There’s few places that feel more like home to me than The Slip down at Tramore Beach. It’s a place that’s all abuzz in Summer when there’s a bit of sun. You see relaxation personified and lots and lots of colour ~ deckchairs, windbreakers, lifeguards, ice-creams, tanning bodies; and there are the scents of coconut sun cream, fish and chips, seaweed; sounds of kiddies’ excitement and freedom, waves splashing, chatter of old-timers …..
At this time of year, The Slip tends to be quiet apart from a few tourists, regular walkers, joggers and sea-lovers.
I love the solitude you find there in Autumn as the sun is rising. There is the company of the seagulls and the familiarity of it all as this is the place where I spent hours and hours as a babe in arms, with a babe in arms, readying myself for a swim, or just whiling away the hours watching the ebb and flow of the sea.
All this was on my mind as I stood their very early last Saturday morning, having been woken at all hours by the dogs barking at I know not what.
The thing about The Slip is that you can generalise about it all you like but it is never, ever the same as it was even a moment before or after. This is how it was while I was there on Saturday for that stolen hour or so half in my pyjamas, half in in winter woollies:
My Garden of Eden, Mount Congreve, is closing on Sunday for the Winter. As regulars here on Social Bridge will know, the world famous garden, which is just a few miles out the road from Tramore, is a precious haven of mine.
I’m very fortunate to have been able to visit Mount Congreve every week throughout the season and savour its ever-changing colour and light.
Today was bliss but tinged with a sense of melancholy as I wandered through the walled garden and then the glorious woodlands. Much has happened in the period since the Gardens opened back in March and I’ve done a lot of contemplating, celebrating and pure ‘being’ in this place that never, ever fails to bring colour, calm and awe to my mind and heart.
Here’s a glimpse of what drew my eyes out there this morning on one of those ‘pet’ days that you always hope for as September draws to a close in Ireland:
I sped out of the house around eight o’clock as the sun had just set and found myself down at the Prom looking out over Tramore Bay.
It was one of those balmy September nights when locals and visitors were trying to eke out the very last of the Summer. The ‘Merries’ have closed down, on weekday nights anyway, but there was a big queue at Dooly’s Fish and Chip Shop which is a landmark place by the Ladies’ Slip here in Tramore. Even when you’ve had supper, it’s hard to resist at least a ‘small chip’ wrapped in steaming paper with that distinctive salt and vinegar smell that blends so well with the salty sea air and the splashing of the waves.
Tonight, the Prom seemed to be all about lines. The horizon was sharp, in stark contrast to the dense fog that hung over it early this morning; the waves were like dark pencil lines as they crested; the three pillars out at the Metal Man rose up to lend their shape to the scene; and most of all the Prom railings marked out Tramore as the place that has held me since I was a babe-in-arms.
Just to run my fingers along those railings anchors me like nowhere else. I’ve leaned against them in all-weathers for over half a century now and they always make me think of the millions of hands that have held them as Tramore has won the hearts of people who could be just about anywhere as I write.
The River Suir is one of the longest rivers in Ireland. It has been a part of my life in various different parts of the country.
Here’s how it was as I stood on Fiddown Bridge one evening recently.
Clonmel was ‘home’ in my student years and the place where I met up with hubby.
The Suir enters the sea a few miles from Waterford city. I see it almost every day and feel it is part of my stream of consciouness as Co. Waterford is my birthplace and home now for over 25 years.
I love the bends in this wonderful body of water. They say so much about the unexpected; and the hidden beauty that lies in wait.
But that evening on Fiddown Bridge, I wasn’t thinking about past or future. It was more a deep appreciation of the flow of life and being able to take in the fullness of the river at high tide as it brought a calmness with that gentle glow of pink as night fell.
The feature of Tramore that you see long before you reach the town from pretty much any direction is the steeple of the Roman Catholic Church ~ The Church of the Holy Cross.
I was Baptized in this church back in 1957 ~ and even though I’m no longer a believer, I love the building as it is such a part of the town that I proudly call ‘home.’ Speaking of ‘home,’ the church is very close to where we live and I have a full view of the steeple just standing in the kitchen.
