Family Life Personal

Dear Me (with no apologies to Peter Ustinov)

Thought I would sit down and write to find out what I'm really thinking

There, it’s not a blank page anymore.

It’s a start.

You see I have genuinely refrained from planning this post, or thinking about it, before sitting down at my computer, because I wanted to know what was really on my mind.

Inspired by a great line from Peter Ustinov, the late, great actor, writer, playwright, screenwriter … all sorts, really … but who I remember best as a brilliant talk show raconteur. A story-teller to beat all story-tellers (check out his autobiography, Dear Me).

Relating these hilarious tales of Hollywood and beyond to Parky or Gaybo, all decked out in accents, actions and exquisitely telling detail, the eyes crinkling all the while as he spun another rib-tickler. Living it as he was telling it

Ustinov 3 (1)
Peter Ustinov holding court — and cigarette — on the Michael Parkinson show

Anyway, he was asked one time if he ever got fed up of appearing on all those TV shows, or of being endlessly interviewed on radio, or for print.

“Oh good heavens no, old boy, I love doing them … I’m fascinated to find out what I’m thinking!”

Or words to that effect.

Dear me.

As the father of two teenage kids I naturally think a lot about the world we live in now, and the world they will live in when they are out there careering and carousing, swopping friends and enemies, bossing or being bossed, creating their own families, or not … living.

That is when they even get some kind of handle on what they might end up studying or working at. Or where their burgeoning interests will take them.

Probably end up doing something that hasn’t even been thought of yet.

I look at career options in newspapers and I don’t even know what some of those bio-whatever-you’re-having-yourself job specs even mean.

But more particularly, I have this weird sense of things simultaneously staying the same and changing utterly.

What do I mean?

Well, I have had some interesting reactions to a piece I put out a couple of weeks ago, Ordinary people are not as ordinary as you think.

In it, I referred to my coming from a long line of “ordinary” people. And how I used to see this “ordinariness” as boring when I was younger, before discovering the extraordinary in this “ordinary”.

A lot of people were able to relate to all that.

But behind it all, there was a sense in my piece of continuity, of the lives of my ancestors and I following broadly similar patterns, in terms of school, college, career-paths, settling down, getting a mortgage …

Obviously, our stories have to be filtered through the prism of huge historical change (like the World Wars, major events, and inventions witnessed by my dad’s sister, for example, Aunt Nancy finally goes down aged 104), and access to better education and healthcare. But no huge change in day to day circumstances. Not really.

But thinking about it since, I am struck by how this continuity, and predictability, has been blown out of the water. In one generation.

Here in Ireland, when I was growing up, it was all laid out for me: school, college/apprenticeship, job, mortgage, and so on.

I am one of six kids, my wife one of eight. Common enough in dominantly Catholic Ireland.

Now I have two kids, as have a lot of my contemporaries, three at a squeeze. In far bigger houses than we had growing up. Back when an extension was a rickety addition to a hay shed, or something.

Now everyone has to have one. Architecturally-designed and curated. With a small house out front.

One of my two sisters has five kids and she has described, when the kids were younger, going out together and being looked upon with horror as they rocked up to a cafe, as if they were some kind of travelling freak-show.

And never invited as a family anywhere, outside of family reunions. Five kids!

I grew up in a small town and the only foreigners in Ireland, as far as I could tell, were all in Dublin going to Trinity or writing dirty books in west Cork. And appearing on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne.

Friends with Peter Ustinov, no doubt.

The handful of black people in our country either played football for Ireland, like Paul McGrath, or were student doctors.

Now, I take a break for coffee, look out the window in my estate, and I see the houses of my Polish and Hungarian near-neighbours … oh look, there’s a bubbly bunch of young black kids heading off to the local secondary school.

Where they play hurling and everything … the most wonderfully exotic names appearing on school team-sheets. Brilliant!

So much social change. In a single generation.

When my kids were in primary school, they added up the nationalities represented in their small, country school, and it came to over fifty!

Most of them arriving in this generation.

We used to joke about the inevitability of it all when I was a kid. There was a career for everyone: plumbing or some such trade for the ones who weren’t too bothered in school; teaching, banking, the civil service or nursing for the mid-ranking intelligent; maybe engineer or doctor for the brighter ones (or the ones with more money behind them).

