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In my hand he held my heart

My love
My love

In my hand he held my heart

Silently I was crying inside. But my son’s entourage was an unusually welcomed distraction, deflecting from the highly anticipated event, the first day of school.

No wonder my son looked slightly on edge, with so much build up. I think he was starting to believe that we were giving him to the Missions. It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve said goodbye, but for some reason, this one magnifies that this is the first of many to come.

We all know the stories, but when it’s your own story, it’s raw. And I felt alone.

Well, I would have if my over-the-top, noisy, Italian, and brash father-in-law had allowed me to lament in the moment. But no, he was a running commentator on the day’s event and how my emotions were stacking up. My mother was adding some realism, years of experience as a school teacher; my husband was nonchalant; my mother-in-law was reminded of her boy starting school, but was on a strict warning not to cry, so she looked like she’d sucked a few lemons, straining to hold it together. The circus ensued with the little brother pleading to join the big one. And after a few poses for Facebook, show’s over, and it’s time for school.

In his hand, he held my heart. And we walked on.

I was more nervous than he. Schools do that to you. He hardly spoke, but I knew he was assessing the situation. He does this. And all I wish, is that his teachers get to know him like I do. I haven’t totally lost my sense of reason, he’s still a five year old. I’d have thrown him through the doors when he was two, when the thought of Boarding School didn’t seem so bad, but not today. He is perfect and I won’t be told otherwise.

In my state of delusion, we made it through the grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and the flash photography. But I saw no one. So consumed by holding his hand and steering him through. There may have been tears and tantrums but we walked silently on.

My nerves grew. I wanted the transition to pass seamlessly. Because you see, I thought he was starting next week and today wasn’t the day for my son to realise that his mother’s still looking for the parenting handbook.

My fly by the seat of your pants approach suits me, but my son needs everything just so. I had to step up and make him as proud of me as I am of him. Ok I got off to a bumpy start, wrong class. Though, I was sure it was that one. The relief when I found his peg and hung up his jacket. If I could have ripped the thing off the wall, I think I would have. I was raw.

Never have I felt so happy yet so sad.

P&RBut there were no tears. I wouldn’t do that to him, I had the rest of the afternoon after all.

And as I’d expected he turned and I let him go. To make new friends, have good days and bad days, dreams and disappointments, and to start making stories of his own.

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The Handover

TrainspottingHere you go, everything I know about parenting.

When you pick up the boys they will be in their uniform. They will look to you for the latest e-number, provide at your peril. I’m flying 40,000 above, toasting my second, dare. I say it, my third glass of champagne, or maybe cava, but its the same dream just another bottle.

On arrival back to the house, the Crescent, please ask P & R to remove their school uniform, place neatly, some clean, others in the wash basket, and change. They will try to scatter and run, a trail of destruction left for you, I’m sorry. They will, no doubt, ask if all the neighbours’ children can come round. Again, clink, clink, at your discretion.

They will repeat the phrase ‘Mum lets us’ over and over like whining dogs. This is not true. They lie. Your precious little grandchildren are liars. I know it may sound shocking, but it is always better to know what you’re taking on. I don’t let them in the woods, or the lane, or go to the shops, or run the streets. They will say I do. They will say Dad doesn’t let them, but Mum does. She doesn’t. They are trying to undermine me. They play on my love for them. Be warned, they will do this to you too.

Treat every word with caution. Careful questioning can usually trip them up and, if needs be, separate them. Divide and conquer usually works on their alibis.

As both are of the male species, feed every two-three hours. This usually addresses most of their needs, and throw in a compliment here or there. You know how this works…

At nighttime, the bloodsuckers really come out to play. They have many tricks to keep you from adult time and a chilled bottle safely nestled in the arms of the top shelf. DVDs, play stations, iPads, iPhones, TV, PSPs, all the devices bought as saviours to occupy them throughout the day, they are now the enemy. These are their weapons, hidden in numerous locations and dotted in pillowcases and mattresses. Go to the mattresses!

Remember don’t let love be a distraction. You’re up and at it again in just a few hours. Age is on their side. Don’t let love blind you. Don’t let those big eyes make you waver. You are being played. Use your first name and stay strong, Nonna, Nana, Granny, Gramma, words like these makes you weak. Good luck! Any problems, I unfortunately won’t have signal strength.

Cheers, and bottoms up!

