Sunday, 22 October 2017

Two Years

If anyone asks me what did my father die of, I'd be tempted to say that 'he died of a Monday', borrowing one of staple family corny jokes.  But that he did - die of a Monday - two years ago this week.

It was his anniversary proper on Thursday.  Other than an early morning phone call from a cousin asking how I was, closely followed by a message from one of oldest friends, which caused a brief wave of emotion, the day was uneventful.  That morning, at tea-break, I sat in the same cafe, at the same table, (but with a variation of work colleagues present), at the time as that memorable day two years ago, when I received two phone calls, one after the other from my brother.  The first one saying that my father had a heart attack and the second, saying 'he's gone Lucy'.  I thought about mentioning the anniversary at tea-break, but the banter was in full flow and I let the moment pass.

So much has changed within the the steady backbone of Milltown in the last two years.  In the summer of 2015, our neighbour's son Robert, only 19 years of age, died in a tragic farm accident.  Nothing that has happened there before or since is comparable to their loss.  At the time, my mother remarked to me that my father had driven over to the wake, instead of walking, which would have made much more sense.  The signs were there that my father wasn't well.

The elderly couple up on the hill, who were there for forever and a day, died within a relatively short period of each other.   And our dear neighbour Dinny, living just down the road, passed away in the last few weeks. Coincidentally, his grave is directly beside my our family grave.  If you put your head to the ground there, you might hear my father giving a colourful running commentary on the politics of the day, with Dinny, head bowed, smiling.  Quietly agreeing. Nodding. 'That's right John, that's right'.   No doubt there would be a dig at Dinny for his liking of my mother's baking and 'The Case of the Freshly Baked Flan' that disappeared from our back kitchen, where it was cooling.  My brother's eyes popped out on sticks later, when Dinny offered him a slice of flan in his house, my brother recognising the pattern on the plate.

Visiting and enquiring about the couple on the hill and Dinny had become part of my mother's new routine since my father's death and now that will change too.  She announced recently, with a touch of melancholy, that she now was the oldest person living on the road and I feel for her and have a heightened sense of her vulnerability.  But with that, a gratitude for her family, family and neighbours that have rallied around and made a new routine.

Looking back, my father's death had much more of an impact on me that I would have ever expected.  I didn't think I'd miss him as much as I did.  In the years coming up to his death, my visits to Milltown were brief and conversations were few.  My marriage was falling apart and I wasn't able to talk about it. I worried about my mother worrying about me and about being an embarrassment to my father - Not so much ME being an embarrassment, just the situation.  Not exactly the conversation for the pub on a Saturday night now?  Not when it's your daughter.  Is there a good way to break news like this?

I standing in front of the stove in the old kitchen, hands gripped on the rail, the story spilling out of me. I'm trying to be matter-of-fact about it.  Giving the appearance of someone who is fine.  My father remains seated, elbows over his newspaper and listens.  He doesn't understand.  Didn't see it coming. Liked going for a pint with my husband.   I have to tell him more than I initially wanted to, things that he can't comprehend, things that I am struggling with myself. He's quiet.  Disappointed maybe.  Taken aback.  But no harsh words.  I leave him to consider the new reality for me and for his grand children.

There have been many times since his death when I have felt his presence, not that I've looked for it.  It just was there and not always subtly either.  This is John Russell we are talking about, remember.  Bad Country & Western music blaring in the Square, as I enter court for a challenging appearance; his energy right in front of me after a visit to my neurologist, a feeling so real that I can almost reach out and touch him and it startles me.  Although, if he was reading this, he might say it's a 'heap of shite'.
His death gave me a boost to my writing too.  Writing about him gave me both comfort and a new confidence.  Funny, I suppose, because I'm not sure if he ever read anything I wrote.  If he did, we both would have been to uncomfortable with each other to discuss it.

My children and the other grand children mention my father regularly.  The general gist of the comments is that 'Granddad was great fun'.  I'm heartened that even the youngest grandchild Eliza describes him in visual accounts that I know are her memories that not ones that she has heard from someone else.  As time goes on, the distinctive Russell genes come to the fore and I, and others, see my father more and more in his two brothers.  JR is never far away.

