modern creatures for size,
like the short-faced kangaroo with red kangaroo, and all come with a place and date
for the fossils or stuffed specimens as the case may be. For the dodo and thylacine
appear here as well; once the humans and large animals co-existed, like the mammoth,
matters went downhill for the megafauna and smaller creatures.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored a child's education through Children
International, sponsored breast cancer research and rescued a baby turtle.
All for no cost at
28th May 2017
This week I recommend a visit to the Chester Beatty Library located at the back of
Dublin Castle. This fascinating museum hosts the collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty,
whose life-size statue greets you at the door and can be touched, ideal for the visually
impaired. The Oriental and Asian artworks and books are served by a lift which is large
enough for any wheelchair. The buttons feature Braille and the lift speaks in English and Irish.
The display rooms have automatic doors, but are not warm so bring a coat, and the
lighting levels are low. This is to preserve the delicate materials. In some of the areas
appropriate music or voices are played. English explanations of some legends and beliefs
are placed at each cabinet and we also get explanations of how books were made and bound,
the various materials used in illustration and the routes travelled by traders.
On the ground floor is the aptly named Silk Road café which provides excellent lunches
on the ethnic themes, and a bookshop. Seats are movable in the café and out in the
glassed-over corridor. You will find the restrooms here with a button press to open
the door for the accessible one. On the top floor is a roof garden for sunny days.
This museum has won ‘European Museum of the Year’ and is highly rated by Trip Advisor
and Lonely Planet, and it is free.
This week’s horse book is Nobody’s Horse by Jane Smiley. ISBN: 9780571253548.
This is the tale of Abby, a schoolgirl in 1960s California, who learns to grow up,
strengthen her attitudes and sense of self worth, observe adults, and start taking
control of her life. This occurs through the twin media of horse training and schooldays.
Abby’s older brother has already been driven away by their father's strict religious refusal
to hear anything he doesn't like, from talking back to lessons about evolution. This leaves
only Abby to ride the succession of passing-through horses which make the family an income.
Training them for sale can be hard work - six at a time - and Abby's dad insists on
calling the geldings all George and mares all Jewel.
This week’s environment book is Ireland's Burning: How Climate Change Will Affect
You by Paul Cunningham. ISBN: 9781842233313.
Journalist Paul Cunningham reports on the environment and this is a roundup of interviews
from 2008. Already it feels very dated because of the economic crash and the Paris Cop21
Summit. But it's well worth the read. From the Met Office to professors, all of whom provided
reviews of the IPCC's five-yearly reports, we see that Ireland is not on the fringe but in
the thick of the conversation about the climate.
From a school kid who runs an anti-waste school committee, to a firm advising big and small
business how to reduce waste, use less power and save money, to a farm advisor and a forest
planter, all views are interesting, personal and without much influence from the interviewer.
Some reflect long on-going issues such as Gavin Harte who spoke against clearing trees at
the Wicklow road enlargement and now helps to build and run an eco-village built by
homeowners instead of developers.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely.
21st May 2017
This week I visited an outdoor accessible location, Dublin Castle Gardens, tucked away
in the heart of Dublin City. If you want some peace and quiet in a garden environment,
find Dublin Castle just off Dame Street and walk around the imposing structure, following
signs to the Chester Beatty Library. Here you will discover a hidden gem; a large round
grassed space, doubling as a helipad but studded with bricks laying out a Celtic pattern.
Benches and foliage beds surround the Dubh Linn circle, and you are encouraged to walk
on the grass.
To the left of the entry gate you will hear water flowing from a gentle fountain in the
Garda Memorial Garden. Stone benches allow the traveller to rest and contemplate while
the scented foliage includes rosemary, symbolic of remembrance. Stone sculptures and
lighting indicate peace and hope. The names of Gardai, Ireland's police officers,
killed in the line of duty, are inscribed here and to date there are eighty-eight,
all men. Another sculpture is a tribute to all deceased members of An Garda Síochána,
the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. An annual memorial
service was held on Saturday 20th May. Thanks go to my roving reporter Michael for
talking with me about this garden.
Other features of the Dubh Linn space are that the name comes from the Black Pool which
gave Dublin its name, where the River Liffey met its tributary the Poddle, now buried
under the site; a memorial to Veronica Guerin, a journalist murdered by gangland
criminals; and a sculpture to celebrate all those stalwarts who contributed to Ireland's
hosting the Special Olympics in 2003. Right beside this are an accessible café and
restrooms in the Chester Beatty Library.
This week’s horse book is The Connemara Stallion by Ann Henning. ISBN: 9781853711589.
This great fun story set in the West of Ireland can be read alone or as second in
the series. In the first part ‘The Connemara Whirlwind’, we saw how a girl Doreen
managed to buy a spirited brown colt Cuaifeach who was born during a whirlwind.
With the approach of spring it’s time to break the pony in and the local Wild West type
brothers are full of swagger, but don’t manage the job. Doreen still wants Cuaifeach
gelded but others are seeing his potential as a stud and entreat her to get him certified
by the Connemara Pony breeding inspectors.
This week’s environment book is Blind Descent by Nevada Barr. ISBN: 9780380728268.
Atmospheric barely begins to describe this crime story set mainly underground in New
Mexico's Lechuguilla cavern system. Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is called to join a Search
and Rescue party after a ranger is injured underground. They face a few days of trek
to the injured woman and a few more days of stretchering her out, filled with climbing,
crawling, wading and walking on rough stone. But when Anna reaches her friend,
she starts to suspect that the accidental head injury was no accident. Given that
all of the original party is now with the rescue party, someone present must be an
attempted murderer. And they are days from the entrance - or nights, since there is no natural light.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, helped to support breast cancer research and
provided a biometric smartcard so a woman can have her own bank account.
14th May 2017
This week I recommend a visit to the Science Museum in Kensington, London. This splendid
free admission museum is a real treasure trove. One hall is given to transportation including
steam engines, and a side display shows dioramas of agricultural machinery. We found a
costumed man telling the story of steam. Make sure to see Foucault's Pendulum hanging down
through the stairwell, and you can opt to visit a pay-for IMAX screening or special
exhibition. Youngsters or those with visual impairments will have fun with the hands-on
Adult and child wheelchairs are available to borrow - you may book one in advance.
