April Friendsy

What better way to herald in the freshness of Spring than to celebrate your friendships? As the daylight expands towards dusk and the place is full of new blooms and buds, we all have a spring in our step. Although I currently feel like a whopper conglomeration of the seven million easter eggs I’ve eaten (right up to just this morning, when I decided that I’m off chocolate for the foreseeable), I am loving the vigour that the new season has brought with it.

I find myself orchestrating my month to the tune of catching up with friends and attending writing events. It’s fantastic fun. Friday last took me to the beautiful Farmleigh House, where after a ridiculous length of time encircling the backroads of Chapelizod and Castleknock, and an argument with a non-compliant Google Maps, I wound up at the One City One Book event where a fab panel including the wonderful Sinéad Gleeson, Rob Doyle and Eimear Ryan, discussed all things anthology. Tonight I’m off into Poetry Ireland for Dermot Ferriter’s discussion with poet Pat Boran and tomorrow I’ll catch Nuala O’Connor in conversation with Lia Mills in the local library here in Tallaght. And that’s just this week’s events… up until Wednesday.

I had the most amazing day yesterday catching up with a great friend and her gorgeous baby, followed by a fabulous evening of dinner and banter with a life-long friend who visited from Cavan and had me in tears laughing for the night. Catching up with two amazing people in one day just reinforced how blessed I am with the friends I have. And the same will be true of the weeks to come, with more catch ups and coffees planned with various friends that I haven’t made time to see in ages.

How have I had time to write and read with all this whirlwind of a social life taking hold? Simple – get up earlier, focus harder, get stuff done in the windows I have. There is no other way and deferrals are not an option. If I’m being honest, the writing events have me thinking even more about bits and pieces that I’m working on. Sharing time with friends (as opposed to ‘spending it’, which implies that once you’ve splashed out your hour or so, it’s gone, spent, exhausted) has me in far better, calmer, more contented form. It’s massively energising.

There must be something in the air, because it’s not just me who seems to be offering the hand and calendar of friendship. There have been a few characters from the past who have made an effort to say hello of late, some suggesting meet-ups and the like. I guess the vibes of brighter days and new possibilities are affecting everyone, although I’m happy to decline those more arbitrary and unfathomable resurrections. Love and light and positive people with good intentions are all I have time for. Life is short, share it with the best of people who bring out the best in you and for whom you’d walk on hot coals…with or without a spring in your step.

More pricks than kicks

Fighters fight and actors act and marketeers market as onlookers look on and watch the spectacle, and see and say and tweet and talk and marvel at the show, in which the marketeers are acting as fighters fuelled by coins and lines and feral coordinates of a Crumlin compass pointed to pomp, punch, pose and shimmy round in a frenzy of fanatic loyalty and bombast, ‘my testosterone’s stronger than your testosterone‘ iconoclastic parlance, as said fighter cum actor cum marketeer twirls his slight frame in the windless basement of a Brooklyn building, dancing through the air to no apparent tune other than the thump of blood in his chemicaled brain and the solo voice of a cry for attention mocking the onlookers who look on and see fighters fight and actors act and marketeers market, all the while he’s sashaying towards a railing that is a prop perhaps, or a balance maybe, but turns out to be a missile cast by the notoriously high arms of the one who leads his pack of rats into attack, squealing and biting and gnawing at anything in their way, just as hungry rodents chew the flesh of man or boy, sinew by sinew, and tissue by tissue, until their greedy mouths leak venom and entrails; fighters fight and actors act and marketeers market and rats breed and play way down in basements and sewers.

Famine of Knowledge? Part 1: The Beginning

Ever wished you’d paid more attention at school? Wished you’d chosen a different path of study, a different course of learning? Ever wonder how different things might have been if you’d taken that module that your head had overruled your heart on? I guess we all have. It’s not so much that I regret not paying attention, rather than I regret not having had the savvy to pay attention to the signs that mattered – to follow my areas of interest. Although, as someone who deeply loves learning, I guess I had so many interests that to follow all would have been an impossibility. I can say now, with the sagacity of a 37 year old, that the journey is just as important as the destination, and although I haven’t reached my destination yet, I am further along the way than ever before.

