Wednesday, May 04, 2016

I remember

Her name was Mrs. Hoare. She looked about 90 and she taught First Class (Grade 1). Now who'd forget a name like that?

I was six. Fresh out of the country and into a suburban school in Cork. An old national school once part of a village until urban sprawl had incorporated it. A smelly old school. Thick walls, uncertain heating system, we were always cold. Even in the spring.

We'd practise hymns. We were all getting ready for our First Communion and the RC church ran the schools, the hospitals, the orphanages, the old age homes and us.

Six. And we sang of hell fire and redemption and saints who died for Jesus.

And one of the girls, in a class of about 40, vomited all over the floor as we stood there singing.

And Mrs. Hoare?

Well, she flew into a rage. The priest was expected shortly to examine us all and make sure we were fit to confess our dreadful sins and be accepted, in our bridal dresses and veils, into the kingdom of the parish and thereafter heaven, if we did what we were told. You may laugh at the Taliban but Ireland is, was, and always will be a trendsetter in that regard.

And Geraldine Barry had the gall, the brazen brass of her, to throw up all over the wooden floor.

And Mrs. Hoare said we were all going to make up for this unforgiveable sin in the eyes of Jesus. We would all suffer along with Geraldine and stare at that filthy floor all day and learn of our mistakes, our evil natures. With the priest coming.

And he did. And the smell in that room was appalling. And little Geraldine, her freckles stood out like raindrops on her little white face. She hung on to the desk with her eyes downcast, tears trickling off her chin and on to her shoes. I can still see her page-bob hair, she had lovely bangs, we called it a fringe back then. None of the rest of us had fringes, they were too expensive to maintain. Good haircuts cost money and fathers made you look like a boy if you let them loose on your head with your brothers' hair trimming equipment.

When the priest saw the mess on the floor, he left the room, the smell was pretty bad then, permeating everything. I remember using all my energy to battle the rising bile in my stomach, biting my lower lip down so hard my teeth left marks.

He came back with a bucket of sawdust and threw it all over the mess. We were all still standing there shaking, as our mothers had bought our First Communion dresses. My mother had made mine. She got a gift of cream silk damask from a priest who still loved her but now lived in Egypt. I didn't know that story until I was old enough to talk unrequited love with her but he sent me a pendant in the post too, a non-Catholic one with a little hinged door on the front of it where I put my Granny's sixpence.

So what would happen if Father Sheehan now punished us by cancelling our big First Communion Day? Our mothers would be raging.

He chatted briefly with Mrs. Hoare and muttered something about her good job in teaching us all a valuable lesson in respect for property.

He fired off a couple of solid questions at us along the lines of: Who made the world? And we all chanted back at him: God made the world, fadder. And then he left us all to our vomit and sawdust.

And one month later little Geraldine of the perfect fringe and freckles was dead. Of meningitis.

The first funeral I was ever at.

She wore her gorgeous First Communion Dress as she lay in her white casket.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hangin' with my new friend.

Through a variety of circumstances which I won't get into here I'm spending a huge quantity of time with a 28 year old young woman. To my astonishment, we never run out of conversation and she has invested quite a degree of trust in me which warms my heart. I'd never met her before. And from an initial standoffishness I see how her face lights up when she sees me now and she introduced me to her 4 year old on the phone tonight. (She's lost custody of her babies)

She asks me intelligent questions about my life, how I came to this point, did I like being a mother, my job, my relationships.

She mentioned that she was going to a big birthday party for her grandmother in a few weeks' time and it was the first birthday she would ever attend for a really old person.

I asked her how old her grandmother was.

"Oh," she said, thinking for a minute,"70 or 80 I guess."

I guess we all look the same to the young'uns when we cross that old 40-50-60 mark.

But the sweetest thing, when I dropped her off at her parents' home tonight she says:

"Now you be sure to text me when you're safely in your door, k?"

I seriously can't remember when that was said to me last.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Jam

(1) I don't know about you but I get invigorated when I go out with a placard and protest. Which I did today. And we had massive media coverage. There was a great big pile of us protesting the appalling conditions of our roads. Unfit. Unsafe. Hazardous to people and vehicles. Don't get me started on what I've already spent on tires and rims shredded by the potholes craters. We'll see if we're heard. Maybe we need to throw ourselves across the road the next time if nothing is done. I thought those days were behind me. But I'm delighted to report: No, they never will be. We amused ourselves by planting trees, fairly large ones, in the potholes. Great for TV camera optics.

