Canal St. Chinian
March 28, 2015
Canal St. Chinian
Just outside the wine town of St. Chinian they have a marvellous irrigation system in place. They have canalled a stream which gurgles along by the sides of their houses and allotments with sluice gates which can be lifted at approved times to allow them water for their gardens.
March 27, 2015
My very favourite cut of Waterford Crystal was called Sheila, the simplest but also the most expensive. Because there were so few cuts in the glass the blank had to be perfect, no bubbles at all which could be removed by the cutters in more complicated pieces.
I had a house full of (what the French call) Rugbymen last night.
A reunion of the Rugby team of the Pharmacology College in Montpellier.
During breakfast I brought them a basket of my own brown bread and told them to eat it up and they would be strong like the Irish rugby team.
They got the joke- but they also ate the bread.
My Mother (Again)
March 26, 2015
My Mother (Again)
This was originally written nine years ago.
This is a difficult one, one that I have been avoiding, but, with Mothers day coming up next Sunday, it seems a good time to talk about her.
Mind you, her attitude to Mothers Day itself was a little contradictory, when ever I gave her a card or a present for the day that was in it she always pooh poohed the “American invention” of the day, but still if it was forgotten I’m sure there would have been some resentment.
Frances Daly was born on October Sixth 1909, just three years short of a hundred years ago.
She was born into the Daly/ Harding/Maguire family, well off Cork merchant princes and lived in some style in a large house in Blackrock in Cork.
She was sent to Mount Anville in Dublin to boarding school, a real sign of affluence, and was particularly proficient there at games, classroom stuff would not have been her metier.
Her skills in sports were however very impressive.
She has entered the record books as having captained the Irish ladies hockey team nine times, was also very impressive at tennis, representing Munster in the twenties, and in her maturity she played a fair game of golf, at one brief time from a scratch handicap.
If this makes her sound like a sporty type, then I suppose she must have been,though it never stopped her having an excellent relationship with her youngest son to whom sport was always an anathema.
She was one of seven children, the second from the top, and with her four younger sisters, Rosemary, Mary, Felicity and Margaret was one of the “Beautiful Daly Sisters” heart breakers in Cork in the twenties and thirties.
(This on no less an authority than Tom Crosbie of “The Examiner”)
In June of 1939, at the age of thirty, she married my 26 year old father.
He definitely would have been seen as a good catch, one of the “Dwyers of Cork” and furthermore actually a director of that vast family firm.
Just a year later they produced their first child, a daughter, Mary Deirdre, and produced seven more over the next nine years, finishing with myself in March of 1949.
Had my father not contracted mumps at that stage the lord alone knows how large the family might have been.
At some stage during this time the realisation began to sink in that my father might have a problem with the drink.
Now Dad had been raised in a fairly abstemious household, the legend goes that on his wedding day the champagne had to be secretly decanted into lemonade bottles so that his mother wouldn’t realise he was taking alcohol.
This problem of Dad’s didn’t go away and was to colour everything for the rest of their married life.
I think that she never ceased to love him, even when he was at his worst. She would shamelessly use every trick in the book to keep him from going out, or indeed to try and get him home .
This included using the children, whom she knew he adored, as either lures or chaperones.
We all remember those situations with horror.
But my mother never let this huge dark cloud dominate her life.
She always maintained a life of her own.
She was as I have said a very keen golfer and neither children nor war shortages were allowed to come between her and her golf.
It was during the war, in 1945 when the twins, Felicity and David, were born, this was termed “the emergency” in Cork, and was noted chiefly for the various wartime shortages.
Petrol was one of the commodites in short supply.
Mum, so she claimed, used to drink a glass of sherry in the morning before she breast fed the twins, then get on her bike, cycle the six odd miles to the Little Island golf course, play her eighteen holes, then back on the bike and would be home before they woke up again.
Her gynaecologist, Billy Kearney, also lectured on that subject in University College in Cork and, to Mum’s delight, always told that story to his students.
Her other great love and interest was in The Irish Girl Guide Association.
She had always loved the Guides and had represented them at a conference in Poland in the 1930’s.
She went back to the guides again in the fifties and was eventually made Chief Commissioner in the seventies.
She had a great career with the guides, building up a fond relationship with the founder, Lady Baden-Powell, who actually came to lunch in our house once.
