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…

 

The God of small things

There’s a moment in the brief exchange between John Cusack and the front-row woman when he backtracks on something she says preventing the interviewer from moving on. Responding to her question on who he would like to see play him in a film, the interviewer deflects from a fairly non-commital answer to ask if she herself is an actor. An eruption of her own laughter ensues. “Ah no, sure I’m just a mummy”. Nervous audience titter. Moving on…

“But you’re not though, are you?”, Cusack cuts in. “You’re not just a Mom”.

john cusack

(Not actual size)

She obligingly offers a quick run-through of the cliched litany of more superficial roles being a mother embodies.  Truth bending wizardry, poker-face maintenance, ‘parenting’ guru seeking missile manufacturing, baby-led led gagging reflex suffering, and so on. Nothing new in the rain-checking nor the predictable head-pat towards our ordinary heroes routine.

“Right. I think people spend too much time talking about what they’re not rather than what they are”, Cusack matter-of-factly tails off with a statement so banal on one hand, yet assembled in a way that’s not usually put. A sneaky shoulder-shrug prising open our pat take on things to see how they fall down. One that feels consistent with his knack for convincing off-kilter but on-the-nose pop philosophy of any of the outliers he has played.

And there it is. The moment I manage to steady the giddiness accelerating over days leading up to this evening from sliding into woozy dissonance from seeing him feet in front. Batting chat back and forth with an ordinariness shot through with an easy going passion for what matters. And what matters for many are the low-watt lights along our life’s arc that re-affirm the status of seemingly small things without blinding us with the certainty of big dreams.

In a world of heady obsession with status in the work place, our place along the firmament of social media, embarking on the Next Big Goal, the ephemeral nature of ‘success’, ordinariness is losing its necessary allure. In fact, I’m so ordinary,  all that’s missing in this navel led paragraph is a momentary pause to break through the fourth wall.

Oh there you are.

This John Cusack fella *points towards stage*, he thinks he is just an actor-activist guy. Nothing special. Sure, his is a life less ordinary; he knows it, we know it. He knows that we know that he knows it. But it hasn’t eroded his capacity to inhabit the regular guy with all the attendant dissections of his interior world and occasional flirtations with stretches to the perimeters of it. Relying as they do on the instruments of self-indulgence, wonky optimism, flawed curiosity, and mentoring from music.

*Turns back to the stage*

john cusack professional

Sinn Fein photobombs the professional photo (courtesty of twitter)

john cusack festival

My amatuer photo bombs spectacularly

He is not just the man I might’ve climbed over Dylan Moran to get to. Nor just an actor with enduring appeal. I recognise his characters now as those flickering gangway lights running along my own fanciful flights to cop-on and back over the years. Where lack of certainty is still direction, and being a fugitive from maturity is all part of the cycle. And it matters more what Bruce thinks than your line-manager.  Uplifted, I’m happy to break off from the queue lining up to meet him. To contentedly smile out the door and sing my way back to my frequently out-of-tune but thoroughly satisfying unsatisfactory life.

*credits roll*

(Press play)

Postcards from the edge

One of the greatest marketing scams of the last few years is the ingenious Wild Atlantic Way. Take a coastline that’s always been there, chuck in the lyrical pipes of John Creedon, a clamped out campervan, umpteen dozen tourist signs, and wahey! the West’s your tourist cashcow.  It’s up there with non-alcoholic beer in the top bricking-it-in-the-boardroom moments. One that (presumably) culminated in the most extravagant piss-up of German men riding bare-backed on each other round the office. Forced to do three-point turns along congested photocopiers, they triumphantly, if ungallantly, rode with ties atop their foreheads.

Which brings me to my latest get-out-of-real-life fantasy pitches: The Wilder Northern Way. You with me? Thought not *removes tie from forehead* Still, credit to those remote marketeers busy imploring their dot comrades to avail of the “stunning scenery” amid chitchat on the North since McGuinness’s death. Presumably, it remains hidden from the view of logic among the rest of the islanders.  I can hear them in the focus groups.  “Hmmm, I’m not sure. Would it be as good as the Atlantic on the Western side? Would you need a plane to get there?” Best keep your shirts on, fellas. But do help yourself to the non-alcoholic beers behind the ring-binders in the stationery cabinet. Just ignore the sell-by date.

For all the attempts at enticing reluctant tourists upwards, you’ll never hear anyone urging people to live here. The locals are too busy cursing chance, and the passers-through only get to admire the doilies in the good sitting-room. In fact, some of the locals seem to visit reality only rarely these days, too. I’d been waiting on an unsuspecting middle-classer to send us a postcard from around the corner, and Newton Emerson kindly wrote his while wearing uranium-tinted glasses this morning in – where else – The Irish Times.

Newton would tell you it was far from well-stocked stationery cabinets of broadsheets his journalism was raised. This is true. It was from the clandestine confines of his imagination his refreshing satire took its first breaths. An experimental test-tube embryo using wry eggs and the sperm from moderate Unionism willing to laugh at itself. Over the years it grew to sharp-wit its elbows  on to the pages of respectable commentary.

Emerson is also right to lament the elusive ability of commentators to adequately convey the “incongruous banality” of war zones. The monotony of daily life that trundles on against the backdrop of rioting and ruination of lives,  of livelihoods, families, and  futures. ‘Normal’ life did indeed persist amid explosive satellite images beamed abroad. Affluent neighbourhoods, in particular, came through the Troubles relatively unscathed. They were, coincidentally, a mere stone’s throw from combustible working class streets on fire every which way.

