Primordial Fear

Primordial fear. I still remember the first time I experienced it.

I was small. Very small. I remember going into the front room.

I’m not really sure why we had a front room cos we never used it.  Anyway. I went into the front room. I probably toddled into the front room….and there it was.

A gigantic, black, hairy spider.

I was terrified. Racing heart, shaking legs, vomiting sort of terror.  I couldn’t get out of the room fast enough.

Sadly, my language skills weren’t sufficient to convey the primordial nature of the fear I was feeling. I probably just bawled my eyes out, but I never forgot it.

What is it about spiders? Fast forward 33 years. My youngest son is sitting in his buggy in the front room of the house we are renting.  He’s a happy chappy. Fed, watered and ready for bed.  He’s watching that 90’s phenomenon, the ‘Tellytubbies.’ Dipsey and Lala are singing nursery rhymes. He loves it…until a big, hairy black spider descends over Miss Muffet’s bowl of curds and whey. And then he loses it. Bawls his eyes out.

Being a bit dim, I didn’t realise it was primordial fear. I thought it might be colic, or teething pains or possibly meningitis. I was always checking for meningitis.

I didn’t realise what was wrong until the next night when we did exactly the same thing and he reacted in the same way to the hairy black spider. Then I knew.

And I truly believe we have been hard-wired since cave-man times to be scared of things which can potentially kill us. It’s nature’s way of giving us the heads up. Getting the adrenalin pumping, ready for fight or flight.  Good old mother nature. Always looking out for us.

Nowadays, I’m not scared of bugs.  I developed an ability to rationalise. We live in a world full of creepy crawlies. Few of them can do us any real harm.

It doesn’t mean that I love big, hairy spiders but they don’t terrify me anymore. I’ve learned to live alongside them. Besides, they trap flies. We’re allies of sorts.

Today, however, I had a bad experience. It wasn’t primordial fear. It was more face scrunching, yuch inducing sort of bad.

Please don’t read on if you are squeamish. 

So, I was ironing a pillowcase. I iron pillowcases because I have a bnb and I’m expected to iron pillowcases. Otherwise I wouldn’t. I’d spend all my time writing stuff.

The pillowcase was looking lovely. Then I spotted a stain. I was fed up.  Somebody’s had a nose-bleed, I thought- on my good egyptian cotton pillowcase. How inconsiderate!

(Forgive me, it’s been a long season. I’m usually more caring)

Pleased that I spotted the stain, I turned the pillow-case inside out to investigate further.

Be warned, this is not nice. 

The blood was spider blood (I didn’t know they bled?? Maybe it was just gunge)

Inside my pillowcase was the biggest, hairiest, FLATTEST spider you have ever seen.

I’d ironed the poor old boy/ girl.

Being Autumn, the time of big, black hairy spiders, he’d obviously crawled inside my washing.

He probably didn’t have time to experience primordial fear before he was annihilated by my iron. I really hope not.








An uphill struggle

healy pass

Question: Why the repetition. You posted this photo last week???

Answer: Yea (with attitude) But it’s relevant, OK??

Question: Why?

Answer: Well,  I drove along this route today in the midst of an oncoming bicycle race and it was ..horrible… there were thousands of them, all coming at me, lycra-ed from head to toe.

Question: What madness would possess you to do this?

Answer: Aversion tactics. I needed bread, milk, toilet rolls…and  I thought I’d make it home before the onslaught.

Verdict: It was a big mistake.


We have a dog called Willow. German Shepherd.  Lovely dog, good as gold. The problem is that she has spatial awareness challenges. It manifests itself when she runs at speed. In her head she wants to gallop up alongside you and be your best friend.  In reality she crashes into the back of your thighs knocking you for six and is your enemy.

And some cyclists are a bit like Willow. Having negotiated the steep climb up the mountain, they want to free wheel all the way down the other side as FAST as they can. (note how twisty and windy this route is) The problem is that they have spatial awareness problems….

And me.. a nervous driver. A very nervous driver (Picture me, crawling up this mountain pass at 10 miles an hour)

When it comes to nervousness I probably deserve a gold medal.  I spent 48 years on this planet unable to drive. This year, I took the plunge-did the lessons, passed the test and took to the road…cautiously.

Anyway back to the race. What worried me was that I had far more concern for the safety and well being of the cyclists than some of the cyclists themselves.

Why else  would they cycle two, three abreast on this road?? Why would they overtake each other in the face of an oncoming car-albeit it, one driving at snail’s pace?

Why would they take photo’s of the scenery as they negotiated the arduous climb to the top.. something which caused them to wobble precariously when they realised the approaching snail was a motorised vehicle??

