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February 2008

Ballyf*rmot revisited

this time for quite a different purpose -
Ballyf*rmot is an old, underprivileged area of West Dublin, where by some strange sleight of policy, the best animation training in Ireland can be had. There is was in 1997 that Twangy, amongst the piebald horses and dope-smoking bus-users, found her work, like the love of her life. Drawing, animating, painting - it was so energising and challenging to me - such a revelation - recently escaped as I was from the suspended animation of the corporate world - it was such a RELIEF to find it, at last, the work that made me feel alive. It really was like falling in love. Nearly as important too, I believe. I used to go out there to what was effectively animation boot camp (yes, like love, it was not always easy) on the bus, every day, worrying if I would make it through the year, after staying up all night bent over my animation disk so that in the morning I would have light freckles from the light bulb under it. We animated jumps and sidesteps, skips and fat skips, bounces and walks. We drew till our shoulders hurt, till our fingers ached. Till all we could think of was drawing, till all we could do was drawing, until we couldn't not draw.

Ballyf*rmot, as I have hinted, is not exactly the place you seek out for any other reason than that you really have to go there. It's the place the Celtic Tiger forgot - its main street is lined with bookmakers and dirty shopfronts. So it was strange to revisit it, after 10 years, under such different circumstances - it was one of those moments in life where time folds back on itself so you can glimpse the past as you go by and you can see how far you have come.
Our first Inter-country Adoption meeting was held there this morning in Ch*rry Orchard Hospital.  We sat there amongst the well-brushed and respectable middle-class couples in their thirties, dressed in a way that says, "I am good parenting material", and listened to all the information and long and complicated processes that lead to adopting a child from another country. And it was indeed momentous and exciting.
JB met an old student of his, who got her degree in horticulture with him. The coordinator was explaining that we would all need to get police clearance from any country we had lived in for more than 6 months. She made everyone laugh when she said "What if someone was in the USA illegally? Hypothetically, like?" She (I call her "she" because the JB can't exactly remember her actual name. Possibly Orla, he said) - PossiblyOrla gave us a lift into town afterwards. She was full of stories and fun. She is going to be 40 this year and since her relationship broke up last year, has decided that she will go it alone, that she could have a child and a house and a career. Fair play to her, I say. I hope we can travel the road together - one day our children, the children we will be the parents of, could play together. One day I could look back to this Ballyf*rmot visit and say "look how far we have come."

Neville the Devil

My uncle, a university teacher of English and wit, once wrote a rhyme about my father:

My name is Nunky Neville
I am a crafty devil
I work all day
At night I play
I'm strictly on the level.

Funny enough, you know, it hit the mark, in a way - it says something about the un-politically correct and macho boozing/lunching old boy network that reigned in the 70's in Dublin. My father was one of those boys with long sideburns and wide collars, making deals all over town. He was one of the few who ran his business through all the beleaguered days of the 80's - the high taxes - the narrow margins - the huge telephone bills. And, he was one of those who dedicated all his energy to his business - even it left him with no patience for the family. He'd bring home his anger and stretched nerves to us at the end of the day. The hardest part of that was the unpredictability of his tempers. He could turn from a nervous jokiness to a soaring rage on a dime, (as AM would say).
So it was that when my schoolfriend Chris gave me a plush toy in the shape of a red devil, with suckers on his feet so you could attach him to a car window, and a sign that said ROADHOG around its neck, it seemed natural to call him, insolently, Neville the Devil.
Neville the Devil used to accompany me on my drives in my mother's navy VW Golf, up and down to Kilternan to see Smokey (the horse) or go out with my friends in Blackrock. I drove a lot in those days. (Nowadays we don't even have a car, much less with an obnoxious plush toy stuck on the window).
Sooner or later though, in the early nineties, Neville (the devil, not the father) was unhooked from his perch and migrated his way from my room to a drawer under the spare room bed, where he now spends his retirement with several stuffed and ancient animals of various origin.
I visited my parents at the weekend, to see how my father was after his tests on Monday. Health scares humble him. He is a white-haired shrunken version of himself, sweeter and more tolerant. He likes to have a laugh at himself. He's taken up computer classes and like a bold schoolboy never wants to do his "practice". He can't see the screen with one pair of glasses - he can't see the keyboard with the other.He is touchingly befuddled with technology - at odds with the world. He no longer shouts. His back is stooped and stiff.

