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Joanne O Riordan, A girl who knows no limits.

Can any of us imagine as we lie there watching our pregnant belly being scanned what it would be like to be told, “I’ll just get the consultant”. At that point you know all is not what it should be. There is something wrong. Life may never be the same again.

Today I took two of my children to see an amazing film. It is the story of a young girl from Cork, Ireland, who was born with Total Amelia, no limbs. She is one of only seven in the world documented with this condition.
During the film we saw an interview with her mother. She spoke so movingly of that moment when she was told her baby was to be born with just a body. As she struggled to come to terms with it, her husband wondered what a baby with no limbs would look like. A few weeks later after a cesarean section he found out, and thankfully bonded with her immediately.

The film showed extraordinary footage of a young Joanne “standing” on the kitchen table singing “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. Even so young it was obvious this was an exceptional girl.http://www.evoke.ie/no-limbs-no-limits-trailer-joanne-o-riordan-total-amelia/

Very shortly after she was born her parents took her to a paediatrician. Her mother described finding undressing Joanne difficult as she was not used to a new born with no limbs. They then lay her on the couch and the doctor came over and looked at her. Without laying a finger on her he said, “She’s like a rag doll”. Not understanding his remark her mother asked him what did he mean. “Well, he said, you know when you get a doll at Christmas and after a time an arm falls off, and then a leg falls off, you know what you would then do with it?”. Joanne’s shocked parents looked at him as he said, “You put it away”.
They then understood that he was telling them this child would count for nothing, and that in time they could put her in a home.

According to them both this was their spur. After they had wiped away their tears and dressed their little one, they decided that they would prove that man wrong.

I am not sure have they done so, or has it been the amazing young lady they gave birth to, who has done it herself. In her eighteen short years of life to date she has managed to, reverse government policy, addressed the United Nations in New York and she has spoken at numerous gatherings. She is also a columnist in an Irish newspaper, and is due to finish school this year.

As I watched this film today, produced and directed by her brother, I was at times overwhelmed. We watched as she achieved so much, yet struggled to hold a fork, and manage what we consider simple tasks. There was no mention throughout the film of what she could not do. Her positive attitude was contagious. On leaving the cinema I too believed the sky is the limit.

The movie was called “No limbs, no Limits” which is  how Joanne views her life.  However my own personal favourite quote from her is “There is no such word as IMPOSSIBLE, as to me that reads I’M POSSIBLE.

If you ever get the opportunity to see this movie I urge you to watch it.
You can see a preview here. It is just over a minute long but it will live with you a lot longer.  Prepare to be inspired.

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Hey we’re not British we’re Irish.

Tonight I read something and it made me smile, because on reading it I knew it would have really got the Irish going. What did I read? I read this 20 best British and Irish novels of all time. Why you may wonder would that upset a nation, well when it was first printed it read “British novels” with no reference to “Irish novels”. Listed were James Joyce, Flann O Brien and John Banville, all very fine, famous, well known Irish writers.

Now there is nothing gets the Irish going faster than hearing of an Irishman being claimed by the British. It happens regularly and without fail it unites the nation.
Each year around the time of the Oscars, or BAFTAs we listen intently, waiting to take umbridge as our countrymen are “stolen”. The same is true during major sporting achievements, although this becomes a little more complicated as some of those who compete, such as Rory McIlroy in golf, come from northern Ireland, and declare themselves for Britain.

Despite our new polite and increasingly friendly relations between our two nations, including last weeks visit by our President to the British Queen, do not be fooled. Beneath the surface the Irish still have a “thing” against the British, most particularly the English. A rivalry and a will to beat them, and I have no doubt for some who live in England the feeling is mutual.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/martindo/10785821365/">M+MD</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Our modern relationship is complicated. We watch British television constantly, English is now our first language, many follow the young royals, British football teams, and many more move to Britain for work and are more than happy to stay there for many years or forever. Yet if the Irish team are competing in any sport, soccer, rugby, tiddly winks, whatever against England, the nation are as one in a giant Ireland v England moment.