And then, when they get to the top of the mountain, the euphoria made them oblivious to my tension filled hill starts as they lay, prostrate on the road,

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I arrived home.. successfully having avoided all the cyclists who hurtled themselves at my car, had a cup of tea and prepared for the second challenge of the day… donkey castration. Ah, the life of a country gal….






The Path of Happiness

healy pass.jpg

I’ve been thinking a lot about paths lately. Primarily-because my beloved is constructing a gravel path at the side of the house. Work on the path commenced two years ago, continued for about a week, then stopped and it’s stayed stopped ever since.

(The problem being that the job list is too long, the days too short and the bank balance insufficient for the various demands on it!)

During the stoppage, the route from wash house to washing line became perilous. The dug out section would fill with water in winter, becoming quite moat like at times. It all looked a bit like a building site. Very unfinished and unloved.

I have always been partial to this particular snippet of zen wisdom.

‘There is no path to happiness, Happiness is the path’

At the moment, I am taking this very literally. Happiness is my gravel path.  Every time I look out the kitchen window, I’m overjoyed. No more ankle twisting forays to the washing line for me!

There is something very metaphorical about paths. There was a time, a few years ago, that someone very close to me was sick.  They had travelled a long way down a path where the only glimmer of light to be found was at the bottom of bottle. It looked as if there was no way back.

But there was. With help and support they got back on track, kicked the bottle and found some real joy in life.

At the time, I discovered a poem by Patrick Kavanagh about a hospital, which had an uncanny resemblance to the hospital I was spending so much time visiting.

Let me quote you a few lines:

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row
Plain concrete, wash basins - an art lover's woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored. 
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard. 

Our  hospital had a garden surrounded by a gravel path.

Walking around the garden, talking to other people in a similar boat was an intrinsic part of the recovery process.

‘The Hospital’ became a sort of mantra for me during that period, because of Kavanagh’s unique ability to find beauty, hope and radiance in ordinariness.

It was what I needed to believe in.

During visits, we too trudged around the path  enjoying the spring sunshine, the crunch of the gravel, and reflecting on the inexhaustible adventure of it.

Forgive me if this post has been a bit meandering. Paths are a bit like that. Sometimes it takes longer than you expect to get to the end of them. Sometimes you don’t end up where you expected.






The Mystery of Mark Carter’s Feet

Today, I invite you to take a trip with me down memory lane.

Let me set the scene. It is 1978. Big things are happening in the world. Louise Browne, the world’s first test tube baby has been born. Jim Jones followers commit mass suicide in Jonestown. In the Vatican there is a new Pope- the first non Italian pope in more than four hundred years.

Zooming in to St Mary’s Primary School, Cornwall- little Marie is standing in the dinner queue along with two hundred or so other kids. Note- we are calling this dinner, not lunch, even though it is 12 noon.

The dinner bell sounds and seating is  randomly allocated by the teacher on duty. The system runs like a well oiled cog. The teacher, no doubt, cannot wait to get into the staff room for coffee and a fag.  Marie sits next to her best friend Sally. Sitting opposite her is a little boy called Mark Carter. Mark is talking loudly and excitedly to the boy next to him about Star Wars- a movie which hit the cinema screens last year.

As they wait for dinner to be served, Mark slips off his shoes. Marie slips off her shoes too and waits. Marks foot seeks out her foot and their feet intertwine. Mark’s feet are warm and slightly damp. Whenever Marie sits opposite  Mark, their feet intertwine. Sometimes they swing their intertwined feet backwards and forwards energetically. Other times, their feet remain motionless. They will stay like this all the way through dinner. She likes it.

Today’s dinner is stew. Marie hates stew. She mushes it around a bit on her plate and leaves most of it behind. Dinner helpers come and take the plates away.  The volume in the dinner hall increases as the children prepare to go out to play. Marie and Mark slip their shoes back on. They do not make eye contact. They do not talk to each other. They run off and are engulfed in their separate girl/boy universes until next time they happen to sit opposite each other at dinner. 

Big Marie has often wondered what in the world was going on with Mark and his feet. There are a couple of possible explanations.

  • Mark Carter really liked Marie and sought out her feet above all the other feet in the school??
  • Mark was a nascent foot fetishist and did this with everybody??

But hold on, but let’s apply some GROWN UP perspective here.

Big Marie, mother of three, now sees that Mark Carter was the sort of child, beloved of grannies and aunties all over the world. What Granny/ Auntie wouldn’t adore an angelic little lad with blond hair and puppy dog brown eyes? Furthermore Mark was NOT an angst ridden swot (like someone not too far across the table)  He was a laid back, chilled sort of child. I imagine  he went home in the evenings, threw himself on the sofa, cuddled his mother/ dog/ cat/ auntie as he watched copious amounts of boy TV and eat sweets.

