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Any archaic parent will do.  Anarchy ok, dad, my home has become a hissing spitting Johnny Rotten performance and I can’t do the pogo dance thing anymore. Her big brown Rianna limpid pool eyes look out at me from under ridiculously long lashes, as I become my father and ask the right questions about her school report. Dazed and confused I watch her pools glaze over and I’ve lost her. I resist the urge to act out my own bit part in today’s episode of Shameless. I’ve never tried ecstasy and wonder could I buzz myself through the next years.  I look up; the captain has turned on the seat-belt light, turbulence up ahead.

They line up on the alter like that scene from The Usual Suspects. I hear the names read out as the graduation scrolls are presented. I locate his deadliest enemies and annihilate them on this holy alter. Woycheck stands to his left, the child with anger issues, and I scream to the congregation that my child has anger issues too; he got them from his mother. But it’s too late now; my son’s reaction to Woycheck’s issues is enshrined in the Red Book, forever.  The smiling assassin Owen is to his right, you’d never tell they were part of yesterday’s happy orienteering group before he snapped and threw himself at our kid. Owen’s smile is crooked because of a split lip, retaliation for our boy’s shiner. I heard later that we’d won when Owen cried after he called him a crack-up.

Natasha makes the best hot chocolate. It’s patently obvious that the world can be nourished by a cup of hot chocolate and not by the meat, potatoes and two veg which I prepare daily for Omar Sharif. Natasha’s hot chocolate uses two Cadbury melted squares, two marshmallows and whipped cream. 

You know what happens the whipped cream Dad?     

Does it congeal like the gravy on your uneaten dinner son?

Guilty of his idyllic childhood, it’s now our fault that he won’t let it go and stays in this euphoric limbo twixt bliss and freedom. It’s funny to watch the fake tears, he’s too tall.  His dinners though are never funny, corralling pees and dissecting a chicken breast like a curious Michelangelo. 

It’s the end of the school year. I’m exhausted, so is she, the sex-pistols are not.


Sarah had escaped. Twenty five years ago when there was still a doubt, she lived around the corner from his wife. She had dark hair and darker eyes, a symmetrical and pretty face and was tall and slim. He remembers once giving her a lift back to college on a bitterly cold dark winter’s morning and noticing an ethereal quality to her, something he couldn’t put his finger on. He wasn’t aware of anything strange or untoward; he sorta liked it, her originality and her difference.

Her brothers and sisters hadn’t and some were still living in the same house twenty years later. They may have had Sarah’s looks and features once, but it wasn’t age alone which caused the deterioration. He saw Nessa, one of her older sisters, regularly, passed her on the street or saw her sitting on a random wall, waiting. She was in her forties but held herself like pensioner. Her greying dishevelled hair fell across a crooked face and invariably was in her mouth. She appeared unaware and was big in that Down Syndrome heavy way. She never recognised or acknowledged him, except late that one evening. Usually,  she looked through him with still eyes on the verge of tears. Her coat was carelessly open or buttoned wrong and out of sequence. Her pinafore from another time, her runners were huge like those of a recently arrived African refugee. She wandered aimlessly around the area and never had a shopping bag when he saw her in town. Bizarrely, she looked like a child.

Not as heavy as his sister, Andrew walked purposefully with a straight back and stiff neck. He was better turned out, which threw people when he glowered and scowled back at them. One evening in a crowded pub, Andrew came up close to the back of his head and whispered something about where his mother in law was born, something which he shouldn’t have known.  He heard afterwards that Andrew liked to take people of guard and shock them, getting pleasure from their startled reactions. He disappeared frequently; people assumed it was for treatment which never improved his mood or demeanour. There was a menace about and around him and even though people understood, they did not like him.

It’s said their mother was exquisite, a statuesque porcelain creature who had everything except her freedom from a shadow. By the time another daughter set fire to the house, the shadow had consumed her. Hearsay suggests that in a pious time, the father was often seen out with a hooker on each arm and eventually became a chronic alcoholic. 

There is a grove by a block of flats near the house. It was after mid-night on deserted streets, he was on his way home. Initially, the noise seemed like a baby crying, shrill and needy. Confused he walked on, nearing the trees. This time a wailing cry and something moved within the grove. Nessa stood out on the path, looking directly at him, calling “Andrew”. 


