The JB

more on Da

The funeral went well, I think, as much as it could. Brother gave a serious and funny talk about our father, all about his (many) misadventures and lifelong losing battle with implements, machines and tools. He couldn't change a plug, it's true, or at least not without a lot of bad language. He couldn't boil an egg. He would have died in a week without my mother, of starvation. He was a terrible swimmer and driver. But he had a great feel for business, he cared about his employees, he looked after people. Quite a few people came over to tell me how much he'd helped them in their careers - he gave my newly-widowed aunt a car when she really needed it, he kept various family members and friends afloat financially at critical moments. I read 1 Corinthians 13, one of the few passages from the Bible I a) know and b) like, and the one my father read at my wedding eleven years ago. About 150 people came to say goodbye and he was buried in a lovely spot in the church graveyard. We had a nice lunch in the golf club, everyone admired Jay, who was extra-charmy and nice to cuddle.

So that was that. I've since become very interested in the dusty box of photos we inherited from my father's mother when she died. Granny kept piles of perfect black and white photos and wedding invites, and some newspaper cuttings. She never wrote anyone's name on the back, though, so it's become a game to piece it all together. I've even joined one of those heritage websites and am trying to work out who went where. I never was remotely engaged by this stuff before, almost found it embarrassing; I suppose now it's part of trying to make sense of my family. Also, I find I want my father to be remembered. The other night, not long after he died, I burst into tears. No-one will remember him, I wailed to the JB.  This is the grief, he said, It seems wrong that the world will close up around him and just goes on. I know. 

People have been very kind. I love my cards - now I'm on the receiving end, my belief in them is confirmed. I'm glad I sent them too when it was my turn, despite the doubts I felt at the time. It really IS nice to know people are thinking of you. It's not annoying or intrusive and the gifts of cake and sweets are lovely too. Someone gave us some After Eights, a thing I normally never eat, (because it's not 1977 and we didn't just have a dinner party) but I've been consuming them steadily over the last number of nights, with gratitude and a particular satisfaction. 

Ah. I better go, it's 12. Jay needs his nap.
Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes, everyone. 


Here's my Granny and Granddad with my da in the front, looking like a little old man. 

process in process

Let's see. The JB had a big day yesterday. He got his Fellowship (of the Ring! my brain keeps helpfully adding); preparations to leave home find other work accommodation are on-going, though we don't know yet which term he will start fellowshipping in. And, as if that weren't enough, he also passed his driving test. No more white knuckle Saturday morning drives for me, folks, that's right. I am most happy and relieved. 

No news from the US of A. 


I have some processing to do. Feel free to skim/skip, this may very well be dull.

Last week I got empanelled as a juror. The selection process is the most stressful tedium you can imagine; a hundred or so members of fine Dublin citizenry in a large carpeted room with television screens lining the walls. After ages of the tense boredom, the court finally appears on the screen showing the judge and a defendant in a new suit. The registrar announces the crime and starts reading out names. The sight of the defendant and everyone shaking their heads at the crime gives you a sudden chill. This is horribly real. Start praying you won't be called. When your name is called, it gives you an unpleasant jolt of recognition. Oh no. You queue up, you file in to the court,  and no one challenges you, although they throw out two grey-haired elderly gentlemen and a cool young woman.  Apparently you look reasonable; maybe you should have worn your pink runners, or a fake sleeve tattoo? You are sworn in. Your lips feel like rubber but somehow you don't fumble it.
There is some preamble from a barrister about the case and what your role is therein. You are important; you must try and test the case to the best of your ability. You are to "decide the facts" of the case. How can you decide a fact? You are grateful for the other members of the jury, you are not alone, at least. In your meeting room you exchange some nervous we're-in-this-together smiles and some of your number, a tall man in motorbike gear, makes unfortunate jokes and honks with laughter. Fantastic, I'm sequestered here with a shower of eejits, you think uncharitably. 
You're told to come back the next day when the case proper is to start. You go home, but the experience looms large in your mind all night. This is bigger than you are. The next day, there is evidence from a Guard. He has made a map of a family home. Then on a video link evidence is given by the complainant. And then from the complainant's mother. It's really complicated; you are given a large amount of information about the family circumstances. More than might seem necessary. No one says Objection, Your Honour at all, or Hearsay!; maybe that's American. Or Hollywood, but you'd like to say it. Instead you must just sit there and listen. The judge have wigs on, deliberately formal and strange. This bit takes you up to lunch, which you have in an airless dining room. You are not allowed to mix with other juries - as if you would. You only want to talk about the case, but you've been warned not to by the judge, until it is appropriate. You are getting to know your jury members, there's a sort of reluctant bonding between you, though you all keep saying how you'd prefer to be in work, to be honest. Yeah, well, you might as well be honest. You're ushered back down the corridor by your Jury Minder. There's a lot of ushering, and standing in a row beside the wall while another jury is shepherded by. There's another time when you are told to sit on the stairs while a legal moment (15 to 20 normal moments) goes by. Other juries go by, their minders point to us and say they're bold, they're sitting on the naughty step. This is court room corridor humour, apparently, so help us.
Back in there, the next day, and you hear more evidence from a guard. There are startling revelations about the mother, and how a diary came to be in evidence. Again, seemingly not pertinent and embarrassing to know. After lunch the barristers sum up the case.  The barrister for the prosecution is very restrained. He just states the facts as he sees them. But the barrister for the defence is astonishingly skilful, he weaves a case so that you have no option but to draw the conclusions he wants. It is electrifying. You may not like it, but he has placed reasonable doubt in your head 5 or 6 times already. He's staring up at you knowing in his heart that you are reasonable, decent people. He's restrained, he doesn't bully or cajole. He just makes you think things you didn't think before; there's reasonable doubt and so you can't convict. 
To your relief, when you finally come to deliberate, the others agree. Everyone has reasonable doubt. You're grateful for these strangers, they have taken great care with their task. They have thought hard, not jumped to conclusions, have considered it from both points of view. They are not a shower of eejits, as it happens; your faith in humanity is restored, even if it's not in the judicial system. No one feels good about it, but the barrister has done his job and the defendant is acquitted. If you were in no doubt about the seriousness of it all, the drama of the moment when the registrar reads out the verdict to the courtroom, with all parties present, is palpable.

