Another World

I was out for my constitutional today and met the usual runners, walkers, cyclists, friendly farmer , dogs …..

As I was almost back I saw a very well dressed man with two young children – about 4 and 6 years of age coming towards me. I decided that he was probably a home schooling/ working father who was taking the kids out for a bit of fresh air over lunch time.

I couldn’t but overhear parts of what the father said to the children who were bouncing along the road as they got very close to me.

“An Excel spreadsheet … figures.”

He spread his hands out and moved his fingers as if typing on a keyboard.

I thought back to walks with my father at that age and they were all about the natural world – the formation of the clouds, the shimmer off the sea, the tiny robin perched in the hedge, the possibility of a running race when we got to a straight bit of the road …..

He certainly didn’t go into stuff about ledgers and interest rates which would have been his work mode.

The two kids this morning didn’t seem to be overly interested in Excel spreadsheets but maybe they are destined to be computer wizards in a few years or maybe they’ll be tying to ‘find themselves’ out in what is left of the wild world.

I really wonder and hope I get to find out.

The Ban

The one word that my father banned in our house was any variation on ‘boredom,’ and Mother sang in unison, which was a bit unusual.

They both felt that there was a world of opportunity out there or inside us and helped us to foster our imaginations from before we could remember.

Mother and Me

There was very heavy control over television watching so that we didn’t become couch potatoes and we each had 30 minutes TV time a day – after 5pm and before 9pm. This involved doing all sorts of deals and pouring over the television listings to make sure we had the timings correct. When my sister went away to school her 30 minutes went with her.

Being outdoors was part and parcel of growing up. Simple things like skipping, making a steeplechase course in the garden with Big Bro, building tents out of old sheets and sticks, playing tennis against any wall that could withstand it, collecting wildflowers, bird-watching, tending our little plots in the garden, going for cycles, picnics or cycling picnics, playing catch, football, cricket …

Mother and Dad participated in these activities but ensured that we could come up with our own imaginary games.

Wet days were all about wellies and raincoats, splashing in puddles, watching the clouds, seeing the trees bend in the breeze, going to see the sea in all weathers when we lived near it…

Indoor activities were special too: baking, drawing horses, getting to use the puzzle books that Mother had hidden away for really rainy days; playing cards, board games, doing jig-saws, making up rhymes, pillow fights and, of course, reading. I was the least ‘ready bones’ in the house and plagued the others to do more active stuff, as I saw it.

I still think and feel that ‘boredom’ simply shouldn’t exist but I think now that I have my parents to thank for that. Others certainly weren’t as fortunate as me.

Where does ‘boredom’ fit or not fit in your life?

Summing It Up

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.

Irish Penny Coin

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.

One Shilling Coin

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.




Tramore in Mourning

Tramore is in deep mourning today as the community tries to come to terms with a horrific car crash out along the Cliff Road last night.

A sixteen year old school girl lost her life and two other teenagers are seriously injured.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the girl who died and our thoughts are with the injured boy and girl and the driver who, though, not badly injured will clearly be scarred for life.

Every parent lives in dread of these awful accidents which can bring such drastic changes in a heartbeat.

The community is certainly drawing together to try and support those who have been beareved and injured. I guess we all know that this could just as easily be one of our own children and, in a small place like this, where people know each other, there is a sense that we have lost a child who was part of Tramore and its environs.

A sad, sad time here which will live on in the collective memory for a long, long time.

Rest in Peace, Beautiful Young Woman and know that you are held in the most loving arms imaginable.



My heart always goes out to youngsters at the start of the new school year. These three lads passed me the other day on their way home from school on one of the hottest days of the year. (How is it that the sun starts to beat down the minute term begins?)

Homeward Bound

It’s only when I look at the photo now that I see that they all seem to be engrossed in what I suspect to be their phones. What a contrast to the chatter-chatter-chatter that I associate with cycles to and from school when I was their age ~ everything from cribbing about teachers, grousing about homework, planning a trip to the pictures and, of course, comparing notes about the boys in the other school in town.

The other moment of contrast came when I heard a group of parents on the radio recently talking about how wonderful it was that the kids were back in school and that they (the parents) could have their lives back. They relished the return to the routine and having precious hours to themselves.

