When all the others were away at mass

We were supposed to have followed them up the road. “Just fixing my hair. There in a minute. Swear.” Though none of us made it past the holy water fountain on the way in, we always made sure to find out who was saying it before sauntering down the street to one of the select secular gatherings on offer. Favouring The Dolphin, I slid into the booth with the others where we feasted on one plate of chips split six ways. The heaped serving would occasionally be re-filled by way of compensation for a rogue hair conveniently appearing on the dregs of the rejected crispy ends that had been put through the fryer numerous times already. Coincidentally, a hair not unlike one of our own. (Age 14 – 16)

ferris

“I’ll just listen to mass on RTÉ Radio One instead, Mom. You go on, I’ll put on the spuds”

(From Ferris Bueller outtakes)

I swore blind I’d get mass in the evening so was charged with the most responsible job outside of keeping watch for the postman on exam results day – Putting On the Spuds™. There was no point in me hanging about the back of the chapel. I was fooling no-one. And they weren’t going to be made fools of by children who were getting big enough and ugly enough to not be taking a hand at their parents any more. So just lie there rather than make eejits of us, they ordered. And don’t forget to put on the spuds. (Age 17)

I just lay there and forgot to put on the spuds. (Age 18)

I just lay there wondering what day it was, willing myself to stay asleep until I couldn’t take it any longer and had to raid the kitchen for any sort of soft drink/pain-killer, before or after legging it to the bathroom. (Age 19 – 28)

I started to get The Fear over Monday. Often combined with/mistaken for the above (Age 28  – 36)

I roared at Marian Finucane’s guests on the radio; wondered if I could get away without getting dressed now that I was living with someone, and hoped he would use the bathroom first. (Age 37 onwards)

I slid into the booth wearing shades for numerous re-fills of coffee. I was fooling no-one. And I couldn’t take it any longer so they had to raid the kitchen for cookies for her. Then I had to get her home to the bathroom on time before all the juice she had would leg it down her leggings. (Currently)

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In the dark

The screen cuts to Richard Linklater’s editing suite where we catch a glimpse of the director fast forwarding and re-winding through a reel of footage from Boyhood.  He is giving his companion a glimpse into his then current project as it rounds the corner into its tenth year of filming.  The concept of striving to capture childhood is alluded to; as are the difficulties he had settling on one aspect of it on which to hone his efforts that consequently led to an unorthodox move for American cinema. He speaks of his relief that 35mm film is still around to see the project through to completion.  With the advent of digital film, he feared it would become extinct, presumably irrelevant, but clung on to the risky possibility of maintaining a consistent aesthetic throughout nonetheless.

His companion is fellow boundary-pushing outsider James Benning, and this is as technical as their discussions get. I’m in the audience for Double Play, a documentary following the reunion of the pair as they shoot some hoops in Linklater’s back yard, and the breeze as their conversation fast forwards and rewinds through their memories of falling into filmmaking and their respective pursuits and motivations that keep them at it. Both men are consumed by the idea of memory, and each orbits the shifting tides of time in unique, though surprisingly overlapping, ways. Quite literally in Benning’s case as we see him plant his camera along a lakeside for one of his many landscape based offerings on time’s passage in 13 Lakes.

I can’t claim to penetrate the precise meaning of their every exchange, but I could sit and listen to these two men all day. The gently spoken septuagenarian kitted out in denim from the ankles up reminding his younger peer that all of life is memory since the present has no definite dimensions to rely on; his middle-aged protégé of sorts extolling the virtues of cinema as the one reliable universe for all misfits unable to find their footing in the world; one that helps them to make sense of it. It’s how he himself stumbled into it – the mandatory viewings of four films in a row for the fugitive from his own surroundings. Stuck in a void. We’ve all been there. Haven’t we? It’s why I keep returning.

There is little sense to console the audience as we exit Melbourne later in the evening. Set in a single-location real-time Tehran on the day a couple prepares to emigrate to the film’s antipodean location, the consequences of an unscheduled favour holds the central characters and the audience hostage to an unbearable discovery. This self-assured, consummately acted Iranian drama, torments the couple with the senseless occurrences of life and the never-knowing what was within their control. The elusive dimensions of the present cheats them out of all certainty, and the future they’d banked on. Highly recommended.

