A Review of ‘Love Is A Grift’ by Graham Wynd

If you are looking for love; you have come to the wrong place! You certainly won’t find love, empathy and understanding in Graham Wynd’s short story collection, Love is a Grift and Other Stories of Desperation.
This is a collection of dark tales, with lust, manipulation and sexual obsessions recurring with frightening and exciting, regularity. The featured story has all the hallmarks of classic noir; seedy bars in Galway, a gullible man lead by his desire, a disposable wealthy husband, and a femme fatale who can literally charm the pants off any man she encounters. This beautiful grifter is a survivor, who is always at least one step ahead of her criminal companions, playing them for everything they are worth, before making her ultimate and timely discards. Is the lady a sociopath? Quite possibly, does she exploit her sexuality with vicious cunning; absolutely!

It was challenging to pick out individual stories as my favourites; because they are all good. But my personal preference was for ‘These Toys Are For Tough Boys’ as I loved the comedy, and the Slovenian connection. The characters are a bunch of ill-suited petty criminals operating way out of their league when they attempt a kidnapping, which goes horribly wrong – or right depending on the character’s allegiance.
On a more serious note, some of these stories show the depths to which a woman’s life can descend, when she has created her world, around a love that has become a restrictive nightmare. ‘Repetition’ and ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ are stories in which women have lost themselves to the mundane torture of their daily lives. However, as this is written by Graham Wynd, you can be sure they will find a way to extricate themselves from their soul-destroying situations.

The dystopian story ‘Rebellious Jukebox’ was a fantastic tale of life in the city of continuous noise. Imagine a world surrounded by loudspeakers and tannoys, making constant nonsensical announcements. It’s a place where only the very rich can purchase illegal earplugs. This story of torture by noise, with imprisonment and banishment for perceived infractions; has a genuine Orwellian feel to it.

I loved the classic noir, the dystopian tale and the hints of dark magic in this collection. But to return to the theme of dangerous attachments, with the concluding story, another favourite of mine, ‘Thirty Versions of Leatherette,’ – love is in this book is more often than not, a sexually charged car cash.

 

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Durty Nelly’s ∼ One of the Oldest Pubs in the Republic of Ireland

A wonderful old tale of whisky and intrigue at this gorgeous pub in Bunratty, Reblic of Ireland! (please note this old story contains its original spellings)

Who was Durty Nelly?

Many, many moons ago, in the misty past of Cratloe’s rolling countryside, there lived a buxom lady, tall in stature, but shapely and appealing to all.  She was known simply as Durty Nelly, a name that puzzled all who had the good fortune to meet her – but soon became apparent!

Times were hard in Ireland but the wily Nelly always found a way to make ends meet. She was keeper of the toll-bridge over the river Owengarney, which flowed outside her window on its way to join the Shannon.

All visitors who sought to cross the bridge had to pay their dues to Nelly – those who could not pay in cash paid in kind with the presentation of a chicken, a few eggs, a piece of home-cured bacon or even, legend has it, a bit of ‘comfort’ for the lady herself.

Durty Nelly was a woman of considerable charm, known to the virile men of the day from Galway to Cork, Dublin to Limerick. Nelly’s hospitality to the many travellers coming across the bridge gained her a place in many a man’s fond memories, and the legend of Nelly has been handed down through the centuries.

Durty Nelly was also renowned for her little shebeen – a special corner of the house overlooking the river where she kept a jar of whiskey, to warm the bellies of the tired and exhausted journeymen.

There came an unfortunate night when one of those travellers, a rogue from Kilrush, crept in during the night and stole poor Nelly’s savings, all the gold coins she had collected at the bridge.

The following evening, she went to bed broken-hearted and after a night of fitful sleep, awoke with a start. Occupying her mind was a clear impression of a new recipe for whiskey.  She set to work straight away, filling four of her best earthen jars from her distillery in the woods.  As she labored over the concoction, she became more and more convinced that there was magic to this brew.

Only a short time later, she came across an old Irish Wolfhound, on his last legs outside her front door. He was weak and feeble and was not long for this world. Nelly poured a drop of the poteen (her home-made whiskey) from one of the urns and carefully rubbed it into the dog’s muscles.  She left the dog to rest and took her place on the curved wall where she waited daily for the tolls. In the heat of the midday sun, she started to drop off.
Two or three hours later, she was disturbed from her slumber by a warm wet feeling in her palm: with a shock, she realised it was the Wolfhound, licking her hand.  He raced across the bridge exuberantly, showing no sign of his previous malaise.

This extraordinary occurrence had not gone unnoticed by Nelly’s neighbours in Bunratty, and news quickly spread that she had a special potion, one which would bring the gift of new life.

And so they came in droves from all over the country seeking “the cure” for that lame horse, the sick piglet, the slowing greyhound or the muscle-bound athlete.  Each visitor left with a renewed vigor, cured of all ills.

The Little House by the bridge grew with the increased trade and became a landmark in Munster for the high quality of its refreshment – both food and drink.

