Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Once I Was Fearless! No Really!!!




The second year of my life was a time of great change. My father left Ireland for the United States on January 22, of that year, leaving my mother and I behind.  Immigration required a family man prove he could provide for his family, before they would be granted permission to join him. He had to have steady employment, earn a wage to sustain his family and also have a home address established before final permission would be granted for us to join him.

We traveled to Cobh on that winters day to see my father off.   His ship the 'Nieuw Amsterdam' sat in the harbour waiting for my father and his fellow Irish passengers to board. When the time came to say our final adieus, I wailed and howled as if my heart would break.  I did not want to let my father go. My arms had to be pried from his neck and he slipped away, boarding the ship that would carry him across the ocean and thousands of miles away.


I spent the next six months living between Abbeyside, my maternal grandparents home and Emmet Street, my paternal grandfather’s home. As the weeks wore on more and more time was spent in Abbeyside. I loved my grandparent’s house in Abbeyside. The back garden was huge and filled with cats. All sorts of cats, big ones, small ones, black ones, white ones, grey cats and spotted cats. Everyday I watched Nanny put bowls of milk out and the cats came out of the garden’s overgrowth from all directions. They fascinated me the way they magically appeared when the bowls of milk were set down and just as magically disappeared when the bowls were empty. Nanny sometimes allowed me pour the milk in the bowls she set on the ground for them. Pouring the milk into the bowls without spilling took great concentration. 

I liked to hug the cats. I hugged them with such loving determination, I nearly strangled them. It didn’t take long for the cats to become wise to my ways and they quickly scampered off when they saw me heading in their direction.

I loved the smell of Grand-dads pipe. Remembering the smell of Grand-dads tobacco wafting around me always transports my mood to ease and brings a smile to my face. My grandfather was a big man and I had to strain my neck back to look up at him. When he sat in his chair by the fire, with his pipe lighting he would lift me up onto his lap and bounce me until I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. He told me wondrous tales of fairy queens, magical mists and little people. I sat on his lap mesmerised, my imagination totally engaged as he wove amazing tales filled with rainbows, magic dust and a world just waiting to fall at my feet.   I adored everything about my grandfather. Right down to his large flannel slippers which I liked to clip clop up and down the hallway in.


Time was drawing nearer to our departure for New York.  Nanny was very concerned for my safety due to what she perceived as my mother’s relaxed attitude towards my supervision. My grandmother decided to run a little test. One day the coal man came to the house with a delivery for the coal bunker.  The story goes that Nanny met the coal man at the front door and asked him to do her a favour. The coal man agreed. Nanny made her way to the back door,  opening it to let the coal man into the scullery. He began emptying the burlap sacks of coal he had hoisted in on his back into the coal bunker. Hearing the commotion, I ran out to investigate what was going on. Nanny smiled, thanked the man told him to pull the door out behind him when he finished and left me alone with him. I chatted happily to the coal man as he emptied one bulging sack after another into the coal bunker.

“Do you make the coal,” I asked?

“Why are you all black?”

So many questions. He closed the door to the coal bunker, rolled up the empty sacks and stuffed them under his coat. I laughed at his big tummy. He asked me my name and I told him. He asked me how old I was and I proudly pronounced I was two. I asked him where the coal came from. He told me if I came with him, he would show me.  He held out his hand and asked me if I would like to go with him. I took his hand without a moment’s hesitation and we walked out the back door together.

Nanny and my mother were waiting for us at the front door. Nanny thanked the coal man for helping her with this experiment. She handed him an envelope and a package covered in waxed paper. The coal man thanked Nanny for her generosity, doffed his cap and said he was glad to help.

Turning to my mother, he said,” You have a beautiful little girl there Missus. Very friendly, full of the chat and not afeared of anything.” 

My mother nodded at the coal man in stunned silence.  The coal man winked at me as he turned and walked back to his horse and coal laden cart.
Nanny turned to my mother,  “You see I told you," she said wagging her finger sternly.
"You need to be ever watchful of that child. She has no fear.  If a strange man covered in black coal dust didn't frighten her nothing will. She might wander off with anyone who catches her interest or tells her a story that fascinates her. New York is a big city, with many dangers. You must be diligent and ever watchful.”

