Nourish

While living away from my home country, besides family and friends, there isn’t anything that I really miss. But one day totally unexpectedly a wayward thought came into my head, I suddenly thought of my sitting in my Granny’s kitchen on a Friday night sharing a pot of tea. This was a lovely old habit that came about while my brother and sister were watching something in the sitting room. This was our time together.

On this peculiar morning, I kept thinking back to these conversations, surprisingly bread possessed my senses. My tongue tried to chew around the soggy sandwiches of school lunches, car warm baguettes for beach picnics, seasoned by salted sand. My nose was tickled by melted butter on golden morning toast. And late night conversations had over crispy garlic bread. All brought their own memories and reminders, mostly bringing a smile.

Bread is a staple in many countries but each seem to have their own version. The Italians for focaccia, the French for baguette and brioche. Germany has sourdough, the UK is famous for white bloomers and scones. Ireland my home country owns the domain of soda bread and brown bread. While I adore proper brown bread I find it very difficult to find in some countries, even flour can prove elusive sometimes. Rye bread, yeast breads, pizza, whatever you choose to call it can usually be found, somewhere with a bit of searching. Occasionally sometimes it is more satisfying to make your own, to your own tastes, your own reminisces.

The opening line for Nourish from The Scottish Book Trust was:

If stories be the food of life, write on!

A call for short stories revolving around the theme of food, as long as it was true, was all they requested. Trying to be clever I instantly disregarded my first thought for what this story should be about. I tried a few stories about how the plight of the world leads to hunger, how the earth grows and blooms when we, the human race, leave it in peace and so on. As you may imagine from the above descriptions they were stilted, preachy or plain rubbish. I eventually had to admit my first instinct was worth a try. Homesick was the result. It isn’t perfect and I feel it still needs work but I think the bones are there. Of course, once it was submitted I noted a couple of mistakes that I had missed. The one thing that really didn’t come across in this version, due to formatting and time restrictions, was the recipe lay out that I experimented with – maybe you could use your imagination to see how I may have achieved that particular feat.

The link below will connect you to the Scottish Book Trust site (scottishbooktrust.com). Here you will find my story and many more there are also poems and many more creative offerings.

http://scottishbooktrust.com/writing/nourish/story/homesick

I hope you enjoy it and maybe if you have some more free time you will take a look at some more. One thousand words is the perfect bite size story for busy lives.

Behind the Poplars

This is an excerpt from a Hallowe’en story, Behind the Poplars, that I have been working on over the last while. This is opening scene and while this may seem a little ordinary it is only the start of what I hope is a spine-chilling story that I think will add an air of spookiness to Hallowe’en this year. I think it could give a shiver or two to some very brave adults, however I would feel that children would be too young for this particular Hallowe’en story. You never know I may publish the end result here someday, but for now may this whet your appetite.

Behind the Poplars

Music drums through the car radio telling Sam Addison to “open your eyes”. It sounds like it should be played on one of those awful Christian radio stations. They are very adept at slicing Franz Ferdinand with the Gospel of Matthew and other unconnected combinations. Just what people want to listen to on their way home from a stressful day of work. But the line “open your eyes” pierces Sam’s consciousness.

Sam has driven this road countless times over the years, but would be hard pressed to describe it to someone. The driving rain is pushed sideways by the strengthening winds. Globs of horizontal rain flash up in the headlights of her old pick-up. The depth of night, with lashing rain is not the best time to try and study the roadside. The ditches are lying in shadows and the lights of the houses are only highlighting the lashing rain. She guides her car around the bend, and gleans a light sitting high from the ground. A house Sam has never noticed before. The light is at an unusual angle, and as she drives passed she sees that it is a turret. The house is hidden by the oppressive tree line that flanks the road, but through the gaps of branches she can just make out the outline of the house and what is definitely a turret on the west corner. A turret house in this area, whoever built it wasn’t from here.

The wind has picked up and is buffeting the car; Sam fights with the steering wheel to keep it between the fading road lines. She is approaching the junction, the biggest one in town. The overhead lights are waving in the wind, the colours are obscured from her vision every few seconds. She pulls up to the junction concentrating on the colours. Her eyes squint and trace the arc that the lights are taking; she doesn’t hear the horn blasting from her right. She doesn’t see the headlights that are flashing in her peripheral vision.

She hears the crunch of metal against metal and she only sees the car as it slams into her door. She only sees the driver as his face drives closer and closer to hers. The two cars pirouette across the eight point junction. She doesn’t hear the other cars as they squeal their brakes, swerving out of the way of the two mechanical dancers. She only hears “open your eyes” blaring from the radio speakers. Utter darkness descends as her eyes close.

