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Sunday, 25 October 2015

How Not to be a Teenage Mummy.

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

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

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

                                              SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM HERE?

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

                                                           FAMOUS LAST WORDS

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

                                          POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. PROBABLY. 

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

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

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

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Devouring the Young. Send in the Refugees.

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

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

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

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

                                                   HOW TO GET RICH QUICK AND EASY PEASY 

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

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

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

                                                               O  ICELAND

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

                                                    WE CAN EAT THEIR LEGS CANT WE....                                     

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

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

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

Monday, 15 June 2015

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

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

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

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

Friday, 5 June 2015

Exams, Holiday, All the Married Lesbian Priests.

                                                     Finally Definitely Over at Last.

We are getting closer now to the beginning of the end. The Leaving Certificate, the Junior Certificate  begins. "I'm glad" the boy tells me.  "At last. Soon it will be over."  "Yes" I say  "but are you ready?" "Yeah" he says, "Kind of.  In a way. You can be lucky."  Oh.  "But anyway, I'm so sick of it, everyone,  teachers, you, everybody,  talk,  talk,  talking about it, asking about it,  telling me what to do about it,  I just want it to be over."  Me too,  dear boy. Quite as much as you I'd say.
                                            Just tie my arms behind my back and let me at it.
The boss on the other hand is absolutely totally ready for it, going to chew it up and spit it out. Why she'd even have a go at the Leaving Certificate if she could. She has a study plan. She has exam timetables taped to the wall in her bedroom, to the fridge door in the kitchen.  ("You can google it, if you want it, and eh print it" the boy told me) She watches disapprovingly as he slinks out to play xbox with his friends, goes fishing for an hour (or eight).  " Back in an hour"  he sings over his shoulder on his way out the door. She arranges her pens and calculater in a transparent pencil case and asks you to up the fruit and fish oil quota in the weekly shop, oh and dark chocolate! Brainfood!  You find yourself wondering if it will all be an Egregious Anticlimax for her in the end. She wants to be challenged is all.  "Do you think she should be handicapped, maybe"?  her Aunt offers  "like a, you know, horse in a race? Make it interesting for her?"  Hmm.

                                         Everybody needs to get away sometimes (though not with you)

We'll go away after I say. A week in the sun.  To recover. "Not me" the boy says. " Not with you. No offense, but I'd rather have the money. For like a week in Magaluf,  or Camping, or  Norway. Or whatever.  With like my friends. No offense".  None taken.  And never mind, the Boss and the Beautiful One are in. "So, did you go away with your friends and not your family to Spain after your leaving certificate" the Boss asks.  "Me?  Nope. We went to Wexford. The seaside. Like every other year, and had a hoot. And that was the first week. We had two weeks of carnival in the summer. My father, your grandfather you know,  went to the races in Galway in July and we, back at the ranch,  had a party! Picnics, films, trips to exotic places (the Japanese Gardens, the National Stud) to do exotic stuff.  My mother put on her "on vacation" hat,  tossed aside the everyday grind, and really,  home wasn't humdrum home that week. It was America, it was Italy!
"The only bum note ( I was on a roll now) was the Cattle Count every evening. Had to be done and reported back to your man in Galway, as he shaved in a Salthill BnB before the evening session. There was always one of 'em  missing. Or two.  Keep counting she'd say.  Keep at it.  I always wondered why she wouldn't  just tell him they were all there,  yeah, yeah all present and correct,  yeah all there dear,  just say they were,  maybe even OMG not bother counting at all,  because they always turned up, in the end, always,  and let us get of to the cinema or whatever jolly awaited.  But she wouldn't. She had too much character. Always.

                                                    Resistance being Totally Futile.

The day before the Exams start the Boss takes an hour out from book-learning and hangs out with me, idly watching the Nuns Story on television. "So, right,  how do you like become a nun,  I mean get to be one," she asks me. "Do you know?" "Vocation" I say "You heard all about it from the Nuns at school. The Lord calling you when you hit puberty? And girls resisting maybe? But the nuns said he, the Lord,  always got you in the end. So you used to think about that. I mean I had like a lot of other things calling me at the time, as you do. So was I like resisting? Did the fact that I really didn't want to mean I had to? I mean I lost a whole year of adolescence to that actual dilemma. Positively Hagridden.

