Sunday, 7 April 2019

GRAVITY - a dramatic review of a blanket

mdm Zzz

I saw the word sleep in the ad.

And women curled up under grey blankets.

Blah blah blah ........ so very what I thought and scrolled on.

It came back into my feed repeatedly so I tapped the link.

It's a heavy blanket to calm you down is what it is.

Calm a scourge?
A woman with a racing brain who rarely sleeps ?
Go ahead, hit me with your best shot.

My amazing Doctor  -  had once issued the immortal line -
"We'll have to bring out the big guns" and prescribed a strong sedative that I became immune to as speedily as my head races.
Trying to sleep with the mania of a Bi-Polar high means that your brain is fizzing with kaleidoscopic colours and thoughts.
Sometimes it hurts more to shut my eyes because of the flickering.
On tour with my play I lay on a hotel bed in the last hours of sunlight before showtime and remarked wearily to a woman in the corner that it was easier to stay awake.

As a child I had many names.
That Divilskin. That little Scourge. The Changeling. Little Missus Up and Down. That bloody Rip.
And The Night Owl.

I read the reviews.

They were unremittingly positive.
Apart from a number who demanded their blanket and berated customer service.
And someone who said it smelt funny. 

Now that's funny.

After an entire day of deliberation I logged on and bought the bloody thing.

It was so painless, and the instalment payments so easy I also bought a rock stars coat,
 a t-shirt about saving bees,
 and miracle gel pads to hold art onto crumbling walls.

The hallway and stairs are littered with canvasses.

I know, I'm a walking cliché.

It is March 15th.

Karl Blau in Philly. PA.  

mdm in Wexford Ireland 

The local elections are upcoming so I invite a Councillor to the opening of a blanket.

March 25th - I call my 89 year old Father to tell him I am out without a coat.
I spend my day wearing blue shades on a Tailors bench heckling passers by waiting for the man in a van.
The Reverend Mother hurrying to Mass catches me smoking despite my assurances to the contrary at tea in a Convent.
I photograph myself with a Franciscan Friary reflected in the mirror shades for atonement.

The blanket does not arrive.

I check the tracking number, it says 27th before 6pm.

My Father is driving me in from sowing forget me nots on my Mothers grave.
At the traffic lights he announces that he "simply CANT stop thinking about Olly Murs" 

I. Can't. Even. 😮

How does Olly Murs even make it onto his radar?

Because he was on Mrs Browns Boys that's how.

To stop himself thinking about Olly Murs he decided to play "Grace" on his accordian.
Then that got him thinking about Sister Grace  (the aforementioned Nun) then THAT got him thinking about the Convent, then THAT got him thinking about the time he had to collect wood for the Convent from McCormack & Hegarty's in 1946

"Can you drive an Ass and Car Tom?" says the Reverend Mother to the eager 16 year old boy who hadn't a breeze.

"I came back with my shoes in flitters as the bloody thing would only go left no matter how hard I pulled" he laughs.

I laugh louder.

Then I drew this.

Turn, for Gods sake !

And about 50 other things.

I had barely emailed customer support when the lad rang the bell. 
He caught me on the hop. 

I had sworn to an eager Facebook audience that I would live stream the opening. 
I swore again when I realised this might be difficult one handedly. 

I went at it like a bull in a gap.

Here is the proof.


It's soft and heavy.
I've barely clicked share before I'm under it. 
It is odourless.  

I describe it on Twitter as like being hugged by the Munster Rugby lads. 
As a pub landlady in Neath in a previous life I speak from memory. 

It's warm and heavy. 

It makes you think that all the million things you are running around trying to do can wait for 5 minutes.
I force myself out from under it as it feels like being minded as a child. 
The nostalgia for blankets, eiderdowns, comforters, the weight making the physical presence feel safe.  

I look forward to bed in a room I had come to loathe, associating it with pain, grief, and nightmares.
Tossing and turning, fuming, reading, crying, throwing bedding off, pulling bedding on -----
Rinse and repeat ad nauseam. 

Night 1 - 

I drag the blanket over me at midnight like the women in the ad. 

I am asleep 7 minutes after I lay down as that is how far I got in the Headspace meditation.

Did I mention I'm a walking cliché?  

I wake at 7am feeling mentally fresh albeit with stiff ankles.

I have not moved during the night. 

Then I find this in the wrapping paper I am shredding. 

Day 21 my eye 


The stiffness was sooooooo worth it! 

Night 2 - 

I lep in under the blanket and am asleep easily. It's very cosy. I realise the cover with the padding will have to come off on a hot summer night. It's washable. I'm used to it. 

Night 3 - 

It is my new favourite thing. 
I can feel it calling me upstairs when I am wearing spectacles to read subtitles on documentaries about Near Death Experiences and UFO's.

Night 4 -
 I remove the blanket at 5am and replace it with the duvet to do a controlled experiment. It has not escaped my attention that I am awake at 5am. 
 It feels like being exposed, lighter, cooler, fluffier .... it doesn't compare.
 I consider dragging the blanket from room to room with me so I can feel safe and warm all day. 