So today when the Telegraph gave credit to three books placing them within the top twenty “British” novels of all time the country was suitably incensed. Old rivalries were relived and the country slipped into the old Us v Them mentality. How dare they?

Twitter went into meltdown and The Telegraph changed their title to read “20 best British and Irish novels of all time”.

That’s great all sorted you say. Wrong. Now the Irish want to know if it is the best British AND Irish novels how come they only chose three Irish novels?

You just can’t win against the Irish!

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Is talking about healthy food making us all fat?

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between my time as a child and the world my children live in, is the growing obsession with healthy eating and body image.

As a child my mother stayed at home, and luckily for us was a wonderful cook. Not only did she cook our dinner each day, but she also made dessert (sweet as we called it). To add to that she baked constantly, buns, apple tarts, breads, pavlova, and many other delights which we enjoyed greatly. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t allowed unlimited access to them, but I never remember being told they were fattening or unhealthy. They were something we enjoyed, guilt free.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dearbarbie/437294724/">dearbarbie</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

I now have four children and also stay at home. I am not the cook my mother was, but I do make a dinner every day. I have what you could describe as a very relaxed attitude to nutrition. From the time I had my first baby and she was such a very fussy eater, my mother reassured me not to fret that she wouldn’t starve herself and as long as she stayed healthy I should relax. I found it difficult but I took her advice and who would have thought it, that same child is now a very healthy twenty two year old with a very varied palate.

As subsequent children arrived I continued to pay little attention to diet. They are thankfully sickeningly healthy, but even though they were all reared the same, not all had the same love of food as the other. One in particular survived fourteen years on plain pasta, and as little meat as possible. No fruit of any sort and the only vegetable was tinned corn, (perhaps not the most organic of vegetables!) However, slowly over the past year, she has begun to vary her diet and will now eat curry, bolognaise, different soups, beef stroganof and numerous other “exotic” dinners.

I have secretly prided myself on the fact that my children are not overly obsessed with calories or food. They are all normal weight and even though they enjoy sweets or treats they don’t seem to eat too many of them. Despite my own lack of fruit in my diet they, like their Dad, enjoy some every day. Yet today as my daughter had her head stuck in the fridge she turned to me and said, “Mum, you’re really a disgrace as a mother”. ( A bit harsh I thought!)”You have never taught us about healthy eating or encouraged us to eat fruit and vegetables”. ( I’d like to point out that this was spoken by the same child who ate plain pasta for fourteen years).

I looked at her as she began to eat fresh melon from the fridge, having just finished her chicken curry, and I said, “Do you think so, because I see someone who is never sick, with no weight issues, who eats as she pleases and enjoys what she eats? If you ask me I think not talking about it and eating everything in moderation would appear to be exactly the right way to parent”.

Her words have made me think though. Maybe there is far too much talking on this subject. We live in an age where so many foods are “bad”. It has got so complicated that even low fat food is now seen to be fattening, butter, which was a few years ago considered a shortcut to a heart attack, is now back on the “good” shelf, and the restriction on eggs has also been lifted. What are we to believe?

As an adult I struggle to ignore it all. It is in my face every day. A while ago there was a health drive in this country to alert everyone to the fact that we are a nation who are rapidly expanding in waist size. Free measuring tapes were kindly supplied and if you were over a certain waist size you were classed as overweight. I wear a UK size 10, yet as I sucked in, desperately pulling that tape towards the holy grail of thirty two inches, I nearly passed out. I put the tape away and cursed that last child. photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/4508825094/">quinn.anya</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Thankfully that stupid campaign ended. It had branded me overweight but if I am honest I choose to dismiss it as wrong. I continue to eat normal meals every day, and enjoy what treats I like in moderation every day. There are many foods I enjoy and can honestly say I am never guilty when I eat or afterwards. If in years to come my children can be as relaxed and guilt free around food as I am I will be happy.

Perhaps not talking about nutrition and healthy food was indeed the best policy.

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The first Summer without you.

