unplanned paramedicine in Paris France when do i get the manual

Unplanned Paramedicine in Paris, France

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We had just stumbled out of the Parisian bar Le Comptoir Général when it happened.

As I reached the bank of the canal to join my friends, I went to glance back at the bar and turned just in time to watch a little hatchback brake suddenly, sending a pizza delivery guy smashing straight into the back of him. The scooter and the pizzas skidded sideways across the road. The driver was flung up in the air. Everything slowed for an instant and then sped up.

He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Half-drunk and without thinking, I immediately ran over to the unconscious figure sprawled across the tarmac and when I reached Pizzaman, I leaned over him with my hands on my thighs, cocked my head and said, “Hey! Are you okay?!”

Obviously, Pizzaman was not in a position to answer.

A stocky passer-by with grey hair and a glorious moustache joined us. Without a word, he bent double with an audible wheeze and started fiddling with the helmet clasp under Pizzaman’s chin. My brain, struggling to process this abrupt turn of events after having spent the past five or six hours marinating happily in vodka cocktails, slowly chugged to life. It half-heartedly scrabbled around for some useful information.

What would Sunscreen advise?

I blinked blankly before sending my brain back to look for something a little more helpful; even Sunscreen has its limitations. Emergency first aid is one of them.

What would Scrubs do?

I pulled at the loopy, lazy string of thoughts in my head until it pulled tight into a somewhat coherent plan:

  1. Don’t move Pizzaman.
  2. Call an ambulance.
  3. If there is a wound, apply pressure and wait for paramedics.

I made a garbled noise of indignation at the man tugging at Pizzaman’s helmet and told him to stop what he was doing, but by now Pizzaman had regained consciousness and was pushing at the helmet with weak but frantic motions. The middle-aged man with the moustache looked at me smugly as if to say, ‘You see?‘ and pulled the helmet off without so much as a second thought.

I mean, I say he looked at me smugly but he was French, so that could just have been his face.

I calmly accepted the fact that the first bulletpoint on my plan had gone to the dogs, and pulled out my phone. I dialled 112 and knelt on the ground next to Pizzaman as it rang. I asked him if he was hurt. He gave a tiny shake of his head (good sign, I thought, at least he hasn’t broken his neck) and lay there, gasping like a fish, staring straight up at the sky.

I searched his body for any sign of injuries. A remote part of my brain wondered if I would have to shimmy under a car to locate a runaway finger.

  • Head – check.
  • Torso – check.
  • Arms – check.
  • Hands – check.
  • Pelvis – check.
  • Thighs – check.

And then I realised what had been disguised by the darkness; his jeans were slick with blood, and there was a glistening whiteness jutting proudly out of his lower leg, ready for its fifteen minutes of fame.

It was a …………….. *drumroll please* ………………. surprise appearance from his tibia!

Excellent.

As my brain fumbled drunkenly from uh oh, blood! to uh oh, bone! to finally just a general UH OH! the emergency call operator finally answered the phone.

In French.

Which is when I conveniently remembered that I do not, in fact, speak French.

I looked up to find a ring of curious onlookers keeping their distance. Exasperated, I held my phone out to them as if these 2am stragglers were my personal secretaries, and waggled it impatiently in the air until someone stepped forward and took it from me.

“AM-BU-LANCE” I said, loudly and clearly. Then I thought for a second, and added, “AM-BU-LAN-CIA” just in case Spanish was somehow their second language. I watched, gimlet-eyed, as this stranger put my phone to his ear. Once I was satisfied he had understood the brief and was taking of business, I turned my attention back to Pizzaman, who still looked like he was floating through another dimension on waves of pure shock.

Having successfully checked the second bulletpoint off my list, I turned to bulletpoint three and felt the warm blood coat my bare hands as they came into contact with his leg. I tried to make the gaping hole smaller before pressing both hands over the bone and leaning heavily on his leg to stem the bleeding. I crouched there and turned to Pizzaman, who was gazing at me with glassy eyes.

“Do you speak English?”

“Little.”

“How do you feel?”

“Okay.”

His eyes rolled skyward again. I chewed the inside of my cheek. It’s hard to be conversational when you don’t speak the language and you’re casually leaning on their legbone.

“Is there anybody you want me to call?”

His eyes tracked back to my face slowly. He stared.

“Phone? Should I phone anybody? On the telephone? On the mobile?”

He stared.

My nose itched. I wondered should I try sound effects. Or sign language. Or Spanish?

The silence stretched as his brain, which had clearly been concussed into scrambled egg, deciphered my question. After a pause that felt about ten minutes long, he mumbled, “Oui, oui.” I looked up, searching for my emergency P.A. and found him standing awkwardly by, staring at my hands, my phone dangling from his fingertips. My eyes narrowed.

“YOU!” His head snapped back. “Do you speak English?”

“Yez, yez,” he said, nodding vigorously. “Yez.”

“Okay, can you find his phone and call someone please? Maybe home, or a recently dialled contact, or ‘mama’ or someone.”

“Yez, oui, of courze.” He stood dumbly for another moment.

“It’s probably in his pocket or in his bag?” I prompted.

He jumped into action then and located Pizzaman’s mobile, which had somehow managed to stay in his pocket despite his earlier aerial somersault.

Now, I am not an organised person. I am crap at delegating. I like to do things myself, and I tend to do them in such a haphazard manner that if I even tried to delegate it would be a total shambles. With this in mind, it was somewhat of a surprise to discover that the injudicious application of alcohol turns me into a tiny Miranda Priestly.