Photo: Anonymous

Silent Waters

This last while I have been concentrating on two projects, one a long fiction piece and the second a smaller poetry project. The poetry project came about as a way to refocus my mind when I hit a wall on the longer project. That was the original idea, however that is not what has happened. Instead I seem to keep returning to one poem in particular, which I know has a longer path, much long than usual, but it will take some time to complete. Therefore, for this installation I will show you the first three stanzas, none of which is completely finished, and I will hopefully reach the end before the end of summer…

The working title for the moment is Silent Waters, but I have feeling this will change umpteen times before the end. I am one of those for whom titles are an ordeal. It must be nice to know a title from the start, maybe I will have a piece where that will happen someday.

Silent Waters

A boat on silent waters
Resting against heavy stone.
Water bound ropes slitter to the cold below,
The stone quay and heavy iron dwindle
Into the dark of lost sight

Aboard lies a small soul
bedraggled hair and green eyes
Torn nails and cut elbows.
Laid on the bed top dreaming
Into the dark of the coming waters.

Through frog-eyed portholes
A flicker of light winks back to shore
The alarm raised, ringing loud into all houses
Rushing into boots and boats
Into the dark of cresting motion.

Knees bend in rhythm
To the dipping white horse heads.
Searing lights skim the crests
And highlights the gorges and up slopes
Into the dark of the deadly black.

Delightful Distractions of Poetry

For the past month, I have been working on something, but as with any project worth anything it is driving me around the twist. I have found that when I have got to this point during the day I have to do something else, otherwise I am liable to delete everything, permanently. I am a queen at hoovering the house, scrubbing the worktops, watching rubbishy telly. And of course reading. I have read a number of very impressive books over the last while (The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey, Orkney – Amy Sackville, returning to George Orwell’s 1984) but this month the most delight I have found is within the pages of poetry books (Penguin’s Poems for Life, Pablo Neruda, Janet Paisley, Seamus Heaney).

Poetry forces me to sit still reading and re-reading. Giving me the time to absorb the language and imagery and to appreciate the complex nature of writing.

Since I have found myself reading poems again I have noticed that my mind keeps forming sentences and stories that don’t work within the traditional structure of a short story, perhaps it is more suited to the structure of a poem. Hence for this months offering I have included an extract of a few lines from one such poem (currently untitled). I have been trying to stitch this piece together for a while. I know where I am going, but I am finding the path to it broken and disjointed. While, this would normally annoy or frustrate me for this one composition I am thoroughly enjoying the to-ing and fro-ing.

I know I will eventually produce a final piece, be it a poem, experimental story or traditional short story but for the moment it is a poem that does not wish to end.

This extract is taken from somewhere in the middle, at present, it will change again.

Crack, the cheap wood splits and splinters,
Folding, resting into triangles of an accordion bellows.
The lid forced downwards, tight, and close
Finally pressed onto cold lips.
Sinking and collapsing into the eternal resting bed of damp clay
An exact rectangle, four by ten, of naked brown earth.

The JCB passes onto another
All falls still and silent.

In another 100 Years

Another Terror Attack;
Brussels on the 22nd March,
Two bombs at Zaventem Airport
And another at Maelbeek Metro.
Istanbul was bombed two days ago,
Turkey’s second in a week.

Shabqadar, Grand-Bassam, Ankara,
Peshawar, Maiduguri, Istanbul

And Bamako on the 21st.

141 innocent souls, this is March, so far.
All this loss for a skewed reading.
History is full of these shows of inhumanity.

In another 100 years
We will be recording similar footage,
Smoke-filled rooms, streets
And glass blown-out buildings.
Ruined airports, metros and markets
But in 100 years it will be for some other excuse
– Like the price of chocolate.

Brussels, 22nd March; Bamako, 21st March; Istanbul, 20th March; Maiduguri, 16th March; Peshawar, 16th March; Ankara, 13th March; Grand-Bassam, 13th March; Shabqadar, 7th March.

Photo: by Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

The Promise of Bellini’s

Frost grips the edge of Conor’s window, outside glistens white and the garden spikes with overnight snow. Waking, he recoils from the crisp light bouncing off the white topped hills. Everything looks clean. With stinging eyes, he buries his head under the rumpled pillow and dreams of waking to a brand new life, the slate wiped clean; everything clean. Instead he forces himself from his bed, crawls under the hot water and down to the kitchen.

