Buskers are the life and soul of this city and some of them are gaining quite a bit of attention online lately.
Paul Taylor is one of them. You might know Paul by recognising his two little dogs that are never far from his side. “This is Benny, the black fella”, he says as the dogs stir at their names, “and Miley, after Miley from Glenroe”, he laughs as I explain that I’m also from a place called Glenroe.
He orders two coffees and the dogs settle at our feet outside The Quays bar – no doubt hiding from the lashing rain just beyond the canopy.
“I was reared here in Galway”, says Paul. “I was brought up here with the Christian Brothers in Salthill and a few foster families around. I went to boarding school in Saint Mary’s and then headed off to England, as we all did in the 80s’, he adds as he lights a cigarette. “I spent my little time over there working in hotels and then came back and ah, I don’t know, I just fell into the music scene really.”
Paul learned to play the guitar while staying with a friend in Limerick and the pair had their first busking experience outside Dunnes Stores. “We made like a euro – or a pound back then – between us which was great,”, he smiles, flicking ash from the cigarette.
Busking is a daily thing for Paul. “It keeps me sane and it keeps me occupied. It’s something I just love to do.”
If you’re a fan of The Voice of Ireland you may also recognise Paul from two years ago when he appeared on the programme and made it to the live shows. He lived in his car along with his dogs for a while and he believes his story was part of why he got so far in the competition. “I think I had a better story than a voice, because people got voted out that were 10 times better than me,” he confides.
Paul was at COPE Galway’s daycentre looking online for accommodation when he came across an ad for The Voice of Ireland and he decided to go for it. Talking about the experience he laughs. “It was mad sure”, he says. He certainly wasn’t used to makeup and choreographers. “I can’t dance for sh*t”, he says, shaking his head.
And who knew that his time at The Voice would, in fact, lead to an end to his accommodation search. “We got the house out of it really because, I mean, it was high-profile like,” he says as he stubs out the cigarette.
He didn’t expect to get as far as he did, he didn’t even expect the buzzer to go so, when Rachel’s chair turned he was shocked. “But that song, This Year’s Love, has been so good to me over the past few years”, smiles Paul. “I mean the video’s gone viral on Facebook; it’s had over a million views.”
The video is on the This is Beautiful Galway Facebook page of Paul busking on a sunny day. “The lad who’s got the page, his name is Luke. This is Beautiful Galway is his Facebook page and he just passed one day and took it,” Paul explains. “It just caught a beautiful moment I think – it was a lovely day and the dogs were chilled out,” he smiles.
We look out into the rain and he says he’ll wait for it to stop before heading out for another day of busking.
Paul was banned from driving two years ago after drink driving offences. “Things were difficult for me,” he says, “I was throwing back a little more drink than I should be and I got caught and that’s it – lesson learned.”
He’s not sure if he wants a car again, although he would love to get a campervan and travel to festivals around Europe and explore Ireland. “I don’t like to be enclosed, I like to be out and that’s why I’m out every day,” he says.
Check out the video with over one million views here: https://www.facebook.com/GottaGetToGalway/videos/1325441240905889/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE
What is ‘Termination for Medical Reasons’
Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) is a group which campaign for a repeal of the 8th Amendment of the Irish constitution to allow terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities (FFAs). The campaign began in April 2012 and five years on they are still fighting for change in Irish law.
‘It’s really about five years ago that the whole discussion around fatal foetal anomalies started off’, explains Gerry Edwards, chairperson of TFMR Ireland, ‘and I think up to that point the whole abortion debate was really handled in a pretty black and white dimension, which I think suited the anti-choice people best, because you either liked people or you were pro-abortion, that was kind of the way they liked to put it.’
Gerry, speaking clearly and confidently, shares his view that parents taking the chance and opportunity to come out and share their own personal experiences, all of which are different, lead more people to be aware of FFAs and the effects on families. This also led more people to ‘think about all of the shades of grey which occur in people’s lives’, explains Gerry, ‘all the circumstances in which you can find yourself pregnant, and that pregnancy is either unwanted for whatever reason or there’s a separate crisis that means you can’t continue it.’
Although the group has been working at changing Irish law for five years and offering support to those in need, it was at Christmas of 2016 that TFMR incorporated as the company ‘TFMR Ireland’ in order to ‘take the campaign forward.’
