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

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You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –

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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

 

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

The world’s biggest ever con.. On St Patrick’s Day even…

The world’s biggest ever con.. On St Patrick’s Day even…

True confidence tricksters need a mark with value.  How about a bank in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day in 1971?  Well what I’m about to tell you is a scoop, a first, an exclusive, for the world’s biggest con was pulled in Dublin 46 years ago tomorrow.  I’ve kept this secret so long I’m ready to burst but I guess the main parties are all dead now and the statute of limitations must surely have run out.  So here goes, let me first set the scene because it’s important.

Every year on St Patrick’s Day, my mam and dad would bring us into Dublin city centre to watch the grand parade.  It was a spectacular event for us, full of glamour and noise with marching bands coming all the way from places like Chicago and New York, just to participate in our capital’s parade on our special day.  We all loved it.  The day always began with mass.  The girls wore green dresses with green ribbons in their hair and all the adults wore shamrock pinned to their collars.

It was still the middle of lent, so while everyone back then gave up something for lent, I would estimate that 99% of the kids had forsaken sweets for the fasting period and the great thing about March 17, was that we were always allowed a special dispensation so we could crap out.

For the most part the streets were heaving with crowds, so it was always difficult to get a good spot near the front to see the parade.  1971 was different.  To this day and I still don’t know how, my old man wangled his way into one of the buildings along the route.  It was on Westmoreland Street which for those who don’t know Dublin well, is essentially the street that extends from the main street in Dublin called O’Connell Street, so it was right beside the action.  Many business owners along the route, allowed their employees to bring their children in to watch from the upper floor windows.  From there they had the best vantage point for the parade.  What was different about this particular building was that it was a bank and my father had no connection to it.  An insider, who shall remain nameless, agreed to let my dad bring his family in to watch from the first floor window.

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Now my dad was a bit of a chancer.  If you told him your car brakes were dodgy, he could convince you that he was a mechanic and fix them for you, even if he didn’t have a clue.  I’ve seen the man talk his way in and out of more peculiar circumstances than I care to remember.  With that in mind, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he talked his way into the bank.  In fairness it wouldn’t happen today I’m sure but they were different times. Still – he was good.  What happened later is the shocker.

My younger sister had just been born a month earlier, so my mother was staying at home with her that year. As a result it was just my dad, my sister, my brother and little old me tagging along to the parade that day.  It was a glorious day, absolutely perfect parade-day weather so I should have been delighted.  I wasn’t.  I never got to see the parade.  Mam came to my room when I didn’t get out of bed and discovered the pool of puke lying on the floor beside my bed.  She felt my head, cleaned my little face and kissed me, telling me I’d be alright.  Mams work at a special speed when their little ones are not feeling well.  She cleaned up the mess, freshened my bed clothes and changed my Pyjamas, before tucking me back into bed and making me drink some water.  She told my father that I couldn’t go to the parade as I was ill, so off he headed with my siblings, leaving me with my baby sister and my mam.

Having a baby in the house made things difficult for Mam, so she brought me downstairs and tucked me up on the sofa with blankets and pillows and offered me some toys to play with.  It was easier to have both precious babies in the one room.  I told her I was too sick to play and closed my little brown eyes.  As I lay there with Mam fluffing about me like only the mother of a poor sick child does, my father was walking through the doors of the bank on Westmoreland Street holding the hands of my sister and my brother with a broad grin on his face.  No doubt the bank employee was nervous about his indiscretion, maybe my father had something over him, who knows, but I always imagine he would have been sweaty and nervous when I picture him in my mind’s eye.

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Back home I refused to eat until near midday.  My throat was sore.  Mam had made green jelly for the day that was in it and although it was supposed to be for after dinner, what better for a poor, sick little boy who couldn’t eat, than a bowl of green festive jelly and cool, soothing ice-cream.   It was magical.  While my father stood a step back from the small gathering, waving at the noisy parade below from the first floor bank window, I am confident that none of them paid the slightest bit of attention to the smiling family man with his two happy kids in tow. Now here is how the greatest con ever was pulled with I might add, the most valuable return ever!

