Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Revolutions

Because that's what they are - if I ever manage to adhere to any of them for longer than a fortnight there will have been a revolution - in my brain.

The drink's gone already so there is No 1 to be broken - will I last more than 6 weeks? Check back with me and see mid February!

The three stone I want to shift off my middle (and various other floppy parts of my body) invariably get tackled with the greatest vigour and seriously good intention. But then...well February has to be gotten through doesn't it? And how can anyone get through February without the comfort of food? By which I mean comfort food of course - bread and butter, ice-cream, biscuits , chocolate, chocolate, crisps, chocolate. I have to lose weight though because all my clothes are ridiculously tight and I can't afford new ones.

Resolutions to be a better person; a good neighbour, a trustworthy worker, a compassionate friend and to be empathetic and charitable towards others - no matter where they're coming from. I make these resolutions every morning of my life but I'm human and a very flawed human at that so I invariably have broken these type of noble ideals before I even leave the house with dark mutterings about ungrateful, slovenly males.

Resolutions to write more on a daily basis have been kept over the last few years - and it brings me great joy so that's one I have successfully kept and will hopefully continue to keep. I must examine my logic around writing (if ther is any logic to it!) Maybe I could apply my thinking there to the other things I want to happen in my life.

A resolution to read more and to tell more stories to more children - well I'll keep that one easily enough.

And a resolution to keep myself surrounded with family and friends who love me despite the fact that most of them haven't the slightset idea what is going on in my fevered little cauldron of a brain!

Thank you all for reading - and a Happy 2012 to each and every one

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Christmas post - a little late and rather long!

I got a special kiss this Christmas Eve – and nobody actually touched me.

I travelled to Donegal – my Donegal, my beloved Kilcar – on Friday December 23rd. The second part of the journey was terrifying. Up to about 4pm it was grand – moseying along the M1 with John Kelly on Lyric FM playing the best Christnmas music on the planet, delighted work was over for a week. But once I hit exit 14 for Derry I was in trouble.I normally belt along (within the speed limit of course) from that exit to the Roslea turn – it gets much slower after that as my urban eyes and reflexes adapt to country roads.
It was a squally evening, constant dirty showers of rain - not helped by the fact that my middle-aged varifocalled eyes are particularly challenged by drivers who refuse to dip their headlights. I’ve only driven this road alone perhaps a dozen times and I certainly won’t be doing it again at that time of day and year. Thoughts of a burger from Melly’s Chipshop in Killybegs sustained me from Enniskillen. The flippin’ place had closed an hour early. So I contented myself with a bag of salted peanuts and rang Jemser for directions to the house we had rented. He had travelled up earlier in the day with son #2.
‘When you pass the Haven and come over the brow of the hill, with Kilcar spread under you and Sliabh Liag in front of you, take the first left in Bavin and ‘tis the first new house you’ll see’. And I’m supposed to be the writer in the family.
‘So, first left after the Blue Haven?’ I queried.
The battery in phone died and I faced my bete noir. That bloody road between Killybegs and Kilcar, I’ve claimed since I started driving that it is worst part of this particular journey. I’m used to straight well-lit roads, lots of traffic, traffic lights and roundabouts not these unlit terrifying twists and turns, swoops and dives, dips and climbs of the windiest steepest road in Ireland. And manic young male Northern drivers.
I missed the Blue Haven – a large pub/guesthouse/restaurant. It was closed, unlit and therefore to my urban eyes unremarkable. And before all the Donegal ones start commenting – I have no sense of direction, poor spatial awareness and know no geography! I ended up at the junction for Kilcar and Carrick and knew I had to turn back. I actually turned back twice before I finally found the ‘first left after the Haven’- mainly because to me every house set in off the road looks like a left. I went astray.
I arrived and the ‘how did you do thats’ began – if I knew I wouldn’t have done it in the first place! The house is stunningly beautiful – a new build fitted for comfort and convenience. I was immediately in love and delighted that the economic downturn that makes such a rent accessible to us. Son#2 was thrilled to see me – Christmas could now begin and he had been dying to show off the house to me – to show me all the things he knew I’d love. They had a big fire in the grate and big smiles on their face to greet me. It was like a big warm hug. That coming home feeling.
The house is extraordinarily comfortable and we all slept well; I woke early and thrilled to the view from the window. I was glad later I had savoured it, for the day closed in – as it only can in the wilds of Donegal and all day there have been sheets and gusts of soft fine rain drifting ahead of and whirling with gusts and gales of wind that howl down the chimney; the wind surely knows how to blow up here, but it was housetrained by the warmth and smell of a turf fire. I love that smell.
I decided to make scrambled eggs for brunch. A treat. When I cracked the first egg into the pan I laughed. It was a double yolk. Double yolked eggs always remind me of Mam, and I called son#2 to show him the yolk and to tell him Mam’s story.
One week before Christmas some time in the early Seventies, when in our house there were six children under the age of ten and the family was particularly broke one week. Not our 2011 kind of broke – we almost always have access to credit. Real broke. Suburban weekly waged no land broke. No money in your pocket and no way to get any broke. There was money coming of course – my father was always employed and his wages mercifully arrived every Thursday.
This particular evening- perhaps it was a Wednesday - there were a few slices of bread for our tea but there was nothing to put on it. There were three eggs in the fridge so she decided to do us ‘egg-in-bread’; yummy - a slice of fried bread with a circle removed into which an egg is broken and fried. Half a slice of egg-in-bread would have to do us. She was upset; she wanted to give each of us our own slice of egg-in-bread. But it had been a tough year.
When she cracked the first egg it was a double yolk and it lifted her heart for now there would be four nutritious yolks to share between her six children. She cracked the next and it too was a double yolk. She thanked her God in prayer. But when the third and final egg from the fridge was cracked and it too was a double yolk Mam decided it was a miracle - her God would always provide for her and hers.
Mam wasn’t overly religious, she went to Mass and raised us loosely in accordance with Catholic teaching and after she lost her only sister she certainly became more convinced of a life after death. In the last terrible year of her life her faith gave her comfort and acceptance. I envied her that faith, it is not mine. But when I saw that double yolk this morning it made me smile and think of Mam – feel loved by her, hugged and kissed for Christmas. Welcomed home –many many miles from that house where with Dad she reared us, fed us, dressed us. Loved us.
I cracked the second egg and son#2 and I both roared with delight. Another doubler!
‘Mam, Mam!’ he exclaimed, ‘let me do the next one. Oh Mam! – it’ll be too weird…’ carefully he hit the egg on the side of the pan and yes, it was a third double yolk.
Coincidence? Another miracle? Voices or signs from another dimension? I don’t care what it was. Son#2 and I jumped with delight and hugged each other, he shouted ‘Hiya Nanny!’ with that grin of his that lights up his whole freckly completely Irish little face. I felt my heart and soul well with a wave of love; that emotion most of us only ever feel on a couple of occasions every year – and always to do with family.
The day meandered on and Mam has never left me – everything I did seemed blessed with the feeling of love, putting up a few Christmas baubles and lights, chatting with Jemser and son #2, laughing at the dog’s antics – I even got a snooze on the couch! I haven’t had a snooze on the couch on Christmas Eve since…well, never! And now son#1 is about to arrive and although the girls can’t be here physically I certainly feel very close to them emotionally.
We will gather in Drimreagh for ‘the feast’ in a little while - a Christmas Eve tradition started many moons ago by our beloved Teresa Cunningham. And the kisses and hugs, teasing laughter and song will go on - and family will continue to arrive – in one way or another.

A Happy Christmas to all - and to all, a good night.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Story Queen's Christmas Tale

I am full of love and good cheer this afternoon. I went over to Balbriggan Library to do a story-telling session with the lovely children of North County Dublin where I was warmly welcomed by the lovely Assumpta Hickey and her staff . The library was beautifully decorated - complete with tree, lights and sparkly things. An imitation fireplace was in place with a certain gentleman’s red trousered legs protruding from the chimney.

Of course as soon as Queenie landed to the smiles of the children nothing would do her but to peer up the chimney and have a shouted one sided conversation with the great Santa Claus. We entered into storytime with my personal favourite ‘Baby Owls’ by Martin Waddell, then rambled through ‘Stickman’ and ‘Adam saves Christmas’. Then we had a little break and a chat about Santa and what he might bring. One little chap informed me he had THREE Christmas trees and a little princess wanted to know could she wear her dressing-up costume next time she came. We discussed Christmas gifts and how many hugs and kisses one should give ones parents to ensure their sound mental. We discussed the importance of being nice to one another. All nice schmaltzy stuff.

I finished off the Christmas session with (natch) The Night Before Christmas’ – more for the parents than the children  - the language, though beautiful, is archaic and many of the terms would mean nothing to today’s smallies. Then I distributed Story Queen stickers and placed my crown on each little head in order to transfer a very special Story Queen dream into each mind for tonight’s bedtime. The children escorted me to the steps and I made a gracious hand waving exit. They loved me. I loved them.