I look at the photos of this brave and fearless child that once was me and wonder where did that fearlessness go.  If I could find a fraction of that fearlessness and tap into it today, what might I be able to achieve.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Precious Find

Photo taken from
"Lismore, Autobiography of an Irish Town, 1937-1957"
by  James Ballantyne

Last August as I perused the book shelves in the Lismore Heritage Shop I stumbled upon the above photo. It includes Mike Feeney, childhood friend of my Dad's, Cora, Dad's older sister, Theresa, his first cousin, Paddy Ballantyne and five year old Dad.

When I got over the shock and delight of discovering the photograph, I was struck by the strong resemblance between my father and my third child. They could be twins.

A copy of this photograph now graces my family album. The album holds many photographs of my Dad as a teenager and young man. But only two of the child my father once was. The one above and his Communion photograph. So this was a very precious find. When I saw it on page nineteen of "Lismore, Autobiography of an Irish Town, 1937-1957," I had to purchase the book.


Also in the book is a photograph of Dad's Uncle Jim, leading an FCA march down Main Street, Lismore in 1942. Uncle Jim and his daughter Theresa (see photo above) are mentioned a number of times in the book. There is a recounting of Uncle Jim spearheading the effort to keep the Lismore Library at its Central Library status. How Jim supplied and delivered milk to the locality until the creameries began to bottle it, putting him out of the milk delivery business.

The book's authour, James Ballantyne, grew up on West Street. Just a few doors down from the house/shop my family resided in for over four generations before my Grandfather's birth. West Street is where my Grandfather with his brothers, Jim, Jackie, Mick, Patrick and sisters Brigid and Nora grew-up. It is where my Dad spent all his free time. Dad's childhood reminisces of adventures and friends were always Lismore based. This  makes me wonder, could there be other photographs from his young boy days floating around in Lismore attics or in Lismoreian family albums. The prospect excites me.

You never know what you may find, where or when you might find it.  If you are lucky like I was one afternoon last August....something totally unexpected might just fall into your lap!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mystic Forest - A Writing Prompt From Creative Writing Ink

My first attempt at Olive's writing prompts.



The anger was draining from her body. She spotted a large stone at the side of the path. Her knuckles white from the tight grip she had on the reins as she pulled Betsy up short. The horse reared its head coming to an abrupt stop.

“Sorry girl” she murmured into her beloved Betsy’s ear, gently patting her neck as she slid off her back.

She sat on the large stone looking at the path ahead of her. Fear of the unknown gripped her. She did not know what lay ahead anymore then she could see beyond the fog that held the path. Should she go back? Smoothing down her skirt she drew the sweetness of the early morning dew into her lungs. She was alone; all alone expect for Betsy chomping at the grass beside her. The light breeze appeared to be sweeping the rustling leaves along the path. The sound of her pounding heart began to ease. The beauty of the sun’s rays filtering through the mist soothing her heart and her soul.

“Well Betsy, what do you think? Do we go on or turn back?”

Betsy snorted in reply. The trees began to sway as the wind picked up. Startled she snapped her head in the direction of what sounded like a voice. Every nerve in her body alerted she reached out for Betsy’s reins. She appeared to be alone and yet she felt a presence. She heard the voice again. Out of the mist a woman in a flowing green cloak and large dark eyes moved towards her. She moved as if carried on the breeze. Elena froze.

“Who are you?”

“You must go back Elena. There are hard times ahead for your house. They will have great need of your strength.”

“They care nothing for me. According to them I am the reason for the family's misfortunes.”

“And yet when sadness and ill fortune befalls them, is it not to you they turn.”

Elena knew the woman spoke the truth. She wanted to just get on Betsy and ride far, far away but if there was trouble ahead she could not abandon her family. When Elena looked up the woman in the green cloak stood before her. A deep sigh of resignation escaped Elena’s lips. The woman held Elena in the pools of her large deep eyes and smiled sadly. A feeling of peace and strength flowed through Elena.

