About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

30 March 2016

Vintage makes me smile

I have been watching a programme on our national television station recently in which three architects/interior designers visit three houses every week and judge them on style, functionality and other criteria.  Each week features a modern, Edwardian/Victorian and traditional cottage style and the winning home will go on to feature in a final programme.  I'm not sure what the prize is as I came late to the series, but I amuse Himself when I let a roar at the television when one of the judges complains about chintz/crockery that is "vintage".

When I moved back home to live here, it nearly broke my heart to have to get rid of my grandmother's sideboard [a woodworm tenement] and my late Father's wardrobe [first cousin worms to the sideboard tenants].  Mum's eyesight had been steadily failing and the little puffs of woodworm dust went unnoticed.  No amount of Cuprinol was going to revive these pieces so out to the bonfire they went.  I saved the handles and have used them on the replacement furniture.  It has worked well.

I'm a blue and white ware-aholic. I love Spode, Burleigh, Willow Pattern, you name it, and I get a tingle when I come across some in our local auctioneers.  Aside from what I have inherited, I have built up a collection from presents from family, relations and friends.  At one stage in the past eight years it looked like I was becoming the dumping ground for all those "unwanted old stuff" from those who prefer modern or chain-store "stuff".  What I don't want myself I pass on to a local charity shop, which is another tale in itself.  I rarely come home empty handed.  Still it benefits the charity on the double.

Some of my favourites:-

an acquisition from an antiques warehouse, Indian Tree has always appealed.

A junk-shop find, this planter holds the poinsettia at Christmas, and fruit in June and July

A corner of my study.  This jug belonged to my grandmother, the first "Chatelaine" of this house.  The box with roses came from a supermarket with sewing things inside.  It now serves as a tea caddy for when I "escape" to the study.  The little delft  jug on the shelving unit is part of a set of three that Mum brought back from a holiday in Holland.  The picture is an enlargement of a photo of the Blasket Islands, Kerry, taken with my camera phone.  The roses were a birthday present.

My dresser in its first incarnation in a corner of my then "new" kitchen.  After I had the extension built I brought out all my pieces which had been carefully stored and put them in temporary accommodation.  The smaller of the two vegetable dishes was inherited from my Great Grandmother, and the modern Spode was a present from my youngest daughter.

A couple of years later the dresser has moved to another corner, a Rossmore cabinet, bought when I first got married and was setting up my new home, holds the every day used Willow Pattern. A mix of new and old Spode and Willow Pattern graces the overmantle.  The salt and pepper set were a "find" present from youngest daughter who, coincidentally shares the same taste.

There is a tradition, in Irish homes, of placing a statue of the Sacred Heart somewhere in the home.  This is a statue which my Mother inherited from her Aunts who had a massive collection of them placed around their home.  Two spinsters, who lived together in acid harmony, they had a houseful of antique and "vintage" pieces.  I used to spend happy hours browsing around the house as a child.

There is something magical about "vintage pieces", be they inherited or bought - maybe on a whim, maybe to grace a particular area in the home.   Whatever the reason for having such pieces, it is continuity that makes the impact.  It is the fact that these pieces once were very special to someone.  If they could talk, the stories they could tell. 

I love to think of my gentle Grandmother, a legendary apple pie maker [in the family], sitting looking out of her kitchen window, nibbling on a slice of freshly baked in her range, slice of apple pie and sipping from one of the cups I have inherited.  She would have looked out upon almost the same vista as I do when in my study.  What was once her kitchen is now my study.  Where once cows stood, lowing gently as they called to be milked, there is now a flower bed.  The main cow-house is now a garage/workshop for Himself. 

Times have changed, the third chatelaine of this house though is very much in tune with the first chatelaine.  In between came Mum, lover of Ercol and all things modern.  I guess I am a throwback.

29 March 2016

Easter in Ireland 1916 - 2016

Easter is a time of year I usually wish could be fixed to be held in late April.  Days that would be warmer as a contrast to the cold of Christmas, and less close to my parent's anniversary.  However, it isn't, so I set out to enjoy it as a holiday that is sometimes mid-winter - judging by the bitterly harsh wind that swept across our country for the past few days.  When it does fall in April it is a holiday that is the harbinger of Springtime and Summer, long days and warmth that makes me feel luxuriously lazy like a well fed cat.  Somewhat like Ms Pounce.

The first indication that things are stirring is the hedge coming into bloom.  The roses which have looked like shaven headed convicts all winter now sprout a deep wine growth and the promise of blooms and heady perfume yet to come is dazzling.

Easter in Ireland was somewhat different this year.  It is one hundred years since the Easter Rising of 1916.  This was Ireland's first attempt to gain her independence and to take the management of her own governance into her own hands.  Padraig Pearse, Thomas J Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Plunkett, Sean MacDiarmada and James Connolly were the signatories to the Proclamation of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic in which they declared, at the GPO,  the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland, and to the control of the destiny of the Irish, to be sovereign and indefeasible.  They pledged their lives to the cause of Irelands freedom, welfare and its right to take its place  among the nations of the world.

  They paid for  this "rebellion" with their lives. Sixteen people were shot in Kilmainham Gaol after the Easter week-end Rising, including the signatories.  One of them,  James Connolly, was shot whilst tied to a chair having been wounded during the fighting.  Their deaths spurred the Irish people on to seek their independence.   On Easter Monday, 18 April, 1949, Ireland was declared a formal Republic.  Today Ireland stands proudly among the nations of the world.  Today, our army is involved in peacekeeping activities wherever there is conflict. 

