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A Potpourri of Irish Tales by Mark Baird

Why a ‘Potpourri’ I asked myself in looking at the title? Is It simply a synonym for miscellany - the ‘medley of short stories’ of the by-line?

I have my own childhood associations with what the word potpourri means; great aunts, and my granny, in 1950's Scotland, gathered/made their potpourris from materials in the local hedgerows, woods and gardens. The air fresheners of that decade!

But Mark’s tales have their roots in 1960’s Belfast . Having read the “wee stories”, the more I think nature’s ‘potpourri’ seems relevant to a theme in his tales. Just as memories of the spring/summer/autumn of life echo down the years, the potpourri scents of petals, leaves, seeds, plant oils etc leave a legacy well beyond their season. Occasionally there is an unexpected twist to these tales – sometimes half expected. A hint of a scent that is difficult to identify. Is it the heady scent of the red currant flower? No, the twist has a sting. It turns out to be the balmy aroma from tea tree oil. But I am letting my imagination run away with me!

The tales collected under this title work on so many levels. Yes, this is Belfast. Yes, it’s the 1960’s. Mark’s story telling captures the relatively less troubled ‘pre- Trouble’ times in Northern Ireland. But his nostalgic glances over the shoulder will chime for many with a mid-twentieth century childhood further afield. Both readers looking for something light to while away an odd hour and aficionados of the short story genre should find much to enjoy in the pages of this wee gem of a book.

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