No time to say goodbye…

No time to say goodbye…

Last Friday at 4.30 in the afternoon, we received the sad news that my darling Jo’s sister Lauren, had passed away. I know what losing a sibling feels like and I while I know what lies ahead for my love, all I can do is watch as the earthquake unfolds and topples one emotion after the other, while the aftershocks pass through our lives.

Her only son will have to go through the loss of his Mam and nothing can prepare him for the enormity of the impact that follows. The first time you experience the loss of a parent, especially your mother, is the worst kind of shock to the system. There are no comforting words to reduce the terrible pain of such a loss.

I haven’t been sleeping properly. Knowing we would be deprived of a proper wake due to COVID-19 restrictions, a funeral restricted to just 25 people and all that goes with how this unfolded, has made me uneasy. We need each other in times like his. We need to mourn properly and only now that this loss has visited our family, do I see the awful impact of this pandemic, on all the people who have lost loved ones this year.

Each culture has traditions and customs around death, but the Irish wake is a vital piece of our jigsaw of mourning. It is so engrained in our psyche, that I am not sure what to expect without it. For 6 nights now, Jo’s 95-year-old mother Joan has sat beside me on the couch, trying to make sense of it all. Two of her other daughters and their daughters, had called by on Friday to help us break the news to her that her daughter had died. All the while Joan sat quietly as they talked about the loss of their sister and aunt. Our three dogs tipped about the place but one of them, one empathic little boy sat beneath Joan’s chair throughout. He has been watching over her since.

After they had gone, this loyal little canine who normally spends all his energy looking after me, leapt onto the couch beside Joan and nuzzled into her. It was only after everyone had gone that she began to question the events of the day. Her hearing is poor. It is best to have one on one conversations at a fairly loud pitch, but more significantly, her short-term memory is patchy, requiring a lot of repetition to drive new events home.

She began to try and understand by asking me question after question. She told me that a child shouldn’t die before their mother. Each time this thought crossed her mind, Joan broke down and cried, but only for a little while as she pulled herself back in from the edge of grief. Born in 1925, her parents instilled a near Victorian attitude in Joan that means she finds it hard to be emotionally demonstrative. But I know that not showing does not equate to not feeling.

 Due to her difficulty hearing, I had to simplify anything technical, so when she asked how her daughter had died, I reminded her that she had died from a form of cancer.  She asked how old was she and when would the funeral would take place. Joan then reminded me that she was 95, as if this was news and also reminded me, that it was a good age. She wanted to know how Lauren’s son was, told me he had 3 children and that Lauren was 8 pounds, a big baby, when she was born.  Joan said Lauren was always very clever and very talented with her hands, a funny girl, and wondered about practical things like what would happen to her house. She asked me if she had felt any pain and I reassured her that she hadn’t.

She asked me if I knew how one got cancer. I told her there were many ways and again she told us that a child shouldn’t die before a mother. She told us it should have been her. Again, she teared up before pulling herself quickly back together gain.  There is nothing I can do to ease her pain and I feel helpless.

As each question from Joan or Jomammy as many call her landed, I replied in my clearest voice to avoid the need for repetition as my darling Joanna, sat quietly in the chair on the other side of me, struggling with the loss of her sister. My dear Jo is broken and I know that I can’t fix her.  Joan finished round one and then, as she does, went back on a loop, beginning at the beginning and asking all the same questions for the second time, and so it went on, over and over, an unrelenting reminder of the terrible loss and all the while I answered each question as though asked for the first time, patient and calm, trying to help her process this new tragedy, so she might be better prepared for the new day.

I could feel Joanna’s pain beside me. She was trying to process her own grief and I am sure listening to the strange, repeated conversation beside her, going through the same details over and over again, was very difficult for her. We are both used to how Joan processes new information, but being used to something doesn’t make it easier. Trying to cope with the loss of her sister must have made it impossible, but she remained calm and patient as always. She was heroic in her silence and composure, I think.

I rose early this morning. The dogs greeted me as though nothing was different but of course it is. The earthquake has passed, but when I look around, I have yet to assess the damage. We will be finding broken things each day for some time I fear now that the funeral is behind us.

Each day is new, each chapter begins with the dawn, but each dawn will carry a cloud for some time. Like all families who experience loss, Lauren’s family will feel her absence daily. Hardest hit are the 2 people at both ends of the spectrum. Her only son, a grown man with a family of his own, is left with the truth that he will never see his Mam again. I remember how that hit me when it was my turn and even after 26 years, the loss has never left me. These days ahead are just the beginning and I hold him in my thoughts daily.

In our house, Lauren’s mother is trying to manage the reality that she has outlived her daughter. When the time came, because it came quite quickly, because of COVID restrictions and also because Joan is 95, there was no time to say goodbye.

On Tuesday we brought Joan to the funeral home to say goodbye to her daughter. Yesterday we attended her funeral. It was a small, deeply pained gathering, a family struggling to comfort each other fully in a time of social distancing and masks. It struck me that these difficult times mean that there is another meaning to that expression, for really, this is no time to have to say goodbye.

I normally stay clear of poetry but this week, thinking of her immediate family, and knowing what family means, I thought I would make a rare exception. This one, is in memory of Lauren and for her family that mourn her now and into the future;

Lost to us and we shall never be the same again, I fear.

We are broken a bit

as we sit and comfort each other,

but we are nonetheless broken and no token words will ease our pain.

A part of us is missing you see,

a part that is dear


are not here.

We speak your name and sometimes it feels the same

As though you never left us.

But then it strikes that we will never see you again

and then

we are reminded,

blinded by the thought of it, drowned by the grief of it

angered by the thief of it,

lost in the thought that comes through each time we close our eyes

that a part of us is missing.

Rest in Peace Laurentina, may you be guided safely on your journey by those that have gone before you.

The anatomy of a torturer…

The anatomy of a torturer…

The worst wounds are often self-inflicted. People question their life journey far too much. Perhaps it’s generational, I find people of my generation and those from previous generations, certainly didn’t place the same importance on analysing what is wrong in life, only to then self-diagnose with that problem. One can sometimes get so introspective that the resultant journey up your own hole (Pardon my French) is far from a satisfactory outcome.

“Which road will I take? What path should I follow? Which direction will lead me to a life of happiness and fulfilment?” Let’s be honest, these are the wrong questions. If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter. Stop faffing about and pick a path. Take a step and begin a journey – any journey. Stop off along the way to have a pint and meet new people, but for the love of the Devine, stop procrastinating.

Happiness is the holy grail, but it’s like a rainbow that you can never quite get to. There is a clue in there for you. We all know you can’t touch the rainbow, so why are you wasting time messing about. Look at the rainbow, enjoy the damn thing and then see what follows. Happiness is not a destination. It’s part of the journey. It is the thing you encounter along the way and if you want more of it, stop focussing on trying to reach the unreachable and start to enjoy the rainbows along the way. The journey has no end point.