Spike rediscovered the toy drawer in the bed on Sunday.
Monster, he says, holding up Neville. That's a devil, I explain.
He's not scary, says Spike, reassuringly, looking at me. It's only a toy.

Out of the mouths of babes.


a first

This week I feel momentous and tearful. Things seem saturated with beauty and significance. I feel deliciously alive. (Alove, I just mistyped, freudianly). Watching The Choir last night, for instance, nearly undid me. (Well, in honesty, I have to say, it did undo me). It is so touching to watch someone with a great passion share it. A music and choir teacher went to "convert" a boys' school in Leicester to singing and leave a choir culture behind him. It was so sweet to see those boys singing their hearts out. Why is music so powerful to us, I wonder?) But then, so did Bridg*t Jones, this week too. Listening to Wonderful World and Eva Cassidy and looking out the window at the wall opposite and, anything, really.
I am a complete sap.
To come at last to the point, JB and I sent in our first expression of interest in being (gasp) adoptive parents. It's such a thing. It's just such a thing.

(Fzz... Normal service will no doubt be restored soon.)

bilge or nothing

Dscn4208 Dscn4204
So many things are happening these days, it's hard to keep up, never mind record them in a coherent way. And despite my intention to avoid the writing of bilge, when it is a question of bilge or nothing, bilge it must be. Or photos, as above. I spent the weekend with the family and woke up on Sunday morning to a field lightly sprinkled with icing sugar. Mmm, sugar.
Spike was down later in the day and after a poor start, the spirits lifted and we had great creative and nurturing games, where Teddybear was invited to drink vast amounts of invisible tea with milk and sugar, to gorge himself on non-existent pizza with jam on it, and then was tucked up in bed for a sleep, only to be petrified two minutes later by a small boy shouting WAKE UP! in his bear face.
He took it well. Stoic, him.
Bobby was happy enough, too, to get in the bed and be told to go to sleep and dress bear up in Spike's fleecies, both of them. It was quite restful. Daddy got in too, and Gan was there too for a while, in a scene reminiscent of that one in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with all the adults head to toe in a double bed, living off cabbage soup.

More of this thrilling stuff later. Heh.


On the way home from parents' house, on the M50, Spike could see the moon appearing and disappearing behind buildings.
Mooo-mooo-moon, he intoned, nuttily.
A new moon, Spike, I pointed out instructively.
Diffe'nt one, he said. And returned to his lunatic chant:
I'd hate to see him with a full one.

Bobby was quite the hit on Saturday. I accompanied him with my mother up the hill, him jogging purposefully all the way, elbows out and toes turned in. He ran up, and we played chase on the way back to the dip where the neighbours' collie greeted us modestly by rolling over and showing us her white fluffy belly. Spike was a little confused by the way she ran about madly, and wasn't on a lead, like they are in Dublin 6, but he liked her and was full of stories about her afterwards with his Daddy.
We hid for an age in the crow's nest, but no-one seemed to notice. Huh. Too interested in the match.

Took a holiday yesterday and went to CHQ - it was like leaving the country. All cool and very forhen-buy-a-lifestyle - but not bad - quietly cloistered and away from unpleasant reality. GoodfriendL and I went to environment furniture - itself a piece of Germany. They have some nice tables made from reclaimed wood - they cost e2000. Everything costs that, these days, I think. The floor, the door. The table. The everything.

And that's all I have to say about that.  I am attaching an image from my crit tomorrow, because.. well for no good reason, really. I will be happy when it's over. I "couldn't help" overhearing the extern talking to Diarmaid and ehem, "couldn't help" noticing how like an intense grilling he was getting.


Oh, a footnote, I would like to state for the record that there were no rainbow jumpers or teacosy hats at the Green Party fundraiser on Saturday. No siree, Bob. (Or no teacosy, Bob.) There was wine though, and good-looking people, and I would like the record to further reflect that it's true, wines are actually all different, and some are in fact, really good.


the better way to think about blogging is not as an attempt to record every single event that might happen but just the more interesting moments, strung into some sort of a intelligible narrative, preferably.

