Friday, October 15, 2010

The Childhood Home by Máirtin Ó Connallan

The Childhood Home

© Máirtin Ó Connallan

It must have seemed stupendous

This great big rambling mass

Of dark red limestone

Hewn from lowland Scotland border country

Beautiful rectangular cut stone chunks

Meticulously chiselled

Then mortared into place

To the wee Glaswegian school pal

Whose wondrous comment after the obligatory

Tea and buns treat

Having just completed his first courtesy visit


Crikey Mrs Conlon

I used to think Martin was an orphan

But his house is as big as an orphanage

Everything seemed so tall there

Tall rooms

Tall windows

Ending somewhere way up high

In panelled embellished mouldings

With carved pieces in the Drawing room

And Lounge

And in the hall a long rust coloured glass case

Which contained bells and little brass indicator flaps

That flicked down

On the ringing of a bell

In any of the rooms

Telling the servants of a previous time

Which room required attention

And in the Kitchen

A great dumb waiter

Which worked by pulleys

Into which again in bygone days

Breakfasts and various snacks

Were placed and despatched to

The aforesaid rooms

But we found a much better use for this contraption

Which became

A moving mine shaft

A travellator

A peternoster

And myriad other fantasia

Until during a particularly frenetic cowboy and indian escapade

I managed to trap myself

Between floors for two hours

Until my inventive older brother

Discovered access to the shaft

Through an attic annexe

The Living room was magic

For in the middle was a huge round mahogany table

That had only one leg

But this leg was as thick as my fathers thigh

At its narrowest part

And they used to say his legs were like tree trunks

And that's why he was such a great boxer in his young days

Cos you couldn’t buckle him

And you could tie fellows up to this leg

Like the indians used to do at the stake

And you’d never untie yourself

And this table could be split

And you could add bits

In the middle

Hey Presto

Table tennis court

And off this room were the French doors

To the kitchen garden

Full of Rhubarb

Gorgeous stubbly green and red mixtured stalks

With huge green canopied tops

And horse manure to propagate them

And standing like sentinels

Apple and Pear trees

Low and stark

But bountiful

God I can still taste those green cooking apples

A sour wonderful taste

Far surpassing

The sweet red and yellow eaters

Which were demolished mainly in that two day freneticism of Halloween

When all such things abound

And around the corner

Gooseberry and Blackberry and Raspberry bushes

No one could beat my mothers ice cream and gooseberry deserts

And in the far end of the garden

Chives and Mint and Spring Onions and Thyme

And Rosemary

I always wondered about calling a plant after a girl

And my special job was to sneak out each morning

And check under the used halfcut Orange rinds

Which my mother used to place strategically as slug bait

And slaughter the little fuckers

As they languished in turgid tranquillity

Sleeping off their nights revelry

And in the Hallway

Old timber flooring

With gaps between the boards here and there

And Great urns on stands full of plants

And fresh flowers

As the seasons change

And there were leather chairs

With buttons in them

Some barely hanging on

But they came with the house

So Mama said we’d keep them

The bedrooms all had Linoleum

Except Mama and Dada’s room

Which had a great big beautifully ornated Donegal hand woven carpet

A present from my Grandpa

Whom I never met

But made his fortune

Selling ham and eggs and rashers

To the Irish navvies who built the roads and railways in pre war Glasgow

Having come off the boat from Donegal

With no shoes

Our Bedroom had a big mahogany bed

Which one had to take a running jump at

To get in

And there was plenty of room for three of us

Even though we slept egg and spoon style anyway

But I think this was so that we could all

Squeal with delight when my oldest brother used to proclaim

In his sternest tone

When father says turn we all turn

At Christmas time those rooms took on a special aura

Great fires were lit in all the cast iron fireplaces

Candles were lit in the bay windows

To guide the shepherds on their way Mama said

Dada said it let it let all the Protestants who lived in the roadway

Know we were Catholic

And proud of it

We knew that anyway

Because the football followers on their way past on Saturdays

Used to hurl abuse at us

In reference to this

And if Glasgow Celtic won

A lot more than abuse was hurled

Even the off Pantry privy

Was tall

And great fun

As there was a long dangling flushing chain

So big that you could swing off it

In the process

But alas

Little boys get bigger

And heavier

And I ain’t no Isaac Newton

But the morning that cast iron cistern came tumbling down

I hit the back yard running

Followed by five gallons of angry seething water

And echoes of my poor mother’s

Using the Lords name

In a heretofore unheard of manner

God Isaac must have had an incredible house when he was growing up

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