K-Girls goes South

It was a first for the post office manager, Bridie Roycroft, in my West Cork village of Ballydehob.

bdehob post office

 

It’s not every day someone comes in looking to post something to the South Pole.  The North Pole is not an issue.  After all, postal delivery services have been sending mail to Santa for centuries.

But the South Pole?

The Irish post computerised system does not appear to recognise the address.

Little did I know I would be presenting a conundrum to the village post office when making enquiries into how much it would cost to post a small parcel to the American Base in Antarctica.

 

antartica

You see a friend has gone to the South Pole for the next 12 months.  Six of which will be spent in complete darkness.  Naturally I thought it would be nice to send him a small parcel.  I wanted to send him some light home Irish comforts like Barry’s Tea bags, packets of Knorr soup and Cadbury’s chocolate along with some family kid’s drawings.  And I thought why not include a copy of my book ‘K-Girls.’

 

There is a short window to post before  the November deadline to ensure the parcel arrives sometime in the next 12 months.  It has to get to New Zealand first and then wait for a weather window to fly post & provisions over. I think they call it “Operation Deep Freeze”.

Our family friend, a Texan, Sayer Houseal, has journeyed to the South Pole having been selected to work as a carpenter as a participant in the United States Antarctic Program.

 

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Sayer Goes South

 

We first met Sayer as a volunteer on Helpx.net in 2010– a site that matches families to travelers seeking bed and board in exchange for some help around the homestead.  (I like to think that If we can’t travel the world, let the world come to us.  We get some help around the place while sharing our home/Irish culture with worldwide visitors.  There is no exchange of money but lots in the line of culture, food and stories.)

Sayer stayed with us helping with garden and DIY projects over a number of weeks in that November and we have kept in touch ever since.  Over the years, Sayer has done much including volunteering as part of Habitat for Humanity and has also volunteered in Canada, Hawaii and other parts of the world.

But I think this stint in Antartica will be the toughest assignment yet.

I was happy to remind Sayer of his Irish roots and our Nation’s connection to the South through Tom Crean (explorer).  Sayer promises me that he is packing a copy of Shackleton’s memoir and so will get an insight into Crean’s part of the adventure.  I am not sure ‘K-Girls’ will be quite this 27-year old’s genre, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to send my own book to the South Pole.   After all, how often does an author get to do that?

tom crean

Sayer has a blog of his travels to date, and will continue to update on his Bottom of the Pole adventure.  It is a fascinating and fun read.  Give it a go.

As for the cost of sending the parcel from Ballydehob?  A few phone calls with An Post head office and it turns out it costs no more than posting it to the States.  The sense being that any Antartic mail  goes to the US first to link up with the military mail and then gets sent out through their internal system (via New Zealand)  along with all other US provisions.  So I decided to send two.  To be sure, to be sure.

I was worried that my parcels might not arrive before Christmas 2016 never mind Christmas 2015, and by sending two, there was a better chance of him at least getting one of them (I only sent one copy of K-Girls) but judging by Sayer’s most recent blog, I think getting mail is not a problem for him.

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Sayer’s got mail!

It is not clear yet if he has got my mail (I can’t make them out among the masses) but  I am hoping it will get there safe and sound.

As you can see he is a pretty popular guy.

You will have to take my word that this is a shot of Sayer at the South Pole

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where every step is North

 

I am secretly hoping his next South Pole photo will be him posing with a copy of K-Girls!

How cool would that be?!

 

Anyone for Tennis?

Recently I have taken a rather lazy approach to research.

research keys

From the comfort of home, if a question pops to mind, I would often find an answer by pressing a few keys. Need to research something?  Just pop the word in Google and in a blink of an eye a treasure of information comes to hand.

I had forgotten that there was a time and not everything was so easy.  It was not all that long ago and one had to put in that bit more effort if they wanted to find out about something.

library shelves

Even now, the internet has its limitations.  You might think it is a bottomless pit of information but everything is NOT to be found there.

Last week while strolling around the ‘Real Capital’, I decided that I should expand my research horizons and take a chance on some of the ‘old fashioned’ way of carrying out a bit of research.  I popped into the Cork City Library and took a  look at their reference section there.  My hopes were not too high, as the subject of my research was mostly Dublin based, and the tennis scene to be more precise.

Why tennis? Well, the subject of my book series back ground research has always come down to the Stoker/Maunsell family.  And Frank O. Stoker, the father of Ruth Stoker (so who is Ruth?) was big into tennis back in his day.  As were the Maunsells,  Rita Maunsell being Ruth’s mother.

