When I wrote yesterday about not minding about being poor...it was intended to come across as a bit tongue-in-cheek...for one thing we have a roof over our heads and we can afford a car even if it's a pain having to find the money to run it and tax it and everything else and wo-betide when it goes wrong because that is all extra funds to be found from somewhere...

Being poor or hard-up is relative isn't it...it rather depends on what you are used to for a start. Father used to complain about being terribly hard-up when he was down to the last case of Whiskey...I wasn't intending to make light of the very real problems associated with a lack of money. I find it awful difficult when people have worked for their entire lives only to find when they retire that the pension they are grudgingly handed out by the government goes nowhere near paying for their essential weekly outgoings...

Just occasionally government departments throw hard cash at you...we discovered we're entitled to claim the British winter fuel allowance. I know...totally mad. We don't have a house in England...we don't live in England and we don't visit England. But half our pension comes from England. So I filled in the forms on-line and we sat back and waited for the postie and sure enough he brought a cheque for £200...they pay it all in one fell swoop you see. What is even dafter is that they'll continue paying us that sum until one of us drops dead...we don't have to apply again, the next payment will be automatic.

Of course that £200 was quickly ear-marked to pay the new community tax that the Irish government has just brought in...then there is a new charge for your septic tank and another one for the water and another one for something that they haven't yet dreamed up, but give them time and they will.

But when I grumble under my breath about being poor, I mean I'm too poor to put a new roof on the cottage...I don't mean I can't afford to buy good food...when I wish we had just a little more money in the bank it's because I'd really like to have another kitchen cupboard and a new bath 'cos our bath was the one we had when we had ducks...it was their pond you see. I did scrub it out mind you...before it came indoors.

We don't ever need to think of the cost before we go to the Doctor...all our medication is free but for a token charge of €1-50...I spent almost three weeks in hospital with every test, every x-ray and all meds free of charge. Too many people cannot afford even basic medical care and go without new teeth or essential blood tests because either they aren't available in their countries or they simply can't afford to pay for what they need.

I was cared for around the clock by trained staff...no member of my family had to come and change my bedding or bring me food...well, Himself brought yoghurts and fruit but that was an extra...not an essential.

We might not have the amount of spare cash that we'd like but we live in a beautiful area of countryside and my garden...such as it is...is full of birds and butterflies. I can't order a new roof for the cottage but can walk miles along the old bog roads and see wild orchids growing undisturbed...the people who live near us in our little townland are kindly and always willing to stop for a chat...the donkeys bring us huge amounts of pleasure when they snicker as they see us coming with a carrot or a biscuit in our pockets...I might bath in a bath once used for a duck pond, but a Blackbird nested right outside the sitting-room window in a nest she'd built in the honeysuckle and she didn't mind a bit when we peered at her babies with their beaks agape.

We can leave our doors and windows wide open and I can bike down the laneways without ever being fearful...maybe I can't buy the fabric I really lust after, but I can get incredibly cheap sheets and duvet covers from the charity shops and dye them to the shade I like.

When the kitchen roof leaks that's solved with a carefully placed bowl...would be lovely to have it fixed but when we walk along the lough shore I can pick up fossils which are billions of years old and fragments of clay pipes discarded by a fisherman a hundred years ago and watch the huge emerald dragonflies hover over the water...

The Victorians thought that being poor was sinful and came about through being lazy and wilful...but they doused epiletics in cold water so what did they know...we know being poor isn't much of a joke but those of us who live on or near to the breadline can find other ways in which we are rich beyond measure...good friends and fresh baked bread...the very first bumble bee of summer...a wren shouting at the top of it's voice because you are too close to her nest...finding a small fragment of old pottery...a donkeys soft nose and the funny face he pulls when you blow gently in his face...a soft pink rose unfurling her petals just for you...a book by a favourite author you haven't yet read...

Small delicious pleasures which we might miss out on altogether if we were rich beyond compare.