This writing life

Circa 1980

Under the influence of the need to embarrass her children, my Mother recently resurrected one of my early works from the annals of history for circulation over dinner. I guessed its vintage by the political incorrectness throughout. An ABC book featuring O for Oriental with an accompanying picture of a man who looks like he just wandered out of war-time Vietnam, carries a certain social history. One that calls to mind Jim Davidson and other shivers. P is for papaya, whatever they were. P is also for Papal visit, which I can only guess inspired the first of many run-away notes. This one inscribed on the inside cover. I hadn’t mastered the letter e, but in unequivocal, if impaired, terms, I instruct ‘Mammy, Daddy, and the Brothərs’ I’m leaving with the assurance I’ll be fine. I urge them to resist looking for me and continue about their business. This included “punching over” to watch Grange Hill, probably that very evening. Something distracted me and detonated a life-time habit of dramatic declarations of ambition followed by lengthy spells of sitting comfortably on my arse.

1984

I watch The Killing Fields and weep uncontrollably. It’s possible I’ve been manipulated by John Lennon’s Imagine, but I resolutely declare my intention to be a journalist. Undoubtedly, I sit back down on my arse straight after. Having seen E.T. two years previously, I am torn between becoming a war correspondent and a secret alien keeper. Since the brothers partly meet the criteria for the former, I settle on the latter.

1987

The name’s Bond, Basildon Bond. My Mother writes with such fury on every pad that anyone receiving a letter other than one of our teachers can make out from the residual indentations I have been excused from P.E.. It runs through the pages like the watermark of exasperated parenting. “I regret TOTB is unable to attend class today due to illness”, an instruction I soon came to mass produce myself, including that tricky O in her name. Neither of us bank on me sliding the pad back in the drawer after composing a forensically detailed letter on my impending house party to a friend incarcerated in the Gaeltacht. With it still firmly intact. Insert Munch’s Scream here. I remain in this catatonic state for days.

1988

School’s out for summer and it’s my second working in the local newspaper. I’m unhappy with my hair in the photo accompanying my weekly column – a random ragbag of vox-pops, whimsical promotional pieces for the undiscerning tourist, and the occasional stab at incoherent thoughts on music. The scrapbook smells musty on purchase but it begins to incubate a series of dog-eared cut-outs hanging over the edge of its covers like untrimmed pastry. My ambitions for a career in journalism grow loftier with an ‘assignment’ to review the Michael Jackson gig in Cork, then wobblier as I spend much of it on a bathroom floor. Undeterred by cow-pats of nothingness strewn across my memory, I go on to confound myself with fanciful imaginings of Jackson “gliding through a milky-way of hits”, the only line I remember from events vaguely recalled. I was there though. Definitely. I think.

1989

I sit nervously across from the course tutor as she leafs through my scrapbook. Her face inscrutable; occasionally interrupted by a slight nod. Or maybe the other side of her neck got tired. She enquires about the roughly produced papers towards the back. I explain my brief foray into independent publishing along with another. Only I didn’t know then that’s what is was called. An older man, though not by much. A socialist, who sought to pose alternative questions on the economic decay of our town. Only I didn’t know then that’s what he was called. I just went along with ‘weird’. The pair of us fancied ourselves as Citizen Smith acolytes. For a while it was all very Solidarność in our heads, but the overheads, together with naively executed plans, rendered it a brief, if mildly adventurous, venture. Hmmm, she responds in lieu of a response. I know now what she meant. She thanks me for travelling to meet with her. I start a week later.

1993

The contributions to the local paper are sporadic now; the rare gig review being the height of it. The scrapbook disappeared a year ago in transit from one flat to another. It never gained weight, and I wriggle out of conversations that turn towards the sureties of seventeen. I learned the truth at seventeen (and a half) that certain classrooms were meant for study queens, and highly-motivated folk with clear-minded goals, who married their ambitions and then got hired.