Continue Reading

Temporarily Out of Stock

On the table sits an immaculate white page, no words, no marks not even a scribble to test the black pen. The house is silent, the telly on mute, silently shows a beautiful chef happily demonstrating how to prepare a traditional Italian Christmas dinner.

There is no point in being terrified by it. It had to be done. Pick up the pen and make a list. With a sigh her hands form the words; brown bread, milk, crackers, clementine’s. The next hour is spent envisioning the perfect dinner. Sixty-four black words, with spidery legs and giraffe-necked upsweeps, fill the perfect white page.

Jayne Waters had dreamed of hosting Christmas dinner since she was too little to see over the work-top. She had trailed around after her mother as she busied herself with slicing onions, laying rashers over the plucked flesh of a massive bird and peeked through the oven window, watching the tanning of that prized meat.

Continue Reading

L’horreur

When we said that we would holiday with friends in the Drôme region of France, I was excited, but must have had selective amnesia about the mountainous and inclined aspect of the region. The Drôme Valley is bordered by the soaring Alps and the Cevennes and nestled between them is a town called Crest.

In the balmy afternoon sun, we ascend the steep crumbling stairway, heading for the most striking man-made landmark for miles around. The heavy lunch of beef and red wine, although glorious while being enjoyed, is wholly regretted as I trudge up the 52 m Tour de Crest, The Keep. Friends swear that the view from the top is worth the effort – I doubt this with each knee numbing step.

Crest is a traditional market town with an imposing skyward bound structure. The Tour de Crest was once attached to the Crest Castle, but it is now the only remainder of this once massive fortification. The Tour de Crest, known locally as The Keep was used to house prisoners. What makes this goal so interesting is not the history or the architecture, but the walls of the cells.

Continue Reading

The Simple Things In Life

I was recently given this back, a poem I wrote in memory of my Grandad. When I read it back last week, I saw all the things I would change, but when I thought about it I decided that I wouldn’t change anything. This poem was written when I was seventeen and these things were acceptable to me then, so I have left it as I wrote it in 1997. Today in 2015 I still think of my Grandad and all the other people in my life who have left this mad planet of ours, I still smile that I knew them, even if only for a short time.

Continue Reading

66º Fjallabyggð

Listhús Residency is glad to invite all the community of Fjallabyggð to the multidiciplinary exhibition that will take place on the 31st October in Listhús Gallery.

66º Fjallabyggð corresponds to the region around Ólafsfjörður, which all the artists of Listhús Residency have been influenced by to produce the work that will be exhibited on this day. Yet all artists have responded in various ways; Abigail from the work space, Constanza with the Blue hour/ Darkness and the plants of the area, Nicolaj from the natural landscape and Margaret as a background for her story.

Art, music and words will give body to this collective exhibition composed by:

Constanza Gazmuri will be showing a series of photographs taken during the blue hour and also some studio photography of plants from the local area. Both are considered work in progress of the research that she is doing around the concept of darkness and the resistance of species in the context of low light and extreme weather.

Abigail Blueher uses the visual language and culture of mass media to create an alternate language with its own landscapes, myths and ideals.

Nicolaj Wamberg, musician and video performer, showing different ways of interacting with nature. The pieces composed reflect his perception of the local environment and the thoughts that arise from this experience.

Margaret O’ Toole Come and hear an extract from her story set around this area.

One woman, six lives and one town. A magician with threads and colour. She weaves life around her. Secrets are her currency.

Eru allir velkomnir!!

My adventures with the Björgunarsveitin Tindur in Ólafsfjörður

The alarm bleeps on the bedside locker. I silence it quickly, so as not to wake the whole house and I slide out of bed. The heat is high and the radiators are scalding to touch, only the darkness outside alerts you know the ungodliness of the hour. Stars wink hello while everyone slumbers. A splash of water and some minty fresh breath and then back to my room to dress. I had the foresight to lay my clothes out the previous night. All the clothes that I will be wearing today besides my hat and gloves have been very generously loaned to me by the marvellously impressive Lára Stefánsdóttir.

Soft wool lies directly next to my skin. The next layers are all wool of varying percentages with a final top layer. This is the best layer; a fabulous hand knitted patch-work like jumper of a tan and blue squares. It was the perfect topping for my look of steadfast warmth and solidity. The jumper was scratchier than the inner vest but the moment I put it on my core temperature climbed. I knew I was in the best clothes to survive whatever the weather would throw at me. Standing in my room with only a small bedside light on and the sounds of a sleeping house I felt like a character from a pantomime – the goodie or the baddie I hadn’t decided yet!

