Mmmmmm…Fly cake …

Mmmmmm…Fly cake …

Dirty Aggie was the only name I ever knew her by, although her real name wasn’t Aggie or even something close like Agnes. It seemed to fit. The origin has been speculated upon but never really tied down, so I won’t add to the debate other than to say, whatever about the Aggie origin, the dirty part had some sense of logic.

I came across her as a nipper and she frightened the living bejaybus out of me. You would have been able to see her shop from our house, were the view not blocked by the corner of the pub across the road from us. As the crow flew it was about two hundred yards away, but you had to cross two roads to get to her shop as our house was very close to a cross roads, whose traffic flow was controlled by a sprawling roundabout.

Even as a little waifling, I was allowed to cross both roads without an adult. I had to cross roads to get to school by myself anyway, so the road crossing rules were well drilled into me and back then, there was very little traffic compared to today.

Most people in our neighbourhood only aspired to own a car, so most of the traffic was passing through and much of it was large and hard to miss as in buses and trucks. Trucks were always a source of amusement because as they slowed for the roundabout, the local boys would try and scut on the back of them. It was not uncommon to see lorry drivers slam on the brakes and jump out to chase them off. They ran the gauntlet, especially if they weren’t closed trailers. Not all the boys were just scutting for fun. Some had more criminal intentions. I didn’t scut. My Ma would have reddened my arse if she caught me and there were far too many aunties, not to mention random auld-wans floating about the place who knew I was May’s son, to take the chance.

Now to be fair, Dirty Aggie’s was very dodgable, but there were times when you had no real choice. She opened long hours and sold a range of goods, tinned food, milk, bread, sliced meats, cake, shoe polish, jam, flour, sweeping brushes…you get the idea. She opened odd hours and sold single cigarettes and single matches, to kids as young as could make it to her shop on their own steam. Back when shops weren’t 24 hour affairs and we were lacking supermarkets, sometimes Dirty Aggie’s was the only place left to go. It’s funny to recall buying a packet of fags for my da without her even blinking an eye when I was so small I could barely see over the counter.

Of course she wasn’t known as Dirty Aggie for nothing. Hygiene was…well let’s just say you left your highfalutin ideas about cleanliness and hygiene at the door. We didn’t have health and safety back then…No siree! At a time when at the very least shops had electric fly zappers with nice flashy blue lights in the summer, Aggie had strings of sticky, fly covered fly paper dangling over the fresh meat.

We could return bottles in them days and get a few pennies on the refund. Aggie never gave kids the money. Instead she would give you cake. She used to have a slab of sponge cake covered in pink icing, which she would cut into small squares, and that was the best you could hope for. In fairness, we didn’t get much by the way of sugar in those days as money was tight, so fly covered or not -they were quite the lure. I loved cake.

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The trouble of course was that the flies liked them too and on a hot summer’s day, they looked more like current cakes, until she swatted them away before slicing through the slab and tossing it on the counter for you. Mmmmmmm…fly cake.

I always entered her shop with a sense of foreboding. She’d rip you off on your change if she could and the place always had a bad smell. Often it was from the older boys throwing stink bombs in through the door and shouting some abuse as they ran away.

What I didn’t know of course, was that she was more than just a cranky old bat who ran a smelly old shop. She was more than the sum of the parts we imagined. Her real name was Louise Moran and her life was dotted with tragedy. She had been married, but lost her husband young and later her son tragically committed suicide, by hanging himself out the back of her house in the shed while she was unaware in the house. She eventually gave up the shop after a few years and moved to a nearby suburb where she fell under the spell of Alzheimer’s. She ultimately died in her early eighties and was buried in her home town land with the wonderful name of Yellowbogcommon. These facts I learned much later in life while researching for my book Little Big Boy.

Of course all we ever knew about her was that she ran a smelly shop and had the enduring nick name of dirty Aggie. She seemed to be a private woman, for even our parents knew little about her. The memories of my childhood are not always happy ones, but I generally look back with a fondness that seeks out the best of those times. In remembering Dirty Aggie I smiled, for she and her shop, the sights, sounds and smells that accompany those memories, are all part of a rich tableau that ultimately shaped my life. Yet I think it’s important to not forget that behind the walls of people we encounter, even those that maybe only barely touch our lives, there are stories filled with joy, sadness and in Aggie’s case, terrible tragedy that we often never even consider.

