Maria ‘The Mammy’ vs Maria ‘The Múinteoir’

Maria the Mammy thinks...

Nope. 

Not a hope. 

Not sending them ANYWHERE NEAR schools. 

Need to keep them safe.

Can’t control things when they’re away from me.

Fuck the government and their ineptitude.

I don’t want them to be away from us.

I don’t want them to be frightened or worried or scared by anything.

I don’t want to think about how they can’t hug their friends or play with other kids who aren’t in their pod or whatever.

I don’t want them to go on a bus, mixing with kids from 6 different schools.

I don’t want to have to send them to Afterschool

How am I going to manage to be both in class and at the school gate on days where I have to pick up my own kids?

I’ve had months of keeping them close and knowing they’re safe.

BUT… 

They miss school 

They need school

They miss their friends

They need more social interaction

They need more than Myself and their Daddy

They need normality. 

They need education…because Home-learning DID NOT happen as much or as well as it should have done. (Kind of difficult when both of us were working full time from home.)

They need other adult voices.

They need routine.

They’re in a wonderful school and have wonderful teachers who I know will do everything to keep them safe and secure.

Maria the Múinteoir thinks…

I don’t want to put myself or anyone of my colleagues or students in harm’s way.

What if I get it?

What if I’m an Asymptomatic carrier?

What if one of my kids gets sick and it’s my fault?

What is it going to be like teaching some classes in school and the rest online?

Am I going to be able to do my job properly?

Am I going to be able to make the kids feel safe and secure?

How can I support the students who need support?

How can I teach in my usual groupwork and collaborative style when they have to be socially distanced and I can’t sit beside them?

What about my students with extra needs?

How can I not meet anyone outside of my own bubble, but I can stand in a room with up to 30 young adults for up to 80 minutes?

How is under Jesus is this going to work?

BUT

I can’t wait to get back to work.

I miss my colleagues.

I miss my babies.

I miss teaching.

I need routine.

I need adult conversation.

I need some sort of normality.

My students need school.

I know it’ll be OK

I trust my management to keep us safe.

I will absolutely do MY best to keep my students feeling safe.

Teachers are a resilient bunch. 

We’ll do our best.

And it WILL all be OK.  

We are not in control and we can only deal with things as they come.  We did it in the autumn and we’ll do it again now.

So many of us are experiencing all sorts of emotions tonight, especially those of us who are parents also.  We are genuinely torn.

I need the Mammies and Daddies who are feeling the exact same way as I am as a Mammy, to trust me in the same way that I have to put MY trust in my daughters’ teachers. 

I need the parents who are sending their kids into me, to trust that I will do my absolute best to make sure that their children are able to learn in the current environment, and that they feel safe and secure in my presence. 

I need the parents to understand that I understand THEIR worries, because I too am a Mammy who is nervous (terrified) about releasing my little girls into the big scary world right now too.

We are frightened.  We are worried.  We are anxious.  And our fears are real.  

But we are determined and we are professional and we are fully qualified to educate.  And as teachers, we care about your kids. 

The emotional chaos of the sudden closure of schools again in January was huge… but that’s a whole other article. 

So while Maria the Mammy might fall apart in the utility room a few times today at the thought of MY precious babies leaving me every day to go to a whole new world, Maria the teacher will pull myself together, take a deep breath, hang up my tracksuit and go back through the doors of my much missed school, to teach and to support my “other babbies”… 

And it will all be absolutely grand. 

Mumpty, Mumpty Sat on the Wall…

Mumpty Mumpty, up there on the wall…
You look at your babies, both now grown so tall
That their uniforms probably won’t even fit
When we finally get ourselves out of this shit.

You look at the table, the mess on the floor,
The toys that are trailing right out the hall door.
You look at the school books, still sitting in piles
You see your to-do list that still goes for miles.

You stare at the laptop, then set it aside,
For you know all the work that awaits you inside.
You fight off the constant attacks of the guilt
That now sit on your shoulders and won’t seem to quit.

You listen to questions, to snaps and to fights
You wonder how many more hours until night
When you’ll finally get your wee darlings to bed
When in dreams, you would tuck them in, kissing their heads,

Before putting your feet up and watching TV.,
But these days that simply won’t happen you see,
For once your kids finally succumb to their sleep
It’s time to start working and trying to keep
Up with zoomcalls and emails and missed calls and work,
All the things that one simply can’t do while we burp
Our baby on our knee, or are wiping a bum.
While trying a failing to work out a sum
That we possibly learned ourselves while in 3rd class
But that now we don’t understand, nor would we pass
Our son’s Irish exam or his History or sciences
And we wonder while stuffing more socks in appliances
How much of this stuff we have learned but forget
How much of it really was needed, and yet
We feel like a failure for not being able
To answer the questions being fired from the table
Like missiles and bombs that might make us explode
And the dishwasher’s beeping to signal its load
Is all done. It needs emptied and does the machine
And speaking of empty, the fridge needs restocked
For breakfast, break, lunch and dinner are all round the clock.

