Christmas Spirit

 

Seven more sleeps till Santa Clause for all children good and bold.  But my mind turns toward Ruth Stoker, will her true story  ever unfold?

Think back to December 1923, what was it like for a girl of fourteen?  All those miles away in Connemara, first term learning the life of a high society.

Was there a wonderful  atmosphere in the Castle, was it decorated there too?  Did a giant Christmas tree reach up to the atrium, baubles and candles glinting through?

castle christmas

 

Were your holiday plans simple?  To get home to your own bed.  Looking forward to time with your sisters and parents, time for  oogling Clearys window instead?  How happy I imagine your mother,  anticipating her baby girl home at last.  Putting aside society etiquette and hugging you fast.   Your father might be busy with his Surgery but no doubt he could fit in time for play ?  He might let you use with his Champion tennis racket, perhaps a family lunch at the club house a plan for one of the days?

fortnum-and-mason-christmas-window

 

How would your house greet you,  Number 23 Westland Row?  Would the lamp lights dance and flicker, beams of yellow all a glow?  Did you imagine a healthy wreath of green and red,  hanging on your front door.  The Georgian hallway full of festive cheer, with  holly and ivy garlands  sweeping the stairway to the floor.  Prisms of light dancing through the leaded glass on the landing, where faires hide with glee.   Had your parents placed any Christmas presents underneath the candle laden tree?

christmas tree

 

But you would never see that Christmas, nor sleep in your own bed once more. Never see Jesus placed in the manger of Saint Andrews  or hear their Christmas Day choir soar.

I  see you instead the week before Christmas, sick in your bed at Kylemore.  Feeling miserable,  weak and afraid, eyes nervoulsy darting toward the door.

caring for tb patient

 

At first, put down to a chest infection and the end of a long school term. The tolls of learning Latin and Music,  and elite school rules that were firm.  When the  infection took hold and got more serious, and scarlet droplets dotted your chin, were  travel plans home delayed and the local doctor called in?  They then treated you  for pneumonia but sure how could the ignorant have known ?  It was not only your life that was threatened, but the Community as a whole.

When did they finally move you, were you isolated, placed in an old Castle room?  Were the rest of the students sent home with an excuse of  Christmas holidays and prayers from Rome.

 

Was it the 17th when  you became too weak,  as the fever set in?  Did the scarlet droplets turn to blobs of betrayal,  as your lungs quickly deteriorated from within?  Modern medicine had yet to be discovered, and superstition and taboo your fate.  Was there a secret hush throughout the Abbey corridors? It is Galloping Consumption  – Alas!  too late.

consumption

 

Who bravily cared and wiped your brow , cleaned the blood from your blue lips?  Did your parents make it in time to your bedside, say their goodbyes, take your dying kiss?

romantic consumption

 

I know not what hour you slipped from this world.  By  the 18th you were gone.  To be buried in the nun’s cemetery, did the nun’s gather in prayer and sing some song?  Did you pass from this world to the next or decide to stay a while?  As they lowered you down into the clay, scattering  lime as was the style.

Who visited your grave to mourn you, who tendered the mound as it slowly sank?  Who placed the hand carved headstone, who do we have to thank?

Ruth Stoker grave stone

I see you  Ruth Stoker of 23 Westland Row, though I never knew you at all.  I can only imagine our friendship, as an original K-Girl.  Do you turn to face  us in Connemara where your spirit resides?  Do you turn to face the sunset beyond Diamond Hill or the Kylemore Lake sunrise?

 

2014-09-11 07.29.32

 

Here is to you Ruth Stoker and all the K-Girl’s besides.  Those, who the week before Christmas have left us, and those over the months and the years of tides .  How many smiles turned to sorrow?  Hearts broken across the miles?

Lay you all not forgotten,

Lay you loved all the while.

Remembering all K-Girls today

and forevermore besides.

candle of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York- Paddy’s Day with a Difference.