(2) Conversation with Leo, my sorta handyman, wood bearer and scavenger.
L: Do you know anything about Chuck Connors?
M: Rifleman!
L(delighted with me):Ya you!
M: Why did you ask?
L: I'd like to know more about him. So I can have a conversation with people. He was born in Newfoundland.
M: I can google him on my device, look!
L: No, it can't tell you everything, like who his parents were and stuff.
M: Yes, it does, look. Parents were Marcella Lundrigan and Allan Connors both from this area of Newfoundland. And get this: Chuck's real name was Kevin! He was born in Brooklyn, New York.
L: Can you repeat all that so I can remember it forever.
And I do.
L: I must get one of those googly machines.
M: Anytime Leo, I can do the asking for you.
L: It's magic.

(3)Daughter won a small cash prize and she's treating me to a replica of a Titanic Meal this Saturday night. Here, take a gander at the menu, click to enbiggen:
We're going to scramble around in our closets and find some old fashioned clobber to wear to match the event. I don't even own a dress anymore. Seriously. I'm a jeans woman. And black dress pants. So I may have to buy a long skirt and some pearls.

(4) My grief counsellor asked me to write about a traumatic event that took place in January 2015. I haven't been able to write about it, I would go into a state similar to of PTSD, shaking, crying, wanting to hurt myself physically. And then it all flowed out of me yesterday afternoon. And I finally realized what had happened to me. I was a victim of gaslighting. More later on that. But a mighty load was lifted. Mighty.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Getting Excited

We have an anthology coming out. We are in the final stages before the print/e -run. I can't believe it. My writing workshop series' harvest. The work, the work m'dears. Agony. Words become meaningless after stroking and stroking the sentences and paragraphs. Especially when in the depths of grief and despair as I have been. I never want to edit others' work again. Intense. Unless it's just one author or one book or one story. Not this enormous compendium of multiple and varied writing styles.

Many local authors including Daughter and I are featured. Many interesting memoirs and stories of times past around this gorgeous bay of ours. Some contemporary - one of Daughter's is about Brooklyn, NY. One of mine is a Cork city story.

I'm very proud of the bunch of them, so much talent previously unexplored. We're having fun planning multiple launches. We thought: background live music, samples of readings, food. We figure if all our families bought 50 each we'd have a best-seller. *Snort*. One family of one writer has ordered over 100 and will probably want more. I can't even imagine that kind of family love!

I'm into the last week of stroking here with a final pre-publishing meeting next week.

It's amazing. I'm amazed.

And thrilled beyond belief to see this baby take flight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016





noun: hospitality

the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

synonyms: friendliness, hospitableness, warm reception, welcome, helpfulness, neighborliness, warmth, kindness, congeniality, geniality, cordiality, courtesy, amenability, generosity, entertainment, catering, food
"we found nothing but hospitality among the local inhabitants"


modifier noun: hospitality

relating to or denoting the business of housing or entertaining visitors.
"the hospitality industry"

I just hosted a young teacher from Boston. She booked for one night and then booked another. We talked solid for both nights. She was in her early thirties and had travelled the world. It is extraordinary in this hospitality industry the deep connections that are possible. I think it's the opportunity to reinvent oneself. To present this temporary self: a shiny version of what one would like to project all the time to the world. Fresh, clean, no hang-ups, positive, tidy, organized and optimistic. A scintillating raconteur. A story teller par excellence. A few days of mutual discovery are just about right. Though I have hosted singles for nearly 2 weeks. Twice.

It shows me also I am not too reclusive, I love good conversation but not all the time. These interactions sharpen my skills and also extend me a little as I include breakfast so thus have to be a little creative in the culinary arts. But not too much.

The gregarious part of my "gregarious loner" status comes out to play and interact. And that is all good. And to get paid for what I love to do is pretty damn amazing.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


I'm trying to think of happy deaths. You know, death surrounded by loved ones, favourite music playing, candles lit, hugged and loved to "the other side" from the peaceful hospice or home.

I can only think of one. One!