While washing the dishes, we’re answering calls
We’re hitting our deadlines and cursing our walls
That we’re all sick of seeing. We long for normality
Where work is for work and where home is for family.

Where hours are set for the parts of our lives
That are suddenly jumbled together like knives
In a drawer that’s a mess, where nothing is found,
Where as parents we can’t keep our feet on the ground.

We’re doing our best, but we’re doing too much.
We’re tired and stressed and our brains are like mush.
We’re trying to be parents and workers and teachers
To be friends to our children and support our teenagers

But stop. Take a minute and gather your thoughts.
Who says that we have to keep joining the dots?
We can’t do it all. It’s impossible really
To try to do everything we once did so easily.

And who is it really that’s making these rules
That we all have to manage to mix work and school?
We can’t do it all. It can fall asunder
We’re breaking ourselves with the pressure we’re under.

Our children need school, of that there’s no doubt
And they’ll get back there soon and with glee we’ll all shout.
There’s light at the end of this tunnel, you’ll see.
And soon, all of this will be just memories,

But now, in the meantime, go easy on you.
And remember there’s only so much you can do.

Maria Rushe
February 2021

The “Great” Outdoors – It Really Is.

The Great Outdoors

It’s not just “great” because it’s huge and gargantuous, it’s “great” in so many more ways than that.

Mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys… Our imagination takes us straight to the visuals of national parks and sweeping mountain ranges when we hear the words “The Great Outdoors”.

But the phrase has taken on new meaning for us in the past 10 months. Not the “outdoors” bit – the “Great” bit.

I’ve always been a fan of the outdoors. When you grow up on a farm in Donegal, you don’t really have any other option. But even as an adult, with my farm duties minimised to a few days a year helping the Daddy out, the outdoors is somewhere we try to spend a lot of time.

Family fundays are (were) always outdoors

We’re one of those families. Even long before we had heard the word “lockdown”, Sundays were our Fun-days and usually involved a beach or a forest or a hike up something. And on the odd day where we found ourselves Kiddy free, we liked to climb the odd mountain. Yes, for fun.

Muckish was the last mountain we climbed in June last year, once restrictions allowed us to drive to it!

So now we’re obviously missing being able to adventure throughout our beautiful county, but ironically, never before have I enjoyed the outdoors so much. Nor have I ever needed it so much. It’s no longer just for Sundays. It’s become a daily requirement in my life. And in Himself’s life and certainly in the girls’ lives.

We can’t go far. The garden is plenty big for the girls to run free and living in the sticks (as they say) means that we can walk or run on a few different roads within our 5k.

Last week, I turned left instead of right for the first time and ended up running on a road I probably haven’t been on in 25 years. I never need to drive it. It was like travelling to Narnia, bringing me past a farm on which I spent many a day playing as a child (Dad kept cattle there) and past homes of people I haven’t seen since National school. How quickly we get set in our ways eh? I’ll be running that road more often. It made me smile.

A different road within my 5k brought back memories

I’ve never been so glad to be able to get outdoors. Even on the days where I can’t get out for a run, if it’s too slippy, or I’m too busy, I make a point of going outdoors. Even if it’s only to walk around the house a few times, or to stand in the garden. Coat on , cuppa in hand and out I go. Because in our current situation, the outdoors is indeed great. Even if you’re only going as far as your back step.

It’s “great” because it’s fresh. Deep breaths of cold air, your face stinging from the temperature change as you step outside, your exhalations evaporating in clouds at your face… it’s rejuvenating.

It’s calming. It’s soothing. It’s relaxing and refreshing. Sometimes, it’s the only place we can escape the constant noise and chaos of our precious children. I can tolerate the noise of my two a WHOLE lot more when we’re outside! (Not sure I can say the same for the neighbours. They sometimes sound like there are 38 of them.)

But seriously, there is something magical about fresh air and what it can do. No it can’t solve our problems or change things, but it can allow us to see them differently. And sometimes, getting outdoors gives us the opportunity to process them that we can not get when surrounded by noise and washing machines and bleeping devices and work piles on the kitchen tables and all the “things” that need done, yesterday.