It’s hard not to think of wise man Benning as I scan a few pages of Nicholas Felton’s Annual Reports the following morning.  Felton has been recording and compiling the minutiae of his daily life since 2005. A wet dream for any graphophile, they concisely break down his life in journeys, books read, films watched, times Bono cursed, photos taken, shits had, coffee outings gone on, and so on and so forth into the format global companies fawn over consultants to produce. The Felton Reports form part of the current Lifelogging exhibition at Dublin Science Gallery that includes some witty considerations on the dominance of social media in our lives, and its rise as a credible measure of our worth.

tombstone

In eloving memory

Is the measured life a better life? Perhaps. But for all the breadth of biographical info, the emergence of patterns, the dimensions of activities and proclivities, it is one’s memory of those experiences that gives them their true meaning and measurement.

Image: Dublin Science Gallery.

For more info on the Lifelogging exhibition see here.

We’re rammin’

When it comes to star signs, I’m like any other rational person with a healthy degree of scepticism. I curl my lip dismissively at the negative traits, before seizing on, and wildly accentuating, the positive. It’s probably another top Aries quality, along with those outlined below – a gift from a mate many spent candles ago that has followed me around each house I’ve inhabited ever since.

Aries

You can just imagine me over the years, pausing mid-ascent of the stairs for a sneaky self-regarding smile over at my leadership feats; reaching for the toilet paper and looking up to proudly reflect on my pioneering ambition; interrupting my quest to find clean underwear to admiringly gaze over at my confidence and dynamism above the laundry basket. The list goes on.

As the birthday cake pile-up gets out of hand, I’m finally more willing to square up to the truth lurking behind these images. Probably not a noted Aries trait, but by good luck I got out of the Pisces side of the astrological bed; the only time I’ve ever been early for anything. Apparently they hogged all the sensitivity and even get credit for it. Fuckers. No wonder us Aries are a demanding fiery lot.

leader

Top of the pics apparently shows me whistling ahead of the pack leading them to the knock-down price cheese selection in Tesco. A leader with initiative? Or…a prophetic image sealing my inescapable fate that would see me back in the bloody North. Turns out that’s not me at all. I’m actually stuck at the traffic lights waiting for them to pass trying to stump up an explanation to requests from a two-year old in the back seat to tell her what these men in sashes are at. I can’t produce anything more entertaining than the truth. A low point for the competitive Aries.

pioneering

Moving down to my summit-conquering triumph. Get me nearing the top of the mountain. Pioneering and competitive? Or…typically making work for myself when I could just have taken a flight over the mountain at half the personal cost. Or trained as an astronaut to fly my own spaceship over every mountain there ever was. That’s probably a Scorpio there by the rocket. Any I know tend to be over-achieving in something. Space travel included. They started out on acid and E; they ended up on Mars. There was a certain inevitability about it.

courageous

The next station of the cross reveals my apparent heroic life-saving tendencies. This was part of that team-building away day in Cavan a few years back. The crocodile had been deprived of food for the previous three days so Seanie threw it a battered sausage out of sympathy. It only antagonised it further. Courageous or daring? Or…thick and idiotic of me not to dive in front of Seanie to avoid wasting a perfectly good sausage? Predictably concentrating my energies in all the wrong places.

confident

Catch me some time later leading a group lesson on how to do The Conga. A beginners class by the looks of them; the one immediately to my left clearly unimpressed with my Hitler joke. Confident and dynamic? Or…once again feeling very obviously exposed in public. I lie; it must’ve been well before the Cavan trip as my breasts are still in nifty enough condition.

school

Finally, there I am at school. I can’t remember exactly what the lesson was, but I’m guessing maths or religion.

I will do as I am told

I will do as I am told

I will do the Morcambe & Wise dance instead

Morecambe-&-wise_skip-dance

Happy Birthday fellow Ariens. May your new year of life bring you the sunshine you crave, and sometimes unreasonably demand.

(Aries art – Anna Nielsen)

Review!!!!!

This week, I’m thrilled to be reviewing some work colleagues. I was approached by my bank over a year ago with a reminder of the limits to the elasticity of my overdraft facility. So, to avoid risking a snap, and the inevitable drop of my financial knickers that would embarrassingly coil around my knees, I returned to full-time employment. You could say the bank, in their unyielding generosity, fixed me up with this motley crew of folk. And now that my time with them is almost done, I feel best placed to provide an honest review of them for any future fools caught in a similar predicament. All names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Jim

AKA: The Old Skool Slacker. Or Jesus.

