Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just My Luck

I slaved and slaved for hours and hours to finish my latest story and guess what?  Having completed this definite prize-winner I find there are no suitable competitions looking for entries.  The season is over.

By a ‘suitable competition’ I mean a modest little affair, not one with huge cash prizes.  Being a ‘kept woman’ of modest desires, I seek not fortune but fame.  Once again it has eluded me.

I so wanted to join my group-members in the Hall of Fame.  One after another they flourish their successful stories and poems and always I have been lazy and  just too late (or uninspired) to compete.  I raise a toast, join in the applause, and celebrate with them, but inside I bleed with humiliation.  I know how Cinderella felt when they all went off to the Ball.  I empathise with  John Gormley’s discomfort  when he realised that nobody voted for his party. I understand the pain of the Westmeath footballers when Dublin walloped them in Croke Park on Sunday last.

The last ‘prize-winning’ story I wrote seems to have gone astray somewhere because it didn’t feature in the short-list of the comp I had selected.  Maybe I didn’t put enough stamps on the envelope? I know it deserved to win but how could the judges discover that if they never saw it’s magnificence.

One offering was honoured by a short-list in Malahide, but since I can’t remember what story it was and have no way of finding out, I can neither read it over and over again with satisfaction, nor can I boast about it.

So my file of unsung stories grows and grows.

I am my only admirer.  I’ve just begun a new folder (the first, well thumbed, is bursting at the seams) which I keep on a shelf in my room so that I can read the exciting sagas over and over.  They get lonely, poor things, and languish sadly.  I know you’ll think a folder on a shelf is a sad thing anyway in these days of technology but I want to make sure that some day, long after the computer has crashed and distributed my precious words into cyber-space (I know I should have them on back-up discs, but how to file them, where to keep them, who would see them) there is still a chance that someone will find these treasures and I will, at last, be discovered.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Variously Challenged

Challenged by Various, I can’t think of 7 things from the last 24 but the week had a few highlights.

1. Drove through the Wicklow mountains to Glendalough.  Wicklow is tame towards Connemara but has a certain charm of its own, and I do love the Blessington Lakes in the sunshine.

2. Saw ‘The Gandhi’s play the blues on Miriam O’Callaghan.  Young band from Lucan, they did very well. 

3. Sorry the Lions didn’t win the test – but I knew O’Gara shouldn’t have kept his hands in his pockets when the queen came to call.  These things come back to bite you.

4. Got a chance to see some of Jacko’s performances again and feel the excitement.  Great showman but troubled soul – he leaves quite a mess behind him.

5. Started to write again – it’s been ages since inspiration came to call.  I grabbed it and have it locked in the wardrobe.

6. Great banter at coffee after Writers Group. Good company always leaves me on a high.

7. Delighted when Kildare got through to Leinster Final by beating Laois – then watched the Dubs give a real drubbing to Westmeath.  Not feeling so confident now for the Lily Whites.  I think I won’t watch that one.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Surprise part 2

I know I shouldn’t have run away but the sound of her shrill voice berating him was too much for me at that hour of the day. My head still throbbed with the after effects of last night’s binge and my tongue was as dry as a sponge that had been left too long on the bathroom window sill. The brother-in-law had meant well inviting me out for a couple of jars. He knew better than most what it’s like to be out of work with your life in a mess. He had been there himself and climbed back from the black hole he was sinking into by a lot of hard work and a couple of well-placed friends. Ursula had more or less insisted that he pull himself together. I can kind of understand why she didn’t want him slipping back into that situation just because her kid brother couldn’t get his act together and his wife, in her opinion, was a loser anyway.

So when, after discovering me on the sofa in the sitting-room as she got the kids off for their last day in school before the holidays, it was not entirely a surprise to hear her charge upstairs to their bedroom screaming like a virago and calling me names that even the lads on the building site wouldn’t dare use to me. I thought it best to scarper. What inspired me to something so infantile as to go out the back way and hop over the wall into a neighbours garden I can’t imagine. Stupidity and alcohol I suppose.

I slid down into the gap between the rough concrete and a garden shed. You could tell there hadn’t been much traffic here – the rotted branches of exhausted shrubs snapped quietly under my weight. No kids in this house so. They would surely have made a den or buried a pet or lost a ball…there would have been signs. That was a bit of luck for a start. Pulling back a coarse bramble, which repaid me by drawing blood from elbow to fingertip, I edged around the side of the wooden building. Another bit of luck. There were some trees that gave a bit of cover while I sussed out whether the house was occupied and what were my chances of making it to the side gate before I was spotted. It was only then that it dawned on me that discovery could mean screams and alarms followed by police cars sirening their way up the street outside and manhandling me into the back of a cop car, carefully putting their hands on my head to make sure I didn’t damage the body-work. They only do that after they have kicked the daylights out of you – or so it seems from TV.

