About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

20 May 2009

The Corpulent Candidate

It's election time again, Yaay! Local Elections that is, those wonderful opportunities to lean against your hall door jamb and tantalise the poor eejit who is dipping his toe in the electoral waters for the first time. Silkily batting him with a dainty verbal paw, knowing that you'll either

  1. not vote for him because he's not with YOUR Party;
  2. Promise him a second preference vote which is totally useless to the poor gombeen unless it comes after giving your first preference vote to a guaranteed returnee;
  3. Tell him you'll look after him and vote 1-10 in order of your preference, right along party lines, giving him the #10 vote;
  4. Set the dog on him;
  5. Send Junior [aged 9] out to tell him "Mammy's not home - are you Mammy?" - this last roared back up the hall as you lurk behind the kitchen door.

This year will be fun; recession! What, you ask acidly is he going to do about it, you fume at him after venting your spleen on Party Politics, The Government, Jobs for the Boys, Expenses, YOUR negative equity - and all this before the poor lúdramán can get a word in edgeways to remind you that this is a LOCAL election, not a GENERAL election.

Oh! Boy, has he ever been so way off the mark reminding you of that fact - so what about that footpath across the road that the Council have promised to fix since the last time? Huh? AND what about affordable housing, a new playing pitch for Dunuttin Rovers eh? while we're at it. He promised you faithfully four years ago you'd have "all dat 'n' more be deh next elekshun". Here he squeaks valiantly, that this is his first time out. "Ah go away then," you tell him, your beady eye already having spotted sitting Cllr. Murty O'Smugpuss coming down the road on the other side.

You have been waiting for him, nay lying in wait and now watch him squirm out of your Panzer attack, which, naturally you have honed and perfected in front of the bathroom mirror. Still, when you've finished with him you'll toss him your first preference, sure didn't he get your brother Matty's young one a house two year ago an' she with six childer?

I remember a couple of local elections ago, I had come home to visit my Mother. The door bell rang and she shuddered "Oh God, not another canvasser - you answer the door pet". I opened the hall door, and there, huffing and wheezing, scarlet faced with imminent heart attack was the Corpulent Candidate. I bid him a civil good afternoon, after all, he'd found the house.

"Whay hoff duh bheetin thraaak, gasp, here" he wheezed at me, pushing himself upright off the door jamb to shake my hand with a sweaty paw. "I'm your local undependent can-i-date and I'm looking for your vote".

Feral gleam entering my eye, I solemnly perused his bright, picture filled, almost totally wordless campaign literature and, settling myself on the door jamb I began...

"So, what are your major priorities for the next four years and what have you achieved since you were previously elected".

He wasn't getting any plus points for knocking on the door, because on that occasion I had been in a neighbours house on the corner of our lane when I heard him tell his canvass team "we won't bother going up there" - which cost him upward of 9 votes. After he paused for breath in a eulogy of self praise, I smiled sweetly at him, told him I wasn't on the register here, and slowly closed the door on his incredulous face.

I'm eagerly awaiting his visit on this campaign!

16 May 2009

Issues of Abandonment

Life has taken an interesting turn in the past year since Mum died. OH and I left home and moved back to the Ancestral Home. According to ED and YD it is the norm for the children to flee the nest, not the other way around. Both have developed the endearing habit of tilting a head to one side, fluttering an eyelash at whichever parent is the target audience and starting with "...of course, we won't get into my issues of abandonment...but a lift to the DART station would be sooo helpful...I'm running late".

They are still living in the marital home until such time as we put it on the market, and given the state of Ireland's economy, the housing market, life in the fast lane and whether it rains next Sunday or not [o.k., only kidding with the last two] that will not be anytime soon.

