Leaning into Greyness

I decided that I’d do everything in my power to embrace ‘greyness’ this November as it’s a colour I’ve always disliked and associated with this eleventh month of the year, mugginess, flatness, boredom, downness and even depression.

I’ve spent the last week pretty much preoccupied by grey. It started with noticing the number of my kitcheny things that are grey ~ saucepans, whisks, cutlery, kettle. Then, there seemed to be grey cars everywhere, including mine, and it’s a symbol of freedom so I certainly don’t have any problem with that.

Lines of grey poetry came flashing into my mind and, much to my surprise, they all seemed to come from poems that I truly love, like W.B. Yeats’ When You Are Old, Patrick Kavanagh’s Stony Grey Soil, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot. Absolutely nothing there to complain about either.

So, I decided to tackle greyness in nature. Grey hair jumped into my mind with a serious leap but was softened very quickly when I remembered my father’s lovely silvery hair of his later years and how he brushed it with such care with his old-fashioned square hairbrush with no handle.

I’ve devoted a week now to trying to take photographs of greyness in nature. The other day, I made a beeline for Garrarus Beach when it seemed like the day had forgotten to wake up and there were big grey clouds hanging low. But, even these clouds refused to be dull and brought all sorts of shades with them.


Before I knew it, this is what opened up before me:

Garrarus Beach Awakening
Garrarus Beach Awakening

It was hard not to think of childhood days messing around with poster paints as I watched the grey turn to white and, later on and further along the coast, it was the magical connections between white, black and silvery grey that came to mind:

Silvery Sea at Tankardstown, Co. Waterford
Silvery Sea at Tankardstown, Co. Waterford

Yes, you’ve guessed, grey has lost its doom and gloom to me. It’s forced me to think of things like shades and contrasts. It seems that grey, like some people,  likes to play a background role and let other colours have the limelight.

Heartfelt Background
Heartfelt Background

I’d love to hear your thoughts about ‘grey’ and ‘greyness.’  







Patrick Kavanagh, I Love You! ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 280

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) stands out as one of my all time favourite poets and today marks his birth date one hundred and nine years ago.

I’ve made pretty significant changes to my blog today and didn’t really see myself posting anything tonight because it all seems like a bit of a construction site. However, I feel very strongly that Patrick Kavanagh would understand all about change, moving, transitions and the hellishness of perfectionism.

Rialto Bridge, Dublin Photo: Wikipedia
Rialto Bridge, Dublin
Photo: Wikipedia

Just take a look a this poem which the man from Co. Monaghan, later to move to Dublin, wrote. This wasn’t just slapped onto a page in a few minutes! It seems so pertinent to me as I have been examining what Social Bridge is all about and how it can combine heavy issue like losing elderly parents with much lighter matters.

Patrick Kavanagh, you are the ultimate inspiration!

The Hospital

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward

Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row

Plain concrete, wash basins – an art lover’s woe,

Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored. 

But nothing whatever is by love debarred,

The common and banal her heat can know.

The corridor led to a stairway and below

Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard. 

This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,

The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,

The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.

Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge;

For we must record love’s mystery without claptrap,

Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.

(Patrick Kavanagh: from The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry)

Canal Bank Walk ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 157

I got a figairi early this morning to sort through a dusty cabinet  that’s stuffed with books and within seconds I was sitting down reading  Patrick Kavanagh: Selected Poems, published by Penguin,  that fell out and landed on my bare foot.

So many much-loved poems but I kept coming back to Canal Bank Walk. Then I suddenly remembered this day in 1979 ~ and my  own ‘canal bank walk’ as I made my way to my very first ‘real’ interview for a job as Research Assistant with the Economic and Social Research Institute, then located just off Mespil Road, which runs along Patrick Kavanagh’s Grand Canal in Dublin.

I had just finished my BSc in Economic and Social Studies and this was a huge opportunity to get to work in  the most prestigious research institute in my field in Ireland. I fully recognised the opportunity that was being presented to me but, and there is a big ‘BUT,’ I couldn’t resist the temptation to go sunbathing at my beloved Baltray beach in Co. Louth the day before. It was an absolute scorcher and the perfect interlude between the exertions of my exams and the nerves about the interview. There was a balmy breeze and I lay there like a blissful sunflower, face tilted to the sun.

I woke the following morning with a rather odd feeling around my eyes and a general sense of burning all over my face. My eyelids were so burnt and puffy that my eyes were mere pencil line slits and my face was redder than the reddest red I’d ever seen. I stumbled to the nearest chemist where all the staff lined up in horror when they saw me and did their utmost to advise on how the hell I could manage to look even remotely normal by 2pm.

Grand Canal, Dublin
Grand Canal, Dublin

So, all rigged out in my purple Laura Ashley dress, I walked up and down the canal in the shade of the trees from about 1.30 onwards and wondered if I should beg the interviewers to let me sit under the table to spare us all a lot of agony. I hadn’t even the guts to do that and sidled in to the interview feeling exhausted  from a sudden onslaught of nerves.

All I can remember now about the interview itself was a man suddenly asking me about formulas for stuff like Standard Deviation. A few weeks before, I was saying all these in my sleep as I’d crammed for the exams but I was totally stumped now.  The kindly man, sensing my absolute misery and the deepest blush beneath the sunburn, led me through the formulas and got me out of what felt like a bath of  boiling olive oil.

You’ve guessed it, I didn’t get the job and, you know, I still wonder would it have led me down completely different roads to those that I subsequently took. When I’m feeling cocky, I wonder would it have enabled me to ‘save’ the country from the current recession!

O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web

Of  fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,

Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib

To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing  speech

For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress


From green and blue things and arguments that cannot

be proven.

(From Canal Bank Walk by Patrick Kavanagh)

Tommy Makem: Poetry and Song ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 14

Tommy Makem, who played alongside the Clancy Brothers for many, many years was a man with a great love for poetry and song.  I just love his rendition of Partick Kavanagh’s On Raglan Road  and the song Gentle Annie.  To me,  this clip sums up so much of what is at the very heart of Ireland and Irishness.