Monday, December 30, 2013

Status Update

Qidi Vidi Village in the heart of St. John's - photo by Perry Howlett

It's been an unusual December around here. Normally, our December is green. But we've had lashings of the white stuff. Then a layer of ice on top. Then more lashings of white stuff. I have a tunnel up my driveway to the garage. I am very lucky I've a lot of land around me to handle all the snow. In the city people are stuck. Nowhere to put it. And St. John's does not clear off its sidewalks. Seriously. Like at the first sign of snow it rolls itself up in an ice fortress for the winter and tells everyone to feck off. I fantasize, sometimes, about living there in the heart of downtown St. John's which is uber pretty. But holy Hannah, I would go mental in the wintertime. Especially at my age, nervous about breaking something in a bad fall. Hearing the horror stories of others who smash their pelvises and other sundry bits on icy sidewalks. Kids risk life and limb meandering through traffic in the middle of the roads going to school. I've seen sidewalks piled six feet high with the snow from the roads. Impassable. Completely.

I'm reading Caught by Lisa Moore. And I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I love her writing style where the small is magnified into something beautiful, the swish of fabric, the lupines at the side of the road, the lighting in a bar. I was fortunate to be her dinner companion at a conference and was in awe of her vast general knowledge.

I'm trying to put a priority list together and getting nowhere. Screen sucking distracts me. I need to unplug the effing Thingies and get on with my life rather than create these endless byroads in my brain. I can waste, um, two six hours and not be able to tell you what the hell I was doing or even try and sound minimally intelligent at the end of it all. Not good. For me. For anyone.


I'm the expert.

Free lessons.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

To Soothe the Inner Beast

I know. Some of you haven't a clue what I'm talking about. I do have inner beasts. I would slay them with alcohol, food, whathaveyous. Sedate them into briefly napping. And then they would wake up and start to savage me from inside once again, they were insatiable. It was an endless cycle.

Not anymore. Not for today.

I felt them tickling my brain earlier today. I made a few phone-calls. Talked to others who like me, feel the dragons stretching and yawning. Not all the time. But especially this time of the year when the intensity of the Christmas is passed and there is a lull before New Year's and all is quiet. And then the slow stirring of the inner monsters begins.

I don't entertain them, these dragons followed closely by the Black Dog. I put plans in place: my annual Nollaig Na mBan for Sunday, January 5th. I reach out to others. I think: I need to paint this place. I think, like my father in his time: what can I truly look forward to this year? I think: my town has put me in such a position of trust, I will not let them down. I think:what a gloriously awesome day, can I put grippers on the soles of my boots and negotiate the now ice-layered snow. I think: what else can I do with turkey, what was that dish I would do with noodles? Tetrazini or something.

And I play Haydn's Maria Theresa Mass, see above. It soothes. Oh, how it soothes.

For a truly and thoroughly recovered former Catholic that is ironic, n'est pas?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best of Times

For your pleasure ~ The Chieftains - The Bells of Dublin

I don't take anything for granted. Some are alone and in despair this time of the year. Some are overcrowded and miserable and overeating and overdrinking. Some are alone by choice and loving it. It takes all kinds, right?

Whatever you're doing, I hope it is what you desire.

The season can be fraught with pitfalls. I know. One of my friends would brace herself every year for the 911 calls over the three days. They would draw lots in her office for who was unlucky enough to answer the non-stop telephone calls. It was the worst time of the year. Suicides, domestic violence, drunkenness, homicides or serious injury, overdosing. The stories she would tell from her 3 agonizing days of double pay had me never viewing Christmas in the same light again.


I am truly grateful Daughter and Grandgirl are here with me. We are into a rhythm of daily walks in the snow, taking turns cooking and dishwashing, fire-lighting, movie watching, music listening. And most of all peaceful reading. We three are all avid readers and bonus! love each others' favourites.

I've loved our walks the most, I think. The snow has been deep and crisp and even and we play with our footprints in it and chase the dog who runs around us trying to decide who her favourite person is - for the moment. A friend took a wonderful portrait of the three of us at her house which some of you have seen on Facebook.

Memories. Created by the minute.

I wish you peace.
I wish you contentment.
I wish you quiet joy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Maple Leaf Christmas

Leo's easy to buy for. And I buy for him rather than make for him as his mental age is 12. He keeps my house running beautifully. The stuff I would be reluctant to learn. At my age we know our skill sets. And I have many. But the sawing of wood and the drawing of water are not amongst my talents.

He has an undying passion for the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Team. A totally losing team. And before a game starts on TV, he dons it all before he sits down to watch: the hat, the jersey, the pants. All logoed.

I've managed, over the 10 years I've employed him, to endow him with Maple Leaf gear: the watch, a bed blanket, coffee mugs, a rack, etc. I am running out of items to get him. Each gift is met with a joy beyond bounds. This year Daughter tracked down a wreath, a wreath with two Maple Leaf snowmen in the middle - see above. It came in a big box. When I gave it to him, I was reminded of my own childhood Christmases. The longed for teddy. The books. The fresh supply of building bricks. My brother's first train set. Magic.

Leo takes care of all my wood. He harvests it up on my back woodlot, he brings it down to the meadow in his ATV trailer. He chainsaws it, he makes the splits, he stacks it in the barn. He makes sure my indoor woodbox is always full. He cleans out the chimney every 3 months, top to bottom. He mows my lawn, he takes care of the sheds.

He is indispensable. And he teaches me all the time.

For instance, the other day my fire just wouldn't light. I am too rushed at times. He showed me what his father had shown him and what his father had shown get two splits. You place them in the sign of the cross over the struggling fire. And bingo! the fire starts up in a beautiful blaze.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blog Jam

I was up the earliest in the house this morning. I had to go to my office up the road. I took this shot of the bay with its ice fog while still dancing around in my peejays. The warm air and the cold air duking it out. The bay, in all its manifestations, never ceases to enthrall me.

