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Friday, 21 December 2012

Blessings and Felicitations.

The boy sits on beds edge ferociously  strumming his  guitar, his eyes channelling something feral and intent  when I tap his shoulder.  But he is content.  All he wants for Christmas, sorted. A good  camera for shooting wild life , in the bag.  Subscription   to  an  X box site, not.  But he is working  on it. .  A copy of the Beano Annual, yeah,  granny Oonagh never fails him. .  Presents for family, done.  CDs all round from the  bargain basement and first burnt onto his own  I pod.  So,  OK,  made to contribute some of his cash  for the camera, and some serious lectures from the boss about the CDS, but, you know, Duck's Back. Water and  God 's in his heaven.

                          The gorgeous girl whirls through the house on her way to choral performance, girl shopping, hanging in the Vault listening to music, eating talking dancing with her friends,  dressed in dark teeshirt, black jeans encasing giraffe limbs and a mere  hint of jacket  against the winter, because everything is shiny and speeded up as the great day approaches and there is no time  to waste on  chill  or rest..

                                              My husband and I watch the Boss in a row of hopeful soulful teens, as they bounce and thrill through all the Christmas carols at her school concert.  Her eyes shine,  her beautiful  face  serene. She has wrapped and tagged every Christmas present in the house for us, written and posted  all the Christmas cards, given and received cards from a multitude of girl friends.  In the wardrobe her fine  new outfit hangs for her (first) teenage dance tomorrow night, white lace, brief black skirt,  silver pumps (and stout seventy denier  black tights at my insistence.)

                                                        I wrap  a  frozen limb  around   my  good  husband's sturdy Cavan legs    afterward, as we chat under the duvet about missing  addresses  for cards recipients , vegetables still to be got for Christmas dinner, whether we might get Port as well as Sherry for the great day,  when oh when he can decently remove the flashing garish Santa clause the boy has proudly placed in our front window, and he tells me  that he is this year  truly happy,  and will be so on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Doctors prosper/ Patients die.

"DO YOU KNOW I have,  (A) , a MORTGAGE  to pay, (B),  THREE  children to support,  (C),  a household to keep afloat, and this is.... this is... is......"  words fail  me.  Earlier  I stared  stupidly at a  snotty faced minion  in the blood testing department when  she  advised me that I had better hand over €110 euro, or no blood test for me. I have a medical condition which, while it can be treated,   can' be neglected.  Having in fact neglected it for some time, due to the expense, I had submitted my self to scanning and consultant, a few weeks past,  paid €500  for this,  and he, the consultant,  decided on a cunning plan to put me on a regime involving fortnightly visits  to  a nurse to titrate medications upwards, following on a blood test.  I learned, after the first visit that the NURSE  cost €50. On this the second visit,  I learned that the preliminary  blood  test was €55, and that they forgotten  to tell me last time.

A total then of €155 this time, and €105 hereafter, with a further €50 for medications, EVERY TIME.  The figures danced about in  my brain as I scrambled over to the nurse, who harangued me for tardiness. (I had rushed to the hospital during my lunch hour)  leading to the above outburst ( spluttering, as you see  to an exhausted and disgusted halt)

The thing is that I have no choice. I have medical insurance,  rapidly becoming unaffordable, which offers no contribution to this. My salary is  average, I am not eligible for medical cards or any  other sort of contribution.  These people simply milk you for cash for necessary treatments. Doctors fees were always high and they have reduced not one whit in this recession. There is no attempt to look at a financial plan for the unfortunate sick person. . Payments for doctor visits, tests, are applied without discussion or estimate. The stark  fact of the matter is that medical doctors accept a far smaller fee for patients with medical cards, place these at the end of the list when it comes to necessary hospital  treatments, and hold the rest of us to ransom, with medical care that is unaffordable.. Or at least I would like to know how it can be afforded, and who can afford it?

There is no attempt by our quite quite hopeless government to rein them in, to control prices, and working folks skimp on necessary medical care, because it is over priced. This information  is perfectly clear and available to they medical establishment when they apply these prices.   A case of indifference then  or good old fashioned opportunism. .

Anyway, I dismissed the nurse, I intend to thrash something out with my GP  re prescription and surgery blood tests in the future, and will return to the consultant when I can afford it. I am saving up.

And as to value, the nurse was patronising, adopted a one size fits all approach.  In fact you might have been eight or eighty and a little slow to boot, for all the distinction she made. And repetitive, with  largely redundant advice. To justify the cash extraction?  I left each time feeling diminished, worried, broke and extremely irritated. The consultant will charge the same sum every three months if we adhere to the cunning plan. It is hard indeed not to feel frisked, turned over, mugged almost, and that, my friends is so not therapeutic.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Barbarians. Love/Hate.

Sometimes its hard to be a teenage boy.

Ours is under siege these days. On a daily basis almost,  his sisters shop him to management. The boss: "Three hours of doing homework! huh! he was on the INTERNET". The elder "help him with his maths? NO ONE could help him with his maths, he is rude and unwilling!".  A sisterly duet: "Chocolates, whole packets of biscuits vanished,  devoured,! milk mess in the kitchen!, electronic stuff damaged! it was him, it was him,  IT WAS HIM."

The boy keeps a limped eyed persona in reserve for when taken to task, and he has an interesting line in excuses/rationalisations. My husband particularly enjoys these, and he tells me on Tuesday, smirking, that the boy now appears to have discovered on line porn. "Whaa, but we must, I mean, I must.." "You must WHAT, exactly?"  "Dunno, um establish what kind of eh porn he is looking at and..and.."  "To see if its tasteful you mean?" sniggers my life's partner. So anyway, we should be concerned with quantity rather than quality he assures me, and the web has joined the X Box on the  restricted list. And the boy is fast assuming an injured, harried air.

Sometimes its hard to be a second husband.

Mine took raging refuse in the bedroom on Sunday evening, after being  torn from the living room where he was watching  a programme on Barbarians  in the Middle Ages, to mend,  for the umpteenth time a TV cable for the recreation room TV yanked loose by careless young people. The fearsome threesome descended, as he laboured, to watch X factor raucously and interactively in the living room on full volume. He loathes X Factor with vim and bile along with boy bands, trash TV, the twilight movies and yes, blithe teenage insouciance when it comes to Good Manners, Doing your Chores and Waste. It's been a baptism of fire for the poor man, who begins to see that he is a captive audience.

I lure him downstairs later on with tea and apple tart to watch Love/Hate. (Barbarians dispatched to their quarters). Something in the car crash  events  unfolding around the hapless and mostly witless characters is irresistible. It is a comedy of  horrors. It is punctuated by some quite devastatingly unglamorous  and authentic looking scenes of ie, a rape, a man's brutal slaying, a woman's experience of being slammed, poked and pushed into by punters over a day in  brothel.  Its brow moping, shattering, insane, and hysterically funny TV. And it is NOT the sum of its parts. But it IS  guaranteed to put pesky teens in the halfpenny place.://">web directory!</a> for free Find sites like this in the <a

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Rage and incredulity, The Halappanavar tradgedy.

I have been veering between states or rage and incredulity for the past week or so regarding the death of Savita Halappanavar  in the Galway hospital. The radio and newspaper coverage  gathers a head of steam as the days go on. There is so much to be enraged about;  the refusal to terminate for at least two days as the unfortunate young  woman waited in pain and fear for the baby's heart beat to stop,  the failure  of hospital staff to note her and her husband's repeated requests  for a termination, and the endless reams of fudge  being trotted out by the government as to why there has been no legislation obliging the hospital to do its job and carry out the procedure from the outset.  Including the recommendations of the  working party that an appeal  board  be set up consisting of two doctors, if a woman has been refused a termination!

When exactly should one appeal after finding oneself  in the throes of a miscarriage? A very good time indeed to be dispatched off to jump through a series of legal hoops. We have the Supreme Court decision in the X Case, and the European court issuing warnings to legislate, and still we allow ourselves to be paralysed by a minority of zealots and dinosaurs. And so we wait and wait, as in this case until its too late. An Irish  answer to an Irish question , no more no less.

"This is a catholic country" Mr Halappanavar   was told,  a remark that was not recorded in the hospital records,  edited out along with the couple's many  requests for a termination. I prefer Mr Halappanavar's    account in this regard. So why not come out and own up to  this kind of thinking? Is it because people are too concerned about negative repercussions for themselves, as opposed to having any view on this? And who or what are they afraid of?  Is there anyone other than a thimbleful of crazies, who would object to a prompt  termination where a woman's life and or  her health is at risk due to a  pregnancy or a miscarriage?  As to enquiries,   it would be  good  to think that a stone would be lifted to expose this kind of dangerous murky thinking at play, but it won't happen unless there is a public enquiry, I think.