Anyway, without going into too much detail, and limiting the research to ‘Irish tennis, Frank O Stoker and/or Maunsell’   it all came down to the library having only one book that met any of my search criteria.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to discover this book by Ulick O Connor- who by all accounts was not only a poet but a keen tennis player and dedicated sports fan to boot.

Fitzwilliam story

Not expecting to find much in the line of Stoker/Maunsell side of things, you can imagine my delight in finding the following:Stoker at Fitzwilliam

Irish Team 1896 at Fitzwilliam Square.  Included are Three  Wimbledon Champions:  Mahoney, Pim and,  looking very handsome altogether, seated second from the right, Frank O. Stoker!

My blog pages does expand some more on Frank and his tennis achievements,  but this tit bit I  found was interesting.

The book , as per the title,  goes into the clubs history spanning a hundred years.  Whilst reading the early years, I read with interest various names that Frank O. would have been acquainted with,   and even  played tennis against.  I also  read that  Ulick thought ” Stoker never seems to have done as well in singles as he should have.  He made a perfect partner for Pim, and his stamina acquired on the rugby field was always useful when the net cords weren’t coming as sweetly as they might”

And as the years followed, the book went on to mention Ruth’s sister, Norma Stoker, who went on to play and win ladies doubles in 1933 and 1935.  A few years short of her father’s death in 1939.  Her mother also died in the same year.

And so I was moved to see a new name jump out of the page at me.

H.R Maunsell – President of the club 1941-43

There was no more detail in the book and so I was left to my own devices to find out more.  H R was club president around the same year as my father was born and so I expect H R is no longer with us.  That being said, it has given me a new shoot of family history to trace and so when I came home I tried google H R to  find out more.

No results, alas.

As the saying goes, ‘give the dog a bone’ and I have a fresh one between my teeth.

Some more digging will need to be done.

I think I will have to visit some more libraries.

Going a little insane

I am distracted – I took some time out from revising book 2 to experience a wonderful West Cork Literary festival, as a result, my mind is now leaping from one ‘to-do’ item on my list to another.

Which is the priority? – continue to review/revise book 2? write a witty and entertaining blog? put together some submissions to UK agents for book 1  – review/revise book 1 for said submissions? write something completely different to keep my mind fresh and imagination keen?…….all the while fitting it in around my part time job, family, and mundane obligations of running a house hold.

I imagine how wonderful it would be to do an ‘Emily Dickinson‘ on it (as learned about her this week at the festival)

She choose to  give it all up to be a full time writer  – I wonder could I too  and hoard my writing in a chest in my room, occasionally sending out the odd letter and poem to those closest and dearest…..alas, I am already married and do not have a father or brother who would willingly support me financially to do this full time – I think my husband and kids would be a tad upset  too.

And I don’t think I could hack the loneliness

straight jacket

Back to the ‘to-do’ list……

 

revision

at least  I got to update my blog……

 

 

Almost ‘and back again’ – last day in New York

Day 6 – last of the ‘Little Adventure’ – Thursday, March 19th 2015

One last burst of exploring the city – left to my own devices and full of confidence, I returned to Grand Central station, and this time headed North.

So what was on my agenda?

Thursday was about research and…. a bit of a ‘business meeting’……..

Throughout my posts about my New York visit, I have commented very little about my writing/novel.  This day was being driven with both in mind.  Whether it is an idea for plot or character for the next book or if it is a whole new book for another time, I felt New York would give me inspiration.  But, again, I wasn’t choosing the usual tourist path.

images (1)

I LOVE history now- not the big stories per say, but more the stories behind the big stories.  I also find, that  from a writer’s view, when I hear a date,  I find my mind relating it back to Kylemore.   What was going on there at the same time?

So for example, when construction was underway at Kylemore Castle in 1867:  the International Exhibition was opened in Paris – Jesse James was busy robbing a bank in Missouri – Karl Marx had just published ‘Das Kapital’ – The widow Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Albert Hall – the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed between US/Native American Indians – the Fenian’s were organising a Rising in Ireland…….  Needless to say the list could go on.

Did you know that 1867  was also the year Charles Dickens gave his first public reading in New York at Steinway Hall?

Anyway, for research there was a few places I wanted to visit,  to ‘put my eye’ on the locations that I had read about and filed away.

New York is a pulsing  city today – what was it like during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?

Here is what I did NOT get to see.

