When to speak and when be silent…..

Well, i’m back from my retreat – turns out I am in fact a 46 year old Geography teacher from Belfast. However, it also seems that i’m actually ok with that. It was a wonderful experience and I game back genuinely enriched and relaxed.

Unfortunately, all that silence also left me a lot of time for observing my fellow retreatants. After a very sort time it became clear that even people of a journey to their essential selves are as competitive as the general population!

For example, when teachers get together the competition usually rages between who has the crapest timetable and the fewest resources. As we were allowed to speak at mealtimes the stage was set for some hardcore ‘Out Jesusing’

These actually are mine. Named Lady Antonia’s beads, because they were found outside the church in London where Mother and Pasty (my grandmother) once sat behind Lady Antonia Fraser at Mass

Once everyone’s bona fides had been established – who was at school with your cousin etc – the conversation slipped seamlessly into ‘what priests do you know?’ (not in the Fleabag, sexy priest sort of the way) and the game begins. It could be compared to a very delicate game of Top Trumps. For example:

  • ‘Spiritual not Religious’ – no points for the liturgical lightweights
  • ‘I heard at Mass on Sunday…..’ ohhhh good opening – regular attender
  • ‘I find morning Mass a great way to start the day’ – now this is really upping the ante
  • ‘ She sits beside me at the Rosary after morning Mass’ – points here for doing something extra
  • ‘ I love the Holy Hour’ – now this is hardcore holiness – for the Holy Hour you have to go back to church
  • ‘Holy Hour is lovely but I prefer the peace of Adoration’ (Adoration is spending time with the blessed Eucharist – it’s lovely)’I go every Thursday Morning’ – now this is big – a regular slot at a ceremony which is optional
  • ‘Oh, I love Adoration – I do the 2-3 am slot on a Saturday night’ – and we have a winner!

A subset of this competition runs around the theme of Pilgrimages. Like most good church stories – there’s a schism. Is it better to have visited more shrines e.g. Lourdes, Knock, Fatima….. or visit the same shrine many times? This is a picture I took on one of my nine visits to Lourdes so far, so my thoughts are pretty clear on the matter.

Later on in the evening – once the ‘silence’ was over for the day, the tone of the competition changes and a new theme is introduced.

Misery

This is a good one – the closer you can link your life to a character from ‘Riders to the Sea’ or ‘ Les Mis’ (though not your dame who married Eddie Redmayne with his rich Granda), the better. If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that the last year alone would get me straight to he semi-finals. Add to this the long dead Da and the sick child and I could have started engraving my name on the cup there and then. In a departure from form I avoided all of this and went to bed and read my book.

In fact I was so chilled and mellow after the retreat that I ‘lost’ my car for two hours on Monday afternoon despite having taken a photo of where I left it.

This diffidence was particularly out of character as we are a family of ‘speaker outers’ and we all learned from the Master – Patsy.

Patsy is my Maternal Grandmother she died a few years ago and this week would have been her 101st birthday. She styled herself on the late Queen Mother (this is her 90th Birthday photograph) and was an absolute legend with an opinion on EVERYTHING

Patsy was not a woman to allow anyone’s sensitivities or indeed Canon Law to get in the way of her thoughts.

She felt that I got married far too young (I was 23 – I told you she was a wise woman). On the morning I was leaving for my honeymoon, I called in home to say cheerio. As I was walking out the door she called me back – a hug? Nope. Some important marital advice.

‘The Pope (John Paul II, known for his conservatism and hard line on contraception) said in The Universe (ultra right wing Catholic Newspaper – big fans of the Pope – read by Patsy and definitely not me) that you can be on The Pill for two years after you get married (bollocks).

When, two years later (I know!!) my son was born naturally I called home to share the good news. I had taken care to register his birth before I phoned – this is because the name my parents chose for me was not in fact ‘Patricia’ it was something quite different. However on the arrival of Patsy to see me and in response to her wobbly voiced request (she was a master) about my name – suddenly I was Patricia.

