Ghosts, God and wait for it…

Ghosts, God and wait for it…

The thing that breathes on your neck in the dark, the voice that whispers in the dark and the hand that softly brushes the foot you’ve foolishly left outside the duvet at night, all present intriguing psychological dilemmas for us not dissimilar to some people’s relationship with God.

As a dedicated sceptic, despite my recent encounters with my own night-time visitor, I have always been fascinated by the dark, frightening, creeping thing in the night, the fear that stalks just out of sight, the haunting and the shiver down your spine. I am no psychologist but like most people, I have an understanding that these things are really our own inner fears and insecurities coming to the surface as we fade in and out of sleep…or are they?

Look, I’m a writer and one who particularly enjoys delving into the darker matter of the soul, so perhaps I spend more time considering such matters than most. I need to feel my readers fear, to understand what I have to do to make them believe that the slender, outside edge of a ghostly little finger, just softly slid down their spine as they turn to the next page. I’m not specifically talking about horror, in all my books, I still revel in delight when I know I’ve hit the mark and sent a chill down someone’s spine.

One of my favourite spontaneous Halloween memories is from when my children were small. We were at a party and I found a torch. I switched off all the lights and sat in the dark with the torch under my chin and asked “who wants to hear a story.” The kids all gathered around in a circle on the floor and I proceeded to scare the living bejesus out of every one of them. You cannot begin to imagine the squeals. It was a combination of fear and delight and I look for that in my writing.  On that occasion I could see the fear, fun and excitement in their eyes and even though I can’t see my reader when I write, I do my best to recall such interaction to bring the excitement to life on the page. I’ve always enjoyed story telling.

When I was a small boy, (true story) my grandmother came to stay with us and as we lived in a small house, she ended up taking my bed. I had options but the most attractive one was to sleep alone in front of the fire downstairs in a sleeping bag. It was a camping fantasy and my imagination was quite capable of placing me in the Amazon surrounded by a menagerie of wild animals.

Now I like the rest of the world have had nightmares and bad dreams but what happened that night, felt so real to me that it stuck with me. The fear I felt, the cold, bald terror makes me shiver just recalling it almost fifty years on. My sleeping bag was old and blue and the zipper was a nightmare. It caught at every tooth and had to be very carefully handled so it wouldn’t break completely. It took forever to move it a few inches up or down. As I recall I awoke in the early hours at a time my more recent shadow man seems to favour.

I lay there watching the embers in the grate. It was almost completely dark save the very low glow from the fire, when I felt a cold breath on my neck. The thing that leaned close in the dark, was real and terrifying and it whispered my name in the night.  I squeezed my eyes tight for a moment and when I opened them, the sleeping bag had been opened just a little at the top and the flap folded neatly back.  It was then I saw him. He had form and no form and he faded into the corner before disappearing.  I remember he had an accent, one I couldn’t place and I was genuinely terrified.

Now I know you’ll think, yep he was dreaming.  Think what you will, that was one of those moments that I believe was real. We all have them and despite what I have just said, I am still a denier when it comes to ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night, and yet… I have an even stranger one for you.

My maternal grandmother was religious and when I travelled abroad, she gave me a small collection of religious artefacts to carry and keep me safe.  Most people go with the old St. Christopher medal as he is the patron saint of travellers, but not my Gran. She gave me a Miraculous Medal inside a little orange pouch as she was a big fan of the Holy Mother, a small piece of blessed palm that she got from her local church and a picture of Padre Pio.  She was a big fan of the Padre. I took all three, unholy devil that I am, but out of love and respect for my Gran, I placed the Pardo Pio Pictures in a plastic sleeve and shoved it into the inner pocket of my wallet, tucked inside the little orange pouch. There they stayed until my mother died.

Now here is the odd thing.  No one knew I carried these things with me and after her death; I did something I hadn’t done in years. I tried to pray. It was an empty, foolish thing for a young man in my state of mind and it was a half-hearted hopeless gesture.  My heart had been broken and I was so devastated that I would have turned anywhere for solace.  I remembered the little medal my Gran had given me and thought I could pray to the mother of God to give me comfort.  I had after all lost my own mother and my deeply engrained, early strong religious teaching, led me to it with ease.