They appear on odd occasions to stay over, and life is very entertaining when you are not sure which one is going to appear on the door step next, how long each visit will be...it can be anything from a fortnight to a night, and now that ED is coming along very nicely with her driving, we expect that we may see her more often. Or not. Parking might have been an issue in the MH [marital home] but it isn't here, but then OH's car is no longer occupying the drive at the MH, so when she gets her full licence I expect there will be permanent occupancy of the MH; that is until the next cold sets in, food shortages [i.e., accusations that YD hasn't filled the fridge this week] occur or a plain old cuddle and a chat with Mum and Dad appeals.

YD works close to home, ED free lances and has become noted as being a Fridge Raider. ED has deemed it YD's job to do the weekly grocery shopping. YD's opinion is "Get your own - I never know when you'll be home". Whatever you thought you had in your fridge, once ED has been through the house [MH or AH - ancestral home] you can put your money safely on it that you will have nothing left by the time the whirlwind that is my lovely ED has passed by.

YD has decided that the time has come for her to purchase her own car, or "the jalopy" as she refers to it. Oh God! I hope so, and soon. Mum's taxi has been in business since the first day of school, and I would love to retire. Just as I sit down to blog, eat a bite, have a natter with whomsoever has dropped in - the phone rings and "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam, any chance of a lift" issues forth. The timing is perfect. ED wins the prize for the most calls; YD is more independent minded and likes to surprise us with her very welcome arrival.

I can spend hours alone wondering if the phone will ring and not a tinkle. Best Pal, Closest Cousin, Long Lost Schoolfriend may all ring, not to mention the funnies who want to know is this Mary they are speaking to, or Sheila, or the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Butter and Bacon Butties" but the little bunnies will safely hoard their texts, or calls, until Good Old Mum or Good Old Dad is sitting down to watch the news, read the newspaper, catch up on the days doings with each other or even, God help us, eat a meal together.

Piece by piece I have been swapping furniture and bringing up more and more of my own, lovingly collected over nearly 30 years. Ornaments, pictures, you name it, they have been swapped with what I don't want to keep of Mums, and ED has taken the hump. Last Tuesday night I was informed that Gran's old dining table looks lonely sitting in the middle of the dining room all alone, and she is getting traumatised. Apparently she wonders each time she returns to the MH will her bed still be there. As she has taken over our old bedroom, she has nothing to worry about. Since we moved, in a rare display of mutual agreement they have decided on 3 months in the 'rents bed for you, and 3 months for me, turn and turn about. The 'rents shift whoever the occupant is out of it a couple of times a month. At this stage we nearly need permission to return to our old matrimonial bed. Oh well, I don't miss that spring that was starting to make itself felt last year; glad its on his side not mine too.

Still, despite the calls at "that moment" and the "issues of abandonment" [comment delivered to a guilt ridden absentee Mum with large smile] I look forward to the day I will have them both living here, the old MH gone [with some sort of profit to show for itself] and two new or nearly new cars parked out beside OD's and mine.

10 May 2009

A tale of romance

There was not, anywhere, the like of it to be seen in the townland of Ballinamuiceann Mór since Fin Carty's donkey broke out of the field one May night and over the cliff with him to the edge of the broad Atlantic waves. Mickey Reilly ran six miles into the town to tell Finbarr Carty that his ass was gone over a cliff and was rewarded by a cuff at the butt of his ear from Garda Shanagher for his troubles.

This was bigger though. Patsy McCabe, at the age of seventy two, father of ten fine children, six garsoons and four gartles, all of whom had done well in America and Australia, or so Biddy McCabe, their late Mother maintained 'til her last breath six years ago - Patsy had announced his intention of remarrying, and it was not to the Widow Walsh, a respectable seventy herself and a fine hault still, if Marty Finnerty said so himself; but to a lady of indeterminate years between 40 and 60, fresh faced and well kept. She had returned home from America, bought the cottage next door and had been helping Patsy with his few praties when he was of a mind to set them.

The shock in the parish was massive, Father O'Houlahan himself, no less, had come all the way from Gort na Sliabh on his bicycle to exhort Patsy to give up that aul nonsense. Patsy would have none of it!

"What about your poor childer away in 'merica, an' foreign lands" wailed Angela Moloney, Spinster of that parish, aged 60 and hopeful still.

