I’m first generation British; my dad was from Dublin, my mum Cork. As a teen I spent Easters and summers across the sea.
My granddad was six feet; a sinewy, strong fisherman of few words. When I was small I thought he was an Apache Indian with his red, weathered skin. He called me ‘girl’. I was totally in awe of how he mounted his bicycle in motion; I’d keep him in my sights till he cycled off the horizon. He was so old school dinner was eaten in silence. After, he’d sit by the fire, roll up a smoke and watch RTE news on a black and white telly the weight of a people carrier.
My nan was five feet; I could pick her up and spin her round. She was a lady; softly spoken who I remember picking mushrooms with, rolling pastry, playing cards, catching the bus into Youghal to mill around the quaint shops while she had a purple rinse put in her grey hair. We had soda bread with homemade jam for breakfast, barmbrack for lunch then fish from granddad’s haul; no variations. Don’t sit in a draft; you’ll get piles she’d say. Thinking back now she must have been so lonely, my granddad out on the boat from the early hours, in a house surrounded by fields of wheat, her three daughters in London. It makes me want to wrap my children in my embrace and keep them so close. They’re grown now; real Londoners but proud of their Irish heritage.
My grandparents lived on a cliff, in a whitewashed, stone cottage, which was painted pink one Summer. An idyllic location surrounded by blue flag beaches, bays and coves. The house had no toilet or running water. We had to walk up the road, only 5 minutes, fill buckets from a well, then spill half the contents walking back. It was a two up, two down; no kitchen as such just a cooker that worked off a gas cylinder, a table and a large churn of well water.
Up the road were my best pals; a sister and brother from Dublin whose cousins resided in an adjacent bungalow. We were literally The Famous Five, but a threesome. I can say without reservation the best of my childhood was spent there, condensed into a few weeks reprieve from the loneliest years of my life.
As a young adult Paddy’s day was huge. There’d be Irish bands and dancing at The Galty and National. I’d waltz, jive and swing to the Seige of Venice…and alcohol would be consumed in large quantities by young and old alike. Although I rarely listen to Foster & Allen now or The Pogues I still support young Irish music talent: Flynn, JyellowL, Tebi Rex and Liquor by Rushes. But the tune I’m featuring today is one of my favourites by Dublin band Kodeline.
As an adult I drifted away from Ireland. I fell in love, started a family, had a mortgage and worked full-time. I wrote my nan but not often enough. I didn’t attend my grandparents’ funerals; finances were anxiously tight and avoiding debt was priority. I have few regrets in my life but not seeing my nan before she passed is one.
Before I ever thought about writing I had favourite authors who I broke up with because I felt our relationship was going nowhere. That they were taking me for granted and churning out books following an overbaked recipe. So having written two romantic thrillers set in London I decided to attempt a romantic suspense with a hint of the supernatural set in a quiet seaside town in rural Ireland. It’s not a fanciful whim, it’s a labour of love, a stroll down memory lane, a tribute to my grandparents. I hope they, along with my dad and aunt are looking downward and feeling proud of how I’m trying to hold it together and forge a future for myself.
I want my third book SEPTEMBER to be my strongest to date; I strive to be a better writter with each novel. I’m hoping to attract a fan base that will grow with me. That’s why I like to celebrate occasions with book giveaways because I want my book out there, being read and if I’m lucky getting feedback via reviews, ratings, social media. I can take the bad, the ugly along with the good. It’s the only way to grow.
I always had in the back of my mind retiring to the little cottage by the sea. I’d be in and out my friends’ house, an old dear, with a bottle of wine, gassing like the years hadn’t passed between us. Maybe waiting at Arrivals at Cork Airport for my children, perhaps grandchildren even. We’d go rock pooling, swimming, shell collecting, walking for miles and miles. I can’t describe the rush I feel thinking about how one foot goes assuredly in front of another. How I miss my meandering thoughts as I’d walk from one place to another. You take the car hon, I’d say to my husband, I’m walking. I had no idea I had a serious condition that would hinder my mobility and quality of life considerably and steal away my dream.
Having myelopathy and spinal cord damage is not only debilitating it’s erratic; making it hard to commit to anything. At book club I sit all perky one minute and the next I’m up and out, even before dessert, struggling for home before very real pain strikes. Like yesterday. When after a week at home, following my last physical crash, I dared go out for coffee. My problems started with trying to get out of the car, then up from the coffee table, to finding I’d lost power in my legs and my arms hadn’t the strength to open the door. Next was the swaying, my feet not lifting, tripping…pretty quickly pain ensued. A kind of pain that seems intolerable at times These are the before and after media; a difference of a couple of hours.
Today I am again on house arrest, not daring to go out, scared to trigger another grim day of agony. My life is: coffee shop, pain, housebound, repeat. When your spinal cord and surrounded nerves are damaged your body mimics MS, ME, stroke, paralysis, delaying diagnosis.
It’s a mind game, to be well one day, in pain the next, mobile one day, in a wheelchair the next. My youngest can’t remember when I was well. It’s difficult for others to understand the fragility of my health. I’ve lost friends who thought I did’t make the effort, even extended family have thrown in my face I went on holiday. Hopefully I’ll go on holiday again, loaded with morphine, tramadol, oxycontin and wheelchair support, to a very hot country. I need sun on my bones, a swimming pool and wheelchair friendly terrain but what I want is the coarse sea air, to walk along the cliffs, to scramble down to Goat Island, to walk into town. It’s a dilemma; my heart may be in Ireland but my spine needs to be in Mali. Still I find some comfort in the novels of Irish authors, connecting with Ireland through characters and places.
There will always be the part of me that wants to wind back time, to cherish what I had, to hold on to it longer than I did. Often we don’t appreciate moments until they are memories…and even happy memories can make you sad.