We do recommend these if you have any mobility problems as there is such a lot of ground to
cover. The lifts are wheelchair accessible with Braille buttons and voice announcements.
We also found a large print floor plan and some galleries have tactile floor plan boards.
Accessible toilets are on every floor and there is an accessible baby change room. Cafés
are located around the building for snacks but some have a full menu with either self-service
or waiter service. And visitors with a disability can get reduced admission prices to the
IMAX cinema and exhibitions. The staff are very friendly and helpful.
This week’s horse book is Loving Laney by Harmony Evans. ISBN: 9780373863570.
I enjoyed this multicultural romance tale of a world class horsewoman who unexpectedly
finds that she's expecting.
Laney Broward has just won gold at the London Olympics as we meet her. She is partying,
and may be forgiven for getting carried away when she and friends meet a handsome Texan
horse breeder, and he's taken with her too. The young woman thought it was just a
one-night stand but a few months later she's having to stop riding and confide in one
close friend. As much as anything she's upset at the thought that she may be letting
down her strict family.
This week’s environment book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by
Barbara Kingsolver. ISBN: 9780060852559.
Barbara and her husband and daughters decided to embark on a year of growing their own
food, raising their own poultry and buying local food from farmers. To this end they
moved from their Arizona home to their country vacation home in the Appalachian mountains
of southwest Virginia. They had prepared, of course, by renovating the house and outbuildings,
planting asparagus beds and more. The hopeful and personal start turns rather abruptly
into a discourse on why “we don't know beans about beans” as food production and distribution
has been largely mechanised and factory swamped in the US. Keep reading.
I enjoyed the lesson learnt from the first farmers' market they attended on a cold early
spring morning. Nothing was growing so how would the family survive? They brought home a
splendid haul and helped the farmers to stay in business. This continues through the early
plantings, the earnest selection and purchasing of heritage breeds of chicken by Lily the
youngest girl and entrepreneur in the making, and the home cooking full of aroma, taste and sizzle.
Animal Vegetable Miracle
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely
and helped Rainforest Trust protect the Peruvian forest.
7th May 2017
This week instead of a place I am promoting a video clip on YouTube which demonstrates
the raised patterns found on British streets. Tom Scott and the Royal National Institute
of Blind People tell us which ones mean a pedestrian crossing ahead, steps, a tram track
and other issues, or a sloped kerb which could let a partially sighted person walk out
onto the road without realising. If the same standards are applied everywhere the
roads and footpaths will be a lot safer. Thanks to my roving reporter Allan for
finding this clip.
This week I recommend a romantic suspense horse book, Studs And Stilettos by Bev Pettersen.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a would-be actress behind the scenes of a film about a
Emily is still learning the trade when she lands the background work, so she asks all the
questions we'd love to ask and pokes her nose into all the wrong tents, to show us what most
people don't see. The more experienced extra she meets, Judith, fills her in on the background
of the Kentucky house and its owners. The champion racehorse, his girl groom who vanished
twenty years ago and was never seen again, and the womanising owner make for an interesting
story. The missing groom - we can guess that she was murdered but how to prove it or even
be sure who was a suspect?
With spring nesting time in full swing here, let's look at a lovely book called Into The Nest:
Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds by Marie Read,
I loved this read, with the brilliantly coloured, action-filled photos showing nesting, courtship,
egg-sitting, chick feeding and fledgling rearing among many American birds.
Bird lovers anywhere will benefit from learning that eggs laid inside a tree are normally white,
unlike those in open nests, while many terms are well explained. For example, precocial chicks
follow their mother from the nest shortly after hatching, like ducklings, while altricial
chicks are fed in the nest for weeks until they fledge and learn to fly. The cowbird is the
American version of Europe’s cuckoo, laying in other birds’ nests.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, saved a turtle hatchling and planted a fruit tree.
All through www.care2.com
30th April 2017
This week included National Poetry Day, so what better time to visit an exhibition on
William Butler Yeats at the National Library of Ireland. The building is in Kildare
Street right next to the Dail which is the Irish Parliament. A ramp leads to the
entrance and I found a lift to get down one floor to the exhibition. A wheelchair
user should be accompanied by a staff member in the lift. Free lockers are provided
for stowing hand baggage or coats.
The exhibition is softly lit because of the original papers and letters on display.
To help with reading the items, an interactive screen beside each cabinet shows in
good lighting what the cabinet contains. Many museums have at least one screen that
doesn't work - when I tested these they all worked. Seats are provided wherever an
audiovisual tells about that part of Yeats's life. A hearing loop has been installed.
I saw the Nobel Prize medal presented to Yeats and a painting by his brother Jack Yeats.
I also heard some of Yeats's poems read by figures like Seamus Heaney and Sinead
O'Connor, and WB Yeats himself reading The Lake Isle Of Innisfree. This exhibition
is free and open every day. The Library Café right beside it provides a great
selection of lunches and snacks, including vegan and gluten free, with seating that
can be moved; accessible restrooms are on the ground floor and well signposted.
Guide Dogs are welcome. The NLI has an evacuation policy for users with reduced
mobility, which can be found on their website.
This week’s horse book is Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar by various authors, edited
by Mercedes Lackey.
Mercedes Lackey created the world of Valdemar, which has magic and telepathy as well as
random mage storms. Here's another anthology. If you have read one or two earlier books
about the Heralds, riders doing the Crown's bidding, you'll enjoy this look at the land,
and may recognise some of the authors. If you have not read any, the feel is similar to
Anne McCaffrey's early Pern books with white horses instead of dragons.
Anyone who enjoys fantasy stories and animals will like this one; there is diversity -
which includes a woman half turned into a bird of prey, riding a gryphon which can't
see - as well as new characters like a brash yearling colt and a travelling merchant.
My favourite tale is by great writer Janny Wurts, author of Stormwarden, who
characteristically gives us a blind girl experiencing the world through all her other senses.
This week’s environment book is The Mapmaker's Wife by Robert Whitaker.
I found this an engrossing read, focusing on the exploits of a team of French mapmakers
in recently colonised South America, and a woman who took her destiny into her own hands
in order to be reunited with her husband.
