As I review a lot of books, I have been asked to create a list of some recommended
books in the categories of horses and the environment. I also regularly take note of
visitor attractions featuring excellent, accessible facilities for people with disabilities. I
hope to help anyone looking for a great day out in an interesting place with up to
I shall recommend one book each week on each topic. These reviews are extracts and my
full reviews will be found on Goodreads, Amazon or Fresh Fiction.
15th October 2017
Last week we were enjoying Octocon. While there I gained two roving reporters from Hodges
Figgis, Ireland's oldest bookshop, which had kindly supported Octocon and had a fine display
of SF&F books in its window as well as a stand at the Con filled with tomes.
Hodges Figgis is wheelchair friendly and has a lift to the first floor. The basement is not
easily accessible, since this is an older building and there are limits to renovations that
may be carried out. Staff are on hand however, friendly and willing to help fetch books
either from the basement or from higher shelves. I asked about large print books, but these
are sent directly to libraries by the publishers. Hodges Figgis does stock books which are
specially created for people with dyslexia and dyspraxia.
This week's horse book is Jackie on Pony Island by Judith M. Berrisford. ISBN: 9780340575468
In this adventure Jackie and her staunch friend Babs go with their ponies to explore nearby
Pony Island which has a causeway covered by the high tide. Holiday cottages are available
on the popular island and the girls befriend three young people who are giving pony rides
on the beach, trying to raise funds to keep their ponies over winter. Many misadventures
follow, from colic to near drowning to scoundrels and thieves. This book really has a lot
crammed into it and a young reader can learn a great deal whether or not they like riding.
Other than not having mobile phones the story doesn't feel too dated.
This week's nature book is The Rights of Nature by David R. Boyd ISBN: 9781770412392.
I heartily recommend this intriguing book about laws and consequences. If at one time
enslaved peoples, women and non-landowners did not have legal status as persons with rights,
but now they do, what is the logical progression? The author shows how cases have been
brought to try to grant rights, legal person status and other issues on behalf of primates,
orcas and other creatures, even to the Great Barrier Reef. We get a chapter on the various
intelligences of these animals and birds, with fascinating studies and examples.
While much of the book focuses on USA with the snail darter habitat being destroyed by damming
and the spotted owl being placed at risk of extermination by logging, moving forward to the
corporate bullying of fracking and factory farming, other nations are studied too. India,
with the Asiatic lion and the grotesquely polluted sacred river Ganja, Costa Rica and Ecuador
with constitutional changes to protect rainforest habitat, and more.
During the past fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African
village, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, raised a farm
animal humanely, supported breast cancer research, supported Amnesty International and more. All free at
1st October 2017
This week my roving reporter Allan has recommended the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin. This hotel,
which has hosted Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention, for the past several years,
is very accessible. Entrance, foyer, bar, restaurant, convention centre are all wheelchair accessible
and the hotel can provide fully accessible rooms. Particularly recommended is a swimming pool downstairs
which is very accessible too. The hotel is on Dublin Bus routes.
This week's horse book is Meeting of the Mustangs by Cathy Kennedy. ISBN: 9781310122767.
This unsentimental novella follows the tradition of Smoky or Flicka in presenting a horse running
loose with mustangs on the mountains, then passing through the hands of owners. The dangers of wild
living are certainly shown with several foals not surviving to adulthood and the herd preyed upon
by cougars and bears. Humans are not always kind or thoughtful, but the handsome quality of the
black colt is recognised, making him valued more than other mustangs.
This week's environment book is A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint. ISBN13: 9780749929756.
Inspector Singh is a Sikh but not, we gather, a wholly devout one, who is quietly married,
clean-living but too fond of his food. He isn't the most popular policeman in Singapore and
to get rid of him his superiors keep sending him on foreign cases involving Singaporean citizens.
I thought one strong aspect of this otherwise standard murder story with recognisable characters
and tensions, was the issue of illegal rainforest logging in Borneo. Forest is being cleared wholesale
and oil palm plantations set, because this highly productive crop is edible and can make biofuel.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, fed a rescued seal,
saved the Peruvian rainforest and raised a farm animal humanely. All for no cost at
24th September 2017
This week Ireland held Culture Night which is an annual evening of celebrating
culture by various places opening doors to visitors, holding talks, tours and
parties. One such location was Deaf Village, a centre which exhibited artworks
and short films by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. The event was also
part of their Irish Sign Language week.
This week's horse book is Rodeo Horse by Sharon Siamon. ISBN: 9781405243100.
A trio of pals are being split up for a few months, two of them being cousins.
One girl is from New York and the other two are more into ranches and horses.
At this point various adventures have left them with a mustang mare, Shadow,
not broken yet, and they are in Canada but not at Mustang Mountain ranch,
learning barrel racing with another two young people they meet. I enjoyed the
horse scenes and some of the girls' changes in personality were funny, as
they gain new interests and grow up a bit more by taking responsibility.
This week's nature book is The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred. ISBN: 9780753545874.
As a tree surgeon, I'm rating this my favourite book of the year. The author
shares with us some of his adventures while climbing trees, either for pleasure
or while rigging cameras and filming for BBC and National Geographic.
These are no ordinary trees. The tale combines tree knowledge and mountaineering
as James shoots a catapult - in extreme cases a crossbow - to carry a fishing
line over the first branch, 170 ft in the air. The falling weighted line is
then used to pull up a rope, nylon in the early pages, Kevlar by the end.
The climber then uses his harness, clamps and karabiners to hoist himself
manually. After that he can start to climb. Taking note of bark features,
flowers, fruit or nuts, insects, spiders, bird life, iguanas, primates and
the rather large harpy eagle who sees him as a threat to her nest.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a
turtle hatchling and supported Children International. All for no cost at
17th September 2017
This week my roving reporter Pat has recommended a visit to Lidl in Sallynoggin.
When she parks at the supermarket she can park under cover and take an elevator
to the shop floor. This is very helpful to her when planning a shopping trip.
I am always glad to get recommendations for places of interest to visit which
go further to be accessible.
This week's horse book is Riding Barranca: Finding Freedom and Forgiveness on
the Midlife Trail. ISBN: 9781570765780.
Partly autobiography, partly travel writing, this is a horsewoman's tale.
Laura Chester had a fraught relationship with her mother and riding was a way
to escape from tension and just be herself. Barranca her favourite horse is a
Missouri Fox-trotter with a four-footed walking gait and he covers ground in
Arizona with her effortlessly. The drawback of her local trail ride however
is the possibility of meeting armed smugglers, drug stashes and desperate
immigrants. Another concern of Laura's is mining for metals which may be
polluting ground water.
This week's environment book is Adventure Cats by Laura J. Moss. ISBN: 9780761193562.
This is a smashing look at cats who share outdoor adventure with their owners.
We're advised on harnesses, RFID tagging, vaccinations, warm jackets, travel
crates, lifejackets for sailing and more. The photos alone are worth buying
the book for in my opinion but the research and advice make it a splendid
resource. I also love the travellers' tales, like the hikers who adopted
two abandoned kittens while on a hike.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African
village, bought a woman a biometric smartcard so she could have her own bank
account and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at
10th September 2017.
This week I'm recommending Odeon Cinemas in Ireland. They are working hard to make the
cinema accessible for individuals and families. For people with visual impairment, a
headset can be provided for some films which carries a verbal description of scenes
and actors' body language. A person with hearing difficulty can avail of a hearing
loop, and subtitled performances are listed separately. Someone in a wheelchair can
book a wheelchair space and someone needing a carer to help them enjoy the film can
bring one free of charge when producing the appropriate card. Assistance dogs are allowed.
Also the cinema holds special screenings which are autism friendly, with no ads or
trailers, and hope that in this way people with developmental needs can learn to
attend and enjoy regular screenings with family. Great move! Each specific cinema
has its facilities listed at the bottom of its page on the Odeon site.
This week's horse book is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
Anna Sewell was crippled as a girl, and lay near a window where she could watch the
horses in the street. She became acutely aware of their working conditions and wrote
'Black Beauty' to tell it from a horse's point of view. This coincided with compulsory
education, so for the first time the working class children could read. This raised
awareness of the problems at the time, from overwork to a lack of drinking troughs
on the streets, to the cruel bearing reins on carriage horses. The fact that working
people were so dependent on their horses was another factor.
Anna Sewell's gravestone was destroyed to make space in the graveyard not many years
ago. A cartoon published in a national newspaper showed a child sitting reading
'Black Beauty'. The caption was - "The monument to Anna Sewell that they cannot destroy."
This week's environment book is The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton. ISBN: 9780425208977.
Great mystery. I'd previously read one by this author which was set in and around the
Canadian antiques shop owned by the heroine. This book goes to Easter Island for almost
all the story, in one of those mysteries involving a closed circle of people who know
each other for a reason, in this case propounding rival theories about life and myth
and moai on Easter Island.
Moai of course are the giant stone heads. As the heads all represent men, I was pleased
to encounter some legends about women in the book.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal,
raised a farm animal humanely and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest.
All for no cost at
3rd September 2017
This week my roving reporter Pat recommends visiting the Starbucks coffee shop in
Blackrock, south Dublin. She tells me a lift is installed to assist patrons to reach
the top floor where they can sit and enjoy marvellous sea views. Wonderful to see a
business paying attention to the needs of local patrons.
This week's horse book is The Lost Pony of Riverdale by Amanda Wills. ISBN: 1511567112.
Poppy and her dad, stepmother and half-brother aged six, move to Devon. Poppy is
sure she'll be unhappy until she is promised the old pony that comes with the house,
which brightens her outlook, only to discover that Chester is a donkey. I found this
so funny and I could see a lot more humour in the tale, like young Charlie's dedication
to tracking a big cat loose on the tors. By involving more of the local community we
learn about a tall grey pony which used to live at Riverdale with the donkey, but has
not been seen in years. Could he be running wild, and how would he escape the annual
This week's environment book is The Dreaming by Barbara Wood. ISBN: 9780380715930.
Joanna Drury, daughter of a woman who had missionary parents and lived among Aborigines
for a few years, sails from England in 1871 to find out what haunts her dreams.
We meet the colonial sheep farmers, see their rough ways of life and the cycle of shearing
and lambing in the outback, though the red heart was unexplored at this time (or explorers
had not returned alive) and some thought it possible there was a great sea in the centre
of the continent. With the inundation of the land by new animals in great numbers, it
wasn't long before pests and diseases caught up and some farmers faced ruin. As did
their wives, who had made for themselves a virtual English closed society. And we meet
Sarah, a half caste girl living with Joanna and her new family.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling
and helped preserve the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at
27th August 2017
This week I recommend a visit to Culzean Castle in Scotland, on the west coast near Girvan.
The handsome National Trust house is full of treasures like the contents of the Royal Armoury
which were shipped up when they became outdated. The ground floor is easily accessed by
wheelchair and the upper floors are partly in use as a hotel so not generally open to the
public, but a lift is available to the rooms you can visit. The outbuildings such as the
stable courtyards are converted to shops and a teashop with level entry - I enjoyed the
secondhand bookshop. However the castle is not open during winter.
As well as the house you can explore the grounds and park. Wheelchairs and motorised
wheelchairs are available and booking in advance is advised. Accessible restrooms are
available and accessible parking is provided. The woodlands and strand are not easy to
access but the formal gardens are very enjoyable to visit. I saw several different species
of lichen on the apple trees, showing that the air is very clean.
This week's horse book is Pony Express Courtship by Rhonda Gibson. ISBN: 9780373283514.
The Pony Express theme caught my eye. We don't have a lot of detail about this postal carrier,
but we do know that by riding relays on fast, tough horses, the young men were able to take
mail from Missouri to Sacramento in ten days through bandits, native warriors and natural
hazards. The author supposes that a home station might have been set up along the route,
in this case a small homestead with sons and horses to provide relays. The lady homesteader
is a widow with a daughter and several adopted sons, who has to suffer the wagging tongues
of townsfolk when an official of the Pony Express arrives to stay with her while he swears
in and trains the lads. This is an inspirational story which is a good fit for the times,
meaning that the romance which develops is suitable for reading by YA readers as well as adults.
This week's nature book is Timothy The Tortoise by Rory Knight Bruce. ISBN: 9780752868721.
This is a nice look at the resident tortoise at Powderham Castle, best known to me as the location
for the film of The Remains Of The Day. The author had first met him while aged four, on a visit to
Timothy in the rose garden, and later returned to interview him. Timothy, a Mediterranean spur-thighed
tortoise, died at a great age. The tale visits all the people who owned either Timothy - since the
Crimean War - or the castle - the earls of Devon and their families. We see how tortoises were used
as live food stores aboard ship, how bombing made Timothy dig his own bomb shelter, and his rich diet
of strawberries, dandelions and wisteria blossoms.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a woman with a biometric
smartcard to open her own bank account, as well as supporting Children International and
Defenders of Wildlife.
20th August 2017
Visiting London recently I was struck by the fact that the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge -
called the Harry Potter bridge by a child I heard at the time - has got a lift to take
users up to the top of the access to the bridge. This is because the bank rises sharply
from the waterside and several steps are provided to get crossers to the access. Well
done for fitting this lift which lets everyone enjoy the crossing between St Paul's
Cathedral and the Tate Modern Gallery.
This week's horse book is Diary of a Horse Mad Girl by Katrina Kahler. ISBN: 9781310207068.
