Muddie in two stories

Story 1

Muddie starts school today

Muddie is not happy

Muddie walks through the field

Tick tock tick tock

Muddie is scared

Muddie sniffs the Dandelion clock

It tickles It tockles

A a a Atishoo

The dandelion clock is no more

Muddie hears buzzing

Muddie is scared

Muddie trips over

And frightens the bees away

Brave Muddie bounds through the field

And gets to school

Story 2

“Muddie!” Mummy Honey shouted. “Time for cat’s lick lessons! Where are you?”

Muddie was hiding.

Muddie did not like washing his paws.

Muddie crept out of the barn.

Under the gate,

into the field.

His paws were getting dirty,

Muddie was having fun.

“Muddie!” Daddy Pepperpot shouted. “Time for mouse catching lessons! Where are you?”

Muddie was behind the tree

Muddie did not like catching mice

Muddie climbed up the tree

Trying to catch butterflies

He went up and up and up

Muddie was having fun

“Muddie!” Nana Tippy Toes shouted. “Time for cream drinking lessons! Where are you?”

Muddie tried to get down

Muddie was stuck

“Help! Help! Nana I’m stuck. Please help me!” Muddie shouted as loud as he could.

Mummy Honey, Daddy Pepperpot and Nana Tippy Toes rushed to find Muddie

“Oh Muddie! What are you doing up there?” They all exclaimed

“ I don’t like washing and hunting so I chased butterflies and got stuck, I’m sorry.”

“But you must learn how to wash and how to hunt, you are a cat.

Only then can you learn how to drink cream, Mummy Honey said

Daddy Pepperpot climbed up and brought Muddie down.

Nana Tippy Toes scolded Muddie.

Muddie learned that cats must wash and hunt and then

He could be the cat that got the cream

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.

jubilee

“Put your money in the pot, there’ll be no worry tomorrow,” Paul half hummed, half sang this little ditty his mam taught him.

“That’s how she taught me,” he thought, “through song.”

“I wish she was here now, to help me get out of this mess.” Paul continued his humming and singing as he walked up the town.

The bank stood at the top of the town, on its own, imposing its power down the rest of the shops and offices. It felt like it was the ruler of the town, Paul shuddered, as he entered, wondering if it had a dungeon like a medieval castle. He was so apprehensive; he really did not want to be here.

“Ah, Mr Healy, come on through, Mike is expecting you,” the friendly cashier, Deirdre, ushered him through to the bank manager’s office.

“Come in, Paul, good to see you. How are things? Take a seat,” Mike Morgan, the exuberant manager rushed each sentence, barely finishing one before getting to the next.

“Deirdre, will you bring tea for two, thank you,” she was dismissed to the menial task

“Now, so Paul, what can we do for you?”

Paul had sat down, sunk into the chair, as if he was in a therapy session rather than the bank. “Mike, Mr Morgan, well…,” he didn’t get to finish as Deirdre arrived with the tea.

“Milk? Sugar? Will you have a biscuit? Mammy made them yesterday, she said people need something nice coming into the bank in these times,” Deirdre spoke so softly he barely heard her. Or was he having some kind of episode? In these times, the words lingered in his head, he saw them going past as if attached to an aeroplane advertising, ‘in these times’

Deirdre had barely left when he collapsed. In a heap, crying, snivelling, he was totally shamed by his emotions but he couldn’t stop it.

“Just breathe, Paul, we have all been there, breathe, it will pass,” oddly the words came from hyped up Mike, no longer looking smugly affable but concern burying deep into his brow.

Paul explained how much trouble he was in, six figured debt, no orders coming in, no way to pay off the staff in redundancy, Sadie and the kids had left him, the house was empty, he’d been selling off the furniture just to live on and pay wages the last few weeks. He had nothing, the car was repossessed and it was only a matter of time before the courts caught up with him.

Mike listened, he was a seasoned listener, for all the bravado, he had heard this tale many times, too many times in the last few weeks. “What would you like to do, if you could?” he asked.

