Monday, January 12, 2015

On snoring.....................

I love the Jemser dearly. He loves me even knowing all my bad bits. What's not to love in somebody like that? But SLoDG I may yet do time over that man's snoring.

Lots of people snore. I've even been told I snore myself on occasions. But the Jemeser is the King of the Snorers. If Snoring was an Olympic Sport then the Jemser would have brought home gold for Ireland for the last forty years - that's rougly ten gold medals - guaranteed. When we moved in together first I found a quick puck on his shoulder was sufficient to turn him over and give my poor battered ears some respite. He was a slender man then and, despite a broken nose and a deviated septum, his not carrying excess weight meant the snoring was more or less bearable unless he'd had a fierce feed of drink,

But as middle age approached he started to put on weight and ended up with a comfortable pot belly. The snoring got worse and it was musical beds in the house most nights, one or the other of us always ending up on the couch. If he'd been out for a few drinks he didn't even bother climbing the stairs, knowing he would be booted out of the bed within minutes of landing in it. I used to get frightened some nights listening to him. He might be lying on his back and snoring really loudly. Then he would stop breathing. Like - completely. His mouth would hang open for a few seconds and then his jaw would start to move like a fish's does when it's out of water. He'd then start to draw his knees up towards his chest (disturbing my nice little nest in the process). Just when I'd be about to belt him to make him wake up and breathe he would emit this awful gagging ack-ack-ack sound followed by an auk-auk-auk and his knees would slide back down the bed again. Then the whole process would start over again.

So, almost a decade ago, he went to a specialist who arranged for him to have a sleep test. The nurses were horrifed by what they heard and I instantly had their sympathy. He was supposed to go back and arrange to get this machine that helped you breathe properly at night and he was told to lose weight. He did lose a good bit of weight and as the snoring lessened again he didn't bother about the machine. If the snoring got bad on occasions I'd buy him a steroidal nasal spray which seemed to lessen the noise

In the last two years though he regained all the weight he'd lost and the snoring is the worst I've ever heard it. I cannot stay in a room when he is snoring. The noise penetrates my skull and I find it the most irrritataing noise ever. I swear, I really do feel like stabbing him some nights. Anything to make that infernal racket stop. It's so bad I can hear it all over the house at night - no matter what room he is sleeping in. Then I'm cranky because I can't sleep with the noise and he's not getting a decent nights rest becuase he isn't getting enough oxygen into his system to make him feel rested. So you have two cranky middle aged people sniping at each other all day.

 So he took himself off to the specialist again last month. He's been told to lose weight again; they now realise that the vast bulk of snoring and sleep apnoea problmens are caused by weight issues alone. In conjunction with that he is to be ftted with an orthodontic gumshield that will hold his mouth in such a position that it is impossible to snore. I cannot wait for this device to arrive, it's going to cost in the region of a thousand euro but, you know what - it's cheaper than a divorce! And we can hopefully share a bed again.....................

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Misunderstanding............

I’m upset. I’m hurt. I’m more than a little sad. And so I’m having my first night of insomnia in 2015. I hope there won’t be too many of them this year. Insomnia has a way of fecking up the rest of ones day. It’s hard to write or read when you’re too tired to concentrate. Before I came to bed I tried clearing my mind, practised a little mindfulness; but my mind kept drifting to that which upset me and I know the only way to clear the upset is to talk about it, write it down. That plus the fact that at 2.40a.m. son#1 has just arrived home with three friends, one of them immediately started to play the piano and I have a feeling things will be noisy downstairs for a while.

I lost one of my little jobs today. I knew it was coming – in fact I’d resigned in early December but said I would stay on until I could be replaced. Still, when I got the text saying I needn’t turn up on Monday I felt a little twinge of hurt. I thought I’d dealt with the way I felt over the misunderstanding that caused me to quit but obviously not – because I wouldn’t be blogging about it if I had.

There was a misunderstanding between my employers and myself. A breakdown in adult communication. I rarely have communication failures with children, perhaps because I listen to - and observe, children quite closely. I seem to understand them better than I do adults, which is strange, because we are all just grown-up children. My relationship in this employment was with the children, I saw the adults briefly – for fifteen minutes two mornings a week I saw one parent and for ten minutes on those evenings I saw the other. I have been in their employ for the last eight months. If I exclude holidays I reckon I spent less than fourteen hours of morning minutes and eight hours of evening minutes – all intensely busy interrupted minutes, in the company of these parents. Enough time to judge someone on?

I did something to which my evening adult objected. I made a tiny gesture towards friends of one of my charges which the adult deemed ‘inappropriate’. A little kindness, a little magic  to brighten the eyes and hearts of these small people. I hasten to add that the parents of these children were present and were charmed by the gesture, even seeking me out later in the week to thank me again. I didn’t do it for any reason other than my love of children. However the parents of my charges didn’t see it that way and told me so, as is their right.

