Friday, August 19, 2011

A Sentimental Idiot Abroad

To paraphrase my good mate Michael Jude Keogh on Facebook, aaaaaaah the middle of August, you just can’t whack it can you? Where has the summer gone?
Technically, well, officially it is indeed Autumn. Or ‘The Fall’ over here. Mark E Smith and all them lads must be on tour again.
The football season has rolled back into town with the same promise of all seasons before. “It’ll be better than the last one”. But truly, we are no more than a week in and already it’s Arsene Wenger moaning about something or other, Rio Ferdinand getting injured, Liverpool collating another series of excuses about why they’re not going to win the league, Jose Mourinho throwing a strop and accusing Barcelona of being c***s and Robbie Keane signing for someone and declaring it ‘a dream come true’.
Might as well be last January as far as I’m concerned.

I had been Joe Duffy free for four months. Never had I been happier. Thought I’d turned the corner. Like an ex-heroin addict hanging round a back alley in Temple Bar with his junkie mates I gave into temptation. On it went one day in the office. "So,nothing has changed back in the old sod then?" Off it went again. Like a terminal playing of ‘Suffer Little Children’ by The Smiths or the entirety of ‘The Holy Bible’ by Manic Street Preachers on repeat, RTE still peddles misery to the masses.
And I believe Tubridy got onto the BBC? The mind boggles. How the British nation would find aural pleasure in witterings on Twitterings and cartoons is beyond me. What next? A bird out of N-Dubz judging on the X Factor?
It was nicely summed up by a Canadian colleague of mine who said what I’ve been trying to say for years in one simple succinct sentence. “What the fuck is that shit?!”. Ne’er a truer word spake. A summation that has somehow escaped me for the best part of a decade, and for that I am forever indebted John.

Liam Gallagher is apparently suing his brother Noel over his “we couldn’t do the V Festival because Liam had a hangover” outburst. I’d love to see that come to court. “Mr.Gallagher. I’d like to show you Exhibit A. I present to you, footage of Oasis Unplugged from 1996”.Case dis-fookin’-missed-ah.
In my hankerings for the sunshine days of my youth, I do hope Noel’s album is a good one. ‘The Death Of You And Me’ gets stuck in my head until the trumpet bit which is reminiscent of the psychedelic bit out of Father Ted’s ‘My Lovely Horse’ don’t you think?

Something happened to me somewhere in summertime that I never thought possible. I got insanely homesick. The aforementioned MJ Keogh came over to visit us. It was wonderful to just sit outside and talk absolute filth and nonsense for a few hours every evening after our nightly, yes, nightly barbecue. I tried to explain to him that homesickness kicks in at the most ridiculous moments possible.
For instance, I heard Rupert Holmes ‘Him Him Him’ on the radio one day and I was instantly transported back to the sitting room in Broadford Drive with my Mam dancing around with me whilst my brother Alan dribbled and soiled his nappy. He was 19 at the time, but that’s besides the point. I could sense the smells(it could have been the drains),the feel of the sunshine pouring in through the net curtains onto my back and the feeling of absolute joy that it was nearly time for my Daddy to come home from work. That mystical place that you thought ‘Daddys Work’ was. He went round the corner in his car and bang, he disappeared into’work’. He worked for the ESB which meant that, in the Eighties any road, not a lot of work actually took place but, a child can dream can’t he?
“I’m on a course today!” he would shout gleefully. Yeah, Dun Laoghaire Golf Club. Oh, the ESB Social Club And Golf Society was not just a wonderful name for some sort of band but provided a wonderful day out for the lads in in the Eighties. Maybe even a 'dinner dance' was thrown in.But that was then...

No, the real low came one day when I’d flicked, by accident I hastily add, onto a country music station. And there I was thinking it would be somehow upbeat. How wrong I stupidly was. A song came on,extremely reminiscent of ‘North Country Boy’ by my favoured Charlatans. Glen Campbell. “Hey Little One! I’m just like you! I’m lonely too...”
Now, my daughter is nearly three and my wife is nearly five foot three so I don’t know which one of them I thought it was about. Hands up. I bloody cried. I sobbed my lil’ heart out. Guilt for taking them away from all we knew? Missing all the fuckers I know back home? I don’t know.But it passed and I composed myself as I pulled the car into the driveway.
"Daddy! Were you in work?!". I was. And I know what she's thinking.

Next day, I was down with the wife taking our daughter on her first waterslide, in 32 degree heat with beers and chicken wings perched on a nearby table, thinking quietly to myself “What the fuck was all that about?”.
Just like the football season, life is all swings and roundabouts.
It could be worse. I could be back in Benildus starting a new term in school and having Double Irish first thing with Pascal fucking Smith.....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"This Has To Be A Starting Point.Not The End Of Everything..."

