Cirrus Chronicles Landing in Ballynelligan Written and Illustrated by
First Published in 2009 by
11 Mountain View, Lismore, Co. Waterford, Ireland www.littlewings.org
The Cirrus Chronicles - Landing in Ballynelligan Text copyright © Corina Duyn 2009 Illustrations copyright © Corina Duyn 2009
*The Ballynelligan map has been adapted from 1st edition Ordnance Survey, and is out of copyright. Used courtesy of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. *Image of 1996, 32p Irish Postage Stamp, Reproduced by kind permission of An Post © All rights reserved. No portion of the book may be reproduced- mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying - without the written permission of the publisher. Fairy Tale, Fable, Nature, Folklore, Ireland. Lismore. A CIP catalogue for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978-0-9563589-1-2 Set in 11/14pt Goudy Old Style & 9pt Futura Designed by Corina Duyn; Printed by Collins Print and Packaging Ltd., Cork Other books by the author: (see last page)
H a t c h e d , a C r e a t i v e J o u r n e y T h r o u g h M . E. Little Wings 2006 ISBN 978-0-9563589-0-5
Thank You notes from Robert Cat Map of Ballynelligan Cloud Nine Cloudlandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s International Rainbow Dance Festival Wet Trousers One Night Be Brave Postage Stamp Fluffy Cat Wren Boy Wally Wood Mouse Giant Matches The Colleen from Conna A Guardian Angel on Roller-skates Fairies Live Here Mouse Dance King Robert Fairy Fair Zebra Power Santa Man Homeward Bound About the Author/ About Hatched
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Hi there, my name is Robert Cat. Corina Duyn, is one of my servants, and author of this book. She has given me the VERY important task to do the ‘Thank You’ bit. So, here we go: “Anna for getting her to finally start writing about Cirrus; Christine for reading every single chapter in it’s rough stage, and encouraging Corina to keep writing; Mariela for her care, company and gourmet dinners (MOST important!); Paddy Vaughan, for his friendship and information about Lismore; (young, and not so young) readers Lisa- Marie, Christopher and Mag for being the first to read OUR (I am in it too!) story in it’s totality; Diane, Jane, and Evelyn for proofreading and constructive criticism; Sheila for representing Corina at the ‘Not Just Fluffy Bunnies and Rhyme’ workshop in Edinburgh; and everybody else who helped in some way, either in practical terms or just being there to listen. Corina made sure to remind me to thank ArtLinks, for awarding her the 2009 Waterford Bursary; the Irish M.E. Trust for their continuing support and financial contribution for this Cirrus Chronicles project; FAS and the Department of Social and Family Affairs for office and photographic equipment; Siobhan and Patrick at Collins Print for their expertise; National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, for the use of Ballynelligan map, and An Post for use of postage stamp image. And last, but by no mean least, I know she would like to thank the birds (I LOVE them too), spiders, mice, and snails, for their inspiration, and of course myself: Robert Cat! Personally I would like to say A BIG Thank You, to You the Reader! Now that’s all over with, let’s get started on the REAL story!”
Cloud Nine Cirrus was sitting with his back against the castle tower, at the edge of Cloud Nine. He watched forty-three blowers sit down in front of the silver sail attached to the rim. When all were seated, the captain stood up and roared, â&#x20AC;&#x153;turn your heads to the right. Take a deep breath i-n, and b-l-o-w. Deep breath i-n, and b-l-o-w.â&#x20AC;? They were aiming to connect with Cloud Nimbo, to attend the Cloudland's International Rainbow Dance Festival. This event is held every year on the third Sunday in December. Cirrus knew better than to get too excited, as much could go wrong with the journey. Two years ago, a bunch of rowdy kids from his school disrupted the concentration of the blowers, when they roared like lions and stamped like elephants. The blowers turned their heads to see what was causing the big commotion. The cloud went off course. To make matters worse, the behaviour of the Fairy kids annoyed the Weather God so much, that he made Cloud Nine thunderous and very fast moving. All 197 inhabitants were hanging on for dear life, so as not to fall off into the deep dark sea below. 1
Cirrus remembered how the captain studied the sky-map for days to figure out where they had finally stopped. “I’ll sit here nice and quietly,” thought Cirrus, fidgeting with the buttons of his rainbow coloured jacket. Squinting his eyes, he tried to remember his Cloudland’s lessons. “That big lumpy one must be Cloud Comoros?” Cirrus asked out loud. “And that thin fluffy one ...,” pointing to his left, “...that one looks uninhabited. Oh, wait! Maybe it’s Inisvicky, owned by the retired Head Minister.” That bit he did not learn in school, but had read it in the Foggy Times a while ago. Looking over the edge, he spotted a huge King’s crown sparkling in the blue ocean below him. “I’ll ask Dad later on what that is.” Widening the grin on his pointy face, he mocked, “he knows e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! Or so he tells us all the time!” When Cloud Nine finally reached its destination, all of the inhabitants were standing along the Edge. They erupted into spontaneous applause. Although it gave Cirrus the shivers, he didn’t join in. He thought clapping was VERY un-cool.
The Cloudland's International Rainbow Dance Festival
Cirrus stepped onto Cloud Nimbo with his Mum, Dad, brother and sister. “Dad, I saw a huge sparkling crown in the ocean. What was that?” “Well, let me think,” his dad said, scratching his chin. “Maybe an oil rig, or a cruise ship?” “Ok!” said Cirrus, and ran ahead to the band stand. He had heard that the organisers of the festival had booked the famous Angel Band. The party was in full flow, as Fairies from many other Clouds had already arrived. The Cloud’s older residents gathered at the edge of the music field. They laughed out loud, watching the teenagers twisting their bodies at the beat of the music, in all sorts of weird ways. Having danced enough for one day, Cirrus took a walk along the many market stalls of colourful bric-a-brac, Cloud-Fairy must-haves, new and second hand clothing, and fortune-tellers. There were barrelfuls of rainbow lemonade, sky-blue candyfloss, and Cirrus’s favourite: marshmallows roasting on the barbecue. Munching on his seventh skewer of marshmallows, Cirrus walked towards the Community Games field.
