Big swinging mickey

“I’m Global Operations Coordinating Manager for the Intergalactic Pan Baltic Subterranean Overland Operations Division of our North-Eastern Southern European Office”

“It’s supposed to be getting hotter for the weekend”

“If I’m busy in the evening, I might pick her up from the crèche. We have an au pair as well”

“It’s supposed to be getting cool again before getting hot again”

“I’ve only 25 days leave left”

“Corporate sponsored research piece links drop in workplace efficiency among females to absence of children. Again.”

“It’s supposed to get hotter then cooler then hot again”

“Next time on Fair City…”


“I had the weirdest dream last night”

“I’m Project Manager for the Sub-sub-sub Confederate of Inter-global Constituents of the Pan-National Sectorial Division”

“You’re from where? Oh I went to college with someone from there”

“Only six weeks to the hen party!!!”

“There’s plenty of salad in the fridge”

“Your account has insufficient funds for this transaction”

“Jean Byrne just levitated in front of Longford, did an impersonation of Enya doing an impersonation of Zorro then landed back on her feet near Valencia”

“I’m MHBSAIJ Manager for the Inter-Cosmic Planetary Divisional Unit of the External Internal External Office”


Laughter and forgetting

Last time I saw Moses, he was cradling his new-born in one hand, and nursing the TV remote in the other. Hurling championship season was in full-swing, and despite landing in the middle of the game uninvited, he didn’t let his irritation show. The remaining smallies were shooed from the sofa where I was beckoned to take a seat by the slap of a cushion. We traded reassurances on how well the other was looking, making brief pit-stops along the general welfare of our common acquaintances before abandoning the small-talk that never suited either of us.

With his homeland victorious in securing independence, there was much to rejoice about but still too much to fear. The Chinese would continue their aggressive advance from afar through ill-gotten seizure of oil rights; and political instability and residue from civil war will see to it that the country will be characterised by chaos for years to come. But it was a good day, he reminded himself. Even The Mayor hosted a reception for him and his compatriots. He joked they had risen to status of local celebrity though conceded it wasn’t quite in the same league as the County team. It didn’t take him long to get hooked on the game, and he proudly explained two of his sons were showing an impressive flair for it. With that one of them floated in with a hurley and a greeting in an accent flatter than the more mountainous song he had on arrival.

Lately, Moses had become increasingly pre-occupied with other family members left behind. The phone-calls he is making now are less concerned with chasing up delayed social welfare payments than getting help to start the arduous procedure of family reunification. With little guarantee of it leading anywhere. He interpreted and reinterpreted my silent nodding until he had sculpted an answer that made the best sense to himself. “I have no choice but to try. It is my responsibility”. His speech slowed down as it always did when it came to matters grave; the lilting distinctive roll on his Rs serving as italics for the key word. I wrapped my mind in the branches of his voice and stayed there for as long as I could. Its roots run seven hundred miles down into his soul.

Scratching his scarred head with his remaining fingers, he tried to remember what it was he was going to say. Within minutes we had both forgotten how we got on to the subject of goats. I sunned myself in the rays of his laugh and smiled on hearing the sound I never fail to recollect in the silence of my memories. I noted a new fireguard surrounding the entire fireplace. For at least two agencies, this will be ticked as an indicator of the family’s successful resettlement. I could almost hear the heave of relief from the same bureaucrats on spotting all the curtains were opened at the front of the house. A sure sign they were fast becoming one of us.

For others, their resettlement was measured by their English language proficiency; their orientation of the welfare system; their ability to pay bills on time; dress neatly; keep their houses respectable; their meat in the fridge, their windows regularly opened; their bins out in the right order; their appointments on time, their clock on the wall forward or back an hour as required; their hand willingly clasped in that of another wringing at the injustice of it all or how wonderful they are. Aren’t they just wonderful? All around them, paternalism jives with charity, which in turn arm-wrestles empowerment for the determinants of doing OK.

It took taking my leave for him to mention the talking he’s being doing; in Dublin, in confidence. The flashbacks have not deserted him but there are ways to make them hurt less. I was instructed to stay safe, to not leave it so long till next time, and bring that man of mine back to meet his brother. And with that came one last laugh as I waved my way backwards down the path passing the bin left out as I departed.

This being International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I think of Moses. Survivor against all odds. A man who made it through unspeakable experiences who went on to impress the natives with his ability to get the bus to Dublin unaccompanied. A journey to the only available specialist services in the country that remain at the mercy of further cuts. Some curtains remain firmly shut to the reality of life for others.

