Noonan In The Cesspit

With the horrifying details of past cruelties and crimes in the Mother and Baby homes run by the Bon Secour nuns, among other orders, coming out in Ireland now, it’s only a matter of time before they may be shamed and forced to change the name of this new private hospital. But would the ethos behind it ever get changed? An excellent blog.

Cunning Hired Knaves

Today, Michael Noonan (more about him here) attended the opening of a private hospital facility in Limerick. Noonan is a former Minister for Health, and is the current Minister for Finance. The official Twitter account of the Department of Finance posted a photo of the Minister at the opening. Among other things, this shows how it is official government policy to promote the continued privatisation of health care.

Noonan is hardly the first minister from the Fine Gael government to endorse the opening of private health care facilities. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Leo Varadkar when he was Minister for Health have both done so, and for all I know, the current Minister, Simon Harris, may well have done the same.

You are unlikely to hear any Fine Gael minister saying that they actually support the continued privatisation of health care. They are more likely to say that the…

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The Trip, Part Two, and the Surprise…..

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Eileen looking wonderful in the pink light at sundown!


The call to prayer is really evocative, and here the men gather at mid-day for prayers…the road is completely filled with men who couldn’t get into the mosque.
I’ve never been a fan of a solid 8 hour working day, and love that with breaks to meditate or just BE for a while, one can work on in the evening…and get the same amount of work done. The outdoor evening life in Marocco is vibrant and wonderful.



In the Artisanal area, this young man was incredibly helpful….I had seen an English translation of an Arabic inscription, “Enter with blessings, serene people”, which I wanted in Arabic for my house, and for my Somali friends, and so we spent a fun time with my broken French, his broken English and a few mimes to show the feeling behind the words……it was also wonderful to watch him writing the two pieces…I learnt a lot from that!



The remains of the El Badi Palace, with four sunken gardens, with orange trees, separated by pools…..apparently they are a majestic sight when filled, during the Festival des Artes Populaires in June.


At the El Badi Palace there are lots of storks,with huge nests…seeing them flying with big sticks in their beaks is awesome!


(I don’t know enough about storks to know what the two

on the left are doing!)


Looking upwards brings wonders of painted woodwork…



Photo: Eileen O’Toole

and the marble work, like delicate lace, is exquisite!



We watched a young builder, working in the street on

renovations, and using an electric jigsaw to cut fretwork

like those above…so skilled!


Photo credit: Eileen O’Toole

Centuries of artisan craftsmanship resonate in the totally

modern airport…

The following pictures show little shops with spices, scents, dyes and food stalls…we bought Myrrh, Jasmine, cedar wood, creams, pigments and spices…evocative scents for my house.

Not all the food we had in Marrakech was good…elements of Fast Food in the evenings at Jmaa el Fna, but the food we had in this restaurant garden was really good, and the atmosphere was excellent.

Another group of photo’s, click to enlarge individual ones.



And now, for all those who’ve trawled through the photos to read of my Splendid Surprise! Nothing to do with Marocco, but one of the joys of WordPress, and a lovely Welcome Home! I came back to a comment on my WP blog, from a lad who’d seen my name and thought it must be me. He and two of his brothers had been fostered by me, when he was 5 years old, in Scotland. He remembered my house and things that had happened, and remembered me reading a book called Little Black Sambo to him…perhaps not so remarkable as he had never seen a black person back then! What was remarkable is that they were only with me for 3 weeks, 24 years ago…after which they’d gone to different foster parents, and to a children’s home. I was so touched that he’d remembered so much, and that he contacted me. And, thanks to my hoarding nature, I was incredibly happy to be able to dig out 3 photo’s of them…he had never seen, let alone owned, a photograph of himself as a child. Now we’re emailing our life stories to each other, and I have every hope of meeting him later this year…What a wonderful start to 2016!



Home Sweet Home….and a splendid surprise!

I’m just back from a wonderful,if all too short, New Year’s break in Marrakech, with a good friend, Eileen. She wrote about it so well: “We arrived in Marrakech on Dec 31st in the heat of the African sun. There was no Christian hoopla for the end of 2015. No fireworks, no party favorites. There was instead a piercing blue sky, red dust, the smell of unknown spices and mint tea. Plus the delicious weight of age that disregards the Gregorian calendar …….. “And there was colour…..Such beautiful colour. It felt like I was looking at something that was squeezed from the source.”


The fountains in the inner courtyard of our hotel were a soothing aural backdrop, which were switched off around 9 p.m. (This reminded me about how Sellafield nuclear plant doesn’t have the usual alarm system, instead they have a constant background sound, and when that stops it’s an emergency…it is remarkable how much more one responds to instant silence.)


The sounds of the fountains were often replaced by the sound of cats….there are cats everywhere in Marrakech, slim, but not scrawny or starving…great hoovers around the food stalls, not pestering people and very engaging.