You file out for the last time. You say goodbye and good luck to the other jurors. Of course, this being Ireland, it has turned out you know one of them, to see. Of course you do. A woman whom you expect never to see again, despite this, says: No disrespect, but I hope we don't meet again. You have to laugh. You go home; at least it's over.


being just and not

I have that feeling I've forgotten something. You know the one? Hmm.

No news, let me get that out of the way. On the JB's job thing, or the Adoption Front. I have, as advised by the wonderful bunny, located a hot-desk space near here full of stop-motion animators of the beardy, gentle, lurcher-at-heel variety, so I have somewhere to escape to, if/when the Company of Spouse gets A Bit Much. I feel mean complaining about him (though he wouldn't mind; it is my great luck that he still finds me entertaining despite evidence to the contrary. He never takes things personally, in fact is a walking advert for bulletproof self-esteem; the kind that makes a frank conversation so easy, the kind that makes it possible to not take yourself so seriously.) (I'm looking at me. I can be so straight-faced.)

I'm awful, in fact. For instance, in the morning, he wakes up all bright and switched ON and ready to talk, and makes puddles of coffee (he drinks 354 cups a day) and leaves piles of crumbs in his wake, and every time I pass his little study which opens onto the living room which is the main thoroughfare of the house, a course a person who needs to go to the bathroom must run, he says Hello, Bobby.*  No matter if he has just seen me five minutes before. Hello, Bobby. CAN YOU IMAGINE ANYTHING WORSE.  This is actually sweet and childlike, but see above, I did tell you I was awful: I just don't want to talk. I want to be in the workflow. 

So, now you see. Rather than be thrown together out by circumstances, it behooves me to find an alternative workspace and then be actually glad to be together in the evening. This will be a way of feeling less awful, for one thing. Avoidance of Conflict for Better Living. The round-the-clock immersion therapy that is marriage continues to be a wonderful, terrible, humbling thing, to sum up. 

Beautiful Tony, our social worker, visited us here for the millionth time, for a home visit, to check the usual: do we have live wires hanging exposed from the ceiling, fizzing intermittently? Are we safe-housing a criminal on the run? Are we selling eightballs of coke out of the back lane? No, Beautiful Tony, we are not. He didn't even go upstairs, in fact, and I had spent ages cleaning and tidying up there. He just told us about his holidays in Portugal, we complained about the poor planning skills of the government, the apathy of the JB's students, he drank a cup of tea, and off he went. 

I did forget to tell you my conscience got to me and so I am going for jury duty this week. As you probably know you can't talk about fight club jury duty so a curtain of silence will now descend upon the whole event. Probably. No, it will.  I suppose.

I hope all is well, folks. Have a good week, wherever you are. I'll be Upholding Justice; spare me a thought.