So, having registered my precious bundle I made my was to the payphone (this was 20 years ago before we all had mobiles). In Craigavon Hospital the phones were along way from the single rooms (Patsy had organised a private birth and single room). After a C – Section there is a very special walk which prepares you for the multi tasking ahead. It’s a slow, painful shuffle – made more difficult by the fact you are trying to see over your enormous swollen boobs. One hand is occupied literally holding your guts in while the other is holding the wall because you are wazzed on painkillers. Add to this that there is oozing from every orifice and the smell of gently cooking cabbage, if you have chosen to cool your boobs with their leaves, overall its a good look.

Having completed this odyssey I put my coins into the phone and dialled home. Mother answered and after the initial – weight and wellness questions we got round to the BIG QUESTION. I had chosen a very Catholicly name for my son – not Emmanuel but to be honest not far off. It’s a beautiful name and it really suits him. However, Patsy was not initially a fan.

Once Mother shared the news I could hear Patsy screeching from the other side of the room (and it was not a small room).

‘ ********* (insert name) ********** (insert name again). The last *********** I heard of was getting let out of Long Kesh, he’ll never get a job!!!!!!!!’

Well, that was me told – but ahh ha – he was already registered so it was too late.

As soon as Patsy met the baby they both fell in love. They had a beautiful relationship and all the children miss her very much.

A few days before she died she spoke to EC (Don Corleone style [definitely not like Tony Soprano – Patsy would never go to a therapist]) to make him the ‘Head of the Family’ completely ignoring the fact that she had a daughter and granddaughter!!!!

Next week I shall tell you all about how my children have happily assumed the mantle of Patsy’s forthrightness.

I’ve been to paradise…. (or, get thee to a nunnery)

Hello again! Have you spent the whole week wondering what I’m getting up to?????

Well, while you are reading this I shall be three days into a silent retreat at a local monastery. I know!!!!

When I told friends and family of this particular plan it was greeted with chortles, guffaws and even a couple of snorts (Mary O’G, I’m talking about you!!). It would be fair to say that I would generally be described as – talkative, loquacious, voluble, chattering, gabby, wordy and usually just plain loud. Some of my school reports also reflect my inability to shut up!

So why a silent retreat?

Firstly, this weekend represents a magical moment in the school year. The exam classes have just left and the internal exams, external marking and all the crap jobs that we have been putting off to the end of the year have not yet started. So its a perfect time for a bit of headspace.

Secondly, I’m seeing a ‘great woman’ at the minute (counsellor not romantic liaison). She keeps talking about ‘finding my essential self’ – which is probably not a bad idea. To try to do this in a house full of three very opinionated children, Rosa the childminder, JY and Mother on the end of the phone is a touch challenging. So I decided to ‘book in’ somewhere.

All this thinking put me in mind of the Johari Window (you know the one Donald Rumsfeld caused all the confusion with a few years ago).

It was all the rage in education a while back. Around the time we were all obsessed about which of Dr de Bono’s hats to wear (personally I don’t think you can go past a silk turban with an ostrich feather)

Lot’s of people had gone on courses and were bursting to share their wisdom with us. On one particular occasion we were gathered in the hall while a speaker in the vanguard of educational thinking showed us the Johari Window and told us we should be incorporating it into our classroom practice. Any school staff is a widely diverse bunch, but on that particular day a single thought rose into the ether like a cloud.

Mercifully the educational gurus have moved onto something else – these days I think it’s ‘brain based humanism’ and the window is firmly closed – at least as far as work is concerned.

But, I digress – I think my ‘great woman’ might even be so bold as to suggest a touch of displacement!

Years ago a singer called Charlene (not Kylie Minogue – this was her actual name) sung a pleasing ditty entitled ‘ I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me’. I’m just a wee bit concerned that after all the whale music and the navel gazing I might not like what I find!! Or, God forbid, I don’t find anything at all!! It might turn out that I’m a 46 year old Geography teacher from suburban Belfast…… and that would never do!

