On Your Way Son

On Your Way Son

It’s a time of wonderful transition in anyone’s life. High school exams a recent memory, a feeling of euphoric relief washing over a never before felt trepidation as we stand on the edge of the daunting void, the unknown entity that is the future.

For me, the time came in 1997. Facing my future alone for the first time in my life. No school friend sense of solidarity, nobody to tell me what to do. Just me and a headful of well-meaning advice.

“It’s what we call independence,” my Father would say. He should know. He left school at 14, started work the day after. Followed his own burning ambition to the UK and climbed his own personal career path right to the top, plaudits and media glare never far behind. A tough act to follow? You can sing it.

His standards were high, but he was supportive in every way. University wasn’t for me. My education was important to me, but the avenue would have to change. And anyway I was 17, it was 1997, my self-perceptions were built upon the foundations of the trendy, north of England Britpop swagger, the outward confidence inspired by an Oasis-led working class revolution, and I wanted cash in my pocket.

My confidence was purely outward. This was a colossal transition – far too big for self-assurance. I was inwardly uncertain bordering on nervous as I applied for what I described as my dream position. An apprenticeship in graphic design. My teenage brain said “yeah. This is cool, arty.  I could do this!”

Dressing formally for an interview at 17 years of age only adds to the nerves. That feeling of buttoning the shirt all the way to the top, before stifling yourself with a tie. My heart was pounding as my father ran his mock interview questions by me in the car. In reality he wasn’t helping, only adding to the overwhelming sense of foreboding as our destination limbered into view. We stopped outside the entrance and my Dad left the engine running. I guess I was somehow expecting him to lead me in and do the talking for me. For the first time that day my Father looked me in the eye. “Well, are you ready?” His smile was reassuring, he was good at that. “Just be yourself, be natural. I’ll be waiting for you when you come out, we’ll get lunch, my treat.” I smiled and nodded. “Go on then” he said, “on your way son.” That was his line when he trusted me.

I paused before I entered, facing nothing more than a mere prospect. I was genuinely scared as I pulled the glass door open, my CV providing an unlikely comfort screen as I took my seat in reception. For the first time in my life I could actually see my heart beat – my shirt pulsing as I sat waiting. I glanced up at the wall mounted clock. I comforted myself with the fact that when the big hand got all the way around I’d be outta there. Childish but reassuring at a moment when I needed something.

“Five minutes!” The gruff female voice punctured the calm air and startled me from my semi-daydream. “Sorry?” I replied. “Gerry will be with you in five minutes love!”

I had heard of Gerry Davitt. He was one of those entrepreneurial brain boxes with a hand in everything. He was a businessman – a name.

I glanced at the array of awards and plaques decorating the walls with no idea what they represented. It was a rather unassuming place, dusty blinds allowed shards of September sun to emanate from the window over which they hung. There was a radio playing somewhere behind the receptionist’s desk, a tin-like muffled sound which provided more irritation than entertainment. The volume was low enough to allow the dull ticking of the clock to filter through. It carried a soothing charm and unlikely source of temporary escape.

“Now then, you must be Craig.” I looked up alarmed. How did I not hear him approaching? Not a sound. No door opening, no footsteps – nothing! I stood and offered my hand. “Thanks for coming, I’m Gerry” he smiled. “Sorry for keeping you waiting.” The Yorkshire accent when spoken with the correct tone is wonderfully warm and welcoming, as was his handshake. Continue reading “On Your Way Son” »

Christmas Lights

 

Christmas Lights

It was the day before Christmas Eve, in the year of Our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Eight. Maggie, who was Paddy Donnelly’s wife of twelve years, gave him some money to go and purchase some decorations for the Christmas tree. But before she parted with the money she gave him strict instructions not to buy anything from second-hand shops, cheap markets, or anything made in Hong Kong but above all…not to buy anything from Gerry Stanley.

“I’m giving you three pounds Paddy and I expect some change back as well. I’d go myself but I haven’t the time, as I have to have this house in tiptop condition before my Mother, Phil and that stuck-up wife of his and their three brats come over for Christmas dinner” she paused briefly before continuing “and I won’t get it done with you hanging around”

Paddy wore a solemn look and made to cough before responding as he took the three crisp pound notes from Maggie’s outstretched hand. “I can put up with Phil and Marjorie and those kids to a point, but it’s your Mother that really unnerves me, why she has to poke her nose into everything every time she sets foot in this house is beyond me”

“Paddy! let’s not go there” Maggie replied in her best vexed pose “she only gets to come a couple of times a year so the least you can do is be clean, smart, and be nice to her when she does come, now be gone with you and don’t take all day” as she angrily wiped crumbs from the formica kitchen table.

