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February 10, 2021 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 10 – THE NIECES

The best gift I ever got was from my nieces Sarah and Lucy. It arrived one Christmas in a brown, A4 envelope.

“Open it, open it!” they urged.

An invitation to spend a girly day with them. Wow… I was thrilled.

“You used to have us to stay and take us on Midnight Adventures.” they explained. “So now we’re taking you out.”

For ‘Midnight Adventure’, read, ‘marched them up Killiney Hill in the dark’!

I was touched. The girly day had horses and manicures, massage, tarot plus plenty of laughter and chat. Pure, fabulous, out!

Close-up of Woman Having Manicure

They’re both parents now and, when the weather was warmish, and visitors allowed, they each came to visit.

Lucy came with Ollie and Ben, one Sunday when partner David, and eldest son Jacob were away on boys’ business. We sat in the garden. Ollie is three and a bit. Tall for his age, serious. He stands still at the table and sizes us up. I find myself hoping I come up to scratch.

L to R. BEN AND OLLIE

Ben, at eighteen months, views us from the safety of Lucy’s knee. He too takes stock, it doesn’t take long. He wriggles down and goes off at a trot. We have a pond. We three adults swivel our chairs to keep him in view. He discovers a path made of stones. He grabs a stone, throws it into the pond and laughs at the splash. He grabs another stone and another. This could go on for a bit.

L to R – LUCY, BEN, OLLIE AND JACOB

I quarter-fill a bucket and set it beside the stones. Ben’s in like a shot and splashing away. Ollie decides to join him. There’s potential for squabbles. I fill another bucket and place it near the stones at the farther end of the path. Ollie’s in. They splash and splash and splash and splash till the water’s is too full of stones to splash any more. They take out the stones and start all over again. And again, and again, and again, and again.

It left us adults free to laugh and drink tea and eat cake and babble on about shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, and cabbages, and kings with occasional breaks to help the boys with de-bucketing stones. Everyone happy and well. Great chat, great fun. A highlight for me.

STONES AND WATER… WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT?

A week or two later Sarah arrived with partner Darragh and their two girls.

CLOCKWISE, SARAH, CHLOE, DARRAGH AND MIA

Chloe and Mia are old enough to sit politely, have a drink and join in the conversation. But adult conversation is boring and they soon slip away. They explore the path of stones that goes through the flower beds. They squat and stare into the pond. They throw in the odd leaf. They examine stones. They watch bees diving into the purple flowers of the Echium spike. They check behind the trellis and discover the Secret Garden.

Well…, on that afternoon, that’s what we named the bit behind the trellis. It makes our garden sound huge. It’s not, it’s just full. But, even in our little space, Chloe and Mia could entertain themselves for the whole afternoon. With the occasional break for a biscuit, or maybe a drink .

We adults laughed and told stories of Life, The Universe, and all that. What a great afternoon! All of us healthy and happy. Another highlight.

HOW LUCKY AM I TO HAVE NIECES LIKE THIS?

L. toR. – Sarah, Mia, Chloe and Darragh.
No photo description available.

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January 26, 2021 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS 2020 – 9. TALKING TO STRANGERS

ONE OF THE JOYS OF THE PIER – TURNSTONES

One of the great joys of living in Bray is being able to get to the sea. Especially during Lockdown. The prom can be crowded with people walking their dogs and their children. Groups cluster round Gino’s Ice Cream shop. So, being of a cautious disposition, I prefer to take my exercise where it’s easier to keep the regulation two meters apart, in the harbour, on the short pier.

The first joy of the pier is the birds. Turnstones line the edge like they’re waiting for something to happen. The swans look serene on the water and a bit less serene waddling up the beach waiting for children to feed them. There’s a mixed flurry of wings when there’s something to eat in the water. There’s a lone goose. Does it think it’s a swan? Or just proving its independence?