I’ll let you know how I get on……

Happy Valley? Happy Valley? Happy Valley my ****

Hello – Happy Bank Holiday Weekend.

It’s a new school term and as usual I have started it full of vim and vigour, so I actually did walk every morning this week before school. This has prompted me to share my ‘adventures’ during a walking course last year.

You see, the thing is, I’m not naturally a ‘joiner’ and was often shoved into rooms with other little girls by Mother accompanied by the hissed instructions to ‘be nice, make friends, smile’. Many years later I was to make the same mistake with MC. I decided she wanted to learn ballet (she’s currently training to be a weapons engineer)

Having purchased enough ‘balletania’ to rival Saddlers Wells MC was ‘shoved into a room of little girls and told to make friends’. This is where she and I differ. At the end of whatever torture I was forced to endure (party, Irish dancing class, elocution festival) I would emerge, give Mother a watery smile and say I had a lovely time. MC marched purposefully from the room and calmly announced that she wasn’t going back. In answer to my rather strangled ‘Why?’ (I was thinking of the many many pounds spend on tights, and bags, and skirts……) ‘Because there is no-one there who I want to hold hands with’ – and that was that.

Paradoxically, I’m wild fond of a ‘club and society’ – I was in loads of them at school. I even like their notice boards, they are often found in the older parts of schools with peeling gold lettering – all very non threatening. I was in the Chess Club, the Public Speaking Society (I know – but you aren’t really you when you are public speaking), the Recorder group, the Choir…… What these all have in common is a shared interest which the members can talk about, even better, in the Chess club it was preferable not to talk at all. I’m also very fond of a course – especially if there’s a certificate (serial overachiever). Last year it was the Ottoman Empire, next week I start Ancient Greek.

All this brought me to the point last year when a colleague asked would I be interested in taking a hillwalking leadership course.

This is not as strange as it sounds. I have been involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award since it began in our school. I even did an abseil from the dome of the local arena to fundraise while I was pregnant with YC. I may not have mentioned this on the risk assessment. I also find walking wonderful therapy when I’m feeling black doggish.

What could possibly go wrong? The fact that I was 13 years olderthan the last time I did a walking qualification, my bod was a playground rather than a temple (Rustler burgers and Pino Grigio rather than anything more risqué ) and I had spent the previous three years eating sausage rolls genuinely didn’t strike me as an issue.

One Friday evening after a long week at work I headed to a Fieldwork Centre in the heart of the Mourne Mountains. I was armed with everything on the kit list (and my knitting). On arrival we were herded into a classroom and required to perform an icebreaker (I should have left at that point) We filled in a slew of forms, most of which could be translated as ‘if you die, it wasn’t our fault’. There was also a medical disclosure form which I completed without much thought.

There were two leaders, one was a large avuncular chap, bordering on geggy – the other was a small, wiry angry little creature (actually quite sexy). |He gave off an ex-special forces vibe and as a result was an Angry Former Soldier (AFS)

The compass, still attached to my pocket as a reminder of my limitations

AFS was teaching navigation. I’ve been a Geography teacher for over twenty years, so do actually know about this stuff. But this guy was something else. He would leap on a bench (demonstrating his pleasing lower body strength [just saying]) point at you and yell, ‘ you are walking for 10k, climbing a total of 50m in windy conditions – how long will it take??????’ ‘I don’t bloody know!!!!!!! – you’re shouting’ He also had something of an obsession about pointing. For 44 years I believed that the index finger of either of my hands was sufficiently pointy – apparently not. He suggested that a ‘thick fingered point’ could lead to a navigation inaccuracy and certain death. I now point at maps, with almost evangelical enthusiasm using the corner or my compass, which is secured to the pocket of my coat (do you know how many people die because their compass falls out of their pocket? – me neither).

