Saturday, September 25, 2010

Town or City?


I live in a sleepy little town that qualifies as a city. There are certain criteria you have to meet in order to be a city, and Galway’s status as a city has always been debatable. Nevertheless, it is historically known as ‘the City of the Tribes’, and if you happen to be around Eyre Square, in the heart of the city, at around say 3a.m, you may spot various tribes engage in combat outside Supermacs ( a Galwegian fast food outlet specialising in contemporary Irish culinary delights). 
But city or nay, most people have heard about Galway. There’s the races, who hasn’t been to the races? Then there’s the Arts Festival; there’s Cuirt, the international festival of literature; Baboro is a festival for kids; there are at least two Oyster festivals with a film Fleadh thrown in somewhere in the middle.
More recently there was the Volvo Ocean Race and on foot of that there have been a good few boat festivals attracting polo shirted men in deck shoes accompanied by leggy blondes with an attitude. And there doesn’t even have to be a festival for the place to fill up in the summer months. You always know the tourists: sensible raincoats, aran sweaters, expensive cameras and a stressed out frown brought on by the price of Guinness and a bowl of chowder. They call Galway ‘Gallaway’ if they’re European, whilst Americans pronounce the ‘gal’ in Galway as if it was the Galway gal and not gal as in gallstones.
So in other words, I live in a so called city that has been taken over by festivals or tourists for most of the year. The thing is, though, this place really only comes to life around late September, when the rest of the world goes home and Galway turns back into a little town again. The rain doesn’t get any worse than it is during the summer months, but you don’t feel cheated anymore, because although the weather is more or less shit all year round, the calendar is telling you that it’s ok to light the fire and order pizza. You can watch telly without having that guilty feeling that you should be at the launch of some book or play or film and if you do go out the pubs start offering alternatives to Irish dancing, Irish music and traditional Irish shows that traditional Irish people wouldn’t ever set foot in.
That’s why today was a good day in Galway. It was pissing rain and not a raincoat in sight, there wasn’t a queue for the ATM, everyone was in bad form and the general consensus was that really, what else could our leader have done here last week but get pissed and make an eejit of himself on national radio?  It just made me ask that question again, are we a town or a city?  Then I remembered that KFC recently opened in Galway and that it costs €2.50 an hour to park in town. There’s a place near the docks that sells Japanese food and a transvestite works in the hairdressers on the main street. So yeah, that’s it really, isn’t it? City. Definitely a city.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Man and Bird Flu

I’m sick. It’s not all that surprising considering that I’ve spent the past week living with two sick teen boys. The kind of teen boys who think that the coffee table is the bin for germ filled tissues and that the place to send a sneeze is across the room, especially when I’m in the firing range. But despite all that, I just didn’t expect to get sick because after all, I’m the one who has to mind all the sickies, so who the hell can run to the chemist and get overpriced paracetemol, a forest worth of tissues and a few dozen movies except my good self?
But damn, it looks like I too have gotten the ‘man flu’. I call it that because I understand man flu as meaning you have a bit of the sniffles and you’re going over the top about it. Well truth is, women can get the man flu too, and I’m one of them. I’ve coughed and  sneezed a few times, my throat is a bit sore and I do have a certain amount of aches and pains, but I’m so precious about myself and such a man when it comes to illness that I definitely feel ‘man flu’ is a feminist issue, and I’m a feminist who’s suffering from it. I’ve crawled off the sofa to write this blog though, cos after all, I’m so sick, it might be my last ever piece of writing. I’ve had a few hot whiskeys and whatever combination of over the counter drugs you can combine without actually dying, and I do feel a bit woozy, but that has nothing to do with the medication and alcohol, it’s because I’m seriously ill, and as if that’s not bad enough, nobody cares.
The main difference between women and men when they have the man flu is that women still make the dinner and throw on a wash and have a bit of a wobbler before they collapse onto the sofa, whereas men only collapse onto the sofa.
So the teen boys are better now. You know that teen boys are better when they start saying that they’re still really really sick, but they say it whilst tucking into a large steak and chips and fighting with each other. But me, I’m still sick. O.K., I did have a bit of steak but the chocolate was just comfort food to help my illness and the whiskey is, of course, for my throat or something.
So I’ll lie here on the sofa until the ambulance comes and hopefully, I’ll pull through. After all, we women need to get better quicker than men as we have things to attend to, like having babies and periods and stuff like that, which, come to think of it, gives us all the more reason to get sick as it reminds us of our other sickly duties.
Granted, I do manage to work full time and still make the dinner whilst doing all this moaning, but in fairness, the boys managed to walk down to the shops and do some ice cream shopping for their poor sore throats when they had it, so after all that it just goes to show that man flu or bird flu, we’re all equals…

