Tuesday, 30 June 2015

All Roads

All Roads, the final book in the Life & Times trilogy, goes out into the word today.  I wish it all the best as I am rather fond of that book. In fact I liked writing the whole trilogy, but I might be a bit biased. It’s not unlike having children, you know, and I have some of those too. You want to be protective and all that, but you just got to sit back and let it find its own way.

I remember when it was nothing more than a few notes and scraps of character. In fact the trilogy came about because I started three different versions of what I thought was the same story. 100 pages into each, it dawned on me and Born & Bred, Wandering in Exile, and All Roads were the result.

It is not—and I repeat not—autobiographical even though much that happens in the books did happen, but not to me. I just happened to be nearby when it did.

The responses so far have been mixed, to say the least, and that is not a bad thing. The story of Danny and the rest of them; Deirdre, the kids, Jacinta & Jerry, Miriam, Patrick and the rest are the stories of people I have watched cope with the ever changing times I have lived through. 

The past plays a role as it does in real life and today, just like every other day, the past is the backdrop and we struggle to be free of it.

Since writing the story, I have moved and am slowly settling into a very different reality but I look back at the 4 years I spent in my writing chair with a mix of pride and nostalgia. There are new and different books waiting to be written but today I’ll take a moment to sit back and acknowledge Danny Boyle for all that he taught me.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Following the Muse: Part 3


On April 25th 1974, a military coup ended the rule of the “Estada Nova,” the Portuguese dictatorship that had lasted for the better part of 50 years. The revolution was remarkable in that there were very few casualties. Four people were killed by the security police. The soldiers who led the revolt were embraced by the people who rushed out to join them in the streets and placed flowers in their rifles giving us “The Carnation Revolution.” And on April 25th of this year I watched the anniversary celebrations in the middle of Lisbon.

Supporters of the ousted regime—and there are a few, including our local butcher who was but a child when the revolution happened—probably took grim solace in that, as we stood listening to aging idealists making speeches and singing songs of celebration, the skies were grey and foreboding and soon let loose their rains.
Those who came to celebrate the past and the future were uncertain. Austerity bites deep here and the Portuguese that I have come to know are much more invested in politics than most. Salazar, the dictator, is still a divisive figure here but pales when compared to “The Troika,” – the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Still, if we are in dark times, let us remember that it is always darkest before the dawn.

Despite my optimism, I left as the rain grew heavier and spent the evening reading about the first kings of Portugal—an interesting bunch of characters that I will return to in a later post.
Toward the very edge of the world

Despite their tendency towards lugubriousness, I am finding the Portuguese to be a warm friendly people. Friends that I only knew through social media, Vanda & Miguel and their delightful son, Afonso, took us on a wonderful tour of the Sintra area where the nobility liked to spend their summers since Moorish times—and probably before.
It’s the type of place that appeals to the senses, warm and fertile, and the gentle rains and mists would make any Celt feel at home. It is not unlike the west coast of Ireland only with fewer seasons per day.

The hillsides are dotted with spectacular mansions that date back centuries, growing more spectacular as they rise up the sides of the mountain to where an old castle dominates.

Beyond that, we also visited Cabo da Roca which is the most westerly point on the European mainland. The 16th-century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões described Cabo da Roca as “Onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa” --"where the land ends and the sea begins."

It is a remarkable place that reminds you of your tiny place in it all, but does take it's toll on the foolhardy who step to close to the edge while taking selfies. I kid you not!


Ancient forests

But it was the next stop on our tour that really piqued my interest. Miguel, who holds degrees in Biology, brought us into the primeval forest. Spared the last ice age, it contains trees that are different to the senses. It is hard to describe except that you know that you are somewhere new yet very, very familiar.

Among the trees are rock formations that seem surreal. Great big blobs of things, stacked precariously on top of each other and somehow refusing to roll off down into the sea. They were probably left there by glaciers but it doesn’t take a lot of fancy to imagine giants might have had a hand in it. Really. Some, in particular, seemed very inviting to the old Celt that lurks inside of me—not to mention the recluse.

Audience participation

Coming around the corner of a busy downtown street, I stood bemused as a long line of people queued to step into a hole in the ground. Really! Traffic was blocked but no one seemed to mind, passing it off with a shrug.

Like most things that happen here, there was a very simple explanation but rather than tell you, I will invite suggestions. The first correct suggestion (email to with “hole in the street” as the subject matter) will win a signed copy of one of my titles.

