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Jan 2018 to Jun 2018

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24th June 2018
This week I’m drawing attention to a new venture in Limerick which promises to improve the shopping experience of people with autism or other sensory disorders, and their families and carers. Parkway Retail Park in Castletroy has trained staff on hand to help shoppers enjoy the trip and get their goods. These good folks are volunteers from Limerick Autism Group.
At present we’re told this is the first autism friendly retail park in Ireland, but with luck the idea will spread.

This week’s horse book is The Strong One by Vivi Holt ASIN: B01FPGWZCE.
This is an enjoyable historical romance. The unusual heroine is the offspring of a white man and an Indian woman, living with her tribe. After her parents have died the chief decides it would be safer for everyone if she is married off to a white soldier at the nearest fort. But our girl takes charge of her own life and leaves to find her place in the world.
Cutter’s Creek is a small town with tolerant Christian folks who take in this girl and look after her, but she has trouble on her trail. I particularly liked the horse scenes, as people were totally dependent on horses.

This week’s environment book is Embattled River: The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism by David Schuyler ISBN: 9781501718052.
I’m impressed by the depth of this look at the Hudson and modern environmentalism. Beginning during the 1960s, this NE -US river was pointed out to be full of industrial filth and untreated human waste. Media of the day from New York Times to Sports Illustrated came together to resist new power plants, including pumped storage and nuclear power, and call for those plants sucking in fish eggs and fry with cooling water to be altered. We see that the first Earth Day (and the founding of Greenpeace) in 1970 were wildly popular among those who loved the scenic Hudson, wanted it cleaned and providing a good natural environment, and did not want its valley drowned below yet another power-producing reservoir.
I enjoyed the photos, some showing power plants, while people and water sports also feature. Particularly nice was ‘daylighting’ the culverted Saw Mill River at downtown Yonkers. Suddenly downtown had a linear park with a river walk.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised a farm animal humanely, preserved big cat habitat and helped protect the Madagascar rainforest, among other works. All at

17th June 2018
Last week we were away checking out locations, including Laugharne Castle. This handsome castle ruin in Wales once watched over the Taf estuary, Laugharne harbour and village. The Norman stronghold, then was made into a gracious Tudor mansion during the Middle Ages, which is why there are large windows. The view is certainly worth seeing.

The refurbishment includes wheelchair access to the site and shop - though surfaces around the grounds are not smooth, and there are several flights of stairs in the castle. A weighty helmet can be handled and worn, various games such as quoits and noughts and crosses can be played on the lawn, and Guide Dogs are welcome. The park is a lovely place to sit with benches, box hedges and handsome mature trees. There is no café but you can indulge in some locally made ice-cream. Summer here will feature medieval fun days.

This week’s horse book is Home to Pebble Creek by Vannetta Chapman ASIN: B00ET7Q4OG. This is a nice light short story romance. I like that we see a little of the importance of horses to the Amish way of life. A young woman who teaches an Amish school is annoyed when the young man who left abruptly over a year ago, returns and expects her to carry on being his girlfriend as though he’d never left.

This week’s nature book is Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver ASIN: B07465HNVP
Mushrooms and toxic fungi are to the forefront, but don’t forget most fungi grow in wooded areas, so the redwood forest is also a feature of this book.
I enjoyed the nature settings and the food ideas, as well as the lively variety of characters and interests. I hadn’t read any earlier books in the series and found it simple to pick up the threads. The main sleuth is running her B&B in a small California town which is about to hold a mushroom festival. She is joined in investigation by a friend who is from the local Native tribe, when a reporter is found shot dead on tribal land. We see some historical background and meet a truffle-hunting dog and pig.

This fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, rescued a turtle hatchling, helped protect the Madagascar rainforest and more

3rd June 2018
This week I recommend a visit to Bloom. Located in the Phoenix Park, this is Ireland’s premier garden festival with awards presented to excellent gardens in categories such as sizes and purposes. A popular winner this year involved seafood and boats, as gardens now represent many aspects of our lives. This display covers a large area so wheelchairs can be booked in advance. Disability spaces are provided in each car park and the officials will be ready to give assistance. Bloom encourages use of public transport, especially train and tram.
Guide dogs are allowed and the water bottle refill stations around the grounds come in useful for filling a dog bowl too. First aid and baby change spots are available. I particularly like the plant creche, where any plants purchased can be left safely to be collected when you leave.
As ever, garden designers have tried to make gardens accessible, and senior friendly gardens feature. The Dementia Friendly Garden is a collaboration between a landscape garden company (Newtown Saunders Ltd), a university research centre (TrinityHaus) and a dementia training organisation (Sonas apc). They emphasise flowers grown in gardens of the past, such as lavender and lupins, with raised beds, scent and colour blocks to bring back memories and aid navigation.
Image courtesy of Irish Times.

This week’s horse book is Crazy Like a Fox by Rita Mae Brown ISBN: 9780399178344.
I enjoyed this tale of American foxhunting, in which, unlike the original variety, the fox is allowed to run to ground and is left in peace. If you have not read the previous books in this series there may well be too many characters, as horses, dogs and cats chat merrily. This tale unites them in a puzzle over a ghostly huntsman, who apparently romanced most of the ladies in the district decades ago before his presumed murder, which was never resolved.

