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Sep 17

Guest Post: Puppychild writes.

Posted on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

I first wrote about Puppychild here. She was three years old then. Now she is nearly nine. It is about time that she began her own blog, because I’ve seen her writing and I think that it is excellent, and weird, and wonderful. This is a guest blog so you can see for yourself.


Hello my name is Puppychild and I am in third class. I love monsters, I wish I was a monster my self, well I kind of am. The way I always talk about monsters.

The vampire who survived the sun.

Once upon a time there was a vampire, her name was Mavis.  Mavis wanted to go into the sun. Mavis went to the smartest Vampire in the world. His name was Count Smartula. Mavis knocked on the door. Count Smartula told her to come in. When Mavis came in, count Smartula asked her why she interrupted  his work, Mavis said that she didn’t know, and that she was sorry. Mavis asked if there was ever a vampire who went in the sun. Count Smartula  just  started shouting (out out get out!). Then Mavis flew back home, and she searched on the computer. Mavis searched a story about that somewhere in the world there is a Vampire that can go into the sun. Mavis thought maybe she was that vampire.

so Mavis went into the sun.

and survived the sun.

riannastorythe end

Sep 15

Child protection policy overkill

Posted on Sunday, September 15, 2013 in Family, Jobs, Philosophy, Rantings

I’ll start by going off on a tangent. They made child-proof caps on medicine bottles so that children can’t open them, right? I was on duty recently where an Emergency Medical Technician who is all of 25 years old couldn’t open a bottle of Calpol. My own kid, who is all of 3.5 years old, has no problem with this whatsoever.

Some rules can be very intelligent but not very bright at all.

When children are involved with an organisation and you are in charge of them (i.e. their parents aren’t around) these days you must be very careful. You must not take photographs of them, even though a rare opportunity my present itself where a butterfly suddenly decides to a-light on their baseball cap and you itch to capture a moment of rarity.

You must make sure that if a child is going somewhere, they must be accompanied by two adults of each sex. You cannot drive anywhere with a kid on your own, even if the parent gives you verbal consent. You must not be on your own with a child at any time under any circumstances which is weird for me because I prefer the company of kids. They have a lovely energy. Does that sound creepy or is this over-sensitisation?

This rule presents problems on First Aid duties.

“OMG look! It’s a candy floss stand! I’m there! Can I go?” and.. then… she’s gone.

Is a child on its own in a wilderness of people worse than a child with a responsible adult in a wilderness of people? No, apparently not…but I broke the rules when I ran after her anyway for I had no time to find a random man. I accompanied her to the floss stand, and chastised her for running away, and told her she couldn’t buy floss even if it was with her own money.

How much of a bitch am I?

It’s the skill of putting yourself in their parent’s shoes I guess. Maybe she had a dinner to go home to… either way she was here to work and not enjoy herself, and act responsibly for the sake of the uniform. I wish times were different. I would have acted differently if that were the case, but that’s probably my inner child speaking.

Like, for instance; last month I went on an Emergency First Responder course. Another member from my division went with me, but his eighteenth birthday isn’t until November so he is still very much a minor. I gave him a lift to and from the course which is miles away and definitely not accessible by public transport so his parents were very glad to have me take the ache from their back of having to separately transport him, and gave me a lovely ‘thank-you!’ card to express this.

However, what I did was to break the law entirely according to my company’s policies.


So now, let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a grey-haired man with fuzzy beard and steel-rimmed glasses. He was a quiet man, who loved hard work especially if it was to be carried-on outside. He disliked working with others, those lazy people who loved more than anything to lean on their shovels and speak nasty of others while dragging out days and wasting time. So, he requested every job to be his own, and this was granted to him because he always performed dutifully and put love into every job he did.

One day, this man was pulling weeds from a wilderness beside a playground. He had been working for five hours but he wasn’t tired, he was only just beginning.

The playground in question was a playground frequented by special needs children, from a special needs school just up the road. I know it well, for I bring Laughingboy there sometimes.

A child had wandered.