17th March 2015 – Day 4 of my ‘Little Irish Adventure’.  It’s Saint Patrick’s Day!

IT’s St PATRICK’S DAY IN NEW YORK CITY!

patricks day in NYC

And my day was all the more special.

First thing in the am,  Roz and I got to read some Irish stories to children in Mamaroneck’s Montessori – this was tough- not because I am shy at reading in public (as if!) but it is so hard to find an Irish story where it doesn’t end in bloodshed and slaying, or at the very least,  curses or banishment.

I didn’t want to scar the little innocents for life!

So we stuck to fairy tales.

Parental responsibility over, Roz and I headed back into Manhattan.

Now, I am the sort of girl that likes to do things a bit differently.

So, NO,  I didn’t go to watch the Paddy Parade.

For those out there who expect floats and giant air balloons or acrobats….You would be disappointed – because those type of parades happen on  Thanksgiving.  (think of the movie ‘Miracle On 34th Street’)

New York Paddy’s Day parades are all about marching bands.

Pre Paraders

Pre Paraders

Roz and I walked parallel to the parades and took glimpses here and there – but to be honest, we were on a different mission.

By private invitation (cough cough) we were off to Pier 90, where the NYPD were having their own Paddy’s Day celebration.

Where?

What?

Who?

cat I could tell you

I will let the pictures speak for themselves….

held in a secure location……

NYPD cruising for a bruising

NYPD cruising for a bruising

NYPD keeping an eye on the Party

NYPD keeping an eye on the Party

and some amazing  music – I promise there WAS dancing

The in house entertainment

The in house entertainment

and lots of men in uniform

Cuchulain in the flesh!

Cuchulain in the flesh!

Who's got your back!

Who’s got your back!

Friends from San Fran

Friends from San Fran

Guardians of the Peace

Guardians of the Peace

best NYPD sandwich ever!

best NYPD sandwich ever!

And then we had our own private parade as the NYPD pipe band arrived……

 the pipes are calling

the pipes are calling

Short side view!

Short side view!

I never felt threatened or on constant alert (a natural feeling I get when surrounded by lots of testosterone) as these guys were natural minders.

True gentlemen  to the core!

We had a great laugh  – the NYPD gang were so welcoming and genuine.

And sure  after a couple of beers, I felt we both blended right in!

cagney and lacey

What an afternoon!

Roz and I were VERY tempted to stay on but,  we being good Catholic boarding school girls,  and not forgetting we are both married….

we took ourselves off out of temptations way…….lol

After resting some, and strolling  along the very pleasant Hudson river walk, in the sharp (and I mean very sharp) air…..

Riverside Rest

Riverside Rest

…..we linked up with Aileen (who had preformed at the fund raiser)

aileen

Aileen (pronounced ‘I-Lean’) has lived and worked for years in NYC -she currently is the Piano Artist Studio Manager working on a fab project Sing for  Hope – (she also is a fab musician/song writer) – note the plug Aileen!

Anywaaaays, I know Aileen as my old pal from Kylemore.  We have linked up over the years, and until this trip, always on Irish turf.

This was my first time to visit Aileen at her own base – and WOW!  If I ever had a ‘far away fields are greener’ moment – this was it!  City living is not for everyone but if I was without kids and didn’t own 3 dogs – I would gladly have what she has.  Aileen couldn’t live anymore central to the creative world that is the bones of New York.  As a writer I had little flashes of what my life  could be  like if I too lived somewhere similar…..how my writer’s world might be……..I wouldn’t give up my life now that as I have it….I have a fab husband and kids after all…….but if I lived in a parallel one?……..oh well, it might make a nice story someday.

We had a fab evening – it was lovely to see Aileen again, and have her show us a snap shot of what she is up to these days- I was tempted to take lots of photos of her super stylish apartment, but I thought that would have been just plain rude – but I did take a few to capture the evening – so I will let the photos speak for themselves!

