Sunday 23 October 2016

I got baptised for Easter. I am set free

Published 06/04/2015 | 02:30

Washing away the Soprano view of the world: A dip in the pool washed away the Tony Soprano-like suspicion that everything turns to shit
Washing away the Soprano view of the world: A dip in the pool washed away the Tony Soprano-like suspicion that everything turns to shit

This morning, I drove to the swimming pool and then I went in and had a little swim and I drove home. And I am ecstatic. I am trying not to get too high about it, because obviously I have that Irish thing where you worry about being too pleased with yourself. We all know what happens if you get too high. You crash horribly and end up in the pits of despair for ages. Or life teaches you a lesson by surprising you with a catastrophe.

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So basically I like to try and keep it steady Eddie, and avoid the peaks and troughs too much. I had the peaks and troughs in my day, and while the peaks can seem at times to be life as it is supposed to be lived, the very essence of joyful existence, the price you pay for that kind of thing is never really worth it.

But today, I can't help it. I am high as a kite. I didn't expect to be back in the pool today. I didn't expect to be back in the pool for quite a while. I certainly didn't expect to be back swimming for a few months. But suddenly, yesterday, the Doc said, in his understated way. "So you could try a bit of gentle breaststroke." I am actually so unused to hearing good news at this stage that I didn't recognise good news when I heard it.

I didn't recognise either the slight build-up to the momentous announcement about the swimming. I have begun to hear everything they say as, blah, blah, blah, blah. Because they are necessarily vague and also because they never have good news for me. So the pattern is usually that I wait until the blah, blah, blahing is over and then I try and catch them out with some specific questions about the medium term.

The Doc is also an understated kind of guy. Clearly, in his line of business, he, too, has had to learn to avoid the peaks and troughs. So I barely took in that he was saying that the movement was really good, that the bone was essentially nearly healed. He stopped short of actually expressing delight. But in his own way he was clearly quietly pleased with his work, and pleased that after all the freakish setbacks, we were finally in a place of rebuilding and renewal.

You get so used to disintegration that it can seem the only way. You get so used to a narrative of falling apart that that becomes your narrative in life, the only thing you hear or see anywhere. It's a Tony Soprano way of seeing the world: Everything turns to shit.

So, in a way, my main physio now is to be done in the mind gym. I need to change my narrative to one of rebuilding, or renewal, of resurrection.

I also need to change it to one of driving. The jalopy had been left to die out the front of the house, a mocking reminder of what I couldn't do. So yesterday, I got someone to get it back to life again and last night I took a slow, stately, old-lady spin around the Sandymount evening in it. It turns out driving is just like riding a bike. It comes straight back to you. And this morning then I had my first purposeful drive: up to the pool.

The other geezers were glad to see me in their own way. I know how they feel. It's never good when one of the early crew disappears for a while. It reflects badly on everyone's mortality . I was too nervous for much chat. The driving had been OK but could I swim? Did I know how anymore? And would my withered arm play along?

Out to the outdoor pool then, gingerly picking my way out there, slightly fearful. And in and stretch and suddenly I am moving. Not well and not fast, but I am propelling myself along. And as my head goes down under, I am reborn. And I think of John Spillane and his song about the River Lee, and the old men who try to tempt him in to swim with them: "And they says to me, 'Johnny Boy', they says, 'Come with us. We walks up and we floats down.' And they does."

And I feel like Spillane, a boy from the deep south, baptised. And I think of Spillane's exultance in his constant rebaptism in the Lee: "I have swum in the sacred waters of the River Lee. And I have been washed clean, and I have been set free." And without getting too excited, I feel set free at last. A new phase has begun. And it's time, I bet you will be glad to hear, to put the last few months behind me.

My bedroom and The Silence of the Lambs...

By Katy Harrington

Remember that grizzly scene in The Silence of the Lambs when they get to Buffalo Bill’s basement? Well, my bedroom is creepier than that. In the clear light of day it looks like a moth-ridden killer’s den, with only recently used coffee cups and cereal bowls, plus plenty of strewn ‘fresh’ underwear as tell-tale evidence of life.

