It wasn’t my first summer job, but it was the first to give me independence.  With some spare cash in my pocket, not needed for rent, bills or food, I made my way down Grafton street, heading to lesser known parts of Dublin to buy myself a cassette player.  Until now, my access to music had been parentally determined.  I grew up with Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Cash, Demis Roussos, Tchaikovsky and Top of the Pops.   An eclectic diet for a wannabe singer/songwriter.  Ok, I couldn’t sing, but there was one guy who fell in love with my songs, so much so, he came a calling with a dozen roses in hand, only later to write a plaintive letter to “La Belle Dame sans Merci” after learning I wasn’t really interested.   Teenage angst in minor chords at a dying party triggered a broken heart I didn’t intend.  Sorry.

I was in search of poetry.  I returned to my live in job armed with cassette player and an album, by Leonard Cohen.  I was so in love that everyone else had to hear him too, and as silence was the operative word in the care home that gave me a modest income, I took my new acquisitions off to Stephen’s Green.

There was a little known place hidden from the paths and lawns in the centre of the Green.  It was a place you could sit and listen to music without being disturbed.  But I met some interesting people there.  On various occasions I was offered a delectable palate of colourful weeds and pills, herbal teas and friendship.  La Belle Dame sans Merci found a new heart in a Cohen-loving punk rocker.  We found privacy behind the rhododendrons, and I learned the difference between punks and hippies.  I decided then I didn’t want to be put in a box with a label, so I left the rhododendrons to enter my “be different” period, where I hung out with a “be different” group of art students and industrial designers who didn’t make art college.  The Outcast, whose ear was attached to his nose with a chain, traded a haircut for my newly discovered soldering skills, and my hippie locks became asymmetric and colourful.  He also confessed to a broken heart.  Sorry.

I never learned what happened to the punk.

Despite later loves and losses guiding the course of my musical education, Cohen stayed with me.  I learned his words off by heart.   Someone would always sing one of their songs at parties, and I’d join in the chorus.  It was never in a key I could cope with.  But then again, a guitarist once complained when I tried to sing a song in E flat minor, so I guess there isn’t any key my voice could cope with.  I’ve managed to make his songs difficult to listen to.  Sorry.

In memory of Leonard Cohen, a formative influence in my youth.

Highlight of the concert when I finally got to see him


Featured Image: By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (Green in St. Stephen’s Green) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


I am …..

My hand drifts upward.  It carves a path, parting the air like curtains.  Halfway upon its journey, I slice it down again, hiding it behind the curtain I’ve created.

I can feel their eyes staring, despising my willingness to answer.  I hear Bonnie’s sigh of relief, knowing she won’t be picked on.    It’s our unwritten accord.  If she sits behind me, Miss won’t see her and then she won’t have to answer any of her stupid questions.  Except I don’t think they’re stupid, I want to answer them, it makes me feel clever.  But the staring eyes stab at someone who’s clever.  So I say they are stupid questions too.

From the corner of my eye, I perceive Bobbie’s enthusiastic endeavour to gain the teacher’s attention.  Perceive is a good word.  I learned it out of the book that sounds like a species of dinosaur.  The book told me it is another word for ‘see’.   Miss likes the words that I take from the book.

“Miss, Miss!”

Miss barely disguises her groan.  Bobbie never answers the question properly and Miss doesn’t like to tell anyone they’re wrong.  I’ve noticed that.  Like, sometimes I get it wrong when I take a word from the book, but she doesn’t say I’m wrong.  She asks me what the word means.  She did that when I used the word prodigious to describe mum’s fat belly.  I didn’t want to say fat, as I know she doesn’t like it.

Miss asks Amanda instead, but Amanda has it wrong.

“That’s an interesting idea, let’s all consider it.  Think back to our plant experiment, what did we find out that would suggest Amanda’s idea works?”

Bobbie waves again.

“Miss, Miss!”

Bobbie’s ideas never work.

Miss is a doctor of philosophy and she loses her patients.  I’m not sure how she does it, I don’t think philosophers have patients, but my mum says she loses her patients too when she’s annoyed. And she’s not a doctor.  Once I tried to be helpful and told mum she should look in a surgery.  That only made her lose more patients and she had one of those rants about me being too clever for my own good.  I promised her I’ll try not to be clever in the future, but that made her babble on about how I made her lose more and more of her patients.  She mustn’t have any left.  It’s been two days since she lost any.

