Whenever I receive post at the hotel addressed to previous owners or staff that are long gone – I simply put it in the bin, as by this stage I assume it is junk mail.
This morning – for whatever reason – was different. I was about to put this hand written envelope from the UK, addressed to a Mr G O’Hanlon, in the bin when something told me open it. And so I did….
In there, was this letter from Margaret Battrick from Lancashire in UK, explaining how she was walking on the beach on 17th April 2014 whilst visiting her mother-in-law in Braystones, Cumbria – and amongst the rubbish she found this bottle with a message in it. The message had a reward of £5 – no less – for the person who returned the message to Mr G O’Hanlon at the Brandon House, New Ross, County Wexford.
Very quickly we put the story together, and I decided to contact Mr O’Hanlon’s mother to tell her about this most extraordinary happening.
George O’Hanlon was her son, and was born on 7/7/77. She can’t quite recall when George sent the message in a bottle, but she can recall that he did as a young child. She was filled with joy and love, and told me what a creative, wonderful and imaginative child he was. How much she missed him and how wonderful it would be for her to get this, and to share it with his friends.
George O’Hanlon left us on 1 December 1998 – but through this extraordinary circumstance, I ask that just for a brief moment we pause to think of a creative young man – a dreamer – who sent a message in a bottle.
That message found it’s way to me today, so I am now adding George’s memory, and all those who left us too early – to An Trek Fada.
You would be forgiven if you are staring at the screen – agape with surprise. But alas, this is Agape – the Greek for Unconditional Love – and it is Agape standing next to my son, Helmut.
Meet Lutando – a 24 year old DA supporter living in Dublin who also voted for the first time today. He asked us – “Are we Christian?” A strange question to be asked as you have just cast your vote.
The answer is irrelevant – because his name is Agape.
The camaraderie, bonds, laughs and memories shared across the world today with all of us that travelled no matter how far or long, was a true Agape moment. The unconditional love of and for a country, a people and roots that define us in One Love.
So I reflect this evening on how truly very blessed I am with the incredible response over the past couple of days since I launched An Trek Fada, I am grateful for the blessing of being able to call this my home, and having the foundations of my roots firmly in Africa. I am grateful for my freedom, my equality, and my ability to raise my voice.
All of my roots are nourished by the reminder of the wrongs of the past, but in this picture – the possibilities of the future.
Again, it’s been a very long day with much to be done before I can set off on my walk.
That said, today I have blushed like a virgin bride after seeing myself sprawled out on the front page of the New Ross Standard! I hope everyone donates very generously, as whatever dignity I had left is now there for the world to see, and I am realising that I might need counselling after this myself. Truly – how and why did I get myself into this?
Now I have to get some rest for my other great event – and that is to be at the South African embassy tomorrow morning at 8am to vote for the first time with my son.
My posts will be far better once the holidays start and all my attention will be on making it to the other side.
Today in a week’s time I will be standing at the steps of the Titanic Centre ready to embark on my journey back home to Wexford.
Right now I am scared of failing, and am thinking how much more I have to do before I can set off.
It is my intention to take you on this journey with me, but as with all things, there are only so many hours in the day, and until the walking is the only thing I have to do, then my posts will be brief. That should relieve those that know if a blog was a spoken word I would never stop talking!
Yesterday I successfully finished my longest training walk yet – 23km – and am in remarkably good shape today, bar maybe highlighting that my feet must not be forgotten.
Meet Anthony Riley, one of the greatest singers in the world….
How do I know this? Because he told me, randomly, as I was dishing up my favourite Crab Salad at Tootsie’s Salad bar in Reading Market in Philadelphia after a day promoting The Sunny South East at the Philly Flower Show.
Not only did he tell me, he smiled the brightest smile, asked me would I care to listen, and before I had a chance to say anything, he leapt into the back of the stand, and came out from the prepping area – put a set of golden earphones over my head and hit play.
Anthony Riley is one of the greatest singers in the world….. How do I know this? Because I heard him sing!
His rendition of Adele’s Someone like You, accompanied magically by his friend on the piano (the same friend could be heard playing jazz at another stand in the Market) made me stand there in the middle of the bustle, and be transported to a place all my own. I was oblivious to anything or one around me, and just stood there not wanting this randomness to end.