The Boss had that expression on her face now.  That interested certainty that she would never ever  have been that soldier. She would never ever have been that dumb. "So, anyway, (I was really on a roll)  when I got past that, I lost the whole of the  next year to Lesbianism?  being preoccupied about being a Lesbian? I mean how could you be sure you weren't. Like the vocation, how could you know you  weren't in denial? I mean I just wanted to be bog standard normal, commonplace, nothing to see here move on.  I mean I figured I could hack being a Lesbian if I was one, but not the not knowing.  "Oh I know!"  the beautiful one walked in on this, "I  used to worry about that too.  But the thing is, no one ever is. Normal I mean. You just have to, sort of,  learn to be yourself, that's all" So she had that expression on her face now, the interested certainty that she would have cracked it, had cracked it. Easy peasy.  "Hmm, maybe so" I said. "But, its quite the burden being really truly you,  Miss Oh So Young and Certain. And you have to carry it on your own"
                                         No Dinosaurs were hurt in the writing of this Blog.

"Well anyway," the Boss moves things along,  "Anyway, I mean Priests and Nuns, aren't they like dying out. So what will happen to the Church then?"  "The church dies too" I say firmly.  "But" her broad creamy  forehead creased, " that's not good. People need like spirituality? And Priests to do stuff?"   "Yeah,  they do. They do need stuff.  But that's just be too bad.  I mean why not Married Priests,  Women Priests?  What a shot in the arm, what a forgiving sunburst of energy blasting into the limp, shamed Church Body. So how about it?  The remedy in the Church's own hands. But they won't.  The Catholic Church is a Dinosaur, and will go the away of all the other Dinosaurs. And stuff the people, they don't rate in all that blinkered male hubris.  No sir,  let them eat cake, basically.  Now go to bed and let your great brain sleep the sleep of the totally prepared, angel girl. Tomorrow, it all kicks off."

                                                               Once we were Dinosaurs

So maybe back then if I thought that one day I could become a Married Lesbian Priest, I would have been less tormented by it all. Or tormented about something more useful to me. But guess what, I still can't. Dinosaurs.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Three Suicides/Night Falling Fast.

Night falls after the first thoroughly warming sunlit day here. When you get a day like this you begin to imagine your self in the Summer,  the world expands around you. Not on this day though.  Today life contracted,  unsafe, hovering in sinister (summer) light between here and nowhere you can imagine, nothing you can touch, nowhere you can go.

In the morning I get a phone call to tell me that a young man I know, a boy really, has taken his own life. It was not entirely unexpected. He was afflicted, tormented with illness, devils whispering at his mind's borders made porous by mental illness, trying, clamoring without let up to get in. He was lovely.  A sweet boy, desperate in the end for alleviation, for Doctors to reduce the crippling burden of his illness.  The last time I saw him he was, simply,  frightened, leaking pain, and something close to terror. So that you might at least say, at the end,  well, all that suffering is over.   It's done.  Not Doctor's drugs or  cleverality could alleviate what dying has.

And I listen to the Car Radio coming home under the vast empty blue about a woman, a carer of another woman terminally ill with MS, who is charged with Assisting a Suicide. The second woman took what she was not permitted to take,  her own life,  and incapable of certain arrangements was assisted by the first. That seems so to be the case against the living carer, who every day must make the journey from her house to the Central Criminal Court,  accused. Television and Newspaper  Cameras flash piercing jagged light around her as she walks,  holding on to the hand of a man who walks with her.  For dear life.  The sufferer was not found, taken from the rope, the water. Her dying was organized, chosen by herself in light of her progressive suffering, the incremental loss of quality of life, dignity. That doesn't seem to be in dispute. She sought to protect the Carer from consequences. And she prevailed in dying despite some heavy handed policing of the Law. Now the Irish State is is busy, on the case, to criminalize the Carer. Busy, busy. An utterly pointless prosecution while all the while children, so many of them,  harrow themselves into dropping off the edge of the world.