I took on the job of getting his memorial cards.  A simple task in terms of text and graphic design, compared to the publicity material and reports that I prepare regularly in my work capacity.  Yet it has taken me the guts of two years to get around to it.  I had underestimated the emotional impact of this relatively small task, this final gesture.  The graphic designer asks kindly 'Were you close to you father?'. 'No', I say and the tears start and don't stop for a fortnight in the run up to his second anniversary.  This doesn't suit me at all.  I thought I was done with this.  A new wave of grief pulls out from my chest like a tacky glue stuck to my fingers, in a way it hadn't before.

I put it down to the new peace in my life that has created space for untapped emotion to flood in like a tsunami.  

The finished memorial cards look well.  In the photograph, my father looks relaxed.  It's a photo taken on a European forestry trip.  I had looked for a suitable poem to include, a Seamus Heaney one perhaps, but then I realise that I have no idea what my father thought of Heaney, or any other poet indeed.  If he has strong views either way, I'm sure that I would have heard.  My mother chooses a prayer.  Images of Milltown Glen will be recognisable to anyone who ever travelled it.

I show my daughter the card.  She approves.  'Granddad is smiling!', she laughs.  Granddad had a bit of a reputation for not smiling, or indeed looking in the general direction of the photographer and sometimes, disappearing before the photographs were taken.

We used to joke with him that we wouldn't have a decent image for his memorial card.

'That's a shocking thing to say', he would say, put the head down and continue reading.


'Make me a cup of tea, like a good girsha'.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Princess Diana and me

I was surprised to see that it has only been twenty years since Princess Diana died.  In my mind, it was ‘long ago’, with her etched into my childhood memories.  I was a girlie-girl who loved fashion and make-up, the kind of kid who made wedding dresses for my Sindy doll out of net curtains. (Sindy was my doll of choice, over Barbie, who I recognised even then as being ‘too skinny’.  Sindy, on the other hand, had a decent pair of hips).  

I was mesmerised by Hollywood actresses such as Audrey Hepburn Diana and Doris Day, but they seemed very far away.  Diana seemed closer, when she came to my attention as a mere ‘Lady’ and got engaged to Prince Charles in 1981.   

A photograph by then Fleet Street photographer John Minihan, captured a shy looking 19 year old Diana, with the sun shining through a flimsy skirt that revealed her long legs, causing a pre-internet media sensation - an image that always stayed in my mind.  I suppose the image was controversial at the time and looking back, represents a shift in the media in terms of what was off limits.  Funny that years later, with my work-hat on, that I would become acquainted with John, who grew up in Athy and chat to him about taking that iconic image.  When I was purchasing his equally iconic collection of portraits and scenes from Athy for the local authority Municipal Art Collection,  I considered including the Diana portrait, but decided against - not sure that others would have the same affection for the image as I do, or if it there was a place for it in the collection.

The fact that Diana married a prince was incidental to me.  Talk about the monarchy and 'The Establishment' went over my head. I just loved her style, all shoulder pads, crisp collars and drop earrings.  Her floppy hair and eye liner.  The way she blushed and held her head low.  Her wedding dress that creased on the day because it was was so voluminous and made of silk.  Her humanitarian work. I poured over her image in Hello magazine and made sketches in copy books, practice for when I was going to be a fashion designer.  

This summer, I was charmed to see the original toile of her dress and miniatures of her bridesmaids dresses, created by ''The Emanuel's'' in The Style Museum in Newbridge Silverware.  Instantly, I’m transported back to seven year old me, sitting in an armchair beside the TV, watching coverage of the Royal Wedding for what seemed like hours, while my mother goes about her work, occasionally stopping to watch, the smell of dinner and Saturday afternoon baking wafting around.  

