National Volunteering Week – May 14-21

National Volunteering Week – May 14-21

“We all know that volunteering benefits Irish society, but volunteering also has a powerful effect on the volunteer. We recently carried out a survey with 500 active volunteers, 98 per cent of respondents found that volunteering makes them a happier person.” Anna Lee, Chairperson of Volunteer Ireland, (originally published in

Volunteering makes us happy. Or perhaps less grumpy. Or maybe able to complain faster! Most parents will volunteer with their children’s hobbies and activities. Typically their children cannot attend leisure activities outside of formal schooling without some form of parental assistance and it becomes a necessity, whether it is coaching the Under 12s, making cakes for the fund raisers or becoming bona fide leaders in the Boy Scouts. It doesn’t mean the politics are any the less or that events run on time, but there is bonding between families and sharing with children.

Sometimes volunteering is only for a season. Perhaps your child grows out of their sport or someone else is voted in to a new committee. It does help to spread the load, although of course there are professional volunteering parents and leaders who will stay with the organisation regardless of their children’s presence or departure.

Sometimes we volunteer because the cause is dear to our heart, someone has suffered or been helped by an organisation or perhaps the leader is inspirational and awakens interest and support.

And then sometimes we volunteer because the event itself is fun. We may have no connection other than the desire to walk mountains in Spain, drive cattle in Montana or cycle across the length of Ireland to fulfil a bucket list.


I looked at my activities around the week of the National Volunteering Week and found I ticked the boxes in most areas.

First up, my friend Sean Melly was cycling from Mizen Head to Malin Head to complete his own personal bucket list. So as not to miss the opportunity to do good at the same time, he decided to support his chosen charity, the Irish Hospice Foundation, along the way. To date he has raised more than €6000 for this cause and nearly killed himself in the attempt. I spoke with him every night and wrote his blog and listened to a human being being pushed to the edge of his physical and mental energies. Next time, he is doing it on a Harley!

He returned on the Friday night and I set off the following night on my own personal walk, joining the Pieta House Darkness into Light walk. This had been prompted by my having the every great honour to sit in on a filmed interview with the founder, Joan Freeman back in January. She is an amazing woman and totally inspirational. In that interview I learnt a terrible truth, that many of our suicides are opportunistic and therefore avoidable. If we can listen out for the words of despair we may be able to hear the tell tale warning phrases and help that person. The single biggest task facing someone who is looking into the abyss of suicide is to convince them that ‘this too will pass.’ Be it heart break, loss or financial destitution, it will pass and the world will be a better place with them in it, and not gone from the earth.

I walked in Tinahely with a large number of local friends and neighbours, about 100 in total. The morning at 4am was bitterly cold but dry and as we walked our brisk 5km the sun came up. Blue skies all the way, it could not be more beautiful and full of hope.

There is still time to donate to help me to my modest target of €250 if you have a few spare euro

Later that day a small group of local writers and I celebrated the launch of our book, a collection of short stories and poetry. We were graced by the presence of the Minister for the Arts and a large gathering of our family and friends. This was not volunteering of course but great fun.

On Sunday, I then joined the local Riding club for our Show Jumping Competition and Puissance. I am on the committee and while not riding currently for matters of financial austerity, I still enjoy working as part of team to make sure the day runs smoothly. I was in charge of making some sandwiches, selling raffle tickets and picking up the odd pole. Not terribly stressful and very enjoyable. My two children, teenagers and keen horsewomen, also helped out on the day. I watched, sun on back, exhausted, and happy to be there.

Then yesterday, to round off my week of volunteerism, I attended a photoshoot organised by entrepreneur George Nursey who is shooting 100 people to pose for a portrait to include on a poster of 100 faces. It will be sold to raise funds for CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young). I am not saying what age I am, but I think it will become obvious when the poster is finished. He is still looking for some ages:


So please contact him on if you might be able to provide the right aged face!

Finally, on Monday night I attended choir. I am not sure if this falls into volunteerism or not but it certainly makes me happy. Singing releases endorphins, or happy drugs, and we are a very jolly bunch. We shall also be singing in the NCH in October with Paddy Cole so we had better practice lots more.

What a good week. Do I feel good? Yes siree… if a little tired!




Short Stories and Long Lies launched by Minister for the Arts



Minister Jimmy Deenihan launches Book in Tinahely


Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, TD, was in Tinahely on Saturday May 12, 2012 to launch a collection of short stories and poetry by a local writing group. Called Short Stories and Long lies, the book was written by five local writers; Alison McGuire, Tara Quirke, Thomas Clare, Robert Duffy and Jillian Godsil. The launch was held in the Riverside Business Centre, Tinahely.

Minister Deenihan launched the book and said: “Tinahley is renowned as a centre for culture and artistic activity and it is great to see new and existing authors coming together to publish lively collections such this one. The village already boasts a thriving arts centre and here at Riverside Art Gallery we have another great venue promoting the arts.

“Creative writing can be a lonely pursuit and the presence of a writing group can be very supportive. I would like to congratulate all five authors on their work and ultimate production of this interesting book.”

The launch was held in the new Art Gallery. Entertainment was provided by three young harpists, local sisters Miriam and Bernadette Lambert along with their first cousin Brid Lambert. Refreshments were provided by D’Lish Café also in the same building and wines by local grocers Walkers in nearing Shillelagh and Candys from Carnew.

