Inconsistently Grumpy


There can be no doubt at all about it. I am getting grumpier as I am getting older.

Yes, I am bloody sure. Thank you very much!

(Sorry. Sorry.)

I don’t even mind it all that much. It seems a natural function of aging, that one would get a little more miserable. It’s nothing to be too alarmed about.

But what is worrying is the level of inconstancy I am bringing to my grumpiness. The only consistent thing about my ill-humour is how consistently inconsistent I am. 

Of course it makes sense. Read it again!

(Sorry. Sorry.)

Take today. Please, take today.

I was driving to the butcher’s shop, as you do. Cruising up the street, keeping an eye out for a parking space. What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. At the traffic lights at the end of the street, a pedestrian walked out in the middle of the traffic and just expected me to stop to let them over. I had a green light, they didn’t. Never mind, here we go. ‘Straight out in front of me.

“Bastard… fucker…,” I muttered as I sailed on past them, hopefully making my point about them waiting their turn to cross the bloody road.

So I got parked around the corner and I trotted over to the butcher’s shop, like a good thing, and then I trotted back again. Except, when I got to the traffic light at the end of the street, I thought I saw an opportunity to slip across the road, between the oncoming cars, without having to wait for the pedestrian light. But, guess what? The oncoming car wouldn’t even slow down a little bit to let me nip over. Not even a little biddy-bit.

“Bastard… fucker…,” I thought as he sailed on past me. Probably feeling smug for having made some dumb-shit point about me having to wait my turn before crossing the road.

And then it struck me. It’s struck you already but it only struck me then. You’re evidently a lot quicker than I am.

I had succeeded in being grumpy on both sides of the exact same scenario within the space of five minutes.

This was impressive… and also a bit worrying.

I don’t want to turn into some West of Ireland Victor Meldrew, finding fault from every possible angle. I want to be reasonable in my grumpiness. To be justified in my little annoyances.

Plus there’s the hypocrisy inherent in the above situation. How can I be outraged about doing something and then go and do the exact same thing myself, expecting it to be all right?

It reeks of entitlement and general all-round silliness.

So, as of today, I resolve to do better. I will be as grumpy as hell but I will be consistent in it too.

No need to thank me.

Move on.

To Live in a County of Heroes


I don’t know anything about sport. I only know how I love drama and sport has loads of drama in it. So this is me writing about sport, it probably won’t be much good.

I’m not from here. Maybe I’m not really from anywhere anymore. But I’ve lived here for over 22 years and that’s the most I’ve ever lived anywhere. So I can say this. Even if I’m not really qualified, even if I don’t really belong, I can say this.

I live in a county who has a football team made up of true heroes.

Earlier this evening, Mayo’s run at the 2019 Gaelic Football Championship came to an end. It happened in Croke Park in Dublin. For the first half, Mayo used masterly control and tactics to maintain a hold on the scruff of the game, effectively taming their formidable opponents and keeping them in check. In the second half, Dublin unleashed themselves and went on to run rampant over everything green-and-red that moved.


So Mayo’s ride is over. For this year. Only for this year. Because Mayo have a team that is made up of real heroes. They will never give up. And next year surely is another year.

Mayo came second in yesterday’s battle and any other result would have been a stunning achievement. Dublin have forged a machine. They have always had advantages in resources – their catchment area for talent is vast compared to the others - but they haven’t always capitalised on it. Now that they have, they are the epitome of an unstoppable force. One has to credit the commitment and skill and power of their team. To stand against them, in these heady days, is akin to David standing against Goliath.

But Mayo, our heroes, step up, nose-to-nose, toe-to toe, and they fight. And, face it, they lose. Time and again, the Dublin machine comes through.

But the stats don’t tell it. Not even a part of it. The bravery, the commitment, the skill, the drive to succeed against the greatest of odds. Every year, the men of Mayo give us their all.

