As a child, my ambitions were to become either a journalist or an artist. Now, in retirement, I write crime novels and I paint. In Ireland, where I was born, the future for a woman offered a basic education in schools run by nuns. The idea was to equip us with the tools to earn a living until a husband came along. Because I was also musical, I had the good fortune to study piano. I wasn’t gifted by any means, but it was considered inherently sinful not to promote a God given talent.
My family wasn’t religious. In fact, the nuns and clergy brought my father out in a rash, and he made his feelings known to them on more than one occasion. As a result, in school, the nuns gave me and my three sisters a wide berth, for fear of incurring the wrath of our father. The death of our mother at an early age made Daddy even more protective. He rode shotgun until we married and, with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that losing him also lost that feeling of having someone covering my back at all times. It was something I had hoped to find in marriage, but I discovered instead that women are the glue that holds it all together, not just in marriage but in society as a whole.
For twenty-plus years I was a stay-at-home mum, which was the norm back then. Like my contemporaries, I got involved with local charitable work once the kids went to school. I took painting classes and joined an arts and crafts association, for the purposes of exhibiting my work. Of course, as often happened to me, the association was on the verge of closing down because nobody wanted the job of running it. Yes, you guessed it… I took on that job. For the following fifteen years I remained in charge. Every year we had a big Christmas gift fair in the city centre. It took me six months to pull it together, but it was worth it. It was very successful and provided much needed income to the handcrafts industry. These days it is part of a much bigger annual event and I’m very proud to have been in at the start of it. It was through this fair that I began a new career in the exhibition industry. The contractor employed to build the stands took me on as a personal assistant. It was time to return to the workforce.
It is true to say that the new job opened up a different world to me. Irish women had made considerable strides in the years when I was a domestic goddess. Though computers were not yet part of the average office, typewriters were electronic and copying machines had been replaced with photocopiers. I might as well have stepped into the cockpit of an aircraft. In my mid-forties, I was faced with a new challenge. Attitudes had also changed. Young women were far more outspoken.
Around this time, my marriage ended. It had been struggling for some time. I will never forget the sense of release and freedom when I placed the key into the lock of the door on my new apartment. It was sheer heaven. Not long after, I met partner number two. I was most definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but love happens. Like my ex-husband, he was a good man and we were together for over ten years. He was also ten years my junior and he had younger children. But I was the one who kept all the balls in the air. I was at the hub of everything that happened. Before I could make any arrangements for myself, I needed to check that it didn’t interfere with those of my now extended family. It was exhausting.
In 2001, when the second relationship ended, I re-located out of Dublin city. I was a woman alone and I was looking for security above all. Now in my mid-fifties, I knew I was entering a difficult job market, but I had a little money and I hoped the sale of my paintings would provide the prop I needed to pay my way. But, the collapse of the world banks, and the now famous collapse of our Irish economy, meant I was definitely out of a job – and buying paintings was the last thing on the shopping list of the Irish people. I had no choice but to seek government assistance, but my overriding concern was filling my day. My life had always been full. Now, I was alone in a new environment with twenty-four hours a day to fill. That was scary. My offspring were independent adults with their own lives. We were close and saw each other regularly, but mother was just mother and as long as I was well and my bills were paid, in their minds, I was doing great.
Through the busy years of my working career, many good TV dramas had passed me by. Now, they were being re-run on satellite channels. Always a fan of crime fiction and real life crime stories, I took advantage of the time available to me and caught up. They were American and British stories, well known to all fans of the genre – like Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Columbo, etc. I pondered the fact that there are few similar Irish crime series. Oh yes, we have famous authors of crime fiction whose focus is upon the drugs scene in the capital, Dublin. They are heavy works with strong violence and foul language. However, this was not the Ireland I knew and loved. So I began writing.
So, in my autumn years, I love my life – despite the scars I carry. Nobody gets through life without a battle of some kind, and I’ve experienced many. Thankfully, despite a couple of health scares, I’ve made it to retirement in good fettle. I have weathered many storms. I haven’t achieved fame or fortune, but I have gained something infinitely more important – belief in, and approval of, myself. Three of my books are published as eBooks by an Irish publisher and available online. I’ve declined further contracts to search for a paper publisher. That’s my dream. I like to think that I live my life as I drive my car – occupying one space on the road and respectful of others doing the same. To all young women, I say ‘be strong, be kind and, above all else, be true to yourself. You are God’s best creation’.