Motto: “Over the years, I’ve learned to stop talking and just listen”

Code language for: “Over the years, I’ve just stopped being arsed”.

Usually found: Scaring people going out the back door by standing just outside it with a fag in hand. If you hover about it long enough you’ll hear frequent cries of “Oh Jesus!”

Negative points: Uninhibited staring at colleagues’ breasts. General apathy. The sharing of endless updates on his son’s cricket team’s successes and failures.

Positive points: Misanthropic in a jaded Larry David kinda way.

Favourite quote: An exasperated “Well, ladies, I really can’t wait to see you all again” As he prematurely exits any meeting involving the most over-achieving cohort of the organisation.

Score: 8/10

Pauline

AKA: The Hottie (in her head). The Kitchen Gestapo (in mine)

Motto: “Whatever”

Code language for: “Whatever”

Usually found: Competing with her colleague in a competition to see whose lunch has the least amount of calories; then delighting in an immodest portion of curry chips in her office on Fridays when the other one is off.

Negative points: Unveiled insults and a fondness for emailing the equivalent of an underlined post-it note politely asking housemates to refrain from leaving unwashed dishes in the sink. Sometimes accompanied by photographic evidence.

Positive points: High forgiveness threshold, recognises her large reserves of eejitry.

Favourite quotes: “I don’t DO parades” Just parading.

Score: 6/10

Catherine

AKA: The Shit-hot One.

Motto: “Computer says no” (in voice of Carol Beer from Little Britain)

Code language for: “This organisation is run by genetic throw-backs with all the flexibility of a newt’s arse”

Usually found: Explaining exactly what her latest degree entails to people trying to get away from her. Offering people tea with the same frequency as Mrs. Doyle.

Negative points: Uses organisation’s facilities to drum up private consultancy business. Keeps palming off make-up she doesn’t use on to me.

Positive points: Force feeds me tortilla chips and guacamole to split her guilt while imploring me not to trust anyone. Including the cleaning lady. High up the paranoid spectrum, you could say.

Favourite Quotes: “Smart girl but not too smart” and other impenetrable sayings delivered with a gaze-into-the-middle-distance knowingness.

Score: 7/10

Paul

AKA: The Bullshitter

Motto: “Don’t get me started”

Code language for: “Don’t get me started on having to work. I’m here to appear busy, not be busy”

Usually found: Furiously pacing the back lawn taking very important calls. About his football team.

Negative points: His one-man quest to topple the organisation through unrivalled lethargy.

Positive points: Attending all those fictitious meetings means I can get on with some work in peace. Laughs at my ridiculous jokes, though. And gets them occasionally.

Score: 6/10.

Laura

AKA: The Nosey One

Motto: “I’m only just saying”

Code language for: “I can’t seem to keep my trap shut”

Usually found: See Pauline above

Negative points: Free-flowing insults e.g. “How can she be your mother-in-law? She’s soooooo young looking!” (to me, after meeting my Sister Mother-in-law). Can be heard within a forty mile radius. Uses hands-free to dial phone numbers. Enough to drive the most sane of us to photocopy our arse and paper the entire kitchen with the results.

Positive points: Free-flowing insults e.g. “How can he be your husband? He’s doesn’t look like a man who’s near 40” (to me, after meeting my Son Husband). Likes Garth Brookes.

Favourite Quotes: “I didn’t say that” when the only possible interpretation of what she did say is reiterated for clarification.

Score: 4/10

Nessa

AKA: The Winging It One.

Motto: “I’ve a meeting in the morning”

Code language for: “I’ll be late tomorrow”

Usually found: In the car park

Negative points: Overly formal emails regarding the least important things. Example:

Dear TOTB

I regret to inform you the photocopies of your arse have been evacuated from the kitchen. Management would be grateful if you could desist from any further acts of defacing the interior of the dining quarter. Such acts shall not be tolerated henceforth.

Yours sincerely

Nessa

Me: *dialls Nessa’s extension*

Nessa: Nessa speaking

Me: So, what you mean there, Nessa, is quit plastering the place with pictures of my arse? Right are you are.

