‘Strangers are only friends who haven’t yet met’


There’s an expression that sometimes pops up ‘Strangers are only friends who haven’t yet met’. I’ve grown up hearing this expression but I’d written it off as one of those ol’ sayings that you read on a card, or, these days, on the internet.
Lately, those ol’ sayings have been put to the test as I am out and about and meeting people. There’s a certain wisdom to be learned when we listen, but there’s so much being said these days that it’s hard to pick out who to pay attention to.
I’ve discovered this myself as I’ve been rummaging around and learning what I can about  the history of Ireland. For almost a year now I’ve been slogging through bits and pieces, linking in this date and that date and then along comes a mention of the Fir Bolg or the Tuatha dé Dannan that takes me off in another direction and I want to know more about them too, after all didn’t they all leave their mark?

So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that someone had already spent years putting together a book that explains our legends in an everyday context while she writes about her own experiences in life. The book was recommended by several readers on The Irish Way facebook page and I can’t say that I jumped at the chance to read it, a lot of people recommend different things that I should look at, or read, or people I should connect with, and for the most part I do listen, however if a recommendation comes in while I’m busy there is a chance that I might miss it. I missed the recommendation to read this book, and it was only after a few people suggested it, that I went off and found a link, I read the first few pages and was hooked, bought it for my kindle within 5 min and got stuck into it that night. The next day I got in touch with the author and thanked her for her hard work and tried to explain how valuable this piece of work is. I wanted her to understand that I understood … so I wrote and told her ‘I love the book so much that I want to get in the car and drive down to tell you’ and she said ‘why don’t you’ so I said ‘right, I will so’ then I thought I might make a bit of a ‘tour’ out of it so I asked a friend would they like to go and they said they would so we went and yes I know how mad that sounds ~ perhaps if I’d thought more about it I wouldn’t have sent the message, but I reacted to her words … and I discovered that was the key that this author holds, she shows you what she loves and why she loves it, encouraging us to take a closer look and fall in love ourselves.

We were blessed with the day. The sun shone for everyone and the humour was good. We set off and chatted about what we were going to see and who we were going to meet.
I usually drive everywhere myself so it was a complete treat for me to have a friend driving while I gazed out the window like a child on a school tour.
I’ve been to Dingle so many times I’ve lost count, when my own children were younger we went there a lot, surfing, hiking, swimming, safety, wildlife, nature, the peninsula has it all. We often looked at the mountains and declared their beauty along with the beauty of Ireland itself. I wanted to know more about the area but was not drawn to any of the books that were available at that time. So when this book was suggested to me I wasn’t expecting what I read.
A writer that has a firm grasp of the Dingle Peninsula, London, Dublin and Connemara, a writer who can show me the dynamics of the people of these places and link in the similarities of the customs, breaking down barriers and opening up new ways to connect. Of course I’m going to be interested, this is the Irish way that I try to chat about. So while I gazed out the window and my friend negotiated the tractors (silage time) and we passed through the towns and villages that are scattered, I became more excited by what I might find myself. I’m coming back with a new perspective, a new sense of place. I’m coming back to see where these Legends of old walked (and danced) and told stories themselves.

We got to Felicity and Wilf’s house on an Irish hillside in the afternoon and we’re met at the door with one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever received. I’m a psychoanalyst by training and I pick up on people’s body language, I do it without knowing I do it, I’ve been doing it so long it’s now part of who I am. My friend has an inbuilt aversion to ‘nonsense’, it’s something that I admire in them so out of the corner of my eye I checked to see how they were and I could sense their comfort too.  The long arm of the musician extended to offer his hand as Felicity herself appeared at the door, smiles all around with a hug for her and the first thing I notice were the spuds in the garden, not a bit of blight on them, the rows were perfect and even though this sounds idiotic, I even noticed the butterflies fluttering from one patch to another and I knew that what this woman writes is what she sees and believes.  I looked over the hedge to the magnificent mountains and recalled what I’d read in her book. Legends were made here, stories and folklore are still shared.

