About Clarry

A place to share my writings, photos and reviews.

Blooming Lovely

daisy

We are such late bloomers

Standing firm through all the seasons

through sabotage and reckoning

of self worth. We have learned

when the wind blows hard we sway

with it, letting the ready leaves fly;

Allowing ourselves to finally dance,

we are enjoyng. we have earned.

We are such late bloomers

but when the blossoms open wide

we all nod knowlingly, because

it was worth the living, for

the lessons we have gained

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Tea & Apathy

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a nice cup of tea

A figure emerged from under the streetlight. It was Mary Murphy, and she jumped over the wall at the side of the church. She knew exactly where the wheelbarrow was in the dark. The wheels squeaked and whistled as she pushed it into motion.

Sidling around the back of the church she made her way to the big wooden door. With her hands on her hips, she smacked her lips and shook her head as she looked down at the black mass at her feet.

‘Lord save us all’

She fastened the untied shoelace and banged his foot back onto the ground with force.

‘You’re nothin’ but a drunken fecker’

Bending down to grab his armpits she pulled with all her might. Once she had him half-way up she realised she’d forgotten to put the wheelbarrow in place.

‘Jesus Christ, almighty tonight’

She let him drop with a thud. A mixture of rage and pleasure ran through her. She hoped he’d bruise!

At the second attempt, he fell into the wheelbarrow when she let go. He lay on his back with his knees bent upright, and his head hanging off the other side. He groaned. Coming to life for a moment he looked up and smiled broadly at her!

‘Ah Mary, my guardian angel, leave me here for another hour. It’ll be grand’

She bit her tongue for fear of what might come out of her mouth. Pulling both handles up to assess the weight, she took a deep breath and sidled back around the church. She’d throw him onto the sofa she’d moved in there so he could sleep it off.

The wheelbarrow back in its place, she watched the village blink; lights in the houses came on. As the Winter’s morning rose, she strode through the church slowly, basking in its glory, and checking everything was in order for the ceremony. Looking up at one of the stations of the cross, she thought she caught the eye of Jesus. She stopped and turned to the painting. What was he telling her? He was suffering. But he was suffering in the name of God. She raised her head defiantly, glaring at the door behind the altar.

The Show Must Go On!

********

‘Up and at them Father! Your congregation will be here in thirty minutes to hear the word of the lord’

She walked over to where the long green and white robes hung and rubbed her hands slowly down the course fabric.

‘Would you like a cup of tea, Father?’

He rolled over and groaned.

‘It’s all in the name of our Lord, Father. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and we’ll get you up and into your robes’

‘Why do I do this, Mary?’

‘I ask myself that all the time Father! Why do you insist on getting yourself into such states on a Saturday night when you have a mass on Sunday. These Saturday weddings are no good for you at all, strutting your stuff down at the Sands Hotel. Free Whisky for the priest, no doubt’

He looked up sheepishly. His face was a grizzly shadow, shattered with fatigue and swollen with the alcohol.

‘No, Mary, I mean this-this-the mass, the ceremony. Why do I do it?’

She turned around instantly and glared at him. Walking towards him quickly, she bent over where he sat on the sofa, clenching her fists but hiding them behind her. Mary’s cheeks flushed and spit escaped in little darts onto her chin as she tried to compose herself.

‘You selfish b-b – Ah Father!!!’

‘Mary, listen now, Mary.’

She stood upright with her hands on her hips, her eyes facing the door with her jaw to one side.

‘Never mind me. It’s the drink talking. What about that nice cup of tea you promised?’

The change in her face was quick, a little too quick for his liking. She walked over to kettle and began her own ceremony.

‘Are you still off the sugar, Father? Or would you take a bit of brown?’

Short Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton

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The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Dutch Golden Age of shipbuilding, import and export, and exotic explorations, was a dark time for some. A young bride arrives into the bustling City of Amsterdam, to live with her new wealthy Merchant husband, but doesn’t get what she expected! Bored and alone she is gifted something that leads to one mystery after another. Is her future being told by a witch or is someone provoking her?
It’s not a warm, romantic type of book despite similarities in plot with classics from The Brontes and Austen. It was slow to start but it didn’t take long to be enthralled, not only by each complicated character but by all the subplots and entangled mysteries. It is a wonderfully dark story and has an air of magic realism that drew me in. At times I felt it was a little ‘purple’ but somehow this lended itself to the story.
I can’t say the characters were credible in terms of real-life everyday people, but they were complicated, layered and mysterious. They all had a contradictory side and a rich history. For me, it worked. Maybe that’s because the story itself dealt with real-life situations we might come across in our modern World. All of the characters were isolated from their society for one reason or another: each had a dark history at some level and the story brings them all together in one house. My favourite character was Marin. First seen as a purist who eats cold herrings for breakfast and doesn’t indulge herself with unGodly things like sugar, we later see the real Marin, and the reader cannot help but both have sympathy and admiration for her and her lost potential.

For a first novel, I think it’s right up there. I look forward to reading more from Jesse Burton.

