A secretive bundle in his late granny’s house piqued young Gerard’s interest.

My enduring love for a girl called Cait


Gerard Smith

On school mornings I could never waken. Dad would verbally drag me from bed, “Gerard, Get up – NOW!” But come Saturday morning, I was wide awake before 6am; and I didn’t mind. Because for the first time in my life I had my own space. I enjoyed the privilege of having a bedroom to myself.

We now lived in my Town Granny’s house after her untimely passing the previous summer.

Her essence was present throughout the home: in the décor, the furnishings; I could smell her in the pervasive odour of moth-balls, a fragrance I’d grown to love, a reassuring scent.

My bedroom housed another aspect of Town Granny – her stiff constraint. Against the back wall was a chest of draws. It contained her net curtains, stiffened with starch, folded away with fastidious care. And that Saturday morning whilst I whiled away the early hour admiring the beauty of her delicately cared for net-curtains; I found her secret.

In the bottom draw, I took out the final net. I felt a box-like shape concealed within its folds. Placing it on the bed I began to unfold it. But, I couldn’t find an opening and wondered if whatever it was had been sewn into the curtain. Frustrated, I stood up and shook the nets out, and amongst their flutter a thud hit the floor. I looked at a parcel, wrapped in The Anglo-Celt of old, a black and white broadsheet. It was bound with string, knotted tight; I worked deftly, like a skilled lock-pick.

My fingers were ink-blackened by the time the knot gave way. Slowly and with some trepidation, I unwrapped the reams of The Celt, careful to preserve the pages for re-wrapping should the secret need to be re-concealed.

What it revealed disappointed me – a book. Its cover had a painting of two pretty girls, and its title announced: ‘THE COUNTRY GIRLS’.

I wondered why Granny would go to such lengths to conceal a harmless book. My interest piqued, I jumped back into bed and began to read.

The first line resonated with me, “I wakened quickly and sat up in bed abruptly”. I’d done the same thing minutes earlier. The narrator immediately engaged me, a girl of 14 described the minutia of readying for school on a cold spring morning. By page eight I was immersed in Cait’s world.

At page ten I sat up when Cait made an innocent reference to her burgeoning sexuality; this shed some light on Granny’s concealment of the book.

I smiled warmly at the thought of my chaste Granny reading something she would’ve deemed racy. I delved back in, reading it through Granny’s eyes. And in doing so, I felt a connection to her, a melancholy-fondness for a woman bound by such constraint she concealed a book I considered on the whole, wholesome.

I revelled in the warm cosiness of the narrative, the perfect antidote to the last book I’d read – The Exorcist.

When I heard Mam getting up, I dashed downstairs. “You were up early this morning, I heard you rummaging,” she said, handing me a mug. That was my cue, I slurped a slug of tea and splurged, “I found a book Granny was hiding.” She put down her mug, “You did not, what book?”

I handed it to her. Mam stared at it, flicked through its pages; and as she did I watched her face display a myriad of emotions, eventually settling on a moist-eyed wistfulness as she whispered, “God love her, I hope she enjoyed it.”

“Why’d she hide it?” I asked.

“It was banned in Ireland so it was.”

I was aghast, “Why? There’s no swearing or nowt really dirty in it so far, anyway.”

Mam put down her mug, “In Mammy’s day a girl was dirty if she looked at a boy.”

She gave the book back to me, “I’d say she was posting it on to someone, but didn’t get the chance – we’ll never know, now.”

I never really knew my Granny, she was a distant figure in my life. Yet in literature and through the character of Cait; I became close to Kate, the Country Girl from Crosserlough who grew to become my Town Granny.

My love for Cait/Kate and ‘The Country Girls’ will forever endure.