So home I came full of good cheer and heart bursting with love of mankind, realising that the saying God is Love is really the wrong way around. Love IS god. And the trusting simple love of little kids is the purest love of all. Nothing can beat the delight we get in giving pleasure, time and assistance to our fellow beings, particularly the children in our lives. It is what differentiates us from animals and brings us closer to the sublime. Home, family and contentment are what we all strive for. It is not always attainable, it has to be worked at and sometimes it fails – but try we must.

Here endeth the lesson. Now, where did I put my Santy hat………

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lovely libraries

I sat in the beautiful library in Rush this morning – an old church converted with great sympathy and sensitivity by Fingal Couny Council as a facility for the citizens of the area. The church’s external structural appearance is as it has been since it was built; walk indoors and you find a thoroughly modern library, with the clean lines and aesthetics of the 21st century. This,  combined with beautiful wood paneling and shelving (oak I think), glass, off white and red seating areas , creates a very peaceful space. The late winter sun shone through glorious stained glass windows and ensured that the hush throughout the library was honoured with dappled multi-coloured sunlight. Wonderful.

I think it is a fitting use of a space that was originally built as a place of worship but was also always meant to be a place of community, a place where people could gather and be silent for a while. The acoustics in the church/library are fabulous too. I’d love to attend a carol singing service or any other kind of choral event there. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to hear again voices raising the roof in harmony and celebration? What are songs but musical stories? Perfect in a library.

On top of all that beauty there is of course the very reason for the libraries existence - thousands upon thousand of words hidden between the covers of books. All any one of us has to do is open a book and begin to learn. I asked a distinguished author once if he had read any so-called commercial women’s fiction, he’d read one or two he said but in general he avoided the genre because he learned nothing from it. I suppose a lot of that fiction has to so with emotion around a love affair; and men don’t seem to ‘do’ emotion around love affairs – or perhaps they do but they don’t bother analysing it in the minutiae that we females do. Generalisation of course but……. am I making any sense?

Speaking of genres, yesterday we went enfamille to dublincity (103.2)fm to talk on Jimmy Kinahan’s afternoon programme. I read from my book, the Jemser sang a couple of songs as did son#1 and pal and son#2 was assistant producer. Jimmy asked me that difficult question -what genre was my book? I hesitated because that was one of the reasons I couldn’t get a publisher to back ‘The Heron’s Flood’ (available here ); it does not  slot neatly into any genre. It’s not a crime or psychological thriller – although there is a murder in it; it’s not misery lit – although both of my protagonists have had their share of misery; I don’t think it could be classified as ‘chick lit’ (I don’t know enough about fashion, sex or the art of shopping); it’s not literary fiction – I’m not quite there yet and may never get there unless I get more time to both read more and read better; I  facetiously call it ‘hen-lit’ as I thought it would appeal to hens like myself – in other words the fiction buying public!   

We had a great half hour with Jimmy and the boys in particular blew the socks off those listening. I do be fit to burst with pride when I hear them sing, they are really so talented We got a laugh to because Jimmy mistakenly called their song ‘Angel’s Roost’ ‘Angels’ Delight’! Of course we all immediately pictured that smooth viscerally pink desert. But we didn’t laugh and I didn’t interrupt anyone, then or at any stage –as is my wont, Biddy Butt-In kept her trap shut! We’re a family of pedants really – I think the males are all worse than me but they say I’m the Queen of pedantry. Reminder to self and all – the Story Queen is appearing in Balbriggan library this coming Saturday December 10th at 11am for a special Christmas story telling session with the lovely children of Balbriggan and surrounds. If you have an under 7 in your life bring them along – it is always a great session and best of all like everything in Fingal Libraries -it’s free!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Light up..........

The Christmas lights in Swords were switched on last week and it makes the village look so pretty. Some bah-humbug creature was standing behind me at the ‘lights on ceremony’ and he grumbled ‘The country’s going down the drain and the bloody council are spending money of feckin’ fairy lights and feckin’ dancing bears’ – the latter a reference to the excellent troupe of children’s enterainers who amused the local children as they waited in the cold for the magic to begin. Mr Grumpy was late middle age (natch) and a dapper little chap ( why are grumpy old men always dapper).

Now I take his point but for the Universe’s sake mister lighten up a little. Let’s keep a little pretty magic about the place to gladden the hearts of the smallies and to welcome home for Christmas all our sons and daughters who have had to leave our shores for work elsewhere. We may have less money and more worries but we’re still a damn sight better off than 90% of the world’s population.

Because at the moment – with our politicians telling us we have to tighten our belts, pay our debts (not that I personally accumulated ANY of this debt) and grin and bear it; and the constant battering of our eyes and ears by hysterical reportage in print, on radio, televison and d’interweb, it is hard to keep a positive outlook and live simply in the moment.

I’m not starving in the moment, nor am I cold. I’m not without shelter or love. I’m one of the lucky ones. So I will try to live as a child does for the next few weeks. Look forward to Christmas. To spending time with family (even if we are killing each other!). To exchanging small gifts and cherishing each other, eating together, laughing together.  

And clapping with delight at a dancing bear and some sparkly lights on a village street.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Government Inspector

Just in from one of the best night's theatre I have ever experienced. If you have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to see Roddy Doyle's adaptation of Gogol's 'The Government Inspector' now playing at the Abbey theatre do so - you won't regret it.

There is a huge cast of characters who are brilliantly choreographed around a stunning set. The show is directed by Jimmy Fay, who previously directed Doyle's version of 'The Playboy of the Western World' in the Abbey and indeed there were times in tonight's show when I was reminded of Playboy. Basically a stranger arrives in town and because of rumour and innuendo it is assumed he is a government inspector come to flush out corruption in the local government. The outsider Khlestakov (played brilliantly like a manic Johnny Bravo by Ciaran O'Brien) is a chancer of the highest order and he plays upon the fears, greed and idiocies of the community; he charms their women, flatters their men, makes promises he cannot make and ultimately robs them blind.

At times the stage was as deliberately crowded as a scene in a pantomime - characters rushing about and getting nowhere. Organised chaos - much like our government in a flap. Except the actors knew exactly what was going to happen next. The ensemble acting was superb - not a bum note struck. Roddy Doyle is a master of dialogue and he has a great eye for the ridiculous. He has lifted Gogol's play out of 19th century Russia and planted it firmly in the ruined administration and ghost estates of 21st century Ireland.

All performances were brilliant but I'd have to give  a special mention to Don Wycherly as the Mayor - it's a huge role - very very physical and he makes it look easy. He always has a great presence on stage and it is hard to take one's eye off him, his timing is superb - he even managed to step slightly out of character while in character to rope the audience in as fellow culprits in the 'another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into.' Marion O'Dwyer as the mayor's wife was a treat and her heavy flirting with Khlestakov was a joy to watch. Class.

I really cannot recommend this show highly enough. Even the programme, complete with cut out characters from Martin Turner is entertaining.You'll laugh yourself silly and also come away a little sobered by the fact that the cast of clowns on the stage are a fairly accurate portrayal of the leadership (or lack of it) in Ireland over a number of years. Brilliant. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mourning the end of being a Mammy..............

We have a new baby in our extended family. My youngest brother and his wife had a beautiful baby girl earlier in the month and they named her Elizabeth after our beloved departed mother. Of course we are all wearing a path out to their door to ooh and aah and admire this tiny little creature. She's so incredibly beautiful and perfect. You forget how small babies are - and this lady was born a big baby, in fact the 0-3months baby clothes were no good to her, yet she still seems tiny. The whole family are besotted with Elizabeth. Oscar and Liam at eleven years old were up to this the youngest members of the family. They are particularly pleased at losing this title- now they are someones big cousin.

My sister-in-law bought a beautiful deep red pram for Elizabeth. I envied her. I always loved pushing the pram. I don't think I ever felt as proud as when I pushed my babies in their prams. I was important. Finally. I was someone's Mammy- the best thing in the world to be. Oh! I so miss my babies! I love the adults my children are becoming but I miss that incredible mother baby relationship. Molly - our new dog- has taken some of the sting out of the loss for me.. I love coming in the door now to be greeted with her going insane in a paroxysm of delight. Her heart beats so fast I'm afraid she will have a heart attack, she is quite beside herself with sheer unadulterated joy at seeing me desperate to get up in my arms and smother me with affection. This reminds me so much of the reaction I used to get from my babies when I would come back into their view after being away for a while. With no words the only way they could express how they felt was by laughing and using their physical selves, wriggling, lepping and dancing a jig. It is quite quite wonderful to be loved like that. And a privilege. And it is only for such a short while. As soon as the child starts school they start to walk away from you. They come back - but in a different relationship. Suddenly you're not God anymore - Teacher is God! Then  the peer group takes over and eventually down the line the chosen partner.

