The Past

teenage kicks

I delayed the publication of this very frivolous post but friends on the east coast of the US now seem to be okay. I hope. So, in the spirit of Now For Something Completely Different:

 On my parents' kitchen wall there is a photo of my school hockey team, (or half a team - there were only 5 girls in the class) - now mercifully faded by the sun. I reproduce it here for the purposes of evidence: Hockey_team
Exhibit A

I am that one, in the middle at the back. I am eight or nine in this picture and I am five foot tall.
I also have marmalade-coloured hair, for your further information, and couldn't stand out more if I jumped up and down, singing RAH RAH RAH, look at me, I'm over here.

Fast forward to The Teenage Years. I am now 13, still extra-tall and of the orange mane, and I have done what my rather proper family sees as falling in with The Wrong Crowd. I have a wild friend, who makes it her business to Lead Me Astray. She is in a school called (unbelievable this, but true) Al.exandra College for Young Ladies. I go to a co-ed in another part of town. One day, for some reason which now escapes, we (the co-eds) have the day off while they (the gels) are in school, and for another reason which also flees my adult mind, we decide that the right thing to do here was clearly for me to dress up in her uniform and go to her school with her.

They'll never notice
, she airly declared. Rhino is so ancient (headmistress of the day: Miss Ryan) she doesn't even know us. It'll be fiiine.

So it was that I trooped along with them to Assembly that morning. During which Rhino had a long look at me, not surprisingly, perhaps confused by this apparition. Who IS that? Am I meant to know that child? Maybe I am losing my marbles. But who would..? ..and why?
Yes, well. There are no answers.

If I remember well, we nipped out of Assembly before poor Rhino's brain could catch up, and legged it to Science. There I was, an intruder into Science, in my borrowed brown uniform. In Al.exandra College for Young Ladies. Ah, yes. Teenage Kicks might have been written for moments such as these.

The fortunately young and very decent science teacher (Miss Poole!) was, naturally enough, somewhat perplexed to have a new member of the class just sort of suddenly there. As we were explaining to her what we were up to, another more senior teacher came in to survey the class crossly - presumably not able to believe what she thought she'd seen at Assembly - But, how peculiar! There can't be? Can there?

Oh, there can, and there be.

Miss Poole, showing admirable presence of mind, quickly hid me underneath the desk. Bless you, Miss. And after Science, it was deemed by My Wild Friend best to maybe.. just sort of.. bunk for the rest of the day? And so it was that I found myself hiding in the outside changing rooms, bunking off (someone else's) school. On my day off.


[Teenage stories welcome. Mad or not.]


I apologise for the long silence. I had somesorta bizarro virus which reduced me to a bedridden shivering wreck for a night last week, and then, the next day, I had some disturbance in my vision, whereby a square section of my sight dropped out and went all pixelated and started pulsating sickeningly. And after that, I was afflicted by pins and needles in my hands, a numb thumb and, the ability to see dead people.* But after a bit of lying around watching the disco special light effects on my eyelids, I suddenly recovered and felt reborn and Full of Renewed Purpose. 
So, eh. If anything like that ever happened to you, let me know? Maybe we can start a support group, or something.

Life has been packed recently, I think you could say. On Saturday I met some friends I made doing some voluntary work about 10 years ago. A group of social eccentrics like me, they eschewed Friday nights in lively, warm Dublin pubs and clubs, to hand out sangwiches, soup and company to homeless people on the streets of the Dirty Oul Town. An oddly absorbing activity. Oh! the vomit-dodging adventures, the tragic stories, the cold realities, ambulances, the characters, the randomers in the back of my orange Beetle.

I am not really a group person, but it would be impossible not to be at ease with those people. It was that unicorn of things, a group with no hierarchy and no cliques. You'd come in after the work and everyone would be decompressing loudly after their week, buttering bread, throwing flasks around, stirring soup, complaining, slagging each other. It was a family. We'd pile into cars and split off around town, and though there we went into some dark, frankly dangerous places, the people on the street looked after us. We felt oddly invulnerable. Or naive, depending on your point of view.

