A different corner

I don’t have any problem moving house. It’s the staying put that gives me jip. I used to think it was down to a restless gypsy soul. Therefore conferring a certain romantic status on invisible voids strewn across my sense of self.

On closer inspection, roaming between destinations within a few hundred mile radius of each other hints less at a wanderer than a fidgety fugitive. From what? Heartbreak? Conformity? Boredom? Prison? If life’s continuum is a process of breaking free towards the next point of the present, then surely it pays to stop and look around every once in a while to see how it measures up against the brochure.

But flicking forwards and backwards to the other glossy pages became a habit. Until the habit became a pathology. Until the pathology had me sitting cross-legged and leaning over kitchen tables, weekend papers, bar counters, pillows, cinema seats, my own pointed fingers, and steering wheels, weighing up the pros and cons of moving to anywhere-but-here.

And now I’m about to give all that up when we make the permanent move next week…to a mile from here. No longer will I be able to luxuriate in fabricated futures that were never going to be anyway. Just rogue horizons on the shoreline of segregated schools and communities. Rusting fire escapes leaning against hardened vowels beneath tribal flags flapping in the stillness of political ineptitude.

Would it be different elsewhere? Probably not. There would just be different windows through which I could day-dream my way into a new existence. A new job. A new me. The elusive mysterious me I can’t quite pin down. Because when push comes to shove, she’d probably prefer a ground-hog Saturday evening to something anything but.

The 40s are a strange time. The game is up in many respects, but getting used to some things that are so right still takes getting used to.

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Audience review

Equidistant from the bar and the bogs. That’s us. Strategic. Lined up at the critical spot where we can fully survey the audience while absorbing the sounds with a respectable three-feet radius between us and the next middle-agers. Plus the occasional reveller, though I suspect they’re just desperately trying to locate the toilets. It’s the three of us. Her, him, and me.

First half-hour:

Her: Fairly decent crowd, eh. That’s the good thing about being among our own – we’ll be spared all the cameras and phones in our faces

Me: And everyone looks like someone slightly famous

Him: ‘Nother pint? *waves empty plastic glass*

Me: Nah, thanks. Driving.

Him: What about a coffee?

He’s especially polite when he’s the one on the lash and not the designated driver.

Text from mate over at Beyoncé:  Hey!!! Lovely white clouds covering crokers!!!!

I swear the exclamation marks are a wind-up.

Middle section:

Me: There’s yer man. Erm. What’shisname. Eh no, false alarm, it just looks like somebody.

She: Everyone’s aging alright, aren’t they?

Me: I was just thinking that. And there’s a fair few much older. Although we probably share the same age category in the Census. My rule of thumb is if they are old enough to be my parent, well, they’re super oldies.

She: Andrew (her brother-in-law) will be the same age as Joanne’s (her sister) mother-in-law this year

Me: No way. He doesn’t look it. My mother-in-law is 21 years older than me. Just made it.

He: (back from toilet) Just saw Joe Brolly. Pissed.

Me: How did you know?

He: Erm. The way he was walking?

Her: There’s my old college lecturer *waves at grey-haired man smiling over* Can’t you tell he’s one, sure look at him

We both survey the shorts and sandals ensemble

Me: All that’s missing is the socks. Look! It’s Will!

Her & Him: Who’s Will?

Me: Will! From the Ray D’arcy Show! One of the funniest fuckers on radio

*silence*

These people have no appreciation.

Final half hour:

We’re joined by another pair of friends. Let’s call them er.. them.

Her: I thought I saw Leo Varadkar there when I was going to the toilet

Me: Yeah, that’s him. He looks taller on the telly

One of them: He goes to my sister’s gym. Says he’s an awful poser. It’s all about being seen apparently

Her: Well, if I’d known it was him, I’d have tripped him

She’s 5ft nothing and the most polite woman in Ireland. But we’ve gotta take her word for it.

He: (returning with another pint) Just saw Aidan Gillen there at the bar

Me: Meh. He’s everywhere. And a bit self-consciously cool, is he not?

He: Well, he was in The Wire

Me:  You’re right *solemn tone* I take it back

The other one of them: I bet ya Leo is taking a selfie so he can check how many people behind recognise him

Text from my mate at Crokers: Phenomenal!

