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Christmas Tidings in Sugar Hill.

Why, in the name of Christ, Peggy wants to know, are people going around like blue arsed flies buying food like there’s no tomorrow? She’s convinced there’s some kind of a want in people around this time of year. The shops closed for two days, she says, and every óinseach in the country, apart from herself, of course, completely losing the run of themselves with food and drink and Christmas lights – and shops and garden centres charging an arm and a leg for Christmas trees that aren’t related to a tree, never mind a Christmas tree. Jeez, the woman is ranting non – stop since the 8th of December. If she were a character in an Agatha Christie novel, instead of a pensioner in Sugar Hill village, she’d be found stabbed to death long ago, under the mistletoe or dumped inside in a slurry pit or something. My head is only pounding from her, she’s been talking at me, like a fecking echo, since, like, forever, and for two pins, I’d stick the carving knife into her without a qualm, take my chances with the law and plead insanity because of the season that’s in it.

Now the fact that I’m fit to kill her doesn’t mean, of course, the woman hasn’t a point about Christmas and shopping and the total idiocy of the entire human race. For instance, I was inside in Super Value the other day and was actually physically knocked into the cereal shelves by Lourda Kennefick, taking a dangerous swing around the corner of the aisle, her view completely blocked by a mound of slice pans and barm bracks stacked up in the trolley in front of her. I mean, that woman is a complete basket case at the best of times but she’s so cracked at this time of the year, it would be an act of charity to lock her away completely for the duration of the holidays. And another thing, how  anyone is expected to listen to Little Drummer Boy, like three hundred times a day in all the supermarkets, without turning into a gibbering, babbling idiot, is beyond me. How the staff remain sane in the middle of all this is a pure mystery. Do they get paid extra for putting up with this persecution or what? Because if they don’t, they certainly should. Jesus!

And Midnight Mass on in churches up and down the country at 8 and 9pm! I mean, how in the name of Jesus himself, can you actually attend Midnight Mass at 8 o clock in the evening? Isn’t the whole point to have the ceremony at, like midnight, so we can celebrate the birth of Christ, who was nowhere near to being born at 7 or 8 pm in the evening. Peggy claims that Joseph, Mary and the donkey, were still trotting around Bethlehem like headless chickens, looking for accommodation at that time of the evening. And you might as well be trying to have a discussion with the gable end wall than argue with Peggy on theological matters. Not only that but you’d hear people asking each other across the street what time is midnight mass on above in the church tonight. Honestly, there are times when you’d wonder if man has learned anything at all from his existence in this world for the last couple of million years! And all this change because people are pissed drunk by 10 o clock and going in to mass, staggering and puking and fighting in the aisles, a total disgrace to themselves and a danger to everyone they encounter. Honest to Christ, do people never actually listen to themselves?

And when….?

What, is it codding me ye are?  Go away, ye simply can’t be fecking serious? Dora is after closing the video shop below in the village! But what in the name of Jesus will we do without Dora? Shure, that woman is an institution in Sugar Hill and beyond. I never remember the village without Dora and the video shop. I mean, I can’t conceive of the village without Dora and the advice and the dvds and the…..

Well, I’m almost speechless, so I am. Aren’t Peggy and Lourda just after arriving in the door now, like two pantomime dames, with the tears streaming down their faces and announcing that Dora, below in the Village Video Shop, is only after packing up her dvds, whoosing Seamus, the cat out from behind the counter for the last time, dispensing her final piece of advice, closing her doors for good and riding off into the sunset with a suitcase full of videos. Ah Jesus, not one of us saw that one coming. And there we were, thinking electing that gobshite Trump was the worst thing that could happen in 2016! Ah for feck’s sake, there’s only one thing for it. I’m bringing out the Irish whiskeys and we’ll drink a toast or two or three. Ah feck it, I can feel my own eyes filling.. I mean, like, Dora!

Vanessa

PS. To Dora, thanks for the memories, the advice, the bad film recommendations and so much more!!

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Did You Know?

Prior to the opening of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, Catholics had nowhere to bury their dead due to the repressive Penal Laws. It was Daniel O’ Connell who campaigned for the establishment of a burial ground in which both Catholics and Protestants could bury their dead with dignity.