When all was done and dusted – it was a truly amazing Saint Patrick’s Day – one I will never forget.   A huge thank you to NYPD, and Aileen,  for making it such a Paddy’s day with a difference.

Roz and I managed to get home before midnight, and not only that, but  managed to get home sober – ish.  As Roz  had an early start for work the next day (5am),we were both conscious of the late hour.

I too was keen to get some sleep.  The next day I was going to be flying solo and heading into New York again for some research.  I would be going in wearing with my writer’s hat

– but that my dears, is for the next post…..

New York – Day Three – putting the fun in Fundraiser

Monday 16th March: The real reason for my visit to New York!

As explained briefly in my earlier blog – ‘New York – There and Back‘, it was the fundraiser that kick started off my whole interest in getting to New York.

This fund raiser was an Irish concert to raise money towards the building of a new monastery for the nuns.  It took place  in Saint Josephs Catholic Church in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.  An evening of Irish entertainment was organised where supporters could purchase tickets, $100 (which included admission to the ‘reception’ afterwards and meet the performers)  or $50 for ‘just the concert’.

Having grown up with my brother performer/musician, I am old hat to sound checks and stage presence and no longer in awe of celebrities – I do not gush over the famous.  So while I appreciated the generosity of the wonderful line up that was the front stage for the concert,  (including class mate Aileen who, I was of course, very excited to see again) I was more keen on being part of the machine that made it happen.

For those that are interested to learn who was performing,  and seeing the playlist, here are the details below:

Program coverEabha McMahonProgam Page 2

But I am going to skirt around the event for now, and will report on the ‘pre’ evening that introduced me to the heart  of the community of ‘Greenwich Village’.

While this was my 3rd day in the U.S of A, it was to be my first to actually traveling into the ‘City’.  Roz  and I were going on a full day mission, and one of the Holy Orders kind.  This was no shopping or tourist trip.

I will admit that I was both excited, and nervous, about the day ahead.  Why was I nervous?  I always find strange city commuting daunting, and so I was relieved to know that Roz would accompany me on my maiden voyage.

For Roz, this daily commute and city hanging is a breeze for her.  It is all part of working downtown and living elsewhere.  For her, the late start to the day was a welcome lie in  to her usual 5am wake up and  express train to be at her desk for 7am.  Roz  makes this  daily sacrifice  to allow her to be able to enjoy the  lifestyle balance that is working in the financial district, and getting home to her hubby and small ones.  Hats off to Roz in managing it so that her family can live the dream.

hats off

And so I happily scurried along with Roz,  as we made our way  into the city. Tom stayed at home to mind his girls and to allow us ‘K-girls‘ escape and fulfill our promise as volunteers.  We got the train from Mamaroneck, which took us directly into Manhatton,  with a few stops along the way.

So we arrived and even at this stage, having witnessed the city come out to meet me, I still didn’t really believe I was in New York – Grand Central Station.

THE Clock!

THE Clock!

We left the station through one of the famous arches, and Roz led me along busy paths.  Before long we were at the National Library, with the Chrysler building in the back ground.

I am grateful to Roz taking photos or I might not have believed I stood there at all.

Spot the tourist

Spot the tourist

My mind kept wandering to familiar scenes of movies (King Kong, I am Legend, Day After Tomorrow…….take a look here if you are interested in a web site that shows you what was filmed where.)

Anyway, Roz isn’t one for hanging around and so a taxi is hailed and off we go past sky scrapers ‘downtown’ and before we know it we arrive at Saint Joseph’s –

St Josephs exterior

So the fund raiser,

well these things don’t happen by themselves.

As with all these type of events, there is great reliance on volunteers and the generosity of performers – it also involves a lot of  sweat and tears to boot.  The macro and micro planning that goes behind such events relies on a whole hive of busy bees.  And I got to be part of that.

So in typical volunteer style, Roz and I  skipped to the side entrance of the church, to find the office and where we met with Mary Reed.

