My dad and I almost came to blows yesterday. He loves my blogs, but thinks that many of them are too disability-focused. ‘It’s not all there is to you,’ he said while I sat there with my lips pursed tightly. What kind of armchair disability activist would I be if I didn’t write about the discrimination facing people with disabilities on a daily basis? I asked defensively. After the urge to have an Ali-style tantrum (she’s three, I’m thirty-one) subsided, I decided to select a few random facts to divulge about myself to you, dear reader. You can thank my dad.
- I’m a Taurean, so by nature I’m a teeny weeny bit stubborn. I was also born in 1984, the Chinese year of the Rat. Incidentally, my biggest fear in the whole world is rats. I mean I would rather die than come face-to-face with a rat. The scariest book I’ve ever read is 1984 by George Orwell solely because Winston was tortured into submission by rats. (Freaky coincidence, no?) Mum fuelled my irrational fear of rats: one day she was taking me off the school bus and a rat darted across the garden, making mum scoop me up in her arms and sprint to the front door. We sat on the kitchen table until 10pm that night, when mum had installed the sonar system. But I’ve never felt safe since.
- I’ve always loved reading and writing. I started writing poetry when I was eight and decided that it was a sensible career choice. I imagined myself on the side of a mountain somewhere, hair blowing wildly in all directions, jotting furiously in a notebook. When I was ten I won a poetry competition for a poem I wrote called ‘The Conceited Man.’ I’d come across the word ‘conceited’ while trawling through the dictionary one day (as you do) and knew I had to use it somewhere special. On the night that I collected the award I had to read the poem aloud to an audience of four hundred odd people, and it included the line ‘My dad’s a boaster’. Neither of my parents had heard the poem before and I could see them in the audience with gritted teeth as I recited it. It’s unlikely that anyone else understood me, but the folks heard every word. I spent the next ten years fobbing off people who asked for copies of it.
- On a related note, I can often get away with cursing under my breath because people can’t make out my speech. Except with my husband. That man hears like a bat. Well, I can’t get away with it anymore, now that I’ve told you all. Whoopsie.
- When you think ‘woman’, you might be inclined to automatically think ‘shoe shopping’. Not the case with me, shoe shopping is my worst nightmare. I can’t wear heels, pumps, uggs, open-toe or strappy sandals. Which means that I either have to buy really crappy shoes from Tesco or clumpy granny shoes #sexy. I wore heels to my school grad and everyone thought I was wasted. If only I had been but being supervised by teachers doesn’t really scream ‘relaxing drinking time’ to me.
- I have a large brown mole on my left shin which is a birthmark and the only time I remember it’s there is when we go on a sun holiday and I have to cover it up. I may get it removed…that’s what I’ve been saying for the last ten years. But if I ever get abducted, this birthmark could help to identify me and save my life.
- I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to establish a writing career, but I’ve decided if it doesn’t work out I am going to dedicate my life furthering my research into the long-term benefits of chocolate. Well, someone’s gotta do it, and I’m more than willing to volunteer. I’m selfless like that, me. And if there are clinical trials involved, well… count me in. Seriously, my addiction to chocolate is embarrassing. If there’s not at least two bars of it in the press I begin to hyperventilate.
- I got away with not buttoning the two top buttons on my school shirt for six years. Still, I’d rather do a hundred buttons than face a single rat.
- I don’t wear or own makeup. I tell people it’s a coordination thing, but actually I’m just too lazy. Showering is effort enough. And time is a precious commodity, my friend. I’m so busy doing my high-powered job (writing) that being clean is more important. Plus there’s no point in expensive makeup when there’s a three year old in the house – this lesson was sorely learned when she got her hands on my expensive perfumes. She smelt like she was going on the pull to the Bridge House.
- I don’t drink anymore. All it does it make me sleepy. I’ve never done anything remotely funny when drunk, so what’s the point?
- When I was ten and in fourth class, I told everyone that I was going for a major, life-changing operation that would possibly cure my Cerebral Palsy. Bless them, my classmates believed me and went to impressive efforts to make me a box of goodies to make sure that I wouldn’t get bored in the hospital when I was recovering. Of course, it wasn’t strictly true: I was booked in for a botox injection that would loosen the muscles in my right calf, thus helping me to walk better. The injection was administered within ten minutes and I was discharged on the same day and back in school two days later with no crutches, no wheelchair and no casts, not even a measly scar. And then I wonder why people think I’m overdramatic.
- When I was in Transition Year I wrote a play called ‘Waiting for Anna’ which was performed by my fellow classmates. I went to an all-girls school, so some girls were cast in male roles. They were not impressed but they managed to be true to their characters. When rehearsal began, most didn’t realise I’d written it which led to some interesting insights into what they really thought of it. To be fair, they were gentle, but it was then that I realised that having a fragile ego as a writer would work to my disadvantage.
- Every time I chide my beautiful daughter for not eating her dinner, I have to remember that I only ate sausages and Micro Chips for dinner for until I was ten. I refused spag bol, lasagne, pizza, potatoes, veg, boiled rice, sauces of any description and stews (except mum’s sausage stew). Now I can’t eat any dinner without veg. So any mummies with fussy eaters out there, don’t despair: there is hope. Your child will be fine.
- Two foods that I will never ever eat are eggs and tomato ketchup. The egg aversion was the result of a dodgy breakfast when we were on holidays in Galway when I was about five and Laura was a baby. Dad had cooked eggs and you could smell the sulphur down the street, and the memory of the smell is still potent. I’m not sure why I hate ketchup, but the smell of it turns my stomach. So much so that on my communion day, when the waitress unwittingly lobbed it onto my plate, I had a shit fit in the middle of the Bridge House and refused to eat my dinner unless the hotel would provide me with a fresh dinner on a fresh plate, and a clean set of cutlery. Also crisps, of any description: I think it’s the fat and the saltiness. My parents are so proud of me.
- Finally, I’ve had stitches put into my head twice. The first time was when I was swinging around in the playroom with my friend Aoife and one of us let go and I whacked my head off the window ledge. The second time I was fourteen and in Lourdes singing with a group of people when I fell over and whacked my head. I barely remember being bundled into a wheelchair and being brought back to the hotel. My poor mother back in Ireland was half-angry, half-hysterical. Actually I’ve taken a lot of whacks to the head. My poor, damaged brain.
So yeah, that’s me, warts and all – the face behind this blog. Please don’t unfollow this blog and I promise I will send you chocolate (you know, if I haven’t eaten it first).