Night 5 - 
It is a mild humid night and I do the leg-out thing to cool the physical presence of a scourge. I remove the layers of slips, t-shirts and vests that masquerade as nightwear and lie nudely giggling. 

Night 6 
A woman has breasted me about the blanket for so long in Tesco that my scanning machine turned itself off and demanded to be put back in its cradle. I tell her I am trying to be honest and fair but may have let slip that I heart it. 

Night 7 -  

Diary Entry - April 5th 2019 

"I love this blanket, it's definitely helping" 


In a spirit of independent research I allowed access to the plant filled room that has a soundtrack of the ocean to some other critics. 
I made them lie under it. 
With their shoes on. 

"It's lovely, I love it, it feels like a hug, it feels like there is someone beside you, how much is it?" 

I have not been paid or comped for this review. 
I just thought it would be informative for anyone who suffers from insomnia or anxiety.
Which is pretty much the entire planet. 

The company mentions that it takes a while before the affects really kick in so I look forward to the coming weeks as I am so busy I don't know if  I've lost a horse or found a rope. 

*Please note that no matter how loving your relationship with your partner is you will not share one as it needs to be draped around the contours of the body*

I can't wait for #GravityBlanket.Co.Uk to send me another one for the couch.
And my Da 😗 

Yours in Christ

mdm April 2019  

Michelle Dooley Mahon is the author of "Scourged" which is available on Amazon
and the author and performer of the critically acclaimed  theatre production "The Scourge" which has just finished touring as part of the FirstFortnight European Mental Health and Culture Festival. 
She is currently writing and developing her new show - DiVilSkIn for which she was in receipt of an Bursary 

Friday, 9 November 2018


It was a whore of a night.

The kind of night where a rain soaked wind blows a jeep sideways on the N11 and the heater mists the windscreen so that you nearly plough into the orange cones that have diverted traffic into Carlow town.
The Sat Nav was on cocaine.  
She tried and tried to bring us in ever decreasing circles around the town - always within spitting distance of the theatre we are bound for, but then frustratingly away, again and again as she shouts turn left, turn left.  She led us a merry dance in a hurricane down roads that are named for Pollerton, Staplestown Graigcullen and Dublin, and streets that are named for Tullow and Burrin.
I know this town.
Since I was a child I have been driven up the roads from Wexford to my Mothers home in “The Crescent” named for Killian.
Oylegate, Enniscorthy, Bunclody, Kildavin, Ballon, and Carla recited like a Mantra as we drove at speed over potholes you could lose a wheelbarrow in, rattling around unrestrained in the backs of  Austin 1100s  and Renault 4’s to the County of the Poppies, where my Uncle Eugene  “Girly” Dooley threw slices of cooked ham and corned beef around his butchers shop to the headscarfed women chatting  on the deep window sill.
My heroic chauffeur is also my long suffering producer and she is charmingly treble jobbing as per. Consuming a cup of tay and an apple slice for dinner on a garage forecourt, driving in heavy rain, explaining she can’t look at the photo just now, listening and trying to respond to the full on ranter in the front seat who is lounging against the glass a la Oscar Wilde, pontificating and smoking out the window in a torrential downpour, trying to decipher the road signs at speed.
“I am usually driven” says I as I sit up and get ready to guide her in to the familiar town.

-          There’s Askea where we went to Mass sometimes, and Willie Rath has a shop over there you’d drive a hunnerd miles to buy Pavlovas in. There’s where the chipper was called “Cod Almighty” and down here on the right was a shop run by sisters called “Coogans” where I’d be sent for the block of Raspberry Ripple and a packet of wafers. McDarbys here on the left was where we’d get cones and the Sunday papers on the way back from the Cathedral……

I pause as we pass the turn off for the Crescent as the house is now empty, and in darkness.
A momentary shiver goes through me as I remember the loss of my Mother, and then only months later her youngest sister, the last Dooley in the Crescent. 
It was being driven to read her Coroners report that I found the prop I needed for my own play.

“These are a hardy bunch” I say proudly alighting from the jeep as the wind battles me for custody of the door. I have spotted the trickles and pairings and determined walkers who are bent over running through the icy night to the warmth of a foyer. Inside is bright and cosy and a throng of interesting looking types are milling about in the modern bar. The bookshop is like an art installation and I frighten the bejesus out of an assistant by looming over her enquiring like JR Hartley if my own book is in stock still.
“I can see it from here” cries the producer as she runs up the stairs as the bell rings.
The Carla crowd are determined to enjoy the theatre.
They’re done up like dolls in capes and hats and are having a few scoops for themselves. They are making an evening of the event. And it IS an event.
I have been reading and hearing about Pat Kinevane for years.
The guy is outrageously talented and driven and I have watched the trailers for his Trilogy in disbelief.
 He has worked and performed all over the world and has been nominated and won too many awards to list here for his superb performances, in collaboration with his long term Director Jim Culleton of Fishamble.
I have never laid eye nor glove on him.
Theatre is probably the last communal thing an audience shares.
As any actor will affirm the time spent on stage is so completely in the moment, in the recalling of the words, the phrases,  the line,  after line, after line, the moves, the blocking, the mark, the spot,  centrestage -  the presence of being in just this one moment, under the lights, listening to the audience breathe.
The play becomes a meditation.
We have become so inured to engaging with the technology we hold in our hands, the tiny silicone chip that controls and consumes our waking hours that we have become isolated from a community. We watch films on our phones, and we film everything, inherently knowing we will never watch, let alone edit the footage.  We have reduced our interaction to a party of one. Mass used to be a shared experience, something comforting and nostalgic about the huddled warmth, the flickering candles, the mumbled responses, the creaking of knee and kneeler.