We get a very good look at the then-impenetrable jungles and broad path of the Amazon
through this territory. Just about all travel was by river. An international expedition
was sent to discover the shape of the Earth at the Equator, to settle opposing theories
about whether it bulged. They were led by Charles Marie de la Condamine and Louis Godin.
A nephew of Godin's, Jean Godin, was among them and in the towns of Ecuador he met
Isabel Grameson, daughter of a local landowner.
The Mapmaker's Wife
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm
animal humanely, with Care2.com
23rd April 2017
This week one of my roving reporters has recommended visiting Monkton Elm Garden Centre
in Taunton, Somerset. I love checking out garden centres and this one has a plant of the
month, tips for keeping a beehive in your garden and more. Their restaurant has spacious
surrounds and movable chairs, and a play area next to it. The on-site bakery and local
produce mean you are getting fresh tasty foods. The garden centre has disabled-friendly
parking spaces, wide access and ramps throughout, as well as toilets for visitors with
disabilities. Staff will carry goods to the car, or you can buy online and collect, or
the centre will deliver heavier goods to your home. I’m also very pleased that the
centre has put their environmental policy on the website, explaining their recycling
and insistence on local stock. Sounds like a great destination for the afternoon.
This week’s horse book is The Last Horsemen by Charles Bowden. ISBN: 9780233050034.
Sillywrea farm in high country north England is farmed by horse, with horses also
used to pull tree trunks out of the woodland. This appears to be the last farm so
worked in Britain.
The five horses presently used are Clydesdales, smaller than Shires and intelligent
about their work. We see a year in the farm life, from spring ploughing and seeding
to lambing, haymaking, cattle sales, then winter for repairs, turnips and so on. One
young horse is being broken in and trained gradually. As the farmers do not need to
invest in heavy machinery they do not have big debts to service; on the other hand
the labour is intense and unending.
I loved the attention to and pride in the big horses. We also meet people involved
in this lifestyle, such as the mobile farrier and the harness maker.
The Last Horsemen
This week’s environmental book is a romance called The Billionaire's Bid by Kaira Rouda.
Aubrey has lost her parents and taken on management of their thousand wooded acres
on a South Carolina island, plus a cottage and unhappily large debts. She's just
passed thirty but hasn't much idea of what to do with the land, before she can
get back to her urban life. She has a forest manager, Dirk, who is drawing up
plans for cutting some of the timber and inviting bids from interested timber firms.
James is acting CEO of his family's logging firm while his father is in hospital.
There are moves against him in the boardroom. His folks' land abuts Aubrey's and he's
shocked to be told by Dirk that the lady intends clear-cutting as the fastest way to
raise money. His degree in environment science and MBA argue against this, plus his
love of the woodlands and wildlife on the island. Local people's sympathies would
also be lost. He puts in a bid which is destined to fail.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and saved a turtle
hatchling, among other good deeds with Care2.com.
16th April 2017
My roving reporter Diana has recommended a site for wheelchair users, which contains some
holiday spot recommendations. One I like is:
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, by Sheri and Tony of Happy on Wheels.
They say: My husband and I are both wheelchair users, and we have been
vacationing there for years, including our upcoming 10th anniversary celebration. We love
it for many reasons; the boardwalk is long, wide and fully wheelchair accessible; there
are ramps down to the sand and free beach wheelchairs; you can navigate the boardwalk,
surrounding stores and streets without using a vehicle; there is a wide choice of accessible
hotels and condominiums in Rehoboth Beach with roll in showers; it is clean and the beach
is beautiful; there are many accessible shops, restaurants and bars; and most importantly,
the people that live, work and vacation in Rehoboth are friendly and helpful to individuals
with disabilities. Traveling with a disability can be frustrating. Rehoboth makes it easy.
That is why we love it.
Thanks to Cory Lee for creating her helpful site.
My horse book pick this week is The Painted Pony by Angharad Thompson Rees.
Short and sweet, a fantasy set in France about a carousel horse and a boy. The boy has seen wild
horses on the Camargue and he tells the carousel horse about the kind of life it could lead. The
wooden horse had been quite happy, or thought it had, but faced with the possibilities of a real
horse's wild life, it decides to try to change.
My environment book looks at the realities of living on a farm. Would You Marry A Farmer? by Lorna
So, asks Lorna Sixsmith, would you marry a farmer, considering that you would be marrying into a
farming household and a small community? You might be living with your in-laws, or one of them,
and the farmer's siblings until they can get educated and leave. You won't get foreign holidays
or even romantic restaurant dinners very often, and your bank balance will be in the red for months
like as not, then when the farm payments cheque arrives it needs to go to a tractor purchase rather
than a new kitchen; while there will be a permanent load for the washing machine, a team of silage
contractors to be fed unexpectedly and you will be judged by other women on the standard of your
baking, not your fashion sense.
We get a look back at the history of marriages on Irish farms and why women fled to towns, cities
and the New World. Lorna shows us adverts from past days, stating upfront that a prospective wife
must have her own dowry, or that a man trained in farm management would like to meet a woman with a
farm. The farmer might need to pay for his parents' pension, or build a cottage for his mother, or
educate his siblings, before he could take on the farm or start his own family. He thus often married
late and could not afford to carry out improvements.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and raised a
farm animal humanely, as well as supporting breast cancer research. All at Care2.com
9th April 2017
Thanks go to my roving reporter Debbie who has recommended a visit to Legoland in
Florida. This fun destination has a special welcome for visitors with autism, enabling
them and their families to skip queues for attractions and enjoy a break in quiet rooms.
I love the way that Legoland staff are called Model Citizens! They have received training
on how to help visitors with special needs, and their caregivers, enjoy the day's visit.
This is a very positive step and their website explains the arrangements.
This week’s horse book is Angels Club by Courtney Vail. ISBN: 9781500327804.
Jacinda and her friends help out at a riding stable called Sunnybrook which caters for
young people with special needs. Like Emily, who comes along in a wheelchair and tries
to pluck up the courage to stroke a horse.
A creamy white mare with much mud and tangles, and in bad shape, is brought to the farm
as a rescue horse, to be made healthy and sold on for funds. But Jacinda decides that
there is something different about this mare, whom she names Angel. As she and Emily
work on the gentle mare they discover that she has curly coat and mane, so they research
the traits and learn that she is an American Bakshir Curly Horse, descended from a Native
American breed like the Appaloosas.