But despite the sorrow and the feeling of being not needed anymore I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything. There are certainly plenty of days when I could happily leave home and stay away for a very long time but I'd come back. Mammys always come back. I think that is why my favourite children's book is Martin Waddell's 'Owl Babies'. If you haven't read it to a smallie in your life get your hands on it - I guarantee you'll both love it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Remarkable Story of MeeJahLittle

Did you ever hear of MeeJahLittle and how he disturbed a whole country - nay, continent- nay, world with his foolish alarms?

Well, MeeJahLittle was running around in Mad Money's garden enjoying flowers and fruits not his when an apple dropped from a tree and fell on his head. The apple was overblown, scabby, filled with worms and such and had to fall. But MeeJahLittle didn't wait around to work this out - off he ran shrieking to find MeeJahBig.
'Oh! MeejahBig' he said, 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling!'
'Why how do you know?' asked MeejahBig
'Didn't I hear it with my own ears and see it with my own eyes and part of it fell on my head!'shrieked MeejahLittle.
'Oh Lord! Come then, let us run as fast as we can,' said MeejahBig. And off they ran to find MeejahBigger .
'MeejahBigger! MeejahBigger! The sky is falling, the sky is falling,' screeched MeejahsLittleandBig
'How do you know?' asked MeejahBigger.
'Well, MeejahLittle told me!' squawked MeejahBig
'And I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears and part of it fell on my head. Twice.'Shrieked MeejahLittle
'Lord save us!' cried MeejahBigger, 'We must run as fast as we can.'. And off they ran 'til they found MeejahBiggerAgain.
'Oh! MeejahBiggerAgain,' they caterwauled 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling!'
'How do you know' gasped MeejahBiggerAgain.
'Why MeejahsBigAndLittle told me' cried MeejahBigger.
'MeejahLittle told me' squawked MeejahBig.
'And I saw it with my own eyes heard it with my own ears, part of it fell on my head twice and then rolled along my back.' shrieked MeejahLittle
'Lord between us and all harm!We must run, we must run!' harumphed MeeJahBiggerAgain. And they ran and they ran until they found MeeJahNormous.
'MeeJahNormous!MeeJahNormous!The sky is falling, the sky is falling!' they all roared
'How do you know?'queried MeeJahNormous
'MeeJahsLittleToBigger told me!' harumphed MeejahBiggerAgain
'MeeJahsLittleToBig told me too' cried MeeJahBigger
'MeeJahLittle told me first' squawked MeejahBig
'And I saw it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, part of it crashed down TWICE on my head THEN rolled along my back and THEN fell on my toe.' shrieked MeeJahLittle.
'We better tell the people on the edge' decided MeeJahNormous. 'It's our duty.'

So they all ran as fast as they could to tell the people on the edge. And the people on the edge all ran over the edge screaming
 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling' and then fell down, down, down  into the abyss. And all this from the foolish shrieking of MeeJahLittle.
The End

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And we're off............

I'm blogging this at 3pm because I intend to be somewhat inebriated this evening. My book launch (book available here The Heron's Flood ) kicks off in three hours. All the books and wine and soft drinks have been delivered to the venue. I had a few calls from people unable to attend but I haven't let it phase me too much. I'll be there, my lovely boys will be there as will the Jemser. My colleagues from the Council will be there as will my neighbours. some friends are even driving over from the southside. Imagine! They have their passports so they'll be okay.

I have the hair and make-up done. I look quite nice. I even got the nails done and can't text anyone now! The guna is hanging on the outside of the wardrobe winking balefully at me. Still not 100% about it. Hope I pull it off. If I don't you can see evidence of my faux-pas on my Facebook page tomorrow, when I eventually surface.

I'm quite relaxed now - everything is done and if anything goes wrong it won't be my fault - it will be something outside of my control. Son#1 and pal are going to sing the song they wrote after I read from the novel - they are the real stars of the night. Seventeen, handsome talented and intelligent, they have it made. I have it made having them do this for me. Even the dog has picked up on my mood and is cuddled in against me here sleeping peacefully.Son #2 is going for a sleepover in his cousin's house so I don't have to worry about him (thanks Ais!) So now I'm just going to chill, practice reading SLOWLY and enjoy one of the biggest days of my life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Small Lives.........

I'm faffing and fluffing about driving myself and everyone about me demented with worrying about all sorts of ridiculous 'might happens' around this flippin' book launch. And thank the Universe for my lovely calm Jemser. Nothing can phase that man - he is the complete antidote to my panicking. I know I give out about him (it's allowed) because he is so laid back that at times I wonder is he awake at all. But Lord, it can be lovely to come home to all that serenity after a day's flapping. In my small life this book launch is the biggest thing (barring the birth of me boys) that has ever happened; I'm not coping very well with it.

Jemser has found a way of making lost things unlost. Instead of praying to St Anthony and promising him cash he stands in the middle of the room and says 'Did anybody see me aul'...(whatever the item is, glasses,keys,wallet)'. It is vital to get the wording exactly right. 'Where's me aul'' or any other variation just will not work. Anyway my purse was on the missing list today. I searched the kitchen/dining room/living room several times. Panicking because I needed it and had to leave the house half an hour before. In the end I used the incantation and as soon as I said it I spotted the miscreant purse. Sitting smack bang in the middle of the kitchen table. 'Smagic. Swear.

This evening I had to drop in copies of my novel 'The Heron's Flood' into the lovely people in the Gutter bookshop on Temple Bar's Cow Lane. I'll be reading from the novel in the shop on Wednesday November 16th. It's a beautiful shop - an oasis of serenity in a busy, busy world. I could feel my breathing slowing and my eyes wandering over all the lovely titles - but I resisted buying. The house here is falling down with books.

I enjoyed a little ramble around Temple Bar. I popped into the National Photographic Archive of the National Library of Ireland to see the 'Small Lives -photographs of Irish childhood 1880-1970' Exhibition  It's a fabulous exhibition, well worth a visit. I smiled at some photographs and and almost cried at others. One of my favourites was of two children in Henrietta Street during a (I think) May procession sometime in the 70's . The little fella in it had a tee shirt on that I recognised as identical to one that was in my family too, it  went from one brother to another to the youngest during that time. Must've been a Dunnes one - I think they were walking the streets of Ireland at the time.

Then off with me it the Irish Writers Centre to attend their screenwriting course - a lovely lively discussion with great people. And it took my mind off the launch, losing myself in the imagination of creating with others a treatment for a screenplay. 'Sall go.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Four more sleeps..........

Me nerves are shattered. I can’t understand my agitation. I can dress up as the Story Queen and ramble around towns in the North County, talking to children in a posh voice and not feel the slightest bit embarrassed. I’m not considered shy – but believe me I’m dying inside like everyone else at drawing attention to myself. But the persona I have created for myself  (that Evelyn Walsh one) is in a lot of trouble.She has to read her own words aloud this coming week.

The launch of my debut novel ‘The Herons Flood’
  (available  on http:/ or 

 is this coming Wednesday evening in the atrium of County Hall in Swords. I walk that atrium several times a day on my way to and from the Council department I work in. I’ve invited half of North County Dublin, my family, friends, colleagues, local papers, other writers etcetera etcetera. If they all turn up - which they won’t as only an average of 20% of people invited to a book launch actually arrive – the place will be jammers. My biggest fear is that I will be standing there with my husband and sons like a Billy-No-Mates, reading aloud from the novel and feeling like a complete and utter idiot. Calm. Calm. Breathe. Phew.

The guna ('dress' to the non-Irish speakers (needs a fada tho’)) was abandoned when the men in my life declared it a ‘no’. I absolutely hate all that trying on of outfits, parading about the house in an awful sweat and still not getting it right. I end up going off in a huff to run myself a lovely bath and only return to my gobshite males when I am safely wrapped up in mismatched pj’s and a fleecy dressing gown

Then my wonderful colleagues (people I am privileged to call friends) got hold of me and persuaded me the guna was lovely. I just had all the bits and bobs accessorizing it wrong. So on their advice off with me to Penneys and I bought a pair of purple (YES!) tights and a bit of an aul’ yoke with a purple feather on it to pin to the coat yoke I’m wearing over my Mary Quant style dress.

I didn’t know this was what the guna was until it was pointed out to me. I don’t normally do gunas, or make-up or hair or nails. I’m actually only barely female in my interest in girly things and I blamed Rebecca De Havalland for turning me into a girl last year. I think I thought I couldn’t be interested in clothes and be taken seriously. I’ve only just realised nobody takes me seriously anyway! I know I’ll change my mind a thousand times between now and Wednesday about dress, tights, shoes etcetera but at least I had a girly shopping hour on bits ‘n bobs.

Anyway to add to the excitement one of my flash fiction pieces ‘Bird’ was published in the Irish Times today Yay! Here it is.  When I read it (and tutted at myself over several words), I laughed. In the story a woman kills her husband. In the opening chapter of my novel a woman sits with the body of her husband – a garden shears protruding from his chest. I think I see a bit of a thread going through my work. Poor aul’ Jemser – Be Afraid….Be Very Afraid………

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The guna's got..........

