Emerging Writer Member Profile
I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, my life since then is well documented in my own words. In primary school (Wales, UK) my poem, Squirrel’s Drey won 1st prize & was broadcast on BBC Radio’s Animals & Us in March 1970 stirring a life-long desire to write, which I only fully realised in recent years.
Following a successful career in the Irish civil service as an Adult Literacy Educator, I had a life-changing accident in 2013. Since my enforced retirement I’ve been developing my own creative writing & in 2015 my poem, Atonement was published in the Leitrim Guardian & won 1st prize.
In October 2018, I was awarded a Writers’ Mentorship Programme by Words Ireland who noted the merits of my ‘strong emerging voice; frank, with lots of integrity’.
What was a part-time endeavor has become the start of a serious writing career. I intend to continue developing strong creative non-fiction writing of socio-political relevance to modern Ireland.
Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, but you can check out my public postings on Instagram where I masquerade as: polly_tunnel
(Extract from Salvaging Sweetness, Part Three)
Donegal, April 1988
After that first night of separation from my husband which we spent with the compassionate couple I’d telephoned in such haste, my two girls and I stayed for a few weeks with my best friend, Imelda. We’d been friends for several years by the then.
She came from a Dublin north-side family of five, her only brother, Joe was the oldest and only boy and she was the youngest of four sisters. She told me that when she was a small child and people asked, ‘What d’you want to be when you grow up?’ she’d say, ‘I wanna be a man, like Joe!’ She adored her brother.
She too had worked on trawlers and the joke back then was, ‘… she’s the best man Des Faherty ever had!’ We hung out a lot whenever she was ashore. Then, once she had her first baby and gave up trawler work, we spent a lot more time together and soon got to know one another’s families.
Staying with Imelda, her husband and baby was only ever meant to be short-term and after a few weeks, I managed to locate and rent a bungalow near the Atlantic Ocean. It was cosy and warm with carpets, a back-boiler in the fireplace, hot running water, an indoor toilet and a shower, so very different from the house I'd fled from.
By the time we moved into the bungalow, it was a month since I’d left the father of my children. Without doubt, it was not an easy step to take, but the freedom from living in constant fear was wonderful. No more fights with my drunken husband, verbal or physical, I felt liberated. I had finally stood up to him after five-and-a-half years and said, ‘Enough’s enough. I’m gone. Good luck!’ or words to that effect.
It was early days yet, but I knew I’d done the right thing in leaving him. Now, I was able go to bed at night, by myself, and fall sleep without fear of being woken with a slap in the face. Now, I had some space and time to gather my thoughts. Now, I could relax with my two little girls and enjoy life for a change. I felt as if their father had been a third child in the family, it had been horrible, but I chose not to look back and I regretted nothing. I was free now and it felt good.
I received a weekly Deserted Wives’ Allowance (ironic, as I was the one who left), which made my twenty-five and half year old life a bit easier. As my French was still fluent and I’d held onto my textbooks from my au pair days in Brussels, when two secondary school students approached me I began to give French grinds. They’d come to the bungalow and the money I got meant the difference between whether or not the girls and I could have a chicken once a week. I can’t count the times I was grateful in retrospect to my Belgian family for enrolling me in those classes.
One morning, I was in the kitchen at the back of the bungalow making myself a cup of tea. The backdoor stood wide open and my girls were outside playing on the tarmacked yard, it was a lovely warm spring day and I was happy to let them run around, the winter was long and gloomy and it was time they had some fun outdoors.
One of the girls ran in shrieking with the other chasing her. I said, ‘Sssshhhh…’ to them both because I was listening to a programme on RTÉ Radio One. The presenter said that after the next ad break she was going to interview someone from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. The topic under discussion was clerical child sexual abuse, which was in the Irish news a lot at the time.
I went to check on the girls who’d gone back out again, and then I sat in the sunshine on a stool beside the open door where I could keep an eye on them both. The radio presenter welcomed everyone back to the programme and introduced her female guest.
‘So, for clarification purposes, can you perhaps give our listeners a definition of what exactly rape is, please? There seem to be so many conflicting opinions out there at the moment … it does make it very confusing for people, so perhaps you’d clarify that for us.’
‘Sure. It’s straightforward and simple, really. Rape is sex without the consent of both people.’
The presenter said, ‘Oh-kay … so, just to be clear and to be sure that I’ve understood you correctly, you’re saying that anytime two people have sex, without consent from both parties, that’s rape?’
‘Yes, that’s correct. The simplest definition of rape is exactly that: sex without the consent of both people.’
I switched off the radio and took my tea outside into the fresh air. The girls were still chasing one another, having fun in the sun. I smiled and waved at them both as they ran around laughing.
Rape is sex without the consent of both people.
I looked down at my hands clasped around my teacup. I looked up at the wisps of white clouds in the otherwise blue sky. I glanced across at my girls, playing ‘dollies’ now, sitting on a carpet of dried golden pine needles, blown off the fir trees during the winter storms. Rape is sex without the consent of both people. I was reeling from what I’d just heard. It had been ages since I’d thought about being eleven in the school car with Heddwyn Jones. And then it hit me, out of nowhere:
Oh. My. God. That’s what happened to me.
Having written since I was seven years of age, I have access to a unique and priceless resource for authentic writing from which I draw in order to add veracity to my current writing project. Through the Words Ireland Writers’ Mentorship and with Brian Leyden as my mentor, I’m now reassured and certain about three things:
1) that creative non-fiction writing is the direction for my work;
2) that my current writing project, Salvaging Sweetness is not only relevant to a wide audience, but also timely, pertinent & significant to the socio-political landscape of modern Ireland;
3) that I identify as an emerging writer, of the ‘late bloomer’ variety. To that end, it is my intention to produce strong writing and to be published here in Ireland, where I’ve lived since 1980.
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