The boy and his sister come home from school and we sit watching an ambulance, a police car, moving up the road to a house just out of sight on the hill,  through our living room window. On this most  lovely day of early summer.  The Boy and I speculate idly as to what that's about. After a time  the Boss comes downstairs phone in hand, stricken. She is indignant as she asks me "do you know what that was, that was (a boy we know)  up there, that's what that was, killed himself, he killed himself, dead, he killed himself and and he's dead, my friends messaged me, that's what that was"  Oh. Decommission that Mother. Do.

"Aw no,  aw no" is all you can find to say. And stupidly "not actually dead".  Not that absurd, chirpy energetic boy, who is haunting the living room now.  "It's true"  the Boy says somberly, adamant. It's on Facebook now.

Later you tell the boy  to get off the phone, night having fallen, the dark well established now. "Why?" he says,  "why?  we're just, I mean talking about it." "Stop talking about it ", you throw back. "Maybe thats what 's wrong with all this"  he says, "not talking about it. "Oh maybe, Oh probably,  darling boy.  But enough, now. Enough,  talking,  going over and over it endlessly,  what happened why happened how happened. Stop talking. Stop messaging. Posting. Stop talking. Now".

You snap off the WI FI, point him to the stairs, tell him to  find his book, play his music, till he falls asleep at last. You tell your pale silenced girl to pray for them. It's all you've got.  Pray for them all,  for his good kind mother, for especially,  her. In this pitch black hour.

                                     Oh What have you Done, Dearest heart (Dearest heart))

Wind back, wind back clock
before he flew out of the  world.
Leaving the rest to live with that.
Agonising that day and the next and the next
and every day ever after that.
Body splits to bring the child in,
heart staggers under the minutiae of effortful loving to sustain him here.
All hope, all future annihilated 
on the twist of the rope, suffocation  of water, the drugs.
Wind back, wind back clock
to the beginning, the  minute before 
the leap into nowhere,
we can follow.

We would tell him, we would say
it does not go on, the pain
comes and  goes
magic sparks when you have given up on it.
We would tell him, grab him, fast
oh if only, clock wind back wind back.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Awakening the Beast/Everybody Knows.

                                                                Everybody Knows.
                                                                                                                                                           "You're … just... looking at this all wrong" the Boy sighed. " Let me explain to you. Again. They mark harder in the Mock Exams on purpose? Because they're like actually told to do that? Like if they marked that hard in the Real Exam everyone would do badly, eh relatively, and there would be terrible um complaints from parents. So, you have to figure on a couple of grades upwards here?  To see the grade you actually deserved. In reality?"
I work really hard at not getting really furious. "So, right, let me get this straight. Your marks in the mocks are not your real marks? Your actual marks are not actually your marks at all?"
"Right!  People always do much better in the Actual Exam. Everyone knows that. So, right,  I'm not actually saying I don't need to do any more study. Of course not! You needn't worry about that! But there's no need for any one to be worried here. Get excited here. That's all I'm saying. Actually. Ok?"
"So, right, it's not that people, having done badly in the Mocks, up their game and work harder then. In reality the people correcting the papers are told to apply a higher standard to the Mocks, and a lower standard to the Real Actual Thing. In order to…what? Give you all a nice surprise on results day? Though, as everyone knows, how.....?"

                                                   You Know Quite Well You Know.
                                                                                                                                                             As As the above exchange takes place the Boss listens to the car radio.  She asks me, my poor messed with  head brimming still with righteous incredulity, if the people, the children and the other people, on the Germanwings plane knew they were join to die, or for like how long they knew they were going to die if they did know they were"
The noise, she explains, the noise of the other pilot trying to get into the cockpit, the noise of the plane dropping. Did they know what was coming. Like how long  would they have known. Would they have known at all?"
"No! Happened too fast. Definately not."
"All over before they knew it" the Boy added bracingly.
Silence. Minutes pass.
Not true, she sighed. Cos she had just googled it now and the plane dropped for at least eight minutes, so they did knew, and they maybe knew for at least eight minutes and the boy and I knew quite well, we knew they knew."
"Um,  eight minutes, but that doesn't mean they knew,  for eight minutes, I mean what was going to happen to them, I mean what did happen to them Darling"
"Only would have known at the end" the Boy said authoritativly.
"Right" she uttered faintly.
A year ago she would have accepted what I said.

