Advent Partners ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 9

This morning I was reading Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry and his evocative poem Advent reminded me of  a huge highlight of Advent during my school days.  At the start of Advent, a few weeks before Christmas, the names of everyone in the class would be put in a box. We would all line up and pick out a name. The name that emerged was one’s Advent Partner.

The rationale behind the Advent Partner idea was that we should bring  happiness to the other person without disclosing who we were.  This meant thinking about what the other person might enjoy and slipping a little present into their ‘lift-up’ desk every few days. There was  an real art in managing to deliver the present ~ which could be anything from a seashell to a bar of chocolate or bath salts ~ without anyone noticing.

The giving was as much fun as the receiving and the receiving was great! Arrive in to school on a cold, wet Monday morning and find a home- made mince pie to eat at break time!

I never ever knew who my Advent Partners were but they certainly brought great cheer.  To this day I can remember the people whose names I picked out of the box.  The odd thing about Advent Partners was they never seemed to be one’s closest friends but this tradition forged a whole new bond and lasting connection.

I’m wondering if Advent Partners still exist? If not, maybe it would be a good idea to bring them back.

Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich …..

(From Advent by Patrick Kavanagh)

Tramore’s Post Office ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 8

The Post Office, Tramore, Co. Waterford
The Post Office, Tramore, Co. Waterford

The local Post Office is a real social hub in Ireland. Here in Tramore, the post office is located right in the heart of the town. It is always buzzing and there is a great air of friendliness and camaraderie.  I’m always delighted when there’s a bit of a queue because this is a place where people chat and the banter can be brilliant, especially when a few of the town’s  ‘characters’  arrive in at the same time.  Sean, the Postmaster,  is a helpful as they come and has a word for everyone ~ local or visitor.

It is quite amazing to think of all the letters and parcels that arrive and depart from what is such a small physical space. When you think about it, Tramore’s Post Office, like those all over the country, brings all parts of the world together.  There’s something really special about the Post Office at Christmas time. People bearing parcels, lovingly wrapped, and there’s plenty of evidence that ‘real’ Christmas Cards are alive and well.

A Happy Life ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 7

Brendan Kennelly
Brendan Kennelly

Brendan Kennelly is one of Ireland’s best-loved poets. He is very much ‘the people’s poet’; a man with great intellect, humour and the most wonderful dimpled smile.

His poem  A Happy Life is one which often makes me stop and think.

A Happy Life

What constitutes a happy life? 
Enough money to meet your needs 
steady work 
a comfortable fire 
a clear distance from law 
a minimum of city business 
a peaceful mind and a healthy body 
simple wisdom and firm friends 
enjoyable dinners and plain living 
nights free from care 
a virtuous wife who’s not a prude 
enough sleep to make the darkness short 
contentment with the life you have, 
avoiding the sneer, the poisoned sigh; 
no fear of death 
and no desire to die.

( from: Brendan Kennelly,  Martial Art ,  2003)

The Boyne Viaduct ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 6

There are few bridges that evoke more memories for me than the Boyne Viaduct in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Just the other day,  I came across this photograph of it which was taken by my father in the 1970s when we lived in Drogheda.  The Viaduct was designed by Irish civil engineer, Sir John MacNeill, and was constructed in the 1850s. It was the seventh bridge of its kind in the world when built and considered one of the wonders of the age.

The Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda, Co. Louth
The Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda, Co. Louth

What makes the Viaduct so special for me is that it was a key part of my journey to school for five years in Drogheda. I had a grand view of this majestic bridge each day, as I cycled to and from school  ~ morning, lunchtime and evening! It was a continuing source of wonder to me all those years.

A friend of mine, Lorna, lived right beside the Viaduct and that was the meeting point for a gang of us in our grey flannel uniforms and wine cardigans as we journeyed together on our bicycles.

Tramore’s Surfing Santas ~ Gatherings from Ireland #5

There was a gathering here on Tramore Beach on Saturday that brought lots of cheer and smiles. It was a fundraiser for two children, Ethan and Ryan, from our community who have a rare medical condition.

Tramore is synonymous with surfing and the aptly named Freedom Surf School organised the event ‘Surfing Santas.’  It was a magnificent sight to see such a blaze of red and white Santas surfing the waves against a glorious sky which seemed set to add even more wonder to the occasion.

W.B. Yeats Online Exhibition ~ Gatherings from Ireland #3

W.B. Yeats
W.B. Yeats

I am passionate about poetry and have found that William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) remains the most well-known Irish poet around the world.  In recent years, the National Library of Ireland has staged a wonderful exhibition on the Life and Work of W.B. Yeats and it is available online for the whole world to visit.  I hope you enjoy this insight into the world of Yeats who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

Yeats – National Library of Ireland

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

(W.B. Yeats)

The High Kings~ Gatherings from Ireland #2

The High Kings played at the Theatre Royal in Waterford last Sunday and it was a night that will live long in my memory. The last time I saw people dancing in the aisles in a similar way  was at the Buddy Holly Show in London in the early 1990’s when I took time out during a great week watching tennis at Wimbledon.

The High Kings bring a wealth of talent to music and music-making. The group includes the younger generation of great musical Irish names like Clancy, Furey and Dunphy as well as the incredibly talented Darren Holden.

Far from belting out Irish songs that are much loved, The High Kings bring their own unique take to these songs and their harmonies are the essence of delicousness.

I couldn’t but think of the talent of great sportsmen and women as I watched the High Kings perform. It just oozes from them in that apparently easy style that one equates with greats like Henry Shefflin, Rory McIllroy, Venus and Serena Williams, Katie Taylor, Ruby Walsh and so many more.

The High Kings are a  group to catch in 2013 and I was delighted to hear that they are planning to return soon to Waterford  ~which has such meaning for them all ~ in the not too distant future.

Social Bridge ~ Gatherings from Ireland #1

Ireland is all set for what is called The Gathering 2013. This is basically about reaching out to people with Irish roots and putting Ireland on the international map.

My aim here on Social Bridge is to bring you  thoughts, reflections, photographs, poetry ….. each day ….. from my  base here in lovely Tramore, Co.Waterford which is in  the South-East of Ireland.

Tramore Beach, Co.Waterford
Sunest at Tramore Beach, Co.Waterford

Social Bridges are all about connections so where better to have a Gathering with a strong Irish flavour?