January

Have you become accustomed to writing 2020 yet?

january

I usually dread January.  Once the New Year is celebrated, the sparkle of Christmas comes down, packed away for another year.  The days are short, the nights are dark and it feels soooo long!

On a purely personal level, 2019 was a hard year and I was glad to see the back of it. Then 2020 started with news of the death of an extended family member.  Dealing with the death of someone you care about is always difficult.  When it happens at the end of the old year and the start of the new, it can be hard to see any light ahead.  But Spring is only around the corner.  Along with the news of a death, came the news of an impending birth.  The circle of life continues.  So, my new year’s resolution is to hug those I love a little tighter and more often this year.

January gets its name from Janus, the God of beginnings in Roman Mythology.  New Year, New Beginning.  Janus has two faces, one to look to the future and one to look at the past.  For how do we know where we are going, if we do not know where we come from?

kisspng-janus-roman-mythology-deity-god-portfolio-janus-sviluppo-software-5b89309f41a729.4681517315357175352689.png

Think of all the new starts over the centuries, the new beginnings in the month of January.

On January 1st 1502 Portuguese explorers landed at Guanabara Bay on the coast of South America and named it Rio de Janeiro (River of January).  Five hundred years later Brazilians still speak Portuguese although Brazil was never a colony.

On January 1st 1801  The Act of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  Amended in 1920 by the Government of Ireland Act, which partitioned our country.

On January 1st 1892  Eilis Island opened in New York harbour and over 20 million people were processed through its doors until it closed in 1954, 3.5million of them were Irish.

On January 1st 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia was founded.  The British first established a penal colony at Syndey Harbour in January 1788 with the arrival of eleven ships with 788 convicts onboard.  How many of them were Irish?

On January 1st 1958 The EEC was formed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and Netherlands and then on January 1st 1973 Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined their ranks leading to the launch of the Euro on January 1st 1999, although Britain held onto their sterling and at the end of January 2020 will leave the Eu forever.

Where you born in January?  According to http://www.fatherly.com January babies are more likely to be famous because they are more creative and have superior problem-solving skills.  People born in January include Elvis Presley 1935, Edmund Burke 1729, Martin Luther King 1929, Benjamin Franklin 1706, Muhummad Ali 1942, Mozart 1756 and Lewis Carroll 1832.  Happy birthday to all you Capricorns and Aquarians.

Deaths in January included Queen Victoria 1909, Winston Churchill 1965 and Al Capone who bizarrely died from syphilis in Miami in 1947.

On this island, who can forget the massacre of Bloody Sunday, 30th January 1972 when fourteen innocent people were gunned down by British soldiers in Derry.  That day led to countless more years of suffering and bloodshed and will forever be a black day in our history.

On a lighter note, New Years Day is the most celebrated holiday around the world and rightly so.  On that day we have a full unblemished year ahead of us.  A blank page where anything is possible.  The first day of a new year,  and this year, of a new decade.  A day to be hopeful.  A day to dream.  A day to start again.  Let’s make those hopes and dreams and new years resolutions sustain us through the darkness of January and February until the start of Spring and new life.

Definition of Kindness

Just when you start to despair, a ray of hope shines through with simple stories of random acts of kindness.  I opened Facebook this evening and the first two posts I read were from people I knew who had experienced random acts of kindness from a stranger today.  How uplifting to know that there are still those in our midst whose first thought is to do good for others.

blur-chair-cheerful-160739

I read recently a suggestion from someone that if you make an effort to perform an act of kindness for someone every day, just something small and random, then by the end of the year you will have brought a smile to 365 people.  Speaking of a smile brings to mind the lines of a poem attributed to Spike Milligan.

“Smiling is infectious. You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today I started to smile too.

I walked around the corner and someone saw me grin.

When he smiled I realised I had passed it on to him.

I thought about the smile and then realised its worth.

A single smile like mine could travel round the earth.

So if you feel a smile begin, don’t leave it undetected.

Start an epidemic and get the world infected.” 

That doesn’t mean we should all go around every day grinning like Cheshire cats but we can make the effort to smile at those we interact with.  Think of the dozens of people you interact with every day, your bus driver, the barista in the coffee shop, the guy behind the counter selling newspapers and bottled water, the receptionist in the office or the security guard on the door, your co-workers or your bosses.  It could be the girl who serves you lunch or the tired retail worker who checks out your purchases for dinner on the way home.  Think how much better you will feel if you greet them all with a smile.  Think of the knock-on effect on those you meet, for when you smile at them, they more than likely will smile back and be more inclined to pass on that smile to the next person they meet.

person-3160685_1920

So, today I have decided that in future I will make an effort to be more pleasant in my interaction with others, to be friendly and considerate in everything I do.  I think that effort will be rewarded with a more positive outlook for me and the knowledge that I may just have made someone smile and brought a little light into their day.