I cruised blogs, sprinkled comments here and there. Most of my favourites never cease to engage me, they get my mind rolling in different directions.

I can't link to all of my reads of today. I'll link to my thoughts instead. I had a cautionary story from one not to rant so much as my elder years pile up on top of me. As I started a bit of a rant in my office today I was reminded of that, I watched the glaze build-up in the eyes of my listeners who were, well, trapped. Captive. I'm their boss. I deserve respect, blah-blah-blah. I remembered the post, put on my brakes and talked resurfacing local roads instead. Phew. Yes, the ranting days are over. Time to do. Time to listen. Hang up the blowing off steam shoes.

Another had a post about motherhood. Surely, there is no monolithic motherhood format, is there? It is what it is in all its complexities. The title of mother does not encompass a one size fits all, surely? I would never think I was very good at it. I did my best. Still do. Like my mother did. And some would say a fulfilled mother, intellectually, emotionally, creatively, is the best kind of mother and a power of example to her daughters and sons. And yes, some of us are thrust into the role before our time. Access to birth-control was non-existent in my girlhood. The whole slut/virgin thing reigned supreme courtesy of a blinkered government with religion as the puppet master. You were supposed to keep your legs crossed until rescued from this appalling spinster state by the White Knight. And many mothers have no choice in working and putting food and clothes on the wee ones' backs, untraceable dad having scarpered four years ago with the babysitter.

A few of my blogmates have broken hearts this season. I grieve for them but know that it is only through my pain I learned the most. About me. And so will they.

I try not to write from privilege. I try and understand and learn and listen. And recognise my own failings and sometimes follow the wisdom of others. I don't always succeed.

I am grateful Daughter and Grandgirl are here with me. Sharing the joys of each others' company, having a good old belly-laugh with each other. Planning a slow-moving holiday season, savouring each precious moment.

I feel very, very fortunate.

But I know that far too many in the world can't say that.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Clementine Bread

One of the great bonuses of a sort of semi-retired life (at least retired from the stuff that never quite fulfilled me) is baking and cooking. There never was time for it before. I've always cooked and baked of course, but never got time to experiment, take the time to create. I dig into the memory box and mentally go back to my granny's kitchen and watch her gather her bits and pieces about and throw it all into the bastable oven and hang it over the turf fire. This is how I remembered her bastable cake/bread recipe.

I infinitely adapt it as the mood and supplies take me. Just like her. Today I had an overload of clementines. Those luscious little balls of sunshine. So I made a zest of 3 of the skins to the music of Frankie Gavin and kinda pulped their insides. Added 3 more clementines for good measure, these I sectioned and halved. For more colour I threw in cranberries. And bingo!

I bet you never saw the marriage of those two words, clementines and bread, before now did you?

And you were asking about Frankie? I just love the fresh twists he puts on Beatles, Mozart, etc. Here's a sample, try not to dance.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


'Tis early for the snow. Very early. Normally we get it around February as we are so sheltered on this part of the Avalon Peninsula where I live.

I had to cancel a lot of plans for yesterday as I made the decision not to head into St. John's where I had a few commitments. I cancelled them and just hunkered down at home. Blizzards on the highway at night with flying trucks and wayward moose are not conducive to peace of mind. Not at all. I speak as one who has huddled in terror at the side of the un-safety-railed road as passing trucks threw snow on me in such quantities that the wipers could not perform.

The sun is brilliant right now. I took a picture this morning of it cracking the hill behind my house. It was minus 10 Centigrade and I was wondering why I was so cold. The fingers had it. My fingers tell me the temperature. Always.

Yesterday morning I spent in my brand new office up the road. Filing cabinets and bookshelves and guest chairs and everything. I never thought to be in such a place.

My present life continues to astonish me.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The calendar ticks over.

In her sister's arms.

Today, on her birthday, every year, I write about her - my estranged child.

What more is there to add? Nothing has changed. The pain can bite me out of nowhere some days. Catching sight of someone who looks like her, hearing one of her songs on the radio, remembering her acerbic wit, astonishing intelligence and outrageous humour.

How can you give up hope? asked a friend the other night. It's easier not to hope, I respond, if I have no hope of a reconciliation then I can't be disappointed, right?

Sometimes love is just not enough.
Or the right kind.
Or unwanted.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


As we come up to Winter Solstice , I am struck by the fact that for the first December in eons I'm not complaining about the short days. I'm working my life around them, early to bed, early to rise. Masses of Vitamin D.

I was in the midst of my jog-walk today,(picture above taken from my android)and thinking I'd never felt more alive. Normally, in December I'm a bit of a horrible wretch, longing for Spring, renewal, colours. But not these days. I'm feeling very present, enjoying the chill in the air, my woolly cap on my newly shorn head, my thinsulate glovvies on my fingers, my layers of many colours underneath the running jacket. Elder dog seems to be in the same mode as me. Bounding joyfully along the side of the road in front. As you can see.

My December motto: Grab each day as it arrives and French kiss it to the ground.


Friday, December 06, 2013

Problems and Solutions

I've recently been thrust into a position of enormous trust which was an intrinsic component to my decision in having some recent downtime on the blog.

I've been writing for years and years (and years) on the disturbing trends in increased corporatism, rampant climate change, the ongoing inequality of women and social classes, not to mention ethnic groups, the shrinking fixed incomes of private sector single retirees, the hellish marriage of church and state, oh, bloody hell yawn, I could bore for Canada on such matters. And beyond.

So where to begin. I mean the whining has to stop, the blood pressure has to be lowered. So then what?