One of us, a spark with the nervous energy of a caffeinated humming-bird, is now a project manager for a large Irish charitable organisation. He set up a camp for displaced people in Darfur. We aren't half proud of him and his mental brand of kindness. He'd answer his friends' texts pleading with him to join them in the pub with the immortal words: FUCK OFF, I'M SAVING THE WORLD. FUCK OFF, isn't that fantastic? He is an emphatic, capitalised kind of feller. Other catchphrases: I FEEL SO VIOLATED (in response to nearly anything). And: MAD IN THE HEAD, in response to anything else.
all pronouced in a paint-strippingly strong Donegal accent. (Think Liam Neeson's accent, but on steroids, if you are not familiar.)

And though there has been a sea change in the thinking about how homelessness is managed, about how giving people food on the streets is "enabling", I still like to believe we did did more good than harm. That's about all you can hope for, isn't it? If a real workable alternative existed, then yes, you could say we were helping them to choose to live on the streets. But when someone has nowhere else to go, then, what about that? A sandwich is at least a symbol that someone cares. Don't you think?

Here endeth the nostalgic interlude. Other news: there has been a deluge of biblical proportions today - a great big clatter of rain. Honorblackman is asleep on my desk, like this:

You would think she is exhausted, but that is not the case, believe me, unless sleeping 20 hours a day can tire a cat out. I would draw her doing something else, but she has taken laziness to the level of an artform, so there you are.

We completed the last of our interviews with the detective today. Hurray! We wait now while she compiles a 65 page report on us - (SIXTY-FIVE. About us. Poor, poor woman. I predict she'll lose the will to live around page 14.)

Also, today is the JB's birthday. He is 37, a fact we will celebrate later by ingesting large amounts of cream and sponge. And so it goes. Another year.


*Not really, about the dead people.

nostalgia isn't what it used to be

Life has been cancelled for the week while we gaze in wonder at the  white stuff that has fallen from the sky. We are not good at snow in Ireland. It astonishes us. We're in a perpetual state of: Jaysus! Snow, is it? It is, be the living hokey, it's SNOW, so it is. (Pause. Repeat.)
There's no other news. Our adoption meeting was cancelled.

I do have something to while away the time, however. I found some relics from 1981 in my mother's old knitting basket:
[Expensive-look, expensive-feel! Why didn't that expression catch on?]

The eighties! A more innocent time, you might think. When we (or at least I. I am really quite old) amused ourselves with roller discos, vinyl records, wore pour-in jeans and had to make appointments to see one another, mobile phones being far in the future. As was lycra. And tabbed browsers. In fact, at the time, a browser was someone in a book shop with time to kill.

Mohair was huge. I mean that literally.
This young man would have been referred to as a "hunk", a word that makes me want to resign from the human race. Note the glowing visage. He is melting from being enveloped in this nuclear-powered neon garment.

Food was co-ordinated brown and beige:
Mmm! Grapefruit and Crab cocktail! Smoked Mussell and Leek Soup in a fish-shaped soup tureen!

Magazine copy displayed brilliant, sabre-like wit. Not to mention the cutting-edge page layout:
Kipper pasties! Tuna in (in?) pasta shells!
Quick, invent a time-machine - I'm going back.

The brown and beige food was ingested in obsessively patterned, migraine-inducing rooms like this.

It's a mystery, really, how we grew up at all. We used to play with mercury out of a thermometer, for instance. (This is before ideas like Health and Safety or Adult Supervision were invented.) Between that, and the headbanging, we are walking miracles.

Modern times, eh.  Not so bad, maybe. What do you reckon?

American dreamer

Armadillo Watch = 0

However, as so often in life, (stay with me here, I am going allegorical) you look for an armadillo and you get a
raccoon. Such a startling, delightful thing it was to see that humanoid little face with beedy eyes peering fearlessly through the gloom. (Don't worry, I know I am not to "confront or feed" the wild animals).

I am realising, all over again, the wonder that is the USA for an immigrant like me - one brought up in a raincloud in the strictly monocultural, somewhat parochial and economically depressed Dublin of the 1980's. America! Its vastness, its devotion to fun, its opportunities, its hospitality, its promise.