Mary, bless her, was the producer and professional fund raiser/organiser, who was orchestrating the whole event – Roz in her official role was the Event Co-Chair along with Fr. John McGuire – and between them and the many volunteers at St Josephs – the whole event was unfolding before us.

Fr John, greeted us warmly,  and was impressionable in both size and manner.  He offered one big warm swoop of a firm handshake and met all the  attributes that go with the word ‘affable’.

Sr Magdalena, who  had traveled from Kylemore, Ireland , was due  to link up with us and along with Mary, we were to have some lunch before we rolled up our sleeves to volunteer.  How wonderfully strange it was to greet Sr Maggy on the steps of St Joseph’s instead of my usual encounter with her at Kylemore.

The plan was that we were to eat first.  ‘An empty sack won’t stand’ after all.  And then when re-fuelled, Roz and I would help with preparing finger food for the reception party after the fund raiser.

Father had a place booked,  a ‘nice little Italian near by’, and with Father’s bad knee and parking privileges, he drove us all there.  Less than 5 minutes later, call it a local miracle, but Father finds a spot immediately outside the eating house that is ‘Volare’ (147 West 4th Street)

It is in a basement and as we step down and in, it is dark and secretive looking – When my eyes adjust, I am surprised to see the walls  painted with colourful painted scenes of the half clad women.  In true Italian style, there are dining booths, and center tables dressed in crisp white linens.  The waiters stand to attention with long white aprons and polished looks.  You would think I had never been in a restaurant in my life but this was something different – I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I bet those walls could tell a thousand tales.

volare

Back in Volare, the Maitre D’ greets us with a strong accent and I am grateful that I am a guest so I don’t need to understand what he has just said.  Judging from his body language and the casual greeting, Father is a regular here.

Two hours, fabulous fresh pasta, and a very large glass of Chardonnay later and I realise that I have had my first New York dining experience in the company of a nun and a priest in,  decoratively speaking,  what could be a basement boudoir!

Only in New York!

Delizioso!

I ask Roz is it far back to the church; ‘could we walk off the overload’?  What a hoot to discover, when we walk around the corner,  there opposite us is St Josephs!

Saint Joseph’s Parochial House is impressive.  There are many floors and I was only privy to the kitchen and dining/sitting space that occupies a certain floor – but this was enough to see how lovely it must be for the traveling religious who stop and contribute in their way to the parish.

I was in my element, catching up with Sr Maggy, Roz and Fr, while getting to meet another K-Girl, Juliette, for the first time, and meet the many volunteers and some not-so-local (some as far out as the Bronx) kids who have come in to help out as well.  We set up a catering train as one sliced bread, another buttered, another sliced salmon and yet another was in charge of capers.  There were crackers, patés, cheese/pineapple sticks,  all sponsored by locals as their contribution to the fund raiser.  It was not long and the huge dining table was covered in plates of finger food that would feed the many $100 guests later.

It was never said out loud but I got the impression that Father is much loved and appreciated, that St Josephs is still the heart of this ‘village’ and is productive in its way of ensuring that the simple sense of neighborhood values are going strong.

A true village in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world!

Time ticks on,  and soon  we were assigned our tables at the church door to welcome paying guests.

Did I mention that TV crews were there? – the whole thing was recorded and news of it broadcast the following evening back home in Ireland.

It was a wonderful evening.  Of course the performers preformed beautifully – but I have to make a special mention of our own Aileen (pronounced ‘I-lean’) as a beautiful singer and I have to say a natural entertainer (not all could claim this skill) , and the headliner Eabha (pronounced ‘Aay-va’)  breathtaking while also a natural at keeping the crowd engaged and smiling.

At the end, we made it our way back to the reception where the fruits of our earlier efforts were being enjoyed by the masses – I think I was forgiven for turning it down, one can eat only so much salmon in the same day after all.  We mingled, pressed the flesh, chit chatted and all the while promoting the great cause that is building the Monastery for Kylemore.

I am grateful to those who took photos – I was so invested in the ‘here and now’  that I forgot to record those special moments.  Thanks to Mary Reed for being on the ball again there.

