Joy around the corner
I have a ‘things to do when I’m old’ list in my head. On this list is wine-tasting, birdwatching, knitting and my family tree. Also on the list is re-reading the classics, a refresher course in the Irish language, baking, and at the top of the list is gardening.
On the second Friday in London after giving up my radio job, I am restless. We have an early dinner at home so my oldest son can go to cubs. At 6.10pm I walk around the kitchen and say, “What now? What do we do?” “Just sit down and relax.”
She comes on apologising. Shuffling down the centre of the train, clutching two grey plastic bags stuffed with clothes. Her trousers hang precariously from the sharp edges of her hip bones, exposing several inches of boxer shorts. The skin on her face is pale and pockmarked with a varnished sheen.
How I wrote Mother Mother
For those who might be curious about novel writing, here is an article about how I wrote Mother Mother. It details my whole process, from initial inspiration to taking a writing course to meeting agents and finding a publishing company, to my research trips to Belfast and the people I met along the way. Any questions or comments can be left at the end. Thank you, as always x
Keys, card, lipstick, compact, phone in the bag. Trainers because you want to dance all night. Waist cinching trousers because for the first time in over a year you want to feel like you have definitive lines, a shape that you can stamp into the world, a way to make your mark.
I wrote a poem for my mother once. I was a teenager when I wrote it, inspired by a moment watching her from the back bedroom window of our house, as she worked in the garden below. It’s a dream-like memory now, all images are suffused through the words of the poem, but the memory of the feeling that came over me while I watched her is still sharp. It was a curious unsettling feeling, a shifting of sorts.
The Romance Audit
When I was fifteen my German language class went on an exchange trip to Cologne. We stayed with separate families at night and in the days we hung out together taking classes and doing activities. On one of those days we went to a public swimming pool. Was it Valentine’s day?
After a long bath I rub cream into you. You are on the cusp of turning four and the last remnants of your babyish traits are fading away. Your limbs are stretching. The roundness of your belly and cheeks is receding. You say ‘oh my god’ now in a comically theatrical tone. You hold your hands up in front of your face as I do your legs. After being in the water the tips of your fingers are wrinkled and white. You make a small distressed sound as you notice them.
The first lockdown was a holiday from myself. The shock of trying to make things work meant there was no time for self indulgence. Clothes were purely functional. My make up bag stayed shut. When things calmed down a little in the middle of Summer I had my birthday and I spent some time looking in the mirror out of curiosity. As I studied my face, I noticed a new development.
Every year, around this time of year, I travel from my home in London to the most South Westerly tip of the Island of Ireland, Dingle, where I present the television show Other Voices.