Friday, December 19, 2014

A Story involving Children, A Lost Dog, Starlings and Santa’s Sleigh…..a best seller!

I work as a part time childminder for two different families. On Mondays and Tuesdays I have my gorgeous girlies - aged 6, 5 and 3; Wednesday and Friday afternoons I have my best buddies-aged 12, 10 and 6. They are all great kids and all attend Gaelscoil Bhriain Boroimhe in Applewood, Swords. My best buddies are members of a relocated South African family - all of my buds were born in Ireland, and they speak both English and Irish (and fair play to their mother for mastering Irish to be able to help them with homework – she has better Irish than 99% of our population) with a delightful Afrikaans’s accent. They family blonde, sallow-skinned and beautiful.
 On Thursday night last I was sitting at home idly scrolling through Facebook when I spotted a picture of a dog that looked remarkably like Charlie, new pet (with the smelliest farts in Ireland), of my best buddies. This dog had been found near Airside in Swords, Dublin, and looked very plaintive in the photo.. He had been taken in by a family and they'd posted his image on a local ‘Things For Sale, Swap or Free’ page in the hope someone in the area would recognise him. I mentioned it to the Jemser and he said
‘Sure ring your best buddies’ mother and let them know.’
 But it was late and I didn’t want to disturb them so I left it. The whole thing went completely out of my head on Friday morning – until I got a text from me buddies’ Mam asking me something, and mentioning that she’d left the side gate open as Charlie had done a runner. The family only got Charlie five weeks ago - from another nice home; but he is unused to the area and apt to bolt to explore if one leaves the  front door open for even  a second. The kids aren’t used to this yet and so forget to be careful. Plus they’re kids. He had gotten out on the odd occasion before Thursday but they’d always managed to catch him. But he went AWOL Thursday evening - the children were heart broken and very worried. Losing a pet is hard enough on adults, but there is a very special bond between children and their pets, I suppose because children’s lives are - for the most part, carefree; so any little anxiety hits them harder. The children absolutely adore Charlie and have showered him with affection since he came into their lives, they play with him constantly when at home, and he is mad about them all. The parents are incredibly loving busy people but hadn’t taken Charlie to the vet yet for chipping, nor had they gotten around to buying a dog tag. That’s first thing on their list this morning!
                ‘OMG!’ texted me to her,‘saw him on FB!At least I think it was him. I’ll get kids to confirm and if it’s him we’ll collect him.’
 She couldn’t access FB in work to check if it was Charlie so I popped onto the FB page and posted that I thought I knew the owners and would be in touch later. I was right excited going up to me best buddies’ house. I had a little Christmas present for each of them and planned to take them out to eat as a special Christmas treat. I love treating kids, love their faces when something different happens to them. Oh! to be a child again –  to still have that sense of wonderment and joie de vivre. Mind you, I do try me best to be tuned into it. I had the laptop open onto that lovely picture of Charlie on FB, ready and waiting hard for the scholars coming in.
The ten year old was first through the door.
‘Hi Ev-eh-lin, Charlie ran away yesterday – is he back?’ Love that child’s accent.
‘No….But’, I  raised my right hand, palm out towards him, palm outwards,‘look at this. Is that Charlie?’
‘Yes. That’s my dog.’
‘Well then, he’s found. He’s safe in a nice family’s house.’
His face went through every emotion in ten seconds flat and ended in sheer unadulterated joy as he fist pumped, jumped up and down , shouting
’ My dog. She found my dog. The other two landed in through door.
’What? What?What?’ That lovely blossoming twelve year old, her face a little anxious.
‘Charlie, Ev-eh-lin found Charlie. Look.’
Her face lit up like the twinkliest Christmas tree ever.
‘What? What?’’ She was confused momentarily.
‘Look. Look at his picture.' I put my arm around her, drew her to the laptop. 'It’s him, he was found – I didn’t find him, I just spotted it on Facebook. I have contacted the lady who found him and I’m waiting on a text or phone call to tell us where Charlie is.’
More jumping and fist-pumping and -
 ‘Ev-eh-Lin you are the best childminder ever’.
This despite my protestations that I hadn’t actually done anything – just luckily spotted their dog and joined the dots. The six year old decided I was magic. In my Story Queen persona I am magic – and he likes that idea.
‘And I’m taken yiz to Burger King as a special Christmas treat. And you’re even allowed dessert after dinner.’
 The joyous whoops continued. Then I gave them their pressies – books of course, John Green and Chris O’Dowd for the twelve year old, David Walliams for the ten year old ,and Emer Martin and co-writers for the six year old - along with a magic set - the younger they are the less they regard books or clothes as ‘proper’ presents. One of my gorgeous girlies went into meltdown earlier in the week because I had gifted her a fabulous dressing up dress which looked stunning on her. Deep blue crushed nylon velveteen with a white fur trim and a long fur trimmed cloak, tiara and wand included!
‘Y’didn’t even get us a toy’ she huffed initially, throwing guna on floor.  Her mother was mortified. The child’s a child. It happens.
 Back to me best buddies. As they opened their pressies and thanked me I kept an eye on FB – lots of comments and messages flying to and fro about our Charlie. The kids were highly entertained as I read them out. After the excitement had calmed down somewhat and they each had a little play on the X Box we set out for BurgerKing. I have a Christmas CD in the car and we sang-along as we drove. I felt all fuzzy and warm inside – like a little girl on Christmas morning when she knows, just knows, everything is going to be perfect. No one will fight, no one will shout in anger, everybody in her family will be happy all day long. No-one will get drunk and ruin everything. There will be love.
We got to the fast food joint and the kids picked what they wanted. They messed with paper crowns and a little Christmas decoration as we waited for the food. They talked. I listened. We laughed at silly things. It was fun. As we ate our grub I noticed through the window a huge murmuration of starlings roiling through the sky as the hard bright winter’s evening drew to a close. I pointed them out to the children and we chatted about it. Then ‘what to my wondering eye should appear’ - behind the starlings and very, very high up, but something that looked so like Santa’s sleigh it was incredible. Of course, it was a plane - and its angle and whatever way the setting sun caught it  gave it that mysterious pinkish silhouette. We were all gob-smacked. A magical ten seconds.
‘It can’t be him. It’s too soon. I only sent my letter today.’ Six year old buddy looked a bit worried.
‘You’re right. It’s a plane – but doesn’t it look lovely with all the starlings flying about.
‘Yes. But Ev-eh-lin. It’s not Santa.’
‘No. You’re right.’
We went home then and he showed me some of his magic tricks. Watch yer back Derren Brown. The lady who  was caring for Charlie phoned just before I left me buddies' house and they’ll all be reunited this morning. I’ll batter their Da if he doesn’t send me a picture of them with their beloved animal. I won’t batter their Ma, because it’s always the Das’s forgettorys that causes these things,