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The angry ditch

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hedge

Thickety, prickly thorny ditch
You’ve been pruned for Spring.
You’re angry now,
Leafless branches pointing upright,
violated by a metal monster
with no regard for
your joints nor early buds.

The moss on your strong base tries to
passify you. Soft like velvet
sotto voce ‘You will have your day’
The ivy, dark and dry, winds
around you like a snake
‘I’ll give you life’

But no! ‘I’m a hedgerow! I will grow!’
There’s lots of rain and sun, you know.
You will grow and bud and thicken green
Hawthorn, Bramble and ramblers seen
in full life, gushing and lushing.
You will reign supreme in your beauty.

Book Review: The Penguin Lessons by Tom Mitchell

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The Penguin LessonsThe Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tom Mitchell recounts his true and bizarre meeting of an adorable Penguin while traveling in Central America in his twenties. He stumbled across the only one left alive on a shore of oil slicken Penguins in Uruguay and manages to bring him back to the flat where he is staying. There’s a strong bond from the start. Under the regime of Eva Perón with an imminent military coup, the penguin was smuggled through customs and into Argentina, back to the boarding school where Tom taught. Juan Salvador, the charming Penguin, manages to become the school mascot and everyone’s friend. He’s pampered and treasured by students and school staff alike.
The most enjoyable thing about this light hearted quirky tale is that it’s true. The formidable determination of Tom resulted in Juan Salvador living a very charmed life indeed! Here’s where the charm stops. There wasn’t enough story to go into such word count. It wasn’t a long story, and it wasn’t a profound story. I found myself flicking through three to four pages of a rugby match yawn-fest and then again with a scene where Tom and Juan meet the school’s housekeepers’s family. There were more than a few of these moments in the book. I think if they were shorter they could have been much funnier.
The book did include some interesting insight into the Argentinian society and political World of the seventies. The cover, the concept, and the cute little illustrations were as delightful as the tale itself but frankly, there were too many pages. Overall a light and entertaining story but I feel it lacked substance and had too many fillers.

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Dreams of India

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Blasting horns and angry shouts unnerve me; men are scratching their balls and hocking on the path where I walk in my flip flops. My feet are filthy from the grime. There are fast colourful movements in my periphery. Even the colours feel volatile. Lepers wiggle their deformities in my eye line. One of them sits, waving his misfortune at me, at the foot of the steps that lead to the golden M. That’s  where the privileged scoff their burgers. Another offers me a lucky charm.

‘No charge, No charge’, he cries in monotone as I speed up.

Keep your head down. Keep your head down. Don’t catch anyone’s eye.

This is beautiful India.

‘Oh you’ve been to India too’, someone once said to me.
‘Isn’t it just the most beautiful place on earth? I remember passing a tea plantation, during a train journey. I watched the beautiful saris blow with the breeze while the women picked tea. It was a sight to behold’

They hadn’t seen their hollow faces up close, nor their shadowed eyes.

Starving girls with other women’s sleepy babies on their hips; hands out with their ‘sad faces’ on as they call.

‘Please, madaaaam, my baybee milk’.

They gesture to their mouths with the tips of there fingers bunched together. What a paradox. They are hungry and they are sad, yet this automated act is for me to believe that they are hungry and sad. Later their owners will check in and count their takings.

*****

I had gotten to know two young girls on my first trip to Mumbai: Lakshmi and Pari. Every day I left the hostel and headed straight for the internet cafe, just minutes away from the Gate of India. After catching up with friends and letting my family know I was still OK, I usually took a stroll down to the gateway. That’s where I met the girls. They were sweet and I was very innocent. Pari was the eldest, maybe fourteen years old. Her hard eyes showed fear but she was street wise. I observed her when she thought I wasn’t looking later on. With her hand on her hip, flicking her scarf around her shoulders like a pro, she fluttered her eyelids at tourists like she meant it. Her light skin was clean and blemish free, and she had the smile of a beauty. Lakshmi was different. She was still a little girl. Her frock told me so. Her dark ponytail was messy and low at the nape of her neck. The wisps from the sides clung to her smiling lips. She followed Pari in an obedient manner, always watching from the sidelines, mimicking her.

‘My name is Lakshmi, Laki for short, but for the tourists I am Lucky’

This was always followed by a huge adorable grin. She told me this repeatedly, as if practicing the line. I was sure she had been given it by her teachers; she didn’t have much English. I met them for a few days in a row. I gave them some money, just once, and invited them to come on a trip with me over to Elephant Island, ten minutes away in a ferry. They smiled at each other. They thought I was a rich fool. I think I was too.

After a few days of not seeing them they showed up one morning outside the internet cafe. Pari walked towards me as I hit the stinking street from the door of the internet cafe.

‘Baby sister very sick. Please help.’

She gestured to her mouth.

‘She need milk’

She put her hand out for money. I shook my head firmly told and them I wasn’t giving them any cash. I continued to walk the daily route and the girls followed me imploring me, begging for help in such exaggerated tones I cringed.

