As I march along my daily route, movements catch my gaze hither and thither, swinging my head from side to side, up and down… the water gushing from a hole in the roadside, being splashed onto unfortunate pedestrians, by indiscriminate wheels; a tail of hair trailing behind a cyclist whizzing down the last part of the hill; a child in uniform dragging a buggy and parent from a red front-door with coloured glass panels; two birds flitting indecisively between the trees…

“And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same…” I sing… but no, if I stop to think, or look a little closer, I know that those birds have names – not Peter and Paul like the childhood rhyme, but “classifications” I think we could call them – so these I know are blackbirds; I recognise them by their size and their orange beaks. The trees, I said – another generalisation (useful in some contexts perhaps, but lazy often) – though I don’t know all the types and names of trees. At this time of year I recognise many types by their shade of green and their blossoms… so, here on the hill are cherry, lilac, laburnum, apple, chestnut, hawthorn, elder and dozens more… and some aren’t even trees, but bushes and creepers and other types of plant and vegetation. When summer comes I shan’t recognise most of them, though I may remember that the one on the walled corner is the magnolia, with the pretty maple in the hollow… some I know best as they shed their fruit later in the year and others only as the autumn waves her wealthy palette of gold and copper upon them. Such beauty and diversity, yet I called them trees! How do I know the names of some and not others? Five decades of loving the trees, eagerly learned from a mother who fought to grow them on a wind-swept island and, later, who hugged the trunks of trees whose names she had quite forgotten… Some types I will never forget due to emotions grafted into their association: laburnums were my father’s favourite and we would watch as he made himself a tea from their poisons, saying he wished to be buried under the yellow boughs in our garden; the cherry blossoms that snowed on us infants their pink confetti in my first year of school…

As you walk up the hill beside me, you may not even see the trees, but you may know the cars, their classifications, their makes and even their names, of which I am a complete ignoramus. To me, “there are red ones and the blue ones and the pink ones and the yellow ones, and they’re all made out of…”

I do this with people too; we all do – I generalise based on immediate observations and emotional responses. We each have our alien groups, which are “all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same” – they may be a certain brand of politician, a religious group, a criminal type or “deviant”, or a favoured type who sit on rosettes and can do no wrong… but if I take a closer look, listen carefully and am interested enough to identify unique features, I may learn who you are and next time, I may recognise you again and smile…

10 thoughts on “Ticky-tacky

  1. It’s funny to read this, because earlier this week the ‘Ticky tacky’ song was on radio 2…
    You always inspire me to write but by the time I get to where I could put my thoughts on paper they have changed, or gone, or quickly become something mundane and uninteresting. It’s good to take in all that we see and observe it’s beauty….nicely put Dawn. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A poignant piece. Wonderfully shows the delights of living and life with the very great sadness of seeing and feeling someone slipping away due to Alzheimers. A very powerful contrast. Brilliant. James O’Riordan


      • now I understand- you expected it to be about dementia and so you imagined me and Mammy walking up the hill and her forgetting all the names… Fascinating! And yes, that fits too. 😀


  3. Nice piece and so true. Sometimes I have to stop myself feeling critical of the joggers and cyclists who rush along the canal path near us, or the dog walkers who track through the nature reserve talking to their friend or the dog. They don’t notice the birds, wildflowers, etc, but they are in a different world, their world, which is meaningful to them…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s