There was the final of an important football championship on the 21st of this month - Chelsea v Man U. I have zero interest in football, except a vague feeling that it must be fun to be a real fan of a sport, and I only mention it because the ramifications of this stretched from Moscow into the atmosphere in Dublin, Ireland, into the pubs on Gardiner St and into the life of a man from Kerry, and on, to me and to my friend Lisa, and a hundred other strangers sitting in Accident and Emergency Departments across the country.
What happened was this. J, my husband, finished the tin of paint in my apartment at about 10.30 and sat down to watch the thrilling finale of the match, which went to penalties. Then he got on his bike and cycled up Gardiner st. Half way up the hill a young man (possibly a disgruntled Chelsea fan? possibly just a violent mindless thug?) threw a punch at him, catching him full in the face, sending his glasses into the street. He was bleeding profusely, was shocked, afraid, blinded and worried his eye had been damaged permanently, and he rang me at home where I was getting ready for bed. He didn't know where he was, and somehow found his way down to O'Connell st where he got a bus. I ran down to the bus stop here at F*gan's and guided him him home. He was bleeding and shaken.
We didn't know if he needed stitches so I went over to L, who, as I knew she would be, was a tower of strength. She said, due to our shameful lack of First Aid equipment, we should play it safe and bring him into the A&E, so we got in her car and drove the mile to the M*ter Dei. We thought it couldn't take more than a couple of hours - he'd be checked and we'd go home and rest. (Oh, hollow, hollow laugh. We had NO IDEA of the gateway to hell we were about to enter).
ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY DEPT was written over the door. ABANDON ALL HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE would have been more accurate. I checked him in, in a shaky voice, with a receptionist, who was safely ensconced behind perspex glass, which is probably bullet-proof too, now I think of it. I was a little perplexed by the place. It didn't correspond to my idea of A&E (apparently ER and Casualty can only teach you so much). It was more like the prefab waiting room in the drying out clinic of a mental hospital. The stink of alcohol hung in the air like fog. People, holding bloody bandages to various parts of their bodies, sat there, resigned, with the air of people who'd been waiting for a long time.
We sat down, choosing a spot where we could keep an eye on the crowd, even if we couldn't "enjoy" the television that hung on a bracket from the wall, miming silently over our heads. A year and a half of the Simon Community (a Homeless Charity) on the soup run taught me a lot about street people - how harmless they are - I have never been threatened, never felt in danger on the run. So I wasn't too bothered by weather beaten man sleeping opposite us, surrounded by a fug of alcohol fumes. It was the hopelessness there - the concentration of despair in that room that struck me. L and I kept up a wan conversation about this and that. JB seemed ok. He cracked some pale jokes. We smiled at each other, weakly.
After about half an hour, a triage nurse called him in. Ah! we thought, not so bad! forgetting the nurse was only assessing him and that this was only the introduction to a long long tome. The nurses said he would have to be seen by a doctor, possibly get stitches, and an X-ray. We settle in again. By now, it's 1AM. We are becoming reluctantly acquainted with the human drama unfolding around us. It is really uncomfortable to be so close to it, and we sit there with our backs to the wall, carefully avoiding eye-contact and trying not to be drawn into conversations. (Interesting that, how we eagerly lap up these situations in the media. In reality it is so different. That's the main drawback of TV, I think, it gives this kind of thing a kind of glamour and gives you a level of supposed familiarity with them, so that the reality when it happens, is deeply shocking).
A twenty-year old totters in with two friends clucking around her. The fact she can walk, even propped up, is amazing, because she is totally out of it. The two friends sigh, pat her on the back, and when she starts throwing up, they clean it up and bring her into the toilet. They cope. They are so kind to her, it's touching.
You see that, too, in the waiting room. People are in extremis, but there is kindness. One man supports his brother's injured head on his shoulder. A man-lady called Bridget, who is wearing a pink dressing gown and who is complaining loudly about her TWO SLEEPING TABLETS all the time, sits down beside a stranger and says: Givvus a bit of your apple.
And he does. Someone falls to the ground at one point and a fuss breaks out around him. A man is loudly telling us that the fallen man mustn't be allowed to fall asleep with a head injury. The two friends of the drugged girl tell her it's okay and they won't leave her, when she asks them to. There's an odd Italian and/or Polish woman there. I don't know if she's drunk or what. She's well dressed and keeps insisting on seeing a doctor but won't give her name or date of birth. At one point a brief silence descends on the place. Then she shouts into it: WHERE IS DOCTOR? I hear her talking to the man opposite us at one point. He is patient with her. She's telling him she lost her son. "You're probably depressed" he points out. This is the only diagnosis she'll get, this night.
