Saturday, September 12, 2009

Signing off

Slán and thanks to anyone who's visited - and TFE, thank you for reading. It wouldn't have been the same without you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aunt Dee and onions


After almost a fortnight of sitting in a crumbling, draughty courthouse, I’m still not entirely sure what the Quilty case is about.
I do now know that there is a man called Mr Quilty, a tiny eighty-seven-year-old as spry as a jockey who trots up and down from the witness stand like a fifteen-year-old boy. I also know that the case, from what little I’ve gathered, centres around a dispute over landownership.
Whatever else it’s about, it seems to hold a strange fascination for the editor.
Less than 5 seconds after I return to the office in the evenings I’m being hauled into the glass box.
‘Well? Has the shrunken little fecker cracked yet?’ he snaps. I shake my head in a doleful sort of way and he snatches my notebook, leafs furiously through it, and flings it dismissively back to me, his eyes glittering furiously.
‘Right. Feck off out of here so,’ he mumbles, before bellowing out into the newsroom: ‘Miiiiichael - We’ll have to go with the Mullally's Bog Man-eating fern story. That little feckin’ splinter of calcified perfidiousness is still refusing to give in.’

Sitting in the draughty courtroom, trying to concentrate on what the dormouse-like young man from the planning office says, my mind keeps wandering back to what Clementine told me about Aunt Dee.
The truth is, I never really knew Aunt Dee at all. Clementine doesn’t agree. She says people choose to reveal different aspects of themselves to different people. But I don’t know. I think Aunt Dee was like an onion (which incidentally, according to Clementine, are ready for harvesting). All those earlier experiences were part of her. They formed her. If I want to know who Aunt Dee really was I need to find out more about her other life. I need to go to Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No time for gin - there's beans to pick


I got back from work to find the house strangely silent: no cooking sounds, no sizzle of strange spices being flung into a wok to the strains of Clementine’s meditation with whales cd.
Maybe she’s left, I thought and was surprised to find I felt abandoned rather than relieved.

I found her slumped in a chair in the back garden, surveying a selection of berries and vegetables heaped on the table before her.
‘What is all this?’ I said. I wondered if maybe she’d finally cracked and confiscated the entire contents of the eco-unfriendly vegetable shop she's always giving out about on Market Street.
‘This,’ Clementine said flatly, waving a hand at the heaps before her, ‘is some of the produce of your vegetable garden.’
‘What?’ I sank down next to her. ‘But . . . I only planted a few peas . . . and one or two other things. But not this. Never this. I mean, surely not . . .’
The truth was I wasn’t sure what I’d planted anymore.

‘Why,’ Clementine said bitterly, ‘would a single woman, living on her own, plant enough French beans to feed an army?’
I felt my face grow red.
‘Actually,’ I said stiffly, ‘You gave me some of those French bean plants. And for your information the Irish army happens to be quite small.’
Clementine humphed. It seemed she was in a bad mood.
I hadn’t had a great day either.

The chief reporter had called in sick for the third time in two weeks.
‘Swine flu my arse,’ Michael muttered, slamming down the phone. ‘More like the aftermath of a bank holiday booze-up.’ He eyed the editor’s glass office nervously before landing his gaze greedily on me.
‘You’ll cover it,’ he said brightly. ‘You’re the editor’s golden girl right now. Even if you feck it up he’s not going to slaughter you. Not much, anyway,’ he added, ushering me towards the office. A moment later I was snared in the editor’s terrifying glare.
‘Yes?’ he barked.
‘Dee’s volunteered to cover the trial for you,’ Michael said, before darting back out of the room. The editor looked me darkly up and down.
‘Well? What the feck are you standing there like an amadán for? Get down to the courthouse – and I don’t care how good your shorthand is, if you mess this up you’re fired.’
‘It’s the Quilty trial,’ Michael whispered, handing me a folder and shoving me out into the rain. Ten minutes later I'm listening to a Dr Ryan giving evidence, studying the back of the oddly attractive Garda who I no longer find attractive's neck, and trying to work out what exactly the Quilty trial is all about.
I’m still not sure.

‘Do we have any gin?’ I said to Clementine, now staring gloomily at the rows of runner bean plants lining the paths.
‘We don’t have time to drink gin,’ Clementine said crossly, standing up and handing me a colander. ‘We have beans to pick.’

Friday, July 31, 2009

Holograms and half-truths

It took me a long time to absorb what Clementine had said.
‘You mean . . . she lied to us?’ I whispered finally.
‘Not exactly,’ Clementine said, looking deeply uncomfortable.
‘What do you mean not exactly?’ I bit out.'All those years we came down here, she never said a word.'
‘She just . . didn’t tell you everything . .’ Clementine said faintly.
‘But she told you,’ I said bitterly.
‘Sometimes it’s easier to tell stuff like that to people outside of your family,’ Clementine said, and I knew she was referring to herself.
Something deep inside me shifted.
‘She should have told us,’ I barked angrily.
‘Why? It wouldn’t have changed anything. Besides, she always said she was happier for you to see her the way you did,’ Clementine said.

I looked around the room, at the framed photo of Aunt Dee, dressed up as ‘an oriental lady’, manning the cake stall at the 1974 Field Day, at the picture on the mantelpiece of her with Fr John, the two of them grinning into the camera as though they’d just shared a joke. The picture shifted and re-arranged itself like a hologram, Aunt Dee's smiling face growing younger and more defined, Fr John disappearing altogether to be replaced by a faceless dark-haired man whose heart shrank and shrank in his chest until there was just a singed black hole.

I thought of my mother, of her faith in Dee, of the summers I’d spent down here, the three of us sitting in the garden, my mother and Aunt Dee topping and tailing beans while I played some crazy made up game that only an only child could play.
‘We never really knew her at all,’ I whispered.
Clementine was silent.
‘What happened to the child?’ I said finally, ‘to the baby?’
Clementine stared deeply into her empty glass.
‘It died,’ she whispered shakily.
‘Oh,’ I sighed, and the world suddenly seemed impossibly sad.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Clementine comes clean

A strange energy has gripped the house.

I don’t know if it’s Clementine, or her turnip stew or curried bean casserole, but even the garden has exploded. The runner beans are sprouting bright crimson flowers and rocketing skywards. The peas are sporting delicate heads of white blossom, and the cabbages are plump and firm as footballs.

It was while we were scrubbing potatoes yesterday evening that Clementine opened up about Aunt Dee. We’d just finished watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s (over a tumbler or two of gin fizz) and were discussing the concept of elegance.
‘It’s to do with carriage,’ Clementine said.
‘I would have thought it was more to do with clothes,’ I ventured.
‘No.’ She shook her head and dropped a potato into the pot. Plop! ‘It’s carriage. That’s it. That’s the secret to elegance.’
For someone who seems so unassertive, you can be surprisingly bloody definite, I thought.
‘What about someone like . . Jane Russell?’ I said. ‘Do you think she was elegant?’
Clementine’s hands froze, mid scrub.
‘Jane Russell?’ she murmured faintly
I’ve suspected for some time she knows more about Aunt Dee’s secret other life than she’s letting on. Now I was almost sure of it.
‘Yes. As a matter of fact I found a card from her, with a personal message to Dee,’ I said, watching her carefully. Clementine’s face went a funny red colour, almost the same tone as her lipstick, and I noticed with guilty horror that her hands had started to shake.
‘Clementine?’ I whispered. ‘Are you alright?
‘I just . . need to sit down for a moment,’ Clementine muttered, sliding onto a kitchen chair. I fetched her a glass of water and sat down across from her. She took a sip and a spot of colour came slowly back into her cheeks
‘Tell me the truth,’ I pleaded. ‘What are you trying to keep from me about my Aunt?’
Clementine stared darkly at me. Her head scarf had slipped sideways, making her look lopsided and off balance.
‘Alright,’ she whispered finally. ‘I suppose it may as well be tonight.’

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Carnage

I was just about to take my first sip of morning coffee when Clementine burst in, white faced, from the back garden.
‘Carnage,’ she gasped darkly. ‘Utter carnage.’
‘What?’ I mumbled, lowering my coffee cup. ‘What do you mean?’
‘The French beans . . the broadbeans . .. courgettes . . .. red cabbages. . . ’
I yanked on my boots and dashed outside.
The French beans were lying wanly on their sides. The courgette plants were battered and bruised and the broadbeans huddled urgently together for support. The only things unaffected were the turnips. Damn those turnips, I thought bitterly, the prospect of night after night of Clementine’s curried turnip stew flashing before my eyes.
Seized by a desperate need to do something I scurried from bed to bed, banking up soil round the bases of beans, propping stones around courgette plants, coaxing broadbeans into drunken uprightness, even as I was doing so, knowing it was no good. Clementine watched me silently.
To my embarrassment I started to cry.
‘Life is cruel,’ she said finally.
‘I’m sorry,’ I muttered damply, ‘I know that should help, but somehow hearing it doesn’t make me feel any better.’
‘Alright,’ Clementine said. ‘What about . . . . breakfast at the Lakeside Hotel?’
Ten minutes later we were sitting at a rickety white-clothed table eating toast from a tarnished silver toast rack, Clementine sipping mint tea while I drank an entire pot of freshly brewed coffee.
On the way back home I drove very fast and talked and talked and talked. I talked about poetry, I talked about novels, I talked about my ex-husband, I talked about work, I talked about the oddly attractive garda (who we happened to pass on the road) and I talked about the cruelty of nature and how difficult it is to see something you have nurtured from a tiny seed be destroyed in one foul windy night.
‘Exactly how much coffee did you drink back there?’ Clementine asked faintly as I sprang from the car.
‘Not that much,’ I said, feeling suddenly anxious and defensive. What was she trying to imply? That I had a problem with addictive substances? Then I realised it was the coffee talking. ‘Maybe a little too much,’ I admitted.
When we went round the back of the house to survey the damage again, Clementine was surprisingly upbeat.
‘It’s not as bad as it looks,’ she said finally.
I surveyed the battered vegetables, my coffee high sliding away.
‘You could have fooled me,’ I murmured flatly.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kidney bean and green chilli hotpot