We eventually got to bed with a detailed list of instructions – reveille was to be very early. I arrived at the rendezvous point the next morning ready to head to the hills. AFS checked our rucksacks and scrutinised our packing. After this ritual humiliation was complete he did a quick ‘have all the asthmatics got their inhaler’ check, then in a confidential fashion summoned me from the room.

‘I need to talk to you about your medical form’ ‘Oh?’ ‘ There’s one of the drugs we need to explore (explore!!). At the time I was taking anti depressants (and still am). At that point, I was also taking a drug for extreme anxiety (it happened to be an anti-psychotic – but I don’t suffer from psychosis). Fair play AFS, its always better to check. However, even after I had calmly explained my illness and the need for each of the drugs he required more convincing, even questioning if it would be suitable for me to be undertaking this type of course. I was getting to the point of offering to ring my GP for a ‘sanity’ reference. As you can imagine this conversation and the subsequent ‘wary looks’ from the other participants did wonders for my self esteem and wellbeing.

Eventually I was permitted to board the mini bus and driven to a remote car park. It was grim – we walked for hours in the pissing rain. AFS clearly did not subscribe to the mantra that the group moves at the pace of the slowest member (me). Each time I reached a meeting point wheezing like a bulldog, he would immediately head off again at a brisk pace. Bastard! Allegedly we reached the top of Carn Mountain. I couldn’t tell you I was too busy crying with exhaustion and frustration and trying not to die.

Just at the point where I was considering using my credit card to order a helicopter AFS announced we were on our way back. He explained there were two options. A – was shorter but steeper (how could we be on the way back and still going up hill??) B – though slightly longer was flatter and took us through Happy Valley. There are some advantages in spending your days wrangling teenage boys – at the utterance of the word ‘flat’ I took charge of the map and headed purposefully towards Happy Valley – no one else got a say.

If your image of Happy Valley is like mine, sun baked Kenyan Plains, totally unacceptable racism and a young Charles Dance in an evening frock – this Happy Valley is not like that. It was wet, marshy, and long. The only mischief I was indulging in was enduring the chafing caused by my rain and sweat soaked pants – not fun!

After what felt like an interminable walk we reached a fence. In my mind it has been built up like the WALL in Game of Thrones (Charles Dance is rather yummy in that too – even though he must be about 105). In reality (because I have been back since) it is a rather small, innocent, really quite an inoffensive fence. The problem was I couldn’t organise my legs to climb over it. I simply stood bewildered trying to work out what configuration of limbs could get me over. When this became evident to the group – all of whom had simply hopped over – they took pity on me.

If you have ever seen the film ‘The Mission’, imagine that bit near the beginning where the indigenous tribe hoof the Jesuit over the waterfall tied to a cross – just before Jeremy Irons arrives. I simply lay back Christlike and they crowd surfed me over the fence. Scundering.

After a very disturbed night’s sleep we got back into the minibus. We were due to go to the Eastern Mournes this time – someone had observed the previous day that they were flatter. In my dark night of the soul I had translated this to flat (because obviously a mountain leader course would take place on the flat, duhhhhhh). We were divided into two group. I found myself, not unexpectedly, in the group that would be given the fatter pencils and ‘filling in the blanks’ books if we had been at school. We gathered round, led today by Geggy Uncle, and consulted our maps. Even a person with the most rudimentary understanding of cartography could see this route was not flat.

I was done. There was no way I could complete this walk, I had neither the physical nor mental capacity.

I approached Geggy Uncle and explained this. He laughed – he actually laughed. He may have also made some ‘take a chill pill’ type remark. I restated my point – while still laughing he said ‘ we can get you off the hill in 15 minutes’

Through clenched teeth and tears I suggested we save 15 minutes and get me off the mountain now. After a brief standoff I decided to play them at their own game. If they were so concerned about my mental health medication – lets lean into that. I adopted my best ‘Here’s Johnny’ pose and growled that I needed to leave – a minibus was hastily fetched. I am not at all proud of this action. I spend my life campaigning for better understanding of mental health issues and the right of depressed people to recover and not be judged. But on that particular day I really couldn’t see another way to get off that fecking hill. You will note from the photo above that the Field Centre is all boarded up – shortly after my ignominious departure, it closed. Probably better if I don’t comment on that.

