A trip down memory lane

I was in Galway for a few hours today to see the moon…more about that in another post but while I was there I took a walk to my old stomping ground of Woodquay where my Nan lived.

It’s strange because the house looks the same from the front and although there’s now an extension at the back the landing window where the stray cats used to congregate still looks much the same.

The alleyway at the back looks smaller than I remember. I used to play ball down there and hop across the back wall to another girls house. I also used to visit a girl called Clare who lived at number 10 – until my Nan found out she wasn’t catholic and put a stop to our friendship.

As I walked down the road I could almost hear echoes of my Nan. She used to go round the house saying ‘Maw, Paw Kettle’ – and spit on the range. I’ve no idea why she did it. I could hear the drunken family gatherings where everyone would sing Spancil Hill and someone usually ended up crying – not me either. I could picture us hanging out of the bedroom window the day we lost my Nan, lost as in lost – not lost as in died, we were meant to be going out for the day and my Nan was going to Mass (as usual). Only she didn’t come home. Hours later we heard the religious procession coming down the road and there she was at the front leading it!

I could see my dad the day he fell through the scullery roof and landed in the sink as my Nan was washing up. He saved the Sacred Heart picture from smashing as he caught it on the way down. I don’t think she ever recovered.

I remember the many times Bishop Eamon Casey used to visit the house. He’d always be given a substantial amount of money or a whole salmon….random. My Nan thought the world of him.

Walking further down the road I walked past the B&B which used to belong to Grealish family. They were one of the first in the area with a telephone  and we used to have to phone them to talk to my Nan. I remember many a happy day in their house listening to music; Fade to Grey by Visage and Games without Frontiers by Peter Gabriel spring to mind.

I carried on walking and saw what used to be known as the ‘huckster’ shop. It was owned by a man called Danny and his son. They were lovely people and I’d often be down there getting the ‘messages’ (shopping).

I walked around Nuns’ Island. I had no idea it was right in the city.  I used to spend time with the family who looked after the nuns, I remember watching hurling and GAA with them. The Poor Clare convent is there, I remember watching the sisters behind a gate in the church, I was told they weren’t allowed to speak and I thought it was very sad. My mother used to contact the Poor Clares for everything; exams coming up, illness in the family, good intentions – you name it the Poor Clares were asked to pray for it.

I remember my dad driving down the Headford Road singing Buffalo Solider. I remember taking long trips to Connemara to see various cousins and wondering why they only had a one-roomed cottage. We used to go to a hotel with Brother David – for years I thought he was actually my brother. He always used to bring me gigantic boxes of chocolates with pretty pictures on the front.

It’s strange the things that you remember when you walk back down memory lane.



In the shadow of a giant

Quite a few weeks ago I was up at some daft hour due to insomnia and decided to go off walking. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was beginning to rise and I drove to the Isle of Innisfree.

From there I walked from Innisfree to Slish Wood and back again. This is part of the Sligo Way Walk which runs from Lough Talt just outside Tubbercurry and finishes in Dromahair, Co. Leitrim.  The whole walk is 80km and I don’t think I’d ever consider attempting it but I like the fact that you can break it up into sections.

At Innisfree you follow the signs with the little yellow walking men/women. I had to cross a couple of styles and walk through some farm land at the start, I had a welcoming committee!

Just a short way into the walk there are the boardwalks and I always wondered why they were there and why people couldn’t just walk on the land. After stepping off the wood I quickly realised why they are there as my foot went sinking into the marsh! I lost my shoe for a while and ended up knee deep in mud! I did get my shoe back after some tugging!

The scenery up there is just stunning. The purple rhododendrons and the blue of Lough Gill with the Sleeping Giant providing a backdrop. It’s so easy to see why the poet WB Yeats was so inspired by this beautiful landscape. The photo above was featured by Discover Ireland on Twitter 🙂

The dew was sparkling in the morning sun and when the camera caught the light and the water droplets I was treated to a display of rainbows. It was just so peaceful and breathtaking.

