A fab review of Unfinished Business! Thank you so much Page One Books 🙂
So, here we are, Valentine’s Day 2016. Another year and another day where the magic of love is celebrated across the globe. To mark the occasion I’m going to share one of my favourite poems about love with you.
It’s Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and those of you who are familiar with it might be scratching your heads right now and wondering why I chose these particular fourteen lines where Shakespeare basically derides the physical attributes of the object of his affections.
However, for me, that is the point. There is a truth and a reality in this Sonnet that is not present in so many other works. Here, Shakespeare lays bare the fact he doesn’t find the lady in question particularly attractive and that others exist who are far more beauteous than her. She is far from perfect but he loves her all the same, if not more so than he could love any of those other goddesses.
The last two lines are so beautiful – where he admits that it is the sum of all her parts and all her physical imperfections that make her a rare find indeed.
Love, even when it (seemingly) isn’t perfect, it is.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all – Roisin.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
It’s been a while since I’ve been here and I’ve missed this space. A lot has been happening in the past seven weeks. I got to reconnect and spend time with dear friends. I finished my first full-length novel. I somehow managed to keep the balls of mother, wife and writer in the air. I watched my darling Billie, my little four-legged soul sister, come down with cancer and I had to make the impossible decision and let her go.
All in all, it’s been something of an emotional roller-coaster since I last connected with this space and to be honest I’m feeling a little wrung out. As regular followers of this blog will know, one of the things I most like to turn to when I’m not feeling the best is poetry. And as luck would have it, I came across the perfect poem to lift my mood this evening and I’d like to share it with you this Christmas Eve.
The Poem Of Snow
In the loud snowing space as I am waiting for my turn
I can see…
So much snow! Which way to go?
Skate on ice? I don’t know!
I can feel…
I am so cold even with my woolly hat
No-one can get this cold… but
I have my doubts
I can hear…
The last hot chocolate calling my name!
Outside I can hear kids laughing and giggling
I can smell…
The fresh new smell of the old barked trees
That smell is the best, when it comes with a breeze!
I can taste…
The sweet chocolatey taste of the hot chocolate as I drink
But as I come outside again I start to sink!
ALL THE SNOW HAS RISEN!
Oh, no! Oh, Yes!
This poem was written for me by my daughter last year and she presented it to me as a present on Christmas morning. It’s very much her and I love it! I hope you enjoy it too.
Here’s wishing you a joyful and peaceful Christmas.
It’s that time of year again where children of the western world dress up in an array of costumes and go out, under cover of darkness, to knock on doors, whereupon they trot out the words, “trick or treat” to whoever answers the aforementioned door before sticking a bag under their nose into which they expect to receive all manner of sweets and treats. Ah yes, Halloween, the great American festival of carved pumpkins and children hopped up on sugar and additives. Except it isn’t.
I was shocked to see a number of posts across social media in the last few days where people clearly believed Halloween started in America. Okay, perhaps its current incarnation of pumpkins and candies has more to do with popular American culture than anything else but the tradition of Halloween is thousands of years old and has its origins in Celtic culture and many of the activities associated with this night of chaos and mischief come from Ireland.
The ancient Celts celebrated Samhain, which signified the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It was believed on this night the barriers between the worlds of the living and the dead became unstable and the souls of the dead could come back to earth. Candles were lit to guide the paths of loved ones and a place would be set for them at the table, where food would be left for them (treats). Of course not all the returning souls were good ones and just as the barriers between the living and the dead of the human world were less stable on this night so were the barriers between the human world and the “other” world, the world of supernatural creatures such as fairies, puca and banshees. All manner of magical creatures were believed to roam the earth on the night of Samhain, so precautions were taken such as leaving food outside the house in the hope the hungry creatures from the otherworld would take it and pass by your door. People also dressed themselves in costumes and disguises in order to trick the souls of the dead and the creatures who may wish to take them back to their worlds.
Due to the increased presence of mystical creatures on the night of Samhain it was believed the human world was richer in magic than at any other point in the year and that this aided the druids in making their predictions for the year ahead. Therefore, Samhain also became associated with divination. One of my favourite childhood memories is of the barnbreac, a traditional Irish fruitbread. On Oiche Shamhna (Halloween) the breac would be baked with a tiny piece of cloth, a ring, a pea and a coin. If you found the piece of cloth in your slice then this would signify hard financial times for the year ahead. The pea signified ill health if it was black, the coin meant prosperity and the ring meant your were going to meet the love of your life or become betrothed. It was always great fun to see who got the ring!
All sorts of divination formed part of the traditional celebrations but sadly very few of them have survived to this day, even in Ireland. As the centuries passed the Celtic festival of Samhain became intertwined with the Roman feast of Pomona – celebration of the harvest and then of course the Catholics came along and hijacked the event altogether with Pope Boniface in the seventh century declaring November first, All Souls Day. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Eve from which we get Halloween.
It’s still a big night in Ireland even though we no longer have bonfires or fireworks. Barnbreacs still get eaten with big mugs of tea around blazing fires but only the ring has survived as part of the Samhain fun. Nowadays, the celebration is more likely to resemble the American version of carved pumpkins and children going from house to house looking for treats but I like to think that underneath it all our ancient Celtic heart still beats.
