Sunday, February 28, 2016

Get on with it..............

I met an old friend yesterday and we rambled for a while together. He is in his seventies and hadn’t been well so we chatted about his health for a while. He’s feeling ok but has to take meds now all the time. I could see his vulnerability.
’I didn’t think I’d ever feel like this again’, he said. I knew what he meant. He had some mental ill-health about ten years ago and I had helped him through it.
‘You’re frightened?’ I asked. He nodded.
             ’It’s alright to be frightened. Acknowledge it, then get on with the normal things you do.’
 ‘But I could be dying!’ he exclaimed.
 ’We’re all dying. It’s how we handle the fact makes the difference.’ He nodded and I saw some of the trouble leave his face.
Not for long though. We started to discuss the election result, or rather non result.
’I can’t believe it,’ he said. ‘Are people that stupid and short-sighted?’ Do they not remember what Fianna Fail did? Do they not realise that our children and grandchildren now have to live abroad, away from us, because of their short sightedness? Their greed!’ He continued venting and I teased him to calm down or he’d have a ‘banger’. He laughed – a big shouty hearty laugh.
‘D’you know’ he said. ‘I meet two fellas I used to work with regularly for a drink. Both of them ended up at the top of the pile in their respective industries. One has a pension of about 60k , the other about 80k. And they voted for Fianna Fail. Because they felt too much had been taken from them by the FG/Labour coalition.’
 ‘Greed,’ I said, ‘pure greed. Still trying to keep up with the Jones’ I suspect’
‘That’s exactly it.’ He replied, ‘Bloody fools. Selfish bloody fools. I thought the government were doing a fairly decent job of cleaning up the mess. Well, I wash my hands of the whole damn lot of them.’
We parted then and I walked on thinking about how he felt. This man worked hard, paid all taxes and bills as they fell due. With his partner he reared a family, educated them, helped them out when they had to go abroad for work. One child is gay and chose to leave because Ireland of that time was so stifling for anyone different. The second child settled in Australia, has a good life, a partner and children. They don’t come home much.

I saw a great tee shirt logo some years back. It was the face of the iconic Peig Sayers (much hated by my generation of Dubliners) and underneath it was the legend ‘Recession, Mo Thoin’. It was the first time I ever got a laugh out of Peig! We have a great little country, lots of resources and resourceful people. Whatever the outcome of discussions over the next number of weeks for pity’s sake let there be no more Civil War and grandstanding politics, no more egos and squabbling. We’re all tired lads. Just get on with your bloody jobs and stop trying to keep up with the Jones’.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday and Heavy Breathers.......

My she shed is still a WIP so I removed myself to the library in a nearby village today. It was a gorgeous morning here in North Co. Dublin; very cold, but the quickly thawing ground frost left behind that nice crisp air and a blindingly low winter sun hung in a hard blue sky.

I had a good bit of reading to do, so found myself a quiet corner and began. There were a couple of students in the study area, and some very young children on the lower ground floor chatting and laughing. I have, of necessity, always been able to shut out the noise of the very young. A skill learned as the oldest of seven kids growing up in your average suburban semi-d.

After an hour or so I was deeply engrossed in my book but became aware of somebody settling into the desk behind me. That was fine, concentration briefly disrupted I checked emails and had a quick look on social media. Then, when I deemed my fellow reader should be organised I tried to get back to my book.


The noises emanating from the person were ridiculously irritating. Snuffling, throat clearing, sighing, tutting and (worst of all) very heavy breathing. I had to resist the urge to turn sharply and say ‘STOP BREATHING!’

 I gave up my hope of concentrating after ten minutes, when it became apparent that my fellow library user was simply a noisy person, completely unaware of same. Some people need to hear themselves breathing to make sure they’re still, well, breathing.

As I gathered together (quietly) my belongings I cast a glance at my intruder. Elderly, male, bald and a little overweight; he had the angriest looking cross marked in black ash on his forehead. It‘s Ash Wednesday and, despite making pancakes yesterday, it hadn’t registered with me. As I passed I stole a glance at the documents this man was working on. They appeared to be applications for attendance at a local Catholic primary school. I wondered about them. There has been a lot of chat in Ireland recently about parents trying to get their children into the local school and failing to find a place because preference is going to those baptised in the Catholic faith. A lot of parents are choosing not to baptise their children now, and finding it difficult later, as the Church is still the main patron of most schools in Ireland.

I know this particular Catholic school. It has a great reputation, and there are alternative schools in the area. But I’m a great believer in kids going to the local school, the one their pals from crèche or their estate go to. I have no idea if my heavy breather was judging parents as he read their forms – but the memory of his blackened brow staring sternly at these forms is a little unsettling – and of course the product of an over active imagination. But still…..

Anyway, I came out onto the Main St as the local church was emptying itself of its devotees. If an alien had landed this morning I think it might have been bewildered as to why most of the humans it encountered appeared elderly and marked with an angry thumb. Despite the warming sun I shivered. I know ashes on ones forehead are supposed to be symbolise humility – but it just doesn’t feel like that.

It feels like – ‘we are different’. 

And that’s my main problem with all organised religions, that - ‘we are different’ Not we are better (although many espouse that) but look at us, we are different – and we want to be the same in our difference. Am I making sense? Probably not. But I’ll never, ever understand slavishly following any particular group of teachings – when some of them are blatantly unfair and even at times downright cruel.

'Nuff said. Roll on me she shed!