She sits down beside L who immediately goes into power-down mode with her eyes closed, arms crossed and her feet neatly placed in front of her to avoid having to talk to her.
It's about 2.30am. We ask L to go on home. What's the point of us all being exhausted? we say. she refuses and predicts J will be next.
And so we enter the worst time, the Darkness before Dawn. Two manic voices set up in my head. "Well, this isn't so bad" says the first, a big voice. "The important thing is, he's alright". The other wails, (like a 2 year old): I don't waaant this! I can't! Where is the doctor? Someone hurt my J!" First voice "Now, buck up, little voice! It's okay. It's just one night, that's all." Round and round, again and again.
It's horrible. People are propped up uncomfortably around us, on the hard chairs, mostly asleep. I try to doze with my head on the radiator. Some Chinese fellows are chatting animatedly on the other side of the room. The whole thing reminds me horribly of a long-haul flight, but with trauma, instead of excitement. I can't go to the toilet here, because Drugged Girl is still in there. I am allowed to go back to the treatment area where I pick my way through various chairs strewn with bodies and use the facilities there. The washhandbasin is splattered with blood.
Time passes. I drop off a little. When I lift my head, I can see a bright patch of sky through the window. Dawn is coming. I feel a bit better. The doctors must be freeing up now, surely. And they have got to be coming to the end of all the "match-related" injuries. (not so many hamstring strains though, as bloody head injuries). J and L sit with their eyes closed. I don't know if they are sleeping, really. When they come to, it's about 6. L will have to go now, the parking metre on her car will be starting again. I ask the receptionist if there is any way she can tell me when the doctor will see my husband. I am trying to charm her, a bit. We are not drunken louts, I will her to understand. She tells me to send him around. J goes around to the body-strewn place behind the locked sliding door, and is told it will be half an hour. Miraculously, after over SIX HOURS waiting, his name is called and he goes behind the scenes.
I wait. For some reason, this wait seems long, although it's only half an hour. Most people have cleared off at this point (Drugged Girl's mother came to pick her up. She was resigned, as if this isn't the first time and looks - seriously - about 10 years older than her daughter. She whisked her, and friends, off to another hospital. Others, like strange Italian and/or Polish woman have just disappeared). but Oddball, who earlier in the night, asked us how we are going to vote in the Lisbon treaty, for goodness sake, looks like he's going to start up again. He's unreasonably cheerful. I telegraph my unfriendliness by moving chairs. I mean, I'm all for a chat, but I just have no chat in me at the moment.
J comes out and we get the bus home, amongst the nice, normal commuters. We are so relieved.
And we are left dealing with the aftermath. J has a panda eye, which looks as if he has smeared it with purple (actually, aubergine. Pretty!) eye-shadow. He is quiet and demoralised but his spirit is strong, and we are so grateful to be at home and get into our lovely bed, that nothing else seems to matter much.
But in some way, our bubble has burst. Of course we will not let this stop us going out at night, or living our lives, but the illusion that we are inviolate, that our luck is untouchable, has been broken forever.
I am deep in honeymoon love with our new house. I always liked it, even on the first view, when its beauty was disguised with an ugly tar roof and mean little extension, and it had an unloved, damp air, but now! oh! Now. It is so pretty with the new painted colours and the lovely new furniture, its long sunny rooms, its quiet bedrooms with the lovely (if dusty) floorboards and all its layers of history, with our layer on top, which isn't the best punctuated sentence I ever wrote, but you have to understand, I LOVE a house. My love pours out the door and colours the neighbourhood too, it laps gently at the doors of Larry and Nuala, our friend L, and Mary across the road. It trickles down to the park, with the playground in primary colours and all the children to the river with attendant duck population. For the love OF! A! HOUSE! Yes! I am unashamed of my house-love! I shout it from the rooftop! I love a house!
And I am at home, at last.
I am stealing a few precious moments on the internet here in DCU (which makes me feel quite modern with my WIFI) to alert the world to the fact that we have moved. House that is. Not mountains, although it felt like it. It's been stressful, just like they say, second only to bereavement or divorce (depending on who you talk too). JB found it particularly so. You really never stop getting to know someone, do you? He went into an uncharacteristically moany mode - and dealt with the whole thing by becoming OBSESSED with assembling our furniture. I mean, he wouldn't eat or sleep for hours, he worked through nights, through blisters, through exhaustion. I think he's coming round now, he admitted he enjoyed walking along Homefarm Rd, with the sun and the trees (we've had a week or so of lovely bright weather) - although he is still talking longingly of sleeping one last night in the old place.