It had found itself in the adjacent carpark and when its teachers cottoned on to this and raised a fuss, the child locked down. It floored, and would not budge from said floor for love nor money. It lay, and it screamed if anyone should come close.

The gray-haired man with fuzzy beard and steel-rimmed glasses approached said kid with his wheelbarrow.

“Are yeh hopping in, or what?”

The child obliged. It climbed in, and allowed our gardener friend to transport him effortlessly back to the bus. The teachers were thankful. The kid’s friends were thankful. I’m pretty sure that the kid’s parents would have been thankful too, knowing that they couldn’t be there to help and that thankfully there was someone with a bit of brightness to him that helped out on their behalf.

However, what he did broke the law entirely because it wasn’t policy. He could get sacked for it.


There are too many loopholes and scenarios to comprehend. I know that there are monsters out there, and so does ‘the man’… but how far does child protection have to go? Will future babysitters need to babysit in pairs? Will teachers need to teach in pairs even though the school budget doesn’t allow?? I know there’s a happy medium, I fear that we hit that happy medium about ten years ago, but now it’s just gotten silly and I’ve a feeling it’s about to become a whole lot sillier yet.

Please help me to understand?

Aug 31

Planes, Trains, and Deloreans.

Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 in Jobs

The following is a bunch of photographs I took at a recent duty. The duty involved taking care of the first-aid needs of a bunch of Model Train enthusiasts. What could possibly go wrong at a model train exhibition you ask? Nothing, really. Sweeeet. I am, however very easily amused so had myself possibly a little bit more fun than is socially acceptable.

(Click pictures to embiggen them)

South end of O'Connell street

South end of O’Connell street, photo-bombed by a dubious overseer.

This is a view towards the north end of O’Connell street, with the GPO and Nelson’s Column and some more floaty heads.

Here is a St John Ambulance First Aid station on O’Connell street, circa 1949. How cute the little crashed bicycle is!

Part of a very elaborate Lego city complete with Delorean, Doc and McFly.

I’m guessing this is Rosslare harbour judging by the diesel train zooming past. I could be wrong… any ideas?

Is this Wexford? Again, I’m open to corrections. Bowled over by the tiny details though, I’m sure it’s accurate to the last blade of grass.

What amused me the most, was a little stand selling tiny people for tiny villages. In one pack was a ‘porn’ set of characters complete with five naked ladies, and a couple having sex on a bench. Because who says you can’t be a model train enthusiast and be kinky at the same time? Nobody, that’s who.

Aug 27

‘The eight year old’

Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 in Family, Humourarse, Jobs, Strange and Unusual

Normally in my line of work, they would refer to a missing child by its name which is in my opinion a very stupid idea because there could be journalists listening, but that’s beside the point.

I was bored. I was staring at a monkey and wondering if I could induce it into yawning (which I couldn’t… only wolves are susceptible to this from my experience) so when a rather distressed lady approached me, she found me wearing a really stupid expression but I suppose in hindsight, that doesn’t really matter to anybody.

She had lost her child.

I have children. I have three of them. I lost one of them once, so I appreciate the panic. If you have children, maybe you can close your eyes now and bring yourself back (or forward) to a time when losing them could probably be the most catastrophic thing you can ever experience. You’re responsible for that child. You’re most likely failing them, your imagination goes wild and you’re thinking of the worst possible thing that could happen… the imagination can be a horrible thing sometimes, especially where wolves and monkeys are involved.

She had a wild look in her eyes, wilder than those of a lion. I recognised it immediately.

“Do you work here?” she asked.

“Yyyyyyesss.” I replied. I sort of did, and I sort of didn’t.

“Maybe you can help me?” She implored; “I’ve lost my son! I don’t know what to do! I was looking at this map here and I was wondering where the elephants were and next thing I knew he was gone and I told him before not to wander off but he wouldn’t listen and now he’s gone and I told him but he wouldn’t listen but I told him and now I don’t know….” this line of thought trailed off.

“Don’t worry!” I says. “This is what I do.” I put my hand on her shoulder. “If I can’t find your son in fifteen minutes I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” She relaxed, and smiled, but still bit her nails nonetheless.

