The Unexpected

Christmas cards are not really on my agenda any more whereas they used to be a huge part of Christmas.

However, the other day a big thick old fashioned card arrived for me and I didn’t recognize the handwriting.

It was from a woman I met just once in my life about 4 years ago.

I was back in West Clare on the pavement across the road from where my late father grew up. I had heard all about the house from him but had never been in it because it was gone out of the family.

A woman saw me looking across at the building and asked me if I was okay. I explained that it was my father’s home place and that I just wanted to soak it in. She insisted that the owner, who was a friend of hers would be more than happy to let me see around and went and knocked on the door before I could say a word. It was near enough to 9pm in the summer.

I was greeted like a long lost relation and the woman, who had bought the house from my relations, was incredibly generous in terms of showing me all the rooms that I had heard so much about from Dad and also the back yard where they had kept dogs and horses.

The friend left before a cuppa appeared and the lady and I chatted very late into the night.

I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the same kitchen with the same lovely tiles my father had described.

I left that night feeling like I had been given a very precious gift of connection to my father’s youth.

I wrote a thank you letter when I got home and often thought of that special evening in the intervening years.

Then the Christmas card arrived on Friday and a letter fell out full of cheer and an invitation to visit again.

It has left me with the warmest glow and hope for a trip West when Covid allows.

I found a card that I think the 91 year old lady will appreciate and I hope it brings a smile to her lovely face.

We have a huge amount left to talk about and, for now, maybe we will settle for letter-writing. Hard to beat it!


I discovered the true meaning of neighbourliness  very early this morning.  I was home alone last night with the dogs keeping a watchful eye on me.

I woke to a lot of barking at around 6.40am and wondered what was up. The chorus was emanating from son Harry’s dogs and it seemed a bit strange that Puppy Stan who was sleeping away from them wasn’t joining in the cacophony. I scrunched my ears and heard an unusual thudding sound from his quarters. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard before so I decided I’d better go and see what kind of mischief he was engaging in.

What I found was the stuff of nightmares.  My precious pup had somehow got entangled in a very heavy lined curtain that pulls across our back door. The curtain was tightly twisted round his little neck and he was barely able to breathe, let alone bark.

At first I thought it was a simple matter of getting his collar off and that he would be able to run free but it was when I unclipped the collar that I realised the full extent of how much the curtain was constricting him.

After a quick try at cutting through the material with a fairly ordinary scissors and then a sharp knife, I knew we were in dire trouble. His mahogany eyes were pleading with me to act quickly but I couldn’t see how to release him without some sort of very sharp cutting implement and I was terrified to leave him in case he tried to follow me and made the tightness even worse than it was.

A zillion thoughts flashed into my mind ~ everything from calling the fire service with their cutting equipment to trying to pull the curtain down and somehow untwist it ….. Before I knew it I was racing across the road to neighbours who I know to be interested in DIY and the like so would be likely to have cutting tools.

I banged on the door and kept my finger on the bell until the woman of the house peered sleepily out the upstairs window to see what all the commotion was about. I gave her a shorthand account of what was wrong and within a minute or so she came running over to our house in her pyjamas carrying a very strong scissors.

Stan was frothing at the mouth by this point and between us we managed to get the scissors between his coat and the wadge of material. My neighbour steadied her hand and cut down hard. The blade bore through the taut curtain that had once been my pride and joy and Stan took a gasp and went to the Good Samaritan and put his head on her knee in a gesture of relieved thanks.

We opened the back door and Stan ran out drinking in the fresh air and then gulps of water from the dish on the steps.

My neighbour and I sat together on the steps in the early sun and she comforted me like a mother soothing a shocked child.

All day, I’ve been counting my blessings that I live in a community in which neighbours look out for each other. ( I know that this isn’t necessarily the norm, especially in bigger towns and cities in Ireland and elsewhere.) We don’t live in each other’s pockets but when the chips are down, it is beyond reassuring to know that there are caring hearts close by.

The Warmth of Neighbours