Tag Archives: story

The Fooleries of Fairview

When anyone asks how long I’ve lived in Dublin, I automatically respond, “six years”. I forget it’s actually ten.

I’ve lived mostly on the Northside of Dublin except in third year of college, when I lived in Crumlin, which let’s face it, may as well be the Northside.

A couple of weeks ago, Johanne collected me from the City Centre to drive me to her place for a chilled out evening. En route to her apartment in Clontarf we passed through Fairview. Fairview might not be the most pleasant place in Dublin, but I retain a fondness for it, having lived there for two years during my college years. I liked Fairview for the fact I could walk into town in twenty minutes. The rent was relatively cheaper than City Centre. As a student it suited me.

Despite the fact Best-Friend and I routinely swore/swear not to live together, we have shared (and continue to share) flats and apartments. Fairview was one such location for our shared home. Our first place in Fairview was miniscule; there wasn’t room to swing a kitten. Despite this, I have great memories of Best-Friend and I sitting up until the wee hours, chatting and watching music channels. We were happy in our hovel. During my car journey with Johanne, as her car took a de tour down memory lane, I experienced a flashback that reminded me of the splendorous flat in Fairview.

The story centres on a bar of chocolate. For some reason any time Best-Friend and I live together there is always an abundance of chocolate. Best-Friend tended to buy large bars of Lindt when he returned from his travels. It was a good relationship we had; he bought chocolate and I ate it.

One evening we happened to meet one another at the door to the flat. I returned from my evening shift at the cinema. He had just finished college. I went straight to my room to throw my coat and excess clothing on the floor in my usual haphazard manner. I entered the living room to find an irked Best-Friend.

“Why did you eat the chocolate? I was going to give that to Johanne.”

His sharpness caught me off guard. “I didn’t eat the chocolate.” Or did I? I thought. With two steps I was half way across the tiny living room, next to the table where he stood.

“Look at the corners of the chocolate,” he said, pointing to the large bar of Lindt.

The chocolate bar sat in the centre of the table, presented in a fashion that made it ready for the filming of an advertisement. However, the scene was not picture perfect. The foil at two corners of the bar was torn. Small chunks were removed. Crumbs were scattered around the crime scene.

I examined the scene. “So …,” I said, “you think if I were to eat your chocolate, I would chew on the corners of your bar and hope you didn’t notice?”

Best-Friend did not respond. He knew I was going somewhere.

“And if I were to chew on the corners of your bar, do you think I would leave small shits on the table too?”

“Shit? What are you talking about? There’s no shit! ” He was most dismissive of me.

“Look!” I pointed to the small black dots that happened not to be chocolate. “That is mouse shit. We have a mouse. That is unless you think I went to an elaborate plan to dupe you out of the corners of your chocolate and sprinkled mouse shit on the table.”

“Oh right. Sorry.”

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Never Meet your Heroes

Over Christmas, Fiona invited me to her home for a gathering of friends and family. The evening was relaxed. Red wine flowed. By around eight o’clock, the attendants formed small pockets in the various rooms on the ground floor. A group of us intimately huddled on sofas in a quiet corner next to the Christmas tree, discussing subjects that varied from water shortages to previous relationships. During the course of the evening, I attentively received a story. I will attempt the tale as confidently told by Naidi. Please forgive inaccuracies, lack of detail and embellishments in certain areas.

“My friend completed a masters in some college in the UK, maybe about twenty years ago. One of her professors, an eccentric lady in her fifties, had a PhD in women’s’ rights or something like that. Despite the professor’s age, she remained unmarried, spending most of her life campaigning for women’s rights in the workplace. The female students of the college loved her.” Naidi lifted her goblet-like glass and sipped her red wine.

“Following a lecture with this professor, my friend remained behind in the lecture hall. She loitered, while other students vacated the room. She nervously approached the revered professor, who sat at a large, oak desk, packing papers and books into a satchel. For a number of weeks, she had wanted to speak with the professor. She drew breath and put the question to her. ‘Looking back on your life, if you could give a young woman one piece of advice what would it be?’ The professor remained seated, consumed in thought, while my friend stood. ‘My advice to a young woman of today is to always moisturise your neck and chest.’”

Naidi shook her head. “My friend was furious. This professor, who was held in high esteem for her research and efforts on women’s rights, could only offer advice on skin care régime. My friend expected so much more from that answer. Needless to say, she was disappointed and lost all respect for the professor.”