The weather and time have changed and as if overnight we now live in a beautiful country of sunshine and long evenings.
As I step outside the air even seems to smell of Spring and the promise of Summer.
Could it be that we could possibly have another Summer of good weather? Two in a row?
On beautiful days such as today it is easy to believe it.

As I enjoy these early days of Easter holidays, two weeks uniform and school lunch free, I smile. Life is good.
All my family are home from college and the house is noisy and a mess.
Yet it is  this very scene of happiness that can sometimes tip me over.

It does so unexpectedly.
As I look at my fully occupied, noisy kitchen table, my mind drifts to a house not too far away,
to a kitchen table with one empty seat.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewf/69851941/">Stewf</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
A seat that can never be filled.

As I  look at my table I wonder what would it be like if one were missing?
I think of how much they all contribute to the family in their own way.
The smiley one, the chatty one, the sporty one and the lively one,
and how intensely I love them all,
no one child more than the other.
They are all a part of me, bound by unseen ties.
My children, forever my little ones.

As I take away their empty plates I pause for a moment at my kitchen window.
The sun is shining and the sky is a magnificent blue.
A beautiful day, and yet that somehow makes things worse not better.

I had got used to the dull days and grim weather of winter.
Those dark days fitted perfectly with my sadness.
A few tears falling on a miserable wet day was acceptable.
But somehow these beautiful sunny days have changed things.

We have become accustomed to missing Dan in the winter.
However now we are facing a different sadness.
We are facing the season of sunshine and holidays,
children playing outside and having fun.
Just as there is an empty seat at the table,
there is also amidst the laughter of those children playing outside one laugh less,
one voice in a heated row not heard, one player on the football team missing,
one passport less at the airport.
This is a new loss.

I have heard that grief must be experienced through each new season,
well look out because here comes Summer!

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The will to win.

Tonight I am sitting down falling asleep  relaxing, watching television. The U.S Masters Golf is on. When I lived in Australia in my early twenties my husband tried to interest me in Golf. I played, as the weather was so beautiful, but you could say I hadn’t really the temperment for it. My now husband still doesn’t curse, so you can imagine my shouting “Ah for fecks sake” and “Jesus I hate this stupid game” while hammering the beautifully manicured fairway with my club, did not go down very well.

When we left Oz I had no desire whatsoever to continue playing once back home here in Ireland. Instead I went back to swimming, and competing with Masters (over 25) was enough to satisfy my competitive spirit. And then it happened. My friends took up golf and badgered me asked me would I come for lessons too. Initially I laughed and left them in no doubt that I would not be joining them as I despised that poxy game. However never say never and eventually I succumbed.

Now eight years later I’m still golfing and really enjoying it. However I have noticed that I am not as viciously competitive as I photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/38840453/">Leo Reynolds</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>was. Don’t get me wrong I do love to win, but I tend to just enjoy myself now rather than want to win at all costs. Perhaps it’s my age, or the fact that life has given me a good sense of perspective. Sometimes when I look back I am a little nostalgic. I had some fantastic races in the pool and the thrill of winning I still haven’t forgotten. I miss that feeling and I also miss that love of competition.

However as I sit here half asleep watching the golf, (and waking intermittently to drink my wine,) there is something playing on my mind. Tomorrow I am in a golf competition. I am on a team and between now and tomorrow I must once again try to reignite my competitive spirit. Tomorrow it will not just be about me, but my team….. Gulp….stupid, poxy game….

I think I need another glass of wine!

******** I wrote this last night. The good news is I found my competitive spirit. I began to play and within minutes I wanted to win. It took over four hours but in the end I did win on the 22nd hole! I’m not sure which I’m happier about, playing well or rediscovering my will to win.

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My two favourite words are….

I love language and words in particular. So today I was wandering around my house when the thought came to me, “what is my favourite word”. You guessed it I was not overly busy this morning!

A few words immediately sprang to mind, words like “goodnight”, “love you”, “Drink?”, “Hi ya”, “holiday”, etc. However these are not the words I had in mind. I meant actual words, both the sound of them and their meaning.

