Rosy Cole

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Rosy Cole was born and educated in the Shires of England. Her writing career started in her teens. Four apprentice works eventually led to publication of two novels. Life intervened, but she returned to authorship in 2004. She has worked as a Press Officer and Publisher's Reader. Among widespread interests, she lists history, opera, musicals, jazz, the arts, drawing and painting, gemmology, homoeopathy and alternative therapies. Theology also is an abiding interest. As a singer, she's performed alongside many renowned musicians and has run a music agency which specialised in themed 'words-and-music' programmes, bringing her two greatest passions together. Rosy's first book of poetry, THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether, was published in April 2012, National Poetry Month, and two other collections are in preparation. As well as the First and Second Books in the Berkeley Series, she has written several other historical titles and one of literary fiction. She is currently working on the Third Book in the Berkeley Series. All her books are now published under the New Eve imprint. Rosy lives in West Sussex with her son, Chris, and her Springador, Jack, who keeps a firm paw on the work-and-walkies schedule!

Oyster Shell

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On St Patrick's Day, a passage from Entertaining Angels, my unedited novel of a dysfunctional family struggling in the aftermath of two World Wars as the millennium approaches.

 

Sibyl, a discontented widow, mother of Isabelle and grandmother of James, whose generations mystify her, reflects upon the day her father set sail from the Emerald Isle, never to return...

 

Sibyl had worried about the barbarian at the gate ever since she could remember. No doubt it was a legacy of the ethnic ancestor to which her mother, a jaunty Dubliner, had mischievously alluded from time to time. Bridie came from a long tradition of merchant seafarers so it was easy to imagine how such a thing could have come about. She had married Liam Locke, who kept The Wheel & Compass on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront, attracted by his brawny arms, brooding dark brow and silver-tongued blarney. All he lacked was an ass's jawbone. He said she had eyes to drown in, like a keg of Guinness, when she came to call her father from chimney settle to supper table. By now, he was mellow to bursting with tales of faraway climes. Fergus Collins was a renowned raconteur, a feature of the house, with his tales of deals closed at the eleventh hour and dewy-breasted slave girls in straw skirts, not so lippy as the fishwives from the Bay. The week after the wedding, the old salt caught a chill and reckoned it was time he weighed anchor on the heavenly shores. He was ready to go.

Bridie was a spirited lass who looked defeat in the eye and overcame it with a powerful sense of humour. She knew what it was to put on a brave face and make everyone warm to her cheer. She was a celebrity to imitate and a rock to depend on, so that her daughter's own strong will was naturally conquered. For several years, they had been snug as chick and hen together. Liam hailed from Coleraine and his folk still bedded there; neither Lough nor Liffey ran in his veins. In a fit of patriotism, he had gone to sea to put down the King's German nephew who, jealous of the British Empire, was creating a shameless dust in The Balkans to gain one of his own. The day he set sail from the Emerald Isle, they stood on the dock, mother and daughter, watching him go, astonished that he could leave them so blithely to keep a damned Protestant on the throne of England. Sibyl, hiding in the folds of her mother's skirt, sucked her thumb and hoped the King would be glad to see her Da. She was a full three years old, in a grown-up calico pinafore and square-buckled shoes. Last night, Liam had given her a wax doll to remember him by, dressed in sailor uniform. She thought she would call him Paddy, for he didn't exactly resemble her Da but the name rhymed with Daddy.
 

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The boat diminished to a pinhead and dropped over the horizon. "Gone!" Sibyl said in forsaken tones.

"Gone he is, child, that's for sure," said Bridie briskly, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. "Holy Mudder of God, will ya take that sleeve out of your mouth. You'll chew it to ribbons!"

Sibyl began to whimper, her hand imprisoned in her mother's. "I'm hungry."

"We'd best go and put on the tatty soup, then. When your Da's ship comes in, we'll eat oysters. That's a promise!"

