Bells and whistles

Posted on: 10th June, 2016

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

It’s been a weird month settling back into life in West Cork after six weeks in the US. Thankfully we’ve had some lovely sunshine to remind me just how beautiful this landscape that I call home is. It’s like a balm to be surrounded by the light green of new leaves on the trees. The hedgerows are bursting with bluebells and wild garlic. The first cutting has left fields looking like abstract paintings. I love the long rows of fresh cut hay, which make a field look like it has been draped in corduroy and which fills the air with the heady smell of summer. A weekend away on Cape Clear made my return complete. There are few sorrows that can resist the comfort of the North harbour.

Summer in West Cork is a busy season. The long days expand the available time for tasks and it is finally clement enough to ensure that paint dries and that scaffolding won’t blow away. This summer I have embarked on an ambitious plan of house repairs and renovations: Gutters and drains to check and repair, mysterious leaks that appeared in my bedroom over the terrible weather last Christmas to be investigated, and a long list of dripping taps and broken window hinges to fix. We have also decided to finish the last room in the house — my bedroom en suite shower.

When we moved in 23 years ago this summer, most of the rooms were building sites. Some were gutted down to the original stone. All the empty rooms were full of boxes. As we finished one room after the other, all the stuff got shifted to the unfinished rooms until only my bedroom en suite remained. It has been packed to the ceiling for years, having become the repository of all the boxes, books, old clothes, computers and TVs, that had nowhere else to go. This is probably why it’s taken us so long to finally put in a shower — where would we put the stuff once the room became a bathroom?

Having realised that this was the true impediment to finishing the house, my daughter shifted all the stuff into an unused (though finished) bedroom, and I went out shower shopping.

You’d think that shopping for a new en suite would be a pleasant diversion, but I find having to make infinite choices about colours, plumbing tiles and taps quite trying. There is so much choice! So many bells and whistles vying for your attention!

The last time I had to buy bathroom fixtures, I went into a store and selected three types of taps: bog standard, Victorian style with Hot and Cold in white ceramic, and very expensive Victorian style ones that looked exactly the same as the other ones, but had a fancy name. I lined them up in front of the salesman and asked him to explain the difference. A man of little words he answered: “The first one is €60. The next one is €120 and the other one is €280.”

“Why is that one so expensive,” I asked.

“It’s a designer tap,” he replied.

That was it. As far as their efficiency as a tap, they were all basically the same inside. The bog standard one had no bells or whistles. The bells and whistles on the ‘designer’ Victorian taps pumped the price up almost five fold. I bought the bog standard ones.

The trick when making important purchases is to root out the bells and whistles. Not that everything I buy has to be bog standard. I just hate paying a lot of money for a shiny chrome edge that is going to tarnish just as fast as its poorer cousin. Don’t get me wrong. I love my bells and whistles — in hotel suites and at the circus, where they belong. When it comes to plumbing I want something solid that works well and will last a long time.

As for ‘designer’ stuff, I tend to veer away from it. Sticking a designer label on anything is the nec plus ultra in bell and whistles. It is only there to scream and shout to the world: “I am more expensive than the others. Look at me being all expensive!” I love good craftsmanship, but I don’t need to walk around being an advertisement for the craftsman. It’s bad enough with a handbag, but the concept of ‘designer’ products really has no place in plumbing (There is a category on Amazon called ‘Designer Toilet Seats’!). I don’t want a Dior shower, or Chanel baby clothes, or a Marc Jacobs collar for my dog.

So far I’ve found a lovely sink (on sale), and am starting to know the difference between a quadrant enclosure and a pivot door one. I have made a tray choice (solid, longlasting and easy to clean). I still have to choose tiles, taps, lights, paint etc etc. The worst part is that when work is finally finished and we have our lovely en suite, we then have to figure out what to do with all the stuff in the spare room.

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11th October, 2017  ·  

Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at xavierdubuisson@gmail.com or text at 086/0476124.
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26th September, 2017  ·  

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