All Good Wishes to America

Inauguration Day has arrived and I really want to send love and good wishes America’s way.

I truly hope that the country can pull together now and move on in a peaceful way.

I have no idea why but I spent hours during my childhood and teenage years addressing the American people as incoming President with my upturned tennis racket as my microphone.

If a young Irish girl was doing this, I wonder how many American girls were practicing too.

Good luck to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris but most of all best wishes to American people everywhere.

Looking Westward from Co. Waterford, Ireland

Ten Years A-Blogging

I wasn’t sure how to feel when I saw the notification from WordPress that Social Bridge is now ten years old.

Puppy Stan on our bridge in Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford

I thought they must be wrong but then remembered how I started in 2011 a few months after my father died.

It’s been a tough ten years in lots of ways but also one filled with moments of great joy, new discoveries and fun.

If I were back again, here are 10 things I would say to beginner blogger me:

#1. You will meet many fascinating people through this and many who you will count as true friends.

#2. You shouldn’t ever focus on statistics as they mean very little in terms of the overall quality of the blogging experience. Quality far outweighs quantity.

#3. Realise that blogging is a social activity and is not all about what you write. It’s as much about reading other blogs and commenting.

#4. Don’t be afraid to take blogging breaks if other things get in the way but be sure to let readers know you are taking a break and haven’t been kidnapped.

#5. Don’t take blogging too seriously. Life is far too short for that.

#6. Be open to the fact that your blog posts may trigger unexpected feelings in others and do your best not to offend.

#7. Treasure those who take the time to engage with you. This is valuable time they could have been using some other way.

#8. Be prepared to engage with people who are going through rough times and who have the courage to say so.

#9. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. It isn’t sustainable long term in blogging

#10. Don’t publish a post when you are very unsure about whether it will offend. Let it lie for a while and re-assess it in the cool light of day. Blogging isn’t about upsetting or getting upset. It’s about sharing.

Thanks to all of you who have made this 10 years so much better than it might have been. You are treasures and I really appreciate you all and love how unique you all are.

On the Waterford Greenway, Ireland

Learnings from the Pandemic

The biggest thing I have learned from the pandemic so far is how different people are. I always recognised this but it’s become more and more obvious as layers of life have been peeled away.

Clearly, people have been affected very differently by the pandemc in terms of suffering and that has to be fully recognised. Also, some have gained in economic terms, at least, whilst others have been hit very badly.

But, what I am really talking about is the way in which the pandemic has revealed very real differences in how we deal with adversity and uncertainty.

What is important for one person, such as physical appearance, make be entirely irrelevant to another. Big divides have emerged in relation to those who put self-interest and freedom above collective interest and concern for global wellbeing.

Coping mechanisms vary hugely. Some are keeping busy busy to try and stay afloat while others are treading water and just going with the flow.

Some find that their identity is almost under attack whereas others are more confident about who they are.

Some have to read every single piece that is written and spoken about every aspect of the virus while others have switched off.

Some are full of hope while others are much more cautious.

Some are enjoying the lockdowns while others are living in dread of every moment.

Some are suffering desperately because of the extent to which the virus has pretty much taken over the health services; others are oblivious.

Some are living in the moment while others have wandered to the past or into the future.

In other words, we have to get to grips with the fact that people, including people we thought we knew well, may be perceiving and experiencing the pandemic very differently to us and we somehow have to find a way to cope with that or else the divisions could get dangerously deep.

Who knows how much this pandemic will change lives and perspectives forever or will society return to where it was as if by reset button and trundle on.

It seems important to me that we learn from this time, if only to leave a legacy for those coming after us who may well have to go through something similar.

Late 70s

I had been thinking about Joe Biden taking on the US Presidency in his late 70s as I was out for my constitutional yesterday. I find it inspirational that age hasn’t stopped him in his tracks and I wish him well in what is a tough assignment.

Meanwhile, I was pulled out of my thoughts by a man who had just stepped off his bicycle. We were on a countryish road in the mist but by the lovely sea.

He had no qualms about talking to me: I wasn’t the invisible woman to him, which was a great start.

‘I’m worse than a child for sweets,’ was his opening gambit. ‘If I’m not smoking, I’m eating sweets.’ With that he cycled off.

I caught up with him at the end of my walk as he had gone round in a circle to add mileage. He told me that he is 79 and that he had just cycled about 10 miles but had another three or four to go. His wife died last year and he said that it was the wrong way round as she had lived well while he smoked, ate sugar like there was no tomorrow, drank too much, did everything baw-ways.’

What he failed to mention was his cycling. I just wonder if that’s been his saving grace as well as his great way with people. Not a word about the virus; just a lovely smile and a heart full of fun.

I hope he’s out and about today again and I wish him well in his endeavors.

Here’s to ageing with gusto and heart!

A Stitch in Time …

I didn’t quite tell the whole story when I wrote recently about wanting to return to knitting.

It all came about when son was talking about hand knitted hats and how he was looking at ordering one online. He is a hat man supreme.

Before I knew it, I heard myself say, ‘Sure I could knit you a hat in a few hours.’

The more I was looking at yarns and needles on Irish knitting sites, the more I was convinced that I would be knitting Aran sweaters in no time.

