Here’s a little bit about me and my life.
I was born in 1964 in the Old Coombe in Dublin. My mother tells me that they
were already in the process of knocking the hospital down so there was only three walls in her ward - the last wall
was already gone. It was lovely, she says, having it so open-plan because it was a blistering hot June. And it’s
great for me because if I leave doors open and people ask if I was born in a barn I can answer, ‘No, but
My father worked for Aer Lingus so we got to travel a lot more than any of our
friends – this was way before the era of cheap air fares. I remember spending my sixth birthday in Glasgow, and I
lost a tooth the day before my birthday, and another on the birthday itself. I was very concerned – to the point of
tears if memory serves – that the tooth fairy wouldn’t know where I was. But my mother promised me that she [the
tooth fairy] would indeed find me. How Mum knew this I’ll never know … but she was right! Sixpence was the going
rate for a tooth then, and this two-in-a-row meant that I had a whole shilling! Oh! the excitement and independence
of going to the shop with just my older cousin, and I even remember the huge lollipop I bought with the money –
this was obviously an investment in losing even more teeth and ‘earning’ even more money!
We went to Iceland when I was ten – I loved that. Iceland is so different from anywhere else
I had ever been – or, indeed, have ever been even since. We saw a real life volcano which had erupted only four
years previously … and even then the rocks only just under the surface were still hot enough to melt plastic. We
saw the black, almost-lunar, landscape where the lava had flowed and the ash and rocks had fallen … and the
poignant sight of roofs. Only roofs … poking out of the black rocky surface, the houses themselves still
Also that year – in May – we went to Malawi in Africa. Again, a huge experience
for a young child. It was my first experience of real heat and snakes and open-air markets. We were staying with a
friend of my father’s (and his family), who was on secondment from a British airline to the Malawian airline. This
happened a lot as European airlines lent/hired their expertise to fledgling airlines in other parts of the world.
But what got me … what really upset me … was that this family had black servants. I couldn’t articulate what I
felt, even now I’m not sure I can explain it. But I think it was the inequality of it all. My father’s friend had
children, older than we were, who were in boarding school and so we had the use of their bicycles and a huge,
smoothish, garden in which to ride them. But it used to break my heart every night when we had to return the
bicycles to their shed … because the family of the servants were living there. I hated the arrogance inherent in just walking
into somebody’s house which was also a bicycle shed for the rich white people – those rich white people among whom
I had to now number myself. I don’t know why it never occurred to me not to play with the bicycles – I think I knew
that that wasn’t the point.
When we returned the bicycles it would be dark. (That was bizarre to me, child of
so far north … the way darkness fell so abruptly and also so early, even though it was now summer.) There was no
electricity in the house/shed and each evening I had to pass an old woman (she looked old, she was probably only in
her thirties), as she cooked over an open fire. We always exchanged friendly hellos even though there wasn’t one
word of a language in common.
And at the end of the holiday I took the last few pennies of my holiday money and
bought a bone-bead necklace from the open-air market. I didn’t have the bicycle that day, but as evening fell I
made my way anyway to the house/shed, nervously clutching the necklace… I went into the dark fire-lit room, and
there was my friend as usual, stirring a pot over the open fire. I had planned to graciously hand her the necklace
with lots of smiles and understood-by-their-tone words. Instead my nerve totally failed me and I just thrust the
necklace into her hands and fled. I often think of her, and I hope she understood that I hadn’t meant to be so
rude, I hope she appreciated the gesture of the necklace even though it was more-or-less thrown at her, I hope she
realised that I had just been overcome by an attack of shyness. I was only a nearly-eleven-year-old
Those two trips were incredible for me, as was an amazing trip to Singapore when I
was thirteen. There wasn’t a huge amount of money at home, we didn’t have the toys other children had. But we had
these trips and others like them, and to this day I am so grateful for those experiences. One huge benefit was that
I grew up pretty much colour-blind because of having been exposed to other, way more exotic, cultures from such a
young age. And to this day I often think that experiences are the best way to spend your disposable
income. Stuff needs
minding, cleaning, repairing, storing, insuring, dusting, shifting, protecting. It can break or get lost or be
But experiences enrich forever, and they are always with you.
So I had exotic holidays way beyond my class and era, and I’m so grateful for
them. But as a youngster I was more excited about the two years in a row my parents rented a cottage in Rush in
North County Dublin for a month each time, the summers I was ten and eleven. They were idyllic! As
is de rigeur for
childhood summers, it was always perfect weather. The cottage was about a hundred yards from the park, and the park
led to the beach. A little further took you to the harbour, and there was a pub across the road which served
endless supplies of red lemonade and King crisps. My brother and sister and I, and our various friends, had total
freedom to come and go as we pleased, dictated to only by the emptiness of our stomachs signalling that it might be
time to head home now.
