I was in a restaurant near St Stephen’s Green in Dublin last week, enjoying a panino stuffed with ham, cheese and tomato, when two young men came i(...)

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

I was trying to protect the firewood from the rain last week because I have no shed. I got scaffolding that had been lying in the grass since the b(...)

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

I was in a room recently with 250 women. There were only two other men present, a waiter and a guitar player who plucked his guitar on the stage as(...)

Sloe and steady: a blackthorn bush

Once upon a time an old man introduced me to a blackthorn bush. It was in November. I was fishing near the lake, and, as usual when I got a big pik(...)

‘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 5:18

I asked a monk one time what his best advice was for a happy life. He looked me in the eye and said, “Be here now”. He didn’t have much English(...)

‘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 5:18

I was in a bookshop on Grafton Street recently when a man from Co Fermanagh whispered in my ear. “My mother never hugged me in her life,” he co(...)

Michael Harding at Lough Allen, Co Leitrim. Photograph: Brian Farrell

There is a cocktail called a Tornado. And I know a woman with three children who describes the pain of childbirth as a tornado. And love can often (...)

Michael Harding at Lough Allen, Co Leitrim. Photograph: Brian Farrell

A neighbour of mine had a marmalade cat that spent all last winter in the kitchen, but when the spring came he vanished, as tomcats do. The cat had(...)

‘I’m very sorry about that, Mr Frog,’ I said. ‘I didn’t see you in the grass.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

I was mowing the grass when I came across a frog. He was lucky, because he hopped away before the machine had a chance to slice him in bits. And he(...)

Sheep in the Mourne mountains

I went to visit Little Lotus last week. It was late in the evening, and she was at supper with her partner and child. As I came in the door they we(...)