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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spring, you are most welcome…

I haven’t wanted to get too excited the last few days, just in case I was wrong. Signs of Spring seemed to be revealing themselves to anybody that cared to notice. It was the last couple of mornings that I sensed the approach of this much needed respite from the tumultuous winter season. The birds had become very vocal, to say the least, the moon sitting low in the rising sunlight. The sunlight, was, a gift in itself. And then this morning! Perfect in every way, made more so by a special delivery. Two in fact. It was Spring. I was right after all! What’s rare is wonderful as they say.

DSC_0001DSC_0007DSC_0026DSC_0122DSC_0131DSC_0132DSC_0133DSC_0135DSC_0138DSC_0141DSC_0143DSC_0147DSC_0150DSC_0152DSC_0162DSC_0163DSC_0171DSC_0183DSC_0187A lovely afternoon on the first real spring day on Inis Oirr. And although the walk home seemed long for the littlest legs, she trundled on regardless, whilst all the while the bigger ones – yielding sticks of course – put the world to rights on the way down the hill. Spring, sprung, and you are most welcome!

 

fat bitch gonna snap….

Let me begin with this…..

“Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat,
And tremendously flabby at that.
Her tummy and waist
Were as soggy as paste-
It was worse on the place where she sat!

SO she said, “I must make myself flat.
I shall make myself sleek as a cat.
I shall do without dinner
To make myself thinner.”
But along came the peach
Oh the beautiful peach
And made her far thinner than that!

Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire,
And dry as a bone, only drier.
She was so long and thin
if you carried her in
You could use her for poking the fire!

“I must do something quickly,” she frowned.
“I want FAT. I want pound upon pound!
I must eat lots and lots
of marshmallows and chocs
‘Till I start bulging out all around.”

“Ah yes,” she announced, “I have sworn
That I’ll alter my figure by dawn!”
Cried the peach with a snigger,
“I’LL alter your figure…”
And ironed her out on the lawn.”

(Centipede Pg37&38, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl)

I loved this poem when I read it for the first time, and I love it still. But to read it these days, it brings up another issue. And that is the use of the word ‘FAT’. Now I’m not sure when the word ‘FAT” went from being a perfectly acceptable adjective used for descriptive purposes, as shown above, to what is has become now. And what is has become now is a word that defines, hurts, insults, belittles, embarrasses, angers and destroys. All that power for such a little word can’t be right, can it?

These days the news in Ireland is full of discussions and debates on the current obesity problem. And yes it is indeed a problem. And it’s important that it is tackled and handled properly. But lets whittle it down to the individual. It would seem that when a person is told by a doctor or health professional, or, as is the case more and more, on some health or transformation programme on national television, that they are either very overweight, obese, morbidly obese or on track to become a type 2 diabetic, it’s never nice to hear of course, but it is almost easy to accept, because the words used are ones that define the condition, the condition of having extra weight, and not the person with the weight. However, call or tell somebody they are fat, it is like an attack on the persons whole being. So for the most part, it’s all very politically correct – in the media that is – although not always as seen here. But it’s the use of the word on a daily basis that can sometimes cause the most damage.

When you are called fat or referred to as fat, all of a sudden that is what you become. You are fat, ergo you are no longer funny, intelligent, witty, pretty, acceptable, sophisticated, sexy, worthy. You are just fat. And along with the label of being fat, there comes with it some assumptions of course, such as all a fat person does all day is eat takeaways and drink fizzy drinks, and that if they’re not eating and drinking,they’re thinking about eating and drinking. Or that they actively set out every day to ‘let themselves go’. So now not only are you fat, you are most likely a slobby layabout too. There is actually an advert on TV at the moment promoting a motivational weight loss clinic, by stating how much money losing weight would save you, as you will no longer be spending it on takeaways and junk food! Point made thanks!  But this isn’t about that. This is about how it feels to be at the receiving end of this word.

The first time I remember being called fat was when I lived in America for a short time when I was 21. I went for a job in a bar and was standing in some dull smokey backroom talking to the bar owner. He looked up at me briefly,a jowly pink sweaty face, cigarette hanging from his lips, then looked me up and down and said – ‘you’re fairly chunky aren’t you’. I stood rooted to the spot and in sheer embarrassment replied ‘eh yeah I guess so’. He offered to give me a trial the following day. I left and never went back. But that conversation,and all the related feelings that went along with it, dug a little hole in my brain and laid there, in wait.

