Supposing…

When my words step backwards down into the page, they capsize and stubbornly attach themselves to the expanse in ways that duck my reach before drifting ashore in my hair from where I’ll embarrassingly pick them out days later, frayed and indecipherable to the untrained squinter. “Is that something in your hair?” “Ah yes”, I squint, dislodging it from its hiding place behind my ear, “it appears to be a question mark”.

That there will come a time when she won’t let me square why? with the why not? Of Rememberance Assembly attendance.  Of wearing that hooped jersey on sports day. Of being the Other of three categorically divided by Two.

I was to go one tip-toe further with a pre-emptive why not? at the why. Of the hidden fadas. Of invisible hurleys. Of being the Other of three unquestioningly divided by One.

We were keep-the-head-downers, mixed-marrieds centrists, holders of wringed hands clasped in prayer, would-be gleaming side-stepfording governors.

We’d all be Other than who We are then.

 

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Sprung

One of my favourite things about Castrophe was the pre/postcoital chat between Rob and Sharon. And my frequent inability to correctly spell Catastrophe. It all came out on the pillow. His tenderness, her insecurities. Their zig-zag spooning curled up around chat. The flipping over of fears from vertical to horizontal evening out the bunched up either downs or ups.

Why couple counselling isn’t conducted by travelling bed-side therapists is a glaring oversight. Why couples don’t just lie down while talking to one another is probably the reason for the proliferation of so many office-based ones.  And the small matter of it being impractical. And the likelihood of the bed-side box of tissues causing momentary awkwardness.

Which is just as well because, in my live u-turn you’re currently reading, I don’t think it’s one of my better proposals. I wouldn’t be able to discuss other critical issues inspired by sitting upright watching TV. People complain about TV being a conversation killer. How else would I have been able to ask my fella if he’d stick with me if I was quadraplegic after a horrific accident. Documentaries (and Eastenders) are handy for bluntly raising these delicate questions. I think that one might’ve been inspired by a man who was paraplegic, so I took it from there and added a few extras (“Even if you didn’t qualify for carer’s allowance?”).

So, bedtalk is best left to releasing whimsical internal dialogue. Only last night, as we lay there basking in the post-Chinese-take-away glow, I casually disclosed I’d convinced myself  I’m going to be given the heave-ho from work next week. For some vague reason (acute paranoia), based on nothing much (nothing much), I’ve reasoned it’s The End. Insert dramatic violin music here. With funding drying up, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to jettison the weak link in their otherwise perfectly well-dressed, if inherently dysfunctional, organisation. And no amount of soothing yawns from my fella convinced me otherwise. Nor could he offer any valid reason why I am trapped by my own perpetual expectation of other folk to expect me to take responsibility for their tattered, threadbare efforts.

Too bad paranoia and socially functioning madness are only acceptable in TV form. And even at that, not by everyone. “Meh”, was the general consensus among The Other Mothers to my stage one grief (comfort eating, bad hair) over the show’s finale. As if they haven’t already given me enough reasons to hate them (e.g. an unwillingness to swear when the children aren’t around, always remembering they have children). So I’m in for a few ropey days of holding it together until Tuesday when I’ve been summoned to meet the boss. Just as well we’ve a few distractions over the weekend.

This evening we have a christening. An event normally requiring rescue remedy and the super-gluing of the left corner of my lip to my teeth to prevent it from curling. It’ll be fine.

Priest: “Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?”

Loudly from the back pew..

“Possessor of grand ego, Godfather of ineptitude, Commander-in-Chief of his one man army.”

Stunned silence from those gathered.

“Oh, sorry. I thought you were talking about my boss”

Mother-in-law narrows eyes in knowing you-had-to-say-something-inappropriate-to-ruin-it way.

Tomorrow, I’m on fake cheerleading duties at a charity run. Not content with doing an impersonation of Forrest Gump round town, my fella’s life is so empty he chooses to run in other places for free, enlisting the child to do likewise. I’ve been practising my proud face all week, which is not unlike my reaction to spotting unsolicited beetroot on my plate.

