They Never Gave Up
Both Cathy and Pauline continue to leave footprints―raised ones…
Set against a wonderfully charming Irish background, They Never Gave Up chronicles the lives of Cathy and Pauline, two life-long friends who traverse through life with an abundant amount of energy, reckless abandon, and relentless gusto.
For Pauline, on the other hand, life is one big party. She’s the life and soul of every event and makes sure that she stands out and is noticed by all and sundry. Yet, underneath the reckless devil-may-care attitude, hides a sensitive soul who longs for love and acceptance.
Between trying to manage work, life, love, marriage, and heartbreak, the lives of these two lifelong friends are only just beginning to get interesting.
Tammy February — Women24
Back in the day, I used to read a lot of chick-lit. Unfortunately, because I gorged myself out on this genre, I became bored rather quickly. The themes and concepts were the same and for me, and after a while, it just seemed like every book I was reading was the same story with just another book cover.
So when Linda first approached me and asked me if I’d consider reviewing the book, I admit to being a little reluctant. Luckily for me, it had been years since I’ve last read a chick-lit, and luckily for her, she is Irish and the book is set against an Irish backdrop (can you tell I have a love of all things Irish?), so I decided to give the book a chance.
And I’m glad I did.
They Never Gave Up is packed with many emotions and the voices of the characters are wonderfully authentic. Not only that, but it’s a heart-warming read that to me, places an emphasis on the power of true friendship.
Of course, it may sound as if it is in actual fact a standard chick-lit, but Linda is a wonderful writer that manages to inject a vibrant voice into a novel and combine it with strong themes that add a complex and layered dimension to her story.
Cathy and Pauline are both well-developed and strong heroines who each have battles of their own to face. I marveled at the girl who lost her mother at a young age and was strangely moved by the plight of the other girl who got caught up in the wrong crowd and ended up battling a serious drug problem.
The fact that there was such a serious topic thread into this novel genuinely surprised me as I was expecting a light and far fluffier read.
There is a love story that is interwoven throughout the novel, and while it forms a big part of the novel, it doesn’t dominate the threads and themes of friendship that forms the other main aspect of this novel. The journey between Cathy and Pauline is all the more authentic because both of the characters are so fully fleshed out.
Both of them have flaws and aren’t apologetic about them – they fight, they laugh, they cry together… but mostly they just grow together. And for me, this is what made the story so real.
If you’re looking for a chick-lit with substance, you’ll definitely find all that and so much more in They Never Gave Up.
I highly recommend it. *****
Mary and Jimmy
When my mother, Mary Sheehan, was growing up in Cilganίn, situated in the pastoral Midlands of Ireland (rolling green fields broken up by dry stone walls, cows lowing, sheep bleating, plenty of village tittle-tattle), a college education was then regarded as unnecessary for females. The archaic ideal at the time—young women should be married well before they were twenty, and subsequently start spitting out their own seven-a-side rugby team, or even better still, cough up a baker’s dozen! This attitude exasperated Mary to the point of distraction.
As she reached her teens she despaired as to why her three brothers (each one older than her) would have access to a university education if they wanted it, and incredibly, she wouldn’t.
To further her chagrin when Padraic, her eldest brother, finished secondary school he took full advantage of all that was available to him by duly hot-footing it out of their hallowed little village, studied law, graduated with distinction, and eventually moved to Canada. Whoosh, vanished, there one minute, gone the next! But then again, he’d been given a choice. Whereas Mary was expected to settle into homemaker mode and keep the lineage of her spouse alive by churning out babies for Ireland.
Her second brother, Finbar, happy to farm alongside his father and keep the so-called family tradition going, married a local girl and settled down to what Mary truthfully regarded as a life of shoveling copious amounts of shit, with the weekly televised reruns of Emmerdale Farm being the highlight of his fodder-filled existence.
On the other hand, Thomas, her youngest brother, hated anything to do with farming, and not being academically minded he moved off to Dublin as soon as he could. Once there he spent a few years in a disagreeable apprenticeship with a local builder and then started up his own plumbing business.
In the early days, Padraic frequently tried to persuade Thomas to join him in Canada, but Thomas constantly declined, adroitly sticking to the adage The Devil You Know. So, Mary’s decision to move out of Cilganίn and pursue a life of her own, without a husband, didn’t come as a total shock to her mother, but her father nearly blew a gasket.