I can’t reprimand my tinier self for not seeing past her gruff exterior. My mother taught me well enough not to be mean, hurtful, or indeed to join in when others taunted her. I was an observer but my little mind only saw what it needed to see. I saw Dirty Aggie, a woman who challenged me to count my change for fear of it being short. I saw Dirty Aggie, the woman who served me before other boys for I was polite, waited my turn and said please and thank you.

Sadly beyond her soiled apron, the smell of old meat and sugary iced cakes covered in flies, I never gave her much of a second thought at the time. That being said, she still remains large in my memory as indeed she surely does for a generation of children who knew her only as Dirty Aggie, made up songs about her to sing before tossing stink bombs in through her door, and bought single cigarettes and matches from her the very next day. Whatever else can be said about her sad life, she left her mark on this world, for good or for otherwise, but for me at least, a mark dipped in nostalgia, reeking of cold ham, shoe polish and stink bombs. Long may her memory endure…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all-5

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Goin’ de shops for me Ma…

Goin’ de shops for me Ma…

I was reminiscing the other day almost by accident. It’s funny how a word or a phrase, can instantly draw you to another time and place. It was a dropped word that kicked it all off. On my way out to the local mini-market, I said that I was “Goin’ the shops.” Joanna started to slag me for dipping into my childhood vocabulary with such ease. Growing up in my neck of the woods, we tended to drop the word ‘to’ quite often, something I no longer do, but in that moment for whatever reason I dropped it without even noticing.

“I’m goin’ de toilet” or I’m goin’ de shops” were simply the way things were said and essentially part of my childhood dialect and accent. Though I pompously like to imagine myself as a man of the world, I really am just a Dub at heart, a little boy from Dublin in a grown up body.  Such little colloquialisms went unnoticed in my young brain, and a part of me pulls one out quite unexpectedly, every now and then.

Laughing about my slip to the past, I started to explain and thus I began my little trip. Goin’ de shops to get de messages, was something that happened far more frequently back then, than it does today. My mother or ‘Me Ma’ as I would have said, (Pronounced Maah not Maw) didn’t have the luxury that many women today have. While we did have  a car, that was my father’s car, for his use only. She didn’t drive and the notion that he might actually drive her to the shops on his day off, was about as ridiculous a thing as either of them could imagine.

We had no local supermarket for many years when I was small. Eventually they started to appear, an import from foreign places where people had far more money and less sense than we did.  The earliest version I recall was one called ‘The Elephant’ and then there was ‘Powers’ which I loved of course because of the name, but they were hardly supermarkets as we know them today. The inevitable invasion of supermarkets began in more affluent areas, but even in our little working class corner of the world, they began to creep in as I grew older, to eventually eradicate many of the small local shops.  They had strange names like ‘3 Guys’ and ‘Gubays’ and then there was ‘Pat Quinn’s’ and eventually Quinnsworth. Nowadays we have the multinationals, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and the like, but for me as a small boy, goin’ de shops meant a trip to the butcher, the baker and the green grocer.

For the most part, my mother did the shopping by herself. She took it very seriously and knew not just the price, but the value of everything.  Sometimes she’d drag one or more of us along and I’d spend half my time tugging on her coat going, “Ma…Ma….Ma…” when she stopped to chat to some auld-one about whatever Mas talked about. I really couldn’t have cared less. They could talk for ages and it drove me nuts, standing there in the cold bored off my face.

It was a stop and chat procedure, that could happen five or six times in the space of two hundred yards, and then we’d have to face the gauntlet of auld-one chat on the way back again! Having no real supermarket; and she wouldn’t have trusted them anyway, my mother would make several trips to the shops every day except Sunday. The shops were all closed on Sunday back then, save the local newsagent. She couldn’t carry everything at once and everything had to be fresh. Milk came to the door, but bread was bought fresh in the morning, a bit later in the day meat from the butchers and in the afternoon, she might go to buy some veg for dinner. Different times indeed. But sometimes, only sometimes mind when the pressure was on, she’d make the mistake of sending me as her envoy.

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I hated going to the shops for me Ma, especially to the butchers. She could never just ask me to get one thing and there was always the complication of some additional, overly prescriptive option, that had to be adhered to precisely. To be fair, I was sent to the shops when I was still a tiddler, no bigger than big enough not to be taken by a big gust of wind. All that was in my head was being a cowboy or a commando. I was lucky by the time I got to the end of our path, if I hadn’t already got distracted enough by the injuns on the roof of the pub across from our house, to forget where I was going, let alone remember what I had to get.