Gerry and his wife, Gaye, appeared on The Ray D’Arcy Show last June, just after the Amanda Mellet hearing. Mellet v Ireland involved a woman whose routine scan at 21 weeks in the Rotunda hospital showed the foetus was suffering from Edwards Syndrome, which is a fatal condition. The Centre for Reproductive Rights filed the complaint on Amada’s behalf when she was unable to obtain an abortion in Ireland and had to travel to Liverpool in order to do so. She was also not given counselling by the Rotunda, whereas those who do not terminate can avail of such. Ms Mellet further received her foetus’s ashes by courier a few weeks later unexpectedly as she had not received information about this in the U.K. hospital. The result of this case was €30,000 compensation from the government as well as counselling.
The couple’s appearance on Ray D’Arcy resulted in multiple complaints to the Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI) for being ‘biased’. ‘I’m a bit of a nerd about the BAI complaints’, Gerry begins, ‘but basically there’s about 20% of the complaints to the BAI that come from about three or four people, and it’s all to do with pretty much catholic ethos stuff, they’re like catholic watchdogs. You know: same sex marriage, gender recognition, abortion and pretty much once a broadcaster, or our national broadcaster, decides to discuss these topics a complaint will go in and almost every single time the complaint is rejected but I don’t think that’s the point of the complaint: I believe that the point of the complaint is to actually punish the broadcaster for discussing a topic.’ Gerry goes on to explain, ‘so if you’re a producer of a show you can say “I’m going to discuss abortion today, in which case I’m going to get formal complaints in from these serial complainants which are going to tie me up no matter what response I make. It’s going to go to the BAI or I can do a story about a cat stuck up a tree and nobody will pay any notice.”’ A small laugh escapes him before he continues, back to a more serious and quite annoyed tone. ‘It’s actually to censor and the whole broadcast code is being misused by a small group of individuals.’
Speaking out in secret
This wasn’t the first time that Gerry and Gaye had spoken out, Gaye took part in the Amnesty’s “She is not a criminal” and the pair have spoken out before. Gerry talks about the decision to come out and speak about abortion, ‘it’s a huge decision actually to come out and speak about it in your own name. For Gaye and I it’s just over 16 years since we lost our son, Joshua, and that was 2001.’
Gaye and Gerry did interviews with The Irish Times, Channel 4, and other news organisations but this was all done in secret and they were advised against using their names for security reasons. ‘One of the newspapers sent a photographer from Belfast down to take photographs of us in silhouette, so somebody who would have been used to photographing IRA informers and things like that’, he pauses as he lets out a small laugh. ‘That was the kind of environment that it was in then: you didn’t know whether coming out and saying you’d had an abortion would affect your employment prospects. You didn’t know whether Youth Defence or anybody like that was going to turn up at your doorstep or whether you were going to be accosted in the street or your property vandalised.’
‘It was very scary around that time to be honest with you,’ confides Gerry. The couple could only tell those closest to them out of fear that people would look at them differently. But watching others speak they soon knew they must follow their lead, ‘we realised if we’d had a bit more courage a number of years ago maybe these women wouldn’t have had to go through that ordeal.’ With such a nerve-wracking experience before them,
Gerry also had to speak with his employers just to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems. Gerry, praising this employer for their support, tells how ‘they’re the same company I worked with at the time we lost Joshua and they were very supportive of me then and they support my right to campaign now’.
There is a real fear when speaking out about abortion and waving your anonymity open people like Gerry and Gaye up to judgement from their friends, neighbours, and acquaintances because you don’t know their views or how they’ll react to you opening up. Gerry laughs lightly again as he explains this struggle in one simple phrase, ‘once that toothpaste comes out of the tube there’s no getting it back in’, he continues to explain that, ‘when you’ve spoken out publicly that’s it, you’re out and you have to deal with it.’ While there have been a few trolls on social media, the Edwards’ have had overwhelmingly positive responses though, as have others they know who have talked about their experiences.
TFMR believe that educating others on what they stand for and what Irish laws mean to those who are given a diagnosis of any FFA is key. Gerry explains that they often come across people who believe that in cases of FFA hospitals here in Ireland will induce the pregnant person but this is not the case under current Irish law.
