Monday, April 30, 2012

Everything and Nothing

If you ever delve into  'The Lives of the Great Poets', you will find a thread that is unrelated to all writing. Most poets, and writers come to that, seem to go through splurges of wealth and affluence followed by dire poverty and lives lived in run down garrets. I remember reading about one guy who got a stipend which was to last him for a year. He went out and had a crimson waistcoat hand tailored, bought a pocket watch and then lived like a pauper eating stale bread crusts and drinking water for the rest of the year. Oh how right he was!
You see I've gone through various stages of wealth and poverty over the years, and I find it interesting. Growing up in middle class south county Dublin was a bit like living in a bubble. I assumed that there was a certain level of affluence that would always be a given. Just like we assume that having electricity or running water is a given, even though all of these things are always hanging on the edge of a cliff.
In my early twenties I had already set up my own business and over the years I found that money came easy to me. So easy that I was always to ready to let it go too.
Then, at some stage, I had this epiphany. I decided that I had enough money now to live off and I'd go back to college and then become a wroiter loike. It was a great idea and there were a few very bohemian years that I will never want to have missed. But then the money ran out and it was all just a tad less romantic than how it had started out.
But here's the thing, here's how to live a life of constant abundance - no matter how much or how little you have, if you splurge a large amount of it on something luxurious that brings you joy, well then, you will always be rich.
I was trying to explain that to a friend of mine recently. We were going to dinner, my treat. He was all like  lets go somewhere cheap, I don't want to put you to any expense, and I was all like, let's go to the best restaurant in town and live it up for the night. Me being the dominant and bossy type we ended up making a democratic decision to go to the good place. Because you see, what's an extra 50 or 100 quid if you always remember your lovely night out? And let's face it, even a tenner is too expensive if you're paying for something that involves a compromise.
So I've noticed a pattern. I tend to spend most of my monthly salary in week one. Then I spend the next two and a half weeks penny pinching. The last half week of the month is spent going through the pockets of all my clothes and routing down the back of the sofa for loose change.  But you see, on the hunger days, you can still think of the good wine. And if you only had abundance, you'd be an awful ungrateful and miserable git.
Maybe that's why I can't bring myself to set up an excel spreadsheet with a budget plan, and maybe deep down I don't like to hold on to money for too long. Go on, give me a lecture on how reckless I am and how I need to change my ways. Remind me of how I complain when the cashflow aint flowing.

Truth be told, I hate all of those 'get rich' plans on how to accumulate money. They do talk some sense, but ultimately they only ever work if you have no sense of community and if you don't like the good life.
I've never been able to click with stingy people. I always think they're working out how much they can save, but I never know what they're saving it for, because when they have it saved they'll be too stingy to spend it.
So there you go, the last April blog. It's the end of the month. Did you get paid? Ever thought of donating to me on this blog? I promise to spend it on good wine.
And that reminds me actually. I hate when people don't give money to beggars on the grounds of 'he'll only spend it on drink.' I mean hello, we spend our money on drink too. What should a homeless man spend his money on? The ESB bill? Candlesticks? A lawnmower?
As Robert Frost reminds us 'There's no money in poetry, but then again, there's no poetry in money.'



