My Birthday Eve

Tomorrow, October 18th, is my birthday and it was always a day that Mother and I saw as being ‘our’ day. We celebrated it in our own little way, for example, for years and years and years she made me a walnut coffee cake with an ever-increasing number of candles but it’s a cake that I’ve certainly never been able to make to the same taste, even though I have the recipe. I think she must have had some magic touch or extra ingredient that she added!

This will be my seventh birthday since Mother died in May 2009 and it is certainly a lot easier than the first one without her. I went on a 13 mile walk for charity that day to try and make the day matter. It was a good idea but I was a bit of an emotional and physical wreck before, during and after the walk as I wasn’t very fit and was heavily involved in caring for my father who was also grief-stricken and frail but who was totally behind my decision to go on the walk ( That was the last birthday I shared with him and we had a good laugh about the walk and all it involved!)

Seven years on, I’ve learned to be prepared for a surge of memories that surround all the birthdays that I shared with Mother. Today, I bought snowdrop bulbs to plant in her honour tomorrow (as well as Dutch Master daffodil bulbs for Dad). I also booked a ticket for a musical show in Waterford’s Theatre Royal for tonight. It was the magnificent Two Brothers,  Vladimir and Anton Jablokov, playing their violins with heart, passion and brotherly instinct.

Mother was never far from my mind as I bathed in the music. It suddenly dawned on me that at that time 58 years ago, she would have been in the little nursing home in Tramore, just down the road from where we lived, waiting for my arrival.

Father was at home with my sister (6) and my brother (3) and I regret now that I never  asked Mother very much about that night. I was born at 12.20am.

As I drove home from Waterford to Tramore this evening, I stopped at the house where Father would have been minding the other two and took note of the very short distance between the house and the nursing home. The tide was well in tonight and there was a lovely whispering from the waves when I opened the car window. I hope Mother had the sound of the sea to help her through the labour pains.

I had a root through a few old photo albums when I got home and found this photo of my brother and sister which I strongly suspect was taken around the time I was born:

My Sibs
My Sibs

The photo makes me smile as Mother used to tell me how my sister was bitterly disappointed that I was totally bald and not a bit like her doll, Emily Anne. (As you can see, I had a fair bit to live up to!)

It feels right and proper that Ireland should be playing in the Rugby World Cup Quarter Final slap bang in the middle of my birthday tomorrow as Mother and I never missed an International Rugby Match on TV together. I know she’ll be with me in spirit as I hide behind a few cushions cheering on the Irish team, with hubby and son,  in its battle against Argentina.

So Happy Birthday to US, Mother, and you were right, ‘Love IS elastic.’ 


Mother and Tiffin
Mother and Tiffin

We got Tiffin when I turned 15, two years before I (the youngest) left home for College, and she was the dog who was Mother’s constant companion during the ’empty nest’ years.

The love that they shared blazes out at me as I look at this particular photograph but more than anything the photograph evokes memories of Mother’s ability to love in a soft, gentle, humourous, witty, empathetic, interested way.

She was a listener and was genuinely interested in hearing about friends of ours that she was never necessarily ever going to meet.

Our relationship was remarkably strong and we chatted endlessly and went all sorts of places together over the years. One of the hardest things to cope with after she died was not having our morning chats down in her house and our nightly chats on the phone  at 8pm. We talked about absolutely everything.

I reckon I was absolutely blessed to have such a maternal presence in my life up to my early 50s. The more I learn about life, the more I realise that mother/daughter relationships are certainly not guaranteed to work out.

Yes, I miss her but I’m so glad that she didn’t have to endure the heartbreak of living without Father. In July 2009, just a couple of months after she had died, I didn’t see things quite like this. I just wanted her to be at the end of the phone or down in the house with her welcoming smile.

But, it wouldn’t have worked out. I know now that it wouldn’t. I also know that she is fully with me in spirit and there at my shoulder as I do everyday things like deadhead the roses, pet puppy Stan, go for walks in the woods, go looking for the new moon, spit superstitiously when I see a single magpie, graze on raspberries in the garden, think in poetry, go for stolen swims and treasure the ‘Tramore air.’

The Lady Moss lay under the moon

Silver from side to side.