One which springs to mind was a word my Dad often used to describe something he saw us wearing that was very bright and summery. He would say “That’s very salubrious”.  I know it does not exactly mean what he said, but I loved that word as for me it seemed to perfectly describe what it meant. However it’s not really one I get a chance to use often so I decided not to rank it as one of my favourites.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/crdot/5510506796/">crdotx</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Maybe it’s a reflection on myself but my top two words (three really, but the second one is always said as if one word)  are, “Gobshite”, and “Feckin eejit”.  Aren’t they just magnificent. Go on try them. I bet you already know someone who these words perfectly describe.

I think the reason I like these words so much is because they both mean the same thing, but on a different scale, and to my mind there is no other more suitable alternative expression in the English language to describe this individual. If you want to know what a “Gobshite” is, well it’s a “Feckin eejit”, and vice verse.

I can remember when we were ski ing in Italy one year we stayed in a lovely small family run hotel. One night a guest, with too much drink on board, got very obnoxious. Eventually he had to be removed from the Hotel. As it was a small establishment most of the guests witnessed the proceedings. Afterwards we were sitting with the family and they were speaking of this individual. They were Italian so as you can imagine it was a loud discussion. When it came to describing him they struggled, “He is a, what you say, a …” they began, and my sister piped up “A Gobshite, he’s a Gobshite”.

Even though they had no idea what it meant their eyes lit up and they immediately latched onto it and felt it. “Ha, yes Gobshite”, they said. “Gobshite”, “he is a Gobshite”. I cannot begin to tell you how often they repeated the word.

It’s not a word I personally would use lightly to describe someone. They would have to be on the upper scale of annoying. My lower scale word of choice, which I must admit I use regularly is “feckin eejit”. This I apply to all manner of people. Car drivers in particular seem to come to mind. Those who drive too slow or too fast. Those who don’t let me out, or who break the traffic lights. Equally I apply it to those I am driving behind who do let people out and who stop on the amber light at traffic lights! I love it, and as I say it aloud I instantly feel less annoyed.

I first fell in love with “feckin eejit” when I was at school. As a teenager “feckin eejits” were everywhere. My teachers were “a bunch of feckin eejits”, the nun who was principal was “a big feckin eejit”, and any teacher who annoyed me looking for homework or giving out about my test results was an “absolute feckin eejit”.

However as time went on I think I began to become immune to the impact of this word. It became too tame a description to apply to those who really annoyed me. There were some individuals who sent me into orbit. I disliked the vulgarity of a curse such a F*ck, so I adopted what I found to be the perfect alternative, “Gobshite”. A definite step up from “feckin eejit”. Classmates who reminded teachers of tests or homework, and those who regularly asked a question just before the bell rang for end of class were very definitely in this new category. “Gobshites”

Over the years I have never found any other word or words to replace these two as my favourites, despite my reading many books and receiving a reasonable level of education. Now that you have heard them maybe you too will agree with me. If not I’m curious, have you a favourtie word or words? Maybe one a bit more polite than my own? Let me know if you do.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have had a day free from “feckin eejits and Gobshites”.

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The ripple effect.

When our young friend Dan died in November it sent a seismic shock through our village. It was the second death of a child within three weeks. Understandably it affected many, with hundreds coming to see him off. I have met some mothers who told me that as they passed the church that day, knowing the sad scene being enacted within, they instinctively reached for their children and held them close.

As the days, weeks and months have passed it is clear to see that for many the impact of his loss continues.  While I would expect his parents and family and those adults who knew him to mourn him, I would have imagined that his friends and the children who played soccer, GAA, and basketball with him would have moved on a bit faster and begun to live a life happily without him.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sergiu_bacioiu/4178226353/">Sergiu Bacioiu</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>

I was wrong.

Shortly after Dan died a bunch of his thirteen year old friends got active on twitter and between them decided to do the Christmas Day swim in his honour. They raised over €6,000.  An amazing achievement in itself from such young children, but to my mind so many coming together to show they were thinking of Dan Christmas Day was even more wonderful.  All their parents must have been so proud of them.

