Céad Míle Fáilte

Ireland, the land of A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, – Céad Míle Fáilte, it  is a pronounced like this:

How would you like a welcome to Dublin like this:

I bet that got your toes tapping! It was a flash mob of Irish dancers from the cast of ‘Take The Floor 2013′ at Dublin Airport recently.

Now there’s a grand way to get rid of jet lag!

Trip to Paris

Reading The Incident on the Champs-Élysées at Nelly’s Garden It brought back a memory for me.

Over forty years ago I was invited to join a group who were going to Paris for a five day weekend. The dates worked for me and I had a valid passport. So I said “Yes, I would love to go along”!

My name was added to the list and accommodation booked, so all I had to do was decide what to wear, pack a bag and turn up at Dublin Airport at the appointed hour.

My knowledge of Paris, at that time, came from the movies or books. I knew little more about the small group of girls I was to spend the few day with, all booked into same hotel. In fact The only person I knew on the whole trip was the friend who invited me. We were part of a much larger group, scattered about in different hotels. By the end of the five days I knew at least twenty five by first name and we had plenty of fun & laughter as well as great food, vino and much shorter legs!

Our hotel was central, good for walking from place to place, quite small with lots of stairs. Thankfully we were booked on a Bed & Breakfast tariff, so once we came down those stairs, we returned no more that once in the day and that was usually to freshen up and change before dinner.

We covered most of the popular tourist attractions:

Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées, and Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine took the life of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and where today Tour de France runs its grand finale.

Notre Dame Cathedral where, because of the great number of tourists, I did not feel the spiritual magic of the cathedral, but enjoyed the quirky, funny, scary, and spiritual details of the artwork and the architecture. All those Gargoyles and flying buttresses were something else!

We visited the Louvre Museum not quite covering over 35,000 pieces of artwork, we had only allowed three hours for our visit. We waved to the armless beauty of the “Venus de Milo,” and “Winged Victory,” before joining a long queue to see the Louvre’s most famous work – Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This small, iconic painting, only 21 by 30 inches (53 by 77 cms) was covered with bullet-proof glass and flanked by guards; with not a hope of getting anyway near it – the result of it being stolen in 1911. (It was recovered in 1913.) Is it any wonder her smile is a little faded! ;)

We drooled our way along Place Vendôme – where owning a store is a haughty statement and every shop window is worth over €1 million. You may remember Place Vendôme the 1998 movie starring Catherine Deneuve. We however, moved on and found time and shops with prices more suitable to our fast emptying purses.

We allowed more time for The Château de Versailles, which 30 years ago was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. I have visited again (when Elly lived in France) and my memories of Versailles are from that time.

We explored back-streets where ordinary tourists don’t generally venture. We felt the real Paris as we passed elegantly dressed young mothers escorting their dancing or skipping young children to or from school or kindergarten.

We found time to eat, drink and pause to soak up the atmosphere and one evening we went to the movies. Last tango in Paris, had been banned or cut to ribbons by the censors in Dublin, so we wanted to take the opportunity of seeing the film in Paris. We found a cinema with the film in English so booked for a late showing.

We returned along the Champs-Elysées late that night chatting animatedly about the movie, on the way to our accommodation. The street was busy with people walking in both directions, when a man bumped heavily into me. He almost knocked me over. He mumbled and staggered past, and as I looked over my shoulder I saw him lurching through the crowd behind me. We walked on, I had no handbag/purse to think about. My money was in my gloved hand, a trick I learned from my mother. It was only when we got back to our hotel, that I discovered I had blood all down my new, first time airing – dry clean only -trouser suit. We were going home the next day so the stains had to wait until I reached Dublin, to be sorted.

We never discovered the ‘what or why’ of the incident, from the amount of blood, I assume the guy had been stabbed.

The End is never the End ~ Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Finding experts to carry out a sensitive restoration programme of the house, seemed like a mammoth task. Alice realised she needed the assistance and advice from a surveyor, an architect, an auctioneer and maybe even an archaeologist, well, she did find jewels under one floorboard, who knew what else might be uncovered as the work progressed! Yes. Professionals to steer her clear of carrying out work that may not be appropriate for ‘Thudder house’. their experience with old properties should be able to suggest cost-effective and well-designed solutions to problems that she was sure to encounter.

Deep thoughts to tax her brain, while skipping round the ‘Home house’ to the tune of the vacuum and the dance of a duster. It was no wonder she was feeling at the hard end of circumstances beyond her control. Knowing someone in any of these fields, would be a help, but a lifetime spent in the shadow of her silent father and Lovell, never gave her much chance to move in those circles. She would talk to Morgan when she met him in town for coffee later in the day, he had a habit of calming her. Behind his six foot two inches of handsome healthy manhood was the head of a meticulous mind for detail and a mine of information.

She would need to have a survey of the house as it stood before any work was done.
Written specifications that detailed what works need to be undertaken, which
materials to be used and what standards should be used in the construction.

If she decided not to employ a professional to prepare a specification, tender the work or find a builder then there were sure to be issues beyond her control. Would she need planning permission or building regulations approval for any changes? Was she up to tendering works and deciding on a contract before finding suitable builders & contractors to carry out the work required?

Somewhere in the mists of time, long before she heard of ‘Thudder house’, she remembered reading an article…

When having building works carried out it is always advisable to have a contract drawn up that includes start and finish dates, the agreed fixed price for the work, and exactly what the price does and does not include (rather than an estimate). The contract should also cover insurance issues.

Work to old buildings can often include items that were unforeseen at the time the price was agreed but which become apparent as work proceeds and the building is ‘opened up’. Establish with the builder before starting a project how additional works will be costed, and consider a contingency sum to cover unforeseen problems.

Before work starts, find out how it will be carried out, and in what sequence, so you can be prepared if you are ordering specific items yourself. Try also to establish how the site will be run, where materials will be stored and what protection measures will be put in place to prevent damage to the building or your possessions.
It is always worth having a photographic record of the building before works start in case there are any problems later.

“Gosh”, thought Alice, “The back of my mind is not such an empty place after all. To think I have carried all that information around with me for all these years!”

“Right. Time to stop thinking and start doing…!” She needed to hurry, prepare a quick lunch for herself and Lovell, then change her clothes or she would be late for her appointment in town.

£189,620.

A grand total of £189,620 was all Alice could focus on right now, she set her hands on the desk in front of her too steady herself. She felt her legs were like jelly and ready to give way if she stood up. The written breakdown with pages of details for every item would have to wait until she had a cup of coffee. She was more used to dealing with bread and butter money and not amounts like £189,620.

Mr Grimes the jeweller had talked her through the list, was still talking away to, or rather at her now, and she needed to concentrate and listen. He suggested holding on to the items in the company safe until she had time to digest the information and decide whether to keep or dispose of the pieces by auction.

“Of course” Mr Grimes was saying, “The price on the day might go up or down, and that was not something in my control. Brooches are now back in vogue and an auction highlight. Recently, an impressive platinum and diamond spray brooch, circa 1950s, reached £25,000. Some of your pendants would take easily to conversion”

He allowed that to sink in for a few moments before continuing:

“In the bottom of the box, under the velvet lining were a number of loose gemstones, from the collection of a very reputable late gemmologist”.

He was familiar with the stones and named the gemmologist, a man they had regularly done business with, but who had passed away about twenty years earlier. Mr Grimes told her that they had checked, and none of the items had been reported as stolen.

The name meant nothing to Alice.

“He was a wonderful character with eyes that sparkled like the gems in his collection, when he laughed, and that he did often.” Said Mr Grimes.

“The gemstones are all listed with approximate values on the penultimate page of our valuation. They would make a fantastic collecting opportunity for a keen gemmologist or for anyone considering starting a gem collection or studying gemmology!”

He mentioned something about the necessity for special insurance if she decided to keep the jewellery. If she wished to present them for auction, his company were well placed to handle that for her. This was a whole new world for Alice.

Asking Mr Grimes to please keep the jewellery & gemstones in the safe for the moment, she thanked him for his patience, time and care for her, and she promised to phone if she had any questions in the meantime. They shook hands and Alice left the jewellers, still in a state of shock.

All Alice wanted right now was that cup of coffee and it was almost past the time that Morgan had agreed to meet her. She was relieved not to have to carry the jewellery through the busy streets. She was not so anxious on the day she brought them in, but then she did not have a large figure of One hundred & eighty nine thousand, six hundred and twenty pounds branded in front of her eyes!