I sat her down. And I sat beside her and I took my radio into my hand and I pressed the big red button.

“First aid to control? Over.” I hate cellular band radios.

(no answer)

“FIRST AID TO CONTROL, OVER!” I said. I felt silly now.

(no answer)

“FIRST AID TO CONT.. ” fuck this.

“FIRST AID TO STEVE, DO YOU READ ME? OVER!” Did I mention that I hate cellular band radios?

Steve read me. He picked me up and he heard my voice and I loved him right there and then on the spot for that.

“Steve I have reports of a missing child. He’s eight years old, he’s wearing a blue t-shirt, yellow shorts and black trainers. He has brown hair and is carrying a black back-pack. Can you watch out for him and alert security please? Over!”

“Will do, first aider. Have you got a name for this kid? Over.”

Now… the mother had already given me a description and a name, but this is where it got complicated.

“First Aid to Steve… yes, the name is Penis. Over.”

“Penniz!” The kid’s mother shouted at me. Jesus. Fuck. She had told me, too. I had heard her pronouncing the kid’s name and something in my dirty mind had deliberately instructed me to mispronounce it. How unprofessional am I?


Fuck. I forgot to give my call sign and forgot to sign out with ‘over’. My world was falling apart. Firstly because I’d forgotten to say ‘over’ at the end of the message, secondly because I’d said the word ‘Penis’ over CB radio which at least twenty people were listening to. Thirdly because the mother of a child named ‘Penis’ was standing beside me glowering because I’d undoubtedly cemented an error that countless people had already errored before and she was entrusting me to find same. Semantics can be cruel sometimes.

(Let that be a lesson to all ye parents naming your children odd names in the future!)

But this is not for me to judge.

I didn’t care, to be honest. I saw the panic in her eyes and it reflected in my own and I understood. The kid could have been called Vagina for all I cared, I wouldn’t have cared what word was blasted over the radio as long as the child was found.

“Security to first aid? Over.” Came the call after an eternity (thankfully only three minutes, they’re THAT good here).

“First aid receiving, go ahead! Over.”

“Security to first aid, I have an eight year old here matching that description… blue t-shirt, yellow shorts and black trainers. He has brown hair and is carrying a black back-pack. Over.”

Normally, security wouldn’t have that good a memory. They would normally use the kid’s name, but they didn’t now.

Funny, that.

It reminded me of a song that I love…

Sometimes a long day can be relieved by a good deed and a funny name. Y’know?

Over and out.

Aug 19

An embarrassing post about abscesses that I probably shouldn’t post.

Posted on Monday, August 19, 2013 in Jobs, Little known facts, Strange and Unusual

This is an hiatus.

I realise that blog posts here are thin on the ground, that’s because they’re all on scraps of paper in drawers and in notebooks in random handbags. I write better in hand-writing, but can never seem to find them when I finally get a chance to sit at a laptop. Scraps of paper everywhere… scraps that friends find and can make head nor tail of… scraps that end up in the bin, or in pockets that get washed to be found in shreds, they just end up as silly words that I’m kind of glad were never published.

I was on a roll, of sorts, about a TV documentary I was lucky enough to be involved in, but the next phase was washed and tumble-dried… please be patient with me.

This is different. This is from the soul. I have a spare few minutes here with you and I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this for a long time but obviously it’s a squeamish subject and you might not want to read about it but given the subject line perhaps you have an interest, I’m not sure. Either way, please be sure you don’t read this with a full stomach, for it is quite gruesome.

When I was seventeen I found a lump on the base of my spine, at the tailbone. Of course I thought it was Cancer and it stopped my life, in so far as I found it hard to walk, or sit, or lie down. And of course, because I thought it was the end of my life.

But, it wasn’t. Eventually it burst as the doctor said that it would. After a month or so of extreme pain it erupted into a predictable goo of built-up unreasonableness and then I could live my life again.

I wondered if this meant something for me. Maybe my immune system was to blame, maybe it was something to do with the illnesses my great-great-great-great grandparents had passed on to me, who knows? Either way, of course when nasty things go away, you forget about them.

Until it came back.

