Thursday, 31 October 2013

It's tough being nine.


Let me tell you being nine is tough and it is even harder when you have a cousin like Tommy. First off, Tommy is ten and makes sure everyone knows it. Second, he does karate. I have nothing against karate, but the way he's always chopping and kicking things makes me sick. He thinks he is so much better than me, sometimes I think I hate him, most of the time I want to be just like him.

In the summer every kid in my village would hangout above the weir, where the water was deep and slow. Spending long lazy days taking cooling dips in the cold river water. The big kids fixed a rope to a branch of a tree reaching out over the river. They would take turns launching themselves into the air swinging out, letting go at the height if their swing, splashing down in the middle of the river. Some of the biggest kids had it down to a fine art, they would run hard letting go of the rope at just the right point, sending them flying impossibly high in the air, seeming to stall before gracefully dropping into the deep dark water. They would stroke back to the shore under a cloak of hero worship from us lesser mortals.

One day Tommy and his gang came riding down the street on their bikes, all spread out in a V formation like a flock of ducks. Tommy was in the middle with his hair slick with hair gel, sweating in the black leather biker jacket he wore everywhere. A folded playing card pinned to the frame of his bike brushed the spokes and rattled like a machine gun. Soon after they arrived one of the older boys did a huge swing, flipping 180 degrees in the air, entering the water in a dive. Even Tommy was impressed but felt he could do better. Tommy stripped to his swimming trunks and grabbed the rope. He ran but only managed a feeble swing hardly getting him clear of the bank before he let go of the rope. He spun like a fat white starfish and landed with the most painful looking belly flop, ever. Everyone laughed me more than most. Tommy struggled up the bank out of the river glowing red with embarrassment.Tommy stopped in front of me and said. "What are you laughing at Dumbo?"
"You did a belly flop," I said rubbing salt in his open wound.
"You're too scared to even try it," Tommy said with rage in his voice.
"I'm not," I said. "Any one could do what you just did."
"If your such a big man why don't you prove it," he said wrapping himself in a towel to hide his glowing pink belly.
"I will so," I said getting to my feet intending on trying the swing dive.
"That's too easy, get dressed I have something better for you," he said smiling at his group of goons.

Like I said earlier, most of the time I hated Tommy but here was my chance to prove myself. I just had to take it. When we were all dressed we rounded up our bikes and cycled off into the countryside. After nearly an hour, mostly up hill, my legs were getting sore.
"Where are we going, Tommy?" I asked trying to keep the whine out of my voice.
"We're nearly there only a few minutes more," he said smiling over his shoulder at me. I could have sworn he was actually nice. A few minutes later, just like he said, we pulled into a field. We pushed our bikes through the knee-high grass and descended into a glade where a giant stone wall reared out of the ground like the bow of a mighty ship. At the base of this buttress, there was an opening not much bigger than a small hen house. Tommy faced me like a headmaster teaching a class.
"What we're going to show you is top secret," he said. "Only members of our club have ever been inside to see the bones. Do you accept this challenge?"
I was scared but more than anything I wanted my cousin Tommy to like me, I stood taller and said. "I do."

From under a pile of rocks, Tommy scooped a battered biscuit tin. Inside were a dozen candles and a pile of match boxes. Tommy handed each of us a bunch of candles and a box of matches. Following the lead of the others, I put all but one candle into my pockets and lit the one I held, cupping a hand around the flickering flame, protecting it from the gentle summer breeze. Tommy ducked and crawled into the opening, followed by his friends, me in last place.

Under my hands, the rocks were slippy with damp moss. The passage angled down sharply, the stone roof just above my head. I climbed and scrambled over rocks and boulders following the light of the boys strung out in front of me, soon the only light came from the procession of candles. I began to see a little more as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom. I felt, the cave growing around me rather than seeing it. No longer did the sides of the tunnel rub my shoulders, the glow of the candle no longer reflected off glistening rocks, it just died away in the never-ending darkness. Down and down we ventured, mainly in a straight line. We were all walking upright now with lots of room overhead, the floor levelled out and became a smoothly polished grove in the earth. At last, we stood in part of the cave that was as wide and as high, as a church.

Tommy and his friends formed a tight circle around me the flickering of their candles making horror masks of their faces.

"No one has been in this cave for hundreds of years except us," he said.
"Is this where the bones are? Are they of a bear or even a wolf?" I wondered getting excited about seeing what them. Boys love bones nearly as much as they like bugs and creepy crawlies.
"So where are the bones?" I asked Tommy.
"The only bones in here will be yours if you cant find your way out," he said shoving me to the ground, my candle spilt out of my hand and quenched on the wet floor. The others sprinted away howling and shouting into the darkness like a bunch of apes, taking the light with them. I scrabbled around on my hands and knees rubbing my hands in searching circles across the rugged cold floor. My finger brushed the warm, soft wax of the candle which I grabbed shakily. I dug in my pocket and found the matches only then remembering the spare candles I had all the time. The shouts echoed all around me, they could have been close, or they might have been miles away. In the complete darkness, I couldn't tell where they were coming from. I struck a match and lit my candle again.  I turned in circles looking for something I would recognise, but every rock looked like the next.

I thought I could make out the grove of the path, having no other choice I started to follow it. Just then all shouting stopped, not faded out, just stopped. With no idea whether I was going further into the cave or back for the entrance I blundered on. I though I heard voices again, but they were too faint to make out. I thought Tommy and his friends were watching me panic and would soon come get me. Time passed, and no one came. I had to go somewhere, so I continued on pushing through the dark guided by the weak light of my candle. I just wanted out of this place.

Soon my candle burned down and died. I had to light another one. It seemed like I had only just done that when I needed to light my last one. I realized by rushing forward the flame was fluttering in the wind, making the wax melt way faster than if I walked. My last candle was dwindling when I felt the floor begin to slope upwards. I must have found my way back to the entrance, after all, I followed the path climbing over boulders and rocks towards the surface, each step taking me higher. The candle burnt my hand, and I dropped it between the rocks. I felt my way forward on my hands and knees, inching along finding my way by my finger tips.

I felt the walls and roof bare down on me like it had when we first climbed inside the cave. I kept moving forward, bumping my head from time to time. Now and again I lit a match from the box to see what lay ahead, every time it was just darker. I moved further lighting one match after another until a single one remained. The tunnel was no bigger than a barrel at this time. I knew it was not the way we had come in but it still sloped up, that had to be a good thing. It had to come over ground sooner or later. The second last match fizzled and died, I lay crying in the moss and dirt for a long, long time.

