Processing 3: Rings and Things

I’m not a sentimental person, but I am attached to the two rings on the third finger of my left hand. They’re not very valuable rings in cash terms but in terms of their symbolic value, they are priceless.  One is a gold wedding ring placed on my finger thirty five years ago; the other is a silver ring with a heart-shaped, stone a present from my husband for no other reason than that he loved me. I’m used to them now; they are as much a part of me as hair on my head. Problem is now that these rings only serve to stir up memories of the happiness I once knew. The rings seem to mock me, they taunt me, they tell me I no longer have right to flaunt them. Since the trauma their symbolic value has been destroyed. It’s almost twenty months now and I sometimes wonder if I should continue to be constantly reminded of happier times. Is it time I made the final break and moved on?

The only other jewellery I wear is ear-rings. I tend to wear the same pair day in day out until I lose one – which I do with worrying regularity, my carelessness has increased lately and I seem to get through a pair a week. I’ve gone through most of my earrings now except for the diamond ones, not suitable for everyday use. Time I stocked up again.

It’s our son’s thirty third birthdays on Tuesday and we’re going out to celebrate at a posh restaurant, so today I took a trip to town to buy his present. I usually buy clothes and a book. I was never particularly imaginative and original when it comes to present-buying, and whatever modest skill I did have in this department has been stripped away by grief.

I’m in Debenhams; I buy my son’s birthday present and stroll over to the ear ring section. There’s a sale on: 20% off most jewellery. I choose a few pairs of ear-rings and as I’m about to pay I notice them: rings. I make a hasty decision. I’ll replace the familiar rings that have lain undisturbed on the third finger of my left hand for over thirty years. A part of me as familiar now as the nails at the end of my fingers. I prise them off with some difficulty and place them in my pocket. I ask the young sales assistant to show me a silver diamond ring and a plainer one – as near as possible as the rings I have worn for so long but without the symbolic content. I choose two rings. The young sales girl reaches under the counter for gift boxes; I tell her not to bother and leave the rings on my finger.

As I open my purse to find my credit card it happens. Something that I thought was now under control: the tears flow unbidden and unwelcome. I turn away hoping it’s not noticed. I’m disabled by silent sobs as I search for a tissue.  ‘Are you all right madam? Would you like a glass of water?’ Oh why does everyone offer me water at these times? I blow my nose and try to locate my credit card.

‘Yes, I’m all right love. Don’t worry. ‘I place the card in the machine and wipe the tears way. Her   concerned young eyes rest on my face as if seeking an explanation. But how can you explain the heartache of a life turned upside down.

‘It’s okay love. I’m just having a bad day. I’ll be okay.’ A phrase I use a lot to people when my feelings get the better of me. ‘I’ll be okay’. But I’m not. I’m not okay and as I write I dont think I ever will be again.

It’s Tuesday evening. Son and wife arriving any time so I must get ready. I wash my face. I carefully don my new ear-rings and my black dress. I put some lipstick on and comb my hair. They both kiss me when they arrive.

‘You’re looking great Mum, ‘my son says.

‘Lovely dress, it suits you,’ says my daughter-in-law. ‘How are you doing?’

‘Oh I’m fine. I’m doing okay.’ I say, lying through my teeth. It’s my son’s birthday. He and his wife have been so supportive of me, always seeking signs that I am mending. I try not to let the shoddy repair job I have done on my heart show. The fragile threads must hold the jagged seams together for tonight. And so I put on a smile to hide the pain and take a deep breath as we leave for the restaurant.

Processing 2: It Never Rains…

This has been a terrible week for me. I try so hard to cope with things whilst dealing with the huge vacuum inside of me that nothing will ever fill no matter how I try. I don’t make good decisions either for example: a few months ago a female acquaintance advised me that a dog would help. Something to come home to, something that would appreciate me and show me some affection. An excellent idea I agreed, especially when I saw the amazing relationship she had with her dog, a cockapoo.  The perfect dog for me, a bundle of fun who would show me unconditional and unstinting affection.

