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Ignominious Injuries

There are many adjectives that could be used to describe me, but graceful is not one.  Nor is slick or well-coordinated.  Anyone who spoke of me as being nimble or gazelle-like could certainly be sued under the Trades Descriptions Act.  I am a bit of a klutz.   You are doubtless shocked at this revelation.  It may take you a while to accept it as true.  Unfortunately, this is no idle hyperbole on my part.  I am not even a bit of a klutz, but quite an accomplished klutz.  As we head towards the end of another year, I thought I would impress you with a list of some of the real injuries I have inflicted on myself in the last twelve months.

1. I hurt my arm from catching my sleeve on my kitchen door handle.

2. I’ve done this several times.

3. I bashed into my shopping trolley because I caught a button of my coat in a part of the metal.

4. I put my back out while putting recycling into the green bin one Sunday afternoon.  (This just goes to show you the evils of recycling.   I’ve never been injured by anything going into landfill.)

5. As a result of this injury, I found it very hard to get up from a sitting position, therefore I mostly stood upright for the next few days.  This left me with incredibly sore feet.

6. I limped for hours last week from the pain of nicking off skin while clipping my little toenail.

7. I regularly turn my ankle walking down stairs.  No, I don’t know how I do that.

As an aside, I think it’s clear that in addition to being a klutz, I also have whatever is the opposite of a foot fetish.  I seem to despise my own feet and everything they stand for (sorry, couldn’t help that pun, no more than I could help the falling).  I seem to wish them no end of pain and indignity.  But more likely, I suppose, is that my feet have latent masochistic tendencies.  That would certainly explain how they ended up adhered to me.)

8. I regularly fall up flights of stairs.  No, I don’t know how I do that either.

Let’s pause at this juncture to restore my dignity by watching someone more awkward and unfortunate.  This adds nothing by way of content.  It just to make me feel better about myself.

So, back to me.

9. I gingerly negotiated a patch of ice at the end of my road in the recent bad weather and then slipped on a stretch of path where there was none at all.

10. I closed a laptop on my fingers.  In my defence, I mostly did that to give my feet a break.

11. I broke a kitchen chair from tilting backwards just a smidge too far.  For the uninitiated, “a smidge” is a unit of measurement equal to the distance from your home to the nearest IKEA. You can never have too many Ingolf kitchen chairs.  And if you tilt backwards too far on enough of them, you can’t even have any.

12. In the midst of ranting at my kids over the encroachment of their trains and tracks into the living room, I slid on one of the trains and landed knee-first on the self-same track.

Why am I like this?  Nature, nurture, who knows?  I feel it’s most likely rooted in my generous nature.  I like to give amusement.  So I do these things for the sheer cartoonish, Home Alone quality.  (It would take stunt coordinators on a movie set weeks to set up what I can improvise in seconds.)  Sometimes I do it because I feel a desire to enrich my children’s vocabularies with the addition of some judicious profanities.  The first time I heard my then two-year-old saying “Cheeses Crites” was a moment that will stay with me forever.  Often, I am trying to figure out what ludicrous contortion I have to get myself into to stop my Present Husband laughing at the time I managed to stumble, double myself in two and hit my head off a mattress. So far, nothing has topped it but I’m ever the optimist.

Mostly, however, I think I would love to go viral on YouTube.  I could be an internet sensation in 2012 if I put my mind to it – or not, as the case may be.  I could easily go toe-to-toe (battered ones, in my case) with a clip of a cat singing “My Way” or a montage of babies eating lemons.  Who knows what might be captured on film? Me walking into an eye level cupboard, maybe me going head first off my bike or possibly me walking down the stairs carrying laundry and not noticing the toy cars on the step below.  All with hilarious consequences.  I think I’d love that.  All of me would.  Especially my feet.  They would love nothing more than a bit of pain and humiliation.    Oooh, bring it on! 