One day, a young woman from Rineanna (now Shannon International Airport) came to see Durty Nelly with a broken heart. She was married for three years but sadly remained childless.  She confessed to Nelly that she believed it was because her husband lacked any warmth in his attentions. She wanted to try the cure on him, to see if he too could be brought ‘back to life’ within their marriage.

From the first sip of the smooth liquid, the woman’s husband was a changed man. His wife could never complain of his powers as a loving husband. His virility thrilled her and resulted in the birth of 3 sons and 2 daughters within six years – and she still retained her beauty in body and charm.

News of the miracle brew spread far and wide across Ireland and Durty Nelly’s ‘cure’ found a place on the shelves of her hostelry as the drink to cure all ills – with a tot of the powerful drink, men became virile and strong, thrilling their women and gaining triumph in all battles.

Durty Nelly had discovered one of Ireland’s best-loved secret brews, famed for its purity, strength and health-giving powers – poteen.

Times have changed and poteen is no longer a legal drink in Ireland. Because of its unusual power and danger if consumed to excess, it had to be ‘officially’ outlawed.
But to this day, it is distilled among the hills and valleys of the land. It continues to relieve pain and restore new life – there is a many a champion hurler, footballer, athlete – and even racehorse – whose rubdown is well-laced with poteen.

Down through the years, the house of Durty Nelly has thrived. It has brought refreshment and comfort to many a weary traveller and it has remained the noted gateway to the stunningly beautiful West of Ireland.  Men and women who saw plantations, penal laws, great hunger and countless battles over time have traversed this famous bridge and stopped for a quick drop in the comforts of this famous tavern.

Durty Nelly’s hospitality, warmth and generosity of spirit have remained in this most welcoming of public houses for centuries since her death.  When you stop by some afternoon, think of her and toast her memory with a tot of the ‘good stuff.’

Nelly’s Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Nelly’s Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

 

Click to find out more about Durty Nellys.

A Grand Day in Kilkee ∼Co. Clare, Ireland.

There can be fog, high winds and seeping dampness, but if it is not raining, it will certainly be declared ‘a grand day’ in Co.Clare, Republic of Ireland! And when the sun is shining, it is such a beautiful, charming place.

A twenty five minute drive from Ennis, Co. Clare took us to the beautiful seaside town of Kilkee. Kilkee is midway between Kilrush, with is charming individually coloured houses (a little like on Balamory, the children’s programme) and Doonbeg on the N67.

Kilkee has a wonderful smooth, sandy beach, which is popular for family walks, even in the colder winter months, as well as an extremely blustery cliff walk, more suited to calmer days. There is a surfing centre for the very brave and a good selection of cafés with homemade cakes, scones and full meals for those in need of refreshment or a warming drink on their day out.

I was very lucky to have ‘a very grand day’ with barely any rain at all in the morning until lunch time. The views were stunning and the cliff top walk was definitely bracing. In the small café with sea views, the photos displayed on its walls showed much less accommodating weather with wild storms lashing over the seawalls; partially engulfing some of the buildings. Although quite scary, I imagine it to be an exciting and spectacular sight. To my surprise I found that my warming coffee had been specially imported from Seattle; which seemed a long way across the stormy Atlantic, from where I was sitting admiring the lovely sea view.

If you are fortunate enough to take a trip to the charming town of Kilkee, I hope it stays dry for you too – best wishes for a grand day out!

A Blustery Day at The Cliffs of Moher∼ Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher are a spectacular sight; their beauty is legendary and has been captured in many big budget movies such as Harry Potter, Princess Bride and Ryan’s Daughter. If they look a little familiar perhaps you already recognize them from that wonderful TV series, Father Ted? (more tea anyone?)

The Cliffs attract over a million visitors a year, which is not surprising as they are really awe inspiring. There are some excellent cliff walks which extend beyond the bounds of the visitors centre, and on days when the weather is wild, they are definitely for the more experienced and confident explorer. Even at the full height of the cliff tops there are moments when huge gusts of wind, literally steal your breath away!

From the cliff edge a wonderful variety of birdlife can be spotted, including Puffins, which nest on Goat Island between April and July. Kittiwakes often nest on the perilous ledges, and a pair of Peregrine Falcons can be seen swooping and diving as they protect their territory under the tower.

The weather can be unpredictable and dramatic on the cliff edge, and so a visit inside the visitors centre may offer a welcome respite from the lashing wind and rain, which can start up quite suddenly. The centre is built into the rock face and has successfully integrated the natural environment into its design. Inside the centre there is a film area showing two exciting short movies, my favourite being ”The Ledge Experience,” which includes some stunning aerial photography.

We were very fortunate in our visit as the weather was blustery, but the rain held off, and apparently it had been much worse in the previous few days. Considering it was late October, it was a wonderful day out, and if, like me, you enjoy views of an exceptionally dramatic coastline and a bit of unpredictable weather, the cliffs of Moher are not to be missed on a visit to the Republic of Ireland.

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