Well, it begins where I live. I can only change me. And then it was down to a nutshell. Do I continue to piss into the wind or do I turn around and become part of the solution. Maybe a solution that is just felt in me and the small territory around me. Maybe sprinkle a little more awareness with a spice of:
"Will you look at that erosion on our seashore in front of our noses there".
"How about old Albert, is he getting extended home care, we don't want him leaving his house, he loves his bit of garden so."
"What do you think, we have that old trail winding up to the most gorgeous bird-rimmed fish-filled lake, maybe we can get together and clear off the bits of brush on the sides of it and put picnic benches by the lake and Joe over there would write the story of it. What a tourist attraction for our small outport and for us!"

So, yeah.

I'm becoming part of the solution. It's not the years in my life, it's the life in those years.

Wish me well.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How were you born?

It got me thinking. What she said.

I'd asked her why she couldn't be all by herself in her home. She's a long term widow of perhaps 20 years. Nudging her way to 90. But very active. She has 8 children, all grown and gone. All university graduates. All devoted to her. She still misses her husband.

The odd thing is: She can't be alone at night. So if one of her daughters can't make her way out of town for the night she has different villagers stay with her.

"My goodness," I say to her, we are very free with each other in questions now. We like each other.

"Surely you must have stayed alone at least one night in your life?"

"Ah no, no," she responds, shaking her lovely head. She has one of those heads like on an old Roman coin. Regal.

"No, I never did. Not once. You see, my darling, I was born lonely."

Born lonely.

So, like I said, it got me thinking.

I was born crowded. A first grandchild. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, relatives. I was held and carried so much I didn't walk for ages. No need.

Is that why I love being alone while others crave company?

Monday, December 02, 2013


Back to the blogworld after quite a sabbatical for this screen sucker. I temporarily suspended most of my cyber activities and it wasn't the delirium tremens experience I had anticipated. I missed reading others' blogs the most. I thought quitting Lexulous would be a cause of the shakes and the jitters but it wasn't at all. FaceBook posting I kept to a minimum and refused to open links from others. AND why does aforesaid FB involve so much WORK on my part?

I took the two steps back from this and came to the conclusion I only like it when the posts are personal: don't send me recipes you haven't made and photographed, don't send me links without a comment as to how it has affected you, don't post décor pics unless it's your own house you're talking about or books you've read or movies you've seen. But most of all don't post pics and movies of animals and babies and weddings unless they, erm, are those that are part of YOUR family. I mean why should I care about strangers' dogs and babies? Why should you?

I'm not saying I'm immaculate in that area either. There was a time when Lolzcatz or whatevers had me frothing and posting. But not anymore.

Point is: Distance is required to have a good look at ourselves and our activities, cyber and otherwise.

I wrote, I read. I walked. I spent time with Daughter who is now (I'm still trying to process this delightful life's surprise) actually living here. We went to a concert on Saturday afternoon and then she said: "I know you want to see "Philomena", Mum - let's pack the day up tight - do dinner and then see it!"

And we did. And it was all good. Very good.

And "Philomena"? - run to this movie. It is brilliant.

Here's my review of Philomena

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Winner!!!

I wish I could announce the prize as $100,000 but hey, next best thing is a selection of my cards. Thanks for all your entries, some of which were directly emailed to me.

The grand prize winner is Charlie/Trudi. So Trudi - if you would be kind enough to send me your snail mail address I will pop those cards in the mail to you.

Pants: email your address and I will send you a card pronto.

Also Kat from Cork - to you as well.

Reminder: My email:

I am signing off blog writing and blog reading for about a month or so. Three plays, many workshops, three novels AND..... Seriously excited but need to unplug from all these beautiful distractions like Facebook, Lexulous and blog to get all my wee ducks in a row.

Slainte for now.

Write on!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Bon Mots Bons

There isn't bad weather, only wrong clothes.

...................Billy Connolly

(Hands up who's seen the movie, snapshot above, and can identify the star?)

Correct answers will be thrown into a hat and the winner will receive in the mail a selection of my beautiful Newfoundland cards, individually cellophane sealed with envelopes.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Places Lost by Scott Walden

One of the photos from this wonderful book

A dear friend located a book I've been searching for a while and lent it to me. I finished it in a day and mourned over the photos of the remains of villages that were resettled in the fifties and sixties in Newfoundland. People wrenched away from their history, community and the houses their ancestors had built. All in the name of modernization and centralization. I've written stories about these uprooted peoples and talked to many of them whose hearts remain broken and who have inspired me with their memories and spirits.

One of the quotes from the book:

"As soon as each hour of one's life has died it embodies itself in some material object, as do the souls of the dead in certain folk-stories, and hides there. There it remains captive, captive forever, unless we should happen on the objects, recognise what lies within, call it by its name and so set it free."

Scott Walden, the author, writes of the difference between space and place. Only those who have lived in such places can give it memory and identity. Those of us who visit, see it as space only.

I think of the displaced people of the out-islands of Ireland, the Blaskets, the islands of West Cork and many more. Their stories are so similar to those of the abandoned outports of Newfoundland.

This song about the Blaskets says it all, and so very well, about resettlement:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leather Arse - or how I survived Izal toilet tissue.

Maybe it was only in the Ireland of the fifties, sixties. But OMG! Seriously, OMG! Those Izal toilet rolls were like sandpaper.

I'm sorry to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities. But come on here! How did any of us survive the agony of this sadistic faux-tissue - which had the consistency of heavy duty tracing paper - while scraping our tender backsides?

We are wrecked today, I'm telling you, spoiled, ninnified and sissified with our wimpy Cottonelles and Cashmeres.