Gerry and Gaye thought the same until they were in this situation. Gerry clarifies what they aim to do in their work at TFMR, ‘I don’t think it’s a case of having to turn people’s views about what should or shouldn’t be done it was simply making them aware of this is what the regime is here and what it currently means.’ FFAs are being included in discussions around abortion law now and Gerry feels that many people were never against abortion in these circumstances but weren’t fully aware of the full extent of the 8th Amendment really.
Murderers and Nazis
To Gerry and Gaye, now 16 years on from their termination, name-calling is merely ‘annoying’. The couple were always confident in their decision and they knew it was the best decision for them. ‘It was always going to be my wife’s decision at the end of the day but we happened to be singing off the same sheet. I would have supported her no matter what her decision was but we were on the same page.’ He explains.
They even went to see a psychiatrist before making their final decision. Although they were sure they knew that a termination was the best decision for them, they wanted to make sure their thought process was sound at a time of great trauma. They knew this was a decision they would have to live with forever. ‘She reckoned we were sane enough’, a small, almost hollow laugh escaping, ‘the psychiatrists role wasn’t to influence our decision one way or the other but just to see did she think we had thought about it properly and were we comfortable we our decision,’ he clarifies.
And so, for the Edwards’, these insults are ‘water off a ducks back’. But the concern is there for those who have very recently gone through this process, are going through it, or are contemplating going through it, and for them it’s particularly hurtful according to Gerry. ‘I mean, if you’re in a position like that where you’re 14 weeks pregnant and you’ve opted to get genetic screening done, or you’re at your 20 week anomaly scan, and you’re visibly pregnant, you’re looking forward to it, you’ve been shopping for prams and all kinds of things’, he begins, ‘and then are told that your baby is not going to live, or in some cases that your own body is actually harming your baby, like in the case where there are no kidneys: the baby can’t produce amniotic fluid so the weight of the mother’s organs is actually compressing the baby.’ Gerry sympathises with the mothers who have to go through this ordeal. ‘That’s really, really difficult for a mother to consider that her own body is damaging her baby,’ he says angrily, ‘and then to have gobshites come out and accuse them of being murderers or Nazis is just so grossly offensive. It’s filled with so much hate, it’s totally devoid of any compassion for the mother and what she’s going through, or the father or the extended family and what they’re going through.’
Family and friends feel completely helpless to anyone going through this and hate like this is upsetting to them all. Gerry talks about people who sometimes tell the ‘version B’ story to their friends in order to avoid judgement or speaking about it further, ‘their story for their colleagues and neighbours was that they were either going to a concert or visiting a friend they were in college with and that they lost the pregnancy when they were away because they felt it was easier to go with a miscarriage or a story than to tell people the truth.’ So, hearing people in that situation being called murderers and Nazis is something Gerry finds disgusting.
To learn more about TFMR head to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TFMRIre/
Walking down Shop Street is a wonderful experience – assuming you’re not in a rush that is, because buskers take over. But one band in particular grabs your eye and your ears and that is the Galway Street Club – 15 people playing as many instruments aren’t something you can walk easily past.
Galway Street Club started by accident in March 2016 when a group of individual buskers decided to start jamming together and it grew from there. Scally, a cajun musician; Laura, a ukulele player; Spud, a guitarist, Adnaan, a fiddler; Kai, a drummer; and James, a guitar player, talk about their journey to Galway Street Club and what being a part of the group is like.
“I came up to Galway to go to college,” laughs Scally, “but that didn’t go too well.” He explains that after a night out he decided to go out and play guitar, even though he only knew a few chords. When he saw the money in his pocket the next morning he couldn’t believe people gave cash for that. And so, he dropped out of college to pursue busking.
Adnaan started busking at the age of five in front of a local supermarket in small-town Connecticut. He laughs as he tries to remember whether or not his mother was behind this.
“It was my idea to play the violin and then she wouldn’t let me stop,” he says. “I was pretty bad at the violin at that point, as you might imagine, but the cuteness factor helped,” laughs Adnaan. Now, at the age of 24, he is still busking.
“As the cuteness factor dropped as I got older, the skill level kind of went up, so I make about the same money at 24 as I did at five.”
Guitarist James also took up playing as a youngster. “I started playing guitar when I was ten or eleven years-old and was pretty much an annoying little guitar kid singing Mumford and Sons for my teenage years,” he laughs.