We have industrialized death. All the way through to formaldehyding bodies and encasing them in expensive varnished caskets and "laying them to rest" in ridiculous funeral "homes".

(See all the sanitizing language used?)

But it's the pre-death procedures that have me appalled. Final days, hours, minutes in a sterile hospital room or worse, a noisy ward full of strangers. Tubes and drugs and chemical injections. Bruised, battered and bloodied from all the medical procedures and "interventions". Especially, oh especially, when there is no hope. One is terminal. Stop the procedures already. Let me go home, my precious home, or a serene hospice, away from the loudspeakers, the clanking trolleys, the anguish of strangers, the nauseating smell of industrial food permeating the corridors.

Surely, mein gott surely, in this 21st century, a doctor, specialist, surgeon, knows when there's no hope. So why doe she put a terminal patient through surgeries, through chemo, through radiation when there is only a few months of life left? Surely it is all about the quality of that life then, rather than misery and hopelessness and immobility and the body unable to heal from incisions and the patient confined to bed and bedsores (misery piled upon misery)worried as in D****'s case, about the last thing left to her, her brain, abandoning her too? Or in H****'s case, her face turned to the wall in despair and loneliness and indignity?

Have we commercialized medicine to this huge degree? There's so much money to be maid from death and dying that Big Pharma and their poodles have to pick the very bones of these tragic potential corpses and leave them with absolutely nothing?

Surely when the lights are turned out for the final time, the leave-taking has to be better than this horrific travesty of compassion and "care".

PS sorry to be so graphic but truth is rarely pleasant and what I have witnessed in the last 20 years freezes my heart and I weep anew for my deceased loved ones.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Shifting Sands

Something has shifted. Don't know what, how, where or when. It could be the weather. It could be taking myself off some pills which were doing me in with constant coughing (with an 8 week afterlife, good gawd Big Pharma, you're killing us!). Still coughing 3 weeks later. Nighttime is the worst. But it's not getting me down or anything or making me feel hopeless and sad and you know, that depression thing.

I reported what I'd done to my doctor yesterday and we shifted meds again. Doctors are awfully disappointed when meds and patients don't play well together. Especially when it's a now a couple of meds that don't agree with me at all. I felt his disapproval. A personal failure on my part. Sorry doc.

I actually look forward to a doc visit. Not for the doc. It's the waiting room and next door pharmacy which are like social clubs. I meet neighbours and chat and get caught up and the doc or the pharmacist become almost incidental. I was pleased when a stranger (to me) walked in and looked at me and said "Oh, you're ____'s mother!" And I said "How do you know?" and she said "Oh, you're so alike!" Daughter was the head off her father for years and years but as she ages my gene pool seems to be taking over.

My crying jags are less frequent, grief takes its own journey, patience is essential along with acceptance and letting it all out somewhere safe like in my counsellor's office.

It is gorgeously beautiful here so I got out and about and took some photos. A camera in my hand makes me happy.

Saturday, April 09, 2016


Completed afghan (sofa blanket) spread to show detail.

Do we all strive for some form of immortality I wonder. Maybe not.

I've known some who scurry around inconspicuously, making time in quiet civil service type pensionable jobs, dreaming of days in future senior years of endless travel, mainly effortless cruises with none of that strange local food, thank you very much. Abroad with very little interest, if at all, in immersing themselves in local culture and peoples. There to merely group-shop and possibly summoning up enough energy to haggle with the local vendors, then scurrying back to the safety of the ship clutching shell laden gew-gaws to strew on those loved ones back home. Safe. Detached.

Then again, us more creative types or perhaps with less monetary choices, struggle on in our garrets: blogging, writing, painting, photographing, weaving, knitting, lace-making. I suppose it is an unconscious yearning for immortality. Who shall stumble upon my written ramblings and discourses, my now vast repertoire of knitted pieces, my photo-cards? Or not.

I have mementoes from my friends on my walls. Needlepoint, photos, paintings. Pottery. A wooden bowl. Not many. But it is in these I catch their spirits as I walk by. A comfort. Even when they are dead, as many are. They are immortal in the work they produced out of their very spirits.

"Here," they proclaim,"is a piece of me. Forever. Know I live on through you by these works."

Detail of lighthouse, ferry and my house from afghan.