The Beginning

I still have copy books and notebooks of mine from primary school and they show that in my younger years, there was always a keen interest in writing. I wrote stories on just about everything and used to give some to my mother as presents. She has kept them all. Along with my writing, was a deep respect for books. I loved books and every Sunday down in Kingscourt from about the age of 4, my uncles used to bring me to the shop after mass to buy me a few bars of chocolate and whichever Ladybird book I wanted. Nothing beat the feeling of leaving The Well with your new book safely ensconced in a brown paper bag. Fair play to Ollie and Frieda for always having a well stocked book rack for me to choose from – my very own Barnes & Noble in Dún A Rí. The uncles also kept me well stocked in stationery and still do, in fact.  So much so that I still have the makings of an office supply centre in my ‘stationery press’.

The first day Dad brought me to Trinity College to see the Long Room, I rambled across the cobbles of Front Square holding his hand and knew that I’d one day be a student there. It was on that trip that he brought me to my first second hand book shop and Mother of God did I enjoy it! A few weeks later, there was a Sale of Work in the community hall in Kingscourt and I went down with a handsome 40p to spend- the 20p coins had just come into circulation. I hadn’t asked anyone if I could go, just headed down to it of my own accord. The sheer joy of finding a book to buy for 5p has never fully worn off. I can still remember it – a Ladybird version of A Tale of Two Cities. Of course, I splashed the remaining 35p on other books and went home a very happy little lady.

It wasn’t that I’d been born into a house full of literature, but for as long as I can remember, getting a book as a gift was the greatest present of all (apart from a pack of magic markers, which I bloody loved!). It’s only in my old middle age, that I’ve realised maybe there’s something in the DNA that fuelled my passion in reading and writing. The great Pauric Colum was a first cousin of my paternal Grandmother and the British writer and journalist Patrick Marnham, is a first cousin of my father. My own first cousin, Larissa Daly is also a British journalist. There’s certainly a family inkwell to draw from, and sure if the well runs dry, I have about 2,000 ball point pens I can hit up. It may also have been the result of growing up next door to Austin Clarke that ignited something! No, not THE Austin Clarke, but this character was one that definitely implored you to write stories about.

Heading off of my own accord is something I’ve done from as far back as I can remember. On my first day of primary school, I misunderstood break-time, and when everyone filed out of the class in the direction of the yard, I made for the front door, thinking that it was home-time. Nobody was there to meet me, so off I went up the town, schoolbag on my back, pigtails bobbing. When I came to a road that needed crossing, I employed the services of a local red-setter. Snipe was the beautiful dog of a family relative and when I called him, he came across the road and accompanied me over to the other side. From there, it was plain sailing, down Main Street, turn at the Four Counties, pass Dr. McMahon’s and on up the Rocks Road. It probably took me about a half an hour. Needless to say that the look of shock on my parent’s faces when I appeared at the kitchen window was unforgettable.

And by third class, St. Joseph’s Kinsgcourt had given way to Scoil Treasa Firhouse and I was the girl in class with the funny accent.  Probably the only benefit of being the culchie in a Dublin classroom is that you have been through a rural school system, which in my experience, was far superior to that of Dublin. The content and level of lessons I’d done in first class in Cavan weren’t even reached by sixth class in Dublin. In particular, Irish and history were taught to an extremely high level, maybe driven by the fact that in the country school there were two grades of class sharing some rooms at a time – and sure rising tides lift all boats. Anyhow, the girl with the bogey accent had decent Irish and loved her history and geography. She loved anything meaty that involved lots of learning and writing.

The sorest part of my primary education was my sixth year teacher Mr. O’Connor telling my mother in a parent teacher meeting that “Gráinne will never be a Dr, her maths are not good enough.” In all his Kerry wisdom, he was accurate in saying my maths weren’t brilliant, though I took honours maths right up to the Christmas of my Leaving Cert, I am not numerically inclined, much preferring the lexicon. But you know what, I pity a person with the mindset to tell young people that they can’t achieve their dreams (at that point I wanted to be a Pathologist – largely driven by my interest in physiology and my fascination with crime writing.) By all means, employ reason and logic, but being a person that students look up to, try avoid belittling their dreams. If anyone shares their dream with you, try share that dream too, and if you can’t help to steer them towards it, then at least resist the urge to be a prick. At that young age, I hung on his words and didn’t know any better than to believe him. ‘I’m not good enough‘ took root. It haunted me for many years.

