Ghosts

My eldest son was suspended from school yesterday, unexpectedly.

This troubled me more than it should have and I couldn’t figure out exactly why.

See if you can help me out.

  • The powerlessness I felt when the principal used the term “zero tolerance”.
  • The powerlessness I felt sitting in her office and being there on her terms .
  • The powerlessness I felt knowing I couldn’t use the words digression or tolerance.
  • The public servant choreography of a one size fits all policy.
  • The walk of shame he took with all his books and bags and chattels, which must be removed from the school for the duration of a 2 day suspension.
  • His delayed breakdown and emotional outburst in the car when we decided which days to take the suspension.
  • Her later admission that she knew of a student who was similarly suspended and ended up getting 600 point in his leaving.

But mostly, it was the ghosts of that dammed place come back to haunt me. I looked at the pictures on the walls, those confining and imprisoning walls, plastered in valedictorians and other cunts whom I hated then, and whose spots have not changed since.

I know he’ll be fine, being well able for that horrid place.

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11 th hour ( or If Carlsberg did speechifying Finance Ministers)

Castleknock, Dublin, sometime in September 2008, mid-night

Brian, Brian, wake up, shakes him gently.

Trish what, what time is it?

There’s someone at the door. Sounds like a couple of people.

Gets up, looks out window,

Oh God it’s the lads from the department. Go back to sleep love, I might be a while.

Come in, come in. I’ll put the kettle on, we‘ll use the kitchen. So… it must be serious lads, you’re both ashen faced.

Yes Minister, the central bank hasn’t stopped ringing and more from Sean Fitz. They’re in big trouble.

Right, right, but we knew this already, sure there was a run on the deposits in the past weeks. What’s the issue now?

They’re broke Minister, they’ve nothing left and the Germans are looking for their money.

Brian stands up, gets the kettle and pours hot water into the pot, rinses. Three tea bags, fills it and brings it to the table, sits down.

We’ll let it draw a while.

Okay, we’ve already spoken about this and voiced our concerns, as recently as yesterday so, what exactly is needed from the Irish Government at this point?

They want us to bail them out Minister.

Pours three cups.

 Milk and sugar?

Takes a sip and looks at Ireland’s two most senior department of Finance officials sitting in front of him.

Gentlemen, as I’ve told you many times before, I was elected by the good people of Ireland whom I now represent in Government. I serve no purpose other than to articulate their interest. With a very small exception, a tiny exception, none of these people hold Anglo Irish accounts. None gentlemen. I mention this by way of explanation as to why this government has no intention of intervening in this bank’s problems. Be clear about this in your communications to the central bank and to Mr. Fitzpatrick. At today’s cabinet meeting Brian Cowen made it clear to me and the other department heads that we are a party of the people, elected by the people and whose mandate comes from the people. Our voters have nothing to do with this bank, so why are you persisting with this line of enquiry.

Minister, there will be a run on other banks too; we believe AIB is similarly over-exposed. When the people look for their money, there will be none left and civil unrest will follow.

Once again Gentlemen, this Government is not about to gamble the public purse on the outcome of a crap shoot by the canal bank. They invested, they gambled and when they won they shoved it into my constituents with their vulgarity and extravagance. My constituents did not profit in the good times, not one iota. And now the tide has turned, as we advised it would on numerous occasions in the past 18 months, now the banks come calling with their begging bowls.

No gentlemen, once again no, no to Anglo Irish and no to Allied Irish. We will look at trying to provide a rescue package to those owner occupiers who are most at risk, some sort of compensations scheme which would allow this unfortunate negative equity group to move house and not be bankrupted in the process. Beyond this, nothing.

Minister, I implore you to reconsider. Europe will not look kindly on this. Look you know the pressure we came under after the last farrago.

Europe, what has Europe got to do with Ireland managing its own affairs. This is an internal matter not a federal issue. The Taoiseach has spoken at length with his European counterparts and explained how this situation is a specific and clearly differentiable problem, set apart from Ireland’s central economy. He named the companies involved, both of you know the ten names, the ten entities at the root of this problem.

Yes, there will be a run on the banks. The run on Anglo is not a state issue. Allied Irish bank will be a concern but on the balance of probabilities, it is better that this Government sits on its hands for the moment and is also clearly seen as taking a stand against these mercenaries.

But Minster, the riots, the chaos, the confusion, the markets………..

This Government has a finite capacity and resources. We have five million citizens. The world economy is making an adjustment right now and we must be vigilant over the coming months and years managing our scarce resources for the benefit of all our people. We cannot afford to bail or guarantee these banks who so carelessly gambled with their share holder’s equity. The Irish economy is not a casino.

How will we trade Minister?

Gentlemen it’s late, please. There will be a queue of banks waiting to take the places of those foolish enough to have gambled. Not all are similarly as exposed, either here at home or elsewhere. Our economy is not 100% dependent on building houses, apartments, hotels and shopping centres. Do the math please. It might be 10%. No gentlemen, the captain has turned on the seatbelt sign, there’s turbulence up ahead yes, but only that.  

caca

Kitchen

To be…….. *sigh*,

Your knee?  

No, no, the situation at home, I told you before.  The uncle and the ma, at it like rabbits and my bedroom only next door. Or not to be……….. .*sigh*

You okay?

Err no, the not being and the not perchancing to dream are totally freaking me out.

You’ve been talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern again, haven’t you?  I told you already they’re just a bunch of spas and are only having it up for you. Saw them talking to old man Claudio yesterday.

Slings and arrows though, outrageous fortune……… *sigh*,

Pint?

 

Pub: Outside, having a smoke.

Did you see Cristiano at the Bernabeu? 80,000 punters turned up to see that pimp.

Ophelia’s wrecking my head, I don’t even fancy her or anyone else for that matter.

And Kaka, I mean wtf, Kaka? What wrong with Dave or John?

But conscience does make cowards of us all……..

He’ll never be as good as 40 goals again. Anyway Rooney is the heart of united.

I saw a ghost the other night.

We should check the flights for Old Trafford next season, book them well in advance and see if we can get over for a handy match.

He told me that Claudius killed the da, poisoned him.

Let’s go back inside; it’s bloody freezing out here.

 

Inside.

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…..*sigh*

Ah here, will you talk to him. He saw a ghost the other night and he’s bit alsy palsy.

Hamster, s’up?

The not being.

Don’t so.

Anarchy

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.

Andrew

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.

50

State of you

Yeah

Gammy hip

Yeah

Dodgy knees

Yeah

Deviated septum

Yeah…………., and your point is?

Hawaii

And this IS your point?

50?

Ahem……….

Paul Simon

Ways to leave your lover?

 50?

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.