Detail of reading, music and love of coffee.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Unfinished Business

A friend and I touched briefly on this today. Our loved ones are leaving us in droves it seems and there's a stark reminder in there of unfinished business left everywhere the moment we leave.

People plan to finish up tidily, don't they? At least my circle does. We joke about paying for the funeral in advance, putting all the papers in a neatly marked file with the label "Upon my Death" typed neatly upon it. And final blog posts logged under the same heading. Last will and testament neatly signed and witnessed, last piece of knitting finished, tax returns filed, bank accounts notated, all passwords in the death file.

I was struck by what surrounded my dearest friend Helen as she lay for the last time in her house. Her half-read book was particularly poignant. Her day planner full of bridge meets and book club gatherings and dinners and baby sitting preplans and vacations that would never be taken. For most of us are taken unawares. unprepared.

In the final weeks of lives, energies are often consumed with treatments and hospitals and surgeries and decisions and just trying to hang on.

In D....'s case, she had talked to me of her lists, her many bequests to friends, her gifts to the daughter taken from her. She worked so hard for her wealth, very hard, at one time her trusted manager had defrauded her and she had to rebuild it all. She wanted everyone who loved her to have something when she died. The list was extensive. Her lawyer was coming in to the hospital the following day to witness this will formally and legalize it. And she died 8 hours before the appointment. So now the lawyers have taken over and who knows if the courts will approve this list even though it was clearly her wish and witnessed, verbally, by her friends, me included.

I do have a death file, I do have a will, I do have DNR instructions, but I look around me here and think: mein gott, this office is, well, unreal. I know where everything is but will anyone else?

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Dis & Dat

Grandgirl at 2 - her personality and joie de vivre haven't changed one bit.

We saw a great production of "Rock of Ages" last night. A trip into the Big City for us rural rubes, with a before show treat of an exotic dinner of Indian lamb curry with all the trimmings. A lovely night out. An advance Mother's Day gift to me as Daughter will be working on the real one in May.

We had some great weather, record high temperatures but outside right now? Wind, rain, all day. Fire going. Cosy indoors. Wretched outdoors.

Real moment of ohmygawd the years - where have they flown? - when Grandgirl forwards her university graduation photos to me yesterday. A burst into tears moment: pride in her, but a sense of loss and gratitude all mixed up. That I'm alive to experience this when so many don't make it. That she has grown up in a blink. Her world is her oyster now as she is considering grad school in Europe.

I've got a procrastination list as long as my arm. I'm living like some spoiled diva, knitting and reading and doing a bit of writing and living off the benefits of previous labour, i.e. frozen meals, bread and soups in my freezer. Recommend. Also ideas. I think I'd go mad without my brain generating ideas all the time. Some small, some large, some executed, some stored in one of 10,000 notebooks. Do I burn them all before I die?

But reality beckons, a few tax returns, some writing commitments and a completely deferred editing job. My brain just wasn't there. It's coming back. I need to straighten up and fly right.

So there I am. For now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Life Can Be Measured in.......

Well definitely: my life can be measured in knitting needles. Since I was 7. My father taught me to knit. He had five older sisters and observed them. He never touched the knitting needles as he taught me, he sat behind my chair and put my hands on the needles and directed them into casting on and plain and purling. I made messy scarves and doll clothes for a few years and at the age of 11 my mother brought me to Skibbereen (we stayed in Sherkin in the summer), took me to a wool-shop and allowed me to choose any colour of wool but only from the big basket that had the big "Sale" sign on it. It was either orange, white or this outrageous shade of green in the basket. I chose the green.

On the strand I worked hard at this jumper sweater pattern in DK wool. At the end of the summer I had this ginormous sweater. This was a good thing, my mother said, as it would warm up anyone coming out of the water from swimming. The freezing Atlantic made one's extremities a horrible mix of white and purple, and this mad jumper would fit anyone no matter the size. And it did. The warmup jumper, they called it. I have a picture somewhere and must find it. You could sit inside it on the sand and it covered you from forehead to toes, like a tent as you shivered your way back to pink only to plunge back into the water again.

I moved on. To making my own patterns and knitting up cardigans, jumpers, even a coat, in intricate aran patterns. In those days I didn't photograph my work, it wasn't considered an art form then but a necessity.

