Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I remember on one of my many trips to Dublin we were reading side by side on her patio, birdsong trilling around us, the scent from the overhead baskets of tomatoes and strawberries perfuming the sun warmed air.

"You know," she said, "You're the only one in the world I can do this with. Isn't it perfect?"

Perfect. Yes.

There are multiple aspects to grief, thousands of manifestations. An enormous sense of never being the same. Ever again. And that's just one.

In spite of myself I go to the labelled email folder last night. Helen. Thousands of emails. It's like a compulsive first bite of something decadent, sinful and addictive.

And I realize some things that weren't obvious to me before.

She played her buttons close to her vest. She didn't let too many people in. Maybe it was the long history we had. Nothing could sever the trust, the implicit faith in that shoulder always being there. That acceptance. The sheer unconditionality of it. I really don't feel that way about anyone else. I always think I will be rejected, abandoned, condemned and shunned once I show you the inner me. It's happened far too many times before. It's my default setting. Therapy hasn't helped. It's like a permanent internal condition akin to an irremovable birthmark. Part of my psyche. And we knew these things about each other. In particularly bad patches we would sign off: "Remember I love you."

And we meant it. All warts exposed, all insecurities, all struggles. It didn't matter.

We'd speculate how we could do better, help each other climb over the stiles of our challenges and pain.

We'd talk each other through depression and bafflement over loved ones' behaviours.

And a little nugget:

A Canadian friend emailed me yesterday and said:

"Remember that day in Ballydehob and my nails were all a mess and Helen went off immediately and bought me stuff to deal with them."

I'd forgotten.

She'd only known my friend for a couple of days.

But her caring expanded to friends of friends of friends.

I miss her so.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Books of 2014

Here I go again with the books I read, tossed, trashed and adored in 2014. 88 of them! Imagine! I never quite reach my target of 100, though I do try.

The best - my five star ratings for 2014 though not in any particular order. If you want to read my more detailed critiques, click on Goodreads and find Wisewebwoman. I must say I was pleased there were so very many good books in my list. They far outweighed the disappointments.

The Very Best
Benediction - Kent Haruf
Heft - Liz Moore (2nd time!)
Flight behaviour - Barbara Kingsolver
The Breakwater House - Pascale Quiviger
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill
The Pure Heart - Susan Hill
The Quiet American - Graham Greene (re-read)
Friend of my Youth - Alice Munro (again)
A Long, Long Way - Sebastian Barry
Wild - Cheryl Strayed
House of Hate - Percy Janes
Private Life - Jane Smiley
The Novel - James A. Michener
The Stolen Village - Des Ekin
All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews
Annie Dunne - Sebastian Barry
The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham (re-read)
The Gingerbread Woman - Jennifer Johnston
The Temporary Gentleman - Sebastian Barry
Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman
The Rich Part of Life - Jim Kokoris
The Road Past Altamont - Gabrielle Roy
The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Here is the complete list:

