Impression Sunrise – Milan 2016

Leave Bergamo station 10 am. Arrive Milano Centrale 11am. Run for the hop on – hop off tourist bus. Take the blue line bus to the terminus. I don’t know it’s the blue line then but I figure it out later. Buy a day ticket from the slim black hostess €22.00.

Visit the Sforza Palace and park, sit on a sheltered bench, get my bearings, plan the day. Phone a friend, Robert,  in shade of palace walls. Coffee in café outside. Admire towers, walls, fountain. Bergamo busker plays “Eye of the Tiger” on his electric guitar. Nice to get paid doing something you enjoy. Jumps up, chats to police lady in patrol car.

Palace building, defence, attack, manifestation of power, domination, to impress/intimidate enemies… and friends, wide courtyards and squares for rich powerful men of the day to ride horses through. Horses for Sforza’s.

Get the blue line at Castello. Irish ginger minger and girlfriend remind me of my sister, push in front of me ascending the bus. He doesn’t talk to me, Irish shitter, ignores me. Like father, like son. Stirs up old feelings, hidden wounds of rejection, neglect.

Past the Triennial, Peace Arch – no peace? Know peace – through the Porta Garibaldi urban renewal district.





“Hear, O Israel, for you are my servant. I, the Lord, made you, and I will not forget you.” Isaiah 44:21

My father, Seán, died on 30th December 2007 after a five-year struggle with cancer. I wanted to write about him to preserve his memory, to affirm that his seventy-six years on this earth were not in vain. I’m also implying that if his life was worthwhile then my life is worthwhile and by extension every human life, as with reference to his life and increasingly my own, I presently question if my life has any value at all.

As a Christian believer, I believe my life has value. God created me and put me on this planet to glorify him as Our Creator and to use my gifts in a constructive way to build His kingdom on earth in preparation for the kingdom to come. It’s hard for me to imagine what the heavenly kingdom will be like. It’s hard to imagine life any differently to this one. Like most people I find life difficult at times, but my faith consoles me.

To be in Christ is to be in a radically different relationship with the world; to see things in a different way. I will die and live again in a different world and sooner or later this world will end and God’s kingdom come. This is my basis for living and puts me on a different footing in life.

God-incidently, (I no longer believe in co-incidence), it was my father’s death which made me question what type of Higher Power, or ‘God of my understanding’, I believed in, after seven years of sobriety from alcoholism, opening up new horizons on my earthly and spiritual journey.

My father’s death was not the end for him or for me. My father sits at the foot of the heavenly throne where angels choir constant praise to the mystical Lamb. My life also began again. I was rebooted in Christ, further propelled along the road of happy destiny in recovery from addiction and mental illness. My spiritual growth was the silver lining of the clouds of my father’s illness and death from cancer in 2007.

In this excerpt, I describe the last occasion I spent time alone with him before he died, on a day-trip to Lough Dan, County Wicklow in Spring 2007.



We left the motorway and climbed to the Wicklow plateau. The gorse was in full bloom on every side. We drove out of Roundwood, my father directing me on which turns to take. Eventually we travelled down a lane, which became narrower and narrower, with a ridge of uncut grass running along the middle, until we came to the parking place.

We followed the path to the lakeshore past the plantation of newly planted trees, deciduous on one side, coniferous, the other. I walked ahead and my father fell behind. I looked back and saw him veer down the slope through the ferns to the rocky outcrop where the lake curves towards the southern end. I was shocked to see how much he’d declined.

“Be careful,” I called, “you’re heading towards the cliff.”

He barely had enough strength to resist the force of gravity dragging him towards the edge.

He was on his second course of chemo in four years after the cancer had returned in his liver earlier that year. I waited for him and we walked to the granite memorial bench overlooking the lake where we sat side-by-side looking out at the big house adrift in a patchwork sea of green below us.

This writing is the memorial bench I’m crafting in your honour, father.