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Fear Does

A few weeks ago when I heard noises downstairs at 5 o’clock in the morning, the kind of noises that didn’t sound like that of a child getting a drink of water or the wind blowing through the rafters, but more the kind of noises you hear when someone is in the process of packing your valuables into a bag and making away with them; I froze to the spot.
Well that was the first thing I did. Then I ran downstairs in my pyjamas hoping to take on whatever number of strung out junkies might have been ransacking the place. As I don’t have a great track record in speed, I only managed to get a glimpse of them drive away with anything of value that I ever owned. It was only afterwards that I wondered what the hell I would have done with them, or what they might have done with me, had we had a face to face confrontation. It's a bit like a dog chasing a car. I mean, what would it do if it got it?
So I’ve been thinking about fear, and the fight or flight instinct and what makes people afraid of different things. I didn’t manage to do my Sheela-na-Gigs number (read old blog on that by scrolling through the archives), but if I did learn one thing, it was that now I know the feeling of fear. It’s a bit like the dreads and sweats and dry mouth that I get before going on stage, multiplied by infinity to include your bones melting while you run at full speed towards the danger that is causing all of this to happen.
I imagine fear is easier to deal with when you can see the demon: in this case a bunch of strung out scangers in shell suits. But what when you’re afraid of something that doesn’t have a face, like the fear of death, poverty, failure and all the things that have people tossing and turning at night. Why is it that one person gets into knots about things that another person doesn’t give two hoots about?
I had this friend once who had sleepless nights worrying about not having enough money. He and his wife both had great jobs. They had two cars, two houses, two children and a boat. They weren’t at risk of losing their jobs or anything; it was just the thought of it that kept him awake. The thought that it may sometime actually happen was the worry, not the actual situation. And that man made me realise that most of the things we fear or not things at all, they are notions, the ‘what if’ notion of how everything might fall apart. So at the end of the day, real freedom is about not being afraid, isn’t it?
I began to be proud of the fact that I’ve had the guts to do things a lot of people fear, like not having a real job (I’m a wroiter loike), being openly in a same sex relationship, getting through the week with 200 quid to feed four of us, not owning my house. Ah, I could go on about all the adventures travelling across the globe and shaky money exchanges in Asian countries and all that lark.
I was starting to get cocky about not being afraid of so many things,but then I realised that it's actually all just random. One person fears one thing and another something else, so I started thinking about the things that terrify me. Not burglars.I’ll run downstairs in my 'Hello Kitty' pyjamas to ward off armed masked men any day of the week. But then I remembered the time that there was an intruder in the house that had me bricking it. I remember screaming, sweating, shaking and being stuck to my bed. And I knew that if he ever came back I'd be the very same. Funny thing is, it wasn't one of those crazed burglars, just a little fella: a mouse! 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Jedward Thing

Fortunately for me, I am one of those altruistic, non-judgemental, non-opinionated people who see other peoples spin on life as an interesting and enriching complement to ones own beliefs and values. Not.
So I’m trying to come to grips with living under the same roof as a pre-teen who is a Jedicated Jedwardian. Now, if you have not yet come across Jedward, let me explain in brief: identical twins who are famous for singing out of tune and acting and looking about 12 years old when they are, in fact, about to turn 19 next month. If I were to use one of my pre-teens favourite derogatory comments to describe them it would be ‘so gay’, but apparently they are neither so gay nor even gay, well at least not in the eyes of my pubescent daughter.
When they first appeared on X Factor, they cited one of their reasons for entering the competition was that they wanted to meet lots of girls who'd be their fans (they said it in between saying the word 'like' repeatedly), and indeed that has become a reality. I know all about their fans because I recently had the pleasure of seeing them in concert. Now not that I'd go to a Jedward concert or anything, of course it was all a big coincidence, I swear. I dropped my daughter outside the venue and even though she had long gone into the hall to do a bit of screaming and fainting, I decided to lurk around the place to get some fresh air, and would you believe it, I just happened to bump into a friend who worked as a roadie for the show. He insisted on pushing a few free tickets into my hand, and, well what could I do? Yes, that's right, I went to the gig on a fact finding mission to see what sort of people worship them other than my daughter, and true it was; Jedward have a huge female following, only thing is that most of them are aged between 8 and 11 with a gap up to the next bunch who, like myself, were the mammies.
But seriously, there’s something about them. They sing, dance and say stupid things, and you just can’t help laughing. It’s not even a mockery thing, but whenever I see them I can’t help having a giggle. Let's face it: they epitomize the Ireland that kids that age have grown up in. This is the new Irish teen. This is what happens when you give up piling turf into baskets on a donkeys back, it's what happens when we stop dancing at the crossroads and start living in a world of making SIMS characters. Because c'mon, if Jedward aren't avatars themselves, they've at least modeled themselves on avatars, after all, there are no real human beings who look anything like them.
But they redeemed themselves on stage. They sang an old Bay City Rollers number which reminded me of my own tartan past, so I did have to shut up when my daughter swore she’d always love them, because I remembered swearing similar about the Rollers once upon a time.Oh God, the Rollers, but then I ditched them for Gary Glitter and then Showaddy Waddy and David Cassidy and Donny Osmond and all of those people who are just proof that history does repeat itself. I went home humming the Rollers song, grinning and wondering what's going to replace Jedward next year. After all, it could be worse, they could have been triplets.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What To Wear?