I might even consider offering one for the most humorous, too.
Until the next time,


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Following the Muse: Part 2

Saying goodbye to all that and learning to walk in clown shoes.


“Do you have jobs lined up?” they asked as they tried to understand what could drive reasonable, normal people to abandon the New World for the Old. “Do you have a house there? Do you have family there? Do you speak the language? What will you do?”
It was well meant and considerate, but at times I felt as I imagine the Portuguese navigators felt when setting out on their famous voyages from Belem which is just down the coast from where I write. After all, we now know the world is reasonably round and the chances of falling off the edge are slim.
I was saying goodbye to Toronto, Canada—a place I had lived in for almost forty years—the place where I met my wife and raised my children. It was where I worked and played for two thirds of my life. It was the place where I finally shed some of my demons and a place that I will remember fondly, though not as fondly as Dublin because that place is, and always will be, in my blood.
But Canadians (not unlike others) tend to believe that they live in the best country in the world—something that is reinforced by every politician seeking public office—so the idea that we would voluntarily quit Utopia was a bit beyond the pale.
I can accept that as I grew up just outside the pale and have spent most of my existence there, one way or another. You see, I had grown tired of the climate in Canada. And I had grown tired of watching more and more of the things I liked being replaced by things I have little time for. I suppose, in part, that I am getting older and want to spend more time enjoying the things that I value in life.
And that led me back to Portugal, that odd little place on the edge of Europe. Renowned for its faded glory, its hours of sunshine, its beautiful food, Fado and the lumpy lugubriousness of its people, it is a place not unlike Ireland in some ways but with far better weather.
I had been here a few years ago and had decided then that this was the place for me. Since then, the grinding years of austerity had taken a heavy toll but that too will end. Downtown, where tourists sit sipping coffees in the sun there is a steady procession of the victims of economic turmoil seeking help. Some are local but many are the more professional Roma from the Balkans who have also branched out into selling knock-off sunglasses and drugs—which are decriminalized here. Sometimes they combine all three activities and can be very persistent.  I did give in and bought a pair of clip-on shades but I was advised that the blocks of hash are most likely bouillon cubes coated with thin veneer of hash. Maybe some night when I am cooking something special . . .
The language is currently beyond me. My wife, who was born in the Azores, assures me it is phonetic but I can’t see that. I have tried adding ‘o’ and ‘a’ to the end of English words but that hasn’t worked.  Here the ‘ush’ sound dominates and ‘c’ sound like ‘s’ and ‘x’ like ‘c’. I am not concerned. I have learned to say that I do not speak Portuguese and smile like a total idiot. It works for now while I try to learn new things to say.
I am being a touch facetious as I have already mastered ordering coffee, gassy water and, of course, small cigars. I can say “good day,” “good afternoon,” “good night,” and “thank you” and with the right smile, that’s enough to get me through most situations.
Oh, and I have learned to explain that my dog is a bitch, which is the question on every dog-walkers lips. Sometimes I explain it with such ease that I invite further conversation and that’s when my limitations get exposed. Oh well, maybe by next week I can learn to say that the dog has some highly contagious Canadian disease and everyone would be better staying away from us.
But that’s not what I signed up for. I will learn to speak and I will learn to write. After all I am walking the same streets as Pessoa, and glimpsing much of what had disquieted him.


 Mostly the hills; Lisbon is also built on seven hills and walking in any direction requires a level of fitness and stamina not dissimilar to that found in Olympians – particularly the cross country skiers. After the first few days my feet were so sore that I could only wear my over- sized shoes—the ones I had bought to walk the dog through the snow and ice back in Toronto. They are not so much fashionable as practical but they do tend to flop around a bit—not unlike clown shoes.
Most of the time, I can keep them under control except on the walk back to our apartment.
In the length of a football field we climb the equivalent of five to six stories while twisting and turning like a dog’s hind leg. And that just gets us to the bottom of our street. Then we have to climb another two stories of steps to reach our front door. From there it is a simple matter of climbing the stairs to our apartment on the fifth floor! And all the time in clown shoes!
Naturally we are looking for a more permanent abode at a more suitable elevation and that is turning into an exciting venture of its own.  I will tell you about that the next time.





Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Publication Day

As Wandering In Exile, the second book in the Life & Times trilogy, goes out to meet the world, I wanted to mark the event with a few comments.

This is my third published work and while it never gets old, nothing can match the feel of the very first time—in this and many other things. Lagan Love will always be my wayward child of a book.