This is a lively active tale, following a girl aged nearly nine who is lucky enough to
be given her first pony. Sparkle is a calm palomino mare 13 hands high, just right and
older now but still keen to jump and have fun.
I wasn't entirely keen on the way that the young girl is given a pony while not knowing much
about them or being an advanced rider, but her parents have the land and she was bought
a schoolmaster pony. We see a few accidents and escapes during the tale to underline
that you can never be prepared enough. I like that the mom in the tale says you will
get what you focus on, which is usually the case.
To celebrate International Orangutan Day I'm recommending Orangutan: A Day in the
Rainforest Canopy by Rita Goldner as this week's nature book. ISBN: 9780983633358.
What a beautiful book! I can't express how much I admire the art and writing which has
brought this rainforest into my room. We follow young Orangutan as he lives with his
mother in the canopy, licking the rain off his fur, finding durian and figs to eat,
making comfy nests to sleep in and evading the odd predator.
I especially enjoy that we see the whole colourful habitat, with the other animals
and birds that inhabit the forest.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa,
rescued a turtle hatchling and saved the Peruvian rainforest.
All at Care2.com
13th August 2017
This week my roving reporter Annette has recommended visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden.
This feast for all the senses sits on the banks of the Thames, tucked away like a little
oasis in the heart of London. Originally this was an apothecary study garden, where medicinal
plants were cultivated for teaching purposes and barges would moor conveniently. The garden
then became useful for introducing newly discovered plants from around the world into Britain,
as it has a mild microclimate and gardeners were keen to propagate new plants and discover
their healing properties. This included tea!
A wheelchair is available for visitors, and step free access is provided at one entrance
with a non-reservable disability parking bay beside it. Assistance dogs are welcome. The
café is open every day but Monday, a great way to explore culinary herbs and aromatic teas.
As with many historical buildings however, the Gallery is only accessed by stairs. But with
5,000 varieties of plants you might have enough to explore outdoors.
This week's horse book is A Special Friend by Linda Chapman. ISBN: 9780141313467.
This is an enchanting tale for young readers. Lauren has a pony called Twilight who turns
into a unicorn and can talk to her. Lauren meets a small pony called Moonshine at a local
riding school. She thinks Moonshine looks so like Twilight that she must be another unicorn.
But a different person has to be a unicorn friend for each pony to allow them to change.
Then Lauren finds that a boy who is only staying in the area has quietly befriended Moonshine.
This week I recommend nature book Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies by Paul S. Sutter. ISBN: 9780820334011.
I found this an interesting look at the land and its history. The Grand Canyon demonstrates
the power of erosion of a mighty river, over aeons; the Providence Canyon however came about
swiftly through ill-thought farming practices after homesteaders took over the land from
Creek Native people in Georgia. Looking at the craggy, continually eroding gullies of marine
sedimentary soil, we have to say that if good farmland was ruined, at least it leaves a pretty
and educational attraction. There is also a nature reserve today which includes the plum azalea not found elsewhere.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa and provided a
woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, as well as supporting Amnesty International.
6th August 2017
This week I'm praising Dublin's high level of installation of and awareness of
AEDs or Automated External Defibrillators. Having just returned from a few days
in London during which I did not see a single AED or a sign directing me to one,
I appreciate the frequency of this lifesaving first-aid appliance at home. I see
AEDs around me in supermarkets, airports and outside banks (as in my photo). I
have seen a sign on the building site at Trinity College on Pearse Street saying
that, besides the usual safety gear being required, an AED is on site. If you do
not know where to find an AED, or the place where it is kept is locked, it may
as well not be installed. Think of this gadget as a life buoy; notice it, and respect it.
This week's horse book is The Paint Horse by Trudy Nicholson. ASIN: B00TGZ1P1I.
This is a short story which serves to introduce us to a series of YA books about
horses and young people who love them. I found the writing to be enthusiastic but
not polished. A girl who has had a paint - pinto to me - horse in the past,
gets one final chance to save him from a sad fate.
This week's nature book is Maid for the South Pole by Demelza Carlton. ISBN: 9781370152216.
This is an adult romance which makes excellent use of the remote location of Antarctica.
The eponymous maid is actually a meteorology student who is working as a maid in
an Australian resort to keep income coming in. She gets the chance to work as a
paid researcher on an Antarctic trip instead and jumps at the chance, later
filming a vlog. Also along is a male penguin researcher who contributes quite
a lot about king penguins, whose population is increasing now they are not
being hunted anymore, but he falls through a lava tube on volcanic Heard Island
early on and needs to be evacuated with serious injuries.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm
animal humanely, protected the Peruvian rainforest and aided Breast Cancer Research.
30th July 2017.
Recently I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, which has re-opened after
a major refurbishment. I was delighted to see several wheelchair users having a good
time getting around and enjoying the Irish and global art. The gallery itself is free
admittance but a special exhibition has a charge, which is reduced for seniors and
people with disabilities.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow and the doors are accessible. The large lift
between floors does not have Braille on the buttons but the numbers on them are
raised and the lift speaks the floors. As some galleries are separated by a higher
or lower level with just a few steps, small wheelchair lifts have been installed
as you see in my photo. Accessible restrooms and dining also feature, with many
choices of hot and cold foods. Guide dogs are welcome and large text guides can
be provided. The Gallery runs tours for visitors who are hearing impaired or
vision impaired, and they state that any courses they run are tailored to the individual.
This week's horse book is Winter of the Crystal Dances by Angela Dorsey ISBN: 9781927100141.
This atmospheric gentle fantasy is highly enjoyable and should be loved by girls
who like horses. A girl aged thirteen and her artist mother live in a mountain
cabin without electricity. They ride horses and watch the local bands of mustangs.
But now the winter has brought deep snow, and this might be good for scenic paintings
but it's no help to wild creatures in need of food.
Told by Evy, who has the gift of being able to feel the emotions of the horses, and
sometimes communicate with them, this winter's tale is replete with change and
responsibility; with friendship.
This weeks' nature book is Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones. ISBN: 9781783961498.
Hunting is now illegal in Britain but drag hunts continue and sometimes they kill foxes.
We start by finding the fox in fables, folk tales, furs and rural names like Todhunter.
Moving on to a night with a fox shooting professional, which can be distressing. Be
prepared for a few days out with hunts, including the saboteurs' point of view. Urban
foxes, rescued foxes and foxes in the media conclude the picture.
We're told more foxes are shot than ever, foxes generally do not take live lambs,
and foxes may spread wildflower seeds in their scat.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, and bought
a biometric smartcard so a woman can have her own bank account. All at
23rd July 2017
This week I recommend a visit to Asgard, a yacht owned by Erskine Childers, author of
The Riddle of The Sands, and his wife Molly. The couple and friends engaged in a massive
gun-running operation to arm the rebels before the 1916 Rising. The story of sailing
Asgard to Belgium to collect the rifles and ammunition is told in a daily diary. The
yacht was bought by the State, used as a sail training vessel and then retired before
being recently restored.
I like that Asgard is housed in a separate building at Collins Barracks Museum, which
has been made very accessible. A ramp leads to the door, and the smooth floor has lots
of room to wander around the yacht. The upper level is reached by a lift which has
Braille and speaks the floors. In case the lift cannot be used to return, I noticed a
wheelchair refuge point with a voice alert facility. The nearby Museum has accessible
restrooms and cafe, and is near the accessible Luas tram line, while car parking
includes wheelchair spaces and electric vehicle charging.
This week's horse book is The Horse-Lover's Encyclopedia by Jessie Haas. ISBN: 9781612126784.
I love this book with its many colour photos of breeds and activities. I don't recommend
giving it to a young person who just needs a basic pony care book to start. This has so
much content that a real horse lover will enjoy looking through the breeds, including
recent American breeds like the American Curly and Azteca, or the sports, like barrel
racing and four-in-hand carriage driving. We see a few interesting items and some ailments.
This week's environment book is Dolphin in the Deep by Ben M. Baglio. ISBN: 9780439230216.
This well-written book for young readers raises some serious animal welfare issues on a holiday
in Florida. When I read this it was written by Lucy Daniels, a pen name. Mandy Hope loves
dolphins and while in Florida she visits a dolphinarium. The owner just cares about the money
visitors pay to watch the dolphin show but Bob and Bing, the stars, are real live animals.
Bob becomes ill and gets good vet care but sadly he dies. After that Bing is depressed and
lonely. Rather than forget about it, Mandy wonders if she could return Bing to the open ocean.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, and raised
a farm animal humanely as well as supporting breast cancer research. All at
16th July 2017
This week a few people have been recommending beaches in Cornwall, for wheelchair access,
so I'm picking a spot called Summerleaze Beach in Bude, Cornwall which comes highly
recommended on a site called wheelchairtravelling.com. The council has built a wheelchair
friendly car park and restrooms, with level tarmac path to the beach and down the sand.
Beach wheelchairs can be hired for a deposit and small daily fee. The natural features
include dunes and pools, with a nearby canal. As this is a popular beach it is patrolled
by lifeguards. Sounds like a wonderful spot for summer weather!
This week's horse book is The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. ISBN: 9780736957366.
The tale of a young man learning to be a farrier, apprenticed to the Amish blacksmith,
is entertaining and gentle. Between his girlfriend and a young lady who returns to the
area after some time away, there is plenty of female interest.
This is also a story about horses and we learn that meat buyers throng the country
auctions in these towns, but the Amish value horses as work animals. By contrast we meet
a show rider on Warmbloods who might spend a thousand dollars on a pair of boots.
For a nature book I have chosen Owls by Matt Sewell. ISBN: 9780091959999.
I love this whimsical, gentle book with its colourful portraits of owl species and just
enough text to make each one memorable. We learn that the night hunters have adapted to
environments from forest to desert, from snowy tundra to rainforests. There's snippets
of classical lore and native folklore, early discoveries and up to date classification
of the newly found Omani Owl.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal,
saved a turtle hatchling and other good works.
9th July 2017
This week I can recommend a visit to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.
The main museum is in a historic building which is fully wheelchair accessible.
This is the largest maritime museum in Britain and possibly in the world. One
day won't be enough to see all it holds! An entire gallery is given to Nelson's
era while another shows the sad history of slave trading; I saw lighthouses,
tea clippers and steamships celebrated and there are always special exhibits -
at present one on the Franklin expedition to find a Northwest Passage.
Special exhibits have a charge, and carers for people with disabilities can enter free.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow and there are large lifts to all floors.
The restrooms and baby change rooms are accessible. Food is provided in a large
central area with free standing chairs and tables, and room for kids to play at
the Great Map of the world's oceans. The staff have been trained in recognising
disability and there are cloakrooms, hearing loops and large print guides.
Assistance dogs and Guide Dogs are welcome and some tactile exhibits are provided.
Recently the Museum trialled driverless cars to help visitors travel between the
gates and the building. Accessible transport to the grounds can be by Docklands
Light Rail or the Thames river ferries.
This week's horse book is Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby. ISBN: 9781405252256.
Samphire is a part-Arabian grey stallion in the New Forest, England and teenager
Jodie falls in love as soon as she sees him. Buying him in an auction seems like
her dreams coming true, but then her priorities have to change.
Jodie's father, a pilot in the RAF, was killed in an accident, and her younger
brother Ed has a kidney disease requiring dialysis. Their mother writes a gardening
column to support the close-knit little family. Jodie has volunteered in a riding
stable in exchange for rides, so she is well aware of the work associated with
keeping horses. Samphire needs much more careful handling however and has to be broken to ride.
This week's environment book is Our Ice Is Vanishing by Shelley Wright. ISBN: 9780773544628.
I found this an interesting read and recommend it to anyone concerned about climate
change or traditional ways of life being lost. The focus is on the Canadian Arctic
where the author, a Canadian, went in the past to teach law to students in a Native
town. She writes this book from a ship sailing unimpeded through the Northwest Passage.
By comparisons with historical exploration the author shows us that in the 19th century a
northwest passage was not feasible, though the Inuit lived on the ice which supported small
numbers. As the world has been warming ever more rapidly, a passage was eventually attained
by Amundsen who took three years to do it, staying to live with Inuit and learn their
skills for 18 months.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, saved a
turtle hatchling and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest, all at
2nd July 2017.
This week my roving reporter Martina has recommended a look at Bitty and Beau's coffee
shops. A couple named Ben and Amy Wright in Wilmington, North Carolina, founded this
business in January 2016. As they had two children, named Bitty and Beau, with developmental
disabilities, they looked into employment for them and found that between 70% and 85%
of people with special needs are unemployed in the US. Since coffee shops are popular
it seemed like a good move to open one where people with disabilities were not just
welcomed but trained and employed.
So enjoying a cup of specialty coffee can help the whole community and you may get the
chance to participate in activities like dancing, besides buying merchandise to show your support.
This week's horse book is Dare to Dream by Kate Lattey. ISBN: 9781301911639.
Marley and her two older sisters live on the family farm, but when we meet them, they are
all that is left of the family. Van and Kris work hard, breaking and training ponies to sell,
competing for money prizes. Marley does her bit but she is getting fed up with having good
ponies sold, just to meet mortgage payments. She'll never get to the top of her sport this
way. Then a new unbroken pinto pony is brought in, Cruise Control, and her dreams grow.
