Friday, December 26, 2014


i'm the dog that ate your birthday cake

So it's Christmas night and it's late and I can't sleep. "You won't sleep!" she told me at around 7 this evening, as I chased my third coffee of the day with my 2nd coke of the day. I generally operate under a no caffeine after 4 pm rule, but fuck it it's Christmas and I'm the one who'll be driving back from Naas, where we've spent the day with her family. We take it in turns to spend Christmas with our families, since we married. I've never minded. I need the coffee because I didn't sleep well the night before either. It was the throat infection keeping me awake, the one that everyone has right now. That, and the needing counselling. I know I need counselling because I found myself really looking forward to appointments with my physiotherapist and hairdresser the other week. I don't spill my guts with them or anything, but I know that I can simply say "I'm tired because I'm not sleeping well because I'm stressed," and they'll make sympathetic noises and tell me stories that'll make me laugh. Do counsellors do that? I've never been to one, except twice. The pre-marriage counsellor was great. "Do you counsel married people?" I ask at the end of the session, presumably feeling it was inevitable I'd make a balls of things at some stage. Then there was the, I dunno, grief counsellor we went to together to talk about not being able to have a baby. We justified that 80 euro through Kleenex alone, Jesus. I was incapable of speaking for about two hours beforehand, because I knew what she'd ask, and how much I didn't want her to ask it. And we sobbed, and I suppose it was cathartic. 

Running is cathartic, too, but the marathon's over for now, and it turns out it doesn't fix everything. What was maybe meant to be this act of redemption or renewal felt like working in Supervalu of a Saturday morning with a massive hangover when I was 19. Grim and fucking unrelenting, like. An unfathomably long and stupid thing to be doing. My friend Y said she never saw such despair as she saw in my eyes when I stopped for a hug in Terenure, hoping she and her husband might invite me back to theirs for tea and Countdown and another nap on their couch. Y finds the day to day ughness of it all as disagreeable as I do. "NO IS TO CAN! NO IS TO WANT!" we groan at each other in silly accents most mornings, in a tribute to the way our students speak, though they never really speak like that because we are good at our jobs. Y gets needy South Americans coming to her, asking how to know if the Irish guy they're seeing is now their boyfriend or not. I get Arabic students asking what this letter they got from Irish Water means. I get provoked. I get discouraged. I get turned on. I get angry. I get soppy. I get inspired. I get thinner. I get shin splints. I get sloppy. I get tired.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


there will come a time gigantic waves will crush the junk that i have saved

I want, of course, to tell you about the marathon I'll be doing in less than two weeks now - my first one. But I've no angle to tell it from, no hook or line of attack. I will run it and it will be 42.2 kilometres long, because that is how long all marathons are and I am a Modern European who understands the imperial measurement system but feels it is time to let it go. I am not running in memory of anyone or towards a cure for Ebola. Running usually makes me feel better, or calmer, but I am not one of those idiots who claim that runners would never need therapy or anti-depressants. I have no stunning goal in mind, just a time that I will feel satisfied with, whilst leaving me with room for improvement because, right now at least, I would very much like there to be another marathon, and probably many more. A lot of runners seem to only do one of them, most likely honouring a promise they made to themselves after 35 kilometres, to get their cement legs and groaning lungs through it. To keep the tears back. There've been tears already for me in this process, a couple of weeks of hurt and confusion rising like choking vomit after a long warm up race so poorly executed that I nearly told the cub scouts handing out water and encouragement at the final station to go fuck themselves. I expect less of that on the day, and high fives will be stored like glycogen. What I want, more than anything, is to feel like I'll do it all again before too long. So that's the narrative thrust, should we need one here, I guess: no redemption, memorial or scorching glory, just a competent start at the age of 33.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Red wine and sleeping pills help me get back to your arms

