Our Happy Hours Goldie Award


I am really happy and very excited to say that Our Happy Hours has won a Golden Crown Literary Society Award 2018, in the category of Anthology/Collections (Fiction).

I am very proud to have contributed one of my stories to this book. “Masquerade,” tells the story of a night in what was probably Liverpool’s best-loved venue. Lesbian and gay bars are thin on the ground compared to the 1980s and the adventures that we had back then and what those places meant to us is a vital part of our LGBT history. Our Happy Hours is an entertaining archive of stories that will help to preserve the history of our community.

The proceeds from the book are being donated to the Attic Youth Centre PA and the Ali Fornay Centre, NY, two projects aimed at helping young LGBT people in need.

For more information about the awards, click on the link.


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The Last Turnip In Drumcondra

In February 2018, a storm front dubbed “the beast from the east”, hit Ireland.  Huge amounts of snow fell. Cities, towns and villages up and down the country saw folks buying up essentials at a rate of knots. Bread was particularly sought after as were vegetables.  Jean was talking to her sister about the rush to stock up. Her sister told her that in Dublin, the shops were running low on most things. In fact, she was pretty sure that she had bought the last turnip in Drumcondra. I decided that a sentence like that should be immortalised. So, here is my offering. I hope you like it.


The Last Turnip In Drumcondra


Kathleen me little darlin’ would you nip out to the shops

Get a turnip and some carrots, some fresh peas and some lamb chops

I’m beside myself with worry as I have to make a stew

Mrs Cross is coming over and the Ryan’s are coming too.


“Why in all that’s holy would they step out in this storm?

They’d be better off indoors where its safe and where its warm.”

“You’d be right if things were normal but their power has gone out

And while I think of it acushla, get a few bottles of stout.”


Kathleen grabbed her hat and coat and started on her quest

The temperature was freezing, she was glad she’d worn her vest

The car was out of action, Homefarm Road’s the quickest way

She trudged in that direction the wind causing her to sway.


Bridie stared into her pantry her supplies were running low

She looked out of the window to the blizzard to the snow

She decided she must sally forth and grabbed her coat and keys

She waded through a snowdrift that came right up to her knees.


Which route would be better, who had cleared the path ahead?

Homefarm Road she knew was nearer, but Griffith Avenue instead?

She decided on the latter and strode at a speedy pace

As she turned onto the Avenue a snowball hit her face.


The kids looked shocked and then relieved when she bent down to the snow

She threw back a short volley and her aim was fast and low.

The battle raged for minutes and the missiles filled the air

She left the kids a little damp but none the worse for wear.


Kathleen stood at the main road just opposite the shop

She waited for the traffic lights to make the traffic stop

She watched as a small woman made her way up to the lights

She nodded a short greeting and commented on their plight.


Another woman joined them looking keen to cross the road

She had a bag of shopping and was weighed down by her load.

All three could see the grocer’s shop had very little left

They strained to see the shelves and they were nearly all bereft.


The friendly camaraderie gave way to vying for position

The lights turned green and off they shot, a deadly competition.

Kathleen was first inside the door and without hesitation

Filled a wire basket with canned goods and vegetation.


The other two were on her heels, grabbing what they could

One had central heating yet she went for firewood!

The bread and milk were history but when she looked about

Kathleen was relieved to see a few bottles of stout.


She had the meat, the peas and carrots but she didn’t have the swede

She ran back to the veggies with agility and speed

She saw her quarry lying there, a solitary sight

The other two were bearing down, it could end up in a fight


They gave each other desperate looks as they raced toward the veg

Kathleen was the quicker and her speed gave her the edge

Three hands went shooting forward as they tried to grab their prize

Kathleen came up victorious, determination in her eyes


She paused to catch her breath she overheard the chat

All the veg was gone and that as they say was that

As she lined up at the check- out she couldn’t help but ponder.

Whether she had really bought the last turnip in Drumcondra.

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On the night of the 14th of April, 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg. On the morning of the 15th April 1912, RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the world’s worst maritime tragedy.