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Coping with Christmas

How complicated is the process of changing one’s name by Deed Poll?  Because I’d like to change my middle name from – plain, uninspiring and not remotely descriptive of me – “Teresa”  to  – what is that sound?  Why, it’s the nail being hit on the head!  – “Helpful.”

The festive season is upon us and so too is the stress that inevitably accompanies enforced contact with one’s nearest and dearest.  If it’s not possible to avoid this and to spend time instead with one’s furthest and cheapest, then here are some hints to help you navigate this fraught period.

First of all, frugality is your friend.  And the kind of frugality that is above and beyond the demands of any mere recession.  To begin with, appalling standards of hospitality – half a stale Ferrero Roche, anyone? – are a must.  So too are miserly gifts.  Should you choose to have one, your Christmas soiree should include guests who have outrageous and inflammatory opinions coupled with poor personal hygiene norms.  Your entertainment for this event should incorporate slides from your holiday touring the factories of Citywest and also showing off your collection of Nazi memorabilia.  (Accumulating a collection of Nazi memorabilia at short notice will probably take up all of your time over the next week and a half but it’s the gift that keeps on giving)  All of this should be accompanied by the aroma from your backyard meat rendering operation.

If this is too much of a long-range solution – and I’m not sure about the meat rendering plant, viz a viz health and safety – you will have to consider more extreme measures.  Fall out with your relatives.  Become a Jehovah’s Witness.  You’ll lose out on your birthday too, but you could just convert back then.  You are probably not the kind of person who likes to stick with things, so it probably won’t last.

If you are not a commitment kind of person, explore nudism, Satanism or telling people you work for the NAMA.   However, nudism at Christmas is really more of a southern hemisphere option.  There are those dreaded health and safety implications to starting fires in a pentangle, so Satanism might not be for you.  Check your house insurance before you try this.  And again afterwards if you can find the policy documents in the charred remains of your house. Bear in mind that burning your house to the ground at Christmas will cause your obliging friends and family to invite you to spend the whole season with them.  Strategic thinkers like myself would call that “Square One.”

As far as telling people you work for NAMA, this might work too well.  What you are going for is an Amish-style shunning, not a Biblical-style stoning.   You just want to spend Christmas alone, not in traction.

There is the ever-popular option of vegetarianism, which at Christmas is regarded as a mental illness.  The downside to this is that people may just ignore it.  Worse, if you go through with it, you may end up with that scourge of modern medicine, low cholesterol.  I am still on a cheese toasties and Dorritos diet.  Good God, when will it end?

Finally, you might have to go for the nuclear option of telling your children the truth.  It’s a brutal but unerring ploy.  It will horrify your children and everyone else to such an extent that they will run from your presence never to return.  Telling the truth is always a very serious step, not to be taken lightly – sometimes not to be taken at all.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  And there is no time more desperate than Christmas.  So tell your children the truth.  It will do them good in the long run to get over the fantasies and you will be liberated from the burden of maintaining an absurb, infantile charade.

Don’t sugarcoat it.  Just say it straight out.

“Kids, we are potless.  There’s going to be no college and there’s no inheritance.  This is as good as it  gets!” 

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It can’t have escaped your attention that the Presidential election has come and gone and I am not your First Citizen elect.  The contest was won quite convincingly by a man we can certainly say was the least objectionable and most inoffensive of the seven candidates.  That’s not an unprecedented outcome in Irish politics.  But it has led commentators – well, one at least – to ponder where it all went wrong for one election campaign that began with great brilliance and no small promise of glory.   That would be mine.

If a method existed to quantify such matters scientifically, politicians would be found to be the most self-serving individuals on the planet.  Left to their own devices, they would never arrive spontaneously and unaided at a conclusion that was likely to offend their own sense of self-worth.  The reasons they give us for their failings are usually filled with delusion and hypocrisy and lend nothing to our understanding of political developments.