At last, I wiped away the water from my face, some was moisture from the cave, but mostly it was tears of a nine-year-old boy, who felt sure ten was never going to come. Rubbing my eyes must have changed them because the black didn't seem as black anymore. I concentrated on the way ahead, I was sure it was brighter. Light must be coming in from somewhere. It had to be a way out. I crawled on, and it was definitely getting brighter, but the walls were closing in all the time. I had to wriggle forward on my belly, the hint of light in the distance grew into a promise, every inch forward the glow got stronger. I could smell the first drafts of a breeze, the first fresh air that I had felt in ages, but cave was now no bigger than a drain pipe. My hands stretched out ahead of me feeling the way, my shoulders squeezed against the rocks all round, I had to wiggle past ones that stuck out, but freedom was in front of me, I could smell it, I could nearly see.

One more push and I would break through, I squirmed hard, but a rock above me shifted pressing on my back. I tried to free myself, but the rock was fixed hard in its new position. I couldn't go forwards nor backwards. I couldn't even take a deep breath, I kicked my feet behind me, and my hands stretched out in front looking for a hand hold. Uncontrollable panic gripped me. I beat my fists against the rocks tearing my skin as I fought with every ounce I had to free myself. Only exhaustion stilled my body and my mind. My fingers touched the match box with the last match inside. Between trembling fingers, I struck the last match, its brilliance lit up my tiny world. Just ahead of me lay a bunch of withered fingers covered in blackened leathery skin tipped with long broken finger nails stretching out towards me. A lifeless skull framed with wisps of wild hair screamed silently in my direction. As the last light, my eyes would ever see faded and died my screams filled the dark.

Like I said, its tough being nine.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Rip



It was a gloriously bright Tuesday in September when he crested the ridge and got a glimpse of the ocean as it stretched out to the horizon. He'd never approached his secret cove from the mountain before and the view was breath-taking when it unfolded before him. It was as if a whole world lay hidden behind a bend in the tiny road. He eased his vehicle to a stop and rolled down the driver’s window to take in the magnificence of the scene.

"This is what it must feel like to be an eagle," he whispered to himself as his eyes took in the islands in the distance dwarfed by the vast undulating water. White lines of surf, so tiny from this vantage point, broke on a sliver of golden shore miles below. The land nuzzling the coast was a patchwork of fields which swept up the valley until they ran into an impregnable buttress of dark limestone. The fluted rock soared skyward a thousand feet, as if the rib cage of the earth had burst through the soil. The road he travelled was carved into the face of the cliff and his camper van was perched a stone’s throw from the top.

He looked down at his tattered wool jumper and fingered his jeans which were ripped from old age rather than fashion sense. A huge smile spread across his face as he realised he was the luckiest man alive. Whatever money he had jangled in his pocket, and when the van ran out of petrol he would call that place home until he found a way of making enough for another tank of fuel. He was not ashamed to say he had eaten from more than one dumpster but at moments like this he wouldn't trade lives with any billionaire you may care to mention.  He slid first gear into place and the battered VW camper puttered down the four-in-one incline, snaking its way past boulders and waterfalls. He inched down the face of the impressive cliff like a sure footed mountain goat until the road vanished into the top reaches of the tree line.

Once the distraction of Gods personal view was removed he felt his foot depress the accelerator more firmly, eager to be one with that vast body of water. The cove was known only to a few, and the first time he had stumbled upon it he had been wandering aimlessness near deserted coastal paths. He had been stunned by the pristine waves he found, as if they had been waiting an eon for him to come and carve them up with the fins of his surfboard.

With the thought of what was waiting for him looming large in his mind, each second seemed an hour, every foot a mile, as he drove further down the mountain. His cove was a surfer’s dream, a personal paradise of perfect breaking waves, hidden from the rest of the world, reserved for him.

At last he turned into the unmarked Bohereen which narrowed and ended before he had reached his destination. He unloaded his board and wet-suit, shouldered a backpack with food and supplies, and trecked the last mile across farmers’ fields. As he marched, he thought about the word Bohereen which meant little road. It had such a musical sound, perhaps Irish was the language of happiness after all. Once he'd asked an old man in a pub what made a Bohereen a Bohereen? The old fella wiped a Guinness moustache from his top lip and said, "A Boher is a road where two cows can pass, a Bohereene is where there is only room for one." Such a simple but beautiful explanation sums up Ireland nicely.

At last he stood looking out over his promised land, he salivated over the huge glassy waves forced to die a virgin death upon the unfeeling shore without ever knowing the caress of a surfers fin. Such a ending was a travesty for waves as perfect as these. Zipping himself into his rubber cocoon he had his first twinge of doubt. From the shore the waves looked substantial but perfect, the substantial part would be magnified when he got in the grip of them. The question in his mind was not if he could ride them, but could he even get past them. He strapped the board's leash to his leg and sprinted undaunted into the chilly Atlantic swell. His board skimming the surface of the foaming white water with ease, powerful strokes drove him further into oncoming waves. Some waves broke before he reached them and he had to power through the boiling froth, others paused just long enough to let him crest the lip before plunging down the dark valley of water the wave left behind as it rushed toward shore.

Muscles aching, he battled the massive swell. Stroke after stroke taking him into deeper water. Soon the feel of the waves under his board changed, the colour of the water darkened from foam flecked grey to dark brooding green. The surfer could feel the cold begin to numb his fingers and he knew he had gone far enough. Sitting up on his board he scanned the horizon for an approaching set to challenge. Wave after wave marched toward him but none broke. He was not sure how long he had bobbed in the water before it dawned on him that something was wrong. The massive waves should be breaking. He turned and was shocked to find the beach had gone. The only land in sight was the upper reaches of the hills he had so carefully navigated earlier. His guts knotted with fear as he realised he was caught in a rip.

Despite his experience, panic made him do what he should never have done. He turned and tried to paddle back directly toward shore. Each frantic stroke sapped vital strength, where he gained a foot, he lost two. Every second the flow of water carried him further from land. The ocean seemed to have discarded all the heat it gathered from the sun and was now as cold as the grave. Layers of protective rubber couldn't stop the fingers of icy water probing his skin, robbing him of his most precious resource - heat. He battled the rip for what seemed like hours before the shakes began, gathering speed and strength until they rippled through his body, running from shoulders to feet, torturing his already jaded muscles, but fear made him push through the agony. Slowly the shakes dwindled and the cold seemed to slip from his body. He felt tired, so very tired but he continued to paddle with jelly like arms. After one last attempt to save himself by paddling for a hopeless wave, he collapsed on the board in utter exhaustion, letting his arms hang below the surface of the frigid water.


