Sunday, February 26, 2006


Published in Ireland of the Welcomes, Jul/Aug 1994
Exquisite freedom. At ten or eleven of the final school-room day, doors would open, releasing a flood of five- to twelve-year olds, running home on eager feet to holiday for weeks and weeks.

Smiling Summer stretched ever onwards. Gone were sleepy mornings 'round the blackboard; chalk-dust sunbeams mocking through open windows; odours of inkwells and school-bin lunches. Here instead the long lie-in; cattle calling in flowering fields; bacon frying; and Dingo, our Collie, racing, racing through the long grass, whimpering in dreams.

Mornings were soft awakenings, twigs awaiting in the empty fireplace, jackdaws, late-comers, early-starters, hopping awkwardly on the slate roof, building, ever building in the tall, old chimney pot.

Summer swallows careered through clouds of cow-following insects; rushing headlong from homes in rafters of the tin-roofed shed; darting suddenly leftward, rightward, mouth agape, dip-diving back again, feeding hungry, noisy chicks in the dry heat.

Summer robins in the fork of a half-grown, full-wild hedging plant, parked left of centre of a one-time rockery, nestlings, tiny, bald, and comical, lying still in a down-lined cup of grass and sheep's wool.

Days were syrup slow, panting in shade, or sitting bare-legged on the cold granite doorstep. Dingo's white tufts breezed out to join western-passing billows grazing a bluer, huger sky.

Remembering that sun... lying in idleness among yellow dandelions and whitest daisies; catching it in a squinting, rolled-up fist at midday; rounding it like a captive ball; laughing, releasing it to sail onwards, blindingly.

Horizons pinned its sky earthwards: lines of planted trees in far-off, quiet ranks; yellow-smudged furze bushes on the mountainside; turrets of an old ruin running downwards, and nearer, earlier memories -- greens rising westwards down the lane, over hedgerows, dotted sheep, an orchard, and finally the tall, thin, two-storey picture-book cottage where the Summer sun set nightly in blazing red.

These, I think, were the finest times -- more so even than days patrolling rabbit-lively ditches with Dingo; or climbing among fern-choked gullies at the heads of young streams; or even resting, legs adangle on the crumbling archway of the laneway bridge, listening to the wind-songs -- evenings when the last rays of the sun declining swept across our dooryard, spilling in the kitchen window where my mother stood, watching the daylight leave; the reddened, aged sphere slipping inexorably downwards, now a mere hairsbreadth above ground; now closer, touching, sinking down in fire that spread like spilled wine or melted wax -- a lengthening puddle across the skyscape, pouring into spaces between clouds until darkness pulled its blue mantle over all, stars appeared, and twilight gave way at last to full night.

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