This week’s environment book is No Word for Wilderness by Roger Thompson ISBN: 9781618220561.
This outsider’s overview of Italy’s brown bears is not easy to read, because of the frequent descriptions of mauled and dead animals, assassination attempts, animals tortured by Mafia as threat demonstration, and so on. As human habitation encroaches further on wild zones, large animals are squeezed.
Starting with the descriptions of Italy’s two resident populations, one on the spine of Italy’s mountains the native bear, and one in the Alps a transplanted Slovenian bear, we’re swiftly off to Germany via the Austrian Alps. Here a she-bear had discovered easy living in human rubbish and rabbit cages, and showed her two cubs the good life. They copied her of course and one in particular became a threat to any random house or livestock. This was in 2006 during a football World Cup in Germany.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, saved a turtle hatchling and protected the rainforest of Madagascar, among other good works at

27th May 2018
Last week we were away researching locations. I’m pleased to recommend The Donkey Sanctuary in County Cork. Over a hundred donkeys were happily grazing on the farm when we visited on a beautiful sunny day - during the wet days they tend to stay in shelter. This is just one of four locations for the Sanctuary in Ireland, which is linked with the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon. Ill-treated or neglected donkeys can find a safe home, and pairs of donkeys are available for adoption to suitable homes. The Sanctuary also runs free courses in donkey care.
The carpark is marked out with spaces for disability parking. Around the centre is level or fitted with ramps and hand rails. Presently there is no café but we availed of a coffee machine and snacks. Some donkeys are always ready to greet visitors, but to get the best out of the trip you need to walk up a grassy slope and steps. The donkeys pulling and munching grass, coming to the fences to be stroked, braying and rolling, with beautiful green field backdrops and birds singing, are a relaxing spectacle. Plenty of benches are provided and some were dedicated by donkey lovers. This is ideal for someone with a visual or hearing impairment; also, folks with learning disabilities tend to love donkeys.

This week’s horse book is False Start by John Francome ISBN: 9780747252900
This is a lively tale of two good friends, jockeys in a racing yard who want to establish their own training yard. Both of them fancy an animal rescue centre worker, who brings them an injured young filly. However this is a time of recession and Lloyds have enticed outsiders to invest knowing, so the book claims, that investments are shortly going to collapse and the older investors would be saved by having taken out their money. Little money remains for buying racehorses and paying for their training. Debts, deaths and criminality ensue. Francome is a former jockey.

This week’s environment book is What’s Really Happening to Our Planet? by Tony Juniper ISBN: 9780241240427.
This is a book of statistics and charts. Each double page spread shows a new aspect of life on our planet and how humans have been altering circumstances. From the simple two colour bars of the ratio of early humans to wildlife, 98% wildlife and 2% hunters, alongside today’s stark bars of 98% humans plus their livestock and 2% wildlife (birds included) to more complex matters like GDP, food exports and literacy per nation, we get a good overall look at the world.
A very few photos were included, tiny ones of a tiger or other nature. However, this whole book will make an impact on the reader, likely quite a depressing one. The final section, and occasional hints as we go, suggests what we can do to improve matters. HRH Prince Charles has written a foreword which lends extra gravitas to a Doring Kindersley book.

This fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted two trees, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard so she can have her own bank account, supported Amnesty International’s work for women, fed primates and helped save the rainforests.

13th April 2018
This week instead of a place to visit I am describing a visit by Ireland’s Minister for Disabilities to the United Nations building in New York. During March, Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. As a result, Finian McGrath TD took the ratified (signed and agreed) document along to present to the UN and its Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.
“Today marks a key moment, not only for people living with a disability, but also for their families, friends and support networks and for Irish society generally,” he announced. Mr McGrath is an Independent member of the Irish Government who has been active as a local representative for north Dublin for many years.
He paid tribute to the various disability stakeholder groups who have been instrumental in getting to the point of ratification. “Ratification of the Convention was a key commitment in the Programme for Government and has been one of the highest of priorities for me since becoming Minister. I am very pleased to now be able to deliver on that commitment. It rebalances the right of people with disabilities to make decisions for themselves, rather than have decisions made for them.
“I can now focus on using the Convention to better equip and resource people with disabilities to improve their quality of life. Ratification does not mean that work stops here. I know that there are many families and individuals in the disability community nationwide who struggle daily and live very challenging lives. I am committed to you and we will proceed to progress necessary legislation for your benefit. To this end, I have the full backing of An Taoiseach and all my Cabinet colleagues.”

This week’s horse book is Must Love Horses by Vicki Tharp ISBN: 9781516104512.
This is a gritty and dramatic modern Wyoming western. Horses feature largely as you can guess by the title. I wasn’t keen on the way that all the women have masculine names like Mac and Sydney. This makes it harder for the readers to keep characters sorted out in their heads.
Unpleasant crime figures are using the back roads on the ranch and like all ranches it runs on barely sufficient staff, so tension mounts. A young woman has come to help break and train horses - mustangs adopted from the BLM holding pens - and she has her own backstory which means she is not easily accepted. The rest of the cast all seem to be ex-military with one issue or another, from PTSD to a missing limb. This makes for an interesting mix and varied skillsets.