This week’s environment book is The Elements of Power by David S. Abraham. ISBN: 9780300216714.
The rare earth elements and rare metals derived from them are increasingly in all our
gadgetry, our jet engines, turbine blades and replacement joints, just as much as in our
weaponry and our MRI scanners. Mining, refining, separating, producing, selling, trading,
using, recycling and inventing are all covered in this great look at REEs, along with the
Having witnessed first-hand how Japan backed down to China over sea territory, when Chinese
merchants stopped trading REEs to Japan, the author is convinced that metals can replace guns
in diplomacy. After war in Africa thirty years ago stopped supply of one metal, firms went looking
for others, and the generations of work by metallurgists and chemists was put to use. The author
also went behind the scenes to a mine in Brazil, which is a long-established big employer, noting
that it is very hard to get permits to open a new REE mine. These elements are foul in their
mining, production and use. Acids, bases and fouled water add to slag heaps and leachates
to cause environmental and worker health hazards.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a woman with her own biometric card to open a
bank account and supported a chimpanzee sanctuary with the Jane Goodall Institute. All for no cost at www.care2.com
2nd April 2017
This week I’m delighted to hear that Shannon Airport has opened a Sensory Room for people
travelling who have special needs. A family may be travelling with a child who has autism,
for instance, and this creates difficulties with queuing, bright lighting and loud
announcements. In this new room the lights and sound are muted, which is relaxing.
The room is also well provided with items to play with, climb on and watch, to provide
stimulation. This should make life easier for the whole family while travelling. Shannon
is the first airport in Europe to provide this facility proving we really are Ireland of
The Journal.ie, autism sensory room
This week’s horse book is Selah's Sweet Dream by Susan Count. ISBN: 9780997088304.
I definitely enjoyed this coming of age story about a girl called Selah who loves horses.
Just like every other horse-mad girl, Selah, who lives in America, makes plans for
getting a horse someday. But her parents and grandfather are in no hurry for that to happen,
even though Grandfather used to keep horses and his late wife won showing and reining classes.
Then Selah spots a horse running wild on the open grasslands. Could this black horse be
meant for her?
My environment book is Meltdown in Tibet by Michael Buckley. ISBN: 9781137279545.
Michael Buckley, a Canadian, first visited Tibet in 1985 as a truck passenger and saw the
constant stream of treetrunks being hauled as China felled Tibetan forests, ongoing since
China took over Tibet in 1950. This book lays bare the continuous plundering of the Tibetan
plateau and mountains by Chinese settlers and soldiers. By 1980 a fact-finding mission from
Tibet's former rulers found that the grasslands, once-rich in natural diversity, were empty
of wildlife - all eaten, Buckley believes.
The Himalayan snow and glacier ice is the world's largest store of freshwater outside the
Polar regions. Yet this ice which should reflect heat back into space, is sooty and black
in many areas, from Chinese and Indian coal emissions and cooking stoves. Dark ice attracts
heat so melts faster, and dark rock is exposed in a feedback loop. 95% of glaciers are
shrinking faster than they can be replenished. As these glaciers feed some of the world's
largest rivers which flow through eight populous countries, problems are foreseeable. These
include lack of crop irrigation and drinking water.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, helped protect the Peruvian
rainforest and rescued a baby sea turtle. All for no cost at www.care2.com
26th March 2017
On a nice sunny spring day what could be better than a stroll down the harbour? This year
the Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) harbour is celebrating 200 years. A seaside
promenade takes the visitor along the coastline with splendid views, while many events are
planned for the summer, from a festival to Viking longships recreating an attack. Transport
can be by Dart light rail, bus or limited parking with spaces for wheelchair users provided
they display a permit. Thanks to my roving reporter Niamh for nominating the Dun Laoghaire
harbour as a good place to visit.
This week’s horse book is The Island Horse by Susan Hughes. ISBN: 9781554535927.
Ellie is not quite ten when her mother dies and she lives quietly in Nova Scotia with her
father. In no position to turn down work, Ellie's father still thinks long and hard about
accepting the first offer he gets in months. To encourage Ellie to regard it positively,
he tells her that there are wild horses on Sable Island. Ellie is fascinated by the idea
of wild horses and draws them in her sketchbook. The job is with the rescue crew on Sable
Island, a crescent of sand 25 miles long and a mile across, which is known as the Graveyard
of the Atlantic. A tiny community of rescue workers lives there, saving lives and salvaging
ships' cargoes and timbers from the frequent wrecks on the shifting sands and storm-tossed sea.
My environmental book is The Year Yellowstone Burned: A Twenty-Five-Year Perspective by Jeff Henry.
This is a well written and spectacularly photographed look at the year when fires burned out of control
through most of Yellowstone National Park and region.
Wildfires are now considered to be nature's way of using up old dead wood - conifers grow quickly but
rot slowly so fires release the nutrients and make room for seedlings. A fire was named after the area
where it started and they quickly merged, so immense regions were ablaze at once and only the winter's
snows ended them. The rangers just concentrated on saving lives and preserving historic buildings. The
author had been with the service for a decade at this time and documented everything. He says it is
amazing that nobody was killed that year. Two decades on we can see the new growth sprouting.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a woman with her own biometric
card to open a bank account. All for no cost at Care2.com
19th March 2017
This week my roving reporter Tanya has recommended Dublin Bus for getting around the capital.
She did mention problems boarding with a wheelchair, such as the bus not always being able to
pull in flush with the paving kerb, and an awkward right angle to negotiate from the door near
the driver. On the other hand, buses all have kneeling fronts and a sliding ramp. The drivers
have all received instruction on using them. A space for a wheelchair is provided and travellers
are asked to leave particular seats for those with walking difficulties or pregnant women.
Mobility scooters require a permit to board as some are too large for the bus.
The drivers are also required to halt at a bus stop if they see a person waiting who is in a
wheelchair or has a Guide Dog or white cane, as the person might not be able to signal them or
might not be able to see the number on the bus. Unlike when I was growing up, buses are all
no-smoking. Dublin Bus provides a helpful page on their site, and their public office is fully
accessible with a wheelchair level counter and hearing loops.
My horse book this week is Cowboy All Night by Vicki Lewis Thompson. ISBN: 9780373798995.