                                             Oh Just Shut Up and Let Me Hear the News.

At home the Beautiful Girl joined them in the kitchen, home for the weekend, shedding all her new maturity gladly in a shouty mocking Sibling Reunion.
"Please! Could you all please, just,  Shut Up! I want to, trying to hear the news, the verdict on the Graham Dwyer trial. There's a verdict! Shut Up! Please."
"Graham Dwyer? Who's Graham Dwyer? What verdict? What's the deal? Mum?"
Incredibly, it seems that all those weeks of soundbites, via  Radio and TV, newspaper headlines, media photographs, have not in anyway penetrated the teenage bubble.
"Even you?"  I ask the boy. "Not a whisper ? Not even OMG on Face Book?"
Nope. Not. Not on his newsfeed anyway.
So I give them a summary, having already let the cat out of the bag.  I try to make this brief, sanitized, but that proves difficult and I found myself stumbling throughout the awful narrative of sadistic sex, BDSM websites, cutting, and a murder without witness or confession. The tale of the evidential items  spat up from the Reservoir convulsed by  a summer drought, the  human bones found co-incidentally, fascinates. The Boy lectures me on the technology of phone tracking.  Later they crowd into the living room to listen to nine o'clock news, being, sadly, all ears now.

"But…she,  Elaine O"Hara I mean,  cutting, I knew, we all knew people at school who did that, but why would she let him do all that to her." the Beautiful One comments in horror, distaste.

"She just probably like needed  attention" the Boss offers, before I can attempt a reply.

"So why d'you think he did?" the boy is fascinated and disturbed both.

                               Don't know for Sure but I Think They were Calling forth Demons.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            I tell him I just don't know for sure. That it seemed sometimes, in listening to and reading the text chat in the news. like a game.  As though they egged each other on, or at at least that she facilitated his need to engage in a fantasy that became more and more intense. "Like you know, it sounded farcical, like they were  deliberate ratchetting up the lurid fantasy. And then, bang! it was here from the dark side, manifest,  became actual, and she was dead."
And you will be glad to know dear readers that I, noticing the greenish pallor of the Boss, stopped there and sent them all off about their business.   Told the Boy I'll get back to him another time about all that.
                                                  Telling Yourself Stories.

Anyway, I thought on this all week. Listening to the radio, reading about the aftermath of the trial in the newspapers full of previously undisclosed stuff that could now be revealed, a constant flow of information, opinion, analysis, as though neither the media or its audience could disengage from this easily.  I was uneasy with the general consensus on his monstrous depravity, her vulnerable virtue.  Just  telling ourselves more stories, it seemed to me,  palatable and reassuring.

                                             What I want my Children to Know.

So how about this? They were both vulnerable individuals. He allowed himself to be sucked in, until consumed entirely in online deviance, with arrogant ignorance as to where that might take him. She wanting loving attention so badly, offered herself to a darkly irrisitable process. One way or another they were both human, and this is a salutary tale, The internet, the dark web, calls up  the willful, foolhardy thrill seeker in us all,  uncovers the dark id. Together he and she  unleashed this beast. We are everyone of us monster,  and victim, if we don't take care.  So take care. And so I will tell my children.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


                                               Devine Ones Bearing Gifts
                                                                                                                                                               On Mothers day all three teenagers lined up in my  bedroom, where I lay considering whether I would go downstairs for tea,  dispatch someone for the Sunday paper, that sort of thing.  I had quite forgotten Mother's day.  Also how tall they had all become. The Beautiful Girl carried a tray, the Boss  bearing gifts, the Boy bringing only himself.

They stood looking virtuous, pleased as I unwrapped some very good chocolates,  a silver spiral heart on a slender chain, flowers in cellophane. "Wonderful'  I breathed,  "you've done me proud this year Darlings.  There was an dipping of heads,  in acknowledgement of that.

"Hold on, there's more", the beautiful one walked swiftly out on the landing returning with a vase of tulips. "From me.  Also."  she specified.
                                                 So  how do you Fit all that in a Heart?