In our small town, there was also always farming for the sons of the soil who bused it into town to our school.

And now?

The old reliables of teaching, nursing, and the civil service are not guaranteed any more. Farmers are struggling. Selling up or taking second jobs. Or emigrating, like so many. Of course we always had emigration.

Yes, there are still plenty of options — if you get the results in school.

The pressure on our kids to get higher and higher marks for college places is fierce. Which so many choose if they are not disadvantaged, as many are from the get-go. Costing their parents more and more in those colleges. Both parents working now, usually, to afford all this.

The kids sort through all that, find the right guy or girl, and they might be thinking about settling down. They want a mortgage …

Welcome to Ireland’s housing crisis — too few houses being built in a market poisoned by speculators, accumulators and lousy government policies that appear to favour the property developers over the poor bastards pushing so hard to even get on the property ladder.

Working usually on contract, or freelance. Pressurised enough when you are younger, and without family responsibilities and the rest …

So they pay exorbitant rents to landlords unburdened by price regulation. Or squeeze in with mum and dad while they try to save for a deposit.

The free-market? Free-for-all more like it.

So this is the kind of stuff I had in my head when I sat down to write this!

Is it any wonder that teenagers, already caught in the Hadron Super Collider of fizzing hormones, acne and ridiculous parents that is adolescence, turn away from politics and news altogether and switch on their iPads and YouTube influencers?

Sure what is news anyway? All fake, as the serious stuff of world politics, money and social cohesion are lost in a nightmare world of Trumpian distortion and distraction.

The old dictators and despots made the mistake of trying to censor books and opinion; the present lot long ago realised it works much better when you allow the people more and more access to social media. They get paralysed by information overload and options.

Don’t think about it, just Google it. And find yourself better informed but knowing a hell of a lot less.

All fake, all fake, anyway.

But I am also excited too when I consider what my kids could become. As people. Not just as job titles.

I see them as they work through it all. I see the anxieties, sometimes, of course, but I also see the blithe optimism of youth at work … the feeling it will all work out. So vital for any person setting out on life’s journey.

Setting out? They are already well on the road.

Making their way.

No clue yet what they want, or where to look for it, but, they won’t rest until they find it.

At least some things don’t change …

What My Fridge Says

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

DIY Daddy

My Random Musings

My Random Musings

Shank You Very Much


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45 comments on “Dear Me (with no apologies to Peter Ustinov)

  1. Fond memories of the U man on the Late Late… nice one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, it started with 8 words and ended up more like a novel. I often wonder if things ever do change. The years go by but the kids always have much more on their minds than their future, before technology it was music and mags. (well, it was for me anyway…I also had a CB radio which kept me awake all night.) Parents are the ones that worry about how well they will do in their exams and whether they will find their feet on the property ladder. I have two adult children still at home, I keep hoping that love will take them away, it’s not even reared it’s head yet. (Are my kids unloveable?) The younger ones have ideas and I hope they follow them through, I’d like to have a published author, a chef and zoologist looking after me in my old age (who am I kidding, I’m old now, the joys of older parenting!) Politics was something that didn’t catch my attention until I reached my 30s, despite having lived with the Iron Lady in Charge. We did so worry about nuclear war though, I decided I’d rather be on a bus when they dropped the bomb, right in the middle of the city, over in seconds, no survival instinct for me. Well, I’m rambling now, so many thoughts provoked I’ve forgotten what you wrote. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the very best response — that you are provoked into letting your mind wander! I love that when I am listening to a piece of music, for example, and my mind takes off, in the best way, for the duration, and more. Thanks for taking the trouble to share your lovely thoughts

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Éanna Brophy

    A great think-piece, Enda. Quite optimistic in the end … Your mention of the few foreigners to be seen living in Dublin years ago reminded me of a guy I met once (in hospital as it happened) who recalled that many African medical students came and studied at the College of Surgeons in St Stephens Green. His mother, who lived in an adjacent street, went on a holiday to New York many years later … and reported back that the place was “ full of medical students “.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had not thought about it before but so much IS different for my children (4 of them -also used to the stares and lack of invites out). There was not much talk of multiculturalisim when I was little but it is all around us now. Last night I could hear my sons friends teaching him Polish in his room – he uses it to get discounts at the local Polish shop! I admire his check but also the easy immersion into other cultures, which is something that I didn’t have the opportunity to do as an adolescent. #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’ve caught it right there, the day to day multiculturalism we take almost for granted. My schools were 100 per cent white and Irish!!! Some amiunt of social change in 10 years or so. Thanks for your comment