“Half a pound of rashers. Lean back, don’t let him give you streaky. A pound of his best lean, round mince, and a half a pound of pork sausages.”

For the love of God! I’d barely get Rashers, mince and sausages. She be lucky if I came back with one of the three, without her turning the order into the vagina monologues! She was immersing me into political theatre. Sometimes she’d say,

“Oh and I need corned beef for your Da on Sunday. Tell them it’s for me… silverside.”

Ok, I don’t know if you’re getting the whole picture, but I’ll explain. First, she’d get me to repeat it back to her, so she felt confident that I’d remember. I doubt she ever was, because it would take me several goes to get it right. Out I’d go with the money in my pocket, with a detailed estimate of what everything should cost and under strict instructions to count my change and make sure I brought it all back. I’d walk the railings, jump over the gate, and then cower down to avoid the first arrows flying in from high above in the canyon. ‘Pesky varmints!’

By the time I’d made it to the butchers, and before I forget, we had more than one butchers locally, each one offering differing quality depending on what you were after. So me Ma in her wisdom, could easily tell me to get half the order in one butchers and the other half in another.

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“Go to Payne’s for the sausages, but get the rest in Mc Loughlins” she’d say. I mean seriously, I had Comanche on my tail! I’d get to Payne’s as that was the furthest and try and remember what she wanted. There I’d queue up behind a line of women wearing scarves, all towering above me, some occasionally offering me platitudes or tussling my hair. (I was cute, what can I say.) I’d trace out shapes in the sawdust with my foot and always be surprised when the butcher would call me for the third time.

“Earth to skinny arse- come in?”

What the…sausages- Payne’s for sausages – but how much?

“Eh sausages please.”

“Pound? Half pound?” his questions worked as a prompt.

“Half Pound…Please.” I was always polite.

“Which ones Skinny Malink”

I’d sart singing the song in my head ‘Skinny Malink Malogeon legs, umberella feet...’
I was damned if I could remember, so I’d shrug.

“What are they for? A fry? A stew? Did your Ma write it down?”

“Pork!”

He’d start to pick them ‘…went to the pictures and couldn’t get a seat, when the pictures started, Skinny Malink Farted …’

And so it went, then on to the second butchers, by which stage I could barely remember my name. Chastened by the embarrassment of forgetting one thing, trying to remember mince, rashers and corned beef, not to mention the specifics was always a challenge. Rashers were easy for some reason, lean back stuck with me, largely from the time the butcher asked me on a previous occasion “what type?” When I answered “lean back” he leaned back and said “what type” laughing as though he’d never told that joke before.
I’d get some version of mince and when I ordered the corned beef I remember saying what my mother had told me. “… and some corned beef please…silverside …” followed by “It’s for me Ma.” I said it because she told me to tell him, even though it made no sense to me at the time. How would he know who me Ma was?

But back then, the butcher knew my mother of course and he would have recognised me as her son. They knew all of their customers, most by name and by their preferences. They’d know what each woman’s husband liked and who could afford a big cut or a small cut. They recognised the nonverbal clues as to when someone was counting their pennies and would adjust their pitch to suit.

My, how things have changed. It’s funny how I hated goin’ de shops back then, yet I have fond memories of that time and place, as vivid and as real as if they were only yesterday. They are conjured up with just the drop of one word. I could tell you a rather bizarre story about going to buy sweets in the local chipper, or fags for me Da in Dirty Aggies, but that’s another story… and I’m not sure you’d really want to know about Dirty Aggie…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all-5

 

Doing triple salchows off the railings and crossing crocodile infested rivers…

Doing triple salchows off the railings and crossing crocodile infested rivers…

Some kids have a certain cheekiness that I am a little jealous of, even if one or two sometimes take it too far. I was never so bold as the little man in my featured image and while the old fogey in me says, isn’t he very bold’ there is another old fogey in me cracking up at his cheek and admiring his confidence. Some people get that knocked out of them all too early in life. Perhaps my greatest life achievement was making it past the age of ten without doing myself some serious damage. On reflection, while I was hardly the most wild child, I took risks which were to say the least, worthy of a sharp sucking of air through the teeth or at the very least a girding of one’s loins.

Window breaking seemed to play a bigger part in my life than it really should have. My neighbour, my brother and my cousin were all responsible for breaking our windows, demonstrating with a varying degree of failure their lack of sporting prowess. A golf Ball, a stone and a football, all managed to get me in trouble at the hands of others. ME! Just because I was the only child left to face my mother when the damage was done. I never broke even one window in our house, but I was the one who ended up ‘waiting until my father got home.’

