15th December 2019
I had to miss a few weeks while busy with college assignments but during that time, the Dart light
rail announced that it was promoting the passenger use of JAM cards. These brightly coloured cards or phone apps
can be produced by a passenger who has a difficulty of some kind, such as autism, a learning disability
or Alzheimer's, to say that they need Just A Minute. This lets the rail staff know to give the passenger
more time and let them settle in to put together what they need to say.
Any help for passengers will increase the accessibility of public transport which has to be a great move.
This week's horse book is A Home for Teasel by Margi McAllister ISBN: 9781407131061.
This is a lovely book for responsible young readers. Gwen learns how to earn money, look after a pony,
do things to help others, carry out first aid, be sensible, and repay kindness.
Not many YA books will include an older person who has a stroke and requires care. This kind of lesson
can't be learnt early enough and rounds out the story over three generations.
This week's nature book is Sugar: The world corrupted, from slavery to obesity by James Walvin ISBN: 9781472138095.
This book about sugar is not really about sugar; it should be called, What we did with sugar. We get no
botanical description, no analysis of the soil types needed, light levels, root depths, pests, colours
of stems in different varieties, no pictures except on the book covers.
What the book does cover, admirably, is the movement of honey and sugar around the early trading world,
the sugar confectionery of the medieval world, the spread of the trappings of wealth down to the middle
market and the poor. The author just says people liked the taste, but sugar provides energy. Adding
energy to food and drink helped the poor disproportionately because they did most of the physical work.
Slavery features largely.
10th November 2019
This week I visited the Dublin Coroner's Court for my journalism assignment. I found that the entrance has
been modernised and doors automatically open by sliding to the sides, then a wheelchair platform lift has
been installed next to the set of steps. This makes the entrance easily accessible. Inside, the courtroom
is still in the traditional layout but a wheelchair could easily sit in front of the public benches. I saw
a sign indicating that a hearing loop was available.
While this is an old building the character has been retained and the changes are not immediately obvious.
This week's horse book is Loving Lindsey by Patricia Keelyn ASIN: B01FE74LLM.
Loving Lindsey is a traditional American western romance, set maybe in the 1970s - 80s. Near the Black Hills
a ranch is having its share of troubles all at once. The brother and sister running it can't agree, while
the neighbour ought to be a good friend but is accused of wanting to buy his family's land back from them.
Rustled and lost cattle, a beating, and a stolen truck; all combine to undercut the ranch's viability.
Horses are in daily use to work the cattle and cover the ground.
This week's nature book is North Pole: Nature and Culture by Michael Bravo ISBN: 9781789140088.
Hyperborea was a supposed continent at the North Pole. This book spends much time discussing the Pole Star,
what ancients thought about it, why it was reliable for navigation. Then the continent that might lie at
the north, and trigonometry.
We enter the twentieth century by page 170, with incredibly brave and underprepared sailors proving whether
or not there was open ocean, or any routes, north. Remember, the book isn't looking at the north-west passage.
27th October 2019
This week I'm giving credit to Argos UK for the announcement that all its stores will now facilitate
anyone presenting a ‘Can't Wait’. This card is used by people suffering with various irritable bowel
conditions to explain that they need to use the restroom urgently. Having a disease like Crohns or
Irritable Bowel Syndrome can have a far more disabling effect than it should, because suffers may be
embarrassed or worried about being out in public places with no ready bathroom access.
A discreet card can be presented to a member of Argos staff, who will be trained to make the staff
restroom available if there is no public one nearby. This understanding and dignified gesture will
brighten the lives of people with this invisible disability. Other stores also provide this help.
This week's horse book is Tabby's Big Year by Hollie Anne Marsh ASIN:
Tabby has family issues going on and she would rather ride her favourite pony than deal with the
complexities of people, like her Mum's new boyfriend and her sister who's not too close. At twelve,
this would seem like a lot to deal with all right. Nobody asks a twelve year old before they start a
relationship. Maybe this is why Tabby tries so hard to be responsible for her pony friends instead,
and takes on the issue of an injured mare who might be written off as useless. This is second in
the Sweetbriars series.
This week's environment book is Ireland, Our Island Home by Kevin Dwyer ISBN: 9781903464410.
This is a gorgeous aerial tour of the coastline of Ireland, compiled over a few years and produced in the
first decade of this millennium. I was already able to see some changes. Cities are over-represented of
course, because they are distinguishing features. The western islands also get several pages.
