By the Time I Had My Coat off I'd Bought Five Chickens, a Cow and a Goat, Courtesy of Oxfam

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Byline: Keeping it together Kate Kerrigan

ONCE a high-flying magazine editor in Dublin, living the classic, harried executive lifestyle, Kate Kerrigan swapped it all to be a full-time novelist and live in her idyll -- the fishing village of Killala, Co. Mayo. But rather than being a sleepy existence, it''s been anything but for the 40-something mother of Leo, nine, and Tom, two years (oh, and there''s the artist husband Niall, too). It''s chaos, as she explains every week in her hilarious and touching column...

FOR a woman who hates travelling, I am doing a lot of it these days and it's making me stressed because I need to be at home organising Christmas, which is way behind schedule. Putting up decorations, making the fruitcakes I send abroad every year, turning tea towels into nativity-outfits and there was something else... Oh yes -- write the book. It's not that I can't say 'no' -- it's just that I don't. So when Oxfam asked me to go to Cork and open an Oxfam Bookshop, I said yes first, then remembered how horrendous it is getting from Mayo to Cork.

The last time I did the journey was when I was researching emigration to Ellis Island from Queenstown. I swear, by the time I got to Cobh and back I felt like I'd done the famine trip myself!

There is no way Niall will allow me control a car over that time and distance (around seven hours and he's right, I fall asleep after two miles of straight road) so it was a bus to Galway from Ballina, overnight in a cheap over-heated hotel, then a flight at dawn from Galway airport.

My aunt and uncle had to drive in from Fermoy to pick me up from the plane the other end, then ferry me hither and thither (in the pouring rain) until the evening flight back. It was almost cheaper and certainly more convenient researching the New York end of the novel! So, to put it mildly, Cork is not a hotspot destination for me.

THIS time Emer from Oxfam arranged the whole thing and -- because she is an organised PR person and not a lady-novelist flake like me -- it was considerably less complicated.

She picked me up by car from the early Westport/Dublin train in Portarlington and we were in Cork city by lunchtime.

Honestly? In my twenty odd years living in Ireland I have to confess that I never actually been into the city centre of Cork. …