Tiny Sparks of Joy

Pulling out the slow cooker for the first time in months, which meant coming home to dinner even though I was out all afternoon.

An unexpected extra 45 minutes before I had to leave the house today.

The red bricks on the front of our house in the September sunshine.

New to me Chalet School books arriving in the post.

Two gym sessions down this week, and another planned for Friday.

Catching up with two friends I don’t get to see half as much as I’d like.

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Tiny Sparks of Joy

The Dreamers

The first time I went to New York was on a family trip when I was 21 years old and the city was still digging through the remains of the World Trade Center. On a sunny, freezing cold day we got a ferry to Ellis Island and did a tour. The five of us had a chance to crowd around a computer and search the database. Both my parents knew many young people from their respective home towns had likely passed through immigration in the building we sat in, and sure enough just searching through lists using a couple of search terms threw up familiar names, sometimes a little misspelled (probably due to accents and things getting lost in translation during what must have been a fairly noisy, busy process), and always young. They were 16, 17, 18 or 19 years of age, setting off I suppose with dreams and hopes of their own. They can’t have been that different to my and my siblings who were of similar ages and had and still have dreams of our own.

In 2011, we went to America on honeymoon and spent the last few days in New York. I felt a real urge to visit Ellis Island again so on a sunny, warm day we got a ferry there and did another tour. This time, it was me and my brand new husband sharing a computer and we did similar searches and once again I was wondering why I was so moved by simple lists of names, ages and places of birth and why I would feel a connection to those people and hoped life had turned out ok for them.

My husband is an immigrant. He wasn’t born in Ireland, but he grew up here. Thanks to a strange twist of fate his parents came back here and so he has dual citizenship and, thanks to various legal immigration and citizenship arrangements so do I. We’re white, we’ve both got transferrable skills and we’d both qualify under the proposed new immigration rating system to go back to New York once more and work there. We’re not really dreaming about that right now, for many reasons. Your dreams change over time – be they the dreams of a 17 year old boy still queasy from weeks spent on a rocky ship seeing a city for the first time or a couple who aren’t worried about impressing immigration officials standing in a huge hall.

I don’t know how my husband or I would cope if he was sent ‘back’ to his country of birth. His parents did everything above board, but that’s just the luck of the draw. They had dreams when they left to make a life somewhere else and have children and work and build something new. My husband shouldn’t have to live with an immigration based sword of Damocles hanging over him and, thankfully, he doesn’t and nor do I. But when I organised our files yesterday and sorted through paperwork from different countries letting us know who we are and what we can do and, in essence, what a country thinks of us, I began to think about the Dreamers in New York, and everywhere else in America.

I think about them, and the lists of those young people we saw on a computer screen in Ellis Island, and the hopes and dreams they have and had. And I think of the poem every Irish school kid has to analyse for exams rendering it devoid of meaning until you can read it for its own sake, WB Yeats’ The Cloths of Heaven. And I hope that those in the US who can do something about the Dreamers remember to tread softly, because they are treading on people’s dreams.

The Dreamers

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Organising our filing system. By system, I mean the drawer wherein resides the Important Stuff we need to hang onto. Shredding is immensely satisfying.

Making six eggs stretch to cover baking, tea time sandwiches, lunch time fritters and breakfast pancakes. I’m determined to empty our fridge before we do more food shopping.

Hibernating in the house today and having a relaxing time of it, in between the various jobs we’ve meant to do for ages, like sorting out our attic which is currently our laundry room.

A week off work. Planning on some gym time, working on the photo books I’ve told myself to get going on and leisurely coffees with a book.

Knowing another unabridged Chalet School book is on the way. The collection nears ever closer to completion.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Starting Somewhere

We have a lot of photos. There are photos everywhere, on phones, on old SD cards, on current SD cards, in WhatsApp and Instagram accounts….there are too many to ever look at again, duplicates beyond count, many blurry images and many that spark no memories whatsoever – I have literally no idea who I’ve been photographed sitting next to at a college ball a decade and a half ago.

Last year, immediately following our holiday in France I made up a photo book, tweaked it a bit, left it sitting in the saved folder of the photo book company until I got a discount code that made it affordable enough, ordered it and that was our Christmas gift to each other. We’ve looked at it several time since and I’ve told myself one day I would eventually start organising our current holiday snaps.

Yesterday we had a rare weekday off together and the huge box of photos that had haunted and taunted me for months was taken down, dusted off and sorted out. I was a bit more clinical, a bit more ruthless and the main priority was getting the photos into some of the albums we had and getting rid of more and generally starting somewhere. I was inspired a little by this post from Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea leaves, in that in a world where we’re swamped by the photos we take the best plan is to Start Somewhere.

So we’ve started, and today I continued and there’s a half finished photo book for this years holiday lurking in the depths of a Snapfish account. I’m happy that at least its half finished, instead of never started.

Starting Somewhere

The Day I Met Maeve Binchy

I was a voracious reader as a child. From the time I was able to read ‘proper’ books, I read everything I could get my hands on. We were near great libraries and I would borrow four on a Saturday, then return on Monday evening to borrow four more. If I found a book I liked, I would reread it over and over.

I have very mixed feelings about the MS Readathon, partly because I’ve become very cynical about the charity sector in general and partly because I have some hangups about it from my childhood. However, when I was about 11 or 12 years old, I was sent along to the launch of the contest as a representative of my class in school. I didn’t really know what to expect and it was always nice to be able to escape school for a bit.

The launch was held in a large hotel function room – for the life of me I cannot remember which one – and it was a hot, busy, noisy affair. There were press photographers and, most important for me, free books! Some of the authors of said books were there, and I got a copy of Wildflower Girl signed by Marita Conlon-McKenna, which is still on my bookshelf today.

Back then, I hadn’t a clue who Maeve Binchy was, but I overheard one of the teachers talking about her and I decided she must be important enough to get to sign a poster we were all given and which other authors had signed for me, so I plucked up the courage to go over to her. She was sitting down and I have no idea what I said to her but she signed the poster and had a little chat with me, and as I thanked her and turned away she commented on a red bow I had in my hair because I felt I should probably dress up a bit for a Big Day Out like this.

I’m sure I got rid of that poster in a decluttering session years ago because I certainly don’t have it now. I do, however, have a big collection of Maeve Binchy books on the same shelves as the well read signed copy of Wildflower Girl. The first Maeve Binchy book I ever read was Circle of Friends and my favourite bit of the novel is where a nearly 10 year old Benny is dreaming of getting dressed up for her Big Day, her birthday, only to have her dreams of velvet and frills dashed when a practical, boring ensemble appears.

I reread that section a lot, and I think of me getting dressed up for my own Big Day, and it reminds me that long after the humdrum days of school are over there’s some high points, even if they don’t seem significant at the time. I think of me, and Benny, and I relate to Benny’s feelings of not being pretty enough and worrying about what she might wear and I think back to that red bow and meeting Maeve and I wish I could tell her just how much pleasure that day gave me and that I’m sorry I didn’t keep the bow and the poster.

The Day I Met Maeve Binchy

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Finally feeling slightly normal after the plague on our house this week. Mountains of washing and new pillows were necessary.

Sunshine and getting outside, even for a short time.

Finding things I thought were lost and feeling happy about not having to rebuy them.

Unexpected good customer service and a prompt and thoughtful response to a slightly ranty complaint email.

Adding another book to my Chalet School collection. I’m giving myself a slight bit of leeway on my frugal mission when editions pop up that I’ve never read.

Tiny Sparks of Joy