His cheek resting on the board, he could see his ragged breathing create tiny waves in the water pooled on the surface. His mind felt drugged, as if he was tripping on the lack of oxygen. He couldn't fully explain what was happening, but he knew it was serous. Piece by piece his body was closing down. All the pain was gone, all the fear had vanished and a state of complete calm descended on him. Euphoria engulfed him with warming hands and he felt his eyelids flutter as sleep threatened to take him. Heavier and heavier his eyes grew until he could hold them open no longer. He was past caring when a wave tipped up his board and his body slipped into the ocean. Some ancient part of his brain sensed the danger and forced his eyes open one last time.


In the depths, shadows condensed, moulding themselves into gracefully swirling nymphs. They danced as if to welcome him to the kingdom of Neptune, a brother eventually come home. Without fear or sadness the surfer surrendered the last of his strength and accepted this final embrace.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Liebster Blog Award



The Liebster Blog Award is a way for bloggers to highlight Blog's and Bloggers that have small followings but deserve acknowledgement for their hard work, excellence and contribution to the world of Blogging. I was honoured to be Nominated by AJ Long who is one of the best bloggers out there always ready to give encouragement and advice when it is most needed.

So here we go!


The rules for accepting the Liebster Blog Award:
1- List eleven random facts about yourself.
2- Nominate eleven other bloggers.
3- Notify these bloggers.
4- Ask eleven questions that the bloggers must answer upon accepting the award.
5- Answer the eleven questions that you were asked when you were nominated.
6- Link back to the person who nominated you.


 

11 Facts about me you might not know.

1.       I have been a surfer for 18 years and still in love with it.

2.       I won a jumper once at a Christmas party for having the hairiest chest.

3.       I have wrote off one car.

4.       I have been back stage at a London west end show by accident (During the show)

5.       People are always asking me things in shopping centres as they think I work there

6.       I have a corgi – Holly and Half a corgi – Lofty (More precious than diamonds)

7.       I have slept in a phone box, the boot of a car and a bath to name only a few places.

8.       I like to collect my own fire wood, it makes the fire seem more deserved.

9.       I listen to classical music when alone, studying or writing.

10.   I spend more time on G+ than writing but this is a hobby after all and I Like G+

11.   I still can’t spell to save my life, thank god for spell check.

 

The 11 Bloggers that I would like to nominate for this award are as follows in no particular order.

Karie Thoma - http://fictionalcatterflymusings.blogspot.com
M.A. Barr - http://mabarrjournal.blogspot.com
Nikkah Lubanga - http://factperfiction.wordpress.com
Amy Galmos - http://muffinsandmetaphors.blogspot.com
Ben Roach - http://thewritingwanderer.blogspot.co.uk
Matt Ewens - http://mattrobertewens.wordpress.com
Lynn Marie Le - http://finscribeofwisdom.blogspot.com
Dyane Forde - http://droppedpebbles.wordpress.com
Francine Hirst –  Puts her posts directly on Google +

It was super hard to just pick 11, I avoided picking ones that I knew AJ or others had already nominated.

 

11 Questions for the people I have nominated.

1.       Where were you when you had your first kiss.

2.       Your house is on fire what 3 things would you save (Kids and people excluded)

3.       What is your favourite blog post of your own blog.

4.       If you could switch with one person for 24 hours who would you pick

5.       What 4 famous people would you invite round to your house for dinner (Alive or dead)

6.       Your guilty pleasure.

7.       Nicest thing another person has ever done for you.

8.       Nicest thing you have done for a stranger

9.       What is your partners (Present or past) most annoying trait

10.   Greatest Fear

11.   Your new year’s resolutions from last year.

 

Here is my Answers to AJ Longs questions.
1. What was the funniest movie you have seen?
The life of Brian – hands down the funniest ever

2.What’s your earliest memory?
I remember trading my tricycle for a bag of marbles when I was 3, mom was not pleased 

3. What was your favorite school subject?
Building Technology and Tec Drawing

4. Have you EVER had a need to use algebra away from a school environment? (No, seriously!)

What’s algebra??? Only kidding, no

5. Do you understand modern art (or even know if it’s hanging the right way up?)

Understand it – no, like it - yes

6. Most enjoyable book?
Loved the first half of the stand by Stephen King, it made a great impact on me partly due to where I was in my life but then it got a bit airy fairy in the second half but still a great tale.

7. Ever spent money to buy something you really wanted, although you could hardly afford it at the time?

Yes I once got an advance on my wages to buy a surfboard I fell in love with, wish it was still with me but sadly it went to the surfboard heaven a few years back.


8. Apart from when you were a child, have you ever danced in the rain?
Yes and done a few other things in the rain as well. You should try it.

9. What country would you like to visit that you have not yet been to?
Tonga

10. What makes you grumpy?
Stupidity in all its ugly forms

12. What’s your ’Go To’ switch to make you feel better on a gray day
Lofty and Holly my dogs 100% happy all the time.

 
_______________________________________________________________________________

So looking forward to hearing back from people listed above with their 11 answers and once again Thank you AJ and everyone that I could not nominate for making the world a more interesting place to live in. 


Squid McFinnigan

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Seventh and Lombard


Peg Magner and her family tumbled from a rotting ship onto the dock at Ellis Island, and thanked her lucky stars to be alive. It was a miracle they’d all survived the journey, while so many others bobbed in the waves between here and Ireland. That was until she spent two weeks in the hellhole that was called ‘The Five Points’, after which she thought a quick death at sea might have been an ease to them all. Two weeks was more than enough to convince Peg that her family needed to find someplace better to live.

Philadelphia was growing out of all proportion, in the year 1876, it was turning from a waterside town into a burgeoning metropolis. A constant flood of immigrants were streaming in from the harsh boroughs of New York. Sean, Peg’s husband was worried they would starve on the roadside before the journey was complete. However, in the end, the ragged family didn’t have to walk one mile, thanks to a deal Sean made with a steamer boat captain. Sean and the captain fell in with each other over a tankard of ale, and it proved to be a fortuitous day indeed. Sean agreed to load and unload cargo, as well as paying a small fee, for which four miserable Irish wretches could sleep on deck among the casks of whiskey. Even though the fee was small, it represented nearly half of the family’s worldly wealth.

By the end of the loading, Sean’s hands were the colour and texture of minced meat. The day was all but gone when the boat slipped its mooring, and the smokestack belched dirty coal-smoke into the night air, Sean staggered over to where Peg and the kids were huddled and dropped to the deck.
“Sweet Mary above, what have they done to you?” she said, seeing the blood spatter on the deck from the ends of his trembling fingers. Peg bandaged Sean’s flayed hands with strips of cloth torn from her underskirts, and let him rest on her lap and sleep amid the warmth rising from her body.

