Brown Pox?

On Sunday we had a very sharp morning, 40 F, and for the first time in many months Teddy and I went to the Mall! This was an excuse to wear one of my favorite outfits that must be at least a decade old otherwise called sustainable fashion. The knitted dress is from Max Studio and the jacket is from INC. A couple of years ago, I noticed that the pleather collar was wearing away so I got some fur fabric from Amazon and our local tailor stitched on top. I was so happy at my inventiveness.

As we wandered around the Mall, I noticed that everyone else was wearing high summer clothes but my lizard DNA keeps me cold under 80 F. The very nice lady in the perfume shop thought I looked like a princess – I guess she hadn’t seen many but I will take the compliment. In the next department store I decided to try on a ‘prairie’ dress and I took off my jacket for Teddy to hold. He said, “your jacket is disintegrating all over your chest”. It looked like a Brown Pox!! The ‘prairie’ dress was a bust – I looked like a tired old woman in the Dustbowl Depression which was not the look I was going for… Just needed a goat and a chicken.

Goodbye, Farewell to my favorite jacket. You served me well on cold trips to Scotland/Oklahoma/Colorado.

It was a grand day out, nonetheless, and I felt much less anxiety about being out in public, now that we have both been vaccinated. Almost everyone was wearing a mask and keeping their distance. Teddy bought his summer cologne, Dior’s Fahrenheit, which always smells good. Our lattes from Nordstrom tasted like the best coffee we have ever had. Everything is new and interesting again. Purdah has made the simplest things tremendously exciting.

Now we need to get the whole world inoculated and keep our fingers crossed for herd immunity.

60 years of Vaccinations

LITTLE KERRY’S FIRST VACCINATION PASSPORT

The first prototype vaccinations for smallpox are believed to have occurred in the 16th century but the first vaccine is attributed to Edward Jenner, an English physician in 1796.  The 60 years in the title refers to my own history of vaccination.  They eradicated smallpox in 1972 but I still have the mark from my inoculation.  Can you imagine how brave the first people to accept the smallpox vaccination were or was the sight of death enough for acceptance?  I was provoked to write the post on finding out that people have not been showing up to their vaccination appointments in Texas.  It’s the only free healthcare I have ever received in the USA!  I was so relieved to receive the 2nd vaccination last week – just two weeks until full inoculation.

As a baby boomer, vaccinations have readily accepted by me because most of us saw what happened when you didn’t get inoculated.  Childhood deaths from illnesses that most of us have forgotten were common.  The ravages of Polio were there for all to see in the survivors – limps and calipers or an iron lung.  Teddy had Scarlet Fever twice; his adoptive mum feared for his much longed for life.  She and my mum had their own battle with Tuberculosis or consumption.  My mum was sent to relatives in the country and my mum in law spent months in hospital.  Newly adopted Teddy’s Granny had to look after him while she was in the sanitarium.  It was a strange blessing as they bonded in a special way.  I think he was always her favorite. My mum and I were unable to return back to the USA in 1967 because my mum was diagnosed with TB for the third time.  This time they had an antibiotic treatment – streptomycin – and she fully recovered but mentally collapsed with the end of her American dream.

Vaccination has become a taboo subject in recent times with the much-refuted claim that a particular vaccine can cause autism in children.  Perhaps seeing death and illness in your every day life made it easier for our parents to allow vaccination in previous decades.  I can’t claim to know much about autism but I am certain that it was underdiagnosed in previous years.  Every area in Scotland had a special school where children with mental and physical disabilities were lumped together for what was often a sub-standard education.  It was a necessity when I was a child because at our little Catholic Primary School, we had two full classes of Primary 1 and there were 40 kids in each class.  No teacher would be able to cope with special needs children in addition.  I can still remember a little boy, called Andrew, who undoubtedly had ADD or something similar – that diagnosis was not used then.  We could tell that he couldn’t help himself but it was so upsetting when he disturbed our learning cycle.  The teacher had the patience of a saint.

WHOO-HOO – SECOND COVID INOCULATION!

