The Sparing

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:

Approaching from Tramore
New Gate!
Front Door and Window

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:

Cottage on Tramore-Waterford Road


Amuigh faoin spéir


Sound Out

The word ‘sound’ has been playing in my head for the last few days since I met a man who was taking photographs out on the Anne Valley Walk in Dunhill and he greeted me and said: Great to be in a place where you hear not a sound, isn’t it? 

I nodded in agreement knowing that he was referring to the peace of the place but I was half tempted to say: Do you not hear the birds singing and the stream babbling? And what about your heart beating and those cows that are lowing?  Oh, and if you come out here at midday, you’ll hear the dogs chiming in with the Angelus Bell up around the village church. And, hey, if you go on up towards Dunhill Castle you’ll get to hear the swan family.

Yes, the swan family that I thought had flown away are still around and they were making lots of noise as they were gathered together in a huddle.

Happy Family

Since my little encounter with the photographer, I’ve been thinking about Simon and Garfunkel’s, The Sound of Silence, that was such a part of my growing up in the 1960s and 70s. It was central to our early collection of 45s that we played over and over on our basic record player:

The lines of the song that always hit me were these ones:

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

Listening back now, I still feel a profoundness about these words in terms of the huge difficulties that arise in relation to communication in so many ways, especially around war and building peace.

On a much lighter note, the word ‘sound’ is widely used in Irish slang. There’s the saying: ‘Sound as a pound,’ which is used mainly to reassure someone that a person or a machine is fine or unproblematic. In some parts of the country, ‘sound as a pound’  has been abbreviated to: ‘Sound out.’  So, ‘Ah Jimmy is the best guy to advise you. He’s sound out.’ 

As well as that, you often hear ‘sound’ used as a one word response in the context of underlining the fact that one is happy enough about some arrangement. For example:

Mechanic: I’ll have the car ready for you after lunch.

Customer: Sound. I’ll see you then. 

To come back to my photographer ‘friend,’ it seemed quite ironic to me that he saw fit to break the silence, or Wendell Berry’s, ‘the peace of wild things,  that he was so obviously enjoying.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(Wendell Berry)




On Being a Culchie

I don’t know how widespread the term ‘culchie’ is but it is certainly alive and well here in Ireland where it grew up.

Just in case you’ve never heard of a culchie, it’s a term used to describe ‘an unsophisticated country person,’ and it is thought to derive from the name of a village in Co. Mayo called Kiltimagh (or Coillte Mach in the Irish language.) Let me say that Kiltimagh is a lovely village where I happened to spend a good bit of time working back in the 1980s.

I would define myself as a bit of a culchie and that’s because ‘home’ has always been in towns, rather than cities. You really get to realise how much of a culchie you are when you leave home and go to Dublin, in particular. All of a sudden, you realise that your accent isn’t Dublinesque ( and I must emphasise that there are very different kinds of Dublin accents.)

Part of being a culchie relates to the to-ing and fro-ing from the city. Young culchies tend to ‘go home’ at weekends ~ a return to the land, to townlands, parishes, villages, towns ~ on trains or buses.

Maeve Binchy, the great Irish writer, wrote about the culchie syndrome in her book The Lilac Bus. My Lilac Bus was called The Princess Bus and it brought us culchies up and back and up and back … from Clonmel to Dublin every weekend. It departed Clonmel at 6am on a Monday morning so you can imagine the levels of concentration at 9am lectures.

Culchies were the ones who lived in flats so in ways we had a lot more independence than the crowd from Dublin who tended to live with their parents while they were in College.

I think it’s fair to say that there are levels of ‘culchieism.’ A true culchie is someone who hardly ever sets foot in a city and stands out like an alien when he/she hits the ‘Big Smoke.’ Then there’s people like me who have lived in big cities but who have always had strong roots in the country. Lots of us, who are a ‘bit of a culchie’ eventually flee the city and settle back in our natural habitats. This tends to mean that the the level of culchieism rises again and there is quite a culture shock when one arrives in Dublin.

Then there are culchies who settle permanently in cities, like my brother and sister who have lived in Dublin since their college days. Their kids have been born and reared in Dublin so they are one step removed from culchieism.

I have no qualms about calling myself a culchie because I feel that I am one; I know that I am one. However, there are definitely people who live outside Dublin who would focus more on the sophistication aspect of the definition of a culchie than the country part.

The question I have for the rest of the world is whether the term ‘culchie’ has travelled and, if not, is there a distinction drawn between people people from big cities and those from country areas ~ sophisticated or not!

My Culchieland in Co. Waterford.




Yesterday’s Figary

The word figary is part of Irish slang and basically means ‘a whim or a frolic.’ To even put it like that is to formalise it a bit too much.

