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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Yeats and the Queen of Ireland. Burning down the House.

                                             
                                                              I dreamed a Dream
                                                                                                                                                                 At Easter, on Holy Saturday night,  I dreamed I torched my nest. No really. In the dream I lived there, it was all walls, partitions, arteries, a network of branches and I put a match to it. I felt guilty, true.   Defiant also, at the time, in the dream. But afterwards, looking at the blackened devastated  ruins, I was glad. I felt guilty and glad at the same time, if you want to know...

Carl Jung says better to ask what a dream is for,  than what a dream means. I think he was onto something there.  I though about that all day Easter Sunday. With a weather eye on the Easter 1916  Commemoration with all it's fuss and strut, on my corner flat screen TV. Tiny President Higgins stood  erect, back arched, his greatcoat jutting forward, as he inspects the army, injects the guard, something like that. At night they showed the The Queen of Ireland.  He's tall, his shy eyes fly off as he talks, he's lovely, Rory O'Neill.

People tell you that you, the mother, will be afflicted with a sense of purposelessness when your children leave home. The empty nest syndrome.  Your nest is empty baby,  your life is over.  You have to fight your way back to some compensatory meaning till death takes you. A depressive episode even is to be expected.  Or it would be if you have any trace of a womanly heart in you at all.  "I just can't wait" I say in rage at this definition of my purpose on the planet. "I just can't wait, and whats more,  I have been anticipating it for years" in a fury at the thought that this how you see me as a woman. How you see nothing, nothing at all.

                                                       my nest is not empty its buzzing


But that's just good old self assertive perversity. I am not waiting at the door of the old nest, my cabin  bag packed, just yet.  My house is busy busy still but if it is a nest then it has expanded from a twig and feather bowl affair  to a vast many layered edifice, complete with galleries,  eccentric extensions, twisty stairways, spiralling and grand. And the fact is that  its been emptying out for years, as the children move from stage to stage, leaving behind them ghosts, chimeras of their former selves in the abandoned spaces behind them.

              O Chestnut Tree...

You can go down the spiraling way to the beginning of it all, hear a desolate babycry still, catch peripherally afterglows of the flickering angel smile on a baby's face, the boss, maybe the boy,  shadowy hauntings. Or upwards to the level floors of prepubescence, primary school.  Holograms; the beautiful girl and her sister in time, they wear the school uniforms, brush each others hair, argue, root for schoolbags, giggle.  Look over there they sit together with the boy, open faces painted after the halloween school play, watching television, scooping popcorn from a bowl in perfect ease, a foot resting careless over a sibling, a vigorous tugging of the rug they sit under, voices.  "You're taking it all" "am not!" "yeah, you are" "shut up, can't hear"  "mammy mammy mammy" "Oh listen! listen, listen, to me!".

                             great-rooted blossomer...

A half floor  up we keep the ghost of Miley Cyrus, in her doe eyed girlish days. She, and her Autobiography sit with the beautiful girl, the boss hanging shyly at the door. Ah Miley, Miley how you were beloved, I love you too in sympathy. Look there across the hall the boy packs fishing gear, hooks, a reel,  container of squirming worms into his school back pak. Battilions of tiny green soldiers lie dead on the battlefield behind him.  He looks up, and catching me and you, ghost smiles.

                                     are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?....

And on to living galleries, the beautiful one holds her room reserved for summer easter christmas break, a quiet space where old debutante dresses flutter in the air when you open the door, and she anxiously layering on make up, a frail pale ghost in the tall wall mirror you glimpse as you softly close again.

                                           Oh body swayed to music.....

Doors yawn wide always on the messy expanding lairs of the Others.  The Boss's garments,  make up, books, guitar, paint brushes, posters, music scores spill into the high-arched rooms she carves, the boy adds empty beer cans, cigarette papers, books, more books, to electric guitars, fishing stuff, the dear old soldiers carefully packed and stored beneath his childhood bed that barely holds him.

                                                        O brightening  glance...

Theres's other spaces here they keep,  for other stuff you never name because its none of your business, but you know. Other dark recesses, room for secret things you ignore, the smell of hormones, alcohol, crazy love, (not my) music, teenage kicks, better than sex or crystal meths; ecstasy. Oh yes you know the dark places, the solitary child shades stuck, you coax them out in time with cunning words, with sweeties, slowly slowly.


                                                                  How can we know the dancer from the dance.

And there you are at the top of the house, pushed up and up as years pass, spending your days regulating, feeding,  reading , thinking, holding.  Sometimes patrolling, the old nest rim with a spyglass in your long black coat, keeping things out, letting things in, planning for the day your children will drop of the rim, into the world.


                                    You can have my house when I'm good and ready


I listen with bemusement all week to people raging, seething about the fabulous wheeze of some genius politician to totally solve the housing crisis in  Ireland. Yeah, older people, empty nesters you know,  should leave, give up their  houses, give them over to the young. I believe there was to be a modest financial inducement though that was not entirely clear. It may have been a moral obligation, to sort of guilt you into going, or  maybe hell they were planning to round people up and out to one-roomed boxes, nursing homes.



