to ponder & light a candle…

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Last week I went into Galway. I had an appointment, which in the end only took twenty minutes, so it left me with a bit of time on my hands to wander. What’s rare is wonderful as they say. I got a few little random things done, and with only one other place left that I ‘needed’ to go to, I stopped to have a lovely leisurely brunch with a friend at Providence Market Kitchen.

Afterwards I headed off to run my last errand. It made a nice change to walk, as usually I would be time restricted so would zoom about in the car in the belief that I’d get more done having wheels under me. And I pondered, as I came across little cafes and restaurants, and book shops, art galleries and vintage shops that I’d often heard of or read about, but would never have had an idea where they were located, that a lot is often missed when zooming in a car! I walked down a few little backstreets, old streets that were a welcome break from the bustle of Shop Street. And I arrived at the place I needed to go.

I’d wager that you would pass by this building if you weren’t intentionally looking for it. It’s name in big white letters painted on black tells you clearly what it is. But it’s unremarkable. The sign looks old fashioned in a bygone era way, and the shop front would make you think that no trade has passed through its doors in years. But you would be mistaken.

I went in. And stepped back in time sixty years. Vastness, combined with rows of wooden shelves covered in old wallpaper, boxes piled high, trolleys down the back, the little account office up in the front corner. It was the air. I pondered as I breathed it in deep. It was old air. Not musty air or air filled with damp. It was the smell of ‘old’ air, as if the air that entered when the business opened sixty years ago, was captured in that moment of time, and has been circulating ever since. It was comforting. The man was there.

We started up a conversation, the man and I. He was on his own that day, as his accounts lady was at a wedding, although she had popped in earlier that morning to do a few little bits, he told me. “She looked absolutely beautiful I have to say” he said of his only staff member, as if he’d only noticed for the first time. “We’ve been in business sixty years” he said proudly. He looks tired. I praised him for managing to stay afloat in light of the last number of hard and difficult years. “We had lots of staff when we first opened” he said pulling a plastic covered black and white photograph from a noticeboard. The browning of the sellotape on its corners would suggest that this picture has been taken down and shown around on many occasions. The back of the picture said ‘staff party 1954‘. He hands me a second picture, this one dated 2003. There are noticibly less people in this one. “There’s just myself and one other person now, the accounts lady, but she’s off at a wedding” he tells me, as if for the first time. I acknowledge him again, as if for the first time. I commented on how wonderful his premises were and how it felt like a gateway to the past just walking in. He told me he’s had a lot of interest from people, looking to lease/buy/make movies in the place. But he’s not on the market. “I nearly sold up once” he stated, “I was offered a lot of money for the place, I mean a lot of money. It was before the bust. We were very close to selling it. And in the end, my brother who has a part share backed out and that was that. We were lucky. Because if we had sold it, I was going to put all the money in Bank of Ireland shares for my children. And we all know what happened then. I would have lost everything. This place, and the money for my family. I’d have had nothing.” I shook my head. “I still have nothing” he quickly added,”I’ve no money. But I’ve no debt”.Is that all that people can ever hope for in these times. To be penniless, but to carry no debt? I pondered about the greed of the government and of the people in positions of power in the banking industry, and of the greed of estate agents, builders and even the normal working person on the street that brought about this current life we are all enduring. And I wondered have we learned enough from our mistakes and the mishandling of finances to ensure that we never end up like this again, in our own personal life, in our financial sector, in our governance?! I’m not yet convinced as I reflected on recent news stories about property bubbles and gazumping!

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He nods up at a picture of the Sacred Heart, hung high up on the wall and said “He’s looked after me all my life”. “Me and my wife, but she’s dying now”. He says it so simply that I wasn’t able to digest his words. “She was diagnosed with cancer March last year, and was only given three months. But she’s still with me”. “I’m so very sorry to hear that” I replied, “What is her name?”.”Geraldine. We’ve been married fifty seven years, and there’s not one day that she hasn’t said she loves me. I love her to pieces.” He shows me two other pictures, this time of him and his wife, and one of both of them with their grandchildren. His eyes welled red. As did mine. “I’m closing up once you leave, I’m heading to see her, she went into the hospice the other day.” I told him I wouldn’t hold him up any longer. Putting my arm around his shoulder, I offered to give him some sort of comfort, and as I was leaving I turned to say ” I’ll light a candle for you and for your lovely wife, and I’ll be thinking of you”. As I walked over the road, I heard the bolts go on the old doors.