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Seeing the World

I happened to be wandering upstate Galway at about 8am this morning, and don't jump to conclusions, I hadn't been kicked out of some fiery goddess's bed for wearing her out, no, I had been dropping some random teen of mine to the bus. So I ended up strolling through the Galway market early enough that most stalls were just being set up, and it had that buzz about it that I love so much more than when it's in full swing. Planks and poles being carted along on makeshift trollies made of old prams, stall holders fighting over inches of precious space and the smell of second-hand, home-grown and incense merging, to create that smell that you only get at the Galway Market.
There's a guy eating oysters as fast as Mike, the Oyster & Egg man, can slice them open. I decide that it's not every day of the week you get the opportunity to have fresh native oysters for breakfast, so I ask Mike if I can have just the one, and as he hands it to me I realise I have no money on me. Mike says to get him next time but in the end I manage to route out a few coins and we're quits. Behind him, Gillie, vendor of all little things that make you feel good about life - over the years I've acquired a rainbow coloured teapot, some funny fridge magnets, worry dolls - a little set of Mexican matchstick figures in boleros. You tell them your worries, put them under your pillow and next morning your worries are gone. When my worry dolls didn't work after I told them about my love and financial worries three nights running to no effect, I returned them, and Gillie gave me my money back. I've also bought masses of photo frames, kilos of incense, eco friendly washing nuggets and soya candles.
I greet Gillie who's standing with Daniel, the do-nut man, a skinny Noo Yowk dude who transports his do-nut business week in, week out by bicycle and a strange looking homemade trailer.
Then there's Mick, who sells the crepes. Mick, who feeds all the Galway hobos for free with his fresh organic ingredients. Mick, who just seems to know by the look in your face that your broke and throws in an extra or makes up a price that he thinks might suit you better today. Mick, who used to be Mick and Susanna, and who I used to have on my check list of people who I'll give an envelope with a few grand in it when I win the lotto and start publishing my best sellers. Last year Susanna lost the fight. If you could fight cancer with a lip on you and a sean-nos voice that would make a tinker cry, she'd still be around. But you can't. So I'll just have to remember Susanna getting kicked out of the pub but insisting on climbing back in the window to sing just one more song.
I chat briefly with Gillie about what a godawful place Galway is, and while I do, the egg man and the do-nut man, who she'll probably have an argument with within ten minutes, are putting up her stall. I wonder if they're doing it because they know how ill Gillie has been but how you can't just stop trading, there's no safety net. But I decide that they're the kind of guys who do nice things anyway.
You see, this is the stuff the market is made of: people, real people, making Galway be Galway. The traders have it harder than any other kind of retailers, they are the kind of people who the banks didn't help even when they were throwing money at people, and yet, the customers tend to believe that they should get everything for tuppence because it's not high street robbery land.
So I go into Griffin's for a coffee and a danish (yes, I know that I won't miraculously lose weight that way) and there's a group of people beside me to include a loud English girl going on and on about what sort of essential oil is best to kill the mozzies in Sri Lanka. I can't help eavesdropping, and it becomes clear that she's shortly due to leave for Africa where she's going to work in an orphanage. "I'm looking forward to the animals out there" she says, but the humdinger was yet to come "and Tribes, Africa is great for Tribes." I wondered what she might think Ireland is 'great for'. Drunks? Rain? Rip-offs?

After my breakfast I stroll back down the market. It's in full swing now. Americans are taking photos of the Hare Krishna man and buying nothing. At the very end I see a camera crew. They're taking the usual carrotscape and romantic 'day at the market' swing on things. I bump into a friend who is just back from Australia and Thailand, she's not finished travelling yet, she's due to go to Seattle in another month. She's giving me a pain, and I glance around, noticing that the old farmer couple are here today, the ones who just set up the one small table and sell eggs, along with whatever amount of apple tarts she managed to make this week. The flower seller is annoying the passing traffic. He's too far out on the road.
As I walk back to the car I realise that I haven't travelled the world at all, but at least I see it.





Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Time Does

I give a session at work on Time Management. It used to be a day, now it's an hour, but I could give it in 5 minutes or less just by saying this: You can't manage time, you can only manage yourself, and time goes by at different speeds - Kairos & Chronos. The End.
Chronos is the expression for time passing in a, yes, chronological way: second for second, hour for hour and all that jazz. Kairos is the concept of how time flies, or doesn't depending on how absorbed you are in something, or in a hurry, or waiting for pay day.
There's one thing I never go through though, and that's the passing of time as in when you get older, or the seasons of things, or happy times and sad times, because after all, it is our feelings that carry us through time and not any other mechanics.
Yesterday my Mother phoned me. She has the start of dementia. On a bad day she thinks I'm her sister, and how come I never told her where I live. She tells me about the people who hide in the attic and come out at night. But the good days I find harder to hear about. Yesterday she called me and knew who I was, but she told me that she was dying: dying of loneliness. She told me that she drove the car around aimlessly for a while and then skulked around the aisles at the supermarket, just to be around people.
This year she lost two of her best friends while her life partner is in hospital and has alzheimers. I've never been close to my mother, there's a lot of history in our family, and sometimes the rubble of all of our wars over the years feels like it lives in the bottom of my heart. Again though, these things all have a sell by date. Time can do minor spells. But still, I couldn't help feeling sorry for her. She was always surrounded by people, and even if we were never close, I'm told I'm the cut of her, similarly throwing random parties, knowing lots of people, embracing life.
Lonely Place...
So I realised I'm on the same path really. Now that I'm single again I feel like a ghost in the living room. No wonder I've been on a crusade of finding exciting liaisons with gorgeous women. Who wants to be on their own? Only thing is though, unlike the Ma, I'm the kind of person who can get even lonelier when with people. The more I connect the more I disconnect, and I'm always fascinated at how lonely I feel when I really am an extrovert. Thing is though, I believe most extroverts are so desperately shy that they need to keep talking and grabbing attention and acting the clown because it means that people don't get to meet them at all. I'd be surprised if anyone ever really had the measure of me, but I'd say a lot of people think they might, judging on the aul' play acting.
So, on another loneliness and misunderstanding note, I had a run in with the ex this evening. This is the first time I've been in an acrimonious separation. I'm just not the burning bridges kinda gal. I like to at least make amends and get closure, but  it seems to come easy to her, she won the all Ireland acrimonious separation competition two years running now, but my problem is that I let it get to me and ended up dumping furniture outside her house. I won't go into detail other than to say that it is incredible the extremes that you can go to when someone you once loved turns out to be a scheming bitch and hurts you so much that you'd consider leaving the country to get away from the pain.
But hang on, wasn't this blog meant to be a funny, hilarious spin on life? Damn, well I suppose the good thing about having a bit of PMT (which has obviously brought on my melancholy disposition) is that I'm not menopausal, and let's face it, it's better to be heartbroken than bored, or sick, or up in court. Oh wait, no, it isn't. I guess I'll just have to live by the wisdom of the fridge magnet: It's better to have loved and to have lost than to live with the psycho for the rest of your life.
I'd like to say time will tell, but you see, I can't manage time,  I can only manage myself...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sleeping With Strangers