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I kept one suspicious eye on the man calling Pizzaman’s mother, and one wary eye on Pizzaman himself who was starting to look a little grey.

“Do you feel pain?” I asked.

“Non, non” he mumbled. My eyes flickered to his leg where the white of his bone was still visible between my fingers. My hands were wrist-deep in blood. I smiled at him.

“Great! Everything is fine! Just relax. The ambulance is coming.”

“Oui,” he mumbled. His head lolled.

We stayed like that for another ten minutes. I peppered the air with cheerful, meaningless phrases like, “Everything is going to be okay!” and “Don’t worry!” and “You’re going to be just fine!” Pizzaman gazed blankly at the stars while making small noises every so often to show he was at least hearing me, if not understanding me. The moustachioed meddler had disappeared, leaving the helmet on the kerb, and my emergency P.A. was absent-mindedly pacing in tight circles. He had the phone pressed against one ear as he spoke to Pizzaman’s mother, and one finger pressed against the other ear to block out the music from the club.

Finally, both the ambulance and the police arrived.

One of the paramedics tapped my elbow and gave me the nod. Relieved, I lifted my hands and watched the tibia bob back up through the blood like a skinny iceberg. The paramedic took over from me then, his large white gloves looking far more competent than my gnome-sized hands, and I stumbled to my feet as the EMTs put Pizzaman in a neckbrace.

“Is he going to be okay? Will he be okay?”

One of the EMTs looked at me and smiled reassuringly. “Yez, he will be fine. Don’t worry.”

A tall policeman crooked his finger at me and I dutifully walked over, my hands held stiffly out at my sides so as not to drip blood all over my clothes. He asked something, and I blinked at him. I looked around, searching for my P.A. who immediately appeared at my side as if by silent summons.

“He iz azking eef you saw what haz heppened?” He helpfully translated.

“Yeah, yeah!” I turned to him and explained, quickly and incoherently, everything I had seen. He obediently translated, and the policeman looked from his face to mine with a barely disguised expression of martyr-like forbearance.

Although, he was French, so again, that might just have been his face.

When he was done jotting down notes in his tiny notepad with his tiny pen, he gave us a sharp nod and walked away. I turned to my P.A. and thanked him. He gave me a shy smile, offering me my phone back, and I held up my bloody hands, looking like I’d just murdered somebody in cold blood. “Can you put it in my pocket please?”

He flushed, nodded, and hurriedly tucked it into the pocket of my jeans. I thanked him again and he muttered, “No problem,” before turning on his heel and disappearing into the dark.

After washing my hands in the bar’s unisex bathroom (and completely clearing it out in the process), I rejoined my friends and spent the next two hours wandering from crêperie to crêperie, explaining that we should get free crêpes because I was practically a national hero. It was 3am so most places were shut, but we did manage to score at least one free crêpe, and one place that had closed the kitchen decided we had earned ourselves multiple shots of alcohol and unlimited crêpe toppings, which we (perhaps unwisely) took them up on.

After clearing them out of their stash of mini Smarties, we stumbled home through the Paris streets, keeping a watchful eye out for unpredictable hatchbacks.

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Hello! Just a note to say if anybody wants to enter the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment below. Giveaway entry closes when I publish a new post on Monday, and if you win you’ll have to be okay with e-mailing me your address! I promise not to show up on your doorstep. It’s open internationally, and I’ll just number the comments and use one of those random number generators to pick a winner. Don’t get too excited, I’m not giving away any iPads, but it will be a fun little box of stuff so if you’re interested, you know what to do!

NOTE: I’m only joking about French people – they’re lovely. Especially that guy with the crêpe stall on that street that let me make my own crêpe that one time. He’s especially lovely and his crêpes are delicious.

Chasing UFOs at Chichibu National Park, Japan

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I had been in Japan only a few days when my brother suggested visiting Chichibu.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “You’ll love it!”

I was happy to go along with his suggestion, seeing as he 1.) is my brother and b.) was living in Japan at the time, so I cheerfully agreed, and the following morning I found myself on a little bus destined for Chichibu National Park.

This post isn’t really about the national park, however.

As we wandered up the hill from the entrance, I munched on my matcha-flavoured pocky sticks and looked around me. It was a sunny day and my brother was right, the park was beautiful. Granite rocks and large volcanic stone slabs reached into the sky and spindly trees dotted the landscape like escapees from a Bob Ross painting. Every so often I would find a sign in Japanese with a picture of a bear and the phrase “PLEASE BE CAREFUL TO BEARS!” neatly printed underneath in English. I think they were going for ‘Please be careful of bears’ but I have to admit their translation was much better. Not only was it unintentionally hilarious, but I feel like it had the potential to dramatically slash visitor numbers.

Not that the place was packed, exactly. We passed about five other visitors on our way in, and as we walked, we talked. Over the past few days I had visited shrines and cherry blossoms, and I had started to get a feel for the place. I hadn’t yet visited Tokyo, so the more extreme aspects of culture clash were yet to come, but I was enjoying myself immensely pointing out the cultural idiosyncrasies that my brother had assimilated after three years of living in the country.

I was also taking a great deal of interest in my surroundings. Small, chubby stone statues peeked at us from hiding places in the landscape. I pointed out every statue I saw until my brother finally rolled his eyes to the sky and slowly let out a long breath.

“If you do that for every single one of them we’ll be here until next month.”

I side-eyed him and snapped a quick photo. We continued on until we reached a shrine.

The thing you must understand about shrines in Japan is that they are everywhere. Before you visit Japan, you see a photo of them online or in a travel guide and you think, ‘That’s amazing!‘ What you don’t realise is that there are Buddhist shrines, and Shinto shrines, and although they are amazing, they are also innumerable and omnipresent. I really cannot stress this enough. There are shrines around every corner, in every city, up every hill.