He flogged me a CD, he asked for $10, I gave him $20 – it was worth more. I can’t wait to listen to the rest, and then – there are the cynics who will say I was played, especially when hearing that until recently he was a street singer with just a passion, and that he has been saving for ever to be able to have a professional recording done.
I say it was meant to be, like so much else in life. I met Tootsie the owner, her mad brother and spent 20 amazing minutes with amazing people that reminded me again, how often do we miss special moments in life, because we are too busy scooping crab salad?
I will be sharing as much of Anthony Riley’s music as I can – probably bootleg copies, but Anthony was just really cool with the fact that he would be heard in Ireland, and who knows where else.
Sometimes we just need to stop, look up, and share the randomness of someone else’s life – no matter how fleeting it might be.
I’m a PROUD Afro-Irish Wexfordian who is born and raised South African, but love and adore my adoptive home, and intend to spend the rest of my days here. Yes, I’m a foreigner, but I’m no “Non-National”.
There is WAY too much PC in this world.
And the sad reality is the press ain’t helping. Enter “Magda” – who a TD referred to no less than 9 times on NewsTalk yesterday morning as a “Non-National”. Do they even stop and think what this supposed politically correct phrase implies – it means a person with NO nationality. She is Polish.
I wander if we re-christen all St Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world outside Ireland as “Non-National’s Day” would it be accepted?
Everyone – even “Non-Nationals” have a country of birth, and in most cases very proud of it – None ever as proud as even the most diluted of Irishman, who is proudly celebrated and reverred and welcomed in every corner of the world annually.
Afford us who choose to call this beautiful island our chosen home the same courtesy – as a “Duo-National” I can be twice as proud!
To think that it took a humble game like cricket to get me back to blogging – but hey! If you told me ten years ago that every air wave and column inch in Ireland would be filled for 24 hours with the topic of cricket, I would have said – NEVER! But as one lucky punter soon discovered with a €10 bet at odds of 399:1 that Ireland would beat England – Never say never.
Unlike most of my colleagues at the Brandon House Hotel and various associates in the hotel industry in Wexford, it was not the fact that they beat England per say, but that they were so very world-class in the win – and that I sincerely hope my adoptive country will not prove to just be a one wicket wonder, but that it will be the beginning of great things.
That said, the irony is not lost that although all very patriotic right now, most skirt away from any intense technical or knowledgable discussion on the actual match, and have armed themselves with just enough cricket jargon to not sound like eejits! The moment you throw them a full toss by discussing the placing of the first slip, the extra cover or my personal favourite – the silly mid on, then you see them scurrying to the safe territory of the next 6 Nations match or very defensively saying that it’s nothing like the greatest game on earth – hurling.
And in that latter statement lies the complete answer – there is no game on earth to compare with cricket. With all it’s absurdities and rules of long five-day test matches that can end in NO score and those most civilised of tea breaks and lunch breaks, it still manages in my mind to conjure up memories of wonderful summer days spent lounging at St Georges Park (Port Elizabeth South Africa) for five days, sipping beer and having mighty craic with new-found friends, my father, comrades and the odd Barmy Army.
I remember very distinctly 10 years ago when I landed in Cork for the first time and walked alone through the streets naively popping my head into almost every pub to see if there was a cricket match on. Eventually when I found none, I built up all the courage I could muster and asked a barman if he would mind switching to the cricket. The patrons dotted within earshot spat out their beer with loud incredulous laughter and then stared at me with an intense disdain for this most absurd of request.
I could never in my wildest naive dreams have imagined such a reaction. It was so incredibly humiliating, embarrassing and soul-destroying that I to this day believe it set me back by at least three years to find my feet and integrate properly with Irish society!
Now the table has turned, or the crease is perfect – which ever you prefer! I am now a font of trivial knowledge that is in some demand, and I feel equal amongst men and women that have always patronisingly explained (or tried to explain) the rules of Hurling, Gaelic football or God forbid – the off side rule! How cool to stump them with the LBW!
In a nutshell – I am blogging again because I am high on this magnificent result that has uplifted a nation and has banished all the doom and gloom of the past couple of years to the inside pages for just a while, and reminded us that with a bit of fun and a lot of belief we truly can achieve anything we set our minds to, and the Irish spirit is alive and batting on Indian Soil.