Positive points: Makes a decent cup of coffee.

Favourite Quote: “I must have just missed you” (after spending the day ringing her extension)

Score: 5/10

Successful Business People.

(My colleagues: not pictured)

Disclosure: I was approached by HR to review these colleagues as part of my exit interview. If I got paid for talking shite about shite, do you think I wouldn’t be bragging about it to you?

Dearly Beloved

If I were in charge (any day now), there would a designated happiness month. Forget this one day carry-on. I would suspend the current curriculum in schools and dedicate it to free expression, dancing, trips to all the inaccessible stunning parts of the Island, and have guests from the worlds of everything. From bee-keepers to thatchers, fishermen to comedians,  star-gazers to asylum seekers, poets to philosophers, the film censor, self-exiled emigrants, and librarians to talk on all the great Irish works that were censored down the decades and why. Afternoons would be taken up with unfettered consideration to top fives spanning a bottomless ocean of random topics. Starting with films, albums, and books.. to whet the appetite.

Religion would be decreed a private endeavour, and its allotted spot given over to absorbing the unsanitised myths and legends of our Land. Balor and his Evil Eye would slug it out with Lugh and other irredendist gods in outdoor re-enactments. Though rest assured no children or animals would be harmed. The odd teacher might risk being collateral damage, but there would be mead and goblets. Other sporting activities would include pin the grenade on the John Charles McQuaid Poster, and tug o’war with a Curly Wurly.

Women in all their glorious diversity would take over the Dáil where free reign would be awarded on passing legislation to be invoked during each and every subsequent month of happiness thereafter. Women without prior access to the internet or the airwaves would flashmob RTÉ, politely asking Sharon Ni Bheolain to hop it; and someone from deepest Dundalk would read the news. Their revised version of it. Someone else would check if Bryan Dobson’s hair is real.

Iona would return to being a place vaguely associated with one of those saints whose name you can’t remember just now.

Theatres, galleries, gigs and gourmet hangouts would serve only those on the minimum wage or below. All prices would be reduced by 80 per cent.

The word Republican would be reclaimed from the clutches of constituency-protecting revisionists on either side of the amnesia divide, and decreed illegal to be used in any other context than its original definition. Ditto the Irish language. Then the latter would immediately be banned.

Northern commentators would, at last, be permitted to enter the other sacred citadel of Official Ireland (RTÉ) for a criminally overdue series of discussions on The North. This might help inform those who have the least understanding of the place, despite being closest to it, while selectively caring about its ‘victims’ whenever it conveniently suits. These would include: Fionnuala O’Connor, Brian Feeney, Eamonn McCann, Susan McKay, Alex Kane, Bernadette Devlin, Monica McWilliams, Denis Bradley and Dawn Purvis. While Eamonn McCann is there, it would be an opportune time to haul in Bono for a less disingenuous discussion on the Meaning of Life for those he purports to represent. He might even get to meet some of them.

The ubiquitous two-hander of O’Callaghan and Byrne, would be banned. Dearbhail McDonald would be booked for the season. Facebook and Twitter would be suspended.

Driving below 60mph between 8-9am & 5-6pm on main roads at weekdays would incur a fine. A siren would go off inside every car dipping below the mandatory speed and Enya would come howling through the speakers at top tonsil.

Ivor Browne would read the emotional weather nightly, providing tips and assurances as he goes. Jean Byrne would be fitted with a Jean-cam for a month with live coverage on her own dedicated round-the-clock channel.

Stevie Wonder would be played on the streets and every day would be a no uniform one. Churches would fling open their doors for open mic nights, and a box of Tayto would be sent to every household.

Only bin-collectors, taxi drivers, and drive-by fast food operatives would verify photos on passport applications. It would be preferable if there were called Mary or Bridget.

Vincent Browne would do the voice-over for a new Dastardly cartoon. Shane MacGowan would do the honours as Mutley.

Everyone would play a gigantic game of freeze! as the bells of the Angelus strike at 6pm. This would be followed by David McSavage reading aloud the spoken word intro to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy on all national television and radio channels.

I’d be happy then.