Pictures from March concert

It was over too soon, and like the fairy tale, Tom has Roz and I back in Mamaroneck before midnight!

Was it a success?  I certainly believe so – I will leave the money counting to Mary Reed et al – as for myself…..I would never have thought when a student back in the the 80’s,  that  30 years later,  I would be linked in arms in New York, all in the name of Kylemore –

for that alone, the whole trip to New York was worth it!

L to R:  Juliette, Aileen, Roz, Sr Maggy, Fr John, Peggy, myself, Jenny

L to R: Juliette, Aileen, Roz, Sr Maggy, Fr John, Peggy, myself, Jenny

putting the fun in fundraiser

putting the fun in fundraiser

Putting it out there

I am a great believer in asking for something.

What is the worst you can hear after all?

No?

If we don’t ask, we don’t get.

Some might believe that our paths are set and what is due will come in turn.  Rubbish I say! – okay, not total rubbish – I do believe that our paths are somewhat laid down but just for the pure fun of it, GOD (whatever type yours is) throws in a bit of choice to see what we can come up with ourselves.

if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

I have encouraged my kids to be confident in asking for something.  There is a skill to this I think – there is a lot to be said for good manners, good humour, and sure, doesn’t everyone love a charming chancer?

It all boils down to asking for something ‘cos you, well, want it.   So you have to put it out there.

please sir

 

As a boarder in Kylemore, I took chances at asking for permission  – A lot of the time, I was told no, but it was a real bonus when I was told yes!  I  got home early from boarding school  once – I didn’t expect that result myself!

As an adult I was often on the receiving end.  Having worked in the hotel industry, while us managers had to manage complaining guests and going with ‘the customer is king’ attitude – I always acquiesced so much more easily to the polite guest with the issue, than the demanding loud condescending rude one.

And who doesn’t love the try-er – ‘Is there any chance we could get an upgrade?’

Did you hear about the student at a Richard Branson convention somewhere out of state?  – he was receiving texts from the audience as part of the Q & A at the end of the session before he had to dash to his next commitment that was the inauguration of the new President Obama in Washington.  Some bright spark texted him asking was  there any chance they could get a spin with him to the swearing in  – and would you believe it, Richard was impressed enough with their taking a chance and their charming cheekiness, that he said yes!  The texter and their friend were whisked away there and then along with Richard in his helicopter and not only got to see the inauguration but got prime view with Branson’s entourage! (or so the story goes)

I just love that.

But what has this got to do with anything?

 

take a chance

While the self published route has been very satisfying, now that I have written my second book in the series, I have realised with confidence that there is more to my book series than, well,  books.  I firmly believe that the idea as a whole has so much more potential and that realisation involves not being able to do it on my own.  I can, and do, write, but I need experts in all the other areas to do what they do best and so need to be part of team.

To achieve this,  I need to go back to the traditional approach that is to getting “Published” – and I think that means getting an agent.  So I am back to the asking again.

purrrlease

Permission seeking.  ‘Can I be part of your gang?’ sort of thing.

Little_Rascals

Now I have to up sell – ‘cos this time I am in a queue of askers.

Rejection is a little more commonplace when it comes to putting it out there – and I have had my fair share of those.

I am beginning to wonder do I need to revisit my  approach?

Writing my blog and completing my various pages on ‘About me’ and ‘So who is Ruth?’ has made me realise that what I actually share with people when telling them about my book series is not what I have been actually sending out to the various agents/publishing houses.

Perhaps I need to take another look at that?

I recently sent out some new query’s to agents in New York – the thinking that the American market might like the idea of an Irish boarding school story and so after carefully studying and selecting the agents that I thought would be the right fit, I dusted off my submission page and query letter and sent that off.

I have received one rejection so far (1 week after submitting – good going considering some can take up to 6 weeks and beyond)

 “Thank you so much for writing me about your project. I carefully consider each query I receive, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not quite the right fit for yours. I do appreciate that you wrote to me and wish you the very best luck finding the ideal agent for your work.”

