Let Me Explain

“You know your trouble ?” he said.

I stopped listening. He only knew of this particular trouble. I am the proud owner of many troubles.
“You don’t listen !” he shouted. I did hear that bit, so technically he was wrong, but I quickly tuned out again, so the spirit of his accusation was true, just not the letter. But that’s just me being pedantic…which, funnily enough is another of my troubles. Truth be told that one doesn’t trouble me in the slightest, but it does annoy others, especially in the middle of an argument.

My main reason for not listening, or giving the distinct impression that I’m not listening, is that I am constantly occupied by ……SQUIRREL ! Not an actual squirrel, although if I do see a red one, you’ve lost me, I’ll stare at it until it gets bored of me and scampers away. We have a good few of them in Rossmore Park at the moment.

Where was I ? Oh yes, distraction. But that’s the wrong word too. You may feel that I am distracted, but that’s simply because I’m not paying attention to you. I’m not actually distracted, I am intently focused, just not on what you’re talking about. Before anyone reading this, with whom I’ve recently had any interaction with whatsoever, let me make it abundantly clear,, that I’m not referring to you. Good God no. It’s other people I’m referring to, the ones that aren’t you. Obviously.

So , this week I was supposed to be working on an assignment for my course, and I was working on it, no, seriously I was, mostly, sort of. The main problem with it…hmmm…there was no problem with it, as such. It just wasn’t very appealing. That’s not right either, once I’d actually put pen to paper and started , it was good fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although maybe that was because I did it my way, rather than perhaps what they wanted to receive. In any case it was the thought of starting it that was unappealing.

Let me explain.

The Waterboys released ‘A Pagan Place’ in 1984, specifically in June 1984, when I was sitting my Leaving Cert’, similar to the ‘A’ levels only tougher and more meaningful. The second song on that album “All The Things She Gave Me” created a story in my head at the time, which partly made it’s way onto the pages of my English essay in that exam and then stayed there. Until last Friday. I’d swear I hadn’t heard that song in as many years until last Friday. I’d listened to it many, many times, but hadn’t heard what I’d heard back then , until last Friday. The movie I’d made around it in my mind came back, but now there was another element.

Let me explain.

While doing my course earlier in the year, yes, the same course, but earlier in the year ,we were in actual classrooms with classmates, store bought coffee and real live lecturers. My stars, we had multi-coloured Post-It notes and evertything. Pardon ? No there were no squirrels there. Sorry, there were some grey squirrels. Yes! In the centre of Dublin , in the grounds of Trinity no less. But they were grey squirrels, and we refer to them as tree rats, because we don’t like them.

In one of the classes, perhaps the best class I’ve ever been in , we were introduced to the Significant Object Study. This was a project conducted in 2006 where two guys bought up bits and bobs of bric-a-brac on eBay and then re-listed them but this time they’d asked a number of people to write a fictitious back story for each listing. This back story then formed the product description on the eBay listing. Each listing clearly stated that the back story was fictitious , but each item sold for many multiples of the original price they’d bought them for.

Again, sorry not sorry, I’m listening to Radioheads ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ as I write this and the track Identikit has just reached the chorus :

“Broken hearts make it rain,
Broken hearts make it rain…”

Isn’t that divine ?

Just me ?


In the Significant Objects Study they bought 200 items for an average of $1.25 each but sold them, with the stories, for a total of $8,000 !

In class we were in groups of 6 and each group was assigned a similar piece of bric-a-brac and given ten minutes to come up with a back story for an eBay listing for it.

Our group was assigned a tiny little porcelain bear. This was the story I came up with :