So Rosie and I are, like, total athletes now, right? The thing about being a total athlete is that you'll get injured once in a while, and there are constant strains and niggles in your body. I hurt my lower back pretty badly the other week, leaving me barely able to walk for a couple of days, and fairly uncomfortable for a few more. I dined royally on a feast of Nurofen Plus, regular ibuprofen from an American jar of 500 pills, Belfast paracetamol, and Difene and anti-inflammatory gels of varying strengths - provided by family members who'd been prescribed them for prior ailments. Not too shabby without seeking a single word of medical expertise. My back got better and I didn't need any time off work. My stomach turned to acid, my mouth to manky ulcers and my mood to mouldy. 
We realised, Rosie and I, that our knack for finding cheap and strong painkillers meant that we're both taking tablets on a daily basis for what are often really just dehydration or tension headaches, and tired muscles. We're quite good at recognising when something might just be beginning to be a problem, Rosie and I. It may leave us desperately short of good stories to tell, one day. But things have been tough lately, and if we emerge with only a brief phase of mild dependence on painkillers then we're doing alright.
We didn't flush all the pills, we're far too cheap for that. We just moved them out of our immediate eyelines, and agreed to keep a note of what we've been taking. Rosie made the necessary arrangements and told me where they were.
I wanted something this evening, after five miles in the park aggravated my back slightly. Rosie was in Sligo overnight for work, because she has a grown-up job that makes her go places. I might have asked if she thought I should take anything, because she is my sounding board for everything, even things she couldn't possibly know the answer to. I might just  have joked about falling off the wagon after five days clean. I found the ibuprofen in a box on a high kitchen shelf, and with it a pen and a sheet of paper for each of us, ruled into columns for what we took and the date. "Rosie!" said hers, "What have you taken?"
"Andrew!" said mine, for we share a fondness for the carefully deployed exclamation mark, "I hope you feel better soon!" I did. And I missed her - my wife who finds the right note of humour in the stresses of this life, who makes things exactly as much of a deal as they need to be.

Friday, June 13, 2014


he's gave it away cheap there

The World Cup just started. You may have noticed. I stuck on Brazil v. Croatia, because that's what you do, isn't it? There were goals - a couple of them decent, lots of men worrying about what percentage of their country's population will want to fuck them/buy their boots/drink their soft drinks after the match had finished, refereeing controversy, and people who managed to separate themselves from the utter euphoria of it all just long enough to rattle off a few selfies. Football, like.

I've watched a lot of football for a long time now and I kinda find it harder and harder to give a shit about the World Cup. I peered over the top of my laptop at the second half, more engrossed in anything else. Most people don't give a shit about the World Cup, really. That's why we come up with more and more elaborate fantasy leagues, predictions games and pools. Few quid resting on things will keep you watching. Gerry the janitor says Japan are the ones to put money on, as the Japs don't do anything by halves. I'm tipping the Germans myself, in a more pragmatic (racist) extension of his logic.

Christ, those keepers. Did you see those keepers? Wouldn't make it into any Premier League team, would they? My dead granny would've stopped that. England - Italy on Saturday. Multo CarlingSambucas there, lads. Only way. Won't like the heat, though, won't like the heat.

Qatar 2022. Fucking desert there, it is. Air-conditioned stadiums. Expanding markets. Great potential. Few brown envelopes. Sour grapes, and that. Jumpers for goalposts. Couple of thousand dead Nepalese, give or take. I don't know, Bill. Doesn't track back, Bill. Massive ego, Bill. Renard's jacks, Bill. Dollar bill, Bill. Can't write the South Americans off. Love it.

We had a good journey back from Bristol airport the other week. Champions' League Final was on at the bar, but I as distracted by the presence of Johnny Vegas. I'd telly you the story but I can't do his accent here. Ask me about it some time. Or don't. I've kinda built it up a bit now.Taxi driver back in Dublin had plenty to say about One Direction, and the traffic that came with them. Didn't say he minded. I asked him if he knew what the final score of the match had been. He said it was a draw. I said it can't have been a draw, it's the final. He said he'd heard that alright, that that was the last time they were doing the Champions' League, that this was the final match. He wasn't being funny. I liked him. One Direction cost us an extra tenner in the fare. Pricks.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


if i could tell you i would let you know

It's about half one on a bank Holiday Saturday afternoon, and Rosie is off in the mountains somewhere, cycling up big bastarding ones to get ready for the Wicklow 100 next weekend. I'm lying around, still in my PJs, resting my legs after running a combined 17 kilometres or thereabouts over the last couple of days. I'll do at least 14k later on, once everyone's fucked off from Bloom and given me back the park. I'm training for the marathon in October, and Rosie's going to do all the build-up races too, up to the half-marathon in September.
Whilst there was something of a need on my part to balance out the fervour for craft beers and fine whiskies that has grown in me over the past couple of years, there are other reasons for our new found fondness for keeping fit.

[Andrew realises with alarm that he is about to go down some tedious road of linking he and his wife's exercising habits to their ongoing difficulties in conceiving a child. This is amateur self-analysis at it's worst, it is narrativising of the worst kind. There is simply no need for it. He is filled with self-loathing, and goes out.]

