Fabruary

“Found them. On my way” (Text to a friend while running to catch a train after losing my car keys)

“Hey” (Via muffled hug with same friend)

Two octogenarians taking in a piece of music dear to them both. The wave of emotion lapping behind their eyes, the crease of their lips threatening to blow it over the wall of their self-control (Meetings With Ivor)

“I can’t beat it” (Manchester By The Sea)

“He loved her that much, he almost told her” (Eddi Reader live – as good a raconteur as an octave-climing enthusiast)

“Please wait while your transaction is being processed” (An ATM)

” @itchybollix follows you” (Twitter)

“Red faces all round as there is a mix-up at the Oscars” (RTE News)

“I am currently out of the office with limited access to my emails” (Boss’s Auto-Reply)

“We are pleased to invite you to attend for interview…” (By post)

“She’s feeling better. They think it was just a virus. Worry over” (By text)

“Problem solved! Payment has been processed” (Email from Netflix)

“While you are away, my heart comes undone. Slowly unravels in a ball of yarn..” (Bjork at 1am as the ground is swept under my wheels)

“27th February” (Calendar)

“01:11” (Alarm clock)

“10:15” (ditto)

“Happy Birthday to you” (She to Him in top tonsil)

meetings-with-ivor

Two men and a CD player

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Ask not what your elected reps can do for you…

Ten sleeps till election day in Norn Iron and I’m losing little over my decision to sit this one out. The only backlash I feared was my Mother’s threat of a clip round the ear for refusing to exercise a privilege for which many fought hard. She didn’t disappoint. So indelible are the stains of struggle on the ballot box that any attempt to ignore them is construed as casually ducking out of the generational relay race of responsibility. Point taken. As a woman (allegedly), the perceived betrayal induces an uncompromising wrath.

Clipped tones and appendages aside, I welcomed an opportunity for my decision to be given a good kicking. It’s still standing, if slightly hunched over with a black eye. Kneecaps intact though.

“A penalty for not participating in politics is to be governed by your inferiors.” 

That punch thrown by Plato, delivered through those given power of attorney on Earth – Twitter users.

It’s doubtful Plato had a pre-determined Assembly structure designed to safeguard the Green/Orange configuration in mind when he uttered that assertion. Were he around now, he might be tempted to add: “unless you live in Northern Ireland, where an out-dated parliamentary configuration ensures inferior governance for all”.  For we are not dealing with a regular democracy, if such a system ever existed in the first place.

But you already knew that. And that is precisely why it is imperative that my fellow citizens and I in this septic statelet must ensure peace is protected at all costs! By casting our vote! Peace must hold! Or we’ll bring it down! That would be the same peace brokered twenty years ago when the IRA graciously laid down their arms following  periods of intransigence and indifference from politicians North, South and Westminster. The same peace under mythical threat if the precious ‘centre’ is pulled out from under it.

“Ok-so how did the people effect the ushering in of peace? Surely influence on the IRA & 2 governments = politics. Democracy means voting.”

I wouldn’t like to underestimate the commitment and sacrifices made by politicians, nor can I indulge in the mawkish glorification of them in recent years. No-one is better at congratulating Sinn Fein than Sinn Fein. It conveniently obscures the people’s demands for ‘no more’, which triggered the threat of political expediency that eventually backed all shades into a corner with no option but to negotiate a way out. Ordinary people’s movements don’t make into official history books, nor into revisonist views of it.

“They brought us here well esp John Hume in 1998. Early problems aside-Trimble dancing re Drumcree the 2017”

“They” being the nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionist parties, respectively. The current pact both are pushing the electorate to support as a ‘radical’ alternative to the deteriorating marriage of Sinn Fein and DUP. The latter workable only because one side’s constituency was not under threat by vote-hunters from the other; and ultimately unworkable because the Party First Mentality resulted in treating the livelihood of the broad electorate with wilful contempt.

The whatboutery of the SF/DUP breakdown is for other hair-splitters to rant about. In some ways, it has everything and nothing to do with my opting out. Blind a fresh Troubles-free young generation with a dam-burst of bitterness about the past, then force them to referee their petulant elders. Arrogantly lean on an increasingly diverse collection of greying heads to lead by example. Force them to compromise their personal  and moral convictions to prop up those incapable of doing the same. Ideals inconsistent with two church-deferring anti-choice parties with a lethargic attitude to integrated education. The balance of responsibilities has tipped further back onto the lap of an electorate expected to do most of the heavy lifting.

Others have attracted consternation for canvassing on “single issues” with some commentators deeming it “selfish”. As if issues of poverty, education, welfare reform, equality, the environment, health, reproductive rights and so on bear no relationship to each other, they are dismissed by the compulsion to protect the ragbag of Orange and Green ‘cultural’ sensitivities. Hasn’t that been the problem? A faulty formula meant for a short-term period of political transition, which, 20 years on, is an instrument for the abuse and suffocation of integration.  The pressure to balance the needs of all (with no consensus on what that is) with personal integrity is unrealistic. It would not be unlike asking pro-choice activists to vote Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to prevent them from huffing with each other. An ostensibly mellower Assembly might appear reachable from here, but it won’t usher any radical challenge to the status quo. The structure is set-up to safeguard it.