Show jumping and training for a living is tiring, heavy, expensive and draining, and the
courageous girls are up against anyone from weekend riders on pet ponies to wildly
expensive mounts for spoiled kids with pushy parents. They don't have time to meet
friends or do anything outside the sport; they find that winners are not popular.
The New Zealand setting is well brought to life, with a major show requiring a ferry
crossing of the Cook Strait.
This week's environment book is Money Logging by Lukas Straumann. ISBN: 9783905252682
This investigative look at the Malaysian logging firms and palm oil plantations on Borneo,
shows that greed, corruption and humanitarian nightmares are not confined to the usual
suspects in Africa.
A ruling family, by selling timber licences and permits to exploit, became billionaires.
They were backed by global banking organisations on the basis that the island's economy
should benefit. However the hardwood timbers have been sold to the timber trade, oil palm
plantations are filling the land, sterile monocrops by comparison, and the native people
have been shunted aside. The soil is eroding away and with no volcanoes, the island loses
more earth in every monsoon season. Landslides are common with no major tree roots. Oil
palm trees are hugely productive of berries full of edible oil, but again the local people
are not profiting from the sales.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard
to open her own bank account, and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as supporting
Amnesty International. All at
25th June 2017.
Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is the largest visitor attraction in Ireland outside Leinster,
and consists of a large island on a lake, with a country house separate from the wildlife
park. Visitors can enjoy the free-roaming animals and birds, such as spider monkeys, ring-tailed
lemurs, wallabies, macaws and capybaras. Some animals like giraffes and apes are kept behind
minimal barriers or on small islands to maintain the appearance that the visitor is walking
alongside them. Other animals are kept in natural habitat enclosures as part of breeding
programmes for endangered animals. Fota has a tremendous record for breeding cheetahs and
Rothschild giraffes, and recently celebrated the birth of a gorgeous Sumatran Tiger cub.
The park is a self-funding charity and part of the Zoological Society of Ireland which includes Dublin Zoo.
Visitors can arrive by car or train with a charge for parking. The paths are level tarmac and a
number of wheelchairs are available to borrow. A jeep and carriages runs during summer.
A visitor who requires a carer to enjoy the day can bring that carer free of charge, with proper
documentation such as a travel pass. One important factor however is that dogs are not allowed,
even Guide Dogs or assistance dogs, due to the free-roaming animals. Cafés and accessible
toilets in three places, as well as benches and outdoor picnic tables, make this a day-long visit.
Feeding the animals is not permitted, but you can watch them being fed wonderful salads and
fruits, and if you're not careful the spider monkey will steal your lunch, as happened to us.
This week's horsey read is Heartbreak Cove by Lily Everett. ISBN: 9781250018380.
A female sheriff of an island community is suddenly responsible for a young niece she hadn't known
existed. There's a horseman who returns to the island at the same time, bringing his favourite mare,
a rescue horse. He's not entirely on the level but the sheriff only knows that his reputation
with ladies precedes him and this makes her wary.
Lots of fun, lots of horses and outdoor descriptions, just enough sense of menace to stop us
relaxing too much. And a blossoming romance with the child's best interests put firmly to the
fore. I found Heartbreak Cove suitable for young adults or adults.
This week's environment book is Once They Were Hats by Frances Backhouse. ISBN: 9781770412071.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - except one part - in which the author went here, there
and everywhere connected with beavers past and present, from a British museum to Canadian
network of dams and lodges visible from space. She investigated history - beavers lived at
the headwater of just about every river on the North American continent and their ancestors
spread across Beringia to Asia and to Europe.
We find out about four million year old gnaw marks on wood, and how beaver lakes created
a good environment for early peoples. This changed with the 1700s influx of European fur
traders; beavers were almost wiped out over 200 years. And of course the 20th century
conservation movement which has led to today's return of beavers, amazingly even to New York City.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal
humanely, helped save the Peruvian rainforest and other good deeds for no cost.
18th June 2017.
This week I am going to honour a local library to show that not only a giant institution
can make a difference. Raheny Library in Dublin has two car parking areas and each one has
a dedicated space for vehicles carrying wheelchairs. Recently a revamp has provided two
ramps, one at the main door and one at the fire exit. They have a hand rail so a person
wheeling themselves can pull the wheelchair up to the door. Inside all the bookshelves
are on ground level and the reception counter is an easy height.
When I was growing up, libraries did not have a restroom for the public, but an accessible
one has been added to this library. The staff also keep a spare wheelchair in case a visitor
would find it easier to browse in one, and there are plenty of seats. Tables and chairs are
often in use as a homework club and Wi-Fi, net-connected computers and DVDs are available.
There's an induction loop for hearing aids and large print books are available; I also notice
a box of reading glasses to borrow. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful, facilitating
various activities and exhibitions.
This week's horse book is Alex, The West Nile Horse by Kathleen Murray Klosterman. ISBN: 9781939625397.
Alex was a young Saddlebred who had been vaccinated, but still caught the West Nile disease
from a mosquito bite. This is fatal in 94% of cases so there was almost no information on
recovery from this encephalitis disease. Katie stabled her horses at the same livery barn in
Arizona and ended up buying Alex to retrain him. This will mainly be of interest to horse owners
and trainers, but it can be amusing and very sad in turns and is inspiring to anyone recovering
from illness or helping others to do so.
This week's nature book builds on the difference between city and country. A Walk In The Dark by
Joyce Stranger. ISBN: 9780552112109.
This is the story of a farmer who loses his sight, and gains a Guide Dog, from the author of
many books about animals and country life. The fictional Labrador in this book has to fit in to
farm life with sheep, jealous collies, and other distractions. The author is clearly impressed
by the thoroughness of the dog's training and how he enables the farmer to live a full life again.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a biometric smartcard through Opportunity
International so a woman can have her own bank account, sponsored ocean research and helped Amnesty
International. All for no cost at
11th June 2017.
The Bloom Garden Festival was held in Dublin's Phoenix Park recently and as always
some gardens featured wheelchair access, raised beds for easy care, waterfall and
wind sounds, seats, scents and touch plants. This year I was interested to note that
a garden had been designed to help people with dementia.
Tom Grey is a Research Fellow at TrinityHaus and using the examples of people who
had grown up near a meadow and brook, or grey stone walls, he developed a garden
with a water feature, birdsong and grey slates. The scents of lavender, camomile
and other plants, with more old-fashioned flowers like lupins and daisies, will
help older people to recall earlier days, while any garden work can be easily managed
due to vertical planters. The garden must be safe and open plan to help the senior
person and their carers relax. Plenty of inspiration here for garden designers.
This week my horse book is Shifter's Destiny by Anna Leonard. ISBN: 9780373885541.
This is an original and beautiful take on shape-shifting, where the male character
transforms to a unicorn stallion, ready to protect young females and take them into
his herd - even if the herd they are leaving is vile and threatening.
Elizabeth and Maggie are close sisters, with young Maggie just thirteen, when life
changes at their isolationist commune in New England and they flee the new leader
and his sinister plans for them. He sends workers to pull them back but a stray horse
knocks down the commune members and the two girls seize their chance to escape. Only
as they shelter in a nearby wood do they realise that the horse is in fact a white
unicorn. Next morning it has vanished and they are being watched over by a tall,
strong fair-haired man. He tells them his name is Joshua Mustang and he will see them to safety.
This week's environment book is Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake
Haiti by Ralph R. Frerichs. ISBN: 9781501702303.
I had been hoping to go to Haiti as an aid volunteer in the wake of the 7.0 earthquake
in January 2010. An outbreak of cholera stopped aid workers from travelling. Consequently
I was interested in this account of how the cholera reached an island which had never had
a single reported case and the tragedy that unfolded.
A river was the initial source of the outbreak, and then as ill people were moved to a
hospital which could not cope, the disease spread to the plentiful rice paddies. As well
as the history of cholera, the appalling medical challenge and death toll, we see the case
through the eyes of investigative reporters who walked up to the Nepalese army camp and
found a disgusting overflowing septic tank and broken sewage pipe.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, raised a farm animal humanely, planted a fruit
tree and sponsored breast cancer research.
4th June 2017
Thanks to my roving reporter Allan for finding this wonderful invention to help
wheelchair users and others who find steps difficult. This works without ruining
the visual integrity of a building frontage. Often a period building is preserved so
the construction of a ramp would not be permitted. But with the Sesame Steps, the
problem is solved. The building demonstrated is in America and I am sure the work
could be carried out in other locations.
This week's horse book is Fire Maiden by Terri Farley. ISBN: 9780060886189.
I enjoyed this adventure which explains lots about life and nature on Hawaiian
islands, with some legends, earth tremors and a volcano. Why weren't books this
dramatic when I was growing up? Of course the main theme is horses and we meet
quite a few with very natural behaviour shown.
This week's environment book is Animals of a Bygone Era by Maja Safstrom. ISBN: 9780399578526.
Beginning with the earliest sea creatures and moving forwards, omitting the
much publicised dinosaurs in order to give other creatures some exposure,
this little book cheerfully displays various extreme, extraordinary and extinct animals.
The cartoon sketches (black and white) in some cases compare modern creatures for size,
like the short-faced kangaroo with red kangaroo, and all come with a place and date
for the fossils or stuffed specimens as the case may be. For the dodo and thylacine
appear here as well; once the humans and large animals co-existed, like the mammoth,
matters went downhill for the megafauna and smaller creatures.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored a child's education through Children
International, sponsored breast cancer research and rescued a baby turtle.
All for no cost at
28th May 2017
This week I recommend a visit to the Chester Beatty Library located at the back of
Dublin Castle. This fascinating museum hosts the collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty,
whose life-size statue greets you at the door and can be touched, ideal for the visually
impaired. The Oriental and Asian artworks and books are served by a lift which is large
enough for any wheelchair. The buttons feature Braille and the lift speaks in English and Irish.
The display rooms have automatic doors, but are not warm so bring a coat, and the
lighting levels are low. This is to preserve the delicate materials. In some of the areas
appropriate music or voices are played. English explanations of some legends and beliefs
are placed at each cabinet and we also get explanations of how books were made and bound,
the various materials used in illustration and the routes travelled by traders.
On the ground floor is the aptly named Silk Road café which provides excellent lunches
on the ethnic themes, and a bookshop. Seats are movable in the café and out in the
glassed-over corridor. You will find the restrooms here with a button press to open
the door for the accessible one. On the top floor is a roof garden for sunny days.
This museum has won 'European Museum of the Year' and is highly rated by Trip Advisor
and Lonely Planet, and it is free.
This week's horse book is Nobody's Horse by Jane Smiley. ISBN: 9780571253548.
This is the tale of Abby, a schoolgirl in 1960s California, who learns to grow up,
strengthen her attitudes and sense of self worth, observe adults, and start taking
control of her life. This occurs through the twin media of horse training and schooldays.
Abby's older brother has already been driven away by their father's strict religious refusal
to hear anything he doesn't like, from talking back to lessons about evolution. This leaves
only Abby to ride the succession of passing-through horses which make the family an income.
Training them for sale can be hard work - six at a time - and Abby's dad insists on
calling the geldings all George and mares all Jewel.
This week's environment book is Ireland's Burning: How Climate Change Will Affect
You by Paul Cunningham. ISBN: 9781842233313.
Journalist Paul Cunningham reports on the environment and this is a roundup of interviews
from 2008. Already it feels very dated because of the economic crash and the Paris Cop21
Summit. But it's well worth the read. From the Met Office to professors, all of whom provided
reviews of the IPCC's five-yearly reports, we see that Ireland is not on the fringe but in
the thick of the conversation about the climate.
From a school kid who runs an anti-waste school committee, to a firm advising big and small
business how to reduce waste, use less power and save money, to a farm advisor and a forest
planter, all views are interesting, personal and without much influence from the interviewer.
Some reflect long on-going issues such as Gavin Harte who spoke against clearing trees at
the Wicklow road enlargement and now helps to build and run an eco-village built by
homeowners instead of developers.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely.
21st May 2017
This week I visited an outdoor accessible location, Dublin Castle Gardens, tucked away
in the heart of Dublin City. If you want some peace and quiet in a garden environment,
find Dublin Castle just off Dame Street and walk around the imposing structure, following
signs to the Chester Beatty Library. Here you will discover a hidden gem; a large round
grassed space, doubling as a helipad but studded with bricks laying out a Celtic pattern.
Benches and foliage beds surround the Dubh Linn circle, and you are encouraged to walk
on the grass.
To the left of the entry gate you will hear water flowing from a gentle fountain in the
Garda Memorial Garden. Stone benches allow the traveller to rest and contemplate while
the scented foliage includes rosemary, symbolic of remembrance. Stone sculptures and
lighting indicate peace and hope. The names of Gardai, Ireland's police officers,
killed in the line of duty, are inscribed here and to date there are eighty-eight,
all men. Another sculpture is a tribute to all deceased members of An Garda Síochána,
the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. An annual memorial
service was held on Saturday 20th May. Thanks go to my roving reporter Michael for
talking with me about this garden.
Other features of the Dubh Linn space are that the name comes from the Black Pool which
gave Dublin its name, where the River Liffey met its tributary the Poddle, now buried
under the site; a memorial to Veronica Guerin, a journalist murdered by gangland
criminals; and a sculpture to celebrate all those stalwarts who contributed to Ireland's
hosting the Special Olympics in 2003. Right beside this are an accessible café and
restrooms in the Chester Beatty Library.