"What's to become of their 'nheritance?" she cried, her false teeth slipping as they always did, having been made for someone else who died and she got them at a good price.

"Lord God above woudja look down upon this madman and show him the error of his ways!" she exhorted the Lord. Patsy favoured her with a sour look.

It was the talk of ten parishes for weeks. Surprisingly no one knew when the Banns were to be read out, and all were puzzled what would become of Patsy's six acres by the side of Sliabh Cruad.

"Tá cuas i' mo chraoi" snivelled Fidelma Maher - another Spinster of the Parish, 65 years old and no acreage but a fine housekeeper and a tidy cottage.

"Arrah g'way ouha dat" snorted Patsy derisively, "yah haven't a heart to have a hollow in - you've a hole where yer heart should be".

Letters were sent off to America to Finola, Siobhán, Maireaid, and Saoirse and to Australia where Patsy's three surviving sons, Peadar, Seanie, and Seamus lived. Micheál, Tomás and Liam had perished in a car accident two years previously.

Biddy's cousin Fidelma wrote to the Bishop about it, calling him to name Patsy's intended from the pulpit. The Bishop received a letter from Siobhán in New York.

The news that the Bishop, himself, no less, was to say Mass the third Sunday of the month went 'round the Parish like a tornado. Heads were put together and tongues wagged in Regan's Bar as to what he would say to this outrageous match. Sure didn't the Lord know that the strap was only after Patsy for the six acres, oh! there'd be fine words indeed from the Bishop, he's flay her alive, all were sure.

Sunday dawned and there wasn't a seat to be had in the Church. Father O'Houlihan gleefully rubbed his hands together; the collection would be mighty this day, that is if the Bishop didn't take the most of it for himself, he thought.

Solemly and with immense dignity the Bishop ascended into the pulpit; there was a sharp intake of breath as he laid a page on the velvet cushion in front of him, God Above, this was mighty altogether, thought Maude Moone, who'd had an eye on the six acres, oh and Patsy's welfare of course, naturally, since Biddy had died.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here today my children" began the Bishop quietly. A rotund, red faced, bald man who had risen to his present position by being adept at church politics.

A sure sign he'd be roarin' before the sermon was finished whispered Maisie McLohan to Polly Ferriter.

"...to discuss the sanctity of marriage, the love of good neighbours for the elderly and eschewing venial thoughts" he continued.

"You!" he pointed a roving finger at the congregation, "have been guilty of immoral thoughts! of envy, greed and the Lord alone only knows what else! Abomination is too mild a word to use for each and every one of you" he thundered.

The collective intake of breath and its expulsed gasp from the congregation almost rattled the windows.

"Let me read you a letter; sit up Billy Lynch boy, I can see you at the back of the church" he roared. "The letter begins...Dear Bishop..." .

An hour later a stupefied congregation staggered out of the Church. Who'd've thought it. According to Siobhán McCabe's letter, Catriona McCarthy [actually 56] had done well in America and had sold her business for a million dollars. A friend of Saoirse's, she had, with Patsy and his children's agreement bought the old home cottage and the six acres at the side of Sliabh Cruadh. She had paid a handsome sum to them too. In the course of her days helping Patsy with his planting love had also grown. Not the mad passion of youth, nor the love of a Spinster needing security for her old age, but a deep friendship, a sense of companionship and caring. All of Patsy's children were thrilled that, in this year of 1966, Patsy would have companionship and care and they would be home to celebrate the magic day themselves.

The Bishop had not spared his tongue the joy of a good strong sermon about thinking ill of people and now the question in nearly everybody's mind was "would there be an invitation in the post to the wedding feast at Harty's Hotel?"

Maude Moone resolved to make a trip to Knock Shrine on the day of the wedding. She couldn't bear the thought of six acres slipping away like that.