I listened to what they had to say and accepted both what was said and their right to express how they felt about anything that involved their children. I apologised and explained as best I could why I had done what I did. It was felt I might be ‘high’ both because of this action and down to the fact I was ‘talking a lot’. I explained that I was writing again and yes, in that first creative rush, I might well be a little over-excited. I hadn’t written in over a year and the joy I felt at writing again gave me a huge energy. As anyone out there who practises any kind of creative hobby knows this energy doesn’t last. It can’t – you’d just burn out. It was also mentioned that they thought I was doing too much, i.e outside of the two days I worked for them I wrote, cared for another family’s children for two afternoons a week, helped care for my granddaughter at weekends, cared for my own family, walked, read, gardened – lived, really. I can understand their viewpoint -I think the fact that the Jemser and I drove to Galway one Saturday to audition for a film might have been the straw etc., because they were looking at my life from the exhausting viewpoint of their own lives – they have three small children and two careers to maintain.

I managed to stay rational and understanding during this conversation but when I got into my car I sat and bawled for twenty minutes. I was really very upset. When I calmed down I drove home and told the Jemser everything. I bawled again and my lovely Stoic did and said all the right things. I went to bed and - surprisingly for worry wart me, I slept. The following morning I texted the family and again apologised for whatever it was they thought I’d done and said it wouldn’t happen again. Mistake. I had a week to think about the situation before I went to work for them again and no matter what way I looked at it I genuinely didn’t believe that what I had done was wrong. I should not have apologised for being myself. I retract that apology. I do apologise for upsetting them. I completely understand where they were coming from - and as my employers they have every entitlement to express their feelings. I can walk in their shoes - unfortunately they couldn’t walk in mine. They may be strangely sized shoes, but I like them.

When I finally plucked up the courage to walk away from a thirty two year career in the public service I vowed I would never again stay anywhere I wasn’t happy. I no longer have to do anything out of a sense of obligation or because I need a paycheque. I’m lucky, and I know it. So, much as I love the children of this family I decided I had to hand in my notice. I no longer felt trusted, and without trust there can be no inner peace, not for me anyway. I’ll miss the children dreadfully, but perhaps I was getting too close to them – I can’t work with kids without getting close to them. However, I would have had to leave them sooner or later and the longer the relationship went on the harder the parting would have been for me. I told my employers of my decision three weeks before Christmas but promised to stay on until they found a suitable replacement. They haven’t managed to do that but one of them is taking leave of absence for a while. I think that is best for all concerned. Children are only young enough to need us completely for a very short while.

I got to take my little charges to a panto recently and we had a lovely evening. It’ll be my last memory of them – their little faces all lit up by the magic on stage. I have lots of great memories of them stored, memories I’ll take out and smile over on dull days. I’m sorry the relationship with the adults ended as it did. I’ll get over it and I know they will. But I’m not sorry I’m me.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Story involving Children, A Lost Dog, Starlings and Santa’s Sleigh…..a best seller!