Do you remember where you were when you heard that Diana died?  I was staying with my aunt Aine and she woke me on the Sunday morning to tell me, handing me a cup of tea in bed.  A surreal moment indeed.  The previous year when I had stayed with Aine, I answered her phone on a Saturday night to be told that her cousin Anna and her husband, Leo had been killed driving home from mass in Ardee.  We had often accompanied Anna and Leo to mass and I remember lots of laughing and skitting in between the prayers.  For whatever reason, we stayed home that night and I had just finished dying and cutting Aine’s hair.  I was glad to be there for her, and in an odd way, happy that at least her hair would look well for the funeral in the coming days.  Thinking back on it now, I am also amused that she trusted me as hairdresser.

Aine was another style icon for me, the aunt who gave me hand-me-down clothes and shoes as soon as I was old enough to fit into them. She gave me leftover make-up too - the palettes of eye shadow with only navy and purples remaining.  I could hear other children whisper in a shop when we stop to buy Iced Caramels for my Nana, ‘that girl is wearing make-up’.  I regularly asked Aine when would she get married, somehow missing out on the fact that she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  

As the years go by, I take on the role of Personal Shopper for Aine and my mother, on our day
trips to Dublin for wedding outfits, or whatever is on the list.   I feel pulled in two directions in Arnott’s store, with Aine having an aversion to lifts and my mother, escalators and neither of them fancying the stairs.   After a stand off, a compromise is reached after I train my mother to use the escalator.

In the weeks before Aine died in 2013, I watch her appearance take on the strain of illness.  Her elegant wardrobe is reduced to bed wear and she is too sick to care.  My heart sinks as I walk towards her hospital room, with the door ajar and I only recognise her now by the colour of her dressing gown.  When she dies, she leaves me a beautiful rose gold bangle in her will, a gift from an old boyfriend of hers, a man I have heard of, but never met.  I’m devastated when I am unable to find the bangle after a break-in at my home last year and am even more upset telling my mother. Imagine my joy when I find it recently, tucked in the back of a drawer. I bring my mother clothes shopping recently and we find ourselves picking up garments in dusty pinks and blues, noting ‘this is a real Aine top’.

Much of the commentary in this week’s media was around the mass expression of grief when Diana died, a new phenomenon, before a world of social media.  To me though, my feelings of sadness are very personal, linked to my childhood, inspiration and coming of age.  Twenty years on, I am looking at the coverage of Diana’s death through my own eyes as a mother and really appreciate the impact that her death, aged just 36, must have had on her two young sons, children who had already experienced the separation of their parents.  And all in the glare of the media too.

I picked up a Hello magazine recently in my hairdressers.  It was jam packed with photographs of the Royal Family, which I had limited interest in, apart from amusement at the attention given to Kate Middleton’s sister butt.  In fairness though, she would give Sindy a run for her money.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Illegal Trading at Poppy Cottage

Following a recent case of illegal selling of lemonade in East London by a 5 year old girl which lead to a £150 fine (that was later overturned), a further related incident was reported in South Co Kildare, Ireland.

At a special sitting of Kildare District Court, on Thursday July 20th 2017, a 43 year old woman (although 'fresh looking for her years', all of the male Gardai present agreed), Lucina Russell, appeared on charges that she had facilitated the illegal sale of fruit smoothies at her home in Poppy Cottage, Co Kildare, on Wed 19th between the hours of 4pm and 7pm.

Also in court were her two children, a boy and a girl, both aged 9 years of age, who cannot be named for legal reasons.  Both children looked disheveled and appeared not to have had a decent wash since school term ended.  Ms Russell was dressed in black, with traces of pancake mixture and Nutella in her hair.

When questioned by Judge HeeBee GeeBee, Ms Russell denied resisting arrest, stating that she ‘just wanted to put on me lippy and change my t-shirt’.   Arresting Garda Seamus Mc Sean presented the t-shirt as evidence in court.  Ms Russell was quick to point out that the red splatters on the garment were ‘only strawberries’ and denied there could be any blood present, other than that of her own, from the over-enthusiastic chopping off ‘the green bits’.   She admitted to not wearing a hair net while preparing the smoothies, but insisted that her hair 'was clean as disinfectant' and ‘so full of peroxide and head lice shampoo that you would eat your dinner out of it.’