Then out of the blue a few weeks ago there was a piece in the paper featuring Dan. It told the story of a group of nineteen year old boys who play in a league.  They were school friends of Dan’s brother, and had met Dan a few times at his home. They remembered his love of sport and how he played with them when they visited,  despite the age difference. These boys had decided to charge a fee for the sixteen teams to enter the league and this fee would be donated to the Leukemia Association in memory of Dan.

Once again we were all amazed at the fact that these boys would even find time to think about Danny, not to mention actively doing something so wonderful to remember him by.

We began to see that many of Dans young friends were not moving on quickly without him, and were in fact still missing him greatly. Their way of dealing with it was to actively “do something”.

Today we had another example of these young people “doing”. A group of his friends from his primary school had moved on to secondary school together. They approached their principle and asked could they do a sponsored walk in his name. Of course he agreed and “The Mercy Hospital” is €5,000 better off as a result.

This wonderful group of fourteen year olds, ( the age Dan would be now) and their 190 classmates, all left the school today at 11.15am. Accompanied by their teachers, the local police and the coastguards who stopped the traffic along the way as necessary, they walked just over five miles with Dan. Each one of the organisers wore a Dicky bow, (as well as a special t shirt, shorts and even some colourful wigs and face paints), in other words they dressed “Dan style”.

Why the dicky bows I hear you ask?

When Dan was being confirmed he was not too impressed he’d have to wear his school uniform. Dan being Dan tried every angle to get around it. Eventually he asked, did they really  have to wear their school tie?  He was told emphatically “Yes”. When he got home he began to think about it, and he asked his God mother could she make the school tie into a Dicky bow. She could and did. On the day he proudly arrived with the school tie in place, but worn as a dicky bow, although unknown to his teacher he had a back up “normal” tie ready just in case!  It was such a typical Danny thing to do that everyone just smiled and he was allowed wear it. Obviously his classmates had not forgotten and so today they wore their own Dicky bows and Dan style.

It was a wonderful sight to see so many young people walk in memory of Danny. So many people have been affected by his leaving, and the ripples have IMG_0097-001continued to spread far beyond his own family. We speak of grief, but personally I don’t believe we have begun to grieve. How can you grieve when you still forget he has gone? I think for now we are all experiencing loss. His loss from our lives, and the impact of that loss on those we love. In some small measure, today we managed to find him in his friends and the occasion. We saw Dan in their happy faces. We remembered Dan in their running and jostling for position at the front. We heard Dan in their rowdy singing, and we felt Dan walking along enjoying the fun.

But as I saw his beautiful, smiling face looking out from a giant poster photograph held up by his friends I felt his loss all over again.

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I confess, I’m addicted to my new phone.

Today is the day. I’ve not spoken about this,  as just thinking about it causes me great anxiety. Today is the day it was decided, to book my new phone in for a minor operation.

At 2pm today I will be travelling back, to a time when the thought of carrying a phone around was unimaginable.small_8425064726
The mere thought of our separation makes me uneasy. How will I manage without it? What if someone texts me?

How have I become this person?  I, who many years ago decided to stop wearing a watch as I felt it was ruling my life, have become addicted to my iPhone which I’ve had for just a few weeks.

Every few minutes it and I connect. I cannot resist pushing that “home” button, often unconsciously, only to discover that, no, I had not missed the bing from a new message, the vibration from an email, nor  that jazzy ring tone. In reality no one had contacted me in the few short minutes since last I’d checked the phone.  Do I then put the phone with no messages aside? No, not to be put off by the fact no one has anything to say to me, I then take the opportunity to go online. I check my emails and finally facebook ( as there is always something to see there).

Having received my iPhone “hit”, I can at last continue with whatever I was supposed to be doing. That’s the plan anyway, but as the minutes pass, unless I am working or very busy, I feel the itch in my finger begin once more, the need to check that home button. Maybe I missed something.

As I write this it is clear to me, that I do indeed need time and space away from my phone in order to fully address my addiction. I imagine as we say “Goodbye” that I will struggle. How will I feel leaving that shop without it? What if it beeps or rings as I walk away? Would it be acceptable to grab it, ask for it back? Maybe it would be kinder to turn it off in the car and share a quiet goodbye before handing it over.

