The last day of 2016 is here and I, for one, am ready to bid it farewell. It’s been a year of fantastic highs and some hard-hitting lows – a true rollercoaster. However, there is one thing I achieved this year that I had dreamed of doing all my life and that is publishing my first full length novel – Someone To Come Back To.
I’m a great believer in marking special occasions – as life is simply too short not to – and celebrated the launch of the ebook online with a wonderful party. A few months later the paperback version was released and the first copies arrived in Brisbane and how wonderful it was to finally hold my baby in my hands! I decided another party was needed but this time I needed to pop some real corks! Below are a few photos of the event back in August. I’d like to thank all those who have supported me on my writing journey so far – from all over the world! It means so much to me that you love my stories. I’d like to wish you all the very, very best for 2017 – much love, Roisin.
The washed out wintry light of the early morning sun was just starting to peep over the hedgerows. The road was still damp from the rain that had fallen soft and slow throughout the night. I looked over at my husband, his face deep in concentration as he wrangled our recently acquired left-hand drive camper van around the twists and turns of the Irish country roads. I looked back to check on the dogs and I smiled as I spotted Billie peeping out at me from underneath the table and Zara sitting up on the seat, her head resting on the tiny lip of the window – determined not to miss a thing.
I looked back out onto the road and I smiled some more, this smile warming me from the outside in. We were doing it. We were finally calling time on all the shit luck that had plagued us in recent years. We had already covered the first few miles on an adventure we had planned for months.
We had no idea where we were going. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no clue as to what the future held for us but we were throwing caution to the wind and just going for it anyway. The presenter on the radio announced it was Thanksgiving Day in America and wished everyone a happy thanksgiving day. I smiled again, somehow it seemed appropriate that we were setting off on our journey into the unknown on a day when people celebrate that which they are thankful for. At that point in time I was intensely grateful to be physically putting some distance between me and so much that had happened in the years before.
A few months previously we had sold up everything – our beautiful home, our cars and anything else of value we’d had. We’d paid off the tax man and our debtors, glad to finally be free of crippling debt that had arisen from a business deal that had gone horribly wrong.
However, it wasn’t just our business that we lost in those few years but also the dream of being parents. Our tiny babies lay dead and cold in a grave on a hillside in the west of Ireland. We were emotionally battered and our souls were weary. We needed to step off the merry-go-round of life for a while and take some much needed time out.
And that’s exactly what we did. For the next nine months we trundled along the highways and byways of Europe. We ate all manner of wonderful food and we washed it down with cold beers and fine wines. We walked for miles on golden sands – I don’t think there is an inch of European coastline we missed. We hiked through sun dappled forests and swam in lakes the colour of earth and sky. We gloried in freshly fallen snow and we skied and fell in love with the granite peaks at the heart of Europe which we’d never visited before and at night we warmed ourselves with the heat of a log fire and the local firewater.
We got lost, gloriously lost and yet somehow managed to find our way. We met great characters that enriched our journey beyond measure. Bit by bit we healed and started to feel the joy of life flowing in our veins again. We dared to believe in dreams once more and we even dared to dream.
A year later we found ourselves back in Ireland patiently awaiting the birth of the child we were told we’d never have. From one thanksgiving day to another our lives had changed beyond belief and we had so much to be thankful for. A few weeks later I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl – a precious gift that I will spend the rest of my days being thankful for.
However, on Thanksgiving Day I always remember that wintry morning in Ireland as myself and my husband bumped our way along to the early morning ferry that was to deliver us to Europe and from there to God only knows where. I remember and give thanks for the small bud of hope that still remained somewhere deep within me. Sometimes you’ve got to let go of all you think you know and just go – go with your heart and feed your soul. You’ll be thankful for it more than you can ever know.
It’s that time of year again when the old Celtic festival of Samhain gets celebrated in its more modern incarnation – Halloween – in various parts of the globe. This mostly takes the form of donning costumes, making lanterns out of pumpkins and letting one part terrified and 99 parts hyper children loose on our streets, chanting the well worn mantra, “trick or treat.”
I happened to be out walking with my own children at dusk the other evening and I asked them what did they want to do this year for Halloween.
“Nothing,” the little fella replied.
I was somewhat surprised as he usually has a plan regarding his costume, for the big night, a few weeks in advance.
“Huh?” I asked, “nothing?”
“Nope, nothing,” he confirmed.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because of those creepy clowns,” he said in a voice that tapered off towards the end of his sentence as his eyes scanned the shadows, “they’re everywhere.”
“Yes, they’re everywhere!” His sister concurred in that all knowing voice reserved solely for use by big sisters.
I stopped walking. I was a little bit on the concerned side at this point. I don’t want a bunch of fools with nothing better to do than dress up as clowns and go around creeping people out turning my kids into a pair of agoraphobes.
“Hey guys,” I said, “come on, we’ve got to get this into perspective. Those creepy clowns are nothing but a bunch of idiots with nothing better to do. And it’s not like there’s been any spotted around here.”