And come back it did, time and time again. Sometimes these abscesses appear in the same tailbone area, sometimes they appear in the groin, and disappear. Sometimes dangerously close to the anal zone which means ultimate discomfort for obvious reasons, sometimes it appears in random other groinal areas. Groinal. Did I just coin a new word? How happy am I to be the inventor! Not much, I can tell you. It does make yoga somewhat challenging though, and I’ve told my instructor and she is ever-loving and ever understanding even though the gorey details weren’t shared and I love her for that. I’m sharing them here with you though because maybe you understand, maybe you’re here because of gruesome fascination… that’s good too.

Either way, I wonder why I was chosen for such things.

Obviously abscesses in these sensitive areas are much better than cancer, but I wonder still if the two aren’t related.

Because sometimes when you have a headache you wonder if it’s a tumour.

We all do it.


It begins as a solid lump that hurts. That’s what I shall begin with.

Cancer lumps rarely hurt. This is comforting to most.

Abscess hurting solid mass grows. And grows. It will form eventually into a sort of bubble that is unbearable to touch. Then it will grow bigger. Then it will REALLY start to hurt. From zero to ten, you’re talking about an eight.

Nature seems to be a cruel being. These things never seem to appear on one’s midriff, or on one’s arm. They usually appear in vulnerable areas that are either on show to the public, or in places where sitting is involved. The face. The anus. The armpit. PLACES WHERE IT MATTERS MOST.

Abscesses are a cruel invention no matter where they are.


Obviously you can have an operation. This involves you going under the knife… scary procedures that are the advised way to go, more power to you if you can brave it. I’ve never done this. I think that the underlying problem rarely wants to be cut away.

I went the homoeopathy route, several years ago. If you go by homoeopathy, you’re addressing the problem at its base. This is by all means by personal opinion the BEST way to go, if you can afford it. This is the healing method that figures out why your body is doing this in the first place, and it fixes you at the core. When I went the homoeopathic route, my abscesses stopped evolving into horrible golf-balls, and remained passive.

When I say passive, I mean the abscesses were manageable… they don’t interrupt day-to-day life, but they’re still there. This is because I haven’t followed up on the holistic healing.

Maybe I should have surgery.

Maybe I could get more homoeopathic help, seeing as it was so helpful in the first place.

I’m leaning towards the latter.

People don’t give holistic healing the time it deserves. When I mean people, I mean me. Cut it out, or heal it at its source?

Either way, if you have abscesses, you’re not alone, my dear.


Yours, undecided





Jun 16

How to ride a Quad-Bike

Posted on Sunday, June 16, 2013 in Jobs, Strange and Unusual, The Asylum Experience

I must admit a huge weakness of mine.

I don’t like to tell people that I can’t do something new. I’d rather give something a go, fail miserably, then and ONLY THEN tell people that maybe this isn’t the thing for me. Pride can be a terrible and dangerous thing.

So, when Billy asked me if I’d like to map a Quad-Bike course with him, of course I said yes, immediately.

In my head I wondered a number of things. I wondered if he meant the Royal We, where I would listen to him speak at length about the toils and setbacks of the Costa Rican countryside while we poured over a map at a table with a cup of tea and pencil a route in theory. I wondered if he meant to ride one Quad with me on the back  hugging him for dear life, with me providing a running commentary. Or, maybe he wanted me to have a Quad-Bike of my own to ride with him on a proposed route. Eep! to the latter. I both hoped, and hoped not at the same time… oh, the dangerous responsibility… PLEASE! let it be the latter, I wished.

‘All right,’ says he… ‘grab a key!’

The excited panic slowly roiled in my belly. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that it was shamefully over twenty years since I’d even looked at one of these things. I remembered someone telling me that Bono’s wife had been here just a while ago and scuppered herself slightly in a Quad Bike adventure. I wondered if I’d be of any use to my children dead, and sauntered casually away until Billy couldn’t see me any more.