The parcel arrived with a pair of needles and a big ball of chunky wool. I had a pattern at the ready, thanks to all your help.

I sat down at the kitchen table with Puppy Stan eyeing up the ball of wool and my look of mystification.

I had forgotten how to hold the needles, cast on, follow the most basic pattern. A complete blank.

My boasting screamed at me and this felt like the worst own goal of the season, so far.

I picked up the needles and saw them as daggers – I once fell down the stairs as a child and got stabbed in the tummy by a needle in a sock I was using to turn a heel – yes I could turn heels when I was eight but that’s a lifetime ago.

I could hear son’s jaunty footsteps approaching and put on my most confident face. A stitch cast itself on somehow and became 74.

‘Oh you’ve started? , he said picking up the wool to check its texture.

‘Ah yeah, knitting memory, ‘ I said. ‘Just like riding a bike, you never forget. What was that you said the other day about muscle memory?’

It’s taking shape when there’s no one around and memories are flooding back like an unravelling of every stich I every knitted.

Puppy Stan may end up wearing the hat but I did say the first one would be a warm up!

Crazy Nonsense

Last night, I turned on my computer to find that it has gone on strike or retired. I’m not sure which. It felt like a right blow and my reaction certainly was over the top. Okay, I use it a lot but it’s just a lump of metal and wires when looked at in the cool light of a new day.

The whole thing brought me back to a few episodes in which I or people close to me got into a right tizz over something small when, in reality, there was a much bigger issue at hand and all worries were diverted into the little thing. In one case, it was a pair of sandals versus nerves re travelling across the world; in another it was a tiny scratch on an old car while edging in a gateway versus fear and trembling over severe illness in a loved one.

It doesn’t take much to realise that the laptop problem zoomed out of proportion on a day when pandemic cases here were awful.

One can live without a computer, that’s for sure. How easy it is to get all mixed up about stuff.

I know I can’t be alone!

My father used to go into orbit if anything went wrong with his car and I mean super orbit. It used to drive him crazy when I’d say that it was only a lump of tin – borrowed from a great aunt.

I wonder if this displacement thingy is hereditary? Is it displacement or some other word that I have got muddled up about?

The Ban

The one word that my father banned in our house was any variation on ‘boredom,’ and Mother sang in unison, which was a bit unusual.

They both felt that there was a world of opportunity out there or inside us and helped us to foster our imaginations from before we could remember.

Mother and Me

There was very heavy control over television watching so that we didn’t become couch potatoes and we each had 30 minutes TV time a day – after 5pm and before 9pm. This involved doing all sorts of deals and pouring over the television listings to make sure we had the timings correct. When my sister went away to school her 30 minutes went with her.

Being outdoors was part and parcel of growing up. Simple things like skipping, making a steeplechase course in the garden with Big Bro, building tents out of old sheets and sticks, playing tennis against any wall that could withstand it, collecting wildflowers, bird-watching, tending our little plots in the garden, going for cycles, picnics or cycling picnics, playing catch, football, cricket …

Mother and Dad participated in these activities but ensured that we could come up with our own imaginary games.

Wet days were all about wellies and raincoats, splashing in puddles, watching the clouds, seeing the trees bend in the breeze, going to see the sea in all weathers when we lived near it…

Indoor activities were special too: baking, drawing horses, getting to use the puzzle books that Mother had hidden away for really rainy days; playing cards, board games, doing jig-saws, making up rhymes, pillow fights and, of course, reading. I was the least ‘ready bones’ in the house and plagued the others to do more active stuff, as I saw it.

I still think and feel that ‘boredom’ simply shouldn’t exist but I think now that I have my parents to thank for that. Others certainly weren’t as fortunate as me.

Where does ‘boredom’ fit or not fit in your life?

Presidential Poetry

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is a sociologist and a poet as well as a former politician. He is greatly loved in this country and we are immensely proud of him.

A while back, I was chatting to a friend and Michael D. came up in conversation. He told me of a time when he and a friend were students and hitching around Co. Galway. A car pulled up and it turned out that it was Michael D. out for a Sunday drive to take in the delights of Co. Galway. He chatted away to the lads, insisted on standing them lunch and showing them some of the more hidden gems of the countryside which he was so familiar with. Later he dropped them back at the station to catch their train to Dublin. It was an afternoon that my friend remembered as being fun, educational and and one of the reasons why he had absolutely no hesitation in voting for Michael D. for President when the time came. He is now in his second term.

Recently, our President wrote a poem to inspire the people of Ireland and beyond. Here it is and I hope you like it as much as I do:

Take Care

In the journey to the light,
the dark moments
should not threaten.
Belief
requires
that you hold steady.
Bend, if you will,
with the wind.
The tree is your teacher,
roots at once
more firm
from experience
in the soil
made fragile.

Your gentle dew will come
and a stirring
of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.

In the misery of the I,
in rage,
it is easy to cry out
against all others
but to weaken
is to die
in the misery of knowing
the journey abandoned
towards the sharing
of all human hope
and cries
is the loss
of all we know
of the divine
reclaimed
for our shared
humanity.
Hold firm.
Take care.
Come home
together.

-Michael D. Higgins-