I would also be brave enough to remind all the Kilkenny Cats that I am sure it was because of the now gone 50 cricket clubs in the county alone that is responsible for their good hurling fortunes in the past decade! “Wink Wink”
I quote from another – Cricket rules made easy:
There are two sides, one out in the field the other one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the
next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
At what stage of the past 40 years did it become fashionable for women to be considered super? Was it not enough that we burnt bras and suffered jets? Who of the female kind decided that we cannot be sick like a man? Why did we fight for equality in the first place?
I woke up this morning with a throat that felt like a fine parmesan grater had rhythmically gnawed at me the whole night. My nose bunged up enough that not even fully pressurised fire hoses could open it, and a head that feels like a whole harvest of Fairtrade cotton has been sorted in my brain’s every cell. I’m sick.
I am torn not with guilt, but extreme self-pity for this dastardly situation, and visions of lying on the beach became as much of a reality as Met Éireann finally predicting the right weather forecast.
I have manflu – there, I said it. I am DYING, and no one has EVER felt this bad. And for all those fellow sisters that feel I am letting the side down? Get over it. Be honest in your equality, and the next time you feel this lousy – embrace it and suffer loudly and lethargically.
My only advice? Make sure you have the right man in your life, and you, like me could be waited on hand and foot, served like a queen, and can do no wrong for one day, and most importantly – forgives you your every grump and groan.
Thanks Florence – I love you to bits!
P.S. Now that was till he suggested he gets me a bell to ring….. like in an old age home. Mmmm, the ice is thin!
P.P.S. Did I mention that I have lost 16 pounds thus far??? Yip – just so you remember this is about the 40.40 Challenge!
In the past couple of weeks I realised that hindsight might give you 20/20 vision, but that vision does not help much if you’re stuck in the bottom of very dark pit. No! No! Nothing that austere – just a reality. Life can get very bogged down with the if only’s and the what if’s.
Accepting that as the reality, it does not make it any easier to avoid bitterness and loathing when something went horribly wrong – and when you have to say to yourself – Stop! What are you going to benefit from all this baggage. Is this really guilt, or is this relief masked as guilt.
My boss once told me how one day someone phoned to ask him to join him for a drink, and how he did not really feel like the man’s company, but rather than hurt his feelings, he replied “I have to attend to my hair” – Now everyone knows he’s bald.
Rather than hurt people, we tell them what we think they might want to hear. How much do we do in life trying not to hurt people around us, and is it truly NOT to hurt them, or merely to assuage our own guilt.
And of guilt I can speak with authority, as my mother (and I do love her) – knew only one way of child rearing and that was with guilt trips. Actually – I once threatened to buy her a T-Shirt that said “My mother is a travel agent for guilt trips”. Ironically, the truth would have seen me far more co-operative, but maybe there was that chance I would not have liked her much. And I think in that lies the challenge.
At the end of the day, we like to be liked. I would be the first to admit it – but at what cost to our souls, and those truly nearest and dearest to us. How much baggage and guilt must we bare before we shed every inch of it, stand naked to the core and say – bring it on!
I feel the winds of change blowing lightly at my back, nudging me into interesting directions.
In exactly one month it’s time for the big 40.40 Birthday bash – and oh what a bash it hopes to be! It’s looking more and more that I will only achieve half my goal in time, but I am enjoying this all – fat regime so much, I don’t forsee a problem in the future….. unless my arteries clog up or something.
Anyways – is it a case of sometimes we set up too high expectations of ourselves, or worse – of others? But are we truly destined to be happy with just “adequate”? Are those of us who strive to higher expectations just setting ourselves up for constant disappointment, and is it so wrong to fail having tried than never to have tried at all?
It’s the glass half full adage, in all its boring simplicity – and back to balance and all those other clichés that are marauded around all the time – but are so very apt today.
I don’t feel let down because I might not achieve my full goal, I feel exhilarated that when I went slightly off track, I put up my hands, blamed NO-ONE but myself, and got right back into it again. NO manana, manana…. no wasting time beting myself inot a lardy cellulite ridden pulp. No.
If nothing else, I am happy to report that I am still living up to my biggest expectation – which is to learn through my mistakes, grow from my experiences and at least admit when I am wrong (well, sometimes..;-)). Now if only I can expect everyone to agree with me….