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.