No such difficulty with me.  I will tell it like it is.  And it is this.  The reason for my failure in the presidential election is that I was too much of a maverick.  It was immediately clear that I was a threat to the political establishment with my potent mix of charisma, erudition and popularity.   The elite of this country had nothing to gain from admitting into their ranks someone with drive and purpose who would have shamed them with an over-abundance of intellect and idealism.     That’s to say nothing of the threat I posed by virtue of my having the common touch and a homespun charm.  And my gravitas would have shown them up as deluded imbeciles.  And there’s nothing less attractive in public office than a deluded imbecile, I think I we can all agree.

My campaign never even got out of the starting blocks.  In some respects, though, that may well be for the best.  The mind boggles at how they might have crushed my candidacy if I had, say, added money to it.  Or if I had devised a slogan, printed posters and sent out leaflets.  Or if I had canvassed people, bought advertising space or participated in media interviews.  (I did spend quite a lot of the campaign kissing babies, but they were overwhelming my own and therefore predisposed to vote for me anyway.  If they had been old enough to vote.)  You can see how the delicate flickering flame was snuffed out so quickly.  It’s just as well I am a person of such integrity that I would never engage in a vote-buying sham.  And also that my credit card was maxed out at the time.

But today is not the day for bitterness and rancour.  The day for that is November 11th, inauguration day.  All the possibilities of my vanquished presidency will finally reveal themselves to the nation  – the lovely new outfit by Louise Kennedy I won’t get to wear, a spin in Dev’s Rolls Royce I won’t get to have.  Then there will be tears at the sight of me not rubbing shoulders with luminaries such as Seamus Heaney and Mary Robinson.  Later there won’t be wry smiles and some rueful tittering at the sight of me running amok in Áras an Uachtaráin shouting, “It’s mine, all mine!”  It’s a tragic loss for the nation.

Until that day, as I said, no bitterness.  For now, I wish our incoming President my warmest congratulations and hope that his time in office is a happy and propitious one for him and the nation.  I hope he enjoys his last few days in private life before the heavy mantle of office comes to rest on his shoulders (it wouldn’t have bothered my shoulders in the least, but then I’m young).  Again, I don’t wish to seem bitter but I would delicately suggest that he also use this remaining time to check the brakes on Dev’s Rolls.

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There has been a lot of muck-raking in the presidential election.  My campaign is still in its infancy.  In fact, I have no policy platform at all, just a strong desire to live in a nice house with staff. You can be assured of my strong convictions on that score at least.   But rather than have my campaign side-tracked by minutiae, I thought I’d  get all my muck out in the open in one go.  Prepare to be shocked.

1. I’ve had two speeding tickets.   One was for speeding in a twelve-year-old Nissan Micra.  Yes, I’m as shocked as you are.

2. When I lived in Germany, I occasionally rode the underground trains without buying a ticket.  My excuse was that as a native Irish person I was utterly bamboozled by a properly functioning, highly efficient and completely integrated public transport infrastructure.  You can see how it would take a bit of getting used to.

3. I have four overdue books from the local public library. I can’t help it.  There’s no parking nearby.

4. I have occasionally told people I have no babysitter when in fact I do, just to get out of going to something I don’t want to attend.

5. In a previous job, I told a client that a series of numskull mistakes I’d made had been made by a temp.  We’d never had one.

6. When I worked in a hotel kitchen, I was told to wash the lettuce by swirling it gently in a sink and then patting it dry.  I used to turn a power hose on it.  Who cares that much about lettuce?

7. When I worked as a chambermaid, if I was feeling lazy I didn’t always strip the beds.  And, since I am in a confessional mode, sorry to the guy who left the lovely box of Swiss chocolates open. But, really, what did you expect?

8. I used to walk around with earphones on but with no sound coming through them, just because I was tired and cranky and wanted to be left alone.

