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Saturday, 18 March 2017

In the Name of the Mother. Once we were Bastards.

                                                            CHERISH (WARRIOR WOMEN)

"So, you could take him to court for maintenace, yeah,  there's a law now, but you'd have to prove he was the father.  When you got there."
"You mean like swear to it in the court?"
"I mean like stand there and watch him call ten of his pals to say they all slept with you, and it could have been any one of them, the sort you were"
"Yeah, that or some version of it."
That was a discussion among women in 1980 at a Cherish meeting. It was concluded that it was preferable to rely on the Unmarried Mother's Allowance, in a general discussion on practical survival in a begrudging world where landlords did not want single mothers, childcare was random,  and available work was not for you. You ploughed on in your solitary existence of queuing and jumping through hoops for social welfare handouts, finding and warming up damp, dank crumbling flats as best you might, spinning from your own body and soul a haven to keep a child alive, safe and loved.

You had Cherish, the organisation set up by single mothers to support and advocate for rights, to let you have scare information on basic survival stratagems. They, in weekly meetings, let you in from the cold of solitary hardship, warmed you up with companionable, inclusive advocacy. There was a lot of brave souls in there in the Pembroke Street Cherish headquarters. Many warrior mothers, who knew the oppositional harshness of the world towards women who claimed their own children to rear. A new world only possible when the Unmarried Mother's Allowance became available in 1973.

The burning issue for Cherish, the battle line drawn, was the abolition of Illegitimacy. The committee lobbied TDs, the Taoiseach Charles Haughty,  anyone who could be made to listen. They pushed the issue doggedly.  As the new bill was introduced in the Dail, there was passionate, agonised debate about the granting of access rights to the fathers, which would come with the rest.
"So... he wants no responsibility, he took no responsibiilty, he made damn sure to play no part in any of it, except to deny me, deny the child, so... tell me why, why the bloody good fuck should I, should we, should anyone give them the opportunity to cause more damage now?"
The proposition of supportive responsible fatherhood was too exotic, too unknown to be entertained.

The status of Illigitimacy was not abolished until 1987. The ending of bastard status for children was resisted, right down to the wire, by the establishment.  Thereafter,  DNA testing became available with consequent successful extraction of maintenance from men.  And they, having been hauled kicking and screaming into fatherhood, began (at last) to look for access.

It all comes back to you, listening to the passionate demonising of the Church, the Nuns, on the uncovering of dead children at Tuam. I don't say discovery, because it is not. it was known anecdotally and by the townspeople of Tuam for decades. I don't say 800 babies either. That is the total number of infants named, who died in the Bon Secours Convent in Tuam over a thirty six year period.  Oh, you could demonise the Catholic Church. Why not? What does it matter. They are burnt out, a busted flush, irrelevant now, and they are in the frame. And there is a fine warm glow of virtuous righteousness to be got from it. But its a crock. And it does matter actually.

                                              ALL THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTIONS

You could usefully, in a neat reframing, demonise Men. They are equally in the frame. I listen to blaming assertions that we were all terrified, cowed, by Catholic Church. Not cowed enough apparently to stop men having sex outside of the holy bonds of Matrimony on a regular basis.

See it in context too. The Church was adamant in confining sex to marriage and the begetting of children for women. Sexuality, erotic feeling, sensuality was non existent in women in that narrative, unless you were a whore, a prostitute. Men, then, engaged in a kind of sex that more resembled a wrestling match. i.e. you weren't supposed to want it unless you were married, and after babies. Or seeking to lay a trap. You could say the church, men in frocks, created that kind of thinking, but how exactly did unmarried women got pregnant in such numbers, unless they forced, taken advantage of, judged and discarded if they failed to fight you off.  The sinister logic of blaming the injured party. Or they were whores.

Eight hundred children named in a heart breaking rollcall released all over social media, bear their mother's name, i.e. the christian name given by some desperately hopeful woman, and that woman's surname. Each name were recorded by the Nuns as the children came into the world and left it again.
That's where the information came from.

Protestant women did not go for deliverance to the Nuns. They were sent to Bethany Home in Dublin. Bethany Home Survivor's group have joined in the angry chorus, seeking redress, to be likewise acknowledged. Those women and children suffered a similar fate. The death rate for infants in those homes were on the same scale. The children's death certificates record 'marasmus' as cause of  death. They died of marasmus.  Marasmus was a poem of severe malnutrition.
                                                        NUNS  MEN AND MARASMUS

That's what killed them all one way or another, malnutrition, so that they succumbed to infection or died of hunger. Catholic and protestant institutions, same difference. They were given no place in the world and no father. Period.

