Solstice, father’s day and community games. Whew!

The great thing about the summer solstice (4.20am this morning) is that it marks the longest day of the year.  Sunrise is 4.57 and sunset 21.57, with an extra 60 to 90 minutes of light at dawn and dusk as light spills over the horizon, daylight lasts for  19 hours or so.  Energy levels are raised by these long days.  We’ve had some of my favourite blooms over the past couple of months, like lilac and wisteria. You can hear it in nature as bird song is more than in winter. And you can see it in the hedgerows and lawns as growth is now beyond control.  And temperatures are still rising as they tend to lag day length by a month or so.  Enjoy your Midsummer celebrations.

In the garden calendar we’re nearing the end of the normal planting season and entering the harvest season.  In our patch we’ve planted most vegetables out and now hope that this summer is kinder than last.  This year things are already looking a bit better, but mostly because Tymandra is working in the garden for a few hours on weekdays.  She is a great help and even seems to enjoy it once she gets going.  I certainly appreciate having her help in maintaining the patch.

Today is Carlow community games finals in Ardattin.  Even though the day is off to a grey start it will be enjoyed by families from all over the county.  Children come to compete but everyone comes from the atmosphere – colour, exhibits, chips and ice-cream and of course friends.  It’s a great example of community spirit in today’s harsh world.  And maybe a great place to spend father’s day.

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The last couple of months has been hectic for us, largely because of work for PestalozziWorld.  The concert by Virginia Kerr at Castletown House was a more successful than we hoped.  As you can imagine it was a daunting task to encourage people to attend in these difficult economic times.  But, then on the night, we had a full house and even received donations from people that could not attend.  While opera is not my thing, I really enjoyed the evening – Virginia treated us to a superb repertoire which even impressed people that know what they are listening to.  The setting in Castletown House was unique – it was a bit like being in a movie or a dream – I don’t expect to get an opportunity like that ever again.  You can see some photos of the concert and reception here.  What we hadn’t really factored in was the after concert work – just simple records, bills and admin – which we are just now finishing.

There were so many people whose efforts and contribution made the evening a success.  Of course Virginia, who sang so sweetly and arranged the venue, is top of the list.  Thank you Virginia.  And thank you to the Equus Ensemble for supporting Virginia. Thanks also the sponsors and others who supported the evening so that all ticket sales can go to support the education of poor children in Africa and Asia: Dr Ken Whitaker, our honorary patron, Jonathan Irwin, our MC, Doug Poole, Lightning Print and Design, James Nolan, Harney Nolan, Ally Bunbury, Derek O’Brien, Coco Zen, Paula Sheridan Candle Designs, Larry Kinsella, Moth to a Flame, William and Emily Bunbury, Bunbury Boards, Urs Tobler, Vendemia Organic Wines, Oddbins, Willem and Anneke Savelkouls, Frank and Jane Hancock, John Feehan, Six Nations Rugby, Anna Kerr, Mary O’Connor, Curragh Racecourse, Amanda Webb, Feel Good Organic Hampers, Jojo Fennell, Anna Kerr, Leopardstown Racecourse, Mary-Ann O’Brien, Lily O’Briens Chocolates and Turtle Bunbury.  Thank you to Castletown House and Clare Hanley Catering for working with us to organise the evening.  And many thanks to all our guests who joined us on the evening and to donors who could not attend.

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At the end of May I went to Zambia for the PestalozziWorld Africa Alumni Reunion and a preselection trip.  I feel a bit spoiled travelling all that way and enjoying the hospitality of the local team, though they are very welcoming and encourage us to stay on.  This was my second trustees visit to the African base, the first being in Jan/Feb, and it provided another range of insight into the operations there.  The building of the scholarship village in Lusaka has moved on quickly completing phase 1 and well on the way to completing phase 2, so that plans for the international school are now being fleshed out.  The alumni reunion was great fun – I got to play football with the alumni :-).  And the preselection trip to Mayukwayukwa was a valuable perspective in to the communities from which children come – they are 2 to 4 years behind the education curriculum.  The trip to the refugee camp was easier this time round because it was dry, the end of the harvest season meant people had food, and the power was working.  I also was invited to play football with some locals – thanks Moses, I enjoyed that kick-about too!  The best way to get an insight is to browse some photos of the trip and work there – see the gallery here.  While I was in Africa for 10 days Pam was kept busy at home.  Fortunately, my Mum helped out.  Normally she would have been at the Reunion but she gave up her space so that I could get up the learning curve.  Everyone there from the village, to the UNHCR to the camp asked after her!  I’m not sure I’ll get away with a trip like that again!

Since returning, I feel a bit culture shocked.  Perhaps it’s the weather here – it was 25oC by midday in their winter.  Maybe it’s a 10 year itch.  Whatever it is it will pass soon.  And anyway next week the return of children from school for the summer holidays will distract me.

A couple of news items picked up might be of interest.  There is some useful info on Ireland here, which is a useful resource for friends visiting from abroad or children doing local research.  There is a change happening to EU fisheries law which is likely to reduce the waste of fish that are caught over quota and dumped back in the sea.  There is also pressure to change Irish tax law – as if we’re not deep enough in it.  And, my favourite, that the non-pandemic pandemic of swine flu meant that the prophecy came true.

Wishing the dads among you a fun family day. Enjoy the summer solstice here and, if you’re down under – take heart that spring is around the corner.

Tom