Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

Is She Real?

51AgjWHToWLTreasure Fairy by Judy & Keith.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Though Treasure Fairy takes place in a park in Southern California, with grandparents (Nana and Granddad) who are from England, it could have been in a myriad of locations in Ireland. Having recently returned to southern Ireland myself, it didn’t take much magic to go behind some trees with William and discover the Treasure Fairy with a bag of quarters. If there is any doubt that fairies (and other beings) are real, read this story. Or better yet, read it to your child, or grandchild.

William is transported to the fairies castle, discovers that there are surprises behind every door, and he and the Treasure Fairy, sadly unearth the fact that someone has stolen all of the fairie’s treasure. Who, you may ask, would have the nerve to do such a thing? None other than a thieving leprechaun, of course. The rest of the tale has William and the fairy tracking down the leprechaun and finding a way to retrieve the treasure. It takes some ingenuity and teamwork to accomplish their goal and return the treasure to the kingdom. Judy and Keith (grandparents themselves) have done a fine job giving the Treasure Fairy wings.

P.S. The covers of all there books are first rate.

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Contemporary Irish Literature

Belfast Girls by Gerry McCullough
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans for New York Journal of Books.

It is hopeful that Belfast Girls is a prelude to greater things to come.

This literary offering is a good start for Gerry McCullough. Her first novel, set in present day Belfast, makes good use of place, time, and character development. It is, at its core, a romance, with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as its backdrop. Though it chimes in at 346 pages, it is a quick read—well worth the price.

The tale revolves around three childhood friends (Sheila, Phil, and Mary) as they attend college, the men in their lives, and the events shaping and molding them into mature young women who face their individual trials and tribulations and learn the value of family, friends, and faith.

Sheila becomes a world-known model surrounded by many admirers, but feeling alone and separate, longing for her journalist boyfriend John Branagh to stop judging her and come to his senses.

Phil can’t let go of her attraction and desire to be with Davy Hagan, even though his involvement in drug trafficking has her paying the price for his behavior.

Mary gets mixed up with a party crowd, almost dies from an overdose, and finds herself in a religious community. There is a clear inspirational and moral thread apparent throughout.

Sheila is the character that tends to be the most striking and memorable, though Phil and Mary each have equal billing in time and attention. All of the women’s reactions, though at times predictable and stereotypical, are believable, as are their families and friends.

The courtroom scenes with Phil protecting Davy are especially poignant. It may or may not be an Irish trait, but it appears that the people inhabiting this story are emotional, without being oversentimental. Put another way, they live their lives without having great expectations, but appreciate brief glimpses of insight and understanding.

It is no great surprise concerning relationships how often we see what we want to see, but it becomes apparent to John when he realizes that, “He had never cared for the real Sheila, only for his own idealization of her.” There is melancholy for what may have been if they’d made different choices, but nobody stays overly drenched in regret or grief for the past.

Ms. McCullough’s other recent release Angel In Flight: An Angel Murphy Thriller, from the same publisher, may be worth checking out. If it has the same solid foundation as Belfast Girls, less predictability, and a little more depth, it will be another step in this author’s journey to becoming not only a good writer, but a great writer—to the benefit of readers’ in all republics and nations.

Reviewer Reviewer Gabriel Constans’s books of fiction include Buddha’s Wife; Saint Catherine’s Baby; The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales; and The Last Conception (to be released). He is closely associated with the ROP Center for Street Children and the Ihangane Project, both in Rwanda.

Read about the latest releases, on the date of their release, at New York Journal of Books.

Saint Catherine’s Baby

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

The moist air, surrounding the 16th century creation planted its wet kisses upon the cold stone walls, which slid luxuriously down its weathered face. The creeping ivy, chlorophyll pulsing through its dark green leaves, caressed the soft hearty moss. New generations of recently born shoots sprouted from the elder ivy’s fingertips, seeking their lone paths in the cracks of St. Catherine’s monastery.

The religious encampment had been built on the storm infested Western coast of Ireland; its founders seemingly intent on locating the most masochistic environment possible to beat their souls into sublime submission.

The last residing nun, Sister Rose Marie, had died a blessedly sudden and peaceful death at two in the afternoon, on an unusually balmy Easter Sunday, in the year of Our Lord 1968. She and a faithful supporter, Mrs. Bernadette O’Brien, mother of Walter O’Brien, had been on their knees praying in the chapel when it appeared that the good sister had a heart attack and keeled over quietly onto the floor.

“Her hands was frozen in prayer, they was,” Mrs. O’Brien had religiously repeated for years thereafter. “She had the smile of an angel.”

***

Shawn and Marcy didn’t give a witch’s ass about the history of St. Catherine’s. They’d been driving randomly from county to county, looking frequently in their rear view mirror; expecting nothing but trouble.

They’d discovered St. Catherine’s while returning from an off-the-road farm, where a farmer had given them a couple gallons of petrol from his broken down tractor. While carrying the fuel back in a couple of plastic milk containers, they accidentally turned right, instead of left to their energy starved car.

“’Tis this way,” Shawn said with assurance.

“’Tis not,” Marcy insisted. “Was that way.”

Shawn frowned, shaking his head impatiently.

“Remember that rock, why don’t ya?!” Marcy pointed at a large chipped boulder to her left.

“I’m a going this way. You coming or not?” He started walking without waiting for her answer.

She trudged after him, complaining to the gravel below her feet, “An idiot, he is.”

When they rounded the bend that brought St. Catherine’s into sight, Marcy gasped.

