Sixth Anniversary of Social Bridge

I was gobsmacked to hear from WordPress that today marks the 6th Anniversary of my blogging life.

I feel like I could write a tome about the lessons I’ve learned about blogging since January 2011 but what I want to do tonight is thank every single person who has interacted with the blog over the years.

I deeply appreciate the many friends I have made through Social Bridge. I find that you are with me on my daily round as well as here online. Hardly an hour goes by that I don’t think of how one or more of you would respond to a particular situation.

Maybe I’ll be bold and ask if there has ever been a time that I’ve suddenly crossed your radar as a result of something I’ve written either on my own blog or in response to one of your posts?

So to sum up six years of blogging in six words.

#1. CONNECTION

#2. EMPATHY

#3. FUN

#4. INSPIRATIONAL

#5. CATHARTIC

#6. FRIENDSHIP

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Tramore, Co. Waterford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Dad … Giving a ‘Thank You’ Letter to an Elderly Parent as a Christmas Present.

I wrote a post on December 17th, 2012 about my experience of having written a ‘Thank You’ letter to my father when he was in good health and how it was one of the things that truly helped me in the aftermath of his death in 2010. I can honestly say that coming up to my sixth Christmas since his passing that I often think of that letter. 

The post itself is one of the most read here on Social Bridge. People don’t comment, they just read it, and I hope that at least some of them write a letter while they have time. Far better to write it when your parent is alive and well than writing it after they have died. 

Before I paste a copy of the post that I wrote in 2012, I must tell you that I recently came across a photograph that Dad took of the very place that I mention in the P.S. I will add it in at the end:

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In 2003, when my father was 84 and in good health,  I decided to give him the gift of  a ‘thank you’  letter for Christmas.  Interestingly, I can’t remember if I gave him anything else to supplement it but I know for sure that the letter meant the world to him then and means a huge amount to me now.

It was a five page letter, written by hand with a fountain pen, and started like this:

Dear Dad,

This may seem like an odd Christmas present but I want to remind you of all the really ‘fatherly’ things you have done for me since I was born.

It covered happy times growing up and moved on to his involvement in my education:

Another aspect of life was the academic; your willingness to pay for me all those years in Trinity. The PhD was the outcome for me –   a lot of money spent the outcome for you! Trinity was my first time away from home. I have vivid memories of you delivering and collecting me from Trinity Hall, driving me to the station, meeting buses. The car was always there and so were you with your warm smile.  

There was so much to say and on the last page, I wrote: 

In so many ways, it’s been the little things that have been everything – mopping up the  cuts, catching the mice, just being at the other end of the phone ….. Nights chatting over cups of tea and sugary hot orange drinks …..

Father never, ever mentioned the letter to me after I handed it to him in a yellow folder on Christmas Day in 2003 but my mother told me that he was deeply touched by it.  After he died  almost seven years later, I felt a great sense of happiness that I had taken that opportunity to thank him when he was fit and well.

I was rather surprised when I was clearing out his house that there was no sign of the letter. I doubted very much that he would have thrown it out  as he always kept things that mattered to him. Then on the day I was handing over the key, I decided to have one last look and there in a special hidey hole, I found the familiar yellow folder. It was well thumbed and I knew that he must have read the letter on quite a few occasions. It has now become one of my treasures and sources of solace.

So, from my experience, I would say: write that Christmas  ‘thank you’ letter now and don’t wait until it’s too late.

Oh and there was a PS in the letter:

PS: Remember that magic moment when we saw the deer crossing the mountains in the snow ….

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The Comeragh Mountains, Co. Tipperary : Photo by Frank Tubridy 

 

Blog Comments

Comments are a huge part of being in blog land. They are what makes it such sociable place to hang out.

The other day a comment landed here on Social Bridge from Tara at Tara Sparling Writes. Tara’s  blog, from here in Ireland,  is one that I read as much for the banter in the comments as for the witty posts themselves.

The comment that she wrote was in response to Puppy Stan’s, Love Bites, and this is what she said:

I ‘m sorry I disappeared for a while there, Jean, while I was caught up in booky things. It was my loss. I could have done with a daily dose of Stanliness throughout that whole time…

I loved the idea of Stanliness and, by coincidence, that night I heard an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live about how words get into the Oxford English Dictionary. The one that was under discussion was Brexit.

Brexit has certainly become one of the most used and abused words of 2016 and, along with Trump, it seems destined to be part of our daily round for quite a few years.