Merry Christmas

On December 25th Christians worldwide will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  But where did the traditions associated with Christmas originate?

The early Christians adopted and absorbed the old pagan holidays and made them their own.   Saturnalia was an ancient Roman holiday which was celebrated from December 17th to 25th dedicated to the sun God Saturn.  Romans would cut trees and bring them into their homes to mark the winter solstice.  All business was suspended, slaves were temporarily freed and children and poor people were given gifts.

The modern Santa Claus that we all love has had many names, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Sinterklaas and sometimes just Santa.

st nicholas

Santa seems to have originated from Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Greek bishop.  Saint Nicholas was born in Asia Minor (Turkey) and became Bishop of the Greek city of Myra.  One story relates how when a local man lost his fortune and could not support his three daughters, Nicholas threw three bags of gold through a window into the house.  The gold was then used as dowries to marry off the daughters ensuring their futures.  One version I read suggested that the three bags of gold are the origin of the emblem of pawnbrokers, three gold balls.  Mind you, another story said that he threw the first bag of gold down the chimney and it landed in a sock that was on the mantelpiece, the origin of hanging a stocking on Christmas Eve for Santa to fill.  I don’t know which version to believe if any!   The Dutch figure of Sinterklaas (which eventually became Santa Claus) and the British figure of Father Christmas both originate from Saint Nicholas.

Santa's_Portrait_TNast_1881

The modern image we have of Santa Claus as a jolly, overweight bearded man wearing a red coat with fur collar and cuffs, black leather belt and boots can be traced back to the influence of the poem first published 1823, ‘A visit from St. Nicholas,’ better known as ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ and brought to life by cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1881.  This image was further enhanced by the illustrator Norman Rockwell with his depictions for Boys Life magazine in 1914 and various publications in the early 1920s.

Of course, Coca-Cola would have us all believe that they gave Santa his red suit in their advertising campaign in 1931 but Santa’s red suit goes all the way back to the 4th century and Saint Nicholas’s red bishop robes.  Having said that the Coca-Cola Christmas advert on TV is the one that signals the Christmas season has started.  Well, the Coca-Cola and the Pennys advert with the little girl saying HoHoHo.

Traditions evolve over the years, influenced by media, particularly film.  Over the years our Christmas films have changed to reflect our changing world.  Remember ‘It’s a wonderful life” and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ “White Christmas” “Home Alone” “Elf” “The Santa Clause”, the list goes on.

In the last few years, we have seen the arrival of the ‘Elf on the Shelf.’  This new tradition is based on a book written in 2005 by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell.  The book describes how Santa’s scout elves are sent to look over the family and report back to Santa each night on who is being naughty or nice.  They return each morning and hid in a new spot to play hide and seek with the family.  The scout elves get their magic by being named and loved by a child but they cannot be touched.  The child can speak to the elf and tell it their Christmas wishes and then on Christmas day the elf leaves to stay with Santa until the following Christmas.  What a charming story and a heart-warming new tradition in many households.

So whatever tradition you follow in your household, whether Christian or not, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

 

 

March Many Weathers

In like a lion, out like a lamb!

IMG_3142

That’s what my mother used to say, and its certainly true this year. We have had some very wet and windy weather with more on the cards. But there is always some brightness. Make the most of the breaks in the cloud cover and make a start on your garden. In my garden the daffodils are flowering. Such a cheerful flower, a purveyor of hope that winter is over and spring is on its way.

Today as I look out my window I can see some brightness through the clouds and I hope that is an omen for the month ahead. For the last few days coronavirus is the only topic of conversation. On the radio, on the TV, we are in a new era of lots of information but no clue about how this new virus is going to affect us. All we can do is follow the advice given to us. Wash your hands. Simple really. Stay safe everyone.

 

 

 

February

It’s a Leap Year!  We have an extra day in February this year.  Have you any special plans for that day?  My favourite story is that February always had 29 days until Augustus Caeser stole a day from it and gave it to August, his namesake month. It’s a pity somebody didn’t steal a day or two from January. It was such a long month!

