For the Day that’s in it; some memories.

 

Cut Grass and Bogs.bogs-turf-protection-2-390x285

In April 1980, we won the Eurovision when Johnny Logan asked us all ‘What’s another Year?’ It was also an Olympics year and standing on that wonderful, teenage cusp of endless possibility and kind delusion, I thought I was destined to be a sports super star in future Games.

A few years previously a local man had come recruiting in our estate to form an athletic club. He held trials in a local field and told my father that I was good at sprinting and so I began to dream.

After his day working on the bog, fed and scrubbed clean with Swarfega, my father would bring a few of us training, usually down to the local track in St. Brigids. We loved it most of the time but Winter was a hard slog, with no Track and Field competitions in sight, it often seemed pointless. Then May arrived with the smell of cut grass and it all seemed worthwhile again. Between the County Championships and the Community Games there was something to look forward to every weekend.

It was at one of these events, May 11th 1980 that we would see my father for the last time.

The Coroner’s verdict said it was a massive thrombosis. Reports that it was one of the biggest funerals the town had ever seen were cold comforts.

I never went back to the Athletic club.

That June I got my first summer job, along with my sister, walling turf for Bord Na Mona, our Father’s former employer. On the first day we were brought on a tractor and trailer from the works entrance to our section. The trailer was carrying half the teenage, male population of the town. I fantasised about summer romances as we bounced across the bog.

Being dropped off away from my sister made me feel like the only inhabitant in a world of peat until I noticed another worker a few drains over from me. He was already stooped over the turf, his arms moving in an intricate, insect like pattern.

I sized up the long line of heaped turf that stretched away from me, like a rugged country road. I decided not to stack higher than four sods: after all you got paid according to the length of the wall. By noon I was parallel with my neighbour, breaking for lunch when he did. I didn’t bring enough ham sandwiches and there were only so many Custard Creams you could eat.  Swilling back red lemonade, I felt like the brothers from Friel’s story. I too was working out what I would buy with my earnings. A Queen album was top of the list.

Close to signing off time I noticed a dark form striding across the bog. I knew that this would be the one they called the Ganger and I looked forward to showing off my handiwork.  Still some distance from me, he bellowed:

“What in the name of God do you think you’re feckin’ doin’ there?”

“Walling,” I replied.

“Who showed you how to wall?” he asked.

“Nobody, I figured it out for myself.” I said.

He asked for my name. Furrowing his brow and lowering his voice, he inquired if I was Bill Clooney’s daughter. I told him I was. He called across to the other worker.

“You there, come over here.”

The teenager came like a gazelle, hopping drains and jumping walled sections.

“Did you notice what this young one was doing?” he asked.

The young lad said he didn’t. The Ganger asked him how many seasons he had been on the bog.

“Three,” he said.

“Well, in that case,” the Ganger said, “you should have recognised a newcomer, seen that she was making a hames of it. You should have shown her the ropes.”

The youth shot me a dirty look. I shrugged at him. The Ganger said he was awarding half of the lad’s daily rate to me. He also had to help me rebuild the wall, properly, the next day.

It didn’t lead to a bog romance.

I don’t think my sister and I lasted long on the bog that year, but as we headed off to the annual Knights of Malta summer camp in Moate we were delighted with the money in our purses and our healthy bog tans.

As the years slipped by the sense of my father’s presence in the house began to fade, his voice rising and falling as he delivered the rosary became a distant echo. I stopped listening for the back door to open around five in the evening; stopped smelling the heady, peaty, bog mould that spilled from his boots when he sat on the third last step of the stairs to take them off.

But he hasn’t gone far and is still with me when I smell cut grass in May or gaze at the stretches of bog that blanket the landscape in my home county of Laois.

So, unlike Johnny Logan, who reaches out in his song to find no one there, when I reach out, I still find daddy nearby.