And yet, and yet. I like my terraced house on my sodden island with its tame climate, the banter with the strangers, the way people know each other, the closeness of family, the green fields. I am fond, as one is of a curmudgeonly grandfather, of Dublin. The human scale of our city, my utter familiarity with it, the personal map of memories laid over it. Many ghosts of times past hang around street corners - I attended our 1996 Christmas party in that hotel with those people, the day my apartment got flooded R and I had a gin and tonic in that bar, I loaded the car in my ex-boyfriend's carpark there, Spike goes to school up that street, and so on, and on.

After years of lusting after a Green Card, applying faithfully every year for the lottery, I gave up, returned to the ould sod, met the JB, and got married. I was 36. Oddly enough, though a Kerryman to the innermost marrow, the JB has in his possession an American passport. Well played, Life. Now I don't need a Green Card, I have one because of him, and also because of him, I don't want one.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Care to tell where you dream of living?

Thanks for your interest in the comic. I think I'll start a webcomic site where I can publish things like it, in my own name (I was not christened Twangy Pearl. Shocked?), away from all this necessarily anonymous stuff. Hmm. More on this later.

the past is another country

Our adoption application has been "activated", after two years of languishing on the list.

And so I've ploughed through the plethora of forms to fill in. They want, for instance, to know every single address I have ever lived at in my life, but provide only 4 lines on which to write them. I will need a bit more than that, I can tell you, (What are nomads supposed to do? Rhetorical question.) if I can even remember where I have lived. My mind is addled, you know. Quite addled. For instance, I just remembered now that we lived (my family and I, as is often the custom, when you are a small child) in Berkshire (the English one) for two and a half years.

But is there even a record of my family having lived there in the seventies? And why in the name of the living Hokey do they need child protection clearance for when I was four? These are the questions.

Perusing a list of old addresses is disconcerting, don't you think? A dip in the sometimes not-balmy past.
Ireland. England. Ireland. Italy. Ireland. USA. Ireland.

Years go by, assigned to different places. Decades of adulthood somehow vanish. I lived in a student flat-share in Pavia, in Italy, for 4 years, in a flat the temperature of which alternated between freezing and boiling according to the season, with an old scarred bathtub, aggregate marble floors, a roaring gas water heater, and malodorous heirloom furniture. There was an inch gap in my flatmate's window, I remember, now fondly. Our neighbour opposite used to curse us darkly as we came and went, in the local dialect. My mattress was stuffed with straw.
Ah yes.
I remember it well sort of, mistily.

Then there were the animator years, whiled away in a draughty and probably structurally unsound flat above a shop and across from a Chinese take-away, in a small town on the Jersey Coast, shared with some bright, demotivated members of the slacker generation, who liked nothing more than to stay up all night talking.

And now I live in a terraced house on the Northside of Dublin, with the JB. It goes back quite a bit, which you would not guess from its modest front:House And has not so much the wow factor so much as the oh!  (in mild surprise) factor. I love it, with its bumpy walls, ancient floorboards and layers of history. We can call this place home.

I'd love to hear about where you have lived.

Thank you for your encouragement on the descent artistic endeavour, everyone. You'll never know how much I appreciate this outlet, or how much it helps me to narrativise my life. (Well. Of course you will, really, for you are doing the same with your own blogs). It has become a kind of lock-up for my stuff, so it doesn't have to clutter up my head. That you are there to listen and respond, with all your enthusiasm, intelligence and kindness, is a wonderful thing.

state of play

It's been a while. Sometimes I do wonder about this introspection, and if there's any point at all to it, but then I think about the past, say, when I was in Italy, and I wish I had some record of that time, beyond confused memories and a few photos, and so I decide to plough on, regardless. For the record.
Recently the funk I have been languishing in for the last weeks seems to be moving on. I am feeling a clarifying, shifting, lightening thing happening. The fog is thinning. The dawn is coming. I feel stronger. And with the JB, despite whatever differences we have, there's him, and there's me, and maybe the differences aren't so great, after all. Things keep occuring to me: it's like a voice in my head, pointing things out. (But a nice helpful voice, not a mean one, that might demand you stick a pin in someone.) It just says things like: "Don't take it personally", or "It's okay", or "Let it go". And I go: Oh! Okay, then. I can do that. And I realise we are not stuck anywhere, but are in a stream of being, and things shift, things move, and there's no pattern that can't be changed. ++++++++++++++++SO++++++++++++++++++ Exciting times we live in, eh? The world economy is changing - perhaps forever - I have even heard the phrase "The End of Capitalism" being bandied. And Obama, the symbol of the future on whom so much rides. Thirteen days to go. Oh, pleeeeease. Come on, America! If this man doesn't get elected, I am resigning from the human race, and going to live with the meercats. In the Manor, you understand. ++++++++++++++AND++++++++++++++++++++
I have to go to a party next week. Fancy dress essential. For some reason I am seeing myself as a sandwich. Existential?
(It wouldn't be the first time. One time in Milano, in one of the most stressful nights of my life, I got lost in a borrowed car trying to get back to a Carneval party, dressed as one. With the crusts off.)
+++++++ENOUGH OF THIS, SURELY++++++++

