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Jan 2017 to Jun 2017

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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.
Fire Maiden

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.
Blind Descent

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 exhibits.
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.
ISBN: 9780988115132.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a would-be actress behind the scenes of a film about a famous racehorse.
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, Laura Erickson.
ISBN: 9781612122298.
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

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.
ISBN: 9780756409036.
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.
ISBN: 9780385605205.
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

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.
ISBN: 9781944925093.
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

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 Sixsmith.
ISBN: 9780992763244.
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

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 author's experiences.
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

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 Welcomes.
The, 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

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.
ISBN: 9781589799035.

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

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

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.
Black Harvest

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

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 the turmoil.

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

I have been in discussion with about declaring my e-books Carbon Neutral. Linda G. Kelly, Business Partnership Manager of 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 of rainforest.
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.

26th February 2017

This week I’m diverting from places of interest, to a chocolate ad campaign. I've been enjoying the new Maltesers TV ads, which feature people leading busy social lives while in a wheelchair or using BSL. And now I see a Braille poster was put up at a bus stop using the chocolates to form words. The quote is a joke from a lady in Glasgow and the bus stop was in London.

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

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

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

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 through

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 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

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

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.
ISBN: 9781250033512.
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.
ISBN: 9780060957377.
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.
Winter World

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and fed a rescued seal, for no cost at

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 at no cost.