Dómhnall hasn’t visited since Clementine moved in. Clementine says he’s been acting strangely ever since she took the owner of Blackjacks to task for supplying plastic bags free of charge to customers. He’s also told her he refuses to call her Clementine anymore.
‘But it’s your name,’ I murmured, slipping a congealed hunk of kidney bean and green chilli hotpot into the waiting napkin on my lap.
‘He says Clementine’s a ridiculous name,’ Clementine said sadly, prodding at her dinner half-heartedly.
‘But that’s not your fault. Your parents are to blame for that. . . . And anyway, it isn’t a ridiculous name’ I added hurriedly. ‘It’s very . . distinctive. And colourful.’
Clementine’s face brightened.
‘That’s exactly why I picked it,’ she smiled.
‘You picked it?’
Clementine nodded shyly.
‘Wow,’ I said finally. All my life I’ve hated my name. But I’ve never had the courage to walk away from it. ‘That was brave.’
‘Thanks,’ Clementine faintly. ‘I’m just sorry my husband and son don’t think so.’
I smothered a burp.
‘I think we might need some more water,’ I murmured, sliding the napkin deftly into my pocket, grabbing the water jug and heading towards the sink.
I noisily rinsed out the jug and slipped the sodden napkin into the bin. When I got back to the table my plate was magically full again.
‘You just seemed to like it so much,’ Clementine beamed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A toast to the moon

On June 21st Clementine lit a fire in the front garden and festooned the escalonia hedge with nightlights. Then she wrapped potatoes in tinfoil, popped them into the fire, poured us out two glasses of wine, and with the firelight flickering on her face, she began to reminisce about Aunt Dee.
‘She was a wonderful lady,’ she said, after describing how Aunt Dee had lobbied a local councillor to prevent the post office down the road being closed.
‘I wish I’d known her better,’ I said, nibbling a charred potato.
‘She would have liked to have known you better too,' Clementine murmured softly.
'Really?'I said, feeling oddly flattered.
'Umhum - Let’s do an incantation,’ Clementine said, springing up abruptly from the rusting swinging seat and gazing wildly at the moon.
‘A what?’ I said faintly.
‘An incantation. Here – hold my hand. Now repeat after me: Oh mother moon . .’
Me: ‘Really?’
Clementine: ‘Well – not if you don’t want to. But don’t you feel it?’
Me: ‘Feel it?’
Clementine: ‘The all consuming, bright white energy springing up out of the soil. Just isten’
At first I heard nothing. Then after a few long moments there was a faint hissing, sound. It was the sound of things growing, I suddenly realised, the sound of leaves unfurling, of roots stretching out into the earth.
‘I do feel something’ I said finally.
‘That’s it’ said Clementine. ‘Now take my hand.’ So I did.
‘Oh mother moon,’ said Clementine.
‘Oh mother moon,’ I repeated a little self consciously.
‘Thank you for your light,’ continued Clementine. ‘Thank you for making the sea move in and out. Thank you for adding mystery to the night.’
Then we toasted the moon. 'To the longest year of my life,' said Clementine.
'To Aunt Dee,' I said, raising my glass.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A few stolen moments at the computer

Finally – a chance to get at the computer now Clementine’s gone to bed. For some reason I find it difficult to write with her staying here. I never thought I’d say it, but I believe I’d got used to being alone.
We only finished dinner two hours ago – slow cooked lentil casserole with chickpeas and tofu. Clementine insisted on cooking and afterwards we did the washing up together and she told me about her diet. Due to her growing concern over global warming she’s given up all fruit and vegetables imported from outside Europe.
She’s also decided, to avoid adding any further to the cocktail of chemicals already in her system, to use personal hygiene products made only from organic vegetable oil. In a bid to improve her 'emotional health' she’s cut out all white flour products, yeast products, dairy products and eggs.
She does allow herself, however, three or four gins a night, and cannot function unless she has had at least two mugs of extra strong freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning, when she appears with her lips painted a startling shade of red that cannot possibly be derived from any natural ingredient.
Tomorrow she is treating me to lunch in the restaurant where she works part time. The lentil casserole is doing strange things to my stomach. I think I need to go to the loo.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gin Fizz

Yesterday evening was lazy and still. I sat in the back garden and listened to somebody somewhere playing tennis against a wall. In Dómhnall’s house next door a radio was turned on and down the road in the hotel, empty bottles were being clink clinked into crates.
I leant back in the wrought iron swing seat resurrected from Aunt Dee’s shed and closed my eyes. This was the life, I thought.

‘Do you know how to make a gin fizz?’ a voice behind me said.

I sprang up and span round.
Dómhnall’s mother was hovering nervously by the back door, a large carpet bag in one hand and a tray of lettuce seedlings in the other.
‘A what?’ I said hesitantly.
‘A gin fizz,’ Dómhnall’s mother said, frowning slightly. Her hair stuck out in odd clumps and she was wearing a bunch of multi-coloured cotton scarves, all wrapped around her neck like a fat serpent.
‘Are you alright?’ I asked. Her face crumpled.
‘No,’ she whispered. ‘That’s why I need a gin fizz.’
So we went into the kitchen and she showed me where Aunt Dee used to keep the silver cocktail shaker and glasses and then she showed me how to make a gin fizz.
Lemon, sparkling water, crushed ice, and gin.
And I have to say, there is possibly no nicer drink to sip on an early summer evening, sitting on a rusting swing-seat with an intriguing visitor you somehow suspect might just become a friend.
‘I’m Clementine,’ Dómhnall’s mother said as we started on our second gin fizz.
‘I’m Dee,’ I said.
‘After her,’ Clementine said simply.
‘Yes.’
I didn’t tell her what Dee was short for. I couldn’t. Not even my ex-husband knows that.
‘Can I stay here?’ Clementine said. I took a large gulp of gin fizz.
‘Certainly,’ I murmured, wondering what on earth I was saying, a strange burst of excitement blossoming in my chest. ‘A friend of Aunt Dee’s is a friend of mine. And besides, you know how to make gin fizzes.’
And Clementine murmured ‘thank you. Thank you so much.’

Monday, June 8, 2009

The wonders of windolene

Dómhnall’s mother dropped in with some organic slug pellets this evening
‘I thought you might need these – I was on my way next door,’ she said, handing me the bag.
‘You’re moving back in?’ I said brightly. The truth is Dómhnall’s dad is looking scruffier by the day, and Dómhnall now consumes at least half of my weekly food shop. She shook her head.
‘Just picking up a few things,’ she said faintly. She nodded at the bag of slug pellets in my hands.
‘They don’t work, by the way’ she murmured. ‘Nothing works. The tea-tree oil doesn’t keep away midges. The home-made soap smells awful and won’t work up a lather – and the lemon juice spray for cleaning glass is a joke. Sometimes,’ she said wistfully, a faraway look in her eye ‘. . . sometimes I think I’d kill for a drop of windolene.’
‘Oh,’ I said finally. ‘Well . . .I have some inside if you want it?’
‘You do?’ she said, suddenly alert.
‘I do,’ I replied.
I rummaged in the press under the sink while she waited eagerly by the table.
‘Here it is,’ I said, straightening up and handing her the dusty spray bottle. She held it as though it were a sacred chalice, her face alight with pleasure.
‘Isn’t that just fine,’ she said happily.
‘I suppose it is,’ I said finally.
I’d never really seen windolene in that light before.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

'A natural feckin phenomenon'


I didn’t exactly find a front page story – but I did manage to come up with a picture piece.
The seeds were sown on Sunday, when I went to check the vegetable garden. To my surprise (and quiet, creeping pride) it’s beginning to look good. Two types of lettuce, French beans, peas, broadbeans, cabbages, broccoli, radishes, turnips and carrots are now growing in Aunt Dee’s garden. The delicate scent of stock (Dómhnall’s mother gave me the plants) wafts towards the back door in the evening, and the broadbeans are decked with deep crimson flowers.
A couple of butterflies fluttered past and I thought ‘how nice.’
Another pair followed, then three or four more. I began to feel like I was in a Disney cartoon. Butterflies floated from the nettle patch in their dozens. They fluttered in the open back door.
I had a sudden vision of myself, frozen on the back step, decked in an impenetrable coat of butterflies.
They didn’t seem quite so charming anymore.
I retreated inside and consulted one of my (many many) library books.
The butterflies, according to the pictures, were Painted Ladies.

So I looked them up on the internet.
It turns out that due to record spring rainfall in the Atlas mountains, unparalleled numbers of painted lady butterflies hatched out this year. A combination of warm air currents and good weather lured huge flocks of them to the skies, all the way from Africa to the west coasts of England and Ireland.