And pity poor Mr Halappanavar, who, not given the vital  medical procedure he asked for his wife,  was at last  given tea, biscuits and a blanket, (recorded) to keep vigil as her life slipped away, unstoppable now.  

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Murderous Vissicitudes.

Thursday is black. Murderous vissicitudes with husband and children lead to a sleepless night and today I have a ominous  ache zinging spitefully  up and back from belly to heart.

The day brings the usual round.. The boy tells me passionately that "you expect me to sacrifice my health to your stubbornness ", when I refuse to stock up on some junk cereal he desires ( the semi nutritious one I supply doesn't agree with him. Seemingly). "Yeah and Fruit and Veg!,  thats two entire food groups you have already sacrificed to your HEALTH" his knowing sister sniggers .Energetic insults are traded .Someone asks me for money I don't have on me, for something essential, urgent.  At work a large swathe of the  public  have decided that all the bad stuff in their lives can be traced back to some small inadvertence of mine, some failure of attention on my part.

At lunchtime I decide to go home to my mercifully empty house, take refuge with book, blanket and tea. . And just stop.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sniggering husbands, Consoling fires, disrespecting Harry Potter.

"Its  only seven weeks till Christmas", the  boy announced on Tuesday.  "Yeah, and  FIRST  there's my birthday"  the boss added,  "and you needn't worry about Christmas"  she continued magnificently, "something small will do cos  like you will be spending  a lot on my birthday  (guitar).....oh and you know  seven weeks,  that's only  actually twenty nine days".     There is a distinct lifting of spirits in the back seats..    Post mid term break,  post autumn,  drop kicked into hard core winter as it were (cold)  we are daunted gloomy and  tired.

Specifically,  on Monday night,  we are tired  on account of Nicky Minaj's concert, after which we were required  to collect the eldest from the bus drop off point,  well after midnight.  The drop off  point could not be clarified, and after at least twenty texts, a kind bus driver dropped her near the house, where I hovered fretfully,  harrowing my husband.   Also,  the boy blues resume, as he rails agains the fact that I have made him  join the school  computer club in return for X Box time.  "I mean I have to get down with  GEEKS"  he cries and I wonder who he sees when he looks in the mirror,  he  being an avid   fan of TV documentaries,  a keen reader of  factual tomes concerning wars, aviation,  true incidents of house hauntings (no, really) extra terestrials and such matters  on a loop (now kindly supplied by his stepfather from his own stash).

By Wednesday  it occurs to all our  young people that the Sky Tv service  is gone, replaced by Free to Air Saorbox.   "Its an economy" I  offer  to a wall of outraged faces.   "But... but I can't be without my programmes,"  utters the eldest tragically.    "What programmes?".  "Well I um ".   "She means  Britains Next Top Model, and  America's Next Top Model too.... Oh and  Sixteen and Pregnant"  carols the boss.  My husband snorts.  "After all, we must prioritise. What if I were to lose my job. Then, the things that actually matter like piano lessons would have to go  ".   "WHAT!. I couldn't  LIVE  without my music" the tragic one  wailed.  "  are you? Loosing your job I mean? Oh My God Are you or are't you?" . I tell her we must hope for the best, in this present climate,.

Later, I tried to explain to my husband  the difficulty of maintaining a sense of stability and predictability  for teenagers who  hack  a path through  a  hormonal snowstorm, whilst insisting they see the real world  that you, and one day they,  must negotiate.   The deprived one bounced into  the middle of this to ask,  with utter  insouciance,  if she might now  have  previously promised  money for clothes shopping on Friday, " while you still have it".  "And what's with the snorting" I asked my unimpressed spouse  (A cavan thing, perhaps?)

Anway, we are cold and tired.  We light  blazing  fires in the evenings to console ourselves and watch  television by the flickering, warming conflagration  of burning wood.  My husband gets a fire snapping and crakling in jig time, which he says is a fine Cavan attribute.  As is eyeballing people, calling a spade a spade  and some other nutty macho stuff.  (But he may be having me on).   He watches Homeland with me and I Breaking Bad with him.  Next door I hear the boy and his sister giggling rauctiously over the computer where they watch a spoof on Harry Potter  (god help us all).  "You really would not want to enquire too closely into that" I tell my Cavan cave man. But, after all,  basically, God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.  More or less. Yes.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Worms turning. Autumn becoming Winter.

Mid term break.  Boss and boy go west to spend the week with their father.   The older one, having declined to be shifted from bed and board, remains with us.   One true thing about Divorce is this;  
the infant parties affected will one day decline to pack up  teddy bear,  clothes and electronica 
and  present themselves to the party of the second part for his or her equal access, (  intensely fought  
for by same.)   The infant will hit puberty,  and,  having a say, will say this  "Hey, I am staying put, I  
am spending my free time with MY FRIENDS and,  if you want me,  you know where I am".   And             
who among us should blame them?   Soon we vote on a constitutional amendment to underpin   
children's rights.   The day indeed may come, my friends when  THE CHILDREN  get the house;  
the equal access,  the  visitation,  the split lives awarded  to the warring parties.

I take a week myself and spend it liberally,  like a  drunken sailor,  on shared  meals, movies,   
random trips across the country with my husband.   We go northwards where I witness the beautiful 
autumn transmogrify to bleak and arctic winter, as we drive.   Beautiful too in its way, if you have                                                                                                                                                                  the stomach for it.  The change is so abrupt that the  cold assaults your very bones, before you can 
adjust to it.  "Too soon" I tell my heart"s companion "its just too soon' and  wrap him round me 
like a blanket as we walk  a blackly winding Cavan road.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Grievous harrowing.

My beloved husband is in arctic retreat, he barely speaks to me and I will certainly not speak to him until he apologises, sees the error of his ways, identifies where it all went wrong, SHOWS  me that he SEES how badly he offended me, and well just says  sorry.  It was  about my driving, and it started with my use of the gear box, moving  on to my incorrect  employment of wipers, and came to a fine culmination  with his histrionic gasp when I braked a little  abruptly in traffic. On being told to Shut Up, he (as I told him later) aggressively read the newspaper in silence till the journeys  end, when words bitter and unwise were  said  about my driving,. And now, no words at all. It is  day three and I miss him grievously, feel hamstrung by  the difficulty in having a very necessary clearing of the air before my  very interested and impressionable teenagers.

Last night I holed up in my bedroom, clutching a book I have trying to read for months, my own words to my children.ringing in my ears.  I mean  "I have known a kind of hardship and suffering you have no notion of, and will NEVER have to experience"  and "I am not going to be subjected to further harrowing from my own children now" was not what I saw myself saying (roaring) at my children. Ever. .Not even after a very trying evening of door slamming, flouncing and bloodymindness from one or other of them. I wondered was it even true. It seemed to have been yanked out of me from some stray place. . Was it true,  and ought I to have said it, and was that actually me?

Well yes, yes and yes. Of course it was true. After all I had an Irish catholic childhood circa 1960s. And I do believe that most people you meet are engaged in a quite  dreadful struggle to live, more or less. Also, I'v been doing it for a long time now, you get punch drunk in time. . If you are still standing that is. Besides  lately the odd skittery jerk of my heart warns  me  ENOUGH  with the unconditional offering.. (The hearts a slave)

Whose heart then has not been rung this week by the story and the  images of the two little girls, two years and three months old, mown down by an out of control car as their father wheeled them out on a Sunday walk. All week long the woeful tale played out.  The guard crouched by the smashed  and empty buggy, bowed head  in hand,  the people standing  paralysed with pity at the scene bearing flowers, the undertaker who wrapped the baby in her sisters arms in one coffin, one,  a mystery wrapped in and enigma, why.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Boys don't cry. Swimming up Cavan.

I have made the boy cry. His sisters, who would not give him a fraction of an inch in argument, tell me so in perplexed unease, as though I have breached a female code of ethics, and I have.

After  an interesting parent teacher meeting and yet another argument about the X Box, . I resorted to letter  writing. Talking  was just  not working. He whisks out  a fine three card trick of noise, obfuscation and denial before you  reach the second  sentence. He had to be reached somehow. It is an exam year. So...I wrote him a letter and I did not pull any punches. I covered everything,  from what he was refusing to do, to where it would end, and what I  now expected him to do. No negotiation. Consequences spelt out. I expanded  on to a number of home truths he had been refusing to hear for some time. The pen, as it turns out was  mightier than the sword, and I feel a little stabbed to the heart myself, now.

