Sliding doors

“I can’t go to both, it’s either your Hen Party or the wedding, one or the other”.

Kath was pleading with me, I was explaining my meagre finances, and the problem of next month’s rent. It was London, 1989.

Finally we agreed on the Hen night, which was also the Stag do, the parties ended up as one (a big fight I remember), and I first set eyes on S.

Meeting him was enough for me to forego food for the next month, so I also budgeted for the wedding a week later, and a chance to see him again. That, as they say, was that.

Roll on a couple of months or so, and we saw each other whenever we could, despite my London base and his arsehole of Kent address. *Well, have you been to the Isle of Sheppey?!  My weekends off were down there, walking, talking, music, books; his were up with me, in London, gallery visits, city life.

One Monday morning, I walked him to Peckham railway station, left him on his train and walked home and went back to bed. An hour or so later, I caught the N°63 bus back to the same station, the train to Victoria, and as I couldn’t be bothered for the usual walk to Sloane Sq, went down for the tube. Waiting on the platform, there was a scuffle, so I moved down a bit. Along came the tube, the doors opened, and there was S. sitting opposite me, a bit bewildered. He had fallen asleep, got to the end of the line, and come back. Right back to the spot where I stood, on that busy, crowded Monday morning.

That was our Sliding Doors moment.

A wedding for us in Ireland not long after, the priest talked about the stars aligning, and fate. A clap of thunder as the ring went on my finger, everyone laughed.

A move from Sheppey to the midlands, 2 beautiful babies, one of each, life was (almost) perfect.

Then to Wales, and finally a house we chose ourselves, a large Victorian money pit, which we loved. On a whim a few years later, after a holiday in Andalusia, I put the house up for sale, S was unhappy at work and too fond of the local pub, and we both decided a move was in order, and in 2005 bought our home in Spain. We moved out in the spring of 2006.  We noticed soon enough most expats came to this rural area of Andalusia to run away from their problems, but not us. We were fond of saying that our picture was perfect, we just felt a need to change the frame.

It’s been 26 years since that clap of thunder, and this year has been the worst year of my life.

We argued, a lot. 11+ years together 24/7, is bloody hard work.

Shortly before Christmas, I pushed and pushed S to do a training course, which would allow him to work in the UK, and give us some much needed cash. Then, my mother broke her hip, I knew I would have to go back to Ireland, and so he started work earlier than planned and went away for Christmas. It was awful. If anyhing could go wrong, everything did. The roof leaked like a sieve. The firewood never came on time (it was freezing) and the pipes, when it did come, leaked and had to be taken down (by me) and the whole woodburner re-situated. The oven door rendered that out of action, so dinner was cooked in the BBQ, it was a Christmas to forget. I sat in, alone, on NYE, and wept.

I saved up all the angst and delivered it straight to S. As soon as he came back, I had to go to Dublin. I figured we had a week together between Dec, Jan and Feb, so we squeezed in a couple of nights in Marrakech. It was the first time I felt he was with me, and miles away at the same time. We rumbled between work, Ireland – a difficult case, but for other reasons – and arguing over who should have done what to make life easier. We argued and bitched and blamed.

June arrived, as I was getting over a virus that had completely floored me, I developed a trapped spinal nerve. My fingers, toes, and face went numb. Over the next week, my face froze completely. I thought I had had a stroke. A dash to urgencia, injections and time healed it. In that last few weeks, I thought a lot. I realised I should let go of many things, and where my priorities were. I decided we should fix a lot of things, and I wasn’t talking about the house. I wrote S a long letter, and saved it.

He came home in June, we were to only have a couple of days together, before I went over to Dublin. That was that. He had already decided he had had enough. There was to be no discussion, no reasoning. I sent him the letter, he deleted it, without reading it. I understand. I am difficult, brutally honest, and have never iced anything with bullshit. It’s too much for most.

The clues were there. I should have acted sooner. I didn’t. There was a lot wrong with our picture, not the frame, before now. Too much, too little, too late.

Yes, it’s too late. My heart has been smashed to pieces, I’ve cried an ocean of tears. I’ve mastered the breakup diet brilliantly. I have blamed myself, and in clearer moments blamed S too. (S, if you’re reading, unlikely, your timing was shit). Two to tango and all that jazz. The answer is not with the bottle, or Valium, though both have helped beautifully in the short term. The answer is not The Worst Thing, because I am not brave enough, and moreover because I have two Caesarian scars that remind me I have two beautiful responsibilities.

Writing, for me, is cathartic, even this. Online friends have been invaluable. The 3 adjectives they use to describe me keep coming up as the same; strong, feisty, resilient. Weeding the real messages out from the prosaic platitudes has been easy.

What’s next? The answer is work. I will need to move from my home and village (because I cannot live here without driving),  I’m 52, not 92, and I need a social life – but not a relationship, that ship has sailed. I need to find a solution for our dogs and cats. I will work all hours to make the next move. An amicable divorce, because we were, are, will be, friends. Plus, I have a high disregard and healthy dislike of money in general and especially ill gotten gains 🙂 What’s it all for? I’m not sure yet.

