I Hate Meeces To Pieces…….

There’s a mouse in the house. It’s a dead mouse. Or, at least, I think it’s dead. I haven’t been able to screw up the courage to open the press and verify the life-status of said animal.

On Monday, I went to make some bread. I opened the cereal cupboard. Uh-oh. Mouse droppings, oats and bits of shredded Flahavan’s Organic Oats packet were visible. I shut the press as quickly as I’d opened it. And I haven’t opened it since.

On Wednesday, my friend, Seán called around. I persuaded him to set the trap that I’d had since a vermin visitation a few weeks ago. (That time, I called Rentokill but baulked at paying €260 to get rid of a mouse. My youngest daughter set the trap. My sister got rid of it.) Anyway, Seán set the trap on Wednesday and I can only assume that it worked. I haven’t gathered up the courage to check.

I have a phobia when it comes to rodents. It’s not merely a dainty, girly squeal and a screwing up of my nose. It’s a constriction in my throat,  shaking, difficulty breathing, horrific visual images and whimpering like I’m facing down the barrel of a loaded gun. In short, a full-blown panic attack. The man from Rentokil recommended hypnotherapy. Bless him.

So I’m sitting here, fully aware that there is probably a decomposing mouse in the press in my kitchen. I am aware that decomposing mice smell and that sooner or later, the decomposing mouse in the press in my kitchen will start to smell as well. I have no option but to enlist the help of some friend or relative.  I’ll have to put up with their feigned (at least I hope it’s feigned) martyrdom at my girlyness and their retelling of the episode – complete with embellishments – for some time to come.

Still, it’s not as if I can do it myself. It’s one of the things a husband could be useful for. I’d happily trade a few hours of sex for rotting rodent removal. I’d even throw in a good meal and a few laundered shirts to sweeten the deal.


Now that I think about it, there are a number of ways in which a (new) husband could be useful. I’ll blog about them later in the  week.


The Murphy Report

The Murphy Report was released the day before yesterday.  Since then, the government, clergy, gardaí and other concerned bodies and individuals have been howling in indignation.
People are being condemned left, right and centre for allowing Irish children to be sexually abused; for abusing the children, for hushing it up and for doing nothing when they were informed.

But here’s a newsflash – this report is not an indictment of the Irish Catholic Clergy – it is an indictment of the Irish as a people.  We stand by as our children are abused. We turn away from them and then, when faced with an incontrovertible truth, rend our garments and cry ‘Why didn’t they say something?’

The questions, instead, should be ‘Why didn’t we listen when they told us’ (even non-verbal communication is disclosure) and ‘Why didn’t we do something?’

As someone whose earliest memory – before I was even three years old – is of being sexually abused, I feel I know a thing or two about this subject.  I’m not afraid to speak out. The only thing that stops me naming those who abused me is that there has been no prosecution. The DPP – despite confessions – decided against prosecution because ‘there wasn’t enough evidence’.

But it’s not just now that I refuse to hold my tongue.  As a young teenager – when I finally found out that what was happening to me on a nearly daily basis was not ‘normal’ – I spoke out. I looked for help. I was desperate to be rescued from hell.

I told ‘responsible adults’ who told me that ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘men are like that’. I told a respected psychiatrist in Crumlin Childrens’ Hospital. Her response? She called – no, not the Gardaí, or social services don’t be silly! – but one of the people who was abusing me and told him, in very coded language that she knew what he was doing. Did he stop? Not on your nelly! He ‘taught me a lesson’ so I’d learn to keep my mouth shut and ‘stop spreading my filth’.  (As you can see, I’m a slow learner!)

My friends, out of concern, told their parents, who said ‘Shhh! That’s private family business. We can’t interfere.’

In the past year, I have learnt that, at one stage, a delegation of my teenaged friends went to the headmistress of our school (a nun) and told her of their very real concerns that I was going to kill myself. Her response?  ‘You’re all good girls – don’t worry about Hazel and her problems. Don’t let that distract you from your studies.’  I heard that and felt almost defiant for still being alive, 20 years later.

So my point is that ‘the church’ did not abuse these children – ‘the country’ did, because it permitted the abuse in so many ways and on so many levels. And what you permit, you promote.


Inter Country Adoption

An article in yesterday’s Irish Independent caught my eye and brought to the surface feelings of discomfort that I have around inter-country adoptions.  Or, more precisely, inter-racial  (although I hate that term!) adoptions.

You see, I am not entirely sure that adopting children from other cultures and bringing them up in another culture is really in that child’s best interests. I am not naïve – I have been to India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam and I have seen for myself the abject poverty and atrocious circumstances these children are born into.  And of course I am not suggesting that if they could be given a better life, it should be denied them – but I question whether or not that better life can only be provided outside their country of birth.

My intention is not to be glib – I understand the pain of childlessness and considered adoption – but was married to a man who wouldn’t countenance it. I was lucky that I eventually (after 13 years of trying) did conceive.  My children are half-Indian and there is no dad in their lives, so it is up to me to provide their Irish-ness and their Indian-ness. This I do as best I can. The deep awareness and understanding of their cultural and religious background makes this easier for me. We go back to India as often as my purse will allow and we have friends who are Indian Hindus both here and in India. Still, I find integration can sometimes be difficult.

