The Day the Sun Came Out – in Ballydehob!

It always happens: you go through a ferocious winter of gales, floods and bitingly cold winds and then one day – probably not too long after St Brigid’s – you realise that spring is arriving! It happened this week, here in Ballydehob. Suddenly, the sun came out; the sky was deep blue and all the coloured houses, bars and shops lit up and made us remember what a wonderful place we live in.

Ballydehob – that’s the name in Irish, above, on the gable of the community’s Bank House. A literal translation would be Town of the ford at the estuary of two rivers and, indeed, the Bawnakeane and Rathravane streams converge here before flowing out into Ballydehob Bay, once a hive of water-borne commerce with coasters, schooners, sand-boats, and punts and skiffs from the inhabited offshore islands arriving and leaving, while the tiny train puffed and rumbled across the viaduct on its way from Skibbereen to the Schull terminus.

When you feel the spring in the air for the first time, you begin to look anew at your surroundings. Shapes, reflections, the play of images on water: there’s such a difference as the ‘ordinary’ is changed through the quality of the light. That’s the freshness of annual renewal.

There are so many little details in the townscape that we can overlook, or just take for granted. Ballydehob has a long history of creativity, which is reflected in shop signs, decoration, window dressings. Take a stroll in the sunshine and see if you can find anything new!

You don’t have to wander far from home to welcome and experience the joys of a new spring. You will also find yourself looking forward to the seasons still to come, which will bring Ballydehob to life with its visitors, galleries, festivals and gatherings. Not to mention the hostelries which feed the body as well as the soul.

We are looking forward to many sunny days to come as the year warms up. Meanwhile, we can always revisit happy memories of our village life through our photographic archives. Thanks to Judi Whitton for the endpiece watercolour featuring our wonderful Budds, just turned five years old this weekend: congratulations to Jamie and his dedicated team!

Bumper Crop!

It’s the end of the summer – and harvest time. Over the months I have been gathering in yet more signs and curiosities from our journeys around Ireland. It’s now time to show off a few of them . . .

Some are obvious – and intentionally humorous; many are simply puzzling or inexplicable. Hopefully, most are at the very least entertaining. They don’t require a great deal of comment. But it’s certainly fertile ground for gleaning. Wherever you find yourself, take a good look around you: there’s a bumper crop out there.

When you start ‘collecting’ signs, themes seem to emerge. Just over the last few days the animal kingdom has come to the fore:

Well, that’s enough of that theme for now – although there are more ‘pets’. To finish off, another miscellany – and I’m keeping some good ones back for another day.

Simply Signs

More sign spotting: always an agreeable pastime. These – which come from far and wide on our travels – add to previous collections of words and images spotted in Ireland: Good Signs, Juxtapositions, March Miscellany, and Impressions.

This is a very subjective survey: I’m showing things that I find intriguing or amusing – others will have different reactions. It just goes to show that, for us, there’s never a dull moment here: long may that continue.

In Skibbereen: look carefully here: -some things are easy to miss!

That’s enough for now! There’s plenty more in the collection – look out for them another day.

Showing the Way

Loiugh Hyne signage

I’ve always been impressed with Ireland’s boldness when it comes to modern design – whether it be buildings, townscape or – today’s subject – signage. That’s probably because my working life was spent designing architecture mainly in England where the brief, too often, seemed to be to produce something that would look as if it had been around for a hundred years… I could never bring myself to turn out pastiche and, consequently, suffered many frustrations with clients and planning committees.

We have just been to see one of the new signs marking ‘Signature Points’ on the Wild Atlantic Way: it’s at Lough Hyne, a marine nature reserve just outside Skibbereen which we have mentioned many times before in our posts. The Lough was a freshwater lake until rising sea levels flooded it with salt water – probably during the time when the Bronze Age inhabitants were carving their rock art in the area. The lake is now fed by tidal currents that rush in from the Atlantic through Barloge Creek. It’s one of the places that we take our visitors to: it has a quiet, rugged beauty – and a fair share of holy wells in its vicinity.

Lough Hyne panorama

Island on Lough Hyne

The new sign is everything I would want from a 21st century waymarker: it’s simple but distinctive – completely of its time; well made from a long-lasting modern material – corten steel (mentioned in a previous post). It could still be around for archaeologists of the future to discover a few thousand years from now as the surface will use the natural rusting process to create a permanently stable and very attractive patina. It’s a contemporary monument and – like the landscape around it – rugged.

The design incorporates the Wild Atlantic Way logo – very simply but subtly using a W, an A and a W. I commend Fáilte Ireland and their consultants in this project, Red&Grey Design. It’s worth looking at their website for a detailed description of the identity proposals and the way it all works.

I believe the new signs have received some bad press, with complaints that they are ugly and detract from the natural environments that they advertise. Generally, however they are being placed where there are already car parks, cars, railings, seats, litter bins etc: human activity. I don’t see any problem in adding distinctive and practical pieces of sculpture in such settings – a grand Irish initiative!

Hyne sign