“I am MUCH better at Cloud-Hole-Jumping than them!” Cirrus said a little too loudly. A chorus of nasty voices made their way into Cirrus’s ears. “Show us, if you think you are so brilliant!” Cirrus pretended he had not heard. He walked away, trying to look nonchalant. “Come on, you coward!” The boys, all much bigger than Cirrus, came after him. He had no choice but to show how skilled he really was. Cirrus made himself as tall as he could, all five inches of him, and walked towards the starting line of the track. Taking a deep breath, he started on his run. Counting eleven small steps, Cirrus slowly increased his speed. Then three long steps, all the while concentrating on his posture. However, what he could not calculate, were the many marshmallows bumping up against each other, in the litres of lemonade in his belly. Just before the last and most important jump, he slipped, and tumbled through the Cloud-Hole. Sliding with great speed down the rainbow below him, legs in the air.
Wet Trousers “Get out of my bath!” Cirrus looked up, and saw a bird, smaller than himself, sticking out its red breast. “Get out of my bath! Can’t you hear me?”
Cirrus was a little scared. He had never been away from home before. To be honest, he felt pretty embarrassed too, sitting with his bottom in a puddle of water. “I am so sorry,” he said in a shaky voice, “it happened by accident.” “Well, you just make sure it doesn’t happen again,” was the reply. “This is MY field and MY bath!” The bird flew off in disgust. Cirrus ran towards the edge of the field, water sloshing in his yellow boots, and sat down on a moss-covered rock. The sweet smelling grasses surrounding his hiding spot, were tall enough to reach the rooftop of his parents’ house. To see the tops of the enormous trees in their winter outfits, he had to lie on his back. Taking off his boots and wet stripy socks, he asked a little shaken, “where am I, and how on cloud do I get home again?” Hanging his trousers out to dry on a low branch, he looked out over the field. Through a gap in the trees he could make out a river. On the other side there were trees that looked like huge wet feathers. 6
“Look at those mountains, they are so green,” he said in awe, “and so BIG!” “Well, what do you expect?” the red-breasted bird called out from a nearby tree. “You are looking at the Knockmealdown Mountains. What you see there are only the hills. You should see the REAL mountains!” the bird boasted. “The ‘what me down’ mountains?” “The Knockmealdown mountains, with the famous Vee Gap. ARHG, what would you know about mountains!” “We have mountains too you know,” Cirrus said in his defence. He was feeling rather self conscious, sitting in his knickers, legs covered in goose bumps. “So, where did YOU come from?” the bird asked. “From up there,” pointing his skinny finger at the sky. To his horror Cirrus could not make out Cloud Nine, Cloud Nimbo, or any other Cloud for that matter. The rainbow too, had long since disappeared. Taking a deep breath, he continued, “and if you would be so kind as to tell me, where am I now?” “In Ireland, you ejit. Don’t you know anything?” The bird stuck out its breast again, ruffled its feathers, holding its head up high, tail resting on the branch. “You are in County Waterford, near the town of Lismore. 7
To be more precise, you are in the townland of Ballynelligan, in the field owned by me and the Scanlon’s.” “Enough,” said Cirrus. “One more thing though, who are you?” “I am Sarah Robin, registered resident of this glorious field!” “My name is Cirrus Kalani, and I live on Cloud Nine.” “Cirrus? Never heard THAT name before!” “I am named after those feathery clouds, you see high up in the sky,” he explained, “and if you like to know, my granny told me that Kalani means ‘the sky’.” 8
One Night Cirrus put back on his damp trousers, which were covered with stickybacks. Walking towards the river, he was feeling a little anxious, as he could not remember stories of anybody visiting Ireland before. Letting out a big sigh, he said, “maybe I’ll have to stay here tonight.” “Do you always talk to yourself?” It was Sarah again. “Oh, I am sorry. Does that bother you? My mum is always annoyed about that too.” “Never mind. Anyway, to get back to you staying here tonight, I don’t really like strangers on MY field. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e knows that!” “You sound like my father,” sniggered Cirrus. Sarah ignored him, and said, “I don’t even like other ROBINS on my field. When the time comes to find a mate, just after Christmas that is, it is ME who will go to other fields to look around. When I find a robin that I like, I will move in with him. Of course I’ll make sure he brings me the best food.” Taking a deep breath she continued, “and after we have raised our chicks, I’ll go back to my own home again.” Bobbing her head up and down she told Cirrus, he would not qualify to be that mate. 9
“Boy, you are bad tempered, aren’t you? Does anybody like you?” “As a matter of fact, Robert Cat does. He always looks up at me and follows me around all the time,” Sarah said with pride. “Anyway, about you going home, you are right, you might have to stay the night. It is getting dark soon.” “Any ideas?” Cirrus stared at the ground, pulling his lower lip with his cold fingers. After a long pause, Sarah uttered, “I could make an exemption to my rules, and have you stay with me.” Adding quickly, “For ONE NIGHT ONLY of course!” Immediately regretting what she had said, she added, “IF I can trust you, and IF you can climb up that tree.” “Of course I can climb a tree. I am ten you know!” “Ok, you can stay, but for one night. Do you hear me? Tomorrow we’ll find a way for you to go home again.” “Thanks Sarah. I won’t be in your way.”