Soon she felt the first small waves raise the nose of the boat, and a fine sheet of spray whipped across the deck. Peg gathered the children to her and wrapped her shawl around them all, like a mother hen taking her chicks under her wings. The journey took nearly two days. The passage was mercifully calm, which Peg took to be a great omen for their new home.

Peg and Sean were blessed with twin girls, now four years old. The girls loved the boat and delighted in playing chase between the stacks of barrels. Their names were Aishling and Aine, two cherubs with flaming red curls and a faces full of freckles.

On the afternoon of the second day, the ocean swell lessened dramatically as they entered the Delaware, but that was the only indication they were making their way inland, so huge was the waterway.

“Sean, is everything in this place so big?  Rivers as wide as the sea, land you couldn’t walk if you lived to be a hundred, and so many people,” Peg pondered, shaking her head at the water after Sean had explained they were now steaming up a river. A few hours later the banks closed in on either side, and they could make out buildings beyond the growth of trees from time to time. Soon the buildings multiplied until there was no bank left to see. A fog of smoke hung over the docks as they moored in Philadelphia, dulling the strong October sunlight. Sean braced himself for the backbreaking task of unloading the boat. Peg had cut pads from her only jacket to cover his hands, to give him some little protection.

“Ah Peg, you’ve gone and destroyed your coat! Winter is coming, and you will need that more than I need these,” he said when she presented him with the stitched woollen pads.

“I’ll need a husband with hands able to work, to bring in a living for the four of us,” she said, pressing the cloth pads into his hands and shoving him gently toward the gangway.

While Sean toiled, Peg and the girls went in search of lodgings. Wherever she looked there were signs which said, “No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish.” It was a mantra that she’d encountered often in New York. At first she’d been shocked, but now it washed off her like rain from a goose. Her wanderings brought her further and further into the city. Soon she came across a section of clapboard houses, thrown up so shoddily they leaned over the narrow lanes, blocking all view of the smog-stained sky above. This teeter-totter of buildings housed dozens, if not hundreds of people, all thrown together by poverty. Whole families living in one tiny room shared a privy if they were lucky, they slopped out piss buckets into the street if they were not. Here, the mud clung to Peg’s boots in foul smelling lumps, but she did her best to clean them before climbing the steps of one house after the other.

At last, she agreed a lease on a room. She paid in advance for a month with what was left of the family’s savings. The Magners would be one of the few white famlies living in this part of Philly, which sat in a no-man’s land between Seventh and Lombard Street. When Sean had finished unloading the steamer, they carried all they owned on their backs and moved in one go to their new home.

It took a while but Sean found work at a Tannery on the docks, moving stinking hides covered in lie and tallow. Every night he washed in the freezing water of the Delaware before making his way home. Even so, the smell of rotting animals could not be shifted from his skin. It wasn’t all bad in their new home. Peg even found what she thought of as a little bit of Ireland in the shape of a small park, aptly named ‘Star Garden Park.’ The paths were lined with majestic ash, oak, and maple trees. Someone had even hung a rope swing from a low-hanging bough which the girls loved to play on. Aine was a right whelp and was always giving her mother the most terrible frights by hiding, and refusing to come out until she was found.

On the last day of October, Peg and the girls were in the park as always. Aishling and Aine were taking turns on the swing, while Peg sat on a nearby bench and fretted over the looming rent. It could have been a minute, or it could have been five, before Peg noticed the chatter of little girl voices had stopped. She looked up and Aishling was alone on the swing, gently swaying over and back.

Peg got to her feet and walked over, calling for Aine to come out of where she was hiding, but she didn’t. Peg checked all the bushes and trees, but her little Aine wasn’t hiding behind any of them like she normally would. Dread filled Peg’s whole body. She grabbed Aishling from the swing, dragging her along as she searched every inch of the park, yelling herself raw. As a last resort, she ran back to the tenement, hoping against hope that Aine had come home by herself, but the tiny room was empty. Her unnatural cries of agony ringing through the house were frightening, and soon drew a crowd of black faces to her open door.
 
“My baby is gone. My baby is taken,” Peg wailed at the gathering crowd. One slim young woman broke a hole in the crowd and ran away down the stairs. It was only minutes before she reappeared, shadowed by a huge breasted woman the colour of a starless night. The crowd parted before this woman like the Red Sea had done for Moses. Her face was a patchwork of long healed welts, raised by an expertly laid whip. Her eyes were brown, with yellowed whites, they looked neither left nor right, but took in everything. Her substantial lips were pursed and the flesh of her neck wobbled as she walked. The crowd fell back, respectfully bowing their heads.

“Lady, Lady,” said the thin girl, shaking Peg by the shoulder in an attempt to break through her hysterical crying. “Diss be Mama Tess, she is come to help, Lady.”
The elderly woman squatted low on creaking knees. She roughly grabbed Peg’s face between two paddle-like hands. When Peg continued bawling, one hand lifted an inch, then landed a thunderous slap. The sound caught in Peg’s chest and her eyes finally registered the dark face floating inches from her own. Holding Peg’s chin, the woman drilled into Peg’s mind with ageless eyes. After a second, the woman looked away, fixing her gaze on the tiny red-haired girl cowering in the corner. At last, the huge woman spoke, her voice deep and melodic, the words exotic. The thin girl translated the strange dialect for Peg’s benefit.

“Mama says it is not too late, the bond between such girls is strong. Your daughter can be found, but you must take us now to where she and the little one were last together,” the young woman said. Mama dragged Peg to her feet with one beefy hand, while lifting Aishling in the other. Peg was shoved into the still growing crowd. To begin with, her legs walked, while her mind struggled to cope with what was happening, then they ran, when she realized this was her last hope of finding Aine alive.

Peg reached the swing well ahead of anyone else. Collapsing to the ground, she threw her arms around the plank of wood her daughter sat on not an hour past. She was then roughly pushed to one side by Mama, who placed a shocked Aishling onto the seat. Mama kneeled, getting face to face with the child, then she began rocking over and back. From her huge chest a low hum of noises gathered strength, soon the air was filled with wild sounding words which made Peg’s head spin. The crowd following the hysterical woman had swelled to nearly fifty, but none approached the Mama Tess, who they clearly held in awe. As the huge woman stroked Ashling’s cheeks, her words grew in volume, and speed. Aishling’s eyes glazed over, Mama was now nose to nose with the child, peering deep into her hypnotised eyes. A second grew into two, two into an age. Peg and the crowd held their collective breaths. It was Mama who broke the spell by bounding to her feet and dashing off towards the far end of the park without even a word. The crowd sprinted after her, like a pack of hounds on the scent of a fox. For an old woman, she was unbelievably fast. Even Peg, who was driven on by terror, found it hard to keep up. Mama Tess dashed out of the small park, heading for the river. Down streets and lanes she led the still growing gang, Peg at the head of them all, with Aishling crushed to her chest as she ran.

