25/05/2018

Today I am 11,595 miles from home and for the first time in almost 7 years, it feels like it.

I don’t normally get homesick, because I bring home with me wherever I go.

No, I don’t just mean teabags and Tayto. I mean that feeling of home. The sense of belonging to something bigger than me. The respect for my country and its people, for our achievements and contributions to the world. The inimitable song that plays on my heartstrings when I see the golden harp on my passport. I couldn’t begin to describe how it goes, but I dance to that beat every day, as do millions of others who call the Emerald Isle home.

Yes, for a small nation, we are a great one and I am so proud to be Irish.

But what does it even mean to be Irish, if I can’t be there today? Even if I had had the means to travel home in time for this referendum, it just so happens that I have now been living away for so long that I’m no longer eligible to vote.

So here I sit, thousands of miles away from home, on a monumental day for Ireland. Powerless. Unable to do my part to help the women of my beloved country. Weeping for all those who have suffered because of the 8th, as well as for myself, as I struggle through an identity crisis that I hadn’t truly considered until today; without a vote at home, without a vote in the country I’m currently living in – my voice simply does not count. Anywhere in the world. Today I am nobody. An outsider for what feels like the first time, but I’m sure won’t be the last. To make matters worse, this is all my own doing.

I have never before regretted my decision to leave Ireland, but today it has hit me like a tonne of bricks that I have bought my own tickets to this no mans land. It does seem somewhat ironic, that today I am flooded with feelings of guilt and shame for deciding to leave home and go travelling, when so many women have had no choice but to travel under the weight of those same feelings. When the people who should really be feeling those things are those who let this happen in the first place, those who let it continue for so long.

Today over 3 million people have the opportunity to vote for the future of women in Ireland. I sincerely hope that each and every one of them gets up off their arse to do so.

Unfortunately I can’t be one of them.

Today I am 11,595 miles from home, but it may as well be a million.

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Baggy the Bard #7: The Queen of 68

To O, M and baby L. This one’s in memory of your Great Granny, my Granny Teazy. I can’t be sure that my recollections of her stories as I’ve retold them here are 100% accurate or factual, but I hope this poem gives you a bit of a feel for who she was – a really special individual.

 

The Queen of 68 

The memories are warm and soft, 

as was her coat of mink. 

Rive Gauche and Silk Cut Purple waft 

and back in time I sink. 

 

I’m sitting on the step where once 

her kitchen used to stop. 

Full of my own importance 

for she’s given me a job. 

Carefully I mash the spuds 

while mixing in the cream. 

She supervises from above, 

we make the perfect team. 

 

We play some makeshift pitch and putt 

round holes in her back yard. 

The flags have lost their numbers but 

I know the route by heart. 

With helicopters floating 

from the giant Sycamore, 

‘Hole in one!’ I’m gloating, 

though we never do keep score. 

 

Back inside for cups of cha, 

with Fingers from the tin. 

She sits with a ‘Hachachacha’, 

and I can’t help but grin. 

I spy the painting of the sea, 

that’s hanging in the hall. 

‘To view it best,’ she tells me 

‘use the mirror on the wall.’ 

 

Instead I use the handheld one 

that she keeps up the stairs. 

I check for notes from cousins 

in the hiding spot up there. 

I come back down to listen to 

the poems she recites. 

In awe of all she’s written, 

they inspire me to write. 

 

She tells me tales at every chance 

Like how she stole some plums 

and hid them in her underpants 

’til wasps had stung her bum. 

Like how her teacher thought she’d peeked 

during her music test, 

but she had perfect pitch you see, 

to that she did attest. 

 

She tells me more as we sit down 

to watch Fifteen to One. 

I get the Simplex crossword out, 

she’s got the Cryptic done. 

 

She tells me how at twenty-one 

she swapped her teeth for dentures. 

She talks about when she was young 

as well as newer ventures. 

Like how she used to move the cows 

for warm spots in the grass. 