So I went on the net and linked up with Claudette who was selling her cockapoo, Cleo who was only four months old. Her circumstances had changed which was her reason for selling the dog. This breed normally sell for around £500. But she wanted a quick sale so she was prepared to sell for £250. The same day I went to see little Cleo and Claudette.

Claudette was a nervous lady in obvious emotional distress and spoke of her deep conflict in choosing between her husband and lover. She had decided on her lover and was planning to leave for France in a matter of days. We swapped heartaches and I fell in love with Cleo.

That Sunday Claudette brought Cleo to me and I was overjoyed. Cleo was not house-trained and tore through the house with such exuberance and joy that I could not keep up with her. She left her calling cards all over the place and the stench was appalling. I went to bed and Cleo slept in my room, fitfully, desperate for my attention at all hours. Next morning I awoke to the most terrible panicked condition realising I was in no state emotionally to care for a puppy.

I got back on the phone to Claudette. She was in tears as was I. She said she had something to do and would ring me back later. She duly rang. She had abandoned her plans to leave her husband and had cancelled her trip to France; she felt the whole situation with Cleo was a sign, fate lending her a hand to undo a bad decision. She wanted her dog back and would stay with her husband.

I took Cleo back the next day. Both Claudette and I were in tears and emotional stress we generated could have been measured on the Richter scale.

A few days ago I adopted a mature cat from a rescue centre, the cat is traumatised and has been hiding under the sideboard for four days now, he won’t eat or drink and the rescue centre say it will take some time. But again I feel I have called the wrong shots. I feel fate really has it in for me; determined to undo any little plan I might hatch to lessen my grief.

As things stand, five days in, the cat will not emerge from his hiding place. The plan now is to return him on Sunday.

So another dreadfully ill-advised decision.


You know when a tune goes round and around in your head and nothing can shake it. It’s called a brain worm or something. That’s been happening to me a lot lately. One or two tunes are plaguing me with memories I am trying to repress. God it’s unfair how we cannot wash our brains of unwanted material that only serves to distress us.

On Monday it was the Coldplay song ‘Yellow’. The bit that goes:

Your skin,

Oh yeah your skin and bones,

Turn into

Something beautiful,

You know,

You know I love you so,

You know I love you so.

Even now, just writing about it brings all the sadness surging back and reduces me to tears. Although the song was experienced in a happy place, physically and emotionally. South of France in 2010. In the car searching out a restaurant, driving around the narrow streets sussing out the best place to eat, as far as one can from a car, albeit a slowly moving one. And the diners on the pavement smiling and waving as I sang along to ‘Yellow’, all windows open and volume turned to near deafening proportions. You know I love you so… louder with each refrain. Look at the stars…cruising up and down the narrow street. Happy, joyful and still in love with my husband after 30 years of marriage. Stopped at the traffic lights, uniformed gendarmes looking towards us smiling, fingers in ears.

‘Not so loud Julie, you’ll get us arrested.’ My husband trying not to laugh at me. I’m in a state of near euphoria; the only influence I’m under is the balmy warmth of the summer evening and my over-flowing cup of utter contentment.

He tries to stop laughing but doesn’t join the singing. He cannot raise a tune to save his life. He grabs hold of my hand and kisses my cheek. ’You’re bloody crazy you know. That’s why I love you.’ He says with that look of fondness and affection in his eyes that is so familiar to me. I keep playing the same track; I’m hoarse now and hungry and feel I have tortured ‘Yellow’ quite enough. We park the car and find a table in the restaurant we ate in the day before, thus making our trawl totally unnecessary apart from the opportunity to commune with Coldplay and ‘Yellow’.

At the finish of yet another delicious meal we return to our campsite. We loved the freedom and economy of camping. I cuddle up and hold his hand as I fall asleep. The end of another perfect day.

