The Friends

on belonging

I spent the weekend with my friend (known here as Sister One) and her extended family in their homeplace, in the southeast of the country. Two counties away, but as far as Mars, at least, being on the Other Side of the Town/Country Divide. My friend's aunt is suffering from devastating effects of vascular dementia and all the (large, extended) family's hands are on deck. They have rallied in goodhumoured, stoical fashion and are dividing the caring time between them with scrupulous fairness.

It's funny, isn't it, how some time away can make you rethink yourself. It's as if your eyes need to see new things because the old ones are so familiar you don't even register them any more. These three nights away have been thought-provoking - being in that family has filled me with conflicted longings. What must it be to belong so wholly to a place? A much-loved farmhouse, worn with use, with fields around it, Jack Russells in front of the range, strings of familiar people stretching for miles around, going back for years and years. Bottomless cups of tea, brown soda bread, jokes, opinions, card-playing. Hens, donkeys.

It would indeed be churlish to complain about my ultra-privileged upbringing in a south Dublin suburb. We lived in an elegant, draughty Victorian house, with a big garden, and a view of the sea. My parents were kindly, reliable types with good senses of humour. But in Ireland, if you move more than 10 miles in your lifetime, you're a blow-in**. Eh, tick. If you can't trace your ancestry back to Brian Boru* himself, you're foreign. Tick. God forbid, if you belong to the minority religion, saints preserve us! Tick. Over time, of course, you get used to the non-belonging, you fancy yourself a cool, global soul, with an interesting slant on things. Someone who can fit in anywhere, with just a battered Samsonite suitcase and a laptop. Just sometimes, you wonder though. And I wonder if I can help my child (crossfingerstouchwoodmakehornsign) feel a sense of his or her own belonging in this world.

But, folks, enough with the existentials. The real question here is:
What are we to do with ourselves at all now the Olympics are over?

Your dazed


*Ancient Irish King geezer from like 1000 years ago.

**Unfamiliar person, foreigner, person settled during last millenium.


I have been finding myself very silly.

The first occasion of embarrassment happened like this: I applied for a show, sort of a voluntary community-ish affair, that has as its theme mental well-being and is to run in a few weeks. Time passed, the show approached, and no response was received from the curator.

Grr, I said, earlier this week, bloody curators! They don't even let you know that you haven't been selected! And it's for mental health! The irony of making people depressed by denying their application to a mental health awareness event! THE IRONY.

 All fired up and dangerously intoxicated by my own pique, feeling I was striking a blow for all artists everywhere and anyone in the world who hasn't Been Got Back To In Timely Fashion, I flamed off an email to the curator:

Dear whosit,

I didn't get an email saying my work wasn't chosen for Your Festival - I wonder did it go missing or something, as I am sure you wanted to acknowledge all entries, and the work that went into them?

Blah blah, good luck with the show anyway, etc.

And she replied immediately: The reason you have not yet received an email is because your work has been shortlisted. As an artist I completely understand the time and consideration each proposal takes...

Oh! CRINGE. And:
Our festival is run by six volunteers, we organise all events in our spare time, we appreciate your patience.

I DIED on the spot, even as I was leaping to the ground off my high horse and apologising profusely for the jumping of the gun. And then, when I met her, (of course) she turned out to be a) terribly nice and b) friends with loads of my art world friends.

The second thing: something seemed different about the front of the house on Monday morning. Like something.. lacking.
I told the JB: My bike! It's just like.. gone. It's not there, I tell you! Someone must have taken it!

Two or three days flew by. Then Sister 1 texted me: Your bike is outside the wine shop. Which made me so happy! And yet, annoyed! Because what kind of hooligan does that? A drunk one? But no, (you'll be amazed to hear) the penny didn't drop. I texted Sister 1 back: The cheeky beggers! Is the lock broken? and she: No, it's securely locked, by you? And I, (finally twigging it): OH. Oh! O-oh.

I do remember leaving it outside the shop, though, it must be said that I also remember leaving it outside the house. But what with the physical evidence to the contrary, I have to accept the reality of the situation. Which is that I am a twit.

Your ridiculous,

ps. Have a good weekend.


A phenomenon has occurred. Previously perfectly content to live in my own grime, I showing signs of being, well, the only expression is: house proud.
It started with the discovery of a microfibre cloth and a single tile and now, I find I really, really like the gleaming! I know! Odd as it seems, it makes me happy when things shine. I spent a long happy time sorting out our bookshelves last weekend:


It was just so much fun.

