Wednesday 29 February 2012


Anna checked all of her pockets as she got out of the car.  Four pockets, containing: her mobile phone, her iPod, the car key and an old packet of chewing gum.  She checked the car was locked as she walked away.  Following her usual routine.  However she didn't feel it was usual.  Something had shifted.  She wasn't out tonight for a healthy walk around the block.  This time it was to alleviate the anger that was building up inside of her.  The anger made her want to pound the path as she plugged herself into her music.  She went for the 'favourites' playlist on the iPod as she plugged in the earphones.  Greenday came on.  "I hope you had the time of your life," she half whispered to herself as she stomped along the road.  She played it as loudly as she could.

She knew the anger had been building up inside of her for some time now but today's events had pushed her over the edge.  The day began with another encounter with Miss Claire at the Montessori school.  Her son was in trouble again.  Anna had repremanded her son, and promised to talk to him at home.  However the voice in her head said, 'He's only three.  He doesn't know what he is yet.'  Something began to niggle at the back of her mind.  She had to dash to work.

Late to work again and the Assistant Manager was waiting at her desk.  "I had to answer that damned phone this morning.  Don't be late again,"  Nevermind that Anna was doing the accounts job because no-one else wanted it.  Dealing with complaints and queries all day long.  In-basket getting bigger and barely a dent of the out-basket.  She'd stay on late tonight to catch up on work.

When she rang Mark to tell him that he needed to pick up Oisin, he was not too pleased.  "Just tell that Manager of yours to get lost." Oh.... but she'd love that.  Yet Mark wasn't going to be able to pay the mortgage on his own.

So when Oisin was fed and in bed, not asleep, she slipped on her tracksuit, grabbed her stuff and leaned in the door to Mark.  He spoke first, "Was little Oisin in trouble again today?"  She nodded. "You'd want to get onto that Miss Claire one, she's a pain in the neck!" She answered slowly, "To be honest Mark, I think we need to talk when I get back.  I think there's something more to it.  He gets in trouble in the supermarket, at the childminders, visiting Grandparents.  We never get a moments peace.  Maybe we should look into it? For his sake."  He retorted quickly, "There's nothing wrong with my son, except you and Miss Whatever-her-name-is mamby-pambying him.  And while you're at it, sort out that cow in work that keeps you back late."

Anna ran the whole conversation through her mind.  She hated her job and the Assistant Manager yet she said nothing all day and did her best.  'Keep the Head Down' was her motto.  She didn't want to disagree with Miss Claire, especially in front of the other parents but she wished she would give her good news sometimes and not embarrass her and Oisin publically.  But what made her burn with rage was that her husband would not listen to her.  He never asked her how she felt, if things were ok? He disagreed with almost everything she said until she gave up saying them.

Hot tears were in her eyes now.  She lowered her face and hoped two passing walkers would not notice, especially when she was wearing her thick glasses.  The anger was now turning into a boiling rage in her stomach.  She marched faster and faster. 

Suddenly a man stepped from behind a high wall across the road.  He walked directly up to her and she quickly realised that there was no-one else around.  "Gimme your stuff now and don't make me take it off ya," he growled.  She could see a small blade in his hand.  Without thinking, she gave him the phone, iPod and key. "More," he whispered with menace.  Anna pulled off her engagement ring and watch.  As she put them in his gloved hand she realised that he was not finished.  Finally the rage exploded.  "You've gotten everything you're going to get from me.  Now fuck off.  I don't care what you have there, just give me an excuse and I'll go for you bare-knuckle," she said through clenched teeth.  The man stood for a long moment.  Appraising her with a passionless face.  She didn't care.  She just wanted to feel the satisfaction of punching him hard with her fists.  She didn't care what happened after that.  He turned and walked in the opposite direction.

Anna walked back to the car.  The rage she felt wasn't even contained inside her anymore, she could feel it fizzing around her body.  She wasn't taking anymore of this.  As she got back to the car she realised that she had no key to get in.  Finally she started to cry.  But the tears were not of self-pity.  She just hated that she wouldn't have the chance to hit that man again, she should have.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

In praise of libraries

I was asked by Susan Condon (@susancondon) to give my support to National Libraries Week. I'm late replying but here goes:

Terenure Library, Dublin, was my local when we were children. The children's library was in the front of the building and the adults library was behind.  Mum has always been a voracious reader. Dad used to complain about the weight of the beach bag on holidays. It always contained a large hardback book from the library.  The first few books I read were by Enid Blyton: I loved the Secret Seven. The brilliant Roahl Dahl was next to be discovered. However the happiest memory I have was when I was allowed to change my pink child's ticket to the blue adult library ticket. I felt so grown up. Mum always told us to have the books opened on the page for stamping and turned towards the librarian. Treating the librarian with due respect.

My interest in literacy really began in my teens. I suddenly came upon the realisation that books can change the way you think. Books can show you whole new worlds, transport you back in time, take you inside someone else's head. George Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm' made me think about politics and the world more critically. Oscar Wilde was witty and engaging, especially 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. 'The Lord of the Flies' by William Golding was disturbing but I wondered did he go too far in his hypothesis. However since becoming a mum and witnessing several party birthday parties for seven-year olds, I'm rethinking this one.

Later I became obsessed with the Second World War. I couldn't understand what made a whole race decide to wipe out another. I read 'The Diary of Anne Frank'  along with 'I am David' by Anne Holm. I'm still none the wiser as to the 'why' of the wars but I know that we need to remind future generations that these things happened and never let history repeat itself.

When I moved to Navan I joined the library there. Navan Library is simply wonderful. It's in the centre of the town overlooking the beautiful St Mary's Church. It is not an aesthetically pleasing building to look at. The library was promised a facelift but it never materalised. However inside, the library is treasure trove for book lovers. There's a huge section of books by Irish writers. The childrens section is welcoming with bright little chairs and tables.  They have books for all ages neatly laid out. There is also a special series of books with CD's for adults who want to learn to read or improve their reading called 'The Clipper Series.'  Every day teenagers fill the room studying or using the computers. 

Every Summer the library run a programme to encourage children to read.  This year it was called 'Circus Stars.'  The child gets a sticker with every book they read and if they read any six books over the summer they're invited to a party.  The stickers had special smells, one even smelt of rabbit poo.  My son thought that was the coolest thing ever.

But there is one little happening that made me genuinely love the library and their staff.  A few years ago when I was studying Montessori, I had to write an essay on one of Maria Montessori's comtemporaries.  I think it was Edouard Seguin.  There is not alot of information left about him.  I asked a librarian to see if she could find any books by him or about him.  She found a book 'in the back,'  and it looked ancient.  When I looked at the library's label at the front of the book I saw that it had not been lent for fifty years.  What other treasures are hidden in there???

Long live the libraries, their staff and the treasure trove of books.