                                          you think it'll never ever be over then its over.

                                       
Well anyway, you can have mine in time, for market value mind you. Soon, when I, when we have no more use for it.  And I will not be keeper of the museum for the visiting departed. I will not live for that. I have plans.  It's a good house. The little ghosts won't trouble you...

And I, when they go, am off. You've taken nothing from me either. The nest is wedged under the breast bone of my perilously expanded heart. I'm ready for a new adventure, me and Bilbo Baggins then, if anyone ever asks or actually wants to know.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Gerry Adams, Boys Own Hero. Oh Africa my Africa.

                                               IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME..........

"You are irrational...now. The boy smirks knowingly,  his entire body language confident, relaxed.
"What! What!" I listen to  my own voice rising an octave as the rest of what I mean to say gets lost in spluttering spitting  rage.
I resolve, I swear to catch myself in the minute before I explode, when he wheels out this piece of head wrecking insolence.   It's his new weapon of choice in all our disagreements. And why wouldn't it be.  It's fantasiclly effective. it's easy. You oppose some deeply held belief, some eager scheme he has, because its basically unworkable, doesn't stand up to daylight, that sort of thing,  and he in all his eighteen year old male arrogance, he, adamant and unshakable as to his rightness, dismisses your opposition thus. And then you're shouting,  he's grinning, and you so badly wish you could go back to that moment before he got you. When you'd be smirking too.

This one's about car insurance. A lot of them are. He needs a car. He could certainly use one for the in and out of college. He might even afford a starter car. Problem is he can't afford to insure it. Which he doesn't see at all.  If only I would do as I ought and solve it for him. He has an idee fixe  that I could and should put him on my own policy " I mean all my friend's mothers do."  Do they???

 I well not let him drive my car, I need my car to get work, my car is my cave. I need my car.

                                                           HEADWRECK

I phone my broker to get a quote for a hypothetical old banger he has his mind on. €4,500 she offers me. She has the grace to hesitate before she comes out with this ransom. "What! What?" "Yeah, I know, I couldn't pay it for my guys either."  Hmm.
So I tell the boy. I tell him to wait?  Until he is actually employed?  And there it is.
Only it isn't.
"But.... you could... contribute!"
"Contribute? What contribute?"
"Well uh what ever. Whatever the Credit Union wouldn't ...like... give me"
"Credit Union? The credit union won't give you anything. You are a student'
"Yeah, they will. See you don't know. My friend got a loan from the credit union. You have to like  save with them, like just €40 a week,  say,  for a while. Then they... "
"Save! Save?"  He doesn't do actual saving. Just financial projecting.  Anyway he is broke.
"Yeah and you...you could, you could take me on your policy, while I'm like saving. You could..you know, give me a loan?"
"But... but haven't we established this? Haven't we said? You have to have your own policy for your own car".
"Yeah, yeah.  But.  I'd be saving. Wouldn't cost what you said anyway. Smoke said you went to the wrong broker. "
"But ....you have no money! I have none either. Not after keeping you and the rest of them up and running,  supplied with Hoodies and Trainers,  Eats,  Wi Fi."
A sigh. "Well then, relax, I'll just get the car and worry about the insurance later? Or,  you can take out a policy for my car and make me a named driver. I mean you wouldn't even have to be in the car with me. The guards never bother with that. I mean All my friends..... etcetera etcetera etcetera
"What! What? But.... what about my car then. I can't have two pol...."
"Well. yeah,  you could use mine, when you need to. My friends mothers.....etcetra etcetera etcetera.
So,  I began to shout a little, and then a lot, in explaining to him why that won't fly.  And so then he tells me how I'm being irrational.

                                                  JUST TELL ME I'M IRRATIONAL.....

I will master this situation. I will learn. After all it's not like I'm a novice. His sister, the beautiful one herself, decided before him that it was time she had a car. She too could have used one. True. We live out the country, poorly served by a bus service given over to private operators since the economic crash,  who trim and delete whole routes if others prove to be more profitable. We are poorly served. Despite protests to local representatives. No one cares.  Actually, people down this neck of the woods have taken to parking their cars at a major roundabout unto the motor way, where the private bus will condescend to pick them up. They leave the cars there all day long. Its incredibly hapazard, dangerous. Another Irish  solution to an Irish problem  .... Anyway, beauty,  she gave me the look, the long disappointed perplexed look, when I refused to pay. The one where she's wondering were you  on the batter (again) when the Mammy Duties and Obligations Manuel was being handed out.

                                                    I"M A FEMINIST I AM.