Also presented in court were photographs of the illegal selling operation.  Ms Russell admitted to taking and posting on Facebook to ‘drum up business on a quiet road’.  Other evidence included a fistful of receipts for plastic cups, straws, frozen fruit, yoghurt and fruit juice.  Judge HeeBee GeeBee put it to Ms Russell that she ‘was the adult’ and could easily have refused to purchase the items for her children.  An emotional Ms Russell said, ‘Your Honour, you don’t know what it’s like - being eye balled by twins for days.  The Death Stare and silent treatment was killing me’.   In response to the Judge’s question ‘are they identical twins?, Ms Russell  replied that ‘they can’t be because he has a willy and she doesn’t’.  The Judge then witnessed the Death Stare first hand when the children looked at him and his ‘stupid question’ and he openly admitted feeling ‘The Fear.’

Reviewing the receipts presented in court and the homemade sign made by the 9 year old girl, the Judge chastised Ms Russell, stating that she had ‘spent a fortune’ on ingredients and that the 50cent and 1euro prices charged would ‘never recoup costs’.  She confirmed that she was not registered for VAT and did not have a Traders Permit.  He suggested that passers-by could have felt harassed and intimidated by the aggressive manner in which the children waved the sign around to encourage sales.  He accused her of ‘reckless trading’, stating that the activity would not stand to her children in the ‘real world of commerce.’  Ms Russell tried to justify her behaviour, saying that she wanted her children to have a ‘better childhood than she had.’  Attendees in court were moved by her harrowing account of a farming childhood of standing in gaps, de-maggoting sheep and picking stones.

There were emotional scenes when the Judge said that he had no option but to sentence the children each to one month without WiFi access.  Ms Russell received a one month jail sentence, with no option of bail.  Being led away from court, Ms Russell thanked the judge for his leniency and said that 'after a month of the children on holidays and two foreign students staying', that the sentence sounded like ‘heaven.'  She shouted to her children that there were ‘some left over strawberries in the fridge.’

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A Beautiful Affair: My Mate Al Gug

My earliest memory of Allen Gogarty is when we are both 12 years of age.  We share questionable short haircuts, very possibly administered by our well-meaning mothers.  Our ‘dos are accentuated by green uniform jumpers and yellow shirts (I kid you not – yellow), that are most unbecoming to Irish teenage skin.  We are standing alone in P3, a prefab where we have English class and the sun is shining  - The salubrious surroundings where Ms Greaney inspires me with her enthusiasm for literature.

Allen and I have some sort of disagreement.  For the life of me, I can’t think about what.  We exchange insults and he calls me ‘Russell’.  It is indeed, hate at first sight.  I want to box him in the head.

After that though, I only remember Allen as one of my best friends.  In the whole world.  Ever.  He gets promoted to the Band of the Chosen Few who are allowed call me 'Lucy'.  Throughout our years in secondary school, he has the unenviable task of being my male ‘go-to’ friend.  He hears my woes and I, his.  Acne, homework, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, art and music.  Teenage angst overload.

Aged 15, we go to see AC/DC in The Point Depot.  We travel to Dublin by bus and are met by Allen’s Sophisticated Older Sister near UCD.   She knows that I am a newbie vegetarian and brings us to a veggie restaurant.   It’s 1989 and vegetarian food in North Co Meath consists of meat with two veg, but without the meat.  In the restaurant, I order a vegetarian strudel, as if I know what I talking about.  There’s puff pastry, cheese, pine nuts and spinach, as exotic as I ever had.  But I don’t reveal the limits of my diet to date, nor do I disclose that I haven’t been on the South Side of the city before, for fear that I’ll show myself up as the culchie I am.  We meet Sophisicated Older Sister’s friend and he enquires, ‘so, you are Allen’s girlfriend then?’  I retort indignantly, ‘No, I’m just his friend who happens to be a girl’.  He smiles and nods amusedly.

