Writing & Literature



How is it that a series of essays exploring the society created by internal migration in the 1950’s, turned into Relative, a fragmentary non-fiction memoir? Why did a politically-themed short story, Flag Check, turn into a young woman’s quest to find her place in contemporary Irish life? It’s because I just can’t get away from my fascination around how our past affects our present and how our present affects our future. In these convoluted passages of time, the manner in which we choose to catalogue and connect memories dictates how they impact us. In Relative, I juxtapose moments from my parents’ past, my past and my present moment. I do this to try to work out who I am, who my parents were and what shaped us. I write the truths of ordinary people, asking what is our place and where do we belong?

Excerpt from The Tide is Running

The tide is running. It confused Paula as a child how the pebbly beach was there one night and covered in water the next. She disliked the unpredictability of not knowing what the landscape would look like when she woke up. So, she watched. Every day. By the time she started school she knew if she was looking at an ebb or a flow. The unused boatshed and battered pier give the beach a forlorn look. Funny to think of Uncle Tom, Mam and the others dipping together there, decades earlier. Mam and Uncle Tom used to tell her stories. Paula is not sure what is true, mis-remembered, or longed for, but both sets of stories mesh into disjointed fragments. ‘In a pair of togs, everyone was the same’ Mam used to say.
Contoured into the frame of the sash window, Paula sits on the floor of the boatshed, connected to the sea through gaps between wood and glass, the high tide sliding along the banked-up shingle, rustling the round pebbles, creating pockets of soft foam. The sound of home. That comforting regularity that four years in Belfast failed to smother. Sleepless nights curled up in bed; traffic, streetlights and late-night revellers were blocked out by closing her eyes and sensing the ripple of the tide amplified within, its flow lulling her to sleep against the sharp bleep of the traffic lights below her draughty window.