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The common cold

A thoroughly dissatisfying turn of events which means cancelling other events.

I am sitting in a café and a man was up at the counter paying the bill for him and a woman and said, “I’d like to pay for this girl’s breakfast”. The word reflex - of which I am also often guilty - has made my soft food breakfast of bananas and porridge taste suddenly burnt.

I am on the near masticated diet because there is a wasp nest building in my throat. I have a cold. When you tell people you have a cold, when you are guilty of being the ultimate bore, you get parroted back, “there’s something going around”. And it takes all the will power in the world to tell your mother in Tipperary that you hardly caught the same strain as the residents of Templemore when you’ve spent the last few days in a southside Dublin borough, where a woman in a fur coat tried negotiating free stamps in the post office yesterday. At this stage, I could tell you what Armani eyeshadow quads fly off the shelves. I’ve seen things. I heard about a successful community campaign to remove a small phone mast thingy, which explains why every time I enter Super Valu the internet disappears and meal planning chats goes to shit.

But anyway, there is something going around. I have a cold. It is probably the same cold many people up and down this small country have. It is a thoroughly dissatisfying turn of events which means cancelling other events - not that the diary is bursting, mind. I’m in the mood where I’d take the free breakfast and let you call me ‘girl’. But nothing beyond that. This isn’t OnlyFans, and tbh I’m not too sure what OnlyFans is. I’m sure someone in an Aran sweater and black bicycle shorts will tell me about it at party in the coming months.

Today I want to direct you towards a piece of writing that I loved. Grief Bacon by Helena Fitzgerald has been my favourite newsletter for years, and she’s wrapping the outlet up in a few weeks. Yesterday she wrote about the song Maps and what it means.

Let me finish

332 words on pain

How hideous and maybe wonderful it is that cramps are not unique.

Particular people who moan and groan and move their hands towards their pelvic bone while walking down quiet streets are to be generally avoided. Unless they were me on Monday night, fresh off a Dublin bus and holding a torn paper shopping bag, rent open by a man’s boot in the Tesco self-service jungle area on Parnell Street, like a heavy sleeping toddler. I needed a leather belt between my teeth, soldier on the Crimean battlefields style. I needed help with my bags. Muttering ‘arsehole’ at the DGAF species you find doing the shop on Monday evening didn’t help at all.

I had sledgehammer cramps that night. I went to bed crying, my tummy scalding with the cosy weight of a hot water bottle. How much of this was pain pain and other pain. When you’re in this mood other moods invite themselves in and make pointed remarks.

I had the cramps the next day, and the day after that, and will no doubt fall prey to twinges today. I walked. I met friends. I scrolled my phone. I sat in a class on public policy and listened to descriptions of happiness indexes and controlled experiments. All the while a demon pulled at my various parts like a person behind the curtains of a malevolent opera making set changes happen. It was overlapping roiling and I, the lead, had to keep on singing when I could, in spite of everything being a little too much. 

On Tuesday night I lay in bed and thought about how hideous and maybe wonderful it is that these types of pains are not unique. That throughout history we have sympathy simpatico sisters who also felt like their bodies were scraped and kicked from the inside by a ghost of their own making. That a woman you admire across continents and decades probably silently screamed ‘fuck’ in the same way you have. That your Female Enemy has probably also been pulled down into a riptide of pain.

What to share

To hide or not to hide beneath the weighted blanket.

I have a draft about my personal response to a new television show that is supposedly objectively mediocre but, you know what, it spoke to me. I watched a few episodes and one of the narratives cooled the ashes. Or warmed them up. Depends on how you like ashes. I saw a journey - I once read that was Anna Wintour’s least favourite word - unfold and while my little day-to-day-month-to-month gambit dwarves in comparison, I was comforted. There was mess, the kind of selfishness that tastes like survival, bad habits, bad manners, complications.

But the thing about personal-public responses and talking about seeing yourself in a distant reflection is the unveiling of the self. You share, you give away, you wave a flag, you might as well be asking for the lifebuoy or banging the door shut.

It’s not private phones away territory like when you’re two glasses of wine in with a gang of women and the filth rolls out. When you say “this character on the precipice drummed an echo to my very bones”, you’re saying a lot more than you maybe want to be heard.

There are certain things in life for which you need the lace curtains. Make sure you take them off for a regular wash though. They trap dust.

People still have “a RT is not an endorsement” in their Twitter bio, but maybe a RT is a signal, morse code tapped out with your manicure or heeled boot. The act of sharing personal essays on topics such as infertility, workplace bullying, mental health policies, and medical paternalism may be a way of writing in homemade invisible ink. Or maybe they just found the article of interest. You might never know. Most times, it isn’t your right to know. Sometimes your acknowledgement could mean the world.

So instead, some of my shallow reactions to recently consumed art: the new Nancy Drew is addictive because it has a ghost and Nancy tearing into her father every five minutes, I bawled my eyes out reading the romance novel Texas Glory about an arranged marriage set on a ranch in Texas, the National Gallery of Ireland has a photography exhibition on the third floor and every item is a saga prompt, Carson McHone will calm you down.

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