Be Brave Sarah’s nest was like a cereal bowl made from grass, moss and dried leaves, and hung snugly in between branches. “Your nest is really cosy, isn’t it?” Cirrus said, as he touched the soft white and brown sheep’s wool lining. “Of course it is! It’s a Sarah Robin design!” As there was not much room in the nest, they had to snuggle up close. “This is like a sleep over with my pals. Oh, when they hear about my adventures!” “You are talking to yourself again,” sighed Sarah. After a long silence, Cirrus asked carefully, “Sarah? May I ask you something? Why don’t you like anybody near you? I love having others around. It is Fun!” “Well, I will tell you a story about what happened to my cousins in New Zealand. They were black robins and lived happily on a little island. But in 1980 there were only five of them left in the WHOLE WORLD! Can you imagine? Only FIVE black robins!” “What happened?” Cirrus asked, his mouth wide open with awe. “People came to live on the island and brought with them all sorts of 11
animals, that killed all the other robins. Can you imagine how scary and upsetting that was?” “Sure! Did that ever happen around here?” “No, but I am not leaving it to chance. I probably won’t sleep a wink with you here!” “Don’t worry, I don’t like to eat birds, I am a vegetarian.” When the sky showed no light, they settled down for the night. Not long afterwards, Cirrus had a dream. He was sitting on the porch at home, with his great granny. She told him a story from a long, long time ago, in a country far away. ‘I was walking in this lovely field picking daisies for a daisy chain, when a huge dark brown bull came after me. I ran faster than my legs could carry me, and hid behind the only tree in the field. He chased me around the tree again and again. Exhausted, I stopped running and carefully petted the bull’s head. I could hardly believe it, but it did the trick; he stopped chasing me, and gently walked me to the gate. Cirrus, I am not telling you to pet a bull, but do be brave, even when you are feeling afraid.’
Postage Stamp Cirrus woke up with Sarah’s wing over his shoulders. Looking out over the rim of the nest, he marvelled at the fog rolling over the river. A sudden whooshing sound made Cirrus sit up straight. A few seconds later he saw a flock of eleven white geese appear out of the fog. They flew in such a way that they made a Big V. “This place is AWESOME!” “Good morning to you too,” grumbled Sarah. “Sorry! But, there are so many new things to explore. I love it here! Like, who is singing that beautiful song?” “Not as beautiful as MINE of course, but if you mean the sound coming from the south, then that is Philomela Song Thrush. She is letting us all know that she is alive and well. She lives at Ballynelligan Cottage. Maybe you can visit her later. In her mind she added, “maybe Philomela will take him off my wings.”
“Brilliant! I don’t have to go school today!” He danced out of the nest. Looking somewhat guilty, but with a cheeky smile he added, “saves me getting into trouble. I didn’t do my homework yet.” “Don’t celebrate too soon, maybe Philomela will know how you can go home today.” Sarah started singing her heart out to outdo Philomela, before telling Cirrus, “I must admit that she can sing quite well, but she is not as famous as I am.” She puffed up her breast feathers. “At the end of 1996 an artist came down to Ballynelligan and made the most b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l drawing of me. It was so brilliant, that it was used for the 32p Irish postage stamp. So now...!” nodding her head to emphasise that important fact. Cirrus, who loved numbers, counted his fingers. “That’s amazing! Then you are almost 12 years old?” Sarah, who only celebrated her second birthday a few months previously, ignored his question and flew off, urgently looking for breakfast. 14
A Fluffy Cat Cirrus started to walk towards the cottage to find Philomela Song Trush. Reaching the pathway, he had a quick look along the muddy path leading down to the river. “My goodness, you could clean our whole village in one swoop with one of these!” Cirrus exclaimed when he spotted huge feathery ferns. He looked up, expecting Sarah to respond to his outburst, but she was nowhere to be seen. When Cirrus had a closer look, he saw that the ferns had lots of powdery yellow spores on the back, all in neat rows. Walking back, he looked out over a ploughed field. At the far end, there was a spiky steeple of a church, nestled among tall trees. “That must be the town Sarah talked about. What did she call it again, something to do with a lizard?” Cirrus looked up and saw what looked like bunches of round candied apples in a bush. 15
“Ouch!” he roared, when he stumbled over roots sticking out of the path. “That was funny!” A deep voice came from within a stone tower. Cirrus ran for cover to the other side of the path, stumbling yet again. “Poor you!” said the voice sarcastically. Cirrus saw that it came from a big fluffy white and ginger cat, who wore a green reflective collar and bell around his neck. Cirrus climbed to safety. “Haven’t seen you here before, have I?” The cat walked over to Cirrus, and examined him from head to toe. “What are you? Your pointy face is a bit like a mouse, but I’ve never seen a dressed up one, walking on two legs?” “I am a Cloud Fairy and landed accidentally in Sarah’s bath yesterday,” Cirrus said with a quivering voice. “Do you know Sarah Robin?” “Sure do,” was the answer, “love to have a date with her some day.” The cat licked his lips and started to purr. “Are you Robert Cat by any chance? She talked about you. She said you like her a lot.” “I am,” answered the cat, still looking up at Cirrus, who by now had found refuge in a shiny silvery hammock. “See you around. Got to go!” said Robert, and sauntered off in the direction of Sarah’s field. 16
Wren Boy “I am all sticky!” said Cirrus, looking at his hands. “I can tell you why.” Cirrus couldn’t believe that the loud voice came from a tiny bird.