It was 1976 and Northern Ireland was a war zone and into this war zone came a little girl, with a newly discovered talent for mimicry, and her mother, who could best be described as having a writer’s imagination.
The little girl, her mother and the rest of the family had spent the day navigating checkpoints and unapproved roads, visiting family and friends and the little girl had stared open-mouthed as soldiers with real guns had interrogated her mother each time as to where they were going and who they were visiting. Barbed wire was everywhere along with an all pervasive tension that hung thick and heavy in the air like an invisible fog and each time they were stopped at a checkpoint the little girl could feel unseen eyes watching her.
The same little girl had a fascination with cars and loved the sound of the engine of the Ford Cortina MK II as it responded to the touch of her mother’s foot on the accelerator and zipped along the twists and turns of the country roads. She loved the smell of the leather and the feel of it under her hands and she loved the squeak that came from the boot every time they went over one of the many bumps, which drove her mother crazy but made her smile secretly to herself. And this day she realised the car she was so fascinated with made another sound. Every time her mother put the indicator on there was the most satisfying tick tock sound, like the loud but dull ticking of a clock. The girl loved the perfect timing of this sound and started copying it in her mind. Soon, she switched to mimicking the sound quietly to herself in the back seat. The sound was soothing and the little girl loved how she could reproduce it flawlessly.
Soon the family arrived back at the rural farmhouse they were staying in and the little girl and her siblings were fed and put to bed. However, this little girl always found sleep elusive and in the absence of a book to read she contented herself with practising the tick tock sound of the indicator. Soon she was fast asleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night she woke up and was surprised to see the reflection of a blue light flashing through the window. She crept out of the bed and peeked out through the net curtains. There were lots of men in black uniforms. They were different to the soldiers she had seen throughout the day but they still had that hard look in their eyes. No-one was smiling. No-one looked friendly. There were also soldiers a little further down the road. Soldiers and guns. They seemed to be guarding the entrance to the property. The little girl didn’t know what was going on but she knew when there was trouble, somehow she was usually to blame. However, on this occasion she couldn’t see how it was anything to do with her so she crawled back into bed. She resumed the tick-tock sound of the indicator and was soon fast sleep.
The next morning she found her father fixing things on the car. She thought this odd as she hadn’t realised there was anything wrong with it. She mused to herself that maybe he was looking for the mysterious squeak. Her father didn’t speak to her. Next she met her great-aunties, Nora and Kate. They looked at her curiously and Kate even smiled but they didn’t speak to her. Then she met her mother and her mother didn’t have to speak, the little girl knew from the thunderous look on her mother’s face that she was in trouble on an epic scale.
The little girl stood there waiting for the storm of her mother’s fury to hit.
“You,” her mother stuttered, “you.”
The little girl found it strange how her mother didn’t seem capable of talking. Word failure was not a problem her mother suffered from.
She was also breathing hard as if trying to control herself and the little girl was reminded of a dragon and half expected to see smoke coming from her mother’s nostrils.
“You,” she choked out the word, “do you have any idea of the trouble you caused here last night?”
The little girl thought back to the men dressed in black uniforms and the soldiers but couldn’t for the life of her figure out how any of that had anything to do with her. However, judging from the look on her mother’s face, her life very much depended on figuring her connection to these events out.
“N…o….” she replied, cautiously. Very cautiously.
Her mother took a step towards her and she quickly took a few back.
“You only had half the police force and the bomb squad out here last night, you little witch. You and your weird little noises.”
Realisation was starting to dawn on the little girl…..
Her mother narrowed her eyes.
“If I ever catch you making your weird little noises again, I’ll kill you myself,” she exclaimed as her hands clenched into a pair of fists and unclenched again, as if she was seriously trying to control the urge to carry out that threat immediately.
The little girl didn’t understand how sounding like an indicator from a car could cause such trouble but she thought better of sharing this with her mother. Instead she slinked off in the direction of the nearest field and decided to see if she could figure out how to talk cow instead. It seemed like a much safer option.
The little girl was, of course, me and this is a memory from my childhood that I had completely forgotten about until I saw the photos of Ahmed Mohammed being led away in handcuffs from his school in Texas.
Back in 1976 in Northern Ireland the main detonation device for the many improvised bombs was a clock. On hearing an unidentified ticking sound, my mother called the authorities who thankfully didn’t arrest me when they discovered I was the source!
Poor Ahmed wasn’t so lucky but if it’s any consolation to him I’m sure his techie talents will see him go on to have a stellar engineering career, which is more than can be said for a gift for mimicry which got me absolutely nowhere.
The blog tour for my novella, Over Your Dead Body, is kicking off today and I was doing up some promotional material over the weekend. This involved me trawling through a number of stock image sites looking for appropriate photos.