So the sun goes down on another blisteringly hot day in Burlington, Ontario. Peace reigns within the O’Connor kingdom. Who am I kidding? There’s only one chief in town and it’s not me or my wife. It’s the little girl with the sort-of Canadian accent who currently slumbers in her ‘Princess Something or Other’ bed dreaming dreams of Amarillo. I presume that’s what she’s dreaming of as she does enough hugging of her pillow to put a certain Tony Christie to shame. It’s either that or a monster, known to you and I as the face of Iain Dowie with seven legs.

Though rare, I sometimes get the “what in the name of fuck am I doing here?” moments. It generally happens in Walmart (a sort of glorified Nutgrove for the uninitiated). It happens when you’re about to buy a mobile phone for $150 and you think it’s a great deal until they ring it in at the till and suddenly it jumps to $200 due to HST. I presume this stands for Horrifically Stupid Tax. You see? It’s not just in Ireland that you get ripped off unawares.

It happens when you get sick of listening to the music on your iPod and you switch on Canadian radio and it’s either Bon Jovi singing about being on a bed of roses as opposed to a bed of nails or Kid Rock telling us that in his youth they were “doing stupid things, really stupid fucking things, singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long”. Idiot. How I pray at night that he were struck dumb. Switch off and have sweet silence all summer long more like. Homesickness really does bite you at the most innocuous of times.

And then there’s the time difference. I am certain my mates back home have begun to detest me. A few beers on a Friday night on the front porch loosen the tongue at around 10. In your mildly drunken state, you obviously forget it’s 3 in the morning in Dublin. And you text. And then you text some more. “Fuck ‘em” you think to yourself, laughing all evil like. And then you forget that one of them has a two-month old son. But you justify it by reasoning that he’s probably up feeding the boy anyway and you get mildly upset when you get no response to your latest brilliant witterings. And then there’s a thunderstorm and your childlike attention span is diverted. You never pause to think that they’re going to wake up at 8 on a Saturday morning and say to their good lady “what the fuck is that c*** on?” In fairness none of them have rang at 8 in the morning Irish time. But I’d better stop because I’m only inviting it on to myself now Innit?

A small part of my job here at the moment is to recruit a couple of Irish land surveyors for my new firm. For that is what my profession is, in case you didn’t know. I have received a dozen or so CV’s in the past week from Ireland. Must have made a good impression eh? Either that or us Irish lot are cheaper. Probably the latter.
What strikes me, as if I didn’t know already, is that every last one of them hasn’t worked since Summer 2010. Not one. And the ones who are in employment are teetering on the brink of unemployment from what I can garner. It’s fucking depressing.

I listen to Tom Dunne on Newstalk via t’internet of a morning (playback, obviously) and whilst he provides some light relief, when you hear the news bulletins on the hour it would make you want to slit your wrists. How is Ireland going to get out of the state it is in with all the talk of doom and bleeding’ gloom that is overbearing within the media? When my wife and I talk of ‘the current climate’ it is actually to do with 30 degree plus temperatures and whether we should turn the air conditioning on or not. I’m in the yes camp; she’s a definite no, for your information. Makes a nice change from rowing about whether we get a take away or pay the ESB bill, I can tell you. I always pushed for the take-away. Just haven’t grown up have I?

What I say in my responses to the applicants is simple. There are no Irish in Burlington save for me, my wife and child. There are no Irish bars. The Guinness is good in the bars that I have frequented on colder nights before my family arrived over. The local beer, Sleemans is cracking. Toronto is half an hour’s drive away. People get out of an evening and actually do stuff. If you want a barbecue, you can fucking have one without worrying if it’s going to rain. There are outdoor swimming pools that resemble beaches so you can feel like you’re on ollyday in Spain of a weekend. It is piss easy to drive over here – just point the car and accelerate; the insurance is unbelievably and criminally expensive mind you. The Canadian people are welcoming and genuinely good-natured, you don’t feel like it’s fake ‘Have A Nice Day’ like south of the border. Your Dublin accent is somehow exotic. You will miss your Mam and Dad and your sisters and brothers and your extended family (even those who support Leeds) and your mates like hell. But you have Skype; if even just to see them because talking on that thing is nigh on impossible. That’s what the Lord above invented the phone for.
There is no ‘old school tie’ and class structure here – so you can be whoever you want to be and become whatever you want to be once you work hard and prove yourself. And you do work hard. You get ten days paid leave per year starting out. It’s a far cry from pissing off to Turkey for three weeks I can tell you.
But above all, you can talk a good fight a la David Haye but you don’t want to be knocked out. You have to fight a good fight. You have to really want to escape your lot in Ireland and get the fuck out of Dodge. You have to accept that you won’t be in town with your mates, or going to Ireland matches with your mates or ripping the piss out of your brother in your Mam’s kitchen. And that you won’t be doing it for a while either. Whoever sang “I’ll be home for Christmas, but only in my dreams” was spot on. Quit dreaming this is real life baby.

But the good far outweighs the bad. For every low there is a high. I left partly because I couldn’t take any more blows and partly because I looked into the future and did not like what I saw. May I add, I was thrown a wonderful lifeline to stay by a friend of mine, God bless him. But it still wasn’t enough. I apologize for that but you have to do what you have to do. You only get the one life so you’d better make it good. Sure, cats get nine. But who in their right mind wants to spend eternity sitting on a shed roof licking their town-halls?

I was reading the local paper today and I was struck by a quote by an Italian football manager. “This has to be a starting point. Not the end of everything”. Was it Carlo Ancelotti? Giovanni Trappatoni? Fabio Capello? None of the above. No, it was Carolina Morace. Manager of the Canadian Women’s football team...and to think people said she was just a big pair of t*ts....

From me and my High Flying Birds, I bid you a goodnight.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cahore Girls

You know that feeling? A smell or an atmosphere or a certain light? It transports you way back when? Well, I had it today. I was suddenly back in Cahore, County Wexford. Fuck knows why. I was in Oakville, Ontario beside a massive outdoor pool but it hit me anyway. It wasn’t the fact that there wasn’t a shop for miles and I couldn’t understand their accents or they couldn’t understand mine. It wasn’t the fact that the sun shone all day. It wasn’t the fact that I had nothing to do and all day to do it. Well, maybe it was all of those things. But I was transported back to Cahore nonetheless.

In Cahore I’d wake up about ten. I’d head out tousle-headed for breakfast in the mobile home my Mam and Dad owned. I’d be greeted by my snivelling little brother who would accuse me of wanking the previous night and keeping him awake (I was 13, he was 10) and to be truthful, it was definitely the other way round. He was a proper delph-rattler in his time was my brother. Every fucking morning we had to go through that particular charade. He knows the truth...

Anyway, most of my cousins had mobile homes in the same park. One or two or all of them would call in around 12 and off we’d go. What did we get up to? Well I can’t speak for my brother but the rest of us(and him) would just get our bikes and piss off. Freedom? You can’t put a price on that.

Cahore was and still is less than a one horse town. The Strand Bar, a pier, a beach, Eddie Sinnott’s pool hall...and that was it. Oh, and a couple of tennis courts. During Wimbledon, you couldn’t get a booking. Pretend Stefan Edbergs everywhere.

When we were really small kids, my Dad and my uncles Joe and Damien would drag us down to the pier of a Sunday and make us jump in to the freezing cold waters. Waters that sometimes had ‘floaters’ in them. To this day, I see no difference between Dad, Joe and Damien and Hitler, Goebbels and Herr Flick. Proper sadists. They created a fictional club called ‘The Geronimo Club’. And if you didn’t jump in first time, they’d discuss your ‘membership’ in The Strand afterwards. The cue for them to get out was “Look, the Heineken sign is lighting up”. Actually, upon mature recollection, they were fucking genii. Get the kids down and get plastered...hats off.

Tuesday night was ‘Disco Night’. Ooh, the epitome of glamour. A bus would pick up all those of teenage years at the gate at 8 and it would be bound for the Hacienda of Kilmuckridge, ‘The Hydro’.
I’d lash on the hair-gel so I’d resemble Marcus Tandy and throw fuckloads of my Dad’s Old Spice on my baby-esque face in the hope of “getting me hole”. Funny that I never managed it isn’t it? Well, maybe with some Wexford girl who knew no better but the Dublin girls knew the score, God bless ‘em.
The night was spent in the corner talking to nobody except the Dublin lads until the slow set. The slow set usually consisted of some Bon Jovi offering or God forbid and more than likely, fucking ‘Patience’ by fucking Guns ‘N’ Fucking Roses. Couldn’t wait to get on the bus back to Cahore so we could spit on the bus driver’s head...

The next day was spent avoiding the girl you didn’t kiss and didn’t talk to. We were all as guilty as each other. We should’ve stuck together, right here, right now, in sweet harmony (to use the lyrics of a popular song of the period) but we didn’t. We were idiots as teenagers. As teenagers are now. And always will be.