All clear, no sign of life. Easy-peasy. They’d all be gone to work in this area. No dole-queuing for the smart asses like the brother-in-law – well not yet anyway. Wait till the recession got round to them! Then they’d know all about it. Then they’d be imprisoned in their comfortable residences trying to feed kids on dole money and screaming at one another from morning till night.

I edged through the trees and caught the sleeve of my shirt on a wizened branch that hadn’t even the strength to tear the surface of the shiny material when I pulled it away. Jaysus! There was a dame lying dead in a chair about fifteen feet away! A navy & white sheet was thrown over her – and there were white flowers all around like a bleeding funeral parlour. That’s why I hadn’t noticed her. Her hair shone in the sun as if she had already turned into a saint or something – you know the glow they have in holy pictures? Christ, what will I do? They’ll think I murdered her! My legs went weak and I had to hold on to the tree to keep me upright. Should I go back and face the screamers in the house I’d left or take my chances of slipping past the body and out the side gate?

I decided to face the music and head back the way I came and as I forced my feet to carry me, there was a tiny movement from the body and a white, be-ringed hand reached towards a glass that stood on the ground beside her and lazily twirled a cocktail umbrella …..

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summertime Surprise

I slipped out of the shower and wrapped a light Spanish wrap, bought on an almost forgotten holiday abroad,  around me, tucking it firmly into place.  My hair streamed droplets onto my shoulders when I dragged a wide comb through it and as I massaged moisture cream around my face and down my neck, I  stood at the window looking down on the garden. 

It was another scorcher!  Blue sky, not a wisp of a cloud in sight.  The garden chairs were arranged somewhat haphazardly under the mock-orange tree which glowed translucently,  white petals completely still.  I padded down stairs in bare feet and poured a glass of icy juice, adding, just for fun, an orange cocktail umbrella, a souvenir of another occasion that had been sitting in the press preserving its memories.

Down the two shallow steps to the patio – well, it was a patio once, now the gaps between the concrete slabs were bulging with wild flowers and tufts of grass, but it still retained a rather shabby elegance.  Heat from the plastic seat of the not-at-all elegant garden seat oozed through my cotton wrap and I lay back and sipped the icy liquid.  The heat was  intense now and the air seemed to hover around me.  I was lulled by the humming sound of bees in the shrub that clung the length of the brick wall, camouflaging the ugly garden sheds of my neighbours and turning my concrete jungle into a secret garden.

A rustle in the leaves of the tall pear tree disturbed me from my reverie and I glanced lazily in that direction.  That was when I saw him………

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I have added a new string to my bow.  Yes, for this weekend, I became a political pundit.  Two of us spent nearly 6 hours on local radio reporting on the count for the Lucan Ward in the Local Authority Elections in South Dublin County and it was a terrific experience.  We had two reporters and a technical man actually attending the count in the Basketball arena in Tallaght who kept us up to date on the  figures and got interviews with a lot of the candidates, and there we were in a steamy studio (the day was roasting and the ‘air-conditioning’ very basic) number- crunching (in a manner of speaking) and trying to predict the order in which the final listings would be made.  I can tell you here and now that my experience in creative writing was a great help, because I have no party affiliations (although, naturally, some preferences) and no ‘insider information’ that could add to the knowledge that I had gleaned from the papers and listening to other radio shows.

We were promised that the first count would be complete at 4 o’clock.  In the event, it was after 8pm before the announcement was made, so we had plenty of time to fill with comment and memories of past counts etc.  and thank goodness I was not the one pressing the buttons to put us on and off air.  Maria, my co-presenter played a blinder in that department.  And Fran, our technician worked the thingamajigs so that we could hear the reporters phoning in.  When our stint  was almost over food arrived and cups of tea – my vocal chords had almost dried up by then, and I was totally exhausted by the time it was over.  (Not a G & T in sight until I got home to my own nest and treated myself somewhat generously).  But the ‘buzz’ was terrific and I was really interested because I know most of the candidates for years.

One of the things that struck me was how nice most of them when they were interviewed.  Campaigning over, there was hardly any of the bombast and repetition of ‘party lines’ we had been hearing for the past few weeks either on the doorstep or on radio and television debates.  Instead they were generous, magnanimous men (we didn’t get an interview with the only woman on the list) who praised one another in victory and commiserated in defeat.  I don’t know how those who do badly coped with the rejection when they find out how far short of the target they fell.  The hours of slogging around estates day after day trying to convince bored or angry residents to put a 1  or 2 opposite their name must have left them totally drained.  The ones who did well will be bolstered by the flush of success, but for the others it must be some come down.

Today we did an hour covering the European Election count which wasn’t at all as demanding, particularly as our ‘roving reporter’ came up with some good interviews and they were nowhere near being able to guess where the final seats would go.  Those results are still not in as I write this.

The turn-out of voters in this area was almost 50% – that means that half of the people didn’t bother to vote.  If they had all turned out I wonder would the results have provided us with a completely different set of victors, or would things have just balanced out?

Anyway, it’s all over for another five years or whatever the duration of a Co. Council is, so its back to the hum-drum for me.  Maybe I’ll start writing again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hey! Hey! I’m a Winner

Honoured is the only word that comes to mind!  Selected as a Blog Award-winner by Various.  I’m told I should publish the award, list seven things I like, and issue further awards.

I can’t do the first, so that will have to wait.

What do I like, then?

1.  Sunshine & flowers & birdsong.  Things to nurture the inner self

2.  The buzz, buzz, buzz of the media world that keep the mind alert.

3.  A G & T Sun-downer brimming with ice, preferably outdoors, overlooking the sea while waves crash on the rocks or turn on the sand.  Gives me the courage to share my scintillating conversation with all and sundry.

4.  Grand-daughter’s excited face as she invites me to come and see her play Polonius in a half-hour production of Hamlet on Thursday next. (She’s 10).

5.  Tuscany in late summer, driving on on wonderful roads to visit Sienna – stuffed full of olives and tomatoes and local wine.  Restaurants with crisp white table-cloths and shining glasses and silver cutlery and staff ready to dance attention on me and cater for my every whim. (They don’t come cheap!)

6.  My Visa Card – that makes life possible whatever the bank balance.

7.  Writers Morning in the Library, surrounded by friends and being challenged to pen an interesting piece on an impossible topic.  Not to mention cream buns.



Blog Awards

Hax Attack (see link on home page).  Such a clever guy this is.

Various: Always fresh and exciting (or at least excited) about something. She’s not a comfortable cushion – but so vivid and colourful!  And such a slave driver.  I don’t know how laid-back Mr VC keeps up with her.

Oubliette: My weird friend who can find philosophy pouring from the mouths of babes and can conjure up a plot from a whisper flying through the air.

Matt Bolton for his intriguing poems.

Beedlemama who I hope will keep us informed about the prospective move to Wicklow – if she can get the car out of the clamp.

Hello? Hello?

Is there anybody there?  No?  I’s 8am, for God’s sake', and the sun is shining and the birds are singing their little hearts out – and you are still asleep?  I’ve been waiting since half past four to have a chat.  I’m exhausted by all this good weather and good humour and you good-for-nothings who have nothing better to do on a Bank Holiday morning than have a rest!  No wonder the country is in the state it’s in (do I mean state as in condition?  I guess so.  We could hardly be in any other State than the one we’re in, but I digress….)

Are you aware that the birds cheat a bit?  At 4.30am they open their little beaks and serenade me.  But at 6.30 not one was to be seen and only some fairly tuneless twittering could be heard.  (Obviously they were on their PCs too).  And by careful scrutiny I discovered that the pair of Luvvie Dovies I’ve been nurturing all spring were cavorting in my neighbours garden (the one around the corner that I can only view by hanging out the window at the front of the house.  The resident there had challenged me last week when I said they were MY doves.  He claimed they were his.  There could have been a nasty day in court if I hadn’t spotted them this morning, double-jobbing in a manner of speaking.   I will have to report them to Social Welfare first thing tomorrow – or should it be Finance, or Justice?  The very idea of them claiming welfare from two houses is dreadful – and who knows where else they’ve been?   Perhaps if I stick my head out the small window in the bathroom I can accumulate further evidence with which to challenge them.

I ventured into the garden in my best negligee to check on my veggie patch and give something to curb their thirst.  My two courgettes are flourishing, although I saw signs that a snail may have been sussing the place out for a more menacing visit tonight.  My half-a-dozen scallions look just about ready to fill a sandwich some day soon – apart from the ones that visiting grand-children seem to have mistaken for sea-side sand yesterday.  They alas are lying sadly stricken in scattered clay.  But the carrots are still healthy enough – all nine of them, squashed together in a tiny pot because I never thought that they would take root.  And my mini-strawberry bush is dotted with delicious looking red fruit shat should make a delectable dinner for visiting elves.

Exhaustion was setting in by now and I when I heard His Majesty (always an early riser) leaving to get the morning paper I decided to head back to the bed and wait for my morning cuppa and and daily serving of world news to stimulate my brain.  Unfortunately, in a fit of indoor-gardening I think that maybe a pint of tater was too much to pour on the cactus plants.  They are looking a bit soggy.  But the wonderful sunshine that has been here for (whisper, in case it hears me) the past three days and looks fairly settled will sort them out in now time.

So, up you get!  I have left everything ready for  you – no chores to be done, so off you go and enjoy!