It’s a natural phenomenon that may never again be witnessed in our lifetimes.
How incredible, I decided. And astonishing. This was going to be my story for the editor.
The editor, it turned out, was not quite so fascinated.
‘Butterflies?’ he spat at next morning’s news meeting.
‘Some people might find it interesting,’ I muttered nervously.
‘She’s right,’ Michael said mildly. ‘We’ve already had two emails into the letters page about it.’
‘Butterflies,’ the editor murmured. ‘Jesus. . . Right then. . . I suppose we may as well get Aidan out to take a few pictures of this natural feckin phenomenon. You-‘ He pointed at me –‘go with him. Then do up the story when you get back in and we’ll stick it somewhere inside.’
‘Right,’ I scurried out of the office, thanking god that a natural phenomenon had saved me from having to explain why I could not possibly pump the local garda for inside information.
‘For jesus sake,’ the photographer Aidan murmured as we pulled out of the carpark. ‘What ever happened to a decent feckin’ stabbing? Or a crash? Feckin’ butterflies . . . for feck’s sake.’

Thursday, May 28, 2009

D-day for deadline looms

The editor called all the reporters and subs into his office this afternoon and said he was sick to the back teeth of our layabout attitude, that unless we pulled up our socks the paper was about to go down the tubes, and if we did not come up with at least one good lead for a story by Monday he would be docking all mobile phone and mileage claims.
‘But . . ’ I murmured, forgetting for a moment that by speaking I was laying myself open to instant ridicule. He pinned his fierce eyes on me.
‘What?’ he growled. ‘You have a problem with that?’
‘No –. . it’s just-‘
‘Spit it out!’
‘No-one told me we could claim for mobile phone calls or mileage,’ I whispered.
Someone sniggered. The editor stared at me and rolled his eyes.
‘God grant me patience,’ he muttered. ‘Get the hell out of here the lot of ye and start thinking about stories – not you,’ he added as I turned to leave. ‘I want a word with you.’
Here it goes, I thought. This is it - the end of my fledgling career.
‘What’s this about you and that giant of a garda fella?’ the editor said.
‘What?’ I gasped, face burning.
‘Ah Jesus now – there’s no need to play the innocent. Sure we all have needs.’ His eyes glinted dangerously. ‘Just keep your ears open when you’re about him. That’s all I ask.’
‘You mean . . you’re asking me to . . to get information out of him?’ I said faintly.
‘Not at all,’ he said with a Cheshire cat grin. ‘All I’m asking is that you come in here on Monday with at least one concrete lead for a front page story.’
I stumbled out of the office, too stunned to say another word.
How on earth am I going to find a lead story by Monday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Astonishing finds

Yesterday I decided to clean out Aunt Dee’s ancient, gargantuan wardrobe, a task I’ve been putting off since I moved in.
I started with her jumpers: twenty-seven lamb’s-wool turtle necks, in varying shades of green, grey and plum. I packed them neatly into black sacks, keeping one in moss green and another in deep plum to remember her by. (Okay – and they’re warm – has there ever been a May this cold?)
Next were the skirts. Aunt Dee wore just two types, both made of Connemara tweed, one A-line, the other straight to the knee, with a series of kick-pleats at the hem. The kick-pleat skirts were strictly for special occasions. Heather themed colour schemes were donned for christenings or weddings, dark green and wine for anything else.
Squirreled away on a back shelf was a yellowed corset with an impossibly small waist and a couple of suspender belts that looked more like tools of torture than underwear. I cast them into the rubbish sack, my eyes straying to a small leather suitcase shoved to the back of the wardrobe.
The soft dove grey leather hissed gently across the base of the wardrobe as I slid it towards me. It was exquisite: discreet, beautiful and compact. The dull silver clasp gave a tasteful click as I pressed it and the lid whispered open.
After the muted shades of the jumpers and skirts the blast of colour was shocking - emerald green silk and peacock blue velvet, rich rich scarlet dripping with glittering gold beads. Then there was the scent: a heady blend of orange blossom and violet that whispered of hot summers and broad streets, of cocktails drunk by pools and high crisp summer skies.
The dresses sighed against my fingers as I slid them from the suitcase. We know things you don’t know, they whispered, we could tell you things you would not believe about your Aunt Dee.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tax and insurance

The oddly attractive garda (who I no longer find in any way attractive) was checking tax and insurance discs outside town this morning. As soon as I saw his dark navy raincoat and luminous yellow waistcoaty thing in the distance my cheeks began to burn. For a mad moment I thought about doing a u-turn. But the editor’s a stickler for punctuality and it was already half-past-eight.
I drew up, face pulsing, furiously avoiding his eye. Ever since the day of shame I’ve avoided him as much as is humanly possible. It’s not easy in a town this size. But if not having to walk past the station means shopping at Black Jack’s instead of Londis and a higher grocery bill, then it’s worth every penny.
I still can’t believe he actually thought . . .that he thought me and . . no . . I still can’t think about it, let alone write it down.
Suffice to say, I wasn’t very friendly when he gestured at me to roll down the window and muttered a damp ‘hello’. I mumbled something back and he checked my tax and insurance discs in a very searching manner, then spent several minutes circling the back of my car.
‘It looks like everything’s in order here,’ he said finally, and just as he looked as though he was preparing to say something else I snapped ‘thankyou,’ and took off.
I watched his yellow waist-coated figure dwindle away to a distant speck in the rear view mirror. Then I rounded a bend and he was gone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

Dómhnall called in this evening on his way back from football.
'I didn't know you played football,' I said as he settled himself at the kitchen table and started into the newly opened packet of jaffa cakes.
'I don't,' he said through a mouthful of biscuit.
'But didn't you just say you were on your way back from practice?'
He took a slug of tea.
'I just go there to hang out.'
We sat in companionable silence, the rustling of the jaffa cake packet and gentle munching the only sounds in the room.
'Your mother called in on Sunday,' I said eventually.
'Oh,' said Dómhnall morosely, examining a jaffa cake. 'So now you know.'
'Know what?' I asked.
'That she's crazy.'
'She didn't seem crazy,' I said, which wasn't exactly true.
Dómhnall looked at me scornfully.
'Six weeks ago she was mam. Then one night after dinner she ended up watching An Inconvenient Truth. Dad was asleep - he'd had a few glasses of wine. Next day she leaves her job, dyes her hair, gives all her clothes to the charity shop in town, and moves in with the hippies down at the Organic seed gathering collective.'
'Oh.' I said finally. 'Well . . . that does sound a little . . . extreme.'
'Whatever,' Dómhnall mumbled, tossing the last jaffa cake into his mouth. 'You don't have any cuisine de france baguettes lying around, do you?'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shocked and honoured


What a nice surprise - fellow blogger and rising star totalfeckineejit http://www.totalfeckineejit.blogspot.com/ has given me an award. This is not something to be sneezed at - totalfeckineejit has just had a poem accepted by THE SHOp, along with one of his photos, which is due to be featured on no less than the magazine's front cover in the near future.
So what I have to do is post the logo here (which I have had a bit of diffulty doing), list seven things I love, and pass it on.

First of all, seven things I love . . .

1 Aunt Dee's garden (it's slowly taking shape)
2 Empty churches
3 People (some, not all)
4 Growing things - particularly edible things
5 Very old, moth-eaten animals
6 Coffee
7 Attics

As for the seven blogs I want pass it on to - that's hard, because I'm newish to the blogging thing, and the blogs I really like, like totalfeckineejit and womenrulewriter have already received it.
After those two . . .

Come in character http://www.comeincharacter.blogspot.com/, a site for writers who want to develop their own fictional characters by interracting with other fictional characters - check out the shared story posts.

http://brownenvelopeseeds.blogspot.com/ - because I think what they're doing makes sense
http://little-people.blogspot.com/ - miniature people take to the streets - brilliantly surreal.
http://vanessagebbiesnews.blogspot.com/ - because she's generous and honest about her writing.
http://georgeszirtes.blogspot.com/2009/05/expenses.html - He blogs intelligently and eruditely at an impossible pace. Check out a brilliant poem by Michael Murphy called enclosures act on his blog.
http://ramblingwoods.com/- check out the weekly Nature Notes posts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Very mysterious altogether . . . .

Dómhnall's mother arrived yesterday evening, wearing a calf-length purple dress and blue and silver leggings, carrying a homemade carrot cake.
I made tea (Barry’s for me, rosehip for her) and we sat awkwardly at the kitchen table. She asked me where I’d bought the grapes in the fruitbowl. I told her Black Jack’s. (It’s sold fruit, sweets, potatoes, newspapers and sun-cream, along with everything else you could ever possibly need, for as long as I remember.) Then she asked me how the grapes had been packaged.
‘I really don’t know,’ I told her finally. I thought it was a strange question.
She took a sip of rosehip tea and stared darkly at the grapes.
‘Would you like one?’ I said.
‘No,’ she snapped, and for just a second she looked as though she was going to cry. ‘No, thank you,’ she said, more gently, shaking her head. ‘I’m sorry . . I shouldn’t have asked you about them. Can I see the broadbeans now?’
So we went outside and she examined them gravely and then she stood by the cleared earth and closed her eyes and when she opened them again, she smiled.
‘Your Aunt really loved this garden,’ she said.
‘How well did you know her?’ I asked curiously.
‘Well enough,’ she smiled.
‘Did she ever mention California to you?’ I said and right away her face changed.
‘California?’ she repeated warily.
‘Yes – I found some old hotel bills and a postcard. It looks like she went there, on and off, over the years.’
‘Oh,’ she said, her face clearing. ‘Yes. She did.’
‘I wonder what brought her there – kept her coming back?’
‘Oh. . . .’ she murmured, turning back towards the house. ‘Well . . your aunt loved the movies.’
I racked my brains for any memory of Aunt Dee and movies.
‘I don’t think she ever mentioned that,’ I said. Then I remembered the photo. ‘Do you mean she loved movie stars? Like Jane Russell?’
For a second she froze, then she tugged her wisp of a scarf a little tighter around her neck, mumbled something like ‘Jane Russell . . I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of her. Thank you for showing me the garden,’ and darted around the side of the house.
By the time I’d reached the front garden she’d vanished

Sunday, May 10, 2009

She's coming to my house!