When I opened my wallet I pulled the little pouch and sleeve from the back pocket. They had been there so long, they were partially stuck but they came out without too much trouble.  I put the sleeve to one side and I opened the pouch with the medal inside. Just as I expected, there was a medal with the form of the Blessed Virgin Mary, all dark and marked as I remembered it. This had been a well weathered, often handled possession of my grandmother after all. But then I saw the second medal.  It was brand new and shiny as if it had just been made. I picked up the sleeve and shook it and the piece of palm fell into my hand.  I reached inside and pulled out the little picture of Padre Pio.

It was battle-scarred from being bent and frequently sat on, as I carried my wallet in my back pocket.  As I held it, I rubbed my thumb across the little card and something even stranger happened. A second identical card slid from behind it. Only this one was immaculate. No crease marks and crinkles as it should have had like the other one.

Now like I say, I am not religious and I am completely sceptical about all things that suggest spirits or ghosts, but the duplicate medal and picture were impossible to explain. I tried to create a logical explanation for this but I couldn’t. The religious gifts my gran gave to me were handed over one by one, a memory that is clear and unambiguous and I had handled each item multiple times before tucking them away in that little plastic pocket. No one could have known they were there and certainly would not have had access to my wallet, so it was unexplainable at the time and remains so today.

A strange follow-on thing then happened. I placed the surplus medal in my car.  I honestly don’t know why but it felt right.  I have over the intervening years lost the medal three times and within a day, I have found another, in the most innocuous places. Despite my lack of religiosity, I still have one in my car and one in my wallet today.

I guess we all have a story of the shadow on the stairs or the voice in the night and while I am the world’s biggest naysayer when it comes to everyone else, I can’t explain my own experiences so it leaves me with a dilemma of sorts.  But here’s the thing… Remember I said I had a miraculous medal and then I found a second one which I leave in my car – the one I cannot lose?

Because I’m writing this blog and as I am writing it, I was drawn to open my wallet to look at the small collection of religious items my dear departed Gran gave to me. The first thing I did was look at the Padre Pio pictures – no change there. But now this is where something very strange has happened and I guess you have to wonder if I am telling you the truth or if I am just a good spinner of tales.  There should be one miraculous medal in my little pouch and one in my car. I know there is one in my car because I saw it this morning.  Seeing it, gave rise to me writing this piece in the first place.  But the remaining lone medal in the pouch… I simply had to take a picture because even though I’m looking at it, I still don’t believe it…and here it is…  I will leave it up to you to speculate on this one – Uno-dos-tres? What do I think?…What do you think?…

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The gap in my perception… In search of a flitterling…

The gap in my perception… In search of a flitterling…


There was an undeniable coarseness to my youth when put in context with the children of today.  We swore far less for fear of hell or a clip on the ear as my father so delicately put it.  You’d have your arse skelped for saying Jesus, so you had to be careful.  That being said we were altogether rougher around the edges.

Sometimes it felt as though we were dug out of the soil.  I was an urban kid so I don’t mean that in the Patrick Kavanagh “One side of the potato-pits was white with frost –How wonderful that was, how wonderful! And when we put our ears to the paling-post -The music that came out was magical” sort of way, rather we belonged to the outside world.

Every one of us understood the medicinal value of a doc leaf and that the reflection of light from a buttercup under your chin, could determine if you actually liked butter or not.   We got our hands dirty, cut our chins and elbows and had permanent pickable scabs on our bare knees.

We played in big groups and like a flock of starlings, we’d play kick the can and swirl around our chaser.  Together we fired slingshots at each other, played bulldogs charge, lassoed our friends with anything resembling a rope, teased vicious guard dogs, climbed fences, walked along garden railings, crashed go-carts, nailed nails into wood just for the hell of it, caught, bees, butterflies, mice and spiders just to see what they looked like up close.