20th October 2019
This week we are drawing near to Hallowe'en and whether you celebrate a scary night or a harvest festival,
the pumpkin stand on this orchard farm seems just the ticket. A reader has kindly sent in the details and photos
of the welcoming farm. I am always glad of recommendations.
“Apple Jack's Orchards in Delano, Minnesota, has many fall family fun activities as well as apples and pumpkins.
The accessible parking is right in front of the main barn with the restaurant and seasonal gift shop. A wide paved
path is suitable for wheelchairs, and there are double doors for entry. Flexible seating is available inside and out.
“Being open only two months a year, it is a special event for our family. The bakery has apple pie, apple crisp,
apple bread, apple donuts . . . well, you get the idea. Every kind of apples and pumpkins are a delight to see,
and you might want to take some home. Cinderella pumpkins, anyone?
“This site is so popular and is on both sides of the street. A crossing guard helps families and school groups safely
cross over to the orchards.
“The animals may be fed. There are rides and activities for the children.“
This week's horse book is a slightly spooky tale for young readers. Stealaway by K.M. Peyton ISBN: 9780812627220.
A girl arrives with her mother to a Scots historic house, where a rich American is retiring to breed horses. They are
going to be employed to care for the horses. The atmospheric tale starts in winter with snow, and moves along as we
hear about past battles and blood feuds, the border reivers, and a valuable horse. An elderly mare called Rowan is
in the stable, along with the Fell ponies and a new Morgan stallion.
This week's environment book is The Dog Who Took Me Up a Mountain by Rick Crandall ISBN: 9780757322686.
Great tale about an author needing help through the recession and the tiny dog with a big heart who helped him.
Together they climbed several mountains over fourteen thousand feet in Colorado, while at home, the terrier's pups
were showing champions like their mum in her early life.
6th October 2019
This week I'm delighted that author
Gary L. Wilhelm
has recommended a favourite restaurant in Minnesota. Locations
there are generally accessible and have different features to help visitors with extra needs, like wheelchair
access restrooms or push-button automatic doors.
He and his wife Carolyn told me about the restaurant which is the Hubbell House. "It was begun in 1854 and used
to be a stage coach stop. I know that is not old by Ireland standards, but it is “old” for Minnesota.
The Mayo brothers have eaten there and have their signatures on the placemats, as have other famous people.
The decor is supposedly 1850's.”
This week's horse book is Abandoned by Angela Dorsey ASIN: B00810VP0A.
This scary and sometimes creepy YA story involves horses, dogs and other animals. Can a girl be brave and determined
enough to save her own life? Before we get that far, we've seen a possible stalker and a derelict property full of
past sadness. We've learnt something about Western trail riding and met a smart buckskin horse.
I think the tale would suit readers from nine upwards, especially girls.
This week's environment book is The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín ISBN: 9781338045611.
During the Iron Age, the ancestors of the Irish banished the Fae people, the Sidhe (pronounced Shee), to the Grey Land.
Now the Sidhe have returned to take revenge. They have cut Ireland's shores off from the world and every adolescent
will vanish for three minutes and four seconds, appearing in the volcanic land of slicegrass, spider trees, predators
and traps. The Sidhe will find and hunt them, and only one in ten survive the day they spend in that world.
Twin masteries shape this brilliantly written book. The folklore is half of it; the environment is the other half. The
Sidhe know they have lost the beauty of Ireland, her nature, fertility and clean waters. In the Grey Land, ecological
niches are occupied by beings that have adapted to mimic the carnivorous plants of bogland, buzzards and beasts of
burden. We learn to appreciate our home all the more.
29th September 2019
This week I would like to praise the Whitehall, Dublin, Scouts and the Whitehall Stroke Support group.
They have worked to create a garden open to the public, particularly intended for stroke survivors and
relatives of those who have died from strokes. The support group, which meets in the Scout Hall, is part
of the Irish Heart Foundation's Volunteer Stroke Scheme.
When someone has a stroke they often survive with a loss of function or co-ordination and this disabling
condition can last for a short time or much longer. Physical therapy is recommended, and survivors are
encouraged to be part of the community as they recover. They may need encouragement to return to their
previous activities or they may be better to take up new ones, and having friends around builds confidence
as they work through the process. The attractive garden with open space and flowers provides a place to
relax and chat. The group has also placed a memorial plaque in the gardens.
This week's horse book features a plucky mule, Junia, and is my choice for novel of the year. The Book
Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson ISBN: 9781492671527.
