Monday, March 29, 2010

An Internet Romance

As told by Woody.

It was just one of those things.

I was browsing the web over her shoulder as I’m forced to do, not even accorded the courtesy to surf alone as she thinks I lack the most basic web savvy. Ha! I’ll have news for her one of these days.

But I forget myself.

For there he was. Mr. Pinkie. To say my heart pounded as soon as I saw him is to understate the matter. I was entranced, fixated, bewitched (not to mention bothered and bewildered). My soul mate in the pink flesh, so to speak. A little fluffier than me, due to the respect he receives vs the rough handling I get from time to time.

So I exerted my usual mind control over her and then sat in front of the webcam and took the snap you see above to send to my, ahem, Darcy from his Lizzie, and write this post.

And now I await, breathlessly, his response. I just know I can help him with his self-esteem issues.

Just look at how assertive I am!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


She's old now. And you'd wonder at the bitterness that she wears like a jacket pulled tight around her. But finally on a snowy cold Saturday evening your patience pays off. The flames of the fire create the intimacy of the confessional. A couple of glasses of sherry and the story slides right out of her.

Did you ever love a man so much that when it finally all turns to acid you get to experience a hate you can’t even imagine?

A hate that makes you want to hurt him so badly that he lives in pain the rest of his life? You don’t want to kill him because that would be too good for him and you couldn’t handle the grief anyway of him being dead. But you could handle him suffering every day of his life. And part of his suffering would be hating you.

Have you ever felt that kind of hate? It curdles your stomach every morning when you wake up.

Sure we all pretend to be above that kind of thing, don’t we? Well some of us are. But the some of us that are have never felt the kind of love that wants to draw blood either, right?

Like you could never get enough of him. Like six of him would be ten too short. Like if he were ten thousand drinks you could never get drunk on him.

It’s like a disease, an addiction. There’s something mental about it. Like you’re not living in this world at all, like you can’t work or eat or sleep.

And part of you knows how insane it all is and part of you never wants it to end but part of you is weeping for the end of it all the time, because you know it has to end. No one could handle this kind of passion every day for the rest of their lives.

And then it does. Ends. Like it burns out. But something else gets lit. That hate. And it makes you doubt the love you felt. As if you don’t know what love is about at all.

And that’s your hell right there. So you make a hell for him. There are all sorts of ways of making a hell for a man. Women are far too clever and devious for their own good and only get caught if they want to be, right?

And you become this person with the hate pouring out like sweat. Every single pore leaking it. And it never seems to go away.

And you can’t seem to love anyone else when you wake up with that sour in the belly every morning and that sweat waiting to leak all over everything. It doesn’t matter - be it a child or a cat or an old lady.

That hate takes everything away. It puts a face like mine on you. And you’d think the fire of that hate would light up something else.

But it’s like one of them black holes. All it throws out in front of you is darkness.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lost Leaf

I watch last year’s
Amber leaf travel
All by itself,

In from the bay.
Across the bridge,
Turning right by the

Bonfire pilings.
Then up onto
The hard stones

Skittering left.
Now straight across
The road changing

Its mind halfway.
Chicken? Back again
To pause

Looking left and right.
An obedient child.
Going home.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Play Well By Myself At Recess

There are about five berry seasons here. Immediate bottling, pickling and jamming are things of the past with the advent of the ubiquitous deep freeze so these lovely berries are all bagged and frozen right after harvest.

I still have a dwindling stock of frozen bags of cranberries, marshberries and blueberries left from summer’s happy picking.

Yesterday, which was wet, cold and stormy with multi-footer waves (who goes out and measures these things anyway? A measuring tape would get too wet, so do they use a ruler?) crashing on the shore, I cancelled my plans for a trip to town and hauled out my daughter’s recipe for oatmeal cranberry scones. I also made the loaf of Irish soda bread you see in front of it. I use a loaf shape and not the traditional round with a cross shape as I find it much more workable to slice into squares to enable an easy pile-on of the sangy filling.

Outport Woman uses cast iron cookware (I am the fortunate giftee of most of these pieces) on the woodstove fire for these housebound, unexpected-storm-event-baking days. And there’s something about the woodsome taste of such wonders.

It makes all those tax returns preparation go down so much easier.