Some modern dilemmas are faced in this American adult romance. A palomino mare is foaling at
the start and her happy owner is on hand. So is a cowboy who tries to educate young people about
horses. Also involved is the lady's brother, a disabled war veteran, who seems determined to
lead an indoor life and ignore horses.
My nature book this week is Felicity - A Sparrow's Tale by Loralee Evans. ISBN: 9780692306918.
I love this small story about a brave small bird. Felicity the sparrow lives in a tree in America,
and the wise ivory-billed woodpecker taught her to read before he went missing. Now young Felicity
has to put that skill to good use - but only after saving a fairy from a hawk when his wings are
torn off by the predatory bird.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised a
farm animal humanely and supported the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at www.Care2.com
12th March 2017
Greetings from Ireland as we approach St Patrick's Day.
All Irish this week! If you are in Dublin to watch the parade you might like to drop
in to the Powerscourt Townhouse shopping centre. My roving reporter Susan has recommended
it as an accessible place to visit. The Wingfield family who also owned Powerscourt Estate
in Wicklow used this as their townhouse since 1774. Today over 40 shops and restaurants
fill the interior. The location is South William Street off Grafton Street, an entrance
with steps, and an accessible entrance is at Coppinger Row.
This week’s horse book is the splendid modern fantasy Chesca And The Spirit Of Grace by
Irish author Lara O'Brien. ISBN: 9780989675208.
A girl, a horse and the magical Irish countryside; what more do you need for a great story?
CHESCA AND THE SPIRIT OF GRACE grabs our affection immediately and whisks us off to Howth
harbour on the east coast of Ireland, north of Dublin. Chesca O'Brien has learned to
understand what her animal friends say - so much so, that she doesn't want human pals.
Malley the lead stallion is fond of Chesca but her dairy-farming father won't let the girl
ride such a strong spirited horse. The excellent scene-setting puts us in the mood for
excitement. Chesca enjoys trick-riding on her mare Star but Malley is a superb storyteller.
He tells the girl that he is descended from a horse owned by the pirate queen Grace O'Malley.
Life has hard realities. The O'Briens run pony-trekking and between costs, insurance and
loans, the banker puts them on notice. This is clearly a matter for the adults; what could
a girl of nearly twelve, who's away with the fairies half the time, possibly do to save her home?
My environment book is Black Harvest by Ann Pilling. ISBN: 9780006754268.
This is a creepy fantasy tale on the lines of Elidor, in which the unreal and scary start to
seep into real life. Three young people are staying in a seaside cottage in the west of
Ireland. A brother, sister and their cousin. The mother of the siblings is also present and
her small baby, and an unfortunate dog. Feelings of foreboding along with heat, mustiness
and a horrible smell ruin their plans for a good summer, and the baby frets. The dog goes
off her food and the kids don't get along.
As I’m Irish I saw in no time that we were getting references to the potato famine caused
by blight during the 1840s. The kids are from England, visiting, so it takes them longer
to catch up with history.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and
sponsored a biometric smartcard to let a woman have her own bank account. All for no cost at Care2.com.
5th March 2017
This week a place of interest to visit for lunch is featured; we tested this one
ourselves earlier in the year as it came well recommended. Toby Carvery, Blackbrook Inn,
Ilminster Rd, Taunton, Somerset. This is located off a motorway and has accessible
parking spaces near the door. There are no steps if you enter from the garden side
and we found plenty of room for seating around tables. An accessible restroom is
available but you have to get a key from staff; if there are no staff in sight,
you might be waiting a few minutes as the bar is down some steps. We enjoyed a
fine carvery lunch and service came with a smile. We particularly like a menu
idea which has a mini pudding with coffee, if you don't have room for a full size option.
My horse book this week is Turning On A Dime by Maggie Dana. ISBN: 9780985150495.
This is a top-class time travel book which brings a girl from modern day face to
face with her African-American heritage when she travels to the Civil War times.
The young lady she meets is from a land-owning family and they come together over
their love for horses. Remounts are being sought by both sides, and the two girls
have a desperate struggle to save their beloved horses - and themselves - from
This week’s environmental book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein. ISBN: 9781451697384.
The carbon and methane pushed into the atmosphere is unquestionably warming the planet
to a hugely dangerous degree, which changes everything about our economic model. The
response of the carbon extractors has been to produce oil and coal from ever fouler
sources. Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist and author, spent five years researching,
travelling and writing with the help of colleagues. Mainly what she looked at was carbon,
corruption and contamination.
The Nature Conservancy is a well-funded American charity which started in Texas with the
aim of preserving the Attwater's prairie chicken. But before long had passed, they were
drilling for oil and gas on the Texas sanctuary land they had purchased. Numbers of the
endangered bird dropped on that land from 36 to 12 to none.
See the rest of my review at Goodreads.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and
sponsored a rescued baby turtle, all for no cost at www.care2.com
I have been in discussion with Carbonfund.org about declaring my e-books Carbon Neutral.
Linda G. Kelly, Business Partnership Manager of Carbonfund.org Foundation, told me that
she had never been asked about this before! I offered to help construct a template for
e-books but in the absence of a certification, she suggests that I explain to my readers
how I offset carbon on their behalf and minimise my carbon use. During 2016 I bought a
new efficient computer and A rated LED monitor, recycling the old equipment, and swapped
the lightbulbs I use for LED ones. As my e-books are being read all over the world, on
devices which are used to read many other books, I believe e-books are a more efficient
way of manufacture and distribution than paper books.
From January 2016 to date, Care2 says I have offset 290 pounds of carbon and planted 86
trees, as well as protecting over 100 square feet of rainforests. In addition through a
different system, Care2 say I have offset 199 days of computer use via CarbonFund, protected
50 acres of big cat habitat and 19,900 square feet of ocean habitat, plus 1,473 square feet
Offsetting carbon alone is not enough - to live sustainably we need to minimise our use
of carbon and resources as well. For example, this year my 17 year old washing machine
broke down, so I have replaced it with an A++ rated efficient washing machine. Normally,
Carbonfund works with giant companies which want to offset giant footprints. But to
quote Robert Swan, the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else
will save it. I believe in doing my part.
This week’s horse book is The Harlot and the Sheikh by Marguerite Kaye. ISBN: 9780373299164.