Like which priest is her favourite now 

for speeding through the Mass. 

 

Like how Fran learned you best not judge 

bananas by their cover, 

She wanted yellow, wouldn’t budge, 

the black she gave her brother. 

Though not so long-lived was her win 

for when she peeled her prize, 

the flesh was black beneath the skin 

and his yellow inside. 

 

I’ve heard them all before but then, 

it brings her so much joy, 

to tell these stories once again 

and sing me Danny Boy. 

 

Yet soon enough there comes a day 

I long to hear that song. 

She’s not been singing much of late,  

she’s really getting on. 

She’s swapped her mess of pottage 

for some cans of Ensure plus 

There’s much she has forgotten, 

does she still remember us? 

 

Just when I think that hope is lost 

she finds a way to place me. 

A long forgotten 10 Across 

becomes her way to name me. 

The clue I can’t remember, 

but she sees it in my face. 

It’s (1,4,2,4) letters 

and they spell ‘I rest my case’. 

 

Even through those times when her 

beloved words escaped her, 

She had an air, a manner 

one cannot describe on paper. 

She truly was one of a kind, 

the Queen of 68, 

there aren’t sufficient words I’ll find 

to tell you just how great. 

 

And even though the words fall short, 

she’d still be proud I think. 

So let the Jameson flow forth 

and it’s to her we’ll drink. 

Baggy the Bard #6: Shudder to Think

Here’s a poem I’ve written about how important I think it is to step back and be conscious of the choices you make. Which choices have you made because they are true to your own core values? Which pathways have you taken without making a choice at all, but by blindly following everyone around you, doing what other people say you ‘should’?

 

Shudder to Think

Some lessons are drummed into us before we’re very old

Like sharing, minding manners, playing nice,

But all too soon we’re limited by doing as we’re told,

Unquestioningly following advice.

Other lessons we pick up from family and friends,

From TV, books and movies, even songs.

We swallow them and follow them before we comprehend

we didn’t even choose this path we’re on.

Then as we grow older rights and wrongs begin to blur,

Lines are fuzzier and easier to cross.

There comes a moment when we’d like to meet the him or her

who drew these lines and made themselves the boss.

Who are They to tell us what we really ought to do

in work, or love, or any side of life?

Who dictates what’s normal and in turn what is taboo

and why are Their opinions running rife?

Why have we accepted Their idea of success,

this faceless mob who think they’re so entitled?

Making rules for everyone, insisting They know best

til each and every other voice is stifled.

And how’s it working out for Them, these Should-ers in the fray?

What has normal helped Them to achieve?

And what says it about us if we let Them lead the way,

not choosing for ourselves what to believe?

It seems to me that Should-ers do us all a great disservice

by dressing up their fears as sage advice.

It’s up to us to find the good, unmask the parts that serve us,

not dignify the rest by thinking twice.

So sit up and take notice if you’re in a normal box,

Ask yourself which walls you helped to build.

Do you think it matters if you’re wearing two odd socks?

Do you need that job to feel fulfilled?

Do you want that outfit just to look like all the others?

Do you crave Their version of true love?

Do you long to solider on, conforming to the Should-ers?

Or do you feel a need to rise above?

Know that it’s ok for us to play a different game,

To sift and sort and think about the why,

Removing all the guilt and all unnecessary shame,

Be brave enough to give new things a try.

The people who’ve made history in all the years before us

have not been people following the crowd,

They are the ones who’ve broken free out of the zombie chorus

and had the guts to speak their truths aloud.

Maybe your ideas will be ones They haven’t heard,

Maybe They won’t ever understand,

but different doesn’t mean your way is any more absurd

than living life how someone else has planned.

So challenge what you value and what rules you want to keep,

Or even write your own to see what works,

But better do it consciously, not walking in your sleep,

For that is where the Should-ers often lurk.

Keep in mind that when you find whatever works for you,

that doesn’t mean it works for someone else.

Be careful not to preach it and become a Should-er too,

We each need only answer to ourself.