The story was momentarily interrupted by a discussion between Naidi and Fiona on the benefits of moisturising one’s neck and chest. Naidi finished the story.

“My friend, who is now in her late forties, told me this story last year, twenty years on from the completion of her masters. I decided to ask the same question of her. ‘Considering the advice of the professor that enraged you, and hindsight on your life, if you were asked the same question, what wisdom you would impart for a young woman today?’”

“‘If I could give advice to a girl today’, my friend said, ‘it would be to always moisturise your neck and chest.’”

Some Just Can’t Say “Good Bye”

I can be dreadfully intolerant of other people’s differences. However, time has taught me tolerance and lessons. There was a moment in canteen last week, when I was able to impart wisdom to a colleague. Colleague complained that a co-worker left our work place for the last time, without giving a proper good bye. I regaled her with a story:

“I once moved in with a friend. We lived together for almost a year. We weren’t the best of mates, but we were close. Circumstances changed for her and she moved to London, intending to rent her house to me and other tenants.”

“I remember the day she was due to move out. It was a week day and she was up earlier than I. I was about to leave for work and remember noticing how little of her belongings were packed. She complained about how much work she had to do. ‘You’ll be fine,’ I comforted her. She said she would see me later that evening. I did not say good bye.”

“I purposely came home straight after work to catch her before she left. Approaching the house from the driveway, it was obvious there was no one home. I turned on the lights and realised how stark the house was with my housemate’s belongings. All her personal effects were gone.”

“It was a little upsetting. I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t make the time to give a proper good bye. Everywhere I looked, I noticed absent items; photos, paintings, books and ornaments. I did my best not to get upset.”

“Weeks later, I told my friend  Angela of the events. ‘Why could she not even make the time to say goodbye?’ I asked her. ‘We lived together for a year. I find it upsetting’.”

“’Sweetie,’ said Angela. ‘Some people just can’t say good bye’”

“My friend left Ireland a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been in situations when this experience has proven valuable.”

“Some people just can’t say ‘good bye’.”

I’m coming out …

My first day of college was daunting; I did not know a soul. Luckily, day one of college involved what can only be termed an “integration exercise” to facilitate students’ getting to know one another. My “integration group” consisted of ten people. Everyone took part in tasks such as learning one another’s name using association games. Hours later we were blind folded and touching one another (often inappropriately), trying to guess the identity of the misfortunate subject. At the start of the day I knew no one. Hours later, I knew the name of my entire group. I even knew some random information about them.

At the end of our get-to-know-each-other-day we hit the pub. By three in the afternoon I was sitting the Hill 16 on Gardiner Street with my group, making banter over a pint of Bud. This was my first day of college. I hoped everyday thereafter would be the same as that day. As the hours creeped in, the numbers dwindled. Eventually, I was left with two red heads – Aoife and Fiona. This was the day I met Fiona, the girl I am good friends with to this very day.

Fiona has been a great friend over the years. We have never lived in one another’s pockets, but always made time for one another throughout college and our working lives. If one of us was blue, the other listened. We have had seriously funny moments in the past and will continue to do so long into the future. Fiona moved to Australia last year. I spoke to her by phone for the first time in a year on Sunday night. Although the line was bad, it was nice to hear from her. I have been thinking of her a lot since then.

She and I often make reference to the time I came out to her. This was around the end of my first academic year. I had worked through countless issues with my sexuality and was gradually revealing myself to one and all. Fiona was someone I wished to tell. The moment came late one night when Fiona and I were on the Mystery Tour*. We had been drinking almost ten hours at this stage. Booze always made the task lof coming out seem less daunting.

Fiona sat at a table with some students from my class. I shimmied in next to her. We attempted conversation over the loud music that blared through Rockin’ Robins, Carrick on Shannon. I stooped as close to her as I could without disturbing her friends.

“Fiona, I have something important to tell you?” I shouted into her ear.

“What, Steve?” Fiona clearly struggled to hear me over the music. She leaned forward, almost falling off her stool.

“I have something to tell you!”

“What?”

“I need to tell you something you probably already know. It’s important for our friendship that I tell you for the sake of it”

Fiona leaned away from me. She looked down and placed her hands on her lap as if contemplating something. “I think I know what you are going to say, Steve.”

“You do?” I asked. I was elated she would make this easier on me.

“I’ve known for a while. I have been meaning to talk to you. I know how you feel and I can honestly say I just don’t feel the same.” She looked at me sympathetically.