The recession, it seems, has hit the parish hard. The church roof is leaking. Even the church mice have abandoned it to look for dryer lodgings. At least, that’s what the priest said at the coffee morning today, while I lurked by the door.
There was a time when I was newly married and on top of the world, that I would have arrived with two perfectly constructed raspberry tortes and worked the room like a pro (and by that I mean pro-fundraiser) I knew my place in the world back then. Not anymore. If Fr Dylan hadn’t collared me on the street yesterday I wouldn’t have gone at all. But I couldn’t help remembering how kind he’d been to Aunt Dee after Fr John died. He’d ask her in for tea, seek her advice on his garden, visit her when she got too frail to get out and about.
So I went. And I drank my coffee. And I bought a slice of cake, and I stood there awkwardly pretending not to be aware that I knew no-one. And the next thing I knew someone was standing next to me, someone red-haired and eccentrically dressed. And embarrassed looking, just like me. And I realized it was Dómhnall’s mother.
So I drank my coffee and she drank her herbal tea and we sampled a piece each of the black treacle walnut and mango coffee cake which we agreed, after some silence and studied chewing, tasted . . interesting. Then she smiled, and I did too, and she asked how the broadbeans were doing and I told her about the slugs and she gave me the name of some new slug pellet that supposedly isn’t toxic and I heard myself inviting her to call in and see the garden and she said how about Tuesday and I said alright, that’d be nice.
And now she’s coming.
The eccentrically dressed red-haired lady who pelted me with tomatoes and shouted things at me is coming to my house.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yippeeeee (I think)

The Editor has decided to extend my contract – this, despite the fact that I was out three days last month with shame induced flu, and informed the people of Barrystown in their weekly notes section that there would be a sheep-shagging (as opposed to sheap-shearing) fund-raiser taking place in Barry’s Field.
I think I am pleased . . . at least I’ll be able to eat for the next six months.

Dómhnall’s mother slid a letter under the door this evening. Since the shame inducing, toe-curling incident of last month I have received a stream of anonymous gifts, (not really anonymous at all, because I know exactly who has left them). First of all there was the Organic Gardener book. Then there was the guilt-free easter egg. Then there were the broad bean plants – and somewhere in between was the incredible gift of having the jungle of a back garden returned to a measure of its former glory by Dómhnall and his friends Seanie Beag and Fitzie.
And now there is this letter, which, as Dómhnall’s mother explains in her opening paragraph, is written on 100 per cent recycled paper and made with the support of the Republic of Langoustine’s government in climate controlled, uva and uvb screened conditions by workers who are paid rates that have been negotiated under the International Fair Trade Act of the Workers Union of the Republic of Langoustine.
That took up nearly a whole sheet. Written on the other side in the tiniest writing I have ever seen outside of those teeny tiny dictionaries you sometimes find in novelty shops, was an apology, and an explanation which goes some way towards making sense of why exactly the eccentrically dressed red-haired lady, who it turns out is also Dómhnall’s mother, threw tomatoes and shouted things at me.

It was a very odd, heart-wrenching letter. It also explains why Dómhnall’s father acted so strangely when I called.
And now she wants to meet me and apologise personally. The only trouble is, I’m not sure I want to meet her.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to write a damn good query letter


A sickle shaped moon is lying on its back beyond the window. I’ve spent the past two hours trying to ‘research’ literary agents on the internet, and instead ending up being sidetracked by blogs on what not to write, how to write well, how to write damn well, how not to write a query letter, how to write a query letter, and how to write a damn good query letter. (http://www.nathanbransford.blogspot.com/) or http://www.poewar.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter/ or http://www.writing-world.com/basics/query.shtml or http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx . . . and lots more.
I used to think my novel was pretty good, in a sparse, relentless ‘l’etranger’ sort of way. Now I’m not so sure. I’ve just realised it doesn’t really have a plot. And I still haven’t quite pinned down the concluding chapters, which I suppose could be linked to the plot problem. Trying to summarise a non-existent plot in two sentences kind of highlighted the whole thing.

I found some mysterious receipts of Aunt Dee’s in the process of clearing out the dresser in the parlour yesterday, along with a faded black and white postcard addressed to Fr John. Apparently she visited America several times in the late fifties and early 60’s, staying in the Hollywood Boulevard Hotel, California, on seven different occasions between 1960 and 1966.
Not once, in the whole time I knew her, did she mention visiting America.
What was she doing there? Was she drawn to the town because of its glamorous associations? Or was there something deeper going on?
Was Aunt Dee, a middle-aged single lady who worked as a priest’s housekeeper for over forty years, leading a secret other life?
I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An exceptional night

It all started when Michael, the editor’s right hand man, told me he writes poetry. So I told him I did too. I also told him my poems were not very good.
The only time they’re any good at all is when I’ve just finished writing one. In the brief afterglow that follows my new poem is ‘possibly the best poem in the world.’
I could open a book of Kavanagh’s, or Séamus Heaney’s, or Paula Meehan’s and I could even scan one or two of the poems and I would still say to myself ‘Hmmmmm. I like it well enough. . but I’m still not sure it’s quite as good as my new poem.’

When I look at my new poem the next day what I feel is probably similar to what someone feels when they wake up next to a one night stand, and the gorgeous creature they met the previous night has vanished, leaving in their place a strange, lumpen figure, sporting novelty socks, with red-wine stained lips.

Which brings me to The Whitehouse, where I ended up last night after Michael asked me if I wanted to come along. (Note: One night stands do not feature in this tale) We drove for what felt like hours, then ended up getting stuck in Limerick’s strange grid system before finally stumbling across the Whitehouse pub.

What an astonishing place. Firstly, everyone there was kind and generous. Secondly, many many brilliant poems were read.
What made it even more unique was the setting: a beautiful high-ceilinged old-fashioned pub with stained-glass windows. In the corner sat a booth draped with a velvet curtain, and under the curtain stood the most extraordinarily welcoming, jockey of a man in a dickie-bow.

Michael read a poem about a fish. It was very clever and I suspect very deep. After much persuasion I read my newest poem, about an evil man who drowns in a bog-hole in West Wicklow. I’m not sure if it went down very well - afterwards there was a long silence, which Michael broke by clapping loudly.
But people were so genuinely friendly and encouraging that by the end of the night it didn’t matter if I’d made a fool of myself. Like one reader said, sometimes, as a poet (or someone who just writes poetry) you have to make a fool of yourself. It’s part of the process. That’s all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Broadbeans and talking slugs


The broadbeans, while not exactly bigger, have shrunk no further. I’m hoping their lack of shrinkage might be related to a piece I stumbled across on the internet about Taoist farming.
The Taoist farmers make a pact with the slugs. They say something like, look, let’s try and get along together, okay? If I let you eat a small portion of my lettuce, you have to agree to leave the rest of the plants for me. How does that sound?

So yesterday evening I went out to the back garden and had a word with the slugs.
Me: Ahem . . . ahem (feeling a little silly) Ummmm . . .hello. Can anyone hear me?
Slugs: silence.
Me: No . .okay - Well . . anyway . . I just wanted to ask you if you wouldn’t mind leaving my broadbean plants alone.
Slugs: Heavy silence now, as though several hundred slugs had uncurled their tiny tentacles and were suddenly listening intently.
Me: (now feeling very self conscious) You can have the last two plants at either end of the bed. Otherwise I’ll have to kill you.
Slugs: You’d kill us?
Me (gobsmacked): Hello? You can speak?
There's a splutter from behind and I spin around to find Dómhnall and Seanie beag doubled over in the back doorway, locked in silent laughter.
'Classic,' Dómhnall sighs happily, wiping the tears from his eyes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A sense of place

Yesterday I woke up to find two trays of plants labeled ‘broadbeans’ on my front doorstep. I planted them out after consulting ‘The Organic Gardener’ and this morning skipped straight from bed to back garden to see how much they’d grown.
They hadn’t grown at all. In fact they’d shrunk, and two of the plants seemed to have disappeared altogether. Slugs, I decided, after angrily consulting the dog-eared ‘Organic Gardener’ again.

I sat at the kitchen table and had a cup of coffee. I thought about slugs. I went out to look at the once virgin broadbeans again and considered how many bites the slugs had taken.

I went back inside and googled slugs.
Slugs can live for up to two years. They are hermaphrodites. They have a sense of place.

I went outside to inspect the broadbeans again. They seemed to have shrunk a little more.

I cursed slugs. I cursed god for inventing slugs, before retracting it, and instead asking him why, in god’s name, did you give them a sense of place? How on earth am I supposed to kill them now, knowing that they will cross huge fields and oceans of grass, to return to where they’re from?

