‘Shared motherhood’

“While shared motherhood can be a richly bonding female experience, it’s important not to run too far with this idea – and remember that there are big differences, too. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, money or, more precisely, the lack of it, gives individual women completely different experiences of motherhood. Among other pressures, too little money can lead to such mental health issues as extreme stress and anxiety from not being able to afford help, pay bills or even take your allotted maternity leave.” 

Barbara Ellen

Every now and again, someone comes along with a few succinct lines to cut through the bullshit. Mothers: they don’t even always share similar genitalia, so much of it is individual. It would be a relief if everyone stopped homogenising them. Sadly, that seems unlikely.  But it would be progress if women remembered that when talking to other women like them, the chats doth not a valid generalisation make.

Month’s mind

Losing your faith on a pilgrimage to The Holy Land. That still cracks me up. There you are in the photograph, all 46 mother-of-four years of you, flanked by camel humps in those ridiculous square shades that devour your face, high up presiding over your travelling companions like The Queen of Pop-socks herself.

No spa breaks back then, just a girly week in Jerusalem with a pick ‘n’ mix of the habited and the devotional. And you. No furious ten-page follow-up message-board dissection. No outburst of empathy from strangers at the touch of a keypad, just an indelible question mark left next to your thoughts on the point of it all. And there it stays, mostly, until one of their kind gets a rise out of you obliging you to roar obscenities at the wireless and demand they “get a life”.

And still you occasionally slip into their place of worship on a Saturday night to bow your head and try to square all the question marks with the inevitabilities that befall your family, passed away and present, members of which you email occasionally when you can be bothered despite your virtuoso typist past. Google is an order you give your grandchildren.

I tell you I started this blog thing last month, as a hobby mainly, a way to relax since there’s not a hope of me losing the will to live entirely by going running, or cooking, or cleaning. I half expect you to ask if I’m coming out of writing retirement after twenty years but you’re already lost in your Sudoku. We thought you had it bad with the crossword. Remember when you flew to visit me and leaned over in the taxi with the paper wondering what I thought 5 across could be? Some addictions don’t require Wi-Fi.

Tomorrow, after we clear up, and your son-in-law cajoles your granddaughter up to bed, I’ll slouch on to the sofa reaching for the laptop. You’ll come in looking for your umbrella (“just in case”), and each of us will slide into our respective back pews to join the herd for a while, collect our thoughts, and zone out in the only way we know how.

“Some of your domains are expiring soon”

Even WordPress managed to get in on my birthday celebrations this week. Kudos to their payment department for reminding me my reign over critical spheres of influence is under threat.

Only this week, mealy-mouthed management shuffled into our office to trigger the act of bad articles in league with Brexit. The bogeyman made real. The pair of us will be lucky to be issued a three-month contract come the end of March. A monthly one thereafter if the mud sufficiently clears on the windscreen of uncertainty. If we get the wipers fixed. If anyone knows where to do that. If anyone knows if they still make them.

Difficult to know how to respond when you’re broke and casually demanded one of them to fire you the other week following a failed attempt at whistle-blowing. It was more of a protest yawn. Self-defeat by osmosis. It’s a thing. Probably. Difficult for them to know what to follow up the news with when their emotional peak consists of a burp after lunch. So they did that compassionate thing management do in a time in crisis and casually uncrossed their legs. And that was that.

Later that evening, I was forced to do the responsible thing and interrupt our wee one screaming protestations at her Da over a minor miscarriage of justice. Actually, sorry love, but that is in fact my role. After renewing our consistent parenting pact, he was forced to agree. Being usurped by a five-year old. The indiginity of it. What next – a robot with unpredictable mood swings and an irrational hatred of Stephen Fry?

