How To Stop Time.

How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. Review

Dear Matt Haig,

Are you out there?

I think you are brilliant.

How To Stop Time. Matt Haig. Review

Thank you for making me laugh, and for reminding me that life, long or short, is precious.

Do you know this song? It’s, sort of, the same story and a waltz, like a heartbeat…

P.S. I reviewed How To Stop Time : here.

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The Carol Service Made Me Cry, Again.

Rain lashed against our bowed heads as we rattled the right hand side door of the church. It was locked. We three weary mothers leaned our shoulders into the driving wind as we circumnavigated the church to try our luck at the left hand side door. It was marked, ‘Reserved For Junior Infants.’ Turning at last to the main entrance (always the last resort), we squeezed ourselves on to a wooden bench against the back wall.

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The church was filled to capacity as the entire school body, students, teachers, SNAs, secretary and caretaker, were packed in like sardines. Two dozen or so parents who had managed to escape from work were huddled in the last two rows.

My Small Girl was out of sight in those Reserved seats on the left. My Middle Girl was in the front row and I saw the Headmaster walk over and, presumably, ask her if she was sure she was well enough to sing her solo. Oh my nerves. We are not accustomed to solo performances in this house. Neither Husband or I, nor either of the Teenagers would be inclined to sing in public. But Middle Girl has music in her veins. She sang before she could talk. She sings in her sleep. She is a singer. She didn’t volunteer for this solo. She was asked to do it.

Singer she may be but also sadly prone to coughs and colds and sore throats Despite all my administrations of cough bottles, soothing lozenges and honeyed hot drinks the chances of her singing were still fifty/fifty when I dropped her off at school.

The service began with Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Headmaster invited the parents to join in and I did try. I love to sing in the security of a crowd and thought that surely I could manage it under the cover of 300 children’s voices. Alas, at every attempt, a golf ball-sized lump welled up in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. What is that all about?

Every single year, from the very first note, the carol service reduces me to tears.

One of my favourite teachers, a quiet and reserved woman, sang Suantraí na Maighdine which I haven’t heard since my Irish College days. The golf ball stretched to sliotar-size.

We Three Kings Of Orient Are warmed us up at bit. Who could resist that slide into Oh-oh star of wonder, star of might, star of royal beauty bright, westward leading…are you singing?

A few more songs and prayers and we came to my girl, standing all alone at the altar, accompanied only by her teacher on a box drum, singing The Little Drummer Boy. She was just lovely, so solemn and earnest. The voice might have cracked once or twice but, if anything, it made it better. There was a round of warm applause and appreciative head-nodding. My fellow mothers grabbed a mop and wiped me up off the floor.

A few more songs passed while I managed to pull myself together to concentrate on O Holy Night. It’s such a big and brave song, we wouldn’t hear it performed too often at our school carol service so there was a shuffle of apprehension at the opening chords.

Oh my God. Such a joyous thing. One boy, maybe eight or nine years old and one teacher beside him, supporting each other and singing as though their hearts would burst. It’s not what you are prepared for at ten o’clock on a wet Wednesday morning. This boy has one of those voices, not affected or stagey, but simply innocent and pure, that makes you stop in your tracks and wonder at the absolute miracle of it. A perfect thing.

We heard the angels’ voices. I wish you could have been there.

We don’t regularly burst into applause in the church. You do know that only happens in movies, don’t you? This was the very first, instantaneous and almost involuntary standing ovation I have ever seen. The children didn’t quite know how to react, being under strict warning to stay glued to their seats, but the headmaster gauged the atmosphere in a instant and brought them to their feet. Mothers passed around tissues to wipe away tears and snot. I don’t know the boy’s mother. I hope she is doing OK.

Click on this. It will do you good:

 

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The Thrill Of It All.

I wept when I finished this book. Copious tears ran in sheets down my face, down the valleys of my wrinkles and over my chin. Don’t let that put you off. It’s a funny book, but, it set me to thinking.