I had a brilliant day. Happy Christmas yiz all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Evelyns..........

I was supposed to have a perfect day. I had it all planned. I had stepgranddaughter#1&only this morning so decided to take her with me to the National Crafts & Design Fair in Dublin's RDS where I wanted to vist the stall of the wonderful . Siobhan is a fabulously talented artist and was selling her hand-painted silk scarves at the Fair.

I meticulosly planned my route and my timing. However the RDS was jammers, there were UCD exams on there and Funderland had started as well, so traffic was slow and parking hard to find.  I readjusted my schedule and knew I'd have a max of forty minutes at the fair. A lovely lady gave me a spare free pass she had, and myself and Cara took the lift to the balcony and found Siobhan. I couldn't believe how many beautiful stalls there were and the quality of the work on display was second to none. Prices were very reasonable and I only wish I'd had more time and money to spend.

Anyway I bought myself a Christmas present of one of Siohan's scarfs and of course got her to drape it properly around my neck - never got the hang of dressing myself properly. Another lovely artist friend Anne Wingfield was there too and it was great to see them both. Cara had been brilliant in the car and buggy but was getting restless at that stage, so I parked the buggy and took her out and gave her my fingers to balance herself as she paraded up and down the balcony, drawing smiles from everyone. We stopped to chat to a few people and she roared her 'Scary Cara' at them all, much to their feigned fright and her amusement. Cara charms all round her and is the light in our lives. I reinstalled her in the buggy and we took our leave of Siobhan and Anne.