All I could do was think back to the sinking feeling I always had when son, Harry’s holidays came to an end; and indeed, my mother and and I waving tearful ‘goodbyes’ to my brother and sister as father drove them back to their respective boarding schools at the end of the holidays. Those were the days when there was no such thing as ‘five day boarders.’ Rather, the terms felt interminable and the time from the end of the Summer holidays to the few days off a Halloween seemed like an absolute age.

Having heard all about boarding school from the other two, I decided to stay put at home and even did the cycling (three miles each way)  for lunch everyday to take the harm out of school.

Have times changed as much as they seem to? Am I just a nostalgic old dinosaur?





Help! Parenting and Learner Driver ‘Children’

its ok to ask for help

Sometimes you have to send out a global call for help because no amount of books, Google Searches, chats with friends, acquaintances have been of much help.

Nub of matter: Son (19) is all set to take to the road in a car. We’ve moved on from bikes with stabilisers, racing bikes, scooters … to the real McCoy ~ C A R.  In addition to lessons from a qualified instructor, the law in Ireland states that all Learner Drivers must have a person with a full driving licence for at least two years sitting with them in the car up and until they pass their driving test.


It transpires that I’m the person who is the obvious candidate for this role. BUT, even thinking about it gives me the complete and utter heebee-jeebies.

I remember all too well what I was like as a learner driver ~ and I was fortunate enough to have the love of my life sitting beside me ~ apparently nerveless as I rolled halfway down Constitution Hill (the steepest hill in Ireland); bombed along the road from Clogherhead to Drogheda at about 150 mph, sailing into orbit as we hit the humpback bridge at Termonfeckin,  after he’d commented that it wasn’t very sensible to indicate to the right when I intended to turn left and there was a tractor in the mix.

My limited experience with my father sitting beside me was a nightmare. On our first day out, the accelerator cable snapped and he was screaming at me to get a move on while I was trying to tell him that the accelerator was lying in a heap on the floor. He couldn’t hear me because of all the hooting horns from the two-mile tailback behind us.

So, how does one cope with this ordeal as the ‘passenger?’ Are we talking fistfuls of Valium, self-hypnosis, Reiki, having blaring music on to drown the shouting; finding religion …..

Please tell me the secrets to success ~ if you’ve discovered any!


Parenting (No, I Mean Togetherness) ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 334

‘Parenting’ is one of those words that I find very difficult to use because it seems to have a firm grip on something that I haven’t gotten a hold of yet even though our only ‘child’ has now reached the grand old age of 18.

I sometimes wonder if people get the hang of it after they’ve had three or four kids but then you hear the stuff about Oh they rear themselves! which sounds a bit dodgy too.

Anyway, today was a day on which I felt good about ‘motherhood.’ We ended up out at the beach in Garrarus. The sea was wilder than wild and bluer than blue. Full tide, huge waves and the pair of us with our shared history running along, getting so soaked that eventually it didn’t matter any more.

We laughed together, stared in awe at the sea together, waded into the waves together, pointed at the host of gulls together and hopefully wrote another line or two of that shared history of ours together …..

Son and Sea
Son and Me

What Makes a Good Mother? ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 224

There’s all sorts of jokes about the typical ‘Irish Mammy’ but my question today extends far beyond that: what are the ingredients of a good mother? 

I had a mother for over 50 years: I’ve been a mother for over 18 years and I’ve been observing mothers for more years than I want to think about.

I’ve known people who hated their mothers, loved their mothers, hated motherhood, loved motherhood …… and I’ve spent hours today looking at quotes about mother and motherhood and there’s only one that appealed to me:

“She taught me what’s important, and what isn’t. And I’ve never forgotten. And that’s what mothers do, I say.”  Steven Herrick

There’s so many theories about motherhood that your brain would be bamboozled.

After a day (or is it a lifetime)  of reflection: here’s my list of some of the ingredients of a ‘good mother.’  I’d love if you could add (or subtract from this list):

1. Generous with her time

2. Warm

2. Patient

3. Encouraging

4. Communicative

5. Smiling

6. Willing to make Gingerbread Men

7. Poetic

8. Sporty

9. Eccentric

10. Young at heart

11. Empathetic

12. Funny

13. A good cook and a great cookery teacher

14. Honest

15. Adventourous

16. Calculatedly neglectful

17. Colourful

18. Passionate

19. Private

20. Open

Now, please tell me what you think. I really want to know.