Sensible to the bone and not wanting to be stranded at an airport when her metaphorical ship was due to sail, Mary moved in with her aged and slightly dotty aunt in Dublin and managed to get a job working (mainly day shifts) in the ticket office in one of the larger Dublin theatres. Mundane, boring and soul-destroying—yes, to Mary it was, but it did leave her plenty of time to do what she wanted most, and that was studied further. She was determined she wasn’t going to be yet another uneducated backwater culshee; she was going to make something of herself.
After securing her not so liberating position, she enrolled in the only night course that interested her, which was bookkeeping. The process of recording financial transactions received and spent by an individual business or organization appealed to her, as she always had a penchant for figures and liked the feeling of control it instilled. Of course, full-blown accountancy would have been her first preference, but her income from the theatre wouldn’t allow that educational luxury.
So she settled for the next best thing, night courses in the local high school—much to the open indignation of her father who told her she was wasting her time. But his attitude didn’t put Mary off, far from it, it only made her more determined, despite the fact that doling out ticket’s to habitually staid theatergoers nearly bored her rigid. Although having said that, that very same ticket office changed her life in more ways than one, because it was there she met my father, Jimmy Corway, for the first time.
As he stood in the queue, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. There was something about her, a magnetism of sorts, the kind often read about in classic novels.
When he reached the head of the line, he became so entranced by her astonishingly beautiful blue-green eyes he was rendered just about speechless. Even though he desperately wanted to ask her out, he couldn’t muster up the courage. Not knowing what else to do he returned to the theatre, albeit somewhat awkwardly, the next day and the next.
After queuing for the third time to see the same production (ironically called Pygmalion), Mary looked him straight in the eye and said, “Gosh, this play must fascinate you! How many times have you seen it now?”
Despite being knocked for six that she’d copped on, Jimmy heard himself saying, “Eh, I think this will be the third, but I’m not counting as long as you’re selling me the ticket.”
The smile Mary gave him nearly melted his heart and it spurred him on to ask her out to a local dance the following Saturday. To his great surprise, Mary agreed. That dance was the start of many for them, and it wasn’t long before they were all but inseparable.
When he proudly introduced her to his parents, his father took him aside and said, “Son, she’s a keeper, don’t let her slip away. Your electrical business is doing well, and you’re not short of a bob or two, put a ring on her finger before someone else beats you to it!”
On Mary’s side, her mother felt the same about Jimmy, but her father’s opinion didn’t count and would never count because he’d shattered everyone’s hearts by upping and leaving with the daughter of the local co-op owner within weeks of Mary leaving Cilganίn for Dublin.
At the time Mary’s outrage was so fierce she spent many a night tossing and turning while going over scores of ways she could exact a fitting revenge on her absconded parent. She even contemplated going back to live in Cilganίn, but her mother wouldn’t hear of it. She told Mary she didn’t want her to end up as a bucolic married drudge with a gaggle of children sired by a terminally disinterested husband.
Her strongest advice was, “God gave us the gifts of love, health, beauty, and intelligence. He gave us life! But His greatest gift of all has got to be choice. Your choice was to go to Dublin and make a career for yourself. Just because your father chose to disappear overnight, doesn’t mean your aspirations have to as well. Stay in Dublin and get that degree!”
Apparently, she spoke those words with the daring of a Pomeranian straining at its leash to get at a frothing Doberman. Mary saw her mother in a new light that day, and fortunately, for Jimmy, she stayed in Dublin.
Eighteen months into their relationship they married quietly amid a small amount of family and friends. Not an advocate of the Something Borrowed Something Blue brigade, Mary wanted absolutely no fuss. The frantic wedding machine that roared into action when her brother announced he was getting married turned her completely off the idea of gliding down the aisle decked out in an inverted mushroom type (one wear only) excuse for a dress, along with vast filaments of camouflage net masquerading as a veil.
Nevertheless, to satisfy her mother’s plea for a respectable wedding, she agreed to marry in Cilganίn chapel and celebrate afterward with a small reception in the Spring Valley Hotel—but no voluminous wedding dress. Instead, she walked down the aisle wearing an elegant ivory-colored suit (the skirt hanging modestly just below the knee), a jauntily positioned pillbox hat, along with a determined set to her shoulders. When Jimmy took her hand as she stepped up to the altar he thought he would choke with chest-swelling pride.
