Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Have Seen The Future...........

D'y'know what? I'm fit to burst with pride. The band Son#1 plays in were the opening act of a terrific line up in 'The Slaughtered Lamb' pub in Swords Co Dublin this very evening. The pub was built on the site of a long defunct abattoir hence the unusual name. Mind you, the lads' band has a quare name too - 'The Milgram Device.'

The gig was to raise funds for the South African NGO charity SAEEP, the gig's organiser Aoife Rodgers is just finishing her second year in media studies in Colaiste Dhulaigh and is looking forward to her stint of volunteering in South Africa this summer.

Everyone in Dublin (actually in Ireland) has a 'Bono' story and most Dubliners of a certain age (between 40 and 60) claim they were at the now famous Dandelion Market gigs where U2 and the Prunes started out. And everyone just knew they were witnessing the birth of something big - or so they say!

I'm tellin' yiz now. And I'm putting it in print. The Milgram Device will be the biggest and best bands of the next decade. For a start the lads are very easy on the eye - 'cept for them bloody low slung jeans - PULL UP YOUR PANTS boys!! The girls will idolise them ala Beatlemania and the lads will want to be them - I can hear it now -
-'That Seamus has gorgeous cheekbones,'

-'Oh no! I like Liam - he looks foreign - Spanish or from Belgium or something'

-'Isn't Barry just the cutest fella ever - and OhMiGod he is THE man with that guitar - move over the edge Edge.

-'Oh no, I'm mad about Jack he's so cheeky looking. I bet he'd make me laugh all day'

-'What are ye all talking about - Alex the drummer is the main man, and he comes up with most of the original stuff'

-'And what's their manager's name? Ryan? He's not half bad either.'

- 'I'm movin' to Swords - it's full of talent!

Seamus and Liam share the vocals and both boys have a great quality to their voices. They can play too. Seamus and Barry share lead guitar ( and love it) and Jack bouncin' on bass are superb and of course Alex the drummer gives it welly with panache! What impresses me most about these lads is that they are writing original material as well as doing covers of ...don't ask me, I haven't a clue - I think I recognise the name Biffy Clyro but whose names escape me - I'm sure Pete Doherty comes into it somewhere. Anyway the five lads packed in a thoroughly enjoyable half hour slot and came down off the stage buzzin'.

So in thirty years time everybody in Dublin will be claiming they were in 'the Lamb' at the first official gig of 'the Milgram Device'. And I can say 'I told yiz!' Mammy's never wrong - 'cept when she's wrong of course - but she means well!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smells of Happiness

One Wednesday afternoon in the spring of 1968 my mother walked me down Grove Road and onto the Ballygall/Finglas Road to collect my library tickets from Dublin Corporation’s mobile library.

The procedure of book borrowing was explained to me and three green library tickets, little stiffened cardboard pockets which bore my name, address and borrower number in beautiful handwriting were handed to me. I longed to work behind the little counter in the mobile library. To be surrounded by books all day, to breathe in their gorgeous smell. To any bibliophile that smell is heavenly – it means peace and contentment. Rows and rows of unopened books packed onto shelves and exuding that aroma. OhMiGod! I fell in love that day and have been happily enslaved in that love ever since.
The sense of anticipation that that smell produces in me has never lessened. As a child that smell meant that soon I would have unread books again. Three books! Together! I almost always read each book from cover to cover the day I borrowed them. Then I could start again, re-read them – eking them out a chapter or two at a time, trying to ration them until the mobile library returned.

I shared a bedroom with my three younger sisters, at that time none of them were readers, preferring to play and chat and laugh at bed-time, decibel level rising until Dad came to the bedroom door and asked mock gruffly ‘Who’s doing all that talkin’?’. Back to mousey whispering and giggling until one by one they dropped off to sleep. I had to be the last one to sleep. It was my job. I was the eldest you see. I would have read in bed but I didn’t have a torch and the light from the Sacred Heart Lamp wasn’t bright enough to read by. Believe me – I tried. And so I’d fall asleep thinking about books, transposing myself, my friends and my sisters into the worlds described in the of Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton among others - all worlds a galaxy away from my suburban Irish childhood.

