Postcards from the Edge: Mike Hanrahan – Cooking up a storm

Postcards from the Edge: Mike Hanrahan – Cooking up a storm

Postcards from the Edge: Mike Hanrahan – Cooking up a storm

With a book tour, live music tour and a number one album, singer-songwriter Mike Hanrahan‘s year was looking really good. Then Covid-19 came and he had nowhere to go. So he took a leap into online performing and created a positive space for those sailing into the unknown

After studying and teaching at Ballymaloe Cookery School, followed by 10 years working in the food industry, I recently returned to my wonderful life of music. In the past few months I celebrated a number one album with Stockton’s Wing, my book Beautiful Affair – A journey of music, food and friendship, was published and was shortlisted as best Irish published book of the year in the An Post Irish Book Awards.

A book tour was in progress; tours were set with Leslie Dowdall and Eleanor Shanley; The Wing had a few gigs throughout the summer; and I was back writing songs again. My year was looking really good, I was bubbling, at a creative peak, ready for action, with so many places to go. Then suddenly, I had nowhere to go.

It’s frightening to watch the pages of your working diary flitter away on a breeze of Covid 19 until all you have left is one book festival appearance, in Wexford, at the end of September. In a year of empty theatres, a southeast stage becomes your focal point, your only hope – all is not yet lost. You imagine the space, the lights, the audience, the stories, the laughter and the songs. As each day passes without a quit notice, your resolve is spun by that single thread of hope.

Fear filled my first days of isolation but I knew I had to address it in a positive way, give my life some structure, occupy myself with purpose and discipline to ward off any signs of depression or anxiety that thrive in such times of uncertainty, always ready to pounce.

Facebook can be a cruel place at times and, in the midst of a growing number of keyboard warriors, I decided to use its platform to counteract the negativity, shut it out by creating a positive space for me and others who were sailing out on similar boats into the unknown.

I offered to help people develop new skills in that part of the house that hitherto had been cordoned off, a no-go area – the kitchen. On the first day I gave simple recipes: my mum’s brown bread, an Irish stew and an orange cake. Within minutes the pings of like, love and smiles lit up my screen with countless post approvals and queries. A friend suggested I go live and sing.

Two days later, on March 15th, I pressed ‘Live’ for the first time.

Am I on? Can you hear me ok?” Hearts flew across my screen, I sang Beautiful Affair, talked cooking and baking. Later I read and replied to all the wonderful messages from all over the world, Nova Scotia, Arkansas, Michigan, Boston, London, Sydney, Geneva, Thailand and Myanmar. I remember Myanmar from my stamp collection. My friend John Cutliffe lives there now and he baked my mum’s brown bread for his family. How cool is that?

I received photos, recipes, suggestions, questions and so many gifts, including a stunning pencil drawing of Ronnie Drew which formed part of my backdrop. As the days passed my music room was my main stage where I creatively thrived. My lockdown had found its antidote.

For 57 days I woke up, planned, researched and wrote a menu blog. At 1.07pm ‘Cooking up a Storm’ lunchtime concert went out live. I sang my old songs, new ones, odd requests, talked food, gave tips, responded to queries, interacted and sometimes ranted about things that annoyed me. Like the day Facebook accused me of a copyright breach of my own music and another tune from the 1950s which I had legally downloaded and paid for called, ‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake, baked a cake.’ I particularly enjoyed that rant.

When easing of restrictions was announced I decided to close the curtain. On the final day I posted the following:

To all of you who jumped on board ‘Cooking up a Storm’ throughout its nine glorious weeks of fun, craic and laughter.

The end of any tour is always bittersweet, the longing to return to the calm of the nest sits uncomfortably with the knowledge that the adrenalin buzz will soon dissipate, yet it is during that emotional transition you realise just how lucky you are to experience such diversity in your life, to connect with so many people who walk in and out of your daily routine leaving behind a beautiful glow of friendship.

These past nine weeks I found many kindred spirits in food, music and chat as we meandered our way through an astonishing and unprecedented period of all of our lives. I feel lucky, fulfilled and enriched this morning. Little did I know on March 13th 2020 this incredible journey would take me into so many homes and hearts. It has replenished my faith in humanity and in that beautiful side of Facebook which allows us a space to be kind to each other, friendly, supportive and non-judgemental. The end of this tour is sweet because it really is only a beginning.