Race MC: “And lining up in the distance are members of Carlow Athletic Club. Always good to see them. Although, I’ve always doubted the existence of Carlow. Does it really exist? Has anyone ever actually been there? OK, we’ve three minutes to go before the race gets under…” 

MC elbowed aside by dishevelled woman who looks like someone just served her beetroot. She grabs the mic.

“I’d like to give a supa shout-out to Sha Nade O’Connah, rawking it live NON stop. You are tha best Sha Nade, word up.  Sorry, I’ve always wanted to that. But, really, I want you all to give it up for my man, Forest, and our wee one, eh, Forrestine. Without you, I’d be at home watching re-runs of Come Dine With Me. And if it all goes to shit on Tuesday, well so what? You’ll both still love me, right? Even if I don’t qualify for Umployment Assistance?”

Like I say, it’ll be fine.

fran

“Purveyor of stupid fucking jokes in the staffroom…”

So long as I don’t pull a Fran.

Take it away there, MC Lyte like a good man…

 

“Some of your domains are expiring soon”

Even WordPress managed to get in on my birthday celebrations this week. Kudos to their payment department for reminding me my reign over critical spheres of influence is under threat.

Only this week, mealy-mouthed management shuffled into our office to trigger the act of bad articles in league with Brexit. The bogeyman made real. The pair of us will be lucky to be issued a three-month contract come the end of March. A monthly one thereafter if the mud sufficiently clears on the windscreen of uncertainty. If we get the wipers fixed. If anyone knows where to do that. If anyone knows if they still make them.

Difficult to know how to respond when you’re broke and casually demanded one of them to fire you the other week following a failed attempt at whistle-blowing. It was more of a protest yawn. Self-defeat by osmosis. It’s a thing. Probably. Difficult for them to know what to follow up the news with when their emotional peak consists of a burp after lunch. So they did that compassionate thing management do in a time in crisis and casually uncrossed their legs. And that was that.

Later that evening, I was forced to do the responsible thing and interrupt our wee one screaming protestations at her Da over a minor miscarriage of justice. Actually, sorry love, but that is in fact my role. After renewing our consistent parenting pact, he was forced to agree. Being usurped by a five-year old. The indiginity of it. What next – a robot with unpredictable mood swings and an irrational hatred of Stephen Fry?

Praise be for the kind buys of Merch. Birthday presents for the coping woman round town previously reliant on air-drumming at traffic lights.

handcream

*sniffs* Yep. That could work on creamcrackers 

johncusack

 Stalking Open at 06:30

sunglasses.jpg

Stalking glasses (see above)

Dress: Model’s own

coffee.jpg

Essential sturdy coffee coaster

 

 

Capitulation

And so, we give ourselves that feel-good moment, and leave a few quid for the chambermaids tasked with speculating whether we were obliging guests or just dirty fuckers allergic to towels. From the strange, we continue further South. So impaled am I on the thrill of the unfamiliar, my fella barely conceals his surprise that I’m Huggy Bear about an extra hour’s drive. One due to dismissal of my directions. Another hour on top of that wouldn’t bother me too much. Some of us like driving to stand still. But he doesn’t need to know that.

To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure of the way either. We are both wearing that unbearable swagger that only fits when we’re so intent on proving our familiarity with places past, we over-estimate it. His is rumbled while mine is saved by an assertion the new one-way system is the culprit responsible for back-tracks into town. Then relief as the hotel façade juts in to view. There is no new one-way system.

I inform our wee one this is the place where her Dad and I got it together proper. Where the symphony of getting-to-like-yous was composed. He points out all the stations of the courtship: the road we wobbled home drunk, the pub where held hand, and not forgetting the petrol pumps – the last pit-stop before his exit onto the motorway home. He laughs to himself at the memories of sadness he used to feel on departing.

Eight years on, it’s different but deeper. So the glossy mags and mid-day female panelists would have us believe. But I wouldn’t say no to another evening of exaggerating about being the outdoor-type, and wheeling out some of my best yarns for the first time for a few of his guffaws. In the same way I don’t love our one any less just because I wouldn’t turn down a few nights with her as a new-born. We were lucky – she was a good sleeper as a nipper; and this town was a discreet, but lively, chaperone. I wonder aloud if *list of drab towns* would have set us up as successfully, ignoring his middle-distance gaze. No need to nail it to the ground then.