Between the ages of seven and thirteen I read every single book in the Junior section of that mobile library – a lot of them twice or three times. Then - oh joy! - a permanent library was built on the Ballymun Road, a fifteen minute walk from my home. It took some years for the smell of newness to wear off both building and books and for the library to attain its correct bookish smell. My parents weren’t readers and as I didn’t go to college I had little to guide my reading.

I love a good old murder mystery so Agatha Christie was one of the first adult authors I read, then I went on to historical novels like those of Jean Plaidy, then to thriller or blockbusters novels by Leon Uris, Forsyth and Ludlum. I don’t remember there being any ‘chick-lit’ type books about then – I think Jilly Cooper or alternatively Mills and Boons books were the nearest thing to what is now called women’s commercial fiction!

Eventually I widened the scope of my reading - there’s only so much Hercule Poirot a body can take - and I started to read to learn something – but still read fiction. I loved Solzhenitsyn, Carson Mc Cullers, Anita Brookner, JG Farrell, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham. I ‘discovered’ Hardy and Dickens. Anything set in India during the Raj or in Europe around either the First or Second World Wars fascinated me.

When I started working any spare cash I had was spent on books. No clothes or make-up for me! I could now afford to surround myself with my own books which I kept in a faux mahogany bookcase I bought in Arnotts of Henry Street. And from that day to this all my lovely books are waiting for me when I came home every evening. Waiting for me to open their covers, to sniff them with contentment and seep gently into their pages; letting them come to life, whipping me off to some other world where people like and unlike me have great loves or losses, great happiness and great sadnesses.

At this stage I have several other bookcases and I therefore have my special smell on tap! I like to think that my booky smell and, of course, the special smell of tiny new babies as my life’s aromas. The smells of my happiness.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A PMT poem...sort's a lament really


Bloody Hell!
Why do
Assume that
Am obligated,
By my missing ‘Y’
To care for Life’s minutiae.
God Almighty!
What unnatural law dictates,
That irritating tasks require
on those very dates
That I’m
Least capable.
Why only
Cadbury’s Wholenut
And Tayto Cheese and Onion
mixed, yes
- mixed-
will provide the comfort
that I need.
That Stupid Man!
He hears but doesn't listen
his head is full of sport
And silly things
like pints and politics
No room for me.
'Just P.M.T.'
An acrynomic diminution
For a hurricane of hormones
Velocity immeasurable
Batten down the hatches
It’s gonna be a bumpy night

Cheers, Evelyn

St John Paul II NS and Fighting Words

A few weeks ago I went along to one of the Fighting Words morning sessions to cover it for the local freesheet. The paper aren't going to use the piece now so ye get the privilege of reading it here instead. Basically because I'm too lazy to think up something to be bloggin' about.

The Right to Write

Fighting Words, the creative writing organization founded by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love and based in Wexford’s Independent TD Mick Wallace’s building in Russell Square opposite Croke Park opened its doors two years ago. Fighting Words is based on the successful model of 826 Valencia co-founded by renowned American writer Dave Eggers in San Francisco. Fighting Words provides writing field trips for primary school children and writing workshops for secondary students and adults. Their purpose is to encourage the use of the written word in all its forms to improve communication and express creativity.

It was to this wonderful space that the children of Ms McMahon’s 4th class in St. JohnPaul II’s school in Malahide came on Wednesday March 16th. A lively morning ensued and the children with the aid of facilitator Anne, typist Caroline and illustrator Marie produced a fantastic story about Tom, a fish who was allergic to water and so was forced to survive by living in a hamster ball of soya milk. Assisted by his best friend, Snivel Bottom ( a horse with a pink mohawk), Tom decided to approach Jilly Billy a wizard scientist (who happened to be a dog) to help him overcome his allergy problems therefore enabling him reach his goal of becoming the best seafood critic EVER. Phew!