It is fair game to revisit, as he does, the incubation of resistance among working class men to the discrimination and state violence unleashed upon their neighbourhoods. To disaggregate those who emerged towards the path of violence from those who did not. Malachi O’Doherty and others have been similarly stroking their chins with wagging fingers of late.  But it is as if an entire group of people can be divided into two distinct tribes (!), homogeneous in motivation, provocation, expectation, drive, privilege, opportunity, personality, susceptibility, suggestibility, loss of agency, and all the other variables that collide on the venn diagram of civil disturbance. All that transcends binary convenience.

It is not for me to speculate on why Malachi O’Doherty or Newton Emerson succeeded in raising a pen overhead in a lecture hall while McGuinness raised a gun over his own. There are too many variables I know nothing about. Varnishing another’s violence with the gloss of respectability of their own peaceful experience provides no richer understanding. It could also be asked why many of their other peers who didn’t sign up sidestep similar mystification, even if all share condemnation.  None of these feelings are mutually exclusive. That violence was a career option for a 19 year-old was indicative of a society far from ‘normal’.

The corresponding sanctifying of McGuinness wearing thin for many serves our understanding just as little. Greater thinkers than most of us have convincingly rationalised the legitimate use of grassroots violence. But as well as being a non-apologist for same, many of us will always wonder how the efforts of the Civil Rights movement would’ve panned out had grassroots violence failed to detonate. While the surviving mothers of now middle-aged sons sent away to wherever a greater life expectancy awaited still heave a sigh of relief as intense as their first.

Meanwhile, the dreary monotony of life ticks along largely unaltered; at variance with the prevailing images of harmony in the mindset of satellite viewers near and far. Normal life continues. But normal being a normative concept, Newton has gone fully native, if not disingenuous, in his interpretation of it.

Public spaces, particularly those dedicated to the performing arts, picket-fenced estates, and higher end retails units, remain the domain of the middle-classes. Their social niceties overtaking tribal insecurities to make for the most robust of cross-community relations. In the absence of overt hostilities, communities, in the main, co-exist along state-drawn lines of poverty, education, housing and leisure. The war is still finding people, still orchestrated by aging generals kitted out in three-piece suits with ties around their heads on Friday evenings down the pub. In another time and place, some of them would have responded with physical violence.

Integrated education remains a fledging enterprise politely coercing young people into an undefined shared entity.  Learning zones where subtle games of tug-o’-wars are played with the history curricula and Remembrance Assemblies.  Retail service provision continues parallel to the traditional ‘two communities’ with each served by their own chippers, post offices, supermarkets, pubs, even estate agents.  It is not ‘normal’ life. The stultifying inescapable fug of coexistence pervades the everyday, eluding the most articulate of voices and pens. All the mainstream weapons wielded around struggling to get the banality of a transitional war-zone in their line of fire.  And failing, mostly. Great coastline though.

doilies

A hotel-eyed view of the North 

Arseselves alone

It’s really not for everyone is Twitter. I’ve gone from the infrequent casual snoop, to incessantly lashing up tweets in a matter of mind-numbing months.

It’s all there: the critically retweeted news links, as if the three and a half people who might catch a glimpse of them require enlightenment from a quarter-dressed woman with a fondness for cream crackers and nutella. The blog post hawking, just incase the same folk missed it the first eleven times round. The self-satisfied ‘Exactly’s to announce a Very Important Point confirming my superior judgement on all matters irrelevant. The amateur djing with links to soundtracks blared through dodgy speakers. The fear when scanning the trending list for word of the next celebrity death. The rude interruptions. The truncated tweets typed too slowly but too quickly to avoid spelling mistakes, hurriedly dispatched to catch up with the others that make no sense. The worry that someone else is going to get in there first with my killer contribution to #MakeSongsTrump. The agony from the concentration required for #MakeFilmsFood. The propensity for class wars that turns me in Che Guevara’s Granny in a Penny’s nightdress. The inevitable descent into dribble with too much to declare when we reach talk of the Border.  The promises to quit the hit from blasting the button for the sake of it.

*refreshes page*

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Through the chair, if I may

It would be prudent of us to remember that

Should one find a ladder running up the cheap

Nylon covering the legs of one’s exchanges

It is imperative one avoid the risk of exposing

The ghastly stubble on what lies beneath and

Cover the stretch marks on the skin marking

One’s existence thus ensuring one is always

At one’s most professional

Rise

She laughingly flexes her arm muscles as a sign of the shape of progress to come. It’s less than a week since she stretched her worrying thoughts alongside those of two of her compatriots on the shapelessness of their security and status. One child born in Northern Ireland, another in Poland. What will become of them? What if my parents are ill? Will I be able to visit them and return here to my own family? We are afraid. Everyone is afraid. We feel we will never be good enough. But what can we do?

Well, she can triumphantly flex her arm muscles in celebration of summoning fifty other women with the same question marks bearing down on them. To a two-bedroom terraced house on the fringes of affluence they gathered after bearing down hard on the like button to an invitation from one on behalf of three. They shine like the lighter versions of themselves they’ve been missing and smile at me. I trot home to miss my friends in ways that nothing will ease but a dose of sleep and sleeplessness.

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