Bill Linanne: Magic is knowing when you have it good…and being able to enjoy it

You just can’t beat a good magic road. There are a couple of them scattered around Ireland, but the closest one to where I live – and therefore the best – is at Mahon Falls in west Waterford.

It’s hard to describe a magic road on paper, as they are effectively a grand illusion created by the collision of human endeavour – in the form of a road – and a landscape that refuses to conform to our sense of perspective. Basically, you think you’re going downhill, but you’re going uphill. You stop the car, put down the handbrake and roll up a slope. It sound ludicrous, but you really need to experience one for yourself, as even for a profound cynic like me, they inspire the same reaction that Fr Dougal had when he was told about one by Fr Ted – “this is almost as mad as that thing you told me about the loaves and fishes”.

Last Easter, in a feeble effort to instill some wonder in my kids, I decided to bring them to the local magic road. On the way there, I regaled them with tales of how amazing it is, dressing it up with some ludicrous guff about soft places where the walls between worlds were pliable and faerie folk were able to pass through. This, I explained, was why the magic road was marked with a faerie tree, a wiry windswept bush adorned with a selection of rags.

When people say there is no magic left in the world, they might be right, as some nihilist prankster cut down the faerie tree that marked where the magic road is. And so it was that I went crawling through the six-kilometre route, becoming increasingly frustrated that I was unable to find the blasted road. Perhaps its magical power is invisibility, I japed, as my children repeatedly asked where the magic road – which I had clearly oversold – was. Attempting to summon it by swearing in front of my children didn’t work, nor did looping through the entire drive a second time. Adding to my frustrations was the fact that my gearbox was acting up. Completely bothered, I drove home. It was only when I got home and angrily googled where the damn road had gone that I realised that my car wasn’t acting up, it was in fact the magic road that I was on, and I was, accordingly, in the wrong gear. Of course, I should have known exactly where it was, as I had been there previously, albeit two decades before.

Back in 1996, I went to Mahon Falls with my mum, dad and sister. We did the magic road, marvelled at the beauty of the falls, and came home. It would be the last day all four of us would spend together. Two weeks later, my sister suffered a heart attack brought on by her epilepsy, and died aged 22. She had been sick for more than half her life, to the point where I can hardly remember what she was like before the illness came.

I never really understood what my parents went through until my own daughter was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune condition, and I find myself living in the house I grew up in, sleeping in what was my parents’ room, with a sick daughter who sleeps in my sister’s room. It sometimes feels like I am repeating history, stuck on an endless loop until I gain a deeper understanding of what it was like for my parents to have a sick child. I think I am finally starting to understand, decades too late, how much they and my sister went through.

I brought my kids back to Mahon Falls in the summer, and this time we found the magic road. They were completely unimpressed. “What’s magic about it? It’s just a road,” they asked. Magic, I informed them, was being able to discern when you are facing what you might think was an uphill battle, but you were in fact travelling downhill in the wrong gear, simply because you lacked perspective. Magic was knowing when you have it good, and being able to enjoy it, because some day it may slip away from you. The magic, I solemnly intoned, was that we were there together, that we had each other.

It turned out that real magic is knowing that you are talking to yourself, as your kids have stopped listening to you, just as you didn’t listen to your own parents.

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Country roads: Meet the families swapping the big smoke for fresh air

In recent months, the challenges facing rural Ireland have materialised in quick succession – the delay in the National Broadband Plan, the proposed closure of over 100 rural post offices nationwide and the anxiety around the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and its implications for the agri-food sector. Despite the gloom and doom, there are some brave souls who choose to flee from city streets and all their amenities to quieter, greener environs and a more tranquil life.

These refugees from overpopulated, unaffordable cities and their stressful, arduous commutes, air pollution and rat-race aggression have certainly defied convention in their migration from urban to rural. However, by moving against national population trends, people are also carving out new opportunities and a better quality of life for themselves, and their families.

Advantages such as clean air, cheaper housing, a vibrant sense of community, and more space are appealing reasons to move to rural locations, but other aspects of rural life – including the lack of public transport, long, dark winters complicated by extreme weather events, erratic rural broadband, lack of employment and the revised drink driving legislation – present obstacles to those pursuing bucolic bliss.