This week's horse book is The Connemara Stallion by Ann Henning. ISBN: 9781853711589.
This great fun story set in the West of Ireland can be read alone or as second in
the series. In the first part 'The Connemara Whirlwind', we saw how a girl Doreen
managed to buy a spirited brown colt Cuaifeach who was born during a whirlwind.
With the approach of spring it's time to break the pony in and the local Wild West type
brothers are full of swagger, but don't manage the job. Doreen still wants Cuaifeach
gelded but others are seeing his potential as a stud and entreat her to get him certified
by the Connemara Pony breeding inspectors.
This week's environment book is Blind Descent by Nevada Barr. ISBN: 9780380728268.
Atmospheric barely begins to describe this crime story set mainly underground in New
Mexico's Lechuguilla cavern system. Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is called to join a Search
and Rescue party after a ranger is injured underground. They face a few days of trek
to the injured woman and a few more days of stretchering her out, filled with climbing,
crawling, wading and walking on rough stone. But when Anna reaches her friend,
she starts to suspect that the accidental head injury was no accident. Given that
all of the original party is now with the rescue party, someone present must be an
attempted murderer. And they are days from the entrance - or nights, since there is no natural light.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, helped to support breast cancer research and
provided a biometric smartcard so a woman can have her own bank account.
14th May 2017.
This week I recommend a visit to the Science Museum in Kensington, London. This splendid
free admission museum is a real treasure trove. One hall is given to transportation including
steam engines, and a side display shows dioramas of agricultural machinery. We found a
costumed man telling the story of steam. Make sure to see Foucault's Pendulum hanging down
through the stairwell, and you can opt to visit a pay-for IMAX screening or special
exhibition. Youngsters or those with visual impairments will have fun with the hands-on
Adult and child wheelchairs are available to borrow - you may book one in advance.
We do recommend these if you have any mobility problems as there is such a lot of ground to
cover. The lifts are wheelchair accessible with Braille buttons and voice announcements.
We also found a large print floor plan and some galleries have tactile floor plan boards.
Accessible toilets are on every floor and there is an accessible baby change room. Cafés
are located around the building for snacks but some have a full menu with either self-service
or waiter service. And visitors with a disability can get reduced admission prices to the
IMAX cinema and exhibitions. The staff are very friendly and helpful.
This week's horse book is Loving Laney by Harmony Evans. ISBN: 9780373863570.
I enjoyed this multicultural romance tale of a world class horsewoman who unexpectedly
finds that she's expecting.
Laney Broward has just won gold at the London Olympics as we meet her. She is partying,
and may be forgiven for getting carried away when she and friends meet a handsome Texan
horse breeder, and he's taken with her too. The young woman thought it was just a
one-night stand but a few months later she's having to stop riding and confide in one
close friend. As much as anything she's upset at the thought that she may be letting
down her strict family.
This week's environment book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by
Barbara Kingsolver. ISBN: 9780060852559.
Barbara and her husband and daughters decided to embark on a year of growing their own
food, raising their own poultry and buying local food from farmers. To this end they
moved from their Arizona home to their country vacation home in the Appalachian mountains
of southwest Virginia. They had prepared, of course, by renovating the house and outbuildings,
planting asparagus beds and more. The hopeful and personal start turns rather abruptly
into a discourse on why "we don't know beans about beans" as food production and distribution
has been largely mechanised and factory swamped in the US. Keep reading.
I enjoyed the lesson learnt from the first farmers' market they attended on a cold early
spring morning. Nothing was growing so how would the family survive? They brought home a
splendid haul and helped the farmers to stay in business. This continues through the early
plantings, the earnest selection and purchasing of heritage breeds of chicken by Lily the
youngest girl and entrepreneur in the making, and the home cooking full of aroma, taste and sizzle.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely
and helped Rainforest Trust protect the Peruvian forest.
7th May 2017
This week instead of a place I am promoting a video clip on YouTube which demonstrates
the raised patterns found on British streets. Tom Scott and the Royal National Institute
of Blind People tell us which ones mean a pedestrian crossing ahead, steps, a tram track
and other issues, or a sloped kerb which could let a partially sighted person walk out
onto the road without realising. If the same standards are applied everywhere the
roads and footpaths will be a lot safer. Thanks to my roving reporter Allan for
finding this clip.
This week I recommend a romantic suspense horse book, Studs And Stilettos by Bev Pettersen.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a would-be actress behind the scenes of a film about a
Emily is still learning the trade when she lands the background work, so she asks all the
questions we'd love to ask and pokes her nose into all the wrong tents, to show us what most
people don't see. The more experienced extra she meets, Judith, fills her in on the background
of the Kentucky house and its owners. The champion racehorse, his girl groom who vanished
twenty years ago and was never seen again, and the womanising owner make for an interesting
story. The missing groom - we can guess that she was murdered but how to prove it or even
be sure who was a suspect?
With spring nesting time in full swing here, let's look at a lovely book called Into The Nest:
Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds by Marie Read,
I loved this read, with the brilliantly coloured, action-filled photos showing nesting, courtship,
egg-sitting, chick feeding and fledgling rearing among many American birds.
Bird lovers anywhere will benefit from learning that eggs laid inside a tree are normally white,
unlike those in open nests, while many terms are well explained. For example, precocial chicks
follow their mother from the nest shortly after hatching, like ducklings, while altricial
chicks are fed in the nest for weeks until they fledge and learn to fly. The cowbird is the
American version of Europe's cuckoo, laying in other birds' nests.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, saved a turtle hatchling and planted a fruit tree.
All through www.care2.com
30th April 2017.
This week included National Poetry Day, so what better time to visit an exhibition on
William Butler Yeats at the National Library of Ireland. The building is in Kildare
Street right next to the Dail which is the Irish Parliament. A ramp leads to the
entrance and I found a lift to get down one floor to the exhibition. A wheelchair
user should be accompanied by a staff member in the lift. Free lockers are provided
for stowing hand baggage or coats.
The exhibition is softly lit because of the original papers and letters on display.
To help with reading the items, an interactive screen beside each cabinet shows in
good lighting what the cabinet contains. Many museums have at least one screen that
doesn't work - when I tested these they all worked. Seats are provided wherever an
audiovisual tells about that part of Yeats's life. A hearing loop has been installed.
I saw the Nobel Prize medal presented to Yeats and a painting by his brother Jack Yeats.
I also heard some of Yeats's poems read by figures like Seamus Heaney and Sinead
O'Connor, and WB Yeats himself reading The Lake Isle Of Innisfree. This exhibition
is free and open every day. The Library Café right beside it provides a great
selection of lunches and snacks, including vegan and gluten free, with seating that
can be moved; accessible restrooms are on the ground floor and well signposted.
Guide Dogs are welcome. The NLI has an evacuation policy for users with reduced
mobility, which can be found on their website.
This week's horse book is Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar by various authors, edited
by Mercedes Lackey.
Mercedes Lackey created the world of Valdemar, which has magic and telepathy as well as
random mage storms. Here's another anthology. If you have read one or two earlier books
about the Heralds, riders doing the Crown's bidding, you'll enjoy this look at the land,
and may recognise some of the authors. If you have not read any, the feel is similar to
Anne McCaffrey's early Pern books with white horses instead of dragons.
Anyone who enjoys fantasy stories and animals will like this one; there is diversity -
which includes a woman half turned into a bird of prey, riding a gryphon which can't
see - as well as new characters like a brash yearling colt and a travelling merchant.
My favourite tale is by great writer Janny Wurts, author of Stormwarden, who
characteristically gives us a blind girl experiencing the world through all her other senses.
This week's environment book is The Mapmaker's Wife by Robert Whitaker.
I found this an engrossing read, focusing on the exploits of a team of French mapmakers
in recently colonised South America, and a woman who took her destiny into her own hands
in order to be reunited with her husband.
We get a very good look at the then-impenetrable jungles and broad path of the Amazon
through this territory. Just about all travel was by river. An international expedition
was sent to discover the shape of the Earth at the Equator, to settle opposing theories
about whether it bulged. They were led by Charles Marie de la Condamine and Louis Godin.
A nephew of Godin's, Jean Godin, was among them and in the towns of Ecuador he met
Isabel Grameson, daughter of a local landowner.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm
animal humanely, with Care2.com
23rd April 2017.
This week one of my roving reporters has recommended visiting Monkton Elm Garden Centre
in Taunton, Somerset. I love checking out garden centres and this one has a plant of the
month, tips for keeping a beehive in your garden and more. Their restaurant has spacious
surrounds and movable chairs, and a play area next to it. The on-site bakery and local
produce mean you are getting fresh tasty foods. The garden centre has disabled-friendly
parking spaces, wide access and ramps throughout, as well as toilets for visitors with
disabilities. Staff will carry goods to the car, or you can buy online and collect, or
the centre will deliver heavier goods to your home. I'm also very pleased that the
centre has put their environmental policy on the website, explaining their recycling
and insistence on local stock. Sounds like a great destination for the afternoon.
This week's horse book is The Last Horsemen by Charles Bowden. ISBN: 9780233050034.
Sillywrea farm in high country north England is farmed by horse, with horses also
used to pull tree trunks out of the woodland. This appears to be the last farm so
worked in Britain.
The five horses presently used are Clydesdales, smaller than Shires and intelligent
about their work. We see a year in the farm life, from spring ploughing and seeding
to lambing, haymaking, cattle sales, then winter for repairs, turnips and so on. One
young horse is being broken in and trained gradually. As the farmers do not need to
invest in heavy machinery they do not have big debts to service; on the other hand
the labour is intense and unending.
I loved the attention to and pride in the big horses. We also meet people involved
in this lifestyle, such as the mobile farrier and the harness maker.
This week's environmental book is a romance called The Billionaire's Bid by Kaira Rouda.
Aubrey has lost her parents and taken on management of their thousand wooded acres
on a South Carolina island, plus a cottage and unhappily large debts. She's just
passed thirty but hasn't much idea of what to do with the land, before she can
get back to her urban life. She has a forest manager, Dirk, who is drawing up
plans for cutting some of the timber and inviting bids from interested timber firms.
James is acting CEO of his family's logging firm while his father is in hospital.
There are moves against him in the boardroom. His folks' land abuts Aubrey's and he's
shocked to be told by Dirk that the lady intends clear-cutting as the fastest way to
raise money. His degree in environment science and MBA argue against this, plus his
love of the woodlands and wildlife on the island. Local people's sympathies would
also be lost. He puts in a bid which is destined to fail.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and saved a turtle
hatchling, among other good deeds with Care2.com.
16th April 2017
My roving reporter Diana has recommended a site for wheelchair users, which contains some
holiday spot recommendations. One I like is:
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, by Sheri and Tony of Happy on Wheels.
They say: My husband and I are both wheelchair users, and we have been
vacationing there for years, including our upcoming 10th anniversary celebration. We love
it for many reasons; the boardwalk is long, wide and fully wheelchair accessible; there
are ramps down to the sand and free beach wheelchairs; you can navigate the boardwalk,
surrounding stores and streets without using a vehicle; there is a wide choice of accessible
hotels and condominiums in Rehoboth Beach with roll in showers; it is clean and the beach
is beautiful; there are many accessible shops, restaurants and bars; and most importantly,
the people that live, work and vacation in Rehoboth are friendly and helpful to individuals
with disabilities. Traveling with a disability can be frustrating. Rehoboth makes it easy.
That is why we love it.
Thanks to Cory Lee for creating her helpful site.
My horse book pick this week is The Painted Pony by Angharad Thompson Rees.
Short and sweet, a fantasy set in France about a carousel horse and a boy. The boy has seen wild
horses on the Camargue and he tells the carousel horse about the kind of life it could lead. The
wooden horse had been quite happy, or thought it had, but faced with the possibilities of a real
horse's wild life, it decides to try to change.
My environment book looks at the realities of living on a farm. Would You Marry A Farmer? by Lorna
So, asks Lorna Sixsmith, would you marry a farmer, considering that you would be marrying into a
farming household and a small community? You might be living with your in-laws, or one of them,
and the farmer's siblings until they can get educated and leave. You won't get foreign holidays
or even romantic restaurant dinners very often, and your bank balance will be in the red for months
like as not, then when the farm payments cheque arrives it needs to go to a tractor purchase rather
than a new kitchen; while there will be a permanent load for the washing machine, a team of silage
contractors to be fed unexpectedly and you will be judged by other women on the standard of your
baking, not your fashion sense.
We get a look back at the history of marriages on Irish farms and why women fled to towns, cities
and the New World. Lorna shows us adverts from past days, stating upfront that a prospective wife
must have her own dowry, or that a man trained in farm management would like to meet a woman with a
farm. The farmer might need to pay for his parents' pension, or build a cottage for his mother, or
educate his siblings, before he could take on the farm or start his own family. He thus often married
late and could not afford to carry out improvements.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and raised a
farm animal humanely, as well as supporting breast cancer research. All at Care2.com
9th April 2017
Thanks go to my roving reporter Debbie who has recommended a visit to Legoland in
Florida. This fun destination has a special welcome for visitors with autism, enabling
them and their families to skip queues for attractions and enjoy a break in quiet rooms.
I love the way that Legoland staff are called Model Citizens! They have received training
on how to help visitors with special needs, and their caregivers, enjoy the day's visit.
