Monday, December 13, 2010

A Candle in the Window

Christmas is a time for memories. I was very lucky to grow up in a reasonably normal home where we had a fairly traditional Christmas. Christmas was a far more modest event back then. Our decorations were of the paper variety and were strung from the four corners of the room to the centre ceiling light. Our Christmas tree was decorated in multicoloured baubles and lots of tinsel. Tinsel also adorned mirrors and pictures on the walls. The only fairy lights were, what we considered to be, very sophisticated Cinderella Carriage lights which were strung on the tree.

As a child the magic of Christmas Eve was always special. I remember the mounting sense of anticipation, tinged by the slight worry that I may not be able to get to sleep. One of my clearest memories is of watching out the windows as the light died and darkness fell. My mother would come into the front room and hitch up the net curtains in order to place a lighted candle on the window sill. I gazed out into the street, waiting as each of our neighbours did likewise. In 70s Ireland the only premises that were adorned in Christmas lights were pubs, shops and hotels. So the simple single candle in the windows of homes all over the countryside was a powerful symbol of hope and of welcome.

I am a great believer in the need for change and for progress. Life is fluid and little remains the same and that is a good thing. I indulge in fairly lights all over the house for Christmas and I string a set into the tree in the front garden – like many of my neighbours. Candles are a common feature in most homes nowadays and are lit year around.

But on Christmas Eve, as the light drains from the sky I often wish it were not so. I imagine a brief pause in all the excitement and a turning off of all the fairy lights – just for a few minutes. In the quiet and in the darkness and with appropriate reverence I wish to could again watch as each house could placed their simple, single candle in the window. Each one spilling its modest brilliance into the darkness of this special night.

But instead I will do what I always do. I will close my adult eyes and re-imagine the darkness of the 70s neighbourhood where I grew up and see again the flickering light in each window. I will recall just how powerful and poignant symbol a hope and of welcome these candles are. And I will take my lantern and light my own candle. And although it will be somewhat lost in the glow of my fairy lights, it carries the same, very Irish message, unchanged for many hundreds of years. There is a welcome here. Hope lives here.

Nollaig Shona Duit Go Leir!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Finally we have something different to talk about! And to think about.


Tons of it.

Snow like I am not sure I have ever seen before in Dublin and I am very old!

This morning as I write this, there is a white out here in Cabinteely. My world has been gifted a thick duvet cover of artic brightness. Our roads are beautifully quiet. The special, gentle hush that snowfall always brings. It’s as if the whole world is an awe of Mother Nature’s ability to so beautify our surroundings.

The cats are bemused and horrified in equal measure and our elderly matriarch is particularly put out! Her old bones are too old for deep snow.

Today we are having our first duvet day of the snowy weather, with the exception of Carla who left the house before the blizzard and caught the bus to work. I do hope she finishes early so she can get home safely.

At the moment the girls are out with their friends, building snowmen and throwing snowballs. Later they will come in, red faced, wet and exhausted and we will do some baking. As the sun heads west, we will light the fire and sit around eating the results of our baking. And I hope we will remember how lucky we are.
So Ireland, I hope everyone is warm and well stocked up and able to enjoy Narnia outside our doors. Check your neighbours – especially the elderly! And don’t forget the birdies… although I got more than I bargained for when I tried to put out bread for a pair of doves! Those are seagulls! Hitchcock does Narnia!!!