9. I used to tell people I hadn’t called them back because I had no credit in my phone.  I’m on a tariff.

10.  I had crushes on several actors in Falcon Crest.

11. I have a crush now on John Stewart of The Daily Show.  One of my reasons for wanting to be president is so he might ask me on his show.  I can tell you it wouldn’t be much of an interview, though – him asking incisive, cogent questions about modern Ireland, the peace process, Irish-American relations in the context of the 21st global economy etc; me drooling like a Basset Hound.  Ratings death, but possibly a sleeper hit on YouTube.

There you have it.  All the skeletons in my closet are well and truly aired out.  Very cathartic.  Not too damaging to the campaign, I hope.  I think the Irish electorate has the sophistication and nous to distinguish between minor infractions such as those listed above and grievous errors of judgement like being a member of Sinn Fein or having appeared on Celebrity Jigs and Reels.

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It was only a matter of time, I suppose.  High office was always going to beckon.  Ever since I became captain of the Daisy Patrol in the Brigíní at the age of ten, I knew that the mantle of leadership and greatness would fall on my shoulders.  Then there was my stint as captain of the school debating team.  I excelled at wearing people down by arguing with them and then having them agree with me just for the sake of a bit of quiet.  So politics was a logical step.

Here are my qualifications to be our First Citizen.

First and foremost, I’m called Mary.  Like our first female president, I’m in fact a Mary Teresa.  That’s 50 per cent of my charm.  Now that Gabriel Mary Byrne has bowed out – insofar as he bowed in – that leaves only Mary Davis to see off and the job is mine.

Second, a respectful and cordial relationship with the Taoiseach is a must. I am well-qualified because the present incumbent actually fancies me something fierce.  Can’t keep his hands off me.   He’ll have to find some way to restrain his burning ardour when he comes to me to present his legislation (which I imagine will turn into a double entendre when I’m in office).  It’d be a tough one for me to tone down my obvious magnetism for him, but such are the burdens of high office.

Furthermore, I am very skilled in the area of etiquette and diplomacy.  I will have an affinity with other heads of state and will strike up a rapport with them with ease and fluency.  Not only that, but I am a subtle and astute observer of economic developments and will bring much wisdom and insight to this role at a time of great change for our society.

Other qualifications include my never having been in Dragon’s Den, the Eurovision or prison.  (Although the latter is an outside chance, I suppose.)  I’ve never been part of a political duo known as “The Chuckle Brothers.”  I have all my own hair.   I’ve never dressed up in Edwardian costume and eaten kidney on Bloomsday (or any other day).  I’ve never sung anything as musically abhorrent and oxymoronic as “Catholic MOR.”   I’m in favour of same-sex marriage (while having occasional reservations about the heterosexual kind, mostly my own).  I’ve never used the taxpayers money to lure Mel Gibson to Ireland.

A political resumé, I think you’ll agree, crackling with experience and, where necessary, non-experience.  I’ll be upfront, though, and that declare my own selfish interests are being served too.  I’d love to live in the Áras.  I’d love to wander around the gardens.  My own lawn is a kip and in need of re-seeding so it would be nice to bail of my house out until that’s done.  There are a few politicians I’d love to sack.  Not just a few, I’d say nine-tenths of them.  I’ll send in some functionaries to clear out their offices.  It’ll be all done with the sensitivity they deserve.  I’d imagine there’s some small under-appreciated clause in the Constitution about that.  And I’d love the Government jet.  That would really increase my commitment to spreading Ireland’s message abroad and reaching out to our diaspora.  As long as they lived in countries with pleasant climates.  And the Merc would be great.  It would be important for extending the hand of friendship and building bridges with communities around Ireland.  And I’d have people going round to Lidl to pick up the weekly specials for me in it, which would stimulate the economy.  Then there’d be the toadies and sycophants.  I’d really love some of those.  Most of all, at the rate things are going if I don’t get in the race soon, I’ll be the only person in Ireland not running for the Presidency.  And that would be socially awkward.  Before more people pile into the race, I’d like to warn you that an election result that consists of four million people each receiving one vote makes us seem needy.  That’s a very unattractive quality in a President. Another reason to vote for me.