If you ever make an appointment to meet somebody at noon in Leipzig and you're travelling from Galway, prepare for adventure. Well I guess only in my case, but thanks to the good old German railway having a 3 minute delay, all of my connections were gone, and given that everyone in Germany goes to bed at about 8pm, it was the last train that I'd missed. But hey, I'm a well seasoned traveller, and having  been half way around the world with a rucksack I knew I'd come up with something creative. So I wandered across the road to a nearby hotel and decided to check in and get going again next morning. A swarm of Asian gentleman and a perplex receptionist with one of those nasal sounding voices informed me that the Frankfurt fair was on and that not only were the rooms all booked out but that they cost €400 tonight. She gave me a further look as if to confirm that €400 was probably three times my life savings, and although the math wasn't too far off, I decided that I'd have to bite the bullet and find some grubby place to hand a fortune over to in order to eventually get to my appointment looking halfway human.
So then I get a brainwave. Of course - the night train. I only have to hang out in the station for about 4 hours and not only will I get to my destination, I will be taken there in my bed, aka a nice little couchette.
I go into the booking office and reserve a couchette, only to realise that I've left my laser card on the kitchen table back in Galway. I'm not that impressed with myself at the best of times, but bringing on a situation where I am now a homeless bag lady in Frankfurt station is not exactly impressive. I have about enough left to pay for the couchette, a soggy salami roll and a bottle of the cheap water, leaving me with a surplus of €13 which will have to get me to my location upon arrival and somehow pay the ticket to Berlin for 50 odd quid or so. But I decide to worry about that later, first I need to get to Leipzig, and let's face it, this is turning into quite some adventure, after all, I spent all of my teenage years wishing that I could be transported from my bedroom to school by means of someone taking me there in my bed. So wasn't this the nearest I'd ever get?
Couchette Land
It was exciting sitting there on the platform watching the goods trains go by. Well ok, the first dozen or so were interesting, but then the wind chill factor dropped and I was close to approaching one of the hobos and asking if I could share a blanket and would they maybe have the lend of a fiver? But the train pulled up and off I headed to carriage number 265, bed 131. It was a bottom bunk and there was a bloke in the bunk beside me. I wasn't quite sure how you greet a stranger who you are going to spend the night sharing a bedroom of sorts with, so I just mumbled something like 'sorry, I'm just going to turn on my torch for a sec' ( I wasn't going to explain that it was actually the light from my kindle and that I don't normally travel with torches when not expecting to share a couchette with a stranger), to which he replied 'no problem, are you going all the way?'
 'Excuse me?'
 'All the way to Prague?' Oh god, now there was a thought, but now that I've become a respectable woman with an appointment in Leipzig, I can confidently tell the stranger that no, I'm not going all the way. I'm definitely not changing plans on a whim now that it's my kids who will kill me when I get home and not my mammy.
We pull out of the station and I'm loving it. The shunting sounds, the screeching and just the excitement of thinking that I could go to bed in Frankfurt and wake up in Leipzig. I settle into my couchette which sounds so much like cosy and couch and all comfy things. In fact it is not much more than a plank with a fresh shroud, a blanket and a pillow. And these things are designed more for the anorexic than the rubenesque. I turn off my kindle light and take off my jeans. I wonder if he's the perv type trying to have a peek, or is he just your normal practical German who sees this adventure as nothing more than a practical way of getting from A to B. A short grunty snort gives me the answer. He is asleep and he is the quiet wheezy snoring type.  I like it, in a strange way I feel very at home. I'm delighted. I didn't want to be 'the one' who snores, and I lie there in the dark, happy to be thrown together with a travel companion who I tell myself will protect me if pirates try to take over this night train from Zurich to Prague. (I will admit here that the following night was also spent with a stranger upon my return to Dublin in more intimate circumstances and I was guilty of being the snoring partner, but I'm not giving anymore information on that one...)
Leipzig Train Station
Despite the long journey, I feel fresh and ready for the world when I get to Leipzig station at 6.30am. The station itself is about the same size as Galway and stretches over three floors. This was once the largest railway station in Germany and still has the most train tracks of any German station. I buy a latte with an extra shot of expresso, so I'm down to 11 quid at this stage. Then, upon lifting my cup and getting a whiff of my underarm, I realised that there was a piece missing in the jigsaw: I needed a shower.  Damn, could I really get away with going to a public toilet and scrubbing my underams with one of those teeny bars of soap? And what about my hair? Could I put it under the tap? You see, these are the things that we bag ladies have to deal with. In the end I spent half of all my money in the world on a shower facility at the station. At least afterwards I looked like a nice respectable lady with a holdall and plastic bag. I could walk around the station and nobody would know that I was a penniless vagrant.
It was almost noon. The stranger I shared the couchette with would be in Prague by now. A friend who I texted reminded me that I have a German bank account, and despite having no details of my account I did manage to get a few bob out of them. I was saved. I bought a glass of real orange juice in a posh cafe. My plan B of hitchhiking to my appointment was replaced by a taxi. I arrived on time.
'Good afternoon Frau Treanor, did you have a pleasant journey?' 'Very pleasant thank you', I replied.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to be Undateable

