Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot …? (A Little Light Reading)

This post was written as part of the Great Cake Experiment (A Writing Project for the Unmotivated.)

Lots of writers contribute to a common theme on a weekly basis. Do pop over for a look!

Well, should it?

Depends on what you mean by “acquaintance”, I suppose. Time has this habit of flying by, bringing with it small chunks of your memory. Someone should have told Time that these memories can be useful to hang onto, thank you very much. There are at least two types of acquaintance-forgetting scenarios I think we’ve all played a part in at some stage.

Firstly, you have the Forgotten Face situation. Ever bump someone you’d actually completely forgotten ever existed?

Awkward, that.

Picture this. They instantly recognise you. They’re delighted to see you. They even greet you by *name*. They remember what you studied in uni, and they ask after your dog. Also by name. You, on the other hand, are panicking. You’re mentally treading water. Although in the dim recesses of your mind you have a vague recollection of this person’s face, you have no memory whatsoever of where they feature in your past. Flailing, rewinding at the speed of light over your school, college and working life, desperately seeking clues in the conversation (although they’re giving nothing away), and conspicuously avoiding addressing them by their name – because you haven’t a notion what it is – it finally clicks and – oh, blessed relief! – you remember.

Simultaneously wondering what on earth it is they include in their diet that helps them to remember such a tenuous acquaintance in so much detail, and trying not to make it obvious that you have only this second remembered where it is you ever met them in the first place, you struggle through the last excruciating moments of the conversation until someone makes an excuse to leave. (Usually them, because you feel too guilty about forgetting their very existence to also lie to their face about being late for something.) You wave them off, exchanging lovely-to-see-you-agains and we-must-meet-for-coffees. You breathe a sigh of relief for getting away with it. You still haven’t a bull’s notion what their name is.

Yep, awkward.

Then, you have the opposite of the situation outlined above. You are the Dog-Name-Rememberer, and yours is the Forgotten Face.

You run into them by chance, in the middle of a car park in some god-forsaken part of the midlands. (Yes, I may be recalling a incident from personal experience here. If you’re reading, I’m glad I made a stronger impression second time round.)You haven’t seen them since college days, and memories of days locked up in libraries and reading rooms frantically piecing together project work come flooding back. You had all the craic back then. You really bonded. Such a shame you lost touch, you were *such* good friends – isn’t it great to see each other? Two minutes in, your ego’s reeling from that punch of non-recognition. You know by the panic in their eyes and the whiff of desperation that they actually don’t know you from Adam. In fact, you have a sneaking suspicion that only this minute have they remembered you ever existed. Stunned – how could they possibly forget YOU?!

Immediately, you switch the conversation mode to ‘Vague’. They don’t remember you? Well, you’ll give them no clues, and watch them squirm. Ask after their mother. And – the killer punch – the dog. By name. You haven’t forgotten, oh no. Then, you see the relief wash over them, as they wipe the sweat from their brow and you know they’ve placed you. Or at least remembered where they last saw you, but you know they still haven’t a clue what your name is. Trying to salvage some dignity, you excuse yourself. You’ve somewhere important to be. You ARE important, despite what they clearly think. You call them by their name at least twice as you say your farewells, and swagger off with as much dignity as your wounded pride will allow.

Yep, even more awkward.

There’s a further scenario, where you run into someone you know you recognise, and you know they recognise you. You’ve been acquainted in the past, but neither of you have the foggiest notion how, or when, or where. But the low level of emotional investment there means the awkwardness remains minimal, and crucially, you both have the good sense to mumble a perfunctory greeting and Just Keep Walking.

There are certain other acquaintances I’ve made in the past that I’d bloody love to be able to forget, but that’s a ramble for another day. I’ve even had a couple of occasions to think that Clem and Joel, as inspired by Alexander Pope had the right idea, and that erasing memories of acquaintances past wouldn’t half be a bad plan, but grudgingly I always come around to the realisation that those memories are part of me, as much as my skin, hair and eyes are, and to lose them, and forget what I had and shared, would be to lose a part of me.

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

One small tip, though. No matter how forgetful you become, always remember the dog.

Money Talks…

It’s that time of year again. The Great Cake Experiment has kicked off for a second round.

As usual,  I have, at the very last minute, managed to submit this week’s entry.


Money talks, but, as the words of a famous song attest, it can’t sing or dance, and it don’t walk. (Note: “Famous”, naturally, does not equate to  “decent”, or “credible” or even “listenable”.  But I’ll try not to digress, before I even get past the first paragraph. And Neil did have a point, before the chorus descended into farce).

Residing in Ireland these days is no great picnic, at least not according to the media. As a country, we are flat broke, and have sold our sovereignty/souls to the Germans/Devil, (delete as appropriate). Our houses are worth negative money – the bricks and mortar equivalent of celery (yes, if you eat nothing but celery, all the time, you’ll have a negative calorie intake. Crash dieters, take note.)

