Yesterday I celebrated 15 years in Ireland.
And I think I’ll have people asking me if I’m enjoying my holidays (it’s the Oz accent) when I’ve been here another 15.
A lovely day to end a lovely week.
I did a lot of neighbourly things this week and enjoyed myself no end.
Tuesday & Wednesday I spent about 4 hours a day helping Dee paint the front of her shop. And did I feel muscles that had been happily dormant for years? Oh yeh. One thing I did realise is that I’m fitter than I think and my body rebounds from aches and pains pretty quickly – useful to know for when I build my cob house next year.
Just in case people think I’m just a lolling lazy princess (and proud of it!) – here is photographic evidence.
It was fun (most of the time – although I have now developed a dislike for red gloss paint – it’s a pain to paint) and I got to say hi to all the people walking the street – everyone had something to say – and it was gloriously sunny.
Thursday I decided to have a quiet barbque for my dinner – a few snags (sausages) and some grilled tomatoes. The minute I lit the barbque I had 2 of the Hamill boys – James and Eoin – knocking on the gate. obviously it was time to share the snags.
So – I let them cook – with 2 young boys constantly asking ‘ are you sure you’re not burning them Liz?’– what is it with males and barbques?
Anyway – Theresa Hamill (their gran and my next door neighbour) was enjoying the sunshine in the lane so I made her a dinner plate as well. We sat munching away and chatting as the sun slowly moved across the sky.
We were enjoying the sun so much that we just kept moving our chairs further and further back until the were on the Hamills lawn (in the front of one of the best B&B’s in town). We chatted from 6 to 9 pm.
One of the things we talked about was wealth.
I told her that I made a decision that I only want to earn around 40,000 euro a year (and folks if I worked the mad hours most people do I could earn triple that – and an ulcer) and that gave me time to – loll, sleep in, read, write, play online, be silent, chatter, be a fun neighbour, do pro bono work, develop SKIL2, create new ideas, drink champagne (photo below during my 2005 visit to Singapore – that’s a very dry martini-with brother Marc & Yang in amazing rooftop of baroque style hotel) …..
In a world where many people say they are time poor – I’m a billionaire.
I have created massive time spaces to explore who I am and how I want to live – and – I share my time with my neighbours and broader communities.
When people talk about community breakdown and apathy my question is – And what part do you play in creating your neighbourhood, community, country? When do you connect with others in your street? Do you smile at people as you walk down the street (admittedly I think I slightly freak some people when I do that – but I have such a sweet and happy smile!).
All change starts from one person – you.
I don’t wait to be asked – I offer. And in the offering – I have such a good time. And the energy of that connection with other people can only become something more powerful. There’s a kind of energy multiplier effect – one smile, one listening ear, one helpful hand (all done with good cheer – martyred giving is a pain in the arse) – where others can feel confident to offer to connect.
I am not a good neighbour because I feel I have to or because I’m anyone special. I’m a good neighbour because the feeling of giving and connection is better than champagne – and anyone who know me knows that’s big! I’m no altruist. Giving and connection is not a 1 way street- we all gain something by it.
So – on Friday I helped Gabriel (Dee’s husband) upload photos to a real estate site. And then I went home for a few hours work (yup still have to earn a few euro).
Around 5pm my friend Sinead arrived. She know heaps about organic horticulture and permaculture. She built her own off grid home and is an amazing and generous woman.
We’re creating a small garden on a lot behind the cottage 2 doors up from me. Some of the kids I know are involved and Friday was our first day.
It’s going to be a no dig garden where we lay cardboard on the ground and then old cow manure (can’t wait) – and then we will plant seeds and flowers and vege and berries in holes we punch through the cardboard.
Maeve and Eoin were our willing helpers and I’ve posted some photos below of our first steps.
Sinead chose a sun shape because that’s what Eoin is always drawing when they come and play art at my place (all the glass window panes in my doors have their painted images on them – a sun, tractors, a rainbow, a tree, a large girl and some fierce looking sharks!).