This week’s nature book is Best-Laid Plants by Marty Wingate ISBN: 9781101968079. Excellent gardening mystery about restoring an old classic garden in the Cotswolds. The American garden designer Pru has married an English police officer and they stay in a B&B near the big house. Thus they meet villagers, eat local foods and are on hand for the discovery of a body.
The mystery is a traditional one with a cast of colourful suspects, but most of us will be reading for the garden design and descriptions which make the story come to life in glorious colour.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, saved a baby turtle, aided breast cancer research and supported Amnesty International. All for no cost at

6th May 2018
This week I commend a school in Baldoyle called Pobalscoil Neasain which has involved students in a community project. They have created an environmentally friendly and sensory garden. This area has re-used and recycled materials, while the planned garden delights will be a relaxing space for students and suit visitors with different sensory and visual needs. Not only is the garden a credit to the workers, it has instilled an awareness of the ways we can make our public spaces more accessible and interesting for everyone.

This week’s horse book is Special Agent by Valerie Hansen ISBN: 9780373457106
A bomb exploding at a horse barn is the dramatic start to this tale of crime and redemption. (No horses are harmed.) The agent involved is an FBI profiler who, with his K9 partner, a Boxer dog, is trained in explosives detection. They meet the daughter of the owner of this premises at the scene, who claims she has fallen out with both her domineering father and her loser boyfriend. Someone was using the horse barn setting to distribute drugs. Now, who could it be?

This week’s environment book is Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity by Sandra Postel ISBN: 9781610917902
Amid many warnings about climate change, terrible weather patterns, droughts and floods, the author blesses us with first-hand accounts of seeing rivers restored to natural conditions, wetlands created to soak excess water, organic matter added to soils to retain moisture. Just to read the descriptions of a revitalised river and the natural life stirring within days, followed by full-on shrubs, trees, fishes and birds, is a balm to a soul.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, protected a turtle hatchling and helped save the rainforest of Madagascar.

29th April 2018
This week I suggest checking out the National Tennis Centre in Glasnevin. Blind Tennis or Visually Impaired Tennis can be found in progress here. The player will ask “ready?” before commencing and when the other player agrees, they send the ball across the court, jingling as it goes. The receiving player listens for the sound and connects with their racquet to send the ball back. Matches are arranged between varying degrees of visually impaired players, and those with the least vision play on smaller courts with tactile line markings. Ireland sent a squad to the International Blind Tennis Association’s World Games in Alicante in Spain.
Another group playing at Glasnevin is the Wheelchair Tennis group - a wheelchair player can play either another wheelchair player or an able bodied player. Two bounces of the ball are permitted for players in a wheelchair. This sport holds an annual Championships in Ireland and Tennis Ireland is a member of the International Wheelchair Tennis Association.

This week’s horse book is The Midnight Horse by Michelle Bates ISBN: 9780746024867.
Midnight is a black halfbred horse which is a very good honest competitor, and he deserves far better treatment than he gets in this story. I am sure he would actually have been sold for a lot of money to bring on a good young rider. But young Izzy schemes to end up in charge of him when his owner moves to Australia. Karen is already at Sandy Lane stables when Midnight arrives. Karen already rides the best stable horse, Feather, and is set for a one day event competition. But she’d rather ride the shiny new toy. Izzy wants to enter the same event to win Midnight’s livery money. Hence a rivalry develops.

This week’s nature book is Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker ISBN: 9780544558144.
A lively account of a birder’s Big Year. Plotting out his trip with care and offsetting carbon, Noah yet got scammed out of travel funds and made minimal or no contact with some guides he tried to depend on, proving that the more and better arrangements you make at the outset the safer.
I really enjoyed the meetings with bird scientists and observers, who sped Noah through birds plentiful or rare. Seeing birds in their wild environment, and the people who care about them or make a living from their upkeep, was fascinating.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and bottle fed a kitten as well as helping Oceana, Defenders of Wildlife and Carbon Fund.

22nd April 2018

Happy Earth Day!
This week I recommend time travel. Which is evidently possible, since I saw a lady in a painting dated 1876 reading from her solar powered Kindle. She was going on a voyage and wanted to make sure she had enough reading material. Word of warning; the past was not accessible, with many stairs, rickety gangplanks, steps up into carriages and no lifts.
The venue where I saw the exhibition of famine paintings including The Finishing Touch by James Brenan was, however, highly accessible. This is the Coach House Gallery at Dublin Castle. I saw a platform lift in use and the Irish famine experience was recreated by a storyteller over a series of filmed images, paintings and sculptures. Accessible restrooms and café are in the nearby Chester Beatty Library.