The mixed flurry of wings

But birds are not known for their light conversation! An even greater delight is the joy of talking to strangers. At a distance of course.

The lone goose

At the end of the pier as you can see the occasional ship and remember that haunting line.

“sail the horizon with Wales lurking beyond, there’s often a man with his rod, casting a line in the hope of a fish. He might have his son by his side teaching him how to cast.

“Caught anything yet?” I ask.

If they have caught a fish, no matter how small, the son will proudly display it. Mostly they’ve caught nothing at all but they’re happy to chat for a bit.

One late afternoon on the pier greeted a man who replied, at length, by recounting his travels all over the world. I’ve done my fair share of travelling so I tried to engage. But I failed. He was hell bent on listing his umpteen destinations, every village in Asia and Africa that welcomed him in, the multifarious vehicles he’d travelled in. The chance to converse with a stranger in Lockdown is precious but, as the bitter east wind sneaked into my bones, I remembered advice I’d once read.

“If you ask a man five questions and he asks you none, it’s time to leave.”

I’d asked him many more questions than five. He’d asked me none. So I scarpered.

Not all of the strangers I spoke with were so self absorbed. One day I met a young man on a bike. One comment led to another. We discovered a lot in common and had one of those great conversations that leaves you feeling uplifted, remembering that, despite the darkness of these present times, there are good people here in the world. He turned out to be Tom Kerrisk, actor, poet, muscian, and singer with the band Mystic Tears.

He didn’t look like this with his bike on Bray pier!

Later I had a listen to Mystic Tears on You Tube. I loved it. Have a listen yourself. Here’s just one <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUfIvjNzjMA&gt; There’s loads more where that came from. Or check out his website <https://www.thomaskerrisk.com/&gt;

No photo description available.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUfIvjNzjMA

Another day a woman smiled at me and remarked on the weather. Before we knew it we were in deep conversation and, over the next half hour or so, discovered that we’d both been in India and Zambia . We swapped stories. We laughed. We discovered so much in common. It turned out that she was a nun. Nuns are like the rest of us, there’s the good the bad and very mixed-middling. She was one of the good ones, bright, open-minded, fun to be with and ready to take on adventure.

Nun, Christ, Cross, Religion, Christian
She wasn’t dressed like this!

When I was only four or five I remember my mother telling a neighbour that her daughter would talk to anyone at all, even the cat. She framed it as a complaint but, I knew from her voice that she wasn’t complaining. And I knew from the way she ruffled my hair that she was proud of my outgoing nature. It gave me permission to be as I was and I’ll always be grateful.

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January 18, 2021 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS 2020 – 8 MY COUSIN ISEULT

No photo description available.
ONE OF ISEULT’S PAINTINGS

Iseult is my cousin, not first cousin, second cousin maybe? First cousin once removed? I’m never too sure which is which. She’s the youngest daughter of my first cousin. Up to recently I’d only met her at family gatherings. Our family runs to great swathes of aunties, uncles and cousins who gather regularly to eat, drink, catch up, gossip and talk nonsense.

I’d always liked Iseult but we’d never had more than pleasant, superficial chat. During Lockdown she was furloughed from work and turned to her great love, her art. She’s a trained artist and a genius with colour. She started painting on silk to make scarves. I thought they looked good and, when lockdown was eased and visits to houses were deemed O.K., I went to her house to choose some.

Image may contain: 1 person
Iseult

We had coffee and got into chat and I discovered that, artistically, we a lot in common. “How so?” You may ask, “She’s a painter, you’re a writer.”

But the process of creation is the same. The same daunting blank page/canvas. The same first draft that we think is horrific. The same hard, hard work to produce something that we’re not too ashamed of.

She showed me her scarves and some of her paintings. Oh yes, I thought, she’s good. We drank more coffee, chatted some more and laughed a lot. Despite the generational gap, we discovered a lot more in common.