So there you have it.  I’m in the race and have a fighting chance to be the next President of Ireland.  I’ll flesh out my policies in more detail, so that what seems insubstantial now will acquire a veneer of rigour that will distract everyone except Vincent Browne from the lack of substance.  And who watches Vincent Browne?  (Hang on a minute, I do)  I’ve got a campaign slogan that channels the optimism of Barack Obama with the media savvy of Simon Cowell – “Can we do it?  Who would spot if we couldn’t?”  Then there’s leaflets, posters and, my favourite part, wooing potential donors.  Followed by media appearances, kissing hands and shaking babies.

A lot done.  More to do.

Watch this space.  Or, as we used to say in the Brigíní – Bí Ollamh!

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… was the last day I wasn’t a parent.  I remember very little of that day.  I presume I whooshed around the house frantically doing the kind of insane jobs that are called ‘nesting’ when you are pregnant but when you are not pregnant are just called insane jobs.  A lot passes for normal when there is an overdue guest refusing to leave your body and you have become a human Hotel California.

One thing I remember with crystal clarity is that night I watched again one of my favourite movies.  Spinal Tap.  Oh how I laughed.  Little did I realise how much of the wisdom of that film I would come to appreciate as the years rolled by.  And then, the following day, in the hospital an anaesthetist told me that if I had to have a c-section they would give me … yes, you’re way ahead of me … a spinal tap.  I laughed even more.  He didn’t see what was funny about this important and delicate medical intervention.  And doubtless had I watched, say, The Shawshank Redemption the night before I would have agreed.  I had to tell him about the film.  He’d never heard of it.  Imagine – an anaesthetist who had never seen Spinal Tap.  I laughed uproariously at that too.  He didn’t get the humour in that either.  Then I was filled with pity and dismay at the poverty of his existence.  I think he may have had similar feelings about me.  It’s true what David St Hubbins says  – there is a fine line between stupid and clever.

So here I find myself at my significant and yet ritual-less anniversary.  The last day I was not a parent.  There isn’t a card for this event or a stone or a flower or a gift.  Not even an acceptable price point.  And yet it’s a very significant milestone.  Certainly if I had grasped the significance of that day nine years ago I would have spent it very differently.  Mostly sleeping.  Definitely.  And rejoicing at the vision of myself not covered in vomit.  My own or anyone else’s, because if we’ve learned anything from Derek Smalls it’s that you can’t always tell.  And doing spontaneous things like going for a sudden coffee.  With nothing in my bag except cash.  To a militantly family unfriendly restaurant with nary a high chair or a kiddies meal in sight.   On my own.

I would have spent some of the day slapping people silly for saying things like “oh, get all the sleep you can now.”  Really?  Is sleeping like putting money in the bank?  When I am suffering sleep deprivation of South American prison proportions, can I go and withdraw that lovely night’s sleep I had back in 1997?  No.  It’s just one of those things people who’ve had kids use to torment pregnant women.

I would have taken my vast reserves of wealth and bought shares in Britax, Calpol, Sudocrem, Mattel, Huggies, Tommee Tippee, Smyths, Clarks – I do, after all, happen to know who is the patron saint of quality footwear – Boots, the Early Learning Centre and Disney and all those other people who I have kept going as part of my early prototype of Obama’s stimulus package.  I’ve no idea what it’s like to laugh all the way to the bank, but I’d say it’s a hoot and I’d love to give it a go.  As Bobbi Flekman told us, money talks and bullshit walks.  I have walked a lot in the last near decade.