Having decided to take my progress as a writer seriously, I recently returned to the day job. It takes a bit of getting used to, but most jobs are the same really. You have stuff to do and you have to do parts of it with people who are neither family nor friends. In some cases they become one or the other or both, but mostly they just get on your nerves and you end up spending more time with them than you do with your own family and friends anyways.
The thing that’s been bothering me though, is this: what to wear?
I just can’t help it, but whenever I wear formal work clothes it throws me back about thirty years to when I had to wear a school uniform. It’s the same principle really, you’re made wear uncomfortable clothes that look stupid but send out the message that you belong to some organisation or other. Well it’s not exactly a uniform in this job; I’d actually like it if I had to wear a peaked cap and a traffic warden’s outfit. There’s something sexy about those kinds of uniforms, and if I didn’t take an allergic reaction to entering hospitals I may even have considered becoming a nurse just for the sake of the uniform. After all, nurses get to have a lot of sex and it all boils down to the nurse’s outfit. I know this firsthand, as I’ve seen porn movies and there are lots of nurses in them, bold ones who haven’t even taken off the uniforms before filming.
In my case, I headed down to the fatty shop and bought a few pairs of grey pants and some hideous pin striped blouses. I dug out two old pairs of shoes with a heel on them and unearthed a bottle of foundation somewhere. I put on the stuff I’d bought and remembered my green and yellow school uniform and how wrong it felt not to be wearing real clothes. I applied the war paint, to include plum coloured lipstick. I felt a lump in my throat leaving my Converse runners and blue jeans at the end of the bed, but I reminded myself of the looming pay check and how much better that is than avoiding debt collectors and writing bad poetry.
I wouldn’t mind what I call ‘real work clothes’. Painters, for example, wearing protective clothing, or a farmer wearing his wellies and big anorak, but I just can’t get my head around why you have to put on a new persona and wear itchy, dorky, power monger garb just because you’re sitting at a desk putting information into a computer.
Maybe it’s to send out the image that people who wear Converse are not real people. After all, how could they have jobs if they wear runners? Indeed, it’s probably only poets and people with half written novels who wear Converse.
Next week we’re all meeting for a so called ‘social’ and I’m beginning to get that feeling that I had as a teenager when we went to the first school discos. I’m excited about meeting up after work when we’re allowed to wear our real clothes, the ones that reflect upon our real selves. Then again, perhaps I’ll be disappointed. The others might turn up in that sort of proscribed leisure gear. The kind of really tame striped tops and cream pants. After all, it is dinner we’re planning. But I don’t care. I’m going to be a real rebel and wear my Converse. So hmmph. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Day Of School

 My little boy just started school last week, so I’ve been through the usual: going all mushy about how tiny he looks in his school uniform, standing at the school gate in tears, worrying about him being bullied, lonely, upset or overlooked by some crabby teacher. Will he get lost in the big school building and will other kids talk to him at break times? So I made some excuse to go into the school on day two, said I wanted to pay for some scheme or other that isn’t really due until Christmas, and I managed to catch hold of the school principal in the corridor. She knows me, I already have a child in the school, so I just mentioned that she should keep an eye on my little fella and be nice to him and all that.
I did feel a tad upset when she more or less told me to get over myself, but I suppose she has a point considering that this is his first day of secondary school, and he is thirteen after all. Thing is though, I never really had a cry when any of them started primary. They were four years old, which meant that my life had become preoccupied with an animated train engine, a loopy purple dinosaur surrounded by a bunch of very clean and Christian looking kids with big smiles and great singing voices, jigsaw puzzles, Lego, sturdily built books that could be thrown at you to read over again and again and again, and endless nursery rhymes about ten bloody sausages sizzling on a pan. The toilet always had a poo in it and every room in the house was destroyed with scribbly writing and strewn with toys. Yes, at age four I was damn happy to see those kids off to school. I think I stayed just long enough to shove him into the teacher’s arms and assure her he would stop screaming once I left. Then I went for coffee with real grown ups, watched a movie with real people doing grown up things and looked at the clean toilet a few times before going back to the school at 2pm to pick him up, pretending that I didn’t realise they got off at noon during the first week.

But secondary school, well its serious isn’t it? This is about your kid growing up, and the scary thing is that when they stop leaving poo in the toilet they also stop crying and telling you what’s wrong. Secondary school will determine their attitude towards the grown up world. Other grown ups will influence them and so will other kids.
What do you do when you’re sending your child to a place where all the things you’ve protected him from will be on offer? From religion classes to drug dealing, school can be a dangerous place.
I decided that the principal was right though, I’d have to get over myself, after all, isn’t this what I wanted, for my kid to grow up? On the way out I almost ran into a brand new VW Golf racing into the school grounds. The driver was wearing a school uniform and didn’t look much older than my son. I wondered should I go back into the school and tell him to be careful with his driving in case any of the first years are out in the car park, but I decided it mightn’t look great and I’d been warned by my little fella to behave myself so I went home instead and reminisced about the good old days of nursery rhymes and dinosaurs and poo, and yeah, I did, I had a little cry.