Image may contain: plant
One of her paintings

I’d been thinking of doing a Dun Laoghaire Arts project. You had to team up with another artist and produce work on the theme of Metamorphosis. Who would I work with? With Covid restrictions, how easy would it be to meet?

By now I’d been in Iseult’s house for a couple of hours and it suddenly struck me. Iseult was an artist. We were on the same page and she lived very near me. Would she be interested in working with me? She jumped at the chance.

Iseult McCormack Creations updated their info in the about section.
SOME OF HER SCARVES

We met each a week in her house, when that was permitted. When it wasn’t, and the weather was good, we met on the pier in Bray watching the swans and the tides. And on Zoom when the weather was awful and now that the new Lockdown has cramped everyone’s style.

She’s a joy to be with, a delight to work with, full of ideas and we seem to spark one another The project is coming along and, whether anyone thinks the final result is good, bad or indifferent, we’re having a ball. We are laughing a lot, finding still more in common and lifting one another’s spirits. In these dark times that is no small matter.

Check out her Facebook: <https://www.facebook.com/iseultmacker/photos/>

Instagram: htps://www.instagram.com/iseultmccormackcreations/

Website: https://www.iseultmccormack.ie

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January 14, 2021 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 – 7 THE BIRDS

Sparrows, Sparrows Family, Birds, Chats, Group

There’s a hedge at the bottom of our garden. It’s not our hedge. It’s on the other side of our back fence and it’s a nuisance. A mix of blackberry bramble and ivy, it creeps over everything. It has strangled our clematis Montana. It has crept over our shed and sneaked inside making it leak. And it doesn’t even give us blackberries. Oh yes, it does produce them but they’re way too high up to collect. We hack it back as best we can, but still it encroaches.

Every Spring a pair of blackbirds nest on our roof. And somewhere nearby a magpie and a pigeon conduct a regular feud. But during Lockdown we noticed more birds than usual, sparrows, with bits of twigs and leaves and fluff in their beaks, flying in and out of the hated hedge. And each morning we woke to their clamorous twitters.

One day while I was out weeding, ( see <https://wordpress.com/post/catherinebrophy.ie/5926>) I stood to consider a maple tree that had escaped its pot. Was growing too big for our tiny plot? Should we cut it down? But I do love a maple and this one looked really cute with its pink leaves peeping out of green buds on the bare branches.

Suddenly the hedge behind me started a furious rustle and a couple of fledglings burst out on to the roof of our shed. They fluttered down to the fence between us and the neighbours. They flapped into the maple. More followed and more and more. I got to fifteen before I lost count. They hopped from branch to branch pecking at leaf buds. They flitted from branch to fence and from fence back to branch. They fluttered down to the ground and hopped to the edge of our tiny pool. They perched on the stones and drank water.

Animals, Bird, Tit, Blue Tit, Drink, Bird Bath, Thirst

I was enraptured. I put out my arm to lean on the shed when suddenly, a half dozen or so flew out of the maple. They zoomed under my arm and back into the hedge. I felt the wind of their wings on my skin. It was thrilling.

Yes, that was a highlight.

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January 6, 2021 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS 202 NO 7. ZOOM

zoom stories

Yikes!!!!

I hated it. All that faffing around with tech.

“Click on your video.”

“It’s bottom left.”

“Turn on your mic.”

Whistles, fuzzy sound, figures lurking in the dark. And me staring at myself on screen looking like a witch who has tossed a bag of flour in her own face.

I used it because I’d been invited to tell stories. As I told, distracting texts started flashing on screen. There were no sudden bursts of laughter. No gasps of surprise. None of that audience energy that dictates how you tell a story.

And no applause.

When I was done I was wrecked. I did it a couple of times, then I swore I’d never do it again.

But the lure of telling got to me. Gradually I discovered “Gallery view”, “Speaker View” and “Chat” and I remembered to turn up the volume on my speaker. People wrote nice things in Chat. I wrote back. With Covid rampaging, clearly Zoom was the future

I still missed the live audience.