He studied astrophysics here in Galway for two years but he admits that he took too much on with that course and dropped out of college. He began busking when he first moved here but he was on the verge of moving back in with his parents when Galway Street Club started. “Everything’s been fantastic since then,” he says.
Kai began his music career at the age of five or six, making his money later in life gigging, and he only got into busking properly this year. He went travelling for a while and music soon took a backseat, but when he returned to Galway he wanted to return to music and do something different.
He saw Spud and another member, Craig, jamming on the Galway streets and asked if they needed a drummer. They asked him to join them there and then, “so I just dropped everything and just started playing and that was it”, he explains.
Spud started busking about five years ago in the United States. “I was playing farmers markets and going anywhere that would let me set up a tip bucket,” he says. When he came back to Ireland around two years ago, he tarted busking alone. He did this for a few months until he met two guys and they set up a band called The Alcoholics.
They played late at night and soon started another band to play by day and that kept growing. “It wasn’t supposed to be a band,” he declares. Called the Galway Street Club, they got their first gig after winning an Open Mic Night at the Róisín Dubh and “it has just snowballed since then”, says Spud.
Laura started busking at the end of her second year of college, about two summers ago. “I did a little bit by myself but it was tough,” she explains. “I met the guys one by one and we just kind of started busking together so, you get to know the other buskers – one knows one and then one knows another so it takes off like that,” she says.
Spud’s band, The Alcoholics, and other buskers, including the six mentioned, merged into one big 15-person band and they started doing more than busking.
Galway Street Club returned from an impromptu European tour recently and it was an intense and exciting time for the members. Last year, Laura was on Erasmus in Rennes and Scally, along with Johnny, another member of the band, decided to go to France.
“They were going to France and everybody else was like ‘well if we’re going to do it, we might as well try,” explains Spud. “We just kind of fell into a tour,” he laughs. They met up with Laura before heading east but since Laura was in college she could only meet the band for gigs and some busking for two weeks in Lyon. Not all members were on the tour at the same time but most made their way at some point.
Adnaan got the ferry to France and made it across the country in a day to meet the band. He got a lift from a theatre director and made the 12-hour journey. “When I got there they were in an Irish pub in Lyon called Johnny’s Kitchen and everyone was drunk. That describes the Lyon experience pretty well,” recalls Adnaan.
Laura talks about the one-bedroom apartment that everyone shared. “There were eight people in a one-bedroom apartment,” she says. The first thing they got for the apartment was a coffee pot, “one of those ones that drip”, explains Scally, “So we were cooking stews in the coffee pot because we had nothing else to cook with.”
Most members would try each night to find somewhere else to sleep to avoid sleeping on the floor of the ‘stinky-feet room’ of the shared flat, “It’s fine when you’re just hanging out and playing for a night but when you’re all sleeping in the same room for weeks on end it gets pretty gnarly,” explains Adnaan.
For most members, the band is their full-time work and Kai, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way. “I may not make as much money, definitely not, I’m broke as sh*t, but it’s definitely more fulfilling. I get to get up in the morning and I get to play music.”
Adnaan does seasonal work, he sometimes teaches English and he has just got his nautical captains licence, so hopes to do more with that. He loves music but he needs to do more physical labour to feel totally fulfilled. “It’s great and I’ll be doing it for a long time, but I won’t be doing it all the time,” he says.
When asked just how a band of this scale works, the room fills with laughter. Apparently, it doesn’t, it’s just ‘organised chaos.’ Picture a house party jam, but on a bigger scale.
Laura explains that the band have now started practicing Monday and Tuesday each week which has really stood to them. “I’m really happy that we started practicing and I think it’s made a big improvement,” she says.
Galway Street Club are playing more and more gigs on top of busking, including gigs in Dublin and Kilkenny, as well as here in Galway, and for a band that started by accident, they are certainly gaining a big online following with over 11,000 likes on Facebook.
Find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GalwayStreetClub/ and head along to Roisin Dubh on the 16th June to see them play.
It’s never easy to change your life and sacrifice your own needs, even if it’s for a good cause.
Postwoman turned animal rescuer Marita Davis knows this all too well.
“When I was born and brought home, my dad put me down on a blanket and I was introduced to Kim, the German Sheppard. Kim helped me walk as a toddler and I would hold onto his back for support.