Secondary school gave me a chance to shine in languages, history, woodwork and art, scoring A’s in the three latter in my Junior Cert. And then, in a case of total eejitry, I chose completely different subjects for my Leaving Cert, leaving behind the creative ones. Science and business beckoned for me, along with languages. Surprisingly, I don’t think I was much of a student of English during the Leaving Cert cycle, my work from Junior Cycle was far better.

This probably came down to the influence of a wonderful teacher. We had Kevin McDermott from first to third year and there simply was no better man to work you hard, to praise good effort, to make you challenge yourself. He was the first person to say he believed in my writing. He took an essay I wrote in first year and gave it to his sixth years with a note “this is how you write“. I still have that essay and it still gives me a deep sense of pride when I recall him calling me back after class to compliment me on it. Good teachers build good people. In Leaving Cert, we had a lesser influence who vaguely discussed poetry with us. She covered fiction as though it were a tick box exercise in her boring existence of counting down the days until she could retire and move back up to her beloved bloody Donegal. I didn’t do as well as I should have in the exam. Irish and business studies were good, french and biology also, but chemistry and english weren’t much of a cause for celebration. Bottom line – I probably should have stuck with the creative subjects, but I had my sights on doing forensic science or biotechnology, hence my reliance on science.

But as all 17 year olds are entitled to do, I went in the direction of Arts in Trinity, reading Modern Irish and French. That 5 year old was going to make her dream of being a Trinner come true. At the time, I also undertook my first Reiki course. I never wanted my learning to be purely academic, so doing a few courses simultaneously has been a pattern of mine for years.

The Stonebreaker’s Yard

A light drizzle falls on the yard, dampening the gravel – changing it from light to dark grey. Over near the gable wall, there’s a pattern of dark circles on the ground that the rain can’t shift. Just days old, they show no signs of fading.

A small bird resembling a starling appears in the Stonebreaker’s Yard. She hops about weightlessly – stopping to inquire at a blade of grass growing near the wall before moving on to a mossy patch covering a concrete pillar.

The drizzle falls at a slight diagonal – an easterly breeze bringing with it the faint smell of hops from St. James’s brewery. The starling hops over to the stained ground and observes the strange arrangement that is not unlike the constellation they call Orion’s Belt, made of seven red stains and some smaller blotches here and there. She then orbits the constellation in a solemn parade, all the time careful not to enter its blackened red circumference.

Across on the wall, a spray of purple wildflowers grows out of a crack lending the only bright burst of colour to the place. Beyond in King’s Hospital, May has seduced the flowerbeds into full bloom. The seeds must have blown over from there.

After encircling Orion, starling lifts up and is gone just as a heavy crow thuds down. The crow moves with an inelegant gait along the shadier side of the yard, shifting its bulk along the trail of spent cartridges strewn in an almost straight line across the gravel. Some are misshapen like old bones, others perfectly intact. All are used. And there will be more added tomorrow. Two men’s worth of cartridges – whatever that may be.

The crow squawks a long cry not unlike the wail of a grieving widow, incensed at the arrival of another feathered visitor. Down glides a white dove, and lands in the far corner of the yard, where the twelve coffins lie. She lands on the first of the unvarnished coffins, arranged side by side.

Blue cards attached to their lids are wilting in the rain. Ink dribbles from the cards making illegible blue tears of the names. One or two can still be read, but those more exposed to the rain have just some final letters left. PEARSE is still clear to see, but NKETT, AC BRIDE, LBERT are all that remain on others.

The crow stretches his obsidian wings, rain running off the feathers giving them the sheen of wet tar. With an awkward hop he lifts himself onto an upturned lid. It belongs to one of two empty coffins sheltering beneath the lip of an overhanging roof.  Their cards are perfectly dry: MC DERMOTT, CONNOLLY. They will be filled tomorrow.

Again, the crow squaks its sickly screech and the dove soars and sails over the wall. All left of her are two white feathers that fell near Orion’s Belt.

Geliophobia- Fear of laughter

Geliophobia- The fear of laughter

I just came across this one today and it cracked me up for some reason. WTF, I thought, and then realised that I actually know a fair few geliophobes.

