13 September 2018

These are the last of the Muscat grapes. We harvested them last night or to be more precise, I held up a bucket while R stood on the ladder doing all the work. The wasp, hornet and blackbird community was not amused. But they had their fair share.

There is lots more to harvest. We have five different types of grapes in the garden: Muscat, Dornfelder, blue Venus whatever, the one Jack brought back from the US and the no-idea-what-it's-called. You have no idea how delicious the grapes are this year. Heat and drought, that's all it takes.

I've been eating them before and after meeting the immunologist. We didn't see eye to eye. Especially once she upped all the meds in one big swoop when only four months ago she had told me it was time to lower the dosage (of one of them). WTF, I asked, and she said, well, look at the shitty mess you are in (our actual exchange of words was somewhat more medical and distanced), didn't quite work out, didn't it.

She also had a few more stern warnings about work and travel and risks and life expectancy and I had to look at that stupid calendar on her wall really hard and blow my nose a few times while she wrote her copious notes and then she shook my hand and I said thank you, see you in two months time and I ran out of there and almost crashed into R who laughed and said, what's the hurry love, we have all the time in the world, don't we.

10 September 2018

At the risk of repeating myself, this is to state that I am not and never was a religious person. There was nothing religious in my childhood home.  For a few years when I was in primary school, I went to church with my sister. Our school was a country school and going to church on a Sunday was part of the way things worked. My parents did not go. My father would wait for us in the sitting room before Sunday lunch, asking questions about the sermon, ready to ridicule every word, but we never remembered much. The sermon was the boring bit when I had trouble staying awake. At the church door on our way out, the kids all received a little magazine with stories about black babies in Africa and picture puzzles. I liked the picture puzzles, they had to be coloured in just so to reveal the solution. Also, there were these two seemingly identical drawings with ten hidden differences and for a while that was challenging.

Over the years, we all went to the instruction classes for (Lutheran) holy confirmation. Again, this was the way things worked and my mother would show up in church on the day. Mostly, it was all about the dress (black) and the shoes (heeled) and my first make-up and getting money presents. Only, my grandmother insisted I should get silverware for my future dowry. That was a huge disappointment to me as two years earlier, my sister had received enough money to buy a sophisticated reel-to-reel tape recorder/player, which I was not allowed to touch. Lately, I have started to look at the price of silver with the intention of finally selling my incomplete set of 63 or so knives and forks and spoons.
Then there was the youth club on a Friday night, where we would play table tennis and later had a disco, with secret stacks of beer and cigarettes, supervised by a trainee vicar who wanted to be cool and looked away. I remember watching the local male heartthrobs jumping up in the air to "Satisfaction" and also, my first time getting drunk. At midnight, we had to clean up and put everything back as it was for the ladies' coffee morning on Saturdays.
A few years later, I went through a very brief spell of infatuation with the Baptist church but soon lost interest when real adult life beckoned. 

Also, the children of god drifted by, all tambourines and long skirts, for a few weeks outside secondary school. A handful of Hare Krishna's at university. And then I met R's parents. Ardent catholics. I came into their lives shortly after the Polish pope had been to Ireland in 1979,  which was a massive, massive event, and every time I sat in the car of my future father in law, he played the tapes of that mass, watching me in the rear view mirror.

When after three years of unsuccessful attempts of their gentle proselytising I refused to have the first (and much loved and cherished) grandchild baptised, they went on a pilgrimage to Lough Derg which involved three days of fasting and endless hours of kneeling on concrete slabs day and night in the rain. One day, I may write about how I felt when they returned from that dreadful island in Donegal, bleeding and feeling cleansed, as my mother in law assured me.

But basically, I kept well away from all that. And yet, nothing I have since learnt about the catholic church in Ireland and elsewhere has come as a surprise. So when was the first time I had it spelt out that this church was teeming with child abuse? I tell you when, it was when Sinead O'Connor tore up that picture of the pope on US television. And let's not forget, she was/is almost universally treated like a crazy person who had said something bizarre and unforgivable. Did you think she was mad then, too?

05 September 2018

Memories crowd in my head and some of the time I cannot tell whether they are real or just my invention. Maybe there isn't much difference, maybe none at all. After all, it's just bits of my life and of no importance to anybody. Could be that we all make it up as we go along in life, pushing the hard and heavy bits far away into the part of our brain that forgets and embellishing the moments that make us shine or make us happy or make us proud or maybe just simply make us.

When I look back on what I remember of my life, it all appears to float and whirl without any beginning or order and I pick bits like flotsam and for a while, put them on my shelf to look at and it feels inevitable but also totally random. This remembering.

Some memories have been hidden for a very long time, too long for me to swear by them and to declare that yes, this is how it was.  

For example. Childhood. A messy time, memories are tricky.  

This is how it works: I compare notes, with my siblings, separately and on the rare occasions when we are together. Mostly, we cannot agree. When I mention something my mother did or said that was hard and painful, my brother's posture becomes rigid, he tries to not avert his face and to keep a bland expression, whereas my sister while agreeing on the basics will respond with examples of something my mother did that was good and generous, scolding me for not balancing out the memories, for always overemphasizing, for being ungrateful and so on. It's her show, she's the oldest. And then my posture becomes rigid and I try to not avert my face, keeping a bland expression. 

Eventually, we will begin to argue. We always end up arguing. If there is anything we really figured out during our childhood, it's how to get the day rolling arguing with each other. We can argue with our eyes closed, our brains on automatic. At a push, we know how to argue until the cows come home. My brother, the whiny baby that he is, will eventually withdraw, shaking his head, into the safe cocoon of his own, large family, whereupon my sister will feel compelled to continue in her search for someone to blame and I will play that game of shrinking deeper and deeper into the younger sister position where my opinions don't count anyway, working hard on staying arrogantly aloof.
Variations of this. Since 1962 or thereabout.

But for the time being, she has stopped talking to me. Suddenly, we are on uncharted territory here.
I feel relieved and cheated in equal measure. After all, it was me who has been scheming to stop communicating eventually, not quite now but sometime in the future. Naturally, I am incensed. So as always, she gets her way. Or something like that. I want to bang a door, stamp my childish feet.

Is she, I wonder, waiting for me to write the first email, surely not expecting a phone call, me asking, was it something I said? When I know bloody well it has always been something I said or didn't say or do.
Maybe all she needs is time, R tells me. Pah, I snort. She is just running her show. 
Well then, he replies, let her. Keep your distance and wait. 

What does he know, I grumble behind his back, he comes from a happy Irish family. The kind where they fall over laughing everytime some cousin remembers the day uncle Des almost swallowed his dentures.

Meanwhile, reading my grandmother's letters, I am reminded that I come from a long line of family feuds. 

To be continued, maybe. Uncharted territory, as mentioned above.