It was very different in that it was my humble homage to the side of Dublin I was most fond of—the literariness of the place. Back then, the pubs that I hung around in—callow youth that I was—were places where the giants of Irish writing had been and were still remembered and revered as the cultural pop stars that they were. Greats who were so very, very mortal too, even while shrouded in mythology.

In Born & Bred, I wanted to look at something very different but in many ways no less shrouded in mythology. Family with it ties and restraints.

Family has been described as the warm nest of love and nurturing by some, and a stinking cesspool of shared neurosis by others. My own experience—and my observations of others—suggest that while the experience of family can be one or the other, more often family is a mixture of both to greater or lesser degrees.

Now I’m not so cynical but I do strive for honest understanding as much as I can.

Family can be very caring and forgiving but can also be the breeding ground for delusion and denial. This was Danny Boyle’s experience when, as a young lad, he was raised to believe in something that he could never reconcile with the world he grew up in.

Perhaps that was because at the end of the day it is what we do that counts more than what we say and nowhere is this more obvious than in the core business of family—the raising of children.

Case in point being that Danny was raised in a pious household by a grandmother whose celebrated and admired husband had taken part in the armed conflict that liberated the land. Small wonder then that Danny should end up holding a gun.

The Ireland that he and I grew up in, like many other places, celebrated the righteousness that is the witch’s brew we concoct when we mix matters of Church and State while also endorsing those who would go out and kill for the cause. And for that sin, some of Danny’s friends, and many others who were far more real, paid with lives.  

While much of Born & Bred deals with the ramifications of family and legacy, Wandering In Exile is about the actualities of getting on with life. Danny survives his brush with fate and begins a new life in Canada and when Deirdre joins him they do what so many of us have done—start a family of their own. (Oh, if only we knew then what we know now.)

Now I won’t spoil the read on you but suffice to say that raising a family far from kith and kin presents its own myriad of problems. And like many of us, Danny and Deirdre set out to raise the children better than their parents had which I hope might draw a smile from those readers that are grandparents.

Life, as we live it today, can be very confusing and tiresome. Struggling to balance the demands of our working lives against the incessantness of young children leaves most of us so drained that bedtime cannot come soon enough. But we get through it all somehow.

In the case of Danny and Deirdre, it is at a cost but you, the reader, can decide if it was worth it.

I have my own opinions which are expounded upon in the last book, All Roads, which deals with consequences, personal and universal.

And if you do have a read for yourself, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

For a review please see:


Monday, 15 December 2014

Following the muse to wherever

Over the last few years, as I labored on the Life & Times trilogy, I listened to the music of Madredeus. I like to write to music, particularly passionate music, because it sets the mood for inking in the nuance of character, etc. And, while much of the story deals with Danny Boyle, an Irishman, his growing up in Ireland, his move to Canada, and his trials and tribulations, I found Madredeus’s arrangements of Portuguese folk music set the perfect mood for what I intended to be a universal story.

And, as is often the case in life, this led to that and I found myself fascinated by a single word: Saudade. Over at Wikipedia they suggest that:

Saudade is a Portuguese or Galician word that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing, moved away, separated, or died.

But something else caught my ear in the aforementioned music, and in the hours of Fado that I have enjoyed. There was something ethereal that awoke a thread of the common memory I believe we all share, even if only subconsciously.

“Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one's children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.” 

So? You may ask. What has all of this got to do with an Irish writer living in exile?

Well I’ll tell you. I still have a bit of the wild Celt in me. I am, despite my best efforts to conform to the world around me, a nomad at heart and am about to head off into the great and wonderful world to go and look at the places that hold significant interest for me. I probably won’t get to see them all but I don’t worry about such things anymore.

And, as a Celt, I have always been drawn towards the edges of the world. Before the Romans, and Gothic kings, the edges of Iberia were populated by Celts. When the Romans encroached, as they were wont to do, many of them (the Milesians in particular) packed up their belongings and headed to Ireland.

Whether or not I am descended from them, I am drawn back and the pragmatic side of me agrees. After thirty-six Canadian winters, life in a warmer climate beckons. So, in the spring of next year, I am selling up all that I have and moving to Lisbon with my wife and my dog and very little else.

Now I am not a wealthy man despite the presumption that all published authors sleep on mattresses stuffed with hundred dollar bills. I am simply divesting myself and going back to what I was when I was young and foolish: a wander who followed his heart.

