Opinion

Tuesday 28 January 2020

This Woman's Life: Harsh reality and 'the aspirations' collide in the Capital of Culture

Dr Noel Browne was always mentioned in the trimmings, and the conversion of Russia for some reason, and many other people who apparently needed our prayers.
Dr Noel Browne was always mentioned in the trimmings, and the conversion of Russia for some reason, and many other people who apparently needed our prayers.

Rita Ann Higgins

I've been putting off cleaning the fungus from the back of the fridge for too long now. Today is going to be the day.

I don't know why I put it off, it's not like I don't have a humdinger of an unused steamer just plonked there.

The thoughts of taking out the inside trays from the fridge makes the job seem a bit laborious. They have to be washed separately. Gawd, the drudgery. Then finding bits of old shrivelled carrots that resemble the toes of the Tollund Man does not help either.

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It hardly matters when you think of the two homeless people who were forced to sleep in the public toilets in Eyre Square recently. How could their basic needs not be met in a city where millions are being invested in propping up the Capital of Culture's gold laurel wreath?

We have a great little city here/ a pity little city/ a shi**y little city. Some of the people who find themselves homeless in Galway are sleeping in doorways, car parks and church grounds. Only last week, 10 Traveller families - nearly all with young children - were threatened with eviction from the Cul Tra halting site. Land for that particular halting site was made available by the late Bishop Eamonn Casey.

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My procrastination mostly figures around my own writing. I'll usually do something else - anything else - but not cleaning the fridge. It will more likely be moving paper from one part of my box room to the other and praising myself into the bargain. There now, doesn't that look tidy? Paper pushing, I think it's called.

I need to be laughing while I'm cleaning the fridge, otherwise I'll be crying. So I need to be thinking about some Bally-magash-ery I've read in my favourite local paper, the City Turbine. It never lets me down for cutting edge intel. Go on, Dara Bradley!

I'm thinking about a recent news item, whereby a salvo was fired by a former Fianna Fail deputy mayor. He opined with gusto that Pope Francis would bypass Galway during his visit to Ireland next year because the city council had made a decision to stop the prayer before council meetings.

I don't know what prayer they used to say; perhaps it was a rousing rendition of the Hail Holy Queen, a favourite of mine as a child.

The Pontiff has so little to be doing that he may well close down Vatican City and call all his cardinals and bishops by megaphone and tell them: "We are having a conclave at half four, we need to talk about Galway.

"Yo," he might say, "we can't set foot in Galway, because the atheists up in city hall have stopped their rendition of the Hail Holy Queen before meetings".

The decision to abandon the prayer before meetings was voted on earlier this year. A majority voted against the prayer. The democratic decision does not seem to matter to the former Fianna Fail deputy mayor, who says: "The Pope hasn't a notion of coming to Galway next year if this is the craic we're at."

Some councillors believe that in a rapidly changing Ireland, we should maybe hold our whisht before meetings.

I'm not a great one for prayer myself, but I certainly can see how comforting it can be for people. Prayers should never be used as a threat. Prayer is a private thing between you and your conscience.

I'm more of a wan for "the aspirations" myself. When any of my grandchildren are sick, I say to myself: "Dear Jesus, please mind that child and save him from all harm". That type of thing.

I'm afraid of dogs, and when I used to sell encyclopedias years ago when I had no scruples, and a dog would chase me, well... I was very addicted to "the aspirations" then also.

I come from a religious background and like many others, we said the Rosary every night, on our knees leaning against the kitchen chairs. Dr Noel Browne was always mentioned in the trimmings, and the conversion of Russia for some reason, and many other people who apparently needed our prayers.

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It would be impossible not to have heard some mention of James Joyce over last week. The way I see it, you're either a Solpadeine woman or a Nurofen Plus woman. Either Yeatsian or Joycean.

Personally, I prefer Nurofen Plus and Joyce. He is that rare writer who voices what's going on in the mind before it reaches the tip of the tongue. He sifts after; we tend to sift before. We clean up; he cleans down (if he cleans at all).

He uses a mixture of styles, like parody, high-flown prose and entertaining internal monologues. So if you miss him at one crossroads, you'll catch up with him down the road. Ulysses can be as difficult as you make it or as enjoyable as you allow it to be. Let it wash over you and see how many Joycean gems you can catch with the magnet that is your imagination.

When Joyce's mother was dying, he was out of the country and he had to be sent for. His mother doted on him. On her deathbed, she begged him to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. May Joyce died in 1903 and her final wish was not granted by her adored son - Sonny Jim as his father called him.

Remorse figures big in Ulysses, as do the sins of the past. Joyce was not going to allow the overwhelming car-crash effect of an event like his mother's death to pass him by. It would feature in many guises in Ulysses, not least with the religious term (one he more than likely learned in Clongowes or Belvedere) "agenbite of inwit" which means "remorse of conscience".

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