Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Precious Resources

It was raining this morning. One of those September Monday mornings when everything is getting back to normal. The kids are well settled back at school by now and the Sunday evening dreads are a real feature of every weekend. Offices and businesses are at full flow and in a way it seems as if any holidays were months ago, stuff of legend and happy memories. The leaves are on the streets, the council is cutting back the hedgerows, the apple trees are heavy and the evenings are drawing in.

I waited for the rain to stop and did some work to get the day started. About 11am the clouds lifted ablackbeerrysnd the sun came out, or at least there were a few spots of blue sky dotted along the horizon. Those early leaves make walking up Ballyard Hill a bit slippery but Daisy and I picked our way through them easily enough. At the top we turned left for Ballymullen and though the rain was gone, it was very muggy. The blackberries are rotting on the vine which is a pity to see. It was my intention to get out and pick some over the weekend and I hope it isn’t too late now. It’s a pity to see such a fruit going to waste when it can be picked for free and yet you see people buying cartons for €1.99 in a shop. Such is the way with our globalized markets and I often notice that the sparsely filled cartons are labelled as the produce of another country.

Coming back along the Lee River walk I saw a helium balloon stuck on a branch overhanging the full river. The water was flowing at speed and the balloon was hanging there like a spectator at a Formula One racetrack, moving in line with the motion of the water.  It is fully inflated with the words ‘Congrats’ written in funky letters. Congrats on what I wondered? A new born baby? On reaching 18, 21 or maybe 85? Who knows but I doubt if someone waded out to tie it to the branch to congratulate me at the halfway mark of my walk. I didn’t get much of a lift from seeing it either. It looked sad and sort of took away from whatever occasion is was bought to mark. ‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’ as my Dad would say whenever a once successful football manager would get the sack.Balloon

Seeing the balloon hanging there also made me think of how much we waste in the world. The balloon is full of helium, a precious and unique gas. We can’t make more helium and it can’t be recycled. It is a finite resource and yet here we are pumping it into fairly pointless balloons that at the most have the lifespan of a day or two. Helium is used in MRI scanners, in space travel, to conduct vital scientific experiments and in the computer industry. The US stockpiles helium as it is seen as such a vital resource. They opened a facility in the 1920s and this is still in operation today at a place called the Bush Dome in Texas.  Though a new field of helium gas was discovered in Tanzania a couple of years ago, it still doesn’t take away from our waste of the precious element. Are we going to spend millions exploiting the field in Tanzania only to blow it all away?

Along with the blackberries going to waste and getting angry at the helium being squandered in a fairly pointless balloon, I was like a green pioneer when on the last leg home. The home that felt warm when I got back inside, the one with the hot shower I then took and the fridge full of food from which I am now going to get my lunch. I probably won’t give up those comforts of modern living but I will go picking blackaas and there won’t be any helium balloons at my next birthday party.

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Tralee Town Park


During the early months of the summer, I went looking for a good walking route. A half hour, at least, of steady walking time and allowing me to get up a good rate of heart activity. I tried a few ways, though estates and along the roadside. They all had drawbacks; damaged footpaths or in some spots nowhere to walk at all, too much traffic or too much doubling back were other problems. So I tried the town park as I had never been inside and knew nothing about it. At 35 acres it is one of the largest urban parks in Ireland and only five minutes from home.

What a space to discover, with its multiple entrances and paths that link the town centre together. You can go in at Denny Street and come out on Dan Spring road or enter at Castle Demesne and end up by the Library. My first day inside and I’m surprised with the size and those connections it makes.  I didn’t know that I could walk from home to the library in under twenty minutes. Nor did I know that my favourite off-licence can be reached by slipping along the side of St John’s church before coming out onto Castle Street. All at once Tralee becomes obvious, the layout of this medieval town makes sense and you see how it works.

Castle Demesne is my way in.

On my walk the Green school is to the right, quickly followed by the Pres and the back of the Gaelcholaiste Chiarrai. Just after the entrance to the Green is an unoccupied house. It is of the bungalow style as you would see in its original form in India. Maybe it dates from the time of the Raj and was built deliberately in this style. My friend Finbarr tells me that the park-keeper used to live there and did so for many years. As the council does not employ a full-time park keeper anymore the house is empty. Now on my wanders I wonder what could be done with this building and how important it is not left to go to ruin. A café? An arts centre? A meeting house? All of these rolled into one with other ideas thrown in?

