Summer Swallows

Every summer I get the opportunity to get close to one or more of the many swallows that surround us here at ReesAcres. The birds fly into the house, usually via an open door and, try as they might, they can’t get out through the closed windows. Often they become tired and distressed in the attempt, poor things.

They are so small, fragile and beautiful when seen close up. Yet they will fly thousands of miles to winter somewhere warmer – who can blame them?

They make me look and feel clumsy.

Read a book! You’re too busy? All the more reason.

I know when life is getting to me, it’s when I stop reading (fiction especially) because “I don’t have time”. What I do have is time that I waste on apparently being busy, doing things that could be started, completed and given me time to read. That’s why this article resonated with me. 

It’s that moment when you sink into the seat on the train home from a stressful day at work, relieved to lose yourself in a Kate Atkinson bestsellerfor 20 minutes. It’s easing yourself under your duvet at bedtime, prising open Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, desperate to discover Sue Trinder’s fate. It’s those two minutes snatched with Jane Eyre while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. 

Reading a book is one of life’s biggest joys, but could it also be a way of coping with the difficult times in life, from bereavement to relationship problems? 

New research suggests that reading could be hugely beneficial for our mental health, with classic books written by authors such as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens being proven to help relieve depression and chronic pain. In a new study published by Oxford University Press, “challenging language” was found to send “rocket boosters” to our mind that can help boost our mental health….

Full article here

Dan Tuohy on his disillusionment

“Integrity and loyalty is a thing of the past, even a simple gesture of looking someone in the eye has gone.”

“As a professional you get paid well, the lifestyle is class, all the [nonsense] aside it really is a dream job, although I had grown sick and tired of the pre-season goalsetting of honesty and respect being brandished around only to be broken almost straight away by the same people preaching it” he said.

Dan Tuohy speaking about his retirement (from professional rugby). I wonder how many other people of his age feel the same as he does about their chosen careers?

Full article on BBC website.

In Praise of….Toastmasters

“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.”

I joined the fledgling West Cork Toastmasters in September 2014. I was determined to take my speaking more seriously. I was fed up of being an enthusiastic but ultimately unproductive presenter.

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

Toastmasters is an organisation that was founded in 1924 by Ralph Smedley, the first club being formed in Santa Ana, California. The concept has proved successful, there are currently 16,400 clubs with more than 352,000 members in 141 countries. Clubs meet regularly, my own club meets every Saturday morning, with structured meetings where members present prepared speeches, have an opportunity to speak off the cuff with impromptu “Table Topics”and finally evaluate fellow members’ speeches.

“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.

There is an organised structure of progress through both speeches and leadership roles. Competitions between clubs present the opportunity to compete at national and international level and also give an opportunity to observe some excellent speakers.

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”

The fact that I have had to think more about what I am saying, about the structure of my speeches and all aspects of speechcraft and presenting means that I have become a better, more organised and focussed presenter. It also means that I have joined a worldwide community of people dedicated to self improvement through speaking.

“A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool speaks because he has to say something.”

People come to Toastmasters for different reasons and as a newcomer to West Cork I have had the opportunity to meet new people and have made some great friends.

If you want to become a better speaker, look out your local Toastmasters club and give it a go.


Sunday Summary 200105

A collection of things that have entertained, informed or annoyed me over the past week or so.

1) Are at-home DNA tests worth the privacy risks?

I have got deeper into tracing my family tree over the past few years and whilst it would be “interesting” to know more, there aren’t that many unexplored or unexplained branches. Or so I think. That said I know someone who has recently found sisters they didn’t know they had and that’s a “win” in anyone’s language.

If you’re pondering it, read this from the people at ExpressVPN – HERE.

2) Quest for the perfect smile is putting Instagram generation at risk.

Coordinated by “tireless” Tony Kilkoyne, a letter signed by 1,000+ dentists. Daily Telegraph HERE.

3) New HPV saliva test may speed detection of mouth, throat cancers.

From the journal of Molecular Diagnostics via Dr. HERE

….and because it’s the new year and everybody is extolling the benefits of change, plus trying to sell you something that helps.

4) No more routine scaling and polishing on the NHS.

Finally another heartsink news item suggesting that everything you believe is wrong, because of its cost. Produced by a team called “RAINDROP” presumably named after a round of a new party game “fit the title to the acronym”.