Praise be for the kind buys of Merch. Birthday presents for the coping woman round town previously reliant on air-drumming at traffic lights.

handcream

*sniffs* Yep. That could work on creamcrackers 

johncusack

 Stalking Open at 06:30

sunglasses.jpg

Stalking glasses (see above)

Dress: Model’s own

coffee.jpg

Essential sturdy coffee coaster

 

 

All Or

Originally posted in 2014

Tucked away in the main recruitment webpage for the community and voluntary sector today is an invitation to suitably qualified parties to tender for a feasibility study on the development of a storytelling project. The initiative aims to reflect “the cooperation and interaction between former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and former members of An Garda Siochána in the border region from the establishment of both Police Forces in 1922 to 2001.” Among the anticipated outcomes is that different experiences, memories, and legacies of the past will have been acknowledged. It all sounds very ambitious and must surely be the fruits of some high-minded collective think-in from a much feted Anglo-Irish entity charged with rescuing those irrational wee Northerners from themselves, and each other. Except it’s not. It’s just business as usual from a sector quietly getting on with creative efforts to address the diversity of experiences among victims and survivors.

In the flurry of public commentary on foot of Gerry Adams’s arrest last week, it fast became a chin-stroking exercise over the new Burning Question: All or Nothing?  Particular credit was given to Fintan O’Toole for exhibiting a balance in his response generally uncharacteristic of commentators south of the border. I know it is antagonistic to speak in terms of ‘Southern’ understanding, but that is how it has seemed to me for many years now. The gulf between reality and understanding has always felt wider there than in many other places. Relying on a mainstream discourse played out through a predictably narrow media, including the Sunday Independent revisionists, hasn’t helped. Yet, everyone has responsibility to dig deeper. To step back from the temptation of case-shut analysis and reach for a few question marks instead. Adams’s arrest upended one sector’s fondness for all or nothing, and enabled the camera to pan away and broaden perspective. O’Toole’s article succeeded in showing that the arrogance of certainty is receding. That can only be a good thing.

Perhaps when future historians show up, sufficient perspective will have been gained to enable the ordinary communities of the North to finally sharp-elbow their way onto those pages reserved for the peace-brokers. And the conveniently myopic interpretation of the Conflict as a petty religious fall-out between neighbours, by neighbours, might get a laugh similar to that directed at the flat-earth theorists of yesteryear. It would be churlish to dismiss the efforts of some politicians in the process, but peace was essentially a demand from the people. The ordinary people, no longer able to stomach the increasingly brutal and futile tactics of paramilitaries, or the intransigence of successive governments North, South, and Westminster. It took the threat of political expediency and the oceanic roar of ‘no more’ for the ballot seekers to catch up. Peace was essentially a grassroots driven outcome.

Communities remain unstinting in their efforts to acknowledge “different experiences, memories, and legacies of the past”.  Relatives For Justice, and The Pat Finucane Centre, among others, labour beneath the political ransom they’re being held under to beat a path towards truth and justice for victims and survivors. Elsewhere, a plethora of grassroots projects provide therapeutic supports and safe meeting places for others to access help to heal and deal with the past.  In accounting for the rights and needs of victims and survivors, the one-size of all or nothing does not fit neatly. Victims and survivors occupy a broad spectrum; they are as diverse as their memories. Many desire forgiveness, acceptance, and hold tight to a determination not to re-live the origins of their pain in a courtroom. Yet they don’t wish to undermine the legitimacy or entitlement of others to do otherwise. For some, acknowledgement will suffice. For others, surrendering their game of tug o’ war with the right way forward is out of the question.

Any proposed framework will have to account for that reality. The traditional binary shorthand of all or nothing, green or orange, taig or prod, won’t withstand a traditional Norn Iron kicking. Achieving it is not an impossibility, but it necessitates the centrality of victims and survivors in its design, and their inclusion in corresponding commentary and mainstream narrative(s). Communities are ready. Families of victims are ready. Survivors are ready. All are, for the All or. They’re just waiting for the peace-brokers to catch up. For the leaders to take the lead. Story of their lives, and their dead.

The dog’s derrière

Less than a fortnight ago, a bunch of us stood on the same spot a Sunday-coated Bryan Dobson has been broadcasting from all day. A Tommie Gorman of sorts to the right of me, an Adams prototype to the left. One as earnest as the other is capable of talking in ever increasing circles. Both praying to fuck I’d quit my best Bryan routine and immediately desist from asking awkward questions (“How’s the head?” etc.).

