I’ve been thinking a lot about politicians lately. Not in a sexy way or anything; although I would make an exception for John Lyons TD for Dublin North West if he wasn’t gay and I wasn’t married. (Apologies etc.) The election is days away and elections force us all to think more about politicians than we’d probably like. I’ve had odd twitter conversations about the semiotics of Willie O’Dea’s moustache for instance. But this being 2016 and the centenary of our great Rebellion, it seems more important than ever before to vote in #GE16.
From what I know of Irish people, we like elections. We love our politics as much as we seem to loathe our politicians. I have always voted ever since I’ve been eligible to, believing it’s my duty as an Irish citizen. So in the best show of electoral pride and national enthusiasm I can muster I have endeavoured to make my decision. Just who will get my precious Number 1 and the possibility of the coveted TD’s salary ? I have trawled all my candidates’ websites. I’ve read all their leaflets. I’ve hashtagged #vinb and #cblive like it really mattered. I’m listening to radio talk shows til I’m even interviewing myself about who I’m going to vote for. But Dear Reader I cannot decide.
We have all heard all the promises. A few thousand social housing units here, a few hundred thousand jobs there. No waiting lists for anything. Ever again. No taxes unless you’re a millionaire. Something like that. But without getting personal ( John Lyons aside. Sorry John. I do not have a photo in my purse. HONEST), it’s easy to talk. I don’t want to use the next phrase but I have to. During the boom (sorry) the boys above in the Galway tent couldn’t shorten the hospital waiting lists when people I knew were bringing their children to school by helicopter. In Limerick. And no, they weren’t drug dealers.
Well the helicopters are gone so what do I want? I’m from Limerick and I want jobs. All the jobs. I want my city to be taken seriously and I want Regeneration to happen. I’m a woman. I want #repealthe8th to happen in my lifetime. Because it’s not just a slogan. I have children so I want to know that if they were ever sick, they would be seen and not put on a list to wait 3 and 4 years. I’m a citizen of this country and I want homes for the hundreds of children and their families who are currently living in hotel accommodation. Those are my priorities. And I’ve lost faith in the power of any government to deliver on these and many other issues.
I’m closely related to somebody who has always spoiled their vote in General Elections. Those of you who know me from twitter can guess who that might be. They take great care in choosing their ballot-spoiling words and believe very firmly in their right to do so.This method of using my democratic right has never appealed to me. Until now. Both my grandfathers were active Labour men and would be appalled to hear such a thing. But I’m listening and I’m seeing and I’m getting no closer to feeling represented or heard. None of the above is starting to look like an option.
My oldest child pointed out in conversation the other day that she will be 15 this summer. While that in itself is a reason for pause, because clearly I’m now old, what really stopped me dead was the vision I suddenly had of myself at that age. I remember 15 far too clearly for comfort so I try not to think about it much. 15 was the year of the leaves. The year the leaves attacked.
Think Jaws the movie and you’ll be half way to understanding. I wasn’t Jaws by the way, that was the leaves. I was the daft girl on a rubber boat. With no paddle. I’m not sure what triggered the leaf terror. There was no horrific leaf experience but gradually over a period of a few weeks from September of that year and on past my 15th birthday I became utterly petrified of leaving the house when I knew I would have to walk past leaves on the ground. I was in Third Year in school and the path there and back was a leaf-lined Hell. Living in one of my city’s leafier suburbs had never been less attractive to me. I had to map every step of the route according to where I knew the enemy lay in wait. And if it rained just forget about it. I held on to walls. I clung to railings. I once hid in a phonebox. I HID FROM LEAVES IN A PHONEBOX. In January and February alone of that year, I missed 6 weeks of school and dozens more besides. I bunked off at every opportunity I could. I sneaked home to hide in bed or I hid in various corners of the town devoid of leaves or people who would know I should be at school. The graveyard was a good spot. The misery and pain of such an existence lead to my first suicide attempt. At 15. Only my Rasputin-esque stomach prevented me from dying or doing permanent damage to myself. I spent 24 hours vomiting from the tablets I took but at least the leaves hadn’t won. However it didn’t feel like a victory at the time.
Now, as an adult who has struggled with poor mental health for most of my life I still think of that year as one of the worst. I am shaking even writing about those bastard leaves. The nasty wet smelly puddles of weeks-old horsechestnut leaves outside the house at the traffic lights. The bouncy stacks of dry leaves piled up looking so gorgeously Autumnal outside the church across the road. But who knew what lay beneath them? How was I supposed to walk? When I think about how I felt that year I have no explanation but then you can’t rationalise mental illness. I wish I’d known I was unwell. I wish I’d known I was severely depressed and suffering from extreme levels of anxiety . I just thought I was weird. A freak . I cut myself off from all my friends at school and convinced myself they were all talking about me and laughing. I wonder now why nobody noticed that I was visibly in the throes of a breakdown. I blamed myself at the time of course. I told not a single soul so nobody offered to help me. But what did my parents think I was doing? Rebelling? My teachers, who would make sarcastic comments when I did show up in school, did they not notice an intelligent student slowly falling apart? I was a good girl, slowly dying, because of leaves. But nobody noticed. Things are different now I’m told. I really hope this is true.
The leaf madness arrived gradually but it left me overnight. One morning the following October I woke up and simply knew it was gone. The sky was blue outside my bedroom window and I got up and went to school.
Copyright 2016 Neev.ie and myindoorvoice.wordpress.com
It’s hard to put into words what this song meant to a 15 year old in the very pit of despair who mostly sat in her room drawing circles. She couldn’t go out because she was scared to death of leaves. Instead of putting it into words, I’ll just leave it here. #BowieLives
St. Patrick’s Day happens every year on March 17th. It’s one day and today isn’t it, but do a tour of Pound Shops and Penneys like I did this morning and you’d be seeing quite a lot of green. And it’s not pretty. Forty shades of ghastly green Oirishness. Is this all we’ve got? Is “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” really funny ? Or the one that always baffles me “I’m an Irish Princess”. Really? Or even why?
Synonymous with drunkeness the world over St. Patrick’s Day is our National Aren’t We Gas Craic Day. And I’ve had enough. If a drunken stranger tries to kiss me on March 17th because I’m an Irish bloody princess, I’ll thump him. Or her. My t shirt is going to read GET THE F**K AWAY FROM ME YOU GOWL.