The nation marked the 100th anniversary with a parade through Dublin city and many cultural events; nationally there were parades in every county on Easter Sunday.  Fifty years ago I stood with my Mother on O'Connell Street [Sackville Street as it was known in 1916] and watched the 50th anniversary Parade pass by.  Unfortunately, this time around arthritis prevented me from going into the city to watch the parade, and we watched it on t.v.   St Patrick's day is usually the day people claim pride in being Irish, but Easter Sunday, 2016 was the day when Ireland felt its nationhood with pride.  I am proud to be Irish.

17 March 2016

Another St Patrick's Day

After a long, harsh winter St. Patrick's day dawns bright and sunny - and a biting east wind.  My plans to attend a local Parade are blown away by this wind.  I am sneezing and coughing at a rate of knots.  Executive decision taken...I am staying in, cosy before the fire.

A mug of tea, a good book and I shall relax.  I find my mind wandering down the years to other St. Patrick's days.  Days such as my ninth year.  Mum and I took the train into Dublin to see the Grand Parade.  There was another bitter east wind blowing up the River Liffey from the sea, and the parade of that year was small but yet community cosy.  Nowadays our parades are like huge corporate events.  Showy, glossy, loud and based on entertaining the tourist.  No problem with that, but...I do hanker, at times, for the more "local" style of yesteryear.  My memories for the Parade in 1963 are locked in because a very fat lady, in stiletto heels, stood back from in front of me, her stiletto heel found purchase in my foot.  Today all that remains of that stiletto puncture is a small scar.  I do remember my mother bringing me to the St. John's Ambulance van to have my foot bandaged and being given a lollipop.  I'm sure that helped the pain.

The daffodils are out.  We planted 300 bulbs last autumn.  Each year we add more and they are now beginning to form rivers of yellow around the garden; they are followed on by tulips, awe-inspiring with their Easter colours of pink, wine, cream, yellow of all shapes and varieties.  1970's Paddy's Day is vivid in my memories.  The year the house nearly went on fire.

I was 15 and had just had my hair cut short for the first time since I was five.  I had also just gotten my first perm and did I think I was the finest fish in the ocean?? Oh yeah!  I was sitting under the hairdryer [hood type] as part of getting ready to go to my first disco that night.  If excitement can be measured as energy then we wouldn't have a climate change problem with all the energy I was emitting. 

Around half past three our phone rang.  It was my father ringing from the local town where, as a policeman he was on duty, to say that he could see the hill behind us and it was on fire.  The gorse had either spontaneously combusted or been aided and abetted to do so.  The flames were raging faster than the fire brigade could cope with and it was wind blown in our direction.  In those days the gorse came a little closer to the house.  My parents firebreak was not mine.  Today the gorse is well away from endangering us.  As it raced towards the house Mum and I went into action, out with the garden hose to wet the back of the house; me, resplendent in my hair curlers. 

It was a bad day for a fire, a Tuesday and most of the neighbours had taken advantage of the day off work to go and visit friends and relations.  However, those who were around helped out with forks and spades and shovels stamping out the flames.  Another neighbour ran around the hill to tell the Brigade to come around to our side.  Three hours later our kitchen was filled with firemen and neighbours, sooty, sweaty and exhausted but victorious.  The fire was out, the smouldering small fires in the dry grass contained and we passed around tea and sandwiches.  The disco was forgotten; the hair was now well dried in its rollers and smelling of burnt gorse.  At school the following day one teacher asked the class did we have a quiet St Patrick's day.  We certainly had a hot one at home.

1976 comes to mind because it was such a warm, balmy day.  It was unusual to see people in at the Parade in Dublin wearing light clothing.  We had a week of what passed for heat wave for us that year.  Later on we would have one of the hottest summers of that century; St. Patrick's day just presaged it.  My friends and I decided to go to the Zoo that day.  We hadn't been for years and, as the saying goes, the fancy to do so took us.  I was wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a Houston college hoodie that a pen pal had sent me.  Every few yards people would stop me and ask me was I over for the Parade. 

You can imagine their faces when I replied, in my Irish accent, that no...I was local.  Disappointment was the most frequent reaction followed by "well then, are you at college in Texas?" Again, disappointment.  "Well, then wouldja not wear a good green jersey if you're not an 'merican" said one hardy soul to me.  Chuckling, I wandered off with my friends.  It was the American tourists who were more decked out in green, as always on St Paddy's day, that year.

Ninteen Eighty is another St. Patricks Day memory that leaps forward.  OH and I had just married on the 15th, we were on honeymoon in Kerry.  The place was deserted.  Many people had gone up to Cork or Dublin or Limerick to see the big Parades.  We had the road to ourselves as we drove out to Valentia Island.  It was warm and there was a balmy west wind blowing across the Kerry coast.

In the meantime many St Patrick's Days have come and gone.  Memories of the excited little faces of my daughters at their first Parade in Dublin, of taking part in Parades with their Tae Kwando classmates in local parades, of long evenings with friends, chatting and talking before the fire.  Nights such as these are real Ceili nights.  After all, a ceili is a gathering or get-together to sit and chat and sing a song or two, aided by a glass of Paddy, my favourite Irish whisky.

Lá feile Padraig to you all and may the road rise before you.