But that is in Brigadoon now.

The audience is in for a treat at the Premiére of “BEFORE”
Kinevane is both revelation and chameleon.
His is a black mass and he is the grand master.
He cajoles and simpers.
They lean in. They laugh, oh lord how they laugh.  
The man beside me is in a hoop.
He is answering Kinevane from Row K as if he was chatting to him outside Haddens.
Because Pat is doing what he does best, leading and driving them and letting them in.
Infamous for his blurring of the Fourth Wall, he engages with them, repeating a line that gets a loud laugh, laughing infectiously himself before shouting so loud I fear for his throat, mocking, piteous and sneering because he has a face that will do anything it likes whenever it likes.

The direction is dignified and gentle and allows the performer full scope to display an array of emotion and mood. The lighting fantastic, particularly during the dancing which is revelatory.
(He credits choreographer Emma O Kane with gifting him with the gift of stamina he needs for the performance)  
He is up-lit by a centre spot so that his giant reflection moves behind him like a puppet master -underpinning  and magnifying the spinning pirouettes, the jazz hands, the swagger of Gene Kelly, a tango maestro, the tap dancer, the child, the solo performer poignantly driven by a higher power, a shadow self.
Kinevane is so comfortable on stage he can lie on his back getting his breath while the audience holds theirs.
 He can sing and laugh and scream and put a pair of tights on his arms that I could have sworn for a heart stopping moment became a pair of female legs. 
He can create characters as unforgettable as “The Pelican” who “stole all around her by putting it in her mouth”
As an ornery contrarian who is considered to be a mules tool (always out) I rarely attend stage productions unless I am prancing around on one myself.
 I am driven berserk by crowds and theatre etiquette. I have not attended a cinema in 28 years because of other people. People who cough, or eat, or laugh when it’s not funny, or rustle in reeking popcorn, and put their feet up against the back of your seat and talk steadily through the entire film asking endlessly what’s going on. People who try to open sucky sweets slowly, merely prolonging the agony, people who refuse under pain of death to turn off their phones.
 I watch documentaries alone. I am a people watcher. I am watching Pat like a hawk.
And I am watching the audience.
I am coming to stand alone on this stage myself.
I could do with a heads up about how the people of the Poppy County react to One Man Shows.
Or One Mahon Shows.
It takes a whiff of madness and balls of steel to stand alone onstage for a crowd who have removed themselves from firesides and gone out in a gale to pay paper folding money to be entertained, amused, shocked, informed and to be part of a community for a brief moment, to feel the warmth of other bodies in the tiers, the heady aroma of perfumes, aftershaves and cigarettes settling into a pleasant fug,  mingling with the wisps from the smoke machine like a spectral presence across a blackened stage.
Kinevane has both in spades.
He has lights on his hands now for Christs sake and he’s being the Clery’s Clock
ticking endlessly in the dark on the last day of business in the iconic store.
 He’s singing about hating fucking musicals with a sublime orchestration from the RTE Concert Orchestra.   
That he has written a thing of beauty is a given. 
That it captures the zeitgeist of nostalgia, current affairs, memory, maleness, aloneness, fatherhood, and loss is a thing of beauty in itself.
The audience doesn’t know whether it has lost a horse or found a rope itself as they respond to his endlessly altering mood and humour, and in the closing minutes are laid waste by the denouement and are on their feet in a sustained ovation.
Applause is like heroin.
And in the act of clapping an audience reminds itself to be in the body, to feel the sting of the hands, to be present in this moment, to share a human experience, and to come out of the endlessly thinking mind and simply be.
After the second glass of Merlot I am escorted to his dressing room by the artistic director of the theatre. This is no exhausted performer sadly rubbing make up off in a lonely room, not for him a speedy heading for the hills in the back of a car. The place is full. Of people, and laughter and glasses. He is singing and dancing and pleading for someone to mind his stuff and give him a drink.
 I recognise the feeling.
An actor it has been said is one who knows all the lines of a play but not necessarily what order they come in. I know myself that if I am in scene 2 I can’t be fretting about scene 9 or I will be lost.
Kinevane would never be lost because as much as he displays for us he reserves for himself.  
He is aware that he is a projection of source energy in physical form and he is magnificent in his mortality.
His eyes are the darkest chocolate I have ever seen and he is animated, jocular, and irrepressible as we wander the warren of backstage corridors like children following the Pied Piper to drink in “The Clink”
I wanted to hear the Carla voices.
My Grandfather was an Asylum Keeper.
He and his 8 sons, the Dooley men drank in the Club or Carpenters and had a feed in Reddys after funerals or wakes. I thought I might like to sit on a torn leather stool beside a Super Ser at a scratched counter in the Railway and hear the voices of long ago, as if in some way it would bring my Mother and all the Dooleys back again, and the dark house in the Crescent would light up again with their memories.
Ironic as he and 3 of his daughters would be afflicted with the bastard that is  Alzheimers.
I am in the cocktail bar of a boutique hotel that has a dressed Christmas tree in the porch.
“In the name of Christ will you look at this!” I announce - perilously waving a Jameson in a heavy crystal glass around and asking random men on the path do they know any Dooleys.
The team from Fishamble have that heady nervous energy and adrenalin following the success and delight of the night they have worked towards for months and in the excitement of waving hands and voices and laughter I am reminded of the magic of theatre and of my heroic producer who has to remove me from the building post haste as we have a date with a Sat Nav that wants to bring us home by the scenic route.
I thank everyone and gather my belongings and my wits.
One of the tech crew who has arrived late after the Get Out and long after the baskets of chicken and sundries have  been  passed over heads says to me he knew a butcher called Dooley once who used to throw slices of cooked ham and corned beef to headscarfed women chatting on the deep window sill and I smile.  

