Monday, 24 March 2014

Janus in March

The month of January was named after Janus, I forget what he was the god of, Roman I think, but he was noted for having two faces, one looking back and one forward- back to the old year, and forward to the new. I've always liked the notion that in January I can pause and that it is alright to look back and think before facing into the new.

But this is March, sez you!

For one reason and another my girls are doing quite a bit of looking back and thinking at the moment, perhaps its a part of coming to terms with change- a combination of their parent's separation and Middlest getting married this summer with a lousy example of marriage to build on.
Whatever the reason, the girls have been looking back at the way they grew up, in East Africa and Ireland, two vastly different places with disparate mores and conventions, to say nothing of moral codes. I always tried to keep communications open and as a result have heard many admissions of hijinks, some of which I knew at the time but pretended ignorance as I felt lessons had been learned, and others I did not know! In East Africa we were lucky to live alongside several African families. I know that sometimes other adults kept my girls in check and also that they had far more freedom because they were with African children who were wise to local ways. We lived in some odd places, the Aberdare forest for a while, and on two coffee farms, one small and fairly urban and another a huge coffee farm surrounded by bush and Kikuyu cultivation. Eldest and Middlest had the sort of childhood freedom that children in western countries have lacked since maybe 1950s or before. They realise their good fortune and I believe it has made them stronger characters. (Youngest was six when we moved here so was still tied to my apron-strings.)
Their dangers were monkeys larger than themselves, hippos in the dam at the end of the garden, cuts that would go septic within hours, snakes, misusing machetes and losing a foot or finger, forgetting to bring a dog along (which was their early warning system for trouble), being within the compound by sunset no matter what fun they were having, getting off the grass airstrip when they heard Oscar Golf (the farm owner's plane!) coming in, finding their way home...a far cry from small West of Ireland when they were teenagers!
And that was with a careful mother!
My problem was always to figure what dangerous thing they would dream up next and forbid it without giving them ideas! Tough path to tread. But at the same time to give them freedom to explore their place and learn to be strong, independent and able to extract themselves from whatever trouble they get into- which was a lot! Among our friends were Settlers and ex-Pats and I know for a fact that some of the latter were horrified by the freedom and mischief the girls got into. The African mothers too believed that white girls should be brought up far more restricted. How can a person 'own' their time and place, as well as knowing their own strengths and weakness, if they have not been allowed the freedom to discover for themselves?
In Ireland they had other dangers to contend with, people rather than hippos, responsibility for others as opposed to independence, urban problems instead of bush survival. It came hardest to Eldest but they have adapted and despite the fact they would count themselves Irish I hope that the inner strength they developed in childhood stands them in good stead as they go on.

So, looking back in times of change in order to face the future with integrity, I think they are wise to take the time for this. Besides which, it is such fun listening to their stories of mischief and mayhem. Last week Middlest and I  spent a hilarious tea-time telling Car-Boy some of the awful things she had done as a child. Car-Boy's face was a picture and eventually he thumped his fist on his knee exclaiming: 'Our children will be very well-behaved!'

In one voice, Middlest and I shrieked; 'Good luck with that!'

I really don't think he grasps just how wild Middlest can be...

PS The post I began to write was nothing like this but I guess the old grey matter is entitled to occasionally dictate direction!

Sunday, 23 March 2014


The sun was shining today so we went for a bit of a walk down the Point. The sun was actually so bright that I could not see the image on my camera properly to adjust it, which is why the photos look dark instead of bright- what a complaint to have!!
So, not great photos but such a lovely afternoon.

Looking toward Coney Island.

Rosses Point beach with Benbulben.

Oyster Island and across the estuary to Strandhill.

Lighthouse on Oyster Island with Knocknarea to left.

Benbulben across part of the golf course.

'Waiting on the Shore' in memory of those lost at sea.
Rosses Point used to be a fishing village, then a holiday spot for those from the town. But now it is a ten minute drive and most of us locals have grown up spending summers swimming off the beach and winters walking on the beach. During the long grey winters we forget how lucky we are having such beauty on our doorstep, and then the sun shines and we wonder how we overlooked it.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Of Butt Cheeks and Razzle Dazzle

If you are
polite or
have delicate sensibilities or
have a particularly lurid imagination

This should be an embarrassing story but, due to my regrettably reprehensible sense of humour, I giggled when I realised what I'd done...which is not a personal recommendation.

This morning I had quite a few errands to do around town including a visit to the Welfare Office, the Post Office and the Bank, so not a shy retiring sort of outing as it meant zigzagging around town for about an hour and a half of busy-ness.

I got everything done no problem.