Sadly, that was the last they were to see of Liam. Seven months later, his torpedoed vessel went down off the Port of Hamburg; he was swallowed by the deep and no proper priest to give him the last rites.

For all their adoration of him, for all their grief, they could not help feeling doubly betrayed. "Never forget, Sibyl," Bridie later instructed her, "your Da, God rest him, was as good as a Cartholic, even though his kin back in Antrim were wicked infidels!"

"What's infiddles?" asked the child, summoning an image of musical instruments that were out of tune.

"Why, heathen folks that don't know what's good for them and put the King in the Pope's shoes."

They went about Dublin with half of themselves gone and no one to go back to. O'Connell Street was no longer a proud thoroughfare but a seam of meaningless noise. Bridie had let go her playfulness. Her dealings with mankind, and not least with her daughter, were touched with an irony that kept her guard intact. She'd had to roll up her sleeves and serve behind the bar, keep brewers on their toes and cellar hands mindful of their duties, to say nothing of putting audacious patrons in their place. There were those who warmed mightily to her defensive ire.

 

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As the seasons passed, she softened and began to give out again, so that Sibyl basked in the sunshine of her undivided attention. Now and then, one or two gentlemen friends came upstairs. Sibyl heard their footfall on the linoleum, saw their shadows cross the crack of her open door in that twilight between reality and dreaming. They brought with them the stale fumes of the Taproom Bar, spilled stout, rye whiskey and acrid tobacco, the oily hemp smell of dockers' overalls that had to be lathered in Sunlight soap and scraped with a knife before they went into the copper. None of the guests stayed. They seemed to be an irrelevance in the new scheme of things. Liam had become a cherished but distant memory, a legend of valour. But Sibyl, poring over her slate and chalks, often paused to wonder where he was. She sometimes had a sense of him watching at her elbow.

Then, late one November afternoon, as darkness was descending and the harbour lamp haloes quivered in drizzle, the clatter of a shire horse filled the yard at the back of the tavern. Its cart rattled and clanked in so unstable a manner as to suggest that it was not a brewer's dray. Sibyl, just back from lessons, flew to the window and, peering down into the crowded shadows, could just discern a kind of metal frame being unloaded between its driver and Stephen, the barman.

The sum of its parts, it soon became clear, was a double brass bedstead which took pride of place in Bridie's room in exchange for the old chipped painted one. Out came the Brasso and torn bloomers; Bridie polished so vigorously that the gleam of the acorn knobs matched the brightness of her eye and the dent in the cup did not matter. Her hair tumbled down from its combs and rose tinted her cheeks. Sibyl could only gaze in awe at such frenetic activity which had supplied a sparkle to more than the room.

"I don't like it," she said sulkily. "Where did it come from?"

"Why, bless your life, Mr Finnegan brought it. Mr Saul Finnegan."

"The rag-and-bone man!" She had spotted him trundling his contraption of a cart about Temple Bar behind a tired-looking nag. He wore an aged greatcoat with a fedora and bright red scarf like a man she had seen in a French poster in the art shop. His long greying hair and beard made him appear older than his face, but what had arrested her was the peculiar intelligence of his gaze. "I don't like him, either."

"That's an unkind tongue you've got on ya, Sibyl Locke. I'll not hear a word said against him. He suffered in the trenches, went to war for his beliefs, just like your Da."

"Well, he came back!"

"To be sure, he's paid a tidy price for't."

"Was he wounded, then?"

Bridie nodded, lingering over her chore to hug the bedpost in a daze. "In the shoulder. But there's some scars never heal. Brave he was, a corporal, a gentleman of rank."

"What, old Whiskers-on-his-chin-agin! He just fetches clarty rubbish."

At this, Bridie rounded on her daughter in fury, yanking her by the arm and delivering a smart blow to her behind. "I'll teach ya some respect! You've an uncouth way wid ya, my quean! Mr Finnegan's a man o' great taste, a dealer in the foine arts! Now go to your room and you can recite foive Hail Marys before supper!"
 

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None of this augured well for Saul Finnegan's installation at The Wheel & Compass as Sibyl's stepfather. He and Bridie were married during the winter the partition of Ireland became constitutional. Sibyl was eight and painfully aware that her mother's brand new surname had, at a stroke, placed her at a remove.

Saul's presence about the tavern took a deal of getting used to. It was not that he was heavy-handed or domineering, far from it. His broken shout was kept for the street. At home he was gentle and soft-spoken and introduced Sibyl to the works of Charles Kingsley, Lewis Carroll and Louisa May Alcott, and to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He had been a schoolteacher before the war, Bridie said, in Liverpool.

At first, Sibyl resisted his engaging ways, unwilling to participate in her mother's treachery. She alone was left to keep the flame of Liam's memory kindled. And she was puzzled by the strangeness that came over her stepfather when he would sit quiet and withdrawn in his chair, seeing nothing. It frightened her, too, when he awoke abruptly from nightmares, crying out in terror and pain between sharp wheezing breaths, as though he were being strangled. Her mother's anodyne tones, which should have been reserved for Sibyl's ailments alone, would settle him.

In the end, Saul won her over. He was prepared to spend hours teaching her tricks with buttons and intersecting pencil lines, making her a toy yacht to float at the water's edge. Bridie was radiant and growing plump with contentment.

But it was not to last for long. The following autumn, Bridie was delivered of twins and the next year, triplets, all boys. Holy Mary, a blessed miracle! Father Murnaghan said. Bridie had been chosen by God to bring special joy to the world! He did not have to feed or bathe and change them, keep watch throughout the night daubing them with calamine when they came out in a rash, or burn coal tar to help them breathe through their spells of croup. If one fell sick, they all went down in succession. He did not have to scrub floors, make endless broth and boil heaps of soiled clouts. The neighbours rallied, but it fell to Sibyl to be her mother's second pair of hands. Her childhood was over. A litter of brothers now clamoured for Bridie's attention whose own health was nowhere near as robust as it had been. She could no longer cope with the tavern and the family was obliged to seek new accommodation in dingy rooms above a fishmonger's shop, not far from Saul's scrap yard down by the wharves. He did his best to turn a modest income, but a crippling darkness frequently came down on him.

It seemed to Sibyl, young as she was, that, were it not for the labour of women, the earth would cease turning.

On her shelf, in the room she'd to share with Callum and Davy, the twins, the model yacht with broken sails hove to against Paddy, the sailor doll, limp and lopsided. She took him down and shook the dust from him, overwhelmed with sudden loss that so much had intervened to pale her father's memory. From across the landing, Bridie called her to the table, but she ignored it. The second terse summons brought her to the kitchen door, still clutching the doll, sobbing uncontrollably.

"I won't eat it! I won't eat it! I don't want stew, I want oysters!"

"Merciful God and all the saints! What ails ya, choild?"

"I want oysters!"

"Don't be a little idiot! I've not the wherewithal to buy oysters, as well you know!"

"Be easy, Bridie, " said Saul placatingly. "Be easy on the child. We'll get to the bottom of this."

"But you promised," wept Sibyl. "You promised we'd have oysters when Da's ship came in, and it won't now, not ever, and we never will!"

Saul rose from his place at the head of the table, from the roughly-turned captain's chair that had arms where the others had not. Lifting a corner of Sibyl's gingham apron to blot her tears, he gently relieved her of the doll and put it to rest in his own bentwood rocker, leading her to the table. "Every voyage must come into harbour, colleen," he crooned, "though some be long and storm-tossed. This is the Heavenly Father's good food. And now we'll be sure and give thanks for't. In the War, we’d a bread ration scarcely bigger than what priests eat at Mass."

They ate in silence, while the fire blazed and crackled in the leaded range and the doll was melting into oblivion.
 