And oh, how we love talking about this. In outraged tones, we condemn the FF-‘led government of the time for mismanaging us into this pit of destitution. We blame the banks for lending us the cash to buy what we did not need. We scorn the broadsheets for force-feeding us swollen property magazine supplements we did not want (but feasted on). We decry the economists who gleefully discussed  the best and safest ways of investing in property abroad. How we revile the car dealers who persuaded us that a five year payment plan for the BMW X5 – for on-road activity, natch -was a no-brainer. Lacking, however in this blame game, is the more uncomfortable notion of personal responsibility.

Today, in Ireland, to be blunt we have a society that, to its shame, has collectively failed itself. Our most vulnerable are now at risk. There is every indication that tomorrow’s Budget will signal bad news for children in disadvantaged families as child benefit allowances are cut. Class sizes will, in all probability be increased. Already, the number of Special Needs Assistants for children with learning difficulties has been slashed. Nursing homes are closing, resulting in traumatic moves for elderly patients who, for many years have known no other home. Proposed funding for mental health facilities is now no longer guaranteed. Note that those most affected here are the ones with very little power to defend themselves.

Take a bow, Ireland. To say “we all partied” is wrong and unfair, but frankly, there is no denying that many of us did. Plenty of us sit in debt, because we lived beyond our means when times were good. Nobody ever told us we had to buy that car, or take out that mortgage, but we went ahead and did it anyway because everyone else was doing it and we didn’t want to be left behind. Now, in our grim fiscal situation, all we can do is talk about it, and continue to place money at the centre of our lives, and forgetting that the loveliest things we own cost nothing. (The irony is, that despite the fact that €120 billion is held in this country’s banks in hard currency and cash deposits, we collectively cry poverty, but of course, I’m digressing again.)

Times are hard. For many, they’re immeasurably shit, and they have my sympathy, they really do. But for many of us, they’re not as bad as we’d like to pretend.

I can’t understand why we continue to talk ourselves into this negative, defeatist frame of mind. Think of the happiest memory you have. The person you love the most. The things you treasure most dearly. What you would cry hardest over losing. I’m willing to bet that the things that matter most to you don’t didn’t originate in your wallet. Why not place them at the centre of your world, and while you’re at it, make a difference to the people around you by doing something small, something almost immeasurably tiny, in fact, like sharing a smile, holding a door, or just telling someone how much they mean to you? Why not devote your time and energy to what feeds the heart and soul, and worry a little less about what you can’t bring with you where you’re going?

Money talks, but no-one ever said we had to listen.

While the music lasts…

Like pretty much most people I know, my existence to date has been accompanied by a vast and varied soundtrack.

For each memory, a musical cue, for every tear, a tune. For every heartbursting moment of happiness, a matching chariots-of-fire-esque musical crescendo. Every song, every guitar riff or piano intro capable of transporting me back instantly to a defining – or utterly mundane – moment from my past. I imagine I’m not alone in this.

Recently, I met someone in a social capacity (ahem) who, over a couple of pints announced that he wasn’t “into music”. Astounded, I queried him further. Did he not like certain types of music? Did he not go to gigs? No, he said. He just didn’t like music. He’d never even bought a CD. Ever. In his lifetime. In 34 years. (Sport is his “thing”, apparently.) He switches off the radio when he hears music, because he doesn’t like the noise. He prefers to listen to debates, sports commentary, even the death notices! Anything but music. He’s never been to a gig, nor does he intend to. He couldn’t imagine anything worse, he said.

I was flabbergasted. I don’t mean to be judgemental. Everyone to their own, right? But I’ve met people who claim they’re not into music, but you generally will hear them at some stage humming along to some naff tune on the radio. Or you might meet people who don’t actively seek out music, or don’t have any particular preferences, or just “like the stuff that’s in the charts” (shudder), but this guy was a completely new and different animal. I’d never before met anyone who actively dislikes music, and  I was shocked.

Now this guy seemed like a decent guy, and in other circumstances, I’m sure we would have gotten on well. We’d traded GAA stories around the table – a sure-fire way to get me to like you – and he was quite a wit. But the minute he dropped this bombshell, I instantly stopped trusting him. I just could not comprehend how any living, hearing human being could knowingly dislike music. I still can’t, and to my mind, they are simply not normal. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel.

Music is so engrained in everything we do that I wonder how anyone who doesn’t like it can endure life without losing their mind. I mentioned how it holds over me the power to instantly transport me back in time, to a moment where I was utterly consumed in grief, worry, or unadulterated happiness. It can alter my mood in a nanosecond. I hear this song on the radio (not often enough, I might add) and it makes me cry. This reminds me of my formative years when I was just starting to find my tentative way in the world – when hormones ruled and the headiness of newfound freedom had just opened up a world of possibilities. This reminds me of the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And one day, I hope to again listen to this song without feeling the searing pain in my heart it triggers now. Like a puppet on a string, I am at the mercy of the notes, the air, the melody. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My new acquaintance will never experience the sheer beauty of smiling to himself as he hears “their song”, nor will he drive cross country with the window down, singing at the top of his lungs and terrifying the roadside sheep and/or passing cyclists.  He’ll almost certainly never sing his children a lullaby. I feel dreadfully sad for him.

