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Have you got the gift of the pen? If so enter our short story competition! All you have to do is scribe 800 words and email it to us by the end of July. In the meantime, here is the story written by last year’s winner, Barbara Walshe. Enjoy!



By Barbara Walshe, Rathfarnham, Dublin 


The Qantas flight takes off from Singapore Airport, headed for Brisbane, Australia. It is the third take-off in this long journey to the other side of the world.


Leaving Ireland is hardly anything new these days. But Shauna and Pat had no choice. Shauna’s job, at an auctioneer’s had gone. And there was no reviving that industry, not for decades. So she decided she would be a housewife until something else came up. Nothing did. Pat’s business in corporate gifts wasn’t doing so well either. Nobody was buying gifts for anyone anymore, and no one was expecting to be given any gifts, even at Christmas. An email containing the words “relationship” and “thank you” was enough these days. The business landscape had changed forever.

Shauna sinks back into the economy class seat and thinks about the day they decided to leave Ireland. Pat had said, “Shauna, I have to wrap up the business. We are in danger of getting in some very deep debt if we go on. We need to think of an alternative otherwise we can’t pay the mortgage this month. You have no work and we’re going to have to ask your parents for money for the kids’ uniforms this year if we don’t change the course we are on.”

Neither of them had been to Australia before. But in Brisbane, where her cousin lived, Shauna knew it was so hot in the summer that you couldn’t touch the steering wheel or get into your car for five minutes after the doors were opened lest your skin burned and melted onto the car seat. She knew that there were kangaroos on the golf courses, and that koalas were often seen high in the gum trees along the river near where they would be living. She knew that the beaches were beautiful and the weather was very rarely bad, and that sporting a tan was a national fashion. She also knew that if you didn’t follow some sort of sport then you’d have nothing to talk about to anyone Australian. And that Pat had better learn how to barbeque properly and learn the names of new cuts of meat very, very fast. And she had to learn how to make fruit salads, using local ingredients like paw-paw and mulberries and other purple things she’d never heard of. She has also been told that the Australian grass is everything that Irish grass isn’t. It’s coarse, full of prickles and ants that bite you so hard it feels like your foot is on fire. And of course, there are the spiders and the snakes and the god-awful cockroaches which will make their presence known to her often. She knew that many people had successfully immigrated to Australia and were living fabulous lives.

Shauna’s cousin had got her a job in a real estate office in the city centre, and Pat could start his business afresh in Australia without the crushing pressure of a recession to hinder sales. The kids were ready to start Australian school; their uniforms included a large sun hat that kept the baking heat off them in the schoolyard. They would not find a use, however for their Irish language skills.

The Qantas flight touches down, and the first thing Shauna notices is the bright, brilliant blue Southern Hemisphere sky. She ushers her children into the baking humid air, so dense and heated it is like standing under a hairdryer. The family presses on through immigration, where friendly workers greet them with, “Gidday, welcome to Australia!” Finally, they emerge out of the international airport, and into the sunny day and the cloudless sky. They stand outside in the most beautiful day. Don’t let it get away, Shauna thinks.

She looks at Pat. She says, “Have we done the right thing?”

Pat looks down. Shauna notices a tear in his eye, and she feels just how much he has kept inside for the family’s sake. She understands him. They can make it anywhere.

He says, “We really haven’t made the right decision.”

Shauna looks at her kids, and says, “Let’s go home.”


Enter the Competition

This year’s winner is Barbara Walshe of Rathfarnham in Dublin, who wins the €100 prize money. You too can enter the competition for next year by getting those creative juices flowing. Stories should be 600 to 800 words and can be submitted by 31st July 2013 to

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