The strange case of the green suit…

There are two things that stand out for me about this week. One is, I suppose, a milestone and the other… well, it’s just hilarious.

Anyone who has seen earlier posts will know that my Mum has Alzheimers and that we take turns in looking after her in her own home. My day on duty was always Sunday but now I have her Friday evenings too. The problem is that she still associates my presence with Sunday and she associates Sunday with a particular green suit.

Unlike my sisters, being a male my Mum insists that I’m out of the room when she gets ready. That has led to a difficulty. No matter what I lay out on the bed for her each Saturday morning, she ends up in her green ‘Sunday’ suit because of her ‘Declan/Sunday’ association. This was the week that I finally came up with an ingenious solution.

With the necessary approval from my fashion-conscious Mum, I got a nice blue print skirt, blue blouse and blue cardigan ready. Then, instead of laying them out on the bed, I took the clothes out of the room with me. I’d prepared warm, soapy water and a towel in the ensuite and I got her to throw out the night clothes she’d taken off to be washed so that I could be sure she was in her birthday suit. Moments later I could hear her splashing about quite happily. Then I heard her call out.

“I’m washed now. Where are my clothes?”

“I’ve got them here. I’ll give them to you one by one so you can get dressed. Okay?”

“Okay.”

So far so good. I was delighted. I opened the door a crack and handed in her underwear. Then I waited a minute or two.

“Have you got your underwear on?”

“Yes.”

I repeated the procedure with the blue blouse.

“Have you got it on.”

“Nearly. I’m just trying to get the buttons done up.”

“Do you need a hand?”

“No… There. I’ve got it.”

“Okay. Here’s your skirt.”

I handed it in through the gap.

“Thank you.”

She had no difficulty with that.

“Okay. Is that it?”

“No Mum, I have your lovely cardigan here.”

I passed it around the door. A few moments passed.

“What shoes will I wear?”

“I can come in now and help you chose them if you want.”

“Okay.”

I opened the door and my mouth dropped. There she was in her green suit. Of the blue clothes there was no sign.

The other thing that stood out this week happened when I had an unexpected free class in college. I went to a coffee shop and ordered an Americano. Then I sat down, took out my laptop and wrote the first passage of my new book “Sticks and Stones”. I’d been carrying the story of the Pins and Needles sequel around for weeks but had been afraid that, for some reason, it wouldn’t translate to the written word. After an hour I was done and I’d written something I was very happy with. There’s another 89,000 words to go but I’ve laid the foundation. I had a thought. There was a copy of Pins and Needles in my bag. I took it out and wrote on the inside cover something like: “Here in this cafe on whatever day it was I’ve started Sticks and Stones.” Then I signed and dated it and, when nobody was looking stuck it between a bunch of other books on a bookshelf for someone to find some day. Maybe it’ll just sit there and nobody will care but there’s always the chance that my next book will be great and that book will make a fortune on ebay…

 

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A date for your diary…

Launch Invite

The books are back from the printer so I’ve been able to nail down the launch date. Because the novel is set against the Camino de Santiago, I’ve decided on nice Spanish wine and nibbles. I realise that some of you reading this may have a slight difficulty flying into Dublin from the Pacific coast of the USA for a glass of wine and to say ‘hi’ but if you happen to be in or near Dublin, I do hope that you’ll pop along. Don’t worry, you won’t be pressurised into anything. It’s just a celebration that the thing got finished – and I love the job the the printer has done 🙂 Put the date in your diary – October 12, 6pm Hodges and Figgis on Dawson Street.

The ghosts in my house…

“I’m glad he’s moving out of that house because of the ghosts.”
We were on a family holiday – the last before my Dad died – in Dingle and my sister was on the phone to my brother who, having been detained in Dublin, was to join us the following day. I had mentioned over dinner, in passing, that I was leaving the 240 year old Georgian house that I’d been renting in Drogheda for the previous three years to move back to Dublin.
“What ghosts?” was my sister’s predictable response.


