Monday, April 28, 2014

Let Me Tell You About my Bunion.

PS I don't have bunions. And the illustration reflects the graphic nature of the medical conditions shared with me.

What is the secret of good conversation? I was really driven to question this today. I know there are certain so-called “rules”. You know, ask questions, listen to the answers, try not to stick your own oar in the waters all the time. Evaluate your responses, be thoughtful. Really hear the other person.

I put this to practice today. We had our monthly book club meet and Elsie, a person I don't know very well, asked me to give her a ride home. We had already engaged a little in the kitchen where we were plattering the lunch. She'd asked me if I were going to Ireland this year and barely waited for my answer before launching into all the (medical) reasons she couldn't go there this year, this being the 10th year in a row she couldn't go there. A blow by blow accounting of 10 years of medical history. And yes it was savage and awful. But hey, behind her now. She survived. Maybe it is just me and maybe I'm being harsh, but lawdy, everyone I meet lately launches into med-speak with me, from their hangnails to their bowel movements, from their meds to their tumours. And their tests, their scans, their MRIs, their ultrasounds. It can get extremely wearying. Especially when the person is standing in front of me, alive, vertical and in motion. And it's all behind them now. It's history.

Maybe I'm lucky with my health and if it fails maybe I will grab you by the lapel or blog-wrestle you to the ground and blister on (and on) about it too. But it is completely boring. It would be completely boring even if you were a beloved family member/friend.

Don't get me wrong. If you are in hospital or need any kind of assistance to get to one of your appointments, hospital tests, anything, I'm there in a heart beat. Lean on me. Or if you are currently ill. One of my friends is and I listen intently to the symptoms and the medical assistance she is getting. I love her. It is important.

But for Dog's sake – leave the history of every health travail in your private journal once you are well again.

And that ride home with Elsie? More about her gall bladder than I would ever need to know - even about my own. This was after she asked one question about what road races were coming up for me and before I even mentioned the first one she launched into the 99 reasons she couldn't do it. All of them medical. All of them historical.

Needy. Yeah, I know. And I don't lack compassion. But shyte, at some point in 60+ years on the planet there should be a smidgen of growth, of self-awareness, of interest in others. Especially if you've shown a curiosity in the greater world by joining a book-club?

Friday, April 25, 2014

So Young

There was a time when I would be flattered. Not anymore.

I was leaving an older friend's house today. I dropped off something and stayed a while to chat. She gets lonely. She has kidney disease, genetic. Nothing anybody can do even though her sons offered their kidneys years ago. A transplant wouldn't help.

I was out the door, heading down her path when I overheard her say loudly to another friend:

"My gawd, she looks so young, are you sure she's as old as she says she is?"

My awareness of ageism is at a high level. I see it everywhere, even coming from other elders with their "cute" posts on FB, you know the ones: as if seniors are all one brick short of a load, one bulb short of a lighthouse. Some are more offensive than others and poke fun at elders' sexuality, teeth, weight, forgetfulness, clothing, incontinence. You name it. When I address this with them and say: put an aboriginal in place of that elder, put a negro there in that cartoon or a gay person. See how unfunny it is now?

Ah, they say, we can poke fun at ourselves, can't we?

Erm, no, it's not funny. All these "innocent" little jokes and innuendoes and othering leads to abuse. It's called discrimination. And ageism. You're telling the whole world out there that all elders are feeble, simple and stupid and can't take care of themselves. And those "funny" jokes reinforce that perception. Aging is to be feared. Anti-aging is an enormous industry - Botox, Viagra, hair transplants, teeth transplants, skin abrasions, liposuction, pills, cosmetics.

And if you'd done all the research I've done on elder abuse, you would GET it. It starts with the "Depends" jokes and then moves down the hill to all elders are smelly and stupid and are one big joke - giving those who "care" for them the right to take over their lives, their possessions, their bank accounts, etc., and they'd be too stunned to notice.

So no, I am not flattered when others call me "young" for my age or OMG I'm jogging, or I'm writing, or meeting friends who are at the other end of the age spectrum for dinner or planning new adventures.

This is what an elder looks like and behaves like.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Surprise in Every Day.