Not being a fan of small boys, all this was was wasted on little Marie.

And- as a Sociologist/ Feminist, Big Marie now understand that it is not easy being a small boy in the rough and tumble, gender stereotyped world of primary school.

What better way to take five than some comforting, under the table foot time with another warm, soft, damp foot? It’s not quite the same as a cuddle with mum but hey-it’s something.

Mark’s foot instinctively knew this!

And we’re back to that puppy dog quality of his. Don’t you just love the way dogs throw themselves in a heap and fall asleep? So companionable and unselfconscious.

We could all learn a lesson from dogs – and I would add- Mark Carter’s feet.










Lady Alone…


This week I am alone. No big deal, right? A lot of  people are alone a lot of the time.

Not me, though. I have been ensconced in family life for what feels like forever.

Not so long ago, I couldn’t eat a meal without a baby crying or a toddler tantruming. I certainly couldn’t have a shower in peace. There was a time I thought I’d never sleep again or talk to my friends again.

Those years have whizzed by in a blur of noise, squabbles, children’s parties, school and food fads.  There was the time small boy had a  seizure, then big boy had a collapsed lung. The panics, dramas and joys all intertwined in that soap opera known as family life.

I’ve worried, fretted and aged in an attempt to keep the show on the road, keep the troops happy – or at the very least, not too traumatised…

But things change. Kids grow up and move on and our parental job description changes.

‘ Cheer them on-do their weekend laundry and provide a safe haven as and when required. ‘

Happily, I’m not yet at the point of waving them goodbye and wallpapering my empty nest. But I am getting a taster of what it might feel like…

It all started with big boy getting a job. Having finished school, he’s spending the summer washing pots to earn some money for college. So that’s big boy gone. Hostage to the dirty pot producing public. I miss him- big time, but couldn’t be more proud.

And now Ger, medium and pre-teen are off for five days. Pre-teen is doing a computer course in Cork and needs family on side to cheer him on, make his sandwiches and collect him at 3.30.

Which leaves moi and the dogs.  Alone. Holding the metaphorical fort.

So how does it feel?

On the plus side:

It’s nice and peaceful.

If I clean something up- it stays clean. 

Mealtimes are infinitely simpler. 

Wash up is infinitely simpler. 

Laundry is infinitely simpler

I can breathe freely (The house is free of deodorants, bodyspray, hairspray and perfume)

Interestingly, whilst day one in ‘alone city‘ had a bit of a holiday feeling, day two is a somewhat more sombre and restrained affair. Whilst there are no squabbles or raised voices, neither is there any silliness, no laughs, no hugs. Even the dogs look a bit subdued.

That old truism;

‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ is kicking in.

Big boy has rang to check in with me five times (fall over in surprise!)

The times I have begged him to send a simple, ‘I am OK,’ text when he’s out and about. Now he’s making actual unprompted calls to see if I am OK!!

Medium and pre-teen have texted multiple messages of love and smiley faces- (aww sweet, eh?)

It transpires that they miss me, and I miss them.

And what about all those things I constantly moan about? i.e chemical sprays choking me, people dirtying things up the minute I clean them, hormones (theirs not mine, of course!) endless scheduling requests.

I’d be lying if I said they don’t matter a toss- just give me back my babies.

They do matter a bit- but not that much.



















Lady in a hurry


A lady goes into a supermarket-it’s one of the German discount stores that have sprung up everywhere. She is obviously in a hurry.

She pauses at the door, realises she has no coins for the supermarket trolley and grabs a wheely shopping basket instead. It is a fatal error of judgement.

She rushes around the store throwing things into the basket. There is something trance like about her movements. You can see she has done this a million times before.

Having completed a whirlwind tour of the fruit and veg aisle, the chilled produce and the dried goods, she pauses at the wine aisle and chooses a bottle of white. The bottle of white is a reward, no doubt.

Shopping mission accomplished, she get into the queue and unloads the contents of her basket onto the conveyor belt. She then engages in a marathon race with the till attendant (who for present purposes we’ll refer to as Speedy)  to repack her shopping, before he totals up the bill. He moves onto the next customer before she has had a chance to finish what she is doing.

She has brought two plastic bags with her. They are not big enough, so she piles some stuff back into the wheely basket. She pays Speedy and makes her way out of the shop.

She is near the exit when Speedy shouts after her.

‘Hey- you can’t take that basket out of the shop.’ He has a loud voice. Everyone turns and looks at her.

‘So it’s not OK to bring the basket outside for a few minutes and then bring it in again?’ she says, looking hard at him.