I hope you all marked St. Brigid’s Day. The story goes that St. Brigid made an agreement with St. Patrick that women would be allowed to propose to men on a leap day, supposedly to balance the traditional roles and men and women.  Cheers to St Brigid, the first feminist, whose feast day was February 1st.

In many European countries, particularly in the upper classes, tradition dictated that any man who refused a woman’s proposal on February 29th had to buy her 12 pairs of gloves so that she could hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.  In Greece, it is considered unlucky to marry in a leap year, especially on a leap day.

In ancient Rome, Februus was the god of purification and every year they held a festival – Februa, during which people were ritually washed.  Their minds and bodies purified in preparation for the year ahead.  I think I’ll just stick to appreciating an extra day.

While this year we are preoccupied with the extra day, most people associate February with St. Valentine’s Day.

  Why do we need a special day to show our affection for the one we love.  surely that is something we should do every day?  Not with cards and flowers but with simple gestures.  A smile, a touch, a hug when it’s needed and when it’s not.

Hope you have a fabulous February.

 

Inequality

The Irish Cancer Society tells us that

“Every 3 minutes in Ireland someone gets a cancer diagnosis…Incidence of cancer is growing and by 2020, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime.”

Yesterday the Irish Times and the Sunday Business Post informed us that VHI is allowing access to cancer drugs to their policyholders which are not available to uninsured cancer patients.  RTE have followed up today expressing ‘concern as only insured patients may access new cancer drugs.’

Mr John Crown, the renowned Medical Oncologist was quoted as saying,  “For the first time since I can ever recall, we have a difference in access to cancer drugs between public and private patients. It’s completely unfair. It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult now.”  “I’ll be seeing public and private patients this week and I will quite possibly be giving both of them different news about what treatment is available for them and I’m not comfortable with that.”

I do not know why VHI have written to oncologists informing them that they have extended access to these new drugs for certain cancers.

I do not know why the HSE does not already give access to these new drugs for cancer patients.

There may be a reason behind it.  Is it due to a lack of efficiency in HSE?  Have the HSE failed to keep up with the available drugs on the market?  Is it a ploy by VHI to gain a larger market share?  I have no idea.  Perhaps someone with the required knowledge could throw some light on that.

All I do know is that the HSE, the Health Minister, the government, the patient groups, the Irish Cancer Society and every person living in this country need to speak out immediately and put a stop to this further inequality in our Health Service.   It is imperative that those who have the power within the HSE act immediately to grant access to these drugs to cancer patients today, not next week, not next month or next year.  They need to act now.

According to ‘USA today’, Ireland is the 10th richest country in the world.  That’s ahead of the USA at 11th, Germany at 17th, Sweden at 18th, France at 24th.  Google it!  type in worlds richest countries.  There we are at number 10.   Yet we don’t rate at all on healthcare, while France is generally acknowledged to have the best health service in the world.  But there again, France is a true republic, we only pay lip service to the ideals of a republic.  We do not cherish all our citizens equally, certainly not if you are ill and in need of help and support, or even a little payback for all those paye/prsi/usc contributions that you have made.

We, the people, need to think about the type of society we want to be a part of.  Is the Ireland of today, the country you want it to be?

523,000 of us are on a waiting list for an outpatient appointment in a public hospital.  208,757 of those have been waiting more than nine months.  Those figures include 46,300 children.

Remember, by next year, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime.

Only 46% can afford private health insurance.

 

Woman’s Best Friend

In last week’s writer’s group, we read a poem about a dog.  Everyone re-acted, even those who didn’t have dogs.  What is it about man’s (woman’s) best friend that brings out something in all of us?  Everyone had a story to tell and the mood of the meeting was upbeat as we swapped stories about our furry friends.

louie dunmore east

Our dog, affectionately known as Louie the lips, is an elderly terrier half-breed.  Half-bred with what, we can only guess.  There have been times, when he took to chasing our car up the road, that we considered him part greyhound, other times when he climbed in through partially opened windows, we reckoned he was interbred with a cat.  He was certainly an escape artist and we lost track of the number of times he managed to get over fences, under gates and at times, we had no idea at all how he had escaped.  He never went far.  Well, maybe a good 2 miles, down a country road to a housing estate in the nearest town and always to a particular house.  It was as if he went on a little holiday, a town break, so to speak!  We used to think that maybe, in his little canine mind, he was thinking to himself, ‘I need a break from the routine.  I will visit my other family.  They will talk to me, pet me, allow me on the furniture,’ and off he would go.  He would stand at their door until he was let in, or sometimes climb in a partially open window uninvited but sure of his welcome.  They would ring us to let us know he was there, and we would collect him, and he would trot out to the car without a backward glance, hop in the back as if to say, ‘what kept ye?’