I stand as a fellow tourist with the pair of them in the same spot where I stood as a new resident back then. We’re waiting on a makeshift train to bring us around the sights at a mortifying 20 miles an hour. Back then I was waiting on a coachload of families eager to see what kind of place was designated for them to set up home. With no idea of how success was to be measured.

The tour-guide points out ancient ruins to our right, while I fixate on the shop to our left where young faces hoked through emblems and crests to see which fitted. On our left, another church flings its spire in the air three doors down from the health-centre where most of them registered that day. Around the corner one of the oldest graveyards in the country apologies for itself, and I shiver at the flashback of fruitless flat-hunting on the road adjacent.

Sentimentalism is egging me on to begin another round of remember-whens. But I’ve no patience with it today. Or its inflated sense of entitlement, and obsession with converting transient feelings into something mawkish and manipulative. My inner steely tour-guide marches on, willing my resolve to keep hugging the present.

Coats hanging on the back of chairs as we clink glass. To the future. And all that. Whatever that is. The menu’s changed. Who cares.

“Are you ready to order?”

I look up directly into the brown eyes of one of those erstwhile fresh faces. Long grown out of the school blazer with at least another foot below her knees and I.. and I… and I…

Old dog, old tricks, old post

Lately, I’ve been thinking about some things I used to do before Becoming a Parent™. I was first instructed to apply myself to this task by members of The Chorus of Doom during my pregnancy. Grave warnings were issued about how life would never be the same, and sacrifices would inevitably be made. True. I can’t say I enjoy the same relentless self-obsessing without interruption these days, but nor do I miss having to explain what I’m doing with my life. Others assume an explanation since our one arrived. The relief. I have parenting to fall back on while I figure it out; usually in a state of high anxiety over whether I should be world dictator on a full or part-time basis. Lean in *glances furtively around* can I excuse myself from this one? I’d rather chew my own elbows off than endure another meeting where everyone talks in their weird telephone voice, and gesticulates in ways that interferes with their own peripheral vision.

Nowadays, the aforementioned parentatti can be heard cheerfully reminding rookies what’s “all ahead” of them in that self-satisfied tone that suggests it never occurred to the naïve couple that their midget drunk will grow up and demand more things to meet their ever expanding basic needs. Seriously? Did you hear that, Dad? (yes, I’ve been known to call my fella that – it’s all ahead of you). Well, if I’d known. One day they might even use the expression ‘Jesus Christ!’ in a situation appropriate way. Like when they can’t get their own pants down while clamouring on to the potty. And this is something to worry about apparently. Pass me the manual. It says here it won’t last forever. Did you hear that, Dad? How do you fancy pulling an all-nighter first Friday in 2028?

‘Before’ is a broad term however. And for me, it increasingly has less to do with getting up off a chair unaided, or watching just one more episode of a box-set at three in the morning (hey, I’ve lived) than jumping off piers. That’s right. I’ve regressed for the umpteenth time in my parenthood. It was a relief to know I can still revert to ten-year old behaviour round the family Christmas Dinner table, and remain suspicious of adults talking to me like I’m one of them. But this is unprecedented. I haven’t leaped off a pier since my teens.

pier

Quick! the parentatti are coming

Not only do I want to sprint down one and fling myself knees-up overboard, I want to travel there by bike and abandon that bike on a mountain of others. I want to lay flat a digital watch on the ledge before leaping. And forget to bring a towel. Then I want us all to commandeer the road back home in a bird flight formation.

Really, I just want to live retro in a day directed by Steven Spielberg. Where walkie talkies are the height of sophisticated telecommunications, the encyclopaedia is our Google of the day, and there’s a soundtrack for when things get really exciting or tense. I’d like some ominous sounding synths as I approach my Boss’s office. And I wouldn’t half mind getting drunk by proxy through a two-foot creature waddling around our kitchen helping itself to beers from the fridge. I’ve heard that’s all ahead of us anyway. Jane said it happened with all hers but not to worry, it was just a phase.