“The hammock, as you call it, is a cobweb. A spider made it to catch flies!” Nodding his head, the bird said, “clever spider hey?” “Sure! Is the spider here?” “I’ll tell you now. This is an old web made by a spider which lived here until late autumn,” the bird said, hopping along the branch, his short tail upright. “Did the spider move somewhere else?” Cirrus asked, looking at the bird’s pale grey belly and flesh coloured legs. He guessed that the bird would reach just above his knees in height. “Well, the spider did not exactly move. To be honest with you...” turning its head away, “... I ate it.” Cirrus started to climb out of the hammock in a panic. “Don’t you worry, I won’t eat you. You are not my type.” Cirrus took a deep breath and tried settling down again. “So, tell me more about the spider, if you don’t mind, and what’s your name?” “My name is Stephen Wren, and the spider, well, he was about to die anyway. When he crawled into his girlfriend’s web to mate with her, he forgot to eat. I can’t say that the spider was a hearty meal, but he was an easy one.” Cirrus was impressed with the honesty of the wren. “Not all was lost though, he did get to mate and his girlfriend laid eggs in a sac. 18
In spring they will turn into lots of tiny baby spiders.” The thought of this excited Stephen so much, that he jumped around even more rapidly. “If you happen to be around in June, I am sure that one of his offspring will show you how a web is made!” “Thanks, that would be brilliant!” “Hey, by the way, will you be here for St. Stephen’s Day?” Stephen asked. “You have a day named after you?” Cirrus was impressed. “Well, no. It is actually the other way around. Anyway, on St. Stephen’s Day, which is the day after Christmas, there is a tradition of ‘Hunting the Wren’. People dress up and paint their faces. They wear straw hats and go from door to door singing, dancing and playing music.” “Sounds like fun! What and when is Christmas?” Stephen, hopping to another branch, ignored Cirrus’s question and continued to talk about the hunt. “It’s fun now, although a long time ago, the Wren Boys, as they are known, would go out into the woods to kill one of my relatives. They paraded through town with the wren on top of a decorated pole.” Swallowing hard, he went on, “and then they begged for money to bury the wren. They thought we were evil.” “Why did they think that?” Again ignoring Cirrus, he continued, “it’s not all bad though! A long 19
time ago, birds had a competition to see who could fly the highest. A very clever wren sat on an eagle’s back, and when the eagle got tired, the wren flew up even higher. So, we wrens were crowned the 'KING OF ALL BIRDS'.” Stephen grew in size with pride. Cirrus decided not to interrupt anymore when Stephen burst into song: “The Wran, the wran the King of all Birds on St. Stephen’s Day it was caught in the furze, up with the kettle and down with the pan give me a penny to bury the wran.” Cirrus thought that the wren was rather peculiar with his weird story, and said, “we only sing happy songs at home.” After a brief silence he asked, “so, what is Christmas?” “Ask a robin, they claim that Christmas is all about them.” With that, the wren flew off.
Wally Wood Mouse Cirrus stretched out in his hammock. He could see the blue sky through a canopy of ferns. These ferns had black spores. Cirrus thought they weren’t half as beautiful as the ones he had seen earlier. When he looked across the pathway, he saw the shrub with candied apples again. Not one for resisting a treat, he swung his legs out of the hammock, climbed down the small tree, and ran across. It was easy to have a proper look at the smooth round berries of this Irish Ivy, as some branches were low on the ground. He filled his pockets with the red-green berries, and wished there was somebody he could ask if they are safe to eat. Walking along, he touched the berries in his pockets, at a rate of about once every three steps. “I can’t wait any longer. I am hungry!” “I wouldn’t eat those,” came a sweet voice from the grassy bank. A three-inch long golden-brown wood mouse, had been following Cirrus with great curiosity. “I heard that the berries are poisonous for humans, so PLEASE don’t eat them, you’d never know what they might do to a Cloud Fairy. We can’t send you home sick now. Can we?” “Ohhh,” Cirrus said disappointed, they looked so delicious!” To be 21
sure, he shook all the berries out of his pockets. Looking properly at the mouse, he asked a little surprised, “how did you know I am a Cloud Fairy?” “Well,” the mouse said, looking up at Cirrus with big black eyes, “I heard from Sarah about your visit to Ballynelligan. Although I usually don’t get up much during the day, I wanted to see you for myself. And here you are!” “News travels fast!” Cirrus said with a smile. “Then you probably also know that I am on my way to Ballynelligan Cottage, though I don’t know if I am going the right way?” He pointed at the huge white arrow painted on the stone wall. It pointed in the direction he just came from. “By the way, I am Wally Wood Mouse, and you’re doing just fine!” The mouse sat down and started to nibble a worm, which he held between tiny paws. Cirrus had to laugh when he watched the mouse’s big ears move as rapidly as its whiskers. “I’ll walk you to the cottage if you like?” “That would be lovely, thanks! You are all so nice!” “Don’t be fooled, not everyone can be trusted.” When they reached the orange farm gate at the end of the path, Cirrus walked as tall as he could underneath the closed gate. 22
“Oh pixiehead!” he cursed when his boot got stuck, and stepped with his sock in the mud. Wally was getting a belly ache from laughing. Having both recovered, they turned left and walked through the gap of the rusty white gate. “Wally? Do you live around here?” “Yep, my whole family lives in the old shed on the other side of this wall.” Wally pointed to his left. “It’s comfy, and there are plenty of places to store food.” They negotiated their way through fallen branches and over slippery brown autumn leaves. The grey gravel made only the slightest crunching sound. “I have an older sister”, said Cirrus. “She is a pain in the neck. And I have a younger brother who is not too bad, especially when he is asleep. You?” “Well, I have sixteen brothers, and nine 23
sisters. Unfortunately, only last week a grey cat killed my four other brothers. Cirrus’s jaw dropped while he counted his fingers. “A family of thirty! That is as many kids as we have in our whole school! Cool!” His mind running fast, he rattled on, “so, do you all sleep in the one room? Wow, you can have a party every night. Do you tell each other stories? Do you play football together after school? Who sets the table for din...” Cirrus stopped in his tracks when he saw a huge pile of burnt rubble in front of him.
Giant Matches Wally and Cirrus walked along the huge pile of rusty corrugated iron sheets, which lay scattered along the grass. The charcoaled timber beams among them, looked as if a giant had accidentally dropped a box of used matches. Wally pointed towards the buckle and leather belt of a horses harness, and whispered, “this seems to have escaped the fire.” A little further they looked at a handcart with an almost complete wooden wheel. Cirrus wondered when it was last used. “Do you know what this is?” Cirrus asked, pointing at a massively big rusty iron cylinder. It lay on its side and had broken in two. “Look, it has lots of holes in the centre, a bit like a tea strainer,” Wally answered, running through the holes. Climbing over mountains of debris in the centre of the yard, Wally pointed at a tree, which had lost half its branches in the fire. Slowly making their way towards the tree, they sat down on a large rock, speechless. 25
“My Grandad told us a story about a night last summer,” Wally said after a while. “He was out gathering food and saw a huge fire in the yard. The flames were going up so high, that a spark went over to one of the sheds, which quickly burnt down to the ground.” Cirrus gazed towards the long cottage in the distance, his shoulders drooping, hands in his lap. Wally continued how the fire brigade had to drive over Murphy’s field, and that it had taken hours to put out the fire. “That is such a sad story,” Cirrus said, looking around the yard. He put his hands on his knees and got up. “What about the people who live in the cottage? What happened to them?” “I don’t know, maybe we can ask Philomela Song Thrush, she has always lived here at Ballynelligan.”