Then I thought about my ex-husband. As long as he had a nice big house, plenty of food and wine, a little bit of sex now and then, and Sky Sports, he honestly couldn’t have cared less where he lived.
I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take from that thought. I mean, I obviously don’t wish I’d married a slug. But is it possible that a slug may in some ways be more evolved than my ex-husband? A sense of place to my mind is a very important thing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Drinks at Roundy's Bar

This evening I’m feeling happy after a visit to Roundy’s Bar.
It’s a funny jumbled pub a few doors down from the newspaper office, littered with dark corners and ancient moulting armchairs – and cats. I almost sat on a huge orange tom when I joined the group at one of the tables.
I can’t remember the last time I sat in a pub, or anywhere else, without being the other half of a couple. But after I took a few sips of gin and tonic and Michael told me he thought the editor was megalomaniac slave driver I started to feel a little more at home.
I told Marie about Aunt Dee’s vegetable garden. She says Aunt Dee seems like a very mysterious character, and after seeing the autographed picture of Jane Russell I found, she wonders if maybe, as well as being a priest’s housekeeper, Aunt Dee led a secret other-life.
Tomorrow I’m going to have a root through her papers and see if I can find anything else unusual.

I bought some onward pea seeds on my lunch-hour today. In between ransacking Aunt Dee's writing desk and doing some long overdue cleaning, I plan to plant them in the newly cleared backyard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Burglars and a lost garden

After a long day in work I got home to find the front gate wide open. Burglars, I decided shakily, (but not without a tiny frisson of excitement). I grabbed a wrench from the car-boot as a snatch of conversation floated towards me from the back garden.
Men’s voices, I decided. Two of them – if not more.
I inched around the side of the house.
Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Where an impenetrable jungle of nettles, thistles, dock-weeds and brambles once stood there was now just an empty space.
‘How’s it going,’ someone murmured, and as my eyes grew accustomed to the unexpected sunlight flooding the back of the house, I recognised Dómhnall, sitting on an upturned terracotta pot drinking a can of 7-up. Another lad lounged next to him on an upturned wheelbarrow, and perched next to him sat an angelic looking blonde-haired boy, smoking a cigarette.
‘Fitzie and Seánie beag,’ Dómhnall murmured, waving a vague hand at the other two.
Huge swathes of brambles and tangled grass were piled in one corner. Rakes, shovels, spades and forks were propped neatly against the creeper covered wooden shed.

I hadn’t even known there was a shed.

‘We thought you might need some help with getting it cleared,’ he added, nodding at the huge square of freshly dug earth at his feet.
‘Thank you,’ I whispered finally. ‘Thank you very much.’
Four rounds of ham sandwiches, two pots of Barry’s tea, a large packet of Mikado biscuits and two menthol cigarettes later (both smoked by Seánie beag), Dómhnall let it slip that his mother, the eccentric red-haired lady who had stalked me and attacked me with a tomato, had suggested they help me out with the garden.
‘You mean she’s not paying us?’ blurted Fitzie, half a ham sandwich frozen en-route to his mouth. ‘For feck’s sake man, you told me she was paying us,’ he muttered, shaking his head dolefully before Dómhnall elbowed him in the ribs.
‘Your mother’s paying you? To work in my garden,’ I asked Dómhnall, dumbfounded.
‘She wants to make up for things – for what happened’ Dómhnall mumbled.
Then he drained his cup of tea and unfolded himself from the chair, his friends trailing out the front door after him.
'Thanks for the tea,' Seánie beag said as he passed.

Later I went out to inspect the back. Standing on the damp soil watching the sky darken, I suddenly remembered what Aunt Dee's vegetable garden had been like.
Tee-pees of red-flowering climbers had lined the far-wall, overlooking blowsy swathes of flowers and rows of onions and lettuces. The air, I remember, had smelt sweet, and I had eaten freshly podded peas as I trailed back and forth along a narrow gravelled path that wound its way towards the shed.

This evening I miss her. I miss the place she created.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Guilt free chocolate and Seamus Heaney


So. Seamus Heaney.
I still love him, of course.
But there is a point where enough is enough.

Yesterday evening while I tried to tackle the never-ending wall of brambles and nettles in the back garden (see pic above) the doorbell rang. By the time I’d yanked off my boots and reached the front hall all I found on the front step was a beautifully wrapped easter egg and a tattered copy of a book called ‘The Organic Gardener.’
I examined the Easter egg carefully for signs of tampering and then ate it.

According to the box, the co-operative of farmers who supplied the cocoa beans for the chocolate were paid above average wages for their product, and the chocolate covered brazil nuts included with the egg were plucked from the Amazon jungle floor by happy and contented co-operative workers. It was an odd experience, eating chocolate while being encouraged to feel good about it.

I am writing this in work. The Editor is at a meeting. He left an hour ago, wearing a candy pink v-neck jumper and pale beige trousers, carrying a bag of golf clubs, after telling me he sincerely hoped I would not make a habit of getting sick.
Three reporters are lounging outside the back door drinking coffee. Someone has strung a teddy-bear from one of the light-fittings and two of the compositors are throwing rolled up newslists at it. The one who fails to hit it the most will buy a round of scones for the newsroom.

Last night I dreamt I bumped into Dómhnall’s mother on the beach. She was crying and clutching an easter egg that turned into a chicken which subsequently grew into a child, a little boy with soft blonde hair and pale grey eyes that tottered towards me, growing as it neared into a lanky adolescent with sombre eyes and pale brown hair who shoved food into his mouth as he approached, fruitcake and nutella and creamcrackers and cuisine de france baguettes.
I woke up feeling sick, the house huge and silent, a tiny dash of person in the space.

Which serves me right for eating an entire easter egg in one sitting, I suppose.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday afternoon with Seamus Heaney


Five days after ‘the day of shame,’ and I’ve just returned from my first trip outdoors.
Day of shame or not, I couldn’t let this be the first Saturday in nineteen years where I didn’t get my Irish Times. And fancy that. When I opened the paper, there, like a gift, was a supplement celebrating Séamus Heaney, who’s just turned 70.

Seamus Heaney.

Reading about him today was like drinking a tall ice-cold glass of water after weeks of thirst.

It’s not just his poetry.
It’s the way he looks . . . so robust and just a tiny bit amused. And the reaction he inspires in people - a warm feeling that makes people want to like him, or aspire to be him.
And then, of course, there is his poetry, which at first didn’t appeal to me, and it was only when I snuck off to a lunchtime reading when I should have been doing the shopping that I began to understand why people loved it, and him, and now I can’t read it without hearing his clay-capped northern voice.
And after reading about Seamus Heaney and how much people admire him and his work, I’ve started to feel better.
I’m finally ready to ready to rise above the three days of embarrassment induced fever and nausea I’ve gone through and put the day of shame behind me.
Which is why I don’t think I want to go into much more detail about what happened, other than to say I now know the eccentric red-haired lady is actually Dómhnall’s mother.
I also know that she was not always red-haired or eccentric and that she was, in fact, until recently a pale-eyed, pale-haired woman who slipped from the house to the car now and then and was rarely seen to smile.
I also now know that the oddly attractive garda’s name (who I no longer find even the tiniest bit attractive) is Seán, and that when he questioned Dómhnall’s mother about her ‘harassment’ of me, she told him . . .
No. I can’t write it.
I’m starting to feel nauseous again . . .
I think I might just go and read some more about Séamus Heaney.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

oohhhh the shame

My first full time job in over six years and I ring in sick in my third week - or is it my fourth?

Twelve sleepless hours later and it's still too awful to contemplate writing about what happened yesterday. I am stupid and moronic and idiotic. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to leave the house again.

I'm going back to bed, to bury myself under Aunt Dee's homemade quilt and try, yet again, to forget about what happened.

Ohhhhhh the shame.

At least I know nothing's wrong with Dómhnall. And I know why his father was acting so strangely. And why the red-haired lady shouted at me.

It wasn't bagel-masher - or ladlebasher she was shouting. It was . . . . . no. I can't write it. How she could have thought that I . . that he . . then again I should have known - of course I should have known. I'm a grown woman . . . .

I can't think about it anymore. Otherwise I might explode with embarassment.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Something far too embarrassing to write about just happened

Something so humiliating, so toe-curlingly embarrassing has just happened, that I can't bring myself to write about it.
Instead I'm going to bury myself in bed and try not to think about it. And tomorrow maybe I'll get up able to face the day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

All very odd

I called in next door.
It was all very odd.
Dómhnall’s dad answered the door in a pair of jeans that looked too big for him, wearing a tie as a belt, and a faded red sweat-shirt with Cocaine scrawled across the chest. I’m guessing he hadn’t shaved in a while and his new beard was a strange gingery sort of colour that didn’t match his salt-and-pepper hair.
Until recently he left the house at 8.45am, Monday to Friday, in a charcoal suit, clean-shaven and perfectly groomed. I realised when he was standing in the door in front of me that I hadn’t seen him, or his wife, leaving the house for quite a while.
For a second he looked at me blankly. Then he glanced behind him and sidled a little closer to the door.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Sorry for bothering you. I was just wondering if Dómhnall was around? I haven’t seen him for a couple of days . .’
‘Dómhnall,’ he said, as though he wasn’t quite sure who I was talking about.
‘Yes,’ I said finally. ‘Your son - Dómhnall. He’s been helping me . . with the computer . . and stuff. Normally he calls in (and eats all my food, I thought, but I didn’t say that bit out loud). I was just wondering if he’s okay - which is stupid - of course he is, but normally he’d call in, and I just thought, you know, what if something’s happened, -‘
Dómhnall’s father backed a little further inside.
‘Dómhnall’s grand,’ he mumbled finally. ‘He’s . . he’s gone to stay . .with some friends of his for a couple of days.’
‘Oh,’ I murmured, feeling like a fool. ‘Okay . .thanks.’
I wandered back over to Aunt Dee’s house and sat on the front step.
He hadn’t said anything about going away.