See, large vehicles are no problem to me. I love driving. I’ve driven large cars, both manual and automatic, I’ve driven vans… hell I’ve even flown an aeroplane once. The bigger the vehicle, the more secure it feels. Give me something small like a moped or a quad-bike however, and I crap myself. They’re too flimsy, too jerky, and their controls are altogether too spurious and unpredictable.

I ran with teenaged animation to the table which displayed an array of keys numbered from 1 to 20. Number 9 was missing. I chose Key 13, just for the craic of it. I don’t like inanimate objects to feel left out.

I found quad-bike number 13. It was RED. They all were, but mine seemed more RED than most.

Billy nodded me a rather masculine nod, then sped away. I asked God to bless his optimism.



Step 1: Insert key into ignition. Congratulate yourself for finding the key-slot.

Step 2: Find your left hand.

Step 3: Congratulate yourself on finding your left hand and remind yourself to calm down, that this could possibly be just a dream.

Step 4: Find the clutch. Realise that there is no clutch. Be bummed out by the fact that there is no clutch, and panic. Find two buttons at your left hand and find that by pressing the lower button, you can shift down to Neutral. Celebrate your cleverness by turning on the engine. Let your thighs enjoy the throb of the engine and be scared, be very scared.

Step 5: Shift upwards with left hand to first gear, and with your right hand’s thumb, press gently on tiny lever.

Step 6: Enjoy whiplash.

Step 7: Realise that it’s probably ok to start these damn things in third gear.

Step 8: Find brakes, but remember that they are for pussies.


I zoomed after Billy after a few minutes of figuring the above out, and began a dirt-path of rocks and stones and dust. I knew where my leader was despite numerous turns and forks by the plumes he’d left behind and caught up with him quickly enough, and my neck was pretty sore by then… Quads are not friends of the cervical spine.

He led me to a beach with flat sand and petrified wood. We zoomed and dodged and accelerated at stupid rates to 80kmph… the dangerousness of these machines amazed me and I wondered if they weren’t entirely safe for teenagers but then again, that was sort of the point of the documentary. We slowed down all too soon, and climbed out of the beach and into cowboy country.

cow1 (1)

To this day I can’t figure out why their ears need to be so big, then I wondered if these aren’t in fact their eyes… very very sad eyes. (Image courtesy of

Groups of ancient people smiled toothless smiles at us and every stranger waved. The sense of well-being was alive. This is a good country to live in, your odds are good here and the freshness of every living thing shamed our exhaust fumes and cursed their modern-day interruption. We smiled apologetic smiles and down-shifted out of courteousness.

We stopped at a shack with a dusty Pepsi sign outside and asked if it would be okay for a bunch of teenagers to pop by the following day with a film crew. They seemed more than happy, they seemed to hold themselves back with enthusiasm which made me feel sad about the possibility that perhaps our crew wouldn’t make it this far the next day. I feared we’d lost the run of ourselves, that we’d overestimated the journey through which our teenagers could stand in this heat, with those gears, and the danger of it all. I as a mother feared that I was failing them, felt that my enthusiasm could possibly kill them. A toddler spoke English to me and overwhelmed me. Her mother smiled proudly, and I was homesick again.

It was at this point I realised that I had no idea how to reverse and thus embarrassed myself in front of several Spanish strangers while I got my act together.

We turned around and went home over the mountains.

There were seas of green below, billions of leaves and crickets chirping, the humidity had died down by now so the dust was clinging to the drying drips of sweat on my skin and I saw the sea with envy, never wanting to swim so much. The sun set to our right as we climbed and dipped, finally bringing us home.

Billy went for a shower and recommended that I did the same. I should have, but I didn’t.

And then I got into trouble for getting carried-away.

I’ll leave that up to your imagination I think, for the truth is always far stranger and I think some things are better confined to the special room in my brain’s reference library that is my cringing memory whose bolts are far stronger than your curiosity could ever be.

Jun 5

Ad hoc

Posted on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Jobs, The Asylum Experience

The lady who worked in the kitchen hadn’t a whole lot of English. We got our messages through to her via elaborate miming and scattered Spanish words which entertained her to no end. She was an amazing cook until it came to mashed potatoes, she could make anything except this… this concept was foreign and vulgar to her when rice is obviously the answer to all of life’s problems.