We gave each other crossbars or rode on the handlebars of bikes.  We stole matches and set things alight out of sight of our parents, carved our names on trees with sharp knives and kept on playing through the bloody noses, cut knees and torn elbows.   We picked our noses as well as our scabs, rubbed those doc leaves on nettle stings and blew on long blades of grass that we cupped between our thumbs.

For the most part, I was a cowboy. I rode imaginary horses, always the finest of chestnut beasts with a flowing blonde mane and I broke in wild ones too. I was shot many times but rarely killed.  Taking a bullet and spinning away when you got winged, was a well-rehearsed move. I rescued girls and politically incorrectly nowadays, I killed more Injuns than there were buffalo on the plains.

I knew every tribe, how they looked, their Hollywood versions at least, Blackfoot, Crow, Apache, Arapahoe, Comanche, they all played a part in our games.  There was nothing like it and it formed me.  My imagination was set free every day and in the summer…oh the endless days of summer holidays… in the summer I was so wild and free and I discovered the world in the place we called the California Hills at the end of our Dublin street. Yes I was dug out of the earth.


Mothers called us in at tea time and we’d try to avoid that shout.  It broke the spell.  Eat and out again until the light faded and the motherly shouts diminished the group one by one, picking us off until there was no choice but to go in.  Each of us hoped our mother might forget, but they never did.

I was truly free in the moments of my wilderness joy, my careless breeze through the wilds of the grasslands that were no more than a few hundred metres long.   It never mattered for I was always somewhere else, someone else and I was setting my future clock without ever knowing it.  That was my summer and it kept me warm through the winter to come.

There is a gap in my perception.   Maybe I’m being too kind to myself, or perhaps I’m a little harsh.  It’s something we all suffer from.  I call it selective self-discombobulation.  I confuse myself to suit myself or sometimes as an act of self-destruction.  It can work both ways.  When I was a kid, I was deadly.  Not deadly as in a stone cold killer, but deadly in the Irish sense, as in great.  Well sometimes. 

When I was playing Cowboys and Indians, I had a picture in my head of who I was and it certainly wasn’t what other people saw.  Anyone looking at me from a neutral perspective, would have seen a skinny-arsed, little blonde waif of a scutterling, flittering about like a leaf on the wind.  From my eyes, I knew I was a mean hombre, not to be messed with, dark and brooding. Other cowboys would either be scared of me or want to be me.  See what I mean?

As a teenager, I was of course far more self-conscious.  Sometimes I thought I was the dogs, but only sometimes.  I remember wearing a pair of tight Levi jeans, brown desert boots and a lemon cheesecloth shirt.  My hair had lost its blonde and gone quite mousey, but it was longer and it flicked about my neck in the breeze, enticing girls to come closer and see who this Adonis was.   They didn’t of course but I had my moment when it sort of felt that way.  But then no one noticed or came flocking and my shoulders sagged just a little bit.  My chin dropped and I dug my hands into my pockets, disengaged my little wiggle of a strut and shuffled home to hang my shirt back in the wardrobe. Other times I just felt awkward or self-conscious but when I did, I always managed to dig out my little cowboy self, to restore some sense of a smile. 


Everybody has it I guess, that misguided self-criticism or over-confidence.  Some have one or the other in abundance, others seem to walk the plank of it quite well and then there are the ones like me who unfalteringly, need to go looking for that little boy and put on the mask of carefree positivity to hide behind.  It helps me convince the world that I’m unbreakable.

My problem is my gift. I have always been quick of mind, sharp tongued, capable and brazen in the face of often quite shocking odds. I have stood up when I should have backed down and gotten away with it. I am to some extent cheeky and well able to react to pretty much anything in the moment.   The gift of my speed of thought is my problem as I say, or perhaps it is my curse.

It gives me stories this curse.  Behind my eyes as I chat, work, play and survive each day that I strip apart, I am spinning out of control and the whirlwind of my thoughts splashes paint on canvas, my words on a page and so I write.  But it is surely a curse.  I get no rest and as I grow older, as the autumn approaches, I find my leaves scatter about me and I can’t quite remember which branch they once belonged to.