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Mind you, I did break a massive collection of car windows, parked out the back of the local police station when I was eight, but that was an entirely different story involving two rather large policemen, a peeing in my little boy short trousers, and the biggest scare of my young life. I was just an innocent you understand, but listen, like I said- that’s a whole other story.

I was a good boy really, for the most part – usually. We played games that were… well let’s just say, maybe not the type of games I would have let my kids play for fear of losing them young. They were different times. I walked the plank – literally, and at a fair height off the ground. My buddy and I used to stand at the back of our garden shed’s roof– a large, single-story, flat roof affair, and race across the roof to jump off and see who could land furthest away. I walked every metal railings I could, trying to execute a triple salchow on dismount. How I still have an intact set of testicles I really don’t know.

One of our favourite games was to build a fort at the end of our garden, using whatever scrap we could, and there was always plenty of that to find about the place in those days. We built it as solid as possible then one of us – the designated lone cavalry soldier, would hide inside shooting at the others who were of course Apache, as they tried to belly crawl through the scrub to attack. They would be shot many times but there were rules.

No one could just run straight at the fort, getting shot that way was just something you couldn’t come back from. Zig zagging from one piece of cover to another was fine. You could get winged, in fact for effect it was almost expected if not preferable, to dramatically spin out of a gunshot when hit in the arm. A good belly crawl, especially if you could go so slow so as to remain unnoticed until the last minute, was always a winner. Bear in mind, the lone soldier in the fort would only have limited visibility through one hole to shoot, and we generally tried to roof the fort even though that was technically not a fort. But the roof did have a very particular function.

Capture

You see, once the stand-off had lasted long enough and we had expended our energy fantasising about being part of a great wild west if not highly politically incorrect adventure, the attacking injuns would inevitable jump on top of the fort roof, to try and collapse the entire structure on top of the boy inside. Now I know it sounds cruel and dangerous, but this wasn’t some form of intricate abuse targeting one lad. We all took turns inside and that was strangely enough, the preferred place to be. The soldier you see, was the goodie and the injuns the baddies. In some twisted logic that only we understood in that exact time and place, there was a cost to playing the coveted role of goodie and some payoff for being the baddie. The goodie got to risk having his head caved in beneath the collapsing fort to and the baddies, got to cave it in. Trust me it made sense at the time.

While we played out such gentlemanly games, we learned lots and lots of things about life. We established rules, developed strategies of fairness and tethered natural boyish aggression within the ‘safe’ confines of our play. We never overstepped the mark and really didn’t want to hurt each other and we rarely did, despite the barbarity of some of our games.

But perhaps the biggest danger was from the less obvious risks we took. Playing where we were banned from, fording giant puddles 60 feet wide at the back of the local cinema, pretending it was the crocodile infested Zambezi river, or rolling in the grass in the local grasslands we called ‘The California Hills’ despite the fact they were deep in the heart of suburban Dublin, were all things that could lead to a torn item of clothing or perhaps,ruining a good pair of shorts through staining when falling into the muddy waters of the Zambezi. There, truly lay the greatest danger.

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For in a time when money was scarce, we didn’t understand the pressure that our parents, particularly our mothers faced in trying to make ends meet, for they were the true keepers of the books. While I thought nothing of destroying a jumper (sweater for my American friends), my mother would go through me for a shortcut if it was unrepairable. I remember wearing my sisters socks to school because I had destroyed my last pair of clean ones traversing the Niagara falls on a tight rope when I was seven. No one knew I was wearing them except for my mother and I but OH, the humiliation! I don’t even want to go near the day I had no fresh underwear!… I said…let’s not go there!

So you can imagine that given the importance of not destroying our clothes, the day I had an accident at school, life became somewhat immersive. I was six years old and things became a little loose in the digestive department. Back then we had no phones at home and my teacher couldn’t contact our house directly. I lived about a mile from school so the lovely Ms O’Sullivan, sent me home with a chaperone who lived on the same road as me – so I wouldn’t get lost. While I was only six and we had one major and multiple minor roads to cross, those were different times, so it was quite acceptable to send a sick little mite like me home from school. Back then married women were not allowed to work in Ireland (I know WTF!) Well my God what a trauma.

Half way home my bowels took control and began to decide that what was inside my tiny little tummy, simply had to come out via the rear exit.. on an express train. Bear in mind I was wearing shorts, so I knew that if I couldn’t hold back nature, then the whole world would know my shame. It was one thing to be touching cloth, an entirely different shenanigan to be risking a veritable public shaming.

In panic, I skirted through the relative quiet of the church grounds, clenching like my life depended on it, no other thought in my little head but to get home to my mammy. I schooched through the church grounds and out the side gate, leggin’ it up the access lane at the back of the shops. The lane was always empty so no one could see me and I had to keep stopping to grab myself (my little bottom to be exact) in order to try and stop the inevitable deluge.

From the end of the lane to my house was a 4oo yard dash onto the main street and around the corner. It would be busy, filled with bescarfed women doing their daily shop as they were wont to do back in the day. If only I could hold it together for just another three or so minutes, I was sure I could make it home.

Ten yards before the end of the lane my world fell apart. I couldn’t stop it. Looking back I don’t know how I managed to make it that far. I was so tiny. I felt the explosive burst and the warmth of my shame instantly ran down the back of my legs. My chaperone grabbed his nose, called me a name and simply abandoned me for fear of association with the mess I had become. I wanted to cry, but I was stranded and alone, still having to face stepping out from the privacy of the laneway, into the busy street to make it to my house. There was no way to do this without the world witnessing the horror of me. I felt the moist sludge gather at the back of my left sock which had rolled down to my ankle. The smell was horrendous and I welled up.

I recall grabbing my mop of blonde hair at the front of my head with both hands and tugging at it, angry with myself for not being able to control what was of course beyond the control of a six year old boy. But it didn’t matter I still felt angry and devastated.

I stood there for a few moments and then from somewhere found the strength to carry on. I stepped out onto the street and turned left. The main road was just yards ahead and there was a steady stream of passers-by, so I gulped down the lump in my throat, wiped away the tear that threatened at the corner of my eye, and with my skinny little shoulders back, strode like a mighty, devastated colossus into the fray.

I kind of knew that I couldn’t do it, even though I was doing it as the thought crossed my mind. My little heart was frantically thumping in my chest and I could hear it in my ears. With every step, more of the mess that was my humiliation seeped slowly from the back of my shorts and down my little boy legs. But then I saw my mother. Like a miracle vision there she was and being my mother, she could pick me out from fifty yards. She knew my every dimple, the shape of my head, the shimmy of my walk and she stopped dead in her tracks, knowing full well I shouldn’t be standing there at this time of day. I registered the puzzlement of her face but her face… it broke my resolve and the tears exploded in relief. My saviour, my blessed relief.. I ran to her crying, not caring that the world could see me now for she would take that all away.

 She swept me up in her arms not expecting her favourite coat to be destroyed in the process but on registering the problem, not caring. I doubt I ever cried so hard and she carried me home without a word. She was the real giant in my life. She made everything better. She clipped my little arse for hanging with boys who broke our windows, or for ruining my Sunday shoes. But she loved me when and how it mattered and carried me on her shoulders when she stood by my side. She was fearless, she was mighty and I thought of her today for no particular reason, a long lost, kind and wonderful soul, I hope I carry her tide with me, I hope I shine for her in her absence…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all-5

Rubbing shoulders with monsters…

Rubbing shoulders with monsters…

Sorrow is its own master. It galvanises all the sources of pain waiting in the wings to create the perfect storm, leaving you undone. It is as ruthless as it is all consuming. There is seldom an easy route to safety and like any mighty storm, the only way past it is through it.

My own nature is to be melancholic but I have always found ways to disguise this to the world. Perhaps my only true reveal is in my writing. It shouldn’t have surprised me (but it did) when my heart stopped a few years back, I recognised what was happening and instead of the oft purported life flashing by, for me I was overwhelmed only with sadness. I felt the burden of all the sorrow that would befall the loved ones I was leaving behind. I came back from the light, a tad darker perhaps.

I guess the true mastery of sorrow is its ability to render one helpless. My darker days are well camouflaged. I have learned that while I cannot win the battles every time, I will see my way out the other side. Perhaps that is the key.   But I am absolutely helpless in the face of other’s sorrow for that, I cannot fix. I am like a dried sponge. My shell feels hard but once you wet it with so much as a single tear drop, I begin to absorb all the pain I see. It does little to help the ones in most need. The sorrow around us is perhaps the sorrow that leaves us most helpless for it is a battle we cannot fight by proxy.