Someone said this to me a long time ago: To watch out for those lovely wee surprises as one always falls into every day and we can miss it if we're not aware.

I know when the Black Dog visits it's hard to recognise these little drop-ins. But today? I was very half-hearted about my office job. I wanted to keep editing (and editing) this short story for a competition. The deadline is tomorrow. But everything went really well in the office in the morning and I worked on the story in the afternoon and then the phone went and this trip to the Ould Sod fell into my lap. A friend of a friend had changed his mind about going and was giving away the ticket for just about 1/2 price.

You know me and YES.

Make that a HELL YES.

And I'll keep my eyes open for tomorrow's one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nostalgique A Deux

This was an ad that appeared in the paper this past weekend. Click to embiggen.

I know. Hard to believe in this day and age. I also love the absence of phone number, address and website.

As if everyone should know where they are.

I might just head myself off and do some fishing with their rod and their bait.

After my breakfast, of course.

who knew there was so much fun to be had for a total of $10?

Monday, April 21, 2014


My front garden, at sunset

Well, it isn't really a word used by us English speakers, is it? But I do like the sound of it.

I think back to the days in Ontario when I knew a few female alcoholics and when they introduced themselves thusly: "Je suis un alcoolique", I would think to myself: that sounds so much more fun, so much more glamorous, so much more carefree than "alcoholic".

A couple of web friends have kicked the bucket. One out of Limerick who died in January (of a brief but unremitting cancer) but my FB feed has a mind/agenda of its own. Posts normally at the top of my lists get subsumed by the bots at whim to the nether regions. This is what happened to my friend John's obit news. He was one of Ireland's foremost atheists, a never ending battler for women's rights, a wit, an artist of some renown and a scholar and a gentleman. We'd had some pleasant exchanges over the years. Some Irishmen just make me proud. He was one of them.

Mike I'd followed for many years due to his online magazine, his documentaries and a radio show. He ruminated on many topics - ranging from oil as a finite resource and the underlying conspiracies of corporate interests in political affairs. I had been an admirer of his for about 13 years and befriended him in his transition to FB. Since he has died - by his own hand - some troubling facts have come to light in regard to his declared sobriety (he wasn't), a sexual harassment charge, and his extreme paranoia resulting in a self-inflicted gunshot wound when he'd wrapped up his last radio show. So my opinion of Mike, and now his political slants, have taken a jolt.

Sometimes I do wax nostalgic for simpler times. But were they ever simple? I look at the pictures of Old Cork, a new group on FB that has brought such richness of historical experience to my home city via these thousands of old photos and movies. Many now vanished train stations and trams, unsullied strands, majestic ballrooms, shoppers in hooped skirts, all looking innocent and almost childlike. But I also remember the slums of Cork, now thankfully no more, where lonely old women ate meagre food on tin plates with the damp running down the walls. As "Children of Mary" in secondary school, we would have to visit these old people in their tenement rooms and bring food and clothing to them.

At times like these, I need to step out of Nostalgique, a fine place to visit for sure, and pour myself a stiff cup of reality laced with a hit of cynicism.

Back to normal, in other words.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Lovely Humanity

It's never the perfect dinner parties I remember. You know, where everything is just so. Everything matching, flowers at attention, napkins crisp and clean and even, linen spotless, best silver aligned.

No. it's the wee touches of carelessness. Something the host/hostess forgot to put away or got thrown in a corner to be dealt with later just when the oven beeped.

I am included in these family get-togethers at friends of mine. All festive occasions. Between this couple they have 13 siblings plus their partners (or not), plus cousins and in-laws. I find it hard to talk about it without crying. Happy tears I should add as this huge family reminds me so much of my own when we all pile in together. And by now I'm like this stray sister as they tease me and ball-hop me to a huge degree. Acceptance.

And the food is awesome, this afternoon and into the evening it was all kinds of fish. Fresh crab, a clam chowder that would make you groan in pleasure, fresh cod, brewis, fish cakes and fresh baked rolls. And scrunchions. I don't eat desserts by choice but the selection would make you weep. Layered trifle in a huge bowl, 7 cup pudding with rum sauce, this fancy cinnamon roll that comes out like a swiss roll. And enough to feed hundreds. And masses of tulips and daffodils in jugs and vases everywhere.