 Nicely put,  but it is still a big fat NO!

It is a bit like going for that new job – but that role you really really want.

The fate believers will tell you that it will all come right in the end – and that you have to keep kissing a lot of ugly frogs before you find the right one – eggs to be broken to make an omelette – many doors to be knocked on before the right one opens………

It is reassuring to know that JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie among others, received many rejections before finding their right fit.  I wonder how often they changed their approach?

And so I am now wondering should I not be knocking on doors but instead, say,

throwing pebbles at a window?

Maybe that would get a ‘special’ someone’s attention?

 

We Want You

Plot – Story or Grave?

I went on a walk this morning,  took a turn up past the small cemetery that lies on the coastal town of Schull (West Cork, Ireland).   It slopes gently down to the shore, overlooking Schull harbour and the Carbery isles – in turn lying on the edge of the Atlantic.  It is a beautiful spot.  I find it very moving and inspiring.

It set me thinking of plot.

And the pun therein.

Any writer will tell you that every good story has to have a great plot.  And while I like to think that ‘K-Girls’, my book, has one, I have to confess that the whole idea behind writing my series starts with a rather basic, very sad looking plot.

I discovered it at the age of 12, and was struck by it from the get go.  But it would take me the guts of 30 years before I gave it it’s due respect.

Not many know this, but the whole plot behind K-Girls started with the actual plot, that is the grave, of Ruth Stoker who is a 14 year old who is buried at Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Co. Galway.

For any who have had the pleasure to visit Kylemore, you may remember the lovely walk to the Gothic Church that lies to the east of the Abbey/Castle?  I could say a lot about this cathedral in miniature, but I do not want to waiver from the topic that is, Ruth.  Anyway, under the shade of the Oak trees and watchful eye of Gothic gargoyles is a simple cemetery where in lies the remains of the Benedictine community that have passed on over the years.

In the midst of the simple stone markers for the nuns, there is a small standing celtic stone cross.  It is the maker of Ruth.  It simply states ‘In loving memory of Ruth Stoker who died on 18th December 1923 aged 14 years. RIP’

Ruth Stoker grave stone

When I was a student at Kylemore the myth was that she had died having fallen from the tower (the reason why the Gothic was locked up at the time) , or another, drowned in the lake (explaining why us students were never allowed to swim or boat on the mass of water).  I suppose many girls saw the grave and wondered for a moment, perhaps some didn’t see it at all.  But it struck a chord with me – why was there a girl buried in the nun’s cemetery?  And admittedly, the romantic in me thought how lovely to be buried at Kylemore – imagining that she must have had a great love for the school and her time there.  And that one day, as I have a similar love, that I too might be buried there – or at least some ashes scattered.

Now that I am 44 and married with my own teen girls, I see a different side  – that of the view of a mother  – and try and imagine what it must have been like for the mother of Ruth to have to say good bye to her little girl, and then to witness her being lowered into the ground?  Did the sun shine, setting the church lime stone alight, or did the Connemara rains fall gently dusting people’s umbrellas, or cloche hats and caps.  Was there a good turn out?  How many would have been stood around the small ope and scattered soil into the dark earth on that December day?

As a student at Kylemore, I did not consider a mother’s love, I was too preoccupied with who Ruth was and where had she come from?  How had she truly died?

Perhaps that is where the seed of her spirit was captured within me at the age of 12 and she grew as I did over my years at Kylemore and then, unbeknownst to myself – Ruth came away with me.

It was only the last 7 years that I built up the courage to start writing in earnest and contacted one of the older nuns (Sr Benedict, historian) about Ruth.  While Sr Benedict was not too familiar with Ruth’s background, she went to the retired elders and discovered that Ruth’s story was a foggy one.

A fire in the bursar office in the 50’s (that is a story in its own right) destroyed all student records and so little was remembered of her, only that the retired nuns remembered something about ‘galloping consumption’ and being ‘buried in Kylemore at the request of her parents’.