“You will return?”

“Yes,” Elena said raising herself unto Betsy.

Elena turned to thank the woman in the green cloak seeing only leaves swirling in the wind.


Check out Olives writing prompts at Creative Writing Ink


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another Bath Plug Saga!




Yes Blogging friends it is another bath plug saga.  This time the location, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. 

I checked into Lynhams Hotel in Laragh ending day one of my Creative Writing Workshop. Feeling mentally and physically exhausted, a relaxing lavender scented bath consumed my thoughts. The first thing I did when I got to the room was inspect the bathroom. A sigh of disappointment, there was a very nice large shower but no bathtub. Feeling slightly cheated I consoled myself with, the room is large, comfortable and clean. I stretched out on the bed and put on the television. There was no sound and the picture looked like a jumbled puzzle. Trying the remote control did nothing and on closer inspection I noticed it had no batteries. I pondered my next move. I am not normally one to complain at hotel desks, but I decided this was the new me, I drove from Dungarvan this morning I am audacious. With remote in hand I went to the reception desk.


To my surprise and delight I was moved to a different room. A bigger room with a bath. Thrilled with myself I took my lavender oil from the wash bag and placed it by the tub. After dinner, I got a glass of wine and brought it back to my room. What a wonderful night, I thought as I placed the glass of wine on the bedside table. The bath plug sat on the side of the bath. I put it in, ran the water and added my lavender. Life was good.

When the bath was over, I couldn’t unplug it. It was another un-pluggable bath plug. My first thought…don’t panic, you have dealt with this sort of thing before, remember Florence!(see here) I searched my wash bag and pulled out the nail scissors. I struggled trying to pry the plug open but to no avail. I cursed the fates that had brought me to this. Perspiration rivulets were forming on my forehead and trickling down my face blurring my eyesight. I had to empty the bath somehow. Otherwise how would I shower in the morning. I spotted the small pedal bin under the sink. I proceeded to empty the bathwater into the sink via the plastic bin insert. Half an hour later the bath was empty. Stressed and sweaty my back ached, I was breathless and there was now raging streams of sweat running down my back and legs. The whole relaxing thing totally defunct now. After splashing my face with cool water, I flung my tense limbs and aching back on the bed and grabbed that glass of wine. To be honest I could have done with a second glass a whole bottle even!


The next night I brought a half bottle of wine back to the room! I was determined to have the relaxing evening that evaded me the night before. I couldn’t find my floss, so I unfurled a hair clip and jammed it under the plug. Ran the water, added my lavender and once more all was well with the world. All expect the loud annoying sound of water gurgling and draining. I placed my heel on top of the plug to deaden the sound but my foot slipped and the hair clip popped out from under the plug. After a litany of unrepeatable words escaped my lips. I grabbed the small plastic bin and started to empty the bath water into the sink. Once the bath was empty the plug removed I took a much needed shower. Thankfully I had the half bottle of wine to soothe my soul.

I was staying in the hotel one more night. I found my floss and with a sigh of relief I believed tomorrow night would be different. Ever the optimist or glutton for punishment, your choice!

I mentioned my bath dilemma to Maria, a fellow workshop attendee who was staying in the same hotel. Through convulsions of laughter she informed me there was a dial on the tub to open the bath plug. I insisted there was no dial in my tub. Maria said she would accompany to my room and show me. She followed me into the bathroom and smiled instructing me to put the plug in. I placed the plug into the bath.

“See that dial, turn it,” she said.

“The overflow,” I asked looking at her in disbelief.

“Just turn it.”

I did as instructed and what do you think happened, that pesky bath plug popped up! I stared at it and felt heat rush to my face in embarrassed astonishment. Maria could barely control her laughter as she attempted to assure me these European bath plugs perplexed many people. I was not feeling very convinced.


Needless to say I had a very relaxing bath on my last night. When the bath was over I just turned the overflow dial and the plug popped up and the bath emptied. As I walked out of the bathroom feeling relaxed I smiled as I gave the pedal bin a quick passing glance.


