Saturday 9 November 2013

As Time Goes By

This  old silver pocket watch belonged to my maternal grandfather. It's one of just a few things belonging to him which have survived to this day. It doesn't work and I don't remember it ever telling the time, but that doesn't stop it from being a priceless family heirloom. 

My grandfather died long before I was born, having  married late in life. I don't know much about him other than that he was a carpenter who took pride in his work. Born in the latter half of the 19th century, he went to America  but, unlike most emigrants of the time, he returned home.

He also took pride in his appearances  as there's a photo of him, outside a carpenters' shop in New York, with a bushy beard, which was fashionable at the time.  He alone isn't wearing a leather carpenter's apron as he took it off before the photograph was taken as he deemed it improper for a man to be photographed wearing an apron! There are other photos of him, looking dapper in a shirt and waistcoat, which the chain of this watch clearly visible.

On his return to Ireland, he had the cottage where he was born remodeled into a two-storey farmhouse.
I live there now with my husband and son, and we are conscious of its heritage. When we had it renovated some years ago, we retained as many of the original features as we could, including some woodwork which I think my grandfather would have crafted himself.

Monday 4 November 2013

Seduced By Light

It was the late afternoon winter  sun that did it. The ordinary task of a trip to the clothesline was transformed by rays of sunshine into a special moment. Golden light shone through the ivy.

I swapped the laundry basket for my camera, washing forgotten.

Enchanted by this gift of winter light, I followed the beams through the garden, watched as they set the ash on fire, illuminated the last leaves on the apple tree, and put a spotlight on the holly branches.

Then, as a final reward, I spied a little warbler providing evensong among the haws.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Reclaiming the Garden

Armchair gardening
I've been away from here for so long that I've a lot of catching up to do. But seeing as it's November,  the month when writers and  bloggers are typing their fingers to the bone,  I've decided to see if I can maybe, just maybe, write a post every day, and finally put all those half composed thoughts and waiting photographs where they belong.
Although it seems a long time ago now, memories of the Summer of 2013 will linger. It was the perfect summer, full of warm sunny days, when all sorts of records were broken for the warmest, driest, sunniest summer in years.
For us, it was also the summer of the garden.
I've always been an armchair gardener, with dreams of a wonderful cottage garden but no desire to do any hard work to achieve it.

Toffee surveys the improvements

A combination of miserable wet summers and a lack of enthusiasm for embarking on outdoor projects unless the weather is perfect, meant that our garden had become seriously neglected and overgrown.
Think jungle without the tropical climate.
At  one stage, I dared to suggest that perhaps we'd need to get 'help' in order to reclaim it. This was just the sort of challenge that my husband needed, and, with the surprisingly willing assistance of the teenager who had finished his exams, he set to ensuring that I'd eat my words.
First, I  had to accept that we were never going to have a cottage border and that the weeds were always going to win. Out went all the plants except the forsythia, down went black matting and gravel.
Colour could be provided by plants in pots, containers, boxes.
Then, the piece de resistance, which strangely enough was the part of the project which captured our son's imagination and made him a willing worker,  a corner arbour.

Newly erected arbour

We first saw one in the showroom of B&Q in Newry, just across the border, and after a few days deliberation, decided that we must have one. But getting it proved more difficult that we'd imagined.
We discovered that we had missed out on buying the last one in the Newry store and they didn't know when they'd get another one in. I phoned around all the stores in Northern Ireland and it was the same story.  Frustratingly, there was no shortage of arbours from several DIY stores and even supermarkets for gardeners living in the UK, but Irish gardeners, were, it seemed, out of luck unless they  had the budget for a bespoke creation. I told a friend about the difficulty we were  having and she suggested I'd try B&Q in Dublin. I'd forgotten that they had stores in the Irish Republic, and one phone call later and the arbour was ordered. Even better there was a sale on.
The finished product - painted

Once it was delivered a few days later, husband and son set about erecting and then painting it. It looks even better than we had hoped and has proven a great addition to our garden.

Me time

When the weather was good, I liked to sit out with a cup of tea and read. Most mornings during the summer, I took my breakfast outside and enjoyed a few minutes tranquility before heading for work.
Arbour with a view

Even now when the weather is colder, it's a good spot to sit, sheltered from the wind, and watch the pets.


And best of all, I've now got the enthusiasm to do some gardening even when the weather's not perfect.
When I was on holidays last week, I planted lots of daffodils in containers and am looking forward to seeing them bloom in spring.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Time to Remember

It's been a while. I thought that when the balmy  days of our wonderful summer ended,  I'd find time to sit down and share some words and  photos from this corner of Ireland.

But news came which made my heart heavy. A friend, who had fought bravely with cancer,  wrote a farewell message that her time was limited. As I grappled with that sad news, and struggled with words to express my feelings, an old school friend also died.  Both women left heartbroken families and friends. Both, I think, would have been surprised by the outpouring of grief which their deaths caused, demonstrating how they had touched the hearts of many.

Suddenly, I found myself thinking about death in a way I hadn't previously.  Although I  lost both my parents at a relatively young age,  the death of a parent is something which we sadly expect to  happen in the natural cycle of life.  I took inspiration from their lives and hope that they would be proud of the life I have carved out.
I missed them most when my son was born, sad that they never saw their grandson,  sad that he never got to listen to my father telling stories or taste my mother's delicious home baking.  Now, when I work in the garden, bake bread, or put seed out for the wild birds in winter, I  think of them doing similar everyday tasks, of a circle continuing.

However,  when a contemporary is taken from this world, with so much of their lives ahead of them, it stops you in your tracks. I still consider myself 'young', take it for granted that I'll have many years ahead of me. But, unless I'm to receive the President's cheque, the reality is I've more of my life behind me than in front of me. It's a sobering thought as there are still so many things that I want to do, so many places I want to visit, so many books I want to read. Most of all, however, I want to see my son grow up,  find his place in the world, and hopefully fall in love and have children.  He's nearly as old as I was when my mother died and will be heading to college next year, so I feel I have at least set him on the road to adulthood,  hopefully well equipped for whatever life throws his way.
I've also resolved to pick up the phone, type that email or send that card to friends that I mightn't have been  in touch with as regularly as I should be.
For who knows who next will 'fall in love with death in October coloured weather'.