Friday, February 29, 2008

The Parents Who Won't Parent

I enjoy a drink. In fact, I enjoy several.
I have done so since I was... well, since I was a lot younger than I am now.
I have had some mighty fun with drink on board.
There was a time, it would have been unthinkable to go to a rugby international without a having a few pints first.
And as for club games, well, there was the joy of having a pint and watching the action out the window.
Drink has always featured at weekends. It features at christenings, funerals, weddings, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, divorces, house moves, new jobs, old jobs, new cars. Anything.
If you didn't already know, you know now that I am Irish.
And that's the way of it.

I'm not going to say there's no harm in it. There is of course harm in it. There is harm to the wallet and the liver. And very often to the job and to the family life.
But what this is about, is the fact that it has all gotten so much worse in recent years.
Of course, alcohol always fuelled violence to some extend.
The Irish have a reputation, at least partially deserved, for drinking and fighting.
It's a reputation that stems from the behaviour of the Irish who moved to America in the middle of the 19th century.
But though they fought hard and fought tough and it was a time when the shillelagh was anything but a tourist trinket, I can't imagine that screwdrivers or hammers or sawn off shotguns or hand guns were the weapons of thte day.
Somehow, it seems to me that fists were the number one choice.
I remember once, fifteen or twenty years ago, seeing two people who should have known better, going for each other. In a pub, of course.
One of them, a big lump of Scot both kicked and spat at his opponent. It was at that point, the onlookers called a halt to proceedings.
Kicking and spitting were not considered fair or gentlemanly.
Now, people are knocked to the ground and then kicked. One is attacked by ten. Those armed with knives and guns attack the unarmed. The young attack the old. Men attack women.
And it's fuelled by drink, drugs and greed. It's fuelled by the lack of an upbringing. It's fuelled by too much money to buy too much cheap booze. It's fuelled by too many places to buy booze. It's fuelled by an apparent lack of serious sanction if you're caught. It's fuelled by a justice system that's perceived to be worse than useless.
It has become the case, that many, many people stay away from the centre of our towns and cities for fear they will become victims of random violence.
There are calls for some kind of prohibition, or at least, a prohibition on the sale of below cost booze, a ban on the sale of booze in petrol stations, some kind of curtailment of the sale of spirits in convenience stores.
Too late.
If kids can get their hands on Class A drugs, a tray of beer or a bottle of vodka isn't going to present a problem.
Punishing the supplies of booze may have some effect.
Punishing the violent - not rehabilitating them, punishing them, may have some effect.
But until parents start parenting, until the mothers and fathers of the problem teens take responsibility or have it forced on them, nothing will change.
And more will be attacked and killed.
Ireland, 2008.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm Not Built For Being Alone

There are people I know who love being alone.
In fact, I think I used to be one of them.
But far from wanting more solitude as I grow older, I find that I cannot abide being alone.
And, right now, that's how I am.
Charlotte and her mother have gone off to the Canaries for the week.
Seven women of whom Charlotte is the youngest and Connie the second youngest!
The child wasn't well last week. "Creche-itis" the doctor said.
She picked up a bug and developed a cough and the result was that everything that went down came back up for a few days.
To top it all, the flight to the Canaries was at 8 am so the check in was at 6 am and the wake-up call was at 4.30 am. Try explaining that to a 23 month old.

We, the grown-ups, were hoping for four-and-a-half hours sleep.
Charlotte didn't agree.
And so she roared from midnight until after two.
Then she had the nerve not to be pleased when we woke her at 5 am and brought her, in her jim-jams to a crowded airport.
Anyway, off they went.
I went to the match.
And now, I'm at home, fed up.
Yes, I can lie on in the morning, not having a pretty little alarm clock that goes off any time between 6 am and 8 am and demands to get into the bed beside us.
No, I don't have to listen to Iggle Piggle all day.
No, I don't have to read the same bit of the same book 47 times in a row.
No, I don't have to change dirty nappies.
No, I don't have to dream up ways of entertaining an almost two-year-old.
But I wish I had to.
The house is completely empty without them.
Going out isn't the answer. Because it involves coming back in when there's nobody there.
How hard is life for people who have nobody? How cruel are we all for not doing anything for the lonely.
Because lonliness is as bad as any disease and worse than most.
And the thing is, it can be cured easily in just a few minutes with just a few words and, mainly, a bit of listening.
At least I have mutty, Eric the dog.
He misses them too. He's a bit mopey. But he still enjoys going for a walk and making me use the Pooper Scooper.
For me, though, going to bed is the worst.
No little angel to look in on before going to sleep.
No little cries in the middle of the night.
No pure joy in the morning when she wakes up.
Can't wait for them to come home.
I'm counting the days.
Tell the truth.
OK. I'm counting the minutes.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm Not Actually Moving House but...

I’ve been busy.
We’re moving house.
Strange phrase that. Because we’re not, obviously, moving the house. It’s staying where it’s been for the past 100 years or so. We’re actually moving to a new house. But you knew that.
We’re moving house if we can sell the one we’re in.
And that’s the problem.
Because to sell the one we’re in, we have to a) hire an estate agent and b) let complete strangers wander about our home.
Of course, the place has to be clean and tidy. Clean’s not a problem. It’s always clean.

Tidy, well, you see there are two children in the house, Charlotte aged 1 5/6th and me aged 54 1/2.
And there’s the dog, Eric.
Estate agents have favourite words, they would probably call them ‘key’ words, but they use them all the time, so they’re ‘favourite’ words as far as I’m concerned.
Top of the list is ‘de-clutter.’
De-cluttering means putting in inaccessible places things you normally like to have at hand.
This includes things you never use, haven’t seen in an age and/or thought you had put in that skip last year.
De-cluttering has resulted in the beams of our attic being put under enormous strain.
Because in addition to several hundred (it felt like that) pairs of shoes, mostly mine I’m ashamed to say, Christmas and Hallowe’en decorations, parts of a wardrobe, clothes, DIY stuff (not mine), gardening stuff and the like, we had to accommodate the baby’s toys.
Easier said than done.
Because every day, Charlotte has a new favourite.
I lie.
Every ten minutes, Charlotte has a new favourite.
And so putting in the attic, as we did, the green dinosaur rocking, er, dinosaur, the big purply thing, the noisy organ yoke (there are upsides) and lots more, is risky.
Eric is a bit put out. That’s not true either. He’s completely put out. Because put out is exactly what happens to him when we’re cleaning.
And he likes being inside.
Dogs, as you are aware, aren’t toilet trained.
And they grey slabs which make up the bulk of our tiny garden, are stained with Eric’s efforts over the years.
So, for the first time in my life, I had to wash the garden.
Yes indeed, it is possible to wash a garden.
When all is done and dusted (and polished) we then wait for the estate agent to arrive, unable to sit on a couch for fear of disturbing the cushions, unable to make a cup of tea for fear of leaving a ring-stain on the counter, unable to use the toilet for fear of… Well. Just for fear.
And then in traipse people who will undoubtedly criticise our home, say it’s over priced, say they don’t like it and move on to do the same to someone else’s.
I mean, how many of the people who view ‘for sale’ houses, are actually in the market, do you think?
Personally, I believe the vast bulk to be nosey parkers.
It’s tiring. And I’m tired.
I would really love to just pack a case and go off to the sun for a holiday.
Strange phrase that.
Because I don’t actually want to go the the sun… But you knew that.
Isn’t that more or less where you came in?

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Blacks, Irish But No Dogs

I heard a woman on the radio the other day.
She said - half in jest, wholly in earnest - that dogs should be banned.
She didn't like dogs.
And it wasn't just dogs that fouled the footpath or the grass in the park.
She didn't like dogs full stop.
Well, I don't like her.
There is an enormous anti-dog lobby abroad - and, for those who don't get the 'abroad' thing, there's one at home as well.

Most parks are closed to dogs most of the time.
And by 'closed' I mean you are not permitted to let them off their leads.
Oh, if you get up early in the morning, you can let them off their leads for a few moments.
And that's not something you're permitted to do on many Irish beaches.
Except in winter.
Now, Irish beaches are bad enough in summer. You know. Empty, cold, rainy, windy, unpleasant.
And they're worse in winter.
Only a fool would walk a dog on an Irish beach on most winter days.
Or someone like the woman I heard on the radio. Someone who hates dogs.
Dogs need exercise. That's a simple fact.
The bigger the dog, the most exercise they need.
But in today's Ireland, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find somewhere to exercise a dog without breaking the law.
Don't get me wrong.
Every time I have to use my pooper scooper (only the Yanks could come up with a name like that for, well, for a thing that does what a pooper scooper does. Then, it was the Yanks who decided to call the toilet the "rest room," the result of which is that Americans are reluctant to tell anyone they're 'going for a rest,")...
...where was I?
Oh yes. Every time I use the pooper scooper I almost throw up. They're revolting machines. Hideous.
But the law is the law.
And I don't have a problem cleaning up after Eric.
Eric is our dog. That's him up there.
He's a big, white Samoyed.
And like big, white Samoyeds, and virtually every breed of dog on the planet, least the ones I've heard of, he has to do what he has to do.
And I has to clean it up.
And I do.
And still people look at you. Still people thing you've done something wrong or, worse still, the unfortunate mutt has.
I don't get it.
They're only animals.
I mean, do these people want to ban birds too?
And what about sheep and cows and ducks and geese and, come to think of it, bees and butterflies and fish and all other creatures who involuntarily do what dogs get into so much trouble for doing.
(I wouldn't necessarily ban cats for doing what it is all animals do. It would be for an utterly different reason altogether.)
I know a place in Dublin where you can bring dogs and there are no rules, no laws, no regulations to stop you.
It's a big place. It's a large, green area near water.
And you can bring your dog whenever you like.
Where is it?
Not telling.

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