We didn’t spend the summer of my twelfth birthday in Rush, however. Nope, that was
the year my mother presented us with my darling baby sister Frances. Eight years between her and the
previous-youngest, she was a surprise and a gift. Her presence also put my parents in mind to move to a bigger
house. They did, if memory serves, look into larger houses locally, but in the end they moved to Lusk,
next-door-village to Rush, when I was fourteen. I only spent six years in Lusk, all told, but it’s always where I
feel I’m from, it’s always where I tell people I’m from if they ask.
The move was tough, all the same, leaving behind all my friends and having to
start again in a new school. It took me about two years to settle in, but eventually I felt as if I had never been
I decided I’d be a journalist. Whatever I did had to involve writing, and
journalism was it. Until I went to a talk by somebody from the Journalism Course in Rathmines. Somebody who said,
“wanting to be a journalist because you write well is like wanting to be a bishop because you talk well – it helps
to have that skill but it’s not the most important thing.” He went on to describe
what was important
for journalists, none of which attributes I had: a brass neck, an insatiable curiosity being among them. So I
decided that journalism wasn’t for me.
I never thought of writing novels, not then. Writing novels was for others, for
people cleverer than I, better connected than I. Also, although I could write well, I couldn’t think of any stories
to write about. For various reasons – the depression was one – my creativity was gone. Or, more accurately, my
connection to my creativity was gone.
So I went and did a secretarial course for want of any other ideas, and worked in
various jobs in Dublin before heading off to London just before my twenty-first birthday.
I had a ball in London. I also had stress in London, and loneliness, and poverty,
and fear. But once I got established, I had a ball.
I ended up working for Swissair in the Cargo section of Heathrow Airport, and that
was great fun. I also got the concession travel again (having lost it when I grew too old to avail of my father’s
concession), and I used it fully.
This wasn’t that long ago – the late eighties, (Oh my God, that
was twenty years ago! Okay, I should say it doesn’t feel that long ago!), and fares were still high, so
being able to travel so cheaply was a dream. So what if you only got a seat if nobody else wanted it – when you
were travelling in Europe there were loads of flights and you’d get where you wanted without too much
I knew a lot of people in Zurich because of the Swissair connection, and I still
had my friends in Dublin, and my friends in London, so I had a triple social life! I did try my hand at writing
during this time, but not very much or very hard, I have to admit.
I met my husband Peter in London, and we moved back to Ireland and got married in
1991. We lived in Dublin for the first seven years of our marriage, where our son Tadhg was born. This was an
intensive, stressful time.
We had to contend with secondary infertility (i.e. I got pregnant once but
miscarried and didn’t conceive again for a year and a half) before Tadhg was born, and also just before he was born
Peter decided to give up his job and go self-employed. (With my blessing, I hasten to add – we were both mad!).
With everything else I didn’t even have the time or emotional energy to think about writing. I found being a parent
to be both the hardest thing I had ever done, and the most rewarding thing I had ever done.
In 1999 we moved to Carlow. Things were easier then, and I began to think about my
dream of writing a novel. In the meantime I was raising Tadhg, and spare time was at a premium (as it is for
everybody). We had decided, however, that we were going to home-educate him, which meant that I still had that
commitment even after he was at school-age.
And gradually I began to feel that I could possibly write a story. The desire to
write had never gone away, no matter what else I was doing. So I decided to take down that dream, dust it off, and
give it a good try. See if I had it in me or not. At least I wouldn’t go to my grave wondering if I could have done
it or not.
I share the story of my journey to publication here.
We thought we'd stay forever in Carlow, but we then heard of a very exciting
It's to be Ireland's first eco-village in Cloughjordan in North Tipperary. It sounded like a very exciting
project to be involved with, so we joined up.
We moved to a rented house on Cloughjordan's main street in December 2007, and
will be starting to build our own eco-house in late spring 2009. A very exciting time! (Actually, there are still
some sites available for sale in The Village, so if you think it's something you might be interested in, I do
invite you to check it out.)
At this time of writing in December 2008, I am about 8000 words into my next
novel. As well, I've been putting a lot of effort into a comprehensive website for writers: www.fiction-writers-mentor.com. If you're at all interested in being a
writer yourself, you owe it to yourself to check it out.