Over Your Dead Body is the story of Ryan Kennedy and how he came to realise he was gay and the challenges he faced and the choices he made in relation to that realisation. So, naturally enough I was searching for images that involved some male on male action. It was the weekend so of course the kids were in and out of the office, wondering what I was doing and when I was going to be available to play with them. My seven year old son had wandered in a few times, not particularly paying attention to what I was doing but then he came right up beside me and looked at the images on the screen.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I explained about the blog tour and that I needed to make up a few promotional images in relation to the story.
“But why do you have photos of a man kissing a man?” he asked.
I explained how the story is about a man who is attracted to men. (He understands the concept. When homosexuality is referred to in our house it is in the same context as heterosexuality, it’s just a matter of who you want to be with – whether that’s a man who wants to be with a woman or man who wants to be with a man or woman who wants to be with a woman. It doesn’t matter. However, he hasn’t yet seen a man kissing a man.)
“What happens to the man in the story?” he asked.
I explained how some people don’t accept homosexuality and that this man’s mum and dad didn’t love him any more after they found out he was gay and this had a huge effect on his life.
My son’s face fell and his eyes became sad.
“They didn’t love him any more? he whispered, like that was the worst thing that could ever possibly happen.
“No,” I replied.
My son turned to me, his little face blighted with confusion and sadness for this man in the story.
“And what happens if I love a man when I grow up” he asked, “will you and Daddy still love me?”
I pulled him to me and kissed his little cheek.
“My beautiful boy,” I said, “whether you love a man or you love a woman, me and Daddy will always love you.”
He smiled, threw his arms around me in a monster hug and walked happily out the door.
Over Your Dead Body encompasses all the pain and suffering I have witnessed over the years of friends and acquaintances who have had to face rejection and even abuse by those closest to them, just because they were gay. Ryan eventually comes through it all and finds his happy ending, sadly this is not the case for all.
There are times in life when everything comes together in one perfect moment. These moments are rare and sometimes we can be so distracted, we only realise they happened after they have passed. To be aware of one of these moments whilst it is happening and to have a camera on you at the same time, to capture the magic and preserve it for all eternity is an incredible stroke of luck. Thankfully I had one of these such incidences of luck last year when on holidays in Ireland and took the photo below.
The photo is of my daughter as she runs along the beach, the water splashing at her heels and the sun warming her bones. Now, the west of Ireland is a beautiful place to be on any day of the week but on a day when the sun shines it is sensational. We were blessed with weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, long lazy days of summer with ice cream afternoons, beach days and breath-taking sunsets. To get a summer like this in Ireland is too rare for words, to get a summer like this the only time you have been home for two years is incredibly special.
This photo was taken at about 4:30 pm in the afternoon on a day when the heat from the sun enveloped us like an invisible blanket that never seemed to end. The kids were pottering around the beach, building sandcastles, making stone sculptures and just being. I was relaxed in a way I can only be when I am in the west of Ireland – at one with body and soul.
My daughter decided to go in for a dip and I watched and listened as she lit up the beach with her smile and squeals of delight. As the cold water connected with her little body, she ran unfettered and free, a perfect study of joy in flight and I knew….. I knew I was witnessing one of those childhood moments that precious memories are made from. I reached for my phone, activated the camera and clicked and clicked.
A year later I’m sitting at my desk in Australia, yearning for an Irish summer in the west of Ireland and not knowing when I’ll be there again but I have a precious memory, a moment of pure joy captured on canvas, hanging on my wall. For the minute that will have to do but I feel so lucky to have grabbed that moment and preserved it. Looking at the photo brings me back to that day and an indescribable moment of happiness shared by me and my girl.
All my life I have enjoyed a rich and eventful life at night. Come the time I close my eyes, I enter my dreamworld and all sorts of wild and wonderful things happen. Sometimes, they haven’t been so wonderful and I’ve had nightmares I’d rather forget but my dreams are always vivid, colourful and powerful. Over the years I’ve also experienced what I call “auditory dreams” where someone / a voice is saying a word or words to me throughout the night. These “hearing dreams” are rare and I only need my two hands to count the number of times they have happened but it just so happens I had one the other night.
The words, “love is a many splendored thing” kept being repeated throughout the night to the extent that when I woke up I immediately googled them and to my surprise came across an Oscar winning song that was featured in the 1955 movie of the same name.
The lyrics are beautiful and I thought I’d share them with you today.
Love is a many splendored thing
It’s the April rose
That only grows in the early spring
Love is nature’s way of giving
A reason to be living
The golden crown that makes a man a king
Once on a high and windy hill
In the morning mist
Two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched
My silent heart and taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s
A many splendored thing
Once on a high and windy hill
In the morning mist
Two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched
My silent heart and taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s
A many splendored thing
Interestingly, the sentiment of the song has particular relevance to my current work in progress about a man who decides love is not for him and the line, “then your fingers touched my silent heart and taught it how to sing” perfectly describes what happens to him when fate throws him under the love bus.
Why the title of this song repeated itself to me throughout the night, I have no idea but I’m glad it did. It’s been covered by many artists over the years but one of the best versions I’ve heard is by Old Blue Eyes himself and I’ll let him do justice to it for you today. Take it away there Frank.