  5. Hey man, this is one heck of an essay. A lot to process. But my initial thoughts are that I agree with pretty much all you say. And by the way, you have some terrific paragraphs in here. I especially like these:
    “Is it any wonder that teenagers, already caught in the Hadron Super Collider of fizzing hormones, acne and ridiculous parents that is adolescence, turn away from politics and news altogether and switch on their iPads and YouTube influencers?”

    “Sure what is news anyway? All fake, as the serious stuff of world politics, money and social cohesion are lost in a nightmare world of Trumpian distortion and distraction.”

    Keep it coming!

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Daydreamer mum

    Oooo I love you dared brain dump . Worry I’d be sectioned should do the same ! I was heartbroken when my eldest decided against university. He was logical and rational an didn’t want the debt and was offered a well paid job . I though , that was meant to be my success story…. I raised a child up to uni . That’s how I’d know I did a good job (as a single mum with a chip on her shoulder) and now he’s happier than he’s ever been but there are sometimes just ideals you have for the kids and really they’re a bit nonsense!! #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • In fairness it wasn’t a complete brain dump – I never mention trying to deal with my continuing slide down the table in Fantasy Football, and other vital stuff!


      • Daydreamer mum

        Ooooo maybe that’s next week’s …. blogging-cheaper than therapy I tell you !!!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A thought provoking post, very interesting #,triamphanttales@,@_karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this. So much to think about. It really is an ever-changing world our teenagers are heading out into and who knows where it will take them, what jobs they will do, where they will live (and in fact whether they will ever afford to leave home… )

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “The kids sort through all that”
    Well there’s a half a sentence that can produce a whole bookshelf work of material. Good write, Enda.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thought provoking read X #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It sounds like Ireland is becoming more like the US. I was always used to a bunch of different ethnicities and colors of kids when I was in school, and now in my grandchildren’s generation, it is even more so! In fact, my grandchildren are multi-racial.

    My kids and grandkids have so many more material goods that we ever had growing up – cell phones, computers, all kinds of technology. And they have bigger houses, too. What a difference in just one generation!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fabulous, captivating writing -you must write a book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That is a wonderful thought process going on in your head. I think about these things as well for my boys but I also see that they have so much hope for the future. I’m the one who worries what the world will have to offer them as they get older but you’re right, they still have hope. Let’s help them keep it for as long as possible. That hope may turn into something world-changing. #anythinggoes

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Back again, this time from a different linky #satsesh@_karendenbid199@gmail nis

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Feeling quite pensive after that lovely essay, Enda. #globalblogging xo


  16. Peter Ustinov was brilliant and so is your post! So many things change in society but so many things stay the same. I assume my children will all go to university and have families of their own in due course but they have to find their own path to happiness. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Those teenage years are a nightmare forever moving the goalposts very thoughtfull post enda yes I loved Mr Ustinov as well awesome character Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Dear me. Not what I expected when I popped in today, Enda, but delightful as always! Got me thinking how very different my life has been from my mother’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. And I wonder how many of us really know what we are destined for #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Who knows indeed!


  21. It is amazing how much Ireland has transformed since I was a child. We spent summers and Christmas in Dublin every year as my mum is from there. There was no difference – in fact we were a bit of a thrill as ‘the English’ It is so different now, but I do miss the horses on the street corner everywhere… Thanks for being on the #DreamTeam as ever

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Not that I know you or anything but I can almost hear you and imagine you sitting there and saying this. A great piece covering lots of areas and overall I think the futre is changing so cats is it even worth our time to worry about it. Saving the planet of course. But of your children’s futures who knows. Let fate take its course while we laugh and live and play 😊


    Liked by 1 person

  23. What an excellent idea – having a blank blog post or ‘page’ and seeing where your mind takes you. You were obviously in a very reflective mood – and yes I think our young have lots of new challenges/situations but you’re right in some respects things are the same too. as they were for previous generations… #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thanks Hayley .. funny what the mind can throw up when faced with a blank page and no plan!


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