In this series of nineteenth-century adult romances, we meet strong heroines who are ladies
of science. I particularly enjoyed the botanist in the previous tale and now we meet a horse
vet. Her father is a vet with the British Army which is fighting the Napoleonic wars, so he
can't answer a letter summoning him to help a stable in Arabia. Instead the daughter is quite
keen to go as she has had her name ruined by a cad.
The prince has a sumptuous palace with beautiful rooms, gardens and fountains. He has lavished
just as much attention on his stables, but the racehorses are contracting an unknown disease,
which so far has no cure. The prince needs to win an endurance race in order to regain pride
and prosperity for his people. But he wasn't expecting a female vet, and his stable staff are
unlikely to put up with any such intrusion by a foreign woman.
My environmental book this week is Mason Meets A Mason Bee by Dawn Pape. ISBN: 9780985187750.
This is a cute tale for early readers about a boy who meets a bee and each of them is afraid
of the other. The bee explains that it is a mason bee and does not want to sting, but pollinates
plants to make food for people. Mason also gets to hear about insecticides and other issues for
beneficial insects. There are lovely colourful photos on every page.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and rescued
a baby turtle. All for no cost at www.Care2.com
19th February 2017
This week I would like to thank roving reporter Mairéad for recommending a Dublin
library building called DLR LexIcon. This is a new build feature of Dún Laoghaire
in southeast Dublin, and incorporates water features and public spaces which are
used for events. The library is fully accessible and includes restrooms and a café
called Brambles Café. The Dublin local authority says the library provides theatre
space, meeting rooms, local history space and more than sixty computers for public use.
Libraries are a vital part of our community so I am delighted that they are being
expanded rather than closed, and made even more welcoming and useful. My local
library runs a homework and study club. LexIcon has car parking space and is near
bus and light rail routes; it also provides wonderful sea views.
This week’s horse book is Horse and Pony Colours by Lesley Lodge. ISBN: 9781494338862
While Lesley Lodge stresses that colour is secondary compared to choosing the right
size, breed and temperament for your needs, she then looks at some fine examples of
horses. The two main coat colours are black and red, with other colours being dilute
forms. The skin can also be pink or black. Then there are markings such as blaze,
star and sock, as well as the gaudier Appaloosa or paint markings.
Mainly the book focuses on horses of the film world, as these bring handsome horses
to the viewer and the British-based author is involved in the film scene. The
well-known horses include Trigger, the Black Stallion, Shadowfax and Tornado. Pintos
get their star in Hidalgo. Suitable for young adults or adults.
This week’s nature book is Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. ISBN: 9780156007818.
This is a charming story of a girl, her father, the outback and the eucalyptus tree.
There are hundreds of different varieties of eucalyptus from tiny shrub to majestic
tree, and the girl's father sets a rule that she may only marry a man who has named
all of the trees in his carefully planted collection on his land. This unusual romance
has won many awards and is suitable for readers of teen age to adults.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a biometric
smart card so a woman can have her own bank account. All for no cost at Care2.com.
12th February 2017
This week I'd like to recommend the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. A few years ago we visited the Burns
Cottage where the Scots poet was born - a long low thatched building of a few rooms, which kept the
livestock and family under one roof though in separate sections. This would have made it easy to feed sheep
and do the milking during bad weather. Next door the Museum has an educational space with a film about
Tam O'Shanter, his grey mare and the witch Cutty Sark. As well as learning all about the poet and the
history of his time, you can buy a wide and attractive array of gifts. A restaurant is provided, with
movable chairs and everything has been designed to be easily accessible. This does not include some of
the older features, like the Brig o'Doon which is a small stone arch bridge spanning a stream. Restrooms
are accessible and wheelchairs are available for loan, while Guide Dogs are welcome and hearing loops
are in place. The staff are willing to lend any help required to get visitors around the site.
This week’s horse book is Lucy's Chance by Brittney Joy ISBN: 9781497543461.
Lucy is thrilled to be helping out on a guest ranch when she turns sixteen, and summer stretches ahead
of her. Can she cope with getting run over by cattle, and being called the help by a snobby young rodeo
queen? A black horse which is seemingly wild bursts out of the brush on a trail ride and another
stablehand, Casey, manages to rope him and tug him down to the ranch buildings. If nobody claims the
horse and he can't be trained, the ranch owner will sell him at auction. Lucy gets to know the strong
black horse, calling him Chance, and she is convinced that he's just scared from ill-use and would
make a great riding horse.
The environment book I’m recommending is a romance for St Valentine's Day. Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by
Victoria Vane ISBN: 9781492601180.
I’m giving this romance top marks for presenting both sides of the wolf and ranch argument, in detail
and with great intensity. Some people are arrogant and unpleasant - on both sides of the debate. Others
are principled and willing to take steps towards a compromise. A woman studying wolves in Wyoming meets
a marine about to be sent off on a tour, but his predilection for hunting and guiding hunters is too much
for her to cope with. After the marine has left the service the pair meet up again, still on opposite
sides. Each of them has a past relationship still shadowing them but it's the wolf issue that divides
their loyalties. Can there be a meeting in the middle? This is a romance for adult readers.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored raising a baby sea turtle and planting a fruit tree.
All for no cost at Care2.com.
5th February 2017
This week my roving reporter Susan has recommended the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in
Dublin, at the top of Grafton Street. One reason this is well suited to be accessible is
that the Luas tram runs beside it. The Luas is step-free all along its lines. Inside the
Stephen's Green Centre there is plenty of space and a set of lifts is available. Stairs and
escalators for other users mean the lifts are not constantly in use. In this way you can reach
the shops around the upper levels and browse the displays or home in on something you need.
Signage is in place to help you find the shop you want, while the nice airy central part has
a glass roof, so you can shop or relax no matter what the weather.
The Centre has plenty of seating areas, accessible cafés and shops, and fully attended
restrooms on the top floor. Visitors can view floor plans on the Centre website.
This week’s horse book is Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second
Chances by Rachel Anne Ridge. ISBN: 9781414397832.
I like this true tale of an abandoned donkey who showed up in a Texas driveway. The householders
had lost their work in the economic crash and didn't want to take on more responsibility. But the
kids pestered them to keep the easy-care donkey in the paddock. Rachel saw Flash come back to health,
and his attitude and adventures made her feel better about herself. Flash didn't see why he should
not run with tall horses.