Maybe if the park is better utilized, so this lovely building would find a function. The council could advertise health walks through the palodge1rk. Leave your car at Siamsa Tire and walk to the banks, the town centre or the library. It would cut down on traffic in town, increase awareness of the park and help improve people’s health. With more people walking through the park, there would be a bigger footfall for that café. Possibly more people would use the park when they know they can drop in for a snack or see work by local artists. The house isn’t too far from the kids’ playground so parents could still keep an eye on the children. The community garden is right beside it, an obvious source of produce for a café. You can’t get more locally produced than a kitchen garden out the side window.

All of this gives people more contact with their town, gives them a sense of ownership of the park and makes us all better citizens in the process. A healthy walk must be preferable to being stuck in traffic and searching for parking. I’m not exactly sure about the current trend for wellness but twenty minutes among the trees, smelling the scent of roses in bloom and breathing fresh air must do wonders for your mental health. A bit of joined up thinking, just like how the park joins-up the town, might make even better use of the great resource that is the Tralee Town park. It wouldn’t take much, the raw materials are all in place and already well developed. Just a little bit of forward thinking may go a long way.

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You Never Know What Is Happening Out There

Daisy and I are coming back from our walk. It’s about 8 o’clock on that Friday evening which only comes around once year; the first weekend of back to school week. The kids stay out as long as possible, trying to recapture that feeling of the last three months, when they could stay out late without needing to get up in the morning. School hasn’t yet become a burden and it seems as if life will be carefree forever. When I walk through the arch the kids are running around in the last of the evening light, screaming and having fun, chasing a ball and ignoring time. Finbarr, one of the Dads keeping an eye on the late evening funsters, walks out as I pass:

“I suppose you’re going home to write about your walk?” he asks.

“Not tonight, nothing happened,” I smile in reply.

Nothing never happens though and I think about our walk, replaying it in real time in my head.

Sure it’s quiet going up the hill but the apple tree behind the derelict cottage surrounded, by the old stone wall catches my eye. The tree looks heavy with the unwanted apples and it gets me thinking about what I can do with them. Make jelly? Mix them with the yet unpicked blackberries into a crusty pie? I don’t have long to think about it as Daisy begins barking at another dog, a dog that sounds as if it has emphysema and I think it best to move away.

Going down to the left at the brow of the hill we pass a farm where an elderly lady is parking her car in the yard. Her grey hair is neatly done and the yard is very tidy, opening onto gently sloping fields, bounded below by a band of trees. I say ‘hello’ over the steel gate and she replies with a smile. In the fields to my left six or seven Charolais are on an evening stroll, fine looking animals with a bull strutting along behind, as if he is the farmer. The grass is high and a lovely shade of green, reflecting our wet weather and no doubt helping the cows achieve the weight yield for which they are famous.

Moving on, we crisscross the road a couple of times as there are a couple of blind bends ahead. The road also narrows as it goes through a patch of heavy tree cover, which makes visibility poor at this time of the year. Back on the footpath we pass a line of three women, dressed in regulation walking gear, walking in stride and chatting. Quite often we pass them and though I always say hello, I never get a reply. Tonight it isn’t any different, though one woman does look up when I speak, so I do exist, but still doesn’t answer.

“I always thought that too,” I hear and wonder what that conversation is about but I’ll never know now.

Around the bend the footpath finishes and we cross over to the one that runs along by the mixture of houses with the mature gardens, which looks like a suburban street in any Irish town. Not a soul, man nor beast, do we pass, though a couple of cars slow for the speed bumps outside the estates on the other side of the road. Just by Lidl, a woman passes with two girls, one on a scooter, the other on a bike and I say hello and yet again no reply. Am I invisible? Through the little park we go, and over the bridge that spans the Lee River.

Now I let Daisy go. She likes being able to roam free; she isn’t traffic savvy and at least here we are on a pedestrian walkway. We are separated from the roads by a belt of housing and further along by open spaces before the Rose Hotel. Daisy can run into the bushes, chase her shadow and tonight be scared by a tall plant blowing in the wind. She actually runs back along the path and when I call her she refuses to budge, her eyes pinned on the scary pink flowers that droop like a Triffid by the river’s edge. Her hair is standing up along a line down her back and her wide open eyes say nothing but fear. Eventually I coax her past but she doesn’t get over this easily. All the way along she jumps at every movement, reminding me of when I would do the same as a kid walking home in the dark.

The path winds its way along by the river, bending slightly in line with the course of the flow. Beyond the Rose Hotel is a series of apartment blocks, not any different from those built anywhere during the boom. At least these are occupied and I see people unpacking Friday evening shopping, with the young kids excited by what the parents have bought. A man passes with a dog on a leash, a Newfoundland of some type and Daisy hides behind me before running past as fast as her little legs allow. Now we are on the straight path and a couple of kids are canoodling on a bench. Not the worst place for it but the girl doesn’t look too happy, maybe she was expecting more than a Friday night by the river or maybe the young fellow has just said something stupid.

As soon as the exit appears I put Daisy back on the lead. A few weeks back she ran out in front of a car and was very nearly no more. The young fellow driving got a massive shock as he screeched to a halt inches from her. She froze in the middle of the road, making the drama even worse. Lesson learnt by me but not by Daisy and she is liable to do the same again. Out of the exit and we turn for home, under the arch and back closer to that ale in the fridge.

So nothing did happen but life went past, people went home, Daisy got scared and I got a thousand words.


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The Lone Council Employee

During the Rose of Tralee Festival, Daisy and me were on an evening walk. As we climbed the steps into the park I could see a big black dog to the left but he 20160825_102727[1]wasn’t paying much attention to us, though Daisy was checking him out. He was eating a slice of bread, which he’d pulled out of a freshly dumped black bin bag. The entrance is also by a carpark and someone had obviously driven up and dumped their rubbish behind the closest tree. It is a secluded area and no doubt they did it without being noticed. The dog eating the bread had made big tear in the large bag and was delighted with his find. I wasn’t. ‘For fucks sake’ I said out loud which caused the dining dog to look over, though not stop what he was doing. Daisy growled a bit, not that the other dog took much notice.

Walking off into the park, I could hear the sounds of the festival ahead and see the crowds of people milling around in the early evening sun. What I could see also was more bags of rubbish, dumped in the brambles that grow along the edge of the path. Someone was getting rid of a lot of rubbish or was it more than one taking advantage of the secluded spot? Usually there is a van or a council worker somewhere in the park and though it was 7.30 at night, it was Festival week and maybe, I thought, there was one on late duty.

By the main entrance the food stalls were doing a good trade and the smells of frying meat, bubbling doughnuts and barbecue sauce were filling the air. A few of the escorts in their monkey suits were taking the shortcut to the Dome and other well-dressed couples were headed the same way.  No sign anywhere of a council employee though and this was annoying me. At the gate I spotted a man in a high-vis jacket, with a blue polo short beneath it. He was wearing heavy duty gloves and was pointing up Denny Street, giving directions to a few tourists. ‘Just up there on the left, you can’t miss it,’ I heard him say as I walked up the short, sloped pathway. As the tourists headed off I stopped.

“Sorry, are you with the council?” I asked, just as I spotted the Kerry County Council logo on the jacket.

“Yeah”, he answered, looking a bit quizzically at me.

“It’s just that some prick has dumped a few bags of rubbish, big black ones, over the other side of the park,” I said.

“Where? Over by Castle Demesne?”

“Yeah, just as you come up the steps.”

“I’ll go over there now,” he said, with an enthusiasm not always associated with public servants, especially at nearly eight o’clock on a summer’s evening when everyone around them is having fun.

“Jesus that’s great” I said, “there’s a dog having his dinner out of one of them.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that,” was the answer.

The next morning, I bounded up the steps at about 8.45 AM. I looked to my left and there it was, it was gone. The brambles were clear too. The man was true to his word. The park was spotless wherever I walked. The bins were empty and except for the odd bottle left over from late night drinkers, you would never know that the previous evening had been the last one of the festival and that the town was heaving. It was as if it had never happened.

This came back to me this morning when I read of the reduction in council services due to deceased funding. Numbers of outdoor staff has dropped 19% in the last few years. I wonder if many are left of the likes of the man who had cleaned up someone else’s mess the previous evening? Very few and I guess he will not be replaced when his time is up. Yet you will hear people complain that the council should do this or do that and rubbish is a disgrace.

They can’t do much without the money.



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