Oh! – now that put a different perspective on it – galloping consumption? – buried at the request of her parents? What did that mean?  Consumption, I understood was TB but what did galloping?  It did not bode well.  And Ruth buried at the request of her parents? – Where they there after all?  My mind raced with supposing and surmising.

And so curiosity took me down a road of research and censuses – all the while, Ruth stood at my shoulder, and I felt as if she was smiling enjoying the mystery that she had become for me.

Writers will tell you that characters become alive and when writing, they will so often lead us down a plot path that we never designed in the first instance.   I have found this of Ruth.

Ruth Stoker the actual teen who died in Kylemore  has her own story, and one I will gladly share in another post another time – her grave side remains simple and I visit it every time I am back at Kylemore.  I place a stone on the cross to mark my return, (some think this is a Jewish custom but it’s origins are pagan – the stone symbolising the permanence of memory)

It is nice to see that a other stones have been placed by mine.

But the Ruth of K-Girls, the one that lives in my head and manifests as a ghost in my writing, well she is having a ball within the pages that is K-Girls with  her new mortal friend, Alice.  Ruth is getting to live her teen life all over again – albeit in the 80’s  – and as Alice has a whole 6 years to go as a student of Kylemore.

The two of them will  have a lot of fun with plot;

and sometimes even losing it every now and then.

Diaries

My seven year old found my old school diaries.  Not that they were hidden for no one to find, just that it was the first time that he took an interest in them.

I have kept diaries, or journals, throughout my life – in fact, without them I don’t think I would ever have considered writing a novel at all.   And so I have a big box of diaries that span my teen and young adulthood years (I journal less now that I write as an author).

Only 2 actual diaries have sat on my writing desk for the last 4 years.  These two diaries were the background to the writing of ‘K-Girls’, and preparation for the sequel, ‘K-Girls Plus One’.   I would have written them in 1984 and 1985, when I was 13/14.

I have to confess, that most pages  are typical of a teens worries, thoughts and moans, with the odd love lost or crush.

All the same, for the most part, they are not suitable for a seven year old.

What I find interesting is that neither of my teen daughters ever took much interest in them, and so it came as a surprise that my seven year old son was not only fascinated with them, but wanted me to read them to him, and went so far as trying to sneak them into his bedroom to try and decipher my scrawl on his own.

As a parent third time round, I have learnt though, if you tell a child they can’t have something, they just want it all the more;  and so in an effort to stem his new curiosity, I  promised to read to him (that way I am in control) some of the pages within.

This has proved interesting to me.  Most of the entries are what I would call typical, simple, occasionally cringe worthy, and even funny,  on different levels. The best days are the one that, only for the diaries, I would have forgotten about them completely.  To a stranger they may not mean a whole lot, but to me the pages draw on distant memory banks, and allow me to dip into my past, raise a smile and reminisce on old times.  How cocky I was, how innocent, (and then again, perhaps not), how impetuous, petty, or immature, (some would say I haven’t changed much)

And then I think, hang on a second, is this what blogging has replaced?  And facebook?  Only as we are sharing our thoughts with the world, do we hold back on our REAL opinion for fear of judgement, ridicule?  With journals, the premise is that they are private and so we can CONFESS, without judgement.  We can truly speak plainly and openly.  OFF THE RECORD as such.

Wasn’t Wilde that said ‘I never travel without my diary – one should have something sensational to read in the train.’

I know certainly that I am trying to be more careful in my blogging, what to say, how to say it, who is possibly reading it, (if anyone).  My journals, they have a different sense about them – raw, as-it-is.  Warts and all.  There is a lot to be said about that I think – I can see that within the diaries, is the forming of my true writing voice – capturing the real feelings of a young teen girl, even if in the 1980’s.  Have teens changed a whole lot – you would think I would know having two of them but is the main difference being social media has perhaps indirectly created a censorship to a young person’s voice?

