Friday, 19 November 2010

Purrs, Pears & Oral Language

The other night I distinctly heard Mrs H saying 'I am going to have a purr'

to which I replied 'Oh, so you are going into competition with the cats then ?'

Two purrs Magic & Squeaky

'No, I am going to eat a purr' she said. 'Ha'h you mean a pear Mrs H ' I said

'Yes a purr' she said again.

We often have these little misunderstandings, it is all to do with Mrs H having an East Dublin accent.

I had better explain that Dublin is on Ireland's eastern seaboard. Geographically there is a North Dublin, a West Dublin and a South Dublin, the Irish Sea is in the east and across that channel of water, lies the great City of Liverpool where the citizens speak with an east Dublin accent.

I, who matured in England's West Country, have a base dialect that is distinctly different to that of Mrs H and so what I actually hear is often a different word.

That sort of misunderstanding is quite common, not just between ourselves but with others too.

For example when I first came to live here the expression that I used when leaving a shopkeeper was to say 'so long' as I went through the doorway. Within a few weeks my friendly butcher congratulated me on using the As Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic), this puzzled me somewhat for the only word I knew was agus (the word for and). Then he said 'what I mean is that I hear you say Slán' (farewell) whenever you leave here.'

Considering this I realized that it was the speed of my speech which was reducing so long to s'lon, the 'g' being hardly uttered.

What we say and how we speak can be very humorous on occasions. Some years ago I went with a good friend of mine over to Glastonbury from Ireland for a short holiday. It was her first time in that part of England.

We decided to catch a bus to Street. There was a long queue at the bus stop and it wasn't obvious which end was which. So I, knowing how sensitive folk are to queue jumpers, asked a man which was the front of the queue.

Four times I asked the question and each time he shook his head not understanding me, eventually my friend with her very strong Co Louth Irish accent said "He wants to know which end is front of the queue ?"

My mispronunciations were due to me having a heavy cold.

That event amused me at the time the irony of it all and even as I write this I am still amused.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


I have been thinking about space the last few days and of infinity. I can get my head around it alright, even though the concept of endlessness is amazing.

The first time that I ever attempted to understand what it was all about, was many years ago when I visually put all of the universes in a box and then realized ok so what is on the outside of the box - more space was/is the answer.

The Large Hadron Collider has done some real business recently by colliding lead ions together or rather head on, at almost the colossal speed of light and in doing so the impact manifested temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun. I wonder just how they dispersed the heat energy. Answers on a postcard please.

I have been having problems with a small space my self just recently. It all started when I was up in the loft and noticed a small cloud of smoke drifting upwards to the skylight. Now it is quite a common sight to see smoke up there, for I do enjoy a few puffs on my pipe while sitting quietly on a bench and musing on what to do next. This particular time although the pipe was in my pocket the lighter was not.

Not my smoke, this was coming from the chimney breast. I removed the fire from the stove & made a phone call. My builder returned in rapid time and rendered the brickwork.

The following evening I re-lit the stove and smoke started to enter the ground floor rooms, again I took out the fire & phoned himself. We spent the rest of the evening stripping out the alcove press (cupboard) that adjoins the chimney breast. This revealed a series small sooty cracks and soot stained walls, the same procedure as before was followed and this time we were totally successful.

Getting in is similar to Leaving

All I have to do now is rebuild the shelving that I had hastily removed and emulsion the walls. There is a slight problem caused by two pipes that go across the bottom part of the press making access difficult. And I am so glad that I started off my working life in the confined spaces of yachts and small ships. So re-building the press is rather like going back in time for me.

These days in Ireland you never know who you will find in a press.For recently our former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made for himself a pile by doing a commercial for the Irish News Of The World. He is the actor who says "I never thought that I'd end up here"


So following in Bertie's footsteps or better still my version of Sylvester Stallone in the 1970 film 'No Place To Hide' which I have renamed 'Dammit You Have Found Me ! '

Dammit You Have Found Me !

Saturday, 6 November 2010


Tomorrow night, 7th November I will celebrate the Samhain (sow-in) Fire festival with a group of friends. Historically it is the last harvest, a time when the animals were selected from the herds or flocks to be culled and the last of the berries would be plucked from the trees. All of which would provided food for the family over winter.

The mists of Samhain

The word Samhain, as Gaeilge, means end of summer. It is the start of winter and of darkness, a time to remember those who have passed over. For them a place will be set at the table. The old stories will be told and new ones added as memories are revived about the various characters who have died. Sensitive people may feel a slight chill pass over their feet, leg or arm as an unseen visitor drops in and it is at this time of the year that some say the veil between the worlds is thin.

Many of us in Ireland have revised the dates on which we hold the Fire Festivals. For example : The date of Samhain is determined by the angle of Sun and is held at the mid point between an Equinox and a Solstice, thus it is not on the same date every year. In similar vein the date of the Solstices and Equinoxes vary too for all are connected to the Sun's position with the earth.

The Samhain sun in The Mound of the Hostages
on Tara, Co. Meath.

Into the chamber of The Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara in County Meath, pours the rising sun at Samhain - not on 31st October as many people believe. This act defines Tara as a Samhain site, just as Newgrange is a Winter Solstice site. The back walls of the chambers are illuminated by the rising sun and the very same thing occurs at other ancient sites on other festival dates around Ireland.

The Mound of the Hostages

We do not see Samhain as being the start of another year. For us the Winter Solstice is more likely, for it can be seen as a double celebration, firstly of deep darkness which occurs when the sun appears to stand still - the actual meaning of the word solstice. And secondly as a celebration of the rebirth of the sun when daylight lengthens. This year Winter Solstice, the shortest day, is on 22nd December. The birth of the new sun will fall on 26th December for daylight has by then increased by 1minute!

One of the many local Samhain traditions is to have a bonfire at the crossroads in rural areas. This one was taken a couple of years ago.

Tomorrow, when we gather, we will remember our ancestors, our friends and the spirits of this land who gather about us.There will be storytelling, singing and we will have great craic around the bonfire (weather permitting!).