‘You have money. My sister is sick. My sister needs milk’

What if it was true? What can I do? Say no for the sake of 300 rupees?

I offered to buy milk for the baby so they walked me to the shop of their preference. The doorway dripped with small plastic packets, each containing a mouthful of paan. They streamed down like a pretty beaded curtain. I stepped in and found myself in a dark little hovel. The girls spoke to the man behind the counter. He nodded without looking up, and then reached up to take a tin of baby food from a shelf on high.

‘No, no, theees one, pleeeease’

Pari was pointing to a bigger tin. The shopkeeper glared at me, his eyebrows tilted inwards, waiting for my response. I nodded. I heard Lakshmi giggle behind me, and then her groan after receiving a thump. As I handed over the money to him his lips narrowed as if he was holding back insults. I took the tin of food and handed it to Pari. Turning to walk out of the shop, I realised a small group had gathered at the door laughing, some scowling. Some were shaking their head in a disgust that I didn’t understand. Me , a silent stressed disgrace, marched out past them with my head down. I felt ashamed. I wasn’t ashamed that they had managed to trick me. I was ashamed that this was all they had. I never saw those girls again.

*****

Families are setting up homes around a tree on a pavement. Some have canvas and even a pot or pan. Toddlers with swollen bellies wander a little too far away. Their angry young mothers call them back from under their thick brows.

‘And then we went on a cruise, the boat had a glass floor. The service was exceptional and the food was to die for’

The food, to die for.

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Supply & Demand

The car rolled up the gravel path. Wiping his hands in his leather apron, Dak sauntered over to the stove and put a pan of water on. He poured white spirits over his stained hands at the basin, and rubbed and old rag into the deep crevices.

‘Mornin Dak, a fine one it is too’

Dak nodded at him as he walked in to his usual spot at the back of the cave, out of the sun. He put a parcel and a letter on the desk and sat down.

‘There’s a few more orders for ya today. These things are gettin quite popular with folk, ya know’

Dak brought the tea to the table and sat down opposite to Jo. He didn’t look up as he poured the tea.

‘I’m running out of stock’

Jo tilted his head upward and took a deep breath in.

‘Well, ya know, supply and demand, and all that. There’s three more orders today, and that makes seven orders outstanding, isn’t it?’

Dak nodded.

‘I want you to know that I never kill any living creature to make these pieces. I respect the life that lived in every skull and every bone I find on this land’

Jo cleared his throat.

‘Oh sure, but- supply and demand Dak. There’s money to be made here and –

He snorted and omitted a jarring laugh that made Dak grimace. It faded once he realised he was the only one amused. He slurped his tea and put it down, looking sideways in thought before starting to talk again.

‘See, these rich folk don’t know what to be doing with their money Dak. It’s the new in- thing, if ya hear me. They want them on their mantles, they want to gift them to their friends on their birthdays, you know? They want them’

Dak stared passed Jo’s head at the wall behind him. He continued.

‘The mayor’s wife was looking for a nice big one. She’ll pay big bucks’

‘Big bucks: Big skull?’

‘Exactly’, Jo guffawed

’How big? As big as her husbands fat belly?’

‘Aw come on now Dak. I’m givin you an opportunity to make some money here! And you know, I earn a pittance with the National Post. Jenny’s wedding is coming up. It’s not easy to reach the level of affair she’s aspirin to’

Dak got up from the table and walked to his bench.

‘I’ll see what I can do. I’ll finish these two by tomorrow, and I’ll have a scout around today. It’s not the right season for roadkill or hawk prey, but I’ll look.

Jo stood up and wriggled his National Postal cap back on his fat head.

‘What about catching a few rabbits in a snare, Dak? Or even a deer for the mayor’s wife?’

Dak turned and walked towards Jo quickly. He stopped abruptly when their noses almost touched.

‘What did I just say?’

He walked back to his bench and stared at the wall until Jo walked out of the cave, past him and down the path to the van. That night Dak dreamed of the Stag. He had met him several times when running in the forest as a child. Each time, the stag had stopped in his tracks and stared into his eyes, penetrating him with an intense love that he’d never experienced again.

The following morning, he lay in bed and watched the sun slide further into the front of his cave before he jumped up and set to work. It didn’t take long as he’d seen his father do it time after time. As he raised the net and tested the ropes, he recalled the morning he had stood with the village looking up into the trees, watching the stag struggling hysterically in the net. A dart pierced his neck. Even once he had given up the stag kept his gaze until the life drained out of him.

Later, Dak stood at his bench and prepared his paints. A tiny skull of a bird sat in a delicate clamp in front of him. He heard the crackling stones under the tyres of the postal van. The van door shut loudly and Dak jumped. A few steps crunched on the gravel before he heard a howl.

‘Dak, what the fuck is this? Get me down right now you fucking weirdo’

Dak’s smile slowly widened.

‘Dak? Dak are you there? Oh come on!!!

A nice big skull.

He turned. There stood the Stag, staring into Dak’s eyes.

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