*I am known as Bobby to some of the family. My nephew got me confused with Bob the Builder when he was 2.

insert more interesting word for "update"

It's so hard to find time to blog, isn't it? It used to be easy, but now I feel uncomfortably busy and, dare I say it, seized with an urgency to make things, which I'd call it ambition, if that wasn't so alien a concept. At any rate, I am sick of my shed and pc by the end of the day and just want to go inside and curl up in front of the fire. I've been sending work out to publishers and whatnot, applying for grants and all sorts. I feel all fired up and chugging full steam ahead. Whoo!

[I heart trains.]

There has been some activity on the adoption front, about which we are feeling strangely fine. It was as if a flash of lightning illuminated a path for us for a second, but as it turned out, it was not the path for us. How very mysterious I am being; this is what happened:

We were asked by our agency to decide if we'd like our profile to be shown to a mother of a 4 month old child who was considering "relinquishing" the baby. This was a particular case; not just because of the age of the child, but also because the mother had some requests about the openness of the adoption, keeping of the child's name, meeting us, and so on, which we were happy to agree to in principle.  [I really feel for the mother in question, needless to say; I always did, in theory, but to know of an actual person having to deal with this decision is entirely different. It has been quite a leap of understanding to realise that we are not the most vulnerable people in this situation.]

Anyway, it was not to be. I don't know if she chose another couple or changed her mind, but we are still here. The JB, endless speculator that he is, kept suggesting reasons why we weren't chosen. Maybe we looked too sporty? Maybe she didn't like school and we looked too brainy (not me)? Was she allergic to cats? Were we too far away? But that way, I persuaded him, finally, madness lies. We can be no other way that how we are and until we get further concrete suggestions on our letter from those who know about these things, I don't see any point meddling with it. After all, the cat, the (supposed) sportiness/braininess etc could as easily work in our favour with someone else. We yare what we yare, to misquote Popeye. 

So yeah. Interesting. I nearly started reading about babies, CAN YOU IMAGINE? This is a thing I have always been too superstitious to do, but when it gets real, you must prepare. (Did I ever tell you I'm afraid of very small babies? So vulnerable, elemental and sort of furled up! Agg! [Reassurance welcome, tell me they're tough little yokes, I'd like that.] I think this goes back to an incident which involves the 4 year old Twangy and a 2 year old family friend who turned out to be quite wriggly (or slippy? Hard to remember exactly), resulting in a visibly raised bump on her head, wailing, hospital visits etc. I am always glad to hear how successful she is, that little kid that was. She is quite the big noise in the Berlin theatre world! PHEW.)

What else? I did an awful webcam interview thing yesterday. Modern life, I despair. There was no one on the other end; I was essentially talking to a machine. A judgmental machine, at that. Lucky I don't even particularly want that grant, because when I watched myself back (surely something God or Nature never intended?) I was mortified by my rubber-facedness. Funny, normally I don't mind being photographed but this was AWFUL I TELL YOU AWFUL. New Year's resolution: DIAL DOWN THE GOOFINESS.

Also. The JB is learning to drive and after more than 20 lessons has been entrusted to my supervision. It is not fun, friends. I love the man, he has many gifts (NOT THIS THOUGH) but this is an experience that manages to be both tedious and terrifying, just between you and me. If there's nothing to fear but fear itself, the JB should be and is, in fact, petrified. More opportunities to reflect on our maladaptedness for modern living. Being flooded with adrenaline is only helpful when there is a tiger on the prowl; while manoeurving (sp?) a Polo around a corner at 5mph adrenaline can go and take a running jump at itself.

Ah yes. I feel better now. Thank you.
How are you?

 Another one from my Welcome to Ireland file. [Insert winning, tourist board-type, smile.]


Well. I think I am now sort of facing the right way and maybe even sometimes perhaps might feel the wind is behind us this time. Maaaybe.

I am dealing with paperwork for the agency while the JB cavorts in Chicago on his annual "work" trip. The medical didn't cause any problems. I like this doctor. She is kind and practical and reminds me of a woodland creature, which is a bonus. Slight snafu in that there is a requirement for a TB test and she tells me that if I have had CBG vaccine in the Byzantine era also known as Twangy's yuf, which I did, I will most likely test positive with the Tine test, and therefore must go and get a chest x-ray to confirm the non-existence of TB in my lungs. How fun. I am going there today for this unnecessary blast of radiation to my vital organs!  YAY. Actually, who cares, I feel quite whateverish about it. At this stage I would dress up like a poodle and jump though a flaming hoop in order to make this happen. The cholesterol tests might be also be a good idea given my heart-disease riddled family, too. 