“Give you the keys to everything and disappear, go off some place new, start again, pay off what I owe and get Sadie and kids back. We were poor once, we can do it. Sadie used to iron and mend clothes. I used to make things, tables, chairs. That’s how we started, it was good back then. Oh why did we have to build such a big house? Why did we keep expanding the business. We don’t even make anything anymore, it is all imported.”

Mike stood up and came around the desk, “Paul, I take you at your word, disappear, make it work, make it right. Keys?”

“Really, you’ll do this for me?”

“Yes, but not for you, for your mammy. She taught me a valuable lesson when I was younger. I got into a bit of strife. Owed money to some thugs. Not a lot, but enough that it was never going to end. Your mammy paid it off and she said ‘put your money in the pot and there’ll be no worry tomorrow’. And that is how I have lived my life since. She was a very wise woman was Bridie Healy. I know I can count on you.”

“Thank you, thank you so much, here,” and Paul gave all the keys over, shook Mike’s hand and departed.

He left town that day to seek his life back and never looked back. Sadie and the kids joined him after a few weeks and they got on with it. In time he sent money back to the bank until he got a letter saying ‘paid in full’. They treated themselves to a fish supper that evening and a couple of bottles of beer. Life was simple for them, they smiled more, spoke more and loved more.

Back in the town, Deirdre came into the bank manager’s office, “Mike, that’s three out of how many that have paid you back. The bank knows nothing except the loans are paid off. Why did you do it?”

“Well, let me see, money troubles bring so much sorrow, my dad and his dad, they helped where they could, I guess, I just help where I can. I’m lucky in that I kept my money in the mattress. Never did trust the bank!” and they both laughed.

raindrops

It was the rain I missed most. Growing up in Ireland you certainly got used to the soft days, the showers, the heavy downpours and torrential rain. I remember one summer; I must have been ten or eleven. It rained every single day for the entire summer holiday, then the first day of term; bright sunshine.

Sitting in the room watching raindrops fall down the window, like an ever changing waterfall, I remember that. The wind, there was always wind, would drive the rain against the window panes. The panes themselves would shudder and moan. They were the old type, two halves and a sash cord to raise them up or down, only one fixing in the middle. Designed to last, designed before house burglary became an occupation for so many, but they did like to groan.

The house was, I remember, fond of talking. Floorboards creaked as you stood on them, doors whined as you opened and then exhaled when closed. Tiles on the roof thought they were in a rock band, pounding rhythms with the rain, thrashing out da-dum,da-dum, da-dum. Presses and cupboards held their own secrets; moths, insects and spiders all vying to be top-dog of whatever press they were in.

Up the creaky stairs and along the corridor was the bathroom. For a young curious lad the bathroom held the most appeal. In the twilight, silverfish roamed the tiled floor, woodlice snuck out of the skirting board and made a dash for the underbelly, the dark side of the bath. Once I counted four different kinds of mould and fungi growing in the damp humid conditions, black mould on the walls, a turquoise growth in the corner of the bath. Under the sink was a platform, hewn from fresh timber for the ‘smallies’ in the house but it had aged and in the clammy dank darkness of the bathroom and had grown orange and yellow curly foils of fungi. My brother, the daft one, wanted to eat them but then he would eat anything; charcoal, turf, the dog’s dinner. He was always so hungry and so painfully thin.

He was the first of our family to die in the 2014 emergency. He had always been sickly and couldn’t cope without medicine. Slowly getting weaker and paler, more ghost than human, his skin translucent. The veins and arteries throbbed slower and slower. There was nothing we could do to stop his death, living in a big old house ten miles from the nearest neighbour, no transportation; we sat with him as he took his final breath.

 

Dad and I dug a grave for him in the orchard, it was raining and the raindrops were making puddles as fast as we shovelled. Mam wrapped him in curtains and carried him out to the hole that would become his home. It was very sad. Within a year I was the only one left, in the wind, in the rain, in the house that talked. It got less sad, or maybe I was becoming numb to human suffering, maybe that is why I am so good at my job.

