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……

 

 

Whistling Dixie

There is no easy way around it.

Revising a novel that is.

Writing is the easy part (for me anyway)

I have written 2 novels now and have to say, I love turning up for the page.  I have yet to experience writer’s block (lucky me).  The biggest hurdle I experience is fitting writing in around my part time job  and my young family life. So when I do show up  and start writing – it is a real buzz – I love it.

When my  first draft is completed, it is truly a  ‘Draft Zero’

Draft Zero – the rough draft – warts and all.

The writing has been more or less vomited onto the page.  It is not a pretty picture to a reader.

first draft

The experts advise to sit on a novel for a bit – leave it ‘in a drawer’ and then to return to it some weeks later.  So you go back to it with a fresh view.

But I have found that the weeks go by, months even,  and I avoid returning to it.  There is that dread.  My characters are nagging me – tapping me on the shoulder – “hey! what about us, that scene – you know it doesn’t work – fix it”  or the character that is a bit fuzzy looking – standing in some fog, cos you haven’t written their back story to give them a good foundation – some depth.

Why do I put it off?

Because  revising is soooo hard.

keep calm

I recently gave my Draft Zero to my writing group for their first impression.  The are my Beta Babes.  My Writing Sirens.  My Realists. They are an honest bunch – I got to hear the plot strengths and weaknesses.  Plot holes essentially.  Don’t get me wrong – it was great.  Very productive.  It just means I had to go back in and sort it out.

Needless to say, there is a lot of work that needs doing.  And THAT is when I had to  convince myself to go back to the keyboard and start the shredding/slashing/re-creating.

Which then is the beginning of Draft one.

My last book, K-Girls took about 17 drafts before it was ‘done’.  Yup,  One Seven.

So I have a bit to go yet on this book 2, before it is truly finished.

There could be many a sleepless night – but hey, I have 3 kids – Sleepless nights don’t scare me.

Anyway – why am I going into all this now you might ask?

Well – I have been putting it off.  And as any decent procrastinator will tell you, it is not my fault that I have not got round to revising my novel.  Naturally, I blame the husband, the kids, the housework, work – my blog………

And here I am – writing this – when on my next PC window sits my novel – Whistling Dixie for my attention.  And so I will take a break from my blog for a bit.  As I get my teeth into revising my own book.

I am sweating thinking about it.  But hey – all for the greater good.  And no one else can do it but me.  This I have to do on my own.

So I am going to knuckle down.

I may be some time

procrastination

Strong Warriors – a Lusitania story

So I was rather chuffed when my historic fiction piece (abridged version) was published last week (Evening Echo Thursday, 7th May 2015) Written back in 2007, it was a originally a 3000 short story that had been written for the Fish Anthology Historic Short Story competition – I was short listed then and didn’t win,  but was pleased with that result.

I pulled it out again this year, wanting to somehow make my own little contribution to mark the Lusitania centenary.  I was delighted that the Evening Echo accepted it – my first ‘freelance’ piece.

Anyway, I know some who missed the feature in the paper, and were interested in reading the story, so I am happy to add it here (with some added images)

It is a fictionalised account, of factual events.

Strong Warriors

By

Lydia Little

Bill Turner brushed the last of his lunch crumbs from his tunic as he stepped from his day cabin onto the crescent shaped bridge, with its broad bright windows, and gleaming array of instruments.  The wheelhouse was filled with a quiet sunlight that streamed through the lazy fog, disturbed only by the comforting rhythm of the ship’s engine and busy clicking from the wireless room.

He inhaled a deep relaxing breath filling his lungs feeling satisfied and content.  He would never tire of watching the bow of the ship stretch out before him, ploughing through the sapphire sea, revealing a continuous petticoat of white bow wave tumble along in her wake.

 

Cpt Bill Turner

Captain Bill Turner

The Captain relished this private time, having had lunch in his day cabin and avoiding small talk with passengers.  Fortunately for him, his staff captain Anderson, a master of diplomacy, was gifted with such pleasantries. Anderson always willing and able to stand in for the Captain’s public engagements when it allowed.

Captain Turner may have lacked the finesse that his employers, Cunard, expected but he was an extremely competent seaman.  He had been at sea since a young lad and had captained ships since early adulthood.  At the ripe age of fifty-nine, he enjoyed this position of authority.  If only for a few days, he was monarch on his own floating kingdom and felt comfortable with her in his charge.

He strolled out on the port side facing land.  Experience told him they were off the Old Head, but he would wait for the fog to clear before taking a bearing to plot their position.  Once done, he would alter course, increase speed, and plan to catch the Mersey tide at Liverpool. 