In any case, I thought to share with you my first page in my diaries as a K-Girl – don’t get too excited now, I know my seven year old certainly didn’t.

teen diariesdiary entry 1984

diary transcript

8-3-’84 – Lent 1st day

Dear Diary,

Since this is my first page I thought i might has well tell you that I most probably wont be able to write every night cause I’m not great at writing every night.  I don’t know why I decided to write but I said to hell and took this out and here I am writing this.  To-day is the 2nd day of lent and I’ve given up sweets and I have to try and keep it ’cause I usually break it.  

I’ve got to go to sleep now ’cause Miss Oakely is switching the light off now.

Good night

Sweet Dreams

Lydia

Speaking on Firsts

Considering the time of year, and being new to blogging, I thought it appropriate to speak about Firsts – or new Starts – they are connected are they not?

We all experience Firsts – blogging being my most recent!

But First’s appear to slow down a pace as we get older – or do they?  As adults do we forget to take off our blinkers and view the world differently?

Why not take a kids view on things? – the awe, the curiosity, the excitement, the in-the-moment concentration that they give a new discovery, be it a weird looking bug or tasting a lemon.

So in preparation of today’s post, and with the start to 2015 – I thought I would take a different look at MY view on the the new year – and look to my past Firsts, to perhaps prepare for some future ones – or for the adults out there who like to put a power word on it –  my 2015 ‘Goals’.

After all, isn’t a  Goal something we aspire to achieve (for clarification, I am not talking scoring between goal posts here) – and if it is a Goal, doesn’t this mean we have not done it before, and by consequence, it is a First.

I think Michelangelo is quoted somewhere as saying ‘I am still learning’ as he painted the Sistine Chapel.

But what about the small stuff, the bits that really only matter to us as individuals.

So for 2015 I am  not going to make any resolutions – as these are so often based on failures,  or trying to change the negative – I am going to revert to the past to go forward.  If that makes sense?

Not a bucket list – more an appreciation.  An appreciation of any Firsts that I may continue to experience, to recognise, and to celebrate them.  Even if I think I have done it all before, to approach it as if I have not – with awe, with curiosity, with excitement.

To that end, I am happy to share my first letter home from boarding school – written at the age of 12, back in 1983, having settled in a few days to Kylemore Abbey School for Girls, Connemara.  I don’t think it holds any life changing messages.  But I am happy to say that, thanks to my father’s archiving, that the letter remains (misspelling and all), as opposed to decomposing in some land fill – and I appreciate that, and it, on so many levels – my first letter home – the first of many letters that would follow, but this one capturing one girls’  mind set as a boarder, starting anew, making that fresh start to secondary school – and what was important to her at that time, in that moment when she took her new letter writing set and quickly penned a letter home.

I feel strangely reassured that, 30 years later, my needs haven’t changed much!

Here’s to yours for 2015.

first letter home page 1first letter home page 2

Transcript from letter:

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore

Co. Galway

Spet 1983

Dear Mum and Dad,

                                    It’s my second day here and its great fun. I thought I would be really homesick but I’m not (no offence).  By the^wayhow’s everyone, I’m just after remembering that I’ve left loads of things at home so would you please send the up the following:tourch, radio, cuddley toy, posters and some books and tuck Oh yah! And a picture of the family (scamp and shandy as well).  Say hallo the rest of the family and give Shandy, Scamp and Nillie a big X

 

I’ve made loads of friends so theres no need to worry.  Im sleepin in the farm house wle, which is great fun, one of my friends name is Jane and she’s very nice she sleep in the same bunck and bedroom as me.  I’ve got another friend whose very nice aswell she’s in 6th year and her name is (oh dear I’m after forgetting.)  I’ve got loads more to but I haven’t enough time sorry.  I’d better go now.

          Lot and lots of love

                              Daughter number 2

                                        (Lydia)

X a nice big kiss

P.S write back and don’t forget the things I need