I had missed an opportunity to get to the Tenement Museum – note:  you can only visit here while escorted by a tour guide and that has to be pre-booked.  AND I also messed up on  getting to the Merchant House (it is open Thursday – Sundays)  AND with the week that was in it, Ellis Island was totally booked out! 😦 All/any of these,  would have been a fantastic opportunity to see how people lived (and died)  during the late 1800’s etc in New York.   I was very disappointed not to have been able to visit them.

I have promised myself to get to them on my  NEXT trip to New York!

We do have comparable tourist experiences  here in Ireland:  Living The Lockout, for the tenement side of things in Dublin, and our own Cobh Heritage Experience for the Famine Ships, Titanic and Lusitania stories, and of course we have our own fine examples of the Big Houses, Kylemore and Muckross House being two of them.

But would they be a similar experience?

I think not. ( I will endeavour to get to the Irish ones before the year is out)

I did get to seek out some places on my list for New York.  One was the Dakota building (built between 1880 and 1884) – I had recently finished a great time travel book (recommended by Stephen King) – Time and Again by Jack Finney,   where the Dakota was used in the book as the base for time travel – the building reportedly got its name from being built so far on the Upper West Side, that it might as well have been in Dakota.

 

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 - (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 – (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

 

Of course the building now sits nice and snug, blending in very comfortably with its’ towering neighbours….. I had great fun finding it, and then wondered what stories IT could tell.

Dakota Now,  2015

Dakota Now, 2015

 

On a side note, did you know that prior to establishing the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, that her torch bearing arm was first exhibited at Madison Square Park?  The story, as I understand it, is that the state couldn’t afford to build a base and erect the statue and so the arm was on display instead, tourists paying to climb up into the torch, while fund raising continued.

lending a hand of Liberty

lending a hand of Liberty

 

Lunch time soon snuck up on me and I had to attend my ‘Business Meeting’

For lunch I meet with a ‘Certain Someone’.  Now this person shall remain nameless as I do not want to identify them in this blog, until such time that they advise otherwise.  And as casual as it may have been arranged, it was actually a PR exercise for me to push the idea of my book and for ‘He who shall not be named’ to put a face and character to my name. In case you get too excited, they are not an agent/publisher or an author even, but they are in the industry and lets just say they were doing me the favour by giving me some of their very precious time.

On the surface it was all very relaxed and easy going, but I have to admit I was nervous and very conscious of not coming across as too cocky, or too wishy-washy either.  I had about 30 minutes to talk up my book and me, without appearing pushy and needy.

As a result the first 20 minutes we talked about everything BUT the books and my writing – and the last few I had my ‘window’ to try and capture the very essence of what I was all about and where I wanted to bring my book series ‘K-Girls’.  It was my first real ‘pitch’ without trying to make it sound too obvious that that is exactly what it was!

I think it went very well – not to any degree of signing any book deals but I certainly got some interesting feed back, picked up a professional tip or two.  I think they went away reasonably impressed, not just with my book series idea,  but with me too!  If they go away thinking this girl has some good ideas that go beyond the traditional, and they drop my name in their professional circles, then I would be very happy with that.

We shall have to wait and see what outcome, if any, comes out of that.

Meeting over, I sauntered for a bit near by and I have to say I was in my total element when I found this little Gem – not a building – but a book of buildings!

images

 

Fab imagery of New York back in its early days, with comparison shots from modern day – (hats off to author Marcia Reiss and photographer Evan Joseph)  I had great fun finding some of the buildings within and making my own comparisons.

As a result,  I walked miles around the city and felt I even did my own bit of  ‘time travel’  …….the weather was glorious and I got to walk across Central Park (where the pond was still frozen) and ‘popped’ in (how naive was I) to the Met Museum.   I would need a whole new trip to New York to get to see everything there.

Oh how weary was I by the end of it all – how wonderfully wonderfully weary.

At the end of the afternoon,  I made it ‘home’ to Mamaroneck with blistered feet and a very happy soul.

The next day was ‘Going Home’ day and so I spent it with my hosts, dear friends – and I will always appreciate those last few cuddles on the couch, from my beautiful and pixie-like god daughter ‘Berry-Boo‘.

It was a quick and sad good bye. (save having to go back to collect a forgotten purse!!!! – thank you AGAIN Rozzy)

I arrived home to Ireland in one piece – and I have to admit I was very happy to see the familiar patchwork green fields from Aer Lingus just before we set down in Dublin.

My trip was  – oh there is no denying it – AMAZING – as cliched as it sounds.