Marita has step-siblings but they are 20 years older than her making her feel like an only child at times and so dogs played a vital role in her young life.
“Dogs were a huge part of my childhood. As I grew up and family life had gotten rough they were consistent with their loyal and waggy tails.”
This love and dedication towards dogs has followed Marita into adult life and dogs have gotten her through the bad patches.
Marita’s father passed away when she was 22. She was stuck in a mortgage alone. She suffered with severe depression. Her dog at the time, Taz, was a constant source of love and friendship in the sea of sadness that was this period in 2010.
As a postwoman, Marita travels the same local routes from day to day, so she soon became exposed to the cruelty that lies everywhere.
Marita remembers a female Jack Russell Terrier from May 2016. The poor girl was heavily pregnant and Marita knew she was in trouble with the pregnancy. She asked the owners to take her to the vet to make sure all was ok. They didn’t listen. A few days later they asked Marita back and she found out that the terrier had died under an emergency C-section. The owners gave the puppies to Marita but they couldn’t be saved.
“I regret not intervening to this day”, she admits.
So many stories will haunt Marita forever: the Staffy cross that was left behind when a family moved and took two weeks to catch; the Greyhound that was abandoned with a leg wound and had to be put to sleep; the two Lurcher puppies that were surrendered to her care, so hungry and poorly, she wasn’t sure if they would survive. Luckily they did.
qMarita set out for help to rehome the two Lurcher puppies and met Eileen from Clare Greyhound Project leading to a loving home in Italy for the Lurchers. Outcomes like this are what drives Marita forward.
But it is hard not to get bogged down by the heart-wrenching statistics out there.
There are five dogs put to sleep every single day in Ireland as the 2015 statistics released on environ.ie last July shows.
“Education is key”, declares Marita. Puppy farming and backyard breeders are a huge problem in Ireland and she is sick of how little is being done here.
Buying dogs online is something else that she wishes would disappear. “It disgusts me,” she states, “educated people wanting the fashionable puppy yet so many needing homes. I can’t understand it.”
Marita played a part in developing Deel Animal Action Group but she has since gone on her own and instead offers a B&B service for as many dogs in need as she can.
Day-to-day running of her little doggy B&B is routine by now. She checks on her dogs each morning before work and she’s able to come home around lunchtime. This gives her time to clean their messes, walk the dogs, play with them and give some of them the much needed time and attention to build trust.
This journey has been difficult for Marita emotionally especially in the last few months.
Marita’s brother passed away last year. He lived in the UK and their visits had become less frequent due to her packed life of working and rescuing. She couldn’t afford to stay away for more than two nights for his funeral as the dogs needed her. They will always depend on her.
Even her journey home from the airport ended in a rescue.
This move has also taken a toll on her relationship with her partner, James. Finding time for one another is near impossible.“Evening times on the couch a distant memory at this stage.”
But James is there through it all for Marita. “My partner is a saint thank God but it restricts us in doing things and going places together. We can never go away overnight.”
The financial costs involved are another spanner in the works. Rescues are full to the brim here in Ireland and people like Marita are at full capacity too. To send a dog to the UK costs around €150 including rabies shots, passport, vaccines, microchipping and transport but doesn’t include worming, flea treatment or food.
“I wish at times that I didn’t have to do it”, admits Marita, “but then it’s so rewarding to see the dogs moving on to other rescues or homes. It makes it all worthwhile”, she confides.
Marita does as much as she can but would love to do more.
“…as for a rescue, it’s a dream of mine. Maybe at 55 when I have the house paid for. In the meantime all I can provide is B&B for those in need and be a steppingstone for them.”
In the animal rescue world you have to rely on the kindness of others and it can be hard to keep up to date on vet bills and keeping the animals fed.
You also meet wonderful people along the way. While on an “apprenticeship of sorts” Marita has learned so much from Marion of Limerick Animal Welfare (LAW) who has spent her life lobbying for animals; Eileen of Clare Greyhound who introduced her to this world; Martina of Baby Dog Rescue who has helped Marita greatly with dogs and their care. They all support one another and lend a hand when one is struggling to cope financially or emotionally.
Marita’s motto is one she urges everyone to keep in mind when deciding on getting a pet: “Adopt don’t shop.”