Thing is, though,  Stanliness is an even more fundamental part of my everyday life than either Brexit or Trump and it seems to have legs and a wagging tail.

Today, I got the full vision of what Stanliness actually means. It happened all in a moment out in the woods:

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Puppy Stan

The framed face with those deep, determined eyes, pressing through the tangle of winter, brought me straight to this quote that I’ve long loved:

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, and invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back. (Albert Camus)

Yes, Puppy Stan represents my ‘invincible summer’ and Stanliness is something that can be shared, should be shared.

That one word in a comment can be so thought-provoking speaks volumes for the power of blogging and the connections that we make through it.

I’d love to hear about comments that have caused you to pause and lingered long in your consciousness. 

 

 

Terence

Blog posts emerge in the strangest ways. This one sprang from son, Harry, happening to mention that he would love to see the White Cliffs of Dover.

Suddenly, I was sitting at a Christmas Panto in the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin with Mother, Father and Big Bro when I was about 7. I was sitting beside Mother, all snuggled up to her in our velvety seats. There was lots of fun and laughs and music but I realised that Mother was crying when they were singing the song, “There’ll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.”

I had never seen Mother cry before and it nearly broke my little heart to see the tears streaming down her soft cheeks.

When I was in my teens, I came to understand those tears. They were all about her cousin Terence ~ in fact, he was her double first cousin and was five years older than Mother, having been born in 1916. He was the only child of Uncle Harry and Aunt Laura. Uncle Harry was my grandmother’s brother and Aunt Laura was my grandfather’s sister.

While Mother grew up in Co. Meath, Terence lived in Athy, Co. Kildare. There was lots of coming and going between the two families and the kids would go and stay in each other’s houses during holiday times. Terence was the same age as Mother’s Big Bro and the three of them were thick as thieves.

Mother used to point out a little gap to me near Athy railway station where Terence would always be waiting to meet them when they were coming to visit and her diaries are full of entries about childhood holidays that they shared and her delight at the prospect of him coming and the fun they had riding ponies and playing on the farm.

Terence went to Trinity College in Dublin and completed his degree and was engaged to be married before he joined The Royal  Engineers to serve in World War 2.

He was killed in action on  November 23rd, 1943. Mother was never able to talk about the details of this and it was only since she died in 2009 that I discovered that he was killed in Italy and was buried there in Sangro River War Cemetery.

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Terence’s Grave in Italy

All the years of my growing up, my Mother was the only person I knew who wore a poppy on Remembrance Day. It just wasn’t something that was done in Ireland because of the complex relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Poppies are worn widely nowadays but back then it was very, very different.

Apart from passed on memories of Terence from Mother, I also have a Royal Engineers Sweetheart Brooch that I found among Mother’s treasures after she died. Unfortunately, I have no idea if he gave it to Mother himself or if it fell into her hands from maybe Aunt Laura. This is something I will never be able to find out now.

Mother did tell me that just before Christmas in 1943, a Christmas card from Terence arrived to his grieving parents. His mother, Laura, was very badly affected by his death and spent many years in a nursing home afterwards. Uncle Harry, who had served in World War 1, lived a long life but always came across to me as being a bit distant. That distance used to narrow, though, each year when he sent us gift tokens for Switzer’s Store in Dublin. He loved to get ‘thank you’ letters from us for these and Mother always insisted that we write them as neatly as possible ~ not an easy task for me as I could never keep my writing straight!

I wonder if my Harry will get to see the White Cliffs of Dover. I hope he does and I also hope that he will find peace there; and that somehow a day will come when families from every corner of the world will not have to face Christmases filled with grief due to war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Geography of Blogging

I certainly don’t obsess about the stats associated with this little blog of mine  which comes to you from Tramore, Co. Waterford which is in the South-East of Ireland.

However, my sociological self emerges every now and then for a perusal of the stats page. Today was one of those days and I found myself looking at the countries from which my visitors came this month. I was totally STUNNED to find that they came from 62 countries. The USA heads the list with Ireland second and the United Kingdom third. This tends to be how it is for me practically every month.

I’d never really looked at the full list of countries before, mainly because I’m absolutely hopeless at geography and didn’t even know until I checked this evening that there are 196 countries in the world.

It absolutely humbles and intrigues me that people from 62 of those 196 countries have landed on Social Bridge this month. There are countries that I would expect to see on the list because I know from people who have commented that they live in these places but what about the others?  I’m wondering what brought them here. Were they here by choice or were they  accidental tourists due to their planes, boats or broomsticks being diverted?

