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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.


Apr 24

A thorough grounding

Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 in Family, The Asylum Experience

Having floated from Connemara with a newborn curiosity about my eight new children and some very damp laundry, I had two weeks to prepare for the rest of the documentary shooting in Costa Rica.

So, I filled it as best I could.

The first thing to organise was the Eggstravaganza. There is a beautiful farm shop a few clicks away which has spectacular views, fwuffy wabbits, oodles of lambs and a few chickens on the side. It sells things like coffee, and fresh bread, and funky crisps and cheeses. A big wooden cot melded into the scenery behind the till and a rosy cheeked baby propped up its walls when we visited to set the party up.

It was a great event to take part in, the first time all of the schools in the town decided to band together. I was on car park duty, my cousin flipped pancakes. I don’t think I could’ve gotten through all of this if it weren’t for my cousin Diddles. A rake of cash was made for the schools that day, and it was the sunniest day after the storm, too… everything twinkled, not just the shiny chocolate wrappers.


Then we moved house.


I can’t really put the enormity of that mayhem into words. I was embarrassed when after three hours they called in extra man-power, and after six hours, all seven of us were still going. The truck (a very large truck, I might add) was almost filled to capacity with all of our stuff. Boxes everywhere.


Two nights later saw me fumbling blindly for light-switches in an alien kitchen at 2a.m. Coffee brewed, I dressed in my tucked-away gear, applied my tucked-away eyeliner, and mounted my tucked-away rucksack on my back. I said goodbye to Wouldye, but I didn’t know at the time that it would be the last goodbye. I would’ve buried my nose in his neck fur for a deep inhale into my memory banks if I’d known then what I know now.

Apr 21

The Wild West – the endurance test.

Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2013 in Jobs, Philosophy, Strange and Unusual, Taboo, The Asylum Experience

I didn’t know a whole lot when I entered into this. I knew that a documentary was being filmed about eight transition-year kids (all aged 16/17); four of whom were disabled, the other four able-bodied. One needed regular medication doses, and one needed a wheelchair.

None of the children knew where they were going, but they knew they were going somewhere.

I was employed as a chaperone, along with another lady, let’s call her Curly.

As an introduction weekend, we all were to spend a day or two in Connemara, Co Galway. Curly phoned me the night before, nervous as I was… when I met her on the platform I knew everything would be okay. She has a way about her that I probably don’t need to describe, I don’t think I could anyway, she fell into that category of people that you seem to have known for years.

We yakked together on the train all the way in, and met everybody else at a hotel in Dublin. Worried mothers grasping arms and whispering secrets into out ears. I felt so overwhelmed all of a sudden, at the vastness of my responsibilities.

I went from having three children, to eight. Thank God for Curly.

We rode into the West and had the craic and some sangwiches and a bit of an auld sing-song, as you do. I couldn’t believe how quickly the kids bonded together. They were a well chosen bunch.

At a pit-stop, the kid in the wheelchair, let’s call him Joel… he hinted that he needed to pee. I brought him to the jacks and we did our best with the narrow walls of the petrol-station bog. I hadn’t realised that he needed help with everything, so when he asked for my help I was honoured that he could be so comfortable with me so quickly. There’s something about exposing yourself to others, trust is a huge thing, and to be trusted so quickly is a wonderful compliment. We made distracting conversation and I found out that he was an avid reader with a love of Xbox.

The other kids were quiet with us at the start, but we made ourselves as accessible as possible with smiles and funny faces like eejits on crack. They hadn’t realised that we’d be there for the whole adventure, I realise in hind-sight. When they figured this out, they accepted us wholeheartedly as mammies. They even named us ‘Charlie’s Angels’.

Connemara was HARSH.

There was a storm, shortly after we arrived. Our comfortable hotel was completely isolated from phone or wifi for our entire trip. Joel commented that a re-make of ‘The Shining’ could be filmed here and I agreed. It was a sort of side-ways rain that pelts your skin like pins and needles. Bleak slamming and howling noises were to be heard at night, early starts for water activities came all too soon.


I was impressed by the participant kids and their commitment to effort, I mean really impressed.

There were two ‘mentors’ employed on the trip… one I’ll name Fawn, because her eyes reminded me of one. When she was sixteen, she got meningitis and had to be put in to a coma. While she was under, she contracted the MRSA bug and was given her last rites. She now survives as an amazing woman, presenting and researching for TV. She wears prosthetics, but you can’t really tell. The other mentor was Mr Out of This World (so dubbed by the teenagers). A handsome chappie, I couldn’t get a grasp on him at the start (that’s what she said).

I got to have a drink with the crew at the end of the day, I’m glad they accepted me so quickly… their histories and biographies extremely impressive. They were lovely people with dry wit and funny stories and I couldn’t wait for the next chapter.

The kids found out about our destination at the end of the Galway trip, on camera. They were going to Costa Rica… their woops and screams tingled the hairs on my arms. Of course we had to try to re-shoot that moment several times which you’d think might dilute their enthusiasm, but it didn’t.

I couldn’t believe it either.

I went home, helped to host an Easter Bonanza, and then moved house two days before the air-plane for Costa Rica took off.


