Cassandra’s mother told her ‘she had it all’ often but Cass didn’t feel like that. She felt crap most of the time especially around people. Introspecting herself was a ritualistic beginning to her day which continued as she interacted with her peers. She aimed to be normal but continually fell short. She had inherited her mother’s long willowy frame and strong bone structure so she was naturally the person that peoples’ eyes followed in a room, added to her genetic gifts she’d added a short spiky pink hairstyle and dramatic black eyeshadow and pillarbox red lipstick. 

This was her amour, kept her aloof by design. The pills helped too, AJ, her boyfriend supplied her with uppers to get through the day and then in the evenings they’d hook up in the abandoned warehouse where he lived and smoke spliffs till dawn. weekends were best, they experimented with tabs that AJ or Spencer procured with the help of the leaning tower of Todd. Last week the four of them had got stopped and searched, Spencer had the tabs but the local police didn’t recognise them for what they were and laughed at him with mickey mouse paper. 

She thought back to her one bad trip, she had been so scared in a weird  existential kind of a way. She got chased by a giant rat with snakes coming out of its eyes. AJ held her, while she got through it and fed her sugar mice when she got hungry in the middle of the night.

Cassandra Teasdale lived with her mother, the local GP, and her older sisters, Veronica and Gertrude, although they were away at university most of the time. Cassie would be joining them at Edinburgh if the family had their way but she wanted to go to RADA, she wanted to be an actress. 

She could never tell them, she could not even tell AJ, she laughed at herself when she thought of it, her, the shy wallflower – an actress. One more year of school though and she would have to tell someone…


Ginger Cordial

Boil in a brass pan, 1/2lb of best ginger, a little bruised in six quarts of water, down to a gallon.

Strain the liquor through a flannel.

Put it on the fire with 3lbs of loaf sugar: let it remain until it nearly boils.

In this state add a little of the liquor made from hay saffron to colour it, and it is then fit for use


Jenna read and re-read the recipe, written in English to be sure but an English she didn’t understand. She knocked on Mrs Piecefellow’s door and showed her the recipe. She had questions about quarts and loaf sugar. Mrs Piecefellow laughed. 

Jenna came home with new found knowledge and rewrote the recipe:

To make Ginger Cordial,

  in a saucepan big enough put in twelve pints of water and 8oz of ginger cut up and squashed to release the flavour.

Boil until liquid is reduced to eight pints. Strain through muslin or a jelly bag.

Put back into the saucepan with 3lbs granulated sugar and warm until dissolved.

At the same time put a few strands of saffron in a little hot water, strain and add to the saucepan.

Bottle and store.


Later after completing her first batch Jenna contemplated if she could really do it, if she could really follow Great Aunt Edna’s wishes and sell concoctions from the book and break even. She had started with a relatively easy one and at that she’d run to Mrs P’s at the first sign of difficulty. Was she capable? Could she open a shop?

There was already so many things on her to do list, stuff that she had never got around to and newer stuff that needed immediate attention. Deborah ….

fate deplore


These weak imperfect Beings scarce enjoy
  E’er Death’s rude Hand our blooming Hopes destroy:
  With Lynx’s Eyes each others Faults we find,
  But to our own how few who are not blind
  How long is Art, how short, alas! our Time! }
  How few who can above the Vulgar climb, }
  Whose stronger Genius reach the True Sublime! }
  With tedious Rules which we our selves transgress,
  We make the Trouble more who strive to make it less.
    But meanly why do you your Fate deplore,
  Yet still write on?—Why do a Thousand more,






swimming, apples and dreams

I swam four lengths today, it may not seem a lot. The last time I swam was February 2011, I swam a length and a half before giving up. Thirty years ago I would swim twenty, thirty, forty lengths, I remember almost completing two miles once. Four lengths is a start, it’s a not giving up, it is a beginning.

I have given up many times. I gave up my career in cardiology, I feel sometimes like a character in an Anita Shreve novel – walking away on the sand, like Reginald Perrin – walking into the sea, like me – walking away from my job. Whilst picking over apples today in the supermarket I met Ursula. We used to meet for coffee every day in the hospital, we gossiped, moaned, ranted for half an hour and then went back to our different jobs. Ursula gossiped while I chose my Pink Lady apples, she moaned as I found ripe bananas amongst the green ones aand she ranted as I decided between habenero and scotch bonnet chillies. I nodded, tutted, sighed and with much arm waving conveyed that I was listening to her litany of woe. As we parted company I was still nodding, reassuring her that her difficulties had found an empathetic ear. It cost nothing and I gained so much.

I may have walked away for the wrong reasons but this life, my life, now. Priceless. The “Mastercard” ad that does this long shopping list of items and then says ‘seeing my baby smile for the first time… priceless’. In my messy messed up way I made the right decision, with God’s help. And I am able to swim and cycle, meet my husband for lunch and attend bible study all before one o’clock on a Friday.