(Recipes will be posted subsequently - they need to be keyboarded from my brain to paper - upon request)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Old Dog + New Tricks

I spent a day tidying up my office last week, as there were far too many work projects in, completed projects needing to be filed away in archives, and also a couple of columns due.

I am a classically chaotic person by nature; I thrive under deadlines, stress and procrastination.

But these traits have not been serving me well lately. And I ponder on the causes of such behaviours such as mine (as if knowing the underlying reason for anything will automatically cure it, ha!) whilst I endeavour to change how I do things.

For the first time in my life, I put back to its place everything I move in the office, whether file, pencil, reference book or pen before I leave it. I know where every piece of blank stock, equipment (yeah even unto the battery charger) is.

And I find, as I work, and work hard, that it is all just a little more peaceful and OMG, organized.

Is it possible to change the deeply ingrained traits of a lifetime?

We shall see.

Picture above is the view I am having today from my desk of a very stormy sea while the fire behind me warms the room.

PS And I just found out I am BLOG OF THE WEEK at the Newfoundland Blog Roll. Thank you, Stephen!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Duck Tale

Last night he says to me:

I was out there in my spot by Two Pond Tickle about five years ago now. It’s some hard to catch one of those big black ducks with the creamy chests, you know? You have to lay in the cover for up to four hours sometimes, not even breathing, their hearing is so good. Patience of Job you’d need, let me tell ya.

And out she comes from behind the rushes. Gliding out she was, I could hear her feet in the water, that’s how quiet it was. Beautiful colour - that black that looks like navy blue contrasting off the cream. She was putting herself upside down from time to time, all in a kind of rhythm, catching the little silverbacks in her beak, tossing them about before she swallowed them. I could hear the sound of the water drops, the paddle of her feet, the toss of her head, the way the breeze stirred her feathers.

I remember thinking, that’s like poetry out there. Herself reflected in the water, doing a dance, almost like that fancy ballet stuff, down to catch the silverback, up to toss it a little, then swallow it down, me all alone in the bush, not even breathing for sure as night she could hear me if I did. Those ducks are some good to eat. Lots of good meat on them.

It seemed like it took me an hour to raise the gun and get her in my sights. One clean shot and it was all over. Sunday dinner all ready to be plucked and gutted and roasted.

So I waded out to get her and took her by the neck. And something happened. Now you won’t be laughing at me? But I felt my heart breaking in two. And then, damned if I didn’t start to cry with the water up to me thighs in the waders and me holding the stupid dead bird by the neck. Me, a tough old hunter in me fifties, imagine! And I splashed back to the shore and dug a hole with the butt of me rifle. It took me a fair whack of time, it did. And then I buried her and put a cairn on the top and said a little prayer when I was done with all that.

And I went off and got myself a good camera, you’ve seen it.
And I threw away the rifle.
And the only thing I’ll ever shoot now are pictures.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Bit of Bea is all I need

I loved Bea Arthur, and I previously wrote about her here.

And now I can get a daily reminder of her wit and wisdom as one of the Golden Girls, a series far ahead of its time. She lives on at a website called That's What Bea Said which has me chuckling, remembering her droll delivery of those lines.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Three Letter Word

I imagine we’re all pretty much immune to further shocks in the continuing saga of the Catholic Church and the systemic abuses which have been ongoing for centuries I would imagine with only the victims of the last fifty years coming forward to shout the truth.

We’ve all been reading the staggering but unsurprising revelation of the child abuse scandals in Germany one literally touching the pope with his brother, Georg Ratzinger, the choirmaster of a group of boys who have now alleged abuse.

Paedophilia charges against church officials continue to surface across Germany, and allegations have included the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir, which was led for three decades by Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope's brother.

Read more here

But a tiny word caught my eye in the latest church saga in Ireland. Cardinal Sean Brady is now implicated in the massive cover-up of the abuses – you can read about the Irish scandals in a previous post here.

Cardinal Sean Brady was a priest in 1975 when abuse allegations were raised against another priest, Brendan Smyth. At a meeting at that time, Brady asked two victims — boys aged 10 and 14 — to sign letters agreeing they would remain silent. The church did not share the information with police.

Cardinal Brady ASKED two abused children, victims of horrific paedophilia, aged 10 and 14, to sign letters agreeing they would remain silent about their abuse.

ASK, such a tiny word, such unconscionable implications.

Think about it, look at the definitions below.

(1)to make inquiry; inquire: to ask about a person.

(2)to request or petition (usually fol. by for): to ask for leniency; to ask for food

And ASK yourself if they were his equals. ASK yourself if they had a choice.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit

My daughter was kind enough to wish all her family "Happy St. Patrick's Day" with a link to the National Library of Ireland Archive Glass Plates which have all now being digitized and are on line.

The above picture is from the collection.

I am fascinated rolling through them all, they are an extraordinary insight into Irish life between 1870 and 1954.

So I pass the gift on to you.

With a

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit.

And a picture of the real thing:

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Mango Tale (No, Virginia, the Fruit Kind)

I was given a bag of mangoes the other day. Yes, here on the edge of the Atlantic in an outport in Newfoundland’s sort-of-Southern-Shore, I was handed this ginormous bag of frozen mangoes by this puzzled and frightened-seeming local who held it out to me like it was a dirty nappy.

“You’ll know what to do with this,” he said as he handed it to me and raced off into the sunset at the speed of a bullet before I could say anything.

Well, of course. I’m a CFA*, used to alien mainland fruits and vegetables. Not to mention meats.

But it’s far from mango groves I was born.

So what the hell do you do with the “You’ll know what to do with this?”

Go on the interwebz, of course and find a recipe. Lots of mango recipes as it turns out, but the one that would most apply to this situation would be mango muffins.

Now, I’m one of those who can never let well enough alone.

Give me a recipe for anything and I will immediately add to it, subtract from it, substitute stuff in it.

So I have to meddle, don’t I. I have to add pecans, and nutmeg, and take away the limejuice and add vanilla and yer better quality oil. And by gum the damn thing is very thick, you could paste the lino to the floor with it as my old Granny was fond of saying (she was a pretty awful cook, sorry to burst another myth about Irish grannies and I haven’t even mentioned the brandy yet, have I?).

And today, you could hear the Mango Muffin Mix (sounds like a tropical dance, doesn’t it?) thud into the muffin pan from the spoon that strained under the weight of it.

And there was too much of it for the muffin tins. But I sorted some into ramekin dishes and loaded everything into the oven. And crossed my fingers and toes.

And guess what? OMG what gorgeous, incredible, scrumptious, tasty things these are….

Anyone know of a mango dealer in Newfoundland?

*Come From Away


Here's the Recipe:
Mango Muffins

Original Recipe Yield 18 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour adapt for 12: 1& 1/4 cups
1 cup sugar or honey 4 oz
2 teaspoons baking soda total of 1&1/2 powder & soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon go for ginger or nutmeg 1&1/4 tsp
1/2 teaspoon salt sprinkle
a splash of vanilla
3 eggs, lightly beaten 2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil ½ cup oil
1 tablespoon lime juice ¾ tblp – or omit
2 cups diced ripe mango 1 & ¼ cups
1 medium ripe banana, mashed I use more mango
1/2 cup raisins 3 oz
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 3 oz walnuts or pecans
In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil and lime juice; add to the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the mango, banana, raisins and nuts.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

A Second Helping, Please.

That Blue Pie b’y, cut her up with a knife
And serve her on them white plates
With yer white napkins on the side of her.
Then slurp her down yer gullet hard and fast
And she’ll fix whatever ails ya.

Today, as the sun stays with us until nearly 8.00p.m., I take this picture from my porch and humbly write in praise of blue.

Spring, she has sprung.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Joke du Jour

I couldn't pass up on sharing this one to brighten your day!

Widdle Wabbit

A precious little girl walks into a Pet-Smart shop and asks,
in the sweetest little lisp, between two missing teeth, "Excuthe me,
mithter, do you keep widdle wabbits?"

As the shopkeeper's heart melts, he gets down on his knees so that
he's on her level and asks, "Do you want a widdle white wabbit,
or a thoft and fuwwy, bwack wabbit, or maybe one like that cute widdle
bwown wabbit over there?"

She, in turn, blushes, rocks on her heels, puts her
hands on her knees, leans forward and says, in a tiny quiet voice,

"I don't think my python weally gives a thit."

Friday, March 12, 2010

The F word

I don’t take any of it for granted. Ever. My equal rights under Canadian law.

Once upon a time, you see, I didn’t have them.

I didn’t have them in Ireland where I grew up. Upon leaving college I was one of several women hired for the very first time as an accountant in a national organization. Great, you say? Well, the work itself was great, I enjoyed it.

Thing was, I was paid on the ‘female’ scale of pay. Yes, you read that right, all you born in the last 40 years. The ‘female accountant’ wages were half that of men. Even then, working for those 50% wages I was criticized by some (mainly those of the female persuasion) for taking the job over a deserving man.

And another thing: most days I was subject to verbal sexual harassment and double entendres by a few of my more primitive (and usually married) male colleagues. And complaining to the (male) boss was treated jovially, mockingly and could be summarized by the following phrases: “You should be flattered” and “Suck it up”. Par for the course. And I wasn’t alone, as my friends in other workplaces were harassed also. We would try and come up with strategies to minimise it, knowing we could never eliminate it.

It took until 1982 to have equality of the sexes enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 1982!

And who fought for those rights taken by so many young women for granted today?

That dirty F word. Feminists.

Definition of feminist:

Someone, male or female, who believes in social, political and economic equality between the sexes.

A word that has been taken and smeared and re-formed into “militant” and “bra-burner” and “lesbian” and “man-hater” by the patriarchal media to terrify women into becoming their old submissive selves.

I, for one, believe we are all born equal: male, female, gay, straight, cross-gendered, trans-gendered, black or white and all those wonderful variations between,

And I never take equality for granted.

And I will protest peacefully for equality, yours and mine and ours, till my dying day for the job is far from over: look towards the third world, look to any country which has a powerful religious stranglehold on the government - (Hello, Ireland and U.S.A!)

And I will speak out when I see injustice, prejudice and inequality based on gender, race or sexual orientation.

Feminist? Hell, yeah!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Defining Moments

Do we have only one? Do we have several?

Do we only know about them after they’ve happened?

Can we create them?

I’ve had a few: where afterwards there is a stronger sense of self and one's place in the world. But most of all it is a feeling that now, now, all things are possible: Let's get on with the important business of living this one and only wild and precious life to the very maximum.

And I list these moments, not in any order of importance because it seems odd to compare them. I could even be forgetting some. They are all unique in their own right and it seems to diminish them somehow by listing them in any kind of significance.

Becoming sober in 1986.

Completing a marathon in Toronto in 1995.

Giving birth to my children in 1967 and 1969.

My granddaughter’s birth in 1994 and thus knowing what my mother shared with me when my daughter was born and what her mother had shared with her when I was born.

Placing first in overall marks in my school in Grade 6.

Getting my first role in a semi-professional theatre company in 1962.

Playing guitar and singing folksongs in a pub for the first time in 1964.

Emigrating to Canada on one of the last ocean going liners in 1967.

Getting my first award for writing in 1956.

Coming to Newfoundland in 2003 and realizing ‘this is it, this is home’.

Reading my own work publicly in 2008.

I’m sure there are more but none come to mind at the moment

Extraordinary how none of these little life-markers have anything to do with careers, promotions, working, relationships and marriages, eh?

This could be a meme, have at it if you’re so inclined.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Musical Moments

I'm busy whenever I get a minute importing all my music to my Ipod. Nearly 4,000 individual pieces of music and songs. Mainly classical, but lots of the great rock groups of the sixties and seventies. An astonishing 600 pieces of Irish music, Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Christy Moore, Altan, Chieftains, Sean O'Riada and on.

I'm nearly there. Loads of memories attached to much of it.

As I transferred my favourite jazz pieces I was reminded of the music coming from the lighthouse behind our summer house on a West Cork island late at night, many, many years ago, underneath the navy blue star-dotted skies. Drifting across the bay to us, the jazz sounds of Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane. So deliciously at odds with our Irishness and the lighthouse owners’ Britishness. And so completely wonderful.

I've never lost my love for Mr. Monk.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Random Access Memory (mine)

The long stone slide in the small village of Ballincurra near where my father was brought up looked like a 100 feet high, smoothed to a glossy shine by all the bum-ridden flat rocks that had slid down it.

“Ah go on,” he said, putting five-year-old me on the large flat stone he had carried up the hill, “You’ll never forget the feeling going down the hill, I haven’t.”

And I never have. For all the hundreds of times I slid that afternoon, shrieking, giggling, squealing. And I never want to go back there. For if it hasn’t fallen a victim to urban sprawl, it would never be as long and as thrilling as I remember it.
The grandgirl and I were in Cavendish on Prince Edward Island, she armed with a day pass to the fairgrounds, me with my knitting. She was just tall enough for her first roller coaster ride.

“How many times?” she asked me, clutching the miracle of the unlimited access to the rides, bouncing up and down, wild with excitement.

“As many as you want,” I answered, hauling out the knitting as I sat on a bench.

It could have been five hours, maybe six, and she never got off the roller coaster. Each time she sailed past me, she had adapted herself to the personalities of the changing cast of characters who shared her trolley. If they screamed, she screamed, if they were cool, she was cool, if they put their arms in the air she did too, if they leaned to the left, ditto.

She finally staggered off as the sun was going down and threw herself on the bench beside me.

“I will never, ever, never, ever, forget today, Grandma!” she panted, face flushed, eyes shining.

It’s about ten years ago now. And she hasn’t.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Little bookmarks made especially for you with the briefest of paintbrush strokes. The suggestions of birds in flight, butterflies on the wing, blushing sweetheart roses. Always signed at the back with a “Bless You” or “You’re Special to Me”. Stashed hither and yon in half-read books, research volumes, marking revisited poems. Out she pops to say hello when a book falls open and you smile, she’s everywhere on your bookshelves, you think. In the best possible way.

Her wedding five years ago is what you most remember. She had been in a miserable marriage for more years than her friends wish to remember. He had retired and they moved back to the small town of their childhood to be near her mother. And he died suddenly within the year, a handsome, cold philanderer. And within a week, her mother gets a call from B.C. From her high school sweetheart. Who heard about the death of the husband and wanted to know if he should call, would she be receptive. She was. And within six months they were married. Lavishly. Her three married daughters were astonished and a little chagrined at the speed of it all. It was well, unseemly, to marry another so rapidly after the forty-year marriage to their father, wasn’t it?

No, her friends thought. Not at all. If you even knew half of the story of that icy arrangement. But he was your father after all. And no one will speak ill of the dead around you three.

She looked lusciously happy, almost giddy in her delight at marrying the five times married before groom who had never gotten over his first love. Or she hers.

Her body was an endless loop of pain, some days worse than others. Every invitation was responded to with: “If it’s a good day for me.”. Some weren’t. The last time you saw her was way up in northern Ontario where she heard you were giving a speech. She never had a driver’s licence but had arranged for an over 100km drive just to see you. And it wasn’t a good day pain-wise for her. But she said she felt it was important. One never knows, she said, over dinner at the local inn, but we just need to be there for each other, when we can.

She died last night. They think it was an aneurysm. They’re not sure. An autopsy has been scheduled.

She had left a long message on your answering machine at Christmas.

You never did get around to calling her back.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Blog Jam

Well for starters, I'm back in Newfoundland's stunningly warmish weather and a sort of Irish damp clutching at everything. Good to be home. Picked up Ansa at the kennel. I love the disbelieving look she throws my way when I first appear, she goes all rigid, her ears reach the ceiling and her eyes pop.

"You?" she says, "OMG! You? - I'd just about given up!" and then she leaps at me, trying to get to my face or any exposed piece of skin to lick it, yarping in joy. And then she smells me all over and I can see her nod: I.D. confirmed. Then it's a repeat of the leaping and yarping. It is almost worth going away just for this incredible display.

I have one family member who always seems to be in the trouble spots of the world just when trouble strikes: Argentina during the collapse, El Salvador in the midst of civil unrest and machine guns taking target practice at his house, and now Chile on the 14th floor of a hotel when the earthquake struck. We were all on tenterhooks until he connected once more on Blackberry to say that he was safe, he got out of the hotel before it shredded and is now staying with a colleague in a private residence until arrangements are made to get him out of there. I told him his entire 9 lives were now used up and STOP.SCARING.US.

I've finally joined the Ipod Brigade. I can't believe this little itsy bitsy teeny thingy can hold, like, 40,000 songs. Yeah, I'm really late to this particular party but I can hum them all.

And hey: Canada won the hockey. Yeah, we did. You should have been on the plane when it was announced. A party of forty instant friends singing the Canadian national anthem with the cabin crew conducting. You just had to be there.