We had already visited about five shrines in the past two days when I spotted this shiny red shrine in Chichibu. I pointed up at it eagerly. My brother sighed.

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“Really? Another one?”

I nodded. The novelty hadn’t yet worn off for me. I snapped a quick photo and bounded off towards the steps with my brother trailing behind me in a decidedly less enthusiastic fashion. At the entryway to the shrine, I circled an arm around a red pillar and admired the carvings as I waited for the sound of my brother’s reluctant footsteps to reach my side.

Suddenly a short, thin, bald Japanese man wearing what looked like white house slippers appeared out of nowhere. He said something in rapid-fire Japanese and I cocked my head like a confused spaniel. I felt my eyes widen in panic and I turned to look for my brother, whose foot had only just reached the last step.

“He minds the shrine” my brother muttered to me, joining me in the doorway.

The man turned his attention to him, and asked him a question. My brother explained in simple Japanese that we were Irish, and the man’s face wrinkled into an enormous smile.

“Air-ris-shu!” He exclaimed, beaming. “You come visit?”

“Yes!” I said, glad to be able to communicate.

“First Air-ris-shu here! Why?”

I pointed at my brother and said, “This is my brother. He lives here. I came to visit him.”

“Ahhh,” the man sighed. He muttered something in Japanese then to my brother, and I caught the word “sakura.” Having already had this conversation a few times since arriving in Japan, I nodded my head pre-emptively as my brother translated.

“He says you’re just in time for the cherry-blossoms.”

“I gathered,” I said dryly.

Each and every Japanese person I had spoken to since I had arrived in the country had made some mention of how fortunate I was to have arrived in time to see the cherry blossom trees. I was starting to think it was a bit of an unhealthy obsession. I mean, who gets that excited about a tree?*

I was still rolling my eyes internally at this national obsession with a flower when the man said something that snapped my attention back to him with laser precision.

“Are you here for UFOs?”

I felt my eyes slide to my brother’s face, trying to follow his lead. Was it another lost-in-translation moment? Did UFOs mean something different here?

My brother was staring blankly at the man. He blinked twice.

“UFOs?” I prompted.

“Yes!” The man bobbed his head up and down so vigorously I started to worry it might fall off. “Many people come for UFOs.”

I flicked a glance at my brother again just to double check that he was as blindsided by this conversation topic as I was. His face hadn’t moved a single muscle, but his eyes had the pained expression of someone struggling with the decision of whether or not to laugh.

“Do you mean… flying saucers?” I asked, haltingly.

“Yes, YES!” The head bobbing increased in speed. “Flying saucer!”

I briefly considered trying to catch my brother’s eye but then decided that it would be a monstrous lack of decorum to laugh in this eager man’s face, so I bit the inside of my cheek instead.

“There are UFOs here? In the park?” I asked.

“Yes, yes.” The man shuffled closer and pointed up at the sky. “They come. They come often. Here.”

“Oh.” I said.

We stood there for a moment in silence, the three of us looking up at a brilliantly blue, cloudless patch of sky. The man, reverently looking up at where he obviously thought a UFO might appear at any moment, and my brother and I following his gaze, rendered completely speechless. In the quiet the moment seemed to stretch, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

And then the silence was broken.

“I have photo!”

I turned to face him. “Sorry?”

“I have photo! One moment please.” The man shuffled into the temple and out of sight.

My brother and I stood motionless. Then the side of my brother’s mouth moved.

“He’s serious. He’s actually serious.”

Laughter bubbled up my throat and I coughed in an attempt to disguise it.

“You didn’t mention Yamanashi was a UFO hotspot,” I said in a casual tone of voice.

My brother snorted.

The man reappeared with a point-and-shoot camera that was at least a decade old. He positioned himself between us and turned the camera over to show us the small screen on the back. He flicked through various photos until he found the one he was looking for and held it up.

“See?”

I peered at the screen. It showed the patch of sky we had just been closely examining, only in this photo there was a small blob in the upper right corner. He jabbed the blob with his finger. “There!” He said, triumphantly.

It looked like a bird to me. Possibly an eagle.

“Mmmm” I murmured, noncommittal.

He flicked ahead to another photo of the same scene. This one had a couple of orbs, the kind you get from using the flash when dust particles get in the way.

“See!” He pointed, excited.

“Yes,” I said. “I see.”

He flicked through, showing us more photos with orbs hanging in the middle distance, and a couple more photos of blurry blotches in the sky.

“People come from all over,” he said. “They come for UFOs.”

“Tourists?” I asked.

“Yes, yes. French. Many French. Some American.”

“French and American people come here to watch for UFOs?”

“Yes, yes. UFOs here many times. French, American… They know. Many times here.”

“Like… Every month, or….?”

“No, no. Sometimes three times one day. Sometimes two times one week. Many times here. Some days better. Afternoon best time.”

“Afternoon? Not… at night?”

“No, no. 4pm. 4pm best time here.” He pointed at the patch of sky again. “Here,” he reminded us solemnly.

“Why here?” I asked.

“Area of activity,” he said, nodding sagely. “Governments come to study.”

“Governments? Really?”

“Yes, yes. American. Japanese. Governments come.” He looked out at the horizon, then stared into my eyes. “Area of activity,” he repeated.

“Ahh, of course.”

My brother clapped his hands together, his patience spent. “Well!” He bowed his head to our new friend. “Thank you, we will be sure to keep an eye on the sky for these UFOs.”