For people who still hanker for the ‘old ways’ this read proves that these old ways are still very much alive and can be re-created in our own home, wherever we are, with the smallest of efforts.

For me, personally, meeting people of integrity is always something to cherish, yesterday I met a couple of strangers and went away feeling as though I had made some new friends.
Today I’m still processing what all this information means and how this new knowledge has enriched my life.

Do consider buying a copy of this book as a gift to yourself or another.


We Dance …


Hear my cry,
In my hungering search for you,
Taste my breath on the wind,
See the sky as it mirrors my colours,
Hints and whispers begin.
I am living to nourish you, cherish you,
I am pulsing the blood in your veins,
Feel the magic and power of surrender,
To life. Uisce BeathaEvery finger is touching and searching,
Until your secrets come out,
In the dance, as it endlessly circles,
I linger close to your mouth.I am living to nourish you, cherish you,
I am pulsing the blood in your veins,
Feel the magic and power of surrender,
To life. Uisce Beatha(These lyrics were written by the award-winning Bill Whelan for the opening song to Riverdance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mC0rWgUqTc  )

It is not possible to say when dance became part of the human culture but it is possible to say, without any doubt, that we dance,

There is no doubt that music and dance has helped to define the culture of Irish people world wide, I am not the first to write that nor will I be the last. Every country and nation has its own dance and Ireland is no different, or are we?
You may have see excerpts of Riverdance or you may have been lucky enough to see the show itself?
I remember watching it when it first appeared on our screens during the Eurovision Song Contest of 1994. It left as powerful an impression on me as it did on the audience who jumped up and roared with pride while they applauded.
Dance did that.
It’s almost 20 years later and it’s only now I’m getting the time to question ‘why’, what is it about dance in our culture that helps to define us?

Gay Byrne had John Conneely on ‘The Late Late Show’ (apx 1970) and he started the conversation by saying
“You broke your back John”
“That’s right yea,” John replied …. but Gay went on to say “Right, but let’s have first things first”… and John got to show us how he danced ‘the fastest reel in the west’!      (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-duDKzm3mY)
Watch it – you’ll see John trying to keep up with his legs as they take him around the floor like he had no control over them!

We’ve heard stories of dancing at the crossroads and after the harvest threshing but it’s only until I began studying our history that I realised how important dance became after the curfews of the civil war. The men and women of rural Ireland made time to gather with their music and the best place to meet was at the crossroads where people cycled from miles around just to … meet up and dance.

I’ve been listening to people for a long time, observing body language and the intricate ways we communicate and one thing I have observed is how we dance while we are about our every day lives … keep an eye out for it and you’ll see the different styles, whether it’s a slow reel of the farmer who’s slogging along behind the cows or the busy housewife who’s doing a jig around the supermarket, the steady hornpipe of the office staff as they go through their day, the rhythm is everywhere … we dance without knowing it.
And our older people, I’ve seen them at it too!
I’ve listened to the banter and even joined in and I see their eyes dance with divelment at times and I know that they dance when they are at home in the kitchen.
We dance when we’re happy and we dance when we’re sad, we dance around each other when we’re not sure of who of who we’re talking with.
We dance with our words on the internet and we exhaust ourselves as we ‘rave’ about our ‘leaders’.

Do you remember the first dance/disco/rave/concert you were allowed to go to?
Do you remember how excited you were and dreading the first dance? … Did you practise much and feel a fool when you couldn’t get the timing right and then thought ‘to hell with it I’ll just stand here and shake myself’ … and that became a dance all of its own! 

From ceílí dancing to set dancing, from step dancing to the Sean-nós – there’s the soft shoe and the hard shoe and if you feel like no shoes then that’s fine too! So long as you dance.

Zach Klingenberg and Ciaran Plummer are keeping an old style and giving rhythm to the music as they turn out some new moves, some new vibrancy as they dance like the rest of us can only dream about.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jlJH65KR14#!

When you see where you’ve come from you can decide where to go and you can put a skip in your step as we go there.