“The generation gap was huge. Forty years the dividing gulf, four decades of change and growth. And now they both should feel a bond? They felt space more clearly than ties. Sometimes when working together, they tried to converse to banter, which was hard. In separate worlds they stayed apart.
One night at the end of a grueling day of heat and midges and turning hay, he sat on one of the few supporting seats and surprisingly asked, “Would you wash my feet?” Surprised at this she surely felt, which looking into his eyes did melt. Flustered by the strange request, she got basin, towel and did her best, still wondering if she’d heard right or not.”Ger White
Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Original Word Lover, Ger White.
Born in rural Ireland, as rural as it gets, into the happiest of places, she described in picture-postcard detail her early life and gave us a glimpse into an Ireland, nay, a world long gone. She explained where her love of story and verse came from, a mother who sang, an illiterate grandfather who passed on story through telling, of open fireplaces, with tea warming in Nash’s Lemonade bottles, of newspaper strewn deliberately to help stone floors dry.
One of the few people I’ve met on my journey who works to live, rather than lives to work, Ger’s love of the spoken word shone through, converting several in the live audience to the world of poetry because they heard it, rather than merely reading it
Stick on the kettle, grab a coffee and enjoy the chat with Ger White on The Coffee at Eleven Show, Season 4, Episode 11 replay in your preferred way… (However I recommend video or podcast so you can bathe in Ger’s words through her own voice)
Enjoy. We did,
- Watch the full conversation on YouTube
- Listen to the full conversation on Spotify
- Or watch the highlights video / read the highlights transcript below…
Yours Truly: Ladies and gentlemen you are more than welcome it’s 11 minutes past 11 on show 111 of The Coffee At 11 Show. I’m delighted to have you here and thank you for your company. Delighted in particular, to have our very special guest zooming in from England today. And that is Limerick native, Ger White. Ger say a quick hello, cheers us with your coffee mug.
Ger White: Hello. I made a special coffee mug, a takeaway coffee with Ger on it, looking forward to the show, it’s going to be light and breezy and very manifesting.
I’m the luckiest person in the world. I really consider I am so, so lucky. And my mother and my father loved each other a lot and my mother wrote poems and my dad wrote, actually hadn’t written a poem at that point. My grandfather was a storyteller and this house was in the middle of the mountain it hardly had a road to the main road, but they still had a round, big house even there. And their neighbors would call even there to listen to my grandfather tell stories. My grandfather was… it’s fair to say he was illiterate. It’s not a secret. He couldn’t hardly read or write, but he could remember every story his father had told him and then repeat them to his children.
So then that was happy days for six months. And then six months after that, my dad moved over to a farm over in Glenbán, which is closer to Glin. And it was on a wet and rainy day on the 25th of April 1959, a very sad day. And so he had bought a farm and he moved his wife and four children over. And so then we lived in Glenbán and the day he moved or the week after he moved, he wrote a poem called… I think it was, The Home I Left Behind. So that was a first introduction to the idea of writing a poem as a way of getting over a loss or as a way of integrating or processing a change. So that was happy days still in the new home. And my mom was a very happy woman. She sang every day, and then when I was three and a half, she didn’t sing no more, she sings in another world now. Still after all these years, it’s a bit of a hiccup.
Because I was born so long ago you won’t believe this, I went to national school, it was a two-room school. And we walked there every morning and we picked up the neighbors along the way. So by the time we got to school, there was six or eight of us along the road, holding hands walking over the road to school. And it was a two-room school so there was four people in my class. There was two people in one of my sister’s classes. I think six might be one of the larger classes and it was freezing cold, especially in the winter.
So we had a big open fire at the top of the room. We were poor. We had basic foods. So we brought in a Nash’s Lemonade bottle and we’d fill it up with tea and we’d roll a newspaper cork on it to make a cork. And then when we got to school, we’d line up the bottles about six or eight of them on each side of this big fireplace. And they’d be supposed to be hot by the time lunchtime came. Well, we went out and the boys went out and they got the best of, we call them kippins, but they’re little pieces of wood and they hooshed up this fire. So the fire was blazing and so about half eleven in the morning about this time, your bottle is just smashing.
As I’m speaking about my dad a lot, if it’s okay, I’d like to read another poem about him. Is that okay?
Yours Truly: Please do. Please do. Please.
Ger White: So this is a recent poem. So he passed, making poems in another world, as well, since 2011 November. And so a few years ago I missed him and the sisters were saying, “No, I had a visit from my dad last night.” And I was like, “I don’t, I don’t feel that, you know, good for you.” So I thought I’d like to just have a connection. So I had that thought before going to bed, and I woke up the following morning with this poem. And I just say that as well, but that is a good way for me to write poems. If I’m mulling around with a thought and I have it just before I go to bed and I say to God, or whoever’s up there, I say, “Have this poem finished for me by morning.” And I wake up in the morning and the poem is already done. Very little editing needed. So that’s it, it might be a good tip for a poet; ask for help.
The poem is called Washing Feat, F-E-A-T, I have.
The generation gap was huge. Forty years the dividing gulf, four decades of change and growth. And now they both should feel a bond? They felt space more clearly than ties. Sometimes when working together, they tried to converse to banter, which was hard. In separate worlds they stayed apart.
One night at the end of a grueling day of heat and midges and turning hay, he sat on one of the few supporting seats and surprisingly asked, “Would you wash my feet?” Surprised at this she surely felt, which looking into his eyes did melt. Flustered by the strange request, she got basin, towel and did her best, still wondering if she’d heard right or not.
She mixed the water’s cold and hot, got a towel, soap, and placed them on the floor beside the basin. He was calm, tired. His feet were bare. She placed them in the basin with extra care. She’d never seen his feet before. though living together for a decade or more. Those feet were heavy. Look at those veins and the precious blood which they contained. She dare’nt look up, just go with the motion. There’s plenty to do with her towels and basin.
She gently followed the line of his bone. It took her down to toes not shorn. With every touch she understood more than language ever could. Each bruise and mark revealed the strife with which this man embraced his life. Her small hand traced another vein. Was this the man from whence she came? How come before she never noticed they shared the same amount of toesies? His second toe curved in divinely. “Oh,” she thought, “Just like mine do.” But the size of his foot, 12 inches or so, she wonders, “Is this the size my feet will grow?”
“You’re taking your time,” he says, quite kindly. She wiped a foot. She looked up finally. The love they shared as their eyes did meet will keep her forever washing his feet. Time fell away. The bond was real. She was so glad he’d asked, “Would you wash my feet?”
Yours Truly: Two quick questions, if you don’t mind. One is, what have you found in COVID that you’re going to keep and take with you?
Ger White: People. If I’m talking with people on a Zoom thing like this, and also just slowing down as well. I mean, we were running, we were running at an amazing speed, drop a child off in the morning, say goodbye, a quick goodbye. Come back and collect her, go and collect her again, home and have dinner. It was manic. It was time to slow down and find out who we are, what have we to say, what we want to bring to the world. And let’s just connect.
Yours Truly: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The succinctness and the beauty all in one. Beautiful. Thank you for that. Second question then is, you come across somebody old or new in your orbit, who you realize is actually not coping too well because of what we’ve been through the last 15, 16 months. What would your advice be to that person?
Ger White: Probably two things. One, I would just say, “Take a walk in nature.” I have a lot of poems written on nature I didn’t touch on this morning. Take a walk in nature, look around, hug a tree, talk to a tree. And if you’re near a library, get a book of John O’Donohue’s poems. And they will definitely raise your spirits.
This is about, again, what I was saying about just having favorite places that you can just know around the world and they help you feel connected. So here we go.
There are various places on this earth where hearts and souls and minds connect. In several spots around this globe we can string a line to folks we’ve known.
One such is Lourdes near the Pyrenees, where races of all kinds go on their knees. Where crutches are left and people walk tall. Where prayers go straight up, no bending at all.
Another I’ve known is outside of LA, up near the mountains of Sierra Nevada. An Indian burial ground marks off this place, which is saturated in love and joy and grace.
And then there is Tara, unique Celtic land with its green rolling hills, that stone age folk had planned. That church in the corner, hugged close to the soil, will soothe a lost soul, who would pause there awhile.
As life passes onwards I noticed some more and recently by the sea on this subject, I scored, found that connection beneath twinkling stars and meeting of universes just where we were. Surreal was that moment embracing two worlds, those gone before us smiled where we stood. The stars in the heaven paused just a while. Life here and life yonder where two lips of one smile.Ger White
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