The children came up with brilliant idea after brilliant idea and the Fighting Words team (volunteers and permanent staff), the children’s teacher and classroom assistant were put to the pin of their collars to keep up with them. The future of the written word and the creative talent of North County Dublin is safe while we have these bright sparks about. The children’s work, which was published on the day by the crankiest editor in the whole Universe – or at least the twenty-six counties - Mrs McConkey can be viewed online at along with the work of many other national school classes throughout Fingal and the greater Dublin area. Teachers and individuals interested in booking a session in Fighting Words should contact the centre at info@fightingwords .ie or 01-894 4576. Be warned though, there is no charge for any of the services Fighting Words provide and sessions can book out quickly.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jemser update

Well thank the universe this week is over. Jemser is on the mend and is actually starting to enjoy all the attention. He's still quite breathless and has pain if he laughs or coughs but it's not as bad as it was. Pneumonia. I couldn't believe it, he didn't even have a cold before it! According to the docs pneumonis is very prevalent in the community at the moment and it is this time of the year and October/November when they see most cases.

Now that he's a little better and finally has a proper bed in a ward he has started to interact with other patients. 'I keep meself to meself' he declares and then proceeds to tell me in detail the story of his fellow patients. Of course this being Ireland the first thing one has to do is find the connection between yourself and the random person next to you. So far Jemser has two of his fellow patients sussed. One man's sister-in-law worked with us both, better still another man hurled with my father in the fifties and sixties and stayed in the house of a friend of ours when this friend was but a baby. I'm sure he'll have the other two gents sussed out before I'm in again tomorrow.

Stepdaughter#2 was in visiting when I arrived at the hospital and we left together after an amusing and peaceful visit. As I drove her to the train station she remarked on the long and happy conversation she had just had with her Dad. I had noticed hat both Jemser and myself were engaging in conversations that meant something rather than the simple passing on of information. So I thought about all this. Y'can't beat a good aul' think.

It's the television. Deffo. The feckin' television is ruining all our lives. It sits in the corner malevolently staring at us if it's off and then when it's powered up it fills your eyes and ears with images and sounds - all driven by subliminal advertising of course- drowning out any thinking you might need to do. I've often commented on Jemser's attachment to the remote control and there is frequently a little power struggle going on between my sons for same. I think when Jemser comes home I will declare one evening a week a 'Repubic of No-Telly' night. That way we can all sit together (or not) and chat.

Chats are lovely - that's the sentiment printed on one of son#1's tee-shirts and he's perfectly right. We've all forgotten how to chat and laugh together outside of a public house because the box in the corner, or the laptop or some other electronic device(gaming consoles) is demanding our attention. They are robbing us of our most valuable asset. Our time.

So that's my rant for the week - turn off the bleedin' telly and get chatting!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Jemser (a long post)

Before you start reading, if you know him and I haven’t contacted you please note the JEMSER IS FINE!

Me poor aul’ hubby, Jemser, went and gave us all a terrible fright. He pulled something in his back when he was helping his Mam into bed about ten days ago. Teresa has that cruellest condition of all, Alzheimer’s. But back or no back Jemser still went off playing golf on the Monday after his weekend in Kilcar. He came in truly crocked, tried lying in the bed half the day, tried walking it out, lying on the floor – everything. Eventually he gave in and went to the doc last Thursday. She prescribed Difene and anxi-calm (valium) to relax the muscle spasm and help with pain.

He was still in bits on Friday but come Saturday his back felt a lot better, although the pain had moved first to his neck and shoulder and then his stomach. It was like severe indigestion when it hit the stomach. I slagged him over mysterious moving ‘man-pains’. Anyway he was recovered enough for us to head into town and see our offspring ( two in his case, one and one on loan in mine) gigging. It was a great night and we met up with a lot of old friends, we laughed and sang and had the craic (see last post for details).