MDM November 9th 2018

*While being driven to read the coroners report on the sudden death of my youngest Dooley Aunt I was fretting about the adaptation of my memoir into a stage play which had been commissioned by Wexford Arts Centre. The writing of the play did for me what my Mothers death could not. It silenced me. I needed an in. A key. A way of showing not telling the enormity of the story and had implored the heavens to send me a miracle.
Rounding a bad bend a mile outside Carlow town we found a naked doll with a caved in face in the middle of the road. She had been repeatedly driven over judging by the tyre marks on her chest. She is a ringer for my Mother.  I called her Vonnie Dooley. She is the star of the show. *

BEFORE written and performed by Pat Kinevane is on a Nationwide tour at present.
Details of events and booking

THE SCOURGE written and performed by Michelle Dooley Mahon tours as part of The First Fortnight Festival in January and is in Carla town for one night only on Jan. 19th

THIS is what Pat and the entire team were singing on the way out ..................

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Frankly Speaking - An Essay - Part 1

"I like the way you've done my eyes Meeeee shell" Artwork  © MDM

I met Frank Sinnott when I was a Communion Child in 1971. I was brought across the road to be given a pound and have my dress admired. I was terrified of a parade of random hairy dogs that lay across the steps of Old Pound House like savage mats.
I was almost more frightened of the hairy lad looking out at me from under his wild hair in the hall.
He started to visit us, making wildly inappropriate suggestions to my Mother, each of whom had a soft spot for the other.  We were privy to all the comings and goings across the road, from the house going up in flames to Sonny Condell ringing the bell looking for divilment at 3am after a gig. He tried to teach me the guitar but I was more fascinated by the peas in his beard and the newspapers on every inch of the room.
As I grew up I began to write, and it was Frank who gave me my first writing gig on his beloved "Boker".

This time last year I got a call to tell me that the legendary gentle scholar and poet Maurice Sinnott had passed away suddenly. It was a whore of a shock for his sibling Frank, who had spent a lifetime ostensibly at war with him, secretly they were as close as two peas in a pod in fact, a word in one ear was delivered to the other within hours. They liked to give an impression of sibling rivalry and oneupmanship, but in interviews with both men recorded over  many months they spoke with nothing but affection for each other.
Although they would have denied this to the whites of their eyes. Regularly. Maurice recalled the trip to see his Mam with the "new baby" when Frank was born in Rosslare, running around the high sided bed to get a look at the pair of them, Even in their 60's the brothers were blessed to have their Mother, Marie  alive and well in her 90's. They made a daily pilgrimage to her home, lighting fires, eating biscuits, squabbling about the remote, and trying to out do each other at being the pet
"Maurice is the pet by a million miles" huffed Frank as he sat at my table shouting into the dictaphone and almost setting fire to his own beard with a scented tealight.
 For the buzz. 
Maurice described Frank as a little teddy bear of a lad, always looking for a hug.
 Frank returned the favour by describing Maurice as "Mammalian" ...... while the pair of them laughed. 

"The body on him, Meee shell, he doesn't look like he came from me Ma, he looks like he came out of a wardrobe!"

Being Frank – 

1. A Star is born in the East.
24th November 1951 – Mr and Mrs Sinnott of Olde Pound House , St. Peters Square, Wexford wish to announce the birth of their son Frank David , a brother for Declan, and Maurice. Mother and baby doing well.
This section is a nostalgic look back at the life of the little boy growing up  in a small  provincial town, and the imprint his childhood would have in later years. Series of moments and recall that are poignant yet comedic. 