John Bassett and Mijke Jansen of Bassett’s Restaurant in Thomastown made the move from Holland to Kilkenny 14 years ago. While John is originally from Inistioge, Mijke is from the Netherlands. They met in London and subsequently returned to Dublin, but unable to settle, they then moved to Mijke’s native Holland for six years. However, John’s plans always included a return to Ireland to start a family: “I couldn’t imagine myself having kids anywhere other than back home.” The couple’s three children, Amber (13), George (11) and Emmy (9) were all born in Ireland.

In 2004, they returned to open a restaurant in the Woodstock estate in Inistioge, which they were forced to close after the 2008 crash. Lean years followed but John recalls that their idyllic rural location, along with their “back to basics attitude” and young family provided consolation.

Last year, they launched the new Bassett’s Restaurant in Thomastown, which John describes as “quite a vibrant town”.

Mijke, who was initially wary about cultural differences in rural Ireland versus densely populated Holland – she describes how the Dutch “really protect their personal space” and how here “everybody kind of wants to know each other’s business and you know… I’m a very private person” – is now “so integrated”.

She elaborates: “There’s another side to it as well… there’s social cohesion still in these small communities and that’s what’s missing in cities and in other cultures.

“Living where we do now gives a good quality of life. Things are just not as hectic. There’s a sense of community… I think the fact that everybody knows each other can be a bit oppressive sometimes, but it also gives a lot of comfort.

“When you get to the stage of settling down and having children, I don’t think you could find a better place for children to grow up than in an area like this.”

Kela Hodgins and her family, who relocated from Blackrock, Co Dublin, to Ardfield, outside Clonakilty in West Cork, experienced a transformative change in the process. Five years ago, when she and her husband, Stephen, were in their mid-40s and “doing the corporate thing and just finding that everything was just a drag”, they found Dunowen House (the former home of bass player Noel Redding from The Jimi Hendrix Experience) and within six weeks had sold their house in Dublin and moved to Cork. “A whirlwind,” she says.

They now run Dunowen House as a private luxury holiday rental home, while Kela also works on other projects and her husband works in consultancy. She is effusive about their new home: “The house is right – Clonakilty, West Cork, the community around us here made the transition just so much easier.” Her three children, (two boys and a girl) have flourished in the countryside. “They really adapted well, but they say now – ‘God, those first six months were tough’.

“We didn’t even have country cousins. Having the children is a good way of meeting new people. “I’ve been banging this drum for a couple of years… as I keep saying to people ‘I’m such a convert now to the idea [of relocating to the country from the cities]’. We still do a bit of work up in Dublin and we go up and I cannot believe the traffic… or the price of houses and the price of rent. I think, ‘why are not more people not thinking about doing it?’.”

But she concedes: “It’s not for everyone. I know a lot of our friends in Dublin, they do think we’re mad. When we moved, people were saying ‘Oh my God, you’re so brave,’ but I always thought they were saying ‘brave’ but they meant ‘crazy’.”

Kela lists varied advantages to their new home, including a closer connection to nature and the seasons, a better social life and a healthier diet and lifestyle: “I think we’ve added years to our life down here.”

Jane Gormley, mum to Paddy (13) and newborn daughter Clara, has made a new home in Allenwood, Co Kildare, having left Greystones in 2017 to live with her partner, William Mulhall, who runs a fourth generation farm that is now organic. She works for Recruiter Nation, a recruitment consultancy in Dublin, and when she informed them of her move to Kildare, they facilitated her (and other employees who lived in Kildare and Meath) by opening a Naas office. Jane explains: “So I was able to bring my job, which was brilliant, and the impact it has is amazing.”

Jane helps individuals find roles outside Dublin – “80pc of the work we do is focusing on people who want to get out of Dublin”.

In her previous working life she put in a 12-hour day: “You look at my situation with Paddy – I had a great job and really nice infrastructure around me in Greystones, and a lovely place to live, but the two of us were out of our house at 7am and we wouldn’t be back until 7pm. It was a panic station from Monday to Friday.”

Paddy now attends secondary school locally. “He’s now in a secondary school in Clane which is a nearby town… and he’s getting on really well.” She also loves him being “out in the fields and trees”.

For herself, Jane relishes “the feeling of space and sky”, “more overlap” with her son’s daily life and “a more dignified life” where she’s not chasing her tail.

She criticises the housing situation in Dublin as “not human”.

“We’re aware there are better ways of living, but it takes someone to take charge of it and I don’t think as an individual you can control all that, but you can control what you decide to do.”

