Six on Saturday – National Garden Exhibition Centre

I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching.

For thirty-five years I returned to work during the first week of September. It marked the beginning of the new school year and put a halt to my summer gallop. My wife and I slowly stopped going places, we began the slowing-down process in preparation for winter stay-at-home coziness. This semi-hibernation lasted each year until the end of February, and although I no longer work for a living, our summer still finishes at the end of August. The first of September is like New Year’s Day.

Our only staycation this year was in County Wicklow the week before last, and I include memories here to look back on in thirty years time, using the nursing-home-supplied iPad. I’ll be 92. Come along with me on a magical journey to the National Gardens Exhibition Centre in Kilquaide, County Wicklow on the east coast near Dublin. As with the recent storm-force-Francis winds, I’m bending the SOS guidelines very severely as these images are sixteen days old.

1. Move along, move along…

Step from one garden into another, similar to moving from one season into the next. Life moves along and changes, sometimes seamlessly and at other times abruptly. There’s a step up this time. In other cases, life throws in a step down or even a steep drop.

Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. - Yoko Ono

2. Let there be darkness…

We visited in mid-afternoon, following forty-eight hours of rain and wind. The weather was just beginning to brighten, yet there was a darkness very uncharacteristic of August. I am reminded that life brings such dark moments when we least expect them. Embrace life in all its strange times.

3. Think beyond…

On a more positive note, this little nook brings to my mind the beauty of looking beyond the present. There is light beyond the darkness. This time will pass.

4. Creating from nothing…

Whoever created this scene obviously started with the stone steps and planted around them. I’d like to think that the creator is able to see the beauty that has resulted. A vision to create beauty from within.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

5. Shade and Light…

I was struck by this scene. Life brings us moments of bright sunshine and darker times. The trick may be to realise that everything is constantly changing. Rotha mór an t-saoil. The wheels of life keep turning.

6. New arrival. ..

This is the Wicklow Budda. I’m told I should rub his belly every few days. Marion has waited a long time to find the right one for this spot. I did mention that a Fitbit would look good on his wrist but she knew I was only being half-serious.

7. On a personal note…

Throwback to this time seven years ago. My retirement clock. I’ve been #busybusy ever since. Busy also finding time to do the things I love. Cycling, gardening, writing and lots more. I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching. Here’s to the next seven. I’ll be 69. (Originally posted on Instagram. I’ve no time for that Facebook craic, and I’m better for its disappearance from my day.)

That’s my lot for this week, a cháirde. I’ll be back with more an Satharn seo chugainn. In the meantime, please visit Mr. Propagator’s garden blog where you can find many more Six on Saturday offerings from around the world, together with details of how to participate if that’s your thing. I’ll be spending some time today, tomorrow (or perhaps even yesterday?) reading articles by so many others, and I’ll not be clock-watching ar chor ar bith. I hope you have a great week, be it in the garden, the potting shed or elsewhere. Slán go fóill.


5th September 2020.

My Sock Is Falling Down

Every so often, I notice a plant that is struggling. One of the very obvious signs is severe dehydration. It droops noticeably, and would sink into a deep state of illness if the issue were not rectified.

This is NOT my usual gardening style article. It came to be as I thought about what to add to my July Instagram write-every-day challenge. The theme for the day was “Pink and Green”, but rather than find something in my garden, I photographed my winter wellies and added a quote. Pink sock, green welly.

The author of the quote is unknown, yet I feel it was a man. In my mind, I choose to think it was a man, and for the purposes of this blog-thingy article I choose to attribute it to all men.

Here are some insights about me which I wrote on my About page when I started this website:

  • Writing is good for my head. When head is good so is everything, including some fast biking and slow gardening
  • I write when I’m well, go quiet when I’m struggling. Maybe it needs to be the other way round?
  • I have seasonal depression (in spring ffs)
  • I love when folks respond to my writing, but it is primarily therapeutic.

I chose to get this written simply to focus myself, through all my writing here, on the importance of the writing process. My garden is the subject of all my writing, yet the underlying impetus is the writing itself. It is my medication and my meditation. It works for me!

As with millions of others, I’ve had my struggles. Personal issues throughout my life sometimes became too difficult to handle, and mental overthinking went into overdrive. I regard myself as being incredibly blessed (in a non-religious fashion) by the support of my close family and a few close friends. This support has enabled me to overcome temporary roadblocks and has given me with an attitude of gratitude. Indeed, it had brought me to an important realisation (better late than never!) that it is in giving that we receive.

Lessons Learned in the Garden

For a moment, let me attempt to relate all this jumbo-mumbo to my garden… Every so often, I notice a plant that is struggling. One of the very obvious signs is severe dehydration. It droops noticeably, and would sink into a deep state of illness if the issue were not rectified. Simply by watering, the poor thing recovers.

Watering is a simple first-responder solution. However, the underlying issue may be deeper and other solutions may be necessary. Talking is one therapy that works, and it works for plants too. Charlie is actually right! Here are two YouTube videos that explain how trees “talk” to one another:

Therefore, if talking has therapeutic benefits for the plant community, why not for humans? Specifically also, why not for men? We love to talk shite, frequently while sitting on a bar-stool, yet will refuse to talk about stuff that needs to be said and listened to.

Back to my garden once again…

I went searching through my older articles and came up with this from February 2019. Click the picture to read the original. Depression, cycling, writing… It’s all there, and a nice story too of a good day out.

In winter, I will wear thick socks and wellies when the weather is wet. Not so in summer. Pink socks? Yes, I have been known to wear just one, but it keeps falling down.
My mam used to advise that blue and green should never be seen together. In the case of the fallen pink, it remains unseen. Men need to talk about these things. Because it’s hidden to others, men keep these things all bottled up. Not good.

In relation to bottled up, I’ll finish with a summery image from 2018. In this case, I can vouch for the beneficial use of whiskey. Relaxation in the garden is great. I don’t need the whiskey to say what I need to say.

Throwback to last Saturday

Whiskey was mentioned. That’s twice in less than a week. I’ll have to have a word with myself!


Monday, 20th July 2020.

Late Breakfast

There’s not much to do in my garden so we visited the beautiful town of Lismore. In the Vault Café, I was thrilled that they were happy to serve me a fried breakfast. Nothing very surprising there, you might think. However, as it was after 3pm, they might easily have said no. The served up a great breakfast (including yummy spinach) and I loved it!
Afterwards, we took a short ramble around the Millennium Park to inspect the Bug Hotel and other environmental initiatives. These hotels are becoming a real fashion. Perhaps I’ll work on a miniature version. Another project for the list.
As we drove home, I listened to an inspiring radio interview on the Ray Darcy Show. Ray spoke to “Mr Ireland”, a young Galway man who combines hurling, modelling and Mr Ireland competition. His story about seeking help for mental health issues resonated beautifully with me. This is also becoming fashionable. Men have tended to be like the ostrich until recently. Now, things are changing. As Bertie used to say: A lot done; more to do.
In my case, I have a few strands to my bow: cycling (both leisurely and intense), gardening and writing. Each helps me in various ways whenever life circumstances become difficult.
The cycling today was leisurely for 55km and moved to the intense side for the final thirty minutes. Just as the lovely downhill return from Old Parish began, somebody lit the fuse, to such an extent that I recorded my max HR as we approached the foot of the descent.
Time for coffee. The Vault comes highly recommended.


12th February, 2019.