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ELSPETH BROOKE was blonde and very, very angry. And with good cause, she explained, as she showed Inspector Carter and Sergeant Graham into the livingroom of her opulent seaside homxxe. A diamond necklace, conservatively valued at €50,000, had been stolen from her bedroom. To make matters worse, she had even heard the thief leaving the house – although he had slipped through the front door before she could catch a glimpse of him. “You see, I had been sunbathing on the terrace. Then it completely clouded over, and after about twenty minutes I felt a bit cold and came inside. That’s when I heard the footsteps going out of the house – and when I came up to my bedroom, I found the dressing-table drawer forced and the necklace gone!” Mrs. Brooke subsided into a chair and nervously fingered a ring. “The terrible thing is that only three people knew where it was,” she said.

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    If there is a soul, does it ever return at the moment of death to say goodbye to someone its owner is reluctant to leave? John Macklin reports

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    Ireland’s Own is pleased to announce details of our 2014 Writing Competitions (this year again in association with the self-publishing company Original Writing).

    Entries are invited to compete for €2200 in prizemoney.

    The Open Short Story section is open to all and carries a prize fund of €1000 – a first prize of €600; second prize of €200 and two runners-up prizes of €100.  

    The Beginners Short Story section is restricted to those who have never had a story published before. It carries a first prize of €300 and three runners-up prizes of €100. Entries for both short story sections should be of approx. 2000 words, reflect the ethos of Ireland’s Own and be of a non-experimental nature.

    Occasionally, stories may need some slight adjustments to comply with our requirements; we reserve the right to make such changes.

    Entry in the competitions is deemed an acceptance of this condition.

    For the Memories section we are asking entrants to tell us of some special, moment or event in not more than 800 words. It could be about school, holidays, falling in love, getting married, emigrating, a special person you have known, etc. This section carries a first prize of €200 and four runners-up prizes of €100.

    In all three sections, entries should be the original and unpublished work of the sender, and should be typed on one side only of A4 paper, double spacing. Any number of entries may be submitted, but each story must be accompanied by a €6.00 (£5 Stg) fee, in cheque or money order – post no cash), made payable to IRELAND’S OWN.

    Entries must be submitted by post; make sure you include your own name and address on each entry, and also your email address if you have one to facilitate easy contact.

    The results will appear in the Christmas Annual in early December.

    The winning entries will be published in our Winning Writers Annual next May.

    It is our intention to publish an anthology next year featuring the winners and best of the recommended entries.

    No entry form is needed; the decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Entrants should retain copies of their work as manuscripts will NOT be returned. Entries should be sent to: 2014 Original Writing Competitions, Ireland’s Own, Channing House, Rowe Street, Wexford.

    Which section each entry is intended for should be clearly marked on the envelope CLOSING DATE IS September 30th, 2014

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    Maggie would have slept for the entire journey had she been alone.

    But with Daniel sitting beside her, exuding excitement, albeit silent excitement, she found it impossible to erase the fear from her mind.

    She opened her eyes and glanced at her forty year old son, who was only short of asking: Are we there yet?

    Daniel, on hearing about the news of his maternal grandfather’s demise and his mother’s inheritance, hardly stopped begging her to return to Ireland and claim what was hers. “It’s hardly worth it.” She tried to put him off the whole idea. “It’s only a bit of a house: two up and two down. You’ll be so disappointed. Best you forget all about it. I’ll get an agent to sell it.” But Daniel would not let it go. He insisted that both of them go to Ireland. After all, he argued. I have a right to see my mother’s birthplace. Finally, Maggie relented, agreeing to Daniel’s plea. But then, she rarely denied him anything.

    In a way, she was pleased to see her son so excited because, since Jake died six months ago, Daniel had become far too quiet: so unlike his usual jovial self. His father’s death had affected him more than Maggie could believe.

    “They had been so close those two,” she had told a friend. The green fields came into view. They were like a big patchwork quilt of different shades of green interspersed with some houses and villages. Daniel was glued to the window, completely mesmerised by the views.

    Maggie did not look out at her birth country. She had vowed never to return some forty one years ago.

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    Hasn’t it been a marvellous summer? Naturally, the weather is the chief topic in Ireland, even when we haven’t any. Weather, that is. No weather signifies bad weather.

    At least where Johnny Beglwey is concerned. It’s been a great spell, he admitted, but added the caveat that before the start of the long summer, we had no weather at all.

    The ‘weather birds’ on Sky News and the BBC, not to mention CNN, RTE, and all the assorted alphabet of new channels, seemed a bit left out of things, and tried their best to look happy for us out there in weather-land. I’ve long suspected that our various weathermen and women love it a tad better when the chart is awash with clouds that, in their potty parlance, ‘bubble up’. Talk of mixed metaphors.

    The Irascible One licked the Guinness-froth from his upper lip and took a deep breath.

    Then, while we waited upon his considered pronouncement on the matter in hand, he changed his mind, said nothing, and went back to contemplating his pint. Which was nearly as puzzling as going on a sunshine holiday when there was plenty of sunshine here. I can’t understand the folk who booked a Spanish holiday in the middle of our splendid summer. It might have been a few degrees warmer along the Iberian peninsula, but if one only goes to coastal Spain for the weather and the ocean, they might as well have stopped at home and enjoyed what we had here. And then came something of enlightenment from an unlikely quarter.

    “You can’t get a Spanish suntan in Ireland,” Little Jimmy Murphy piped up. “I think you have something there,” Dolly smiled from behind a large glass bowl, which she was filling with pot pourri. Grunt, from Johnny Begley. And then we found out why the Irascible One was being so disgruntled. He was off to Spain himself the following Wednesday. It came as little solace to him that he had booked his Spanish sojourn away back in March, when the proverbial ‘many weathers’ were at play in field and village and town and suburb. Even though the leaves were littering pathways, still the sunny skies procrastinated over Autumn. The sun shone on, as though saying that the arrival of autumnal days would happen soon enough. Still, there was the unmistakeable ‘feel’ of autumn in the air even though it was still summery at the height of the day. And underneath it all, the orchards, with heavy-laden boughs, around which tractors and pickers atop mechanical things congregated to harvest whatever variety is in vogue nowadays.

    And there’s a hint of nostalgia, too. I’m thinking of the late Gerald Spencer, proprietor of the now-defunct orchards of Silverspring Fruits in county Kilkenny, and his good wife, a lady of the old school, who died some little while ago. Good folk. God rest them both. It’s a cultural thing, I guess. This summer of summers, our heat has been ‘clean’ and not at all like the humid days we have been subjected to in years gone by. September, I gather, has been the warmest on record. And that’s saying something.

    September has traditionally been a reasonably good month always to be relied upon to provide a modicum of good weather even at the end of a disappointing summer. Perhaps we really are getting, more and more, Mediterranean-style weather. In which case the weather-birds may have to revise their ‘script’. Less variation in the weather means less to talk about, less clouds and weather fronts for the computer graphic artist to shove hither and thither on our telpevision screen, or from Billy to Jack, as my old grannie used to say. I’d love to know who Billy was and why things went from him to Jack? – whoever he was.

     

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