The Colleen from Conna Looking through brambles and weeds, Cirrus realised that nobody lived in the cottage. There was a gaping hole where once the front door had been. A scrap of dirty white curtain blew out through the broken window. Walking into the hallway, Cirrus had to climb over a rusty garden gate and large chunks of plaster. Looking up, he saw it had come from the ceiling, which now had a big hole in the centre. He felt sad when he saw mattresses lying among broken glass in the bedroom. As curiosity got the better of him, he walked through the long pink corridor where the peeling paint showed a layer of blue underneath. The floor in the next room was littered with cans, to at least twice his height. “This place is spooky. I am getting out of here!” Turning back, he spotted the silhouette of a slender girl Fairy against the door frame. “Hey, where are you?” he asked, looking around. He didn’t get an answer, and couldn’t see the real Fairy anywhere. Now even more scared, he ran as fast as he could out the door. Cirrus was glad to see Wally, who had been looking for Philomela Song Thrush. 27
Philomela, with her plain brown coat over a black spotted white belly, invited the two of them to her nest in a nearby bush. She was all too happy to tell the story about Ballynelligan Cottage. “Well,” she started, “the house has been empty since Nellie Scanlon passed away about seven years ago. She was the eldest of six children. I remember her cycling into Lismore everyday. I am THAT old!” Philomela giggled. Cirrus counted his fingers, while Wally mumbled that he had seen a bicycle one time. Philomela continued that Nellie’s dad, Mike Scanlon, came from a town called Conna, and that he had owned a steam threshing machine. “That sounds AWESOME,” exclaimed Cirrus. “Did you see it work?” “No,” she laughed, “that was well before my time, but I sure heard stories about it! Mike had put a big brass nameplate, the Colleen from Conna, on the engine, and he used to polish the plate all the time!” “Hey, maybe that big cylinder was from the steam engine!” Cirrus flapped his arms so much that he almost hit Wally on his head. “Can you imagine, a steam engine rolling through town?” said Wally to no one in particular. “A steam engine; don’t they have a whistle? ..fheww...” Cirrus and Philomela nearly fell out of the nest laughing when Wally tried to whistle. 28
A Guardian Angel on Roller-skates Philomela invited Cirrus and Wally to stay for dinner, and flew off to get a take away. Along the path towards Lismore she had discovered lots of snails hibernating in the crevices of the wall. They made an easy snack for days like today. Crawling into the gap, she picked up a snail with her bill. To break open the shell, Philomela repeatedly knocked the shell on a sharp stone. She flew back and forth a few times to get enough food for dinner, as she could only bring one snail at a time. Cirrus felt so bad when he heard that the snails were killed for his dinner, that he couldn’t eat much. After dinner, Wally and Cirrus made plans to meet up in the morning. “Cirrus?” Philomela said when they were alone, “I met Sarah Robin earlier. She suggested that you stay with me tonight? What do you think?” “That would be great. I promised Sarah I would only stay for one night.” “Sarah told me that you landed in her bath yesterday, but she did not tell me much about you.” Cirrus told Philomela in one long breath what had happened on the day of the Festival, finishing with the being-brave-dream of his great granny. “You are lucky to have such a clever great granny!” “I know she is clever, but when we play cards, I always win!” 29
Thinking of home, he continued, “if I were at home right now, I would be tucked up in bed with my brother and sister. Mum would tell us a bedtime story. Dad would often sneak in after mum has gone, and make shadows on the walls with his hands.” Cirrus put his hands together, trying to make a wolf. “Sometimes this is REALLY SCARY!” He shivered with the thought. Philomela laughed and said, “I used to play games with my children too, but they are all grown up now.” When Philomela started to tell a bedtime story, Cirrus pulled his jacket around him and curled up in a ball.
“Aimee”, she started, “is a trainee at the Guardian Angel College and came to Lismore for her last assignment, with a little girl called Sally. We all had such a laugh when she arrived. She was wearing orange and yellow stripy tights and roller-skates under her crisp white school uniform. Her mantra was: ‘skates are great!’ Aimee, always up for trouble, had been very excited to come to Lismore. During school break-time, she had heard stories about wild parties with the mischievous Irish Leprechaun. She had been told that they lived not too far away at the Glen of the Fairies in the Knockmealdown Mountains.” Cirrus had lots of questions but was too tired to ask. He fell into a deep sleep.
