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February 10, 2014 / brianb8175

This is yet another brilliant post from Geralyn

She had arthritis, and headed off to Lanzarote every October.

Written by Geralyn Rownan


“I’m a martyr to the arteritis”, she’d say as she boarded the big green Aer Lingus bird. She’d be wearing a floral blouse from Guiney’s shop in Talbot Street and Capri pants that were not flattering to the stout Dublin legs that had stood at the stall in Moore Street for 60 years. She had started as a child on her mother’s stall. On Mondays she sold the vegetables that had been stored in boxes under the bed when they’d been returned unsold on Saturday. “Just give them a spray of water” her mother would say. “That’ll freshen them up”. Sheerself Herself forbore to mention to her mother that they needed more than freshening up, having spent the weekend under the bed in the company of her Granda’s chamber pot.   “What nobody knows about, nobody gets upset about”, her mother would say.


Over the years she sold vegetables on Saturday, Monday and Tuesdays, Fish Wednesday and Friday, fruit and flowers from Smithfield Market on Thursday. She absorbed the hardworking ethos of her mother and grandmother through her pores, along with the fish smells, the rotting vegetable smells, and the flowers scents she loved. Sometimes on Sunday, her day off, her mother would send her to Glasnevin Graveyard with leftover flowers. These were given to her aunt who sold flowers outside the black iron gates of the Cemetery. Her aunt would mix them in with her own newer, fresher blooms. Use them to pad out her bouquets. In return, her aunt would give her a few bob for herself. She didn’t have to hand up this money to her father; she was allowed to keep the flower money, as it was called, for herself. What money she could save went into a Credit Union Account, against the day when the handsome stranger of her quiet dreams would stop by her stall and notice her, see her, not her wares, nor pay any heed to her floral pinafore smeared with fish scales nor her chapped, red hands.


Day after day, week after week, year after year, she worked on the stall. She had been taken from school early, although she was clever enough. “I need her” her mother had told the nuns. “Her father’s- well he doesn’t earn much, you see”.


When she was old enough, her mother took her on the annual parish pilgrimage to Lourdes. That was their holiday. She loved the trips to Lourdes. The singing on the plane, the October sunshine, the hotel where all your meals were handed to you and you didn’t have to do a thing, not even make your bed. She even liked the nightly torchlight procession with candles in paper lanterns, always followed by singsongs and Baby Cham in the residents’ lounge of the Hotel Jean Marie.



Long years passed for her, standing in the rain, the cold, the sleet, the snow, the wind, and the summer weather that was all too short. The joints in her hands began to enlarge, to pain her. Her back began to bother her. Even the knees that had done such service began to give trouble. Osteoporosis. Arthritis. Nothing could be done to reverse it. Only pain management and hot, dry weather might help. She could no longer tie the bunches of flowers, fillet the fish, string together the fairy lights sold with the poinsettias throughout December.  Her fingers grew too stiff, too clumsy.


The Public Health Nurse and the Doctor arranged for her to get a Disability Allowance, and then came her Old Age Pension. The bathroom of her small Corporation flat in Hardwicke Street was adapted, the old enamel bath taken out and a step-in shower cubicle put in. She managed well. She had continued her savings, always hoping, always dreaming, but when the years caught up with her and she knew the possibility, the hope of children was past, she started travelling.


The hot, dry dust, the black volcanic rock of Lanzarote warmed her to her core, brought some long forgotten suppleness to her hands.  Always she stayed in the same hotel in Costa Teguise, where she could sit by the pool or go for a paddle in the sea. She did not swim, could not risk immersing herself in the enormous waves stirred by the sirocco winds blowing from the coasts of West Africa. At night the hotel entertained her; Monday and Wednesday Bingo with really good prizes, Tuesday local music or a Flamenco Show, Thursday and Sunday Family Games Night. On ,Saturdays she went to the local Irish Pub and sat at the bar, chatting to all comers, still hoping that Prince Charming or at this stage of her life, Prince Charming’s Grandfather might yet stop by and notice her in her floral frock and embroidered cardigan. “You couldn’t beat Guiney’s for style”, she always said.





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