Heading back towards the heat and the bustle, I thought about the power we place in the words ‘I’ll light a candle”. And I pondered it. And what I came up with it that ultimately it has nothing to do with any religion.  It has however everything to do with hope. When I say those words, I want the person to know that I am placing their intentions in the light of a candle, in the light of hope. That when I’m lighting a candle I’m thinking of them, and their worries, and their troubles. Hope is what will get us all through these hard times, and we can only benefit from more light, don’t you think?. And when I lit the candle, I pondered no more.

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moocow…

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo” ― James JoyceA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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cowslip

Up until the very first time TQM ever took me ‘out to the cows’ back in 2005, I had never really had any experience of them. I’d often see them from car/bus/train windows, as I hurtled my way out of the city at any opportunity, and there they would be – standing or sitting, eating or sleeping and more often than not, having..ahem…relations. I always liked cows, I just never knew any!

That all changed when I met Blondie. TQM had two cows. And instantly Blondie ‘became’ my baby. She was a beautiful cow, a honey blonde colour – hence her rather uninspired name. I couldn’t wait to get over to the island on a Saturday morning, just in time to feed and water her. She always came over when she heard the van – I used to say ‘oooh look she knows it’s me ‘ to which I received the retort – ‘she knows it’s food’! Whatever! And she loved getting rubbed on her nose and scratched behind her ears. She also drank straight from the hose. I maintained she was very intelligent. And back in work, I had pictures of her hung on my noticeboard much to the amusement of my office. To them, I was morphing into Peig Sayers. Then one day, while TQM and I were away for a couple of days, he received a phonecall and was told that Blondie had slipped down some rocks in one of the fields and hurt her leg. I didn’t know what that meant. I was told that she had some tendon and nerve damage and if she wasn’t able to get up, she wouldn’t make it. I remember arriving in the dark on that Friday evening, going straight from the pier to the field and calling her. She answered me and tried to get up, but she fell back down. It was devastating to watch. I remember driving to a fancy equestrian shop in Loughrea and spending €200 on a special horse blanket, so that she wouldn’t get cold whilst she couldn’t move. I remember rubbing her face and scratching behind her ears before I had to leave her to head back to Dublin. And I vividly remember the call telling me that she had died.

Vowing to myself never to get so attached again to a cow, I tried to learn and understand a little about how they are farmed over here. And I also had to learn to accept the process and outcomes of owning cattle. (In my world, I’d have retirement fields for old farming animals that have passed their use by date ).  So on the island, none of the cows are currently used for dairy, although there is nothing stopping you milking a new mammy cow to get some for your breakfast.  Most of them are used for breeding, with their calves, once old enough, sold on either to farms in Galway or the like, or to other islanders -( I have to admit I like it when our calves stay on the island, even if it’s not with us).  We ourselves  have always kept two cows, and for the longest time now we’ve had Roisin Dubh and Bertha, who both calf every year, and we’ve a new heifer which we’ve called Domino. We then sell on their calves when the time comes around. And all of our calves also had names. We’ve had Blackie, Dora, Mike, Izzy, Easter, Brambles, Alfie, Michael Ryan, and George to name a few.

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Micheal Ryan and George

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dude and george

Domino

Domino

And as much as I tried not to become attached, it’s very much a case of easier said than done.

It’s been almost a month since our big red cow Bertha had her calf, Toby. And it is almost a month since Toby died, and it’s almost a month since Bertha has been able to stand.

