Just back from a walk in Ballyseede Woods and cuddled up now with Freddie on the couch. One thing about this little fellow is that he likes his comforts, if you’re not careful you could find yourself snoozing on the couch all day as he is so cuddliable it'd very easy to do. Lisa and Paranormal Ruby have gone for a run in the woods now, poor Muttley the dog will be a wreck this evening. There was a radio program yesterday about paranormal activity in Ballyseede Woods and how groups meet regularly to try capture it. We decided not to tell Ruby this as she’d never set a foot in there again. Indeed it’s only in the last few years that I’ve gotten over my fear of the woods and what you might find in there…..
This must have happened when I was about ten or so and in the Cub Scouts. We used to go on camping weekends to Fota Island. For weeks we’d be looking forward to the trip then the Friday evening would eventually come along, we’d pack all our stuff onto the Cobh Cork train and get off two stops later. Yes it was a mighty journey. This was before UCC bought the island and we had to get permission from Lady Bell to camp on her grounds. The island was also still in its original state with dark swamps and even darker woods a brilliant playground for us kids. Well a certain Charlie Ellis used to take us on supposedly guided walks in the woods but in reality he used to scare the living daylights out of us. He’d already gone out and placed red rags in trees and then showed them to us as ‘signs of danger’. Then was the story of the scout disappearing in the swamp. There was a group of cub scouts from Cork which used to share the camp grounds with us. One of their older boys was a tall sallow skinned popular lad. We all knew of him. Well that one year he wasn’t there, probably grew too old, so Charlie told us he’d gone into the swamp one evening and never camp back. I still remember the shiver of fear almost paralyzing me. As we went deeper into the woods I was closing my eyes in case I saw him, bumping into my friends as we walked. At the far edge of the woods there was a Pillbox built during “The Emergency” to guard Belvelly Bridge, the only roadway onto the Great Island on which Cobh stands. A Pillbox is a large concrete underground gun chamber with an open slit at the front for the machine guns. My father used to do duty in the Fota one. Charlie, having told us stories of ghosts and people disappearing led us down the underground entrance to the Pillbox and into the main chamber. Then as we were almost all in, I with my eyes closed hanging onto whoever was nearest, Charlie’s friend Dave Maloney who’d been hiding in an ante-room jumped out screaming. Even now nearly thirty-five years later I can still remember almost passing out with the fright, scrambling to get up the steps and out. If they did that today there’d be parents ranting and raving calling for blood. It might have scarred me for life but despite the frights I loved it, can still remember it vividly, a great part of growing up, thank you Charlie and Dave!
There is a family from Mauritius living in a flat above my shop. They have been around for about four years now, first the father with his son and then this year, I think, they were joined by the mother. A quiet, unobtrusive family, the boy is in third year at school and the parents work in local hotels. Recently they have been told that their visa to stay in the country won’t be renewed and they have to leave on December 5th. The father comes in to say hello every morning and has been telling me of their troubles. As the visa has been revoked they can no longer work but all he’s really worried about is his son’s education. He and his wife have only primary school education as secondary is unavailable to them in Mauritius. Since he’s been here and working his son has excelled at school and he sees the benefit of a good education. Who wouldn’t want a better life for their children? Every evening I’d see the father cycling off to work not long after the mother had returned from her job. Now neither of them can work so they have little or no money and are readying themselves for the trip home. The boy takes time off school to go with his father to immigration appeals and translate. He must be one of the few people in the world who can speak English, Irish and Creole! A skill set to be valued. During one of our conversations recently the father and I were talking about food and how I liked spicy meals. That evening as I left he came out with a jar of curried cabbage and a load of chapattis rolled up in tin foil. “For you, for you” he said handing them to me. The gesture really touched me and they gave me so much I didn’t have to make dinner that evening. Whatever he did the curried cabbage was gorgeous despite what I thought it might be.
Earlier this week a fisherman came in and gave me a present of a large Pollock, as I’d done something for him before. Remembering that the family upstairs liked fish I put it in their fridge and told him later. He was really taken aback. That evening he came into me…..
“What time you go home?” he asked in his soft, gentle voice, “Five.” I answered. “Come see me before you go,” he smiled in reply.
At five as I walked into the kitchen the smell of cooking was gorgeous. The man, I don’t know his name, and his wife were busily packing up a big old ice cream tub with fried rice and vegetables for me. As she gave it to me he handed me a little tin....
“Put a little of this on the plate then put the rice over it, make it nice.”
As I left the building there were tears in my eyes at how generous they were to me.
The amount of food they gave my family fed Ruby and me that evening and gave me a lunch for the next day. In the little tin was lovely garlic with spice oil, very strong. The thoughtfulness of this man with nothing feeding my family has really touched me. His kindness will be missed when they leave.