On the way back to Innisfree I wandered through the forest and thought I’d be clever and take a short cut. Big mistake when I came up against a barbed wire fence but I was more or less back so I paddled through Lough Gill – it got rid of most of the mud anyway – although I was squelching when I reached dry land. I took a moment to look at the lake and dry off a bit and I saw what I thought was a lump of wood until I saw it jump into the water. It was an otter! The first one I’ve seen one in the wild, it moved too quickly for me to get a photo of it.

If you get a chance and are looking for a beautiful walk, I’d really recommend this one. Just stick to the path though.


Sunday Thoughts – The Galway Years

A bit of a different direction with this blog post. I’m not usually one for reminiscing but sometimes I look back and delve into this box of memories in my head and thought I may as well write about them.

My parents were both born in Galway and moved when they were in their early 20s to the UK where I was born. This was before the days of cheap flights and Ryanair so planning a visit back to Ireland was like a military outing. My dad couldn’t sit still when we came back so there was always a building project or other tied in to the visit – much to my Nans horror.

My dad would scour car boot sales for DIY stuff to bring over and he’d fill his car top to toe with it – inside the garage. On one occasion we were rushing to catch the ferry and dad went like the clappers reserving and took the bloody garage door with him. That got sorted about after what seemed like weeks of driving around the Welsh Mountains we arrived at the ferry port. We must have look a bit of a sight; a laden down car, ladders, wallpaper and half a garage door hanging off the roof-rack. The customs decided to look in the car and found clear packets of a white substance….so dad was marched off for a ‘chat’.  I suppose no would understand that it was wallpaper paste bought from a car boot sale…….

Onwards to Galway along the lumpy, bumpy roads at the time, tired and miserable and when we arrived was there a welcome? No my Nan was at mass. In fact most of the time she was at mass.

One Christmas when I was quite young my mum decided we’d spend Christmas with my Nan so that ‘Santa’ would visit. It’s probably the strangest Christmas I ever had. Santa left the presents but I could open them because Nan was mass, when she came home her sister went it mass….the day continued like this with some kind of relay to the Church. I was thinking they must have been very religious but in the evening they took out little notebooks and swapped information on who was there, who was the priest, what was said etc etc… I finally got my presents at around 7pm after quite a long day of a turkey and salmon boiling together on the range cooker (ew).

My Nan lived right in the centre of Galway, in a little terraced house, there were very little mod cons, just a range for heating, no bathroom, an outside toilet and a scullery. There was no fridge and no television. One year we took over a tiny black and white television into the house which she called the devil and didn’t want it put on..or so she said until she found out about the news. The telly was a firm fixture after that.

If, and it was a very rare occasion, she wanted a bath the tin bath was pulled out in front of the range. Most times she preferred TCP – it covered a multitude of sins.

She was happy in her ways though and I think she’d have been happier if she was left to her own devices instead of being made to have all these ‘new-fangled’ gadgets  such as a fridge.

I liked going to visit Galway, it was like travelling back in time compared the UK. I was able to hop and a bike and go cycling for miles around narrow lanes with stone walls and holy shrines. You knew all the people in the area, I even got invited to a birthday party – that was a bit of an eyeopener – tomato sandwiches and the death notices on the local radio….but that was the way it was done. No cake, no party hats or pass the parcel, very different.

I remember the excitement when the roller disco opened, I think it was somewhere near the GPO. I spent many, happy, hours there. All on my own  but skating away to the disco music. I also remember when Quinsworth (now Tesco) opened at the Galway Shopping Centre. They used to have a make your own pizza section – it was brilliant! It made such a nice change from boiled salmon.

I remember splashing about at Salthill, the sun always seemed to be shining, I’d have my packed lunch which by the time I got round to eating it tasted sweaty and covered in sand.

I remember the congregation of stray cats that would gather on the landing window and feeding them when no one was looking.

I remember sharing a bedroom with my great aunt and having to pretend I was asleep when she needed to use the chamber pot in the middle of the night.