We’ve had Bertha since the year we got married, which was back in 2007. Toby, her calf was three weeks overdue. Bertha is huge at the best of times (hence her name – ‘berth’a) so you can just imagine the size she was. TQM got up 3 times a night to go and check on her in the month leading up to it. He does this every year at calving time. I knew it was only a matter of time before we had a ‘new baby’ when he called me in to do her checkups whilst he was working. Donning the muck boots I visited with my cow and rubbed her nose and scratched behind her ears. I wasn’t there when she calved the following morning, but my husband, the vet and some of our neighbours were there to help out. And she needed help. Her calf was huge. As soon as she had him she collapsed in the field. The calf was named Toby. And he was beautiful. He had to be fed with a bottle as Bertha wasn’t standing, but he did make it over to her and she smelled him and cleaned him. But something had gone wrong, and Toby died two nights later. We were devastated, still are. But our attentions are remaining focused on Bertha, and almost daily, without fail, a group of our wonderful neighbours go out to the field and help to lift Bertha with a hoist in order to get her circulation going. She’s chewing the cud, seems content. She wants to get up, I can tell. And she’s moving around a bit using her front knees, dragging her back legs. But she’s still not up. And as the horse blanket was once again dusted off in order to keep her warm and dry, a dread has hung itself over me. I’m hoping any morning now to find her standing at the gate with her big horns in the way of everything. But we have to be prepared for whatever the outcome may be. Such is a cows life. Such is island life. Such is life.

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muck boots are go

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big bertha

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bertha and toby

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mother’s day…based on a true story

Yesterday was Mother’s Day –

I woke up feeling refreshed after a lovely nights sleep. I had just fluffed up my pillows to sit back and relax and read the New York times on my iPhone, when a little knock came to the bedroom door. I looked up to see my three little babies with smiley faces, and my husband coming into me, carrying a tray. Ah lovely. Breakfast in bed – such a treat. They hopped onto my bed and hugged me. The little bunch of posies in a jam jar vase on the tray was such a cute touch, and as I sipped my coffee and ate my warm croissants, I knew by the bright eyed lit up faces on my boys that they had an extra secret behind their backs. Two presents appeared. A beautiful piece of jewellery from Chupi (my leaving the website page open on the laptop had done the trick, I thought to myself), and a box of After Eights – always my favourite. Then my husband said he was taking the kids out for a few hours, and that I didn’t have to make dinner as we were going out to eat later. So I gave all my babies the biggest hugs, and as they left the room, I decided I’d take a couple of pictures on Instagram so I could share it with all my friends. Happy Mothers Day to me!

Ah Yeah! Nonsense!

I don’t know whose Mother’s Day that was, although I’m sure by the countless Instagram pictures that popped up on my feed yesterday depicting such lovliness, that it belonged to quite a few mammies out there, I can state however, that it was absolutely not mine!

I woke up yesterday morning reluctantly. The night had not been a good one. I was up many times with the babies and their high temperatures, just the latest bug to be doing the rounds. After giving them their medicine and settling them back into their beds, I would just be drifting back off to sleep when one of them would have to go to the toilet or feel the need to tell me that when they are sick, they should be allowed into my bed. Repeat snuggles and settling routine. Then it was the dogs turn. Spikey decided that 3.30am (really 2.30am with that clock forwarding malarky) would be an absolutely ideal time to start, well, what I can only describe as ‘lowing’ downstairs. Big heavy deep moans of meloncholy (he’s in love with some dog up at the castle). Cue banging on floors, temporary silence, more lowing, removal of dog to a different room downstairs, more lowing and then a final move up to my bedroom where no doubt he stared sadly and intently at my face all through the rest of the night…in the dark. At 4.30am (really 3.30am) my hubby got up to go out to check on our cow Bertha, she’s due a calf any day now so we’re on baby watch. Then at 6.30am (really 5.30am) I had little babies filing into the bed to ask what I was making for breakfast. So I got up and went for a walk. Sometimes you need to step outside at crazy early times to get some peace.