So it was then, that on February 22nd, 1832, the small coffin of Michael Carey, a young boy from Francis Street in Dublin, was placed into a little patch of ground on Dublin’s northside. From such humble beginnings arose a national cemetery, which,so far, has become the resting place of over one million people.
Glasnevin now covers over 124 acres and is the last resting place of such famous people as Daniel O’Connell himself, Michael Collins and his fiancée, Kitty Kiernan, Newmarket born, John Philpott Curran, Charles Stewart Parnell, Kevin Barry, Brendan Behan, Harry Boland, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington to mention just a few.
The cemetery contains over 800,000 unmarked graves. Daniel O’ Connell wanted the poor of Dublin to have a burial place so the funerals of those with no money came from the Magdalene Laundries, the Union and the Workhouses and the poor from the tenements of Dublin.
Life was cheap in the tenements. The buildings themselves were structural death traps. It was said that even driving a nail in a wall could cause the wall to collapse. With all cooking, cleaning and heating done in the same room on an open fire of turf or coal, the risk of fire was huge. Diseases such as TB, diphtheria, smallpox, respiratory problems and typhoid caused thousands of deaths. Children had no shoes and walked in the mud and filth of the streets and often gangrene set in on cut feet. There were no drugs such as penicillin and having a diet of mostly bread and tea, they were unable to withstand such attacks and often these simple cuts proved fatal.
At this time, the poverty, injustice and hardship in Dublin was unparalleled in any other European city.
To be continued:
(From: Glasnevin, Ireland’s Necropolis by Shane MacThomáis).

 
Mary Angland Author's photo.

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Just a Memory

Back in the Day in Broadford.
Delighted to have an article in this week’s issue of Ireland’s Own. Remember the hay floats, wynds and patient horses in the sixties? If you do, the story will take you back down memory lane. Of course, it also means you’re a wee bit older than you might like to believe!

Mary Angland Author's photo.
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A Summer of Discontent.

Well, Peggy’s having the life of Reilly. Not only is she back home, complete with fitted boot and a pair of brand new crutches but twice a week, she’s carted off to the hospital for physio in a taxi paid for by the HSE. On top of that, whenever I look out the window, there’s always one of her cronies from the Senior Citizens Group or The ladies Club, popping in to keep her up to date with all the latest gossip. I’ve even seen Lourda Kennefick sidling in the door. I do not know how Peggy puts up with her, that woman would personally drive me into a Home for the Bewildered, if I had to entertain her for more than five minutes at any given time.

No, Peggy’s fine. It’s Dolores we’re worried about now. She simply refuses to talk about it. You know, IT!  If you remember, in the early hours of the morning, down at A&E, the quietness of the hour seemed to have loosened her tongue and she only goes and admits to a totally gobsmacked  Bridie and myself that she and that cabóg Mick, haven’t actually, you know, done it, since St. Patrick’s Day, 2011. Before we could get our senses together to actually ask her any questions, we’re interrupted by the doctor telling us that Peggy’s going to be ok. So the moment to tackle Dolores is lost because when we get back to interrogating her, we find she’s clammed up completely and refuses to say another word. In fact, she acts as if she’s never opened her mouth and said anything at all. And that’s the way it’s been since. The woman is in utter denial about the issue and is carrying on as if the whole thing never happened. (The revelation, the revelation! Shure, by now, the whole village knows the sex hasn’t happened)

Once Bridie got over the shock, she began to find the whole thing hilarious. So she only goes off and tells half the village of Sugar Hill. Well, to be fair, I suppose, she only goes and tells Lourda, but that really amounts to much the same thing. I mean, when Lourda heard it, she was only hyperventilating, with the sheer thrill of getting one over on Dolores. So now everyone in the village and beyond, is looking at the two and sniggering away behind their hands at Mick and feeling sorry for Dolores. But then, it gets worse because one of the lads, working below at Kielys Monumental Sculptures, only starts slagging Mick at the pub the other night. Telling him that it’s not a good idea to get out of practice and that he’d want to start putting in a bit of serious training as it’s well-nigh time he and Dolores got back into the swing of things again and maybe it’s a bit of viagra is all he needs… Well, Mick got into such a temper that he almost had to be pulled off your man before he completely killed him and ended up being barred from the pub for a fortnight.

In the meantime, Dolores is putting all that bottled up energy to some really constructive use and is in rehearsals for the Munster Sean Nós Dancing Finals. They’re to be held down at the Singing Donkey Lounge Bar in the village sometime next month and contestants are coming from all over the province to take part. The rivalry is something fierce with Dolores swearing that if that woman from Cahirsiveen dances off with the title again this year, she’s not only going to lodge an objection with the Sean Nós Council or some such body but she’s going to do a serious injury to your wan from Cahirsiveen.  (I didn’t even know there was such a body as a Sean Nós Council that one could go objecting to) Bridie then only has to go and get her spoke in by saying that the Kerry woman is no more from Cahirsiveen than the man in the moon, that she’s far too mountainy looking to be from anywhere, but the back of beyonds, like the Black Valley or something. In fact, she says she’s not fully convinced that woman is a woman at all – which of course, only winds Dolores up to high dow so now she’s only ten times more paranoid than she was when she started. Peggy tells me later in a confidential whisper that there’s very bad blood between the Kerry wan and Dolores because twice in a row, she’s only gone and wiped Dolores’s face in it by winning the Munster Cup by a whisker.  Jesus, as if I hadn’t picked that up already. Anyway, Dolores wants us all to go down to the pub on the night to support her. Marilyn is a bit dubious and says that if it’s going to be anything like the carry on that took place last year, she’s definitely not going. After all, she says with a sniff, she’s got Ollie’s(her husband) position in the community to think about.  Ollie’s position in the community! I mean, the man is a social welfare officer, for Christ’s sake. I honestly don’t know where Marilyn gets these cracked notions from.

I have to give Dolores credit though. She’s one seriously committed woman. Wine, red bull, vodka, in fact, all alcohol is completely cut from her diet. So is every form of sweet and dessert and she’s only been eating fruit and tofu salads for the past fortnight. Mick is only going mad because he’s strictly a steak, potato and two veg man. He’s ranting and raving to whoever will listen, that eating rabbit food and bushes morning, noon and night is physical and emotional abuse, and pure shite food to be putting up in front of any real man.

A real man, Mick! Jeez!

Vanessa.

PS: Marilyn is just after arriving in now to say that Mick is not talking to Dolores because she let the cat out of the bag about the sex thing, Dolores isn’t talking to Bridie because she blabbed to Lourda and none of them, obviously, is talking to that big-mouthed accent on legs, Lourda. It looks like we could be facing into a very long summer.

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Peggy’s Leg and the New Rastafarian.