Antony and the Johnsons

Bird from Shawshank couldn’t escape, the warden’s jack boot still on his forehead days after he left his cell. Mind too, becomes institutionalised when ears grow accustomed to musical progression, anticipating next notes, chord sequences or words. It brings a certain happiness, makes us feel part of the performance or allows an imagined relationship with the artist. It works in an easy listening contented mainstream where there is collusion, feeding us MOR and dampening expectations of anything out of the ordinary, indeed it works towards crushing anything on the fringe. So when notes don’t go where our ears expect, the Simon Cowell within gets ready to rant and point and laugh unless, well unless what we hear presents a challenge. Antony did this last Sunday evening at Vicar Street with her shadows and light, her mysticism and spirituality, her warmth of personality and her professionalism, but mostly with her voice. She took us to a shaded place, sat with us on a warm carefree summer’s afternoon pointing at butterflies.

I heard a man say recently at the saddest of funerals that, sometimes we just don’t get stuff, where clumsy words can’t find a context, can’t explain. So too it was with this gal. Superlative is exposed as a useless imposter, a transparent fabrication. Antony sits neither above nor below excellence; she’s not concerned with measures or performance.

If voice is a 19th century wooden ship, Antony is the clipper Cutty Sark sailing home alone across the Indian Ocean bringing tropical flowers, spices  and hummingbirds to a gray cold raining place . If voice has colour, then hers is a blended gold, soaked in radiance. The listener struggles with limits on what he hears, but her voice knows none.  She sits behind a grand piano, her bells and xylophone near at hand. She toys with her long black hair in that affected teenage way, telling rambling stories between songs about why, but its’ not about why, she just is, and when the music doesn’t progress as expected, it goes to a place, an unheard of place and opens up a new perspective. 

As for the exquisite Johnsons, there’s a queue for the affections of Max, the excellent Bob lookalike, violin player and guitarist. His Richard Gere-like viola colleague shared vocals and chants. Oh Lord that every singer should have such grace, harmony and style in support. A sweet cellist resonating coyly at stage side, subtle drums and base, both complimentary, a virtuoso sax, clarinet and electric guitarist all in one gray suited package. There were six excellents.

You’ll hear nothing bad about Antony here or from my three fiends, all loved up on that latest of May afternoons, free to experience again.

Don’t believe me. Devin said she was “Destroyed”

Bird could have taken a leaf from Andy’s book.


State of you


Gammy hip


Dodgy knees


Deviated septum

Yeah…………., and your point is?


And this IS your point?



Paul Simon

Ways to leave your lover?


Turn up today and for today. Leave that ol baggage in the left luggage, you’re doing fine without it.

Turn up today for yourself, and then for your family. Both need you, in the here and now.

A birthday cake, two pints, a Happy Birthday dad and then, squeeze tells me she loves me.

I will grow old with her and I love her too.

How very bad.    


I saw a golden retriever on a golden summer’s day

I saw a golden retriever on a golden summer’s day, rolling on his back, running upside down and laughing. They really shouldn’t eat dogs in Korea. Later a dyed in the wool, a true blue and black fan told me that Frankie was above in Heaven and happy.  I think the dog knew something too.

Jamo saw it all in conspiratorial numbers, at 19 all, their number 19 ran onto the field with 19 minutes left.  I liked his conspiracy but couldn’t add to it, the average age of an American soldier killed in Vietnam wasn’t relevant to the 2009 AIL final.

Thomand Park’s bling is acceptable on cup final days when Shannon win, otherwise it’s tiresome when a north side Dub presumes I stand somewhere other than under the Heineken sign on the popular side.  It’s not there anymore, but we know where is used to be.We don’t need to queue to get tickets, for more queuing and subsequent tearing up of tickets, by another northside dub. There were less than five thousand souls last Saturday, there were hundreds of officials. There was eighteen thousand at that Garryowen match, no waiting, no ticket purchase, no northside dubs, ten officials. And hey, if I want to drape my jacket over your advertising sign, move your sign. And there’s a good reason is there, that these signs aren’t made of metal anymore? Yes? Well no actually, cause we used to make some racket when we banged on the old ones.

After the cup and the Isle, after hugging and kissing and jumping the fence which we should not have jumped, after walking  back to our non-bling clubhouse  and reacquainting with old friends whom we see only on these occasions, after a couple of pints we form a circle of nearly fifties, and  make out like bandits. It’s sympathy I’m looking for, not for the quietened devil within, no, but for my forlorn lament on the passage of time. The man with the big job and the Elvis curled lip empathises, and flicks his hip. Tony and Anna, a century together, laugh loudly and heartily with and at me. Anna remembers the time I nearly drowned late that night, before we got chips in Ranelagh. Thirty years ago it made perfect sense to jump the canal at Leeson St Bridge, to jump too far and hit my knees against the far wall, underwater, and nearly drown except for being starving for a single of chips.