I work as a part time childminder for two different families. On Mondays and Tuesdays I have my gorgeous girlies - aged 6, 5 and 3; Wednesday and Friday afternoons I have my best buddies-aged 12, 10 and 6. They are all great kids and all attend Gaelscoil Bhriain Boroimhe in Applewood, Swords. My best buddies are members of a relocated South African family - all of my buds were born in Ireland, and they speak both English and Irish (and fair play to their mother for mastering Irish to be able to help them with homework – she has better Irish than 99% of our population) with a delightful Afrikaans’s accent. They family blonde, sallow-skinned and beautiful.
 On Thursday night last I was sitting at home idly scrolling through Facebook when I spotted a picture of a dog that looked remarkably like Charlie, new pet (with the smelliest farts in Ireland), of my best buddies. This dog had been found near Airside in Swords, Dublin, and looked very plaintive in the photo.. He had been taken in by a family and they'd posted his image on a local ‘Things For Sale, Swap or Free’ page in the hope someone in the area would recognise him. I mentioned it to the Jemser and he said
‘Sure ring your best buddies’ mother and let them know.’
 But it was late and I didn’t want to disturb them so I left it. The whole thing went completely out of my head on Friday morning – until I got a text from me buddies’ Mam asking me something, and mentioning that she’d left the side gate open as Charlie had done a runner. The family only got Charlie five weeks ago - from another nice home; but he is unused to the area and apt to bolt to explore if one leaves the  front door open for even  a second. The kids aren’t used to this yet and so forget to be careful. Plus they’re kids. He had gotten out on the odd occasion before Thursday but they’d always managed to catch him. But he went AWOL Thursday evening - the children were heart broken and very worried. Losing a pet is hard enough on adults, but there is a very special bond between children and their pets, I suppose because children’s lives are - for the most part, carefree; so any little anxiety hits them harder. The children absolutely adore Charlie and have showered him with affection since he came into their lives, they play with him constantly when at home, and he is mad about them all. The parents are incredibly loving busy people but hadn’t taken Charlie to the vet yet for chipping, nor had they gotten around to buying a dog tag. That’s first thing on their list this morning!
                ‘OMG!’ texted me to her,‘saw him on FB!At least I think it was him. I’ll get kids to confirm and if it’s him we’ll collect him.’
 She couldn’t access FB in work to check if it was Charlie so I popped onto the FB page and posted that I thought I knew the owners and would be in touch later. I was right excited going up to me best buddies’ house. I had a little Christmas present for each of them and planned to take them out to eat as a special Christmas treat. I love treating kids, love their faces when something different happens to them. Oh! to be a child again –  to still have that sense of wonderment and joie de vivre. Mind you, I do try me best to be tuned into it. I had the laptop open onto that lovely picture of Charlie on FB, ready and waiting hard for the scholars coming in.
The ten year old was first through the door.
‘Hi Ev-eh-lin, Charlie ran away yesterday – is he back?’ Love that child’s accent.
‘No….But’, I  raised my right hand, palm out towards him, palm outwards,‘look at this. Is that Charlie?’
‘Yes. That’s my dog.’
‘Well then, he’s found. He’s safe in a nice family’s house.’
His face went through every emotion in ten seconds flat and ended in sheer unadulterated joy as he fist pumped, jumped up and down , shouting
’ My dog. She found my dog. The other two landed in through door.
’What? What?What?’ That lovely blossoming twelve year old, her face a little anxious.
‘Charlie, Ev-eh-lin found Charlie. Look.’
Her face lit up like the twinkliest Christmas tree ever.
‘What? What?’’ She was confused momentarily.
‘Look. Look at his picture.' I put my arm around her, drew her to the laptop. 'It’s him, he was found – I didn’t find him, I just spotted it on Facebook. I have contacted the lady who found him and I’m waiting on a text or phone call to tell us where Charlie is.’
More jumping and fist-pumping and -
 ‘Ev-eh-Lin you are the best childminder ever’.
This despite my protestations that I hadn’t actually done anything – just luckily spotted their dog and joined the dots. The six year old decided I was magic. In my Story Queen persona I am magic – and he likes that idea.
‘And I’m taken yiz to Burger King as a special Christmas treat. And you’re even allowed dessert after dinner.’
 The joyous whoops continued. Then I gave them their pressies – books of course, John Green and Chris O’Dowd for the twelve year old, David Walliams for the ten year old ,and Emer Martin and co-writers for the six year old - along with a magic set - the younger they are the less they regard books or clothes as ‘proper’ presents. One of my gorgeous girlies went into meltdown earlier in the week because I had gifted her a fabulous dressing up dress which looked stunning on her. Deep blue crushed nylon velveteen with a white fur trim and a long fur trimmed cloak, tiara and wand included!
‘Y’didn’t even get us a toy’ she huffed initially, throwing guna on floor.  Her mother was mortified. The child’s a child. It happens.
 Back to me best buddies. As they opened their pressies and thanked me I kept an eye on FB – lots of comments and messages flying to and fro about our Charlie. The kids were highly entertained as I read them out. After the excitement had calmed down somewhat and they each had a little play on the X Box we set out for BurgerKing. I have a Christmas CD in the car and we sang-along as we drove. I felt all fuzzy and warm inside – like a little girl on Christmas morning when she knows, just knows, everything is going to be perfect. No one will fight, no one will shout in anger, everybody in her family will be happy all day long. No-one will get drunk and ruin everything. There will be love.
We got to the fast food joint and the kids picked what they wanted. They messed with paper crowns and a little Christmas decoration as we waited for the food. They talked. I listened. We laughed at silly things. It was fun. As we ate our grub I noticed through the window a huge murmuration of starlings roiling through the sky as the hard bright winter’s evening drew to a close. I pointed them out to the children and we chatted about it. Then ‘what to my wondering eye should appear’ - behind the starlings and very, very high up, but something that looked so like Santa’s sleigh it was incredible. Of course, it was a plane - and its angle and whatever way the setting sun caught it  gave it that mysterious pinkish silhouette. We were all gob-smacked. A magical ten seconds.
‘It can’t be him. It’s too soon. I only sent my letter today.’ Six year old buddy looked a bit worried.
‘You’re right. It’s a plane – but doesn’t it look lovely with all the starlings flying about.
‘Yes. But Ev-eh-lin. It’s not Santa.’
‘No. You’re right.’
We went home then and he showed me some of his magic tricks. Watch yer back Derren Brown. The lady who  was caring for Charlie phoned just before I left me buddies' house and they’ll all be reunited this morning. I’ll batter their Da if he doesn’t send me a picture of them with their beloved animal. I won’t batter their Ma, because it’s always the Das’s forgettorys that causes these things,

I had a brilliant day. Happy Christmas yiz all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Defeating Depression - My Story

 I’m attaching a link here to a speech the Irish musician Bressie made earlier this week.