2. A Literary Bent
Frank becomes aware of words and falls in love with language. His rivalry for the top of the class spot -   ( achieving 97% on a regular basis  ) in Essay and Composition sees him and a friend  -  ( Tucker Walsh ) - write 50 page essays, much to the consternation of the hapless teacher Sean Byrne. He submits poetry and stories and begins to be noticed, winning competitions and cash .
 ("A FIVER  from Jim Jenkins, Meeee shell! )

3.. Hold the front page
As a teenager Frank starts, edits, writes and lampoons his own paper “The Boker Gazette” to much hilarity amongst his peers. He begins to be obsessed with order, numbers and cricket. He spends a lot of time alone smoking in his bedroom listening to The Beatles teaching himself the guitar as Maurice had bored of it.

4. Kiss me quick
A potted history of the many many loves in Franks life and the women who surround him still,  despite or maybe because of his curmudgeonly ornery self.  

5. They’re coming to take me away ha ha ……………
After hurling a gas cylinder through the upstairs window of his home and almost braining a random stranger, Frank realises that he may need help with the mania he now has to face.
 “It took 6 of them to hold me down”    
He is sectioned and diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

6. Losing my Religion.
In the throes of his psychosis Frank drinks heavily ( – “Never more than 5 pints “) and drives the length and breadth of the County in first gear. He is involved in a car accident that traumatises him so badly  as to stop him ever driving again, and being distraught as a passenger even if the driver is in his 80's and going 40mph. 

7. Out, damn Spot.
A story of Frank as told by his beloved dogs – subtitled “From Betty to Alabama”  

8. Frankly speaking
An exploration of the man through his writings, his legendary “View from a Bridge” column, his mimicry of locals which causes outrage and consternation ( usually by omission ) and his published works to date.

9. If I may be Frank
A  snap shot of his day, from a 4am alarm call to hear the BBC Foreign Service, checking cricket and/or horses ,  bookies, meals, characters, the man who shaves him , the woman who massages him, the woman who cleans his flat, and the long suffering woman who cooked  for him every day for a year while he thought up ever increasingly bizarre menus. 
(10 fish fingers on a Friday)

This is NOT an essay about mental illness. It is not about hilarity, it is not about a man who gave Phil Lynott the price of a bus back to Crumlin, or who  brought the Boomtown Rats to Maudlintown or organised Sean O’Riada to open
 “The Festival of Living Music” in 1970.  
  ( “I never even got to shake his hand but even now, 47 years later, a shiver still  runs up my spine when I think of him playing The Rights of Man”)
It is not about a deeply sensitive, talented , gregarious, generous, big hearted, religious, impossible man. It is not about him being a talented author, musician, wise cracking wiseguy, and general nutball.

 It is about ALL of these things.   

At his brothers wake Frank appeared to be flippant, laughing and chain smoking in the porch, and greeting the mourners with his trademark boom which could be heard a number of streets away. I felt it hadn't sunk in that his sparring partner had quietly laid his hand down and walked away from the table. I put a Wispa in Maurices white fingers which startled the Priest who blessed him, making him do a double take as he splashed holy water on the coffin. He wasn't an ordinary man so it was apt that an extraordinary act be his last, leaving for burial  holding his beloved chocolate.  On the morning  of Maurice's funeral I ran across the street as the bells chimed ten  and found Frank smoking at the railings.
 "Christ, will you put that out and go IN in the name of Jesus" I said.
 And he turned his ravaged face to me and answered - "Me Ma just died, Meeee shell!"  

"Maurice is the pet by a million miles" echoed in my mind. 

He has a lip on him because I told him to stop laughing and swinging his leg to capture the shot. Photo : MDM © 

There were still 2 Sinnotts left, the baby Frank, and his brother Declan, -  forever spoken of by Frank as Deccie. Frank hero worshipped Deccie, the guy who got away. The guy who made it in the harshest industry in the world where integrity and talent are rarely lauded, and a man with the soul of a bard who grew up with vinyl and folk and who travelled and had children became the stuff of myth and legend for his siblings and his peers. Frank, on a rare visit was caught giving his child a cigarette, and when remonstrated with responded - "Ah Deccie, it was only a butt!" 

As the weeks and months passed Frank seemed to be taking the sudden losses in his stride, apart from in quiet moments where he sat alone on benches, taking a breather, resting from shouting at friend and foe alike, being tortured by the persistent voices and thoughts that he wore like a coat, ringing me at 4am to enquire nervously about the presence of Beelzebub and black dogs. 

On a long afternoon of damp gloom and coffee cups I told him hell was a construct, designed to keep us divided and conquered. I told him the energy he was composed of , that created him, wanted only miracles for him and all of us. I told him we had been taught to forget this, but that deep inside us we remember, and that longing and angst for what we were, what we ARE is the melancholia of the human condition and the collective consciousness.  

He coughed for a while and then announced that your one was half cooked, a peculiar hen and as odd as two left feet, but that she had a fine hip on her. 

 To distract him I asked him about living in London where he survived for a number of months pretending to sweep up in a cinema while  he secretly read banned magazines and existed  on egg curries and bottles of stout while he sofa surfed with lads he knew from Town.
It was  the only time he ever left  Wexford. 