Music may leave us at its mercy, but while there is music, there is life, and heart and soul. While the music lasts, let us dance. Let us listen and sing and celebrate and squeeze the very life out of our existence before the needle lifts and the silence prevails.


Fond Friends Forever…. or a friend indeed

Another post written for the group writing competition, The Great Cake Experiment.

Do check it out – there are just two weeks left in this round.

Once, a long time ago, when Kylie loved Jason, I loved Kylie, Snickers bars were called Marathons and everyone’s biggest ambition was to own a Walkman, I made a friend. We sat beside each other in the back row of first class, feet in white ankle socks swinging a few inches above the ground, sharing confidences. I learned that her dog got sick in the kitchen last night, and her dad shouted at her mum. She learned that at the grand old age of eight, I still sucked my thumb to get to sleep. We were best friends. She had pigtails. I, with my boy’s cropped locks, was jealous and begged to plait her hair, like my dolls. We made each other cards daily – middle pages torn from copybooks, adorned with pink marker pen, tin foil flowers, crayoned hearts and declarations of everlasting devotion. Together, hand in hand, we skipped around the playground, hopscotched and built dens under tree branches, where no-one was permitted to enter. We would be friends for ever and ever.

A rather frail child, I was susceptible to asthma attacks and chest infections. One such bout ensured I was housebound for a week. At lunchtime, between bouts of painful coughing, I could hear the screams and laughter of my friends as they ran and skipped and chased in the playground, from my home just metres from school. The week felt like seven rolled into one. Eventually, I healed and was deemed fit to return to the classroom.

On entering the room, I was met with a state of disarray. Chairs facing the wrong way, teacher’s desk stood at the side of the room instead of the front and there were new pictures I didn’t recognise on the wall, and – oh! there she was! – my dearest friend, my soulmate, deep in conversation at a new desk with someone else. I tapped her on the shoulder, excitedly anticipating a rapturous welcome.

“Oh, you’re back”, she said. “Teacher moved the classroom around. You’re sitting over there. I sit here now. Beside my best friend.”

I froze. The world stood still. Hot tears stung my eyes. With a flourish of her pigtails, she swung away from me, and resumed her conversation. On the desk, I could see the telltale glint of a tin foil heart, a declaration of friendship forever, scripted lovingly pink marker pen.

A friend, indeed.

Town and Country

As is usually the case, this post was written as part of The Great Cake Experiment. 15 other writers pit their wit and pens against each other, every week on a single topic. Why not have a read?

When I was 16, the gap in my mind between town and country was at its greatest. Living in the country, in what felt like hundreds of miles from “civilisation” (in reality, just 4.1) with the only means of available transport the passenger seat of an unwilling parent, or the rickety wheels of an ancient pushbike, “town” was the holy grail.

Having a bunch of townie friends didn’t help. My best friend and I, living within a mile of each other in “the sticks”, envied them the freedom having a base in Town bestowed on them. They could come and go as they pleased – they even had their OWN KEYS. Our parents didn’t see the need for such liberties. There was no sneaking out late at night for us, and lack of gainful employment meant a heavy dependence on those parental taxi trips (and consequently, necessitated good behaviour, for fear of such favours being withdrawn), with curfews imposed. They even collected us in town at ungodly hours after nights out. (Sometimes we were grateful.)

We did, however have the freedom to hop on those  bikes, and cycle to our hearts content in the sun, hair messed in the wind, exploring the nooks and crannies of our country playground. In this, we felt we had a significant advantage over our town-based peers, even if they didn’t profess much jealousy. We country girls even formed our own gaelic football team. How we bonded – us against the townies. Mercifully, no official records exist of our first competitive scoreline, but it is seared on my mind forever. Our crushing defeats were soothed over pints of lemonade and Tayto, bringing giggling chaos to our one-room local and disturbing the tranquility of the regular clientele at the bar. Our team may have sucked, but our friendships endured.

Fast forward a couple of years, to university. Sharing a house with four townie schoolmates meant that country/town divisions were soon forgotten. Hailing from the same area bonded us in solidarity against the city folk (or the other country folk). The quiet peace of the countryside was scorned and forgotten, as partying became a priority, and city life pulsed in our veins. You could say, without being wide of the mark, that Galway city isn’t much more than a country town, but it was a change of pace, and we relished it. And so it went, for many a year.

