My Sister was Singing for Hiliary Clinton

My sister was singing for Hillary Clinton.  I was attending a reading In Trinity College. Late of course, I crawled my way through the rain-inspired traffic that choked the Dublin streets.  Hillary’s convey passed us with a full police escort. We pulled over by Lesson Street as the forerunner guards on high-powered bikes cleared a path through the steamed up, bumper-to-bumper cars. We drummed impatient fingers on steering wheels as official saloons, corporate buses and defence force coaches forged a path like geese through the built up crush of vehicles. As they passed, we swarmed back into the road and carried on with a grim determination as if sheer dint of will would force the car in front to move faster, or to move at all.

My sister was singing for Hillary Clinton. I was hoping to reach Trinity College by 7pm but the traffic and the rain and the convoy were all stealing my precious time away. As I rounded onto Dawson Street, I saw more yellow flashing lights and guards and cars and yellow tape tied across the road. The traffic was corralled down Molesworth Street, which suited me as my destination carpark lay this way, but even as I stretched my rubber neck I could not see the cause of this new and significant disturbance.

The Arts Block door was closed, abutted as it did up against the taped-off junction. I hurried around to the front entrance for Trinity and heard a man ask a guard. “Was anyone hurt,” he said. The guard replied,” Yes,” but refused to give any further information. I hurried on, for I was very late. My sister was signing for Hiliary Clinton.

Racing across the cobble stones, I made the Arts Block at 7:15pm and gained the Edmund Burke Lecture Theatre at 7:20pm. The object of my attention, Sam Shepard, was just being announced. I sat down, warm and flustered, happy not to have missed anything, upset for the accident outside.

I was listening to readings by Sam Shepard. His voice was low and quiet and sometimes I strained to hear. He ran his hand through his hair a lot. He wore glasses and looked up at us, the audience, as he read. He eyes raked first one side of the auditorium, then the other, sharing the largesse of his view.

He made us laugh in places and we saw, rather than heard, the insides of American diners, wood clad houses and porches overlooking lawns. Sometimes his voice rose a little as he launched into the tune of his prose – when you die he repeated. When you die, everything is gone, you see angels, you meet your maker, it’s the end of your life.

My sister was singing for Hilliary Clinton and I was listening to Sam Shepard. I wondered if his car had passed her journey into town.

The cold of a grey, wet, Irish Winter night had gone into Mr Shepard. He sniffed as he read: audible and interruptive.  Towards the end of the hour a harsh female voice from the middle of the theatre told him there was a tissue on the desk. We collectively held our breaths. From her tone, it was hard to hear if she was being considerate or accusatory. Either way, it smacked of rudeness, and we only let go our collective breath when he swatted her comment away as if a fly. He carried on, but sniffed less.

Then he invited his long-time friend and musical legend Patti Smith onto stage with him. She read a piece they had written together, fully clothed and in bed one night. Then they sang a ballad. His creaky voice strangely attractive and her fluid tone melding well in harmony. I wondered if she should be singing for Hilliary Clinton in Dublin that night, instead of my sister.

Afterwards, I shook his hand and told him I had no idea he was so droll. Sam said, “Droll?” “Yes, droll,” I replied and imagined I detected a dislike of the word.  But I shook his hand firmly to tell him how much I enjoyed his droll prose.

The Arts Block entrance was open again and I crossed out beside the tape. It was like a scene from a film set. Two buses, a tent and police cars stacked across the empty street.

I was now to attend an Art House in Dalkey. A friend of a friend, Gerard Byrne, had opened his home to showcase his paintings. A self-taught artistic genius, his paintings were vibrant and colourful. His charcoals were intense and detailed.  I was greeted by his mother who did not know my friend. “Is he handsome?” she asked. Startled, I replied in the affirmative.  Regardless, she fetched me a glass of wine and I wandered through the rooms. The paintings covered every stretch of wall, downstairs and upstairs. I found the charcoal art the most haunting. There was a sketch of a house that I wanted to buy, had I but the funds.

