About Me

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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.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A run away memory

It’s late June 1985 and we’ve still got the green door at 14 st Cummins hill, come in through it and past the cabinet where Dad keeps his watches, you can hear the cockatiels and budgies squawking in the huge cage above the television, Dad’s in there reading the paper and watching the news at the same time and telling the birds to shut up, down the short hallway to the kitchen, there's a new phone on the wall, 31497, we are the four hundredth and ninety-seventh line registered in the Killybegs area, Mum is changing baby Alan on the kitchen table, and there’s a CB radio screwed to the wall above the guinea pig cage, poop droppings are all over the floor, stepping over them and into the back hallway, there are two hamsters in a cage and Jenny is making them eat hazelnuts and they are storing them in their fat little cheeks, you can see black paint marks still on the wall where we painted the walls and ourselves and got into so much trouble, the back door is open and it’s only a small step down into the back garden, sheets are blowing in the soft summer wind from the clothesline, Derek is changing the bedding in the rabbit hutch and he’s still upset that the daddy rabbit eat one of the baby ones, so he’s not being nice to him and big Sandy is cowering in a corner, we think she’s sad that her babies are dead, but our dog Snoopy is sitting at attention at Derek’s feet wondering what he can do to help, Derek doesn’t want my help and I go into the coal shed and there is the distinct smell of kittens in the air, Mammy Cat has just given birth again and now that they are getting bigger we’ve made a bed for them in the smoker, it’s completely rusted and I can never remember it being otherwise, ‘cause in 1985 I am seven years old and can’t remember the smoker being anything other than a place for animals to have their babies, our old Irish setter Sherry had 21 puppies in there and we think that is a Guinness world record, but we never got it verified with Roy Castle, I reach my hand into the mess of blankets and pull out a wee black kitten and it meows in my face and Mammy Cat eyes me to make sure I don’t hurt it, Dad says we’ve got “too many fucking animals” and Mum says we are going to have to purge them especially if we move into her dream home, the actual home doesn’t exist yet, but the picture in her head does and when we drive around on Sundays we see loads of houses and the one we all like the best is Rossbeg House that the Classon's own, and it’s on the beach and there was a dead seal on the beach last time we where there and the bathroom is bigger than our kitchen and we’d have to go to school in Ardara, so I put the kitten back and cluck my cheeks at Snoopy and run out the back gate and go up the mountain to meet up with the boys.

Ready-Mix Landscaping

When my parents were married they were only kids themselves, Mum was 16 and dad was barely 19. Dad was a fisherman back then and could be away from home for weeks at a time, so he didn’t have the time or the notion to do much gardening and with mum spending most of her time at her parents, the front garden of our house was a bit of a wild patch. A herd of goats would have had a hard time keeping that mix of weeds, grass and rushes down.

I don’t know where Dad got the idea, but it must have seemed amazingly sane to him at the time: concrete the front garden. He completely covered the garden in ready-mix, like a small industrial park. He must have come up with the idea after too many pints of Smithwick’s in the Sail Inn. I can just imagine the look of inspiration on his face when he thought of it and the seconding from his drinking mates. I bet they all couldn’t wait to get out of the pub and get the concrete going.

The concrete dried in a very rough fashion providing an undulated landscape. A perfectly gray lunar landscape where we played marbles in the miniature craters, a natural battleground for our Star Wars and He-Man action figures. It was one of the only dry pieces of land around our house in soggy-wet Donegal and as unlikely as it would seem the concrete garden became a great place for the children on the Hill to play. I don’t know how many times I tripped and fell on that broken surface, scrapping my knees open and getting concrete chips in the palms of my hands, but all of us kids loved it, I think we were too young to be embarrassed. The concrete garden was a great example of the proximity of insanity and genius.

Ready-mix landscaping didn’t catch on with the neighbors and as Dad dried out and stopped drinking he eventually tore up all the concrete and put in a beautiful garden with a cherry blossom in the center and lush green grass. However, for pure shock factor, there’s never been a garden like the concrete one, the Donegal version of the Garden of the Gods.