I had to pass on a dream message this week, no that’s not true, I didn’t have to, no one forced. I chose to pass on the dream message. I gave it in bite sized chunks and what the person does with it is their decision. I love dreaming, day dreams, night dreams, I like the feel of the fuzziness, it plays to my scattiness.

So in my swimming scattiness, my dreamlike trance, my picking over apples I feel God is with me. Familiar goosebumps began on Friday shortly after writing this piece, so much so I stuck it in drafts till I could work out the issue. It’s the giving up or the not giving up, the deciding to push on or pull away, the overwhelming urge to do what I am called to do (positive) against the (negative) holding back, fear of failure, fear of trying, fear of not being acceptable. 

Being free in Christ, being free to submit to the Lord, being free to be all – in, total surrender, whatever is required I will do. Spending the month in structured prayer, rather than random prayer before tackling the call


Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10


I am not allowed to run, I can’t jog. I can walk but sometimes my back goes, or my leg goes and then I am stuck up a mountain with nowhere to go.


I do run, sometimes I walk from Carker to Ballahantouragh and back. There is a stretch of road from Jack The Block to Bill Hill, it is relatively straight, tarmacked and flat (as flat as you are going to get in Kerry) and I love to just open up my chest, fill my lungs with God’s air and run. I have to face the consequences, occasionally immediate muscle pulling in my right calf (four miles limping home – not good), later on in the day my back might go into spasm, like David I lie on the floor face down speaking to God.

Consequences are what we have to live with once we have made a decision. To have a baby. To get married. To not have a baby. To not get married. To change jobs, to not change jobs. To argue over who spilt the milk or not. When there is a tragedy like a road accident there is always a story around it. The people who normally take that road who for some reason didn’t that morning. The people who took that road for the first time ever. The woman who was going into town but then remembered she had left the oven on and turned round. The man who got delayed behind a tractor and couldn’t get past. 

Safety governs our lives more than ever before. Trees are no longer climbed, bikes aren’t ridden without helmets, cars cannot freewheel down hills anymore. We don’t walk in the rain because we might get wet. We don’t swim in the sea because there is no lifeguard. We “Disneyland” our lives with rules above our heads saying “mind the gap” “look out” “caution” “achtung”. I remember running downhill in a wee race with a couple of schoolfriends at a teachers house and arriving home with blood all down one side as I had slid on some scree. 

Think about it – I was a teacher’s house (not allowed anymore), I was running down a steep hill (use the rail, use the steps, be careful, don’t run, don’t hurt yourself) and I went home head to foot in blood (clean it up, don’t touch it, get her to the doctor, to the hospital, call the insurance company, get compensation)

One time I was cycling on a busy main road when some stupid child I was with touched wheels with mine and I ended up sprawled in the road in the line of oncming traffic. I survived {obviously} to tell the tale.

Think about it – I was cycling (no helmet, one brake, no gears) on a main road (use the side road, use the cycling path, don’t stand up, don’t have fun, don’t feel God’s wind in your hair) and an accident occurred, cars had to brake, had to swerve, had to move (hit her, the insurance will cover it) 

One time I got into a very precarious situation, no details need to be given, where my mind had to decide between yes and no. I chose yes and survived. i lived with the consequences of not only saying yes but getting myself in that precarious situation.

Look at the line of cars outside schools – we don’t even let our children walk to school, not even with us. My elderly neighbours used to walk two miles to school across ditches (they could fall in), across fields (they could step in something, across lanes (a vehicle could run them over) stepping stones over the river (oh don’t go there – they could fall in, get wet, yah de yah)


So I am not allowed to run but sometimes I do:

because life is too short not to feel God’s wind in your hair, to feel your body straining to go faster, higher, longer – no matter what the consequences maybe.

Some times we are asked to jump in or jump out are you ready to do that? Or are you worried about injuries, safety? Will you jump?


I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:14

lilian part one

As I bent down, once again creating another stook I cursed my husband. Freaking turf, it was bad with company but all this bending and stretching in the dry wind on top of the bog was crap without him. I’ll get this row done and go see how the bog tea is brewing, three hours of this back breaking labour calls for the special tea that tastes like the milk and honey of the Promised Land. Oh Dan, I do so miss him.

It was his words that ran through my mind like a rural rule book, “Girl, a fierce day at the bog, saw young Jerry Pa, what a scoundrel! His father, a great man, will be reeling in his grave. His turf’ll be wet and heavy that’s for sure. It’ll never draw fire, that’s for sure. You should’ve seen him, the cocky little sod. No turning or footing, making some giant stook at the edge of the bank like one of them sculptures on the side of the road. Tis no way to treat the sods. Ye have to take time, turn it, leave it to dry in the wind for at least two weeks, then foot it.”