Paddy hated when Maggie was like this, she was always on tender hooks whenever her sister in-law visited, coupled with the fact that Maggie’s mother thought the world of her daughter in-law ‘My son married a real lady there, and you wouldn’t see Marjorie wearing anything cheap and vulgar’ she was fond of saying, especially in close proximity of Paddy’s earshot. This real lady malarkey nonsense really irked Paddy, as he was sure that his mother in-law, whenever given the chance was quick to fire a shot across her bow at him. She’d never forgiven Maggie for marrying me Paddy thought. Well I’ll show the lot of them, what a real Christmas should be like’ Paddy said to himself as he hopped on the number fifty nine bus into Oldham. Continue reading “Christmas Lights” »

A Christmas to remember

A Christmas to remember

“Christmas Lights?”
“Yeah Paddy, they’re all the rage now…and I can let you have a set for only two pounds”
“Janey Mac, I don’t know Gerry, two pounds is a lot of money. And anyway, what in God’s name would I do with them”
“Ah ha Paddy, that’s the beauty of em, you place them on your Christmas tree, starting from the top, down to the bottom, and there you have it, a mini version of the Blackpool illuminations, right there in the corner of the livin room…just think of it. You’ll be the envy of all your neighbours and relatives”
“They sound awfully complicated to me, I think I’ll just stick to the ordinary decorations…and anyway the last thing I bought from you, never bloody worked. Anyway, Maggie will go mental if I buy those yokes from you”
“Well Paddy, you’re the one that’ll miss out on a great bargain, their selling for six pounds in the shops, and just think what a great surprise it’ll be. The kids will remember this Christmas forever, not to mention, the satisfaction Maggie I’ll get, when that, stuck-up auld bitch of a sister in law of her’s, see’s those pretty little lights, flashing away in the corner…you’ll be the one, they’ll all look up, plus the fact, I’m throwing in a cardboard village to go with them as well”
It was the pride that overwhelmed Paddy Donnelly that day, the thought of being a hero to his kids, and their friends, and also the source of Marjorie’s displeasure, Maggie’s sister in-law, that finally sealed the deal. Continue reading “A Christmas to remember” »

The Well

Najua

Najua’s large bright eyes glanced ponderously from the lines of chanting women as they danced exuberantly under a hot African sun. Her feet stamped in rhythm to the beat of local drums. Red dust rose from the fine dry soil. Melodic native sounds of shrill female voices echoed through the bush. Children ran excitedly, weaving between the colorful ranks of their mother’s exotic exhibition of culture. The Elders assembled with officious bearing. The men watched from a respectful distance. Two engineers worked frantically, connecting pipes and tightening nuts on the new equipment that would fundamentally alter the daily lives of the women. A project so long promised and so much anticipated was about to become a reality.

There was nothing to drink as the village sweltered in the noon heat. It was four kilometers to the well. Every day for as long as she could remember, Najua walked a rough trodden path balancing a large plastic drum on her head. The journey was long, arduous and stalked with danger. The weight of her burden grew heavier and the quality of water steadily degraded as the years passed by. There was talk of aid from Europe but with so much demand by so many villages the chance of success was a lottery.

One day a delegation arrived at the village and sought a meeting with the elders. They sat and talked, drank a local beverage, sampled a native meal and departed in two white vehicles as quickly as they had arrived. They had delivered a message of hope to the villagers. Help would arrive…someday, they said. The village was on a list.

Two summers later a convoy came to the village. A peculiar looking truck stopped in the center of the settlement. Following an emotional but inspiring discussion the truck was rigged to perform the function of a powerful drill. Many hours of constant pounding ensued, then it stopped. The drilling was successful. Engineers unloaded an array of equipment. They set about assembling a pump. The women turned out in their entire splendor to witness the means that would end an eight-kilometer round journey to the well each day of their lives.

Najua nervously watched as the engineers joined the pump to the length of pipe emerging from the ground. Her large curious eyes stared as she stomped the ground in knowing rhythm to the local chants. Like the other women her arms and legs were richly adorned with bangles and beads. She clapped her hands and followed the motions of the dance while maintaining a cautious gaze on the brand new pump. The time anxiously approached to commence operations.

The engineers indicated that their work was complete. The women suspended their dance. The children grew silent. The men watched quietly. All eyes focused on the bright metal pump. One of the men came forward and took hold of the long iron handle. He lifted, and then dropped the handle in a quick pumping motion. Another man joined him. They both worked hard. The rays of the sun reflected dazzlingly off the shiny spout. A splutter of water appeared at the mouth of the pump. A spurt of dirty brown water followed. Then, nothing happened. The noise of gurgling water echoed from below the surface. The pumping action of the men gained momentum. Further spurts followed in conformity with their dedicated actions. A gush of water followed. Then a constant flow of clear fresh water spewed onto the dry soil. Rivulets traced along the parched ground and flowed towards the group of silent awestruck women. The cold fresh water touched their hot dusty feet. A woman cried out in her native dialect shattering the human silence. The female watchers whooped and chanted. They danced in grateful celebration for the new source of life. Najua’s large round eyes radiated happiness. The trek to the well was over…

Copyright Bill Cooke May 2012

Influence to kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Influence of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Published 1960) H/W by Patricia Loughnane

Brief synopsis

“A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this enchanting classic-a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.

Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties.

The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice.”

Style

  • First person narrative
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Child’s view of world
  • Characters have traits which reveal the culture of Maycomb and speak in their own style.
  • Humour pervades throughout even most serious scenes

Structure

  • The opening line is in fact referring to the last incident in the novel; where the story draws to a close but the reader doesn’t realise till the end. (It actually makes the reader go back to reflect)
  • Motif: mockingbird (gentle songbird that never hurt anyone)Pg 99 ‘it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’
  • Atticus’s sage advice throughout (makes the reader take sides)

Content

  • Race, class, education, poverty, violence, hypocrisy dealt with in the narrative (causing the reader to reflect)
  • Mystery man: Boo Radley (children nearly always have a bogeyman in their early childhood) adds intrigue as the reader asks whether it’s due to an overactive imagination or a real person that they have created the air of suspense around.

Language

Pg 19  ‘Now you tell your father not to teach you anymore…You tell him I’ll take over from here and try to undo the damage-‘Miss Caroline, the young new teacher form out of town cannot believe Scout is so advanced in reading so she tries to take control by being authoritative.

Pg 169. The mob are at the jail gunning to lynch the accused, Tom Robison but Scout intervenes in a way that no adult could have, ‘Atticus had said it was polite to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.’ Scout manages to touch a chord and the angry crowd disperse.

There’s so much more to tell but I’d recommend you read it for yourself when you want to dwell on what makes the human race tick and why it’s so diverse and yet fundamentally similar. EnjoyJJJ

Friends

 

Friends

 By what yardstick do you measure friendship?
When one is a friend, and when is one not? That is the question…
I once asked who I thought was a good friend of mine at the time, for the loan of three hundred and eighty two euro.
“What’s the two for?” he asked
“What two?” I replied
“You asked for three hundred and eighty two euro, I just want to know what the two euro is for that’s all. No harm in asking, is there?
“Oh that” I said while pretending to look over his shoulder nonchalantly at something in the distance “is the price of the booking fee”.
“The booking fee for what?” he inquired.

Christ! This was becoming more embarrassing by the moment. It was bad enough asking him for a loan in the first place. The man was worse than a tribunal judge and I’m sure if he were around during the Middle Ages, he’d have been one of the Spanish Inquisition’s rising stars. “Well, if you must know the three hundred and eighty two is to go towards a holiday”.
His countenance and his attitude changed completely. “A holiday…” he murmured. “Abigail and I haven’t been on one in years… and besides you’ve just come back from one.”
“Well”, I replied, “that’s not entirely the case: it was after all a funeral”.

Continue reading “Friends” »

InThe Beginning

In the beginning…

I took to the hills…

Don’t think about it. Just do it. Easier said than done! The advertisement in the Tipperary Star said, a ramble which didn’t sound too daunting, all welcome, whatever your level there’s a walk to suit everyone. By not analyzing too deeply the possible consequences of my imminent action, I plucked up the courage to get myself to the rendezvous point on time with trepidation…surely someone would speak to me even if they considered me to be a blow-in!

There’s the fire station looming ahead with its doors closed so all’s quiet in the sleepy rural heritage town, its prestigious landmark Cashel rock imposing over all who pass by at its foot. A few cars are lined up purring and waiting with intent…maybe they too are filled with would be hill walkers?  Taking a deep breath and remembering to grab my flimsy little bag holding my bottle of fresh locally sourced water and an apple for sustenance, I approach the small group gathered by the cars. I can’t help thinking they look seriously attired with thick waterproof jackets, woolly hats, thermal mitts, rucksacks, ropes, gaiters, walking poles, and very heavy duty boots! Eye contact is made, so apprehensively, I venture forth to ensure I am in the right place and the sea of faces turn to size up the newcomer. ‘Welcome! Yes, yes! This is the place…the B group will go on the moderate walk under Mary P’s supervision’. Surprisingly there’s no fee to be paid, all voluntary and they carpool. The leader of my ‘ramble’ or as now known B walk takes me under her wing and I am bundled into the car along with two other friendly walkers after having been reassured I will be fine.

It feels like being on a magical mystery tour as the car is driven deeper into the lush countryside. Introductions and pleasantries are exchanged as the landscape unfolds and demists as the morning sun rises. Is it the Galtees, Comeraghs, Knockmealdowns? Which county will we be in? Still Tipperary?  I sit quietly, taking it all in, contemplating the fact that I had made it thus far. I took to the hills.