I would like to think that my one was one with a difference – I hope my  last few posts have caught some of that.

Looking back on the last year, it goes to show that you have to Put It Out There – whatever IT is that you want in life –

it might just come true –

After all

I got to New York didn’t I?

Little Erin stroll

New York – a Little Irish Lakota connection

Day Two in New York – Sunday 15th March 2015

In a previous blog,  I  mentioned that one of the many reasons that justified my trip to the Big Apple, was to visit relatives.

Do you know the exact address of YOUR  extended family scattered about the world?

Well, I had only a vague idea of where my rellies were,  and did not fully investigate their address until I was ensconced on site at ‘base camp’ that was Mamaroneck, and iphone in hand.

I knew the rellies lived in Scarsdale (remembered easily due to the mad diet my mother was always on in the 70’s and 80’s) but  I had no idea where Scarsdale was in relation to New York city and Mamaroneck.

Well would you believe it but  – according to Google maps, and GPS – we were a mere 10 minutes drive from the rellie’s house in Scarsdale!

hop skip and a jump away

hop skip and a jump away

Now here’s the thing – Rellies has a broad term doesn’t it?

 

friends are the family

My true blood relatives, are the O’Farrell-Gallo side,  and their very good friends, the Dunnes, have become ours too over the years.

Tim and Cindy Dunne visited us during the summer of 2014 in West Cork,  and naturally, the courtesy was being extended as I was now on their home turf.

There is no way I could have left American soil without linking up with them.

In any case, the arrangements were that we would all meet at the Dunne’s in Scarsdale on Sunday, for a  late morning brunch.

So we descended en masse to Scarsdale with a gift of a good bottle of wine, and obligatory giant bars of  Cadbury’s chocolate. I had an additional gift for the Dunnes.

My brother, Fergus O’Farrell, is a singer song writer.  And he wanted me to pass on a couple of CD’s of his two albums to the Dunnes.  While Fergus’s songs are available commercially (visit his web site here) one of these songs was particularly special and he wanted to give signed copies to them.

interference live in Dingle  interference

Bear with me as I now FLASHBACK to the summer 2014 when Tim and Cindy had visited us in Ireland.  Cindy was telling us as part of the general chit chat that she was now retired and had the time to volunteer with the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation and specifically, with the Lakota Children’s Enrichment foundation – this was as a result of their daughter, Maggie, who works very closely with the Lakota children on the reservation.  As it natural with these things, Maggie’s mother had taken an interest too.

I added my bit that, I felt the Irish could relate (if even just a little)  having had our share of colonisation and banishment, oppression, genocide, treaty breaking etc.  I shared the story of  how good the Native American’s had been to the Irish during the Great Famine (1845-52), sending over funds, following their own Trail of Tears.

To think, the Native American Indians had so little and gave so much to our people.

And I shared news of how, in recognition of this wonderful aid, there is a sculptor planned to be unveiled in Cork. (For details of this see more here)

 

proposed 'Feather' sculpture

proposed ‘Feather’ sculpture

Back to us at brunch in the USA Spring 2015 and I was delighted to pass on my  brother’s CD which features his song ‘Gold’ (as sung in the movie Once, and performed as part of the Broadway show)

These CD’s do not have the original version  which includes has a speech recorded that precedes the song.

Fergus had written a personal note to the Dunnes, included in the CD, explaining that the song, although perceived as a love song, was actually an environmental song that had been inspired by a  speech he had heard.

I played the original version song to the full room and wasn’t I thrilled to be able to report that the speech was delivered by the Great Grand daughter of Chief Hollow Horn, of the Lakota tribe. ( I will include a link here once I figure out how to upload to audio to the blog so you can hear the full rendition)

This as you can imagine made a wonderful impression.  Great discussion followed as to the coincidence etc.

Admittedly, while Fergus never knew the Lakota connection when he wrote the song, we are only delighted to now put the two together.

Serendipity?  Fate?  Maybe the Great Spirit would have a say on that.

In any case,  the morning was filled by a circle of friends, new and old, sharing food, chatting, and exchanging stories.

There was that special moment when I realised how wonderful these kind of gatherings are – and how lucky I was to be right in the middle of it.  My mind slipped back to a time when the same lands might have had a tribe somewhere near by where others too may have gathered, shared stories and exchanged gifts.

There was no mass for me on that Sunday – but I figure any God wouldn’t have minded.