And so:
GoodFriendR came to town for a visit before she flies off once more to Rhode Island to continue her Masters. We had a powefully garlic-infused Moroccan dinner in a place in Wicklow St. All was cloistered, with painted tiles and had the ornately detailed screens I associate with confessionals. (Although this is from films more than real life, me being brought up in the Other Irish Religion). 
GoodFriendL (usually the pragmatic kind) was confiding in us:
"Do you ever wonder - you know - why we're here? I mean, what for? It all seems so.."
"Pointless!" R and I interject.
And jovially "Why, yes! All the time" and "welcome, welcome to the fray!"
It seems that L is having a bit of a moment. I might have handed the baton over to her - recently I have been feeling quite meaningful. Or at least in the face of the futility I find what joy I can - clean sheets, a joke with friends, finishing a job, having a good stretch, or a slice of apple pie - are good enough reasons to live, it seems to me, these days.

We had a pre-crit crit with tutors. It went quite well - they liked my memory contraptions, and were if anything a bit too excited by the possibilities of the project. They got carried away with their ideas on the space - a little confusing, but good, you know. Not bad. They'll push me into another gear with their (slightly annoying and bossy) comments on how much work I still have to do.

Telescope into past:

I had a fevered night last night, dreaming about Russel Br*nd. I am going to have to swear off P*nderland, at this rate. (He so alluringly defies categories. Puts me in a spin!) I dreamt I was in his house with a lot of other guests. In fact the house was more of a BnB than a house, it would seem. Anyway, the fact is, he was charging everyone 2 pounds sterling to use the shower.

My subconscious has some unusual priorities. I mean, really, could we get some more interesting action in, somewhere? No - the economies of hygiene, is what concerned it.

I would kill for a slice of apple pie. Well, not kill, I am the gentle vegetarian type. But injure slightly perhaps. Injure someone's dignity, maybe, with a bit of a pinch. Actually, I'm glad there's no question of that. My middle-class sensibilities are being made uncomfortable by these very suggestions.
I will go to the shop, like a normal person.

Oh! one more thing. The builders are back. Hurray hurray hurray. The prospect of actually moving in to that house is now becoming real once more.. alarmingly so. I had forgotten that we bought that house to live in, so much time has passed. I had begun to think of it as an albatross we bought out of self-hatred more than anything.

it may seem that nothing has changed

The last week has passed in a blur, after my drawn out recovery from Going Out On a Saturday Night Drinking Three Glasses of Wine and Not Getting Home Until 2AM, and plunging into work like a Nutter. Long hours were lost at my desk, animating


and sellotaping, clicking and cursing and making That Ad. The week rotated as quickly as a very un-amusing and uncomfortable merry-go-round, and dropped me breathlessly at the start of the cycle again. But things do change, quietly, in the background.

I am a week older. The days are minutes longer. The pile of work has been shuffled. Old Friend's Baby was born. (A boy!)  Spike went to Imagin*sity for the first time.  I learnt a few things about electricity and forgot more about other things. (What things exactly I cannot remember, not surprisingly). A girl on my course told me she was pregnant (and sick as a dog). That Ad got made, nearly. It sleeted. I made some house progress - the floor and a sliding door. (The builders were conspicuous by their absence though. They seem to exist outside the idea of progress). The JB's beard grew, and was scraped off. It was cold. The Time came rather messily but not painfully (finally. 2 weeks late). GoodFriend R had to have a scan on her bre*st, but all turned out fine. I was retro-relieved, since at the time I hadn't known. JB and I have come to an agreement on the Baby Front. We are going to have a "go" ourselves. If it works, good. And if not, we will adopt. JB is coming around to this idea beautifully. I am happy. And since my chat with Paul at the reunion last week (he is a NGO Project Manager who has worked in every developing country you could think of) the idea of adopting from Africa seems suddenly something I can visualise. He was saying if he was going to, he would adopt a girl from Africa because he feels they face the greatest difficulties, and suddenly I could see a child in our house, with us, sitting on her Daddy's knee or playing on the kitchen floor. I feel like I am dreaming the future, like a Peruvian Shaman.
The vision is misty and golden-idealised, but suddenly, I can believe in it.

Things have moved on.