We continue with part two of the story of Patrick Noone whose life is bound inextricably with the sea. Tragedy has already struck with the loss of his mother, whose large and beautiful eyes are one of the few memories he has of her. Paul Andruss shares more of Patrick’s childhood.
THE HOUSE BY THE SEA – Chapter Two by Paul Andruss
After his father’s death, the years rolled on; the last much the same as the next with little to choose between them. Patrick grew into a fine strong lad, wiling and polite, if a little withdrawn, but with something that made people warm to the ‘poor orphan’.
At seven he made his first Confession and Holy Communion before becoming an altar boy at the Blessed Virgin with Father O’Malley. He got new clothes at Whitsun and Christmas, but for the rest of the year Biddy patched and made do. In the years of his First Holy Communion, and later, his Confirmation, the new clothes were saved up for the big day, so Biddy could make a good impression on the parish.
Patrick remembered his Confirmation Sunday because everyone went up in a charabanc to the big church where the Bishop marked them with chrism, filling them with the Holy Spirit by whispering a secret name in each child’s ear that only God and the angels knew.
Over the years, Patrick came to learn his Aunt Biddy was not a cruel woman. True, she had a fierce temper on her and little suffered shenanigans; what, with the washing and the ironing she took in, keeping house and putting meals on the table. Patrick had his fair share to do, especially as his uncle’s health grew worse. As Biddy informed him one day when he was about eight, you’re the man now.
Each morning he cleaned out the grate, set the fire, and fed the chickens, before running down the farm for a pitcher of creamy new milk, essential, so Biddy claimed, for someone with contagion on the lungs, and to pick up a loaf from the bakery. After school he chopped wood and brought it from the woodpile to the house, saw to the chickens and weeded the small garden where his uncle grew cabbage, potatoes and leek.
Every six months, spring and fall, he used the old yard-brush to paint the inside of the privy with lime-wash to keep out infection. Brought up by Biddy, Patrick never feared hard work and cheerfully did every task she dished out. The one he liked best was the first job he did every day after school: running down the alehouse with a stone jug for a quart of black porter for Uncle Pat.
It would have been a couple of years after his father died Patrick asked if his mother drowned too. Was that was why his father hated the sea?
‘Yer mother didn’t drown’, Biddy snarled with the face on her screwed up ‘til lips and eyes were no more than gashes. ‘She ran off and left him. Broke his heart she did; the bloody fool!’
She looked at Patrick with something like a cross between pity and contempt; staring so long he wished he could turn invisible. He looked down at his feet, but could still feel her eyes burning into the top of his head. At last she snorted and spat on the iron. And with the hiss, the heat in his face evaporated.
Biddy was not a talkative woman. Usually she barked orders and stood gimlet eyed as he scurried to carry them out to her satisfaction. But that day Biddy talked and talked.
Perhaps it was the long firm strokes of the iron that soothed and left her in a sort of trance. Maybe it was the odd, sly, encouraging word from Uncle Pat. Whatever, Patrick had the sense to stay frozen; aware the smallest movement would break the spell. He learned more about his family in one afternoon than he had in his whole short life.
‘Yer father never hated the sea,’ Biddy told him. ‘Even had a boat, handsome Knox it was with a sail as well as an engine. Happy as a sand-boy; spent his days fishing for crab an lobster for them grand hotels down the coast what cater for the tourists who come down from Cork, an even far away as Dublin. He was mammy’s youngest an so handsome; the apple of her eye.’
Biddy worked in one of those hotels.
‘Housekeeper mind, not one of yer scullery maids, second only to the under-manager I was. But that was before I met yer Uncle Pat.’ She nodded to her husband in the big armchair by the fire, cradling his pewter pint pot. ‘He was under-manager for the next hotel on the bay. We met at the big staff Christmas party.
‘By this time I’d given up on walking out with a fella an was resigned to goin’ to me grave a dried up aul spinster, til the Holy Mother of God had mercy on me. One thing led to another an before we knew where we was, me an Pat was wed.
‘Well, married women weren’t like girls and widows; working wasn’t for us. Anyway in them days, I thought I’d soon have me hands full with a house full of me own. Not long after, we moved to Dublin. It was when yer got that job Pat wasn’t it. But the filthy air didn’t agree with yer did it?
Pat nodded and coughed pathetically to demonstrate exactly how it hadn’t agreed with him.
Biddy carried on speaking about her husband as if he wasn’t there…
‘It was his poor aul lungs. Shot thru thee was. Well I tell yer, it was hand to mouth for a couple of years, ‘til we came back an I got a job charrin’ for Doctor an Missus Lowther. By this time you’d arrived. Yer was about three or four by then.
‘Our Micky, yer dad, had built this fine big house by the sea for her; cos she liked the sea did yer mother. But I never warmed to her. A right cold fish, she was. Miserable as the day was long. You’d think she’d lost a half a crown an found a sixpence. I didn’t see your father much in them days, but he seemed happy when he came down with a nice bit of fish or a few shillin to help us out.’
After that day, Biddy gradually seemed to soften towards Patrick, as if whatever passed for a heart was slowly melting. Big Pat, always fond of the lad, became almost like a father.
As his health worsened, on fine afternoons Biddy sat her husband outside under the veranda in a wicker chair, with a blanket over his knees, to get the benefit of the sea’s ‘salubrious ozone’. But she took care to keep him out of the wind.
After chores Patrick liked to join his uncle. Big Pat smoked his Players Full Strength hawking and coughing so hard it would seem a mercy if he dropped down dead. When he nodded Patrick topped up his uncle’s pewter pint-pot with the thick dark beer in the jug.
They never spoke much, but enjoyed the company. Sometimes, not often, Biddy would stick her head out and on cue Patrick ran to fetch a chair from the kitchen. Biddy would let him pour her a half mug of porter and the three sat in comfortable silence until the evening turned chilly.
©Paul Andruss 2018
©Images The Colour of Life Geoff Cronin
Thanks to Paul for another amazing chapter and don’t forget to pop in tomorrow for the next episode.
Find the previous chapter here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-special-the-house-by-the-sea-by-paul-andruss/
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
Here is an extract from my review of Thomas the Rhymer
Challenge your senses with a rival to Harry Potter by Sally Cronin
After 60 odd years of reading it is easy to get into bad habits. By this I mean sticking to the tried and tested with regard to genres and authors. This is not healthy when you are a writer yourself, as I have discovered when reading Thomas the Rhymer by Paul Andruss.
I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling when it was released. Whilst I enjoyed it as a children’s story, I really did not find myself engaged or inspired to read the other seven books or watch the movies. I felt excluded from the millions who did and usually keep my silence in the face of fans.
However, Thomas the Rhymer had me hooked from page one and continued to keep me engaged the entire 319 pages.
This is an ensemble piece with a cast of characters that would be happy in starring roles in Alice in Wonderland or any Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. Jack Hughes, Ken, Catherine and the delightful Rosie, along with Thomas with his foot in this world and that of the Fairies; draw you into their inner circle and hold you fast.
Each of these wonderfully drawn characters face challenges in their past or present that make them feel isolated until they join forces to protect the most vulnerable amongst them and bring a brother home.
Read the rest of the review and challenge you senses and pick up a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
Thank you to Paul for this special story and he would love your feedback. Thanks Sally