Lessons Mother Taught Me

Mother and Me
Mother and Me

It’s January 29th and that means just one thing to me: Mother’s birthday. She was born in 1921 and lived to the fine age of eighty-eight.

We were fortunate to have an extremely close relationship and I was thinking this morning of all the treasured sayings and passions that she passed on to me. Here are a few:

# Love of words, reading, writing,  rhyming, poetry

# Rudyard Kipling’s If

# Never forget how hard women had to fight for their rights so battle on.

# Passion for nature: trees, woodlands, dogs, horses, the sea, the moon, perennial flowers, especially carpets of snowdrops and gorse;

# The importance of birthdays

# Love of sport, particularly tennis, ‘proficiency at tennis is a passport to making friends, having fun, meeting new people.’

# The importance of saying ‘thank you’

Do not be a litter lout

Love is elastic 

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

# The deliciousness of freshly-picked fruit and vegetables

# Be gentle when making sponge cakes

# Remember that every place has something to offer and you have something to offer every place 

# The importance of nurturing relationships

# Change out of wet shoes and socks

# Work hard but not too hard. Remember about the horses in the French Revolution that worked for 10 days without a break and dropped dead.

Better a dinner of herbs and peace therewith than roast ox and contention

Don’t be an impossible person

#Be gracious in defeat

# A little help is worth a lot of pity

# The importance of honesty

Chin Up

# The generation gap is only a cod

# Never forget how to smile!

# And there are rainbows

Happy Birthday, Mother! The snowdrops are out for you, as always.  









Today has been a day when the word Understand has been playing over and over in my mind. It all started  when I playfully said to puppy Stan “You’re the Stan in ‘Understand” on a walk a while after I found him chewing his way through a hardback book of poetry from Ireland called A Fine Statement. (I’d have been raging with any other animal or person who had torn the book to shreds, but I blamed myself for leaving it within his reach and also admired his taste in poetry!)

But what about Understand? What does it mean; what can it mean?

Here’s my latest effort at defining it:


And in case you’re wondering about the photograph of the leaf which I took in Mount Congreve yesterday, it made me think of the much loved hands of my late Mother, who adored trees,  as she grew more and more fragile, yet ever more insightful and understanding.

Mount Congreve Garden, Co. Waterford
Mount Congreve Garden, Co. Waterford


Mother’s Last Words

It was this day five years ago that I heard my mother’s last words to me. She was in hospital, having had a stroke shortly after being told that my father (to whom she had been married for 60 years) was dying.

She lingered in a deep, deep sleep for just four and a bit days after the stroke and it was on the evening of the third day that she last spoke to me. I was holding her hand and told her that our son, Harry, had sent his love.  She opened her eyes, squeezed my hand and said just three words in fading tones ~ LOVE, Love, love …

I wasn’t with her when she died but it matters hugely to me that the word Love was the last one that we would share.

She was a woman who truly knew the meaning of the word Love ~ and absolutely cherished nature in its broadest senses.  I couldn’t but think of her when I took this photograph of the trees on the road to The Pier in Tramore the other evening.

Summery Trees in Tramore, Co. Waterford
Summery Trees in Tramore, Co. Waterford

Sunday Senses ~ Reading People

The extent to which people can read each other is a source of constant interest and fascination to me.

I think the time I was most dumbstruck by someone’s ability to read me was this day five years ago when I visited my 88 year-old mother in the Emergency Room in hospital where she had been on a trolley for several hours.

I put on my brightest smile and she beamed back at me. Before I had time to utter, she asked me how I was. Fine, I said, but what about you?  

She certainly wasn’t going to move on to my question without letting me know that she knew damn well I wasn’t ‘fine.’ Have you looked at yourself in the mirror today, she asked very calmly. Why? I asked.  You look exhaustedyour eyes can’t cod me, she replied very calmly.  She was right, of course!

My Giveaway Eyes Photo: Frank Tubridy
My Giveaway Eyes
Photo: Frank Tubridy

I wonder if everyone has giveaways that those closest to them can read as if they were booming headlines. I can think of a few giveaways alright: an almost inaudible sniff;  a gentle little clearing of the throat; a lightening flick of the head; a gaze held for a trillionth of a second longer than usual …..

Thing is, I reckon my late mother could have read my eyes even if I was wearing big, dark sunglasses!

What are the giveaways that tell you everything?