I wonder as I leave that shop phoneless will I feel free?  I imagine that the part of me which got rid of my watch all those years ago, may well sing “Hallelujah”. I will be free. No texts, no emails or calls. No twitter, facebook or internet. No interruptions of any kind.
As I work, drive, chat, help with homework, or interact with family or friends there will be no one to interrupt the moment. I really will be living that minute, not sharing it with potentially so many others.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jorgeq82/4732700819/">Jorge Quinteros</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
What freedom. To actually leave the house and be completely alone. Out of contact. Maybe later I will return home and sit and read for awhile or chat. Again with no demands by outsiders on my time. Just my family and I alone together.

I really hope this forced time apart will give me a fresh insight into how intrusive I have allowed my phone to become, and how ridiculously over attached I am to it ( I even took it to the bathroom the other day!). How is it that something so small can have such a strong hold on me? Thankfully it would appear I have realised this just in time, and hopefully I can break free.

But wait…. I hear beeping. It’s my phone. It’s calling me… Excuse me, I’ll just check who it is. I’ll be back in a second…………………………………………..

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A four year old boy and a “lipstick” could have caused a major incident.

I live in Ireland and have a very strong sense of my own identity. I love this country, and am proud to be Irish.

I was a child during the seventies and eighties. A time of tremendous unrest in the North of Ireland, when a lot of wrong was done on both sides, by the British and the Irish. It is rather typical of this country, and one of the many things that I love about the Irish, that this period, during which there were almost daily murders and bombings, is referred to as “The Troubles”. What an understatement!photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/qbix08/3043825190/">qbix08</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Growing up, I lived in Dublin. There was no fighting or bombing there except on one occasion, and for those who lived in the South the “Troubles” seemed far away. Most did not understand it, and were not overly concerned about what was going on. For them it was irrelevant.

However we had Grandparents who lived in the North of Ireland, in County Donegal. Donegal is part of the Irish Repbubic, but it borders the six counties governed by Britain. In order to travel to Donegal we had two choices. Go the long way through Sligo, or our preferred choice,  cross the border.

As a child sitting in a packed car, I always knew we were getting close to the border when my mom would begin to address the five of us in the back of the car. “These boys (the British soldiers) are only somebodies children, sent over here” she would say. “They had no choice whether to come or not”. One of my older sisters was of an age where she had made her own mind on the situation, and her opinion was  that these “children” should go back home. She would voice this opinion loudly back to my mother, who would cut her off by saying “I’m warning you, behave yourself, and put away that bag”. My sister had a bag which was covered in hand written graffiti. It would be fair to say it had an anti British, pro Irish slant to it.

I was a child at the time with no great opinion on the matter. I tended to listen to my Mom, yet wonder at the situation. As we drove closer I took no notice of what looked like square rooms made of brick and barbed wire. Lots of barbed wire. These “rooms” had tiny windows through which a gun poked out.

Some days we got through the border quickly but often there was a long queue of cars. Eventually, a soldier with a rifle across his chest would call us forward. I can clearly remember thinking their strong British accents were very strange, and being fascinated by their guns. My father would hand over his drivers licence and then inevitably the soldier would stick his head in the window to see who else was in the car. Without fail at this point my sister would let go our small but deadly shih tzu dog, who would jump up between the back of my fathers seat and the window, barking her brains out. The soldier wouldn’t be long getting his face out of the car, but it did nothing to warm him to us as a family. The fact that we shared a surname remarkably similar to a notorious IRA leader, did nothing to speed up our check in.