1995

Belfast has the jitters but I am in love. I am spotted strolling down the Ormeau Road hand-in-hand with him as we lick ice-creams in between the faces off each other. We are multi-skilled. The friend who spots me is around the corner in her living room watching the news. The first of two TV appearances (the other being in the audience of Questions & Answers some years later – I know, how did my life become so boring?). I neglect to mention there is a riot going on behind us. But we don’t care. Some months later I attempt to end it (the affair, not the riot – that came later) and compose a lengthy letter promptly dropped through the letterbox. Luckily, the post office is in my hometown, so I’ve a better chance of retrieving it from the postmaster when I explain I think I’ve made a terrible mistake. Retrieving the letter is a terrible mistake. It’s another five years before we painfully part during which time I take to writing interminable essays that address, among other things, journalistic practices in the North, and subsequently journalistic regimes much further afield. Propaganda – the machine that keeps on giving.

2000 – 2014

Ostensibly, a formal writing career lies long perished, but deadlines are always waiting to be buried. I enter writing competitions now with varying monetary prizes up for grabs for groups of people obliged to prove they need it most. My own wage depends in part on it, the poverty industry. Over the years, it is often impossible to distinguish the difference between the buzz from writing, from winning, and that from the prize bagged in the hope of it going towards some good. And I’m no longer convinced that much of it does what it’s designed to do. I wonder if it’s the same for those who go on to carve out that writing career from blogging – where does personal ambition start and the merits of enquiry into much of what they write about begin? What came first – recreational blogging or the inevitable need to convert it into an income, or the self-belief that the writing truly befits one? We’re all writers now, of varying degrees of authenticity and motive.

Relief comes from slipping through portals minimised in the corner of the screen to worlds of strangers colliding in chat of passions. Music, film, cheese. It gives way to unpicking a universal humdrum from which endless entertainment is derived. Keyboards convert into playgrounds for grown-ups who like to climb up words and slide down sentences. The apparatus for making modern connections. A man regularly appears in the same one, casually leaning with one foot up against the yard wall, unassuming in the anorak he makes no apology for wearing. We take each other in, eventually circling one another with one-liners before discreetly booking a room in hotmail. We marry three years later.

2015

I learned the truth at forty-two that blogging is also meant for those who aren’t duty queens or kings, or high achievers with clear-eyed ambition, who married old, and feel somewhat retired. Back to a life with a scrapbook gathering dog-eared entries. A random ragbag of red-mist pops, whimsical pieces for the passer-through, and the occasional stab at incoherent thoughts on music. Only this time without any ambition attached. And that keeps my buzz real.

Thanks to whichever kind brethren among you who nominated this one for the Ireland Blog Awards. It was much appreciated.

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Now is the time for all good buns to come to the aid of the party

(Source: youtube)

BREAKING: Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams says Sinn Féin ‘has gone away’

By Garby O’Dildo

A statement released a short time ago confirmed that Sinn Féin has split from Sinn Fein due to ideological differences. The party’s president, Gerry Adams, has said that there is no reason for socialist Sinn Féin to continue to exist in Northern Ireland as the party has already secured power and patronage in the region.

And he said individuals involved in the recent murders of welfare reform and education reform “do not represent backward political leadership”.

He added: “They are not socialist Sinn Féin. Socialist Sinn Féin has gone away, you know.”

Mr Adams was speaking at the National Power Hungry Reich commemoration in the Republic of Ireland last night where the party presents itself strictly as a socialist party invested in its own cynical self-interest.

On Saturday, the former Chief RTÉ soccer commentator, George Hamilton, said that Sinn Féin was still in existence, and that some members were allegedly involved in a five-a-side kick-about after the official celebrations. Although not confirmed, it was informally reported that the final score was Sinn Féin 1 Sinn Féin 2.

But Mr Adams said that was not the case, it was a draw with Sinn Féin emerging as victors.

Rationale

He told supporters at the event in Nobber that Sinn Féin was “undefeated” when it “took the momentous step” to end any pretence of ideological coherence while retaining all the Stalinist structures of its past.

When asked which of the two Sinn Féins he was speaking on behalf of, Mr. Adams replied “all of them”. He declined to specify whether it was the “Sinn Féin” that campaigns as a radical left-wing, anti-government cuts party in the Republic, or the “Sinn Féin” in the North, which implements cuts; eventually back-tracked on spineless roll-over attempts to introduce water charges; that is responsible for the biggest tranche of hospital closures in the history of the state, which attempted to introduce draconian legislation banning free assembly that was laughed at in the UK, which has issued more PFI contracts than any other party, and proven itself a catastrophic failure in political office, no more so than when in charge of the education and health portfolios.