Vaccinations were staggered as they are today and the last, I recall at school, was for TB when we were about 13 years old.  Both Teddy and I tested positive that indicated that we had TB or the antibodies – both of us had been vaccinated earlier than usual because our mum’s had TB.  Years passed, Teddy and Bunny married and had our honeymoon in Peterhead to meet my new relatives…  A couple of years later we booked a caravan holiday to south of France.  Unbelievably, there was a typhoid outbreak in La Sud and we had to get new vaccinations just before our trip.  We were vaccinated on our bums but then had a 24-hour bus trip to our destination – oh how we ached!

As our vacations got more exotic, so did the vaccinations.  Teddy had to get the Yellow Fever vaccine for a work trip to Africa.  In between all that you kept up with your tetanus vaccinations, especially if you lived in an agricultural area like we did.  Then we moved to Egypt in 2002 and I felt like a pin cushion.  Most of the childhood vaccines had to be repeated as illness such as polio are still endemic in third world countries.  We also had rabies vaccines which I am not sure were entirely necessary but it gave me free rein to work with street animals so another blessing, perhaps.  A tiny kitten nearly killed me with septicemia from a bite, so I guess death is always lurking around the corner in one form or another.  The only thing we didn’t have to worry about in Egypt was terrorist attacks!  You had to be careful on boats in the Nile in case you got Nile water splashed in your mouth.  Bilharzia is a very common disease; my Egyptian friend’s Dad was dying of liver failure caused by Bilharzia, a parasite you can ingest when drink untreated Nile water.

I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT SOME OF THESE VACCINES FOR EGYPT WERE???

So, we reach 2021 and by some miracle scientists were able to create a vaccine at Warp Speed.  There hasn’t been much time for trial but it is a global pandemic of unimaginable scale.  Almost 3 million people worldwide have died of Covid-19 but the true number is probably much higher.  Herd immunity is a long way off, so turn up for your vaccine appointment!  My eyes have gone square from looking at the TV and Internet too much during this weird time but I loved this funny video that I found some months ago.  Yes, cat fur and hot dog water sounds just fine to me…

Forgotten Family Faces

To my complete astonishment, a long-lost cousin found me through this website.  She had Googled one of our ancestors and found ‘Postcards from Kerry’.  I am a few years older than her but we share the same great grandparents – the Pinkmans – my maternal grandmother’s family.  My cousin was brought up in England, north of Liverpool, as was my Nana.  It was such a lovely surprise to be able to reconnect.  Over the years my aunt and I had been musing on why we had lost touch with that branch of the family and now we are all in contact again.

One of the first photos that my cousin sent was the sepia print above.  I think I had seen this photograph before my Nana died in 1974 but had forgotten what my great grandparents looked like.  My Nana, Kathleen, is 4th from the right between her brothers and this is the earliest photo I have of her.  Her face reflects her soft and gentle nature, although she had a fun feisty side too (I inherited that…)  I was looking in vain for a resemblance between us but then I saw a glimpse of her only great grand-daughter, her namesake.  Nana died long before she was born as most of our family married a little later than conventionally acceptable in those days.

Nana was the oldest girl in the Pinkman family and lived a life very different to mine as a child.  They lived a comfortable middle-class life in a three-story house steps from a beautiful beach.  There was a governess and music lessons.  Then both of their parents died within a short time of each other.  My working theory is that it could have been the last flu Pandemic in 1918 but who knows?  Nana looked after the younger children until she was past marriageable age.  She joined a convent as a novice nun but left to marry my grandfather Daniel McHugh, who was also older, then they moved to the farm in Ireland.

My cousin and I emailed about some of the family mysteries.  The whole family (in the photograph) were ethnically Irish and their original name was McGuire.  We are unsure if they anglicized their name to Pinkman or the authorities.  Irish settlers were not warmly welcomed in most countries, including England where there were signs on pubs saying “No dogs or Irish”.  Ironically my Celtic accent makes me very popular now…dogs like me too.