Years later, I impulsively booked a flight, and departed to sunnier climes on a personal adventure. It was a trip that served to demonstrate to me how closely the Irish tend to stick together. Country, town, county and provincial divisions are forgotten, as Irish abroad unite simply in their shared nationality. It occurred to me that we as a nation rely heavily on solidarity. We feel a need to have something in common with our companions, to possess and generate shared memories and experiences, and all too often, this connection stems from our shared Irish roots and shared sense of humour.  We adore the ‘6 degrees of separation’ phenomenon, and the fact that no matter where you roam, you will always meet an Irish person who knows another Irish person that you yourself know.

Sometimes, on my solo expedition, it puzzled me. All those miles away from home, but doing very little differently than they would back at base – albeit while adding freckles to the complexion. I felt my own experience was enriched by spending time in the company of other nationalities and I felt the groups of Irish hanging out in PJs and the like in Sydney every Saturday night, drunkenly singing Olé Olé as the nostalgia-laced dizzyhighlights of Italia ’90 were replayed on giant screens, missed out just a little. But each to their own.

Now, years later as I languish in corporate limbo in the capital, I find myself looking for an escape route. The city streets which once held so much intrigue, and pulsed with energy now tire me a little. Not physically, but mentally. My visits home, and my solitary walks by the wild Atlantic  have become more frequent. I relish the relaxed pace, the peace of the wide open spaces, the warmth of knowing your neighbours and find I need to tear myself away when the weekends draw to a close. I’m not unhappy where I am, though. I’ve carved out a wonderful “Dublin family” for myself here, and I’ve realised that it consists mostly of “country” folk.  The irony. I find, when I socialise, that I tend towards places that remind me of home, and where I know I’ll meet people I know and understand.

It always amuses me that even within such a small country, there are such social factions. There’s a distinct vibe within my little group, and it smells of the Atlantic. Without even meaning to, I’ve sought out that sense of solidarity myself. 15 years later, and it seems I’ve come full circle. You can take the girl out of the country, but…….

Wake Up

Once again, this post was written as part of The Great Cake Experiment.

I look forward to the day I can write a weekly without prompting. In the meantime, why not have a read, and marvel at the talent of my fellow writers there?

Looking for some inspiration for this week’s topic, and not trying too hard to think outside the box, I took the obvious route and googled the phrase “Wake Up” (including Boolean operators – do people still use those?).

That course of action resulted in this song circulating in my head for a few hours afterwards, which I didn’t much mind. I found this, which amused me greatly (but then there’s no accounting for my sense of humour). I also found this (Oh, the hilarity.) What struck me the most, though, was the proliferation of sites offering advice on “How To Wake Up Early”, “How To Wake up On Time” and “How To Wake Up Feeling Alert!” (“Alert” in my book = “Annoyingly Sprightly”.) All of which got me pondering why it is that so many people need assistance in awakening in the mornings. It appears I’m not so unusual after all.

I can only speak for myself, but waking up in the morning requires supreme effort on my part. It’s not that I’m lazy (Okay, maybe it’s that I’m lazy). I never sleep as much as I should. In fact, I’m almost permanently sleep deprived, and sometimes spend entire days in a state of dazed tiredness. But here’s the thing. I have no-one to blame but me. It’s entirely my own fault, because, well, I hate going to sleep.

This is a confession that few understand, and most greet with incredulous horror. Admitting such a thing usually elicits the same reaction as the one I garner when I’m spotted adding hot water to the milk in my Rice Krispies (I’m sick of having to explain why I do this, so I’m not explaining it here). Or, the response I received when I once admitted I’d never seen the Shawshank Redemption, a crime which, judging by the reaction I received to the admission is clearly on a par with eating one’s first-born child. The majority of folk are sensible, and enjoy winding down for the evening and curling up or cuddling up in bed at what my folks would call “a decent hour”. My genes took a wrong turn somewhere along the way, because my mum rarely stays up past 10pm. She, like most sane-minded people values a good night’s sleep.

Me … I’m different. I love the night. As the day wears on and most people fade, I slowly come to life. When others are fading, I’m starting to shine. It’s for this reason that I start work late and finish late. I’m at my most productive when most folk are comatose. It’s a pattern that’s continued throughout my life – school, university (cramming is king) and unfortunately, my work life. I sometimes wonder if I’m a distant cousin, twice removed of the old Count D.

I’m not sure why I dislike succumbing to sleep so much. Every night is a battle to stay awake, rather than go to sleep. Regrettably, when I really need to sleep, I never can. Oh, the irony! Recently, when I have had occasion to want to sleep, in order to not think any more, I find it eludes me – a shadow, escaping around the next corner, leaving only a trace of its presence as I chase. Ordinarily though, I love the solitude that comes with being awake whilst the world sleeps around me. I love the quietness in the country, and I adore the city at night. I feed off the energy; the lights, and the characters that only emerge after dark, the fellow nocturnal animals. Sometimes I take the car and drive high up the mountains when everyone I live with sleeps, and sit and gaze over the vista I have all to myself.