On the way into the fair I had spotted a lovely 'Make your own...' kit and stopped to treat myself again. This is their website and their stuff is really lovely, great gift for anyone who loves crafty things Cara and I chatted to the lovely ladies on the stall as they wrapped my purchase. One of them had an eleven month old daughter so we compared notes! Fair play to her for starting up her own business with a young family. Next year I am doing no Christmas shopping until i visit the fair. And I'm going to spend a whole day there.

Out to find the car again and I knew I was cutting it fine to get back to Swords for a school pick-up at 1.30pm. I rang my charges's mother to explain and to see if she could do the pick-up. As it happens she was going to his school play so was going to collect him and take him for a McDonalds as a reward so I wasn't needed until about 2.15. Great, I could relax - although Cara must be hungry as it was past her lunch time. Anyway...whatever move I made...I took a wrong turn and got totally, hopelessly lost. I kept trying to find signs for the airport or the M50 and went round and round in circles.

I ended up over at St James Hospital and pulled in on a street behind it to ring the Jemser. I hate ringing the Jemser if I'm lost, he invariably asks 'how did you end up there?' It is such a stupid effin' question. If I knew how I did it I wouldn't have done it!Although my track record for getting lost is second to none. I once went to Kerry via Gort (??!!) and on another occasion ended up in Claregalway on the way home from Knock to Dublin. Hopeless case.
'Howrya. Listen, took a wrong turn and am lost, need to get to Swords by two.'
'Where are ye?'
'I'm at the back of St James Hospital'
'How the hell did you end up there? Where at the back. St James is huge?'
Stepdaughter #2 overhears his end of conversation and almost had heart failure thinking her baby is in hospital.
'I can't see a street sign.'
'Move on and when you find a street sign ring again. Are you heading North or South?'
'Jesus Jim, how long are you living with me? How the hell do I know?'
'Where's the sun?'
I looked out
'Behind a shaggin' cloud. I'll move and ring again.'
'What about (names charge).'
'Salright, I've been in touch with his Mam.'

Pulled out again and found a street whose name I knew,  then started following a bus whose number I knew would lead me in right direction - I thought. Didn't think it was going North to South instead of vice versa. To make a very long story shorter I ended up in Terenure before I managed to find the M50. I fianlly got back to Swords two hours and forty minutes after I'd left the RDS. The journey, even with traffic, should take no more than 45 minutes.

I had been in contact with my charge's mother and she had taken him into the office with her. However I had to drive up to my house firsr, deliver Cara to her Mam, switch to my car because my family needed Jemser's car as it has the baby seat in it and Jemser had to bring Mam and Cara home. 'Cept my car wasn't there. The Jemser had gone off shopping in it. I dumped me baba with her mama and raced back down the town to collect me charge in his car.

Up to his house then and couldn't fine housekey. I swear I was ready to cry. So I stopped, took ten deep breaths and looked for key again - I found it. Rest of afternoon went smoothly and I was glad when the

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Story Queen's Aul' Owls..............

My favourite children's picture book has long been Martin Waddell's 'Owl Babies'. In fact it is probably my all time, any genre, book. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a little message without being didactic. It is a story about mothers and children and the love between them. It is a beautiful book.

   I dressed up as my alter-ego, Her Majesty The Story Queen, last week and paid a visit to the children in Appleseeds playschool in Swords. Her Majesty met thirty wonderful children, all in or around three years of age. They all have a guileless charm, great innocence and a love of life. They are not afraid to say exactly what's on their mind. We had a great chat and Her Majesty told them all about StoryLand and her Magic Bicycle and her best friend Santa Claus (Storyland is 2nd left after The North Pole) and about The King who is really terribly lazy and doesn't DO books and about her eight children Molly, Polly, Ruth and Rose, Billy, Bobby, John and Joe. Then we read Owl Babies and the children shouted out the recurring line in it, that is - owl baby Bill saying 'I want my Mammy'. One of the wee girls I help look after attends the playschool and although she knows I am The Story Queen she still buys into the fantasy. We pretend that Evelyn the Minder is the Story Queen's cousin and they look alike. The Story Queen left the playschool to a resounding cheer and lots of happy waving.