One of the kids wanted a black coffee one morning. I considered telling him that coffee was no good for minors but I wanted one too, so I let it slide.

“How do you say ‘black’, in Spanish?” he asked me.

“Negro” I said instantly. I had no idea how I knew and wasn’t entirely sure if I was right, but went with it anyway. My conscience told me that I was taking a big risk, if I was wrong, I was racist. If I was right, I was forcing a minor to be racist. Latin can be a cruel thing, sometimes.

“What? I can’t say that!” his eyes grew large as saucers.

“But that’s what ‘black’ translates as! ‘Negro’!” I told him.

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Pretty sure?!?! Am I about to make the biggest social mistake of my life?”

“I’m about 91% sure”, I replied.

He wandered into the kitchen and disappeared for a few minutes before returning with his head hung low, and a mug of steaming black coffee in his hand.

“Was I right?”

“Yes” he quietly replied.

His hang-dog expression lasted for a while, as did mine. We both felt dirty, but knew it was not our fault, it was society’s. The lady in the kitchen had no idea why we were so sad, but she sliced up some extra pineapple and put on another pot of coffee for us anyway. I liked the kitchen lady a lot. Our husband’s names were the same, even though we lived thousands of miles apart, and her son was the same age as my youngest. The latter bounced around the camp every day and made me homesick.

I washed up for her some nights after her shift had ended.

Others asked me why I’d bother washing up when I wasn’t paid to do it, so I told them it was to keep the ants away. I really did it because I liked the kitchen lady, and the view she had from her window. Maybe I really did it because I wasn’t sure what else to do or say in the company of so many bright-sparks, sometimes to merge into the back-ground is the wisest thing to do, no matter how misunderstood this action can be.

I took pleasure in the thinking that maybe she’d arrive in the morning to find the previous night’s work done and think it was fairies that did it, or maybe she didn’t notice at all.

Either way, it worked out well for both of us I guess.


 This hut reminded me of Animal from the muppets, though I have no idea why.
May 28

The catcher in the surf

Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Jobs, Strange and Unusual, The Asylum Experience


The Howler Monkeys.

I woke up in the middle of a dream where I was being attacked by Predator. It was outside my window with its glowing lasers and it was threatening to take away my sanitary towels.

Howler Monkeys sound ghostly. They sound like hound dogs from hell.

There is no need for this! I thought, as daylight seeped through my eyelids. Then I saw Curly beside me who turned with the discomfortable noise and peeped at me from under her eye mask. I was glad not to be alone, the sound was too creepy to suffer by myself at such a vulnerable time.

‘What the fuck is making that sound?’ she murmured.

‘Nnnnghh’ I replied.

We stayed there for a few minutes trying to doze through the cacophony, but it was useless. Just as well, we were due to surface by 7am so they were a pretty good alarm, those funky monkeys.

We dressed in our swimsuits, shorts and teeshirts. We wandered out to welcomes of ‘Hello Mammies!’ from the kids, I was glad not to have to shake them out of their sleepy comas, teenagers can be funny items when it comes to morning waking. I thanked the monkeys then and dropped the urge to shoot them, but the monkeys had quieted by then. Turns out they sleep for 15 hours a day, just not when we want to. It didn’t matter anyway, the coffee was that good.

By the time the coffee had kicked in, so had the cicadas. They were surround sound. Everywhere. They were so loud, they seemed to be inside my brain and I threw rocks into the trees but they wouldn’t quiet. Nature’s car-alarm.

‘Welcome to the jungle’, somebody said.

‘Thanks!’ I shouted.

Surfing began at 8am.


Several un-prepared teenagers were loaded into a van with sunscreen, surfboards, chairs, gallons of water, insect repellent, and a wheelchair or two. I expected to be driving for a half-hour or so, but after five minutes the drive was over. I walked back to fetch ice cubes, just for the excuse. It was a nice walk, there were squirrels and lizards, and they didn’t judge me.

My job as a mammy, with Curly and five other souls was to stay in the surf to catch children. We were the catchers in the rye, or the shallows as it were.

