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Friday, 14 October 2016

Everything Will Be All Wrong

                    Only the two (bottles of Smirnoff Ice....)

Sometimes the voices get to be too much. For me at least if not for you. The old interior dialogue.  Conflicting voices, urgent choices you can't decide on because of the conflicting.... Do you, ought you to, forbid your teenager Alcohol, ecstatic bacchanals, for the duration?  Should you try your damndest to enforce that or ought you to simply go with the alcoholic flow. Might you maybe label her a learner drinker, and give speeches on moderation?  Extract promises of just the two bottles of smirnoff ice, perhaps? Even though you know you know she would agree that black is yellow and the world is flat, her mind completely elsewhere, her fingers dancing across the keyboard of her phone.

                                                               you promised me.....

Yeah, I have released the boss from house arrest and let her back on the party circuit, the sixteenth, seventeenth,  eighteenth, nineteenth birthday party merrygoround.
 "So right, I have decided ...not to, like, bother with drinking at parties, anymore" she tells me.  "No interest in that. Why would you even ask me that. I have decided". Right.

                                                                                                     (killing me) softly.....

That was last weekend, after one month's abstinence from gaiety. A long black month, dear reader, where she watched nordic subtitled television with me on former party nights,  spent long hours playing pensive Piano Pieces over and over, and one in particular, the soundtrack from the last Pride and Prejudice movie, with exquisite precision and passion, each note bearing an increasing load of lugubrious  hopelessness as the month went on. 'Oh God oh God get her off the piano," the beautiful one begged on Sunday.  "I can't bear it, I can't stand it any more. Make her stop."

Ah yes, the beautiful girl, who, when her adolescent heart was particularly broken, harrowed us with exquisitely tender and heartbroken renditions of Clare de Lune  over and over and over. Hah.

           People gave me Vodka....

It all began one Saturday night, into the small hours of Sunday to be precise. The door bell ripped me from an uneasy sleep, and stumbling downstairs I beheld a shivering whey faced girl, spittle on her chin, shoes in hand, vomit dripping from the glittery straps. She had no clue how to go about operating  her key you see, she was too far gone and only fit to be put to bed. In the morning I extract a confession from the hungover one... too many vodkas to count...poeple gave her vodka....all her friends were having vodka, it was the vodka ...and so she was reduced to that vomiting gurning state. A complete one off, of course, she claimed.

I think about this while she sleeps it off. The day before, shopping for a party dress with her lovely girls,  the effervescent pre-party getting ready party in my house, the giddy anticipation in them. I see myself gather them into the car to take them to the party person's house,  enjoying the happy chattery air of them as I drove. What harm sure?

                                                                         amplified vomiting......

But then, you see, the party house was deep down a rabbit warren of county roads.
"'Phone her, for gods sake phone her! Phone her now" I shout coming to yet another pitch dark dead end.
 "Well? well!!!"
 "Um, yeah, I can't make out... I don't understand her!"
 "Put her on speaker phone, put her on speaker phone Tell her to tell me"
And so she did and all I can say to you my friends is that what I heard should have sent me flying home again with all my lovely party girls intact. Amplified, behind the babbling girl on the boss's phone incoherently failing to describe where she lived, were screams, sloppy howling laughter, and some one being very very sick. A little vignette, a trailer of hell, as it were.
The boss turned off the speaker then, and we found the place unaided soon after.

                                                                                                   but everything will be all....

I left them there. I told my self that that was just a loose few randomers, the boss and her girls they wouldn't be doing any of that. Because the alternative was just to disturbing to entertain.


The fact is though that that was taking place in some one's house. Those children couldn't do it on a licenced premises.  I think of the many many people in the boss's school next up for 16th, 17th, 18th parties, all in someone's house. Parents, caregivers, confined, no, banished to the bedroom, or some other corner of the house with orders to stay until the party's over. What harm sure everyones doing it, yeah.  If you don't let them someone else will, no? Better you have them where you can keep an eye, (from where you lurk in some far corner of your house), yeah.  I've heard all the arguments,  hell, I've made all the arguments. It doesn't seem that any one of us knows how to call this, beyond a bit of self soothing denial, so let me hoist you from your comfort zone, dear reader...

The things is this. Your teenager and mine are drinking industrial amounts of alcohol every weekend. In your house or in mine. Enough to fell a full grown man. It's dodgy to be drinking at all at that age. At all.  I sat watching them from the car last night, delivered for another bacchanal, girls in tiny dresses, bare legs blanched with cold, boys and girls bearing crates of booze, converging on the party house. Ah Bless.

                               IT'S JUST A TOUCH OF THE OLD BRAIN DAMAGE, PEOPLE.

Brain damage I offer the Boss. Your mighty brain my darling girl, blunted! a bit off! permanently! by the time you reach eighteen.  But never you mind,  the rest of 'em will be in the very same condition and absolutely won't notice. A thing. Nobody will mind. Down this neck of the woods. I run this by her as she argues passionately against the grounding, with promises of abstention, moderation.
I guess it was on account of the brain damage that she accept the month's grounding.  Cruel exclusion from the social circuit with the beloved friends...she felt it cruelly.

And now she's released and already decided that abstinence is just so over the top. I know. I'm asked  to buy her two cans ( Orchard Thieves) as insurance she won't be drinking some vomit inducing concoction of spirits given to the empty handed at parties. Yeah. Well.. you make your speeches, you draw your line in the sand, and then they implicate  you...every time. Or maybe I could ground her more, ramp up the social exclusion. Did I mention the voices, the infernal, internal monologue of parenting?

             Did someone in here ask me something...want something...need...? I'm all yours... now?

On Friday, I snap my laptop shut, my novel finished at last.
"So I'm, basically,  finished now, and...what was that you all wanted" I ask the children, gathered in the kitchen, talking amongst themselves.  Someone called me at least an hour before, I think, wanting... something, I have no idea what that was. I used to snigger at the Cyril Connolly quote about the pram in the hall being the sombre enemy of good art (well writing anyway), made by a man who wouldn't have been burdened by any of the heavy lifting with children I was pretty damn sure. But this, at least,  is true.  The total immersion required in writing is inimical to caring for children. And how they hate it, pitifully anxious in that complete absence of attention. Even if they don't want anything in particular. Even if they don't need you, as it happens, just right now. Even if they're old enough to get whatever it was they wanted for themselves. They hate it anyway. They cannot bear your absence.

Oh well, you can work around it, write when they sleep, or are at parties! Get the damn thing finished so you're everyone's again. Until the next time... you can feel another story coming on...

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Je Suis Francaise. Vive La Revolution!


The summer holidays.  My children, my responsibilities, my care have fallen from me one by one,  a brief cessation. The beautiful one is working in France for the summer and I spend time on the phone to her in the first weeks of that,  just to make sure.
"Oh I know she'll be grand but still,  just to make sure" I tell her utterly indifferent siblings on Friday. The boy looks at me curiously, nods his head. "Yeah. I know what it is,  it's  "Taken"  again, isn't it? You're thinking of Taken. Ye know there's like legions of parents haunted by Taken, if you head over there to France at all."  He grins at me. "It is, isn't it?'
"Yeah it is. Have you seen Taken 2?"

                                              that bastard  Liam Neeson.

I won't say it never crossed my mind, Taken. I think of all the girls, trying to have a great adventure, harassed and hobbled by parents preoccupied with Taken, and before that with white slavers. Not terrorists at all, not really,  but bad men who might sell you for sex. I'm not doing that to my daughter, no. But still.

I wish for you children,  boy.  I wish for you many of them,  hitting puberty,  strung out on hormones, leaving home in swift proximity.  I wish for you many daughters of the feisty, edgy, highly strung variety. And one day, as you stand in your house punch drunk from competing needs, anxieties, voices, may a tall grinning son whisper in your shell shocked ear....Taken! Or maybe it will be a little ghost whisper from the grave where you no doubt will put me...Taken....Either way will do.


Anyway we go to France to visit with Beautiful.  Before,  the incessant radio updates about the old Priest who was murdered in Normandy penetrate the boss's preoccupied head as she goes about her daily round of playing her music, researching new mineral make-up (slap) on-line,  stretching before her daily run, reading, raiding my books (the actual book I'm reading).
"Oh well Normandy, now.  And last week there was Nice?  Should we be like going  to France at all?"
She gives me the explain yourself and your parenting long gaze. She means ought I to be taking her.
"Yeah"  I say "we should"

                                                 Accidental Tourists.

I have been to Paris already this summer, when the Euros were on.  Not on account of that but to help Beautiful settle in. Before the Nice abomination.  I travelled on the day before the Irish played France in Lyon, and sat on the last seat in the plane with five Irish men who were travelling for the match.
"Gettin' a car from Paris. Never been to France before"  a chatty grinning one shares, taking a hearty  swig from his beer.
"No? Well... you'll get a look at Paris on the way there.  Or back, at least?"
"God no! Have to get straight down to Lyons. If we win, then on to the match against the English. If we loose,  straight back the way we came."
His mate opens another round of cans, hands him one.  He takes it in his left hand and finishes the one he has.
"Ah yeah, if we loose we'll have to be drowning our sorrows, so we'll have the craic either way."
He nods his head towards a fresh faced, red headed man in the opposite seat.
"You see your man over there? Doesn't drink! He's driving. Thats why we brought him."
He takes another sucking drink"
"Doesn't drink." he says again, in tolerant wonder.
The plane comes down. The football boys take a warm shouty leave of fellow travellers,  air hostess, pilot,  and they're gone.