Even after this horrible experience I still go walking, in fact I’m heading p the hill with JY as soon as I finish this blog. But I know where my skills lie, and spending time winding yarn for a shawl with a mesmerised dog is much more my cup of tea. I think I’ll focus on stuff like that.

Next week I’m trying something completely different……ohhhhhhh

You could still get pregnant ….even at your age

Hello everyone, did you have a nice Easter? I’ve had a great week footering about and not doing very much in particular. I had planned to write about my walking adventures this – but as I didn’t actually walk the length of myself in the last seven days, that would be a tiny bit hypocritical – maybe next week.

I did manage to finally complete a cross stitch for MC. She has been asking for months – i’m moving on next to a montage of the family’s favourite curse words – it should be ready by the time YC graduates!

I did however get a few jobs done, one of which was booking my next sneer (smear) test. There was a slightly awkward moment three years ago at the last sneer. I was on the couch all stirruped up – the nurse was focused down the business end with her canary and davy lamp (a line I have nicked from the Bolter) when she asks, ‘so what type of contraception are you using?’ ‘None – I replied’ ‘Oh????????? – are you trying for a baby?’ at this point her rather bewildered face appeared from between my knees.

‘No, not trying for a baby’ – clearly at this point the poor nurse thought she was dealing with some sort of half wit. She abandoned her prodding and came and sat beside me, rubbing my arm in a reassuring way speaking in her slowest most pastoral (patronising ) voice she explained that even when you are as old as me (43) you can still get pregnant if you have unprotected sex – not to mention catching something that might require an ungent and an antibiotic.’ Now, you have to imagine that the next sentence I uttered began low and by the end could be heard throughout all of Ireland’s 32 counties and possibly beyond.

‘ Nurse, it’s not a problem, because I haven’t actually had sex with anyone since the 2nd November 2012!!!!!!’ (This was 2016) The rest of the test was conducted in a shocked silence and I was soon on my way. It would have been ok had the door to the nurse’s office not led directly to the waiting room – I sympathetic glances (and appraising looks!) as I walked out were awful. I even heard someone mutter, ‘God love her, November 2012 is a while ago.

‘Having said all that, it’s an important thing to do – so next week – I think I will just lie and tell her that I’ve had to take out shares in a rubber plantation i’m doing that much shagging. I wonder will she believe me?

Have a lovely week…….talk soon….

Dum de de dum dum, dum dum dum dum duuuuummmmm

Happy Easter everyone – I hope you are all having a lovely day – we are. In the best regulated families you will be sitting down following a beautiful meal and a bracing walk – a parlour game might even be in play. Or you may be like the rest of us, the children are full of chocolate and climbing the walls, Uncle Dick is drunk in the corner and Auntie Dora has just said something political……

It seems like the perfect time to share a little more of my childhood story. We left off with my desire for Mother to be a bit more ‘like the other Mummies’ – thankfully she didn’t oblige and I actually feel rather guilty now about asking her to conform.

She once came to my recorder recital (recorder recital!! – I was also in the Chess Club – is it a wonder I’m single?), wearing a full length scarlet wool cape, a Cossack hat and a sealskin muff. This was Larne in he 1980’s – people looked – it was scundering.

My Mother is a gifted shopper – I mean really gifted. There is no task too small or no purchase too obscure. Even before the internet she could find anything – anywhere. When I NEEDED (according to Mother) gold sugared almonds for my wedding favours – gold almonds were found (flown in from Harrods – they were minging).

She does however have one peccadillo – she is VERY particular about how her shopping is packed. Not in a ‘giving the charity bagpacker £2 and then do it yourself’ sort of a way. Oh no, I mean scrutinising the placement and ‘companion’ bagging of every single item.