Identity is a huge issue for all of us. We all want to know who we are and where we came from. Is it fair on these children to bring them up in a family that they are obviously adopted into?  It is obvious from first glance that they weren’t born to their parents and there is an immediate sense of dislocation. They are marked as ‘different’ from the start; and all sorts of presumptions are made about them and their parents – both birth and adoptive.  What does this do to their sense of self, their sense of belonging, their sense of security? Of course I understand that a child is better off in a loving home than dead, but I have to question if anyone has the right to remove a child from the country and culture into which they were born and transport them across the globe. There are other solutions – foster parents in their own countries of birth, for example.

The dirty nasty truth is that, for as long as there are foreigners prepared to pay for them – no matter how that payment is dressed up – children will be sold into adoption and women will be coerced into surrendering children they don’t particularly want to surrender. It happened in Ireland not so long ago  – remember?

There are plenty of children  in Ireland who need loving homes. Many children in long-term foster care simply cannot be adopted by their foster parents because our laws prohibit such adoptions. Maybe, rather than decrying the laws of other countries we should lobby our own government to have our laws changed.


Off With Their Hands!

They should be grateful we’re not living in Saudi. If we were, they would probably have their hands cut off and I, for one, would not object. I’m not referring to petty thieves – or even the corporate thieves like our bankers and lawyers – but to people who drive and talk on their mobile phones without using their hands-free kits.

What is wrong with these people? Run a red light, overtake me on a dangerous bend, speed if you absolutely must but for God’s sake, put down your blasted phone when you are driving.

Do they think they have special powers denied the rest of us mere mortals? Do these people think that the laws on driving while using a mobile phone don’t apply to them because they are such fantastic, talented drivers that they can do both?

Because if that is what they think, they should have their licences permanently revoked on the grounds that they are delusional and, therefore, a threat to the rest of the road users.

Yesterday was a typical morning. I took the kids to school, drove around to my sister’s, drove her to work and drove home. In total, it was a round trip of about 20 miles undertaken from 8.40am until 10.30am. On that trip, I counted no fewer than 27 drivers who were on their phones and driving at the same time. Most notably, was a man in a truck who was stopped, waiting to turn right onto the motorway at Maynooth. I had had to stop to allow the person in front of me turn left in order to get on the motorway. So I stayed stopped and motioned to the man in the truck that I was allowing him to turn. He couldn’t complete the manoeuvre immediately, however, because he was on the phone!

Maybe I encountered so many phone-drivers because I live on the Dublin-Kildare border, where people are more likely to use their phones while driving

According to the UK Department for Transport, you are four times more likely to crash while driving and talking on your phone.

Just like drink-driving, there is no excuse for this behaviour – unless you’re calling the fire services, the Gardaí or an ambulance in reaction to a genuine accident (not one you’ve caused because you were driving while on the phone).  This is also not a new law – it was introduced on September 01, 2006.  The penalty for driving and using a phone without a hands-free kit is two points on your licence and a fine not to exceed €2,000.

Obviously, this is not enough of a deterrent when you see the amount of people rabbiting on roundabouts, overtaking while orating, and speeding while speaking on their mobile phones.

Obviously, the penalties currently in place are no disincentive, so I propose something slightly more creative.  Every person caught driving while on their mobiles should be forced to spend a week going about their daily business with one hand tied behind their backs. That should do it.


Lighting Up My Life

Years ago, when I started writing for profit, I read how ‘profit’ doesn’t have to be just cold, hard, cash; and how competitions (this newsletter is full of them) where your literary talent garners you top prize,  even if the competition isn’t ‘literary’, can still be counted as ‘writing successes’. I wasn’t sure I agreed with this – until yesterday.

Last night, my eldest daughter had the honour of turning on the Christmas lights on Dublin’s Grafton Street (with a little bit of help from Westlife).  This came about because I entered a competition in her name (you had to be between 5 &10) for the job of switching on the lights. In order to win, you had to answer three questions and complete the slogan ‘Dublin City Centre is magic at Christmas because….’. My ending was: ‘when the heart of the Capital lights up, the hearts of the Capital light up as well.’

Turning on the lights would have been enough. But there was more – there was so much more. First off, my little one was treated like royalty from the time we arrived at Powerscourt Town Centre (at 4pm!) until we left Bewley’s two hours later. Everyone from the PR ladies, to the Executives of Brown Thomas and Bewley’s, to the Lord Mayor, to the officials from Dublin City Council, to the very gracious David Brennan of Dublin City Business Association to Martin King, Louis Walsh and the members of Westlife treated my daughter – and, indeed, her sister and myself – with utmost courtesy, kindness and consideration.

But there was more. The traders of Grafton Street – most notably HMV, Bewley’s and Brown Thomas – put together a huge hamper for us as well. My daughter, who is seven, would actually fit into this basket, I kid you not.  It contained goods and vouchers worth approximately €1,000.

Best of all, though, was the joy, excitement and sheer pleasure my daughters both experienced as a result of my penning the winning entry – which included a live interview with Tom Dunne on Newstalk this morning. It was a good result for ten minutes’ writing work.

So while, on this occasion, my writing may not have earned me a place in the halls of literary fame, it did enrich my family on a number of levels, and it did give my children memories they will treasure forever – which is surely, the most rewarding profit of all.