Myself and Allen make out way to the front of the hairy, sweaty crowd in The Point and I get squished when the crowd surges forward.  I half-faint and scream out to Allen as a burly security guard scoops me up over a sea of heads and deposits me to the side of the stage, barely batting an eye lid.  Neither of us admitting the fright that we get and retreat to the middle of the arena.  We later lament that we don’t get one of the fake bank notes that drop from the ceiling as the band belt out ‘Money Talk’ as a memento of one of the best nights of our young lives.

Allen loves secondary school so much that he decides to stay on for an extra year.  He is worried that he will have no one to take to the Debs.   I tell him that I will accompany him if he’s stuck.  He’s stuck.  I borrow a dress and off we go.  Our religion teacher tells me that she always thought we would make a lovely couple.  I disappoint her telling her that we aren’t a couple, never were, never will be.  But for the first and only time since I have known him, I get a notion that Allen might actually fancy me  - He’s says, ‘Hey Lucy, are you coming outside?’, which, back-in-the-day means, ‘will you give me a  shift?’ 




I’m stuck for words.  ‘I’ve never thought of you like that before Allen’.  He throws his mop of hair back, laughing.  ‘Jaysus Lucy, I only want a smoke.  I don’t want to kiss ya.  Ya dope’.  We both laugh now and for once, I don’t lecture him about smoking.

We both move to Dublin and man oeuvre in and out of each other’s lives, with mutual friends, who often gathering for Allen’s gigs in Dublin and at home in Meath.  He tells me about the Hot Spanish Flat Mate that has moved in.  He’s wondering whether he should declare his interest to her.  At some point, he does and they are an item.  The Hot Spanish Flat Mate never had a problem with my friendship with Allen and I know she’s the one for him.  She still is.

They move to the States.  There’s marriages and babies for him and me.  I’m proud that he makes a career out of playing his music in New York.  Yet, he takes the time to come home to play music at my wedding.  He chooses ‘Black is the Colour’, as the First Dance song and I am amused now that when I hear that song, I think of Allen, rather than my groom on the day.

The years go by and the meetings are less frequent – the pressure of trying of trying to fit it all in on precious visits home.  Pints have been replaced with cups of tea in our parents’ houses. 

I get a message from Allen last week to arrange a meeting on a flying visit home.  We forget about the Dublin V Kildare football match in Croke Park when we arrange to meet last Sunday in an old haunt, The Palace Bar in Dublin City Centre, in advance of his gig in the Bad Ass Cafe.  My heart sinks as I arrive and the pub is over spilling with fellas in Dublin jerseys. 

He jumps out of a taxi, a wild head on him, with his guitar and music stand, but doesn’t see me amid the sea of blue.  I stand in the middle of the cobbled street and wait until he spots me.  The frown is replaced by the familiar dimpled smile appears and I get a bear hug that I’ve waited three long years for.  He sounds hoarse and tells me not to nag him about smoking the night before.  We retreat to a quieter hotel for a chat.

Later, he sings ‘Beautiful Affair’, by Stockton’s Wing in The Bad Ass Cafe and I want all of Temple Bar to ‘ssshhhh’ and just listen to him.  We will never have enough time to catch up, but it feels so good to see my friend. 

I love ya babe (But only in the platonic sense of course);_ylt=AwrBT4Nqy3BZ9WkAqgtXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=allen+gogarty+beautiful+affair&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=1&vid=6008787f3f4d68f1f1edb069fa278c1f&action=view

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Sitting With Myself

The garden is starting to take shape in the half-tamed wilderness kind of way, my little falling-down-house is my version of clean, the children are half-reared and happy, work is hectic, but rewarding.  I’m looking and feeling better than I have in years.  Life is good.    

At the moment, I'm taking half-days annual leave from work each day, supplemented with late night emails and calls, to juggle childcare and caring for my Spanish student.  That might sound like chaos, but it works. 