Titanic special



An Atlantic night in April, Carpathia steamed ahead

The air was cold the sea was calm most people were in bed

Sailing from New York and heading for Gibraltar

Shortly after midnight their course they’d have to alter


The wireless man received the news a ship was going down

He knew the implications, get there fast or people drown

The Captain was informed that they’d received an SOS

Could that really be the Titanic in distress?


A reply was sent immediately that help was on its way

Although they couldn’t get there until the break of day

The heating was turned off, want gave way to need

Every bit of power was converted into speed


The crew made preparations and tried not to make a sound

They did not tell the passengers they’d turned the ship around

The captain thought it best to avoid unnecessary panic

The passengers would soon know what had happened to Titanic


Two hours since the call came in, two more hours to go

The ship was giving all it had but still, it felt too slow

Californian was closest, she could be there by now

The last message from Titanic, she was sinking by the bow


The first lifeboat was sighted in the early morning light

There was no sign of Titanic, she had not survived the night

The lifeboats were located and the people brought aboard

Where was Californian, where was Captain Lord?


The survivors were looked after by the passengers and crew

Some gave up their cabins, it was something they could do

Blankets were distributed and the Galley had been told

To have hot drinks at the ready, the survivors would be cold


The search for more survivors turned out to be in vain

Husbands, wives, kith and kin would not be seen again

Everybody was in shock, there was very little talk

Eventually, the Captain set a heading for New York


The rescue ship sailed off with the seven hundred souls

Who only hours ago had watched the tragedy unfold

The sea was getting rough, then it began to rain

Many people vowed not to cross the sea again


It was hard to comprehend that only days had passed

Since Titanic left her moorings in the city of Belfast

Embarkation at Southampton, Cherbourg and Queenstown

Many people said she was the jewel in White Star’s crown


Now that jewel lay broken at the bottom of the sea

And fifteen hundred souls were lost, a dreadful tragedy

Some had claimed that man now was nature’s master

Nature had replied with this maritime disaster


The rescue ship drove on and then on Thursday night

New York came into view, a very welcome sight

Thousands stood out in the rain to see the ship arrive

Many still not knowing if their loved ones were alive


On the pier people waited, hoping against hope

Dockers at the capstans, each tied off a rope

The survivors came ashore, each with a tale to tell

Of the night they lost Titanic, of the night they went through hell.

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I have been interested, fascinated, obsessed if you will with RMS Titanic for many years. The stories of the people who sailed looking for a better life, the tales of the pampered aristocrats and the experiences of the men and women who made up the crew fired my curiosity. I decided that I would like to create my own tribute to the people who sailed on that fateful voyage in April 1912. This is for them.


The Captain stood upon the bridge aboard his ship Titanic

He looked around, he saw no ice there was no need to panic

Maintain course and heading, do not reduce the speed

I’ve crossed this ocean many times and there is no need.


The stokers in the boiler rooms were working round the clock

They had kept the fires burning since they left Southampton dock

The fumes, the dirt, the heat and the sweat upon their backs

Were only ever seen as smoke rising from the stacks.