Interview Part 1. 

I don't have those kinds of relationships with people, Meeee shell,  I never have"  he sighs as he pats his shirt  pocket for a smoke and runs his hands through his shock of Einstein hair. 
We have been talking at the kitchen table, about one of the many pieces of trivia, the minutae that make up daily life, and I had described an interaction with another as “Machiavellian in its scope for pettiness and cruelty”. 
He looks at me askance.
 I look back askew.
“What you see is what you get” he intones sonorously
 He repeats this. He repeats a lot of stuff if truth be told and memory serve.
But it does lead him to speculate, ( ditto me later ) about the nature of relationship and humanity in general. 
He appears to have both no awareness, and an all consuming love affair with humans in general,  co-existing, living cheek by jowl with them - but observing from the singular remoteness of his own Island -  and is amused , horrified and fascinated by them to equal degrees.

An Interview - Part 2 
Frank is perched at the kitchen table 5 minutes before the appointed hour. He is punctual to a fault, a legacy from his Ma he informs, and states  that yesterday was his brother Maurice’s birthday, while he laughs. He is 64. We both burst into a spontaneous chorus of -

 “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, chicken @ 4 am ?”

I doubt if he even remembered it is his own birthday ........... maybe I should buy him a mars bar or something. He is the bitter end”
He loves "Wispa's I said and remarked that I had accompanied him to Mace to buy one with a fitty euro note an hour earlier. 

Everybody is the bitter end with Frank. 
Or a peculiar hen, an oddball, a puke, and many many other epithets.  I have mentioned to him that he could get a job in Fossetts Circus back pedalling on a unicycle, as the smallest of remonstrations will bring an about turn in his pronouncing.
 A complete 180. 
I give you the following example –
Your man is a complete Puke, Meee shell!”
Ah, Frank, he’s grand.
You’re right, Meee shell, he IS grand”.
I am so used to his wild outrageous pronouncements now that I barely turn a hair. 
I also know that he blows hot and cold about me, from day to day and hour by hour. 
He describes me as “domineering” ( a remark with  which  everyone who knows me will concur ) and it is only the more salacious of his outbursts that I feel the need to rein in. 
Pleading for the sanity of the neighbours/baby for example when he is shrieking at a rate of knots not often heard this side of  the Tuskar .
I begin by saying how frustrating it is to be told something interesting on the one breath, and in the same sentence not to use it under pain of death. 
He changes his mind, again.  
Use it all, Meee shell, use it all.  Use it in a nice sensual way" 
His Grandmother Sissie Hatchell gave him the nicest present he ever got in his life.
 A Teddy. 
 “Is this all for me?” he asked. 
 He is at a loss to recall where she came from.
 His Grandmother, not the teddy.  
Myshall, Kilmyshall, Ah, I dunno”  

He breaks off to light yet another cigarette and I beg him to consider the antique cloth of my deceased Aunt on which he is dispensing ash with gay abandon. Ruminating and rumbling about his new neighbour whom he describes as a “head the ball” I gently poke him back to the present topic. Are we really going to go with the happiest moment of his life being a teddy-bear? 
Apparently not.
My favourite and happiest time was when I met and was with A. It was very simple and innocent. But there were hits as well, moments you know" ............ - 
he tails off and passes a hand over his face and rubs his beard -  
Deccies’ girlfriend kissed me after the Fairport Convention gig, which she said was fantastic – the gig, not the kiss.  I met Lenny Henry in Mary’s Bar. It was great crack altogether.  The producer said I was a natural for tv.”
He is as easily pleased as mortally offended and is childlike in his spontaneous delight or annoyance. The tiniest of things can move or upset him and he can ( and does ) spend hours on recalling the most banal of incidents and remarks at home later  in a long dark teatime of the soul , as he lays on the two-seater sofa with  Alabama warming  his chest.
 Alabama is another story entirely, and has been conducting a one-dog animal rescue all by his lonesome in Johns Gate Street. 
The rescued becomes rescuer. The blind leading the blind. Alabama was my dog first.
 Well actually that is a lie. He was someone else’s dog first, and was shockingly treated, and barely fed and ultimately rescued. In his new home he was diagnosed with blindness and lovingly cared for, which behaviour he returned by absconding to pastures new and being placed in the pound. Which is where I come in. Having moved I could finally get the dog I had been visualising,  laying devotedly at my feet and generally goofing around with, maybe in a handbag, wearing a bandana,
 ( the DOG – I always wear a bandana ) and just generally being all cool and froody.  
Then along comes  Alabama, named for “The Blind Boys of .... whom I chose not despite his blindness but because of it . 
 The first day I got him, post bath, resplendent in a red bandana I managed to meet his previous owner and his new one, which frankly speaking seems to be just careless. The former collapsing into hysterical sobs and frantic garbled phone calls to the dog people/family/acquaintances and finally resorting to appeals to random passers-by  and the latter who collapsed into an emotional state of complete and utter love at first sight. 