And when it’s all over, as it is today, do they return to some life of rest and remuneration? Are they cossetted until it comes time for the next battle? No. They return to their work, their everyday jobs, just like you and me. These battles they fought, the months and months of readying themselves, the injuries, the blows, all of it is for love of the game, all of it is simply to win.

And when the win slips away, a moment is taken to live inside the pain of that. But then it is time to get up again. On to the next. To fight and fight for one more chance to face the unstoppable foe. Until one day… one day, they will be stopped.

Growing up, I didn’t really know that this game existed, although it was right there on my doorstep. My town was primarily a soccer town or at least the people in it who I knew were soccer obsessed. The only indication that a big game was on was the traffic delays around that stadium just outside of town. It was only when I came here to live in Mayo that I got to know something of the tribal power of the game.

We are so lucky to live in a County where our team are such natural born heroes. It is a great thing. But we are also so lucky to love in a county which treasures these heroes so.

Mayo is not only a county of player-heroes, it is a county of supporter-heroes too. Turning up in droves in whatever windy corner they must next play, following their team until there is no place else to go.

Until next year.

Until then.

Tendrils



Thursday evening took me out the road a ways. I ended up in Carrick on Shannon, which is a town I don’t get to very much anymore. There was a time though when I used to pass through this town regularly on my way home from Dublin to Sligo, where I grew up.

There are an awful lot more roundabouts now than there were and the traversing of the town has become largely unfamiliar, though the countryside, once you’re out the Sligo-side, is achingly familiar still. For me, that road had always been about leaving or coming home. Mostly coming home. I’d been away and now I was coming home again.

Revisiting it, the other evening, evoked a small memory.

Most of trips home through Carrick and on to Sligo happened during the years that I was in college in Dublin. The long Friday-night bus journeys home, the considerably-less-auspicious Sunday-night journeys back. Regular homecomings and departures to and from not-too-far-away. But, after I moved to London, the homecomings became rarer and obviously from further away.

That memory was of one such journey home. One of the rarer ones.

The people I worked for had given me a car – a brand new car – and I was driving it home from London in the Summertime to see my folks and all the old crew. The town after Carrick on Shannon is Boyle and I was just driving over the bridge there when I spotted Kevin in his Mobile Bank Van. Kevin was one of my Dad’s very best friends and he drove the Mobile Bank Van around the environs. He didn’t do any transactions himself; he just drove.

I pulled up in my new car to say hello.

That welcome. That’s the memory that came back to me in Carrick on Shannon the other evening. There were no emotional fireworks or dramas. Kevin was just pleased to see me. He was patently and evidently pleased to see me. We shook hands and he welcomed me back to Sligo and he admired the new car they had given me over there in London.

That’s the memory in its entirety. Two men on a bridge, one old, one young, both very glad to see each other again.

But memories are tendrils. Slender and fragile in many ways but unbelievably strong in many others. They run wild.

This one simple memory-tendril quickly leads to another and another.

Kevin was always the first to turn up with a Christmas present on Christmas Eve morning, when Santa’s arrival still seemed like an eternity away. I was allowed to open his present and play with it even though it wasn’t yet present time. It was Lego.

Kevin bringing me out in a rowboat on the river to the larger boat he used to look after for somebody. The joy of being in the big boat, pretending to go somewhere cool but never going anywhere, except home.

My Dad at Kevin’s funeral, walking back down from the casket and saying quietly to me, “That’s not him. That’s not him.”

Trips to the cemetery with Dad, to visit Mum, and then to stroll around among the graves, never missing a visit to Kevin, who had a little fisherman put up on his headstone. We always remarked on it; how nice it was. I should get Dad one, maybe.

Over time, a memory becomes like a sketch. It distills into some kind of blur. A tangle of swiftly enacted lines on some crumpled page. But such a sketch is no mere scribble. It can be like a sketch by Picasso or Leonardo De Vinci.

It can contain an entire world in its faint constructions and that world can lead on to others.



(In memory of Kevin. A good friend to Dad… and to me too.)