Take Pat for example. Pat is a forty something year old, married man who lives in a leafy suburb in Dublin and earns a lot of euros per year. He’s a chartered accountant who has worked his way to a respectable CFO position in a large plc. Pat used to play soccer in university but he gave up all sports when he got his first job as an accountant – he maintained that sport ran the risk of him getting injured which led to the risk of him missing work which carried the risk of him missing out on promotional opportunities. He now goes to a charity golf outing once a year, held by one of the Big Four. “I don’t have time for sport”, he says, “I’m too busy.”  His waistline is active too – in a constant state of expansion: a direct correlation with his intimate passion for buttered fruit scones. Each one of his five a day laden with a serving more butter than the last one. Debit bakery, credit Pat’s muffin top.

Just earlier today, Pat came into my office. He was looking for a copy of last year’s annual report – to be more specific, he wanted to prove a point to someone about a piece of information contained in the report. It absolutely couldn’t be possible that his PA was correct on a point of information to do with Chairman’s address in the report, could it? What a preposterous idea! I mean, how could a pen-pusher outsmart perfect Pat?

“What the fuck would a PA know?” he said quietly but not quietly enough, as he asked me, another lowly pen-pushing PA, to unearth a copy from my cabinet.

I was reading an article in the Irish Times as he came in – it reported that a woman had just found her lost engagement ring in a pile of cow shit on her farm. Apparently, she’d lost it while feeding the cattle and one of them had managed to ingest it. Thankfully bovine enzymes haven’t yet evolved to digesting diamonds, so her solitaire had been passed through unharmed.

“Now that’s a sacred cow if ever I heard of one” I nodded towards the article, smiling.

“Ridiculous to loose a valuable like that. What a stupid, careless woman,” Pat grunted. You’d think he’d coughed up for the ring himself.

It was at that point, that Manus Smith, the Company Secretary, walked in. They were all coming out of the woodwork today – my office under siege from the elite of emotionally constipated colleagues.

“Pat.”

“Manus.”

They nodded like donkeys in each other’s direction.

“Anne. Month end report. It’s late. Why?” Manus was verbally frugal as ever.

“There was a problem with Account’s IT system this morning, they’ll be issuing the report this afternoon.”

“Ridiculous,” he snorted, as though I’d broken the fucking system myself.

“Lazy bastards,” added Pat, though it was impossible to decipher whether he was referring to the accountants working on the reports or the poor sods in IT who slave to fix the daily problems with the jurassic financial software. I suspected he meant the latter but didn’t seek clarification. Fat Pat was Mr. Excel personified but by no means Steve Jobsey in a technical sense. He could run a macro sooner than you’d blink your eye but ask him to convert a word doc to a pdf and he’d break out in a sweat.

Manus threw a crumpled piece of paper he’d been holding, in the direction of the bin but missed the target by about a metre. He made no apologies, nor did he attempt to pick up the piece of rubbish, turning on his brown Marks & Spencer’s heels and leaving the office. Pat grabbed the report from my hand and headed back to his CFO cave to play with his Bloomberg or stroke the GL or have another buttered scone while drooling all over today’s handsome share price.

And it struck me then, when have you heard a CFO laugh, now I mean really laugh, in work? (Christmas parties or when they finally and inevitably get promoted to a CEO role excluded). When has a CFO had a good, deep bellied, tears well up in the eyes, shoulders shake with the spasms laugh? Feck it, let’s lob HR Directors in there too, while we’re at it. Has your HR Director ever broken their heart laughing at something in work? Not the fake tickle of a “ha, ha, oh you’re hilarious” type excuse for a laugh that HR merchants bandy about. The “oh aren’t you so funny?” line they leave you with right before they click their heels down the hall at the speed of light to write a note on your file that your ‘fit’ is in question and you may be ‘too disruptive an influence for the culture’, ‘one to watch’ perhaps.

The answer is, they don’t laugh. Laughing with intent and real gusto is seen by some as about as professional as rocking up to a board meeting with your boobs hanging out. It’s not going to get you promoted. Robots don’t laugh so why should corporate drones? Unless, of course, the CEO cracks a joke, in which case the CFO and HR Director will enact a synchronised orgy of faking it. “Ha, ha, oh that’s hilarious”, she’ll say, waiting for the cue as to when she can stop pretending to laugh. He’ll emit a deep groan, like a cow in labour and package it off as a laugh by roaring “very good” over and over in his Dart accent. He may even slap whatever file he has close to hand off his thigh once or twice – just for effect. No tears will well in their eyes. Nobody will remember the ‘joke’.

There’s nothing as terrifying to the powers that be in Finance and HR as the sound of genuine laughter. It signals reality and actual people.  Fuck that, much safer to trade in buzzwords and spreadsheets. That’s where the promotion lies guys.