Sunday morning in Ballyseede and the sun is shining. It really is a beautiful November’s morning, the first frost of the winter was on the grass as we got up but the early Sun burnt it off quickly enough. Ruby and Lisa have gone for a run in Ballyseede Woods with Muttley the dog. Poor fellow doesn’t know what’s hit him the last few weeks. There he was living the life of Reilly back in Ballyristin, inside all day if he wanted, going out only when the urge took him. Now he’s living outside permanently, in a nice house mind you, but no more evenings in front of the fire or being indulged with snoozes on the couch. The snoozes on the couch weren’t allowed by me but many was the time I came home to find Lisa and the kids in front of the fire with Muttley stretched out like Lord Muck on the couch. Well this winter it’s a whole new world for the Muttler and he seems to be taking to it in fairness to him.
It’s the end of another week of activity in our household. After three weeks seizure free poor little Fred had one as he fell asleep wednesday evening. Nothing major but when he had a second one twenty minutes later we headed for the hospital. The benefit of living here paid off again as we were settled in the ward in under twenty minutes. The worst thing for Freddie is that he has to have a line put in these days, so after going to sleep at home he woke up surrounded by four women poking and prodding at him. The tears and shouts of anguish as they stuck the needle in his arm echoed around the children’s ward. A doctor in a Spanish hospital called Fred “el Toro” as he fought him when putting in a needle a few years back and this always comes back to me when I’m trying to calm the poor boy. After they were settled Ruby and I went home to try and sleep leaving Lisa and Freddie to be looked after by the wonderful staff of Kerry General Hospital.
Back home I had to deal with the problem of Ruby and Paranormal Activity. It’s not that she’s involved in any just that she watched the two movies of the same name over Halloween, in the daytime. Come night time and she’s petrified of the dark, of going upstairs, of going to the kitchen, of sleeping alone....I warned her but of course she knew better. So that night we had to sleep in the room with two twin beds, both pushed as far apart as possible by Ruby. There was a time when she’d cuddle me all night, now she barely acknowledges me in public and I have to laugh when I see the room when I go to bed. The next morning I’m up at 5.30 to get to the hospital, Ruby gets up and is straight into the TV room with all the lights on. Freddie has had a peaceful night and as soon as I’m in Lisa goes home for a wash and a change of clothes. When she comes back I head off to work and later on the consultant sends Lisa and Freddie home. Another benefit of living nearby, no more long unnecessary hospital stays.
Later on at about 3PM Lisa calls. Freddie has had a bad long seizure and she’s had to call an ambulance. So much for the end of the drama. Afterwards she tells me it was like something straight off a TV program. The ambulance had arrived within five minutes all sirens and flashing lights. Taking no chances the driver had sped back to the hospital, weaving in and out of traffic, through red lights, over roundabouts not around them, a real white knuckle ride. The unconscious Freddie in the back missing all the excitement. Having tore back over the Connor Pass I rushed from the car park up to the children’s ward only to be told that they were still in A&E. My legs were weak as I ran back down wondering what had happened, why he hadn’t been admitted to the ward an hour previously. The nurse brought me to the cubicle, he was fast asleep in his mother’s arms, the A&E staff had been too busy to admit him to the ward. It drives me mad to hear people giving out about the public service when you see the frontline staff working so hard 24 hours a day. Yes parts of it are run inefficiently but it seems where we need a public service most, hospitals, schools, social care, it’s grossly under-funded. Soon enough we were brought to the ward and our little man was sitting up eating toast for tea. Not before he’d had more prodding and poking from all the women though!
At about 9.00pm I was sent home so as to leave the two get a nights rest. Paranormal Ruby was off in Ballyferriter on a sleepover so I only had myself for company. When these times are happening I can’t eat and if I do it’s usually a forced feed of junk food. Not having any comfort food or appetite I lay out on the sofa watching TV and fearing the phone call from the hospital. By midnight I was in bed finishing my book waiting for my eyes to close from exhaustion. About 1.30am I fell asleep and woke with a jolt at 6am. Up, washed and in the car by 6.30 a text came through as I drove through the roundabout next to the hospital which I opened when I got to car park. It was from Lisa “He got through the night fine, no need to rush in”. “The little fecker” I said out loud in the empty car park, my eyes full of tears. What a relief! Up in the ward the nurses greeted me with smiles when I walked in, they know the anguish of these nights, they feel it too. “A peaceful night” one of them said to me, a relieved smile on her face. After breakfast we were sent home and it wasn’t long before Fred and his mother were fighting over something or other.
Normal activity had returned.