It was not until the dawning of the welfare state that the Unmarried Mother's Allowance made survival possible,  so that women could even begin to address this situation, to claim their own children, to attempt to re educate men. That and DNA testing allowed them to begin.

You listen to tales of barbarism towards women in Muslim countries, other countries,  India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, enraging tales of women abused and blamed, punished for the abuse perpetrated on them by men. Evil, evil, evil, it clearly is. You think that evil is another country. It isn't. The imbalance of power between the sexes causes horrors, damage and destruction wherever it occurs. India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,  Ireland.

                                                         TO FALL SO FAR (FROM GRACE)

The Church colluded with a dominant patriarchal society in Ireland to starve, control, and punish. No good could come from it,  no good did come from it.  Some sort of Social Order maybe. The only point in exposing this now is to learn from it, to understand it, to see human nature in all its shadings. Particularly if we are to try living decently in this twenty first century world where helpless Grace is abused, tortured and abandoned, over and over and over, year after year after year without end.   

Sunday, 5 March 2017

They don't Need their Houses Do They?

On Thursday the Boss came back from a mid term visit with the father. She flung the door back and advanced;  bags discarded in the hall,  coat draped carelessly on the stairs, shoes left muddy and separated across the tiles, reclaiming most of the available space. In the kitchen she pulled out saucepans, vegetables, ingredients for one of her fantastically nutritious low fat super meals, talking, talking, talking. I could hear her from the living room where I had taken refuge with the lovely book, saved up for this week.  Beached on the sofa, taking a midterm myself in the silence.


Later, when I went looking for tea in the kitchen,  she had reeled in more girls to keep her company as she eat. It was all animation and  exclamation marks.  The spinning of plans and logistics for a party later, a film to see, a secret hair dip-dyeing to be done for the party later, snapchat groupchats running on separate tracks.

I caught the Boy's eye, as he beat a hasty path though bags belongings and girls, coming from the garden into all this dizzying gaiety, unexpected. He and I had lived together for the days of the bosses absence in orderly quiet, he doing his thing and I playing at being solitary. Except, that is,  for little chats from time to time about the war in Syria, Trump's latest tweet, the Boy's views on the Norman invasion of Ireland and possible alien sightings reported on the internet. The discovery of TRAPPIST _ 1, a  star and seven planets revealed in its shadows. That kind of thing.


Still, he was kinda glad to see her he said. He was used to her,  he told me. Yeah, so was I.  Also torn, (between amusement and irritation) as I watched her expanding vastly into her own reclaimed space. That was all of us then, on mid- term in our cave.


I think of all those people homeless, or fighting a grim and savage battle with banks to stop the house they shelter in being taken, snatched like a snail shell ripped clean from soft tissue. Adrift in the world with no home to go to.

                                           THE  BATTLE  OF  david AND GOLIATH

You see them in this year of Our Lord 2017, as banks go at home repossessions with a vengence, fighting, the light of manic battle in their eyes, grimly negotiating SFS forms, deals, court appearances. Small, pared to the bone, they stand alone against the impervious strengths of banks and corporations. Backs against their own front doors, facing outward. Fighting a battle they can't afford to loose.

And still you loose, sometimes you loose. I sat with a woman holding a letter from a Sheriff, who told me 'still an all she was kind of glad it was over'.
"There's like a stay, to organise ourselves with another place, it says" she said, (softly)
 "So, I mean, there is no other place. Rents cost more than Mortgages?  But you know what?  Its all right. It's all fine. I am...we are all tired. I only want it to be over".
She smiled obliquely as she said goodbye.  She hardly disturbed the air as she went, leaving you haunted, wondering with no way of knowing. And nothing to be done.

That was after I read about a man found hanging on the end of a rope in the barn of his repossessed farm, his children coming on him in the morning when they went to look for eggs.
"He couldn't bear the thought the children wouldn't live here anymore, sure" his wife said afterwards. "He fought and fought the bank, and then last week the fight went out of him"
She tried to get him talking about starting over, but she couldn't reach him. Until the night before, when he was happy again, relieved almost, talking fast and optimistic, putting everyone to bed, his arm warm around her as she drifted off to sleep. After that he must have gone out to the barn...

The failure in us to understand and protect the human need for the cave, the warm dark space behind the locked front door, is profound, dangerous. Unforgivable.