 

 

Vive le printemps

February started with gorgeous mountain hikes followed by long distance travel to a superb writers conference in San Fran. But it then gave way to a ridiculously drawn out bout of jet lag that bled into being snowed in for a week and gorging on Pringles and wine before graduating to an even fatter ass, a loss of fitness, an injured writing mo-jo so by the time mid-March arrived it’s not surprising that I felt more stodge than sparkle.  Never in my life, have I wanted to feel Spring in the air as much. And with the melting snow, and bursts of spring colours in the awakening flower beds, this year above all others, was the one in which I decided to embrace the idea of doing a massive ‘Spring Clean’. There are three main areas I’m targeting.

Spring Clean 

Tolstoy said that “Spring is the time of plans and projects” and by God is that the case for me this season. I recently undertook a 90 Day Challenge, which more or less is a fancy way of saying I’ve given up drink. It will take me to June 24th with a healthier system and an intention of continuing beyond then to expand into One Year No Beer. So far, so good. I feel great, have carved out additional time to read or do whatever tickles my fancy. I have always been more sociable as a non-drinker and have recently undertaken a rake of social engagements that I definitely would not have agreed to had I still been taking a jar. There are multiple benefits, some of which I won’t make you jealous with, and I’m only getting started into week three!

But I didn’t think there was much point in just undertaking one challenge in isolation, so I decided I’d do a 30 day clear out of unwanted, unneeded, excess stuff. So far, I’ve furnished the charity shop with ten bags of things and have (unknown to my family) thrown out a fair bit of junk from the attic (that they didn’t really need and will never look for anyhow…I hope. I set the chimney on fire and almost burned the house down last week trying to burn some stuff, but I’m just over the shock of it, so I’m still not fit to elaborate. Though, before you think I’m a total gobshite, it was just one item I threw on the fire that I just hadn’t bank on being so flammable! The smoke from the chimney was seen from a mile down the Greenhills Road – no joke.)

I am a hoarder but a sensible one. I don’t keep things for the sake of keeping things and am ruthless with how I use my space and time. I keep some college notes, just in case I need to refer to them. I keep special cards and letters because they are symbols of goodness. However, I am a divil when it comes to books (and shoes, but mainly books). My current abode is a box room. My current library stocks over a thousand books. Any grasp of basic maths will tell you that a thousand books (and umpteen pairs of ‘good’ shoes, housed nicely in their boxes) will not divide into a box room (along with a desk and a hundred or so healing crystals). So I made the decision to shed some of the biblio-load. It was painful at first, and there are titles and collections of favourite authors that you’d have to fight me to part with. But there were a few ‘aspirational’ books there that made their way to the charity shop. By ‘aspirational’, I mean those books that I hoped to someday get time to read. The ‘get around to it someday’ books. The Origin of the Species was one. I can catch up with Darwin in a library any time. Peter Clohessy’s autobiography was another – the ‘someday’ would probably never come for that one, no offence. Stephen Ferris’s was another. That day would almost certainly never come and if I’m honest, I’m still unsure as to why my father thought I’d ever read it. The day he gave it to me he’d said “here, I picked you up Stephen Ferris’s book”.

“Stephen Ferris has a book?,” my reply.

“Yes.” Dad looked mildly happy, thinking he’d just given me a great surprise.

“Stephen fricking Ferris… wrote a book?”

“Yes love.”

“…Why?”

At which point we both fell around the kitchen (no disrespect to Ferris or anything but come off the stage like). Suffice to say that it was consigned to a shelf beside Bernard Jackman’s book. Another ‘gem’ Dad had given me. Messers Ferris, Jackman and Clohessy now reside under the roof of Vincent and dePaul in Firhouse, in case any of you care to foster them.

So I’ve liberated the shelves somewhat, though they are still jammers. Currently, I’m reading at a decent rate and am being indiscriminate in what I read, seeing as how there are now gaps appearing on my shelves. My newfound shelf awareness has me seeing titles I’d forgotten I had, some good ones at that.  Unless a book is a definite re-read or an absolute gem, (like Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way), it’s not remaining in my custody. I will continue the 30 day clear out, with the same vigor as I started and will create space to enjoy what I have.

 

Hill Yes!! 