Sole kid

Life, like Tom Cruise, can be very weird. I robbed that line outright from Panti’s set at Body & Soul last weekend. A half hour retrospective sizzling with one-liners and insights as she pieced together the bizarre experience of finding herself a national treasure in recent months. Other highlights included generous helpings of falafel, general good cheer, unidentifiable music powerful enough to get the most stubborn of feet shuffling, and a previously unheard but cracking laid-out on Sunday festival lawn cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, which you can listen to here.

There comes a moment in every aging festival goer’s career when one can no longer put off the inevitable. When it’s time to pause, reflect on happy times, reconcile then with now, adopt some perspective, and finally trade in the sleeping-room-only tent for one with ample standing room. Preferably chosen with the aid of a little video on a website that shows off the interior while the prospective buyers lean in to marvel at its impressive orthopaedic friendly features. We could well have given birth to the average festival weekender by the overbearing youthfulness of them, but by Jesus we’re able to maintain a comfortable up-right position as we lament not investing in some reputable ear-plugs to drown the fockers out.


A middle-aged camper awaits oil after bending his back too often

Which is exactly what our camping neighbours were thinking when they registered our Nordie riff raff status and barely suppressed their furtive glances checking for evidence of our exact position in the lowly caste. “Oh, Honey, where did you put the Buckfast?” Ha, had you there (I thought to myself). By Sunday we were on fake smile terms as our one cheerfully played with little Deloitte, Touche, Morgan and Stanley. Such adorable children. They didn’t even make fun of her when she helpfully pointed out their football was broken. She enjoys the occasional rugby tackle but her experience of them to date is confined to rigorous tickling sessions with her Da on the living room floor.

family camping

Focking right

For all the unlikely bedfellows family friendly festivals peg together, children rise to the challenge without a bother, gabbling away in their native tongue of life in the moment; the elusive moment the pair of us strain to reach through the tent that doubles as a tardis on another return journey we’re not convinced is going to land safely.


Review: Plenty of standing room so no more muscle pulling while entering and leaving. Plus and an abundance of storage pockets. Even the lip balm can have its own storage.

Drifting from stage to food stall, and from bar to ice-cream van, we managed to get within reasonable distance of The Moment. Not quite front row, but close enough to make out its features. To see the self-consciousness of its inhabitants dissolving away, its out-stretched arm offering a non-discriminatory hand to whoever fancied crossing its threshold. The promise of no-strings-attached escapism however meaningless. And meaningless is just as meaningful as life-altering experiences man, that more experienced travellers manage to reach usually with something stronger than warm beer and generous helpings of falafel.

We managed to catch most of the Moment from sitting on the shoulders of a one-child army, victorious on her hunt for every available opportunity for fun. It transpires that living in the moment also means not having to worry about needing the balls or your own two-to-four feet folk to join in. Just hook up with the others already there.

helter skelter

Sífein makes another failed bid for freedom

little house

Flights of fancy


“Wait a minute, where’s me jumpah?”

soul kids

Souldiers of fortune

Ordinary people

Gary was already sitting at the table. He must’ve slipped in while the kettle was declaring its readiness. Upright, armed with an A4 folder, he usually assumes the role of dispenser of closed questions that pre-empt all answers. A conversational tic that keeps the mood light and away from awkward cul-de-sacs. This evening was no different.

“You’re needing a holiday by the looks of ya. You’ll be glad to get it”. Couldn’t argue with that.

David followed, pebbled dashed in freckles he’d picked up on a knock-down price holiday to Turkey. He and the family stayed within expertise-assuming distance of an ISIS controlled peninsula where it wouldn’t be unusual to see a few Kalashnikovs touted above heads of youngsters with little idea what they’re using them for. Everyone laughed the laugh that’s casual shorthand between folk reared within a square mile of where they sat. He went on to explain the geographical nuances of the region, oozing the ease, softer enunciation and ten-year-younger glow of a man who had the luck to be able to brandish a pen above his head in lecture halls instead. Even if he wasn’t altogether sure what he was arguing about at the time. Wisdom can’t be learned, it can only be lived. And even then…

Sean and Carole dismissed the offer of tea with a synchronised stretch of their palms as they apologised for being late. That traffic’s a killer. The Council are useless. Public services are a joke round here. Eamonn McCann has always said the people of the North have more that unites than separates them. The everyday exchanges between these chequered folk prove it but they rarely matter to anyone unconcerned with everyday matters round here.