Still no sign of Dómhnall

Still no sign of Dómhnall all weekend. I wonder if something’s happened? I’m starting to get a little worried. I might call in next door.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A visit to the garda station

I had a word with the oddly attractive garda on my way to work this morning. The first thing he said when I walked into the station was ‘your face is better.’ Then he blushed and dropped his pen.
I told him haltingly what had happened on the beach (very conscious of the fact that the last time he saw me I was slumped over a desk in my threadbare teddy-bear pyjamas) and he suddenly looked all serious and garda-ish and started asking pertinent questions like ‘and what time of the morning was this?’ and ‘Have you noticed her behaving strangely before?’
So then I told him about the tomato throwing. And the shouting.
‘But sure . . that’s as good as harassment,’ he said finally, looking very serious now, and concerned.
I nodded. I couldn’t speak I was so awash with gratitude. He was worried. About me.
‘I’ll have a word with the lady in question today,’ he said finally.
‘You mean – you know her?’ I mumbled as he shepherded me out of the station.
‘I do. She has her own problems. But that’s no excuse,’ he said firmly, and I suddenly found myself standing out on the pavement, the oddly attractive garda (who is also very tall) holding my car door open for me.
Which was nice.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Strange events on an early morning walk


I took an early morning walk on the beach today.
At the far end of the curved strand I heard shouting from the dunes above. Framed against the pale blue sky was the eccentric red-haired lady, shaking her fist in my direction and yelling something incomprehensible.
A trail of footsteps leading from the dunes caught my eye and I noticed, almost at my feet, a collection of pebbles and shells arranged into something that looked like letters.
I could just about make out the first three, which looked like cra, but the rest of it had already been washed away by the tide.
The red-haired lady watched from the dunes, her red hair whipping angrily round her face until I turned around and crept back to the car.

I think she might be stalking me. First there were the tomatoes and the cries of bagel-smasher - then the stones left on the pavement outside my gate. And now this. Is she trying to tell me something? And why is she so angry?
I’m beginning to feel very uneasy about the whole thing.

I suppose I could have a word with the oddly attractive garda, but I’m not sure I have the nerve. The last time he saw me I was wearing my Dunnes Stores teddy-bear pyjamas and I had crunchy nut cornflakes stuck to my face.
Oh dear.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You sure are one hell of a dame

Marie in work took one look at Aunt Dee’s photo and said, ‘that’s Jane Russell, you big eejit.’
‘Who?’ I said.
‘Jane Russell – Hollywood actress, appeared alongside Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? Eccentric American millionaire Howard Hughes was in love with her? He even designed a special bra to accommodate and enhance her enormous chest?’
‘Right,’ was all I could say, ‘you seem to know a lot about her?’
‘I like musicals,’ Marie said as she scanned the image into her computer.
After she’d finished she just stared at the screen, saying nothing. Then she started clicking furiously on her mouse and typing instructions into the computer like a madwoman. Then she stopped and stared at the screen again.
‘What does it say? What does it say?’ I babbled.
‘Look for yourself,’ she said quietly, turning the monitor screen to face me.
Written in a flamboyant scrawl across the screen was:

DD,
you sure are one hell of a dame,
See you in Acapulco,
J x

‘But . . . what does it mean,’ I murmured. Marie removed the photograph from the scanner and handed it reverently to me.
‘If that inscription is genuine, which I think it is,’ Marie said softly ‘it means, that in Jane Russell’s considered opinion, your great aunt was one hell of a dame.’
Right. . . ..

Someone had left a collection of pebbles on the pavement outside the gate when I got home. It looked like they’d been arranged in some sort of order, possibly words, but by the time I noticed them, between trying to open the gate without dropping my shopping and locking the car, I’d scattered them all over the place. The only thing I could make out was a cr and something that looked like an l. The second word was completely obliterated.
No sign of Dómhnall the last couple of days. I wonder where he’s got to?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coffee - with the editor!

The editor called me into his office this morning. I hovered nervously in front of his desk, heart sinking as I realised he was scrolling through my court reports on his computer.

‘Sit down for feck’s sake,’ he barked.

I sat in the chair across from his desk.
The phone rang, but he didn’t pick up. Michael peered in and went away again.
The head of the advertising department stuck her head in the door just long enough for him to growl ‘piss off, I’m busy. ’
I sat and sat, until I felt I couldn’t sit for a second longer and then he settled back in his padded office chair, tapped his finger against his teeth and said, ‘Did someone help you with these?’
‘No . . .certainly not,’ I answered, feeling an unmistakable thrill at the fact that I was actually entitled to be outraged.
The editor shoved back his chair, muttered ‘right. Let’s go for coffee,’ and strode out into the newsroom, sub-editors and reporters scattering in his wake.
‘MICHAEL!’ he bellowed, and Michael duly appeared from the photocopying area where he’d been lurking.
‘We’re going for coffee.’
‘Right,’ Michael replied. He turned towards the newsroom.
‘Lads – we’re going for coffee. Any problems ring me on my mobile.’
And with that I was swept out the door, into the front seat of the editor’s pale grey Rover, and whisked away to the Lakeside Hotel Breakfast room, where I had a very nice fresh scone with raspberry jam and cream, and two cups of freshly ground coffee poured from a slightly tarnished silver pot.
The editor did most of the talking, between singing snatches of Emmy-Lou Harris and drumming his fingers on the table. It turns out he’s a big country and western fan.
When we were heading back out to the car Michael whispered ‘This is his way of letting you know he’s pleased with your work,’ and I felt a small glow of satisfaction that I’d actually managed to do something right.

I’m still stumped as to who the lady in the photograph I found could be. I know Aunt Dee had dark hair when she was young, and by all accounts, before she became the priest’s housekeeper here, she was a bit of a beauty.
There’s an inscription on the back, but it’s so faded it’s illegible. I think I’ll bring it into the office tomorrow and ask Marie if she can work some of her computer magic on it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Could this really be Aunt Dee?

Michael read over my court reports today, and to my astonishment, and his, he told me they were ‘actually quite good.’
I felt a bit smug, until I remembered I worked as a legal secretary for 10 years before I got married.

This evening I tried to do some more work on Aunt Dee’s vegetable garden, but within seconds of going out the door I was engulfed by a cloud of the largest midge/fly/mosquito creatures I have ever seen. After less than five minutes I fled inside. I suspect that, in the past, Aunt Dee may have used some illegal, growth boosting fertilizer in her vegetable garden.

Hunted from the garden, I decided I might as well start on the task of finding a nice publisher for my book.
It turns out that might not be quite as easy as I’d thought. Apparently, to get a publisher to read it, I first of all need something called a literary agent. But as there seem to be plenty of these out there, (probably more than there are books being written,) I suspect it won’t be too difficult.
I also decided to clear out Aunt Dee’s desk, which sits in the corner of a sun-faded room, formerly known as the parlour, overlooking the front garden, and is where I now try to write (and end up exploring the fascinating world of the internet instead).
I found this photograph in one of the desk drawers. She’s awfully glamorous, which is not something I remember Aunt Dee ever being.

But if it isn’t Aunt Dee than who is it?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paperback writer

Paper back writer (paperback writer)
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be
a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

It's the dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand.
His son is working for the Daily Mail,
It's a steady job but he wants to be
a paperback writer, Paperback writer.

Paperback writer (paperback writer)

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few,
I'll be writing more in a week or two.
I can make it longer if you like the style,
I can change it round and I want to be
a paperback writer, Paperback writer.

If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Paperback writer (paperback writer)


I’ve been thinking about writing since Dómhnall told me I should start concentrating on my own work again.
My book tells the story of a brave, unassuming woman trapped in a loveless marriage who aspires to be an award-winning writer, while writing her novel in secret.
While there are some autobiographical elements, it is entirely fictional.

It was only when my ex-husband (who I will not be writing about here) left me and I realised I had nothing to live on that it occurred to me - I could sell it! So today I decided to do some research, just in case the junior reporting job doesn't work out and I need something to fall back on.
Apparently, according to the internet, there are many, many writers all over the world who’ve sold hundreds of books they haven’t yet written for thousands, sometimes millions, of euros. (Isn’t the internet an amazing thing? You type in a few words, like writer and book deal, and all sorts of things come up).
I’d be happy with 20 or 30 thousand myself. A little more would be nice, of course, but I don’t want to be greedy, and while I feel that my book is good, it is a little dark. Unlike the one in the song above, it is a little less than a thousand pages long (230 pages, to be exact), and while the fictional husband featured in my book isn't a very nice man, he isn't actually dirty. In fact, personal hygiene is something that's very important to him.
The story in my book isn't actually dirty either.
Just sad.
And dark.
And a little . . . uneventful, which I suspect means it may be artistic, although that wasn't something I was aiming for when I wrote it. Then again, I didn't really write it with any aim in mind, apart from trying to do something that would stop me thinking about what my-ex-husband was up to on the evenings he didn't come home . . . . . .
I've been thinking about changing the ending. In my second draft the ex-husband is reunited with his plucky ex-wife after she bravely creates a new life for herself and his eyes are opened to all her newly-revealed wonderful qualities.
Now I'm not sure.
A possible industrial accident that leaves him emotionally crushed and just very slightly maimed might, I feel, be more effective. I just have to pin down the details (flying debris after someone, never traced, plants a small quantity of explosives in his hardhat during a building site visit, versus office chair collapsing under him, involuntarily causing him to catch his index finger in his electric pencil sharpener). Hmmmmmmm.