Baggy the Bard #5: Silkburn

Today’s poem has been inspired by the red raw burns under my arms from aerial silks class this week. They are eye-watering-ly stingy, but I am strangely proud of them.

 

Silkburn

It takes one of a certain ilk

to master these aerial silks,

to climb up high

and swing and tuck

and let yourself fall downside-up.

To be successful one must have:

Some steely arms and stony abs

and not an ounce of fear or doubt,

as sweat drips out of every pore

to keep your backside off the floor.

Although with every passing week

my muscles groan and bones they creak,

these little niggles won’t deter me,

nor the bruises and the burns,

for those are badges that I’ve earned.

Every week I’ll learn a move

And this is how I will improve:

Bit by bit,

However small,

I’ll know I’ve given it my all.

My best is all that I can try

so even if I never fly

around the room

on silken wings

I’ve tried and that’s the greatest thing.

 

Trying something new… and hanging in there!

I’ve recently started going to aerial silks classes (and before you ask, YES this is 100% because of how much I want to run away and join the circus after seeing The Greatest Showman) and today I thought I’d write a post about it. This way you guys can follow how I’m getting on with trying something new and more importantly I’ll feel a certain amount of accountability now that I’ve told you all I’m doing it.

It’s hard!

Like, frustratingly hard. Especially when the other people in the class who have been doing it for yonks make it look so easy! Luckily it is also a lot of fun, so I’m not giving up just yet.

The picture above is from my very first class – not too shabby for a first attempt at hanging upside down eh? I was pretty proud of myself that day.  I learned how to climb up the silks by wrapping them round my feet and I practised tipping myself backwards into that oh-so-graceful pose you can see in the photo and I was feeling so pumped after that first class. I figured I’d be up there swinging about and doing all the fancy routines in no time. It was so much fun and I realised I had much better balance than I thought I had, which was nice.

What was a little bit less nice was realising what I didn’t have; any upper body strength whatsoever! Nothing like trying to heft your own body weight up a piece of silk dangling out of the rafters to figure that one out. By the end of the class my arms were aching and as we stretched out our forearm muscles (that I didn’t even know were a thing before) I was in equal measures shocked at the pain and determined to get stronger.

The next week I went along really excited to improve on what I’d learnt in my first class. I’d squeezed in a couple of gym sessions during the week to try and work on my arms and that actually helped heaps more than I imagined it would. I was climbing up a lot easier and I was even able to hold myself up there long enough for the teacher to show me some new moves. My favourite one that she showed me was the crucifix – a move where you tip yourself upside down, hook your feet around the silks, cross the free lengths of silk behind your back, let your feet go and then tip yourself back upright with your arms spread wide (crucifix-style) to catch yourself. (Aaaaand if you want to have an idea of how it’s supposed to look you can check out this video that I found on youtube of someone else doing it. Disclaimer: I’m not brave enough to try it that high up yet!)

I almost had it. So I tried it again… and I almost had it again. I could get upside down and wrap the silks around me now, no problem, but I couldn’t land it properly! My arms kept falling by my sides so there was nothing there to catch me when I tipped myself back upright, which meant I kind of just kept falling in a bit of a heap at the end. Thank goodness for the big squishy mat underneath me.

By the third week, I was kind of second guessing whether or not this was for me, or whether I could be bothered going back. It had been really exciting and fun the first week but my frustration at not landing the crucifix the second week made me wonder if I should just give up and leave it to the pros. The others in the class had probably been at it so long and were so good at it, it would take me forever to get to their level anyway so what was the point in trying if I’d end up feeling like a failure every week, comparing myself to them.

Then I remembered that I had been running late for class that second week and hadn’t had time to go to the ATM to get cash for class, so the teacher had let me off til next time. I had no choice but to go back a third time to at least settle my debt and since I’d be there anyway I thought I may as well stay and give it one more go.

That was definitely the hardest week. Failed attempt after failed attempt at the crucifix was not doing anything for my motivation and neither was the other girl who was next to me in class that night and was silking rings around me. Climbing, spinning upside down, dropping from crazy heights, hanging from her feet, she could do all sorts. She was really good and I should have been inspired rather than put off, especially since she even tried to teach me a new move – the rapunzel, more on that one later – but I just wasn’t getting that one either. Still, this time at the end of class, I was happy that at least it had been a decent workout even if I wasn’t getting very far with the actual moves, so maybe it was alright. Maybe I should keep at it, just to stay active. Maybe it was alright to do something and not be instantly great at it. Maybe it’s okay to just be okay. Life tip #15: Challenge yourself by trying something new and hang in there til you’ve given it a proper chance (you’ll know when you know).

This Monday I made sure I already had the cash ready to go from the night before, so I wouldn’t be late, because if I was late I knew I would convince myself not to go at all. I wasn’t letting myself have any excuses this time. I’d decided I was sticking with it, I was going to class no matter what. I would get some exercise and (maybe) get a tiny bit better at this new skill and that would be good enough for now. So along I went, not expecting too much of myself, but instead looking forward to the fun parts. The swinging in the air and flipping yourself upside down that takes me back to the days of being a proper child. You know back at the age when you would climb things and jump off them, go tumbling around the place, swinging from branches, never giving a second thought to it and certainly never worrying about falling or getting hurt.

It turned out class was a lot more enjoyable once I had decided to focus on the fun stuff instead of making it my goal to perfectly execute the moves. This concept is something I’m still working on in almost every aspect of my life, because up until recently I’ve felt an overwhelming need to be perfect or to try and be the best at things. It’s so refreshing to be able to step back and enjoy the fun in something, just for the sake of it, without putting too much pressure on myself. So I think I’m going to make that Life tip #16: When you find something that you really enjoy, make sure to protect it from things like rules and comparisons and competitions – these things could suck the fun out of it.

As it happens, once I’d taken the pressure off myself I was able to manage the rapunzel and even the foot hang (I’ll snap some pics of these next week) and I even managed to nail the crucifix landing to raucous applause and cheers from my fellow classmates.

I may not be ready to run away with the circus just yet, but I’m certainly better at it than I was 4 weeks ago and more importantly, I’m having fun. Stay tuned for more silks updates as I progress… just don’t hold your breath coz it may be a while. And I’m okay with that.

 

Aunt B

xXx

 

 

Baggy the Bard #4: Paper Love

To Rob, on our first anniversary.

 

Paper love

It started in the paper with a crossword and some clues,

I nearly burst with joy when you said yes.

It wasn’t long from that day til we both said our ‘I do’s

in front of all our most beloved guests.

We signed a piece of paper then, to set it all in stone

and I became your wife right in that moment.

Little did you realise and little did I know

how paper might be such a huge component.

Paper tickets took us miles away upon a plane

only two days after the event.

Paper money gifted to us helped us pave our way,

else we would’ve been left without a cent.

Paper immigration forms gave us a brand new land,

a place to live out all our wildest dreams.

A paper lease allows us to live next to golden sands,

Yes when it comes to paper, we’ve got reams.

There’s paper in my diary that holds so many stories,

There’s paper in that drawer where all things go.

There’s paper in the music and the scripts I’ve been exploring,

It’s even in the loo roll, don’t you know.

There’s paper in the books that line the road to your degree,

There’s paper for this poem that I’m writing.

Our paper year has filled my heart with love for you and me,

A love that I look forward to recycling.

 

 

(*Photo credit: Waneska Valois of The Female Portrait by Valois)

Baggy the Bard #3: Nine and Twenty

So tomorrow I turn 29 and I have to admit I’ve been in denial about it, trying to pretend it isn’t happening. I can’t believe the last year of my twenties has crept up on me this quickly! Where did that decade go? Anyway, since there’s nothing I can do to stop it, I thought I’d better write about it and the resulting poem actually helped me feel a lot more positive about tomorrow’s little occasion.

