Warm hearts, Cold Feet and big hugs

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS -

Au­thor Carmel Har­ring­ton and her hus­band Roger have made their home in Wex­ford a haven of fam­ily love, writes An­drea Smith

WHEN Roger Har­ring­ton first spot­ted his fu­ture wife Carmel in Ron Black’s pub in 2006, she was wear­ing a red beret, which he thought was very chic. They got talking and he made her laugh, and they ended up go­ing for a drink to The Fitzwilliam Ho­tel.

“I thought Carmel was very at­trac­tive and friendly,” says Roger, then 38. “The con­ver­sa­tion flowed, and in the first six months of our re­la­tion­ship, it struck me that I hadn’t been in a re­la­tion­ship like this be­fore in terms of how eas­ily I could talk to her. We were re­ally on the same page and it just felt so right.”

At the time, both were just out of long-term re­la­tion­ships, and Roger had a three-year-old daugh­ter, Eva. Carmel, then 35, felt that he had a twin­kle in his eye and looked like he was up for a bit of fun, but as they chat­ted, she re­alised that there was more to him than meets the eye.

“We knew that first night that we had some­thing spe­cial,” she says. “My par­ents had a place in Florida and we went there via New York af­ter three months, which I felt would make or break us. It was the best thing we ever did as we re­ally fell in love there and our re­la­tion­ship blos­somed.”

The son of Eve­lyn and the late Roger, Roger, now 49, has three sis­ters, in­clud­ing his twin, also called Eve­lyn. The fam­ily moved from Kil­dare to Clon­tarf when he and Eve­lyn were 12. He worked in the fam­ily shop, The Beanstalk, in Ra­heny un­til he joined the civil ser­vice in 1990, aged 22. He rose through the ranks in dif­fer­ent departments and grades, in­clud­ing be­ing pri­vate sec­re­tary to the Min­is­ter for Trans­port in 2002, Sea­mus Bren­nan. He and Carmel moved to Wex­ford in 2010 as Roger took up a post there. He is now prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer in the ma­rine plan­ning and fore­shore sec­tion of the De­part­ment of Hous­ing, Plan­ning, Com­mu­nity and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment.

Carmel, now 46, comes sec­ond of Mick and Tina O’grady’s four chil­dren. The fam­ily lived in London, where her mum is from, un­til she was 10 and then moved to Wex­ford, where her dad is from. She took a job with Aer Lin­gus aged 18, end­ing up in sales and mar­ket­ing, and af­ter 10 years, moved to 3M, where she re­mained for a decade.

She and Roger got mar­ried in 2008, and went on hon­ey­moon to Las Ve­gas. They re­newed their vows there with ‘Elvis,’ for a bit of fun, who sang as he walked Carmel down the aisle. Roger’s daugh­ter Eva, now aged 14, was flower girl at the Ir­ish wed­ding. “I love her like she is my own,” says Carmel. “She is gor­geous and we are very close and both love books.” Roger and I were de­lighted to have two chil­dren, Amelia (seven) and Nate (five), and they’re best friends, so life has been re­ally happy for us. They adore Eva and think she’s the coolest thing ever.”

When Carmel met Roger, he was the first per­son she told about her dream to write. When they moved to Wex­ford, Carmel de­cided to be a stayat-home mum, and Roger sug­gested that this would be the ideal time to start writ­ing.

‘I still fancy Roger as much as I did the first day I met him’

“There was a few quid there, so I told Carmel that she would never get a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity,” he says. “I told her to take a year, take some cash and go do it.”

Carmel self-pub­lished her first book, Beyond Grace’s Rain­bow, as an e-book, and it did re­ally well, reach­ing num­ber one in its genre. She was picked up by an agent and, in turn, got the first of sev­eral deals with Harpercollins. Her books have done very well and have been trans­lated into eight lan­guages, and the lat­est, The Woman at 72 Derry Lane, is out now in tra­di­tional pa­per­back and e-book. She also signed a con­tract ear­lier this year with ITV to write a novel, based on the hit show Cold Feet. That show ended in 2003 and be­gan film­ing again in 2016, so Carmel was com­mis­sioned to write a novel about what hap­pened to the characters in the in­ter­ven­ing years. Cold Feet: The Lost Years comes out this week, to co­in­cide with the air­ing of the new se­ries of the show.

“I’m ex­tremely proud of Carmel,” says Roger. “We both went to the Ir­ish Book Awards and the set of Cold Feet, and I car­ried her hand­bag as she walked up the red car­pets. It al­ways struck me how cre­ative she is, and when she started writ­ing, there was no doubt in my mind that she would make it a suc­cess.

“It has re­ally taken off in a much big­ger way this year, and I think she will go on to achieve huge things. She is also very funny, and has a very strong sense of fam­ily, and we have this amaz­ing feel­ing of com­fort at home. I’m away a bit with the job, and when I come home and see her smil­ing at the front door, we in­stantly re­con­nect.”

Carmel is chair of Wex­ford Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val, which she co-founded, and a pan­el­list on TV3’S Elaine. She says Roger is very calm­ing, ground­ing and wise, and when some­thing goes wrong, he’ll al­ways find the right words to com­fort her. While he says her im­pul­sive­ness can drive him mad, she says he’s a bit of a ‘grump’ at times, but apart from that, they get on fa­mously. “I still fancy Roger as much as I did the first day I met him,” says Carmel. “My safe har­bour is when he puts his arms around me and I fit in just un­der his chin. If I have a bad day, I know I just need a big hug from Roger to make it bet­ter.”

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane, Harpercollins, €11.99 Cold Feet: The Lost Years, Hod­der & Stoughton, €7.99

Roger and Carmel Har­ring­ton... ‘We knew that first night that we had some­thing spe­cial’ Photo: David Conachy

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