Without warning, Mama Tess stopped at the door of a back alley tavern. She flung it open with such force she split one of the planks in half. Inside sat a group of rough looking mountain men. They wore wild beards and their clothes were made from animal pelts. Mama approached the group and pulled the one sitting nearest her to his feet. She grappled with the man pulling him close as if he were as light as a feather. The man struggled in her grasp, lashing out and landing a succession of blows. He may as well have been beating his fists against the trunk of an oak for the effect it was having on Mama Tess. Suddenly, her deep voice erupted in a fountain of blood curdling words. Her clawed hand carved symbol in the air, and the wild man she held in one hand shuddered. Mama’s voice grew louder. White foam appeared on the man’s lips, his eyes bulged and filled with blood. With a tremendous scream, Mama grabbed the air above the man’s chest, grasping something only she could see before yanking it away from the man with an audible pop. The man gurgled, then crumpled to the table, dead. The rest of the mountain men stood rooted to the spot with shock, as vomit, blood and beer ran from the table onto the floor. Mama Tess reached out and grabbed another man. This time her words were nearly English as she said, “Girl chille!”


Mama Tess dropped the man from her grasp and watched him scurry around to the far side of the tavern. He shoved a bench away from the wall. Beneath it was a tiny trap door. Mama Tess strode over and hooked the door with one meaty finger. She threw it open and revealed a head of bright red curls. Peg screamed with joy as she rushed forward and plucked her precious girl from the dank hole, bedraggled, but alive.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Cliff Dive


There are times in your life when going back or going forward seem equally impossible but staying putt is unthinkable.

Since graduating as a fully fledged grown-up these situations mostly present themselves in the guise of mental dilemmas, choosing between the right thing and the easy thing. Whenever I have one of these decisions to face I remember a time when I was truly stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I was fourteen and the summer holidays were more than half gone. I was making pocket money by doing odd jobs for neighbours and bringing in hay for local farmers. A few houses up the road lived an widow called Mrs Ryan, every Saturday morning I would cut her lawn and earn 50 pence. It was only a small lawn but back then 50 pence would buy four bars of chocolate. This particular Saturday morning when I pushed my dads rusty petrol mower up the road towards Mrs Ryan's I found that the normally empty drive was occupied by a brand new car with a Dublin registration plate.

New cars were a bit of a novelty, but the grass would not cut itself and I had two more lawns to do. I pulled the ripcord and the mower spluttered into life. I was making short work of the lawn, racing up and down like a kid possessed when I noticed her watching me. She was about my age or a year older, she stood taller than me with shoulder length blond hair, she wore a 'Duran Duran' tee shirt, skin tight jeans and white deck shoes. My heart spluttered just like the battered lawn mower and I was sure it was going to cut out. I got to the end of my cut directly in front of her, a cool kid would have said 'Hi' or waved or something. I just turned on my heel and started another cut. The sweat was running down my back and my face was as red as a beetroot. I eventually got to the far end and was forced to turn back, she was gone.

In the space of one strip of lawn I had fallen in love, ended up broken hearted and alone. It took another ten minutes before the job was finished but she had not reappeared, I was giving serous consideration to starting over again when she walked around the corner of the house with a glass of lemonade in her hand and a snarl on her face.

"Gran said to give you this," she said thrusting the glass at me.

"Thanks," I said getting even redder.

"Is your name really Squid," She asked

"Yea," I said not seeming to be able to say more than one word at a time.

"Gan said to give you this as well," holding out the 50 pence piece.

"Thanks," I said taking the coin from her. My finger tips brushed the skin of her palm, it was soft and warm. Electricity jumped across my nerve endings like I had touched a piece of heaven. She must have felt it because she pulled her hand away like she had been stung.

"Is that your car, " I asked finally getting my voice to work a little.

"It's my moms, she made us visit Gran for the week, not that I was given a choice," she said with a bit of snarly sulk. "I didn't want to come , culchies are boring, it smells like cow shit here."

I was a bit offended but it was too late for me, even her most unflattering characteristic only made her more wild and interesting to me, I was quiet literally sunk.

Her name was Denise and she was not alone in her enforced duties to her long suffering grandmother, who seemed to be as grumpy with the invasion of her house as the kids were at being there. Her two brothers, one older than her one younger, were along for the ride. It was great to have people my own age on my door step, it only took us minutes to all make friends. They were world wise, big city slickers and I was the country bumpkin determined not to be left behind. The week seemed to slip by so quickly, we made rope swings from branches the big pine trees at the end of my garden, cooked potatoes in tinfoil in a bonfire and they told me story's of the city while I tried not to stare at their sister too much. Towards the end of the week Denise made a throwaway remark about how a black tee shirt made a man look sexy. That night I begged my mother to get me a black tee shirt because 'MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT'. I am sure she just wanted a laugh at the dumb cluchie but I was getting a black tee shirt come hell or high water.

The Saturday before they were due to leave Denise, her older brother Daren and myself rounded up three bikes and headed for the ocean. Denise said she wanted to go out along the headland, it was a lovely day and Daren kept racing off into the distance showing off. Truth be told I wished he'd never slowed down or vanished forever. That hour riding along beside this gorgeous girl were some of the most perfect minutes I have ever spent. For a time she even forgot she was above all this kiddie stuff, freewheeling down a hill her hair spread out behind her in the warm summer breeze she smiled and was beautiful.

We ended up out on the tip of the headland where we abandoned the bikes in a field and walked across to the cliffs. They were not very high but fell directly into the ocean, straight down into the deep dark green of the Atlantic ocean. We got to a place where you could climb down the face and stand on a ledge about 25 feet over the water. This huge slap of rock jutted out like a table where we sat in the warm sunshine with our feet dangling over the edge.

"I bet you would not jump in from here," Daren needled me.

"I bet you would not, " I countered.

"Ok, I will if you will," he said.

 My stomach bunched in a knot. I don't like heights but I am a good swimmer. It was a hell of a long way down now that I was looking with a fresh perspective. I glanced to my side and Denise was looking at me leaning back on her hands with her legs dangling over the edge. I desperately wanted her to see me as something more than a geeky kid who lived next door to her Grandmother.