On Wednesday, the Spaniard asks if he can bring a friend home for dinner.  The girls from across the road pop over.  My pair, cycle their bikes into my Hobbit House and announce that then were all hungry, pre-dinner, and want pancakes with Nutella - our traditional go-to snack when we have foreign students staying. There was a lovely buzz in the house.  I observe how the younger children puffed out their chests and act out in front of the Spanish boys who warmly go along with it.  The pancakes can’t come fast enough. The table sprinkled with lemon and sugar.  They all eat until they have pains in their bellies. 

The Spaniards retire to the sitting room to sing along to Spanish rap music and the children experiment with slime-making recipes in the kitchen.  Surprisingly, they don’t wreck the gaff.  Mixing cornflour with shampoo yields interesting results. 

I take a cup of tea in a china cup and sit in my beautiful space in the balmy heat.  Butterflies, birds, the cat rubs by my leg, as the soft breeze hits my face.  Surrounded here by nature, family, visitors, I feel as lonely as hell.  It’s a very familiar feeling these days. 

I’ve been running on empty for about 4 years now.  Within this time, there was drama piled on top of drama.  Unpleasant as it was, the drama acted as a big roll of sticking plaster, distracted me from the job in hand – to just sit and be with myself.  The temptation is to just keep running – to help my mother, to visit a friend in need, working, busying myself, to rush into a new relationship.  I can see why Forrest Gump ran for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours.  It’s so much easier to run than to stop.  But now, all of a sudden, the drama is over, it seems.  I have peace and stability in my life. I thought it would bring me happiness (and it has), but overall, the feeling is loneliness.  

It’s not that I want someone to help me with my garden, or to cut my hedge.  It’s for someone to sit and admire it with me, to laugh with me about how crooked my clipping efforts are.  It’s not that I want for someone to pay for me to get my hair done.  It’s for someone to notice that I’ve had it done.  It’s not for someone to organise for my car to be NCT’d.  It’s for someone to send me a text to see how it went.  Or the important meeting a work.  It’s a bear-hug from a man other than my giant baby brother.  It’s for someone to buy me an ice-cream while I wait in the car. 

I stand in the graveyard at the funeral of my friend’s mother last week and I’m happy for him that his wife is there to support him in her quiet way and feel the loneliness come over me again that I went through my father’s funeral without that someone there for me.

All of things that I crave involve having someone special in my life.  But part of that feeling is just another sticking plaster - a quick fix remedy.  

For now, I need to dust myself off, enjoy the new found peace and just ‘be’or as Forrest's momma said, 'you have to put your past behind you before you can move on'

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Holding Hands in the Countryside: Going Back To My Roots

Thought I’d better ‘fess up.  I did it again.  Yes, I signed up for online dating.  Exactly one month ago today.  It is with great relief that the subscription has now expired and with immense regret that I have yet to find the man of my dreams.  If I were to grade myself on my efforts though, I would award myself the grand score of ‘half arsed.’   It was somewhat reassuring, but mostly depressing to see some familiar faces there, in cyber love land, since last year.  I wonder do some people exist here in an online vacuum forever, looking and winking without any notion of actually meeting anyone? Or maybe they are actually trapped, banging unnoticed on the laptop screen hoping to be rescued?

I chatted, and went on dates with two guys who, coincidentally, both had the same first name.  Andy1 was mad about me.  He could see us settling down together and would love me forever.  I was mad about Andy2.  I could see us settling down together and I would love him forever.  Let’s just say,- if the wrong text message went to the wrong Andy, we could have had trouble, or a trampled heart at least.

It’s Not You, It’s Me has everything going for him.  We have the loveliest of times.  But, I know when we say goodbye that night, that we won’t see each other again.  He beats me to it next morning, sending me a message confirming what I already know.

By Mutual Agreement is a sweetheart.  He is smart, handsome and kind.  He thinks that I am smart, pretty and kind.  We text the following day and agreed that there was no ‘spark’ and therefore, no point in meeting again.  We reassure ourselves that our date reaffirmed that there were decent people out there and wished that we had the patent on the ‘va-va-voom’ dust that we are all looking for.