Having dodged the residential debriefing in the bar, my relative freshness was beginning to produce a sound similar to the early morning vacuum cleaner outside their hotel door. The one they were rudely dragged away from to join the guided walk of the Walls. A bonding exercise some genius had thought to line up for the morning after. It seemed like a good idea at the time. One we all fell for since it didn’t involve any more turning to our neighbour in the group to discuss What It All Means, or the dreaded C word (‘comfort break’).

derry

Hangover Cam

When the morning showed up however, constitutions and concentration were as wobbly and out-of-focus as the photo above. This view being the actual pixel quality of Gerry and Tommie’s respective vision till they reached the bar at lunch for a much-needed comfort break (comfort being a broad term). Their delicacy tested by the fatal combination of joviality and pride found in our recommended 5 star tour-guide. A Derry man, in short.

For a Donegal woman to be taken in hand for a walk around her neighbour’s garden, there had to be an incentive otherwise what was the point? Once the stabilisers came off my family shopping trips, and the annual Christmas Eve excursions, I had mastered these streets with no hands. But I hold my hands up to having adopted the swagger of the local. For of course, I am not, and never was, a local. Our territories share a hinterland but we have always been the culchie cousins to our edgier brethren over the border. What with their unmistakable pretentious-stripping vowels and punk histories as steep and deep as the streets they live on. And like all things lying on the doorstep, I stepped over it without looking down after a while.

To the top right of the photo (behind Bryan, if you’re watching RTE), you’ll see the green area where an Undertones album cover was taken.  Higher up adjacent on the left, a multi-coloured strip of second floor windows includes the house Martin McGuinness is being waked in tonight; while directly across the main road to the left, John Hume’s home is just out of view, just like John Hume. Somewhere close by, someone is vehemently denying they are related to Phil Coulter.

The girl, immaculate in her school uniform, dominating the photo on the gable wall, was the first child killed in the Conflict. Her name was Annette McGavigan, and her father sat by that wall talking to his daughter every day until grief came for him, too. Elsewhere, the door of Sandinos swings open with a crumpled up Eamonn McCann sauntering towards whatever pew hosts his pint. Women push prams up the vertiginous path of life. And together they all converge in a place we Donegal folk subtly understand as indomitable Derry. The ragged, proud, aging, but always cooler cousin.

Arseselves alone

It’s really not for everyone is Twitter. I’ve gone from the infrequent casual snoop, to incessantly lashing up tweets in a matter of mind-numbing months.

It’s all there: the critically retweeted news links, as if the three and a half people who might catch a glimpse of them require enlightenment from a quarter-dressed woman with a fondness for cream crackers and nutella. The blog post hawking, just incase the same folk missed it the first eleven times round. The self-satisfied ‘Exactly’s to announce a Very Important Point confirming my superior judgement on all matters irrelevant. The amateur djing with links to soundtracks blared through dodgy speakers. The fear when scanning the trending list for word of the next celebrity death. The rude interruptions. The truncated tweets typed too slowly but too quickly to avoid spelling mistakes, hurriedly dispatched to catch up with the others that make no sense. The worry that someone else is going to get in there first with my killer contribution to #MakeSongsTrump. The agony from the concentration required for #MakeFilmsFood. The propensity for class wars that turns me in Che Guevara’s Granny in a Penny’s nightdress. The inevitable descent into dribble with too much to declare when we reach talk of the Border.  The promises to quit the hit from blasting the button for the sake of it.

*refreshes page*

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Through the chair, if I may

It would be prudent of us to remember that

Should one find a ladder running up the cheap

Nylon covering the legs of one’s exchanges

It is imperative one avoid the risk of exposing

The ghastly stubble on what lies beneath and

Cover the stretch marks on the skin marking

One’s existence thus ensuring one is always

At one’s most professional