Oddly, I also adore greeting the sunrise… but only if I’m still awake. There’s nothing I relish more after a night of debauchery than wandering around the garden, preferably in my bare feet in the dewy grass, at 6am on a sunny summer’s morning, listening to the birdsong.  Oddly enough, I never partake of this simple pleasure if I have to set an alarm and wake up to avail of it.

Not sleeping has its drawbacks. Tiredness, I am told results in lower productivity and motivation levels, impairment of ability, and hormone imbalances that can lead to weight gain/loss, amongst others. Personally, I find that if I don’t dream enough, I feel stressed – I think dreaming is the brain’s way of processing and organising the things that happen us during waking hours (even if my dreams do so in the oddest way possible, but I digress). Lack of sleep can also contribute to poor skin, slower healing, and an overall sense of malaise.

So, no matter how much I love the night and reject sleep’s courting, as I get older, and need all the help I can get to stay healthy and sane(ish), I feel it’s probably in my best interests to stop viewing sleep as the enemy, take it by the hand into a quiet corner and get to know it a little better. My health of mind and body will thank me more, and the day will come… one day… when waking up will actually become a pleasure.


This post was written for Week 6 of the writing project The Great Cake* Experiment Topic was ‘Home’. Why not take a look?

Home is … still where your parents’ house is, because you haven’t yet managed to decide where you want your own bricks and mortar, and nowhere will ever be completely ‘home’ until you can arrive home with a chair you found in a skip without it being binned as soon as you let it out of your sight and you have complete authority over deciding what colour to paint the ceiling.

Home is … arriving after a long, exhausting drive late on a Friday night to the warmth of a wonderful welcome … the dog. Who couldn’t feel loved?


Home is … tea with every meal, and at least one cup in between.

Home is … regressing to a teenage state of mind, but suppressing the urge to scream at your parents “you don’t understand me!” whilst simultaneously slamming the nearest door.

Home is … long chats with your mum, late into the night… realising how much she does understand you, marvelling at her quiet wisdom and wishing you could be there more often.

Home is … a somewhere you can lock yourself into your room and hide beneath the covers and cry until you can’t possibly cry any more, and not worry about anyone seeing you and trying to make you feel better. Then, when you emerge, there will be tea.


Home is …. marvelling at the full sky of stars you only ever really see when lying wrapped in a duvet, lying on the trampoline in the back garden.

Home is … being woken by the birds in the soft, damp, grey morning.

Home is … wearing pyjamas until 6pm.

Home is… a short drive from the sea… the warm, wild and wonderful sea… miles of open space and angry waves… where cold rain stings your face and mats your curls, your lungs feel clean and you feel exhilarated and alive….


Home is … truly, unashamedly letting your own self all hang out. No game face necessary.

Home is … laced with memories… that tree down the road you had a “house” in…the imaginary friends of childhood… the school up the road where you learned to read and write and grow a thick skin… the seashell necklaces… the long cycles on summer afternoons to climb the stone stairs in the derelict castle by the river… the teenage confidences shyly shared… the pain of unrequited teenage love… the agony of requited love… the blossoming of minds and missions.

Home is … no doorbell necessary… an open house. Where you know your neighbours’ names, as well as their dogs’ names.

Home is … is blissful, dark silence in the night … sheer, ink-black peace.


Home is… the one-fingered salute from the driver of every car you meet on “your road”. Whether they know you or not. In this context, “one-fingered salute” does not refer to an obscene gesture, rather a friendly acknowledgement that you exist, and are sharing the same space, and deserve to be acknowledged.

Home is … in you always …

Overheard Conversation

This post has been written for Week 4 of The Great Cake* Experiment. Why not take a look?

If there is one thing I am grateful to the Great Cake* Experiment project for, it is that over the past few weeks since the adventure began, I have had to re-engage my cerebral muscles and put some thought into coming up with relevant posts. It’s been a while since I exercised my brain in a creative fashion, and I’m quickly coming to regard this time every week as a treat for the mind, a reward for more banal labours conducted over the course of the working week. This week, however, when trying to decide how to proceed, I drew a blank. Apart from the obvious, I didn’t come up with a clever narrative, or an engaging piece of fiction or even a tall tale of past conversations overheard (though I have, in my day heard one or two gems that would make your toes curl, oh yes). What I have realised, whilst racking my brains for some readable, even vote-winning wit, was that overhearing conversations features far more in our everyday lives than I’d ever realised.

I tried to approach this post from a number of different angles. Firstly, I considered all the times I have been stuck on some mode or other of public transport, hemmed in tight between the window, and my (due to my luck/irresistable magnetism, usually malodourous and/or oversized) co-passenger, listening to some imbecile four seats ahead regaling the bus or train with inane details of her holidays/family wedding, or some suit with an over-inflated ego asserting his authority over an unfortunate junior colleague within full earshot of at least three counties.