You had to be a really tough dude(tte) to withstand the rigours of such a primitive wiping. I would roll and tweak and twist the sheets to soften them. In our house, newspaper was sometimes preferred to the Izal. Newspaper softened when manipulated, unlike the vicious Izal. The only downside was that newspaper clogged the toilet so you had to stuff it up your shirt to conceal it from the parents as you obeyed nature's call.

And oh, did I mention Izal stank? Yes it did. Of Dettol, I think, the disinfectant that stung our cuts and abrasions after we fell.

And it was SHINY. Imagine shiny, hard toilet tissue that stank like Jeye's Fluid and you'll get the picture.

Imagine what it did to our butts.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Risk Taking

Goodbye Cara the caravan

What forms us? What forms me?

Our stories surely. All the little stories of our lives. The bursts of joy, the hell holes of sadness, the reactions to casual cruelties, the love, the hate and all emotions in between. Though some say it's all boiled down to two: Love and Fear.

I write of my own childhood events, the memories so crystal clear. These are what made me with all my flaws, my strengths, my talents. My thirst for knowledge, my passion for language and Irish culture, my obsession with writing. Even my addictions. Whether they are bred in the bone or habituated as a coping mechanism, who's to tell and why speculate as to the origin. Sometimes things just ARE. I live with them. I accept them. I make changes, often kicking and screaming, I make changes. And I chance and risk take.

Over an unexpected lunch with friends in town yesterday we discussed risk-taking. Chance taking. How do we ever know unless we attempt something new - no matter how foolish, no matter how idiotic sounding. This couple take chances. The started several businesses that failed and then struck success with the final business started twenty years ago which they sold last year. This year they head off to Florida for the winter. To try it. And see if they like it.

I take chances - I bought Cara the caravan a few years ago to gypsy my way around the enormous island of Newfoundland, one outport at a time.

The fantasy of this idea came up against cold, hard reality. I've never changed a tire in my life or charged up unliftable batteries overnight or cleaned out a portable toilet system or pumped in potable water to a tank. I was not about to start. I'm simply not that type of pioneer woman.

Cara is leaving me in a few days into the custody and care of a man who does all these things and more and will take manage her. Our lessons are learned in practice and not from lectures. But I never would have known about my own inability if I hadn't taken the chance on her.

Now I do.

No regrets.


Monday, October 28, 2013

One Sunday Morning in Youghal - Part 2 of 2

Some of the family with progeny from that time in Youghal (babies missing presumably with other mothers)

See Part 1 here.

You'll know later why this whole day is so vivid in my head. It's hard to believe today, but the mothers would line up all those pushchairs (strollers and prams) outside the church door so any mewling infants or gurgling toddlers strapped into them wouldn't disturb the holy faithful inside.

Then we all trouped in to the vast, incensed, candle-lit space. The men were all on the left of the church. Us women and boys younger than five? six? sat on the right. My first introduction to segregation of the genders.

The organ thumped, the voices of the choir soared above us, the altar was packed with clergy: monsignors, curates, priests, altar boys, swanning about in lace and damask and gold embroidered vestments. The children on the women's side were restless, holding their whinging selves in, while mothers frowned alarmingly at them, picking the younger ones up and holding them tightly like a strait-jacket if their behaviour looked like it might escalate into an embarrassment.

Toys and entertainment or food were not allowed to distract them. And off-site child pens unheard of. We were in the presence of Holy God and all his angels here below. And you needed to learn young, and fast, that Hell awaited any misbehaviour in His eyes.

All those men crowded fetchingly on the altar of The Lord, crashing their thuribles, loaded with incense, and their aspergills, loaded with holy water to be sprinkled on the unclean. I knew the names of everything. I was one of those “Why” children whom my father indulged. Endlessly. In church, I would recite the long complicated names of everything holy to myself along with their definitions. Today I would be called a geek. It kept me amused through those long bouts of endless Catholic liturgies.

When the ninety minutes were up, the last gospel read, the last blessing in that strange language of Latin bestowed upon all our sinful heads and the last collection taken up by the solemn men of the Holy Confraternity we were free to go. We could hardly wait. All restraint was gone, us children plunged from the church in a mass of arms and legs and whoops, leaving our parents to pull up the rear with some snoring or fretful toddlers in their arms and now rocking the abandoned babies in pushchairs and prams crying outside the church doors.

We raced down the steps of the church, shouting, landing on the footpath, some of us turning to wait for the parents who had promised us ice creams for behaving ourselves in the presence of Holy God who watched us all the time and never got bored.

What did we hear first? The terrible thumps, the screeching of brakes, the screams from the top of the steps, too many screams to count. I turned back to the road. And it was just for a moment but I saw. A pair of legs underneath the front of the car with lace trimmed ankle socks and black patent shoes. And behind the driver's side another pair of legs with grey knee high socks and sturdy boy's oxfords. The legs were very still. The driver's head was on the steering wheel, his hands locked in place on each side. He looked frozen. There was blood, there was lots of blood. On the car, in the road. I felt my own blood leave my head and my legs went weak. A strong arm went around me, a hand covered my eyes.

“Come away, come away now,” my father dragged me off, still covering my eyes. His voice sounded strange, strangled, “ I want you to forget all about this. And remember you have to look both ways before you cross the road. Always.”

Years later, I asked him about it. He was upset I had remembered it. He had tried to protect me. Yes, both children, a brother and sister had died. Apparently they had spotted their grandmother across the road from the church and ran to meet her. They were 12 and 10 years old.

On the previous day, the dead boy had shown my little brother how to do cartwheels on the strand.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

One Sunday Morning in Youghal - Part 1 of 2

Youghal Church

There was a whole pile of us there outside the big church in Youghal. Parents and their children. Many children. I was eight and the eldest. My mother was run ragged from the two younger ones and the baby, I could see it on her face, her tight lips, the notch between her eyebrows that only appeared when she was particularly cross. She rolled her eyes a lot at her sister and her friends, all surrounded by their own children, some crying, some pulling, some just snivelling in anticipation of the hour and a half of torture coming up.