Hey guys 🙂 It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything (the joys of doing a masters). Here’s a short piece about volunteer work in Belarus, enjoy 🙂
A University of Limerick student is urging others to get involved in volunteer work.
Laura Kennedy, a physiotherapy student, is travelling to Gorodishche Orphanage in Belarus for a second year to help the children living there.
The orphanage is for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster as well as any children from Belarus who have disabilities.
The Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986 which has caused birth defects in children born in Belarus since.
“Parents put their children in these asylums because they have no other option in some cases”, explains Laura. “Single parents must work to provide for their children as there is no dole or equivalent in Belarus. Some parents just can’t look after their children and must give them up while others just abandon their children.”
Laura got involved in with the orphanage in 2016 through a friend of hers. She loved it and so decided to return this summer to lend a hand again. The children in the orphanage are also happy to have people like Laura come to care for them and play with them.
“Although the children are in such impoverished conditions they are so happy and thankful for everything that they have”, says Laura, “and they love Irish volunteers coming to play with them.”
Laura has fallen in love with this work and is happy to spend her time helping those in need. “I don’t find it hard to sacrifice time”, she states, “as I don’t see it as a sacrifice. I love spending time with the children and thoroughly enjoy it.”
When asked what she thought of well-known people who go to these places and if they do it all for publicity, Laura says that any coverage of the orphanage is good coverage whether people do it for publicity or not.
“They need all the money they can get and even if someone is doing it for attention I would prefer to accept it if it would benefit the kids and their quality of life in any way” she admits.
Laura will return to Belarus in June of this year for two weeks and is “counting down the days” until she can go.
“I would highly recommend work like this to others,” advises Laura. “it’s so enjoyable and you get such satisfaction after helping people less fortunate than yourself.”
Laura has set up a donation page to raise funds for her latest trip.
“This is such a worthy cause”, says Laura, “the kids and I will appreciate even the smallest of donations. Every little bit helps make the lives of these amazing children and young adults so much better.”
If you would like to donate to this cause you can do so by visiting the webpage and following the instructions: https://www.gofundme.com/belarus-2017
Book: Good Me, Bad Me
Author: Ali Land
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Good Me, Bad Me: Moving on from your past isn’t an easy task
Have you ever wondered what happens to the children of serial killers? Ali Land’s debut novel set in London tackles this question.
Fifteen-year-old Annie has had enough. She decides that she can’t let her mother get away with what she is doing any longer. So, she turns her mother in.
Annie, now Milly, is sent to live with foster parents, Mike and Saskia, and their daughter, Phoebe. No one knows who she really is except for her foster parents and school principal. She wants it to stay that way. If she is found out, then Milly won’t be happy.
Phoebe, sick of Mike and Saskia taking in “strays”, makes it her mission to make Milly’s life hell. But her life is already hell and they don’t know who they’re messing with. Phoebe constantly cries out for attention from her parents regularly sitting on the third-floor banister to get a reaction.
“Don’t be so stupid, come down from there, it’ll be the death of you”, her father’s warning.
Milly struggles constantly with inner thoughts of good versus bad and just as we begin to understand and sympathise with Milly and her kind ways her inner bad side comes out. Milly thinks that death is a kindness to some and these thoughts play with her and us.
Not only must Milly battle within her mind about herself but she also faces the task of appearing as a witness at her mother’s trial. The good versus bad struggle for the teenager continues.
She hates her mother for what she has done. She killed nine children. Children who trusted her.
Parents trusted this woman who promised to find a safer home for their children at her local refuge. She made Annie live with that too. Now, as Milly, she is still tormented by her past.
But she is still Milly’s mum.
Away from her mother in body but not in mind she faces nightmarish visits from a serpent, her mother, which attacks her mentally.
Good Me Bad Me drags the reader into Milly’s mind through the stream of consciousness. And Milly’s mind is not somewhere you want to be.
It is difficult to fully love the character of Milly but difficult to fully hate her either leaving you in this limbo of “do I care or do I wish she’d go away?”
Milly seems merely mischievous at first but we quickly realise that there’s a more sinister nature to this troubled teen.
While not a lovable character you do feel pity for her. She’s just a bit damaged. Who wouldn’t be, right? She can be fixed with help from a loving family and environment…right?