This week I recommend The Thirteenth Horse by Amanda Wills ASIN: B0731ZC75N.
A Percheron - a French draught breed - is the unusual choice of mount in this lively book about the ups and downs of a riding stable quadrille team. The other kids have their own ponies but a newcomer asks to ride the noble Cassius, a black Percheron turned out to grass. Cassius has a problem though - he’s blind in one eye. This means he will need very special handling and riding if he is not to spook or have accidents.

This week’s nature book is The Fruit Forager’s Companion by Sara Bir ISBN: 9781603587167.
This gorgeous culinary nature guide should find a place on the shelves or Kindles of anyone who enjoys cooking fruit. The author tells us how she walks and forages, mentally mapping out the locations of likely harvests and returning later to take advantage. Whether garden apple trees that are under-utilised, or wild berries (like the eponymous huckleberry of Huckleberry Finn) or pick your own raspberries, the fruit picker has the choice crop and it’s free or cheap.
Look forward to the luscious recipes in the book, like buckwheat huckleberry buckle, with colourful photos of preserves and pies to accompany the illustrations; and photos of the growing fruits in situ.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, raised a farm animal humanely and saved the Madagascar rainforest. All at

15th April 2018
This week I recommend a trip to the North Sea oil rigs. Well, nearly; the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen is as good as you’ll get. This museum covering topics from the early history of shipping to the latest developments in helipads and undersea drilling is a fascinating location. The silver granite building has wide glass frontage over the bustling harbour. The collection materials include shipbuilding, fishing boats and fast sailing ships. Most of the museum is accessible and Guide Dogs are welcome. A pdf of local parking for accessibility is on the website. The café and shop provide plenty of room for wheelchairs, and chairs are movable.

This week’s horse book is Minnie’s Pet Horse by Madeline Leslie ASIN: B0082PUT6A.
I’m delighted to have read this short book from the 1860s free on Kindle. Minnie is a girl in a well-off family and she is given a pony, which she loves and has fun with, but the majority of the book is composed of tales told to her about other horses.
Some are working horses, some are ponies, and some are war horses. A doctor’s horse, a farm horse, a cavalry officer’s horse, a trumpeter’s horse. And at the end we learn about the Arabian horse with several instances and descriptions of the breed.

This week’s nature book is Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana by Patti Wheeler, Keith Hemstreet ISBN: 9781608325856.

Twin fifteen year old boys visit Africa with their family and as a home-schooling project they keep journals. First they cross the Kalahari Desert in a small Cessna. The white rhino is endangered by poachers, but they see one at a waterhole, along with wildebeest, kudu and other creatures. The boys can’t believe how cold the desert gets at night and next morning visit the Bushmen in their village. But a close encounter with the mother of newborn rhino calves convinces them to treat animals with respect. While they travel with their parents they generally become separated from them in the wilderness and need to depend upon their own resources. Good photos of the scenes are included, from Bushmen to hyenas and an elephant.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, gave a woman a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account and helped feed rescued primates. All at

8th April 2018
This week I recommend a trip to the Royal Armoury in Leeds. This fascinating museum will keep you busy all day. With five floors and a stunning array of weaponry from all through the ages to see, I really enjoyed my visit and learned a great deal. Accessible parking spaces are available and all paths leading to the main door are step free. There is no entry fee. Wheelchairs are available to borrow. Galleries are accessible by lift which voices the floors, with a wheelchair-level set of buttons; and three floors have accessible restrooms. Assistance dogs are welcome. The galleries have window seats and folding seats. The gift shop and café have plenty of room to move with displays at different levels. Outdoors the Tiltyard, with limited wheelchair access, hosts weapons displays, horse events and battle re-enactments.

This week’s horse book is Diablo by Fallacious Rose ASIN: B075FW3FKF. This cheeky, fun Australian book shows what happens when a naughty pony pretends to be good until a nice girl buys him. Diablo decides to do what he wants, not co-operate and do nothing but eat and mock-fight other ponies. Kim who pestered her mum and mum’s new boyfriend, until she got the pony, now realises that she is on her own - almost.
As much as anything, the adventure shows the dynamics of a divorced family and new stepdad. Kim’s older brother is a right brat and bully. Somehow, in learning to train Diablo, the anti-hero pony who talks back, Kim also learns a bit about training older brothers.

This week’s nature book is Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson ISBN: 9781580897884.
I’m very impressed by this environment survival story, which contains copious detail of falconry. A young teen girl in North America comes of age through her ordeal when a family trip goes badly wrong. She has to leave her father who is injured and trapped in a car, with her little brother, and try to hike out for help. There is nobody for miles except a creepy teen boy hitchhiker and - somewhere in the sky - her snow-white gyrfalcon which escaped the crash.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, helped protect the rainforest of Madagascar and supported Amnesty International’s work to protect women, among other good works. All at

1st April 2018
This week I’m recommending a visit to Clarehall Shopping Centre, in northeast Dublin. With plenty of accessible parking and large lifts to everything from supermarket to driving licence applications, this centre makes wheelchair users feel welcome. The capacious Tesco store has a wheelchair-friendly policy, including trollies for wheelchair users, and the centre’s accessible restrooms are available. Added facilities vary from bottle banks to a large washing machine in the car park. Tesco also has a home delivery service for online shoppers, and buy online and collect for those who find this easier.
Seasonal treats are usually on offer, which vary from Santa’s visits to real pets to stroke, and recently the centre gave customers an Easter Egg each which had no plastic packaging, just card and foil.