Disabled children were brought far out into the sea, placed onto a surfboard, and let. go.

It was amazing to see those faces, happy children who couldn’t have dreamt of such freedom sailing through churning waves on adaptive seaboards wiping through froth and foam and surfacing to hot sun and cheering supporters. I was glad to be there, so glad. As cheesy as it is to high-five people, I embraced it then for its effectiveness on the spirit.

It was done in teams of two. One disabled child with one able-bodied. I got to watch the contrast, it was surprising at times which one out of the two succeeded, but it didn’t really matter at the end. I felt sorry for those who had to remain at the beach in the shade waiting for their turn, five hours was a long wait in that heat. That was until I remembered that they could be still in Connemara so I smiled for them, and counted their shoes and listened to their jokes.

‘That wind would knock a knacker off your sister!’

Wit wasn’t something that was spared among these teenagers. They were sharp, but respectful.


Later after dinner, one took out her guitar that she’d lugged half-way across Earth, and began to sing a song about being down-trodden and seduced by fairy tales. She envied Cinderella and felt sorry for her at the same time, her voice struck silence between the other twenty chatterers… we listened and nodded and loved her voice. Then two more stood up, one kid rapped a rap that would put Jaden Smith to shame, accompanied by another who didn’t really know how to play the guitar but performed perfectly when caught up in the pace with his bud.

They asked me to play that night, and I could have, I was dying to… but I said no. I was to help with wheelchairs and scorpion-eviction so I promised to play tomorrow. I didn’t. I wasn’t nearly enough prepared to  play in their company.

Cicadas died away. Lizards croaked sporadically.

We mammies retired, and tried desperately to gain connection to Facebook but when we finally gained an inch of signal we became distracted again by the condoms on the ceiling and weird dates we’d been on. We’d just begun a game of twenty questions when sleep overcame us. That was shortly before the monkeys howled again, but we were ready for them this time.



May 21

Enter Paradise

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in The Asylum Experience

So there we were, all twenty-two of us. We were eight children (four with disabilities), two mammies (being Yours Truly and Curly), two mentors and a film crew. We all landed with Irish flourish in a rare town named San José.

The country’s prettiness on landing teased us with its odd sporadic forest fires and patches of lights… I pointed out a fireworks display at 1,000 feet but as the ‘plane turned it went out of sight and nobody believed me. Then we all went deaf with the sudden drop in air pressure and concentrated very hard on our brains and our bladders to stop them exploding. Nobody vomited, so that was nice.

Costa Rica was interesting from the start. The night-time airport air is warm. It smells of salt and perfume, and something like the after-notes of sewage. They never tell you about that in travel guides. It’s not an unpleasant smell as such (like horse manure and the way you grow to like the stable odour), but it tells you that you’re somewhere warm.  My skin felt different, the night-time fug blocked my pores and soothed them, all at the same time. Big green leaves, croaking squeaking bugs, muted silence behind.

We met four people at departures outside on the musty road. They had white vans and catch-phrases like

“Who has the duct tape… ‘cos this guy’s RIPPED!”

They asked me if I was psyched. Nghh. Enthusiasm is unnerving to us Irish as a stereotype, we’re not used to that sort of energy at all at all and had no idea what to do with it.

They high-fived the kids and gave free smiles and helped us out. They marvelled at mine and Curly’s speedy wheelchair folding technique and asked us what our qualifications were. We felt fairly awkward at having to describe the experience and efficiency of an Irish Mammy and how there is no such qualification, as such. I have my First Responder qualification but I’m all theory and no practice which isn’t much use. Curly’s business is caring for many children at one time which requires dedication and patience beyond means… not to mention a sense of humour. We had nothing to prove, but everything to learn and I think they sensed that in us.

These dudes were strong and mindful, all members of Ocean’s Healing Group. Two were astro-physicists, two were fire-men. One was a woman of flippant strength and beautiful form who smoked cigars. One was a bloke who I’ll dub Billy, he and his wife had battled through his kid’s disabilities just like our family did and had a look and a voice about him not unlike Harvey Keitel’s, or Tommy Lee Jones’. He was also one of the astro-physicists so I wondered if he had satellite input on my picking my nose in my back-garden, or if he ever will do, in the future. You can never be too sure. Another was a Hawaiian fella, let’s call him Mowgli. He had a Ukelele.