(1)Benediction - Kent Haruf*****Fabulous, lyrical read
(2)Heft - Liz Moore (again)*****
(3)Abide with Me - Elizabeth Strout***
(4)The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout****{BC}
(5)Astray - Emma Donoghue****
(6)The Sentimentalists - Johanna Skibsrud****
(7)The Spinning Heart - Donal Ryan (Thanks #1 Bro!)****
(8)The Breakwater House - Pascale Quiviger*****
(9)The Dinner - Herman Koch***
(10)Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver*****
(11)The Last Child - John Hart (loan)*couldn't finish
(12)The Book Thief - Markus Zusak*****
(13)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (loan) - Rachel Joyce*****
(14)The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim
(15)You Before Me - JoJo Moyes****
(16)The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill*****unputdownable
(17)Darcy's Utopia - Fay Weldon***
(18)The Pure Heart - Susan Hill*****
(19)The Night Lawyer - Michelle Spring - 0- tossed-bilge
(20)Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan {BC}*
(21)The Ministry of Special Cases - Nathan Englander
(22)Dancing with the Virgins - Stephen Booth *avoid
(23)A Closed Eye - Anita Brookner****
(24)Justice for Sara - Erica Spindler***
(25)A Bit of Singing and Dancing - Susan Hill****
(26)Habits of the House - Fay Weldon****
(27)Until Proven Guilty - J.A. Jance 0(dreadful)
(28)Injustice for All - J.A. Jance tossed
(29)Trial by Fury - J.A. Jance tossed
(30)The Quiet American - Graham Greene *****(again)
(31)Friend of my Youth - Alice Munro (again)*****
(32)The Risk of Darkness - Susan Hill***
(33)A Long, Long Way - Sebastian Barry*****
(34)Private Life - Jane Smiley*****
(35)Death on the Ice - Cassie Brown{BC}****
(36)Burial Rites - Hannah Kent****
(37)Still Life with Breadcrumbs - Anna Quindlen****
(38)Wild - Cheryl Strayed*****
(39)The Evolution of Jane - Cathleen Schine{BC}0
(40)A Candle in her Heart - Emilie Loring***(for its archaic time)
(41)Trading Places - Fern Michaels 0 awful(from Emma)
(42)House of Hate - Percy Janes*****
(43)The Orenda - Joseph Boyden**
(44)Incidents in the Rue Laugier - Anita Brookner****
(45)Silent Wife - A.S.A. Harrison****
(46)The Novel - James A. Michener*****
(47)Stalking Irish Madness - Patrick Tracey (loan)***1/2
(48)The Stolen Village - Des Ekin***** (thanks D!)
(49)The Betrayal of Trust - Susan Hill**(I'm offya now Susan)
(50)Rails Across the Rock - Ken Pieroway
(51)The Deception of Livvy Higgs - Donna Morrissey -dropped, bored stiff
(52)Spadework - Timothy Findley**
(53)Beacons - Joseph Dobbin (not rating, a friend)
(54)The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham (re-read)*****
(55)All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews*****
(56)The Ocean at the end of the Lane - Neil Gaiman 0 awful
(57)Big Brother - Lionel Shriver***
(58)Annie Dunne - Sebastian Barry*****
(59)Certainty - Madeleine Thien* 1/2 way through I just didn't care anymore
(60)The Shadows in the Street - Susan Hill**
(61)The Boy who Walked - Michael Friis Johansen 0 too dry
(62)The Gingerbread Woman - Jennifer Johnston*****
(63)The Temporary Gentleman - Sebastian Barry*****
(64)In the Heat of the Night - John Ball****
(65)The Survivors Club - Lisa Gardner***
(66)Ghost Light - Joseph O'Connor****
(67)A Goat's Song - Dermot Healy***
(68)Piano Teacher - Janice Y.K. Lee{BC}**
(69)More Then 50% - Hilda Chauk Murray**thin material stretched far
(70)The Endless Knot - Gail Bowen**
(71)Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman*****
(72)The Rich Part of Life - Jim Kokoris*****
(73)No Turning Back - Ida Linehan Young***
(74)Grass - Sherri S. Tepper
(75)The Road Past Altamont - Gabrielle Roy*****
(76)Wild December - Edna O'Brien 0 awful
(77)The Girls - Lori Lansen**
(78)The Help - Kathryn Stockett*****
(79)Cuffer Anthology 2013 - various
(80)Frog Music - Emma Donaghue**disappointed
(81)The Secret Place - Tana French***
(82)Split - Tara Moss *
(83)The White Bone - Barbara Gowdy* second attempt, couldn't finish.
(84)I've been Working on the Railway - W.Chafe***
(85)Cop Town - Karin Slaughter****
(86)The Ghosts - Mary Swan (struggling - it was a gift.
(87)Burying Ariel - Gale Bowen**
(88)Hold Tight - Harlan Coben***

Thursday, January 22, 2015


It is in noticing the small things and being cheered, even slightly, by them that we give ourselves a bit of a gee-up and then other gee-ups start to pile up quite nicely.

The husband and adult children of my darling friend were overjoyed when I created a closed group, members only, for my friend Helen. I called it "Helen's Circle" and I posted some of my pictures and then one of her sons posted a baby picture of her and I found our Confirmation picture and put that up. And we cry a bit but the joy is there too when we look at her and the portrait of her and the World's Most Impossible Dog (she was a dog rescuer and worked tirelessly for the Dublin SPCA). And this dog? I don't think any dog was ever more despised. It bit, it barked, it was completely and totally unlovable and this opinion was shared by all her dog-loving family and friends including me. The dog, Robyn, laughed all through her obedience classes and then proceeded to bite her husband every time she saw him and after that snack would bite the hand that fed her (mine, a few times).

So those eggs? Ramana had posted about the wee things in life and I thought to keep my eyes open for them. I got the ceramic eggholder in a thrift shop for a whole dollar but it gives me unremitting joy when I put my hardboiled eggs in it. And the eggs are happy eggs from my friend who names her chickens and gives them the run of the place. These eggs are art.

And my office missed me when I was away. They bought me an espresso maker, one of those old-fashioned stove-top ones. I do whine about not having strong coffee. They fixed me. Sweet, yeah?

And I get a message to come for dinner from dear friends for Sunday evening. Always beautiful company and beautiful, thoughtful food.