If you believe the ballot box is as sacred as it always was, your irritation with those leaving it to the pall-bearing few to carry is understandable.

“Nobody counts “didn’t vote” or “spoiled vote”. The notion that non/spoiled votes are effective protest is wrong.”

But I don’t claim my not-arsedness as a protest move, not in the respectable definition of the term. All things considered and chin-stroked over, I couldn’t vote for any of the candidates on offer in my area. Moreover, the ballot box is not the sacred, exclusive means of engaging in political action it once was. As an apparatus of democracy it is at best constrained, and at worst illusionary. Pissed on. Neither is it the only method to register dissent or participate in politics. You probably noticed that, too.

So, rightly or wrongly, I’m bowing out of the ballot box on this occasion. Not as an act of protest, or civil ‘disobedience’, but as a right. Politics is a broad term. Day-to-day community life is where it’s at for me. The ordinary people in Norn Iron have always been ahead of state politics, anyway. When it mattered most.

march

A legitimate protest, hi

Chilled produce

“And what about Tommy?”, arch brows Bernadette, ever so slightly.

“Studying away. Loves it, he does”, fake smiles Sheila.

Sheila doesn’t realise Tommy hasn’t a “fucking notion” (sic) of setting foot in the real world for another two bank loans, and little does she know (but fears) that all her acquaintances’ (friends? but does she really have to like them?) children are destined to receive postgrads before him with a postgrad becoming the new undergrad. She draws breath as she spots Mary from the flower arranging class in the distance before pulling a three-and-a-half point turn (those damn trolleys).

Throwing a few boxes of almond slices (Tommy’s favourite) in the basket, she swiftly takes the chicane into the tinfoil aisle and prays she’s avoided another session of Mary banging on about her Nuala and her wretched PhD. Holy Mary and Joseph I’ll throttle her if she mentions it ONE MORE TIME.

chilledgood
Dangerous cul-de-sac

Me neither

You know when a Big Fromage appears unexpectedly in work and all foreheads hatch a new crease from over-concentration as they solemnly bow over keyboards? Me neither.

You know when you vow to keep your mouth shut in a pointless work meeting and manage to pull it off without exposing yourself as a deranged hyena? Me neither.

You know when you spot the excessively polite exchanges between school parents on the Facebook group and avoid wading in with a ridiculous wisecrack that isn’t even funny to upset the stepfordium? Me neither.

You know when you finally get a job where there’s not one po-faced commander flights of stairs up the chain who’s always present when you make a monumental dick of yourself? Me neither.

You know that moment when you’re finally persuaded by the self-satisfying break-through logic of that person you’re ‘engaging’ with on Twitter? Me neither.

You know that smug moment when you realise you’re above all social media pettiness and permanently restrain yourself from having the last word? Me neither.

You know how folk should be united in their opposition to despots and unsustainable laws and campaigns through some notion of static ‘communities’ that collectively appoint spokespeople with whom others must never disagree or they’ll be sent to the gulag for tone-policing? Me neither.

You know that feeling of recognition you get when other parents freely talk about ‘mammy guilt’? Me neither.

You know my career, right? Me neither.

You know when you’re ordering popcorn in the cinema? Me neither.

You know when everyone around you is exceedingly polite and it rubs off on you and you don’t break out in an anaphylactic bout of swearing  and disclose the most socially embarrassing stories about your family? Me neither.

You know my savings account, right? Me neither.

You know the way your husband is your best friend? Me neither.

You know that embarrassing incident involving a minor indiscretion from 1995 you’ve finally been able to let go of? Me neither.

You know that job application that’s due in this week? Me neither.

Shit. The family fromages are circling.

*hatches new forehead crease*

In tomorrow’s Weekend Supplement

Parental Controls. Our experts take a look at other experts to expertly debunk their expert advice without any expertise.

Baked Aghasta! Our special 10 page pull-out section featuring recipes with approximately eight ingredients you don’t have, two you can’t pronounce, one you’ll try to convince yourself you can substitute with tomato puree, and half a Nevin Maguire from the waist up.

This! Thread! Yes!  We ask our writers if emojis are being displaced by the return of words. And when is a thread not a thread but a belligerent and tedious attack on a former novel?

Inferior interiors: Revamp all your en-suites with less than a tenth of the cheapest item we usually feature on this page.

Also, gardening tips and other stuff you ignore like our ocean of adverts for cruises that cost the equivalent of several internal organs on the black market, and reviews of mapped obscure walking routes for people you have every intention of avoiding and, with any luck, never becoming.

Plus our regular columnist Donald Larkin will be on the back page with at least one word you won’t admit to having to look up.

Don’t just open your mind, torment it.

table

Just a regular Saturday morning round our gaff