"Right your on," I said. Daren and myself got to our feet and began stripping off. He went all the way to his y fronts but I kept my jeans on. No way I was going down to my underwear in front of Denise.

"You first," Daren said standing back from the edge.

I inched forward hooking my toes over the edge of the rock looking out and down into the water, trying to see if there was any rocks below the surface. My legs began to shake, I was never more sure that I was going to do something that would actually kill me. It was such a long way down, I was truly terrified, I could feel the sting of tears come to my eyes. How did I get myself into this, I was sure I was going to wet my pants. I was trying to think of anyway possible to get out of this stupid dare without looking like a total prat but there was none.

I was frozen, behind me was a girl I was mad about, in front of me, certain death. That was when I felt a tear slip over my eyelid and escape down my cheek. That tiny tear set me free, I was not going to cry in front of her. I launched myself out as far as I could in a huge leap and plunged forever through the air feet first. The world was silent and even seemed to slow down. The water got closer and closer but seemed to take forever to arrive. Boom, it exploded around me- in a cloud of white bubbles I vanished below the surface. At first I did not move, then I realised I was not hurt and adrenalin coursed though my veins. I kicked for the light and exploded into the air. Two shocked faces peered over the edge of the rock far above as I hollered and punched the air.

Then an amazing thing happened, Denise beamed a huge smile at me and the world stood still. Daren never jumped and the climb back up the cliff was nearly as scary as the jump but I had done it and I survived.

Then next day she went back to Dublin, I never saw her again but that's not the point, for one second in my life nothing was impossible. In that one look I got a glimpse of heaven.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Blood Red Rose


My great aunt Betty married an English man by the name of James Ramsey in 1950, soon after a chance meeting on a trip to Dublin. The importance of grasping opportunities for happiness was a lesson drilled into them by the horror of a war so recently ended. She tried to settle in England, but it was a step to far for a girl from west Kerry. Three months after they moved to the UK, Betty arrived back, leaving James behind a heart broken man. Our poor Betty was a ruined woman, well at least she was for forty eight hours because that was how long it took a tall handsome man to come wandering up the tractor path on Kerry head with a battered suit case swinging jauntily from his long arm.


Don’t underestimate how difficult life was for an English man in Ireland at that time, but James was a resolute individual, who was decent to his core. It wasn't long before he was deeply in love with west Kerry, and grew more in love with Betty every single day. In the following years, even the most die-hard republicans living in the area were won over by this quite, happy gentleman. They went as far as conveniently forgetting his nationality, and rechristening him “Posh James” because of his rolling Yorkshire accent.


Stories of life on this most westerly point of Europe will have to wait for another day. Today, I wish to tell you a story of death, the death of a great man. Uncle James passed away quietly in his sleep aged seventy eight years of age. Betty was ten years his junior, and still in the prime of her life according to everyone. The evening after James died, I was called to their small cottage where they had shared every moment of life since the day he walked into town. My mother and Betty sat beside the open fire,fighting off the chill in the air,  as winter was still holding the world in its relentless grip.

“Harold, we need you to go with Betty, and Uncle James, to France,” Mom said.

“Why are we going to France?” I asked, skipping over the fact that Uncle James was in no state to take trips anywhere.

“It's a request in James' will. He wanted to be buried in Dunkirk Town cemetery. He's had a plot there for well over forty years. Did you know that James was part of the Miracle of Dunkirk?” Mom asked?

“No, but I read about it in school. Was James there?" Aunt Betty nodded but it was too painful to talk, she just folded her hands in her lap and let her tears fall upon them.

As amazing as the escape from Dunkirk was, my tale is not about that day either. The only reason I mention it at all, is to explain how it happened, on a miserable winter’s day, Aunt Betty and myself took off from Shannon Airport, with poor Uncle James all boxed up with the luggage, heading for the green fields of France. When we arrived, we cleared customs and waited in a small private room while the arrangements for Uncle Jame's burial were completed. A hearse, and a car for us, had been arranged. When all the paperwork was in order, we were fetched by a stoic official and escorted to a side entrance. It would seem the sight of a coffin going on, or off, an airplane did nothing for the comfort of other passengers. Outside the weather was bitterly cold, the snow that had fallen a few days ago was now frozen solid on the ground. Even with strong shoes, and two pairs of socks, my feet were numb after two minutes of standing outside.


The drive to Dunkirk took over four hours in the treacherous conditions. At last, we pulled into a little graveyard on the edge of town. A substantial memorial was erected to the fallen of the Great War, many of whom were laid here, in final rest. A small group stood beside an open grave, the priest came and opened the door of the car for my Aunt. They spoke briefly, before the pole bearers took James on their shoulders and began the ceremony with an air of deep respect.  In the week that lead up to this day, Aunt Betty had cried non stop and by now she was numb to all pain but still a single tear managed to creep from her eye as the small procession neared the edge of the grave. Prayers were said with efficiency and care, Uncle James was lowered into the still frozen earth, and Aunt Betty cried as she tossed a hand full of soil on the polished wood that held her whole world.


In the distance I began to hear singing, sad and mournful. The priest stopped in mid prayer and looked beyond us. We all turned to see what had distracted him. Coming up the path, directly toward us, was a group of people at least a hundred strong. At the head of them all was a slight lady, who was just as old as Aunt Betty, or even older. She was a dozen paces ahead of everyone else but none of the group made any attempt to assist her, they just followed, every head bowed, singing quietly. The woman's white hair hung to her shoulders around which hung a heavy shawl. Her legs moved determinedly under her long woolen skirt but the feet which poked out from underneath it were bare and raw. Even from this distance I could see the pink stains she was leaving behind on the ice as she walked. The frozen ground had stripped her souls to the bleeding flesh and it must have been agony.


None of us moved as the group neared the grave, step by step the older woman approached and I could see she had tears running freely down her face. From under her shawl she produced a perfect red rose with fully open petals. She laid the bloom in the snow at the foot of James' head stone, a monument which had been erected years ago. She touched the inscription with trembling hands, and traced the words, “Bombardier James Ramsey, 1918 –  “ the final date yet to be added. The lady spoke in a language that I couldn't understand, and caressed the name again and again. It was clear she was saying her good byes. 

At last, she turned to Aunt Betty and embraced her as if they were lifelong friends. Only then would she let anyone assist her, a group of young women came forward and lead the lady away on bleeding, agonized, feet. One by one the huge crowd came forward embrace my Aunt with unashamed tears in their eyes. I was dumbfounded at this display of raw emotion from a group of complete strangers until one man shook my hand and said in English, “We have all come to say thanks for all our lives, to your Mr James,” he said, with a huge smile.

