Archive for ‘Children’


For me it was when I was 4…

…then again at 7, but first time first. We lived in a huge mobile home in a field owned by my grandparents in pretty much the most isolated part of mainland Ireland. It was…okay I guess. I don’t really remember much apart from the dogs. Everybody had a dog. My grandparents had a border collie named Candy, my grand-aunt a border collie named, I don’t remember that makes me sad, I loved that dog. Anyway I had a border collie mix named Charlie, who I found out this year was put down the day we left; he went mad when I went away, and after nearly killing my uncle as they drove home from the train station my uncle was forced to drown my lovely 2-year-old dog so he wouldn’t end up crashing the car. I get it, but I hate it. It says a lot that that dog is still my 2nd clearest memory of Mayo, and that I still miss him 30 years later.

I say second strongest memory because my strongest memory is the time I told my Mom that I was a girl. I can remember standing in the tiny kitchen with her, watching her make scones, and then blurting it out. I was 4, I was already trying to read, already had had so many nightmares that they’d stopped scaring me, and I already knew something had gone horribly wrong with me. My body felt like a loaner. It felt like a stop gap while my real body was being finished. It didn’t feel like it was mine. Oh and it was already becoming sick, I started to have the bowel problems that have plagued my entire life since in those 2 short years in Mayo. But, time to focus on what’s important here; the gender.

So I’d told my Mom I was a girl. You know who liked dogs, and calves, and guns, and building random things, and hid all the time (like a soldier) with my dog in the tall grass at the edges of the field, you know, a girl…with a penis. And her response was…


No response. None at all. Now the fact that my Mom has absolutely memory of this at all makes me think that she actually didn’t hear me. Mom is a very quiet woman, but she’s a noisy baker, so it’s likely that she didn’t. But tell that to a 4-year-old who’s just told her Mom that penis and boy-play-stuff aside, she’s a girl. Yeah it all got put in a small box, locked up tight, and fucked down the deepest darkest part of my psyche. And there it stayed ’til I was 7.

7 was a big year for me. I started Primary School, I had my First Communion…ugh, got my first watch, discovered Virginia Madsen, and got molested for the first time.

The last part would be the part that’s pertinent here. You see I hadn’t had any sexual awakening at that stage. None, at, all. I was a blank sexual state, on a blank gender slate, all balanced on an already geeky as hell slate. So it probably shouldn’t be surprising to me that having my sexual nature activated in just about the worst way possible, against my will, and far too early for me would have a secondary effect. Yup my boxed up gender hit a trampoline somewhere down that deep dark hole, and then it bounced back up into the light of day, walloping me in the teeth, and adding immeasurably to my misery.

I told my Mom again, and again she doesn’t remember this. I don’t remember her response, I don’t even remember if there was a response. But whatever happened when I told her it was almost 2 decades before I would tell her again, this time making sure it stuck. In the mean time I hid who I was. I hid what was being done to me all the time. Well really I hid everything that makes me me.

This is all by way of sharing my early experience of my own gender. Why?

Because the video below shows how to (mostly, and even where she got it wrong it’s totally understandable) get it right if your child ever comes to you with something similar. But how to get it right is summed up best in these words…

Pay attention to what they say, and don’t dismiss it. They know themselves in a way you never will.


Some things I wish I’d been told as a kid (or as a teen even).

Sitting down to play Diablo 3 the other night I was suddenly hit by something. There are so many simple, but mostly happy lessons I wish could have been taught to me when I was younger. Things I wish someone had been either willing, or able to tell me when I was a lot younger. So I decided to list off a few of them, who knows they might even help someone else.

Patience really is usually rewarded: For those who don’t know it, Diablo 3 had over a decade of build up to its release. Seriously, 12 years of waiting semi-patiently for the next part in the adventure. And guess what? The wait was worth it, worth every single second. It’s every bit as good, as exciting, as generally wonderful as I’d hoped. And so was Diablo 2 after the 6 years it took for me to finally have a PC that could run it.

I genuinely owned a copy of Diablo 2 for 6 years, but never got to play it because no PC or Laptop I owned in that time was able to run it. But I kept the faith. I was patient. And eventually I got to play it, and I did for three solid months. Patience really is sometimes rewarded.