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So that was the start of my Mother’s Day. When I got back, I made the breakfast, and a loaf of banana bread and explained what Mother’s day was to my children. Then it was bath time. I broke up two bubble related fights in said bath, and then when I went in to get them out, I found littlest man standing up in the bath, peeing over the side onto the floor and towels because “mammy, I’m just too small to climb out of the bath to go in the toilet”. So the bathroom got cleaned. I then endured a twenty minute meltdown over a foam hippo. When TQM got home at lunchtime, I informed him that I was going to run away at some point in the afternoon to have some quiet time to read and maybe enjoy a cup of tea. I started making the dinner. I then fed the hens. I encountered 5 explosive nappies. I put Eimear’s wellies on twenty seven times and played ding dong on her bellybutton twice as many times as that. I briefly sat on the bench in the sun, and within two minutes, I had one little man asking me a host of questions about colouring books, one bringing me a toilet roll to blow his nose, and one mad yoke pouring hen water all over herself without her wellies that I’d just put on, and two hens sitting on my lap. I got up and went in to finish dinner. It was just easier to do that. They did all help hang out a basket of washing though. My planned couple of hours ‘running away time’ had dwindled rapidly and with half an hour left before my husband was due back to work, I ran away upstairs to my room, however despite my intentions to read, I woke myself up with my own snores twenty minutes later. I came back downstairs as TQM was leaving, which he shouted back at me that he’d be an hour later coming home from now on with the time change. Great. I looked out to find it was lashing all over my line of formerly dry clothes. Sigh.

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I’m not sure if there is a ‘b’ah humbug’ alternative to Mother’s Day, but if there was I know that I’d sound like it’s respective Scrooge. But the day didn’t go completely unmarked. I did get two cards – one from my mam and dad with a monetary gift inside, and one from my sister in law signed from the kids. Ideally the monetary gift should have gone on a facial, or a book or something pretty for myself, but in real life it went on a big bag of hen food, and equally big bag of porridge and a good load of Calpol. I also got a handful of daffodils thrown into me through my van window from my aunt on behalf of the babies, and I got a free Americano in the siopa. I’d like to think I got it because it was Mother’s Day, but really, I probably just looked like I really really needed it.

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And it’s not with sadness or shock that I’ve also come to know that my Quiet Man will never rise to this particular occassion. He never grew up celebrating it, so holds no regard for it. And perhaps he’s right. Because really, when you’re a mam – that’s just what you are. You’re a mammy EVERY DAY! And at some point EVERY DAY, I do get to go out for a walk for some head space, I do get a bit of time to hop around social media platforms, I do get handfuls of mixed posies and twigs from each and every one of my babies. I even get to read sometimes. And if I ask him, my husband will always bring me a cup of tea in bed. Throw in some Murder She Wrote, a box of After Eights and lots of snugglehuggles you’ll find I’m very fine with my lot.

So as I fell up the stairs to bed last night at 9.30pm (really 8.30pm), a bedtime reserved for young children and the infirm, I threw a sideways glance at the Mother’s Day that just was, and thanked heaven that it wouldnt be around again for another year. And although I myself had sent some lovely flowers from all of us here, for the day that was in it, I was touched slightly by the finger of guilt as I drifted off to sleep realising that I hadn’t rang my own mam to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. I’m sure though that she completely gets it.

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Hope everyone has happy days everyday!

 

 

 

 

just once more…

old love,
embedded within,
suddenly, woken,
flutters…

briefly, virtually,
could it be growing again?
memories flood back,
filling daydreams in the sunshine…

to kiss, that kiss,
to touch, that touch,
to breathe our breath,
just once more…

briefly beautiful, exciting
then, alas, gone
but of course,
it could have no other fate…

gut knotting, guilty pleasures
relief, release,
and breathe…

back to reality,
its such a beautiful thing,
but don’t look back in anger,
as rose tinted glasses are allowed.