The craic was 90, as my people say. But it was when I was in the bathroom that I smiled and felt so touched. We've all had these little slips, these forgetfullnesses. Like leaving the big tube of haemorrhoid cream beside the sink. I'll admit to walking around my own dining room serving guests with a trail of toilet paper floating behind me.

And them? Neatly arranged on three hooks at the back of their bathroom door were his underpants, her knickers and her bra.

Happy season of renewal and rebirth and re-invigoration to you all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Charging Off

I was stunned when I got here today and realized I hadn't posted one single word in over a week. Most unlike me. Which means I haven't read any other blogs either.

I hasten to amend the situation.

Yes, I have been charging off in a different direction. More on that later. I took a huge chance. I won't throw a lot of bad cess on it by talking about it. Nothing may come of it and I won't look foolish in front of the lot of you. You know how that can be. No? It must be just me then.

Other than that, family stuff, interesting other projects on the go, weather is balmy, over 20C today so everyone is charging off and getting caught up with friends, etc., like there's no tomorrow. Moods have lightened. Jackets have been peeled off and boots thrown in the corner.

And the birds, oh the birds. Chirping, cooing, flying and floating. They're everywhere.

And the bay? Just look at it!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


It's not often I come across a word I have to look up but today I did. I always jot such words down, take a blind guess at what they mean and then google them and chortle in glee if I'm close to correct on my assumption. I find searching them out holds the word like glue in my brain. I had a father who was in love with words and we would do the crossword together every night. The Evening Echo of Cork, a reasonably challenging crossword. A fine way for a 6 year old to start developing language skills. We would look up any word we didn't understand.

Take a shot at the above word. I, of course, went right to the "piss" of it. And as the weather was "inspissated" in the story I thought: "beginning to rain." I should of course, know better than to go with the slang of "piss".

So take a shot at what it means......

Here's Merriam-Webster:

Definition of INSPISSATED

: thickened in consistency; broadly : made or having become thick, heavy, or intense

First Known Use of INSPISSATED


in·spis·sat·ed adjective \in-ˈspis-ˌāt-əd, ˈin(t)-spə-ˌsāt-\ (Medical Dictionary)

Medical Definition of INSPISSATED

: thick or thickened in consistency

—in·spis·sa·tion noun

Along with some rather squeamish medical definitions involving breast ducts. We won't go there, alright? And the illustrations for the word - many horrific images. Avoid.

Susan Hill, recently discovered by moi and on whom I have a serious woman-crush, used it to describe the thickening of a mist into fog.

So there.

I learn something new every day.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Fighting Irish

I sometimes go into things expecting huge battles. I don't know where I get this girding-my-loins-for-a-war mentality. Perhaps in childhood. Girl children in my time in the Catholic Ireland I grew up in had to choose their fights carefully. We had outlets on the camogie front, of course, and if you think camogie is like field hockey, think again. if you ever saw a hurling match you'd get the picture.

Camogie was the female version of hurling. Back then, in my time: No protective gear, no fancy sports bras, think thin black plimsolls, skirts (yeah skirts - and underneath regulation bloomers) and best of all? Black nylon stockings! It was a viciously tough game, where ankles were shredded and fights broke out at every game. We did not repress our rage. We took it out on the opposing team in camogie. Of course now they've fancied it all up with helmets and knee pads and ankle protectors and elbow protectors. Not in my time I can assure you. I had a foot broken and a finger broken. Others had teeth smashed, ribs shattered, one girl had two casts simultaneously on her arm and her leg. We raised Irish women right tough in Ireland back then. We came by it well through Cumann Na mBan the Irish women's military organization formed in 1914.

I was all girded up, in my recently new position, to go to battle for a new town hall, a performance space, a meeting place, a community party room. The old space was commandeered by the RC church. Even though the land was originally donated to the RC diocese by their parishioners and the old hall was built free of charge, etc., etc. All over Canada (and I'm sure in other countries too) the RC church is selling off 'their' properties and paying off lawsuits brought by the victims of the heinous perversions and horrors inflicted by those in their employ on innocent children. This whole reactive process by the church makes my lobes explode. Now the seniors, who contributed so much over the years to the support of their local churches, are unceremoniously turfed out of their card games and little tea dances, etc., and have nowhere to meet courtesy of these very same churches. Bloodsuckers. Don't get me started. Well, I have, haven't I? I'll stop now.