 My lover, who has never explored any of the fifty ways to leave, is home with communion boy two. His soul sanctified today at the battle of Clontarf, he is busy collecting for a Nintendo DS lite and trimmings. For a man, there’s predictability about the closing configuration of an Irish communion, it’s a celebration of the feminine and of leftovers, which I went looking for, sheepishly. Emma, the first great grandchild, didn’t wake when I felt her feather light breath on my finger.

Monda said this one was for Frankie, so did Becks, and I think the dog did too. Look, if Shannon need motivation to do this for the tenth time let them look no further then at the smiling Rockies or the laughing dog.

Last Saturday

A foggy realization that Madness hadn’t become a tribute band to themselves, and that Yusuf’s voice is more father than son now, Saturday started predictably. Jools Holland left me asleep on the couch at 12:30. The pain in my lower back at 3:00 a.m. had spread, Mexican-swine-flu like, to its attached legs, arms and head by the time I woke up in bed later, too tired and with a proper hangover but having to get up anyway.

Shannon V. Garryowen – 2:30 Coonagh

Later on William St., in a temporary euphoric state, Gerry told me about his 80th and his aneurysm. Myopic gray sends her calling card. I listen and tell him how his healthy lifestyle will stand to him when they select keyhole over open stomach surgery. Gerry’s a beautiful person; I want to be at his 81st.  On Chapel St., I drop €2 at the sad eyed accordion player’s feet and ask after his occasional accomplice, the man with the horn rimmed glasses who sings Raglan Road.  A hernia operation marks him absent. Pete the shortest Dutchman I know has been selling his cheese in the market for a while and the recent TB scare was just that. The smiling girl says facaccia a little too loudly, she knows I’m Looking for parmesan but I like the way she says it, she knows this too. A penny for your thoughts and I give her 500 of post-celtic tiger whining. She recoils. Lamb and kidney bits then from O’ Connors, for the stew, and coffee for the edge.

All Ireland League semi-final, don’t forget last year.       

Carrots, parsnips, leeks, onions, lamb and kidney bits and a stock cube, simmer for a long time.

Stir at three, at four, turn off at five, serve at six, please.

Later on at seven, the heat is still on. 

Don’t be late 

Tailback at Clonmacken, no through road up the village. Park and Ride. Park and bloody ride on a bus.

This is a Garryowen bus,

from a lurker who catches me off guard.

I know, I got the smell on the way in.

Straight away I regret it.  By the time the bus fills, Steven Kelly has scored a try but by the time we arrive, they’re 9:7 up. Mary Costello stands defiantly but unknowingly in front of the exit asking us for entrance money. There are four other people taking money outside. My euphoria passes. I notice the gray clouds.

Keith Earls scored a try last year, when they kicked us up and down the field. It was a lousy way to end a season. Then we had the general meeting and the extraordinary general meeting and the 2nd extraordinary meeting. People sneered.

It starts to rain and stays raining for the next sixty minutes, rugby games take eighty but Mary and the  busman took twenty. It’s that type of rain where your cigarette gets wet. Torn between two lovers, I move up and down the rails between my new and old friends. I try to get them to come together but it never works that way. Coonagh is a sodden blanket of gray. We laugh at bad jokes in our saturated clothes. Colm O’Brien offers us a stick of chewing gum, I give half mine away. It tastes nice, I shouldn’t have.

Shannon score a second try, a penalty and win by four points. They are a much better team on the day and in the conditions.

I should have gone home. We empty into the clubhouse and watch the door as a procession of cats who got the cream, float across the floor in a loved up bubble. We stay too long and resonate. Euphoria says hello. I look for myself in the pictures on the walls. I used to pretend I was there on the front walls, I’m not though, I’m hidden down the back somewhere. I think they know anyway.  The team ramble in, God they look young. Outside smoking alone, I hear the lads chat,

You couldn’t miss them, considering she had none last week.

Times have changed over here.

Final against Clontarf, here (thank God) in a fortnight. No texts so far, there were four bad ones, already, this time last year when we lost. I won’t bother.


Rounding our front pillar, sharp winter evening, transfixed.

Naked bulb orange bright, framing the pokey garage converted front room against a star sparkly black. 