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snoop bloggy blog…

I’m very new to the world of blogging, and with about 450 millions blogs out there, I’m also, it would appear, very late. That is a lot of people with a lot of things to say! And now I’m one of them. So you can imagine my shock when I received a cheeky little Twitter message from Margaret at Oldfarm (back in September ’13 – for shame) to inform me that I’d made her list for the ‘Very Inspiring Blog Award’. Firstly, I had, and really still have, no idea what these awards are, or how many awards there actually are out there in internet land, but to be on any list especially an inspiring one, well, its very nice, and very flattering and I’m very grateful.

So this inspiring blog award has a few strings attached – and these are as follows (I’d like to say at this point that I completely copied and pasted this entire paragraph – including picture from your blog post Margaret – I hope you don’t feel plagiarised – but you pretty much said exactly what was on the tin! )

“There are the ‘terms and conditions’ to this award so I’d better make sure I adhere to them!

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

The conditions include posting the badge, acknowledging who bestowed the award and the other three conditions of receiving the award are:

  1. List 15 bloggers who I conisder to be inspiring
  2. Tell them all that they have been nominated
  3. AND list 7 things about me that folks out there may not know.”

So lets get started. A brief history of how I came to blogging I think will help. It was 2007 when I got my first laptop and later in the same year when I discovered my first blog. It was aptly named ‘Waffler’. It looked like a website, but it had somebody’s thoughts and words and humour and images and personality all over it. It was like looking right into somebody’s diary, someone’s life and someone’s mind. And I liked it. A lot. Because deep down I’m very very nosey! Now don’t confuse that with gossipy – I tend to retain certain information in my memory for very short periods of time so really am a useless gossip, but I do enjoy a good snoop. And thus began my relationship with blogs and their masters. There has been so many blogs that I’ve discovered, some I’ve loved, some not so much, some I check daily, others bi-weekly, but always for the same reason, I’m curious about and interested in people and their lives. I like to see how they cope with life situations, how they manage tantrums in their toddlers, how they can cook their way through every cookbook they own, how they make a quilt by ripping up clothes in their wardrobes, how they see the world and capture it on photographs, and how they can come onto their blog and be honest about it all, good or bad and put it out there into the world – for all to see, and sometimes judge, but moreoften than not, be inspired. So on that note – here is my list. And to make it fair, because I enjoy a lot of blogs, I’m going to list blogs that are currently inspiring me, and some that I’ve been with from the get go. Except for Waffler, he sadly is dormant since 2008!

Blogs from far away…

Soulemama – I have a love/envy relationship with this blog. But I’m inspired on a daily basis by Amanda, as she writes on a daily basis, which makes me happy. Lovely photographs, a working homestead and smallholding, happy talented children, food and craft! She has also written three books which I have, and has a magazine ‘Taproot’ which I’m subscribed to. What more could you ask for.  This blog is my homepage, has been for a long time, and I’ve read ALL her archives… (see, lots of love with a lil bit envy!!!)

HEY NATALIE JEAN – Natalie makes me want to live in New York. Well actually, and more truthfully she makes me want to live with her in New York, she is just that cool. She has a lovely style  – both in her writing and her actual fashion sense and she’s funny. And her little boy Huck is a dote. She’s also writing a book – which no doubt I’ll probably end up buying!

The Daily Muse – Becca also lives in NYC. She takes impressive pictures.And makes impressive food. I’m impressed.

Blogs from over the road…

Dr. Hows Science Wows – Now this talented lady is from my neck of the woods. She’s a scientist. And a mammy. And seriously, if you ever had a question about how anything works, or why things happen, this is the place to go. Because Naomi has all the answers. And she makes it all seem very very cool. She also will go to your house for birthdays and do science stuff which is fairly fantastic. Check out her rocket teabag experiment. Its one of my faves! Oh and she’s nice.

Greenside Up – Dee is the inspiration here. She knows how to grow stuff. And she does it well, and she’s a good onion, as she also teaches others how to do it too. She heads up community gardens and encourages everyone to try their hand growing their own. (I’ve had many conversations with her about courgettes!!!!)She’s also very highly regarded in the blogging world, winning a host of blog awards. She deserves its though because she’s a topper.