Friday, 3 February 2017

THIS PARTY WAS LEGEND!!! (but where was the KGB?)

                                           THIS IS WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU, DARLNG....

Apparently, we all need vitamin D. Oh yeah. We are afflicted with twitchy, introspective anxiety in the Irish winter's dark because of it. "Yes, Vitamin D" my sister announced yesterday, staring at my palid twitchy face. "You probably need a megadose, like 5000mgs?" she went on sagely. Not! Vitamin smitamin! I tell you this. It isn't vitamin D I need, rather a KGB trained security guard on tap, for hire, available, whenever I choose to go away and leave my house behind me. Why,  now that Mr Trump is elected and bewitched with Putin, I understand the KGB are back! (And maybe even over here in Ireland for hire? For a six pack? For Vodka and a tidy sum? For practice? )


I mean I figured I had the vitamin D, dopamine deprivation thing nailed, when I went to Spain for Christmas. Yes! to Alcalali in the mountains, to spend the Christmas days with my very dear friends who have given their lives over to sitting, drinking and talking in the sun, essentially.

On Christmas day we sat in the house, looking out at the day, the warm sun kissing not burning the cobbled street,  eating turkey, stuffing, brussels sprouts, roast potatoes. Nostalgic and philosophical in perfect measure. Getting happily tipsy in the lengthening shadows, deep and black in contrast to the glorious ball of Spanish sun outside. On Christmas morning I had gone for a meandering walk in the orange groves behind the village, because I could, returning through deserted ribbon streets, the villagers disappeared in their houses, sleeping off the Christmas Eve festivities. In Spain, they know how to party...

Day turned to night too quickly for me on that day anyway. The wine, the conversation, banter quickening to hilarity, carried us to midnight at a breakneck pace.

At home,  dog, teenagers, house, were all farmed out, secured, taken care of. Apart from Christmas morning phone calls, they never crossed my blissed out mind till late on Stephen's day (night).

                               YOU ALWAYS HAVTA PAY THE PRICE  BABY(as well as the airfare)
I smelled the party walking into my cold dark house on my return, disorientated by the passage back from the light, to blurry damp greyness.
 "There was...was... people here! There's been a... been a... goddamn party" I hissed, snapping on the light by the front door. My sister, tasked with minding the house, looking in on it, switching on the heating and that kind of thing, blinked confusedly.
"Ah no.  Sure it's... fairly tidy.  Intact.  I'd say now, if there was anything, it wasn't much. Sure look,  it's grand and tidy, nothing on the walls, or anything like that."
 The walls? The walls? I wondered briefly what had happened to her house, that time she went to Italy. She had only hinted, darkly.

"I was going to tell you" the beautiful one wailed distractedly on the phone. "It wasn't, I mean, me!"
 "Left you in charge!" I snap.  "And they promised!"
 They did. They did promise. It was just one night, I explained hopefully, before I left. I had to go a day before they left for Christmas with the Father. It was a matter of flight schedules.
 "Promise me now, no, promise me, swear to me, tell me you wont throw a party".
"Yeah, I mean no, like I mean didn't I say, no" the boy looking at me squarely in the eye, swore manfully.
 "Course not!  I wouldn't" the boss added, duplicitously.
"There will be repercussions!"
 "Yeah, we know, we won't, we said"
"So what went on exactly " I ask Beauty now, "I mean what, exactly, transpired?"
"I don't know what went on.  Exactly. There were all the boy's boys there, all the boss's girls there.  Thats all I know!"
"You were...I left you... in charge" I shout. "Were they, I mean, drinking, in an...I mean  unsafe way, or...or,  like, clustering in the bathroom rolling anything. I mean,  the boy's boys, were they mixing with the boss's girls, I mean...Jesus!"
"I don't know! I  don't know I tell you! I locked myself in your bedroom at 4.00am because I couldn't bear it anymore, if you want to know.  And I mean, feel asleep?"
                                           BLEACH WON'T TAKE AWAY THE STAIN, NO...

My lovely sister called on New Years eve, as  I poured a bucket of pitch black water down the kitchen sink. The house reeked of bleach. I turned to face her. I think my left eye was twitching, derailed as I was by my house cleaning,  by discoveries, evidence. Pieces of broken glass on a book shelf, a smudged lipstick abandoned inside a glass vase in my bedroom, shot glasses spilling out from under a cushion, cigarette papers on the side of the bath.   Sections of the floor inexpertly mopped,  so that you wondered grimly what had gone on just there. And strange smelling tea towels stuffed into the washing machine, a single shoe on the landing. Not ours. Stains on the stairs, only evident to the naked eye in strong daylight. Evidence.