Inside the boy, stone still, book in hand, leaning diagonally across his winter canvas,

Head an inquisitive tilt, appearing to drink the words.

All winter muffled, Advent echoes adsorbed, breath condenses in gasps.

If by some hatchet means a lucky soul should be blinded, they will count their blessings for his turquoise deep pools.

He still kisses me on my lips.


Dusk drifting to dark, they drove from the redwood grove back to Mariposa. A ghostly coyote looked down from a parallel ridge at the loving couple. In the car he tuned the radio to another preaching rant and felt that otherness which comes from being far from home.  Connected, comfortable and still in that drenched happy place with each other, they passed silently through the darkening stone valleys leading out of the park.


That morning they’d missed Michael’s soufflé at their welcoming yet claustrophobic B&B. Michael’s wife was not impressed when their delay had caused it to collapse, much like her own estimation of the happy couple who’d been dancing and drinking tequila the night before in a cowboy shoot’em up bar. They giggled and asked politely for forgiveness and coffee, it was faux remorse but they needed the coffee which they drank with the humming birds in the garden. They heard Michael chopping in the shed and he was glad this was their last day in Mariposa.


Arm around her waist or holding her hand, they had wandered through huge shaded places, laughing at the “do not touch” californiication on a thousand year old tree. Even at Mirror Lake where unusually, the mosquitoes chose him over her, they still petted as they had done since landing in San Jose, emptying from a DC9 with a happy gospel choir, with whom they lit up together on the tarmac, continuing to smoke while the hysterical attendant shouted at them. Dionne Warwick sang Burt Baccarah in his head, his eyes fought a loosing battle against the west coast white light and the sun warmed his back. 


First it was her scarlet ribbon flashing in a Dunnes Stores display window and like that beating crimson red wing in Michael’s garden, it caught him dead, that exquisite movement, the turn and flicker and later the probing delicate tongue. He thought again about the lonely coyote, and wondered about his solitary existence, his search for sustenance and love.

You’d give a gal a hand, wouldn’t you?

You’d give a gal a hand, wouldn’t you? You’d hold a door open, carry her shopping or her coffin especially if you’d arrived late for the funeral mass, having spent three hours on the M50 and this time, she couldn’t hear your excuse never mind believe it. So you snook in the back and slipped onto a shiny pew and gazed out a stained glass window letting swirley thoughts invade your senses. Your cousin’s missus sang the Ave Maria which enhanced the swirliness and swept you into a bonoesque trancey eyed oblivion interrupted only by a prayer, to which you didn’t know the answer so you stood up, when they were kneeling and knelt, when they stood up. The best part of mass hadn’t changed; it’s that count back from the Lord’s Prayer.  I knew the words from then on, the responses and the shaking hands bit. I loved it when, for brevity, they held off the communion giving, finished and said good luck to the departing sinners and served the pious with the host. But there must have been an edict since, cause that doesn’t happen anymore and the sinners must watch the pious before we can all go in peace.

I stood at the back where I could see that my aunt was looked after by a plethora of pall-bearers, my brothers and cousins, and also being at the back, I fell into like minded sinful company with whom I could follow the hearse. So we walked the mile along a country road in early winter and tried to remember common ground and dead people. It’s strange how these funeral people never seem to age.  When you were young they were old and now, they are still the same type of old, but you are taller. “I remember your mam, Bobby”, a kindly women in the nest of village vipers where my mother was born. And it was around then, that I took my eye off the ball, off her coffin. We rounded the corner to the graveyard early, the plethora had dispersed and she needed me at her head. A suit indicated where I should lift and if only I’d been at her feet, well then, I’d have had no story.

So we shuffled the last ten yards to the grave and set her down on the planks when I realised I’d been captured by the pious, like she herself did to me all that time ago in a choir’s lair of perfume and piss.  Surrounded, though the grave was jumpable and open in front of me but that might have been unseemly and anyway, I’m not as young as I used to be. They encircled me, claustrophobically and constrictingly like a tight starched collar and the priest rolled out the tools for her final departure. So I breathed deeply and looked at the dates on my grand parent’s grave stones, my grand aunts and uncles too, in an untidy line.  My corner boy preferences were at the back and of no use to me now so I counted out the rosary hail marys and offered it all up to, up to where I always offered stuff up to and came back empty, again.  And for the second time that morning I recognised a final hurdle and made ready for the sandwich and cup of tea, started to shuffle and gave the final responses a little too loudly. She was lowered down, and when I heard the scattering of the ashes to ashes handful on her lid, a sound which I hope never to hear from the other side, well I knew I’d made it again, or so I thought.

