Monday, January 21, 2019

Brings Tears

If you wish to buy the book the link is here.

I've been so moved by readers over the years. Especially those who get so involved in my works of fiction that they can't bear not knowing if the character was based on real life and on whom, or what happens next, or what was their childhood like or did their conflict resolve or....I had this experience when writing for a magazine years ago and also when I toured my play. It touches my heart at such a deep level.

As a result of the anthology I have many readers "find" me on the web. My name is unusual enough in that a Facebook search always givas an ah-ha! moment and then a private message.

I've received a few of these since the book was published. One brought a heartfelt message from a young man saying in all his years he never heard of another whose name (mine) was the exact same as his dear grandmother's.

Another said the story of "Norah" hit him so badly that he had to find out if I knew this person in real life as everything about her was so real and authentic and I could only write it if I actually knew her. (No I didn't, except in my head).

Another told me that she had lived the experience in "Lament" and I must have been there too and watched the whole thing take place. (No, I didn't - but any betrayed woman knows the frozen feeling).

I am so grateful when people take the time to write to me and express their feelings about my work. Yeah, tears spring.

And I usually take the time to write to authors I admire also.

Karma can be a good thing.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Blog Jam

Living in a seniors' building, death knocks on doors periodically and is a reminder of our own mortality. One of The Ladies died on Friday night. She was having trouble sleeping as her sister was sick and she was worried. The doctor refused to give her sleeping pills as he was afraid she would get up in the middle of the night and fall. Her sister died on Wednesday night and then Gillian (a pseudonym) died on Friday night. They were both in their nineties. I know, a great age. But the judgement of the doctor I do question in not prescribing her something, anything, to help her sleep as she was most distressed.

Needless to mention a pall descends on the building when this happens, we are all quite subdued and reflective.

I realized in meditation this morning that I just don't have enough hours in the day to Get Things Done. The things I want to do, the things that bring me joy.

I have a great idea for the CBC memoir contest and have been scribbling notes everywhere I go and on bits of napkins, etc. More on that at some later date. But for now, I am laughing at some of my memories which start out as being sad but turn a corner. A lot more work is needed.

Then my niece showed me this one needle method of knitting socks, yes! including turning the heel!, and I thought this old dog can learn a new trick if she works really hard at it. And yes, dropping stitches as I went, nevertheless I persisted, as I am wont to do with most new skills. And this started to climb up the needle.

I am reading this rather wonderful book: A Gentleman in Moscow and I can't get enough of it. I have to pace myself because of all the other stuff going on. I think it was Anne Brew, a frequent commenter here, who recommended it. Thank you!

Next week there is something on every day which necessitates putting on my nice face and leaving my nest. I shouldn't complain as the alternative is where Gillian is. I am glad she kept going, with her erect, proud, tall, military carriage, right to the very end.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Words for Wednesday

Lissa at The Memory of Rain blogspot is hosting January's Word for Wednesday. Please go visit her to read what others have done with the cues. Her sound cue is here: And I confess to nearly falling asleep listening to it, it's so soothing.

And/or: it's going to rain today; chasing storms; umbrellas; charmed; a long journey; trains.
She'd always loved trains. She loved the isolated world they represented. She particularly enjoyed riding them alone. Being free to look around at the other passengers, the tiny dramas, the tears sometimes, the drunkenness, even the loutish behavior of football lads going home from a game. She loved the sound of the wheels on the tracks, the occasional darkness of a tunnel, the announcements, the dining car, the bar, the screeching into small stations along the route. But today was different. the carriage was steaming up from all the wet umbrellas and coats and hats. The rain outside was unrelenting, coming down in vertical streams, bouncing off station platforms.

Everybody's mood on board was affected it seemed, including her own. She supposed it was finally her turn now, her life had been charmed until a short time ago. Her high school sweetheart still in her life, wearing his promise ring, class valedictorian, university scholarships graduating with honours. And now? This long journey ahead of her, leaving a storm behind her, facing a possible storm ahead. Was she chasing the storm or the storm chasing her?

She'd done it. She'd broken up with James after 7 years. His face would haunt her for all time. Then she'd told her parents. They had been horrified and disgusted with her. A guy she'd met at Trinity a couple of months ago? She was moving to Africa with him? She might be pregnant? She was throwing her life away. She'd tuned it all out. But now their words were riding in her brain to the rhythm of the rain and the rails.

Ashok would meet her off the train. He would of course. Though he hadn't answered his phone in 24 hours. But he was like that sometimes, he'd get involved and forget. She wished she wasn't so much head over heels in love with him. It sure was another storm. This intense storm of emotion and passion and god knows what else.

She looked out the darkening window and saw her reflection in the window.