Hollow Horn Bear  (ca. 1850 – 1913)

Hollow Horn Bear
(ca. 1850 – 1913)

New York – Mamaroneck

So Base Camp for my trip to New York was the town of Mamaroneck -home to Matt Dillon for any fans.  In Irish how-to-get-there terms, this ‘village’ is a ways out of New York’s Manhatton, on the North West side of New York state, on the way towards Greenwich CT (Connecticut).  It actually lies in Westchester County of New York but lets not go too much into that.

According to wikipedia pages, is one of the top 10 places to live in NY.

I can vouch for that.

For a country bumpkin and an Irish one at that, I had no idea where I was to be staying, only that it was the address of my friend, Roz and family.  As far as I was concerned I was going to New York and linking up with one of my bestest pals.  I wouldn’t have cared if I was stuck in a shed with a sleeping bag.

 

Mamaroneck

Fortunately, that was not my penance and instead, I was gifted the lap of comfort at its best.

First impressions in daylight on day one left me in awe of the size of everything in the area- the houses, the cars, the supermarkets…..I am such a tourist…..but then I started to look beyond that, and I was touched by the lay of the land.

Mamaroneck by unknown artist (c)

Mamaroneck by unknown artist (c)

Houses built sensitively around giant boulders and rocks that form the natural terrain.  My eyes were forever drawn beyond the houses to the grove of trees, hillocks and streams that flowed freely to the sea and as a result, I found I could easily imagine what the lay of the land was like originally.

Back yard barn in Mamaroneck

Back yard barn in Mamaroneck

 

For the time of year, the trees were bare and the ground scantly clad in pockets of snow.  Picture postcard.  But what was it like originally?

Snow time in Mamaroneck

Snow time in Mamaroneck

 

Well the area that is now the town in Mamaroneck, was purchased from Native American Chief Wappaquewam and his brother Manhatahan ( of the Siwanoy tribe)  by an Englishman named John Richbell in 1661.  The rest as they say is history ( and not necessarily a pleasant one for the Native Americans)  and yet I could clearly imagine some scouts or braves, weaving in and out of the glades where the big houses now stood.

I have a hunger for background, or the story behind a place/person, and so I found myself always asking questions, that not necessarily people had the answer to.

So where does the name Mamaroneck come from? – In Ireland traditional place names mean something e.g. my own home town, Ballydehob – Beal Atha Da Chab (place of the two rivers fords) or Dublin  – Dubh Linn – the black pool. I wondered the story behind Mamaroneck……

I am saddened to say that the Siwanoy Indians do not exist any more (another discussion for another day) and so the actual Indian meaning of the name behind the town has been lost – but there have been some educated guesses handed down over time.  Here are a few of them that I found online –  For the full article please see here:

Mamaroneck is named after the Indian chief, Mamaronock – but he was a  chief of the Wiquaeskeck Indians who were located in a different area so this doesn’t ring true.

Mamaroneck means “the place of rolling stones” but  there doesn’t seem to be any documentary evidence supporting the idea that the Indian word ‘mamaroneck’ translates as ‘the place of rolling stones”.

Mamaroneck means “the Gathering Place.”  ‘mama’ means ‘to bring (or gather, or join, or meet) together with the ‘eck’ meaning ‘place or land’ – maybe maybe not……

In any case, all the above moved me as I could picture all of these explanations in the friendly picturesque town and I related all the more with the historic place.  I am please to report the town plague at least acknowledges the Indian connection.

Mamaroneck town plague

Oh, and by the way, for the golfers out there – the famous Winged Foot golf club can also be found in the area…..

Entrance to Wing Foot golf club

Entrance to Wing Foot golf club

New York – There and Back Again- a Little Irish adventure.

March, Friday 13th – an omen for some – but not for this lady.

Would you believe it but in July last year, I ‘put it out to the universe‘  to be able to go to New York for March 2015.

This was not a trip I could easily afford, time nor financially.

So it really was a case of ‘making a wish’ and hoping it would come true.

And it did!

Fast forward to Friday 13th  2015 and I was on a plane enjoying the great service of Aer Lingus and in-flight movies.

Amazeballs!

So what brings me to New York?

A VERY good and generous friend I have to say.

And why?

But of course, the Kylemore Abbey Fund raiser!

And wanting to see a very good friend who moved there in the last year or so,

And because of rellies who have been asking me for years to come and visit

And it was so close to Paddy’s Day……

What better excuses eh?

So the next few blogs will be a capsule of what I got to do while on American soil and hopefully you will enjoy, and perhaps learn a thing or two along the way……….