Morgan was waiting at the appointed spot and quickly moved to find a table for them. He could see the state Alice was in, so decided to refrain from questions until they were served. Afternoon teas were served in the traditional manner. A selection of finger sandwiches, delicate pastries and scones with clotted cream, gracing a silver tea stand all complemented with tea, coffee and maybe some Champagne. It was served daily until 4.30pm

Morgan’s later appointment was cancelled just as he left the office, so he had plenty of time to sit and listen. With each sip of coffee, the tension eased in Alice. This place was a good choice, comfortable, spacious and the food was of excellent quality. Tiny portions. Beautifully presented but wouldn’t fill a hole in your tooth!

Eventually, Alice was relaxed enough to talk about her meeting with Mr Grimes. She produced the document with all the details and handed it to Morgan. He remained silent as he cast his eyes down the details on each page.

• Diamond And Aquamarine Pendant Brooch . The briolette-cut aquamarine drop, with a single-cut diamond cap, suspended by a single-cut diamond ribbon bow, gathered by a baguette-cut diamond knot, mounted in 18k white gold £17,225.
• Diamond pendant. A stunning pear shaped diamond pendant with centre stone of 3.25ct and surrounding diamonds of 1.01ct. £24,950.
• Emerald and Diamond pendant. A stunning Emerald and Diamond pendant set in 18ct white gold. Diamonds approx 2.21ct Emerald approx 4.08ct £24,800.
• Diamond Pendant. A fabulous Edwardian Diamond pendant circa 1910 Approx total Diamond weight 3ct. £18,100.
• A pair of Diamond stud earrings set in 18ct white gold Diamond weight approx 2.50ct. £17,400.
• Aquamarine and Diamond Ring. A rare central stone with good colour, the Aquamarine is approx 6.60ct Diamonds 4.25ct £32,750.
• A beautiful 1830s Sapphire & diamond three row ring. The central row of sapphires were set in white 18ct gold, between two rows of diamonds, excellent quality and condition £15,895.
• Georgian Platinum Diamond and Onyx Mourning Ring of rectangular plaque shape, centring an oval onyx plaque with five cabochon-cut effect within a border of rose cut diamonds of various sizes, approx gross diamond weight of 1.5cts set in platinum. The rear of the ring, with rubbed hallmarks but there are no visible losses or damage. £ 3,500.
• A fine diamond three-stone ring in 18ct white gold, the central emerald-cut diamond weighing approx. 3.31 carats and set between two rectangular-cut diamonds: £26,000
• A collection of loose gemstones, all in excellent condition and individually valued to a total of: £9,000.

A grand total of £189,620.00

Letting out a long slow almost silent whistle, he understood why Alice seemed so stressed when she arrived. Figures like this were normal in his working day, but jewellery? Being happier with oily hands under the bonnet of a car, jewellery was a total other world for him. Oh yes, he had admired a necklace or pendant worn by a young lady or two that he had invited to dinner over the years, but the cost of the items never dawned on him. Alice was wise to leave them in the safe keeping of Mr Grimes for the moment.

Lifting his eyes to Alice, he asked “ I wonder what Sidney would have said about this?”

Thursday Special ~ Can of Peas

Two elderly ladies meet at the launderette after not seeing one another for some time. After inquiring about each other’s health, one asked how the other’s husband was doing.

“Oh! Ted died last week. He went out to the garden to dig up a cabbage for dinner, had a heart attack and dropped down dead right there in the middle of the vegetable patch!”

“Oh dear! I’m very sorry,” replied her friend, “What did you do?”

“Opened a can of peas instead.”

Thanks to Noreen for this one!

No longer all at sea.

Book Club on BBC Radio 4, presented by James Naughtie, is a once a month programme that I like to listen to, when at home.

On Sunday 06 April 2014, Irish writer John Banville discussed his novel The Sea which won the Man Booker prize in 2005.

In this episode which will be repeated on Thursday at 15.30, I was more taken by the way the author spoke about his process of writing, than about the book itself.

John Banville explained how he painstakingly writes his novels over many years, creating sentence after sentence. He trusts the sentence. He writes by the sentence. He does not write by the paragraph or the chapter. If he gets one sentence right it will lead on to the next one.

He said “The sentence is the greatest invention of humankind. The sentence is what makes us human, it is what we think with, what we devise with, what we declare love with, what we declare war with, it is the essence of us”.