You’ll get to do it when you’re older, and older isn’t that far away: My family were never well off. I don’t like to imagine the sacrifices my mother made to allow me to do the things I did get to do like rock climbing, scouting, owning a computer (Amstrad 6128). Because I know we didn’t really have the money for any of it. But even so there were so many things I wanted to experience when I was a child, and a teen.

I never owned a Nerf-gun, or a super soaker. My brother owned first a NES, and later a Megadrive (Genesis if you’re in the States). But we could afford maybe a game every six months or so. And the rentable ones in our town were parts of a very limited stock. Besides this was the 90’s there were over half a dozen consoles out there, and hundreds of games. Hell let’s make this simpler, I never really had nice clothes that I liked back then. I’m not talking labels here either, even then I wasn’t that dumb. Just nice jeans in a style I would have enjoyed wearing, or a jumper that hadn’t been either a: knitted, or b: owned by a cousin.

But you know what? Time passed, I reached a stage where I had money of my own, and the freedom to choose for myself. I got to own Nerf-guns (love them! ‘Specially the modded dieselpunked ones), I have emulators for every console, as well as roms for every game I ever wanted to play. And my wardrobe is filled with clothes that I like, admittedly almost all of them are secondhand, but they’re still the ones I want.

Time passes, and as it does you have more freedom of personal choice. I chose to stay a kid at heart. Admittedly a kid with really big boobs, but still a kid. Wanna Nerf-war? Huh huh? Do ya?!

Monsters are real. but they get beaten/die just like anything else: My mother, in fact every responsible adult in my life when I was growing up told me that monsters weren’t real. They were wrong. Either they didn’t know, or they just plain lied. But there are monsters in the world. Lot’s of them, and some of them got their claws into me when I was too young, and weak to defend myself against them.

I genuinely don’t believe that the adults in my life did me any favors. If I’d known there were monsters out there. If I’d been told that they look just the other people you meet on the street, but that they always ultimately reveal themselves. If I’d been told that they can be beaten, and how to beat them, I may not have had the horrors in my childhood that I had to deal with.

That’s what I wish someone had said to me.

You don’t need to feel guilty over saying “No!”: This one is equal to my wish I’d known about the monsters, because it would have saved me so much heartache over the years. Because I’m a very Dominant personality I have a really strong drive to make sure everyone in my life is safe, and happy. The sight of someone I care about looking sad, upset, even bored is physically painful to me. So I tend to say yes to most things (things that will be safe, and/or productive), even when I know the cost to me will be too high. But this is not just because I want them to smile, it’s also because of the gut-wrenching guilt I feel when I say no.

I’ve gone on nights out knowing that I’ll spend the next week going from the bedroom to the bathroom.

I’ve accepted compromises in my love life which actually reduced my self-respect far too much to be healthy.

I’ve quite simply said yes to things which I should never, ever say yes to.

I don’t do this anymore. I have a boyfriend right now. He’s a real sweetheart, and a boylesquer (suck on that girls. :-P). And recently I was supposed to go see him perform. The thing is between his asking me, and the night in question my health took a serious nose-dive. Before I would have still gone, and damn the consequences, consequences which for me would have been dire. But instead I said “No.” I didn’t want to say that. I wanted to go and watch the other girls in the audience lust after my boy, while I sketched him. But I still did the right thing, I stayed at home and rested.

It may not have been a pleasant sacrifice, but it means that I’ll recover quicker, and for longer. It means more higher quality time with him in the future, instead of less, and lesser quality time last week.

It’s nice to have learned not to feel quite as guilty about it either, even if that lesson took the better part of 30 years.

Well anyway there are many more of these. And I bet you have a few too, want to share them?


Two Children Thrown to Their Deaths in Italy.

I was going to post something about the Stability Treaty referendum which goes to the polls on the 31st of this month. Then I read something in the news that shook me.

Today, well yesterday now, a 41-year-old man in Italy threw his 4-year-old and 14 month old children from a 6th floor balcony, and then threw himself after them. I don’t really know what to say to it. It just leaves me with a hollow, sickened feeling in my chest. What could drive a father, who was presumably loving, to murder his children, and then follow them? Will we have a version of this play out in our own country before much longer?

The best part of being a child is knowing that the whole future lies ahead. There’s always tomorrow for a new adventure…

I just don’t have words for this, except maybe to say that suicide is most often a tragedy, but robbing two children, your children, of their lives while you do it is beyond comprehension.


Being an abuse survivor. Part 2. It can happen to anyone.