Apr 19

Introduction to the Asylum experience, and thoughts on how life happens when you least expect it to.

Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 in The Asylum Experience

I’m not a great person for sticking to routines, but routines are exactly what are needed when you need to run a family effectively. For this reason, life began to seem monochrome, sounds were just a distant hairdryer hum and feelings needed shelving like books you keep meaning to read but never get around to opening.

This doesn’t make for effective blogging, the inspiration is distant, just out of sight. The motivation to comment becomes thwarted by lack of lust for life and the impression that there really isn’t anything interesting to say.

Now, I have something interesting to say.

I was invited on an enormous adventure recently which finished today. My head is full of thoughts and feelings and words and emotions, far too many to spill on to one page so instead I’ll begin a series of posts, beginning with this one.


A while back, I became lucky enough to become friends with a wonderful family through Puppychild’s school. They introduced me to many things outside my comfort zone… music performance, yoga, how to properly cook healthy food and share it socially to name but a few. They also invited me to participate on a television program which is to be aired on an Irish channel later this year.

I was invited on the basis of my experience with Laughingboy and his special needs, and was considered a good potential candidate to look after eight children on an adventure which involved love, friendship and overcoming pre-conceptions and gut-wrenching fears. I can’t begin to describe how lucky I am to have experienced this. I’m going to try to bring every memory back for you, and for myself before it fades into distant memory and I don’t believe that it was in fact, real at all.

My story involves befriending Mr World, becoming a stooge, plunging from a 250ft cliff, and the death of Wouldye, my bestest friend, among others. To say it’s been a challenge is a massive understatement.

To start, here is a photo taken in Montezuma, Costa Rica:


And now… to begin at the beginning…


Feb 27

The lonely mystic

Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 in Family

They say that every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Mine is not so much like that. Mine is very much an in-between sort of story.

Everything hurts today, it’s that season. Everyone else spins around me, like leaves do when it’s windy and they catch a moment with themselves and decide to whirl around each other… there is no explanation for this behaviour, it just is. They pat me on the head sometimes as they whir by, or brush my fur. That’s nice, but I wish they’d choose a moment when I’m off duty to do so.

I had to do my protection duties from the couch today, blast this stupid knee. I did leave it twice for rasher rinds and once for a pee, but they’re worth the effort. I deserved them. Little do they know that it’s thanks to me that my animals are alive at all today.

Men with complicated noises came and did things too close to us this morning. I had to yell at them a lot to make sure that they kept their distance but one or two were brave enough to knock… to ACTUALLY KNOCK on our house. Smells erratic. Suspicions rife. I hackled-up and gave my last warnings  to scare them away. It hurt to stand up and it ached my running parts but that is my job. I barked my loudest bark and showed the teeth that aren’t broken and I snarled. Boss told me to shut up. What does he know. Best Friend thanked me by giving me biscuits. I think she understands me, even if I don’t understand her, and her need to plait my tail.

The smallest one hugged me.

I like him. He’s the same height as me so when I speak to him, he really pays attention. He shouted with me, at the men with complicated noises… he stood my ground, but then he fell over and cried. What a part-timer.

So now I’m back on my couch, the couch that smells of me and me alone. The fire roars, and I am too hot, but I am happy. I pant. Boss pets me. There’s a tick behind my ear but I won’t tell him that yet, it can wait, I’ll let it have its fun.

One thing confuses me. When she puts her nose in my fur and huffs and makes a warm spot, she says a word that I’ve heard before. I can’t remember what the word is, but it’s a soft word. And it smells nice. She says it sometimes and makes her eyes big and squeezes me and ruffles my ears. I don’t know why she bothers, when ‘good-dog’ will suffice. So many words these animals use, but so little need.

Feb 12

Warped humour

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 in Humourarse, Quickie, Strange and Unusual

Feb 1

The Loser

Posted on Friday, February 1, 2013 in Arty Farty, Philosophy, Rantings, Something to think about

Well sure, now and isn’t it a while since we played a game?

- I don’t like your games, I always end up being laughed at.

Well isn’t that the point, to have a laugh?

- Not if I feel bad about it, no.

But if there isn’t a loser, there can’t be a winner, can there?

- I agree, but what does losing mean if it’s all the time?

It means you haven’t found the game you’re good at yet.

- Find me a game that I’m good at and I’ll play with you so.

Sure I don’t know what you’re good at, will we just play cards?

- I don’t know how.

I’ll teach you! You’ve a face like a tomato, you need something fun.

- I don’t want to be taught, I just want an easy life.

Sure if you can’t be taught then how will you learn?

- Eventually.

How’s about we get a grip?

- That’s easy for you to say. You’re not me!

Yes I am.

- Fair point.

So what will we play?

- I don’t want to play anything, I just want to watch TV.

Let’s play ‘what happens if you only have a week left to live!’ What would you do?

- Sleep.

That isn’t true. I bet you’d get a degree in Metaphysics or something.

- You have a lot of faith in me!

That’s because I am you.

- Is that what you’d like to do?

Not really. I’d go out and go crazy.

- That’s kind of pointless though.