And at some point after that, still in the states,  I went to a party at the Jersey Shore – now don’t get excited, it wasn’t an MTV type party, just a few friends of someone I’d become friends with while living there. It was all going grand, some young guy arrived and was asking about the whereabouts of his friend. Trying to be funny I made some remark based on something I’d heard earlier to which he replied ‘ and who the f*** are you, you fat Irish bitch, you don’t know anything so shut your face’. I wanted to ground to open up and swallow me. I was so embarrassed and I felt like I’d been just punched in the stomach. He later apologised, sincerely I might add, but it was just too late. That little encounter also buried itself in my memory bank.

I’d had a hard time over in America, and was so happy when I finally returned home. My dad was driving me home from the airport as I sat staring out of the window. I started noticing all the people on the streets. Every person looked so slim to me. Everything in the states had been, to me, so over the top big. Big cars, big houses, big restaurants, big food and yes, big people, but at home everything seemed so small – that is, except for me. Sat in the back of Dad’s car, I felt fat.

And that feeling was endorsed many times in the coming months. At a 21st party I was at, someone said to me – ‘oh you’re back from America, my god, didn’t you put on loads of weight?’ Again, I meekly responded ’em, yeah, I did’ – as if i specifically went out to do that. In my local pub, a regular asked me did  I do anything but eat all the burgers while I was away. At a Christmas party in my old job, a former work colleague thought it was the right time to call me a fat bitch when I accidently bumped off his chair when passing. It didn’t end there. A ‘do you think you might be letting yourself go a bit’ comment from a loved one was almost too much to bare. And then there was the discussion between two middle aged men in a Dublin bar one evening after work. They were trying to decide if I was fair game, but one commented that I was too big, the other decided to narrow it down as to whether is was my ‘top or bottom’ half, to which the first replied ‘both’! How charming. And all within earshot. Of course I said nothing and tucked those feelings way down deep with the other ones.

But one day on the way home from work, I caught sight of my reflection in a window. I thought my head looked like a little pea on top of a big huge body. And that was the turning point for me. I was 25 when I officially became fat. As I stood on the scales at my first ever WeighWatcher meeting, I looked at the numbers that flashed up before me. They seemed so big. And alien to me. Because up to that point I’d never actually weighed myself. Ever. I was 13st 10lbs. That was almost 15 years ago. That is my fat story. Aince then I’ve lost weight, put on weight, lost it, had three babies and am now on my losing track again. But for the record, any time I feel the need to lose weight, or to become more fit, or to eat more healthily, it’s because I decide to. Its because I’m a capable person and can make the best decisions for myself and my family. And not because of some random remark from someone that doesn’t really care.

So the moral of this story is that individually these comments were, at the time, most hurtful, I am blessed to have lovely smiley happy people as friends and family so I was able to get past them at the time, but combined, these fat comments can be dynamite. And sooner or later, fat bitch gonna snap. So play nice!

Photo on 2014-01-30 at 21.57 #3

 

 

project : LEARN

Prompted by the lovely Dee over at Greenside Up, and her recent post ‘Grounded’, I decided that I’d better put my own thoughts on the matter down before January becomes February, and nobody wants to know/think/talk about all the wonderful things that they had decided they were going to steadfastly stick to in the New Year.

I’m talking about resolutions!

I’m not really a resolution kinda girl. I can’t remember ever actually making any – and if I have, well then I obviously failed miserably at my attempts hence the lack of recollection. There seems to be a design flaw with them. They seem to be made up of all the negative things you want to change in your life or yourself (not drinking, not smoking, losing weight are the usual suspects springing to mind), and then you try and change  – and its very difficult – because you’re changing deep habits in yourself, and then you falter which is followed closely by guilt, and finally you just give up because it’s all too much, so you fail. I’m generalising of course, but it’s mainly what I’ve observed.

But how about we change all that. I’ve decided this year to focus on the more positive aspects of resolutions. I’ve decided to choose a word, just a simple yet meaningful word that I’ll use as a mantra throughout this year. And my word of 2014 is Learn. That’s it. Learn. So this year, I’m going to put that word to use and I’m going to Learn. Oh the possibilities and the positivity that this could bring.

So in no particular order of preference, this is what I plan to do….

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This is the camera I have. And this year I’m going to learn how to use it. I must have it three years at this stage, and in fairness having a super camera and not knowing how to work it is akin with have a laptop with no internet connection. So I’m going to read the manual and begin to take pictures without using the auto function.

Next, and as much as I’d like to learn how to be Imelda May, I’m aiming slightly lower by hoping to learn how to play the Bodhran! I love it, the heavy beating sounds, the quick and slow ones, the sensations that it evokes. I’d love to play drums actually, but I don’t think any cool rock bands out there are looking for a drummer so I’d never get the practice in. So Bodhran it is.

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I’m going to learn Irish. Not book or school Irish, but spoken Irish. The same language that my five years old switches to without even a thought when speaking to anyone from the island. Such a beautiful blas he has. I want to be just like him.

Yep, I’m gonna start spinning me some wool. I’m going to learn to spin. I’ve a black sheep up at O’Briens Castle just waiting to give me 3 bags full (of wool) this year and I want to spin it and maybe knit something too…a scarf most probably.

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back garden

I’m going to learn all there is to know about my garden. I’ve dabbled in growing my own over the last few years, some things worked, so most definitely did not, but this year is going to be different. I’m going to learn about my soil, about permaculture, about biodiversity, about growing things that are supported by this elemental island and about growing things that are native to it, to support it right back.

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And lastly but by no means least, I’m going to learn to accept things for what they are. To learn to accept that more than likely this list may take me longer than the year to complete. That maybe some of these things might not even happen at all. That by deciding that ‘Learn’ is going to be my ‘project’ rather than a resolution already leaves it open for ultimate success, whenever that may be, and as New Year plans go, that’s not too shabby at all.

Go on and choose your word for 2014!

reclaiming….

This is what folk were at this morning on our beach…..

DSC_0049let the clean up commence……DSC_0051DSC_0056jazz hands baby……DSC_0057DSC_0059DSC_0060DSC_0062having a rest, union rules …..
DSC_0067DSC_0068DSC_0071DSC_0077DSC_0080DSC_0083‘roll it there Colette’DSC_0086DSC_0087and finally, this little guy, no help whatsoever on the beach, but offered vocal support throughout!DSC_0091Reclaiming!

 

remains of the day……

After popping two Spotted Dicks into the oven, myself and little miss, and of course Spikey and Willow decided to take a stroll before it got too late. Stepping outside you could tell it had been a cool crisp day, but the deep almost tangible chill that only falls in the evening was starting to wrap itself around us. It was going to be a quick stroll! The sky was a bright bright blue and a blazing setting sun lit up the rain heavy clouds, giving them a gold lining. You could see numerous rain showers falling all across the skyline, but none got us. The boat had left the pier and was heading towards Rossamhil, and I watched as it took home with it two much loved visitors that had been here for a few days. Then there were the various signs of works in progress dotted all along our walk. Temporary roads had been made, some holes filled, with some still needing a bit more work.Lobster pots gathered in proper order. Nothing like a shovel leaning against a wall to let you know its been a busy day! And as serious discussions were being had over rebuilt walls, and as the moon revealed itself from behind the darkening sky, we came to the beach, where the image of the skeletal remains of a shed and the skeletal remains of our trá filled my remaining thoughts in the remains of this day.
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she’s the boss…..

Irony is not lost on me, as I follow on from my last post with one from the entire other end of the spectrum – but such is life. Over the last five days, Inis Oirr has been hit with a storm. Not any old storm, but one that coincided with extraordinarily high tides and howling gale force winds. A storm of which the likes has not been seen on this island in twenty years. The islanders have discussed this among themselves, as I’ve no doubt they will do for a long time to come, as they’ve stood together watching what could only be described as utter destruction as the sea thundered her way onto the island! The Plassy was pounded so hard that her bow as good as caved under the pressure.Stone monuments were swept away. Roads were no longer roads, but heaps of boulders and rocks, and strewn with an awful amount of rubbish and plenty of lobster pots. The lake spread herself into adjoining fields, a lone metal shed moved across the road, pushed by an invisible force, stone walls were knocked and the ground looked like it had been bulldozed! It was indeed a sight to behold. It was beautiful, it was scary, and it was sad.

Over the following days everyone seemed to converge in the hotspots that had been affected by the storm. The beach, the Plassy, the Lighthouse – whose own back walls were also knocked and the doors and windows of the two little old houses that stood beside it were also smashed in. Some folk took photographs of the surging waters, some discussed the twenty year milestone, and others just stood there, watching, thinking.

The second part of the storm – which had by then been named ‘Christine’, was due on Sunday night. Some tried to rebuild walls while others used sandbags in order to try and contain it. And then she came.

The fallout from that visit didn’t seem to be as shocking even though almost all the walls had been got at by that stage, the road ploughed up and the beach looked completely destroyed. The high tide Monday morning was a sight to behold with the pier submerged under huge crashing waves carried by a heaving swell. I watched from a distance. I was in awe.

Whilst out on my walk this morning I came across a neighbour standing in his garden, all the walls down around him, no doubt wondering where exactly to start.

On asking him how he was getting on after the last few days, he replied, without a second thought –

“Sure what can you do, She’s the Boss, and whatever she decides, goes”

How very true. Maybe more people should start to realise that its best not to mess with Mother Nature!

I hope you enjoy the pictures of what happened this last weekend on Inis Oirr.

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