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 I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.
The little girl let go of her father’s hand at the bottom of the wooden steps to the beach, handed him her doll, and sat down to take off her socks and sandals.
We passed each other half way down and they both smiled at me and said a happy ‘hello.’ They looked so much at home and she was dancing along beside him in her bare feet, not caring about sand between her small toes. The sand was soft, silky and hot. I’d just been playing with it, letting it slip through my fingers, like I used to when I was a kid.
The modern word for their togetherness is ‘quality time,’ but this wasn’t timed time with quick glances at the hands of a watch or the digits on a smart phone. It was relaxed time; time to paddle, run hand in hand in the lacy wavelets, pet the big fluffy dog who was out for his constitutional with his master.
This was father and daughter time; building sandcastles and memories to last a lifetime and beyond.
How do I know?
I just do because of the way they looked at me with their eyes shining like mirrors.
Am I alone in having had foibles about giving a bunch of flowers to a man?
It’s only in relatively recent years that I came to realise that there is no reason in the world why a man would not appreciate a bunch of flowers as much and I would and I wondered why I had always thought that flowers would somehow be an inappropriate gift.
Do we see a bunch of flowers as being very feminine?
I’d never have had any qualms about giving a man a tree to plant but send a bunch of pink roses ~ dither-time.
What changed me in all of this was my father. For most of my life I had wrung my hands trying to get him suitable presents for different occasions and when I found a drawer full of unused ‘stuff’ ranging from fancy after-shave to perfect fountain pens, I realised that I had to change a losing game.
So, I took courage and bought him a huge bunch of sunflowers in honour of our mutual love of Van Gogh and he adored them. I must admit to hiding behind them as I gave them to him but thereafter I had no qualms about getting him flowers of all descriptions and he loved them all for their colour and often poetry, art or gardens that he associated them with. ( I can feel him looking over my shoulder as I write here with so many prepositions at the end of sentences! Don’t worry, Dad, I know I’m doing it and I haven’t gone totally astray.)
Since I saw Dad’s reaction, I’ve given flowers as gifts to a few men and they’ve been very well received ~ even pink roses. I must admit that I’d prefer to receive a gift of a shrub or seeds or bulbs ~ something that will last forever but there are times when a bunch of flowers is just what’s needed…
… and I suspect that men are no different to me/women on this.
I’ve had a thing about war since I was a kid and have vivid memories of a hot Summer night in the early 1960s when I was feverish with chickenpox thinking that there were armoured tanks invading the small town in Co. Monaghan where we were living then.
When the Troubles broke out in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s , we were living just 3 miles from the Border and it was downright scary. For some reason, I seemed to believe that if we could somehow get to the Isle of Man we’d be okay. I think that it was probably because the Isle of Man had the name of having no violence. (Years later, I was fortunate enough to visit it and found it to be a delightful place where peace did reign.)
The rumblings of the last few days about World strife and nuclear attacks have stoked those smouldering embers and today I craved the comfort of nature.
As you probably realise by now, I am drawn to names of all kinds of things, and boats are high on that list.
Since seeing ‘Courage’ docked in Dunmore East the other day, I have found myself searching around for what I perceive as some of the great quotes about courage and here’s a small selection of my favourites:
#1. ‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.‘ (e.e. cummings)
#2. ‘The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.’ (Robert Green Ingersoll)
#3. ‘Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.’ (Lucius Anneaus Seneca)
#4. ‘ I think we all have empathy but we may not have the courage to display it.’ (Maya Angelou)
#5. ‘Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.’ (Nelson Mandela)
#6. ‘All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with white carpet is one of them.’ (Erma Bombeck)
Have you a favourite saying or thought about courage? I’d love to hear about it.
It’s strange how things happen. I was only saying to son, Harry, yesterday how fortunate I was to have the mother that I had in that she was so loving, humane, witty, comforting and understanding about everything.
We were driving round a roundabout when I came out with this utterance which arose as a reaction to hearing a lot of heart breaking stories on radio recently about people whose mothers had disowned them or with whom they simply couldn’t get along for all sorts of complex reasons ranging from clashes over arranged marriages, drug abuse, alcoholism, adoption issues, personality differences …
There was a time when I was foolish enough to think that everyone had a great relationship with their mother but over the years I’ve come to know lots and lots of mothers and daughters who have no connection whatsoever and maybe haven’t spoken to each other for decades.
Then, today, I was rummaging around on my desk and unearthed Mother’s red copybook which contains some English compositions that she wrote in 1934 when she was just 13.
The composition that jumped out at me was this one:
April is the last month of Spring. In it the good qualities of both winter and summer are blended, so helping to make it an ideal month. Hunting is prolonged, and hounds meet during the first week or two. Tennis courts are marked, racquets restrung and clubs open once more.
The trees break into foliage. Primroses, daffodils, violets and anemones bloom in wood and garden. The birds build their nests and pour forth glorious melody.
Little lambs frolic in the fields, while their mothers lie apart, watching them tenderly, and seeing that they come to no harm.
The woods are carpeted with celandines and primroses, while violets peep shyly from among the stronger flowers.
Farmers sow their corn and gardeners sow flower and vegetable seeds, which grow and blossom in due time.
Baby rabbits may be seen in the fields or near their burrows, ready to go indoors at the slightest hint of danger.
Here and there, one may see a squirrel jumping agilely from branch to branch. He has been lured out of his winter home by the glorious sunshine.
Easter generally falls in this month and Easter eggs are displayed in many shop windows in towns and villages.
Easter is seldom in March, and never in May; it is in April, which is a suitable time for festivals, for all of the world is in festive garb.
What struck me about this composition was the extent to which it was so much ‘Mother,’ with her absolute love of nature and wild places as well as her observations about nature’s ways ~ for example, the violets peeping shyly from among the stronger flowers.
It also made me think of how much things have stayed the same since 1935 at some levels – like the ‘festive garb’ of the natural world and the lessons we could all take from nature if we took the time to observe.
Clearly much has changed in Ireland and the world since 1935 but, for me, what feels important tonight, are the continuities and that feeling that somewhere Mother, who died in 2009, is ‘lying apart,’ watching her little lambs tenderly, seeing that they come to no harm.’
There’s something very precious about having a beach to oneself and that’s exactly how it was for me and Puppy Stan this morning out at Kilfarrasy. The tide was ebbing and there wasn’t even a footprint on the cleansed sand:
The sea was a darling blue and Summer seemed to be wafting in the salty air. When we turned to come back a fishing boat had rounded the headland with what I always think of as the upside-down heart and we stood watching it for ages as they threw in their lobster pots with the gulls shrieking overhead:
It was Puppy Stan who saw our watchers first. He skidded to a halt and peered up the cliffs. It seems like we’d had an audience ~ an ever-growing ~ one for some time:
I couldn’t but think of how my father used to say when I’d be trying to ‘doll’ myself up in my teenage years: Sure, who do you think will be looking at you, anyway?
As the days lengthen, Tramore Beach draws lots of families with young children for some before-bed play time. Often you just see fathers and sons or maybe it’s just me that sees fathers and sons because when son, Harry, was young, he and his father used to go down to the beach and play hurling until it was beyond dark.
Hurling is a BIG sport in Co. Waterford and the beach is a great place for ‘pucking around.’
The other night I spotted this little chap with his father and I wondered if I will be cheering him on to All-Ireland glory with the rest of Waterford in a few years. Even if he doesn’t make the big time, I’ve no doubt that these nights will give him an enduring love of hurling, sea air and a sense of endless dusk that is part of childhood: