Saturday, September 28, 2013

Post Mortem Explosions

Eye catching title, yeah?

But, big but, this is exactly what happens in families after the death of the last parent.

Two friends, within a very short space of time, have lost their surviving parent. Both parents had lived full and interesting and long (90+) lives.

So fine and dandy, lovely services, eulogies, songs from the grandkids, flowers, both were smiley kinds of funerals and even involved simultaneous broadcasting to the far-flungs in America and Australia. Oh, the wonders of the e-world. Long may it continue.

So there you go and the dust settles and the earthly bits and pieces and bank accounts and all things: built, gilded, diamonded and chinaed of the dearly beloveds are divided up and tied with a ribbon and dispensed.

Oh, not so fast there.

In the first case, the sole heirs, a brother and sister, are joint executors. But it turns out Bro had had his father sign a power-of-attorney and had been pillaging the estate for years prior to the death. So there wasn't much left. Sis had suspected some financial shenanigans but when the spoils were finally divided she (an accountant by trade)finally confirmed the mountainous level of the embezzlement. So what does one do? Sue your only sibling through a welter of legal costs she couldn't afford? Call the police? No, she took her measly cheque, pondered the options, and let it go along with the resolution to never, ever speak to her brother again.

In the second case, the mother had willed that her estate be divided evenly between her six children. But a sibling had been living in the family home and now refuses to leave. My friend, single, getting on in years herself and with very little in the way of financial reserves, needs her share of the money that the sale of the family home will give her. Sibling has emptied the bank accounts as co-signer of the deceased mother's bank accounts ("for ongoing household expenses"). One of the other siblings, a solicitor and the executor (conflict much?), sides with the squatter. The other three don't want to "get involved" and as privileged males "don't need the money."

My friend is reasonable, has told squatter-sibling that they can remain in the house for a reasonable length of time (a year or two) or buy her, my friend's, share out either solo or along with the other siblings. Squatter has managed to save a substantial sum by living rent-free with mum for the past 10 years - claiming government subsidies for mother care along with a monthly cheque out of mum's account and working part time for another sibling.

Squatter-sibling has now severed all contact with my friend and has threatened suicide if "tortured" by these demands any further.

Neither of my two friends have the financial resources for lawsuits.

All this is par for the course. My own family of origin had its own Hiroshima after the death of my father. And there are still occasional reverberations all these years later.

Much as we try, nothing is ever clear cut and amiable in the brutal finalization of death.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Watching my Step

I don't know why I keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. I know, the very definition of insanity, right?

I suppose I jump into the flames without seeing the fire or something. Or maybe it is too much of a Pollyanna approach to life in that I think others might see things the way I see them. Like my work for instance.

I absolutely love the new play I wrote. The one about the two woman getting together after 40 years. And Grandgirl loved it too, we acted it out together and she had some terrific suggestions with regard to the tension between the two characters.

And then I talked it to a good friend in our theatre company and she rained all over it.

And I was crushed.

For a day or two.

Which wasn't too bad.

A few years ago, it would have bothered me for weeks.

But life is too short.

I learn.

I remember giving a short story to a dear friend a while back at her request. And when I asked her what she thought, she told me she didn't take the time to read it. I remember being demolished.

But I understand that my babies need to be put in the safest, most caring hands and not tossed out willy-nilly to those who have previously shown themselves to be insensitive to artistic sensibilities.

Live and learn.

It never stops.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Grannymar had an interesting post today and I need the distraction of this to get out of my own head and its negativity, disappointment and discouragement. More later on that. When I can write about it without screaming and banging keyboards off my own head, that is.

If any of you would like to complete the ones I am posing below my answers to Grannymar, please feel free to do so. I promise you distraction if nothing else.

My ten questions from Grannymar are:

1.Your day so far, tell us about it in no more than ten words.
2.Who is your Hero?
3.Describe yellow.
4.I’d walk a mile for ________.
5.Close your eyes, open a dictionary, and point to a word. Does your word mean anything special to you?
6.A song you can’t escape.
7.In five years, will it matter?
8.On a Wednesday, what is your routine?
9.For dinner tonight, what would you like to eat?
10.Who was the last person you spoke to?

My answers:

1. Trying to set aside disappointment by appreciating my good fortune.
2. My hero is my daughter.
3. My favourite worn out sweatshirt.
4. My health.
5. Serendipity. It happens to me all the time.
6. Annie's Song - John Denver.
7. Today's challenges will have melted and vanished.
8. Go to town, grocery shop meet with good friends over dinner.
9. Chicken spinach salad.
10.Leo, my handyman, wood cutter, factotum.

My 10 Questions for you:

1. Who wrote the last email you responded to.
2. The first line of your favourite song or poem.
3. Your favourite meal in the whole wide world.
4. Describe in 10 words the view from the window in the room/location where you are right now.
5. Your last holiday - where to and who with.
6. Your best time of the day.
7. Your favourite toy as a child.
8. Your greatest fear.
9. The last snail mail you sent and to whom, card, letter or note.
10.Describe what you're wearing right now.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Rest of It

I wrote about him here never knowing that the saddest part of his story was yet to come.

Another friend emailed from my home city of Cork. It seems for the last few years of his life JG was homeless. One of those sad and embarrassing unfortunates who beg on corners and subsist on the leavings of others. He had two adult children who had washed their hands of him years before.

He got so ill on the streets that a hospice took him in and cared for him till he died.

It was through the kind services of the hospice that he was buried.

I remember his charm, his exquisite sense of style, his ebony black eyes and hair, his smile, his joie de vivre on the dance-floor, his silly pink Consul car with its one royal blue door and the warmth of his arms.

We just never know, do we.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


This weird thing has happened more than enough times for me to feel a chill when it does happen.

Yesterday, Grandgirl and I were discussing being in love when she asked me about my great loves and we started chatting about it. You know, why was I attracted, what happened, where are they now kind of thing.

I mentioned there was another fiancé, back in the day, before I got engaged to her grandfather.

And we talked about him for a while. He was an extraordinarily good-looking young man and one of my stellar memories is of him dancing me to the middle of the London Rivoli Ballroom and going down on one knee and proposing to me. He had his dark side too, though. I've often said in hindsight if I had married him it would have lasted a year, maybe two. There was a wild unsettled streak in him. He had sailed around the world a few times with the merchant navy and knew of things he wouldn't share with me. A wild unsettled streak in me too, I hasten to add, which was not completely visible then and he had unfortunately pedestalized me as a madonna. Not a healthy thing.

Grandgirl and I moved on to other matters and then today, I get my daily email from my long time friend in Dublin in which she tells me that JG had died and was buried, well, yesterday. He'd spent the last six months in a hospice in Cork.

Goosebumps? Yeah, for each of us.

And a yearning nostalgia in me tonight. For what, I couldn't tell you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Stranger's Eyes

I was sharing the following with Grandgirl today. She's here for far too short a spell, she arrived late yesterday and leaves on Tuesday. We did some serious hiking today, capitalizing on the glorious weather. As we were climbing the woodland trail at the back of the property, we both turned to look at the panorama of ocean and forest and distant headlands. I was reminded of a visit from a technician the day before.

We greeted each other like old friends. Us CFAs tend to do that. He nailed my accent as very southern Irish. I nailed his, first time, as Liverpool. I was a friend of a friend of the Beatles. Yes, those ones. Another story for another time. So we shared some backchat. As one does. He was ex-airforce and on the side had his own diving company. He asked me could he walk about outside, it being another Denim Day on the Bay and I agreed. This fine weather has been trailing me since I left here for my trip to Ireland in mid-August and got back here early September. Maybe talking about it now is going to jinx it.

Anyway, as I was saying. Yer man walks about the meadow, then out front to the water then back again up to the barn and then to the Tigeen, shaking his head.

He finally came back in again and said:

"You know you live in Paradise, don't you?"

Well, I do know that. Of course. But lately, that paradise feeling had been overlaid a bit with my stay in West Cork and then the excitement of Grandgirl being here for some days taking precious time away from her second year university courses.

So I told her what the tech had said. And we both stopped to drink in the grandeur and majesty of the my forest trail and the sea off in the distance.

"Sometimes," she said, "We need to revisit our world through a stranger's eyes."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I finished it tonight. Amongst other things, like a 7k jog, like a card game at the community hall followed by a long telephone chat with a friend who is leaving for a cruise to Alaska in the morning.

It was nearly finished anyway. I started it on Sherkin Island and fell upon it every chance I got, packing it in with my book and my android and my notepad and my camera and taking it with me everywhere so I could stroke it and add colouredy squiggles to it. Like a well loved pet. Well, so it is.

So I knew what the end should be. And tonight I wrote it.

And it's, like, done. Seriously done.

A two person play. I'd always wanted to write a play about two women with a secret. I knew the secret but they didn't. So then they find out and tell me about the secret. And you too when you see it.

And today I told one person, then another. About this play and these two women. And they got excited too. As excited as me.

Let the production meeting begin. Then the auditions. Then the table readings. Then.....

I am over the moon. Elated. Excited.

Writing does this to me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 4

Taken from the window of our birthday restaurant in Baltimore overlooking the harbour and our waiting ferry.

I won't go on and on about this trip. I won't. I want to. But I won't.

The other segments would take a wee book unto themselves. But the précis (does anyone still use that word) is as follows:

Sister and I went to the Cork Museum (twice, but that's another story) and caught a remarkable archival documentary recommended by my brother-in-law.

We also set to singing some old duets of ours in the pub on Sherkin Island which was mein-hosted by the most unpleasant publican we have ever chanced to meet. He was so appallingly rude and ungracious that we were all helpless with laughter several times, quite disbelieving that anyone so incensed by his job would continue in it. We kept looking around for a candid camera or a Monty Python crew to jump out and say "gotcha!". But alas, no such luck.

Our dinner in Baltimore at Jacobs was wonderful and we had arranged for a special ferry to take us back to Sherkin later on.

So you can guess what we did on this ferry. Yeah, we sang some more of our trusty old songs from our childhood days on the island. We didn't want this magical boat ride in the starlight to be over. And we all were a little teary-eyed as we pulled into the pier on Sherkin.

But Sister-Daughter had a surprise for The Twins. Overlooking the harbour, she handed Brother and me some lanterns and asked us to write our wishes on them.

Then we lit the candles inside them and sent them aloft. As we watched in awe, it seemed like they floated forever up to the stars.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 3

An unusual shot of Silver Strand

So there we were on Sherkin Island on Friday night. We were staying at the hotel for the weekend. The pile of us. The whole big gang of us. It was like summer camp without counsellors. Breakfast had that air of an unceasing cast of characters brought forward for entertainment and stimulation. I was up early so as not to miss any of it.

Every day was cloudless. Every day we hit Silver Strand and banjed off. As only the Irish can when we get a spot of rain-free, cloudless days. There is a frantic air to the sandcastling, the swim-togging, the picnicking. We grab it while we can as we shrug off the mould and rust.

So there we were at dinner on the Friday night. And an old friend who lives on the island and his wife were invited to join us. To catch up. This old friend I've known since I was a single-digit-aged child. We go back a long way. I got to know and like his wife in later years when I rented a house on the island in the summer with Daughter and Grandgirl.

So the moment of comeuppance: they arrive and get settled. There's a big crowd of us around the table and Sinead (pseudonym), the wife looks across the table and greets me in delight and then says, looking at my sister (who is fourteen years younger than me):

"Oh, WWW, I'm so happy you brought your daughter with you!".

Karma, she be savage.

You can imagine how this took off for the rest of the weekend. Sinead was mortified in spite of my reassurance of absolutely no offence.

We couldn't stop laughing as I explained to the family I had a big, long-held secret to tell them. My sister called me "mammy" for the rest of the stay, requesting permission for various activities like swimming and eating and referred to her brothers as her new uncles, including my "twin."

Helpless laughter resonates a long time.

I think it's the most powerful healer of all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 2

Behind the counter at Stuffed Live.

We were sitting at a table outside a restaurant in Bantry, my youngest brother and I. What an extraordinary name for a cafe, we had mused earlier: “Stuffed Live.'

Well, our family tend to do this, both at home and abroad. Stuff ourselves live, that is. So we had promptly headed in the direction of this sublime promise. It was only when we checked the header on the blackboard that we saw that the name was actually 'The Stuffed Olive'. Harumph. Who needs further correction of the lenses on the spectacles? Ah, but look, the “O” on the sign overhead was in palest green, who could see that? we commiserated with each other.

As I was saying. We sat there enjoying these fabulous sandwiches and cappucinos. Our family could hook up twelve IV lines to an espresso machine and just lie down in bliss all day. Seriously. The place was packed, so it was no surprise when we were asked by two women if they could join us. We are an insatiably curious bunch, us lads, so we greeted them like old friends and before plates were set down, we began the interrogation. Daughter and Grandgirl maintain our family should prepare a standard questionnaire listing all the questions to ask strangers to save time, both theirs and ours. I am mulling that one over.

Now this was a most fortuitous meeting as both women were CFAs* of many years, their individual instant loves of West Cork many years ago swept them up from London, England, and New York respectively without a backward glance. They were both involved in local theatre and one had opened a bookshop. (Strong connections when I take my next play to Ireland, and maybe a West Cork book launch, who knows?)

In the hind of the conversation they asked what the pair of us were doing. “Brother and sister,”we replied, “strengthening up for The Beara Way hike today,” We ordered another round of cappucinos. “We are celebrating our birthdays this coming Saturday!”

“Ah, twins!” They nodded in glee, “We knew it, you are so alike!”

Well, all fine and dandy that. Except my brother is exactly 10 years younger than me.

I wondered why he wasn't as pleased as I was.

Ah, but revenge is sweet.

My comeuppance was coming.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 1.

This old ruin of a house on Sherkin Island hasn't changed much since I was a girl.

Bear with me. I'm trying to get over a serious case of the blues since I got back from Ireland. It's almost a relief to call it blues. I can now distinguish this from depression. There were many times when I couldn't. So the blues it is and it lingers, I am melancholy for my tribe, my people.

Why the blues, you ask?

Well, it was the trip of a lifetime to the home of my birth, Ireland. Cork. I'm back nearly 5 days and it's taken me this long to write about it, apart from the Hydrange post.

Don't you just love it when families can slay their individual dragons and angst and disputes and rivalries, and just be together in harmony, laughter, joy and love. And that's what's happened in my family of origin - complete with cousins and visits to our matriarch in her "rest home". She's now 95 and not quite with us but delighted with us, ordering tea like a grand dame and telling us of an aging male pursuer - "once you're gone I'm going to take the time to wring his neck!"

Her strong spirit lives on and heartens my sister and me as we hug and kiss her in farewell.

We quote her to each other as we leave and howl with laughter as we rehearse the phrase, with her intonation, for when our own time comes. Yes, one gets to that stage of not fearing the outer realms of old age. I know it's left me. It can't be that bad when one can repeatedly order tea with one bright scarlet-tipped finger raised imperiously now can it?

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Yes, I know the word is hydrangea. But my mother bestowed her favourite flower with its own pet-name. In my recent sojourn in West Cork - referred to as the 33rd county of Ireland by those that know it best - the byways were a feast of hydrangeas. West Cork is unique, still embracing its marvellous quaint old towns, hidden vanished fishing villages with the remains of stalwart stone walls submerged in the briars and brambles, its chimneys ceaselessly poking the sky, long abandoned, perhaps in the Irish Holocaust - quaintly and falsely termed "The Famine."

It was here, in West Cork, I found the twin of a site I had seen in Toronto. A memorial to a horrific Air India terrorist bombing off this Irish coast in 1985, in which all aboard were massacred, bodies vapourised, gaping black holes wrenched in families, never to be filled again. Both memorials are a testament to the creative and poignant spirits of the survivors where all the dead are listed, many of whom were entire families on a visit home to loved ones in India.

I didn't photograph the site, just as I didn't when I saw its counterpart in Toronto. I found them extraordinarily moving. In ireland there is a beautiful natural garden on a small headland overlooking the sea with steps down to the shore.

And here again were a riot of hydrangeas. The colours are astounding, varying from white to the deepest purple with pinks and blues and even touches of orange flaming the petals.

And the words on the sundial brings comfort and hope: