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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Girls on Girl. Walking slowly for help.

"But....but I walked away  so slowly... to get help ....and I walked so slowly back, " the boss uttered in  anguished tones as she describes  a dream to me where a school friend threatened to take her  own life as she walked into the bathroom, and when the boss returned with a teacher " it was too late".  All my children give me a premiere viewing  of their dreams.   I am expected to interpret.  Some are memorable,  some frankly disturbing like this one.  The boss dreams clever and true. She provides an interesting   inside track,  almost,  to family matters. This one though is easily connected to  a school drama,  when such a threat was made by a girl who is,  I  suspect,  being  given a bit of hardship by the group.  "Oh, she 's just looking for attention" one of the boss's  friends said  sagely, after this was said,   but the boss mulls over the matter obsessively and tells me more than once that she and her friends are still, always,   "nice" to this little one.

"Nice" is a killer word here. I had heard  these girls  talking with positive relish, as to how annoying and different the unfortunate one could be,  though   "still and all " they would never dream of being other than "nice"to her. I don't know about that.  The girl seemed refreshingly herself  to me, and was the boss's absolute best friend some weeks before. I know those female waters of old, and struggled often myself to swim in the   slippery, deceptive  deeps and shallows,  as girl and woman. Being on the inside of an excluding group exerts a powerful glamour , an intoxicating poison. There seems to be  a dynamic at work between the "nice" girls and the scapegoat  which draws her to shipwreck ,  as surely as any  sailor was lured to the rocks by siren call in the myth.  There is danger here and self awareness is the only antidote..

 The Boss slept little after the dream, was pale and drawn as she  recounted it to me. . I advise her to talk to her class teacher, which she does. An approach is made to the child's family, and the girl in question fiercely  reproaches the boss and her friends because she says "you made my mother cry".  Ah yes, as  I  believe I may previously have mentioned, dear reader, sometimes its hard to be a woman.  Anyway, the boss is much chastened by the entire affair and  assures me shudderingly that she intends  "never to  talk about ANYONE to ANYONE ELSE in school, EVER again,  and  ALWAYS to treat everyone exactly the same".  She hasn't missed the icy wind threading through this girlhood  tempest  then.  Her  dream has served its function, I think.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Faithful Departed. Waking the Dead,

"Isn't it so strange to see some  folks in the day light?" I observe to my husband, both of us standing at  the back of a circle of  mourners, who await the emergence of the coffin from the deceased publican's house. We have come,  being fond of the deceased man and his mourning wife,  to this inward facing circle of local people variously  related,  neighbouring and pub clientele,  who wait patiently  in the crisp cold day for the publican to come out of his house one last time.  Time slows down as we wait, pick out people we know from the pub,  until at last the coffin emerges high on the shoulders of the men.   Three women walk pale and steady behind it  looking neither to right or left, and the crowd fall in after  on the short walk to the church.  Every  soul here knows exactly  its  place  behind the soul  departed.

"Are you going to look at the body"  the Boss asked the evening before when we told her we were going to the wake. As we  laboured to explain  I thought of  how this ceremony would have vanished by the time she grew up and must bury her dead.  I remind her of  how  she had been brought when younger to my brothers wake where she  and the other two had indeed clamoured up on the coffin to look at the body of my dear  brother, who,  reduced to his  essence,  was  childlike and safe .  "It's to say goodbye"  I offered. "To offer sympathy to the living family" my husband added.   "To.. see that the person is dead.....".(to look at the body). Its all that, yes. .

"Do you think that's  who he really was all along" I whisper as I clutch my husband's arm against the strangeness of being in the intimacy of someone's house, the bedroom, containing only this coffin, this man, whose face looks stern  and fine, the care and the  blurring of illness, age  and trouble  melted down, fallen away  from his face . At my father's wake his coffin, lying  high on the  bed, was  circled  by our best sitting room  chairs on which sat people, some solitary, silent, some in little groups, talking,  softly laughing , drifting in and out over two days and nights, until at last they took him out to be put in the ground. The bringing  in to the living breathing house of the lost one  breaks the heart quite as much  as his last  going out.  The graveyard in front of him, a mountain of used tea cups, empty glasses, residue of cake,  sandwiches behind him in the gutted house.

a href="">submit site</a> t" You are not telling us he is dead..... I said"  His wife stands, surrounded and isolated  both   by the  mourners, and tells  her tale for  the umpteenth time. . "I mean, you know, they said he was better, could go home soon. So we left. And  they phoned  And they  said we should come up so we did.  And they called us into a room, and we knew.  It was serious.  But then  they said..they said... they did all they could, And. And... We hugged the widow long and hard, and took ourselves off to the end of the bar, opened to cater for this crowd,  clutching our proffered drinks,  loosing ourselves in the soft voiced  crowd.

"You know I'm being cremated myself" I tell my reluctant husband,  on the way home.  He tells me to shut up, and when I  assure him that he can go first, he tells me firmly that he would not do that to me. As we gently argue this point  I bat away a memory of my mother, alone,  pale and quiet in her house, absently sipping a solitary cup of tea,  where I found her that evening after my father's  funeral.  Crockery, glasses all washed and put away, floors swept, priest paid, her husband waked and most  thoroughly  buried, three miles down the road in the  silent  graveyard. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Pub Talk. A kiss before dying.

"MY friends are down under THERE, or  d'you think I'd be bothered talking to you"?  Old Eithne stabbed a finger downwards as she spoke to us, in the pub where we washed up one evening at the fag end of Christmas. Her strong boned face under the still dark hair twists between grin  and grimace, as she launches into a story, sucking up whiskey as she talks, about how THEY wouldn't serve women in Dublin pubs when she was a young woman, and she called them on it, banged out a deal with the manager of her (soon to be) local, whereby she and her friends would be served provided they pay for their own drink, and so they were for many a year. But friends are all gone now, and only she has lived to strike terror and awe in the hearts of locals in her home place. She turns her gargoyle face on me as we leave. "I knew your father, Oh I could tell you things. I knew him allright.  I LIKED your father. Did I tell you that I knew her  father".(to my husband).  Yeah, Eithne you told me, every time you catch us in the headlight of your ferocious attention, you tell me that.

I have a regard for Eithne, I tell  my husband on the way home. My first experience of her was of a disembodied corncrake voice soon after I returned to this part of the  country, in what has become our local.
"What's YOUR  problem with my fxxxing coat, YOU BET  I 've had this coat for years, this is a good fxxxking coat and I fxxking like it. So fxxxk you and the horse you rode in on, I'll wear this coat to the fxxxking grave I can tell you".  I like it that she is a woman who does not care to appear civil or nice, . that is rare,  admirable  in a woman I think.  Also, she is one of a legion of elderly  stalworths, in and out of the pub, who  take it on themselves to tell me they knew, admired, were deeply fond of  my father,  now dead for twenty years,. My edgy husband from edgy Cavan  says I should go beyond a benign smile to these constant, relentlessly admiring offerings, and tell them.  I  too knew  my father, . In some black winter's evening I might speak, might stir up the quieted stock of the past and say....yeah he was....., he used a brutal clever tongue to hold in submission,  and control  his children, imposing a suppression  of Taliban like  proportions on his daughters, and keeping his sons on the march in a docile line. When I was nineteen, I was reluctantly hauled  by an unaware boyfriend over to speak to him, to greet him, in one of the many pubs he patronised, and he , when he saw me, froze, and later cast me from the house. And then there is the sibling, a  tall strong man  now middle aged. who has nightmares  about him still,  and the one who asked me why on earth I was crying, me of all people as she was not,  at his funeral.

Or I could tell them maybe about the joker man, who sat with us on Sunday afternoons to watch Little House on the Prairy, amused,  engaged,  interactive as the rest of us. Or the one who was to be found in regular pockets of the day,  sitting in his large shabby arm chair in a scattering of cigarette butts, laconic,  vague and bantering with my mother, who bantered with him till the day he died.

I could say how he, disconcertingly, first  began to give me fatherly advise on week end visits home, when I was quite grown up and his health failing fast.  Both of us drunk more or less on a Saturday night. He mumbled, almost toothless, drink sodden, about men to be avoided, and how he had, and I might, handle relentless banks, financial  pressures, that sort of thing. I strained to understand him, beset by some stray sense of urgency about him (and the charm of being talked to, at last) whilst thinking to myself, Stable door, horse bolted etc.

I could say that the only time I ever kissed  him was on one of those nights, before I left him for my bed. I don't know why.  Something in the way he ducked his head, something scared and asking in his eye. Anyway I did, and squirmed in the morning at the recollection, as though both he and I must  think how foolish that was , in the sober light. He died a week later.

I sometimes extract  a nugget from his  mumblings now, that has sustained me in adversity, shown me a cock eyed slanting way out of  a fix, financial and otherwise. Brought me home.  I could say that.