Twas friendship brought us all together
Friendship makes our hearts unite
Friendship leads a life of pleasure
Twas friendship brought us here tonight.

People are inherently good and decent and at ‘Cooking up a Storm’ we sailed through the unknown with the knowledge that, on any given day at 1.07pm, we could moor for a short rest at https://www.facebook.com/mikehanrahan46/ to celebrate life, friendship and humanity.

The day after it ended two significant events occurred. My new iPhone developed a glitch which knocked me off all networks for several days. It had had enough. And I received an email from The Write by the Sea festival in Wexford to sadly announce the cancellation of this year’s event but with an invitation to come back on September 21st, 2021 to fulfil the booking.

My diary has started its refill.

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780008308759/beautiful-affair-a-journey-in-music-food-and-friendship/

 

We’d like to hear from you! Back to normal or time for radical change? We’re asking people for their views (in less than 350 words) on how to move forward together in Clare in the wake of Covid-19. You can win a €50 restaurant/take-away voucher. Details of how to submit here: http://clareppn.ie/what-do-we-want/

Postcards from the Edge: Willie Hanrahan – ‘We will value the company of neighbours and family in a new light’

Postcards from the Edge: Willie Hanrahan – ‘We will value the company of neighbours and family in a new light’

Postcards from the Edge: Willie Hanrahan – ‘We will value the company of others in a new light’

Social distancing and the closure of marts has been tough, and the drop in farm income is daunting, writes Doonbeg farmer Willie Hanrahan, but the pandemic has made us appreciate how fragile the humanity is and that we can survive without many of the excesses that had become normal

 

Since lockdown began, every morning starts the same. At 6:30 my son Liam (the farmer) leaves the house to start the morning milking. At 7 the rest of us make our appearance, and so the day begins. The major difference from other years is the fact that we have four of our five adult children back living with us. Two engineers and a Leaving Cert student. Makeshift offices with internet access have been installed.

In general the lockdown hasn’t affected our working day to any great extent – the work is the same, cows calving and calves to be fed and tended to, cows to be milked and grass to be managed. However, when we need supplies from the hardware and co-op shop we have to stand in line and socially distance, which is hard and strange as farming is a solitary life and we tend to embrace any bit of social interaction with enthusiasm.

The closure of the Mart has been one of the biggest losses to farmers as a means of selling animals and meeting likeminded people. This has been replaced with online bidding, but the social interaction is not the same. The bargaining and posturing are missing and the enjoyment of closing the deal is gone.

Online selling might be the future, but this lockdown has shown us that maybe we are not quite ready for that lack of human contact. Going to mass on Sunday morning made us stop for a while and put on the Sunday best – maybe not for the prayers but again to see a few familiar faces and catch up on the week’s gossip.

The drop in income in every sector is very concerning. Cattle and milk prices have taken a hammering and the uncertainty will have far-reaching consequences. There will be no on-farm investment this year which will have an effect on other businesses such as building and plant hire.

This lockdown has shown us that we can survive without a lot of the excesses that had become normal. Eating out, foreign holidays, leisure activities and running and racing to every cat-fight, wherever it was happening.

If there are positives in this it has to be that we will value the company of our neighbours and indeed family in a new light. Simple conversation and interaction on WhatsApp can be interesting. The Saturday night quiz has become the in thing at the moment.

The powers that be also thought the world would end if the M50 wasn’t jammed every morning and the sky wasn’t black with the congestion of planes in the sky. Everyone was looking for the soft target to blame for climate change, but now we hear the skies are clearer and the air is cleaner after just a couple of months of lockdown.

It’s time to stop blaming agriculture and the poor cow for all the problems of pollution. The whole aviation industry has to be looked at, and cleaner ways of transporting people and goods have to be found. Our whole mindset and ways of doing things have to be changed.

My chief concern for the future is not climate change, although that needs to be addressed in a common sense manner, but the realisation that we were so susceptible to a virus. Covid-19, although very serious, did not wipe out civilisation. If it were a virus like ebola or some even more serious illness, we would be in dire straights, especially if it was transmitted through the air we breathe. We as a human race are very fragile indeed.