05 May 2009

Mapping the morning

Tragedy struck this morning; I have been working my way through my much thumbed and totally beloved series of Mapp & Lucia books, spurred on by a gift from Y.D., for Mother's day, of a set of dvd's from the T.V., series. Horror of horror's the spine cracked, and the pages of Miss Mapp scattered to the four corners of the study.

Yes, I admit, I was "skiving" it was raining [those misty showers that soak you] and I had come in from the garden, comforted myself with a cuppa, and decided to wait out this current shower with a ramble through Miss Mapp when disaster struck. Two hours later and copious lengths of sello-tape and she is restored, stiffly. Relief has set in. I ADORE E F Benson, and to loose one of my moth-eaten copies would be heart breaking...yes, I could e-bay and amazon and all that jazz, but if, like me, you are a true book worm - you know that the original copy is always the best.

Is there anything nicer than those first moments, you install yourself in a favourite chair, in a quiet corner. Tenderly opening the cover of the newly acquired book, the fresh feel of it, the crisp smell of newly printed pages...it is one of life's wonderful comforts, a joy to the soul. I pity anybody who does not get a kick out of "new book symdrome"...OH is one such; we are total opposites. He reads the newspapers to inform himself, will sort through autobiographies of John Wayne and others, but sit down and get lost within the pages he will not do it! He's the action man to my curled up with a good book persona.

I thoroughly enjoyed my May Bank Holiday Monday this year. Up early to drop E.D into Dublin, we drove up North Great Georges Street in Dublin 1; Georgian houses in faded beauty. I once attended business college here; in those days the street was like a downtrodden Molly Malone, drooping over her wheelbarrow. Sadly the street now seems to have attracted "budget accommodation", which is nice for those travelling on a shoestring budget, but it is as if the Celtic Tiger missed the street. Everywhere else endured re-juvenation, mock-Georgian cheek by jowl with vividly painted "modern take" on what passes for someone's idea of Georgian. South of the Liffey there is more a sense of refurbishment of the existing buildings, the north/south divide of the city alive as ever it was.

In my youth on my way to the college, I walked up Gardiner Street each morning in hail, rain or snow. There seemed to be very few sunny days, and if there were, the high old Georgian tenements certainly made certain that the sun was locked out. Add to that the problem of smog and it was usually a case of head down and dash up the street.

In those days Gardiner Street had little to recommend it; it was positively Dickensian in appearance, and my fanciful late teenage mind often wondered what lurked behind the cracked and broken doors. Windows often stuffed with cloth or newspaper. There seemed to be few children around in the evenings when I raced back down again to catch my train. The great escape, getting out of Dodge as quickly as possible.

Those were the days when horses pulling drays could still, on occasion, be found. The whole area reeked of poverty and slums, and yet I loved it...it was dear old dirty Dublin and the stench on a warm day emanating from the Liffey could knock you off your feet. The stench from the tenements did. Almost.

In the intervening years city planners have swept away these last vestiges of an Empire's rule in Ireland, replacing it in more recently prosperous years with an attempt of 'glamourisation'. Blocks of apartments which, for some reason, never quite caught the Southside glamour. Dust and dirt off the streets makes an unappealing cover, a ghostly reminder of the dust and dirt that once covered their predecessors.

The vibrancy of Temple Bar never seemed to make it this far up through the city. Yet once again yesterday morning it awakened that old love and sympathy for it in my heart, just as it did in my youth.

After leaving the city we headed out for the great retail parks of Blanchardstown. A visit to Home Stores was called for. Since I have given Mum's tiny kitchen a makeover, a few bright and shiny pieces of stainless steel are called for. Apart from their obvious uses they reflect the newly rediscovered sunlight in the kitchen. We have been busy cutting down the trees that had grown up since I left here to take up residence in the marital home. They had totally blocked out the light, even the birds weren't tempted to nest among their thick branches. Now all is light even on a misty May morning. It is amazing how much light a stainless steel collander bounces around a small kitchen.

There is something soul-less about these retail parks. They are convenient yes, and you can literally get anything from a needle to an anchor, but you still cannot beat a quiet browse around those rapidly vanishing local providers wherein you had a gossip with the staff, a laugh, and even if you paid a pound more, it was always worth it in the end.