This is a very positive step and their website explains the arrangements.
This week's horse book is Angels Club by Courtney Vail. ISBN: 9781500327804.
Jacinda and her friends help out at a riding stable called Sunnybrook which caters for
young people with special needs. Like Emily, who comes along in a wheelchair and tries
to pluck up the courage to stroke a horse.
A creamy white mare with much mud and tangles, and in bad shape, is brought to the farm
as a rescue horse, to be made healthy and sold on for funds. But Jacinda decides that
there is something different about this mare, whom she names Angel. As she and Emily
work on the gentle mare they discover that she has curly coat and mane, so they research
the traits and learn that she is an American Bakshir Curly Horse, descended from a Native
American breed like the Appaloosas.
This week's environment book is The Elements of Power by David S. Abraham. ISBN: 9780300216714.
The rare earth elements and rare metals derived from them are increasingly in all our
gadgetry, our jet engines, turbine blades and replacement joints, just as much as in our
weaponry and our MRI scanners. Mining, refining, separating, producing, selling, trading,
using, recycling and inventing are all covered in this great look at REEs, along with the
Having witnessed first-hand how Japan backed down to China over sea territory, when Chinese
merchants stopped trading REEs to Japan, the author is convinced that metals can replace guns
in diplomacy. After war in Africa thirty years ago stopped supply of one metal, firms went looking
for others, and the generations of work by metallurgists and chemists was put to use. The author
also went behind the scenes to a mine in Brazil, which is a long-established big employer, noting
that it is very hard to get permits to open a new REE mine. These elements are foul in their
mining, production and use. Acids, bases and fouled water add to slag heaps and leachates
to cause environmental and worker health hazards.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a woman with her own biometric card to open a
bank account and supported a chimpanzee sanctuary with the Jane Goodall Institute. All for no cost at www.care2.com
2nd April 2017
This week I'm delighted to hear that Shannon Airport has opened a Sensory Room for people
travelling who have special needs. A family may be travelling with a child who has autism,
for instance, and this creates difficulties with queuing, bright lighting and loud
announcements. In this new room the lights and sound are muted, which is relaxing.
The room is also well provided with items to play with, climb on and watch, to provide
stimulation. This should make life easier for the whole family while travelling. Shannon
is the first airport in Europe to provide this facility proving we really are Ireland of
This week's horse book is Selah's Sweet Dream by Susan Count. ISBN: 9780997088304.
I definitely enjoyed this coming of age story about a girl called Selah who loves horses.
Just like every other horse-mad girl, Selah, who lives in America, makes plans for
getting a horse someday. But her parents and grandfather are in no hurry for that to happen,
even though Grandfather used to keep horses and his late wife won showing and reining classes.
Then Selah spots a horse running wild on the open grasslands. Could this black horse be
meant for her?
My environment book is Meltdown in Tibet by Michael Buckley. ISBN: 9781137279545.
Michael Buckley, a Canadian, first visited Tibet in 1985 as a truck passenger and saw the
constant stream of treetrunks being hauled as China felled Tibetan forests, ongoing since
China took over Tibet in 1950. This book lays bare the continuous plundering of the Tibetan
plateau and mountains by Chinese settlers and soldiers. By 1980 a fact-finding mission from
Tibet's former rulers found that the grasslands, once-rich in natural diversity, were empty
of wildlife - all eaten, Buckley believes.
The Himalayan snow and glacier ice is the world's largest store of freshwater outside the
Polar regions. Yet this ice which should reflect heat back into space, is sooty and black
in many areas, from Chinese and Indian coal emissions and cooking stoves. Dark ice attracts
heat so melts faster, and dark rock is exposed in a feedback loop. 95% of glaciers are
shrinking faster than they can be replenished. As these glaciers feed some of the world's
largest rivers which flow through eight populous countries, problems are foreseeable. These
include lack of crop irrigation and drinking water.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, helped protect the Peruvian
rainforest and rescued a baby sea turtle. All for no cost at www.care2.com
26th March 2017
On a nice sunny spring day what could be better than a stroll down the harbour? This year
the Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) harbour is celebrating 200 years. A seaside
promenade takes the visitor along the coastline with splendid views, while many events are
planned for the summer, from a festival to Viking longships recreating an attack. Transport
can be by Dart light rail, bus or limited parking with spaces for wheelchair users provided
they display a permit. Thanks to my roving reporter Niamh for nominating the Dun Laoghaire
harbour as a good place to visit.
This week's horse book is The Island Horse by Susan Hughes. ISBN: 9781554535927.
Ellie is not quite ten when her mother dies and she lives quietly in Nova Scotia with her
father. In no position to turn down work, Ellie's father still thinks long and hard about
accepting the first offer he gets in months. To encourage Ellie to regard it positively,
he tells her that there are wild horses on Sable Island. Ellie is fascinated by the idea
of wild horses and draws them in her sketchbook. The job is with the rescue crew on Sable
Island, a crescent of sand 25 miles long and a mile across, which is known as the Graveyard
of the Atlantic. A tiny community of rescue workers lives there, saving lives and salvaging
ships' cargoes and timbers from the frequent wrecks on the shifting sands and storm-tossed sea.
My environmental book is The Year Yellowstone Burned: A Twenty-Five-Year Perspective by Jeff Henry.
This is a well written and spectacularly photographed look at the year when fires burned out of control
through most of Yellowstone National Park and region.
Wildfires are now considered to be nature's way of using up old dead wood - conifers grow quickly but
rot slowly so fires release the nutrients and make room for seedlings. A fire was named after the area
where it started and they quickly merged, so immense regions were ablaze at once and only the winter's
snows ended them. The rangers just concentrated on saving lives and preserving historic buildings. The
author had been with the service for a decade at this time and documented everything. He says it is
amazing that nobody was killed that year. Two decades on we can see the new growth sprouting.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a woman with her own biometric
card to open a bank account. All for no cost at Care2.com
19th March 2017
This week my roving reporter Tanya has recommended Dublin Bus for getting around the capital.
She did mention problems boarding with a wheelchair, such as the bus not always being able to
pull in flush with the paving kerb, and an awkward right angle to negotiate from the door near
the driver. On the other hand, buses all have kneeling fronts and a sliding ramp. The drivers
have all received instruction on using them. A space for a wheelchair is provided and travellers
are asked to leave particular seats for those with walking difficulties or pregnant women.
Mobility scooters require a permit to board as some are too large for the bus.
The drivers are also required to halt at a bus stop if they see a person waiting who is in a
wheelchair or has a Guide Dog or white cane, as the person might not be able to signal them or
might not be able to see the number on the bus. Unlike when I was growing up, buses are all
no-smoking. Dublin Bus provides a helpful page on their site, and their public office is fully
accessible with a wheelchair level counter and hearing loops.
My horse book this week is Cowboy All Night by Vicki Lewis Thompson. ISBN: 9780373798995.
Some modern dilemmas are faced in this American adult romance. A palomino mare is foaling at
the start and her happy owner is on hand. So is a cowboy who tries to educate young people about
horses. Also involved is the lady's brother, a disabled war veteran, who seems determined to
lead an indoor life and ignore horses.
My nature book this week is Felicity ~ A Sparrow's Tale by Loralee Evans. ISBN: 9780692306918.
I love this small story about a brave small bird. Felicity the sparrow lives in a tree in America,
and the wise ivory-billed woodpecker taught her to read before he went missing. Now young Felicity
has to put that skill to good use - but only after saving a fairy from a hawk when his wings are
torn off by the predatory bird.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised a
farm animal humanely and supported the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at www.Care2.com
12th March 2017.
Greetings from Ireland as we approach St Patrick's Day.
All Irish this week! If you are in Dublin to watch the parade you might like to drop
in to the Powerscourt Townhouse shopping centre. My roving reporter Susan has recommended
it as an accessible place to visit. The Wingfield family who also owned Powerscourt Estate
in Wicklow used this as their townhouse since 1774. Today over 40 shops and restaurants
fill the interior. The location is South William Street off Grafton Street, an entrance
with steps, and an accessible entrance is at Coppinger Row.
This week's horse book is the splendid modern fantasy Chesca And The Spirit Of Grace by
Irish author Lara O'Brien. ISBN: 9780989675208.
A girl, a horse and the magical Irish countryside; what more do you need for a great story?
CHESCA AND THE SPIRIT OF GRACE grabs our affection immediately and whisks us off to Howth
harbour on the east coast of Ireland, north of Dublin. Chesca O'Brien has learned to
understand what her animal friends say - so much so, that she doesn't want human pals.
Malley the lead stallion is fond of Chesca but her dairy-farming father won't let the girl
ride such a strong spirited horse. The excellent scene-setting puts us in the mood for
excitement. Chesca enjoys trick-riding on her mare Star but Malley is a superb storyteller.
He tells the girl that he is descended from a horse owned by the pirate queen Grace O'Malley.
Life has hard realities. The O'Briens run pony-trekking and between costs, insurance and
loans, the banker puts them on notice. This is clearly a matter for the adults; what could
a girl of nearly twelve, who's away with the fairies half the time, possibly do to save her home?
My environment book is Black Harvest by Ann Pilling. ISBN: 9780006754268.
This is a creepy fantasy tale on the lines of Elidor, in which the unreal and scary start to
seep into real life. Three young people are staying in a seaside cottage in the west of
Ireland. A brother, sister and their cousin. The mother of the siblings is also present and
her small baby, and an unfortunate dog. Feelings of foreboding along with heat, mustiness
and a horrible smell ruin their plans for a good summer, and the baby frets. The dog goes
off her food and the kids don't get along.
As I'm Irish I saw in no time that we were getting references to the potato famine caused
by blight during the 1840s. The kids are from England, visiting, so it takes them longer
to catch up with history.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and
sponsored a biometric smartcard to let a woman have her own bank account. All for no cost at Care2.com.
5th March 2017.
This week a place of interest to visit for lunch is featured; we tested this one
ourselves earlier in the year as it came well recommended. Toby Carvery, Blackbrook Inn,
Ilminster Rd, Taunton, Somerset. This is located off a motorway and has accessible
parking spaces near the door. There are no steps if you enter from the garden side
and we found plenty of room for seating around tables. An accessible restroom is
available but you have to get a key from staff; if there are no staff in sight,
you might be waiting a few minutes as the bar is down some steps. We enjoyed a
fine carvery lunch and service came with a smile. We particularly like a menu
idea which has a mini pudding with coffee, if you don't have room for a full size option.
My horse book this week is Turning On A Dime by Maggie Dana. ISBN: 9780985150495.
This is a top-class time travel book which brings a girl from modern day face to
face with her African-American heritage when she travels to the Civil War times.
The young lady she meets is from a land-owning family and they come together over
their love for horses. Remounts are being sought by both sides, and the two girls
have a desperate struggle to save their beloved horses - and themselves - from
This week's environmental book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein. ISBN: 9781451697384.
The carbon and methane pushed into the atmosphere is unquestionably warming the planet
to a hugely dangerous degree, which changes everything about our economic model. The
response of the carbon extractors has been to produce oil and coal from ever fouler
sources. Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist and author, spent five years researching,
travelling and writing with the help of colleagues. Mainly what she looked at was carbon,
corruption and contamination.
The Nature Conservancy is a well-funded American charity which started in Texas with the
aim of preserving the Attwater's prairie chicken. But before long had passed, they were
drilling for oil and gas on the Texas sanctuary land they had purchased. Numbers of the
endangered bird dropped on that land from 36 to 12 to none.
See the rest of my review at Goodreads.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and
sponsored a rescued baby turtle, all for no cost at www.care2.com
I have been in discussion with Carbonfund.org about declaring my e-books Carbon Neutral.
Linda G. Kelly, Business Partnership Manager of Carbonfund.org Foundation, told me that
she had never been asked about this before! I offered to help construct a template for
e-books but in the absence of a certification, she suggests that I explain to my readers
how I offset carbon on their behalf and minimise my carbon use. During 2016 I bought a
new efficient computer and A rated LED monitor, recycling the old equipment, and swapped
the lightbulbs I use for LED ones. As my e-books are being read all over the world, on
devices which are used to read many other books, I believe e-books are a more efficient
way of manufacture and distribution than paper books.
From January 2016 to date, Care2 says I have offset 290 pounds of carbon and planted 86
trees, as well as protecting over 100 square feet of rainforests. In addition through a
different system, Care2 say I have offset 199 days of computer use via CarbonFund, protected
50 acres of big cat habitat and 19,900 square feet of ocean habitat, plus 1,473 square feet
Offsetting carbon alone is not enough - to live sustainably we need to minimise our use
of carbon and resources as well. For example, this year my 17 year old washing machine
broke down, so I have replaced it with an A++ rated efficient washing machine. Normally,
Carbonfund works with giant companies which want to offset giant footprints. But to
quote Robert Swan, the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else
will save it. I believe in doing my part.
26th February 2017.
This week I'm diverting from places of interest, to a chocolate ad campaign. I've been
enjoying the new Maltesers TV ads, which feature people leading busy social lives while
in a wheelchair or using BSL. And now I see a Braille poster was put up at a bus stop
using the chocolates to form words. The quote is a joke from a lady in Glasgow and the
bus stop was in London.
This week's horse book is The Harlot and the Sheikh by Marguerite Kaye. ISBN: 9780373299164.