The book may be purchased online for €10 at

Or by contacting Write up in Wicklow People Click here for the video Write up in Carlow Nationalist

See You at the Pictures

Yesterday I was invited by Planet Korda to come share my filmic experiences for a documentary called ‘See you at the Pictures’. I had seen the tweet calling for people to be featured and had wracked my brains to think of any interesting anecdotes to tell. I love films, proper ones, but go much less frequently than I might. Living in the country contributes to this, although when I lived in Raheengraney House we had our own home cinema in the basement. The big screen in the low ceiling room with huge speakers and sub woofers and other pieces of canine sounding technology quite beyond me, created a pretty amazing cinematic experience. The large, old and tatty grey elephant leather sofas made for comfortable reclining and of course since we were at home all manner of refreshments were on hand.

Since quitting Raheengraney, I have been forced to attend the real McCoy to see films. My children often watch films online but since our taste in films is quite different, this is not a natural combination. I don’t really like romcom (especially bad romcom of which there is a lot), actively dislike slasher films, and those superhero remakes leave me quite unmoved.

Anyway, back to the question posed by the Tweet. It wanted to know about film experiences. I tried to think of any that would bear telling or retelling. It is one thing to critique a film, quite another to share the experience of the film itself. I put the question to one side and continuing working. Later, as I prepared to finish for the evening, I suddenly remembered The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Aha, now that was definitely worth sharing and I dashed off a reply to that effect.

A month later I got an email from a researcher asking if I would be filmed for the documentary. ‘Lovely,’ I said. ‘Great,’ I said. ‘Sugar,’ I said. ‘I’d better go back and view the film,’ I said.

In the thirty years since I had last seen the film, as I had only ever seen it once, while the world and I had changed massively, the film had not. What was interesting was that so much of it resided in my memory. How many films can be watched once and remain so vividly in the grey matter?  It was also interesting to compare the world, the film and I and see which had aged the best. In short: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Even with its clumsy parody, coquettish acting and aping story lines, it has an energy that defies its age. Every dance number kicks up its heels and pounds out a thumping lively beat and has the film goer at home itching to dance as much as the audience participating at the venues.

I watched the film and felt modern parallels. I wondered if in years to come we would remember as fondly doing the shuffle as the time warp. LMFAO is sure that everyone is shuffling but maybe it will take a film to etch that particular dance onto the retina of a shared communal memory.

So armed with the film refreshed in my brain once more, I ventured to the Irish Film Institute to meet the director and participate in the filming. I arrived just on time, having wrenched myself from an earlier overlong meeting, and skidding in to the IFI with moments to spare. That is, until I met the researcher only to be told the filming was an hour behind schedule. Blast. I had brought no note pad or book. The battery on my iphone was low. It was raining out and I had no umbrella. Well, drizzling, but I didn’t want to be filmed looking like a wet bedraggled thing.

I had a coffee and planned my next hour. You have to understand I don’t often get free periods. My days overlap at an alarming rate and still never complete on time. Finally I decided to buy a book. Actually I wanted to buy a book of poetry for a course I am attending at the end of the month by Irish Poet Dave Lordan. Problem solved. I pulled up the lapels of my leather coat and sticking close to the edges of the buildings made my way to the Oxford second hand bookshop nearby.

Of course the poetry book was not there, so I looked at the fiction section. Nothing really caught my eye although I did note that I had read and indeed owned quite a number of the books on display. This was obviously a book shop that catered for my tastes. Then I spotted it. A book by Caroline Grace-Cassidy called When Love Takes Over.   Wow. I had met Caroline recently and we had hit it off really well in February. I had so meant to buy her book. Great. I went to pay for it but the woman on the till asked me where I had got it from. I pointed back to the missing space. ‘Oh, you can get two for a tenner,’ she said, ‘or one, but two is better.’ Two is indeed better and so I retraced my steps and then spotted on a connecting shelf The Holy Thief by William Ryan. William is a good friend from college, although I haven’t seen him in years, and I had also promised to buy his book. Double wow. Of course I must now apologise to both Caroline and William as I am not sure what royalties if any revert to them from second hand book stores. None I suspect but I will read and eulogise enthusiastically once consumed. I promise.

So coincidenced, I returned to the IFI intending to begin reading, while at the same time undecided which one to begin, but I was met by the researcher to say things were back on track and could I come now and be filmed. ‘Yes,’ I said worried superficially if my hair had suffered from the light Dublin rain. I gabbled on about my book coincidences while wondering out loud at the same time if age alone means that friends will get into print. If I live long enough on this planet maybe I will know a rake of published authors. It is a nice thought, especially if the same aging process will allow me to join their number.

I met the director, Jeremiah, who said, ‘Columba’. I thought it was a memory test and quickly retorted ‘Magenta’, another of the supporting female characters in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And then it transpired he wanted to know if that had been the character I’d dressed up as when acting in the audience. Oh, my bubble burst for I had not been one of the intrepid and dedicated people that donned costume each week to act at the showing. I had only viewed the film once as a young seventeen year old. It had made its mark, but I had not returned the favour.

The term ‘ending up on the cutting floor’ is very evocative and I suspect my ramblings will do just that, but I have two fine books in my possession that a frantic life had so far impeded me from buying. And so while my filmic experience may be of limited interest, I hope my future readings will prove the opposite.

See You at the Pictures!