You’re

The middle distance gaze long before they reach Any Other Business

Busiest with friends we don’t see nor doubt are as real as you feel

Felt around for like a ring with a finger that makes for your microphone

Phone-calls made from bathrooms, forecourts and railway stations

Stationed at the crossroads of impulse and prudent purchases

Chased up stairs-ways and over car seats and back again

Gaining new songs that are sung with lyrics misheard

Heard issuing orders to fluffy companions happy to oblige

Happiest covered in cushions with feet peeping beneath

Not four but farther off than the three we’ll never again see

Kerb our enthusiasm

A year ago, pleas for an ice-cream cone would’ve detonated animated warnings giving Hong Kong Phooey a run for his money. Neither of us willing to concede the last word to the other in our game of good cop, deranged cop. “Oh Gawd, ice-cream. It’ll give you a sore nose and head”. “Yeah, ice-cream makes you really sick and you’ll have to go to hospital.”  I paused to deliver a withering sideways glance in response to this tempered statement before gently adding “well, that could happen if you eat too much of it. Like a swimming pool’s worth”. Less condescending usurper of unfiltered reasoning than Pink Panther laid-backness, I felt.

Hong Kong Phooey

Hong Kong Phooey expertly eliminates the deadly 99

This year we prepared to chaperone their first stepping out from the newsagents together, fearful it wouldn’t prevent one of them kamikazeing to the ground. She looked through one of us, then the other, and silently mastered it within seconds. Another marker of her skip towards girlhood that announced itself in the unlikeliest of ways.

The rest of the afternoon yawned out in front us, egging us on to take it as it came now that naps are all but erased from the schedule. Her buggy was jettisoned in favour of swaggering ahead with one hand determinedly in a side-pocket before she turned back to reclaim it for her pair of dinosaurs, but we’re too big to fit in, so she belted in her two toy dinosaurs instead. Complaints that her dress didn’t match her runners were ignored, and though she hasn’t a notion what matching means, I exhaled in grim acceptance that her comprehension of it will roll round soon and we’ll all be fucked then.

Those blinding white teeth definitely didn’t match the smile. And the eyes were way out. One dinosaur politely threatened to eat the other while we awaited our coffees, silently studying an amatuer painting above my head. “Nelson Mandela starring George Clooney”, he finally deadpaned, turning away to hide his smile at cracking me up, knowing I wouldn’t better it. It’s the slight movements that announce his air-punches the loudest. With a pricetag of €200, the artist had got to be joking. Perhaps that was the point. In which case, give me the pallette and brushes, and I’ll give you Chris deBurgh, starring Enya. Or, more likely, a Lada. An early prototype, anyway.

American tourists lined the tables opposite. Retired mostly, wearing appropriate attire for the scorcher of a day that was in it. One woman studied a landscape painting over her shoulder by peering over glasses perched on the bridge of her nose. Not unlike my Geography teacher whenever I attempted to explain why I hadn’t my homework done. One of those intimidating moves she used to pull along with marching a girl off to head office with a note delivering some urgent news (“Fancy a pint after? This lot are doing my head in”).

I imagined our neighbours were on the big retirement holiday, having taken an ice-pick to that golden egg they’d been squirreling over a life-time of toil. Like any thoughts on the lives of others, they turned back towards mine. I momentarily tried to work out how many more years I’ll need to punch the clock before I bow out to mount the proverbial VW camper. But I tripped over words like pension and plans and grazed both knees of my dreams. “You have a pensionable job!”, I finally blurted. What I meant to say next was that I’ll catch up with him if he wants to bugger off to France, but it came out like “ah I’ll probably die first anyway.” He just smiled like he’d been bemusedly reading my thought-bubbles, and brought my anxiety to a close with the trusty reliable statement of denial: “We’ll be graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand.”

C’mon, man. What’s keeping you?, I wondered as the pair of us hovered on the kerb out front at the foot of the steps leading up to the cafe. Diddly-di music wafted through the streets, pumped across the square from one of the few surviving relics from pre-recession times – the independent music shop. They’ve had to survive somehow. I resisted the urge to peer in the window over the invisible specs on the bridge of my nose for fear of being confronted with Daniel’s big face, or worse still – Enya (cowers), or maybe that was actually Chris. Arrgghh.

I looked down to see her tapping her foot in tune to the music before quickly scanning the nearby loiterers to clock who she was copying. No-one. She was, of course, doing her own thing. There was nothing else for it but to take her lead and join in.