This week’s horse book is The Long Ride Home by Rupert Isaacson ISBN: 9780670922284.
Rowan has autism and in an earlier book, briefly recapped, his dad Rupert learnt that Rowan liked riding the neighbour’s quiet mare. He took the lad to Mongolia to speak with horse herders and shamans. This book carries on as each year for three years the family took Rowan to shamans around the world. We get a look at the lives and environments of these tribal peoples, the most detailed being the Kalahari Bushmen. The others are Australian Aborigines and Navajos.
In between Rupert and his wife Kristin set up a camp for other autism families where the whole family can come and ride horses. This is great as siblings are not left out. Families can meet and swap advice.

This week’s nature book is The Birds at My Table by Darryl Jones ISBN: 9781501710780.
Over a million tons of seed are sold globally each year to feed wild birds, much of it grown in Africa and India, the author tells us. His own bird table is near Brisbane, Australia, but birds are fed in many countries. He explains that planting shrubs to provide sufficient nectar instead, just attracts a ggressive honey eating noisy miners, which chase off all smaller birds, much as magpies here in Ireland are a terror.
I enjoyed the urban ecology study the author carried out looking at native and introduced birds, and the attitudes humans took to them. Scientists were stunned by how many people fed birds. And when the author investigates the history and spread of such feeding he finds, 3,500 years ago, a Hindu text calls feeding wild birds a sacrifice which removes negative karma.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, rescued a baby turtle and raised a farm animal humanely.

25th March 2018
This week I noticed an article in the Irish Independent about Social Farming in Kerry. Farming can be quite isolating and in a wonderful move, the participating farms get visitors to help with the animals. The visitors are adults with special needs who come along with a mentor from the St John Of God’s service in Killarney. The farm family, who are not paid, get company and a chat. The visitors have a great day out with friendly people and animals which creates employment too. The Kerry Social Farming Project comes under the auspices of the South Kerry Development Partnership and receives funding from the Department of Agriculture.

This week’s horse book is The Blind Pony by Jeanne Betancourt ISBN: 9780590866323.
This is a nice tale in a series called Pony Pals about girls in America who have their own ponies and enjoy trail riding. This time, the three girls meet a newcomer, Kim, whose lovely pony turns out to be blind. As the pony lost his sight gradually, Kim’s parents don’t know yet, but they are so keen for her to compete that she’s afraid of what they’ll say when they find out the pony can’t jump or do much trail work.
I like that the girls try to be good friends and come up with good ideas to help Kim and the pony. The nice sketches show us that Pam is African-American; while another girl Anna has dyslexia so she is better at drawing than writing.
The Blind Pony

This week’s nature book is Aerial Geology by Mary Caperton Morton ISBN: 9781604697629
As a non-American I was fascinated to see all the different landscapes, and to see how much of the continent is unsuitable for farming. The photos start in the Alaskan volcanic region and work their way down south and over from west to east, then back up the east coast to the north.
Along with the spectacular scenery we get explanations of the processes involved in the formation of the rocks or erosions and an idea of the age of each visible feature from canyons to river meanders.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, helped to rescue a baby turtle and protected the Madagascar rainforest. All at

18th March 2018
St. Patrick’s Day greetings! This week we have lost Professor Stephen Hawking, who gave us all an example of how much people in wheelchairs are capable of doing. So I’m going to say that everywhere we saw this man appear was a place which is accessible, from Cambridge University to the set of The Big Bang Theory. But my favourite memory is of Hawking in space, enjoying zero gravity with the astronauts, so let’s keep that image thanks to NASA.

This week’s horse book is National Velvet by Enid Bagnold.
This is very dated now but was once obligatory reading for horse-mad girls, if only because there wasn’t a lot of other such books. Then Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Donald Crisp made the film.
Velvet Brown lives in a small English town with four sisters and a little brother, Donald. He’s a right pain and the older girls are all concerned about nail polish, hair dos and boyfriends. Velvet however wants a horse.
Velvet gets her wish when a half-broken piebald horse is sold to her cheaply. She names him The Pie and with the help of a wandering young stable worker who spots the horse’s potential she trains him up for steeplechasing. Her mother once swum the English Channel and was rewarded with gold sovereigns, which she now uses as a race entry fee for Velvet and The Pie in the Grand National.
National Velvet

This week’s environment book is Beyond Control by James F. Barnett ISBN: 9781496811134.
Geologists, hydrologists, engineers, geographers, cartographers and historians will be fascinated by this study of the history and oft-changing courses of the mighty Mississippi River. Four thousand years ago the river took a new course, and ever since it has been looping, meandering and avulsing with great affect upon the settlers enjoying the benefits of travel and rich sediment. If nothing else this account will show you that trade is the greatest unstoppable force on Earth.
Maps and charts are plentiful, helping me understand how the river joined the Red River, abandoned it and rejoined; the composition of soil and sediment made a difference as to where the river could easily break the banks and levees.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, supported Amnesty International, fed a rescued seal and helped Rainforest Trust to protect the rainforest of Madagascar. All for no cost at

11th March 2018
This week my roving reporter Miriam recommends getting out and playing friendly sport with beach volleyball. She tells me Volleyball Ireland puts on a sitting volleyball match, which can be played by anyone and is ideal for people with mobility difficulties, as the team-mates sit on the sand or floor to play. This is a popular Paralympic sport. A game of volleyball can also be played by deaf people, but Miriam says so far there have not been enough numbers coming forward to make up a league. People just need to be aware that sports are out there which they may enjoy, and be pro-active about participating.