One day she got like that and I ran away to the bathroom and locked the door.  I spent a long time looking at myself in the mirror.  I was wearing those blue and silver ribbons in my hair that Rebecca is jealous of.  Her cousin told me that she thinks I show off too much.  The blue and silver ribbons were one of the many examples she gave me of my show-offiness.  As I looked in the mirror, I got an answer that explained everything.

I am an alien.



My mum and dad aren’t really my parents.  They don’t look like me.  They don’t think like me.   They prodigiously tell me I don’t act like them.    No-one likes me, except Miss, but she doesn’t count.  If she likes you, you get teased about being her pet.

Miss has eyes that perceive everywhere.  Her attention shifts around the room until it rests upon me like an unwanted flea.  I look at my hand as if it has a will of its own and frown at its obstinance.  In vain hope,  I look behind me to see who she is looking at.  I don’t want to answer now.  I’m an alien and I need to keep it a secret.

Bonnie shrinks, but Miss isn’t looking at her.  Everyone is looking at me.  In my mind, I am escaping in a ship to the darkest reaches of space reporting on Earth’s lost patients and wrong answers to questions.  But the eyes don’t go away.  I make another report.  Humans have eyes that dig into your skin like the tips of a monster’s fingers.  The teacher says something I can’t decipher.  She doesn’t speak alien language.  I look hopefully toward Bobbie who is furiously waving his hand.

It occurs to me Bobbie has one single idea that works.  I don’t want to steal it, but I do.

I straighten myself up, and take note of all the eyes narrowing, accusing me of being teacher’s pet.  I clear my throat and proudly turn to face my tormentors.

“Please, Miss, may I go to the toilet?”


Written as a combined response to Calen’s Sandbox Challenge No. 60 and the University of Iowa’s ‘Storied Women’ online course assignment.


Fiertzide Tales: The Burdizzo

Dark rolling wafts of charcoal cotton form a blanket over my head.  Like someone leaning on the tips of their toes on a cliff edge, its weight in water tumbles to the ground around me.   The huge drops or rain bounce on the pavement, my reflection already forming on the glistening tarmac.  I’m standing just a few metres past the traffic lights, and give my thumb a rest by burying it deep into the comfort of my oversized combat coat, glad of the protection it provides.

I smile sardonically to myself remembering why my mother avoided walking with me into town.   A girl with an asymmetric hairdo in many colours wearing an army jacket wasn’t someone you’d be proud to be seen with, let alone admit was your daughter.

I’m proud of my coat.  I’ve spent many hours designing and embroidering a dragon embroiled with a tiger on the back of it.  If only my mother knew that I was making a smokey living embroidering others’ army jackets.  The Bob Marley album cover was more than a challenge.  He’s pleased with the outcome, paying in weed, not coins, to be true. But I’m not that materialistic.

The traffic moves and my thumb braves the heavy shower of rain.  A small car pulls up and I thank the goddess for my fortune.

“You going to the uni?” he asks.  I’m not the only one who hitches a ride at this spot, it’s the main road to the town’s university.  I note an agricultural instrument on the passenger seat and hesitate.  The driver purposefully removes it.

“I’ll just be moving that for you, I wouldn’t want you coming to any harm.”

I’ve got the weirdo.

It’s pouring with rain, so I take my chances and get in the car.   It has the fusty smell of a hay barn.  It’s not long before I sneeze.  I excuse myself and try to change the subject to the horrendous weather.  It helps to overcome most socially awkward situations.

But I’ve got the weirdo.

“I don’t suppose you know what that’s for?” He asks while nodding at the instrument that now resides by my feet.

I look at the man pointedly.  He’s known around campus.  I’m not the first he’s offered a lift to.

“Not only do I know what it is, but I also know how to use it.”

I await his reaction.

It seems like we’re now moving in slow motion, but we’ve only travelled two hundred metres.  He pulls up, stops the car and states that this is as far as he’s going.

Here I am again, thumb braving the rain.  I suppose I should worry about missing yet another lecture, but I don’t.

Albeit bedraggled, my coat steaming clouds in the warmth of the university canteen,  I have a laugh with my friends who enjoy the telling of the story.   The instrument had been a burdizzo*.



*A burdizzo is an implement that breaks the blood vessels to the testicles, leading to their deterioration.  It is used on farm animals, for example bulls, and has also been used in cases of self-castration.

I don’t know how to use it.