(The following article is written from a very a personal view point, and should be read as such.)

The most horrifying part of being abused is how alone it makes you feel. You’re absolutely certain that you’re the only person in the world it’s happening to. What’s worse is that it’s happening to you because there’s something about you that makes you special, makes you cursed, in all the wrong sorts of ways.

I can so clearly remember feeling this way, back when I was being sexually abused. I was so certain that what was happening to me couldn’t possibly be happening to anyone else. The world simply could not be such a horrible place as to allow that. Of course this was back in the early to mid 90’s when the full horror of the sex abuse which we now know was, and possibly still is, rampant in Ireland had yet to be revealed. It was those revelations which would finally lifted the lid on one of the dirty little secrets of childhood sexual, and physical abuse.

It can happen to anyone.

While it’s more likely that a child from a deprived background will be targeted, in truth abusers don’t care. If a child can be groomed, can be brought to that place of loneliness, fear, and vulnerability where they will accept being abused, then the abuser will do so. Regardless of that child’s background. Over the years I’ve known child abuse survivors who came from wealthy families, I’ve known survivors who came from the most deprived of backgrounds, I’ve known survivors who have learning, and physical disabilities.

So again, it can happen to anyone. Station is no real defence.

Realising, and accepting this fact can be a key step in becoming a survivor, rather than simply living as a victim. Simply because it can be the step that strips away the illusion that you were cursed. It can be the first step in comprehending one simple fact. Abusers are opportunitistic predators. They will take any opportunity that might even possibly lead to their being able to feed their appetites. And you were unfortunate enough to be in the line of sight when something about you pinged their radar.

It can happen to anyone, because the dumb bad luck of being in a predators line of sight at the wrong moment, or often moments, quite simply obeys the laws of probability.

In the next part I’m going to go extremely personal, and delve into how I believe I came to be targeted by my childhood abusers.

Link to Part 1.

Link to Part 3


My PC is a game day player.

Okay I think it’s quite clear to one and all that I love computers. I mean in the last 11 months how many of my pieces have been about computers, or peripherals, or games? I couldn’t tell you, but a lot of them. Well yesterday (Wednesday 28th) I was actually dumbfounded by my PC. I’d always liked it but…well allow me to spin you a tale.

You see my Partner in Crime has two granddaughters, aged 5 and 8. The 5-year-old is of course the oft mentioned Force of Nature. And like all young children who are cousins when they get together hyperactivity occurs. Well the thing is my PC is in the kitchen, and I have this really comfy office chair, which spins. You can see where this is going right?

So I’m sitting in my bedroom practicing my ukulele, while my PiC entertains her family. Suddenly I hear this unholy crashing sound. Assuming one of them has made complete wreckage of something that belongs to me, and relieved that it can’t be either my mandolin or ukulele because they were on my bed with me, I simply went on playing. After all bad news can wait a while, especially when you’re making good progress with a new piece of music, for once.  A little while later the FoN comes in looking nervous.

“Here it comes.” I thought.

“I’m sorry for breaking your puter.”

Apparently my poor PC met with a high velocity chair back, went flying off of its desk, and landed with the afore-mentioned unholy crash on a tiled floor. Ah fudge monkeys.

So they leave, and I try to reboot my poor abused PC. And blow me but it starts up. Great. Oh buggery, no video, the graphics cards had it. Hardly the end of the world though as I do have a new one waiting to be installed. But me being me, I had to have a go at getting it working again. Apart comes the PC, a quick once over and then back together again. And here I now sit typing out this article on a machine that took a 3 foot header onto a tiled floor less than 24 hours before.

Damn I love this machine, my PC is now officially a tougher nut than its owner, though I am definitely nuttier!

Happy New Year folks.


Hey, that’s smurftastic

And so it came to pass that a granny, an intrepid blogger and a Force of Nature did travel to Liffey Valley.

And there the intrepid blogger did purchase three tickets for the Smurfs, and it was good.

But we should start at the beginning.  You see the whole excursion began with the Force of Nature asking me if I would ask her granny if we could all go to see The Smurfs.  Now to be honest, being myself a true child of the 80’s, I kind of wanted to see the new, modern interpretation of one of my favourite childhood cartoon shows.  I mean in all fairness who could have guessed that Hollywood would take Alvin and the Chipmunks, add some CGI and give us comic gold, complete with two squeakuels to date.  So I figured a few quid spent on The Smurfs might not be wasted money, and better yet it would distract the Force from another battery of what I like to think of as the “Awkward Questions Game”.