My father was with the menfolk, all off to one side, all smoking Gold Flake and Players. No filters then. You could hardly see the men's heads with all the smoke. I loved to be downwind of this, hearing the strike of the match on the pink sandpaper of the box, the smell of the sulphur, the first expulsion of smoke from my father's mouth. I would breath it in like perfume.

It was an impressive church. About ten wide shallow limestone steps leading up to a large apron in front of the huge main doors which now stood open, waiting for the faithful and the High Mass celebrated at 10 o'clock every Sunday morning.

We had arrived in a series of pony and traps from our rented seaside cottages off to the east of us. Now with that novelty over, all the children were restless.

'Would you hold your brother's hand?' my mother snapped at me. My brother was tumbling cartwheels on the top of the steps. It was a new found skill he had learned on the strand the day before from an older lad. He couldn't stop. One hand down, second hand down, legs in the air wide apart, drop first foot on the ground, then the second, then the hands, he was delighted with himself. He had the envious attention of all the other kids on the top of the steps. Until I raced up and grabbed hold of his hand on one of his downturns and yanked him down the steps and over to my mother. He fought me like the devil, screamed to our mother I was hurting him, I was the meanest sister in the world. Mummy turned on me, told me to: stop whatever I was doing just stop it how was she always telling me to stop it just stop it where was my father he would straighten me out in a hurry.

My oblivious father and his friends carried on smoking, roared laughing, clapped each other on the back chortling about the match they would all be going to on the local hurling pitch later on in the afternoon, their backs to the womenfolk and their childish concerns.

Now as if choreographed, they all crunched their cigarette butts under their brightly polished shoes and doffed their caps and hats as they headed up the steps and into the huge golden cavern of the church.

The mothers struggled and tugged and dragged the pushchairs up the steps of the church, wrangling their other children together in one untidy meandering uncontrollable mess.

At the top of the steps my mother dove into her handbag and threw a bit of black lace on my head.

'There now,” she said, “You're old enough.”

See part 2 here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Writerly Thoughts

I saw this on the web today and related so very well.

I was musing on this and thinking back to yesterday and some good memories, you know how that is, some lovely memories that are spoiled and tainted by subsequent events with the same people. I do this kind of thinking in the car where no one can see me. For sometimes I cry and think how did something so lovely go so very lopsided, how did such happy times become so overshadowed?

Even writing about it later stirs up the same thoughts. And the writing is poorly formed, too emotional. How do others manage damaged memories? Do they allow the scarring to overpower them or compartmentalize it? That is, just remember the goodness in completeness or believe it to be a false front in light of later nastiness or poor behaviours?

Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Winter's Arrival

Behind me

The cold fingers of winter stir around me. I bank the fire high. And look out the window at the racing blue water, white-capped, while some lingering foolish lupines on the banks of the road bob in the now brisker more serious gusts, reluctant to shed the last vestiges of their summer azure.

Leo hauls down more wood from the lot way over the top of the back hill. The barn is full. We have more than enough, I think securely. Not enough yet, says Leo, you forget we need enough for eight months of stove. Eight months of stove, I think. How comforting the rhythm of those words. How comforting indeed that Leo has the wood management skills that I lack.

For it is here. Every year, and particularly in this past glorious Indian Summer, I think: winter will creep in unnoticed. Before we know it.

Oh, we know it alright.

It has arrived in a sunlit fanfare of multi-coloured leaves flying off the trees and the chilling white foam of the waves pounding noisily on the beach stones.

In front of me

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Continuing Unravelling of the Tapestry

I don't have a picture of her. She was beautiful though. That kind of sexy beauty that can make other women hate you. For the men loved her. I'd yet to meet one in our circle who wasn't reduced to a stuttering mumble when she was around. For if she walked into a room, the rest of us females would be wallpaper. Instantly. It was the voice. The tight jeans. The heels. The way she walked. The way she spoke. The way she laughed, loud, deep-throated, seductive. Did I mention she was blonde? Yeah, that too. With dazzling eyes. Downright gorgeous.

She was caustic. She suffered fools really badly indeed. Did I mention she was funny? She was hysterically funny. And bright. She had her troubles, don't we all. She and I bonded over our estranged daughters. She had one too. Heads together, we commiserated, yanked out some private memories of holding their little baby selves and never quite understanding the pain that would be inflicted in later years.

I think the most attractive side of her was her complete unawareness of how gorgeous she was. Truly. And she liked her women friends.

"How do you do it?" I said to her once when there was a crowd of us around. The men, as usual, hanging off her every word. Her witty, sharp, biting words.

"Do what?" she said, astonished, "Do what? Speak up, do what?"

Captivate, I wanted to say. But didn't. She wouldn't know what I was talking about.

"Laugh for me," she whispered to another dear friend a few days ago, "I can't laugh anymore."

Rest easy, dearest Donna. Your three years of dreadful suffering are over now.

And you were still angry as you left us all here today.

I wouldn't have expected anything less of you.

Acceptance is for sissies.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Old schoolhouse, Sherkin Island, West Cork, Ireland.

Fans Any reader of my blog would know that I am a voracious reader. Not as voracious as some, other tasks/projects/ideas/commitments prevent that. Most of my good friends are readers. Most of my family too, come to think of it. We bond over books. Discuss books. Pass along books, quote to each other from books. My parents were good readers. There were always books in our home growing up. My mother adored Dickens. My father, for years, was a book-of-the-month- club kind of guy, and also regularly hauled home a pile of library books. Then more children appeared and he couldn't find the time, he told me. And teevee. Let's not forget that stranger in the living room. Kicked reading and socializing to the curb. More's the pity. A reading home rears reading children.

But us stubborns cling to the books and the discussions that move around them.

"I'm dying for you to read Wayne Johnston's new one," said my new friend yesterday. We are both fans of Wayne, it turns out. Except for his second to last. We both agreed it was a bit of a let down. Maybe he lost it.

NF couldn't contain herself. She was bursting with it:

"Oh I hated 'The Son of a Certain Woman' (his latest). I want you to read it. I want you to defend it. Prove me wrong."

Now, this is what I love about books. Passion. There's no in-between.

And a quote from my 2013 reading list?

Here it is. It's from "Martin Sloane" by Michael Redhill
P11-12 - "It's only when you're old enough to understand that the past is gone forever that you begin to store your own life."

I know my family and I felt that way this past summer. It was time for just our memories. The past was gone. It was time to open some new files. And we did. And we still talk about it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Putting it Out There.

When I put stuff out there, it nearly always comes back. I'm talking nice stuff. I try not to do nasties to anyone, but sometimes I can be a blithering idiot and hurt people without knowing it, know what I mean. Vestiges of my own insecurities still rearing their butts up to fart in my face. Graphic, sorry. But true. Don't tell me you're perfect? Oh sorry, of course you are. My bad.

So after this massive road race, well massive to me, I wrote this article for the newspaper about how us stragglers are considered a nuisance in these events. All hail is given to the Chosen Few who do 20 miles in 20 minutes. Well, I exaggerate slightly. Water stations get taken down after the Chosen Few have passed and even the roads are returned to the vehicular masses and then us stragglers get shoved on to dangerous, cracked and heaving sidewalks with traffic lights and by now angry motorists who have had to delay their important doings by a couple of hours and view us as handy targets on pedestrian crossings for their rage.

So this Really Important Person contacts me and says, I loved your article, I agree with you and all you said in your article, and hey, let's meet and brainstorm and enlist a whole big gaggle of us oldies/physically challenged, etc., and storm the bloody race next year in FULL GEAR, they don't know who and what they're messing with, right?

Hell, I said meekly, YEAH!!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Calming Crafting

I sometimes wonder why others don't take up pursuits that would bring them relief from anxiety or sorrow and gift them with diligence, curiosity, utilization of imaginative powers, relaxation, focus, and best of all something tangible to show for it at the end of it all.

The above afghan took me a while. One of those projects I started and shelved and moved on from and moved back to. I'm one who can't sit down and do nothing while gawping vacantly at a screen. I enjoy DVD sets of various top-notch shows, admittedly much later than everyone else who have cable service and derive a "buzz" that is engendered around a successful series during its original broadcast. But I also don't suffer the barrages of advertisements they endure either.

I finished this afghan, pictured above, while watching the second series of "Homeland" one of those truly great shows.

Whenever I see one of my creations in someone's home, I often reflect on what I was doing when making it, what TV series or movies I watched with it, what marathon phone calls attended its making, what gorgeous sunny strand was I banjed off on or what beloved family members' conversations took place around it or what trips and visits it made with me.

This one will be gifted tomorrow, appropriately enough on Canadian Thanksgiving. I have I-corded (a form of 3-dimensional embroidery I kind of invented) the initials of the couple on each end. They've been married 45 years (from their teen years) and are one of those couples that engender warmth, respect and love around each other and those who are lucky enough to be in their circle.

Like me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blog Jam

I was immeasurably delighted recently to receive an email from a 90+ year old uncle who has recently embraced the web. I have long wondered as to his whereabouts and distance from our tribe but am overjoyed in this day and age that we can reach out and touch long vanished family members and friends. And so easily.

How wonderful it is that our US neighbours are finally getting what we have long taken for granted here and in many other countries: health care not tied to personal wealth or status. Declaring personal bankruptcy or dying because of the cost of life-saving cancer treatments or surgeries or "pre-existing" conditions is completely unacceptable for any citizen of any so-called civilized country.

My potatoes were harvested by a good friend today (pictured above). My own potatoes. Thrilled doesn't cover it.

Indian Summer continues unabated in this enchanted land out here on the edge of the Atlantic. Smiley faces everywhere and shorts-wearing runners. Oh, yeah.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The world on my table

Olive oil, carrying riches from far away Italy. A little puddle.

Now simmering gold at the bottom of the silver pot.

The spices thrown in: turmeric, garam masala, coriander from India releasing a bouquet so rich, just enough to close the eyes and breathe the fragrant air.

Onions, local, ginger from China, garlic, local, all shredded, kissing the spices briefly before tumbling playfully around with them.

Carrots, local, holding the summer sun pressed tightly along their lengths. Cut in chunks and sent into the playground, now wearing coats of all that has gone before them.

Then the stock, lovingly made with the bones of forgotten roasts a month - maybe two - ago. 5 cups.

Simmering on the wood stove for, it doesn't matter. An hour, two.

Withdrawn then, nose hovering above, catching all these blended magnificences, unique yet now together.

Then the coconut milk. From the Caribbean. Folded in. Softly whisked.

Pureed into a red bowl.

Gently bottled up. Labelled. Dated.

Sunshine from around the world.

Asleep now.

To awaken in the short days of winter.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Elder Project

Now and again I forget I'm an elder. Well actually, most of the time. I truly do. I was discussing my elder project with Grandgirl recently and commiserating with her on some of the truly sad stories I have heard from old people when she said: "Grandma but you are an old person!"

"Well so I am!" I replied, in shock and a kind of awe.

Don't get me wrong.