This week’s horse book is Sea Horses: Guardian Of The Stone by Louise Cooper ISBN: 9780141314396.
A young girl arrives at a cottage in Cornwall and gets drawn into an eerie adventure. At times this tale reminded me of Elidor, with apparently explicable weather events perhaps caused by an outside force. Our heroine has to stay with her aunt for a year, and the aunt loves painting horses and the sea. She often paints pale horses with a blue tinge, and eventually tells the reason. However the real life ponies owned by the neighbours are far more interesting and provide a lot of the action. Some of the story could be scary for young readers, but the most scary thing is obvious; don’t take chances around the sea in stormy weather.
Guardian Of The Stone

This week’s environment book is Elsie Mae Has Something To Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh ISBN: 1492640220.
Summer in the Okefenokee Swamp is wonderful for young Elsie Mae, because she’s the only kid staying with her grandparents. She loves her brothers and sisters, but the family home is busy and noisy. This year, she thinks what she has to say is so important, she writes a letter to the White House in the hope that President Roosevelt will read it. In this adventure, a shipping company intends to build a canal through the swamp and a lumber company is cutting down trees, changing the natural environment forever.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and gave a woman a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account. These and other good deeds were free at

4th March 2018
This week I’m snowed in here in Dublin, so we are glad we are not travelling. For those who are, roving reporter Hannah Barham-Brown recommends the EurostarUK train which was a helpful service when she travelled with her wheelchair. I’m delighted to hear of such good service and I’m all in favour of telling others who may then be braver about embarking on a long journey. Hannah is a disability access campaigner and she tweets under the name @HannahPopsy.

This week’s horse book is West for the Black Hills by Peter Leavell ISBN: 9781941291085.
Set in Dakota Territory, just before the people achieve statehood, the tale follows Philip Anderson from childhood, when some Lakota find him beside his dead parents and burning wagon, to his notoriety as a reluctant but deadly accurate gunman. Philip keeps to himself and trains as a blacksmith, spending his money on purebred Arabian horses to raise and train for sale. But a lovely young woman called Anna arrives with her family and sparks a series of tragic events when both Philip and the bullying son of the banker want her hand.

This week’s environment book is The Dry Well by Sue Bridgwater ISBN: 9780995453623.
The land of Skorn has become parched, and the deserts have spread. Travellers become desperate to struggle across ever-wider distances between oases, while city dwellers mutter that the god has turned against them. Then the main temple well runs dry. The priests have been secretly filling it by night, hoping the god will show favour again and send rain; but when the secret can no longer be kept the despairing, thirsty citizens rebel on their way out of the death trap city.
Our guide is the gods-daughter Saranna, just a weary woman, looking for her lost son amid strangers. Human kindness never meant so much to her, and respect for women, seldom found in the tribal cultures, grants her a place among nomads. She tries to restore the balance of nature.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, helped Rainforest Trust protect the rainforest of Madagascar, and raised a farm animal humanely. All for no cost at

25th February 2018
This week’s horse book is Halt at X by Sally Ann Sims ISBN: 9780990957119.

This is a women’s fiction novel with elements of suspense and horses. The plot is well worked out and fleshed out with adult characters and motivations; there are two distinctly individual horses and a rescued bald eagle. When her marriage ends Lucinda throws herself into her work. She’s a fundraiser for a prestigious US business and biotech college. In Ireland and Britain, the concept of a person or company funding a university facility or professorship would equate with corruption.

I definitely enjoyed the horse details, which as the title ‘Halt At X’ would indicate, tend to dressage. Lucinda accepts the challenge of rescuing a mare just off the racetrack, which has been fed steroids - again, in Ireland and Britain, enough to get a trainer potentially banned for life. This happens in general training? However this good deed, while filling the void left by Lucinda’s husband’s departure, puts her in the proximity of a Don Juan horseman who is nonchalant about making enemies on the circuit.

This week’s nature book is Murder With Puffins by Donna Andrews ISBN: 9780312978860.
Meg, a working blacksmith, and her new boyfriend Michael head off for a romantic getaway at a family cottage on an island. As the weather worsens they discover that just about all the adult family members have come here as well to observe the nesting puffins. So little privacy and so much chaos, which is escalated by a murder. As the boats are unable to put out to sea again, the killer is trapped on the island too, which gives Meg a chance to work out who killed the unfortunate person and why.
Murder With Puffins

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal and helped protect the Madagascar rainforest. All at

18th February 2018.
This week I’m citing an article in the Irish Independent newspaper /news site, by Eileen Daly.
Not only is this article by a person in a wheelchair about her week interesting reading, it mentions some places where the writer likes to visit.

