That Curious Love of Green

Little House in the Forest

Little House in the Forest

I have often talked here of my grandparents house and my memories of it. They, my Dad’s parents, lived close to the mountain, but the house I knew was never home to my Dad or his brothers and sisters. Home to them is the house they were born in, higher up, a little stone house by a river with a great tree for climbing. This was a wonderland for children, far from the road. A prettier place that now sleeps in the forest, ever more, ever closer to the forest floor.

Dad and I went to see it on Sunday. So here we go in…

dad 1

dad tree stump

Follow the path. Leave it.

dad forest path

Fuchsias. First sign of Nanny, ‘she planted the mountain with them,’ says Dad.

dad fuchsia on floor

‘Come on Jane,’ he says while laying a coat on old rusty wire, forces it down, flattens, lays waste to and points out the dangers, just as he’s always done.

Getting close now…

dad fuchsia in air

The forestry’s calm. The only sound’s the nearby river but the light is astonishing, ethereal, luminous. The atmosphere is warm, closeting and more inviting than you’d imagine from the outside.

dad tall trees

Dad took my picture…

Jane in Trees

This, he tells me is a Primus Stove, a paraffin stove for cooking on. He tripped over it one night coming from a dance. He hung it on this tree where it’s stayed ever since. He tips it, smiles and moves on.

dad stove

dad stove long

First glimpse of what’s left of the house…

dad house

‘The wall was stone up to a point, mud after that with a thatched roof. Even when living here the thatch was hard to maintain. Blackbirds were the biggest problem. They would tear a hole and the rain would come in.

We were always trying to catch and kill them, no one cared for their song then. They were too big a problem. I killed one once with a stone from a good distance, my uncle was very impressed with my aim.’

If you were lucky enough to live by a lake you could thatch your house with reeds, more durable.

Not here.’

dad tidying house

He showed me the stones.

‘The black ones are wet, from the river bed. Always black, always wet, not good for a house but the people, they used what they could get.’

dad corner of house

Dad stands by the fire with his hand on the mantel and talks about them. The kind uncle, the children, the mother…

dad at mantel

dad teapot

You can just about make out the doorway here…

dad doorway

The dividing wall’s moss covered, starting to fall

dad dividing wall

The remains of the chimney and hearth still holds court.

dad mantel close2

When my grandparents left from here it was to the house beside my Dad’s grandmother. It was much better being close to the road but it was never home. Dad was gone to England by then.

dad mantel close

Here from the moss he uncoverd the lintel…the large stone from over the fire, or door.

dad lintel

This is what they called the ‘wallco’, a wallcove perhaps! A little inbuilt press! I wonder what nanny kept there? It seems very her somehow. I put my hand in and conjure her who is so easy to conjure. Nanny the young mother with her ‘wallco’ and her fuchsia’s and her fire.

dad press

I don’t feel sad here. I mean I do feel the sadness of generations of Irish people who left places like it knowing they’d never return, but to me it’s magical, grounding and peaceful. Life was hard for the mothers, too hard. But I love the impressions they left, you can still feel.

Here a river runs through it…

dad river

And if this tree could talk it would talk not of forestry, machines or of men, but of children, nine of them. Mary, John, Josephine, Anna, Eithne, Tommy, Bernadette, Brendan and Margey.

dad tree

dad play tree



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