Troublesome Creek, Kentucky, in the hardscrabble 1940s is the setting for this social history tale, an
extraordinary accomplishment by Kim Michele Richardson. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is one of
those admirable, determined ladies who rode a horse or, in this case, a mule, up and down mountain
trails to deliver a library service to isolated homesteads. Miss Cussy Mary Carter is made even more
extraordinary by a fact which had me going straight to Google; her skin is blue.
Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children's Future by Lorna Gold ASIN: B07H4QJH82.
The author, whom I met while I was observing a Dublin climate change protest as a journalist, tells
us she loved nature as a child, and saw her mother work hard with very few resources after the loss
of her father. She grew up to work with other less fortunate people and took a PhD in the topics she
needed to work for Trocaire, a charity working in the developing world.
Yet Trocaire and other charities were all about encouraging local populations to get up and exploit
the natural resources around and under them, the author says, to take their place as wealthy nations
with lots of goods and use their mineral wealth. I've paraphrased. Only in 2007 did Trocaire carry
out an informal survey on whether the people their staff worked with were suffering from the effects
of climate change. The answer was yes.
22nd September 2019
This week I commend the National Ploughing Championships held in Carlow for helping with access issues.
An event with many thousands of people, held over an area of 200 acres could be problematic. Parking for
disability badge holders was provided in every carpark for free, and both wheelchairs and mobility scooters
were available for hire. While dogs were not generally allowed, Guide Dogs were welcome. The roads around
the Trade area on site were double tracks to allow for wheelchair movement.
According to the official form, “Disabled toilets are available in every toilet block and in every Disabled
Car Park. We also have Mobiloo units on site which have an electric hoist, adult-sized changing bench,
toilet and wash basin, catering for all our visitors needs.”
The weather was wonderful for the ploughing!
This week's environment book is Jilda's Ark by Verity Croker ISBN: 9781640806009.
Almost science fiction but maybe in a few years, this will be fact. A girl stays behind on board ship as she's not
well, and before her twin sister and mum can return, the cruise ship has been hijacked.
Once we learned about the plans for an increased number of people coming aboard, I intuited that climate refugees
would be in the mix, from an island suffering from sea level rise. That's how it turned out, and the detailed
account with all its sights, sounds and smells - and tragedy - kept me riveted.
15th September 2019
The gap between postings was caused by my staffing Worldcon at Dublin 2019, a fantastic event.
Now let's get back to normal. This week I am delighted that author
a place to swim in Maple Grove, Minnesota. She tells me:
“My preferred exercise is arthritis swim which is taught by a teacher who is trained by the National
Institute for Arthritis etc.
“The institute requires a trained teacher, accessible pool, and certain water temperatures. I have
participated since 1994 at several different pools.
The leisure pool has zero depth entry, disability dressing rooms, a lift, as it is downstairs in the community center,
and a ramp entrance for the lap pool.
The attached photos are from online for the community center.”
This week's horse book is You Can Lead a Horse to Murder by Tara Meyers ASIN: B079R79J75.
This lively story follows a newly qualified vet who inherits her mother's home, and buys the old vet
practice in the small town she left for college.
An early call out is to a seriously distressed horse,
which turns out to have a dead body concealed under the straw in its stable.
Amber, the vet, then runs the gauntlet of clients both angry and anxious, doubting police, peevish townsfolks
and someone mysteriously causing havoc in her life. She's gifted a rescue labradoodle and asked to ride
a horse in the town parade.
This week's nature book is 100 Great Wildlife Experiences: What to See and Where by James D Fair ISBN: 9781526723550.
Be it snorkelling with sharks, fossicking for fossils, birdwatching or damselfly or daffodil spotting,
there is something almost anyone can do. And they are all in Britain.
Go for it, support wildlife tourism and wildlife sanctuaries.
Another bird is the urban peregrine, in case anyone thinks these are all rural experiences.
Bring a camera.
25th August 2019
Last week we were busy helping to ensure the smooth running of the SF Worldcon in Dublin. I'm delighted to say
that just about everything ran well and attendees as well as staff enjoyed the occasion tremendously.
This week I recommend a cosy café we found in Kilkenny's Medieval Mile streets. The Fig Tree Café is near the new
museum in St Mary's Church. We noticed an accessible door on our visit, and seating reserved for seniors downstairs,
while reading glasses and large print menus were available. This thoughtful hospitality would make seniors feel
at home and appreciated, while younger clients would probably enjoy the view from the upstairs windows.