This week’s horse book is Ronan by Jason Donoghue ISBN: 1541341260.
This short book works well on three levels. First, we learn that parents should not give a child an untrained young pony. Second, we see an account of a historical period of great change leading to the formation of a Norman Ireland. Third, we explore the concepts of love, loss and loyalty, with survival the elusive desired outcome.
I admire the depth of research that has gone in to making the life of centuries ago seem everyday. So many times the history is written by the victors, the incoming conquerors, that it’s good to explore how it would feel to be one of a vanishing few.

This week’s nature book is The Tree by Chris Ward ASIN: B008XE8UKW.
This is a very short tale but full of thought.
What would Cornwall be like in a future with no trees?
A schoolchild is given a gift and a father works off-world.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit or nut tree in a village, saved a turtle hatchling, raised a farm animal humanely and more.

11th February 2018 This week I am crediting the National Basketball Arena. The IWA Wheelchair Basketball Final was held here recently and was covered in the Dublin People newspaper. The NBA’s website does not mention accessibility at all but we can take it that the standard facilities are provided. I also found on their gallery of events hosted, a wheelchair football type game with fitted chairs, ideal for those who are less able to move than the usual wheelchair basketball player.

This week’s horse book is The Horse Mistress: Book 1 by R.A. Steffan ASIN: B015RYTYGO.
Carivel is a young woman who is forced to pretend she is a man by the Bronze Age style culture which forbids women from handling horses. Since she arrived at this village and apprenticed to the Horse Master, though, the horses have thrived. Then an attack by night kills some of the villagers including the Horse Master. Can Carivel keep her secret and live up to her training? Be prepared for a multifaceted fantasy romance for adults. Mature scenes and strong language are presented in context.

This week’s nature book is The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare by Henry N. Ellacombe ISBN: 9780486813288.
How unusual to shelve a book as both literary and a nature guide. This thoroughly researched and charmingly illustrated book lists all the plants appearing in Shakespeare’s works, in alphabetical order. We see the lines in which they appear and the contexts are explained. Do the lines refer to a feast, a potion-shop, a forest, a garden, a beauty?
Aconite is a poison, apple edible fruit, aloes bitter; they all have a place. I like that trees are listed with what the timber was used for at the time, including aspen, one of the earliest trees of Britain and used to make arrows.
Botanists, herbalists, and literary lovers will relish the pages. I love the illustrations of what Will’s own cottage garden looked like, full of plants. We’re told that Chaucer was the only other to have really listed many English plants and uses, because other poets such as Milton referred to classical influences which involved more Mediterranean plants. Shakespeare did name Mediterranean plants of course, such as bay, and anything which was found and used at the time, like saffron, mace and dates from The Winter’s Tale.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, protected the Madagascar rainforest and raised a farm animal humanely.

4th February 2018 This week I attended a performance of Footloose the Musical at St Paul’s college, Raheny. I was delighted to find that inside the main door, my eye was immediately caught by a sign pointing the way to the first-aid box; while on the main corridor I saw an Automated Electric Defibrillator. The school clearly goes that extra mile to help pupils, staff, parents and the general public. The presentation of Footloose was fantastic too!

This week’s horse book is Diamond Spirit by Karen Wood
ISBN: 9781742373157.

I’m giving this one five stars for great setting realisation, with a caveat that not everyone will love it. Some fairly mature themes are handled, including serious accidents and death. A horse-mad girl in Australia has to overcome losing not only her beloved mare but, due to a fight, her best friend. I admire the way Jess gets to work with an old stockhorse and teaches herself a new style of riding, while trying to resolve a conflict.

This week’s environment book is Mythical River by Melissa L. Sevigny ISBN: 9781609383930.
Sevigny looks at the Colorado River basin - its past, its present and its uncertain future. Having seen this river myself as a tourist, stood on Hoover Dam and looked at Lake Mead and the HEP station, I have a good image of the situation. For those who have not, the book is replete with photos of everything from habitations to wild environments. Seeing the river however does not enable us to understand how it is that the Colorado does not now reach the sea for several months of most years.

I enjoyed the historical accounts of the river, its discovery and uses; I also very much enjoyed reading about women around the world who worked with newly dammed river systems and spoke up for wildlife as scientists.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, saved a turtle hatchling and helped to preserve the Madagascar rainforest.

28th January 2018

This week I’m giving credit to Morrison’s supermarket; I was in one of their stores in Cornwall and noticed that staff keep a couple of wheelchairs near the entrance for customers to borrow. This shows that it really doesn’t take an enormous change to express thoughtfulness, when a small change may make all the difference.