The passengers in steerage thought their cabins rather grand

Many of them wished that they could live like this on land

Everything was all brand new, so bright and fresh and clean

Yes, many of them thought it was the best they’d ever seen


On the promenade on A deck several people took a stroll

They wore their furs and topcoats and so didn’t mind the cold

The liner had provided them with what they felt was theirs

Luxury and comfort and a lift as well as stairs


The lads up in the wireless room worked at a breakneck pace

Sending First Class telegrams while in range of Cape Race

Their wages were dependant on the number they could send

And both of them agreed that they would have a bit to spend


Mr Andrews sipped his brandy and he puffed on his cigar

He had built a ship so grand, it outstripped the rest by far

The largest ship afloat and they said it was unsinkable

He never liked that claim, it made him think of the unthinkable


He was joined by Mr Ismay the White Star Line’s top brass

Ismay proudly stated the ship was indeed first class

If only it could reach New York faster than the rest

Then the world would surely know that Titanic was the best


The engine room was noisy as she went ahead full steam

The Chief had every confidence in his engineering team

The engines hadn’t been run in they really were quite new

But if they encountered problems his men knew what to do


The waiters serving dinner on brand new plates and dishes

Attended to the first class guests fulfilling all their wishes

The menu had ten courses including oysters, soup, roast meats

Plenty of fresh vegetables and ending with sweet treats


The steerage fayre though not so grand was better than of old

When third class people had to bring their own and eat it cold

Ham and eggs for breakfast and roast beef for their main

Cold meat or bread and cheese for tea, no cause to complain


In second class the menu was almost as good as first

With plenty of selection and drinks to quench one’s thirst

The food was good and though perhaps not so many courses

There were fish and fowl, and roast meats with many different sauces


The men up in the crow’s nest were having quite a night

The binoculars were missing there was no moon, so, no light

The frigid air stung their eyes and made it hard to see

If anything was in their way that might spell jeopardy


The boat deck was deserted, not a passenger nor crew

To witness that the lifeboats would only hold a few

“Clear the decks” Ismay had said, the decision had been made

To carry fewer lifeboats but, still please the Board of Trade


The Bridge crew maintained course and speed as the Captain had directed

Despite the telegraphs received no ice had been detected

The stately ship sailed swiftly on, as she had since leaving Cork

They were bound to make the headlines when they tied up in New York


In the Crow’s Nest Frederick Fleet was filled with sudden dread

He rang the bell, he phoned the bridge crying “Iceberg right ahead!”

“Hard a port” Murdoch cried “Engines full astern”

He watched and hoped Titanic would have time to make the turn


The orders had been followed by a fast efficient crew

All eyes were on the iceberg, there was nothing left to do

Shards of ice cascaded down and landed on the deck

Had the ship been damaged? A man was sent to check


The icy water breached the hull along the starboard side

There was nothing anyone could do to stem the rising tide

The doors were sealed the engines stopped the impact was assessed

Mr Andrews told the captain, we have three hours at best


The collision wasn’t violent as we understand the word

There was no sudden jolt or a bang that could be heard

Just a tinkling of dishes, just a ripple on a gin

Were the only indication of the trouble they were in


The wireless room received the news, the ship was in distress

The signals went out straight away, CDQ and SOS

The lifeboats were made ready and the passengers were told

“Put on your life jackets, wrap up warm, it’s very, very cold”


“Californian isn’t answering although they are quite near,

Carpathia reports they are, at best, four hours from here”

Glances were exchanged, but not a word was said

By the time that help arrived, hundreds would be dead


Not everyone believed that the ship would really sink

Some went off to their cabins, others had another drink

The passengers in third class found their exits had been blocked

Every way they went, the metal gates were locked


The passengers soon realised that the bow was going down

They hurried to the boat deck, they were not prepared to drown

The boats were being lowered to the black and icy sea

Not one of them was filled to its full capacity


There was an air of desperation as the last boat pulled away

The band up on the boat deck were continuing to play

The sea was getting closer, their chances very slim

With an understanding nod, they finished with a hymn


The wireless room fell silent the boys had done their job

They would have to try to save themselves amid the frantic mob

The last rocket had been fired and its final glow of light

Shone down upon the tragedy unfolding on that night


The people left aboard the ship knew their time was running out

There was no chance of rescue of that there was no doubt

Some people jumped into the sea and hoped to reach a boat

Others made a frantic search for something that would float


The stern was rising steadily, the bow had disappeared

The ship was going down at the time that they had feared

People in the lifeboats, both passengers and crew

Watched in awe and horror as Titanic broke in two


The sounds that rent the air that night were terrible to hear

Cries for help, of anguish, of unmitigated fear

No one came to save them, they were left to their own fate

Just one lifeboat turned around, but they had left it far too late


Carpathia was sighted in the early morning light

She took aboard the people who had survived the night

Hot drinks and warm blankets, there was very little talk

Eventually, the Captain set a heading for New York


The search for more survivors turned out to be in vain

They found three hundred bodies, some they could not name

Interred in Nova Scotia, their journey at an end

But for some of the survivors, their souls would never mend


Fatalities in First Class were relatively few

Compared to those in steerage, and of course the crew

The safety of that grand new ship was surely compromised

The decisions that were taken were clearly ill-advised


The bulkheads had been lowered to make room for the stairs

The lifeboats had been left behind to accommodate deck chairs

Sailing on at twenty knots ‘though they had been warned of ice

Doomed fifteen hundred people to pay the tragic price


So, that’s the story of Titanic, in Belfast she was built

Her maiden voyage ending with her resting on the silt

Of the deep and dark Atlantic, a hundred years ago

A ship, a berg a moonless night, now, the rest of it you know.



This is the memorial park in Lahardane in County Mayo. Fourteen people left the parish, to travel to America aboard the Titanic. Only three survived the journey.




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Funny Old World

When I was a kid, my parents took me and my brothers and sisters to the Gala. It was held every year in a huge field in Litherland, a town about five miles or so north of Liverpool. There was a parade and people would line the streets to see the bands and the floats and the Morris dancers go marching, trundling and skipping by. The crowds would wend their way to the field to enjoy the fun fair, the tug of war, the candy floss and ice cream. At the end of the day, they would make their weary way home perhaps chatting about the high lights of the day, or whether to get chips for supper.

The entrance to the field was on Kirkstone Road.

bobby horse

My granny arrived in Liverpool from Ireland when she was six years old. All but one of her ten siblings had died as children. Her surviving sister, Kate, married and had a family. We would visit from time to time and I remember being fascinated by her strong Irish accent. My granny being younger had picked up the Liverpool accent. Kate was tall and thin and kind. She lived on Kirkstone Road.

My late sister lived in various locations in Liverpool. Her last address, quite by chance, was Kirkstone Road.


A couple of years ago I started to trace my family tree. One of my 3x great grandmothers, Rebecca, was born in Devon in 1834. She married in Wales in 1858 and died in Bootle in 1923. Her first husband, William, was born in Kendal in the Lake district in 1830. Times being what they were, he was working as a farm labourer at age eleven. By the time he was twenty-one he was a husbandman. He died aged thirty-four in 1864. On the evening of the 1851 census, he was visiting the people that used to own the farm that he worked on as a boy. They now ran a public house. The Kirkstone Inn.

Last summer, Jean and I went over to England and decided to visit the Inn. It was a strange feeling walking in William’s footsteps. We had lunch and I gave the landlady a copy of the 1851 Census form. She was delighted and said that she would put it in the scrapbook that she kept for all things related to the Inn. She invited us to browse through the contents. It was an interesting read and as we sat there I couldn’t help but wonder at the Kirkstone coincidences. Funny old world, isn’t it?


Kirkstone Inn

The Kirkstone in the 19th century, and in the 21st century.


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Votes For Women!

It had been a rallying cry for decades. Through marches, beatings, prison, hunger-strikes, force-feeding, even death in the case of  Emily Davison.  Through derision, punishment, hate and slander that cry rang out.  At meetings, outside parliament, on the streets, on the doorstep, wherever people gathered, the suffragettes were there and the cry was always the same, simple utterance, Votes for Women!   The fight was a long and bitter one. Finally, Lloyd George’s government capitulated.

This year marks the centenary of the introduction of women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom and, hence, in Ireland. Looking back from our time it is hard to appreciate the depth of the sacrifice and the personal cost of the commitment our sisters held so steadfastly to. So, here at Author, Author we plan to write about the women who won that right for us.  Over the next twelve months, we will highlight the contribution of some of the women who stepped out of their homes, reached for the hands of their sisters and changed history.

