Going to the Bar

My days start with a quick walk around our block with puppy Stan. It takes us about twelve minutes but they are BIG minutes as we meet the day, see lots of familiar faces and pass The Bar’

‘The Bar’ isn’t a pub, just in case you were thinking along those lines! It’s just a set of railings on a corner.

'The Bar,' Tramore, Co. Waterford
‘The Bar,’ Tramore, Co. Waterford

But these are no ordinary railings to me.  They were christened ‘The Bar’ by my late mother who loved nothing better than to say to an unsuspecting person: “Oh I’m just back from The Bar.”

The railings are a few yards down the road from the school that my sister and brother attended up to the time Father was transferred to the Midlands in 1963. Mother used to wait for them at ‘The Bar,’ with one eye on the school gate and the other on the view of the sea. The old stone wall on the right of the photograph is part of the school property.

‘The Bar’ marks my first proper view of the sea every day. That viewing tells me a huge amount about how my day is likely to pan out. I can see the state of the tide, the size of the waves, feel the direction of the wind, get a good sense of the ‘real’ temperature.

The building between the railings and the sea was the first school building that our son attended from 2000-2003, so he and I (and our King Charles, Sophie,  used to walk passed ‘The Bar’ and cross the busy road hand in hand in lead each morning.

As I walk around the block, I can’t but think of cycles of life. It’s pretty amazing that I’ve ended up settling in Tramore just a sling stone from where my father and mother, from Co. Clare and Co. Meath respectively, happened to have their first home in 1948. I guess, though that I inhaled a lifelong craving for the ‘Tramore Air,’ in those first  five and a bit years of my life.

‘The Bar’ always make me think, too, of these lines from T.S. Eliot’s, The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock:

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I can hear you asking what the connection could possibly be between ‘The Bar’ and these lines. It’s multi-layered but, at its simplest, relates to times when reaching/not reaching ‘The Bar’ was a measure of physical progress/decline.

My late parents’ final house (1986-2010) was a few hundred yards from ‘The Bar’ and I have vivid recall of how it was a huge goal of mine to be able to walk to it after badly breaking my leg in 1987. I remember the first day I got there and wondering how the hell I was ever going to get back again.

Similarly, ‘Going to The Bar’ was beyond highly symbolic for my mother in her latter years when her mobility was in decline.

As I walked around the block this morning, it hit me  forcefully how very mundane structures like ‘The Bar’ can carry extraordinary significance for people. The idea that ‘The Bar’ could  be one of my highlights of stunning Tramore may seem almost beyond belief but I know that even if the railings are taken down that I will always still see them at that corner on The Old Waterford Road. In addition, ‘The Bar’ has brought it home to me how much people perceive places through spectacles made of different times.

Have you got a mundane structure or place, like ‘The Bar’ which has a special significance in your life? 

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

20 thoughts on “Going to the Bar”

  1. I passed it four times a day on my way too and from school (imagine,we walked to schools back then :))…haven’t thought about it much since but it is amazing how these things become a embedded in our psyches. It’s so familiar to me still. Thanks Jean for writing about it.

    1. Clare, it’s good to hear that it resonated so much with you.
      Yes, the walking to school AND the going home for lunch. The secondary school I went to was about 2.5 miles from home but I still cycled home for lunch. The few days I stayed at the school all day seemed absolutely endless.

  2. I enjoyed your story immensely..and it brought to mind sometimes we don’t miss structures until they have been taken away, because we may pass them and never give them a thought. I know of different things that have been razed and have thought all the memories people have had of them. Yes..I did think of the “bar” as a bar and said well they call it a pub not a bar but it got my attention. I think of how many wee ones have used the bar as a jungle gym and Mothers chiding them with get off before you get hurt. Or how many have stop there to share a private moment with another or to just gather ones thoughts. We all need this structures for one reason or another. In Boston there was a Citgo gas sign that was a beacon for those traveling as a point of direction ..well they wanted it to be taken down and public furor got it to stay. The old John Hancock building with it’s weather antennae that turns colors to warn of the weather is still there. We use to have the Bakers chocolate factory and you could smell chocolate even after it was torn down. So many things end up gone..a pity!

  3. Mundane they might be but some things are constant and act as an anchor all our lives don’t they? On my (increasingly rare) trips back to Birmingham I take a few hours to wander around the area where I grew up. There have been changes, of course, but I’m always intrigued that the paving stones alongside the road outside our house are the same ones that I toddled on 60 years ago. A bit cracked in places now maybe but a credit to the lads that put them down originally.

  4. Jean what a wonder marker in your life, the Bar has a view in a million too. It resonates in not only your life but your whole family . As with all your posts it was a joy to read.
    My Marker , my Bar was our childhood family home. It was nothing grand, a three bedroom council house in London. It was a centre piece to not only our family but friends waifs and strays all were welcome. Mum and Dad always opened the door to all in sundry. No one was ever judged, all meals stretched to braking to accommodating who ever turned up! The bedrooms too were stretched to bursting!
    When Dad died one of my brothers and his young family moved in and the house remained the centre of the family universe. The good times and the bad where celebrated there the hub of the family.
    Then about 6yrs ago my brother and his wife sold up and moved to the coast, it is not an exaggeration to say I and all generations of our family and friends mourned the loss of 320! I still miss it now, I still feel I have lost part of my roots. I am sad I can no longer return to my heart home, I can never show it to the Newbie.
    So many memories, laying in my pram watching the man next door tending to his racing pigeons, being bathed as a baby by my older brothers and sisters in a tin bath in the back garden. Life moves on…………………………

  5. What a most wonderful post! Yes, the seemingly mundane things are the ones we hold dearest. When my parents divorced, I bought the family home so, other than five years of my life, I had always lived there. It was the central meeting place for so many members of the family. When Mick an I decided to sell it, there was an outrcy: But it’s the address we all know!!! We all mourned the loss of 119 (like Willow’s 320!)
    Every time I drive by it, I feel wistful. I swear, if it came up for sale again, I think I’d go for it!!

  6. I just love these stories of yours that tell of the ordinary things that end up taking on so much meaning for you and all of us as we grow older! Like willowdot21 in her post, my father’s home is the “bar” that holds so many memories for me and when it comes time to sell it…as we eventually must do…I will feel the loss profoundly. It was built for our family and my father is still living there at age 92. So many family gatherings, holidays, heartbreaks and milestones! It is a touchstone that will eventually provide another family with their own “bar”.

    That line from T.S. Eliot’s poem, ” I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” … how familiar and true that is!

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for your kind words. I hope that the day of ever having to sell the house is far away yet and that there are lots of happy memories still to be made there. xxxx

  7. What magical moments you’ve expressed with us. Your words put us right there with you. The cycle of life has brought you right where you’re meant to be. Just a lovely post 💜

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