How Sinn Féin announced the end of its campaign

On 22thAugust 2005, Sinn Féin said it had formally ordered an end to the socialist campaign in the North from 4pm that day.

Its statement said: “The leadership of Sinn Féin has formally ordered an end to the socialist campaign.

“All units have been ordered to dump copies of The Socialist Worker”.

Robustly

First Minister Peter Robinson had said he would discuss the prospect of excluding both Sinn Féins from the executive with other Northern Ireland parties.

Mr Adams said: “Those who threaten to take action against Sinn Féin in the political institutions have no basis whatsoever for this.

“Sinn Féin’s mandate and the rights and entitlements of our electorate deserve exactly the same respect and protection as Sinn Fein’s rights and entitlements.

“And Sinn Féin will defend that assertively and robustly.”

He added: “We will not be lectured to by those who have failed to honour their obligations time and again.”

Meanwhile, a minister in the Irish government has said it must remain “very cautious” when responding to comments on either of the Sinn Féins. “Like Fianna Fail, both exist purely to win and hold power. Presenting themselves as a party of the left in the South is pure nonsense. The “southern strategy” is to steal the clothes of the left, purely as a calculation to give it a southern identity and win seats in inner cities. It is utterly devoid of sincerity. Sinn Féin in government would be indistinguishable from Fine Gael. I mean.. Fianna Fail.”

Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport, Paschal Donohoe, said the Irish government did not want to add to a “difficult situation” and urged that commentators refrain from speculating on the stability of the Northern Executive until George Hamilton concluded his probe into the charge of Sinn Féin being off-side when it scored its last own goal.

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Adams before the Sinn Fein split                          Adams after the Sinn Fein split

Souvenir

“Who’d have thought it back then, eh”, she cackled before chomping down on her next pizza slice leaving my eyes raised longer than they’re used to. “You and I here having lunch with our kids.” An observation that didn’t merit such an intensive brow workout but I knew what she meant. “Aye”, I smiled over at her 12 year-old willingly enduring some type of Chinese burn from my one half his size.

Back then I was seventeen going on fifteen, she was nineteen going on thirty-four. She was all Anaïs Nin and Betty Blue, I was wondering if I’d ever catch up. Reading between the mouthfuls, we’re simultaneously impressed and appalled that we’ve made it this far without social services intervening. Neither of us point out we’re the same meaning-seeking junkies who re-cycle soul searching question marks into ninth degree levels of scrutiny. Not that we haven’t modified our behaviour. The smoking ban saw her banish herself from her own living room to the porch, and I no longer pretend to be excited when she offers to read my tarot cards. The game is more or less up. But we never run out of if-onlys that temporarily tear down our doubts. If only for the time we’re together.

Later I’m half listening to my niece breathlessly instructing me on the city’s cultural scene. I’m distracted by her contemporary Nana Mouskouri range glasses and theatre-curtain velvet hair. She’s talking to me with an intensity she is perfectly at ease with so I plant us both in an imaginary indie film we’re starring in without her consent. She’s all cinemas with cool cafés that show It’s A Wonderful Life at Christmas. I’m all up for it this year, and for almost telling her I remember the cinema in its original incarnation a few streets over in the city centre. And how I thought the break during An Angel At My Table was actually the end. But that would cast me as an elder city alumni desperately going on nineteen. If only.

I can still turn a few knees though so I mumble apologies and sink into the middle seat for the evening to watch the real darlings of indie film. Greta Gerwig is breathlessly tearing down all doubts her thirty year-old character has about her latest enterprise idea. But it’s the towering self-belief she radiates that boomerangs to tear the ground from under it completely. That, and her knack for the lack of follow-through.

Just as the Curly Wurly has imperceptibly shrunk over the years, the cinematic mid-life crisis appears to have slid back down a decade. At thirty, my Olympic levels of procrastination had yet to peak, and the ideas weren’t within reach. So I invest my nostalgia in the younger character. One who’s dining out on wobbly self-assurance, as yet unacquainted with the pallbearing potential of fear and laziness. She’s all fresh-faced and woollen-jumpered eagerness; I’m all leg-cramp and delicately trying to open the Maltesers without a sound. I fail to follow-through. If only; I scoff them down by the time the girl-crush is hatched.

They descend into screwball farce, and I fall for it and headlong into a reverie that shares little with them. Except  the nerve tugging soundtrack, their stamina for late-night drinking, and the naïve belief that it’ll all come together eventually. The credits role but I’m left stranded in a frame of my life from long before the one I’m in was written. People travel miles to escape the monotony and humdrum of their daily lives; I flee mine completely for a mere seven quid (excluding the sweets) an hour down the road.

Post-film daze, I stare ahead in the mirror as I wash my hands in the bathroom. Forever make-up free having procrastinated over synthetic attempts at freshness, however necessary now. My feet risk an autopilot return to an old student flat.

I ring the doorbell and await the shuffle of feet, the fumble of keys. The door opens and I wonder how I got there, and who these two people are, if only for a few seconds while I adjust my mind-set and make it back to now. Somewhat reluctantly.

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Malteser opening not featured in OST

Welcome to Baptismaland

The former Irish shrine of Knock is grey and gloomy when we arrive.

“Welcome to Baptismaland,” a woman in full nun garb greets us at the gates of the once famous shrine and encourages us towards the over-sized font.

We’re hassled by people in their Sunday best thrusting baskets in our faces for monetary contributions, which we must pass along to those who have come in behind us while they stand guard. We catch sight of the main attraction: a fortified walled school in a moat of murky water. Security is tight and members of the Board of Management are stationed along several look-out posts. Families unable to produce baptismal certificates are unequivocally and sternly turned away. Those who attempt to make it across the moat to scale the wall are shot down with holy water cannons. It’s a bleak scene.

Next to the school sits a replica of a section of The M50 congested with Pope Mobiles, each with a sole occupant while Penny’s shopping bags clog up the remaining  limited space. At various exits, spires from a series of blinding white buildings stand to attention against the skyline; each emblazoned with various latter-day saints: St. Dundrum, St. Liffey Valley, St. Victoria Square, St. Tiger. St. Parenting.

A sign for ‘Confessional Box’ leads us through a darkened doorway where we board the Holy Ghost Train. Our carriage careers along a rickety track in an eerie darkness momentarily broken by flash bulbs illuminating what looks like the walking dead holding up various signs: Magdalene Laundrette Survivor: 1950 – 1975, Symphysiotomy Victim 1978, Brendan Smyth Victim: For the rest of my life. With no small amount of relief, we eventually come to an abrupt halt in what we soon discover is an empty Dail Chamber. Coats and papers have been deserted and the jovial din of bonhomie can be heard on loop through a vent from a room named ‘Dail Bar’. It’s eight in the morning.

We exit through the gift shop, picking up key-rings with broken pelvic bones, nicotine-flavour communion shaped gum, and a BAPP – an app that maps how many schools remain under Catholic patronage within a mile radius from where the user is based. Cardinal Sean Brady before and after Brendan Smyth postcards sell out before we get to them.

Here it is: the latest exhibition from Banksy, the art world’s favourite agent provocateur. Billed as a “bemusement park” and modelled after his previous Dismaland, it’s an interpretation of contemporary Ireland following the Fifth Amendment to The Irish Constitution that removed the “special position” of The Roman Catholic Church in…1973. Officially opening to the public on Saturday, August 21, it’s Banksy’s only Irish based exhibition to date and tickets are expected to sell out fast. Don’t miss it.

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Parents and children attempting to register in the primary school

(source: youtube)

5 ways The Rose of Tralee is like Irish abortion laws

1. The women are forced to go through a rigorous process of scrutiny before presenting for adjudication in front of an expert panel

2. The two-dimensional portrayal of women as a homogenous group devoid of all complexities in a bid to uphold the official pageantry

3. There’s usually an irrepressible man dressed in black and white dominating the airwaves with displays of parochial eejitry

4. Frequent cries about the need to “protect our values and our culture” , and the incurable propensity towards propping up long-expired representations of the past

5. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world