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A Cold Day in Hell
by Bridget Haggerty

Not all of the memories of my childhood are happy. The day of fetching the coal is one of those. My mother was beside herself because the coal man hadn't delivered the regular supply. Probably because he hadn't been paid for the week before. I was about eight. My brother, Terry, was five.

Dad was sick. Too ill to go to work. So, there we were - on a winter's day in my own deep and dark December; that's when my mother came to me and asked me to go buy some coal. "Take the pram," she said, "and Terry."

She gave us the directions and we set off. It was fun at first. But then it started to rain. The coal yard wasn't more than a mile or so from our home. Not much of a distance for a mother who had grown up in Ireland and was used to a great deal of walking. But for Terry and I, it seemed endless.

To this day, I don't believe my mother would ever intentionally have caused us harm, but on that day, we were sent on our quest without gloves, scarves or hats. Perhaps she was so distracted by taking care of my father and a newborn that she didn't or couldn't pay attention to basic needs. As children, we were even less attentive. Until the rain turned to sleet.

We made it to the coal yard, looking, in retrospect, just as Dickens might have described waifs in any number of novels. Wet, disheveled, and cold. The man came out and I asked for a hundred weight of coal. I must have blocked how this translates into present day measures. For the life of me, I don't remember. The man looked at us, scratched his head and put a sack into the pram. He then went and got another one and put that in it too. "Think you can manage it?" he said. I think what I did then was just hand him the money our mother had given us. He counted it out and said something like "oh dear"....but, then he sent us on our way. As I look back, it was probably not enough; thanks to that kind, gentle soul, we now had to deal with a surfeit of riches.

Winter in many climates can be snowy and cold; in England, it is cheerless and damp. And there are times over there, when Jack Frost pays a personal visit. Such was the night when Terry and I pushed the pram home.

Today, as I observe our home all decked out for the holidays, I count my blessings. Oak logs in the fireplace throw out radiant warmth. A floor to ceiling tree shimmers with ornaments. Cats loll on the sofa. Carols sing out from the stereo. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies wafts from the kitchen. 'Tis the season and all is merry and bright; yet, in a wave of nostalgia which always happens at this time of year, I'm drawn back to those days when I was a young girl, growing up in England.

For the most part, I can look back on a childhood filled with many merry Christmas memories - the pudding steaming on the stove; the holly wreath on our front door; our little tree covered with a hodgepodge of decorations; the anticipation of waiting for Father Christmas. But there was one year when mum and dad's valiant efforts at giving us a good Christmas fell far short. At least for them. Forty or so years later, it inspired this attempt at poetry:

Bananas in December

My father was sick again;
worse than before.
This time, he'd taken
outside jobs during the
damp, bone-chilling cold
of England in November.
"He'll be alright."
Our mother said. And so
assured, we went to
school and to church.
Weekdays to class.
Sundays to Mass.

On Christmas Eve, they
came. Disciples of St.
Vincent. Devout men
with baskets. And while
my father gasped for
breath in the other room,
his wife listened to carols
on Radio Eireann and
his children ate bananas
in winter. Curved, creamy
crescents, fresh from
Jamaica. But so out of
place in my father's house,
that desolate December.

I have never forgotten that Christmas Eve. But God, in his infinite mercy, has erased all other memories of the day that followed.

Images: After the Rain and What is Christmas by Thomas Simmons from All Posters and Prints.

 

Sun, Sep 10, 2017

Ilnacullen, Co. Cork - an Island Garden

Located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay. Ilnacullin, which means island of holly, is a small island known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty.
The vivid colours of Rhododendrons and Azaleas reach their peak during May and June, whilst the hundreds of cultivars of climbing plants, herbaceous perennials and choice shrubs dominate the midsummer period from June to August.
Because of its sheltered situation and the warming oceanic influence of the Gulf Stream, the climate is favourable to the growth of ornamental plants from many parts of the world.
Even for those who aren’t particularly interested in gardens, there are many other scenic views, especially in the surrounding waters where seals frequent the rocks on the southern shore.
The cover photo on Bridget's book The Traditional Irish Wedding shows a wrought iron garden gate on Ilnaculen. I took that photo. To see it, go to the home page. It's part of the opening paragraph Failte.
—Russ
Resource: Copy and Image - Cork Guide


Click for More Culture Corner.




Glorious Gardens of Ireland
by Melanie Eclare

A magnificent pictorial tribute to the splendor of Irish gardens, featuring more than 200 color images.
Eclare ushers readers into spectacular Irish garden settings...
Equally captivating are the book's gorgeous photographs of plants, beautiful stonework, outstanding statuary, and the voluptuous floral compositions that adorn Ireland's great castle estates, rural herb growers, country guest houses, and quaint cottages.
Alice Joyce
Click for Glorious Gardens.


 

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March 4, 2011
   
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This Web Site Bashed, Kicked & Glued together by Russ Haggerty.