Of course this is a feminist issue. And I intend to ask my friends on the Feminst Open Forum to take it up. They are the real true feminists, they are not stupid women, like other women. They will know how to respond. I mean men are not so tormented!  We have to stop this pernicious ever expanding mammy-ing. It will only work if we all put down the cross collectively.  Get keepey about our car policies,  place a ring of steel around our cars.  All together now.  I will if you will.  Mammy.

                                              OH, JUST SEND'EM TO AUSTRALIA........

The government, as the law obliges all to have car insurance, might be sorting this and not Mammy. But, yeah, they individually being well paid don't see any problem with the rest of us being left to the mercy of sharks. My own car  insurance is steadily increasing without any claims being made and I hear it every where. My Australian dear ones tell me it is not an issue over there. Insurance is cheap, affordable, even God help us for young men. They have casual work, actual jobs too, for the young.  And believe me friends, this is what they deeply desire. Actual work. As students and after. The independence of that. All those young people here, signed up to a reduced dole, warehoused in that situation. Forgotten. Twenty percent when last counted.

There are ways, where there is will. A car insurance scheme with a curfew, maybe. A limited/modified  accelerator for the boys. Who are zippy yes, but by God can they drive. Taking everything away from them will bite us very badly in the ass.  They, ready to begin, are trapped in the traps. They can't or don't vote. Much. Who speaks for them?

                                  THEY'LL ALL BE LOOKING DOWN THE BARELL OF A GUN

Last week the Boss's horde swarmed in the kitchen.  " Cold.  We're cold. (Hanging at the Old Abbey) Let us in?"  I let them in.  I am Heathcliff to their Cathy,  I am bitten to their vampire, they got me years ago. It was the day after the general election and my radio poured out count results all that day, on the shelf over the girls heads, bent oblivious to their phones, the boys hoovering behind them.  "Oh yeah, that election thing. I wonder what will happen? I mean you know, like..." A solitary girl voice.   None of the others look up from their phones,  respond in any way at all.
"Oh yeah, Gerry Adams." a boy voice. "Gerry Adams" a chorus of boys voices.  "Gerry'll gets us cheap insurance!" the first one elaborated  "As well as..... other stuff?".

"You don't think Gerry Adams will get you cheaper car insurance do you? If he, like, gets in" I ask the boy later on.
"Uh yes. No!" He grins. "Maybe.  But at least he'll tell everyone,  all of them, to fxxk of. Won't he? I just like thinking about that when I'm really pissed off. Seeing as you ask? "

                                          FALLING IN LOVE FOR EVER AND OVER AGAIN

The Boss is back from volunteering at a centre for girls in Kenya. I pick her up early in the morning from the bus, dazzled by  the otherness of it all, weeping bitterly at leaving the Kenyan girls and all the other volunteers behind. She's going back as soon she possibly can.  She is full of astonishment, of wonder at girls so willing to be happy and loving despite the harrowingly abusive things the adults in the world allowed to happen to them. The volunteers spent the week painting a new wing in the centre, putting in electrics, laying concrete blocks in the garden to make a fish pond for the children. In the morning they bring the girls to school. In the evening they take them home again, read to them, eat with them, give them attention. The volunteers sleep in one large room at the centre. They talk talk talk all evening, and are bonded like glue at the end.

The boss is bereaved for days. Struggling to settle. Back here where everything looks opulent and too much.  Back from there, where they were dong real work. Actually transforming a space for the children, by the time they leave. She sits in the car when I pull into our driveway looking at the house. "Sure you'd be doing well if you could find a shed to live in over there. You'd be happy".  She misses the Kenyan girls, the other volunteers. I sometimes wonder if Kibbutz like living is not the most suitable arrangement for the young. Well most of them.  Large families, boarding schools, the Gaeltacht summer schools, are variants of the same. And now they do it virtually, on line. They never really leave a group by inclination.

                                                   YOU'LL BE A LONG TIME DEAD

And so to all those folk who remarked or otherwise conveyed to me that volunteering, collecting money to go to Africa was a Jolly, better send the money, I have this to say.  It was a jolly. A jolly good thing to spend your money on.  For the benefit of the planet. When you and I are dead and dust and ashes, forgotten in the grave,  she, all of them,  will be left to grapple with a world become global in the way people struggle to exist. So get them started, let them see how people live, who people are. Send out your emissaries, don't wait for the world to come crashing down on you.





Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Did I Laugh too Hard/ Did I Catch your Hand/ at your Wake.

                                                            A Wake.

"So we most of us went.  And I mean we were laughing, like a lot of the time there, like actually most of the time there, in her bedroom. Was that bad?  I felt bad but she said she was, like I think she was ....she was glad we were there.  She sort of dipped in and out of us in the bedroom, and I mean  sometimes she cried, but she laughed with us too. She had to go talk to the people who came, sometimes, but she always came back. Do you think it was Ok? ...."