On a lighter note it is time for a general election as Fine Gael is past its sell-by date. We have a Taoiseach who has lost touch with the people, doesn’t know where rural Ireland is or how it survives, and craves holding onto power to the extent that he would sell out rural Ireland and agriculture to keep himself in the limelight that he loves.

Willie Hanrahan is a former Chairman of Clare IFA. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of Clare PPN.

 

We’d like to hear from you! Back to normal or time for radical change? We’re asking people for their views (in less than 350 words) on how to move forward together in Clare in the wake of Covid-19. You can win a €50 restaurant/take-away voucher. Details of how to submit here: http://clareppn.ie/what-do-we-want/

Postcards from the Edge – Siobhain Landy: ‘Time to step back 2 metres from the world and reflect’

Postcards from the Edge – Siobhain Landy: ‘Time to step back 2 metres from the world and reflect’

Postcards from the Edge: ‘Time to step back 2 metres from the world and reflect’

In the first of our ‘Postcards from the Edge’ series, Siobhain Landy, an Aer Lingus cabin crew member at Shannon and co-owner of Sweet N Green cafe in Ennis, describes how the pandemic brought her world to a standstill but has also given her time to reflect and make new plans. She wonders if the coronavirus spells the end of over-tourism in cities and whether it’s time to promote less crowded places like Clare.

January 30th this year was an important day for me as it marked my 25th year working for Aer Lingus. I started the job with an 11th-month old boy. Twenty-five years on, I have two girls as well. A career in Shannon Airport has given me the capacity to live and work in Clare, a great career which has grown with me and my family.

Another landmark moment came as I was asked to be part of the new brand launch of Aer Lingus. I was immensely proud to be part of this change and the optimism that surrounded our base, new uniforms, new aircraft and new routes to Barcelona and Paris. It felt like we were being refreshed ourselves and the anticipation of a thriving summer ahead with new exciting opportunities.

Then coronavirus brought our world to a standstill. Optimism and positivity gave way to fear and unknowing. The new uniform I had the pleasure of introducing to the world had now being introduced to hangers in my wardrobe. The travel and tourism industry is the first to bear brunt of this crisis as 16,000 passenger jets are grounded and the number flying is the lowest in 26 years.

Last year I went part-time in Aer Lingus, to help run our new cafe and be around more for my children. The first impact of the pandemic for me was that my part-time hours were reduced to half.

Then came the announcement of 900 redundancies; the uncertainty of when normal flying could resume; the difficulties of social distancing in airplanes on reduced capacity until a vaccine is found; the question of economic ability to travel; and fewer airlines with fewer flights.

In Shannon we managed to survive the impact of 9/11, the volcanic ash cloud, the removal of Heathrow slots to Belfast and the financial crisis of 2008. As a small base in the west of Ireland we always had to fight for survival. As a workforce we are strong and resilient, proving ourselves to be adaptable and flexible in the rollercoaster of aviation.

A way of life
For me and my devoted colleagues, Aer Lingus is not just a job, but a way of life – one that has opened many doors and broadened our horizons. We are not just colleagues but life-long friends.

April saw clear blue skies, no jet streams, no airplanes. Grounded and in lockdown, with a lingering uncertainty. Tough decisions to be made as we await our fate in unprecedented times. Even in recession people were still travelling. This time it will take longer to recover.

Maybe it’s the end of over-tourism in heavily populated areas and time to market Shannon and the western corridor as a more attractive, less populated area to visit? Post-pandemic, let’s look for the silver lining by using the advantage of being rural. The government needs to support Shannon Airport and the west of Ireland.

Almost 18 months ago my husband Frank and I opened ‘Sweet N Green’, our cafe in Ennis, along with Frank’s brother Martin and our fantastic team. Our ethos is creative, healthy menus with innovative choices in a warm, relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

We hit the ground running and the reaction was positive. Now not only responsible for our own family, we have a young vibrant team who look to us for guidance and security. Almost a year later we won an award from Ennis Chamber of Commerce – ‘Best Place to Eat in Clare’ – a fantastic achievement by the team.

Personal sacrifice
The first two years are crucial in business and we put our heart and soul into it while trying to raise a family. Nobody tells you about the countless hours and personal sacrifice in making a business a success. It’s still a work in progress, seven days a week, but we were determined as it was Frank’s lifelong dream to own his own cafe.