It’s a powerful and wise speech from one so young. I wish I’d had his intelligence - and his understanding of an illness that can cripple - even kill, when I was his age. I’m braving family sorrow and perhaps misunderstanding to tell my very personal story. I don’t mean to hurt them, I’ve done enough of that in my lifetime but – if it helps one person to reconsider a suicidal thought, or to seek the help that IS out there to help defeat their depression, it will have been worth it.
In 1990 aged 29 I made a serious suicide attempt. But I was obviously meant to live, or perhaps I didn’t really want to die because I survived, despite my best effort of roughly sixty paracetamol and two slashed wrists - done with a ridiculously tiny blade from a ladies razor,  I cut so deeply I later needed surgery to repair tendons. I remember the night of that attempt vividly and it will stay with me forever. I’d made the decision after another - for me, painful day at the office. I couldn’t cope with a one-line letter of enquiry from another department. I remember the signature on that letter – hell, I remember the guy’s pay number – 25183!
Of course, the letter wasn’t the problem. The problem was my perception of it, and my inability to move beyond a standard query that was routinely sent every six months and equally routinely ignored by my department.  I hadn’t been well for about a month and had gone to my GP who prescribed a mild anti-depressant and a week off work. My beloved mother had been diagnosed with, and operated on, for lung cancer six months previously and was undergoing radiotherapy at the time. I was deeply deeply worried about her. I was living alone in a flat and my then boyfriend - now my much loved husband, and father of my boys, would come and stay every weekend.
I will never forget my fear. M soul cried out at the unfairness of Mam’s illness. When I went to visit her in hospital the day she got the diagnosis she held my hand, both of us filled up and she said,
'Poor Evelyn. My poor old pal.' 
It still breaks my heart to think how in the midst of her anguish all she thought about was how it affected me and all of us. She was sadder for us than for herself. Now that I'm a mother myself I understand exactly what she meant - you cannot bear to see your children hurting. You want them to live, laugh and be happy. Mam's recovery after the op seemed to go ok, she got an infection which slowed down the delivery of her radiation therapy but all seemed on course, mind you, treatment then was nowhere near as advanced then as it is now. But I think I may have had a premonition of my mother’s impending death; I adored her, she was my best friend and the one to whom I told everything. I couldn’t talk to her at such a difficult time in her life and I buried my feelings from her. She knew I was depressed, it is an inherited family gene, but nobody knew how bad I was, least of all me. I thought this feeling of constant greyness, of being physically weighted down, of no hope, no joy, no anything, would last forever.
I finally went to the GP in March 1990 and she started me on a mild anti-depressant and gave me a cert for work. But two months later I felt no better, despite being back in work and trying my best to live. I couldn't bear it any longer and on April 25 1990 I decided I would die. The peace that came to me with that decision was wonderful. It was the calmest I had felt for over six months. On the way home from work that evening I called into a local supermarket to buy a bottle of vodka. I had the rest of the accoutrements ready at home – that’s me, always organised. There was a big queue at the off-licence in the supermarket and, I swear, the most inefficient shop assistant ever. I couldn’t stand still; I huffed and puffed, tutting loudly – this is totally out of character for me. I finally said in a strained tearful voice that sounded nothing like me,
 ‘I’m never ever coming into this shop again’ and walked out in a temper. I’m sure they were devastated at the loss of my custom! However now I know that that shop assistant - in her inefficiency, probably saved my life. Vodka on top of everything else would have sealed my coffin. I never did go into that shop again - so I’d now like to thank that lovely lady.
I was still alive fourteen hours after that incident, sespit my best efforts and I knew I had to get myself out of the fla before my poor landlady found me. I was incredulous that it was so ahrd to die. So I called my Dad; Dad, about whom I had given out for twenty of my twenty nine years, but who was always there when I really needed him. Dad came to the flat and was, I am sure, horrified by what greeted him. He did all the right things, contacted the GP who called to the flat and then he drove me to Beaumont Hospital where my stomach was pumped and my wrists bound. One funny little thing in the midst of it al -, after a couple of hours my wrists started to hurt like hell as the paracetamol left my system, and I asked in this wavering foolish voice,
 ‘I know this sounds ridiculous, but can I have some pain relief?’ It was a ridiculous request and they couldn’t give me anything until my liver function test was back.
I will never forget the hurt and worry in Mam’s and my beloved sisters’ eyes when they came into the hospital cubicle to see me. In case I never vocalised it girls, I apologise to you all, again and again, for causing that pain.I did apologise to Mam before she left us - of course she shushed and hugged me.
  I was taken to the operating theatre the following day where a young surgeon, named Michael, said - with a marked lack of empathy,
‘I bet you feel rather foolish now, don’t you?’ I turned my head from him and was comforted by the hand of a beautiful theatre nurse, she glared at him and stroked my face
 I was extraordinarily lucky in that I didn’t damage my liver (us Walshies have the most resilient livers in Ireland – another inherited gene!). I was in Beaumont for a week before being transferred to St John of Gods Psychiatric Hospital in Stillorgan. I stayed there for three months. I still get deeply upset when I think of the pressure this put on my parents at a time when they needed all their strength to battle Mammy's illness. I know I was ill too - and an irrational mind made me think that in dying I was solving a problem for everyone, not causing them more unbearable stress. But still…………
I came out of hospital in August 1990 after great care, talk therapy and learning  some Cognitive Behaviour Skill. They got the medication right. I had initially sworn I wouldn’t return to my public service boring office job; but over the course of my treatment I was persuaded that the financial security it gave me probably outweighed my unhappiness in it – plus the unfortunate stigma that was then attached to mental ill health meant my future employability  was perceived as being less attractive.  I returned home to live. 
Mam had been getting headaches and pain radiating down her neck which she thought might be migraine. However in September 1990, the evening before I was due to return to work after my long illness,my sister Louise, our beautiful gentle angel nurse, arrived home with news from the consultant. Mammy had an inoperable brain tumour and he felt she would not survive more than six months.