The man put his hands together and bowed his bald head low.

I put my hands together and bowed my head in return. Then I smiled at him, a genuine, happy smile. He legitimately believed in UFOs and I admired that faith and interest and passion, even if I couldn’t understand it. I had enjoyed seeing his world through his eyes for a moment, even if I had to squint a little to see eagles as flying saucers, and dust particles as spaceships.

As we made our way down the steps, my brother’s shoulders started to shake with laughter. By the time we reached the main path, tears were streaming down his face. After a quick look over my shoulder to make sure our friend wasn’t watching us, I joined him. I laughed because that was the last possible conversation I had expected to have at a Japanese shrine (or anywhere really). I laughed because it was sunny, and I was happy, and it seemed absurd to climb the steps to an ancient shrine only to wind up talking about flying saucers. Then I saw another sign for “PLEASE BE CAREFUL TO THE BEARS!” and started laughing again.

We finally wiped our eyes and refilled our water bottles for the hike ahead before setting off for Nanatsugama-godan Falls, and as we trudged up the next hill, I looked back at the blue, cloudless, birdless patch of sky.

Just in case.

*As I said, I hadn’t been to Tokyo yet at this point in the trip, and so I had no idea what was in store.

 

 

 

 

 

New and Unexpected Housemate

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I have a housemate called Lenny.

I don’t know when he moved in. He lives in the bathroom. I noticed him for the first time the other day. I opened the door, turned on the light, and there he was.

“Oh.” I said. “Hi.”

He froze, then ran for cover. He hid in the corner while I brushed my teeth. We watched each other warily. Well, I watched him warily. I can only assume he was watching me too. In reality, his eyes are far too small for me to know exactly where he was looking.

You see, Lenny is a silverfish*.

Since discovering him in my bathroom, I’ve done some investigating. Lenny appears to be a bachelor, and he’s fully grown which confuses me because I have never seen him before. Either he has always lived in my bathroom and I never knew, or he recently moved in without consulting me on the matter.

That first night, I spent an abnormal amount of time in bed staring at the ceiling and thinking about silverfish viewing apartments. I imagined Lenny strolling onto the tiled floor with an attractive silverfish realtor, listening to her as she explained the pros and cons.

“So this bathroom is frequented by two adult humans. I know you were probably hoping for more in terms of dandruff or hair, but then we’d really want to be looking at an elderly human’s bathroom and that would really strain your budget. I think this is a good compromise. Now, the only thing is that as you can see, they’ve recently installed a more powerful fan in the ceiling, which is going to cut down on humidity significantly. On the plus side this will make the price more negotiable. Also there is quite a lot of plaster to feast on and they sometimes leave books there on the countertop, so that is quite the perk….”

I googled silverfish to find out more about Lenny. Apparently almost everyone has a silverfish housemate. One or two are expected in rooms with high humidity. One website recommends overlooking their presence before adding, “If you have an infestation however, you may want to call pest control.”

…I think if I have an infestation I may want to move out, but that’s just me.

They’re very small and they eat plaster and book bindings and glue and hair. They don’t bite or spread disease, or even do much damage.

Oh, and they can live up to eight years.

EIGHT. YEARS.

According to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia, the predecessors of silverfish are considered the earliest, most primitive insects. I can well believe this, since Lenny looks like he recently scuttled off a seabed from the Cambrian period. They can’t climb vertical surfaces. They are nocturnal. Also, as long as they have access to water they can live without food for more than a year.

What the hell, Lenny? What kind of a mutant fossil are you?

I don’t want to hurt Lenny. I don’t even really want to evict him. I will, however, be keeping a close eye on him. If he starts inviting over other silverfish to netflix and chill, or having silverfish parties until 5am, we may have to re-examine things. For the moment though, I’m happy to cohabitate.

As long as Lenny stays in his corner, we’ll be fine.

 

*Don’t google him, he’s not pretty.

Ghost In The Cell(Phone)

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I may not be active on the dating scene, but I am aware that the times they are a-changing and these days it’s all about the swiping. I know that mirror selfies are a hard swipe left, and photos with dogs are a swipe right, and when I’m talking to friends who are users of Tinder, Bumble, or OKCupid, I’ve noticed something come up over and over and over (and over) again…

Ghosting.

I’m not talking about the Slow Fade. I’m not talking about slowly stretching out the time between unenthusiastic responses until they completely drop off into the void of forgettable connections. Last time I was single, the Slow Fade was considered the “kind” way to let people know you’d really rather not. The hint was subtle at first, but the process was drawn out and gradual and by the time the other person was taking four days to reply “Yeah lol,” you knew. You knew it wasn’t going anywhere. One last, “Okay let’s meet up soon!” (read: Never) and you were off the hook.

This ghosting business though, it’s different. It’s rough. The dates will go well, the texts will be promising, and then-

NOTHING.

One day they’ll be texting back within seconds, saying they see themselves with you and they’re a little worried they’re taking things too fast but they can’t help themselves, and the next they’ve vanished completely from this corporeal realm. Someone else will text deep into the night after your second date about how great a time they had with you, and how they can’t wait to see you again… and then they’re gone as if instantly vaporised by an alien weapon. Except that unfortunately, they haven’t vanished or been vaporised; thanks to the power of social media, you can see that they were last on Whatsapp two hours ago.

Three days later they’re sharing memes on Twitter like you never existed.