Photo Credit:Eileen O’Toole

Enticing alleyways can get you wonderfully lost…Moroccan people are very friendly and helpful, but you may want to decline graciously when they want to take you  to a relative’s shop, unless you have time on your hands….


I was really looking forward to revisiting the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden created in the 20’s and 30’s by french painter Jacques Majorelle, and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. We should have gone early in the day, as it was like an ant’s nest of tourists, snapping away on their i-pads, which did not enhance the extreme tranquility of the gardens.


Photo: Eileen O’Toole

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Photo credit, Eileen O’Toole

That blue was real! I bought Indigo and Majorelle Blue

pigments, and want to use them to decorate my wooden doors.



Two more photo’s from the Majorelle gardens…


Photo credit, Eileen O’Toole


Photo credit: Eileen O’Toole


I don’t seek out coolness in Ireland, but in Morocco it is bliss!


OOPS! I pressed Publish instead of Preview…but maybe this is quite enough to trawl through…Part Two will have the splendid surprise in it!

How to respond to that phone call with your mother who is imploding….(WARNING: Open Heart Surgery within!)

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I was talking yesterday with a visitor, about two, possibly conflicting, quotes on my wall….

The kind one above (by Glennon Doyle Melton), and the honest one below, (by Anne Lamott. What a woman!”).

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Soooooo…….where to begin? Friends who have read earlier blogs by me will know that I lost my parents at a very early age…and in a quest for attachment and belonging, and perhaps to stem the unbearable river of loneliness, I went on to have two sons, at far too young an age… and then became a single-parent family.
(Well, it wasn’t a conscious decision to have kids too early!…but the initial falling into bed would have been running away from the Black Hole of utter aloneness, I guess.)



A few years back, a dear friend told me what a therapist had said to her many years ago, about how single parents (read: single mothers), can often, unconsciously, look to their children for ‘parenting’. Well, that had me crying for three days, because I knew there was truth in that, for me. With no ‘Birth Clan’ of my own, I unwittingly put far too many unconscious expectations on my sons.

(A digression; I have long wondered how it is that children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Holocaust survivors could now be inflicting genocide on Palestinians in Gaza. Recently, and again in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, I’ve read of research that posited “….Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children…., the transition of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance, can effect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren. Other research showed that girls born to Dutch women who were pregnant during a severe famine at the end of the second world war had an above-average risk of developing schizophrenia.The team were specifically interested in one region of a gene associated with the regulation of stress hormones, which is known to be affected by trauma.  Hmmmm.”).

And a quote from a Philip Larkin poem: “Man hands on misery to man, it deepens like a coastal shelf, get out as early as you can, and don’t have any kids yourself”!

Back to the Meltdown of Mother.

My firstborn son had a grand 50th birthday bash a while back. Had I had an invite to his birthday party, I’m not even sure if I could or would have attended, but I sure as hell would have loved to have been invited!  One friend said “Well, if you were an American Mom, you’d just turn up unannounced!” That was NOT going to happen! Via the ubiquitous nature of Facebook, I happened by chance to see when his celebrations were….and, smothering my disappointment at no invite, I eventually came up with the positive idea that we could meet up days later, when his actual birthday was……it was indeed my ‘Birth Day’ too! Suggesting that, he responded that he and my second born might come to visit me here in Ireland. However, they have very busy lives…I was powerless to suggest dates etc, and so I just had to wait. And Wait.

As a two and a half year old when my mother died, I waited for her to return…a year later my father died, but not understanding death I waited for him also to return, and I waited to see again my three eldest sisters, who had been shipped to relatives in New Zealand…in those days it was not considered wise for them to come to say Goodbye, as that might ‘upset’ my twin and me, and them. Which left a very confused and stressful wee four year old! “They’ve ALL gone….it MUST be my fault….”…….”I must never get angry again, or the sky will fall in!!” AND I had to learn to speak English, instead of Mancunian….I literally lost my authentic voice. It now seems perfectly feasible that stress could have been imprinted in my genes….the auld “Fight or Flight” mechanism… but to compound my fearful suppression of anger, there was a taboo on anger in my adoptive family.

(Suppress your anger, and ye get depression, but that’s another story…and, inevitably, a boring one! Did I mention the resentment? Let’s just not go there!).

Waiting for anything can fill me with dread… as a child I’d get cramps in my calf muscles when waiting to go to the circus…this could go on for days.(“But….It might pack up and leave before we get there!”, and knowing deep down that I really wanted to run away with them). As a supposed adult, waiting can still occaisionally make me feel sick with an inchoate foreboding in the pit of my stomach. 

Back to the story….

My beloved firstborn went to live with his father when he was 12….”Daddy would let me stay up all night! Daddy would buy me this, that and the other! Daddy would do my homework for me!”. And in my people-pleasing way, I let him choose,  rather than fighting to keep him with me. But to me, it was just another rejection and abandonment; and again, “It must be my fault!”.

