Irish winterlude

We had an unusually cold winter in the west of Ireland. Layers were worn, walks were taken, fires were lit.

It felt like this, and it looked like this:

Ghostly faces in a frozen puddle. How many do you see?

Blue tit enjoying provisions from the bird feeder.

The view across Lough Corrib on New Year’s Day.

Salthill street lights reflected on Galway Bay.

Oystercatcher preening.

Mutton Island causeway in thick fog.

The spiky geometry of a frozen furze (gorse) bush.

I don’t know this bush, but I love its frosty appearance.

Swans and cygnets in an icy Claddagh.

A frosty glove abandoned in a hedge.

Meadow pipit I shared a quick picnic with.

Sunset over Salthill, five minutes after the picnic.

The view from Wolfe Tone Bridge, Galway, before the freeze…

…and after. It wasn’t long before the surface held traffic cones, footballs, a beer keg, bottles, cans and so on. Assorted rubbish aside, it was very pretty.


17 Responses to Irish winterlude

  1. Sean Jeating says:

    What to write without being thought to exaggerate?
    Beautiful. Just beautiful, Stan. Thanks so much.
    – The blue tit is lovely. What is in the feeder? I could not identify it.
    – How long did you picknick? It has been a long one, hm? Great photos both the one with the meadow pipit and the one of the sunset.
    Ah, and the reflected street lights and … the glove.
    – Why would you speak of an icy Claddagh? I do know just claddaghs like those on the fingers of Mrs and Miss J.. :)

    After many questions my answer: Hm, actually, I see 18 faces. But this might be due to my imagination. 14 is more realistic, hm?

  2. Sean Jeating says:

    Ah, forgot: Thanks for the poem.

  3. wisewebwoman says:

    I’m awfully homesick reading and admiring your post today!

  4. Claudia says:

    Glorious post, Stan! Sean said it all, and very well indeed. But I see only 5 huge faces on the frozen puddle. Maybe I lack imagination. Although I know that, hiding in the bushes, there is a huge blue body attached to that one begging hand. I’m shivering with the birds in the water. Where else can they go? Good of you to feed them.

    I was mistaken when I said to Doubtful Egg, on his last Wexford Sights VII (Jan.20-10), that his magnificent puddle photo might be the only one taken in Ireland. Amazing…Both of you must have been inspired by the Irish spirit protesting, yet admiring, the beauty of your harsh winter.

  5. Stan says:

    Sean: Thanks for your kind comments. I guessed that you would like Stevenson’s poem! The bird feeder contains peanuts. It hangs on a bird table at my father’s house, so he was responsible for looking after the blue tit and the table’s many other winged visitors — including the first jay I had seen in a long time.

    The picnic was short, a ten-minute pause on a walk along the shore towards the sunset. I sat on a rock with the sun at my back, hence the pinkish tinge on the ground beneath the pipit. The bird was unusually friendly, probably because of the scarcity of food: temperatures had remained around or below zero for several days.

    Eighteen faces is an impressive count! I think one’s imagination should be given free rein when looking for imaginary faces. The design of the famous Claddagh ring has its origins in The Claddagh (from Irish An Cladach: stony shore), a small fishing village that is now part of Galway city.

    wisewebwoman: Sorry about that! Your own local environment across the Atlantic is very attractive too (judging by your photos), but I suppose that there is a strong nostalgic effect from the scenery of one’s childhood.

    Claudia: Thank you! If you sensed the icy glove’s huge blue owner hidden in the bushes, I don’t think you are lacking imagination. Your criteria for imaginary faces might just be more rigorous than Sean’s. Doubtful’s winter photos were marvellous, and his recent puddle one reminded me to upload my own. Puddles don’t get the respect and wonder they deserve!

    The birds, and other animals, had a very tough few weeks, and needed all the help they could get. So whenever I left the house I brought a bag of food for them. You express it well — despite its harshness it was a beautiful winter, at least for those of us able to get by without too much hardship. Many were less fortunate, and lacked even shelter and sustenance.

  6. Fran says:

    That frosty glove picture is somehow menacing. These are great photos. Enjoyed looking at them.

  7. Nice photos! I especially like the Wolfe Tone Bridge before-and-after; it shows just how unusually cold it was there (and here) during that time. I have a whole folder full of pictures taken in the recent freeze, with an awful lot of frozen puddles! And I didn’t look for faces in the puddle, I’m sorry to say; I just love the marks and textures for themselves (although I’m terrible for seeing faces and all kinds of wacky things in clouds…)

  8. Stan says:

    Fran: Thank you. I suppose the glove does look a little sinister, reaching out of the bushes! Maybe it’s looking for this.

    Doubtful: Thanks! I didn’t mean to prepare the before-and-after pair, but when I saw the later one it reminded me of the earlier one, and their contours were close enough to make a juxtaposition worthwhile. The ghostly faces were also something of a bonus: it was the puddle’s wonderfully wobbly shape that caught my eye, after which it was impossible not to notice a few faces. It’s destined for my folder of ‘found’ faces!

  9. wisewebwoman says:

    You may enjoy my current post. It might be a new word for you, not that you’d get too many opportunities in Ireland to use it…;^)

  10. Tim says:

    I came across this and thought you might like to mention it here, Stan; or at least take a gander. Sorry about posting it as a comment:

  11. Stan says:

    WWW: Thank you, I enjoyed your post very much. Ballicatters is a new and charming word for me. Who knows, we may see them in Ireland within a generation; if not, I might adapt the term for the wreaths of wrack on our beaches!

    Tim: Thanks, it’s been doing the rounds on Twitter. I’ve written about semicolons before, but my chunk of text is inevitably less easy on the eye than a fun and colourful chart. Unfortunately the chart is not entirely accurate. Maybe that’s worth a post…

  12. Stan, I love the photo of the ghostly faces in the ice. It puts me in mind of the illustrations in a favorite book around our house, “The Snow Ghosts” by Leo Landry: “The snow ghosts live in the far, far north/where snow is always falling.” And they are not menacing at all; they have ice floe races, wear sunglasses, and play at turning colors.

  13. Stan says:

    Thank you, MRP. Landry’s book was new to me, but I looked it up and it seems very charming. They are friendly ghosts, and lucky not to be frozen in an Irish puddle! I will keep an eye out for it, for my nephew.

  14. absurdoldbird says:

    Blue tits are such funny little birds. There are a lot here, but one in particular likes to tap on our window when someone else is on what he regards as HIS fatball. He taps until I go out and shoo away the intruder.

    I can only see one face because I’m trying my best not to see any… and one sneakily crept in to my consciousness. Why am I trying my best not to see any faces? Because seeing recognisable shapes in abstract imagery is how I paint and, if I when I see faces, I can no longer see anything else for absolutely hours (sometimes days!)

    By the way, I’ve added you to my blogroll (under the WordPress heading as I find it’s easier to comment when one knows the bloghost in advance).

  15. Stan says:

    Absurdoldbird: Blue tits are funny indeed, and your friend sounds like a real character! You and Bruce obviously treat them very well. Thank you very much for adding Sentence first to your blogroll. It’s an honour to be there.

  16. […] you’re in the mood for more, here are some from last winter, and here’s the photo […]

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