Dublin-centric policies have driven people to the capital in Ireland, but cheaper and better housing, a gentler way of life, and more personal and family time continue to lure others in the opposite direction. As Kela Hodgins offers: “I feel down here we’re having a chance at a second life.”

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6 causes of morning headaches

Headaches cause a lot of discomfort at any time of day, but morning headaches can ruin your whole day. Unfortunately, you are not the only one who struggles with them. Amit Sachdev, MD, associate Professor and Director of neuromuscular medicine at Michigan state University, says that the morning headaches are a very common phenomenon, which can occur for different reasons.

Headaches do not necessarily become regular. But if you again and again Wake up with them, there must be a reason. Having identified the cause, you will be able to understand what treatment you need. Here are a few potential reasons:

You have a migraine

The most common time of day for migraine from 4 to 9 o’clock in the morning. Jennifer kriegler, MD, the doctor at the headache Center Cleveland clinic, reports that during this time your body produces less endorphins and enkephalins which are natural pain relievers. But the adrenaline, on the contrary, is released in large quantities during the early morning hours. It affects blood pressure, as well as the expansion or contraction of the blood vessels, causing a migraine.

Migraine often is a genetic disease, that is, to affect its course is not always possible. However, the doctor Sahdev claims that something done are possible. The key is to identify your stress triggers, for example, poor sleep and diet and try to avoid them. If you develop a migraine, rest, ice, relaxation and meditation is something that can really help. If the headache worsens, you must contact your doctor who will select the most effective treatment.

You have sleep apnea

Sleep apnea, a potentially serious disease, which provokes the constant stopping of breathing during sleep. This disease can cause headaches in the morning. Vernon Williams, MD, a sports neurologist and Director of the Center for clinical neuroscience and pain at the Kerlan-Jobe in Los Angeles, says that a headache caused by lack of oxygen and increased pressure may be a result of sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, self-diagnose myself is almost impossible, but if your partner complains that you snore, and you often feel headaches or fatigue, although sleep a sufficient amount of time, be sure to consult your doctor.

The cause of the headache – caffeine

Headache may occur if you drink several cups of coffee. Sachdev but the doctor said that this can happen in the opposite case. Caffeine affects the blood flow to the brain, so if some of the days you drank less coffee than usual, it may cause neurological side effectssimilar to those occurring during withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. One such effect is a severe headache.

To avoid headaches caused by caffeine, Dr. kriegler recommends to avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon. If you are trying to completely give up caffeine, but you get headaches, do it gradually. Should not abruptly stop drinking coffee drinks. Start to drink a half portion, to which you are accustomed, and slowly sobralite consumption.

Do you grind your teeth at night

Grinding of teeth can cause stress to the temporomandibular joint (ANS)that connects your lower jaw with the base of the skull and can also cause changes in jaw position. All this leads to tension, which becomes a cause of headache.

If you suspect that your morning headaches caused by this bad habit (or your dentist noticed the change), talk with your doctor about the next steps, which may include wearing a protective mouth guard at night.

You have been drinking alcohol before sleep

Undoubtedly, more chances to earn a headache after a noisy party ended in the morning than after a glass of wine with dinner. But a headache may occur in both cases. Certain compounds in alcohol can have a negative impact on the neurotransmitters in your brain, causing headaches or even causing a migraine, says an expert on women’s health Jennifer Wieder. Alcohol also is a diuretic (this means it makes you constantly go to the toilet), so many people Wake up with severe dehydration after alcohol consumption, which may aggravate the headache of a hangover.

The solution is quite simple: do not abuse alcohol. And, if you notice that certain types of alcohol affect your body worse than others, you may want to abandon them altogether, replacing them with something less toxic.

Sometimes the cause can be a serious disease

Dr. Williams is serious about headaches. In their methods, he always pays attention to the complaints of patients, because there is a chance that this could be due to something potentially serious, like high blood pressure from a brain tumor. Dr. Kriegler says that people with brain tumors often Wake up with a headache from the intense pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid. If a tumor causes swelling, this will stretch the cover of the brain and cause headaches.

This is obviously rare and not the most likely cause of the morning pain in the head, so do not worry and expect the worst. If you have a brain tumor, Dr. Williams says you probably will also experience symptoms such as vision changes, loss of vision, impaired balance, drowsiness and changes in your mental state. Much more likely that your morning headaches are caused by something less serious.

So, if you sometimes Wake up with a headache, it probably poses no serious danger. But if it happens regularly, talk to your doctor to find and fix the cause of the headache.