"It's too late for vitamin D"  I told her, "for me and for them. You need to be taking it from the beginning of the winter anyway. And actually what I need is a security guard. I mean what about an internet start up, supplying them to sit in your living room grimly (arms folded), against teenage shenanigans. when you take a rare trip out into the world?"

And now the boss's friends are sending her snapchats, from legend  New year's parties she's missed (repercussions). The boy, a home loving boy, is exiled in his college apartment, sending sad texts home asking how to operate his oven, and whether you should spin-dry runners after a cool wash (repercussions).
                                           WHAT THE HELL, TWAS WORTH IT, SO IT WAS....

And I might never have gone to Spain at all. And still.. and yet... I walked in the orange and lemon groves on Christmas Day, and ate and drank and cried cathartic anarchic laughter with English and German friends, about living and dying and all the War(s). Small glowing pearls for stringing on the long chain of memory.  And you might say this at least about my children,  boy and boss,  they absolutely know how to throw a party!

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Friday, 16 December 2016

"Dirty Angels! Vultures Feasting! Merry Xmas Everyone!"

  In The Bleak Midwinter...

 I woke up six weeks ago at four am, the bleakest hour,  and fumbled under my pillow for my phone. Tossing about hopelessly since midnight, I had at last slipped into a black pocket of unconciousness, brief and uneasy. I brought up the Guardian page and there it was. Trump had crossed the line, was certainly going to be President. Right so.

                                 ...frosty wind made moan..                                                  

Next day I listen to media reactions, agonised analysis as to why, breathless crowing from defiant  Trump supporters, almost unashamed now that they are on the wining side. Soundbites. A last gasp from white supremacists! ( particularly amusing that).  It was the people, sandwiched between the cities, stoopid.  From the evocatively named Rustbelt.  People so marginalised, forgotten, that anyone would do, Trump would do, to make it even slightly  better.

                                              ... earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone....

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in inimicable Enda Kenny fashion went from politically correct condemnation of candidate Trump to kissing Mike Pence's arse. Luckily, it doesn't much matter  to the Americans what we have to say one way or the other (I  daresay) but it kinda illustrated, if you needed more light, how skin deep political correct pronouncements are. How calculated.

                                                      ... snow has fallen, snow has fallen, snow on snow on snow...

And we have the AAA (Anti Austerity Alliance), the Right to Waters, and a handful of elected randomers shouting out for the people. Oh and yeah, Sinn Fein. A Trump? Well, Mick Wallace perhaps, or Clare Daly,  a girl version. It seems we need something stronger though, a more trumpish Trump, looking past the spectacle of this crew's performance once elected. They ride into office off the need, the desperation of the people and they fail utterly to follow through when they get there.

                                                                                      ... in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

It's Christmas again, the killing season for rough sleepers. The homeless (again) sleep in the streets, an increase of 37% on last year.  The most vulnerable people in this society pushed out of the flimsy shelters they used to be sure of, to make way for the others; ordinary people, families, now shifted into single hotel rooms, bed and breakfasts. Back behind them, pressing hard, are others still, pinned to a granite wall paying rents, keeping out of single hotel rooms, hostels, sleeping in the car, by the skin of their teeth.

What can I give him,  poor as I am...

Come to the County Registrars court if you need persuading of this. Come and listen to the sad and sorry narratives of everyman/woman, now that some pesky legislation has been fixed up by the boys in Leinster House and house repossessions proceed apace. To get things moving, you understand.  To take the houses, sell 'em, give the banks the road, the rising tide will lift all boats.  Come to the County Registrar's Court and watch the people, slipping under the swells. ((Not waving I'm   drowning...)

Their houses gone to Vulture funds for knock down prices.   Eager,  hungry Vultures, ready and willing to buy and rent out to the same people for vastly increased rents.  No one, no TD newly elected or from old stock seem capable, willing or able to stop this abomination of dispossession and destruction. Irreparable damage and dislocation to the very fabric of people's lives by evictions, or constant hanging on by your fingernails to a normal life. This is no small group of people, people.

                                            ... if I were a Shepard...

Evictions, borderline poverty,  throw away children, belong to, are consigned to the past, right? You can read about it, shake your head, thank the universe you don't live in that country any more, no? James Plunkett's Janey Mary would never be found wandering about the streets we have fashioned. Right?