Wednesday nights were back to playing a football match at 7 in front of the tennis courts ,trying to impress the girl you should’ve talked to the night before but didn’t and spent the whole day avoiding. “I’ll impress her by making Geoff look like a fucking mug” you thought to yourself. And you made him look a mug, but it didn’t impress her.

And for that attitude alone, I raise a glass to the girls of Cahore(Dublin ones) in 91-92-93-94. Throw your hands up at me...and Kev...and Jimmy....and Barry...and John...You ain’t no WAGS and never will be.x.

Oh Canada - Part 1

It all seems like a lifetime ago.

There I was, clinging on to my mother in the sitting room in my house in Stocking Wood knowing that I’m not going to see her for months on end, my sister Lyn in floods of tears. My father having to walk out of the room as the emotion enveloped and got the better of him. My Mam’s Peugeot 206 driving down the road with me stood on the front step crying like a baby waving at it until the red tail lights turned the corner and I felt empty and sorry for what I was about to do. That was Wednesday 6th April 2011.
Thursday the 7th was spent tying up loose ends and worrying. Worrying because my Canadian work permit hadn’t dropped through the letterbox. Myself and Doc had stood across the road from the house when the postman made his delivery that morning and he’d delivered nothing but a stupid fucking letter from UPC(Cunts).Janette and I had agreed that I’d fly on Friday regardless.
I paced the floor like a man demented. Shitting myself. Fear like I’ve never felt before. What if? So many what ifs.

At five o’clock a neighbour dropped me home. I was met in the porch by my best mate on the verge of tears. His partner was due to have their first kid in two weeks time, and there I was talking about fear? The worst part of it was the knowing I wasn’t going to be around for it.

One by one, my nearest and dearest showed up to the house. It was like a wake. My own funeral. Well wishing text messages flooded in. The older brother-like figure, the singer bloke out of Rhythm Culture, who was up in my house on the previous Tuesday gave me inspiration in thirty words or less. (In times of loneliness I look at it and it gives me the inspiration to keep on trucking.I thank him profusely for it.)
Everyone stood in the kitchen that night looking at the floor. Janette and I had gotten rid of everything, and I mean everything of what was dear to us. Stephen turned up to pick up the 52 inch telly that we’d bought out of our wedding present money. That for me was a significant moment. It was the moment that the baton was passed from Ireland to Canada.
I loved that telly. I’d seen United do Arsenal in the Champions League Semi Final in the company of Rob, Mark and John on that telly whilst my seven month old daughter slept in her little cot upstairs and Janette went mental at us for cheering the first goal. The second goal? It was celebrated in mute, like a bunch of little deaf fellas.
Good times were had with that telly and me and others. Jools Holland’s New Years Eve Hootenanny was screened religiously and the resultant magic shows from my brother Alan and Daragh that followed were good times. That telly could tell some stories, I’m telling ya...

Back to the kitchen and there was those not knowing what to say, awkward moments. I stood outside on Stocking Wood Copse with Alan D, Kaner and Helga and unborn Adam all shuffling uncomfortably and putting off the inevitable. Not four years previously myself and Alan had greeted the sunrise, sitting on a kerb with a bottle of red wine in an empty new street. Life was sweet and so was the wine. My neighbour Francis looked on, pissing himself laughing at the drunken fools he had just shacked up next door to. And manys a great nights drinking I had with him. But life had changed in oh so many ways.
Eventually the goodbye hugs and kisses came. Proper hugs. Ones with true meaning. “I’ll see you soon”. But how soon? Not soon enough.
All the nights spent with Alan D and him carrying me home from Club Sarah, all the nights in The Coach House with Kaner, all the nights with Helga laughing at mine and Alan D’s drunken stupidity suddenly crystallized into history. And then they were gone. “You and I we’re gonna Live Forever”. I haven’t listened to that song since. I can’t bring myself to.
Steve and Maria made the long trek over from Castleknock. They’re getting married this year. I’m going to miss their wedding. I’m toying with the idea of doing a congratulatory video with a pretend butler serving me Scotch. But I wish I could be there. Yarm? It, apparently rocks. Look it up on Google Maps. Bryan Robson lives there. Get well Robbo!
Ed, my Leeds supporting brother in law gave me a hug. That, for anyone who knows him, is as rare as a Liverpool title winning side since the back-pass rule was introduced. My eight year old niece Ciara sat on my lap and assured me “we’ll be able to talk on Skype, so don’t worry Paul”. I miss her and I missed her communion.
My mother-in-law Valerie saw the distress behind my eyes and shared wonderful words of wisdom with me. That Les Dawson sure is full of shit man!

