Monthly Archives: December 2015

Shiny Happy People

By far the most beautiful reason to live in an Irish village at Christmas is watching people come home for the holidays. This week in particular, the sons and daughters of Ballyduff are returning home. You’ll see them on the beach, in the shop, the butchers, walking into the graveyard, at Mass, why even in the pub. They’re easy to spot, they’re on holidays, always have lovely coats (!) and if you’re lucky have a gorgeous child by their side with a lovely accent and eyes open wide in wonder at the rest of us.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll overhear the conversation as one of the shiny returning sons or daughters are paraded up the street by way of getting out from under her feet or on the pretext of buying bread for an already overloaded freezer. Really, Mom is sending you up the village because she wants everyone to see you’re home, to rekindle that connection of your homeplace in you, for you to be admired and for her to hear in the dark days of January when you’ve gone, how well you looked and how great you were to come home.

The conversations, once captured, normally go as follows;

‘Look you’re home, you look great, Mom/Dad must be delighted.’

‘Isn’t it great to be home for the Christmas!’

‘Is this your little one? He/she is pure (insert local name of choice) Brosnan, O’Sullivan, Connor.’ (Coincidentally, it doesn’t matter if the party inquiring has ever met your spouse, they will undoubtedly find some family trait in your offspring).

‘How are you getting on over? Are you home for long?’

They are the shiny trophy on display in the community hall, the polished class picture on the school wall, becoming more and more like their father and  they’re so welcome home.

May your Christmas bring joy to your household, peace to your nights sleep and luxury to your stockings.

Nollaig Shona from all in Hearthill,

Anne, Dan, Philip, Daniel and Anthony x


Did I ever?

There is wonder in every new decoration that comes out of the box all week long. That broken nutcracker soldier a jewel in the hands of a four year old. They see this Christmas with eyes un tired and with eager souls. Through their enthusiasm and vision, we see it too. We hold baby Jesus from the crib, my grandmother used to say it. Baby Jesus does not go in the crib until Christmas morning and they’re delighted to learn it too. And while the Baby Jesus finds sanctuary into the ‘everything’ drawer, it is obvious to us all it’s a waiting game.

The days are flying in and the cows are being dried off. They stop milking in other words for the month of January giving both them and their farmer a break in January before the calving season begins. This is a busy week. I’m busy indoors getting the house ready, himself is busy out getting the ‘yard’ right so that the Christmas season comes and goes with him not having to do too much work outside of the daily chores at Christmas. It always surprises people (or at least this city girl) that farmers have to work on Christmas day. But. But. But. Yes, yards don’t clean themselves, silage needs putting in front of the cows this time of year, the cows continue to need his care. Milk doesn’t pour itself into milk cartons automatically. But. But. But. It’s ok. It’s our way of life. And actually, funnily, he loves it. While I’m chopping carrots and parsnips on Christmas morning with a glass of something sparkly, and the children are busy playing (if Santa comes mind you), our farmer will walk into the fresh air on Christmas morning to feed the ‘girls.’

Did I ever see myself sitting here typing while my children unpacked Christmas decorations telling you about the Christmas routine of a farmyard? No. And yet, I hear my country grandmother telling me to hold off putting Baby Jesus in the crib. Hold off for the good stuff and see your life through fresh, un-tired eyes.

Six more sleeps…



I’ll just

I’ll just run to the creamery he says, anytime we have to go anywhere in a hurry. When timing an event on a farm, well on this farm in any rate, you have to factor in the ‘just’ time. Just one more round of slurry to spread. Just one more round of cows. Just one more load of silage to give out. Just one more cubicle to clean out. You’ll never, I was told by a neighbour on marrying, have empty hands on a farm. In a given twenty four hours there is so much work to get on with. And it never ends really. You have to give the farmer plenty of notice as he will always find another job that needs doing as priority when he’s about to leave the yard.

I was once upon a time punctual, most likely ridiculously so. I would stand over the clock-in machine with minutes to spare so that I wouldn’t be late back to my desk in the office. And then I learned cow time. Twice a day milking came to signal morning and evening. The flexible clock showing lunchtime and dinnertimes as movable feasts and bedtime comes when you find your body involuntarily throws itself down with the tired at the end of the day. And most likely, you’ll never be on time for any event ever again. Before you know it you’re on the mountain road between Lyreacrompane and Castleisland, Kerry’s own natural rollercoaster, with three young children in the back roaring at the time that has caught us out again. The audacity of the clock to move so fast. Santa Claus will wait for us don’t worry boys.

And when finally you reach your destination, this evening to meet a certain fella in a white beard, you relax. You enjoy immensely your time off the farm, when paper work and pitchforks are that little bit out of reach. Time off is so precious that we take our time over conversation with others, enjoy that bar of chocolate with coffee and watch our children out in the world. I’ll just have one more cup he says and we settle down, just in time.


You have never experienced anything like a North Kerry storm. The same Atlantic that invites us to dip our toes in it in June asks for payment come December. There she is, blasting her salts at our windows and banging at the door as the whole house shakes with the roaring from the Atlantic’s latest gale. And outside there is black but for the light in the shed over the cows. The cows are in their winter home chewing away at the silage before them mostly oblivious to the storm overhead.

With his tractor parked up for the evening, our farmer crawls around after young boys on the sitting room floor. Relieved with the break, I potter about the kitchen preparing the place for the holiday season ahead. There are lists to be written, mince pies for the freezer, the odd wall to be washed. There is much to be done for the arrival of Christmas and I’m glad of it. Winter I think can be hard in the country and find it perhaps little coincidence that such festivities (although theologists may disagree) take place during the darkest times in the year to remind us that there is light.

‘Light the candle’ the middle boy says as his head peeks over the counter top at me. ‘Burn another day.’ We burn the candle further down on its wick until it reaches number five telling us where we are in our preparations. We’ll have to go for the Christmas tree soon and the crib will go up. All the activities to keep us busy in our home until the light comes back and the heavy work begins again. All the activities that bring us together reminding us of the good, of how it is being together hibernating in the winter, of all the light we have in our lives.

Twenty one more sleeps.