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.
There I was making a cup of tea with a tea bag and I got to thinking of all the things, of my lifetime, that have vanished apart from fleeting memories of them. Here’s a few that might or might not jog a memory, draw a smile, a sigh or …
#1. Green public telephone boxes with button A and button B. (I saw one in a garden out in the middle of nowhere the other day.)
#2. The Riordans on RTE television
#3. Making a ‘trunk call’ and having to dial the operator.
#4. A time when there were no mobile phones and not all that many houses with telephones.
#5. Wooden tennis rackets
#6. The coming of the ‘hole in the wall’ that gave out money and how you’d say ‘Thank You’ ’til you realised what an eejit you were talking to a machine.
#7. The move to decimalisation
#8. When shops were shut on Sundays and from 1-2 for lunch.
#9. When you went to the chemist to collect your photos and get a new film.
#10. The doctor who dropped in after tea to check on ‘the patient.’
#13. Butlins Mosney by the Sea
#15. The border posts between the Republic and Northern Ireland
#16. When 99.99% of people in Ireland were white
#17. Days before Funeral Homes
#18. When JFK was revered in Ireland
#19. Showbands coming to town
#20.45s and LPs
#21. The washing-up ritual
#22. Talk of joining the Common Market
#23. Charles Mitchell reading the News on RTE
#24. That first big green car wash when you forgot to close the window
#25. Jim Figgerty
#26. The Catholic Church ban on its adherents attending Trinity College, Dublin without special dispensation.
#27. Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls
#28. When Sunday Mass included the priest reading out a list of who had given a donation to the church and how much it was.
#29. The first moon walk
#30. Listening to Radio Luxemburg under the blankets (no duvets then!)
Maybe you have a few or hundreds to add to the list?
One of the highlights of my year is the arrival of the first snowdrops in my garden and today was the day.
Tramore was shrouded in muggy fog but deep down under the unpruned hydrangea by the front gate, I caught sight of the gleaming white of snowdrops. This moment symbolises so much to me: light after dark; hope after doubt; courage after falterings; reunion after separation; joy after teardrops …..
Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained. (Seamus Heaney)
It was very frosty this morning but there was a tint in the early morning sky that drew me down to the beach here in Tramore.
There’s no where in this world that feels more like ‘my’ place and being there brings me back to childhood days with buckets and spades; summer days when it’s packed with regulars and visitors all mingling with the salty air, scent of coconut suncream, happy screams of kids as they splash in the waves; old-timers with white sun hats and a passion for ‘The Tramore Air.’
Today, there was just me, the sea and the gulls. Same place but a new day, seen through eyes that never tire.
The sea was calm but playful:
And all the while, I knew that Tramore was smiling down on me from her haunts up on the hill:
While I’m not out on the razzle-dazzle, New Year’s Eve is a pretty big deal for me for a whole host of reasons. Lots of key things seem to have happened on New Year’s Eves over the years so it’s kind of etched in my heart.
I see New Year’s Eve as being like a book-end holding in all the moments from a particular year. I took a look at how I started 2016 here on Social Bridge and found that it was an urging to self to Smile more. I’ve tried and it does work reasonably well but forced smiles are no good! Here’s the post, just in case you want to have a read.
I made it my business to try and see the sunrise and the sunset of today and, of course, there was the Wishing Stone Ritual.
Here’s how the day looked when it greeted me down the beach:
There was a softness in the air that made it feel more like a Summer’s morning than the depths of Winter. I was surrounded by seagulls and I rather like this photo (that Dad would certainly have condemned to the ‘Dud’ category.) There’s something surreal about it New Year’s Eve can feel surreal:
Now to the Wishing Stones. I’m delighted to report that we are just back from the casting. I had gone out to Newtown Cove earlier in the day to collect the stones for everyone who had requested that I cast one for them. It was really nice to have the time to ‘browse’ on the shore and select the stones which I felt matched the people that I was picking them for. I placed them all in a little nook in the rocks as I collected them. You’d be amazed how particular stones pushed themselves forward as being suitable for the individuals I have come to know through ‘blogland.’ Here is a photo of the stash:
It was like the day got into a sulk at sunset time and it just clouded over and we had no dramatic sunset at all.
Tonight, son, Harry, and I went out to Newtown Cove and cast our own stones as well as those of people from all over the globe who had requested that I cast one for them. It was beyond magical. There was a poignant moment as I cast one in memory of our beloved Paul Curran, who died earlier in the year but who touched the hearts of so many of us here on WordPress. He adored the ocean and it felt so right to give his stone a little kiss of remembrance from us all.
