Jennifer O’Connell wrote a thought provoking article on Sat 14, 2019 in the Irish Times. In it she explored living abroad for Christmas and the efforts to recreate an atmosphere of home. I remember my grandmother’s stories of life in Tully, North Queensland and her dreams of going back Ireland – the sadness and loneliness of the poems and songs of emigration. Now we have a generation of adventurers living the dream abroad.
But interestingly O’Connell’s comments that homesickness isn’t really about place that particularly fascinated me. It’s about experiences. It’s a longing for memories of another time, memories that don’t yet exist, and now won’t ever exist. And this happens to everyone. You move away from home, your children move away from you, families have to organise around new families. But for a few days everyone tries to recreate the christmases of childhood. Sometimes we have to have Christmas a week early/late to facilitate this call of our past.
Jennifer discovered recently that the Welsh and the Portuguese have uniquely beautiful words for this. The Welsh call it “hiraeth”.
It’s rare to come across anything poetic on Wikipedia, but here is the definition it offers of hiraeth: “missing a time, an era, or a person – including homesickness for what may not exist any longer . . . the bittersweet memory of missing something or someone, while being grateful [for] their existence . . . a longing for a homeland, potentially of your ancestors, where you may have never been.”
The Portuguese word “saudade” is similar. It means, I think, the presence of absence; a longing for someone or something that you know you can never experience again. It’s not an entirely bereft kind of longing, because it’s a longing for something that was once yours.
Home is more than a place; it’s a story we tell ourselves; it’s people, sensations, memories and feelings.
Happy Winter Solstice – The Shortest day of the year
Art: Jessica Boehman Text: Brigit Anna McNeill Post: @Druid
The winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this is a period of descent and rest, of going within our homes, within ourselves and taking in all that we have been through, all that has passed in this full year which is coming to a close… like nature and the animal kingdom around us, this time of hibernation is so necessary for our tired limbs, our burdened minds.
Our modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; and yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and the weather so bitter that people are left feeling that winter is hard, because for those of us without burning fires and big festive families, it can be lonely and isolating. Whereas in actual fact winter is kind, it she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards this annual time of peace and reflection, embracing the darkness and forgiving, accepting and loving embracing goodbye the past year.
“Winter takes away the distractions, the buzz, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth”.
.. and then, just around the corner the new year will begin again, and like a seed planted deep in the earth, we will all rise with renewed energy once again to dance in the sunlight
I attended the opening of an art exhibition recently where different textile artists chose a piece of poetry as an inspiration for an art work.
I was particularly taken by the MJ Chatterton’s poem “Kintsugi”. (MJ publishes poems on TWITTER.)
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. The areas of breakage are mended with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum often adding considerably to the value the item with these beautiful imperfections.
With knee replacement surgery in less than 24 hours, I’m holding onto any sort of positivity to quell fear.
This philosophy of treating breakage and repair as part of an object’s history, rather than a disguise particularly fascinated me.
So just as repairing broken ceramics can give a new lease of life to pottery, hopefully the removals and additions and scars of TKR will give me an improved new life.
Copy of part of an article from THE IRISH TIMES Sat November 9th, 2019. Although I didn’t often listen to him on either radio or TV – I know he spoke to a generation of women and that as an icon of more than half a century entertaining the masses, his passing will cause sadness.
Born: August 5th, 1934
Died: November 4th, 2019
In a career that spanned six decades, he was father figure, confessor, inquisitor and entertainer, all rolled into one. A natural showman, his seemingly effortless command of his medium in both television and radio belied a fierce perfectionism and unremitting work ethic. The Late Late Show, which he presented for many years, as well as his daily radio show, were both ground-breaking for their time.
Gabriel Mary Byrne was born in Dublin in August 1934 to Edward and Annie (neé Carroll) Byrne. Both parents were from Co Wicklow, his father from Kilruddery (where Gay Byrne’s grandfather was coachman to the Earl of Meath) and his mother from Bray. He was the youngest of four boys and one girl.
