Two plastic sand-filled penguins live outside the front door of my home house.
They’ve been there since about the nineteen-sixties, part of my grandmother’s proud front garden. Some time in the seventies, my uncle-in-law Tommy hid one of them in the boot of his car for a few days as a joke. A search ensued. Accusations were made. These were some very important plastic penguins.
We moved to the house in 1994 and altered it significantly to suit a family of six. In conciliation, my mother painted a tribute to the old house, depicting a neighbour, Bob, stopping to chat, Grandad (Paddy) at the gate and my grandmother Josie (whom we never called Granny) cutting the hedge. Just outside the front door is one of the penguins, up on a little pedestal.
The 1990’s rebuild made the house much bigger. The main body of the old cottage was converted into three bedrooms. My Dad gave his teenage and pre-teen kids a lot of say in the renovation and they (we) really wanted an upstairs. There was a more integral redesign option that would have preserved the layout of the old house better, and I remember being torn between that, and the view that a second storey was going to give.
I’m glad of the view. My bedroom windows face east and south at the back of the house. You can see several different townlands of rolling green fields and stone walls, five ringforts and all the way to the group water scheme resevoir in Lavally. Me and the kids still love to wake up and open the curtains first thing, especially if we’ve arrived in darkness the night before. See what the weather is like, see what’s new since our last visit. Grass grown or eaten since the last time we visited. Leaves on the trees, or branches more bare. Cattle or sheep moved to different fields. Baby lambs. Corn growing on the hills. A horse. A painted fence. The house martens back to nest above my east window.
The penguins are still in the garden, moved to a rockery now. My Mam keeps them spruced up with fresh coats of paint. I washed them in the kitchen sink to see if I could see any brand name and found the word Selcol on the cap plugging the base of one (the other base was substituted with an old cap for a Ford car fuel tank).
I tried to research them a little, but didn’t come up with much. A quick search online only came up with the following “Selcol was an associate company to Selmer, who were displaced in late-1968 from their factory in Braintree, Essex in order to make way for the relocated Selmer amplifier production facility. Prior to being closed down, Selcol made plastic garden furniture and toys”.