Still, Granny of course said, yes.  So this afternoon (yesterday afternoon by the time you’re reading this) we all bundled in to Baby, my partners pretty Ford Puma, and took a drive to the nearest cinema, which happens to be in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.

Now this blog is technically supposed to be a review so I perhaps a little reviewy (yes it’s a real word, I just used it therefore it’s real, don’t make me kick the smurf outta ya) stuff should now creep in.  The cinema in Liffey Valley is run by Vue. The cinema itself is pretty nice.  The seats are comfy, the popcorn is both hot and nicely salty and most importantly you don’t worry about being glued in place by sticky floors, because they’re not. Sticky, that is.  However Vue have a website where you’re supposed to be able to buy your tickets, with nice deals, and so save yourself the hassle of queueing with the Luddites in the entrance.  Nice theory, except for the fact that they charge €2.50 to allow you the privilege of paying them with your credit card. This would be a “so what?” situation, if it didn’t mean that it would have been at least that much cheaper to buy my ticket in the cinema itself…guess which I did? I don’t like nastiness like that.

So yeah, lovely cinema, no sticky floors, but avoid the website unless you don’t mind paying extra for the chance or it’s to get that must have ticket for the first ever screening…yadda yadda.

And, back to The Smurfs.  We arrived about an hour early so a little shopping was in order.  For myself copies of Mass Effect, Assassins Creed and Dead Space were purchased from Game, so there goes my free time for the next three months.  Meanwhile Granny and the Force were busy mooching around New Look.  Mooching is apparently best defined as ” in depth window shopping with intent to actually shop later”.  So I arrive delighted with myself for getting a great deal on three games, while they’re mid-mooch. The Force however is not impressed.  She wants her goddess damned Smurfs and she wants them NOW! She communicates this wish my informing me in a loud voice, that we’re not to look in anymore shops.  Each word is of course accompanied by its own individual foot stomp.  How cute. We, that is Granny and I, of course spend an extra 15 minutes in New Look for absolutely no reason what-so-ever.

Fast forward to the movie.  Usually watching a movie with the Force is an exercise in the application of supreme patience, as she asks “What’s happening now?  Who’s he?  Why are they doing that?  What’s happening now?” and of course the classic “Can I go pee?” over and over and over, until your brains have reached the consistency of overcooked semolina, and drain out through your nostrils.

Today though the Force was amazingly good.  She didn’t ask anything. She just sat there and watched The Smurfs with a big happy grin on her face.  No, it was all the other kids that had  me wishing for a bastard-sword, some space to swing it, and the rapid passage through Parliament of new legislation. Legislation legalizing the use of extreme late-term abortion…you know, between the 12th and 25th trimesters when the potential abortee is annoying me in the cinema.

That should tell you something about the movie.  I was actually enjoying it.  Sure, it has Doogie Houser in the lead human role.  And yes it has that annoying redhead from the equally annoying Epic Movie as his wife.  But the Smurfs, oh gods the Smurfs.  They’re everything I remembered from my childhood.  Cute, funny, quick-witted, brilliantly rendered by CGI and blue.  The story is surprisingly fun, and putting the little blue ones in New York, actually works.

The producers also achieved something disturbingly amazing.  Somehow, they managed to make Smurfette, the only female Smurf, a creature who is – and I quote, “Three apples tall”, sort of sexy. It does help that she’s voiced by Katy Perry, who singing talent or lack there-of aside, does have a sexy speaking voice. But…well let’s put it this way, Avatar made me want a tail, or at least a girlfriend who has one.  The Smurfs and Smurfette in particular, will almost definitely lead to a new large outbreak of size related, well let’s called them adult cartoon drawings, on the internet.

So now the last review bit. The Smurfs, it’s a good movie. It’s not going to win Oscars, but it’s fun, sweet, funny and well worth viewing.  Oh and it has the approval of the Force of Nature.  She said she enjoyed it.

And then went looking for some ice cream, one scoop of bubblegum, one scoop of mint.  Well ain’t that just smurfelicious.


Straight out of the mouths of babes, while you’re trying to be good.

I have written before about the Force of Nature. We often babysit her, which is needless to say always a joyous, wonderful, stress-filled evening for two of the three of us.  However the darling child does sometimes visit with her mother, like she did just this Sunday past.