In this series of nineteenth-century adult romances, we meet strong heroines who are ladies
of science. I particularly enjoyed the botanist in the previous tale and now we meet a horse
vet. Her father is a vet with the British Army which is fighting the Napoleonic wars, so he
can't answer a letter summoning him to help a stable in Arabia. Instead the daughter is quite
keen to go as she has had her name ruined by a cad.
The prince has a sumptuous palace with beautiful rooms, gardens and fountains. He has lavished
just as much attention on his stables, but the racehorses are contracting an unknown disease,
which so far has no cure. The prince needs to win an endurance race in order to regain pride
and prosperity for his people. But he wasn't expecting a female vet, and his stable staff are
unlikely to put up with any such intrusion by a foreign woman.
My environmental book this week is Mason Meets A Mason Bee by Dawn Pape. ISBN: 9780985187750.
This is a cute tale for early readers about a boy who meets a bee and each of them is afraid
of the other. The bee explains that it is a mason bee and does not want to sting, but pollinates
plants to make food for people. Mason also gets to hear about insecticides and other issues for
beneficial insects. There are lovely colourful photos on every page.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and rescued
a baby turtle. All for no cost at www.Care2.com
19th February 2017.
This week I would like to thank roving reporter Mairéad for recommending a Dublin
library building called DLR LexIcon. This is a new build feature of Dún Laoghaire
in southeast Dublin, and incorporates water features and public spaces which are
used for events. The library is fully accessible and includes restrooms and a café
called Brambles Café. The Dublin local authority says the library provides theatre
space, meeting rooms, local history space and more than sixty computers for public use.
Libraries are a vital part of our community so I am delighted that they are being
expanded rather than closed, and made even more welcoming and useful. My local
library runs a homework and study club. LexIcon has car parking space and is near
bus and light rail routes; it also provides wonderful sea views.
This week's horse book is Horse and Pony Colours by Lesley Lodge. ISBN: 9781494338862
While Lesley Lodge stresses that colour is secondary compared to choosing the right
size, breed and temperament for your needs, she then looks at some fine examples of
horses. The two main coat colours are black and red, with other colours being dilute
forms. The skin can also be pink or black. Then there are markings such as blaze,
star and sock, as well as the gaudier Appaloosa or paint markings.
Mainly the book focuses on horses of the film world, as these bring handsome horses
to the viewer and the British-based author is involved in the film scene. The
well-known horses include Trigger, the Black Stallion, Shadowfax and Tornado. Pintos
get their star in Hidalgo. Suitable for young adults or adults.
This week's nature book is Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. ISBN: 9780156007818.
This is a charming story of a girl, her father, the outback and the eucalyptus tree.
There are hundreds of different varieties of eucalyptus from tiny shrub to majestic
tree, and the girl's father sets a rule that she may only marry a man who has named
all of the trees in his carefully planted collection on his land. This unusual romance
has won many awards and is suitable for readers of teen age to adults.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a biometric
smart card so a woman can have her own bank account. All for no cost at Care2.com.
12th February 2017.
This week I'd like to recommend the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. A few years ago we visited the Burns
Cottage where the Scots poet was born - a long low thatched building of a few rooms, which kept the
livestock and family under one roof though in separate sections. This would have made it easy to feed sheep
and do the milking during bad weather. Next door the Museum has an educational space with a film about
Tam O'Shanter, his grey mare and the witch Cutty Sark. As well as learning all about the poet and the
history of his time, you can buy a wide and attractive array of gifts. A restaurant is provided, with
movable chairs and everything has been designed to be easily accessible. This does not include some of
the older features, like the Brig o'Doon which is a small stone arch bridge spanning a stream. Restrooms
are accessible and wheelchairs are available for loan, while Guide Dogs are welcome and hearing loops
are in place. The staff are willing to lend any help required to get visitors around the site.
This week's horse book is Lucy's Chance by Brittney Joy ISBN: 9781497543461.
Lucy is thrilled to be helping out on a guest ranch when she turns sixteen, and summer stretches ahead
of her. Can she cope with getting run over by cattle, and being called the help by a snobby young rodeo
queen? A black horse which is seemingly wild bursts out of the brush on a trail ride and another
stablehand, Casey, manages to rope him and tug him down to the ranch buildings. If nobody claims the
horse and he can't be trained, the ranch owner will sell him at auction. Lucy gets to know the strong
black horse, calling him Chance, and she is convinced that he's just scared from ill-use and would
make a great riding horse.
The environment book I'm recommending is a romance for St Valentine's Day. Sharp Shootin' Cowboy by
Victoria Vane ISBN: 9781492601180.
I'm giving this romance top marks for presenting both sides of the wolf and ranch argument, in detail
and with great intensity. Some people are arrogant and unpleasant - on both sides of the debate. Others
are principled and willing to take steps towards a compromise. A woman studying wolves in Wyoming meets
a marine about to be sent off on a tour, but his predilection for hunting and guiding hunters is too much
for her to cope with. After the marine has left the service the pair meet up again, still on opposite
sides. Each of them has a past relationship still shadowing them but it's the wolf issue that divides
their loyalties. Can there be a meeting in the middle? This is a romance for adult readers.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored raising a baby sea turtle and planting a fruit tree.
All for no cost at Care2.com.
5th February 2017.
This week my roving reporter Susan has recommended the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in
Dublin, at the top of Grafton Street. One reason this is well suited to be accessible is
that the Luas tram runs beside it. The Luas is step-free all along its lines. Inside the
Stephen's Green Centre there is plenty of space and a set of lifts is available. Stairs and
escalators for other users mean the lifts are not constantly in use. In this way you can reach
the shops around the upper levels and browse the displays or home in on something you need.
Signage is in place to help you find the shop you want, while the nice airy central part has
a glass roof, so you can shop or relax no matter what the weather.
The Centre has plenty of seating areas, accessible cafés and shops, and fully attended
restrooms on the top floor. Visitors can view floor plans on the Centre website.
This week's horse book is Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second
Chances by Rachel Anne Ridge. ISBN: 9781414397832.
I like this true tale of an abandoned donkey who showed up in a Texas driveway. The householders
had lost their work in the economic crash and didn't want to take on more responsibility. But the
kids pestered them to keep the easy-care donkey in the paddock. Rachel saw Flash come back to health,
and his attitude and adventures made her feel better about herself. Flash didn't see why he should
not run with tall horses.
This is an inspirational story meant for adults, and because Rachel shares personal difficulties,
I recommend parental guidance if giving it to a child. See my review on Goodreads.
This week's nature book is a novel for a change. Through the Storm by Rula Sinara. ISBN: 9780373367870.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, which is a romantic adventure in modern Africa. A well-off young mother
suddenly starts to suspect that her husband is involved in illegal ivory dealings. The ivory mafia will
kill anyone who gets in their way. She can't take chances but takes off with her son and gets on the
first bush plane out of Kenya.
As we can expect not all goes smoothly. We see various sides of modern life in the vast country; eco-tourism,
a baby elephant rescue camp, plenty of danger.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely.
29th January 2017
This week I am featuring a location which serves people with intellectual disabilities. Thanks to my roving
reporter Neil for recommending Cheeverstown House, Templeogue, Dublin. A wide range of activities goes on
here from teaching, sheltered workshop, advocacy and evening social activity for students and their families.
Transport is provided seven days a week. The location also features a swimming pool adapted for people with
disabilities and this is available to the general public.
Cheeverstown has expanded to serve older adults into retirement, and is happy to be involved in the Special Olympics.
This week's horse book is The Long Ride Home by Kari Lynn Dell. ISBN: 9781619228146.
A champion rodeo horse goes missing and with Muddy goes the rider's good fortune. A few years later the horse surfaces
at a school rodeo ridden by a lad from a Reservation. While they are a good team, it turns out that the student has
behavioural disabilities and his very protective relative doesn't want the horse removed. She's a former soldier
and works on the Rez now. The cowboy can't easily remove Muddy from her care and Native police have jurisdiction,
so he accepts that he'll have to take some time resolving the issue.
This week's nature book is 100 Plants to Save the Bees by The Xerces Society. ISBN: 9781612127019.
I totally enjoyed this colourful book of facts and figures, copiously illustrated with photos. We first find out
what insects are pollinators and learn about honey. A key indicates which plants feed honeybees, other native bees,
butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Some plants can be planted in gardens across America and others will thrive
in certain regions, indicated on a map of the continental US and Canada.
I am glad that Latin names are provided under the common plant names, as some common names differ in Europe. What
enjoyable names too, such as fireweed, goldenrod, meadowfoam, mountain mint, prairie clover, rattlesnake master,
wild indigo. Then come the trees; willow which we might not consider as it's wind pollinated, but the bees pick
up the pollen; buttonbush, coyote bush, mesquite, ocean spray, manzanita.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, helped to save the Congo Rainforest, and sponsored a biometric
smartcard with Opportunity International, so that a woman can have her own bank account. I did this at no cost
22nd January 2017
This week I am highlighting the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Situated on the banks of
Lake Michigan, this huge destination is highly popular with city people who want to get
out of the extreme heat of summer. As tourists a few years ago, we took a city tour
hop-on-hop-off bus and this was our main destination; the tour buses may stop running
before the close of the museum. A ramp was available for wheelchairs and strollers - buggies -
so people with these were able to skip some of the long queues. There is also a separate
accessible entrance and parking.
Inside the floors are level and the staff have wheelchairs available for use on production
of photo ID. A restaurant is on site, with a wide variety of foods and movable chairs. The
website offers guided tours for guests with hearing or vision impairment but these need two
weeks' notice. If you are interested in aquatic life there is an astonishing amount to see.
One room is given over to exhibits changed every year. We saw seahorses and previously there
were frogs. Concerns arise over keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. We saw a dolphin
show which was respectful and informative, and did not involve hoops or dangerous stunts.
The Shedd supports research and conservation and is certified by the American Humane Association.
If you would like to recommend a venue please e-mail me at email@example.com referring to
this blog in the title.
This week's horse book is A Star Is Born by Sable Hamilton ISBN: 9781434297945.
A keen young rodeo competitor has been chosen to train as a stunt rider by a firm which supplies
these riders to films. They train her along with other young people on a ranch in Montana. Kami
is the girl's name and she is given a trained grey horse called Magic. Each book in the Stardust
Stables series will follow a different rider's story, so although there is rivalry it is on a
friendly basis. The challenges come from learning the stunts, performing them under examination
stress, and coping with homesickness and nerves. This is written by Jenny Oldfield under a pen
name. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.
This week's nature book is The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw ISBN: 9780340728963.
I enjoyed this memoir from a swordboat captain who describes herself as a fisherman. The conditions
and workload vary from delightful to overwhelming; near the end of the trip her crew is almost ready
to mutiny to get back to harbour - but not quite, because they are all there to catch fish. While
Greenlaw is rare in being a female captain she says it drives her to work harder, and she appears
to get the respect she has earned. Greenlaw tells us there are plenty of swordfish and her industry
and fleet are highly regulated. She blames other nations for unregulated catches. See the rest of my
review on Goodreads.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon and planted one tree; I also supported the work of Breast
Cancer Research, all through Care2.com
15th January 2017
This week we visited a fascinating museum; the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton, Somerset.
Stored in a hangar on a Royal Navy airfield are planes ranging from early 'stringbag' biplanes
to the Concorde, with rescue helicopters and military planes carried by Navy vessels in between
them. Paintings include the Ark Royal while a gallery displays the work of the WRNS who took on
tasks from mechanic to codebreaking during wars. This is a fascinating venue, packed with
history and personal memories, which has been adapted to be accessible to wheelchair users.
A number of wheelchairs are available for guests.
A ramp between floors was installed, and opened by Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, a courageous
fighter pilot who continued flying despite losing both legs. Some of the exhibits would be good
for visually impaired people, such as lifting the weight of a mortar dropped by early bombers.
Access from the car park, which has wheelchair parking spaces, is across bumpy tarmac and up
several steps, so people of reduced mobility go to a side door, ring a bell and wait for a staff
member to open the door and bring them to the lower floor and lift, which has Braille on the buttons.
Tickets are bought on the floor above, and a carer goes free with a disabled person. Service
personnel past and present also do not need to pay. The restrooms include accessible facilities
and were sparkling clean.
The only disadvantage we found is that the Swordfish Café next to the museum closes at the same
time as the museum. If you have spent a couple of hours walking around a hangar on a coastal airfield,
you would appreciate a hot cup of tea.
The photo shows our roving reporter Ellen enjoying an audiovisual presentation about the planes. Ellen
comments that the poured concrete floor of the hangar was so smooth, her wheelchair felt as if it was flying.
This week's horse book is The Horse Healer by Gonzalo Giner ISBN: 9781480444607.
This is a novel of turbulent Spain in medieval times, when a young man is forced to leave his simple
home and head for the city of Toledo. He brings only his prized mare, and a love of learning.
Diego has seen the death of his parents and abduction of his sisters by Saracen forces from North Africa.
This is not a tale for the faint-hearted but shows us how ordinary people had to struggle to survive and
keep our civilisation alive. Toledo, a walled city, houses three religions side by side, and the Moors,
Christians and Jews obey rules such as not sleeping in one another's homes. Diego can't get work but
eventually gets taken on by a healer of beasts of burden as apprentice. This early veterinarian has
access to documents on horse care stored in Toledo.
My nature book is Eye of the Drone (Suki & Finch #2) ISBN:9780992041380.