The ceremony was unremarkable, however, moments before the priest said the words ‘husband and wife’, my great aunt hauled herself to her feet and started singing the opening verse to Auld Lang Syne at the top of her voice. The ensuing shushing which followed sounded like several Quasimodos abseiling from their lofty parapets, all suffering chronic asthma attacks.
The reception also had a moment or two, one in particular when Dermot (Jimmy’s best man) drunkenly misquoted some sort of proverb. When his turn for a speech arrived, he staggered to his feet, rummaged through his pockets for his notes, and not finding them, blurted out, “Jimmy, if you want to be happy for an hour, make love.
If you want to be happy for a day, read a book. If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden, but before you do, don’t forget to plant a good one in your new wife, it might be the only…” he didn’t get to say anymore because Mary’s brother was on him like a heat-seeking missile.
My great aunt, not to be outdone, yelled in reprisal, “Young man, we spend the first couple of years of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next decade teaching them to shut up and behave themselves. I now know why some animals eat their young!” While a fresh wave of Quasimodos stormed into action, her last gush of words before her bottom dentures suddenly jumped forward rendering her speechless were something like, “Holy Divinity, that man should be muzzled.
Who owns him? Mary, love, he didn’t mean it, it’s the tablets he’s taking, they make him say strange things.”
After that, she was rapidly muzzled, or to be more accurate, suppressed from any further vernacular, and was later found sleeping off the effects of plentiful amounts of champagne and God only knows what else in the hotel conservatory.
The remainder of the day passed without any unusual event, well, none similar to the speeches, and when the time came for the newlyweds to leave they heaved a sigh of relief. On Jimmy’s part, he now fully understood why Mary had been so against a large wedding reception—droves of relatives, well-meaning or not, were a pain in the proverbial ass.
Mary and More
Initially my parents lived in the small flat above Jimmy’s electrical shop in the busy suburb of Fairview, and the idea of Mary giving up her outside job never even entered the equation, but it soon made sense for her to do so, as Jimmy’s business was growing fast and he needed the additional help.
Therefore, with a modicum of regret, she resigned from the theatre (where she’d been promoted to administrator) and became a veritable Girl Friday within Corway’s Electrical. Then seven months into the marriage Mary discovered she was pregnant with me. She kept this revelation to herself for a while, as she was angry. She wasn’t ready to settle into the role of motherhood, it just had to be a mistake.
With her heart in her mouth, she went to see the local doctor who confirmed that she was definitely ten, possibly twelve weeks pregnant, no mistake on his part.
Successfully fixing her with hawk-like eyes, he said, “My dear Mrs. Corway, you simply must tell your husband immediately, it is his absolute right to know. After all, marriages were not normally made to avoid having children.”
“Right, did you say R-I-G-H-T?” Mary replied with clear-cut menace in the pauses.
Infuriated by his draconian attitude Mary wasted no time telling him she was in charge of the destiny of her own body, and she wasn’t going to be dictated to by a blinkered old trout stuck in the last century.
His response was something about the patter of tiny feet.
Mary belted back at him, “If I wanted to hear the patter of tiny feet, I can assure you I’m quite capable of putting shoes on the cat, if I owned one!” Then she picked up her handbag and stomped towards the door exclaiming, “You and your kind are nothing more than members of the Stone Age crowd, still communicating in grunts and waiting to invent the wheel. Good day!”
She kept her reproductive news to herself for a few more days, although she wasn’t sure as to why she did because there was nothing she could do to reverse the situation. She was going to become a mother—Jimmy was going to become a father—her brothers would become uncles, the list went on. The tiny speck of embryonic progeny (me) planted in her uterus changed everyone’s lives, especially her own.
Would Jimmy be upset? They never discussed the possibility of having a child so early in their marriage, wanting to do so much before being tied down by the restraints of parenthood.
When eventually told the news, Jimmy was far from upset, he was ecstatic. He actually wanted a big family. With both his parents now deceased, one unmarried sister and no brothers, he liked the idea of owning a large home bustling with laughing children and the aroma of home-baked bread. Mary didn’t share the same vision, far from it. Well, maybe the large home and bread bit, but not the bustling children part.