But, no, this is not a day for regrets and recriminations.  This day, like all others, is a day for thankfulness and rejoicing.  I have learned so much from my little pension plans, oops, did I say that? Freudian slip, I of course meant children.  It’s the anniversary of the last day that I was mummy to no-one.   The last day my Present Husband and I were just two people living for ourselves.  A life-changing day.  An anniversary to celebrate.  And I will celebrate every year to come on this date.  Especially two years from now.  Because on that day it will go all the way to eleven!

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Centuries ago, a noble Irish tribe known as the ‘Deisí’ were driven out of their land around Kildare.  After a period of light recreational conquering, they settled in what we now know to be the county of Waterford.  The area is known to this day as The Deise.  We know little of why these bright, eminent people were banished, but even a cursory glance around their descendants today in modern-day Waterford would suggest that it was probably because of their intimidating intellectual prowess and immense sexual magnetism.  You can see why that would not have gone down well in the Newbridge of yesteryear. Or,  I suspect, of today.

While our Deisí forebears have bequeathed much to us by way of looks and personality, they have also left us with a bitter legacy in the form of constant banishment.  A feeling of never quite making it in to the big league.  Of being the eternal bridesmaid.  Of being almost there but then cruelly dashed.  I speak, of course, of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship.  Few counties have known the giddy excitement of near victory only to find ourselves banished again and again to the sidelines of history as we have.  Because no amount of scenic beauty or attractive native folk can ever compensate a person for being a figure of fun for Tipperary people.

If you don’t believe me, watch this

Or this

Or for sheer gratuitous torture, watch this

The hardship is bad enough.  But it is compounded by the inevitable jokes at our expense.  Kilkenny people are especially splenetic in this regard.

What is the new bridge on the ring-road to be called?
The Liam McCarthy Bridge – because it bypasses Waterford!
 
Why are Waterford hurlers like a woman in a Wonderbra?
Plenty of support but no cups!

Boom Boom!  (Or, in the case of the latter, bust bust!)  Let me assure you that the sporting people of Waterford people have no such cruel, infantile jibes.  For example,

How many Kilkenny fans does it take to change a light bulb?
Yeah, as if they have electricity in Kilkenny…

would be one of the many jokes that I imagine other fans have recounted, but not us.  We’re a classy bunch.

You would think we would be resigned to our fate.  You would think that losing seven semi-finals in thirteen years would yield a response of a Pavlovian nature and we’d all take the hint and give up.  But no.  Each year, spring turns to summer, the days lengthen and the warm wind from over the Comeraghs, along with fresh memories of a creditable performance in the National League, fill our hearts with renewed optimism.  And so we set ourselves on the inevitable path to a brief heady exhilaration  followed by despair and self-doubt. Memories such as these

are banished and replaced by such as these

You could hardly blame us for reaching for the stars and doing a bit of airbrushing of history along the way.  There are only so many times you can be the laughing stock, but there are equally only so many times you can be the Tiny Tim of the piece – the wretched waif that everyone else pities.  It’s one thing to have a Cork supporter scoff at you, but it’s quite another to have one shake your hand and tell that you fought the good fight, you’ll gave it a hundred and ten per cent, you’ll be back and so on.  Spare me your platitudes! Go mix your metaphors somewhere else!  Surely there’s a Kerry person more deserving of your thinly veiled scorn for whatever ancient grudge is going on along your western frontier?

Forgive me, I’m just bitter.  We all are.  We are a wondrous people.  There’s our beautiful coastline, our scenic mountains, our noble tradition of fine crystal, our Olympic medal winner, our Viking heritage, our unique take on the humble breadroll.  It’s all good.  And yet there is a giant Liam-McCarthy-shaped-hole punched in our ego by teams we regard as our social and intellectual inferiors.  Don’t we seem like the kind of people who should have an All-Ireland title in the lifetime of the under-50s?  Don’t the ancient Deisi deserve to the vindicated?  Because it turns out that our intimidating intellectual prowess and immense sexual magnetism, while the envy of the dopey and ugly counties, are just not enough to sustain us past the first Sunday in September.

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