 

 

 

The Worlds

There are rules to this, if you can see past the wigs, jigs and high kicks…

The Worlds is the 44th Irish Dancing World Championships. Expect to see wigs, wigs, and more wigs, bling, diamantes, excessive make-up, various shades of orange, tap dancing on the streets, and inappropriate clothing i.e. half-dressed competitors in London’s Hilton Metropole. Big Fat Gypsy meets beauty pageant.

It’s a multi-million pound industry with the organisers, An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, anticipating between 15,000-20,000 visiting the city over Easter 2014.

This is the first time London has played host to the Championships with hopes to build on the spirit of the Olympic legacy. Though, I’ve never seen an Olympian high jumper in big bloomers – now that would be a treat – this is the Olympics of the Irish dancing world.

But hey, Boris Johnson is excited, as the London Mayor described the event as a “vital boost to London’s economy”. The only connection I can see is that the Mayor himself likes a wig.

Wigs and Jigs
Wigs and Jigs

And it’s wigs galore, with more than 5,000 competitors with artificial ringlets in every shade; white blonde, dirty blonde, light brunette, black, and Irish coleens in red, looking like Maureen O’Hara in the Quiet Man. It’s tradition. Keeping with the tradition, when our ancestors danced at the crossroads with luscious locks and streaky tan?

Lost in the razzle dazzle, there is art to this; a mix of balletic and athletic dance, rhythm, lively music, poise, carriage and hard, hard work. To explain, you leap into the air with your arms rigid and stuck to your side like glue, that’s a banned substance I presume, see the rule book for clarity. Strength, co-ordination, twirling, jumping, stamping, hopping. It’s got it all.

It starts with hop two, three, four, five, six, seven, but before you know it, you’re slapping on the fake tan, the crown is buried into your head, more Kirby grips digging into your membrane, you’re high kicking, and dressed like a fairy.

If you think wigs are bad, I’m haunted by the sleepless nights before the evolution of dance, back to the days of the curlers. A very knowledgeable and practical friend of my mother’s used to joke that a wig would have sorted out all our woes. Little did she know, how wise her words were and what a phenomenon the wigs would become.

I’m often asked why? I don’t know. It saved time and hassle, but why? It’s tradition. Did my ancestors really do that? The answers I’ve been looking for are in the Rule Book of Irish Dance. Yes, there are rules and here are some of my favourites, paraphrased below…

4.4.3 Costumes must consist of full front, side and back sections. Cut away styles, without a full skirt backing, are not acceptable. I concur. No Strictly nonsense for my forefathers.

4.4.2 Necklines must be at collarbone level or above. No cleavage allowed; In the Name of the Father, sorry gran. It’s sad in this day and age that we’re having to write this one down.

4.4.4 In order to protect dancers from hazardous objects while competing, costumes may not be decorated with feathers; feathers, what’s next, diamantes will be struck off the list.

Nobody likes a showoff, I heartily agree.

4.4.8: Costumes for both boys and girls should not include representations such as globes, medals or any other symbol of an award having been achieved.
Note: no mention of Facebook then?

4.4.10 Appropriate underwear, covering the midriff, must be worn. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I should say, preserving our heritage.

Where tights are worn, they must be of a denier of not less than 70. M&S do a wonderful range and who wears less than 70 anyway? Shame on those that this has to be a rule.

If you are wearing a body suit, it should not show the contour of the body in detail. It’s Irish dancing, it’s not sexy cha, cha, cha folks. Velvet and lyrca are recommended, really? You have lost me here.

In the make up department, make-up including false lashes is not permitted for dancers, in either solo competitions or team competitions, up to and including Under 10 age group. Aged 11+, slap it on like our ancestors used to do.

Any competitor found using artificial carriage aids will be subject to disqualification, however medical prescription apparatus, proof of which may be required, will be exempt. Oh, whatever will they think of next? Competitors found to be altering their shoes or wearing them on the wrong feet will be treated in the same manner. Know your left and right.

It is also suggested for class costumes, which is a dress representing your dance school, that a lean towards a more traditional style of costume is recommended – not sure how this is really working out.

And to get back to my question, why the wigs? Nothing. I can’t find a rule. So, the Shirley Temple bouncing wigs look set to stay. It is after all the preservation and promotion of Irish Dance, and what says that better than the synthetic fibre of the wigs on show.

Crossroads_1
Toes

For more about the World Championships, check out The Telegraph article

Cherishing the ladies

Saturday night’s performance by Cherish the Ladies in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall lived long into the night, as in true style, the sessions continued into the early hours of Sunday morning.