The next ‘sliding door’ moment? Yes, I suppose. It’s all mapped out, for me, for him, for all of us. Maybe not the hopes and dreams of the future we imagine, but whatever is out there, waiting.  x

*Can I please ask for a comments ban on this post? BUT, If you happen to have some content work going, I’d be delighted to hear from you. 😉





Lettuce Pray

Those words I always thought the priest uttered at Mass on soft Irish Sunday mornings – I was an almost-adult before – like many song lyrics – I realised I had it all wrong. Young folk have no idea how lucky they are that they have lyric sites at the swipe of an iPhone – and that they’re not bullied into Mass, for that matter.


But this post is neither religious or musical, though I suspect a Mel Brooks-style treat is being hastily scribbled in the wings.

I ask you to to forget about world hunger. Begone Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and those irritating refugees looking for non-essentials such as shelter and water. The new kid on the block is Britain. Yes, in true OLIVER style, the begging bowl is out. The supermarkets are bare and the Sun editor is doing back-flips. It’s the scoop of the century. There is no lettuce. In February. That’s winter, right? But there’s no use whining and begging. Spain is NOT for sharing.

So, let’s consider the great #LettuceGate scandal of 2017 as a great hunger, perhaps even a Famine. Ah yes, we knew we’d have you eventually, landowners and bigwigs. You thought you could get us with our own potatoes when the chips were down.


There’s a monumental disaster afoot and it’s caused by a lack of Lactuca Sativa.

What if #LettuceGate has the same consequences as the Great Famine? Starvation. Disease. Lettuce is a rich source of Vitamin K and Vitamin A. It’s a source of Folate. The National Health Service will crumble.

There’ll be mass emigration. The fact that no-one will want you is a bridge you’ll just have to cross in search of Iceberg, Cos or your next bag of Looseleaf.

What’s the solution? Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP might like to know that it’s possible to wait until lettuce is actually in season and grow her own.

Remember one more thing, Britain. Where did all the Irish go after An Gorta Mór? Oh yes, but now, sure, isn’t that ‘just desserts’?

Percolated happiness coming right up

It’s a drip feed, isn’t it? Happiness I mean. Not just happiness, all feelings, all emotions. A sort of osmosis from outside influence.

Peer pressure

We are so easily swayed these days, by adverts, by song lyrics, by reading a book or watching a decent film. Open your Facebook account and be instantly irritated by someone you have never actually met, feel emotional and sad at someone else’s bad luck, or warm and fuzzy from a cute kitten/puppy video. We’re all total suckers for it, really.



So there I was, minding my own business, when HAPPY MELLY suggested I get happy for a week; Go Positive they said. Easy, I thought. I’ll just post ‘nice’ things, and curate some positive stories. I can do that. Simple.


Hard work

It’s not, actually. My social media (personal and pages accounts) are full of some really bad shit, and I hadn’t truly taken note. I found myself SEARCHING for good news stories, and really, it was pretty trying. Forget the newspapers and media pages for a start. My ‘friends’ do like a good moan! Avoidance of 😦 reactions is also harder than you think.


So, I gaily skipped and scrolled past the RIP posts, the dead dog posts, the FFS posts and the general angst. No Angry, Sad, or even Like  (your angry mood)  responses from me – nuh-uh. I’m not on your bus, sister.

Feelgood factor

Then something odd happened. I found my finger hovering back over those Bad News stories, looking for something positive to say. That’s better, I thought. The OP would ‘like’ my comment, and I’d feel even happier.


9 September at 11:27 ·

All done and not a word of thanks from management. Not even a goodbye. Thankfully students were grateful for my efforts. #wontbeback




Carol Byrne The students are the important ones, your raison d’etre. Good that they were grateful 🙂

Like · Reply · 1 · 9 September at 12:33


I started to do the same OFFLINE. What’s all this? A new me? No, probably not. That would take some sort of miracle.


But a slow, drip-feed of happiness? Yes. like the best coffee, a sort of percolated happiness. It tastes pretty good too…want a cup?

Spanish exploring for spring

Hey – it’s warming up, isn’t it? It’s always a bit later here at 1115m in the high hills of Andalucía. But there they are.Those first clues – the floor tiles underfoot don’t make you flinch as you climb out of bed, orchids showing up and showing off in the campo, jasmine buds tentatively unfurling in the garden, and the birds getting, well, all jiggy. Speaking of our feathered friends – the Swallows are back on our terrace this week, having made their long journey back to us – they’re looking fat and well, and are always happy to chat while we hang out the washing.


Speaking of journeys, we will set off this weekend to Valladolid, ostensibly to watch UD Almeria get totally obliterated by the local football team, it’s part of the 21st birthday treatment for The Boy, currently here on his Easter break from student life in Wet Wales.  We also booked a stay in Toledo on the way back – love it in that hill top walled city of swords and Kings, El Greco, and from what I remember – great cake! Expect plenty of photo fodder on our return.