And now, a reading from St. Prince…

prince

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life

It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here 2 tell u
There’s something else
The afterworld

A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one – Dr Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

‘Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You’re on your own
And if de-elevator tries 2 bring u down
Go crazy – punch a higher floor

This is the word of the Lord

We’ll take a few moments now to pray for our own personal happiness intentions…

Out of practice

The closer we got to the church, the further away from the right one we were going. A solitary car drew up behind us. A lone driver looked over quizzically before emerging to unlock the gate. At ten past one, I knew this wasn’t a place where being late is fashionable for anyone; be it one of the spectators, or either one of those taking up vows in full view of them. A rolled-down windowed query and ten-point turn later, we were headed in the right direction.

I should’ve read the invitation properly but took the location of her birthplace for granted. The rest of it, I studied with a smile after it took a moment to register her name. Ah. Of course it would arrive late. She was still living life by the seat of her pants. There they were pictured, he with his hands in his pockets, she beaming out of over-sized glasses, hand on hip, the other looped through his arm. Above their heads, individual letters erected across the cinema board with the aid of a ladder spelled out the date of their wedding. No wonder he couldn’t contain his grin.

It went up on the fridge with the other reminders as I immediately composed a regret in my head. Her face now covered by a green and black magnet revealing a blotchy Che Guevara to the trained eye.

woderfullife (2)

If imperfect

A heave of relief broke five miles further up the road. The vintage bus took up half the street halving the number of lanes available. This would only matter when the children were flushed from school at 3pm. By then, our hosts had traded promises and we pocketed the birdseed not thrown on them due to hostile weather that forced everyone to run in an undignified manner onto the bus for the stone’s throw journey to the pub for chicken and chips and elbow room only.

By the time the empty paper cones were collected and the bar counter strewn with half-eaten cup-cakes, I had congratulated the bride eleven times, and her cousin double that on the birth of her baby boy following a rocky road to getting her fertility on side. I caught myself almost doing it again and blushed with embarrassment. There was even less customary repartee on offer from my companion. She had gone on charm strike for the afternoon, resolute in her concern that we had deserted the sweet cart prematurely. We circulated the room; I struggling to remember the names of half-colleagues I avoided in a bygone era, she picking her nose and checking out her reflection wherever there was a chance of catching it. We made it to the car intact where I threw my eyes up at my reflection in the rear-view, my rosey cheeks burning a hole in my relief.

A week later on the station forecourt, I studied the same mirror hoping to catch sight of someone half approachable to help re-start the damn car. The battery had also expired along with my energy. My companion lay asleep in the back, her Grandmother texted to check the estimated time of arrival. My response was to recline with my nose in the problem page while thinking over the next move in mine. A woman wrote of her husband’s porn addiction. With a new-born baby, she feared for their future now he had started to repulse her with his relentless habit. Not for the first time I wondered what Patricia Redlich would say. She was one of the few voices of perceptiveness and wisdom ever to adorn the pages of the Sunday Independent. Agony Aunt too lowly a title for the woman whose finger deftly wagged folk towards the right direction. This usually commenced with an invitation to correspondents to square up to themselves.

What would she make of a 40-something cursing the need to pull-up on the hillside like she was walking naked through her hometown? The man with the jeep cheerfully latched on the jump-leads, warning of the need to park it so in preparation for jump-starting the next day when the garages re-opened. With an appreciative beep of the horn, we pulled out and parked up in front of my folks’. Conveniently, they bicker away their days at very top of a hill. The rain runs down it at enough speed to hypnotise the occupant of the rocking chair gazing out the corner window. As a main arterial route to town, the traffic rarely abates, and even then cars and lorries will try to put up a good fight against snow and ice. Few make it undefeated.

The cursing was vindicated by the beep of the phone. “Is that your car? Are you home? Let’s meet up!” I half-smiled at her thoughtfulness, then deleted the message as I composed an excuse in my head. Two more messages from other spontaneous visitors followed. We couldn’t engineer this if we tried.

The Cork reg in the car park confirmed we were late. Second-hand batteries aren’t so easy to come by. My companion hesitantly stepped away to join the other two on the slides while I overpowered their mother’s cash with my card to pay for the coffees.

Two hours later I waved them off in the rear-view before they turned the other way; imploring my backseat companion to agree with me on how good it was as I was struck by a fleeting thought. I didn’t really take in the other parents dotted and hunkered about the place, and was unable to recall seeing any sitting on their own hiding behind a Sunday supplement. So this is what it’s like.