About a decade ago we had what could be called a childcare crisis. After five years of spending every spare penny on creche fees, both our children were now firmly ensconced in a local primary school. You'd think things would have gotten easier then, but, as many parents in similar situations will tell you, while full-time creche might be ruinously expensive, at least you don't have to deal with the vagaries of the Irish school calendar. Or the charming way that every other week, there seems to be a reason to celebrate school-life by sending the children home at 12.30 in the afternoon.
The teenage daughter is near ecstatic at the sight. "The fridge is full", she sings. "I can't believe it. It's really full... Of food," she adds, in case we make the mistake of assuming that she would be as deliriously happy if it was packed with, say, a decent vintage of Pinot Grigio or a dozen bottles of stout. The fridge is indeed full, of cheap but nutritious groceries purchased at a nearby Aldi, and the fact that she finds this such a wondrous event only adds to the already burgeoning weight of guilt that has been steadily piled upon me in recent weeks. But at least she's talking to me. And she still accepts me as her mother. My younger son informed me some days ago that the dog is his new mammy because the dog "is always there when I need him". The fact that the dog is a male puppy called Frank doesn't seem to lessen his suitability for parenting. Not compared to my recent efforts at any rate. The son has declared he will be charging me per hour of neglect. I may soon be bankrupt unless I can organise some sort of debt resettlement with him.
Just when we thought this country could not heap any more hurt, horror or torture, on to its women, we hear a tale that makes us weep anew. Last week, Irish parents Sarah and Michael (names changed) shared their story with journalist Ellen Coyne (The Times Irish edition).
'A plague on all your houses". If I were to honestly encapsulate the impression I'm getting from the electorate at doorsteps into an ancient phrase, it would have to be Shakespeare's ruthless put-down. With more choice than ever before - a huge variety of parties and alliances and Independents to pick and choose from - the prevailing mood seems to be one of mass indecision.
In 1981, German chancellor Helmut Kohl deemed the Irish insistence on retaining neutrality to be an "irrational" one. Notes of a meeting (marked "especially confidential") he had with Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in December of that year, saw FitzGerald helpfully inform him that "Ireland was emotionally attached to military neutrality" mainly because we were still a "country divided" and "occupied by a another NATO member". He suggested that in the context of a new relationship with Britain over Northern Ireland, things could, perhaps, develop.
This time last year, Ana Pak, an Iranian secular feminist who works in Paris with refugees arriving from the Middle East, went to the Place de la Republique with some friends. They were there in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders to show support for the journalists who had been killed.
When her helicopter touched down at Knock in 1993 there were thousands ready to greet her. She met everyone who mattered. Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and his wife Kathleen were among the faithful who stood in line to give obeisance to the diminutive, ostensibly humble nun, the famous Mother Teresa. As Christopher Hitchens succinctly put it (C4 documentary, Hell's Angel); "Not many claims made by the Irish clergy are widely or uncritically accepted, even in Ireland, but the saintliness of an Albanian nun, named Agnes Bojaxhiu, is a proposition that's accepted by many who are not even believers." He added drily: "Mother Teresa herself receives extravagant adulation as no more than her due." And why shouldn't she? As Hitchens wrote: "Who would be so base as to pick on a wizened, shrivelled old lady, well stricken in years, who has consecrated her life to the needy and destitute?"
Suddenly I find that I am surrounded by middle-aged people. Some of them are positively elderly. As in around 50 years of age. Just think of that - 50 years. A whole half-century already gone. The point of no return, when you know that the years you have left will be fewer than those behind you. On my 40th birthday I had a big celebratory bash. Some of you may still remember it. Myself, friends and family booked a hotel in town, hired a magician and a fortune-teller, ate, drank, danced and were very merry indeed.
'Each to their own", is the phrase we use when pointing out that as individuals we're all different, and therefore shouldn't judge each other's practices by our own standards. Difference is good, we're told. It could even be, as writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik put it in an essay on multiculturalism, "the motto of our times".
It may not have won an Emmy this year, but if there had been categories for Cassandra-style prescience and astute political predictions Showtime's Homeland would have swept the boards. This award-winning series has been around since 2011 but I only reluctantly started watching it this autumn. I say reluctantly, because those who recommended it to me did so on the basis that the leading CIA spy character was a blonde, bi-polar woman called Carrie. Seemingly we had a lot in common, which was enough to ensure I mulishly made a point of avoiding it.
It was quickly dubbed #foodgate. Twenty euro for a burger, a bottle of water, dessert and coffee? That's what a pre-paid voucher would have bought you at last week's Web Summit. Good Food Ireland may have wanted to highlight the quality of Irish produce to the 40,000 plus people who forked out a ton of cash just to attend the famous tech fest, but what got the headlines was the fact that we still see tourists as eejits to be scalped for every penny we can get out of them.
Racism. There's been a lot of talk about it this past week. The Oxford dictionary defines a racist as: a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another. This is the term that has been used recently - by certain politicians, members of the media and hordes of social media warriors - to describe members of a small community living in a modest suburb in south county Dublin.
So what did the revolution ever do for you? If that question is directed to Irish women, the depressing answer would have to be - not a lot. Tomorrow, the film Suffragette opens in Dublin and I'm wondering if we'll be treated to scenes similar to those which occurred at the London premiere last week.
It's every young girls dream, isn't it? Work hard at school, go to college, keep yourself fit and well groomed and with a bit of luck, eyelash fluttering and a steely determination, you might just end up living a life where you're knee deep in pig sh*t every day.
When will those bloody feminists learn to take a compliment? Or a joke? It's something I get asked quite frequently whenever I point out that telling me I have "great tits" or expecting me to laugh at rape jokes isn't kosher. In fact, I'd have to say that I find it downright sexist.
Can we make jokes about abortion? It's something myself and comedian writer and woman of many other talents, Tara Flynn, discussed earlier last week. Last night, an audience at the Electric Picnic were treated to a comedy piece by Tara, entitled Judge, Jury and Obstetrician. It was a provocative look at our medieval abortion laws, followed by a discussion about Irish women My Body. My Rights.
What if? What if Irish politics never transitioned from the gun to solely the democratic use of the ballot box? What would our society be like if some of the people who founded our State, in blood, sacrifice and violence, held onto their weapons? Alternative histories are all the rage at the moment, so "what if" the Citizen Army who fought in the Rising of 1916, for instance, just hadn't gone away.
We're back, baby! Spending is up, unemployment is down, there's cranes in them there skies and the sale of obscenely priced designer bags is at an all time high. Before you know it you'll be buying up apartment blocks in Croatia and trading in the old Toyota for a new Merc. What? You're not feeling it? No trickle down effect? Not even a little tinkle in your waters? Nothing? Ah, come on.
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