They mock me my thoughts, those amber leaves and autumn seems to last longer and longer bringing in its wake, the winter of my mind and with it the darkness, my curse.  But my curse is my gift and the darkness tells tales that I must set free, so the curse begets my gift and my gift enhances my curse, until my soul cries out for the spring to relieve the confusion and my pain.  But even in the spring, I know winter is just outside my window. I worry about the coming winter.  Perhaps it is because I’ve carried the darkness with me so long that I fear it will someday take hold and I won’t be able to shake it off.

It is then that I remember my little cowboy self and I call him to the fore, to free me once again until the darkness is no more.  And spring becomes summer and with it comes my smile.  I kiss it on the lips of those that would care for me and I hold it for a while.  But the gap in my perception reappears and I become paranoid and worry for the day when autumn will return.  I care little for how the world sees me but I know I see myself in the shadow of a winter sky, no matter how bright my face shines.  The truth is I try to always wear my summer face, but inside I look for my first turning leaf and then watch for it to fall. 

So I call to the waif, the flitterling and I try to keep him handy. The longer I can hide behind his beautiful small boy hair that blows with even the wisp of a breeze, the more I can depend on his gallop and his whoop to disguise the truth, I can keep the gap in my perception from those that matter most and maybe… just maybe keep the winter from my door…

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Mosquitos the size of bears… I should’ve listened to me Ma…

Mosquitos the size of bears… I should’ve listened to me Ma…

I think it was the shadow in the water below that most disturbed me.  It could have been anything but the only thing I could think of was “Shark!”  The full moon offers quite a lot of illumination, but when you’re treading water off the Bass Strait in Australia, the light gets reflected off the waves and all you see at best, are the shadows.

It’s the stories you hear that make you worried.  I came from Dublin and swam in the chilly waters of the Irish Sea or occasionally the Atlantic when I was a kid.   Nothing more dangerous than a jelly fish or a piece of broken glass in the sand could get you there.  Australia was a little different.  There were poisonous spiders and snakes and in the water sharks.

I guess the fact that I was only there a few weeks when I decided to go camping in the bush didn’t help.  The newness of it all meant I was not just unfamiliar with the local flora and fauna, but I was downright naïve.

Something moved beneath me and a wave slapped me in the face as I looked down.  Further out, the others were swimming freely. They were laughing and messing about and were more used to the place than I was, so it was bound to be safe?  I looked to the shore and all I could see in the night was the fire we had lit and one of our tents nearby  on the beach.  Flip! – and that’s the nice F-word for what I was thinking – It looked like a long way back and then something touched my foot.  I swallowed a lung full of water.

“Bollox.” I said the word out loud and felt my heart thumping in my chest.  I knew I shouldn’t have had those beers.  Drinking and midnight swimming in shark-infested waters suddenly felt like a bad idea.  The very thought of that combination, drink, night-swimming and sharks, suddenly brought me back to Galway in 1976.  I was only a nipper and my older brother smuggled me into a cinema in Galway city to watch Jaws.  It scared the actual shite out of me and in that moment I could literally hear the music in my head and something touched my foot again.


Now I had options.  I could scream and flay my way back to shore but I figured it would be no good for my cred to lose my cool and look like a Wally, especially if this was a false alarm. There was the choice to carry on and ignore the large dark shadow circling beneath my feet and enjoy the respite that the cool water offered to the 80% humidity and ridiculously high night time temperatures. That was never really going to happen. Then there was the play it cool, I think I’ll just casually swim back and have another beer on dry land option. Option 3 it was.

Of course that turned out to be easier said than done.  In the first place, even as I considered my options, I had drifted further out to sea.  I am a decent enough swimmer and back then I was young , strong and fit so I could make it back easily enough. It was just a fair distance to have to swim with a shark stalking me, assuming it actually was a shark.  Regardless I began to swim back.  Slow and steady I thought, don’t splash too much.  The shore seemed further away with every shark-attracting stroke. Half way there a thought struck me and I stopped to look back at the others.  My feet touched a sandbank much to my relief.