For some reason Nana was most unwilling to share details of her parents to me or her children despite my interrogation.  “What was your Mummy like, Nana?” “Little girls should be seen and not heard” was the frequent response.  There was a family disgrace which I blogged about in this post Our Irish Family Secret.  Despite that, I remember my Nana’s fondness for her younger brother.  Another family member revealed that the family spoke Irish Gaelic at home, which was a surprise.  My DNA and records confirm that we are from the Midland region of Ireland – Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim and Cavan.  Our McHugh family farm had land in both Sligo and Leitrim.

Our family has been enhanced by this family reconnection; it brought back lovely memories of meeting all my great aunts and uncles in England when I was younger.  Looking at the photograph, I think of the sadness that was to follow.  My great grandma was a little stouter than I expected but had a sweet face.  Great grandpa looked uncannily like one of my Iberian ancestors on the other side – Dark Irish, perhaps?

Nature sent a gift

After the deep freeze in Texas, many of our tropical plants died. Most of mine survived because I have ruthless green fingers. Almost all of the plants that I have put in are precisely for our climate area, sub tropical forest. Our soil is poor, drought and flood are common and so if a new plant dies, I don’t plant it again. The azaleas are not indigenous but they have more blossoms than they usually do. I guess the freeze provoked some growth.

This fern was just cut down a few weeks ago and yet there is still new growth! I love my lichen covered boulders – it usually indicates that the air quality is good. The trees in our forest act as giant filters against truck happy Texas.

Our mountain laurel has three new growths – if I am very lucky they will turn into purple blossoms with a gorgeous scent. The leaves are covered in yellow pollen but they are quite healthy despite that.

Our crimson dwarf crape has survived! They are trimmed every year but should have glorious deep red blossoms in a couple of months. Thank you Mother Nature for the beautiful mood boosting gift.

On a final humorous note, I had a mad half hour after our gardener trimmed all the dead branches, trees and put down new cypress mulch. He also put down some bull rock, as you can see below, to edge the lawn. The architect of our house wanted a wavy driveway which is difficult to traverse. Teddy often gouged the lawn with the big tires on the Dodge Challenger so we added some bull rock. In this part of the world the pebbles are mostly the same sandy color but these ones were almost white. I panicked as landscaping has to follow a set of rules. Initially I thought of calling the gardener and asking him to replace them at my expense. Then I had a crazy idea to replace them with older bull rock in the backyard. After pacing and panicking, I decided that I would hose down the muddy footprints. As I did that the stones miraculously turned a sandy color… I felt like such a fool because they were just covered in rock dust! Can you imagine if I had called Adelfo? He has called me Karen for 16 years and finally I would have turned into one!

How are you?

“How are you?” is such an innocuous question that we hear all over the world.  Right now, I bet we all tell a white lie.  I went to the supermarket today, met the checkout staff who I have known for more than a decade.  “How are you?” she asked, smiling behind a mask.  “I am good, thank you, how are you?” “Good, good…” she responded.  It certainly wasn’t entirely true on my part and knowing how awful her job has been recently, I doubt that my favorite lady at the shop was good either.  2021 hasn’t worked out so great for Texans, or anyone, so far.  Our bushes and trees are a visible sign of the death after our big freeze.  They droop sadly, just hanging onto life or perhaps not.

Just like everyone else my mental health has taken a beating.  There was a little red letter day last week when we were contacted by the Houston Health Department to schedule our appointments for Covid-19 vaccines.  The only problem was that it was one of the mega vaccination sites in downtown Houston which is about 40 miles south of us.  Teddy and I decided to book a hotel the night before so we wouldn’t panic about getting there.  In Houston it is not the time or distance that is a problem but sheer volume of traffic.  You can’t tell if a journey is going to take one or two hours, especially with any breakdowns or accidents on a packed interstate.

The furthest I have driven in the past year is to our own town center, about 20 minutes away.  I last did that journey about 6 months ago and since then my journeys have been no more than 10 minutes.  Driving was a skill that I came to me late in life because of anxiety.  Medication finally allowed me to tamp down the fear to pass my test when I was 45, here in Texas.  We decided that Teddy would drive my car down to the hotel and I was so afraid that I lay horizontally in the passenger side so I couldn’t see the traffic.  Horse blinkers would have been more comfortable.

