When I told my publicist that it was my 70th birthday on 12th August during my run at the Edinburgh Fringe she said two things. Firstly, that it was known in Scotland as the glorious 12th and secondly how on earth had I managed to reach this age with the life that I have led?
Well, it appears, in relation to the first question, that my birthday is nothing to do with anything that is glorious in Scotland; I just choose to say it is. As for the second, I am not sure myself. I am a miracle, it’s inexplicable. The enthusiasm that terrified my Irish mother is now a passion for life. I found my voice at 70. I am not dying, I am growing.
The author Earl Nightingale told us that the word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from the Greek word ‘entheos’, which means the God within. And that the happiest, most interesting people are those who have found the secret of maintaining their enthusiasm, that God within.
I know that my early years might not have looked like a template for a long life. I have overcome my addictions; I now use my ‘lived experience’ for the good, to create something that has become meaningful and so much fun.
I found my voice.
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Have you seen this?
‘Once upon a time, there was a Princess born to a King and Queen who were banished from the island of Ériu and forced to flee to America in a coffin ship.’ – Former New York City call girl Mary Goggin shares the true, award-winning story of her Irish Catholic trauma, alcoholism, drug addiction and prostitution. The multitude of characters she encountered in her journey from utter darkness to absolute joy, spring to life in this one-woman tour de force, all told with dark humor, unflinching honesty and unsentimental pathos.
This is the story of my life. So, I came to Edinburgh, and Scotland, for the first time in my life.
When I first decided to write the story of my life, I took it to the Galway Fringe in 2019. My heritage is Ireland. My parents emigrated there before I was born – my dad might not have been able to read or write but he could tell a story. And we heard them all – sometimes in song and sometimes in prose. It was our history, our life and our family. However, the Catholic guilt and sexual repression ran deep, as represented with magical realism in Act 1: the famine. It was like a vein that if cut it would stop your heart beating.
At 13 I began shooting heroin and it perhaps didn’t help that my mother thought it might be a good idea to send me to a convent school in Ireland. She was keeping me alive. The nuns taught me elocution (which turned out to be quite handy in what I do now, thank you) but the deep shame that ran alongside anything to do with sex and enjoyment was absolutely ingrained into us.
So back to the Galway Fringe, when I was a sprightly 67-year-old. I loved doing the show, the audience reaction was unbelievable, and I was awarded Best Actor Award for the Fringe.
‘You’ve got to take this to Edinburgh’ people kept saying. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Edinburgh was the capital of Scotland (heck, I got the education that my parents never had) but I hadn’t really heard of the Fringe. Well, wouldn’t you know that it’s the biggest arts festival in the world? Obviously, I couldn’t come in 2020 or 2021 because it didn’t really happen. But I am here now. I am taking a jump into the dark as I don’t have family or friends around. Mind you, many of my family think that talking about my life is shameful.
Mary’s show runs at Greenside on Infirmary Street until August 27th
My story in Runaway Princess (at Greenside at Infirmary Street at 2.55pm just in case you are interested) continues the life I led in New York after I escaped from the convent. It involves alcohol (a lot), heroin (even more) and a life as one of the Big Apple’s main call girls. I have no shame about any of that. It was a life I decided to lead for a while. I had regular Johns, and, in some ways, I was their therapist. I gave them a blowjob and they told me about their tortured lives. They had jobs they hated, wives they barely tolerated and families from whom they couldn’t wait to escape. Me? I had a freedom that they never knew, and I gave them a release from a life they hated. Was I doing something wrong? Personally, I think not although many would disagree. Including the aforementioned family. I think I should have added the fee of a professional shrink – maybe $350 an hour. Frankly I don’t know because I haven’t needed to talk to one.
So now here I am in Edinburgh. Where my language of the heart is spoken. I can’t believe what a beautiful city it is. People talk about Dublin, which is a great place to visit, but it lacks the grandeur of Scotland’s capital. One minute I am walking down little 16th century ‘closes’ wondering how on earth people lived in these towering tenements chucking all sorts out of their windows. Then I cross Princes Street to the New Town and the elegance of Georgian architecture is a thing of beauty. Above it all looms a castle. A proper non-Disney castle upon a huge rock right in the middle of this city. As a Bronx girl I walk around with my jaw bouncing off the ground as to how I came to be here – Edinburgh Festival Fringe; my own show and people interested in my story. If only my dog, Joey, could have been here with me. I even got him a raincoat for the weather!
Our flash theme for August is cats, Edinburgh and allotments!
Here we are in August. With so many things happening in the world, we plan to keep distracting you with the nicer things in life. This month, it’s #InternationalCatDay (very important to Orlando), Edinburgh festivals season and allotments, just for good measure.
We have some content coming up on the website this month from people who have brilliant and successful creative lives that chime with their love of all things feline. We’re also hoping to hear from allotment lovers to celebrate #NationalAllotmentsWeek and take a peek at older performers at the Edinburgh festival. These are also the themes of our monthly flash competition, which is a photo competition this month.
Are you aged 60 or over? Send us your cat photos! If you’re not a fan of cats (whyever not?), send us your Edinburgh Festival photos! Or send us your allotment photos!
Entries will be accepted until midnight on August 31st and we’ll pick our favourite in early September. The winner will receive a copy of Cat Brushing, the fabulous new short story collection from Jane Campbell, published by riverrun, and imprint of Quercus. The Autumn Voices Content Editor has just read it and reckons it’s very good…