We slept.

The next day there was a van journey, then a boat journey…


…the boat journey was fun. The teens danced on the top deck or looked on in amazement, some stayed inside out of the harsh sunshine and bought coca cola while nobody was looking. We mammies pushed sun-cream like it was illegal. Mowgli let me play with the Ukelele and belted off a tune or two before I had to float off to offer assistance somewhere else. It was a nice moment.

On the other side, we piled into the vans again, and drove to Shaka.

This is Shaka, the base from which we did our first week’s adventures, and a look into the ethos of the people that run it.

It was heaven. In fact, if it weren’t for the wee beasties and the fact that we couldn’t flush toilet paper we would all probably have been wondered if we were on Planet Earth at all, its beauty was that unreal. There were monkeys above us, there was a banquet on the table.


Mowgli showed me how to take a persons blood-pressure around a large wooden table under ceiling fans and eavesdropping lizards and warned me on the hazards of dehydration.

Curly and I shared a room… we began our bedtime routine of medicine giving, comfort giving and bug evicting that evening before sharing a smoke and settling for the night. I say settle… the rare coolness of the air conditioning soothed our sweaty foreheads and gave us a second wind. We giggled at how the rolled-up mosquito nets looked like condoms and laughed when we discovered we’d both brought EXACTLY the same swimming costume.  We missed our kids together, and fell asleep at an ungodly hour.


Apr 28

Going back in time

Posted on Sunday, April 28, 2013 in The Asylum Experience

Long-haul flights are not something I’m used to. I don’t get to travel at all, but the thought of doing absolutely nothing after years of worrying and working and toiling and fussing seemed pretty sweet to me… even if it was only for seventeen hours.

I got to sit beside the assistant camera-man for the trip to New York. Turns out he has a blog too, but I never found out his address. I will though, soon. He loaned me a book for the trip, ‘A visit from the Goon Squad‘… I read half of it on the journey over to Costa Rica, the other half I read on the way back. There was no time to read in between. Maybe there could have been, but I spent it unwinding with beer and conversation and skinny-dipping, such stories are to be told later on maybe. It was a really good book though… to be given a chance.

I love take-off. I love turbulence. I love holding people’s hands and telling them that aeroplanes are the most least-likely things to kill you given their safety checks and drivability. I’d love to be a pilot, but I’m not sure that’s the course for me. I have utter faith in the things, so I nearly HOPE for horrible turbulence, just for the adventure of it.

We had a five-hour layover in New York. I spent it buying chewing gum and books, and wandering around trying to find a phone signal.

I also tried to go for a cigarette.

Going OUT for a cigarette was easy. Coming back, I had to wait for an hour in a queue to be searched and scanned and x-rayed and swabbed for bomb residue. For fuck sake! I felt violated and abused by the end of it all, it nearly wasn’t worth the nicotine fix. I know that New York should be fairly security conscious but seriously… I’d checked with a guard beforehand to see if it would be okay for me to nip out for a puff and he was fine, but do you think he’d still be at his post when I returned after five minutes?!


I have rights as a smoker, I don’t care what anyone says. I have rights to breathe fresh air, too. Everyone has rights to fresh air, even if the air in New York isn’t all that fresh. It’s the wide-open space people crave after being trapped for hours, they deserve it. Yet, it’s denied.

No you cannot go outside, not without two hours of torture upon your return.

Fucking communists!!!

The flight from New York to San Jose would have been a lot nicer if I hadn’t been so frustrated and tired. I don’t like to sleep in public. I fear that people will shave my eyebrows, or take pictures of me drooling to post on facebook… I should be that lucky. I just don’t like letting my guard down in public that way.

When we touched down in Costa Rica I was knackered, but the heat upon leaving the airport was beautiful. Large palm trees, big leaves, croaking bugs and dusty roads.

I knew I’d love it, straight from the start.