The Boss and her circle (horde) of friends spend Saturday evening online in a group chat about a suicide. The death of a father, a young enough man. The tender faced sixteen year old girl whose father he was seemed to wander in and out of the chat.  Beloved she said, brave, he was brave,  suffered from depression, he  suffered.  They make the group decision to go to the Wake and the Funeral for her.
"Do you think think that will help?"
"Yes."
"But.  Darling girl, how?  What happened?"
"Oh. They found him....like I mean he was you know hanging...
"Oh."

She looked at me now, her creamy smooth girl's  face perplexed.
"Nope!" I say "Not bad!. I've done wakes, family wakes, friends' wakes,  other wakes. Yeah,  the old people (over 35) sit around drinking tea, sipping whiskey, but we stand together in my memory of it,  a circle,  laughing  and riffing, and enjoying it. You can enjoy a good wake. It's what they're for...you warm up the Bereaved with your laughing shouty insouciance darling. It's your job?"

Like a bunch of survivors at a boderline precious, hurling defiance into a dark immensity.

"Oh. Right. People, we, were crying like on and off.... when she cried, crying with her like.  I couldn't . Not like that. And I was hoping she wouldn't think  that I didn't....didn't..."

"Anyway, she brought us into the room where he was....where they had him,  and you know he was like the...just seemed like the rest of the things in the room. So I though it wasn't going to be awful. And the......"  The Boss is hesitant, digging for the right words. A little video runs in her mind, her sweet friend.......smiling as she strings her friends like beads, she weaves her girls silently around her father's body,  brushing her fingers softly across his still hand as she passes.

                                                         And a Funeral

Next day they go to the funeral. A cold, unloving, blurry day in February. The mourners walk from  Church to grave in a quietly murmuring herd. There are Funeral Eats after in the pub.

She comes in in the evening.
"All right? "
"Yeah. yeah. Everyone was in the pub. Afterwards. Like the food was really good. And she was with us for most of the day. Yeah. But.... at the graveyard?  I was pushed up on top of the family by the crowd when they were I mean putting the coffin in the ground and I saw her...I saw. Her mouth was open and she was..she was dissolved...in....bawling like she never would  stop, I thought she never would ...."

I think about that. Heartbreak, heart broke. How you might as well yank it clean from her chest and toss it on rocks. In a way. Or on landfill. He suffered.


Whisking the meal I have kept for her from the Microwave oven I order her to eat. Brisk.
"I'm not really actually hungry"
"Sure eat it anyway"
I bring her some water,  tomato sauce, a little green salad.
"Do we have any chocolate?"
"Yes."
and afterwards wiping the crumbs from the table, the plate, that I stack in the dishwasher, sweeping and sweeping the red tiled floor as I listen to her feet on the stairs, hearing her clumsy stumbling exhaustion in the bedroom over my head. Thinking.

I put a match to the lighting strip on the Fire Pak in the living room to warm us, holding it steady until the bag is a roaring conflagration you could not put out if you desperately wanted to  Just another man, you know, loosing his job, left for too long, unmoored by the black dog slipping and sliding (silently) past any human calling. "Don't"

The maddeningly persistent tinkle tinkle of the door bell destroys this reverie. I can see the party canvassers through the small glass window in the front door as  I move into the hall.  The election was called today. I am still holding the heavy metal poker in my right hand. I turn back to the fire. Better so. Another night guys.

On Thursday the Boss reads me messages, posts the bereaved girl put up on her page, in the group chat.  She addresses her father in the first person. Talks to him as though he was present and part of  the chat.
"Love you, I love you, (I'll)  never ever forget you. Never walk me down the isle now...I always saw you....would.  Bravest man I ever knew. You..."
I raise an eyebrow, wordless. Bravest?
"Bravest. Man I ever knew... you suffered.......love you...Daddy"

you suffered.


Saturday, 2 January 2016

Teenage Kicks/ Demons are Angels.

"So Ok…. Okay"  and I succumb to the Boss's mighty campaign to have a Sixteenth birthday party in  the house. "So you can….but…. on  con-ditions.   Number One!  no alcohol in the house… what-so- ever.  And…  Two!  it kicks of at eight thirty pm and they scarper at half past the hour of Midnight!! Being as….  Number One, they are all  underage, and…. Number  Two,  thats four hours of partying.  Thats an Eternity."  She nods…enthusiastically. She's won the war.


She comes back on the alcohol ban.
"So...I mean could we like you know negotiate on  that."
 "No!"
'Oh.  But… so... are we going to like turn them away if they have had a drink before they come?"
"Huh?"
 "Cause they might" she continues tragically, " and then what….?"
 I  feel the good solid earth shifting sand like under my feet, a  familiar experience these days.
 "Yeah.  Well.  Thats um like nothing to do with us is it???   Can't be breathalysing them on arrival, can we?  So... um...JUST NOT IN THE HOUSE".
 "OK" she breathed. Then  "so also can't they come at Eight till One?  I mean you know at Neasa's  party no one had to actually like leave till Two!"
 "No!… well…okay  they can come at Eight. But at  12.30, its ovah!!!.  Ovah!!That's it!!. Jesus!!!"
 I am, dear reader, a veteran of teenage house parties now. The only sure thing about them is that they stretch on for an eternity as you keep guard, staggering under the heavy load of responsibility for liver and limb of your youthful guests. With a smile tattooed on your face while you do it.

Saturday comes. We clear away the valuables, stock up on the eats and wait. I am supported by the Beautiful Girl and two of her dear friends, who are staying over. The door bell goes shortly after Seven pm.  A jittery boss orders myself to my bedroom and the Beautiful One to hers as negotiated. And so it begins. My self,  Beautiful and her  acolytes patrol, carry out spot checks every half hour or so. In the interim I listen from my room.  The Beautiful One laughs riotously with her mates from hers  (reassuring that).  The party rabble down stairs sing along in a shouty joyous chorus to some R n B/Rap  song I've never heard before. Barbarous, ecstatic, blasting the roof wide to the wild wind outside, drawing in Demons.

"I'm glad" I think "I'm on top of this and I'm  glad I let her have a party.  A swell party this. Is"

The night slips away, the sounds getting sloppier, looser. I listen to some girl guests on the stairs,  on the landing, giggling, shrieking about some dodgy stuff and I  go on patrol, dispersing the ring of thinly clad girls and their  boy audience back down to the party.
 "What  oh what in the name of the Crucified Chhhrist is that!!!" I hiss at Beauty, sticking my head into her room,  redolent of cigarette smoke, conviviality,  secrets.  She, the dear friends and myself listen in wonder to a piercing wail on the ground floor, a BIG voice  "NO! I'm going hoooome!. You did!….you did!.. I saw you!…I hate you!…you did!…
 "Leave it to us"  Beauty says masterfully.

She goes down with her acolytes and the shouting girl's noise grows fainter until finally the voice is  lost in the general din of laughing, singing.  Disinhibition.

"So it's all good" she comes back to me. "She's gone home. With her friend.  Her friend you know was trying to get with the boy she liked? So we talked to her? So she's like still mad. But she left"
 "Um left? Alone?"
 "No, no, no. With her friend?"
 "Um,  the friend who was trying to get with the boy she liked?"
 "Yeah, well she came with her? So she had to leave with her"
 "Oh. Well… so um  did she stop crying."(thinking of  neighbors, twitching curtains, that sort of thing)
 "God no. But hey, she's gone…. the friend's getting a lashing though."
 "Oh. Right. God. So what about the boy she liked?. Did he succumb to the friend or something?"
"No. Wouldn't dare, I'd say"
 "Oh. God. Doesn't look good though does it? Crying girls spilling out of ours at this hour. God. So.. is it twelve thirty yet would you say?"
It isn't.  Eleven pm. Only.

In the end the end comes of course. I go down  to the deeps to wind it down.
Can't see the boss at all now. I push my way through the crowded kitchen, glimpsing crushed beer cans, empty bottles (Wicked!) in the bin on the way, and into the busy hallway.
Two girls bang on the utility room door and I realize that this banging noise, a chant of "let us innnn" that have been going on intermittently  all evening.
 "Open!" I roar.  The door unlocks and I look in at a group of guilty giggling boys. They slip past me, melting away.
 "Oh yeah"   Beauty says later, in the party post mortem, "They were going in there, wouldn't let the girls  in…we eh found a little bag in there..empty...that contained something  I'd say...Didn't want to worry you about that"
 "What!! ... you didn't want to...you mean like Tablets, Drugs, Crstal Meths!!!!What?….."
 "No, no, no. Maybe weed or something?…maybe only just like  tobacco? and yeah I figured they were like you know getting a bit… drunk.  I mean at that age they can't take their drink…. but like nothing to worry about…"

The Boss, it turned out was out, was out  in the driveway with a crying friend, two crying friends actually, the second one crying in sympathy with the first.  The boss was trying to console.
  "Yeah…" the Beautous remarked again later on, "Like I say, can't take their drink at that age".
 I look into the living room where a group of louche looking teens lounge,  embedded now on the sofa, Quite at home. I  order them out, having already called time.
 I call in the Boss and the weeping girls, trailed by four more of 'em, members of  her inner circle. She is frazzled, telling of some tragic thing that happened to her tragic friend.  We sit to mull over that and console.

Comforted by Group Kind Words the girls discard slapper party gear for the standard uniform of  hoodies and tracksuit bottoms, and head off to the village chipper for curried chips, burgers and the like,    restored and starving now. I decide to run a mop over floors made sticky by spills and heavy rainy mud from the garden,  ruminating as I slosh and wipe.    "NEVER AGAIN"  I vow stoutly " (Hah!)  Still…. no harm done….not, at least, as far as I know…and also, I mean, like they enjoyed it" pouring the filthy bleach infused water down the sink.

And so all that leaves before Christmas is the Christmas Parish Concert.
 "While shepherds watch their flock by night"  the Boss and her year,  same crew, sing in poignant child-pure  harmony.
  "the Angel of the lord came down and Glory shone around".
piercing, buoyant , raising the roof of the church till they pull in Angels.
 I cry like an infant. Damned and bloody emotional incontinence I tell myself. And also...   not children! you fool. Already gone, slipping slithery through your fingers, long gone with the wind. And here you are late for the last kiss goodbye, left holding the rejected warm coat,  mouthing strictures to an empty room, a mad woman jettisoned in time….
"Wait !" you want to shout  "only wait…there are things I haven't told you…yet...  warned you of, lists... of things I wanted to…was going to show you, before you…I was going to ... only wait.
You're already and always too late, Dear heart.

always and ever (too) late

Sunday, 25 October 2015

How Not to be a Teenage Mummy.

                                                         WIRED TO CRY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "It's to, like, make you think about it.  To, I mean,  understand, what having a baby is like?"
The boss is explaining to my very incredulous mother about why the the Transition Year students are each in turn taking home a pretend baby for two days and two nights, on this Friday evening visit.
"It's, like,  the weight of a baby? It costs at least €1,000, to, I mean, make?  "And" she goes on, being interested in such matters "its  electronically wired to stop crying when the nappy they give you touches it's bum, or the bottle reaches it's lips. And it's wired to cry hard if you don't support it's head. Also, sometimes, it cries at random?  for ages and you have to... you have to...  make it stop?"

My sister explains again to my mother, who can't quite believe it,  what its all about.
"And, you know, the students, they have it constantly, I mean all the time, so that it might cry in the middle of the night, or early in the  morning too."
"Yeah" the boss adds  "I heard that they, the teachers,  programme the crying too. Like they might set it for longer periods for some people."
"You mean people who really need telling"  I ask, incredulous in turn.
The boss says she's not sure.  But... Jane from her class had it crying all night, so that she threw it into the car in the end. So she couldn't hear it any more. "You get, I mean,  graded afterwards.  On how long it cried"  she finishes calmly. You can see she figures hers won't be crying all that much.

My mother, a  woman who has had eleven actual babies, laughs. You get the feeling she's not convinced. That the entire thing is, basically,  distasteful.  And inappropriate. Also pointless.  From the look on her face.

                                              SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM HERE?

The boss doesn't, in fact,  have all that  much of a problem. At first.
She brings home the dark colored Pretend Baby, and so she calls him, on the Wednesday. He is heavy, and he has disconcertingly soulful chocolate brown eyes. (Really)
I ask her on Thursday after school how it went the night before.
"Yeah" she says, looking over at the pretend baby, who, silent for the moment, lies on the floor with one leg sticking awkwardly in the air,  "It was ok. He awoke crying at three? I gave him the bottle and he stopped. So like five minutes later he started again, and I gave him the nappy and he stopped. And then, I mean,  five minutes later he started again so I rocked him for a few seconds and he stopped. And that was it. I went back to sleep. Till, like,  six in the morning? when he did it all again.  And at eight. Now that was annoying as I was trying to get ready for school. Nothing since".
On cue the Pretend Baby starts to cry. It is an actual baby cry and none of the interventions work this time. I shudder discreetly at the memory. "Well, ye know, they do cry darling.  Endlessly.  Randomly, in fact. I expect that's what they are trying to teach you. That's the ah learning"
 The thing stops then. The boss takes him off her shoulder unfazed. She doesn't have to say "so what's the big deal about that?" It's written all over her face.

                                                           FAMOUS LAST WORDS

On Friday the Beautiful one, returning, is introduced to the Pretend Baby. She and the boss pose for selfies cuddling the doll,  doing other stuff with the doll, accompanied by raucous giggling.
I look into the kitchen later on where they sit at the kitchen playing scrabble. The Beautiful One stares intently at the scrabble board, her phone in her hand, her eyes swiveling from screen to board and back, seamlessly. The boss pats the Pretend Baby absentmindedly where it is hooked over her shoulder, staring intently at the screen on her phone. "Hurry up" she says to her sister without looking up.
"How's it going"  I say. "I mean with that" nodding at the Pretend Baby.
"What? Oh well. Yeah. Switches off tomorrow at lunch time.  Gotta bring it back on Monday. I might even miss it. It's kinda cute."

                                          POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. PROBABLY. 

On Saturday morning I meet her on the stairs rocking the Pretend Baby who is wailing disconsolately. Has been wailing disconsolately for a good part of the night, if you want to know. She has a harried, slightly haunted look.  It sits incongruous on her clear eyed, teenaged face. I used to see the same harrowed face in the bathroom mirror when she herself  was a real baby, welded  to my shoulder, buckled on my breast. You didn't get a loo break.

Later on she tells me that it wasn't that cute after all.  We look over at the Pretend Baby, silent now, switched off as programmed.  I'll swear the melting chocolate eyes widened as she spoke. Or maybe, probably,  that was just me, traumatized by wailing baby memories. I tell her to put it in a drawer in her room till Monday. She doesn't want to. So we put in the boot of the car until then.

I feel I should offer context, reassurance to the Boss afterwards. "So" I say carefully  "I guess you could sat that motherhood is not for the teenaged honey. Or..or the um..  fainthearted. Or you know, girls. Like, until you're older. (But not too much older or your ova will be ovah,) What?? No! that last bit was my inner witness only dear reader. What can I say? Its a minefield out here.



Thursday, 10 September 2015

Devouring the Young. Send in the Refugees.

                                               ' ALL I WANT IS A ROOM SOMEWHERE"
                                                                                                                                                                So I'm just not getting excited about the next viewing" the beautiful one says, resolute. Good.  She is on the up from being down in the dumps then. Depressed, reproachful really.  Disappointed in the universe for making it so damn bloody hard to find a flat, student accommodation, a house to share with her mates which is not so far from the campus that you have to spend a lot of money from a paired to the bone budget on buses, taxis even, if you're late.  Disappointed in me too I guess,  for not getting it for her. At nineteen you segue between able young woman and frustrated adolescent.., you're a child again when the chips are down.

                                                WHEN YOU'RE IN A HOLE KEEP DIGGING.... 
                                                                                                                                                                At first,  I try to stay out of it.  Still the helicopter wheels, and let her at it.  I seethe on the sideline as she reports back on rents going up by the day now,  poor offerings for students, sloppy seconds.  The trickery in demanding deposits without a lease, the basic obscenity in charging you €700 for a room in a house, or €350 to share a bed in a room in a house with a stranger. "Digs" I say frantically,  "you could get digs! Digs are back!" "Digs???."  I explain. "Yeah" she says, "I know.  They want you out on the weekend, and it costs just as much as a room in a house that isn't digs.  Not cheaper.  And  no independence.
                                                  JUST GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY.........

So I get involved. My propeller moves gently, just coasting at first. I make phone calls for her. "So when can she come look?" I ask. "Open viewing" I'm told.   "It's first come first served " they say.  "Students?"  distastefully, oh we'd want references."   "Oh, so, how would that work?" I say, "references from who?"   "From the bank.  The last landlord. (Duh!)."  "Oh. but they're....(students)... well, right, I'm sure we can do eh that". So she goes to the open viewing, hands over the references carefully got together,  and phones you in a panic to say he wants the deposit, today  "or we'll lose it. And we really really want it."  "So,  you're getting the lease then, the key, today?."  We have discussed these matters, you see.  "Um no. The weekend he says, the landlord will come over then he says, he's not um the landlord, he's his agent he says. But we can have it, if we pay now. He promised."  "So, did you actually ask him darling girl, about the lease?" "Um yes. But he got really really rude, said he had like at least ten more people ready to move in. And it's really really nice, the flat.  Oh Mum, should I pay him!!!!"  (Really, really) No.

I actually phoned that one myself, listened to his sleezy shifty spiel, before threatening him with the police (hah), the law,  and the wrath of God. My wheels are spinning now and I slam down the phone. I mean this guy has an attractive flat at his disposal to lure them in. He advertises on Rent.ie. Easy peasy. He can defraud the young with impunity. Pigeons for plucking.

                                                   HOW TO GET RICH QUICK AND EASY PEASY 

The beautiful one did not want Digs. She hoped for independence, a very basic space to rent with her mates. After a few more creeps demanding money up front with no lease,  she took herself off to look at Digs anyway. No joy. Basically the people making cash out of the spare room are reluctant, coy. Unwilling to give the details she seeks, like the full name of the landlord,  a sight of the nine month lease in writing that was referred to vaguely on the phone. "They don't like it when I ask " she says. "Am I not  I supposed to ask?". Yes.  You are. But I guess when you're upping your price by the day as you listen to media dispatches about desperate students, and keeping it all carefully below the radar of  the Revenue Commissioners, you don't want to answer. You've figured you can make  a killing here.  With a compliant, grateful young person begging to rent.

Last year, she stayed in student accommodation on campus. But thats just for First Years, you see. Why would the college provide for them thereafter?  Let them eat cake. Let them be a source of profit for rapacious landlords, householders, the shifty calculating  grownups that await. Or destroy themselves traveling to college every day over long distances.. Zombie students on the wheel between home and the campus. What harm sure..

The thing about it all is that its so commonplace. Not just a dishonest minority stealing deposits, but ordinary people too, determine to make a buck, screw a student. And there  is no impediment to this free for all, no will to provide campus accommodation that is adequate, to regulate this market. It's the Irish for you. An Irish answer to an Irish question. Screw them over, and let them eat cake.