My older brother (and flatmate) has often opened the door and rolled his eyes, only to walk away again with a ‘did I miss the part in our childhood when she was captured and raised by wild dogs?’ look in his eyes. So, on my first  non-hungover Saturday in months, I decide to have a clear-out, emptying the entire contents of my wardrobe and chest of drawers into an unholy mound on the floor. That part is exceptionally cathartic, it feels good to heap unwanted sh*t on the floor and then step back and feel revolted by your own consumerism. After that, I get bored and read the papers for about six hours until I need a nap, but as I have stripped everything from my bed, I sleep on a towel, covered by a collection of bobbly old cardigans.

When I wake, I realise I need to part with some of these personal effects, but like someone from Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders, I find myself clutching threadbare knickers and 60 denier tights with far more holes than required to insert two legs, thinking ‘‘If I weighed what I weighed three years ago this could be an excellent boob tube.” Eventually, I locate my nearest clothing bank and make several sweaty trips, with black rubbish bags filled with bad knitwear over my shoulder, like a deranged Santa, until finally the amount of clothes hangers in my wardrobe roughly equals the amount of clothes I own. When it’s all done I feel completely spent. I pour myself a glass of wine and sit on my bare bed and look upon my work. Then a friend calls telling me to come out, but I can’t, because I genuinely have nothing to wear.

Time to come out of the cleaning closet

By Aine O'Connor

I saw one of those jaunty e-cards that said  something like I woke up and had an urge to clean the whole house, but I lay down until it passed. There are at least 9,000 variations on the theme that housework is a necessary evil. I have chuckled at, and possibly even reposted, these on occasion. It seems like such an accurate sentiment, after all. But then I realised it wasn’t true. I actually do sometimes wake up with an urge to clean the whole house. In depth, like. Sparkly style.

Things have been a bit on the busy side for the last few months — not a complaint — but I found that one of the side-effects of this time-poverty that most niggled was the absence of opportunity to clean.

I know, right?

It disturbed me that I was disturbed by the fact that I didn’t have time to really scrub the floors. The cursory mop wasn’t cutting it. I had to stop wearing my glasses round the house in order not to be distressed by the lack

of in-depth cleaning. I’d like to say “It’s not  that the house was dirty, it just wasn’t as clean as I would have liked.” But it would be a lie. The house was kinda manky.

There’s the unpalatable truth that this automatically reflects badly on the house-woman, even though there are other people of cleaning age living in a home. People might pity a husband living with a slatternly wife but they will never pity a wife with a slatternly husband.

 And there is the unpalatable truth that untidiness makes me anxious. When all else is out of control I feel better if I do the laundry, or wash the floors.

I spent three hours washing floors on my

knees with a brush and bleach last week and was scarily delighted with the results and myself. Still, I don’t see a future for my e-card “I woke up and had an urge to clean the whole house. And so I cleaned it.”

It seems that I’ll never be a happy traveller

By Eleanor Goggin

Travelling and me just don’t gel. I always seem to draw the short straw. When I travel by train, which is nearly always between Cork  and Dublin, and consequently a long journey, or the Aircoach, an even longer one, I get there early. Then I sit on the inside seat, put my handbag, food, book and coat on the other seat to put people off. I also pretend I’m asleep. Mouth open, gentle snoring. The works.

 But on the last few occasions, with two minutes to go to departure, an out-of-breath

last-minute arrival has disturbed my pretend slumber, made me take my things on to my lap and plonked themselves down. It happened again a few weeks ago. A large female settled in with two minutes to go, put her elbows in my ribs and sniffled. And then started wiping her nose with the back of her hand. I could see her hand glistening. I turned my dainty ass towards her and leant against the window. She clearly didn’t like my ass any better than I liked her snotty hand because she suddenly got up, went to the top of the bus and, lo and behold, swapped places with her other half. She must have texted him, “I don’t like the bitch next to me. Will you swap?”

On a recent plane journey, a very invasive man with no English except two words “Ireesh” and “nice” took his place next to me. I put on my earphones to watch a film. He dug me at regular intervals to make signs. And say Ireesh and nice. He proceeded to get langers, as we say in Cork, and then started humming. When the air hostess arrived with the menu, he ordered my meal for me, all the time saying “nice” and rubbing his stomach. I suppose I’m lucky he didn’t start rubbing mine.

But I’m glad to say I became the head-wreck on the return plane journey. I was sitting in the aisle seat and fell asleep, with my head out in the aisle. My fellow travellers who were sitting behind me told me that people had to lift my head and put it back on numerous occasions. Payback, I say.

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