Will ye go, lassie, go?, sung by 2,000 Glaswegians; Kathleen Boyle’s almost haunting rendition on the piano; the drumming of the Bodhrán; the step dancing in all its forms; Cathie Ryan’s voice bringing the past into the present; and Joanie Madden’s penetrating flute playing and sharp wit, were just some of the highlights to this most beautiful of evenings.

It was the rawness of talent, where the ladies, and of course, male musicians and dancers too, made the most intricate pieces look seamless as they weaved their way through the concert and into the consciousness.

Memories flooded back and a pride in Celtic music and dance that is sometimes eclipsed by the razzle and dazzle.

The stage was set like any session in the bar; chairs in a half moon looking out to the audience, with the talent taking centre stage, where only the lighting is a feature. The concert had the fluidity and courage to go off script, welcoming talent on stage and making the audience as much a part of the performance as those that they were spectating. There was a Celtic connection.

Returning to the stage to celebrate 20 years since they first played in Glasgow, it was no surprise the show was a sell-out. It was standing room only, but Glasgow’s a small town, so it wasn’t long before we were sitting.

The music carried the audience along, mapping the journey of the emmigrants, and I thought of Mary. From the sad songs to the love songs, to Scotland’s Bard and his Red, Red Rose, the wonderfulness of music and dance weaved in and out.

Mary would have loved this night.

You can’t describe the rhythm of the dancers as they make music with their feet, or the energy they bring, or the poise in their carriages. It’s something you have to see and you have to feel. It is art. But Mary would never have called herself an artist, an Irish woman, an immigrant, a cherished lady.

Storytelling, dancing and music, and I am back in 46B Storrie Street. We’re dancing, there’s an accordion playing, the smell of homemade bread, singing, and Mary. I see her in every song, in every step and in every memory, in all that is good, weaving in and out of every day and in every Celtic connection.

The crowd are on their feet in a standing ovation, clapping and cheering and yes, we are cherishing the ladies.

To watch Cherish the ladies

To find out more go to Cherish the Ladies

 

 

 

SATC – Glasgow style

The Meat Market, the Shack or is it the Ramshack, this Farmyard lives up to its name. In hot pursuit of some dancing, my friends and I, hop, skip and jump a taxi, high on life.

On approach, I did wonder whether this establishment was the right destination for my friends and I. With the multiple police vans parked outside, I knew we were in safe hands.

Gone are the days of free passes, the bouncers we knew no longer work the doors and the PR girls are a clipboard away from the Boardroom.

Queuing isn’t beyond me, in fact this is an excellent vantage point to tell my tale.

The glaringly obvious point is the amount of flesh on display. I often wonder if this is to save hassle at the end of an evening.

Dimples and wrinkles are everywhere to see from the waist down. Streaks and paw prints on the backs of thighs and bottoms can be seen even in a winter’s night, some things don’t change.

And it’s not just the ladies bottoms that are being thrusted in my face. Some snake-hipped youngster mistook me for a pole or a trunk, gyrating his latest dance move on my leg before I shook him off like a dog.

Standing in the Circus, wearing one of those garments, known as a coat, complete with gloves and scarf, well it is December, heels at 5 inches, an LBD, pale skin, tired eyes, and belonging to the Sex in the City generation, I didn’t feel we were complementing our companions in the queue.

Sure enough, one look by the sparrow fart bouncer confirmed this. Each one of my companions, professionals in their own right, were dealt the blow, “Not tonight ladies!”

But I’ve come to do some uninterrupted dancing. When pressed on his decision, he insisted that one of us had had a little too much. Funny that, having arrived at this point, I’d had a little too much too.

Too much flesh, too much tan, too much makeup, I couldn’t agree more, they are too much.

But too much to drink, hardly. Too much or too much clothes?

Whilst law and order and quality control took over the door, the three stooges from Her Majesty’s Service watched idly on. The sparrowfart is judge and jury over fashion, age, too much and too little.

As I spend my life arguing about putting too much in one’s mouth, too much washing, too much to do, I was too tired to argue my way into this barnyard. Disappointed in the lack of dancing, the Sex and the City generation were sent on their way.

What would Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte or Carrie have done? Samantha would have done the doorman; Miranda, sued; Charlotte, cried; and Carrie would have told her story.

 

 

Goldberg, Mandela’s co-accused

When all the eyes for decades have focused on Mandela, one man’s fight for freedom, it’s no surprise that the stories of others who fought apartheid have been eclipsed.