Once, once, over 35 years ago one hapless assistant in M & S put a pair of shoes in with a silk scarf and it got plucked. Bear in mind, that at this time shop workers in Belfast wore a Pac a Mac clipped to their belts because they spent so much time standing in front of the city hall during bomb scares. The poor girl was probably too worried about getting blasted to kingdom come to consider the structural integrity of a bloody silk scarf. Ever since that fateful day Mother has been the scourge of retail assistants everywhere. Before a bagging transgression has even taken place her shoulders tense and there is an intake of breath. Sometimes, if an acceptable packing configuration follows a drama can be avoided. If an opportunity for substandard ‘bagging’ occurs, there is a little cough, this is followed by (in a faint, wobbly and high pitched voice), ‘ emmmmm, would it be ok if I had another bag ……..it’s just once I had a silk scarf plucked by a pair of shoes’. I think they must have pictures of Mother in all retail staff rooms with,’ For the love of God, give her two bags.’ printed below it in large letters.

TVA ‘silk scarf’ for reference – naturally the original silk scarf is much too plucked to be seen in public

Having said all that she’s great craic with a wicked sense of humour. We often go to social events together, and I get to some great outings as ‘Anne Guest’. One particular night comes to mind. mother was filming a TV series, and it was about half way through with all the prerecords completed (making a facial injury something of an issue). We arrived home very late to my house, possibly having spent slightly too long worshipping at the shrine of Bacchus. I went into the kitchen to pour a glass of water (Mother always needs a glass of water going to bed {for her pills}). All of a sudden there was a yelp, followed by staggering footsteps – this was accompanied by cries of ‘ NOT THE FACE, NOT THE FACE’. Then there was a thud, and silence. I sprinted into the hall to find her face planted at the top of the stairs.

In answer to my concerned enquiries about her wellbeing – she turned to me, grinned and observed, ‘ Don’t worry – my tits saved me!’

Naturally, many years later I asked my talented friend JL to create an embroidery to celebrate the event. Not sure how Mother felt about that.

In addition to their love, the greatest gift my parents gave me was the ability to find wit and humour of even the darkest of days. My Confirmation was a prime example of this.

In Catholic Primary Schools, Confirmation is the highlight of your final year. My time at primary school was neither happy or productive. Despite the heroic efforts of all my teachers who were gifted educators and compassionate women, my card had been marked by the Head Nun. I was the product of a ‘Mixed Marriage’ (my father was Presbyterian and my mother wore capes – I was bound to be trouble.) This unpleasantness (she actually threw the school choices form at my mother because a ‘non Catholic’ school had be picked for my post primary education), was combined with the fact that neither by beloved Father or Grandfather would be in attendance meant no-one was really looking forward to it.

Every girl in the class wanted a job for the big event – after all THE BISHOP would be in attendance. The big parts (the readings) were given to girls who had not passed the 11+ (did they actually think we wouldn’t notice??). I had no hope of a singing part – I can’t sing so that was fair enough. All that was left was the Offertory Procession. The announcement was being made, I held my breath, I was in!! I much have caused Sr. Marcella CP some sleepless nights – could you really leave out the ‘recently orphaned child’ on the other hand……? ‘ Pragmatism won (people would have talked) – I got the water the Priest washes his hands with – not the good stuff like the Bread and Wine – but at least I had a part.

On the morning of the service I got on my ‘outfit’ – petrol blue wool suit (think Margaret Thatcher miners strike chic), a ‘Lady Diana blouse, white tights and the most uncomfortable grey leather shoes in the world. The uncomfortable shoes (with a heel to give me a bit of height) contributed some stigmata style red stains to my tights – fabulous.

While we were waiting for the Bishop, every woman in the church was discussing the latest episode of The Thorn Birds. Everyone had read it and were now entranced by the mini series – what would happen on Matlock Island??????