 

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Annamaghkerrig

The wind and rain compete with each other outside cottage number 5 here in Annamaghkerrig and you’d think that someone who professes, to a numbingly boring capacity, to be a lover of Wuthering Heights, would be inspired to write. Well, you’d be wrong. What I have done is update my site (stating the obvious), sent four emails that I’ve been delaying because they all involve the beginnings of making a decision, started three new books, yes, three, in the last two hours and it would have been four but it wasn’t available on Kindle, so then I went looking for it on various book sites only to discover that the cheapest copy started around £34, but libraries Ireland had a copy that I could request, if, ahem, I was a member, which I, ahem, wasn’t (I really hope none of my second level students read this, pot calling the kettle and all that), so I joined online but have to wait to go into the library…back in Kildare…to collect my card, before I can request a copy of the book, but, hey, the good news is they have it, sitting tantalisingly, in a tiny checkout trolley  somewhere out there in a space I can never get my head around (come on the Luddites/long live the Luddites), oh and it doesn’t end there, I have made lunch (Pasta and tomato sauce with peppers, celery and onions) drank three cups of Jasmine green tea, 2 pints of water, turned on and off lights to try out the mood change they might bring to the rooms and me, looked up cafes on trip adviser within a 40 mile radius, read the title of every book on the bookcase in the room here in cottage number 5, stood in the panelled door/window gazing out on the courtyard..kinda hoping someone would give a fleeting glance up and think it was Miss Worby’s ghost(tee hee), pared three pencils that didn’t need paring and now I’ve just wasted lead and…not to put too fine a point on it (Oh, joy, don’t you just love it when a pun comes to you like that)..and in short, I have spectacularly failed to add a single syllable to my debut novel that will never be that debutante going to that novel ball if I don’t do something soon about this brick wall I’m facing…actually figuratively and literally. Rant over. Phew. Now it’s time for a fourth cup of tea…

Now enrolling for March 2017. Places fill up quickly.

Kildare Writing Centre.

Now enrolling for Spring/Summer courses.

Director: Pauline Clooney.

 

Established in 2016, the Kildare Writing Centre provides courses in creative writing in comfortable surroundings with small class sizes.

Now enrolling for Spring/Summer courses.

‘Writing that Short Story’.

If you’ve always wanted to write something, always believed that you had a story to tell but didn’t know where to start, then this is the course you’ve been waiting for. Over the ten weeks you will be guided through the craft and composition of the short story form. In a safe, group environment you will be encouraged to explore your ideas, write them down, share them with the group, and mould them into a form that will be your story.

Course out-line:

Week one:       Introduction: In the beginning was the word…

Week Two:      Characters: How we breathe life into fictitious people.

Week Three:    Plot: A matter of beginning, middle and ending.

Week four:       Point of view: Who tells the story?

Week Five:       Setting: Exploring ways of using time and place so that your reader knows exactly where they are.

Week six:         Dialogue: Where there are people, there is talk.

Week seven:    Description: Using the senses to bring your story to life.

Week eight:     Voice/Style: Discovering your natural, narrative voice.

Week nine:      Theme: What’s it all about…really?

Week ten:        The writing life: Getting down to the nitty gritty daily routines of writing and revision.

Dates: Course runs over ten weeks from Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 to Tuesday, June 6th, 2017. There is a break of one week on Tuesday, April 18th.

Time: Classes start at 7pm – 10pm with a break of fifteen minutes for refreshments.

Fees: Cost is €300. A deposit of €50 is required to secure a place. The remainder €250 will be due on the first night.

Class size: Places on the course are limited to nine.

Location:  Athgarvan, Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

Contact details:  paulineclooney11@gmail.com, Ph. 087 6347377 or 045 442324, www.paulineclooney.com

About the Director:

Pauline Clooney grew up in the Midlands. She is an English, History and Creative Writing teacher. She holds an M.Litt on Charlotte Brontë from NUI Maynooth(2006), a 1st Class Honours Certificate in Creative Writing for Publication from NUI Maynooth (2013) and a 1st Class Honours MA in Creative Writing from UCD. She is working on her debut novel.

She has organised the literary event ‘Creative Fusions’ as part of the Newbridge festival of Culture, June Fest, and its predecessor, Bealtaine.

Pauline has had her stories anthologised and shortlisted for the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story competition and the Doolin Short Story competition in 2014. She has been longlisted for the inaugural Colm Toibin Short Story Competition (2016), the Fish Short Memoir competition (2014) and the Fish Short Story Prize (2015) and was placed second in the Doolin Short Story competition (2015).

She won the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story competition in 2015.