Then the virus became a reality. Our first responsibility was the health and wellbeing of our staff and customers so, with a heavy heart, we closed the doors on March 16th.

Life hasn’t stopped, it’s just paused. We had to adjust, to slow down, to reset. When things are out of control, all you can do is control how you react. We had more time to reconnect as a family, making memories. One thing I’ve realised with an older son is how quickly they grow up.

In business it’s hard to see the changes you need to make until you step back. This has given us time to reflect and redirect and lead through change positively, to get online and adapt our business while it’s still in its infancy.

Challenges
Post-Covid-19, the challenges for small business are reduced capacity through social distancing; static overheads on already tight margins; high unemployment with less disposable income for ‘luxuries’ such as dining out; and new health and safety guidelines.

On the flip-side, as an employer, with your employees’ destiny in your hands, I understand the financial constraints and mental anguish as they await and I await – tough decisions to be made.

As an employee of a large company and a small business employer facing an uncertain future, we need continued support from the government with wage subsidies, grants, VAT reductions and abolished rates until further notice.

We need to support each other, our local businesses, food growers and small shop owners. We need to step back two metres from the world and get ready to come back and embrace it when we can – and we will.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of all of the Clare PPN.

Not very festive notices of funding and consultation deadlines happening soon!

Every year just as community groups finish up for their Christmas break their email inboxes suddenly start filling up with vital short notice funding opportunities and really important consultations that have deadlines that could easily be missed if people are off on holidays. Well this year is no different – we apologise for clogging your inbox with non festive news, but we don’t want our groups to miss out. Please click below for some important notices with deadlines in December 2019 and January 2020.  Wishing you all the happiest of Christmas seasons.

Clare PPN Notices for members December 2019

Clare PPN calls for support for the National Platform of Self Advocates

Ireland’s only independent organisation run by people with intellectual disabilities ‘The National Platform of Self Advocates’ is facing closure in January 2020 due to a lack of funds. Clare PPN has contacted the Minister for Justice and Equality calling for him to step in and provide secure sustainable funding for this invaluable organisation. The rights of people with intellectual disabilities are human rights and as such require the state to progressively realises these rights as it agreed when Ireland signed and then ratified the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) You can read our letter to Minister Charlie Flanagan here:  Clare PPN Calls for support for National Platform of Self Advocates

Coffee, Cake and Community – Clare PPN Migrant Forum Meeting

Coffee, Cake and Community: Clare PPN Migrant Forum Meeting  Wednesday 4th December @7PM

Have you come to live in Clare from another country? Would you be interested in getting more involved and having your voice heard in the community and local government in Clare.

Would you appreciate the opportunity to meet and mingle with other community groups in the county or to stand for election for the community positions Clare PPN is responsible for filling? If so please come to our first meeting on Wednesday 4th  December 2019 at 7.pm in Clare PPN offices, Clonroad Business Park, Clonroad, Ennis.

This will be a friendly and informal meeting and refreshments will be served. (We’re planning on Cake…)

What is this meeting about?

Clare PPN would like to see whether there is interest from people who have migrated to Clare in us setting up and supporting a Migrant Forum in the County. The purpose of this migrant forum would be to ensure that Clare PPN is fully aware of the issues, opportunities and challenges faced by people who have moved here from different countries and cultures and that we can bring that to bear on all our submissions and work on the Committees of Clare County Council. We would like to ensure that all the diverse people of Clare are aware of our work and know that we invite and value their participation. We want to make sure that when we hold our elections on to Clare County Councils’ Committees and to our own board of management that people from the newer communities here know about them and have the information they need to participate fully. If there is interest in setting up a migrant forum in Clare we’d be happy to support it and also to see it grow and take on its own plans and agenda into the future.

What is Clare PPN?

Clare PPN is a network of 287 community, voluntary, environmental and social inclusion groups based in County Clare. It exists to facilitate the formal participation by the community groups in Clare County Council’s decision making structures and in national and EU consultations where that is appropriate. It is funded jointly by the Department of Rural and Community Development and Clare County Council but is autonomous and its activities are directed by its members through an elected secretariat.