                               ( Vultures... There's more that one way to crucify a child.)

"She moved suddenly, but when she tried to speak her ears were filled with noise.
The Lay brother had turned to Father Benedict.
"You were very quick" he was saying  "is she badly hurt"?
Fathe Benedict answering him, said in a strange voice:
"Only her can see the print of the nails."

                                                          ....I would bring a lamb....        

"Ah sure I never even heard the case called, didn't know what happened? people up the front, the Bank's lawyers, them up front were muttering stuff an then some one told me, like, it was all over, like...
....couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, for thinking about it, I thought there wasn't anything I could do about it..."
...I did, like I did, come to court... try to explain, I didn't t know what anything meant, couldn't hear what was going on, I didn't hear, I wasn't sure, I never heard it called....
....I did, yeah, engage, phoned the banks, at first.... but here's the thing, they didn't want to know unless they were calling you? They never call you back. They don't engage..., yeah,  I don't know...The county council say at least a year before I get the Hap/rent assistance... From the time I ask for it, I mean like...
...I can only ask for it when the Bank say my situation is unsustainable. They have to find you know?...
...I don't care what they say, I won't... leave, I can't leave...  nowhere to go...there is nowhere to go... the rents, if I don't eat, just try to feed the children, I still can't pay those rents...
...The County Council said a Bed and Breakfast, they told me... or a hotel room's all they've got...for how long they don't room like... you can't go out in the hallway, you can't go out on the grounds, one can have, like...
...can't go... won't do it.  I cannot take my children to live in a hotel room, a BnB, for, I mean,  they don't know how long....
...There's nowhere, nowhere I can afford to rent now. Nowhere... daughter's doing her exams this year, my son has autism, I can't tell Daddy.  He doesn't know... he's old, would kill him... when they...will they... come to the door to take the house, will they? Do they give you any warning? Do you know?...
...My mother and father left this house to me, I am so ashamed. I lost their house. Thats all...
...we borrowed €25,000.... €35,000.... €40,, like, 2006/7/8,  no problem sure,  now it's twicethreetimesfourtimesfivetimesSIXtimes that...
... ashamed, should have known, the banks were really keen to loan and I to borrow...
... ashamed, I lost my job, I phoned them to explain...they passed me back and forth they never called me back...ashamed...
...I told them, as soon as I could get another job, I would...  sure I was only waiting for that, like I'm still waiting for that...
...they never entertained us... sort of, like, they were going through the motions, like you might to cod a child, and then they send the letters, all those letters... Till I couldn't bear to read them anymore... then my husband left, sometimes he pays the maintenance sometimes not, my daughter hasn't seen him since, I have to tell her that he can't... she won't be able for the hotel room she is autistic, she thinks she made him leave...
...the doctor helps. He gives me medication. Only for him....
....we have to watch my son. Depression. He suffers, thinks, we'll all be on the girl's done two schools now, battled through the bullying, took it on the chin, great girl getting frayed around her edges....

                                                        ... if I was a wise man I would do my part....

I think my self, the Government, the new heros and old might usefully be hog-tied and roasted slowly, until they do something here. Stuff the half hearted soundbites, the inadequately funded unworkable schemes, mortgages to buy, Marp solutions, modular houses some day soon, and act.

Stop the sale of people's houses to vulture funds, pay the bloody sustainable minimum payments  themselves to the Banks we bailed out if the people can't pay, release the land banks they actually hold (for who?) and go into partnership with the builders.  Now. This cannot wait.

                                                                                  ....yet what can I give him, give my heart.

I get it that they live another kind of life entirely, that the act of imagination required of them to see this desolation and damage for what it is, is beyond them. To feel the utterly heart breaking vulnerability of the people who are battling banks, indifferent lawyers,  poverty. Standing alone. But they, our elected representatives, will reap the whirlwind  and that at least is certain.


          And what rough beast, it's hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

When Gerry Adams, or some other such becomes your Taoisenach don't wring your hands, don't trouble yourself to ask why. What version ofTrump have we earned, manifested, conjured up? Those people being minced are legion.

                           Dingy angels.. festering coffee mugs...crumbs of plenty...lucky luck.