The hotel was in the most awful location but close to the gigantic stadium used for the mass vaccination.  It had seen much better days but it was clean.  There was no food or drink available.  Was the water even safe after the boil order following the big freeze?  The air conditioning sounded like a WWII bomber.  I was so cold that I went into bed fully clothed, including my fleece jacket.  Things improved slightly when we found a nice Italian restaurant that delivered a gluten free pizza and a bottle of wine.  Medication kicked in and I fell into a disturbed sleep.  My husband had to conduct a zoom meeting with colleagues in the far east at 8 pm – just one more thing to add to our disquiet.

The next day we set off for our vaccinations.  We could see the stadium across the road from our hotel but we had to go in the opposite direction, making a U-turn under the Beltway to approach.  We followed the signs for VACCINATIONS and entered an arena that was truly a military operation.  There were thousands of National Guard, Houston City workers, Sheriffs and cars full of people getting vaccinated.  Health is a great leveler – bashed up little Honda Civics alongside fancy Bentleys and myriad trucks.  We had received texts confirming our appointment times – Teddy got a barcode but apparently my phone is too old to get them…

I am full of awe for all the people working at that vaccination site.  Somehow, they kept us all moving, made sure we were who we said we were and told us we were getting the Pfizer vaccine today.  You could see everyone was a bit shell-shocked at the scale of the operation and we all said, “Yes, sir or ma’am”.  I had brought all our medications but no one asked for anything, other than ID.  We finally reached the vaccinations area and it was given by a very young medic from the National Guard.  As I lifted up my sleeve, I noticed how much muscle mass I have lost in my arms.  Ah well, at least I lived long enough to get the vaccine.

The journey home was less frenetic but I still stayed horizontal.  When we were about 4 miles from home, I finally sat up with some of the stress of the whole experience abating.  I went straight into the shower and all the clothes went in the wash.  Then I went to bed and stayed there for a couple of days.  Most people don’t feel too bad after the first jab but everything hurt – my eye sockets, every muscle ached and I was cold.  They say that a strong reaction is a good thing but mine might have been equally due to anxiety.

I saw a heartwarming piece on CNN about a grandmother who was so frozen with fear, even after being fully inoculated, that her doctor gave her a prescription for a hug from her granddaughter, who was masked.  That’s how I feel.  A tiny amount of my fear has gone but I feel no desire to leave our hibernation at home.  Future vacations fill me with panic.  For a moment, I wondered if I should ask for an increase in medication but I think time will be enough.  Step by step we will emerge from this year of dread.  We won’t feel fabulous as soon as we are inoculated; each time we hear about a variant we may tremble. 

On the other hand, I will enjoy my first coffee with a friend, wearing make-up and sitting in a restaurant in time.  Now we have to vaccinate the world.  I am beyond grateful to have received just one shot.  Thank you to all the scientists and other staff who worked on the Vaccine program in a global effort.  I think it is okay to say a little white lie and keep smiling.  Know many of us feel the same and you can share your feelings with someone you trust. Perhaps me?

Outstanding Blogger!

My friend Ruth, aka rkontheroad, nominated me for Outstanding Blogger Award.  I am always honored to be nominated for an award and this one was new to me. Ruth’s blog Musings from the Mountains is full of the most fantastic photography.  She has had an amazing life, living around the globe and now settled in Colorado.  Our lives have segued in some ways with our love of travel, writing and volunteering.  Thank you for the nomination, Ruth!

Ruth’s questions for the nominees

1 Why do you blog?

At first, I created the blog to provide a conduit to my book, Memoirs from Cairo on Kindle.  Once I started to connect with other bloggers, I shared travel posts and eventually very personal posts about my mental illness.  One friend advised me not to share so much but I felt it was therapeutic not just to me but to my readers who felt less alone with a stigmatized illness.