Needless to say the food was delicious, freshly made with local products. We'll visit the Fig Tree next time we are in Kilkenny.
This week's horse book is Headed For The Win by Rachael Eliker ASIN: B00LTD7EAG.
This is a young horse lover's dream book, showing both sides of the story, from the rider's and the horse's
points of view. The American teen rider undergoes a strange experience in which she switches places with her
Holsteiner mare and has to spend half the book learning how to control her legs, eat hay and compete in three day eventing.
The rider doesn't just come to understand her mount, she gets to know other horses and to understand and relate to a
well-off competitor. The cliché of the snobby, annoying rich girl is certainly present; but we get to see why she is not
the happiest rider in the school and our heroine becomes on better terms with this girl. I like that the vision of horses
is explored and the trust they must have in a rider is emphasised.
This week's nature book is The Rocking Book of Rocks by Florence Bullough ISBN: 9781786038739.
Anyone could learn from and enjoy this intro to geology. Kids will love it for the brightly coloured pages and
fascinating facts. From asteroids to volcanoes, sediments to dinosaurs, everyone can follow the tale of rocks.
We see which types are formed by pressure and which by sedimentation, which gemstones are rock in nature and which are biological.
4th August 2019
A delightful event occurred during July when the Forrest Little Golf Club in Swords, Co. Dublin
hosted the Irish Special Olympics golf team. According to Northside People newspaper, the
athletes were given coaching and encouragement before competitions were staged in chipping
and in putting. They all played the course, from three to nine or eighteen holes, with family
members and many members of the golf club who had turned out to support this wonderful and
inclusive day. These volunteers included the President and Lady President, and many other
officers and captains from the club. Well done to all concerned. I'm pleased that the sport
of golf is so accessible at this venue.
This week I recommend a Chestnut Hill series book, Racing Hearts by Lauren Brooke ISBN: 9781407108469.
This is a read for girls who like horses and would like to be at an expensive boarding school.
The American setting means there don't seem to be many rules, and the girls can phone home
every evening and go off shopping on weekends.
I like the numerous horses we meet; I don't like that the horses are worked on the flat and then,
especially at shows, expected to just jump large fences without practice jumps. That won't work
folks. The girls take on a lot of responsibility and work, and are encouraged to focus without
anyone being angry if they knock a fence. This sets a good example.
This week's nature book is A North So True by Serena Clarke ASIN: B01E76JVWA.
I enjoyed this atmospheric, well-written suspenseful tale. The romance is suitable for adults and
contains quite a bit of angst and deception, as we see various sides of several characters.
The main actors are a Public Relations lady and a wolf researcher, and the setting is wild Sweden.
A snowy, wintry, land, claustrophobic because people can't get far away from others and everyone knows everyone.
This week I offset two pounds of carbon, bought two women biometric smartcards to open bank accounts,
planted two fruit trees in African villages, rescued a baby turtle, fed a kitten, preserved the
rainforest and did other good works including supporting the Jane Goodall Foundation. Unfortunately
Care2 has now stopped providing the means to do this work, so I am looking for other sites.
28th July 2019
This week I recommend a visit to a new Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny, showing the history of the
city and its people, from early kings to William Marshall, onwards to the present. This museum is
housed in St. Mary's Church and makes great use of the restored building, with an added floor, a lift
and restrooms, all in the building.
Multimedia presentations around the site include a scanner you can touch to points on displays to hear
someone talk over headphones. Archaeologists tell the story of reconstructing finds or how skills were
used. Early tiled floor and burials are visible as part of the church fabric, and upstairs you'll find
an ornate mace and handwritten medieval records. There's also a section on High Crosses, where they
were located, how they are being copied and preserved. The entire museum is accessible, and the wheelchair
accessible restroom has a pull cord to the floor in case someone falls and needs help. There is no café,
as space is at a premium, but this is the middle of town, and the staff can happily point you to cafés.
This week's horse book is Bertie And The Tinman by Peter Lovesey ISBN: 9780892961962.
I read this as part of a re-released historical mystery three-book omnibus.
The Prince of Wales, Bertie, is jaunting around the country seemingly without many cares or attendants, and
resolves to find out whether the top jockey of the day shot himself. This jockey had ridden one of Bertie's
horses to victory. Amusing scenes occur in the midst of tragedy and seriousness, such as when Bertie,
dressed in black, is mistaken for a funeral home attendant. His manner is fussy and quite formal, as I
suppose it would have been, and he enjoys his food.