I truly enjoy being an old person. I'm so very fortunate I have my health in reasonably good array. I don't put all my energies, as so many do, into fighting off the signs, the dyeing of the hair, the belly lifts, the chin tucks, the eye-lifts, the $100 anti-aging creams. Not my style - but Namaste if it is yours. Age must be embraced I feel and not denied. Perhaps all this denial is a fear of death. But it will come, botoxed or not, right? I'd rather you saw the ravages of age on my own deceased corpse. Truly.

"There she goes," you might say, "But hats (purple, please) off to her, she lived every bloody minute of it, didn't she? She's all worn out and not rusted out."

Which brings me to this project I've been given due to the play I wrote which covered the same topic. Elder abuse. I won't be talking to elders about this but to schools and other venues around the province in order to shed more light on this pervasive and heart-wrenching subject.

I've been doing the index card thingie to make sure I cover all aspects of this rampant problem in our society. There are far too many index cards. Physical abuse is the least of it.

And as I was jotting down the aspects of emotional abuse(one of the very worst forms in my opinion) on one of these cards, I realized that I, too, have been a victim of this subtle and insidious form of abuse. Some who were very close to me have withdrawn their affection from me. Without rhyme or reason. And it hurts. Badly. The most recent form being when I reached out yet again and was rebuffed, basically, with if I had behaved myself better they might have phoned me but now they wouldn't.

And I only realized this was abuse when I was preparing the workshop.

I think one of the major problems in elder abuse recognition is either the trauma not being recognised at all, or a mindset of such denial for it is deemed far too appalling to contemplate.

I've just proved my own case.

And I don't like it.

Not one bit.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Tiny Delights

I have a small mirror ball in my dining room that hangs off the wrought iron chandelier.

When I come down early in the morning the sunlight refracts in tiny shards off this ball and drowns the floor, ceiling and all the walls in little sparks of light. It is fairyland. It is magic.

I stop in awe for several minutes.

I say:

"Well, hello Sun! Good morning to you too!"

Thursday, October 03, 2013

This is it.....

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…”
― Timothy Leary

Yeah, that's me alright. Trying to fit in.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A New Pair of Glasses

Yeah, that's how I'm trying to see life lately.

I've carried this philosophy into my home too. I changed things around yesterday. Old formations of furniture, bits and pieces. I don't have much here, never did. I keep it simple. But sometimes it's not simple enough. So I make it even simpler again.

I've always suffered episodes of free floating anxiety, since I was very small, usually a precursor to depressions that in the old days would cripple me or drag me back to the bottle. And the battle. But I was reading something about different approaches to old themes that keep cropping up again and again in my life, the big one being abandonment. I'm tired of those old violins. I think these sickening old themes are dead and buried but they're not. The smelly corpses protrude up through the soil and give me a death grin. (Graphic. Sorry.)

But I make a gratitude list every single night and it sings those corpses back to sleep.

And sometimes I feel like I'm going mad all alone in an alternative universe. Until people who care about me remind me of who I am.

And I look at the gifts I've been given. And if I forget, or they get stolen, I am reminded.

To reclaim and polish them up.

And put on the new glasses. And keep them handy.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Post Mortem Explosions

Eye catching title, yeah?

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

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

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

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

Oh, not so fast there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Watching my Step

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

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

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

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

And I was crushed.

For a day or two.

Which wasn't too bad.

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

But life is too short.

I learn.

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

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

Live and learn.

It never stops.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


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

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

My ten questions from Grannymar are:

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

My answers:

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

My 10 Questions for you:

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Rest of It

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

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

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

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

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

We just never know, do we.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

Goosebumps? Yeah, for each of us.

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Stranger's Eyes

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

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

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

He finally came back in again and said:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am over the moon. Elated. Excited.

Writing does this to me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 3

An unusual shot of Silver Strand

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

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

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

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

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

Karma, she be savage.

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

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

Helpless laughter resonates a long time.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 2

Behind the counter at Stuffed Live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, but revenge is sweet.

My comeuppance was coming.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Blues for the Greens - Part 1.

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

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

Why the blues, you ask?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 05, 2013


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

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

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

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

And the words on the sundial brings comfort and hope:


Friday, August 23, 2013

The Irish Emigrant on Hiatus.

One of the best versions of this song I've ever heard. Hanky time.

Behave yourselves while I play on the other side of the pond.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Me and my H20 today (from my deck).

A friend of mine and her brand new husband have built their dream retirement home. All cedar and pine with a huge great room with a vaulted ceiling and a wood burning stove and comfy chairs and sofas and cushions everywhere. Quarried stone floor, honeyed pine walls. One of those enormous cast iron chandeliers beaming down on everyone. Vast vista windows everywhere. Overlooking, well, nothing, really. The shed where hubby tinkers out back, the front stone driveway with parking for twelve cars. The reason I mention her view is that Newfoundland is an island with lashings of water everywhere. Ponds (we don't use the word lakes), streams, rivers and oceans and waterfalls. You'd have to work hard to get a building lot not overlooking some kind of H20.

But they managed it. I've seen this oddity of habitation/domicile here before. And I've asked about it. Like, WTF? The response has always been the same.

"I just hate the bloody water."


"My grandfather/uncle/father died in it. Murderous is that water. A killer."

Yeah, so go ahead, really punish that water.

We had a potluck there yesterday. There were fifteen of us lounged around the Great Room. With space for about thirty more if needs. The food was amazing. I brought my braised coconut spinach dish which I've written about.

The company was wonderful. Very enriching and interesting and time raced by as it does when you're having lots of laughs and interesting convos.

But I couldn't help thinking: why would anyone build such a gorgeous place and have it overlook such mundane and utilitarian humdrumity?

