Bells of Ireland

Normally, I’d be reluctant to start a sentence with the word “So”. It seems everyone and anyone has jumped on the bandwagon in recent years.

So, just to prove that I haven’t completely lost my horticultural touch, here’s a little thing I grew this year for the first time, don chéad uair.

It’s called Bells of Ireland, officially Moluccella, and it’s a dainty thing. I set a square foot of seeds, perhaps twenty in all, yet only a single plant made it this far. For that, I’m grateful. I’ve watched the bees flitting about it, but they usually don’t linger very long.

I had noticed the intricate veins on each bell. As the nights have become colder, the flesh has crumbled, and only the skeleton remains. I’m tempted to remove it to the compost heap, but I will wait to admire its final show.

I’ll also be able to look back at it on Instagram. You can too.

Instagram @paraigdeb58

Normally, I’d be reluctant to start a sentence with the word “So”. It seems everyone and anyone has jumped on the bandwagon in recent years. Have a listen to radio interviews and you’ll be shocked at the number of people who overuse the word. I’m screaming at my phone! STOP, in heaven’s name.

To clarify my use of the word, I have done so simply to be able to show what I mean.


Coming Out: I can’t Update My Name Right Now

This post was written in 2016 on my old Kilcaroon blog, and I’m reposting it here once again for clarity.

It’s time. I’ve had this post in the back of my mind for the past thirty-something years, and now the time is right—time for me to put on paper my long regret in order for me to move forward.

I refer to who I am deep down. Who am I? In short, I am Pat Burke. Since 1985, I have used the Irish version of my name. I like the Irish language; in fact, I like it very much! However, the reason behind my decision at the time was filled with confusion, and as the years rolled by, I continued to be troubled.

Journey back with me, please. I had been teaching in Dublin since 1978, using my name, Pat Burke. Mr. Burke, to my pupils. I started my second teaching job in West Waterford in October 1985. A strange thing happened on the day I was signing my contract. A particular local priest, who shall remain name nameless, visited my home. As I was ready to sign the agreement, he mentioned that he had a favour to ask. He said that he would like it very much if I were to use the Irish version of my name, Pádraig de Búrca. Now, it needs to be said that I applied for the job as Pat burke, and I was informed in writing that I was successful. The letter is in my name, Pat Burke. I feel sure that he was flying a kite; that this suggestion came from him alone and was not in any way associated with the Board of Management of the school.
Fast thinking time…and to my regret I agreed. I really felt that my choices were limited. In 1985 Catholic Ireland, what the priest wanted, he usually got! So, I started 22 years of teaching in West Waterford as Pádraig de Búrca. Immediately, I discovered that I was, in reality, two people! My parents and family knew me as nothing other than Pat. All of my schoolboy friends did likewise! I was a schizophrenic! Monday to Friday at work, I was Pádraig, and everywhere else, I was Pat. Shortly afterwards, to rectify the situation, I changed my name officially to the Irish version. Within months, Pádarig de Búrca was on all my correspondence, and as I began to integrate back into Dungarvan life, I became known as such. Many, many people became very confused.
I joined the Dungarvan Badminton Club as Pádraig, met my future wife as Pádraig, and as the years rolled on, I joined Dungarvan Cycling Club as Pádraig. Understandably, the transition was a difficult one for my parents, siblings, cousins, and school friends.
Interestingly, my wife and I adopted a slight variation. I did not like Pádraig, as it has a rough guttural sound (for anyone unfamiliar with the language, the phonetic pronunciation is “paw-drig”). The “d” in the middle bugged me, so we used Páraig (paw-rig) at home! More split personality issues now.

In or about 2010, my family brought up the anomalies with me, and I was glad they did. I was happy again to be called Pat by my mam and my brothers and sisters (dad had passed on). Some had a tough time getting used to the initial change and found it easier just to stick with Pádraig. Some rowed in with my Páraig variation, while some were more comfortable with Pat. My nephews and nieces are completely confused. Fast forward to 2022, and I am back to my previous Pat Burke incarnation.

So, let me put this to bed. I have long-standing regrets about my 1985 choice. My name is Pat Burke, always was, and always will be. The Irish version of my name is not me. So, what happens now?

Realistically, I am not going to change my name back again. I know so many people through teaching, friendships, and local involvement with several clubs and organisations that it would be very impractical. My darling wife calls me Páraig, and this I like almost as a term of endearment as it originated only between both of us. Several close friends call me Páraig, which also pleases me. I am 100% more comfortable with Páraig as opposed to Pádraig. But, the time is right for me to be called Pat by my family. Full circle… in fact, several interconnected loops.