I called out for the others to come back but they waved me off.  I said that there could be sharks – trying not to give away my fear as it was as yet unfounded – but they mocked me for worrying and for being a blow-in.  Fair enoughski, I thought, if you get your legs bitten off, don’t come running to me.  On I swam and I felt the first pang of a stitch as the beer kicked in.  My mother always told me not to go swimming for at least an hour after eating or drinking.  Why hadn’t I listened to her. Something splashed to my left.

I picked up the pace and the stitch evaporated.  I could smell the fire and my knee hit sand beneath the water. Hallelujah I was safe.  To be brutally honest, at that point I sort of scrambled, half crawling, half swimming into the shallows and then ran-waded my way to complete safety on the sand. I plonked my nervous arse onto the beach, panting like I had run a marathon.  The adrenalin was still pumping as I scanned the water for the others. 

I heard them laughing and splashing and then picked  out their silhouettes swimming back to shore. What to do?  The answer was easy, another beer.   They tumbled onto the beach, unaware of my no-good, two-bit, lily-livered, yeller-bellied, chicken-shit varmentism.  We drank some more, stoked the fire and eventually crawled into our respective tents and crashed out until the sound of rosellas and cockatoos screeching woke me up early the next day.


The fire was dead and I had been savaged my mosquitos the size of bears but at least I was alive.  I was first up and I strolled to the water’s edge and looked around.  I had panicked the night before and felt better with the sun on my face. Behind me were the jungle encrusted cliffs that we had somehow negotiated half-cut in the dark the night before.  There were exotic birds everywhere, the likes of which I had only seen in the zoo back home. The sky was pure blue, not a cloud and already, even early in the morning the heat and humidity had me perspiring like a sauna-loving sumo wrestler’s crotch in a fur lined jock-strap.

I looked out at the water and the blood drained from my face.  The sea was calm with only a few crested waves near the shoreline, but it wasn’t the waves that caught my attention.  Like some horrible aquatic nightmare, the sea’s surface was dotted with small triangular fins.  There were dozens of them and they were everywhere.  I felt sick.

That was it.  No feckin’ way was I going back into the water again.  I would sweat my hole off if I had to, but my worst imagined fear had just come true.  Or had it?  I turned my back on the water and returned to my tent.  Just before I reached it, I thought I saw something slither in the sand near the door.  I could have sworn it went inside.  The word ‘Bollox’ was used once more.  Apparently the sharks had made me bush-paranoid.   All I could imagine now was a tent full of snakes.  I was afraid to pull on a pair of Kecks without checking.  Feckin’ snakes!  My mother warned me about them as well.  You should always listen to your Ma.  I figured that this was going to be a very, long weekend…

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Mind your tuppence…

Mind your tuppence…

There was a young-one I knew when I was a lad, who’d kiss you for tuppence.  She scared the livin’ bejesus out of me. For the sake of saving her blushes, we will call her Mags.  As far as I was concerned she was more frightening than a movie monster.  If she cornered you – you were handing over the money and getting kissed!  It was an odd thing for me because at the time, I had still to discover the benefit of kissing young-ones.  Now if you’re not from Ireland and not from a certain time, perhaps I can clarify a couple of things.  Where I came from there were young-ones and young-fellas (boys and girls) and in terms of ‘back in them days’ tuppence was a lot of money.

Tuppence would get me a chocolate bar, not that I’d waste my money on that extravagance.  If I was lucky enough to have tuppence, I’d be going for quantity over quality every time.  Ten black jacks for a Ha’penny or a mouldy kiss for tuppence?  No contest my friends.  Forty Blackjacks – jackpot!

Of course your tuppence had another meaning in olden days where auld lads like me spring from.  I still think I’m young but to some, I come from a world where dinosaurs roamed the earth and everything was black and white.   