So I have to have the book launch now. I thought it was a fairly nice guna – not a bit like my normal very (VERY) casual style. Cheap – of course. A bit flapperish. Maybe a tad slapperish. A bit shiny. A bit short. No cleavage and a little see through shrug. Black patent (pretend) leather boots to finish it off. I quite liked the ensemble. I was rather proud of myself for daring to wear it despite my bulk. I asked my fashion advisor - son #2 ‘wotcha reckon?’ His face fell. So did mine.
‘It’s a bit…’
‘A bit  what?’ sez I
‘Well…I don’t want to be mean’
‘Go on. Tell me.’
‘Them shiny yokes,’
‘Yeah. Discs.’
‘What about them’
‘I mean if you were like …eighteen and skinny and stuff it MIGHT be ok.’
‘So it’s too young for me? Or I’m too old for it?’

I’m deffo wearing it now! Or me tracksuit. Just to spite the little fecker. Although I’ll probably get cold feet about me flapperish slapperish guna.
Anyway it doesn’t matter what I wear because my beautiful sisters and sister in law and nieces and step nieces will all be there. And they are a bunch of seriously good looking well dressed wimmin. Maybe if I do a shimmy and shake me discs I might get noticed. And then I’ll run a mile!

And if you can’t make it to the book launch  (Weds Nov 9th 6pm County Hall Swords) there’s a reading in the Gutter bookshop in Temple Bar on Weds 16th Nov at 6.30pm. Or you can buy it here 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's all go..........

Will someone please, please, please tell me why I decided to self-publish this wretched novel? Oh I forgot – I’m the publicist as well as everything else so it’s not wretched, it’s wonderful, luminous, tear-jerking, heart-warming. Basically it’s written!

And like us all I thought that was all I had to do. But I ended up being writer, editor, computer nerd, publicist, events organiser. No wonder I haven’t been well lately – up to high doh and of course sleep pattern gone to the dogs so utterly exhausted and was about to cause a major row in work by exploding over something utterly trivial. So I went to doc who gave me a note for the paid job and a talk on over –stretching myself, plus a handful of sleeping tablets which I hate taking because they make me so zombie like the following day. And unfortunately I can’t switch off the whole book thing now. It has its own momentum at this stage and it doesn’t help that I need to do it all myself. And the more I do and the more hours I put in the better the book sales may be. Although I could have a team of people working on my behalf and it still might sell no more than a handful of copies. I might break even by the end of next year and then I won’t feel guilty and self-indulgent about spending so much time and cash on making my dream a reality.

F**king guilt. The story of my life – I’ll never learn to stop fretting over things over which I have no control, or feeling guilty about putting myself first. And worrying never made anything happen faster or better. And not putting yourself first means no-one else does either. You devalue yourself. And in the heel of the hunt if I don’t cover my costs what do I lose. Money. And as I am constantly saying ‘it’s only feckin’ money.’ Thank God for the credit union. So if the book costs me a few thousand I can cover the losses with a CU loan and pay it off gradually – with my paycheck from my reasonably paid full-time job, boring it is but we’ll never starve and I don’t think anyone ever died of boredom. If anyone ever does it will be someone in administration in a large organisation!

So what news on the novel. Well it’s up on smashwords as an e book and as a paperback and e book on I’m launching the book on November 9th in Fingal County Hall thanks to the lovely staff of the Building Facilities Unit and the Libraries Department. Heroes and heroines one and all. I’m nervous about it. Funny, isn’t it? I have no problem talking in any situation or in performing on stage in a play but I’m really nervous about reading from my novel on the night. I’m afraid I’ll be so emotional that I’ll end up crying and make a fool of myself.

Won’t be the first time. And I’m damn sure it won’t be the last!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Me babbies in their cute oneseys

My house gets more eccentric by the day. Son#2 needed new shoes so down with us to Penneys after school. He hasn't quite hit puberty - although he's getting there-so the purchase was relatively painless. We're heading to Donegal to look after Granny tomorrow as Jemser and son #1 will be at the Mick Hanly  songwriting showcase in Gibney's in Malahide. (it's complicated)

Anyway I wanted to pick up a little gift for one of Jemser's nieces and my eyes lit up when I saw these one piece fleecey jumpsuits in fun designs. I picked one for Eilis and son#2 declared he HAD to have the tiger one. I caved. I 'm a sucker when it comes to me babbies in cute PJ's. All my favourite photos of them are of them all clean and scrubbed and shiny-faced in new jammies waiting for Santa to come and bring them EXACTLY what they asked for.

We landed home and son#2 was raging I hadn't got one for him - I roared laughing. At seventeen I thought he would take himself far too seriously to go around in a one piece fleecey outfit. But no, thank the Lord he is still in touch with his inner child. Now, he'll pump half a can of hairspray into his hair and adjust his jeans until exactly the right amount of jock is showing and obsess in front of the mirror for an hour before he goes out, but when he's home he's home - and like us all he loves closing that front door and collapsing into his own space. And even if he is dressed as a cow (I kid you not, a fleecey cow complete with hood and ears) we'll accept him.Actually I decided I'd prefer to see him dressed as a cow rather than see most of his underpants!

So I went back down to Penneys (yes I know I'm a gobshite) and bought him his cow fleecey oneseys. And when I got home the two boys dressed down in their new outfits and I took their picture. Santa's not coming in the morning - but I have another lovely picture of me babbies happy in each other's company. As I age and they grow I'm aware that the opportunities for such photos will become fewer and fewer. So I'm going to cherish every moment that I can take these snaps - these little moments of pure unadulterated joy and laughter in a busy and sometimes bleak world.

And then I went off to a poetry open-mic session in Malahide where I met the lovely Sarah Marie Griff ( the girl I should have been) and her lovely young man Kerrie. Sarah is a wonderful poet/playwright/author and we will hear a lot more of her in years to come. She too is full of fun and laughter and I betcha she has a fleecey onesey somewhere in her home! I finally read some of my poems in public and yes my voice shook but no I didn't cry! And I'm delighted with myself for finally breaking my duck when it comes to my poetry. It's gas I can get up on stage and read someone elses work without a trace of nerves - but reading my own stuff just gives me the collywobbles.I feel such a fraud.

 Then I look at my sons and at kids like Sarah and I say 'thank god', that uncertainty we Irish (certainly we Irish females) had, that inferiority complex that so many of us felt seems to be retreating. About bloody time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Good Deed Doer.............

I decided to light the first fire of the winter this evening - the Nutella was hard in the jar and that's always a sign that it's time to get the coal scuttle out. SoIi drove over to the local petrol station to buy coal and briquettes. When I was paying the young girl serving started laughing - '
Will ye look at those eejits,'she said 'The kids locked the doors from the inside and the keys are in the ignition'.
 While I waited for my fuel to be loaded into my car I watched the unfolding drama. It was two young men , friends I think, and they were shouting to the kids in the car - twins aged three - trying to get them to pull the button up. One of the young men started shouting a little aggressively. I walked over.
'Will I try the Mammy touch?'sez I..
 'Jesus Missus - any touch would do, the little feckers hit the button down but either don't understand or just haven't the strength to lift it again.'
'What about the boot?'
 'That's out too - central locking'

The twins were in matching childseats and although they were thin and supple no amount of manouevring could get them out of the seats. They were able to tip themselves forward enough to reach the button on the door but not the keys in the ignition. They were starting to get a bit upset.While the lads and two men who had stopped to help were discussing options I amused the kids, making faces, laughing,telling little stories showing them the packet of sweets they were going to get when we got to them.. Someone behind me said 'You could get on of those mobile locksmiths?'
 'Ive' no money and its me girlfriends 21st and she's going to kill me!' was the answer. I laughed.
'Don't let money ever stop you over something like that - call them I'll pay them and you can pay me back whenever you have it'.
 The relief on his face was worth the offer.
 'I can;t let...I can't...thanks.'
Someone had produced a screwdriver and a hangar and one of the men managed to manouevre the wire down to the button but the child couldn't hold it against the button with enough force to allow the man to pull it up. 'One more thing, then we'll go for the locksmith said the man. He used the screw driver to force the top of the door open and one of the lads stretched his hand down but his arms weren't long enough So my arms (not too fat -thank God!) were called up and yep my big long arms proved just the thing. Pop! And the door opened. The kids roared laughing and then said 'where's the sweets?' Before I left I got them to repeat five times for me 'I must never ever ever push the button!'
. They were lovely lively little fellas and there father was far too relieved to have them out to give out to them. The poor divil - it was his first car and he had only just taken possession of it. There was no real damage to the door and they weren't too late for twenty-first. I'd say he'll remember that party for the rest of his life.And I'd say he will never ever get out of his car again without putting the keys in his pocket. He was a lovely young fella , gave me a big awkward hug and thanked me. I'm happy for him and happy for his boys that they have such a nice Daddy. There is hope for the future. At least I think so.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The World's Worst Salesperson..........

