Some day we might figure out how it happened that Ireland, a once conservative, Catholic society where abortion is still illegal, mobilised and voted to enshrine equal marriage in our constitution? Where our young people came home to vote from all over the world, where Grandparents spoke in favour of something which for their generation had been unheard of. Where we all wept one minute and grinned our ears off the next and couldn't believe in the goodness of some people or then in the downright meanness of others.
What swung it? How did the likes of us, end up here, marching in this Pride Parade with 50-60,000 others? At that first meeting in the Mother of Pearl Cafe in Tramore, I wondered how we could possibly pull this off and how devastating it would be if the country voted No?
8 weeks later.....it seemed as if the world had changed.....
For me it was always about creating safety, belonging, love. We were asking for something so positive, a YES. We were asking Ireland to grow up, to embrace diversity, and citizenship. And in keeping with my own work of 30 years in Framework it was also about progressing equality which would impact on everyone.
Looking back I now see that while it's a step in the right direction it needs to be the beginning of lots more positive change. Having been involved in this work most of my life, I have no illusions that getting here took a long, long commitment by some absolute legends who dedicated their lives to it. There are still other areas of inequality which remain shamefully and blatantly off the agenda of the powers that be, in spite of similar commitment over years. Finding the key to the next steps will be a challenge for us all.
I am still caught up in the romance of it because love won!!! All of you who played your own part, walked side by side with the LGBTI community and went out to vote YES were a part of that. Today along with other campaign teams from across the country, we celebrated our #Pride and privilege of being part of an amazing community and a life changing event in our history.
And look at the great team we had in Waterford!! (Too many to mention but you know who you are xxx)
There are some sweet memories here in the Yes Equality Gallery
Photography is fraught with cliches. You couldn't get through a day without re-creating most of them. Even so, I'm in France, in a field of poppies and I stand awe struck and think, why not?
I'm guilty as charged when it comes to romanticising the natural world. Even though I don't enhance or photoshop at all. (I'm waiting until at least my seventies before I sit down to master that.) But maybe it's just how I want to focus on the world and what's in front of me? That for me a love of the natural world and the time to enjoy it came later in life and so it all moves me as if I'm experiencing it all for the first time?
These poppies appear to be bleached out with light and I struggle to adjust to a much lighter palette here. They are moist with dew drops in the early morning. They spread as far as the eye can see and mingle into a swathe of wild Irises in the distance.
I decide to check up on the Impressionist Artists as I imagine they all indulged in a fair bit of hazy blurry romanticism. Curiously I find that Monet one of my favourites, has used the same set of washed out orangey red and soft mossy green in his painting Poppies near Argenteuil
There are heavenly moments in photography. When everything surrounding it overwhelms the senses. The colours, the scents, the lasting impressions. These feelings live on in the images captured in that moment and can bring me back in an instant to a dewy morning in Le Val de Loire.
See more photos from France here
This inland path is meandering from river to river, through the Loire, Vienne, Creuse, Dronne, and Charente valleys. While there hasn't been a plan or even a guide book, we have a basic map of snaking blue rivers with their most beautiful banks highlighted in green. The simplicity of this and the element of surprise around every corner has been a lot of fun.
The landscape and the villages change as we go south. From the green oak woods and strong currents of the Loire to the clear deep pools of the Dronne. From a chorus of toads each night to the cries of owls. From small gardens of organic greens to acres of vines as far as the eye can see.
Being here off peak and going inland has allowed us to experience a more quiet and peaceful side of France. (Coming from rural life in Ireland, crowds, big cities and traffic are not my idea of fun!) The back roads, rural villages and foxglove lanes of France have been a revelation. It's the land that Starbucks and the internet forgot, so finding wifi that works here is always a challenge.....
It's slow. There is no rush, no agenda, no destination. For two days we sit on a river bank enthralled by azure blue dragon flies in 30 degree temperatures; we swim in a swirling river pool, have breakfast under an ancient oak tree. Some days we roam deserted village streets, ramparts and flowering castle gardens. On others we pause, eat patisserie and browse French hardware shops (fascinating btw!).
I enjoyed the bit of teasing about posting a photo of myself and the camper van. (You know who you are and you know I don't really like to do this, but OK just this once then!!) It's a converted 5 year old VW Transporter with a pop up roof (our third camper). We had our first one in the 1970's when we drove around Europe busking and making pavement art to fund the trip, but this one is wired and plumbed!!
While it is tiny compared with the enormous camper vans here, it allows us to travel up and down boreens that those monsters couldn't attempt. To give you some idea, one of the biggest campers we have seen had a sliding door at the back revealing it's very own little smart car for running around when the giant camper got too much!!!
Back on planet river bank these few weeks feel like a deep breath in the middle of the road of life. Or maybe a kind of extended date with Himself? And now I find myself wondering if this escape could go on just a little bit longer..........
We never know exactly where each day will end; camping on a free range duck farm, parked on the bank of a leafy river, lapping up a rose scented village. The Loire Valley has won out over the west coast and it has turned out to be a magical meandering off the beaten track.
We move slowly. No need to eat up miles or get to any particular destination, no clue what lies ahead. Every twist and turn surprises. Today it's the roses.
Of course there are castles to beat the band. But sometimes I find myself with my back to the chateau and my lens trained on the window over the boulangerie or a small side lane of cottages. Picturing who might have tended a mature rose bush and trained it over their doorway? Who planted the window boxes and gardens or lined the walls of village streets with climbers and creepers? Who cared so much, thought so creatively, worked in the heat of the sun for this beauty?
Liberty, equality and fraternity provides a basis for ordinary people to flourish. It doesn't give people any more resources but emphasises the right to belong. The valuing of each citizen makes France a country designed around social space and the importance of community. A place where ordinary people care about the country they share and here in the Loire Valley it means planting roses everywhere.
Along the route there are facilities, opportunities to share the land, understanding and empathy for the traveller. We are crisscrossing old paths used for centuries as pilgrimage routes. You would never be without sustenance or a place to sleep. Perfect for independent travellers. (I won't go on about the French public toilets, to be honest they have improved over the years and at least they have them in every village square. I was tempted to take a photo of each one I visited and rate them, but there's a terrible lack of romance in it? Suffice to say to travel off the grid you have to deal with a variety of basic challenges every day, more about all this anon)
Himself and myself have been mostly at peace with the lack of a plan. This is such a contrast with the previous few months of our lives, where every day was rigidly scheduled. If you are wondering about how it might be to come down after months of overwork and crisis management? It has been ridiculously easy! I suppose the 40 years of being on the road together helps in that......
Working around each other in a tiny camper van (VW Transporter with a pop up roof) is like being on the deck of a small boat. We manoeuvre tasks and re-organise in a space not much bigger than a large double bed. Himself being "6 foot 2 biddly-boo" has had to do more careful adjusting. Elbows, heads and toes are especially vulnerable to being clobbered.
Living in the open air wouldn't suit everyone. (We just swam in a river and later saw a snake slithering upstream!)You won't always come by a shower or a cooling breeze when you need one, and it's a constant number of repetitive tasks that keeps the whole shebang ship shape.
But if you are up for it, you will find that you are more carefree and present, more aware of the scents of the earth and more at peace in your sleep than in any fancy air-conditioned hotel.
PS I'm having a bit of an issue with uploading photos from la vie sauvage so bear with me if these are a bit wonky!!