“Mind your Tuppence my dear,” might well have been good advice for two-penny Mags as she got older.   I’m sure she turned out to be a lovely girl, perhaps just a bit too entrepreneurial for me at the time.  Hopefully she saved her tuppence for someone nice.  My mother like most women of her time,  always spoke in vague terms when it came to anything sexual.   There was a secret language of ambiguity that meant her generation could avoid using any words that actually had a real sexual context.


I remembering overhearing the term ‘interfered with’ when I was quite young and being baffled by its use.

“She’s never been the same,” they said, “not since she was interfered with.”  Then there were the Christian Brothers telling us about it being a sin to ‘interfere with yourself.’  I looked the word up but it only confused me more, pry, meddle, disturb!  How the feck do you pry with yourself?  When my son was born my poor mother nearly had a stroke when I referred to his doo-dah by its correct anatomical name.

“You can’t say that! You can’t call it a…” She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word.

“Penis mam. It’s called a penis. That’s why I call it a penis.”  She wasn’t overly religious which is the only reason she didn’t bless herself and call a priest.  I won’t tell you what happened when my daughter came along, sweet mother above.  The best part was when my five year old son used the correct anatomical word for his sister’s woo-woo using his outside voice in a restaurant.  If the ground could have opened up, my poor mother Lord rest her soul, would have gladly jumped in.  But I have gone away from the point… back to tuppence.

Knowing the value of money as a child was significantly more important when I was a kid than it is today.  I come from a time and place where every penny counted so there was no chance that your parents would be wasting money on anything other than that which was needed.  When you came across a Ha’penny it was precious.  A penny or tuppence, was pretty much enough to score you a decent bit of sugar in the shops and a shilling was ‘cha-ching!’

I would deliberate my potential spending activity in forensic detail, to ensure that by the time I got to the shops I would have calculated the best value proposition for my funds.  I was like an investor speculating on the stock market.   I would have to decide what return I would get for my investment.

Generally I could go for the short term investment, say a choc-ice or a chocolate bar, the medium term – as many toffies or pear drops as you could get for the change in your hand, or the longer term plan which involved delayed gratification.

Short term, was fantasy stuff.  I dreamed of eating the more luxurious sweet items and if I was lucky enough to have money to buy a proper big bar of chocolate, while it would be near orgasmic in its devouring, it would be gone in the blink of my little hazel eyes.  The long term investment portfolio nonsense was something only people like my sister could do.  Hold out to get more money until you had saved enough to get both the chocolate and the cheap and nastier small sweets, thus ensuring both long term and medium term gratification.

Not a chance – medium term was me, get as much cheap crap as possible for the funds, things that you could suck for ages and therefore drag out the eating pleasure for longer.  Of course, I was never able to keep the lid on it and I would always bite through even the hardest of sweets to devour them as quickly as possible.  I’d even give gobstoppers a run for their money.  It was like a personal challenge that the sweet in question would even dare think that I couldn’t bite through it.


My fantasy bar was a Two and Two.  For some reason most people I know, can’t remember Two and Two bars, but they were luxurious to me.  There were Wibbly Wobbly Wonders, Icebergers, Super-splits, Banjo bars, Star bars, Drifters, Aztec bars, Spangles, Toffo, Topics, Pop Rocks, Pear Drops, Black Jacks, Flying Saucers, Fizzy cola bottles, Wham bars, Milk teeth, Mice, Refreshers, Dib Dabs, Fizz-bags… I could go on until I drool myself into a pile of nostalgic desire on the floor.

Every generation has its memories of their sweet delicacies, but I guess from my perspective, the value we placed on the cheapest and nastiest of them in memory terms is quite significant.  Every penny was hard fought for and every purchase carefully considered.  We couldn’t, nay daren’t ask our parents to buy us stuff.  Whoa, not a flippin’ chance.

There was a shop near us that made home made snowballs, long before the pre-packaged ones that I still love today were ever thought of.  They had thick delicious chocolate and coconut, swirling up into a cone, the very memory has me salivating.