Let me introduce you to, or reacquaint you with, Charlotte Despard.  This extraordinary woman was born in 1844 and during the course of the next ninety-five years was to engage, head on with the major movements and upheavals of her time.  A slim, fiery figure who fought for the urban poor in London in the 1870’s, joined Kier Hardy’s Labour Party, met Eleanor Marks, Gandhi and of course, the Pankhursts.  In the 1930’s she was still galvanising the crowds in Trafalgar Square in Anti-Franco rallies.

Charlotte French was born into a wealthy family. She was apt to run away to explore beyond the gates of her family’s estate she was always curious about the world and the people who inhabited it.  In 1870 she married Maximillian Carden Despard.  When he died twenty years later, she made the decision to dedicate her life and energy to working for the poor.  She moved to London and set up clinics, clubs and centres to address the poverty of the working class. She immersed herself in political theory and emerged a dedicated socialist.  The hardships endured by the poor women she now lived among made a lasting impact.  In a speech in 1910, Charlett Despard said:

“Fundamentally all social and political questions are economic. With equal wages, the male worker would no longer fear that his female colleague might put him out of a job, and ‘men and women will unite to effect a complete transformation to the industrial environment… A woman needs economic independence to live as an equal with her husband. It is indeed deplorable that the work of the wife and mother is not rewarded. I hope that the time will come when it is illegal for this strenuous form of industry to be unremunerated.”

Below are a couple of photos from her long career.  Interestingly both appear to be from the same spot in Trafalgar Square in London.

Charlott Despard Early T Sq

Not sure what point our girl is hammering home here. But it seems to be in support of a Socialist rally.


This is from an anti-fascist rally in the 1930’s.  (Isn’t she wonderous!) Notice at least one woman is now out and about at political rallies.

In 1906 Charlotte joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) run by Emmeline Pankhurst and her Daughters, Christabel and Sylvia. She had this to say about joining the movement:

 “I had sought and found comradeship of some sort with men. I had marched with great processions of the unemployed. I had stood on the platforms of Labour men and Socialists. I had tried to stir up the people to a sense of shame about the misery of their homes, and the degradation of their women and children. I had listened with sympathy to fiery denunciations of Governments and the Capitalist systems to which they belong. Amongst all these experiences, I had not found what I met on the threshold of this young, vigorous Union of Hearts.”

Charlotte took up the cause of women’s suffrage with imagination and vigour.  Fearless in defence of her sisters when the police moved in, she was arrested three times.  She was unstoppable and inexhaustible.  However, she and others became frustrated at the undemocratic nature of the WSPU and left to form the Women’s Franchise League (WFL).   The WFL sought suffrage for all women, unlike the WSPU which campaigned to extend the vote to women of property in line with the right of propertied men.

Charl D with banner

Charlotte marching with her sisters.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the WSPU immediately ceased campaigning and Emmeline Pankhurst urged her members to help the war effort, in whatever way they could, including, from 1916, supporting conscription drives.  In contrast, Charlotte Despard was a pacifist who spoke against the war and conscription.  Oddly enough, her brother, John French, was the head of the British Army and Commander in Cheif on the disastrous Western Front.

Immediately after the war, Lloyd George’s government introduced the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to propertied women over thirty.  At the same time, it extended suffrage to include all men over twenty-one.  Working-class women would have to wait for another decade before they could go to the ballot box. It wasn’t what Charlotte Despard had fought for but it was a start.


Charlotte and Maud Gonne outside Mountjoy prison in Dublin in 1920 supporting republican prisoners. Delighted to add here that my granny was there at that time too.  She told us often enough that she spent her honeymoon outside the prison trying to get word of her cousin, Jack, who was lifted by the Black and Tans (military thugs).

By 1918 Charlotte was spending more and more time in Ireland, the birthplace of her father.  The country was gripped by rebellion as the struggle for independence from Britain intensified.  Charlotte threw herself into the fight.  She supported the union movement in their bitter battle with employers in Dublin.  She continued her work for the poor.

During the War of Independence when the British threw everything they had at us, John French, Charlotte’s brother, (remember the Western Front?) was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ie the highest representative of the crown.  While he embarked on a campaign of intimidation and cruelty, she toured the country documenting the atrocities of his soldiers and police officers.