Life on Hushabye Farm – This blog has Alpacas. Ok it also has some other fantastic things like some nifty family recipes, parenting musings, lovely family pictures, but c’mon ALPACAS!!!!!!!! Elizabeth combines it all beautifully making it a lovely place to visit over your morning coffee.

Where Wishes Come From – Sadhbh is the queen of this blog. And it is a fantastic blog. I’ve only recently discovered her, but already I’m a huge fan. You can totally get your craft on for the kids in this space, AND she’s also fond of the ol’ Gaeilge. What’s not to love.

Office Mum – This is another blog I only came across quite recently. And let me tell you, its funny. It’s all about trying to keep a balance between being a mam and working outside the home. She writes so honestly about the real trials of keeping this balance, and hits the nail on the head every single time and I find myself sporadically bursting out laughing whilst reading. She also champions other working mums out there very well. She is currently not getting enough sleep. Go on, show her some love.

Susan Jane White – I’m currently crushing on Susan. She is the author of The Extra Virgin Kitchen which I’m devouring, and feeling very virtuous whilst doing so. This girl can write. She’s also very funny. And she makes some fairly fine food. This blog encapsulates all of that, and makes you want more for your body and your brain. No substitutions.

Nessa’s Family Kitchen – Another wonderful family food blog. Author of the fab cookbook Apron Strings ( which I also have), Nessa makes you feel like you’ve just walked into her kitchen and she’s making you a grand cup of tea. You feel at home on this blog and her recipes inspired by her lovely young family, can be drawn on many times for your own.

Farmette – I’ve been a fan of this blog since it was called ‘I Married an Irish Farmer’. Imen’s blog is absolutely beautiful. Its a joy to behold. Beautiful photography, beautiful recipes and beautiful stories, which are my favourite. I love to hear stories, and Imen is the storyteller. And everything is just so pretty. She’s also a fairly nifty producer, with her film ‘Small Green Fields‘ achieving high acclaim. Her farmhouse cheese and milk loaf are firm favourites in my house.

ISLE Magazine – This is a fantastic blog that’s showcasing all that is positive in this place we call home. Lisa brings to us some wonderful people and places in her quest to promote Ireland to its fullest. She is certainly doing it well. Check out her next issue of the online publication coming soon.

Like Mam used to Bake – Rosanne is the author of the cookbook of the same title, and the blog that started it all is such a pretty place to visit, you’ll think you just walked into a small cozy tearoom. For someone that says she’s not a writer, a photographer or a pastry chef – she sure can put words together, take a fine array of pictures and make a mean chocolate cake. In real life, I’d say she likes to chat!

Bealtaine Cottage – What Colette has achieved in the time she’s lived at Bealtaine Cottage is nothing short of wonderous. A whole permaculture ecosystem that she tirelessly cares for, protects and nourishes, and which in turn nourishes her back. She is living a self sufficient life in Sligo, and sharing it all with her readers. She is an advocate for Mother Earth and her causes, and voices these on various social media platforms.  You could learn a thing or two from this inspirational woman.

Chicken soup for the Soul…

Síle Looks Up – I can’t lie. This is one of my most favourite places to visit. And no, I don’t have it as my homepage, and I don’t have any of the individual posts in my reading list, but that’s because I protect it like its a precious secret treasure. A place that I can quietly slip into when I have a minute and I wander and explore each post as if I was there, living and breathing it. I also imagine that I do all this in total silence, as I fear that any noise would break the spell of Síle’s writing. Her beautiful images, catchy post titles almost don’t hold a candle to her words and her formation of them. Raw and honest, some of them feeling so very personal that you check whether you should be there or not. But all incredibly stunning – indeed chicken soup for the soul.

So there you have it. A list of some of my favourite online destinations for regular doses of inspiration. And now for those seven things you don’t know about me (or probably don’t want to know, but I’ll tell you anyway..)

1. I love to talk. I talk a lot. Really.

2. I cry at everything. Even cartoons. I’m an emotional wreck by times.

3. I really want a pig and a goat.

4. I used to be an Ann Summers rep. (random eh)

5. I’ve 11 trophies for Ballroom Dancing. However that was back when I was 8.

6.The thing I’d tell my younger self is ‘Don’t buy ornaments’

7.I’m getting a tattoo when I turn 40 next year.

There you go. Do with that as you will. But as for the blogs above, why not go and have a snoop, be inspired, then inspire.

Night all!

get thee to a gaeltacht….

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Last week, I came across an article published by the Limerick Leader written by Patricia Feehily, titled ‘Our next storm is coming from the Gaeltacht‘. So I sat down and had a little read of it. And it annoyed me. A lot. Then I decided I’d read it again – trying to keep my irritation at bay. I noted that firstly it was published under the heading of ‘OPINION’, which I thought to myself, ‘ok, this is just Ms. Feehily’s personal opinion’, which of course we are all entitled to, and I pondered that as a piece of writing in itself, in my own opinion, it flowed perfectly fine. However it was the content of it that stuck in my craw, because it was, quite simply, blatantly patronising and more than a little bit arse about face! I stopped short of shouting at the screen – ‘We are ALL in a recession Ms. Feehily, even the ‘gaeilgeoiri with a grudge’, life’s hardships are not just restricted to the people who speak English as their first language in this country.’- And where I felt I could have easily broken down many aspects of the article and argued the lack of merits in the points being made, and offered various valid statistics until the cows had come home, that is not what I ended up wanting to do. Because it was something that Ms.Feehily had said in her piece that resonated with me, and quite possibly with the majority of people who had read the piece, and that was “I was force fed Irish as a child.”

So let us step back in time and take a little read of this:

‘Seanabhean is ea mise anois go bhfuil cos léi insan uaigh is an chos eile ar a bruach.‘((Peig: A Scéal Féin, Máire Ní MhainnÍn & Liam P. Ó Múrchú (Eagarthóirí), An Sagart, an Daingean, 1998)

Yes, this is the opening line of Peig, and this one line has quite possibly sent shivers down the backs of many. Peig Sayers was my first real introduction to the Irish language. I’ve vague recollections of reading simple Irish books and doing spelling tests when I was very young, but this is the book that made me decide that not only did I not like the language, I wasn’t any good at it. Now in fairness to gaeilge, it was quite possibly the story that did that – I mean that first line translates into this :

‘I am an old woman now, with one foot in the grave and the other on its edge.’

Cheery, eh. And the rest of the book didn’t get much more chipper let me tell you. I’m not intending on taking one bit from the woman herself, or her story of hardship on the Blasket Islands throughout a very harsh period of time, but what I am trying to do is show how it was not really the best introduction to a language that is fairly hard enough to learn even with the basics, especially if you had grown up speaking English as your first language. Thus started the battle. Irish was hard, and now thanks to Peig, depressing, but it was pushed in school as SO very important, and that your whole life and career would depend on it. Pressure. Dread. Orals and Aurals. Failure to keep up and understand. Copying homework. The bloody Modh Coinníollach! Seriously, the ‘Conditional Mood’ which is used for describing events that did not or may not happen’! I hated that ‘Mood’! I remember my Irish teacher Ms. Mullins telling my mam at a parent-teacher meeting, that “Paula would be very good at Irish if she could only grasp her tenses!” (I used the Aimsir Chaite – past tense – A LOT…) Yeah, if only! So this is a little recap of my experience of Irish in secondary school. Forced Irish. So when the option came up every year for a trip to the Gaeltacht – 3 weeks living in an Irish speaking community, with a Bean an Tí making scones for you every day, ceili dances in the local halls, ceol agus craic (music and fun) making new friends – maybe even meeting boys (i went to an all girls catholic school) – while all the time improving your Irish by speaking it on a daily basis – I used to keep my head down, because not only was it always very expensive for your parents, if I couldn’t even get my tenses right, how would I have managed for three whole weeks. So I never raised my hand. But I always really really wanted to.

