Going to the Bar

My days start with a quick walk around our block with puppy Stan. It takes us about twelve minutes but they are BIG minutes as we meet the day, see lots of familiar faces and pass The Bar’

‘The Bar’ isn’t a pub, just in case you were thinking along those lines! It’s just a set of railings on a corner.

'The Bar,' Tramore, Co. Waterford
‘The Bar,’ Tramore, Co. Waterford

But these are no ordinary railings to me.  They were christened ‘The Bar’ by my late mother who loved nothing better than to say to an unsuspecting person: “Oh I’m just back from The Bar.”

The railings are a few yards down the road from the school that my sister and brother attended up to the time Father was transferred to the Midlands in 1963. Mother used to wait for them at ‘The Bar,’ with one eye on the school gate and the other on the view of the sea. The old stone wall on the right of the photograph is part of the school property.

‘The Bar’ marks my first proper view of the sea every day. That viewing tells me a huge amount about how my day is likely to pan out. I can see the state of the tide, the size of the waves, feel the direction of the wind, get a good sense of the ‘real’ temperature.

The building between the railings and the sea was the first school building that our son attended from 2000-2003, so he and I (and our King Charles, Sophie,  used to walk passed ‘The Bar’ and cross the busy road hand in hand in lead each morning.

As I walk around the block, I can’t but think of cycles of life. It’s pretty amazing that I’ve ended up settling in Tramore just a sling stone from where my father and mother, from Co. Clare and Co. Meath respectively, happened to have their first home in 1948. I guess, though that I inhaled a lifelong craving for the ‘Tramore Air,’ in those first  five and a bit years of my life.

‘The Bar’ always make me think, too, of these lines from T.S. Eliot’s, The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock:

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I can hear you asking what the connection could possibly be between ‘The Bar’ and these lines. It’s multi-layered but, at its simplest, relates to times when reaching/not reaching ‘The Bar’ was a measure of physical progress/decline.

My late parents’ final house (1986-2010) was a few hundred yards from ‘The Bar’ and I have vivid recall of how it was a huge goal of mine to be able to walk to it after badly breaking my leg in 1987. I remember the first day I got there and wondering how the hell I was ever going to get back again.

Similarly, ‘Going to The Bar’ was beyond highly symbolic for my mother in her latter years when her mobility was in decline.

As I walked around the block this morning, it hit me  forcefully how very mundane structures like ‘The Bar’ can carry extraordinary significance for people. The idea that ‘The Bar’ could  be one of my highlights of stunning Tramore may seem almost beyond belief but I know that even if the railings are taken down that I will always still see them at that corner on The Old Waterford Road. In addition, ‘The Bar’ has brought it home to me how much people perceive places through spectacles made of different times.

Have you got a mundane structure or place, like ‘The Bar’ which has a special significance in your life? 

Granny’s Gingerbread at Last! ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 288

There’s times when the rewards of blogging are overwhelming and ignite or re-ignite the apparently impossible. Well today, that’s happened for me!

In short,  a second cousin of mine, whom I haven’t seen for about 40 years, responded to my Twitter link on the recent post about Ways of Coping with Winter and my question about how YOU embrace Winter Time http://wp.me/p1ip9d-24y.

She responded with just one word Gingerbread. This had me back on a Sunday of my very early childhood when Dad had brought the others to a circus but left me at home with Mother because I was a bit under the weather. Understanding my bitter disappointment, Mother announced that we would make Gingerbread Men. I had the lovely task of cutting out the men with the ancient tin cutter that she had got from her mother, Jean.  I was thrilled to bits that I hadn’t gone to the circus, such was the warmth and comfort in this joint cooking and eating!

I tweeted Cuz back with ‘What about Gingerbread Men?’  and she responded almost immediately with this:

One of my earliest memories is of  licking the pot after making (great) Aunt Jean’s ginger bread. I still use the same recipe!

Granny Jean or (great) Aunt Jean
Granny Jean or (great) Aunt Jean

The old scrapbook in which my mother kept her precious family recipes, many of which were written in pencil, has pretty much fallen apart and I thought they were lost forever. But, today Gingerbread has been restored and, I agree with Cousin Johann than it is a great way of embracing Winter! Here’s the recipe that I was so thrilled to see in my Inbox today. Give it a try and think of  happy memories,  everlasting hope, and family connections while you’re at it!

Great Aunt Jean’s Gingerbread
1 1/2 oz butter
1tbs golden syrup
1tbs treacle 
5floz milk
6oz plain flour
1/2 tsp bread soda
1tsp ground ginger
2oz brown sugar
1 egg beaten
Heat the oven to 170˚C, GM 3 and line a 9 inch square cake tin.
Melt the butter, golden syrup, treacle and milk in a sauce pan. Mix the dry ingredients and add to the saucepan, then the egg. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for half an hour.