This is an inspirational story meant for adults, and because Rachel shares personal difficulties,
I recommend parental guidance if giving it to a child. See my review on Goodreads.
This week’s nature book is a novel for a change. Through the Storm by Rula Sinara. ISBN: 9780373367870.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, which is a romantic adventure in modern Africa. A well-off young mother
suddenly starts to suspect that her husband is involved in illegal ivory dealings. The ivory mafia will
kill anyone who gets in their way. She can't take chances but takes off with her son and gets on the
first bush plane out of Kenya.
As we can expect not all goes smoothly. We see various sides of modern life in the vast country; eco-tourism,
a baby elephant rescue camp, plenty of danger.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely.
29th January 2017
This week I am featuring a location which serves people with intellectual disabilities. Thanks to my roving
reporter Neil for recommending Cheeverstown House, Templeogue, Dublin. A wide range of activities goes on
here from teaching, sheltered workshop, advocacy and evening social activity for students and their families.
Transport is provided seven days a week. The location also features a swimming pool adapted for people with
disabilities and this is available to the general public.
Cheeverstown has expanded to serve older adults into retirement, and is happy to be involved in the Special Olympics.
This week’s horse book is The Long Ride Home by Kari Lynn Dell. ISBN: 9781619228146.
A champion rodeo horse goes missing and with Muddy goes the rider's good fortune. A few years later the horse surfaces
at a school rodeo ridden by a lad from a Reservation. While they are a good team, it turns out that the student has
behavioural disabilities and his very protective relative doesn't want the horse removed. She's a former soldier
and works on the Rez now. The cowboy can't easily remove Muddy from her care and Native police have jurisdiction,
so he accepts that he'll have to take some time resolving the issue.
This week’s nature book is 100 Plants to Save the Bees by The Xerces Society. ISBN: 9781612127019.
I totally enjoyed this colourful book of facts and figures, copiously illustrated with photos. We first find out
what insects are pollinators and learn about honey. A key indicates which plants feed honeybees, other native bees,
butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Some plants can be planted in gardens across America and others will thrive
in certain regions, indicated on a map of the continental US and Canada.
I am glad that Latin names are provided under the common plant names, as some common names differ in Europe. What
enjoyable names too, such as fireweed, goldenrod, meadowfoam, mountain mint, prairie clover, rattlesnake master,
wild indigo. Then come the trees; willow which we might not consider as it's wind pollinated, but the bees pick
up the pollen; buttonbush, coyote bush, mesquite, ocean spray, manzanita.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, helped to save the Congo Rainforest, and sponsored a biometric
smartcard with Opportunity International, so that a woman can have her own bank account. I did this at no cost
22nd January 2017
This week I am highlighting the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Situated on the banks of
Lake Michigan, this huge destination is highly popular with city people who want to get
out of the extreme heat of summer. As tourists a few years ago, we took a city tour
hop-on-hop-off bus and this was our main destination; the tour buses may stop running
before the close of the museum. A ramp was available for wheelchairs and strollers - buggies -
so people with these were able to skip some of the long queues. There is also a separate
accessible entrance and parking.
Inside the floors are level and the staff have wheelchairs available for use on production
of photo ID. A restaurant is on site, with a wide variety of foods and movable chairs. The
website offers guided tours for guests with hearing or vision impairment but these need two
weeks' notice. If you are interested in aquatic life there is an astonishing amount to see.
One room is given over to exhibits changed every year. We saw seahorses and previously there
were frogs. Concerns arise over keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. We saw a dolphin
show which was respectful and informative, and did not involve hoops or dangerous stunts.
The Shedd supports research and conservation and is certified by the American Humane Association.
If you would like to recommend a venue please e-mail me at email@example.com referring to
this blog in the title.
This week’s horse book is A Star Is Born by Sable Hamilton ISBN: 9781434297945.
A keen young rodeo competitor has been chosen to train as a stunt rider by a firm which supplies
these riders to films. They train her along with other young people on a ranch in Montana. Kami
is the girl's name and she is given a trained grey horse called Magic. Each book in the Stardust
Stables series will follow a different rider's story, so although there is rivalry it is on a
friendly basis. The challenges come from learning the stunts, performing them under examination
stress, and coping with homesickness and nerves. This is written by Jenny Oldfield under a pen
name. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.
This week’s nature book is The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw ISBN: 9780340728963.
I enjoyed this memoir from a swordboat captain who describes herself as a fisherman. The conditions
and workload vary from delightful to overwhelming; near the end of the trip her crew is almost ready
to mutiny to get back to harbour - but not quite, because they are all there to catch fish. While
Greenlaw is rare in being a female captain she says it drives her to work harder, and she appears
to get the respect she has earned. Greenlaw tells us there are plenty of swordfish and her industry
and fleet are highly regulated. She blames other nations for unregulated catches. See the rest of my
review on Goodreads.
The Hungry Ocean
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon and planted one tree; I also supported the work of Breast
Cancer Research, all through Care2.com
15th January 2017
This week we visited a fascinating museum; the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton, Somerset.
Stored in a hangar on a Royal Navy airfield are planes ranging from early 'stringbag' biplanes
to the Concorde, with rescue helicopters and military planes carried by Navy vessels in between
them. Paintings include the Ark Royal while a gallery displays the work of the WRNS who took on
tasks from mechanic to codebreaking during wars. This is a fascinating venue, packed with
history and personal memories, which has been adapted to be accessible to wheelchair users.
A number of wheelchairs are available for guests.
A ramp between floors was installed, and opened by Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, a courageous
fighter pilot who continued flying despite losing both legs. Some of the exhibits would be good
for visually impaired people, such as lifting the weight of a mortar dropped by early bombers.
Access from the car park, which has wheelchair parking spaces, is across bumpy tarmac and up
several steps, so people of reduced mobility go to a side door, ring a bell and wait for a staff
member to open the door and bring them to the lower floor and lift, which has Braille on the buttons.
Tickets are bought on the floor above, and a carer goes free with a disabled person. Service
personnel past and present also do not need to pay. The restrooms include accessible facilities
and were sparkling clean.