So, the midnight hour is approaching here in Tramore and I would like to wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2017. Also, I would like to thank everyone who has been so supportive in 2016 in all sorts of different ways.
Finally, may I say, that I still think that we need to Smile, Smile, Smile as much as we can but always be true to ourselves and to others in those smiles. A sincere smile can light up a person’s day …
Here’s smiling at you as I raise my glass to 2017!
It’s often on street walls that you see the most profound messages.
Given all the debate that is going on about ‘global warming’ right now, I feel that this particular message that has been on an old wall in New Street in Waterford City for a while now is very pertinent.
It always has the effect of making me acutely aware of the way in which moving into abstrations can distance us from things that we are enveloped in- both as contibutors and victims. Yes, this certainly brings out the nature-loving sociologist in me!
My father had quite fascination with nuns’ habits and he passed this on to my sister and me from when we were very young. He would take photographs of nuns on beaches, of all places, while Big Sis and I would do everything in our power to try and work out if nuns were bald or what they did with their hair.
The mystery was at its most mysterious in the days before Vatican 11 in 1965 which gave nuns permission to relax their dress. It didn’t happen overnight, though, and some orders were quicker than others to answer our childish questions.
The old style nuns made for great subjects for one with a photographic eye and the photo above was always called The Nuns in our house.
Dad seemed to be able to spot nuns on beaches like no one I’ve ever known. I suppose they did stand out all garbed up on hot Summer days when the rest of us were running around in swimming togs and half nothings, by the standards of those days, anyway.
The hair question eventually got answered when the veils were moved back and hair appeared ~ black, brown, fair, red, mousy, grey or some combination of these.
The mere mention of nuns would send Dad back to a rhyme that was part of his youth:
I’ll tell the nuns who stole the tupenny buns ….
This was the first line … but there was more that I can’t remember now. Dad had great fun regaling my son, Harry, with this when he was a child and the pair of them would be roaring laughing. One day when Harry was about seven, Dad told him to ‘Go and tell the nuns …’ so Harry, who was bursting to see inside a convent, went and banged on the door of the convent nearby and told them that his grandfather had told him to call. Dad had taken photos of the convent so when the nuns ascertained who Harry was, they were lovely to him and gave him sweets.
It’s easy knowing that neither Dad nor Harry ever went to a Convent school like my sister and me. We definitely wouldn’t have been knocking on convent doors with such abandon after all the years of discipline and ‘Yes Sister, No Sister!’
Saturday was pocket money day when we were kids and Dad always made a big deal out of the ritual. He insisted that all three of us kids were present for the pay out.
This came back to me as I was pottering around the kitchen this morning and one episode dominated the whole recollection. I think it was the Saturday after my 6th birthday and Dad announced that we were all due a rise. There was a sliding scale and I was at the bottom of it because I am the youngest. My rate prior to the rise was ten pence and I always got it in ten single copper coins.
On that Saturday, Dad handed me one small silver coin ~ a shilling ~ which was equal to twelve pennies so it was a rise of twopence.
Much to Dad’s horror, I burst into uncontrollable tears and was so upset I couldn’t even explain to him what was wrong with me. Eventually, he got the message that I had loved the ten coins and didn’t want just one. It took him ages to explain that a shilling was twopence more than a shilling and the only way he could placate me was to give me twelve copper pennies.
I still have a grand theory that small denominations last longer and always steer away from say a 50 euro note and go for ten 5 euro notes, if at all possible.
Oddly enough, pocket money was the only money that was unequally divided between the three of us. As a result of this, we all became absolute experts at dividing by three. I still think of a pound note meaning six shillings and eight pennies each. Christmas tended to be a time when pound notes would drop out of Christmas cards to be divided between the kids!
I should stress that all three of us were HOPELESS at maths in the academic sense but we where whizzes when it came to money and time! The time bit arose because Mother was absolutely insistent that we could only watch 30 minutes television each per day. This give rise to lots and lots of negotiations as we poured over the newspaper’s television listings for the three channels that we had on the black and white telly. There are three years between each of us in age terms so it was rather difficult to find programmes that we all wanted to watch. Mother had to do a bit of refereeing to ensure that I got to see at least a few of the ‘babyish’ programmes, like Mr. Ed, the talking horse:
The whole business of having to be very discerning about what we watched has stayed with all three of us and there is no question whatever that any of us will have the television on in the background. It only goes on for very specific programmes and then gets turned off.
Mother had another little ploy when it came to dividing food that we liked. She’d tell one of us to cut say three slices of cake and then ensure that the cutter was given the smallest piece! So, we’re all dab hands now at cutting a whole into equal parts.
I wonder if other families had/have rituals along these lines that are about what I call ‘real world’ mathematics.