Now I suffer from frequent migraine.  For anyone who has been lucky enough to have never experienced a migraine, I shall now take a short diversion and describe one.  To start with, imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had.  Now add the distinct sensation of an elephant, wearing hob-nailed boots, standing on the side of your head.  As if standing on your head while wearing hob-nails wasn’t bad enough, now the leathery arsed git starts to jump up and down, in perfect time to the beats of your heart.  But wait kids, it gets so much worse.  Suddenly, every little noise feels, weirdly, like someone stabbing you through the eyes with a pair of red-hot knitting needles.  That’s in addition to the other two white-hot knitting needles, which find their way there every time you see anything even the slightest bit bright.  Bright things like those slight shadows you see while lying in a pitch black room.

I love the Force of Nature.  Adore the little troll.  She has the brightest smile I’ve ever seen.  Gives the most powerful hugs, the most healing hugs, I’ve ever experienced.  She’s a little wonder.

She is also very accurately described by the title Force of Nature.  Though admittedly usually not for the first few minutes after she arrives.  So Sunday the Force of Nature and Mommy arrive for a nice Sunday dinner.  Force of Nature has her face buried into Mommy’s shoulder and is playing it coy.  This playing it coy, is something which only comes out when she arrives with Mommy.  When we pick her up she’s usually all energy, bouncing, talk and more talk.   But Sunday she was in coy mode.

And apparently starving.  The Force of Nature’s eyes are often much bigger than her belly.  But that’s fine, after all that’s what puppies named Winter are for, clearing up the remains of small dinners left behind by small girls.  So Sunday was a typical dinner with the Force, lots of “I want, I want, I want.”, followed closely by “I’m full now.”, when only four or five mouthfuls have actually been consumed.

What many probably don’t realise is that “I’m full now.” actually has a very specific meaning when it is uttered by the very young.  That being,  “I’m full now, but I still want jelly and ice cream…can I have jelly and ice cream now?”  The last part is always said in what the Force thinks is a very cute endearing manner.  But what actually comes out is a whining noise that makes certain women very glad that the universe has seen fit to grant them the gift of sterility.

Of course, she gets her jelly and ice cream.  Though not without a lot of face-making and eventually having the word “please” physically dragged out with white-hot tongs.  But for all that, moments later a very happy and vocal Force of Nature is up to her ears in jelly and ice cream.

The chatter is flowing, and the Force has spent ten minutes parroting back everything, everyone else says.  Anyone, who has been around young children for more than thirty seconds, will have encountered this at some stage or other. A darling little girl or boy, suddenly takes it into their head to repeat verbatim, everything that is said around them.  While a little irritating it usually ranks a mere 5 on the justifiable homicide scale of young kids being annoying.  This puts it far behind continuously asking “Are we there yet?” which ranks a good solid 8 on the same scale.

Usually ranks a 5, that word usually is very important here. Remember that migraine I described?  Well guess who had a truly horrific one on Sunday?  Want to guess how much higher on the justifiable homicide scale that migraine puts parroting by a young child?  No, oh no, not an 8.  Look behind you.  See that figure 8 way back there on the horizon?  That should give you a clue.

Well anyway, after listening to this parroting, for more minutes than my fragile sanity could handle. I Amanda Harper said in a joking voice to the Force of Nature,

“You know Force of Nature, sometimes, you really are a pain in the derriere.”

The Force of Nature, between big mouthfuls of jelly and ice cream smiles back and replies,

“You know Amanda, sometimes you really are a pain in the…ASS!”

Let this be a lesson to you all.  Never mind that you had all the best intentions in the world.  Never mind, that you have castrated your swearing abilities for 4 years out of a sense of responsibility.  Never mind that the pain in your head has you thinking dark, dark thoughts.  The facts of the matter are that laughing hard with a migraine only leads to more suffering and little, angelic-looking 4-year-old trolls probably know more swear words than you do.

So buggery to being good.


My daily newspaper and the four year old girl.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am deeply involved with an older woman, who in addition to owning a sexy little car and an even sexier body is the proud grandmother to a four-year old, who will henceforth be known as the Force of Nature.  A Force of Nature for whom we of course occasionally babysit.  Now don’t get me wrong I adore the little rug rat.  She’s cheeky, funny, sweet, actually plays Minecraft (well beats up the sheep and cows anyway) and she also does a great thick Dublin accent.  Hearing her say “Winter” as “Weeeiinthaaar”, is without a doubt one of the funniest moments in any day.  But as great as she is to babysit, there is one period when minding her is torture.  I speak of course about the morning after.