Himself and myself will be celebrating a wedding anniversary of many moons this June, so we have decided to mark the auspicious occasion (we don’t, normally) with a trip. He suggested Rome  – I meh-ed a bit and  shrugged. Then we both thought of magical Marrakech, considered it for about, oh, 2 seconds, and promptly booked bargain flights and a splendiferous Riad to go with them. I cannot wait. A stopover at Córdoba  (ida) and Sevilla (vuelta) will complete the trip.


A weekend in May before that, to wish my mother a happy birthday and take her for a G&T, will complete my tinker travels for the first half of this year – I was there in January but she’s getting on and I am a bad, careless and vagrant daughter.


So, sit down here beside me, and tell me; how is your spring shaping up?




The Beer Run and a Bomb Shelter

With the beer shelf of the fridge looking sadly empty we interrupted our morning to take a quick trip to Adra and our current favourite shop for essentials –  Lidl.

We timed it right as there was 50% off the second bottle of most of the ‘nice’ beer labels, so we threw Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Germany into the trolley with some of their Italian range of food and headed back.

“Fancy a look at the museum while we’re here?” asked Museum Man Stan. (I wish he felt the same about the beach)

I did, so… we did.

Entering the museum, the nice chap at reception turned on the lights and gave us a few pointers for looking around – then asked where we were from. “Ireland  – piped up Museum Man Stan – he almost always refuses to admit to his Queen and country – Er, Alpujarras, we live in the Alpujarras.”

Nice chap: “Which part?”

Stan: “Murtas”.

Nice Man: “Ah Murtaaaa  – a big smile – (it’s always the same reaction). My family were from there in the 1800’s….There’s also another foreigner there, an Englishman, a photographer, do you know him?”

Soy yo, (That would be me)” admitted the Honorary Irishman.

Apparently, they had met years ago, when Nice Chap visited the village and he purchased one of Stan’s photographs that was displayed in the bar – giving him his contact details and asking for more, explaining that Nice Chap was in fact the tecnico cultural for Adra, and he wanted to do an exhibition of the Honorary Irishman’s work. Yay.

Except the Honorary Eeejit lost the details and never followed it up.

So, fast forward to this morning.  Nice Chap turned out to be Javier Sanchez Real, author of Farua, that annual cultural book on Adra, in addition to his tourism/cultural role, and a mine of info on Adra.

We promised to come back armed with camera and notebook – because the museum is seriously good,  and I’ll cover more on it in another post, but do go – and he gave Hon Eejit all the details again, as unbelievably he is still interested. He’s also love me to write some info in English 🙂


Photo from

Javier then directed us down the street to the ancient town walls, and instructed us to claim a key from a bar, saying he sent us 🙂 which would enable us to have a private look inside the Civil War bomb shelter, which we duly did. It was fascinating, and was also used to shelter those who walked the route from Málaga to Almería as detailed in the book The Crime on the Road by Norman Bethune. Paul Read  – Forgotten Stories From Spain: The Ambulance Man And The Spanish Civil War is another great read on the same subject.

So that was our rather interesting morning…yours?

Holy Days of Obligation

You HAVE to go to Mass, it’s a Holy Day of Obligation.  Get there smartly, don’t slinge.

The standard answer to “Mass again? But, why….???” when I was a skinny small teenager with a big fat attitude.  So, sulking, we would dutifully slinge up that hill to St Mary’s and stand outside the back door, acting as cool as we could under the circumstances.  One of us having drawn the short straw would be sent in to hear the message from the homily, so we’d all have the same answer when we got home – sort of singing from the same hymn sheet I guess.

Today is yet another H.D.O. in Spain.  Puente del Pilar – the pueblo church bells of San Miguel are ringing as I type, but I think there will be more than just a few blue rinse jobs there today, as it’s also the day of the Spanish military celebrations.  Any excuse for the Guardia Civil to tuck their trousers into their mirror-shined boots and wear the three cornered hat.  I find it intimidating to be honest – but I guess that’s the idea.

It’s also Hispanic day for the Spanish speaking world. Día de la Hispanidad commemorates the day Columbus first set foot in the Americas  – so there’s plenty to celebrate today.

copyright Carol M Byrne

For our village, it’s another opportunity to come home to the countryside and be fed by Mami, a reason for the Abuela to to grin toothlessly, another day to be spoiled for the Nieto.

The village Great and the Good will be invited to the local police station to have a few bevvies, denuncias and feuds forgotten for a few hours, at least as long as the Brugal flows.

Then, as full as proverbial ticks, they’ll weave their way home to sleep. Tomorrow it’s back to normality.  Quiet once again, the square chimneys will send blue spirals of smoke to fight the chilly autumn evening.  The scent of Almond wood will hang heavily in the air, and the sound of tractors and chainsaws in the distance.  Until the next fiesta – it won’t be long!

Abuela – Granny

Nieto – Grandson

Brugal – Popular Spanish Rum

Puente – Bridge – or extra day off work tagged onto the weekend for post-shenanigan sore heads