And so while we’re stuck within our respective 5kms and for most of us, Errigal and Muckish are only visible in the distance or on our phones, we can still get outdoors and let it help us feel better.

We might not feel “great”, but one thing is certain, even a 5 minute breather in the outdoors, will leave you feeling a whole lot better than if you DON’T set foot outside.

And that is all it takes. Open door. Step out. Hello Outdoors. It’s great!

So yes. I can’t wait to explore again; to climb mountains and go on hikes and run a different road. But if nothing else, I’ve learned that they don’t call it the “Great outdoors” just because it’s big and vast.

It’s “great”, whether you’re standing at the foot of a mountain, or walking around your garden, or leaning on your car in your street, or hugging a cuppa on your doorstep.

Step outdoors, just for a few minutes a day. Trust me. It’s great.

You Drive you, I’ll Drive Me…

“Drive for yourself and let other drivers worry about themselves…” 

Words of wisdom from my much missed Granda Pops.  

He said these words to my Mum many times and he said them to me when I drove my first car up to his sitting room window many years ago. 

He looked out from his throne, cast his eyes over it, nodded that it was a “good big safe car” and then added these words. 

 I’d heard them before of course. It was one of his lines that my Mum had taken with her when she left home, repeating it at many opportunities, much like the one or two clangers that I constantly repeat from my Dad.

And like Daddy’s “Remember who has the problem” line, this one has stood the test of time and lingered on in our memories, not just because of who used to say it, but because it’s so so true. 

Mum still likes to remind us of, especially when one of us comes home giving out about someone who pulled out in front of us, or didn’t use an indicator, or almost caused a three car pile up at the roundabout. 

But this past week I’ve thought about it and said it more than once…and yet, I haven’t even been driving. I haven’t left the house.

In a few different conversations and phonecalls, and in the current climate of the JudgyMcJudgerson and AngryMcAngryson, I have found myself comforting people by using Granda’s line.  

Let’s get metaphorical, shall we? Buckle up… (see what I did there?)

Car, Pink Car, Thunderbird, Drive

We all drive our own car. ( We all live our own lives). 

We’re all responsible for our own vehicle. (You worry about you, I’ll worry about me.)

We all have our own passengers. (My family is my responsibility.)

We shouldn’t drive too fast. (Calm yourself woman!)

We can’t drive with an empty tank. (Fuel that body up!)

The car needs regular services. (Self care is important… Let your imagination go where it will there Jacinta!)

If you’re on the wrong route, you can always turn around or change lanes.  (You’re NOT stuck in that job/rut/relationship. Do what you need to make yourself happy.)

Make sure the tyres are fit for purpose. (Shoes are also important…)

We should all stay in our own lane (Mind your business Polly…)

Actually, this one is pretty important.  Drive to get yourself where you need to go, but try not to bump into anyone else on your journey eh? Don’t be a roadhog and remember you’re not the only car on the road.

Traffic, Highway, Lights, Night, Speed

But joking aside, there’s a reason cars and driving are so frequently used for analyses of life.  It makes sense.  Life is a journey and we are all travelling through, trying to navigate potholes and flat tyres and other cars.

You can’t control how other drivers drive their cars or react on the road.  And you can’t control how other people live their lives or react to things. 

You can disapprove of a person’s driving style or behaviour on the road, but there’s very little you can DO about it. Same goes for life and other people’s decisions/business/choices.

You can watch in horror as someone overtakes on a corner, aghast at what might happen, but there is nothing you can do about their decision. People have to make their own decisions.

You can disagree on the style or colour or size of someone else’s car choice.  Guess what, it’s not YOUR car and really, what they drive is nothing to do with you.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  You’re not them.

If people are reacting or behaving a certain way towards you.  If people are commenting and disapproving of what you do.  If people are unhappy with how you are driving YOUR car… whatever.   

Are they your passengers?  

Are they in danger because of how “drive your car”?  

Do they pay for your car?

Well if not, does it really matter what they think?

No. 

And if someone decided to flash their lights at you, or give you the one fingered salute as they pass, or shout out the window at you…or even if they sit in their car bitching about yours, once again, you can’t control that. 

And actually now that I think of it, my Granda’s words of wisdom AND my Daddy’s words of wisdom go quite well together. 

“You drive for yourself and let other drivers drive for themselves”.  Oh and if someone doesn’t like your “driving”, “remember who has the problem”.

Vintage 1950S, Pretty Woman, Vintage Car

Grill? Aye, Grill…

The Golden Grill.