Mags the tuppeny kisser on the other hand, never left me salivating.   I was fortunately too young to be bothered with wasting my valuable money on something so vile to my little boy mind, especially when I had better things to spend my money on.  People say a penny for your thoughts, in for a penny, in for a pound.  I say, mind your tuppence, hopefully something young Mags did once she made her money in the kissing business… What sweets or candy would you have chosen over a kiss for tuppence I wonder?


Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

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So full of Holiness I was fit to burst!…

So full of Holiness I was fit to burst!…

Easter was only ever theoretically about religion when I was a chiddler.  Sure we had wall to wall indoctrination when it came to the significance of the most important Catholic period of the year, but it didn’t matter there were more important things for us as wildlings of the street.

In school the Christian Brothers started beating the religious festival into us as soon as Christmas and St Patrick’s Day were behind us.  We had real fake palm leaves in church on Palm Sunday and with only a week to the big day we were already so full of the holiness that we were fit to burst.  Stations of the cross, mass for mass’s sake, confession and buckets of guilt because Jesus died on the cross for us. 

The brothers made it seem very personal as though I’d personally been responsible. Me! Little me! For Feck sake I didn’t even kill spiders.  But oh no, we were all guilty. Then again, wasn’t that the whole point of religion back then, especially us poor auld Catholics.  Guilt!  We spent lent feeling guilty about the poor starving black babies in Biafra and collecting our pennies for them.  We sacrificed our favourite things, nearly always sweets because that was the hardest thing to give up.  If you managed to sneak in a crafty black jack or two, the guilt would nearly overwhelm you.  It was so bad I’d have gone to a mid-week confession to cleanse my soul, if it wasn’t for the fact that it would make me look suspicious!

Lent took its toll. We were fully withdrawn from sugar but the addiction hadn’t gone away.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, processions in the street, all the shops closed it was serious business back then.  My auld fella would complain about the fish-only malarkey on Good Friday.  As far as he was concerned, dinner wasn’t dinner without a big lump of red meat on your plate.

Mid-term break really fecked you up.  The myth of an Irish summer was still too far away for a guarantee of any sort of good weather.  The chances were that rain would keep you housebound for the duration.  By the time Easter Saturday came along, I would have driven myself half-demented staring at the collection of chocolate eggs sitting on the sideboard.


We didn’t have much back then but when it came to Easter eggs, I had plenty of lovely aunties and they all got us an egg.  I had twelve eggs one year and so did my sisters and brother.  It was an unholy gluttonous feast of chocolate.  Sugar porn for the soul.  Given our Lenten abstinence from all things sweet, I was only short of developing a twitch.  I stacked them high and then re-stacked them.  I often sat there in a zen like trance, just staring at them.  Every detail of their demise was worked out.  I knew which one I’d eat first, which one I’d keep to last, and how I would go about their destruction.  My sister was closest in age so it was doubly important to our sibling rivalry that we kept our eggs separate.

“MAM!!  She’s making her eggs touch mine!”

It was a very serious matter. Each egg held the secret inside, a small pack of Smarties perhaps, it didn’t matter.  One year I waited until I was alone, a near impossibility in our house and then burgled the boxes, carefully opening the foil at the back of three eggs, pulling them apart and sneaking out the goodies inside to gorge on in secret in the cubby hole beneath the stairs.

Then Easter Sunday would arrive and Mam would put us through our final paces.  No eggs until after mass. RRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!  No eggs after mass until after breakfast… FOR CRYIN’OUT LOUD!

Finally egg time…But wait, only one before dinner…WHAT THE FUP!  Of course I know now what she was trying to do and it worked to a large extent, but eventually she’d run out of reasons for us not to sit down and gorge on the brown, sticky sweetness that had tempted us for weeks.   Ah happy days.

Looking back to that time, I connect very deeply to the little man I once was.  The notion of God and chocolate are strangely entwined in my head and as I sit here typing I can see a rather large Easter egg winking at me from across the room, bringing me back home to those simpler times…so  if you’ll excuse me…there’s something I gotta take care of…


Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

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