If you are watching the sky to see if you can find the source of the rainbow, you will miss the flowers at your feet. If you chose to give up on the search and watch your footfall so you don’t step in the next puddle, you’ll miss the moon and the stars. Over thinking can be dangerous, trust me, I know. Sometimes a pencil drawing is actually just a pencil, drawing.

I think I should write Max power’s big book of wisdom. It would be terrible.  I’d have chapters with titles like, sometimes you have to kill a chicken to save a dog or Marriage, Mourning and plastic forks. Nice pieces of nonscience, wrapped in rhetoric that sounds interesting and means nothing. I’d be good at that.

I literally don’t have a clue and it’s important to say my opening paragraphs were a mix of opinion and bullsh*t, not actual advice. Who’d take advice from me anyway. But that doesn’t mean I won’t go on… so as I was saying…

Dreaming is good. Fantasising is dodgy. I believe you need dreams to create ambition and ambition to come up with a plan to get where you want to go. If those plans don’t work out, make sure you’ve enjoyed the trip, that’s the key. Fantasising is different. That’s dreaming without any intention of doing anything about it and really in there, misery and disappointment lie.

If you dream of becoming something let’s keep it simple – you dream of being a binman or an astronaut – then that dream holds importance. Like I say dreams beget ambition and ambition begets a plan and plans.. well they sometimes fail but at least you will have learned something. A fantasy on the other hand, leaves you empty at the end. There is no joy without work. Illusions fade and imagined joy without ever trying to find a way to it, is the recipe for unhappiness.

I am generally fairly happy, but not all the time. My natural state is to be melancholic. I was immediately drawn to the opening lines of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as a teenager as I fully connected with the lines.

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad: It wearies me; you say it wearies you; but how I caught it, found it, came by it, what stuff ’tis made of, wherein ’tis born, I am yet to learn; And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, that I have much ado to know myself.

Yeah that’s me I thought and to be fair it often is. But I don’t let that get in the way of my happiness.  These last few weeks have felt tougher than most. It has been a pretty rough auld year to be fair, but some days…well it gets to you.

Normally I can kick it with a plan to do something or go somewhere. A small-scale dream as it were. Dreams don’t all have to be big you know. My little dream might save me from myself and I’d get back on the road and start looking at what’s around me on the way. The path to where I want to go is scattered with moments of happiness and when I have nowhere to go, that can be more of a challenge. Sometimes one has to be patient that’s all.

You see I am made funny. I am unique, not like you or him or her. But that being said, I do have some things in common with the rest of humanity. Most of us are a little careless with ourselves. There can be a tendency to inflict pain on ourselves unnecessarily. We are our own torturers in many cases. But what does that look like? I can’t speak for anyone else, like I said, I am unique. But I know my make up. I have my own card well and truly marked.

I think too hard and quickly wrap each thought in sorrow. I get to see what it might be, before unwrapping it again and only then do I seek the joy in the gift I have just given myself. Some things delight instinctively, but they are special things. I delight in my loved ones and their smiles but everything else needs re-presenting so I can find the joy in the sorrow. Now this may sound odd if not downright crazy, but it helps me weave fresh paths to explore and isn’t happiness the path, not the destination.

The trouble with destinations is that they mark the end of something and one has to start all over again. If unsatisfactory, disappointment can feel like oblivion, so maybe the trick is to make each destination something less, waypoints perhaps, somewhere to stop along the way as opposed as something final. After all, what are dreams if they are finite, what are hopes if they are not enough. There is often less, but always more and as long as you are breathing, there is always a chance to take an alternate path if the journey isn’t going the way you had hoped.

Still, I am a bit fed up to say the least. Enthusiasm is in a drawer somewhere beneath me at my desk and I am finding it hard to be bothered opening it. But never fear, I have a smiley face that covers that and I have such a sharp mouth I will make someone else laugh so they won’t notice. By the time anyone figures it out, I will have found something fresh to delight in on my journey and the sun will shine again. That’s just the way of it.

It’s never about the money until you have none, it’s never about the love until it’s gone. It’s never lonely unless you are and it’s never found before it’s lost. I am one of the lucky sorrows who has found a way to cheat my melancholic inclination, the thief of delight. Perhaps it’s all bravado, but it works for me. The problem is of course, that not everyone has been blessed with my curse of survival and some are finding these trying times far too much to manage.

When a caterpillar transforms to become a butterfly, in that last stage, if you were to try and help the butterfly by cutting open the cocoon the butterfly would not survive. It is the struggle to free itself that enables a blood supply to the wings and without the struggle, it will not not be able to fly.

When we are protected from struggle, we never learn how to stretch our wings. On occassion we overprotect or cosset our children to protect them from pain, but some of that pain is a vital learning process that helps create a coping mechanism when things go wrong.

Love is a peculiar thing and sometimes loving our children requires us to let them fall and pick themselves up off the ground. How often have you see a child fall and the first thing they do is to look at the parent to see how they should react. Should they carry on, or run crying for help for even the slightest of grazes? The answer is in how the parent reacts.

I once blogged about riding my bike in a place that my mother told me not to go. When I went arse over head, I ended up with 4 inches of chrome brake handle embedded in my stomach. Alone and with no real option to do anything other than help myself, I pulled it out. I still remember the pain and the schlucking sound. Fortunately, I didn’t hit anything vital, but the important thing was that I was 13 years old and already, I had enough self-reliance to make a decision and get up and on with it. I never told my mother.

My childhood was often tough, but I am grateful for the times I climbed trees and fell, crashed bikes, tumbled off railings that I tried to walk like a tightrope, knocked out teeth and grazed elbows and knees in the pursuit of some pointless game or challenge, and took on some bigger fella I should have known better than to have been tackling, even if I did get away with it all.

I learned how to evaluate risk. I understood my limitations and constantly pushed them. When I competed in sport, I was lucky not to live in this time where it seems everyone is a winner, as I learned as much from losing as I did from winning. I remember losing a race in school and my mother’s response was to tell me that at least now I knew that I had to work harder next time if I wanted to win. I can’t imagine a mother today telling her small child such a thing, but I had no problem with what she said. She was offering good advice which I took and I won my next race.

Now all these years on, the lessons learned then, the structure behind the chaos in my head, allows me to fall back on the knowledge that I can pick myself up and carry on. Sometimes I need to start on a new path, sometimes I just ned to keep going, but either way I know not to give up and for that understanding I am truly grateful.

The real me, the melancholy me, has a mind too sharp for its own good, always over analysing, over complicating, never silent, never quiet or still, always tormenting and torturing me despite my best efforts. I imagine the inside of my head like one of those anatomical drawings of the human body with its vascular network layered over the lymphatic system, a tangle of wire-like nonsense at first glance. Only I see the confusion and mass of connections ten-fold, one hundred-fold, a scribble of ink on the page between the outline of my skull. The anatomy of a torturer as it were.

The other me, the real me for all to see, stays on a path, any path on my journey through life and stops along to way to have a coffee or a pint, is grateful for the rainbows and the flowers at my feet and so it should ever be. Happiness is all around; you just need to remember that sometimes you are just looking for it in the wrong place. It is within your grasp just out of your eyeline. Adjust your gaze. Take a breath, focus on the good that you see and you’ll trip over little nuggets of joy. Sit on a boulder of laughter and soak it in. Stop counting the raindrops, splash in the puddles instead.

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Only Paper Fades…

Only Paper Fades…

28 years ago today my Mam passed away. It was sudden and the event blighted my life for almost a decade. I wasn’t unexperienced in matters of loss, but that loss and the manner in which it struck, completely blindsided me. Looking back, I was completely unaware of all the ways my life changed. I couldn’t see beyond my grief and I didn’t pass through mourning until I dealt with my ghosts many years later.

Now I am a very different man. The chocking hand of grief no longer controls my ability to move through the world and there is a lightness about such freedom. That being said, today I am sad. It has been a long year for all of us and the natural sense of sadness that decends on such a memorial day, has been underlined by the challenge of these past months.

My daily me, the waking, walking, talking, happy me, has always hidden my natural melancholy state. When I watched death beckon to me 7 years ago, it was not the events of my life that passed before my eyes. All I felt was an enormous sadness for those I was leaving behind. It was overwhelming I have to say and It puts me in mind of my struggles with the loss of my mother, all those years ago.

I am but a little boy in her eyes. But today is a reminder that she is gone from me. Mam is somewhere beyond the life that I live, no longer there to chide me and point me to the right path. I miss her. I remember how my hand felt in her hand, I remember the smell of her skin cream, the colour of her hair, and the warmth of her love. When we lose someone, we fear that we will forget them. I remember thinking that I couldn’t remember her face, but it is all an illusion. The fear itself is what tricks our memory and love never truly fades.

Halloween has never been quite right for me since that night. Today, all the weight of her loss has for some reason, perhaps the ones I have already mentioned or maybe for some other undiscovered reason, caught hold of my soul again.

Souls are delicate things. The world has touched me in ways that have made me far from delicate, but the soft centre that rests within, leaves me vulnerable on some occasions. On days like this. So yes, I miss my Mam today. It sometimes feels like I have found the key to lock that sadness away, only to lose it again and my sorrow return. I will always miss her, that much I know. A forever boy in some ways, knowing that in being unprepared for her loss, perhaps never the man I want to be for her, and theirin lies the rub.

I know what she would say to me, and even writing those words has brought a tear to my eye. Tomorrow will be different. It has been a few years since her loss has hit me this way, but the memory of her is still more than a memory within me. Her name was Mary but people called her May. May would kill me for starting a sentence with ‘she’ for as Mam always reminded me “She is the cat’s mother.” Nonetheless I always liked to tease her so here goes. She lives within me. I am only who I am, because she held my little boy hand in hers, and taught me what she knew. I am only who I am because she loved me. I wrote this following piece 28 years ago and it is still relevant today…

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Is it just me…?

Is it just me…?

If you’ve ever been to Ireland and somehow wound your way to the beautiful part of Ireland that is county Kerry, you may have wandered into the lovely little town of Dingle. If you did, then you will of course be familiar with Fungie.  For the unfamiliar, Fungie is a dolphin that has been swimming around the waters of Dingle for the past thirty odd years and a whole tourist industry has, in typical rural Ireland fashion, been developed around him. He has it would appear, long outlived your average bottlenose dolphin.

You can go out in any number of boats to photograph Fungie as he swims alongside, or indeed if you are so inclined and lucky enough, you can get a chance to swim with him. This week, as if tourism isn’t already on its knees due to Covid-19, Fungie has disappeared! So important is he to the local economy, that I think the locals might be considering a stand-in.

Now as a writer I can’t help but be reminded of Douglas Adams. ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish’ the fourth book of his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy and yes in case you are confused, it’s a trilogy in 5 parts. The title is the message left by the dolphins when they departed Planet Earth, just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Now our beloved Fungie has disappeared. Given the year we’ve had…I can’t help but wonder if we should be worried?

As I write this, I can confirm that this little island of ours, has today gone into full lockdown for the second time. Now I’ve never been overly careful about the rules that are placed on me in life, but in the case of Covid-19, I have been pretty much a stickler. I’ve listened to people bit*h and moan about not being able to go to a restaurant or pub, as though it were the end of the world and frankly, it’s nothing short of pathetic. The government here, like those in every other country affected, are trying to prevent things from getting worse. So, they’ll get it wrong, at least they try. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t territory. I’m no apologist for government but I don’t care who you put in charge, no one is going to get this right. Don’t get me started on anti-maskers.

But I take comfort in typical Irish fashion, in knowing we’re not the worst. We don’t win a lot of big international contests, so knowing “well at least we weren’t the worst” allows us a chance to celebrate, even when we lose. “Hooray we were 9th, but we beat Burkina Faso at sailing… let’s party!” (look it up, we’re an island – they are landlocked). The Irish celebvrate better than most, especially when we lose. Celebrating the fact that less of us died here than in some other place, is hardly reassuring. It’s just not funny is it.

That being said, I only have look at the mess America has made of it and look at how badly Boris Johnson and friends have Fupped things up in the UK, to realise we could have done a whole lot worse. Unfortunately, the biggest lesson we’ve learned, is that it doesn’t matter how bad others are doing. We have learned the sad, uncomfortable truth about ourselves, that community is nothing more than a word for a large percentage of the population.

In the beginning we watched Italy being overwhelmed and struggle as people died in previously unimaginable numbers. Fear brought us to accept whatever we were asked to do. We stayed at home, washed our hands and did the right thing to quash the virus. We clapped ourselves on the back for the wonderful ‘community’ spirit that we all showed. Sure, aren’t we great. Let’s sing a song from a balcony. But that was then. That was fear.

Turns out, ‘community’ spirit fades after a bit. It becomes “well it’s not going to affect me” or “sure most people are grand with it – it’s only the old or sick that get killed.” Community it appears, the sense of caring for society as a whole is fine, so long as we don’t have to do very much, or at least not have to do it for very long. Community implies a shared social responsibility, but not just when it suits you.

Personally, I’m climbing the walls. The pair of us have barely got out alone together since the beginning of the year. We are tied to the house for a number of reasons. We haven’t as much as shopped together, nor will we for some time by the look of it. Nonetheless I will stick with it. Why? Well some might say I am looking at this from my own personal, selfish perspective. I do of course belong to a high risk category, but that’s not the reason I stick by the rules. We live with Jo’s 95-year-old mother and she is our chief concern. Perhaps I am my Darling Jo’s concern also, but really, we wouldn’t want to risk bringing Covid-19 in to our house with her mother straight in the firing line due to her age. But that’s not the whole reason either. I see beyond my front gate. I know it’s not just about me and I believe it extends beyond my hall door. Unfortunately for many people, that seems to be where it stops.