Phew! Praise the Lord, but Peggy, against all the odds, has managed to hold onto the leg. She’s inside there now in the Regional hospital, in a mixed ward, like royalty, being waited on, hand and foot. Bridie is worried, in case she’ll get so fond of having everything done for her, that she’ll expect the same treatment when she’s finally allowed to return home. If she is, Bridie says, she’s going to be one very disappointed woman. I was a bit dubious about the mixed ward business at first and mentioned it to Marilyn to see what she thought about it. Well, she looked at me as if I had three heads and said nothing for a minute. Then, she only throws her eyes to heaven and asks me, real slowly, as if I’m intellectually challenged, if I’ve noticed the average age of the patients, both men and women, in St. Bridget’s ward? Well, actually no, I can’t say I have, not being the most observant of people. Anyway, she doesn’t give me a chance to say anything, but informs me that, as far as she can make out, it has to be about 74. She’s probably right, after all, Marilyn is the youngest of us and has, so far, excellent eyesight so, if she says 74, it’s sure to be, well, 74.
‘For Christ’s sake,’ she says ‘that woman must be eighty, if she’s a day.’ There are times when Marilyn reminds me very strongly of Hamlet – you know, that supercilious, morally conservative high ground, tone? Remember, Hamlet was the one who lays into his mother for being sex mad. The arrogant bastard only goes and tells her that her ‘age, the heyday in the blood is cooled’ or some such balderdash. Obviously, she’s supposed to just sort of slip around chastely, until she’s whipped off to the Great Beyond – which is, one presumes, a totally sex free zone.
But where was I? Oh yes, Peggy and the mixed ward. I just know Marilyn is wrong to assume that, because one is in one’s late seventies (like Peggy) that all one wants to do is lie down and die. There’s plenty life in Peggy still, because every time I’ve been in to see her, she’s been telling me about the patient in the next bed and practically drooling. She’s never met anyone like him, she says, in all her sixty five years (oh, Peggy never tells the truth about her age, she’s the only person I know, who’s actually getting younger as time passes) It’s Vladimir this, and Vladimir that. Honestly, it’s as if the woman is entering her dotage, Marilyn says. This is the same woman who always used to say, before she met Vladimir that is, that she’d trust no one from Russia. According to her, all the Russians are either descended from the Cossacks or the Communists and they’re just saturated in tattoos, or body art, as Peggy primly calls it. All you have to do, she says, is look at Putin. Huh? When I ask her what she means: look at Putin, she just taps her finger off the side of her nose and looks all mysterious. Honestly! She does have a point about Putin though, he’s one, seriously freaky looking individual. But then, there’s Donald and Boris and shure, they’re from nowhere near Russia. Anyway, Marilyn says it’s disgusting the way she’s making sheep’s eyes at Vladimir, who’s at least half her age.
Then, there’s the woman in the bed at the other side of Peggy, who’s always chanting away to herself and swaying, at least she is, whenever I go in. Peggy says she’s New Rastafarian. Never heard of them, I tell Peggy. But no, she’s adamant that that’s what this woman is. Apparently, New Rastafarians, as opposed presumably to old Rastafarians, refuse to shave any bodily hair, it’s part of their beliefs or something. Peggy says that the hair on this woman’s legs is so thick, you could actually plait it. And then, there’s Dolores. Ah jeez, no, that’s a story for another day. I’m addled enough with Vladimir, the New Rastafarian and Marilyn’s sudden bout of ageism.
Vanessa.
PS: I still think Peggy’s got it arse-ways about the Rastafarian though.

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Youngest World War 1 Casualty from Waterford.

Young men enlisted to fight in the Great War for a variety of reasons. Some did so for the regular wage they sent back home, to feed their families. Others joined in a fever of patriotism, while more did so because they saw the war as a great adventure, which would be over in a few months, and they didn’t want to miss the excitement.

The youngest recorded casualty is 14 year old, John Condon, from Waterford and his reasons for joining up remain unknown. From Wheelbarrow Lane in Waterford city, he lied about his age, joined the Royal Irish Regiment as a reservist in 1913 and arrived in France just before Christmas 1914. He fought in the second battle of Ypres in April and May 1915 where the Germans used poison gas as a weapon of war. On the second last day of the battle, the ‘boy soldier’, as he became known, died in a poisoned gas attack. He was buried near Ypres and his grave is one of the most frequently visited of the war graves in Flanders. It’s hard to imagine a 14 year old, someone in second year in secondary school, going over the top in the horror that was WW1.
Altogether, about 4,800 people from Waterford fought in WW1 with over 1100 never making it home. There is, however, a memorial in Waterford, dedicated to all men and women from Waterford who lost their lives in armed conflict, including the Irish War of Independence.
(Waterford Museum)

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Down in the A&E.

My heart was thumping so badly by the time the ambulance arrived, that I thought I’d pass out myself. The whole village was there, with their mouths open and their ears pinned back, in case they’d miss anything. Lourda Kennefick was a very fortunate woman she didn’t end up unconscious, in the ambulance next to Peggy. She came flying into the garden as Peggy lay there, scarves and earrings flying, like a cheap imitation of a fortune teller, wittering on about Peggy taking deep breaths. Deep breaths, I mean, Peggy looked as if she was shuffling off her mortal coil and there was Lourda going on about taking deep breaths. That woman is a perfect fool.

By the time we arrived in A&E down in the Regional hospital, Peggy had regained consciousness and was screaming with pain, while heroically managing to curse the Brennans and all belonging to them, and threatening to do unspeakable things to the ginger tom, when she’d get her hands on him. I didn’t think it was the time to point out, that it was her absolute idiocy in first, chasing the tom and secondly, her failure to actually catch him, had her where she was, which was inside in the ambulance, with the fate of her leg in the hands of a vastly under-funded health service.