 “He’s beautiful,” he said stroking him, “just bee yootiful , can I have him?"
 It would take a further year and a half  for these entreaties to fall on anything but deaf ears.
 At one juncture he suggested that we share him. 3 days and 4 days turn and turn about.  
As if. 
 I procrastinated by saying that it would be unfair to give the craythur emphysema on top of his existing disability but the seed was sown, the die was cast, and it was never a case of “IF” Alabama and his duvet, bowls and bandanas would make the epic journey across the road, but WHEN. 
He was not allowed “home” and my access was restricted to maintenance and bathing requirements.  Alabama now resides in Franks’ house and heart.  He is his soulmate and Anam Chara, and a warm living presence at his side.  
They are co-dependant and inextricably entwined. They share their day. Waking and sleeping together, and according to at least one reliable source, transforming each others lives. On paper, this should not work, but I defy anyone to witness the love they share and not be moved.

"He's bee yootiful MEEEEE shell, can I have him?" Image  © MDM 

He feeds him exclusively on a diet of roast beef and cooked  ham from Doyles Butchers on South Main Street despite my lengthy protestations. 


Frank rings @ 8am to remind me that I am doing the church  gates for him today because of the racing . Suffice to say he is not attending the races, he just does not want to stand in the churchyard -  with his “aching back” -  and waste valuable time that would be better spent studying form over a trio of poached eggs on toast and a pot of strong tea in his daily haunt. I have remonstrated with him over his massive weekly egg consumption,  and tut tutted disapprovingly about cholesterol and blah blah blah while he sighs deeply and lights another one of his 60 a day cigarettes. I may as well save my breath to cool my porridge as he can barely catch his own. Breath, that is, not porridge. His legendary coughing outbursts leave him red-faced and gasping. These outbursts are not aided by his continuing inability to stop commenting on the food/weather/football/and/or state of the nation. In an apolexy of strangled coughing, gasping and swearing he sits shrouded in a halo of smoke surveying the damage to his new 70 euro shirt, where he has torn the breast pocket off trying to extricate a single  Marlboro from the myriad  he has on his person at any given moment. Due to a distinct shortage of caffeine I called him at 9am to ask him to desist from consuming said eggs and to repair to me forthwith ( if not  sooner ) with a takeaway coffee. Strong. Black. Americano with a double shot of espresso, preferably. He keeps saying Cappuccino. I keep saying no. He arrives beaming with most of the coffee still in situ and shouts loud enough for the Bride St. Parishioners to hear –
"That'll put hair on your chest, MEEE shell"

He rings an hour later to ask what is for lunch.
 I am dressing the cold salmon salad when he shouts - 

 “Mustard ??? MUSTARD?? Don’t give me mustard Meee shell for f…s sake. I overdosed on tablets when I was 4, must have taken about 40 of them and the chemist made me up a mustard thing to make me sick. I can’t take it since.”

“How or why did you take 40 tablets Frank ?”

It must have been a suicide attempt – (laughter) Sure, I thought they were sweets or something.”

 He has an ability to time travel, being in moments present in the now, and in a blink, present  in 1955 as a small child  sick in a shady chemists shop.
 I have a vision of the little boy in short pants- a pile of virulent yellow gloop at his sandalled feet. 
 A walk down the streets of Wexford 50 years ago was quite a  different sight from now , with its candy striped  awnings and porches, barbers poles, ice-cream signs,  bakeries, cinemas, butchers, and huxters shops with  buckets and spades in nets waiting for John D. Sheridan on his way to Rosslare.

 I laugh to think, indeed.

"Don't tell her how many eggs I had!" 

 © Richie Roche

Line of the day from Frank Sinnott Monday 10th June  - Diary Entry 
(Half an hour early !! ) 
Me: Christ, Frank, where are you going at this hour eh?
Frank: Just put the hood on the dish and come on, there's enough in there to feed the Bishop and ten of his horses.
Me: Give Alabama this chicken breast, the craythur. 
Frank: "You are such a dictator, Mee shell . You would make a monk masturbate! " 
Me: Actually - I would make him STOP!
Frank : " Lobalobalobalobalobaloba ................ * etc etc* ... loba. Laughter ( His and Mine. ) 
Frank: (With head in hands - ) "I have nothing to say today Mee shell. How are we ever going to get this book written, time is moving on you know "
Me: "Never mind, I'll pick something out of the mess."
* singing together* ..... "he went to bed and covered his head with vinegar and brown paper".
Me: Did you see the litt
le dog outside with the sideways face?
Frank: You could have used Wayne Rooney instead of a "monk" but he may have sued. 
Me: Did you ever read Malachy McCourt's book " A monk swimming". 
Frank : "Whaaaaaaaa? A MONK swimming????
Me: Yeah, when he was a child he thought the prayer with "Blessed art thou amongst women " was Blessed art thou a monk swimming" ........I know, right? 
Frank: Oh for fuck sake Meeee shell. 
He throws back his head to get a good run at the laugh. 