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Copyright

© ©RosyCole2009, 2015

Recent Comments
Anonymous
How can I pass this up? First of all, Rosy, your fearless vocabulary and gift for dialect. First I was nervous, thinking, "is Rosy... Read More
Thursday, 19 March 2015 16:45
Rosy Cole
I didn't mean to trespass on your manor, Charlie :-) I finished writing this story in 2001 and have been side-tracked ever since b... Read More
Friday, 20 March 2015 22:41
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The Memory Of A Lullaby

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Today is Mothers Day in Britain, or more correctly, Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Since Easter is a Moveable Feast, the date is not fixed, but always falls close to Lady Day, or the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin on March 25th. Before the schism with Rome in Tudor times, the whole of life revolved around the liturgical calendar which bound together all ranks of society and shades of belief and provided appropriate rituals for the expression of the whole spectrum of human emotions. Centuries later, when that way of life had long withered on the vine, right up until a decade or two after WWII, along with the seasons and the phases of the moon, those festal days were still marked in ordinary diaries as a matter of course, though few were observed. Some hark back to time immemorial in one form or another. Pagans will point out that these events were 'hijacked' by Christianity rather than subsumed in a new enlightenment about the nature of God. 

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Mothering Sunday has no feminist charge. Traditionally, it was the day on which daughters who had gone into domestic service to relieve the burden on the family budget and increase the chance of meeting a spouse, were allowed home bearing gifts for their mothers. The gift of life itself was thereby honoured.

It's worth remarking that not all children are born to loving mothers, though the notion is an anathema striking at the very roots of our humanity. For them, I recommend the Rosary with its dynamic interior blessings. If approached with expectancy and an open mind, it will gradually wreak a change in perspective that is life-transforming.

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I have looked high and low for notable quotes about mothers and have found them largely impoverished, either conveyed in platitudes and fluffy jokes, or else wreathed in an idealism and mystique that hints at our fumbling search for Mary, the New Eve and essence of motherhood. Such 'wisdom' subscribes very little to the arduous, if noble, struggle of trial and error that is a common reality amid the joys and delights. The quote lending a title to this post is one coined by widely-loved American blogger, Robert Brault, and couches a thought which, when examined, is quite profound and echoes the Hail Mary:

'Perhaps we are given a mother that we might take into death the memory of a lullaby.'

God bless all mothers today. May they and their children find their way, linked by a bond which hallows the positive. 

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In celebration of the theme, these paintings are from the wonderful Pennsylvania-born artist of the 19th Century, Mary Cassatt, a friend of Degas.

'I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art," she once wrote to a friend. "It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.'

As a woman, she held her corner among the male-dominated artistic establishment of her day, and defied her father in order to study in Paris. He claimed he would rather see her dead than a Bohemian in that city. Thanks to her conviction and persistence, she was able to bring to the attention of the world a powerful feminine narrative that is fresh, subtle and mesmerising.

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Copyright

© ©RosyCole2015

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
"It's worth remarking that not all children are born to loving mothers". Deeply sad – and, sadly, true. Motherhood is a blessing... Read More
Sunday, 15 March 2015 15:54
Rosy Cole
I suspect you and I have similar experiences, Katia. I can't say that my mother should never have been a mother, because in the gr... Read More
Sunday, 15 March 2015 17:25
Stephen Evans
You and I have written of mothers, yours and mine. The distinction between mother and mothering maybe allows a broader and possibl... Read More
Sunday, 15 March 2015 18:03
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Up To Speed

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The sixty-sixth day of the year!

Time's marching on apace,

The weeks are washed downstream as one

In destiny's mill-race

 

They say that life is what takes place

While, otherwise employed,

We image on the calendar

A purpose unalloyed

 

But then that's merely virtual

Vicarious, if you like,

It won't satisfy the deadlines

On a pledge's unpaid spike

 

We work, we love, we eat, we sleep,

We rest – it still goes fast,

If we can't grab it by the collar,

Our future will be past!

 

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Copyright

© ©RosyCole2009, 2015

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
I like the rhythm of your poem, Rosy.
Saturday, 07 March 2015 20:11
Rosy Cole
Thanks, Katia. It's just the way it happened :-) I don't follow fashions, prefer just to let the subject, as I view or experience ... Read More
Sunday, 08 March 2015 13:13
Anonymous
"...hither hurried whence...whither hurried hence..." How do you do it? Bullseye every time! You've written what I feel every day... Read More
Sunday, 08 March 2015 05:01
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Vines And Rubies




'...But still the Vine her ancient ruby yields,
    And still a Garden by the Water blows.'


The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

 

'The countless gold of a merry heart,
The rubies and pearls of a loving eye,
The indolent never can bring to the mart,
Nor the secret hoard up in his treasury.
'

William Blake

'Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies,
But keep your fancy free.'


A.E. Housman



Recital in Red

 

Crimson crayon, satin-bright, picked from looped array
gleefully slicked on crinolines of Christmas, Firebird, Red Shoes
red-cloaked little maids hoodwinked by vixens in eerie woods

Fancies spun from fire sparks speckling the chimney
red glow of ravines bringing tinder to life
tantalising tales and runes read in the embers

Pied Piper sporting tunic of scarlet and saffron
cherry-cheeked children limned by Miss Attwell
ruby rosehip syrup measured out in stainless spoons

Florid Empire apple, long treasured in tissue
polished on pinafore, a gift from the cupboard
a secret stash of praline crisp in winking foil

Garnet arils in a pomegranate, pin-forked and tasted
poppies by the wayside, blood-splashed among the corn
naked osiers carmine-sketched on February skies

Tomatoes on the vine, beetroot bubbling in the pan
tinctured deeper than claret and bottled plums and damsons
paraded in the pantry next to Red Leicester cheese

Sentinel postbox flagging up communication
marking red letter days that memories are made of
rose-red party frock and incipient romance

Renaissance red of winter wedding, anthurium bouquet
flamenco red of Carmen's garb and firefly cigarette girls
flirty skirts of gypsy troupe at La Traviata ball

Fire-opal dawns, travel, Ravel and revelations
bronze-quilt of pantiles amid the Tuscan foothills
sunrise over Bruges and sunset over Sounion

Lacquer red of scarf worn by Aristide Bruant
splintered spectral warmth of Mucha's Sarah Bernhardt
muted tones of tapestries of medieval grape-treading

Madder and vermilion of Caravaggio's agony
carnelian-studded Crucifix and windows stained with wine
wildfire hue of cope on the glorious Feast of Pentecost

Blazing gules in heraldry and heritage and history
blood red in native flag and sanguine shades of birth
vital inspiration and the cutting edge of living...

 

'These gems have life in them. Their colours speak, say what words fail of.'

George Eliot

For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.'

Proverbs 8:11 (NIV)

 

Rubies

They brought me rubies from the mine,
And held them to the sun;
I said, they are drops of frozen wine
From Eden's vats that run.

I looked again,--I thought them hearts
Of friends to friends unknown;
Tides that should warm each neighboring life
Are locked in sparkling stone.

But fire to thaw that ruddy snow,
To break enchanted ice,
And give love's scarlet tides to flow,
When shall that sun arise?


Ralph Waldo Emerson


Taken from a new series entitled 'Touchstones' at pilgrimrose.com in which the colours of gems spark memories

Copyright

© © Rosy Cole 2015

Recent Comments
Anonymous
"Fantasies spun from fire sparks catching in the chimney... tantalising tales and runes read in the embers..." You have me seeing... Read More
Monday, 02 March 2015 00:03
Rosy Cole
Charlie, I am sorry to learn you've been in the grip of 'The Octopus' again. It may not feel like it at the time, but it will pass... Read More
Monday, 02 March 2015 12:30
Anonymous
Thanks, Rosy. Actually, I've spent the last 73 years exploring different ways of dealing with this but my main focus today is on y... Read More
Monday, 02 March 2015 13:33
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I intend to try with the cap locks on, but in a quiet, subtle kind of way :-)
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