I’d like to dedicate this poem to two family members, one from each side of my family. Firstly, my late Granny Teazy on Dad’s side, who’s poetry collection I’ve recently re-read and taken so much inspiration from, and secondly my Uncle Barry on Mam’s side, a fellow poet who regularly shares his work online. I think the beauty of savouring the standout moments from everyday life in a poem comes second only to the bravery that’s required to share those moments with the world. So today I’ll be brave and share mine. Come at me comments, do your worst!

 

 

Nine and Twenty

It’s nine and twenty years since I was born, would you believe?

And as the day approaches I can’t help but feel bereaved.

Though some of you may think I’m feeling old age prematurely,

I feel obliged to mourn my twenties long before I’m thirty.

If I wait ‘til then and let this last year pass unnoticed,

I’ll miss the chance to make this year my bravest and my boldest.

I’ll end up looking back regretting all I could’ve done

and then, before I know it, I’ll be nearly forty one.

I couldn’t bear to get there thinking what I could’ve been,

If only I could channel how I felt at seventeen.

 

If only I could channel how I felt at seventeen,

I know that I’d be able to live out my wildest dreams.

I’d have that shiny hair without a single silver streak.

I’d have that zest for life and there’d be colour in my cheeks.

I’d have a massive group of friends that always swore to back me,

But when I come to think of it, I’d also have the acne.

I’d also have the stress of school and trying to pass the tests.

I’d still be feeling like I had to prove I was the best.

I’d still be lost and wondering how my life would all work out,

I’d still be overwhelmed by the not knowing and the doubt.

 

I’d still be overwhelmed by the not knowing and the doubt,

I wouldn’t understand that that’s what life is all about.

At least by now I’ve realised the fun’s in the surprises,

that sometimes the best things for us come in the worst disguises.

That even my uncertainties give birth to so much hope,

that if hard times are thrown at me, I have the strength to cope.

That even though the years seem to be flying ever faster,

Turning one year older really isn’t a disaster.

It’s nine and twenty years since I was born, would you believe?

And I can’t help but feel so proud of all that I’ve achieved.

Baggy the Bard #2: Superstition admonition

Superstition admonition

It’s a game of snakes and ladders when you’re balancing good fortune,
So here’s some tips and tricks to help you take the right precautions.
These dos and don’ts should help you up the rungs without much pressure.
You may already know them, but it’s worth a quick refresher:
There’s seven years of hardship if you break your own reflection,
Avoid approaching fairy forts, its for your own protection,
Woe betide you should you ever step upon a crack,
(in case you didn’t know – that move will break your mother’s back),
Keep your brolly safely stowed until you get outdoors,
Remember when you’re walking you should never cross four shores,
An itchy nose predicts a fight so get it over quickly,
A Doc leaf will relieve the stings of nettles long and prickly,
Don’t forget to greet a magpie should he cross your path,
If you fail to do so then prepare to feel his wrath,
Hang a horseshoe up above your door and you’ll have plenty,
Just don’t hang it upside down or else you’ll find it empty,
If you lose your grip and accidentally spill the salt,
Throw a pinch over your shoulder and you’re no longer at fault,
You may have proudly purchased a new shiny pair of shoes,
But keep them off the table or you’ll have a lot to lose,
Stray eyelashes and dandelions are rather good resources,
Just make a wish and blow so they can work their magic forces,
If your ears are burning someone somewhere speaks your name,
If you get the shivers someone’s walking on your grave,
If you get the hiccups and they’re multiplying fast,
Be sure to drink your water from the wrong side of the glass,
If you’re at the beach trying to build the best sandcastle,
Bribe it with some stout to save yourself a lot of hassle,
When giving friends a gift such as a wallet or a purse,
Make sure you hansel handsomely to stop a paupers curse,
Keep frowning brows and out-stuck tongues and grimaces at bay,
For if the wind should change, my dear, your face will stick that way.
Heed these solemn warnings, or ignore them if you choose,
But now you know the rules of luck, the luck is yours to lose.

via PressSync

Hammy New Year!

