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.

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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.

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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

all 5

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

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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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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.

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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…

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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

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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

Not a Feckin’ bogs’…

Not a Feckin’ bogs’…

It’s been a tough week.  Bollicks you say! We don’t want to hear your whinging.  Fair enough but it’s not a whinge.  Context is everything so I am merely prefacing my piece by putting it in the context of a tough week.

For someone who travels around the world so much for work I don’t half miss home when I’m away.  Home for me is not a place of course.  Home is personified in my darling Joanna and I am always home whenever we are together.   But there is also the broader context of home  for me.   For the last two weeks pretty much, I have travelled throughout this beautiful little country that I call home on a very specific work related activity. Don’t worry I won’t bore you with the details.

Stripped of the comfort of my car, I drove a big beast of a thing up following a smaller vehicle with the driver using his sat nav.  I got the distinct impression he was trying to find roads that my vehicle just simply would not be able to drive down but somehow I managed to survive without a scrape.  Early 0600 a.m. starts, 12 hour days and driving cold winds made for an unfamiliar work environment, but it had to be done.

At one point along the Wild Atlantic Way as it is called, somewhere in Donegal, I was struggling with the terrain and the weather. I barely had a chance to catch my breath let alone enjoy the scenery.  But when I did take a moment to look out to the rugged coast on my right or the spectacular landscape to my left and despite the sideways rain, my breath was quickly taken away again.

I realise as a writer that I am truly of this place.  Home is for me, centred on a person, but I realise too that home is very much the Island of my birth, this beautiful green bauble at the edge of the Atlantic, this Ireland.

It is a part of me. I am its dramatic landscape.  I am the wind and rain that steals away the sky.  In my spirit, in my reasoning are the generations who came before me, shaping the land, marking their passage through time with their own unique culture and style. 

Ireland is an Island of accents.  You can change suburbs and there may be a dramatic change. Town to town it changes and while I consider myself adept at cutting through the local nuances, even I encountered some doozies on this trip.  A man in his seventies with one tooth, fell out of a ten year old Land Cruiser in a cloud of smoke and ash and approached me.  He had the look of a man dug out of the soil.  There was the hint of a life lived in harshness and a whiff of the wildness of the countryside about us on him.  He muttered something unintelligible and laughed and my colleague looked baffled.  It was written all over his face.  I just spoke to him in a loud voice for I suspected he might be half-deaf and the wind was catching each word and carrying them away along with the combed-over hair on the top of his head.

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“What did you say?”

He repeated something that sounded like,

“Sure an anarled garfunkle ina gombroiled ge ge gargo effing a dib.” And then he laughed as though I might enjoy whatever joke he had just made.   I laughed in agreement and answered,

“Ah but come ‘ere,  don’t be talkin’… and what would a Dub like me know about that anyway.”

He cracked up and agreed. I still hadn’t a feckin’ bog’s notion what he was talking about. 

“True – true, A jackeen maw dawb de finkler becnch, haw haw de hup.”  He slapped me on the arm as though we’d known each other for years and dug his hands into his pockets to settle in for a good chat.  Now I’m not tall, but I felt as though I was towering above him as he tilted his scraggle head and squinted up at me.

“And sure what in de grandooby aye a for naw hack in the shambeen.”

Still completely lost as to what the feck the auld lad was saying I rubbed my chin.

“You’re a man who knows his way around.  I can tell by the yoke you’re drivin’;  I’d say she owes you nothin’ at this stage.”

It was a diversion and it worked. He was clearly a man who knew the value of a shilling and he seemed pleased that I had noticed.

“Nawthin’ for sure.”  Finally a sentence I understood.

“You should trade her in for a nice flashy sports car.  A good looking man like you in this neck of the woods, sure Jaysus the auldwans would be queueing up for you after mass.”

The very thought of it cracked him up; I thought he was going to lose the last remaining tooth in his head he laughed so much.  But then he rubbed his chin and looked at me with a serious face and for the first time spoke quite clearly, or maybe I was getting used to him.

“A man id be tinkin you had money iffing you wore to be drrrivin’ somethin’ wid a bit a flash on her. Nooo I’ll schtick to me old girl.”

I stood there talking to a random stranger for a good ten minutes barely understanding a damn word he said for no other reason than he stepped out of his car beside me. And there in a nutshell is how I am off this place.  I have travelled the world and nowhere have I encountered such a natural gift for conversation as I have on this twinkle at the edge of Europe.

Home is who you are. I have lived abroad with comfort and I am not one to get teary-eyed an homesick for the old sod, but I do recognise the impact my culture, landscape and heritage has made on me and they are indelible.   Most people have a love for their homeland but it is often misguided and used in what for me can be an uncomfortable way.  When I see conflict and crises, it is easy to see how individuals, groups and even governments can manipulate this sense of identity into zealous nationalism.  It is not uan unfamiliar thing to us Irish.

For me, it is more an ingrained thing.  It is in my speech and in how I look at life and think, the way I look to nature or see other people.  It is stamped all over my personality and it is very much part of me as a writer.  Literature has a special place in Ireland.  We were thought in school that we come from an Island of saints and scholars and that it should be something to be proud of.  Pride is overrated but I am certainly grateful for those that came before me for they gave me the sky to write on and I do my best to write my story there. 


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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

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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