Anyway, I had started this post by saying that: Yesterday, I took a figary and just had to see a a bridge in Ballyduff in West Waterford.’ I then realised that only people who are Irish would have a clue what I was talking about when it came to the figary bit and also that only Co. Waterford people would fully understand the notion of West Waterford.

Co. Waterford is very much divided in our minds between the East and the West. I guess that one of the reasons for this lies in the fact that East Waterford (where Waterford City and Tramore are) are close to the River Suir, whereas West Waterford is associated with the River Blackwater. West Waterford takes in towns like Dungarvan, Cappoquin and Lismore. It also takes in the little village of Ballyduff which has a bridge that’s a delight to the eye, especially of someone like me who is fanatical about bridges.

It’s about 55 miles from Tramore to Ballyduff and one could stop practically every quarter of a mile to explore fascinating places and objects. But Ballyduff’s bridge was firmly fixed in my mind and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I got to walk along it, feel its texture, admire its views.

This is how it looked:

Ballyduff Bridge, Co. Waterford

This iron bridge, over the River Blackwater,  was built in 1887. It was designed by W.E. L’Estrange Duffin (1843-1925), who was Waterford County Engineer.

The bridge is very well maintained and here is the view up river towards Lismore:

River Blackwater from Ballyduff Bridge

Ballyduff village itself remains to be explored another day but I couldn’t but be fascinated by an impressive three-storey building which was built on a height in the mist on the left just across the bridge.

Ballyduff Bridge

It transpires that the building was originally a Royal Irish Constabulary barracks which was built in 1869 and later used as the Garda Station in Ballyduff. Rural Garda Stations have been subject to closures over the last few decades and this Garda Station in Ballyduff was closed in 2013.

Ballyduff Garda Station Building; Photo:

It’s sad to see rural Garda Stations like this one closing and I can’t but think of how all the comings and goings over the bridge between 1869 and 2013 were closely observed by various duty officers.

Looking across towards Ballyduff Village, Co. Waterford

Ah yes, so much to explore in historic Co. Waterford!




The Leg That Walks You




Hi Everyone,

It’s Puppy Stan here and all I can tell you is I’m breathing huge sighs of relief after what’s been a very stressful time since I last wrote.


I can hardly believe that I’m dogging up to this but I feel I have to get it off my chest. It’s a long  tail tale but I’ll keep it as short as I can cos it’s hard to even think about it. A dog, who shall remain nameless, attacked me for no reason at all or, at least, I thought we were just going to play. And when I say ‘attacked,’ I mean growling, biting, chewing, snapping, gnawing, pinning me to the ground …..

Jean was in the mix and grabbed me into her arms but the other dog had me by the leg and the tail and just wouldn’t let go. I don’t know how it happened but in all the schmozzle, I, yes Me, STAN, bit Jean in the leg and drew blood.

I was all battered and bruised and bleeding when we finally extricated ourselves from the other dog and was crying like a tiny puppy. I didn’t even know I’d bitten the person I love most in the whole world until we got to the vet and I heard her asking him about her leg. I was sooooooooooooooo ashamed; I don’t think I’ll ever be as ashamed about anything in my whole life again.

I ended up on a pile of meds and wasn’t allowed go walking for ages and the vet told Jean to keep a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry close eye on her leg and to go to the doctor about it if she had the slightest worry. Anyway, today was our first day back at the beach walking properly.


It was so blue and calm and lovely. I can’t really describe it but there was a sense of peace that everything is okay again that was beyond great.

You know that saying about ‘Never bite the hand that feeds you?’ Well, I want to create another saying: ‘NEVER BITE THE LEG THAT WALKS YOU.’ 

Hope you all listen well and do what I say and not what I did!

Have a happy, non-snappy week,

Love Stanny.

Happiness is …


Pope Francis, Donald Trump and Me

Sunset over Tramore Bay
Sunset over Tramore Bay

I arrived home after watching the sunset to hear about the argy-bargy between Pope Francis and Donald Trump.

The odd thing is I never thought that either of these men would take up any of my thinking time but they have and they are.

For my non-Irish readers, I should probably draw your attention to the fact that Donald Trump has a toe in Ireland as he bought an Irish golf course and hotel in Co. Clare before he declared his candidacy for the Presidential Election. He got a great welcome here by our Government with red carpets, dancing girls … and now this is part of the dirt that is being flung around in OUR General Election Campaign which is really heating up and due to take place on February 26th.

Pope Francis’ attack on Donald Trump hit me between the two eyes as he drew heavily on the importance of building bridges not walls. And, as you know, I’m all about building bridges! I think this is the first time I’ve cheered a Pope in about fifty years.