Footnote: I started using Facebook in 2010. Since then, I’ve used so many variations that even Facebook itself is at its wit’s end: Pádraig de Búrca, Pat Pádraig Burke, Pádraig Pat Burke, Pat Burke, Paddy Burke (I don’t know how I thought that up!) and currently Páraig Pat Burke. And a lovely story to finish: I joined Tried & Tested Triathlon Club, using my official Pádraig de Búrca title. The club uses Facebook for messaging. When a member of the committee met me recently, she mentioned that she did not know what to call me and was sure that my Christian name was Páraig Pat, as in persons using two Christian names, e.g., Paddy Joe or Mary Ann (should that be Mary Anne, I wonder?). I appreciated her curiosity and confirmed that Páraig is my favourite name. Earlier today, I tried to edit my name on Facebook to “Páraig de Búrca” and use “Pat Burke as a nickname, and here is the error message that came up: “You can’t update your name right now because you’ve already changed it too many times. Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.” I wonder, perhaps, if it would make a difference if I were to email/share this with Mr. Z. Perhaps I’ll launch a campaign to force FB to allow more than six name changes without undermining safety issues! I think ten would be a good number.

If you were able to follow all of that, I’d love to hear your slant on it! If you are entirely messy, that’s understandable.

The Ring

It’s not every day a man turns thirty. Paul approached this milestone with excitement, and the engagement ring was safely hidden away among his t-shirts in the top drawer. He realised that the trick was to remain completely focused. Mia had reminded him that serving tables at the café was such a dead-end job, and he was all too aware of just how right she was. Previous attempts to create the perfect moment proved that the carrot approach had not worked. In fact, from his first moment of ambition, he had failed miserably. Six months now, following a botched first attempt, his memory of complete failure still haunted him. He had chosen the filthy café kitchen to go down on one knee, but it just did not go down well at all.

“I’ve just got to get myself out of this damn cage!” he shouted to himself. “Get myself a job that she’ll look up to.”

His mind exploded as he faced his demons once more. He knew perfectly well that Mia wanted the tiger within him. He would know too that his thirtieth birthday would likely see the ring appear once more.

That evening, after a most delicious dinner together, and a walk by the sea, Peter got it all off his chest.

“There’s work going aboard The Lady Belle below in the harbour, and they’ve said I’m perfect for the job”, he whispered excitedly. “I’m starting next Monday.”

As he brought out the ring for the second time and pretended not to notice that she was red-faced with excitement, he moved closer to her.

“Will you marry me, Mia? Will you?

This story is an assignment I have for an online writing course that I am studying. To be honest, studying is not something I thought I would be doing at my age!

The criteria outlined was to include as many words as possible from this list:

  • trick
  • memory
  • aboard
  • tiger
  • pretend
  • carrot
  • appliance
  • cage
  • rings
  • crow
  • filthy
  • explode


I Changed My Mind

A woman is allowed to change her mind as often as she wants, and her adoring partner might just as well get used to it!

A woman is allowed to change her mind as often as she wants, and her long-suffering adoring partner might just as well get used to it! On the other hand, when a man changes his mind it’s a sign of weakness, indecision or initial misjudgement.

Lest you begin to think that there’s unacceptable sexism going on, let me assure you that I am being playful and light-hearted. I do so as a means of introducing the topic of changing your mind, or more specifically, changing my mind.

Last week, Marion said there’s something different about me.

Yes, I do feel different. I’m changing my mind. There were parts of my mind that needed changing and I’m changing them.

I am reading a book by Shirzad Carmine called Positive Intelligence, and I am in the middle of an online course. Positive Intelligence is a fancy term for changing your mind.

The big question is… Does it work? My gut feeling is that it does, but the proof of the pudding will be in about six months or more. You see, although I already see that my mind is changing, I’ve linked this process with an ongoing life struggle that I’m hoping to defeat. I am about 10-15kg overweight, and I’ve tried many different approaches to my overeating.

It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to has power over you.

Leon Brown

How will changing my mind help me to lose weight? How will changing your mind help you to lose weight? Or, for that matter, overcome your stubborn obstacles, or become the person you want to be? Yes, the person you were born to be. Born to be, but not realised because your mind has thrived on keeping you stuck.

For more, visit Positive Intelligence, and/or contact me for further information.


That Friday Feeling

That Friday feeling… Even in retirement, it’s mighty. I’ve managed to get to the end of another week!

That Friday feeling… Even in retirement, it’s mighty. I’ve managed to get to the end of another week!
Did you know? The normal lifespan is 4000 weeks. That’s a lot of wine.


Circling Around, Going Nowhere

“Tell me something, John…”, but she said no more. It was as if she were trying to figure out the question in her head for the first time.

John was used to this. He understood what was happening, or not happening. So, he was knocked for six when his sister finally put it in words.

“Are you gay? Like, I’m sure you are and if you are then that’s OK. I mean, I’m just not sure and my mind is addled.”

“Jesus Christ, where’s all this coming from? I could never figure you out, that’s for sure”, he lied. “Addled is right!”