   This morning I went to the local shopping centre with my little charge and we were wandering around Penneys when I spotted a little owl hat. I put it on her and it was so cute I had to have it. Then I had a brain wave and bought two more hats.
    'Why you do that Ellen' (she can't pronounce my name).
    'Well, I was thinking. Why don't we wrap up these hats  and put in a little note for your two friends'    (they play in the yard together while we wait for their older siblings to come out of school.)
   'We can say the parcel came down the chimney from The Story Queen.'
    Her face lit up, then fell.
    'But they be all dirty.'
    'No no, sure the Story Queen is magic - she just sprinkles some magic dust on them so they won't    get dirty.'

    We bought the hats and some nice red paper and when we got home wrapped them up. She was     beside herself with excitenment as we walked up to the school. As soon as she spotted the pals she was off.
. 'Leila! Leila! Alannah! Look! Look what The Story Queen send you - down my chimbly!' Much excited tearing of the paper. Then they put their owl hats on and beamed at each other, just like the real Owl Babies.
  'Now', said Evelyn the Minder. 'The Story Queen told me to ask you - what does Bill say?' And at the top of their lungs they shouted,
  'I WANT MY MAMMY,' before skipping happily away.

Such joy. Such delight - for  a cheap little hat from Penneys. It's the child's imagination that's priceless.

PS Her Majesty is appearing in The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar on Saturday Dec 6 at 10.30am for a forty five minute session - free admission.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Grand Day.............(rather a long post - make coffee!)

I should be boll**ed. I am boll**ed, but despite that and a few stiff brandies before I went to bed my mind wouldn't shut down so here I am typing shite to the world again. Isn't the Internet wonderful? 'Tis for the likes of me - most people I know are far too busy with their own lives to be bothered listening to me waffle on at the speed of light about things they have absolutely no interest in, and at a time when they would far rather be sleeping or reading or watching TV. They want to waffle on to me about things I have absolutely no interest in - albeit at a slower pace than my manic gabbling. So now us 'tell our life story to the bus conductor - if he'd listen' types can all sit up in the middle of the night and shoot the breeze with a screen, unburdening our souls without fear of getting three Hail Marys, an Our Father and possibly a lecture, or have to notice a glazed look coming into the eye of our reader. We bore nobody because nobody is obliged to read us and we can rest easy when we've said it all.
             I work a lot with children and you really see it in them, this need to be listened to, to be taken seriously, to be comforted and told it'll all be ok and you should never be afraid to talk to someone - someone somewhere will listen, will care, will help you. That feeling doesn't go away as we grow, we manage it better, become more self-sufficient and are able for the most part to deal with the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' but we all need a listening ear at various stages in life. That's why I am so glad I write. It is the medium in which I best express myself - without worrying about the reader's/listener's reaction. I'll never know many of those who read me (yes family, I do have the odd reader outside of you!)  and those who do know me know me well enough to understand where I'm coming from as I write.
            I digress. My Grand Day. On Thursday I spotted a piece online about open auditions in Galway for bit parts and extras in an upcoming movie starring Gabriel Byrne. I brought it to the Jemser's attention and suggested he should go for it. He decided he would and then I said
            'What the hell. I'll do it too. We'll have a big day out.' So we did. It was an eerie trip down early Saturday morning as there were patches of quite heavy fog about. I hadn't driven in fog before and must admit it was a bit of a strain. Anyway it had lifted before we got to Galway and we found the Connacht Hotel easily. Busy spot. Some Welsh rugby team, whose name escapes me but who were playing Connacht in the afternoon were staying at the hotel so between them and their entourage and supporters there was plenty of activity. That and the auditions, various other meetings and functions and the usual Saturday traffic to the swimming pool and gym meant there was plenty to look at and listen to. Gosh, I love people watching. Can you do a degree in it? I'd go all the way to PhD if there was!
                 We filled in the form for HoodUp Productions and gave them to the nice young man at the desk, then took a seat on a comfy couch nearby, well - the first one was too comfy for our aul' bones , Jemser remarked that getting out of it was like getting out of a bog-hole! So we settled for the second, firmer, sedate leather couch aimed at we elder lemons. We got chatting to two young actresses just starting out on their careers who availed of our vacated bog-hole sofa, they were really interesting women. Fair play, they are involved in a theatre comapny a few of them set up - the name escapes me but will plug it when I remember it and see one of their productions. They're also writing a play themsleves , about young gay love between two women in Poland after WW2 aimed at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2016 - great concept and I wish them well with it.
                 I told them we had no idea what the movie we were auditioning for was about (we didn't prpare ourselves at all!) so they filled us in. It's a horror film about a man who returns to Connemara to teach in a rural school and doesn't realies the house he has taken was the scene of several unexplained deaths. Strange things happen and it looks like his daughter may be possessed. Oooooh! On hearing this I decided to change my audition piece. I had intended to perform the famous 'To be, or not to be' soliloquoy from Hamlet but given that the movie was scary decided that the piece where Hamlet talks to his father's ghost for the first time might be better. I'd have loved to record it on the voice changer on my phone and set the change to 'ghost' but...maybe not!
                    We only had to wait about an hour before we were called.I was nervous so asked the Jemser could I go first. He never gets nervous and was happy with the speech from 'The Rainmaker' that I had suggested he read as his audition piece. So - in I went. I've never done this type of audition before so wasn't sure of the protocol so - what the hell - I just was myself. I walked in and shook hands with the four people in the room. Apparently one doesn't do that. Two professional looking sophisticated people one male, one female and two other men who (sorry lads) were more the arty farty end of things, one was a cameraman anyway and the other chap - who did most of the talking, could be a director/writer or something. Of course my form was half arsed. I had mentioned amateur productions I did twenty years ago which they read as me being involved in amateur theatre for twenty years. I corrected him to their amusement and my mortification. I forgot to mention Her Majesty, The Story Queen until the last minute, so had scribbled a bit about her on the end of the form. I neglected to put down my only involvment in a professional piece - Internal Terrains in the Project Arts Centre with the wonderful Natash Davis. The chap who was asking most of the questions thought he knew her and when I mentioned Natasha's boyfriend, a wonderful American musician who I said looked like an exclamation mark they all roared laughing. So far so good. The man said I was lovely and bubbly. No one ever called me bubbly before. I thought bubbly was small and slim and had blondy curls, or small and luscious with good teeth and shiny wavy black hair. I am neither of those people so it's nice to know I have my own large and heavy glowering bubbliness!
              I read my piece to the camera, I tried to tone my dramatic delivery down as I've only ever played Hamlet on stage, but not sure how it went. It was a pity I didn't have the piece verbatim as one loses facial expression when one has to read. But I did give the camera a glance or two. I'm not photogenic but you never know I might have a face that fits some mad aul' bat they want for their movie! I don't think they clapped when I finished - there was a silence and I'm not sure if it was a good or a bad silence. Jemser thinks he heard a clap from his perch outside the door. But what odds . Out I came and in went his lordship. From the laughter I heard through the door and the clap at the end he did really well. They told him he had a great face - which he does and his voice and delivery are great.
             I'd really, really, really love to see him getting something in this  movie. I have my writing as  a creative outlet, his singing and playing guitar is his -he claims he's not creative, he's an interpreter;  but he should have been an actor, he is really good. Life got in the way however and we both opted for the security of public service jobs to rear children and pay the mortgage. We have no real regrets about this; things were different in the Eighties, I wouldn't have thought 'being an actor' was a career option and we had neither the connections nor the education to even attempt life as professionals. Although funny enough my dearest friend from my school days told me at my book launch two years ago that I always said I wanted to be a writer or an actor - imagine I just forgot that! Jim and I kept our love of drama fed with regular visits to theatre over the years and taking part in the odd amateur production when it suited family life. The actor Don Wycherly knows Jemser well and he agrees it would be lovely to see 'The General' on screen (long story - y'had to be there!).
              I was buzzing after our auditions, we wished our new found friends the young actresses well and hit the road for the big smoke. We had a grand aul' chat on the way home. Despite the fact we're both retired we rarely spend much time together - and if we're both home he tends to be in one room inventing YouTube while I'm pottering about, knitting, or quilt-making or reading or writing. When you're stuck in a car together you tend to chat. I often forget what an easy conversationalist Jemser is - mainly because, when at home in a routine, we all tend to say the same six things over and over (I have a list of his six things!)
            We collected stepgrandaughter#1andonly en route and brought her home for an overnight. the poor little mite is teething and has a cold so is a little clingy and fretful. She only wanted her Nanny's lap and couldn't sit still even there, so I was moithered trying to find things to amuse her. I pulled out a little box of nursery rhyme board books and she was fascinated by them. I read them ad nauseum until I got bored (no pun intended!) and tried to distract her with a toy. She was having none of it. She picked up 'Humpty Dumpty' and placed it very definitely in my hands. So I read it agian. I stopped and she did it again. Time after time she picked it or 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' up and did the same thing. The books are both predominantly yellow, a colour she favours but I don't care why she picked those particular books, Cara wanted me to read to her. She is one year old. So now I will select books for her to read, I'll read and read to her until she is old enough to pick her own reading material, then old enough to able to disappear into a book for hours at a time. By giving her the gift of words I give her the world. I envy her the joy of her journey - the slowly dawning realization that she need never be alone when she has a good book.
             After she went to bed I had two nice brandies - I thought they might help me sleep. Not a chance. After my grand day I had not a hope in hell of sleeping unless I was pissed and passed out, and I rarely do pissed and passing out anymore, thank the Universe. I heard the wonderful Anthony Cronin on the radio earlier talking about his latest poetry collection. He mentioned something about energy creating energy and I can so relate to that. When I'm writing or doing anything creative I am completely absorbed in I seem to make more energy for myself , but it is an energy that must be utilised when it is created. I should really only start to write in the early morning - that way I have some chance of winding down before bedtime. But I find it difficut to write during the day, there are constant interruptions, noise and stupid distractions like suddenly seeing some ridiculoushousehold chore that becomes stuidly important. At night, in the dead quiet of the house I can write freely, hypnotising myself with the sound of the clacking keyboard.
             Now! Look at all that blether what I wrote. If I was getting paid by the word I'd be minted! Head unburdened now - am off to the leaba with my lovely new book 'The Homesman' by Glendon Swarthout - a great read, movie very true to it so far. Brilliant movie BTW, if it doesn't pick up severla Oscars I'll give up going to the flicks. 'Night, 'night. x 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blame the ManBooker and Blue M&Ms...............