Christmas is coming oh yes indeedy. I brace myself for an influx of teenagers from college to swell the ranks of those already here. I steel myself for mess, shouty bursts from uTube videos, crumbs...crumbs everwhere, missing mugs and glasses festering in bedrooms, bare feet dangling over the edge of sofas, mad tittering on mobile phones. I brace myself for Christmas wish-lists, huckstering over what I am to contrubute for some piece of electronicia ardently wanted. It's bloody, irritatingly, chaotically wonderful, all of it. Unless you're stuffed into a hotel room, your children caged, forbidden to go out on the grounds, dispossessed, derailed, thrown away. Reliant on the kindness of the Government. There but for very fickle fortune friends go you or I.  

Plunkett, James  (1945) The Trusting and the Maimed.
Christina Rossetti. (1872  )  In the Bleak Midwinter.
William Buler Yeats. (1919) The Second Coming.

Anna Cogan: I Am Detta O'Byrne.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

Three Enchanted Evenings. Sinister Owls.

I have spend hours, no, actual days, uploading my book as an ebook, blundering, confused, and head wrecked despite the kindly, idiot proof (I was promised) process set out by Smashwords for us luddite authors. The only thing I had going for me is stubbornness. I will not be defeated by...

There was an entire afternoon spend trying to establish (googling, pondering) what exactly a widget might be for instance (I know, I know you know...) and how to attach one. I haven't succeeded in that.  I imagine a sort of sinister Owl linking canny readers to the book.

Anyway it's done and you are most welcome to sample. The book, " I Am Detta O'Byrne," is available with sampling on Smashwords,  in iBooks store and on Kindle.

     The Hills are alive....

Afterwards I take myself off to the opening night of the Sound of Music, where the Boss is Maria. The past weeks, quite apart from my sisyphean publishing torments, have been all yodelling, singing and choreographed dance moves from the second floor of the house where she rules.  (music, bed, and bathing rooms).
                                with the sounds of egos....

She brings me back tales from the front of temperamental spats, tearful meltdowns, artistic differences between the producers. Everyone seems to be having a fine old time of it as far as I can tell. There is an army of students making sets,  painting sets, sewing costumes, and a positive battalion of singing nuns.   Then there are the Von Trapps, her 'children' to whom she is bonded lovingly by showtime.

                                                     lonely goatherds....

Pity poor Captain Von Trap, tortured in the weeks of rehearsals with stern directions to clasp, hold, and look directly into the eyes of his Maria, before a sniggering audience of boys looking for cheap laughs.  He is a year younger that the boss, and more than that in being a boy. He finds it hard, it seems, to meet her eyes and play the lover. While singing (manfully). I feel for him.

I used to see him walking home from rehearsals, slight and brooding. Catching my eye one time, he jerked slightly, recoiled, a little haunted, interestingly hollowed eyed.

                                                                                   and the sound of Music.

Anyway it all comes right on the night, and the next night and the night after that.  There is some seriously fine piano playing. The Boss sings as though she was born to play Maria, never missing a note or going off key, expanding into each song with perfect timing and calm resonance, singing entirely without artifice. That is a healing thing to listen to. There is a lovely synergy between herself and her 'children' and it is all enchanted evenings.

                                         Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The mother superior is mistress of the high Cs, a fine soprano, her gang of nuns tuneful and fizzing with brio. Vibrantly painted sets are shifted from scene to scene by a silent energetic army, costumes magically change in seconds.  The actors declaim passionately about the Anschluss, the need to appease the German Swine, and salute 'heil hitler' from time to time with eye rolling exaggeration.

As to Captain Von Trapp, he is on top of his game, masterful, loverlike and absolutely in key.  He is  taking no hostages by the time they do it for the third night, and I'd like to know who's sniggering now.

An enchanted evening, (every one).

Afterwards you want to find the producer teachers and shake their hands. You want to tell them how the lines of the songs, the alchemy of the school musical stays with you forever.  You could belt out a verse or two from the Student Prince yourself if ever asked (never asked). 

Even though they only let you sing backstage to support the chorus, sacked as you were as second footman to the Prince for deviant and random giddiness. 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Everything Will Be All Wrong

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

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

                                                               you promised me.....

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

                                                                                                     (killing me) softly.....

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

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

           People gave me Vodka....

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

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

                                                                         amplified vomiting......

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

                                                                                                   but everything will be all....

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(My Book I Am Detta O'Byrne, author Anna Cogan,  is now available on Smashwords,  iBooks, and Kindle  bypassing adult content! and ibooks and you are most welcome to sample...)

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Je Suis Francaise. Vive La Revolution!


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

                                              that bastard  Liam Neeson.

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

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


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

                                                 Accidental Tourists.

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

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

                                                 Je suis Francaise.

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

                                                 Beyonce and me.....

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

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


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

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