The suitcase. Full of college note books, a camera and some letters.  Photograph: Getty

It was 1973. My American girlfriend was great at kissing. I was terrible. And in the middle of it she would ask questions that mad(...)

Anti-water charge protesters outside the Irish Water head office on Talbot Street at the end of November. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

It’s not just that our masters want money to service the reservoir system or upgrade the pipes. That would be fine. But they want (...)

‘There was no sound as delicious as my neighbour’s tractor in a field of grass as he sat steering and twisting his head to watch the rake toss the mown grass into perfect lines behind him.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

When a farmer dies in the countryside, there is a strange emptiness in the fields

A lesson in empathy on the train to Sligo

The master of the accordion, Tony McMahon (above) often repeated a single tune over and over again at concerts, using it like a chant, drawing people in. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Listening to the accordion music of Tony McMahon could allow a man to live with his own loneliness

‘It was humbling to be among so many women.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

Women are open because that’s the nature of connecting with other humans, whereas what makes me depressed is my inability to conne(...)

Sloe and steady: a blackthorn bush

The old man pointed to a bush at the gable of his house with yellowing leaves and purple berries. ‘Oh, look,’ he said. ‘A blacktho(...)

‘I have a friend with long, black hair and a precious fiddle. He pulls the bow across the low strings, bleeding a deep sound out of them, like a shaman opening a door to the other world.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

Music induces in me a clarity of thought far beyond the fog of religion or philosophy

‘On the bus to Cavan, the woman who looked like Joan Baez crossed the aisle and sat beside me.’ Above: the actual Joan Baez. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Michael Harding: It was her skin that interested me. I refused to accept she was 65

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