Chancing His Arm winks at me every day.  I eventually send him a message, telling him that, as he is aged 26, I really am old enough to be his Mammy.  He enthusiastically sends me back a message saying that ‘age is just a number.’  I wonder if he would be any good at cutting my lawn, but decide against asking, for fear that I will end up in court for exploiting a child.

Adult Dancing thanks me for my kind ‘no thanks’ message and asks me if I have any nice friends who would be interested in him.  I actually contemplate setting up a match-making service for all of the beautiful decent souls I have met and the many lovely ladies in my life looking for love.  Anything that would lessen the torture. 

In the middle of it all, a pattern emerges.   Many of the guys that I have encountered have a farming background.   The last time I snogged a Farmer Boy, was when I was 17.  Farmer Boy was helping to cut the silage on our family farm.  I wiped my face after kissing him, to clear the oily/sweaty/grassy evidence from my face before going in to help my mother prepare dinner for the silage men.   Farmer Boy keeps his head down during the meal, his long hair falling against his heavy metal t shirt. 

I can’t say that that look would do it for me anymore, but there’s something about being a man of the land that is drawing me in.   I think it's because I feel like I have been floating in space for the last while and I'm drawn to that feeling of being grounded, quite literally.  There's the familiarity of my rural upbringing.  And the feeling of comfort when I shake the rough padded hand of a man that works on the land. 

AgriGuy1 still checks in with me most days, tells me that he will fall in love with me, but hasn’t actually asked me out on a date and I ain’t offering.  Meanwhile, I’m only dying for AgriGuy2 to pick up the phone and he hasn’t.  I suppose there’s a silage pit to be covered …

If yis hear of any  va-va-voom dust selling in LidlDeeAldi, will ye let me know?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Father's Day 2017

Although it’s still less than two years since he died, it would be dishonest of me to say I go around ‘missing’ my father.   It hits me when I see a man that has the cut of his jib.  Or when I’m driving and some random memory pops up.  And always, always when Meath are playing in Croker.  He would have been glued last night, watching their defeat against Kildare.  F’ing and blinding at the TV, than never answered back.   He would have been chuffed that my son’s school report said that he had a ‘great interest in politics’ – in his likeness in so many ways.   Him entertaining my daughter’s dodgy ‘knock-knock jokes.

The real vacuum is the fuss that was around him.  The farmer’s clock that meant that dinner served any later than ten-past-one in the day, was likely to lead to starvation.  No heed either to the fact that my mother may have been down the yard helping my father that morning and so unable to produce an abracadabra dinner.  But my mother knowing his ways, would usually have prepared dinner in advance.

All the fuss too, to cajole him about buying a new suit for a family occasion.  Him insisting that the old suit was ‘grand’ and that he just needed to loosen the belt, my mother and I exchanging glances and saying nothing.   Him looking dapper in his new attire and I wonder what all the commotion was about.

No need now, to hide the hair conditioner in the bathroom, which my father was known to wash his hair in.  My mother, at nothing, asking him to wash his hair again to take the dullness out of it.  ‘Would ya stop woman’, he’d say as he combed his hair impatiently into a side parting.  Never a man for the barber either, he could barely sit still while my mother cut his hair, on a Saturday night as he watched Winning Streak.  Teasing him about his bald patch, which he insisted was the result of being hit by a stone on the head as a child.  My mother laughing, saying that the scar must have grown over time. 

It’s probably no accident that Mr Private, the guy I dated for months was older than me.  Reliable and kind, funny, opinionated.  A father figure of sorts, not that I was looking for that.  Or maybe I was, unknown to myself. 

I’m not one to look for signs of my father’s presence either.  But lately, I have thought of him and asked him, begged him, to send me strength, that just didn’t come.   

Last week, I was in court for something that I will tell you about in my memoirs.  A lonely place to be on my own, having turned down all offers from friends to be there for support, feeling that I should 'do this alone'.   As I gathered myself in the toilet, the dodgiest of Irish county music blaring in through the window from the market stall outside.  And I just knew that he was there.  I laughed - Always on your terms Da, always.

Happy Father’s Day