Letter to my younger self – Dear Eileen…

I got an email from Eileen Harkin after she read one of the Letter to my younger self series. She was inspired to write one of her own. This is her first time to EVER share something publicly. I hope it’s the beginning of a whole new writing life for Eileen. 

Eileen was born in Camberwell, London. Her parents were both from Tralee, Co Kerry, and emigrated to England to find work in the late 1950’s. She loves talking, musing, reading, reminiscing, listening, learning, laughing, baking, walking, and advising.
Oh, And Irish Showbands!

Over to her…



Eileen - Notre Dame Days
Eileen – Notre Dame Days

Well Eileen, I know for sure and for certain that at the grand age of 16 you did not envisage for one minute how life actually would pan out for you. I’m not going to kid you, because I know how much the truth matters to you now, and I promise it always will. You will receive great love, lose most of it through no fault of your own, but prove yourself to be far greater a survivor than you have ever been given credit for. You will always be a worrier though, and I wish more than anything that was not the case…

Remember 4 years ago when you were 12 years old? Your over-burdening worry then involved trying to work out fractions and the binary system during your first year at Notre Dame Southwark Secondary School. Your dotty (and borderline bonkers) maths teacher Miss W was no use; neither was your Muvver, Mrs Burke. One evening you desperately resorted to asking Muvver for help with your sickeningly hard maths homework, even though you knew seeking assistance was a truly forlorn hope. Muvver gave her typical response worthy of the situation as she saw it – “If the worst thing in life you ever have to worry about is understanding fractions, you’ll be fecking lucky”. Wise words in some ways, but the utterly withering look of huffy disapproval you received from prim Miss W the following morning (after nervously explaining why your homework was full of unanswered & unassisted questions) will stay with you forever. You are right to feel mortified at the memory!

No matter, you are now 16 years old; and the troubling consequences of the failure of the Weimar Republic & the rise of that evil git Hitler are much more up your street. You will always love learning more and more about history – it will devour so much of your time, energy and your heart way into the future, and guess what? You will graduate with a Degree in your beloved subject, and you will never have to deal with “fecking fractions” or binary ever again! Result 🙂

You rightly are working so hard at school and doing the best you can, but the distractions and discord caused by the rest of the family are going to badly resonate with you for the rest of your life. I’m giving it to you straight kiddo; when you reach 50 years old, your beloved Dad Mossie will have already left the family for the third time. As you know, the first time was when he “ran off” with Miss O’R “the other woman” when you were 5 and a half years old. You have dealt with that so brilliantly over the years. Be proud of that! But the second time of his leaving will prove be the direct cause of your first serious nervous collapse; he will leave said Wife Number 2 for yet another woman (code-name Cruella, don’t ask, you’ll learn).

image (2)
Eileen & Dad. Such a wonderful sight to see. But his eyes are closed….a telling portent.

There will be a steady period of apparent familial utopia now you are 16; but when you are 24, smelly Cruella will cold-heartedly decide to cut all ties with Dad’s existing family, & Dad will succumb to her demands because he stupidly gave her control over all his money. And he will literally be terrified & s**t-scared of what she is capable of. Yes, it’s hard to believe; but that vibrant, charming, savvy, classy, once-strong entrepreneurial Kerryman that you love so much now, will literally be crushed by Ireland’s answer to Lucretia Borgia 😦

I can’t gloss over how broken-hearted you will be when he leaves you for the third and final time in your life; I have to say you will probably never get over his totally unexpected, sudden & mysterious death. You will be especially sad, because in the two years before he leaves for the last time, you were back in touch & had enjoyed so many heartwarming meetings and conversations that bode very well for the future…

50 years old is going to be a pivotal age for you mate; your oldest sister will not have spoken to you for over two years. Trust me, as unthinkable as that sounds to you now, you are very soon going to see the signs of things to come. You will look back and be proud of how you stuck by her in terribly unsavoury & vile circumstances over the many years; seeing things that nobody your age should have seen – you were a rock to her. Never, ever let that loyalty on your part be undermined by spin, bull or supposition. She might have forgotten, but you never will.

image (3)
Eileen and brother John. Who would have ever thought…”thick as thieves”!

Guess what? Your annoying little brother John will prove to be the person with the honest heart of the family. As usual though, he will be put down, cut down to size and made out to be the fool of our little clan – supposedly to make others look better. Nobody who really matters will believe it though, because John will be well-beloved by you & many extended friends & family. And imagine this; he will make you an Auntie!

And now to the real nitty-gritty that concerns you at present! I can happily enlighten you with these Facts, that I”ll categorise as ‘Will’ :-

1. Your best friend now (EMJL) WILL still be your best friend now & always
2. You will (believe me) look back and wonder why you ever fancied Hutch over Starsky
3. You will always have enough batteries to keep your portable radio going overnight
4. Clearasil & Anne French won’t clear your spots; growing older will do that
5. Splashing cold water on your boobs every night may well have worked, because you have got bazookas – yes I know, it’s unbelievable!
6.You WILL pass your exams & stay on at your beloved NDHS for 2 more years
7. Yes, you will indeed have sex – but saving yourself for that eejit McN was a total waste 😦
8. Children? Of your own? Nope. But strangely, it won’t bother you.

But here’s the real clincher….. two very, VERY important things happened that you always thought to be utterly unthinkable:-

1. You never ended up incarcerated in The Maudsley Mental Home in Camberwell

2. You married the “unattainable” (your fellow Notre Dame Girls’ verdict) Peter Harkin.

Yes, honestly! And don’t say “errmm….what?!” – because some dreams do come true, after all.

......Blimey.....I really married Peter Harkin! LUCKY OLD ME!
……Blimey…..I really married Peter Harkin! LUCKY OLD ME!

Love to you, Eileen xOx

3 thoughts on “Letter to my younger self – Dear Eileen…

  1. Eileen, your photographs are lovely! And I resonate with your brokenheartedness over your Dad… but the ending, the dream coming true. That’s the best part. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Helen Bullock

    Lovely letter Eileen!
    So many parts make me want to send a virtual hug to you and 16yo you! Course there are other bits that made me giggle! Great word that bazookas!! Keep writing! You’ve a natural flair!


  3. ritaobrien2014

    Great letter and pictures, Eileen, especially your happy ending – a beaming light at the end of many a domestic tunnel!

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