I’m beginning to wonder where this is all going to end. Maybe, I’m going to turn into one of those Irish people who gives God credit for sunshine saying: Lovely day, thank God, ” to everyone I meet. (Normally this drives me bananas as no one ever says: “Rotten day, blast God,”  or even ” Terrible day, damn the Divil.” )

Anyway, it’s been a smashing day here in Tramore and I’ve felt totally and utterly spoiled.

The Glory of Nature.
The Glory of Nature.


Fair Reflections

The word ‘fair’ has been bouncing around in my head rather a lot lately, and more than ever this morning as I took the Puppy Stan around the block, which passes my late parent’s house.

I met a neighbour who was bemoaning the fact that the sun has gone ahide. For now, I’d be describing the day as fair.

Sunflower in the School Yard round our Block.
Sunflower in the School Yard

But, round the corner, by the school, I passed a woman pushing a very small boy in a buggy. Or, to be more precise, they had stopped and turned right round to watch a huge yellow machine, with all sorts of wide attachments, making its way slowly along the road. The little boy’s blue eyes were brighter than bright and his curly fair hair was billowing in the breeze.

Passing my parent’s house, I couldn’t but think of the way fair was always on Dad’s Richter Scale of how he was. You’d always have to look into his eyes to know if he was codding or not and he generally was!

Rotten –Fair – Good – Never Better

And what of that saying: Fair Sailing which was always the parting blessing of the distinguished Irish broadcaster, Tom MacSweeney on his maritime radio programme on RTE Radio 1, Seascapes. 

Fair is never far away from discussions of Life, Love and the Meaning of Happiness.’ How often do we hear: ‘It’s not fair …’ when someone dies young or when random trouble befalls people? I must say I don’t think that life owes us anything so this concept of fairness or unfairness tends to bug me a bit.

However, I have a very strong sense that that we should do all in our power to see that there is a fair distribution of wealth. I think this goes right back to my mother’s teachings around dividing treats, like cakes. She would ask one of us kids to divide the cake in five ~ one bit for each member of the family ~ and when she saw that one slice was bigger than the rest, she would always insist that that piece be given to someone other than the cutter! A lesson never, ever forgotten!

Fairs were very much a part of farming life back in the day and I associate them with haggling and farmers sealing deals with a spit and a handshake as well as long journeys home on foot with a few cows, sheep or even a horse or two in tow.

School reports are a place where Fair always rhymed with despair and basically meant ‘Jean is completely and utterly hopeless at sewing/music/dancing ….  but I think even she knows that. Pity but that’s the way it is.’

Fair is never a great sign either when it’s used at Nurse’s Stations in response to  enquiries about the well being of  loved ones. There have been times when I’ve hated the word with a passion and the dark look that goes with it.

But one can’t hate the word fair for long, especially if you live in Ireland.

That’s a fair nice dog you’ve got there.

A Soft Day

Today was what is traditionally described in Ireland as ‘a soft day.’ That’s a nice term for a misty, drizzly, warmish kind of a day when you think you’ll never see a blue sky again.

When I peeped out the front door in semi-despair this morning, the haunting look of our Monkey Puzzle tree carried me away from thoughts of blue and the blues:

Monkey Puzzle
Monkey Puzzle

Softness was playing in the prickly branches and the greens were greener than green.

All thoughts of staying in and waiting for the ‘day to rise’ left me and Stan and I headed to a deserted Garrarus Beach where the tide was fully out. It certainly wasn’t the stuff of picture postcards looking out to sea but the shoreline carried all sorts of soft promises:

Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford
Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford

This was a day to focus on the gifts that the high tide had left:

Seaweed and Stones
Seaweed and Stones
Soft Curves
Soft Curves

Strong colours and soft textures entwined like lovers.  Nature playing with us; us playing with nature:

Stan ~ King of the Castle
Stan ~ King of the Castle

And all the while, the damp daisies on the cliff face gleamed:


As we were leaving the beach an elderly man who was well-wrapped up in fisherman’s gear gave us a wave and shouted over:

Soft day, thank God.’ 

The Pink Limit!

I guess every household has its own particular sayings and ‘That’s the pink limit!’ was one of ours.

It’s used in the same sort of way that many Irish people use: ‘That beats Banagher and Banagher beats the divil.’  I’m not sure how much help that is to non-Irish people ~ but basically these expressions are exclamations about relatively minor matters.

The pink limit comes to my lips everytime I don a pair of trainers that I bought a while back ~ and as you can see I’ve been wearing them a good deal:


I know I could have changed the laces but I love the way they highlight pinkness which seems to be pretty much everywhere in its various shades: