Mature Living Magazine Sample

Page 11


F heaven on earth exists, it’s fair to say it can be found in Thelma Mansfield’s wildflower garden. Having enjoyed many an idyllic summer at her grandparent’s home in Kerry’s Ballymac, the former RTE presenter turned artist has always strived, and quite successfully one should add, to recreate the elements of the one feature that helped make those memories so special – the wild flower meadow. When Thelma spoke to Mature Living, she recalled the memory that fuelled the inspiration behind the gardens at her home in Dublin and her holiday home in Connemara. “At the back of my grandparents’ little cottage was this huge field - a meadow with wild flowers and it was absolute heaven. Magic!” Thelma recalls. “I have been always trying to achieve that wild flower meadow myself in our house in the west of Ireland. I remember running through that meadow when I was a child, and it was always beautiful weather. I don’t remember it ever raining in Kerry when I was younger. Of course that’s an adult’s memory of their childhood!” Thelma adds, “My grandad had a goat, and Mum always

drank goat’s milk. I didn’t like the smell of it, so I didn’t drink it, but that little goats milk jug was the only thing I ever wanted to keep because it brought back such beautiful memories. My grandparents also had a donkey, and we have some beautiful pictures of my sister Louise on the donkey. She had these gorgeous blonde curls, which I think I cut off one Christmas. I don’t know my mother ever forgave me for that. My grandparents had a pony as well. I remember going into Tralee on the pony and trap with my grandad holding the reigns. In fact, my husband, for my 40th birthday, bought me a beautiful trap with leather and corduroy buttoned cushions that go own along the benched seats on the trap. I also had the most stunning harness, but we didn’t have the right size pony for it, so we used to borrow a donkey – I think her name was Maggie. We’d take Maggie out and be on the road for hours. When I got the trap, traffic wasn’t so bad, but now, you daren’t go out. I know the jarveys do it, but I wouldn’t. Far too dangerous.” As an observant artist, Thelma is always on the lookout for inspiration, and her garden provides a plethora of artistic stimulation. She adds, “In my own garden, there is so much; Wisterias, fruit trees, olive

trees, and on the olive trees, I have bird feeders filled with peanuts and sunflower hearts. I don’t put out any of the wild bird seed because it will grow weeds all over the garden. I had my garden designed so that it has as little labour as possible because of our age, and also, I haven’t got a great knee, so I can’t do too much kneeling. I do get a whole myriad of wonderful birds in the garden. Having wildlife in the garden, encouraging butterflies, bees and hoverflies, is essential for me. In my studio, I have lemon and orange trees but in the garden itself, I have figs, pears and loquats, which are bigger than kumquats. We had a crop of about 200 figs this summer! It’s not a huge garden, but it’s big enough for us, for the dogs to enjoy and the grandchildren to run around when they come visit. Wherever I look, I see beautiful leaves, trees and bird life which I love.” As any creative will testify, Henri Matisse wasn’t wrong when he once remarked, “creativity takes courage.” Thelma certainly put those famous words into action when she decided against further pursuing a career in TV after RTE cancelled Live at Three, the much loved show she copresented with Derek Davis. Instead she swapped the

microphone for the paintbrush and transformed her lifelong passion for art into a hugely successful career. While her artwork is something she adores, her main priority, understandably, is caring for her husband, Johnny Morris. Johnny, who was once a keen falconer and esteemed photographer, hails from the distinguished Morris family of Galway and is the twin brother of the renowned horse trainer, Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris. “Painting wouldn’t be the only thing that keeps me busy,” Thelma explains. “Caring for my husband would be the main thrust of my daily routine. Johnny has Parkinson’s and heart disease; it’s been ongoing for a long time, 16 years, so it is a challenge for both of us but I’m a very optimistic person and I would always wake every day enthusiastic and optimistic. I start every day in the right frame of mind.” She adds, “With the right psychology, you can have a relatively good life together. We were doing an amazing clearout of his office which sounds terribly boring and dull, but it’s been really good fun because we’ve been coming across things we hadn’t seen for years. Johnny was a brilliant photographer, so we’re going through masses of photographs.

Page 11 | Mature Living Magazine

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