I left the house in a misty rain, August 2015, I didn’t lock the door, I wouldn’t be back and there were still a few people living around, in sheds, in ditches, in hedgerows. Let them have a roof that drums and floors that grumble, let them count the fungi. I was done with it, I was done with Ireland. There were no cars visible anymore, when oil stopped coming to our shores people just put their cars away, buses and trains stopped too so you could walk down the middle of the road and no one would run over you, you could walk all the way to Dublin on the railway tracks with no machine ploughing into you.

Walking with no real plan but to get to Cork and then to wherever I could I am amazed that I landed this new role. I sit in the desert, camouflaged and shoot people. It is a lonely occupation, I can go for days without seeing a soul and then, bang, bang, bang three are dead. The bodies get covered in sand just like the raindrops at home helped bury my family.

I miss my old life; I miss the speaking house, the howling North wind. When I allow myself I miss my family, my brothers and sisters, my mam and dad, all interred in the orchard under the watchful eye of the venting house. I wonder if anyone moved in, I will never go back, this is my life now, each week I get a fresh supply of food, drink and bullets, I want for nothing. Looking out of my peephole with nothing but blue sky and shining sun, I can’t help but miss most of all sitting in my room watching the raindrops cascade down the shuddering windows.

The Turf Bank

As I bent down once again creating the stook at the edge of the bank I cursed my absent husband. It was the one place, and the one job that I missed him most, turf. Three hours so far today I had been stooping and placing sods of turf in the intricate design known as a stook, many hours this year I had spent turning and footing the damned stuff. It was his smell that surrounded me, his voice in my ear. Not sweet nothings, it is an extensive rulebook, little stories ran through my mind like the day he came back from the bog berating poor Jerry Pa.

“Girl, a fierce day at the bog, the wind would cut ye in two. Saw young Jerry Pa, what a scoundrel, his daddy would roll over in his grave to see him trat the sods like that. His turf’ll be so wet and heavy he’ll never raise smoke from his fireplace this winter. Took it straight off the ground and threw it into an abstract kind of a stook. Tis no way to treat turf. Treat it right and it’ll warm the coldest of hearts come winter.”

I remember when I first asked in all innocence what a foot was. He laughed heartily “Maybe the villagers are right about ye, a flighty young one from the city, knowing nothing about turf. Lil you’ll be at the bog one day, and I’ll tell ye, all in good time.”

I was from Cork city, a civilised place with gas to heat us in the winter and a coal fire on special occasions. I married Dan when I was twenty two, fresh out of college and full of life, Dan was a fully paid up member of the bachelor club until I arrived this year according to the old men gossiping after Mass, he was forty four.

We had first met when I was sixteen and running away from home because my brother, the sneaky little pup had stolen my diary and read it to the gang of kids we hung out with. Full of teenager-angst he told them all I had a crush on Timmy, the unofficial leader of our pack. My diary no more said those words than if the Pope had a baby, himself. So I was on the train to Mallow, with a bag of clothes, a tenner and a packet of biscuits. Dan, was just the man sitting opposite, nose in a book, he didn’t blip on my radar, owld one. The train had been getting up speed over the viaduct when it made a sudden stop. Dan fell forward over the table and we banged heads.

Through apologies and smiles, I noticed he had wrinkly lines around deep blue eyes. The guard didn’t come down to tell us why we’d stopped and we started to chat pondering on the situation ideas from cow on the track to alien attack, we had great fun laughing at the more preposterous stories. He had a flask of tea and offered me some so I got out my food store and we had a mini picnic. He was great fun for such an old man.

We became friends, he helped me through the tough teenage years by phone and by letter. Dan encouraged me to continue my studies and he began a courtship, old-fashioned courtship of me, during my college years. The day of my last exam, he swept me off to Kerry and proposed in The Square, Listowel. We married months later, no children were to grace our step but he was a good man and I still missed him five years on. Crying softly to myself I bent down and continued the ritual of stooking.