So is sleeping.


So what will we do?

- Write a blog post?

What about?

- nothing.

What’s the point in that?

- I dunno.

So let’s play a game!

- Let’s play ‘leave me alone’? I have things to tidy.

You’ll go crazy if you don’t play.

- I think it’s too late for that.

So you think you’re already crazy?

- Maybe.

But if you were crazy then you wouldn’t realise it so therefore you’re not crazy.

- Shut up and leave me alone.


- I hate you.

I’m your inner child, you have to listen to me or I’ll broken your face.

- Fair point. What are we playing?

Let’s play ‘Hide and Seek’. I’ll go hide and you have to find me.

- That might take a while.

I have all the time in the world. You love me though, I know you’ll find me.

- Eventually.

I hope so.

- Me too.

Dec 30

No Big Deal

Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 in Fiction

I have no idea how her knickers wound up in my laundry basket.

I know they’re hers because she did a strip tease that night we had some friends around for a game of poker. She’d over-indulged on the Bacardi and thought it had been a good idea to dance on the table and mess up their river of cards, she sure as hell gave them a royal flush that night. Pale blue, with flowers and a tiny skull and crossbones just below the elastic. Size 18, though I wouldn’t have guessed it.

Afterwards, she had a loud argument with her sister over the phone and fell into a peaceful sleep on the couch. We balanced our ashtray on her hip and it stayed there till morning, so soundly she slept.

I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. When I first moved into my house she gave me a bin-bag and smiled with nicotine-stained teeth and fiddled with her crescent moon necklace and told me that she loved to help people out and that she expected nothing in return unless it was unexpected. Her hair had been dyed before, some sort of mousey brown shade. Grey roots shone through, pure silver winked at me and I remember wishing that she hadn’t tried to hide its beauty. I wanted to tell her so but I didn’t, such conversations aren’t really for first meetings.

I knocked on her door a week later with a piece of petrified wood I’d found on a beach which had formed itself into a crude star-shape. I’d told her it had made me think of her, no big deal. She was wearing a boring old brown cardigan but she made it look mysterious, like it had grown upon her from birth. She was so beautiful. She didn’t invite me in, she threw her head back and laughed and told me she’d add it to her shells and asked me how I’d known.

She arrived early to another poker game last week, it had gone from civilized to crazy in sixty seconds flat… something to do with a promotion or whatever. I stayed clear of it this time, I sensed that it would be wiser to hide away in my room. I lay in the dark and heard faded familiar tunes and tried to guess the songs by their bass-notes until I fell asleep. An explosive smash woke me in the small hours, I guessed that the old picture of the Ha’penny Bridge in the hallway had finally met its demise. Nobody owned it, it was here when we moved in so I didn’t care. I fell back into a deep sleep.

The next morning I woke to hear nothing at all. The aftermath of parties can be eerie sometimes, it’s a pregnant silence, the sort that grows thicker towards the area of most damage. The air smelled damp and stale, and kind of bitter. That was unusual.

I found out why as I began my descent down the staircase. There she was, crumpled in a heap at the bottom near the front door. She’d soiled herself, and there was vomit on the wall beside her. I called out her name but she didn’t move. I poked her shoulder and tried not to gag at the smell, I offered her coffee very loudly but there was no movement. Typical. My anger started to build, I wasn’t in the mood for scraping diced-carrots and slime off the wall, not before work.

I left her shortly afterwards, and as I drove away I wondered if I shouldn’t have sloshed freezing water on her face, or at least taken her pulse. Anger told me that it was her own fault, that I wasn’t her father, that she’d probably rouse herself at lunchtime and choose not to clean up her mess but just fuck off back home instead. Anger. Stupid anger. I had to get to work.

Her daughter called me later on, just before I was due to quit for the day. She’d searched for her mother and that search had led her to peek through my letterbox and see the mess. She’d broken in, and gashed her hand on broken wood. She was the one to finally take the pulse, she was the one who called for an ambulance and they were the ones who’d pronounced her dead, that she’d passed away roughly when I was biting into my lunch-roll at work.

She called me a stupid fucking asshole.

I’m battling with wet laundry now, on a day so windy that it seems the air itself is pure oxygen. It got me high, it whipped my face and made me nauseous. It tried to steal my clothespegs yet as I held up those knickers for a better look, the weather ceased to be. A vaccuum surrounded me and I realised I was haunted.

My own personal ghost.

Well… its knickers anyway. Skull and crossbones. Size 18.

I sleep with them over my face sometimes, but not when the girlfriend’s around.


Dec 29


Posted on Saturday, December 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Gawd, but this blog has been boring lately.

I figured out why, it’s because it’s been about me. But me has to be censored, and me also looses the run of itself sometimes and reveals more about me than I’d like. And then me reads about itself and sighs and wonders why it bothers.

So, instead of shutting this shit down, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit.

From now on this blog shall be pocket fiction. It shall be all of the invented stuff that swims around up here, it shall be about random people or several random people trapped inside one random person. Or a dog trapped in the 7th dimension, maybe.

Like a right of passage, I think… not really a New Year thing.

That’s just a coincidence.