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I may place myself in the woo-woooh nut-job category by writing this but…

I’ve always felt there was a hole in my life where there ought to have been a brother. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t something I dwell on or think about very often. It’s just that every odd year or so the thought re-surfaces. It’s always there, I haven’t grown out of it. It’s just something in me. A space, a gap, a tiny void.

You see, I had a brother.

I had a brother but only for two days. Twenty-six weeks, I think, and two days. I hardly remember anything at all because I was very little, maybe five or six. I remember my father cooking breakfast for my sister and I because our mother had mysteriously disappeared. He made T-bone steak with fried mushrooms. I remember waiting in my Granny’s house and thinking they would bring home a mewling bundle in a white blanket. They would sit me in Granny’s chair, the one with low arms, and hand me the bundle carefully for a photograph, like when my sister was born. But they didn’t.

That’s all.

So anyway, I’ve often thought how nice it would be to have a brother. He would probably be a bit smarter than me and way cooler. He’d know which bands to listen to and how to download music for free. He’d recommend books. He’d encourage me to take risks and he’d promise to catch me if I fell.

The brother in my head has the voice of Joseph O’Connor.

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I’ve been reading Joseph O’Connor’s books for twenty years now and they never disappoint. I guess I picked up the first one out of curiosity. I wanted to know if Sinead O’Connor’s big brother was a good writer. He is, exceptionally so. Joseph O’Connor is one of those writers who chats as if he’d just dropped in for coffee on a Tuesday morning. He speaks my language. He tells a good story. He makes it look easy.

The Thrill Of It All is a book about a gang of kids who form a band. It’s about music and musicians. It’s about how music makes you feel better. It’s about how music makes you better at feeling. It’s about lives with great big gaping holes in them. Chasms.

Joseph O’Connor has been the voice in my head telling me how music can bridge the gaps and friends can fill the holes.

As life would have it, I have some really cool and uber smart brotherly types in my life who do encourage me to take risks and have caught me more than once.

I’ve sat on this post for a week. It has taken a fair old whack out of me.

I’m off to surf pinterest and not be thinking too much too much.

 

 

The Peak Of Summer.

Our happy holiday mood continues.

A walk in the park was forcibly squeezed in between torrential showers this morning. I met a lovely old friend and we managed an efficient picnic despite the four-seasons-in-an-hour weather. This little Moorhen family charmed our small girls.

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IMG_5416IMG_5415My friend gave Small Girl a Lego set. In other words she gifted me an entire afternoon of peace while this was assembled.IMG_5420

IMG_5422It’s like one of George’s Amazing Spaces. The degree to which I owe my sanity to the Lego company is quite alarming.

My daily pre-dinner scavenge in the garden hinted at a turn in the season. We have had no summer to speak of but there are whispers of Autumn approaching.

Nasturtiums are taking over. IMG_5428

Our first courgettes are ready.IMG_5427

Apples look almost edible.IMG_5433

Crab apples are turning rosy.IMG_5434

Our tayberries are finished and the first blackberry has ripened.IMG_5425

I thought Husband was daft when he insisted on planting cultivated blackberries but it turns out to have been a genius move. Our bramble is thorn-free and produces abundant, huge, juicy berries.

Most symbolic are these Hypericum berries. We married in September and my bouquet was a posy of cream roses with Hypericum. I loved it and, consequently, love these.IMG_5437

After a protracted delay (her birthday is in April), Teenage Daughter’s birthday present arrived in the post today. To cut short an epic saga, Amazon compensated her for the delay by sending us this amplifier for her electric ukulele.IMG_5442

It’s a substantial upgrade from the little mini-amp that I ordered for her. Teenage Daughter is ecstatic; the neighbours, I’d imagine, less so.

We all had a good jump around the kitchen after dinner to the dulcet tones of The Sultans Of Ping.IMG_5445

Where’s Me Jumper? turns out to be a classic loved equally by the Youth Of Today and their Aged Parents. We didn’t see that coming, did we?

With A Driving Beat.