My husband adapts a bracing tone and says good will come of it.  Maybe. But, he is a man and does not get the vast store of pity harboured  by women everywhere for male vulnerability,  for the raw and ragged heart beating under every manly rib cage.. A bit of excavation under the  testosterone, the singlemindedness, the fascination with facts, gadgets,  and there it beats.

At the weekend we drive up North to my husband's country. A day of sunlit grace, we keep to the back roads,  quiet and colonised by autumn trees, red orange and rust leaves drifting onto the road. An unfolding carpet of green fields flow close past the windscreen. The trees  are an   impossibly gorgeous riot  of colour. I drink it in like wine as we chat, as though it was a scarce beauty,  of numbered days. I have reached that age.

My husband, a scarce beauty himself, is king of the back roads. He will not travel on the motorway if he can help it. He says you glide like a fish down the impossibly narrow roads he makes for, a homing pidgeon, when we reach his native Cavan. I have decided to trust him, just about, with  stray  oncoming cars, gliding swiftly, incomprehensibly  past  us without collision. Safe  as houses. 

Friday, 12 October 2012


I am off to the Pub for more than one drink. I will take my husband with me...... maybe.  Today I have pleased no body. The boy is all sound and fury, as he batters away at the boundaries  I have placed round his X Box use. His sister hisses and spits at my selfish limits on  taxi service. The boss grumbles at my unaccountable refusal to to take her to some X Factor  freakshow in Dublin. And my husband, he is cross at all my failures;   I am too indulgent; I  have failed to foster proper  self sufficency in my  children;  I have failed  to halve my workload  ( so that we can gather us  rosebuds while we may:)  He tells me I will kill myself and he will have no part of it!

Sometimes its hard to be a woman (in the words of the great Dolly Parton) . It is. And Women, no clarion calls to freedom, gender equality,  me time,  makes  a shavings difference here.  You are a Woman. Expectations are huge,  responsibillity  implacable, time out is stolen. And there IS NO ONE ELSE but you to hold your people's universe  high and clear, with your mind's  good attention,  to do the stuff you do.

So. I'm with Dolly, and basically it just is.

I willl certainly take my husband with me. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

X Box Blues, A Princess bruised, the Boss in Love.

"See you later" the boy mumbles, as he climbs out of the car.  Hmm,  yes that's the first time in a few weeks he has not stomped of fiercely when we reached his school and the first morning car trip without mention of the damned X Box. Result?  Have I won the War? the Battle even? ?  I have taken the infernal box  away during the week.  "YOU can't tell ME what to do! / The X BOX is MINE!  / Its RIDICULOUS,  you are RIDICULOUS! /  Everyone in my class plays the X Box for MUCH LONGER than me! / I Don't accept  it! / And I  Will move out!"   Such like  assertions ricochet  through house and car for weeks.  "I can AND I will ! / If You could just  SEE  yourself with that bloody X Box / Everyone? I'm very sure that's not actually true! / My house My rules!/". We are a double act, the boy and I.    A fiery chorus.  I have the X Box  controls concealed  in a safe place. I  am not for turning. But oh how to make him see?

See the tense snapping  person huddled over the X Box,   the low grade  bullying  of  his sisters, fiercely resisted,  but, as the older one complained, when you have a six foot one male person  invading your body space, and issuing vaguely manacing ultimatums, you are disturbed. See my  dawning  realization  that that is where you will  find him  when  you go looking,  barely avertiing his gaze from the screen, as he tells you, against a background of gunshots, that he will finish in a MINUTE, that  he has only just gone on, .and what is your PROBLEM? I have introduced a schedule  of limited X Box  use  in return for actual and proven sports participation, dog walking, chores, homework etc.  He, as you can see, has fought me every inch of the way.  I have employed logic. I have employed  appeals to his better nature. I have given respectful  dialogue a run.  Now I am simply adamant, stubbornly  holding  the line. He does not see. He does not get it. Why would he? Flung onto the  lawless traffic as he is,  of internet games (grand theft auto,) consuming hormones, and some  truly deviant people mingled in with his own raw, teenaged kind.  I am not for turning though.  The  person I have been  snatching  from  the X Box is channelling some thing you would not want in your house.

Later on I watch a shiver  of distaste cross the aristocratic features of my daughter, my  princess among peasants, as I hand her a bus time timetable. "Because, darling,  my  taxi service  does not run on   weekends.... Much".  My husband raises an  eyebrow,  he is   not being keen on my  killing routines (he hopes to have me living for his entertainment  a few years yet).  She is a fine  and ambitious singer, actor and musician.  We have a dizzying round of practices, competitions, rehearsals,  etcetera  etcetera  to get to. She is I think the natural daughter of Amy Chua, and any tiger mother  would be proud to own her.  Or else ought to  have been the only child of  a  team of parents, eternally  poised  to bring her to all  her magnificent stuff.  I am not worthy.  Oh well,  she threads her magnificent  path regardless. And despite her  air of having tossed and turned  all night long,  a pesky pea having  pierced  her delicate hide  through  many lumpy  mattresses. "And after all darling" I remind her  from time to time, "We must play the hand fate has dealt us". Hmmm.

The boss has retreated, her silence marked, into a re- reading of the entire twilight series.  The final movie is coming shortly. She has refused to  take me, and is going with her friends. Oh well, its an improvement,  more or less,  on  her most recent obsession with One Direction, and most specifically with   beautiful  Niall Horan. As  to that, suffice it to say that she tried to persuade me to take her to Mullingar,  so that  we could sit  parked  outside his house, and  maybe catch a glimpse, Also   I suspect she  felt that if he only had a glimpse of her  he would be hers, and then,  he whisked away by the  power of her will and her passion, I might let him  live in our house forever and ever.  

Friday, 14 September 2012

A tale of two sons,. An unsung heroine.

"Two hours!  Its two hours minimum study required for the  Junior Cert! We discussed this! You agreed, GET OFF THE X BOX!",  the boy turns  his head slightly, his eyes never leaving the screen, "Uhh, I' ve done a lot of homework already,  must have been  at least...nearly..... two hours.  No! I haven't been home only an hour,  well  anyway it felt like two hours, well ...just...wait,  I have to finish this, I have to...ALLRIGHT I AM GOING.  "And," I say as he lurches out (6Ft.1in  with no idea how to wear it) "you have about twenty unwashed mugs in your room, you gotta make your lunch for tomorrow, and your laundry is  lost somewhere in your quarters, PUT IT IN THE WASHING MACHINE DAMMIT .  I am NOT  doing it. NOT." (mutter) ( mutter) (mutter).  Yeah, the reluctant scholar is back to school. I am even considering a change of school for him. "You should be worried. Some of his friends are  actually getting high in front of him"  the first daughter announces,  severely.  "HUH"? She, grilled after dropping that bombshell, rowed back a little,.  "Its going on , ...he is not doing it, yet,... but its only a matter of time".  I decide to leave him where he is for the moment as he has parted company  with a  worrying group of  dissolute trolls  this year,  after an intense fling with them  last term. They are gone from his  landscape  (with the horse they rode in on)  And he is in an exam year,  and the dissolute dope smoking are everywhere.  And  he has no idea of his own transparency when he seeks to conceal.  And any nascent  smoking drinking and suchlike activities  are written all over his aura. And and and.

Also, its a matter of time. He will grow up.  I know. I have one  fully grown.  I spoke to the eldest on the phone later on. He, intact, solid, and  squarely eyeballing the world  talked of his wife, who has had the all clear for now,   at the living end of a gruelling course of chemotherapy.  Its best not  to dwell on the savage exactions   of this  cure  on the  young and still tender. Like others before her, she averred that she would  (could)  endure it only because she has children, has people who need her.  Having the final session, lying down on the rack one more time,  is an act of heroism, a feat of endurance, a brave defiance.  

It is autumn, the heartless  rain has stopped at at last. You realise how long you have been  peering,  half blinded,    through   dense shifting  water,  see  the vibrant   green flowering   it fostered and hid,  all the enduring  unsung miracles  in the world. She will live, appreciative and honed to a  fine steel.  My hat goes off to her.

Friday, 31 August 2012

End of Summer. Altamant Gardens. Unmoored.

The fearsome threesome are back to school. Bless them. Morning TV shows, (Sixteen and Pregnant, Britains Next Top Model, Britains Haunted Houses) must  carry on without them. All summer long they were to be found wandering owl eyed (late nights) in the   mid morning, pyjama'd and munching cornflakes    from  kitchen to T.V  , in and out of a cocoon of blankets on the living room  sofa. The house an obstacle course around fishing rods, kindle, discarded shoes, books, socks peeled from teenage feet, mobile phones, and other electronica which  I battled through on my way to work and back again. How I love the Autumn School term

 AS to them, well the first daughter drifted out of the car, resignedly and  with a distinct air of having other fish to fry, but  like ok so she has to get a brillant leaving certificicate first. Hmmm.  The boy strides off slightly dishevelled but uniformed more or less. My stern cautions are (should be) ringing in his ears,  "exams...he can do it..he will one can do it for later life....etc etc"  "Uhh, can I have a fiver for my lunch" he asks, after an obsequious pause. He has had a good summer. His head is still  in the West, judging the wrist flick on the tiniest watery ripple, watching the line fly,  wrapped in the surround sound of   the whispering   leaves  overhead.  I can tell by the cut of him.  Even while  his legs are carrying him onwards into the junior certificate, the  teacherly exhortations, and, god help us all , TWO  HOURS  mimimum study EVERY night as prescribed.

And the boss, she is starting secondary school. I walk her in, and as we approach the door teeming with her  kind, she turns an abruptly stiiffed face "YOU don't come in with me". She inclines to me slightly. ,  eyes suddenly  stricken,  A Hug?, and pulls sharply back. "You can go now".  "Huh? Oh, Right, See you later honey"  I tell her unyielding back, as she walks away from me, pony tail swinging. . My husband tells me that in my mind my children are about four years younger that they actually are. And that they have one face for me and another  for the world. Perhaps. He makes his own space in the house and has his own perspective. Anyway he cooks me delicious Linda McCartney sausages for lunch, and helps ease the achy sense of dislocation ,of having been let go of, unmoored, by my baby.

We all go to Altamont Gardens after school. It is my birthday and we go every year, on the day. This year my husband comes too. He is as beguiled as I with this place. He knows it of old. The trees, exotic and native, the grasses, the embarrassment of  roses, the fairy tale  lilypadded lake, a homage to nature and devoted gardening. We stand in a line looking at the crumbling house at the top of the rose walk, drawn in by its human face, its air of having tales to tell. The three do a nostalgic encore  of stalking us as we walk, hiding in the myriad nooks and crannys, in honour of previous visits, despite being the size of young giants. I scream, unnerved,  when I come on  the boss and the boy, who  have arranged themselves on a ancient bench, partially concealed by an over hanging magnolia tree, stock still and staring outward in tandem. My kind husband takes my arm  as they  (and he)  whoop at my stricken state. Too easy.

The boy pays for a plant from the plant shop, for my birthday.  "Uhh pick one n I'l give you money...uhh how much will it...... its not to be.... not more than...uhhh".  "€ 8.50", I tell him clutching the most lively dahlia with dark green leaves, and a deep red flower . He grins with relief, his sisters hooting derisively behind him.

We see a sign marked   Adults €2.75,  on the way out (though not collected, at least from us). Also a part of the gardens were closed off today, (the ice age garden  on the way down to the Slaney.)  I explain to my husband that Corona North gave the gardens to the state on condition that they be available  free to the public. He thinks the gardens  are   not very well tended (though all the better for that). This place is balm to heart and soul. Are the OPW and the State in its most comfortable default of    smearing and despoiling what has been entrusted to it,  from basic uncaring  stupidity (or some other calculation that no body knows about?). I am watching them.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Getting on the carousel.(money counted, chances taken, a little punch drunk.)

We are looking  down a  house move. And to a far province. Which might as well be  a far country, in a way. I am standing on the edge, at the brink, before the jump, because I know when you go you can't stop,  turn,   hang on, wait till you feel stronger.  I am an habituated upper of sticks, a punch drunk volunteer for moving on.  I know how it works. The packing by black bag and box, the canceling  of the utility bills, the re directing of mail, and then you are  Alice through the looking glass,   reversing every single last  thing at the other end.

I want to go. I do. There's  nothing quite as stale and dispiriting  as your default day, after you have baulked. I am reluctant to reap the whirlwind though, because there  is always a price to pay, always, when you have  turned  the world on its head, and you had better have the shoulders to carry it.

We must yet,  before we go,  run the whole scenario by the fearsome threesome. I have played these cards close to my chest,  till schools have been located, a possible date decided on. And then a swift departure planned before they can build up  a head of steam against DISRUPTION OF OUR COMFORT ZONE. Moving Teenagers is a whole other ballgame.  They are   neither child to be brought , or adult to choose. And we will have the new school uniforms, the bolshie refusals, the stuff they can not possibly do without taking up most of the available space in the removal van. The whole supporting edifice you make around your children, to be uprooted, replanted in a new country. So why not just.......stay?

I do believe there is a time to go, to move on, and if you get the timing right, if  you dare,  your courage will bring you growth,  change,   a much needed stretching of  all your  ever so slightly suffocating limits . Life is shift and  change my friends, a fairground trip, and when the carousel stops for you, you had  better  get on board. If you are able.

Friday, 17 August 2012

No. No. No. Stumbling on (single) mindfulness.

"Nope, No, I Regret, Would if I Could, But... nope......No"  I am leaving a trail of refusals  behind  me these days , channeling negatives,  you might say.  A a result of this, people are cross with me.  An icy toned daughter  barely  speaks for days. I have refused a request to drive  across country to collect her,  on a work day. . My beloved eldest  son has cut at me via text, on my failure to keep up sufficent contact with  him, at  a most difficult and  painful time in his life.  He, at least forgives me. The boy hectors and wheedles at my tardiness in sending money (to purchase worms.)  The boss, taking her tone from her sister, has taken me to task for not taking her abroad this summer. " And You have NEVER taken me to London...  yet.... at all". The thing is I seem to have lost my facility for multitasking.  At which I may not have been so good anyway. My husband avows wonder (and not in a good way) at the sight of me cooking at the stove, whilst also, (a) emptying the dishwasher, (b).  laundry sorting  (c)  feeding the hound.  D. directing teenage traffic.  "Multitasking" I say.  "But....but.. that' s no way to treat food, and I certainly can't be expected to put such neglected hastily concocted fare into my body " he says.   "And also,  baby, you may set the house on fire" he adds.

Anyway, recently, I have stumbled on the joys of focusing on the task at hand, it  being  the task I have chosen to do. I am only in my office  when I am in my office, only writing when I am wrting, only  reading when I am reading.  So satisfying! . Who knew! Everyone is a (little) mad at me,but I will live (very likely longer) with that.

Friday, 3 August 2012

To hell or to Connaught, Making time for good fighting.

"You have abandoned me !....Once again......And and I'm not prepared to stand for it.....And I  have things to do over there...." The first and outraged daughter is comfortably seated in her grandparents house in the West of Ireland,   firing of accusatory texts across the country but I am adamant.   No, I am  hardened. She has spend the summer so far drifting down stairs at a late hour, where she can be found munching cornflakes, and watching Britain's next top model (B N T M for future reference)  on a loop, facebooking her friends, and growing tall and sultry in the process. On the plus side she is three quarters of the way through Jane Eyre on her Kindle, which I have inveigled her to read by dint of banning broadband  and  B N T M  for specified periods. AND  she has learned to like it, advancing from "but its in a foreign language" "to, hey its really good...Jane's at Rochester Towers now and it's kinda wild"  hmmm. Anyway, I have dispatched her to spend time with her father and  grandparents and now,  due to  the lack of broadband on tap, and other home comforts she wants to come back. I feel her pain, oh yes, but I' m a little battle weary, needing  some  time to  myself, and her basic inactivity, her entitled indolence  is getting to me. Also, she is exploring alcohol  (on a controlled basis) (ie with the adults,  supplied by myself0 "because I'm  old enough....and YOU do it....AND all my friends are actually like seasoned drinkers". All true. Probably.

 She is demanding wine at the table and hinting at the drinking she might be doing  with her friends, (the seasoned drinkers) if she decided to be frank. I don't believe it. Its like sex, its the ones who don't  boast   you need to watch. I let her have careful glasses of   white wine, from nifty little  sachets I discovered in the supermarket. . Which she insists on slurping rapidly and draining the sachet after,. And looking at me pityingly when I counsel moderation. Anyway let the other half of the parenting team have a go. I have a mental image of the abandoned one boasting of her intake with me and demanding  wine at his  table, as I write.  I should warn him. I should.

Also I feel the need for space for our new(ish) marriage to take.  A surprising number of people have an opinion on marriage and how one should proceed. The recurring theme seems to be that the first six months are  crxxxxp. Or make that a year even. But why?  Because its forever, and you loose all personal space, and the older you are the harder this is to bear, and once the drama and emotion of the wedding is over you each  bring out your auld  baggage   to chill the heart of  the other (innocent) party. Its a little bit of all of that I guess. My dearest life's  companion and I have worked our way through a few skirmishes all ready and are growing  a  bit of a survivors bond (in addition to the love and the  devotion). But, my dear reader, the thing is,  you need space and time in which to act out your stuff,  to work your way like a good dose of salts through the marital wars,.  We can't put our hearts and souls into it whilst  sheparding  the would-be hardened drinker safely  through dinner. "It's a luxury, darling, to fall out and in again at one's  leisure," I have explained to him, having  given this some thought,  "good fighting is trickier than you might expect".  I see the whites of his eyes as he says  "Eh.....  right, .... as long as YOU"RE  happy baby".   Hmmm, love that man.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Living for pleasure, money for worms.

"Oh hey, you know soon we will be living entirely for pleasure"  I tell my new (ish) husband as we book bed and breakfast for Friday, in Carlingford Lough. I am working in the vicinity in the afternoon and we have the magnificent notion to stay over, spent Saturday, rambling like tourists in the Mourne Mountains. "Ah but time is rushing past us n if we mean to  devote ourselves to pleasure, better get started."  he sagely says. He is a VERY  good husband. We have had an overnight bed and breakfast jaunt to Galway  last weekend and  the winding country roads, the  walks soundtracked by lapping sea, the companionable, slightly tipsy lunchs were outrageously pleasing . "And you, know,  bed n breakfast is cheap,  AND  the company is   free" I assure my grinning spouse, if he need assurance (not).

I phone the boss and her brother before we set off. She is busy  living for pleasure herself with her father and his family for a few weeks, but she does not like thing to be happening , trips being made, that she doesn't know about, has not approved. The boy needs a cash lodgement (to buy worms coke, sweets, and possibly a few other items he does  not mention).

Friday, 13 July 2012

Principles, Pubes, a Nail and a Hammer

"Oh, well it's against my principles to drive a car, "  Miss  Oh So Young and Principled smiled serenely  (self rightously). "Huh? "., I manage, reaching after an approach that won't involve incredulity, baffled fury and/ or heavy duty sarcasm. I have broached the subject of driving lessons for her, thinking to lighten my chauffeuring load. " I will NOT be leaving a huge carbon footprint like (me?), well anyway the air is polluted badly enough  with car emissions and you cannot make me act against my own beliefs". "Umm, do you propose to gettaround the planet, darling"? "Well with YOU, of course, YOU are always running in and out of town anyway". "Oh,.....and.....and what about MY carbon footprint, or   lets just say  if I  get tired of the running in and out?". "Well, then I'll just stay at home.  You wouldn't like that,. would you,? And YOU  have to take responsibility for YOUR OWN  footprint (severely), and besides, you have to go in and out with the others anyway, and also I would just get landed with driving the others  around, IF  I let you talk me out of my principles."  I took a deep and meaningful breath  "And ...and... have you considered the bus darling? (mentally decided to nail  a   bus time table on  to the kitchen wall, pronto).... " The bus?  Why would I take the bus?    You are my mother..... And its your job to ....bring me places. And....also.... I do not WANT to take the bus".

Later I asked my new husband to get me some blue tack, or, I announce fearsomely, a nail and a hammer,  brandishing a local bus timetable. He is  unimpressed, and  snorts derisively.   He maintains that he was   up and running since the age of sixteen, without parental let, hindrance or mollycoddling. He   is   still a little bemused at the kind of hands on parenting considered necessary these days (if you dont want your children to  cite you as chief villian on the psychiatrist's couch, or, heaven forfend, the  dock, at some unspecified day in the future) (of course chances are you will have passed on, or succumbed to dementia of some kind,  when  that day  comes,and thus be  oblivious). Not having had  the parenting of the fearsome  three since infancy,  he doesn't get or entirely approve of the extended  childhood, the elongated adolescence of  tiger and post tiger cubs.  He tends towards a shock and awe approach as in Let 'em walk. Eat cake,  Work for it, Earn it, Do without it, approach. He is held back only by his heart of mush, his failure to see the fingers round which he is being slowly wrapped, and soon he will be quite as bemused as me. Hah..

Survivors, he and I , of the rigours of life in a large 1960s  Irish family, where much was expected, and little available in terms of support and attention ( your mother has ten or eleven others to get around to). There was  an unbreakable survivors bond between siblings in those families, and  I suspect our hyper   parenting is an answer to a question never asked of  our own  harrassed and  over burdened mothers.  In the light of middle age, I see that  fumbling stumble into  adult life,  into  sex, relationships, the work you were suited for; for what it was; a  rush towards an independent life, a poignant wish to have a life, or for your life to start.  And was the struggle character forming?  I am not sure, but I know that  sometimes the treatment kills the patient.   The truth lies somewhere in the middle then, a slow considered tapering off of support. Nurturing and letting go is a   fine balance,   and like any other fine balance, you get it wrong at your peril.  Its how you wind up driving your middle aged children to parties and/or posting bail.

"Nope, zuk is not a word" my husband tells my exuberant scrabble playing rabble. He is now the FINAL ARBITER and Boss   of scrabble. "Pubes? ah yes, that is a word, but its ah, not ah, appropriate" he tells the smirking principled one. "Its Forbidden! it's a No No" I hiss from the wings where I have been retired, but no one hears  to you  there..

Friday, 15 June 2012

I never thought I'd find a woman to marry me (in my jeans)

Today I made my way  to the Boss's dance show, at her Primary  School, to be performed by forty odd twelve year olds who have been dancing together enthusiastically for a whole year,  in  anticipation of this fine show. As I watch the hopeful coordination of  the anxious eager dancers  merging hip hop, disco,and   jazz; the hesitant  child keeping a cautious eye on the others;  the one doing her own thing in happy uncoordination; the one (always one) who dances with instinctive rhythm and perfect grace,  my propensity  to damned leakiness   (starting on the arrival of the eldest, and increasing every year) has to be held in check, least I embarrass the boss (she having reached the age of mortification, at parental lability  and other peculiarities) ). (et tu, boss).   My face squeezed into a rictus of bland ,  I think of how she is the last primary school child, and this the last innocent, uncomplicated SHOW  I will get to go to, Hmm, so I guess I too have ( finally) graduated from Primary School.

A certain leakiness is permitted to me now, anyway, as the Wedding Date approaches, next week. My co workers assure me that at least  one Bridezilla  Meltdown  is proper, or you are disrespecting your pending BIG DAY. Hmm. Maybe. There is certainly  a bit of emotional roller coasting going on.."I never thought I d find a woman who'd let me marry her in my Jeans" the husband in prospect offers, reducing me to helpless giggling hysterics (and they are really very lovely  jeans and he a very   lovely  man).Remarks like  "You are surely NOT letting the boy wear a track suit to you WEDDING" and "WHAT? You are not even having  a Ringbearer?  I would have though you could at least have had a Ringbearer. I could be your Ringbearer" abound from the girls, hanging in the air for days. And I  have become prone to dark visions of what will happen if we don't  ie. give crystal clear directions to  the witnesses  for the registry office, or forget where we hid the wedding rings least they be stolen by such stealthy burglars that we never discover the loss TILL  ITS TOO LATE.  I think I may have reverted  somewhat  to being perhaps Seven? Eight ? years old   and haunted that something black and final will come between me and Christmas, or the summer trip to the sea, and I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO HAVE IT  Somehow. .

Enough already. I have the perfect dress, a back up  dress, the most flattering shoes, two stunningly  chic daughters, the boy signed up  to climb out of the  tract suit for the day and into a pair of jeans (its all relative) (and I would have let him wear the  tract suit, albeit a shiny new one, if he just couldnt), and a most beloved and fabulously  be jeaned , husband to be. The food is booked, the guests asked, the wine chosen. the Registrar of Marraiges primed, . the rings made,  glinting and gold.  On the longest day of the year, we are getting married. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

civil (but insane) servants, tasteful candles, and (till) death us do part. ) death us do part.