A quick re-cap then straight to the critical question. How did you get on since? One of those catch-all questions equally applicable to the mundane and the malevolent. An open question that works at the speed of the answer that can’t be pre-empted. With everyday matters, one can never be sure.

Carole broke off the nap her chin was enjoying on her thumbs. Concentrating on wiping away invisible crumbs from the table, she felt confident her people would have no problem working together with the other people’s peoples. She only had time to speak to half of them, and the half she spoke to couldn’t envisage any arguments against it from the other half.

“There’s nothing to lose at this stage”, she wistfully announced working the last stubborn spot of the non-stain.

How did everyone else get on?

“If it means us all having a chance at getting the money, then we’d have no problem with it either”. A more tempered show of enthusiasm from an unsubtle Gary; softened by Sean’s insistence that it makes sense. That was mere seconds before he went to expose the delicacy of common sense by insisting everyone was dancing round it.

David had kept his head down throughout the exchange in earnest contemplation. His affirmative nod was out before his words. All this single identity work, he bellowed. How many more years of it can they really get out of it? If each community hasn’t managed to get on with itself by now then it’s never going to happen. And the arrogance of us to think we’re the only two communities out there. There’s more than us! His hands raised aloft in lieu of a Chrissake he hadn’t the stomach to add. Either way, his people had no problem. Buiochas le Dia, he thought to himself. Probably.

Shuffling awkwardly in her seat, Carole wondered at about the other crowd.

“What about them?”, responded Gary in rhetorical unease hoping everyone would move on.

Layers of imaginary dust were wiped from the table before everyone conceded to the need to bring them on board; to give them the opportunity to prove everybody right by giving them first flat refusal to sign up. No-one pointed out this other group had never been asked before. Just like they hadn’t been with any speed, and who knew it would go this distance. Besides, what’s a few years of cold shoulders between groups essentially united under the one union jack when you think about it? But isn’t that the problem – thinking about it. No-one thinks about it out loud.

The thirty seconds of silence were meant as a resigned approval of what must happen.

“See how you get on”

An order to point the shuttle in a sideways direction.

As if by some afterthought that too much had been conceded, Gary issued a two-week deadline till the next gathering. Carole politely asked if putting it back half an hour would be better. The traffic and all. Sean echoed her request, claiming it would give him time for a shower after coming in from a day’s work covered in paint, and David cautioned against inviting the flies in next time. The annoying wee bastards.

Ordinary people; doing everyday things.


“A LOT of people are shocked and angry watching RTÉ’s documentary on collusion”

So runs the headline in this morning’s  report on the reaction to last night’s RTÉ documentary on collusion between British security forces and Loyalist paramilitaries. We can expect more of the same throughout the day until the next jaw-dropping documentary comes along to supersede current Twitter goldfish bowl outrage.

I find it quite galling that any folk North or South would find this shocking in 2015. Doesn’t that just roar volumes?


As the man said, if you’re feeling listless make a list. I’m not sure which man it was exactly. Possibly the same one who said it’ll not be so long till after a while; and it wasn’t so long since a wee while ago. Speaking of wee *Keith Duffy voice* i.e. as in small, as opposed to the informal word for urine, my mucker Wee Blue Birdie over at Little Steps to Somewhere has threatened her followers with an invitation to write a list, if they can be arsed. The absence of pressure combined with my take-it-or-leave-it attitude means I’ll not rest till its done.

The theme is Loves Hates i.e. as in things one loves and hates, as opposed to the gritty Dublin-based gangland drama. So without further a do, I’ll get to it with the usual caveat that the parcel is up for grabs. If the music’s just stopped and it’s landed on your lap, rip off the next layer to see what neurosis lies beneath with your name on it.

To avoid an outbreak of veteran list-maker’s agony, I’ve confined these to this week.


1. A job well done. Probably because it happens so rarely and when it does, I could coast on the rewarding feeling for days, and the adjusted optimism is infectious enough to affect other compartments of life. The two I live with don’t mind this particular mood-swing, and wonder “Why can’t you be like this all time?” while having the good sense not to ask me directly.