In Paris the people are shaken I think. Polite, upstanding, but shaken. Something in the air, in the aura jittery and disturbed.
"You know I like the french" my beauty tells me. "I like them, they're direct. You know where you are with them"
"You know thats like really a relief?  Like really restful?"
I look at my tactful, subtle, empathetic daughter and wonder why that is such a relief to her.

                                                 Je suis Francaise.

When I come home I read about how the French are awarding Irish football fans medals, kudos for non-assaultive drunken good humour. Many Irish people, unlike my Irish self, seem pleased at this. I think of the passionate, sloppy, in denial about alcohol, Irish, rolling around France in the warm and fuzzy drinking bubble.  Being good fans, enchanted, with the Euros, with everything, because you can drink and drink and drink and none will judge you. Like at Christmas or weddings, funerals. I think of the French, stripped of safety,  traumatised. Gallantly willing to be cheered up by sloppy Irish football fans.
"Yeah, we should. We should visit with the French" I tell her again.
"Je suis Francaise. Toi aussi!"

                                                 Beyonce and me.....

"Oh hey, Beyonce, isn't that Beyonce, why on earth would you have Beyonce?" the boss asks disdainful, as I drive herself and her brother to a train going west,  on a high racing note of deliverance.
"Oh hell am I driving too fast." I ask, automatically. I know she knows I drive too fast when the music is in me. But it's not that, it's the music choice, and yeah I say it's Lemonade, you should listen, it's great. I heard "Don't Hurt Yourself" on the radio, liked it and bought it for the car. (As you do)

She demands more by way of explanation. I'm too old and she's too cool for Beyonce.
 So I explain why it's called Lemonade, and tell her to listen as the very song "Don't Hurt Yourself" comes on"
"Yeah, it's good" she's allows.  " she, Beyonce,  actually stay with him?"
 "Oh yeah"
She broods for a bit. "I mean why would she stay with him. She's like Beyonce. He's just...not up to her. I wouldn't have it, if he...."
She hits the replay arrow now, thinking no doubt about what she would do with him, as we listen.
"Yeah, well....she has basically emasculated him, like left him one testicle and made him eat the other" I explain.
"She hasn't dumped him, as such. She's kind of re assembled him and kept him on for her own purposes" (Ohh, Hilary, Hilary, Hilary... Clinton...)
We listen now to to "Daddy Lessons".  I am driving too fast again.
"So... do you think she's like for gun ownership, or against" the boss asks me sternly. The thing is that now, on account of my suspect music choices, I am obliged to explain Beyonce.
"Hmm. Well it's hard to feel she's against,  but she's got a perspective on it" I say obscurely. "And a really cool chorus."
We listen to the chorus.
"Also, she's probably giving your man a kicking for the road, now he's down."
And I put my foot down hard and drive.


Back in my silent ordered house, (reduced to order) I wander from room to room, wallowing, thinking about Beyonce, Malala, the Boss, all the girls, the young women, heroes  who have cast off the softly softly tactful ways of wily womanliness in this brave new world and I'm glad. The other side of the coin of abuse of the female, by men and by women too

I'm glad for them and I'm glad for me, in my briefly silent space, where you can think a thought through from the beginning to the end without being asked for money, or a lift, or whether that rash  on my back might be cancer, those blood stains on my shirt will come out in the wash!!!  They'll be back soon enough to me, like nemesis herself, and in the meanwhile dear reader I'm at home to no one, unless you take my stray fancy that is. And in the words of the mighty Beyonce herself, 'don't hurt yourself".

Friday, 27 May 2016

Consent. A Woman's Need to Choose. Molly Bloom.


                                                                                                                                                                 "I mean I  hate the way they talk sometimes. Have you ever listened to them talking." The Boss, sitting crosslegged, tap tapping on her laptop as she speaks, inclines her head towards the boy and his mates, crowding though the front door in a shouty rabble on Saturday night. I think I know what she means although I ask her anyway,  curious. It's the way they talk about girls? Like they're game? or like prey, like they're other?  Than us?"  She elaborates " So you try not to laugh,  at the way they think,  like they're...actually, superior? As they, I mean, shout each other down...think that they're, actually, smarter... than girls?"  She rolls her eyes, more in sorrow than anger..

Yeah, I heard them talking. Tall, lithe young men, punch drunk on their own strength, cocksure of  their own take on the world, as opposed to girls and old people, such as thou and I. When they've gone they leave behind them bouquet of liberally applied aftershave in the kitchen, mingled with cigarette smoke and something else,  high sweet notes of longing, vulnerability. What I really hate is the way they squeeze your heart with their blind confusion, their shouty needfulness, I do not say.
"Of course" I tell her sagely, "they've had a few cans!  That's amplification of testosterone you're listening to there".
"So?" she says. Unimpressed.
" know they will improve, in  time?

Last night  she assured you some other girl's mother would drop her home from a thing in a pub, and all her friends would be going, and she wouldn't be drinking,  as of course she's underage, and she wouldn't anyway want to,  anyway. Talking fast and loose over your objections.  And otherwise, she tells you, a clincher, she would be home alone (with you) while everyone else would be together, at the party, having good times. And is that what you want for her?  Is it?  Erm, no.


So I watch the girls get ready, lengthy process, applying the elaborate pricy make up, arranging the  hair, the shedding of tracksuits for some scant garment or other, after which they totter forth on the vertiginous heels to party.  Actually, the make up is a top up really.  They rise at dawn more often than not, to apply layers of stuff, primers, concealers, foundations, mascara.  For school. They are artists of conturing, disguise.
 "Are you off then, my darling"  I call from the window.  She waves a casual hand.  "So, have a nice time.... behave...  Get you later."
 And I will, so I know my adolescent daughter,  lightly clad, heavily made up, will come home with me, sober-ish, safe.  So she knows it will be mother and home at the Witching Hour. Or else... all... broken glass slippers, bleeding feet,  pumpkins, that sort of thing.

She is hyped, smells of cigarettes and sulphur when I get her.  She always calls before to see if I would only wait.  Just one more hour?  Pleeeease!  No.

She is sulky/dreamy in the car.  Ripped away from the good times.  Under the impression that she is a  little bit oppressed, that her mother is a little bit extreme.


She said probably....

"You know that in some American colleges they have...  they had to,  organise seminars for students on Consent between boys and girls"  I offer on Sunday.
 "Pardon? Thats...redic!" the beautiful one utters. "Why? Why would they even think..."
 "Rape? People, girls, finding themselves doing things they never agreed to...or decided on..."
"Why would you need to teach people about that. You don't need to teach people about that!"
"Yeah, you do. They do.  About the way drinking, hormones, messes with your not quite finished cognitive processes?"
"So, maybe they need to teach boys..."
"Yeah. And girls. Girls need to choose. If you don't choose, then someone else will choose for you"
I leave her thoughtful, I hope.


I go for a walk. I'm walking and thinking. Is anything I have to say even relevant? To them? They think not.  The thing is, consent was not an issue when I was where they are. Not really. Boys had to try and have sex, girls had to not let them. You, if you were a girl,  didn't get to choose to have sex. I can imagine the bewildered incredulity of one of those boys if you went about educating them on the subtleties of consent. They didn't rape, they didn't respect you if you let them, but you had to not let them.  That was it. Hmm.

                                                                  almost definitely

I reached a point myself, back then,  where I decided I would choose, and did and was judged, to such an extent that I lost the ground I stood on for a while. But now, it is no different, really. Then you couldn't say yes. Now you can't say no. When you're young. You're a vehicle for something primal really, hormones, sex, until you find your ground and learn to choose.


In the meanwhile, I will collect her at midnight, I will warn about rape, I will tell her not to let them, until she's ready and able to choose for herself.   I will tell her this is her responsibility.   How, after all, can you protect yourself, if you're blind to the danger?  How do you to keep safe, if you're unaware of the primitive forces working in you and boys, and no one tells you about that. This is no thou and I here, this is only ramped up, ravenous I.  Don't send  your daughter out with one arm tied behind her back, your son without concept of consequences. Tell her this,  tell her you take them into you, beware foreign objects.  Tell him he might not be able to come back.

                                                      Molly Bloom

And then, after the kissing of many many frogs, the no no no till you're on automatic: then there is the glory of the yes. The primeval power of it, the force that makes the boys cluster and bluster and fold, that yes you will, yes, you will, now you will,  yes.

   .....and then I asked him with my 
eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I
        put my arms round him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume 
and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes i will yes*

(*Molly Bloom's Soliloquy. Ulysses. Read it aloud  from beginning to end.)


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 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.


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 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 could, you could take me on your policy, while I'm like saving. 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 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?"
"But.  Darling girl, how?  What happened?"
"Oh. They found I mean he was you know hanging...

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 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 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?"
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 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."
'Oh.  But… so... are we going to like turn them away if they have had a drink before they come?"
 "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 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