My brother Alan and Sabine had put in Trojan efforts all day. As time crept on and I knew I had to be up at the crack of dawn for my flight, I couldn’t hang on all night. I’d shared a room with this geezer for a quarter of a century. Time to say goodbye. Hard to do, rock fucking hard. We imbibed twice a week from the age of twenty to twenty five in The Coach House (Monday to Thursday and Friday to Sunday, FYI), he’d lie on the middle of the road whilst we’d replicate the ‘Stuck In A Moment’ video before Kaner would throw his bag of chips into Doctor Hooi’s back garden before we’d come home to watch “I’m Alan Partridge” every fucking night as we lay in our single beds ‘apple-tarting’ and laughing. Our Mam would come in to tell us to shut up because we were waking the whole house and we’d laugh at the fact we’d woken her up. Never a peep from Dad or Lyn. Funny that. Magical.
We just looked at each other and had a big hug. I can’t remember what was said but words are made redundant in moments like that, its just the look in their eyes you remember. It was like a bad dream as he was leaving. And then he was gone into the night.

Right then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m really doing this shit. Emigration was a word reserved for people who went to foreign and grew beards and bungee jumped. Not me. Not I. Never me. But so it was.

Eva had gone to sleep and I knew I’d have an hour or two with her in the morning. Myself and Janette lay in bed talking about the future. Janette and Eva were due to follow in three weeks time. “Are we mental?”, “Are we doing the right thing?”. Fuck it. We’ve gone too far to go back now. Three weeks apart is nothing in the grand scheme of things is it? “Don’t worry, it will be alright”. “What if they turn me back?”. “Don’t worry. Get some sleep”. No more worries or doubts, the good will come out....
Yeah right....‘Kite’ kept going through my head keeping me awake:
“Who’s to say where the wind will take you? Who’s to say what it is will break you? I don’t know which way the wind will blow. Who’s to know when the time has come around? Don’t want to see you cry, I know that this is not goodbye...”

Terminal Two. Dublin Airport. An architectural wonder. Beautiful innit? Makes you feel like you are in some wondrous city until you step outside I’d imagine. But there is a major design flaw that borders on the criminal called Departures. It’s fucking horrific. You have to walk through a mile of rope before you disappear into security. The Green Mile. All well and good heading off on holiday but, when your wife and daughter are standing there and you know you’re not going to see them for the best part of a month and you’re daughter is going “Bye Daddy! Bye! Bye Daddy! Bye!(repeat to fade)” , you want to get your hands on the architect and strangle the bastard. Thank God no one else came out to see me off.

I was so bad and so noticeable that some oul’ one gave me a hug in the queue to get my luggage checked. She was flying to see her son in Leeds. ”Don’t worry about it son, you’ll see them soon enough.” The first of a lot of motherly figures. I barely kept the sobbing in. In times of acute embarrassment like that and also other moments I can’t go into on a family show such as this, I recite the Arsenal team of 1989 in my head and it keeps the wolf from the door, so to speak . Lukic, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Bould........

I had to fly to Chicago and then get a connecting flight on to Toronto. That means US Immigration, obviously. “What’s the purpose of your trip?”.”Oh, I’m heading to Canada to make a better life for meself” says I.”Ok, well make sure you get into Ice Hockey. And you will. It’s a fucking great sport man. Good luck” said Immigration Official. Simple as. Why was I shitting myself so? This will be a piece of piss this...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

My old man went to work in Saudi Arabia in 1992. At least that’s what he told us. He could have been in ‘The Joy’ for all we knew getting mates from the ESB working abroad to send home video tapes of far-flung places like Al-Hofuf and the souks of Dhahran. I do believe he was in the sands of Arabia though. The drink-driving laws weren’t as strict in those halcyon days as in as much as the early 90’s can be called halcyon days, so I reckon he was alright. He came back sporting a ridiculous tan and even more ridiculous gold jewellery. Like a Pakistani Del-Boy or an anaemic B.A.Baracus. Ergo, he was definitely not in ‘The Joy’. Plus we met him at the airport.

He was there for nine months, with a trip home at Christmas dividing the trip equally. Laden(no pun intended) with gifts he arrived in Broadford Drive, dishing them out willy-nilly. A Saudi Arabia replica shirt for me, a toy hovercraft for Alan, a purple woollen top and leggings for Lyn which read ‘Chi Pan Pan Chi Pan’ on the waist (I don’t know either) and an Arabic head-dress and suit for our Uncle Joe – which he put to good use, going down to the off-licence in Nutgrove sporting said suit and shades declaring “I buy the whole shop” and brandishing a cheque-book. And a fuck load of imitation Rolex watches. That was a good Christmas that. I was fifteen and because of my Dad’s brief return, our house was filled with relatives which made calling the girl I’d met in Stradbrook the night before rather difficult. I’d sneak into the kitchen to call her and get mercilessly slagged for it. “You know I do but I just can’t say it at the moment...” they would cry and then cry laughing whilst my face went red as I stuttered over my “So what did you do today then?” type sentences. Complete set of bastards...

