Last week my Uncle Pa died. As I made my way home from Dublin after his funeral and burial I was overcome with memories of the man who helped and guided me through those perilous years, between fifteen and nineteen. Remembering how his shoulders shook, rising and falling in quick succession as he laughed at my jokes and listened to my stories. The man who tapped the base of his pipe into the palm of his hand to loosen the tobacco ash before empting the contents into an astray or the fireplace. The man who drove his green Volkswagen down from Dublin every Friday and back again after the tea on Sundays. This man was my mother’s brother, the second child in a family of six. She was the youngest of the family, he was fifteen years her senior.
My mind flooded with memories of the January we moved home to Ireland. Pa met us in Shannon. Looking back now I don’t know how we did it, but somehow my mother and all four of us kids managed to squeeze into Pa’s little green Volkswagen, with near on a dozen suitcases strapped to the roof and bulging out of the boot. It was a long tedious journey from Shannon to Dungarvan after our transatlantic hike. But we survived it and arrived home safely.
The next day my mother brought me to the same convent she had attended. I sat in the convent parlour as Reverend Mother, Mother Alphonsus and my mother discussed my future schooling. I was to be placed in the inter-cert class. The Reverend Mother insisted it would be a pure waste of money for my mother to pay the £20 late fee, allowing me sit the exam with my classmates. After much toing and froing, it was decided the discipline of the exams was the best course for me.
When we arrived back to the house, Pa asked how it all went. I jubilantly told him I was starting school on Monday and would be sitting the inter-cert with the rest of the girls in my class. I noticed his eyebrows rise slightly as he took the pipe out of his mouth and examined it intently.
“Is that right now?” he said as he looked over my head towards my mother who just smiled back at him.
He turned to me saying if I was determined to do this, he would gladly help me. I beamed with joy. He was in my corner.
I said, “That’s great. I am going to need all the help I can get. I have about 1200 years of history to learn. A rather intense English program to tackle. Not to mention Irish geography.”
I know it was a bit cheeky, but hey I was a teenager!
“Well that is one tall order,” he replied.
Let me add, this was the first week of February and the exams began the second week of June.
“I suppose we better make a start. Well Ann, can you tell me where Kerry is?”
Delighted with myself I replied, “County Killarney!”
He smiled weakly, looked at my mother and said, “We have a lot of work to do here.”
The word that warmed my heart in that statement was “we”. Uncle Pa had decided right there and then he was with me in this. I wasn’t alone. At that moment I believed I had this inter-cert thing under control!
That very afternoon Pa drew a map of Ireland, divided it into the four provinces and at the side of the map listed each county under its province heading. I was to learn the spelling of each county and where they were located on the map. I was read about the lives of Robert Emmet, Daniel O’Connell, and Charles Stewart Parnell and write an essay on each for the following Friday. And so began what became the pattern of my days with my Uncle, my tutor and my mentor. I went to school from 9am – 4pm and then attended study from 5pm-7pm, Monday to Friday. I arrived home from study and after a cup of tea and quick bite to eat resumed my studies until 11-11:30.
Pa arrived home about 9pm on Friday evenings. After a cup of tea I would sit to the table with him and hand over all the written work he had assigned me the previous weekend and then discuss any problems or questions I had. Our routine was study and tutoring on Saturday afternoons from 2-5. This was the time my inaccuracies would be addressed. Then working on the next chapter of history from the books he had gotten to supplement my schoolbook. Sunday afternoons from 2-5 were spent exactly the same way. Sitting at the kitchen table with my uncle surrounded by books learning another chapter of history and more geography before he headed back to Dublin that evening for another week. I did my daily schoolwork and Pa’s weekly assignments. He gave me his weekends in order to allow me fulfil my desire, to do the inter-cert. He guided me and prodded me and sometimes he got frustrated with me, but even in his frustration I felt supported. He never made me feel like I was wasting his time. His time was my time.
Pa took holidays during exam week. He revised with me, prepped me and supported me. When I arrived home after completing my history paper, we went into the sitting room and he closed the door. He paced the length of the sitting room as I related the answers I had given. He didn’t say one word during this time. When I finished, I nervously looked up at him. He had stopped pacing, his eyes were moist, and he took both my hands and pulled me up off the sofa and gave me a big bear hug. I knew then and there, I had passed my history paper. I cried with relief and joy, I had not disappointed him.
I was suppose to read and review a book for my blogging book club,co-ordinated by Lily at Lily's Blog. The book in question, "Let The Great World Spin," by ColumMcCann. This review was supposed to be posted by June 2. But alas this has been a dead week for me with regard to reading and writing. I bought the book with the intention of reading during layover hours and my flight. As often happens in my world, things do not pan out as planned.