Upon recalling these occasions, and comparing  these assaults on my eardrums with the agony I feel every time I find myself pumping cash into the bottomless money pit that is my car, I feel vindicated in my decision to reject long-haul journeys on public transport and drive everywhere. (By ‘long-haul’ I mean anything that takes more than 30 minutes, and/or involves any kind of changeover). I’m convinced there is some mathematical formula or theorem of relativity dictating that the more inane the event being discussed, the higher the decibel level needed to discuss it. I firmly believe there should be some sort of (preferably painful) penalty imposed on such inconsiderate individuals for their complete disregard for the comfort and sanity of their fellow travellers and their unashamed levels of oblivion to resulting glares cast in their direction.  I considered re-telling one of these overheard tales as the basis for my post, but frankly, they were clearly all so mind-numbingly dull that I couldn’t recall any.

Secondly, I considered the angle of the conversation overheard in public toilet cubicles. I’m sure most of us at some stage of our lives have fallen victim to one of these overheard tête-à-têtes while we going about our business. Depending on the time of day, the location and often the amount of alcohol imbibed by the participants, the performance can provide varying levels of entertainment. Sometimes, you may even wish to join in, and again, depending on the measure of alcohol consumed, your opinion may even be welcomed enthusiastically (but only if the conversation is centring on some other poor unfortunate, and you are in agreement with the popular opinion.) The unfortunate downside of overheard conversations like these is that one wretched day as you are having some ‘you’ time in a toilet cubicle, you may find yourself as the subject, and the tone may not be generous, and no-one needs me to tell them how unpleasant that can be.  If you do ever find yourself in such an awkward position, I would heartily recommend that, rather than sit there sobbing into the toilet roll and waiting for the perpetrators to leave so you can plot your spiteful revenge in a cloud of victimhood and self-pity, you should quite brazenly march out there, wash your hands and join right in, and take gleeful pleasure in the discomfort of the instigators as they frantically attempt to backtrack. It is comforting to remember that in all likelihood, unless you are 16 years old, and are ensconced in the toilet cubicle for the sole purpose of consuming an illicit, smuggled naggin of vodka at a teenage disco, you are unlikely to find yourself in such a challenging situation, but in this day and age, you can never be too prepared.

I also, while searching for inspiration recalled times, many years ago – back in the Dark Ages, I think – where no-one owned a mobile phone, and conversations with friends and love interests could only be conducted either face-to-face or via the house landline. In my home, an extension line in the bedroom provided ample opportunity for an impatient parent to pick up the handset and interrupt either a riveting blow-by-blow analysis of the day at school or the whisperings of sweet romantic nothings from a new boyfriend by bellowing down the line from the other end of the house in a last-ditch effort to regain use of the line for more pressing matters. Recalling the calibre and cringe level of these overheard conversations, how I gaze enviously now upon my fifteen year-old sister with the array of communications gadgets she has at her disposal.

I considered the ‘voyeuristic’ nature of eavesdropping (what’s the aural equivalent of voyeuristic?). I contemplated the vast array of narrative and film that includes elements of eavesdropping. Shakespeare used the concept to great effect in many of his works, and he wasn’t alone. I learned that there are entire published academic papers dedicated to the psychology of eavesdropping. I reflected on the myriad of websites devoted to witticisms overheard – take Overheard in Dublin as a prime example of a wealth of  bizarre titbits of conversations overheard in this unfair city). I even remembered the kick I’d get while standing on the terraces at a GAA match and savouring the razor-sharp banter between supporters  (indeed, had I thought of this earlier in the evening, I could have written a short novel based on the belly laughs this has given me over the years). I wondered if we are all gossips at heart. Indeed, it dawned on me just how much of the information we glean on a daily basis stems from overheard conversations and made me conscious of my own behaviour in that regard. However, the thing that struck me most is that I never, until now realised just how much – whether we like to admit it or not – we all enjoy the occasional eavesdrop.

Out with the old….

Week 3 of the Great Cake* Experiment



The Art of Hoarding. The bane of many an overstuffed wardrobe, groaning attic, dusty garage and open-me-at-your-peril cupboard under the stairs, particularly in homes of a certain age. How many of us have at some point or another waded through a cold (or stiflingly hot) attic, watched warily on either side by rows of dusty, neglected boxes secured with parcel tape, hastily scribbled notes on the side, closed lids protecting their long-forgotten, musty contents? Who among us has not rifled through a crammed wardrobe full of relics from a younger age; impulse buys hanging, abandoned, labels still attached waiting in hope for that day their buyer will lose those stubborn “couple of pounds”? Time meanders on, and with it dust gathers and memories fade in these dark nooks and crannies of our homes and memories.