Bella’s Club. Millionaire Club, Club 2000, Rouge… However you remember it and whatever name your generation used, one word said it all.

You going the Grill? Aye.

I am saddened to see the news today that the famous building that housed Letterkenny’s legendary Golden Grill, is being demolished.

Well, saddened might be the wrong word. It’s been lying unopened for years, and it is approximately 14 years since I was last in it, so really, I have nothing to be sad about. But for so so many of us who grew up in and around Letterkenny, the Grill, for a huge chunk of our youths, was Life.

The queues. The bouncers, The joy of finally getting through the door with that ID… (I NEVER did this Mammy I promise…) The big hallway where immediately, we read the atmosphere and decided which direction in which to strut (sorry walk) first. Into the strobe lit, smokey deep and cavernous mayhem of Millionaires, later to become the uber cool and very funkified Club 2000? Or into the deep and dulcetly dim dens of Bella’s.

Millionaires. Oh the podiums…The steps… The raised levels… We all had our moment on those podiums, didn’t we? I’m pretty sure I spent FAR too much time strutting my not-quite-as-funky-but-slightly-so-drunky stuff on those podiums. We knew the spots. We knew where to stand, to see and be seen. We knew the corners certain people would surely be in. We knew the tricks of heading out to get coats before the final songs. We knew which bar to head towards.

Or maybe we shuffled towards Bella’s…to the cooler and less “Ooooooonce-oooooncey” music, the lesser jammed dance floor, the dare I say, older and “cooler” crowd, who preferred a drink, a boogie and shock horror, even a conversation to the full blown rave happening across the hall.

And then, the supper. Oh the SUPPER!

The free supper that you held your ticket tight all night to ensure that you got. How many supper tickets were produced from sweaty bras in those days eh? And the crush at the counter, calling for “curry chups and coleshlaaaaw” or “battered sausages”.

The joy.

We knew that the craic. We were cool. Everyone in the grill was cool, even those of us who really weren’t.

The Grill Letterkenny - Home | Facebook
Image from The Grill’s Facebook page

The music. The crowds. The chaos. The squashed bodies. The shared sweat. The swapped saliva. Jesus lads, how did we survive? The glares and stares. The flirty glances and coy looks. The full on shift right there in the middle of a few thousand people. The dancing. The freedom. The buzz. The giddy energy. The drunkenness. The invincibility… Christ I could write a million more words and I still wouldn’t explain it all.

Even as I type this, the memories are making me smile.

The style. The heels. The nakedness. The slaps when a hand wandered too far. The protective brothers stepping in. The square-ups. The puffed chests. The bouncers. The scuffles. How a crowd of sardines could split instantaneously as bouncers removed whoever dared ruin the mood.

Friendships started and ended in the Grill. The problems of the world were solved in bathrooms and on sofas. You went in to the loo for a pee but came out with wisdom, advice and possibly a new best friend. Oh, and remember when we shared lipsticks and hairbrushes with strangers? Jaysus wept!

Relationship started (and ended!) in the Grill. Some of us old fogeys, now long past the joys of a packed nightclub, can attribute first kisses with the current partner to The Grill. Oh indeed, The Grill has a lot to answer for in some cases.

And yet, I sit here now, having heard that it’s going to cease to exist and I find myself reminiscing.

It was a huge part of life for us in the 90s and noughties. And it most certainly was a huge part of life for those who frequented it in the 70s and 80s. (I’ve heard the aunts and uncles telling stories!) I’m sure younger people have fond memories of events there in the past 10 years too, but of course EVERY generation thinks that THEY have the monopoly on the memories, don’t they?

I have fond memories (mostly) of my many many nights in it. Some are a bit blurry. Some have possibly been edited a bit in my mind. Some have been blotted from my memory accidentally on purpose. But in general, they are fond.

Memories of friendships, of dancing, of flirting, of laughing, of boogying, of eating, of dancing. Did I mention the dancing? Oh, the dancing!

The strobe lights. the smoke and even sometimes, fireworks for dramatic effect. The Grill was an icon. It will never be replicated. And I’m a little sad that my own daughters won’t get to experience it for themselves.

For now however, it moves into the history books, joining The Fiesta in the stuff of Letterkenny Legends. In the same way that I grew up listening to stories of The Fiesta from my parents, our kids will listen to stories of the Grill.

And they’ll roll their eyes and never understand how absolutely fecking EPIC it was to be us.

And if walls could talk, the walls of that building, while it still stands, could tell some stories. And when those walls do fall, the stories will stay with us. You can’t demolish memories.