Grand Aunt Minnie visited us in Monaghan every school holiday with Uncle Hugh. They dressed like 1930’s Holywood movie stars, and they drove a Mercedes. They toured around all of Minnie’s nieces and nephews, but her favourite  was my Dad. They were treated like visiting royalty in our house. They had no children of their own, and none of her relatives were ever invited to visit them in their home in Belfast, but this being the 70’s no one was in a rush to.
And then we got word that Uncle Hugh had passed away and Dad travelled to Belfast to help make the funeral arrangements. He was sure he had the wrong address as he arrived into a terraced street of red brick houses , many boarded up. He knocked on the door of number 33 and Minnie answered the door wearing a pinnie and slippers. The bubble burst. Dad paid for the funeral.
She continued to visit us on each holiday , but arrived by Ulsterbus. She always whispered to Dad that he’d be her heir and would be well looked after. He always smiled politely.
When she passed away we had to clear out the house. In a drawer in the bedroom we found a  letter addressed to Minnie, dated 8th December 1934, dismissing her from her post as house maid to the Ashley -Coopers, better known as the Earls of Shaftesbury, and owners of Belfast Castle. There was mention of a missing engagement ring belonging to Lady Constance. Dad simply put the letter in the grate and lit it. Let her rest in peace he said.
Two months later Dad received a small parcel and a letter from a Belfast solicitor. The letter simply stated that he had been instructed to send the enclosed tiny porcelain bear to him upon the event of Minnie’s passing. There was also an invoice, Minnie had neglected to pay him. Dad sighed.
He picked up the little bear and as he did so he heard something rattle inside….
Starting price £9.99

Several people asked if the story was true. There was no bear, or stolen engagement ring….that we know of.

The Waterboys’ song dealt with a romantic break up and his desire to burn all of the things that she had given him. But when I heard it this week it now became conflated  with Minnie’s porcelain bear.

Let me explain.

In my new dream/story /movie Minnie was still an exotic visiting Grand Aunt, but she never married, drove her own Mercedes, and doted on her grandniece Nell rather than her nephew. She told her grandniece many, many wonderful stories and strongly hinted that she was a spy. A central and constant element in each of these stories was the concealment of an important key/object/ clue/ancient artefact in a tiny porcelain animal, fairy, doll, through which she smuggled it out and invariably saved the day. As Nell got older she became disillusioned with Minnie as more and more of her stories were revealed to be implausible. She eventually inherits Minnie’s old house and is immediately landed with outstanding debts and taxes. In a fit of pique she decides to clear out the house and burn all of Minnies bric-a-brac and papers in the garden. She gets relief from throwing drawer after drawer of letters, notebooks and rubbish out of the windows and by the time she starts smashing old vases and flowerpots  is  positively giddy. When she gets to Minnie’s bedroom she is stopped in her tracks when she sees them.

A row of little porcelain figures, a bear, a frog, something that could either have been a rabbit or a mouse, a fairy, a wee doll that looked Dutch, a lizard, and several monkeys. Each one looked cheaper than the next. Nell was overcome with anger, “Little bastards !” she screamed. Here were all Minnie’s lies manifest. She rushed toward the shelf determined to smash each and everyone of them. She picked up the frog “You were the start of it !” she screamed. Minnie had told her that she had recovered the Brazillian diamonds, known as brillants, exceptionally clear water diamonds, which had formed part of the Diamond Star of St.Patrick, stolen along with all of the Irish Crown Jewels from Dublin Castle in 1907, and hidden them in a little green porcelain frog to keep them safe from ….she couldn’t remember. She’d believed her until she was 14 and mentioned in history class when the subject came up that her Grand Auntie Minnie had saved them. The teacher laughed, everyone laughed, even now Nell was going bright red remembering the shame. She hurled it against the far wall of the bedroom and it shattered into ….

Time stood still for a moment. Nell was dazzled by an explosion of stardust. In what seemed like slow motion the room was showered in tiny bright radiant droplets. She closed her eyes for a moment , took a deep breath and then bent down and felt around the floor  until she gathered up a few….a few what ? She opened her eyes. She had several tiny clear diamonds in her hand. She clasped her other hand over her mouth trying in vain to suppress her cry. Tears fell onto her open palm, shimmering,  indistinguishable from the wee diamonds.

And then I had to go back to the damn assignment.

And then Glenn sent me a super cool video he’d made around our wee poem introducing the Drumlin Giants. And then Marc rang to say that the fifth Giant, Dagda’s Cauldron of Plenty was being installed on Monday, so I need to finish that book of short stories. And then I remembered that I’d also left Ezekiel, the magical wombat, in need of another chapter.

Oh that’s good !

What ?

Joga by Bjork, why do you ask ?

 And , of course, the story of Hughie The Buck travelling in one direction through time but tied to the path of … that tiny terracotta Sphinx, travelling the other way, hasn’t received any love or attention since ….2015 !

Sorry this blog is late today.

P.S. Here is All The Things She Gave Me

Author: paul

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