IMG_5001Today is the first proper day of the summer holidays. The ultimate Monday for a stay-at-home Mum. The kids all stayed up late last night but they still woke at alarm o’clock this morning. The weather is damp and muggy. We have just enough demands on our time to prevent us from taking off on an adventure but not enough to fill the day. They are tired, cranky and restless. They need a few days to find the new rhythm. Every year I worry that they won’t find it, that they will get too old for playing, that I will actually bash their heads together.

Teenage Son is teaching himself this song on the piano. I’ve tried to explain that our piano is like an elderly lady and that he might want to go easy on the pedal but to no avail. He pounds this out at full throttle and it is glorious.IMG_5001I highly recommend you sit back and enjoy a blast of The Rats, here. Seriously, who else but Bob could look cool in that jacket? I was only seven the summer this song took Ireland by storm but I remember it. For me, this is a song about sunburn, impossibly cool teenage boys and blackcurrants. It’s a song to shake off the Monday morning stupor. It catches frustration and smashes it. It is determined; I guess that’s what they mean by a driving beat.

Yesterday was a better day.

I could tell that the sun was blazing before I even opened the blinds. It was one of those mornings that sounds hot. The Beach. It had to be.

Swimming togs were unearthed from the dark recesses of the hot-press along with sand-encrusted scuba gear and past-expiry Factor 50. A slapdash picnic of popcorn, mandarin oranges and chocolate buns was packed. A rapid poll dictated that the dog should come too, his first beach trip. Small girl is currently obsessed with Mamma Mia so ABBA Gold was grabbed from the high shelf (where it has been languishing since Middle girl recovered from her similar obsession). With record-breaking efficiency six humans and a dog were moving beachward, some singing, some groaning, one bewildered.

Every single time, I am surprised by how much we enjoy ourselves, how much we laugh. Charlie’s reaction to the water, the salt, the sand was hilarious. He didn’t seem to want to swim but he followed Middle Girl out, as if to protect her, and got the fright of his life. He paddled back to dry sand where he was even more confused to be given a round of applause. His coat got really curly; seems even dogs can have surfer-dude beach hair.IMG_4954

Husband spotted a seal swimming ten feet or so away from the kids. They couldn’t see him from behind the rocks but we had a great view. I did try, but failed, to get a photo. Just believe me; he’s right in the middle of this photo, behind the green patch on the rock. IMG_4995

I’d guess that 75% of our family photos have been taken at the beach. They are always the best pictures, so much better than the line-ups on special occasions. There’s a quote I’ve seen a few times on Pinterest: If you want to learn what someone fears losing, look at what they photograph.

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Goodnight My Angel. Billy Joel.

image One summer night, I sat on the floor at a college party drinking cheap red wine. Sitting next to me was a sweet boy with lovely blonde hair, palest blue eyes and a fine pair of legs stretched out alongside mine. It was getting pretty late and I was wondering whether he ever was going to kiss me. I suppose I was also wondering whether I would like it. My favourite song came on. “So, you like Billy Joel too?”, he asked or something to that effect. Well, that clinched it. He was the one. Twenty-four years and four children (four goldfish, one cat and a dog) later we are still fans. The culmination of our fandom came in 2013 when we finally, FINALLY saw Billy Joel live in Dublin. We stood in the “mosh pit” (hah!) with all the other aging die-hards and sang until our throats were raw. Words cannot describe how much fun we had.

Last night, I sent my three-year-old daughter to choose her bedtime books and she returned with two boring Letterland books and this gem. I came across it a few years ago when I was scouring the internet for an anniversary gift. I think it came from San Francisco and the postage cost about three times as much as the book but it was worth it. It was second-hand but in great condition and included the original CD. The book itself is sort of old-fashioned. image It’s just the lyrics of the song with nice illustrations. image The Dad in the pictures looks like Billy Joel but better-looking (sorry Billy). image After sixteen years of bedtime stories and songs I’m getting quite tired of singing There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly. What I really love about this book is that I can just put on the CD and turn the pages while Billy does the singing. I also love that my children know this song just as well as they know Ten Green Bottles. It’s almost unbearably sweet to hear a three-year-old sing this to her teddies. If you don’t feel like searching for a second-hand book you could just play the song on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqB0inOziLM