Down with the Age of Instant Communication

I am in my parents' house once more, as they gallivant around Bologna. It's decidedly autumnal, the barley has been cut, Smokey is busy growing his teddy-bear winter coat, and the magpies landing on the roof sound like witches practising their landing for Halloe'en. Brrrr. I love this time of year.
This morning I saw fit to start a chat to the JB on skype:
Hi J!
LUCKILY I wasn't in the mood to be cheeky, rude or flighty and left it at that. I say LUCKILY for as fate would have it, he was in the middle of a lecture and my message appeared projected on the screen for all to see. Apparently they all laughed like drains, as it was, so a "Hot stuff, last night, babe!" or similar would have stirred up a riot.

And as further evidence of the Down side of the Information Age, I got a very strange email from Italy on Monday. As I have mentioned, I spent some time in Italy as a callow youth, and during that time had a tempestuous relationship with a young feller who we'll call, errrr - E, the Unfaithful. E, a rich boy from Varese, who as his name suggests, broke my heart in the most dramatic and agonising way when he cheated on me during my absence one summer. Time, as we have noted, moved on, healed wounds, made my heart whole once more, and in the end, I went back to him. Things were irredeemably changed though, whatever respect and trust I had for him was gone forever and when I finally left Italy in 94, it was relatively easy to leave him behind too. Over the years (14, shockingly) he has sporadically popped up with the occasional expression of regret that we split up, or invitation to visit him in Italy. I did go and see him a couple of times, just as friends. We never re-ignited that fire, (to put it delicately).
And then I got married, in 2006, to a lecturer with skype.
Cut to Monday morning, and an email from E, the Unfaithful's account:
(translated from Italian)
Sorry Debbie, this is Venus, E's girlfriend. I don't know if you are still together? he told me you got married, and he wants to marry me. I don't know what to think..
After the initial HUH? effect wore off, I gather that Venus (real name?) was poking around in E the Unfaithful's account, and found an old email from me dated 2004, during one of those sporadic contacts. She must have some reason to be suspicious, - and since E is decidedly slippery, probably with reason - and he must have mentioned me,  making her think we might still be seeing each other in some long-distance, adulterous way. It all sounds horribly familiar.  I feel really sorry for her. Maybe I should answer and say - what? I want to clear my Good Name, and to warn her about him, but part of me wants nothing to do with the weirdness. And, anyway how can I answer her at his email account?
The JB suggested I tell her to give me her own email address or give her my phone number.

**You know, though normally I enjoy the tranquil backwater quality of my blog with its occasional visitors, it's time like these I wish I had actual commenters, who might know what to do. Please feel free if you happen this way, and have an idea.

I've been around the world

And so. I find myself back in the parents' house, relying on the crows in the field once more for entertainment. They (parents) have departed for a cruise to the Norwegian fjords. Which sounds attractively fresh and blue. The lack of other forms of distraction are leaving me with pleeenty of time to ruminate and dream, and stare out the window at crows as above. The non-eventful days slip by punctuated only by Smokey's (Oldest Horse in the World) feed-times. (What passes for) my
mind concerns itself only with why Jenny won't eat her food, and if Smokey is sore on the right fore, and if so when will the farrier come to trim his feet?
That kind of thing.