I can only conclude this is a new type of nesting. Previously my nesting activity took the form of painting and decorating but now it seems that in some deep part of my subconscious I believe that our child may arrive next Tuesday, complete with white gloves to test the surfaces with, and a preference for novels being stacked with other novels, not comic books, nor travel books, for instance.

Be that as it may, I have been feeling a bit glum off and on. This time last year I was pregnant, and I don't even know how to describe it, but the way the air smells reminds me so much of how I felt last year at this time. A natural anniversary, I suppose.

Sigh. Sigh. It's not a deep gloom, I have to say, it's the kind where you can be jollied out of it by a joke or a coffee with a friend. Or a piece of cake, that would do it. But I do hate the way it seeps into my general attitude, and I start to have gloomy thoughts about work, and related (in)eptitude, and wake up in wee small hours to feel crap and straight-faced about things.

How about you? How are you sleeping? Tell your aunty Twangy.

things keep happening

but in an inconveniently unrelated way, which makes it hard to weave them into a narrative. So, let's forget coherence and logic and just leap straight in:

Bit of a Blast from the Past this weekend, in the shape of OldSchoolFriend. Ah, OldSchoolFriend! She was my constant companion for all our school and college days, and then she moved to Surrey, married a local chap and had a little boy. (Well, naturally he was a baby at first. Over time he became a boy). Her brother (incidentally the lucky man who took me to my Debs dance. Ooh! *blushes at memory*) now lives in Dublin and so it was we all met up for a dinner in D*nnybrook. We ran into another Old Friend, D, there too.
Time was, in the late 80's, we all used to go out together on Friday nights, to the local pub, which was then called the L*rds Tavern, and is now defunct. There'd be an amount of drinking and late night carousing, all fairly normal studenty stuff.
D, though, couldn't get enough of anything, ever. He never knew when to stop. You know those people? He'd always be looking for more booze, more smokes, more all-night sessions, and so more drink-driving, more reckless mad behaviour.
Cut to 20 years later: and predictable as taxes, though sadder, last year he got throat cancer, and it was quite bad, I gather. He was treated and last winter got the all-clear. I remember at the time wondering with the JB if D had been scared straight, or not. Well, the answer, as so often, is kind of.
He has given up smoking, but that was only because he had no choice whatsoever, but he is still drinking like a maniac. Not surprisingly he hasn't anyone in his life, because he would drive anyone barking mad in 5 minutes. He has to be all outrageous ALL the time, you know? Maybe it's an Irish alcoholic thing, this need to be a mad character. You can't have a normal conversation with him, because he has to be wracking his brain all the time for the next CRAZYMAD thing he is going to SHOCK you with. As soon as he saw me, I knew it was coming:
Got any kids? You better get going you know, TICK! TOCK! biological clock! Getting on you know!
And there it was.
I couldn't work up a rage though, although it was indeed totally outrageous. I knew he didn't really mean anything by it, for one thing, it was just the MAD D talking, and for another, I couldn't help but remember how sick D really was last year. I don't know how fertile he could be either, after all his chemo.
His battles have been so much harder than mine, for all that he doesn't seem to care to acknowledge them.

Addiction to Internet - discovering exact severity thereof.
Last Thursday our internet connection slowly failed. Since then, like a vampire hanging around blood banks, I have been skulking around libraries, colleges and cafes, and even have ventured bravely into McD*nalds in the hope of picking up a stray signal. One night found me in the NoddyCar on the dark street outside the local library, furtively checking my email.
(Sorry, any passersby who may have been alarmed by the sight of a woman in a car, illuminated by a ghostly blue light. I wasn't up to no good, I promise.
Though I couldn't claim to be up to any actual good either).
A man representing Major Irish Telecommunications Corporation rushed over urgently, (within 3-5 business days), to check our modem.
Ah, she's dead, he said. We look at the modem with one light blinking sadly. She'd crashed.
(Modems, like ships and cars, are female, in case you didn't realise).
My new she-modem will be couriered across the city, (in 3-5 working days).
This is because my business is important to Major Irish Telecommunications Corporation.

Your appropriately reassured

JANG SANGWICH with no bread though

Got this email from P, a friend who is a project manager for Major Irish Charity. He is in Sudan, working in a camp for internally displaced persons. I love hearing his stories. There's a book there, I am telling you.