I am not by any means a morning person. For example I consider 9am in exactly the same way that I think of 5am.  It’s the middle of the frikkin night, now shut up and let me sleep.  As someone who deals with a lot of physical pain on a daily basis and so suffers from insomnia,  I have come to absolutely treasure my sleep.  But our semi-resident four-year old is of the considered opinion that, when she is awake we should all be awake.  Yes that’s correct dearest reader, night ends when her eyes open and the whole world has to wake up, ready to service her every whim.

Even on a morning when I manage to sleep late, I have certain habits which help me to wake up and ease into the day.  Usually I wake up, take some medications and while I wait for them to work I get what housekeeping needs doing, done.  Then I sit down at my PC with a couple of slices of toast and a very lesbian (fruit) tea, then the digital editions of various morning newspapers are devoured.  I love reading my morning newspapers.  I love taking small sips of scalding hot lesbian tea and diving into the analysis segments.  Even more I truly enjoy reading the loony bin and crack pot thinking shared with the world in any daily papers “Letters to the Editor” segment.  It brings me joy.

But not on the mornings when the Force of Nature has been to stay.  Those mornings are usually typified by variations on the following conversation.

Force of Nature,  still dressed in the pajamas she point-blank refuses to get out of, walks up just as I finish opening up all of the articles I want to read on their individual browser tabs.   “Amanda.”

I smile lovingly, having forgotten for the moment the last ten times this has happened.  “Yes Force of Nature?”

“Can I play my game?”  Referring of course to Minecraft.

“When I’m finished with what I’m doing.”


I start to read the first article and about half way through a voice comes from behind me.


“Yes Force of Nature?”

“When will that be?”

I swallow, my mouth is unaccountably dry.  Oh Goddesses, I think to myself,  it’s started again.

“I’ll be finished when I’m finished.  You need to learn some patience madam.”


I finish my first article and swallowing another delicious mouthful of good lesbian tea I hear from behind me, “Amanda..?”

Oh dear Goddess, “What Force of Nature?”

“Are you done now?  Can we play my game now?”

“No I am not done, I will tell you when I’m finished.  Now if you don’t leave me in peace to read, we won’t play your game at all today.”

“Bu..bu..but. NANNY Amanda won’t play my game with me!”

In walks my beautiful partner. “Now Force of Nature, she already told you that you can play when she’s finished.”

“Bu…but Naaaaanny!”

This of course goes on in much the same vein for quite some time and by the end my brains have half melted and poured out of one of my ears.  I Amanda Harper, a dominatrix of an obscure school of BDSM am a broken woman, who wants nothing more than to curl up with a teddy bear and sob for hours.  Only two thoughts now echo in my mind.

1: Thank you Goddesses for my being sterile.


2: My partner in addition to being hotness personified is a living saint.  She raised three of those and didn’t find herself in prison for manslaughter.


A very Irish form of apartheid.

Ireland in many ways is a very odd country.  Mostly it manifests itself in harmless idiosyncrasies. But just occasionally it comes out in the form of certain “harmless” traditions.  The worst of these comes in the form of our tradition of forced indoctrination, otherwise known as baptism.

Yes I do realise that I am painting a big target on my back by posting this, but there are things that need to be said.  I was, like most people in the Irish state, given no choice in my faith as a child.  At a very tender age, when the highlight of any day was finding something new to chew and suck on, I was baptised into a cult which some people, myself included, now see as an illegal organisation, the Catholic church.  This act immediately opened up for me a vast panorama of opportunities for both education and abuse.

Now while this post, could so easily turn into just another church bashing exercise, that is not what I wish to speak about today.  Instead I want to call into question what I have already named “forced indoctrination”.  I also want to speak about how the integration of faith and state leads not to equality, but instead to some citizens being more equal than others.

Let us start then with the children.  An Irish child baptised into the Catholic faith is certain to receive a relatively good primary education. An education which their parents will most like approve of.  Mixed in with the lessons on maths, Irish, English and all the other essentials of a good Irish education will be catechism.  Half an hour per day of being taught how to be a good Catholic.  Leaving aside the fact that this, 2.5 hours of class time would probably be better spent making sure the child is actually literate, what does it say about Ireland?