He was not ready to tell Nora that her mind was not in any way addled. He had always known her to be sharp as a pin, and they knew for sure that one day she would ask. Yet, when the words came out, he went into a tailspin and the conversation he had practiced in his head over and over again just would not come from his lips. “Was it Robert put that into your head? That fella has a mouth on him, and if I were you…”.

“No, John. Robert is Robert. He’s scatty and a bit loose with his tongue, but no. ‘Twas when I met Aunty Rachel last week, she said something.’ Twas a bit strange at the time, I thought.”

“I’m thinking I’d best not know what she’s saying about me”, he said, more to himself really. His eyes looked away and down. He wanted to say “Yes, I am”, or even “Yes, I think I am”, but he was not able. Those words remained locked inside, circling round and round, going nowhere.

“These things are complicated”, he whispered into the phone. “I just couldn’t come out and tell her. We rehearsed it over and over. Be brief. Use short sentences, we said. Tell the truth. Tell our truth. So, I just don’t know what came over me. She’s my twin sister, and I couldn’t tell her. I just threw it back in her face.

“John, listen to me. This is the first time anyone has ever said anything to you about your sexuality. Trust me… if Mary asks you the very same thing tomorrow, you’ll have had this time to help you figure out what you need to say. And what’s more… I bet you understand just as well as I do that people around town and in the office are thinking about whether you’re gay, and they don’t need to ask you, because they’ll just figure it out for themselves.” He hesitated briefly before adding… “It’s easier for you than me.”

“I know. Your’s is a harder one for people to get their head around. But still, when she said it straight out, she might just as well have hit me with a hammer.”

“John, everything will be grand. Mary loves you and she’s on your side”, said the young priest. “I’ll give you a ring tomorrow. In the meantime, go back over in your head about how we practiced, and then just give yourself permission to say your truth. If you say your truth, you won’t go wrong”

I Am Better Than I Was

I am better than I was. It is a commonly used phrase. I have heard it so many times. I am better than I was. Every time I have heard someone say this, or in fact any time I have said it myself, I understood it to mean only one thing. I (or you or other person) was bad, but now I am not as bad as I was. For example, someone who has been sick or in hospital, who is on the mend…

Now, I am understanding the phrase in a completely new way. Allow me to explain what I mean. Last Thursday night, I spent about five hours sitting at the kitchen table, getting my website sorted. I started at about 9pm, and just as my dear wife was heading to bed, she said to me that I was going to be sorry the following day.

Visitor: I hear you’ve been very sick. How are you now?
Patient: Ah, I’m better than I was.

Commonly heard at hospital bedside.

As it turned out, I was not nearly finished, and I was sorry the following day. Good God almighty, Dear Wife was right once again!

Dear Wife: You’re hunched over that laptop and you’re going to be sorry tomorrow!
Me: Ah, shur, I’ll be grand. I’m nearly finished now.

Having sat with bad posture for such a long time, my lower back was achy on Friday. The following day, as I thought it might be a bit better, it was worse; and by Sunday it was downright painful. I noticed that I needed to walk very gingerly and even a few trips down the garden did not bring me the usual joy I had come to expect.

On Monday, I decided to skip my session in the gym and begin to help myself in some way. I rested, I slowed down and I also spend some time stretching on the mat. I did two fifteen minute stretching sessions, and spent the day being generally kind to myself and my dodgy back.

A friend of mine mentioned that perhaps I might try to see the positive side of the previous few days, and immediately I knew that she was right! Yes indeed, look for the bright side. Delve a bit deeper to see what lies beneath.

I knew that she was right about delving deeper into what was happening. I did have some time on my hands later that afternoon, and I did succeed in finding the gift! In, fact as I went to bed last night, even though I was still not fixed, I reminded myself that it was very likely that my back pain would be gone when I woke up.
So, you might be wanting to know, what was the gift? Well, to be honest, you do not need to know what my gift is. I am able to understand myself better because of the issue I had with my back for the previous few days, and that’s as much as needs to be said for the moment.

So, let us go back to the phrase I started with. I am better than I was. Here is another way of interpreting that little phrase.
Me (having reflected a wee bit about life and stuff and four-day back-pain): I am better now than I was. In fact, I am better than I was before the back pain started. I was sore, I did some sensible things such as resting and stretching,
I was open to understanding why this stupid pain came my way, and this morning my back was no longer sore. Hurray and yippee. Now, let us bring it one step further. Not alone am I recovered, but I want to mention now that I am better than recovered. I am better than I was before the five-hour laptop marathon.
Why am I better than I was? Well, for starters, I no longer have pain in my back, but much more importantly I now have an insight into myself that I was not aware of last week. I am better than I WAS.

Have you had a negative experience that was painful? After the pain was gone, did you just say to yourself, thank crikey that pain is gone? If so, was that the end of the matter? Would you have been able to see the setback as an opportunity? By living life in a positive way, there are greater opportunities to become aware of the incredible strength we have within us.

Please consider leaving a comment in the comment section. That’s the best place for comments!


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