There hasn't been a lot of interest in the apartment. Apparently the market is flooded at the moment, although allegedly this will change soon. I have had some interest from an Indian couple - professional, tick, non-parents, tick, non-party types (apparently! could be planning brothel for all I know), tick, non-owners of untrained chimpanzees, ticketytick - in fact, whose only negative is they are not sure if they are staying longer than 6 months.
Hmm. I feel sorry for them though. Maybe I will let it to them. (Although Zonny is not impressed with idea of repainting place again in January, I am thinking with the lack of wild chimp as above, there should be no need of such).
Whole reluctant landlady thing a bit of a drag. But must be grateful and realise it allows me to keep myself in a way to which have become accustomed. (ie. with avoidance of proper job, the dreaded FTJ (Full-time Job. THE HORROR).
Must be grateful. Ooh! phone ringing. The excitement! Shan't answer though, in case couple as above. Not ready to decide.
Hmm, woman saying other couple not interested. As far as I could hear at any rate: the message was not so much breaking up as it being total silence with intermittent words breaking through. Sigh. Reminds me a bit of internet dating, this whole letting thing. When will The One come along? When will my Prince (or tenant, in this case) be here? (if you haven't seen Snow White with adult eyes this may be lost on you). Might be salutary to write a bit about that. Make me grateful for the JB, count my blessings, etc. Ugg. They were horrendous, in some ways, those internet dating days - being pushed by loneliness way out of my comfort zone, but had a certain gambler's thrill too - I didn't mind chatting and emailing online, and indeed I liked the degree of control it offered, but the first date scenario was terrible. My pre-date anxiety was awful. Although, the emailing thing wasn't great either. I really had to grapple with my prejudice as far as the fairly ubiquitous poor spelling and semi-illiteracy went. And as I have mentioned before, what with my own mother being a member of the Language Police, seeking out poor usage and incorrect spelling wherever she goes, (even on holiday probably. As I write, she is probably clocking a Norwegian cappuccino with only one p), this was challenging.
Although, am I remembering a certain, what was it, Rhyce? Yes, I am. He was actually rather clever, someone who'd been to gifted school, I think, and was working for the UN, or NATO, or another acronym, in Philly, if memory serves. So I have to concede that he may have been a good speller.

Funny enough, that didn't compensate for the total lack of physical spark. And neither did the lovely lab he had, called Abe. Although Abe, yes, Abe was quite a catch.
In no particular order the dates were:
Charlie, the unrepentant alcoholic and DJ, who had cocktails every evening, and became morose by 9pm. Richard, broken-hearted recently divorced corporate manager that I met in New Brunswick for an Indian meal. He told me I looked like Nicole Kidman (which I really don't, more's the pity) and that he could touch his toes without bending his legs, not because he was supple or anything but because he had exceptionally long arms. He seemed nice, but deeply wounded after his divorce and we never got past 2 dates.
And, Ryce/Abe as above. That was about it. No need for a second date in any of those cases, needless to say.

My beloved JB, I have been around the world looking for someone who could spell, and tick my boxes - how strange that I should chance upon you, half a mile from home in Dublin, with your clear green eyes, your PhD, your sweet rebel heart and your rather inaccurate spelling.


[The young JB]


The other day LFriend and I took it upon ourselves to be tourist in our own town (This is very happening, by the way, kind of in the spirit of a staycation in the USA where what with rapidly ascending petrol prices, it has become de rigueur to lurk close to home for the holiers) and made a visit to the exotic and intoxicating Smithfield, the famous horse market in Dublin 7. Nowadays on market day the horses clang their iron shoes and swing their quarters a few feet above the underground cinema called the Lighthouse. It has a groovy bar, with complementary olives and 4 cinemas with variously coloured seats. It's cool, let me tell you. We went to see The Visitor, whose main role was beautifully down-played by Richard Jenkins. So charming and unexpected, sad and real. Also unexpected was the possible appearance of this man - my ex- who shall be known as, let's see, Ted M. I spied him before in this ad (he's the one at the end. I had my doubts about this being a good idea - I mean it was paid for by the Republicans. BLEAH)- and he was a waiter in Marci X, too, so it is not impossible that he should appear as a stall holder in this NY film. It was so strange and strangely a thrill to (possibly) see him again. I hope he's well. He looked it, if it was him.

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."