I do come from another era. Before mobile phones, before email, we would phone landlines, without answer machines, etc. We wrote letters….I can remember the joy of having a Fax machine! Instant Letters! without having to go to the post office! However, as ever, I trailed technologically behind, fax’s went out of use, and mobile phones swept in…now we live in a world of instant messaging, of txt speak, (Gawd’elpus!),  and of the insidious Facebook. Supposedly we are instantly accessible, and yet we are more isolated than ever before. So when my son finally got back to me, he could not know where I was “at” that day, or why I was upset and abreacting…. all he knew was that Mother was in Meltdown…. sobbing rather than angry…and that was distinctly uncomfortable for both of us. “Run! Hide!” …”Get off the phone as soon as!”. “Phew!”.

I wrote a genuinely apologetic email for dumping my distress on him, but no answer came.
And so we come to the title of this piece….When your mother is in meltdown, when she knocks you off your feet with unbridled tears and upset,

Don’t Take It Personally!

Don’t Think You Have To Fix It!

Don’t be Paralysed By Unfounded Guilt!

And Don’t Stick Your Fingers in Your Ears, going LaLaLaLaLa, and hoping she will just Go Away!

Self-justifying is not relevant….guilt is a waste of time,  sympathy is patronising and de-energising…but Empathy is just saying “Hey! I’m SO sorry that you are feeling bad!”.

It really IS that simple!

“Is there anything I can do to help?”….Even had he asked, I’d have been embarrassed to reply with the worn-out old record of: “Phoning and chatting more than 3 times a year would be a good start!” Nobody WANTS to guilt trip their children! (Or do they???…….)

Perhaps I actually DO want to! Suffice to say, he phoned last Christmas Day, just as I was sitting down to a rather meagre roast chicken with my neighbour. (Christmas is always a difficult time for me, as my mother died around Christmas time. Add the manufactured Seasonal and rather ghastly Happy Family Jollities, and the Seasonal Affective Depression that has me like a caged and restless tiger from 1st December to seed-planting time in Spring, and you get a woeful and curmudgeonly Charl. ) I asked him if he could phone back that evening, or the following day, as I would love to have a good chat with him. “Yeah sure…no worries.” Three Months Later…..the phone rang. I pretended that I didn’t know who he was! “I’m sorry…who IS that?”. “Sorry…WHAT was your name again??” Passive Aggressive or what??!! But we had a good laugh.

Coincidentally. with what I call Chance Triumphant, there was another article in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, under the title “My mother haunts me still”…and the by-line: “It was only after his mother died that Justin Cartwright realised he had never ‘entered fully’ into her life, and that there was so much more he could have done for this lonely and unsettled woman.” Here’s the link…a moving and heart-felt read, that spoke to my heart….

I remember telling my other son a few years back that I was concerned for Firstborn, as he was in so little contact that, once I’ve died he may well feel guilty…Second son said “Well, why would that bother You?”  Derrrr??? It’s because I love him, and I don’t want him to feel bad! Hey Ho!

My firstborn thinks I am the same woman as I was when he left home…38 years ago! Practically the Dark Ages! The article by Justin Cartwright reminds me that I would just love the chance for us to get to know each other again….us now, as two adults. He can unwittingly come out with things that leave me open mouthed… thankfully with laughter most of the time, but his assumptions can seem very strange!
It feels really dangerous to post a link to this on Facebook…and anyway, I’ve been out of there since my wifi went down some weeks ago…. I may not be brave enough to do so…..however, as neither of my sons have ever commented on any of my blog posts, I can maybe be brave enough to just Tell My Story, with impugnity! (I so love words…..and impugnity is one of my favourites! I like Swathes of Impugnity!)

It seems self-indulgent to be writing all this….However, stars cannot shine without the darkness…maybe for an artist, manifesting the dark side is a way of exorcising it….We draw and sculpt and dance and write and sing the Dark and the Light of the Soul. We Tell Our Stories. A line from my all-time favourite song springs to mind , from Mary Gauthier, (a Foundling, and a consummate story teller who found her own splendid voice so wonderfully,) :…”We hang in the balance, between hell and hallowed ground, and every single one of us could use some mercy now.”

And another line from Mary Gauthier, the one along the fret board at the bottom of this unfinished drawing:”Like mighty waves rolling forever to shore, my hand will always be reaching for yours.”

There Will Be Blood

A hilarious blog about the joys of parenting!

Punch Drunk Village

PsychoAllow me to set the stage for a recent Day in the Life story that occurred last week.

This took place during my “family vacation” – if by “family” you mean “lots of people crammed in one van,” if by “vacation” you mean “lots of people crammed in one van moving from one geographic location to another geographic location.” But call it what you like.

We were staying at a cabin on a lake near Minneapolis and decide to drive into the city to visit old and new friends. These old and new friends don’t know one another. But we typically like to make things more convenient for us them by awkwardly forcing everyone in a room together. One stop shop, if you will.

The Cast:

  • One family of four:  mom, dad, two young kids.
  • One family of five:  mom, dad, three young kids.
  • One male friend. Single by choice. Childless by choice. Works…

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