Real life

Why are doctors blaming my birth for my mother’s tumour? 

A curious letter has been sent to my mother blaming the tumour in her neck on my birth. An NHS consultant has come to this conclusion after briefly looking into this very rare neoplasm on her left bulbar nerve, called a hypoglossal schwannoma. It was discovered during a routine head scan monitoring her dementia, which

I feel for my Jewish friends

‘So what you’re telling me,’ said the priest to the builder boyfriend, ‘is that you were brought up by Irish tinkers, moving from place to place, and have no idea whether or where you were baptised or confirmed?’ ‘And you,’ he said, turning his gaze to me, ‘think your confirmation was done by the Pope

Do charities really deserve my mum’s data?

A letter from Archie Norman, chairman of M&S, popped into my inbox after I complained that I had run over my foot with a changing room door. It wasn’t a personal letter, rather a generic response, and this was a relief because I would not have liked the actual Archie Norman to have actually seen

A meeting with my past in an NHS hospital

Pushing through a crowded hospital corridor behind my father, I heard a voice calling me. Then a nurse grabbed me and threw her arms around me. She had heard my father’s name and recognised me, her old school friend from St Joseph’s. As we walked and talked, she told me, ‘We all read your articles’

The struggle to book my wedding in Ireland

‘How does anyone young and stupid manage to get married?’ I kept shouting at the builder boyfriend as I pummelled the keys of my laptop to try to force the website of the registrar to give me a date. It seems I picked the worst possible time to try to serve notice because, as anyone

Lefties don’t know anything about farming

The artists and hippies are re-wilding their land, which is to say doing nothing at all to it and watching it fill up with brambles. The builder boyfriend and I are un-wilding our land, which is to say pulling out every bramble we can find and cutting back the overhanging tree branches. ‘Seven hundred trees,’

Will I ever get my HRT?

The novelty of living in a place where a policeman called Ambrose lives in a house whose door you can knock on if you need him will never wear off on me. I’ve asked around and no one here can remember any crime, aside from years ago they seem to recall there was a murder.

Are conspiracy theories just conspiracy therapy?

At the Centre for Rare Diseases, the car park was full and lots of people were milling about. I pulled into a private space I wasn’t meant to be in so that I could let my mother out of the car by the front door. I then sat in the car waiting, watching the rare

It’s pointless arguing with an Irishman

‘Why are those pipes sticking out of the wall like that?’ said the bathroom fitter, surveying the work the plumber had done. He stood musing over the way the tubing poked through a stud wall at an upwards angle so you couldn’t attach it to a sink unless you bent it round and then he

Ireland’s best-kept (and most annoying) secret

Ireland’s best-kept secret is a stretch of toll road through its capital city that was about to ensnare me again. The M50 Dublin toll is located between Junction 6, Blanchardstown, and Junction 7, Lucan. And this is aptly named because the bit where they apparently demand payment is so invisible it is worthy of the name

Am I going off the reservation?

The priest said it would be a short service because he wanted to make an important announcement. After rushing through the Mass so quickly he missed out most of the good bits, he solemnly declared the following: he urgently needed volunteers to say prayers over the bodies. The builder boyfriend agrees with me, but it

The art of speaking tradesman-ese

The plumber and the builder conversed at top speed, making a combined sound that was so strange it seemed likely only bats or aliens from outer space could make sense of it. The chap who had come to price our new bathrooms was gabbling in a thick west Cork accent, giving absolutely nothing away to

Why won’t Tesco bank let me change my address?

‘Thanks for calling Tesco bank,’ said the voice, before rather lavishly promising to get me to a member of the team who was going to help me. This wasn’t quite how it turned out, although I would say, up until the moment I asked to change my address I was a very satisfied customer. If

The wonder of an Irish blacksmith

‘What’s wrong with your lot?’ asked the blacksmith as he was shoeing our horses. And we had to admit that we really didn’t know.  Don’t be telling an Irish blacksmith that he might not be good enough for you and your rescue nags We came to Ireland to get away from liberal lunacy but the

I’ll do anything to get a decent plumber

The plumbers come and go, but mainly go, and I am now so desperate for a bath that I will do anything for a man carrying a pipe wrench. If only I had more Botox in my face and my highlights done, I found myself thinking, as we sat at the kitchen table one night

When did the world become so overwhelming? 

When the clouds come down and the mountains disappear I feel myself disappearing too. As long as I can see the beautiful scenery I never regret coming here, but on days when a white-out envelops us it’s no consolation that the horizon is still out there somewhere. I feel trapped and lonely and lost and

Have I cursed myself by drinking holy water?

The mountain spring that feeds our house froze during the first ground frost, and we had no water. The builder boyfriend filled a bucket from the fountain in the garden so we could flush the loo. This really is living in faded grandeur. I spent the evening worrying about how we had cursed ourselves by

A meeting with our new boy-racer neighbour

We were riding the two cobs down the lane when I heard the car roaring its engine behind us. I had seen it pull out of a long, winding driveway coming from a house perched on top of the highest point of the hillside, a few hundred yards along from our place. It went the

Is it really a coincidence everyone seems to be dying?

The funeral drinks at McCarthy’s bar was splendid, and towards the end we got invited to another one. I was sitting at the bar with a bowl of soup and a plate of neatly cut cheesy sandwiches, while the builder boyfriend drank a pint of Murphy’s, when the bar owner leaned over and told us