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Everything is so instant now. Push notifications on your phone tell you about likes and retweets and messages and statuses the minute they’re posted. Everything happens NOW.* Does the ghosting phenomenon mean that people are no longer willing to invest a little time in being kind to people they’re not interested in? Is it a case of, ‘Why bother?’ You’re not interested, it’s not going anywhere, why waste time writing back to them when you could be spending those valuable 30 seconds swiping right on someone you might actually connect with?

I don’t understand.

I’m trying to understand, but I’m failing miserably. I’ve tried to look at ghosting from the most sympathetic angle (they don’t want to hurt you by straight-up saying they’re not interested) but even that falls a bit flat. It is far more confusing and disorienting for someone to be unabashedly enthusiastic to the point of cringe and then drop off the face of the earth without so much as an adios, than it is to reply to a couple of questions with monosyllables before hitting them with a quick, ‘Hey, sorry but I’m just not feeling it. Was lovely to meet you though.’

In the first scenario, there are multiple things that can have happened. Maybe they were in some horrendous accident, or they dropped their phone in the toilet, or they were falsely accused of a heinous crime and are now in prison where they had to use their one phone call to ring their lawyer, or they’re in a monastic hut on a remote island somewhere with no reception, and they’ve been desperately trying to communicate with you via smoke signals, but since smoke signalling is a lost art you saw his, ‘I miss you and can’t wait to see you again, how about Friday?‘ wisps of smoke, and mistook them for nothing more than distant cloud.

I mean really, anything could have happened.

The second scenario is a lot more cut and dried. They’re just not that into you. It is what it is. It sucks, but there’s no ambiguity. There’s no need to expend valuable mental energy wondering what happened. It doesn’t feel like something potentially promising was cut short for reasons unknown. You just didn’t click and sometimes that happens.

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Maybe it’s because I don’t use Tinder or Bumble (unless I’m using them on the behalf of close friends, which is great fun and highly recommended), but it really bothers me that ghosting is so common. I heard the other day that ghosting is “common after the second date.” What? Why are people putting the effort into pretending to be interested, rather than putting that same amount of effort into slowly stepping back in a gentle way?

Absorb the fact that at least one person out there thinks it’s a reasonable move to text someone about having kids… and then never text again. Just sit with that for a moment. What is that about? Am I the only one that feels like the leap between those two actions (the text about kids and the ghosting) is a bit like the leap between two four-storey buildings? Like, sure, you can do it, but I wouldn’t advise it and I definitely don’t think it’s healthy.

I think certain things are getting lost in our instantaneous culture; I think some kindness is slipping through the cracks in communication.

Have you ghosted or been ghosted before? Can you explain the thought process? I’m feeling very old and out of the loop here. There’s enough to be confused and worried about in the world than why your Tinder date hasn’t whatsapped you back even though they’re online and you know they’re online and they know you know they’re online…

Can’t we just bring back the Slow Fade? Is it retro enough yet to be cool again?

*I’ve disabled pretty much all push notifications on my phone for the last while. Other than Whatsapp and Snapchat, nothing gets through instantly anymore. It’s actually been pretty great! If you have a lot of social media accounts I definitely recommend trying it for a week.

 

Ireland, I Love You But…

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It’s the 8th of March. This day is important. This month is also important; after all, March brings with it St. Patrick’s Day. Or Paddy’s Day, if you prefer. Not Patty. Never Patty. Patty is a girl’s name, or what you call burger meat, or, apparently, an item of food covered in dough or batter. I can’t explain the full-body cringe I experience when somebody calls it Patty’s Day.

March always sweeps in a deep love of everything Irish, all things green and shamrock-shaped. Anyone with even a drop of Irish blood to their name puffs out their chest with pride and loudly proclaims their heritage as if they had traveled back in time and handpicked their ancestors themselves. Landmarks across the world turn green in solidarity, and there are drunken parades in hundreds of cities. It’s really quite heartwarming to see how many people across the globe identify with the Irish.

And why wouldn’t they? There are so many great things about Ireland. So many. The landscape, the people, the batter burgers, the pubs, the music, the slice of Ray’s pizza after a night out in Dublin, the banter, the brunch options, the architecture, the history… I could go on and on. Today though, I’m not going to talk about any of that. Today I want to talk about something important that doesn’t cast Ireland in the best light, to say the least.

[Sidenote: They say you should never talk about politics, sex or religion. Since I’ve already discussed politics, and I’ve already talked (about not talking) about sex… consider this post hitting the trifecta. This post contains a smattering of all three.]

Ireland is sometimes called ‘the land of saints and scholars’ because of its long history of catholicism and lyrical storytelling. When most of the country gained its independence it was a poor fledgling state, and the Catholic Church stepped in to help in much the same way as that sketchy sober guy in the corner who’s been watching your friend get plastered appears at her elbow at the end of the night when she can barely stand and graciously offers to “bring her home.”

The Catholic Church went about inserting itself into every facet of society. Churches popped up everywhere, dividing the country into little parishes that formed communities. They poured money into the education system, starting many catholic-run schools. They helped a struggling country to get on its feet.

At the same time though, they imposed their values on the country. Through a brutally tight interlocking of church and state, we ended up with a country that punished women for their sexuality; unmarried women who got pregnant were sent to Magdalene Laundries run by orders of nuns, where they delivered their babies (who were taken away from them and sold) and entered into a form of indentured slavery. Some lived there until they died. The last Magdalene Laundry only closed in 1996.

This past week a report came out about the bodies of 796 babies, ranging in age from 35 weeks to 2 or 3 years old, that have been found in what used to be a septic tank in the grounds of one of these laundries in Tuam. It seems many, many babies sickened, died, and were then placed in this septic tank and erased from the narrative. As they were ‘children of sin,’ their lives were almost disposable. At the moment it is unclear if this horror is an anomaly, or a systematic practice that took place at other laundries.

