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…

 

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Busted

He’ll be home soon. Better get on with fixing dinner. Hang on, who the hell ‘fixes’ dinner apart from characters in American novels and her after he’s had a hearty go at preparing it. Best tidy up first, but not overdo it.

Terry says it’s OK not to dump her shit on him. She tried it already by text this morning. HI. CAN’T FACE WOR… Delete. HIYA. Delete. HEY GONNA GIVE WORK A… Delete. CAN’T FUC…. Delete. HAVE A DECENT DAY. SEE YOU LATER x.

Relax. She doesn’t really text in capital letters. She might be off her head but she’s not THAT deranged.

Christmas tree lights on. Off. On. Having no lights on is too much of a give away. Like the deserted breakfast bowls with rapidly encrusted cereal boasting the stubborn adhesiveness of a fossil. Radio on. Dishes in sink.

HIYA

[Door slams shut]

Hi. I’m in the kitchen.

Hiya

Hey

How’s it going? Busy day?

Aye. Usual. You?

Did you it make back from work OK?

Grand, yeah.

Really?

She suspects he suspects. Maybe it’s because she forgot to put her shoes on. She will maintain a breezy tone.

Why?

The road’s been closed since 10 this morning. Pipe-bomb.

Oh.

He offers to fix dinner.

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…

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.

Look what I stole for us, darling

A five minute commute (for you)

A non-backed out of school-night gig  (for us)

One day of her as a new-born (don’t look at me like that)

A really high fence for the back garden (for them next door)

An impulse hover over the match ticket purchase button. Go on! press the damn thing.

Life insurance. Oh no, wait, we both bought that last week. Sorry.

Former colleagues. Hey, back off, those are mine.

500 tea-spoons. Only messin’. Eh calm down, I’m sure I can get some next time. Jeez-us.

What do you think it looks like? That dime bar dessert from ten years ago you’re always on about.

*holds up hanger to chin*  For respectability in the workplace. What do you think? It’s probably too small.

A stash of ready-made semi-colons to insert wherever you like. Control yourself, man.

*reads back of packaging* Oh yeah, I forgot about this – a matching shame-gland to go with the work gear.

Two-for-one confidence supplements. We’re not supposed to use heavy machinery or drive for at least four hours after taking these.

Eternal spotlessness of the box-set mind. It looks more like a tanning machine to me. Still, if it means experiencing The Sopranos from scratch, who the fuck cares, eh?

Brief encounter

Hi *****

Of course I remember you.  You’re the one who replied to a few Tom Waits lines some years back but never got to meet in the end.

I hope your life is unravelling nicely and you met some incredible woman (or women, or men, or pets) since. I fled **** and conformed.  I have a Tesco Club Card now, and a child, and the child’s father for company. I occasionally think about colour schemes for the living room, and harbour other dangerous thoughts. But I did manage to see Tom Waits in concert since, and live a life loosely based on the principles of unavoidable heebie jeebies according to The National and John Grant. And weren’t those opening notes from Paul Buchanan’s re-launch on Later… worth the wait?

I’m in two minds about ****** now. Thanks for the warning.

All the best

****

We singularly failed to meet up about a decade back. I believe we were both hopeless and disorganised, although not a whole lot has changed for me on that score!

I seem to have executed another un-innocent, (not so) elegant fall into the unmagnificent life of adults over the last ten years. I now have a daughter, a son and their mum for company, plus a Tesco Club Card (on my keyring, no less) and a Nectar points card. My partner and I don’t see eye to eye on Club Card vs Nectar: I like the money-off points, she likes the vouchers. What can you do?

Where did you see Tom Waits? Was he good? I caught him at ******, which was pretty amazing. Spent most of the last ten years writing and writing. I did an awful lot of music writing, interviews and the like. Still doing a few bits and bobs though not features. Managed to meet the National – the guitarist lent me his hoodie as I shivered outside a rustic French venue in the small hours, then we sat by the lake for a few hours doing an interview thingy the next day, which was all good drunken fun and, er, very much the stuff of nostalgic pangs now that life is a circus act of nappy juggling, precarious school dashes and vertiginous views of the slip into middle age.

 

Congratulations on becoming a mother! And glad to hear you’re thinking colour schemes. I may frame some pictures in the office this week if the urge to do something dangerous strikes. I didn’t see Paul B on Later… but I’ll rummage around on YouTube for it later….

 

Yeah, so  ******** – not that good, I gave it three stars but I think that was a bit over-generous. I seemed to remember you being a cinephile! Do you find that parenthood eats into crucial film time? I’m still reviewing so I have an excuse but the allotted movie-time never feels like enough…

 

Anyway, nice to hear back from you!

 

*****

Ah. A Nectar card. That’s a relief. I feared you might’ve gone the way of the damned into the wide aisles of Waitrose, or become a Mumford and Son fan. Such are the vagaries of middle-age and parenthood.

So, true love found us both in the end then, as Daniel Johnston sort of predicted, although I was more reassured by Beck’s assertion. Thanks for your kind wishes. I’ll see them and raise them – your family life sounds perfectly frenetic. Warm congratulations.

Yes, I’m condemned to Netflix and rentals these days. The cinema occupies a rare form of respite from Waybaloo and intense discussions on the contents of any given nappy despite getting off to a good start a week into motherhood. I sashayed up to the ticket office (Steve McQueen’s Shame – 4 stars?) while ****** watered ***** in the foyer, and paced the corridor for several miles although he failed to mention that bit. That probably tells you more about him than me, and why I knock about with him. I would’ve alluded to his winning ways in my wedding speech but didn’t get to make one. We eloped two years today coincidentally. Who needs dysfunctional family or a first dance song? (I’m thinking Talking Heads’ This Must Be The Place’). I’m sure I’ll get to praise him publicly some other time. If he’s up in court or something.

Great you’re continuing to make a living from your passions. I must remember to seek approval from your reviews before taking any chances, although there’s no preventative measures for impulse as evidenced by the twee induced hangover I’m suffering from About Time. Nick Cave must be twirling in his stately pile.

I moved back to Ireland the year Tom Waits played Dublin in the appropriately named Rats Cellar within glitter kicking distance of the President’s residence in Phoenix Park. He summoned up our fixed gazes along with the dust on the first stomp of his foot and that was my general state till he took his leave. Magic. From there to the North (the things we do for love) where I’ve been since.

It’s been good to hear life is grand. We should check in with each other again in another twenty years to compare pension plans.

Best wishes to you and your (no doubt) lovely clan.

******

If I was your girlfriend

Would you remember to tell me all the things you forget now I’m your wife?

If I was your best friend, would you let me take care of you and do only the things that only a best friend can?

If I was your girlfriend, would you let me dress you? I mean help you pick off the bits of fluff before we go out? Sometimes those are the things that being in love’s about.

If I was your one and only friend, would you run with me if somebody asked you even if that someone was me? Sometimes I hallucinate on notions of doing a 5k

If I was your girlfriend…

Would you let me pull out your ear hairs?  Could I make you not do the dishes all the time? Well then, could we let them drip dry? I mean, could we just hit play and lie on the sofa together? Cause to me, baby, that would be so fine

Baby, can I dress you? I mean help move you along so we can actually get out? Listen, man, I ain’t sayin it’s deafness but sometimes those are the things that being in love’s about

Is it really necessary for me to leave the heat off just because you wanna get pneumonia? We don’t have to leave the country to have a holiday. We don’t have to have a holiday to get stressed.  Our savings is what I’m about…

Would I stop singing in this weird voice and callin you baby? Of course. For you, I would be quiet. Well, I’d try..

If I was your girlfriend…oops. Sorry, baby.