---- Original Message -----

Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 8:33 PM

Subject: Sudan

Hi all

sorry that i have been out of contact for so long . i have had 4 days of utter amazing experiences and i am sitting on a Saturday night with nothing but  a Internet connection and  bit of music so i might as well have a rant at you all.  in the evening  and some mornings i go jogging   i normally have everyone laughing at this silly white guy jogging through a IDP camp . Morn*i  now has 165k people it has around 60k when i  helped set the compound up in 2004. sun rise and sun set are amazing . the kids surround me and swell to numbers or 40-50  jogging and laughing at me.

tonight  i could no longer  live without  biscuits  and i went looking for some  , but to no avail . i really needed a desert so i had  a table spoon of jam!  i hope to catch up with alot of you folks soon  so  hopefully i'll see ya soon.

have great weekend


On Sat, May 31, 2008 at 7:08 PM, Twangy Pearl wrote:

Aw, that's so funny and/or sad with the jam, I don't know which. maybe we should send you a big oul wedding cake or something, to keep the spirits up.


we moved house so party actual feasible possibility -

any day now, P!

see you soon so, take care


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 9:43 PM
Subject: Re: JANG SANGWICH with no bread though


hi, nice to hear from you a party eh! do i bring my own jam?


like a tiger, baby

The photoshoot for the Major Irish Telecommunc*tions company took place in a windowless warehouse in the Liberties last Thursday. It was quite the eye-opener. For one thing, the reason models look so good? they put the make-up on with an airbrush. That's right, punters. It's spraaaayed on, like a mask.

(Hah! amusing moment: the boss of the consultancy co that is subcontracting me in to do this job, Eve (let's call her) had "reminded" me that I was there as part of the [Consultancy's name] Team. Ha. She must have led them to believe that I am her employee rather than a mere freelancer. So I was all primed to say: I'm here for [Consultancy's name] - to the extent that when they opened the door to us, I kept saying I'm here for [..], I'm here for [..]. I am sure I made a great impression. The client from Major Irish Telecommunc*tions company was also present. A friendly round-faced blonde in culottes, and curious, as it turned out:

So how long have you been in [Consultancy's name]?
me: Errrrr. Not long! (Pause) I err.. just when they..
Client: Oh! you're freeeeeeeeeeelance!
me: Well... yes.
Client: Your office are so handy aren't they?
me: hmmm.
[Thinking: are they? Never been in them, myself.]

Hah! I mean, ooops. And if that wasn't enough, Adwoman (another of the too many chefs - this time from an Ad agency. Tis a complex anthill this subcontracting world) greeting me, says: thanks so much for coming in! I know you had another job on, they had to take you off it.
me: Eh? no. It's fine!

During the long and drawn-out shoot itself, various actors were required to look dopey and knowing according to stereotype. The attention to detail was a little dispiriting. All that creative (and might I say, competitive) energy poured into what was going to be a tiny bitmapped image on the internet - and in the service of making money for Major Irish Telecommunc*tions company. Not the most noble cause after all. It was mildy diverting though, to have a little look at that hard industry and then run off back to my normal low-powered life, where it is completely acceptable to wear one's dressing gown until noon, entertain oneself with funny walks during the afternoon and have tea breaks so frequent they are practically continual.

I am truly grateful for being in a position to work for myself. I am a humane and understanding boss to myself. Mostly.

Speaking of my work, I am at an exciting breakthrough phase, with the alternative energy sources and exploration of memory. Just as well, for our external looms. I have also done a lot of work on The Laundrette animation. So I will have stuff to show and hope to be surfing on the wave of enthusiasm at the right moment.

I am actually flicking through channels on the telly as I type this. That is what they call media stacking, and it is bad for the brain, I have no doubt. I am so millenial.

Today was amazingly warm. There was a heavy bumble bee lurching drunkenly around my folks' conservatory, from hyacinth to hyacinth.

Last night wore me out. There was a ex-Simon Friday night S*up Runners reunion in a pub in town. In an unprecedented move, Twangy behaved like quite the social butterfly and stayed Until Closing Time. Mad, eh?
I was plied with drink, in the eternal battle for moral superiority that is the Irish Round System. I fear to say I lost the battle this time, again. Not quick enough with the wallet, alas, and as my punishment I must now not rest until I hunt down the drink pushers (Pa*l, and Bar, huh!) and pay get them back in measures of alcohol AND, ideally, leave them feeling as indebted as I do now.
I take my mission very seriously. I will find them and ply them with drink on their death beds if necessary.

