Rossendale Free Press

Can you find words to lift spirits?


I MENTIONED in a recent feature that it was time for a competitio­n, well the time has come and it is three tasks in one.

You know all the quotes people post on social media?

The ones about what to do if you feel down, feeling less than positive or even downright dodgy.

Well here is your chance to make one of your own and in the process help lots of other people.

This is the age of being able to get things off of your chest and both men and women can admit to being victims of depression and visits from the so-called Black Dog and I would like readers to produce a few words that someone struggling with their mental health can latch onto, find resonance and hopefully some comfort in recognisin­g that they are not on their own.

Task number one is not simple and believe me the very notion can put the frightener­s on the most experience­d of writers.

Oh sure, journalist­s, poets and scribes of all descriptio­ns will have the words in their lexicon, but a bit like the old Morcambe and Wise piano-notes gag, the words are there but not necessaril­y in the right order.

I confess that I recently got annoyed with a pal who kept stealing and posting ‘other peoples’ quotes and berated him for not writing his own.

On reflection I was being snobbish and smacking the backside of my high-horse.

Woah Trigger, I whispered to my trusty steed, realising the task is very difficult.

So it was time to put my money where my mouth is and this is one example of my own attempts at a few profound words.

No explanatio­n is necessary or forthcomin­g and multiple meanings may be drawn...From the quietest halls comes the loudest bidding.

And here is your second task, what do you understand from my quote, what does it say to you and does it ring any bells with your own life?

After writing for so long I am awake to all things, especially in the countrysid­e and there has never been a time when there was not something to photograph or write about.

There is inspiratio­n in everything outdoors and, let’s face it, we are lucky in these parts.

On occasion there is stimulatio­n in not being able to do anything at all.

For example, I had twisted my ankle and was holed up in a cottage by the Atlantic 50 miles west of Galway and the Heavens had opened.

It rained for 12 hours solid, beating down like the pattern of my bodhran (Irish drum) on the old tin roof and I could see the briefly sketched mountains playing hide and seek behind the shredded curtains of Atlantic showers and I wrote in response; being there is enough.

And believe me it was, not least because I had pigs feet boiling on the hob with cabbage and spuds and could easily reach a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey from my fireside chair.

In a later article I extended this notion with the following opening sentence in a national newspaper; even in winter fuchsia hedges bloom in mild Connemara and donkeys hold sway on roads that last saw real snow in 1963.

Last, but not least, your third task: as an example of something that tickles my fancy when outdoors, the other night when I was out walking Connie, (short for Connemara) our 11-yearold but pup-like springer.

The route took us from Mossley Alto down a tree-lined slope to Bottom Mossley.

I was grateful that there were lights every hundred yards or so and for two reasons.

Firstly I could see where I was going and secondly for the wonderful colours it produced.

I was willing badgers and foxes to cross over, as I know they are nearby and you’ve guessed it, I kind of saw them anyway, as their lives played over in my mind from past encounters and then, as if by magic, a tawny owl gently graced the ‘set’ from left to right.

Bingo, the owl reminded me of tales of old Ireland when little pathways or lanes like this, known as ‘boreens,’ were the haunts of the so-called ‘Little People,’ Banshees and Leprechaun­s.

I still kind of believe all those stories, especially the one about the Banshee knocking three times on your bedroom window.

There was a tree very close to the room I stayed in at my Auntie Nancy’s cottage in County Carlow and during high winds the top branches would rap against the glass.

I would lay there under the covers counting each strike and breathing a big sigh of relief when it got to four and beyond.

All manner of wildlife has found it’s way into folklore, so you could perhaps do some exciting research.

Take this about the humble but beautifull­y coloured starling (pictured), seen in, of all places, KFC in Ashton.

They can take us into the shape-shifting world of artistic experience, opening what Seamus Heaney calls “a door into the dark”.

But it is when they flock together in large groups that starlings really come into their own. A murmuratio­n.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, sitting on the coach to London in the winter of 1799, captured the surreal beauty of this behaviour in his notebook: “Starlings in vast flights drove along like smoke, mist, or any thing misty without volition... some moments glimmering and shivering, dim and shadowy, now thickening, deepening, blackening.”

And of course, the starling is right up there with the owl in Celtic myth.

All you need to do now, is to write about what this picture reminds you of and it can be a poem or a piece of prose, but no more than 300 hundred words.

You can even combine this job with the first and produce your ‘quote’ using the photograph.

I’ll say no more.

Just for the fun of it, all entries to me at sean. by December 15.

As a fine example of off the cuff words of Irish wisdom, this imaginativ­e farmer in County Kerry said to me when I asked him directions, ‘Ah well,’ he said, ‘it depends which way you are going?’

And then when I enquired further he said, ‘It’s a long road and I’ve a short leg!’

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