The foundation stone for the Holy Cross Church, which was designed by Mr. J.J. McCarthy, was laid in 1856 and the tower and spire were completed in 1871. Before that time, a thatched chapel close to the existing church served the people of Tramore.
The Holy Cross Church reminds me somewhat of the sea as its appearance changes very much depending on the light and I find myself drawn to it in all weathers and at different times of the day and year.
The Church has a Rose Window which was supplied by Messrs. Meyer of Munich and it is quite stunning from both inside and out:
Here’s how it looks from the inside:
The colour of the brick work is ever changing and I love its warmth in the evening sun
as well as its shapeliness when viewed from the side against a blue sky:
Tramore has a population of around 10,500 people and it is a source of constant fascination to me that it should have a church that it so imposing.
What sort of church building is part of ‘your’ home place?
There’s a joy about driving down little lane ways in Ireland because one often comes across beautiful cottages that are clearly loved by their owners.
Recently, I came across two beauties near a little inlet here in Co. Waterford. I’ve come to think of them as The Blue Door
and Little Red
At the bottom of the lane was the tranquil sea:
Seeing these cottages made me think of a woman I met in a shop in Washington DC, who, on hearing my Irish accent, asked me if Ireland really has white-washed cottages, beside the sea which are bedecked in roses in Summertime.
I smiled that day as she described her vision of Ireland. Yes, it is somewhat stereotypical but it’s a stereotype that makes me love this little corner of the world.
It’s very often the little things that are the BIG things in my life.
Yes, I went back out to watch the lambs with their mothers and here’s a little clip from the time I spent there.
It was only when I started for home that I realised how much time had passed and that night was closing in.
I was also captivated by the beauty of the country road ~ with the glimpse of the ocean at the end of it. It made me think of all the people who live in the middle of big cities, like I did for many years, and who don’t have the opportunity to see night falling without the roar of traffic and the hustle and bustle of people rushing around.
How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you – you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences – little rags and shreds of your very life.
February 6th has a strong echo in my life as it was the day in 1967 that our family moved from Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan to Drogheda in Co. Louth. I was nine then and that was one of five moves that we made from when I was 3 to 18 years old. ( I also moved away from home when I was seventeen to go to College but that’s a different kind of moving.)
These moves were all within Ireland and were part of father’s job in the bank. Both he and mother had been in the bank from the early 1940s and had moved numerous times in their single days ~ their paths crossing when they were both based in Kilkenny City for a while.
As a kid, I found moving from place to place rather exciting and remember being full of excitement as I bade everyone in Castleblayney goodbye and watched all our belongings, which were packed in tea chests, being loaded into a huge big removal van.
There’s no doubt that all the moves brought us very close together as a family ~ we only had each other until we made new friends. Going to new schools was daunting, especially landing there in the middle of term and having to get to grips with new teachers, new sets of rules and and, of course, all the existing pupils who tended to be curious about any newcomer.
Apart from family, tennis was the other anchor that made moving manageable. Tennis courts are the same size no matter where you go and the rules of the game are the same. It was always such a relief to get sorted in a tennis club and be able to feel at home hitting forehands and backhands like always!
We never knew how long we’d be staying in any one place ~ it ranged from 10 months to 8 years ~ but it was pretty certain that a transfer was never too far off. This never stopped me from putting down roots and getting incredibly attached to places but there was always that feeling of being a little bit on the sidelines.
St. Patrick’s Day always made me feel this ‘outsidedness’ more than any other. I can vividly remember watching St. Patrick’s Days Parades from our Bank House window in the middle of Drogheda and feeling that I simply didn’t belong in the town. To this day, I’ve never be a part of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade! Perhaps, this year I’ll get stuck into our local one here in Tramore, which is the place I was born and the place to which I eventually returned full-time in 1991.
More than anything, all the moving as a child, brought it home to me how every single place has lots and lots to offer; new people, new landscape, a depth of local history. Much of this can be taken for granted by people who have always lived in the same place but through new eyes it can be a whole new adventure.
It certainly doesn’t surprise me, after all this, that it is very often people who are ‘blow ins’ who blog or write about the wonders of places.
Are you a person who moved around as a child or did you spend your childhood in the one place?