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.
A friend of mine died very suddenly recently and it hit me in ways I find hard to articulate.
We were around the same age, were pregnant at the very same time, met regularly, shared a lot of experiences, were like-minded in many ways and had a shared passion for the sea.
I keep thinking that I see her and find myself on the verge of waving or heading over to talk to her only to realise that my subconscious is playing tricks with me.
I so wanted to give her lovely daughter a hug but couldn’t because of the times we live in. I’m not a huggy person at all but this was different.
I know she wouldn’t want tears; she wanted people to be happy and went out of her way to listen, support and understand. But tears have a way of forming, just like dew drops at dusk.
It’s best to think of her impish smile and heartfelt chuckle. They will stay with me forever and what about it if I wave at a stranger. They’d more than likely have been through the very same experience and no doubt you have too.
A letter writer to the Irish Times that I heard about on radio the other day came up with the idea of setting ourselves the goal of doing 6 activities in our 6 weeks of Lockdown. Two that I remember are: renewing contact with 6 friends with whom one has lost touch and reading 6 books.
I have been mulling over this and here’s my list:
#Write 6 thank you letters to 6 people who have been really kind to me during my life.
#Try out 6 new vegetarian/vegan recipes
#Plant up 6 pots with shade loving flowers/shrubs to brighten a dark, dank, dreary spot at the side of the house.
#Leave out 6 painted stones with inspirational quotes along my walking routes within the 5km limit
#Read 6 books that I have put aside and never opened
So, the clocks fell back in Ireland last night but the three dogs that populate our house are still tuned in to Summertime.
They sleep in different rooms because they have very different personalities and preferences but once one hears me opening even one eye, the morning chorus begins.
Mornings are a magical time for me as I am the person who gets to experience the three of them greeting the day.
Puppy Stan does a special dizzying twirl when he sees me coming and sometimes I wonder if he will take up hammer throwing for the inaugural doggy Olympics. He races around the garden as if doing training laps and then whizzes into the kitchen in search of his breakfast.
Meanwhile, the flying saucer upstairs has leapt from his bed and tears down the stairs like a man on a mission. He’s the fluffy mixum-gatherum one who is totally besotted with son.
Last,but very much not least, is the gentle hound, who always catches my eye with a look of gratitude before he dashes towards the garden and a reunion with the fluffy one. They have their garden haunts to check out and then when they see me arriving with breakfast, the gentle hound looks up at me and eyes a ‘thank you’ before he even glances at his dish.
When I let that pair in again, the fluffy one plays games trying to ensure that he his reunited with son ASAP.
The gentle hound always manages to find a bit of my bare flesh and kisses me with his wet nose. I so love him for his sweet gestures.
They are all quiet now but their contentment is nothing to mine after this life-enhancing show of love, appreciation and sheer exuberance through such different doggy personalities.
It’s my birthday today and that means feeling intensely close to my mother. She was hugely into birthdays and made each of ours very special in simple ways.
Mine brought the most delicious walnut coffee cake you could imagine. I considered making one yesterday but decided against because I know it wouldn’t be anything as yummy as hers and also I would be eating it all myself as the men in my life aren’t into that type of cake at all.
Birthdays, to me, are just as much about the mother as the baby and I feel a bit bad about leaving fathers out of this symbiotic relationship but, to me, they aren’t quite as connected to it.
Yesterday, I was out walking and I felt a wave of wonder about how Mother must have been feeling all those years ago just 7 hours or so before my arrival. For a fleeting moment, I felt like I was in her shoes. It was very comforting and I knew she’d have loved the Autumn colours that were enveloping ‘us.’
Birthdays aren’t about big fancy parties for me, they never were. Rather they are about soaking up October with its blaze of colour and stunning light.
They are also about memories of birthdays at different stages of life and about moments that defined them, like getting one of my beloved dogs (1972); getting my very own portable black and white television (1977); being a mother for the first time (1995); that last birthday before Mother died when she threw a surprise lparty for me (2008); this birthday getting such a greeting from our three excited dogs before anyone else has got up. It may be the Pandemic birthday but I intend to build lots of memories and among other things dance to fellow October 18th birthday person – Chuck Berry and read some of Yeats’ poetry, especially The Wild Swans at Coole, do a little abstract painting to capture the day and have a chat with my sibs who know exactly what special birthdays mean in our family, thanks to Mother’s love.
I often wonder if people’s names inspire them to take up particular occupations and interests. A lead expert here in Ireland on birds is called Hatch; a porter I knew was called Carri; a barrister called Law.
I love music and dancing but am desperately poor at both, unless I am alone in the kitchen. I was told to mime in the school choir during a big exam, lest I cause us to lose marks and was booted out of a beginners dance class on night one because I was not up to scratch.
So, I have tended to be the spectator when it comes to these activities and was fortunate enough to be in a class in school that had lots of good singers, dancers and musicians.
About seven of them formed a singing group and they were the people who really taught me about harmony.
We’re talking early 1979’s so songs like John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane and Yesterday Once More by the Carpenters were on the list.
The group did very well in various competitions so we used to have rehearsals and post-win celebrations in class time.
Those were precious moments that brought us all together as the group loved to have backing singers, even me!
I’m still catapulted back to our final year in secondary school that was based in a small room away from the hustle and bustle of the main building when I hear even a hint of those songs. The teachers never took much persuading to let the singing begin and the guitars tune up.
I think we all realised that these were memories in the making.
There’s a support centre in Waterford City for people impacted by cancer. It’s called The Solas Centre, and they have an annual fundraising Run/Walk for Life every October.
My first foray in the event was in 2009 a few months after my mother died and I walked the 13 miles slowly but got there in the end and felt extremely emotional at the finish, as my father was at home bursting to know how it had gone. He had always been my walking mentor as a kid.
Anyway, this year it is virtual and spread over the weekend. I am bet from walking but picked some of my very favourite places to take on the challenge.
Cancer came knocking on our family door a few years back and really put the frighteners on us. I must have thought of phoning or dropping in to The Solas Centre a thousand times but never did. Just knowing I could meant the world.
Knowing there is a listening ear, empathy, advice, support is so, so important and knowing that it is just a heartbeat away is wonderful, no matter how bad a situation is.
The virtual event is great because I am meeting fellow participants decked out in our orange T-shirts in the most unlikely places.
Today, it’s about waiting for the tide to ebb so I can do my last lap for one of Waterford’s greatest treasures.