I don't know how I ended up in my family. No smart comments siblings please! My maternal uncle and my paternal grandfather were salesmen, my mother too - and canny with it. Two of my brothers are in retail- I'm lovin' the consternation of James Adams Auctioneers at the prospect of the brother's EuroGiant moving in beside them in Stephen's Green! One of my sisters makes a large part of her living from selling at outdoor markets, another sister works in a high-end fashion shop and is brilliant at it. Me?I couldn't plamas a donkey into eating hay.

I set out for a walk this morning, I've been a little fraught of late and find physical exercise helps relax tense muscles. I ran into neighbours, the lovely Jack and Teresa and reminded them of my book launch on November 9th. I explained self-publishing to them and they were surprised a the amount of work involved in actually getting a book out there. I told them not to buy the book - I didn't think Jack (or any man) would like it and sure let them wait til the library gets it if they really want to read it. I don't know how I'm going to sell any books if I keep telling people not to buy it!
'Sure, it's probably crap anyway,' sez I 'and I'm supposed to talk it up - it just seems shameful, self praise etcetera'. I mentioned Facebook, Twitter and blogging as ways of publicizing the novel.
'What's blogging?' sez Teresa. I explained.
'I'll be blethering about you two this evening' I said.
 'So you just blether away about anything and everything - it doesn't have to be on a topic to do with writing?' asked Jack (I'm paraphrasing - forgive me Jack!).
'It doesn't - it's just a way of making contact with people. People love chats. Chats are lovely. Like a Christmas Card,' pointing a the two boxes in Teresa's hands. 'Mother of God' sez I, 'you're not at that crack already?'
'Ah they were cheap' sez she, 'and I send a lot of cards. I keep swearing I'll cut back every year. But you know Evelyn - I love getting a card.'

I knew exactly what she meant. a handwritten letter or card is still a joy, somebody thought about you and took the time to write your name, a little good wish and your address. Someone out there in the real world - not this internet world - really cares about you. Well - enough to send you a little hug via the Post Office anyway.

A woman I worked with for many years retired last year. I didn't make it to her 'do' so the following week I sat down and wrote her a three page letter reminiscing about some of the funny moments we had as colleagues and on nights out. I got a phone call from her the following week. Mary had been so touched by the letter that she had rung her sister in England to read it to her. She told me she cried when she read it because in recent years she had felt herself very cut off in work. Years ago if there was a work difficulty you'd drop into another person's office or pick up the phone and query it, while shooting the breeze. E-mail (for Mary's generation anyway) hadn't replaced that human touch properly. I felt sad for her, I hadn't realised how unhappy she had been. And all for the want of a chat.

So this week, make An Post and someone you haven't seen in a while happy. Send them a little 'thinking of you' note. I bet it'll be paid back in waves of thoughtfulness.Oh yeah, and go out and buy that wonderful debut novel of Evelyn Walsh's 'The Heron's Flood.' Buy one for your Aunty for Chrimbo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Viko Nikci is wreckin' me head............

I thought I talked a lot. Actually I know I talk a lot. But I met my match today. I'm attending a screenwriting workshop at the Irish Writers Centre and the tutor is Viko Nikci, a charming American man who blew me away with lesson 1. D'ye know the way I'm always saying Carlo Gebler is God? Well I reckon Viko Nikci might well be the Holy Ghost. The guy has such incredible passion for what he does. You can only sit back and admire as he harnesses all the intellect and nervous energy he possesses and channels it into whatever he happens to be talking about.

Passion truly is the difference between the great and the mediocre. Mr Nikci has passion in buckets. I hope I manage to catch some of the drips from the buckets as he barrels past. I thought doing Marina Carr's playwrighting workshop in Listowel was wonderful, like trying to catch bubbles. Viko Nikci's approach is something similar except in his case I think it is like trying to catch mercury - there is a shrewd business sense in there too. He explained the difference between script and film to us, made us push our boundaries out a little, challenging us to come up with reasons why one version of a story should be told over another. The only thing is the so 'n so got me so fired up I cannot sleep so am resorting to knitting and watching re-runs of old dectivey things on the telly. At least I have the dog for company! And I just remembered - I have to do a blitz in work tomorrow before our lovely storekeeper comes back froom extended sick leave. I'm so-o-o-o tired!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Naturally Speaking..........

This may well be a short post. I'm using a voice recognition programmeme, mainly because I'm suffering from repetitive strain injury and am unable to use my left arm in any repetitive action for their foreseeable future. No crude jokes please! It is so peculiar to sit here and talk at a screen and see my words dancing out without any physical movement from me barring the movement of my lips. Jemser is delighted. For years he has been pleading that my incoherent speech is the reason he fails to carry out those little tasks that lifetime partners tend to ask of each other on a daily basis. Now he thinks that my speech will be controlled by the speed at which the NaturallySpeaking programme can understand me and he will be proved right. Of course, the real reason Jemser doesn't listen (or rather doesn't hear) me is because a)he is an aul fella with waxy ears and b) he’s male!

All coddin’ ‘n jokin’ aside this programmeme is unbelievable. And it cost (including extra RAM) under €100. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this although it does feel like cheating. One of the best things about the programme is its ability to avoid typos and punctuation errors. I do find I'm saying ‘delete it’ a lot but I'm sure as the programme becomes used to my hiberno English and my manic speech patterns we’ll get along fine. Imagine all the shite I can now come out with, my imagination not now limited by the speed at which I can or cannot type! It's a mad, mad, mad world.

I wonder how it will work if I'm writing poetry? I still use a pencil and an unlined notepad when I'm working on a poem, I love the scratching sound and can glide off into another world as the words form themselves. There is something very visceral about poetry, it seems to unearth something within me at a much deeper level than anything else I write, say, or do. Most of my poems are poor and there are very few I show to others. I am often afraid of the emotions they lead me to and so tend to camouflage those feelings with clever quips or flippant phrases. In speaking these last few sentences to my ‘DragonBar’ and seeing them appear as words on a page I feel uneasy; as if something outside of myself has accessed the darker reaches of my mind. I'm sure I’ll get used to it. I have to if I want to continue to write, sparing my body the discomfort of  RSI – but I think I won’t abandon pencil and paper just yet.

There is a man I know the claims eventually we-the human race-will merely have to attend our paid employments for a couple of remote minutes daily, permitting employers access to various areas of our brains, and the rest of the day and night will be ours. Imagine! All those hours to spend with those you love, or alone-whichever one chooses-learning, loving, laughing, being. Telling machines to do the tasks we hate, only spending time doing tasks we enjoy. Utopia. And feck it! I’ll be dead and miss the whole shebang!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Self Publishing – the path to stressful living

Right. I’ve gone through the conventional publishing route and barring swallowing my  pride and accepting that an editor MIGHT be right and the fact that as a writer I was at the bottom of the food pyramid I emerged relatively unscathed.

I’m now almost at the end of self publishing my novel ‘The Heron’s Flood’. I have the book launch organised (thanks to Fingal County Council for a space for the launch), friends, family and colleagues are all lined up to cheer me on, hopefully buy a book and have a drink with me on the night. I have distribution outlets arranged, publicity ( all done by moi) ready to roll, the novel has been edited re edited and read by five different people for grammar and the interior formatting was done beautifully by Catherine Ryan Howard. I even have the money in place to order a few hundred books – in the hope that I’ll eventually break even on them and cover my outlay.  So what’s wrong sez you.

Everything. I’m boll**ed working full time and dealing with the stresses and strain of being an office manager in a badly staffed area. I spend most of my 9 to 5 working day cajoling people into doing things they really shouldn’t have to do. And because they like me they do it – but I know it’s not right as do they. Then I have the moody teenager in son#1 at home who can’t wait to get out of school but still hasn’t copped that unless he puts in SOME work in the next couple of months he will have to put his plans for world domination on hold for another year. I have an eleven year old in son#2 whose hormones are starting to roar and, bless him, he needs me to moan at. I have the wonderful Jemser who is a tower of forbearance but even I am sick of the sound of my whiney voice moaning about things over which I have no control. So I try to bite my tongue around him – because I quite like him and I’m used to him at this stage so I’d rather not lose him. But biting my tongue means bottling up how I feel . And I’m not supposed to be typing  - I don’t count blogging – that’s just scribbling. So I bought a voice recognition programme – I’ll let you know how I get on. If it works there will be blessed silence from this blog because I will be able to ramble on interminably in the voice of one of my characters on whom I will dump all my problems and he/she can work them out.