Feck son#1 and the ManBooker 2014 shortlist. I was shattered, up since 6.30am and running around after kids all day long. I picked son#1 up from work at 7pm and he presented me with a big packet of peanut M&Ms. He never gives me little pressies so I was chuffed; but I’m cursing him now in the wee small hours of the morning. I’m a glutton y'see and I scoffed all those M&Ms – even the blue ones, despite remembering that people used to say that blue Smarties made kids hyper, but sure that was Smarties and my blue colouring was in M&Ms. Let me tell yiz now, blue colouring on ANY sweets can make you hyper!

So there I was, in the leaba since 10pm but me mind whizzing around with all those jumbled up thoughts that lie in wait until my body stops moving; then demand my undivided attention. Feck this, I thought, and switched on the light again. I discarded the dectectivey yoke I had been reading for the ManBoooker shortlisted Ali Smith 's- ‘How to be both’. I’ve tried to read the shortlist every year for the last few and don’t always succeed but I’m determined this year.

Anyway whatever chance I had of sleeping before I started to read I’d none after reading the first few pages. Jesus, I thought, this poor fella’s mind is like mine right now – and I bet there weren’t any blue M&Ms back in the late 15th century. I’ve read that the book changes further in and can be read in two different ways so looking forward to more of it. I heard somewhere ‘some books you read for the story, others for the quality of the prose and sometimes, just sometimes, you can get both’. I think Ms Smith’s book may well be one of those books. Review to follow.

But then my eyes got tired and I can’t read when my eyes are tired so up I got – routed the Jemser from his snoring in front of the telly up to the bed and I changed the channel to ‘Alibi’. That and a couple of rows of knitting will lull my brain into a false sense of security and my body will take advantage and shut the grey cells down. Ye can’t beat  late night TV and the knitting for knocking you out. ‘Course I had to tell the world all about it first so I’ll maybe give my insomnia cure a half hour extra to work to counteracter this typing on a screen. If all else fails I’ll clean the house – now THAT is guaranteed to give me at least four hours kip!