The black suits broke down the microphone and stood back as this little lady jumped out from the pious and asked would anyone mind if they did the Legion prayers? I went to put my hand up, I turned to escape, I panicked and in my head the choir confusion came back and I smelt her perfume, that old lady piss smell and the ringing came back in my ears. I heard myself say, “No, not at all”

And if my sis comes here now and reads this, know that I loved this lady in her coffin that morning.

How many sorrowful mysteries?  I asked a teacher cousin.

Five, and some trimmings, he intoned.


A Hail holy queen routine

Sacred heart of Jesus H Christ and his blessed holy mother, but she’s taking the piss.

Ssshhhh, I was told, as I have always been told for ever and ever.

So, I counted them again, fifty hail Marys and that holiest of holy Mary cousins, Patrick, spat back his staccato , Holy Mary mother of god  to the Hitler look alike little old lady with the rosary beads. I was in a strange territory and without GPS.  I thought a thousand times that afternoon that I’d seen the third final hurdle of the day, only to be beaten back by the staccato kid.

And so it went that funeral day, that still and from the other side ma belle tante Marie was holding my sweaty hand tightly and making me sit still, but this time without the promise of a Golly Wolly later.

RIP Mary

Thomand Park

Sheds. Building site canteens. Man places, triumphs of substance over style. No, no, not style, style has nothing to do with it. Places where men eat, drink, work and talk.  Logical places. Nihilistic bare places. Places where men and boys come together and rough edges are sought out, trampled  and then laughed loudly at. Places where men learn to laugh at themselves and at life. 

Thomand Park used to be such a place. All concrete, gray and packed. Functional in the extreme. It grumbled and groaned in a satisfying and constant mid-stream of piss and testosterone. A bear pit. It had a six-penny side,  Balla and Mayorstone ends and a compromise to smugness, a stand side. The original timber structure was replaced with a huge uncomfortable concrete thing. It was draughty and of no use against the prevailing wind and rain. This was it’s only charm. 

Men watched rugby and on big days on the terraces , men and boys huddled close enough to smell each other, and for frank and open exchanges at stupid comments or septic farts. Fellas came from all over, country fells and Cork folk were thrown in together. No-one could speak French but the terrace was close enough, that this language barrier never stopped the hard chaw swapping pleasantries with a visiting winger from Stade or Biarritz. It was a democratic spot where the only bitching done was about the moral bankruptcy of officialdom. They understood the hurt and pain of the game, the brutality, they could see the little triumphs, the ebb and flow of confidence and for the most part, people knew this game. 

Pints beforehand but not too many,  red scarves and hats but no flags or waddling inflated dummies with minders. Singing occasionally, grudgingly, that god awful Athenry lament but more to keep warm then anything else. But absolutely and definitely no choreographed standing and fighting,  nor rousing microphone holding personality on the field beforehand, there was no need. It was a man place. Good play was conceded quietly to the opposition but they were hugely critical of their own, so much better as punters then players. They were fair, knew the rules and how hard on a body this game is.  Munster clubs played finals here and the place had two tenant clubs with a vibrant and inclusive membership. Well , one had anyway. 

If games are a substitute for warfare, this was the biggest test, the hardest fight. You could win but would walk crooked for a fortnight afterwards. Foul play, for the most part, was despised and seen for it’s cowardice. It was a man place, where respect was earned.

But things changed recently. It’s like someone lopped off Everest’s death zone and made it a hill walk. No more tripping over the bodies of those who nearly made it. Sherpas basking in a sunny clime, getting fat and drinking wine. Tour buses dropping pensioners off for the final push and a tourist shop at the top plateau. Benches to eat your sandwiches and fixed pay binoculars to look out at the other tamed Himalayan peaks. Thomand Park has become warm and comfy.

Menace? Edge ? No,  there’s more evil in the surrounding suburban play schools and dinner parties.  Two new stands, dark tall caverns from which the occasional well nourished guffaws  are heard. Gaggles of smug self satisfied ten year ticket holders gather to frame their weekend with “the match”. North , South, East and West terraces policed by Dubliners who never heard of Balla or Shannabooley road, who never knew of the Mayorstone quarry or where the lowest wall used to be, down by LIT.  Ticket master and funny hats, edge gone, no menace, no intimidation.

This happened for a good reason, didn’t it .