It is always a thrill to finish writing a novel, so it is doubly thrilling to
have produced twins. I am sitting with a well-earned cup of tea - Twinings
Irish Breakfast seems appropriate - as I admire the results of the last few
years of labour.
The twins are not identical, but were written side by side and delivered within
weeks of each other. The first born is a novel,
That Is The Road She Went,
based on the life of Rose Mooney, a blind harp player who wandered the roads of
Ireland in the 18th century. Its companion work, part travelogue, part memoir,
part meditation on music, memory and impermanence, is
Field Studies in Early
The two works stand alone, however, read together they offer a
uniquely rounded experience of a subject that captured my interest and held it
during the long months of writing, and which continues to intrigue.
While the life of a blind musician who travelled on foot and by horse and cart
may seem as remote as a distant star from our age of technology and high speed
travel, Rose Mooney's story resonates with timeless human concerns - the
of home, the pain of change, the solace of memory and of music. In
That Is The
Road She Went,
worlds slip away almost imperceptibly, others disappear in
seconds, and what people carry with them into the future is often as poignant
as what they leave behind.
Here is a tiny piece of Rose Mooney's world to be going on with.
That Is The Road She Went
I was twelve when Mr and Mrs Flood - the wife short of breath and her husband
growing absent-minded - left us to live with their widowed daughter near
Bettystown. The morning after they went was the first of our lives on which we
woke to find the kitchen fire cold. It had never been quenched in a hundred
years, Nora said, but now it was up to us to keep it burning.
Liscannor's kitchen garden, once all order, remained respectable for a time,
its miles of weathered walls lined with espaliered fruit trees, its beds of
lush vegetables edged with borders of violet pansy. Nora huffed about those
pansies when she was tired and overwrought. They had been established when our
mother was in charge, with men to do the labour; the pansy borders were an
affectation and a nuisance, Nora insisted, yet she had never had the heart to
root them out.
But as the seasons turned it became clear that parts of the estate would have
to be let go. The first to be given up to weeds was the apothecary garden. Of
all places, that was the patch of soil I loved best - for I had only to crush a
leaf and bring it to my nose to name the plant, and the clouds of butterflies
and strawberry moths it drew brushed my cheeks with soft, glancing kisses.
Nora was sorry to lose the old medicinals, but there were many we no longer
knew how to use. So she moved the staples into the vegetable beds, leaving the
rest to run to seed. But although we had abandoned it, the bees kept up their
drone there all summer long, while the rooks, with their wild, raw cries that
sound half-human, still flapped in slow, swooping circles overhead.