"Yesss, it's very nice and tasteful, verrry, BUT NOW, you can't be having any mention of God, or religious   matters, or...or .. anything like that", the  marriage  registrar (I assume that's his title) (though who knows,  we were hailed  by a red faced, expansive porter  at the desk coming in, who greeted us by christian  name, and told us what was what   in avuncular fashion) is so earnest as he says this, that I find myself assuring him, equally earnestly that  there will be none of that.. "And" I add "could we see the eh.. um.. marrying room, too?"   "Yes." he beams,  " when the paper work is done, I   will show you. Very nice too.  Oh very tasteful.  I mean, you know" pushing his glasses up on his nose "I'm married myself IN the church  (properly) but if I was  to do it again, I don't mind telling you  that's the   the way I"d go".

 He is as good as his word, and, having told us to call him Timmy,  proudly ushers us into a dim chilly, pretty featureless room, the rows of seats  suggestive of an audience for pretty much anything from a union meeting, to a lecture on health and safety at work, etc. He explains when we ask, fascinated and somewhat at sea, that we will exchange vows, and that  anything else, like exchanging rings, or (mistily) HAVING CANDLES , has to be elected for as an extra. "Candles?". "Yes, oh yes  they sometimes like to have the candles. And its verry nice, verry nice. eh she has a cande and he has a candle and they.. they.... I can hear my intended husband snort, behind me, as Timmy  comes to a complete standstill, overcome presumably.

"I mean they ARE  making it up as they go along, aren't they" I ask the dear man , as we emerge from the very functional,  spanking  new,  red brick County Council building afterwards. "Well, now I"d say Timmy  was most recently promoted from the plumbing department and is just thrilled with his new job" he smirks "but, let me tell you, there will be NO candles".  We laugh hysterically, not having realized what an ordeal was in prospect, regarding paperwork and jargon, and now feeling that we are in a state of almost marriage. We restore ourselves with good strong coffee, and much giggling over Timmy, "BUT, I still say MAKING IT UP AS THEY GO ALONG" I  sternly tell  my (almost)  husband.

Oh I had started out innocently enough by  phoning  a local registry office to make arrangements. I knew we were required to give three months notice to the registrar, and, as we wanted to marry in June, and as I was applying in early february, I didn't foesee a problem. HAH. . "Um well,  June? yes we have your date. Will I write you into the book....Of  course,  you see now,  you have to make an appointment for Notification with  the registrar three months before. "  "Um,  right, can I have an appointment for that so?"  "Ahh, well, you see now, we don't have  any appointments for Notifications for at least four months" "Oh but..but then  we can't marry till three months after that, can we? (just checking)  "No. You can"t.. you see, we're inundated... inundated ...with people wantin" to get married, you know yourself, and there's only like  two of us, and we only do it on tuesdays and friday afternoons, and.. and you can always try Dublin, or (mentioning neighboring counties) and sure  you can do it (Notification) there maybe, and THEN we will marry you. In June. Eh is that OK?."

 We get a similar spiel from at least four  registry offices, INCLUDING  Dublin. Finally I snap "I CAN  marry WHOM EVER I like,  WHENEVER   I  like, as long as we  give three months notice, not seven months, or...or..six months or  whatever other  arbitrary  period you are effectively imposing! AND  I can and WILL   make a court Application to abridge time and dispense with the notice  requirement, on the basis that you  can not  accommodate us."( "HAH"!,)   "Oh, ah, OK. Well,... But you will still have to make a notification appointment with the registrar, and you ll have to  bring along the court order along with your other documents?".  "Thats just fine", I say carefully,  "because, if I have a court order,  that can be ANY  time before the wedding in June, Can't  it.?  Fine... So... you want to give me a date in April, or when ever, for that.?"  "Yes, yes. Hold on there  till  I have a look. Oh,.. you re in luck, I can put you in for that in February" and she proceeds to give me a date which would have allowed us  give the   three months notice required. Now, you, dear reader might have argued, might have quibbled and set the whole glad merry go round in motion again, but I have seen the light, the lay of the land, the way this cookie crumbles  and so proceed to get the court order and turn up on the appointed date. Which didn't disappoint. See above.  And anyway, I don't care so long as I can marry this man who is my other, on the day chosen by both of us.

That's if my children let us. Oh they have not  actually  forbidden our union, but are busy with  the kind of head wrecking,  devilish  war of attrition only three strong minded solipsistic teenagers can wage.  "I DONT think its too much to expect to have my mother to myself, until I leave home" the boy opined loudly, as an  opening shot, followed by muttered enquires as to why we would bother, anyway,  at our age.  The girls are more subtle "Of course, you should be able to  have your (little)  friends mum, but ah, do you actually LIKE  being a mother?" Ouch. We have good days (the prospective stepdad is kind  and  interested) and  bad days, ( " WE  NONE OF US THINK   its to much to ask to have our  mother to ourselves  till we  leave home...)  as the momentous day looms. It"s a work in progress,  and my almost husband and I have slightish  tremors of pure  panic at the madness, and the  enormity of it all, and we  promise  each other we will never ever do it again. Under any circumstances,  With anyone else.  Only this marriage to each other in June.   Ever.  Til death us do part. At least.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Siblings, a small emergency, Sorrowful, glorious and joyous mysteries.

On Saturday, we brought the boy fishing to the Heritage Park, with its stocked lake, (he needs regular vists, and it's some time since his birthday trip). His fishing friend unable to come, he invites the boss, a   rare and gruff invitation, to fish with him. Her fishing rod located  and packed, in the car she carefully told him that she will fish for a little while, least he imagine she is sticking with  him for his usual obsessive  four hour marathon. The boss has a broad range of interests and fishing is in there, but on the outer reaches. He has cooked sausages, and buttered rolls, for sustenance,  and is wasting no time on lunching (for wimps).

The first daughter if gracing ourselves and the day with her presence,, her friends having cried off a shopping trip. "But what shall we do all day," she nags, distractedly, en route. "Walk.  ! Have lunch. Have a root in the craft shops" (very interesting and good,) I say, bracingly, "And get lots and lots of fresh air".  "It will be delightful". And it is.

It is a rare sunny day, and we intend to have lunch in the beautiful old, stone constructed  centre in the park, and meander gently around the park walks, (it's saturday, no purposeful activity to be entertained). It might be early summer, the  clear light  reflected in still lake water, outlining tall trees, casts and air of grace and holiday, over the whole. The sun, through the cafe window gives a sense of warmpth and ease to the ancient building where we have coffee and rolls. Afterwards, the eldest daughter picks up the threads of an ancient bond with the boss as they stroll companionably in front of us, she leaning in over the shorter boss. Murmuring, conversational eddies float back to us all afternoon. And that, I think, is the point of having  children in the plural,  there's is always a sibling to fall back on if all wese fails and the bonds, though  often acrimonious, are deep and live in well oiled grooves.

The first daughter contives to lock  the car keys in the car boot,  as evening falls  and  a chilly night looms.
Various options are considered, ie phoning  the garda station,  locating a mechanic, coathanger insertions, and the smashing of back windows. I favour the latter, being tired and reluctant to mess about ( and /or listen to various reluctant men marvelling at our  bad fortune?stupidity, before explaining that they can't possibly come out on a saturday evening) ). The caustic boy, dragged away from the lake, is forthright in  his opinion of his sisters "craziness" , and she defends herself with all the noise and determination of a budding lawyer. "Oh well, like, like, Mum has forgiven her, so like what's your problem" the boss says flatly.

An executive decision made, the window smashed with a strategic rock, which dramatic action quelled all quarrelsome impulses, and we are on our way home. In the back, they  are only slightly discommoded by the breeze freely flowing through the small side window, and chat quietly. The consensus is that it was a good day, despite the crying off of friends and the being reduced to siblings company . I realise that the day is gone forever when they  travelled with me, hung out, a noisy lively swarm, combative and companionable both. "But, you know,  are n't siblings a fine resource to fall back on, when all else fails"  I muse aloud in a conversational lull, and  then, "blood is thicker than  water you know " to my backseat audience, who are  uninpressed  seem ing to find me endlessly (amusingly) quaint these days.

"They ll see  ," as I nod to myself up front,  veiwed quizzically by my designated driver (and window smasher)   ( also from  a family of ten)  I think of the deep  deep comfort of adult sibling feedback, consulted about everything from the latest abberation, neurotic and otherwise, of children, or on  ones own knotty issues,. They get you,  you get them, your brothers and sisters, you were children together and your childrens trajectory, an ever expanding   ripple, from the same singing spring.

                                               CHRISTMAS  2004
                             THE SORROWFUL AND GLORIOUS MYSTERIES

                                             Rosary beads weave,
                                           siblings we dance down years.
                                             In each other's sights,
                                            never forget, never forgive.
                                             My mother's teeming brood.
                                              Picking at
                                             our brother sister hood.
                                            Till,   Living in  another place
                                             scattered where we fell,
                                             with other people blood dilute,
                                             and recreate our heavenhell.
                                             Weddings, funerals
                                              signify our commopn blood.