Is that as far as community should stretch? Should it be up to just a few people who care. Should old people, vulnerable or sick people and those caring for them, or those living alone perhaps, simply lock themselves away while the rest of the world goes about their business? Maybe those at most risk, should extend their isolation to perhaps another 12 months, in order that the majority of people can go about their business. But how hard is the odd 6 weeks? What if you were in that group of vulnerable people? Or should we just open up and decide such people are an acceptable collateral damage?

It would seem so. Old people are clearly expendable. People with serious long term conditions are expendable. What if this were a virus that just killed children under 5? Would those without children or those with older children act as irresponsibly as people currently in less risky categories are behaving in relation to those who are vulnerable now? Community that once stretched across the land in every direction as far as the eye could see, has been annexed by self-interest and a dispassionate, ‘couldn’t give a fup about others attitude.’ I only have to mask up and cross the threshold to see that all around me.

It is not without sacrifice and some have sacrificed more than others for sure. But there is a price to pay for true community. It is not easy. For those in the eye of the storm with unemployment, domestic violence or loneliness, we need to understand that they are victims too and address the needs of these victims in all walks of life. It is in this too that we need to rekindle true community.

Community means something. It is important. But now, its demise is clear. We have been most devastatingly found out for what we really are. It may sound cynical to say that people are basically selfish baxtards, but it ain’t cynical if it’s true. They say the truth will out and it truly is out. We lie to ourselves and anyone who will listen, a fake nod to someone else’s problem. I am not absolved of the crime either. No buts. We all need to step up in this time of need.

I listen to it and hear the excuses, watch the blatant hypocrisy of people pretending that they do all the right things – except when they actually don’t – but justify the trip or visit, dinner, party or socialising with scant regard for others. I no longer see people sanitise their hands as they enter a store and I suspect their handwashing regime has loosened at home if it’s like this in public. Social distance is apparently back to people apologising when they bump into you and sure the first chance people get, they’ll be down the local sculling pints again.

Not that there is anything wrong with any of the things we used to do, it’s just that we have all been asked to do something different, something relatively simple in the grand scheme of things, for a relatively short period of time. Of course we miss all those things that we once took for granted. We all want to get back to normal, but the fatigue factor has overtaken the desire to be truly community spirited. People have got tired of being community spirited. It shows few were really community spirited in the first place. It was all just lip service, a façade so we could look good in church or wherever we saw the eyes of the world waiting to judge.

I get it I really do. I’m pi**ed off too, but if this is what we are being asked to do, for others in most cases, as the majority of people have been untouched by the disease directly, then we either do it, or stop pretending to be a caring, compassionate member of the community in which you live. I believe that we must maintain our responsibility to our community. Not just to our family but to our neighbours, to the people we say hello to when we pass them on the street, and to strangers who depend on us to do the right thing.

I do have faith in many, but were once I believed that most people were kind and thoughtful, compassionate and caring, with just a small minority of naysayers, I now see that so many just pretend when someone is looking and as soon as they think they can get away with it, the mask is off if you pardon the analogy.

If I were to be unlucky enough to be struck down by this disease during this new lockdown, only 25 people could come to my funeral. 25.  In fairness I don’t think I know 25 people who haven’t broke the rules or who care enough about me or people like me to take this seriously. So maybe that would save them the embarrassment of turning up with a big guilty head on them, offering platitudes when all they may have done, is add to the chances of me contracting the virus in the first place.  I think I’d have the following on my headstone. ‘So long and thanks for all the insincerity.’ Too harsh? Maybe I’m just a grumpy old man after all. Have I just lost hope in humanity?  Is it just me?… Stay safe everybody…

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The best of me is the worst in me… Who can smell toast?

The best of me is the worst in me… Who can smell toast?

I remember reading that if someone smells burning toast when there is no toast present, it is a possible sign of stroke. I always thought that was a pretty specific suggestion. It’s not like they said; one of the signs of stroke was a person smelling things that weren’t there. It specified burning toast. That tidbit, is courtesy of a small storage centre in my brain that hangs on to oddities. They get dragged out occasionally and the I use them for more nefarious purposes, than whatever they were stored for originally. Underneath my stoic, reserved exterior, I have a wicked side and I’ll get back to the toast later.

I bring this up because it is related to a few minutes of nonsense that occurred as my darling Jo and I, prepared to go to bed the other night. We were reminiscing and I was reminded of some of the flatulence related gags, I had pulled on the kids when they were smaller, and I honestly haven’t laughed as much in quite a while, thinking back on what a terrible father I must have been.

Now farts are a favourite source of humour for small children, of this there is no doubt. One day, long, long ago, I casually wondered aloud if it might not be possible to catch, and freeze a fart. The kids were instantly hooked and were keen that I might expand on the idea. So, I simply mused aloud on the notion and asked them to consider how it might be done, if indeed it could be done at all. You see, I explained, catching ones wafted exuberance, sounded like quite a challenge. It might not even be possible I suggested. That was the hook to their childish curiosity.

It led to a discussion the nature of which can only occur in a serious fashion, between small children and an idiot father. We debated the pros and cons, the challenges involved, such as what container one might use, and whether or not it would require more than one person to capture the elusive stank. While they generally agreed it would be harder for one person alone to do this, when I suggested we give it a try, there were no volunteers. None of them wanted to be down wind of my arse when the hooter was sounded.

Looking back it was quite hilarious how matter of fact I managed to be in hosting this discussion, all the while keeping a straight face. Finally, it was decided that I should go out into the hallway (alone) and attempt to fill a plastic Tupperware container with the aforementioned stinky pongaloochy. Now before you think I can crack one off on demand, I assure I cannot. In fairness I am one of the least flatulent people I have ever come across. It just so happened that on that particular day, I was suffering the after effects of a hefty feed of Guinness the night before. That and a spicy chicken curry will do it. I was brewing something that to my mind at least, meant I should really have my innards cleaned out with a damp cloth.

To cut to the chase, I returned triumphant to the kitchen, carrying the little sealed plastic box before me with both hands, almost as if it contained some precious, fragile object. I even walked very slowly, to make it look like I wouldn’t dare drop it. The kids went into hysterics laughing and backed off, as though I was carrying a vial of nitroglycerin.

“Behold… the mighty fart has been captured.”

I’m not sure what they thought they’d see. They were very young, but they were fascinated at the apparently empty plastic box that I held in my hands. They could see nothing. If I had indeed managed to trap a new fragrance, (L’odeur de parp) they had no visual guide. Maybe they had expected a green fog, I don’t know. What I do know is that while on the one hand they were doubters, because even at a young age they knew me and my shenanigans all too well, on the other hand, they really kind of, sort of wanted to believe in this mystical possibility. Oooh the tension. But then I asked the most important question.

“Who wants to smell it, to see if it worked?”

The suggestion created pandemonium, especially when I offered it to them. They couldn’t get away from the little box quick enough. Now I know what you want to know. There are a couple of key questions to be answered here. Firstly, which kid stepped up, peeled the lid back and sniffed deeply – those were the instructions that I gave the child?  – yes, I am a baxtard – and had I truly managed to capture the elusive stankernel?