My sister was fresh to the world, usurping my seven years of baby status in our house.  I needed at least a week off school to pull some of that special ‘Mam’s favorite’ feeling back.  Mam, had sick-ray vision so she would see straight through a fake illness, unless I could do something so outrageous that she’d have to believe me.  I brought a spoon to bed and on St Patrick’s Day morning used it to gag and make myself puke.  I hate puking more than anything else so this was an extreme length for me to go to.  My mother knew I would rather explode than puke so it was the ideal ploy.  The day was so perfect, a balcony view of the parade on a sunny day, there was no way I’d want to miss it, but I did.  Combine this monumental self-denial with my reluctant vomiting and my Mam’s sick-ray vision was rendered useless.  I simply had to be very sick indeed to puke and miss the parade.  Being sick on St Patrick’s Day and not just a normal one, but one where I would have got the best view ever, meant only one thing. Poor little mite had to be very ill.  I would be kept home from school for at least a few days.

Oh yes, while my dad basked in the glory of his achievement in getting a key viewing spot for his kids and while my siblings reveled in the view, I got to get back that special feeling that came with being the baby of the house.  Sure my sister was still going to be there, that I couldn’t do anything about, but for those few hours and days that followed, I pretty much had Mam all to myself again, and that was priceless.  At seven years of age, I had just fooled the greatest expert in the world and secured the most valuable haul of love and cuddles ever.  Oh yes… I was a truly talented tiny baby-faced grifter.  I had conned the best in flamboyant style for the best prize ever. Mam.

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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

 

 

Twonked in the niddles.. thank God for women on International Women’s Day…

Twonked in the niddles.. thank God for women on International Women’s Day…

When you are seven, catching your winkie in your zipper is not the worst thing in the world.  It hurts like hell, but better to learn that lesson early while you still call it a winkie rather than later on in life, if you catch my drift.   It is definitely one of my most vivid, tear to the eye memories and certainly one of the most embarrassing.  The embarrassment was because while I couldn’t extricate my doodlums from its metal penis fly trap, neither could my mother so she enlisted the assistance and observations of not one, but two other neighbouring mammies.  I’m still mortified just thinking about it.

Tear inducing moments in many forms have caused me grief over the years.  I went arse over face on my racing bike when I was fourteen and I ended up with the brake handle embedded in my stomach. I had to pull about five inches of metal out of my belly which luckily didn’t do any serious damage.  Then there was the time I was walking along the railings that divided our house from the next door neighbour and I did the splits…  A sharp sucking of air between the teeth if you don’t mind…  I say the time, but I repeated that failed stunt so many times, I don’t know how I didn’t castrate myself.

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It is no secret that us boys are most precious about our undercarriage.  Thwacks and wallops’ to the neither regions are always top of the Oooh factor that is for sure.  Playing lots of sports I was twonked in the niddles with a variety of balls of differing shapes and sizes.  I was kneed, kicked and punched in my grimbles, mostly by accident playing sports and even trollied myself in the knackers playing swing ball all by my lonesome.

It has to be a design fault.   You’d think that something that needs taking care of, protecting if you will would be tucked away a little more safely now wouldn’t you.   A dog once leapt up and caught me by the crotch of my trousers.  Luckily it was during a loose-trousered fashion phase and he only got a mouthfull of material.  There was a period in my young life where jeans had to be painted on if you weren’t to look like a twonk, so it could have been much worse.

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Aah 70’s jeans – now there was a challenge for your grollops.   It was hard enough to breathe once you got them zipped up.  They were like a product of the Spanish inquisition I’m telling you.  In fairness they gave the vague impression that I actually had a bit of an arse, which I hadn’t so I thought they were cool and that trumped comfort every time.

As a small chiseller in primary school, I had Nurse Ratchet give my warbles a good fondling as indeed we all did, to see what had or hadn’t dropped.  We were promised a sugar lump (laced with polio vaccine) but in a time when I was grateful for a free bit of sugar, it wasn’t nearly enough that I prostituted myself to a cold, cupped nurse’s hand on a chilly winter’s day without a proper explanation.  I hadn’t a clue what the hell they were doing.

“Drop your trousers” they said and I did. “Bend over” they said and I did.  Then the icy cold hands of the countrified nurse, grabbed me by the goolies and they said “Cough.”  Cough?  I could barely catch my breath!

I’ve cross-barred my gonads and worse.  I have even deep-heated the poor fellas with wintergreen after I had a groin strain playing basketball.  I didn’t understand the effect the topical application of such medication might have and while I wasn’t applying the said ointment to my jewel filled pouch, there was cross contamination due to the proximity of my injury.  Sweet Lord above!  I remember trying to get my whole kit and caboodle into the sink to drown the burn with ice cold water.  Not a pleasant sight I would imagine, but luckily enough it was not a moment for sharing.

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Of course as you get older, you learn to be more careful with your knap sack and perhaps you are not just cautious but more sensible.  Certainly the ‘lesson learned’ thing kicks in, for when you have swing-balled yourself in the cojones once, you tend to remember that it is not something to be repeated.

Boys will be boys of course so as long as there are nads to be knackered, it seems we have to learn lots of specific, impact related lessons, before we stop putting our plums in the firing line.  You’d think once would be enough, given the eye-watering nature of the pain we go through.  But no – we don’t seem to learn all that quickly.  As an overly confident  sex within a supposedly intelligent species, one would think that protecting the very tools required to procreate would mean we would be a little more careful with them.

Of course that’s why we need girls.  Without their wisdom, tolerance and direction, us lads would basically walk off cliffs.  We would be found wandering around in fields full of rakes, stepping on one after the other and wondering what to do next.   We need women to limit our degree of stupid and to guide us so we don’t throw our huevos on the fire the first chance we get.  We can’t depend on our fellow men to help.  How could we?  After all there is nothing funnier as a lad, than  to see another lad scraggle his fraggle and you can’t help your best friend when you are rolling around laughing on the floor.

So while it took me a while to get to it and while discussing the delicacies of the male anatomy may be an odd vehicle to choose to express it, I would just like to say thank you on behalf of my entire sex, to all the women out there on International women’s day.  Long may you continue to keep us honest and protect us from our stupid.   Where in the world would we be without you?

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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

IASD - globe 2

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

 

Better than MacGyver – Paraffin bees, Knick-Knack and skint knees…

Better than MacGyver – Paraffin bees, Knick-Knack and skint knees…

Catching bees was a strangely enjoyable pastime for a boy who was terrified of the little beggars. We were smart enough not to catch wasps, a lesson no doubt learned by countless generations before us, but bees were fair game.  You never see kids doing stuff like that these days.

Jam jars were the cage of choice and flowering clover was always placed at the bottom of the jar, as if we were somehow being kinder by supplying something a distraction for the poor creatures.  I must have caught dozens of bees in the summer and we always set them free.  We possessed the beauty and unpredictable danger that came with being the free-spirited wildlings that we were.   Free to roam to a large extent, tree-climbing, nettle-stung, self-repairing, not going in until it gets dark playing little creatures of the streets, we were easy to please and full of imagination.

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We had very little. Toys were for Christmas and by summertime, play involved whatever you could find in the house or back garden and you had to improvise.  I was like a mini-MacGyver. We made bows and arrows, go-carts, crossbows and entire horse jumping courses from any auld bit of discarded junk and sometimes from your mother’s best kitchen utensils – until she found out and you pleaded innocence or blamed it on your sister – but that never worked.

We did our fair share of damage in the process, broken windows, skint knees, soaked clothing, all sorts really.  You name it, we broke it.  I once fired a nail through my friend’s leg, absolute accident, but we patched him up so his old dear wouldn’t notice and ban him from playing with us for a week.  Those were the risks and we all understood them.  Once we engaged on a dangerous mission, we knew we had to take the chance that we’d be caught in the act and kept in for a few days as punishment.  Nothing could be worse than being deprived of that freedom.

But that was just the point.  Our lives were full of danger and risk.  Nothing usually too life threatening, but we learned not to be risk averse.  We had a shed at the back of our house and you could climb onto its flat, ten foot high roof via the adjoining wall.   We would lie up there in the sunshine of our childhood summer, out of sight of the prying eyes of our parents and conjure up things to keep us busy, the riskier the better.   We had adventures to create, castles to storm and they were no good if they didn’t feel real.

One game involved standing on the top, but at the back of the shed and running it’s length to leap into thin air at full tilt.  We would see how far we could jump and the ten foot drop was nothing.  We competed to see who could not just jump from that height, that was easy!  It was how far away we could land from the shed that decided the winner.   I doubt if I would jump off that height from a sitting position today. We could waste a couple of hours in such competitions, marking out the landing spot with great precision and making sure everything was fair.  We created rules and re-wrote them as we went along.

I once set fire to a huge hedge at the end of our garden trying to smoke out a bee hive to see if we could find honey.  That was me grounded for- I can’t even remember how long.  I was in trouble for that one on all sorts of levels.  There was the burning of the hedge, the “you could have set the house on fire.”  There was the “you used what? – paraffin!” Not to mention the fact that I shouldn’t have been playing with matches in the first place, let alone the crime of smoking out a bee hive and ruining my clothes…I was lucky not to be locked indoors for the whole summer.