His father worked in Guinness’s on a shift system which limited his time with his children. It was partly for this reason that the young Gay Byrne never got close to him. His father’s job meant, however, that the family had a regular, secure income, something for which Guinness’s was famous in Dublin – and which was unusual enough in those days.
His mother was, as listeners to his radio programme later figured out for themselves, the dominant personality in the family. She was determined that her children would better themselves and sent Gay to secondary school.
The regular income from Guinness’s made the family more fortunate than many others. Nevertheless, his father’s wages were not high enough to allow his siblings to go to secondary school as well and they all – Mary, Al, Ernest and Ray – went to work after finishing primary school.
His brother Al, however, distinguished himself by being the first Catholic – and perhaps more importantly the first labourer’s son – to get onto the clerical staff of Guinness’s. Al got a science degree at Trinity College Dublin while working in Guinness’s. Byrne later described the day of Al’s appointment as “the proudest day in our family. If there wasn’t a brass band playing quietly in the background when the wonderful news was announced, there might as well have been.”
Ernest fought in Korea and worked successfully in television in the US and then in RTÉ. However, when passed over for the job of controller in RTÉ, he left and eventually returned to the US. Mary worked in the Royal Insurance Company and then in Guinness’s as a “lady clerk”. Ray had a successful career in Canadian television.
Byrne was educated, as the entire country eventually knew, by the Christian Brothers in Synge Street. He would have liked to have gone to university – he had chosen Trinity College Dublin – but when his father died he had to go to work instead. He regretted the loss of a degree and the conferring on him of an honorary doctorate by Trinity College Dublin in 1988 meant a great deal to him.
While he was in Synge Street, an event occurred which, in retrospect, was extraordinary. A teacher, Mr Moynihan, brought his class to Radio Éireann to take part in a programme, Children at the Microphone. Mr Moynihan was so pleased with young Gay Byrne’s performance that he gave him a threepenny bit.
What those in the studio thought of the boy who, in the future, would revolutionise Irish broadcasting, remains unknown. He himself later said he had expected to find banners hung out all over Rialto (where he grew up) when he came home that day but, of course, no such thing occurred.
It is impossible not to wonder, however, if that trip to Radio Éireann was the seed of the attraction which show business held for him and which would eventually make him RTÉ’s greatest star.
Although working in Insurance, he continued to try to get into show business and broadcasting and his efforts paid off in 1958 when he was taken on as a presenter by Radio Éireann.
In the early days he did everything: introducing sponsored radio programmes, making continuity announcements and working part-time in an advertising agency which made some of the programmes. He tried everything too. He applied to become a soccer commentator but the attempt failed when it emerged he knew nothing at all about the game. He also wanted to read the news but was told he was “too good” for it.
On July 5th, 1962, the first episode of The Late Late Show was aired on Irish television. Originally planned as an eight-week summer filler, the programme would continue to run until the present day, and remains the most remarkable institution in the history of Irish broadcasting.
The magazine-style format allowed debate on the most controversial issues of the day alongside celebrity interviews and performances from leading Irish and international musical acts. Although the show would continue into the 21st century, with first Pat Kenny and then Ryan Tubridy, it was Byrne’s creation and will always be associated with his name.
In 1957, optician Donal McNally had introduced him to harpist and aspiring broadcaster, Kathleen Watkins, who would be the first continuity announcer to appear on Telefís Éireann on its opening night on New Year’s Eve, 1961. By the time the couple finally married in Saggart Parish Church in 1964, their wedding was a celebrity event, with a crowd of more than a thousand gathering in the Dublin village to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds, who needed a Garda escort to get to their car.
As a broadcaster, Gay Byrne, or Gaybo, as he came to be known, saw his popularity as fickle and as something that could disappear at the whim of the audience. Though he tended to downplay, in public at any rate, his own enormous contribution to radio and television in Ireland, there is no doubt that to move successfully from the old, uncontroversial Radio Éireann to the new, brash RTÉ took a rare combination of skills and talent. He had a natural aptitude for live performance – he always did the audience warm-up routines himself – allied with a fierce perfectionism and control over his medium which caused him to seek and achieve recognition as the show’s producer as well as its presenter.