Ever walk up into the clouds to find some proper headspace? Getting out and hitting the hills and woodlands is one of my favourite things to do, in all seasons I might add. Living in a hiker’s paradise like Ireland, with its majestic mountains, I have few excuses to stop me. I cherish being out in nature and having the opportunity to really feel and breathe and think properly. I love when the great noise of nature hammers needless thoughts from my mind and filters in a sense of oneness. That cacophony can be anything from a gentle birdsong in a forest up in Crone Woods to the silent stillness of the path up Slieve Donard, where only your steps and the regular chorus of wind might reach your ears, yet just beyond those sounds is an eternity of calm and life from which we draw healing and solace.

For those of you who feel I’m guiding the lily a bit, go and do it and then you’ll get what I’m on about. If you don’t find that sense of connection when you’re out in nature, then go again, and again. Turn off the apps that are on auto-pilot in your mind and just be. Then you will find it. And then you’ll permit me choose the floweriest of language or the most romantic of descriptions when I refer to the bliss of a date with nature, because you’ll understand that it is a divinely pure and blissful experience.

I have found that the key is not in the location itself, rather in the process of letting go in order to allow life in. We all have our favourite places to walk or visit of a Sunday afternoon. I have my favourite mountains and forest walks and although life doesn’t always afford you a full day of commute time to get to Croagh Patrick or Errigal or Slieve Donard, it does give you a few hours here and there so that you have to make use of the areas that are more local. I’m blessed living at the foot of the Dublin-Wicklow mountains, so Lugnaquilla’s not too far (though I find it a haunting hill at times), Djouce is nearby and a lovely stroll and Crone and Cruagh Woods are all less than 25 minutes drive from me.

Regarding books, people often say that it’s not about how many books you get through, it’s about how many books get through to you. I find the same with mountains, it’s not about hiking (climbing/strolling/walking/dawdling up) a mountain once and ticking it off a list, it’s about using that mountain as a platform from which you can learn so much. You’ll learn from the process of challenging yourself in nature (especially in adverse conditions) but you’ll also learn about what it is that is motivating you. You’ll slow the rattle and hum of the mind, so that only the thoughts you need to process will filter through. As I mentioned earlier, you will truly ‘BE’. At one with the divine beauty of nature, instead of a human doing, you’ll revert to a human being, as mind, body and spirit are welcomed into the arms of the great outdoors.

Rather than map out my ‘where to’ list for the weeks ahead, I’ve given myself a credit of hours to spend. I’ll work out where I hike based on how I’m feeling on any given day and will debit the ‘hike bank’ hours. I can tell you now that I will definitely be in overdraft by the end of the month, but it’s an overdraft I can happily reconcile with.

 

Reiki Master 

I was 17 when I did my Reiki 1 course and in the two decades that have since passed, I have practiced regularly and gone on to become a Reiki and Seichem Master and teacher. Reiki, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a beautiful gentle healing energy that can assist with achieving greater balance in life. Reiki enhances the body’s natural healing ability and can aid people in living more in tune with their divine purpose. For me, Reiki has been and will remain one of my most valued and precious lifelong journeys. We are constantly renewing, regenerating, changing and evolving through life, and Reiki is the energy that helps me life a fulfilling life positively. There is no greater gift, as I see it, than the ability to help and make a positive difference in the lives of others (in whatever way we can). Being a Reiki and Seichem therapist enables me to work with others to empower them to find the healing they need and regain the balance they seek in life. Reiki, just like love, is a natural healing energy and is open to all. Helping people to learn about the practice and helping others to heal through practice, is a blessing.

There are three main levels in Reiki training, levels 1, 2 and 3. On completion of training for each level, students are given an attunement which sensitises them to interpret and channel Reiki energies more profoundly. After each attunement there is a 21 day cleanse period, during which one may experience changes as the body and spirit receive and make way for the channeling of Reiki energy. As part of my ‘spring clean’ or ‘catharsis’ or whatever you’d care to call it, I reattuned myself to Reiki Level 1, (after which I’ll do 2 and then 3) so at the moment, I’m undergoing a cleanse, and am consciously spending more time meditating and practicing Reiki every day, than I normally would. I feel a million times more powerful and happy in myself than I had in ages, not that I was grossly unhappy or anything, but I am reaping the benefits of the practice hugely. I’m almost finished a Certificate Course in Mindfulness which will enable me to also teach that, but I will declare that Reiki is my first love.

