The Key of Christmas

Looking Seaward from The Pier, Tramore, Co. Waterford
Looking Seaward from The Pier, Tramore, Co. Waterford

Christmas Day is drawing to a close here in Ireland and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your kindness and support all year. Even though I have only ever met a few of my readers in person, I feel that I know many of you as ‘friends’ through our connection here in blogland.

You might wonder about the photograph I’ve chosen for today. It’s one of my anchors in my beloved Tramore and here’s a photograph that Dad took of me sitting on it when I was three or four:

Anchored at the Pier Photo: Frank Tubridy
Anchored at the Pier
Photo: Frank Tubridy

I ended up pulling out these photographs as a result of reading these lines from Waterford-born poet, Sean Dunne:

Or will the key of Christmas flick

the lock free and let me sail

at last across the threshold?

The key of Christmas, as I see it, is a mingling of love, encouragement, empathy and belief. I feel that everyone needs these in their lives so that they can realise their potential and dreams.

My wish for everyone here in blogland is that the key of Christmas will flick for you and that together we can sail across thresholds that matter to us.

Sweet Dreams, dear Friends!




Tea with the Birds

There’s a specialness about the the hour around 4.30 on a May morning  in Ireland~ a specialness that I don’t often experience as it is usually my sleeping time.

I’ve no idea what woke me but I knew that sleep had gone out for a while. Natural instinct brings me down to the kitchen, where puppy Stan stirs and looks up at me from the softness of his bed under the table.

Flick the switch on the kettle, pick out my mug with the abstract little red birds sitting on a branch, like a choir getting organised.

I don’t know what it is about the pouring of tea from pot to mug but it is one of the most comforting sounds in the world.  As I creep back upstairs, cradling the hot mug, my mind wanders to Sean Dunne’s  poem ‘The Art of Tea’ in his wonderful collection with the cup and saucer on the cover. These are the lines that resonate as I take the first few sips of the black unsweetened tea:

Drink and feel
the soul flood.

It’s pitch dark outside and a sea mist seems to be enveloping Tramore but I can hear the  cheerful chirping of  the birds in the monkey puzzle tree which stands tall just outside my blinded window.

And to think I miss this precious time practically every day of my life.



Co. Waterford ABC ~ I is for Inspiration

Co. Waterford ABC is a feature here on Social Bridge where I am identifying mhighlights of  this diverse county in Ireland where I was born and which has been ‘home’ for the last 26 years. There will be just 26 posts ~ one for each letter of the alphabet and I hope you will join me in discussing your views about the places, people,  events, things that I select. Would you have chosen differently? In a county with such natural beauty and diversity in terms of history and heritage, one could quite easily identify 26+  highlights for each letter! 

See all previous posts in this Series Here

Map of Co. Waterford (Click to Zoom)
Map of Co. Waterford
(Click to Zoom)

Co. Waterford is a source of incredible Inspiration for writers of different genres and has produced many notable writers over its long history.

I hope you enjoy this Podcast which I produced to celebrate the inspirational beauty and heritage of Co. Waterford as well as the many writers and festivals which are associated with the county.

Flotsam and Jetsam

I go to Woodstown Beach here in Co. Waterford when I get a hankering for sea shells and, if I’m honest, a place that will comfort me in ways that nowhere else can.

Woodstown is different to my other beaches. It doesn’t have the wildness of Tramore or Garrarus, about which I write so often, because it lies just within the Waterford Estuary. Sometimes, we need a calm oasis and that’s exactly what Woodstown represents for me and maybe thousands more. This isn’t quite the conversation one tends to have with passing strangers!

Woodstown didn’t disappoint when I ventured there a few days ago but it threw up an image that simply won’t leave me. There among the shells was a piece of a willow-patterned plate, or maybe a cup, that I associate so much with growing up and with the intensely beautiful poetry of the late Sean Dunne who is arguably Co. Waterford’s most renowned poet.

Woodstown Beach, Co. Waterford
Woodstown Beach, Co. Waterford

Here is the poem that immediately sprang to mind:

Tea Room
Let it be solitary
as a cottage on a beach.
Let no sword sully
this abode of vacancy.
With linen napkin
and bamboo dipper,
let it be a shrine
for the ordinary,
for talk of tea
and the taking of tea,
best made with water
from a mountain spring. 
(from: Sean Dunne: Collected , 2005, edited by Fallon, P., Gallery Press)

It is so good to know that Sean Dunne’s genius will be lovingly remembered at the forthcoming Waterford Writers’ Weekend which runs from March 20-23rd.