I have no excuse for my lack of blog posts over the holiday season except to tell you that I was having too good a holiday season! Today was my first day back at work and I must admit I’m pretty sad that the break is over, I was really getting used to sitting around all day with nothing to do, nowhere to go and not a care in the world… Still, as far as first days back go it wasn’t too bad (computer crashed so I couldn’t do much actual work and we got a new coffee machine – bonus!) and at least I was able to face it well rested after a couple of perfect weeks off.

The only time I spent on a laptop over the last few weeks was to Skype you N’s, your parents and your grandparents on Christmas Day. The rest of my time off was filled with lazy days in the sun, games of scrabble and chess, beach sunsets, movie nights, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of yummy food.

Your uncle and I treated ourselves to a new BBQ for Christmas and I think it was the best present we’ve ever gotten each other in all of our 6+ years together. We cooked our entire Christmas dinner on it, including the ham – which was honestly the highlight of my holidays. The memory of the glaze alone has been enough to fuel this entry, so after weeks of feeling uninspired and unenthused about writing an obligatory holiday blog post that would feel forced, I now find myself writing with the passion and purpose that only perfectly seasoned pork can provide. The right thing to do is to make a record of it here, passing it on to you N’s for some future Christmastime when (I hope) you might yourself down in this hemisphere looking for something to barbie. It would be rude not to!

After some initial online research to figure out that A) hams are barbecuable and that B) the best glazes to complement a ham are a combo of sweet and spicy, I set about my experiment to come up with the perfect glaze. Once I felt I had perfected it and the barbecue was up to temperature (180 degrees C) I started the process.

Some tips for when you N’s want to try and replicate the best ham ever: I went with the indirect method (coals on the left, ham on the right instead of directly above the coals) and placed the ham in an oven dish with about 250ml stock to prevent it drying out too much. I let it cook for the first hour with no glaze, then periodically basted it with the glaze throughout the remainder of the cook.

Glaze ingredients were as follows (pay attention this is the most important part): honey, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, five spice, paprika, chilli flakes and the special ingredient – a splash of amaretto. Delicious if I do say so myself!

The only problem is I have absolutely no idea of the quantities or ratios of any of the above ingredients… so I will probably never be able to make the same glaze ever again, but I suppose that just makes it extra special.

Best of luck with your own experiments, you may even come up with something better than mine… but that’s doubtful.

Hammy New Year N’s! Here’s to 2018 and all the wonderful surprises it’s going to bring us all.

Love Aunt B x x x

Baggy the Bard

 

Today I thought I’d make a new category of posts that I’m calling ‘Baggy the Bard’, where I’ll share some of my poetry for you to (hopefully) enjoy. The one I’ve included below is a poem that I started writing on our last big family holiday to Spain, while baby M was still kicking around inside his mammy’s tummy and long, long before baby L had graced us with his presence. I stumbled across my first draft from back then but something about it just wasn’t quite right. Now that I’ve had a fresh look at it and been able to edit and tweak it here and there I’m pleased enough with the final result to be able to share it with you. This one, as with most of my ramblings on here, is dedicated to all three of the current N’s (O, M and baby L), but will of course still hold true for any later additions to the clan. This piece doesn’t have a name as yet either, so maybe you can help me come up with one later.

 

A new title I’m still growing into,

unsure whether it ever will suit me,

newborn humans called nieces and nephews have

thrust it upon me, this name and this duty.

Baby teeth, tickly feet, bigger each time we meet

and I’m trying to not let it show, but please

give me a clue how to aunt, what to do, coz I’m making this up as I

go.

You can’t know how much you inspire me,

little people with big lives ahead,

opportunities

verging on

endless

suspended before you, so go! Knock ‘em dead.

You may not always see me beside you, but

of you I’ll be thinking each day, so please know that

until we next meet I’ll be wishing each minute of each day away.