Travel Sparkles ✨

An Irish Road Trip – Knock

November 2021 I was lucky enough to visit Ireland for a week. I was supposed to go for Easter 2020 but with the lockdowns there wasn’t any travel at all. Since then I have been checking various rules and restrictions both in the UK and Ireland and I was able to plan my trip just before additional restrictions were imposed due to the Omicron mutation of Covid. This was the first time I had ever undertaken a road trip and the first time I had done anything like this alone. I was excited and scared. My mantra was ‘You’re a strong, independent woman, you can do this’. After all, it was Ireland I was going to, it’s almost like home plus, I am blessed with cousins the length and breath of Ireland should I get into any dramas, I would have someone to call on.

Up and Away

My first night was spent in Ashbourne, County Meath and the following day I made the journey across Ireland to a tiny and internationally known village named Knock, in County Mayo.

Knock is famous due to the appearance of Our Lady in 1879, you can read all about this story and the shrine here https://www.knockshrine.ie/ Growing up, the Summer holidays were always taken in Ireland so that my parents could visit their parents and families. Mom’s family were located in the West of Ireland, around County Galway, County Mayo and County Roscommon and therefore whilst we were there, there was always a day out at Knock. As a child I always found this boring because of course I wanted to be out playing or running around on the beach or the farm. I remember returning to school in September and we would all be saying to each other ‘Did you have to go to Knock’?

Knock became very special to my parents when their health declined and they couldn’t go out to Mass. They would watch Mass daily at 3pm online and I would join them for Mass on Sunday. I often thought to myself when watching the Mass online what I wouldn’t give to be in Knock right at that moment with them and how much they would love to have been there. After they passed away I knew in my heart that I needed to go to Knock and therefore as soon as I could get to Ireland, the visit to Knock was my main agenda.

I felt many emotions being in Knock. I was so happy to be there at last, emotional at the memories of past visits with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Sad that I didn’t have my parents with me yet at peace that I was there. There is something about Knock Shrine, the stillness, the quietness, the air of peace and tranquillity that makes an impact on you. I needed to experience this healing and I needed to experience it alone, to have the freedom to spend hours looking around, to having a cappuccino to just doing things in my time without having to worry about anyone else.

Chapel of Reconciliation

Knock Shrine has changed a lot since I used to visit with my parents. As you will see from the website, Knock has a lot to offer from youth centres to counselling, retreats to concerts, walks in the grounds and a visit to the museum. Although I was there for three days I didn’t actually get to the museum, that’s for next time. I did however visit the newly created Chapel of Reconciliation. Absolutely beautiful in there, calming, serene and still. Whilst I was there I decided to go to confession and ended up having over an hour in conversation with a lovely, elderly priest. I told him my story of looking after Mom and Dad and how I was now starting on another phase of life. He asked me if I had ever thought of writing a book, he felt my experiences of working, becoming a full time carer, the feelings when the caregiver journey ended and rebuilding life, could be invaluable to others in a similar position. I told him that I have this blog and also about my music, perhaps I could reach people via these mediums? Maybe the motivational posts on my social media could help? All I know is that I came out of that conversation feeling like a weight had been lifted from my soul. I felt a sparkle of excitement for the future and also a knowing that you can’t wait to do things. We don’t know how long we have here so we have to make the most of everyday. That conversation made me feel inspired, gave me confidence to be me and just go out there and do what I feel I need to do. To be me, to believe in myself and what I can give, or share with others.

Photo by Italo Melo on Pexels.com

I do have more to tell about my trip to Ireland but I felt that my visit to Knock Shrine needed a post of it’s own. The visit meant so much to me and did so much for me, I couldn’t have covered it within a few sentences within a travel blog. I hope I’ve given you a sense of the beauty of Knock and whether you are of faith or not, I think everyone who visits this place leaves with a sense of peace and tranquillity.

With love and sparkles xxx

Life Sparkles ✨

Gardening is good for you – who knew?

I’ve never really been a gardener. My parents loved their garden, if they weren’t out there gardening they were sitting back with a cup of tea reading a large, old, gardening book held together at the seams by masking tape. Looking for various plants, bushes or trees to plant. During the last four years of their lives, they didn’t really bother with the garden at all. Sadly they weren’t able to and neither was I as I was looking after them.

This year of course we have had lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the UK, from the 23rd March when our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced lockdown, the weather was incredible. Warm and sunny, day after day after day. After a very dark, wet Winter this sudden early Summer was amazing. At the time, we were allowed out once a day for exercise. The weather was just too good for me to stay indoors and I am so lucky to have the garden. So I located Mom and Dad’s gardening tools and I got myself out there.

I didn’t know where to start or really what to do, so I just went for it. The plant borders once full of colourful plants were now covered in thick grass and weeds. Trees and bushes had taken over corners of the garden. I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I decided that hopefully I wouldn’t kill anything. It was much harder work than I imagined. Clearing the smallest area of thick grass took almost nine hours (not nine hours all at once you understand). I ached so much yet I was so happy with my achievements. I cut roses back, trees back, pulled up weeds and what I thought were weeds. I’m sure Mom and Dad must have been looking down in total shock that their daughter was not only in the garden, but gardening. I hope they are happy with progress so far.

From a grassy and weed filled border to weed free with roses and Dahlia’s blooming.

This bush blooms white twice a year and had totally overgrown. It has taken months and I’m still making my way through to clearing up the area near to the Willow tree. It was so good to locate the small garden ornaments again.

I cleared away the old garden shed and luckily there was slabbing underneath it for a patio area. I grew some sunflowers from seed and I love the Pinks and Purples of the Bizzy Lizzies and Violas.

I’ve even had a go at growing Tomatoes, Green Beans and Potatoes.

I tidied up a patch in the front garden and bought three solar lights which sparkle, of course, at night. So happy to see that Dad’s Shamrock has started blooming again and Mom’s Fuchsia is stunning in the sunlight.

I look forward to clear, bright days so I can get out into the garden. Weeds just keep coming and there are still a couple of small areas that I have to tackle. I’m loving it. I’m planning which plants to buy for some Autumn and Winter colour and I so enjoy looking out of the window at my handywork. Having the good weather and the garden to escape to not only helped me through lockdown, it brought me peace, healing and acceptance. Everyone needs nature, it really is so good for you.

With love and sparkles xx