My children stood there in the half light, the looks on their faces telling me they remained unconvinced.
I soldiered on.
“Hey, those fools have more to fear from the people they’re trying to scare than the other way around,” I assured them. “A few of them have been punched and beaten with baseball bats.”
The little fella seemed pleased with this news.
“Really?” he asked with a smile.
“Really,” I confirmed.
“Cool,” he announced, “I’m going to bring my baseball bat with me when I go trick or treating, that’ll send them a message.”
With that he walked on, quite happy now he had a plan to deal with the creepy clowns.
His sister looked at me. “I’m not so sure the creepy clowns have too much to worry about from Baseball Bat Boy but I’ll think about it.”
“Okay,” I said as I fell in beside her as we resumed our walk.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I stopped to get it out. My daughter walked on. The night was nearly fully upon us.
Thirty seconds later I practically bumped into my daughter as I put my phone back in my pocket. She was standing on a patch of grass looking at an old house.
“Creepy,” she whispered.
I looked at the house. It’s one I am familiar with as its on one of my walking routes. I’ve only ever seen it in the day time and it’s definitely on the creepy side. However, here in the near dark of the night it looked positively sinister.
“There’s someone watching us,” my daughter said, her voice hushed.
I looked at the house, in particular at the windows in the centre of its structure. I’d initially thought it was abandoned but every time I walk past it I feel like someone is watching me. However, I wasn’t about to mention this to my daughter!
“Oh, I think there’s been too much creepy talk tonight,” I laughed nervously.
She looked at the house and then she looked back at me.
“No, there’s something in there,” she said, quite certain, “on the other side of that window.”
Silence fell between us. I don’t believe in dismissing my children’s feelings on things. I’ve never uttered the words, “don’t be silly” when it comes to situations where they feel uncertain. I want them to develop and hone their instincts so that they learn to trust them, thereby following them and staying as safe as possible in an increasingly unsafe world. On the other hand I don’t believe in them scaring the shit out of themselves either! There’s a fine line that needs to be tread here and I was grappling to find my way along it in the Brisbane moonlight the other night.
Thankfully, Baseball Bat Boy saved my ass.
“Hey!” He shouted from down the street, “what are you two doing? I’m getting creeped out here all by myself!”
“Okay!” I hollered back, “we’re coming!”
I placed my hand in the small of my daughter’s back and gently nudged her along. There was no hesitation on her part but she was still looking up at the window. The very same window I always feel there is someone on the other side of – looking at me as I pass.
Later that night I dreamed of a house from my own childhood, a house I was terrified of. It was a beautiful old property surrounded by ancient trees and it had a huge, shiny green door with an enormous brass knocker. However, to my ten year old’s mind, it always seemed dark. Even on the brightest of days you could never see through its dark windows. I never saw a living soul at that house but always felt like someone was watching me as I walked by. Other kids used to take a shortcut through its grounds or climb its trees on their way home but me, never. I never set foot within its domain.
Was there something sinister there or was my fear of this house a result of my exceptionally overactive childhood imagination – something my daughter has in common with me. I don’t know but I do know this: whenever I’ve trusted my instincts in my life, they’ve never, absolutely never, been wrong.
And on that note I would like to wish you a safe and not too scary Samhain.
I meant to write this post in the actual month of July but the month ran away with me! This is one of my favourite poems by Patrick Kavanagh. It’s of a time in Ireland that has since long past but the vestiges of which could still be found in the west as I was growing up.
Inniskeen Road: July Evening
The bicycles go by in twos and threes - There's a dance in Billy Brennan's barn tonight, And there's the half-talk code of mysteries And the wink-and-elbow language of delight. Half-past eight and there is not a spot Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown That might turn out a man or woman, not A footfall tapping secrecies of stone. I have what every poet hates in spite Of all the solemn talk of contemplation. Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight Of being king and government and nation. A road, a mile of kingdom. I am king Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.
I was in a stadium at first, surrounded by concrete and not really sure where I was. Then, I heard music, quickly accompanied by a chorus of voices. Soon the voices swelled to that of thousands and almost drowned out the music. The music changed and I recognised the Italian national anthem, then the French one and finally the Irish. I turned a corner and there before me were people from all over the world, in various colours signifying their countries and all of them were singing the different national anthems.
I was delighted to hear the Irish national anthem and happily joined in. Then the music started to fade and, as is the way in dreams, a door appeared before me.
It seemed to beckon to me so I opened it and walked through.
I found myself in a beautiful riverside setting. The landscape was verdant and lush. My feet sank into moss-like grass as I walked along the bank of the gently flowing river. The water was clear as glass and ran over earthen coloured stones. Here and there it darkened to the point where I couldn’t see into its depths. I was mesmerised by its constant flow. However, something drew my attention away from it, a noise, a movement.