The Darling Buds 

If I’m being honest with you, there may be a fourth ‘KPI’, and it may concern love (too potent?), romance (too sweet?), flirtation (very palatable!), but any writer’ll tell you, you’ve got to keep something on reserve. So I’ll conclude with the words of Pablo Neruda “I want to do with you what Spring does with the cherry trees.” pexels-photo-208032.jpeg

Paddy Reilly and Billy James Duff

On Sunday last, four counties ascended upon Croke Park to contest the Division 1 and 2 league finals. Thirty six and a half thousand in attendance at the games were made April Fools of by the cold conditions, but come hell or high water, shivering and numb, the fans were intent on catching two exciting games of football. And that they got.

I sat in the Cusack Stand with three children I’d brought up from Cavan for the day, who by mid-way in the Dublin game, had chilled to a peculiar shade of blue. Thankfully, my pleas of “let’s just stay a little bit longer, ok?” worked, and eventually they seemed to thaw. Naturally, I wanted to make sure they were ok and safe and well – but I wanted to see Dublin beat Galway too. I guess the Dub in me won out.

Cavan turned out a great support. There were articulated vowels all over the place as collective cries rang out. From Kingscourt to Killygarry, Baileboro to Belturbet they had turned up in fine form, with high hopes of Cavan rising to the occasion on an Easter Sunday in GAA HQ.

“Come on Ceeeaaaaaaavaaan”, they cheered, “go on Maaaaaaaakeey”, “that’s it Maaaaaaaaartin”, the chorus that lilted throughout the game. The only boy who never rose more than a clap from the Brefini boys, was Séanie Johnston, when he finally made his appearance. Kildare transfer emblazoned in the psyche or perhaps just the general on-field greed of the chap, but for whatever reason, he won’t be winning Cavan person of the year, if the response of the fans is anything to go by. In spite of “yon boy Jonston” though, the Cavan crowd were more animated than I’d seen a Cavan following in years. I recall being in Brefini Park at a Cavan Monaghan game in or around ’91 and I was stunned to find that not one voice cheered on the home side for the whole game. Not a fecking one. I’ve been at livelier wakes.

But on Sunday nobody was holding back, not least Paddy and Billy who sat behind me. Both are Kileshandra natives, although Billy’s people came from Blacklion many moons ago. He explained the lineage to Paddy who’d probably heard it a hundred or more times before, but he listened as though it were news to his ears. There’s a chance that both gents remember the last time Cavan lifted Sam, and the time before it too, and probably even the year before also, ‘beyond in the Polo Grounds’. But sure who’s counting?

Paddy, the taller of the two, had a forehead furrowed with wrinkles and great big lumps of hands that I’m in no doubt, had worked the slanted fields of Killeshandra forever and a day. Billy had a well worn face too but his hands were smaller, and possibly softer – though I can’t vouch for their touch. He hadn’t been exposed to working the drumlin lands and instead had earned his crust pulling pints in his bar. His rosy cheeks and beetroot nose, showed that he still has a grá for the sup. Old habits die hard, as they say. But sure wasn’t it Easter Sunday and so didn’t everyone have good reason for a few jars?

They’d got the lift up off a gásan from the club, who was meeting them over at The Big Tree after the game. One of the McCabes they said. Drives too fast they said, might be the last match we ever get to see, they joked, though weighing up their vintage, I’d say the probability of that was high.

“Never heard of a Suuuuubaroooo Impreza before hi, must be one of them Japanese imports so it must” Paddy mused.

“Aye, terrible funny name for a car, Suuuuuubaroooo, sure it sounds like Irish so it does, súgradh” said Billy.

“Aye, súgradh,  that’s Irish so it is hi. Sugar is it?”

“No, be God and it’s not” sounding strangely like my first year Irish teacher.

“Is that not what they say on a bag of sugar?” Paddy was fiddling for a piece of clove rock from a faded bag that may also have seen the 1952 Cavan game.

“It’s not anyway so it’s not” again, shades of Mr. MacCarthaigh rang through, sending a shiver up my spine. I was afraid he was going to start lashing out the Módh Cionniollach.

“Well what is it then?” Paddy sucked hard on his heritage clove drop.

“Siúcra.”

“Aye, that’s it. It’s on the bag of sugar so it is.”

“I know it is, but it’s sùgradh I’m on about hi.”

“And what’s that when it’s at home?”

“The Irish for play so it is.”