“I don’t understand, who are you? Who is that lady?” I asked, pointing to the old woman being helped into a shiny black limousine.

“That's my Grandmother, Hattie, we're from Belgium. During the war, Mr James was shot down on the way back from a bombing raid in Germany. He parachuted out over the country side, near Zulte. My great-grandparents came across him, hanging from a tree, he had been knocked out cold. They took him to their farm and hid him in a barn. Hattie was sent to the barn to give him soup when the solders came. Hattie wanted to run back to the house and fight, but James held her tight, covering her cries, as the solders tortured and killed the whole family. That day, she lost her Mother, Father and two brothers. None of  them broke under torture knowing that if they told, Hattie would die too. 

When the solders left, James released his hold on Hattie and she cursed and hit your Uncle, saying that if he'd never come, her family would still be alive. She blamed him for everything. He knew they would die if they stayed where they were and insisted they try to escape. My Grandmother fought him at every turn, but Mr James refused to abandon her. He kept her with him, giving her all the food they managed to find and covered her in his clothes. He even gave her his boots filled with straw when hers fell apart after days of walking. 

It took them three weeks to reach the French border and another one before he found sanctuary for my Grandmother with the French resistance. The last thing she did before your Uncle left was to spit in his face and slap him hard. She knew by the look in his eyes, that he blamed himself a thousand times more for her family's death than she ever would, but her anger would never let her admit such a thing. In life she never got the chance to forgive him and now it is too late. The day she heard of Mr James’s burial she knew she had to make right that insult, after all, without him she would have surely died. We are her children, her grandchildren and her great grand children. She gathered us all together and told us it was time to honor a man who was father to us all. She told us for the first time how she really escaped the Gestapo. Once we heard it nothing would keep us away. When we arrived at the square in Dunkirk, Hattie made us stop the cars. She stripped off her shoes and said if James could walk for a week barefoot in such cold, the least she could do was walk the last five miles to say sorry.”

I looked at my Aunt as she was embraced by yet another tearful stranger, and I saw her bewilderment at this amazing, heartwarming, outpouring of emotion. I felt pride swell my heart, proud that I'd known this amazing man, a man who had chosen to share so little of his greatness but always gave love to others without question, my Uncle James.



Friday, 11 October 2013

Christina's Journey

Every day I take the underground from 'Mile End' in east London to 'Charing Cross Station' in central London, from there it is only a ten minute walk to the fashion boutique where I work. Most days a ten minute dash in High heels is nine minutes too far. Lately I have started bringing a pair of flats in my handbag for the journey and changing into the 4 inch foot killers when I get to the shop. I have been working here for six months on minimum pay and extra long days. The main reason I am still doing it is the huge discount I get on designer clothes I could otherwise never afford. 'Mile End' is a lovely place, I have a tiny studio apartment overlooking leafy 'Mile End Park'. I have not always lived in the city and having this little patch of green to look out on reminds me of the rolling pastures of home.

My first trip on the underground during rush hour was an experience. It was still dark at 7.40am when I closed my apartment door and faced the cutting wind and mist. Bundled up in a thick winter coat, cut too fashionably to be effective, I clip-clopped into the miserable November gloom in my killer heels. The sounds of the city are different than you might imagine, the constant road noise forms a backdrop to everything else. What is unexpected is how little other noise there is. Hundreds even thousands of people walk along in silence, the occasional buzz of music from ear phones or hushed conversation, but mainly just the sound of feet on pavement.

This silent throng condenses in places like train platforms or subway stations. Silent armies stand mute shoulder to shoulder waiting to launch themselves at the next arriving train. The High pitch sound of the electric motor whirring down under breaking followed by the whoosh of hydraulic doors springing open. At 'Mile End' only a few disembark, a great herd of humanity surges forward cramming themselves together. The only time you will ever find yourself in a more intimate position with another human being, you will be naked and entwined completely. This orgy of morning movers do so in complete silence and without ever making eye contact.

Whoosh goes the doors and everyone holds on, the carriage rocks forward and back as the electric motor takes the strain, the whine begins low building steadily to a welcome high hum. Clickety clack, clickety clack, clickety clack the tracks beat out the time of our progress. These are the sounds that let us know all is right with the world. Behind me a man's briefcase is rammed corner first into my rump, a arm pit (freshly washed thank god) curls behind my ear and grasps a handrail, all around I am hemmed in with human flesh, damp clothing and bags. I stand like all the others, uncomplaining, unmoving, in silent acceptance of this short enforced intimacy with the great unwashed.

Ten stops and twenty minutes later we arrive at 'Charing Cross Station', the doors open and the unstoppable tide of morning workers charge fourth, it is as if the train vomited multicoloured moving creatures. I shook myself mentally getting into the cool fresh air, ridding myself of the touch of others. Perhaps it was due to this unnerving and unwelcome closeness with strangers that I was so repulsed by the sight of the tramp sitting on a bench with his begging cup held aloft with little expectation. I could feel thick vapours of unwashed human drifting towards my delicate nose. I looked away and hurried past like everyone else. This twice daily baptism of humanity continued mostly undisturbed over the last six months. Every day, morning and evening, the dirty tramp was a permanent fixture.

This morning had begun just like all others. Working in a central London ladies wear shop for more than six months makes you a senior member of staff. With such lofty heights of achievement comes added responsibility which is the reason my trip home today has been delayed by an extra 4 hours. My manager has a delivery coming after closing and could not stay herself to take it in. She passed me the bunch of keys and the security code for the alarm like a royal bequeath.
"The truck will be here about seven, just check off the boxes and we will do the unpacking tomorrow," she instructed "I would not trust anyone else but you Christina," she said fixing me with cow-like vacant eyes. Truth was she would have trusted a semi competent monkey if she had one. At six we locked up and I went to a nearby wine bar to wait for the delivery. Two glasses of Pinot Grigio and forty minutes late they arrived. Ticking off the delivery was not straightforward either. The invoice was itemised individually and the boxes unlabled. In the end I was forced to open them all up one by one. It was nearly nine at night when I finally entered the code into the security panel and turned the key on the steel shutters. Feeling jaded and cheated I treated myself to one last glass of vino before catching the late train home.


Comfortably shod in my flat shoes I descended into the bowels of the earth to catch the tube. It was my first time here outside of rush hour and it was eerily different. The tiled walls reflected each footfall, echoing away into the distance with no soft human bodies to impede their progress. I reached the platform and the tramp was in his normal position but this time he had slipped to the side and was snoring openly. I walked to the far end of the platform away from him to wait on the train.