I’ve digressed. As per. What’s now holding up the book is the jacket design. I used a company recommended by someone and they have it a month so I was expecting great things. Not only did I not like what I got back they got the bloody title wrong. That’s bad. But they seem like nice people so I’m giving them a second chance. We all deserve that. Jemser says I think everyone is like myself  - throwing myself one hundred and ten percent into everything I do. He reckons most people will do the bare minimum required by them from others. Is that true? I don’t think so. I hope it’s not. I have to keep hoping that too otherwise I’d be another one to shrug and say ‘what’s the point’ There is always a point and as human beings we have to think we can make a difference – through being passionate and committed at what we do – no matter what we do. If you’re going to be a gardeners be the best gardener you can be, ditto a parent, ditto a writer, ditto a graphic designer. Of course in all things creative what is one man’s gold is another mans brass. So I’m sure my designer just picked up the wrong vibe from what I wanted. How the hell can I be a writer if I can’t articulate what I want my work to say?

Rant over. RSI acting up so I’ll have to stop. I feel better for the rant though; all is sweetness and light in my brain and I didn’t have to annoy Jemser by wittering on about it.

Watch this space for launch date.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Menary's Mania........

I always thought Menary's was a kind of a hick shop. I don't know why but I always associated it with beige twinsets and tartan pleated skirts. I was pleasantly surprised when I stuck my head into the Menary's in the Omni Shopping Centre in Santry. It was, co-incidentally, the weekend they were showing the world (well, North City Dublin) their new range of wares.

I always liked Menary's household stuff , I think they source a lot of their homewares from the same suppliers Arnotts tend to use. But I thought their female fashion was always a little dated, and if I noticed it then it must have been really bad! Well, it's not any more. They had really gorgeous stuff in store today - I particularly liked the Klass collection they have. Really nice garments at affordable prices for middle aged bats like myself. I'm a low maintenance woman and cheap and cheerful Dunnes and Penneys does me fine but I'm delighted to have a new shop I'll enjoy wandering around when I feel in need of a little retail therapy. I don 't think online shopping will ever completely replace the shopping mall experience. I love to touch garments, see how tactile they are. Is it a peculiarly female trait? I've never noticed men wandering about feeling the corners of garments with a slightly dazed look on their faces!

I bought myself a few little things plus bedcovers for son#2, a new frying pan for Jemser and a spatter pan which he won't use and I'll end up giving out about as I clean me hob. When I went to pay because I was spending over a hundred euro they threw in a butchers block of stainless steel knives worth fifty euro! I was delighted, I got the set we already have free in 1995 from the milkman in Celbridge, and it has served us well. I wonder why people give me free knives? Are the trying to tell me something? H'mmmmmmmmm!.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not a post about the Presidential race, insomnia and weather

TWO insomniac nights this week. My body clock is all over the place, I had a bad throat for a couple of days so was sleeping a lot of the day away. It was killing me to have to take to the leaba because the weather in Dublin has been glorious all week. An Indian summer - I don't ever remember it being this warm this late in the year. I think the country's body clock must be is all over the place too. I hope it stays warm and sunny for another while, we could all do with a little vitamin D before winter arrives. And arrive it will.

I was suppose to blog about the race for d'Aras but I can't be bothered. I looked at the media shots of the magnificent seven and am dreading the wall to wall coverage that will be inflicted on us over the next few weeks. Honestly, not one of the candidates could hold a candle to our last two magnificent Presidents. Our Marys. There certainly is Something About Mary when it comes to Mrs Robinson and Mrs McAleese. Brilliant ambassadors for our country - intelligent, warm and utterly devoted to their job. I have been a David Norris supporter all along and am delighted he is getting the opportunity to let the people decide to choose him or not. But he needs to stop talking and start listening. He is an erudite dapper man and I think him being elected would demonstrate how grown-up Ireland has become, how we can think for ourselves now, are no longer dominated by a Church that kept us in the dark ages by controlling the education of the very young, indoctrinating them from birth thus ensuring Rome's coffers could continue to be filled by pennies. Doesn't it just kill you  that everything , everything  seems to come down to money. Even God.

Michael D Higgins is another erudite man and he too would make a fine President. I honestly could not vote for any of the other candidates - no matter what they say. they just have not the gravitas I think the office needs. So that's it -  my non-blog about the Irish Presidential Race. Best of luck to all the candidates

Monday, September 26, 2011

Company in the wee small hours........

On my weekly insomniac night tonight and it's not so bad now there is a living creature who keeps me company through the night. Mollie is the newest addition to our family - an adorable bichon freise pup who has stolen all our hearts away, She has replaced the remote control as the signt of supremacy in the house. Whoever Mollie chooses to bestow her friendly little face and warm affectionate body on is King of the Hill.

We haven't had much luck with pets really, Sylvester and Tuppence our rabbits froze to death last year in a snap frost the day after I mentioned we ought to be taking them into the garage for the winter. Son#2 devastated. The year before that we got Dora, a terrier cross mongrel from Dogs Trust but I made the unilateral decision to return her after a week because her bad habits were too ingrained for inexperienced dog owners like us. I still feel terrible when I think of poor aul' Jemser's face reacting to my insisting she was going back. He loved her and he looked like a disappointed little boy. Do we ever out grow our childhood emotions?

We've had a few hamsters  - they mostly lived out their natural lifespan of two years.They all had weird names Skibbley was one of them, Hermione another.  There were a pair of adorable zebra finches that son#1 killed by mistake when he fed them slow release plant food pellets instead of bird seed. Cyril the canary flew away when his cage was knocked over in the garden one summer evening  - I hope he had one last glorious flight in freedom. There was an anarchic budgie who HATED me and would only let son#1 handle her. She always pecked me and gave out when I cleaned out her cage or replaced food and water. Ungrateful little bitch! She fell off her perch one night and son#! was devastated - I think that was the last time I saw him cry - he was about twelve, he's seventeen now.

Pets, apart from their general cuteness and company, offer a great way of explaining grief and death to children - sounds heartless I know but as life is only a preparation for death it's no harm introducing them gently to the hugeness of death as fact via our animal friends. Kids can then see that life goes on for the living, we respectfully bury the deceased pet, talk about them kindly and move on. I think I feel an aul' ramble on about Death 'n stuff coming on.

I have no fear of death, I think it'd be nice to have an endless coladh samh (stop worrying family - I'm not suicidal!). I've done my job - turned out two gorgeous talented intelligent boys in sons #1 and #2 and aided and abetted in turning out two brilliant bright and beautiful women in stepdaughters #1 and #2. I feel very privileged to have been allowed to mammy these people. I look at them in awe sometimes and think  -'I did that. Me!I helped make them what they are.' Along with the Jemser of course. We didn't make such a bad team really. I think it was Jim's Mam Teresa who said 'you get the children you deserve'. It's true - what you put into your kids you get back in spades. I loved them - told them I loved them- gave them the gift of books books and more books, told them they could be anyone, do anything they wanted to do and that the only limit on them would be their own fears and that the only way to conquer a fear is to face it and pass through it.

I'm giving meself a pat on the back. And a virtual hug. Well done Evo - top of the class. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A lovely lady............

My sister’s mother-in-law died last weekend and we buried her on Monday. Anne and Bert had been married for more than fifty years and Anne slipped peacefully away on a bed in the living room of the home they shared, the living room in which they held their wedding reception all those years ago. I thought it very fitting that it was the place from where Anne took her leave of us. Of course it is a huge wrench for Bert and for their children, grandchildren, in-laws, extended family and friends and my heart and thoughts go out to them all.

Anne passed away at 9am Saturday morning and within a hour or so had the country screeching with delight when Ireland won their match against Australia. Her son is a huge rugby fan. He’s also a Dub – so Anne sorted them for the All-Ireland too. Good on ye Anne, we knew you’d organise a little luck for us. Anne was a big fan of my writing. When I had my first story published she sent me a lovely letter ( isn’t getting a hand written letter so caring and intimate) complimenting me on the piece and encouraging me to complete the novel I was writing. Writing is such a  solitary painfully slow game and every ounce of encouragement is necessary. Anne’s letter will always be cherished by me. The novel was completed and will be published next month.

Anne was a home bird and lived for her husband and her family. Bert and herself were like Darby and Joan, tootling away together fully content with each other after half a decade. I was only in their house twice but on both occasions I felt relaxed the minute I walked in. Their house was warm and comfortable and loving, full of the smells of baking and the sounds of life. Anne idolised all her grandchildren and was a tremendous help to her daughter and her daughters-in-law in caring for their children. Anne believed in the core values of family, home and happiness, good food and laughter. She loved to yap and I was always glad to see her at family functions. She had a way of immediately putting you at your ease. My own dear mother – who sadly died far too young over twenty years ago - and Anne got along like a house on fire. They both loved a bit of style and never went anywhere without a bit of ‘lipper’ and a touch of eye shadow.

Wherever Anne is she is at peace, all toil is over. I know she will look out for all those she had to leave behind and will be cheering on her grandkids at whatever ventures they choose for themselves. We were lucky to have known her.

Ar dheis De go raibh a h-anam

Friday, September 16, 2011

I meant to blog about this on Monday. But I’ve had a mad busy week and as I’m not supposed to be using my left hand it takes me ages to type anything. I was in Balbriggan library last Saturday morning doing my ‘Story Queen’ routine.

I get dressed up as a panto queen complete with crown, rope of pearls, red patent leather shoes and stripey tights. Then off with me to the Junior section of one of Fingal's libraries where I lead a forty minute interactive book reading session with a crowd of under sevens.

Last  Saturday the children in Balbriggan library got totally involved with me. A friend of mine was there with her beautiful sons but I’m afraid the girls took over that day. There were two little girls in particular both aged about four who decided they wanted to join in with everything.

 ‘Can we have a chat instead?’ asked one.
 ‘Now dear, when I’ve finished this story we can have a little chat, is that ok’.
 ‘Of course,’ sez she.
So off we went with Owl Babies by Martin Waddell complete with a chorus of  ‘I want my Mummy’ says Bill from everyone.
‘Is it time for the chat now’ she persisted.
'I want to chat too,' said smallie no 2
’Tell me what you want to talk about’
‘Em…m…m..teacher has that  book,’  pointing to Farmer Duck.
‘Shall I read that for you then dear?’ 

She nodded and I demonstrated how they were to quack and cluck and moo and baa along with me. As I twisted around, clucking like a hen – as one does - my hoop and train got all twisted and much hilarity ensued.

We read several more stories and at the end my little friends insisted on picking up my train and escorting me to the top of the steps leading from the junior library. I was bowled over buy the love I felt from them all. I had to stay in the loo until I thought the kids were all gone. I hate destroying their illusions. When I thought the coast was clear I left the library and walked back to my car and who was in the car parked next to mine only my little chatty friends! So back into Queenie mode I went.

'Don’t mind that I’m not in my dress dear. I couldn’t wander about the town in it – why people would think I was quite insane. Now I must rush. The King is waiting for his dinner.’

I think I got away with it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Will.

Those of you that know me know of my abiding love for the works of Will Shakespeare. OMG! I love that man. The music in his words, his puns and double entendres, his passionate love scenes his love of the dramatic, his sense of the ridiculous. I wonder can men be bawds? If so Will was both bard and bawd. I read something recently about him and I’m para phrasing it here - I can’t remember it exactly nor the author. It described writers as magpies who love not shiny objects but interesting words, or little bits and pieces of information that are stored in the database in our brains to be taken out and mulled over and regurgitated in some piece we write, perhaps even years later.

Writers need a smattering of psychology and of philosophy. We don’t need to read all philosophies or examine all psychological analysis, we can simply rob something from a book on such weighty matters, we usually have inquisitive acquisitive minds. The internet was a godsend to us for it gives us access to information that might have required a lot of effort otherwise. You can tell a fiction writer from his\her library. Its contents will neither flatter the eye nor indicate any systematic capacity for reading. Instead of neat rows of well bound books you will find dog-eared books on witchcraft, animal training, second hand dictionaries and guides to punctuation and grammar.  Un scholarly history books, travel books, some great writers some contemporary writers, some not so great writers who simply tell great tales, notebooks full of odd facts picked up in pubs, betting shops, knitting circles, cobblers, shops, on buses, in taxis, on the radio.

What no amount of academic training can bestow on any potential writer (and we all have potential) is the gift of words. It cannot teach the fundamental skill of putting words together in surprising patterns which seem to reflect some previously unguessed truth about life. And this was Will’s great ability – he told truths in a new way to an undereducated populace who lived short brutal lives. Of course they weren’t  even then, new truths. All the great truths were already there, and have been since Man first stood erect and thought. People may not have experienced them at that stage but that does not mean they did not exist. So reading, reading widely and listening and observing are all vital to any writer of fiction and I believe that there must also be an innate curiousity about everything about ability to work things out for oneself.

Why am I telling yiz all this? Sure, ye probably knew it all already!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Non violent Fighting Words

I attended my first Fighting Words session of the new school year today. I always enjoy my mornings there but this bunch of eight and nine year old lads from St Joesph's CBS ( Joeys) in Fairview were classic. I laughed until I cried. And fair play to Sara Bennett facilitator extraordinaire, who controlled the energy in the room and pulled a hilarious story out of the kids called 'Where is the Evil Anymore'  about Tiguar (halfTiger/half Jaguar) and his friend Stop Talking a parrot who wouldn't stop talking . Here's a link to it if you want to read more. .

One of the rules in Fighting Words is that we try not to use violence in the stories and Sarah explained this to the children. One child asked 'what's violence?'. Sarah explained the word in simpler terms and I thought about the little incident. I wonder will we ever see a world where violence is an archaic word. A word that 98% of the population wouldn't understand because there is none. A word that only archaeologists historians etcetera understand? I'd love to be around in that world. A world full of balanced happy people contributing and living in their society on good terms with all about them. A world where people like the ones in my home abound. People who are loved, people who love, who sing and read and talk and above all listen to each other.

Lack of communication is the main reason for all frustration, frustration that tips into anger and cause rows. If we listen - really listen- to what our children are saying, our older people our disenfranchised through lack of education or the inability to nurture never having known nurturing. Every society, every country, every world and be judged on how it treats those on the fringes of that society. This is the message of every great teacher since time began, the message of Plato, Sophocles, Jesus Christ, the prophet Mohammed, Buddha, Martin Luther King. Bring me your old, your sick and your lonely. Nurture your children. Love one another.
Will we ever get there lads?
C'mon - sure we'll give it a go.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sleepy September Sundays

I had a really lovely day today. I woke early (which I normally love on a Sunday because it means I can sigh contentedly roll over and kip for another few hours) but I was anxious to get on with proofing the reader's copy of 'The Heron's Flood' to check for final final final changes. So I read this WONDERFUL novel until about half ten when himself shouted up that the stirabout was ready. So up, washed and togged within twenty minutes (I'm low maintenance) and savoured the porridge with sultanas. I  denied myself even so much as a glance at the Sunday papers because therein lies ruin - I lose at least two hours of my life every time I do that; then moan that there is nothing in them. The wonderful Colm Toibin was on the radio chatting about his upcoming play'Testament' in the Dublin Theatre Festival. It is about one of the much sung but strangely poorly depicted (in terms of theatre) historical characters - Mary, mother of Jesus. There is definitely 'something about Mary' and I am really looking forward to this play,  particularly as both Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen are involved. A must-see of the Festival methinks. Plus Colm's mate Loughlinn Deegan chose one of my favourite tracks as a song he associated with Colm - Tom Waites 'I hope that I don't fall in love with you'
Then meself and son#2 hopped into the car and headed for Balbriggan's Sunday open-air market. My sister has a stall there and I visit the odd time - always at this time of the year to pick up my winter fireside rug from my lovely rug man with whom I have my annual natter, solve the problems of the country and always walk away with a lovely rug for under thirty euro, can't be bet. I bought some home made blackberry jam - early but feckin' gorgeous, a few cute second hand 'ormadils', proper mucky misshapen carrots and real dark green cabbage. I also picked up two sporting books for Jemser and Kurt Cobain's 'Journals' for son #1 - mesmerising for insight into a brilliant but, I think, not fully rounded mind (I'll be killed for that). Poor bugger. Great market - sometimes full of crap but you'll pick up the odd gem, don't bring too much cash and in general kids over  five love it, it's always worth it for the characters. Particularly worth it to view with amusement the fleeing traders who trade in the perennial counterfeit DVDs, illegally imported cheapo fags and sometimes electrical tools of dubious origin  who run with their wares as the Gardai pay at least three visits over a six hour period.

Back home and Jemser had the dinner underway - Championship Sundays = early dinners. That man makes the best gravy in the 26 counties. I re-read 'Dancing at Lunaghasa' (son #2 is studying it for the Leaving) as I had a cuppa and was mesmerised again by the language characters and symbolism. A classic. The Sunday roast,  roasties and two veg with a glass of red knocked me out so I had a three o'clock six o clock snooze. It was great to wake up refreshed at five oclock with the All-Ireland over (hard luck Tipp) the dishes done and feeling refreshed enough to write a little. Mind you I have RSI and am warned off. But Jesus lads - I'd crack up if I couldn't blether. BTW, can you get RSI of the mouth?  Probably not, for I'd surely be crocked if you could. It had been raining when I fell asleep earlier reminding me of many wet Sunday afternoons when the kids were smaller and fractious, I couldn't drive and Jemser wouldn't budge from RTE and the GAA. I often felt like strangling someone before teatime. Changed times.

It was a lovely evening so I did a little late season dead-heading - the garden is struggling but still looking well. I went for a ramble and a bit of a think and now I'm settling down to some knitting for the expected new arrival ( after a eleven year gap) into the Walsh clan. This babby is going to be the only babby ever born. Deffo. And the most wanted, cherished loved and adored baby too. And YIZ BETTER MAKE ME AUNTIE VERY SPECIAL!!

