A Funeral and a Turf War

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Bog Land, Twelve Pins, Connemara by John Francis Skelton (1954-)

The newspaper clipping is yellowed with age but carefully folded and preserved in a box of papers left by my Irish grandmother. The box was inside a larger one with an assortment of family papers that sat in the back of my closet for more than two decades. I would have opened it far sooner if I had known all the little treasures and poignant stories held within: my father’s British Army ID card, congratulations telegrams sent to my parents on their wedding day in 1947, my Flemish grandmother’s passport stamped with all her visits to England when I was small, annual receipts my Irish grandmother kept for the upkeep of the grave of the baby she lost to pneumonia before my father was born. The yellowed newspaper clipping my grandmother kept so carefully all her life was the announcement of her father Hugh Carney’s death in 1913. Continue reading

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Downsizing and Moving On

Highclere_Castle

Are you ready to move from your Big House to a Tiny House? My latest blog for MCPL is full of advice for baby boomers trying to declutter and downsize:

Downsizing and Moving On

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The Mobsters and the Baby Shoes

Baby Shoes2

Back in the early 1970s my sister Angela worked for a temp agency in the East London suburbs of Essex. Her first assignment was with a company named Downy Baby Shoes. She imagined an office where grandmotherly women sewed baby bootees while softly humming lullabies. A cosy place, perhaps decorated with Beatrix Potter prints. The reality was far different. On her first day she found a rather grungy office in an out of the way alley presided over by two Canadian men. The boss was a supremely ugly man Continue reading

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On My Bookshelf – The Cailleach of Sligo

The Cailleach of Sligo

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I pulled from my shelf this book of Stories and Myths from the North West of Ireland by Michael B. Roberts. Last summer I bought it at the Liber Bookshop in Sligo just a few days after we had the privilege of touring ancient sites in the area with the author. Roberts is an anthropologist and storyteller who has dedicated his life to preserving and renewing the myths of his people for future generations. We could Continue reading

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Follow the Money

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“Follow the money,” the famous words whispered by Deep Throat in an underground garage during the Watergate scandal, can be usefully applied to any number of ills afflicting American society. To take just the two main scourges of the present day, gun violence and opioid addiction, you can be sure there are people somewhere raking in huge profits on the backs of the victims. Continue reading

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On My Bookshelf – A Flap of Nuns

St. Mary's Romford

I’m in the back row second from the left.

A Flap of Nuns isn’t  the title of a book on my bookshelf. The term is one of the collective nouns in James Lipton’s classic An Exaltation of Larks. I use it here as a means of confession that I own far too many books about nuns than you would expect of a lapsed Catholic and firm agnostic. But once a convent schoolgirl always a convent schoolgirl in some sense. I was educated by nuns from the age of seven to eighteen, first at St. Mary’s Convent in Romford and then at Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School. If it were up to me the collective noun for nuns would not be Flap, it would be Clack, for the distinctive sound of rosary beads, worn hanging from the waist, rattling and clacking as Continue reading

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Exploring Your DNA

DNA_double_helix_45My latest blog for the library (MCPL) is a companion piece to On Learning I’m EnglishIt includes a reading list on how genetic science has revolutionized the study of human origins and prehistory. Plus a great novel about the last days of the Neanderthals. Do you have a bit of Neanderthal in your DNA?

Exploring Your DNA

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