To each her own.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I've got a little list, I've got a little list

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a mad fan - and one time performer back in the ancient Cork City days before interwebz and kidlets and emigration - of Gilbert & Sullivan. You could sing their ditties off key and standing on your head and I would fall in love with you. Then again, That was a mistake lesson I made twice in my life.

Mistakes are lessons learned. I try not to use the word mistake. For if I don't try something how will I ever know I will like or dislike it? I know. Some people are cautious. But I prefer to err on the side of trying anything once or twice and learning the lesson and then moving on or staying and enjoying the result.

I was doing a survey of lessons in my own life. And seriously, I am very glad I made them. Even when I was engaged to two young men at the same time. Seriously. How ready was I for marriage? Harumph. I confessed the dilemma to my dad. Who made like a sphinx. I think he had apoplexy. His face went purple. He lost his voice. Completely. And when he regained it, he told my mother to "take care of your daughter, she's out of control, again." But I wasn't. Or was I? I learned my lesson. I wouldn't say it was the wrong man I married. I don't like the word wrong when applied to human beings. Maybe we were wrong for each other. Fire and water. I remember one of my dear friends who would come from her travels all over the world and nestle into our family home in Toronto for a while and observe us. "WWW," she would say, "I've never known a more mismatched couple. Your horizons are so wide and T----'s are so narrow." Well played, R, well played.

But I learned a good lesson then. I don't think I'm meant for marriage. Fine for me to say you'd think after messing about so much. But we have to try and learn, don't we? And how else to learn but by messing about and experimenting? See, I'm not one to run home and make you supper. Or wash your knickers. I'd forget. I'd get involved with my music or my book or my writing or my knitting and feel resentful if I had to interrupt myself to take care of you. You can see what I mean? Marital duty 'n all, that doesn't sit well with me. Though if you were to change the oil in my car or deal with the lesson I've learned from Cara the caravan, now that would be nice.

So yes, I was dealing with a list today and managed to strike off many items. Hence, the post....which could go on and on but I'll shut up now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I had this box from Daughter. A big huge serious box.

Stuffed. With books. And bookmarks. Great books. And a chair cover that said "Happy Birthday" and old photos that made me smile including a gorgeous one of my dad I thought I'd lost forever, and a little owl (my totem). And a beautiful card that made me cry. And a card from Grandgirl that started me up again. And an official knitting notebook for my projects. And two huge packages of my favourite vermicelli made from sweet potatoes which I can't get here - it was a treasure trove. The thought and care that went into this harvest makes me feel so special and loved.

And in the past wee while I had the most ridiculous urge to jog again. It's like my feet have a life of their own. This was completely irresistible in the last few weeks so jog I did, I'd look ahead and mentally note a tree and jog towards it. And it feels free and easy and connected to the mantra I would recite in the old days when I jogged every morning for an hour or so. "I am a strong capable woman." So I said that a few times. And believed it.

And then I get a private message on Facebook tonight from a young woman (anyone younger than my daughters are young to me, younger than Grandgirl? - infants)in which she said: "I couldn't believe that was you I saw on the road tonight running. Running! It was only when I was passed you that I recognised you. Could I start running with you do you think? You are so inspiring!"

It's in the tiny things of how we live our lives that are the most observed and the most validating to our existence, I find.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Deadly Laughter.

A dear old friend called me tonight on the cusp of my turning into a serious elder - my birthday is the 16th. She hesitated to tell me her news and then burst out with it. Her dad had died. A dad who was in his 97th year of life. A handsome dude who was a magnet for the ladies. Tall, elegant and he'd gallop through five miles a day as part of his constitutional. Until a couple of years ago when things started to slow down. But not his sharp mind. No, never that.

But. And I hesitated about writing this. But some things? A blogger just has to share. Especially if they've made you nearly throw up you've been laughing so very hard. I knew her dad and liked him. He played a mean game of cribbage. As mean as me. And enjoyed taking us out to dinner, one of us on each arm.

So her dad. I mentioned he was nearly 97? He had a really, really bad fall. It appears he was hanging up his trousers in his closet and lo and behold, he leaned back too far and fell backwards into his bathroom, cracking his head off the toilet while one of his ribs punctured a lung. A bit of a mess. So he lands in the hospital and my friend - I'll call her Susan - hears this story and something is not quite jelling with her. She knows the layout of his little suite in the seniors' residence and the closet is in the hall and the bathroom is around the corner from that just off his bedroom. A fall too far in other words. So she investigates. And ascertains that Kate is the one who reported that her father had fallen. So she goes to see her. Kate, Susan tells me, is power walking on the seniors' track in the shortest shorts Susan has ever seen on an 80 year old. Kate is embarrassed as she fumbles with the story. Won't meet Susan's eyes. Then Susan gets it.

Her dad was protecting Kate's honour. Sharp enough, gentlemanly enough to remember the reputation of his lady. So Dad decides he's going to leave now and refuses to eat and the doctors want to shove tubes down his throat but the family insists, it is his choice. Absolutely no tubes. So Dad arranges private farewells with all the family, his two surviving children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. This took a couple of days. And then Susan slept beside his hospital bed for two nights holding his hand until he quietly tossed his mortal coil.

At the funeral, many older ladies came to Susan and told her they all loved to read to him, especially Kate. One of them would always read him to sleep every night after tucking him in. And sometimes in the afternoon too, Dad couldn't get enough of Kate's reading.

So now you know where we went with this right? Like I won't spell it out for you. But you can imagine how she and I savoured this, rolled with it, played with it, couldn't stop with the scenarios. Honked, screamed, slapped our thighs, snorted, ran out of breath. Tried. Oh, we tried to get sensible and serious and well, work up some wee bit of sads and grief. And failed. Again and again.

Oh, you handsome, wicked daredevil.

May we all crash out of life with such a, well, bang.