More on this later. The three wines I nearly drank all of with a chaser of Bur*ger King chips (which have nothing to do with potatoes, btw, and speaking of which, what they don't see in that family *restaurant* at 2am on Saturday.. words fail me) have caught up with me. I feel a bit feeble and husk-like.
Un-like a tiger.

back in the eyrie

It gives me an reassuring if illusory sense of permanence to be once more at my parents' house, in the eyrie, clacking away on the keyboard that is all I have left of the computer US friends AM and L gave me when I was living in NJ. It had belonged to L's mother who died a day or two after Thanksgiving in 2002. It was AM who found Monica with her lips blue in the basement, and called the emergency services and was instructed to try to revive her though it was obviously far too late. It took her a long time to process that shock. She felt guilty for a long time too, because she hesitated before trying to resuscitate M, L's mother. Poor AM, how she tortured herself over that. For such an easily understood, minute thing, that made no difference anyway.

The room smells of woodsmoke. I have that song on the brain: you and me we can light up the world - I know, they are not cool, Take Th*t. (Or are they? in a kind of so uncool the pendulum has swung all the way back in their favour way?) I wonder if they might have chosen a more serious name if they'd known they'd still be around in 2007 - or rather if they'd known they'd recover from utter has-been obscurity. Lazarus might be more appropriate for them, at this stage, as a band name. They are better off than Boyzone though. By rights they should go by Middleagedmanzone by now, surely. MortgagepayingDadzone, perhaps.

OldFriend rang today to say she is still there, 2 weeks to go according to the doctor, 5 according to her. I would be inclined to go with her prediction if I was betting on it. She has it down to a fine art. This is her eighth, after all.

I set up the video camera to time-lapse the movement of the clouds over the field. And did some animation this morning.. which is good. I love working on this stuff. It's therapy..
I better step up the pace though, tootling along in second gear will get me only so far. Soon our external will be with us, after all.

The dialup, it is sloooooooooooow. I am updating my mother's anti-virus. It is a exercise in forbearance, as well as a virus update. They could use that in their marketing. Protect your computer AND stretch your patience levels to inhuman lengths!
Hurrrrrrrr. Zen breathing, zen breathing.
Ooooh, a grinding! a hopeful grinding?
No. Still downloading dat

Sigh. More loooooooooong moments pass.

building and goodbye to R for the interim

My friend R is off for 2 years to Rh*de Island School of Art and Design. We went to H*vana in Cuba to see her off. Well, alright, it was off Camden St. (They had a lovely home video on a loop of Cuba. Lingering shots of the sea, the seaweed, a dog swimming and some rocks and the beach. It was very interesting (to me at least) how you presume, from the context cues, that it is a narrative sequence and how once you are convinced there is none, you look at it differently, with another part of your brain. There was a prolonged moment where I was watching to see if there was a meaningful link to the last scene and then the slow understanding that there was no narrative link meant that I had reclassified it and had no expectations of it anymore in that way.)

It was good to see R's friends Jane and her husband who are truly nice and to be there and have a glass of wine. I wished I never got onto the subject of R's job though, it was a bit of a can of worms. They are a bit wound up about it this situation, which is quite serious. (R is considering bringing her employers to the Lab*ur Court. Well. I won't get into it.) It felt a little as if I was becoming the focus of the argument - kind of an involuntary devil's advocate - at one point and I felt a bit uncomfortable. I am a bit overtuned to arguments in general. But the moment passed and I think as R herself said, she is grumpy at the moment - not surprising with this situation and going away and the fact her Gran is gravely ill and in heart failure with a DNR order. She has had a rough year and it's sad that the excitement of the MFA is being obscured by the trouble at work and with family.

I do need to separate myself - to stay in my own sphere in these situations. In general maybe. I was thinking about that last night as I tossed and turned and felt too hot and too cold and had strange thoughts that A*t (R's friend) isn't friendly to me anymore and has been strange since he fell out with B while living in my apartment. (B apparently had a pathological lack of boundaries to the degree that he'd borrow anything including razor blades and deodorant. He was lucky not to "fall" off the balcony so bad things got). The point is whether or not A has stuff, it's his stuff, not mine, and I need to stay in my own sphere and work on that little round space. I never see him anyway.

Eventually I went to sleep and this morning my subconscious gave me the gift of a dream about George Cl**ney.
Which cheered me up completely.

I tell you Bots, this is therapeutic. I am nicely vented.