I might even read the Sunday papers after a while.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Wolfman Cometh............

I felt twelve or thirteen again last night. I spotted and couldn’t resist buying a DVD called the WolfMan earlier on in the day. It was made in 1941 with a cast that included Lon Chaney Jnr and Claude Rains. I roared laughing watching it because the special effects and melodrama are now so dated and OTT. But it explains where my love of the dramatic comes from. I could never resist the old black and whites especially the horror and crime ones. It was hard not to laugh last night at the tears rolling down Lon Chany’s face as he sat in his vest and rolled up trousers to view with horror his increasingly hairy legs. The whole hoo-haw in the village after ‘the wolfman’ strikes and kills a second victim is more reminiscent now of the over amplification and exaggeration that is used by cartoon or panto characters for an increasingly tech savvy bunch of pre schoolers.

It didn’t scare me (well, not much). But by god it reminded me of baby-sitting in my uncle’s house in Swords aged about twelve. The kids would be long asleep and I sat on his couch – all lights off only the flicker of the telly for company munching through a bowl of rice krispies ( I thought they were so rich and sophisticated because they bought Rice Krispies!) and being absolutely scared shitless. When Tom and Margaret rambled in from wherever they had been I used to pretend that I fell asleep on the couch – the reality being I was too scared to go up the stairs. We lived in a bungalow ( another reason I thought they were rich!) and the shadows on the stairs were just too much to handle. Lon Chaney was a complete ham but I reckon Claude Rains was a great actor. Himself, Clark Gable and Charles Boyer. I was a sucker for those suave, intelligent and so-o-o-o- sophisticated - totally unattainable to a young wan from the Mun, which was great because if I had ever landed one like that I wouldn't have had the slightest idea how to behave. I am a complete romantic, love tales of people dying for love - of lovers being torn apart by circumstance and dying alone and lonely far apart from each other. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Old Curiousity Shop - I don't care what Oscar Wilde thinks I bawled me eyes out at the death of Little Nell. Precious Bane, David Copperfield I could go on all night. I wallow happily in the sentimental. Sure look at the title of me blog – still one of my favourite movies Bette Davis and Charles Boyer. ‘ Oh Gerry – why wish for the moon when we already have the stars – as he lights two fags and hands one to her.

How on earth did I end up with Jemser? Although he did record a song for me for one of my birthdays. 'I'm gonna love you forever, forever and ever amen. As long as old men sit and talk about the weather as long as old women sit and talk about old men.' Aaah! Mebbe he is a closet romantic.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On being hirsute in Funtasia

Took son#2 and pals on their end of the holidays day out yesterday. It was meant to be the day before but the Waterpark in Drogheda we wanted to go to was jam packed and thank the universe at ten and eleven they are now old enough to understand compromise .So I arranged to take a full day off work yesterday – thank you lovely employer about whom I constantly moan and we visited an almost empty Applegreen service station on the M1 for a snack (how on earth do they expect to make money on those?) and pretended we were in America and then went to our local swimming pool as a consolation prize.

So yesterday morning we set off for Co Louth. I love that Louth accent. People always sound as if they are about to burst into joyous Munchkin-like song. Anyway we were about the third or fourth car into the car park and only had to queue for about twenty minutes before the squad got access to the fun and games. Thank the universe I no longer have to shave and trim unsightly hair ( who ever said it was unsightly?- I think the odd stray pube can be a little –well…tantalising-at least until one is thirty five years of age) and pack my aging white flesh into a bathing suit and not embarrass myself or my children by parading my disgraceful lack of discipline and interest in my physical appearance for the world to sneer at. Now I can sit in the carpark of these ‘fun’ places and read my book, write or doze. All perfectly nice acceptable things for a Mammy to be doing.

It's a good day out for kids and at €11 each for an unlimited time it is reasonable. Be warned though it's popular and they reach saturation point at 400 so have to restrict access until some people leave. My lot spent three hours in it and would have spent longer only hunger drove them out to me. There is a huge Tesco and Lidl nearby and an outlet shopping mall if you wanted to sit and have a coffee and felt comfortable enough leaving them in the waterpark. They do an online deal where you can get a reduced access price to their sister amusement park in nearby Bettystown. As I queued I was chatting to a family from Kerry who were on a midweek break availing of a nice four star hotel nearby and doing the run of things in the area. Much easier than hauling all the smallies onto a plane for a tiny apartment and worrying about sun burn for two weeks.I'm getting old. Deffo. When I see the advantages of a holiday at home over a sun holiday. Mind you most of the holidays I've had in my lifetime have been at home and I always enjoyed them - well, almost always!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now comes the Winter of my pen's content

Ok, bad pun for a blog title - but it is almost the end of the school holidays and once my sons settle back into their routine I can get back into mine. I wondered why I was so edgy and irritable the last few weeks. It's because me writing has gone to pot. The only real writing I did over the past ten weeks was a rough draft of a new story and some scribbled ideas for children's books. And the rough draft of the story was written in the middle of one night. I did a lot of proof reading and organising re my book launch done but no serious work.

I write very little in the summer. I suppose we get so little decent weather in Ireland that I feel I should be out and about in it, gardening or walking or just sitting in my garden reading. I try to persuade myself that reading is a neccessary part of writing ( which it is) but not the psychological thrillers and murder mysteries I favour as back garden reading material.

Anyway when this last week of entertaining the troops is over - we have our annual Zoo visit and a trip to Fantasia - the waterpark in Bettystown- planned. I'm on half-days all week so we might fit in a trip to Butlers chocolate factory as well - now that I'll DEFINITELY enjoy. I have the schoolbooks and uniforms sorted. Imagine I now have one child going into his final year of primary education and one into his final year of secondary. So come this day next week all my excuses and procrastinating must cease and I must adhere to my two hours a day six days a week, and five hours of a Sunday with my bum on the seat and my fingers on the keyboard rule.

I'm looking forward to it - no messing about idly flicking onto Facebook every half hour or going from one link to another on Wikepedia or watching endless ridiculous clips on YouTube. Here's hoping I produce something of worth over winter 11/12. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm gone a bit odd............

No smart comments about the title of this post please. Ok, maybe I should have said odder. I've been incarcerated in the basement of the office building since mid May computerising a stationery stores system and doing the work of the storeman who is off enjoying himself having a hip relacement (joke Michael!). At one stage in my thirty years with this organisation I worked in Building Facilities and used to joke that I had control of toilets and canteens and was therefore all powerful. Now I have control of bog-roll and photocopy/print paper so I have ABSOLUTE control of the place, which appears to run on both items judging by the amounts I have to buy and distribute.

Nobody likes me in this job. They told me so. 'Michael's so nice - you're an aul' wagon' they cry when I query their use of any item. One gormless young one had the misfortune to tell me she needed rubber bands urgently to which I replied 'Brain surgery is urgent dear. Rubber bands are not'. It never ceases to amaze me how excited people get about stationery. They label everything they requisition as personal to themselves. If there is one thing I cannot bear it is a stapler with someones name tippexed on it. The stapler belongs to the employer not the indiviual employee - the employee is merely allowed use the stapler whilst they work for the employer. It's the same with rulers, notebooks - anything that can be labelled is labelled.

I think it's a regression to childhood. You know, when you got all your new school books copies, pencils erasers etc and laboriously put your name on every item and felt all pleased and grown up with yourself. On top of these childish souls there are a number of 'serial' shoppers. Some people think it quite alright to leave their own office and disappear to Stores twice or three times a week looking for one or two items. The new computerised system will put a halt to that particular gallop as in future all orders must be e mailed . So I'll have even fewer visitors.

I can't even have the radio on as there is no reception in the basement. The storeman won't be back until the end of October - at which stage I will quite definitely be do-lalley. I like to gab and gabbing to yourself is no fun because you never know the answers to your own questions, well I don't. Am I making sense? Probably not. See, I told you I was losing it.

I didn't think this particular job would bother me because as a writer I often spend hours at a time staring at a computer screen lost in the world of my characters. However I like that work and often have to drag myself back to the real world. Keying in and counting stock items of rubber bands, tabbed folders, staple extractors, sellotape, stamp pads, paper, notebooks, envelopes and their prices is, to say the least, mind-numbingly boring. A redundant turnip could do it. So yes I can be happy working alone, but only when I'm doing something I'm passionate about. It's difficult to get excited over the advantages of a finetipped pen over a ballpoint biro.

I can't believe I have written a blog about my incredibly boring employment.

To counteract the hacking away at my soul I throw my energies into the Story Queen and the fiction writer when I get home. The Queen's reputation is growing and I even have business cards for her now! The fiction writer is getting nervous about her book launch next month - she hopes she doesn't lose too much money on it (so does her husband!). The Queen and the author keep the storekeeper relatively for the mother,wife and housekeeper, well, that's another days blog.