I looked up and a beautiful apple tree had sprung up on the far bank, it’s branches laden down with bright red orbs of goodness reaching out and dipping into the water. Then I noticed a figure. She almost seemed part of the landscape at first but as she moved the cloths on her aged form became clearer and more defined.
She moved towards the bank of the river. Another movement caught my attention upstream. I looked and saw that a bridge had formed. I knew instinctively I should cross over the river via the bridge and make my way to the old woman.
I followed my instinct and soon I was only a few feet away from her. From this distance I could see her ancient clothes were made from some type of sackcloth and yet they moulded to the shape of her body like velvet.
I moved closer and could see she had something in her hands. It was a primitive style basket woven from reeds. It was wet and it was obvious she had taken it from the river.
The feeling of overwhelming sadness emanated from her in waves. She continued to look down at the basket as if it had contained a great treasure and she had lost it.
I was concerned for her and moved closer.
“Are you okay?” I enquired, “have you lost something? Is there anything I can help you with?”
She lifted her eyes and looked at me and it seemed that her face stayed the same but was constantly changing. One second she was old, the next she was youthful, the next a little girl, the next a middle aged woman. Her eyes constantly changed colour – so fast that I only had a sense of them changing – all the while they looked grey, like that of a wolf.
“No,” her voice sounded inside my head, “there’s nothing you can do.”
She returned her gaze to the basket and her feeling of profound sadness permeated through me.
“If you need food or sustenance of any type, I can get it for you,” I assured her.
She looked at me again and half smiled.
“There was a time,” she told me, in a voice that seemed to wax and wane, “a time when these baskets were full of gifts from those who had more than me – food, clothing, books, even little treats such as sweets and perfumed soaps. And at one time, for much of my life, I had a great need of these things and I was deeply grateful for the kindness of strangers who would send these baskets of kindness upon the river to a poor wretch like me. Thankfully I no longer have a need for the items in the baskets. Life is better now.”
I noticed her clothes started to change. The sackcloth was now intertwined with silver and soon her clothes started to shimmer.
“But you are so sad,” I said to her.
She looked at me, her eyes, the eyes of millennia, sad and resigned.
“My child,” she responded, “I am not sad because I miss the gifts. I no longer have a need for them. I am sad because the kindness behind the gifts is dwindling, it’s almost gone. There are others as I once was and all they can hope for is an empty basket.”
With that she conjured up a kind smile, turned and walked in the direction of the tree. A shimmer now surrounded her and I blinked and she was gone.
I followed in her footsteps and sat underneath the tree and contemplated her words. I thought about all the times I had benefited from the incredible kindness of strangers – crucial times in my life, times of great hardship and loss. The kindness itself couldn’t change what I was going through but it was the difference between me making it and not.
I thought about the state of the world and all the sad events in recent times and how much just a little kindness could bring about change. I resolved to try and open my kindness valve some more and try and be part of the change.
I can still see that beautiful river in my mind, flowing constantly, like life itself. I hope some day I meet the old lady again and this time she is happy because once again the river is abundant with baskets of kindness.
It’s finally here! In just a few hours Someone To Come Back To is live!
In honour of the day that’s in it, lets have an excerpt.
“The cabin was illuminated by a number of lamps and the fire was crackling to life in the hearth. Maggie came around by the side of the fireplace when she stopped dead in her tracks. Over beside the bed, his back thankfully to her, stood her rescuer, totally naked. Maggie clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle the gasp that was rapidly making its way up her throat. She had seen thousands of bodies in her time but never one quite like the one before her now.
Christ, thought Maggie, even this guy’s muscles have muscles.
She knew she should retreat in to the bathroom to give him enough time to get dressed but she stood transfixed. The breadth of his shoulders and the way his muscles flexed as he reached down to the bed for his shirt held her spellbound. The perfect form of his back as it tapered flawlessly down to his hips and the tightness of his ass, followed by the incredibly toned muscles in his legs all combined to immobilize Maggie into a state of almost euphoric appreciation.
She had never seen a man quite like this before and she couldn’t help but gape. However, as she looked closer, she began to notice scars and the more she looked the more she realized the embodiment of male perfection before her was covered in them. Some seemed a few years old but her medical knowledge told her some were quite recent. Worryingly, she noticed a few were gunshot wounds.
Oh God, she groaned to herself, who is this guy?
He threw the shirt over his head and she started to back up towards the bathroom when he turned around.
“No need to leave because of me,” he grinned at her.
Maggie blushed the color of her hair.
“I….I….I’m sorry,” she stuttered as she tried to look anywhere except between his legs.
“It’s ok, I’m not the shy type,” he chuckled as he pulled on a pair of boxer shorts and slung a pair of jeans across his hips. He left the shirt hanging loose and it was then Maggie realized, as she looked into his laughing brown eyes, just how incredibly handsome he was, like Henry Cavill and Eric Bana all rolled into one. She didn’t think it was possible but she blushed even more.”
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