Fairies Live Here Cirrus woke up when he heard Sarah and Philomela talking. “Cirrus,” Sarah chirped excitedly, “I just went to the first house on the way to Lismore. I saw a sign on the door frame which said: ‘Fairies live here’. Maybe those Fairies can help you to go home.” “Really? I’ll go there right now! Brilliant!” yelped Cirrus. “The house is decorated with fairy lights!” Sarah added, “and when I looked in the window, I saw lots of Fairies hanging out in the Christmas tree! Make sure you walk ALL the way to the end of the convent wall. Remember! It is the house with the fairy lights!” Cirrus walked towards Wally’s, but there was no one around. Cirrus didn’t want to call for him, in case he woke everybody up. Anxious to get going, he decided to go alone. Walking back through the gate, he saw the long, high convent wall. “This MUST be the right way!” Cirrus yelped, when he spotted a black pole with a yellow hiker painted on it. The arrow pointed in the direction Sarah had told him to go. 31
Cirrus started to run towards Lismore, but was stopped in his tracks when he saw Robert Cat. Robert didn’t take much notice of Cirrus; he was in a good mood. He’d just had his morning coffee; well, cream actually. “Probably on his way to visit Sarah,” thought Cirrus, watching Robert from behind the thick ivy. Cirrus looked into a gap in the wall behind him. The dark damp cave, with a carpet of dead leaves and small twigs, was full of broken snail shells. He realised that this must be the take away, which Philomela visited last night. Climbing into the cave, he looked closely at the garden snail shells,
which had beautiful brown lines, as if they were individually painted. “I am so sorry about last night.” Cirrus said. “Philomela was so proud when she brought us dinner. I suppose that is what birds do; they eat snails, but I am sorry.” Examining the ochre yellow shells of the smaller grove snails, he asked, “do you get a new stripe for every birthday?” Some had one brown stripe, others as much as three. There was no answer as the snails were fast asleep. Tapping on an unbroken shell, Cirrus said, “I’d like to come back some other time to talk to you, but right now I have to get to the Fairy house!” And with that, he climbed down the ivy and made a dash towards Lismore. Cirrus stayed as close as he could to the wall. He jumped on sticky green leaves, and over huge pine cones. Dodging his way around spiky twigs, he stopped when he came across crisp bags and blue cans. “They must have fallen out of somebody’s bag.” 33
Cirrus looked up in surprise, when he heard Wally’s reply: “I think somebody might have thrown them on the ground.” “Where did you suddenly come from?” Cirrus asked. “When I walked over to Philomela to find you, she told me about the house with the Fairies. I am SO excited for you!” Wally asked if he could join Cirrus on his mission. “Of course you can! What a silly question!” Soon enough they reached the end of the wall. There was a large gate leading to a sports field. Just beyond that, was the house with the fairy lights. A little nervously, Cirrus and Wally walked, side by side, up the ramp to the front door. There it was, low on the door frame, a blue metallic sign with golden letters:
Mouse Dance What are we to do now?” Cirrus asked, shrugging his shoulders. “Wait.” “Wait for what?” “Wait for a Fairy to come to the window. Surely one of them will see us?” “I wish Sarah were here. She could talk to them through the window. I can’t climb up there!” Cirrus looked up at the window sill. “It is way too high!” “I have an idea! Let’s climb on that wall.” Wally pointed to the stone wall opposite the window. “We’ll sing and dance on top of it!” Although Cirrus thought that Wally had lost his mind, he followed him down the ramp and started to climb, rock by rock, to the top of the wall. Wally won the climb by minutes. Cirrus, catching his breath, sat down on a mossy carpet and looked at the tiny sprigs of grass growing out of it. Water drops hanging on the ends made them look like little lamp posts.
“Don’t you think that we are too small for the Fairies to see us? There’s no way that they will hear us,” Cirrus said a little put out. “Trust me!” On the top of his voice Wally started to rap: “Seven very clever mice, Won the Nobel prize...” and started to dance like Cirrus had never seen anybody dance before. Wally lifted two legs at the time, but never the same two. The bobbing of his head made his ears wave like leaves on a stormy day. Cirrus laughed so loudly that he did not even notice Robert Cat walking alongside the wall. “What on earth are you doing?” enquired Robert. Cirrus and Wally ran along the wall, tripping over ivy twigs, with bursts of laughter. “Don’t worry,” said Robert. “I am not interested in eating a dressed ‘whatever you are’, or a mad mouse! Goodness knows you might be contagious.”
Cirrus decided to trust the cat and started to tell him why they had come. “Ah sure, I’ll get you in. Just wait by the door.” “Do you live here too? I thought it was a Fairy house. Are you a Fairy?” Cirrus asked rather confused. “I am no Fairy, that’s for sure!” Robert chuckled, “but I do live here! I suppose you are talking about those Fairies in the Christmas tree? You know, they sleep for most of the year in the attic. Then, a few weeks before Christmas, the humans hang them in the tree in the living room.” Looking rather superior, Robert continued, “the Fairies are a bit weird though. During the day they just hang there as if they are made of stone, and as soon as the humans have gone to sleep, they start to party.” “So...,” Cirrus was thinking hard, “... do I have to wait until the humans have gone to sleep before I can talk with the Fairies?” “Afraid so, but I’ll get you inside the house anyway.” Wally said his goodbyes to Cirrus and asked him to stay in touch. Robert jumped up on the window sill. Soon enough the front door was opened up for him. Cirrus, hanging onto Robert’s front leg, rode into the house, and on into the study.
King Robert Cirrus climbed on the red reading chair and, via the desk, onto the window sill. He sat down beside an ear-less woody runner, who looked like he was in a great hurry. “Hi there, I am Cirrus. What’s your name? Do you happen to know the Fairies?” There was no answer, so Cirrus answered himself: “Oh well, I suppose I have to wait till night-time before you can talk to me.” Robert came into the study and laid down on the desk. “Robert, how long have you lived here?” Cirrus asked. “Well, that’s a bit of a story,” he said in between washing himself. “I was moved here, without my consent I must add, only a few months ago. I am thinking of going back to the old place, if I can persuade my servants to come with me.” “You have servants, are you royalty?” “Sure am, although I am not always treated like that! For one thing, who came up with the idea to put this ridiculous collar around my delicate neck? I am the laughing stock of the neighbourhood cats!” 38