When we laughing our heads off remembering this the other night, we decided to message the two (now adult) kids, to see if they could in fact remember the events of that faithful day. They both cracked up when we reminded them and they remembered the whole thing, except for one odd detail. Not one of them recalled which one took the plunge and sniffed the potentially poisonous potion. On hearing this, I told them that of course, I could remember, but as they couldn’t, that I’d take that secret to my death bed. I can’t help it, I am a cruel father.

The other two questions are; did I manage to capture my blustery perfume in the little plastic box at all and if I did, what did it smell like. Well let me answer that in reverse order, the second part has to be answered hypothetically as in answering it factually, it could prove or disprove the first part, if you follow.

To answer the ‘what did it smell like’ part, I will refer to a follow on piece of chat that we had the other night, for as surely as night follows day, I can’t tell one story, without it reminding me of another. My second tale was met with equal hilarity, if indeed not more so from my darling Jo, who hadn’t heard of the story I was about to tell her before. I’ll share it with you. Don’t worry it’s short.

When I was a teenager, I had a favourite fart trick. Please feel free to use this one, it’s not patented. On the occasion of one letting slip an S.B.D. (silent but deadly) there is always a moment between where you know what you’ve done and just how bad it smells, and the rest of the room being enlightened as to it’s presence and potency. In that moment you ask the person or persons there present, to do something that they simply cannot resist doing.

You tell them a simple fact and then ask them a follow up question that makes them do the one thing they should never do in the presence of an S.B.D. You say;

“I can smell burned toast!  Can you smell toast?”

No one can resist answering that call. Works every time I swear. Everyone inhales deeply, trying to smell the toast that they believe you are smelling. I’m sorry but that cracked me up as a teenager. And so, the answer to the what did it smell like (hypothetically) is…definitely not toast.

As to the answer to the question, “did I manage to trap the beast in the first place,” that my friends, is something you’ll have to try for yourselves to find out… Enjoy the weekend.

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The broken bits of me…

The broken bits of me…

I like the broken bits of me, including the pieces that aren’t all there. My missing pieces are the unconnected things, that make me stare at my life and wonder if I could have done better. The cracks in my psyche and the folds in my skin are akin to lifelines. They keep me grounded and without my history, the so-called wisdom I have gained with age, those flaws I have collected and display daily, I would be far less a man than the one who sits here today.

I could say perhaps that these days, the mirror is less kind to me than it once was. But to be fair, what I could choose to see as the cruelty of time as I am being slowly ravaged by each the tick of the clock, is nothing more than a reflection of a life lived. There is beauty in the worst of me.

These days, Covid-19 has put paid to any ideas I might have had about seeing more of the world, for a while at least. Instead I must live this life within the constraints that bind me to my home for the most part, but so be it.

My crinkles, as my daughter used to call the lines on my face when she was small, have got crinkles of their own, my hair is less fulsome and sometimes the stress of life takes its toll on the windows to my soul. Tiredness shows on my face as does pain, perhaps more than anyone I know. My darling Jo knows exactly when I am struggling with pain, simply by looking at my eyes. She’s not the only one. I try to hide it when things get bad, but my give-away eyes hang me.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize the auld fella looking back at me. I’ve changed so much and life has left its mark. Some days he looks so tired, other days he looks positively sprightly. Lord knows what my insides look like. I come to this on the back of my latest medical checkup. I was contacted by cardiology last week, cancelling my appointment for Wednesday last, due to Coronavirus. Instead they told me I would have a virtual consultation. That was yesterday.

I’ve never virtually consulted with a cardiologist before and I was rather curious. Normally I go through a barrage of tests which I can’t undergo online, so I wondered how they would assess me over the phone. It seemed likely we could both be wasting our time.

I hate talking to consultants. I always feel like they think I’m lying if I tell them the full story. Better to tell them 50% of the problem, it sounds more believable that way. I swear that’s just what I’m like. If I lost my arm in some terrible chain saw accident right before the consultation, I’d probably play that down as well.

“So tell me Mr. P, is there something wrong with your arm as well?” To which I would reply looking at the shredded, bloody stump hanging from my shoulder, “This? It’s just a scratch.  Probably a 3 – or maybe a 4 out of 10 pain wise. It’ll stick right back on.”

When the phone rang yesterday, I sighed. ‘Here we go’ is all I could think, a waste of 5 minutes of my life. The voice at the other end of the line was surprisingly rather pleasant. She sounded young and competent. The voice introduced herself and told me her name was Jess. She explained what I already knew, which was that due to Covid-19, they wanted to do some assessment over the phone. That much I expected.

What I didn’t expect was the thoroughness of her enquiry. She asked all the right questions and elicited replies from me that I am normally reticent to give, specifically… the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In hindsight, I was so impressed with the skill of the doctor that spoke with me. She wasn’t my consultant, she was a S.H.O., junior to her consultant. My experience with S.H.O.’s in Irish hospitals has not been good. Generally, they are over worked and ill prepared for each person who walks into the consulting room. They usually look at test results from whatever barrage of tests I had just gone through, pretty much tell me nothing and are reluctant to do anything other than send a report to their consultant at the end of the day.  I always feel short changed and none the wiser. Yesterday, I found someone willing to look at my profile, dig deeper and ask the right questions. She was clear, precise and was up to speed on my current condition. Maybe it was precisely because she didn’t have the usual tools of test results at her finger tips, that she had to draw on a different skill set.

When I came out of the CCU unit 5 years ago, my cardiologist came visiting with a gaggle of students in his wake. He had saved my life, quite literally. While it wasn’t he, that straddled my chest and squeezed fluids into me, and it wasn’t he that had provided CPR mid operation, he was the man who asked one more question, and that led him to sending me for my first heart scan and that ultimately saved my life.

I recall that he told the students about how he first met me and that based on my tests, I was quite a healthy man. He told them that my blood pressure was normal, I had passed my fitness test with flying colours, my diet was good, I was not over weight, I didn’t smoke, there was nothing unusual on my E.C.G and the only significant factors were a family history of heart disease and high cholesterol. In most circumstances, he told them, he would have prescribed medication for my cholesterol and told me to get a recheck in 6 months.

What he then did and I recall it so well, is that he asked them to think about that, given I was recovering in a hospital bed only a few weeks after he had met me for the first time. He told them I could quite possibly have dropped dead on the street had he not done one simple thing. They looked at him blankly as he asked them if they knew what that was. Like the suck-up kid in class who knows the answer, I nearly put my hand up. Luckily, I realized that he wasn’t asking me. They all looked at their feet or at their note pads, hoping not to be chosen to provide an answer they didn’t have.

When no one answered, he simply explained that his decision to look a little deeper came from 2 things. One was experience but more importantly, because experience takes time to acquire and patients don’t have that time to play with, the driving factor was that he had listened to me very carefully and took in all the little details that I had revealed. He had a niggle and that niggle led him to go backwards, to re-question for a little more information on my family history, and ultimately, he made a decision based on suspicion born from a thorough interrogation of the facts. He told them not to aimlessly take notes to pass on responsibility to someone else, but to listen and be present in a consultation and to be a courageous advocate for their patient in deciding what to do. The one thing he had done, he said, was he had listened.