I knit many, many sofa blankets (afghans) as gifts.

One of my greatest joys for a while has been designing one specifically for a loved one, incorporating their lives into it.

This is one I'm working on at the moment for my Grandgirl. You can already see our story in it.

The tree of life with intermingled branches, the diamond for health and happiness linked to the cables for her mother and me, my house, the ferry, a lighthouse, the sea, and the last block I am working on has her love of books and music and coffee.

I have ripped the project out twice previously as I wasn't happy with the framing and gauge of each scene. Now I am thrilled with it.

These are her favourite colours.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Joy. A Commoner's Perspective. 1.

For DS

From last year.
And there you

Once again
You fly me glitter
From your

Of our


My eyes
An eternal
Second of

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


I ran into an old friend yesterday. I hadn't seen him in a while and he asked me how I was doing. I said it had been a rough time and he asked me why and I gave him the briefest of versions of the past year in my life and it was the oddest thing. Without a pause or reflective comment or even sympathy, he launched into this long narrative of how he was so much worse off. Ten minutes later I broke away from him. I felt like I'd been slapped.

I had a session with my counsellor an hour later - previously scheduled - and told him what had happened. I recognised that I needed to be even more careful with whom I share anything with for I can feel far worse afterwards. That crying in the wilderness thing.

My counsellor had me focus on the gifts that have sprung from my losses. And there were many. Not least of which is reevaluating my life now in light of these. He also had me talk about Missing Daughter and revisit that with the heart numbing thought that I am "dead" to her and may remain so. It's a fresh way of looking at this and I am grateful for that.

Healing is the underlying scaffolding of all of this. I keep thinking I'm ready to brace myself against the real world and then find I'm not. I'm unable to live superficially, it's a gift given to many but alas, I didn't make that particular cut. Many, many times I wished I was light and fluffy and could fiddle-dee-dee life's trials, both yours and mine. Or stay mum and wait for them to pass or even bury them.

The last few days have been rough, that Black Dog thing. I know there's an end in sight, I wish I knew when. Change is always nerve-wracking and emotional, even the changes wrought by intensive counselling sessions with the healing acceptance of the losses of former confidantes combined with the rejection of those I hold most dear.

No one gets a free pass, particularly as we age. It comes down to the tools we have to just deal.

I am grateful for those.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


I've never seen this written about.

How do you mentally visualize the calendar year?

In a long straight line with little flags for the season and/or birthdays and/or festivals?

Like a circle ending at New Year's?

I see it as an ovoid.

Something like this:

But unfortunately (for me)backwards as my Imbolc is on the left and down around to Samhain on the upper right before the year ends.

Today is the vernal equinox where day and night times are exactly the same length.

And Ostara - upon which the tradition of Easter is based - orginated with the goddesses. Like most festivals on the religious calendars, prominent female personae were erased or placed in secondary roles.

I remember seeing fertility goddesses in the stone carvings of ancient Irish churches. I imagine they were carved to appease the goddess worshipping "pagans" in an attempt to convert them to Christianity.

What an enormous body of knowledge and rituals and healing we have lost.

Mother Earth is not pleased.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Story

I must say I was glad of the distraction yesterday. The Old Black Dog is pacing. I say old as I feel he ages along beside me. Damned unpredictable though. I never know whether he and I are due for a long vacation together or a picnic or a weekend. He's almost a physical presence.

The distraction came in the form of a death notice. A life lived for 90 years. Memories came rushing back. They were an odd couple, Violet (call me Vi)and Richard. She was about 10 years older than him and fought it every day. A lot of energy into hair dying and styling and the shortest of skirts and the heaviest of makeup, the woiks, even first thing in the morning. I remember her startling eye-shadow which leaped from her face and the makeup caked in the wrinkles around her mouth. A chain smoker.

That era, we were all in our twenties, early thirties, Vi must have been in her forties, was full of weekends away, balls, heavy duty drinking in officers' messes, Scottish dancing, tartans and fun too. One word comes to mind when I think of Richard. Dignity. He was one of the most dignified men I've ever met. Ramrod straight, the removed look of an intellectual, and beautifully dressed, everything seemed to match. He was partial to bowties. I shared the odd in depth conversation with him. Vi was one of those women who swooped everywhere with a remarkable insensitivity to private conversations. Her voice was loud, her laughter raucous and she loved showing off her wild knickers in the ladies' room.

I'd wonder whatever they saw in each other.

My marriage broke up and I was very surprised when Vi and Richard kept in touch with me. Very few couples of that period in my life did as their loyalty was leaning more towards my now exed husband as it was his military affiliation and not mine.

On visits to their home with my younger daughter, while Vi cooked Richard would take YD and me to his den. He had a huge collection of model soldiers, laid out for the Battle of Waterloo on a vast model battlefield. Nearby, on an easel was a nearly finished rendition of an English cottage in beautiful needlepoint. I had assumed it was Vi's but was soon enlightened that in fact it was Richard's. When I expressed interest, he showed me some cushions and fire-screens he had completed, all meticulously executed in stunning colours.

Richard had been in the RAF in London, he told me, Vi was a telephone operator at HQ when they met. Vi was originally from Malta, had raised her brothers and sisters when her mother died in childbirth and her father took off. When she emigrated to England she had abandoned her Maltese origins and anglicised her name.

Richard was a voracious reader and could converse on any topic. Vi had to knock before entering his den, his one quiet space she told me, rolling her eyes and assuring me "she could be quiet too, but life was too short." Whatever that meant.

I've never forgotten their kindness to me when it seemed like many had turned their backs. It was a very difficult time in my life and their friendship was a comfort.

There were certainly sparks between Richard and me, no denying that. But I've never betrayed a friendship by poaching a partner. One of my rules of self-conduct.

Vi died about 10 years ago and Richard moved to his daughter's in Florida.

On reflection, I understand them a lot more now. Vi was haunted by her age and had her own battles every day. Richard was allowed his quiet space of reflection, mock battles, books and needlepoint.

And I rather think that crazy underwear tells another side of the story.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Once the initial excitement is over, change, even planned change, exhausts me. My brain doesn't function properly, you should see me struggling with a knitting pattern I'm designing, or trying to make a municipal decision today.

I filled out the application for my new life, pretty please. It helps, the instructions said, if I can lay claim to a veteran in the family. I decided against hauling out my grandfather's (old)IRA fight for Irish freedom. Instead I focussed on his estranged son's (still alive - 90++) long international career in the RAF and my occasional participation and partying at local Canadian legions.

My resident friend called and said it was the best time to apply as residents were dropping like flies in the last few days, old age, transfers to extended care homes and one marriage.

Much as I hate jumping on another's misfortune, I had to laugh at the droll way she said it.

So I got my act together and signed and mailed off. Thank you for your service to the enemy, Uncle Michael.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

First Step

I met with a dear friend for lunch yesterday to discuss all these crossroad changes I've been mulling. We're roughly the same age and have each other's backs from time to time as needed.

If I needed validation, I had to look no further. Her face lit up, she got completely excited and she burst out: "Oh my gawd, I can just see you here, oh my gawd, your wings can spread so wide here!"

It was flattering, sure. But she was also very down-to-earth in sharing her knowledge and expertise in the building she's in. I've been to her place for dinner but never "did the 5 star tour" and that's on the agenda soon. Meanwhile she's got the inside scoop on applications and references. It's an absolutely ideal spot for aging in place with support, minimum as it is, for tasks like twice weekly grocery shopping in a mini-van around the city for those who don't drive or have surrendered their licences. Free laundry facilities, a communal garden for planting, a covered patio area with BBQs and other etceteras to make life interesting. Many of the residents still work (she does) and community involvement is left with the individual tenant.

I am quite excited about this which tells me a lot. It may take months and months to activate the second step as there may be a waiting list, she's very well connected with the board of directors so private information will be delivered to me also.

I'll track the whole process here as I know a lot of my readers are on cusps of transition too, whether internal only or ready to make a bigger leap.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Helpers

I hate drama. But sometimes I can't avoid it. And boy did I have drama last week with smoke pouring from every orifice in my stove and chimney. I shut 'er all down and jacked up house heat - well as jacked up as I can afford it as it costs a fortune out here on the Edge. Sweaters and thick socks are a blessing.

I had paid a guy, the guy who handled my chimney liner post chimney fire last year, a regular chimney contractor, to clean out the works the week before as it was all behaving rather badly, but everything to do with the fire was twice as bad after he left along with a fresh bonus of soot pouring down the freshly painted walls.

