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I like to write and I like to party, but mostly just the writing. Disclaimer: A lot of these stories are true ones. The memory of growing-up in and around Killybegs. When you hold a mirror up to small communities, sometimes there are those who don't like the reflection. Capote knew this only too well. If you find the refraction just a little too much and would like the angle of incidence changed in your favor, please email me at georgevial@hotmail.com and I will be happy to make a name change here or there.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Brown Bread Brigade

Mum wasn’t officially a member of the Brown Bread Brigade. It was more of a professional association, as there was plenty of crossover between them and the Killybegs Writer’s Group. But to Dad there was little more than a crust in the difference and he used the term synonymous with both groups.

The Brown Bread Brigade were crusty people as most would describe them, not saying they weren’t nice, most of them were very nice, but they all had that crusty element that separated them from true poets and writers, like the woolen jumpers that looked like they belonged to Scandinavian fishermen and the un-kept hair that was always tied back with a rubber band. But I suppose the main difference was that they liked to bake bread more than they liked to write poetry. I remember having some brown bread baked by one of Mum’s friend’s and it was great, not as great as Granny’s, but not bad with a slab of butter and jam on it.

Ester was the leader of the Brown Bread Brigade as far as I could tell. She used to live up above Melly’s Chip Shop, next door to Tony Deany’s. She was always very friendly to Tony and me and her husband (Man friend, I don’t know if Brown Bread Brigade people were allowed to marry, kind of went against the grain of the feminist side of the culture) let us sit on his motorbike that had the Isle of Man TT sticker on it.

Then there was Miffy, her understudy. She lived with Geraldine for a while, who was considered a member of the Brown Bread Brigade, but later she went over to the writer’s side full time. Miffy was very pretty when she was young and we were kids. She went out with Damien Dowds that lived next door to us when we were up St. Cummin’s Hill. Anyway, she was far too good looking to be hiding behind 80lbs of wool and baking bread. I wonder if she’s still in the Brigade?

I don’t know what Dad had against the Brown Bread Brigade, but whenever he and Mum were having a row, sooner or later the phrase “You and that fucking Brown Bread Brigade, why don’t you all just fuck off!” would pop up out of nowhere. There didn’t seem to be any harm in them as far as I was concerned, so what if they were a little new age and crusty.

I was a little too young to understand them completely at the time, but now looking back I can see they had a great way of life; living on the edge of accepted society, not quite Moonies or Hippies, they were their own kind of outsider. They took this quite literally when they moved out to St. John’s Point, a peninsula jutting six miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. I can’t remember if the house was Ester’s or Miffy’s, but I remember both of them being there and my Aunt Geraldine was sunbathing naked down the back of the house. However, we were more interested in the front of the house, where that summer a school of porpoise came close to the coast and for the good shelter offered by the Point and the rich feeding grounds, they decided to stay for a while. It was amazing to watch those giant mammals playing in the ocean like it was some kind of school yard or playground. The docile cows in the fields looked on at them thinking “fucking edgets, would you look at them fecking around like there’s no tomorrow.” Cows are very somber animals and need to relax if you ask me. They could learn a thing or two from the porpoise.

I am not sure if any of them actually worked full time or not (I’m talking about the Brown Bread folks now not the cows), or if they just lived on the dole and government allowances, maybe that’s what pissed Dad off about them. I know that Miffy went to put her fisherman’s jumper to good use and fished on my Uncle Kevin’s boat the Rose De Vore for a while. So did my cousin Lynn Murphy after she got her skipper’s ticket, but I don’t think the Brown Bread Brigade was a good fit for her.

I always liked the sound of the name “The Brown Bread Brigade.” Dad’s use of the word kind of gave them authority and validation. The only other brigade I knew growing up in Killybegs was the Fire Brigade, but as far as I know the Brown Bread Brigade didn’t have a fire engine and were not called out to chimney fires as much. Could you imagine five crusties running up the main street in Killybegs, past Gallagher’s shop and McHugh’s Video shop with loaves in arm and woolly jumpers flaying in the wind shouting: “Out of the way people, we got bread, we got brown bread!” Dogs would bark and kids would cheer them on and old women would complain that they were going too fast and sure it wasn’t like the whole house was on fire.

fecking loaf in the lake and kills a duck. I literally choked on the dentist’s instruments I laughed so hard.

The boy’s mother was the ultimate Brown Bread Brigade member. She was a total save the whales candidate with her “I hate the world ‘cause the world hates me” attitude and over sized woolly jumper! Christ, can you remember the clothes she sent her kid to school in? But then it’s sad when they get home and the mother has tried to kill herself, which made me stop laughing and think about my own mother.

The kid in the movie, Marcus, reminds me of my younger brother Bruce when he was that age. Although Bruce would never sing Killing me Softly out of key, with his eyes closed, but in other ways the kid and Bruce were alike. Both as young boys had mothers who were lost to them and to themselves. Both were gentle, good natured boys with a love of music. Genuine in their gratefulness, like getting the crappy socks for Christmas and when the rest of us would be like “ah fuck great, they’ll go fantastic with my hand knitted shitty scarf” they be like “thanks, I’ll get great use out of them” and actually mean it. I think it was hardest on Bruce to lose his mother, he was the most in need of her, and the sad fucking part of it is that he lost her years before she died.

Mum might not have worn the woolly jumpers all the time, but she definitely had the inclination, she was more of an all-day in pajamas person. When the time came and mum never got out of her pajamas it was like trying to talk to a brick wall, except you could get more response out of the wall than you could out of mum when she was in that one dimensional phase. Drove me fucking nuts. You could never have shouted loud enough that she would hear you. Just nod the head and avert the eyes. She didn’t deserve all the self pity she drowned herself in. There was still too much love floating around her, the buoy was there, all she had to do was grab hold.

Now that I think of it Mum could never have been a full fledged Brown Bread Brigade member, ‘because she like the mother in About a Boy, couldn’t bake for shit.


Archdude40 said...

Very well written, especially the part ofTony Deany.

I would like to introduce myself-

I am the real Tony Deany

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Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your memories. Im one of the brown bread people :)

eat1more said...

Lovely George!! Enjoyed that immensely!