The “serial killer” genre is a fascinating one but Ali Land goes that step further by telling it from Milly’s perspective. There’s no blood and guts -sorry guys- the nasty parts are left to the imagination.
And sometimes your imagination can be your worst enemy.
Something about this book makes you think you know exactly how it’s going to end but forces your mind to change 100 times from start to finish.
There is a lot to this book, and while it does lag a bit in the middle, the story isn’t ruined. It adds realism to the book as someone in her position is likely to face many obstacles.
The schoolyard bullying. The perfect-looking family unraveling at the seams. The need to belong to something. If these issues were ignored with the focus solely on Milly and the trial then this book wouldn’t be as captivating.
Lord of the Flies plays a vital role in the novel as Year 11’s work on the play for school. The girls at Whetherbridge School are not so subtly compared with the characters and it’s an apt comparison as the girls nail the mob mentality and cruelty that can come out of the seemingly innocent.
Ali Land graduated with a degree in mental health and spent a decade working as a child and adolescent mental health nurse giving her novel authenticity in the subject at hand.
It’s hard to believe that this is Ali Land’s first novel as she’s clearly at ease in her new role as author. I think there is more to come from Ali Land and it will be exciting to see what she brings next.
A disturbing read but it should be on your list for this year.
Good Me Bad Me keeps you hoping that this girl can be helped and live happily ever after. But those thoughts of hers ruin everything…
So here it goes, my first blog post. Since it’s Valentines here’s something about love and the loss that sadly is a part of life, enjoy…
When the person you love dies your world comes crashing down around you.
This is something Bridget knows all too well.
She stares into the crackling fire eyes full of happy memories but tinged with sadness.
“We were coming out from Ballylanders from pictures and we were all cycling, 4 or 5 of us and a friend of both of ours was in the group and said ‘there’s somebody here that wants to meet you’.”
“That’s how I met Tom” she smiles.
Married life had its ups and downs for Bridget and Tom. The drinking was the root cause for the down moments in the otherwise perfect marriage. She was happy despite his love of alcohol and cigarettes. It never made her love him any less.
Then Tom got sick.
Walking back from their daughter, Carmel’s house next door the pair in their 50’s decided to have a race. A relationship full of love and fun suddenly turned to heartbreak.
She beat him for the first time. She knew something was wrong. He was out of breath. He just couldn’t keep going.
But she didn’t expect it to be cancerous.
“It’s something you’ll never get over and you’ll never forget”.
Hospital visits. Sleepless nights. Questions unanswered. Tumbling deeper and deeper into illness. Lung cancer claimed her husband.
The loss of laughter. The loss of life. The loss of love.
This all happened in the space of one heart-breaking year for Bridget and her family. She glances back at the fire, “it was very hard to deal with”.
“You could still be in a crowded room and you’d feel alone” she confides. Family help, in particular her mother who had gone through this. But the one thing that gets Bridget through now is her belief that she will see her husband again.
“I think it’s your faith that keeps you going to tell you the truth” she reveals, looking up from the fire, already feeling the comfort of that faith.
Seeing couples together is something that still hits her hard to this day. 17 years after her husband’s death.
She confides that she could cry at times as tears well up in her eyes. She says this feeling will never go away. You have no choice but to keep going.
The black leather chair squeaks as she gets up to poke the red-hot coals and she says it does get better. It is inevitable that we all die, she continues, but it still hurts to know that Tom had so much life ahead of him when he died at the age of 56.
Grandchildren at their first funeral. Children saying goodbye to their dad. A wife left alone.
Tom was his family’s rock.
“He kept the whole family grounded partly due to respect and partly due to fear”, confides Carmel. All he wanted was for his children to do their best at school and in life.
Alcoholism was the cause of the fear. The angry outbursts. The words leaving a sting deep inside far longer than any slap of her mother’s flip-flop across her thighs could. Alcohol changed him in her childhood. She was too young to understand why he would be angry with his “Bungee” and spent many nights listening to gauge his mood from her room.
As she grew older she slowly learned of his illness and thankfully his time drinking wasn’t as prominent.
By adulthood the two had resumed their happy and loving relationship. She worshipped her dad. He loved his “Bungee”.
Tom was always there for his family and would sacrifice his own and Bridget’s needs and wants to make sure his children had everything.