The rain made her face look full of tears.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Remembrance on a Landscape of Snow and Fog

I took this picture yesterday at 4.14 p.m. Yes, the days are lengthening. This was just about outside my front door. I was struck by the light snow on the field and as I gazed upon it, the shape shifted and I was back to my childhood self, 10 or 11 years old.

Snow was rare in my Cork, Ireland childhood. Sunday afternoons we'd walk the hills around the city. My father's "job" on those afternoons was to form a small platoon of his more mobile children and frog march us off to faraway hills, thus giving my mother her only respite from household management and abandoning her to the current infant.

He barked instructions at us to keep our backs and shoulders straight and would become enraged if our feet weren't aligned perfectly on the road.

These walks seemed inordinately endless to me. And I had the burden of being the eldest - if I didn't adhere closely to the Rules of Walking with Father I was considered a Bad Example. Sniggering and giggling were considered a hanging offence. These promenades of a Father and his Perfectly Behaved Children were a grim business indeed. If we met anyone he knew, it was agony keeping still while he talked of politics or church.

So, to bring me to the above picture and the memory it evoked, which is still as clear as a bell to me.

There was a rare sighting of snow on a field behind a farmer's gate up on a sheltered hill. I remember being overwhelmed by the desire to slip through that gate and just play in it. It was a very light sprinkling but in my mind I could already see the enormous snowman if we gathered every scrap of it onto one spot on the field.

"Out of the question! Don't be ridiculous!" barked my father and marched off, trailed by my brothers. I didn't think twice. I squeezed through the bars of the gate and managed to make one tiny snowball before his enraged roar reached me.

No supper that night. I had to walk in front of him from now on where he could see me. No allowance for a month.

Worth it?

Hell, yeah.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Words for Wednesday

The month of January 2019 is hosted by Lissa and you can visit her and see what others have done with the prompts.

This week the prompts are two photographs rather than words.

The pain sliced through her like a knife still. She'd left her small flat after the cowardly text and her responses, what time was that exactly? She hauled her phone out of her pocket and checked, 8.45pm, the night before. She'd been waiting since 6.30 for him to show up. It was a year since they'd first met on Tinder. Their anniversary. She'd cooked Italian knowing how much he loved it. And bought him a little gift too. The candles were sputtering and dying in their holders by the time she knew he wasn't coming.

At first she'd been incredulous.He breaks up with her by text? She'd called him and called him, no answer. She'd texted and texted, each one using more expletives, more than she realized she knew, moving way beyond potty mouth. She'd finally thrown on her coat and walked and walked until she reached his door and she banged and banged until one of the neighbours shouted down he was calling the police. Then she walked and walked some more. Her head was swimming, she wasn't thinking straight. Those tracks could be an answer to all her shattered dreams. They'd even talked children, a house, a wedding. He'd met her parents, though admittedly her dad hadn't taken to him. Not that he suspected but she knew her dad. She heard a loud sob and realized it was coming from herself. She stopped and pulled out the phone again and stared at the screen, absorbing the words one at a time. "Hiya, not working out 4 me. Met new. Moving on. Ciao."

She walked to the edge of the platform and considered the rails just as the sun started to come up. It must be dawn. What? Where had the night gone? That punch in the gut was still there but easing, was it easing? She looked up as the birds began to sing. Funny that, once the traffic started up and the trains began to run you'd never hear them at all. But now? In the silence? They were singing as if their hearts and souls could reach the sky and beyond. Look, three of the them on that street lamp over there.

She yanked the phone from her pocket once more.

"Sorry to call so early Dad but I'd like to take the first train down, is that okay?"

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Nollaig na mBan - Women's Christmas - a re-post.

Of all the posts or articles I have ever written, this is the one that has gotten the most attention and the most links from other blogs and publications. I reprint it here in its entirety and I am so, so happy this beautiful custom is now being held all over the world and not just in Ireland. Emails from New York, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and even Germany tell me it is being revitalized. Long may it continue!

The following is a copy of a column I wrote several years ago. I realize that not many of you may have heard of this beautiful old Irish tradition and thought it deserved another audience.
Nollaig Na Mban - "Little Christmas" - or "Women's Christmas" as my mother used to call it - always fell on January 6 and was a tradition unto itself. Maybe it was just a peculiarity of the time and place in which I grew up - Cork, Ireland in the fifties and sixties in the last century. (And I don't think I ever thought I would write "last century" with such cheerful abandon!)

I was remembering Women's Christmas and wondering whatever happened to it and if anyone in Ireland is carrying on its charm and wonder anymore, or are we all swept up permanently in the Big Day, December 25 itself. I've talked to some Ukrainian friends here and they celebrate their traditional Christmas on that day - Twelfth Night as it is known in England - but I believe that Women's Christmas was unique to a time and place in Ireland now gone forever. But I hope not.

The day of the Women's Christmas women were supposed to take it completely easy after all the hustle, bustle and hard work of the prior months, with the men now taking care of them and cooking and cleaning all day. I can assure you that this never happened in my house as, like many men of his era, my father didn't know one end of a broom from the other and boiling a kettle was the peak of his culinary skill.

