Nature, Nurture or Coincidence

We’re an old-fashioned family in that we still send each other Christmas cards ~ I mean Big Sis, Big Bro and me.

Big Bro’s card arrived first with the handwriting that doesn’t seem to have changed since he was about seven. His cards are always a bit different and he doesn’t do ‘sentimental.’

This is the one he chose to send me this year:


I thought to myself how typical this was of Big Bro as he’s into bikes and I found myself thinking of all the cycles we went on when we were kids and the way he’d be play-acting around as he rode off ahead of me  …..

A few days later, Big Sis’s parcel arrived and I thought I  had developed double vision when I saw the exact same card spilling out of the padded envelope.

I’ve been looking at the cards on the mantle piece and keep wondering what the chances were that they would both pick the same card ~ albeit they were for different charities.

You’d be surprised where ponderings on such matters can bring one. I started looking up stuff about coincidences, nature, nurture, grown-up children, Santa, siblings … and then just let my mind do its own thing.

What a mish-mash of memories: Dad’s party trick of cycling backwards; my sense of burning anticipation of Big Sis and Big Bro coming home from boarding school for Christmas and us playing cards in front of the blazing fire; the fights over what records we would play; the year of the Big Snow when we lived in the Midlands and all the lakes were frozen over and people riding bikes across them; board games, especially, Snakes and Ladders, and the sound of the dice rattling around in the little plastic cup …

I doubt I’ll ever get to the bottom of it but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are still entwined and have such shared history:

Big Sis and Big Bro in Cahoots : Photo by Frank Tubridy




Big Bro

Today is Big Bro’s birthday and he’s been very much on my mind since I woke this morning. We have always been extremely close and he’s  great the way he has looked out for me since I was tiny.

Big Bro and Me: Photo Frank Tubridy

We have very similar interests and tennis was something that really brought us together through both practice and playing together in mixed doubles tournaments for years.

I texted him this morning to wish him a happy birthday and got a typical reply that included: Thanks. Time passes….. I’ll go for a walk and cool swim. 

Yes, he’s another mad all year round sea swimmer. I hadn’t intended to go for a swim today because it was so cold ~ the coolest around here since 2010. Anyway, I got to the beach with the dogs at the time I knew that Big Bro would be going for his ‘cool swim’ and was struck by the way there was a path of golden sunbeams reaching from the horizon back to the shore. It looked so like the pathway that he and I have walked, played, laughed, cried, teased, run, tennised, read, written, chatted, hiked, driven, paddled and swum together for almost six decades now.

I simply had to dash in and join with him in a celebratory swim, even if we were 100 miles apart.  It’s quite incredible how many memories came splashing back as I had the dip in the golden waters. I wonder what he was thinking about. I know that he’d  just chuckle and pretend to have forgotten if I asked him so I won’t bother. You do get to know someone when they’ve been an essential part of your life always.

So, for now, my thought is that ‘the family that swims together stays together.’ 


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.




Birthday Thoughts

Today is my birthday ~ not that you’d know it from hubby and son who are the most un-birthday people you could ever meet, even when it comes to their own birthdays.

Birthdays in the house of my youth were HUGE days and it came as no surprise that Big Sis and Big Bro sent lovely cards and things, as always.

I had a gorgeous day ~ just took off on an adventure.

When I was coming back to Tramore the sun had just set and I found myself drawn to the house where we lived back then. It was here in Tramore.  Our parents were renting it and I got to thinking of how Dad would have come home from work ( in those 1950s days, fathers certainly weren’t in attendance at births here in Ireland), and made sure Big Sis and Big Bro were okay.  Here’s the house as it was looking this evening.

My First Home, Tramore, Co. Waterford

Back in the 1950s, Tramore had its own little nursing home where many of the town’s babies, including me and my two sibs were born. It was about a two minute walk from our house so Dad used to call in the mornings and evenings to see Mother and the new baby.

His evening call would have been around the time I was passing this evening and this is how the nursing home of old was looking. It’s the near one with the red door.

Lyon Terrace, Tramore

It’s lovely that these houses are still in existence and so well maintained.

I can’t but smile as I think of Mother’s description of Big Sis’ disappointment with the baldy baby that I was. She had been madly looking forward to having a little sister and thought I would be like her doll ~ Emily-Anne. As you can see from this photo that Father took, Emily-Anne raised the bar rather high!

Big Sis, Big Bro and Emily-Anne

The card I got from Big Sis this morning certainly indicated that she’s well over her disappointment.


As for Big Bro, he and I have been the best of friends since Day 1. He’s a great one for tossing out crumbs of advice so this P.S. on his card  was absolutely true to form:

Make the most of 59!

I certainly intend to …..

Blood is Thicker than Water

St. Stephen’s Day has been quiet here but the emails that have been flying between us three sibs have been fun.

Big Sis, Big Bro and Me Photo: Frank Tubridy
Big Sis, Big Bro and Me
Photo: Frank Tubridy

While I was swimming here in Tramore yesterday, it transpires that Big Bro was caught on camera taking a dip at Dublin’s well known Forty Foot. Here’s how he directed me to the clip in the Irish Times:

Look at today’s Irish Times website, news section, photos of 40 ft. Red togs, back to camera……

Big Sis, who is also based in Dublin, emailed to be sure that I’d seen the photo and I could feel the chuckle in her words.

It all makes me think of this great quote from Sean O’Casey which was a real favourite of Mother and Dad:

Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness … the hilarious declaration, made by man that life is worth living.


December 1~ Gatherings from Ireland #319

December 1st means just one thing to me. It’s my brother’s birthday. He’s almost three years older than me and we’ve always been extremely close, even though this photo which we both love, may suggest otherwise!

Big Bro and Me
Big Bro and Me

I have no idea if other ‘little sisters’ with a ‘big brother’ continue to ‘look up’ to him throughout their lives. Maybe, I’m just lucky in that my brother sort of took me under his wing from the minute I arrived on the scene.

He was the one who cut my hair when I was two and gave me the fringe that I still sport today. He was my mixed doubles partner in tennis for years and years and we never had a cross word, not once!  It was amazing how we instinctively knew where the other was on the court and it’s also amazing that even when he was totally and utterly injured I could never beat him when we played singles against each other. All he had to do was say, Ah, you have me this time, and I’d hardly get another ball over the net.

When the going has been tough, he has always been there for me. He is a great listener, has a sense of humour that has never failed to make me laugh, and is just plain ‘wise.’

I think everyone would agree that he was Mother’s pet and  she absolutely adored when he came to see her. Even after he got married, he used to come to stay with my parents for the weekend closest to his birthday. I don’t think he ever quite realised how thrilled Mother was when he was around and how  despondent when he would set off on the Sunday evening.

We had a long chat on the phone today. He was his usual self and tonight as I write I feel I’m probably the luckiest ‘little sister’ in the world. Thank goodness, he doesn’t read this blog ….. at least, I’m 99% certain he doesn’t! He would be cringing about a billion miles passed the last ‘g’.

So big brothers everywhere, please realise that you may mean the world to your little sister/s. And ‘little sisters,’ I hope you have been even half as fortunate as I have in the ‘big brother stakes.’