(My memory of that day was being asked by this rather terrifying woman if I was a Cub.
“No”, I answered, “a little boy!”)
She travelled extensively with the Guides, to Tokyo for a conference at one stage which involved side trips to Hong Kong and Angkor Wat.
The highlight of her guiding career was when she was elected to the “Hall of Fame” of the Guides in a ceremony in Chicago,
a huge honour of which she was very proud.
The whole Guide thing I must admit left me fairly cold as a boy.
I can remember having to set trails all around the garden in Tree Tops so the girls could get their Path Finder badge.
There was a moment though when her Chief Commissioner status came in handy.
When I was in my late teens with various friends we took to having al fresco parties in what we called “The Haunted House” close to our own house in Tivoli.
This deserted and burnt out ruin had belonged to John Philpot Curran, father of Robert Emmet’s sweetheart Sarah Curran.
Parts of the cellar were still intact and we used to light fires and have what we called barbecues there.
On one particular night we started to be overrun by rival gangs determined to either join in the fun or to disrupt ours.
It speaks volumes for my relationship with my mother that I instantly decided it would be OK to bring the party up to Tree Tops and continue the fun in our large empty billiard room.
As soon as we got to the door, and with the gate crashers in hot pursuit, I explained the problem to my mother.
She welcomed me and my friends with open arms and then offered to go and put on her Chief Commissioners uniform to act as bouncer at the door.
She did and it worked !
I seem to remember her heading out to the kitchen to make soup for my friends as soon as the last of the undesirables had been shown off.
This of course was another very important aspect of my mothers attitude to life.
She was a born hostess and liked nothing better than to have people coming to the house.
Somehow the “Tea” could always be stretched to include whoever we brought home with us, a fact which consistently astonished my friends.
Every Sunday she played hostess to huge members of cousins, uncles and aunts for tea in the breakfast room.
She was incredibly proficient at producing endless quantities of scones, almond cakes, chocolate and coffee cakes, and éclairs for these parties.
Right up to her death in 1998 she was still having weekly “Racing Demon” parties for her many grandchildren at which the same lorry loads of scones and cakes were produced.
She loved providing food for people,
( it is only while I write this that I realise how much I have inherited this!)
and she also I think saw herself in some ways as the Lady of the Manor.
Christmas time in the 50’s was the time when her giving was at its most prolific.
I remember lists of hundreds of presents to staff in various establishments, restaurants where Daddy and she would have gone, staff at the golf club, staff who worked in various friends households… the lists were endless.
She never quite lost this Lady Bountifulness.
Right up to her death she still brought cakes to the girls in the bank where she cashed her cheques, and to the boys in the garage where she bought petrol.
Money was a problem in the last years of her life but as a return for her own boundless generosity I am delighted to say that she never knew this.
My brother Ted organised us brothers and sisters and also the better off of the grandchildren to put some regular contributions into a fund for her.
This Ted explained to Mum was money she had “from Shares” and anytime she was short on her pension she happily, and blissfully ignorant of its source, dipped into this, (often to buy presents for the contributors).
In this way she was allowed to keep her dignity right to the end.
Mum absolutely loved the restaurant I had in Waterford.
At the drop of a hat she would come down to a meal there.
She was loved by the staff and I think in perfect agreement with the idea of feeding people being a wonderful way to make your living.
Two things happened to her in the last year of her life.
One was that her replaced hip was causing her so much trouble that they decided to replace the replacement.
The other was that she had a minor prang in her car, which meant, we discovered, that she would not be reinsured the following year.
None of us had the courage to tell her this.
Without her independence my mothers life would not have been worth living.
In the end, she never knew, her stay in hospital proved to be her undoing, she succumbed to the hospital bug and died without ever going home.
She is hugely missed.
Just after she died I wrote a poem in her memory.
When she made her way
To the glass door at Knockeen
And greeted us with her perennial
It was difficult to see her
Hot and loose limbed
Running the hockey pitch
Then she was Frances
But lay out the cards for Racing Demon
And Frances returned
"One hand only"
"Play your five!"
The only time she ever spoke a cross word.
They said she spoiled us all
Children and Grandchildren
You can never spoil with too much love
And so we never spoiled her.
March 24, 2015
This lad has mamaged to overwinter with us, thanks Ben Hennessy.