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 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, a site for writers who want to develop their own fictional characters by interracting with other fictional characters - check out the shared story posts. - because I think what they're doing makes sense - miniature people take to the streets - brilliantly surreal. - because she's generous and honest about her writing. - He blogs intelligently and eruditely at an impossible pace. Check out a brilliant poem by Michael Murphy called enclosures act on his blog. 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.