Television in general and The Late Late Show in particular represented a gust of wind through the Ireland of the 1960s. An example of the sea change which he mastered is found in contrasting treatments of the Irish language.
When he and broadcaster Joe Linnane interviewed people in a Prescott’s shop for a sponsored radio programme, the station would not allow it to be broadcast because the interviewees complained about compulsory Irish.
Not long after, The Late Late Show did a programme on the Irish language. There was an incandescent row on the show between the actor Joe Lynch – who questioned the sacred cow that was the language movement at that time – and Donal Ó Moráin, the most recognisable leader of that movement.
The world of Radio Éireann was dead.
Gay Byrne was seen by many as the one who dug the grave of the old Ireland or, more positively, as the midwife of a new Ireland. He himself would have none of that. He took the view that he was in the right place at the right time and that was that.
Why wasn’t he stopped in his tracks? The 1960s may have been a time of change but the Ireland of that time was far more conservative than the Ireland of today. The girls who flocked to the ballrooms could, if they became pregnant, find themselves shut into a mother and baby home for up to two years, spending their time scrubbing floors and working in the kitchens, their names changed, their right to communicate with the outside world cut off, their babies taken from them to be sent to America on a few hours’ notice.
Yet Gay Byrne – who was very well aware of the existence of that other Ireland – chipped away and away at it, lethally on The Late Late Show, bringing on, for instance, guests who championed the right of unmarried mothers and their babies to be treated decently by the State.
Had the old Ireland stepped in – and it had plenty of representatives in RTÉ, in politics and the civil service – to insist that The Late Late Show stick to “safe” entertainment, the story of Gay Byrne would probably be of little interest to us today.
He himself believed his survival was a matter of RTÉ being made up of new, young people who didn’t even know the old rules existed. They simply didn’t know they shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing.
The Gay Byrne Show, the radio programme which brought him into the nation’s kitchens every weekday morning, started in 1972 and ran until 1998. It was the first Irish programme to invite listeners to ring in to talk about whatever was on their minds. Today, the practice is ubiquitous in Irish radio.
At the time, when radio was relatively formal and stylised – before the show began to be broadcast, the station actually closed down every morning until lunchtime – it was revolutionary. A dam broke with the hundreds of letters sent in to the show in response to the tragic death of Ann Lovett in 1984. They contained the previously untold, heartrending experiences of many women in Ireland at the time.
The great contradiction of Gay Byrne, of course, was that in so many of his views he was conservative, though he did so much to undermine the very conservative approach which had characterised Irish life well into the 1960s.
He took the view, for instance, that the country was going to the dogs economically and that State spending was too high. Irish people wanted jobs but they didn’t want to work. Too few people were working to pay welfare to too many people. Taxes were too high. He was against politicians and civil servants who he saw as failing to do anything about the country’s problems.
He had an immense capacity for hard work. In 1959, for instance, he commuted weekly between Dublin and Manchester (where he worked for Granada). In the early 1960s he lived in London, worked for the BBC and travelled home weekly to do The Late Late Show. After a time, he decided he wanted to be in Dublin and moved back. His stint of many years in which he did both The Late Late Show and the daily radio programme was, to say the least, a marathon. He was, for many years, presenter of the Rose of Tralee festival, and other one-off specials. In its later years, The Late Late Show – he presented his last one in 1999 – lost some of its controversial edge, probably because the country had shed much of that conservatism which had made the show so exciting and controversial in its early days.
There were still moments of drama, though – his 1993 interview with Annie Murphy about her affair with Bishop Eamonn Casey was criticised as condescending and insensitive. His refusal to shake hands with Gerry Adams in 1994 on the Sinn Féin leader’s first appearance on the Late Late was also criticised. A better moment, perhaps, was the skilful entrapment of then EU commissioner Pádraig Flynn into expounding at length about how hard it was to make ends meet on £140,000 a year.
Although Byrne was driven by that puritan work ethic he complained about, he didn’t find it easy. It was hard, relentless work. As he told Ivor Kenny for the latter’s book In Good Company, “I live in a jail of my own creation. I have done so for 25 years. There are times when the alarm goes off at six o’clock and I say to myself, ‘Oh God. Not another day like yesterday.”
This rendered the loss of his money in the Russell Murphy affair all the more shocking – when it emerged after Murphy’s death in 1984 that the accountant had taken all the money which he had managed on Gay Byrne’s behalf and had left him in debt. Worse, Murphy had been a close friend and Gay Byrne had seen him almost as a father figure.
The blow was a grievous one to a man who confessed to having a sense of insecurity about his income, despite his great success. He had worked hard for the money – now he would have to go on working hard, to make the money back. After years of being on short-term contracts and, he felt with some justification, being undervalued, he did manage to negotiate better terms with RTÉ management as the decades wore on, although he suffered further losses in the economic crash of 2008.
“I had a long run of very good years,” he told The Irish Times in 2010. “And I invested in absolutely watertight stuff: AIB, Anglo Irish and Guinness and various shares – all the stuff that you were told that you couldn’t go wrong. And that is all gone! It is wiped out.”
The work ethic certainly did not desert him following what was supposed to be his retirement in 1999. He continued to appear on television, presenting the Irish version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? along with series such as The Gay Byrne Music Show and Make ’Em Laugh (about comedy in Ireland), Gaybo’s Grumpy Men and Class Reunion.
His long-running interview series The Meaning of Life included a number of remarkable moments, including actor Gabriel Byrne’s admission that he had been abused as a child and Stephen Fry’s denunciation of God.
From 2006, he also presented Sunday afternoon shows on Lyric FM, where he displayed his encyclopaedic knowledge and deep love of classic jazz while delighting his substantial audience with curmudgeonly asides about the state of everything.
In 2014, he presented a documentary, Gay Byrne: My Father’s War about his father Edward’s service in the 19th Royal Hussars during the First World War, and his return to Ireland afterwards. In addition to his broadcasting activities, he also took a one-man live show on tour around the country.
Another, quite different role which kept him in the public eye was as chairman of the Road Safety Authority, a position in which he used his unparalleled communications skills to bring home to Irish people the need for a cultural change in their behaviour on the roads.
He became a tireless and forceful advocate for saving lives, appearing frequently on radio and television, during a period which saw a dramatic fall in road traffic fatalities. Given his position as the father figure of the nation, it probably wasn’t surprising that, in the months leading up to the 2011 presidential election, he was reported to be toying with the idea of running as an independent with the support of Fianna Fáil, although he finally decided against it.
Gay Byrne was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 and he wrote and spoke publicly about the gruelling nature of the chemotherapy treatment regime he faced.
He was recently due to receive the Ireland-US Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award from President Michael D Higgins, but was unable to attend the ceremony due to a broken wrist and chest infection.
President Higgins paid tribute to him at the event, saying: “Controversial, outspoken, and unafraid to break new ground, it has been said that, throughout his many decades on television and radio, Gay Byrne’s role in the shaping and crafting of modern-day Ireland has been profound.”
Gay Byrne is survived by his wife, Kathleen Watkins, and their two daughters, Crona and Suzy.
Die Berliner Mauer came tumbling down 30 years ago today. Building of the Berlin Wall commenced in August of 1961, an ugly scar on the German landscape and a symbol of division in the country.
In total, at least 171 people were killed attempting to get over, under or around the wall. More than 5,000 East Germans successfully managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows of buildings adjacent to the wall or climbing over the barbed wire. Some even attempted to cross in hot air balloons, by ramming through in vehicles at high speeds or by crawling through sewers.
By 1989, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Soviet Union was no longer prepared to support hardline Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
The Evening of the Fall
Amid this atmosphere of reform, on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, Gunter Schabowski, an East German government official, made a surprising announcement at a press conference.
“Permanent relocations,” he said, “can be done through all border checkpoints, taking effect immediately.”
This was all the East German populace needed to hear. Citizens flocked to the border en masse sometime around 9:00 pm and found that, after initial confusion, the border guards were indeed letting people cross. It was obvious that the five dozen men guarding the border were grossly outnumbered.
West Berliners greeted their counterparts with music and champagne. Some citizens began to chip away at the physical barrier with sledgehammers and chisels. The crowd began to chant “Tor auf!”—Open the gate! By midnight, the checkpoints were completely overrun.
Over that weekend, more than 2 million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin to participate in the mass celebration.
Today, 30 years after the fall of the wall, Angela Merkel placed flowers at the Wall Memorial with the words: “No wall that keeps people out and restricts freedom is so high …. that it cannot be broken down”.
How inspiring was that speech given by South Africa captain Siya Kolisi after his side were crowned world champions. How passionate his words on the impact the victory would have in the country.
Speaking immediately, after the game, Kolisi told of the challenges South Africa face and shared his hope that the win would unite the country once again.
“I’m so grateful for everything this team has been through, we’ve faced a lot of challenges but the people of South Africa got in behind us and we are so grateful. We have so many problems in our country, but to have a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races but we came together with one goal and we wanted to achieve it.
“I really hope we’ve shown South Africa that we can pull together to achieve something.
Kolisi is the first black man to captain the Springboks and following his heroic performance, he was quick to thank the people of South Africa for their support of all of the team.
“Since I’ve been alive, I have never seen South Africa like this. In 1995, we saw what the World Cup did for us. Now, with all the challenges, the coach came and told us at the last game, ‘we’re not playing for us anymore, we’re playing for everyone back home’.
“Since I have been alive I have never seen South Africa like this. With all the challenges we have, the coach said to us that we are not playing for ourselves any more, we are playing for the people back home – that is what we wanted to do today.
“We appreciate all the support – people in the taverns, in the shebeens, farms, homeless people – there were screens there – and people in the rural areas. Thank you so much, we appreciate the support.
“We love you South Africa and we can achieve anything if we work together as one.”
After the summer’s yield, Lord, it is time to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.
As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness. Direct on them two days of warmer light to hale them golden toward their term, and harry the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.
Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter; who lives alone will live indefinitely so, waking up to read a little, draft long letters, and, along the city’s avenues, fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.
In a statement posted this afternoon on his Twitter account, Bernard Brogan announced how “now is the right time …. to hang up the boots.”
Tribute from manager
Social media was soon awash with plaudits of him as a man and as a playet. I particularly liked Jim Gavin’s tribute to him:
“On behalf of the Dublin Senior Football Team and Cumman Lúthchleas Gael Átha Cliath I would like to wish the very best to Bernard Brogan as he announces his retirement from senior inter-county football.
Bernard has had a long and distinguished inter county career representing the county of Dublin, notably at senior level for over 15 seasons. A great leader of the team, Bernard inspired those around him by his actions, resolve and determination to be the best player that he could be for Dublin. The longevity of his inter country career, his collection of medals and awards is a testament to the impact he has on Gaelic games – for that we are truly grateful.
Bernard is an immense credit to his family, friends and club St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh. He is a true gentleman and we all wish Bernard every success and good fortune in his new journey.
Guím gach rath agus beannacht ort agus an turas nua atá romhat amach anseo.
Jim Gavin Bainisteoir Fhoireann Peile Shinsir Átha Cliath”
(from an article by Fredo Darling · Posted April 15, 2018 on mindgiants.com)
In 1937, on a small farm nearly 200 miles from Moscow, a woman was born who would inspire billions – her name was Valentina Tereshkova.