To say we were all devastated is an understatement. We all finally went to bed, but I met Mam in the kitchen at 4am the following morning. We looked at each other, each into the other beloved face, each trying not to cry for the other,for the self that was facing losing everything.
'How will I stick it,’ she said. ’How? I have so much I want to do. I want to meet all of your babies. .All of them. So many. I have so many of ye, how many of them would I have had? It's so unfair'
 She was the age I am now and it is only now that I feel I am starting to live the life I want for myself. I held her hands and we cried.
'Accept it Mam. There is no fear of death if you simple accept it.' I said, remembering the calm I felt when I had made my own death decision.
 Acceptance wasn't in Mam's nature and by God, she battled that illness with every fibre of her being and tried to live each moment she was well to the full. We cried together again that night, hugged and told each other how much we loved each other. Mam died in March 1991, after a tough six months for everyone, particularly my Dad – who loved Mam beyond reason. Mam can never be dead for me, for any of her children, nor for her grandchildren, for we have kept her alive for  - and of course she is in each and every one of us, and them. But Dad was left alone. Poor Dad, he loves us all – but never ever with the intensity that he loved Liz Walsh. (He’ll kill me – or sue me, don’t tell him he’s on D’Interweb!)
I struggled on and off with depression for the following two decades. Medication helped at times, indeed I was on long-term medication for over ten years. I was lucky, I went on to have two wonderful sons, and the joy of the company of two beyond belief step-daughters - and they all are the very breath of my body. I never attempted suicide again although I admit there have been times when I would become fixed on the idea as a ‘well I can always….if it gets too bad’ – but I couldn’t leave my babies, they needed me more than anyone ever had. I could not have done that to them, leave them bewildered and angry at my sudden absence.
 I have been frustrated at times by the public mental health system in this country. If you are suicidal you need help NOW! Not with an appointment six weeks away. I felt I wasn’t in a financial position most of the time to pay for visits to private psychiatrists or counsellors, I mistakenly regarded this treatment as self-indulgence. How irrational is that thinking! If I had cancer or some other disease that was slowly killing me and making each day impossible to get through I would receive all sorts of help from the health services. Or regard all other bills as unimportant until I got the help I needed. Depression is a cancer of the spirit, the soul if you choose to call it that - as well as being physically debilitating; and the sooner money is pumped into the system and society regards it as a priority the better a society we will become. Happy people are productive people – it’s a no-brainer.
If you are depressed find someone you can talk to about how you are feeling – you are not ‘a moaner’ ‘a quitter’. If you are reluctant to talks to family or friends find a counsellor, ring the Samaritans or some one of the many helplines out there, writing down how you feel is extremely cathartic. It was through starting to write that I started to heal. You may well be reluctant to take anti-depressants but sometimes a little chemical kick is necessary to start you on the path to recovery. One thing I have learned, more so since I started to write – is you should never ever assume you know what is going through someone else's mind. Don’t be quiet out of fear of worrying or bothering someone else, people do love you and will give you the support you need, at the first sign of difficulty do the right thing - look for help, it is out there for you.
I was only hospitalised once more for depression in the Hampstead Clinic in Highfield Hospital in Whitehall. That was two and a half years ago and I was very lucky to meet a wonderful psychiatrist there – Jean Marie Nangle, who, I think– ‘got’ me. More importantly I met an incredibly empathetic nurse called Michelle, if there were more psychiatric nurses like Michelle there wouldn’t be the need for half as many psychiatric beds – she’d help prevent return visits. Both these women were instrumental in bringing me to where I am today, medication free, well, and much attuned to my mental and emotional needs.
 I decided to avail of early retirement from my hated office job, despite initial resistance from some -and within a year had myself off all medication. I am very aware of my illness and of my tendency to irrational thought if depressed, it’s a bit chicken and egg, the thought makes you feel depressed and if depressed the depression feeds the irrationality. I keep myself mentally fit. I do the things that make me happy – working with children, reading, writing, learning, walking and gardening, spending time with my family. We’re lucky in that we’ve cleared our mortgage and while we’ll never have the ‘stuff’ that seems so important to most of the world we’ll never have huge debts again. Above all I appreciate every breath I take. I use mindfulness a lot, sitting quietly concentrating on the breath going in and out of my body, being present in the moment and gently drawing my wandering mind back to that moment. It is a good discipline for a busy mind.
I was lucky enough to become involved with performance artist Natasha Davis’s production ‘Internal Terrains’ in the Project Arts Centre in April 2013. I met people from every walk of life who were also involved, all younger than me - all with extraordinary tales to tell, all lovely people. Over the course of the fortnight leading up to the show Natasha gently drew our stories from us and then weaved them into her work which explores body, memory and identity.  Don’t ask me why her work works, I’m not bright enough – but work it does.  The whole experienced empowered me hugely. I realised that, like me, many people are wandering around bewildered or hurting at some level-not all the time obviously- when really what matters is this very moment – caring for each other and this moment, now; because we haven’t the faintest idea what’s coming next. The most important thing we have to do in any day is breathe. A baby knows that instinctively - how on earth do we move so far away from it as we grow?  
This has been a very difficult piece to write and it has been many years in the brewing. But my demons are, if not exorcised - then at least accepted, and told that they can no longer dominate my life. One cannot forget, but one can learn to live with the memory of and feelings of powerlessness about certain things, can learn to acknowledge the bad stuff but not let it colour everything in one’s life grey.
Thanks for reading – if you feel this piece might help someone you know who is hurting please, please share it. Keep well, smile, love each other – I love yiz anyway. Remember – one step at a time and above all BREATHE!!  