 The Captain’s mind was drawn to the waters beneath.  He was in a declared danger zone.  Turner knew about the threat of U-boats.  He was acutely aware that were Admiralty to escort the liner, it would only mark the ship as part of a Naval Unit, giving the enemy legitimate excuse to strike.  The Admiralty were powerless.  No, they had to go alone through the Irish Sea. 

Word of Warning

In preparation lookouts were doubled with men in the crow’s nest, on the bridge and a quartermaster on either side.  The engine rooms had been readied to give full speed and highest steam on command.  She could out run any submarine.  No, he was not worried for the ship.  His concern lay in her manpower.  Her weakness lay in the event of an evacuation emergency.  There was a shortage of crew.  Ever since the war began, any decent sailor had already volunteered for service and Turner had to make do with what hands were left.  Officially they had just over the number of hands needed, but that included inexperienced stewards and stokers.  He knew that time had not allowed them the full training necessary to complete all emergency drills. 

 Below decks Kitty toyed with her soup.  Her stomach was still tender and it was only in that day’s calm sailing, that she began to get her sea legs.  Her friend Alice, had finished her lunch and was full of the joys of life.  All a fuss and a bother about how close they were to the Irish coast, yet it would be another day’s sail before they would set foot on land.

Despite her previous late night at the Seaman’s Charities evening, Alice had been up since dawn in the hope of catching first sight of their native coast only to be disappointed by the fog.  She felt a growing impatience with this sickly Kitty. She loved her dearly, but this constant lethargy was irritating.  They were supposed to be enjoying the luxuries on board, returning home on a well-deserved break from years working in New York.  It wasn’t fair that Kitty had to go and get sick and spoil their crossing. 

 Kitty tried another sip of her soup.  She didn’t like traveling.  It didn’t help to hear the talk of war and submarines.  But they were on the fastest ship on the ocean, ‘Greyhound of the Sea’ they called her.   And with lots of Americans on board, the U-boats wouldn’t dare attack.

Anyone for soup

 

Eleven miles off starboard, Pilot Lanz viewed the liner with his binoculars from the conning tower.  The submarine had been sailing for some time on the surface in the thick fog without any sightings and now he had one that he was very pleased about. He alerted the Captain. 

April had not been good for Captain Schwieger.  He had been hoping for some good hunting, especially now with competition among his peers. If Lanz was correct, this target could give him huge kudos.  He gave the order to dive.

Captain Schwieger

Captain Schwieger

The U-20’s ballast tanks drank their fill. Crew rushed to their posts. Watertight hatches slammed, klaxon signaled, valves spun as orders were issued and echoed.  Compressed air hissed, as the big diesels went silent and a gentler whirring of the electric engines took up their cue below the surface.  The u-boat slipped beneath, maintaining periscope depth.  The atmosphere on board was palpable.  Oppressive cramped conditions, the smell of bilge waters, diesel and stale sweat, now a stimulant for war. 

Lurking beneath the surface, the U20 steered a silent stalking course.  Schwieger stayed at the periscope.  With calculating precision he issued his orders. 

There was a shudder and a hiss.  Driven forward by its two tiny propellers, powered by nothing more than compressed air, the armed torpedo and its three hundred pounds of high explosive made its way towards the liner.  Schwieger followed the bubble-track through the water.  A line of death.  He thought of the human life on board the huge vessel.  He took no pleasure from causing their demise.  He was simply acting on duty.  Quietening any foreboding thoughts he focused on the task ahead.

For Irish passengers on board the liner, they made their way to the port side to catch a better glimpse of shore.  Noses raised they drunk deep the scent wafting off their home land. 

 Turner felt rather than heard the dull thud of the impact.  The watch’s warning was still echoing in his head when he felt the ship wince beneath him.  He rushed to starboard.  A cloud of coal dust and smoke filled the air, the deck awash with water and debris. The ship was struck abaft the bridge, lifeboat number five demolished. 

 In the dining rooms beneath, forks paused at gaping mouths.  Kitty and Alice looked at each other unspeaking.  

Then the hull shook from a second explosion.

Everyone felt and heard that one.

Target Strike

 

Orders were issued to head towards shore but the ship was taking on water too fast.  The engines rendered useless from the inrush of water meant the ship’s thirty thousand tons ploughed on ahead.   Quartermaster Johnston fought with the locked wheel.  Gulping in as she went, the ship pulled herself under as she advanced, forcing more and more water into her breached hull.  The Captain was powerless to stop her.  A frantic tapping took up in the wireless room as distress signals were sent using battery power.   Orders were issued to dispatch officers to their lifeboat stations. 