My brother went on to explain that, within days of me moving in, he’d called to visit unannounced and found nobody home. He’d crossed the street to take a photograph with the disposable film cameras that he still used – his technophobia ruling out such modern contraptions as digital cameras or smartphones. The photograph was to show his girlfriend my new seven level home, which came complete with servants attics, cellars and servants’ quarters. There was even a bell pull beside each fireplace which rang a bell in the servants’ quarters to tell them where they were required. It was not until the photograph was developed that my brother noticed the two figures behind the net curtain in the lower window. Rather than upset me, he had a Mass said and told me nothing.
My sister instructed my brother to bring the picture with him to Dingle where we all poured over it. I took a photograph of the photograph and was able, therefore, to zoom in closer. A few days after moving in I painted the front door bright red so the photograph was definitely taken within the first few days. While I was sure that there must be a rational explanation, I was keenly aware that, until more than a week after the painting of the door, there wasn’t a stick of furniture in the that room. What’s more, I’d changed the locks so there was nobody in the house while I was absent that day.
“When you have removed all possibilities, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth,” had claimed Conan Doyle’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (or words to that effect). Therefore, I concluded, there were two possibilities. Either the ghost-like figures were, in fact, a reflection from across the street or… well, the alternative was unthinkable.
As soon as we returned to Dublin I wasted no time in driving to Drogheda. I crossed the street to the exact spot where my brother had stood and gazed across at the window. I can still recall the shiver that ran up my spine. Because a series of steps ran up from street level to the door, the window sill was at head height from the street. What’s more, the glass in the windows been countless decades old, like the glass in the the upper windows, it was warped and reflected the sky rather than anything on the street. I stretched and jumped trying to catch the reflection of anything – perhaps a street lamp or the top of a building – but there was nothing that could have caused a reflection.
What added a further air of mystery to the puzzle of the photograph was my memory of the first few days spent in that house. I had found myself unable to spend the first night there alone, such was the sense of brooding oppression that I felt from it as the evening darkened into night. The following day I had returned familiarise myself with all the nooks and crannies under the courage of daylight. When I went into the servants’ quarters I was hit with a strong smell of pipe tobacco that I remembered from a neighbour’s house in my childhood. I couldn’t find anything that would explain the smell. I managed to stay there that night but on a sofa in the first floor living room after exorcising the place with my guitar and a raucous rendition of every Bob Marley song I knew (I know. Bob Marley? Somehow it seemed appropriate at the time). On the third day, probably the day that my brother took the photograph, I was gone until evening, organising heating oil, a bed and other such necessities. On my return I entered to find that the oppression had lifted. It wasn’t that it didn’t feel as though the house had a personality. It felt more as if it had decided to accept me.
I had a number of dinners and parties over the three years in that house with friends from Dublin staying over. I became quite used to hearing that they’d been ‘spooked out’ by something. I had two friends who would only stay if they shared a room which used to raise an eyebrow (I trick I can no longer perform since my eyebrow nerve was severed in my recent accident.
The final chapter in this tale came from my sister. Some weeks after I had left the house, the riddle of the ghostly photo unresolved, my sister was mentioning it to a friend in company and showing her the photo. A woman interjected.
“That was a priest and a young boy,” she said. “He used to call at the local orphanage and bring a different child with him on his rounds each week to give the boy a break from his routine.”
“She’s a medium,” my sister’s friend explained when the woman had moved away.
I’m looking at the picture now. I found it while looking for photos that I’d taken on my Camino trips while researching my “Pins and Needles” book. It still sends a shiver down my spine. It’s also giving me ideas for my next book…

Come to my launch!

The ‘powers-that-be’ suggested Thursday, October 12th would be suitable for the official launch of ‘Pins and Needles’ in Hodges Figgis – one of my favourite bookshops – on Dawson Street, just a stone’s throw from Trinity College Dublin. I made a series of phone calls to all my friends, checking their availability, and found that both of them are free 🙂 so, we’re locked in. The rest of the day was spent deciding on things like “plastic or glass wine glasses?”, “will I talk for few minutes or make a short video?”. With the book’s connection to the Camino de Santiago I’ve decided on Spanish wine and something along the lines of tapas. This prompted another string of ponderings on the nature of the latter. The main thing is, I guess, that the launch is on and I hope that you’ll be there to tell me if the wine choice was right and if the tapas hit the spot. Put it in your diary. It’s at 6pm in the aforementioned bookstore. I’ll be setting up a Facebook event so RSVP there. If we’re not Facebook friends then please rectify this situation :)You’ll find me here: http://facebook.com/declanjcassidy
In the meantime, someone got on to me to ask me if I was aware that my book is on sale on Ebay in Australia! Not only that, but it’s selling at $54. I had to check it out and, sure enough, there it is. At least it’s not going at a bargain-basement price 🙂
aussiesalebook

Kindle launch means free preview…

With today’s launch of the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ on Amazon, there’s now a preview available that you can read immediately before deciding if it’s for you. The link is below. I also want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who have bought the eBook or paperback and I really appreciate the feedback from those who have finished it. Thanks for passing it on too. The more readers the merrier 🙂

800 years of the Irish in Santiago

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Hundreds of scallop shells, each hung there by a passing pilgrim and each one with a personal message. So many stories…

Since at least the year 1220 there have been Irish people leaving St James Gate – home, now, to Guinness – and heading by sea and land to Santiago de Compostela. Of course St James is the English name for San Tiago. I’d left St James’ Hospital a little dejected at having been told that post concussion dizziness and fatigue take on average 43 days to pass if you completely rest the brain or, on average, 100 days if you use your brain (that’s me, I fear, as I don’t know how to switch my brain off), when I saw the sign, pictured below, outside St James’ Church on St James’ Street.

There is an office, there, in the church, staffed by volunteers, giving information and documentation for those intending to walk the Camino de Santiago. I decided to drop in and see if any of them wanted to come to the book launch next month (date to be confirmed). A friendly chap there told me that, when excavating to build the Dublin City Council head office on the banks of the River Liffey they found thousands of scallop shells, such as those above that I photographed on the Portuguese way while researching Pins and Needles. According to the guy, it was customary for pilgrims arriving back in Dublin by boat from their Camino to Santiago to throw the shell that they’d carried for the entire trip overboard and this is what led to the huge number of them on what would have been the riverbed. I’d been surprised, when first arriving in Santiago, to find that Galicia is a Celtic culture and that the people there see themselves as being connected to us here in Ireland. It seems that our connection does, indeed, go back through the centuries.

St James Church

To the left hand side of this church front on James Street is the Camino Ireland Office, staffed by volunteers and providing a wealth of information for anyone considering walking the Camino.