03 May 2009

Sunday morning, so good to me

Sunday morning and it is May bank holiday week end. I spent Friday night promising myself that I would not get out of the bed until at least 10.a.m., on Saturday morning; and then I remembered that the architect was coming to measure up the place so that plans could be drawn up for my new kitchen - and I fairly hopped up like a twenty-something in excitement. At 6a.m.

By twelve he was done, and on the road back home, so filled with restlessness I hopped into the car and away with me to West Wicklow to a friend who "ruralised" with hubby number 2 about six years ago. They bought a beautiful stone cottage on a hillside, surrounded by forest on three sides and a vista in front, to die for. I haven't seen them for two years, with all that has happened in the past year, time has flown by. Following my phone call to see if they would be "at home" to visitors and an afirmative, it was lovely to be out on the open road.

Things, I am sad to say, are not as rosy in the garden as they were. The recession is biting, he is on a three day week and her firm closed last month. Around my own age [the sweet side of 21+++] they are mortgage free, the family is scattered to the four corners of the earth and they have a thriving vegetable garden [walled] and sufficient hens and ducks to give them enough surplus eggs to sell in a local shop. She is a prodigious jam maker and her chutney is legendary - so on the self sufficiency basis they are doing o.k.

We sat in a sheltered part of her garden and discussed three day weeks and what they meant to our respective OH's at this time of life. We blatantly decided that we were old enough to have survived the 70's [trying to save to get married during hard times and oil crises], the 80's [trying to rear children and financial gloom] and how the the 90's and early celtic tiger fuelled 00's had passed us by without making any radical changes to our lifestyle, so unless all goes totally to hell in a handcart, we might even survive this latest episode.

They sold their house at the top end of the boom - we didn't and the difference in prices between the years is amazing; still, can't complain, being mortgage free in these days of the complaining banks is a luxury. My heart goes out to those now suffering the new disease called "negative equity". The new game show is "guess the drop in value of your three bed semi-d". So there you go.

After a lovely afternoon exchanging gossip, I drifted back home on an M50 that was surprisingly traffic light for a bank holiday week end [more evidence of recession methinks] and settled down with OH and ED for a quiet night in with a nice glass or so of Merlot.

Six a.m., this morning, loud bang on bedroom door. I was foolish enough last night to decide that this morning would be THE BIG LIE IN, and E.D is calling for her Daddy to give her a lift for the early train. Still sleepy, it didn't occur to me to remind her that Ireland + Bank holiday week end + trains = when? Darling Dad, never one to let his precious girls down, staggered from the bed, and the upshot was a drive all the way into the city to deposit a grumbling E.D at her destination. Sleep gone at this stage, I decided to get up and have a nice traditional Full Irish breakfast on for him upon return. I don't "do" fries these days, but decided to make an exception.

All done and warming in the oven awaiting his return and just the eggs to do, I sat looking out over what is to be new lawn. Two magpies companionably sauntered down this new territory [heretofore a briar patch minus rabbits] as a swallow impersonated Biggles in low flight and a quick swoop over the wall at the end of the garden. Through the open window the woodpigeons in the Lawsonii cooed softly and a blackbird was singing in competition with a dunnock.

Suddenly silence, and the two magpies shot into the air as if from a cannon; out from the tussocks by the elderberry trees and gorse patch came the Silver Vixen. She stood stretching herself and yawning. The russet gold of her fur caught in the early morning sunlight, the wind from the south west fanning the neck fur into a sort of ruff, making her look regal. She walked slowly across the newly opened space and disappeared down the glen among the newly appeared fern shoots. Queen of her land, she feared nothing. At her passing the chorus started again.

By ten o'clock, dishes chortling away in the dishwasher, I was off for a walk down a nearby lane and there, sitting on a rock high above me sat the reigning queen. There might be a recession, but there is none in the beauty that surrounds me.