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There are none so strong they cannot be felled by crises of the heart. There can be none I suspect, not touched at some time in their life by the pain of heart break. But sadness sidles in from many places. It can haunt us from our past, linger in the creases of our mind, tether us to another us and leave us strangled by its grip.

Sometimes it is a darkness in and of itself that needs no inspiration, a conflation of something and nothing that can mean everything in the moment. Whether it takes us down in a single sweep, or drags at our coat tails holding us back, its greatest trick is making us believe it is majestic and invincible, an acrid, putrid, loathsome emotion, an ocean that we drown in if we forget to swim.

I can only speak for me. I am still at sea. Sometimes, I barely have time to catch my breath before the next wave, but I have learned to take shelter through the worst of it. There is no one immune from the hidden darkness that walks among us every day. It rubs shoulders with us as it smiles back the monster within, sometimes perhaps a word away from disintegration. It wears makeup and shoes, a suit or a pair of jeans. It wears its heart on its sleeve, but then covers it up so no one else can see it.

The salt of tears feeds the monster. The gulp of pain as you swallow it down, only encourages the beast. The solitude of belief, the cause of so much grief in the simple premise that you are alone, is the mastery of this creature, it’s dominating feature is it becomes our teacher. We learn to be subdued by its weight, until all too late we learn it can be defeated.

I have no mastery of the art. I do battle. I win, I lose, but most importantly I choose. Sometimes the choices I make are wrong. I am no savant. I can neither offer advice nor consolation for all sorrow is truly felt in the isolation of our own hearts, but I can offer that which I know to be true for me, for what it’s worth.

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Inside my head, when I am alone in my thoughts, I am only who I choose to be. I am not bettered by the darkest of my inklings and even when it feels like I may someday be overwhelmed by the force of my melancholia, I choose so not to lose. I choose to be better than the darkness. I choose to take a bite from my elephant, just that one bite at a time bite, to alight from the traps my dark old soul has set for me. Eating my big old monster, one bite at a time, even if I know I may never finish the gargantuan feast set out on my table, is enough to let the light in, enough at least for me. It sets me free, even if only for a while, but there in the sunlight again, I know I will smile again and that begins a whole new journey.

Today I don’t feel much like smiling. I have a tear on my eye and a tear in my heart but, that’s the part I know is not forever. The master of my sorrows it turns out – is me. But I am a master in training only. I just have to practice some more to get it right, to be the ringmaster of my own delight, so I am readied for the fight, ready for the night of my day, ready to take the worst out of my best. Heavy the heart in the chest, but I know the sun is always waiting. Tomorrow will be bright again. Sometimes the return of your smile may be a bit further away, you just have to remember it’s coming… I just smile on the outside while I’m waiting…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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We fade to grey

We fade to grey

A reblog as Joan turns 94 today

Maxpower's Blog

On the release of Darkly Wood II this week I thought this appropriate to reblog for my cover girl who will be 92 this May

The beautiful girl on the cover of my latest book is my partner’s mother Joan. Affectionately known to all as Jomammy, she was 21 when this photo was taken on Dollymount strand in Dublin in 1946. This week Jomammy turns 90. What a wonderful achievement to have lived so long and to still be, for the most part independent.

Her upcoming birthday made me consider how she has become invisible to so many people in so many situations. Many people ignore her as though she doesn’t exist. Her failing hearing does not help, as it makes it difficult to have a conversation with her sometimes. I say difficult not impossible and it doesn’t excuse people for not making the effort. Sometimes she repeats stories that…

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Gardening – Zombies and a bit of Faith for Easter Sunday…

Gardening – Zombies and a bit of Faith for Easter Sunday…

It all started on Friday. Good Friday was different when I was a kid. Back then Easter was a period of almost excessive catholic zeal. I saw through the BS and knew that it was really about the chocolate, but the masses processions and symbolism just couldn’t be avoided. Nowadays it is just a chocolate marketing exercise and all the fun has gone out of it.

Anyhoo, this year I had a last minute epiphany to take Good Friday off. Given that Monday is a bank holiday I was giving myself a four day weekend. What could possibly go wrong? Truth be told I’m a bit of an asshole at times, so long story short, here I am typing at my laptop – very slowly at 7.30 in the morning, doing my best to tell you my story.