Yesterday, young Jess did all that over the phone. She was monstrously impressive compared to all that came before her. I couldn’t help wonder if she had been one of those students at the foot of my bed 5 years ago. Perhaps she had learned something.

Unfortunately, it means I seem likely to go back into hospital in the near future something that doesn’t sit well with me. The plan begins in exactly the same fashion as it did 5 years ago, only this time I know what went wrong the first time around. I was unafraid the first time until my heart stopped and I ended up in a critical care unit, once I had done a U-turn from the light.

I try to be unafraid always and I think for the most part, little frightens me. But going back to a place where I vividly remember my life passing and all that came with that, no matter how unlikely it is that I could be so unlucky the second time around, is somewhat disconcerting. I have been given no timeline due to Covid-19 restrictions, so I have a wait ahead and I would much rather face the unpleasantness as soon as I can. I write books with stories that play on anticipation to generate fear. I am all to familiar with that notion.

But really, it’s no biggy. I am fine, will be fine and the world will tick its tock regardless. In the meantime, it’s the waiting that could get to me. A time worm, burrowing into my thoughts, poisoning my courage, diluting my self-confidence. If I’m not careful, I will turn up in hospital in a couple of months, with a big fat worry worm resting where my courage once sat. Isn’t it funny, how despite your best efforts and regardless of how much common sense and logic you think you possess, there is always a nemetic thought to unravel your best laid plans…

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On being fabulous…

On being fabulous…

Oh, to be Mr. fabulous. You know the type, lives under the illusion that they are just gorrrrrgeous regardless of the state of them. That is one of my favourite Irish expressions, “The state of ye.” It is a great Irish leveller, so when Mr. Gorrrgeous comes into a room with his flowing locks, white shoes and the auld baby blue jumper trun over his shoulders, some woman in the room will quickly say, “would ya look at the state of yer man.” I love it and forgive me the odd phonetic spelling or two above, I was in the zone.

Of course, some might think I’m jealous…oh no! Not me. Many’s the lady has had occasion to say, “would you look at the state of yer man” in reference to me, I can tell ya. I am not one for standing back to step forward, if you know what I mean.  I like clothes and suspect I have multiple fetishes, from shoes to hats and watches, and particularly jackets. I literally struggle to not try on a jacket every time I visit a clothes shop. There are jackets in my wardrobe that never see the light of day…yes, I have a problem.

But you see, my internal Mr. fabulous is a construct. Despite what I suspect most people believe about me, I am rather shy by nature and don’t actually have a very high opinion of myself. My counter to that, is to outwardly pretend I do and then try to have fun with it. It’s all one big cover up. I suspect there are many just like me, but of course none exactly like me .. sure, aren’t I uniquely fabulous. Even if I’m getting a little creaky.

Getting older doesn’t help. At my age, I have already become invisible to the fairer sex. Not that I want to attract anyone, I am happily and blissfully in love with my darling Jo, but the odd glance to reassure me that I still have ‘it’ wouldn’t be a bad thing. I have to satisfy myself with the knowledge that octogenarian ladies do occasionally think I’m fit for an auld lad, and strangely enough, a lot of Indian women give me the head to toe once over. I don’t think it’s out of admiration, more in the way of a ‘where do I know him from’ thing. I’ll take what I can get and pretend it’s because I’m irresistible. Lord knows I’m Irish through to the bone, but there are some sordid rumours about my great grandfather and great grandmother who spent time in India. I was once told by waiter in an Indian restaurant, that I looked like a former Indian prime minister! I googled the bejesus out of that one but couldn’t make sense of it. Mind you he fancied my daughter, so maybe it was his way of trying to impress me.

Now when I was younger, I experimented with my hair as many young men do. It was flung about with abandon whenever it was long and I went through multiple hair phases. For example there was my Leif Garret phase, my “Don’t give up on us baby” David Soul phase and so on. Of course both examples were icons to the girls in my neighbourhood, they fancied the arse of those lads, so I tried to capitalise and failed with my own iconic versions of their hairstyles.

The hair of course, eventually got shorn and for pretty much the last twenty or thirty years, short has been best for me. From a practical stand point, I have a shower, shake my head and it’s dry. No styling required. Ah men, we are lazy baxtards aren’t we?

But Covid-19 has changed all that. They closed the barbers for months! My usual barber only opened last Monday. It’s by appointment only and now it’s done with all the PPE and shielding, social distancing etc, so there is potential for queuing outside. I’ve never been one for queuing. Now I will let you in on a writing/editing secret here. I originally wrote I’ve never been a queuer, but it looked wrong. Coincidentally, a queuer is also a braid of hair usually worn hanging at the back of the head – how apt. Where was I – yes, I don’t so queues, so I decided to leave it for a couple of weeks until the rush dies down.

Now here’s the problem. My longer hair is back. I won’t say I’m quite the aging hippie just yet, but it’s a lot longer than I am used to. It actually blows in the wind when I walk the dogs…You are picturing it aren’t you… me in my fabulousness … think prince charming from Shrek… got it… now add a few decades, a few pounds and a lot more grey and wrinkles and you are heading in the right direction.

It’s very odd. My hair has been so short for so long, that I forgot just how flicky it gets as it grows. I was even eyeing up Joanna’s straighteners the other day, I swear.  She thinks it’s great or perhaps funny, one of those, I’ll stick with great. Jo keeps urging me to keep it and grow it until I have to go back to working from the office in October. Jebus can you imagine? It’s bad enough now! She loves me, but I suspect she might be having a little secret laugh at my expense here. What’s the expression…taking the… something?

The beard was bad enough. That got so long it was annoying me and I’ve gone through three versions of beardyness since this whole pandemic began. My hair on the other hand, has lost the run of itself completely. I think it has become a conscious, sentient, independent thing. I may write a horror story based on it. It has a sense of itself, it’s becoming arrogant though not yet overbearing, if you get me.

I wake up every morning, wondering what will greet me in the mirror. It can be quite a fright some days. Styling is possible, but only if I apply tonnes of product and aim for a look akin to A Flock of Seagulls or maybe even Albert Einstein crossed with Christopher Lloyd. I can eventually sort it out to look somewhat normal, but I never know if I’m heading for an old version of David Cassidy or a current Willie Nelson. I’m telling you, this thing has a life of its own. As I write this I was just thinking – anybody under the age of eleventy-seven will have no idea who these people are. I’ll throw in Chris Hemsworth for the young folk… What? Can’t I exaggerate a little? Leave a man his fantasies!