I have been getting out quite a bit, in an effort to avoid losing the power of speech in the absence of the JB. Otherwise I would fully expect to be communicating exclusively in meeows at this point. (What is the proper verb of the noise cats make? I do not know.) On Tuesday, I went to a sparsely populated life-drawing class in a Georgian building. It might have been better attended except the facilitator sent an email out in the afternoon, in which he told us that the class would be a reverse one, where we'd have to strip and the model would be clothed. 


April Fool's.

It is a weird social convention, isn't it, that says public nudity is a crime and oh so shameful, except when for art, where it is perfectly okay. I am not terribly naked myself. We don't have the climate, you see, or the central heating, for what in this house is referred to as The Air Bath.

I leave you with this startling revelation.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

November again

My friend from round the corner skyped me from her hotel room in Dubai where she is having a whale of a time. She asked me what was new with me, and I had that horrible clanging echo in my head which means I couldn't thing of a single news item. Uh. Uh. Come on, brain! No. No. Nothing. Is anyone else familiar with this everyone-else-is-in-their-own-beer-commercial and-I-am-at-home-eating-stale-digestive-biscuits syndrome?

Must get out more.

And so I am going to embarrass us all with some probably entirely unwelcome insights into my marriage.
Last night, the JB earned himself a prod for snoring. What? he said, all offended. I've been awake since I got into bed. If that's the case, you won't mind my prodding you, will you? Also. stop.

And while I am on the subject,I am going to have to impose a daily question limit on him. Or maybe he could just pause for a milli-second to engage his over-educated brain before he asks me:

  1. Something he already knows
  2. Something I could not possibly know
  3. Something no one can know.

From the final category, the recent classic:

What does it mean, tartan? 


As I say, no news.




in which I fulfil my threat make the posts shorter and more frequent.

I've been spending hours today digging through hundreds of photographs - the nine years the JB and I have been an item, as they say -  for our letter to birth mother. I am finding it a hard to find the exact balance where I can feel comfortable - not too salesy, not too smug, not too slick, not too confident, but respectful, warm, and reassuring. But then trawling through the tens of CDs - (Quite a few are banjaxed, by means, I presume, of tiny scratches, micro-scuffs, and, I dunno, invisible dust? Is nothing made to last anymore? Modern world, I despair of you.) I realise that we are just genuinely steeped in luck.We have had a life rich in adventures, friends and experiences. Maybe that's what I need to concentrate on: just that we are fortunate to have all this to share with a child.

The young Twangy and Brother, before Health and Safety was invented.

And this summer, with more hair.

The JB in California, with glued on baseball hat

Emerald fields of Kerry.

Madrid and a letter

I have decided that it suits me better to write less more often. When too much time passes, my news items seem both far too many and far too dull, like climbing a featureless mountain. Far better the short and frequent blow by blow, perhaps. A more quotidian approach might be less daunting for both reader and writer. I hope.
We'll see.

Quick drawing of Goya in Central Madrid

  •  ┬íMadrid! was satisfyingly foreign for so short a flight: a bright, lively place, in an aftershavey, self-confident way. My friend and colleague Maria lives in a crooked triangle of narrow streets between broader tree-lined avenues. Lovely fruit and vegetable shops. Tapas bars. Comic shops. Open squares. All Very Nice. I even managed to dust off to some degree the now spidery, dessicated part of my memory labelled Spanish Vocab and Grammar. It is surprising what comes back through the gloom when the pressure is on:
    Una lata di Coca, por favor, and Dos paginas di carta adesiva. And you know that obnoxious, mock-patient way teens have of saying: Hellloooooo? That translates precisely to Holaaaa, te estoy hablandoooo. (Maria has a nine year old son. On the whole being with the two of them at close quarters for the week in that warm apartment made me appreciate my life enormously. They are utterly charming, but it is No Joke being a single parent with no support from the other parent, financial or otherwise.)

  • Back in the dear ould durty town, we've been doing some adoption stuff. We did our medicals, always an Interesting Experience. (The JB was asked for dating advice by the doctor at his. Doctors are human too, it seems. He advised joining the walking club that facilitated our meeting. Apparently he and a friend googled Meet women and it, the walking club, you understand, came up. It is fortunate he did not Get Led Astray with this method.) Nearly all our dossier documents are thusly prepared, save the letter to birth mother which is proving to be something of a stumbling block for me. Our agency has quite bluntly advised us to fill it with photos of us looking young and having fun with our happy, healthy extended family. It is deely unsurprising that I feel weird about this, I suppose, (the person who has caused hilarity recently by saying: Well, I'm going upstairs to read my introvert book*.) I understand why it must be so - of course the birth mother would want to see us - but am so uncomfortable with the idea of showing us in a flattering light. Bleargh. Must rethink. I have promised I will look at some samples today. (Advice welcome.)