                                           We, who began in the same room,
                                  we scratched our initials on the wall of mother's womb.
                                       A greeting, warning, one to one.
                                     Haunted, we, by the communal ghost,
                                      tied by our mother's terror and hope,
                                         strung out  on her Rosary beads.
                                       And there we dangle, jangle, brood,
                                                      lost in the crowd,
                                                          in love.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Daughters Doctors and Frustration. A boy's progress. January the cruelest month,

"All you actually care about MUM. is whether you are being made to worry. ITS NOT ME YOU'R WORRIED ABOUT".  "HUH"?  "Yes, that's all you SAY, you say you're tired of being made to worry about this. You SHOULD  be worried. I am your DAUGHTER". Oh dear, I feel a distinct dip in the energy  required for the fray, as I drive the impassioned one to singing class. How capable am I of Jesuitical argument right now?  "Perhaps we might take this up later", I suggest. "TYPICAL, you always say we will discuss things later and then YOU NEVER DO". "Well", I murmer, "what with my refusal to discuss anthing at all, and  my sole concern of being worried, you have a bad bad mother"(I know, I know, wrong response. I will regroup). (I do find though that adjourning things indefinately, is sometimes the way to go.)

It all started in the doctors office, where my much put upon elder daughter sat smugly stretching her legs, while the doctor assured us that she was, albeit at the lower end of the scale, in the normal range of body weight. She also had the lack of  wisdom to tell her that she was might be a model, that she was skinny as a boy, and beautifully tall.  She topped this by discovering that in fact  the model in the wings  was 5ft.9ins. on measuring her  height as opposed to the 5ft.8ins we had assumed. Now the aspirant had finally abandoned the modelling dream, on account of her height, a few monthes before. It was a consumption devoutely to be wished as far as I was concerned, as  she had lost a scary amount of weigth in pursuit of this ambition, and become preoccuiped with matters like  calorie counts, BMIs, and an alarmingly hubristic and unpleasant Model  show on TV. I may have mentioned that I am utterely opposed to this ambition. My very clever, acdemically minded, principled daughter not being fodder for an industry which does a great deal of harm, as far as I am concerned.  Also, this is  not being a pround claim I see myself making on her behalf, when basking in reflected glory, (fingering you precious rosary beads, as you do). Still,  I would hold my tongue if she persisted, were it not for the dangerous body issues which are an inevitable component ot this life. Which brough us to the doctors office (for back up). And though the loose tongued medic continued with  a discourse on the danger to diet obsessed girls having passed a line of no return, and death the only consequence; and the dangers to the immune system in not received adequate  nutrients such as allowing  cancer, depression etc (all good stuff and true); and the necessity for the first daughter to develop some womanly curves as she looks like a boy, I suspect  she is only hearing  the bits she likes.

"And, um, should I actually be eating, like,  um snacks if I'm not hungry"?she cunningly asks as the appointment comes to a close. "Not hungry?,  no, three  proper  meals per day, is enough" says the unaware medic, as the first one looks at me triumphantly. I explain,  trenchantly that she has an  agreement with me to have a couple of buttered scones, in additon to the alleged three squares, (which have a habit of being reduced, if not supervised) in order to gain some much needed body fat. (the enemy).

One of my issues with the first daughter, is that I am obliged to assume a supervisory role in her food intake, more appropriate to a young child, as long as she persists with dieting. And of course I proceed quite often  to the statement "and I have quite enough to worry about". Its a question of handing over the burden of responsibilty for self to a growing teenager, as they are  (increasingly) (hopefully) capable of assuming it. You would,nt on  the other hand,  pass on a Ferrari to an infant to wreck. My extremly clever girl knows this, but WANTS the model frame, and so is leaving basic health and safety issues to me, while she pursues the dream . Its a multilayered arguement of course, about diet, health, and responsibility for self, in addition to what may fairly and properly be required of Mother. And its not straighforward. She knows I wont let her harm the Ferrari, and I know the slope gets steep and very slippery after a certain point in dieting (obscure to a teenager) is passed.

"Something HAS to be done about the boy",  his elder sister wears a face of sorrow and outrage, where she stands beside the boss, who shakes her head long sufferingly and says " And like I could not practice piano with him, cos he pushed me hard, and took the flex from the (electronic) piano, and hid it in his bedroom. "And", she went on, "it was only because I told him to leave the X Box, and let me practice in the payroom , like you know you said.". I have returned, at seven pm  from a protracted parent teacher meeting for the boy (held every year in January, just as you are getting over christmas) (long, disorganised queues before each teacher) having left instructions about the preparation of dinner, the  emptying of dishwasher and I am tired, cold and somewhat dismayed at a glimpse of charred looking beefburgers and exhumed potatoes,  a chaotic spread of unwashed crockery, afforded to me when I come home behind the stern committee of daughters awaiting. The boss is blinking effortfully. "AND he hurt my arm".  The boy appears. "I have been LISTENING to THEM , and thats not how it happened, YOU might think she is the victim in all this, but you have not seen her in action! She swung me against the wall, and, its clear her temper is GETTING WORSE , (loud wails from the boss), and anyway I was just fininshing on the X Box like you said when she....  "ENOUGH! GET ME THE XBOX, WHICH I AM CONFISCATING, and you two, empty the dishwasher, and explain to me what dreadful  immolation occurred to  my more or less prepared dinner, (requiring heating only)."  "And ANOTHER THING, has no one bothered to feed this unfortunate dog, ( who is looking at me urgently, throughout  this exchange.)

The scene descended into mutinous mutterings by  the boy  "Heres the X Box.  But this punishment is not acceptable unless she is being punished too" pointing at a reproachfull boss who in turn  tells me that, if I had only allowed her to explain, she would have told me the dishwasher was  full of dirty dishes,  whilst the eldest utters icily, "Well really, I did my best, and I mean, you expect too much, I mean OK we forgot about the dog, and OK , the food was burnt, and OK, .... ."  " NOT OK," I blast with the kind of parental ferocity that closes the matter. I dispense the burnt offerings to each silenced child and remove myself to the living room to sip on  reviving tea and brood darkly on what was expected of myself and my sisters, at their age. The preparation of food and most forms of housework were regarded as being within our area of competency, and at the very least, you did not argue with your parents, when you knew your failure to carry out household tasks had caused disruption. Also,  you knew when a parent was dismayed, not being so absorbed by your own interior universe, or never having been encouraged to think only of this, I decided crossly.

"Uh, what did they say in the meeting?" the boy has put his head round the living room door, his forehead creased anxiously. The tea  (with  honey,) has worked its magic, and I am beginning to take a more optimistic view of matters. "Pretty much good things, darling" I  assure him.   His seeming nonchalance, earlier on about the meeting clearly having, it seems,  been a front. I was a little surprised my self by his teachers up beat account of him, and in particular, the mentiion  his pleasant and helpful demeanour in school. Its an all boys establishement, with (mostly) male teachers and its a fact that the non nonsense, no fuss approach suits him. Restored,  I resolve on a strict domestic rota of tasks for the future, dispatch the overwrought boss to bed with  a brisk hug, and give the elder one a more level talking to about the proper execution of chores. She  listens reluctantly, and with a distinct air of wistfull long suffering and regret,  ( at the sort of people she is obliged to live with, I daresay).  She  announces that I expect too much, the cremation of dinner was entirly down to the boss's imput, and that there's no point in talking to me (as my chest begins to swell all over again) before swinging on her heel and flouncing upstairs. I have become harsh unreasonable mother again , it seems. And I   had redeemed myself in recent months  in recent months,  having met and become involved with a man, of  whom she approved, having decided we were "Quaint" (being busted holding hands on the sofa on one red faced occasion) and "cute" as she told an outraged boy (who was not  so impressed,)   on another,(when , allegedly, we had been looking in a  moony eyed  fashion at one another).  However, being a decent parent is not to engage in a popularity contest, I re assure myself, as I climb the stairs to the blessed peace of the bedroom, where I will read, may indeed dispatch a sappy text to the said man, before succumbing to the sleep of the just (exhausted). I see, on my wall callander that  January, (the cruelest)  month is out; the boy is good (cooperative, helpful and mannerly in demeanour even) the boss and her sister will  (probably)  pardon us both by tomorrow; and really things might be worse.