2. What themes do you blog about?

Generally I blog about travel (fond memories), mental illness, fairy stories, fashion and my ancestry.  There is no real rhyme or reason, just following the strange patterns in my head.  I enjoy vlogging too, especially during this Pandemic.  After a while it feels like other bloggers you connect with are real friends – and they are.  We find each other through shared interests, passions or beliefs.


3. What do you like to read?

My favorite genre is fantasy/science fiction.  When I was younger, I read most of the books in our local library, even other genres.  I have belonged to book clubs over the years and I like that it introduces you to books you would never have chosen.  I feel it is my personal mission to introduce people to really good science fiction and fantasy.  My choice one year was The Martian and everybody loved it!   My illness or perhaps my medication for (OCD, depression and anxiety) sometimes affects my ability to concentrate and read a whole book.  It is a real loss in my life but I read other blog posts or article of interest on my laptop make up for that.  That’s why I am on/off with blogging – I have to have the muse.


4. Who or what is a person or event that has influenced your life?

I had to think long and hard about that question.  In truth, it was my mum.  My mum also had a mental illness and a bad relationship with alcohol.  Although she has been dead for 18 years, she still affects my every step.  I loved her and she loved me but we both resented each other at times.  I admired that she had immigrated alone to the States in her early 20s, traveled from east to west.  When she returned to Scotland, alone with me, she worked as a private detective for an agency that got taken over by the famous Pinkerton agency.  Life was much harder after her major breakdown and it has probably molded me into a caretaking person.  She was a beautiful, smart and kind woman whose illness/alcohol use made her narcissistic and critical at times.  That contrasted hugely with the funny loving mummy that I lost.


5. What’s one thing that’s important to you in your non-blogging life?

This was easier – my husband.  We have been married for over 38 years and had our ups and downs.  For the most part we are a very good match and really make each other laugh.  He is incredibly supportive of me and I know he always has my back.  I always wanted to marry someone who was genius smart, good looking and incredibly funny.  He still makes me laugh so much that my body farts without control which makes me laugh louder.  Despite that he still thinks I am his baby bunny…albeit with digestive problems.

Teddy on a fjord in Norway in the 90s

6. If you could go back and choose a different career, what would you do?

Speech Therapy.  I longed to do something in the para-medical field.  My family were very insistent that I spoke clearly with a neutral accent.  No slang dialect was allowed in our house.  At high school I joined drama and debating clubs and realized the pleasure in making your voice heard.  I was rather shy as a young teenager and the whole school was asked to write an essay for a Glasgow wide competition.  I chose to write about social equity, corruption in the Catholic church and other ambitious topics.  My teacher asked me to read it aloud in class and I blushed red.  At the end the whole class applauded – it was overwhelming and eye opening.  I came second in the school competition to someone who wrote about Scottish Nationalism, a very popular subject at the time.  The English principal whispered to me that I should have won.  The topic cost me dearly as one of the rigidly Catholic assistant Headteachers refused to give me a referral to college.  Our bank manager gave me one. This is why it would have been a joy to help people use their voices to the best of their ability.


7. What would you rather be doing right now, instead of writing your answers to these questions?

Despite the pandemic, there is nothing I would like to do other than answer the questions.  Scots are like the Dutch – they don’t do anything they don’t want to do! I have kindly demurred many awards, mostly because I have already been nominated for them.  This was a new category and I was delighted that Ruth asked me.  To be honest, the pandemic has stopped me talking to so many people.  I chat briefly at the grocery store but my Scottish accent sounds like Klingon behind a mask.  This post has given me the opportunity for a wee gabfest, as they say in the old country.  On a final funny note, I phoned one of my neighbors, during our deep freeze in Texas, to ask if I could take out her wheelie bin.  In her New York accent, she queried, “What now?” and I had to go through all the alternatives – big green thing for the rubbish, yellow recycling, trash can, garbage.  It was hilarious – and that was without a mask…

In turn I would like to nominate

Bonjour from Brittany

Tanja Britton

Mabel Kwong

Pit’s Fritztown News

Our Crossings

The rules for this award:                       

  1. Provide a link to the creator’s original award post.
  2. Answer the questions provided.
  3. Create 7 unique questions.
  4. Nominate up to 10 bloggers.
  5. Ensure that they are aware of their nomination.
  6. Now let’s continue to support and cheer each other throughout 2021 for the Outstanding Blogger Award!