He is pleased with the way he handles time, He does it without trying, it happens and it works, he trusts his instincts.

Those two points struck a chord with me.

Everything I have read up until now, about writing, spoke of structures, outlines, beginnings, middles and ends. Never before had I come across a mention of working sentence by sentence.

It is the way I have always worked, be it a letter, an email, a blog post or a story.

I wanted to re-listen to the programme to make sure I had heard correctly on Sunday. Tonight was the first opportunity I had to do so, and it was as if someone had given me the winning lottery numbers…..

Thank you John Banville for the boost in confidence to keep plugging on.

Sunday One liner ~ 24

 

Fine words butter no parsnips.

Parsnips

Parsnips

 

You may well hear the odd fine word or be served parsnips in my house, preferably roasted, but no butter to go with them. You would need Nana around for parsnips to go with the butter!! ;)

Since this is Nana’s Day, she deserves a Post of her own!

Eileen, Mother & Nana

It was a Monday morning, just six days before Easter Sunday, that Eileen arrived. The path was prepared and pattern set by her almost four year old brother and sister aged two. By the time she was twelve, the family had reached the full compliment of seven children and her mother and father. They lived over the corner shop, owned and run by her mother. Her father was a Cooper at a local brewery.

Eileen’s father was a quiet serious man not known for a sense of humour, yet Eileen was the only one to get away with devilment. As a young girl she was diagnosed with an acute appendicitis and her father walked with her from the South Circular Road, in Dublin, to the Meath Hospital, for admission and surgery. Once over that hurdle, she never looked back.

She had the quick wit of her mother and a head for figures, a gift her mother put to good use in the shop. Back in those days customers often paid for the groceries at the end of each week, so records were hand written into a large book. Eileen quickly mastered the cross and long tots, which eased the load for her mother. At sixteen she left school and went to work at Cassidy’s Ladies Fashions in George’s Street in Dublin. She never complained, but she knew she was going to work so that her brothers could be educated.

1931. Eileen Moloney

1931. Eileen Moloney

Photo of Eileen at 17

She had a good eye for fashion and particularly hats so was moved to the Millinery department which she loved. In those days, unlike today, ladies hats came in different sizes. The were stored in large deep drawers or glass cabinets.

Cassidy's Millenry Dept

Cassidy’s Millenry Dept

Eileen at work in Cassidy’s.

She was light on her feet and loved to dance and was never short of a partner. Lilly, one of her aunts, was a wonderful seamstress and took great pleasure in creating dance dresses for Eileen. She often told of a green fabric she saw in Denis Guiney’s window, on her way to the Custom House, On the way back she went to purchase enough for a floor length dress. The grumpy salesman told her that since it was in the window she would have to come back the next week when the displays were changed, he could not remove it before that.

1940 That Dress again 1

Another dance dress.

Years later he said he remembered that day and thought the colour would look well on her! That grump became her husband and my father!

 Eileen & Dan's Wedding Day

Eileen Moloney & Dan Molony

Mammy & Daddy on her wedding day.

With time they had a family, but it was not all an easy journey. Of her nine pregnancies, her first and penultimate babies were still born and the third survived for five hours. The remaining six are still going our various ways, having nurtured our own families and for some there is another new generation following on.

1955-08-07 Ello's Christening

Nana & Dan with their six children in 1955

Two years after the birth of my sister, the baby in the photo above, mammy had a serious heart attack. To her horror she was not allowed to eat butter, fat or cream, she was to cut out using the stairs e.g. come down in the morning and not go back up until bedtime! The loo was upstairs, What was she supposed to do…. Tie her legs in a knot? :mad: She was not to stand if she could sit and not to sit is she could lie down! How those ideas have changed! It is just as well, since mammy had little chance of sticking to them.

One year later Daddy was ill and in and out of hospital for a year. Mammy’s health issues were put on the back burner while looking after him. They both kept going, with health lifting and dropping like a temperature gauge.

Despite all the hurdles, mammy never lost her sense of fun, She became a great cook, a wonderful mother and great friend.

So to day on her Hundredth birthday, may we all drink a toast to her memory (tea would be appropriate, it was her favourite tipple), share the happy memories and listen carefully for her laughter!

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Eileen Molony nee Moloney 1914 – 1996