And I start a project tomorrow that will enhance my community in a small way I hope.

And some lovely phone messages that I finally played yesterday.

So I'm counting my eggs.

They are many and they're all delicious.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


A famous writer said this to me a long time ago: "The more material you send out the more you'll be rejected and you know what? The pain of rejection lessens."

It does. Seriously. A short 2 hander play I've been trying to get staged for a while now was scheduled to be performed in February. But cutbacks. Now the powers-that-be inform me that they can now only put on 3 plays for the festival rather than 5 and mine didn't make that particular shortlist.


Monday, January 19, 2015

My Lips Are Sealed for Now.

Do you ever feel you'd love to write about something that's really fogging up the old spectacles but you know you can't. And you sit on it and stew on it and privately journalize it and think there might be a short story or even a bloody novel in it but there isn't. The words stream on and there just isn't any way of getting rid of it, it is fraught with anger and sadness and a kind of resignation and despair and you'd love to spit it out at the world.

You know?

And you can't. Because of breached anonymity.

So many of you out there writing long and hard for years on such a platform as this must know whereof I write. Of which I write. Of.....

I suppose a good old suck it up might work, down the road that is. But right now and for the past while? It makes me seethe. It's not an uncommon loathsome behaviour I witnessed but I haven't seen it written about before. And I can't seem to work my way around disguising it. That breached anonymity thing you see.

I mentioned my dilemma to a family member and they had a great time with it - acting out how TV programmes handle such matters with changed names and disguised voices and descriptions. To the point where it took on a life of its own amidst our helpless laughter.

But this was no laughing matter and quite serious. And the desire is burning within to put it all out there rather than privately.

So I'll distract myself and tell you I returned from dear old Ireland today.

And yeah my heart's still broken and it all feels so surreal and I'm dying to tell her all about it and I can't.

So there it is.

Hence the picture I took of my three beloveds up above.

To cheer me up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Healing Gifts 2

One might never meet someone or talk to them but when you do, pow, in the first 20 seconds you have an ease and comfort that is astonishing.

It was this way with a young woman who came up to me at the removal of my BFF from her home to the church.

"I know you. " she said simply.

"Yes," I said, "Of course. You're Gillian."

And we hugged and cried.

BFF had loved the ex-partner of her elder son's. Like we do. We hate to witness the breakup of our children with those we become fond of and whom we consider "ideal".  For us, the elders, perhaps, but not for those who move on.

Against the odds BFF remained close to Gillian as both her son and Gillian moved on to other partners and started families.

BFF was a tower of strength when Gillian ' s 1st daughter died at 5 months. I remember the daily emails from that period (BFF & I exchanged 1000s of emails). I had two miscarriages so understood a little of the grief and relayed words of understanding through BFF to Gillian.

So to finally meet her was wonderful. She adored BFF and was devastated by her death.

And the best news of all was that she's now the mother of two healthy little girls.

And yes, we're staying in touch.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Healing Gifts

Three to be precise.

The first is a very old friend and in the way of busy,  we lost track of each other. She had 6 children and I, single working parent pre-interwebz what does one do to sustain a palship?

She wasn't a friend of my now deceased BFF but felt driven to trek down to the south side of Dublin from her north side home to the funeral. She's never done anything like this in her life as she doesn't drive and finds the complicated 3 system transit necessary to do this daunting to say the least.

But she did it. And here we were today at Wynn's old hotel in Dublin catching up for 5 hours. Her children are all scattered, her husband dropped dead on the El Camino 4 years ago and she rattles around her big old house by herself. A traditional housewife,  she had to learn how to write cheques after her husband died.

I always knew even when she was 18 that she would be an Irish mammy. She always knew I was far too independent in my thinking to ever settle for that.

And you know what? After 40 years, the love was there, the openness and the honesty.

And yes, the laughter. And the memories she has of my beloved mum are priceless.

"I could have you come live with me forever," she says.

So next time I'm in Dublin,  yeah, I'll have her give me a test drive. Forever can change to never in a heartbeat.

There's something so healing about all of these events and that's just my 1st story.

Monday, January 05, 2015


I have a clearer understanding now of the old expression "words fail me." The inadequacy of language to convey the depth of sadness, the never-agains of death, the disbelief, the overwhelming loss, the guilty rage of the eternal screaming of WHY?

Why not? Is flung back against me. Why do we consider ourselves and our beloveds so immune from the chilly skeletal fingers of the Reaper?

I am glad I returned to Ireland. Glad I was there for family and friends. Glad I let myself be comforted by dear ones. Glad to hook up with a long lost friend who showed up at the funeral with the dim hope I'd be there.

But the enormous loss. Words are completely inadequate.