Thursday, April 25, 2013


I have been getting a huge reaction to my piece 'Until The Next Time' which was broadcast on Sunday Miscellany on RTE Radio 1 last Sunday 21st April.

You can listen to the podcast of the programme by clicking the link here.  My piece is about 31 minutes in.

Here is the script of the piece.....

“Well, that’s about it I suppose.... no more news.”
I hate these words as they usually signal that our conversation on Skype is coming to its natural conclusion.  Except that there is nothing natural about Skype.  It’s contrived and forced and virtual.  It’s the best thing we have when we are 9,000 miles apart but it’s not real. 

We finally hang up... after the lengthy ‘bye so, ok bye, ok love you, ok bye, bye, bye’ thing we do, as my cursor hovers over the red ‘hang up call’ button on screen.  Then there’s that horrible noise that sounds like something being sucked down a drain and she’s gone.

The picture of her, dressed in her pink PJs lying on her bed stays with me as I imagine her jumping up to head off to brush her teeth.  A few moments later and she will return to climb into bed under the lightest of cotton sheets, her beloved black cat settling down beside her.  I sit staring at my laptop and curse that yet again I have nothing interesting in for lunch.

Then I curse the bloody weather and freezing temperatures, I curse Enda Kenny and his entire cabinet, I curse Fianna Fail before them and finally curse the gaping huge distance that separates me from my first born. 

I allow myself a few minutes to wallow in the frustration of not being able to give her a hug..... or to receive one of hers.  I desperately want to be able to smell her hair and wonder at glow of her beautiful skin.  I want feel the air around her shimmer as she laughs.  I want to  savour the sound as it falls all around me.   

Then I get cross with myself for feeling sorry for myself when I know so many in this country are suffering fates much worse than mine.

I bang cups and plates around in the kitchen and the dog looks at me with his doleful eyes, sensing that there is violence and anger bubbling gently somewhere just beyond his perception. 

I make a cup of tea and sit at my kitchen table.  The dog settles at my feet.  And for the hundredth time I realise that right now what I want more than anything else is to have her sit opposite me and to talk rubbish and gossip and giggle.  Hell, I would even take an argument with her if it meant being able to share her space, to be in her energy. 

I want to look around me and see the imprint of her life in mine.  A handbag here, a scarf there, shoes abandoned by the front door.  I miss her always, but sometimes desperately.

She is probably sleeping now in the heat of the Perth night, under the languid movement of a ceiling fan.  I think of all the nights when she was little and I would check her room before I retired to bed.  Bending down to stroke her hair and pull the duvet up higher. I didn’t know then how precious those days were.  Perhaps it’s just as well.

I don’t know when I will see her again and perhaps that also is just as well.  Because right now all that is keeping me sane is the vague hope that somehow, in the not too distant future, the possibility of making the trip to the other side of the world will suddenly reveal itself.

 I drain my tea.  “Come on dog, let’s go for a walk”.  The pain has passed.  Till the next time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


So among the many celebrities who tweeted about the death of Margaret Thatcher was one Mr Harry Styles of those nice boys One Direction.  Harry tweeted “RIP Baroness Thatcher x”  Succinct.  Uncontroversial.  The reaction of the One Directioners was brilliant however and was captured by @counteractmagazine....(via @peteheat)

 I live with two such One Directioners – ages 12 and 14, and over dinner last night the 12 year old asked why all the fuss about the death of Margaret Thatcher.  She wasn’t too clear on who Mrs Thatcher was.  Her older sister knew she was a “British Prime Minister from history”.  Sometimes my children make me feel very old.

Margaret Thatcher came to power in Great Britain the year I left school, 1979 - so in many ways she helped shape the world into which I emerged.  However as a 17 year old I was far more interested in having fun and boys than in politics and so wasn’t really that bothered about her views on deregulation and privatisation. 

Those were dark days in Northern Ireland with violence and killing becoming so normal that their reporting was almost reduced to a kind of white noise on news bulletins.  But every so often something happened to make the horror of what was happening just 80 miles up the road very real.  Bloody Sunday was one such day.  The killing by mob of the two off duty soldiers in 1988 was another. 

As was the 5th of May 1981, the day Bobby Sands died.  I was 19 and on holiday in Majorca when news came through and I remember my disbelief that Sands, who had been elected to an MP while in jail, had actually been allowed die. In the full glare of the world’s media, the British Government had just allowed him to die.  I remember hearing about rioting in Northern Ireland following news of his death.  But most of all I remember the British newspapers in the following days reporting the words of Thatcher in the aftermath of what she termed Sands’ suicide. “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims".

The British Government stuck to their hard line stance.  And the horror continued.  Despite appeals from various parties and especially from the women involved including mothers, the IRA hunger strikes continued and men kept dying.  Margaret Thatcher didn’t flinch.  It was a darkly depressing summer full of foreboding and a deep sense of unease over where this might end.  The last man died in mid August.  By autumn the British Government had conceded to the prisoners demands. 

I sat at my suburban dinner table last night and tried to explain ‘the troubles’ to my daughters who are half English.  I really couldn’t illustrate the horror I saw almost nightly on TV news bulletins through the 70s and the 80s.  I was at a loss to explain how, although taking place on this island, the troubles seemed remote until something happened which we feared may escalate tensions and drag us also into the quagmire of death and destruction. 

The hunger strike deaths of the summer of 1981 carried just that fear with them. 

As I looked at my children’s faces as they listened, I realised that I may as well have been describing a movie I had watched some years ago when TV was black and white.  They had a passing interest but the reality and the real horror of what I was trying to articulate was lost on them.

As I stacked the dishwasher I thought of how precious peace on this island is... and if we are to learn anything from our past it is to guard, to protect and most importantly to nurture this ‘peace process’.  The men and women who worked so hard to bring it to a reality have given our children something very special.  As for the children of Northern Ireland they have given them their future.

As for Mrs Thatcher.... well I guess it would be true to say...  “ní bheidh a leithéad ann arís”.!  Please God.

Oh and tonight I may attempt to explain The Falklands War..... give me strength!