“Is it anyhow? That’s a terror.”

“It is aye.”

“Jaysus that’s no bad one. Sue Garoo. It’s like Kangaroo isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is aye.”

“We’re travelling in style today hi Paddy, a Kangaroo Impreza.”

“We are to be sure hi!”

And their banter continued, through the game. Everyone cheering for Cavan or the Rossies. The Dubs who’d come in early for the game, took the side of the Ulstermen, but in spite of the extra support, Cavan fell short on a scoreline of 4-12 to 4-16.  Though with a game stuffed with eight goals and a clatter of points, you can’t be too disappointed. (Unless you are one of three quasi-frozen children who know that they are here for another full game and not even a combined outburst of Ophelia and Emma would change their fortune.) It was a lively game, and Cavan looked good in parts. They missed opportunities in the first half  that could have made the difference, but Roscommon had the edge and kept composed to see themselves home safe.

Paddy and Billy decided that the first game had been such a thriller that they’d stay on to catch the second one. Sure why not, hi? Yon boy won’t be a The Big Tree till after it anyhow, we may as well stay here sure. Aye, no bother. They back’d and forth’d about the Dubs, analysing everything from the vanished Connolly to the literary great that is Philly McMahon.

“That chap wrote a book hi,” Paddy scoffed another clove drop and nodded towards the Ballymun Kickhams back as he made a run up the park.

“Did he anyhow? That’s a terror.”

“Aye, one of the Carolans has it. He said it’s a good book so he did.”

“Go way. Is is anyhow? I must get my hands on it. I like an aul read in the evenings.”

“Is that so?”

“Oh be God and it is. Didn’t I read yon boy Cooper’s book before Christmas so I did – your man The Gooch.”

“Was it any good?” Paddy mumbled, clearly not too interested, his eyes were glued on a scuffle up at the Hill 16 goal.

“No word of a lie Paddy – a load of shite so it was.”

“Here, take one of them sweets Billy,” Paddy shoved the canvas satchel on Billy’s lap, liberating a piece of hay from within. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a few chicks hatch out of it before the final whistle.

“Where’d you get them from?” Billy asked, concentrating on separating two sweets that had fused together.

“America.”

“Be God and you weren’t in America.”

“No, I wasn’t. Pat Reilly from out the Hill and Hollows was, and he brought them back for me. Brought a load of them. I keep them for when Cavan are playing in finals.”

“A ritual like?” asked Billy.

“Aye. Not that it brings us any luck.”

“Pat Reilly’s dead a long time now – when was he in America?”

“Ah he went for the match,” Paddy’s eyes remained in the direction of Ciarán Kilkenny who was tearing towards goal at lightening pace.

“What match was that hi?” I could detect genuine confusion in Billy’s voice.

“Cavan and Kerry,” replied Paddy, cool as you like.

A choking sound came from behind and I turned around in time to see Billy spit his sweet along with his false teeth, into the palm of his hand.

“Ya bollocks ya Paddy, that game was in 1940-fucking-7!”

“They’ll do you no harm,” he continued surveying the pitch.

Billy kept quiet for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, the Tribesmen around us had not lost their tongues. The ref had a mare, to put it mildly, and was making a few odd decisions against both sides, with Dublin largely coming out shortchanged by his judgements in the first half and Galway in the second. Of course though, whenever Dublin are involved, it’s ALL DUBLIN’S FAULT. Dublin pay the ref. Dublin are typically filthy. Dublin are scumbags. Dublin are a shower of pricks. And on and on and on. I’ve nothing against Galway personally, and it’s not that they are unique in this regard. There are thirty one counties who don’t have sweet dreams about Dublin football every night. But on Sunday, it was the turn of the men from the West, and my word did they make their bitter comments heard.

It’s been a long time since I heard a crowd of supporters sound quite so absolutely hormonal. A serious case of PMS was doing the rounds during that second half on Sunday and made me just the little bit prouder of the Dubs for hustling, for digging deep, for their power and their strength and their relentlessness. It made me relish even more, the fact that they are, undoubtedly, the best team in the country. Galway gave them a run for their money in Salthill a few weeks back and again on Sunday, but class is permanent and Dublin are a class outfit. And what better way to shut the begrudgers than to win the fifth league title in six years.

Baile Átha Cliath abú.

Dublin for Sam, Cavan for Ulster.

grainnedaly.com:crokepark