I remember trying to hide the Sacred Heart picture by hanging my dressing gown over it. The blood trickling down his face used to frighten me. I also remember trying to get my Nan to like me. She never did. She didn’t like my mum either. We weren’t lads you see. She only had time for the lads. My dad or my brother could do no wrong in her eyes but I suppose that’s what it was like for a lot of people back in those days.

My Nan had a hard life, she got married young to a man who was 13 years older than her. I heard my Granddad was a lovely man but he died before I was born. He fought in the First World War and spent much of his life after that working in the barracks in Renvyle. My Nan had 6 children, one died after birth, one at the age of two, one at the age of five, one at 32….how do you recover from that? She never spoke about them except for Paddy who was the 32  year old and Teresa who was 5 when she went on holiday to Connemara and never came home. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

My Nan died when she was 89.

So that’s a bit of a walk down memory lane for me today.

At The Model

I was thrilled to have one of my photos chosen to be in the Cairde Visual Exhibition at The Model Art Gallery, Sligo. The opening night was last night and I was in two minds all the way along as to if I should go or not.

A friend of mine said she would go with me which I was very grateful for because one of my biggest issues is walking into a crowded room on my own. I also got a call from another friend to say she was there too. This made such a difference to me and I was grand going in.

The exhibition is wonderful, so many different pieces to look at including dinosaurs! It was a really busy evening there so I’m going back when it’s quieter to have a proper look.

I’m glad I went to the opening because otherwise I’d have been at home wondering how it was going but I don’t think I’d go again. I can’t get over this ‘not worthy’ feeling. Like I shouldn’t be there with all those talented artists and I don’t know if there’s any way that I can change that. To me it’s ‘just a photo’ and then I see all these amazing pieces of art. Anyway that’s just me.

On a positive note I met a few lovely people and I went with my friends for dinner afterwards which was just lovely. We sat in the sunshine along by the river and I can’t remember the last time I’ve been out to dinner with friends, hopefully I’ll meet up with them again soon.

If you get a chance do call in to see the exhibition, it’s on until August 19th at The Model, Sligo.


Sunny Sunday in Sligo

Yesterday was a brilliant day, I love taking photos at festivals and to be asked by Cairde Arts Festival to take photos at Park Fest was a dream come true.

The sun shone, there were smiles all round, great food, fantastic entertainment and wonderful music. Visually it was a sight to be hold; the vibrant colours set against the backdrop of Sligo Cathedral.

I was only meant to be there for a couple of hours but time flies when you are having fun and I was almost there for the whole event. I got to cuddle a puppy – one of the highlights of the day for me.

My arms are now a lovely shade of lobster and I was beginning to shrivel up with dehydration when my new guardian angel rescued me. I call her that because when I put up the post about how nervous I was about the exhibition opening she sent me an email and is now going with me. So I won’t have to walk into The Model on my own and I know she’ll be there. Panic over – thank you C x

Park Fest reminded me so much of the Fleadh Cheoil with the fantastic atmosphere, not so much of the diddley iddley music and no yapping dogs but happy people and something for all the family to enjoy. Better still having it all in one location is brilliant. The festival continues all week so do check it out. https://cairdefestival.com/

Firsts and Failures

A mixed bag of a day. Firstly the car failed the NCT (National Car Test), I knew it was going to but I didn’t know it was going to fail on so many things. At the moment I don’t think it’s economical to repair (and no I’m not getting an Audi or anything on PCP finance 😉 ). A Honda 50 seems quite tempting at the moment!

Secondly I went to my first SWIBN meeting today, well it was a lunch rather than a meeting. SWIBN is Sligo Women in Business Network and now that I have Sligo Hub I decided it’s time I joined. It was a really lovely event, we had a guided tour of The Model – I enjoyed looking at the art, especially now that’s my new interest. After the tour we had lunch which was also lovely. If you are a Sligo woman in business I’d really recommend joining, they are all very nice and all very knowledgeable. I’m looking forward to going to the next meet up and who knows maybe I’ll see some of you there.