It certainly shows how deep the concept of faith is ingrained into our society.  When you consider that other countries, the USA being a prime example, consider the religious education of children to be the parents responsibility, it does shed light on an unsettling fact about Ireland.  Ireland is still a Catholic nation.

Of course this is rubbish.  Ireland has always had and always will have its atheists, protestants, muslims, jews and pagans.  But you only have to look at our laws and the constitution from which they spring to see the special position granted to Catholicism by our nation.  Many people in Ireland will say “So what?”

To those people I say this, think back to your days in school.  Did you even know one person who wasn’t a Catholic?  I know I didn’t.  In fact it wasn’t until my early teens, when I started to travel around Ireland that, I came into contact with fellow Irish citizens, people who believed in our shared  country as fervently as I do but who were of any other faith.  Even then, it was a year or so before I came to realise that many of them were by virtue of how Ireland is structured, second class citizens.  And that the separation which existed then between me and them was founded on my forced indoctrination to a faith which in all truth and honesty I had never believed in.

These days after my removal from the register of baptisms,  I am an odd sort of Pagan.  I believe in all the gods who have ever been spoken of.  It just happens that one specific god has better public relations these days than any of the others.  But while I have no problem with the existence of a Judo-Islamic-Christian god, I see the Torah, Koran and Bible as nothing more than extraordinarily long-lived works of fantastical fiction combined with half-baked philosophy. Something akin to The Lord of the Rings, but with added rules.  They are not holy texts to me, in my life no text is holy.  But if I someday am forced to give evidence in court, or am otherwise expected to give sworn testimony, I will by virtue of how Ireland is run be required to swear on some book that to me is nothing but fiction.

What is all this leading to?  A few questions actually, I don’t claim to have answers which would work for anyone else.

(The following questions are not intended just for use on the Catholic faith, insert the faith of your choice and the same questions should apply equally.)

How is it moral to drop a child, who can not consent, in to a faith not of their own choosing?

How is it moral to then while they are still too young to comprehend what they are undertaking, expect them to take part in further ceremonies intended to tie them for life to that same faith, again a faith not of their own choosing?

How can it be right for the vast majority of schooling in any country to be run by one faith, who insist on forcing over two hours of further indoctrination on their young impressionable students? (Admittedly this is finally changing, but it is a disgrace to our nation that the Catholic church has had this power for so long.)

Why isn’t the practice of an individuals faith something which is only undertaken in their own private life, period?

But most of all, how can we call ourselves a free nation, a nation built on the concept of universal equality, when one faith is enshrined in our laws?

How can I as someone who does not share that faith, feel that I have an equal voice in my own country, when the laws by which I must live  my life by, give voice to notions which belong to that church?

How can I not feel that I am somehow segregated from my fellow citizens, when if I swear to give good evidence I can not simply state, “On my honour as a citizen in good standing, I swear to answer all questions with truth to the very utmost of my ability.” and have my word of honour be my bond?  Doing this while understanding that my fate, if I should perjure myself will be the same as that of my fellow citizen who took their oath on a bible.

In modern Ireland we live as a segregated nation.  Some of the forms of separation are blatantly obvious, such as the different rights for heterosexual and same-sex couples.  However some of the ways in which we are held apart from our fellow country men are subtle and insidious. As subtle as an atheist/pagan swearing on what is to them a work of fiction, but having to hold a straight face while they do so, to save the sensitivities of people on the inside from being bruised, by those who live their lives on the outside.


Tortures in babysitting.

We’ve all been there.  Well any of us old enough to have friends or family with children have been anyway.  Someone asks you to babysit the apple of their eye.  How can you say no? After all the little rugrat is cute as hell.  They no longer ooze at both ends and now that they can sometimes string a semi-comprehensible sentence together, they’re even fun.

So we say “Yes, of course I will look after the fruit of your overactive loins.” or words to that effect.

Once upon a time I agreed with the proverb that says the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Now days though, I believe that in addition to good intentions, the road to hell has a footpath running along one side.  A footpath, made exclusively from the ground up bones of well-meaning babysitters.

Have you ever seen footage of an amphibious assault by a marine expeditionary force?  It’s pretty much the perfect visual representation of the term “Shock and Awe!”  Hundreds of tonnes of equipment, manpower and destructive toys hitting a shoreline like a technological tsunami.  If you haven’t you really should watch a few clips of it on YouTube.  It makes for both fascinating and somewhat intimidating viewing.