I used to miss Dad terribly. My Uncle Mick worked in ESB International and would deliver a parcel containing hand-written letters from him and a video tape every couple of weeks. My old man, no doubt out of boredom, would travel the highways and byways of Saudi with his newly purchased ‘Handicam’ perched on the dashboard with the accompanying backing track of a Tina Turner opus blaring to the point of actually deafening people to show off the sites that consisted of sand and more sand. He created a character called Abdul Abhaile (a doff of the cap to his Westland Row all-as Gaeilge days, obviously) for the benefit of his youngest, Lyn, who was seven. She lapped it up whilst the rest of us cringed. “Fucking hell, I’m fifteen for fuck sake!”

But as much as you’d try to shrug it off, it was tough around the house without the old man. There was a father-shaped hole in 86 Broadford Drive. We were such a close-knit family unit you see. The Brady Bunch without some of the bollocks. Someone had to step up to the plate. I was fifteen. Surely this was my moment? Surely...
But no. Into his place stepped a 78 year old man by the name of Jack Connor (never used the O’). My old man’s old man.

Jack lived in Beaver Row in Donnybrook with our Nana(Mary). A Donnybrook long before the days the rugby bandwagon rolled into town. He would get the 48A from Ranelagh up to Broadford and assume the mantle of the chief of 86. If ever you had a problem? Jack was the man. Sure, you thought to yourself, as a fifteen year old upstart, you could have done it your way but no, come on...bow to the head of the tribe. That’s human nature. I would mouth off and think I was the dog’s because my old man wasn’t around but as soon as Jack rolled into town(on the 48A) I was reduced to the snivelling little fucker all teenagers are.

Then one day, Jack spied the dripping tap outside in the back garden. “Bren’s away. It’s my duty to get this fixed”, he thought to himself. So off up to the shed he went to fetch the requisite tools for the repairs. He did this, he did that, as Alan and myself looked on. And then there was a shudder within the walls, and then the attic. Then, nothing. Out of the taps came but air. He’d airlocked the house. I was summoned by my Mam to get Darren Kavanagh from three doors up to see what he could do, but he was baffled too.
We had noticed Jack retreat into the sitting room whilst Darren performed his plumbing resuscitation but when we got in there he was gone. We went out on to the street but there was no sign of him. We panicked. Really panicked.
We searched Broadford Hill and the other one at the front, I think it’s the Walk, but then again nothing ever happened there to make us remember the name of the place so fuck it,and got to the 48A bus terminus at the local community school where we were met with our grandfather Jack, crying. Actually in tears.“What will Bren think of me? Mary will kill me won’t she? Your mother won’t want me in the house, will she?”. Trying to reassure the head of the family was something we were not accustomed to. We coaxed him back but he seemed deeply troubled. Even a bag of chips from Alonzi’s didn’t cheer him up.

Jack passed away not three years later. And it wasn’t even in that awful moment when he passed, but until I became a father myself that I realised that a father never stops being a father. That’s life isn’t it?
All the advice that my Dad and his Dad had passed to me and I disregarded as “a load of bollocks” became real and true. For as much as you believe your father to be invincible, he is not. He’s just the same as you and me. He has made the same mistakes as you and will continue to make mistakes that you will learn from until the day you don’t have him around anymore. But he does his best. And that’s all he’s ever wanted to do.

Cherish him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

All That You Can't Leave Behind

I write having made the massive life changing decision to move to Canada and all that it entails. I’m sure you’d expect me to (how shall I put this?) blow me own trumpet, a la Marc Almond, and go on about how great the place is and how great a time we’re having but...I’ll save that for another time when the t on my keyboard is working properly and we’ve had an opportunity to properly judge which country pisses on which. I do know which does what, it’s fairly obvious, but we’ll park it alongside that particular sidewalk. Go Blue Jays.

We sat tonight and watched ‘Back To The Future 2’. For the seven hundredth and fifty second time. But the question arose as it always does. If you could go back in time and observe yourself in a particular scenario, when would it be and why?