My questions are these –

1 What continent are you from and how does that influence your blog?

2. What is your least favorite place in the world?

3. What do you enjoy most about your blog?

4. How is the pandemic affecting your writing, if at all?

5. What other species would you like to be (including alien)?

6. Are you a geek or non-geek?

7. What would you like to happen in 2022?

Please feel free to demur this nomination or not!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Do you remember when Dorothy pulled back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz, only to reveal someone pretending to be GREAT AND POWERFUL?  Later she said to him, “Oh, you are a very bad man!”  The Emerald City has revealed to be an illusion and there are many scary screaming monkeys flying around us with Camp Auschwitz t-shirts, zip ties and pipe bombs.  On a very darkly funny note, the t-shirts were sold on ETSY and are no longer available.  ETSY, really?

We have to be strong, like Dorothy and her companions.  Brave, Smart, Determined and full of Heart.  Europe and the rest of the world have been dealing with domestic terrorism for eons, so there is nothing unique about our situation.  Remember the tragic bombing at the mosque in New Zealand; the most unexpected of places?  We take stock, grieve the dead and learn a lesson.  The saddest memorial I have ever encountered is for the Oklahoma City Bombing.  I couldn’t get the image of the little chairs for the innocent children in the creche who died.

In all society there are extremists of every type – anarchists, religious zealots and Neo Nazis to name a few.  My late father-in-law will be turning in his grave after his efforts in WWII may have been in vain.  Despite spending 5 years in a POW camp in eastern Germany, he lived a long full life before dying at 93.  His heart was full of forgiveness for the people of Germany and he visited many times after the war.

My neighbors in Egypt went out of their way to protect me when the war broke out.  They wouldn’t tolerate anyone treating me with disrespect even though I drove them crazy rescuing wild animals. 

Most people are good.  Most people are good.  Most people are good.

Keep repeating that as a mantra.  The criminals will be punished and we, as a nation, are shamed.  Humility is a positive quality.  We have looked in the mirror and recoiled.

Let’s stop telling the rest of the world how to run their democracies and countries.  We can work with the UN to help stop the worst of global crimes such as ethnic cleansing.  No one political party or philosophy is entirely guilty or innocent.  Follow the Yellow Brick Road to find our decent core; we can be good but we don’t need to be great.  Now is the time to be strong and kind.  Remember that we all live in glass houses before we cast figurative stones.

The Fairy Blight

Part One of the Fairy Blight Saga

Kiera as a fairy child

Kiera looked around at the empty room in the Texas School of Fairies and sighed deeply. The beautiful red and gold silk hangings that festooned the ornate Hall of Fairies looked sad and almost gaudy without the flutter of little fairy wings. She so missed the excited chatter of her students. Eons ago Kiera herself had been a nervous sophomore. She still remembered how carefully she dressed for her first day. The indigo blue velvet pinafore almost matched her big dark blue eyes. Her long dark curls were braided into submission and interwoven with blue velvet ribbons. Both her grandmother and mother fussed over her appearance making sure her unruly curls behaved. Her family was surprised but delighted that Kiera was accepted to the school because mixed species were frowned upon for many centuries. Her mother was a typically beautiful Celtic fairy with long straight dark blond hair and wings with just a touch of pistachio green on the tips. Her father was an outcast from the fairy community.  Kiera was too ashamed to even talk about it. Those dark curls were all his, though, and the dark eyes.