Then I got involved with World Ceilidh, organised by Marin Millenaar. It’s international story event. There were people from all over Europe, the Far East, U.S.A., Canada and South America. Most are story tellers. They recognise a good story and know when it’s well told. Praise from them is high praise indeed.

After a live performance people come to you afterwards to say they enjoyed it. And that’s lovely. But storytellers recognize why they enjoy it, they recognize good editing and the well-chosen details that create the magic. Their feedback is more precise, and they liked my stories. It is lovely to be appreciated by people who know what they’re talking about!

But I still miss the live audience.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVgoS8loASHhS0tPNVO3Aieb4EGvb5CeboSQ&usqp=CAU
I MISS YOU SO MUCH… WE ALL MISS YOU

So, something that started as a horror had become a highlight!

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January 4, 2021 / catherinebwrites

Highlights of 2020- No.6 – The postman.

OUR POSTMAN

14 powerful examples of Irish innovation during Covid-19 | Think Business

Our Postman is a walking wonder.

Before the pandemic I’d heard him push letters through the letterbox. I’d glimpsed him through the window in winter and nodded at him from the garden in summer.

He’s a tall young man, good-looking, in a wholesome, boy-next-door kind of way. The kind my mother urged me to marry. But I, of course, dismissed her suggestions. Instead I flirted with bad boys, Peter Pans and guys I thought must be interesting because of their tattoos, piercings and fancy moustaches. They all turned out to be eejits!

Women prefer hairy beer-bellies to metrosexuals - Rediff.com Get Ahead

In Lockdown, they said, we could give our letters direct to the postman. We took advantage of this and soon we got talking, at 2 meters, with our guy. He even offered to take parcels of books and post them for us. It was great talking to someone other than ourselves.

Soon we were lurking. Watching from behind the curtains to spot his bike arrive on our road. Wandering into the garden “by chance”. We were, I suspect, a hint over-eager but he always seemed willing to chat.

People started ordering on line more and more. Sorting offices were overwhelmed. Orders were slower to arrive. Some took their frustration out on the postman. He just nodded and listened and sympathized. He checked on vulnerable people and was always ready with an offer help . His rounds took longer and longer. He still smiled and stopped for a chat.

I know he’s not unique. I know that postmen all over the country were equally efficient and warm and helpful and chatty.

So Hurray for Our Postman.

Hurray for the Postmen of Ireland.

Hurray for the Postmen of the World.

hurray - Laker School District - Elkton – Pigeon – Bay Port

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January 2, 2021 / catherinebwrites

Highights of 2020 No. 5 – NETTLES

NETTLES

I know, unlikely. But that first day out from the lockdown, when I saw the nettles, wow. I had to write about it.

FIRST DAY OUT AFTER LOCKDOWN. DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT HAVE A CAT.

NETTLES

Lockdown had halted my regular walks so, on this first outing, my knees feel creaky and my ankles complain.  But the sun soothes my back.

 In the park at the end of our road I cross the little bridge.  The rusting bike is gone.  The stream is clear and the water is gurgling.  On the bank there is a great bed of nettles. They have a come-hither look.  I find myself staring.  The leaves spring out from their stems.   Healthy.  Alert.   Edges serrated.  Ready to sting an attacker.   I always thought that new growth was tender and green but not these.   These are dark, tinged with purple and beautiful.  

Butterflies love nettles. People gather them for soup.   Some slash and burn them.  I stand and look, remembering childhood stings, my father plucking a soothing dock leaf and endless summers. 

____

So that was two highlights for the price of one. The Nettles and the enjoyment of writing the piece.

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January 1, 2021 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 NO. 4 WEEDING

WEEDING

A guide to weeding by hand | lovethegarden

I know, an unlikely highlight. Especially given my past history. Himself is the one with green fingers. Everything he plants, blooms, every weakling he tends, recovers. Plants don’t die at my hands but, I do expect them to look after themselves and, sometimes they don’t.