One of the things writing books has taught me is to learn to determine what is essential and what is padding. I am still learning this but when I looked up from my pages, I couldn’t help but look at my life that way—something that is compounded as I filter through all the stuff in the basement.

Now I do not discard my life in North America so lightly. I came here as a very troubled and disquieted young man, tormented by demons and looking for a fresh start. Unlike poor Danny Boyle, I found one and managed to put much that troubled me in the bottle and firmly cork it. I became a husband and a father here and, depending on who you talk to, not the worst of them!

I will always cherish the times I spent with my two boys when they were young and full of wonder. (They still are but they must follow their own guidance now—which is the way things are supposed to be.) They are both in the early twenties now and more than capable of finding what they want from life on their own. They are always welcome to come and visit but the parental phase of my life is over and I am moving on to the next adventure.

Writing Life & Times reminded me that life, no matter how it is lived, is always about phases and stages and that I was never the type to settle for meandering into dotage. There is still so much to see and do.

For my loving wife, too. She will have to manage the transition from mother back to woman, and that should be exciting.

Now the reason for sharing all of this with you is I am planning to write about all of this as it unfolds. Once I am settled in Lisbon, secure in a nice little place in Alfama, I intend to wander through what was once Al-Andalusia in search of all the was lost in the Reconquista.

Now before you start imagining me riding a stallion at the head of a horde of Berbers, I want you to know that I am going to see the places where science and medicine once blossomed at time when the rest of Europe was using leeches and slashing each other with swords.

You see, for me, as I look around the world today and see the new versions of the old hates, I long for a deeper understanding and a sense of peace. It is the view of Fr. Patrick Reilly, of Life & Times, that in many ways the world is no better, nor worse—that it still spins on its same old axis, sometimes wildly and sometimes gently. And, having written it, I have decided to go and see what was true and what was nothing more than a rationale for war and conquest.

Not that I am going to bore you all with a revision of the retellings of all the distortions of history. I am going to write about the lingering echoes of the really important things in life—the story of ordinary, everyday people still living in places that can still fill us with wonder. Places like Cordoba, Seville, Granada, the great wonder that is Alhambra, and of course the narrow, hilly little streets of Alfama.

The good folks at The Story Plant have kindly agreed to publish the accounts of this adventure as it unfolds so, if you are interested, check back for more.
(Originally posted at

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Signin' on at Werburgh Street.

Gerry hated going to Werburgh Street and shuffling along for doleful pittances. He never got used to it. He was a working man at heart even if he'd no work for years. One of these days, he'd lead the muttering grumbling masses to Leinster House, to demand the striped-shirted Seamuses, give up at least, a tithe from their thievery – they'd all that European money flowing in, and in Dublin, all monies passed through the same greasy hands. But the masses knew no other way. Their remittance begrudged through barred wickets; all revolution bred out of them; they lingered at the mercy of remote corporations and Public representatives for aggrandisement. No one cared about them: never had and never would. He signed his cards and queued again for his few Pounds at the other end of the hall.

            “Have you been looking for work, Mr. Morrison?” the woman asked with disdain.

            “I have indeed, but no one wants to hire old fellas like me. It's a young man's . . .”

            “Have you considered getting retrained?”

            “I have, but I'm a bit old for that.”

            “You'll never get anywhere with an attitude like that.”

            They were giving everybody a hard time. It was how they got them to fuck-off to England; there was always work in England. “And where is it that I should be getting to?”