The easy thing would be to get it cut, but like I say, I don’t like queues or if the truth be told, maybe there is a piece of me, just a little piece mind you, that secretly wants to know where this goes. Who knows what possibilities lie ahead for an aging piece of fabulousness like myself – if I just wait that little bit longer… Maybe I’ll just cut it.. Maybe.. Maybe tomorrow… Maybe…

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The space in the break of my heart…

The space in the break of my heart…

My mother died 26 years ago. She was sixty. To be honest it was a devastating loss. We lost our father two years earlier through a long battle with cancer but Mam? Well she simply disappeared one night, or at least that’s how it felt. She had come through a brief enough medical battle which in itself was life threatening. She was on the way back out of that battle all seemed well. Mam went out with her sisters for the first time since her battle began as if to celebrate her return. She dropped dead holding on to her sister’s hand, singing.

Today is her birthday. She would be eighty five. I saw her two days before she died and I never saw her again. I was called to the hospital at two in the morning, but the body that lay on that hospital bed wasn’t Mam. She was gone and it truly broke my heart. Some people have a big influence on your life, some fade in and out without registering a mark. My mother’s love, left an indelible softness in my heart that has shaped all that may be good about me.

When I wrote Little Big Boy, it was Mam that sculpted my tale. Many think the book autobiographical which of course it is not, but there are elements and stories from my life that I called upon, to evoke the emotion needed to make this book something special for me. At the heart of the book is Little Big Boy’s love for his mother and her love for him. It was my mother that I called upon when I needed to find the words to portray the deepest joy and sorrow and as such Little Big Boy was actually a very painful book to write.


People say things like they poured their heart and soul into something. I did something quite different with what has become my readers’ favourite Max Power book. I gave of my pain. I shared a hurt I could never fully describe and I offered a taste of what love means to me. It was neither my heart nor my soul; it was the space in the break of my heart, the gap that had been forged through loss, an unfulfilled lonely pain that no one but you can know in your own terrible darkness when you lose someone you love. Little Big boy is not my story yet it carries the weight of my pain and the lightness of my joy.  Perhaps that is why it is so special to me and why so many readers connect with it.  I lost my brother nine years ago. Where once we were six now we are three and in writing Little Big Boy, I came close to following Dad, Mam and Brian through my own dice with death which is well documented in my blogs of the time. I miss them all, but today is her birthday so today I think of Mam.

I miss her every day in truth but in a very subjective way. I miss her by her absence, which may sound an obvious thing to say but I mean more than just the obvious in this. In her not being there I have no one to scold me, no one to tell me I’m being foolish or selfish or unkind. I miss her ability to read me like a book and offer direction even when I disagree with her. Her absence left me rudderless. My north star clouded over as I sailed in the dark alone and despairing, wondering if I could ever find my way without her guiding hand.

To be brutally honest, it took me many years to recover the loss, far longer than I either realised or imagined. Now I am a changed man. Perhaps I am just a man.  She is not there to take my hand and guide me as I cross new roads in life.  I have to make choices without that critical eye watching me with love. There is no doubt I have found love in other places. My heart is filled with my true love’s blessings every day but that is something very different. Now my darling Jo holds my hand and we cross roads together she and I. Over time I have learned not to be afraid of life’s traffic. I have found my own way at last and I can cross most roads safely. But sometimes, I miss her standing at the door watching me as I look left and right. I want to look back to see her smiling at me and then giving me a stern look, telling me to look where I’m going, urging me to walk and not to run.

Looking back is too painful so I look forward and up to stop me feeling down. Mam is with me always anyway. She is in my eyes and in the sallowness of my skin. She is in the words I say, the thoughts I think and most of all in the softness of my heart. But sometimes, just sometimes specially on days like today her birthday, I turn my head to look over my shoulder, to see her smiling back at me. I still seek her approval even in her absence. She never got to see my children grow.  She never got to see me grow to finally become a man, whatever that means. I am a man I guess, the one she made, the one she never got to see…

Little Big Boy is free to download today 30th June and tomorrow 1st July here…

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A Very Un-American Coup..

A Very Un-American Coup..

What really matters…

There are two days in the year when we cannot do anything. Yesterday and tomorrow.  Forgive me for plagiarising Mahatma Gandhi, but those words are appropriate in these times. It is impossible to ignore the recent events in America. It is unsurprising that George Floyd died in the manner that he did. It is of course shocking, horrible and disgusting that any man, let alone a policeman, could do this to another person. Anyone who saw the video of Mr. Floyd pleading for his life as it ebbed away under the knee of another, cannot be unmoved by the horror of his death.  But like I say it is unsurprising, for nothing surprises me now when it comes to a country that has fallen so far from a place to envy, to a place to pity.

Once there were men who spoke up and they spoke up even in dark times, with voices that was reasoned and calm. It is calm that is required now. To quote Martin Luther king “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”  But it would appear that the brave men and women of America, are hiding in the shadows these days. There is a deficiency of debate in the United States of America right now and it hasn’t occurred over night. While Donald Trump is all that is not presidential, the rot had set in long before the walls had started to crumble just enough to allow a man like him become president.

That Americans have long denied their vulnerability, that they have become deafened to the truth of what is happening in their own country by soundbite after soundbite, is something every American needs to confront.  Cosseted in the illusion that they were the greatest nation on earth, misled by decades of falsehood that the world looked to them as a beacon of democracy, America has in recent years become the butt of a global joke, a contemptable bully and a nation not to be trusted, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Donald Trump calls Catholic priests leftist and Democrats Liberals.  Give him five minutes in Europe and he would realise how far right both of these organisations actually are.

Debate in America has become a shouting match of rhetoric. I don’t think I have ever heard as much talk of ‘the left’ as I have in recent days in the American media, yet there is no left in American politics. The American ‘left’ is a fallacy. Used like the unseen monster in M Knight Shyamalan’s The Village, it is nothing more than a device to preserve the status quo for the political elite. That universal health care seems anathema to so many, because it has been depicted as virtually a communist construct in the collective mind of America, is astounding. But it has been a propaganda success for the rich and the power-hungry tycoons who inevitably got one of their own into the Whitehouse. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. That is not the American dream.

There is a place for social democracy in America, but the word social sounds like socialism and socialism sounds like communism, and we all know the history America has in that regard. The fear generated by words has held people back. The polarisation of a 2 party state, limits the opportunity for real, positive change. Provision for social needs in politics, should be a fundamental staple of any government. When a president is more concerned about stock market performance than his people, then he is not a servant of the people as he should be. A president should serve the needs of the people, not dictate to serve his own desires.

In America right now, there is a man at the top thinking only of himself, revelling in photo opportunities like a later day Joseph Stalin, seemingly pleased not to have to answer for his failure to save over 100,000 American lives, lost to the pandemic.  One black man murdered by the cops leading to anarchy.  It was an easy price for him to pay when it took Covid-19 off the front pages. He is a man of singular focus and that is his personal gratification. Donald trump is the mistake that America is starting to pay for and the debt is huge. Look up the definition of the word Fascism. I am not calling him a fascist but if you look it up, you might be surprised how closely aligned Donald trump’s methods and actions are to the very definition of that ideology.