“It’s not that bad! Why don’t you wear the bell to the side, it will give it some style.” “I’ll think about it.” “Can’t you get new servants?” “I can’t, they need me. I tell you my story: I was born in the summer of 2007, and as part of my training for King, I was left in the wild near a big house called Glenbeg. One of the humans living in the house put cream outside the door for me, which of course was only appropriate. After observing the humans through the living room window, I decided to move in. I walked up the large staircase and inspected all the bedrooms. When I saw a huge pile of duvets on a bed, I figured that they must have been left out for me. “Sounds lovely!” “Yes, life was good in this historic house. It was fit for a King!” “How come you are not there anymore? Why did you move?” “Well, one day the servants put me in a carrier, which smelled like dog, yuck, and forcefully moved me to a tiny house in town. The TRAUMA of it all.” Robert nearly fell off the desk, when he tried shaking of the memory. “How awful.” Cirrus almost had to cry. 39
“As it turned out, the servants were only in Glenbeg for the summer. The rest of the year they live in that other house. No pile of duvets there, although in fairness, they did buy me my own bed, and I was given a box with a fleece, for under their bed. After counting back to the summer of 2007, Cirrus asked confused, “I thought you said you only moved here a few months ago?” “That’s right. After having recovered from the shock, I made good friends in that neighbourhood. I even had a girlfriend. Cindy was her name…” Robert sighed. “Then the servants decided to move, lock stock and barrel, to this part of town. They did tell me, but I did not think it was going to happen. It did. We moved. I am very depressed...” “Looks to me you are doing just fine here!” “Well, yes. That’s true. I am starting to get used to this new location; the servants are good to me, and I secretly enjoy exploring the local wildlife.” Robert yawned and said he was going to have a nap now. Cirrus decided to have a look at the Fairies. He crept through the hall, staying as close as possible to the wall. Looking into the livingroom, he saw seven colourful Fairies in a tree, which was decorated with tiny lights, red apples, and golden stars. A golden bell hung on the bottom branch. 40
Fairy Fair Not long after the humans had gone to sleep, Cirrus heard the rustling of the tree and a tiny tinkle of a bell. He walked into the living room, alongside Robert. The Fairies climbed skillfully down the tree, stretching out noisily when they got to the floor. Although the Fairies were about Cirrus’s height, some were even skinnier than him. Others were very chubby indeed. The Fairy that came all the way from the top of the tree made a lot of noise, as she had chimes for legs. “Oh, hi there!” said the Fairy in the green skirt, with red and white stripy stockings, “where’s the party?” She took off her ear warmers, and put down her basket of presents and star-shaped wand. “Well,” suggested Robert, “I can get at the cake, crisps, and chocolate. AND I know how to open the fridge to get the cream!” He licked his lips in anticipation. “Brilliant!” said the Fairy in the pink skirt and blue woolly boots, “I’ll turn on the CD player. They had some great music playing earlier today.” She danced her way towards the sound system. 41
They all gathered on the fireside rug, where the two chubby Fairies were in charge of keeping the fire going. It took until three o’clock in the morning before Cirrus got to talk about his wish to go home. One of the ideas suggested by the Fairies, was to create another rainbow. This idea was dismissed because sliding down a rainbow is easy, but going upwards seemed almost impossible. The chimelegged Fairy suggested that Cirrus meet up with a crow, but none of them were sure if a crow could fly high enough to reach Cloud Nine. “What about travelling back with Santa Claus? Maybe he can drop you off on his way home! He’ll be here tomorrow!” said the chubby Fairy, her cheeks red from the heat of the fire. This suggestion created such excitement that even the ear-less woody runner heard it. He ran into the room to have a look at what was happening. “Yeah, ... but,” Cirrus said carefully when the commotion had died down, “can this Santa bring me down to Ballynelligan again? Or do I have to wait for another rainbow? I promised to come back to talk to the snails, and I have to see a web being made by the spiders, and meet Wally, and Sarah, and Philomela again.” “Fair point,” said the chubby Fairy, throwing another twig on the fire, “what about Zebra who sits on the window sill in the bedroom? Maybe you can ride home on him?” Suddenly all were silent as this was a very good idea indeed. 42
Zebra Power The Fairies worked feverishly on the Zebra-plan, and wrote out the wording for a magic spell. Soon after, Cirrus, Robert, and the greenskirted Fairy crept into the bedroom. Robert jumped up on the window sill and whispered the plan into Zebra’s ear. Zebra was glad to help, and was excited to be asked. “But,” he added rather confused, “I don’t have wings.” “We’ll take care of that!” the Fairy said. Zebra jumped onto the bed, trying hard not to wake the humans. All they did was turn over onto their other sides. The jump from the bed onto the floor didn’t go so smoothly. The humans woke up. They blamed Robert for the noise, but thank goodness, went back to sleep again. “Phew!” Cirrus, Robert, the Fairy and Zebra were standing in the hall, holding onto their bellies with laughter. “That was close!” Zebra joined the party by the fireplace where all the seven Fairies took up their wands and spoke the magic spell: “Fly, fly, fly, you mighty Zebra To mountains, seas and clouds beyond Fly onwards and upwards on your Master’s wish Fly, fly, fly, you mighty Zebra” 43
Cirrus climbed onto Zebra, and repeated the magic words. “Yeah,” roared one Fairy. “Brilliant,” cheered another, as Cirrus and Zebra flew around the living room, before landing safely by the fire again. “AWESOME!” exclaimed Cirrus. “This is truly amazing!” whispered Zebra. He looked at his wooden legs and wondered how on earth he was able to fly without wings. They were all having such a great time, that no-one had kept an eye on the clock. Suddenly, they heard one of the humans come into the room. The Fairies, Zebra, and the woody runner plopped to the floor. Cirrus hid under the fireside chair. “Robert! What have you been up to? Look at the mess! What has got into you lately?” the human roared when she saw crisps bags, chocolate wrappers, and ashes on the rug by the fireplace. “Why did you take the fairy decorations out of the tree? And why did you bring the wooden model into the room? And the zebra puppet...?” The Fairies tried not to giggle when the human hung them back on the tree. 44
Santa Man Cirrus woke up all cosy from sleeping with Robert in his box under the bed. Cirrus stretched out and looked up towards the window sill, to talk to Zebra. “We had better practice a bit of flying today.” Grinning from ear to ear he continued, “I am SURE Cloud Nine will be above Ballynelligan soon! Then I can go home, and tell EVERYBODY about my adventures!” “Can I really fly?” Zebra said a little confused. “I thought I’d been dreaming.” “Don’t you remember? We were flying around the tree last night. It was AWESOME!” Cirrus suggested practicing by visiting his friends, and recited the words the Fairies had taught him. They flew out the open window, through the garden, over the high stone wall, towards Ballynelligan cottage. Sarah nearly fell off her perch when she saw Cirrus and Zebra flying by. “My goodness, look at you!” 45
Having recovered her composure, she added, “so when are you going home?” “Well, we need more practice today, so I’d say tomorrow.” Zebra nodded in agreement. “And the Fairies kept talking about Christmas and a Santa Man, who is visiting tonight. I’d really should stay around for that!” “Well Cirrus, I know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g about Christmas!” Sarah boasted. “Oh, sure, I remember now. Stephen Wren told me.” Not listening to Cirrus, Sarah continued, “you know, Christmas was once about the birth of Jesus, but now humans only talk about presents and Santa Claus! AND”, she added, pointing to her red breast, “they have also forgotten that a robin took a thorn from Jesus’s crown. It was his blood that coloured our breast red!” Taking in a deep breath, she went on, “oh yes, before I forget, about 150 years ago, humans started to send Christmas cards to each other. Of course OUR picture is on most of those!” “You are famous aren’t you?” “You are right, I am! Come to think of it, Christmas is all about robins and the colour red! Even Santa wears a red suit!” “So, who is this Santa Man?” Cirrus asked. 46
“I’ll tell you now. Santa Claus, and Mrs. Claus, live in the far north, in a land where there is always snow. There, with the help of lots of Elves, he makes toys for children all over the world.” She gave a deep sigh, “and then on Christmas Eve, which is tonight, he comes down in his sleigh pulled by nine reindeer. It is truly amazing to see the sleigh land on the roof, and to see Santa climb out and disappear down the chimney.” Shaking her head, she added, “he is a big man you know...” Cirrus, thinking hard, asked, “but how does he come out again? Doesn’t he get stuck? Does his suit get all black?” “I know it is amazing, but true. I have seen it with my own eyes. Santa goes down the chimney with a sack of toys, eats a biscuit, and drinks the glass of milk that has been left out for him. Then before you know it, he is up and out of the chimney; clean as a whistle, and on his merry way.” “I certainly stay up for THAT tonight!” said Cirrus. “Zebra? Will we fly to Wally’s house next? I’d like you to meet him and I need to tell Wally I’ll be going home soon.” Wally was just getting up from his daytime snooze and was delighted to see Cirrus and Zebra. Cirrus told him all about the Fairies, and Santa Claus. “Really? A sleigh? With reindeer? I HAVE to come and see that!” 47
Homewards Bound On Christmas Eve, Cirrus watched the Fairies singing and dancing among the lit candles on the window sill: “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas is here This is the big night for parties and cheer We slept all year to wait for this night When Santa and reindeer arrive in the moonlight. Santa, Santa, Santa is here We tell our wishes, and hear plans for next year When Santa has left, we start work straightaway before going to sleep on Little Christmas Day.” When the Fairies stopped singing, Cirrus quietly asked, “can I tell Santa Claus my wish too?” “I am sure you can!” said the chime Fairy. It was well past midnight when Cirrus saw a flash of light in the sky. Within seconds the Fairies jumped off the window sill, onto the table, onto the floor, before running with great speed to the fireplace. 48
“He’s here!” They all chanted, “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas is here, This is the Big Night for Parties and Cheer...” There was great commotion in the room when suddenly a big bellied man, with a long white beard, came out of the chimney and sat down on the fireside chair. All Cirrus could do was stand there, his mouth wide open, unable to speak a word. The Fairy in the green jumper shook him out of his trance and said, “hurry up, if you want to tell Santa your wish, he is only here for a minute.” “Oh...yes... ahhh.” Cirrus slowly looked up and was greeted by the biggest smile he had ever seen. “Emm, Mr Claus,” he started, “as you are flying through the sky tonight, I was wondering if Zebra and I can come with you? Maybe you can drop us off at Cloud Nine?” He let out a big sigh of relief. “Of course, my little man. My Elves already told me about your wish. They’ve made arrangements with the Captain of Cloud Nine. Your parents are expecting you in the morning.” Cirrus ran as quickly as his shaky legs could carry him, to the bedroom. “Zebra, wake up, I am going home now. Do you still want to come? Santa can bring us. Hurry up, wake up…” Zebra let out a big yawn, “of course I am coming with you, I’d love to see where you live!” 49
They flew to the living room as soon as Cirrus spoke the magic words. For a safe journey up the chimney, Santa put Cirrus and Zebra in his top coat pocket. “See you next year,” said Santa Claus to the Fairies, when he took his leave. “Remember the plans!” The Fairies and Robert climbed onto the window sill, and everyone laughed out loud when they saw Wally rapping on the stone wall: “Come back soon! maybe next June...” “I’ll ask mum if I can come during my next school holiday!” Cirrus roared back. Early the following morning, Santa Claus parked his sleigh beside Cloud Nine. When Cirrus and Zebra embarked, they were greeted by huge cheers from the crowds gathered along the Edge. “It IS good to be home again,” whispered Cirrus in Zebra’s ear.
About the Author Since her move from Holland to Ireland in 1990, Corina Duyn has been involved in the arts. Her Fantasy Folk figures are in private and corporate collections, throughout Ireland, Europe and the USA. In 2006 Corina wrote, illustrated, and designed her first book: Hatched, a Creative Journey Through M.E. (published by Little Wings). Prior to publication, the artwork in Hatched were subject of five solo exhibitions; her writing has since been published in: The Lismoreian an Anthology; Face on–Disability Arts in Ireland; Decanto Poetry Magazine. Corina was the recipient of 2009 Artlinks Bursary; 2003 & 2005 Arts & Disability Award; and 2005 Co. Waterford Arts Bursary. Corina is a Lismoreian for the past 15 years, and lives happily near Ballynelligan, where she is working on the next book in the Cirrus Chronicles. About H a t c h e d “Hatched” is one of the most energetic, generous-hearted, sharp-minded and inspiring books of poems I’ve read for quite a while. No matter what page you open the book I find love of life, an appreciation of life, a vibrant sense of privilege and gratitude...” (Poet Brendan Kennelly)
“I have not loved a book this much in years. Beautifully designed, this is something really special and uplifting. Dip into it during bleak moments and take away a thought, image or poem for the rest of the day.”
(Theresa Coe, Editor InterAction)