I could never have imagined back then, and I’m sure the thought would have had Ms. Mullins rolling in the aisles, that as an adult I would end up not only living in the Gaeltacht, but surviving there. Immersed in the traditional ways of the island, changing with the new ways and more importantly not only learning the language, but using it on a daily basis. Living the Language. And it’s from living in this place, on this island, that has highlighted to me how important our beautiful language is. It’s a precious gift which gives life to stories and poetry and music, and not something that should ever be dismissed as unimportant, or not newsworthy. We absolutely need to protect it, it’s our heritage. And yes we need to march to government offices if only to have the issue heard. But what we really need to do is to bring it back to life. We need to teach it as it is spoken. We need to speak it. Have conversations with one another.  We should learn to communicate with each other first, before burying any love of the blas we may have, into heavy books of prose, pages of Modh Coinníollach and daunting exams! This is not impossible. It can be thought in schools this way. Bring the experience of the gaeltacht into the classrooms. Make it fun. Because the Irish language is more just words, it encapsulates the people, the community, the character and the heart of the Irish people. We must have no more force feeding.

So if the Limerick Leaders article has done anything, it’s made me more aware and proud of my blow-in gaeilgeoir status, and to Ms. Feehily I say, get thee to a Gaeltacht, and experience the reason we love our language so. It might just change your opinion. I’m just going off now to make a cup of tea and have a read of a little book called Peig.

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And coincidentally, today is the start of Seachtain na Gaeilge, and more information can be found on their website.  #seachtainnagaeilge. Slán!

not lost….

Coming downstairs this morning, I turned up the heat and started to fill the kettle. Looking out the window it was a dark, cold, miserable, dull morning with a wild sea. Not unusual of late, but this morning it dripped of pathetic fallacy. Because this morning was different because it followed a day like yesterday, and yesterday was no ordinary day.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that island life ticks along at a steady pace. All days similar, people going about their daily work like every other day, the weather being the main topic of discussion, fishing boats and cargo boats frequenting the pier, passenger boats and planes transporting people to and from, children off to school and the odd cow on the road. The ebb and flow of island life. I also tend to take this alternative life over here as steady and safe.

I was out in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, when I noticed the distinct thunderous sound of the rescue helicopter. I won’t lie, I normally dread this particular sound, as unless it passes over it means only one thing – somebody has been hurt, is ill or is missing. Almost without fail, I would go outside and follow it across the sky to reassure myself that it was not landing over at the strip, and when it doesn’t land and heads towards Clare, I exhale and take myself inside for a cup of tea.

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I went to the window and saw it – it was low, its lights were on and it was heading directly towards my house. I picked up Eims and took her outside to look at it, as it had now stopped midair and was hovering just past the gable end of the house. I thought it must be doing training, as often happens when the 4.30 boat leaves for Galway. I even took a couple of pictures of it, as it is rarely that close. But then I noticed that it was past half four, it was heading towards five. What was it doing? Then I received the message. Someone was missing since the morning. Everything sort of stopped. Because this person was someone that I’d see passing a hundred times a day. Someone who was one of the first people I met when I first came here. Someone that all you’d have to do was pick up the phone and he would be there to help. As someone so eloquently put this morning, he belonged to everyone. He belonged to Inis Oirr. And it was as if she knew he was missing. The rescue helicopter continued to search around the island’s waters, while the selfless rescue and coastguard groups set off in haste. Traffic flew past along the road out to where his van was. It was as if Inis Oirr sent out her long fingers into the rough waters further and further relentlessly searching for the man that belonged to her and to the community. And as it started to darken, and winds started to howl, she found him. I stood at a wall nearby watching as the lifeboat returned to the pier.

And while a deep impossible unexplainable sadness descended onto the island last night, there may have been just the smallest bit of comfort in the fact that although he may be gone, he was not lost. She returned him home.

RIP Sean/Jack xxx

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