I trawled through the sands of time in my head and thought about the glory days of Club Sarah and Deep. A bag of chips and she’s yours for the night type things. Fantastic days. Fanfuckingtastic.
I thought of working in the Ballinteer House and staying up until six in the morning watching lounge boys and girls lose their sort-of hard earned wages in games of ‘Killer’ in the snooker hall. Of getting into Noel Murphy’s or Spud Murphy’s cars and heading to some nightclub or other and wasting MY hard earned tips on beer that tasted of and probably consisted of human or horse piss.(Another Marc Almond reference for those still reading). But the constant, the factor ‘x’, the thing that stops me from suggesting that period as the golden period is the same as anything in this life...M-O-N-E-Y.
I, and my associates had none in those days. Therefore, I discount it reluctantly.
1995 sure was a fabulous time to be a bloke in your teenage years. Oasis, Adidas tracksuit tops, three-stripe runners, a shit haircut. None of these I have lost as of yet, incidentally. Live Forever? That was the mantra innit.
Money? Ireland to Canada. You do the ‘Math’. Go Blue Jays. ZZ Top rock.

Just when all seemed lost and town had lost its lustre and the ‘Millennium Bug’ was just about to wreak havoc causing aeroplanes to fall from the sky, forcing bank machines to tell you to fuck right off and helping A & R men from record companies to take over Saturday night televisual entertainment, there was a light in the darkness. I was getting bored of the Nitelink and some Jesus Hairdo freak spouting love and peace whilst punching me about the head as I clung onto my 3(three) kebabs like they were my first born...along came the Three Rock.

The Three Rock was born out of a quaint little nightclub called Marleys where the people did dance and make merry and spread good tidings and goodwill. It may be possible that it is the only nightclub in history that saw an increase in violence with the introduction of Ecstasy. For that alone there should be a monument placed outside of someone dressed in a ‘Kickers’ checked shirt, frozen in time kicking seven shades of shite out of another bloke in a ‘Kickers’ checked shirt. A beautiful, mystical place.

They revamped. They disposed of 45” records stuck to the wall and held the masses enthralled by suspending three Styrofoam ‘rocks’ from the roof. And they got live bands in too. Easily pleased us Ballinteer lot. But it was good. Great in fact.

8pm, meet in the Coach House. Drink tonnes of Guinness and Bulmers. Laugh at Mick Keogh’s latest scheme. Slag my brother off. Have a row with my brother. Make up. Get in a taxi, get out because the row has kicked off again, call him a ‘f***ing c***’,have Brian Kane talk us out of it, hug, get to the door, show ID (I was 24!,sweet),get to the bar, have the legendary Conor ‘Sos’ O’Gorman serve us pints, as it got later have Conor serve us triple vodkas and Red Bull, have another row with my brother because his shirt is shit and he says I look like a gay because of my shirt, Kaner(inebriated now) intervenes once again, do a bit of stupid dancing, The Mulville Fella arrives and proceeds to get very drunk indeed, another row with my brother... “what’s wrong with my shoes?”,make up, watch as Alan, Mick Keogh and Kaner dance whilst looking at themselves on the big screen. Try to chat up the best looking girl in Ballinteer and make a tit of yourself because you’re so drunk and in the end get a mooch from some other girl, another few Vodkas, LEAVE, laugh as The Mulville Fella falls into a hedge and Kaner splits his head open falling off Keoghs back, get home and fall asleep in a reheated lasagne, have a row with your brother because he wants to watch Alan Partridge and you want The Office....Thats a full working day lad!....and don’t you forget it!

God I miss Ballinteer.

Canada is going well though. I’ll fill you in another time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Big Sky

Life, eh? What is it all about?

You go through school and the laughter that goes with it. For that was what your school was all about, for you and your kindred spirits anyway. Pure Laughter. It wasn’t about Maths, it wasn’t about English or God forbid, the waste of time that was Irish. Laughter ruled the day. Whether it was Stephen O’Byrne wiping his dog shit filled shoes on the saddle of the biggest fucker in school’s bike or just laughing about the fact he had the nerve to do it. You laughed at the bloke who was mad into Nirvana at fourteen and laughed even more when his hero blew his brains out thus making that stooge’s argument redundant. “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die”?. Off you pop,sun-shee-eye-nah.

You and your mates just missed Oasis round Benildus way. You and your mates did wear the three stripe ‘get-up’ and were roundly derided for it, I might add. For it was 1993. It truly was a shite time to be a football loving, secret music enthusiast teenager. Two more years and you’d have been Gods!
Oh how they laughed at the 1970’s around then. Hand on your heart, you cannot see a comeback for the shellsuit or ‘Grunge’. Noddy Holder and his mirrored hat had more of a chance of gracing our retinas surely?

The time comes for you to collect your Leaving Certificate results and you do what it says on the tin and you leave. Nobody really prepares you for the ‘what the fuck am I going to do with my life?’ moment we all face. Your life is in the hands of a faceless nameless ‘examiner’. Fuck it, life will be alright.
You get your results. You go on the piss. You get your CAO form back. Who gives a fuck really?
You’re young. You’re too young to make massive life choices. Gerry Ryan says so. Gerry would never lie or do something stupid would he? Believe in the words of your elders. That’s what you’re told.

Off you go to college or an apprenticeship or whatever life has dealt you. You do your best, for that is all you can do. Live up to your ability. It is all that’s asked of you.

You get somewhere eventually, you start earning a few ‘bob’. You get a bit cocky down in the pub some nights, thinking you’re the bollocks. You come crashing down to Earth on a Christmas Eve when some fucker that was in your class in school says he’s a millionaire. “But he was an idiot!” you protest to yourself whilst trying to piss the blue block out of the the plughole. And then you go outside and pretend to be his mate. You’ve sold your soul.
You’re the idiot now. Like Ralph from The Fast Show.

Things pick up. You meet the girl you were always meant to be with. The rest were just a training session. Love hits you right between the eyes.
You get married. You spent a fucking fortune on the wedding. Living up to the stereotype cast upon you. You have to do it. Felt the pressure didn’t you?
You both would have happily got married in a skip in Rhyl but no, you had to impress. Still, it was the best day of your life and it was worth every penny. Worth it to see the smiles on the guests faces. And most importantly, the smile on your beautiful bride. Every little girl dreams of her wedding. You hope she achieved all her dreams. You hope she did.

A year or so later you are blessed with this little blinking being that looks a bit like you, a bit like your wife and a lot like your Nan. All wrinkly and pink.“I’m your Dad!” you stutter through the tears.You hold her in your left arm and try to take a photo of her to send to your loved ones. They’re all expectant and all joyous. The feeling is indescribable. A nurse comes in and snaps you out of your fuzziness. “This is how you change a nappy, this is how you dress her”. “Say again?”. You are too blown away by the wonder to take notice. The nurse doesn’t give a fuck, it’s her job. It’s up to you. The feeling of responsibility. The feeling of not leaving this little breathing fragile creature alone takes you over.
You both bring this little creation home. Friends, family visit. It’s a magical time.

It gets tough. Not sleeping much are you? The feeds and the cathartic feeling of making up bottles or ‘bah-bahs’ as you are want to call them can’t make up for the lack of sleep. But still, everything is alright. You’re making the mortgage payments and the car payments and every other motherfucking payment you’ve engaged in. Living the dream. Fantastic.

And then things take a turn for the worse. Not sickness. Not real suffering, Thank God.
You have your health after all but you end up sailing upon the Great Redundant Sea. No hope. No nothing.
You’ve done a thirteen year stint in the one company and suddenly you have nothing. You feel like shit. You could’ve had it all. You did for a while. Didn’t appreciate it did you? Wish you could have saved didn’t you? All very well after the horse has bolted. You’ve always been a idiot deep down. The ‘Lads’ always told you so. Start believing it.

Down, down deeper and down you slide. You don’t want to start relating to Status Quo lyrics but inevitably you do. It’s the final straw. You might as well be a cooper and have songs written about you. But eventually you snap out of it. And one bright sunshine morning you realise that your future lies outside of the country of your birth.
A country riddled with corruption, parochialism, narrow-mindedness and banality. You complain about it but nobody listens.
Oh sure, it’s fine to moan to Joe Duffy about how hard done by you’ve been, but who is standing up and making themselves heard?....Nobody. That’s who.

You end up thinking about ‘what ifs?’.
What if the Irish of today were sat in coffee shops in 1916? “Hey Fionn! There’s a goy shooting over there!”, ”Fock it. Lets get another Latte!”.
The ‘much-lauded’ Wolfe Tones repertoire would be redundant wouldn’t it? .
We all remember all that ‘Ole Ole’ 80s/early 90s ‘proud to be Irish’ nonsense don’t we? Where are you now? Why aren’t you burning down Leinster House? Being comfortable and settled is no excuse anymore is it? Where has the passion gone? .... Ireland is full of bullshit and bluster.

Fast forward to now. You despair of this country and although your hand has been forced , you decide to leave. Leaving behind family and friends. Leaving behind a country that can talk the hind legs off a donkey, but when it has that donkey in such a state, won’t take a gun and put it down.

In spite of the anger and the despair and the fear of leaving all you know, you take a walk with your kid through the fields high above the city you grew up in and you look down at the sodium glow of the streets and the houses and all the dramas contained within and your two year old daughter lies down in the grass and says “ Daddy, look at the sky” .And you realize that it’s that simple.