The only disadvantage we found is that the Swordfish Café next to the museum closes at the same
time as the museum. If you have spent a couple of hours walking around a hangar on a coastal airfield,
you would appreciate a hot cup of tea.
The photo shows our roving reporter Ellen enjoying an audiovisual presentation about the planes. Ellen
comments that the poured concrete floor of the hangar was so smooth, her wheelchair felt as if it was flying.
This week’s horse book is The Horse Healer by Gonzalo Giner ISBN: 9781480444607.
This is a novel of turbulent Spain in medieval times, when a young man is forced to leave his simple
home and head for the city of Toledo. He brings only his prized mare, and a love of learning.
Diego has seen the death of his parents and abduction of his sisters by Saracen forces from North Africa.
This is not a tale for the faint-hearted but shows us how ordinary people had to struggle to survive and
keep our civilisation alive. Toledo, a walled city, houses three religions side by side, and the Moors,
Christians and Jews obey rules such as not sleeping in one another's homes. Diego can't get work but
eventually gets taken on by a healer of beasts of burden as apprentice. This early veterinarian has
access to documents on horse care stored in Toledo.
My nature book is Eye of the Drone (Suki & Finch #2) ISBN:9780992041380.
This highly imaginative YA series takes off like a rocket in the second book. Our two graphic heroes
are set in some beautiful terrain again, and we get to see majestic wild cats like the Amur Tiger and
Snow Leopard, as well as smaller ones like Pallas's Cat in Nepal. Suki and Finch are again helped by
their bobcat and falcon friends, but someone mysterious has sent a spy drone to see who is trying to
protect the trees in these lands. Cats live where trees grow, so Suki and Finch are soon in big trouble.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as
contributing to Carbon Fund. All for no cost at wwwCare2.com
8th January 2017
This week I’m giving credit to Davies Plumbing Centre in Harmonstown, Dublin 5. This is a trade
plumbing supplies centre where the public are welcome, and a café is beside the shop. With several
steps up to the main door, the folks at Davies have installed a platform lift for wheelchairs
instead of a ramp. Inside, plenty of space is left between aisles of goods, so a wheelchair would
be able to manoeuvre and reach the counter. Well done for making all the customers so welcome.
My recommended horse book this week is Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal by Tim Hayes.
I enjoyed this read about horses being used to help people with various issues and emotional problems.
The groups observed by the author include one which combines gentling wild mustangs so they can
be sold as riding horses, with violent prisoners who want a chance at rehab. The prisoners in this
case were a self-selecting group who passed behavioural tests before being let near the horses.
Other groups include those helping troubled young people to talk and grow confident; one where an
autistic child learned to interpret body language of the horses, especially their ear signals; one
where war veterans are helped not just physically, to move on horseback despite missing limbs, but
mentally as a female officer with PTSD relates.
My nature book is Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich.
We wander the north woods in deep winter, observing and studying and carrying out occasional
experiments with the author and his students. Just when we think the adaptations of creatures
can't get any odder, they do.
Rabbits burrow into the subnivian or under snow layer, tunnelling happily between trees to eat
the bark off right up to the snow crust and invisible to predators. Colour-changing creatures
turn white in a space of a week or two. Caterpillars thaw to eat for a brief summer, freeze,
thaw again and eat, for a dozen or more years before reaching the size needed to pupate. Birds
appear to die but can be thawed. Other birds huddle and shiver nightly, burning fat which they
must replenish by day.
Flying squirrels huddle in hollow trees to share warmth. Beaver lodges
provide safe havens and larders. Bears sleep with lowered metabolic rates, giving birth to cubs
which they suckle for three months under the snow before awakening in spring. Insects make
communal nests or migrate thousands of miles. The hibernate or migrate option has had to be
explored by every species. Frogs don't have this option, so they freeze solid. The measurements
given are astounding.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and fed a rescued seal, for no cost at Care2.com
Sunday 1st January 2017
Happy New Year!
This week I can recommend visiting your local IKEA store. A large furniture and household goods store has a lot
to interest anyone, even if you don't plan to spend much money. The Dublin IKEA store has accessible parking close
to the large entrance, while a bus stops outside the door. Lifts with Braille on the buttons can get you around,
and on the upper level are all the displays of various rooms; so a person with reduced mobility can actually do
some good exercising indoors and sit down any time they feel inclined.
The restaurant has plenty of seating with movable chairs. We noticed a nice idea which is a little trolley to
carry the meal trays. The trolley can take two laden trays and can be pushed in front of a wheelchair. There is
always a vegetarian option, salads and fruit. I was pleased to see that the seafood is all described as coming
from sustainable fisheries, while the coffee is from a fair trade provider.
As part of the restaurant there is a discreet area for mothers to feed babies which has the brilliant idea of
little toys in case the mother has to bring in a toddler as well. Baby changing and accessible restrooms are
available. If you have an IKEA family card, your tea and coffee are free (except on weekends, in Dublin).
This week’s horse book is Phantom Stallion by Terri Farley. ISBN: 9780064410854.
This is a very worthwhile read about a girl called Sam who has been raised on a ranch but living away from it for
two years. Now she is returning and wonders what life will be like. She had been training a dark grey colt but he
ran away, and her family doesn't know where he is. Sam finds a pale grey stallion coming to drink by moonlight near
the ranch house, and realises that as grey horses get lighter each year, this could be her colt. But he is wild
and running with mustangs. This is the start of a series.
This week’s nature book is chosen because New Zealand was first to see in the New Year. Explorations of
Aotearoa: A Collection of Wildlife Photography From New Zealand by Max Allen.
These gorgeous nature and landscape photos bring New Zealand right up to our faces. The author studied the wildlife
of New Zealand for his PhD and is also a photographer. Accordingly he provides some stunning and colourful photos,
mainly of endemic birds (those found nowhere else) as well as some other wildlife such as seals. Nature lovers will
definitely want a copy.
The text is little more than extended captions. Some of the photos are accompanied by the story of how the author
achieved such a great shot, while others explain the adaptations of a bird, such as the kiwi or kea, or the threats
it faces in its normal habitat. Photographers will find this book of interest because the author has noted his techniques and equipment.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted two fruit trees and raised a farm animal humanely. All through Care2.com at no cost.