22 years in prison is the story of Denis Goldberg, one of the seven co-accused who was tried with Mandela in the Rivonia trial in 1964.

The story of the only white and youngest trialist remains relatively untold.

His life and a generation of people were sacrificed in the struggle against apartheid. Segregated, even in prison, Goldberg was sentenced to four life imprisonments at just 31 years old and sent to Pretoria Central Prison. His black co-accused, shipped off to Robben Island. “Being black and involved (in the struggle) meant you had the support of many people and it meant you got to be part of a community. Being white and involved meant being isolated.” [1]

Goldberg was a white man fighting in a predominately black man’s war, but he wasn’t the only one. He was, however, the only white man who stood with Mandela in the Rivonia trial. Mandela spoke of the struggle of the African people with Goldberg at his side.

Nelson Mandela said: “This is the struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” — 20 April 1964

Goldberg too was prepared to die, but instead he would give his 30s and 40s to the struggle, leaving his wife and two children, who would eventually leave South Africa and be exiled in the UK. Goldberg’s sacrifice. In 1985, he was released and he went on to campaign for human rights and better conditions for the people of his nation.

While, the magnitude of Mandela will live long into the history books, as it should, it is also the stories of Goldberg, and others like him, who fought against apartheid that need to be told. Stories give a window into an apartheid regime that I struggle to comprehend, where a white freedom fighter stood with his black co-accused and change the world.

Denis Goldberg was eighty years old this year and lives in South Africa to this day.

 

 

See Saw Margery Daw by Felicity Fox

Felicity Fox
The Vixen

Not content with conquering the business world. Done with the dinner  parties and wine bars, avoiding questions of marriage and notions of babies. Until now.

Striding past me in their beige perfect pram occupied by one.

I, a few years down the line, stagger past with my buggy weighed down with jackets, plastic bags and anything I’ve managed to pick up along the way.

Passed the brasseries and quaint little pubs, I prefer to picnic in large open spaces where people are few.

Off to the park for some respite and to gather with equally stressed, sleep deprived and irate parents. There’s a reason for stereotypes and cliches. And if you don’t fit this bill, then you have a nanny or hired help of some kind. We’re all watching over our precious offsprings and glaring at one another, it’s territorial.

Stepping across the boundary and into the playpark, the babes are off in hot pursuit of a swing or a sea-saw, stamping their authority among their kind. Darwin’s theory played out.

Princes and princesses, one or two precocious parents and we’re all fenced in. We’re in one of Nappy Valley’s favourite haunts. There’s lots of oohing and ahhing and niceties. It’s very child focused. Well, it is a park. I’m eyeing up the coffee stand.

Hot on the heels of my little cubs, ready to diffuse potential situations, and it isn’t long before there is a situation at the sea-saw. A coveted apparatus. There’s a child parked on one side and my five-year old is tipping the balance to the other side, as one might expect.

It’s a tandem made for two. Not in these parts. Speaking through the medium of her child, the mother is purporting that there’s a big boy on the other side.

“Hello, I’m right here.”

“Just wait a moment until the big boy gets off and you can have your shot.” But sea-saws require two in our parts.

Rising above my patronising and selfish opponent, I too embrace the medium of my child to strike back.

“He’s just a little boy, be gentle. He’ll be off in a minute. Just give him a little shot.”

Parks are precarious places, if it’s not dogs it’s kids.

We each place our hands on the opposing sides of the sea-saw, without making eye contact and the games begin.

“That’s it, up and down, each waiting for the other to crack.”

Total glee as my opponent’s offspring throws the first tantrum. Ha ha, your brat’s not sharing. I’m quite simply delighted and I think I’m smirking.

It could have gone either way, it was touch and go for a moment as I thought my five-year old was about to start. But he didn’t let the side down. Ice-cream all round.

The shrieking continues as the boy is scraped off the sea-saw, howling as he goes. He’s not for budging as I watch on in total amusement.

His hands are being pried off by his mother who’s obviously annoyed about the architectural concept of a sea-saw and the notion that it requires two.

Ready in the wings is my three year old, rubbing salt in the wounds by hopping on.

The dad’s back and they are both pleading for calm. It’s a spectacle. Arms flying and legs kicking, I’ve been on the receiving end but today I’m the spectator.

And it feels naughty, even childish, but oh so good.

By Felicity Fox ©