                                                               O  ICELAND

Later on I saw the newsbite in my facebook feed about the Icelanders, shaming their government, offering to take refugees into their own homes. Good for the Icelanders. We wouldn't be doing it here. There's no money in it. Well maybe, if Europe pay us, we might see. I wonder would the Icelanders take students.   And what's the university like up there,  to where where I swear I am moving.  If they would let me in. We are offering now to take in more dispossessed people, in desperate flight from their own ground. I think the EU should  be careful here. Consider our Direct Provision. Look at how we accommodate our tender young. Think what we might do to them when we get them here.

                                                    WE CAN EAT THEIR LEGS CANT WE....                                     

The beautiful one thinks she may have found something at last. Something basic, without silly things like smoke alarms, a functioning oven, a gas alarm for the gas boiler located in the bedroom.  But it's theirs, they can have it. No games. I can live with the unease, can't I?  Orcs. That's what I think of now when I think about the Landlording Irish .  Orcs.  And particularly that scene in Lord of the Rings where one of the Orcs plaintively asks the head Orc if they can't eat the Hobbits.  And when he bellows no! they have to bring them back alive,  the first Orc more plaintively still asks if they can't eat their legs...anyway....to a great chorus of approval from the army of Orcs. "Cos they don't need their legs do they?"  Quite.

                                                   AH SURE IT'S NOTHING....... MUCH......  
                                                                                                                                                               On Wednesday, I get a call from the school about the Boss's Junior Certificate results. Yeah, twelve straight A1s, among only six students in the Country. he says. So can he release her name to the press, can we come down for photographers??? Silence from my end. "It's a great achievement" he says, excitedly. "Congratulations". "Ah sure, she got the same in the mock exams" I say. "Well yes. But it's a great achievement anyway. Even so". And there you have it, more twisty Irish neurosis. Can't take a compliment. Not even a vicarious compliment. I slap myself mentally. Hard. "It's...it's fabulous" I roar, and go off to tell the fabulous one.

The boss takes all compliments, exclamations and congratulations in her stride. A little storm of newspaper calls, and snappers. She is serene and gracious.  Maybe we're breeding the barbed, self conscious humility out of us.  Maybe her and her sister's children will be allowed to pay a manageable price to live on college campuses one day, and we'll breed out the greedy, panic stricken grabbiness in us too. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

A Small Boy Falling from a Window, Lovely Girls scattered in the Wind.

So there you are, sitting in a Taxi, on the way from a north city suburb back to town agreeing with the Taxi Driver that yeah the traffic is mental, as you do, wondering if you should pick up something in town for dinner and if so what that might be, as you do. The Taxi driver is is off on a riff of his own,  supported by your murmured "Yeahs?.   You are not really listening. And then you hear this;

"So they just scattered,  like leaves in the wind they were.  You could see the fear on their faces.  As soon as the nun clap-clapped, gone, all of them gone. Sure they were only talking, like."
"Eh?"
"Yeah, I was chopping down trees in there, used to do a bit to that,  and I saw them. "
He inclines his head to the right, towards a high wall, trees weeping over the rim.
 "They came over to me, just asking me like,  what I was doing. I was just telling them how you fell  the trees at the spongy bit. They were curious, they were doing no harm.  Lovely they were,  lovely friendly girls."
"Girls?"
"Well some young, some middle aged.   Girls,  women, dressed different though. To everyone else, I mean.  You could the fear on their faces when the nun came and clapped.  Sharp like. Clap clap. Said nothing.  Its only later like you realize they were Magdalenes. That was a Convent  laundry."
"Right."
We're stuck in traffic now, rooted to that spot.
 "The Religious have a lot to answer for, only. Sure your parents used to tell you when I was a child they'd put you in Artane. If you mitched school. So I was always afraid. But I used to mitch school anyway. Sometimes.  They put a chap I knew in there and I was always asking him after what it was like.  I was so afraid of it. Sometimes he'd tell you things, twitchy he was, always nervous. Dead now. He told me, he said he was abused in there by the brothers. And another chap he knew, thin delicate little chap, the first night he was there he got pulled out of bed and sent to one priest. Thought he had done something wrong, he did, he told my friend that . But that wasn't it.  The priest raped him, that night and the next, and always after that. Always him.  Till one night he jumped out of a window. Just jumped. And afterwards the Brothers said he'd run off.  Told the guards that too. That's all they had to say.  The chap I knew used to clam up after that.
"Right. God. God Almighty."
The car has left the convent behind now.  We are on our way into town.
"So, why did they put  him in there, your friend?"
"For mitching, I told you. I was lucky. I was never caught. So I always wanted to know what it was went on in there.  We only knew, we were only told whatever it was,  it was bad."

 You walk past the GPO and turn unto Henry Street thinking about how the dead speak. They are legion.   Telling the living the story, throwing up bones, shadows, elliptic dreams.  Only listen.  Hear my story, remember this, acknowledge me.  And the living channel the deadspeak so seamlessly that  you miss it most of the time, you miss it but still it persists, long after the news story is over, the soundbite done, till you see them at last.