Look at the stars,

Look how they shine for you…

He left me eighteen months ago, without a word of warning. We were moving to our new home – a bungalow the following day. He we were almost finished packing and he was having three days off work. The evening before, he said he was just going to pop into the office to attend a meeting but he’d be back by lunchtime to finish the packing. That morning he brought me a cup of tea in bed as usual; kissed me as usual and left saying he’d be back by lunchtime. He never came back and I haven’t seen him or spoken a word to him from that day.

Oh enough already. I must stop these tears. All for now

Catman is Coming

Who’d have thought it? I’m being vetted in great depth as to my fitness for cat ownership. He is coming any minute so i must make sure the house is untidy and smelly enough to impress. More to follow…

It’s finally arrived!

It’s finally arrived! My first blog so I’ll need all the luck I can get as there are so many blogs out there I sometimes fear we have reached saturation levels. But here goes: nothing ventured as they say…

My memoir – ‘On Charlotte’s Shoulders’ came out over a year ago and did it set the world on fire? Not exactly but a tiny flame was lit and resulted in over 70 five star reviews on Amazon. Genuine and unsolicited critiques – well for the most part. There are a few from friends but no arms were twisted or bones broken in endeavouring to persuade them to post such positive such reviews.

It is a given fact that everyone I’ve met – acquaintances, friends, fellow members of choirs and writing groups I attend, genuinely seem to love the book and want to talk to me about it. Unless the reading world is peopled by liars. In fact I have given couple of talks to groups and managed to sell some copies but I really need to tap into the great Irish diaspora and so far I haven’t got around to it. (See below)

The book has not had a proper launch although Acorn my publishers did their best on a limited budget. You can have no idea of the costs of this kind of thing. One marketing man they employed for a month to try and flog the book to bookshops charged about £400 for a few hours efforts just chasing up book buyers for the big players in the field e.g. Waterstones in the UK and a few independent stores in Ireland. No one said no but by the time he ran out of money, no one said yes. Read my book and find out about life on those streets before the council rehoused us.

While I think of it, another reason why the pitch to booksellers was unsuccessful may have been something to do with the fact that copies were not sent, only brief details. No wonder they weren’t clamouring for the next best Irish memoir since Angela’s Ashes. Mine is better as I said. I later learned from an employee of Acorn that the book is more expensive than the average because it comes in at over 350 pages. All beautifully written of course but you should read the stuff that got away, the stuff that had to be deleted or we would have had 800 pages on our hands, similar to Joyce Ulysses. That comes in over 900 pages but I am not for a moment comparing my little effort to the great maestro’s, far from it. Although his is a classic, it is not exactly accessible. Mine is unputdownable. So my many fans assure me. Another way it differs from the Ulysses is that it says what it means. There are no classical allusions, no obscure references, and no pages of seemingly meaningless prose that can only be accessed by studying even greater tomes which attempt to extract some nuggets of meaning.

My memoir is eminently readable so sucks to Joyce! An interesting fact here though is that I spent the first years of my life in Dorset Street Dublin and my Aunty Nelly lived around the corner in Eccles Street where Leopold Bloom, the main character in Ulysses lived. We lived and played in the streets of north Dublin – all mentioned in Ulysses. So dare I claim a connection? The lovely Georgian houses in Joyce’s time were lived in by the great and the good –mainly Anglo Irish. By the time we came along these houses were reduced to slums.

Anyway the plan now is to try and launch it in Ireland. I am visiting Dublin with other Joyce lovers in June for Bloomsday and will personally visit as many stores as I can to try and interest them in stocking the book. I’ll take a few copies with me so – although it bleeds my heart to do so – I will enrich Ryanair’s boss Michael even further by paying for the excess baggage. Talking of excess baggage, something truly appalling happened to me a few weeks before the book’s launch which undermined the very foundations on which I stood and destroyed a part of my soul. The main reason I was not firing on all cylinders in terms of promoting the book. But that’s a story for another day…

In the meantime buy and enjoy ‘On Charlotte’s Shoulders’