It would be hard for most people to understand but I’ve been nearly afraid to take the main road from Tramore to Waterford in recent months because a whole army of diggers, dumpers and bright yellow demolition machines have been at work very close to a ramshackled old cottage that’s precious to me, even if no one else loves it. It’s one of six abandoned cottages on that road and the ‘works’ were happening just beside one and were heading towards the next one which is a few hundred yards away. (Here’s a post I wrote about the six cottages back in 2014).
A lot of the time, I’ve been taking the back road so that I wouldn’t have to see a ‘gap’ where the cottage has lived for a lot longer than I have. And, I haven’t had the courage to ask any of the workmen what the plans are for the cottage.
Anyway, it looks like I can breathe again as the most endangered cottage is still standing in the clearing and looks like it is secure. I thought that St. Stephen’s Day would be a nice quiet day to take some photos. It was quieter than usual but there was still lots of traffic. One car even pulled over and the man driving it asked if my car was broken down. (That’s one of the things I love about Ireland ~ there are plenty of Good Samaritans around the place.)
Anyway, here’s a few shots of ‘my cottage’ as it looked this morning:
It’s when I get up very close to the cottage that I feel its history. Today I was thinking about all the Christmases this little house must have seen and I wondered about the openings and closings of the front door ~ family and visitors coming and going. Were there floral curtains on the window or net ones or shutters or blinds …. who looked out the window and what did they see?
I’ve been hoping that the little cottage will be spared but today when I was right up beside it, I suddenly remembered that ‘spéir’in the Irish language (and pronounced the same as ‘spare’) means ‘sky.’ To be ‘amuigh faoin spéir’ means to be ‘out under the sky’ and this is exactly what my cottage is now. The thing is that I’ve always thought of ‘amuigh faoin spéir’ in a really positive way ~ like being released from captivity.
And just in case you were wondering, here’s how the cottage just up the road was looking:
There are times when I love to look through my late father’s collection of photographs which span the years from the mid 1940s to around 2005.
It is a very mixed collection and I suppose that’s what makes it such a treasure. I never know what will turn up, especially when I go to boxes that he had marked as ‘duds.’
Today, I came across an unusual looking pouch in one of the tin boxes in which he stored the photos. It’s black leather or fake leather but is clearly intended for photographs. It’s the only one I’ve come across so far and I was intrigued to see what he had put into it.
It turned out to be a set of photographs that go to the heart of the Ireland that Dad really loved. I’m not sure of the exact location but we are certainly talking about the West of Ireland. Dad was from West Co. Clare and, even though he moved around the country a lot, he never, ever lost his sense of being from the West and from West Clare, in particular.
Cottages and outhouses always caught his eye so this photograph of an old thatched cottage is exactly what I’d expect. What took me by surprise, though, is the way in which the thatch is so different to that which I am familiar with in present day Co. Waterford. I just love the simplicity of this cottage and the character it exudes.
We get some sense of the context within which the cottage is located from other photos in the pouch. Dad was always drawn to places where sea and mountains came together and this photograph brought me back to many of the beaches in the West that we holidayed near when we were kids. (I’m as sure as I possibly can be that the child in this shot is not one of us. He liked to take photos that included people who were part of particular places.)
Dad was an out and out perfectionist about lots of things and knew exactly where all his stuff was. It’s quite paradoxical that for one so perfectionistic that he didn’t throw away photographs that he actually labelled as ‘duds.’ I feel so fortunate that he didn’t as the ‘duds’ give us such a glimpse of an Ireland that belonged to other eyes and another time.
It was one of those evenings that oozed August and the glory of Co. Waterford. I was driving out along the road towards Annestown when the sun glinting on baled hay made me do an about turn and step into the open field.
Gazing seaward across the textured gold, I thought I heard a horse’s whinny and there in the field behind was a chestnut mare with her young foal staying very close to her side:
It’s a busy enough road ~ this road along the Copper Coast. On August evenings there’s always lots of cars with surf boards and kayaks tied to the roof racks and tractors and trailers making the most of every last sunbeam:
Just across the road from the hay field is the shell of an old stone cottage. It has seen many an August evening and stands solidly adding to the sense of place and Co. Waterford history.
There’s a joy about driving down little lane ways in Ireland because one often comes across beautiful cottages that are clearly loved by their owners.
Recently, I came across two beauties near a little inlet here in Co. Waterford. I’ve come to think of them as The Blue Door
and Little Red
At the bottom of the lane was the tranquil sea:
Seeing these cottages made me think of a woman I met in a shop in Washington DC, who, on hearing my Irish accent, asked me if Ireland really has white-washed cottages, beside the sea which are bedecked in roses in Summertime.
I smiled that day as she described her vision of Ireland. Yes, it is somewhat stereotypical but it’s a stereotype that makes me love this little corner of the world.
I was driving home to Tramore from Waterford City (8 miles) this morning along a road that is beyond familiar to me and one that is steeped in memories, presentness, and probable tomorrows.
All the years, six abandoned cottages have caught my eye but I jumped to attention in the last few days as there seems to be a lot of ‘clearing’ going on which makes me fear that there will be gaps where once there were places that made me ponder and wonder.
So, I took the time today to stop and take photographs of these reminders of times past.
The fact that it is National Poetry Day was another thought that was very much on my mind and I found myself re-visiting Michael Coady’s poem, Letting Go, which I wrote about a while back.
Here it is again:
I love the abandon
of abandoned things
the harmonium surrendering
in a churchyard in Aherlow,
the hearse resigned to nettles
behind a pub in Carna,
the tin dancehall possessed
by convolvulus in Kerry,
the living room that hosts
a tree in south Kilkenny.
I sense a rapture
in deserted things
washed-out circus posters
derelict on gables,
lush forgotten sidings
of country railway stations,
bat droppings profilgate
on pew and font and lectern,
the wedding dress a dog
has nosed from a dustbin.
I love the openness
of things no longer viable,
I sense their shameless
the implicit nakedness
there for the taking,
the surrender to the dance
of breaking and creating.
(Michael Coady: from 20th Century Irish Poems selected by Michael Longley, 2002, Faber and Faber)