Around the corner came three men, all dressed in clothes way to big for them, puffy jackets and thick gold chains swinging in time with their exaggerated walk, two were dark skinned, one was white, but all wore baseball hats pushed high over spotty cruel faces and jeans hanging barely above the knee.

"Brov what have we got here, banging gyaldem," the middle one said to his minions as he sauntered up to where I stood. I tried not to look at them hoping they would go away and leave me alone. No such luck, he moved even closer with the other two heming me in against the curved tiled wall of the station. He reached out placing his hand on the wall over my head getting very close.

"You look like a bitch that knows a thing or two," he leered grabbing my breast through my coat. His touch broke the spell that held me.
"Leave me alone," I screamed slapping away his hand. More hands pawed me from all sides, grabbing at me and my bag. I held on tight, screaming and lashing out but I was alone on the platform and at their mercy.

From nowhere a dirty hand punched the middle thug sending him flying. It was the tramp from the top of the platform he pushed the others back and stood in front of me blocking them.

"Brave boys ait you against one little girl," he said in a surprisingly cultured accent.

"Kotch brov this ain't your beef, sketch or it be dred, in-it," the downed yob snarled at the tramp. God knows what he had said but I prayed it would not mean I would be alone with them again.

"Then dred it will be," said the tramp. He was buried in an avalanche of fists and feet, striking back for an instant but soon he was overpowered. The steel of the blade flashed bright as it arched towards his body, glinting in the cold light of the florescent bulbs high above the platform. It thumped into the soft giving body of the tramp. I screamed but could not run, I screamed and no help came. The blade pulled out and a fountain of red splattered my legs and coat. The next time the knife sunk into its hilt is was the covered in the ruby blood of this poor man. The high whine of an approaching train filled my ears and the hoodie scum faltered and ran.

I kneeled beside the old tramp, I was a sobbing mess of snot, tears and blood splatters. I tried to hold back the flow of blood but it came from everywhere. The tramp looked at me with clear eyes and did the strangest thing. he smiled.

"Help is coming," I told him "help is on the way."

"It is alright darling, everything is going to be alright now, I have made it right again," he said in a weak voice but still smiling at me. The lake of blood was spreading across the tiles at an alarming rate. I waited for help that would never come in time. I cried as he closed his eyes and watched helplessly as the growing puddle of blood reached the edge of  the platform and cascaded away.

That had been three days ago, I had spend hours answering questions, looking at photos and filling out statements. I could not move from my bed since I got home, I was sick, I cried, I was terrified, I was scared. Today I watched the park from my window and knew if I did not leave the flat today, I never would.

I walked slowly through the surprisingly quiet mid morning streets naturally ending up at the train station, I had let my feet go where they would. I boarded the next train and it started its journey like it always had but today I got a seat. Counting down the stops I neared my destiny and my nightmare, at last the train slowed, I saw the signs reading 'Charing Cross' flash past the windows of the train. The doors opened with their customary woosh. I steadied myself before stepping out on the platform. I looked to the left expecting something different but the platform was unmarked, as if nothing had ever occurred and a life had not been taken so savagely.

I was pulled to the spot by an irresistible force, no stains remained, no mark of a man passing or a life destroyed, nothing except a single shirt button nestling against the base of the wall. I collapsed to my knees and dug the button out with cracked unpainted nails. I dont know if it was his or not, but seeing that button so innocently sitting in the palm of my hand broke the last string of control I had.

I don't know how long I sobbed, lying on the cold tiles, but the warmth of a hand stroking my hair invaded my desolation."There there darling," cooed a soothing voice. I wiped my eyes on my jacket sleeve and looked into a kind but greef drawn face a few years older than mine. In her hand she held a bouquet of flowers which she laid against the wall, a card sellotaped to it said 'Dad Xxx', she kissed her fingers and brushed the card with them, all the time holding me loosely with her other.

"You must be Christina, the girl my Dad helped," she said with a sad smile. I nodded searching her face for some shadow of the tramp I had passed time and again, her face was vividly clear to me but his was a blur of sideways glances half remembered.

"I am so sorry, it was all my fault," I sobbed "He would be alive if i had gone home earlier." I said giving words to the feeling of guilt that I was suffering, no matter how irrational.

"My Dad, died years ago," she said "you only brought him back to us at last.- Thank you."

"I don't understand," I said.

"Fourteen years ago, Dad was coming home after working a double shift and fell asleep at the wheel of his car. He woke up without a scratch, but the car had crashed through a bus stop. He killed a young nurse who was going in for a night shift at the hospital, she was waiting at the bus stop. In Court he received a suspended sentence but he would have preferred if they gave him life. Dad never would or could forgive himself. Outside the court house was the last time I ever saw him. He took off his tie and hugged me, he told me he loved me very much and I would be fine. He said he hoped I would understand one day, he just had to make things 'Right Again'. He walked away from me and left everything behind. All he had was the clothes he was standing up in," she recounted the story like she had practiced it thousands of times in tellings without end.

"He said that to me before he died," I said putting the pieces together "he said 'he had made it right again'."

She bent over me and kissed the top of my head, she whispered in my ear "You are his angel, you gave him peace, thank you, thank you from us all." I cried again but this time it felt different, not coming from such a dark place. This woman whom I had never met before but who I owed so much helped me to my feet. Together we took the first steps on my new journey, a journey to live up to a brave man's sacrifice.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Help, I'm locked in.



One day while working at reception I got a call from an elderly American lady.

"Good morning, reception, how can I help you" I said on picking up the phone.

"This is Mrs Bally in room 214 and I am locked into my bedroom, please get someone to let me out," said the irate woman. I happened to be by myself at the time and it was impossible for someone to lock themselves in so I thought I would see if I could talk her out.

"Sure thing Mrs Bally someone will be straight up but before you hang up the phone are you sure that it is not just a bit stiff," I asked.

"I am completely sure, I have been twisting and tugging at the door for the last ten minutes, it is definitely locked," she said tetchily. Just then it struck me that 214 was joined to 215 by an interconnecting door which would indeed have been locked.

"How many doors are in the room Mrs Bally," I asked.

"Three," she said.

"Have you tried the other doors," I asked.

"What do you take me for, the bathroom is behind the other door," she said.

"What about the third door Mrs Bally have you tried that one," I asked.

"Of course not, there is a 'Do not disturb' sign on it" she said. Once I got my laughter under control, I successfully talked Mrs Bally out of her self imposed imprisonment.