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Boys fought boys.  We just did.  We formed swarms and had make-shift battles and they sometimes resulted in a bloody nose or two.  They were harmless enough but I steered clear of such things pretty much.  Even so, sometimes innocent versions resulted in accidental black eyes.  Some kid or other always seemed to have a black eye in those days.   We swung from ropes on poles, walked rickety fences that eventually we did the splits on and ran the gauntlet of leashless, vicious dogs.  There were orchards to be robbed, not me I was a good boy, doors to be knick-knacked and dares to be accepted. Every waking moment was an adventure in the summer, or at least one in planning.

Night always came too fast and dinner was a hindrance.  Eventually, the summer would end and we’d all go back to school to face the real dangers of older, tougher boys, slaps from the masters and if you didn’t have your wits about you, the unspoken but understood, ever present threat from at least one of the Christian Brothers.

Somehow we survived and looking back, the one thing I guess I miss most about those days is the spirit of my youth.   I’ll never be that carefree again no matter how much I might romanticise myself to be now.   But the memory of it is special and the lessons learned have stayed with me, good and bad and I think they have stood me well throughout the years.

I didn’t just jump off that shed though.  Often I was alone there and it was in my solitude that I discovered the joy of books.  I would lie in the sun, soaking up the warmth from above and the joy of my books.  I owe much to the length of rope I was given.  My freedom to explore the inner reaches of my imagination is perhaps the thing that led me to write books.  That wild, carefree pony boy I often recall, is someone I call upon when it’s time to put my stories to the page.  He helps me remember not to be afraid to let go and to allow my imagination to take flight.  Long may I find him in my heart.

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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

IASD - globe 2

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

Marmalade is toast…Finding my fabulous

Marmalade is toast…Finding my fabulous

Ahh being beautiful, I remember it well.  Not really as I don’t think I was ever really beautiful, but I do remember the wings of my younger self and starting to smell myself in the carefree days of my youth.  I was never considered a shy boy by others but I was very shy if the truth be known.  Perhaps my show-off antics and my outward expressions of confidence fooled people while inside I was often crumbling.

I am not quite sure what it was but I was a magnificent little actor and I convinced my peers that I was all the things I needed to be to suit the moment.  I was brave when I was frightened, cool when I was freaking out and absolutely fabulous when I felt most insecure about my looks.  There was a strut that I adopted, a swagger if you will and it was more than a physical thing.  Being competitive, I hated to lose anything and I was always quick with a response in a debate or argument and looking back at my littler self, even I would have thought that there was a little man who was brimming with confidence.

To this day I carry it off.  I still have a swagger that I occasionally employ and I certainly know how to appear somewhere between arrogant and haughty with just enough of a softening to allow doubt that I am not a complete asshole.

But yes I do remember the days of feeling fabulous.  We all have them to some degree, a moment or an occasion when we looked our best, even if it was only fleeting.  I remember specific clothes and how they made me feel.  When I was fourteen I was a hard working boy in the school break during the summer. I bought myself a pair of Levi flared jeans,  converse runners, a Levi jacket and a cheesecloth blue and white shirt from the money I had earned.  My God I felt like a peacock the first time I put them on.   To be fair I probably looked like John Denver had thrown up all over me but I didn’t see that.

I wore some hideous garments in my time, often out of shear bloody mindedness.  If I thought something was cool then I’d wear it.  My brother was seven years older than I was and was into Marc Bolan and T-rex, Sweet and all sorts of crazy-dressing seventies iconic bands.  I got his cast off’s in every day wear, so why not his cast offs in his line of fashion wear as well.  I went to school at age twelve, wearing a pair of brown and beige platform boots with massive stars on them.  As if that wasn’t bad enough I wore a tan coloured, suede Afghan coat, with brown and cream flecked fake fur edging.   I was a miniature, pale Huggy bear for all intents and purposes and if you don’t get that TV reference, google Starsky and Hutch.

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The best part about that was that I carried it off.  I strutted into school looking like a 1970’s pimp and jived my way through a schoolyard full of 1970’s pre-pubescent Irish boys, wearing snot-sleeved jumpers with their shirts dicky-dickied out.   If only I had sunglasses and an afro.  Of course some tried to mock me but I slammed them down with my extremely quick tongue and ice cold stare.  I was nervous of some of the more dangerous lads that always gave me the willies, but I had walked the walk long enough for them to be doubtful about using me as a punch bag in case I was able to bite back.