A beautiful Spring day, the farmers burned bracken off the hillsides which were dotted with pinpricks of yellow-orange flame, smoke drifting across the clear blue sky.

“You go ahead if you want to,” he said, “I’ll wait.”

So I had to go down to the lake by myself after all my scheming to get him away from my mother to spend time alone with him. I opened the gate and followed a group of hikers down the hill.

Tears formed in my eyes and ran down my face as the reality of my father’s condition struck me for the first time. Wiping them away, I followed the schist-glistening path, past the cottage in the woods, to the bottom of the hill, crossing the boggy delta to reach the lake-head where the river flowed down from the mountains.

It was the same place my father had taken us for a family picnic when I was thirteen.

I’d caught the fishing bug on holidays in Spanish Point watching the fishermen cast directly from the shore into the sandy tumult of the waves.


As my mother tidied up after the picnic, I lounged on the river bank. I trapped a cricket in the long grass and attached it to the hook. I dropped the struggling insect onto the water’s surface. Instantly, a fish rose and took the bait.

I hoisted jangling line and fish onto the bank. I was amazed. We gathered around the trout to watch it panting on the grass.

“Look at the beautiful colours,” my mother said, “shame. You can’t leave it like that, Seán,” she continued, “it’s cruel.”

“Danny, get a stick,” my father said.

I retrieved a fallen branch from the nearby copse and gave it to him. He took it and killed the trout after a few awkward blows. I grabbed the fish and chased after my screaming sisters, waving it wildly.

“I’ll have that for my tea,” Seán said to his wife, winking.

“You can cook it yourself,” she said.

He grilled it in the oven when we got home.

“Would you like a taste, son?” he asked.


Leaving the river bank, I wandered around the patch of land at the lake-head. The fire burned relentlessly underground, silently devouring the brittle grass beneath my feet, turning the earth to ashes in its wake. Reaching the lakeshore, I removed my shoes and socks and waded into the water following the sandy spur of land to its farthest point, where the river waters flowed down from the mountain and merged with the lake.

The cold pierced me to the bone. I pottered about in the shallows, looking down at the inky signature of bog wreathing my toes in amber and across at the low horizon of choppy waves to the verdant outcrop where the lake bent southwards.

I wondered what my father was thinking about sitting up there looking out at the landscape.

What have I done with my life? Was it worth it? What about my wife? Who’ll look after her?

It was time to re-join him, I thought, that’s what I’d come here for after all, wresting him from my mother’s grip to spend time alone with him. To get to know him better before the giant doors of death slammed shut on us forever, not to spend time alone with myself. I’d done too much of that already.

Returning to the beach, I dropped onto the luminous sand, rubbed the grains from my toes and pulled on my boots. I bundled my socks into my jacket pocket and scrambled up the hillside through the ferns to re-join the track.

As I approached the gate, I had the feeling my father might not be there when I got back. I felt relieved he’d be out of his suffering and at the same time, sad, he’d be gone. I felt guilty thinking this, as if actually wishing him dead. When I reached the gate and looked over, to my relief, he was still sitting on the bench looking out at the landscape.

We walked back to the car and I let him drive us to Glendalough.


The Lion

“Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the lion of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed.” Revelation 5:5


‘I’d just launched myself after the antelope when suddenly I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my foot. I pulled up in agony. Looking down, I saw a thorn had pierced the padding of my paw. I was roaring with pain, writhing in the dust, howling terrible piteous roars.

I didn’t notice the human until he was on top of me, you know how these humans are, Leoni, devious and untrustworthy. Afraid, I roared. There was nothing I could do. I was a sitting duck on the veldt with no one to defend me.

He started talking to me in Swahili. I could understand him. Imagine, Leoni, me, a lioness, talking to our enemy, man.

“Peace be with you, Naomi,” he said, “here let me help you.”

He knelt down in the dirt beside me and stroked my fur.

“Relax,” he said, “don’t worry.”