I will return next week with further bulletins from the edge of the fair city.
Till then, hasta luego, so to speak.


 *Quiet by Susan Cain. Highly recommended for introverts such as me. Made me feel normal!
YAY, normal.

entertainment part II

An anti-cyclone hangs over the Emerald Isle this week, inspiring us Irish to emerge and toast ourselves till the colour of frankfurters. I am in my studio which is nearly south-facing, and so must be exited before 1pm when the sun turns it into a furnace. Yesterday I had the bad idea of complaining thusly to my workmate, flatmate of yesteryear and friend, the ultra-cool madrile├▒a, Maria, and she replied:

it is 38 degrees here so don't complain Twangy about the heat or I send you some degrees...

[Feel free to complain about the heat below. I want to be simultaneously sympathetic and horrified.] [Speaking of which, it's nearly one! I must get my wimpy self out of here. It's like 26 degrees!]

Tomorrow, the JB and I must return to the House of Adoption and go through a nodding and smiling session with our social worker, the detective - all part of the process of changing country, apparently. We are going for the USA, as we have FINALLY agreed. Good to have clarity AT LAST.

Thanks for the encouragement for the comic about nothing, friends. Here's another one, this time about Luther. Luther, for those who don't know, is a seductive if somewhat ludicrous cop drama set in London, starring IDRIS ELBA, he of The Wire fame. The plot is a bit barmy and visuals a bit gruesome, but IDRIS ELBA.

Well, I think the point is made.

Till soon, so.

adult life

So, my lovelies, The Woman couldn't make it that Saturday night, and my readiness to Say Something has therefore been thwarted. Heaven help the next person who makes me feel I should, is all I can say. A river of somethings is likely to gush over his or her head.

(Oh dear, that sounded a bit disgusting.)

Anyway! On to other first world moanings on the nature of being an adult. Isn't it hard work? Isn't it? Or are there people to whom this comes naturally? I certainly feel the manual that I should have been given at birth called: Life: operation thereof, has been lost, if I ever had it. My mother was not bossy and a bit untidy herself and I was the absent-minded, dreamy type. I was probably staring out of the window when she tried to teach me stuff. I can, if I really make a huge effort, remember all the stuff you function as an adult. The bills, the servicing of boilers, taxes, vitamins, the cleaning of the washing machine filter, the cholesterol checks, the birthday cards, the visits to the vet. But, if another minor thing intervenes, like, you know, a Job, or a Mood, or if I just see something shiny, it all collapses instantly, leaving me with the uncomfortable feeling that not everything is being taken care of. When I was single, oddly enough, I was more functional. I knew it was all on me, and I had - if not a system - certainly some folders. Now, no. Now, the JB and I look at each other in dismay and say what? I thought you were taking care of that.

Somewhat relatedly, on my apartment, the one recently abandoned by The Hungarians of the Hunted Look: when we (I brought a unflappable male friend, just in case) burst through the door, the place had a messy, suddenly abandoned look, part-Tracy Emin, part-student digs, but there was no damage to speak of, just a little wear and tear. Why they pushed off in this flighty, imprudent, way, I will never know. Interpol? Mafia connections? Just young and dramatic? Anyway, anyway, I am relieved, and oddly enough quite enjoying cleaning the place and making it presentable.

(I put this down to the recent return of Betty, my alter-ego, who appears when I have one of my strange ocular migraines. She likes mundane tasks.)

What was I saying? Yeah. The Hungarians of the Hunted Look left behind enough hair and beauty products to sink a battleship.Which led me to distracting thoughts about feminity: I had not realised how low-maintenance I am. Soap, yes, shampoo, also. Enough make-up to not seriously ill, eh, you know, some clothes, and out the door with my hair wet. How about you? I have heard stories about women who get up at five to dry their hair and put their eyelashes on, but this is all as a fascinating mystery to me. I'd love to hear how it is chez toi. Am I missing something? I wonder, for instance if Products make a difference to my hair which has made the leap from Orange Cocker Spaniel to Richard III since my last haircut:

Yes. Definitely Richard.

Thoughts welcome.
Till later,

(Sorry about the lack here of anything of any consequence whatsoever. I am working up to explaining where things stand vis-a-vis the adoption, but it requires thought, and, you know how it is, it's rather demoralising not to have Exciting News. Bleah. )