By departure day, I was exhausted. As those of you who regularly read my blog know, I normally don't work on Fridays. But on the Friday before departure there were a few pressing matters that needed to be sorted requiring a few hours in the office. On Saturday morning much to my horror, I discovered half the work done on Friday, was done on a newly defunct computer system. Had I been notified...I don't think so. This notification seems to have fallen through the cracks. Anyway, I went into the office again on Saturday for the re-dos. Once that was done, it was time to bring Louie down to Ciolagh and Kevin for his holidays. A two hour round trip, which was spent going over lists in my head. Remember to bring this, remember to do that, remember to write that cheque...well you get the picture.
Sunday was spent packing and cleaning. I hear voices singing out in unison, "cleaning" I know you might find that strange, but nothing depresses me more than to return to a messy, grim house. OK so the house is clean, the cases finally closed and the alarm clock set for our early morning departure. Book is at hand.
All went well, flights were on time, no security delays but when I opened the book the words were all a blur. As the day wore on the blur became more blurry. Resulting in no on flight reading.
A few days after I got home, I met up with a friend and the conversation turned to books. I told her I was about to embark on this book by ColumMcCann, "Let the Great World Spin." "Oh," she said, "that was a brilliant book. I just loved it. So vibrant. It just drew me in." "Great," I replied, "I am really looking forward to getting stuck into it!"
My big chance to get into this book came last Tuesday, with a four hour bus journey to Dublin to meet up with fellow blogger friends, Barbara, Brigid and Theresa. I pulled the book out of the bag and read the first 30 pages and yes it was a great read so far. Then somewhere behind me, a fellow bus passenger started eating a very strong smelling sausage sandwich. A rush of nausea flooded over me. The words began to blur again. I put the book back into the over sized handbag. Oh well I thought, there is always the four hour return journey later this evening. All is not lost.
My bus left Dublin at 6PM. I was delighted with my day in the Pale. It had been a day of great company and chat. I took out the book and began reading. I got to page 35 when the girl sitting directly across from me pulled out a shopping bag and threw up into it. With a sigh, the book was closed. I spent the next 3 3/4 hours hoping said girl and her shopping bag would be getting off at each and every next stop. She didn't. She got off at the stop half a mile before mine and left the bag containing the contents of her stomach behind.
Now my feeling is this is a very good read, but at the moment the gods, fate or whatever you want to call it is against this book and I connecting. So I have my bookmark at page 35. I have highlighted the last paragraph I read and will put it aside for a week. At which time, I will take the book out to my sunny conservatory where the only smells are of roses and lavender and enjoy what I have been assured is a wonderful read.
I am so out of sync I can't think. I am still trying to figure out if I am coming or going. This morning was the first time in almost a week that I actually put pen to paper and wrote words. Real Words! I have not read the words I strung together this morning. So they may not make any sense whatsoever, but at this moment in time, I am just thrilled I got words on a page.
Oh the great news in my little world....Remember that phone call (scroll down to see the photo)my girl got the day of graduation, the one about an interview! Well interview is done and dusted. She got the job and is now an employed pharmacist! Yeah!!! and Yeah again. Clapping and jumping up and down, big grin on face.
Next, the flight. What can I say. There were no delays. A good thing. The volcano decided to let us pass. Another good thing. Then there was the not so good things! The flight attendants on our transatlantic leg left a lot to be desired. The service was crap! To put it mildly. A drinks trolley was nae to be seen before the meal service. So no water or wine or before dinner drink to be had. The meal placed in front of me, didn't have the usual little cup of water either and there was no protective covering on the sad wilted excuse for a salad. Which after very little thought I decided was safer left untouched. More than 20 minutes after the meal was served, cold tea and coffee was brought around. I know many of you drink iced teas and coffees but I do believe this was supposed to be hot. It was the first and last time a drinks trolley rattled down the aisle. It was also the last time I saw a flight attendant. The flight was smooth and arrived on time, this being the most positive thing I can say about this particular transatlantic experience. Which when all is said and done is the most important thing. But hey a drop of water wouldn't have gone astray. So will I lodge a complaint? I have yet to decide. Complaining is not really my forte! Stop shaking your heads in disbelief. I should refrain, lodging a complaint where it would do the most good is not my forte. Another little quirk of mine. I am more inclined to moan and moan and moan until I bore all around me. Are you bored yet????
James Dickey said,"There are so many selves in everybody, and to explore and exploit just one is wrong, dead wrong." Thank you for joining me as I strive to discover those other selves. I hope you enjoy reading my endeavours. I would be delighted to hear your comments and feedback. You all come back now hear! Ann
I am a wife and mother of four, made redundant by children who insisted on growing up. I divide my time between Wisconsin and Ireland. I am a writer, who has finally decided it’s time to brave the big scary world and try to get something published. I hope you enjoy my efforts!