So here I am fighting for a space for my wee town so that we could have a non-denominational meeting hall, small, granted, but enough.

I get an estimate to convert an existing building into a wee village hall - the space will be lovely, light and airy - and now - and I'm really over the moon about this - the powers that be approved it tonight.

It turns out I was the only one in this anticipated battle.

Colour me ungirded.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

I Get Mail

Well, we all do, don't we? All kinds of mail. I was reflecting on this. Reflecting on an old lover who recently re-contacted me and sent me pictures of a flood in his basement and then proceeded to tell me how he was repairing it along with a contractor, and, (anticipating my questions, no doubt) insurance didn't cover it as he had been away in Texas when it all went down and no one was caretaking the house so the policy was invalid. I did not find this renewal of contact in the least bit romantic, colour me yawning, but then he was older than me to begin with and perhaps any romantic inclination, whether through the florid prose of written desire or the heavy breathing of a phone-call (I'm in the book)has now entirely deserted him. Hence what is he trying to renew? Or is he just taking my virtual pulse to ensure I am amongst those fortunate to be looking down on the daisies too?

Some bloggers who were my regular visitors (and me theirs) have fled. I hope not dead. A few are my virtual friends too and I see them regularly scampering amongst selfies on FB. On to finer things than a blogging life, no doubt. I look at my report of "dead feeds" and I think "abattoir". I'm dark that way. Not that I would wish....but there were some lovely writings back then amongst these now silent keyboards.

I get lovely personal emails from readers. Some who newly discover my blog and eagerly read every single post. I think there must be 1500 posts or thereabouts now. But they read them all. I am flattered and awestruck. What perseverance! I think. And how very kind to let me know. There were three in the past few weeks. From far and near. A shout out to you dear fans, you touch my heart!

The interwebz has been a tremendous gift in my life. Through it, I've made new friends and met more than a few in the flesh. Friendships established virtually have converted seamlessly into actual friends and we chat and write off blog to each other. Extraordinary how uplifting and enlightening technology has been.

I truly treasure each and every one of you out there in blogland and the support, in private emails, through my recent depression, in no small measure, helped to shoo that Black Dog right out of this room.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Mortifying Metaphors.

I finished this book. Yeah, I had quoted it in a blog post. But it was not in the way of a recommendation for any of you readers out there.

For the book was a slog. Normally, I shove such books aside. Donate them half-read to the thrift shop. I don't know why I kept going. It was 562 pages of my life I'll never get back.

One of the reasons was to see how many appalling metaphors the author could cram into those 562 pages. Did I mention there were 562 pages? Oh yeah, sorry, three times now.

Samples, just a few out of hundreds ~

When a fellow's hair lifts off his forehead:

"It settled back to his temples like roosting doves."

On a small sound from someone:

"Like the wheeze in the chest of an asthmatic, or the faint whimper of a small creature dying at the side of the road."

"The inquiry team were starting to dissipate their energies fruitlessly, like men urinating into a strong wind."

Reflecting on a picture of a six year old girl:

"Fair hair cut raggedly across her forehead and a selection of teeth and gaps like a half-demolished wall."

"Tears crawled over his skin, like tiny slugs, slow and painful."

Apart from these, there were also times when metaphors were needed as in two sets of parents with murdered daughters not reacting to the loss and horror. At all. In fact, one couple doesn't bother to come back from their vacation. A face etched in grief at the death, a small sob over the casket? Not at all. No funerals even mentioned.

And the resolution at the end was so forced along with the perpetrator being signalled from Page 1 or 2.

Oh, boy. Someone should have told Mr. Booth that appalling metaphors takes a reader right out of the story as she contemplates those slug-like tears and teeth like a wall or a pile of men urinating into the wind, while her mind frets over the conundrum of that chilly pair of non-grieving parents.