If you are deficient in debate, you never hear the truth, only the loudest voice. Donald trump has a big mouth. He shouts through his tweets and unfortunately there are enough ears still listening. During the recent riots, I’ve seen posts from white Americans saying they were armed and ready to kill should ‘they’ come to their door. I’ve even seen a police chief say the same in a press conference. We all know the ‘they’ that is referred to are people of colour.  There is a whiff of sulphur in the air, the smell of someone lighting a burning cross not so far away, as some are beginning to remember the ‘good ol’ days of lynching and mob rule.  It is not a universal bigotry but it’s not unfair to call it out.  I have no doubt many Americans would be appalled by such a suggestion, but everyone knows what lurks in the shadows.

In the chaos, whose flames are fanned by the president of the country, that there are criminals and thugs exploiting that chaos, even encouraging it, is not in doubt. That is the nature of mass protest. Sometimes it gets out of hand.  When you have been at the wrong end of life, all your life, it isn’t hard to step outside the rule of law and take what you can. A hungry man steals bread; an angry, hungry man steals bread and burns down the bakery afterwards.

But again, as easy as it is for one to say that this is all Donald Trump’s fault, you have to remember, enough people voted for him under the American electoral system. He was no surprise. That he is a racist, a bigot, that he is only interested in self-promotion and growing his own power and wealth above all else, was something a blind, deaf man could have figured out long before a single vote was cast. So why is America surprised. Why did it take this long to wake up to his tricks?

Dictatorship requires complicity and has there ever been a more compliant congress? It requires conspiracy and most of all it requires anarchy. In of the fires of discontent, seeds of malignancy are sown and it is not inconceivable that the man who won’t concede, might corrupt the rule of law to stay in power at all costs. It is a familiar pattern.

So perhaps is this a test. Bring in the troops, or at least make it look like you will and watch to see if anyone tries to stop you. There is no one stopping this man, not yet. He knows now that if he loses the election, he can stir up civil strife quite easily. He can call it a ‘stolen election’ and if needed roll out the troops unopposed. Where there is opposition. It appears the head of the joint chiefs of staff is on board already. The choices are stark, but were he to lose the election, particularly if it is close, is he really going to concede? This is not a man who concedes.

If this were happening in 1970’s central America, no one would be surprised and everyone would be calling it what it looks like, a coup to insert a dictator using the country’s military. Does that sound over the top? Perhaps for the moment, but overthrowing the government is not beyond this man should he lose the next election.  Now I suspect, he will hold off a little. Like any good dictator, you always test your enemy’s weakness first.

And what next? It isn’t good enough to say this too shall pass. Doing nothing is a recipe for further unrest. What America needs to see is solidarity. Peaceful, hand in hand, overwhelming protest. It could come in November at the ballot box where it belongs, but it may be too late then.

This man has outsmarted the brightest and bullied the rest. Where is America’s voice? Who can step forward and lead protests tens of thousands strong, to the door of the man who would be king if he is not stopped? It seemed for a while that the voices that matter had all fallen silent. It is good to finally hear some dissent in the last few days. Now I read there will be a mass protest on Saturday. Perhaps we will hear the real voice of America on that day. But how will he respond and what will his cronies do, abandon him or dig in.

Donald Trump has divided his enemies. The disparate groups protesting are unorganised and as yet, nothing more than an ineffectual rabble of annoyance to a man willing to put an army on the streets to quieten his own people. Like a colossus he looms above all those within his circle as they cower beneath his cloak, afraid to come out now for it is already too late for them. Having supported his crazy this long, there is simply no way to step away and try to deny that they weren’t complicit. There is no doubt America has experienced a democratic decline. Again, I must quote a man of peace “civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state, shares in its corruption and lawlessness.”

The wake up call has arrived and it truly is time for the American people to wake up. It is time for men and women of sense, to stand up and stand together. This is not about one black man’s death. This is about inequality, poverty, lack of opportunity, racism, corruption and a deliberate division of society to further the self interest of men like Donald Trump. We are starting to see the response to his abuse of power, the question is, what will happen next?

Americans need to look within themselves and question the throw away phrases that have begun to mean less and less, because they have gone unquestioned. What is country? What is patriotism? I have never known a people so obsessed with the notion of duty and patriotism and allegiance to things that don’t matter. A flag? A president?

Country is a word that defines the boundaries of a nation, but most importantly, its people. A patriot is a person who vigorously defends their country. Patriotism is a falsehood if it isn’t defined by what the culture of a country is, and what it means to belong to that country. A patriot needs to believe in what he or she is defending. A patriot needs to stand for all their fellow countrymen, not just the few. America needs to open the debate again. What does it mean to be American and how can one feel proud to be patriotic unless that patriotism is embedded in the soul of the people?

Does being American mean that racism should prevail? Does being American mean you look out for no-one but yourself? Does being American mean that you should have 2 or 3 or 4 or more classes of Americans? Should being American mean you are a lesser or greater version of the rest of your fellow Americans depending on the colour of your skin, the party that you vote for, how rich or poor you are, or the church you go to? It seems from the outside that one man has come in and hijacked all that most Americans hold dear. Where are the so called checks and balances? When congress abdicates its power to the president, it is up to the people to take a stand.

Most Americans are familiar with the words on the plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Where is that America now? Perhaps being American means something else now? Maybe the plaque should be removed? Perhaps being American now means you build a wall to keep out the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Who knows? When a country divides it stands for nothing. U.S.A. The ‘United’ States of America. It is time to take that union back to the heart of the debate. In unity there is strength.

The fate of America lies in the hands of its people, whether through their actions or inaction. This is perhaps a defining moment in American history and those who choose to look away, may long regret their carelessness. Tomorrow may be too late to change things. Change comes through actively engaging those who would corrupt your society and by challenging corruption. Recent generations have become lazy. Most people have been waiting for someone else to step up, only no one is coming.

The man who has been at the heart of everything that has gone spiralling out of control, grows stronger by the day, testing how far he can push it. When the press is daubed the enemy of the state and all dissenting voices are declared fake news, when a president can say the stupidest of things and deny that he ever said them without breaking a sweat, when almost the entire ruling party cower in their place, afraid to speak up for their constituents for fear of falling out of favour, then it is time to man the barricades.

I hold out hope that good people will prevail, that the genuine heart and soul of America, the people, have finally been stirred, but a question remains. Will they ultimately raise their voices and remould their society into one where division is a stain on the past and community is all that matters? Donald Trump uses triumphalist, silly, egotistical phrases like Make America Great Again. MAGA. It is an insult to the people of America, a cheap trick. I would remind him greatness is never taken, it can only be bestowed and it is only bestowed on the deserving.

This is the time for America to shine, to show the world that it is still a democracy, to shout loud that its people have prevailed in the darkest of circumstances. Now is the time to demonstrate their strength, their unity and their love and compassion for one another. Americans have been separated during the pandemic but they should not be divided by their malignant leader. I believe they will have the next word… and so I leave you with this;

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