The minute we arrived, there was a bevy of professionals around her, it was obviously a quiet night at the hospital, the drunks must have been all at home, saving to go to the Euros in France or something. She was screaming like a banshee and nobody could touch her leg, she was that bad. They must have pumped a massive dose of morphine into her though, because after about ten minutes of bedlam, she began to quieten down and they whisked her off on a trolley. Well, I must have spent hours in that A&E department, wondering what in the name of Jesus, they were doing to the woman. I knew if she lost the leg, ‘twould be the finish of her, she’d die inside in a wheelchair. What the unfortunate woman would do if she wasn’t mobile, I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine.

Sometime around three in the morning, Bridie and Dolores arrived. They simply couldn’t credit the stupidity of the woman in trying to jump a three foot wall at her age. Dolores said you could understand it, if she was being chased by an axe murderer or a rapist or something, but pursuing a cat, for Jesus sake! Bridie was far more sensible, saying that there wasn’t much point in talking now about how cracked Peggy was, seeing that the damage was done, and how she’d have to make the best of it, and what was the bleddy point in giving out to her now, when ‘twas all over?

But there was no stopping Dolores. She’s a right prophet of doom and ’tis worse she’s getting lately. What, she wanted to know, was going to happen if Peggy lost the leg, how was she going to manage and who was going to look after her? Jeez, the woman went on and on, until I felt I wouldn’t be able to resist giving her wan right clatter across the pus to shut her up for good. I mean, I’d had a terrible shock myself and I wasn’t making a big performance out of it. I could see Bridie rolling her eyes to heaven and taking deep breaths – Bridie is very into the yoga and the deep breathing, imagining all the stress going out like a puff of smoke, through the balls of her feet, all that kind of visualisation thing. Actually, Peggy was only saying the other day, that she had a very strong feeling, that all wasn’t well between Dolores and Mick, the husband. Now, to be quite honest, that scenario wouldn’t surprise me in the least. What she ever saw in that Mick is a pure mystery, he’s wan right cabóg, so he is.

Of course, Dolores was very young when she married him. She was born and raised in Liverpool and met Mick at an Irish Club. He was working on the buildings or something and had loads of ready cash. She said he swept her off her feet and before she had time to draw breath, she was standing in front of the altar saying ‘I do.’ After a few years, they came back to the small family farm in Sugar Hill and there they’ve remained since. She looked right fed up anyway, as she sat there cnáthsaning about Peggy, and how stupid she was, and how she had no consideration for anyone, except herself. Honestly, she’d swear by her talk that Peggy had caused the whole accident, simply to discommode Dolores! If she only came down to the hospital to rant and rave about Peggy’s stupidity, I really don’t know why she bothered. I knew I’d have to change the subject or else, she’d be the next one in a hospital bed. So in desperation, I asked her how Mick was. Well, was I the sorry woman as she started off on another fecking rant. As the men slip the wedding ring on your finger, ’tis the ball and chain, they’re putting on,  no more romance or nights out or any other little considerations. Pure slave labour, cooking and cleaning and compromising. Then, she pauses for a minute, and looks at the two of us straight between the eyes, before she only goes and drops her bombshell.

‘Do you know,’ she asks, with a right wicked looking head  on her ’we haven’t actually had SEX since St. Patrick’s Day, 2011?  What do you make of that then? I might as well be in a fecking convent.’

Well, that shut us all up, I can tell you. Bridie even stopped taking the deep breaths.In fact, I think, she might have stopped breathing altogether for a few seconds. The pair of us sat there with our mouths open, staring at Dolores! Imagine, no sex since 2011.  Jeez, the woman had to have miscalculated, shure,there’s no way she could have been celibate for, like, five whole years! But before we could manage to utter a word, we heard footsteps behind us and there was the doctor and a small nurse advancing.

All thoughts of the sex life of Mick and Dolores flew out of our heads, as we waited to hear what was after happening to poor auld Peggy!

To be continued.

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