Me, I have been snappish too. The Lord knows it.
Progress is being made though.
In a stroke of unfortunate timing, it was Old Friend's child's christening on Sunday. I sum it up in two words and the two words would be:
TRAMPOLINE & SWINGSET
and JB whispering in my ear - Can we go now?
But after L and A had a lovely glass of wine for me and we had a nice dinner of Indian Takeout Leftovers while JB returned to his drug of choice - Furniture assembly. So all was well, and faith was restored.
It's back to the Masters now. Tension is at fever pitch now - people are giddy and demoralised by turns, fights are breaking out over space in the D*gital Hub exhibition space, tired students hunch over video-editing suites. I am plodding away in the background, trying not to get lost in the Most Attractive Displacement Activity Ever, and that would be Playing House.
Lucky the JB continues to give one a good reason to laugh, all the same. He was on the phone yesterday complaining to e*rcom about our connection. I could hear him saying in a little tiny embarrassed voice "yes" and "no" and "back to menu", and realised the source of his discomfort was the truly modern one of Having To Speak to A Machine As If It Was A Sentient Being. And so it was I laughed my socks off, and hooted like a banshee.
Looks like they're closing up here, best be off. Cool and all as it is, I would not relish being stuck here all night.
Last weekend we went to Belfast to stay in a nice hotel, go to a Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture and celebrate my cleverness at staying alive for so very long. 40, that would be. ImPRESSive. Clever of me, I think you'll agree. The buses I have dodged, the cigarettes I haven't smoked! the bottles of gin I haven't downed! the heroin I didn't mainline! You have no idea.
Belfast is always interesting to me. It is a strange discordant mix of familiar and foreign - of grand Victorian architecture stamped on the wild Irish landscape. The differences between the two sides of the border are evident - it's clear that there has been no boom there as there has in the Republic. The building sites on every corner are lacking, the bursting optimism, the wild energy, the rampant materialism, the immigrant workers. Instead you can see the signs of an old prosperity from times gone by in the redbrick houses and the grand squares, and there is a quiet charm - people really do seem glad you came - but as someone who grew up with a horrific story on the news every night of sectarian murders it is hard not to feel a shiver when you see graffiti that supports one of those sides, or when you walk through an underpass, not to think of it as a murder scene. But no doubt I am being a naive and loose-lipped southerner.
As for the Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture, I think a veil might be drawn. We were there for 6 hours and it didn't break us. Hah! Take that Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture! Oh, but for one thing. We left so late that the last bus had gone and we set out wearily on foot to find a taxi or a bus. Half an hour of trudging along the dual carriageway later, and by some devilish Swedish trick of design, we still had not left the Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture. It still loomed immensely to the right. Quite unworldly, it was.
The hotel was pleasant. Worn out from our endeavours we slept for hours, and when I woke I went for a swim. Ah yes, now I remember the point of all that - the steam room was wonderful. It was in a countrified area outside town (which though grand in scale in the centre, out of town it is strangely stunted, by its troubled history, I suppose, and has none of the suburban sprawl you get in Dublin). There was a strange hall in the local village. It seemed immediately wrong - almost sinister. There was a slogan over the door: Vene, Vide, Tace. Which if my Italian serves me, means He came, he saw, he remained quiet. Stayed quiet? How can that be something to live by? Unless you're in the fecking Mafia, of course.
(It was a Masonic hall, we later discovered.)
Speaking of Italians, a certain ex-friend was in touch for my birthday. Said she: Even if we don't talk, I remember [your birthday]! I hope you have a good year, not like the bloody awful one I had. (Translation my own. I love using those square brackets.)
I took the advice of the Masons, and stayed quiet.
And then, (bloody global community, I heap curses upon you) she found me on Facebook, and asked, in fake American this time: do you wanna be my friend again?
The word NO springs to mind. But you know, in fairness and maturity (see above for shocking number of years I have been on planet) I think I'll just tell her why I was upset, (for unbelievably I don't think she is aware of the degree of her soul-sucking negativity), and leave to her to decide what to do about it.
More on this later, no doubt.
House is coming together beautifully. We are painting and cleaning like the wind (and by we I mean, JB is painting and I am cleaning. I remind myself of Anne in the Famous Five. JB would have to be Dick, I think.) in time to move in by the 10th. It is so exciting to get acquainted with this new and exotic part of town. They have all sorts of parks and whatnot to explore and the neighbours! they speak to us! and everything! One even wished us good luck in our new house and hoped we'd be happy in it.
'Tis quite the thing.