Notice the beautiful sun in the top right hand of the canvas – it is our master design.
She used a strimmer (we call them whipper snippers in Oz) to mark out the sun shape. Basically, there is the sun in the middle and 8 sunbeams coming out from the sun. Each one is a path and we are creating little round planting areas at the end of each sunbeam. The kids and I LOVE the idea.
Part of our plan is to see how much we can do for free, recycle or get given.
Dee said we could have as many cardboard boxes as we needed from the back of her store. As Sinead strimmed – the kids and I gathered cardboard boxes and brought them from Dee’s yard to the garden.
I asked the kids to have some fun drawing on the cardboard with chalks as we waited for Sinead to finish the strimming.
When she had finished we had a great time wandering the different sunbeam paths and imagining what we’d plant.
Then we got to work putting cardboard and newspaper down in each little planting area. We had to do a few trips back and forth to Dee’s as there was a lot of cardboard needed.
Then we went on the hunt for rocks to hold the cardboard down.
After an hour or so we stopped and admired our first steps.
Gabriel is donating some aged cow poo next week. I’m going to the garden shops and asking them if they will donate any plants they might otherwise throw away. I’m donating cuttings from my herbs and Sinead is bringing in potato, pumpkin and flower seeds.
I went to the garden today with Maeve and James (her brother) and we had a great time wandering the paths and playing imagining. James has great ideas for a fort and because we kept the area deliberately overgrown – it’s an ideal place for kids to play and hide.
We’re going to build a wee bench so that Theresa and others can come and sit and chat with us. James (who is 9 and a real action boy) has said that he’s going there every day to make sure that the sunbeam paths stay flat – if we don’t walk on them then all the weeds will regrow.
There are problems we are solving together.
Like – how do we keep the dogs and cats out without building a huge fence (we may make a willow fence and gate at the front of the garden)?
How will we know what we’ve planted (there will be a fun sign making session)?
What will we call the garden (James voted for a really long name – the sunshine garden in ballinamore county leitrim – he can make the sign!)? Maeve, James and I had a great time relaxing in our garden and working on options.
Maeve thinks this is all great practice for when I build what she calls my mud house. She said she hasn’t organised her friends yet for the build. Good idea says I – we won’t be starting until next year.
And Sinead has a friend who wants to publish a book on all the recipes and remedies she has developed over the years. And I asked her to bring the woman over and we could chat about me publishing it through Lippylala Publishing. This woman sounds like one of the old wise women herbalists and I’d be honoured to meet her and help share her knowledge. In a few weeks I’m going on one of her ‘weed walks’ where she tells the stories of the weeds and their beneficial effects as remedies.
Folks – none of this stuff needs a high powered committee or a feasibility study or a team of experts … it just takes an idea, some passion and a few people – less talk a little more action.
And finally – to complete a wonderful neighbourly week – I decided to clean of the mud, paint, weeds – put on something nice – and wander down to the Moo wine bar for some bubbles to celebrate 15 years in Ireland.
If you ever wander into Ballinamore (and be warned it is a kind of magical bermuda triangle where people stop and never leave) do drop into Moo for a drink. Brent and Mary are the wonderful hosts. They fitted out the bar with second hand furniture as they had a limited budget (and folks – I don’t think a recession is such a bad thing if it makes us just a little more focused on lifes real essentials) – and people love it. They have latin dancing on Saturdays, and live music and small theatre – and pretty much anything you can think of.
I had some lovely bubbles and good chat with Brent, Mary & Joe.
Up this morning early and went in to help Dee for a few hours in the shop – always great fun.
Now? I’m taking the next 2 days for silence and quiet and being neighbourly to myself.
Next week is mad busy and I have my interview for the Social Entrepreneur Ireland Award.
Life is good folks. I hope it’s just as good for you.