Friday, 28 November 2014

Meet old Joan, one of my favourite characters

“Would you mind if I sat here?”
Janice blinked into the wrinkled face of an old woman in a large floral hat dripping raindrops. She flopped into the chair and began to tap on the table with the strange bird-like handle of her umbrella. “I must get a cup of tea into me. Who do you have to talk with to get a cup of tea around here?” the old woman repeated into the space behind her shoulder and, turning to Janice, added, “I'm parched and it's raining so much outside.”
She found this amusing and cackled. She continued to wave until someone brought her a teapot, a cup and saucer, milk and a bowl of sugar. She splashed tea across the table and into her cup. She fumbled with bony hands deep within her massive handbag until she found her pills. She rolled two of them onto her spoon, tipped it onto her tongue and swallowed a mouthful of hot tea. She burped silently and implored Janice’s pardon. She smiled between the cup and the spoon, still raised to her face that was impish despite the lines of age and lines of doubt and fear.
Janice was becoming interested, but for the longest time, the old woman sat there, tilting forward every now and then to take another sip of tea. Time passed and the old woman sat in the euphoria of her tea, turning at times to comment on the weather. At first, Janice thought she was trying to converse, but no matter what she said, the old woman didn't reply. Janice returned to her diary, but the old woman showed no sign of noticing. She continued to sip her tea and mutter about the weather. Janice smiled up at her every now and then, just to be polite, and as she was about to leave, the old woman raised her eyes and stared at her.
“What has you so frightened?”
Janice might have lied, but there was no point. “Too many strange things have happened since I came here.”
“Oh! That sounds exciting.”
Janice had to smile. Reluctantly at first, she began to speak, but as the words unfolded, she found comfort in her odd companion’s attention and, with a growing sense of release, told the whole story of her outing to Howth.
As the old woman listened, she started to nod her head and Janice felt more encouraged. She tried to make it sound whimsical, like she was more curious than alarmed. When she finished, she waited for the old woman to comment, but she was hunched forward, as if she was still listening.
“So?” She regretted saying so much. Now that it was out there, it sounded like madness.
“I see,” the old woman finally answered and returned to pottering among her thoughts.
“What do you see?” Janice blurted as impatience got the better of her. “Isn’t that the strangest thing you have ever heard?”
“Oh, no, not at all, the very same thing happened to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“The very same thing happened to me a long time ago, when I was a young woman. I was walking with my young man, just along from the very same pier. We used to like to walk along the cliffs, too, because, back then, we didn’t go to the cinema that often, and of course, there was no television, either. Not that I am a big fan of television, mind you. I prefer reading a nice bit of poetry every now and then. Do you like poetry, my dear?”
Janice nodded; she didn't want to break the silky threads that held the old woman’s gossamer thoughts together.
“Isn’t it wonderful when someone can write a poem that takes you somewhere, even if it's only for a moment or two? And I prefer the old style of poetry because it makes more sense. I can't understand why modern poets don’t learn to rhyme better, don’t you agree? But then again, you're young and you might like modern poetry, especially if it's written by a handsome young man who wants to take you for walks along Howth Head and wants to try to steal a kiss when nobody is looking.”
Janice nodded and wondered how much this crazy old woman could read from her face.
“You mustn’t let them do that, you know!”
“Do what?”
“You mustn’t let the young men kiss you. They're only after the one thing, even the good ones. But they're the ones who'll wait until you're married and appreciate you all the more for making them wait.”
The old woman lowered her head to her raised teacup and looked inside. “That's what I don’t like about television. People meet and start kissing each other all over the face and then start to take their clothes off, right there in front of everybody. I never watch after that because I don't want to see people committing sins. You're not like those people, are you? Are you?”
“Oh, no, of course not,” Janice answered, trying not to think of the night on all fours in her room, “I do like to kiss and cuddle a bit, but you're right, they appreciate it more when you make them wait. But tell me more about what happened to you at Howth.”
“Oh, yes, my dear, I was just about to tell you about that. It was very strange. It was like one of those things you read about in the poems by those English poets – you know the ones that took all that opium – like the fellow who wrote about Kubla Khan.”
“Who, my dear?”
“Coleridge”, Janice repeated.
“Oh! No! I think that it was Coleridge who wrote that poem. But I'm often wrong. Sometimes I wonder if reading all about them and their adventures didn’t addle my brain a little. Have you ever tried opium?”
“Good for you and neither have I. But I've heard of girls who have and then can't get enough and go running off to places like Constantinople and become white slaves to the Sultan. They take off all of their clothes, too, and let the Sultan use them carnally, if you can believe it – and all for opium. It's a shame. Someone should try to do something about it, don’t you think?”
“Yes, yes it's a terrible thing, but you were telling me about Howth. You used to walk there with your young man. Did he marry you?”
“Oh, no, he died years ago.”