Here’s the LINK via the good people at GDPUK


In praise of…ParkRun

Since 1981 my exercise of choice has been running. Until I was 24 I hated running anything longer than 400 metres – this included cross country, my introduction to which involved wading across the river Rhymney close to my school in Cardiff. Rugby training at university started with laps of the pitches or a run around the Town Moor  Only in my final year I realised that something had changed and I was overtaking most of the others during the final mile.

In 1981, after 30 odd months of hospital residencies, possibly the least healthy environments, I found myself working in general practice – a stressful shock to the system – plus living with my parents for 6 months, giving my mother an opportunity to feed me and the pounds began to pile on.

What to do? I took myself to a quiet, straight flat road close to my parent’s home, parked my dark green Triumph TR7 and set out on a “run”. After 200 yards or so I had to stop, clearly fitness had deserted me, or me it. There started the “hobby”. Every evening after work I parked up, chose a point that I could see, a tree, a gate or a telegraph pole and ran towards it, when I could achieve that non-stop I ran back to the car. Next time I upped the distance. Six months later I had moved to a house in Peterborough where the flatlands encouraged running and was managing 3 to 4 miles a few times a week. The solitude of living alone in a new town meant there was little to distract me and the habit became set. As winter came and went I was doing 6 miles, 4 times a week and had a place in the 1982 London Marathon. Unfortunately my first running injury meant that I had to withdraw and was never fit enough or lucky enough to get a place until the year 2000 when I ran London for the first time.

Running for me, organised runs excepted, half marathons and 10Ks, was a solitary exercise, non-competitive and above all a chance to unravel the mental spaghetti after a day’s work.

In 2013 we moved to rural West Cork which is very hilly and my running took on another dimension, more challenges and more injuries. Then a couple of years ago I read about “Park Run” that was free, took place every Saturday morning, seemed to be well organised and welcomed runners (and walkers) of all shapes, sizes and abilities. The next Saturday I turned up at Rineen in Castlehaven to join a welcoming collection of athletes. The course at Rineen is different from many Park Run courses it is run on forest trails and paths and apparently has one of the largest altitude differences in Ireland going from sea-level up hills and back again.

Unfortunately because of other commitments (of which more next week) I can’t run every week but I’m up past 50 odd runs and looking forward to reaching 100 this year.

My advice, go on give it a try, I guarantee you won’t be the fastest, or the slowest…and it’s Free for Everyone for Ever.

Here the website link


A Happy and civil New Year to you.

“Civility”: formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour or speech.

2019 was a year of change, so will 2020 be and 2021, 2022, 2023. I think you get the picture. Get used to it, there is little point resenting change. No matter who you are or where you are you have choices in response. Anyone who has read “Man’s search for meaning by Viktor Frankl” (and there is no better way to start your year) will be familiar with his experiences in concentration camps which led to his belief that you are always free to choose your attitude in any set of circumstances.

My blogging has been reduced and distracted this year because of one person’s criticism of something that I wrote and their persistent and personal attacks upon my integrity. Briefly, I wrote a blogpost following the death of Chuck Berry and told the story of how I had once seen him in concert – the post mentioned the date, the venue, the set list and an event which Chuck was famous for in the way that he conducted business.

The individual concerned contacted me, said that I had libelled and defamed them (they had been involved in organising the concert) and was seeking damages. I apologised for any mistakes, firstly edited the post and then when they persisted, took it down. Sadly this wasn’t sufficiently contrite for this individual and they persisted in making accusations. I blocked their emails but they were still able to contact me via the blog site.

Incidentally I stand by what I wrote but that is now academic, the complainant has consulted with his “learned friends” and there is no case for me to answer.

What upset me about this occurrence was the lack of civility with which the complainer behaved and how they decided that I was somehow driven by greed and malice. At all times I tried to show civility to them in the face of unpleasant personal accusations. There are many things wrong with the world in which we live but this event crystallised the lack of civility the definition of which is at the top of the post.

If anything, on reflection, this event has made me more determined to be civil, to be an ambassador of goodwill and to not be distracted from the work that I do, the life that I choose to live and the way that I live it.

So thank you Chuck for this reflection, and helping me come to a conclusion, may you Rest In Peace and Rock ever on.


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