I texted him and he ignored me for a day and then said he might be in the neighbourhood in a few days and he'd check...

At that point my instincts kicked in and I just knew I could never have him back into my house again.

I posted my dilemma on Facebook, raising my SOS flag which always works out here and the following day Leo and his brother showed up with a borrowed ladder and long sticks. To cut to the chase after they had finished, this is the letter I sent off to the contractor:


I've had the work you did for me both in installing the chimney and in your recent “cleaning” of it checked out.

I have ascertained:

You failed to measure and install the chimney properly in that the stove pipe is far too short to meet the chimney or the top of the stove safely.

You used the wrong size screws on the chimney cap which needed replacing.

You failed to seat the lower stove pipe on the stove properly.

You failed to screw in the lower pipe to the stove itself.

You failed to fit the upper part of the stove-pipe into the chimney.

The stove had to be put on lifts to raise it as your measurements were 2” off.

In your so-called “cleaning” of a few weeks ago, you failed to re-install the cap of the chimney properly.

You also did not clean the chimney properly, there was a huge wedge of creosote still stuck in the lower part of the chimney which blocked it and smoke poured all through my house.

And underneath the top of the stove you had failed to remove any of the creosote lodged there.

In fact there was another whole bag of creosote taken out of the chimney and stove-pipes today.

I was told that you were criminally negligent in the work you had performed for me because of the smoke leaks coming into the house in which I could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

My walls and furniture are blackened and need repainting/cleaning because of your shoddy and appalling workmanship.

My power bills doubled while the stove was unusable.

Being an elderly senior on a fixed income I am shocked at your misrepresentation of yourself as a “professional” while taking such advantage of me.

I request that you refund me the total of $520 I have paid you for the original shoddy and incompetent installation ($400) and the subsequent non-cleaning ($120).

I heard back from him immediately wherein he apologised, agreed to his incompetence and shoddy workmanship and stated he would return all my money once he had been paid for a job he was currently on.

I'm not holding my breath. As I very nearly lost it forever.

But my Helpers?

They wouldn't take a penny for all the work they did and their assessment and correction of the problems.

And that's what I'm thinking about as I write this.

The Helpers.

Saturday, March 05, 2016


Many questions.

Few answers.

Processing thoughts, some conflicting or rubbing off each other in sparks.


How do you make major decisions in your life?


Evaluation - pro and contra columns?

Talk to loved ones that you trust?

Throw it out there to the universe (something like I'm doing right now!)

Yeah, I am at a crossroads.

Sometimes we just run into ourselves head on.

Time is far more precious to me than it ever was.

And there's not enough of the tempus thing. It fugits through my fingers.

All week I was running, 5 days of it. Meetings, training, seminars. Non-stop it seemed.

This old house has lost its magic, it needs too much attention from me along with Elder Dog, Ansa. I need most of my attention for me now.

And I'm fresh out, overnight it seems, of the magic-steam of helping others.

Nervously, I ran the insides of my brain under Daughter's gaze yesterday. And she validated everything I was saying. She'd been reluctant to broach Crossroads with me. Relief was enormous. For both of us.

There is no one else, apart from My Dear Dead Ones, that I would trust with offering me support or advice or compassion or wisdom.

Like I said: Crossroads.



Wednesday, March 02, 2016


"What a gift it is," he says, "When all that is required is a shift in lifestyle, paying more attention to the details of day to day life with the promise being that life will get better."

I explained to my counsellor about my specialist's findings. How alarming. How demolishing.

I reflected on my three dear, dead friends. I feel he knows them intimately now. Along with my family of origin.

What an opportunity it would have been for them to change direction, make some slight adjustments to the sails and tack into a different direction on the great ocean of life. But alas their deaths had no such advance warning.

My gift indeed.

"Who do you talk to? Intimately I mean?" he asks me.

"You," I said after a minute, "Only you, there is no one else. Truly."

"But there is room for others, is there not?"

"I suppose. But shared history, depth, no way that can be replaced."

"I agree. But your spirit needs nurturing and maybe this freedom is giving you another gift in that you honour the memories of these beloved friends by opening up the space left inside you and use your last few precious years to explore your own creativity further."