"Do you like the chain, I gave you the chain, do you see what its says on the, that's a whorled heart, inscribed on the heart,  d'you see?  It  says a mother holds a child's hand for a little while but she holds her heart forever".  The Boss watched me expectantly as I strained to read it, asked her how all that could fit in a heart. But yeah it did say that,  the  silver worked,  twisted, whorled, ribbon like.  Cunning.

"You know" she said  "the lady in the shop? She read the words and she said how like delighted she would be to get a thing like that on Mother's day. And everyone in the shop could hear?  I was soooo …..embarassed.  So are you? Delighted?"

                                    Never mind Chocolates and Hearts, what about Gerry Adams?

The boy sat on the end of the bed then. "Uh,  the food?  the breakfast's from me too.  You'll be getting something else also,  soon,  soon as I have some uh spare, like, cash?  Though anyway you have enough chocolates there,  three boxes of chocolates there,  I mean you won't be eating all of those chocolates yourself I  expect.  So anyway, Happy Mother's day.  So what do you think of all that stuff about Sinn Fein and the you know abuse. What  Paudie McGahon said.  D'ye think Sein Fein knew? Would you say Gerry Adams knew. There's like lots of stuff on Facebook.  And it's in the papers today. Would you say Sein Fein, the IRA, they're just like….it's just like the Catholic Church? What do you think"

"Right, well, I will want another cup of tea in say, ten minutes time?  So go away now Darlings and let me eat this. And then we will ah discuss Gerry Adams when I have the,  I mean,  benefit of two teas. And honey! Where's the honey? For the tea?"  They filed out,  the Boss returning with the  honey a good ten minutes later. "Cold"  I said, "this tea is cold!. You'll have to get the second cup up straight away. And where's the paper! There's no paper?  Jeeze!!!"

Twenty minutes later I  stamped into the kitchen, "Oh," they said, where they sat at the kitchen table eating, chatting,  "your tea was like brewing?  We, um, forgot about it.  And yeah the paper is like over there, we meant to, we were going to take it up to you. Um, so,  go back, up?  we'll do it now,  if you like,  go back up?"
                                                      A very Fine Tantrum

I told them I would do it for myself , tea,  paper, and the eating of the chocolates. I told them that I'd   make a better job of Mother's day myself with  one arm tied behind my back.  Better in fact left to my own devises in future. They got that knowing patient look, I recognize from my own armory of reactions.  And, yes, actually that was the best fun I had all day on Mother's Day, stropping, entitled,  getting on my Prima Dona. Being them,  on Mother's day.

                                                            Them's My Words.

"So anyway, about Gerry Adams",  I told the boy "Yeah, I think they knew.  In actual fact I bet they figured they were doing great things for the child, with the brutal remedies. And yeah it's like the Church,  macho power values, but I say the people made them, and when the people are ready, they will unmake them too.  Just give that enough time. You can't pluck  all this out of time, demand of them  understanding  they didn't have.  Awareness of  the depth, the effect,  of damage done, the systemic undermining of a human person, raped. They didn't even have the words for that.  Or words for the irony of children being raped and destroyed  in "safe houses.'  I  mean the guy on the run was "safe" wasn't he? The movement was intact wasn't it, they were the people, weren't they. That other stuff was, ok, troubling. But nothing,  nothing really, to do with them,  the movement, the congregation,  the point. What happened to those children,  it was  all about  timing, blindness,  imbalance basically.  A perfect storm in time,  at that point where machismo,  ideology, power,  meet, explode, and devour the vulnerable in its path.    And we evolve,  the victims find the words,  now,  in the quiet aftermath.  Shedding their victimhood, in effect,  from first whisper to the roar of Maria Cahill, and now Paudie McGahon.  We evolve, we judge, we sometimes fail to understand,  to own our own nature  in the process." I reach for the tea. "So, that's what I think, dear boy, about that."