Line of the day from Frank Sinnott  ( 8am ) 
Frank: "Meeee shell, 3 things.
ONE : WHEN will you wash the dog ?
TWO:  Will you write that feature TODAY ?
THREE: WHAT'S  for the dinner ? 
Me. Saturday. How many words. Spaghetti.
Frank : Is that the stuff like worms you have to twirl around ?
Me: You don't have to be all Lady & the Tramp about it. I am doing fusili.
Me: Those small wrinkly lads.
Frank : I know a few men with that problem. How's your Da ?
Me: Cavorting around the countryside as we speak.
Frank: Your Da is made of concrete, Meee shell, .............. and custard.
Me: Good LUCK, Frank.

He stopped letting me see the dog admitting he was terrified I would take him back. I promised this wouldn't happen. "He's a different dog entirely now" he bellowed.
He was right. 

Tom and Frank having the bants Photo : © MDM 

 Line of the day from Frank Sinnott :
Frank: "Your one in the Dáil is a weirdo, I'd say if you rooted you'd find an item.  She's half cooked. "
Me: Speaking of which here's your lunch.
Frank :  I'm going to sit on the friary bench. Me back is broke.
Me: Speaking of which, how many words for the feature ?
Frank : You should write a book about yourself Mee shell, you're way more interesting than me. 
Me: ( noticing that he still has the manufacturers label sewed onto the sleeve of his new suit - *Magee*)
Me: What do you call the other arm Frank , Me Arse ? "
Frank: We should write books about each other Meeee shell and launch them on the same day.
Me:Get OUT, Frank. 

  Lunchtime chez Michelle Dooley Mahon 
Frank : Here's your Da coming down the hall.
Tom: ANOTHER new shirt, Frank ? 
Me: It must be summer. Frank took off his coat.
Frank: Your Da has no coat on .
Me: Ah, but he is wearing a damart thermal vest, and a string vest under all that lot, and a jumper. 
Tom: ...........and a pair of hearing aids, a pair of glasses and a tie. 
Me: My Uncle Ollie was a butcher in Athy. 
Frank: What's for me , Mee shell ..... Shite and Cabbage, finely mixed?
Me: It's heavy on the shite, I held  the cabbage.
Frank: Me Ma died about 10 years ago. A wind blew in from Calcutta and she keeled over. 
Tom: Christ. 
Me: Get out, Frank.

Your one is a peculiar hen - Photo John Stewart 

Diary 2016 
Frank : ( staring at fridge posters - ) "Ye know yer man , the dolly llama looks like Nino Forte - What am I going to do with Maurice ? He is covering me Ma's house with chicken bones and matches and I'm getting blamed.   Me trousers are killing me. I may just put up with them .
 ..... wha ?? Oh , I adore the tennis . Who ? Ah you know yer man, no not Bjorg, NO not Sampras, NOOOOOOOOO not Nastase, listen to me , your man in the ads, wha ? "
Me: Federer, get out Frank !

Maurice Sinnott on Rowe Street  Photo : MDM 

 Customer to barman - "Can I back a horse in here ?"
Barman - "Well, ok . But there won't be much room for anyone else"
(Frank Sinnott – June 6th 2012 )

 Line of the day from Frank Sinnott -" Cough cough cough cough cough cough cough "
Dad: "Give up them oul fags, Frank."
Frank: Cough, cough, cough, WHAAAAAA?"
Dad: " You'll have C.O.P.D. next"
Dad: "Obstructive Airways".
Me: "I think I flew with them once!"
Frank: (choking * ) Ha ha ha ha ha ha h a Meee Shell, Sty- tus Quo, STY-TUS QUO – ( Shouts louder) STYTUS QUOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO - (*quietly) - they're a heap of dung, Meee Shell, but they are alright banging away in the background, I suppose."
Me: Frank, you are so delightfully random. Get out though.

On a warm September evening I was instructing a #Mindless Class and had my phone on silent. As I walked home in a charcoal silk dress carrying golden flowers I turned it on to hear a voicemail  that left me swaying in the street. On auto I crossed the road and dropped the flowers in the church yard as I began to run. A small knot of people were gathered on the step of Number 7. I was dreamwalking through treacle and could only barely  make out the shapes on the hill. 

"He's gone, Mee shell" his friend said, brokenly. 

There were white lights around my head. I couldn't hear. Time stopped. 

I thought I might faint. 

I leaned against a car and heard my own voice ask for Alabama.
And then he was placed in my arms. 

And it was only when I felt the warm tangled  weight of him that a sob burst out of my chest like a harsh cough. 

He was unrecognisable. 

And I carried him to the bar Frank saw as his second home, whose  owner and locals -  his friends  -  hadn't heard from him all day, and laid him on a bench. 

Frank rang  everyone he knew all day, everyday. 

From memory he couldn't use any facility on the phone other than the green and red to call and stop. 

He died, as he had lived, alone with his dog. 

His dog died 4 days later in the arms of a woman who had loved them both. 

The heart is a lonely hunter   Photo: ©  Richie Roche 

Alabama hears he is moving across the road. Photo : MDM 

Part One of The Story of Frank 

To be continued. 

Michelle Dooley Mahon Nollaig Na M'Ban 2017