Bertie And The Tinman
This week's environment book is Birdsong After the Storm by Margi Prideaux ISBN: 9780648022503.
With looks at countries in Africa and Asia, as well as a starting point in Australia watching a massive
thunderstorm, this book searches out, condenses and reflects the current perilous situation with regard to
climate change and extinction.
With luck this short book will encourage readers to look further, read deeper and take more actions. I am
delighted that seasoned negotiator Margi Prideaux has written up her ideas and ideals, because we all have
to work together to win the battle against greenhouse gas pollution and climate change. Birdsong would be
a good work to quote so keep it to hand.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, gave a woman a biometric smartcard so she could open a bank account,
planted a fruit tree in an African village, bottle fed a kitten, helped save a green turtle hatchling, and more.
I have been doing this work through Care2.com but the site is now halting their carbon offsetting and donation
work so I shall have to look for other ways to help.
21st July 2019
This week I was pleased to learn that the supermarket chain Sainsburys is teaching its employees some
British Sign Language. The idea was suggested by a store staff member who had hearing impairment. Not
alone will 100 staff know enough sign language to ask if the customer has a store club card and can
find the goods they need, the customers are getting taught too. The trainers plan to give kids a fruit treat
for learning a few words in BSL.
I'm delighted that shopping is being made more accessible and as the population ages, the percentage
of customers likely to benefit will increase. This skill is something that staff can take away to the
life they lead outside work as well.
This week's horse book is Six-Month Horse by Tudor Robins ASIN: B07BLPZ725.
This is a prequel read to the fine Young Adult novel Appaloosa Summer. I don't recommend this method of
buying a horse, nor of preparing for your family's Thanksgiving dinner. The tale is very well written,
giving us time and entertainment with the characters who don't actually do much riding but manage to
think about horses a lot and spend time around several horse characters.
This week's nature book is Civic Revolution by Ric Casale ISBN: 9781789018608.
I found this book packed with facts and right up to date, but I could often have done with some illustrations,
both graphs and photos. A green city, a green vertical forest building twenty storeys high - what would
that look like? Looking at climate change, pollution of many kinds, and biodiversity loss, the author
takes us back and forth, through prehistory and history, from one continent to another, from Cape Town
As I am an urban tree surgeon I am in all in favour of planting city trees, for the reasons outlined here.
Trees are a major boon to any urban or suburban space but need informed management. Planting trees which
are appropriate for the location is the first step.
Many kinds of environmental information are presented in concise form, such as the dire concept that we
use about one and a half planet's worth of resources every year. We're also told of agreements, promises,
positive steps. The focus is mainly on city dwellers and how much goods and power they require, how much
water they need, how much waste they produce.
During the past week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised
a farm animal humanely, protected the rainforest of Madagascar and saved a leatherback turtle hatchling.
14th July 2019
This week we travelled to Kilkenny to investigate accessible venues. One very nice place is Billy's
Tea Shop in the village of Ballyhale. This is a co-operative venture started by the villagers and the
local Council, to provide employment and a social centre. Up to then, the village had been losing all
its retail outlets and pubs.
With locals in mind, the cottage venue was restored and made suitable for anyone needing an accessible
venue. One morning a week is given over to seniors who can meet and chat. The prices are very reasonable
as this is a not for profit venture. Baking is done on the spot and servings are hearty. We were lucky
enough to be recommended to visit Billy's on its first birthday and join in the festivities.
This week's horse book is Her Oklahoma Rancher by Brenda Minton ISBN: 9781335539229.
Hope, Oklahoma, is where Eve Vincent ran to hide. She's now paralyzed from the waist down, living on a
horse ranch called Mercy Ranch for wounded veterans.
Eve's ex-fiancé, Ethan Forester, finds her in town after four years of silence. He thought she broke
off the engagement because she wanted to stick with a military career. He didn't know about the wheelchair,
and Eve has been pushing all their former friends away.
This week's nature book is Love Bees by Vanessa Amaral-Rogers ISBN: 9781782406648
I love this guide to bees of all sorts, from honeybees to violet solitary bees, plasterers and papermakers.
Enjoy the lavishly illustrated pages, colourful and artistic. The process of pollination is simply
explained with other uses for bees, such as honey, following. We learn how hives work and how
solitary bees help us too.
During the past fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village,
protected the Madagascar rainforest and gave a woman a biometric smartcard to open her own bank
account. All at