Primrose Spotting

When the stretch comes in the evenings in January, primroses are always on my mind and my  eyes speed read every possible ditch, in search of that joyous yellow with the velvety scent.

You don’t expect to find primroses on working harbours like Dunmore East, here in Co, Waterford, but lo and behold I found one there yesterday ~ albeit navy and white!

Floating ‘Primrose’ at Dunmore East

My heart missed a beat when I saw her and then went on to miss another when I found that she was from Drogheda, the town of my youth and schooling in the North-East of the country that is built on the Boyne Estuary.

So, so many times, we went looking primroses back then, especially Mother and me. She would clamber up onto all sorts of ditches, beating back briars, in the kinds of places that primroses flourish. She used to laugh at me and say that I was a pessimist who lived in fear of  seeing a dead rat in the ditches rather than glowing primroses. I have to admit there was quite a bit of truth in her opinion of me back then.

But, we can change, especially if led by example!

Spurred on by Primrose from Drogheda, I was fired up to find even the first signs of wild primroses today and my journey wasn’t in vain. Co. Waterford served up her first primrose of my year out on the ‘road to the sea.’

Spring has definitely sprung!

Precious Primroses

And I must tell you that while I was driving along, I got to thinking about the relationship between shadows and reflections. I still haven’t worked it out fully but clearly the sun has a lot to do with it.

Here’s how Dunmore East was reflecting yesterday with the Lighthouse, built in 1824, looking magnificent both above and below water:

The Harbour, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford.

Are You Living or Existing?

Street Art in Waterford City, Ireland.
Street Art in Waterford City, Ireland.

This quote from Oscar Wilde is painted on an old wall on a hilly street near where I often park in Waterford City.

The first time I saw it, I only glimpsed the top two lines as there was a car blocking the rest of it. It certainly captured my attention and every single time I see it now, it stays with me for hours and hours.

I reckon there’s a lot of truth in it and I’m beginning to think that the ‘busy, busy, busy’ approach to life which is so dominant in our society is playing a huge role in dragging people away from living to existing.

I know that there are some people who are genuinely busy and I would count many working parents of three or four young kids as probably being among the most genuinely busy people out there.

For so many other people, it seems that ‘being busy’ has become the ‘in’ way to be. But what exactly are people so busy doing? Does spending hours on SM keeping inboxes under control count? Or what about rushing to the gym to fight obesity after days of driving from pillar to post and avoiding stairs?

Having seen that stark ‘mural’ again today, I wondered about all the ‘stuff’ that we do that is surplus to requirements~ everything from fussing about making fashion statements to giving a toss about the colour of door handles (and mark my words, some people are obsessed with the colour of door handles.)

Christmas really turns up the ‘busy,’ ‘busy’ volume. Is there sense or reason to it all? I think not and prefer to live each day rather than existing in a busy bubble that is so limiting in terms of creativity, imagination and most of all meaningful connections with those we love and who love us.

Perhaps this is a good moment to pause and take a good, long look at Oscar Wilde’s quote. Remember we only have one life and it’s there to be lived. Maybe some would argue that being busy is the way to live but I just wonder how many of the activities that are running people ragged are ones that they will look back on as having been worthwhile, useful … time well spent.


Dear 87-Year-Old Me

Co. Waterford


November 7, 2014

Dear Jean,

I hope you’re in good fettle and not too surprised to be getting this letter.

I decided to write it as everyone seems to be writing to 30-year-old -me and I feel that there’s a lot to be said for addressing the future ~ 30 years on! You know the way we had that tendency, especially before Father died, to feel that we couldn’t look beyond that point ~ as it seemed like an end-of-the-world prospect.

The world didn’t end then and I’m wondering what you’re thinking 30 years on. What are your hopes, your regrets, the things that you can see as having been truly important with the benefit of hindsight.

Path of Life

I would like to think that you’re still physically active and that you can get to the beach everyday. Hopefully, you’re still swimming and getting that buzz we’ve always got from being immersed in the seawater, with the waves splashing our face.


Speaking of face, how are your teeth? Please tell me that the gum operation I’m dreading so much was worth it all and that the wobbly tooth is still there, solid as a rock.

Writing to you feels like having the framework of a huge jig-saw pretty much in place but needing to figure out those tough bits, especially those that are all the same colour. We certainly had plenty of practice at jig-saws when we were small, didn’t we? Remember the time we stayed in Jigsaw Cottage high up in the Wicklow Mountains. That was a happy night ~ and we managed to find one piece to fit that 5,000 piece jig-saw. I wonder did they ever get it finished?

Have you added many pieces to our jigsaw or have you dumped it and taken a whole new turn in life? I quite like the idea of a whole new you: someone who has cast away worry; has got tidier; is gallivanting around the world on some sort of crazy, creative mission; is full of hope having ridden the storms of this recession and presumably a few more that lie ahead of me now.