I showed him the thorn embedded in my paw.

“I’ll have to pull it out,” he said, “it may hurt.”

He knew how painful thorns could be.

“Yes, Master,” I answered, to my surprise.

He eased the thorn from my paw. I roared with pain, then it was over. Immediately I felt a sense of relief flood through me. He applied a balm to the wound, crafting a poultice from the herbs he carried in a bag on his shoulder.

“Rest a few days, Naomi,” he said, “you’ll feel better, and remember, lady,” he wagged his finger, “no hunting.”

I was so overcome with gratitude there were tears in my eyes,

“Yes, Master,” I said, looking around but he had gone.

I limped back to my pride, busy devouring the prey I’d helped them stalk earlier, hoping my sisters would save me some scraps from the feast.”’

Leoni looked up at her mother.

“Did you ever see him again, mother?”

“No, child, but he said that one day, he’d return. That all would be well. We wouldn’t have to hunt for food to survive. This world would end, his kingdom dawn and there’d be an end to strife. I was overcome with a deep feeling of peace.”


I remembered the story my mother told me when I was a child, as I tramped through the scrubland, a mature lioness now, on the prowl with a pride of my own.


It Ain’t Over …

Chapter One

He stands in front of the fireplace of black marble gazing into the vase of dried flowers in the hearth. A life-sized alabaster bust of a Roman senator sits on the dresser opposite him.
“What are you standing there like that for?”
Eyes drilling into him, rocking backwards and forwards on his heels.
“Take your hands out of your pockets in front of your mother. Who do you think you are?”
He shifts uneasily from foot to foot nervous under his gaze. His photograph has pride of place on the dresser. Black cap and gown sandwich a beaming face; parchment scrolled tightly in his fist. Two paintings face each other across the cluttered room; “Empress of India” over the fireplace and Hone’s ‘Malahide Cattle’ between the windows on the exterior wall.
“And where have you been hiding?”
Josephine Francis McArthur, looking like a middle-aged portrait of that robust monarch, sits erect in her armchair in the middle of the room.
“A shop girl, Jim? You could have done better than that. Look at all the girls you could have had.”
“I love her, Ma, I’m marrying her.”
“Love her? Marrying her? You don’t know what love is … ah marry if you want to. You’ll regret it when I’m dead and gone, when I lay me old bones down in Glasker, it’ll be too late to change things then.”
Don’t want my son to leave me, want to keep him here forever. How can he do this to me after all I’ve done for him. Marry that country tart? Father a farmer in the West, she’s only after one thing. Think about what you’re doing Jim, we haven’t crawled out of the gutter for you to drag us back in again.
“Bring her round by all means. We’d be delighted.”
She beams at him from the teeth out.
“Met her a dance did you?”
His father pokes his head out from behind the newspaper.
“You can meet thousands of girls at dances. Doesn’t mean any of them are any good”
“Shut up, Bert. You were legless when you met me.”
“What do you know about it?” Jim snaps at his father, “you were never there for me anyway.”
“Jim, show some respect, don’t talk to your Da like that.”
Father and son eyeball each other across the room.
“What are you looking at?” Albert says, “I’ll give you something to look at.”
“I love her. I’m marrying her. I don’t care what you say.”
“Do what you want to but don’t come crying to us when it all goes wrong.”
“To hell with you.”
“’To hell with you’, ‘to hell with you’, is that all you can say?” his father mocks him, “go on then, leave, run away, that’s all you can do, I.R.A. I ran away, boo-hoo.”
Jim stalks from the room, slamming the door behind him.
The ticking from the Revere clock fills the silent room. Josie swallows, looks nervously at Albert.
“Will he be alright?” she asks, uncomfortable in the silence.
“He’ll be fine,” Albert says, not lifting his head from his paper.
Wish she’d show the same concern for me.
“And if he isn’t…,” he rattles his rags in disgust.
It’s no fault of ours.