I went to the Lilliput Press while I was out. I'd never been in there before, despite it being two minutes from my house, and small, independent publishers of envelope-pushing writing being very much the kind of thing I would expect myself to be into. I bought a couple of books from the friendly folk in there, dodged invitations to book launches, and thought for a good while about picking up the new collection of essays by Hubert Butler. I'd never heard of him before, but something made me think I might like him. Perhaps it's that several of his essays are about Irish Protestant identity. I'd like to write about my Irish Protestant identity sometimes. But only sometimes. I had to take a colleague aside recently and tell him to cut out the Proddy jokes. It's not that it wasn't funny, it's that it didn't remain funny on a daily basis over two years. That's the one thing I can definitely articulate about being an Irish Protestant: no-one can look at you as any kind of a victim when you are perceived (usually correctly) as being from a position of privilege. It's also, like being an Irish Catholic in America, or a Jew anywhere, far more than a religious identity. Your status as lapsed, agnostic or atheist don't really come into it.

It makes me feel a little squeamish talking about this stuff. I don't know why. I read bits of Hubert Butler's essays on being a Protestant and other things, but I didn't buy it. Perhaps I should have. The Irish Times says I should have. He does that pleasing thing, that Con Houlihan did too, of ending his pieces in the curtest of manners. I can do that.

Monday, February 3, 2014


cookie i think you're tame

See, you look at things like the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and these young lads who've died from neknomination and you almost feel bad, almost embarrassed for your own restraint, for your fucking pussy moderation, this drinking to almost always only mild inebriation or less, this once-had-an-eight-cigarette-a-day-habit kind of bullshit that isn't even worth talking about in one way or another because it's just nothing and it would be more interesting if you'd never done anything at all, just sat there all righteous while the rest of them smoked soft drugs and said I don't see the point I don't see the point at all will you pass the Club Orange thanks
You are, of course, beloved by your
wife and
your house
and your 
cats and your
And your 
friends and
yet you will drink to excess on a Friday because it is a Friday and you like it and you have the money and you sit on your couch on a Sunday with your rooibos tea and you say it's an idiot tax it's a Darwin Award it's their own fucking fault it wouldn't happen to me it's a shame it's a shame he was so talented it's all those films we'll never get it's a shame they were old enough to know better their mams and dads and all their friends and i remember him from when he was in Scent of a Woman he had money and talent and kids and he didn't need to do that and it can only be great being them and didntioncegivemyfifteenyearoldbrotherabottleofabsolutvodkathathedrankinonegofromapintglassoncetoimpresshismatewhowasstayingoveronlyforhisvomittowakehimwhilehewaschokingonitsoitsfineitdoesnthappentomeorhim

Thursday, January 16, 2014


we are hummingbirds who've lost the plot and we will not move

"What are you doing out there?" asks Biscuit, his face pressed to the glass door, eyes wide and tail a-wag. "I never know what you're doing."
"I am smoking, Biscuit."
"You don't smoke any more. You run. You read books and cuddle me. You drink rooibos tea and you stockpile whiskey that you barely even touch now.You're a total athlete, Daddy."
"We had a difficult day, your mum and I."
"You shouldn't call her my mum, she doesn't like it. She says she can't be my mum because I'm a cat."
"I know, but it amuses me. We were in the clinic earlier, talking to the doctor about how to make something that's allowed call us mum and dad in front of real people without it being socially awkward. Apparently Daddy has super sperm, that's what the doctor said. She actually used those words. I thought Mummy had asked her to, while I was out of the room, because I'd been so underwhelmed the last time when they just told me my sperm was 'fine.' But no, I've cracking motility and all that. Daddy needs affirmation, sometimes."
"I like it when you call yourself my daddy."
"I know you do, you silly fat fuck. Apparently I produced lots of semen, too. Way more than normal, she said. Imagine if I hadn't missed the cup with the first go and spunked half of it on the floor? Front page of Metro, I reckon."
"You're a top-class wanker, Daddy. But I don't really know what semen is. You had me snipped."
"No harm, pal, no harm. The doctor said I'm off the hook, what with the super sperm and all. That's what she said. I don't think doctors know how relationships work, Biscuit. Your mum will take medicine that will fuck her head up a bit, and have nasty scans, then take other medicine that will fuck her head up in different ways. And I'll try not to be an inconsiderate prick while she's doing it. That's my job."
"She'd rather be a mam than a mum. She says only you Protestants have mums."
"I know, gobshite, that's part of the joke."
"Can I keep being an inconsiderate prick? Will you come in now and rub my belly?"
"Yeah, giz a sec."