"Hmm, hmm'  the boy said sagely,  edging towards the door,  turning back to tell me that he really was getting me a present so he was, and was I, he meant,  having a good one,  and had he said?  happy,   happy Mothers day.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Fifty Shades of F***kd Up. How Not to be a Woman

                                                   Pornography for Nice Girls.
                                                                                                                                                               "So Godamn and Blast who knew Selma would be so popular" I hiss to the boy on Saturday, having slipped in to the Cinema on the last minute, to be confronted by a tide of folk between us and the  Ticket Office  "I mean at this rate there will be no time to get Ice Cream.  Here, you go get Ice Cream" The boy sniggered irritatingly looking up the long line of  cinema goers.  "Ha, they're for Fifty Shades.  Just released  today.  Dontcha know?"  "So many?" I say in wonder. "I mean who are these people anyway? Why would they want to??" And they were a mixed bag  my friends, young couples, giggling girls,  middle aged girls, mature twosomes.   I wondered had they read the books. Maybe the older ones I decided, the children only curious, open to a bit of titillation, following the herd. Mommy Porn.  A contradiction in terms.  A nauseating notion.

                                                   On the Highway to Hell

All week long and in the week behind it you are bombarded with an endless stream of sensational detail in the Media about tragic Elaine O'Hara,  in a macabre dance with the breathless promotional soundbites for the Release of Fifty Shades of Grey. Reality and Fantasy. The O'Hara case is grim, dark,   with the relentless sensational newsflashes about mental illness,  bondage, domination, sadism, mascochism. The case built by the prosecution was based on circumstancial evidence. There are lots of circumstances.  Bringing us on a trip down BDSM way . Master and submissive, testosterone and estrogen monstrously inflated, bent out of shape into a hellish sexual exchange. The moral clearly being that a tentative flirtation with light kink was a stepping stone on the road to Looser Hell.  Murderous Sex. So, maybe someone should tell the breathless Fifty Shaders to put down the book,  step away from the screen:   ill-conceived squirming  and the fabulous wealth of the Master won't help you down in the woods.

                                                    How to be a Looser.

And remember who get's be the submissive here. Who get's to be the one who's beaten, peed on, humiliated.  The woman, that's who.  And the occasional looser man. You wouldn't actually like it dear heart. And if you would, well you're damaged little head is just good with the dark stuff,  no judgement.

                                                      And How Not.

And I read about the retired politician Liz MacManus in the newspaper, my heart gladdened, my faith in womankind restored at her account of the University creative writing course, the book published, the family reared. Oh, and the love affair, he firmly in place  in his house and she in her's, living her life,  her own woman. You wouldn't catch her at the rope end of someone's fevered fantasy, or the other end either. So, do you have to be sixty plus then, to know how to be a woman. Do you?

                                                   Little Red Dancing Shoes.
"I'm just going to bring them, in my bag I mean, in case my feet hurt too much like
 later on.  Just like,  in case" the Boss remarks as she shoves her Vans into her shoulder bag  on Wednesday night. The mid term break, the  Teen Disco. Suprevised! Alcohol free! So you shell out fifteen euro and drive the three quarter  hour journey to get her there.   I am the designated driver for six of them  going  and in consequence am asked to take the perfect pictures for Facebook in the Hall on the away out. They line up in their tiny shorts, wisps of skirt,  the boss wearing a whole dress, elongated laughing girls in their vertiginous heels, sharply sloping wedges, cruel stilettos, solemn now for the official Facebook picture.

                            I refuse to be Hobbled, I will not  Bored,  where's my woolly Hat???

Later on I return to find the Beautiful Girl's black suede shoes lying randomly on the kitchen floor. Another girl on Mid Term, leaving the house earlier to party,  precisely balanced on high wedge heels. I find her  lying on the Sofa, legs draped over the arm,  pyjamed,  a book balanced on her chest, her grey woollen hat pulled down snugly over her ears. Her indoors, chillin' uniform. "Back early?" . "Yeah, hey, I 'm reading this.  Have you read this. The Monk".  She is like a deep sea diver with  the college reading list, she emerges with the kind of Books I could never tear her away from the web to read heretofore.  "D'ye like it? It's dark."  I offer.   "Yeah dark, it's cool. I was so you know bored? I came home. I'm not hanging round if I'm bored. Yeah,  love it,  it's great".  Yep, I think she's on course, she's on the road, she'll be  her own woman.