One exclamation mark. She must mean it.

John Grant: You’ve been a wonderful audience

Him:  Yes, we have been

Her: Yes, we’re still up

Him: Without the aid of any mind-altering substances

Her: Well, I had a cuppa tea

Me: And I had some chewing gum

Her to Him: Just think if you weren’t coming back again tomorrow, we could’ve gone to Coppers

Her, Him & Me: *laughs uproariously*

The following morning:

Text from Beyoncé convert: Were we not all lucky not to be poured on?????

You can take the music fan out of the middle-aged crowd……..

******

This audience review was brought to you in association with the wonderful John Grant from the perfectly intimate surroundings of Iveagh Gardens, Dublin.

Saturday 9th July 2016.

john grant

John Grant takes a moment to welcome Leo Varadkar

You couldn’t make it up

I don’t wear make-up, except on the rare occasion such as a wedding including – to the relief of one friend – my own. Professionals are enlisted to trowel me up as I self-sedate with small-talk in preparation for the unveiling of results in the mirror. The reactions are usually consistent: a sharp attack of reflux followed by the assurance of a job expertly done before narrowly avoiding several car collisions as I sneak glances at the stranger in the rear-view on the way home. Once there, I am free to gratefully acknowledge the recoiling of my two housemates as confirmation of my aging drag queen status with an eye-roll.

The reasons for going it plain have less to do with wilful rebelliousness than laziness, and a proven lack of skill in the area of application. Early experimentation produced a look consistent with domestic violence injuries; this lack of knack gradually overtaken by a penchant for wide earrings and high hair. Henna became my armour, and I still feel naked without my lobes covered up. Chunky shoes remain the only reliable foundation for keeping my thoughts upright; to the extent my boots were wrestled off me on my wedding day.

Mostly, it just never occurred to me to wear make-up, in the same way it didn’t occur to me to try on a sustainable career, or open a savings account. Or take up drinking wine. Maybe it was because I was the only girl in a household unaccustomed to the power of powder. Maybe it might’ve been different had I moved in more glamorous circles. Maybe it’s just the way it was. Nothing of note propelling me along, reasonably comfortable in the skin I’m in that has seen considerably more gravity-defying days.

Which is why I study my army of sisters-in-law now as intently as my own complexion looking back at me accusingly, engraved by life. The impressively smooth contours of their liquid eye-liner competes with a lack of self-consciousness for my envy. Their ease of application and chatter of cost comparisons leaving me somewhat at sea half-filled with envy and fully with fear. Unable to navigate across the moat surrounding my comfort zone to the camaraderie and empowerment that make-up yields. A chink in the armour of many women I’m uncertain is worth auditioning for a place in my own at this stage. An uncertainty now attacking the assumed durability of my life-long shields and signatures.

Maybe I’ll get a handle on eye-liner. Maybe I won’t get round to trying. Maybe I’m just re-adjusting to the next phase of aging and taking stock of my lack of any. Just as the ambassadors of make-up are beautifully poised on the pages of supplements, cheerfully reconciled to the penetrative value of their product. A conviction that has them vociferously challenging the dismissal of women’s love of make-up as trivial nonsense at variance with ‘serious’ matters. This is patently not the case, idiots.

The recent proliferation of articles by Laura Kennedy and others is an admirable and necessary defence of women’s armour. Few could take umbrage with the defence of make-up in the context of it being seized upon as evidence of its use being at odds with intellectual activities and other worthy endeavours. Which I assume include parallel parking and speedy recognition of TV theme tunes. I haven’t heard non-users of make-up make any counter-claims.

Which is why Tanya Sweeney should have known better than to misrepresent Jenny Beavan and Emma Donoghue’s casual approach to award-ceremony glamour as self-regarding acts of rebellion against scrubbing up. Neither woman claimed conventional dressing up was beneath them. Surely, like every other woman, they should be free to lean on whatever armour gets them through without unnecessary correlation to where they might fit in the intellectual firmament, or an appearance in the dissection of the justification of sartorial choices of other women attending. Neither group require approval from the other. Everything else is lazy stereotyping we’re all apparently against.