Shock coursed through me. “Eh, I’m gay.”

“You’re gay?” she asked in surprise.

“Yes, gay.”

Alcohol deleted my remembrance of her reaction to this news. Since I know Fiona well, I imagine she laughed uncontrollably in the incredibly contagious way she does. She probably even banged the table in front of her.

This was been a defining time in our friendship. I even laugh away to myself as I recall it. When we are alone, and I suggest we do something, Fiona will often respond by saying “sorry Steve, but I just don’t feel the same”. It never fails to induce laughter.

I miss you babe. Look after yourself.

*The Mystery Tour involved setting out around 11AM with the intention of visiting three mystery nightclubs over about fourteen hours. The freakiest moment was dancing in a nightclub in Enfield at 3PM in the afternoon. Some windows had been blacked out with bin liners. We finished up in Rockin’ Robins in Carrick on Shannon. I remember getting home at 6AM the next day. It probably took me a week to recover.

My New Outlet via a Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

College was probably one of the favourite periods of my life. I loved it because it was very social. I knew so many people. There was always someone with whom I could laugh. Most students were from “down the country” as Dubliners referred to it. We country mice used college as a hang out as opposed to a place of learning. Monday to Friday entailed twenty hours of lectures. The rest of our time was spent messing. My college pals and I passed our time in the students union; binging on piles of junk food; talking about sex (and getting none); and sharing information on the guys we fancied (and borderline stalked). The craic was plentiful.

The students from Dublin treated college like a part-time job. They never arrived early and left as soon as lectures ended. Some were uninterested in making friends. They reserved themselves to chit chat before a lecture. Evening outings were out of question for them unless it was one of the seldom functions scattered on the academic horizon. The Dublin students had no dependency on college as a social outlet; they had long-established friends from home. I never understood why anyone might not want more friends. You can never have too many in my opinion.

A year after college I had plenty of friends. Progressing time and increasing complexity of life caused the expanses of my college group to deplete. Time constraints limited the frequency we met. My fledging relationship (and newly discovered joys of sex) actively distracted me. As the years passed, I met with college friends less and less. I gradually realised we had little in common. Slowly the boundaries of my social world receded. Last year, my handful of close friends took a further hit when one went travelling, a second moved to London and another left Dublin.

It’s understandable why I miss the college days, but I sometimes wonder if the friendships back then were bonded out of naivety, pure necessity and circumstance. There we were at the age of eighteen, fresh faced, open minded and away from home for the first time of our lives. We intended having a good time and pretty much did. Today, when I meet my former, college classmates the conversation does not flow. The awkwardness usually subsides after a drink or two. Perhaps, those nonchalant students who lived in Dublin already knew this.

I am certainly not lonely at the moment. I have plenty of good friends. An interesting observation I made a few months ago is that my group of friends and Bestfriend’s friends are slowly merging. His close friend from college, Miss Polly, is now a good friend of mine. I know Miss Polly’s and her husband’s family. I view these expanding networks to be roots. My settling down has been slow and gradual. Overall, it’s a nice feeling. It’s solid. My current existence is probably the most permanent I’ve ever known. I realise I have a place in the world, but I still need to meet new people.

I can continually long for the college days when “a stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met”. Alternatively, I can do something. With the help of a friend, I located a Book Club based in Dublin. They are meeting 20th October and I intend joining them. It will be healthy for me to meet some strangers – or potential friends – or even just learn something new. Life is about exposure and I am missing certain outlets. I’ll read the book, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, attend the meeting and talk about the book with some strangers. It can’t be that hard, can it?

Fiesta Fiasco

I was home in Athlone last weekend. On Saturday morning, my brother, new born Jack and Jack’s Mum called out to the house. We sat around the kitchen, chatting over tea and biscuits. The conversation was plentiful. The atmosphere was relaxed.

“You’ll never guess what happened to me yesterday after work!” said Mum, holding back a laugh.

“What happened?” asked Bro, smiling.

“Last night, I left work around six o’clock. I left the building and walked towards my car. I stared at the back of the car; something was wrong. The registration plate was damaged. I got down behind the car and examined the number plate.”

“What happened to it?” I asked, naively thinking someone attempted stealing Mum’s registration plate.

“It had been pulled away from the car with force,” explained Mum. “I examined it closely and suddenly it dawned on me that this car registration was not mine. This car was three years older than mine. It wasn’t my car. I stood up and then noticed a woman sitting at the wheel of the car.”

We all laughed.

“I wonder what she thought you were doing inspecting her licence plate,” I said, giggling.

Laughter echoed throughout the kitchen. Mum was visibly embarrassed while recounting the tale.

“What did you do?” enquired Bro.

“Well, I went over to the driver’s side of the car. I tapped on the window. The woman lowered the window. I was very embarrassed. ‘Sorry,’ I said to the woman. ‘I have the exact same car in the same colour. I could have sworn this was my car’.”

The mental image of this scene was hilarious.

“What did the woman in the car say to you?”  I said, choking back laughter.

“She was understanding,” recalled Mum. “She said, ‘oh don’t worry about it. I spent almost ten minutes trying to get into your car.”

This sent us over the edge.

God bless my mother.

What Lurks Beneath

CNN recently publicised a list of the Most Annoying Facebook Users. I read through them and find myself guilty of one or two traits. I am definitely a “Lurker”. A hybrid, internet lurker is someone who observes more than contributes. Most Annoying Facebook Users describe Lurkers as overly cautious and perhaps too lazy to post; they prefer to remain in the background and observe. In my case this is not true. I’ll take a good snoop at someone’s Bebo/Facebook profile. I’ll even let the owner know.

A social creature like me regularly meets people at weddings, nights out, house parties etc. I or the newly established acquirer of acquaintance-status might link up on Facebook. Do you think the person – who doesn’t really know me all that well – would be creeped to know I’m likely to look at their photos? I will investigate who they are friends with and have a general snoop around. Generally, there’s nothing interesting, but now and again I come across the occasional gem.

When I reveal this to friends they seldom believe it. They probably doubt I concern myself with anyone but me. Despite the fact the world revolves around me, I do pay attention to other people. Some evenings I sit at home with the laptop in the living room. Boyfriend watches TV and donates a minimal fraction of his concentration span to me. I make a point of interrupting. I turn the laptop screen to face him.

“Wow. Doesn’t Jason look really well?” I ask in surprise.

“Who is Jason?” he asks, momentarily turning from some non-descript documentary.

“He is Sarah’s Boyfriend’s friend’s brother that went to college with her. Hasn’t he lost so much weight?”

“Where did you meet him?”

“I met him in passing about five years ago.”

“Why are you snooping around his Facebook profile?”

“Why not? Does it matter? He looks very happy.”

Boyfriend turns back to the television. He sighs dismissively. I turn the laptop screen back to face me.

“Look who Brian is going out with!”

Boyfriend closes his eyes, calling to God for patience. He knows what follows.

“You know many Brians. What Brian?”

“Sean’s friend Bryan with a Y. We met him at that birthday party a few years ago.”

“OK. Who is Bryan-with-a-Y dating?”

“He is going out with Declan. Look!” I clicked the mouse to show him some more photos.

“Who is Declan?”

“I met Declan in a takeaway at about 3.30AM after a night in the Dragon sometime last year. He works for a magazine and writes a male-beauty column. I would never have put the two of them together. They look good.”

“Do you realise how creepy it is that you know about these people you’ve only met once?”

“Excuse me for taking an interest!”

With that I did not share any more of the information I gleaned from Facebook that evening, but for one or two funny remarks some of his colleagues had posted over the course of the week.

My Lurker-behaviour was not recently acquired. I’ve been doing it for a while. Friends and I have used it to investigate exes and snoop on friends with whom we had issues. Eons ago, when I was on Bebo, we called this “Bebo Stalking”. I recall one day when a particular friend wanted to show me her Boyfriend’s ex.

“It will take a minute or two to get to her profile page. Bear with me!” she said over the phone one slow afternoon in work.

I responded to her orders. She took a deep breath.

“Go to Jane’s profile” my friend directed me. “Click on her friend Sarah’s profile picture. Do you see the most recent comment on her page? Click on the poster of that comment. Now go to number two friend on the list. That’s her there. Take a look at her in her wedding photos. The state of her! Can you believe she of all people spoke to me like that at the party?”

Do Boyfriend and the rest of the world not realise there are individuals worse than I that Lurk beneath the surface. Lurkers scroll the internet for hours absorbing every piece of text on the public domain. Chances are I will forget an internet titbit unless it is a meaty one, but there are other people that store everything up there. You probably even personally know a Lurker. Next time you post a status update or comment on an unfortunate photo you’ve been tagged in, take a moment to note that I and many others are probably watching too.

Like Mother Like Son

It’s been a little while since I posted a funny, nostalgic blog. I hope readers enjoy these as much as I love writing them. I love telling stories. I love nostalgia; I frequently reminisce on times passed with Boyfriend and friends. Most times I do not intend for a story to be funny. I might happen to share a tale and am surprised when a certain story evokes a guttural laugh. This type of reaction prompts me to consider posting it right here on my own corner of the interweb. On Tuesday, I told one such story to Boyfriend. This particular story involves the incredible woman who is my mother. 

My mother celebrated her sixtieth last week. To look at her you would estimate she was fifty. She possesses a young spirit and amazing sense of humour. She and I are very close, but often clash due to uncanny similarities in our personality. Like me, Mum can be incredibly scattered in her thoughts. I rarely see this trait in myself, but Boyfriend frequently identifies it for me. I tend to re-enact incidents from my mother’s past. Like mother like son, hey? This story involves one such occasion when Mum’s scatty nature questioned my level of patience.

The story is set on one dull, typically overcast, wet Saturday in the Midlands of Ireland. Heavy sheets of rain fell from the heavens intermittently. Mum and I quickly returned to the car following an hour of shopping in Tesco. We also spent an hour browsing the limited range of clothing stores in the shopping centre. At this stage, I couldn’t wait to get home. I was damp and my bones were cold. We scrambled to climb into the red, beat-up Nissan Micra. Mum momentarily fumbled with the keys before she got into the driver’s side. Once seated, she reached across to unlock the passenger door. I jumped in, quickly shut the door, fastened my seat belt and longed for a hot cup of tea on my arrival home.

Mum secured her seat belt with a click and placed the key in the ignition. The key turned and the car let out an awful, slurred moan. I know nothing about cars, but instantly knew the battery was dead. Mum tried again only to be answered by the same noise. She turned to me with shock smeared all over her face.

“I wonder what happened?” She was clearly shocked by the situation.

I thought this a stupid question since it was bloody obvious the battery was dead. I sharply informed her of this.

“How did that happen?” she pondered aloud, still unable to fathom why the battery might be dead.

“Something must have been left on in the car before we got out. The radio shouldn’t drain a battery of its juice, but this is an old car.” I checked the radio and it was off. “Check if you left the lights on.”

Mum looked around the steering wheel. “Oh,” I heard her mumble. “I left the lights on. What will we do?”

“Are you still covered by the same insurance company that provides break down assistance?”

“Yes,” she responded as if awaiting an insightful solution.

“Give break down assist a call. We’ll have to wait for them.”

In that shopping centre car park, on a dreary, wet day, Mum and I sat in the little red Nissan Micra barely talking to one another The windows were fogged with condensation from our breaths. We kept watch for someone who might resemble a mechanic. I was agitated. I did my best to not blame her for leaving the lights on, but I knew this wasn’t the first time she had done this in the last few months.

“Mum, do you mind me asking when you last left the car lights on?” I asked in a curious tone. “I think I recall something similar happening quite recently.” I examined Mum’s face for a reaction. She appeared too innocent for my liking.

“I did this about a year ago. I think it’s OK to make the same mistake once in a year, no?”

I still wasn’t convinced. I had a vague recollection of my brother telling me Mum was late to collect him one day because the car would not start. While laughing, he told me she had left the lights on. I couldn’t remember the exact time and place of this incident.

I put this recollection to Mum. “I think you’ve left your lights on a number of times in the last few months? If it has happened so many times, maybe you should make a strong effort to ensure the lights are off when you get out of the car.”

“Stephen,” she said sternly, while looking me in the eye. “This hasn’t happened for a year”.

We sat in silence for around twenty minutes or so before a tow-truck pulled up alongside the car.

“Your knight in shining armour has arrived,” I said mid sigh.

Mum waved to the man in the tow truck. She rolled down the window as he approached her side of the vehicle. The man was in his forties. He wore blue, oil stained overalls. He stood beside the Micra, clearly not bothered by the rain. He ducked slightly and aligned his line of vision with the window. A flash of recognition came across his face.

“Hi, Mary. How are you?” he asked. “When I heard it was a red Nissan Micra, I thought ‘it can’t possibly be Mary again’”.

Mum laughed sheepishly and glanced over at me. The gentleman turned for the tow-truck and removed jump leads, which he had left on the passenger side of his truck.

“Looks like you two are well acquainted,” I said.

Mum didn’t respond.