When I got home I noticed a hole in my jeans had 'grown' so used the mirror to investigate
...when what to my wondering eye did appear...
TWO large holes in the seat of my jeans, you know, at butt cheek level?

Oh bummer! (literally not figuratively)

AND THEN I saw that not only was my bum hanging out (not a good look for fat'n'fifty)
but my white cotton granny knickers were also hanging out... the last wash I had bleached all my grungy grey knickers back into their original dazzling whiteness.
So the knicks weren't just hanging out, they were making a howling statement.

So much for a boring Tuesday: I wonder how long it will be before this story comes back to bite me...???

Monday, 10 March 2014

Accents...of the Vernacular Variety

I've often thought, and may have already said, that the written form of Internet interaction is very useful...

Consider Blogging: I write a post taking as long as I like to make it clear, grammatically correct and spell-checked, you comment, and with many of you, I answer and we have a written conversation via emails. Some of you have become very good and important friends to me using this method of communication.

Consider reading other people's Blogs: You write a post, I comment, you reply and ditto the written conversations!

Consider Facebook (which some may not wish to do!!): People post, friends comment and in abbreviated form interactions and communications ensue.

(Blogging and Facebook are my own two regular platforms for Internet interactions, that is why I am using them as examples)

So far so obvious- you write, I write and we all generally understand each other even if we don't agree with each other.

Now take the spoken word: Many of my Internet friends live across the water, very few here on the oul' sod. Each and every one of you will have some sort of accent, regional, country, international, for some English is a second language, and for some their spoken English may be peppered with local idiom and words in different languages.

For instance in East Africa very few people use only one language when they speak. I had not realised how much Kiswahili I was in the habit of using in everyday speech until I returned to live in Ireland and had to refrain from using all the local African linguistic short-cuts to which I had become accustomed. I still forget sometimes and have to correct myself when I receive blank stares. But in Ireland we use many Irish words and peculiar idioms in our general speech, which have to be edited when speaking to a non-Irish person. I daresay there are really very few of us who speak unadulterated, perfect English...and whilst we are on the subject, how exactly should we define perfect English?

Now, to one's imperfect use of the spoken English word add in the issue of accent: English, American, Scots, Finnish, French, Welsh, Russian, Canadian, and many more judging by my blog stats. In England there are many regional accents- I have lived in Watford, Hereford and Avon and noticed the differences each time. I know from the Church visitors we have had over the years that Americans have vastly differing regional accents and the same probably goes for most peoples.

I have tried to imagine how it might be if I picked up the phone to any one of you, especially those I know quite well, and I think that it is almost certain that although we might each speak English, we would also each have a desperate time actually understanding what the other was saying!

Have you ever heard a real West of Ireland country accent? With its use of idiom translated from the Irish? I know for absolute certain that I do not speak as I write. In writing I make my voice accessible and clear, grammatically correct (forget the spelling, that's always going to be atrocious, but sure it doesn't matter how badly you spell when you are speaking) and as lacking in idiom and Irish slang as I can make it. In speaking I can alter my use of language to a certain extent but its still going to sound local Irish.

Consider your own speaking- how accented or idiomatic would your natural spoken words be? Would I understand you? Maybe, but the communication would be stilted and full of possible misunderstandings, and a real ear-opener to boot!

One day I will get to meet some of you perhaps, I certainly would love to do so, but beware that although we may speak the same language, we may still fail to communicate!!

Viva L'Internet!!!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Grey Hair and Squeaky Voice

Its like this:
day to day one scurries along not really considering age or one's place in time, and then suddenly one gets a belly-whopper of a reality face-slap.

Inside didn't we all stop at between 18 and 25 years...ish?

Yesterday I was at a School Past-Pupils Choir practice for a fund-raising Concert in May. I was seriously worried about being the oldest there (by about a dozen decades) but it was ok as there were both older and younger people. I was sitting there surreptitiously studying and identifying the others, some of whom I knew as either friends and acquaintances from my school days, or as parents of children I have taught, and it came to me in a punch: not only am I and my siblings past pupils of the school, but so are my three girls!


Oh my grey hairs to shalom!

But as the Choir Master said, it matters not the age of the participants because put us together in a room and we all regress to our school habits: to wit:
firstly he complained that we were congregated at the back of the class,
secondly that we wouldn't shut up,
and thirdly that the chairs are new non-swing and would we quit trying (to swing).

Hmmm....good luck to him trying to make a Choir out of us...and I'm not talking about the quality of the singing here as there were some amazing voices (not mine)....

PS. Next rehearsal I'm taking Youngest with me.


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