“What’s a foot Dan?”

I was a naïve city girl, civilised, used to imported Polish smokeless coal. We were just married, Dan had said not to go up to the bog this first year because the midges would know I was a wee blow-in. Till he met me, well no till we started courting, as he put it, Dan was a fully paid up member of the bachelor club with thirty five years under his belt, never had time, so he said, for the girls in the village and then they all got themselves married or moved away.

According to village gossip I was the flighty piece from the city, twenty two years in my cotton socks. The old men of the village had me pegged as a gold-digger, only in it for Dan’s cash, they warned him frequently about my feminine wiles.

If they only knew how we met; six years previous to our wedding I was actively running away from home. I was a bit mussed up, sitting on the train, no clear plan, just to get away. Dan sat down opposite but when the train lurched to a stop we bumped heads and in the ensuing apologies we began to talk. He chatted to me like I was a person, not like mam always treating me like a child. Told me all about his trip to the city to see a solicitor. He was chuffed to bits because Auntie Cissie had left him a few acres and a cottage with a chimney.

“Don’t all houses have chimneys?”

“Ah, in the city you probably get them without don’t you. Those on the gas, or electric? In the country it means you have a wee bit of bog. Each bog was split up and if you had a house in the area on the day they split you got a strip of bog. The saying goes ‘the bank goes with the chimney’. New house don’t got banks.”

He told me about his Auntie Cissie and her south-east facing bank of turf, her couple of acres of mature trees and her house built in 1945 when Uncle Peter came home. Cissie was the only one who knew he painted, he’d wanted to go to college, but there was no money and he daren’t have told his daddy so he got work as a carpet fitter in the nearby town and began to save.

When the train started again we shared our food and in a very serious voice Dan asked for my address, not my phone number, not that I would’ve given an old man my phone number, but he asked for my address. I felt so grown up writing out: 13 Poplar Crescent, Mayfield, Cork. He folded the paper and put it in his wallet then produced a fiver. He told me to go home, he said if I didn’t go home I’d never get his letter. I reluctantly agreed although I was looking forward to receiving mail.

He wrote, it arrived two weeks later, full of news from his new house, full of plans, he asked my opinion on colours and asked a whole bunch of questions about school and home. I wrote straight back telling him all the goss from school, tales about our Darro, my little troublesome brother, Mammy and her hips and Daddy and his allotment. I began to tell him how I hated school and how I loved my Nana who died earlier that year.  I had filled four A$ pages when I wrote, write back soon.

Dan got my head around school, slowly in the letters he suggested careers, courses, subjects. We wrote to each other by return, never letting a week go without a letter dropping on the mat in either house. I did okay in my leaving and got a place at the institute of technology doing business. He began to come up to Cork on the odd Saturday, we’d have lunch in the old Roches Stores and then off to the pictures on Grand Parade. On fine days we went for long walks by the Lee out to the Carrigrohane Straight.

He’d been made redundant, people were putting in wooden floors and there was little call for carpets and he had no prospects of getting another job. Auntie Cissie’s house was being transformed and each visit he’d regale me with tales of windows, loft conversions and insulation thanks to his savings and redundancy package. Dan described everything so well I could almost see the cottage; one long hallway with the rooms coming off it on both sides. On the left was a den, a single bedroom and the master. On the right was a small kitchen with a new extension housing a scullery and utility room. The bathroom was next and a study, finally another single bedroom. The loft extension was Dan’s studio, his painting was still hidden from the world but now he had the space to explore his artistic streak. Outside, raised beds growing veg, fruit bushes and trees. Chickens, ducks and a bad tempered goose had been joined recently by a female goat.

On my nineteenth birthday Dan arrived in his new acquisition, an old van. We ate in a Chinese Restaurant and over coffee Dan put a small jewellery box in front of me.

“Lilian, will ye marry me?”

“I don’t know, yes, no, yes, I think, I mean we haven’t even kissed.”

Dan smiled shyly and suggested we take care of that straight away. Of course I knew Dan was the man for me, I had always known.


Your unfailing love Lord                       

Drenches me in mercy                        
Your great compassion Lord                 

Wipes out my transgression                 


Cleanse my soul Lord                          

Heal me O Lord                                          

Remove all the                                   



Your righteousness O Lord                   

Is true and just, my King                     

In your presence I come                     

With praise in my mouth Lord


Cleanse my soul Lord                          

Heal me O Lord                                          

Remove all the                                   




Teach me wisdom in my heart Lord               

In trials I will praise you O Lord            

In danger I will worship you                 

Joy and gladness will fill my heart

Cleanse my soul Lord                          

Heal me O Lord                                          

Remove all the                                   



Based on Psalm 51