She returned to her teacup as the settling sun hopscotched through holes in the clouds and through the fogged-up window. In the place between them, above the tea-stained table, dust and smoke particles gathered in the beams and were gone when the café moved beneath the clouds, but her silence remained.
“How did he die,” Janice asked as delicately as her curiosity would allow.
“Who died, my dear?”
“The young man you were telling me about.”
“Oh, yes, I must be getting addled. Well, let me tell you, he was walking along the cliffs one night and jumped into the sea and was never seen again.” She nodded in agreement with her own lingering statement and raised her cup again but didn't drink. “It was terrible, but I suppose in some ways it wasn’t so bad. He used to have seals come up to him, too, so I'm sure that they are good company for him now – but that might have been because he used to cut up fish.”
“Cut up fish?”
“Yes, dear, he worked in the fishmongers. He always brought a nice bit of plaice for my father when he called around. He used to bring mackerel, too. I'm very fond of mackerel.”
“You were saying that he jumped in?”
“Yes, he went mad for something or other and jumped in. He was mad surely because he was out walking alone on a bitter night in January. Perhaps he was taking opium.” And for a moment, the old woman nodded at the plausibility. “Of course, I had stopped seeing him before this on account of his going mad and all, but I heard stories from the other young women of the time. They told me that he went mad and jumped – right into the sea. I'm surprised he wasn’t broken open on the rocks on the way down, somebody was looking out for him that night.”
“But he did die?”
“Oh, yes, of course he died, he jumped off the cliff! But he died in one piece, and he was a fine handsome man. It would have been a shame if he had died all broken into pieces. There are some that say that he can still be seen out at Howth in January, but what kind of person would go out there then; they would have to be touched in the head, if you know what I mean. They never found his body, either. I think the seals took him down into their place under the water.”
“And why do you think they did that?”
“Because he smelled of fish, were you not listening to me at all?”
Janice sat back in her chair and looked this old woman over. Her hat was decorated with freshly plucked stems of fledgling flowers and her eye shadow was kingfisher-blue and her cheeks a smudged red. It would have made her look whorish if she wasn’t so old. She wore a slender silver chain around her neck, dangling a white gold cross on which hung the dying Jesus. She had her handbag on her lap and had folded her arms on top of it. She was about to ask for more tea when a middle-aged couple whispered together for a moment before walking straight to their table. He took the old woman by the hand and gently helped her to stand up. “Come on now, Aunt Joan, it’s time to get you back to the home.”
“Who are you and what do you want with me? Are you one of the Sultan’s eunuchs?”
“C’mon now, Joan,” he took her elbow firmly, but gently. “Let’s get you back to the home before the night.”
As they struggled to move her away the younger woman turned to Janice, “I hope she wasn’t bothering you, she's my husband’s aunt, and she gets a bit scattered sometimes. She forgets herself and gets a bit confused. I hope she wasn’t bothering you.”
“Oh, no,” Janice re-assured her, “No, actually she was lovely company.” And for reasons she didn't understand, Janice added, “She was just telling me about Howth.”
The other woman’s face changed and she exchanged a glance with her husband before she stepped closer to Janice and spoke softly. “Did she tell you what happened that poor young man? That’s when her mind snapped, watching him fall right before her eyes. Anyway, thanks, and I hope she wasn’t a bother.”
They ushered the old woman out the door to the waiting car and drove off as the rain started again, hesitantly at first, until it gained the courage to pelt the streets and windowpanes. The wind tore at overcoats and twisted passing umbrellas inside out.
Janice sat and stared at the street as the car rounded a corner.
What was that all about? Am I crazy – is she crazy – or is all of Dublin crazy?
She closed her journal and left as the evening rush began. The buses were crowded and crawled along, squealing and shuddering. She decided to walk and raised her umbrella against the teasing winds that rushed out from the passing side streets. She headed toward the Green. It was where the gentry strolled when they came to town for the season. She would find peace and collect herself among the whisperings of spring before the gates were locked.
Since the English departed, the Irish had raised statues among the trees and shrubs. But they weren't the trumpeting statues of heroes who had risen in resistance. These statues celebrated the poets and playwrights who had kept the spirit alive, writers who blended myth and martyrdom, fact and fancy, and even after a half-century of church-dominated self-rule, their words still hovered.
She stopped by the Yeats’ monument. Henry Moore had really got it right. She would have to paint it, the half-man, half-cross before a senate of mythology. When she squinted a little, it looked like one of the faces from Easter Island. From another side, it looked like a Spanish dancer, but from the front it was plain, the cross on a restless grave.
She tugged at her journal and settled down on the cold damp stone. She flicked through the first few pages. She had a done sketch, somewhere at the beginning, one of her early ones. Ah, she found it. She had captured it and added a few notes. But there was something else, something she hadn't remembered writing;
Until she came into the Land of Fairie,
Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,
Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,
Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue.
And she is still there, busied with a dance
Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood,
Or where stars walk upon a mountain-top.