“Jesus!” Shawn exclaimed,

“It must be ancient.” Marcy stumbled forward.

“Think they be any dragons?” Shawn teased.

They pushed hard upon a rusty-hinged, thick wooden door. It cracked open. The wind played with itself in the center of the courtyard, rising, turning, diving and suddenly taking flight. Calls of “Anyone home?” were absorbed into the stones like water in a dry sponge.

“Why’d they build such hideous things?” Marcy whispered, as they walked into a shadowy, stale room, her dirty black hair stranded on her shoulders.

“They must’ve been tilted.”

“A bunch of bloody lunatics!” Marcy scowled.

“Absolutely,” Shawn agreed, his bushy red hair, freckles and twice broken nose, nodding obediently.

Marcy had on a long coat to cover her thin, full-length skirt. She hated skirts, but couldn’t tolerate much else these days. “I can’t wait to get back into some jeans,” she said, looking down at her swollen belly. “Without this coat I’d have frozen my tits off by now.”

“Look at these windows!” Shawn said, “They’re small enough for dwarfs.”

Marcy pulled open a door to some side rooms that contained a single wooden platform for a bed in each small musty enclosure.

Shawn looked in over her shoulder. “What a dreary thing.”

“They was some awful poor brothers this lot.”

“Didn’t know there was anyone with less than we.”

“Och, but they chose it, didn’t they?”

After further investigation they returned to the trail and found their car. They parked close to the rocky path leading down to the sea’s edge and hauled their belongings back to the monastery, into the warmest, best protected room they’d found; the chapel.

They had enough food for a couple of weeks, groceries they’d picked up in County Clare, using a stolen credit card they’d lifted upon leaving Dublin. They could drive back when they needed, go to another store or town and use a different card. They thought about switching the car, but figured they had a little more time before it was reported missing.

As darkness fell, they zipped their sleeping bags together, put them on the torn carpet by the altar and tried to get some rest. It didn’t help that Marcy had to pee again and again. There was no indoor plumbing. It seemed as if she’d just snuggled in and gotten all warm and toasty like, when nature urgently called. The freezing wind coming off the Atlantic screamed over her head as she rushed to and from the outhouse. CONTINUED

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Cheapest Trip Ever!

It was on a gorgeous afternoon that I sat at an outside table of a local downtown coffee house and took an unexpected voyage around the world.

I had just put my derriere on a metal chair (made in Italy) and was waiting for my friend Betty (originally from Chicago) to join me with pictures of her recent trip, when the woman at the next table asked about the emblem on my shirt. I told her it was an Iranian National Soccer Team patch. She asked if I knew someone there and I said our family had an Iranian exchange student live with us for a year when I was growing up. She explained that she and her husband, who had just joined her, were fans of Majid Majidi and other Iranian filmmakers. She introduced herself, her husband and their child (Sylvie, Richard and Marcel), just as Betty sat down with her Guatemalan coffee.

Turns out that Sylvie and Richard (Oxman) put on a political/international and cultural event (including documentary films) which is called OneDance and includes filmmakers, educators and activists from around the world. They are also the proprietors of French Paintbox. Several times a year they organize retreats in the Southwest of France and meet participants from around the world. It doesn’t sound like your ordinary tour, as those on the trip have the opportunity to study and paint daily with master teachers’ such as Isabelle Maureau from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux Arts De Paris. Sylvie said they also take daily excursions to botanical gardens, vineyards, museums, grottoes, country fairs, musical events, cafes, etc. She said it’s always a mixed group and you don’t have to be a painter to attend (thank goodness).

As their son Marcel, who looks like a miniature French movie star, came up to tell me that we both had on the same colored shirts (white), I thought about my wife’s French connections. I mentioned that my father-in-law spoke five languages and that he had lived in France for many years and that he and his wife (my mother-in-law) are originally from Germany. My friend Betty and her son both speak French, as does her husband (whose family goes back to Nova Scotia). Betty, obviously not thinking, asked if any of my children speak French. She should have known that that could send me on a long torrential downpour about my kids.

I looked down at my tennis shoes (made in China) and told them about my daughter, who traveled to Eastern Europe with her husband and how much they liked Italy, The Czech Republic and Turkey. Our other daughter was in Tahiti for three months, as part of her college studies. Two of our sons have been to and loved, Ireland and England and some of our best friends live in Sweden, I concluded, realizing I had never answered the question about speaking French. Sadly, I finally admitted, I don’t speak French or any other language, besides English, but both our daughters can speak Spanish, my wife German and youngest son took French for a year and a half in school. I’ve been trying to learn Kinyarwanda, which is spoken in much of East Africa (especially Rwanda), but still only know a few words.

After Sylvie, Richard and Marcel naturally tired from my monolingual linguistics, having heard all about my wife’s three-month trip to China, the Cameroon and French soccer teams and world politics, they politely said their au revoirs’. Betty was finally able to get a word in edgewise and told me about her trips to the East Coast, Nova Scotia and Nigeria.

About an hour later I walked past a World Bazaar retail store, paid my parking garage ticket (with American dollars), got in my Japanese car, turned on some Brazilian music and drove past Mexican, Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Afghani restaurants to my friend’s home on an Italian named street.

I’d only been at the restaurant for a couple of hours, but it seemed like I had traveled the globe. It was a pleasure meeting the Oxmans, hearing about French Paintbox and talking with Betty; but quite ironic that I, a stay-at-home American native, had felt like such a world citizen. For the price of an espresso (coffee from Nicaragua) it was definitely the cheapest trip I’ve ever taken!

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