There was always an air of tension as we approached the border. My parents were on edge and so too were the soldiers we encountered. I know now that these soldiers were sometimes shot at or bombed, but as a child it was just something I could sense.On the lookout

On one memorable occasions we were returning home to Dublin after our holidays with my Grandparents. My youngest brother was only about four at the time. There was no such thing as strapping up in the car, so we sat anyway we liked. With five of us and the dog at times it was very uncomfortable, so my brother was small enough to stand up for a while, which gave the rest of us a break. We were coming close to the border, (my mother had begun her early warning conversation), and my little brother was standing up trying to see himself in the rear view mirror. He was busy with something in his hand which he was pretending was lipstick. My Dad asked him to move out of the way of the mirror and as he did he looked closely at my brother and shouted “What have you got in your hand?”. My mother looked back and quickly grabbed the “lipstick”, whilst shouting “It’s a bullet!”. My brother began to wail for his “lipstick” and my mom was shouting “Where did you get this?”. At this point my brother produced a few more “lipsticks” from his pocket, and told my mother who had given them to him. My father, who I always remember as a gently spoken individual, went ballistic. He grabbed all the bullets, opened the window and flung them out, cursing loudly the said individual who had given them to my brother. My brothers wails got even louder at the sight of all his lipsticks disappearing, not to mention my fathers raised voice.

However, as we drew up to the border his tears stopped and the rest of us kept quiet. Eventually we were called forward. As usual my parents tried to sound polite, the name on the drivers licence caused a bit of a stir and my sister once again “accidentally” let go the dog, but we did eventually make it through.

But just imagine what might have happened if we hadn’t spotted what sort of lipstick my brother was using!

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Series of letters. Letter 24.

Today’s letter is a very heartfelt honest letter. It tells, not only the story of one very strong ladies battle out of an abusive relationship, but also her dealing with depression. I don’t believe anyone who reads this letter can finish it, and not feel deep admiration for the writer.
The writer at this time wishes to remain anonymous, although I suspect if her parents read her letter, they would be very proud indeed.

Dear Mam and Dad,

I am sorry for that night when you got a phonecall to say I had taken a cocktail of pills. I don’t really remember much of that time but I know you (probably rushed) on a long journey to reach where I was and you both came to see me in hospital. It was a warning call and I’m sorry I went back into the bad situation afterwards against your advice. I now know what it is like to be a parent and how hard it must have been for you to watch me go back to someone that was clearly wrong for me. I promise you at the time I really didn’t know how bad it was, how silly I was being, I couldn’t see it. There was a fog of depression, but there was also a naivety and a clinging onto something, even though it was the wrong thing.

I think at that stage I had been in limbo for about 4 years, after a series of huge changes and problems I felt I had nobody. I had no friends, the relationship had isolated me from anyone that had been in my life previously. With the family so far away, that was it. Me and him, and something bad was going to happen at some stage.

You recently told me that I should talk about this and gave out that I never want to talk about it blah blah. I did talk about it at counselling. Of course it’s always there as a big mistake in my past, a time when I made bad decisions and thought I was in love and worse thought that the person hurting me loved me. There are reasons I don’t want to speak to you about it though. There are assumptions you’ve made that are incorrect, we’re not good at talking about such hard hurtful things. And I would rather just let it lie now.

I wish you had told me about depression being in the family, I wish you didn’t try to sweep it under the carpet and tell me I couldn’t be depressed. I wish we had been more open about such things. It took a long time to come to term with my depression and believe it’s not all my own fault. In a generation now which is becoming more open about mental health issues, I know I will be educating and talking openly to my children about depression in years to come. I’m not blaming you, that’s how things were. It is easy for me to see that as a problem and how I will not make that mistake with my kids. Not so easy for you to either know it was a mistake or realise how much it hurt at the time.

My life is different now, it’s turned around, I escaped. I finally saw the light, left the bastard. Went to counselling. I slowly built up from zero friends to pushing myself to do activities and slowly finding people to do things with. I met my wonderful partner and had my own family. I found ways to deal with my depression. I have a bunch of super supportive friends and I’m happy with my lot.

Thank you for somehow bringing me up to have it in myself to deal with what happened and to scrape myself up and start again. I owe so much to how good you both are as parents.

Your daughter.

*** Have you a letter to someone you would love to write? A first love? A letter to a younger you? Someone you wish to thank? Maybe a confession? Or a letter to someone who has made your life difficult?
I am still taking contributions to this series of letters. Check out the guidelines for submission or just contact me with any queries. You can read previous contributions using the “series of letters” link.