Imagine the eye-watering hypocrisy of decrying contraception and abortion as the pinnacle of sin, while placing little to no value on the lives of unmarried women and their babies once they were born.

As recently as 1984 – two years before I was born – a 15 year old schoolgirl named Ann Lovett got pregnant and – with no options available to her – tried to deliver her baby by herself in the Virgin Mary’s Grotto behind the church in her village. She was in her school uniform. She carried a pair of scissors in her schoolbag to cut the umbilical cord. She bled out and her baby died of hypothermia there on the cold hard ground as the statue of Mary looked on in bland indifference.

Less than five years ago, a woman named Savita Halappanavar died an entirely preventable death when the doctors were unable to terminate the septic pregnancy that was killing her thanks to the 8th amendment of our constitution. The 8th amendment was brought in on the 17th February 1992, and states that the the unborn has just as much of a right to life as the mother. This has resulted in cases such as the X Case, where a 14 year old girl who had been raped was prevented from travelling to England for an abortion, despite being deemed a suicide risk. Abortion is completely illegal in Ireland.

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Every day, approximately ten Irish women travel to England for an abortion.

I know and understand the reasons that people are pro-life. I respect them. If you are pro-life, that is your prerogative.

What I cannot understand is that my life, with all of its intricacies – my memories, my hopes, my hobbies, my relationships, my experiences – is considered equal to that of an unborn baby. I cannot understand that my life, half-lived, is only considered as important as that of a fertilised egg, and that that is enshrined in the Irish constitution.

Typing all of this has been heartwrenching. Thinking about the way that my country, which I love, has treated women in the recent past hurts. It twists something inside me to think that if I had been born even fifty years earlier, I could have been a Magdalene. I could have been an Ann Lovett. I might have been young and in love and unlucky. Even now, I could be young and in love and unlucky. Even now, I could be Savita.

Today is the 8th of March.

Today we strike for repeal of the 8th amendment.

It’s An Absolute Nightmare

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You would think that after so many years on this earth I would have become proficient at sleeping by now.

I mean, it’s a fairly basic skill.

It’s a skill I practice every night, and yet I still don’t seem to have quite mastered it. It takes me a while to power down, and then every so often – usually when I’m stressed out and not even aware of it – I have nightmares. At 5am this morning I sat bolt upright in bed gasping for air like a drowning swimmer who had finally reached the surface. Then I sat, hugging my knees, willing my heart to slow down.

My nightmares are impressive creations. I have an active imagination at the best of times, but at night when I’m asleep it roams completely unfettered. It snakes into every crevice of my brain, unravelling fears I never knew I had and weaving them into intricate storylines of unrestricted horror. Get away out of here with your simple dreams of going to work naked, or running and not getting anywhere! I’m talking hardcore, unforgettable, rated-R for Radically-unpleasant dreams that give me an emotional hangover the next day.

And they are so goddamn VIVID.

I don’t seem to lose any of my senses in my nightmares. I can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. The nightmares tell a coherent story, rather than being a jumble of images. They don’t refer to my day, or my experiences. They just pluck ideas, seemingly at random, out of my brain and project them in stereo sound. They drop me into situations I am entirely unprepared for with zero warning. Not only that, but they always start so innocuously…

‘Well, today we’re going to have a dream,’ my brain starts. ‘Look, we’re at the beach! Isn’t that nice? Let’s just look out the window there. What a lovely view. Check out that glorious sunshine! And look at that woman with the toddler, how cute. Aww, adorable! Now they’re going paddling. So sweet. Now she’s… Now she’s… She’s drowning the toddler. SURPRISE! It’s a nightmare. No, don’t bother even trying to get over there, there’s no way you’ll make it in time.’

Or…

Oh look! A desert! Are we at Burning Man? We might be at Burning Man. That would be cool. Hey remember to shield your eyes, the sand really stings when it gets in there… Ooh! A solitary ramshackle shed! Let’s go over and check it out. I mean there’s nothing else for miles, so why not? There might be something fun in there! Ignore that smell. Ignore it. It’s nothing. All deserts smell like that. It’s just the heat. Open that rickety door there. Go on, open it. I told you to ignore that smell, it’s nothing… Just kidding! It’s a rotting corpse! Look at those maggots. Look at the DETAIL! That’s impressive. Whew, I wonder how long that’s been decomposing…’

Or…

‘Oooh what a lovely house. Look at that crown moulding. Bit sparse on the furniture front, but it’s obviously very grand. Oh look! A baby! We’re babysitting! Isn’t that fun? Look at him crawling around. What a sweetie. Oh! Oh a nose bleed. Do you have a tissue? Quick, get a tissue. Oh no, that can’t be good. Why is the baby bleeding from its ears? Is that normal? I don’t know where you think you’re running to with that baby – I’ve designed this place to be completely isolated! The only real room was the one you were in! The rest of the house is a burned-out shell! There’s nobody for miles! And now the baby is bleeding from its eyes! This isn’t going well for you at all!’

Basically at the end of all of these scenarios you can imagine my scumbag brain laughing at me like a psychotic maniac and that would be fitting.

There are a few recurring themes in my nightmares. I’m usually alone and/or somehow helpless to prevent or fix the situation I find myself in. I am usually either witnessing or somehow unwittingly creating a tragic event. They never happen in real places or with real people; everything is freshly imagined from scratch.

Even though sometimes I know that I am dreaming, I can’t wake myself up until the panic is completely overwhelming and every nerve in my body is screaming. It’s lovely! So invigorating.