Sharing the Broken Willow

Trees can have profound meaning in our lives. I know that the Monkey Puzzle in my garden is like an old friend as he gazes in the study window. There was also a tree on my grandmother’s farm in Co. Meath which served as the gathering point for us and our cousins. It could be anything from a hideout, boat, galloping horse, kitchen, chat-room or ‘base’ in all those chasing games …..

The other evening at the WORDS  Writers Group event, one of the participants told us of how a willow tree that she had planted in her garden with her father many years back to mark a significant milestone had been blown down in the recent storms. It wasn’t just any tree, it was one that had been nurtured, loved and deeply appreciated.

She then produced a huge bag with cuttings from the Willow and asked us all to place them in water and hope that they would spring roots. It was one of those moments when the sharing of grief was palpable and it felt as if the collective heart in the room was baring itself to reveal an inner layer that’s seldom displayed among relative strangers.

I suspect that everyone who received a precious cutting thought long and hard about where they would put it and how they could give it the best chance of re-rooting. I put mine in a Waterford Glass vase that was the most precious vase belonging to my late mother who absolutely adored trees. For now, it’s getting some welcoming cuddles from ivy and dried Honesty and Pampas!

By sheer coincidence, I came across a poem this morning, by the great Waterford poet, Sean Dunne, which is driving my hopes even further that the broken willow will re-root between us all:


Sheltered in the cool nursery

of the young century, I grew

in chequered silence. The voices

of men ignored me and I heard

instead the wind’s word.

I liked burdocks and nettles

but loved the silver willow most of all.

It was my friend for years.

Its weeping branches fanned

my insomnia with dreams.

To my surprise I outlived it.

Now just the stump’s left.

Other willows with strange voices

murmur beneath our skies

as I sit in silence, as though

a brother had died.

(from Collected Sean Dunne, Gallery Books, 2005)

My Viennese Christmas~Gatherings from Ireland # 341

I’m not long back from a show at the lovely Theatre Royal in Waterford called Vladimir’s Viennese Christmas which was bliss with lots of Strauss, polkas and, most of all a sense of family.


Vladimir is the third son in a family of musicians. He emigrated to Ireland from Slovakia about five years ago with a view to moving away from music but ended up busking on Grafton Street in Dublin and then becoming deeply involved in musical performance again.

What adds so much to this Christmas Performance  is the fact that it brings together his mother, father, sister and three brothers. Music seems to run in this family as thickly as blood and it is like listening to instinct as they play with a bondedness that one associates with identical twins.

Walking from the Theatre Royal back along the Quay with the River Suir shimmering beneath all the Christmas lights, I couldn’t but think of Waterford’s great poet, Sean Dunne (1956-1995) and this particular poem of his:

Matching the Note

A piano tinkles as a cradle rocks,

a lullaby tapped in tuned morse

when a blackbird stops at a window.

adding to the song its own sound.

It pecks at berries and then

as if to match the ivory note,

resumes its music on the sill

in a world where wishes seem granted.

(from Collected Sean Dunne, 2005, edited by Peter Fallon, Gallery Press).

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 78


The dawning of March brings heightened anticipation of  Waterford Writers’ Weekend which takes place from March 21st-24th. This year’s line-up of readings, workshops and events is akin to all the spring buds just bursting to reveal their fresh colours, creativity and inspiration.

The spirit of Sean Dunne ( 1956-1995), arguably Waterford’s greatest ever poet, is fundamental to the Writers’ Weekend and I would like to bring you one of his poems which I particularly love:



Sean Dunne

King of Sunday, guard the wells

and streams. Preserve the woods.

King of Monday, guard the cry

of corncrakes in the mown meadow.

King of  Tuesday, let live the frail

petals in limestone landscapes.

King of Wednesday, spare the thin

grass where herds of reindeer feed.

King of Thursday, care for the low

cries of field mice after harvest.

King of Friday, care for the surge

of salmon beneath a Corrib bridge.

King of Saturday, attend the birds:

oiled wings flapping; their clogged throats. 

 from Collected: Sean Dunne  (2005) Gallery Press