The red-haired lady was lurking out on the street when I drove into town to pick up my paper. She didn’t get a chance to throw anything at me today, but she did yell something that sounded like ‘bagelmasher’ as I sped past.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A strange thing happened

Dómhnall dropped in this morning.
He told me that I had far too many pictures of flowers on the blog and that it all looked too girly. He also told me I was ‘way too eager’ to get involved in the many, many exciting things happening on the internet, and that I needed to get my head together and do some writing of my own.
I’ve decided maybe he’s right. I found the nature posting a little stressful, which is, of course, entirely my own fault and is the last thing such a lovely project was intended to be. But somehow I managed to take three hours to upload my photos (which, let’s be honest, are not very good – you should see some of the photographs these people are taking. There’s no other word for them but brilliant) and I also posted my link at entirely the wrong time.
I think I might just enjoy being a bystander for a while.
When I asked Dómhnall how he had learnt to be so wise at such a young age he muttered something about ‘me mam’, dropped the slice of toast slathered in nutella he’d been eating, and left. He is definitely not himself.

A strange thing happened after I came back from work today. The eccentric looking red-haired lady was standing outside the house by the public phone-box (in which there is no longer any phone) and when I parked the car on the street and opened the front garden gate something large and wet landed with a splat an inch or two from my feet.

It was a big, very soft, tomato, clearly thrown with great force: Some of the seeds exploding from it had landed on my wine suede shoes. I looked up to see the red-haired lady glaring at me. She was yelling something that sounded like ‘ladlebatter.’
I scurried inside and took refuge behind the sitting room curtains, where I watched her glare at Aunt Dee’s house until she finally went away.
I must ask Dómhnall if he knows who she is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nature notes (and other stuff)


Yesterday evening I discovered a nice site called Rambling Woods http://ramblingwoods.com/ on another very nice site called Round the bend. Rambling Woods has invited people to post weekly Nature notes, and I think this is such a nice idea I’ve tried (tried being the operative word) to participate.

Firstly, I’m still not sure how this works so apologies to anyone who has landed or lands on this page looking for something entirely different – also apologies for the quality of the photos.
Also I have to be honest and say I’m not entirely sure what the purple flower is. I found it growing on the wall outside the house – I looked it up in one of my gardening books , and the only thing it resembles is something called foxes cabbage.


The smaller picture is of primroses and violets - I stumbled across a bank of them on a walk this morning, the same walk where I spotted this handsome mountain sheep and her two new spring lambs.


*********************************************************
Other stuff

The court reporter called in sick with pneumonia today.
There was a series of loud crashes in the glass box after his call, then Michael scurried out and explained in strangled whispers that the court reporter is the only journalist in the office with shorthand.
‘But . . I know shorthand’ I said, astonished that I might actually be of some use for the first time since I started working here a week ago.
‘You do?’ Michael said, his eyes bulging with relief.
So today I did my first day of court reporting. The town’s ancient courthouse is not the nicest place in the world to spend a breezy spring day – but at least I finally felt I had something to offer. (The cases were not too edifying either – one man charged with urinating on a garda car, many many charges of driving without a licence, or tax, or insurance, and a case of a seventy-eight year-old pensioner who refused to have her eyes retested for her driving licence renewal. She drove away from the courthouse smiling and defiant, straight through a set of red lights.)

I love the of explosion of sharing on the internet. It really is an astonishing place. When I said this to Dómhnall this evening he told me darkly that he was worried about me. He also told me there was a fada on the o in his name.
Then he ate two apples and a slice of tea-cake. I wonder if he’s sickening for something?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

'Please don't worry if you feel you have no talent . .'

Today I came home planning to do a bit of writing.
Instead I spent an hour exploring the internet, another hour watching television, a half an hour berating myself for not writing, and a final half hour telling myself there was no point in trying to write anything anyway, because it was almost certain to be rubbish, and everything worthwhile has already been written - Like this:


The Tay Bridge Disaster
William Topaz McGonagall (1879)

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

’Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clods seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say --
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers’ hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say --
“I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay.”

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers’ hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov’d most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov’d slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o’er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill’d all the people’s hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav’d to tell the tale
How the disaster happen’d on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed



The Scottish American Society holds an annual contest in William MacGonagle's honour.

'Get out your pen and paper. Get ready for the poetry contest in May. Yes, folks, it's the William MacGonagle contest once again. The competition will be fierce. And please don't worry if you feel you have no talent. This is exactly what is required. '

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Writerly things and daffodils


I spent another hour this evening clearing the back of Aunt Dee’s garden and unearthed two more finds (see pics – I knew one of them was a daffodil/narcissi type thing. The other one, it turns out, is forsythia).

I also went exploring the internet last night, managing to avoid youtube this time, and instead sticking mainly to writerly related subjects.
Scrolling through the many, many blogs and websites, I was hit by an overpowering attack of inadequacy. It pursued me into the night, making me wake up at four this morning to ask myself how I dared to call myself an aspiring award-winning writer (who has yet to win an award) when everyone else in the world was clearly incredibly creative, talented, and much more accomplished than I could ever imagine being.

People are doing such astonishing things – creating beautiful places, documenting their smart, clever lives. And lots and lots of people are writing. All over the world people are writing beautiful poems, stunning novels, plays, movie scripts and more.

Then it started to get bright, so I sat by the kitchen window with my cup of tea and watched the sea turn from midnight blue to pearl grey, and decided that in the end it was probably better to have aspired to something than not to have tried at all.
So I’ve decided to send off another four poems,( this time to The Stinging Fly, a very clever publication featuring both fiction and poetry whose deadline for submissions is the end of this month.) And then I went to work.

When I came back Domhnall was sitting in front of the television in Aunt Dee’s chair, eating my brand new replacement box of crunchy nut cornflakes, watching The Simpsons.
Closing the door after him a little later, I noticed the eccentrically dressed red-haired lady standing a few yards away, watching us.
It may have been my imagination, but I’m almost sure she looked angry.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On a positive note . . .


Something nice happened in work today.
When I came in (10 minutes early) the editor was already in his little glass box, scanning this week’s edition of the paper.
Twenty minutes later, with everyone sitting at their desks, the office remained oddly silent. I wondered if people were still hung over from Sheila’s going away party on Friday. I’d only met her for a couple of minutes, but she'd struck me as a being an all-weekend-going-away-party sort of girl.
But something told me this silence had nothing to do with hangovers.
Every so often someone would glance towards the glass box.
At 9.52 a bellow issued forth.

‘MIICCHAEL! Get everyone in here – NOW!’

So we shuffled in and lined up in front of the editor’s desk. I noticed the back of Michael’s shirt was dark with sweat.
I tried to lurk towards the back of the group, but since everyone else was trying to do the same thing there was an unseemly scuffle that resulted in one of the slighter reporters being knocked over.
‘WHAT THE F**K*** HELL ARE YOU EEJITS DOING?’ bellowed the editor.

‘JUST – just stand still, for god’s sake.’
There was a long, shuffle-tinted silence.
‘Who the f*** (said very quietly, almost in a whisper) subbed the Barrystown notes this week?’ There was another very long, this time shuffle-free, silence.
Then a sub standing next to me called Marie mumbled ‘I think it might have been Sheila.’
A sudden flurry of similar murmurs traveled through the glass box.
‘Yeah, it was Sheila.’
‘Definitely Sheila.’
‘Yeah, Sheila was at them Friday afternoon.’

The Editor looked at us all for a long moment. I felt his eyes burning into my forehead. Please god don’t let him be able to read my thoughts, I prayed.
‘So that’s the way it’s going to be, is it,’ he said finally. ‘Right so - Clear out of here, the lot of ye’s, and go and do some f***ing work. But don’t think this is the end of this. Because it's not.’

I whispered a hurried thank-you to Marie as we left the office.
‘No problem. The last thing we need is to lose another of the women in this office,' she murmured with a lopsided smile.

I had a sneaky look at the notes page later on. According to the Barrystown notes, a sheep-shagging fund-raiser (as opposed to sheep-shearing, which is, of course, what it should have read) would be taking place in Barry’s Field on Sunday. How did that happen?
How?

On a positive note, at least my new co-workers lied through their teeth to protect me.

Thank you Women rule writer, for pointing out that at least I have good neighbours. (See Sunday's post.)
All the same, I've decided I’m not going to look at youtube for a while.

Instead I have set myself some ‘improving tasks.’ Firstly, I have picked four of my shiniest, newest poems to submit to the Fish Publishing competition. (Even though 12 euro per poem does seem a little steep.)
Secondly I am going to start working on the third draft of my novel.
Just not right now.

There is a window banging upstairs. This is a strange, sighing ship of a house.

Attached is a picture of rain-soaked mountain path, intended to tie in with the positive tone of this post.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Utterly humiliated

I am utterly humiliated.

I’m still not sure whether it was the stress of the new job, or the fact that I’d been surfing youtube for 24 hours straight, but after I fell asleep on my keyboard I slept for over six hours.
Next thing I know, I’m being shaken awake by someone with very large hands, and when I open my eyes, someone astonishingly large is looming in front of me.
Then I hear a deep, soft-vowelled voice say something like ‘God almighty – look at her face – what’s wrong with her face?’ and out of nowhere Domhnall appears.

