One More Time, with Feeling

The worst days in blogging are not, as you might expect, when you can’t think of anything to write. They are mercifully few. The worst days are when you’ve written your thing and you look back over it, on the morning you’re going to post it, and you immediately decide, “That’s no good, it just won’t do.”

Welcome to my Sunday.

This week’s blog post was to be a sort of a ‘Day in the Life’ for myself. A loose description of how my working day tends to play out, from when I get up to when I go back to bed. I did it… and I looked at it… and no, just no. It was a losing combination of having too much information and also having no useful point whatsoever.

So here I am. 10.12am on Sunday, with one arm as long as the other. What on Earth shall I write now?

This week, I was thinking about Mum, partly because it was the anniversary of her death and partly because it was so many years ago and yet feels quite recent and immediate. I was thinking how, for such a wonderful person and such a great personality, there should be reams of blog posts here about her. Reams. And yet there really aren't. There are a few, and some of them are some of my favourites. So, with the ’day in a life’ post safely in the bin, I sit here and comb my mind for some cool memory of Mum that I can set down here.

It's funny how memories won’t come on demand. They have to waylay you on a long drive or while you’re crossing the street to go to the shop. You can’t just summon them up. Well, I can’t. Not much anyway.

Two things were dragged up onto the shore for the brief dredging.

The first is only a guess and it’s easy to see how this presented itself because it’s nearly Valentine’s Day.

I got a Valentine's Day card in the post when I was about fourteen. It showed a cartoon rabbit, not unlike that Cadbury Caramel one that Miriam Margolyes used to voice. On the inside, was written ‘You’re my Hunny Bunny’. It’s not enough to say I’d never had a Valentine card before, I’d never had a single expectation or possibility of a Valentine card. This one boosted me up and made me feel like a player, a lad, a member of the human race. I spent far too much time dreaming about who it was out there who viewed me as a ‘Hunny Bunny.’ It did me a power of good.

It’s funny how time makes us view things differently. In the year I got the Valentine, I walked tall. Somebody thought something of me. In subsequent years, I became convinced that it was actually Mum who sent it to me, though nobody ever said anything. The writing was just too sophisticated for someone who might fancy me at fourteen. The card became a thing of embarrassment, never to be thought about or dreamed about again. But, as I said a few sentences ago, it’s funny how time makes us view things differently. Now, as my dredger hauls this snippet up gasping on the sand, I am quite delighted at the thought that Mum might have gone to this trouble for me. To write me a Valentine, for God's sake. Wasn't it nice? 

Time is funny.

The second memory that came up, riding on the back of the Valentine one, was about a little falling-out we had and what it might have meant.

When ‘Jaws’ came to Sligo, I went to see it with great excitement and it became a defining moment in my cinema-going life. This is already well-documented in these pages. What is not so extensively written down is how, in week two of its showing, I went for a second time. It was unusual for any film to last longer than a week in The Gaiety in Sligo. I remember ‘Where Eagles Dare’ did it, and they also started it late because there was a Jesuit Mission on in the Cathedral in the same fortnight. Kramer V Kramer did it too, but that was up in the Savoy.

But I digress.

When I went to ‘Jaws’ again in the second week, I went with my friend Padraig Conlon and his sister, whose name I can’t recall. Not Jennifer, she was too young. I was looking forward to going, I wanted to enjoy the film and also enjoy their first experience of it. I wanted to see how they jumped when the head came out of the boat.

But Mum wasn’t pleased.

“Where are you going?”


“To see what?”


“You saw it last week.

“I know. I want to see it again.”

I went. But Mum wasn’t pleased.

That’s the end of the story. Except it isn’t, really. It’s the footnote that adds the seasoning.

Years later, Mum would, from time to time, reveal things about Dad as a young man. Nothing immense. Just things that would pop up in random conversation. Valuable snippets though. Anything that gives us a flavour of our parents as young people is a treasure in itself. Like the time she told me that Dad sat up all night at the Boat House at the end of the Back Avenue on the night before he got married. That’s good, isn’t it?

The relevant snippet concerns my dad’s penchant for going to see movies twice. It was revealed, many years after the fortnight in 1975 when Jaws arrived, that Dad had gone to see the African Queen in the Gaiety for five nights in a row in the week that it played there. 

Five nights.

That says something to me, though I don’t quite know what it is. It says something about the annoying traits of the father alarmingly starting to turn up in the son.

It says something about how that mixture of annoyance, alarm, and inexplicable pride is part of the key to the mystery of what Family is.

1 comment:

Jim Murdoch said...

I honestly don't remember sending or getting my first Valentine's Day card. I doubt it was at school although Morven McKee did once thrust a clearly-hasity-wrapped gift into my hand once containing a pencil, a ruler and a rubber which, although not particularly romantic, showed she at least had the cut of my jib. Idiot that I was, and often still am in matters of the heart, I failed to reciprocate or even respond and nothing more came of it. As an adult I only didn't do my duty once and was reminded sternly that Valentine's Day was a "holy day of obligation" and I've never forgotten since, in fact I often have a spare card in a drawer just to make sure; same with anniversaries.

I can only recall going to the pictures to see a film I'd already seen once. The film in question was, of all things, The Hitcher, the Rutger Hauer version. The second time was with my sister who hated it and walked out which is the only time I've ever done that although what I remember most about the evening was the drive home and my sister being inappropriate (don't ask; no, seriously, don't ask) with a sausage supper which was not typical of her.