You know what it's like when you see a trailer for a movie or a series - 2 minutes where they show all of the interesting bits condensed, and you want to watch it right that minute but then a sentence comes across the screen saying 'coming next Wednesday' or more likely 'coming when you won't be home'. And whatever is on now is always crap and you're only watching it because you think something good is coming on after it, but it isn't, because you got the day or the week or the year wrong.
So when I saw the trailer for the 'Undateables' on Channel 4 there the other week, I just assumed that it would be another one of those documentaries that look great but are really bad and that I'd miss anyway.
But then, ah then, something happened. I was reading a review in the Irish Times that had something to say about this documentary, 'The Undateables'. So there were some interesting points made. One of them being that the title was damn cruel. Yes, I guess you can't label someone as undateable, even if I'm not sure where you would take someone to court under the nine grounds of discrimination if they called you that.
So anyways, it talks about how the people on the show are all people with either a physical or mental disability of some kind or another, and, well it made it sound like I'd made the wrong decision to have that one night stand with the much younger than me girl from Tallin the night it was on, because it sounded more fun than she was. So I began to think about dating; my inability to accept that a serious, possibly not so gorgeous but practical 40 something year old might make me ultimately more happy than a homesick blonde from Tallin, unless, of course, it's just for the one night...
So I sent Carmencita ( yes, it's her real name, I swear) a text message to say I couldn't meet her tonight and that I'm so sorry but I'm washing my hair tonight (my one hair), and then I got one of the random teens I live with to pull up the 'Undateables' on the Channel 4 website. Watch it after you read this, because you need to hear my comments first considering I'm an expert in bad relationships but still have that bit of pulling power that we all need a bit of.

You see, it's easy. They could have picked me for the show, come on, after all I'm a mouthy middle aged fat lesbian with bad teeth, thinning hair, a load of teens hanging out of me and I live way out west in the outback of Ireland. I mean hello, I should be in the Tollhouse, so how come I still seem to have that bit of pulling power when most of the weirdos in the documentary were way more dateable than I am?

Well it's because of this. Everyone in the documentary talked about what they were looking for. One girl, who was disabled and on a wheelchair, went on a date with a guy on a wheelchair. She turned him down for a second date, commenting something like 'I don't want to date someone with a disability'. Well like, helloooo... , did she ever ask herself why someone should be with her or want to date her? Personally the disability wouldn't bother me, but the girl had no personality, much worse. Then there was a guy with Aspergers who met a lovely woman who was keen to meet him again but he too was all about how he didn't really fancy her. ( And in this case it was probably because she wasn't a clone of his mother.) But all of them - and granted, I only saw the first show, there are more to come, and also there was a guy with tourettes who was an exception, but the others, they were all about what they want from a partner... I want to meet someone who... he/she should be..... I'd like.... these are my terms and condiditons... I mean, like, where's the love of people? Where's the 'I want to embrace a challenge' or the 'This is what I offer'.

So here's the trick. Forget about what you want to meet and ask yourself what you have to offer. When you meet some horrendous ghoul remember that they might be thinking the very same thing about you, and they may be right. Make it your mission to look for their qualities. Ask yourself what you can do to make them feel happy, make them laugh, find out what they like, turn them on and see the whole thing as a challenge.
At the same time though, you have to make them see that even if you are old and fat or whatever your physical or mental trait of unattractiveness may be, that you make up for it in other things (like in my case, I'm great in the sack, so I go straight for the jugular). But come on, even a drop dead photo model blonde who isn't called Carmencita, will be undateable if it's all about 'I'm specifically looking for this that or the other...' because if you are looking for the perfect partner, forget it.
So there you go. Give love a chance. And remember that I'm single right now, and open to offers. But ok, it would help, of course, if you are a drop dead gorgeous heiress of 20 something who loves housework, disappointments and older women...

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-undateables