Spring arrives, and with it, the spring-cleaning enthusiasts. “It’s time to freshen up!” they cry. “Reclaim some living space!” “Allow energy to flow through your home!” “Out with the old!” And wearily, you may pick up your duster and your vacuum cleaner, and all the various paraphernalia, grimly determined to do a “good clear-out” and gain yourself some new space to eh, put more stuff in.

You begin, and you begin well. Before you know it, you’ve filled a black sack for the charity shop. You’re not sure about that jacket you just put in there, but you’ll leave it there for now – it’s a size too small after all, and besides, you’ve nothing that matches it. Be ruthless! Corduroy is SO three years ago. You add – not before administering a tender lingering caress – the shoes you wore to your debs  that  years ago that never quite fit and resulted in some rather spectacular week-long blisters. You discover the dress you wore that night and you smile… you’re transported back to that magical flurry of hairspray, butterflies, poorly applied fake tan and teenage traumas where times, had you only known it, were so much simpler. You decide you can’t bear to part with it, and reinstate it in its rightful place. That dress cost you six months worth of pocket money and days of agonising, and besides, your daughter (still just a twinkle in her as-yet-nameless, faceless daddy’s eye) might just wear it some day….

You move on to the bookshelves, where shockingly, there are still mementoes of your schooldays. You make a mental note to clean more often. The first thing you stumble upon is a mix tape you made when you were 17, dating from those heady days of false IDs and badly applied makeup when you started “going out out”. You look for a cassette player, and realise you don’t possess one any more. Fortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly in a house of this nature, there’s one in the attic somewhere. So up you clamber, and before long you are a teenager again, lost in the strains of Robert Palmer and The Eurythmics while you wander around the nightclub for a “lap”, guarding your vodka and orange fiercely while keeping a firm eye from on a distance upon the then-object of your affections. (Growing up in a small town, it took the big hits of the late 90s a while to reach us). You listen to Madonna and remember the sheer gut-wrenching, heart-crushing devastation of seeing the aforementioned object kissing someone else behind a pillar. Horrifically, you discover a diary from the same era. A colour-bound, dog-eared document of utter cringe, a shrine to your innocence and teenage angst. You read it and dissolve in the utter hilarity/mortification of your own tiny, all-consuming dramas. You berate your 17-year old self for being so goddamn serious and sensitive. You resolve to share these pearls of wisdom also with your own daughter if the day comes. And you place that document back on the shelf, knowing that you can’t just coldly discard those words, those pages so full of feeling. And there it sits – your own unashamed self-obsession bound in those pages forever.

You rediscover notes and letters from school friends, crammed with laughter and innocence and references to the local heroes of the time. Had the local GAA players only known the depths of appreciation that existed for their many talents… Your school yearbook. Printed emails from college friends. Cards commemorating milestone birthdays. Your very first Valentine card, and dusty pressed remains of the first red rose you ever received. Mementoes of trips taken – sunny days on the train to Dublin – what an adventure – fuelled by soft drinks and nail polish fumes. Photographs – boxes and boxes of photographs – taken long before the days when digital took over. The charity shop bag, long abandoned, sits forlornly in the middle of the floor. Time passes.

You feel a little wistful when you realise that your own daughter may never have this simple pleasure. There’ll be no lovingly written notes and scribbled cartoons to be rediscovered, just texts and electronic social media messages, quickly relegated to the digital archives. She’ll probably never know the anticipation of collecting from the pharmacy a set of prints taken during the latest night out, praying that the one shot you wanted came out okay – oh, how we cursed the automatic flash! – or leafing through a long-forgotten photo album. She will never know the sheer frustrating agony of waiting hours to tape a song off the radio, only to be scuppered by the DJ playing a request in the middle of the last verse. And you smile as you replace those precious keepsakes of a bygone era, and realise there’s a lot to be said for hoarding.

Especially now you’ve heard that corduroy will be HUGE this Autumn.

A Good Lie

This is my first post for The Great Cake* Experiment. Other posts can be found here:


And so beginneth the Great Cake Experiment.

I’m a fan of Cake, myself – be it eating, baking, anticipating, throwing (yes, I’ve had those types of parties, not usually by choice) and sometimes, even just dreaming about it. The promise of some post-work tea and Cake has made many a Monday morning all the more palatable and many a Friday evening more blissful. So the promise of sharing in some Cake with lots of fellow Cake Appreciators in the future fills me with great joy, and is quite a good incentive to confront the deep-seated sense of apprehension I feel about sharing my inane ramblings with real people. But I digress. This post isn’t meant to be about Cake, as much as I’d like it to be.

So… back on topic. A Good Lie. What makes a good lie? Hmmm. At this point, if I were even a generation older, I’d be chewing on my pencil, scrunching up lots of paper into little balls and aiming them unsuccessfully at the wicker waste-paper basket in the corner. Unfortunately, modern technology has ensured that such simple, if environmentally catastrophic pleasures are now no longer available (I mean, who uses wicker waste-paper baskets these days?). I have briefly considered writing a post about golf; where good lies are relatively simple affairs, but that would just be taking the easy way out, and would doubtless make for terminally boring reading. O, Cakemistress, this is a tough one for a rusty writer, I cannot lie, in a good way or otherwise.

