Friday, July 21, 2006


I had lunch on Sunday, the day after their 1st anniversary, with Sarah and August and a friend of theirs, Jim, who was in town from San Francisco. The San Francisco connection felt very strong to me, especially as Jim and August are of my generation, and it seemed quite natural to share memories of the halcyon days I spent there in the sixties.

I found myself reminiscing about nights riding side saddle on the back of my lover’s Harley dressed in a Jean Harlowesque vintage long satin gown and a top hat, crossing the Bay Bridge from Berkeley to San Francisco on our way to the Avalon Ballroom. Recounting the time I stood next to Janis Joplin as she sang at the Hell’s Angels birthday party at the Filmore Ballroom, and as we were leaving, I watched some Angels threaten to toss another of my lovers down a deep stairwell if he didn’t give up his hat, which I had just decorated with feathers. The Angels got the hat. Relating the night I was in San Francisco with Pallas and Sharon walking the late night streets when a crazed man grabbed Sharon and tried to take her with him. I took Sharon’s other arm and held on with grim determination whilst trying to appear as menacing as possible. Suddenly our white knight appeared, driving by in a pick up truck, he leaned out the window and gruffly addressed the maniac who thankfully fled. He then drove us to his, where his wife made us tea and gave us a chance to calm down. That’s how I met Lenore Kandel, one of the most notorious and renowned poets of our time.

It was a natural segue for the four of us to talk about the poets and songwriters of that generation, who we liked, who we didn’t and to squabble, in a friendly manner, about our differences. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and to make it perfect for me (I was skint as usual) August generously hosted our lunch.

The sixties were a seminal part of my life and that got me thinking about the times in my life, which were true markers of abandon and contentment. The sixties in California and then traveling across the country to the east coast where I lived for awhile when Bobby and I owned a leather shop where I designed and made clothing then crossing the US again back to California where we opened another leather shop. It was not until I moved to Ireland in the late eighties that I was able to find that same sense of freedom.

Ireland was magical. Tom and I lived in Summer Cove, across the bay from Kinsale, just on the southernmost tip of Cork. I both loathed and loved walking up the hill from Summer Cove, a hill that was so steep I had to bend forward as I walked just to get up it. My reward when I achieved the top was to stop at the place where one could turn and see all of Summer Cove, Kinsale and right out to the ocean. Sometimes on Sundays I would stand there watching the boats and I could hear the music drift across the bay from Jury’s Hotel, the sound of the bodhran, fiddle and pipes soothing my aching muscles as I paused to both catch my breath and have it taken away by the beauty of the scene before me. I adored the celebration we made of dole day, or as we called it, free money day, when Tom and I would go into Kinsale and I would wait at Patsy’s CafĂ© eating amazing lemon meringue pie and drinking coffee while he was signing on. We would then drink our way back to Summer Cove, starting at the Greyhound in Kinsale, working our way up the hill around the cove to the Spaniard and then back home to the Bullman. The light in summer lingered long into the night as we would sit outside the Bullman, which sat just across the road from the slip, drinking till last orders. We’d nip into the pub get some drag out and pile into small boats and head out into the ocean, drinking, talking, laughing and sometimes just quietly listening to the waves lap against the boat whilst the ocean was lighted from the phosphorus just beneath the water.

When I left London I was very sad to leave all of my friends but I only wept when I realised that I would never see Ireland again.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Whilst sitting in my rocking chair this morning, yes indeed I finally talked the young lady into selling it to me and it is now gracing my front room and in the mornings can be found on my veranda, I was thinking about my current name. It quite surprises me, the number of people who remark that my name is lovely. The carnivore in me loves the meatiness of O'Callaghan. I'm also enamoured of the softness of the initial O and the surprising crunchiness of the ghan. I have never been fond of the name Bette, but then who could be when all of their life people have constantly said, Is your real name Elizabeth or is it just plain Bette? I suppose that's why I changed the spelling when I was in my early twenties.

I was also ruminating on whether I should have given up the O'Callaghan after I killed Tom, I had to you know I just loved him too much. I know many women who have gone back to their maiden names after a divorce, I even know women who have changed back to their maiden names whilst still married. Of course there are some women who never take their husband's name at all. Here's the thing, most women who either keep their maiden names whilst married, or go back to their maiden names, generally say its because they don't want to be encumbered by a man's name. I'm not up to date on laws regarding naming a child but in Ohio (USA) the law was that the child's surname must be the same name as the mother's legal name at the time of birth, I believe this is law throughout the US. This is why my daughter's surname is the same as my maiden name, as I was your basic unwed mother when she was born. Of course this means that her name came from my father, yes there's that male gender supremacy thing rearing its ugly head a generation on. I did really like my father so no problems there.

So what is important in choosing a name? My tide mark has always been that if the majority of people, in any given place where I am living, know me or know of me by a certain name, it may be best to use it thus avoiding confusion and requiring my friends to have to reprogramme their mobile telephone entries for me. It's the polite thing to do, don't you agree?

Perhaps the fact that I was adopted makes a choice of names redundant as I will never be able to use my real name unless I go to the trouble of having my name legally changed. I actually do know my real name but it seems as alien to me as any other name I have had in my life.

Does a name define a person? Some names seem to, for example would Cary Grant have been the heart throb he became had he kept his real name of Archibald MacLeish (or however it was spelled)? I think not. Would I have been a more sucessful, or better, person if I lived my entire life with my real name of Marcia (apparently pronounced, Marceea)?

I do like the way Bette O rolls off of Andy's tongue, as he has almost always called me that.

Then again, my dear friend Sharon and I always address each other as Miss Sharon and Miss Bette. Maybe that's the answer, first names only and no worries about male domination of surnames.

So there you go, I sit in my rocking chair on the veranda each morning, drinking my coffee and chainsmoking whilst thinking about inane things like names.

I suppose at the end of the day it doesn't matter what anyone calls you.... as long as they do, indeed, call you.