Then every so often a clump of weeds catches my eye. I vow to remove them. Each time I pass them I vow it again. Finally I get the urge.

“I’ll just do that bit to-day.” I resolve.

I pull one gang of weeds to find a phalanx of smaller weeds luring me on.

“I’ll just do this next bit.” I think.

But I keep on and on on ’till I have to call for a fork-lift and a licensed physiotherapist to remove me from the garden and place me on the sofa.

Weeding’s a killer.

But, six weeks of lockdown!

I limited my weeding to a small patch per day and went for total clearance. Every weed removed. Lovely idea. Then there’s scutch grass, and the fancy stuff that’s supposed to look pretty but has sneaked in everywhere. I pulled yards and yards of the roots. I pulled great tangles. I felt great. I felt I was winning. I was not. There were still more of them lurking, down there, getting the revs up. For the time being, however, there was plenty of space for bushes to bloom and flowers to grow.

Fairy garden | Cartoon garden, Fairy garden background, Disney castle  drawing
Dusclaimer: Not my garden bit it did feel like this

Over the weeks I got the whole garden weeded. Himself clipped, tied up, planted, supported and repaired. The garden looked great.

A definite highlight.

ᐈ Cartoon garden creatures stock vectors, Royalty Free garden cartoon night  illustrations | download on Depositphotos®
DISCLAIMER: NOT MY GARDEN AT NIGHT

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December 31, 2020 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 No.3

Hands Of A Group Of Friends Clinking Glasses Of Wine And Toasting Stock  Image - Image of happiness, dinner: 179301219

3. An evening with friends.

We were fresh back from India and mad to tell everyone about it. We edited photos, and decided who’d tell what. I’d do Delhi, he’d do the tigers, I’d do the Taj and so on. We fixed a date when family was free to eat with us and hear our tales.

But before that could happen, M., my great friend since forever, invited us to her house. There’d be drinks, there’d be dinner, there’d be mutual friends. But, she warned, we’d have to sing for our supper.

Or to put it another way, an audience! Wow! Let me at it.

How to Build an Audience of 1000 True Fans in a Noisy World | by Srinivas  Rao | Medium
MAYBE A HINT LESS RAUCOUS THAN THIS ONE

We ate, we drank, we reminisced, we mocked politicians, we laughed, we sorted the world’s problems then we told our Indian tales. And showed our Indian photos. They loved it.

What tales? What photos? See my 25 blogs. Start here: ttps://wordpress.com/post/catherinebrophy.ie/4975

It’s like a mirage

LOCKDOWN !

Italy was in bits. Spain was boiling over. France was getting jittery. We were all in danger now. We cancelled the Family meal .

Could there be highlights in lockdown?

MORE TOMORROW.

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December 30, 2020 / catherinebwrites

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020 – 2.

2. TRIP TO INDIA

I’ve been intending to travel in India since Adam was in the Higlanders. Somehow it never happened till last January. It was amazing, mind expanding, challenging and totally fabulous. However, as I’ve written 25 blogs about it, maybe you’d like to browse among them for more information

Start here: https://wordpress.com/post/catherinebrophy.ie/4975

We heard rumours of a disease that had broken out in Wuhan in China but we reckoned that Wuhan was far, far away.

As we waited in out hotel foyer for the taxi to take us to the airport for out flight home, a group of Chinese travellers checked in. Two of them sat on a sofa across from us. They hauled a bundle of face-masks out of their luggage and divided them out.

Disposable Face Masks - 50 PCS - For Home & Office - 3-Ply Breathable &  Comfortable Filter Safety Mask - - Amazon.com

Wuhan seemed a bit closer then. But hey, we were going back home to the very edge of Europe.

Geography for Kids: Ireland

Ireland would surely be safe.

ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT TOMORROW

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