Maud Gonne (much more on her in a later piece) who was herself an extraordinary woman recalled their shared activities and how they sailed through roadblocks to carry on their revolutionary activities.

 ‘With her, I was able to visit places I should never have been able to get to alone… it was amusing to see the puzzled expressions on the faces of the officers … when Mrs Despard said she was the Viceroy’s sister’.

Charlotte Despard was a talented and inspiring leader.  She had an impressive grasp of the politics of her day and she fought tirelessly to make the changes she thought necessary so that we, the women and men of later generations could enjoy lives of equality and fulfilment.  We may not have achieved all she would have liked for us but it wasn’t for lack of trying on her part. We owe her a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Charlotte Despard.

Suffragettes postering

Women fighting for our right to vote.

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It’s Raining

It’s raining.  It’s been raining for hours, all day in fact. Now, at going on three thirty on a December afternoon the grey light we had all day is starting to fade.  Everything is saturated. The ground is sodden.  There are pools in the yard and on the road. The animals are still.  The cows that have not been taken to the sheds are sitting in the wet.  Horses stand under the bare branches of stunted hawthorn hedgerows where they can.  Sheep stand in lines alone the dark stone walls. The rain is relentless there is no shelter for any creature that is out and above ground.

It goes from a constant heavy drizzle to prolonged showers lashing against the windows of our little cottage.  I can hear it too on the roof.  The gutters can just about cope. There used to be a leak, it used to drive me mad.  I tried so many time s to find it. I fixed several possibilities. But every time it rained the drip would start in the bedroom.  Then six weeks ago I was up there painting the chimney and I spotted a tiny speck of moss right on top of the cement apex covering the tiles.  Moss, thought I, moss means water. I climbed down the roof ladder and the ladder leaning on the side of the house and got a screwdriver.  Everything about hole was small.  I only needed a little blade to poke the moss away and there it was, the place that let the water pass into the house.  I had found it.  (Had I found it?) Everything about the repair was over the top.  Lashings of tacky black stuff.  Long cuts of flashing to run over the site and all along the area in both directions.


I reported the finding as a possibility.  Maybe the leak was fixed.  Something was found wanting and repaired.  There was a spot that needed attention.  The next time it rained there were no drips.  There was no talk of there being no drips.  The spell was a delicate one and could be undone with talk.  It may have been the right one, it may have been the place where the water got in.  We’ll see.   I have come to realize that tiny things cannot be held, they prefer to go unnoticed, to shift unseen and thus everything changes from these little points.  We cannot impose certainty on tiny things.   And so my approach called for a delicate consideration.  As I  pressed the flashing to the contours of the old cement, I pressed my longing to find a solution to the tiny point where the water got in. I hope I left the imprint of my need to be dry.  I hope the water will notice the imprint of my need and run an exterior course from the roof.

I hear it now, wetting everything out there that is already beyond wet.  Wetting everything and every creature that is already wet and dripping.  We’re dry.  We’re warm.  The fire in the range has been heating the cottage since this morning. There is a stew in the oven.  The dog is asleep.  The Christmas lights cast a colourful reflection on the wet windows.  It is almost dark now and still it comes.  I could linger in the bedroom to listen.  But I have come to a more subtle arrangement with the rain in who’s domain we have chosen to live.

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And Sew It Goes

Some months ago, I had a brief dalliance with a sewing machine from IKEA.  I convinced myself that I would be more than capable of mastering the intricacies of this particular mechanical device adequately enough to hem a pair of trousers or to make rudimentary window coverings. ( What I produced could not be described as curtains and the trousers I hemmed by hand!) Despite my best efforts, the machine refused to cooperate with me. A thingamajig kept falling off causing a rise in blood pressure and more than a few choice words. This became the regular pattern whenever I decided to have another go. I knew things had gone too far when the dog hid and Jean took to the headphones as soon as the contraption was placed on the table. Long story short, in the interests of harmony in the home it went back to IKEA.