However Jim paid the price on Sunday. Not hung-over, Jim doesn’t do hangovers. But he felt fluey, shivering and clammy to touch. The pain in his stomach was worse. He didn’t eat and slept most of the day, taking paracetamol and Difene for pain. Monday morning he felt better and we decided we’d go ahead with the mid-week break we’d booked. Our annual ‘save the relationship’ break, our boys kindly minded by Jemser’s daughter#2 (the offspring on loan as per first paragraph). So I got ready me bunnel ( my overnight bag for non Donegal readers)and he slagged me over the amount of stuff I was taking for two nights - men do not understand the ‘just in case’ principle that many women use in packing, particularly in Ireland where we don’t have climate, just weather – in all its unpredictability.

Unfortunately Jemser was up most of that Monday night with pain, shortness of breath and he worried when he saw blood in his sputum and urine darker than it should be in the toilet bowl. If you’ve ever heard Jemser sneeze or clear his chest you will know how noisy he is and how he delights in giving a blow by blow description of his bodily emissions. The blood shut him up.

So, instead of heading to a nice four star in Carlow for a relaxing few days we headed for the G.P. who promptly gave him a letter for Beaumont Hospital. I had permitted son#2 to stay home from school because the child is cut out of me, a complete worry-wart. He overheard me telling someone on the phone about the blood and started to cry. He would have fretted all day in school – the not knowing killing him. Before we came back from the doctors he had googled ‘pleurisy’ ‘pneumonia’ and ‘fluid in lungs’ – which were what we thought we were looking at. The poor divil. He has inherited my worry gene and my curiosity gene. Then to top it all he has his father’s ‘don’t believe it until you see it yourself‘ gene. Although son#2 will believe it if Stephen Fry says it as Jemser will if Micheal O’Mhuireheartattack says it.

Then followed a worrying few hours, although Jemser was triaged and sent to X Ray within forty minutes of arriving at A&E. Staff wonderfully courteous and kindly. After X-Ray he had a cat-scan and finally an ultra sound and they put him on an IV antibiotic drip then a saline drip as he was very dehydrated. He was in good form. Flirtin’ and slaggin’ the nurses as is his wont. Cracking silly little jokes with me. Repeating himself. But I could see the fear in his eyes as he could see it in mine.

The hospital said they’d have to hang onto him for a few days to investigate what was going on, there was blood in his lungs and his kidney function was ‘impaired’. I went home and packed a bunnel for him, dumping out my nice ‘save the relationship break’ clothes. I had to buy him pyjamas with an instruction from him to make sure they weren’t those bloody short sets. I did a ‘just in case’ bag for him, extra socks and jocks and any toiletries I though he might need. I brought the bag in and he was dozing on a fireside type chair in the acute medical area of A&E. He looked incredibly vulnerable. I chatted to one of the nurses, a lovely woman. It is alarming how quickly you assimilate all the medical terms and talk knowledgably peppering your sentences with them. Terms you never thought you’d need.

They found him a trolley for the night, a little narrow but grand according to himself, even better they found him a room on his own ( I think it was a broom cupboard) when they heard his snoring. He had a grand kip. I lay awake half the night, planning his funeral. Jesus- he'll come back and haunt me if I slushify it on him.

He met the medics this morning and pneumonia driven pleurisy was their diagnosis. A slight complication in that there appears to be a cyst on one of his kidneys which they want to investigate further. But he looks a lot better and feels ‘grand’ except for pain about the kidney when he coughs or sneezes. I’m grand about it all except when I google his symptoms. I think someone should come up with an app to block your search engine when a loved one is sick. The only condition I didn’t diagnose him as having was pregnancy, although he even has some of those symptoms, swollen feet, slight nausea, a general wooliness about him.

So today he’s happily ensconced on another trolley in a day ward in the hospital until the bed manager finds a bed for him (I hope our bed managers are better than our bank managers proved to be).Did you know that they use disposable pillows in hospitals now? Apparently it works out more cost effective than laundering them. I wonder are they bio-degradable?