The very concept of lying is something that we are taught, almost as soon as we can talk, is wrong. The ironic reality though, is that life, as we live it each day is interspersed with lies. Today, in a bid to get ‘in the zone’ for writing this post, I resolved to be aware of examples of lies – good or otherwise – around me. I woke at 8am, feeling like muck. The last thing the world I wanted to do was open the blinds and admit defeat to the morning light, but sometimes needs (and rent) must. So when my housemate asked me over morning tea/frantic ironing how I was, why, I’d had a wonderful night’s sleep and was full of enthusiasm at the prospect of a day full of meetings about meetings. Bing, Bing! Two lies, and I wasn’t even dressed yet.

Lie #3 followed a similar conversation with a colleague who enquired after my wellbeing, but in my defence, I only told one of the above lies. Bing! Lie #4 was via email to a close friend who’d asked for a favour. Bing! Yes, in all honesty it was some trouble, and yes, it was a minor inconvenience but you don’t know how rubbish I’m feeling today, I would do anything for you, and you would do the same for me in a heartbeat, so telling you it’s no trouble at all doesn’t really count as a lie, right? Lie #5 was to another colleague – “Yes Michael, I’ve almost finished that, I’ll send it on to you shortly…” B… oh you get the picture. (In case you are Michael, and you are reading this, I had some PC issues earlier…… bing.) And so on, and so forth. By lunchtime, I was seriously questioning my integrity and re-evaluating my perception of myself as a decent person. By 4pm, I was projecting, and regarding my colleagues with deep suspicion, convinced that if I was such a compulsive liar, I couldn’t possibly be the only one.

At 7pm, my mother lied to me. “I’m fine. I’m feeling much better today”. My endearingly honest father set the record straight. Bing!

By 10pm I’d stumbled across a rather uncomfortably relevant article about Facebook Fakers – those who use their Facebook, Twitter and various other social media accounts to project false information and portray the image of the ‘perfect’ life (‘Perfect’ by definition meaning having lots of friends – real or virtual, being tagged in lots of photos teetering on gravity-defying heels and looking impossibly glamorous with said friends, preferably with a glass of wine in hand – but never with anyone who’s hotter than you – meeting celebrities, and tweeting from various cool must-be-seen-in locations, while in reality you may actually be stuffing your face with cheesecake from the fridge whilst wearing a face mask, fluffy socks and watching the Late Late Show. For non-Irish readers, watching the Late Late Show is a very non-Perfect-Life thing to do on a Friday night.) Apparently, this is just the beginning, and very soon we will all be appraising our lives, not by our own happiness, but by what others approve of. Or so the ’experts’ say.

By midnight, I’d stopped questioning it, and realised that lies are everywhere.

So the question remains, what makes a ‘good’ lie? This is where the line blurs. What is ‘good’? Who defines it? Indeed, if lying is so prevalent, does it even count as lying anymore?

I suppose a ‘bad’ lie is one with negative consequences for others. A lie in work, told because you don’t want to expose your lack of knowledge or experience, can have consequences for your colleagues. They may have to forsake their time to help you out of a rut. They may even tell you that it’s “fine” and “no trouble at all” Bing! Telling someone you love you’re happy in a relationship, because they’re not in a good place, and you feel telling them otherwise may damage them is a Bad Lie. Telling someone you’re ill, to elicit some pity or because you haven’t delivered on something you should have, that’s a Bad Lie. Lying to yourself, and trying to be someone you’re not to preserve the status quo, that’s one of the worst lies of all. (On the other hand, saying “oh, didn’t you get my text earlier?” just makes you a bad liar.)

After much thought therefore, while lying as a hobby is a bad pastime, there are varying degrees of untruth. If a Bad Lie is one with negative consequences for others, then conversely, a Good Lie is one without. Telling a mate I’m fine in the morning because I don’t want to burden her with my feelings when she’s going through a rough time herself, y’know what,  that’s a good lie. (Particularly when I, in all likelihood will feel fine by lunchtime.) Telling a stressed colleague you’ve something under control, even when you don’t, is a good lie, if it calms them (but only if you frantically begin to get it under control immediately, otherwise, it’s a Bad Lie). Telling your friend you won’t make a fuss of her birthday – in fact, you might not even be around that weekend, but then surprising her with something that makes her feel really special and loved, that’s a Good Lie. Sometimes we compromise ourselves and in doing so, compromise the truth a little in order to make other people feel good. There’s a fine line, and we often teeter on the rope, but sometimes, telling a Good Lie will make all the difference to someone else, and where’s the harm in that?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to change my Facebook profile photo to the Face Mask and Cheesecake Horror shot…..