Reflections

Sands of Time

The sun enticed me to the beach today.

A privilege of country living is being able to capture moments like this. The rippling of the waves brings peace.

I thought of Keats’ wonderful lines:

Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired, 
    Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea; 
        Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude, 
    Or fed too much with cloying melody— 
        Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood, 
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired! 

Nature has a powerful way of allowing you to connect with yourself and what is really going on inside.

Now I didn’t come across any sea nymphs or anything but I thought of my sister who left us four years ago on this day. The sea still comes in and out and always will long after we are gone. It leaves marks on the sand that are gone the next time the tide comes in. I suppose this is what they mean by the sands of time. Always shifting but never disappearing. When someone you love is taken away, other things you love still remain such as the sea, sun and fresh air.

I thought of Neptune the God of the Sea – even he cannot hold the tide back. Last night I went to see the Justice League, a movie featuring Superheroes where there was an awesome pale blue eyed Neptune, complete with Trident. He managed to hold back a few floods in order to ‘save the world’ but even he was pushed back eventually.

I have a metaphor for my efforts to change my career. Its from Castaway with Tom Hanks. There is a coral reef about 200 metres out from the beach that he has to get past before he can paddle out into the wide ocean. The waves break on it continually and he has wounded himself on the sharp coral many times. He spends his days devising methods to get himself past the reef, designing rafts and failing time and again. Eventually he uses an old piece of corrugated plastic that washed up on the beach and puts a makeshift sail on it. The wind in the sail gives him enough momentum to get beyond the reef, allowing him to journey back to civilisation.

The wind in my sails has been my friends offering me a country retreat while I paddle past the rocks of convention so I can start forging a new way of life.

It has been exciting so far but I hope I don’t have to get picked up by a liner in order to make it wherever I am going. I am going ahead with a mind ‘open to everything and attached to nothing’ – thank you Wayne Dyer.

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Not  exactly a Coral Reef but what sun on a Winter’s day.

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Patterns left from the ebb and flow of the sea.

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Bright winter sunshine on the wet sand.

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Leaving the Big Smoke for the Good Life

I have always wanted to live in the country.

For many and varied reasons, I never achieved that dream but it stayed with me, until today when I finally acted on it.

To me, there was never any contest between the fresh air and the green fields, the trees and the wildlife and the concrete jungle of the city.

Some of the reasons are that I failed to pay attention to my real passions in life. I can blame my career choice as being burdensome and unfulfilling or I can blame being caught on a treadmill.

It doesn’t matter what the excuse or reason is, I had the choice myself ultimately.

I have realised that you cannot map out your future, you just have to save up some money and take a chance – see what happens – tell people about your dreams and see what happens.

sunset

I had the incredible good fortune to have a wonderful friend who offered me her mother’s house in the country while they waited for probate to sell it. She offered me the chance to sample country life for six months because I had had the courage to share my dream with her.

I signed up for an organic horticulture course and loved every bit of it, creating a garden diary and working in an inner city garden in my spare time.

I spent every weekend coming down over the summer, preparing for the big move when I would leave my job in Dublin.  We worked on the house and garden, digging out weeds, planting, writing lists and painting furniture. Roisin made inventories of all the furniture and contents and we walked and dreamed about our ideal house. It turned out that we shared a similar dream – hers to have a studio and to grow her own food. Roisin is an accomplished artist and successful grower already.

The sun shone and I cooked and enjoyed the peace while Roisin made inventories of the thousands of books her mother had left.

The weeks flew by and the day for my leaving work – end of September drew closer. Then I was asked to stay until the end of October – it seemed like a never ending month and while I was buoyed up with the idea of leaving, the work became more difficult than ever, knowing I would be walking away from it in the near future.

The Friday came when I could actually leave. It happened that I had to be in court all day. I packed the car early in the morning so I would not have to go home again. The day dragged on for ever and I had my last coffee with my stalwart barrister with whom I had done countless cases over the years.

I returned to the office and collected my last few things and said my last goodbyes – it was the Halloween party in the office and everyone was staying late.

I imagined myself gliding down the road in and glorious exit out the M50. It was not quite like that – fog had settled in on the road and it was very difficult. The traffic was truly awful and I felt a bit cheated.

BREAKAWAY

Eventually I stepped out of the car at my new home looking out on the sea – the sky was clear and the stars twinkled clearly against the true blackness of night. I inhaled the night air and knew I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Up By Napper Tandys House

This Sunday I went walkabout in Dublin’s oldest streets. Researching the price of organic cherry tomatoes, I made for the Dublin Food Coop. From Thomas Street, I passed throught Meath Street and The Coombe. Quiet and clean swept it being a Sunday, the redbrick houses are history in themselves. The families that grew up there, the messages bought, the workers arriving in , scraping theit boots on the built in irons that still protrude from the redbrick at foot level.

The men who arrived home without work during the lockout and strikes of 1913 – the stories those walls could tell.

IMG_3017Google maps brought me to the market – a buzzing hive of activity. Tourists from all over th world had found their way to this hub of crafts, music collections ,coffee and food.

Cherry tomatoes were to be found @ €5 per kilo. Sourced from Spain so methinks there is a gap in the market for Irish Organic Cherry tomatoes.

 

Break my heart at Breakfast

Apricot jam -v Marmalade

unopened jar of Apricot Jam bought by mistake

Did you ever cut open a brown scone, butter it and reach for the marmalade only to find the orange spread you ladle on is Apricot jam masquerading as marmalade?

The illogical anger as your taste buds struggle and yearn for the zest and buzz of marmalade is matched only by the disappointment that your breakfast on your breakaway has been partially spoiled. The anticipation of the perfect breakfast scone has been unfulfilled and you look around for someone to blame.

How could anyone think the bland smoothness of apricot would fool me? Who actually made the decision to substitute the real thing with an inadequate replacement. Better by far to say ‘We do not have marmalade’ than to lead one down or up the garden path and lull one into a false sense of consumable confiture.

It is actually not jam at all  or jelly as they call it in the US.  The real thing was sliced in a manual slicer attached vice like to the kitchen table  Seville oranges came in once a year and the annual ritual would rotate between the Rayburn where the slices would bob around in the preserving pan, pounds of sugar added until it was decanted into sterilised Jam jars  and oh the smell!

In times of need when the real thing was all eaten, mother would make it out of a tin .  Delicious !  Only when all else failed did we buy a pot of marmalade.

The sausages are eaten, the second cup of coffee is poured but its all gone up in a puff of smoke.

Is it worth talking to the waitress? Will this only serve to fuel the anger, underlining the unfortunate start to the day.

Or does one just bottle it up and buy ones one jar of the real stuff at the local shop.

Did you not know that ‘I was a morning grouch – until I discovered Little Chip marmalade ‘. One of the best pieces of advertising ever.

So remember- serving Apricot Jam can be responsible for morning grouches all over the world.

Islands of my Dreams

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

Is it only me or does everyone see the land mass nearest them as the first island they looked out at as a child?
When I look out at Howth, I see Cape Clear. When I look at Clare island off Luisburgh, I see Cape Clear.
I think the shape of these land masses is similar. Ridges left after the glaciers slid their way through valleys to eventually melt into the sea.


Their height is similar – not a very scientific observation but it gives me more to go on than nostalgia for my faulty perception.
Or is it just wishful thinking- to be back in those days when your horizon was bordered Cape Clear, when the day was regulated by high tide so we could jump off Colla Pier.
The walk past Hannah Fleury’s house, its perennial garden laden with scent , where her gorgeous golden retriever would curl on her back, beseeching us to rub her belly where her nipples felt velvety and nubbly under our fingers.
We would pick up a swarm of files there that would pester us for a few fields. Our towels would round our heads, we must have looked like a small group of nomadic berbers, tans and freckles and sunburnt, instead of the mahogany skin of the desert inhabitants.
We loitered at the pier, in fact we loitered everywhere. I cant think of a single other thing we did. We cycled, speeding down the 30’ gradient up at Caherlaska,, and freewheeling up the other side, seeing how far we could go without pedalling.
We would later cut those hills out and dump our bikes in the heather and go across the springy turf and jump goat like over the rocks until we reached the holiday bungalow.
Never going straight in to the house, but instead climbing directly on to the asphalt roof of the garage and in to the attic space, almost entirely filled with a table tennis table made of plywood and hung around with sheep skins drying on the rafters.
The smell of those pelts is with me today, an acrid, earthy type of odour, inhaled deeply by us with whatever other dust and particles were in that roof space as we sped around the table, becoming more accurate every day with our serves and volleys.
Dinner was almost invariably fresh mackerel cooked whole, with four scores across the sides and grilled or fried with butter.
Served with liberal lemon juice and potatoes, we left the house as soon as possible after dessert, squeezing every last minute out of the long evenings with the stunning sunsets lasting any time up to 11.30.
Maybe that is why I always think of Cape clear when I look out at the horizon from Dun Laoghaire. We were kings of our world for those few uncompromisingly lived weeks where natures backdrop knows no half measures.

December Sunshine in West Cork

img_2108What an end to the year! This day was slipped in as an extra as if we are not really coming up to the shortest day of the year.

Fuschsia still bloomingimg_2102sunrise dramatic and temperatures abnormally high.

It is so sad to hear of the death of another prominent figure AA Gill restaurant critic of the Sunday Times  he entertained us so well with his incredibly witty columns  His last insight into the compassion of a NHS nurse said so much about his true nature.

He knew that compassion is not something you can pay for .  He got that from the public sector and I hope it gave him some comfort in his last agonising days. On a beautiful day like today it is hard to believe that such suffering exists.

His only desire was to have more time with his family . A lesson for us all as we rush around getting ready for Christmas .