Grab a few minutes to yourself, pour a cuppa and have a read. My Word Songs is a blog devoted to my attempts to become a writer. I will post various bits and pieces of prose, essays and perhaps the odd poem.
I would love to hear your feedback (I have a thick skin) so leave a comment. You might to also check out my other (not creative writing) blog at From My Kitchen Table.
I hope you stay a while and enjoy your visit.
I am a writer and contributor to radio and TV - commenting on life as I see it from my Kitchen Table in a South Dublin suburb. I am also mother to 3 daughters, 4 cats and 1 dog. I have just 1 husband and we all still live together (well except for the eldest who has emigrated to Perth in Western Australia).
Mid winter midnight. Air sharp with ice, Movement frozen. A line of petrified bare branched trees still against the toxic glow of distant city lights. Blades of grass captured and held erect by sudden frost. Overhead, a black sky full of holes, punctured by a million stars.
House is full of sleep. Kids in fleecy PJ's curled around hot water bottles. Cats prostrate by the glowing grate. The quiet, gently punctuated by the soft snores of the dog at my feet. The clackety clack of my fingers on the keyboard. A joist settles, A pipe gurgles. Comforting sounds of home.
And now a family of foxes in the field beyond begin their other-wordly cry, Their screeches tearing a hold in the still night.
I love being near the ocean, and have done since I was a little girl. Growing up I had an acute awareness of the nearness of the sea, the shore at Seapoint being about a mile from our house.
In the summers of my childhood the sun shone a lot, we rarely got sunburnt and the world was a safe place. From about the age of EIGHT, along with friends, I would spend day after day of the summer holidays at Seapoint. I learned to swim there, just beyond the rocks in front of the Martello Tower. The Martello Tower, that in the 70’s housed a shop that only opened during the summer. On hot days, we would enter its damp, dark and chill interior to buy ice cream in a wafer. Oh what bliss it was to walk home, hair wet and sticky from the salt water, legs tingling from the sun and neopolitan ice cream dripping in pink and green rivulets down my fingers.
As autumn came, the routine of school enforced order back into my world. The days grew shorter and the importance of Seapoint in my life receded. But as weather became colder and the nights darker, the sea spoke to me again. I would lie in bed on stormy winter nights and listen to the mournful and lonely sound of the fog horns. The loudest sound was that at the end of Dun Laoghaire Pier and I could usually pick up a fainter sound possibly from the Bailey or even Kish lighthouse.
I would imagine what kind of ships might be taking shelter from the weather in Dublin Bay. Who were on such ships? How did it feel being buffeted around by the waves and the wind? I imagined such vessels becoming illuminated briefly every few minutes as the lighthouse beacon swept across the water. And the call of the fog horn. How I loved that sound.
And as I lay in bed imagining and listening, my mind would wander to the dark, overgrown graveyard on Carrickbrennan Road, in Monkstown which contained the graves of many of the men and women who drowned in some of the numerous sea tragedies that occurred in the 1800’s in Dublin Bay. Our school was also in Monkstown and our teacher, who was a native of Dun Laoghaire had told us most of the stories of the ship wrecks in the area.
In particular the story of the troop ship Rochdale which got into trouble shortly after leaving Dublin Port in November 1807 stuck me as particularly sad. In a fierce snowstorm the ship was observed in difficulty off the coast at Blackrock. But the weather was so atrocious that those onshore could do little to assist. The ship was wrecked on the rocks by the Martello Tower in Seapoint. There were no survivors and 265 lives were lost that bitter night. The tragedy was that had they known how close to shore they actually were, many might have made it to safety. Instead Seapoint was strewn with mutilated bodies the following morning. All were buried, probably in a mass grave, in the old graveyard in Monkstown.
Winter storms also brought to my childish mind the disaster that befell the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat crew, all of whom lost their lives on Christmas Eve 1895 when they went to the aid of the ship SS Palme.
The echoes of these tragedies was carried by the mournful tones of the fog horn, as I lay in bed, secure in the knowledge that unlike the unfortunate sailors, I was safe and secure.
And now I live with my own family, a few miles further inland and I miss that sound still. Sometimes I sit in my suburban garden on a sunny afternoon, listening to bird song, the sound of passing aircraft and the hum of a neighbour’s lawn mower, when a seagull cries from the playing field beyond the hedge. His call brings with it the smell of salt water and a tumble of old summer memories. And I smile and dream. And as I revisit these old childhood sensations I can just about still hear the lonely, ominous call of the fog horn. And I shiver as a cold breeze cools my skin and again I think of those unfortunates who lost their lives in the place where I learned to swim.
A December grey, dank and murky lunchtime in Dublin. The Concert Hall swallows us up, gathering us into the elegant auditorium. We settle ourselves into our seats, making nests of our heavy winter coats. The Symphony Orchestra filter out onto the stage. Men and women, looking like they have been randomly gathered up from various jobs around the city. I see a motorbike mechanic, the chairman of the board, a banker, a lollipop lady, a school mom, a hairdresser….. Their musical apparatus is all that sets them apart. The cacophony of tuning up, of muted conversations and shuffling of feet dies away. Hushed anticipation envelopes the theatre. Instruments raised, the ensemble become one, as music bursts forth like some magnificent fireworks display. Firey notes of red and orange glow as they land all around us. Electrifying the air. Transporting us away from our grey city to icy Russian landscapes. And then gentler tones of soft greens and blues float up into the air. The conductor knitting up the airborne notes into a multicoloured fabric of sound. Softer and softer until all that is heard is a lone harpist. Dropping gentle notes like raindrops splashing onto a glass lake. Crystal clear drops of ancient music catching the light and scattering vivid rainbows here and there. And as I gaze again at the sober suited musicians they are transformed into mystical creatures, Clothed in satins and velvets of deep hues. Russet and ochre. Purple and gold. As they shower us in this lyrical magnificence. And I too am transformed by this wholly unexpected and sublime joy.
Lyric FM's Quiet Quarter has provided new Irish writers with a voice and a platform for their writing for the last ten years. Unfortunately this daily slot has now finished. But in order to mark the series, Lyric have produced an anthology of selected pieces from the last ten years. The book, which is published by New Island, is called 'The Quiet Quarter - Ten Years of Great Irish Writing' and was launched today at the National Concert Hall.
And I have an essay entitled 'The Ultimate Compliment' featured in the publication. It is a sublime joy to see one's words in print and something I will remember fora long time. And it is a great encouragement to keep writing - even if one of the avenues open to new writers is now closed. But hopefully RTE will come up with another slot for personal essays.
Anyway the book is now available from all good bookshops and would make a great Christmas present!