                              MEDITATION IN JOHN MORRISEY'S FIELD

                                            This field, spare, stubbled in Autumn,
                                               bound by the fog wrapped river,
                                                holds my child enthralled.
                                                It's silent banks empty, at last,
                                                  of all but solitary boy.
                                                   And he, silent, intent,
                                                   armed with net and jamjar,
                                                   framed, against  red stained evening,
                                                   by   stark  naked  trees, the reaching branches
                                                   pulling down a leaden sky.

                                                         My call unanswered,
                                                           he is taken,
                                                          in this prayer   to  coming  winter.
                                                           City boy, his farmer's bones
                                                            were formed from muck
                                                           and set by chill raw air
                                                          til iron forged, in blood red skies,

                                                            now claimed again.
                                                         As I patrol the rim of field and vision
                                                          made by season's end,
                                                         that coming night and winter will desperse,
                                                         and farmers's seed lay scattered,
                                                         with no purchase in this earth.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Christmas tree divine, Alice slipped away, Smudged moon.

I sheparded my  reluctant owl eyed children into the car for school this morning,  Christmas, sadly having been and gone.  And we are post parties, carol singing, plays and the like. They did have a good one.  The boy announced casually that he would  be going to a disco on  the Friday night before christmas,  as a sort of afterthought,  short on detail of venue and times. Having extracted this information, I agreed (despite the fact that he had n't actually asked). It was  clearly a youth event, and I,  his faithful chauffeur would  deliver and collect him afterwards. The girls were intrigued. "Will you be meeting anyone," the elder one asks? He shifted  around in the back of the car, while I asked "um ..yes, meet, and what does that involve exactly".  "Oh mum" she said ,  eyes rolling (I could  feel it) "I told you about this already". "Yes, but eh, I am  not entirely clear as to what it involves, you know..... I mean, does it involve meeting more than one person, and..., it is kissing, is't it?"  A silence, and  then "yes! could be more that one, and  what do you mean JUST KISSING?". Amidst much sniggering, I persist (never knowing when to quit)  "but, ah, what if you like the person, how do you stay on, can't you....ah.. meet just one?". "For heavens sake" sighs the eldest,  "you exchange phone numbers of course..... and anyway what does that mean? stay on?"  "Well darling" I ploughed " on, "in my day, if you liked each other, he asked you to stay on.  "And then", I expanded,"you went back to you friends to get your handbag ( to where they were dancing round the handbags, being less favoured than you) (or fussier) and then,  to a chorus of "did he ask you to stay on?" you took your self and your bag over to dance with him for as long as you both pleased.  "Quaint" said the first daughter, "and ...and ..did you kiss him" sniggered the boss", "No" I said firmly," not  until you were serious  (no harm in setting the bar high) you danced, and told him tall tales about what you did for  a  living, (I was variously  a trapeze artist, a tree doctor, and a nurse (very popular) and he, credulous and entertained, would dance with you till the slow dances at the end, when you would attach yourselves very enjoyably , and inch blissfully round the dance floor. (with your brother in the vicinity, allegedly keeping an eye on you, but you didn't worry about that). "BUT no kissing" I finished unless you were....."yeah yeah" all three choroused delightedly, "SERIOUS".

Of course, dear reader, if he had a car,( "does he have a car" you're  friends sighed) you might let him take you home, where you engaged in a pseudo wrestling match, which, if you let him win, he never respected you again, and if you did'nt, you emerged dishevelled but intact from the car.  And  slipped  in through a strategic window perhaps, if it was very late.  Or, more rarely, you might talk for hours in his car about the meaning of life, or, for instance,  whether the devil was an anachronistic concept in the twentieth century, (having that time been to seen The Omen), until your mother emerged  from the house in  dressing gown with flashlight, having entirely misunderstood the situation.

Much later on: the boy sat  at the kitchen table, long legs wraped around a kitchen stool, shovelling ornflakes into his mouth with intent, because, he said,  he was starving. After some probing he volunteers that it was a good night, with a waterfight in the cloakrooms, and one of the lads being ejected for throwing a water balloon at sir. And, um, was he dancing? "We all danced together.  When we felt like it" he said impatiently, and takes himself off to bed yawning prodigously.  Dishevelled but intact then.

Our house was  garnished,  ornamented with various, carefully preserved  christmas artifacts, swathes of garish tinsel,  ancient posters of santa, and as many flashing multicoulred  lights as the boy had  persuaded me to allow. The tree was  selected, after intense  scrutiny and argument, transported home with much forward planning, and stood in the living room weighed down  ( well it would be weighed down if it wasn't the stoutest,  most unwieldly tree available, and well up to its burden of baubels) ( each year I suggest something neater,  more cirumspect, but the children are  passionate about having" a proper tree".) This year, I left them to dress the tree, with guilty gratitude, in order to go to the church  removal of  very sweet and  elderly  relative . There,  the soft voiced amiable talk of the mourners in the  background,I drifted  into  reverie about the sweet natured woman, slipping away at the extreme end of the year while all around her her neighbours whipped up the usual Christmas frenzy ( the better to obscure the  winter dark, the blurring of boundaries between this world and the closing  night).  We left her there,   coffined in the ice cold, dimly lit church,  long  looming shadows subduing the rich red vibrancy of christmas  poinsettias, the  silver and blue of alabaster saints. "I suppose she's in heaven" the boss  sighed, before I left the house "but I wouldn't want it... like.... to miss the christmas tree, and all the people you know, and its like.....too far,... its too far away,".  "Oh Yeah, its  in outer space" sniggered the boy," down a huge black hole". "No, no darling, its very near, heaven, it's just you can  see it when you die, that's all". (never ceasing to amaze myself with my maternal ability to channel a pollyanna like stream of conciousness, when the need arises) ( or  ever sure from whence said stream flows)

Each  year the children divide the tree baubels, stars,  ancient robins,  tinkling bells, ornaments frorm the dim and distant past, into three piles, amidst bitter disputes as to who put up what last year, and  the year before, and the year before that (  a complex tripartite treaty reached,  quite beyond my ability to adjudicate). Just as well the tree is stout and hardy, before the onslaught of three clashing visions as to how it should be.
It was all over when I  returned from the Removal, the tree a glorious blaze of red , gold and green,  eccentric but  divine, the  angel slightly askew, triumphantly crowning  a flowing glinting wonder.

And this year, no Santa. The boss has decided it is time, though I would have gone another year, so that's that. No more Santa;  no more sweetly manipulative letters thanking Santa carefully for past loot, before slipping in the outrageous list; no more frantic scrambling about following  a change of mind after the letter has gone and santa's elves have already  got the exact item from the workshop and put in on the sleigh; no more comic confusions by busy santa where you might find  the signs on the toy kitchen placed upside down on christmas morning,  or handlebars on the tricyle facing outwards; no more hysterical children unable to sleep, afraid to be awake on christmas eve, no more sage warnings  to lively little ones about santas elves on the watch from early december, threats of lumps of coal given to a child you heard about,,  and never again three enchanted  little ones, sitting blissful in a cavern of christmas wrappings, sweet wrappers, and the exact things they asked for, at 6am (or other unearthly hour) on christmas morning. One visit to an electronic warehouse, for a couple of  I Pod Touchs and an X Box, has a fine simplicity about it after all.  And yet... and yet... I think, as we drive home from the childrens  mass  on Christmas Eve, and I remember another   Christmas Eve, drifting home on an empty road in a frozen blanket of fog, through which the the partially obscured moon shed a dim  and ghostly light, when the (oh so young and innocent) boy asked me  how santa would find us when the moon was SMUDGED, and yet.......I'm not ready, not yet.....santa?

                                                            SMUDGED   MOON

                                        Boy saw the moon saw the moon saw boy,
                                           Boy in the moon in the moon in boy.
                                        The moon, the moon the moon  is smudged, he said,  "oh why?"
                                         and I, Navigator, smelled the smoky air and knew
                                                its purple trail accross the sky.
                                         From gathering dark, the Smudged Moon rides.
                                                    His blurred face wavers
                                                       pale, now shimmers
                                                    casting soon to be, becoming worlds in light.
                                                      Darkness lightens
                                                       brightest dims
                                                    on Christmas eve, on Christmas Eve.
                                                      As we, miraclemakers! drive
                                                       home, from church and crib.
                                                    Worlds ravel and unravel as we ride,
                                                   my mindsrace plans, the children's slightly crazed
                                                      anticipation, dreams
                                                     of Rudolph redeemed, will
                                                    gather up our scattered magic.
                                                    He, who hopeful bears,
                                                   the laughing man in red, the holy babe.