However, my mother was the eldest female of her family so consequently her sisters, sisters-in-law, aunts and mother came around on that day and a smaller, daintier version of the Christmas meal was served. On the menu were: a bird (usually a fine roast chicken), a smaller lighter plum pudding and a lovely cake, usually dressed up in the fanciest of pink wrappers with silver sprinkles everywhere on the pink and white icing. The most delicate of my mother's tea sets was brought out, my own favourite, the lavender and pale green set. I would love to hold one of these little saucers up to the light and put my hand behind it, as it was so fragile you would see all your fingers through it.

Gifts were exchanged, usually the most feminine of presents, perfume or talc, bottles of Harvey's Bristol Cream were lined up on the sideboard and the fun would begin. I was encouraged by the grandmothers and great-aunts to always give my mother a little gift on that day for the woman that she was and I did, from a very early age. I would buy something small in Woolworth's on Patrick Street, a little comb or my personal favourite, those fiercely aromatic bath cubes, which were a whole three pence each. I would wrap it up in layers and layers of newspaper and it was always exclaimed over with the phrase, "Well now, I can hardly wait to use this"!

The coal fire would be stacked up high and already lit in the front room before anyone arrived, with Bord na Mona briquettes piled on the fender around it, and any male showing his face would be banished to some other spot in the house.

I remember the women gabbing all day and in the heel of the evening getting into the stories and songs of which I never, ever tired. My female cousins and I would sense the privilege of being included in all of this, there was a respect in us and never did we exemplify more the ideal of children being seen and not heard than on that day. Unasked, we poured the drinks and ran outside to boil another kettle to make a fresh pot or brought in the sandwiches and the fairy cakes and the chocolates and exotic biscuits in the later part of the day.

I remember the hoots of laughter as my aunts dipped their ladyfinger biscuits into their sherries, letting us have a small sample of the incredible taste. This was the one day in the year that I could get a sense of how the older women in my family were when they were young girls themselves. Full of fun and music and stories. I learned about their old boyfriends and who courted them, how one of my uncles had dated all four sisters before settling on my aunt. How wild he was and how she tamed him.

I'd learn of the sad miscarriages and the stillbirths, the neighbours who went peculiar from the change or the drink, the priests who got spoiled in Africa and became pagan; or who had the failing, the old great grandaunt who took on fierce odd after her son married. I didn't know what a lot of it meant then but I stored it all away to ponder on in later years.

They would dredge up old musical numbers from their single days and sing a few bars while one or two got up and showed off their dancing legs. Sweet Afton cigarettes were lit and my grandmother would puff on her dudeen and we all could hardly see each other for the clouds of smoke.

Stories were told and they would get caught up on all the doings they might have missed in their conversations all year, obscure marriages and births, sometimes in Australia or other far flung and exotic outposts of the Irish Diaspora. But most of all I remember the peals of laughter which resounded throughout the house all day and evening.

A moment would come in the midst of all the hilarity when the time for a spot of prayer came. Out of the big black handbags that never left their sides would come the rosaries. These would be threaded through their fingers and all the heads would bow in unison. I never knew the prayer and haven't heard it since but it was to St Brigid, the women's saint of Ireland, and it involved her taking all the troubles of the year before and parking them somewhere in heaven and thus they were never to be seen again. This was followed by a minute of silence (while St Brigid did what she was asked, I have no doubt), then a fervent "Thanks be to God and all His saints" and a reverent kiss on the cross of the various rosaries which were all tucked away carefully into the handbags again. Then the glasses of sherry or the cups of tea were refilled and the whooping and carrying on would begin afresh, the bothers and griefs of the past year now permanently banished and forever.

And I wish this for all of you out there - both at home and abroad.

Friday, January 04, 2019

The Books of 2018

I must say I had a stellar year for reading. I do believe the best since I started this annual list of all books read in the previous year. I attribute that to less responsibilities and more retirement. Moving to a 1 bedroom apartment has been a boon for this reader, assisted by a fabulous library close by and the ease of on line library book reservations. A tossing of books policy has strengthened due to (a) my advancing years and (b) impatience with poor writing, editing, construction and characterization. This rule is broken for book club selections as I feel honourbound to complete those reads, no matter how agonizing. I do try and file a wee book report on Good Reads where I can be found at: GOODREADS WWW REVIEWS
And my ten years of books read and rated can be found at Ten Years of Books Read and Rated

Here be the list:

(1)The Years Flew By - Sidney Gifford ("John Brennan")
(2)Books Art Life - Kyo MacLear***** review on Goodreads
(3)Suite Francaise - Irine Nemirovsky** {BC}
(4)Miss Emily - Nuala O'Connor***** review on Goodreads
(5)The End of Music - Jamie Fitzpatrick****1/2 review on Goodreads
(6)Mercury - Margot Livesy**** GR
(7)The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware 0 GR
(8)The Unseen World - Liz Moore ***** - best of the year so far. Review on GR
(10)Too Close to the Falls - Catherine Gildiner ****
(11)A Labrador Woman - Elizabeth Goudie ***** {BC}
(12)The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud*****
(13)The Widow - Fiona Barton****
(14)The Child - Fiona Barton*****
(15)Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier***** {BC}
(16)The Lying Game - Ruth Ware*
(17)A Splendid Boy - Melanie Martin**
(18)The Ninth Hour - Alice McDermott****
(19)In the Land of Birdfishes - Rebecca Silver Slayer* Tossed
(20)The Burning Girl - Claire Messud*****
(21)Most Anything You Please - Trudy Morgan Cole *****
(22)The Alice Network - Kate Quinn **** (far, far too long)
(23)When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi *****
(24)Priestdaddy - Patricia Lockwood
(25)Bellevue Square - Michael Redhill - *Review on GR Winner of the Giller? Don't understand.
(26)The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah {BC} - savouring every page.***** Mind.Blown. GR
(27)The Ice Princess - Camilla Lackberg 0 worst of the year so far GR
(28)The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud *****
(29) I let you go - Claire Mackintosh **** Oops, read before years ago caught 1/2 way thru :(
(30)Ledger of the Open Hand - Leslie Vryenhoek {BC}** A slog, would have dropped only {BC}
(31)Mind's Eye - Hakan Nesser - 0 dropped at Page 65 when main character brags about slapping his wife around.
(32)The Body and Other Parties - Carmen Maria Machado ** Different, pornish, Dropped 1/2 way through when it became a riff on Law and Order.
(33)Little Deaths - Emma Flint ***
(34)The Good House - Ann Leary *****
(35)The Woman in the Window - A.J. Finn 0 truly awful
(36)Felicity - Mary Oliver ***
(37)After Her - Joyce Maynard*****
(38)Sleep No More - P.D. James****
(39)The Housekeeper and the Professor - Yoko Agawa****
(40)Too Unspeakable for Words - Rosalind Gill****
(41)Orphan Train - Christine Baker Kline*****
(42)From a Good House - Trudi Johnson {BC}***
(43)the Life we Bury - Allen Askens*****
(44)Labor Day - Joyce Maynard *****
(45)Under the Influence - Joyce Maynard*****
(46)Baby Love - Joyce Maynard*****
(47)Faithful - Alice Hoffman **
(48)The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah ***
(49)The Glass Character - Margaret Gunning**
(50)The Perfection of the Morning - Sharon Butala****
(51)The Children - Ann Leary***
(52)Delta Wedding - Eudora Welty****
(53)The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman****
(54)Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate*****
(55)Anger - May Sarton*****
(56)The Education of Harriet Hatfield - May Sarton*****
(57)Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel****
(58)The Chilbury Ladies' Choir - Jennifer Ryan****
(59)The Montreal Massacre - Louise Malette, Marie Chalouh
(60)The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion****
(61)The Wife - Meg Wolitzer***
(62)Christmas in Paris - Hazel Gaymore, Heather Webb*****
(63)The Marrow Thieves - Cherie Dimoline 0 not in mood, dropped.
(64)Encore - May Sarton****
(65)Sing, Unburied Sing - Jesmyn Ward 0 Tired of theme, dropped
(66)Being Mary Roe - Ida Linehan Young, won't rate but finished.
(67)Educated - Tara Westover*****
(68)Women Talking - Miriam Toews***
(69)When the Lights Go Out - Mary Kubica 0
(70)The Home for Unwanted Girls - Joanna Goodman*****
(71)Burning Bright - Tracy Chevalier{BC}*
(72)Wildlife - Richard Ford*****
(73)The Girl from the Savoy - Hazel Gaynor 0
(74)The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simson****
(75)A History of Loneliness - John Boyne*****
(76)Asking for It - Louise O'Neill*****
(77)All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews {BC} a re-read from 2014
(78)Women with Men - Richard Ford****
(79)The Finishing School - Joanna Goodman*
(80)Reading in Bed - Sue Gee****
(81)From a Low and Quiet Sea - Donal Ryan*****
(82)The Perfect Nanny - Leila Slimani****
(83)The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne*****
(84)Shadow of a Man - May Sarton****
(85)The House of All Sorts - Emily Carr****
(86)Days Without End - Sebastian Barry*****

And here be the best of the best. And on the whole it was a very rich reading year.

Books Art Life - Kyo MacLear*****
The Unseen World - Liz Moore *****
Miss Emily - Nuala O'Connor*****
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah***** {BC}
Under the Influence - Joyce Maynard*****
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate*****
Anger - May Sarton*****
Christmas in Paris - Hazel Gaymore, Heather Webb*****
The Home for Unwanted Girls - Joanna Goodman*****
Wildlife - Richard Ford*****
A History of Loneliness - John Boyne*****
From a Low and Quiet Sea - Donal Ryan*****
Days Without End - Sebastian Barry*****

The absolute very gripping best were The Nightingale, Days without End and The Unseen World.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Words for Wednesday

This month's Words for Wednesday is hosted by Lissa

Please visit her blog and participate if you get the urge.

1. beginning*
2. new year*
3. wonder*
4. ritual*
5. kiss*
6. faith*

1. seven*
2. remember*
3. adventure*
4. miles*
5. 88*
6. heart*
She, an old woman now, could still remember the wonder and adventure of it all as if it were yesterday. The start of the family new year began in July. The school year was over and Papa was an atheist along with being a mathematician and believed they should measure years in how long humans had been on planet earth. Two hundred thousand years. So New Year for their family, he and mama and all seven of their children, was 200,000 years plus the 42 he and Mama were alive. All these religions, he would state, have their own calendars based on births of their gods. We need a calendar that makes sense to our family.

In the beginning of the year 200,042 they set off on their first 88 mile trip to the heart of the Algonquins. Papa had bought a small cabin on a knoll overlooking the wonder of lakes and trees. They all set to work, even Derry, the youngest who was only 2 then. Chopping trees and digging foundations, fitting windows and doors, this ritual to continue year after year until by the year 200,060, it was all complete, a sprawling structure with a wraparound screened porch and steps going down to the lake where they swam and boated all summer long and where grandchildren would also eventually come to live permanently away from the New World Order.

It was now the year of 200,142, the centennial. Her youngest granddaughter was sitting beside her and leaned in to kiss her soft cheek.

Oh Granny, she said softly, looking out over the richly planted grounds and lake, great-grand papa had such vision and faith for his family and to keep us safe for ever and ever.

Well, for remaining life on this planet, said her grandmother, sighing inwardly, for she knew it was the eve of destruction and the promised rapture broadcast everywhere was just a myth.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Of Friendships.

I'm one of those women. A single woman you could trust with your husband. Consequently I have male friendships outside of the couples scenario. I make it clear to the wives that that is who I am without being pompous or declaratory. I inject into a conversation somewhere along the way that I have never fooled around with a female friend's partner. And I never would. Even though it has been done to me a few times. I know the pain of it, you see. A formerly trusted friend in the ultimate betrayal of friendship. Not to say I haven't been hit on. For I have. Many times. But I have rejected such advances and felt the utmost compassion for the friend so betrayed, knowing too that couples sometimes have an "arrangement" where such behaviours are tolerated. I am not as pure as the driven snow, though, don't get me wrong. It is just that there are certain lines I would never cross. And I view my intimate male friends as a true gift in my life and I know it is rare, as my conversations with other women bear me out.

And I honestly believe that if I was in an intimate partnership of my own, I would not have the benefit of such friendships, both male and female. There wouldn't be the room, perhaps.

R was one such friend. I met him about 25 years ago as a colleague in a large corporate environment where I had a contract and he was the vice-president. We liked books. We liked travel. We liked unsuperficial conversations. We liked writing. We liked theatre and long lunches. We had the gift of honesty with each other. He was a tall, attractive man and had travelled giving lectures in most countries of the world. When his mother died he came to me and told me he had to deliver the eulogy and didn't know what to say about her. He loved her deeply but words wouldn't come, apart from mawkish sentimentality.

I wrote him this, which he read at her funeral:

An Unremarkable Life

From the outside her life was unremarkable,
Simple, routined, unchangeable, solid.

Inside she was like the shelter from the storm,
Holding us close when our brother died
Even when her own heart was shattered
Leaving two sons when before there were three.

She found her comfort in her garden,
Her magic fingers teasing growth out of
Bulbs and cuttings and twigs,
Drowning our home in extravagant colour.

Undemanding, nurturing, a willing ear
To troubles, challenges, tragedies
Soft words offered when requested,
With gentle hugs and unwavering support.

All who come to honour her today
Would astonish her, for she was humble
In her kindness, never seeking spotlights
For her anonymous generosities.

She was my north star,
Constant, fearless, guiding, true
And she will never know the desert
Of emptiness we face without her.

Part 1

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Words for Wednesday on a Thursday.

Being out of town 'n all for a few days, I am a wee bit behind in my life and in blog reading and blog responses too. I also had bad news on Christmas Eve which I will talk about some other time. Meantime I find Words for Wednesday a most welcome distraction, thanks to River at Drifting Through Life. Feel free to join in the imaginative fun.

1. hair*
2. dissolve*
3. concertina*
4. candlesticks*
5. ribbons*
6. causeway*


1. wizard*
2. bonfire*
3. unload*
4. beams*
5. discarded*
6. chocolate*

The house stood starkly, grey and grim, all by itself, just before you crossed the causeway. You could catch a glimpse of her as the sun, like a bonfire some nights, dissolved into the sea. She'd light the two candlesticks in the open window and play a mournful tune on the concertina. That one distant summer, us two young lads would go out there on our bikes and sit at the edge of the property on the beach and watch and listen, our pocket picnics unloaded and shared: chips, chocolate, pop. Her long auburn hair was festooned with ribbons of many colours and moved with the music in the amber light.

She'd play for hours. We'd wonder at her story, marvel at the moonbeams that would sometimes bathe her face when darkness fell. She looked like some kind of wizard, not of this world, as if she had discarded another life, like an outgrown dress, a long time ago. As we rode back home along the causeway, with the tide lapping against it, the haunting tune hitched a ride with us for a while, finally falling off into the waves.

I ran into Robert, my one-summer friend, a couple of years ago at a convention. I hadn't seem him in thirty years. After the pleasantries, I asked him about her, about our many nights on the beach, watching, wondering, making up stories about her until we had to leave, reluctantly, as parental curfews loomed.

He looked at me astonished. "You must be mixing me up with someone else," he said, "Or you've had one too many of those Scotches."

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Homes in Canada

(See previous post on homes in Ireland)
1967 the year of emigration from Ireland to Canada. Our first home, in March of that year, in Don Mills, a suburb of Toronto in Ontario. We rented a 1 bedroom apartment on the ground floor and the previous tenant sold us all his high quality furniture cheaply when he moved back to Bermuda. We faced the back of the building and there was a large swimming pool and we would just slip over our railing to access it. We viewed it as "our" swimming pool. We bought a green 1954 Belair for $200 and started the motor with a screwdriver under the hood and it would easily hold 4 in the front and 5 in the back with ease and no seatbelts. I was amazed with the diaper service and shirt service door delivery. And Eaton's and Simpson's Catalogues. Even though we were poorer than church mice. Rent was $105.00 per month.

In 1068 we upscaled to the 4th floor of this apartment building around the corner from our previous one. It had two bedrooms. And I made all the drapes and my clothes and daughter's clothes and husband's casual clothes (hello Safari suits, bell bottoms, loud vests, floaty shirts!). Ah peasant dresses and head bands and protesting Vietnam and consorting with US dodgers and yelling at the US embassy prior to them blocking it all off were what we did on weekends. Rent was $140.00 per month.

Then 1970 came and we had another baby and needed a house and we had such a tiny no budget and no downpayment. And I went to the bank and lied about having to fly to Ireland and needed a loan and they gave me $1,000 and we used it as a downpayment on this house. It was south of the Danforth in Toronto. It cost $17,000. But the owner held a second mortgage for us and the bank held the first. We couldn't believe it. 26 years old we were and owned an actual house and a green Belair that held 9 passengers comfortably. We had BYOB parties every Saturday night after the rugby games and I played the guitar and we all sang folk and drank a lot. And we added a dog and a piano to the contents and boy were we happy.

This house today is worth over $1,100,000.
You read that right.

More to follow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Words for Wednesday

Thanks to River who is hosting Words for Wednesday for the month of December. Please visit her blog and see what others have done with the words. And maybe try it yourself.

1. miasma*
2. powerhouse*
3. shiver*
4. foolish*
5. plumber*
6. twenties*


1. foyer*
2. palms*
3. intricately*
4. monastic*
5. courtyard*
6. sprawled*

The fountain in the hotel courtyard had never been installed properly. The water created a misty miasma which seeped into the foyer. Of course the potted palms thrived in this but the guests had to intricately weave their way through the sprawling damp, shivering and complaining that they had not wanted or needed a monastic stay such as this.

It was foolish, the staff thought, to bring in this young plumber who looked to be barely in his twenties, the latest in a long line of much older plumbers who had tried to fix the problem. He proceeded to drain the fountain and then took it apart as they all stood around him, shaking their heads.

“Look,” he said to the manager holding up the large configuration of a motor. “This is the powerhouse of the fountain, it needs to be programmed properly. I would assume you would like a gentle waterfall with no mist?”

Ten minutes later, the fountain was running again exactly as he had predicted and the courtyard and lobby were beginning to dry off, putting lie to the belief that the young ones don’t know what they’re doing these days.

Staff and guests broke out into spontaneous applause for the young man as he packed up his gear and grinned his goodbye.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

From the Other Side

I am handicapped. No way around it. A form of denial manifesting in a wish or hope of “improvement” in the future I have now trashed as a pipe dream of unreality.

I was up against it last night. Evenings and nights are my worst time to walk. And it was a massive distance – traversing corridors on two different vast and shining floors of the university after maneuvering myself off a huge parking lot. I had to stop many times and lean on my cane (a fairly constant pal now). My two companions, frankly, irritated me with overly concerning themselves with my condition often to the point of massive irritation which manifested itself in rudeness. I have done this myself in the past with offerings of assistance but not with any "helpful" advice as they did (“maybe you should consider a wheelchair, consider a zimmer?”) last night. They meant well. I know they did. Then one said I should consider the surgery (12 weeks in hospital) as her mother, who died last year, was very well taken care of in the 12 weeks she had been in that hospital. I did snap at her a little (I was in extreme pain at the time) and asked her what her terminal mother had to do with my condition which involved vein and artery stripping and a brutal recovery if successful or not.

So all this is to say that I apologize to anyone physically challenged who has crossed my path before. I have tried to be careful and kind but sometimes it just isn’t enough.

These days I have doors slammed in my face, kids running and tripping over my cane nearly toppling me, the non-handicapped parking “for a minute” in a designated handicapped spot and comments like “well you’re walking, it can’t be that bad,” or “so many are far worse off than you,” or “everyone has a cross to bear in life”.

Jeez, as if I don’t know all these tired tropes off by heart and meditate on them periodically on a bad day. Today is a bad day. But I’m heading out on some book selling errands and a drop off of a small gift to a dear old couple (5 years older than I qualify as old).

Let’s all be kind and careful.

And mindful of each other.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Words for Wednesday

River is hosting December's Words for Wednesday. Please visit her blog to see what others have done with the words.

This week's words are:

1. controlled*
2. strolled*
3. belongings*
4. shook*
5. leather*
6. reminded*


1. pedal*
2. black*
3. digs*
4. sheepdog*
5. sample*
6. routine*

She had to mentally pedal back and control the rage that shook her suddenly. She reminded him that Alfie, her Irish wolfhound, had strolled in with her when she originally signed the lease for the digs a month ago. Pets allowed. He hadn’t mentioned Alfie not being allowed.

Now she was here, all her belongings out in the street with the mover, Alfie panting beside her after the two flights of stairs.

Buzz, the landlord, stood there in the hallway in his black leather jacket, booted legs spread, arms folded, forehead furrowed.

Pets mean cats, small dogs, fish, birds, not these huge aggressive noisy beasts, he said scathingly.

I can give you a sample of how good Alfie is, she pleaded, look! And she went through all 50 of her routine commands which Alfie instantly obeyed.

You had me on the bark and quiet orders, said Buzz, visibly softening, arms unfolding, now let me give you a hand with your stuff.

If you are so inclined, have a bash at this yourselves, it's a lot of fun!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

In Search of Former Homes

Being Ireland, where everything is preserved, I thought to gallop around in Google to see again the homes I had lived in through my life there and was pleasantly surprised to see all, as expected, are preserved. Astonishingly, considering I am going back 75 years, they are almost exactly as I remember except for one notable exception.

First is the house my parents shared with his mother, where they got pregnant with me. My father and his 5 sisters were raised in this tiny home.

Mum had a huge falling out with her mother-in-law and left a few months before I was born to go live in this flat on the second story. To the best of my knowledge a chemist was on the main floor in those days. My father was the town clerk in the town of Midleton, Co. Cork.

I was a total handful at 3-1/2 when my brother was born so I was sent to live with my grandparents in the country for a while. The bones of the house still stand but it is much changed with the sprawl of development all around and the acreage where I went with granda to get the rabbits lost forever. The hedge at the front and the chickens in the yard and the long hawthorn hedge at the right hand side where Granny would dry the clothes is now just a memory. The road was also widened in front of it and an addition put on the house at the left. I have fond memories of Granda riding a bike home from work and bringing me sweets and many evenings out front with music and dancing on the flagstones. He was a strong Republican to the bone and a massive supporter of the Irish language and Sean nós.

This is the house (on the left) where 8 of us lived in one of the newest suburbs in Cork city. We moved there when I was 6. I remember moving day well. My mother lit a fire with cardboard and newspapers in one of the upstairs bedrooms but she was very sad leaving her sisters and friends. The city must have been terrifying for her. Dad had a good job at Cork County Council.

After I married I moved to Dublin where my husband was working (I lost my job upon marriage - the good old days) and we planned our emigration to Canada for many reasons of which I have written about. Here is where we lived in Dublin on the Rathmines Road, 2nd floor flat, with the turquoise (ha!) door. Shared kitchen, working fireplace in the one room, bathroom down the hall, 24/7 screaming baby on in the first floor flat.

And onward I went to a new life in Canada.

I have no regrets.

Friday, December 07, 2018


Without a good laugh at ourselves in life it can be very dull indeed.

I am still working on bringing this apartment into order, though basically it looks quite good (quirky, eccentric to others).

I was struck by this image the other night as I went into my bedroom. And I laughed. It is the bedroom of a teenage girl.

And I absolutely love it. I went mad on the aqua, obviously, but there's something about it that soothes me, oceanic in ambience maybe.

The bedroom is divided in 2. One half is my office/den - I'm still working on bringing more order and creativity to that side but it is highly functional and I can find everything. I will take a photo of that when all is to my satisfaction. My desk overlooks some gorgeous trees and brilliant skies and birds. And I still have room for a separate "ladies'" desk on one of the walls where I edit and revise my work.

The bed is very comfortable, Daughter had it custom made for me in the guest room in her house in Toronto so I am pleased it was never tossed. Double/queen/king beds take up an inordinate amount of room and this suits my downsizing splendidly. And it is massively comfortable. And if I am ever required to bed-share at my age I will be as surprised as you.

Do we all regress as we age I wonder?

The comfort of the girlhood bedroom offering newfound solace in the aging process?

But yeah, I'm happy with it.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Words for Wednesday

Words for Wednesday are a weekly feature, this week hosted by: Drifting Through Life.

This week's words are:

1. noose*
2. moose*
3. soon*
4. omen*
5. shoe*
6. onion*


1. hourglass*
2. fireplace*
3. fragment*
4. paradise*
5. discussing*
6. wondering*

The moose grew and grew. He outgrew the leash so she had to fashion a type of noose for his daily walks. She kept her hourglass figure in shape that way. She enjoyed discussing the care and feeding of her moose with random strangers in the park who must have been wondering as they fled away. Onions, she shouted after them, and good leather shoes for his hooves!

There was paradise ahead. For soon he would be carved into scrumptious fragments and roasted on her fireplace spit just in time for the holidays.

Monday, December 03, 2018


A friend posted this on Facebook today and I thought to share it here, it is so beautiful and profound.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Or alternative title: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I have loads of good intentions. Like correspondence. Something that is now overwhelming me. Sometimes in a day even the texts on my mobile overwhelm me. Like I don't want to be rude and fly off a two word response, especially if others have taken the time to write an epistle, so I ignore. hoping for a massive power surge into my brain and fingers and well, that never happens so then I receive a plaintive You Okay? (or rather in text speak: U K? which can throw me wondering why the United Kingdom is part of some text quiz) which is a normal question launched to a non-responsive at my age. For we can drop suddenly. So then I have to answer and address the previous text too.

Emails are another story. Sometimes I receive lovely long ones from blog readers who have recently discovered me and write glowingly and sincerely. Now I could just simply thank them but I feel obligated to write something longer, after all they've made this effort and I'm mindful of common courtesy. But long finger is where that goes.

The perfect time never comes, of course. Today I was cleaning out my inbox. And I discovered some of these "good intentions" emails, lying forlornly and unanswered. I sound organized. "Cleaning out my inbox" when, in fact, it hasn't been fumigated in about 4 years.

Within the bowels were emails from two old lovers I hadn't bothered with either. As they depressed me. I re-read them, they were lists of health issues and the health issues of family members - distant ones even, ones I never met - and I knew why I hadn't responded, never one to get into I-can-top-that-itis in the medical ailment olympics enjoyed by many both near and far as they age. Plus I have difficulty in imagining once agile and creative lovers now prostate-prostrated. Call me callous, but gawdess, please leave me with rose-scented sheets and morning mimosas and full heads of delicious hair.

I'm finding also it's harder and harder to gobble up life when presented in big chunks. I could only attend only one of two sequential events last night. I chose a play rather than a launch of an acquaintance's book at the university. I'm at the age where I'm pacing myself. This came on me all too quickly and viciously.

This is the fog outside my window right now. Normally my view has a wee mountain with a tower at the top, a lake and a slice of ocean. I've always loved the obliteration of fog. More so as I age. I wonder why that is. Ha!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Words for Wednesday

I like this weekly event - courtesy of Elephant's Child. I'm managing to use all the words so far, so yay me :)

1. opera*
2. recommend*
3. champagne*
4. excitement*
5. sunshine*
6. jam*

1. dimension*
2. raid*
3. weed*
4. admiration*
5. corner*
6. employ*
Billy was taking her out to the opera. She was dizzy with excitement at the idea. Her admiration for him hadn’t abated since he was a senior to her junior in high school. If cornered she’d have said he was certainly a champagne to her beer – and sometimes weed – tastes. She hadn’t seen him in ten years and they’d recently hooked up on Facebook.

She was expecting a fresh and sophisticated dimension to her life. She raided her sister’s closet for the perfect dress, a yellow as bright as sunshine and the highest heels. He picked her up at her door dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that read “The Jam” showing psychedelic strawberries beating huge drums.

Oh, he said, I wouldn’t recommend what you’re wearing, you’re a bit over-dressed! I’m employed at The Opera, a heavy metal club, that’s where we’re going.

I’m the bouncer.