In 1937, the Soviet Union along with the rest of the world was embroiled in World War II. Valentina’s father, a tractor driver before the war died a hero, one of the 20 million Soviet casualties. From the age of two, Valentina Tereshkova was raised by her widowed single mother.
She learned early the virtues of sacrifice, tenacity, gratitude, and community. At 16, a young Valentina abandoned formal schooling to work at a textile factory just to help lessen her mother’s financial burdens.
Not having some manner of education was out of the question so Valentina enrolled in correspondence learning with her mother helping her with her school work as much as she could, as did their friends and neighbors in their small village.
Beating the Best
In 1962, Valentina was now 25. Aside from her work and her continued assistance to her mother, she was also an accomplished amateur skydiver. She had 126 jumps to her name already, more than twice the boys’ average.
She had heard the news of Gagarin’s first space flight and the space race that had captivated the world. Being a cosmonaut looked hard, demanded sacrifice, and the training required was rumored to be near impossible. Just the type of challenge she was raised for.
Despite having no degree in technical sciences, engineering, or mathematics and no military service, her consistently flawless performance in skydiving caught the attention of Soviet officials.
At the time, space capsules did not hit the ocean gently or land smoothly on some palm-tree lined runway. The early capsules fell straight to the ground from space.
To escape the all-metal human-made meteor, pilots had to blow the escape hatch, eject in their seat wearing their stiff space suits, orient themselves correctly, and open their parachutes – all in a matter of seconds to avoid crashing into the Earth in what was basically a huge tin can.
By the end of her rigorous, nearly impossible training, Valentina had bested over 400 applicants and 5 other female trainees. She would be the first woman (and first civilian) in space.
She was not allowed to tell anyone however. Her “white lie” to her mother was that she was “being recruited to be a parachutist on the Russian national team”.
On June 16, 1963, 26-year-old Valentina Tereshkova made history blasting off in Vostok-6 and completed 48 orbits over 70 hours – longer than all U.S. solo male astronauts had spent in space combined.
Her callsign was “Chaika”, or Seagull, and on her way up she could be heard on the radio chanting triumphantly “Ya Chaika! Ya Chaika!” (I am Seagull
While in space, the Soviet government broadcasted a live dialogue with Valentina on public radio, celebrating the mission’s success and touting the bravery of Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first ever woman in space.
In her small village some 200 miles north of Moscow, her mother happened to hear the broadcast. It was only then that she realized her little Valentina was not quite “just going skydiving”. She listened in disbelief as her daughter was introduced to the world as an international hero, live from off this planet.
Finally time to return home, Valentina noticed something terrifying. Her capsule was not descending back to Earth, but ascending into outer space.
She radioed in her observation and began working with the science teams on the ground. She quickly helped calculate the necessary data in her head, wiped the old data from the computer, and manually input the new data along with the algorithm dictated to her from the ground.
There was only one catch. She could no longer reach the original landing site in Kazakhstan. Her new trajectory had her landing somewhere in remote Siberia far from any rescue teams or recovery equipment. And she would have to land alone.
At 4.3 miles from the ground, with the capsule still nearly 3,000 degrees fahrenheit (1650 Celsius), Valentina blew the hatch.She catapulted out the capsule and landed safely.
Upon landing, Valentina took a deep breath and looked around. Beyond the fields and the billowing parachute (and much to her surprise), she saw people running towards her. She had landed near a small Siberian village, not unlike the one she grew up in. They had seen her landing and had dropped everything to come help.
As they helped her break free and brought her to the village, they insisted that she stay for dinner. Remembering her mother and everyone else in her own farming village and thinking back to their hospitality, community, and generosity, she accepted the villagers’ “request” that she join them for dinner despite heavy bruising from her parachute and the immense physical toll of having just landing in their backyard after 70 hours in space. It was their backyard, after all.
It was an simple, ordinary village meal of eggs, milk, bread, honey, and leftover space food Valentina contributed, and it was a supper they would all remember for the rest of their lives.