How’s the form?

I arrived in Cork City, Ireland last Monday night.  Cork is my home town, where I was born and went to school, but I do not know much about it, given I have not lived here in over 30 years.  Jobs were scarce  when I left secondary school (high school) and my uncle helped me find a secretarial job at Standard Life in the Limerick office, so I had to move city’s for my first job.  There I began my career in the investment management world.  I wonder does anyone really hanker for a career in investment management?  I didn’t, that’s for sure.  I guess I fell into it and here I am 30 years later deciding to change my career path to hopefully, microfinance / social enterprise.  Fingers crossed.

In the meantime here I am in Cork.  And I feel like a bit of a tourist.  I was arranging to meet my nephew Cian and he said I’ll see you outside the GPO (General Post Office).  For the life of me I could not remember where the heck it was, so we settled on the one place I knew for sure – the entrance to Roches Stores on Pana.  It was where you’d meet your jag for the night, and hope you would not get a fifty.  There’s a lot of Cork slang in those last two sentences so take a look here to figure out what I mean.  The Rebel County (also known as the People’s Republic of Cork) has it’s own version of English and to me, Corkonians call it as it is, you don’t get away with much.  It keeps us honest!  Of course Roches Stores no longer exists but Cian knew where I meant.  He’s humouring his oul’ aunt.

I’ll be spending the next 7 or so weeks in Ireland, primarily to spend time with my mother who is not doing so well.  She is on her 3rd stroke and has had both ischemic and hemorrhagic types of stroke, leaving it difficult to treat any future stroke.  I saw her at the beginning of September, just before I headed off to Spain to walk part of the Camino, and now seeing her 5 weeks later, there has been a very definite decline in her health.  It is what it is.  She initially did not recognize me but with daily visits and recounting of memories from my childhood all this week, she has some idea who I am, knows I live in Canada and that kind of thing.  There is no conversation, visits have to be very short and she now sleeps most of the day, is more alert in the afternoons.  I take great comfort in knowing (and seeing with my own eyes) the wonderful care at Ballynoe, the care home she has lived in for the past year.  As a family we are really fortunate that the staff are such angels.  My three sisters in Cork did very well in choosing Ballynoe.  It is a homey place with much joy and laughter and most importantly, home cooked food included freshly-baked fruit scones daily and of course apple tart and cream – my mother’s favourite.  There is nothing more beautiful then to see my mother’s face light up at the first spoonful of apple tart and cream – it’s always the simple things, no?

My father’s routine has been somewhat disturbed with my arrival but I think having home-cooked dinners on the table nightly will win him over.  And of course having my cheery self there (I hope!).  He is still as grumpy as ever though, some things never change, and never will!  We went for lunch to a lovely vegetarian restaurant today, it is celebrating 21-years in existence this year – no mean feat in the restaurant business.  My father has had an interest in Cafe Paradiso since it opened and over the years has sent me the various cookbooks that the proprietor Dennis Cotter has written.  Being a meat-man, it’s always interested me why Dad loves this place so much.  I think it is the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients that attracts him.  We enjoyed our lunch so much today, we might go back there again while I am still in Cork.

Being back in Ireland will also allow me to catch up with some friends.  Many of you will have met Nepta, Joe and Emma who moved back to Ireland from Port Coquitlam BC I think 7 years ago.  They now live in a small village in Co Galway so I’m looking forward to spending a few days with them.  As I am out West, I’ll catch up with Rita Moran in Co Mayo and get caught up on her version of “mid-life enlightenment”, we can compare stories for sure.

I’ll also head to Derry to meet Carol and Neil who also returned home to Ireland from Vancouver earlier this year.  Carol and I worked in the same firm, it was a coincidence we both took the opportunity to change careers at pretty much the same time.  We’ll also head to Donegal to their holiday home there and enjoy some wind in our faces, long walks with Seamus and Maggie (the dogs), and of course eat good food.

I hope to connect with Cep Carty in Dublin on my way back down south, and one or two others if I can make it happen at all.  The only other trip I will make from Cork is to the Holmfirth area in West Yorkshire, UK to visit with my sister and brother there.  I may not make it to Newcastle to visit with Sinead, purely because she is travelling to Cork monthly to spend time with my mother, so I’ve already had a visit with her all this week.  And both she and Mary will be back in Cork for my mother’s 80th birthday on November 22. You can keep an eye out for a few posts on these little jaunts over the coming weeks.

Well, I am off out for a walk whilst there is a short break in this wind and rain coming off the Atlantic today.  I had forgotten how Leesiders are great walkers, it being their exercise of choice.  They go for gold in any weather as my sister Grace always says!

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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4 Responses to How’s the form?

  1. Tandi says:


    It’s really great that you can be home and spend time with your mom and all of your family. I’m very sorry to hear about your mom’s health. All the best to her.

  2. Peter Wing says:

    Hi Kate – lovely to read your Irish news – we’re sorry to hear about your mother but you must be happy to be able to visit now. I was interested to see that you expect to be in Holmfirth – you’ll be about 20 km to the northeast of Stocksbridge and Bolsterstone, where my mother loved for many years and my sister and Bro-in-law still live. If you’re going in that direction let me know and will send you contact info…. We are looking forward to seeing you back on Bowen!

  3. Angela says:

    Kate! Sorry I have been so quiet this past year…do know that I think of you often and have been popping onto your blog to see where you’re at and read about your experiences. I’m so happy for you that you are back in Cork and able to spend this special and important time with your family, especially your mom. Enjoy the rest of your time there!

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