It’s not an unreasonable request. It would, however, require a certain amount of rule bending on the part of Speedy to agree to this.

‘No, you can’t take the wheely basket outside,’ he says spiritedly.

Someone in the queue next to Speedy says to him, ‘Go on, be nice!’ Speedy ignores her. He is not going to be nice.

Our unfortunate shopper attempts to manoeuvre her stuff into a nearby corner. As she does so, her basket topples over, spilling all her groceries onto the floor. She really should have got a trolley. She feels pretty stupid.

A young man leaps to her assistance. He is a customer, not a store employee.

‘This happens to me too,’ he says as he picks up her toilet rolls. ‘ALL THE TIME’

She guesses that this has never actually happened to him before. He’s just being nice.

His mother should be very proud of him, she thinks.

She leaves her shopping basket and carries out her two bags. Emptying the contents onto the back seat, she goes back in and retrieves the rest of her shopping from the wheely basket.

Her two teens are waiting for her in the car. She tells them what happened. They are outraged on her behalf. Girl teen launches into a rant about how she would have just walked out- regardless of what Speedy said.

It is a rant about authority, something which girl teen has problems with at the moment.

Boy teen takes her phone, and by some magic known only to the young, transfers one of her favourite songs onto the car speaker.

She wipes away a tear from her eye and pulls off to the sounds of Manu Chao singing;

‘I’M THE KING OF BONGO’ very loudly.

As she makes her way home to unpack her shopping a thought crosses her mind which brings a smile to her face.

This is something I can blog about….









Slippery fish and the Sea of Uncertainty

slippery fish


Whats going to happen next? Who knows. The world waits with baited breath to see how things will pan out in the Trump versus Clinton saga.

Not so long ago it was Brexit. Will they, won’t they? Then when they did, we were all shocked. We are still shocked.

When it comes to the big stuff, stuff that is going to impact on all of us, we feel a need to predict outcomes.  Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable.

In the past, it was customary to follow  political parties in the way you might follow a religion. Party allegiance was central to who you were.  Frequently we followed the same parties our parents and grandparents followed. EASY PEASY.

It’s not so easy now. Somewhere along the path to shiny modernity, the cord has raveled, the anchor chain slipped. A lot of us are now  adrift on a sea of uncertainty.

Maybe the political arena is too vast, too confusing? Maybe we have lost faith in leadership? Maybe we never bought into it in the first place?

For whatever reason, when it comes to exercising our democratic rights, many of us fall into that big camp of unpredictables known as ‘floating voters.’

And the floating voter is a very slippery goldfish.  How s/he will vote is the subject of much speculation.

So the POLSTERS enter the fray- armed with statistical software and social science in an attempt to gauge the pulse of the people- see into their heads.

At best the polls offers some sense of normalcy, some degree of predictability but never certainty. Despite the best statistical software, they don’t always get it right.

Having always favoured shades of grey to black and white, I completely get indecision. I also have to stick my hand up and say that compared to my parents, I am a current affairs dunce, a disaster zone. A lot of it bores me silly.

But, hey- when it comes to something as concrete as our futures and those of our children, it seems to me that there is a responsibility to take a stance; to decide which side of the fence we stand on.


We need to do something to prevent lunatics and nutters ruling the proverbial roost.

And so, a heartfelt message to potential floaters and slippery fish- Go on. Inform yourself, read the papers, watch those boring current affairs programmes, make up your mind. Don’t be swayed by last minute hype.  At the very least, ask your mother!

But enough of heartfelt pleas. Let’s digress.

It was with some surprise that I learned the phenomenon of political last minute-ism- is not altogether new.

Take Merry Olde England back in 1485-Richard III is happily ruling the country when along comes Henry Tudor (all the way from France) to challenge his title.

Richard is not overly bothered as he knows his army is far superior to Henry’s. He has also been promised more men in arms, from his nobles, should he need them.

In the ensuing battle Henry wins. Why? Largely, I would say because of ‘last minute-ism.’

Some of Richard’s most powerful nobles (who really deserved to be knocked off the christmas card list) held back, gauged which way the wind was blowing- then threw in their lot with Henry, who appeared to be winning. With the help of their private armies, he did win.

And so the Battle of Bosworth began early in the morning of the 22 August 1485 and was over by noon. In those few hours the Plantagenet dynasty was defeated, leaving Britain poised to enter a new era under the House of Tudor.

Momentous, ground breaking stuff.

The point I am making is that neither soothsayer, necromancer  nor opinion poll analyst could have predicted that one.

Then, as now, it seems that in the domain of politics, the only certainty is UNCERTAINTY.