A few weeks ago I decided to have another go at the mysteries of sewing. Jean, bless her heart looked sideways at me and smiled a faint smile of encouragement, or it might have been resignation. Anyway, as you can see, I now have three sewing machines! “Why?” I hear you ask. “I have no bloody idea!” is my reply.20171117_114205-COLLAGE.jpg

Machine number one was given to me by Jean’s sister who was clearing out a shed.  “It probably doesn’t work.” She said. Confident beyond all reason I replied that it didn’t matter, I’d fix it! Jean merely rolled her eyes. After taking out nuts and screws, squirting WD40 into every nook and cranny and replacing said nuts and screws, the machine limped toward functioning, then stopped.

Not to be put off, I bought a handheld machine cheap on eBay.  I have yet to try it on an actual garment, but its trial on a very thin scrap of material that came with it looks promising, and the dog didn’t hide when she saw it!

Machine number three, the Singer. This is what happens when you stroll idly by a Charity shop. There it was, in all its vintage glory, sitting in the window. The lady said, there’s no lead, and I can’t guarantee it’ll work. “That’s OK,” I said, “I’ll fix it!” Do words ever fall out of your mouth and surprise you? Anyway, I bought it. I arrived home and asked Jean to guess what I’d bought. She couldn’t, so I proudly carried in my new purchase. “Where’s the lead?” She asked. I explained that I was going to sort something out. She tried really hard to keep a straight face. I took myself and the Singer over to our cabin and set about “sorting something out.”

Two hours later I had the machine polished up and connected to the motor from machine number one, “(see above). I tentatively pressed the foot pedal and voila, it went like the clappers! Excitedly I ran to the house to tell Jean. She glanced over at the headphones. “Don’t worry love, I’ll keep it in the cabin.” Her grin lit up the room. So, what have I sewn so far? Not a single thing.

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Armistice Day

The eleventh day of the eleventh month.  Armistice Day.   The day the guns fell silent on the western front in 1918.  Ten million soldiers and seven million civilians dead. Slaughter, on an industrial scale.  The world had never seen anything like it. Nobody who lived through it came away unscathed.  Nobody who witnessed the return of millions of wounded and mutilated men could ever forget it.

It was the first time the modern world saw what war can be like.  The impact was devastating and it marked the psyche of a generation.  ‘Never Again’ was the refrain repeated over and over as surely, given the cost, we would never let anything like it happen again.  But, of course, it happened again.  It’s happening now, somewhere.

My mother’s family always, always kept the day.  They would all gather in her aunty Alice’s house and have a meal to mark the date.  She would be kept from school for the occasion.  It was an important day.  Her father, Richard O’Reilly was at Gallipoli.  His regiment, the Connaught Rangers, were annihilated by the Turkish guns.  His arm split from the wrist to the shoulder by an exploding shell. He barely made it out.  His sisters at home in Drogheda worried sick reading the death lists. Watching the results of the horrific attrition unfolding in France and Belgium.

My mother’s aunties Alice and Molly lived long enough to see it all happen again, so did her dad. But they kept the day anyhow.  They kept the day and thought of what had happened.  They remembered as only they could.  They passed that charge to my mother, not in any practical way.  We didn’t keep Armistice Day.  We didn’t gather and share a meal.  But the day never passed unmentioned.  My sisters and my brother and I all grew up knowing that the eleventh of November is a significant day.  Perhaps the most significant day.  It is the day we look at war and say, never again.  That can never happen again.  Of course, the people who profit from war don’t listen.

After I left home I would always call my mother on November eleventh.  Just to talk, just to say ‘it’s Armistice Day today’.  But this year, she’s not here.  There was no phone call.  This year Armistice Day came to me.  I have to mark it.  So today, almost one hundred years after the end of the first world war, I take my place, I make the stand and I say, never again.  This can never happen again.  And I will say it, with all those who say it, on this day every year until I can’t and so humanity stands against war.

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