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Evelyns..........

I was supposed to have a perfect day. I had it all planned. I had stepgranddaughter#1&only this morning so decided to take her with me to the National Crafts & Design Fair in Dublin's RDS where I wanted to vist the stall of the wonderful . Siobhan is a fabulously talented artist and was selling her hand-painted silk scarves at the Fair.

I meticulosly planned my route and my timing. However the RDS was jammers, there were UCD exams on there and Funderland had started as well, so traffic was slow and parking hard to find.  I readjusted my schedule and knew I'd have a max of forty minutes at the fair. A lovely lady gave me a spare free pass she had, and myself and Cara took the lift to the balcony and found Siobhan. I couldn't believe how many beautiful stalls there were and the quality of the work on display was second to none. Prices were very reasonable and I only wish I'd had more time and money to spend.

Anyway I bought myself a Christmas present of one of Siohan's scarfs and of course got her to drape it properly around my neck - never got the hang of dressing myself properly. Another lovely artist friend Anne Wingfield was there too and it was great to see them both. Cara had been brilliant in the car and buggy but was getting restless at that stage, so I parked the buggy and took her out and gave her my fingers to balance herself as she paraded up and down the balcony, drawing smiles from everyone. We stopped to chat to a few people and she roared her 'Scary Cara' at them all, much to their feigned fright and her amusement. Cara charms all round her and is the light in our lives. I reinstalled her in the buggy and we took our leave of Siobhan and Anne.

On the way into the fair I had spotted a lovely 'Make your own...' kit and stopped to treat myself again. This is their website and their stuff is really lovely, great gift for anyone who loves crafty things Cara and I chatted to the lovely ladies on the stall as they wrapped my purchase. One of them had an eleven month old daughter so we compared notes! Fair play to her for starting up her own business with a young family. Next year I am doing no Christmas shopping until i visit the fair. And I'm going to spend a whole day there.

Out to find the car again and I knew I was cutting it fine to get back to Swords for a school pick-up at 1.30pm. I rang my charges's mother to explain and to see if she could do the pick-up. As it happens she was going to his school play so was going to collect him and take him for a McDonalds as a reward so I wasn't needed until about 2.15. Great, I could relax - although Cara must be hungry as it was past her lunch time. Anyway...whatever move I made...I took a wrong turn and got totally, hopelessly lost. I kept trying to find signs for the airport or the M50 and went round and round in circles.

I ended up over at St James Hospital and pulled in on a street behind it to ring the Jemser. I hate ringing the Jemser if I'm lost, he invariably asks 'how did you end up there?' It is such a stupid effin' question. If I knew how I did it I wouldn't have done it!Although my track record for getting lost is second to none. I once went to Kerry via Gort (??!!) and on another occasion ended up in Claregalway on the way home from Knock to Dublin. Hopeless case.
'Howrya. Listen, took a wrong turn and am lost, need to get to Swords by two.'
'Where are ye?'
'I'm at the back of St James Hospital'
'How the hell did you end up there? Where at the back. St James is huge?'
Stepdaughter #2 overhears his end of conversation and almost had heart failure thinking her baby is in hospital.
'I can't see a street sign.'
'Move on and when you find a street sign ring again. Are you heading North or South?'
'Jesus Jim, how long are you living with me? How the hell do I know?'
'Where's the sun?'
I looked out
'Behind a shaggin' cloud. I'll move and ring again.'
'What about (names charge).'
'Salright, I've been in touch with his Mam.'

Pulled out again and found a street whose name I knew,  then started following a bus whose number I knew would lead me in right direction - I thought. Didn't think it was going North to South instead of vice versa. To make a very long story shorter I ended up in Terenure before I managed to find the M50. I fianlly got back to Swords two hours and forty minutes after I'd left the RDS. The journey, even with traffic, should take no more than 45 minutes.

I had been in contact with my charge's mother and she had taken him into the office with her. However I had to drive up to my house firsr, deliver Cara to her Mam, switch to my car because my family needed Jemser's car as it has the baby seat in it and Jemser had to bring Mam and Cara home. 'Cept my car wasn't there. The Jemser had gone off shopping in it. I dumped me baba with her mama and raced back down the town to collect me charge in his car.

Up to his house then and couldn't fine housekey. I swear I was ready to cry. So I stopped, took ten deep breaths and looked for key again - I found it. Rest of afternoon went smoothly and I was glad when the

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Story Queen's Aul' Owls..............

My favourite children's picture book has long been Martin Waddell's 'Owl Babies'. In fact it is probably my all time, any genre, book. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a little message without being didactic. It is a story about mothers and children and the love between them. It is a beautiful book.

   I dressed up as my alter-ego, Her Majesty The Story Queen, last week and paid a visit to the children in Appleseeds playschool in Swords. Her Majesty met thirty wonderful children, all in or around three years of age. They all have a guileless charm, great innocence and a love of life. They are not afraid to say exactly what's on their mind. We had a great chat and Her Majesty told them all about StoryLand and her Magic Bicycle and her best friend Santa Claus (Storyland is 2nd left after The North Pole) and about The King who is really terribly lazy and doesn't DO books and about her eight children Molly, Polly, Ruth and Rose, Billy, Bobby, John and Joe. Then we read Owl Babies and the children shouted out the recurring line in it, that is - owl baby Bill saying 'I want my Mammy'. One of the wee girls I help look after attends the playschool and although she knows I am The Story Queen she still buys into the fantasy. We pretend that Evelyn the Minder is the Story Queen's cousin and they look alike. The Story Queen left the playschool to a resounding cheer and lots of happy waving.