He has helped each of his children become the people they are today.
Tom got what they thought was the flu at Christmas in 1999. It was rampant that year and so it came as no shock. Tom went for tests and Carmel took to the internet. She came to the conclusion that in the worst case scenario it must be emphysema, a disease which affects the lungs but can be treated.
The phone rings. Stomach churn. Head goes into over-drive.
Carmel left work and got to the hospital in Limerick as fast as she could.
Her focus was solely on her dad. She tried to read his face. He smiled at his Bungee.
But his eyes were lonely.
It was lung cancer.
“He spoke gently and without drama and even smiled when he told me the consultant reckoned that I had guessed well with emphysema.” Forever brave.
Tears prickling eyes. Heart sinking.
“This was the big C”.
“My poor Dad. My poor Mam. My poor brothers and sister and of course, poor me. How would I cope?”
But then she looked at her dad. And denial hit.
“After all my Dad was the strongest man I knew, he could and would fight off anyone or anything that would potentially hurt any of his family and he had age on his side being only 56 years old with a builders strength.”
Carmel soon had to face that this was happening. The cancer was sitting on the junction of both of Tom’s airways and the tumour was aggressive.
Not even a lung transplant could help.
The first question Tom asked the consultant was how much time he had left. This wasn’t for his own sake though. He was building a house for Carmel’s sister, Mary. He wanted to get that house done before his health deteriorated.
As soon as he was discharged he set back to work on the house alongside his brothers. They took time off their own building work to make this happen. Family united as always.
“It was such a pitiful yet beautiful scene to observe. Dad whistling with his brothers while they plastered walls as if they didn’t have a care sharing jokes. Dad taking time out to revive his oxygen levels on portable tank of oxygen and mask…the mask which was to slowly become the face of Tom.”
Life goes on as the saying goes and so Carmel had to go to work and pay the bills. She turned to prayer and all the while the family hoped for some sort of miracle.
And then the anger hit. Why was Coronation Street still on each evening? Tom watched it all his life and it was oblivious. How did people get so annoyed by the weather? How could people still laugh? How could God do this to them?
“The idea of a world without my Dad was too painful to envisage and my poor Mam. She adored my Dad.”
“They had this beautiful obvious love for each other that surely mustn’t end at this stage in life.”
The cancer claimed her father too quickly. She realised the power the disease held over its victim.
“Lung cancer is particularly nasty. It literally slowly suffocates to the point that Dad was confined fulltime to the couch on oxygen and still gasped for air.”
Acceptance finally came for Carmel.
“Watching my Dad suffer was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. If it had been one of my dogs suffering like this I would have asked the vet to do the humane thing and put an end to it’s pain. This was my Dad and there was nothing anyone could do.”
“Ironically my prayers were answered in the end. Not for a miracle. But that God would end his suffering and take him home to His loving arms.”
The image of Tom gasping for air will haunt Carmel forever.
Although Toms suffering was over, theirs continued.
Their family unit was shattered the day Tom died.
The sight of his slippers under the stool in the kitchen. His clothes still in the hot-press. His tools in the garage. The smell of his musky aftershave still lingering.
You are never the same person when someone you love dies, she confides, no matter how much time passes. You don’t laugh as carelessly. There is an emptiness.
You have to learn to live with that void and luckily Carmel is blessed with a family who are close and loving. They are always there for one another.
“I refuse to give cancer enough respect to dwell on Dad’s illness. That was not who he was.”
Carmel will always remember the man who called her Bungee and she believes that he is forever with her in spirit, to be reunited again some day.
Grandchildren at their first funeral. Children saying goodbye to their dad. A wife left alone.
Tommy shares his grandad’s name.
Although he was only 10 at the time he remembers it all as though it was yesterday.
He was too young to realise what drunk was but laughs recalling his grandad returning home from work covered in grey and a cheeky grin on his face as he stamped mortar all over his wife’s clean kitchen.
Him and his sister laughing at their grandads antics.
He admits that he didn’t really deal with the death of Tom for a long time. But as his nana always says, “all you have to do in this life is die.”
All he knows is he was angry. He was a small child who had just lost his best friend and he didn’t know why.
And no one could tell him because they were just as lost as he was.
Our first funeral.
Children saying goodbye to their dad.
A wife left alone.