In spite of this, as soon as I was born her attitude changed dramatically. From the first moment I was placed in her arms, she became bewitched and exceedingly protective. Jimmy said she reminded him of a wild animal pacing up and down behind imaginary bars, lashing her tail and threatening to attack anyone who came near me.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a few days later he thought she was suffering from some kind of labor-induced amnesia, because she insisted on having at least two more children, and the sooner the better. The ward nurse assured Jimmy she would soon change her mind after a few months of sleepless nights and endless nappy changes. However, her hormone-induced mood swings might take a little longer.
And the nurse was right about that bit because deciding on a name for me became a huge issue. All the time she was pregnant with me she endearingly called me Frogspawn, but she could hardly put that down on my birth certificate. And as I was now present and correct (ten fingers, ten toes, none of them webbed) I needed a proper name, not just a moniker. Eventually they settled on Catherine—Cathy for short.
Of course, now they were parents they knew they would have to move out of the flat as it had no garden, only one small bedroom, a tiny kitchenette, no proper living room and situated on the main street, not an ideal place to rear a young child. Mary thought a house closer to the sea would be perfect and Jimmy agreed wholeheartedly.
Having made their decision, and with building anticipation, they checked out every conceivable property option presented to them, and eventually, an older house came on the market in Bray, in the county of Wicklow.
Geographically Bray is just outside Dublin, but culturally—universes away. But it does have the added benefit of being a seaside resort, which kind of downgrades it at weekends into a busy hive of candy flossed beachgoers, however, most of the time it guarantees a distinct quality of life not to be found in or around the multitudinous capital.
Eleven long weeks later when all the red tape had been taken care of they moved in. It was a red brick, four-bedroom house, approximately sixty years old. The front garden was a shambles, but Mary knew she would have it fixed up in no time. And to her delight, the large back garden had an abundance of apple trees, plus a small summerhouse all but covered in rambling roses.
She planned to use that little nook as an office, has definitely lived up to the advice the ward nurse had given Jimmy, and resolute motherhood was not going to detract her from her hard-earned book-keeping skills, or newly acquired private clients.
There were four bedrooms, one large and three other reasonably sized rooms all with high ceilings and picturesque sash windows. Those Jimmy immediately decided would definitely have to go, and go in the very near future as his hand had been nearly crushed by such a window when he was a boy.
The one and only bathroom, loosely described by the estate agent as having its own personality, consisted of an enormous claw-footed bath, big enough for a small flock of manic geese to happily splash about in. An ancient overhead chain flushed toilet that made horrendous noises as soon as the chain was even touched. And no wash hand basin, just an old-fashioned washstand, nothing more!
From the first moment, Mary viewed the house she unequivocally decided the bathroom would be first on their list of renovations. In this room, her brother Thomas would definitely be roped in for his plumbing skills. Jimmy could take care of rewiring himself.
The kitchen was large and commanded a beautiful view of Bray Head and the sea beyond. It had plenty of cupboard space, a decent walk-in pantry, attractive flagstones and an AGA cooker, which was great, as Mary loved the constant warmth such cookers provided twenty-four hours a day.
The dining room was plain and quite unremarkable except for the stained glass French doors that opened out onto a large courtyard surrounded by a terribly neglected rockery—another horticultural challenge for Mary.
The second reception room looked like it had hardly ever been used (unless some great moment in time was happening like the parish priest or equivalent was coming to visit) but it did have a set of beautiful oak sliding doors that led through into the dining room and out onto the courtyard. And the third, roughly the same size, had a large bay window stretching almost to the ceiling, complete with a deeply upholstered and overly wide hinged window seat, supposedly for storage.
Although its main feature was a stunning tiled Adam’s fireplace with what looked like its original firedogs.
They knew they had their work cut out for them modernizing this somewhat neglected house, but at the time they didn’t have much furniture, so they only used the basic rooms. This wasn’t a problem as they were happy and grateful for what they already had. Elaborate furnishings and fittings weren’t high on their list of priorities, and if the renovations took time, so what. There was no hurry. However, Mary was determined the bathroom would be foremost on her list of must-get-done-now.