   This morning I went to the local shopping centre with my little charge and we were wandering around Penneys when I spotted a little owl hat. I put it on her and it was so cute I had to have it. Then I had a brain wave and bought two more hats.
    'Why you do that Ellen' (she can't pronounce my name).
    'Well, I was thinking. Why don't we wrap up these hats  and put in a little note for your two friends'    (they play in the yard together while we wait for their older siblings to come out of school.)
   'We can say the parcel came down the chimney from The Story Queen.'
    Her face lit up, then fell.
    'But they be all dirty.'
    'No no, sure the Story Queen is magic - she just sprinkles some magic dust on them so they won't    get dirty.'

    We bought the hats and some nice red paper and when we got home wrapped them up. She was     beside herself with excitenment as we walked up to the school. As soon as she spotted the pals she was off.
. 'Leila! Leila! Alannah! Look! Look what The Story Queen send you - down my chimbly!' Much excited tearing of the paper. Then they put their owl hats on and beamed at each other, just like the real Owl Babies.
  'Now', said Evelyn the Minder. 'The Story Queen told me to ask you - what does Bill say?' And at the top of their lungs they shouted,
  'I WANT MY MAMMY,' before skipping happily away.

Such joy. Such delight - for  a cheap little hat from Penneys. It's the child's imagination that's priceless.

PS Her Majesty is appearing in The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar on Saturday Dec 6 at 10.30am for a forty five minute session - free admission.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Grand Day.............(rather a long post - make coffee!)

I should be boll**ed. I am boll**ed, but despite that and a few stiff brandies before I went to bed my mind wouldn't shut down so here I am typing shite to the world again. Isn't the Internet wonderful? 'Tis for the likes of me - most people I know are far too busy with their own lives to be bothered listening to me waffle on at the speed of light about things they have absolutely no interest in, and at a time when they would far rather be sleeping or reading or watching TV. They want to waffle on to me about things I have absolutely no interest in - albeit at a slower pace than my manic gabbling. So now us 'tell our life story to the bus conductor - if he'd listen' types can all sit up in the middle of the night and shoot the breeze with a screen, unburdening our souls without fear of getting three Hail Marys, an Our Father and possibly a lecture, or have to notice a glazed look coming into the eye of our reader. We bore nobody because nobody is obliged to read us and we can rest easy when we've said it all.
             I work a lot with children and you really see it in them, this need to be listened to, to be taken seriously, to be comforted and told it'll all be ok and you should never be afraid to talk to someone - someone somewhere will listen, will care, will help you. That feeling doesn't go away as we grow, we manage it better, become more self-sufficient and are able for the most part to deal with the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' but we all need a listening ear at various stages in life. That's why I am so glad I write. It is the medium in which I best express myself - without worrying about the reader's/listener's reaction. I'll never know many of those who read me (yes family, I do have the odd reader outside of you!)  and those who do know me know me well enough to understand where I'm coming from as I write.
            I digress. My Grand Day. On Thursday I spotted a piece online about open auditions in Galway for bit parts and extras in an upcoming movie starring Gabriel Byrne. I brought it to the Jemser's attention and suggested he should go for it. He decided he would and then I said
            'What the hell. I'll do it too. We'll have a big day out.' So we did. It was an eerie trip down early Saturday morning as there were patches of quite heavy fog about. I hadn't driven in fog before and must admit it was a bit of a strain. Anyway it had lifted before we got to Galway and we found the Connacht Hotel easily. Busy spot. Some Welsh rugby team, whose name escapes me but who were playing Connacht in the afternoon were staying at the hotel so between them and their entourage and supporters there was plenty of activity. That and the auditions, various other meetings and functions and the usual Saturday traffic to the swimming pool and gym meant there was plenty to look at and listen to. Gosh, I love people watching. Can you do a degree in it? I'd go all the way to PhD if there was!
                 We filled in the form for HoodUp Productions and gave them to the nice young man at the desk, then took a seat on a comfy couch nearby, well - the first one was too comfy for our aul' bones , Jemser remarked that getting out of it was like getting out of a bog-hole! So we settled for the second, firmer, sedate leather couch aimed at we elder lemons. We got chatting to two young actresses just starting out on their careers who availed of our vacated bog-hole sofa, they were really interesting women. Fair play, they are involved in a theatre comapny a few of them set up - the name escapes me but will plug it when I remember it and see one of their productions. They're also writing a play themsleves , about young gay love between two women in Poland after WW2 aimed at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2016 - great concept and I wish them well with it.
                 I told them we had no idea what the movie we were auditioning for was about (we didn't prpare ourselves at all!) so they filled us in. It's a horror film about a man who returns to Connemara to teach in a rural school and doesn't realies the house he has taken was the scene of several unexplained deaths. Strange things happen and it looks like his daughter may be possessed. Oooooh! On hearing this I decided to change my audition piece. I had intended to perform the famous 'To be, or not to be' soliloquoy from Hamlet but given that the movie was scary decided that the piece where Hamlet talks to his father's ghost for the first time might be better. I'd have loved to record it on the voice changer on my phone and set the change to 'ghost' but...maybe not!
                    We only had to wait about an hour before we were called.I was nervous so asked the Jemser could I go first. He never gets nervous and was happy with the speech from 'The Rainmaker' that I had suggested he read as his audition piece. So - in I went. I've never done this type of audition before so wasn't sure of the protocol so - what the hell - I just was myself. I walked in and shook hands with the four people in the room. Apparently one doesn't do that. Two professional looking sophisticated people one male, one female and two other men who (sorry lads) were more the arty farty end of things, one was a cameraman anyway and the other chap - who did most of the talking, could be a director/writer or something. Of course my form was half arsed. I had mentioned amateur productions I did twenty years ago which they read as me being involved in amateur theatre for twenty years. I corrected him to their amusement and my mortification. I forgot to mention Her Majesty, The Story Queen until the last minute, so had scribbled a bit about her on the end of the form. I neglected to put down my only involvment in a professional piece - Internal Terrains in the Project Arts Centre with the wonderful Natash Davis. The chap who was asking most of the questions thought he knew her and when I mentioned Natasha's boyfriend, a wonderful American musician who I said looked like an exclamation mark they all roared laughing. So far so good. The man said I was lovely and bubbly. No one ever called me bubbly before. I thought bubbly was small and slim and had blondy curls, or small and luscious with good teeth and shiny wavy black hair. I am neither of those people so it's nice to know I have my own large and heavy glowering bubbliness!
              I read my piece to the camera, I tried to tone my dramatic delivery down as I've only ever played Hamlet on stage, but not sure how it went. It was a pity I didn't have the piece verbatim as one loses facial expression when one has to read. But I did give the camera a glance or two. I'm not photogenic but you never know I might have a face that fits some mad aul' bat they want for their movie! I don't think they clapped when I finished - there was a silence and I'm not sure if it was a good or a bad silence. Jemser thinks he heard a clap from his perch outside the door. But what odds . Out I came and in went his lordship. From the laughter I heard through the door and the clap at the end he did really well. They told him he had a great face - which he does and his voice and delivery are great.
             I'd really, really, really love to see him getting something in this  movie. I have my writing as  a creative outlet, his singing and playing guitar is his -he claims he's not creative, he's an interpreter;  but he should have been an actor, he is really good. Life got in the way however and we both opted for the security of public service jobs to rear children and pay the mortgage. We have no real regrets about this; things were different in the Eighties, I wouldn't have thought 'being an actor' was a career option and we had neither the connections nor the education to even attempt life as professionals. Although funny enough my dearest friend from my school days told me at my book launch two years ago that I always said I wanted to be a writer or an actor - imagine I just forgot that! Jim and I kept our love of drama fed with regular visits to theatre over the years and taking part in the odd amateur production when it suited family life. The actor Don Wycherly knows Jemser well and he agrees it would be lovely to see 'The General' on screen (long story - y'had to be there!).
              I was buzzing after our auditions, we wished our new found friends the young actresses well and hit the road for the big smoke. We had a grand aul' chat on the way home. Despite the fact we're both retired we rarely spend much time together - and if we're both home he tends to be in one room inventing YouTube while I'm pottering about, knitting, or quilt-making or reading or writing. When you're stuck in a car together you tend to chat. I often forget what an easy conversationalist Jemser is - mainly because, when at home in a routine, we all tend to say the same six things over and over (I have a list of his six things!)
            We collected stepgrandaughter#1andonly en route and brought her home for an overnight. the poor little mite is teething and has a cold so is a little clingy and fretful. She only wanted her Nanny's lap and couldn't sit still even there, so I was moithered trying to find things to amuse her. I pulled out a little box of nursery rhyme board books and she was fascinated by them. I read them ad nauseum until I got bored (no pun intended!) and tried to distract her with a toy. She was having none of it. She picked up 'Humpty Dumpty' and placed it very definitely in my hands. So I read it agian. I stopped and she did it again. Time after time she picked it or 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' up and did the same thing. The books are both predominantly yellow, a colour she favours but I don't care why she picked those particular books, Cara wanted me to read to her. She is one year old. So now I will select books for her to read, I'll read and read to her until she is old enough to pick her own reading material, then old enough to able to disappear into a book for hours at a time. By giving her the gift of words I give her the world. I envy her the joy of her journey - the slowly dawning realization that she need never be alone when she has a good book.
             After she went to bed I had two nice brandies - I thought they might help me sleep. Not a chance. After my grand day I had not a hope in hell of sleeping unless I was pissed and passed out, and I rarely do pissed and passing out anymore, thank the Universe. I heard the wonderful Anthony Cronin on the radio earlier talking about his latest poetry collection. He mentioned something about energy creating energy and I can so relate to that. When I'm writing or doing anything creative I am completely absorbed in I seem to make more energy for myself , but it is an energy that must be utilised when it is created. I should really only start to write in the early morning - that way I have some chance of winding down before bedtime. But I find it difficut to write during the day, there are constant interruptions, noise and stupid distractions like suddenly seeing some ridiculoushousehold chore that becomes stuidly important. At night, in the dead quiet of the house I can write freely, hypnotising myself with the sound of the clacking keyboard.
             Now! Look at all that blether what I wrote. If I was getting paid by the word I'd be minted! Head unburdened now - am off to the leaba with my lovely new book 'The Homesman' by Glendon Swarthout - a great read, movie very true to it so far. Brilliant movie BTW, if it doesn't pick up severla Oscars I'll give up going to the flicks. 'Night, 'night. x