The Babylon sisters sang, their voices melting together like the finest chocolate surprise, all dark and gooey and rich. We joked about the wine. Had Gerry purchased it prior to the budget? We spoke of the country and it floundering under a sea of debt. I mentioned I had shaken Mr Shepard’s hand, had complimented Patti Smith on her singing and had witnessed some form of accident bad enough to cordon off one of the busiest streets in Dublin. I forgot to mention that my sister was singing for Hilliary Clinton.

I reached home at one, tired but quiet. I stacked the children’s dishes into the dishwasher. I put on a kettle for my hot water bottle.  I let the dog out for a run. I turned on my PC and checked my mail. I learnt then a man had fallen under a bus on Dawson Street and had been decapitated.  Foul play was suspected. I had seen the bus and the tent that covered his remains.

My sister had sung for Hilliary Clinton, I had shook Sam Shepard’s hand, complimented Patti Smith on her singing and had seen a charcoal painting I wanted but could not afford. And a man had lost his head and life under the 145 bus on Dawson Street.






Three things I learnt at Trailblazers

The first is that I am not afraid. I wanted to rise up from my seat in the upper Special Criminal Court house and call it out. Colm O’Gorman was speaking. It felt a bit like the eponymous Jeffers’ book: Feel the fear but do it anyway. My heart pounded and I wanted to stand up and call it out but it wasn’t my time and maybe I had confused my emotion with a film from Hollywood. But I felt it very strongly.

The second is the level of propaganda promulgated by the status quo. When Ross Maguire spoke he talked of giving ordinary home owners a break, a time out. He wanted a dignified mechanism that could be implemented without the mortgage holder having to beg for help or worse not been listened to at all. Terms such as debt forgiveness and moral hazard are used by …bankers. How dare they? The purveyors of Usury should not be allowed to dictate the ethics of our society. For that is at the very nub of this problem. We are a society of individuals who have come together to create our world. Service providers, such as finance houses, are there to fit into our cultural, moral and ethical rules. Bankers should not dictate what is right in our society. Politicians are there to regulate how various different service providers in our society behave. We, the people, elect the politicians to make the laws, not the banks.  So we have to stop listening to banking propaganda and believing it to be true, especially when they use terms laden with emotive meanings. If the financial processes in our society are broken, then we need to fix them.  We have been brain washed to believe the rapacious banker who evicts a family from their home is right. We didn’t believe that when the English did it, so why do we believe it when our own do it?

The third thing I learnt is that people are caring. I sat next to a couple who were both self-employed and have a large mortgage. They were doing okay. Thankfully they were able to meet repayments but it wasn’t easy. These are the very people we are told who will not have ‘debt forgiveness’ or ‘debt breaks’ or any leniency for families in financial trouble. We are told that we cannot look afresh at debt for those in trouble on account of this couple and their elk. Bankers and politicians tell us that the people paying their mortgages will not countenance that sort of help for people in default. Well, guess what? That is not true. The couple I met were very concerned. They expressed great worry for home owners in debt. They wanted those people to be helped, to be given a time out, a break. There but for the grace of God was their view. If their neighbour was in danger of losing their home, then they wanted to see that family helped, not thrown to the wolves. “Why should we wish to penalise families who are in danger of losing their homes?” they asked wide eyed. “We would want to see them helped.”

I literally sat there with my mouth open. This couple were not unique. They do not want to see people’s lives ruined and their homes taken from them. I believe there are more caring and compassionate people like this in Ireland than those mythical vindictive people we are told about. It is a propaganda of the most damning to stop us as a society questioning the rights of the banks over the people. This couple are the future of Ireland; kind, compassionate, hard-working and caring. And do you know, they are not unique. They are quintessentially Irish. What is not Irish is this culture of hitting the vulnerable and making us all afraid to question how we run our country and how we live our lives. We are no longer under the yolk and we need to take back our autonomy from those who would protect their ivory towers and hide behind banking rhetoric and lies.

This budget is yet another example of the polarisation of our society. This blog is not about the budget – but there is no doubt that the rich are protected and the poor are affected. There were no cuts to the politicians’ salaries and pensions and indeed their expenses will rise with the vouched route. Turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind.

Finally, (and a sneaky fourthly) I learnt from Maria Doyle Kennedy that singing is better than sex and chocolate. If you don’t believe me, watch it here