Continue Reading

Sojourn in Iceland; Baptising Impressions

The plane banks to the right, the engines rev, just a little. The thick layer of marshmallowy clouds remain above and the plane descends. Through the grubby plastic oblong window the view clarifies. I can see planes, cars, roadways, houses and people milling about. All planted into the black and green land like alien toys. Toys that have been erected and laid out with immense precision to better enjoy the game?

Iceland – inviting the plane load to disembark, explore and . . .

Continue Reading

The Picnic and Baby Bear

I was recently asked by a friend who teaches primary school for a little story to be told alongside a picture of a Teddy Bear’s Picnic. The story below is what I offered to them. The little ones are between five and six so the challenge for me was to keep my sentences simple yet interesting enough to keep a story moving along. There also had to be simple words that they would understand while also exposing the class to slighter more challenging words. I hope you like my little ones’ story and you like an old favourite that has been updated a little bit.

The Picnic and Baby Bear

Last Saturday Mammy and Daddy decided to bring us on a surprise day trip. Mammy asked everybody to help gather want we would need for the day. Séan got the plastic beach glasses from under his bed, he had hidden them the week before – just so I couldn’t play with them. Mammy said I could help her make ham and cheese sandwiches, I am very good at making sandwiches. Oísín went out to the orchard and collected a bucket of apples. I found some small plates and added them to the growing pile on the table top.

Continue Reading

An August Afternoon

Sunglasses and sun cream,
Cork is basking in a couple of days
Of unexpected heat. I walk our
“borrowed” dog, soaking up the sun.

A tug on the lead. My block of rich chocolate brown has
Spied some milk chocolate and drops his nose to scent.
Far at the end of the bushes sit and sunbathe three
chocolate truffles tipped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Such unruffled leporine, they sit and macerate a buttercup,
observing the quivering slab of muscle, only feet away. No alarm, why hurry
dinner? They nick the cups of yellow, flick a look at us and
then, leisurely bound off. One final leap, gone under a fragrant rosehip bush.

– It rains.

A Lesson in Travelling

The ferry’s disembodied voice scratches into life, announcing that all passengers should begin their descent to the car deck, foot passengers to remain and wait for further directions. The voice clicks off and a general murmur of shuffling and sleepy conversation fills the seating lounge. People wriggle into jackets, others repack bags, unplug tablets and remove earphones. Slowly the masses move through the corridors and descend the tight stairway.

Continue Reading

In remembrance of Yeats in Italy

I woke this morning to a grey murky sky, one with the possibly of becoming what my Dad would call a soft day. The neighbours were unusually noisy playing a game of musical cars. Revving engines are not the most cheerful way to be woken. Bleary eyed, I head into the kitchen and, in automatic mode, I open my laptop to check emails and updates etc. the usual weekly routine, but today is Saturday. This glorious fact was emphasised when I saw an old friend had posted Sailing to Byzantium, by W.B. Yeats. Today is the 13th of June; Yeats’ birthday. An unusual but wonderful way to start the weekend, reading the writings of Yeats.

Continue Reading

Fly ‘n’ Drive

As I lounge on my couch with the Sunday papers, which I read on Wednesday evening, munching on a buttery scone and drinking a steaming cuppa one sentence grabs me; “The best way to visit America is to Fly ‘n’ Drive”. The article went on to describe the pleasure of discovering unknown treasures on the forgotten roads of Louisiana or Oregon by driving away from the usual tourist hot spots. This is true, but as someone who previously lived in the States and watched a news helicopter fly over a 40-car pile-up, I would caution a word of warning to any European planning on driving in America – make sure your air bags work and maybe make your dash board as soft and squishy as possible. This pre-emptive step will reduce the headache that will inevitably come on after the third time you kiss the top of the steering wheel or glove box with your now bruised and frankly fed up forehead.

Continue Reading

Gentle Goodbyes

The wheels of your chair are clogged, immoveable in the dry sand. Pushing harder, we bump our way down to the water’s edge, to where the sand is wet and firm. Taking the small brush from your bag of accoutrements, I brush off your wheels and let you be. I lie back and watch as the clouds play chase.

Continue Reading

New tongues

Charlie waddles up and down the damp strand. The others all stand in a large group calling to each other. They don’t talk to Charlie. He isn’t allowed to talk to them. Charlie turns tail and heads back over the strand, he hasn’t had much luck today finding worms. He is getting hungry.

Continue Reading

No more posts.