This highly imaginative YA series takes off like a rocket in the second book. Our two graphic heroes
are set in some beautiful terrain again, and we get to see majestic wild cats like the Amur Tiger and
Snow Leopard, as well as smaller ones like Pallas's Cat in Nepal. Suki and Finch are again helped by
their bobcat and falcon friends, but someone mysterious has sent a spy drone to see who is trying to
protect the trees in these lands. Cats live where trees grow, so Suki and Finch are soon in big trouble.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as
contributing to Carbon Fund. All for no cost at wwwCare2.com
8th January 2017.
This week I'm giving credit to Davies Plumbing Centre in Harmonstown, Dublin 5. This is a trade
plumbing supplies centre where the public are welcome, and a café is beside the shop. With several
steps up to the main door, the folks at Davies have installed a platform lift for wheelchairs
instead of a ramp. Inside, plenty of space is left between aisles of goods, so a wheelchair would
be able to manoeuvre and reach the counter. Well done for making all the customers so welcome.
My recommended horse book this week is Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal by Tim Hayes.
I enjoyed this read about horses being used to help people with various issues and emotional problems.
The groups observed by the author include one which combines gentling wild mustangs so they can
be sold as riding horses, with violent prisoners who want a chance at rehab. The prisoners in this
case were a self-selecting group who passed behavioural tests before being let near the horses.
Other groups include those helping troubled young people to talk and grow confident; one where an
autistic child learned to interpret body language of the horses, especially their ear signals; one
where war veterans are helped not just physically, to move on horseback despite missing limbs, but
mentally as a female officer with PTSD relates.
My nature book is Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich.
We wander the north woods in deep winter, observing and studying and carrying out occasional
experiments with the author and his students. Just when we think the adaptations of creatures
can't get any odder, they do.
Rabbits burrow into the subnivian or under snow layer, tunnelling happily between trees to eat
the bark off right up to the snow crust and invisible to predators. Colour-changing creatures
turn white in a space of a week or two. Caterpillars thaw to eat for a brief summer, freeze,
thaw again and eat, for a dozen or more years before reaching the size needed to pupate. Birds
appear to die but can be thawed. Other birds huddle and shiver nightly, burning fat which they
must replenish by day.
Flying squirrels huddle in hollow trees to share warmth. Beaver lodges
provide safe havens and larders. Bears sleep with lowered metabolic rates, giving birth to cubs
which they suckle for three months under the snow before awakening in spring. Insects make
communal nests or migrate thousands of miles. The hibernate or migrate option has had to be
explored by every species. Frogs don't have this option, so they freeze solid. The measurements
given are astounding.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and fed a rescued seal, for no cost at Care2.com
Sunday 1st January 2017
Happy New Year!
This week I can recommend visiting your local IKEA store. A large furniture and household goods store has a lot
to interest anyone, even if you don't plan to spend much money. The Dublin IKEA store has accessible parking close
to the large entrance, while a bus stops outside the door. Lifts with Braille on the buttons can get you around,
and on the upper level are all the displays of various rooms; so a person with reduced mobility can actually do
some good exercising indoors and sit down any time they feel inclined.
The restaurant has plenty of seating with movable chairs. We noticed a nice idea which is a little trolley to
carry the meal trays. The trolley can take two laden trays and can be pushed in front of a wheelchair. There is
always a vegetarian option, salads and fruit. I was pleased to see that the seafood is all described as coming
from sustainable fisheries, while the coffee is from a fair trade provider.
As part of the restaurant there is a discreet area for mothers to feed babies which has the brilliant idea of
little toys in case the mother has to bring in a toddler as well. Baby changing and accessible restrooms are
available. If you have an IKEA family card, your tea and coffee are free (except on weekends, in Dublin).
This week's horse book is Phantom Stallion by Terri Farley. ISBN: 9780064410854.
This is a very worthwhile read about a girl called Sam who has been raised on a ranch but living away from it for
two years. Now she is returning and wonders what life will be like. She had been training a dark grey colt but he
ran away, and her family doesn't know where he is. Sam finds a pale grey stallion coming to drink by moonlight near
the ranch house, and realises that as grey horses get lighter each year, this could be her colt. But he is wild
and running with mustangs. This is the start of a series.
This week's nature book is chosen because New Zealand was first to see in the New Year. Explorations of
Aotearoa: A Collection of Wildlife Photography From New Zealand by Max Allen.
These gorgeous nature and landscape photos bring New Zealand right up to our faces. The author studied the wildlife
of New Zealand for his PhD and is also a photographer. Accordingly he provides some stunning and colourful photos,
mainly of endemic birds (those found nowhere else) as well as some other wildlife such as seals. Nature lovers will
definitely want a copy.
The text is little more than extended captions. Some of the photos are accompanied by the story of how the author
achieved such a great shot, while others explain the adaptations of a bird, such as the kiwi or kea, or the threats
it faces in its normal habitat. Photographers will find this book of interest because the author has noted his techniques and equipment.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted two fruit trees and raised a farm animal humanely. All through Care2.com at no cost.
Sunday 25th December 2016
Kilkenny Design Centre
Happy Christmas or winter festival of your choice! We are all celebrating midwinter when the sun starts to appear
for longer each day. This week I'll recommend the Kilkenny Design Centre in Kilkenny City. Located just opposite
the gates to Kilkenny Castle, the craft centre and food hall showcases the best of Irish creativity. The beautiful
building is the former stable yard.
Allan and I organised an evening's dining for a group here a few years ago, as all the food is prepared on the
premises. The casual restaurant is on the floor above the crafts, but there is a lift and the chairs are all free
to move, so a wheelchair can easily be accommodated. Lunch, afternoon tea and take out food are available and can
be made to dietary specifications. Kilkenny is a medieval small city so not every building can be adapted to be
fully accessible. The Kilkenny Design Centre is an excellent venue.
This week's horse book is Soldier Sister, Fly Home by Nancy Bo Flood. ISBN: 9781580897020.
This is a touching and at times sad account of a young half Navaho girl who looks after her older sister's horse.
The elder sister has joined the Army after an injury lost her any chance of completing university on a running
scholarship. But being overseas means that her big blue stallion will go crazy from lack of work. Her younger sister
nervously accepts the responsibility.
This week's nature book is Future Arctic: Field Notes from a World on the Edge by Edward Struzik. ISBN: 9781610914406.
The book follows major patterns of change now visible and being studied by a wide range of Arctic scientists, from
ecologists to fire scientists.
As the continent of North America warms and dries we see more wildfires; these are now spreading to the tundra, and
major tundra fires are expected to become frequent. Permafrost is shrinking and shrubs are invading river deltas that
dry up from lack of glaciers to feed them. Opportunist species such as coyotes are moving northwards, and some species
will bring diseases or outcompete the threatened native Arctic wildlife. Reindeer and caribou are greatly reducing in
numbers, so the indigenous people who subsist on them have no choice but to import and buy meats. Carefully managed
extraction of fuels or minerals can provide jobs but outsiders frequently bring problems and cause environmental
issues, and use industrial methods like factory ships and open-cast mining; besides which the sea level is rising.
I offset 7 pounds of carbon and I provided a woman in a developing country with a biometric smart-card so she can
have her own bank account, all through Care2.
Sunday 18th December 2016
Cú Chulainn Roller Coaster
at Tayto Park
This week my roving reporter Una has recommended Tayto Park as a great family friendly accessible place to visit
in Ireland. This is an outdoor activity centre and zoo in Ashbourne, Co. Meath. I have yet to visit the park but
it is definitely on my must-see list because they offer wildlife and conservation studies as well as zip lines and
climbing. I might give the big roller coaster a miss.
Una tells me that some of the rides are specially adapted for people in wheelchairs, so they don't have to get out
of the wheelchair to participate. The Tayto Park website assures us that during December, Santa's Grotto is fully
wheelchair accessible. Registered assistance dogs are welcome. The staff can also provide help as follows:
"Guests with disabilities can avail of the reduced admissions price of €12 as well as have a carer accompany them
for no admission cost. We understand that some of our Guests may experience difficulty with queueing for extended
periods of time. For this reason, we invite you to use the Member's entrance when arriving to the Park.
A Ride Assistance Pass may be obtained from the reception desk in the Admissions building. This allows your party
to avoid the queue on up to 6 attractions of your choice during the day in conjunction with valid wristbands or tokens.
Ride assistance Passes are reserved for guests who do not understand the concept of queuing or may become agitated
or distressed when queuing for prolonged periods of time."
Check out the full details on their website as I have shortened the extract. This looks like a smashing day out for
everyone and prices are reduced during the winter months... as is daylight of course.
This week's horse book is Reining In Murder by Leigh Hearon ISBN: 9781496700339.
Annie Carson who keeps horses on the Olympic Peninsula is called to a road accident by police; a bay Thoroughbred
has been rescued unharmed but the driver of the vehicle and trailer was killed. Annie takes the spooked horse home
to care for him until ownership can be established. This starts her involvement in a crime investigation as it turns
out the crash was no accident.
See my review on Goodreads.
Our nature book is Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores ISBN: 9780465052998.
This enjoyable and easily readable book looks at the coyote, from prehistory when it split with the grey wolf line
and trotted across the Bering landbridge to form the jackal tribe, to modern times when, with wolves almost
extinguished, it has free rein to reproduce in almost every American state.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted two fruit trees and fed a rescued seal, among other good works
free with care2
Sunday 11th December 2016
Last week we were away scouting a location. The city of Denia in the strip of Mediterranean coastline on Spain's
south east, is a relatively inexpensive place to stay during the winter months. While some of the footpaths are
less than ideal for wheelchairs, a recent redevelopment of the harbour and marina has provided an excellent harbour
Designated parking for wheelchair users is situated both in the harbour grounds, and outside along a path and beach
which is a natural preserve. I like that metal rails keep anyone from parking on the spot next to the path where the
ramp is located, and the rails can also be used to pull the chair up the ramp.
The top of the harbour wall is decoratively and smoothly tiled, with wooden railings. Strolling along, you can view
the fishing harbour, the marina full of yachts and the coastline as far as Cape St. Vincente. Looking back you get a
view of the old town and the handsome Castle up on a height. This city used to rule the Balearic Islands off the
coast, and you can watch ferries and the commercial harbour which once served the raisin trade.
Even during winter we found a café or two open along the marina, where the ground floor restroom was suitable for
wheelchairs. To get down again to this marina level, we followed a long ramp with stout metal railing. Dog walkers
are ordered to pick up after their pets, which always helps. Recycling is strongly encouraged and we saw no litter
or potential hazards for walkers in this area.
This week's horse book is Boys Don't Ride by Katharina Marcus. ISBN: 9781311664648.
A smashing young adult story about earning the right to riding lessons by doing the work of looking after ponies...
and helping others. Tull is seventeen and scraping by as his absent father doesn't always live up to his responsibilities.
A girl called Liberty has no money either, but she does have access to ponies and horses as her mother runs a riding centre.
Tull loves horses but has never had the chance to learn to ride.
Liberty has a cleft palate/ hare lip which required a few operations and still leaves her marked, so she is not easy to
make friends with, feeling defensive. But Tull doesn't care because he'll get up at the crack of dawn and help with
ponies if that's what it takes, so why would he worry about someone's looks?
See the rest of my review and find out more on Goodreads.
This week's environmental book is Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann. ISBN: 9780735842083. This unusual book is good for
any age from young readers up, so might make a good Christmas present. Moletown is gorgeous and clever, an art book
with fun and a message about our own lives.
The mole comes to live in a green meadow and his family and friends come to join him, but the intricate machines they
build for tunnelling and mining coal make their lives more busy. They have a civilisation after enough time has passed,
a dense urban underground population where moles hang up their helmets at night after a day in the office or works,
all beautifully drawn.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.
During the past two weeks I offset ten pounds of carbon, rescued a baby turtle and planted three fruit trees for
free among other good works with Care2
Sunday 27th November 2016
This week I would like to draw your attention to accessible London Transport, specifically
the Docklands Light Rail. This line mainly serves the east of London including Canary Wharf
and Greenwich, and meets the Tube at both north and south stations. If travelling through
Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street, you should head for Bank or Stratford to join the DLR
routes. If flying in to City Airport in Docklands you are directly on the DLR. The Jubilee
Line is an accessible Tube line.
The DLR is driverless and was built to be accessible - no steps, none of the famous 'mind the gap'
on Tube lines. The original Tube trains were designed to bring working people to work, and
later lines were added piecemeal. This means that you may have a Tube journey that includes
changing platform by walking through a tiled tunnel that leads up steps, over the head of a
train tunnel, down steps again, and be quite a long walk too. Not every Tube station has elevators,
and some have very deep sets of escalators which would be hard to cope with for a wheelchair. Once
you get to a DLR station on the other hand, a lot of it is above ground, and all is at an easy
To use public transport in London now, you need to buy an Oystercard and tag on and tag off to be
debited for the length of your journey and how many zones you use. You can top up the card at
stations. Buses do not accept cash. The card is good for buses, Tube, DLR, trains within London,
river boat bus and the cable car from Greenwich to the north of the river. On buses, wheelchairs
are free. Each bus has a sliding automatic ramp, usually at the middle door. Assistance dogs are welcome.