They’ve taken so many bloods from him he feels like a cow with a dry udder and is wondering should he have a pint of the black stuff to replace all that iron. I suggest broccoli. Son#1 hasn’t gone into see him yet, he was too busy making an audition video for a venue where the band hope to perform their second real gig and his Da and I fully approve of his priorities. I contacted daughters #1 and #2 and put their minds at rest. Both extended families have been given the story. Mobile phone companies made a fortune on us all this day. The slagging and comments from them all (particularly the Drimreagh crew!) were hilarious and Jemser isn’t supposed to be laughing – ‘cause it hurts.

Son#2 came in with me this evening just to be sure to be sure.Doubting Thomas. We laughed, slagged, teased each other and talked shite. Just like being at home really. Except for the drip. And the pyjamas. He said I was carrying my fascination with Auschwitz too far, when I looked closely at them, yes, he looked like an overgrown ‘boy in the striped pyjamas’. It wasn’t deliberate. We got a laugh out of it anyway as the stripe is where the resemblance ends. For a fella with so much wrong with him he looks rudely healthy.

I’ll be glad when it’s all over.

It is at times like these that one realises what’s really important in Life. People. Us. People you love. People who can drive you mad at times but who are always – always - there for you, as you are for them. People who love you. And what matters to me above all else is my little family, the four kids we have between us. Us. His family from Kilcar. My family from Ballymun. The families that extend as children grow, find partners and continue on the bloodlines.

The rest of it, the jobs, cars, shopping, houses, rows, entertainment, politics, finances. All of it, ALL, is irrelevant unless the people you love and who love you are well and happy. Only then is all right with the world. At least with my world.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Me Babbies..............

Well, I turned into an almost fifty year old twenty something on Saturday night last. I had a date with Jemser. I had no kids in tow. I forgot about teenage angst. I even put on slap!!And we got on the DART and arranged to meet very dear, old old friends (not OLD just hanging about a long time!), family and whoever happened to stick their head into the upstairs space of Toners in Baggot St. It was weird. Like deja vu all over again. 'Cause d'y'know what - Celtic Tigers may have come, roared their lungs out and scratched all about them but Toner's of Baggot St (upstairs) is still the Toner's of Baggot St (upstairs) that I spent many happy weekend nights thirty years ago.

This is what I love about Dublin. It has all these mad little scruffy (sorry Toners - you are fundamentally scruffy...and celebrating same!)venues all over this mad, bad, sad and deadly capital city. In which are the most unbelievably talented and stoic artistes. Singing and playing. Covers, original stuff, interpreted stuff. Above all a deep and abiding love of music by people.

The opening act were three young men, youths, all three only barely half way through their teens. They were three fifths of a band called 'The Milgram Device' (google it). We will hear more about these young men. They were magnificent. Young, earnest, full of life and fun. They played a varied set, including numbers from Biffy Clyro, Pete Doherty and Mumford and Son. Apparently they're writing their own stuff too but aren't yet ready to share it with the rest of us.

The main event came on after a respectful ten minutes to allow us recover from the enthusiasm of the Device-ees. Oh Lawdy! It was a wait well rewarded. How do I describe Riverwide? Well, for a start they have three glorious female voices in Rachel Cunningham, Cathy Mc Evoy and Emma Bolger.Then they have all these deadly musicians about them. Like the finest bass guitarist of his generation Paddy Joyce. Like Ian Finaly, saxophonist extraordinaire (plus he's first rate at other blowy (things!) Like Frank Bolger on percussion and Marian McEvoy on fantastic lead guitar and banjo (despite her protesting she couldn't!!)

And I didn't get home 'til after 3 am and en route I stuffed my slightly inebriated self with a burger 'n chips from a chipper before we got a Nightlink bus from the centre of the city to my 'village' of Swords in Nth County Dublin. And I felt twenty (maybe twenty-five) again. And I also felt almost fifty and happy about that too. Our future is safe folks, I have seen the future of our nation, and it pleases me greatly.

Ps I admit a bias, Seamai of the Milgram Device and Rachel of Riverwide are respectively my son #1 and my stepdaughter #2. But I'm an impartial observer!!