Christmas Comes Early
CHRISTMAS has come early to one shop in Limerick after Brown Thomas officially unveiled the first Christmas shop to open in the city so far this year.
The iconic O’Connell Street store officially opened its Christmas market last week in preparation for the next 117 shopping days.
“The demand is there to open this early,” explained Brown Thomas living division manager Verette Gabbett, who added that a Christmas market has been a central part to Brown Thomas for over 50 years.
“We will begin to trade from the day we open and by November most of our Christmas trees will be gone. Many parents will begin their Christmas preparations once the kids have gone back to school,” she said.
“There is a lot of organization and stress involved in Christmas planning so it really helps to be organized.
“We stock a lot of unusual hanging decorations which are the types of things you hand down from one generation to the next.”
However, one customer who saw the display said that it was putting pressure on people to begin thinking about Christmas already.
“I do think August is a bit too soon for a Christmas shop to be opening to be honest, considering that there isn’t a lot of money around at the moment and I think the last thing people are thinking about right now is Christmas,” said Ciara Clancy from Patrickswell.
A second customer agreed, saying that it was too soon as schools have only just opened.
“I think that it’s probably too early for it to be open as kids have just gone back to school but I’m sure it will be packed and there’ll be plenty of people going in already,” said Suzanne Costello from Pallasgreen.
However one person who was delighted to see the first signs of Christmas was three year old Charlie Collins from Caherconlish, who says he already has his Christmas list made.
“I’m asking Santa for a Shipwreck Thomas this year,” he said happily.
Dangerous Cliff Walks
THE local coastguard has renewed its plea to dog owners to keep their pets on a lead when walking near cliffs.
This follows the recent death of a springer spaniel which had fallen more than 100 feet from cliffs at the Giant's Causeway.
The alarm was raised at 3:40 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon when Belfast Coastguard received a report from the National Trust at the Giant's Causeway that a dog had fallen from the cliffs, near to the location of a similar incident earlier this month.
Because of the danger to the owner attempting to reach the fallen animal, Coleraine Coastguard Rope Rescue Team was deployed to the scene, with the Inshore Lifeboat standing by offshore for additional support.
A Coastguard rope rescue technician was lowered to the springer spaniel, which was lying at the base of the cliffs at Portnaboe. Sadly, the animal had sustained fatal injuries. Its body was recovered and handed over to its grief-stricken owner.
"This incident underlines the need to keep all dogs on a lead near cliff edges.
“Dogs can easily fall over the edge of cliffs when exploring or playing. Sadly, in such circumstances serious injury or death is likely to result,” a spokesperson said.
Vets Seeking Help
VOLUNTEERS who work with local British service personnel in Ballyclare and Antrim have said that the numbers seeking help for mental health issues are continuing to rise.
For some who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, physical injuries can be a tangible reminder of darker moments. However, those who assist service personnel warn of mental health problems which can turn lives upside down if left to fester, and have urged anyone experiencing mental health issues to speak to someone immediately.
The rise locally is reflected across the U.K. Combat Stress, a charity which offers support to members of the forces suffering from mental health issues, has said that it received over 1,500 new referrals between April 2011 and March 2012.
They currently assist over 5,000 service personnel throughout the U.K., including 724 in Northern Ireland, with men seemingly most affected. Only three percent of those receiving help from Combat Stress at present are women.
Branch secretary of the Royal British Legion in Ballyclare Alec Murray said that service personnel on the front line were experiencing scenes not seen for generations.
“The soldiers who have been over in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing things that haven't been seen since World War II. It's a big change going back to civilian life and many solders can find it difficult,” he said.
“A lot of these men bottle things up and can suffer a lot of stress."
The Legion in Ballyclare serves as a first point of contact for military personnel seeking help in relation to finances or other issues, including combat stress.
“They can talk with people who have had a shared experience of being in the forces," said Murray.
“Soldiers are being treated well for injuries and rehabilitation, but I don't think the combat stress is being dealt with properly in general. It's not a thing that can be seen physically, and instead of counseling, people are turning to alcohol to deal with it. Sometimes people aren't fully aware that it's happening to them," he added.
Paul Michael works for the Royal British Legion and acts as its chairman in Antrim. In both this role and his position as a councilor on Antrim council, he is approached by many servicemen and women who have returned from tours of duty abroad and find themselves in difficulty.
“I do not know exact figures, but there are a number of service personnel who are finding themselves homeless, with alcohol problems or facing other difficulties after returning home," he said.
MUCH of the country sloshed through the wettest August in 15 years, official Met Eireann statistics show.
Almost all areas of the country experienced exceptionally wet days. The highest rainfall amounts were recorded in the northwest, southwest and the south, with Cork Airport and Sherkin Island recording 21 wet days, the highest rainfall amounts there since 1985.
But temperatures were above average almost everywhere, with most stations recording their highest mean temperatures in five to nine years, according to Met Eireann’s monthly summary for August.
However, the onset of autumn in September has so far brought with it high temperatures and dry weather which is set to continue until the weekend.
Wedding Day Robbery
A GROOM was robbed at gunpoint on the morning of his wedding in his hotel room.
Husband-to-be Richard Moore was threatened with his life by an armed and masked gang just hours before he was due to walk down the aisle.
His iPad, Blackberry, laptop and wallet were taken in the robbery, and two guests had their cars robbed by the gang who had broken into Carlow's Killerig Resort Hotel.
Richard Moore refused to let the ordeal spoil the big day and he and his bride Margot tied the knot as planned.
The groom, who is in his thirties, opened the door of his hotel lodge as his wedding day dawned and was confronted by the gunman.
A gang had burgled three lodges on the grounds of the resort. They were preparing to steal two cars belonging to wedding guests when they were interrupted by the groom.
The had travelled from England to get married at the hotel. Several guests had also come from Britain and were staying in lodges in the hotel grounds.
Hotel manager Larry Bowe and his staff rallied around to give the wedding party as much support as possible.
The couple decided to go ahead with their civil wedding ceremony planned for later that day in the hotel.
"They are a really lovely couple. They have stayed at the hotel five or six times. They just fell in love with the hotel and decided to get married here," said Bowe.