This link shows the London Transport website page where you can see how to plan and make accessible
journeys around London. Four people in wheelchairs are filmed getting river boats, buses, Tube and
DLR trains. You can see that the Jubilee Line, being very modern, has step free access to platforms
via lifts, and at other stations there is a blue and white wheelchair symbol on the ground for a
wheelchair to use this spot to board. A call station can be used to summon a platform assistant to
help a person needing a portable ramp. The staff will also help a person through barriers and direct
them to the stations and routes they need. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, Paralympic gold medallist,
is featured in one of the films. Her message is "Give it a go. Come on board."
This week's horse book is Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins. ISBN: 9780993683701
I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of a young competitive rider whose life changes in an instant. She decides
to spend the summer doing something different, staying alone in her family's holiday cottage on an island
and working in a B&B.
An Appaloosa mare isn't the ideal wage packet.
See my review and learn about the series on Goodreads.
This week's nature read is The Ferocious Summer: Adelie Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica by
Meredith Hooper. ISBN: 9781553653691
As a journalist researching for a book, the author spent a summer on the Antarctic coast with the
science team which works to study everything that can possibly be studied, including penguin colonies.
The small Adelie penguins had to brave leopard seals and foul weather as they strove to collect shrimps
to feed their chicks.
As much a portrait of the people and living conditions at Palmer Station as anything, this is a fascinating read.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored the planting of a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely
and contributed to Amnesty International among other causes. I did this at no cost through a site called Care2.com.
Be careful as with many sites today, the comments may contain spam ads.
Sunday 20th November 2016
This week the place of interest is recommended by my roving reporter Ellen. I love visiting
garden centres and these days they have so many additional ways for you to enjoy the afternoon.
"Otter Nurseries, at Ottery St. Mary. Devon, a short way over the border from Somerset and about
8 miles east of Exeter. They have a good collection of wheelchairs at the doorway and you may
use them for the day at no cost. This is a garden centre, with a good restaurant, clothes shop,
country craft place, sells homemade jams, chutneys etc is huge, really, and has a great Christmas
display each year. The only drawback is the small number of designated disabled car places there
are. However, even when these are used you can drive to the door, drop off your disabled passenger
and settle them in a wheelchair under cover, then go off and park your car."
With flowers, plants and aromatic herbs, a garden centre has plenty of fragrances, and
contrasting plants to touch as well. I'm really pleased to hear that this business took the
initiative and has made all their customers so welcome. Their restaurant advertises a gluten
free option and locally sourced foods, including meats; they suggest that you can ring
ahead if you have special dietary requirements.
The photo is from my own garden.
This week's horse book is The Perfect Horse: The Daring American Mission to Rescue the
Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts. ISBN: 9780345544803. Ballantine Books.
This history is quite chilling as we follow the horse breeding schemes of the evil Third Reich.
Germany is today one of Europe's biggest producers of horses. In 1936, when the tale starts, the
Great War had killed millions of horses; exports of horses were demanded under reparations; the
Olympic team did everything it had to do to win all the gold medals for Germany. The Second World
War despite employing tanks, trains and trucks, used 2,750,000 horses from Germany alone, sixty
percent of which were killed according to this book. Poland was invaded and stud Arabians stolen
by Russians, then the rest were sequestered by Nazis for breeding in their cause. While breeding
was an inexact science, the principle of breeding the best horses for a particular purpose was
well understood and the Nazis wanted to breed a purebred race of war horse.
The Lipizzaners of Austria, trained in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna under Alois Podhajsky,
were a natural target.
I love the photos of the Lipizzaners training. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. As with any
factual book on wartime, this contains some distressing scenes so is not suitable for children.
This week's nature book gets into our back gardens.
Welcome To Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife
by John M. Marzluff, Jack Delap. ISBN: 9780300197075. Yale University Press.
This book mainly focuses on mainland America but also looks at Britain and Hawaii. We see that bird
species have had to cope with the spread of urban habitats and some have thrived while others have
been lost or reduced.
Species are categorised as avoiders, adapters or exploiters of urban habitats. The author lists
nine ways to make our home areas more attractive and helpful to birds. These include putting up
nest boxes, adding stickers or blinds to high windows and planting berry bushes in the garden. The
illustrations are gorgeous, showing birds in their environments.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads. I have also reviewed this book on Fresh Fiction.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, saved a turtle hatchling and donated to the Jane Goodall Institute,
among other good works, for no cost at www.care2.com.
I also need to thank Allan, my husband and webmaster, for putting this blog on the web each week.
Sunday 13th November 2016
A good place to visit for disability access and an interesting day out, is the Museum of Transport
in Glasgow. This newly built museum is on the Clydeside where the River Kelvin meets the Clyde, and
occupies some of the former warehousing, shipyard and dock space. A tall ship which once carried
cargoes, the Glenlee, is moored alongside and forms part of the exhibition. Limited parking and buses
are transport options and a dedicated phone is provided to call a taxi.
The Riverside Museum building has an interesting design shape and the inside is like a great hangar
to fit double decker buses, trams, cars, aeroplanes and more. Very popular areas include a reconstructed
1930s Glasgow street, with a horse and cart, including inside the shops. Sit comfortably inside a subway
train where you can hear conversations from the past, or listen in to passengers on a tram. All kinds of
transport are included from bicycles to space travel, even a massive train built in Scotland and sent to
South Africa, and some you might not think of like traditional prams. These can be viewed from different
levels as you rise through the building.
There are lifts and restrooms to suit the less able, while the cafe is on the ground floor and the
chairs and tables are not fixed in place. There's so much to see that you'll likely want a lunch, but
just because you are in Scotland that doesn't mean you have to eat haggis. We enjoyed a wonderful rich
Moroccan chicken soup which was a meal in itself, with tea and coffee. Later we sampled more tea on
board the ship, which can be hired as a catering or party venue. When we visited, the lift to lower
decks was working but the website suggests ringing in advance. I was pleased to note waterbirds on the
river as well as some boating activity. Seats are available and a person using a mobility aid had a
good time getting around. The Museum states that it welcomes people with hearing impairment and
assistance dogs are permitted.
This week's horse book is La Grulla by John R. Wright.
A grulla, a crane-coloured mare of Spanish descent, is at the centre of the beautiful, carefully
crafted tale. Some elements of this Western historical adventure remind me of Max Brand (for a strong
and gallant young hero, and girl who can ride and shoot) while the epic journey and search for a safe
home remind me of The Outlaw Josey Wales.
I am a horse lover and several horse and mule characters play a great part in the story. The people too are
individuals and we see our central hero growing through the journey, ending in a fantastic endurance
ride with death at his heels. The tension is gradually introduced and builds through the book until
I did not want to put the Kindle down, I was so caught up and entertained.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.
This week's nature book is If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems by James P. Lenfestey.
"We are bees then; our honey is language."
- Words Rising by Robert Bly.
Indeed humans are like bees, and we depend upon these industrious little pollinators.
Published to highlight the threat to the bees worldwide from colony collapse, insecticide, impoverished landscape and varroa mite, this diligently collected set of poems has something for everyone, young and old.
I noticed that some poems were principally about bees, but many more just mentioned bees as part of the scene they were depicting. Whether in an early line or a late one, the bee was shown as an indivisible part of the garden, field, hillside or farm. Coleridge's Inscription for a Fountain on a Heath, manages to mention bees in both the first and last lines. Emily Dickinson describes bumblebees as well as honeybees.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and sponsored the rescue
of a baby turtle, plus other good works. I did this for no cost through the site www.care2.com
Sunday 6th November 2016
This week I'd like to recommend an accessible visitor site in Ireland: the Dunbrody, a
recreated famine emigrant ship. She sits by the quays in New Ross, Co. Wexford. While
building the three-masted barque she was prepared for a sea voyage. She sailed across
to North America and returned to New Ross from where the ancestors of John F Kennedy
had travelled to a better life.
Dunbrody has a lift to make her accessible below decks. The staff are very helpful and
are happy to put the lift to use. This is suitable for three or four people or one
wheelchair and one or two people. On board, visitors can handle the parts of the ship
and furnishings similar to those used by emigrants. Actors will tell their stories and
explain the lives of people from various backgrounds. The sounds and scents of the times
are provided and this is a really immersive experience.
Close to Dunbrody on the quays is a new Visitor Centre with a first floor café and restrooms.
These are fully wheelchair accessible. New Ross is not large so I suggest planning a lunch
in the town as well as the shipboard visit. This location is an easy drive from Kilkenny. The
Dunbrody Famine Ship received an award at the 2015 CIE Tours Awards of Excellence. These
awards are based on an independent evaluation of questionnaires completed by CIE Tours
International coach tour customers. Dunbrody is open seven days a week from 9am with the last
tour at 5pm. Tours last about an hour.
This week's horse book is Small Town Filly (Sandbar Stables Cozy Mystery #1) by Bethanie Cushman.
This is a very enjoyable, not too complex or violent mystery. There are plenty of horses, which
is a big plus as far as I'm concerned. The tale follows a young lady in America who mysteriously
inherits a riding stable business on the Gulf Coast, a sandy beach in Florida to be precise.
Trouble is, various hotel developers want the land, and the next door boating firm wants it too.
See the rest of my review, and find out about the author and see other reviews, on Goodreads.
The book is suitable for anyone from mid-teens to adults.
This week's nature book is Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront
by Heather Wolf.
I love this account of starting to birdwatch from almost no experience, in a brand new park built at
Brooklyn Bridge. Heather decided to document each species she found and this meant she had to buy a
better camera... and learn to be a better photographer. The results, the photos in the book, are
often stunning for their beauty and lively quality. Heather took strolls to the park near her home
often so she got to see migrant coastal birds as well as residents and noted their behaviour; nesting,
feeding or staking territory.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads. I have also reviewed it on Fresh Fiction. This book has a
foreword by David Lindo, an urban birdwatcher from London.
This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and raised a farm animal
humanely. I did this for no cost at www.care2.com and supported
other good works as well.
Sunday 30th October 2016
Recently my husband and I visited Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool is one of the new
museums along the waterside which used to be docklands. The docks were the lifeblood
of the city and shipbuilding was carried out here on an enormous scale as well as
goods trading. The Museum of Liverpool was one of the best attractions for people
with disabilities we'd seen.
No entry fee. Automatic doors. Assistance dogs welcome. Staff are friendly and capable.
The building occupies several floors but there is a free locker area on the ground floor,
with Braille on the keys and lockers. Wheelchairs are available. A Braille guide is
available as are large print versions. Spacious lifts and a central spiralling ramp
provide easy access. The lift has Braille markings and each area has its floor plan
provided in a raised format near the entrance.
Each floor has its own set of restrooms including a disability access one and nursing
mother facilities. Seats are regular features of each floor, especially in front of a
short film. These were particularly welcomed by older people. The café, with
free-standing tables and chairs, provides hot meals and cold snacks, good fuel. For
a hot filling lunch we each paid seven pounds plus tea and coffee.
With differing aspects of the city's history highlighted, from nautical paintings to
the Grand National and World War Two, an enormous array of artefacts has been collected.
There is too much to see in one day. Many of the exhibits contain sound recordings,
like the voices of people who tell their stories, or typical sounds of the time and
place, and the Beatles are a highlight. Signing in BSL and some captions are provided
as well. I also found scent spots, with cargoes and dock scents. Touch exhibits include
stonework, fabrics and dock materials.
We visited a pilot boat which was docked alongside the building. This has stairs, but a
visitor with a stick was able to get aboard and see most of the boat with the free
guided tour. When we left the museum I thanked the people at reception and told them
this was the best museum I had seen for inclusive access. This museum has a policy of
being autism friendly.
We stayed in a hotel, part of an inexpensive chain facing the dock area. Basic needs
were met and we dined in pubs further up the city; of course, everything is uphill
from the sea but there is a lot to look at in a small area. We also visited other
museums in the dockside area, which can be easily accessed on foot or in a wheelchair.
These were the Merseyside Maritime Museum and International Museum of Slavery. Parking
for cars with disability badges is provided. Another item of interest to me was the
monument to the Working Horse of the Liverpool docks.
Horse Book: Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker.
Paperback, 352 pages. Published 2016 by Andersen.
Sexism and bullying are rife when a girl from a troubled background tries to work her
way up from groom to apprentice jockey. A fine grey mare called Manhattan is just as
difficult and will be condemned if she doesn't shape up and start winning races, as
her Arab owner won't breed from losers. And our young heroine has a dodgy uncle who
encroaches on her growing freedom. This is a reminder to all young readers that
acting the maggot will get you nowhere but down.
Age: YA to adult.
Environment: The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips
Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson.
Hardcover, 304 pages. Published 2015 by Basic Books.
The book explores the relationship we have had with seeds over the centuries
and how our near relatives gorillas still search them out for food. The oldest
seed to have survived and sprouted is a date palm seed found at Masada, two
thousand years old. The author spent time with various researchers, in forests,
farmland, jungles and in a coal mine. Carboniferous plants which we have found
are ferns and horsetails; but only the swampy land preserved plants, and on the
uplands, paeleobotanists now believe, grew conifers producing the earliest true seeds.
Chapters are devoted to the chemistry of coffee, of chocolate, of chile pepper.
Spices coming along the Silk Road and wheat carrying rat flea larvae played immense
parts in history.
During the week I offset seven pounds of carbon; bought three trees to be planted;
saved a turtle hatchling. And more, all at no cost. See the website www.care2.com