However, that was my outside.  Every taunt and jibe, every hurtful slagging remark, cut me deep and I realised I had made a complete eejit of myself.  In my childish head, I had fantasised about being the coolest kid in the school.  In truth I was a laughing stock.  By then end of that particular day I was devastated but I was damned if I would let anyone know.  I went  to school for a week in those ridiculous shoes and that stupid coat, just to prove that I could wear what the hell I liked and that I wasn’t going to let anyone bully me into submission by their cruelty.  A week in, some of the boys were wishing they had the balls to wear what I was wearing but I was just trying to make a point and get myself out of the embarrassment I had foisted upon myself as quickly and as quietly as possible.  Gradually I weaned myself back into ‘normal’ clothes and my shear hard neck was all that got me through.

In fairness to my mother, she let me off and didn’t try to dissuade me.  Some might think she should have but I admire her for letting me fly, even if I did get too close to the sun.  That has been me throughout my life, a hard neck and a soft centre.  This week I returned for a check-up in the hospital and went in with my Afghan attitude and my optimistic spirit.  I was expecting to be given the keys to the kingdom, the freedom of the city but instead I was given a continuation of my sentence with time off for good behaviour.

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The soft centre felt it and the hard exterior wall crumbled a little on that day.  I didn’t feel so fabulous.  I wondered if I’d ever truly feel fabulous again.   Being fabulous – not in reality but in spirit or at least in my performance to the world – is a part of who I am.   I am the quintessential narcissist in theory, but only if you were to truly believe my vanity is real and that I have a huge ego that allows me to spend my days admiring my own attributes.   I suspect some might believe this of me and I am happy to encourage it.  After all I have spent my life surviving behind the mask of confidence but it is more than that. 

I make light of things when I am at my lowest.  I cry behind the mask and I smile and joke, fluff my feathers and preen myself as if to say look at me, I am magnificent.  I am mighty, I am invincible and everyone looks at the show, like they might be distracted by the magician’s beautiful assistant.  The magician that I am has perfected the illusion.

But the moment is always just that for me, a moment.  I push past it, over and through it and I look for my fabulous again.  It gets harder to find as I get older of course, but even when I struggle to see it, I know I can always fake it.  I’m probably like marmalade.  There was a time when pretty young girls looked me and thought; mmm he’s a bit of alright.  At least they did in my head when I wore my cheesecloth shirt and denims.  Then as time passed, the younger girls got older and I became invisible at some point to anyone under the age of 50.  It’s not that I want the admiration of any young ladies don’t get me wrong, I have my perfect, beautiful young lady already but you do notice when you fade into the background.  It’s not that I mind so much more that I have become aware of it.   I used to be jam, a sweet and fruity treat, now I’m marmalade.

Apparently marmalade is toast.  Nowadays 60% of people who buy marmalade are over 65 and hardly anyone under the age of 30 even buys the stuff.  So I guess that’s me. I’m left contemplating my naval thinking that I have to find a way to keep fooling myself that I  continue to be bothered looking for my fabulous and not just feel like marmalade.

It is a part of aging and while I’m still a relatively young man, getting a percentage breakdown of my life expectancy by a cardiologist did little for the search for my fabulous. There is a part of me that revels in the struggle.   I am not alone. I am not special.  Every day everywhere, people struggle with all sorts of dilemmas, traumas and challenges.  But this is my personal journey so I have to walk the path that I am on, not some other.   The part of me that revels in the struggle is the part that puts pen to paper.  Writing it seems is cathartic and catharsis cannot exist without tragedy. The evolution from emotional despair through to resolution is a creative lubricant.

Today of course, being the eternal optimist that I am, all is well again.  Perhaps I need a new trauma or drama so maybe it’s time to dig out the old Afghan and platform boots again.  I can strut into the office; maybe I should grow my hair first and dye it blonde so I can flick it back until absolutely everyone thinks ‘asshole.’  The only problem is I might need a bit more build-up of fabulous first.  My fabulous tank doesn’t seem to get the same mileage as it used to.  I could do something completely unexpected and outrageous to top it up of course, it’s not beyond me. .. or maybe just a nice cup of tea and a cosy pair of slippers will help…  what do you reckon…  Either way, the darkness I’ve buried will have to find a way to the surface and there is really only one way to do that for me… back to the pen and ink… time to bleed a little onto a page to free up my fabulous once more. …

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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

IASD - globe 2

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