Keira loved her wings which were an iridescent mixture of pearl, blue with a touch of emerald. They were reminiscent of a gem stone or mother of pearl. It seemed so long ago when her blue eyes darkened with excitement at her first sight of the fairy hall. So much had happened since then; human and fairy wars wreaked devastation upon the two species. Over centuries there had been so many fairy blights somewhat similar to human pandemics. In human society viruses usually transmit from animal to human but in fairy life they spread from plants to fairies. The worst in Kiera’s memory was the potato blight of 1800 in Ireland. Much like the human Irish, the fairy folk had to flee to far distant parts of earth to escape the blight. In potatoes it caused a failure of the crop leading to famine but it affected the fairy world differently. Some became blind; others lost their sensory perception leading to much the same conclusion – famine and deprivation.

Now in 2020, the human world is being devastated by a new Coronavirus Pandemic and perhaps coincidentally the fairy world has been struck a deadly new blight – nicknamed Black Shade. It spread from late tomato blight which is related to the Irish potato blight and can affect all nightshade plants. The blight has mutated to cause a devastating browning or desiccation of fairy wings and occasional wing drop. A fairy without wings cannot survive. Only a few short months ago this eerily silent hall had been alive with every hue of fairy, chattering in many languages. Kiera had been shy little fairy when she arrived at The Texas School of Fairies but happily discovered that her classmates liked to share secrets with her. Her sweet face and trusting nature made her an excellent future choice for a school soothsayer akin to a human school counselor.

Fairy Blight

Over decades, as School Soothsayer, she had wiped away despondent tears of homesick fairies and helped them find their true path. Her long dark hair had turned pewter and her eyes were still deep dark blue with just a touch of grey. Kiera had succumbed to Black Shade and her beautiful wings were permanently stained brown along the tips. Thankfully she had recovered quickly – the fairy healers had been quick to find unique remedies for this new blight. Eventually there might be a cure but in the meantime almost all students and pupils had been sent home.  Kiera chose to stay at the school to look after those very few staff and pupils that remained. The panic was tangible at first with anxious parents flying in to pick up their children. Some parents had to ask relatives to make the long journey to collect students if they had suffered wing damage or worse. With every new pandemic there is an initial mystery about transmission but this new fairy blight was passed by touch. Little fairies love to touch each other with hugs, kisses and wing trembling. No matter how many times the headmaster or Miss Kiera warned the students to socially distance it was beyond their limited understanding of how serious this Black Shade could be. Just like human children, fairies bairns needed touch to develop into well-adjusted adults.

Kiera wandered the lonely corridors with too much time to think about her life. She was approaching retirement and wondered how she would adapt to that or an extended closure of the school. She caught a glimpse of herself i an ornate mirror and was startled. Where was that beautiful young fairy that looked just like her father?  Over the years she had come to terms with his failures. He had fallen into the Black Arts using his charm to trick the fairy and human world. Centuries ago he was sent to The Spectral Isle for punishment. It was a shameful time for his family who were proud Baja fairies from Mexico. He had ruined his family’s proud heritage.  Kiera looked just like her paternal Abuela, Juanita. Curiously, it was her father’s choice to name her Kiera which honored her long Irish heritage.  The name Kiera is a feminine version of Ciaran which means dark haired. She looked at her untidy Pewter hair in the mirror and quickly tidied it into a braided plait. Kiera looked at her brown tipped wings with sadness but gratitude for having survived Black Shade.

The fairy world is naturally superstitious and Kiara had to bite her lip with many ill-informed parents.  First the Shade was spread by crows, then toads (both untrue) and every possible portent of doom.  Even though the Healers had quickly established that this was the late Tomato Blight, preposterous theories persisted.  Kiera understood their fears and as a soothsayer did her best to reassure anxious students and their families.  It was easier for Kiera who had lived through wars and pestilence to accept that Black Shade was a natural part of living in this world.  One day, when the worst of this was over, we would grieve for the fairy folks who had succumbed but then move on with lightness in our hearts.  The sun will shine again and the Hall of Fairies would be alive with little fluttering wings.

Postscript

My friends had often asked me when I would write a fairy story about myself so Kiera is my alias.  My father did choose my birth name against my mother’s wishes.  He also dabbled in the Black Arts… Fairy stories traditionally allow us to tell children harsh facts about the world in a style that they can understand.  The sun will shine again.