As he made his entrance and our innocent voices lifted in song. ‘May is the month of Mary’ was joined my the low but insistent thrum of my Aunt Melwira chanting the theme song to the Thorn Birds (you know the one, Dum, de de dum dum dum dum dum dum duuuuuummmmmm).

It was a dark day – but we were smiling.

Next week you can hear about the walking course I thought was a good idea,

Give me a child until [s]he is seven……

Hello again, this week I have to begin with an apology. Last week something went wrong with the photographs and I may have come across as something of a ‘grape hyacinth’ freak. In the interests of clarity I’m including the missing pictures below. On the left are my school friends (I’m the one with the bad perm) and on the right is JY looking cerebral in a turtleneck.

So, as we know, all good stories have an origin narrative, where the personality of the storyteller is shaped. These are often set on a distant planet, mine was shaped in Larne! (Don’t worry Mother, this won’t be ‘Mommie Dearest’)

Picture the scene….

It’s sometime in the mid 1960’s and two people fall in love. So far so good. However, the ‘girl’ (mother) was a 4ft 11″ Catholic in her 20’s and the ‘boy’ (the irony) was a 6ft Presbyterian in his late 40’s. Way to go parents – no controversy there!

They did get married, and after a respectable pause, I came along. Their union would have been referred to in the 1970’s (and beyond), as a ‘mixed marriage’, because neither of them ‘turned’, this has to be said with the sort of sneer you would adopt when prescribing an ointment for a particularly embarrassing pustule.

So who were these romantic pioneers (it was pure Kevin and Sadie, love across the barricades)? They were a very glamorous couple and once went to a fancy dress party as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Mummy was all eyes and hair (not her own, well the eyes were, but not the hair) Daddy looked elegant in a safari suit and a brown silk polo. He was very fond of that safari suit.

They went to another fancy dress party as Maurice Chevalier and Gigi (which gave off a rather different vibe). Strangely – no pictures exist of that particular outing!

Daddy was a gifted raconteur. One of his specialities was sharing the fun fact that his wife ‘was the only woman he knew who could take her knickers off standing up in a Mini’. The fact that they were Mini owners at the time lent a certain veracity to this tale. I never did find out if this was true and since Mother has done in her hip she is no longer limber enough to try. He would mesmerise a room with tales of his time in the States, New York in particular. It was reminiscent of a County Antrim Jack Kerouac. This was especially entertaining to watch as he had never set foot on the continent of America. He was very bold.

Daddy was a very devoted parent, and much more involved that other men of his generation. The day the Marie Rose was being raised he wanted me to stay off school to watch it. He was persuaded that we would definitely be allowed to watch it in school – we weren’t, and he never quite forgave the Headmistress.

We would cuddle up on the sofa and watch all variety of programmes. My poor teachers and my extremely right wing, ultra Catholic primary school were subjected to a daily lottery of what I might reveal in ‘Our News’. Every morning after we heard that Shelia’s Mummy had had another baby and Kathleen’s Mummy had got a new vacuum cleaner, I might observe that I had seen a lion eating an impala (Wildlife on One), or a ‘great piece of satire, where a man goes into a restaurant, wearing only a tie’ (Not the Nine o’clock News). I was something of a pompous arse even then.

‘We three’ were happy as pigs in muck when very suddenly while I was ten, he rather suddenly and thoughtlessly died of a heart attack. Hmmmmmmm – now don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Frank McCourt – I did get to keep my Communion money. Our already small community had dwindled to two. Mother and I moved in with my recently widowed grandmother (oh yes! good times). Do you know something? After a while, it was ok – mainly due to the force of character and will of the two women raising me.

Mother is an incredible woman. For many years she juggled full time work, and acting career and raising me (who we will recall from last week was a little bit odd). Having said that she isn’t particularly conventional. When you are a teenage and ‘odd’, conventional is really important.

Next week I shall share with the story of the night Mother’s tits saved her……..