Just in case you come from some far flung place and haven’t a clue about Ireland ~ like I haven’t a clue about so many of the 62 countries that are on my October list ~ here’s a little overview.

Political Location Map of Ireland, highlighted continent

As you can see, Ireland is an island at the very western edge of Europe. (Click on the map/s to embiggen, if you wish).

The population of the Republic of Ireland is 4,757,976, according to the Census which was taken on the 24th April, this year. Dublin is the capital of Ireland, and other key cities are Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford (which is just 8 miles from my home in Tramore town which has a population of around 10,000).

This finding about the 62 countries, even if I can’t be sure how reliable it is, has me seeing bridges extending from all these places with people approaching Ireland, and specifically Tramore, with smiling faces and outstretched hands. The bridge where I feel I meet the world is the little wooden one in my beloved Newtown Wood which is just out the road from here and which Puppy Stan and I cross every single day.

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My Social Bridge in Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford.

So, to everyone who has visited the blog in October, many, many thanks or, as we say in the Irish language: Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the global reach of YOUR blog, wherever you happen to be in this wonderful world which I’m determined to learn more about.  

 

 

 

Intensity

I’m listening to  John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men on audiobook at the moment and feel completely intimidated in my writing. I have been knocked sideways by his ability to create a sense of sound through great choice of words. The other writer (also a Nobel Prize Winner) who I see as having that extraordinary talent is Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

Part of my birthday expedition yesterday brought me to Hook Head Light House in Co. Wexford ~ which I’ve written about here many times before. It’s one of those places that I love both up close and from afar. On dark nights in Tramore, we can see the light of the Hook, like an old friend, smiling in the distance. And to be beside this 800 year old lighthouse is just something special.

It was coming towards sunset when I got there yesterday and I just stood in awe, like I always do, gazing at its solidity out there in the wilds of the Hook Penninsula.

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Hook Head Lighthouse, Co. Wexford. 

Just beneath the lighthouse, facing out to sea were two very ordinary, well-worn kitchen chairs. The sight of them, clearly with a history, but now empty, completely knocked the wind out of my sails.

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Together

I was glad that the chairs had each other and they looked so comfortable in their ‘companionable silence,’ to steal from W.B. Yeats.

Their emptiness was piercing, at one level, as they reminded me of Mother and Father’s empty chairs in their kitchen after they had died ~ first one and then the other. Their chairs faced each other, though, at either end of the kitchen table, not like this pair.

The little glint as the setting sun caught the chair on the left gave these a sense of warmth, a sense of hope, a deep sense of ongoing love. I felt that if I waited I would see the lovers return to watch the sun set fully and the bright beacon of Hook Lighthouse take over but time called me too ~ called me to go back home to our kitchen chairs that we’ve had for twenty-five years now.

Kite-Flying

Puppy Stan here on a mission.

Jean was muttering downstairs about a post she had written called: Stuff Nobody Wants to Hear and it sounded like you’d be better off not seeing it from the vibes I picked up. Sooooooooo, I’ve snuck upstairs and hidden it away from her ’til she calms down completely.

Maybe there are things that Nobody Wants to Hear but should get an earful of.  I’m not sure. I’ve got very big spaniel ears so the sorts of things she was writing about had me reeling around when I saw them. You’ll have to tell me what you think about people writing from their social-consciences, as Jean calls it.

I would say, though, that the very act of writing the list down did settle her a lot. Before she wrote it she reminded me of this kite we saw on the beach the other day, the way she was so taut and tense over everything. Me and her love kites!

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Colourful Tension

I always feel that kites are going to burst their banks and take off into the blue. It’s kinda sad to see them go but they look like they should be set free, like us puppies let off our leads.

Anyway, I’d best go before I’m caught red-pawed. Here’s a photo of a guy I’m awful jealous of cos Jean spends hours standing at his gate petting him. He’s Mr.Calm to her.

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Mr. Calm

 

 

Blogging and Images

I’ve become acutely aware of how dependant I am on photographs when it comes to blogging. It’s almost like I feel I have to have an image to inspire me and another handful to illustrate every point I make.

Interestingly, this reliance on images tends to make other writing very difficult; somewhat like a kid trying to cycle for the first time without stabilisers on his/her bike.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this but I’m wondering to what extent image-dependence is an issue for the rest of you?

Now it’s half killing me to not add a photograph into this post.  Just think of all the possibilities …..