This week’s horse book is Ripples Through Time by Lincoln Cole ISBN: 9780692503980.
An elderly man Calvin has nursed his beloved wife Mellie until her death, and now is at a loss, his day empty. A neighbouring man calls to check on him and their conversation takes a turn back to the old days. Naturally a bereaved husband recollects how he first met his wife, helping to ease a mare through foaling. We also see the story from the girl’s point of view and successive instalments are taken up by other family voices. The times are hard and sulky racing can’t pay the bills. With young children to feed, Calvin is forced to turn aside from the life he loves and earn in other ways.

This week’s environment book is Walking Home From Mongolia by Rob Lilwall ISBN: 9781444745290.
This account of trekking through the Gobi Desert and freezing plains of Mongolia to the heartland of China and segments of Walls of various ages, then the tea plantations and terraced rice paddies, finishing in Hong Kong, is honest, thoughtful and full of wry observations. Rob and Leon were sponsored by firms and a TV documentary maker, to film the trek and send home footage for editing. They worked away with a camera and tripod, a Go-Pro bodycam and an iPhone. The lessons they learned while thinking they knew enough initially, made them all the more determined to get it right.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, helped a woman open her own bank account with a biometric smartcard and supported a seal sanctuary.

21st January 2018.
This week’s location has been recommended by my roving reporter Susan. I visited Hampton Court many years ago and I’m pleased to hear that it is now suitable for people with many differing requirements. Here you can see a splendid stately home with artefacts from Henry VIII and the famous maze, grapevine and gardens. Regularly changing themed exhibitions add interest, such as one about suffragettes.
The nearby station is step free; parking bays for disability badged cars are free. A carer may enter free with a person needing assistance (card required) and a registered Guide Dog or assistance dog is allowed.
Tours can be conducted with BSL, with a describer or with audioguides. Wheelchairs are available to borrow including powered chairs for the gardens, and visitors are advised to bring their own for lengthy tours as the historic buildings are not always easy to move around in a strange chair. A lift can allow access to the upstairs State Apartments and a video presentation takes viewers through any areas not easily accessible such as the Young Henry exhibition. Braille guides may be borrowed and the kitchens have replica artefacts which may be handled. The venue has an autism-friendly policy. There are cafés but bear in mind that during winter they close earlier than in summer.

This week’s horse book is Star the Surprise by Jenny Oldfield ISBN: 9780340727980.
This tale of young twin sisters is part of a series set in Yorkshire featuring all kinds of farm animals. Like most girls, these two love ponies and are delighted to get the chance to help with a newborn filly foal. Doing so however means spending more time with a new arrival in the area and less time with their firm friend. Will a friendship be broken? Can they come to terms with thinking the new arrival is snobby or bragging about her show pony? And are they really responsible enough to help bottle feed a valuable foal?
Star the Surprise

This week’s environment book is Saving Tarboo Creek by Scott Freeman ISBN: 9781604697940. The extended family of Professor Carl Leopold, who wrote ‘A Sand County Almanac’ about restoring eroded, denuded and exploited land for his family and nature, feature in this book. Tarboo Creek is in Washington State and once supported salmon, which left the small waterway when some of it was culverted, a straight drain was created and trees were felled. Buying a partially timber-harvested strip along the stream, the author and his family have worked to restore nature. Their tale includes planting trees and planting again, with the help of school parties, protecting said whips and saplings from mice, deer and even beavers.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling and protected the Madagascar rainforest.

14th January 2018
Last week we were away researching locations. As we went to Cornwall, full of historic landmarks, many premises were not easily accessible though measures had been taken where possible. Best was Bristol Airport which provides a nice modern approach to this part of the world. The staff take good care of wheelchair users and I saw a couple of spare wheelchairs left so that passengers could use them if the walk seemed a bit far. The airport also participates in the lanyard scheme whereby travellers with non-visible disabilities, from dementia to autism or heart conditions, can ask at the reception desk for a coloured lanyard to wear so staff members will know they may need extra help.
I particularly noted that from the time a passenger heads to Departures, they pass three Automated External Defibrillators. One is in the concourse at the bottom of the steps. Two are on the long walk to the plane gates, spaced out so that someone doesn’t have to run for more than a couple of minutes in getting one to where it is needed. Well done.

Also the following site provides the newest information and guide to Bristol Airport.

This week’s horse book is Dead On Course by Glenis Wilson ISBN: 9780727885449.
This thriller follows a jockey involved in more than racing. Britain is the setting. Rather more dead bodies are discovered by the same man than seems likely, but he has got himself mixed up with a few criminals in the previous book, which I had not read.
The characters are well drawn and distinctive, while fans of crime noir or Dick Francis’s early books will find themselves at home.

This week’s nature book is At The Edge of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier ISBN: 9780007350407.
This is a challenging read and doesn’t give women an easy life nor happiness. From a farm couple who despise each other in the Ohio black swamp country, visited only by Johnny Appleseed selling his apple seedlings, having a child a year whether they survive the swamp fevers or not, we move through a violent affray to the contrast of the California redwood groves.
The men are the major figures and trees the major theme. We see how hard and bad life was, so that an apple orchard could produce fruit for eating but cider is preferred by some, just as an escape from reality.

This fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted a tree, gave a woman a biometric smartcard and helped protect the rainforest of Madagascar. All at