See, here’s the thing.
We Irish folk are very friendly. We just are. We’re also very self-deprecating, no-one comes close to us when it comes to taking the mick out of ourselves. Given the current state of Irish politics, it’s just as well really. Laugh or be damned. It’s that or a one way ticket to the Home for the Bewildered.
For the above reasons, I don’t do very well in London. I mean I lived there for six months in the early nineties but it was in Willesden Green, an area with a lot of Irish and anyway, I think I can remember one Thursday. Yep, those years. These days as a responsible mother, I still don’t understand why if you’re in a bank queue, bored and irate, you wouldn’t just turn to the person behind you and bitch. See, that’s what we do in Ireland. “I can’t think of any better way to spend my lunch hour, can you?”
In the main, people appreciate a friendly chat. Recently I was in a supermarket in Ireland when I spied a woman trying desperately to push a trolley whilst keeping warring toddler twins apart. “You’ll be planning the next one, then?” “FECK OFF”. Mission accomplished.
Whilst I appreciate that friendliness really is the way forward (especially for haters), there are times when I wonder if I have “eccentric people apply here” tattooed on my forehead. I really do attract them. I’m not complaining, I think it would be far worse if no-one spoke to you, that would be hell. As it’s a new year, I thought I’d take a look back at the people who entered my life in 2015. Fleeting encounters, I’ll grant you, but special nevertheless.
First up has to be the man who approached me outside Great Victoria Street station in Belfast. He was, he said, a coordinator for the dance troupe on Kylie’s latest tour. In fact, with my wild curls, he could see me rising out of a giant oyster with ostrich feathers aplenty. Thereafter, he asked for a pound. In the very same spot came the man who said his extensive research has led him to only one conclusion – that Cocker Spaniels share the same DNA as serial killers. Huge if true.
Fast forward to my annual visit to London and I was speaking at Libertarian Home, a huge honour. The next day, I was on a five hour train trip home and was all set for a nice sleep. Not going to happen. Having taken my seat, I was immediately greeted with a very stressed member of Virgin Trains in full uniform. “Can you keep my seat?” Sure. Until a woman in floods of tears boarded and sat in her seat, sobbing loudly. Cue Virgin Trains woman having a full on huff and storming down the carriage.
So I asked her whatever was the matter. I thought she had left a partner and was missing them. No. Worse than that, she had just had the news that her precious dog of some fourteen years was terminally ill and was on her way home to say goodbye. What followed was some ninety minutes of looking at pictures and videos of our dear pets on our phones and both of us howling (I told her all about Boy Cat).
We parted ways at Milton Keynes, and I was once again afforded the luxury of a vacant four person space. I curled up and started to visit that lovely place, of soft wet grass and abundant sunshine, when he arrived. Recently released from prison, he plonked himself down with a bottle of vodka and a two litre bottle of Coca Cola. He couldn’t wait to tell me his story. Again, I’m not complaining, it was actually very interesting. For one thing, I learned that in Kenya, big supermarkets have armed guards outside. Smaller local businesses have a man in a loin cloth with a bow and arrow. The thoughts of neds going to the local corner shop for Buckfast and presented with a man in a loin cloth just finished me off.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, and maybe, just maybe we’re making progress, because when inevitably asked what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a sex worker and campaigner. In the good old days, that would be enough to send most people screaming for the local priest. No longer. There are questions, lots of questions. I really don’t mind provided they’re respectful. I gave up the Shame Game a long time ago and will never apologise for consenting adults. Not going to happen. It certainly doesn’t mean newly freed jail bird can ask me back to his for a “swally”, though. Go away. Thanks.
In the end, it’s people like the Bird of Alcatraz that put everything in perspective, and that’s why I love them. I may be stressed to feckery, yes, but at least I have in my possession more than one pair of clean socks. Bring it on, 2016.