Now have you ever seen the arrival of a four to six-year-old at the babysitters?  Compare and let me know if you can tell the difference.  Okay to be fair most marine equipment is coloured in some variety of olive drab.  Where as most toys belonging to young children are covered in the sort of colours most associated with acid trips.  Bad acid trips. But aside from that there are a lot of parallels.  One moment the target zone is calm and peaceful.  The local inhabitants going about their daily business, blissfully unaware of the chaos about to be unleashed upon them.  Then with frightening suddenness vast amounts of stuff appears as if from nowhere accompanied by either the marines or a young child.  Trust me the marines would be better, they’d be quieter and at least you could swear around them.

So the little one has appeared and their parents have disappeared, leaving behind them only two things in addition to their precious darling.  A truly immense pile of stuff comprised toys, spare clothes, dvds, food, more toys, wash stuff and still more toys.  Oh and the distant echo of their joyous laughter, laughter which somehow seems to be at the expense of the designated sucker.  No sorry, I meant delighted babysitter, to whom they now feel an intense sense of gratitude and sadistic humour.

Well anyway, you try to put the sound of that cackling laughter to the back of your mind.  After all you have an evening of arts and crafts planned for the child.  Followed by stories and an early night in the spare bed which you have lovingly prepared for them.  Yeah right, fat chance.

Unfortunately you can forget any of the plans you’ve made previously, the child will have other ideas.  Remember all those toys?  They’ll play with most of them.  Well, play is probably not the right word.  Distribute, yes that’s the right word.  They’re going to distribute those toys evenly around your entire home.  Make sure that you watch out for the spiky ones, those are the nasty buggers that will end up alongside your bed, precisely positioned for you to step on as you get in and out for glasses of water and trips to the bathroom.

Once they’ve made absolutely sure that every inch of your once tidy home now, has a nice even coating of brightly colored plastic and faux-fur, it’s dvd time.  Let me tell you something.  The content of modern kid’s dvds have been carefully crafted to make children happy as Larry.  Unfortunately these dvds quickly turn the average adult human mind into something comparable to a bowl tapioca pudding. Tapioca pudding which is also somehow perfectly and permanently balanced on the edge of a psychotic breakdown.  I really don’t know how the makers of those dvds manage it.  But after a mere hour of a certain purple dinosaur, or worse ten minutes of  specific bipedal piglet and her family, any adult in viewing range has been reduce to being within just one short step of joining the inmates in a nuthouse movie.

But guess what?  That’s the only thing the darling child you’re minding wants to do.  Oh and don’t think you can escape by sitting there and listening to your MP3 player.  Oh no, you can’t get away.  You have to watch with the little dear and answer all of their questions.  And oh boy will there be questions.  It’s always tempting to compare the child’s mind to a sponge, always waiting to soak up new information.  But that’s so much crap.  A child’s mind and mouth are the primary parts of a vocal machine-gun which uses questions as bullets.  More often than not the same question over and over, again and again, until you can actually hear your own brain putting a gun to itself and pulling the trigger.

But the good news is that eventually they will get tired and want to go to bed.  You’re bed.  Forget the spare bed you made up for them.  Forget that it has a duvet covered with pictures of princesses.  No they want to sleep with you.  That means you can’t just put them to bed and settle down to watch some adult television.  What this means is that you’re having an early night as well.  Now isn’t that lovely?  I mean that’s what every adult wants on a Saturday evening.  To be asleep in bed at 8pm or maybe 9pm if you’re lucky.

Not that you’ll actually get to sleep much.  Because while they will probably sink almost effortlessly into the deep coma like sleep of the very young and the very old, you won’t be afforded that luxury. You see just as you start to drift off into sleep, that’s the moment that your mind starts to play the theme music of the kids dvd you just watched over and over  and over and over…

But don’t worry in the morning, or at worst in the early afternoon the happily hungover parents will arrive and take the marine corp or their little one home with them.

And a few weeks later, just long enough for you to have forgotten the true horror of it all you’ll get a phone call.  You’ll answer and the conversation will end with…

“Yes of course I’ll babysit.  It we had so much fun the last time…”

(This is mostly tongue in cheek and does not in anyway, represent the writers real feelings about babysitting for certain great little 4 year olds.)

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