That was sarcasm.

If anybody has any advice for keeping nightmares at bay, let me know. I am fully on board with anything that might make me dream of, say, Adriana Lima or Jason Momoa (or both!) rather than bleeding children or traumatic deaths.

Meanwhile…

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The Human Turtle

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I feel like there are certain universal social cues that everybody understands. I think everyone would agree, for example, that people wearing earphones are generally not looking for a conversation.

Despite this, somehow, for some reason, people break this seemingly simple rule with me all the time.

I can’t tell what it is about me that invites this kind of behaviour. Is it my tiny stature? Is it something about my face? Do I have an invisible ink tattoo that reads ‘TALK TO ME’ under strip lighting? It happens a lot. A man once motioned for me to take my headphones off in Tesco while I was looking at packets of rice, and when I did so, he said, “I just wanted to tell you, you have really lovely hair.” And then he sat back on his heels and stared at me expectantly.

I’m not really sure what he was waiting for. I cast a surreptitious glance either side of me to make sure there were no hidden cameras. I hadn’t even brushed my hair that day. There was nothing worth complimenting there. I thought about the food I still needed to buy for dinner. I thought about the awkwardness of the moment and how it would only increase if I got stuck in front of him in the checkout line. I thought about the fact that he probably thought he was being nice by interrupting my day to pay me a wholly inexplicable (and unnecessary) compliment, and I thought about the fact that by doing so he was making me deeply uncomfortable. Then I slowly placed the packet of basmati rice back on the shelf, said, “Thanks,” turned around, and left the shop without a backwards glance.

I beat a hasty retreat in all awkward situations. I am basically a human turtle.

Of course, sometimes I’m not given the option of being a turtle. Sometimes I am trapped by wretched misfortune. Sometimes I am on a 6am flight next to somebody who insists on a conversation.

The last time this happened was relatively recently. I’d had to wake up at 4am (which I’m sure you’ll agree is not at all conducive to a pleasant demeanor), and I was looking forward to listening to a podcast and napping on my two-and-a-half hour flight. I decided earbuds wouldn’t cut it, and brought my heavy duty Sennheisers to completely block out ambient noise.

Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on the persistence of my fellow passenger. Before we had even taken off, I felt a tap tap tap on my shoulder. I removed my earphones, expecting the flight attendant, and instead twisted in my seat to meet the smiling face of the man sitting next to me.

“Are you off on holidays?” He asked.

I nodded. “Yeah, just for a week. You?”

“Oh no, I live there now.”

“Oh, nice.” I put my headphones back on. I lay back and closed my eyes.

tap tap tap

I took my headphones back off.

“Do you know anyone over there?”

“Yeah, I have family there.”

I put my headphones back on, feeling a little guilty for being so rude. Still, if I’m honest, there are very few people I would want to have a conversation with at 6am; a stranger sitting next to me on a plane is definitely not one of them.

tap tap tap

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

I ripped off my headphones and turned my body to face his. I stared daggers of pure, undiluted hatred straight into his soul. He stared back at me with a bland expression of irritating, energetic cheerfulness. I crumpled back into my chair in defeat.

He talked to me without pause for the next two and a half hours.

It would be more accurate, in fact, to say that he talked at me, as he didn’t seem to require any actual participation on my part. At first I thought he might just be a nervous flyer, and this softened my attitude towards him. I felt a lot better about him tapping me on the shoulder three times when I thought it stemmed from nervousness rather than an obnoxious disregard for my personal space.

“Do you not like flying?” I asked, sympathetically.

“What? Are you kidding? I love flying!” He replied, before launching into an exhaustive list of the many places he had visited.

My juicy grape of sympathy shrivelled instantly, and hardened into a sour raisin of resentment that can only truly be understood by people who are too polite to extricate themselves from these sort of situations.

He told me about everything he had received for Christmas. He told me about his grandmother, his niece, his woollen jumpers, his hobbies. He told me about where he lived, and why. He told me about his parents, his siblings, his holidays. At one point he paused in the middle of a story to point over at a man who was similarly talking the ear off a woman a few rows ahead of us.

“God, look at him. You can tell she’s not at all interested and he’s just chewing her ear off! Poor woman.”

I stared at him. “Yes,” I said dryly. “Can you imagine?”

He shook his head in an agonizingly oblivious show of pity and then continued with his extremely detailed story about his family pets.

By the time we landed, I think I knew almost everything there was to know about him.

I collected my suitcase feeling dazed and wondering once again what it is about me that invites people to ignore the sacred social cue of the headphones. Does this happen to other people with as much regularity? If you’ve had this happen to you, how did you handle it? If you’re someone who has interrupted a stranger wearing headphones… why?

I’m off for a walk now. I’ll be wearing my headphones.

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself.

 

Is Nothing Sacred?

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I rolled out of bed. I had breakfast and got dressed. I worked diligently for a few hours and then decided to go to the shop and buy some shampoo.

Yesterday, I woke up in a good mood. 

Now, a quick note about this. I have long hair. It’s not Rapunzel-length – I don’t have to worry about yanking on it when I sit down – but it’s long. I also don’t use any hair products because I’m weird about texture and I really like my hair to be soft. I have yet to try a mousse or hairspray or serum that doesn’t make my hair feel either crunchy or sticky or oily, so I just go without. This means that the heavy burden of making sure my hair looks, feels and smells awesome rests squarely on the shoulders of my shampoo and conditioner dream team.

 Yes, I realise as I’m typing this out that I sound a little manic about my hair. I’m not. I barely even brush it. I’m just trying to explain why I have such strong feelings about shampoo.

I’m not quite sure I’ve succeeded.

Anyway.

About two months ago I trotted into Boots* to buy some shampoo and found myself in the no-sulphates section. I am not entirely sure what sulphates are or what they do, and I don’t care enough to google the answer, but apparently they’re Not Good, because there were a whole bunch of no-sulphate shampoos. I picked one at random and took it home.

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And then I fell in love.

I fell in love with a shampoo.

It’s perfect. It smells a bit like men’s shower gel, but I like that. It made my hair feel clean and soft and lovely. I was disproportionately excited about it; honestly, much more excited than anybody should ever be about shampoo. I mean, it’s shampoo. Not exactly life-altering.

Still, the next time I was in Boots (which was about a week ago) I decided to buy some more. I walked down the shampoo aisle. I walked up the shampoo aisle. I walked back down the shampoo aisle. There was no sign of it.

I shrugged and went to a different store, now on a mission; I was like a tiny bloodhound, and the scent I was following was that of rosemary and botanic oils.

Still no sign of it.

Yesterday, after my productive morning, I walked into a third Boots with a spring in my step. This Boots is large and well-stocked, and I fully expected my shampoo to be there waiting for me in all its vibrant verdure. At this point I had come to terms with the fact that this shampoo is obviously rare and endangered. I decided to stockpile it. I mentally prepared myself to become a shampoo hoarder.

I turned the corner and glimpsed a glint of green winking at me from the bottom shelf. My face brightened. I subconsciously picked up the pace.

And then.

AND THEN.

And then a Boots staff member snatched those five tubes of shampoo and matching conditioner right off the shelf and marched off with them before my very (horrified) eyes. Just… swiped them right off the shelf and disappeared into a back room without a word! I stood there for a moment trying to process what I had just witnessed, then whipped out my phone and found that this shampoo and conditioner is not rare or endangered. Oh no. It’s much worse than that. This shampoo is extinct. It has been DISCONTINUED.

Well.

That was just the last straw. There’s only so much I can handle before I need to go and lie down in a dark room. It’s not enough that Donald Trump is out there stomping on people’s lives and liberties like a flabby, mentally-compromised Godzilla with no self-control?

Now they take my shampoo?!**

There are no words.

Everything is unbearable.

*Like Walgreens, but better.

**I have ordered three of the remaining tubes on Amazon to soothe my anguish. Thank you for your thoughts at this difficult time.

Open Letter To The World

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Dear World,

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Sorry, that was abrupt. I really jumped right in there; no pleasantries, no small talk. I just feel that we don’t really have time to catch up right now. Judging by the activities of the past week, you seem to just be barrelling through all the conventions and tacit agreements we’ve had for the past generation. I mean, things hadn’t been perfect up until now, but this is too much. This is not okay.

World, I’m worried about you. I’m worried about all of us.

I see we’ve committed to the whole rotten-orange-as-leader-of-the-free-world thing, even though he is thoroughly awful (I mean… just… gross).  I’ve covered this already. It’s likely that in time the people who made it possible will realise that maybe it was less of the shot-in-the-air they intended it to be, and more of a shot in the foot. Still, as always, I just want what’s best for you. Now that we all find ourselves in the same leaky boat, there’s really no point in going back over it.

Although I would just like to quickly point out that we already have at least one delusional narcissist in charge of a country (North Korea), and I can’t say I ever read a news article about him and thought, ‘We could do with another one of those… but BIGGER!‘ Bigger is not always better, World. I know America likes to supersize everything, but upgrading a run-of-the-mill self-obsessed moron to President of the United States of America was a really bad idea. Like, tremendously bad. In one week this oversized, oversensitive caricature of a man has managed to throw you into total dissarray.

There have always been assholes. There will always be assholes. Assholes are a constant. The danger now is that not only are some assholes in positions of great power, but the common, everyday assholes feel legitimised. They feel like it’s okay to go on national television and speak hateful words that hang in the air like a scummy fog. World, this is not acceptable. We need to do something about this.

I know. I know what you’re going to say. Already, there are great people doing great things. There is resistance. There are people fighting to keep things balanced, and keep human rights protected, and keep things from sliding into a heap of chaos. This is true, but we need more. We need more great people. We need more resistance.

We need more love.

That sounds so cheesy, but too much has gone horribly wrong in the recent past to ignore the fact that what we need is a lot more love. Too many families are waking up unsure of what is going to happen next. Too many families are waking up to deaths, or deportation, or denial of entry. Division and hatred seems to be sprouting everywhere like an unwelcome, tenacious weed. We need love, and a lot of it. We need the industrial-strength, Gorilla-glue kind of love that links us not only to our friends and families but also to our neighbours next door, our fellow citizens, and total strangers from foreign lands.

World, do you remember the game Red Rover? We played it as children. We’d link arms  in a long line and then a player would try to run at us and break through. If they were successful in splitting the wall, they won a couple more players for their side…

I feel like we’re playing an Alice-in-Wonderland adult version of Red Rover.

The good and decent people are linking arms and putting their game faces on, and a few rogue elements are coming at us with a great deal of force, trying to split us up, trying to win people over to their side (don’t listen to them – the whole thing about them having cookies is a lie).

They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Frankly, not enough time has passed since World War Two that we can use ‘forgetting’ as an excuse.

World, link arms with me.

I’m ready for Red Rover; Global Edition.

Q.

If you’re feeling helpless and have any money to spare this month, please consider donating to ACLU or subscribing to The Washington Post or The New York Times, even if you’re not an American citizen.