louie under blanket

As a young terrier, he spent most of his day racing around the garden, barking at the wind and everyone that came within ten yards of the front gate.  Now that he is older, he still tears around barking if he feels he must, but he prefers curling up in front of the fire or in his favourite place, my husband’s knee with a blanket covering him.  He knows the hand that feeds him, but he still knows his place.  He is not allowed in the bedrooms, although he also knows that my sons flaunt that rule and sneak him in when I’m not looking.  He is not allowed on the furniture, hence the blanket hiding him when he is on my husband’s knee on his armchair in front of the window.  Like most dogs and small children, he thinks if he can’t see me then I can’t see him.  We are all openly affectionate with him, he is part of the family after all and what better feeling is there than relaxing in front of the TV with your pet at your feet.  I mean, directly on your feet, asleep, so you can’t move for fear of disturbing him.

Having said that I am always amazed at the number of people, mainly women I should add, who treat their dogs like small babies.  Women who shower more affection on their dogs than they ever did on their own children.  Cuddling a child and showering a child with kisses I can understand, but a dog is a dog, do you realise where their snouts have been?

louie me and gerry

No matter what your viewpoint, or your taste in our canine friends, every home should have a dog.  They hold your heart and soothe the soul.  They teach responsibility to your children and the joy of unconditional love to the entire household.

Dogs have a reputation for being ‘man’s best friend’ for a very good reason!

Do I know you?

Have you ever walked down the street or into a building and see someone walking towards you and have a momentary sense of panic?  What is her name?  Where do I know her from?  I know I’m not alone.  Mostly you can get by with a ‘Hello’ and a smile but if that person stops to talk to you, what do you do?

-hi-do-i-know-you-2

Many years ago, I was in Penney’s, browsing the rails and I said hello to a woman I had met the previous weekend at a fundraiser.  She looked at me blankly and walked on.  Five minutes later I bumped into her again and gave her a half smile, you know the type, should I smile, should I say hello, should I pretend I don’t see her, does she remember me, so your smile is a half grimace, half apology type of smile.  She stopped, put her manicured hand on my arm and said, ‘do I know you?”

I remember praying that the ground would open up and swallow me.  Not a new concept I know but one we are all familiar with.  Red-faced and stuttering I explained that we had met the week before at a function.  When I mentioned my husband’s name it suddenly clicked with her and we both laughed and passed it off.  Her embarrassment for not knowing me was matched by my embarrassment at once again being the face that no-one remembers.

people crowd walking

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

I walk down the street sometimes and I see faces I recognise and some I don’t!  I don’t have a head for faces or names.  My husband never forgets a face, names not so much.  I was going out with him three months before he remembered my surname.

Anyway, on a day when all is good with the world and I am feeling confident and sure of my place in the world and I see a face I know, I will smile and say hi or lovely day and walk on.  That greeting is nearly always returned, mainly because it’s a catch-all for everyone, the comment of the weather, the smile, but that one incident so many years ago left a wariness in me, a fear even, of stopping that person and starting a conversation just in case they don’t remember me.

box cheerful color cute

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I did it to another person once, unintentionally but I did it all the same.  This familiar face stopped me in the street and chatted away about how she hadn’t seen me in years and how were the kids etc and I smiled and chatted back while racking my brain as to who this person was or where I had met her before.  I tried but eventually, she realised that I had no clue who she was, or where we had met, and the conversation tapered off into nothing but embarrassment.

With hindsight, I should have been upfront.  I should have said, ‘So sorry, I can’t remember your name, how bad am I?” People are always forthcoming with information.  They will give you their name, where they are from, where you met and suddenly you do remember them.  You can converse with them and enjoy their conversation.  At the end of the day, very few of us have photographic memories for every face and every name we encounter in our journey through life.  It’s nice to get a little reminder, a prompt to jolt the memory.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

tulips

Tulips from my garden for all the Mothers the whole world over.

From first time Moms to old hand Moms

To Moms no longer with us but whose wisdom lives on through us.

From would-be Moms to could be Moms

From those who wish they were Moms to those who will be Moms

Have a lovely Mother’s Day.