Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Caroline Owens - 'If You Fall, Run On'

Sally Bavage writes:
Caroline Owens
Hosted by Salvo’s in the salumeria and accompanied by a most appropriate supper – for a book launch - of pasta scrolls in sauce, Caroline Owens was able to share with us some anecdotes about her book, titled as above. Written at first as a tribute to her own mother, it also became a personal journey informed by Caroline’s expertise both as a child psychotherapist and a child of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It also celebrates all the other mothers who tried their best to bring up their children to hold fast to their values when chaos sometimes surrounded them. Then, as now. Growing up in 60s Northern Ireland and coping with 21st century childhood involve challenge and change, difficulties and doubts.  

Caroline was only eight years old when the thirty years of the Troubles began.  She remembers her mother’s maxim of getting out of a tight spot quickly: “If you fall, run on.” She remembers vividly the day her mother challenged the balaclava-wearing armed gunmen who stopped the car in which they were off to school.  They wanted the car to burn in a blockade.  Her mother reached into the car and, picking up her umbrella, pointed it at them in defiance.  “I bet if you took your balaclavas off your mothers would stop you.  Now step aside; my children are going to school.”  And they did. Step aside. Go to school. Normality within the surreality.

Surreal too, she said, to see a memoir you have written in the window of Waterstones, after you have come to terms with the dissent that writing about real people and real events can cause within families. Power strikes after the power stations had been bombed led to evenings sitting by candlelight, the flickering of the turf and coal fire, the eldest children allowed to stay up late going quietly about small hobbies. The tick of the clock, the clatter of knitting needles, the rustle of paper as an origami paper bird was constructed and revised, over and over again.  Lessons in industry and perseverance that served as a metaphor for her life.
Caroline Owens with John Dammone (MD Salvo's)

Hard times in an area where, if you were Catholic, your hopes for employment were slim. Caroline came to Leeds in the late 70s, jobhunting at the age of eighteen, and was attracted by the wonderful Italian music flowing out of Salvo’s to sit outside and listen.  Drawn in by Salvo senior (Salvatore Dammone), and asked if she could work in a restaurant, the only answer had to be “Yes”, though of course in reality all the cafés and restaurants where she had lived had been bombed and closed.  No matter, the warm family atmosphere supported her and gave her a chance to try, to succeed and to move on in her own story.

“Don’t write a book because you want to be famous, write a book because you have a story to tell and a passion for writing.”  Caroline did, she has and we were fortunate to enjoy the genuine warmth and the honesty of her heartwarming and thought-provoking insights.

Buy the book now through the website - www.carolineowens.co.uk

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