Now one could take the aforementioned view that I’m an asshole, or given the religious season that’s in it one could just blame God on the whole thing. You see on Friday I had a chance to have a much needed extra day of rest; however… the sun finally came out. Now if you’re not Irish, you might not get the significance of that but if you are, you will know that that means you have to make hay while the sun shines. It might not be here tomorrow or for another month or indeed this afternoon, no matter what the weatherman ‘thinks’ he knows.

Long story short, I’m up and in my shorts before you can say Benidorm and once suitably attired, I went out to our garden. Finally, I could do a bit of what I like to call ‘tipping around.’ Unfortunately, I don’t have first or second gears. Within the hour I had tangled with the bramble from hell which has taken hold in our hawthorn trees. For the non-gardening fraternity that is, I decided to untangle the second thorniest plant in the world from the thorniest tree in the world, whilst up a latter wearing shorts and a t-shirt. In fairness I did put on gloves.

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Now of all my decrepitudes, my old back tops the list. I long since stopped moaning about it, but it gives me hell on a good day to put it mildly. Still I can either get the fup on with life with a bit of auld pain or curl up and die. I chose to get on with it. Getting on with it meant that I needed help from what I like to call the ‘Zombie slayer 2000.’ I wouldn’t ask too many questions but needless to say, come the zombie apocalypse, along with my unnecessary (she says) excess of axes, the zombie slayer 2000 will prove to be perhaps the best investment mankind or indeed I have ever made.

The advantages of this zombie slaying piece of ingenuity, are ironically the disadvantages of the self-same tool when one has a bad back and is up a ladder leaning backwards at full stretch. You see, this ingenious weapon, or gardening tool (for now) also boasts an extendible pole – (I’m telling – you they are missing the whole zombie apocalypse marketing angle) – but given that if is metal, the damn thing is heavy. Good for slaying zombies, bad for leaning back atop a ladder with a bad back.

So… yesterday I wake up and try to make it to the bathroom. I’m a cripple I swear – God is punishing me for working on Good Friday. I swear I will sit down all day and relax and let myself recover. Two hours later I’m shredding through the first proper spring clean of the garden this year only this time at ground level. What? The sun was shining; I put on shorts and wellos!

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So the day gets on, I am officially crippled and it’s time for us to go out dancing… As you do. Well technically it was a George Michael tribute act but hey… I’m always going to end up dancing with my nimble footed darling Jo. That’s a given. That’s Holy Saturday shot and given the hour we got home, we’d stolen a bit of Easter Sunday too.

Of course I wake up this morning and the sun is still there. It has been a balmy sunny weekend so far and I should have put my feet up and sat in a sun lounger in the garden sipping on a few glasses of Sangiovese. But I never listen to reason. I’d finished typing this much by eight a.m. I feel like someone has run over my body with a bus. Jo just reminded me that I was giving it socks on the dancefloor last night and my body just looked at me with a shake of its head and a dirty looking ‘ I told you so’ expression. I know I should know better but what you going to do?

Just because I’ve a dodgy ticker, knees that hate me, fupped up ankles, the back of a one hundred and ten year old builder’s labourer and a pair of shoulders that call me names behind my back, doesn’t mean I’m going to curl up and die.

I just looked at my arms. My lovely arms (well I like them) are torn to shreds from hawthorn and bramble thorns. I look like I was in a fight with a tiger. If anyone asks I’m going to say that I volunteer at an endangered owl sanctuary at the weekends, teaching orphaned baby owls to fly. They are a bit clawey and scratchy but hey; someone has to protect the planet…No…a bit too much perhaps…

Anyway, things were different when I was a nipper. It was all about God back in the day. Well God and chocolate anyway. Today, well… the worlds gone to hell in a handcart. I’m not religious but I do miss the days when we all took a little more time out at this time of the year. So today I guess I’ll do the same. God hates me anyway, he is punishing me for fluting around in the garden all weekend and for strutting my stuff to… ca-chink-a chink-a-chink-a-chink… But if he’s up there he’ll forgive me for weaponizing garden tools and dancing on a holy day… well you gotta’ have faith…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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Setting the monster free…

Setting the monster free…

Old sins cast long shadows. We drag the sins of our past behind us like a leaking, globulous mass of festering pain, across the rough terrain of our journey through life. Some bridges need burning, others should be left intact so we can find our way back to the important stuff if needed. It is in the choosing, that we often set ourselves up for disappointment.

Of course past things never quite seem to stay where we put them. It’s not uncommon to forget where we are going and instead get distracted by nostalgia, to find ourselves heading back across the bridges we have left uncharred, only to discover that all is not what it once seemed.