2. Finding something very important I’d convinced myself I’d lost before having one final rummage. For the umpteenth time. There’s the surrender to the worst case scenario, and the clearing of the throat while dialling Ticketmaster in preparation for a grovelling exchange on the possibility of having tickets replaced before disconnecting for one last look. And just when serious consideration is being given to subcontracting luck out to someone with enough superstition and faith who knows someone who knows a man whose cousin’s neighbour is married to St. Anthony, it’s located behind the wardrobe. I may have had to enlist that person’s services on previous occasions. But we’ll say no more about those saints and their corrupt money-lending enterprises. One of the worst forms of elder abuse unspoken about in this country.

3. So I’ll be going to that music festival next weekend after all. Three days of incarceration in a field with the threat of torrential rain will always trump a week in the sun. Bring on the bonhomie, the communal good cheer, and the ever elusive magic of living in The Moment. What’s gonna happen? Haven’t a notion. Where would the thrill be in knowing? I’m rubbing my hands in anticipation. I’m that low maintenance.

4. When good weather ignites the best of memories. Sitting at my desk day-dreaming out the window, school leavers scuttle by without a backward glance to where they’ve come from. They wouldn’t know it from looking at my miserable face, but there’s a festival of memories going on in my head. This month it features the time both families got together to celebrate our little one. A sunny June day just like yesterday. I smiled and almost welled-up at the memory of…no-one so much as slamming a door never mind starting an argument. *dabs eyes with handkerchief*

5. Hearing a great song on the radio from start to finish that I haven’t heard in ages. Tony Fenton (RIP) could always be relied on to pull me out of some vicious ruminating with a periodic spin of Phil Lynott’s ‘Old Town’. I miss him for it. By the time the bouquet of trumpets were quietly assembling to swoop in and steal the spleen-warming finale, I’d be smiling away to myself and somewhat inanely at the occupants in neighbouring cars. This week’s in-car head bopping was brought to you by this. I am as free the wind. For a few minutes anyway.

6. And since that revved my engine up, I gave in to the frequently given-in-to urge to just keep on driving and slid into the other lane. Through the road works, past my work, round the corner by the speed limit signs until I got to the nearest country roads. Because corners, and farmers’ caps and gear-changes are most compatible with sounds. Barley fields and corrugated shacks to one side of me, orchards to the other; me between thinking I should probably go back to work now after the first four songs of The National’s Trouble Will Find Me. Best filed away under spontaneous sound seeking thrills, and annoying alliteration.

7. Hearing my mate got the keys to her new house after being put through the gazumping ringer and other housing fatalities these last few years. And temporarily soothing her rage at her husband crossing the threshold with their children without her while she was at work. I thought better of telling her about the time I had a mental collapse over my fella making a unilateral decision over our first Christmas tree. These things never equate precisely to same-heres whenever you stand back and measure them against each other. By day four, courtesy and civility had been restored. I think it took us longer. See? No comparison between a plastic tree and a house.

8. The clink of the first al fresco beer after we all bound in on Friday evening, meeting in the kitchen, inching our way to the garden to recline and sip like the sophisticated people we are, and going into combat with flies attacking the chips with all the grace of an elephant on E.

9. Woozily dragging out my bag and packing half my wardrobe for a weekend at the mothership. Including the same unopened books that went in last time. I think these Summer reads were originally Winter reads. Is there a difference? [Save it. This isn’t the hate list – me]. Either way, they’re great for dividing shoes and clothes.

10. Breaking for the border and turning round to the child to tell her she can relax with the anal retention now and release those arse cheeks. Inhale that air. Ah. The glorious scenery and enchanting smells. That’s cheap diesel for you.

There you go. Something else to put with all your other information. I’m too buzzed up for hates, and they prefer their own thread. Hold that eye-roll, and have a lovely weekend.

Beep beep.

keith duffy

“Why not join in if you’re feeling listless i.e. without a list of things, as opposed to lacking energy or enthusiasm.”

Brother’s gonna work it out (guest post)


I shall walk on that shoreline

until I become a dot, and there,

crushed between sky and sand

submit to the horizontal line.


I shall lie flat on my back

A spread-eagled Universal Man

with sea shells for eyes.

and for ear plugs; the howling wind.


I shall hug the earth with my back, let the pull

of the spinning globe erase gigabytes of you

and with closed eyes replace them

with mysteries from below the tide.


I shall pluck from the ancient silt,

rich hued bottles, alchemies of detachment,

then clean and align my new satellites,

a compass of seven Norths


And your smile shall come again.

Its radiance shall melt my compass,

burn all of my paths,

my unwritten maps.

With thanks to G. for permission to share.