 A new wave of nausea passed through Kitty.  Her eyes darted to the doors and back to Alice.  Both abandoned their place rushing to the door.  Coal dust and smoke filled the air.  There was a numbing sense of unreality as people scurried about, others stood bewildered looking on as chaos swirled around them.  Kitty pulled Alice close out of the way of the confused gathering crowd.  The angle of ship was unnatural.  Already there was a significant list in the deck. 

 Staff Captain Anderson and his officers struggled with the lifeboats.  They could not be launched safely.  The angle of the ship was such that only boats on the starboard side had any hope of being used.  Those on the port side tilted inwards towards the decks, useless.

 Anderson’s eyes scanned the deck and the water below.  Diplomacy was not on the agenda now.  High society manners ditched as some fought and trampled their way towards the lifeboats.  Orders shouted over the din and screaming.  Priority given to women and children but few risked the gaping distance between ship and lifeboats.  Most seemed to prefer the surreal choice of ship to lifeboat. 

A cold reality weighed in on Anderson. 

Kitty and Alice both fumbled with the life jackets given by a stumbling steward.  Kitty helped the transfixed Alice, trying to remain sure-footed as the great ship lost her feeling of solidity.  Thuds and bangs reverberated beneath their feet.  Kitty looked to the railing. The sharply increased list of the ship tipped a lifeboat tumbling passengers into the water; shrieking and struggling, the lifeboat crashed down among them.  Alice looked on in horror and clung silently to Kitty.  Turning to Alice, Kitty took her friend’s face gently in her hands and held her desperate eyes in her own. 

 Time stopped for Alice.  She shut out the chaos around her.  There was a great warmth and comfort in the dark pools of Kitty’s eyes. Alice wished to crawl into them.  Be in a place of quiet and calm.  Kitty was saying something about the ship and no time, and water. Swimming?  She couldn’t.  She thought of the rock pool where the stream tumbled down the valley at home.  That was a happy place.  It would be nice to go again. She could feel the water at her ankles now.  But this was not the waters of home.

 A torrent of the ocean came reaching for them.  Steam and smoke vomited out of her funnels. The ship began her dying lament. Her innards moaned a new death song.  The deck slipped away from beneath them.  Kitty gasped but held on tight to Alice’s jacket. Clumsy in their sodden weight of useless lace and petticoats, breath caught by corseted prisons, the two friends fought to leave the sinking mass behind.  Violently kicking against the pull, they pushed away from the mass of chaos.  They were only two amongst a field of bobbing heads, debris and noise.  Struggling amid the wreckage surrounding them, Kitty pushed herself and Alice forward, away from the liner.   Alice took a terrified glance back over her shoulder.  The ship struggled to stay on the surface.  For a moment the ship paused.  Her bow having found the seabed, her stern in the air, she stopped for a moment.  And then the regal liner gave her last, spitting and hissing to her end.  As if in slow motion, and the deep was not quite prepared to greet her.  A few hesitant moments and she turned slightly and slid away to the depths.  Hers was the last word, as wreckage and remains were expelled to the surface in the last of her death throes, sending a final tidal wave of debris over their heads.

Alice collided with a dead someone and moaned.  It was all she could do.  A battlefield of bodies bobbing off each other surrounded them.  Those who were alive shouting names, shouting for rescue, shouting for life.  Alice clung to Kitty. 

Adrift

 Kitty searched the surface for the lifeboats.  Her eyes scanned the dead and the drowning, those that clung to deck chairs and barrels.  They were a residue of life and death floating with the tide.  With little resistance to the creeping numbness and exhaustion, they drifted along with the current.  With the dip and lull of the waves a collapsible boat came and went into view, they slowly made their way towards her.  Eyes met with those clinging to debris nearby, hungry for survival and rescue.    There was a feeble race toward the lifeboat.  And there it was bumping against them and voices over them, debating room for one or two. Angry ones worried about being swamped, sympathetic ones willing to take on more.  Kitty would not let go of Alice.  And then they were lifted and dragged into the boat.  Kitty tried to close out the shrieks of others left behind.  She felt the jostle and beatings of oars as the rowers hit out at those snatching for life.  Those on board tossed about struggling to stay upright.  And then they were free, abandoning the rest.  

Bill looked on at the retreating lifeboat in torment.  Barely clinging onto a floating chair, his instinct was now about survival. 

This had not been his first shipwreck.  Feeling the cold grip him, he knew that it would not be long and exhaustion would take its toll.

 Some hours later the first of the rescue boats arrived at the scene.  They did not know it yet but Kitty and Alice would return home to Ireland.  Kitty never forgetting.  Alice choosing never to remember.  Not in daylight hours anyway.  It visited her often enough at night. 

 Bill, picked up by a rescue boat, would don his tunic once more for inquiries and official interviews.  He would return to sea but his kingdom was lost, his crown of pride taken from him.

Schwieger had watched the ship’s last moments from his U-boat.  The image of the ship’s name on the stern stealing away from them.

Named after an ancient Roman people.

Strong Warriors

‘Lusitania’

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 – Land of Indestructible Wonder

Day 5 of my  ‘Little Adventure’ – March 18th 2015

My holiday  is coming to a close – I have 2 days left in New York, and as days off for my friend, Roz, have come to an end, I must fly solo.  As mentioned in my previous posts, I was nervous of going into the city on my own, but Tom’s advice paid off.

Tom(Roz’s husband) suggested to take a cab from Grand Central Station directly to the Staten Island Ferry terminal (approx. $20) Thus avoiding using the bus/subway.  The ferry is FREE and essentially works a loop journey; it brings passengers past the Statue of Liberty on the outward leg, while offering great panoramic views of the bay.  I have to admit that I was uninterested in doing the full tour of the statue and was quite happy to avail of a free ferry ride, while taking in the famous Manhattan sky line.

I was not disappointed.

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By the end of the trip, any anxiety was blown away by the Hudson breeze and I was excited to go and find the National Museum of the American Indian.  

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If you have read my earlier posts, you will have noted how I took an  interest in the American Indians, and so a stop off at the museum was a must for me.  The museum is located in the beautifully restored Custom House and houses temporary and permanent exhibitions.  And NO! This is NOT a place used to voice the woes and grievances of the native people – on the contrary, it celebrates their wonderful culture and talents.

I lost  3 blissful hours in this diverse world of history, art and exhibits – and decided in support, to buy all  my New York souvenirs here.  No apples on T-shirts for me or ‘Lady Liberty’  in miniature- I was bringing home some Native tees and handmade jewelry.

Leaving there, I found my way up to Ground Zero, or the 9/11 Memorial as it is now known.  This may be controversial to say, but I wasn’t really that keen on going there – not for fear of any emotional upset – I thought  I did not have any emotional investment in it. But as I was in the neighborhood, why not take a gander……

How surprised was I!

I called into the 9/11 Tribute Centre…..and left there a blubbering mess.

The Tribute Center, is just that, and tells the story of the before, during and after.  It is incredibly moving – there is no shame in crying in public here.

I can’t put into words the emotions felt but one of the most moving for me was this (see photo below) – it is the jacket and helmet of a fallen firefighter.  His jacket was found in one place, the helmet another, and the fireman himself never found at all.  The jacket is ripped the full length of his  back  – I will let your imagination do the rest……

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Twisted girder of Twin Towers

Twisted girder of Twin Towers

As for the memorial place itself – Pictures can’t capture it – the feeling of a sacred place – the quiet (in the center of a city) – this hallowed space – I won’t go into detail,  as unless you have been there, it is too hard to explain – here are my poor efforts to capture it.

Here is a birds eye view, courtesy of National September 11th Memorial

Eagles View

Eagles View

I couldn’t help but think of my brother’s lyrics of one of his songs (written pre 9/11)

American Townland
by Fergus O’Farrell – band-Interference

(chorus)

Won’t you settle down, stop fighting for your gods…
Oh, settle down, stop fighting for your gods.
They can’t hear you now, not with the noise of your guns.
Once were towering steeples
Now there’s a soaring eagle
A crescent moon and a rising sun
Our prayers ascending, but what good will they bring?
If all that’s willin’ is more and more killin’

to listen to the full version of the song, introduced by Oscar Winner, Glen Hansard, click here

♥  ♥  ♥

Recently, while out walking with my seven year old, he took me into a ‘secret’ forest and talked up a great game of imagery and action – he called it the  ‘Land of Indestructible Wonder’.   I am not sure where he got that from, but I was impressed. It sounded great.

When you say it out loud it resonates beautifully.

The Land of Indestructible Wonder.

It would make a great fantasy book title……..and then I thought…..maybe it isn’t fantasy….

how apt for New York -because that is exactly what it is…..

The Land of Indestructible Wonder

The Land of Indestructible Wonder

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