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I think perhaps, we are all capable of allowing the veil of personal history, distort the reality of what we have left behind us. It’s more than a veil. Time is like a hotel cleaner. You wake up, toss aside the covers, finish off the half bottle of water from the night before, spill your coffee, because no one uses saucers anymore, leave your wet towel on the floor, and head out about your day. When you return the room is magically back to how you remembered it, at its best.

We Photoshop our story as we go. We create our own powerful image in contrast to what I was thought in school. We were told that God created man in his own image, when in truth we create ourselves in the image of God. We are never that perfect, but we tinker with the truth to bring us nearer to the best image we can imagine of ourselves, and yet sometimes that still comes up short and therein lays life’s great disappointments. There is nothing that should disappoint us. We are only ever really and truly disappointed in ourselves. What anyone else thinks of us, is really none of our business.

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The world it seems has become worse. I watch from a vantage point, increasingly distant from the centre of things as I get older. In vanity and hubris we lose our way. I have never been just a spectator in life. In many ways I have been fortunate to have the emotional energy to have gone after the things I wanted in life. None of the good in my life has come easily to me, and yet I have so much that I can call good in my life. I can only carry the burden I collect along the way. Outside of that I remain a curious spectator.

There is no secret to being happy. You simply have to figure out who you are – and then do it on purpose. We are all empowered to be who we truly want to be. You only give up your power, when you don’t think that you have any.

When I was a small child I couldn’t swim. My dad used to throw me into the water at the beach, to make me man-up a little I guess, but it only served to terrify me even more. I would sit by the seaside refusing to strip to my swimming togs. I wouldn’t even take off my shoes, for I knew he wouldn’t throw me in to the water fully clothed. That was quite a stress for a little waif like me. To add insult to injury, I was made fun of for being such a chicken by everyone else.

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My solution? I went to the local swimming pool and over the course of a week, all by my lonesome, I thought myself how to swim among the dive-bombing wildlings who made it almost impossible. I stood in the shallowest end of the pool, one pace from the bar at the edge and made a lunge at the bar. It took me two days to lunge from 2 paces away and at first it seemed I would never make it. I genuinely thought I might drown and constantly checked for the life guard, who never seemed to even notice me. By the time I had made it 4 paces from the edge, I believed in my heart that the floundering, desperate, panicked splashing I engaged in, must have looked to others like an olympian gliding gracefully through the water, and that inspired me to take one step further from the edge.

The day I swam a full width of the pool, I was 10 feet tall. I remember the smile on my face for it was so broad it hurt my cheeks and I felt it. But there was no one there to see my victory. It mattered, but that was just the way of it. I chose to take my private success and run with it any way.

My other great fear was that of the dark. I was still a tiny little scut and my mother understood. She always left some glow of light for me to feel a little more secure, but I hated that fear. I applied my learning to swim lesson and without saying a word to anyone, I would go out to the hall in the dark and leave the landing light off. Stage one was akin to taking one step back from the edge of the pool and I walked half way up the stairs to the landing, very slowly, deliberately forcing myself to face the fear.

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I was so afraid let me tell you, but once I hit the half-way point, I would turn my back on the monsters at the top of the stairs and slowly walk back down to the hall without looking back. Once there I would turn and stare the monsters down before turning on the light to check that I was right. There was no monster at the top of the stairs.

Eventually I made it to the top in complete darkness and ultimately to my room and bed. Getting undressed in the dark was terribly unnerving for a small boy waiting for the hand to come out from under my bed and grab me. In a way, I met the monster under my bed. I met him and set him free, for all the monsters I have ever known, have only been inside of me.

Fear is the beast that constrains. Looking back over our shoulders is and exercise in futility. Whatever we think is chasing us will only keep up the chase as along as we encourage it. Close your eyes in the dark to make the darkness go away or open them and embrace your strength to do so.

My problem is my melancholy soul. I should have been a blues singer. Despite my own advice, I don’t burn the bridges I cross; I just keep concentrating on the road ahead of me. I am not tempted by the sirens calling from behind, calling me back to wallow in darker times. Occasionally, I will sit by my river banks and look back from whence I came. I take pictures of the good times and leave the bad times to look after themselves.

My soul means I will always have sad steps to fill, I have learned to live with that, but just like I was when I was that skinny little fledgling, barely heavy enough to hold my footing on a windy day, I know what I must do. On those days when sadness is my monster, I take a step back, turn out the lights and take my leap of faith…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood