May 14, 2020

Family Fortunes (Irish Times) Sr Terisita and David Cassidy

In the same column in the Irish Times one Friday, ironically a few months before David Cassidy died, I had the following piece published:

My sister and I shared a double bed over our shop in Killarney. The bed and a dressing table took up most of the room with the space between the end of the bed and the wall filled by a built-in square wardrobe.

                Every second summer my mother’s cousin, a nun who lived in New Jersey since she joined the nuns in North Kerry at eighteen, came to stay for two nights. She brought rosary beads, holy pictures and a dollar for each of us. More importantly, during her visit, my mother cooked rashers and sausages for breakfast, we had a ‘sweet’ with our dinner and there were Kimberley biscuits for supper. The one drawback was that we had to move out of our bedroom and sleep on the floor of our parents’ bedroom when Sr. Teresita visited.

                When we were aged ten and twelve, we were infatuated with various pop stars and had plastered the walls of our bedroom with posters. My sister had half the wall space with Slade, Marc Bolan and T-Rex and Donny Osmond. I had his younger brother Jimmy, but my pièce de resistance on the wall over my side of the bed was the three-part poster of David Cassidy of the Partridge Family. I had bought three weekly issues of “Jackie” to get his entire body. Week 1’s two centre pages were of David’s torso, Week 2 revealed his legs and feet. I very carefully manoeuvred the middle staples of Week 3 so that I wouldn’t damage his beautiful eyes, mouth or nose. I sellotaped his head and shoulders to the rest of his body before pasting him on gently over the flowery wallpaper.

                Our mother did broach the suggestion that we might remove some of the posters and replace them with a crucifix before Sr. Teresita arrived, but we were adamant. This was not negotiable. It was bad enough being forced to de-camp, without also having to risk any damage to our pop idols.

                On her first morning, my mother was at the range in the kitchen frying the rashers when Sr. Teresita came downstairs.

“I hope you slept well, Sister,” said my mother.

I can still hear her answer. “Not a wink I’m afraid, Carmel. I couldn’t sleep with all those men looking down at me.  I found it hard to say my prayers.”

Just like me then, I thought. 

Click here to the piece in the Irish Times.

May 13, 2020

Family Fortunes (Irish Times) My Love for Cameras....

These days of lockdown due to the global pandemic do have some silver linings. One of these is that it has given me some time and headspace. I have no excuse but to return to my blog to give some news of my life and particulary my writing life. I have sadly neglected this outlet for a long time. 

I am going to start by publishing some of my writing/articles that have been published in the last while.

Below find a piece that was published in the Irish Times last year in the Family Fortunes column that is included in the paper every Friday:


Cameras and Binoculars

My fascination with cameras and binoculars began when I was about ten. I started helping my Dad in our chemist shop for the late-opening on summer evenings. I suspect that my ‘help’ was really just so that he would have some company in the shop. I’d dust and tidy some of the shelves, re-arrange the postcards so that all of the same images were stacked together on the rack and, when I was older, work the till.

The tourists, mostly Americans, drifted in and out on their way to or from the restaurants and bars in town. Many bought postcards and toiletries like toothpaste and shaving foam. But, strangely, we sold many pairs of binoculars and very many cameras.

I made up a sign for the shop window with: “Binoculars: Cheapest in Town” with a drawing of two little eyes and eyelashes drawn over the ‘o’ in binoculars and felt like I was well on the road to a marketing career.

My father came into his own when he launched into the sale of a camera with a customer. He showed them a box camera, then cameras that used 35mm rolls where the film was spooled from one spool to another. He used often have the camera and his hands up to his elbows inside a black zipped bag when he was spooling on a film that had got stuck for some reason.

Then came the magic Polaroid camera that developed photographs on the spot. As time went on he sold instamatic cameras that used 126 cartridges that you dropped into the back of the open camera. However, the camera that most intrigued me was the 110 pocket camera. It was a longish cuboid that had a slim cartridge that was easy to load. My Aunty Anna bought one of these coveted cameras from us.

When my twenty-year old cousin Margaret came on holidays from the US with her friend, Aunty Anna gave her a loan of her camera before she took off on her cycling trip. When Margaret arrived back to Killarney a week later, she gave my dad her film to be developed. When they were developed, there were 24 very interesting photographs, all detailed studies of Margaret’s left eye. From then on my father was even clearer to potential purchasers as to which side of the camera the viewfinder was on to avoid any future anatomical studies of the optical variety. Or perhaps it was the beginning of the eye-selfies?


The link to the piece on the Irish Times website is: