New eyes

Being grateful for the robin

In the longest January that anyone can remember, at a time when horrific news assails us from all sides, I’ve taken to starting my day by reflecting on three things for which to be grateful. And this isn’t an exercise in ‘mustn’t grumble’ or ‘could be worse’ or pretending that everything is alright when it isn’t; more, it’s a reminder of the eternal truth that things change, seasons move on, oceans ebb and flow, the sun is now rising higher in the sky every day. Our fortunes ebb and flow, too, but it’s hard to keep reminding ourselves of that, when the darkness seems at its most intense and never ending.

The Hawthorn and The Swift: You Have to Smile

It’s a summer Sunday morning and you’re on the road in South-East Limerick. From your passenger seat you watch the blossoming hawthorn ribbon the countryside. There’s a cycling charity event on the road and the going is slow, so you have time to enjoy the undulating view. Hawthorn enfolding fields all shapes and sizes – good land, middling land, fallow and scrub. Draping the livestock in the promise of a summer of plenty, a promise older even than the old promise of hurling’s plenty.

Listen to the robin

As I write this, the robin is singing outside. The sun is slanting up over the hedge. I can hear a rook on the roof. I heard a lot of robins in Dublin too last weekend. It’s time. The days are lengthening. We have daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses. It’ll be Lá Fhéile Bríde in a few days. Listen to the robin. It’s worth your while.

Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 5

They go low, so we go high. We drove south past Laruns into the mountains up to the Lac de Bious-Artigues at 1400m altitude. We were shocked, shocked I tell you, to find the car park by the lake full, with well-equipped and, worse – fit-looking – hikers setting forth. We were most aggrieved, having had the forests and mountains to ourselves the previous two days – well, except for the cattle and horses, but they didn’t clog up the paths, they weren’t smugly thin and they didn’t have hiking poles and expensive walking gear.

The Echo Boy

I’m the Echo Boy on Patrick’s Street. No, not that one, I’m the one across the road, outside the old Examiner Offices. I’m the statue. I didn’t know I was a statue for a long time, actually. I used to be over on Cook Street and one day I heard a woman tell her daughter what I was, so that’s how I found out.

Five Days Walking in France – Day 4: Words of Love

Thursday came with our first clear dawn and a hard frost. I put on a hat and gloves for the short haul down to Madame Aldi – we weren’t quite on first name terms yet, myself and the woman who opened it up in the morning, but we were getting there. Light had been filling my East facing bedroom since well before eight and I went outside with a cup of tea to enjoy the sun’s rising over the glen. It came up clear under a blue sky ribboned with aircraft contrails, my breath misting in the cold Autumn air, long shadows appearing behind the garden chairs and the porch column and on the pages of my notepad and my pen was enshadowed now too, and the back of my cup. Funny how the shadows are longest at the dawn and the dusk. Mist from my nose and mouth in

The Old Cinemas go for a Pint

All the old Cork City cinemas get together now and again, for a few jars in a quiet pub, and to reminisce about the good old days. Capital is in great form tonight – they’re making a retail centre where he lay derelict for years, and he’s proud of that. Capital – Come here lads, what was the best fillum ye ever showed? I can go back to the forties, but still, I think for me it was Jaws  in ’75. That was a great show, a big breakthrough for Spielberg, and I had queues all the way ‘round to Oliver Plunkett Street. The screeching of the girls when that shark came out of the water, you never heard the like of it. And the John Williams music when it was going to attack. Dadum, dadum, dadum. Great show. What about you, Savoy?

The Shawlie

“Onions! Onions! Three for a penny.” Once I sells off the last of these, I’ll go over to the Market and get a nice bit of tripe for Joseph’s tea. He loves the bit of tripe boiled up in milk. He be’s starving after taking the horse and trap all the way to Ballycotton, to get them poppies and carrots. I hope to God he don’t go into that dirty pub and lave everything on the cart outside like he done a few weeks ago.

Scaffolding in South Terrace

I’m a West Cork scaffold, I’m on the go now 22 years, and I work all over the county. I even did a job in Tralee once – I was glad to get out of the place to be honest, they’re wicked boastful down there about their footballers. Right now I’ve a job in Cork City, in South Terrace. I’m outside the old Jewish Synagogue, that’s being renovated. Now so. This is different. This is something different altogether, lads.

The Golden Fish

I’m the golden fish on Shandon. Well you might call it Shandon but it’s St. Anne’s Church to me, and from here I can see my city in all its manifestations and its finery. I’m a salmon, not a goldfish. Do not call me ‘the goldfish’ on Shandon. I don’t like ‘the goldie fish’ either – it’s somewhat demeaning. You don’t hear the golden angel on Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral being called the ‘goldie angel’ do you?