Thursday, 6 September 2018


We went on a short holiday to Bray two weeks ago and visiting the Dubray bookshop I bought a book called "The Bookshop"'by Penelope Fitzgerald.


Having worked in a bookshop myself for a number of years, the story of a woman setting up a bookshop naturally interested me. It was only later that I discovered that the recipe book I had bought the day before was also by someone called Fitzgerald. 

The day before we also visited the town of Avoca where we passed Fitzgerald's pub which had featured in a TV series we used to watch. Three Fitzgeralds - a coincidence but not that remarkable. The name is not uncommon. But I've recently read a book by a diviner who advised people to watch out for those things: it might be a sign or an answer to a question. I don't know if something profane like this might be sign for something.
But there is more to it: My sister Marina had her surgery to remove the tumour from her lung coming up just a week after we returned from our little holiday. It was quite a big and complicated surgery: the whole middle lobe of her lung was to be removed. The day of the surgery I was going to drive our mam who was staying at our house to the hospital where she was going to stay with my brother in law. I went up to my room wondering if I should bring some books for Marina to read. We usually don't read the same kind of books - I usually favour novels that are at least a century old while Marina prefers more recent literature. My eyes fell on "The Bookshop" which was lying on my bedside table. It was the only book she might like I thought. I was still hesitating- not knowing if she would have time to read when something told me that I should bring this book. I did. And when I arrived at her hospital bed what did I see amongst a pile of other books but "The Bookshop". Marina had already got it herself and started reading it. 
I returned home and found myself restless and more worried about the surgery than I had expected. Marina had been so calm in the days leading up to it and even on this very day. But while I was waiting I started to think of all the things that could go wrong. I had made it a habit to light a candle for her whenever she had a scan or chemotherapy during this terrible illness. A lot of people do this in Ireland and I like this practice. There is something comforting in the flame of a candle. My mam had been tidying her house and found my first communion candle and brought it to Ireland. 

It felt right to light it this time. It was the first time it has been lit after the day of my first communion nearly 30 years ago. The candle helped me through those hours of waiting and strangely also the thought of this book that we had both bought and started to read at the same time. 
In the end it turned out well! The surgery took very long but the surgeon was happy with how it went. It is too early to say if she's fully healed - there will be many more scans in the next months, but we couldn't have wished for a better outcome of the surgery.