I purchased two universal bath plugs a few weeks ago at Ikea. One is in my overnight case and the other in my wash bag. What lesson have I learned from all this….
Always travel with a universal bath plug!









Monday, September 6, 2010

Awards and Thank You's


Olive at Movie News First and Write Olive gave me this award awhile ago.  Thank you so much Olive. I'm chuffed!

The Rules for the Award are; thank the person who bestowed the award! Share seven things about yourself and pass the award along to bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic.
So here it goes...

1. I am petrified of rodents.  Especially the mouse or mice that seem to have taken up residence behind my cooker.  That is why I am hiding out upstairs!

2. I am trying to write a story, but my MC seems to have taken a little holiday.  I am hoping she returns soon.

3. I hate, hate, hate to sew!

4. I have more books than I can read beside both my bed in Wisconsin and my bed in Ireland and yet I buy more.

5. When feeling a need to take a break from the world, I call a pajama day, head for the sofa and put on Pride and Prejudice.  God help anyone who disturbs me unless it is to bring me a nice hot cup of tea!

6. A long hot lavender bath can soothe most of my ills.

7. I savour that very first cup of tea in the morning. Pure heaven.

Now the time has come to pass this award on.  This is the hard part.  So many wonderful, versatile blogs! And if you have gotten this award before...well you deserve it again!

1. Barbara  at From My Kitchen Table
2. Karen at Get On With It
3. Brigid at Sort of Writing
4. Niamh at Words A Day
5. Tabitha at Through My Eyes
6. Lola at Sharp Pen/Dull Sword
7. Talei at Musings of an aspiring scribe

 A loud and vigorous bualadh bos (Irish for clapping or applause)to Karen Gowen over at Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author   for hosting a spectacular Blogging Labour Day BBQ.  It has been such fun finding so many new writerly bloggers.  Not to mention the calorie free delights that were brought to the table. Take a bow Karen! 

I also want to thank and welcome all the new followers to Inkpots n' Quills.  I look forward to getting to know you all better.
Have a wonderful Monday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's That Smell?


The other night I arrived stateside thoroughly exhausted. The way you would expect to be after a twenty-seven hour journey door to door. The world seemed to spin under my feet. It took colossal effort to balance myself and stay upright as the floor rose in waves to meet me. I maneuvered my sluggish body in an attempt to get through lopsided doorways, banging my shoulders and hips off walls and door frames that appeared to move to the left and then to the right on approach. But I was together enough to detect the stale frat house smell that assailed my nostrils on entering the house.

The house had been occupied for the past eight weeks by husband, youngest son and Louie. Husband spent the drive from the airport regaling me with his house cleaning prowess. With pride he informed me he had even mopped the kitchen floor and how he discovered those magic blue tablets for the toilets. Yes indeed all the toilets ran blue but he had forgotten to clean the toilet seats, bathroom sinks or replace dirt stiff towels. On opening the shower door, I quickly slammed it shut for fear of catching some deadly disease.

I noticed a particular long gangly weed gracing all my outdoor flower pots too. The real plants all brown, withered and dead. I inquired if he had grown partial to that particular weed which looked well watered and cared for.

After a night’s sleep, it was time to tackle my surroundings. I proceeded to collect Febreeze cans from practically every room in the house. I guess husband believed all that was needed was a squirt of Febreeze and all was well. I cleaned or rather scrubbed down the kitchen sink and counter tops. Scoured the grease film off the cooker hood and between gags cleared out the fridge.

 I got rid of his weeds from my flower pots replacing them with budding chrysanthemums. Sage and basil plants now grace my kitchen windowsills affording a fresher more appealing ordour on walking through the backdoor.


Today is designated to oven and bathroom cleaning. At the moment I have the oven on auto clean. Next I will be putting on a gas mask, rubber gloves and a hazmat suit to clean the bathrooms which I know is going to be a grim all day job. But in fairness to him, my bedroom was a sanctuary from all the mayhem I surveyed around me. The bed was made up, with fresh sheets and even pillow shams. The room was dusted and vacuumed and not a single dirty crumpled sock was on the floor.

Welcome back Ann!