                                                  Not drowning I'm Dancing.
"Was it wonderful did ya dance all night were there lots of boys how's the poor feet" I ask the boss in the morning.  "Um, well I actually changed into my Vans in the car on the way there?, I was going to put on my actual shoes when we got there.  But then I just..didn't? Yeah. It  was great, it was laughing, and dancing.."( The boss goes to Discos to dance,  as well as to electrify boys.)  "....and you know all the girls said they like really envied me? later on when you'r  feet really hurt cos you're dancing I was able to I  could.... dance...I like danced....I could dance... all night".  So, right, she's cracked it,  she's nearly sixteen,  she knows how to be a woman.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Wife's Tale. ( With Apologies to you, Stephen Hawking.And God)

 Did he actually change his mind...

"So right, if the world actually began..... then it was created? and I mean the Christians,  they want that.  Right?"  "Yes darling.  Right.  But then he,  like he said himself,  changed his mind.  So now, no boundaries, no beginning,  no end, no creation, no God. And the thing is he persuaded folks with his Brillance.  Either way".  The boss and I mull over the movie The Theory of Everything on the way home from the cinema.  She,  preoccupied with black holes,  space time continuum,  mathematical equation, and I guess there was  not enough science in the movie for her. Quite enough for me however, burrowing into the velvety executive seats at the very end row- they were empty!- losing my self in the lovely visuals, the engrossing human drama.

                                                   or was he just.........

The thing I particularly liked about it was its delicacy, I tell the boss. The drama showed you where Mrs Hawking was going,  it didn't drive you there with whip and loudspeaker.. And the tale she had to tell was worth the ticket.  "Yeah... yeah.... but.... were there new treatments for Motor Neuron disease  then.  Like...why did he not die? And... what was that scene with the pencil at the end.... and also I mean  a world without boundaries?, what kind of answer was that to how he lived without the comfort of believing in I mean God.,  is he still  looking for  a single equation for like everything,  like he said he would find???"
                                                                                     screwing with us.........

I tell her that I figure he lives yet through, yeah improving treatments, but basically by virtue of a will of  iron, and a vast appetite for life. And as to boundaries, that he, in his mind, stands tall and walks to pick up the pencil the pretty girl drops, and somehow his body finds a way to follow.  We dine then on fish and chips, no cooking/ Sunday evening fare, the kitchen silent, empty except for the dog, listless and longing for the the excitement of noise.   I dispatch her to locate school uniform, the school bag tossed on the Friday before.


"Oh hey" she calls  " Googled him!  He didn't actually say he doesn't believe in God, he said God was not necessary to science. Aha.  Right."  Well, he  has been known to change his mind" I offer "Hawking I mean. Not God. ????"  "Yeah, and his books are for the Lay Man, he wants to make this stuff  like  explicable, I mean hey!  will we buy that book.  I, you know,  haven't decided yet whether I'll do Maths and Physics  or Maths and Art in college anyway.  I haven't made up my mind!!" she adds,  flying down the stairs phone in one hand, unwashed grey skirt in the other.  "Yeah we will. We'll buy that book" I say.

                                 but  why was he going to America with the nurse?....

And later, just when I think its all over, the boss's humming hard drive on standby...  "So.. but... like why was she crying. When he said he was going to America, with the nurse. Why was he crying too, and...why was he going to America with the Nurse,  and why did she let him, what was like happening?, I didn't really get, you know..... I tell her that the Hawkings were each acknowledging the end of their marriage, mourning, looking the end square in the eye.   And that it was at the heart of the movie. "I kind of thought that.. yeah," she said, "that the marriage like failed".  "Not failed,  no, simply over" I amend. "Yeah, right. And anyway,  he was only supposed to live for like two years" she finished sagely.
                                                                                                and myself struck to the heart (a little) ?...
And thereafter I couldn't shift to standby either. The absolute finality at the end of a marriage, the arid space between you where enchantment was, haunting me a little.  The ghosts of loved up she an he lingering on in the marital space. The  harsh comfort  in mourning, acknowledgment,  rough gratitude for what was.  If you can bear to feel it.   Before you take yourself  back out in the world,  alone like you came in,  to wherever you can manage,  imagine, reach.  Maybe even America?.