In the psychiatrist’s chair….almost

Hello again,

I’ve had a lovely week. On Thursday night, Mother and I went to YC school concert. It was brilliant, and naturally, I cried. There were a wide range of performances, although I’m yet to be convinced by the ‘Irish dancing / African Drums’ fusion number. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough?

On Friday night I was out on the town with my school pal Gill. It was one of those wonderful evenings where conversations from, five, ten and even thirty years ago just get picked up as if it was yesterday.

Me with my school pals, Gill is the one in the light blue cable jumper, Sharon is top left and Vohn bottom right. I’m the one with the very bad perm. If you look closely you will see I’m sporting a brooch on my sweatshirt – brooches were my thing in the ’80’s!! The pony tail is being secured by a length of black lace. It was a cruel decade.

Anyway….. following ‘Trumpgate’ I swore off internet dating. I studiously ignored my phone, but when another smile ‘pinged’ I couldn’t resist a skelly. It looked promising – a Scottish psychiatrist working at a local hospital. After the usual rounds of likes / dislikes / etc we got chatting properly and it all seemed to be going swimmingly. There had been a slight wrinkle when I corrected him on a point of grammar – this did not impress.

The trouble is, I wasn’t really designed for admiring ‘baskets of kittens’ while the menfolk do the thinking. I was getting the impression that SP (Scottish Psychiatrist) was used to being the cleverest boy in the room.

On Christmas night – things took a turn. We had been chatting about inconsequential stuff (including the fact that he would only give Katherine Hepburn 97/100 – that should have been my clue), when he sent the following message,

‘So how long have you been single – or in other words – when was the last time you had any sort of relationship? Short term, long term relationship, very short / fling….’

Talk about a change of pace!!!!! It was like one of those questionnaires they give you at the beginning of a new round of counselling. On a side note, I once refused to fill in one of those ‘ have you got post natal depression?’ handouts you get after having a baby. At the time I was most definitely post natally depressed – but the form wasn’t photocopied onto the page straight! That told them all they needed to know.

In order to diffuse what was becoming a rather serious conversation – I jokingly (why will I never learn) observed that The American had been jettisoned because of his voting preferences. Well……….. clearly all the clever boys defend each other.

He was fuming. Didn’t I know all the good things Trump had done? Where was I getting my (flawed) information? For the record – BBC, CNN, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Times, National Geographic ( and to be fair – Private Eye)

PS That’s JY looking distinctly Headshrinky in her turtleneck.

This went back and forth for a while. I probably should have climbed (or fallen given my history) off my high horse, but I just couldn’t. His final message observed that he didn’t want to meet someone who was strongly opinionated and that he was blocking my number. Phew!

How was I attracting these delights?? My knitting friend ‘Lovely Sharon’ who does clever things with Apps, explained that because I had mentioned faith and religion on my profile the algorithm could be skewing the results to the right. Fair enough, I wasn’t prepared to change or deny this part of my life so I took a different tack.

I logged onto ‘Romances allied to Rome’ (or something like that) and got stuck in. The questionnaire was thorough to say the least. There are now men all over the world who know my favourite saint (St Joseph) my thoughts on contraception (that would be a yes) and my preferred form of the liturgy…….

Once again I went with honesty…. possibly a mistake.

Following my ‘revelation’ that I was the proud owner of a degree absolute, a tattoo and a gay child it turned out there weren’t too many matches. I think they may have formed a committee to resurrect Dante Alighieri in order that he can create a new ring of hell just for me.

So here I am – stuck between a rock and a hard place (or not!) – too straitlaced for mainstream sites, too radical for the Holy Joes. I am distinctly niche.

What to do?? Well, I’ve decided to try the ‘clubs and societies’ route.

I’ve signed up for Classical Greek, Philosophy and Walking with Mensans (The Bolter unkindly observed that the last one sounded like living with a chronic condition). I am genuinely interested in all of this so its not just about ‘ Mancatching’ – but you never know.

Next week – Stroke, Horse, Hot – Origins…..