Domhnall takes one look at the computer, the empty cereal boxes and the potato waffle packets, and he tells the very large person, who seems to be wearing a uniform, that it looks like I am suffering from an allergic reaction, probably caused by facial contact with my keyboard, that I am a writer and that I’ve clearly been working through the night to complete a deadline.

‘Right,’ the large person mumbles nervously. ‘A writer, is she?’
And that’s when my eyes start to focus and I realise that it is the oddly attractive garda standing in my kitchen, his cap perched on his head, his face pink with embarrassment, looking like he would rather be anywhere else in the world but here.
I then realise that the oddly attractive garda has found me, slumped across Aunt Dee’s kitchen table, in my ancient Dunnes Stores teddy-bear pyjamas, unshowered, with something apparently horribly wrong with my face.

‘Make sure you put something on that face of yours,’ he murmurs, stepping back a little too hastily, and all I can mumble is ‘yesthankssleeppjsorrythanks’ before Domhnall has bustled him out the door again and is standing in front of me looking stern.
‘You’ve got bits of crunchy nut cornflakes stuck to your face,’ he says.

Turns out he had called to the door three times yesterday and once this morning (I must have been so absorbed in youtube I didn’t even hear him) and he had decided, seeing as the car was still outside, that something was wrong.
‘Because you never really go out anywhere, do you?’ he said by way of explanation.

On his way back from trying the doorbell this afternoon he had happened to bump into the oddly attractive garda, who had also, he told Domhnall, noticed the lack of activity around Aunt Dee’s house.
(He keeps an eye on my house? I said. ‘He said he keeps an eye on all the ladies like you – the ones who live alone,’ Donal mumbled between mouthfuls of cream-crackers lathered in butter and slugs of milk straight from the carton. ‘I did try to warn you about youtube, ya know.’)

We sat there in silence for a while after that. And when he had finished all the cream-crackers he said he was off home.

10.10 am - youtube cont’d

David Bowie – mmmmmmmmmm.

Skateboarding dog – ha.

Talking cat – hahahahhahahh.

Very tired. Very very tired. Need sleep. Keyboard looks soft. Will just push empty cereal packets and waffle bags to one side.
Yyyyyyffffffffhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

12.15 am - Youtube continued

Fascinating.

Take this clip here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg_cwI1Xj4M
- I mean, I didn’t even know Patrick Stewart wrote. How could I not have known that?

And I never for a moment suspected David Bowie was so genuinely talented. For a man in his sixties he’s got this preternatural energy about him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv6mEv_rDdE
He’s actually very attractive.
Hmmmmm.
Yes . . .
Very attractive.

Very late. Tired. Eyes getting sore. But so much still to see - so much to learn.
Might just get some more of those potato waffly things to nibble before having a look at Bowie being interviewed by Parkinson . . . .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

youtube - not u-tube!

So I googled u-tube this morning - which I now know should of course have read youtube. I mean, I knew that, somewhere in the back of my mind, you know? People mention youtube all over the place, right? – It just didn’t ring a bell with me when Domhnall mentioned it yesterday, that’s all.
But back to youtube.
Never, and I mean never, in my wildest imagination, was I expecting it to be like this.
It’s . . . well, it’s incredible, isn’t it? Practically the whole world is on here. All I have to do is type in something – anything – let’s say fiction writer Ireland. . . . and look! All sorts of things come up.

Shoot – I’ve just dropped my box of crunchy nut cornflakes all over the key-board. Some of them have also gone down the front of my pyjamas. Shoot.

Crunchy nut cornflakes can be quite delicious eaten dry out of the box, can’t they? Even, on occasion, out of the front of a pyjama top. Hmmmm.
Must go – youtube beckons. Much to look at. Much to find out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On probation - after only two days


The editor was not out having coffee. He was sitting behind his desk watching the office door like a hawk – (or so Michael whispered to me after I was flung out of the glass box for the second time in two days)
Suffice to say that I am now on probation. If I write anything else about work I will cry, so instead I have decided to focus on more positive things, such as the fact that another very kind blogger, Women Rule Writer, has also left a nice message in my comment box. Judging by her blog she is a very accomplished person and deeply committed to the craft of writing, which is why I am adding her link to my page.

I am also adding totalfeckineejit’s link because he is witty and he manages to incorporate music into his blog. I have no idea through what magic he does this.
Domhnall called in this evening, and when I asked him how one would do such a thing he muttered darkly about something called u-tube. When I pressed him further he told me not to go there, and that he had once lost an entire weekend looking at clips of talking cats and skateboarding dogs. He also ate two entire cuisine de france baguettes, one of which was not even cooked.

After my dreadful day in work I decided, to take my mind off things, to have a look at Aunt Dee’s overgrown back yard, once apparently home to a lush and productive vegetable garden. Hacking through the brambles and ancient, woody fuchsia bushes, I found this (see pic). It’s a camellia, according to one of the (many, many) gardening books I borrowed from the library.
Isn’t it astonishing that something so pretty can thrive in such chaos?

First comment - yahooo

I just got my first comment today – very, very, excited – in fact, it almost makes up for the black, black day I had yesterday.
This morning I got up very early, went for a restorative walk on the hill behind the house (where I got chased by a horse) and then came back to turn on my computer and find a lovely, supportive message from somebody called totalfeckineejit. (I suspect it may be a Polish name. Check out their fascinating blog at http://totalfeckineejit.blogspot.com/.)
Oddly enough, this person also tried to read Ted Hughes’s letters, but got further than I did. I’m not sure if it had something to do with the fact that my husband (about whom I will not be writing) was having an affair at the time and I hated all men, but I found that after the first fifty pages, rather than being inspiring and entertaining, Ted Hughes’s letters were, for a mere aspiring award-winning writer like me, a little turgid and pretentious.

Thank you, totalfeckineejit, for your lovely comment. I do hope your stay in Mountjoy wasn’t too awful – I spent six-years in a metaphorical jail, and it was hell.
I am now half-an-hour late for work. Shoot and damnation (I don’t think I’m allowed to post curse words). Please god let the editor be out having coffee with the receptionist like he was yesterday.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

First day in the job and a run in with the boss


My first day in a full-time job in over six-years and my new boss catches me red-handed ‘dossing’ (his word, not mine.)
So he marched me into his little glass office and in front of everyone in the entire news room, he took me apart. He called me a waster. He asked me if I really wanted to be a leach on the already drained resources of a proudly independent, family owned local newspaper. (I told him I didn’t, but I don’t think he heard.) He asked me if I thought I was up to the job at all, and what sort of an amadán did I think I was, emailing my friends on my first day in a new job. (I didn’t get a chance to explain to him that I am actually an aspiring award-winning writer and I was working on my blog.)
When he stopped shouting he asked me what my background was. I thought it was an odd sort of question, but I haltingly told him that my mother was Catholic and my father was an agnostic, and that I’d spent a large part of my childhood in India.
For a second he just looked at me. Then his face went a strange, dark red colour. Then he laughed. And then he looked very, very worried.
‘Who hired you?’ he said finally.
‘You did,’ I told him. ‘You interviewed me on the phone two weeks ago.’
‘I see,’ he said. Then he bellowed: ‘MIIIIIICHAEL’ and a balding man in a white shirt and jeans scurried into the glass office and hovered in front of his desk.
‘Take this comedian here out of my sight - and keep her busy. And for god’s sakes don’t let me glimpse her anywhere near this office, or me, for the rest of the day.’
Michael told me I was on coffee making duty for the rest of the week. He also told me I would have to ‘sub the notes’. I gathered from the murmurs of relief flurrying around the newsroom that subbing the notes is not a popular job.
And so I spent my first afternoon running between the kettle and the computer, reading about ICA painting competitions and sheep-shearing fund-raisers. It was not quite as exciting as I’d imagined my first day would be. But on the upside, at least I wasn’t fired.
And now, after a walk on the beach and a dinner of fresh fish and salad, it all seems quite distant.
Oh, who am I trying to fool? Even after an enzyme boosting, sun-kissed amble along the dunes (see pic above) I feel beaten, humiliated and ancient. One day into a job that any self-respecting 20-year-old communications student could do with their eyes closed, and I’m already in trouble with my boss.
My marriage is over.
And I am sitting in a dilapidated house that I only inherited on the strict proviso that I resurrect the long overgrown ancient vegetable garden Aunt Dee once took such pride in.
I don’t know a thing about vegetable gardening. Or broad beans. All I know is I’m supposed to plant them soon and that the books (the many, many books) I have borrowed from the library recommended dwarf ones for windy areas.

The red-haired lady was on the beach again. She wasn’t crying today.

Disaster!

I'm writing this in work! I'm supposed to be shadowing the chief reporter but he's outside having a cigarette and he told me to 'look busy and have a sneaky browse of the internet.' I've decided to write something here instead - that way the editor, who sits in a little glass box in the centre of the office, will at least see I'm typing if he looks up.
Donal called in this morning on his way to school. He told me, between eating half of my granary sliced pan and a pound of Kerrygold, that he'd had a look at my blog and it wasn't bad for a first attempt. However, I needed links. What are links? I asked him, and he then proceeded to tell me. I'm still not quite sure what they are, apart from the fact that if you click on them they go to places I like.
Donal also told me that he is not fifteen, he is seventeen, and that his name is Domhnall, not Donal. Oh my god - the editor's coming. Don't look - don't look - oh my god - he's walking towards my desk.