What I would hate is if you are socially dead ~ remember David Sudnow’s Passing On and ‘social death’ in Second Year in Trinity? That book has never left me and I can’t imagine it has left you either. I couldn’t bear if you were just languishing in a day room of some nursing home ~ a sort of waiting-room for death.  I can’t imagine how something that feels so not ‘me’ could have become okay for an older ‘me.’

I’m here thinking that life is about quality ~ to love, be loved, to laugh, write, read poetry,  soak in nature, be at peace, have hope and, of course, health.

I know that we won’t live forever. Do you still feel that way? Do you still think of Cicero and On a Life Well Spent?

Our Tramore!
Our Tramore!

If I’m absolutely honest, the reason I came to write to you was because I’ve been seeing lots of lovely wintery sunsets and you know the way I’ve always associated death as being as natural as the sun setting.

Lots and lots of love,


PS. I hope you still have a dog in your life and not just memories of all the beauties we’ve shared thus far.

Sophie and Me
Our Sophie






Early Retirement or Giving Up?

WaveHaving spent the best part of 4 years trying to find meaningful and suitable employment and having spent every euro of my savings in said quest ~ travelling to conferences, seminars and workshops to learn, keep abreast of new learning and network; paying subscriptions to professional bodies; trying to keep a ‘professional wardrobe,’ I have finally decided that the time has come to re-label myself as Retired.

I haven’t taken this decision lightly, I can tell you, and know that I still have a lot to offer the world, aged 56,  through having a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy and years of work experience as a Social Researcher and Academic Tutor.

It’s funny how particular decisions that I took along the way have been playing on my mind of late ~ like the day I walked out of the Civil Service Exams when I was in my final year of College. It was a very conscious decision but who knows what might have happened had I stayed in that huge hall with the hundreds of other serious-looking candidates eager to land a permanent pensionable post.  Or how about taking time out to care for my elderly parents while the Celtic Tiger was still roaring?  (No, I have no regrets about that, not a single one!).

Ironically, the very first ‘real’  job I had was facilitating a Return to Work Course for Women when I had just finished my primary degree, aged 21. It was one helluva challenge, given my lack of  insight into the world of work and life except through theoretical eyes, but it was a very enjoyable and well-paid learning experience.

Interestingly, I could get as much unpaid ‘work’ as I want now  and was even offered a 40 hour a week  ‘job’ for no pay and a vague promise of it maybe turning into something. The thing is, I simply can’t afford to work for nothing. 

So, I’m taking Early Retirement. It may not change a thing in objective or financial terms (no golden handshake or pension here!) ; but it gives me a sense of taking back control. There is a limit to the number of punches one can take to the gut and I know that I’ve done all I can, with my innate tenacity, in terms of knocking on doors, building new ones and all that stuff.

So, today is the first day of the rest of my life ~ not a day I envisaged coming, or wanted to come, as early in my life as this.

Little did I ever think I’d be quoting this old saying but then whoever knows what lies ahead!

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
(R. Niebuhr)


The Old and the New ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 359

Dunhill Castle, Co. Waterford.
Dunhill Castle, Co. Waterford.

The opening of the Anne Valley Trail which runs from Dunhill village to the foot of the stunning ruins of  the 12th century Dunhill Castle has been one of the unexpected highlights of my year.

Dunhill Castle has a very special place in the history of Co. Waterford and is said to be the  place from which ‘all the Powers in Ireland descend.’

I got to know Dunhill Castle through my father who took endless photographs of it from the 1940s onwards and in many ways I felt that it was ‘our place’ and couldn’t bear the thought of a new trail being developed anywhere near it.

But, the Anne Valley Trail is, without doubt, my favourite new haunt of 2013 and I’m really looking forward to seeing it through all the seasons. It’s a place where you meet ‘regulars’ and which inspires reflection. Here’s a glimpse of how it looks in Winter light.

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Mergings ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 257

There are times when you wonder if any word could convey a confluence of place, sensation and emotion. This has happened me a few times recently while walking on beaches here in Co. Waterford.

Stradbally Beach, Co. Waterford
Stradbally Beach, Co. Waterford

The tide has been out and such have been the deep reflections on the wet sands that I’ve felt I was walking on natural glass and enveloped by the very heart of the world. The deep reflections in the sand mirroring the sky but with the brush strokes of  an abstract artist.

Soft clouds of silvery white float along, mystical tall ships with their huge sails billowing in the ever so gentle breeze. Horizons are everywhere, yet nowhere are they defined.

To me, this is the land of ethereal  peace, promise and possibilities …..

Have you ever been there?